17 January 2014 Bone sample
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge is bombed by the mafia but survives because Leslie Zags instead of zigs Priceless.
Start to clear out attic for insulation, Mary bone marrow sample, cart still not ready tomorrow?
Scrabbletoday I winand gets just over300, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
Roger Lloyd-Pack, the actor, who has died aged 69, will forever be associated with the slow-witted Peckham road sweeper Trigger, whom he played in the much-loved television series Only Fools and Horses.
As one of the regulars at the Nag’s Head pub, Trigger provided an immeasurably dim foil to the wit and wisdom of wheeler-dealer Del Boy (David Jason), used-car salesman Boycie (John Challis), landlord Mike (Kenneth MacDonald) and Del Boy’s younger brother, Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst).
The character was involved both in one of the series’ best running jokes, and its greatest slapstick moment. In the latter, he accompanies Del Boy on a mission to pick up a couple of “modern euro-birds”, only for Del Boy to fall through the bar after a waiter, unnoticed, lifts the hatch. In the former, Trigger persistently refers to Rodney as “Dave”. Even on the announcement of Rodney’s engagement, to Cassandra, Trigger raises a glass “to Cassandra and Dave”. When she discloses that she is pregnant, he suggests that the couple call the baby “Rodney, after Dave”.
Born with what he described as “an old man’s face”, Lloyd-Pack had to wait until his 40s to find success as an actor; once he found it with Trigger, however, the role would not leave him be. Such was his identification with the road-sweeper that passers-by, even policemen, would shout out “Wotcher Trig?” at him in the street. In conversation, he said, strangers assumed he was very thick. He described the role as “like an albatross in one way. If something becomes mega, like Fools, you’ve had it. I’ll never escape Trigger, I’ve learnt to live with that.”
But the role (which he nearly abandoned after two series, until his agent told he would be “mad”) provided him with a measure of financial security and also ensured that he did not have to worry about finding work again. Though he never subsequently secured the golden roles of Lear or Shylock, to which he aspired, he was sought after for smaller, plum Shakespearean parts, such as Buckingham (in Richard III) or Sir Andrew Aguecheek (in Twelfth Night).
e Harry Potter franchise. Acting, he said, was “a silly job, in a way, especially when you get older. It’s just dressing up, playing at being someone else. It’s rather lovely, too, but it’s hardly life and death.
Roger Lloyd-Pack was born on February 8 1944 in north London. His father, Charles Pack, had grown up a working-class lad in the East End before turning to acting and, in the 1930s, adding Lloyd to his surname. Roger’s mother, Ulrike, was an Austrian-Jewish emigrée who had fled the Nazis.
Roger was educated at St David’s (“a snobby little prep school run by a sadistic couple”) and Bedales, where he “coasted”. He did not shine at Geography (securing just nine per cent in his O-level), but did begin acting, eventually auditioning for Rada. After training there, however, he found jobs hard to come by.
In part he put this down to his looks. “It took a while for all my features to fall into place,” he said. “I didn’t come into my own as an actor until I was 40. I was not easy to cast.” He found bit parts in series such as The Avengers, The Protectors and Dixon of Dock Green, but spent much of his time drifting in rep – waiting, with increasingly little confidence, for his big break.
In the mid-1970s his career got a boost when the director Bill Gaskill invited him to join the Joint Stock Theatre Company, which pioneered the idea of using collaborative workshops to inspire new material from playwrights such as David Hare and Caryl Churchill. But it was not until 1981, with the advent of Only Fools and Horses, that he secured his future as an actor. He was signed up after being spotted by the series’ producer, Ray Butt, while in a play alongside Billy Murray, who was being considered for the Del Boy role.
The series ran for a decade, with the character of Trigger appearing in nearly every episode and acquiring something approaching cult status, notably for moments of inadvertent wisdom that pierced the fog of idiocy. On one occasion, Trigger prompts a philosophical debate by revealing that he has used the same broom to sweep streets for 20 years. When asked his secret, he reveals that he has lovingly maintained it, replacing the head 17 times and the handle 14 times.
In interviews Lloyd-Pack was frank, sometimes disarmingly so, about the nature of his/Trigger’s rather peculiar brand of celebrity. He was also frank about the travails of his personal life, in particular the mental health difficulties faced by his eldest daughter, Emily.
Emily Lloyd, who was born when Lloyd-Pack was 26, was catapulted to Hollywood stardom while still in her teens after appearing in the film Wish You Were Here (1987). A decade in Hollywood followed, but she was increasingly afflicted by mental health problems. In an interview last year, Lloyd-Pack said that watching his daughter struggle with her condition was “absolutely heart-rending and painful”.
He was also forthright about the possibility that, having left his first marriage, to the actress Sheila Ball, when Emily was only two, he had somehow contributed to his daughter’s later difficulties. “I feel very sad about that,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t have a second chance. Forming good, trusting relationships with your children involves being with them when they’re very small and holding them. You can’t replace it. The thing you most want in your life when you’re little is for both your parents to love each other. If not, it can be the beginning of all your problems.”
Roger Lloyd-Pack, who died of cancer, was also clear-sighted about death, upon which, he said, even before his diagnosis, he reflected every day. A keen cyclist, recycler, and campaigner for Left-wing causes, he revealed he would like to buried in “a cardboard coffin”. As for his obituaries: “I don’t really care what [they] say, so long as they are fair. I know I will be best remembered for Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, but I hope all my other work will be acknowledged, too.”
His television credits included Spyder’s Web; Moving; The Bill; The Old Guys; and The Vicar of Dibley. Film credits included The Naked Civil Servant; 1984; Wilt; Interview with the Vampire; Vanity Fair; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
In 2000 he was appearing in the hit play Art, a three-hander in which his character, after some vacillating, gets married in a ceremony witnessed by the other two characters. During the run Lloyd-Pack decided to marry his partner of 25 years, Jehane Markham, with whom he had three sons. His co-stars, Nigel Havers and Barry Foster, acted as witnesses. Lloyd-Pack said he could not resist the temptation to play a central role as life imitated Art.
Roger Lloyd-Pack, born February 8 1944, died January 15 2014
Tom Rosenthal was author or co-author of 10 books and monographs, on Paula Rego, LS Lowry, Josef Albers and Sidney Nolan, among others, and last year his On Art and Artists: Selected Essays was published, bearing out his friend Anthony Rudolf‘s point that: “Tom is one of the great publishers of the age, and a very good writer too.”
This comment comes from Life in Books: Friends of Tom Rosenthal Celebrate his Seventieth Birthday (2005), published in a limited edition of 300 by Rudolf’s extraordinary Menard Press. The book’s 39 contributors included Joan Bakewell, John Banville, William Boyd, David Cairns, Günter Grass, David Lodge, Nicholas Mosley, Peter Porter, Brian Rix, Salman Rushdie, Ben Schott, Clive Sinclair, David Thomson, Anthony Thwaite, Gore Vidal and David Whitaker.
As Rudolf explained in his publisher’s note, Rosenthal conveniently went to New York at the very moment Rego’s pastel portrait of him needed to be secretly removed from his study wall to be prepared for the frontispiece of Life in Books, a beautifully produced book which is rare and wonderful to behold.
You are right to highlight how the delay in the inquest on Mark Duggan has put strain on his family and has created anxiety about whether relatives of the many black people who have died while in police custody, or at the hands of the police, have access to justice or even basic information about the circumstances of their loved ones’ death. I would just like to tell your readers about the case of Philmore Mills, who was ill in a hospital lung ward. His behaviour became extremely erratic, nurses in fear called the police who detained him and while he was restrained he died. That happened about 12 weeks after Mark Duggan was shot and yet the inquest is not due until 1 April. The family does not know whether it will get legal aid for representation. One of my Conservative colleagues last month described in the Commons his shame that for the past 30 years we have allowed so many deaths in custody of African Caribbean men to go unaddressed. It’s time to remedy this injustice.
Fiona Mactaggart MP
The most troubling aspect of Avi Shlaim’s one-dimensional piece on former PM Ariel Sharon (Comment. 13 January) is his claim that the goal of the Gaza disengagement was “preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state”. In an Orwellian turn of events, we are expected to believe that the relinquishing of Israel‘s control over Gaza was in fact carried out with the aim of harming the Palestinian national cause. A reality check is in order here: Israel did not install the Hamas terror group in Gaza, nor did it bring over thousands of rockets from Iran and proceed to fire them at its towns and cities. Gaza represents a tragic missed opportunity for the Palestinians to have presented their ability to live side by side with Israel in peace, one that still resonates as an alarming reminder of the challenges faced by Israel in the current peace negotiations.
Embassy of Israel
• Your editorial (13 January) claims Ariel Sharon believed terror could only be defeated with bullets and bombs. But his policy of disengagement, not only withdrawing from Gaza, but also by building the barrier that has successfully prevented terrorist attacks, gives the lie to this simplistic conclusion and shows his creativity in devising pragmatic nonviolent solutions to Palestinian intransigence and murder. He was no saint, but he was the only politician in the Middle East who successfully managed to reduce conflict by two separate practical initiatives. If only Netanyahu and Abbas were so creative.
• Your pieces on Ariel Sharon would not be out of place in an Arab newspaper. Ariel Sharon was a soldier and his military achievements were legendary. The large battles against regular armies that he commanded in the 1956 Suez campaign, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War are still taught in military academies around the world for their tactical brilliance. Countries under threat need good soldiers. The problem for many critics of Sharon is that he was a better, more daring and more successful military leader than his enemies.
In his 2011 book To End All Wars – the only recent account of the first world war to foreground the anti-war movement – Adam Hochschild asks: “If we were allowed to magically roll back history to the start of the 20th century and undo one – and only one – event, is there any doubt that it would be the war that broke out in 1914?” Perhaps, then, we should pay heed to the actions of those who tried to stop the first world war and resist its barbarism (Echoes of 1914: are today’s conflicts a case of history repeating itself?, 16 January).
Today we will be launching a year-long project to celebrate these people – English and German, men and women, socialists and feminists, conscientious objectors and soldiers – with a talk by Adam Hochschild and the unveiling of the first of 10 new posters. Over the next four years, as we mourn the dead, let us also learn from those who, in the words of Bertrand Russell – himself imprisoned for six months for opposing the war – “were not swept off their feet …[and] stood firm”.
• Stuart Jeffries is wrong to assume it is only those on the right of the political spectrum who believe the sacrifice of so many lives in the first world war was justified (G2, 7 January). Many on the left, myself included, believe that to be the case as well, because it maintained the international rule of law. In 1914, German militarists brutally and illegally invaded the sovereign country of Belgium, in much the same way as the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Over 600 Belgian civilians in Dinant were massacred in 1914. In the German colony of South West Africa they committed genocide against the Herero people and systematically murdered 80% of their population. Many socialists outraged by the atrocities volunteered to fight in 1914, including Clement Attlee. He left his job as a lecturer at the London School of Economics and applied for a commission as soon as war broke out, and was subsequently badly wounded in the siege of Kut in Mesopotamia. When he recovered from his wounds, he was sent to fight on the western front in 1918.Furthermore, the leading British war ace Edward Mannock was a committed socialist and believed the war against the Germans and Turks was justified.
• Your editorial (16 January) misrepresents the impact of the first British trench memoirs, novels and plays that began to appear a decade after the end of the war. For a start, these can’t be simply labelled as exercises in portraying the war “as a futile exercise”. The most famous of the plays, for example, Sherriff’s Journey’s End, is most certainly not an anti-war play. Second, it is all too easy with hindsight to overstate the contemporary effect of the war books of the late 1920s and early 30s. The appeal of Blunden, Sassoon, Owen et al was limited on their first appearance to a comparatively small, largely middle-class readership.
Most people, including ex-servicemen, continued to read popular literature that portrayed the war as justified and which commemorated “the Glorious Dead” in terms of heroic sacrifice. It was only in the early 60s that the works which we now categorise as the canon of Great War literature, with their emphasis on the pity, as well as the futility, of the war, began to dictate the prevailing mood in interpretation of the conflict. Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, first published in 1933, sold just 120,000 copies up to 1939. In the 35 years since its republication by Virago in 1978, it has sold close to 2m copies in this country alone.
Fergus and Judith Wilson are free with figures about the indebtedness of their buy-to-let empire, and indignant about tenants’ reliance on the state (Why my housing benefit tenants had to go, 11 January). Reading between the lines, I would say that taxpayers, hard-working or not, would be subsidising their mortgage interest tax relief to the tune of somewhere between £2.4m and £4m a year. One hates to spoil a good party, but phasing out this aspect of the private landlords’ welfare state would save £2bn a year, bring house prices within reach of many more buyers, reduce housing benefit spending (removing a double subsidy), reduce personal debt, anxiety and depression, and consequent NHS spending. Rushing this would have a cold turkey effect, with a lot of winners and losers among tenants, so it would have to be managed alongside investment of the savings to increase the provision of genuinely affordable housing, perhaps with the help of some compulsory purchase. I don’t see why private landlords should get off scot free in the midst of a fabricated moral panic about benefit recipients.
• Your story (Benefit chaos ‘will spark new housing crisis’, 11 January) alleged that there is confusion over how housing benefit will be paid under universal credit. To be clear, under the existing system, over two thirds of housing benefit claimants receive payments directly and manage them well, and this will continue with universal credit. Significantly, the protection that is in place for landlords and tenants against arrears will actually be stronger under universal credit. Currently, if tenants fall into arrears for eight weeks, housing benefit payments are switched from tenants to landlords. Earlier intervention will be easier under the new system, as decisions over whether to pay tenants directly will be taken with landlords at the start of claims and can come under review when four weeks’ rent goes unpaid. Paying housing costs to claimants helps people move more smoothly into work and off benefits, so that having to start managing rent is not a barrier to employment. Since these changes were introduced in 2008, there has been no fall in the number of claimants living in the private sector. We are working closely with landlord groups and councils to ensure all landlords are informed about the latest welfare reforms. As universal credit continues to roll out gradually, we have time to make sure tenants and landlords are ready for these vital changes.
Minister for welfare reform
• Polly Toynbee (Rachmanism is back. But where is Labour’s outrage? 14 January) understates perhaps the worst iniquity in the coalition’s housing policy: the enforced conversion of social housing away from “social rent” to their new concept of “affordable rent”. Social rent is controlled by a government formula, and is roughly 50% of market rent, whereas affordable rent can be up to 80% of the assessed market value. In order to get Homes and Communities Agency (ie government) funding towards building new homes, registered providers of social housing have to adopt the higher affordable rent model, and also they have to agree to convert the majority of their existing housing stock to this model as homes become vacant.
The other major impact is that whereas social rent tenancies are for life, the new affordable ones will be fixed-term tenancies for as little as two years. There are 1.7 million families on housing waiting lists – this figure actually grew by 700,000 during the Labour government. I worry they are expecting to pay a rent similar to what their friends and relatives are paying. Families may not be able to afford this new higher level of rent, potentially costing thousands a year more which would eat up most of the increase from any switch to the living wage – and so remain in inadequate, overcrowded housing. However, the government has just finished consulting on another aspect of their housing policy – raising even social rents by 1% a year above inflation.
• Increasing numbers of people have no option but to pay more than half their income on somewhere to live. It is simply not like this is in other comparable countries. We have yet to realise the potential of co-operative and mutual housing, which accounts for just 0.6% of the UK’s housing supply, compared with 18% in Sweden, 15% in Norway and 8% in Austria. Such housing solutions offer people affordable shelter – especially elderly and younger people and those in lower income brackets. They can give previously excluded people a genuine stake in the housing market. The UK has solid foundations on which to grow the co-operative and mutual housing sector to support those facing a cost of living crisis. The next government needs to grasp this important opportunity to turn the tide on what is becoming a toxic housing market.
Ed Mayo Co-operatives UK, Bob Taylor Knowsley Housing Trust (First Ark Group), Alastair Wilson School for Social Entrepreneurs, Derek Walker Wales Co-operative Centre, Peter Holbrook Social Enterprise UK, Simon Denny Director of Enterprise, Development and Social Impact, University of Northampton
• Ed Miliband‘s plans for the political realignment of the middle class may well founder on the issue of home ownership, which you identify (Editorial, 15 January) as the key to middle-class self-identification. With house (basically land) prices so high, Labour’s only recourse would be to its old post-war model of the development corporation, compulsorily purchasing land at agricultural prices and retaining any planning uplift while developing houses for sale or rent, preferably on garden city (and village) principles. Ideally a revived middle class could benefit from increased job mobility via a computerised letting service and move first into high-spec rented property then, after saving a deposit from the affordable rent, buy a house, as of old. A land value tax would be necessary to cap any current land value inflation, so maintaining the house price stability achieved.
Robert Gates says that Britain’s defence budget cuts will preclude our joining the US in foreign conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan (Report, 16 January); apparently, he thinks this will persuade us to reverse the cuts.
• While queueing in my local Barclays, I passed the time watching the BBC lunchtime news with subtitling displayed on the bank’s giant TV screens. During the item about bankers’ bonuses, the subtitling said that concern was still being expressed about the size of bankers’ penises. Very apposite, I thought.
• Come on, Guardian, if you’re going to quote Collins, the birders’ bible, get it right (In praise of … the red-necked phalarope, 10 January). Both phalaropes, grey and red-necked, have role reversal breeding patterns. You clearly didn’t check with Stephen Moss first.
Hunmanby, North Yorkshire
• I am concerned that Zoe Williams (Life without sugar, G2, 14 January) may have become a young earth creationist, indicated by her statement that many [Paleolithic] ancestors were cut off in their prime by dinosaurs. Any ancestors cut off in their prime by dinosaurs were certainly not human or even humanoid.
• Most mornings my wife and I feel increasingly behind the times and out of touch with the world as we read the news. It was reassuring then to see your report on the unfortunate archduke (16 January) and to know the Guardian understands our plight. We do wonder though what the consequences may be.
• Now we’ve got the sports section back, can we have sports letters again (Letters, 15 January)? Think what we’ve missed since this noble column was axed: Ashes won and handed back faster than Jelena Jankovic jumped off her chair, Suárez adding bite to the Liverpool attack, Djokovic becoming Murray mince… let’s do it!
Lewes, East Sussex
I have worked as a criminal barrister since 2007. I am 31 years old, state-school educated and from a single-parent family. I became a legal aid criminal barrister because I was committed to representing those who could not afford to pay for a lawyer.
I had to take out a loan to pay for my legal education. I knew this was a risk because I was not going to become a well-paid commercial lawyer, but I was prepared to take that risk because justice for all matters to me.
Even though I have a very busy practice, it has been a constant struggle: I work extremely long hours; I sometimes earn as little as £50 per day; I struggle to pay my rent and expenses each month, and I remain in debt.
If the Government cuts legal aid fees any further I will not be able to sustain myself. Simon Hughes is calling for those from “poorer backgrounds” to consider a career in law (“Legal profession must do more to reflect modern Britain”, 13 January). But the reforms of this government to legal aid will mean that those from less privileged backgrounds, like myself, will have to find another career.
This is a great shame and will reverse changes in the make-up of the profession. However, it is my clients I am most concerned about. I will be able to get another job, but they may not be able to get another lawyer.
Temple, London EC4
We work with the NHS
In response to your News in Brief item regarding the Care Quality Commission (“Inspectors are pointed to private healthcare firm”, 13 January), we have a proud commitment to complementing the NHS rather than seeking to replace its services – always asking our members to seek help via the NHS first before approaching Benenden Health.
Benenden Health, founded in 1905, is a mutual, not-for-profit organisation with a UK-wide membership of over 900,000. Rather than an insurance company, we are a provider of discretionary healthcare services in return for a flat-rate membership fee. Our direct involvement in the NHS has existed in other ways since its foundation midway through the 20th century.
We would happily confirm that our involvement with the Care Quality Commission forms part of our business-to-business operations, and that membership of Benenden Health is down to employees’ personal decisions and not funded through the Care Quality Commission. We refute any suggestion that our brand contributes to any detrimental impact on the NHS as this would run contrary to our core values.
Chief Executive, Benenden Health, York
Sherlock kills a blackmailer
Although one cannot but agree with the general sentiment regarding vigilantism expressed by John Rentoul in his piece (14 January) about the final episode of Sherlock, he should remember that the writers did not stray as far as he thinks from the morality found in Conan-Doyle’s original story.
In “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”, written in 1904, Holmes and Watson break into the blackmailer’s house, empty his safe of documents and then witness from behind a curtain Milverton being shot dead and mutilated by one of his female victims.
So far from trying to prevent the murder and the killer’s escape, Holmes and Watson flee the scene without reporting it. In fact there is satisfaction that justice had been done even if from outside the law.
At least the TV incarnation of Holmes was prepared, rightly or wrongly, to do the deed himself and to take the consequences.
Tenants on benefits
Michael Garret (letter, 15 January) defends Fergus Wilson on the grounds that landlords should be able to terminate the tenancies of those who are in arrears. Perhaps he should re-read your article, whose point was that he is terminating many tenants who are not in arrears, on the grounds that, being on benefits, they one day might be. Not at all the same thing.
Fracking: don’t take the Money
Step 1: Cut local authority funding year after year until, even after cutting many services and thousands of jobs, it is impossible to balance budgets.
Step 2: Offer to give authorities some money if they are prepared to risk severe environmental damage.
Step 3: When some authorities give in to this bribe and agree to fracking, take back the money you gave them in more cuts the following year.
Moral: Never exchange for cash anything that you can’t easily replace. Cash can easily be taken back. Once you have wrecked the environment it is too late to wish you hadn’t.
Sex, lies and being a President
Someone may be good at chess, yet bad at football, and a President of France may be good at “presiding”, yet bad at running romance.
Some assume, it seems, that if dishonesty occurs in one segment of a person’s life, it corrupts all other segments; but why think that? Just as people may appreciate opera’s aesthetic value yet not painting’s, so some may value honesty in affairs of the state, yet succumb to dishonesty in affairs of the heart. After all, numerous people lie when they say that they have read the terms and conditions, yet tell the truth when asked the way to the station.
Uphill battle against abortion of girls
Congratulations on a brilliant piece of journalism, tackling the taboo subject of female foetus abortions (“The lost girls”, 15 January). I have been chair of a women’s group for 12 years and we have campaigned on this issue. However I am saddened to say our message has fallen on deaf ears.
Religious and political bodies pay lip-service to equality but adopt practices which are against women. Traditions have been revived such as Lohri, celebrated for a boy’s birth or wedding, Rakhri, where sister ties a thread around brother’s wrist asking him for protection, and Karva Chauth Varat, where a wife fasts all day praying for her husband’s long life. The community have made the girl a burden to bear but forgotten that from a woman sons and kings are born, a saying of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion.
Not all in the Asian community are the same; the majority love their daughters, but a minority still pray for baby boys in some of our Gurdwaras, which are complicit in this practice, as income derives from donations from parents celebrating boy births. No amount of education will make these people change their attitudes.
Rest in peace the souls of those girls aborted. Families and communities who condone such violence against unborn women will never thrive. In their old age when their boys dump them, they will wish they had a daughter to care for them.
Please continue with your campaign to stop this nefarious practice of gender-selective abortions.
Cllr Balvinder Kaur Saund
Chair, Sikh Women’s Alliance, Ilford, Essex
News that female foeticide has reached the UK’s shores is a shocking indictment of how widespread this malign practice has become.
In India, there are a staggering seven million more boys than girls aged under six, according to the 2011 census, and the gap is growing. The national figure has fallen to an alarming 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. In some states such as Punjab that ratio is as low as 846 girls to 1,000 boys, as parents mistakenly see boys as a faster route out of poverty.
Despite the Indian government enacting a law against using ultrasound technology for sex-selective abortions, the practice continues and is believed to result in more than 500,000 female foetuses being terminated every year.
Yet, as your story illustrates, this is not confined to India, and any decline in the relative number of girls needs to be halted, as it risks undermining economic and social achievements.
Plan’s “Let Girls be Born” initiative in India galvanises action to tackle the country’s disturbing sex ratio. Yet this is now a global problem and must be tackled on the international stage.
Chief Executive, Plan UK
An aspect of prenatal sex selection and the resulting imbalance of the genders which has not been sufficiently discussed is the long-term impact on the security of women and the happiness of men.
If there are in extreme cases as many as 140 men for every 100 women, then roughly one in four or five men is unlikely to find a life-partner. It has already been seen in China that this can result in oppression and violence, including kidnap and forced marriage. The idea that scarcity of women puts power in female hands is a misconception. It also means that many men will lead unhappy, frustrated and empty lives, and will be unable to have children.
Sir, I often ask a pharmacist for advice as it is difficult to book an appointment on my GP’s computerised system (“Seeing the pharmacist not the GP ‘key to survival of health service’ ”, Jan 15). It is simpler to wait at the local walk-in centre until someone is available. This service is excellent. What happened to the simple system of turning up at the GPs, taking a token and waiting one’s turn? It saved frustration and took the stress off harassed staff.
William R. Cowap
Sir, The first attendance of a patient with a new illness is usually for a minor complaint, as serious illnesses tend to be admitted directly to hospital. By carrying out a brief physical examination the GP can often separate the trivial from something more significant. Pharmacists will not be in a position to examine their clients in the same way. Surely it would be better for GPs to continue their traditional role of diagnosis, and for pharmacists to take over some of the routines of preventative medicine (as some already do), which can sometimes distract from the problem that the patient is trying to present to the doctor.
Dr Anthony Daniel
Sir, I am no stranger to the NHS (I had a very public battle for Herceptin some years ago and became a governor for the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS FT) so I was interested in the call for greater use of high street pharmacists for advice and treatment of minor ailments.
The NHS actively promotes visits to pharmacists as a first port of call, but I think there are two reasons for people’s reluctance to consult their pharmacist. There is a certain amount of protectionism by GPs defending their own position, and there is reluctance by pharmacists to engage with customers, except at a superficial level. There is also misunderstanding among patients about free prescriptions versus the cost of over-the-counter remedies.
What is needed is an increased promotion of a service that already exists, and a greater level of public acceptance. Certainly in France the pharmacist is the first port of call, and they offer the bonus of a free mycological identification service.
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset
Sir, It is simplistic to suggest that the pressure on GPs will fall if patients call at the pharmacy first. If my experience in ophthalmology is anything to go by, the opposite will happen. NHS hospital eye clinics are inundated with referrals from the optometry practices of patients because they are not seeing the doctors in the first place. One reassuring consultation with a GP can eliminate the need for multiple visits elsewhere.
Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Sir, One way to reduce the demands on GPs is to abolish the monopoly of allowing only GPs to issue prescriptions. My local chemist is perfectly qualified to issue a prescription for a minor illness without troubling a doctor. This happens to good effect in other countries. Also there is the ludicrous situation with a repeat perscription which has to taken to the surgery to be signed before it can be taken to the pharmacy to be dispensed.
Parliament needs the power to disapply EU legislation when necessary and in the national interest
Sir, You are right to argue for “a reasoned debate on Europe and a chance to renegotiate” (leader, Jan 14) but our letter to the Prime Minister is far from “unrealistic”. All we propose is to amend our domestic legislation, to provide Parliament with a reserve power to disapply EU legislation when necessary and in the national interest. It does not require any treaty change or the permission of our EU partners.
Parliament’s application of EU Law in the UK is voluntary. This would merely place our Parliament in a similar position to the German Supreme Court at Karlsruhe, which reserves the right to decide whether or not EU obligations conform with the German Basic Law.
Bernard Jenkin, MP
House of Commons
Sir, On Jan 6 Channel 4 achieved its best ratings in a year with the first episode of Benefits Street. The TV series claims to depict life on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham. As residents of James Turner Street and the surrounding communities, we believe that the portrayal of our street in the first episodes is not fair or accurate. We believe there should be a national discussion about whether this type of programme, which is clearly created for entertainment, can be anything but damaging to local communities.
Most residents did not take part in filming, and those who feature in the series did so in the belief that they were helping to make a documentary on community spirit.
Our chief concern is the negative legacy of this story that our community — particularly our children — will be left to live with for many years to come. While we agree with Daniel Finkelstein (Opinion, Jan 15) that “showing a few people’s lives doesn’t tell the whole story of the welfare state”, we are concerned that he fails to grasp that neither does it tell the whole story about James Turner Street or the Winson Green community.
After a public meeting we have decided to form a community action forum to promote community spirit, help one another, celebrate the great things about our area and tell a truer and hopeful story of our street.
On behalf of attendees at a public meeting, Birmingham, Jan 15
Sir, Professor Keith Briffa (letter, Jan 15) says he was “reprocessing” a data set rather than ignoring it because it gave less of an uptick in temperatures in later decades than the small sample of Siberian larch trees he published. This does not contradict the discovery of Stephen McIntyre, of Climate Audit, which I reported, that a larger tree-ring chronology from the same Yamal region did not have a hockey-stick shape. The existence of this unreported adverse result was revealed by Freedom of Information requests.
In 2013 Briffa and his co-authors published a re-stated version of their Yamal chronology with a diminished hockey-stick blade. As McIntyre told me: “This re-statement implicitly conceded the validity of the earlier criticism.”
Briffa claims that his research was validated by the inquiry chaired by Sir Muir Russell, but that inquiry did not explore, let alone endorse, the specific data sets in question.
Sir Mark Walport and Professor Stephen Belcher (letter, Jan 13) also criticised my article (“Roll up: cherry-pick your research results here” Jan 6). They state that global warming is unequivocal, which I agree it is, over a 30-50 year period and slower than forecast by models. But this is a straw man. “Unequivocal” is not the same as “Unprecedented”, which was the claim made by the hockey-stick graphs and the word I carefully used in my article.
House of Lords
Sir, “Good luck finding a rhyme for Damascus” (Diary Jan 15)? You only had to ask us.
Sir, I wish the “Face to a Name” campaign every success (“The picture that changed how my Mum was treated”, Jan 11). As we endeavoured to secure appropriate treatment for our 95-year-old mother last week in an NHS hospital, it was distressing to hear staff refer to patients by their bed numbers. Without a persistent, well-informed and proactive family, we wonder what the outcome to her stay would have been.
It seems that even unborn babies will have cause to be grateful to the BBC drama if it has helped to deliver an answer to the chronic shortage of midwives, which puts the lives of mothers and babies at risk.
SIR – Recently, the House of Commons voted against an all-party amendment to introduce a levy on the insurance industry to fund research into mesothelioma, the deadly asbestos-related cancer. This is regrettable and short-sighted.
Britain has the highest rate of mesothelioma in the world and, over the next three decades, it is likely to kill more than 50,000 people unless new treatments are found. Yet funding for research still lags shamefully behind that invested in cancers of comparable mortality, such as skin cancer and myeloma.
That the insurance industry helps redress this funding shortfall through a modest ongoing contribution is fair, given that resultant medical advances are likely to occasion smaller compensation pay-outs for patients exposed to asbestos in the workplace. The industry has accepted this, making the failure by insurers and government to agree a framework enabling a sustained contribution even more frustrating.
In the current climate, exploring new ways to finance medical research is vital. We hope that today’s Lords debate on mesothelioma research funding will prove more productive in negotiating this impasse than previous, thwarted efforts.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
Lord Avebury (Lib Dem)
Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
Conor Burns MP (Con)
Baroness Butler-Sloss (Crossbench)
Tracey Crouch MP (Con)
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench)
Kate Green MP (Lab)
Lord Monks (Lab)
Lord Walton of Detchant (Crossbench)
Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru)
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP (Con)
SIR – My husband and I have been happily married since 1972. Our marriage, unexpectedly, has been childless.
Society’s attitude towards childless couples is often manifested by accusations of selfishness: we are perceived as being unprepared to share our lives, time, money and material possessions with a family. Quite often, we spend too much time trying to convince others that we are, in fact, normal people. The more we try, the more sceptically we are dealt with.
Childlessness is seen as unnatural, but we are quite happy without children.
Storrington, West Sussex
Jobs in transit
SIR – Steve Odell, Ford’s European chief executive, has issued veiled threats about the risks to Britain of leaving the EU. This is the same company that, in 2012, grabbed £80 million of EU funding to develop a van factory in Turkey, thus allowing it to close the successful Transit plant in Southampton.
And Turkey isn’t even in the EU.
Shipley, West Yorkshire
Raising your voice?
SIR – You report that raised intonation at the end of a sentence may have originated in New Zealand, not Australia. I believe it was from Norfolk.
The Singing Postman’s song My Little Nicotine Girl included the phrase – which ended with the rising inflection – “Hev yew gotta loight boy? Hev yew gotta loight?”
A J Kay
Scottish debt default
SIR – Should an independent Scotland default on its debt, it would find it impossible to borrow on the markets at a sustainable rate, if at all.
Having stepped in to pick up the pieces, the remainder of the United Kingdom would then have the right to recover the amounts that it had guaranteed and paid out. This might necessitate trade barriers and a tax for crossing the border. In other words, default is not a realistic option and will not reduce the amount of debt outstanding.
As an ex-economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Alex Salmond will know that if the markets thought Scotland was a good economic bet, this situation would not have occurred. The monetary experts know deep down that Scotland will fail economically if it goes its own way.
Harry L Barker
North Berwick, East Lothian
SIR – If Britain has to underwrite Scotland’s share of the national debt, an independent Scotland should be forced to offer its revenues from North Sea oil as security for such a guarantee.
Seaford, East Sussex
SIR – Andrew Holgate may be interested to know that in France, Italy and Spain the first day of the week is called the Lord’s Day (dimanche, domenica, domingo) and Saturday the Sabbath (samedi, sabato, sábado).
Greece is even more biblical: Kyriaki (the Lord’s Day) follows Savato (Sabbath), which in turn follows Paraskevi, the (Jewish) day of preparation for the Sabbath.
SIR – When a mouse chewed through our dishwasher pipe, which was covered by our household appliance policy, the company concerned sought to avoid its liability by pointing to a clause in the policy that excluded liability for damage caused by “act of another”.
I had to persuade them that a mouse was not another legal person for these purposes. I intend to incorporate this example into an examination question on exemption clauses for law students.
Professor Richard Taylor
Lancashire Law School
Keeping track of passwords with cryptic clues
SIR – Ignoring all advice to the contrary, I write my passwords in the back of my bedside diary. Next to them, I enter the organisations to which they apply, disguised in highly personal crossword clues. My daughters mock this idiosyncratic method, allowing me on occasion to indulge in a spot of Schadenfreude when one of their passwords vanishes from their memory banks.
All I have to do now is ensure that I never mislay my diary.
SIR – Several of my passwords are numbers from cars I no longer own.
SIR – Ready-made, unique yet memorable passwords are available in the form of old London phone numbers (such as CROydon2381), car registration numbers and postcodes. Note the owner of a number, postcode or a car type as an aide memoire and you have a secure means of logging on that can include symbols or spaces (Paul = 16:EX215RH or Hillman = EUU 619J) to suit the required length.
SIR – I make a note of all my passwords on a spreadsheet and then protect this with a single password – so there is just one to remember.
Wetherby, West Yorkshire
It is socialism that has undermined middle-class wealth by penalising savings and applying discriminatory taxes.
Deliberate currency debasement is at the root of price inflation, yet there is no mention of monetary policy to deal with this issue. Instead, he has proposed controls on energy prices, which will merely lead to the withdrawal of services. And his talk of rising consumer prices exhibits ignorance of their monetary cause.
The answer is simple: radically cut government spending, which is the engine of wealth destruction, and allow us to keep our own earnings and capital.
SIR – Ed Miliband would have us believe that the oppression of the middle classes magically started on the first day of the Coalition. He conveniently forgets the previous 12 years, when education was dumbed down, family life was attacked, our institutions, such as the BBC, became more politicised, and the national debt soared.
Is Mr Miliband saying he’s going to form a “New” New Labour to clear up the mess that the first one created?
West Malling, Kent
SIR – Will Ed Miliband reverse Gordon Brown’s decision to rob our pension funds through the removal of the dividend tax credit?
Skipton, North Yorkshire
SIR – In these hard times, the priority needs to be with the lower paid. Labour’s preoccupation with the middle class and its vanities resulted in Gordon Brown’s abolition of the 10p rate, which affected the lower paid. The Conservatives have rectified this with the higher tax threshold for the lower paid, and are talking about expanding on this concession.
And Labour’s talk about bashing the banks can only harm investment in new jobs, further affecting working people.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – The middle classes do not need to be saved, and certainly not by Ed Miliband.
They will carry on doing what they have always done: working hard, caring for their families, achieving knowledge and skills through education and training, avoiding debt – and seeing through a politician’s change of direction because he perceives it is of electoral advantage to him.
Dr K J Briggs
SIR – Mr Miliband only managed to mention “the cost-of-living crisis” four times and “crisis in living standards” once in his article. He really must try harder.
Sir, – If the 300 staff of Irish Water receive an average bonus of €7,000, or 10 per cent per year (Home News, January 16th) then they will have an average gross wage of €70,000. This compares favourably (for Irish Water staff) with the average wage in Ireland in 2011 of €50,764 according to OECD statistics. From the same statistics source, the average wage in Germany in 2011 was €41,170. – Yours, etc,
NOEL Mc BRIDE
Sir, – The Celtic Tiger must be back on its feet when the expending of €86 million on “consultants”, is considered “micro” by the responsible Minister. There must be something in his water! – Yours, etc,
Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
Sir, – These people are spending money like water! – Yours, etc,
Ballinteer, Dublin 16.
Sir, – The only question that needs to be asked in this affair is why were people who did not know what to do appointed to set the company up in the first place? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I admit to being a little swamped among the flood of charges flowing against Irish Water. If I had access to its newly purchased geographic information system perhaps I might find my way to safety. Then again, I could contact the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) for access to the most recent and advanced geographic information system technology. The OSI supplies GIS expertise to Bord Gáis. Why does Irish Water need its own system? As preparation for privatisation or simply because it knew it had the money to spend? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In The Irish Times on January 15th: Crisis in secure care provision for children” (Page 5); HSE “cannot afford to meet some priorities” (Page 9); and “Hogan says he did not know how much Irish Water spent” (Front Page).
When is the next election? – Yours, etc,
JENNY Mc GEEVER,
North King Street, Dublin 7.
Sir, – The flat rate fees (Home News, January 6th) for Irish Water in its first year seem high (Home News, January 15th), one can only hope the installation of a money meter will encourage a more economical use of this precious resource. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Since the executive and board of Irish Water are confident it was not profligate in its spending to date, perhaps it might invite Comptroller and Auditor General to review all transactions, and thus clear the air? – Yours, etc,
Pinecroft Grange, Cork.
Sir, – I would have to disagree with Fr Patrick McCafferty’s assertion that the primary call of the Gospel is to “repent” (January 15th). He declares every human being is “infected” and that we need to turn away from the “disorder” of sin. This is medieval.
The medicalisation, the pathologising of all human beings as “disordered” is not my understanding of Jesus’s message.
I understand Jesus came on Earth to tell us precisely the opposite: that He loves us all regardless; that his love is boundless, that love matters. To tell us we are all to “love one another” and his concentration on love was exemplified in many situations where he denounced the Pharisees from judgmental ideology. Yes, he talks about sin, but his actions and message were focused on loving, not sin per se.
The Catholic Church’s pathology is the concentration on “the disorder of sin” in all of us, at the expense of concentrating on the love for all of us that God has.
The other pathologies of the Catholic Church are: the judgmental, misogynist and patriarchal clericalism that is so common; and failure to love a large majority of human beings outside its perceived “without sin” cohort of Catholics.
The Pharisees still exist within our clergy and hierarchy, and this is a gross distortion of Jesus’s true call to all of us: love. – Yours, etc,
Dr MARGARET KENNEDY,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – In a letter dense with biblical citations, Seamus O’Callaghan (January 14th) announces himself as understanding of “sinners”. I have taken his words and sentiments to heart. I in turn wish to announce myself understanding of his sin of defining a sector of society as “sinners” without having provided any argument or justification. Now we can both feel accepting and forbearing while simultaneously retaining our existing beliefs and animadversions. Surely a perfect “win-win” state of affairs? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As an Irish writer, I would call upon Aosdána, the Irish Writers’ Union and Poetry Ireland to make a statement denouncing the current jailing in Limerick Prison of Aosdána member and playwright, 79-year-old Margaretta D’Arcy (Home News, January 16th).
I am aware that many Irish poets, for instance, have a fondness for Russian poets imprisoned in the old Soviet state for various political reasons and feel certain that they will have no difficulty protesting against the imprisonment of an Irish poet who opposes the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, and the consequent destruction of Irish neutrality. – Yours, etc,
Circular Road, Galway.
Sir, – I am appalled to learn that our Irish “justice” system has seen fit to jail writer, theatrical personality, and well-known anti-war activist Margaretta D’Arcy now in her 80th year and having treatment for cancer. She is a woman of great integrity whose crime was to have trespassed on a runway at Shannon, in protest against Irish government complicity in the devastating wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, not to mention the nefarious rendition flights which are known to have used Shannon.
She was sentenced to three months in jail, but bravely refused to sign an undertaking not to break the law for two years, which would have led to her prison term being quashed.
Margaretta D’Arcy should be nominated for a Nobel and a Lenin Peace Prize for her courageous stand against war and the killing of human beings. What kind of a country have we become? There is certainly something very rotten in the state of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park South,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The arrest and imprisonment of Margaretta D’Arcy shows just how low our justice system can go and just how in thrall we are to the policies of others. Shame! Shame! Shame! – Yours, etc,
Royal Oak Close,
Sir, – So Dr Ian Paisley (Home News, January 10th) acknowledges there were breaches of civil rights in Northern Ireland. It is a step further than any unionist leader has ever gone. Mandela did not live and die in vain. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Perhaps The Irish Times could find a better description than “Pro-EU” for the protesters in Kiev (World News January 13th). Some of those who have taken to the Maidan in the Ukrainian capital undoubtedly favour the European Union but a very numerous, active and vociferous group does not.
Members of the All Ukrainian Union Svoboda have been to the fore in the demonstrations. Svoboda, through the Alliance of European National Movements, is linked to the British National Party, the far-right Hungarian group Jobbik, the French National Front, the Italian neo-fascist organisation Fiamma Tricolore and other far-right movements within the EU.
The Alliance’s aim, shared by Svoboda, is to dismantle the EU and replace it with a “Confederation of Sovereign States.” Pro-EU it most certainly is not. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Susan McKay’s article (Opinion, January 14th) was full of sweeping generalisations about pro-union people In Northern Ireland. The Haass talks and the subsequent proposals were complex and there were a number of reasons no agreement was reached.
For instance, the issue of flying flags was fudged, in the final document. That was an abject failure, as the basis for any agreement on flags must be an acceptance of Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom. The Union Flag should be flown on designated days on council buildings across Northern Ireland, yet nationalist parties refused to consider moving on this issue, despite accepting such an arrangement for Belfast.
Neither did the provisions on “the past” specify that signatories have to accept the basic principle that all illegal acts during the Troubles – whether the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Bloody Sunday shootings, Bloody Friday or the ambush of soldiers at Warrenpoint – were wrong and unjustified.
There is potential to reach an agreement across all the issues which the Haass talks tackled and the political parties, on either side of the constitutional question, should not pander to extreme elements in our society. It isn’t helpful, though, to heap the blame for the failure of the process on just one part of the community in Northern Ireland, without serious reflection on the complicated arguments around the proposals.
It is important to remember that pro-Union people in Ireland have made a huge contribution to all aspects of life on this island and beyond. There is nothing constructive or helpful about demonising “the other”, however frustrated we all might be about a lack of progress on the thornier issues in Northern Ireland.
Co-Chair NI Conservatives,
Sir, – It is good to see a new political party “The National Independent Party” being formed. However one of its main policies “it . . . opposes economic migration” (Marie O’Halloran, Home News, January 15th) could cause some problems.
In order not to be accused of hypocrisy any such policy must apply to incoming and outgoing migration. While the number of incoming economic migrants to Ireland is relatively small, the number of Irish who migrated from Ireland is huge, with some 70y million people internationally claiming Irish ancestry. A further complication is that during the last ice age, there were no humans living in Ireland. That means that the ancestors of all persons now living in Ireland were migrants into Ireland for mainly economic reasons.
One of the party spokespersons, Martin Critten is “originally from the north of England”. Perhaps he is an economic migrant. Methinks they will have to think it out again. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As a consultant editor to The Church of Ireland, An Illustrated History, I feel I must respond to the criticism of it by Dr Robert MacCarthy (Rite & Reason, January 7th). Dr MacCarthy draws attention to some errors and omissions.
This book involved the very ambitious aim of providing information on all the parish churches and cathedrals of the Church of Ireland in one volume. As the numbers involved run to many hundreds of buildings, it is inevitable some mistakes would occur and I am happy to accept corrections. Dr MacCarthy acknowledges the book is “a splendidly designed and illustrated evocation of the Church of Ireland, past and present”. But adds, “It is not a history”. What does this mean? It is correct to say it is not a conventional narrative history. There are already a number of good narrative histories of the Church of Ireland. This volume is something more. The book, which runs to 400 pages, with more than 1,000 illustrations, includes an introductory historical account of the church by Dr Kenneth Milne, followed by essays by experts on subjects such church archives and stained glass. These are followed by chapters on every diocese or united dioceses, with a historical introduction on each, followed by brief entries on the history of every parish church and cathedral. No previous history of the church has ever attempted such an ambitious, countrywide historical survey.
Dr MacCarthy claims the falling number of members of the Church of Ireland indicates the church is “approaching dissolution”. It is true that since disestablishment the number of members of the Church of Ireland has fallen considerably in the South (although not in the North). At the same time, as he acknowledges, recent southern census returns indicate an increase in church numbers. Dr MacCarthy is dismissive of this fact, arguing there has been a rise in non-attendance.
Perhaps Dr MacCarthy should look more closely at what the evidence from this volume reveals. These hundreds of beautiful and well-maintained churches are indicative of the commitment and witness of large numbers of dedicated and faithful parishioners. This book contains evidence of growth and vitality at both diocesan and parish level. The Church of Ireland, like all churches, faces new challenges in the 21st century. The evidence from the church’s history, which involved great challenges in the past, gives one reason for hope. The evidence from the present also gives one assurance and confidence for the future. – Yours, etc,
Prof Emeritus BRIAN M
rSir, – Quite apart from the merits or demerits of the new testing methods proposed for third-year secondary school students, why is it deemed necessary to change the name (Breaking News, January 15th)?
Some years ago the Intermediate Certificate became the Junior Certificate and it is now proposed to call it the Junior Cycle Certificate Award. The government department with overall responsibility has changed its name on a number of occasions, usually on the pretext of reform. Does proposed reform always require a name change or have we learned nothing from the HSE? – Yours, etc,
Santry, Dublin 9.
Sir, – Congratulations, your Front page cartoon (Martyn Turner, January 15th) must surely be one of the best ever. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Pace Colm Holmes (January 15th), perhaps the message to be taken from the photograph of the Pope’s addressing the ambassadors is not that war is men’s talk but that diplomacy is men’s business! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In legislating for surrogacy, and for other forms of assisted reproduction, and for adoption, I think we could not go far wrong if we keep to one central guiding principle: knowledge of identity is crucial. – Yours, etc,
Furbo, Co Galway.
A chara, – “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. – Is mise,
Ennis, Co Clare.
Sir, – The one that is partly to blame for the financial mess: “‘I can do it for cash”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “But I did the dishwasher yesterday!” – Yours, etc,
Glendale Park, Dublin 12.
Sir, – In terms of. – Yours, etc,
Tramore, Co Waterford.
Sir, – Yours, etc,
Kilmacud, Co Dublin.
Sir, – “Irish water”. – Yours, etc,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
* People who hold the view that our so-called republic is by majority homogenous in its religious beliefs, often postulate that the apparatus of the State should reflect the beliefs of the majority, hence the retention of religious oaths and other religious references in our Constitution.
Also in this section
Two points on this: firstly, what about the rights of minorities and the fundamental rights of individuals?
Secondly, a question to advocates of majoritarianism in this context: I assume then that you would be consistent in your beliefs and, looking beyond our putatively homogenous little Ireland, would endorse religious majoritarianism when it comes to other states, for example in countries in the Middle East and North Africa?
State-sponsored prejudices against Christian minorities and the subjugation of their beliefs are major issues in these regions. In Saudi Arabia, private Christian prayer is against the law. In the Gaza Strip, half of the Palestinian Christian population has fled since Hamas seized power in 2007 and Gazan law forbids public displays of crucifixes.
Reports from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran cite evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution” of Protestants and Christian converts in Iran.
The injustices suffered by Coptic Christians in Egypt are well documented. But should a state not be free to actively discriminate in favour of the majority when it comes to religion?
The point is that secularism, rather than preventing religious freedom, allows religious freedom for all (including freedom from religion).
It prevents any religion from dominating any other and prevents state sponsorship of any such domination.
This is applied on an objective, equal and mutual basis and is designed as a bulwark against religious prejudice and the suppression of religious practice.
RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 16
HOW DO THEY SLEEP?
* Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, former chief executive of the CRC Brian Conlan said: “It is inaccurate to suggest that money donated by the public was transferred directly into salaries of senior executives.” He then went on to say: “The CRC pools all its revenue from many sources each year into one fund and applies them jointly to the central overheads which includes some salary allowances.”
When you circumvent the obfuscation and read between the lines, it is clear from his second sentence that public donations were used to top-up executive salaries.
Whether it was direct or indirect use of public donations is moving away from the salient point that executives did in fact benefit financially from the public’s goodwill.
You can only imagine the repulsion I then felt when it was reported that former CEO Paul Kiely received a golden handshake to the tune of over €700,000, paid for in full from charitable donations. How these people can sleep easy in their beds at night is beyond me.
DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
RECIPE FOR DISASTER
* Dear Mr Hogan,
Your analogy of making an omelette and breaking eggs is so simplistic. Please remember you are responsible for our eggs. How you keep them, and use them. When you drop them, you are responsible to clean them up. That is your job.
It seems you have given an expensive basket of eggs to others and given up on the responsibility of looking after it. You don’t even know how many eggs were broken…
Your job is to control all of this, that is what you are paid for. You have failed! The only recipe you have here is a recipe for disaster.
* Surely a bonus is an award for achievement — over and above a recognised standard.
And these Irish Water awards should only be made retrospectively, and not to everyone in the audience. And, even at that, bonus schemes should be self- financing and not paid from borrowings.
But what would politicians know about that sort of economics — didn’t Mr Hogan cover that by exempting himself from any responsibility for micro-economics. His comment that you have to break eggs to make an omelette said it all. But €50m, that’s some omelette.
SCREEN, CO WEXFORD
* Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirms he did not personally know about the massive spend on consultancy by Irish Water.
If this is the case, Mr Hogan, please do the decent thing and hand the job over to someone who has an interest in how taxpayers’ money is spent.
KESHCARRIGAN, CO LEITRIM
* For nigh on three years Enda Kenny has been blathering about making “Ireland the best little country in which to do business”.
Perchance then Uisce Eire is proof of his wish when a new company can “do” what it wants with taxpayer-owned assets.
The more things change in the Republic of Ireland the more they remain the same. Not even GUBU could describe this most inane Government ever to preside in Ireland.
* Have a look under the garden. Perhaps you have a hidden spring down there? If you have, Eureka! Sell your find to the Government at an astronomical price.
It doesn’t mind. It will simply pass it on to the consumer. Forget oil … Water is the new oil.
Why not sub-contract your water out? Instead of car boot sales, we can have water boot markets.
Just bottle the tap water, and start selling it on Sundays to those who can’t afford to have water in their houses!
Label it ‘Resurrection Water’.
ENNIS, CO CLARE
INCENTIVE TO TENDER
* It doesn’t make sense in a small country like ours, desperate to create more jobs, that Ireland should be top of the list of countries most likely to award contracts to foreign companies. (Irish Independent Business, December 30, 2013).
This is despite the vibrant up-and-running image Jobs Minister Richard Bruton likes to portray.
Around 28pc of the €12bn worth of contracts awarded by state bodies in 2013 were captured by companies based outside Ireland.
In the literal sense this is a huge ‘unnecessary import’ for the Exchequer to carry. Such a high level of business being won by firms abroad, according to Tony Corrigan of Tender-Scout, means Irish businesses are missing out on €3.5bn of contracts.
Tendering for work from state bodies costs a minimum of €4,500 for a contract of €25,000 or more. Surely the Government could make it less expensive and offer Irish companies some incentive to tender?
My advice is that Irish companies keep an open eye. When opportunity knocks, throw your hat in the ring. Its sheer negligence to allow the stable door swing open so freely.
THURLES, CO TIPPERARY
DOES ONE GO ‘DUTCH’?
* Does one go ‘Dutch’ on a date with Hollande?
BELIEVING IN PRESIDENT
* Perhaps it never entered the heads of his detractors, but President Higgins, all praise to him, could have been aiming his Christmas message towards deserving atheists like my good self.
BANTRY, CO CORK