10 December 2013 Hospital
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They attempt to convince Admirality that Captain Povey is mad, with farmyard impersonations. Priceless.
Hospital for Mary back in two weeks hurt shoulder in lift pot calendars
Scrabbletoday Mary wins but gets just under 400, one of those irritating games, perhapsI will win tomorrow.
Annabel Freyberg – obituary
Annabel Freyberg was a vivacious writer and editor who chronicled the tragedy allotted her with honesty and courage
who has died of cancer aged 52, was a gifted and original writer who was arts editor at The Evening Standard before becoming interiors editor of the Telegraph Magazine; she died just 18 months after her nine-year-old daughter, Blossom, lost her own battle with cancer.
The granddaughter of General Lord Freyberg, VC, the postwar Governor-General of New Zealand and one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the British Army, Annabel combined huge moral courage and considerable intellectual gifts with a cheerful bohemianism and an enormous gift for friendship.
As well as being a much-loved editor, as a writer for the Telegraph Magazine, Annabel Freyberg turned her hand to everything from interior design, country houses, the arts and travel pieces to cookery columns and restaurant reviews – but it was the articles she wrote about her daughter’s illness that were the most heartfelt and moving.
It never occurred to Annabel Freyberg that anything was wrong with her four-year old daughter Blossom when she began complaining of a tummy-ache, but a few weeks later she was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with a high rate of recurrence. As she later recalled: “Having a child diagnosed with a deadly cancer is shattering. But when doctors take you into the small windowless rooms – where bad news always seems to be broken – and spell out the gruesome potential side effects of the treatment, then the horror of what is to be inflicted on your beloved infant’s otherwise perfect body becomes almost unbearable.”
But, she recalled, the fact that Blossom died in 2012, and not in 2007 when first diagnosed, was due to the care she received at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital: “The five years when she grew from being a sweet toddler with an over-fondness for pink and Disney characters into an independent action girl, forever and cheerfully on the go – dancing, biking, riding, playing with friends, taking her rabbits for a walk, rearranging her Sylvanians, cooking, drawing and coming up with fantastical stories – were incredibly precious and I will be forever in GOSH’s debt for them.”
During that time she wrote articles about Blossom’s enjoyment of digging and churning up “creamy mud” with her brother Otto; their love of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books and their visit to Disneyland Paris as part of a trip for children with life-threatening and chronic diseases organised by the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.
While she kept a “reasonably cheery” stance in her children’s presence, Annabel Freyberg confessed that “out of their sight I was desperate and hysterical”. What sustained her above all was her daughter’s bravery. “Blossom was high-spirited throughout, even when the going was tough, and through constant extra hospitalisations… It made the whole thing more bearable.”
During Blossom’s illness and after her death in May 2012 Annabel Freyberg campaigned to raise money for Kiss It Better, a national appeal launched by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to raise money to fund research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancer.
Tragically, Annabel herself was diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma just days after delivering a moving eulogy to Blossom in St Mary Abbott’s Church, Kensington.
Annabel Pauline Jekyll Freyberg was born on August 16 1961, at a time when her father, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, was on service abroad and her mother was living at Windsor Castle, where her father-in-law was then serving as Deputy Constable. The castle gates had to be opened in the middle of the night so that Annabel could be born in hospital.
She was raised at Munstead House, in Surrey, which had been built for her great-grandfather Sir Herbert Jekyll and his sister, Gertrude Jekyll, who had honed her garden design skills in its grounds. After education at Heathfield and at Marlborough she won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, to read English (despite turning up to the interview in a dressing gown and transparent plastic sandals).
There she played Gertrude to Hugh Grant’s Hamlet in a production which transferred to the Edinburgh Festival. Tall, exuberant and beautiful, she was known for her colourful and exotic bandannas and flowing dresses and for her lavish “themed” tea parties at which she entertained a wide circle of friends. After graduation, Annabel Freyberg went on to study at Kingston School of Art, paying her way through her course by working as a waitress at the Chelsea Arts Club.
In the 1980s she worked briefly for the Centre for Policy Studies and for the Catholic Herald, before being taken on as a writer by Min Hogg at The World of Interiors. After a stint working on the obituaries staff of The Independent, Annabel Freyberg was headhunted by Max Hastings, then editor of The Evening Standard, to be the paper’s arts editor.
In 2002 a new editor, Veronica Wadley, replaced her with Norman Lebrecht. When Lebrecht rang the paper’s star contributor, Brian Sewell, to invite him out for lunch, Sewell, who considered Freyberg the best arts editor he had worked with, declined. He then devoted his next column to a defence of the f-word, during which he mentioned “f—” 11 times.
The Standard’s loss was The Daily Telegraph’s gain and Annabel Freyberg went on writing for the paper after her own diagnosis. Earlier this year she described fulfilling a long-held wish when, with her husband, the writer Andrew Barrow, and their 12-year-old son Otto, she retraced the steps of her grandfather, who, as commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, had liberated Venice in April 1945. After travelling to Venice by train, they stayed at the Danieli.
While working for the Telegraph Magazine Annabel Freyberg continued to write for The World of Interiors and to take leading roles in amateur theatre productions. In 1999 she published a book, Ceramics for the Home.
In an article to be published in the Telegraph Magazine next weekend, Annabel Freyberg wrote movingly about her efforts to remain positive in adversity. “I am not afraid of dying – though there have been times when minor symptoms have made me so restless I have longed for oblivion,” she wrote. “But I am nervous as to how it will happen.” She died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family.
In 2000 she married the writer Andrew Barrow, who survives her with their son.
Annabel Freyberg, born August 16 1961, died December 8 2013
I do wish Lucy Mangan (First Boris, then Dave, now Gidiot: are our leaders taking it in turns to be stupid?, Weekend, 7 December) had spent at least some of her life under old Labour just before Thatcher became prime minister. She could have experienced inflation so high that mortgages inflated and wages deflated faster than it was possible to believe. The unions had the economy in a total stranglehold. We didn’t have to worry about tuition fees because most men and almost all women didn’t go to university. Our family didn’t have to worry about heating bills because we only ran one gas fire and a radiator in the baby’s room to 15 degrees. It wasn’t possible for most mothers to work post-babies because there was no childcare. We were professionals; we couldn’t afford to drink, travel, go out. I got my degree when I was 40 under an enlightened low-fee part-time degree for mature students brought in under Margaret Thatcher. Yes, we had it all. Have I ever voted Conservative? No. But Lucy Mangan should get a bit of historical perspective before she goes a-moaning.
Mandela’s birthday celebration at Wembley, “his first public appearance in Britain”, was not in July (Letters, 7 December) but on Easter Monday, 16 April 1990. We Anti-Apartheid Movement members had priority access to tickets and helped to fill Wembley stadium to well in excess of the 30,000 claimed. Inevitably the event overran. Nelson and Winnie flew by helicopter from Wembley to Heathrow, where passengers on an SAA flight were told the aircraft would not depart until two final passengers were on board. I can only imagine their thoughts when, over an hour later, the two latecomers were seen to enter the plane and turn left.
• Bob Dylan performed with an electric guitar (Sold for nearly $1m: Dylan’s electric guitar, 7 December) at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on 7 May 1965, nearly two months before doing the same at the Newport folk festival on 25 July. I’m not sure if it was the same instrument. In Newport he was met with cries of “Traitor”, in Manchester “Judas”. Another instance of Manchester leading the world.
• I am a little surprised to find no mention on your website of the new government that took office last week in Luxembourg – despite the media interest in the spying scandal that led to the elections and the exit of Jean-Claude Juncker. Not only is this the first time Juncker’s Christian Democrat party has been out of office since 1979, but the new PM, Xavier Bettel, is the country’s first openly gay leader.
• I saw a production of My Fair Lady in Munich in, I think, late 1961 (Just luverly: all-English My Fair Lady aims to charm Paris, 5 May). It was in German, and the “rain in Spain” number was translated as “Es grünt so grün wenn Spaniens Blüten blühen”. It worked rather well, I thought. Surely there is a French version too?
• With reference to the Pisa league tables (Editorial, 4 December), Florentine friends informed us of their local proverb: “Better a death in the family than a knock on the door from a man from Pisa!”
Professor Wade Mansell
University of Kent
Your editorial on the chancellor’s autumn statement (6 December) points up many crucial questions about Britain’s welcome but weak economic growth. What you do not say is how crucial has been the failure to rebalance the economy. Weaning it away from heavy dependence on banking and finance towards manufacturing, exports and housebuilding was central coalition policy in 2010. Yet recovery is still heavily dependent on consumer spending and rising house prices, largely in London and the south-east. Taken together with recent record fines imposed on the world’s biggest banks for rigging Libor, it seems clear that, like the Bourbons, we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. That annual borrowing is £111bn compared with the original target of £60bn speaks volumes. Moreover, public rage about utlility prices and failure to build sufficient affordable homes show we are finally reaping the harvest of Thatcherite privatisation and council tenants’ “right to buy”. What became of the confident promise that competition between private utility companies would drive down the price of electricity, gas and water? I fear your grim conclusion that the average worker is in for 15 lost years will seem optimistic if the economy suffers another crash caused by continued dependence on unreformed banking and consumer spending.
• George Osborne has a curious idea about his plan “working”. Business confidence? According to the OBR, business investment will have fallen 5.5% in 2013. Tackling the government deficit? His own forecasts expect net government borrowing in the next financial year (£96bn) of double his forecast three years ago. Helping the average wage earner? Retail price increases will climb over the next four years to 4%, leaving average earnings trailing behind again next year. And what about our growth path? With no growth last year to speak of (0.1%) while the world economy grew at over 3%, we are set to continue lagging behind the world for five years. If this is success, what does Osborne think failure looks like?
As a doctor working in forensic psychiatry, I appreciate that beggars frequently use donations to fund addictions and falsely advertise their situations to incite munificent sympathy (Be a Scrooge on the street, 7 December). However, these people will perpetually endeavour to acquire money. If I do not donate, will they depend on more antisocial means of obtaining it, such as robbery, theft and prostitution?
I recently asked a gregarious, elective tramp during interview whether I should be giving him – a self-confessed polysubstance addict, thief and opportunist – money. He advised me, with refreshing candour, to divert my donation to a worthy charity. The problem, he explained, with donating to beggars is that you never know which sort you’re donating to. The “junkie” will score some heroin, then discreetly get on with tending to his need. The “alky”, he warned, will procure alcohol and thenceforth become a drunken public nuisance.
Yet I still propound our obligation to donate something to beggars: our goodwill. What incentives do the marginalised have to socially integrate if they are progressively more marginalised by society? What reflected good integrity and pro-social behaviour can we expect if their experience of society comprises only dismissal and contempt?
Many beggars are born to environments of neglect, addiction and abuse; not the formative experiences necessary to equip them with “choice”. Ignoring them perpetuates these experiences, administering society’s worst punishment: ostracisation. By acknowledging them fearlessly and courteously – with eye contact, a smile or even just an apology – we extend them an invitation back to the community.
Dr Victoria Jackson
• Your articles on the damage of alcoholism (Report, Sketch and Commentary, 9 December) are helpful, but Alcoholics Anonymous needs to be mentioned as an alternative way of life. The fellowship of other recovering alcoholics is the most powerful means of staying sober.
Name and address supplied
Plans to allow young people to remain in foster care until 21 (Report, 4 December) are welcome, but serious challenges remain. First, young people in the general population are leaving home later, mainly between late 20s and early 30s, and many return home from time to time. Second, the most vulnerable young people in foster care are the group least likely to “stay put”. Third, it is anomalous that this provision does not apply to young people leaving children‘s homes, the neediest group in the care population. Fourth, an opportunity was lost to extend this provision to all young people leaving care up to the age of 25, to make this consistent with current leaving-care legislation. Finally, remaining in care later is only one of the main factors associated with improving outcomes – it has to be combined with improving stability, addressing educational deficits, assessing and responding to young people’s health and emotional wellbeing, and providing personal and financial support well into adulthood, not just at the time of leaving care.
Professor Mike Stein
Social Policy Research Unit, University of York
The repression against student protesters covered in the Guardian last week (Police accused of excessive force at protests on campus, 6 December) is not limited to London. In the same week as the clashes with police at University of London, five students at Sussex University were suspended for their role in a peaceful occupation, and Sheffield and Birmingham university managements went to court to prevent protests on their campuses.
Activist groups across the country have called a national day of action for the right to organise and protest, and for “Cops off campus” on Wednesday 11 December.
University of London management is facing protests because of its plan to shut down the student union, University of London Union; its refusal to recognise the trade union, IWGB, that represents the majority of its outsourced ancillary workers; and its failure to provide these workers with basic rights such as pensions. Solidarity with campus staff has been a central theme of recent student protests.
These protests have also raised wider questions about the marketisation of our education system, from increased fees and soaring student debt to the privatisation of student loans to the functioning of universities as corporations.
Workers and students are opposing not just the police but the university bosses, private contractors and government the police protect.
Daniel Cooper University of London Union vice-president and 104 student representatives from around the UK
Full list to be published on www.ulu.co.uk on Tuesday morning
• We unreservedly condemn the escalating use of police against peaceful protests at the University of London. It seems clear that the university management is not negotiating with students and staff who protest – including occupying students – but is simply attempting to suppress dissent. We condemn the blanket injunction that prohibits occupations in Bloomsbury campuses until June 2014.
We call on all who care about the future of our universities to object to this invited invasion of the police onto campuses. Police intimidation has no place in a seat of learning. Many staff and students have fled repressive regimes. We are horrified at supposedly “liberal” university managements adopting these tactics.
We demand an immediate repudiation of the injunction by the university management, no more police on campus, and for management to engage with students and staff about the concerns that led to the protests in the first place.
Molly Cooper Unison service group executive, Sean Wallis UCU NEC & University College UCU president, Simon Deville Birkbeck Unison branch secretary, Elizabeth Lawrence UCL UCU President and 100 academics and members of higher education trade unions around the UK Full list to be published on www.ulu.co.uk on Tuesday morning
• Rather than responding to a set of eminently reasonable and practicable demands to try to defend the right to education and just working conditions in our university, senior management at the University of London have decided that, when faced with the choice between dialogue and repression, they will to turn to the latter.
Describing the student occupation as “a disgraceful and aggressive act, which placed the safety of our staff at risk”, Chris Cobb, chief operating officer and university secretary, declared: “The university will always support peaceful and legitimate protest.” The mendacity of this statement is breathtaking. “Disgraceful and aggressive” describes very well the behaviour of management willing to ban all protest in Senate House, regardless of how peaceful, collude in the arrest of students, and call police and security guards to evict protesters before entering into any serious dialogue whatsoever.
Students and staff are being bombarded with marketing talk about “the student experience”, but as soon as they act as anything other than compliant consumers, their spaces are taken away and their right to political expression and assembly quashed.
It seems that those who run our universities will move heaven and earth to improve satisfaction statistics for the National Student Survey, but are perfectly at ease with police punching their students in the face. This is intolerable. We demand that the university’s vice-chancellor and its collegiate council act immediately to rescind the closure of the University of London Union and the prohibition of protest at Senate House, and stop calling police on to our campuses at the least sign of serious dissent. Universities should be run for students and staff, not against them. If senior management refuses to understand this, those who work and learn in our universities will have to draw the consequences and act to show that we have no confidence in those who run our institutions.
Alberto Toscano Reader in critical theory, Goldsmiths, Bill Bowring Professor of law, Birkbeck, Lynn Welchman Professor of law, Soas and 197 academics and staff at University of London colleges
Full list of signatories at bit.ly/1cwphbI
• John Harris’s piece (University of strife, 7 December) illustrates the failure of what passes for modern management. Less than a generation ago universities were communities presided over by a vice-chancellor whose stipend was that of a well-paid professor, no greater than 10 times the average of all employees. Academics, students, administrators, technicians, secretarial staff and cleaners could all feel they were making a contribution that added up to a greater whole.
Following the mantra “We must pay the going rate for a CEO”, we are landed with a bloated administration that drains funds from the institution at the expense of both the academics and the low-paid. There is now a small, very well-paid elite pursuing ephemera of branding, competition and international growth, underpinned by a well-remunerated cohort of box-ticking managers. Contracting out security, cleaning and catering saves a pittance at the expense of the low-paid.
What puzzles me is where lies the managerial magic that allows Balfour Beatty to make a profit and the university a saving, which is not within the competence of the university itself. In all probability the same university offers courses it claims to be at the cutting-edge of management. To their credit, the students seem to be searching for a solution to this conundrum.
JR O’Callaghan, Emeritus professor
Gidea Park, Essex
There has been a predictable outcry against the independent review body’s recommendation of an 11 per cent pay raise for MPs. People rage that it is unacceptable during these times of austerity, and politicians queue up to agree with them.
But there is never a good time for us to correct the anomalously low pay of our elected representatives. Compared with politicians in other countries, or compared with senior civil servants, the pay of our MPs and ministers is woefully uncompetitive.
The MPs who represent us form the gene pool from which the leaders in our executive are selected. Do we want the best people as our leaders? Of course we do. We won’t get them if we pay poorly. They should take the rise.
If we keep denigrating politicians and underpaying them our choice will be restricted to the wealthy or the fanatical.
Paul Sloane, Camberley, Surrey
It is remarkably arrogant of any MP to suggest that they will refuse to accept the proposed pay rise. As it will not come into effect until after the next general election, no sitting MP will benefit unless they are again voted for by a majority of their constituents.
The rise does not apply to any individual but to the job. Current MPs are of course all welcome to apply for one of these jobs if they so choose. I imagine that the rate of pay will be only one factor in their decision.
Dr Dominic Horne, Ledbury, Herefordshire
With regard to MPs’ pay , many insist that higher pay is needed to attract suitable people into Parliament. Would not suitable people, though, be those who recognise the value of being an MP? Would they not be more suitable, if content to live on incomes more typical of the general population?
Indeed, would we not respect good footballers were they to value their play without needing millions in salaries? Could not successful entrepreneurs be pleased with their businesses instead of scarpering to lands abroad if the size of their profits is endangered by taxation?
It is surely depressing that the current ethos is that the main motivator to get people to do valuable jobs must be more and more money. Must a society have such an ethos?
Peter Cave, London W1
I’m confused by all the comments on the subject of the recent announcement of an apparently obligatory and legally-binding 11 per cent pay increase awarded to MPs by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Party leaders appear to “protest too much” that the increase is excessive, but they cannot refuse it. Would that the other “independent” pay review bodies’ recommendations (which cover more than 40 per cent of public-sector workers), such as those for doctors, dentists and nurses, had such legal protection. The first response by government to their announcements is usually to alter the proposal out of all recognition or reject it altogether.
Dr John Hamilton, York
Politicians are the only people who are appointed to their job by us, the public. So if we think our MP is not worth £74,000, it is up to us to appoint someone who is. In view of the fact that the increase will not come into force until after the 2015 election, I cannot see what all the fuss is about.
Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent
Mandela’s example to Scotland
Many acres of newsprint have quite rightly been devoted to the life of Nelson Mandela. And as we look to next year’s Scottish independence referendum we should take some lessons from that great life.
Here was a man noted for his dignity in adversity, who demonstrated a massive capacity for forgiveness towards those who had imprisoned him for almost three decades, all in order to create a united nation.
Next year’s referendum campaign is set to be a bitter affair, but what we must not lose sight off is that in the aftermath, whatever the result, those of both sides still need to live, work and get on together.
The hope must be that we can put aside triumphalism and revenge, as Mandela did, and move on as one nation, not as a deeply divided country comprising two tribes in continued conflict.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh
While rightfully honouring Nelson Mandela’s immense political and moral courage and inclusivity, after his release from years of imprisonment by the white apartheid government in the early 1990s, let us not forget the precedent set by Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyan president and father of Uhuru, the current President, whilst acknowledging his post-independence flaws.
Following his release in the early 1960s from years of imprisonment in the arid and remote Northern Frontier District by the British authorities for his alleged links with the banned Mau Mau resistance movement, he repeatedly implored and reassured the white European residents not to leave Kenya but to stay in the spirit of the country’s slogan “Harambee” (“Let’s pull together”) and make an essential contribution to Kenya’s uhuru (“freedom”) and future economic and political prosperity.
Marcus Loxton , Chelmsford, Essex
What do you want schools to do?
As a headteacher I have recently carried out a simple piece of internet research, drawing up a list of the expectations made of schools (this year alone) by politicians and interested groups, as reported in newspaper articles or the BBC news website.
The Royal Society has called for a greater emphasis on science and technology education. The NSPCC wants to see more done to tackle bullying. St John Ambulance believes first aid should be compulsory in the curriculum. The Amateur Swimming Association has requested that swimming be compulsory
Others have voiced opinions that schools should be teaching children to recite poetry, how to organise personal finance, to know where food comes from, and that all children should learn to speak a foreign language.
There have been broad calls for a greater emphasis on the arts, set against those of the opinion that there should be more apprenticeships, more enterprise education and more vocational learning.
Famous athletes have spoken of the need for schools to tackle childhood obesity and falling fitness levels. A top TV chef has called for a greater emphasis on cookery in schools.
Other interested groups have demanded that schools address a lack of religious affairs knowledge, build character and teach about road safety.
In addition, there have been strongly expressed views that children should be learning more British history dates, should have much better geographical knowledge and should be brushing up their Latin.
If, as a headteacher, I actually responded to each week’s call for something extra to be added to the school curriculum, the result would be a mish-mash of initiatives with little time left to spent on basic literacy and numeracy.
What is clear is that there is no national agreement on the fundamental purpose of education. Headteachers are caught in the middle of argument and counter-argument about which of the problems of society we should concentrate on in our school curriculum.
Thank goodness England have qualified for the World cup finals in Brazil next year: it has saved me having to read the inevitable opinion of a TV pundit who believes that schools should put a greater emphasis on football.
Ben Warren, Headteacher, Summerhill Comprehensive School, West Midlands
Male pill will be kind to rivers
Grace Dent’s scepticism of the efficacy of the male pill is understandable (4 December).
But she is perhaps unaware of the damage caused by oestrogen polluting rivers. The consequences were reported in The Independent as long ago as 1994; that is the feminisation of fish and other organisms. It is thought that this is one of the reasons too for the reducing sperm count in humans.
The male pill does not have this effect. A means of killing the sperm as they pass through the vasa deferentia is also being experimented with, which is reversible. It would certainly be better for all of us if the males in long-term relationships took one of these initiatives in birth control.
Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France
Scans for the dead and the living
Dr Mark Howard’s letter (7 December) raised, in my ignorant layman’s mind, an important question. If digital imaging (MRI and CAT scans) has such a high rate of error when used on dead bodies, instead of a conventional autopsy, is the error rate similar when used for diagnosis on the living?
I certainly hope there is a significant difference. No one wants to see a return to earlier times and exploratory operations!
Iain Smith, Rugby, Warwickshire
Sir, Ministers line up to condemn the recommendation of IPSA, the Independent Parliamnetary Standards Authority, that MPs’ pay should go up 11 per cent to £74,000 (report, Dec 9), but IPSA also recommends a cut in MPs generous pensions, bringing them into line with pensions already agreed for the rest of the public sector from 2015, (which are much more generous than private sector pensions).
On the £67,000 salary, payable from 2014, an MP’s pension is now worth about £23,000 a year, or a £90,000 package in total. On the recommended £74,000 salary, the new pension would be worth about £16,000 a year, or £90,000 in total — so the higher headline salary is entirely offset by a lower pension.
Perhaps the Ministers who are cross with IPSA would rather stick with the current arrangements, allowing them to keep their very generous, but hidden pension, while appearing statesmanlike to hard-pressed voters by rejecting a large pay rise.
Sir, If IPSA’s announcement encourages a more general debate among our political leaders about fair pay that will be a good thing.
Squeezed wages in public life are important in the long term. Interest in the salaries of the 650 public servants working on our behalf in Parliament is as inevitable as the sight and sound of MPs scrambling to the TV and radio to disavow the likely IPSA offer and so signal their wider public empathy.
What shallow posturing! If MPs really think such public indignation is impressive, they are mistaken. Just as they are mistaken in failing to debate head on the main cause of a cost of living calamity in the public sector — wage constraint.
The 5.7m public sector workers in the UK would welcome a more honest discussion about stressed budgets and plans for their pay which, by 2015/16, will have seen a 14 per cent real-terms cut.
Sir, The proposed pay increase might come at a difficult time — there is never a good time to increase MPs’ pay — but if ministers had been less scared in the past, we wouldn’t be here now. Of course, if they want to reduce the cost of Parliament, they could reduce the number of MPs, peers and ministers.
Director, Office of Manpower Economics 2007-2010
Sir, If Mr Cameron is serious about reducing “the cost of politics” (Dec 9), he should address the issues that really add to costs, such as the increasing number of highly paid political advisers and the ever growing number of appointments to the House of Lords.
Dulnain Bridge, Highland
Sir, Those MPs who say they will not accept the proposed pay rise are presuming that they will be voted back into Westminster, as the pay rise will come into effect only after the next general election. in 2015.
If these MPs do not want to accept the money, why not pledge they will pay it into a fund, to support the many underpaid staff at the Palace of Westminster, such as cleaners, caterers, researchers and unpaid interns. There is relative poverty all around them at Westminster.
Dr David Lowry
Most research focuses on the physiological but as the brain is the most complex organ of the body we must research the psychological aspects too
Sir, Having seen my elder sister live with early-onset Alzheimer’s for 12 years and die from this cruel disease, I welcome the G8 Dementia Summit on Dec 11.
One aspect of dementia research that appears to be overlooked is the possible impact of childhood trauma on predisposing people to developing dementia. This information may be difficult to collect, but it could help to explain why some people develop dementia while others don’t.
Clearly lifestyle, diet and isolation play a part in making people more prone to dementia, but I also believe that some people learn to “block off” memories from an early age, due to them having suffered emotional traumas during their formative years.
Most research focuses on purely the physiological but as the brain is the most complex organ of the body it would surely be worthwhile to research the psychological aspects as well. The latest neurological findings explain why some people go on to develop certain mental illnesses so it seems entirely possible that early-life experiences can programme the brain to develop dementia later in life.
Sir, If The Times is serious about making cycling safer, you should not use the term Road Tax when referring to VED or vehicle excise duty (“Rules for drivers to be made less taxing”, Dec 5). The term Road Tax engenders a dangerous sense of entitlement in some motorists who believe they have dominion over all other types of road user. VED is not a hypothecated tax. The UK’s public highways are so named because they are for use by everyone.
Sir, Your opinion piece (“Britain’s IQ test is to raise the lower levels”, Dec 9) confuses assortive mating with wishful thinking. Two professors who marry will not have “children who are professors squared”, but children who are less clever and closer to the average than they are — just as two parents at the other end of the spectrum will have children who are cleverer than they are.
Sir Francis Galton, the first to apply statistical methods to heredity, described this phenomenon as regression to the mean.
Dr John Doherty
Sir, If The Times is serious about making cycling safer, you should not use the term Road Tax when referring to VED or vehicle excise duty (“Rules for drivers to be made less taxing”, Dec 5). The term Road Tax engenders a dangerous sense of entitlement in some motorists who believe they have dominion over all other types of road user. VED is not a hypothecated tax. The UK’s public highways are so named because they are for use by everyone.
Sir, It would be a gesture of goodwill if the proceeds of the sale of a dozen bottles of 1780 rum were given to a British African Caribbean charity (Report, Dec 6)?
As you report, the family whose descendants are selling this rum through Christie’s acquired fortune and privilege through sugar, cotton, tobacco rum and slavery. It was reported that the family threw “lavish parties” while the slaves toiled on their plantations. Some African Caribbean charities may decline, but I do feel that the proceeds should be “given back” to African Caribbean charitable organisations.
SIR – Nowhere in the survey sent to me last week by my MP was I asked what I thought about MPs being awarded an 11 per cent pay rise with super-duper perks thrown in.
SIR – Surely the most democratic, performance-related and non-controversial way to determine MPs’ pay would be for each constituency to vote on its MP’s pay and expenses.
Just a perfect day
SIR – I think I might have had one of the strangest 21st birthdays. I had the good fortune to be stationed at a place called Dhala. This delightful town on the border of North and South Yemen provided my present: 12 live chickens, a little bigger than starlings.
Our Troop leader negotiated the transaction. He also ordered two large cases of Australian lager to be flown up from Aden. One of the corporals tore the heads off the birds, and threw them up to the circling hawks. The birds were then tossed on to a small wood fire. After about half an hour someone decided they were ready for eating. They were raw inside and black on the outside.
We drank the beer, plus a bottle of vodka courtesy of the sergeants’ mess. As the light faded we were shot at twice by some tribesmen across the valley. We ended up jumping into and on to our armoured fighting vehicles and loosed off a few hundred rounds from the Brownings. With that, the Commando camp based on the hill about half a mile away opened fire on us. They were not very accurate, fortunately, and we radioed to them to stop firing or else.
It’s a place and a birthday I shall never forget.
John D Smith
Hessle, East Yorkshire
SIR – Much as I have admired Downton Abbey, your photograph of the Christmas Day episode showing Lady Rose and her aunt at Buckingham Palace for Lady Rose’s presentation left me appalled.
If my mother and I had turned up at the Palace looking like that when I was presented in the Thirties we would have been told to go away and come back properly dressed.
Three feathers only was the rule laid down by the Lord Chamberlain. And no bare shoulders. Their multi-feathered headpieces and Lady Rose’s skimpy top would have given the poor man apoplexy.
I enclose a sadly pudding-faced picture of myself (above), showing what the real thing was like.
Us at the stable
SIR – I cannot understand the vanity and arrogance of educated people (such as David Cameron, report, December 7) who seem to think that photographs of themselves and their families are appropriate illustrations of Christmas.
A brief encounter on the platform
SIR – Andrew Puckett (Letters, December 7) writes to say that at Taunton station family and friends are not allowed on to the platform to see people off.
I am a regular traveller by train from Scotland to Plymouth, where barriers have long been in place. But my sister is still able to meet me on the platform and see me off.
There is a charity bucket on the train side of the barriers. When my sister comes to meet me or see me off, they let her through and she throws money in the bucket. I have no idea how much is made each year, but it means that everyone wins.
If it can be done in Plymouth, then I am sure it can be done in Taunton.
SIR – I arrived at Taunton railway station on the first day of the new regime and was told by a totally humourless guardian that I wasn’t allowed on the platform because I might board the train without a ticket, or leap in front of the train. Mind you, with the single fare to London being £169.50, you might be tempted to do just that.
But the last time I went to see my wife off, we went on to the platform, said our farewells and waved enthusiastically as the train departed. I arrived safely back at the entrance, all with the benign permission of a passing employee.
So it probably depends on which jobsworth is in charge at the time.
SIR – I found recently that at Newcastle upon Tyne, the gap between train and platform was so big that there was no safe way for me to board the train holding my (not very big) case. I had to turn for help to the person behind me. There were, needless to say, no station staff in sight.
Is it not the responsibility of the railway company to ensure we can board in safety? If they cannot manage that, let us be with our friends and relations on the platform so they can see us on to the train.
SIR – You report (December 7) that “half of GPs are too slow in spotting cancer”. As a specialist who has been receiving referrals from family doctors for 20 years, I have not noticed a decline in GPs’ caring or clinical skills. What, however, is obvious to most consultants is the increasing pressure on GPs not to refer their patients to hospital.
This is the inevitable consequence of asking primary-care doctors to manage their own constrained budget allocations.
It is unacceptable for the Health Secretary to condemn a situation which leads directly from a fundamental change in NHS policy – implemented after his shadow government promised no more major NHS structural changes if elected.
In almost all other Western countries, secondary care institutions are symbols of pride with their own budgets, not completely dependent on funding from primary care.
Cancer care outcomes will decline further until GPs can make medical decisions on the merit of the case and there is a halt to the pillorying of hospitals as the cause of the NHS’s financial ills.
- Warm satisfaction of the domestic woodcutter
09 Dec 2013
Peter Mahaffey FRCS
SIR – Your report “Half of GPs too slow in spotting cancer” does not acknowledge progress in recent years.
Nice guidance on urgent referral for suspected cancer largely restricts that pathway to those with “alarm” symptoms. Many patients with cancer don’t have these when they see their GP. The proportion for bowel cancer is about 50 per cent. Even alarm symptoms are poor predictors; a 50-year-old with recurrent bleeding from the bowel has a one in 15 risk it being cancer. Other cancers first manifest as an emergency, and pre-empt urgent referral. Some are detected by screening and patients are sent directly to a specialist.
Thus, not all cancers will ever be diagnosed through the urgent referral pathway. The highest-achieving 10 per cent of English practices now diagnose 70 per cent of cancers in this way, likely to be near to the realistic maximum. In recent years, effort has been made by the NHS to work with GPs for earlier diagnosis. Urgent referrals for suspected cancer have increased, as has the proportion of cases then diagnosed, and variability between practices has reduced. There is room for improvement and the differences between practices need continued action, but your headline does not represent the facts.
Professor Greg Rubin
Clinical Lead for Cancer, Royal College of General Practitioners
Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University
Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham
SIR – I agree with your headline. My son visited his GP surgery 24 times in 18 months. His cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, was never spotted and he had no treatment except being told to take paracetamol. He died aged 20. He was my only child.
SIR – You allude (Leading article, December 3) to the double benefits of burning logs, through the calories burnt and bodies warmed while collecting, sawing and chopping, before even the fire is lit. Unfortunately the ubiquitous chainsaw negates most of this. Since the recent storm all I can hear is the raucous noise of this machine.
At least I am keeping my muscles in trim with my bow saw, as my fire burns a wheelbarrow load a day.
Sir, – One of my earliest memories of Nelson Mandela was when I was just a little boy in South Africa. I was sitting in our living room watching his inauguration in 1994, and while I was perhaps too young to appreciate the significance of the event, I distinctly recall the expression on the face of the lady who worked in our household (who was a black South African).
Some days before or after the inauguration I remember her saying to me, with a confidence I did not recognise in her tone, that a new time had come to her country – her country. Whether we are white or black, our tears for this valiant champion are all the same hue. – Yours, etc,
Dr SEAN ALEXANDER
Sandyford, Dublin 18.
A chara, – How long ago was it that your Letters page printed an appeal for readers to send Christmas cards to ANC prisoners on Robben Island? How many of your readers took up the challenge?
How many Irish Times readers attending Ireland/ Springboks rugby matches passed Barry Desmond and his Labour friends, objecting to apartheid in South Africa, and chose to dismiss concerns about the practice of apartheid in sport? And how many continued to shop in Dunnes Stores during the time of the pickets, when Dunnes shop workers challenged us to protest too.
Now how many are mourning the passing of a great man, joining in the tributes, signing condolences books and agreeing that apartheid was wicked?
Mandela challenged us all and given his leadership the crowd of supporters grew and an unjust system was overturned. Are there leaders like him left in the world today? – Is mise,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I think the suggestion of naming the Spire after Nelson Mandela is wide of the mark (Fiachra Ó Luain, December 9th) .
The Spire will eventually be torn down and go the way of the fountain that used to be in O’Connell Street. It would be far better to rename Henry Street as Mandela Street. This is where the strike took place, a strike everyone in power is now claiming they supported. My recollection of events is somewhat different. But let them put their money where their mouth is and have a Mandela Street. Unlike the Spire, the street is unlikely to be ever demolished. – Yours, etc,
GEARÓID Ó LOINGSIGH,
Calle 12D, Bogotá,
Sir, – Patrick Doyle (December 9th) refers to the ANC as “an organisation whose terror tactics in some instances would make the IRA seem like altar boys”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation) was probably the most inept liberation army ever. Apart from an attack on the Sasolburg oil refinery which resulted in part-time army units being called up for a month to guard other similar installations and a few bombings they achieved little of note. Most of their planned operations were known to the authorities in advance. A perfect example is a planned attack on one of the three oil refineries in Durban one weekend. The only aspect of the plan that was not known was which refinery was the target. The police and all commando units, one of which I commanded, in Durban and environs were put on standby. In the event the would-be attackers ran into a police patrol and were chased into a builder’s yard. One threw a grenade that bounced back off some scaffolding and killed them all. My opinion, which I voiced at the time, was and still is that a dozen IRA men could have blown half the country apart in a week. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN P O CINNEIDE,
Sir, – As a schoolboy I vividly remember seeing for the first time the Springboks playing in Lansdowne Road in December 1960. It was an “all white” team.
At the time I did not understand the meaning of the word “apartheid” nor had I heard of the Sharpeville massacre. I was innocent!
Thanks to people such as Kader Asmal of TCD, I began to wake up to the evils of apartheid and by 1970 I stood outside Lansdowne Road protesting, “sport knows no colour” against the Springbok visit. There were approximately 8,000 protesters, some of whom tried to stop the bus transporting the Irish rugby team to the ground. By the early 1990s apartheid was over. This was brought home to me when I saw the talented rugby winger Chester Williams, a black man, on the Springbok team. I could not believe my eyes. It was a dream come true.
Nelson Mandela passionately believed in integration through sport. His presence at the rugby World Cup final in South Africa said it all. He could be described as a man who led his people from the darkness of apartheid into the dawn of hope. – Yours, etc,
Beggars Bush Court,
Sir, – I would like to suggest that IRFU and IFA agree to rename Lansdowne Road alias Aviva Stadium as Nelson Mandela Stadium.
This would achieve two things: It would make amends for the slow start of the IRFU in coming around to support the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
It would also be a first step for the public in reclaiming the right to name our public buildings after our heroes, as opposed to allowing them to be named commercially for temporary financial gain. – Yours, etc,
Wigan Road, Dublin 9.
A chara, – To try to draw any parallel between Nelson Mandela and Martin McGuinness is ridiculous. Sam Quirke (December 7th) should be reminded that Mr McGuinness ran for the Irish presidency and lost – a stark reminder that although followed by a few he will never be loved by the many! – Is mise,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – On April 4th, 1968 Senator Robert Kennedy, speaking at an Indianapolis campaign rally, announced the death by an assassin’s bullet of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. During his extemporaneous remarks he said, “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: To tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.” Kennedy could not have imagined just how much Nelson Mandela would dedicate himself to doing precisely that. Rest in Peace Madiba. – Yours, etc,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Nelson Mandela believed passionately in education as the only sure route to a better life, and we in Breadline Africa are committed to keeping the flame of his legacy burning.
Since 2010 we have been privileged to co-operate with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in providing school libraries, in deprived areas, both rural and urban, all over South Africa, using refurbished shipping containers. To date we have opened 33 libraries and the programme continues to develop. We are proud to recall that Irish donors, corporate and individual, have helped to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s memory in such a practical way. To see the joy of the children and their teachers as they grasp their new opportunities is to see Mandela’s vision in action. – Yours, etc,
Chairperson, Irish Advisory
Committee Breadline Africa,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
A chara, – Mandela, the name says it all. M – Magnificent. A – Articulate. N – Non-violent. D – Dedicated. E – Elegant. L – Loving. A – African. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – I was privileged to be in Grand Parade Cape Town when Mandela made his first speech after his release from prison. The most memorable day of my life. Is feidir Suaimhneas Siorai Da an Aman. – Yours, etc,
AINDRIAS O MARCACAIN,
Sir, – How about some balance in your paper’s reporting of Mandela? The glowing tributes are just too much. I even saw one ludicrous suggestion that Mandela is comparable to Gandhi. Nonsense. I beg people to look at Gandhi’s life and then go and learn about some of the workings of Mandela’s ANC. Particularly disturbing is its use of petrol-filled car tyres hung around the neck and shoulders of victims and they set alight. It must be the most horrific, painful, slow death imaginable. Gandhi was a pacifist who would have never have such atrocities happen in his name. Gandhi was also anti-abortion because he defended the most vulnerable born and not yet born.
Please go and find out the facts behind the airbrushing of history that is going on in the media worldwide today. If it was the death of a pope, even the most popular one of all time, there would be a lot more balance in the obituaries than there is in the one-sided glorification of Mandela. Only God will really judge him now. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King are remembered chiefly for fighting against racial inequality. However, they also considered poverty and economic inequity equally abhorrent. We should remember all that they fought for to improve social justice and their courage in taking the less popular path. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As we remember Nelson Mandela, let us not forget our own unofficial apartheid, particularly in our larger cities. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – As someone who has long admired Senator Feargal Quinn, and who campaigned to save the Seanad (a campaign led by Senator Quinn), I am most disappointed by his suggestion that there should be legislation to criminalise workers who wish to defend their pay and conditions (Home News, December 4th).
It would be better use of the Seanad, in my opinion, to support the rights of working people and to debate the new world order whereby it seems companies, banks and the wealthy must always be protected at the expense of the ordinary worker. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m wish to express my bewilderment and sadness at RTÉ’s decision to discontinue the contract of the Vanbrugh String Quartet (Michael Dervan, Arts, December 4th). I know my sentiments are shared by all music-lovers in Cork, whose respect and affection for the quartet are immeasurable. Shame on RTÉ! What a shabby way to reward 28 years of outstanding service to music in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
PAULINE Mac SWEENEY,
St Patrick’s Hill, Cork.
Sir, – It was disappointing to hear Garda Commissioner Callinan criticise the PSNI for failing to co-operate with the Smithwick Tribunal during the course of the tribunal. For it is my belief that the gardaí have failed in their investigation of the murder of one of their own, my father Garda Richard Fallon who died while trying to prevent a bank robbery in April 1970.
In 2010 the Serious Crimes Review Team (SCRT) agreed to my request that it should review the investigation of my father’s murder. This kind of SCRT review is not a full investigative review but one in which the investigation and intelligence files along with the case evidence are re-examined. At the beginning of the SCRT review the investigation file of the case was unavailable to the investigators for at least six months. Later in the process it appears that much of the other documentation generated in the aftermath of the murder is unavailable, presumably lost or destroyed in the interim. Remarkably, it now appears the case evidence has also been lost. I have found all of this to be an astounding and saddening exposure of the lack of regard that An Garda Síochána and the State have for their responsibilities to my father, a loyal servant who gave his life for his country.
While the gardaí are able to confirm the evidence and file losses to me behind closed doors, they will not acknowledge these astonishing losses in public. It is clear from my experience that An Garda Síochána, contrary to the recent statements by the Garda Commissioner, remains more concerned about protecting its institutional standing rather than exposing the truth. The Garda Síochána also told a member of the Oireachtas that the SCRT review would be finished by the middle of this year and yet it has still to terminate the investigation and produce its report.
I note that Diarmaid McGuinness, counsel for An Garda Síochána, accused the PSNI of failing the Breen and Buchanan families. I have been claiming for many years that the Irish Government may have had some responsibility in the murder of my father and in protecting those responsible in its aftermath. The public record shows that a member of Saor Éire, supposedly responsible for my father’s death, and a family member of a government minister of the day, were seen together in London in the late 1960s, presumably attempting to procure arms. It remains for the Irish Government to do anything concrete whatsoever to disprove my allegations, which I would be happy to see refuted after a thorough examination. I will again ask that the Government undertake an independent review of this matter.
It is now over three years since this “preliminary” SCRT review of unavailable files and lost evidence began. I am sad to say that An Garda Síochána have failed the family of Garda Richard Fallon. – Yours, etc,
Wards Hill, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Melissa Teodorini’s claims (December 7th) that the forced displacement of the Bedouin people from the Negev by Israel are benevolent or even “good” are totally at odds with the facts.
If this was the case, why would so many Bedouin have protested the “Prawer Plan”? Indeed, the European Parliament has condemned the plan and demanded its withdrawal. So too has the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Office for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch. Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme described it as “A blatant example of Israel’s discriminatory policies towards its Palestinian minority” and called for it to be dropped.
While people all over the world, including in Ireland, held solidarity demonstrations on November 30th in protest at this dispossession, they did so safely. Meanwhile, the thousands of Palestinians demonstrating against the plan were met with arrest, water cannons and violence by the forces of the Israeli state, on both sides of the Green Line. Israeli democracy? Only for some citizens. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ulster win, Leinster win, Munster win, Connaught win, Is it any wonder English and French clubs want their ball back? A marvellous weekend for Irish rugby (SportsMonday, December 9th). – Yours, etc,
JOHN K ROGERS,
Rathowen, Co Westmeath.
Sir, – So England’s clubs will be withdrawing from next season’s Heineken Cup in favour of a new competition? But after Leinster’s 40 points to 7 drubbing of one of their favourites – in their home patch, who in European rugby will miss them? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Toulouse to lose”, I enquired of the odds. “20 to 1”, was the reply. “I’ll take it please and here’s my tenner”. The West’s awake! – Yours, etc,
Georgian Village, Dublin 15.
Sir, – I had just finished reading Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary column (always a pleasure) on Saturday (December 7th) about the Irish practice of making an assertion, and perhaps softening it, by negativing the opposite, when I heard a representative of dairy farmers being interviewed on the wireless and saying that a strike by ESB workers would not be helpful. – Yours, etc,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.
*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.
Also in this section
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
* 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.
TUAM, CO GALWAY
* 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.
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.
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