10 January 2014 Drilling
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The crew of Troutbridge are being selected to pick up a spy escaped from Russia. Priceless.
Drill hole for cable break cable, shareview and 5l liquid soap.
Scrabble today I win and gets just over 300, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
Joan Thirsk, who has died aged 91, was the leading agricultural historian of her generation and had a huge impact on her field in terms of methodology and research.
Her greatest achievement was to explore and define regional differences in agricultural practice through the careful analysis of documentary sources, in particular probate inventories which provide evidence for crops, animals and equipment. This allowed different farming systems and local social hierarchies to be identified.
She also edited and wrote much of the fourth volume of The Agrarian History of England and Wales series, devoted to the period 1500 to 1640 . In 1974 she was appointed general editor of the series, which she brought to a successful conclusion.
She ranged widely, publishing studies of the introduction of new crops such as woad, saffron, tobacco and liquorice in which she stressed the importance of the English gentry as receptors of new ideas and agents of change. Yet despite her eminence, agricultural history was not her first choice of subject.
Born Irene Joan Watkins on June 19 1922, she grew up in north London. From Camden School for Girls she went up to Westfield College, London, where she read German and French. She was in Switzerland when war was declared, and went on to serve in the ATS in the Intelligence Corps at Bletchley Park, where she was a subaltern. There her interests turned to history. Deciphering codes, as she later explained, was the best possible training for the reading and interpretation of historical documents.
After the war she embarked on a doctorate under the great economic historian RH Tawney, a major influence on her work, on the sales of sequestered Royalist land in the south-east during the Interregnum. After a year at the London School of Economics as an assistant lecturer in Sociology, in 1951 she was appointed Senior Research Fellow in the Department of English Local History at the University of Leicester. There she became a founder member of the British Agricultural History Society and, in 1953, published her influential Fenland Farming in the Sixteenth Century and an important article on the Isle of Axholme .
In these works she outlined many of the methods, approaches and sources which were to have such influence on her profession. In her account, the Lincolnshire fenlands, pre-Vermuyden’s drainage schemes, were shown to have been “poor respecting money, but very happy respecting their mode of existence”. While traditional farming systems may not have been the most economically productive, she argued, they possessed considerable social rationale.
In 1957 she published English Peasant Farming: The Agrarian History of Lincolnshire from Tudor to Recent Times, about a county where she had been briefly evacuated during the war. Later she edited several volumes in the History of Lincolnshire series. The Lincolnshire study was followed by Suffolk Farming in the Nineteenth Century.
Joan Thirsk was a founding member of the journal Past and Present and it was there that she published, among other papers, her researches into The Common Fields (1964) and The Origins of the Common Fields (1966), a reassessment of the rationale of English medieval field systems, showing them to be far more complex and locally varied than previously recognised.
In 1965 she succeeded WH Hoskins as Reader in Economic History at Oxford. She was a Fellow of St Hilda’s College until 1983, when she took early retirement, unhappy with cuts to university research budgets.
Her most influential essays, published in 1984 as The Rural Economy of England, included studies of the family unit, inheritance, rural industry, regional specialisation, Tudor enclosures and the introduction and diffusion of new crops. She was also joint editor of Seventeenth-Century Economic Documents (1972), a collection made originally for her special subject students.
In her introduction to The Rural Economy of England, Joan Thirsk observed that the study of the story of people and communities in local landscapes was one which appealed particularly to women. This perspective was also apparent in her Ford Lectures, published in 1978 as Economic Policy and Projects: The development of a consumer society in Early Modern England, and in articles such as The Fantastical Follies of Fashion (1973). In this she united her own interest in knitting with her rural studies, challenging the notion that knitting did not develop until the 16th century by pointing out that the chain mail of medieval armour was “in fact, a knitted garter stitch”.
She continued to write and research well into her retirement. In 1997 she published Alternative Agriculture: A History from the Black Death to the Present Day, an account of agricultural innovation inspired by a 17th-century inventory which included, in addition to “brass cooking pots, cambric, gold and silver thread, hats, knives, lace, poldaves, ribbons, ruffs, soap and tape”, no fewer than five references to woad. One reviewer described it as “a firebrand of a book”.
Joan Thirsk combined scholarship with a love of domesticity, often treating her students and colleagues to bread and cakes she had baked herself, and sending hand-knitted garments for their newly-born offspring. One of her last projects was research into the history of food and diet.
Joan Thirsk was a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society. She was appointed CBE in 1994.
Her standing was reflected in the publication of two festshrifts in her honour: English Rural Society (1990), edited by John Chartres and David Hey, and People, Landscape and Alternative Agriculture (2004), edited by RW Hoyle, her last research student at Oxford.
She married, in 1945, James Thirsk, whom she had met at Bletchley Park. They had a son and a daughter.
Joan Thirsk, born June 19 1922, died October 3 2013
I was horrified to read the reaction of Richard Howitt MEP to the helicopter crash at Cley (Report, 9 January). The Cley bird reserve is one of the key sites on the north Norfolk coast; one of Europe’s most important sites for the wintering of migrant birds. We should not allow such a sensitive area to be used for military training, particularly in January, when it will have its greatest population of migrant birds from the Arctic.
• Why is it necessary for a US helicopter to carry live ammunition while on a training flight in the UK?
• A question for your numerically literate readers. Dr Martin Allen (Letters, 9 January) makes the point that 40% of university graduates are in non-graduate jobs. Meanwhile, Sally Hunt points out (Letters, 9 January) that 40% of students will never pay their loans back. If we are talking about the same 40%, does this mean that universities are offering 66% more places than they should be? Discuss.
• It may come as a surprise to Guardian readers (US hit by ‘life-threatening’ Arctic weather, 7 January) to learn that there is a country north of the 49th parallel. It’s called Canada and it also has weather.
• Surfers from Hawaii flying to Spain (Surfer’s 20,000-mile trip – for two waves, 8 January) to sample record waves is an example of “positive feedback”. More carbon dioxide emission from aircraft fuel increases climate change, which increases extreme events, which increases their fun and our distress. Next time they should sail.
Professor John Twidell
• After being acclaimed as the porn capital of Britain (Pass notes, G2, 9 January), I propose that it be re-named Hardware.
Harry Goldstein’s assertion (Letters, 7 January) that the Palestinians were “offered [a state] in 1947 and refused, preferring to make war on Israel”, must be challenged. The Palestinians were told that 56% of their existing state of Palestine was to be taken away and made into a Jewish state, even though half of the population of the “Jewish” area was Arab. Since the Jews made it clear they wanted even more than the 56% and would take it by force, the Arab armies, far smaller in number and less well-armed than the Jews, moved up to the border of the Jewish state, in an attempt to protect the remaining territory they had been allocated, and stop Israel taking those areas by force. They failed either to stop the Jewish armies or to prevent them expelling Palestinian Arabs from a land in which they had once formed 90% of the population.
Author of Palestine: A Personal History
• Peaceful co-existence between the Jewish and Palestinian people was never on the agenda of Israel’s early leaders: Ben-Gurion in 1948 was an advocate of what he euphemistically called “compulsory transfer” of Palestinians from their homeland. Little seems to have changed under the current leadership: as if the ethnic cleansing of the 40s and 50s was not sufficient, the separation wall now snakes its way through the occupied territories, severing Palestinian communities from their places of work and their land. It is difficult to imagine how a peace process can survive the insidious effect of continued land confiscation, bypass roads linking settlements, checkpoints, house demolitions. How ironic seem to us today the key words of “co-ordination” and “co-operation” which echo through the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995.
• The Palestine National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement in 1988, and in 1993 the PLO recognised “the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security” within its pre-1967 borders.
Fatima Khan’s account of her son Abbas’s torture and death in a Syrian prison (G2, 8 January) made almost unbearable reading, not just for the unimaginable suffering this courageous young doctor endured at the hands of the Syrian regime but also because of the questions it raised about our MPs’ failure to support the Khan family during their terrifying ordeal.
The failure of William Hague to contact the family directly after Abbas’s sudden disappearance in Syria is a terrible obfuscation of duty, but Sayeeda Warsi’s telephone call to his mother in which she asserts that Fatima should be happy that she had returned her call but there was nothing the government could do is staggering in its lack of humanity. It adds grievous insult to injury that a mother going through the turmoil that Fatima was experiencing should have to listen to this response. I feel utterly ashamed of Britain’s handling of this and extend heartfelt condolences to the Khan family.
The Electoral Commission report on voting fraud is a cop-out (Voter proof of identity should be mandatory – election watchdog, 8 January). Postal voting is inherently insecure, as the Victorians recognised when they brought in secret voting with the 1872 Ballot Act. Absent voting fraud is more widespread than they or the political establishment are prepared to admit. While it is most prevalent in communities of south Asian origin, it is not confined to them. Stopping party workers from handling postal votes is right, but it will not stop the fraud – who can define which members of extended families or friends of candidates are “party workers”? How many staff in old people’s homes are “party workers”? At the very least, postal votes should again be restricted to people who have sound reasons for not being able to go to the polling station, and proxy votes should be restricted to people who are likely to be out of the country on polling day.What is happening now in too many places (including where I live in east Lancashire) is a travesty of democracy and the proposals by the Electoral Commission do no more than play around the edges.
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• Your leader (8 January) highlights some of the challenges to democracy arising in a changing and transient society. Even if all the issues surrounding non-registration (especially among the under-25s) and ID were resolved, there remains an underlying question: who should be on the roll in the first place? The validity of the electoral register is fundamental to the integrity of our democratic system, so it is vital that the rationale underpinning its composition is sound.
Currently, citizens of the former empire are entitled to vote in a general election if resident in the UK. This quaint legislation excludes approximately 1.5 million recent economic migrants from the EU, who also, coincidentally, tend to be in the younger age group. Such discrimination would be unacceptable in any other sphere of European influence. Above all, by disenfranchising certain categories in our society, we are limiting that direct accountability which would inhibit the government from continuing to target the least settled and most impoverished in the UK.
Dr Mark Ellis
• Fraud exists in all electoral systems and the easier it is made to let people vote, the easier does fraud become and, paradoxically, the less fraud is likely to affect the result. The converse also applies. Dealing with this problem by the route of voter ID is technically complex and politically explosive, even with a national ID system, which we do not have. The likely impact is to deter people from voting and so to weaken democracy, as the fewer people vote, the less legitimate is the outcome and the easier it is to fix results, which is what the EC is trying to avoid by suggesting voter ID. Ironic, really. As with many measures to prevent fraud, this one is likely to burden the innocent without touching the corrupt.
The real problem seems to be voter disillusionment with the political parties and the process of government. It is the restoration of faith in our politics that is needed, so that people turn out to vote, thereby reducing the impact of fraud, rather than tinkering about with voter ID which will only tend to make the problem worse.
Walsall, West Midlands
• Do you think that by the 2020s, we might decide to abandon marking pieces of paper with a pencil on a string?
David Lammy is right to be concerned about police accountability (Suspicion will continue, 8 January). The death of Mark Duggan is one of a number of fatal shootings by police that have raised profound concerns about operational planning and intelligence failings in firearms operations, where the use of lethal force has been disproportionate to the risks posed and where the safety of the public was put at risk. Despite a pattern of cases raising similar issues, the police have hidden behind protracted legal processes, done the bare minimum to co-operate with investigations and refused to admit wrongdoing.
There is widespread frustration, anger and high levels of community consciousness about the lack of accountability after deaths following contact with the police. The misinformation, lies and mistreatment of the Duggan family, and the perception that the police can act with impunity, were at the root of the widespread disturbances around the country that followed his death. Public confidence in the justice system can only be restored if the law is seen to apply equally to all.
Despite more than 1,000 deaths in police custody, or as a result of police shootings, since 1990, and 10 unlawful killing rulings in inquiries or inquests, there have been no successful prosecutions of police officers of which we are aware, either at an individual or corporate level. This finding calls into question whether or not families of those who die following the use of force will ever find justice and accountability in the current system.
Deborah Coles and Helen Shaw
• Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley says the officer who killed Mark Duggan had “an honest and reasonable belief” that Duggan was holding a gun when he shot him. The officer may well have had such an honest belief, but it is not so clear that the belief was a reasonable one in the circumstances, and this may explain some of the incomprehension that the verdict has caused. The law in relation to rape was changed 10 years ago to require defendants to establish that their belief in the victim’s consent was held both honestly and reasonably. The law in relation to self-defence in cases of homicide seems in similar need of reform.
In circumstances like the Duggan case, where an officer may have acted on an honest, but not necessarily a reasonable belief, this would mean that the options available would include a verdict of unlawful killing on grounds of manslaughter. That option should be open in cases that raise such public disquiet, where the current verdict of lawful killing appears instead to be provocative.
• You question in your leader (9 January) whether, after numerous failures, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is up to its task of delivering proper accountability of the conduct of the police. You may well be right but, if anyone is to achieve it, there is surely no one better qualified than its present chair, Anne Owers, who has been in post for less than two years. She has an unrivalled reputation for independence of mind, having had a distinguished career across the board in running a string of public organisations central to the role of the IPCC – the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants followed by the independent human rights body Justice and then as our chief inspector of prisons. She should be charged by the government with recommending the reforms, legislative and otherwise, that she considers are needed to ensure that the public can have complete confidence in the body she chairs.
• As well as very serious issues about policing, Tottenham also has the highest unemployment in London and increasing numbers of people using food banks and night shelters. There is a lack of economic and social justice, and people feel that their voice is not heard. That is one reason why people have rioted, but there are other ways of making the point which have a more lasting impact.
Before Christmas cleaners at Tottenham College, members of the GMB union, won their campaign for the London living wage. Investment in decently paid jobs is one way that the powers that be can show respect for the area and allow people to regain their dignity which, as the shooting of Mark Duggan underlined, too few in high places have given a damn about.
Secretary, Haringey Trades Union Council
• The verdict in the Mark Duggan inquest illustrates the two-tribes nature of modern Britain. Although a mixed-race jury was expected to show impartiality, the coroner’s instructions so confused it that a perverse contradictory verdict was returned, ie that an unarmed man could somehow be lawfully killed. Meanwhile, mainly white police forces have failed to enforce the law impartially despite several high-profile inquiries which found discriminatory policing following the Brixton and Broadwater Farm riots and the botched Stephen Lawrence investigation. Until the police reform these failures, black and Asian people will continue to suffer second-class human rights.
South Queensferry, West Lothian
• This week saw the outcome of the inquest into the suicide of David Rathband (Report, 9 January), a police officer who was shot while on duty by Raoul Moat. The lives of David and of his family and friends had been turned upside down. On Wednesday, a jury returned a verdict of lawful killing by a police officer of Mark Duggan. Whether or not a gun was in his hand at the time of being shot, if Duggan possessed an illegal firearm then it wasn’t with the intention of playing Santa Claus. The behaviour of his family and friends on learning the verdict was in stark contrast to the quiet dignity and grace of Doreen Lawrence. Our police force don’t always get it right but the majority of the general public are grateful for the service which they give to us.
Newcastle upon Tyne
• So anyone suspected of carrying a gun may be shot and killed by armed police? When was this law passed?
• In the light of the Mark Duggan inquest verdict, it could be instructive to compare that fatal event to another, more recent London police shooting: the wounding and arrest of the two assailants of Lee Rigby. In both cases, the police had some warning and time to prepare – in the Duggan case hours or maybe even days; in the Rigby case less than half an hour. In the Duggan case there was a single target, compared to two with the Rigby attack, but there were twice as many police at the former than the latter. When confronted by police, Duggan got out of a taxi and stepped onto the pavement, may be armed. In the Rigby case, at least one of the assailants ran full tilt at the police, carrying a gun and a knife while the other was holding a machete. In the Duggan case, police fired twice, hitting Duggan in the arm and chest. In the Rigby case, police fired five or six times, hitting the two assailants in the legs. Any further inquiry by the IPCC or others should concentrate, among other things, on why these two police responses were so significantly different.
• Whatever the jury’s conclusions in the Mark Duggan inquest, there remains a significant question mark over the training of the gun specialists in the police force. On several occasions in recent years we have seen unarmed people who were shot simply because the officers were informed that, whatever the truth, the person was “armed and dangerous”. This leads to a fear within the wider community that the mere suggestion that somebody has a weapon becomes a de-facto death sentence; the officers involved always being able to claim they were in fear of their life. Do we have to wait until the police find themselves being recruited as accidental assassins in gang turf wars before they reform a “shoot-first, ask-questions-later” training regime obviously more suited to a war zone than a civilian policing situation?
• It is catastrophic that an inquest jury has accepted the “honest belief” defence of the police in the killing of Mr Duggan in 2011. The honest belief defence would not be available to members of the public and the consequence now is that a different law applies to the police and to the rest of us. That is bad for us and for the police, and the government needs to pass legislation quickly to remove the possibility of the honest belief defence being available again to the police.
• I find it incomprehensible how many people are willing to blindly support the police following this decision. The decision is predicated on the belief that the police are fundamentally honest despite, time after time, being proven to be consummate liars and particularly expert at abusing their power to manipulate the legal and complaints process and otherwise “institutionally corrupt” supported by a “dysfunctional and corrupt” complaints system. I refer people to, inter alia, the findings of parliament’s public administration and home affairs select committees.
The only result of numerous miscarriages of justice and the exposing of systemic and systematic corruption in the police is the police’s ability to be media conscious while becoming more unscrupulous, more deceitful and more corrupt.
Naomi Wilkinson was a brilliant and individual talent. I first worked with her in 2007, having always remembered her extraordinary design for Happy Birthday, Mister Deka D for Told By an Idiot at the Traverse in Edinburgh in 1999. In the many shows we worked on together, she had a strong sense of needing to create a striking but deceptively simple space for the play; always wanting to support and enhance the text and its messages. This aesthetic and way of working served her well as she moved more into creating designs for contemporary dance.
Her designs for sets and costumes were often bold and provocative – I loved the work she did with Wayne Jordan at the Abbey in Dublin – and she often forced me to think differently and bravely about how a design could work – whether it was a shallow pool full of floating books for Nasty, Brutish and Short at the Traverse in 2008 or the giant staircase that was the backdrop to her design for Peer Gynt at Dundee and the Barbican for the National Theatre of Scotland.
She was inspired by art, experimental artists, sculpture and photography. She was endlessly curious about theatre and the visual arts. She had a huge knowledge of European theatre-makers and was always off to the Barbican to watch shows or to art or photography galleries. Her studio was a beautiful, minimal, calm white space where we spent many hours hunched over model boxes.
Naomi had a strong sense of who she was and what she wanted to do as a designer. She worked only on what she believed in and on projects to which she thought she could bring something. She was an artist, a collaborator, a wonderful friend, and a witty and modest person.
Like the riots that followed his shooting, this week’s Mark Duggan verdict has exposed Britain’s deep racial fault lines. While many white people find the level of black fury startling, many in the black population find this incomprehension still more infuriating.
The crux of the Duggan inquest focused on legalistic definitions of “lawful killing” but the anger felt on the streets of Tottenham and beyond flows from a deep sense of injustice fuelled by black Britons’ experience of discrimination.
Mob rule is never a pleasant sight. It was not pleasant when we saw it on our TV screens in the summer of 2011 and I guess it wasn’t very agreeable for the court staff in the Duggan case .
Anarchy in any society lies just below the surface. All that protects the ordinary citizen are the forces of law and order. These of course include the police and the courts.
For this reason everyone can and should be expected to co-operate with them and offer proper respect. If misdemeanours by these bodies are suspected, they should be properly investigated. Clearly in this case they were, and that, subject to any proper appeal, should be the end of the matter.
The Mayor of London has said: “Londoners should feel assured that the police do an incredible job keeping this city safe.”
If one’s safety is dependent on the law sanctioning extra-judicial killings, then how safe are Londoners in reality? How safe were the people of Berlin while being policed by the Gestapo or the Stasi? I would suggest that one’s safety in all those cases is a secondary concern, outweighed by the right not to be killed in cold blood by an unaccountable arm of the state.
Canvey Island, Essex
A way to beat climate change
Let’s hope that your article on climate (8 January) doesn’t condemn geo-engineering in principle. Putting reflective particles into the atmosphere is just one idea; there are many others, as described in the Royal Society’s 2009 publication Geo-engineering the Climate.
Probably the best idea is to extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, just as trees and other green plants, do naturally. The fundamental cause of global warming (which in turn is increasing the incidence of violent weather) is the steady accumulation of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels. But if carbon dioxide can be extracted from the atmosphere faster than it is put it, then the quantity in the atmosphere reduces. This will then stabilise the climate.
Developing the technologies for “artificial trees”, and then deploying the results on the required scale, presents a prodigious scientific and engineering challenge. But not an impossible one. It’s just a matter of resourcing and organisation. Do we need even more devastating floods to put this at the top of the Government’s scientific agenda?
Your report that the Government and shale gas firms are considering increasing payments to communities living near fracking sites (9 January) indicates that the industry is losing the battle at the local level.
People are rightly concerned about the impacts of fracking, while the benefits of shale gas have been greatly exaggerated and experts warn that it won’t lead to cheaper UK fuel bills.
With the urgent need to decarbonise the UK economy, ministers should be investing in clean power and energy efficiency, not dangling financial sweeteners in front of communities to persuade them to accept a risky technology that will keep the nation hooked on climate-changing fossil fuels.
Friends of the Earth
French day of glory in 1918
Nigel Farage considers that it was the British, led by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, “that defeated the Germans in 1918”, in contrast to the French, who “showed little innovation and made repeated and costly mistakes” (6 January). The supreme allied commander, Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch, is not even deemed worthy of mention. Farage might have been acquitted of chauvinism for this, if it accorded with the facts; but it does not.
The tide of the First World War turned in the second half of July 1918, when hundreds of Renault light tanks, with futuristic swivel turrets, spearheaded a counter attack against the last German offensive near Soissons, at their recently taken Marne bridgehead. The tanks were supported by infantry divisions from Yorkshire, the Scottish Highlands, and the US, who had been seconded to French command, to make good the appalling French losses. Before the battle, it looked like the Germans were about to drive a wedge between the British and French armies and advance on Paris. Afterwards, they never had a victorious day.
Michael Gove should look again at the propaganda posters which appeared everywhere in the early days of the First World War, attempting to shame men into volunteering, and which led to men who were not in uniform being vilified.
Maybe it was the poster “Women of Britain say -GO” which led my young, uneducated, apparently flirtatious, working-class aunt to go up to a man in the street and give him that symbol of cowardice, a white feather. When I asked her years afterwards why she had done it she said that they didn’t know what they were sending men to. After her oldest brother, “Our Jim”, was killed, she certainly did.
And how many children by the end of the war were unable to ask the question posed by the little girl in the poster sitting on her father’s knee: “Daddy what did YOU do in the Great War?”
Bolton, Greater Manchester
I’ve no great love for Michael Gove, but views expressed by some of your readers (and Robert Fisk) don’t deserve much respect either. Long on rant and condemnation and very short on what the writers would have done if they’d found themselves in one of the hot seats at the time.
All I can infer from them is that in 1914 they’d have urged the Belgians and French just to hand over their countries promptly to Germany to save all the bother. It would have saved a lot of lives, but do they stand by the consequences?
How easy to jeer and be wise 100 years after the event.
Having read lots of articles, comments and letters, I’m afraid I still don’t quite understand why Britain so determinedly wants to celebrate the beginning of a world war, and not the end of this particular occasion of death, misery and destruction.
Flood of misused language
Why do rivers “burst their banks”?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the main meaning of the verb “to burst” is “to break suddenly, snap, crack, under violent pressure, strain, or concussion. Chiefly said of things possessing considerable capacity for resistance and breaking with loud noise.” This in no sense describes what happens when a river floods its banks, which is in my view a far better description than “burst”.
If rivers had been bursting at the rate claimed over the past few weeks, surely there would be mud, debris, rubble and the remains of many sheep and cattle splattered all over the West Country towns close to the Severn.
Parts of the Close in Salisbury are flooded, so the Conservative candidate in today’s ward by-election left a pile of his leaflets in the Portaloos.
Siren voice from the left
As a Tory voter, I am becoming increasingly alarmed at my constant agreement with the views of Owen Jones. This time it was his criticism of the TV programme Benefits Street. Before that it was Uruguay’s drugs policy. And so on.
Can’t you find a right-wing columnist as articulate as Mr Jones who can persuade me not to question my voting habits? Just, you know, for balance.
Cameron crazy about Mandarin
David Cameron comes out with a crackpot idea, children to learn Mandarin (which at the time was politically adroit), and you embellish it (“Pupils set the pace with a love for Mandarin”, 27 December). Are our streets not filled with scores of English-speaking Chinese? And as for denigrating French and German, their literature is far more interesting for the western mind.
Dr E Nigel Wardle
Sir, There are other factors to support Danny Finkelstein’s call for a separate NHS tax (Opinion, Jan 8). We should use the national insurance system to begin negotiating a new tax contract with voters. Welfare and health bills will increase for the reasons Finkelstein lists. Taxpayers are rightly wary of government taking even more of their earnings and spending the results as it wishes. Hence the need for a new tax contract.
I set out how this might be done in Working Welfare: Contributory Benefits, the Moral Economy and the New Politics (Politeia 2013). Here the main aspects of welfare are given over to a newly created mutual whose boards would set the levels of benefits only after winning approval from members to set the contribution levels.
A similar discipline should be introduced by establishing a NHS mutual. Each year’s negotiations would bring home forcibly that improvements in the health service must be won by increasing productivity, but also, probably, by increasing contributions. The mutual would therefore introduce what is lacking at the moment, namely, a clear link between services provided and the level of contributions required.
Of course Finkelstein is right in outlining Treasury opposition, but it is time we moved beyond this. A mutualisation of welfare would allow a transition to take place from the old command economy, which we have at present, to a new welfare state where the contributors are very much in charge. It would also signal a movement from a something for nothing welfare state, which is increasingly opposed by voters, to one where entitlement is based on past contributions, a clear residency test, and by the functions individuals undertake which the community wishes to reward by membership.
Frank Field, MP
House of Commons
Sir, Danny Finkelstein’s proposal to contain NHS costs repeats a number of myths and overlooks the complexity of health care funding. The claim by Liam Fox that the idea of increasing NHS funding has been tested to destruction cannot be reconciled with the observation that, even now, we still spend much less on health care than many other countries or with our finding that the increased spending by the last government after 1999 was associated with a clear acceleration in the reduction in deaths amenable to health care, the government’s measure of performance. The claim that productivity fell has been rebutted, noting numerous data problems and a failure to include intangible elements of care. Our research shows that judicious health spending can increase economic growth, putting money in pockets of low paid staff.
However, it is the call for a hypothecated tax that is most problematic. The Treasury has long rejected such measures for good reasons. Health spending is counter-cyclical, with need increasing in a downturn just as tax revenues are also falling. And on what should this tax be levied? Will it be income, spending, capital gains, import duties or something else? Will it be levied on individuals or families? Will contribution be linked to entitlement? All of these questions raise major distributional issues. If it was so easy, perhaps this idea might have been implemented before.
Professor Martin Mckee
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Sir, Charles Pugh reports “aggressive and frequently baseless attempts to upgrade walking routes to bridleways” (letter, Jan 6) My experience over 40 years in the north, south and east of England has been very different, and I know of no tribunal against owners in contravention of law.
The maps drawn up after the 1949 Act omitted, or entered as only footpath, many bridleways and old lanes which had been public. We now have only a few more years to try to get the record right. We don’t win them all, but getting a case to public inquiry involves laborious research into use, history and law and we do not waste time on ill-founded claims or routes with no useful purpose.
Once a route is established there is no reason why some element of diversion should not be agreed. I am also a landowner, have kept suckler cattle on land crossed by rights of way and would have been glad of a temporary diversion. And I would willingly agree any reasonable diversion out of farmyards and private gardens, but it is important that the appropriate users are consulted. What I am unwilling to accept is barring of the public from the little old lanes which define the English landscape and connect us with our history.
Trustee, Byways and Bridleways Trust, York
Sir, Farmers maintaining footpaths (letter Jan 7)? My experience of well over 40 years is that farmers do the opposite: ploughed footpaths, barbed wire, cattle troughs across paths, bulls frightening walkers, intimidating behaviour. The list is endless.
Sir, So, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises men with low and medium-risk prostate cancer to wait . . . and sweat (“Men told to wait before prostate treatment”, Jan 8).
Surely it is time for people to be told the likely benefits of a small daily dose of aspirin upon cancer. Over the past seven years evidence of a reduction in incident cancer by low-dose aspirin has accumulated, together with evidence that patients with certain cancers who take aspirin show a reduction in metastatic spread and an increase in survival.
Consistent evidence from long-term follow-up studies of subjects who had been randomly allocated daily aspirin show about a 30 per cent reduction in the total incidence of cancer. This evidence is convincing for all cancer.
In observational studies of patients with cancer who take aspirin additional to conventional therapy, there is evidence of a small reduction in metastatic spread, together with an increase in survival. While evidence on these benefits from randomised trials is awaited, the present evidence is highly suggestive for several of the more common cancers.
Professor Peter Elwood
Cochrane Institute, Cardiff University
Sir, You report on new guidance by NICE concerning more “active surveillance” for prostate cancer. Last year I was successfully treated for this condition. Doctors told me I was at an “intermediate” stage in this disease; neither clearly malignant nor benign cancer. I opted for “active surveillance” and not treatment. However, I found the stress of knowing I had cancer but not having it sorted intolerable. Being told that many people have prostate cancer but will not die of it was entirely unhelpful. So I finally opted for intervention. This was successful and with few side effects. The advice from NICE should not ignore the important element of patient choice and well being. The need for constant tests and the anxiety that it causes should not be underestimated.
Until we get more research and better treatments (well done to The Times for the Christmas appeal for Prostate Cancer UK), a policy of encouraging more “active surveillance” rather than treatment will not work.
Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir, You reported (“Amid a knot of red tape, the great potash rush is on”, Dec 28) that there is a presumption against development in National Parks. In fact 90 per cent of planning applications in the North York Moors National Park are approved. Really big developments are different and are subject, rightly, to closer scrutiny.
There are considerable technical issues involved in proposing the world’s largest potash mine in an area which supplies drinking water, has narrow country roads, hosts protected wildlife and is also stunningly beautiful. If the National Park is to determine this application we will assess it objectively, on its merits (which are potentially considerable) and with the help of experts.
North York Moors National Park Authority
Sir, Apropos the letter from Iain MacMaster (Jan 8), my great-uncle, Maj-Gen Edward Feetham, of the Berkshire Regiment, was one of those 48 generals who perished on the front line in the Great War. His portrait hangs in this house. Soon after he was killed, his widow, Beatrix, wrote to her brother-in-law: “He was very brave in that last horrible attack. To have in fact been leading his men himself and wearing his red cap so that they should see him and they did and his Division saved a very serious situation.”
This is presumably the official version that was given to the family. The records at the Imperial War Museum reveals that “he was hit in the neck and killed by a shell fragment while walking up the main st. of Demuin with his G.S.O.”
Is it fair to ask how accurate is the information that may be given to bereaved families in scenarios of modern warfare and what is best, overall, for society?
Dr Alan Lloyd-Smith
SIR – I recently rode through Transylvania dressed as Dracula, on a Ural motorbike with a sidecar made of a real coffin. It seems absurd for Britain to fear a mass influx of benefit scroungers.
Romanians are friendly, hard-working people who seem happy to be living in their beautiful country.
Some of the young people I met expressed an interest in working in Britain to perfect their English and gain career experience, but they were graduates and would benefit any business that took them on.
The Roma represent 3.3 per cent of the population. Those we encountered were friendly and nothing like the pickpocketing Roma plaguing London’s tourist hotspots.
SIR – Philip Johnston points out how our adversarial justice system can prove brutal for witnesses.
A “Continental inquisitorial approach” would reduce and probably remove the potential for victims of sexual offences to be berated in the witness box by defence counsel. This could have two beneficial effects. First, it could encourage more victims to report these crimes to the police, as they will know that they will not face aggressive cross-examination where their behaviour and character is put under scrutiny rather than that of the accused. Second, it may help raise the woefully low conviction rate for this type of offence.
Repairing electronic equipment requires expertise – we cannot all do it
09 Jan 2014
No wonder Romanians haven’t rushed to Britain
09 Jan 2014
SIR – A televised election debate in 2015 would be no more appropriate than it was in 2010. Voters would much rather go along to a hustings of their candidates for Parliament and then make up their minds.
We are a parliamentary democracy, not a presidential system. One can’t be prime minister without being an MP. That equalising element is crucial to British parliamentary democracy.
Fittleworth, West Sussex
SIR – David Cameron must regret agreeing to the three-party election debates in 2010 – especially the “I agree with Nick” one. This probably contributed to the Conservatives’ failure to gain an outright victory.
However, the public will expect a televised debate in 2015 and this should include the leader of Ukip.
Minimum unit pricing
SIR – Raising the price of alcohol to reduce consumption will affect those who drink responsibly, but will not stop binge drinkers, who will cut budgets elsewhere to sustain their habits.
The solution lies in restoring responsibility to the individual by making him or her pay for A&E and hospital visits, or treatments associated with excessive drinking.
James A Paton
SIR – The Scottish National Party is proposing that every child in Scotland has a state-appointed “guardian” to monitor their “wellbeing” up to the age of 18. Quite what “wellbeing” may be is a subjective matter and may run contrary to what the child’s parents understand by the term.
As the SNP controls every committee in the Scottish Parliament and has an overall majority, this terrifyingly Orwellian Bill is certain to become law.
Is it not time that the House of Lords became involved in reviewing Acts passed by the Scottish Parliament?
A H N Gray
SIR – I was shocked by the news that the Prime Minister’s hairdresser has received an MBE, particularly when I heard that he charged £90.
In upmarket Bramhall I get my hair cut for under £10 (pensioners’ rate), while receiving a thorough overview of the world situation and how to solve its problems.
First World War causes
SIR – Wars do not happen by accident. Someone has to order armies to mobilise and fight. Hence my sympathy with Boris Johnson’s attitude that “Germany started the Great War”.
On the other hand, historical research has undermined his view. Austria-Hungary was determined to start a war (even a world war) and would not accept any compromise with Serbia. Germany did offer her complete support but probably believed that hostilities could be localised, especially if Austria acted quickly. This proved impossible and, in the meantime, Russia decided to back Serbia and mobilised her forces (at first in collusion with the French), thus forcing the Germans to unleash the Schlieffen Plan.
From this point all the worst elements in German militarism became visible. The British who, thanks to the Tories, would have joined the war anyway (whether Belgium had been invaded or not), were arguably deceived by their French and Russian allies. The regicide regime in Serbia had in any case set the whole catastrophe in motion by murdering a peace-loving archduke.
So how do we distribute blame? Had Germany refused Austria support, there would have been no war. Had Austria taken a more level-headed view of her own interests, there would have been no war. Had Russia refused to back Serbia, there might only have been a Balkan war. Had France not backed Russia, there would have been no war. Had the Tories not backed Asquith and Grey, Liberal Britain might have stayed out.
In the end, it looks a little bit like Murder on the Orient Express: everyone contributed to starting the war or making it a world war. Every power rationalised its own interests – and all of them, arguably, got it wrong.
Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics
SIR – Cabal may well be a useful mnemonic for the names of a council of intriguers who were politically active between 1667-1673, but it is time to lay to rest the hoary myth that the word cabal is derived from this source.
Cabal was a term often applied in the 17th century to describe a group of the king’s closest advisers. It comes from the Hebrew cabbala and, although the coincidence was noted at the time, the initial letters of the surnames concerned did not give rise to the word itself.
How to quench your thirst during Dry January
SIR – May I suggest to Sandra Woods, who is from the lovely spa town of Harrogate, that during her Dry January she sticks to what the French call Château-la-Pompe, or tap water? After all, Harrogate water is bottled and sold all over the country. How lucky she is to get it free.
SIR – Sandra Woods should try some green tea with her meal. It refreshes the palate in similar fashion to the tannins in wine.
Note that green tea should be made with water at around 85C to prevent bitterness. I prefer a pinch of a loose green tea (such as gunpowder) to a teabag, since teabags contain too much tea for my liking. A splash of cold water added just after boiling helps achieve the right temperature.
SIR – A squeeze of fresh lime and a few drops of Angostura bitters in a cocktail glass filled with sparkling water on the rocks is a remarkably satisfying alternative when the cravings set in.
SIR – Big Tom spiced tomato juice is a splendid replacement for a regular glass of wine with dinner: neither sweet nor fizzy.
Carbis Bay, Cornwall
SIR – Ms Woods should try beetroot juice. It looks just like a good red wine in the glass and has health benefits.
SIR – There is no substitute for wine. Ditch Dry January and sign up to being half-dry forever, simply by not drinking between midnight and midday every day. It works for me.
South Harting, West Sussex
SIR – Prof David MacKay assumes that everyone knows how to fix a fridge, freezer, microwave, or car. But these pieces of equipment are very sophisticated and, in some cases, require some knowledge of computers. With regard to fridges and freezers, one has to know about coolants, never mind circuitry. My garage has to plug my car into a computer before carrying out mechanical repairs.
SIR – Where can we find the experts to repair electrical appliances these days?
I look in vain among the advertisements for plumbers, decorators and other trades.Electricians seem to deal with wiring of premises but not repair of appliances.
SIR – My washing machine needs a new bearing, which should cost less than £50 to replace, but the machine is made so that the whole washing drum has to be replaced, costing £180. A new machine, with warranty, costs about £220. Where is the logic in getting my old machine fixed?
SIR – Most white goods are designed to last the length of their respective warranties, then to fail. Some appliances are designed not to be taken apart to allow for repair. We, the public, are advised not to attempt to repair electrical or gas appliances.
SIR – Over the past 12 months I have been told that my six-year-old washing machine could not be repaired, and neither could my three-month-old combination microwave. What can one do but invest in new equipment?
SIR – Those educated before 1960 were taught how to understand mechanical appliances and how to use tools. Many in those days repaired or rebuilt old cars. The demise of that ethos came when education reduced practical lessons in woodwork and metalwork, and manufacturers built in redundancy to appliances and made DIY repairs difficult and spares expensive.
People under 30 have grown up with a disposable mentality and lack the skills to attempt repairs.
SIR – We have a 40-year-old freezer, a 35-year-old fridge, a 35-year-old tumble drier, a 30-year-old washing machine and a 30-year-old oven – all in daily use.
They have required little attention and when they have, most spare parts have been available. They do not make them like that today.
Sir, – We are just a week into 2014 and already here we have the next assault on the disabled (and now to include elderly people with mobility problems) from this Coalition. You were kind enough to publish my letter (April 12th, 2013) detailing the disgraceful cutting of the overall fund for housing adaptation from €54 million to €35 million for 2013 as announced by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan at that time. This morning on national radio I heard a Labour Minister of State, Jan O’Sullivan, attempting to spin the allocation of €38 million to the same fund for 2014 as an “increase” in spending in her defence of the latest moving of the goalposts for disabled Irish citizens attempting to access those services which should be theirs as a civil right.
If Ms O’Sullivan thinks that those Irish citizens and voters who are disabled, or care for the disabled or, indeed, who are elderly or have an elderly relative with mobility issues, are naive enough to fall for this kind of crude political guff, she has another think coming. A cut from an already inadequate €53 million to €35 million and then to €38 million is a cut, and a massive cut, pure and simple, and no amount of spin can alter that fact. I suggest all those affected, related to those affected or sympathetic to those affected, make their feelings on this matter clear in the coming local and European elections this year and, indeed, in the national elections in 2016. – Yours, etc,
Saint Mary’s Crescent,
Sir, – I am writing in response to the latest cutbacks to the elderly and disabled (“Grant cuts to make it ‘harder’ for elderly to live at home”, Front Page, January 9th). The cutbacks in funding to local authority housing grants have been announced without any debate and will mean more people being forced against their wishes to access nursing home and hospital accommodation.
This flies in the face of the Government’s desire that people access the health service through primary care services and will end up costing far more money than supporting the elderly and disabled to live in their own homes.
These latest cutbacks follow on from a five-fold increase in medical card charges, cutbacks to home-help support and cutbacks to the medical card scheme itself.
Leaving aside the financial cutbacks, the increased bureaucracy to access State supports such as these is another burden that is becoming even more complicated and difficult to handle. Furthermore, form-filling does not deal adequately with complicated cases, especially family situations.
What is badly needed is the proper planning of resources, so that those that need them most can access them easily. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was surprised to read that the grant for housing aid for older people has been cut. I thought, as per Wexford County Council’s website, such grants had been suspended “indefinitely”. – Yours, etc,
Gorey, Co Wexford.
Sir, – I sincerely hope that the wails of the elderly and disabled are not drowned out by the sound of appreciative applause on foot of “Ireland’s successful re-entry into global capital markets”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The current controversy generated by ex-president Mary McAleese’s comments on her unhappiness at the attitude of “her” church towards homosexual people is being viewed and analysed from the wrong perspective (“McAleese criticises church’s stance on gays”, Front Page, January 8th).
Reasonable and rational people who wish to worship a god may very easily do so without guidance or direction from the Roman Catholic or any other established church.
So rather than expressing displeasure, disappointment or opposition to the teachings and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, Mrs McAleese and all thinking people who disagree with it should just leave and live and worship in their own way. If enough people do this then the negative and offensive views of that church will quickly become even more irrelevant than they are already, – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was heartened to read Mary McAleese’s comments on the church’s stance on gays. We have made such strides lately on many fronts to come out of the dark ages.
Mrs McAleese was a great president and her stance on this issue is important and welcome. – Yours, etc,
PAT BURKE WALSH,
Sir, – Mary McAleese’s criticisms of the Catholic Church’s “attitude” towards gay people are misplaced. The church’s attitude towards gay people is the same as its attitude towards all people: they are children of God, blessed with an inherent dignity beyond all measure, and, if they will it, an eternal destiny abiding in God’s love. That is a remarkably affirmative attitude to have of any person (gay or straight) and one, I suggest, unparalleled by any materialist philosophy or secularist ideology.
Our former president also takes exception to the church’s teaching that gay people are “sinners”. Yet sinning is not the preserve of straight people only, the imperfect human condition is a universal reality. The real focus of debate should instead be on specific church teaching concerning sexual ethics. This teaching, only one limb of an entire corpus of ethics on human affairs, judges the morality of various actions and does not distinguish between the dignity of various persons.
Neither gay nor straight persons are predetermined to act with or against any particular aspect of the church’s moral teaching, including sexual ethics.
Whether the church’s sexual (or any other) ethics are reasonable is a distinct matter from the simple fact that it, almost uniquely, teaches as true the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings. The reasonableness or otherwise of the church’s sexual ethics is an important point of debate. But this debate is ill-served by raising extraneous issues such as the number of Catholic clergy who have a homosexual orientation, majority opinion on the matter, or, lest the debate succumb to the fallacy of naturalism, whether homosexual orientation is a matter of genetic predetermination or predisposition. – Yours, etc,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has stated that putting transmission lines underground would cause bills to rise by up to 3 per cent.
On my current electricity bill, the actual cost of electricity is €54.88. But the additional charges (standing charge, public service obligation levy and VAT at 13.5 per cent) add a whopping €37.45, or 69 per cent , to my bill.
In order to alleviate the suggested 3 per cent increase claimed to be necessary to put the transmission lines underground, Mr Rabbitte and all the other Government Ministers and backbenchers should be knocking their heads together to find ways to reduce the current excessive additional charges instead of simply acting as spokesmen for industry. – Yours, etc,
Royal Oak Road,
A chara, – There are precedents supporting the routing of electricity transmission underground. The Murraylink is an Australian 180km high-voltage electricity transmission link between Berri in South Australia and Red Cliffs in Victoria which, for environmental protection reasons, is completely underground.
Routing electricity using pylons is quicker and cheaper, but there are no new skills learned in doing so, and environment and scenery are blighted. Whereas there are geological, engineering and cost challenges in routing electricity underground, there are longer-term payoffs in terms of consequently learned engineering expertise which could be marketed abroad, and obviously reduced impacts on environment and scenery.
The question is whether the Government and EirGrid are willing to do what is required to achieve the longer-term payoffs. – Is mise,
Sir, – Ireland has signed and ratified the Aarhus Convention. Fundamental to this convention is the right of citizens to information and participation in matters relating to their environment. It in the interests of environmental democracy and justice that the plans for the EirGrid system are examined properly with the participation of the local community. – Yours, etc,
Beggars Bush Court,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Sir, – The Bileog page provides a great service for struggling Irish speakers like myself who are trying to keep our school knowledge of Irish from rusting over completely.
I was struck by the reference in Deaglán de Bréadún’s article to the Teachers’ Union of Ireland boycott of Israeli academia (“Bagairt an bhaghcait”, Bileog, January 8th).
It seems ironic that the teachers in a country that has struggled for 90 years and largely failed to revive its native language should want to boycott the teachers in a country which has successfully revived its language in the same period.
At the turn of the last century, Hebrew was pretty much a dead language, with its few fluent speakers scattered among the Jewish diaspora and a few in Palestine. But within two generations it had been revived to become the lingua franca of everyday life in Israel.
I am sure the Israeli teachers cannot take all the credit for its revival, no more than the Irish teaching profession should be blamed for the demise of Irish, but I am equally sure that our teachers have a lot to learn from the Israeli experience. Sadly, it now seems that, whatever the secret sauce is, it will remain a mystery to us through our teachers’ boycott. Could our teachers’ union not have found a better way to lend support to the Palestinians? – Yours, etc,
Sutton, Dublin 13.
Sir, – The recent decision to grant planning permission for an enlarged Irish Jewish Museum in the existing small building is as regrettable as it is misguided (“Plans for enlarged Irish Jewish Museum approved”, Home News, December 30th).
This area was the home of Dublin’s Jewish community, but the project, sadly, is not about enhancing what should be a cherished memory. It is a planning debacle that shows exceptional disregard for the local community.
Both Jewish and non-Jewish people, Irish and non-Irish, Dublin and non-Dublin born people have lived together here and shared this part of Dublin 8 for many decades, making it a vibrant part of the city. With suitable larger sites available in the area, there is a dreadful cynicism about the decision to go ahead with such a destructive plan.
Demolishing an old synagogue and most of a terrace, increasing the area six-fold and digging 20 feet into the bedrock of this tiny street shows contempt for both the residents and for the city’s architecture.
To have a Jewish museum of international dimensions in Dublin would be wonderful. It would be a major step forward in recognising and in celebrating Jewish identity in Ireland.
Surely this can be done without destroying a real, living community and tearing apart its streets? – Yours, etc,
Dr JEANNE RIOU,
School of Languages
Sir, – Why all the euphoria about the National Treasury Management Agency’s €3.75 billion bond sale (Front Page, January 8th)? EU banks can borrow from the ECB at 1 per cent and reinvest in Irish government bonds at more than 3 per cent. The fact that the Irish offering was oversubscribed may well be an indicator that the premium was too generous and it was sold too cheaply. We need to get away from misrepresenting our dealings with money lenders as a cause for self-congratulation. These bondholders are much the same cast of kindly characters that we were obliged to repay for their profligate lending to our reckless banks and poorly regulated financial institutions. We have just added another €3.75 billion to the debt burden that our children will be forced to carry. – Yours, etc,
Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Sir, – Dermot Dix in his interview as headmaster of Headfort School (Business, January 8th) states that school facilities include a science lab and that Headfort is thus “one of the few primary schools in Ireland where children do practical science”. In national schools up and down the country children from infants to sixth class are regularly engaging in practical science investigations – mini-beasts are observed, working lighthouses and rockets are constructed, wind speed is recorded, the strength of eggshells is tested. Endless adventures in scientific discovery are organised by energetic and enthusiastic teachers without a lab in sight. This is how young scientists are made. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I note that Anglo/IBRC set up lists of certain customers “to ensure that the State-owned bank did not offer nor could be perceived to have offered any of them special treatment” (“No special deals for listed Anglo borrowers, says Dukes”, Front Page, January 7th). However, by setting up the lists, the bank has implicitly given these people special treatment.
There is still a market for the trappings of influence, and people would probably pay for the cachet of being on a list of HPPs (high-profile persons), as certified by a State institution. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is rare that I agree with views expressed by Gerry Adams TD but his argument that the Oireachtas should abide by normal licensing hours seems irrefutable (“Adams repeats call for Dáil bar regulation”, Home News, January 9th).
Should not those who make the laws also be bound by them?
One could go further and ask why our legislators need access to a steady supply of alcohol in their workplace. Teachers, doctors, dentists, pilots and air traffic controllers, among others, do not have access to alcoholic support during long and arduous working hours.
Admittedly, it may be said that the work of TDs does not involve life-and-death decisions to the same extent as these professions, but can even that argument hold water in the context of, to give one example, the recently debated abortion legislation? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m afraid Jennifer O’Connell (“Ten phrases we could live without”, Life, January 8th) missed the worst of all: “You know what”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In relation to articles on maternal sepsis published on January 6th, I wish to clarify that the Rotunda Hospital collects and monitors information and data on maternal and neonatal sepsis. Over the period 2004 to the end of 2012 there were 71 cases of life-threatening maternal sepsis requiring admission to the hospital’s high dependency unit. Data on this topic and others is available in the hospital’s annual clinical report. – Yours, etc,
Dr SAM COULTER-SMITH,
Sir, – I see that the criteria for competing to be the next city of culture include an emphasis on a “bottom-up approach which seeks to unite cultural and socio-economic stakeholders” (“Next City of Culture to be ‘informed’ by Limerick experience”, Home News, January 9th). “Bottoms up” to the lucky city in 2018 and whatever you’re havin’ yourself! – Yours, etc,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.
* I write in response to Paul Connolly’s letter (January 9) on the benefits of Europe over the last 30 years. Firstly Ireland joined the EEC on May 10, 1972, which is actually nigh-on 42 years ago.
Also in this section
European project is key to our future
The case for eternal Christmas
Editorial: Pylon problem could be real headache for Kenny
Mr Connolly points to Europe being good for farming. In 1974 the price of cattle completely collapsed and there was no sign of Europe. He contends that farming is now viable for a large section of the population, despite the fact that the number of farmers has nearly halved since the 1970s.
Mr Connolly also points to an Erasmus programme, yet he bemoans the fact that we don’t learn European languages. What is the percentage of all third-level students who have gone on Erasmus?
Emigration? Since we joined the EU we have seen two major phases of emigration in Ireland — the ’80s and now. Yes, the Irish emigrate to the Anglo sphere. What does Mr Connolly suggest; that we emigrate to Spain for work where 350,000 people have emigrated? Should we move to Greece and milk goats? Should we head to Germany, where there’s no minimum wage? Should we emigrate to Portugal, where the markets — apparently the one true barometer in fiscal measurement — say that Ireland’s bonds are a better bet than in Jose Manuel Barroso’s home country?
The rhetoric of Europe is that it provides peace and that war will not break out again within its confines. Where were these great peacemakers during the Troubles?
Where is Europe when it comes to respecting our neutrality with soldiers stationed in Uganda with no UN mandate?
Finally, Mr Connolly points to the Dublin-Galway motorway as a project funded by Europe.
If Mr Connolly took off what may have been his rose-tinted glasses, he may have seen that it was part-funded by Europe.
Mr Connolly might do well to listen to the rhetoric coming out of Europe that claims that the EU is an organisation that is in existence for 40 years.
It couldn’t be, for the Berlin Wall stood for the first 20 of those 40 years.
ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
ARMY SHOWS COWARDICE
* President Higgins’s Christ-less Christmas address is just one more in a steady stream of his meaningless/ value-free diatribes, as if written by a big brother-inspired committee of PC UN apparatchiks. George Orwell wrote prophetically about such a world in his book ‘1984’.
The one redeeming feature of the episode was the initial courage of the Army chaplain in pointing out the absurdity of the speech, undermined by the cowardice of the Defence Forces under fire in issuing a craven apology.
Some secularists are attempting to defend the speech on a spurious appeal to Republican ethics. Nonsense — a republic is defined as a form of government in which power is explicitly vested in the people.
It has nothing to do with imposing secularist dogma, particularly as the majority of the Irish people, 92pc, are Christian. A simple recognition of this in the speech was all that was required, basic good manners really.
NAVAN, CO MEATH
HIV PUTS LAWS IN CONTEXT
* In the media coverage of Uganda’s new draconian anti-homosexuality laws there has been no mention of the massive and growing HIV/AIDs problem in that country.
Recently, Uganda’s President Museveni publicly took a HIV test to raise awareness of the epidemic among the population. Currently, there are 1.5 million people with HIV in Uganda and one million children orphaned because of AIDs. In all, 7pc of the adult Uganda population are living with HIV.
Like all other African countries, Uganda’s HIV/AIDs epidemic is steadily growing.
How these statistics interplay with the Uganda government’s new laws is a matter for further discussion, but it should at least be addressed as part of the context in which the new legislation is being brought forward.
BLARNEY, CO CORK
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
* Rob Sadlier is missing something when he says that “we cannot… claim to live in a republic whilst maintaining… overtly religious… references in our Constitution” (Letters, January 9).
Fundamental to a democratic republic is the principle that all citizens are equal. That ideal arises from the religious ethic of love of neighbour. So religious references in our constitution may not be the “incongruities” that Rob Sadlier says.
SUTTON, DUBLIN 13
* All too often it is the hard word that is heard. The following is a brief compilation of some memorable compliments:
“He was my brother; not by blood, but by choice” — Frank Sinatra talking about Dean Martin.
“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it” — Winston Churchill on meeting Roosevelt.
“He was the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life” — Bob Dylan on Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers.
“Irish signatures are on our founding documents. Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields. Irish sweat built our great cities.
Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and Irish song; our public life by the humour and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Regan, O’Neill and Moynihan.
So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue behind the American flag” — President Barack O’Bama on the Irish.
CONNEMARA, CO GALWAY
POPE WOULD DISAGREE
* I would like to ask Paddy Power to give odds on whether or not Pope Francis would agree with the ideas in Philip O’Neill’s letter (January 7).
The first big mistake is in thinking that all change comes from the top. I’m sure Pope Francis would be embarrassed to think he was the only hope for the church.
The idea that “all expressions of faith have been taken off course” isn’t based on any evidence whatsoever. Mr O’Neill says, “the country has been in the grip of a very fallible church”, which confuses the doctrine of infallibility. Infallibility doesn’t mean moral perfection, it means guidance in correct teaching, ie doctrine, though I would agree that living according to objective moral norms helps in the reception of faith.
“Christ’s purpose,” he claims with no authoritative sayings of Jesus to back his argument, “was not to create an institution with subservience of its adherents, but to breathe life into the world we all inhabit, releasing the god-given intelligence of humanity.”
I searched Google and I would argue that Mr O’Neill’s reference to Christianity being about “releasing the god-given intelligence of humanity” isn’t mentioned once in scripture or tradition.
Rather Christians are called to faith, which goes beyond reason, but is not and never can be opposed to truth.
Mr O’Neill’s claim that Catholicism could do fine without a “centrally controlling body” is central in his argument.
He even asks why this would not be the case. Nobody would recommend that the State jettisons the Supreme Court and allow each citizen to “thrive on imagination” whilst interpreting the Constitution on an individual basis. It was for similar reasons that Christ started the church, so that it can guide us into the truth.
KNOCK, CO MAYO