11 January 2014 NS&I
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The crew of Troutbridge are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Admiral Troutbridge.. Priceless.
Sell Premium bonds to pay for insulation website goes mad and will send me a new password
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets well over 400, nearly 500 in fact Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Viktor Sarianidi , who has died aged 84, was a Russian archaeologist who found himself starring in his own Indiana Jones adventure when he unearthed six burial mounds at Tillya Tepe on the plains north of the Turkmenistan mountains in the historical region of Bactria, northern Afghanistan.
The graves — of five women and one man — contained almost 22,000 gold artefacts which had remained undisturbed for more than 2,000 years. Sarianidi made his discovery in 1978 when he was looking for sites from the much earlier Bronze Age.
The identity of the graves’ occupants is disputed. Possibly they were Sakas, a nomadic steppe people known to the ancient Greeks as Scythians, who roamed across huge swathes of Central Asia and had overthrown the Greco-Bactrian empire in the second century BC. In any case, the grave goods testify to the richness of a culture, straddling the Silk Route, which borrowed from the civilisations with which it came into contact, from the Chinese and Indians to the Parthian civilisation of Iran and Greece.
The year 1978 was not the most auspicious for an archaeologist, let alone a Russian archaeologist, to make such a discovery in Afghanistan. The country was sliding towards a civil war sparked by a Soviet-backed communist coup the previous year. In 1979 the Soviet Union would send troops into Afghanistan, initiating a war against the Western-backed Mujahideen which lasted for nine brutal years.
Sarianidi recalled that in the days before the first items were uncovered in late 1978, he and his Afghan workmen had been surprised by a group of armed tribesmen charging towards them on horseback “like sand devils off the desert”. The workmen begged him not to reveal what they had been doing, fearing they might be shot.
Two days later one of the workmen uncovered the 2,000-year-old skeleton of a woman, surrounded by the wealth she was meant to carry with her to the afterlife — crowns, belts, exquisitely moulded robe ornaments, rings and coins. All the artefacts were made of gold, and some were inlaid with precious onyx, turquoise, garnets and lapis lazuli.
In February 1979, as the security situation deteriorated, Sarianidi was forced to leave Afghanistan — but not before he had discovered another five graves containing a staggering quantity of objects, ranging from Parthian coins to clasps decorated with cupids riding dolphins; pendants depicting scenes of war; a statue of the goddess Aphrodite; and, most magnificent of all, a diadem made of five linked trees of gold sheet, hung with dozens of small pendants that shimmered at the slightest vibration.
The objects were placed in paper bags and hastily transferred to the National Museum in Kabul. Sarianidi returned briefly in 1982 to photograph some of them, and in 1985 published a lavishly illustrated book, The Golden Hoard of Bactria. But it was to be another two decades before he saw the treasure again. Meanwhile, a seventh tomb, which he had been forced to abandon, was pillaged.
The discovery made the headlines, but wonder soon gave way to despair as Afghanistan succumbed to Soviet occupation and insurgency, followed by the civil war which ended in the takeover by the Taliban.
During the Soviet occupation, Kabul avoided the destruction unleashed in the countryside, and the treasure remained secure, if rarely seen. But around the time the Russians withdrew in 1988, it disappeared completely from view. There were rumours that it had been spirited away to Moscow, or dispersed and sold by corrupt officials to international art dealers. If any remained, it was later assumed, it had gone the way of other priceless cultural artefacts: destroyed as idolatrous by the Taliban.
The truth was even more extraordinary.
In 1988 staff at the museum decided to transfer much of the collection to the safe-keeping of the then President, Mohammed Najibullah, inside the old royal palace, the Arg (now the Presidential Palace). There it was placed in locked strongboxes and hidden in vaults belonging to Afghanistan’s Central Bank. The multiple keys required to access the vaults and boxes were dispersed among anonymous officials designated as “key-holders”. All agreed to remain silent.
It was not long before Kabul became engulfed in a hurricane of destruction. In 1992 the Najibullah government fell, and an Islamic State of Afghanistan was declared. Kabul became a battlefield, divided between competing militia groups. In 1994 the museum was hit by rocket fire and almost completely destroyed. About 70 per cent of its collections disappeared through looting or destruction.
In 1996 the Taliban took over, and in the years that followed many of the museum staff dispersed, and had to find odd jobs to survive. One senior official sold potatoes in the market. Others fled abroad. There were reports that objects from the museum’s collections were on sale in the souk.
In 2001, following the infamous destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, Taliban soldiers ransacked what remained of the museum and its storerooms, smashing anything they considered idolatrous, including 2,500 statues. But there was no sign of the Bactrian gold.
The Taliban made several unsuccessful attempts to penetrate the vault in the Arg palace, but were fobbed off. Remarkably, the key holders kept the secret at great personal risk, even at a time when revealing the whereabouts of the treasure could have bought safe passage for them and their families out of the country. But their silence meant that even after the Taliban were driven from Kabul it seemed to many — Sarianidi included — that the treasure was lost for good.
In 2003, however, President Hamid Karzai announced that several locked museum boxes had been found in a bank vault under the Arg. “We had to go down three elevators under the palace and along a tunnel set with booby traps, then through a door with seven or eight codes all held by different people,” he explained.
Thinking that the boxes might contain the treasure, Fredrik Hiebert, a former student of Sarianidi’s, persuaded National Geographic magazine to send him to Kabul on the off-chance.
There he met the museum’s director, Omara Khan Masoudi, who confirmed that the boxes had been located, though he added that he could not see what was inside as the keys had been lost. But, Masoudi suggested, if Hiebert would agree to prepare a proper inventory of their contents, then he would arrange for the boxes to be opened.
In 2004 Hiebert returned to Kabul with Sarianidi, who had been flown in from Turkmenistan, to watch as a locksmith, armed with a blowtorch and a circular saw, cut open the boxes. The keys had indeed been lost — probably deliberately — but the treasure, still in their bags, appeared to be intact. As the first bag was unwrapped Sarianidi recognised one piece which he had repaired himself a quarter of a century earlier. Afterwards he took Hiebert aside and told him that he had already made an inventory of 22,000 items, in 1978. Now it was Hiebert’s turn. It took a few months; not one item was missing.
After its recovery much of the Bactrian gold circulated the world as part of an extended museum tour. It featured in the British Museum exhibition “Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World” in 2011, with a share of the proceeds going to the beleaguered National Museum of Kabul.
Viktor Sarianidi was born in Tashkent (now the capital of Uzbekistan) on September 23 1929 to parents of Greek extraction and educated at the state university. He later enrolled at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow, where he took a Master’s degree in 1961 and later a doctorate. He worked at the Institute throughout his career.
A striking figure who sometimes sported a walrus moustache, Sarianidi worked on many sites in Soviet Central Asia, returning to Moscow only to record his findings and write his books.
In particular he played a major role in broadening understanding of what has become known as the “Oxus Civilisation”, a Bronze Age culture dating to around the time of Stonehenge. His excavations of a series of circular fortified sites in the Dashli area of the Oxus valley revealed that irrigated orchards and fields of barley and wheat had once flourished alongside neatly laid-out towns, revealing a high level of sophistication.
At Gonur Tepe, a Bronze Age site in Turkmenistan, he discovered a palace and temples with fire altars along with evidence of a cult (apparently related to Zoroastrianism) using a drug potion made from poppy, hemp and ephedra.
Viktor Sarianidi’s marriage was dissolved. He is survived by three daughters.
Viktor Sarianidi, born September 23 1929, died December 23 2013
I was glad to see Anne Karpf giving us a positive view of old age, and delighted to see a picture of Maggie Kuhn (Embrace your years, 4 January). I was fortunate to share a house with Maggie, who was an inspiration to me. She had the idea of house-sharing, which should be more widely adopted here. Old people with spare rooms rent them to younger people at a low rate in return for some help with household tasks, which enables them to live independently. It works both ways and young and old learn from each other. My favourite memory of my time with Maggie was going to a piano recital by Mieczyslaw Horzsowski, who was 13 years her senior. It turned out to be his final performance, at the age of 99. If anyone needed proof of the vitality and creativity of old age, that was it.
Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi
• 3D printing is now available in over 200 materials, including sugar (boo) and chocolate (hurrah), and now pasta (The shape of things to come, 10 January). While the mind may boggle, think also of the possibilities – school dinners printed with texts, models or formulae for the afternoon lessons, spy thrillers (eat this information), pasta landscapes and mazes to roll the peas round. Perhaps readers can suggest more pasta shapes for special occasions or professions?
• A country that is prepared to accept “le parking” and “le weekend” for lack of its own terminology, is still compelled by the ancient rules of the Académie to describe the humble spud as “the apple of the earth” (In praise of … the Académie Française, 9 January). Hardly the mark of a sophisticated academy, one might perhaps think.
West Malling, Kent
• Does Boris Johnson’s hairdresser deserve a knighthood or an asbo (Michael White’s sketch, 9 January)?
• Felicity Cloake neglects to mention the Irish version of tattie scones (G2, 9 January): potato bread, aka fadge, a staple of the Irish/Ulster fry. Also delicious filled with apple and called potato apple.
Ballyclare, County Antrim
“It’s a myth that they turned over” (How we made … the Reliant Robin, G2, 7 January). Really? My two-year love affair with a Reliant Robin ended dramatically on a leafy country road in Berkshire one cold winter’s afternoon at the turn of the 1970s when my “plastic pig” suddenly aqua-planed at about 30mph, then somersaulted, ending up in a ditch with me underneath.
My humiliation was complete when another car quickly stopped and I heard the voice of what sounded like a very old lady asking if she could help. More embarrassed than actually injured, I replied “thank you”, at which point she single-handedly managed to flip the three-wheeler back the right way up. When I returned to retrieve the car after briefly popping in for a reviving cuppa with friends nearby, its three wheels had all been nicked.
Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Emma Freud broaches a topic most of us would rather ignore (How to do a funeral, 4 January). Her guide gives readers some helpful tips on navigating the disorientating reality of funeral planning. For many people, making a funeral meaningful and affordable is one of the most difficult times of their lives. Yet it is made far more traumatic by the cost. At Quaker Social Action our Down to Earth project supports people in funeral poverty who are being plunged into financial difficulty and debt following a death. The severe rise in the cost of dying and the widening gap between costs and available social benefits urgently need addressing. Until then, funeral poverty is set to get far worse.
Funeral poverty officer, Quaker Social Action
• Whether a family is looking for a religious service or a secular ceremony, the role of the minister/officiant is of critical importance. Funeral directors clearly have their role in making practical arrangements, but much more depends on how the minister/officiant liaises with the family over the content of the order of service and conducts it. Few people are confident or emotionally resilient enough to write and deliver a eulogy; they usually need help not only with this, but with other aspects of the service as well. Above all, they instinctively need confidence in someone else who can hold the whole thing together for them.
Rev John Swarbrick
• If Emma Freud’s piece had been published a year ago, I would have thought of covering my mother’s coffin with copies of the Guardian. This was the one thing that remained constant in her ever-contracting life: she spent every day reading the paper from cover to cover. But Ms Freud failed to say that you can opt for a funeral with no one officiating, no guests, no eulogy, no programme, just your family remembering whoever has died, for an hour on your own. Emotionally overwhelming, but simple and almost stress-free.
• There is a DIY option. We organised the funeral of our brother (-in-law) by dealing with the morgue ourselves, buying a cardboard coffin online and decorating it ourselves with our children, writing and printing the order of service, choosing the music on CDs, booking a slot at the crematorium, driving the corpse to the crematorium in our estate car, running the service and, a month later, scattering the ashes and hosting a pub lunch for friends and relatives. It was easier than organising a wedding, and everyone felt involved in giving him an appropriate send-off.
Julia and Stephen Bostock
We welcome the announcement of the government’s determination to keep its Care not Custody promise (Hopes mental health nurses in courts will cut reoffending rates, 4 January). However, we note that the initial commitment for delivery of national liaison and diversion services by 2014 will not now be met. For too long people with a mental health need or learning disability, who should be diverted from police stations and courts into treatment or social care, have ended up in prison as a default option, while others are left without the support they need as they continue through the justice process.
High numbers of people in prison have mental health needs, and nearly half of all women in prison and over a fifth of men have attempted suicide at some point in their lives compared with 6% of the general population. The Care not Custody initiative was inspired by the tragic suicide of a young man with schizophrenia in Manchester prison, the son of a WI member.
The Care not Custody Coalition, representing up to 2 million people across the health, social care and justice sectors and wider civic society, was convened in 2011 to support the government in keeping its promise and to hold it to account for effective delivery. While the commitment to fund an extension of liaison and diversion trial sites in police stations and courts and a firm plan to roll out national services by 2017 gives a good foundation for change, this revised timeframe must now be kept.
Marylyn Haines-Evans Public affairs chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Juliet Lyon Director, Prison Reform Trust
Steve Williams Chair, Police Federation of England and Wales
Dr Peter Carter Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Nicholas Fluck President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Sue Bailey President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Eoin McLennan-Murray President, Prison Governors Association
Peter McParlin National chairman, Prison Officers Association
Sue Hall Chair, Probation Chiefs Association
Javed Khan Chief executive, Victim Support
Paul Farmer Chief executive, Mind
Laurie Clarke Chief Executive, British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy
Paul Jenkins Chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Sean Duggan Chief executive, Centre for Mental Health
Nigel Lithman Chairman, Criminal Bar Association
Vicki Helyar-Caldwell Director, Criminal Justice Alliance
Sarah Clarke Vice-chair, Training and Accreditation Committee, Advocacy Training Council
Karyn Kirkpatrick Chief executive, Keyring Living Support Network
John Graham Director, Police Foundation
Jackie Russell Director, Women’s Breakout
Chris Bath Chief executive, National Appropriate Adult Network
Rachel Halford Director, Women in Prison
Can modern Britain survive (Comment, 9 January)? The conclusive answer must be no. We are winding up the welfare state, because we have been running the country at a loss for the last 40 years. We cannot produce goods to trade for the commodities we need, so we have been selling off the country to support our standard of living. London is no longer part of Britain. It is increasingly owned by rich foreigners and inhabited by poor foreigners. The overhead of carrying London means our base costs are too high to facilitate balanced trade. London prices Britain out of world markets. The creative energy of England is more concerned with hanging onto its inheritance, than in creating a viable economic environment.
Britain’s politicians just want to get elected, then repeat the trick at the next election. Regional politicians are more concerned with engineering a power base detached from England or London or both, than in running a sustainable economy. English politicians are concerned with driving the inconvenient poor somewhere north of Chipping Norton and forgetting all about them. We haven’t got the will to revive our nation, because so few people want to know. If I’m wrong, where is the motive force pulling the country together?
• Martin Kettle says of JB Priestley’s 1934 book English Journey, “someone with real talent should make [the journey] afresh in 2014”. In fact, Beryl Bainbridge made it afresh for BBC Bristol in 1984, to mark the half centenary – with real talent indeed, noting the decay and disparities of the first Thatcher recession. The resulting book is subtitled The Road to Milton Keynes, which Priestley had somehow missed (Beatrix Campbell was doing something similar in 1984, with Wigan Pier Revisited.)
Seven years later Patrick Wright did something similar in A Journey Through Ruins, on the decay and disparities mostly, but not entirely, within London. In 2010 Owen Hatherley produced A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, focused more on architecture, but using it to illustrate the continuing inequalities. You see a theme of titles emerging here. Hatherley’s is the first to cross the borders to Glasgow and Cardiff.
Priestley wondered: “Had we exiled Lancashire and the north-east coast?” A year or so ago newly released government papers showed that simply cutting Liverpool off – to sink or swim – had indeed been suggested in the 1980s. It’s impossible to know whether any of this influenced the 1997 election. It doesn’t seem to have influenced New Labour’s policy-making to any great extent, as they left regeneration to developers and corporations, and even to casinos and 24-hour licenced premises.
It seems New Labour has taken the wind out of the left’s sails. Meanwhile the inequalities grow and are set to be locked in place by perma-austerity. Perhaps a revised English Journey would be a good place to start to acknowledge past failures and to present a radical future manifesto.
• Martin Kettle is one of several southern British commentators who have entered the discussion on the Scottish referendum. He identifies London’s parochial ignorance and lack of interest in any other part of the UK. This gladdens the Yes campaigners in Scotland who can speak of England as that island state within the M25. It suits them to display ignorance of the true nature of Britain. You can only sympathise with those geographically in between who are excluded from the debate. Devolution has worked well in Scotland and Wales. It has given those countries a sense that those who run our education, health, social services etc are closer both physically and emotionally with those to whom the services are provided.
Westminster government is broke and it is time to fix it for all of the UK. Devolution should be offered to all regions in England. After all, federalism works in Germany and the US . Maybe what is needed is a folk group to write a song persuading Northumbrians that “we can still rise now and be a nation again”; and the same again for Wessex and Mercia.
The level of misreporting in relation to the UK ISPs’ default on filters is reaching staggering proportions. What a pity it seems the Lib Dems have been taken in by it (“Lib Dems risk ‘pro porn’ label as they oppose internet filters”, 10 January).
Parents like filters, but many found the whole business of setting them up too complicated, so they abandoned the attempt. The new way makes it easier. Thus ISPs are giving parents a real choice, not a theoretical one. It seems to me to be entirely disingenuous for anyone to say they don’t mind parents using filters as long as it’s not too easy for them. If you don’t want to use the filters you can say so with a click of a mouse. What could be simpler?
Last October Ofcom released data showing that 37 per cent of three- to four-year-olds are going online. After the Christmas splurge on new, inexpensive internet-enabled tablets, my guess is that number will be nudging nearer to 50 per cent, and this time next year it will be moving towards the high 80s or 90s. When the Lib Dems say they do not want ISPs to make it easier to use filters, what are they saying to parents? Finger-wagging about always sitting with your child when he or she goes online won’t work. Filters are not perfect but they can help busy parents keep some of the most awful stuff away from their children’s machines. As long as any discovered errors can be quickly rectified, and they can, I don’t see the problem.
The ISPs are planning to spend £25m on a public awareness campaign which, among other things, will explain exactly what filters can do and what they can’t. Everyone should take a breath, and let’s see how this experiment pans out.
John Carr, London NW3, (The writer is a member of the executive board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety)
Great war generals had to attack
I have little truck with Michael Gove’s comments on the First World War, but feel that many of your letter writers have no real knowledge of the subject. As one of the dwindling number whose fathers fought in that war, I have read much about it.
One correspondent tells us of her aunt “not realising what they were sending men to”; in the first six months, neither did the generals, as the warfare in the trenches was something they had never experienced. Perhaps they should have learnt lessons sooner, but after the slaughter on the Somme they did develop new tactics – tanks, ground-strafing aeroplanes and avoiding mass frontal assaults.
The problem was that the Germans very rarely attacked but sat securely in well-developed defensive positions which we had to attack – otherwise the war would have dragged on indefinitely, with half of France and Belgium occupied and the UK suffering more and more from the U-boat blockade. There was no option but to attack.
If our troops were so badly led, why did they not mutiny like the French and Russians? It was because they were much better treated, with regular periods out of the front line. When America came into the war their generals ignored the lessons ours had learnt and carried out frontal assaults with heavy losses.
Terry Hancock, Cherry Willingham, Lincolnshire
Sean O‘Grady (“Who was to blame for the First World War?” 8 January) is harsh on Sir Edward Grey. It wasn’t him who declared war on Serbia, mobilised armies of millions, or invaded Belgium and France.
If one man can be blamed, look no further than Count Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of the Austro-Hungarian general staff, who had been desperate to find an excuse to attack Serbia, and who had been assured of German support if Russia came to the aid of her Serbian client.
Barry Mellor, London N7
TV view of life on benefits
Did Owen Jones actually watch Benefits Street before he wrote his piece (9 January)? The programme he described seemed very unlike the one I watched.
As someone still working in their sixties, I have paid taxes to support the benefits system for over 40 years. Nothing I saw on Benefits Street made me, or seemed designed to make me, regret this use of my money. The inhabitants were not demonised, but were shown as a collection of people with different characters, different lives, different needs. Some were attractive (the man with his 50p business); some were not (the aggressive young shoplifter); but all clearly needed some form of benefit support.
The “controversy” over the programme seems to have arisen from Twitter and the intervention of smart young journalists down from Oxford and looking for a cause.
Helen Hancock, Birmingham
Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in the production meeting for Benefits Street? “OK, we need fighting dogs, people smoking, watching Sky on enormous widescreen televisions” etc, etc.
I can just about remember when Channel 4 made thought-provoking, hard-hitting, intelligent programmes, as was its initial remit. Iain Duncan Smith and friends must be jumping with joy, at such a free party political broadcast for the Conservative Party.
Chris Allcock, Wirksworth, Derbyshire
Owen Jones is absolutely right. The approach of TV to pensioners is more subtle but just as poisonous. Whenever the question of winter fuel allowances or travel passes comes up we get a shot of a group of well-heeled “pensioners” playing golf or bowls before sitting down to refreshments in the clubhouse. Not exactly representative of the average pensioner.
B J Cairns, London N22
Alarming advice for visitors
Last night I was in the departure lounge at Benito Juarez airport waiting for a BA flight to Heathrow when a Mexican on his way by Lufthansa to a Frankfurt trade fair introduced himself. His immediate comment when I said we lived in London was: “How are you dealing with the Muzzies?”
I said mildly that London is perhaps the most cosmopolitan and diverse city in the world, that its many different cultural groups seem to get on pretty well with each other, and that my Muslim acquaintances include a neighbour who is fully involved in mainstream three-party politics.
My new Mexican “friend” then observed that when he was in London a few months ago a policeman took him for an American and advised him very strongly not to visit any of half a dozen named areas in London where he was likely to be killed on the spot, if identified.
Do you suppose Boris, or Theresa, or Commissioner Hogan-Howe, or even the Border Agency, is responsible for disseminating this kind of helpful advice to selected overseas visitors?
John Mann, London NW2
Celebrity MP in a swimsuit
Your article entitled “MP makes waves with part in Splash!” (9 January) claims that Penny Mordaunt MP is “facing criticism after announcing that she is to strip to her swimsuit and take part in the ITV celebrity diving show”, with the clear implication that she is being criticised for sexualising herself. The report also refers to her (three-year-old) status as “sexiest female parliamentarian”.
However, the only criticism quoted is for allegedly neglecting her constituency by “appearing in an entertainment show”.
Ms Mordaunt is far from being the only female politician to be forced to wear her sexuality like an albatross around her neck, as every single time that Mara Carfagna is mentioned in your paper her name is prefaced with the description “former topless model”.
Eoghan Lavery, Norwich
Met’s history of sick leave
Your report exposing “endemic corruption” at Scotland Yard (10 January) could explain why the Met adopted such an obviously lax approach to the management of sick leave during the 1980s and 1990s.
This failure to control such a drain on resources camouflaged the significant number of flawed officers who should have faced disciplinary charges or more but were allowed to retire on ill-health pensions which entailed lengthy periods of sick leave prior to the retirement.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner in his 1986 annual report boasted that the 15 days average annual sick leave taken by his officers compared favourably with that of other forces.
When I recently used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the latest statistic I was told it was now down to about seven days. The management tools used to achieve this remarkable reduction could probably have been used 20 years ago.
John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk
A cut above the rest
Does Boris Johnson’s hairdresser deserve a knighthood or an Asbo?
John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Sir, The Health Secretary, when confronted with today’s epidemic of obesity (Jan 7), suggests that the solution is that individuals should engage in “national soul searching” and take more responsibility for their diet. This response is reminiscent of statements made by his former colleagues in relation to tobacco — that if people simply stopped smoking cigarettes then the health-related problems associated with tobacco would go away.
There are many similarities between tobacco consumption and diets characterised by an increase in energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods, high in saturated fat, salt and sugars. Essentially, both have been intensively promoted and marketed by international companies whose goals are profit rather than health. In the case of the food industry, advertising campaigns, many directed at the most vulnerable members of our society — our children and those economically deprived — aim to promote these products, often misguidedly, as healthy (breakfast cereals are a classic example). And their association with national and international sporting events (in the case of sugar-containing drinks and sports supplements) is designed to give these products a health credibility which they do not have.
We can place the responsibility for change in diet and lifestyle on the individual; we can invite the food industry to participate in discussions to improve the content of its processed and packaged foods, which now constitute the major proportion of our diet, and we can invite it to reduce the sugar content of carbonated drinks which has contributed to the obesity epidemic worldwide.
However, the marketing campaigns of the “Big Food” multinational corporations were learnt from the tobacco industry and have been very successful. The obesity epidemic is now spreading rapidly in the low and middle economies, largely as a consequence of “Big Food” increasing its focus on new outlets in the developing world — further extending the huge problems to health and the economy it has caused in Europe and North America.
It has taken 50 years to realise that the only way to control the tobacco industry is legislation over the content and marketing of its products. Will we wait another half century before we legislate over the food industry and its high-pressure marketing of poor-quality nutritional products to our community which, when combined with lack of exercise, is the cause of the worldwide epidemic of obesity and its health and economic consequences?
Professor Peter Sever
Imperial College London
Sir, After your report and letters (Jan 2) it is time to stand back and look at what we may be allowing to be done to this country in the name of development and its presumed role as the solution to our economic woes.
Those aiming to surround Old Oswestry hillfort with a housing development offer the feeble excuse that they are not building on the hill fort itself, while at the same time ignoring the impact on views both to and from the monument. The people of Bath are facing plans to amend green belt land around the city with housing, roads and commercial development which will severely compromise the setting of the best surviving part of the western Wansdyke, another Scheduled Ancient Monument and landscape-scale earthwork.
Against growing threats like these, the number of people employed to examine the impact of development on our heritage is diminishing as local governments cut their conservation, archaeological and museum staff, leaving some regions without cover at all, while those who are left have overwhelming workloads.
At the same time changes to English Heritage appear likely to reduce its influence. As we are only on the edge of economic growth, what other ancient monuments will be threatened as the pace of development picks up?
We need to call a halt and reinstate the ground rules for protection of our Historic Monuments (and greenbelt land) before it’s too late and we need to fight for the jobs of those whose task it is to mitigate the negative effects of economic development.
Our national heritage is not a luxury; in 2013 alone heritage tourism contributed some £26.4 billion to the British economy. Of what lasting value is recovery if we lose some of our most evocative and irreplaceable heritage in the process?
Dr Chris Cumberpatch
Vice-chair, Rescue – The British Archaeological Trust
Sir, Your report (Jan 8) on the behaviour of parents who drive their children to school was very familiar. I have long ceased to be astonished at such parents’ lack of courtesy towards others, and the degree to which they are prepared to endanger others, including their own children.
I work in the London Borough of Barnet, on a road with five schools, three private, within half a mile of each other. At drop-off and pick-up times the road becomes an obstacle course. Traffic jams are frequent, often because the buses which use the road cannot get through. Everyone, school user or not, is inconvenienced. Road traffic act violations are countable in their dozens along the half-mile stretch every day. Two years ago I wrote to the head teachers of all five schools, asking them to take action. None replied, and the chaos continues.
Sir, I worry about where my children are, but I do not want to fit them with a GPS tracker (“New smartwatch will let you track your children from afar”, Jan 9). I have just released a film about children’s disappearance from the wild, and a campaign, the Wild Network, to try to reintroduce them. Children’s independent mobility in the UK is vanishing. Twice as many under-11s are accompanied to school by their parents than were 30 years ago. But rather than allowing children new freedoms, the new smartwatch lures parents into a mentality where they must police the ever-shrinking limits of their children’s local geography.
One parent’s wayward child is another’s adventurer in the making.
Sir, We write to express our utmost concern over the conflict in South Sudan, with over 1,000 people killed and 200,000 displaced. This is in addition to the 228,000 people already living as refugees in South Sudan, having fled from conflict in the Republic of Sudan. There is an urgent need for an end to fighting to prevent further displacement and suffering.
We are encouraged that the two sides to the conflict are meeting in Addis Ababa. However, we are particularly worried that while these events occur in South Sudan, in the Republic of Sudan a systematic campaign of bombardments and other atrocities continues, committed by the government in Khartoum against civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile state and Darfur. As the rest of the world turns its attention to South Sudan, the suffering of these people will be forgotten and aid will be diverted or denied.
We are also concerned that the current conflict has been wrongly caricatured as primarily an ethnic dispute between the two main tribal groups, the Dinka and the Nuer. Although tribal identity has been a historic basis for conflict and continues to be a factor in recent violence, the current fighting is not simply based on ethnicity — for example, the General Chief of Staff, who remains loyal to the Dinka President of South Sudan, is a Nuer.
We are concerned that Government of South Sudan parliamentarians have been arrested and although some have been released, others are still in jail.
We therefore strongly urge the immediate release of all politicians not involved in any criminal actions who are currently detained. All parties to the conflict must allow immediate, unhindered access of humanitarian aid to all in need. The leader of the rebellion, Riek Machar, must agree to demobilise all child soldiers who have been fighting alongside his forces, including those in the so-called White Army; all parties must address immediately reports of the use of child soldiers; and the international community must do all in its power to facilitate dialogue and constructive ways forward.
The cessation of hostilities without a comprehensive political solution, and without resolving the root causes of the fratricidal violence and carnage, only sets the stage for an inevitable resumption of fighting with the belligerent forces rested, better organised and better equipped.
We strongly support the peace talks led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to secure an immediate cessation of hostilities. But we also underline that the UK and its partners played a critical role in supporting IGAD to mediate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the devastating war between Sudan and then-SPLM rebels; without this massive international diplomatic support, political progress would not have been possible. We therefore urge the Prime Minister David Cameron to add his strong support to the ongoing IGAD negotiations.
It would be an unmitigated tragedy for the people of South Sudan if the current violence continues.
Baroness Cox, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Avebury, Sir Peter Bottomley, MP; Lord Chidgey; Nic Dakin, MP; Jeffrey Donaldson, MP; Baroness Kinnock; Lord Lea of Crondall; John Mann, MP; Stephen Mosley, MP; the Earl of Sandwich
Sir, The immigration debate caused me to consider what the immigrant population has contributed to my life directly.
My family has been treated by doctors and nurses from India, Pakistan and the Philippines. I was taken to school by a Jamaican bus driver, have enjoyed food from Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Nepalese restaurants, and had dental treatment from a Russian Jew. Our car has recently been valeted by immigrants from Syria and Albania. Italian café owners have served me coffee and ice cream, and their cousins cut my hair.
All of these immigrants have been hard workers and they have enhanced the life of the South Wales valleys in which they have chosen to settle, as indeed they have nationally.
SIR – Professor Alan Sked summarises the linked, cumulative events that led up to the Great War. The Schlieffen Plan he mentions was developed in 1905 as a means of invading France through Belgium and bypassing the heavily fortified Franco-German border, over which the Prussians invaded in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871.
Schlieffen’s idea was that, by invading far to the west and wheeling south-west of Paris, the right wing of the German army would envelop Paris and bring the war to a speedy conclusion. Apparently Count Schlieffen’s last words on his death-bed in 1913 were: “Keep the right wing strong”.
In the event, the German 1st Army turned eastwards early in support of the 2nd Army, the advance of which was stalled by the French. The exposed German flank gave the French an opportunity to counterattack with British support. The Battle of the Marne brought the German invasion to a halt and led to four years of trench warfare.
The Schlieffen Plan was instrumental in bringing Britain into the war. Had the plan been implemented as intended, it might well have led to the early capitulation of France, as happened more than 25 years later.
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire
SIR – The new director of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, is right to highlight the perils we face if we ignore the emerging public health problem of antibiotic resistance.
Making new medicines is an expensive and risky business. The days of the blockbuster drug are over, and costs of development are escalating. So if we are to continue with a market-driven approach to developing new drugs, investors need a more persuasive investment proposition.
This means that we must either accept higher prices for drugs or re-evaluate our approach to patent protection. A longer patent lifetime would allow investors to generate a return over a longer period and give an incentive to pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics.
Perhaps even more importantly, it could safeguard the pipeline of new affordable medicines for many diseases and establish Britain as the destination of choice for the next generation of drug hunters.
Professor Stephen Caddick
University College London
How Britain was drawn into the First World War
10 Jan 2014
Traffic, speed and air
SIR – What the Government is doing is increasing capacity on the M1 by 33 per cent. As part of these improvements we are consulting on introducing a 60mph speed limit on a 35-mile section of the M1, which will enable traffic to run more smoothly.
We have been using variable speed limits to improve traffic flow for many years. They are also an option on the rare occasion that the respiratory health of local people is at risk.
No decision has been taken yet, but it is our responsibility to ensure that air quality standards are met. This consultation will help us establish if variable speed limits are the best way to protect the health of communities near the motorway.
A specific improvement we are making may carry some risks in terms of air quality and if so, we will need to manage them.
Even if it were a completely clear road, a reduction from 70mph to 60mph would add only five minutes to the journey. However, this section is heavily congested and our improvements will dramatically reduce journey times.
Robert Goodwill MP (Con)
Posting nail varnish
SIR – The Civil Aviation Authority and Royal Mail have agreed new procedures that mean customers can post to UK addresses small quantities of toiletry and medicinal aerosols, nail varnishes, perfumes and aftershaves and alcoholic beverages that were previously prohibited in the mail.
Batteries can also be sent in the post but the sender must comply with certain packaging requirements.
Head of Protective & Aviation Security, Royal Mail
Snips and snippets
SIR – As the owner of a hairdressing salon and leader of a London council, I can claim to hold the keys to both the salon and the top office at the town hall.
The salon is an unrivalled place to hear what residents actually think about issues of the day. You don’t just get hot air under the dryers.
Cllr Susan Hall
Leader, Harrow Council
SIR – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine may not change Japan’s commitment to peace, but Keiichi Hayashi, Japan’s ambassador to Britain, is wrong to assume that all is rosy with Japan’s democracy.
The spat between China and Japan is about Mr Abe’s devious effort to get rid of Japan’s post-war “Peace Constitution”.
Mr Hayashi says Mr Abe firmly upholds Japan’s responsibility for the slaughter that befell Asia and that “the government of Japan has consistently made clear that it squarely faces this history, and expresses deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for it.
In my 22 years in Japan, anything said about the evil done to Asia was grudging and minimal. Japan has been offered many opportunities in the past 40 years to apologise; only one resulted in any true apology, and this extraction was painful.
SIR – Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to Britain, justifies his country’s sabre-rattling in the East China Sea by citing Japan’s failure to acknowledge its war record.
Mr Liu does not mention China’s own appalling post-war human rights record, nor the invasion and continuing brutal occupation of Tibet.
He also does not seem to appreciate the similarity of Japan’s honouring war criminals to China’s celebrating Mao as a national hero, for example by featuring his picture on the country’s bank notes.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – If Mr Liu wishes China to safeguard regional stability and world peace, a good start would be to advocate the referral of the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands dispute to the arbitration of the International Court of Justice, rather than attempting to put daylight between Britain and America, current guarantor of stability in Asia.
SIR – In Hippocrates’ Regimen in Health, he recommends that in winter one should “eat as much as possible… and drink should be wine as undiluted as possible”, since it is important to warm the body. In summer, “drinks should be diluted and as copious as possible”, and meat “boiled”, in order to cool the body. January is not the time for abstinence.
Memorable names of the 10 little hairy pigs
SIR – Adrian Waller has forgotten what the mnemonic “Very Many Little Hairy Pigs Live In The Torrid Argentine” stands for. It is an aide-memoire for: Valine, Methionine, Lysine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Arginine. I would not have thought anyone would need a mnemonic for that.
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Memorable names of the ten little hairy pigs
SIR – Navigators use mnemonics for help in converting magnetic to true bearings (and vice versa), to ensure the correct sequence of applying corrections for deviation (errors caused by local magnetic forces) and variation (the angular difference between the true and magnetic poles).
From compass reading to true, one corrects as follows: compass deviation magnetic variation true, or CDMVT. This translates: Can Dead Men Vote Twice?
Going from true to magnetic is more interesting: True Virgins Make Dull Companions.
SIR – At King Edward VII Nautical College in 1950, we were taught: Timid Virgins Make Dull Companions. In the Sixties, I learnt to fly at Suffolk Aero Club in a mixed-sex class, and we concentrated on the unexceptionable mnemonic: Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Very Tasty.
Captain David Ingham
SIR – Until I sat on a jury a couple of years ago, I had not appreciated the true value of our jury processes.
The jury members at the Mark Duggan inquest did not ask to be there, but were selected at random. We must assume that, as independent people, the jurors considered the evidence, along with the guidance they would have been given, in a diligent, fair and honest manner. The conclusions and decisions they reached were what they truly believed to be the right ones.
How do those jurors now feel, as pressure groups express disgust at the “awful” conclusions?
We must support those jurors and vigorously defend the jury system that has served our country so well for centuries.
Norton Lindsey, Warwickshire
SIR – Like the riots that immediately followed his shooting, this week’s inquest verdict on Mark Duggan 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 inquest might have 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.
SIR – Mark Duggan’s aunt claims that the public supports the Duggan family. Count me out, please. The sight of the screeching members of the Duggan family and friends after the jury delivered its verdict was enough to turn anyone’s stomach.
J M T Shaw
SIR – Mob rule is never a pleasant sight. It was not pleasant when we saw it on our television screens in the summer of 2011 and I guess it wasn’t very agreeable for the court staff in the Duggan case on Wednesday.
Anarchy in any society lies just below the surface. All that protects the ordinary citizen from rape, robbery and the rest 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 cooperate with them and offer proper respect. If misdemeanours by the forces of law and order 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.
SIR – Has Mark Duggan’s family given thought to the lives lost as a result of drug dealing?
Port Erin, Isle of Man
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
Letters: To thine own selfie be true
European project is key to our future
The case for eternal Christmas
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