Bank, Co Op etc

3 December 2013 Bank

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.

Our heroes are in trouble they are to join the fleet exercise, can they do that without wiping out the British Navy? Priceless.

Bank, CoOp, replant rest of plants

ScrabbleI wins well under 400 perhaps it will be Mary’s turn tomorrow.




Candace Pert, who has died aged 67, was a key figure in the discovery of the so-called opiate receptor, laying the basis for the subsequent discovery of endorphins, the body’s natural form of morphine; despite her achievements, she claimed that many scientists regarded her with suspicion, and that the prizes for her work had gone to others – notably men.

Receptors are proteins in the body to which only specific molecules carrying chemical signals, such as neurotransmitters, can attach themselves, much like a key fits in a lock. In 1972, when Candace Pert began graduate research into chemical neurotransmitters under the eminent neuroscientist Sol Snyder, finding the opiate receptor that controls pleasure and reduces pain had been a goal of scientists for many years.

Shortly before she arrived in Snyder’s lab at Johns Hopkins University, Candace Pert had broken her back in a riding accident and her experience of lying in hospital attached to a morphine drip led her to wonder how the drug exerted its effect on the brain. By her account, Snyder left her to do most of the humdrum research. However she claimed that after some time he ordered her to abandon her work in favour of the more promising goal of finding the receptor for insulin. Refusing to be deterred, Candace Pert carried on her research in secret after her colleagues had gone home.

One Friday evening in 1973 she crept into the lab and injected morphine labelled with a radioactive tracer into brain tissue. When she returned the following Monday, her results showed that she had identified the first opiate receptor in the brain. Snyder was delighted.

The discovery of the receptor raised an interesting question. “God presumably did not put an opiate receptor in our brains so that we could ultimately discover how to get high with opium,” Candace Pert herself observed. She and others reasoned that the body must produce a natural chemical similar to morphine, but her search for it proved fruitless.

In 1975 two British researchers, Hans Kosterlitz and John Hughes, identified the first of a family of chemicals they named endorphins — naturally occurring chemicals that can relieve pain and create a feeling of euphoria. Three years later the two men shared the 1978 Lasker Award for the discovery of the operation of the opiate receptor, not with Candace Pert, but with Snyder. Although it is a common feature of scientific research that junior researchers have to wait before they are considered eligible for such awards, Candace Pert was furious at missing out on a prize that she felt was, in large part, rightfully hers. Refusing to resign herself to a few more years of obscurity, she she wrote angry letters to all and sundry and courted journalists complaining about how the macho establishment of “men in white coats” had closed ranks against an uppity woman.

The Lasker award is often seen as a precursor to the better-known Nobel and some felt that her campaign derailed Snyder’s hopes for the bigger prize. In The Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel (1997), Candace Pert recalled having a dream in which she had thrown a bucket of water over her scientific mentor, whereupon “the witchy Sol shrivelled up, shrieking, ‘I’m shrinking, I’m shrinking,’ just like in the Wizard of Oz, until he disappeared”. On waking up she decided to write him a letter of forgiveness, but he never replied. In fact Snyder later acknowledged that Candace Pert should probably have shared the Lasker Award and went on to describe her as one of the most creative and innovative graduate students with whom he had worked.

But by her own account, her campaign of protest turned Candace Pert into “the scarlet woman of neuroscience” — something of a pariah within her own field, which was true, though the reasons went much wider than a mere academic clash of personalities.

Later, at the National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and at Georgetown University, she and colleagues went on to identify endorphin receptors throughout the body and to show that a variety of proteins known as peptides (including endorphins) are key “information substances” which can affect our mind, our emotions, our immune system, our digestion and other bodily functions, helping to found a field of science known as psychoneuroimmunology.

Her research helped to break down the Cartesian concept of the mind and body belonging to two totally different spheres by demonstrating a dense and complex system of interconnectivity. But Candace Pert was not content to confine her conclusions to what could be justified by scientific research.

Instead, alongside her strictly scientific work, she cultivated the New Age and “holistic” therapy movements, promoting the concept of “bodymind” — a seamless fusion of mind and body into a unified life-force. Statements such as “The body is the unconscious mind” and “God is a neuropeptide” were not designed to endear her to the conventional scientific establishmenCandace Dorinda Beebe was born in New York City on June 26 1946. She enrolled in Hofstra University to study Biology, but dropped out in 1966 after her marriage to Agu Pert, a graduate student. The couple moved to Philadelphia, where Candace took a job as a cocktail waitress to help her husband pay his way through a doctorate at Bryn Mawr College. One of her customers was an assistant dean at Bryn Mawr, who persuaded her to finish her degree at the college. After graduation in 1970 she joined Johns Hopkins University as a graduate research student.

After taking her PhD in 1974 Candace Pert moved to the National Institutes of Health, where she rose to become head of the brain chemistry department at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health. In 1986, the year before she left, she and her second husband, Michael Ruff, identified Peptide-T, a substance which they felt had potential as a therapy for people infected with HIV. In 1987 she founded a company to study peptides in more detail, which closed in 1990 after financial backing fell through.

From 1990 to 2006 Candace Pert was a professor in the department of physiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. In 2007 she and her husband founded another company, Rapid Pharmaceuticals, to develop new peptide-based drugs.

Candace Pert is survived by her husband and by two sons and a daughter from her first marriage.

Candace Pert, born June 26 1946, died September 12 2013





I’m sure Jonathan Wolff (Marginal notes, 26 November) is right in connecting the lack of men in wartime Oxford with the space for women to pursue philosophy, but Susan Stebbing (1885-1943), an early pioneer of logical positivism, managed to achieve a great deal even among a multitude of men. She was responsible for introducing the ideas of the Vienna Circle into Britain, a professor of philosophy at King’s College London and her book Thinking to Some Purpose (1939) was highly influential.
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex

• Two opposite pages in Saturday’s Guardian (30 November) tell us much about the state of our society. On page 16 we hear from a union representative about a hospital worker who “can’t even afford to purchase a new set of underwear”. On page 17 a Friend of George says that instead of succeeding David Cameron, the chancellor “may prefer to earn £20m a year in the private sector”.
Tom McCarthy
Southsea, Hampshire

• While not wishing to detract from Barry Lewis’s excellent point (Letters, 2 December), may I add that, since the numbers of men and women in the population are not exactly the same, it is more true to say that each adult has approximately one breast and approximately one testicle.
Dudley Turner
Westerham, Kent

•  Your mathematically expert correspondent will also be aware that the vast majority of people in this country have more than the average number of eyes.
David Eddyshaw
Eye department, Singleton hospital, Swansea

• A book of Araucaria’s crosswords, as suggested by Sheila Edmunds (Letters, 30 November), would be wonderful, to enjoy them all over again and as a permanent memorial to his genius. Could it be out in time for Christmas? I would love to find one in my stocking.
Nancy Lawson
Newcastle upon Tyne

• I shook my cereal packet this morning (Letters, 2 December). The contents were distributed evenly.
Colin Warner
Dorridge, West Midlands

There are two sayings in disabled people’s organisations. The first is “Nothing about us, without us”. This was developed more than three decades ago because professionals saw themselves as experts about our lives and made decisions based on professional prejudice that imprisoned and oppressed us. The recent residential care scandals show that we haven’t come as far as we think we have. What struck me about Winterbourne View was that I could see no reason that any of those residents should have been in an institution in the first place. It was the bad practice in adult social care by social workers and commissioners that meant those residents were in the private residential institution on an industrial estate on the edge of Bristol. Disability is good for business and profits, but not necessarily good or appropriate for disabled people.

The second is that professionals should be “On tap, not on top”. All those “experts” gathered in your roundtable (Society, 27 November) seemed to be very much talking about us, without us. How can you discuss how family members and community can come to the rescue in the face of unprecedented cuts to funding and rising demand without a proper voice from ordinary disabled people, family members or carers? The lack of diversity (in any sense) around the table is shocking.

The proposals Norfolk council is “consulting on” for next year’s budget signal the end of the personalisation and the return of institutionalisation, 21st-century style. The only difference is that the institution is people’s homes, not a hospital or workhouse on the edge of town. The proposed retreat to statutory duty means those lucky enough to pass the raised eligibility bar will be able to get out of bed but little else. Disabled people are becoming prisoners in their own homes, if they haven’t had to leave them because of the bedroom tax.

This violates the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The coalition, through its pernicious and unnecessary austerity programme, is targeting disabled people for their welfare reforms and cuts. The lack of any dissenting professional voices standing up and speaking out alongside us is scary. The scale of stress and misery being heaped on disabled people and our loved ones is a scandal.
Mark Harrison



The government’s decision to scale down its own much heralded student scholarship scheme has surprised many of us (Report, 23 November). Yes, we knew cuts were coming because of the absence of controls over student number growth outside universities and through the determination to preserve the science and research budget. We knew the cuts would focus on reducing student mobility by disinvestment in access measures. We knew it was likely that the poorer in society would probably be hit the hardest. The surprise has been the response of the independent regulator, the Office for Fair Access. Offa is there to safeguard and promote fair access to higher education. So what does it do when the government reduces the amount publicly committed to scholarships by 66%, halfway through an admissions cycle, when nearly 200,000 students have applied on the basis of the much vaunted access agreements? It does not ask universities what they think, it does not ask the applicants it is supposed to be safeguarding. Offa simply says it could have been worse. Shouldn’t it, as an independent body, be standing up for students?
Geoff Layer
Vice-chancellor, University of Wolverhampton


Winter is a difficult time for the UK’s homeless population (Report, 29 November). We are concerned at both the effect of existing legislation, which has made squatting in residential properties a criminal offence, and the proposals being made by some within the government to extend the law to encompass commercial properties. We fear that any further criminalisation which removes the option of seeking shelter in abandoned and unused commercial property would have disastrous consequences. We wish to remind the government of the tragic death of one homeless person already this year. Daniel Gauntlett died from exposure after police prevented him from entering a derelict house. At the very least, a thorough impact assessment should be undertaken in conjunction with homeless charities before any further legislation is even considered.

There are record numbers of people in temporary accommodation. Street homeless figures have skyrocketed in recent months and the full extent of the bedroom tax and welfare cuts are yet to be felt. Austerity measures have slashed vital funding to homeless services, which are already operating at full stretch. Removing the option of squatting in abandoned commercial spaces would be a further blow to an already marginalised and at-risk segment of society. As the weather worsens, the risks street homeless people face are greater. The government must take the very real link between squatting and homelessness into consideration.
Alastair Murray Housing Justice
Bob Baker, Director Simon Community
Sarah Morris Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth
Jenny Hemmings Haringey Solidarity Group
Matt Kershaw Squatters Action for Secure Homes
Kate Hoey MP Labour, Vauxhall
Jeremy Corbyn MP Labour, Islington North
John McDonnell MP Labour, Hayes & Harlington



Sarah Wollaston’s account of the state of mental health provision for children is correct – it’s patchy and in some cases appalling (Report, 28 November). According to a report by Lord Bradley in 2009, police custody was the least developed in the offender pathway in terms of engagement with health and social services, and yet it provides the greatest opportunity for early intervention and change. We had similar concerns about the variance and quality of care received by the 10,000 children and young people being held in secure settings such as young offender institutions and secure children’s homes. So earlier this year we published new standards to improve their healthcare. All children have a right to a high level of healthcare and for these young people – some of the UK’s most vulnerable – it is crucial. We urge the government to set new standards to ensure that any child in police custody receives high-quality care at the right place and right time.
Dr Hilary Cass
President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health


I must oppose your stridency on the “surveillance state” issue (The Snowden files, 30 November). To create a 32-page supplement to try to scare us about the extent of surveillance is bordering on hysteria. Obviously we do not like the idea that the government is keeping an eye on us, but surely we do want someone to be looking out for possible terrorist attacks? This is especially potent given the current trial of the alleged attackers of Lee Rigby. There are nasty people out there and, unfortunately, in today’s world that means there has to be some monitoring of all forms of communication, even where we think we have a right of privacy, such as telephones and emails.

Your statistics do not show an alarming picture: 249 people arrested and 37 charged in the UK sounds reasonable to me. And while the number of deaths (so far) is modest, surely a large part of the reason for the fall in terrorist offences in recent years must be down to better interlligence?

I am more concerned by the fact that Amazon can target me with emails when I make a casual inquiry about anything, and that it doesn’t pay its workers decent wages, while minimising the tax it pays in UK. The real enemy is not the state, where we have a modicum of control – parts of which might need tightening, I agree – but the massively powerful private companies whose reach and power now dwarfs all but the largest economies, allowing them to control people and even ignore legitimate taxation on their ever-increasing activities. Fight them.
David Reed

• It was an excellent and informative supplement. However, having scanned it several times, I could see no mention of NSA . Surveillance and intelligence gathering is what this secretive and unaccountable US base does. Why the omission?
Lindis Percy


Let me get this right. The consumer pays around £47 a year to the energy companies for the energy companies obligation (Green levies being watered down as ministers move to cut consumers’ bills, 29 November). The energy companies spend this money insulating and upgrading boilers in homes, which lowers household bills but has the collateral effect of reducing profits for the energy companies. The government then expresses shock when the companies are slow to implement Eco and gives them more time to continue making excess profits. Oh dear.
Jake Fagg
Horfield, Bristol

•  The energy companies already have £lbn they have not spent on insulating the homes of those on low incomes, and giving these companies longer to implement these measures will only increase carbon emissions as larger amounts of energy are needed to heat poorly insulated homes. Far better and fairer to taxpayers – and the environment – would have been a one-off windfall tax on the energy companies as advocated by Sir John Major (Report, 23 October).
Valerie Crews
Beckenham, Kent

•  If the chancellor genuinely wants to tackle rising fuel bills he should use his autumn statement to increase public funding for energy efficiency, not cut it below its already woeful level. Not only would this save the 10,000 jobs the insulation industry projects will be lost if the changes go ahead (Report, 20 November), it would also create thousands more, mostly in small, local firms. The big six have made a poor fist of using the cash they’ve taken from consumers already to insulate our homes. It’s time to remove responsibility for installing energy efficiency measures from these companies, and give it to a body whose profits don’t depend on households using more energy.
Andre Pendleton
Head of campaigns, Friends of the Earth

•  Forgive me, I’m only a teacher with a good degree in economics and politics (and a masters) and 30 years’ teaching and lecturing experience. So could you clarify something for me before I try to explain it to my A-level students? This £50 malarkey that George Osborne’s bandying about is being reported as a “£50 reduction in energy bills” and a £50 reduction in the increase (of “up to £150”) in energy bills. So which is it? These might appear to be the same, but they won’t to my rather bright students.
Sue Schilperoort
Comberton, Cambridgeshire

•  My energy bills keep rising at rates well above inflation and energy companies keep posting news of their increased profits. I invested in a photovoltaic installation on my roof but my feed-in tariff rate has remained unchanged. Do others who have invested in sustainable energy production feel ripped off? Maybe I should switch off my solar panels in protest. Perhaps if all domestic solar panel owners did the same we might bring the energy companies to their knees in humble apology? Dream on.
Andy Ballard
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

•  Surely the government could change how tariffs are graduated, so that the lowest rate applies to basic, rock-bottom consumption, and rates go up only for those burning higher quantities of fuel? That way not only would people be rewarded for being economical in consumption, those in small dwellings would be able to heat their homes for less. This is the way tariffs are graduated in California. Why are ours the wrong way round, so that even the poorest and most economical user pays the high rates, and only those with big consumption progress to the lower rate?
Philippa Pigache
Heathfield, East Sussex

•  I would be more ready to switch energy supplier if they all had to announce their prices for the following year on the same date.
Averil Lewin
Witchford, Ely

•  If all this spinning by the political parties on energy costs could be used to turn electric turbines and generators then we could get reductions in our bills.
Ron Brewer








The tragic events in Glasgow have not been reported or received as a foreign occurrence. We were watching things that happened to our compatriots.

A bit of localism, and even opportunism by the SNP, is easily understandable – but this disaster happened to us as Britons. 

I am proud of Watt and Maxwell, I hope Scots are proud of Newton and Shakespeare. Yes I want England to beat Scotland – but no more than I want Northampton to beat Leicester. I love Burns – not like Dante but like my fellow Brummie, Shakespeare.

I am British, and it is deeply important to me; Alex Salmond wants to rob me of this.

John Wheaver, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire


S Garrett (letter, 2 December) questions the need for politicians to express their apparently sincere thoughts in statements issued on their behalf, following events in which people are killed or seriously injured.

The reason is simple: any politician, sincere or not, who doesn’t will be perceived as uncaring and will risk losing votes at the next election.

After the Glasgow helicopter crash there will have been frenzied activity involving special advisers, overnight duty press officers, chief press officers, ministers’ private offices and No 10, all of it aimed at showing caring ministers, and the governments in Westminster and Scotland, in the best possible light. I know. I’ve been there.

What I find more intriguing, however, is the wider public response to these events. If only one person had been killed, would he or she have been remembered in a packed service in Glasgow Cathedral?

Every human life is sacred, but it seems that the public display of grief depends on the number of deaths. Can anyone explain why?

D Stewart, London N2


Privatised energy faces its crisis

Now the Conservatives want to use tax revenue to help poorer families pay energy bills; in other words, some of our tax bills must go as profit to private energy firms. Why does that make me furious?

I used to work for the Central Electricity Generating Board, and before it was privatised it wasn’t allowed to make profits. Any surplus either went to the Exchequer or towards new generation. It planned to build 14 nuclear stations like Sizewell B. These were cancelled by a Conservative government. It would not burn gas because the rise in demand would force up prices – exactly as happened after privatisation.

The solution to affordable and reliable energy is decades-long investment in cost-effective generation, mainly nuclear and tidal. That is just what privatised industry cannot achieve, as it is too long-term. Hence, the UK is now condemned to decades of power shortages with an added insult of exorbitant prices.

Time to abandon the nonsense of privatisation and put competent people in charge. The nationalised companies made major investments in training and retaining skilled British workers, who supported other branches of British industry (and the tax system). 

Dr N Drew, Bristol


I can understand the call to renationalise the energy industry but even if there were the political will, financially it could not be afforded. Better for the Government to enable a “not for profit (or loss)” enterprise that would be run on a commercial basis. The Big Six would have to either compete or go out of business.

David Winter, South Cadbury, Somerset


The Government has swallowed the myth from across the pond that fracking transforms energy security and fuel prices.

Recent studies by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured a stunning 6 to 12 per cent methane leakage over one of the country’s largest gas fields – which would gut the climate benefits of switching from coal to gas. The IPCC reported recently that over a 20-year time frame methane has a global warming potential 86 times greater than CO2.

Protesters need to demand that the Government imposes strict regulation on methane emissions, making directors and shareholders think twice.

Canon Christopher Hall, Deddington, Oxfordshire



Victory for the badger-huggers

The badger culls have ended not with a bang but a whimper. The badger-huggers will see this as a victory, and to a certain extent it is. Their interference has undoubtedly made a hard task harder.

The Government has been leaning over backwards to placate the badger lobby and it hasn’t worked. The only thing that will placate them is a complete end to culling, so why bother to use such an expensive, time-consuming and ineffective method of culling when there is a tried and tested method that is cheaper, more effective and much less prone to “perturbation” than shooting individual badgers in the dead of night?

I refer of course to gassing, a practice that was abandoned decades ago in the face of determined opposition from the badger lobby. If gassing had continued as the preferred method of eliminating diseased badger setts, not only would the problem of bovine TB have been largely solved by now but far fewer badgers would have had to be killed to solve this distressing problem and far fewer badgers would have ended up being infected by their own kind as the disease spread remorselessly from badger sett to neighbouring  badger sett. 

The continued good health of the majority of the badger population that is still TB-free depends on culling the diseased minority.

Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire


Banks still up to their old tricks

In the Eighties, under Thatcher, it was clear to me that banks were deliberately ruining their customers in order to seize their assets. This happened to someone I knew who had a perfectly viable business that was receiving orders, but which needed some investment in order to carry them out. Their bank refused them a small loan and took their workshop.

At this time my husband’s bank wanted him to give them a charge on our house. I think it was my refusal to allow it that saved both his firm and my home.

Sadly, I am not surprised to hear that enforced bankruptcies are policy (“RBS told customers to stop paying tax”, 26 November). My only surprise is that now this is being recognised as not “good business practice”. God knows, it’s taken long enough.

If I could see it 30 years ago why has it taken so long for the regulators?

Sara Neill, Tunbridge Wells, Kent


How better for New Labour to discredit the idea of nationalisation than for the state to take over a collapsed bank and leave its managers to run it just as unscrupulously as before? As some of us pointed out at the time.

Michael McCarthy, London W13


Nature becomes a commodity

Opposition to plans to ascribe a financial value to nature stems from much more than a belief that the natural world is beautiful beyond price (“The price of nature”, 22 November). Once something is given a price in order to protect it, there will always be someone willing to pay that price in order to destroy it.

If access to the natural world is determined by the ability to pay, the people with the greatest reason to protect an ecosystem – say, an indigenous people who depend on a forest for their every need – are the least likely to have the cash required. If, on the other hand, forests, soil and air are recognised as the common resources they are, and strong regulation is introduced to protect our rights to these resources from the corporations that would control them, the natural would be in safer hands.

Finance has hardly proved itself a trustworthy guardian of the global economy: we should reduce, rather than increase, its influence on our lives.

Miriam Ross, Campaigner, World Development Movement, London SW9


Reaching out to elephants

When I saw that you had chosen elephants as the subject of your Christmas appeal I felt a surge of relief and uplift that you were prepared to reach out to our fellow creatures, beyond purely humanitarian preoccupations, and make such a bold statement in the face of their humanly induced plight. I shall certainly support your appeal.

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester


Health and safety at the batting crease

Under the Work Health and Safety Act, in Australia, an employer can be fined if workplace bullying occurs in their workplace. The next time an English cricketer is “sledged” – bullied – maybe they should use the Act and make a complaint.

Robert Pallister, Punchbowl,  New South Wales,  Australia






‘The focus of public attention continues to be on the behaviour of the big six generators with next to none on the middlemen’

Sir, Matt Ridley (Opinion, Dec 2) makes a good case for reining back public subsidy for green energy but continues to perpetuate the myth that the wholesale price of electricity is what matters. Not so. EDF Energy secured a wholesale price of £93 per MWh for electricity generated by the Hinkley Point nuclear power station but what matters to consumers is what retail price it will charge for delivering that electricity to their doorsteps.

The focus of public attention continues to be on the behaviour of the big six generators with next to none on the middlemen. Among the latter are National Grid and distribution companies such as UK Power Networks whose overhead and buried cables connect the big six generators to consumers. The question is whether these distribution companies make windfall profit at the expense of consumers?

It is generally not known that the difference between the electricity price secured by a small-scale renewable generator, say an on-shore wind farm, and the retail price which a consumer pays for receipt of that electricity, is even more grotesquely distorted. The wind farm will negotiate a Power Purchase Agreement at less than the wholesale price, meaning it will require huge public subsidy to be profitable. If a wind farm is authorised to deliver its electricity at its retail price to consumers, excluding profit made by distribution companies, it would require nil public subsidy.

dr bill temple-pediani

Rochester, Kent

Sir, The policies of the coalition Government on energy prices are contradictory to an almost unfathomable extent. At the same time as scrabbling around to find a way to cut £50 off bills, they are committing energy consumers to buy electricity at fully double today’s prices for decade after decade. The Government proposals to fund new nuclear power stations show that nuclear is far too expensive to be politically acceptable: it is only the myopia of contemporary politics and the highly influential nuclear lobby that allows these proposals to roll onwards despite their absurdity.

Dr Ben Fairweather, De Montfort University; Professor Ian Miles, Manchester Business School; Professor Brian Wynne, Lancaster University; Professor Peter Aa Strachan, Aberdeen Business School; Professor Andrew Blowers, Committee on Radioactive Waste Management; Professor Roy Butterfield (Emeritus), University of Southampton; Dr Carl Iwan Clowes, Public Health Wales; Jeremy Leggett, Founder and Chairman of Solarcentury; Dr Stephen Connelly, University of Sheffield; Dr Alan Terry, University of the West of England; Dr David Lowry, environmental policy and research consultant; Dr Matt Watson, University of Sheffield; Dr Ian Fairlie, Independent Consultant on Radioactivity in the Environment

Sir, Are energy customers getting value for the billions that are spent every year on repairs, renewals and improvements to the delivery infrastructure? I was so incensed from observing the inefficiency of some repair work that I asked Ofgem whether it monitored this expenditure. I got evasive answers and I concluded that it is “cost plus”, to the detriment of customers.

C..P. Edwards

London SW15

Sir, The Government should look at the so-called feed-in tariff paid to those who install solar panels. This is paid by the energy companies, which then recoup the cost by imposing a levy on all electricity bills. Solar panels are affordable only by those with relatively high incomes, and are thus effectively being subsidised by the less well-off.

dr c..j. gibbins

Abingdon, Oxon


Disabled people rarely have equal access to basic goods and services and their rights are regularly denied

Sir, Disabled people are among the poorest and most socially excluded people in the world and on International Day for Persons with Disabilities today, we are calling on the Government to make sure that their rights are not forgotten in international development work.

The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which end in 2015 make no reference to the rights of disabled people and disability is not mentioned in the supporting indicators. Governments around the world must not repeat this critical mistake when considering what will follow on from the MDGs.

There are more than one billion disabled people in the world of which an estimated 150 million are children — 80 per cent living in developing countries. Disabled people rarely have equal access to basic goods and services and their rights are regularly denied which affects their economic, social and political progression and that of their families.

The BOND Disability and Development Group brings together more than 40 UK-based international NGOs with a mission to ensure that the rights of disabled people are included in all international development policies.

We urge the Government and party leaders to recognise that in the sustainable development goals after 2015 the rights of disabled people must be recognised to build diverse, prosperous and inclusive societies.

James Thornberry, Sense International; Tim Wainwright, ADD International; Tiziana Oliva, Leonard Cheshire Disability; Aaron Oxley, RESULTS UK; Aleema Shivji, Handicap International UK; Andrew Betts, Advantage Africa; Peter Walker, the Leprosy Mission England and Wales; Barbara Frost, WaterAid; Jane Anthony, AbleChildAfrica



Poor evening and Sunday bus services make it impossible for the unemployed to accept jobs with ‘unconventional’ working hours

Sir, Your headline, “Cost of driving will deter job seekers” (Dec 2), is very pertinent but job seekers without cars have an even bigger problem. Poor evening and Sunday bus services make it impossible for them to accept jobs with “unconventional” working hours.

For example, two largish Derbyshire villages, West Hallam and Stanley, have just lost their evening buses, making it impossible for carless residents to take a job in Derby involving evening work. Worse, Worcestershire County Council is planning to scrap all subsidised bus services, thus putting some villages off the public transport map.

Despite the austerity programme, central government must provide councils with generous funding so that they can subsidise evening, Sunday and rural bus services.

Roger Sexton



The simplest solution is stricter liability, which protects the more vulnerable by putting the responsibility of care on to the more powerful

Sir, David Aaronovitch (Opinion, Dec 2) makes some salient points about the hierarchy of road use and road users. Lorries, taxis and cars can be a danger to cyclists; cyclists can be a danger to pedestrians. Perhaps the simplest (although also the most controversial) solution is a regime for stricter liability, which protects the more vulnerable by putting the responsibility of care on to the more powerful. It works in the workplace, so why not on our roads?

Brenda Mitchell

Founder of Road Share, the campaign for stricter liability in Scotland



In the six years after the introduction of comprehensive measures to curb smoking, the effects have been remarkable

Sir, In 2005, Uruguay initiated a comprehensive set of measures to reduce tobacco smoking (report and leading article, Nov 28, letters, Nov 30). This involved price increases, reducing access to youngsters, restrictions in public places, and aiding cessation. It included graphic pictures of smoking-related disorders on 80 per cent of every packet. The effects have been remarkable. In the six years following its introduction, per capita cigarette consumption has fallen by 23 per cent. The benefits for teenagers were even larger, with 40 per cent fewer young smokers.

Gains in physical health are widely recognised. Less well known are the gains in mental health. In your leader you note the common belief that smoking was a pleasure, but that is not strictly correct. Cigarette smoking makes you moody and irritable — mood states improve after inhalation, but deteriorate again in between. The “pleasure” of smoking only represents the brief relief of cravings.

Andrew Parrott

Professor of Human Psychopharmacology, Swansea University




SIR – For my 21st birthday I asked my parents, much to their disappointment, for a top-quality set of socket spanners. Nearly 50 years on, they look as good as the day they arrived and have been in constant use ever since, enabling me to pursue my love of maintaining and driving classic cars.

The gold watch my parents wanted to give me would have probably been long gone by now.

David Lowe
West Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – Like Richard Blake’s, my 21st birthday present is also from Scotland: a tartan car rug. It was given to me by my grandmother in 1960, and has seen sterling service at picnics here and abroad: on beaches, at polo grounds, in sailing dinghies and in open-topped cars.

It was once used to keep an injured person warm while awaiting an ambulance.

Three generations have sat on it. It is showing no signs of wear yet.

Valerie Currie
Brockworth, Gloucestershire

SIR – I was given a Viking Husqvarna automatic sewing machine in 1963 for my 21st birthday.

Fifty years and hundreds of garments, curtains, craft projects and alterations later, it is still in perfect working order and used regularly.

Ann Sunley
Uttoxeter, Staffordshire

SIR – I received lifetime membership of the National Trust from a spinster aunt, which continues to give great pleasure and value year after year.

The green cardboard membership card is somewhat dog-eared, but the silver medal is still intact in its original box.

Michael Price
Ashford, Middlesex


SIR – Peter Oborne may well be correct in his assessment of the achievement of John Kerry of the United States and the rest of the P5+1 (Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) in reaching their interim agreement with Iran. Here in Israel, the comparison most often being drawn is with Neville Chamberlain’s achievement at Munich in 1938. The piece of paper that he brought back in triumph did not diminish Hitler’s ambitions one jot, but served to provide him with an extra year in which to rearm.

No Arab state in the Middle East, and few states beyond the region, doubt that Iran’s ambition is to acquire nuclear weapons capability. The UN Security Council binding resolutions on Iran made any easing of sanctions dependent upon Iran ceasing uranium enrichment altogether. This deal – as Iran’s leaders have been boasting in their public statements – throws the UN resolutions on the scrapheap, and accepts that Iran will continue to enrich uranium in a “mutually defined enrichment programme”.

So in effect, the slowdown, while easing sanctions, provides Iran with another six months in its journey towards nuclear weapons breakout capability.

Neville Teller
Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Israel

Royal Scots lineage

SIR – A recent visit to the Mary Queen of Scots exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland prompted me to re-read John Guy’s biography of the Stewart queen.

In the epilogue, the point is made that Mary’s son, James, succeeded to the English throne by hereditary right through his mother being the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, and that Henry VIII’s will, which excluded the Stewart line of succession (as it was then spelt), was disregarded.

Mary died because her religion and her pedigree were a threat to the English monarchy of the time, and yet through her, England and Scotland were united. Our own Queen’s right to the throne is thanks to the Queen of Scots. If Scotland breaks away from England it would appear that Mary Stewart will have died in vain.

Rohaise Thomas-Everard
Dulverton, Somerset

Romanian confusion

SIR – There is confusion in Britain between Romanians and Roma. They are very different cultures.

Romania’s beautiful rural landscapes have provided a congenial home for Roma, and they form a large minority of its population. Under the name of gipsies, the Roma have been romanticised by Western liberals with no direct experience of Eastern Europe, no historical perspective, and often an inability to distinguish between them and travellers and other groups.

The image of a Romanian woman having “lots of children and no sanitation” is entirely inappropriate for Romanian culture.

Dr John Nandris
Merton, Oxfordshire

Expensive junk mail

SIR – There has been considerable debate as to whether Royal Mail was sold off too cheaply. My recent experience suggests not. We received a card from Royal Mail informing us that we had to pay £1.50 to collect a letter which had been sent to us without the correct postage, which we duly paid. When it arrived, it turned out to be a quality survey from Royal Mail.

Johnny Hume
London W1

Airport expansion site

SIR – The site chosen for airport expansion by the Davies Commission will, over the next 40 years, inevitably become Britain’s mega-hub airport, with four runways as a minimum. So it is disingenuous of Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s CEO, to pretend that the choice is where to put a single new runway. Nor should the debate be cast in those terms: this is about the national interest, not the narrow advantage of one set of private shareholders over another.

If Mr Wingate is willing to show how Gatwick could accommodate four runways and what it would cost to upgrade the Brighton rail line and build the new motorways to serve them, he could, at last, enter the national debate. Heathrow cannot be expanded to be the airport we need: it is too constrained a site and it is in the wrong place, causing noise pollution to over 750,000 people.

Sir Howard Davies needs to put at the heart of his interim report in December the option of a new location to which Heathrow can move.

Daniel Moylan
The Mayor of London’s Chief Adviser on Aviation
London SE1

Ups and downs of gas

SIR – I received two letters from British Gas by the same post. One said that my latest meter reading showed that I had overpaid by £201 over the past year, and it was refunding this sum to me. The second said it had reviewed my account and decided I was not paying enough, so it was increasing my direct debit by £4 per month.

I have been trying to ring British Gas to ask exactly when their sanity deserted them, but cannot get through owing to “high demand”.

Maggie Forwood
Puttenham, Surrey

Behind-bar code

SIR – Alex Harris, the Greenpeace protester recently bailed from behind bars in St Petersburg, should have used the prison pipe-tapping code to communicate with her fellow activists to allay her frustration.

The letters of the alphabet are set out in five rows of five (omitting Z) and identified by their coordinates. H, for example, is three taps followed by two, and even Y only calls for the maximum possible of 10.

I have no personal experience of employing this system.

Alan Duncalf
Bampton, Devon

Smoky memories of oddly shaped cigarettes

SIR – What happy memories were evoked by your picture of the excellently designed Passing Clouds packet. Those were the days of untipped, quality tobacco, enjoyed without encumbrance.

To my knowledge though, no one has ever explained satisfactorily why the cigarettes themselves were oval-shaped.

Clive Buxton
Meopham, Kent

SIR – Passing Clouds were famously oval and much sought-after by pretentious schoolboys. During my days at Sedbergh School, it was acceptable to smoke Perfectos behind the power sub-station only if Passing Clouds or Balkan Sobranie Cocktails were unavailable.

Heaven forfend that we should have stooped to Embassy or Players.

Gavin Inglis
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – When we reach the middle of the 21st century, there will be 115 million people living with dementia on this planet; dementia is a condition fast becoming one of the world’s largest and most expensive health issues.

The G8 Summit on dementia research in London on December 11 is a unique opportunity for international leaders to tackle dementia on a global scale. This is a monumental step in dementia research to find a means of prevention and effective treatment, to improve care and support for those with dementia.

Dementia currently costs the world $604 billion. If dementia were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy globally. As we all live longer, dementia is spiralling out of control, holding health-care systems to ransom.

It will take concerted and sustained action from world leaders to tackle dementia. They must commit themselves to meaningful, shared steps to drive forward dementia research, agree to a collaborative global action plan, and make significant investment in dementia research to attract and retain the best scientists, clinicians and care professionals.

Research has transformed the lives of millions living with heart disease, stroke, HIV/Aids and cancer. Now is the time to make dementia a priority.

Related Articles

Jeremy Hughes
Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Society

Rebecca Wood
Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Research UK

Marc Wortmann
Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Disease International

SIR – We already know that high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine are a significant risk factor for cognitive decline and incident dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Up to 20 per cent of dementia cases may be attributable to this.

We also know that lowering homocysteine with high oral doses of B vitamins significantly slows cognitive decline and brain shrinkage, specifically in those areas of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Translating Britain’s lead in this area of research by instigating routine measurement of homocysteine levels in patients presenting with subjective memory impairment should be a matter of priority for discussion at the G8 dementia meeting this month.

Dr Andrew McCaddon
Wrexham, Denbighshire

SIR – It is vital that the NHS should be able to diagnose correctly every patient with dementia and give them the best possible treatment.

However, I understand why a doctor might postpone telling a patient that he or she is a sufferer. It is effectively telling them that they will gradually retreat into a frightening world of incomprehension and then die. As yet, there is no cure.

Elizabeth Beardsley
Twickenham, Middlesex




Irish Times:


Sir, – While we know humans suffer from cognitive flaws that lead to systematic biases in our behaviour and perceptions, I’m not sure your article “Public opinion is one thing, facts are another” (Front page, November 30th) tells us as much about Irish people’s biases as you make out.

Some of the “facts” that you cite, such as what the top 10 percent of people earn, are based on measures that could themselves be flawed. Just because a government collects the data doesn’t mean the data are right. The Revenue Commissioners’ figures are obviously based on figures for declared income. Then their figure could be an underestimate of the actual figure.

Similarly the United Nations Human Development Index is a composite measure which weighs some aspects of life more than others. These choices are subjective and make a big difference to a country’s position in the rankings. Perhaps the survey respondents have a better idea of what matters than the UN.

There are also flaws with some of the questions. The question on who receives most from the public purse, welfare recipients, public servants or politicians, is vague and could be thought to mean which group is most financially rewarded.

Facts are one thing, people’s opinions might matter more. – Yours, etc,


School of Law and


Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – Congratulations on a terrific survey (Irish Times Ipsos MRBI survey, Front page & Weekend Review, November 30th). It brought reality to the situation in Ireland. However the media, both published and broadcast, must take responsibility as to why perception is so different.

Negative headlines in newspapers, including the paper of record, and negative comments on phone-in radio shows focus mistakenly on what a terrible place we live in.

I think it is now time to take cognisance of the survey and for it to be reflected in reporting and opinion pieces. – Yours, etc,


Chestnut Grove,

Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Sir, – Even a casual glance at the Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll results shows that questions can be as biased as answers. Why ask what percentage of the State revenue is spent on politicians’ salaries? Or what income you need to be in the top 10 per cent? Or that people estimate the number of non-nationals in the country?

Why not ask me to estimate what percentage of the population earn the equivalent of a politician’s salary? Or indeed, how many earn €100,000-plus and how much income tax revenue they contribute as a percentage of total income tax revenue? Or what percentage of the poorer working-class areas (in both city and country) are non-national? Then tell me the correct answers. – Yours, etc,


Manor Kilbride,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Front page, November 30th) observes, “The fact is that welfare payments will account for over €20 billion of State spending this year while the cost of running the Oireachtas is €102 million.” The question is only correctly answered by following the money.

The facts will show that the money received by each member of the Oireachtas is a significant multiple of any welfare payment and the average industrial wage. – Yours, etc,


Shamrock Drive,

Muskerry Estate,

Ballincollig, Co Cork.

Sir, – Congratulations on your Weekend Review article (Stephen Collins) comparing public opinion with factual information on many topics that are centrally important to our society and on the insightful accompanying article by Maureen Gaffney. Perhaps those could be followed at some stage by an international or European comparison of wealth distribution, salaries of top executives and politicians, government spending and other topics. – Yours, etc,


Farmleigh Woods,

Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Your Ipsos MRBI poll findings (Front page & Weekend Review, November 30th) reveal an extraordinary level of misinformation on important issues among the general population. It suggests an urgent need to hold the media to account. – Yours, etc,


Haddington Park,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Respondents to the Ipsos MRBI poll suggested that a person would need to have an income of €153,000 a year to be in the top 10 per cent of the population whereas graphics in your paper suggested that, based on Revenue data, the correct figure is €75,000.

You are both wrong, as the Revenue statistics relate to tax cases which treat dual-income married couples as single cases. If we assume that incomes in these cases are split 66/34 then only about 6 per cent of the population have incomes in excess of €75,000. Incidentally, on the same basis, almost 16 per cent have incomes below €10,000 a year.

In responding to the question as to whether welfare recipients, public servants or politicians receive most from the public purse, respondents guessed politicians whereas your graphics indicate that the correct answer is welfare recipients at €20 billion as compared with only €102 million for politicians. On a per capita basis, the respondents were absolutely correct. – Yours, etc,


Ardmeen Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – While I do believe that most of the findings in the Ipsos MRBI poll (Weekend Review, November 30th) provide a reasonably accurate depiction of the Irish people’s disillusionment regarding political and social matters, I question the authenticity of the percentages, which you reported as being “correct” relating to religious issues. For many years, there has been an open debate regarding what qualifies an individual as being “Catholic” or “atheist” when completing the census. While the percentage stated in your newspaper may be an accurate reflection of the Central Statistics Office’s findings, many individuals identify themselves as belonging to a religious group despite not adhering to or even believing its doctrine. – Yours, etc,


Park Drive,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.


Sir, – The well-justified uproar over supplementary payments could not have come at a worse time of year for voluntary organisations of all kinds.

Christmas is far and away the time of year when charitable donations are most badly needed, and when people are most generous.

As an ordinary foot soldier in the VDP, I am well aware of the demands made on all and sundry at Christmastime. So, in order to allay suspicion, I suggest that any charity seeking to raise money should make it clear via the media just what percentage of its income goes where it is intended to go. – Yours , etc,


Ballyroan Road,

Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – In the past week I have had a number of letters from charities which my wife and I support throughout each year. These letters are meant to reassure us that the money we give is not used to top up employees’ salaries. I regret to say they will need to do a lot more than shoot off a lot of meaningless letters to restore our confidence in the morality of their operation.

My wife and I have contributed each year to a number of charities of choice. We have not done this from some excess pot of money. Our only income is the old-age pension and we have gone without each year, in order to make these charitable donations. It is a huge insult and we are both devastated to learn that we have gone without in order to satisfy the greed of otherwise well-heeled people in these charities. We are left wondering what other revelations are left to come into the public domain in this greedy little country of ours. – Yours, etc,




Co Tipperary.


Sir, – It is sad to see the leader of the Labour Party seeking kudos on the basis that the “top 5 per cent of income earners pay 44 per cent of all income tax” (Home News, November 30th).

Such a statistic, taken out of context, should be meaningless to any genuine pursuer of a fair and decent society. Aside from the fact that income tax accounts for only about a third of all taxes raised, in Victorian Britain for example, all income tax was paid by just half-a-million people – and the reason was the gross income inequality that prevailed.

Income inequality is the real measure that a Labour Party should be focused on and the last comparison table showed Ireland ranked 23rd out of 31 EU countries. Since that table was compiled we have had two additional budgets that everyone knows were regressive and which further increased inequity in Irish society.

If statistics are not Eamon Gilmore’s thing, he can always just take a ramble around any local community where he will readily see the evidence of the grossly unfair policies that he and his party have enthusiastically supported over the past three years. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The Labour Party conference in Killarney had, as far as I can ascertain, no motions dissenting on Labour in Government and policies being implemented and no serious debates on issues affecting a large section of the electorate. I will go so far as to say it was a whitewash. It seems that it was a conference extremely happy with Labour in Government and that the majority of ordinary angry suffering people are out of step with the Labour. Also, a large number of Labour Party members are very unhappy with the party leadership.

I joined the party 1n 1979 and attended almost all conferences and took part in serious debate on issues I agreed and disagreed with. Labour was always a broad church and encouraged debate since its foundation. Centralism rules now seem to apply and the conference displayed no dissent at a time when there is serious and widespread dissatisfaction with the party. A lot of soul-searching will now take place about the future. Trust and fairness were the reasons people voted Labour. – Yours, etc,


(Former TD and councillor),

Limekiln Green,

Limekiln Farm, Dublin 12.

Sir, – I noted with concern that during his address to the Labour Party conference, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD, devoted only two sentences to Northern Ireland. I would suggest that his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs, a department which carries key responsibilities for the peace process, demands that his public pronouncements give more attention to the North than simply fleeting references. The Tánaiste is unfortunately not alone. The Taoiseach gave no mention to the North at his most recent party conference address in Limerick.

The apparent lack of priority given to Northern affairs has been a noticeable trend in the life of this Government. As Richard Haass enters into what may be the most intense set of negotiations since the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the role of the British and Irish governments will be vital in finding a path through the stalemate which currently impedes the political institutions of the North.

In this context, I sincerely hope that the Tánaiste will have more to offer than a mere two sentences. – Yours, etc,


Foyle Road, Derry.


Sir, – Further to Hugh McFadden’s letter on the closure of Books Ireland (November 30th): it’s something of a cliche to quote (or even misquote) Mark Twain in these circumstances but reports of the demise of Books Ireland are a little premature. Following Mr McFadden’s suggestion, and as a business that “cares for literature”, we at Wordwell (publishers of History Ireland and Archaeology Ireland) have indeed taken up the reins at Books Ireland and have agreed to continue the publication of the title.

We are proud to follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Addis, one of those people (largely invisible) who, through his long-standing commitment to Books Ireland, have contributed significantly to Irish culture for more than 30 years. We have been attempting to do this for over 25 years at History Ireland and Archaeology Ireland and now we look forward to doing it with Books Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Wordwell Ltd,

Furze Road,

Sandyford Industrial Estate,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – Hugh McFadden is putting it mildly when, regarding the sad news of the closure of Books Ireland, he says (November 30th) that there is a scarcity of serious criticism of literature in this country. But he goes a bit far when he singles out the books pages of The Irish Times as an exception to this dismal state of affairs. In the same issue which carried his letter, the Irish Times “books pages” managed “serious criticism” of a grand total of two books, neither of them Irish-published, nor of distinct Irish interest. Despite the date – the biggest shopping weekend before Christmas – the round-up of children’s books mentioned a mere five works, only one of them of specific Irish interest, and even that was a reprint of Oscar Wilde’s stories for children.

The two-page round-up of readers’ choice of the best books of 2013 cannot count as serious criticism, but it is perhaps worth noting that of almost 70 books mentioned, fewer than one third were Irish-published or of specific Irish interest. – Yours, etc,


Ormeau Books,



Sir, – In a letter (November 30th), Fr Gerry Campbell and Dr Tony Hanna, listed a number of actions which had been instigated by Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin, seemingly aimed at engaging “the faithful in consultation on the important subject of the forthcoming extraordinary Synod on the family”.

As one of the so-called faithful, I read their letter with interest, because up until this point I had not heard a single word about this “important subject” while attending weekly Mass in St Patrick’s cathedral in Armagh.

Their letter asserted an announcement would be made “at all Masses” at the weekend, encouraging parishioners to complete the Vatican questionnaire, either online or on paper. At Mass in Armagh on Saturday evening (November 30th) I waited expectantly for such an announcement. It never came! The survey was not mentioned, nor was there any reference to it in the weekly parish newsletter. If the announcement wasn’t made in the cathedral of the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, it doesn’t fill me with any great confidence that it was widely made.

As a deadline of December 8th seemingly has been set for the faithful to complete and return their questionnaires, I can’t imagine that the directors of the Armagh diocese’s Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry will have to spend too much time reading through them before they can complete their report to the cardinal.

If this is how the Irish bishops intend seeking out the views of their parishioners on a range of critically important issues, then poor Pope Francis really does have his work cut out for him! – Yours, etc,



Co Armagh.


A chara, – Contrary to Clive Hyman’s claims (November 29th), President Ahmadinejad never said that Israel should be “wiped off the face of the map”.

In a recent Al Jazeera video interview, the Israeli Minister of Intelligence, Daniel Meridor, admitted that this phrase was never used. Instead, he accepted that Ahmadinejad was quoting a previous speech by the late Ayatollah Khomenei to the effect that the “regime occupying Jerusalem” was “an unnatural creature” which “will not survive”.

The original mistranslation from Farsi into English was provided by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency, but here is a vast gulf between threatening to obliterate a country and airing a view that the administration of that country should be removed. One could be taken as a threat of war; the other not.

Regrettably, vice president Shimon Peres reacted to the mistranslation at the time by retorting in an interview with Reuters, “Now when it comes to destruction, Iran too can be destroyed (but) I don’t suggest to say an eye for an eye”. – Is mise,


De Courcey Square,


Sir, – Three entire pages devoted to Christmas. On December 2nd. Is this a record? – Yours, etc,


Cormac Terrace,

Terenure, Dublin 6w.




Irish Independent:

* There is quite a distinct resonance akin with St Francis in what Pope Francis has been doing and saying since he was appointed.

Also in this section

Letters: Truth emerges in the strangest of places

No understanding of credit unions

Letters to the Editor: Charities do HSE work

No pomp, but humility in action on every front, starting from the modest Ford Focus he has chosen to travel in.

Quite a saving grace, considering the news that in recent times has been coming out of Italy.

Besides, the notion of a Pope like Francis rescues Italians living abroad like myself from the wilderness of legitimate criticism about Italian flamboyant political figures – top of the list Silvio Berlusconi – who have created a less than edifying image of our country.

In his recent lengthy document ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, Pope Francis, in line with the true spirit of the Gospel, stresses a few points that should make us think, the most relevant being that the church is to go out to the people, get bruised and dirty if necessary and not cling to its own security, and, above all, that capitalism has embarked on a path of economic exclusion and inequality based on idolatry of money, stressing the fact that this is a problem that only governments can address.

May Pope Francis live long and continue making a contribution to change the mindset of those in power in order to change the world for the better.

Concetto La Malfa

Dublin 4


Don’t tar all young people with the same brush


In response to I D Shorts (Letters, November 30), I wish to express my deepest regret that he feels Ireland is no country for old men and a nation afflicted with droves of foul-mouthed ‘youths’.

I am unhappy that the young people of Ireland are, yet again, being tarred with the same brush. I feel a duty to myself and my peers to speak up against this constant barrage of negative press.

I desire to prove Mr Shorts and the rest of the country wrong, that we mere youths can be heard without the need of profanities.

As a Leaving Certificate student, I have endured years of stereotyping by the national press. According to Irish media, we are a generation of Celtic cubs with no respect for others.

The annual hype surrounding the points race is the solitary promoter of the ordinary, hardworking teenager.

Furthermore, the many hours of community work carried out by young people, particularly transition year students, remains largely ignored. There is a great need for our young people to be shown in a positive light on a more frequent basis.

I was bemused by his suggestion to “our Government to do something really constructive” to cure us of our affliction.

As I have never been exposed to any beneficial programme run by the Government for young people, I do not expect to be in the foreseeable future.

With ineffective anti-bullying policies and no provision of adequate sexual education, the Government demonstrates a clear lack of interest for this lost generation. I feel that my peers and I are viewed as impolite, technology-addicted and self-absorbed. However, we are capable, intelligent and have our own well-formed opinions.

This fact would be well understood if we were spoken to as equals, not as incompetent children. I shame those who shame us. But I am only a youth of this doomed country, so why would my opinion effing matter?

B Berkely



* I am amazed that our brave Government does not immediately demand that all of those persons who received unsanctioned top-up payments and their paymasters be hauled in and made to stop all these payments immediately.

They should also repay all money that exceeds the sanctioned pay limits, pay back interest that would have accrued, and be fined accordingly.

Michael Higgins

Oranmore, Galway


* The suggestion of a blanket amnesty in Northern Ireland is a brave one but reality checks must be carried out when one considers the difficulties experienced with post-war amnesties.

In El Salvador, the amnesty law created a climate of impunity and had the effect of blocking investigations into the whereabouts of the remains of thousands of Salvadorans who were “disappeared” during the 1980-1992 armed conflict.

In Sierra Leone, the blanket amnesty under the Lome Agreement to rebel aggressors caused untold difficulties, resulting in the government sharing power with criminals and violence continuing afterwards regardless.

It is now recognised that blanket war amnesties are not suitable for post-war conflicts, particularly where very serious crimes have not yet been investigated and where victims are still awaiting justice.

In 2009, the UN developed formal guidelines stating that amnesties must not include those responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights. The guidelines do, however, discuss how amnesties could be established in conjunction with peace and reconciliation initiatives. Timing and sensitives must also be given very careful consideration before an amnesty is considered.

Richard Coffey

Terenure, Dublin 6W



* The decision by Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Office to ban 15 trawlers from Kilmore Quay and order them to stop fishing because of their protest against the EU‘s shameful discard policy beggars belief.

It is at moments like this that we should all stand tall together on behalf of this great nation and say, unequivocally ‘no’ to rule from Brussels. Whatever the pain, whatever the cost, our sovereignty has a greater value than the mean measure adopted by our self-serving politicians.

Millions of tonnes of fish have been destroyed because of the EU discard policy – one of the most incomprehensible man-made conservation disasters anywhere in the world.

With the operation of such a wasteful and unfair quota system, our fishermen are now faced with further swingeing cutbacks. Never mind that France and Spain are still taking an 88pc share of the catch from Ireland’s territorial waters.

Neutrality be damned – let us declare war on the waste of the EU discard policy. All in favour say ‘aye, aye!’

Joe Neal

Castlebridge, Wexford


* The best of the northern hemisphere could not hold out. A brilliant scramble defence and great defensive lines added to sublime handling skills by the best attacking backline in the world showed off this wonderful game of rugby.

What a marvellous spectacle was the Australia versus Wales match. The best game in the world when played like this. Australia’s ball retention and tactical nuances were at another level.

All the southern-hemisphere teams have mastered to great effect the art of finding long-kick touches outside and inside of their own 22 line.

Having so many players on your team who can execute this skill is a definite advantage. Teams from this jurisdiction should look and learn from the masters.

Quade Cooper, what can you say? His ball play was simply a revelation. What a difference he would have made to this team if he had played against the Lions.

Barry Mulligan


Irish Independent





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