7 January 2014 Hospital
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Heath has taken up with Pertwee and Leslie is jealous. Fatso has thrown the burnt steak and kidney pudding tins out the porthole and they are mistaken for mines. Priceless.
Mary to the hospital bone marrow test back in febuary someday
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets just over 300, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Simon Hoggart, the journalist who has died aged 67, wrote on politics, latterly as The Guardian’s acerbic and witty parliamentary sketchwriter, and on wine for The Spectator; for many years he also presented the satirical News Quiz on BBC Radio 4.
He also more-or-less cornered the market in Christmas novelty books, publishing an eclectic mixture of anthologies of his own sketches and such entertaining volumes as The Hamster That Loved Puccini (2005), a compendium of self-congratulatory seasonal round-robins (containing such gems as “As I write, Camilla’s powder blue BMW sits in the driveway below my window”), and the self-explanatory Don’t Tell Mum: Hair-Raising Messages Home from Gap-Year Travellers (2006, with Emily Monk).
But it was as a parliamentary sketchwriter that Hoggart became best known. Though he broadly shared the Guardian’s leftist political stance, he aimed his glittering satirical barbs at politicians across the spectrum. But he liked politicians who refused to conform to the grey sycophantic identikit of the sort favoured by party HQs. The Tory MP Sir Peter Tapsell was a particular favourite, but he also had soft spots for the alarmingly blond Michael Fabricant and for Nicholas Soames, about whom he observed: “They could have floated him over London to bring down the German bombers.”
On the Labour side, he enjoyed Labour MP John Prescott’s tortured relationship with the English language to the extent that in 2003 he published an affectionate compendium of his verbal infelicities, Punchlines: A Crash Course in English with John Prescott.
Although Prescott did not see the joke, Hoggart claimed that most MPs enjoyed such raillery, once recalling the “joy” on the face of the Tory MP Alan Clarke “when he congratulated me on a put–down of another MP who, I later learnt, was one of his very best friends.
Simon David Hoggart was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, on May 26 1946, the elder son of the distinguished academic Richard Hoggart, author of the influential Uses of Literacy, an affectionate but critical examination of working class life and culture. Richard Hoggart would achieve wider fame in the 1960s as the chief defence witness in the Lady Chatterley trial.
Simon was educated at Hymers College in Hull, Wyggeston Boys’ School in Leicester, and then King’s College, Cambridge, where he read English and History and wrote for Varsity.
After graduation he joined The Guardian, becoming one of its correspondents in Northern Ireland during the worst of the Troubles, though he did not recall the posting as being particularly risky: “The Guardian was seen to be more sympathetic to the Catholic side,” he told an interviewer, “so journalists would say they were from The Guardian if they were interviewing Catholics and The Telegraph was seen to be more sympathetic to the Protestant side, so journalists interviewing Protestants said they were from The Telegraph. One time, a bomb went off on a Protestant estate and all the journalists said they were from The Telegraph; in case of suspicion, the news editor said as it was such a big event he had sent along every available reporter.”
After returning from Ireland, in 1973 Hoggart joined the paper’s staff at Westminster as a political reporter and later political correspondent.
In 1981 he left The Guardian to join The Observer (then under separate ownership), working as its Washington correspondent from 1985. In 1989 he returned to London and, after a spell as a columnist, became the paper’s political editor. In 1993, much to his dismay, he was sacked after its takeover by The Guardian. But he came into his own after being appointed parliamentary sketchwriter for The Guardian and given a Saturday column in which he broadened his targets to include such bugbears as privatised train companies and fussy health and safety rules.
Hoggart was a regular on many radio and television programmes, notably Radio 4’s The News Quiz. He appeared as a panellist on the comedy show in the early 1980s and returned in 1996 as chairman for 10 years. A Telegraph review described the show under his chairmanship as so funny as to be “dangerous to listen to while driving or attempting any other complex manoeuvre, such as eating”. He became the wine writer for The Spectator in 2001, succeeding Auberon Waugh. It is said that the magazine’s then-owner, Conrad Black, asked why they had hired “a communist” as wine correspondent, but was reassured that “Simon won’t only write about red wine”. He also published some 20 books and became a regular on the literary festival circuit.
Hoggart modestly summed up his own biography by saying that he moved from being a promising newcomer to a clapped-out old has-been, with no intervening period. While he had a fund of amusing stories to tell about the great and not so good, even in a book of reminiscences Long Lunch: My Stories and I’m Sticking to Them (2010), he seemed to prefer to lurk in the background.
Thus the revelation, in 2004, that he had been having an affair with The Spectator’s publisher Kimberly Quinn at the same time as she was seeing the Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett, caused him great embarrassment. The story, published in The News of the World (which had allegedly illegally hacked Ms Quinn’s phone) was a shock for which Hoggart, a married father of two, was unprepared. At first he angrily dismissed the claims as “bull—-”, but later issued a statement admitting he had lied.
Much fun was had at his expense by rival hacks who dredged up examples of Hoggart’s sometimes moralising pontifications on the subject of the extra-marital affairs of those in the public eye, in which he had put up a strong case for the right of newspapers to expose errant husbands. Wisely, after admitting to the affair and expressing his deep regret for the hurt he had caused to his wife and family, Hoggart remained tight-lipped on the subject and the furore soon died down.
In 2010 Hoggart was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, but it was only in December last year that he was forced to give up writing The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch.
Simon Hoggart married, in 1983, Alyson Corner, a clinical psychologist, who survives him with their son and daughter.
Simon Hoggart, born May 26 1946, died January 5 2014
• 6 hours ago
I was desperately sad to be told of Simon’s death.
In 1971 I found myself in Belfast, working at the Lyric Theatre (I was only nineteen years-old). I used to go to the Europa Hotel to drink with English journalists (they had expense accounts and I had hardly any money). In a very short time I discovered that Simon Hoggart was one of the best. We sat up late every night playing cards and drinking together. He was one of the kindest men I ever knew. .In those days I thought him rather old (he was six years older than me). Now, of course, I discover he was very young
I would like to take issue with your editorial (2 January) about the Israel/Palestine peace process. It is untrue to say either that the Palestinians are the aggrieved party or that Israel bears the major responsibility for making peace.
The truth is that the Palestinians could have had their own state at any time in the past 67 years. They were offered one in 1947 and refused, preferring to make war on Israel. Indeed, one of their key arguments in this rejection (apart of course from their refusal to countenance any autonomous Jewish presence in Palestine) was their rejection of the very concept of Palestinian peoplehood, arguing that this notion was merely a Zionist plot to divide the Arab peoples.
When they did finally (for opportunistic reasons) decide in the 1960s that there was indeed a Palestinian people, they adopted a rejectionist, annihilationist policy, which demanded the destruction of Israel as an independent country.
In recent years they have turned down generous offers of statehood (in 2002 and 2008).
The heart of the conflict is Palestinian refusal to recognise the legitimacy of Israel, and to persist in using any means at their disposal (war, terrorism or political) to demonise and destroy it.
When the Palestinians finally recognise the legitimacy of Israel alongside their own, peace will follow. Until then, Israeli concessions will merely encourage the Palestinian intransigence.
• It is hard to understand how you conclude that Israel will be the party most to blame should the peace process fail. Israel has released well over a hundred Palestinian prisoners – many guilty of the murder or attempted murder of Israeli civilians – as part of an agreement to simply bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. This was not easy for Israel to do and will have cost Israeli leaders much political capital at home. What steps have the Palestinians taken in return? I can’t think of any apart from reluctantly turning up at the negotiations.
In the meantime, almost daily attacks on Israeli civilians occur, released murderers are hailed by Palestinian leaders as heroes, and hatred against Jews is still taught in schools. Would it be too much to expect Mr Abbas to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?
For a peace process to exist – never mind succeed – both parties must be willing to show that they are serious in pursuit of peace. I see only the Israelis showing any willing at all.
• Peace negotiations between Arabs and Israelis have always been extremely difficult and delicate. Often they failed, but there were also instances of success in the past. The latest round of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks has not achieved success so far; but neither did it fail. Yet the Guardian is already concerned with apportioning blame, specifically with blaming Israel for a failure that has yet to happen. And what if the negotiations succeed, despite the Guardian’s pessimism? Will the newspaper then bestow all the credit on the Jewish state?
• ”Awaiting justice” could summarise your excellent editorial squarely laying responsibility for failure at Israeli and American doors. For all the Palestinian leadership’s shortcomings, the onus is without doubt on the occupier, not the occupied. Israelis cannot be blind to the cause of their growing isolation given the extent of Israel’s disrespect, sadly condoned by the US, for international law.
As Kerry arrives in the Middle East, an Israeli ministerial committee approves a Knesset bill allowing Israel to annex the Jordan Valley and, going by history, Israel will announce this week or next plans to proceed with about 1,400 new housing units on Palestinian land. Unless the US, with the UN and EU, promptly enforces the illegality of the occupation, there is no chance of a just and durable peace.
Equity & Peace
• Jonathan Freedland (Ariel Sharon’s final mission might well have been peace, 3 January) appears to overlook Sharon’s real intentions, by implying that Sharon’s policy of so-called disengagement from Gaza, in 2005, might have been his desire for peace. The real intents of that so-called withdrawal are clearly outlined in the statement by his chief adviser, Dov Weisglass, who explained the real intentions of Sharon in an interview in Haaretz in October 2004, reported as follows by the New York Times: “Weisglass assures us that given the conditions Sharon attached to a theoretical resumption of a peace process, ‘Palestinians would have to turn into Finns’ before this could happen. ‘Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda,’ he said … he explains that the proposed Gaza disengagement ‘is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians’.”
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
• I have yet to read Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, praised by Jonathan Freedland, but, as one of the Bentwich clan (Shavit is the son of one of my surviving first cousins) might I comment that he is not the first prominent “WASP” (White Ashkenazi Supporter of Peace) in our family. He is preceded by the oldest son of Herbert Bentwich. Norman Bentwich, like his father a lawyer, was attorney general in Mandatory Palestine, a founder of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and professor of international relations there. He was a radically minded Zionist who in mandatory times advocated a binational solution for Palestine and, post-1948, was a strong critic of Israel’s discriminatory and hawkish policies towards the Palestinians. As one contemporary with Israel’s “founding fathers”, he was one of the very few who witnessed the wrongs and fearlessly acknowledged the truth.
Your writer may find Pussy Riot’s remarks about President Putin believing “that houses walk on chicken legs” bizarre (Shortcuts, G2, 6 January) but any Russian would understand the reference to the fairytale about Baba Yaga, the witch whose hut is built on hens’ legs. Modest Mussorgsky used the same reference as the title of one of the pieces in his piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.
Rijswijk, The Netherlands
• Thank you, Rev Christopher Griffiths, for pointing out that the C of E is the only remaining nationalised industry (Letters, 30 December). Obviously a government oversight. God help us all.
Rye, East Sussex
• Mention of Kathleen Lonsdale (Letters, 4 January) calls to mind the fact that a disproportionate number of prominent crystallographers were members of the – relatively small – Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). As well as Lonsdale, Ursula Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Carl Hermann and (much earlier) William Phillips were all Friends. Any theories?
• Will the Australian cricket team be getting MBEs for their magnificent performance in turning summer’s defeat into victory in this winter’s Test series in Australia (Sport, 6 January), as the England team did when they defeated Australia by a smaller margin in 2005?
David JK Evans
• Any time now I am expecting to hear the annual drought warning, for 2014, from our ever-prescient, super-efficient water companies. I feel it in my water.
• I am sure I am one of thousands of Guardian readers greatly saddened to hear of the death of Simon Hoggart. His column was a constant joy and could make me laugh out loud on the gloomiest of mornings. I shall miss him.
• Saturdays will never be the same.
Navan, County Meath, Ireland
Mark Wallace is quite correct to say that in Cuba there are victims of arbitrary arrest and dissidents are tortured (Icons of oppression, 6 January). What he does not say is that these crimes are committed at the US concentration camp in Guantánamo Bay, illegally occupied by the US since it was stolen from the Cubans by dint of a treaty forced upon them in 1903. Nor does he say that the principal reason for the presence of 1950s automobiles on the streets of Havana is a US blockade that has been in force for over 50 years, which prevents Cuba from importing not just vehicles but vital medical supplies and many other necessities for its island economy. Despite decades of US aggression, including several terrorist attacks that have killed or wounded thousands of its people, Cuba’s achievements in the fields of education and health are the envy of the western world. It would be foolish to suggest that the republic is some sort of tropical socialist paradise, but anyone who has been there or has even the most rudimentary knowledge of its history would recognise that Mr Wallace’s ill-informed prejudices have little basis in truth.
International officer, GMB
Melissa Kite (Drunk on delusion, 6 January) says she’s “fascinated by [my] point of view”. In that case, I suggest she reads what I actually write, and listens to what I actually say. I did not tell Matthew Perry “that his recovery from years of substance abuse was, in fact, a figment of his imagination”. I told him that the commonly accepted idea of “addiction” as a compulsive physical disease was a fashionable fiction. I repeatedly challenged him to provide an objective diagnosis of the presence of this supposed disease in the human body. He rather spectacularly failed, largely because there isn’t one. Yet Ms Kite states as facts that drinkers “know” they “can’t” stop after the first drink, that habitual drinking “is” an “illness” and that “a real compulsion exists”. These are absolute claims, requiring testable proof to have any validity.
• The semantics of “dis-ease” is a spurious way to prove that alcoholism is “an illness that requires serious treatment”. If this were the case, then nobody would be able to simply stop drinking – even for a month. We all have choices; but surely the basic question should be why we feel the need of an anaesthetic to cope with existence? Societal and emotional dysfunction are the root cause of our needing to dull the pain of ordinary life, and this is where society “suffers from a sort of mass denial”.
North Connel, Argyll
• Not only Melissa Kite (“a contributing editor to the Spectator”) but also Ian Birrell (“a former speechwriter for David Cameron”) and Mark Wallace (“executive editor of ConservativeHome.com”) gracing the Comment pages (6 January). Clearly the Guardian believes in Blue Monday despite Pete Etchells’ debunking article online (Blue Monday: There is no such thing as ‘the most depressing day of the year’, 6 January).
Your editorial (Politics of fear, 31 December) raised the issue that the UK has flatly refused to take in a single family fleeing Syria. In seeking to hold the coalition to account on this crucial matter, I have secured a debate and will be asking the government to take action in conjunction with other EU member states to establish a European-wide evacuation and resettlement programme for those fleeing the conflict. I sincerely hope that colleagues from all parties (and none) will take up this opportunity (9 January) and contribute constructively to debate. The UK can – and must – lead the EU in living out the true meaning of its creed and offer a safe haven for refugees fleeing such a dreadful war. Party activists and the officers of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, such as Sarah Teather MP, have been calling for action for some months. While I am proud that the government has given financial assistance to NGOs working in Syria and to Syria’s neighbours who have taken on the burden of accepting so many seeking refuge, I suggest more must be done. We cannot fail the people of Syria.
President, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, House of Lords
• I read with interest your editorial about immigration, the news coverage of Nigel Farage’s call for the UK to grant asylum to Syrian refugees and your readers’ response including the letter from distinguished Jewish leaders published on 1 January.
The scandalous issue with the UK government’s stance is not its view on giving asylum to Syrian refugees. It is rather its guidance to embassies around the world not to give visas to Syrian people regardless of the fairness of their application to enter the UK.
The case for my Syrian parents to be given a family visitor visa to visit us in our home in Manchester could not be any stronger. My wife and I are British citizens. I am a surgical registrar. My father is a doctor who works for the Red Crescent organisation in Homs. My mother is a dentist. We provided the embassy with documents confirming the financial and employment status of my parents, ourselves and my parents-in-law, who are dairy farmers in Somerset. My parents have visited us six times before and never stayed beyond their declared period of visit. We have not sponsored the visit of anyone else.
My parents have never seen my daughter, who is 20 months old. It is unsafe for us to visit them in Syria, so the only way for us to see them is for them to come to the UK. However, the entry clearance officer has refused to grant them a visa, and they have no right of appeal against the decision.
The UK government’s stance and guidance on the Syrian families (in particular parents) of British citizens is beyond belief and is against all principles of civilised society.
• It is no wonder that people do not trust politicians when on your front page Alistair Burt berates MPs for voting against joining a war in Syria (Ex-minister reveals anger over Syria vote, 31 December) and calls this action a “constitutional mess”, implying that only governments can be right. As we begin the centenary of the beginning of the first world war, we can all make a resolution, including politicians, of no more wars?
Cheadle Hulme, Stockport
The attempt by Michael Gove to rehabilitate the First World War ahead of its centenary is utterly reprehensible. It is hard to see how anyone other than a sociopath would think the occasion was an event worthy of celebration and jingoism.
The war was not, as the Tories are trying to imply, some great and noble endeavour fought against German expansionism. It was a bloody slaughter fought because of the greed and stupidity of European imperial powers.
Gove and the Tories have been unable to cite any democratic or moral imperative in their justification for the celebration. They seem to be doing it so as to no longer make the First World War synonymous with the horrors and senselessness of human conflict.
The war was best encapsulated by the war poets such as Wilfred Owen, whose famous verse described as “the old lie” the Latin exhortation Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (How sweet and right it is to die for one’s country).
Alan Hinnrichs. Dundee
Congratulations to Sir Richard Evans for defending himself against Michael Gove (“Academic hits back at Gove’s ‘ignorant’ views on WW1”, 4 January).
How dare Gove, with his schoolboy and ideologically inspired view of the war, insult an historian, knighted for the knowledge and understanding of 20th-century history revealed in his superbly crafted and diligently researched works?
Gove has also frequently complained that film and TV comedies such as Blackadder have left the British public with little understanding of the war, as if teachers used them as an evidence base for facts, rather than a source for whetting appetites and increasing interest in the topic.
His complaint couldn’t have anything to do with more government-inspired tampering with history, could it, nothing to do with our perception of the privately educated, largely clueless, officers, the “donkeys”, making mistakes, repeating failed tactics time and time again, and actually causing thousands of deaths?
Why, it might even reflect badly on our present privately educated politicians and officers, who seem as keen as ever to spend billions of taxpayers` money on preparation for future, needless wars.
The First World War could have been avoided, had the politicians in power not included people intent on increasing their own country’s economic power at the expense of that of their rivals. Isn’t that the basic reason for modern wars? The “just cause”, as we know from Iraq, tends to be added as an afterthought, to persuade the populace.
There can be little doubt that, after an elementary education consisting largely of the three Rs and a smattering of nationalist history, which taught the inferiority of all other races, including that of the increasingly “barbaric” Germans, the youth of Britain were conned into volunteering for war by a government promising to have them home for Christmas.
Twenty-first-century experience in Britain tells us how governments still use information and data, often inaccurate, to support their own agendas. Wars can be avoided when the people and their representatives know the facts and are aware of the consequences.
Wouldn’t it be preferable for people to be given the facts about the First World War, rather than sanitised and politicised versions?
Bernie Evans, Liverpool
My father volunteered for the duration of the First World War in August 1914 and participated in the first battle of the Somme in 1916 and the fourth battle of Gaza in 1917. It occurred to me that there must be one fact I could quote that could convey to a young person of today the magnitude of the commitment and sacrifice that these First World War veterans made in serving king and country 100 years ago.
I think I have found one. The total number of the armed forces of the UK recorded as killed and missing in the war is 702,410. The war lasted for 1,561 days, giving a mean daily killed-and-missing rate of 450.
The total number of UK armed forces who have died during the current Afghanistan war is 447, which is a figure close to the mean of just one day’s UK armed forces fatalities in the First World War.
Of course, this total of fatalities in Afghanistan is a truly shocking statistic in itself, but it is also a clear indicator of the scale of the incredible losses sustained by the UK armed forces in the First World War and borne by families at home.
Dr David Payne, Penarth, South Wales
I didn’t call for satire regulation
Richard Berry (letter, 1 January), from the LSE Public Policy Group, took me to task for a comment made on Radio 4’s When Comedy and Politics Collide.
Unfortunately, Mr Berry did not do what he would require of his students: namely, actually to do his homework and in particular to have listened to the programme to which his comments referred.
I never suggested that satirical TV shows should “face tighter regulation”. I simply said that we needed to be aware of and take account of the impact of satire and its impact on attitudes to politics and politicians.
Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, London SW1
A lot to be said for election by lot
I was delighted to see Boyd Tonkin’s piece (4 January) advocating allotting seats in Parliament by lot. I would entrust lawmaking to a random group of conscientious fellow citizens over a collection of career politicians any day.
Tonkin, however, allows his suggestion to be undermined by the objection that many people would be reluctant to give up their time to serve as an MP. This is true but is not an insuperable obstacle.
I would suggest a system whereby anyone who meets certain requirements and would be willing to serve as an MP can submit their name to the ballot. Even if only one in a hundred adults was willing to join the lottery, we would still have more than enough to generate a random sample from each constituency.
To ensure that volunteers included plenty of expert professionals, annual compensation would be set at 15 per cent above the average income stated on the volunteer’s last three annual tax returns. This would ensure that a doctor or solicitor could volunteer to serve a term without risking a significant loss of income. The minimum salary would be, say, £50,000. For most, this would be a step up financially, so people with an interest in government would have a strong incentive to volunteer.
In a country as change-averse as the UK, a change as radical as a lottery for seats in Parliament will never get off the ground. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea, and worth serious discussion.
Ellen Purton, Twickenham
Who was fighting the miners?
The news that Margaret Thatcher considered employing troops to assist the police during the miners’ strike might just be 30 years out of date. During the strike, there were persistent rumours that soldiers were donning police uniform and joining them on the picket lines. Will any brave former police officer or soldier step forward and confirm this?
William Roberts, Bristol
Papers released from 1984 reveal that Arthur Scargill was correct to claim the Thatcher Government had a hit list of pit closures. I take it David Cameron will be making an official apology to Mr Scargill, the National Union of Mineworkers and miners’ families.
Keith Flett, London N17
No way to treat a great author
In your coverage of the death of the award-winning, bestselling, self-described “seething feminist” novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard (3 January), in what way was the fact that she “inspired Martin Amis” the thing about her most worthy of going in the headline? Why not go the whole hog next time and just say: “Novelist didn’t have penis”?
Louisa Young, London W12
Women should get writing
I’ve noticed a worrying trend on the Letters page. From 29 December to 4 January, out of 64 letters printed, only seven were from women, and one of those was part of a couple.
The editor may say that letters are judged purely on their content, but maybe that judgement is coming from a male perspective?
If there are so many more men contributors to the Letters page, may I be so bold as to suggest some positive discrimination towards letters from women.
Come on, sisters, start writing!
Penny Joseph, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Shock horror: it’s a Bulgarian invasion
Great Uncle Bulgaria to appear on British stamps – does the editor of the Daily Mail know?
With reference to your story about Michael Schumacher possibly being “out of danger” after his skiing accident and head injury (4 January), it should be pointed out to lay observers that, even though it has been reported that Mr Schumacher was wearing a helmet at the time of his accident, he still has had a serious injury.
As far as we know, he has had a closed-head injury (ie no skull fracture) and this will certainly lessen the risk of brain-tissue tearing by depressed skull fragments. However, closed-head injuries have their own – just as serious – problems. When the soft brain is thrown against the hard skull at speed, there will almost always be bruising and haemorrhage/haematomas, along with brain-tissue swelling, causing an excess in pressure within the skull.
Neurosurgeons will usually have to dissolve haematomas and drain off some blood and cerebrospinal fluid so that specialised areas of the brain are not damaged by excessive pressure.
The moment of impact will probably have caused tissue tearing regardless of the helmet, and this tearing can be acutely felt if a cranial nerve (controlling many of the sensory and/or motor functions) is damaged or disabled.
“Depth” of coma is measured worldwide using the Glasgow Coma Scale, and the relative severity of the injury by the period of post-traumatic amnesia, or PTA (from moment of trauma until the restoration of normal, continuous memory). A very severe brain injury will result in loss of consciousness of more than 48 hours and PTA of more than seven days, so it’s likely that Mr Schumacher could be in that category.
After a road traffic collision many years ago, I survived after a coma of about four weeks and PTA of around six weeks. As the clinicians are saying, it is far too early to make a prognosis at this stage: every patient is different and there are many variables to consider. Early treatment is one, but age is another – younger patients tend to make better recoveries.
I was 26 at the time of my injury and, after assessment at a hospital in the Scottish Highlands, was transferred to the Institute of Neurological Sciences in Glasgow. I’ve made a fairly decent recovery from my orthopaedic injuries, but I’ll probably always have epilepsy (common after brain injuries), double vision and poor memory.
Once Michael Schumacher is discharged from hospital looking brand-new, people should bear in mind that he will have unseen injuries too. Paradoxically, for a champion racing driver, he may have to surrender his driving licence.
Pressure on midwives is soul-destroying
Everything that I read in the piece regarding midwifery is so true (“A call from the midwife: Why I am resigning after 10 years in the NHS”, 3 January).
I, also, have worked in the NHS, for over 30 years, and it is, indeed, soul-destroying. We are constantly short-staffed, sickness is rife, and morale is rock-bottom.
Where I work, the introduction of “e-rostering” is the final nail in the coffin. A computer does our roster, requests are very limited, and to plan a life round this is nigh impossible. Days and nights – 13 hours – are in the same week, paperwork has quadrupled, and we are constantly being assessed.
Newly qualified midwives don’t stand a chance, and we need to nurture them. It’s such a stressful job for a 21-year-old.
Another disillusioned midwife
Name and address withheld
Profumo cover-up seems to go on and on
Andrew Lloyd Webber presented a television programme recently about the subject of his latest stage production, Stephen Ward – the fall guy in the Profumo Affair, allegedly.
That there was a miscarriage of justice can scarcely be in doubt now, and yet, it was recently stated that the retained documents would be kept secret until 2039 at the earliest and possibly until 2064.
It is beyond belief that any useful purpose is served by this pathologically obsessional secrecy. On the contrary, the impression is given of a continuing establishment cover-up.
As the Cold War is now decades behind us, I am sure that any government that chose the path of “truth and reconciliation” on this and many other topics currently hidden from public view would score a vast number of brownie points with the public and historians alike.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Milton Keynes still a city of the future
The concept of a future city could not be timelier, with renewed political interest in new towns as a solution to our housing crisis (“Concrete bungle”, 30 December).
While capturing the Modernist vision of the early pioneers of Milton Keynes, your review of the exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery failed to capture the sense of future that still exists in the city.
This was a new experiment in community building on a grand scale not matched by the other post-war new towns.
For every bit of concrete, there is a park, woodland or riverbank to match it. The fusion of green space and urban development underpins the power of a vision to sustain a new city that has grown to more than 230,000 residents and is still expanding.
While many areas suffer from nimbyism, Milton Keynes retains its pioneering spirit. We get expansion, when it is done right. We understand the benefits of culture, shared stories and prosperity from building a city. Having grown up alongside the development of Milton Keynes, I can still feel the energy as the city seeks to define its vision for the next 40 years of its growth.
If politicians want to learn about building new towns or the next generation of garden cities, they could start by visiting our small patch of Buckinghamshire.
Labour and Co-operative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South
I am not sure where Zoe Pilger gets her information that “the new towns experiment emerged out of the 1945 Welfare State”. I think Ebenezer Howard and the good burghers of Letchworth Garden City (1908) would take issue with that statement.
Pensioners care about more than themselves
Why is it always assumed that when we pensioners vote, we do it with nothing but our own interests in mind? Might we not be thinking of our children, grandchildren or society at large – or is that just inconceivable today?
Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
Some women are too busy to write
Penny Joseph (letter, 6 January) could be firing in the wrong direction when she accuses The Independent of discriminating against women letter writers.
Quite a few of my offerings have appeared on these pages since I have had time, following retirement, to sit down and write.
Perhaps she should look at the limitations on women’s freedom of expression, which result from the often excessive demands of work and home placed on the modern emancipated female. The demands of the festive season fall particularly hard on women.
After the ashes nothing will change
After the Ashes, I predict:
The captain, coach or a player will say: “I have let myself down, I have let my team down and I have let the country down.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board will say: “We will learn from this and move forward” and “We will build a team based on experience and youth for the future.” No one will be held accountable for the debacle in Australia. Stuart Broad will continue to act in a manner that goads rivals to even better performance. The media will continue the hyperbole in its comments on our cricketing talent and capability, building false gods with feet of clay. And the show will go on…
Cameron’s record on promises
David Cameron promises to keep the “triple lock” for pensions if re-elected. Is this the same David Cameron who, before the last election, loudly promised no major NHS reorganisation, no increase in VAT, no change to universal benefits, no increase in university tuition fees (it wasn’t just Clegg), and no more yah-boo politics?
East Horsley, Surrey
Equality! fashion for men looks daft too
Looking at the picture with the article “A ‘Made in Britain’ fashion revival” (4 January), I was delighted to see that fashion designers are as capable of making young men look ridiculous as they are young women. They are more even-handed in their exploitation than I had feared.
Sir, I am stunned by your support for the Environment Secretary’s notion of sacrificing ancient woodlands to make way for housing (leading article, Jan 4). Ancient woodland is far more than a group of trees which can be replaced by new planting. It is a complex habitat developed over many centuries and containing a web of interdependent species, forming an ecological unit which would be impossible to re-create on any meaningful timescale.
There are plenty more options for providing necessary homes, though some may prove more expensive for developers. The off-setting proposal, which would presumably make use of low-grade farmland, is illogical. Why not build the houses there in the first place?
Sir, Ancient woodland sustains fungi that simply cannot be found elsewhere, since many fungi are successional and cannot establish until their prerequisite species have established. These climax species of fungus will have dependent species of insects, and those insects will have other dependent species, and so on down the dependency chain. We can therefore see that offsetting ancient forest with newly planted woodland is a fatally flawed concept.
Raphoe, Co Donegal
Sir, Your leader today states the figure of “one in every four is a single household” and supports the proposal to build over “ancient woodlands”. If there is such a need for housing for single persons, why do housebuilders continue to build four-bedroom, two-garage houses?
Sir, The need for new housing is a particular threat in the South East, which has more than 40 per cent of England’s ancient woodland. From Tudor times until the Industrial Revolution, the Weald was the centre of the iron and glass industries, requiring large amounts of charcoal. At that time, laws were passed requiring the replanting of the trees felled.
The proposal that new natural woodland should be planted to replace ancient woodland that is felled to make way for housing, seems a pragmatic compromise, but this implies that greenfield sites will have to be sought, planted and managed for future generations. Would it then be better to leave the ancient woodland alone and build on the greenfield sites, while ensuring that developers plant shaws of local tree species?
Sir, You rightly identify several social changes, such as families splitting up, as causing the need for many more houses. But there is another. The UK population, which was 58.8 million in 1997, jumped to 62.8 million in mid-2011, a rise of 4 million. Much of this rise is due to importing workers from overseas and most of them are now citizens of our country. They need and deserve to be able to settle into homes.
We now learn that it will be necessary to build some homes in our treasured ancient woods. Sir David Attenborough was right when he said: “There is no environmental problem facing our planet that would not be easier to solve if there were fewer people, and no problem that does not become harder — and ultimately impossible to solve — with ever more.”
Dr John Moor
Sir, There is constant mention of the massive death toll during the First World War, but there is no mention of those whose lives were irreparably curtailed by their time in the trenches.
My father, the architect F. X. Velarde, died at the age of 63 in 1960, from illness affected by his war service, particularly his gassing at Passchendaele.
He contributed greatly in his active years to English church architecture, and I often wonder what more he would have done with another ten or 20 years. I was 25 at his death and I miss him still.
Battle, E Sussex
Sir, I admit to never having heard of “The Great War for Civilisation”, the “correct” name for the First World War, prior to A. W. Gilliland’s letter (Jan 3) although I now see it was used on the reverse of the Victory medal.
Was the term coined by the British, who went on to carve the Ottoman Empire into arbitrary slices, the consequences of which haunt us still; who bombed troublesome “natives” in Iraq in the 1920s; and who carried out the Amritsar massacre in 1919?
All that aside, I don’t see how that solves the potential misunderstanding of “great”: surely it could still be misread as “A great war for civilisation, a brilliant war for American industry, and a marvellous war for Stalinist-Leninist mass-murdering dictatorship”?
Theydon Bois, Essex
Sir, The First World War poets undermined patriotism in that period of history far more effectively than Blackadder. What does Michael Gove propose to do with them?
Sir, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon should not judge the performance of our troops in Afghanistan purely on the situation in Helmand (report, Jan 6). Without ISAF forces, Helmand would have been overrun by the Taleban who could then have caused mayhem across Afghanistan. Our forces in Helmand have limited Taleban control there and enabled the rest of Afghanistan to make considerable progress in the past decade. Even if the influence of the Taleban in Helmand increases, the advances elsewhere are probably sufficiently well established to be irreversible.
R. P. Fernando
Sir, Philip Collins asserts that almost anything one might associate with Britishness is “first and paramount, either English, Welsh or Scottish.” (“Little England should prepare a big welcome”, Opinion, Jan 3). Not so; much remains once we disregard morris dancing, haggis, St David’s day and Danny Boy.
Our Armed Forces have fought and fallen together in two world wars and numerous other conflicts large and small. Far from “fostering a sense of English identity”, as Mr Collins claims, the Great War inspired young men across the British Isles to stand up and fight as one for King and Country. Indeed, our Royal Family itself is truly British, the Queen enthroned in England and directly descended from the last nine monarchs to rule just Scotland, but from none of the last four to rule England, Wales and Ireland.
At home, countless institutions from the NHS and the RNLI to the local bobby are cherished by the entire nation. The pub, the fish-and-chip shop, the post office and the curry house are cornerstones of British life and simply do not exist in the same form away from these shores.
Across the globe, from the British Empire to our leading role in the Commonwealth of Nations, from our role in establishing the UN and our permanent seat on the Security Council to the beacon emitted by the BBC for decades: all these are British achievements that cannot be attributed to any single constituent country.
The UK is undeniably much greater than the sum of its parts.
Dr Rich Braithwaite
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Sir, English identity is indeed rooted in blood, culture and ancestry. However, Scotland’s campaign for independence shows that a better alternative to the existing English identity is available.
Breakaway states based on ethnicity often tend to fashion communities that are more sociologically monolithic than their parent states. Scotland has chosen to do the opposite. It has chosen to move away from ethnic and nationalistic arguments for independence, and instead gravitated towards increased commitment to bilingualism and multiculturalism.
Witness how the last Scottish Assembly even allowed one of its elected members, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, to read his oath of allegiance in Urdu.
If Scotland can differentiate itself by embracing Scottish values rather “blood, culture and ancestry” as the region’s defining principle, there is no reason why England cannot do the same.
O. P. Shabbi
Sir, When most people walked in earlier times, they used footpaths to go to work, church, school and shopping, but not for recreation. It was reasonable for farmers to maintain the paths for their community. Today most footpaths are not needed for their original purpose, so why should farmers have to maintain them for the benefit of all and sundry? Now footpaths are for recreation surely those who enjoy them should pay for their upkeep. A role that the Ramblers Association should embrace.
West Hatch, Somerset
SIR – Having become a grandfather for the first time on Boxing Day, I have been intrigued to discover that all of my granddaughter’s romper suits have pockets. For what reason?
I feel that she is too young for a mobile phone, car keys or credit cards. But perhaps I am being old-fashioned.
SIR – Mike Norris suggests all drivers should wear helmets, since Michael Schumacher wore one when racing. So did I: but the racing and road environments are very different.
Races are relatively short in time, on wide tracks known to the drivers. There are no oncoming drivers, no distractions from passengers or in-car entertainment, and the drivers are reasonably competent. Few of these conditions apply on the road. Far more head movement is needed, communication and indeed conversation within the car are important driving aids, particularly on long journeys, and I doubt whether passengers, particularly children, would wear helmets.
Seat belts are easy to use and monitor, airbags provide protection, and safety is a fundamental factor in the design of today’s road vehicles. Wearing a helmet in a road car is potentially dangerous.
The puzzling question of rompers and pockets
06 Jan 2014
Charging NHS patients would stop unnecessary visits to the doctor
06 Jan 2014
SIR – I think that the decision to wear a ski helmet should be a personal one; I wear one for snowboarding, but not for skiing.
However, if the powers that be wish to encourage the wearing of helmets, they should first persuade those style icons, the ski instructors, to wear them, and the rest will follow. In more than 50 years of skiing, I have never once seen an instructor in a helmet – although this might have something to do with the fact that their hair has to look perfect all the time.
SIR – I have been cycling all my life, and hope that the use of a cycling helmet remains a choice.
I choose not to wear one, but will not “mount up” without wearing a high visibility jacket, which is, in my opinion, the most important aid to safe cycling.
The week that was
SIR – Sheila Maguire’s husband is right: the week starts on a Sunday. The Bible tells us that Jesus’s resurrection occurred “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week”. As far as I know, Jesus did not rise from the dead on a Monday.
It is unfortunate that many diaries nowadays are published with Monday as the first day of the week. Is this another example of de-Christianising our life?
Not long ago, I received an invitation to attend a seminar, which “will take place from Tuesday to Saturday in Week 35”. Week 35 is apparently the first week in September.
SIR – The debate about starting the week on Sunday or Monday is easily resolved: start it on a Wednesday. Then we can have two days off in the middle of the week.
SIR – While consumers seem happy to debate which supermarket is the poshest based on prices, maybe they should look at the language used on the “own brand” groceries to help them make their decision.
The cooking instructions on a packet of Sainsbury’s ready-to-cook diced potatoes advise me to: “remove film and decant potatoes, spreading evenly onto a preheated baking tray”.
While I’m happy to decant port or sherry – potatoes?
SIR – Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, claims that schools use biometric fingerprinting to “save some administration work”; I would argue it saves lives.
It allows the dinner ladies to know the allergies of every child at the point of purchasing their meal and to advise them accordingly; it allows pupils entitled to free school meals to collect them in complete anonymity; and it allows myself, as a child protection officer at a school, to monitor pupils remotely to ensure they are eating regular meals and to react to any signs of neglect. Correctly used, this is an excellent tool for safeguarding our young people.
Schools hold a lot of sensitive information about their pupils, and this should be protected accordingly, but Big Brother Watch seems to suggest there is some sinister reason for fingerprinting pupils and the “wrong hands” are just waiting to use this data. Given the limited nature of the fingerprint data that is collected, I struggle to see what nefarious purpose it could be used for.
Love’s Labour’s Lost
SIR – Worse than saying “I love you” to end a conversation is the shortened version, “Love you”, which is used out of context and in a glib manner.
It seems to mean that you can act in whatever way you choose, as long as you reassure the other person with a trite “Love you” at the end of the conversation.
Sketching while eating
SIR – Sir Christopher Wren, on completion of his labours for London after the Great Fire of 1666, was dining with John Sanders at his house in the village of Honiley, during which he sketched a design for a chapel, later built in 1723. It was one of Wren’s last works.
Does a Wren chapel in Warwickshire count as a eureka moment? Very much so!
Peter S James
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
SIR – I used to use beer mats rather than napkins to design computer systems. The rule of thumb was that if you couldn’t explain it on a beer mat, you hadn’t thought about it hard enough. Something Whitehall might consider.
West Wickham, Kent
Memorable mnemonics: from rivers to royalty
SIR – My geography teacher in 1960 used the mnemonic: “Sun, what about coming down town” to describe the rivers that drain the eastern Pennines. I still recall them with complete accuracy: Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Don and the Trent.
B T Lewis
SIR – An easy mnemonic for remembering the royal houses of England is: “No plan like yours to study history wisely” – Norman, Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor.
Hayling Island, Hampshire
SIR – In the teaching of music theory over the years, I have observed that my pupils found the most memorable mnemonics for learning the correct order of accidentals on the stave determining the key of the music were: for sharps: Father Christmas Gave Daddy An Electric Blanket (FCGDAEB), and flats: Blanket Explodes And Daddy Gets Cold Feet (BEADGCF)
Regrettably, I cannot claim authorship.
SIR – My biology lecturer offered a mnemonic that could form the basic plan of the answer to any examination question: “Ha! Now remember, germs”. Habitat, appearance, nutrition, respiration, growth, excretion, reproduction, movement, sensitivity. Happily, it proved fool-proof, and I was awarded my degree.
SIR – My physics teacher asked the class to compile a mnemonic to help us remember the abundance of the elements on earth. The final result was: “Oh Saint Anne, I can say prayers mighty hurriedly”. O for oxygen, S for silica, A for aluminium, I is for iron and so on. In all my working life in the shoe industry, I don’t think it has been of much help to me.
Robert G E Hill
Lewes, East Sussex
SIR – My offering is: “Camels ordinarily sit down carefully. Perhaps their joints creak. Early oiling might prevent permanent rheumatism” for the geological time periods.
SIR – You are right to point out that the principle “free at the point of delivery” has become almost sacrosanct when reforming the NHS is discussed. There is, however, another founding principle of the NHS, which is that care should be provided “according to need”. I was an NHS GP for 25 years, and I would estimate that about 10 per cent of the population use the NHS out of all proportion to their need. It doesn’t sound a lot, but this figure is enough to clog up most appointment systems, resulting in limited access for the majority of patients.
The NHS has tried a variety of measures to solve the problem, but they have all failed. I would, therefore, agree that it is time to start charging patients. Moreover, I would institute a sliding scale, with appointments being more expensive in the evenings and at night. I would also charge a higher rate for accident and emergency visits, and, perhaps, charge the full price for drug- and alcohol-related problems.
I am now a patient, so this would cost me money; a small price to pay, if it rescues the NHS.
Dr Chris Nancollas
Wearing a helmet while driving a car is dangerous
06 Jan 2014
The puzzling question of rompers and pockets
06 Jan 2014
SIR – I attended A&E at Colchester hospital on Saturday following a sports-related injury at a tennis club. The ambulance was called at 2.35pm, and arrived at 4.10pm. During this time, I was pinned to the ground by first-aiders, who were adamant that I should not move my head.
I eventually arrived at the hospital at 5.45pm and then went through a number of different stages: the handover, the doctor examination, the X-ray, and the clean-up. There were long delays between each stage before I was discharged at 9.45pm. While I had some disquiet about the length of time the ambulance took to arrive and how long I occupied an A&E cubicle, I could not fault the treatment.
I would willingly have paid £10.
SIR – It is interesting that your editorial, “The NHS is cursed by dogma”, should appear opposite Michael Blair’s letter. He complains about the cost of dentistry compared to having “a new knee – for nothing” from Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield. But there is no such thing as a “free” knee? Somebody – in this case, the taxpayer – has to pay.
The problem is that we have reached the limit of what the taxpayer can pay, and we must discuss the alternatives in a grown‑up fashion without the party political rhetoric that always mars the debate.
SIR – Patients should not be charged £10 for an A&E visit deemed unnecessary: the GP with whom the patient is registered should be charged instead. Perhaps, this would encourage GPs to make access to their surgeries easier than it is at present.
Sir, – The news (“Army apologises over remarks about Higgins”, Home News, January 4th) that the chief-of-staff of the Army contacted Áras an Uachtaráin to “convey the regret of the head chaplain for any embarrassment” that his Christmas Eve homily might have caused the President is bizarre and inexplicable.
Mr Higgins is probably the strongest advocate of intellectual freedom in the history of the State and he would fully understand that the vitality of intellectual freedom thrives on conflicting opinions and passionate dialogue.
Would the chief-of-staff not therefore have been more prudent and measured by not engaging with this issue and conveying the impression that clerical homilies are subject to military censorship? – Yours, etc,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
A chara, – Like most soldiers, serving and retired, I share a great reverence and affection for Msgr Eoin Thynne – a warm, gentle, discreet, and thoroughly reliable friend to all who serve. It is unfortunate, too, but not unexpected, that RTÉ’s Liveline was so readily available to facilitate anonymous callers having a “pop” at such a good and holy priest.
That the chief-of-staff was obliged to “convey his regret” after that unholy radio show furore is understood by all who ever soldiered. The statement from the press office of the Defence Forces was also a requirement; and, in seeking balance, it has done much to undo the harm caused by the various self-congratulating experts and arbiters. Now, perhaps, a priest, who, for years, has bravely ministered to Ireland’s soldiers in the most dangerous places on Earth, will be allowed to be a priest in Ireland, and even to mention the Gospels? – Is mise,
Ashbourne, Co Meath.
Sir, – Your report indicates that an Army spokesman has said that Msgr Thynne’s homily was not intended to be a criticism of the President, and those who saw it as such would be putting a “particularly unfair interpretation” on it. Given this, why did the chief-of-staff apologise to the President?
The spokesman also stated that chaplains have no rank. As a former member of the Army who served in the 1970s and 1980s, we were told that chaplains have the rank of captain or commandant. Serving on the Curragh, chaplains socialised in the officers’ mess. They certainly did not socialise in the mess for the privates or the mess for the NCOs.
The Defence Forces website clearly shows the chaplain insignia worn on a peaked hat is aligned with those of other officer ranks. Furthermore the salary for a chaplain is commensurate with that of a captain or commandant. In fact, the salary for the Army head chaplain in 2011 was €68,190. The “padre” rank structure is in line with other western armies, where all chaplains are commissioned officers without executive authority. Why is the Defence Forces different? – Yours, etc,
Rock Tavern, New York.
A chara, – How exciting that we seem to have a growing movement determined to emulate those nations where the cult of the “great and glorious” leader is the norm and every mention of his name must be accompanied not only by fawning deference but with actual reverence. I do feel sorry for Msgr Eoin Thynne, though, as there was no advance warning of what they were about. Still, they had to start somewhere, and what better way to begin their attempt to elevate our President to a semi-divine status than a shot across the bows of a representative of another faith? – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Sir, – I’m somewhat confused by Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan’s admission that he first learned of artistic director Karl Wallace’s resignation from a newspaper report (“City of Culture board to meet on new CEO”, Front Page, January 6th).
Is he aware that both his assistant secretary and the Arts Council director are full members of the City of Culture board? Their brief, presumably, is to represent the public interest and to monitor budgets and processes. Have they reported to him or to the Arts Council? Did the board keep them informed? Their views could be illuminating. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I attended the opening of the new theatre at the Belltable Arts Centre by Minister for Arts Deenihan about two years ago. Before he could get up to speak, and as a speaker was making introductory remarks, an appalling din started up from an adjoining property involving the use of an angle grinder. Mr Deenihan saw and heard at first hand the difficulties the arts were facing in Limerick.
The Belltable, which apparently had run up substantial debts in developing the new theatre, went into liquidation soon after, leaving the beautiful theatre unused.
Before commissioning and sanctioning a City of Culture project, there should have been a review of the arts providers in Limerick, identifying where the challenges might exist, with a particular emphasis on identifying the reasons for the closure of the Belltable. With respect to all concerned in the recent events, their road map would have been far clearer. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – How culturally appropriate that the template used by the Limerick City of Culture committee, for their inaugural proceedings, should follow the Brendan Behan model: Agenda Item One – The Split. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The stab-in-the-back City of Culture? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Following the recent resignations, there may have to be a rescheduling in the City of Culture programme. May I suggest they call on Pat Cox? He does an excellent one-man show. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Old political enmities resurfacing, calls for resignations, petulant intransigence demonstrated in the interest of the public. What chance now of Dr Richard Haass returning to solve the Limerick “arts” crisis? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I refer to Thomas J Clark’s letter ( January 2nd). It is wrong to suggest that the Taoiseach is acting in accordance with the wishes of those who voted no to Seanad abolition. Those who opposed Seanad abolition, including Democracy Matters and Fianna Fáil, made reform a central part of their opposition platform. How can a Taoiseach who identified many of the flaws of the Seanad during the campaign now preside over that same flawed institution? Just as in the general election in 2011, the people did not vote for the status quo, they voted for change. – Yours, etc,
Due to a technical problem, the full text of Mr Griffin’s letter did not appear in all editions on Saturday.
Sir, – Thomas J Clark states that “the Taoiseach is quite right to respect the will of the people” in relation to the recent referendum because there was no option to adapt the Seanad to our modern society.
The reason that no reform option exists is because Mr Kenny decided that he would appear to be proactive while at the same time silencing forever an institution that is often a hindrance to this Government.
The Irish people, in their wisdom, saw through his cynical attempt to reduce democracy.
If an option to overhaul the Upper House had appeared on the ballot paper, I would safely assume that this option would have been carried by a big majority.
The citizens chose to keep the Seanad in defiance of our “leaders” and not because it was what they desired.
Mr Clark can rest assured, though, that the people will appease their appetite for change at next year’s local and European elections. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Thomas J Clark is only partly correct. The people voted to retain the provisions of the Constitution relating to Seanad Éireann. This does not absolve the Oireachtas from its duty to order its affairs in such as way as to achieve the role granted by the people to it under the Constitution — to pass sound legislation to give effect to the will of the people. That this is apparently in the gift of the Taoiseach and his quadrumvirate – nowhere mentioned in the Constitution – goes some way to explaining why the seventh amendment extending university franchise to the Seanad, passed in 1979 by the people, is only now being considered for legislation.
There is much that could, with goodwill, be achieved in legislation to empower the Oireachtas to correctly fulfil its role to legislate and to hold the executive to account. – Is mise,
AONGHUS Ó hALMHAIN,
Páirc na Seilbhe,
Baile an Chinnéidigh,
Co Chill Mhantáin.
Sir, – Thank you for Alison Healy’s powerful and balanced article about those departing Dublin Airport after spending the Christmas and New Year break with their families and friends in Ireland (“Emotions high at Dublin Airport as emigrants fly out”, (Home News, January 3rd).
The article is as much a tale of two mentalities about emigration as it is of two Irelands.
The article should be mandatory reading for those smug technology types who constantly pontificate that “emigration is good for us” without having the graciousness to acknowledge that the reality of being reduced to a “Skype Dad” or a “Facebook Grandson Friend” has a very real human cost. – Yours, etc,
ULTAN Ó BROIN,
Half Moon Bay,
Sir, – January: trips to airport, empty beds, silent rooms. Ireland 2014 in many homes. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic’s report (Weekend, January 4th) in connection with the Irish jury system raises a number of questions.
As one who has been called as a prospective juror on two occasions within the past eight years, I have a particular question – why waste the time of literally hundreds of people every week attending such a circus in the full knowledge that if properly attired (ie, business suit and tie) that they have no chance of being selected? That is my experience, and the farce is that the legal teams can object to prospective jurors based purely on appearances.
Simple random selection with no opt-out is the only fair way in the selection of juries. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – While I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by David Farrell, Theresa Reidy and Jane Suiter on improving the referendum process (“Reform of referendum process long overdue”, Opinion & Analysis, January 4th), there is one additional referendum that the current Government have committed to during its term, in 2014, which the authors did not mention.
The establishment of the Unified Patent Court and Ireland’s participation involves a transfer of sovereignty from Ireland to an international court. Therefore a constitutional amendment is necessary in order for Ireland to ratify this agreement.
It was initially meant to be held alongside the referendums on the Court of Appeal and the future of Seanad Éireann in October 2013, but it was postponed until this year, possibly to be held alongside the local and European Parliament elections in May. – Yours, etc,
University of Copenhagen,
Faculty of Law,
Sir, – Thanks to Steven Carroll (“Rabbitte pins Labour revival on jobs ahead of next election”, Home News, January 4th) for his interview quoting Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte on the “hodge-podge of nutty Independents who profess to lecture us – they’re for entertainment, not for political problem-solving.”
Is a Minister who goes around insulting his colleagues in parliament and the electorate fit for his job?
Maybe it is time for Mr Rabbitte to seek employment on the stage and let the “nutty Independents” solve our problems, particular in energy?
Then we might be making progress. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Fiona Gartland’s report (“Fitness-to-practise inquiries for nurses and midwives to be held in public”, Home News, January 3rd) that disciplinary inquiries in the nursing profession will now be heard in public is disquieting.
We have seen in the last few years how damaging these inquiries are to the reputation of doctors, even when doctors are subsequently acquitted.
Why would any sensible young nurse put themselves at risk of this often unfair publicity and potential disgrace to earn a take-home salary that can be as low as €400 a week?
Such young people would do better to accept an office or retail job that would carry a lot less responsibility and carry no risk of public disgrace. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – For approximately six months I had endeavoured to keep to a vegetarian diet. However with the advent of Christmas I gave away to temptation. On entering a supermarket I saw package bearing the label “Traditional Irish Ham”.
On opening the package at home, I found the ham looked, felt and tasted like rubber. Perhaps this was a sign from Saint Francis or Buddha that not just I, but my fellow citizens, should endeavour to become vegetarians. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 6 W.
Sir, – The “darlin story, Willie Reilly and his own Colleen Bawn” referred to by Joxer Daly in Juno and the Paycock and mentioned by Fintan O’Toole ( Culture Shock, January 4th) was a story by William Carleton set in Tyrone. It was dramatised by a now forgotten writer called O’Neill and was popular with fit-up companies for over a century, well into the 1940s. It has nothing to do with Boucicault’s million times superior play The Colleen Bawn (set in Kerry and inspired by Gerald Griffin’s novel The Collegians) now being presented by the Druid Theatre Company. – Yours, etc,
* This year, I look forward to seeing the inspiring example of Pope Francis transforming the way we see religion in Ireland, particularly that represented by the Catholic Church. The depth of self-delusion that has taken all expressions of faith off-course demands some fundamental root-and-branch thinking.
Also in this section
Editorial: Pylon problem could be real headache for Kenny
Letters: Why I’ll always regret buying a shotgun
Griffith’s key role is acknowledged
Ireland is going through the pain of the realisation that the country has been in the grip of a very fallible church, a church one hopes to see coming of age, intensifying the realisation that blind obedience to an institution, religious or otherwise, creates and sustains infantile dependence, eliminating intelligent engagement.
The church that so many young people have renounced is not the church of Christ but a man-made caricature that seemed to be pleading for rejection.
Christ’s purpose was not to create an institution, with the attendant subservience of its adherents, but to breathe life into the world we all inhabit, releasing the god-given intelligence of humanity. Our job is not just to wait for God as an external agent to bring salvation but to bring salvation to one another.
Some might argue that we cannot have people believing a great diversity of things without some centrally controlling body. Why not? Would we not all thrive on imaginative, free reflection on the mystery of God in our lives or, if of a more secular disposition, on the mystery of life and living?
The constant references to the Catholic Church as the one true church confuse a range of issues. The one true church is the community of those who believe in and practise the life manifest in the person of Christ. It embraces all people of goodwill who search honestly to bring about a world of compassion and hope.
Our lives are inescapably intertwined in nurturing the longing for a better tomorrow.
EDITH ROAD, OXFORD
* At last, Christmas has passed and most of us have “topped-up” on waistlines (well, why not, as they’re all at it). As usual, we are now being advised to get fit and tone up, with jogging being the preferred choice of activity. When the late, witty Phillis Diller was asked would she become a jogger, she replied: “When I see one with a smile on their face, I’ll consider it.”
* I read that “the supervolcanic eruption about 70,000 years ago at the site today of Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, caused a volcanic winter that blocked out the sun for between six to eight years, and resulted in a period of global cooling lasting a thousand years” (Irish Independent, January 6).
The BBC website at the same time quoted Dr Chris Tyler Smith who “studies genetics and human evolution at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK”. He said the Toba theory was a popular one a few years ago, but more recent study had led most researchers to move on from the subject.
It seems the differences of opinion over climate change go back a long way further than I realised; “plus ca change” . . . I suppose.
KEITH J DRANSFIELD
LISMORE, CO WATERFORD
CITY OF CULTURE
* Pat Cox said he had “nothing to do with the appointment” of Patricia Ryan, so it seems safe to assume the matter didn’t come before the Board of Limerick City of Culture that he chairs.
Limerick City and County Manager Conn Murray “recommended” Ms Ryan. Recommended to who? If the board had nothing to do with it and the manager just recommended her, it begs the question, who exactly made the appointment?
BOTHAR TSLI LEATHAN, BAILE ATHA CLIATH 15
VIEW FOR THE FUTURE
* As we enter another year, it is customary to reflect on the past and speculate on the future. Driving the other night from Greencastle in Co Donegal to Derry in appalling weather conditions, after being told the Foyle Ferry Service may never run again, my mind was not in optimistic mode.
Are we sliding backwards into an abyss where we have been before? Are we providing the excuses or the causes for those who, in the past, took us to the brink of insanity? Is Twaddell Camp to be the barometer of our success, the beacon of hope, the inspiration that leads us forward? God forbid!
Are we now firmly in a process where cross-border co-operation is a bad word, where transport modes that take us from north to south are taboo? Are the A5, the Narrow Water Bridge, the Foyle Ferry Service issues that we cannot talk about while we sit up night after night with international advisers trying to solve issues about flags? Please, no!
Is Ireland so badly mangled by the history of the past that charting the future in a positive way that respects the principles of the Good Friday Agreement is something that is off the agenda for the foreseeable future?
Perhaps if I had made my journey in more favourable weather and had the option of taking the ferry from Greencastle to Magilligan, I might have been more hopeful for the future. I may have dwelled on the plans of the cross-border body Waterways Ireland to link the principal rivers of Ireland from the Shannon to the Foyle and the opportunity to generate tourism revenue and well-paid jobs.
I may have put to the back of my mind images of Orange lodges being led to the field by bands formed in honour of paramilitaries and I could have focused on the prospect of bands of both traditions sharing their culture together, the type of thing that happened during City of Culture celebrations in Derry in 2013.
I could have focused on Ireland as a nation determined to learn from the past and build a new future where politicians wouldn’t be hanging on to the coattails of flag wavers and ‘loyalist paramilitaries supposedly on ceasefire’.
Despite my pessimism, I do believe we shouldn’t spend our time ‘riding the clutch’ in the hope that things will change but move on with our dream of a New Ireland inclusive of everyone.
JOHN DALLAT MLA
* ‘Forward planning vital to weather storms ahead’ (Editorial, January 6).
Forward planning indeed. What other kind of planning is there?
* I note that Rod Stewart turns 69 this week. Seems like only yesterday he was singing ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sixty?’.
VALUE OF A LIFE
* Barry Clifford eloquently writes about a shotgun he purchased and his subsequent killing of a rabbit (Letters, January 6). He could never kill again for fun afterwards and sold the gun.
Recently, on the highly popular ‘Love/Hate’ TV series, there was furore over the killing of a cat, despite the other gratuitous violence and murder in the series.
Do we value the lives of some animals higher than human life? Will I ever see a letter to the Editor from someone who killed a fellow human being and the regret he experienced afterwards. Not in my lifetime, methinks.