Car at Last

18 January 2014 Car at Last
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey is trying divide and rule  Priceless.
Start to clear out attic for insulation, pick up car, fine but v expensive, and order Thermoblok
Scrabble today Mary win    and gets  over   300,  Perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Obituary:
Kate Losinska , who has died aged 89, was a scourge of Left-wing extremism in the trade unions, fighting and ultimately winning a desperate battle for control of the Civil and Public Services Association, the largest Civil Service union, of which she was three times president.
Her marriage to the Polish air ace Stanislaw Losinski made her a staunch opponent of communism, but within the CPSA she faced the Trotskyist Militant Tendency. Militant was disrupting the social security computer centre on Tyneside, and aimed to paralyse Whitehall.
CPSA members (more than 200,000 at its peak) were junior civil servants, relatively few of whom could earn promotion, and thus prey to malcontents. But in Kate Losinska the militants had met their match.
A determined redhead from Croydon who had joined the civil service at 17, she pulled together a coalition to fend them off and — after Militant captured the CPSA’s 37-strong executive — to force them out again. When in 1988 she engineered a clean sweep of the executive’s Militant majority, she declared: “Now I can retire with a glow in my heart.”
For much of her presidency, she had an ally in Alistair Graham, the union’s general secretary, who was forced out in 1986 after what she called “a long-running campaign of political spite”. Militant tried everything to stop her; the Conservative MP Julian Lewis told the Commons she had been “attacked, beaten and tripped downstairs”.
A member of the TUC general council until Militant blocked her renomination, she had no truck with fellow-travelling colleagues. When Arthur Scargill, visiting Russia in 1983, praised the Soviet way of life, she erupted: “If he had been a Russian in Britain and had gone home after saying similar things, he would have been put in a psychiatric hospital.”
Scargill was her bête noir after he attacked the free Polish trade union, Solidarity. Kate Losinska chaired the Solidarnosc Foundation, and after the fall of communism was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta. (Her husband, serving with the Polish Air Force, then in bombers with No 301 Squadron, was awarded Poland’s highest military decoration and a DFC).
Kate Losinska had an autocratic streak which led dissident Right-wingers to form a rival slate in the 1986 CPSA elections; the weakened executive fell next year to Militant. Embarrassingly for some, she chaired the Trade Union Committee for European and Transatlantic Understanding, funded by the US Congress and Nato.
She was born Kathleen Mary Conway on October 5 1922 in Croydon; her father was a soldier. From Selhurst Grammar School she entered the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys .
After 40 years as a civil servant and union member, she was elected CPSA president in 1979, and the next year chaired the Council of Civil Service Unions, negotiating for 750,000 staff. At the end of her first three-year term she stepped down to vice-president, being succeeded by Kevin Roddy, prime mover of the disruption in Newcastle. In 1983 she returned, defeating Roddy. Her priority was to block, with Graham, moves to affiliate the traditionally non-partisan CPSA to the Labour Party.
However, Kate Losinska supported strikes against Margaret Thatcher’s barring of the unions from GCHQ, and blamed Tory policies for the narrowness of her re-election in 1984, complaining that they “give moderation a bad name”.
She struggled to contain an executive which had to be stopped by Treasury legal action from becoming the first union to call out its members without a ballot, after one was required by law. Recaptured by Militant in 1987, the executive began appointing the Tendency’s activists as full-time officials at the most vulnerable sites: the DHSS and Department of Employment.
In the run-up to the 1987 general election CPSA members voted by 56-44 per cent to hold strikes over pay. She supported their protest, so was furious when the far Left used the occasion to undermine Graham’s successor, John Ellis. The executive cut Ellis’s salary and took back his union car before she and Ellis regained full control.
In retirement, Kate Losinska saw the CPSA merge with two other unions to form the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS), under firmly Left-wing leadership. In recent years she lived in Co Limerick.
She was appointed OBE in 1986.
Kate Conway married Stanislaw Losinski in 1942; he died in 2002, and she is survived by their son.
Kate Losinska. Born October 5 1924, died October 16 2013

Guardian:

I suggest you start a column “Sorry to see you go”, to complement your “Good to meet you”. I’m 74 years old, and the sole carer for my disabled daughter, who is 49. I’ve bought the Guardian since my student days in Manchester in the late 1950s. My politics have always been left-of-centre, based on Christian principles. I’ve always voted Labour. I spent 20 years working in industry as a metallurgist, then a further 10 years as a schoolteacher, before ill-health forced my early retirement. Last Saturday my Guardian cost me £2.50, an increase of almost 9%. For my cash, I got glossy travel brochures I don’t want or need, a travel section I discard, and a daft new magazine, Do Something. Your Consumer champions column (which I follow closely) suggests Sky subscribers are unlikely to be Guardian readers. I’m not a Sky customer, but I’m beginning to get the message I’m no longer part of your target readership. Where I go to, if I leave your paper, is problematic.
J Spencer
Warrington, Cheshire

A letter from the embassy of Israel (17 January) gives us “a reality check” about the Palestinian cause with the observation that Israel did not “bring over thousands of rockets from Iran and proceed to fire them at its towns and cities”. Quite so: Israel brought its weapons over from the US – Phantoms, F-15s F-16s and Apache helicopters and other state-of-the-art weapons, which have killed far greater numbers of Palestinian non-combatants. “Reality check” indeed.
Kevin Bannon
London
• I wonder if Mr Gates would be so keen on us maintaining a full-spectrum defence capability (Letters, 17 January) if we started using it without US permission. If I recall correctly, the last time we did that was the Suez fiasco by the Eden government (also stuffed with old Etonians).
Jim Pettman
Port de Castelfranc, Anglars-Juillac, France
• Thanks for the front page photo of Kate Moss (17 January). Should she disappear, I’ll now be able to recognise her; I doubt I could do the same for the missing little boy’s tiny picture on an inside page.
Pete Bibby
Sheffield
• If you insist on identifying Stephen Kinnock by reference to his family ties (Pass notes, G2, 16 January), it would be refreshing to find an acknowledgment that his mother has status as a prominent public figure, as well as his father and spouse.
Estella Baker
Leicester
• I am concerned John Bryant has misinterpreted Zoe Williams (Letters, 17 January), and suspect he does not have young children to entertain. As any aficionado of the oeuvre could tell him, her cry of “Dinosaurs!” is a Peppa Pig reference.
Dan Adler
Farnham, Surrey
• Our Japonica is in flower while the burn burst its banks and took a new course through the library (Letters, 15 January). Certainly a record for us.
Pamela Strachan
Broughton, Peeblesshire
• Two bumblebees on my cyclamen this morning. Bless their hearts, if I may say so.
Ann Hawker
London

The suggestion that Home Office officials are rewarded for ensuring failed asylum seekers lose tribunal cases is a cause for concern (Report, 15 January). While it is the job of immigration staff to defend decisions in such situations, rewards for meeting quotas could lead to the Home Office delaying cases it fears it will lose. This amounts to toying with the lives of people who have suffered at the hands of oppressive regimes, conflict and political persecution. There can be no fairness in a system that operates like this. The British Red Cross supports more than 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers every year and we see many people driven to destitution by a failing system that is no longer fit for purpose. While the Home Office’s approach to tribunal cases is worrying, the most important part of the process is that the right decisions are made first time, and that asylum seekers in need of protection do not have to go through the gruelling appeals process in the first place.
Nick Scott-Flynn
Head of refugee support, British Red Cross
• The UK has a proud history of granting refuge to those who need it. Claims are carefully considered before a decision is made. Your article seems to make the assumption that every claim for asylum is genuine – sadly this is not the case. Every year we receive numerous cases that are not – and it is right that we reject these claims. Where we are confident that an initial decision is correct, we make no apologies for pursuing the case at appeal.
Asylum cases are complex. Sometimes new evidence comes to light which changes a decision and in these cases we do withdraw. But we make every effort to ensure the right decision is made in the first instance. The public expects us to contest cases which are not genuine and it is not unreasonable to expect our presenting officers to win 70% of these cases. This provides an incentive for staff to ensure only high-quality, defendable decisions go before the courts – which is better for both the claimant and the taxpayer. No caseworker is incentivised to refuse asylum claims and all cases are considered on their individual merits.
Mark Harper
Immigration minister
• Solicitors at my firm spend every day at immigration detention centres representing asylum seekers in the most difficult circumstances. The asylum seekers are detained as soon as they claim asylum. Their case hurtles through the “fast-track” asylum system: interviewed, two days later a decision, two days to lodge an appeal, normally heard within four days. The claimant/appellant has no time to prepare or gather evidence. Her or his solicitor has to ask for permission to see the claimant and there are very limited facilities for such legal visits. All the chips are stacked against the asylum seeker. It is surprising and worrying that, despite all those disadvantages, 30% are granted asylum or win their asylum appeals. It is shocking that Home Office caseworkers, many of whom I have high regard for, are compelled to meet targets by bonus schemes and threats to their jobs.
David Enright
London

Zoe Williams says that if you place religious belief on the human rights agenda then you have to allow atheism equal weight (Comment, 15 January). It would be better to simply place “religious belief or non-belief” on the agenda. This is because the term “atheist” is freighted with much excess baggage as in the Northern Irish joke: “But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?” What if the asylum seeker in question had pleaded his agnosticism or secularism or humanism? I gave up my belief in pixies and Father Christmas some time ago but that does not make me a positive non-believer in them, possibly with an axe to grind. They are simply not part of my worldview and nor is belief in a deity. The US is by far the most religious western country and yet it maintains a strict separation of church and state where public education is concerned. I wish we did the same.
Some stridently pro-atheism books have appeared in recent years but this can lead to polarisation. The best book I have come across is The Book of Atheist Spirituality by the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville. It is a gentle, good-humoured book which points out that a number of eastern religions have spiritual beliefs without requiring the existence of deity or deities.
Zoe Williams laments that atheists do not organise, but nor do Santa deniers. I belonged to a humanitarian group set up by religious people because what the group did was needed and had nothing directly to do with religion. We can work together for the common good while maintaining diametrically opposed views, we don’t need to set up atheist alternatives to everything. This does not stop us from fighting for a totally secular education system (and for the abolition of private education) with whatever appropriate pressure groups.
Joseph Cocker
Leominster, Herefordshire
• Perhaps in order to get more attention from “people of faith”, we atheists need a version of atheism that is clearly a rational development and improvement over traditional faiths. The traditional God needs to be cut in half. On the one hand, there is the God of cosmic power, Einstein’s God, the underlying unity in the physical universe that determines all that goes on, omnipotent, eternal, omnipresent, but an It, so such that we can forgive it all the terrible things It does. On the other hand, there is the God of cosmic value, all that is of value associated with our human world and the world of sentient life more generally. Having cut the traditional God in two in this way, the problem then is to see how the two halves can be put together again. That is our fundamental problem, of thought and life: How can all that is of value associated with our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe?
Nicholas Maxwell
Emeritus reader, department of science and technology studies, University College London
• It narks me too that the voice of active unbelievers is treated as irrelevant. Recently, apropos of what I don’t remember, a woman I know looked me in the eye and said: “We are all God’s children.” I was dying to say, “I wouldn’t presume to tell you you’re a grown-up and you should take responsibility for yourself”, for fear I might seem rude. Therein lies the rub. Atheists don’t want that weird certainty over the big questions and answers. I really don’t give a toss what happened before the big bang. My own preoccupation is how on earth we are going to take care of our planet because, sure as anything, God is not a bit bothered about our potential destruction of it. Being an atheist is about taking responsibility for our own actions, putting our raison d’être inside not outside. We have every right to have the same courtesy extended to us as I extend to people of faith.
Judy Marsh
Nottingham
• Zoe Williams’ quote from Richard Dawkins, “there is no such thing as a Muslim baby”, is reminiscent of the words of Lalon Shah (1774-1890), a Bengali mystic, philosopher and songwriter who rejected all distinctions of caste and creed and wrote in a song well-known to many Bengali people: “Do you bear the sign of caste or creed when you come into this world or when you leave it?”
Val Harding
London
We note that the internal review conducted by the Liberal Democrats did not “clear” or “exonerate” Lord Rennard in any sense; indeed the statement cites “evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants” (Report, 17 January). We deeply regret the failure of Lord Rennard to acknowledge the distress caused to the women involved and his failure to issue an apology at the earliest opportunity following the publication of an internal party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. We believe that until he apologises and acknowledges the distress that his actions have caused, regardless of intent, he should never have had the Liberal Democrat whip restored and should be barred from any party body or involvement in any party activity that might facilitate a repeat of this situation. No apology; no whip. We note with deep regret the failure of senior members of the parliamentary party to denounce in the strongest possible terms Lord Rennard’s behaviour; the reports of which are described as “credible” by the investigating QC. It is deeply troubling that demands by the leadership for an apology were not clearly linked to sanctions that would include, at a minimum, withdrawal of the party whip. We do recognise that our party’s processes will not currently allow for action to be taken without a criminal-level burden of proof. We are committed to pursuing the vital work to secure improvements to protect our members, and anticipate the full support of our party leadership and the newly appointed pastoral care officer in doing so. We will not rest until our party is a safe space for all, free from sexual harassment and assault, without exception. With this in mind we as members will continue to put pressure on the whips office in the House of Lords with a view to reversing the inappropriate decision to restore Lord Rennard to the Liberal Democrat group.
Naomi Smith Social Liberal Forum, Linda Jack Liberal Left, Caron Lindsay Treasurer, Scottish party James Shaddock Rock The Boat founder, Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera Lib Dem English party diversity champion, Katherine Bavage, Leeds North West, member of Lib Dem Women, James King Co-finance officer, Iain Donaldson Chair, Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, Stephen Glenn Northern Ireland, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive, Elizabeth Jewkes City of Chester, member of Lib Dem Women, Timothy J Oliver Hull & Hessle, Angharad B Jones Rhondda Cynon Taff, RCT Lib Dems Membership Officer, Kurt Jewkes City of Chester, Craig O’Donnell Chair of London Liberal Youth, Hywel Morgan Calderdale, Chris Nelson Kettering & Wellingborough (2010 parliamentary candidate, Kettering), Liam Pennington Preston, Cllr Lloyd Harris Regional treasurer, East of England, Deputy leader Dacorum Council Group, Cllr Gareth Aubrey Cardiff and Vale, James King Southport, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer, Robin McGhee Bristol, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer, Cllr Mark Mills Oxford East, Allan Heron Paisley and Renfrewshire, Callum Leslie Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Edinburgh Liberal Youth Treasurer, Scottish conference committee, George Potter Guildford, Guildford Secretary, Linden Parker South Norfolk, Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer, Hannah Bettsworth Edinburgh South, Edinburgh Liberal Youth President, Scottish Women Lib Dems Executive Member, Jack Carr Aberdeenshire West, President, St Andrews University Liberal Democrats, David Evans Aberdeenshire  East, Andrew Page Inverclyde, Zoe O’Connell Cambridge, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive, Ruaraidh Dobson Glasgow North (2010 Candidate Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Euan Davidson President ,Aberdeen University Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conference Committee, Aberdeen Central, South and North Kincardine, Jonathan Wharrad Congleton, Chair, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats, Samuel Rees (East Dunbartonshire, former IR Cymru Officer) Hywel Owen Davies Preseli-Pembrokeshire, Jezz Palmer Winchester, Jennie Rigg, Chair, Calderdale Liberal Democrats, Euan Cameron Islington Borough, Siobhan Mathers Edinburgh North & Leith, Richard Symonds Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats, Michael Wilson Stirling Liberal Democrats, James Harrison Edinburgh North and Leith, Callum Morton, Sutton Liberal Democrats, Tommy Long Maidstone Lib Dems Data Officer, Liberal Reform Board Member, Amy Dalrymple Edinburgh North and Leith, Natalie Jester Bristol South, Maria Pretzler Swansea and Gower, Member of the Welsh Policy Committee, Sophie Bridger Chair of Glasgow North Lib Dems, Geoff Payne Hackney LP, Ben Lloyd Cardiff Central (resident in Belfast), Paul Pettinger Westminster Borough and Liberal Youth Vice President, Paul Halliday Newport Party Chair, Amanda Durley Dartford and Gravesham, Daniel Jones Northampton, former Chair Northamptonshire Liberal Youth, East Midlands executive member, Natasha Chapman Lincoln, Chair of Lincoln Liberal Youth, Social Liberal Forum Council Member, Alisdair Calder McGregor Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Constituency of Calder Valley (Calderdale Local Party), Robbie Simpson North Glasgow, Liberal Youth Scotland Treasurer, Cllr Robin Popley Chair of Loughborough Liberal Democrats and Shepshed TC, Cllr Henry Vann Bedford Borough, Secretary North Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats, Andrew Crofts Vice Chair of Liberal Youth Saint Albans, Naomi Smith, Co Chair, Social Liberal Forum, Daniel Gale Nottingham, Jonathan Brown Chichester, Member of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Women & Social Liberal Forum, James Blanchard Huddersfield, GLD Exec, Chris Keating Streatham, Grace Goodlad, Bromley Borough, Norman Fraser Glasgow North, Organiser, Social Liberal Forum (Scotland), Morgan Griffith-David Cardiff and the Vale, Liberal Youth Policy Officer, Peter Brooks Islington, Jessica Rees Swansea, Sanjay Samani Angus North & Mearns, Dr Mohsin Khan Oxford East (Secretary, Oxford East, Policy Chair, South Central Region), Holly Matthies Manchester Gorton (Secretary LGBT+ Lib Dems), Andrew Hickey Manchester Gorton (Member of Social Liberal Forum, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Humanist & Secular Liberal Democrats), Duncan Stott Oxford East, Benjamin Krishna Cambridge, Lee Thacker Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Sebastian Bench General Secretary University of Nottingham Liberal Youth, Michael Carchrie Campbell Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats (Member of LGBT+, Social LIberal Forum, Lib Dem Lawyers Association, Liberal Youth), Neil Monnery Southend, Data Officer, Matthew Wilkes North Bristol Liberal Democrats, David Freeborn Oxford East, Adam Bernard Harrow West, Andrew Hinton Data Officer, Shrewsbury & Atcham, Joshua Dixon Chair of Hillingdon Liberal Democrats (Social Liberal Forum Membership Development Officer), Sandra Taylor Altrincham and Sale West, James Brough Calderdale Liberal Democrats, member LGBT+, Harry Matthews Sheffield, Rob Blackie Former London Assembly candidate, member of London Region Executive, Dulwich & West Norwood, Alex Wasyliw Party member, South Cambs, Daisy Benson local councillor and former parliamentary candidate, Reading, Richard Morgan-Ash Hackney, Ryan Cullen Lincoln, Peter Bancroft Westminster, Steven Haynes Liberal Youth Vice Chair, David Franklin, Leeds North East, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats, Jon Neal former Parliamentary Candidate, Haltemprice & Howden, party trainer and mentor, Cllr Harry Hayfield Lib Dem representative on Llansantffraed Community Council, Ceredigion, WalesMag, Andrew A Kierig, Lib Dems in Brussels and Europe, ALDE Associate, Jennifer Warren Romsey and Southampton North, Duncan Borrowman Bromley Borough, former member federal executive, former national campaigns officer, former parliamentary candidate Old Bexley and Sidcup, former London assembly candidate, Penny Goodman Leeds North West, Secretary of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, Laura Gordon Tonbridge Liberal Youth

Independent:

The Chief Inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says it is a scandal that 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within five years, and claims this is because they have been inadequately prepared to deal with unruly pupils. I would be interested to know what research this is based on.
In fact, teachers leave the profession for a variety of reasons. Since 1992 one of the main reasons has been Ofsted: an organisation which places schools and teachers under intense pressure. Since 2010 the stress of constant inspection has been intensified by ever-shifting goalposts. What was deemed “good” a few years ago is no longer acceptable.
So how does Sir Michael intend to tackle the problem of teachers leaving? Why, he plans “a tough new inspection regime.”
John Cosgrove
Reading

I see that ashen-faced Ofsted supremo Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced yet another tough new inspection regime. He wants to find out whether the training of new teachers has been adequate. Given that 40 per cent are baling out within five years of qualifying I think we can guess the answer.
It is shocking, nonetheless, to hear him say that the dropout rate is to do with ill-discipline in the classroom. He is dead right, of course, but I thought it had long been decided that discipline was a dirty word and that if teachers could only be entertaining enough their pupils would, well, you know, just give up being naughty and, like, learn. Isn’t that what our student teachers are taught?
Martin Murray
London SW2
My daughter, who is a teacher in a secondary school in London, would be writing this herself, but she doesn’t have time. The reason that four out of 10 teachers quit the profession is because of the workload, not inadequate training. My daughter has a full working day, with a full working evening to follow, much of which is spent in unnecessary detailed planning, and marking. The weekend is the same.
When will the Government recognise that something is going wrong? When five, six, or seven out of 10 graduates leave?
Janette Davies
Bath

The ‘blame’ for conceiving a girl
Having read your leading article (16 January) about sex-selective abortion, I am in full agreement that education is a very important part of any solution to the problem. One vital fact should not be overlooked: it is the male gamete that determines the gender of the child.
No woman ought to feel guilty because her child is a girl, but if she can be sure, through education, that only the father is biologically responsible for this fact, she can be released in her own mind from any sense of guilt. She can also feel more powerful to oppose abortion. This might influence any misled female relatives and gain support from them.
P Atyeo
Church Hanborough, Oxfordshire

If you are concerned about discrimination against girls and women, what would you do? Would you work to ensure that girls had equal access to education, training and jobs; equal pay; equal rights in marriage; equal rights in inheritance; and access to justice, support and redress if they are sexually abused or raped or beaten up?
Or would you investigate every women of Asian descent to find out whether they may ever have had an abortion because the foetus was female, and investigate all the doctors who provide abortions to find out if they have ever allowed Asian women to have such an abortion, and prosecute them all?
Which would be more effective in combating discrimination? The former, of course.
Why is it, then, that The  Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Secretary of State for Health, and now The Independent, surprisingly, in the name of opposition to gender discrimination, appear to be pursuing the latter course?
Their stance supports foetal rights. That is, it supports the right of a fetus to be born if it is female. This raises the question: can you support the right of even one foetus to be born, and still support women’s right to have an abortion?
Marge Berer
Editor, Reproductive Health Matters, London NW5
Fighting within our means
Mary Dejevsky (17 January)  says that the UK should live and fight within its means and that Cameron and Co are trying to do this, despite what former US Secretary of State Robert Gates has to say (as an aside from touting his new book over here).
If so, why are we building two huge aircraft carriers? They will cost over £7bn, and that does not include the cost of the aircraft to go on top of them. We could be living in a Britain of a century ago – big poverty at home, big warships at sea.
Vaughan Grylls
London WC1

In the context of Britain’s military funding crisis and American worries about whether we can pull our weight, I am reminded that in 1588 we saw off the Spanish armada with a fleet of 197 ships, only 34 of which belonged to the Royal Navy while 163 were privately owned.
Perhaps the current Queen Elizabeth should take a leaf out of her illustrious namesake’s book, and hand the lion’s share of the defence of her realm over to private enterprise. After all, entrepreneurs are now running everything else. Who wouldn’t like to see Sir Richard Branson launch his own aircraft carrier?
Paul Dunwell
Bedford
Where is the new Robert Mark?
Sir Robert Mark, on taking over as Commissioner of the Met over 40 years ago, famously said: “The test of a good police force is that it catches more criminals than it employs… the Met is currently failing that test.”  Mark confronted corruption head on. It appears, however, that after his retirement the cancer returned.
Is there another Robert Mark capable of the radical surgery necessary to delivering a reliable police force? No one doubts the honesty of many police officers of all ranks, but the exposure of police corruption over the past years, that has culminated in your publishing of parts of the in-depth internal enquiry named Operation Tiberius, is evidence that the scale of the problem goes far beyond “a few rotten apples”, and is bolstered by a supremely arrogant Police Federation.
Clearly, the direct impact an infiltrated criminal justice system has on the public makes institutional failures in this area the most alarming.
Serena Wylde
London SW15

The claim that secret networks of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs to corrupt the criminal justice system is an allegation that United Grand Lodge of England completely refutes (“Revealed: how gangs used the Freemasons to corrupt police”, 13 January).
The story refers to historic inquiries – Operation Tiberius and Project Riverside – which, we understand, closed years ago, and neither the police nor the Serious Organised Crime Agency has ever contacted us with regard to any inquiries concerning these operations. United Grand Lodge of England has not seen copies of the reports to which your report refers.
United Grand Lodge of England welcomes and strongly urges total transparency in every aspect of such investigations and we would eagerly assist the relevant authorities with any inquiries if we are approached or if we know of any way that we can voluntarily do so. Criminal activity is completely unacceptable within the organisation and totally alien to our values and any member found to be involved would instantly be removed.
Mike Baker
Director of Communications, The United Grand Lodge of England, London WC2
Catastrophe in Syria
The report of starvation in the Syrian refugee camp in Yarmouk (17 January) was harrowing. According to the piece, “Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.” Presumably, these “fighters” are Sunnis.
While the West beats itself up over this catastrophe, the wealthy Middle Eastern powers have remained silent. Shouldn’t they take some responsibility? Why have they not been invited to take part in the Geneva talks?
John Gordon
Twickenham, Middlesex
British art goes abroad
“Premium Bacon, but will anyone pay £30m to bring it home?” asks your headline (16 January), on the forthcoming sale of a Francis Bacon painting.
Must British art be only for the British? If Turner had not bequeathed the bulk of his work to the nation he would be better known and respected abroad than he is, and British art would have greater universal consequence than it does.
Peter Forster
London N4
Sinister precedent
Political scientists have a label for the overlap Owen Jones (16 January) suggests between socialism and Ukippery. They call it National Socialism.
Philip Goldenberg
Woking, Surre

Times:

It has been one year since the horsemeat scandal — and still there are daily revelations of consumer saftey violations
Sir, The first anniversary of the horsemeat scandal in the UK brings no cause for celebration. There are daily revelations of consumer safety violations and of the wanton abuse of live animals caught up in absurdly long supply chains that meander across Europe. The situation invites interference at every stage and features rotting carcases, widespread adulteration of animal products, and horse posturing as beef, pork and lamb, often destined for the most vulnerable.
Government action in response to these egregious abuses has been muted, its only ongoing step the Elliott review, whose narrowly drawn remit is to address “consumer confidence in the authenticity of all food products”.
The danger is overemphasis on effects rather than causes. Thus while a dedicated food crime unit is overdue to tackle individual cases of fraud, trust will not be restored until the wider issues are rigorously addressed: convoluted trans-European supply chains, the activities of the food processing companies, ongoing entrenchment of power with the big retailers, the continuing failure of regulators and supermarkets to detect repeated instances of food adulteration, and the lack of vigilance as to animal welfare in food production.
The Defra Secretary, Owen Paterson, claims that “the UK food industry already has robust procedures to ensure they deliver high-quality food to consumers”. This sits uneasily with our recent food crises, such as salmonella in eggs, BSE, foot and mouth disease, unlawful antibiotics in meat and honey, chemical contaminants in fish and horsemeat.
The situation reflects successive governments’ inability to keep pace with rapid changes in food production, ever greater industrialisation and globalisation of food production and the shift of power to the large vested interests.
The new austerity has depleted Defra (the body charged with controlling food supply chains) and has hit an already diminished Food Standards Agency and the ability of local authorities too to meet their food safety and hygiene responsibilities when pitched against the heavily resourced vested interests.
In 2013 I chaired an independent review commissioned by the RSPCA into Freedom Food, the leading farmed-animal welfare assurance scheme. The former Defra Secretary, Caroline Spelman, and Professor David Main served on my panel. Evidence came from every interest and shade of opinion. The recommendations of the McNair Report reinforce my view that a new openness and transparency by retailers to consumers is central to restoring public confidence.
Root-and-branch reform of our regulatory system is required to deliver traceability, accountability and intelligible labelling and proper standards of welfare for farmed animals. Authoritative research consistently links animal wellbeing to meat of a higher nutritional quality.
Recent polls by Populus show that more than three quarters of us would gain confidence in the food chain if farmed animal welfare standards improved.
A new political will is needed to build a robust, durable and properly funded food regulatory system committed to recovering consumer safety and demonstrating proper standards of animal welfare.
Duncan McNair
Chairman, McNair Inquiry and Report (rspca.org.uk)

Most serving and retired police officers will not be surprised by the fact that crime statistics are unreliable
Sir, The revelation that crime statistics are unreliable (Jan 16) will not surprise most serving and retired police officers. I suspect that only politicians and, possibly, a very few senior police officers have any faith in them at all.
Little has changed since I joined the service in 1966: robbery recorded as theft, burglary as criminal damage, theft as lost property, and many crimes not recorded at all.
I was always gently amused when officers, usually the CID, would persuade some hapless individual to “cough” to all sorts of offences (which he generally had not committed) in return for the promise of a word in the right ear, to ensure that the sentence for whatever offence he had committed would be less than he might otherwise expect. This sometimes resulted in more crimes apparently being detected in the sub-division than had actually occurred.
The Rev B. H. Stevens
Great Billing, Northants

We are told how to be slimmer and healthier to improve our lives — but what about thinking of others to make us happy
Sir, Your quick-fix list “How to be happier in 2014” (Jan 17) highlights a sickness in our society. Advised from every quarter how to be slimmer, fitter, healthier, we seem to have turned in on ourselves. What happened to service to and consideration for our fellow men? “Volunteer” appears at a humble 19th place on your list.
Anthea Richardson
London, SW19

Is it fair to fine parents £1,000 if they want to take their children out of school during term for a holiday?
Sir, The £1,000 fine on parents from Telford who took their children out of school for a short holiday in September is a disgrace (Thunderer, Jan 17).
It is reported that the holiday was booked before the recent change in the regulations and the father’s job meant he couldn’t take leave last summer. Not everyone can take their holiday when schools are closed. There will be thousands of families in the same position who are now faced with a choice between a holiday at peak times that they can’t afford or no holiday at all. The law on school attendance was never intended to be used in situations like this where just a few isolated days are involved.
As a former Education Welfare Team Leader, I think this is petty and unreasonable when so many more children are genuinely missing school to a greater extent.
Ben Whitney
Wolverhampton
Sir, As a retired teacher who has spent a lifetime of having to take holidays in the allotted school breaks, I would urge any parents thinking of taking their holidays in term time to ask themselves how they would feel if their children came home and said they would not be having any maths lessons for the next two weeks because the teacher had taken a holiday.
Multiply that by any number of other subjects and see what their reaction would be.
Roger Cleland
Lymm, Cheshire

4

The residents of James Turner Street have been filmed for almost two years — and they want the broadcasting to continue
Sir, Your letter about Benefits Street (Jan 17) does not represent the views of all the residents on James Turner Street. The team from Love Productions have been on James Turner Street for nearly two years and have daily contact with the contributors. Many of them are asking us to keep broadcasting the series because forthcoming episodes continue to show strong friendships and community spirit during difficult times. We are proud of the series, which provides a broad-ranging portrait of the street and includes positive stories from those who work, from those striving to get work and from residents who support one another through the challenges they face.
The series does not set out to reflect the experiences of every person who receives benefits but it has triggered a national debate about welfare at a time when welfare reforms are being proposed. In response to this we have commissioned a live studio debate which will air directly after the final episode to provide a forum in which these issues can be raised and discussed. All views across the political spectrum will be represented.
Nick Mirsky
Head of Documentaries, Channel 4
Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Jan 15) is right to suggest Benefits Street poses a serious challenge to people of all political persuasions but not for the reasons he advances. You cannot divide society into those who work and those who receive benefits. Two thirds of poor children live in working families, so many hardworking parents are taxpayers and benefit recipients — for example, relying on tax credits to boost meagre earnings.
The simple truth is nearly everyone who receives benefits — whether they have lost their job, are in low pay, ill or disabled, retired or caring for a loved one — has worked, is working or will soon work. The challenge to politicians is to remember that those on benefits are people like us, not a group of people with values different from everyone else.
Alison Garnham
Child Poverty Action Group

Telegraph:

SIR – Richard Dorment lists the artistic delights available to those who live in the capital and the South East, but has little to offer those of us who live elsewhere, unless you happen to be in Bath or Glasgow.
Jesse Norman is right: regional arts deserve more funding.
Betty Fox
Aldridge, Staffordshire

SIR – In the report of the outcome of the investigation into claims that Lord Rennard, who oversees the Liberal Democrats’s policy, had repeatedly harassed female activists, it was stated that no disciplinary action would be taken as it would not be possible to prove the allegations “beyond reasonable doubt”.
This phrase is only appropriate where criminal prosecutions are being considered. In civil matters, such as disciplinary cases, the lower burden of proof is acceptable, ie “on the balance of probabilities”.
I must conclude that if the Liberal Democrat Party disciplinary rules only accept the higher standard of burden of proof, then there is something seriously amiss. Either the inquiry was inadequate, or the party’s standards are incorrect – or both.
David Newman
Keighley, West Yorkshire
Related Articles
Why should the South East get all the best art?
17 Jan 2014
Teacher training
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, claims that two fifths of newly-qualified teachers leave the profession within five years.
He understates the problem: in recent years, up to 40 per cent of trainee teachers have either dropped out before qualifying or failed to find a post.
The School Direct programme should substantially reduce the waste of taxpayers’ money: aspiring teachers must convince a school to put them on the payroll. If they can’t deliver lessons and control pupils, the school is lumbered with a useless trainee.
Likewise, the Teach First programme insists that candidates deliver a practice lesson during the selection process – and 70 per cent are rejected. Their trainees take up a salaried post soon after acceptance.
Teacher training colleges, on the other hand, have a strong incentive to fill places on conventional teacher training programmes even if it means taking a chance on a trainee with questionable potential.
In any case, the value of teacher training has been called into question by three major American studies which found that children taught by uncertified teachers performed just as well as those taught by fully qualified teachers.
Ministers ought to be considering whether the time has come to abolish the Bachelor of Education and the Post Graduate Certificate in Education.
Professor Tom Burkard
Easton, Norfolk
Musical mice
SIR – I’m surprised Richard Taylor’s insurance company didn’t invoke the “vermin exclusion” clause. This is what was quoted to us when, after Christmas, our new piano was visited by a mouse with a weak bladder and sharp teeth. (Have you any idea how much there is inside a piano to interest a mouse?)
We got no payout, and over £300 of work was needed, but at least our children were exonerated; we had blamed them for the scattered nutshells.
Lesley Bright
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Rear-view running
SIR – James Bamber advocates “reverse running”. This intrigued me. Is it not dangerous? Where do you do it? Do you need mirrors on your arms? I have trouble running forwards. What happens when you come to a hill?
We need more information.
Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire
Sharing NHS data
SIR – As every household in the country receives a letter from the NHS about the Government’s intention to join up patient records, these plans have been greeted with applause and some criticism. As three of the leading health research foundations in Britain, we are firmly in the applause camp. This NHS data will, for the first time, bring together information on GP care with other sources of data about patient care for the whole country. This will enable patients to be better informed about their care and will allow for more effective research and health service planning.
Our work informing policy and practice relies on rigorously anonymised data. This allows us to assess future demand on the health service, track the progress and success of particular initiatives, and provide national policy makers, local services and commissioners with evidence on how to spend NHS money to improve healthcare, leading to better services and outcomes for patients.
All patient records are subject to strict measures to protect individual identities. Their use is subject to stringent legal and ethical regulation.
An enormous asset of the NHS is data collection on all patients, cradle to grave. This data should be shared far more to improve care and health for us all.
Andy McKeon
Chief Executive, Nuffield Trust
Chris Ham
Chief Executive, The King’s Fund
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Chief Executive, The Health Foundation
London W1
Clocking out
SIR – Why is it only hospital doctors who appear to have been adversely affected by the implementation of the European Working Time Directive? Other professions do not seem to have been seriously affected by this legislation. Can someone explain why this should be?
R N Thomas
Norwich
Reusable diary
SIR – Phillip Crossland’s finding of his unused 1988 diary was more timely than he perhaps realises.
If he keeps it for two more years, he will be able to use it in 2016, when the calendar will be identical.
The handkerchiefs he can use straight away.
Janet Brennan
Totnes, Devon
Practical tips for remembering your Pin
SIR – When memorising a Pin, I find it easier to remember the diagram created by joining up the numbers rather than trying to recall the actual figures in their right order. Drawing the “pattern” of a new Pin several times helps to fix it in my mind.
Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire
SIR – I use my Army numbers, which, as any old soldiers will tell you, are never forgotten. I had an eight-digit number as a recruit and six figures on commissioning.
Anyone who goes to the trouble of researching these numbers should note that I use a combination of the two.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
SIR – With the increasing need for various credit cards I find that a simple, practical way to remember a credit card’s Pin is to use four of the numbers on the card.
They are in front of you each time the card is used, and as long as you remember which ones they are (for example, first four or last four) it avoids having one pin for all cards.
When I was working in a bank in the Eighties, a customer complained bitterly after our banking hall was redecorated.
It transpired that he had written his pin on the wall next to the cash machine and it had been covered up with paint. His view was that his number was no use to anyone so long as he had the card.
Sid Brittin
Staines upon Thames, Surrey

SIR – Peter Oborne’s reference to Robert Boscawen’s loyalty begs the question of whether Boscawen believed that the leaders he followed shared his own principles, even if these same principles led them to different conclusions.
My perception of the Cameron-Osborne leadership is that their predominant principle is ensuring the survival of their respective positions. In that regard, even as a Conservative, I owe them no loyalty whatsover.
Michael Finley
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – Peter Oborne correctly identifies disloyalty as a threat to the Conservatives’ long-term future. Moreover, an obsession with Europe – rated the least important subject to voters in a poll this week – could yet cost the party the next election.
Some Conservative MPs continue to operate under the misapprehension that Ukip’s support derives overwhelmingly from concern about the European Union, despite polling evidence showing the party has become a repository for the “stop the world, I want to get off” protest vote that in previous decades went to the Liberals.
Related Articles
Britain should be able to veto European law
17 Jan 2014
Lib Dem Party rules on Lord Rennard
17 Jan 2014
Why should the South East get all the best art?
17 Jan 2014
General elections are primarily decided by relatively small numbers of non-political floating voters who support the party and leader they most trust to protect themselves and their families from the inevitable swings of the economic cycle. Falling unemployment, stable prices, rising incomes, targeted tax cuts and Thatcherite property-owning aspiration will deliver the Conservatives an overall majority in May 2015; not another debate about Europe.
Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey
SIR – While I agree with Peter Oborne that, on balance over the past 200 years, the Conservative Party has been a force for good, it has no God-given right to demand loyalty from its backbenchers when they collectively, and fundamentally, disagree with direction the leadership is taking.
David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party has been a disaster. A significant proportion of what should be Conservative voters do not like Mr Cameron and do not trust him on most issues, particularly on the European Union.
Loyalty is earned through consistent values, trust and integrity, qualities I do not associate with the current Prime Minister.
Howard M Tolman
Epping, Essex
SIR – Peter Oborne has a strange conception of loyalty. What is at stake is loyalty to the principles of conservatism.
Surely defence of the realm – in particular its borders – must be high on the list of these principles. This paramount principle is obviously called into question by our membership of the European Union, which aims to remove all borders in order to create a United States of Europe.
Ron Forrest
Lower Milton, Somerset

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Skinnader clans in Monaghan commend The Irish Times for the recent coverage of our distant relative, Margaret Skinnider (Front page and Supplement, January 17th), whom we claim as our own in the absence of any accurate records to confirm lineage. Having been refused a pension, she is most likely “turning in her grave”, given the present CRC pension debacle; and even though she finally received a pension, it wasn’t as easy a process for her as it was for Paul Kiely.
This is not the type of society she fought for; “Give the money back”, I hear her say. – Yours, etc,
PAUL SKINNADER,
Burnside Road,
Ramelton, Co Donegal.
A chara, – I have been following the story of the CRC and the top-ups for its executives.
I am the mother of a severely disabled man who has been bed-bound for the past year partly because there is no money to purchase a new wheelchair for him. He is on an emergency list for a wheelchair, but we are told that due to lack of funds he will have to wait.
I feel sick I am so upset. – Is mise,
ANNE RYNNE,
Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.
Sir, – Here is an irony that anyone thinking of donating to the Central Remedial Clinic might care to consider: There was probably never a safer time to do so and be sure that the money would go where intended! – Yours, etc,
MJ ROSS-MacDONALD,
Birr, Offaly.
Sir, – Perhaps a spokesman for the Government would explain why it is the HSE that is conducting an investigation into the goings-on in the CRC.
Surely the CRC (and similar bodies) would not be necessary were the services it provides made available by the State/HSE in the first instance.
As a closely related party, the HSE should have no function in conducting an inquiry into the CRC: its antics to date in drip-feeding information at stages when it would gain maximum media exposure is not an ethical or effective way of going about an investigation into a very sensitive matter of huge concern to CRC patients and donors alike.
The investigation should be entrusted to an independent investigator/forensic accountant appointed by the Government, who would be charged with bringing it to a conclusion within very tight timelines.
This would at least contain as far as possible the damage to the charity sector which will only be exacerbated if the HSE is allowed carry on as it has to date – with what must be in its eyes a most welcome deflection from its own shortcomings in the provision of a decent health service. – Yours, etc,
JOE SINGLETON,
St Peter’s Place,
Arklow, Co Wicklow.
A chara, – There is little reference to the elephant in the room when it comes to all the current depressing CRC revelations. That elephant in the room is the Fianna Fáil party. As stated in The Irish Times (Health, November 29th), a number of CRC board members were associated with Bertie Ahern and indeed Paul Kiely was a key member of Ahern’s “Drumcondra Mafia”. The ongoing revelations concerning the CRC should be a prompt reminder to all: we are still paying for what Fianna Fáil’s “cute hoor” politics did and is still doing to this country. Lest we forget and all that. – Is mise,
EF FANNING,
Whitehall Road,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – While I wouldn’t touch Fianna Fáil with a 10-foot pole (or polling card), Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s suggestion that the appalling revelations of the Central Remedial Clinic’s mismanagement of both charitable and public funds are somehow “indicative of a time in Irish politics” that he hoped was long gone” (Home News, January 17th) strikes me as an utter nonsense, seeing that former CEO Paul Kiely resigned in July of last year, and his successor Brian Conlan only last month. The entire travesty beggars belief, if not satire, and Jonathan Swift must be spinning in his grave. – Yours, etc,
ANTHONY GLAVIN
Iveragh Road, Dublin 9.
Sir, – Lady Valerie Goulding must be spinning in her grave. – Yours, etc,
TERRY MOYLAN,
Bluebell Road, Dublin 12.
Sir, – There is no evidence of an independent review and approval process at the Central Remedial Clinic in the determination of the outrageous scale of remuneration, termination and pension arrangements with its former chief executive, or the source of cash to pay these, contrary to basic standards of acceptable institutional governance.
American public charities and private foundations must provide, through Form 990, detailed information about their governance, income and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service in order to maintain tax-exempt status. This information is published on the website of each filing charity and is relied on by some donors and some members of the public as the primary, or sole source, of credible information about a particular charity. Should Irish charities be obliged follow a similar procedure with the Revenue Commissioners and publish tax returns?
The Irish not-for-profit sector claims annual revenues of the order of €5.7 billion, of which 65 per cent is spent on salaries, according to remarks made by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in July 2012. Only an estimated €500 million of this revenue was provided through public donations and philanthropy at that time and the bulk of this was from two private foundations, one of which has ceased operations. The State has an overwhelming responsibility to demand high standards of governance from those obtaining taxpayers’ money, as well as donations from the public.
The capacity of the charity sector to redeem public trust, reputation and public voluntary donations will be hugely influenced by their credibility and integrity, expressed through the calibre, competence and independence of their leadership and the standard of transparency and accountability to which they subscribe. – Yours, etc,
MYLES DUFFY,
Bellevue Avenue,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy, aged 79 and seriously ill, has been jailed for refusing to promise she will not again protest against the use of Shannon Airport by foreign soldiers in transit to and from a war zone. The history of successive Irish governments in facilitating these transits teaches us that her protest in the past was ineffective, in practical if not in moral terms, and that any likely protest she may make in the future is unlikely to succeed in actively impeding this activity. It cannot be imagined, therefore, she is or will be in a position to cause material danger to anyone.
Nevertheless, she hopes, if her health permits, she may yet be in a position to make her heartfelt moral protest again. In asking her to undertake not to do so, the court in effect asked her to stifle her personal moral outrage, to deny herself the expression of her examined and considered conscience. The State will attempt to justify her imprisonment on the cold, technical grounds that she refused to give an undertaking required by the court. I am appalled that the court required this undertaking in the first place, and sickened that the ordinary human discretion which justice requires of the law was not subsequently exercised in her case. As the decision to imprison Ms D’Arcy was taken by organs of the State, it is not possible to view her incarceration as other than a political act.
All of which said, it is also the case that Ms D’Arcy is one of a growing number of senior citizens being imprisoned for offences technical in nature (such as failing to purchase a TV licence) which nevertheless can hardly be considered, by a reasonable person, serious enough to warrant the severity of imprisonment.
The Prison Service has the discretion to release Ms D’Arcy and many other senior citizens on a number of grounds, human compassion being one, common sense another.
The service should exercise the available power of discretion immediately, but I think it unlikely it will feel confident in doing so without a directive from the Minister for Justice. Alan Shatter, a lawyer himself and a servant of our Republic, should be keenly aware of the humane distinction between law and justice. I look forward to an immediate practical demonstration that he does, in fact, understand and value this vital distinction. – Yours, etc,
THEO DORGAN,
Moyclare Park, Dublin 13.
Sir, – Keep Margaretta D’Arcy in jail and her indomitable spirit before the public to remind us of the price demanded from all those awkward witnesses for social justice and human rights. – Yours, etc,
LELIA DOOLAN,
Kilcolgan, Co Galway.
A chara,   – As Irish artists we are deeply disturbed and outraged at the jailing of artist Margaretta D’Arcy for protesting against the use of Shannon Airport by US warplanes. This grossly inappropriate and shameful treatment of a 79-year-old woman (who has cancer) is made all the more shocking when we consider the State has refused to jail any of the politicians or bankers responsible for the near collapse of the State, yet seeks to jail an elderly artist for standing up for integrity and human rights.
We declare ourselves in complete solidarity with her actions, applaud her bravery in a time of tremendous cowardice, and call for her immediate release. – Yours, etc,
DYLAN TIGHE,
DONAL O’KELLY, OLWEN
FOUÉRÉ, MICHAEL
HARDING, JIMMY FAY &
GER RYAN (On behalf of
240 Irish artists),
C/o Mespil Apartments,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy is not in jail for her political beliefs. She is in jail because she broke the law. The particular law she broke has nothing to do with her political beliefs. Granted, she is an elderly woman and I wouldn’t expect or indeed condone her incarceration for very long. However, I must put this question to your outraged correspondents. If she weren’t put in jail for breaking the law, law passed by the democratic will of the Irish people, would this not be a gross injustice to the rest of us? – Yours, etc,
CONAN KENNEDY,
Gore Street,
Killala, Co Mayo.
Sir, – In 2003, I attended anti-war demonstrations in Dublin, Cork and Shannon alongside senior Labour Party figures. Up to 100,000 people marched through Dublin, and tens of thousands mobilised elsewhere across the island. Apart from opposing the planned US invasion of Iraq, we were united in rejecting the use of Shannon Airport by the US war machine. What a difference a decade makes! Several of those senior Labour Party figures are now in government and presiding over the continued misuse of Shannon by the US military. Their volte-face on Irish, ahem, “neutrality” was made plain on Wednesday with the jailing of 79-year-old writer and anti-war activist Margaretta D’Arcy, who is in poor health.
There has been much talk about “economic treason” and outrage against bankers, property developers and politicians who laid our economy low. How many were sent to prison? Yet anti-war activists are jailed for standing by principles once shared by those now in the leadership of the Labour Party. They should hang their heads in shame! Ms D’Arcy is a brave and principled lady. She should be released immediately with a formal apology from the Minister for Justice. – Yours, etc,
FINTAN LANE,
Lennox Place,
Dublin 8.
Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy’s gravest crime (Home News, January 16th) is her refusal to swear a false oath, while crossing her fingers behind her back. People such as Ms D’Arcy belong in prison, as did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. Like these great moral leaders, her uncompromising refusal to trim her sails to the prevailing winds of expediency, and her insistence on acting in accordance with the principles of justice and honesty, have marked her out as a troublemaker who has to be defeated and crushed.
Simply put, Ms D’Arcy had to be incarcerated; how else could the two-faced dishonesty that is our State’s position on neutrality be upheld? – Yours, etc,
CORMAC Mc MAHON,
Tweed Street, Highett,
Victoria,
Australia.
Sir, – Tom O’Gorman is a tremendous loss to the intellectual fabric of our country (Home News, January 14th). He was a highly educated, religious, peaceful and very good-humoured man who did crucial work for, among others, the Iona Institute and the Pro-Life Campaign, behind the scenes and never sought the limelight.
I first encountered Tom O’Gorman when I entered UCD as a student; Tom had graduated by that stage, but he returned often for pro-life events in the university and I was privileged to call him an acquaintance. Ireland is a poorer place since he was killed. May others be inspired, by his good work, to take up his baton. – Yours, etc,
JOHN B REID,
Knapton Road,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – “Swing around into compliance”. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL CULLEN,
Albert Park,
Sandycove, Co Dublin.
A chara, – “When you were in government.” – Is mise,
CAITRIONA McCLEAN,
Weston Avenue,
Lucan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Best practice. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK O’BYRNE,
Shandon Crescent,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Am I the only one . . . hoping this correspondence ends soon? – Yours, etc,
CHRISTIE COLHOUN,
Cennick Grove,
Gracehill,
Ballymena.
Sir, – An Aussie import, now an epidemic: “No worries”. Somehow it doesn’t sound right without the Aussie accent! – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL ROONEY,
Hillcrest Court,
Knocknacarra,
Galway.

Irish Independent:
* What is it about governments and their highly paid advisers that any new semi-state project, big or small, has first to be submitted to a consultancy firm (at enormous expense) to test its feasibility (a PR term now beaten to death)?
Also in this section
Letters: Only secularism truly allows religious freedom
Letters: Accept the bank guarantee tab, Mr Trichet
So how do we pay these new bills, Mr Noonan?
It baffles me that these backroom geniuses who are regularly headhunted for their skills are so afraid of their shadow, or is it their jobs, that they pass the buck to a consultancy who apparently can charge any fee they like without question and let the taxpayer pay for it.
This latest fee of €50m (and mounting by the hour) ‘to advise’ on a new water scheme is beyond comprehension and an enigma. The original Enigma machine will have to be taken out of the mothballs to decipher all the arithmetical progressions and blacked-out secrets that are emerging.
One wonders where this fairly recent phenomenon began whereby consultancies set themselves up as miracle workers who charge millions of euro for their expertise and get away with it.
Up until now, questions have never been asked, or answers given, about how they arrive at such costs; all very secret and kept under the radar.
Are they some infallible lot sent by God from Mount Sinai to redeem broken-down economies? What is it about the information given that makes it so ‘commercially sensitive’ and shrouded in mystery.
These geniuses weren’t around in Ken Whitaker’s day, yet denied of their priceless knowledge and expertise, he, together with a small band of good men and patriotic workers, got this country out of the doldrums in the 1960s and turned it into a thriving economy in less than a decade. I’m sure there were numerous problems along the way, but I can recall little about large consultancy fees and automatic bonuses.
With the ousting of the old regime and the arrival of the new broom, the public were promised wasteful spending and bad management would be brought to a hurried end. On Enda’s watch, all this would cease.
Today, however, those at newly formed Irish Water, hardly out of the womb, are being guaranteed their bonuses. How about that for arrogance?
The old ways are alive and well and thriving like a newborn calf, while ministers smile glibly and pray, God make me pure, but not just yet.
All we hear from them is blather and gibberish. One could go on and on. The old maxim still holds good: the more things change, the more they remain the same.
CHRISTY WYNNE
BOYLE
GOULDING BETRAYED
* How the wonderful Lady Valerie Goulding, founder of the Central Remedial Clinic in 1951, has been betrayed by all that is taking place.
It is an absolute disgrace that her life’s work which she put into the CRC, seeking nothing for herself except to serve, has become a byword for greed by those who followed on.
You have disgraced yourselves again, Ireland.
ROBERT SULLIVAN
BANTRY, CO CORK
* There are two parts to the dismay people feel as yet more revelations of greed are revealed.
The first part is why so many people, at all levels of the public sector, are so economical with information about how much their remuneration is costing the taxpayer. It’s hard to know whether the public sector is the victim of venal people or whether it has been contaminated by standards of behaviour by some politicians over the last 30 years.
But the second and most important part is the nauseating hypocrisy of those at the very top of the public sector now wringing their hands about how ‘shocked’ they are. When this Government took office, it would seem it did not carry out an audit of every single layer of government to include every single contract across the public sector, and that there is still no central HR database for the public sector where every contract is collated and reviewed to ensure it meets the required standard.
So when we get hot under the collar about the allowances and pensions paid to former charity heads, hospital administrators or consultants, and wonder how this can happen five years into a depression, we should remember the high rates of pay and expenses of our political leaders who have oversight responsibility. Their renumeration is amongst the highest in Europe.
Why doesn’t the media focus on the tax-free unverified expenses and allowances of all the sanctimonious TDs and senators who now think they can sit in judgment of others?
DESMOND FITZGERALD
CANARY WHARF, LONDON
* A recent survey of 40 charities in Ireland showed us that most of the CEOs are paid over €100,000 a year.
May I ask, what in God’s name do they do to justify earning €2,000 a week? This is a disgrace and hard for the generous people of this country to stomach. We really do tolerate too much of this dreadful nonsense. It’s time to stand up and be counted.
BRIAN MC DEVITT
GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL
* Charity begins at home . . . now it’s going to stay there!
K NOLAN
CALDRAGH, CARRICK-ON-SHANNON, CO LEITRIM
* Now we know it wasn’t out of shame or principle that the CRC board resigned en masse last December. Their secretive and repulsive actions have come to light. However, the Perseverance, Action and Competence of the PAC has done a great service in exposing many ugly skeletons in the CRC boardroom cupboard and clearly more to come!
LARRY SHERIN
FOXROCK, DUBLIN 18
CAT CONUNDRUM
* Andrew Lloyd Webber was inspired by them, but I am distracted by a plague of cats. Felines are fine if they keep their distance, but they have become predators of the small birds that nest in my back garden.
Their gruesome handiwork may be natural, as they are hunters by inclination, but it is deeply distressing to behold. Besides, the birds are entitled to sanctuary.
I was hoping one of your readers might have some advice on how to keep these malevolent moggies at bay. I may yet resort to a drone unless a more humane solution is suggested.
C O BRIEN
GREYSTONES CO WICKLOW
H2 WOE IS DROP IN OCEAN
* As the revelations regarding Irish Water unfolds by the day, and staggering amounts of money are drained away, it appears that the Government should have left control of water services with local authorities.
Unlike Wellington Quay (aptly named) and the North Quay in Drogheda, Minister Fergus O’Dowd had little difficulty wading into the issue and stated that “Freedom of Information will apply retrospectively” to Irish Water.
Brilliant! So, O’Dowd hopes that the issue will become stagnant over time, and that our interest will simply evaporate.
But I suppose that this PR disaster is just another drop in the ocean for the Government.
Puns relating to water have run their course and I realise that readers’ patience is not infinite. So I’ll get to the point, The Narrow Water Bridge connecting Down to the said minister’s constituency, Louth, is in limbo because of a shortfall of €18m. This money could not be found, but €50m could be siphoned away merely for consultants.
ALAN CASSIDY
TULLYALLEN, DROGHEDA
TEXT MYOPIA
* Could the myopia of British and American foreign policy be caused by reading 200 million texts a day?
DR JOHN DOHERTY
CNOC AN STOLLAIRE, GAOTH DOBHAIR, CO DONEGAL
Irish Independent

18 January 2014 Car at Last

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey is trying divide and rule Priceless.

Start to clear out attic for insulation, pick up car, fine but v expensive, and order Thermoblok

Scrabbletoday Mary winand gets over300, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

 

Obituary:

Kate Losinska , who has died aged 89, was a scourge of Left-wing extremism in the trade unions, fighting and ultimately winning a desperate battle for control of the Civil and Public Services Association, the largest Civil Service union, of which she was three times president.

Her marriage to the Polish air ace Stanislaw Losinski made her a staunch opponent of communism, but within the CPSA she faced the Trotskyist Militant Tendency. Militant was disrupting the social security computer centre on Tyneside, and aimed to paralyse Whitehall.

CPSA members (more than 200,000 at its peak) were junior civil servants, relatively few of whom could earn promotion, and thus prey to malcontents. But in Kate Losinska the militants had met their match.

A determined redhead from Croydon who had joined the civil service at 17, she pulled together a coalition to fend them off and — after Militant captured the CPSA’s 37-strong executive — to force them out again. When in 1988 she engineered a clean sweep of the executive’s Militant majority, she declared: “Now I can retire with a glow in my heart.”

For much of her presidency, she had an ally in Alistair Graham, the union’s general secretary, who was forced out in 1986 after what she called “a long-running campaign of political spite”. Militant tried everything to stop her; the Conservative MP Julian Lewis told the Commons she had been “attacked, beaten and tripped downstairs”.

A member of the TUC general council until Militant blocked her renomination, she had no truck with fellow-travelling colleagues. When Arthur Scargill, visiting Russia in 1983, praised the Soviet way of life, she erupted: “If he had been a Russian in Britain and had gone home after saying similar things, he would have been put in a psychiatric hospital.”

Scargill was her bête noir after he attacked the free Polish trade union, Solidarity. Kate Losinska chaired the Solidarnosc Foundation, and after the fall of communism was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of Polonia Restituta. (Her husband, serving with the Polish Air Force, then in bombers with No 301 Squadron, was awarded Poland’s highest military decoration and a DFC).

Kate Losinska had an autocratic streak which led dissident Right-wingers to form a rival slate in the 1986 CPSA elections; the weakened executive fell next year to Militant. Embarrassingly for some, she chaired the Trade Union Committee for European and Transatlantic Understanding, funded by the US Congress and Nato.

She was born Kathleen Mary Conway on October 5 1922 in Croydon; her father was a soldier. From Selhurst Grammar School she entered the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys .

After 40 years as a civil servant and union member, she was elected CPSA president in 1979, and the next year chaired the Council of Civil Service Unions, negotiating for 750,000 staff. At the end of her first three-year term she stepped down to vice-president, being succeeded by Kevin Roddy, prime mover of the disruption in Newcastle. In 1983 she returned, defeating Roddy. Her priority was to block, with Graham, moves to affiliate the traditionally non-partisan CPSA to the Labour Party.

However, Kate Losinska supported strikes against Margaret Thatcher’s barring of the unions from GCHQ, and blamed Tory policies for the narrowness of her re-election in 1984, complaining that they “give moderation a bad name”.

She struggled to contain an executive which had to be stopped by Treasury legal action from becoming the first union to call out its members without a ballot, after one was required by law. Recaptured by Militant in 1987, the executive began appointing the Tendency’s activists as full-time officials at the most vulnerable sites: the DHSS and Department of Employment.

In the run-up to the 1987 general election CPSA members voted by 56-44 per cent to hold strikes over pay. She supported their protest, so was furious when the far Left used the occasion to undermine Graham’s successor, John Ellis. The executive cut Ellis’s salary and took back his union car before she and Ellis regained full control.

In retirement, Kate Losinska saw the CPSA merge with two other unions to form the Public & Commercial Services Union (PCS), under firmly Left-wing leadership. In recent years she lived in Co Limerick.

She was appointed OBE in 1986.

Kate Conway married Stanislaw Losinski in 1942; he died in 2002, and she is survived by their son.

Kate Losinska. Born October 5 1924, died October 16 2013

 

 

 

Guardian:

I suggest you start a column “Sorry to see you go”, to complement your “Good to meet you“. I’m 74 years old, and the sole carer for my disabled daughter, who is 49. I’ve bought the Guardian since my student days in Manchester in the late 1950s. My politics have always been left-of-centre, based on Christian principles. I’ve always voted Labour. I spent 20 years working in industry as a metallurgist, then a further 10 years as a schoolteacher, before ill-health forced my early retirement. Last Saturday my Guardian cost me £2.50, an increase of almost 9%. For my cash, I got glossy travel brochures I don’t want or need, a travel section I discard, and a daft new magazine, Do Something. Your Consumer champions column (which I follow closely) suggests Sky subscribers are unlikely to be Guardian readers. I’m not a Sky customer, but I’m beginning to get the message I’m no longer part of your target readership. Where I go to, if I leave your paper, is problematic.
J Spencer
Warrington, Cheshire

 

A letter from the embassy of Israel (17 January) gives us “a reality check” about the Palestinian cause with the observation that Israel did not “bring over thousands of rockets from Iran and proceed to fire them at its towns and cities”. Quite so: Israel brought its weapons over from the US – Phantoms, F-15s F-16s and Apache helicopters and other state-of-the-art weapons, which have killed far greater numbers of Palestinian non-combatants. “Reality check” indeed.
Kevin Bannon
London

• I wonder if Mr Gates would be so keen on us maintaining a full-spectrum defence capability (Letters, 17 January) if we started using it without US permission. If I recall correctly, the last time we did that was the Suez fiasco by the Eden government (also stuffed with old Etonians).
Jim Pettman
Port de Castelfranc, Anglars-Juillac, France

• Thanks for the front page photo of Kate Moss (17 January). Should she disappear, I’ll now be able to recognise her; I doubt I could do the same for the missing little boy’s tiny picture on an inside page.
Pete Bibby
Sheffield

• If you insist on identifying Stephen Kinnock by reference to his family ties (Pass notes, G2, 16 January), it would be refreshing to find an acknowledgment that his mother has status as a prominent public figure, as well as his father and spouse.
Estella Baker
Leicester

• I am concerned John Bryant has misinterpreted Zoe Williams (Letters, 17 January), and suspect he does not have young children to entertain. As any aficionado of the oeuvre could tell him, her cry of “Dinosaurs!” is a Peppa Pig reference.
Dan Adler
Farnham, Surrey

• Our Japonica is in flower while the burn burst its banks and took a new course through the library (Letters, 15 January). Certainly a record for us.
Pamela Strachan
Broughton, Peeblesshire

• Two bumblebees on my cyclamen this morning. Bless their hearts, if I may say so.
Ann Hawker
London

 

The suggestion that Home Office officials are rewarded for ensuring failed asylum seekers lose tribunal cases is a cause for concern (Report, 15 January). While it is the job of immigration staff to defend decisions in such situations, rewards for meeting quotas could lead to the Home Office delaying cases it fears it will lose. This amounts to toying with the lives of people who have suffered at the hands of oppressive regimes, conflict and political persecution. There can be no fairness in a system that operates like this. The British Red Cross supports more than 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers every year and we see many people driven to destitution by a failing system that is no longer fit for purpose. While the Home Office’s approach to tribunal cases is worrying, the most important part of the process is that the right decisions are made first time, and that asylum seekers in need of protection do not have to go through the gruelling appeals process in the first place.
Nick Scott-Flynn
Head of refugee support, British Red Cross

• The UK has a proud history of granting refuge to those who need it. Claims are carefully considered before a decision is made. Your article seems to make the assumption that every claim for asylum is genuine – sadly this is not the case. Every year we receive numerous cases that are not – and it is right that we reject these claims. Where we are confident that an initial decision is correct, we make no apologies for pursuing the case at appeal.

Asylum cases are complex. Sometimes new evidence comes to light which changes a decision and in these cases we do withdraw. But we make every effort to ensure the right decision is made in the first instance. The public expects us to contest cases which are not genuine and it is not unreasonable to expect our presenting officers to win 70% of these cases. This provides an incentive for staff to ensure only high-quality, defendable decisions go before the courts – which is better for both the claimant and the taxpayer. No caseworker is incentivised to refuse asylum claims and all cases are considered on their individual merits.
Mark Harper
Immigration minister

• Solicitors at my firm spend every day at immigration detention centres representing asylum seekers in the most difficult circumstances. The asylum seekers are detained as soon as they claim asylum. Their case hurtles through the “fast-track” asylum system: interviewed, two days later a decision, two days to lodge an appeal, normally heard within four days. The claimant/appellant has no time to prepare or gather evidence. Her or his solicitor has to ask for permission to see the claimant and there are very limited facilities for such legal visits. All the chips are stacked against the asylum seeker. It is surprising and worrying that, despite all those disadvantages, 30% are granted asylum or win their asylum appeals. It is shocking that Home Office caseworkers, many of whom I have high regard for, are compelled to meet targets by bonus schemes and threats to their jobs.
David Enright
London

 

 

Zoe Williams says that if you place religious belief on the human rights agenda then you have to allow atheism equal weight (Comment, 15 January). It would be better to simply place “religious belief or non-belief” on the agenda. This is because the term “atheist” is freighted with much excess baggage as in the Northern Irish joke: “But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?” What if the asylum seeker in question had pleaded his agnosticism or secularism or humanism? I gave up my belief in pixies and Father Christmas some time ago but that does not make me a positive non-believer in them, possibly with an axe to grind. They are simply not part of my worldview and nor is belief in a deity. The US is by far the most religious western country and yet it maintains a strict separation of church and state where public education is concerned. I wish we did the same.

Some stridently pro-atheism books have appeared in recent years but this can lead to polarisation. The best book I have come across is The Book of Atheist Spirituality by the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville. It is a gentle, good-humoured book which points out that a number of eastern religions have spiritual beliefs without requiring the existence of deity or deities.

Zoe Williams laments that atheists do not organise, but nor do Santa deniers. I belonged to a humanitarian group set up by religious people because what the group did was needed and had nothing directly to do with religion. We can work together for the common good while maintaining diametrically opposed views, we don’t need to set up atheist alternatives to everything. This does not stop us from fighting for a totally secular education system (and for the abolition of private education) with whatever appropriate pressure groups.
Joseph Cocker
Leominster, Herefordshire

• Perhaps in order to get more attention from “people of faith”, we atheists need a version of atheism that is clearly a rational development and improvement over traditional faiths. The traditional God needs to be cut in half. On the one hand, there is the God of cosmic power, Einstein’s God, the underlying unity in the physical universe that determines all that goes on, omnipotent, eternal, omnipresent, but an It, so such that we can forgive it all the terrible things It does. On the other hand, there is the God of cosmic value, all that is of value associated with our human world and the world of sentient life more generally. Having cut the traditional God in two in this way, the problem then is to see how the two halves can be put together again. That is our fundamental problem, of thought and life: How can all that is of value associated with our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe?
Nicholas Maxwell
Emeritus reader, department of science and technology studies, University College London

• It narks me too that the voice of active unbelievers is treated as irrelevant. Recently, apropos of what I don’t remember, a woman I know looked me in the eye and said: “We are all God’s children.” I was dying to say, “I wouldn’t presume to tell you you’re a grown-up and you should take responsibility for yourself”, for fear I might seem rude. Therein lies the rub. Atheists don’t want that weird certainty over the big questions and answers. I really don’t give a toss what happened before the big bang. My own preoccupation is how on earth we are going to take care of our planet because, sure as anything, God is not a bit bothered about our potential destruction of it. Being an atheist is about taking responsibility for our own actions, putting our raison d’être inside not outside. We have every right to have the same courtesy extended to us as I extend to people of faith.
Judy Marsh
Nottingham

• Zoe Williams’ quote from Richard Dawkins, “there is no such thing as a Muslim baby”, is reminiscent of the words of Lalon Shah (1774-1890), a Bengali mystic, philosopher and songwriter who rejected all distinctions of caste and creed and wrote in a song well-known to many Bengali people: “Do you bear the sign of caste or creed when you come into this world or when you leave it?”
Val Harding
London

We note that the internal review conducted by the Liberal Democrats did not “clear” or “exonerate” Lord Rennard in any sense; indeed the statement cites “evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants” (Report, 17 January). We deeply regret the failure of Lord Rennard to acknowledge the distress caused to the women involved and his failure to issue an apology at the earliest opportunity following the publication of an internal party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. We believe that until he apologises and acknowledges the distress that his actions have caused, regardless of intent, he should never have had the Liberal Democrat whip restored and should be barred from any party body or involvement in any party activity that might facilitate a repeat of this situation. No apology; no whip. We note with deep regret the failure of senior members of the parliamentary party to denounce in the strongest possible terms Lord Rennard’s behaviour; the reports of which are described as “credible” by the investigating QC. It is deeply troubling that demands by the leadership for an apology were not clearly linked to sanctions that would include, at a minimum, withdrawal of the party whip. We do recognise that our party’s processes will not currently allow for action to be taken without a criminal-level burden of proof. We are committed to pursuing the vital work to secure improvements to protect our members, and anticipate the full support of our party leadership and the newly appointed pastoral care officer in doing so. We will not rest until our party is a safe space for all, free from sexual harassment and assault, without exception. With this in mind we as members will continue to put pressure on the whips office in the House of Lords with a view to reversing the inappropriate decision to restore Lord Rennard to the Liberal Democrat group.
Naomi Smith Social Liberal Forum, Linda Jack Liberal Left, Caron Lindsay Treasurer, Scottish party James Shaddock Rock The Boat founder, Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera Lib Dem English party diversity champion, Katherine Bavage, Leeds North West, member of Lib Dem Women, James King Co-finance officer, Iain Donaldson Chair, Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, Stephen Glenn Northern Ireland, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive, Elizabeth Jewkes City of Chester, member of Lib Dem Women, Timothy J Oliver Hull & Hessle, Angharad B Jones Rhondda Cynon Taff, RCT Lib Dems Membership Officer, Kurt Jewkes City of Chester, Craig O’Donnell Chair of London Liberal Youth, Hywel Morgan Calderdale, Chris Nelson Kettering & Wellingborough (2010 parliamentary candidate, Kettering), Liam Pennington Preston, Cllr Lloyd Harris Regional treasurer, East of England, Deputy leader Dacorum Council Group, Cllr Gareth Aubrey Cardiff and Vale, James King Southport, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer, Robin McGhee Bristol, Liberal Youth Co-Finance Officer, Cllr Mark Mills Oxford East, Allan Heron Paisley and Renfrewshire, Callum Leslie Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Edinburgh Liberal Youth Treasurer, Scottish conference committee, George Potter Guildford, Guildford Secretary, Linden Parker South Norfolk, Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer, Hannah Bettsworth Edinburgh South, Edinburgh Liberal Youth President, Scottish Women Lib Dems Executive Member, Jack Carr Aberdeenshire West, President, St Andrews University Liberal Democrats, David Evans Aberdeenshire  East, Andrew Page Inverclyde, Zoe O’Connell Cambridge, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Executive, Ruaraidh Dobson Glasgow North (2010 Candidate Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Euan Davidson President ,Aberdeen University Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conference Committee, Aberdeen Central, South and North Kincardine, Jonathan Wharrad Congleton, Chair, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats, Samuel Rees (East Dunbartonshire, former IR Cymru Officer) Hywel Owen Davies Preseli-Pembrokeshire, Jezz Palmer Winchester, Jennie Rigg, Chair, Calderdale Liberal Democrats, Euan Cameron Islington Borough, Siobhan Mathers Edinburgh North & Leith, Richard Symonds Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats, Michael Wilson Stirling Liberal Democrats, James Harrison Edinburgh North and Leith, Callum Morton, Sutton Liberal Democrats, Tommy Long Maidstone Lib Dems Data Officer, Liberal Reform Board Member, Amy Dalrymple Edinburgh North and Leith, Natalie Jester Bristol South, Maria Pretzler Swansea and Gower, Member of the Welsh Policy Committee, Sophie Bridger Chair of Glasgow North Lib Dems, Geoff Payne Hackney LP, Ben Lloyd Cardiff Central (resident in Belfast), Paul Pettinger Westminster Borough and Liberal Youth Vice President, Paul Halliday Newport Party Chair, Amanda Durley Dartford and Gravesham, Daniel Jones Northampton, former Chair Northamptonshire Liberal Youth, East Midlands executive member, Natasha Chapman Lincoln, Chair of Lincoln Liberal Youth, Social Liberal Forum Council Member, Alisdair Calder McGregor Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Constituency of Calder Valley (Calderdale Local Party), Robbie Simpson North Glasgow, Liberal Youth Scotland Treasurer, Cllr Robin Popley Chair of Loughborough Liberal Democrats and Shepshed TC, Cllr Henry Vann Bedford Borough, Secretary North Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats, Andrew Crofts Vice Chair of Liberal Youth Saint Albans, Naomi Smith, Co Chair, Social Liberal Forum, Daniel Gale Nottingham, Jonathan Brown Chichester, Member of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, Lib Dem Women & Social Liberal Forum, James Blanchard Huddersfield, GLD Exec, Chris Keating Streatham, Grace Goodlad, Bromley Borough, Norman Fraser Glasgow North, Organiser, Social Liberal Forum (Scotland), Morgan Griffith-David Cardiff and the Vale, Liberal Youth Policy Officer, Peter Brooks Islington, Jessica Rees Swansea, Sanjay Samani Angus North & Mearns, Dr Mohsin Khan Oxford East (Secretary, Oxford East, Policy Chair, South Central Region), Holly Matthies Manchester Gorton (Secretary LGBT+ Lib Dems), Andrew Hickey Manchester Gorton (Member of Social Liberal Forum, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Humanist & Secular Liberal Democrats), Duncan Stott Oxford East, Benjamin Krishna Cambridge, Lee Thacker Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Sebastian Bench General Secretary University of Nottingham Liberal Youth, Michael Carchrie Campbell Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats (Member of LGBT+, Social LIberal Forum, Lib Dem Lawyers Association, Liberal Youth), Neil Monnery Southend, Data Officer, Matthew Wilkes North Bristol Liberal Democrats, David Freeborn Oxford East, Adam Bernard Harrow West, Andrew Hinton Data Officer, Shrewsbury & Atcham, Joshua Dixon Chair of Hillingdon Liberal Democrats (Social Liberal Forum Membership Development Officer), Sandra Taylor Altrincham and Sale West, James Brough Calderdale Liberal Democrats, member LGBT+, Harry Matthews Sheffield, Rob Blackie Former London Assembly candidate, member of London Region Executive, Dulwich & West Norwood, Alex Wasyliw Party member, South Cambs, Daisy Benson local councillor and former parliamentary candidate, Reading, Richard Morgan-Ash Hackney, Ryan Cullen Lincoln, Peter Bancroft Westminster, Steven Haynes Liberal Youth Vice Chair, David Franklin, Leeds North East, University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats, Jon Neal former Parliamentary Candidate, Haltemprice & Howden, party trainer and mentor, Cllr Harry Hayfield Lib Dem representative on Llansantffraed Community Council, Ceredigion, WalesMag, Andrew A Kierig, Lib Dems in Brussels and Europe, ALDE Associate, Jennifer Warren Romsey and Southampton North, Duncan Borrowman Bromley Borough, former member federal executive, former national campaigns officer, former parliamentary candidate Old Bexley and Sidcup, former London assembly candidate, Penny Goodman Leeds North West, Secretary of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, Laura Gordon Tonbridge Liberal Youth

 

 

Independent:

 

The Chief Inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says it is a scandal that 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within five years, and claims this is because they have been inadequately prepared to deal with unruly pupils. I would be interested to know what research this is based on.

In fact, teachers leave the profession for a variety of reasons. Since 1992 one of the main reasons has been Ofsted: an organisation which places schools and teachers under intense pressure. Since 2010 the stress of constant inspection has been intensified by ever-shifting goalposts. What was deemed “good” a few years ago is no longer acceptable.

So how does Sir Michael intend to tackle the problem of teachers leaving? Why, he plans “a tough new inspection regime.”

John Cosgrove

Reading

 

I see that ashen-faced Ofsted supremo Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced yet another tough new inspection regime. He wants to find out whether the training of new teachers has been adequate. Given that 40 per cent are baling out within five years of qualifying I think we can guess the answer.

It is shocking, nonetheless, to hear him say that the dropout rate is to do with ill-discipline in the classroom. He is dead right, of course, but I thought it had long been decided that discipline was a dirty word and that if teachers could only be entertaining enough their pupils would, well, you know, just give up being naughty and, like, learn. Isn’t that what our student teachers are taught?

Martin Murray

London SW2

My daughter, who is a teacher in a secondary school in London, would be writing this herself, but she doesn’t have time. The reason that four out of 10 teachers quit the profession is because of the workload, not inadequate training. My daughter has a full working day, with a full working evening to follow, much of which is spent in unnecessary detailed planning, and marking. The weekend is the same.

When will the Government recognise that something is going wrong? When five, six, or seven out of 10 graduates leave?

Janette Davies   

Bath

 

The ‘blame’ for conceiving a girl

Having read your leading article (16 January) about sex-selective abortion, I am in full agreement that education is a very important part of any solution to the problem. One vital fact should not be overlooked: it is the male gamete that determines the gender of the child.

No woman ought to feel guilty because her child is a girl, but if she can be sure, through education, that only the father is biologically responsible for this fact, she can be released in her own mind from any sense of guilt. She can also feel more powerful to oppose abortion. This might influence any misled female relatives and gain support from them.

P Atyeo

Church Hanborough, Oxfordshire

 

If you are concerned about discrimination against girls and women, what would you do? Would you work to ensure that girls had equal access to education, training and jobs; equal pay; equal rights in marriage; equal rights in inheritance; and access to justice, support and redress if they are sexually abused or raped or beaten up?

Or would you investigate every women of Asian descent to find out whether they may ever have had an abortion because the foetus was female, and investigate all the doctors who provide abortions to find out if they have ever allowed Asian women to have such an abortion, and prosecute them all?

Which would be more effective in combating discrimination? The former, of course.

Why is it, then, that The  Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Secretary of State for Health, and now The Independent, surprisingly, in the name of opposition to gender discrimination, appear to be pursuing the latter course?

Their stance supports foetal rights. That is, it supports the right of a fetus to be born if it is female. This raises the question: can you support the right of even one foetus to be born, and still support women’s right to have an abortion?

Marge Berer

Editor, Reproductive Health Matters, London NW5

Fighting within our means

Mary Dejevsky (17 January)  says that the UK should live and fight within its means and that Cameron and Co are trying to do this, despite what former US Secretary of State Robert Gates has to say (as an aside from touting his new book over here).

If so, why are we building two huge aircraft carriers? They will cost over £7bn, and that does not include the cost of the aircraft to go on top of them. We could be living in a Britain of a century ago – big poverty at home, big warships at sea.

Vaughan Grylls

London WC1

 

In the context of Britain’s military funding crisis and American worries about whether we can pull our weight, I am reminded that in 1588 we saw off the Spanish armada with a fleet of 197 ships, only 34 of which belonged to the Royal Navy while 163 were privately owned.

Perhaps the current Queen Elizabeth should take a leaf out of her illustrious namesake’s book, and hand the lion’s share of the defence of her realm over to private enterprise. After all, entrepreneurs are now running everything else. Who wouldn’t like to see Sir Richard Branson launch his own aircraft carrier?

Paul Dunwell

Bedford

Where is the new Robert Mark?

Sir Robert Mark, on taking over as Commissioner of the Met over 40 years ago, famously said: “The test of a good police force is that it catches more criminals than it employs… the Met is currently failing that test.”  Mark confronted corruption head on. It appears, however, that after his retirement the cancer returned.

Is there another Robert Mark capable of the radical surgery necessary to delivering a reliable police force? No one doubts the honesty of many police officers of all ranks, but the exposure of police corruption over the past years, that has culminated in your publishing of parts of the in-depth internal enquiry named Operation Tiberius, is evidence that the scale of the problem goes far beyond “a few rotten apples”, and is bolstered by a supremely arrogant Police Federation.

Clearly, the direct impact an infiltrated criminal justice system has on the public makes institutional failures in this area the most alarming.

Serena Wylde

London SW15

 

The claim that secret networks of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs to corrupt the criminal justice system is an allegation that United Grand Lodge of England completely refutes (“Revealed: how gangs used the Freemasons to corrupt police”, 13 January).

The story refers to historic inquiries – Operation Tiberius and Project Riverside – which, we understand, closed years ago, and neither the police nor the Serious Organised Crime Agency has ever contacted us with regard to any inquiries concerning these operations. United Grand Lodge of England has not seen copies of the reports to which your report refers.

United Grand Lodge of England welcomes and strongly urges total transparency in every aspect of such investigations and we would eagerly assist the relevant authorities with any inquiries if we are approached or if we know of any way that we can voluntarily do so. Criminal activity is completely unacceptable within the organisation and totally alien to our values and any member found to be involved would instantly be removed.

Mike Baker

Director of Communications, The United Grand Lodge of England, London WC2

Catastrophe in Syria

The report of starvation in the Syrian refugee camp in Yarmouk (17 January) was harrowing. According to the piece, “Pro-Assad Palestinian factions blame the presence of 2,500 rebel fighters in the camp for the length of the siege.” Presumably, these “fighters” are Sunnis.

While the West beats itself up over this catastrophe, the wealthy Middle Eastern powers have remained silent. Shouldn’t they take some responsibility? Why have they not been invited to take part in the Geneva talks?

John Gordon

Twickenham, Middlesex

British art goes abroad

“Premium Bacon, but will anyone pay £30m to bring it home?” asks your headline (16 January), on the forthcoming sale of a Francis Bacon painting.

Must British art be only for the British? If Turner had not bequeathed the bulk of his work to the nation he would be better known and respected abroad than he is, and British art would have greater universal consequence than it does.

Peter Forster

London N4

Sinister precedent

Political scientists have a label for the overlap Owen Jones (16 January) suggests between socialism and Ukippery. They call it National Socialism.

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surre

 

 

Times:

 

It has been one year since the horsemeat scandal — and still there are daily revelations of consumer saftey violations

Sir, The first anniversary of the horsemeat scandal in the UK brings no cause for celebration. There are daily revelations of consumer safety violations and of the wanton abuse of live animals caught up in absurdly long supply chains that meander across Europe. The situation invites interference at every stage and features rotting carcases, widespread adulteration of animal products, and horse posturing as beef, pork and lamb, often destined for the most vulnerable.

Government action in response to these egregious abuses has been muted, its only ongoing step the Elliott review, whose narrowly drawn remit is to address “consumer confidence in the authenticity of all food products”.

The danger is overemphasis on effects rather than causes. Thus while a dedicated food crime unit is overdue to tackle individual cases of fraud, trust will not be restored until the wider issues are rigorously addressed: convoluted trans-European supply chains, the activities of the food processing companies, ongoing entrenchment of power with the big retailers, the continuing failure of regulators and supermarkets to detect repeated instances of food adulteration, and the lack of vigilance as to animal welfare in food production.

The Defra Secretary, Owen Paterson, claims that “the UK food industry already has robust procedures to ensure they deliver high-quality food to consumers”. This sits uneasily with our recent food crises, such as salmonella in eggs, BSE, foot and mouth disease, unlawful antibiotics in meat and honey, chemical contaminants in fish and horsemeat.

The situation reflects successive governments’ inability to keep pace with rapid changes in food production, ever greater industrialisation and globalisation of food production and the shift of power to the large vested interests.

The new austerity has depleted Defra (the body charged with controlling food supply chains) and has hit an already diminished Food Standards Agency and the ability of local authorities too to meet their food safety and hygiene responsibilities when pitched against the heavily resourced vested interests.

In 2013 I chaired an independent review commissioned by the RSPCA into Freedom Food, the leading farmed-animal welfare assurance scheme. The former Defra Secretary, Caroline Spelman, and Professor David Main served on my panel. Evidence came from every interest and shade of opinion. The recommendations of the McNair Report reinforce my view that a new openness and transparency by retailers to consumers is central to restoring public confidence.

Root-and-branch reform of our regulatory system is required to deliver traceability, accountability and intelligible labelling and proper standards of welfare for farmed animals. Authoritative research consistently links animal wellbeing to meat of a higher nutritional quality.

Recent polls by Populus show that more than three quarters of us would gain confidence in the food chain if farmed animal welfare standards improved.

A new political will is needed to build a robust, durable and properly funded food regulatory system committed to recovering consumer safety and demonstrating proper standards of animal welfare.

Duncan McNair

Chairman, McNair Inquiry and Report (rspca.org.uk)

 

 

Most serving and retired police officers will not be surprised by the fact that crime statistics are unreliable

Sir, The revelation that crime statistics are unreliable (Jan 16) will not surprise most serving and retired police officers. I suspect that only politicians and, possibly, a very few senior police officers have any faith in them at all.

Little has changed since I joined the service in 1966: robbery recorded as theft, burglary as criminal damage, theft as lost property, and many crimes not recorded at all.

I was always gently amused when officers, usually the CID, would persuade some hapless individual to “cough” to all sorts of offences (which he generally had not committed) in return for the promise of a word in the right ear, to ensure that the sentence for whatever offence he had committed would be less than he might otherwise expect. This sometimes resulted in more crimes apparently being detected in the sub-division than had actually occurred.

The Rev B. H. Stevens
Great Billing, Northants

 

 

We are told how to be slimmer and healthier to improve our lives — but what about thinking of others to make us happy

Sir, Your quick-fix list “How to be happier in 2014” (Jan 17) highlights a sickness in our society. Advised from every quarter how to be slimmer, fitter, healthier, we seem to have turned in on ourselves. What happened to service to and consideration for our fellow men? “Volunteer” appears at a humble 19th place on your list.

Anthea Richardson
London, SW19

 

Is it fair to fine parents £1,000 if they want to take their children out of school during term for a holiday?

Sir, The £1,000 fine on parents from Telford who took their children out of school for a short holiday in September is a disgrace (Thunderer, Jan 17).

It is reported that the holiday was booked before the recent change in the regulations and the father’s job meant he couldn’t take leave last summer. Not everyone can take their holiday when schools are closed. There will be thousands of families in the same position who are now faced with a choice between a holiday at peak times that they can’t afford or no holiday at all. The law on school attendance was never intended to be used in situations like this where just a few isolated days are involved.

As a former Education Welfare Team Leader, I think this is petty and unreasonable when so many more children are genuinely missing school to a greater extent.

Ben Whitney
Wolverhampton

Sir, As a retired teacher who has spent a lifetime of having to take holidays in the allotted school breaks, I would urge any parents thinking of taking their holidays in term time to ask themselves how they would feel if their children came home and said they would not be having any maths lessons for the next two weeks because the teacher had taken a holiday.

Multiply that by any number of other subjects and see what their reaction would be.

Roger Cleland
Lymm, Cheshire

 

4

The residents of James Turner Street have been filmed for almost two years — and they want the broadcasting to continue

Sir, Your letter about Benefits Street (Jan 17) does not represent the views of all the residents on James Turner Street. The team from Love Productions have been on James Turner Street for nearly two years and have daily contact with the contributors. Many of them are asking us to keep broadcasting the series because forthcoming episodes continue to show strong friendships and community spirit during difficult times. We are proud of the series, which provides a broad-ranging portrait of the street and includes positive stories from those who work, from those striving to get work and from residents who support one another through the challenges they face.

The series does not set out to reflect the experiences of every person who receives benefits but it has triggered a national debate about welfare at a time when welfare reforms are being proposed. In response to this we have commissioned a live studio debate which will air directly after the final episode to provide a forum in which these issues can be raised and discussed. All views across the political spectrum will be represented.

Nick Mirsky
Head of Documentaries, Channel 4

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Jan 15) is right to suggest Benefits Street poses a serious challenge to people of all political persuasions but not for the reasons he advances. You cannot divide society into those who work and those who receive benefits. Two thirds of poor children live in working families, so many hardworking parents are taxpayers and benefit recipients — for example, relying on tax credits to boost meagre earnings.

The simple truth is nearly everyone who receives benefits — whether they have lost their job, are in low pay, ill or disabled, retired or caring for a loved one — has worked, is working or will soon work. The challenge to politicians is to remember that those on benefits are people like us, not a group of people with values different from everyone else.

Alison Garnham
Child Poverty Action Group

 

 

Telegraph:

 

 

SIR – Richard Dorment lists the artistic delights available to those who live in the capital and the South East, but has little to offer those of us who live elsewhere, unless you happen to be in Bath or Glasgow.

Jesse Norman is right: regional arts deserve more funding.

Betty Fox
Aldridge, Staffordshire

 

SIR – In the report of the outcome of the investigation into claims that Lord Rennard, who oversees the Liberal Democrats’s policy, had repeatedly harassed female activists, it was stated that no disciplinary action would be taken as it would not be possible to prove the allegations “beyond reasonable doubt”.

This phrase is only appropriate where criminal prosecutions are being considered. In civil matters, such as disciplinary cases, the lower burden of proof is acceptable, ie “on the balance of probabilities”.

I must conclude that if the Liberal Democrat Party disciplinary rules only accept the higher standard of burden of proof, then there is something seriously amiss. Either the inquiry was inadequate, or the party’s standards are incorrect – or both.

David Newman
Keighley, West Yorkshire

Teacher training

SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, claims that two fifths of newly-qualified teachers leave the profession within five years.

He understates the problem: in recent years, up to 40 per cent of trainee teachers have either dropped out before qualifying or failed to find a post.

The School Direct programme should substantially reduce the waste of taxpayers’ money: aspiring teachers must convince a school to put them on the payroll. If they can’t deliver lessons and control pupils, the school is lumbered with a useless trainee.

Likewise, the Teach First programme insists that candidates deliver a practice lesson during the selection process – and 70 per cent are rejected. Their trainees take up a salaried post soon after acceptance.

Teacher training colleges, on the other hand, have a strong incentive to fill places on conventional teacher training programmes even if it means taking a chance on a trainee with questionable potential.

In any case, the value of teacher training has been called into question by three major American studies which found that children taught by uncertified teachers performed just as well as those taught by fully qualified teachers.

Ministers ought to be considering whether the time has come to abolish the Bachelor of Education and the Post Graduate Certificate in Education.

Professor Tom Burkard
Easton, Norfolk

Musical mice

SIR – I’m surprised Richard Taylor’s insurance company didn’t invoke the “vermin exclusion” clause. This is what was quoted to us when, after Christmas, our new piano was visited by a mouse with a weak bladder and sharp teeth. (Have you any idea how much there is inside a piano to interest a mouse?)

We got no payout, and over £300 of work was needed, but at least our children were exonerated; we had blamed them for the scattered nutshells.

Lesley Bright
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Rear-view running

SIR – James Bamber advocates “reverse running”. This intrigued me. Is it not dangerous? Where do you do it? Do you need mirrors on your arms? I have trouble running forwards. What happens when you come to a hill?

We need more information.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

Sharing NHS data

SIR – As every household in the country receives a letter from the NHS about the Government’s intention to join up patient records, these plans have been greeted with applause and some criticism. As three of the leading health research foundations in Britain, we are firmly in the applause camp. This NHS data will, for the first time, bring together information on GP care with other sources of data about patient care for the whole country. This will enable patients to be better informed about their care and will allow for more effective research and health service planning.

Our work informing policy and practice relies on rigorously anonymised data. This allows us to assess future demand on the health service, track the progress and success of particular initiatives, and provide national policy makers, local services and commissioners with evidence on how to spend NHS money to improve healthcare, leading to better services and outcomes for patients.

All patient records are subject to strict measures to protect individual identities. Their use is subject to stringent legal and ethical regulation.

An enormous asset of the NHS is data collection on all patients, cradle to grave. This data should be shared far more to improve care and health for us all.

Andy McKeon
Chief Executive, Nuffield Trust
Chris Ham
Chief Executive, The King’s Fund
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Chief Executive, The Health Foundation
London W1

Clocking out

SIR – Why is it only hospital doctors who appear to have been adversely affected by the implementation of the European Working Time Directive? Other professions do not seem to have been seriously affected by this legislation. Can someone explain why this should be?

R N Thomas
Norwich

Reusable diary

SIR Phillip Crossland’s finding of his unused 1988 diary was more timely than he perhaps realises.

If he keeps it for two more years, he will be able to use it in 2016, when the calendar will be identical.

The handkerchiefs he can use straight away.

Janet Brennan
Totnes, Devon

Practical tips for remembering your Pin

SIR – When memorising a Pin, I find it easier to remember the diagram created by joining up the numbers rather than trying to recall the actual figures in their right order. Drawing the “pattern” of a new Pin several times helps to fix it in my mind.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – I use my Army numbers, which, as any old soldiers will tell you, are never forgotten. I had an eight-digit number as a recruit and six figures on commissioning.

Anyone who goes to the trouble of researching these numbers should note that I use a combination of the two.

Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent

SIR – With the increasing need for various credit cards I find that a simple, practical way to remember a credit card’s Pin is to use four of the numbers on the card.

They are in front of you each time the card is used, and as long as you remember which ones they are (for example, first four or last four) it avoids having one pin for all cards.

When I was working in a bank in the Eighties, a customer complained bitterly after our banking hall was redecorated.

It transpired that he had written his pin on the wall next to the cash machine and it had been covered up with paint. His view was that his number was no use to anyone so long as he had the card.

Sid Brittin
Staines upon Thames, Surrey

 

SIR – Peter Oborne’s reference to Robert Boscawen’s loyalty begs the question of whether Boscawen believed that the leaders he followed shared his own principles, even if these same principles led them to different conclusions.

My perception of the Cameron-Osborne leadership is that their predominant principle is ensuring the survival of their respective positions. In that regard, even as a Conservative, I owe them no loyalty whatsover.

Michael Finley
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Peter Oborne correctly identifies disloyalty as a threat to the Conservatives’ long-term future. Moreover, an obsession with Europe – rated the least important subject to voters in a poll this week – could yet cost the party the next election.

Some Conservative MPs continue to operate under the misapprehension that Ukip’s support derives overwhelmingly from concern about the European Union, despite polling evidence showing the party has become a repository for the “stop the world, I want to get off” protest vote that in previous decades went to the Liberals.

General elections are primarily decided by relatively small numbers of non-political floating voters who support the party and leader they most trust to protect themselves and their families from the inevitable swings of the economic cycle. Falling unemployment, stable prices, rising incomes, targeted tax cuts and Thatcherite property-owning aspiration will deliver the Conservatives an overall majority in May 2015; not another debate about Europe.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – While I agree with Peter Oborne that, on balance over the past 200 years, the Conservative Party has been a force for good, it has no God-given right to demand loyalty from its backbenchers when they collectively, and fundamentally, disagree with direction the leadership is taking.

David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party has been a disaster. A significant proportion of what should be Conservative voters do not like Mr Cameron and do not trust him on most issues, particularly on the European Union.

Loyalty is earned through consistent values, trust and integrity, qualities I do not associate with the current Prime Minister.

Howard M Tolman
Epping, Essex

SIR – Peter Oborne has a strange conception of loyalty. What is at stake is loyalty to the principles of conservatism.

Surely defence of the realm – in particular its borders – must be high on the list of these principles. This paramount principle is obviously called into question by our membership of the European Union, which aims to remove all borders in order to create a United States of Europe.

Ron Forrest
Lower Milton, Somerset

 

 

Irish Times:

 

Sir, – The Skinnader clans in Monaghan commend The Irish Times for the recent coverage of our distant relative, Margaret Skinnider (Front page and Supplement, January 17th), whom we claim as our own in the absence of any accurate records to confirm lineage. Having been refused a pension, she is most likely “turning in her grave”, given the present CRC pension debacle; and even though she finally received a pension, it wasn’t as easy a process for her as it was for Paul Kiely.

This is not the type of society she fought for; “Give the money back”, I hear her say. – Yours, etc,

PAUL SKINNADER,

Burnside Road,

Ramelton, Co Donegal.

A chara, – I have been following the story of the CRC and the top-ups for its executives.

I am the mother of a severely disabled man who has been bed-bound for the past year partly because there is no money to purchase a new wheelchair for him. He is on an emergency list for a wheelchair, but we are told that due to lack of funds he will have to wait.

I feel sick I am so upset. – Is mise,

ANNE RYNNE,

Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.

Sir, – Here is an irony that anyone thinking of donating to the Central Remedial Clinic might care to consider: There was probably never a safer time to do so and be sure that the money would go where intended! – Yours, etc,

MJ ROSS-MacDONALD,

Birr, Offaly.

Sir, – Perhaps a spokesman for the Government would explain why it is the HSE that is conducting an investigation into the goings-on in the CRC.

Surely the CRC (and similar bodies) would not be necessary were the services it provides made available by the State/HSE in the first instance.

As a closely related party, the HSE should have no function in conducting an inquiry into the CRC: its antics to date in drip-feeding information at stages when it would gain maximum media exposure is not an ethical or effective way of going about an investigation into a very sensitive matter of huge concern to CRC patients and donors alike.

The investigation should be entrusted to an independent investigator/forensic accountant appointed by the Government, who would be charged with bringing it to a conclusion within very tight timelines.

This would at least contain as far as possible the damage to the charity sector which will only be exacerbated if the HSE is allowed carry on as it has to date – with what must be in its eyes a most welcome deflection from its own shortcomings in the provision of a decent health service. – Yours, etc,

JOE SINGLETON,

St Peter’s Place,

Arklow, Co Wicklow.

A chara, – There is little reference to the elephant in the room when it comes to all the current depressing CRC revelations. That elephant in the room is the Fianna Fáil party. As stated in The Irish Times (Health, November 29th), a number of CRC board members were associated with Bertie Ahern and indeed Paul Kiely was a key member of Ahern’s “Drumcondra Mafia”. The ongoing revelations concerning the CRC should be a prompt reminder to all: we are still paying for what Fianna Fáil’s “cute hoor” politics did and is still doing to this country. Lest we forget and all that. – Is mise,

EF FANNING,

Whitehall Road,

Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – While I wouldn’t touch Fianna Fáil with a 10-foot pole (or polling card), Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s suggestion that the appalling revelations of the Central Remedial Clinic’s mismanagement of both charitable and public funds are somehow “indicative of a time in Irish politics” that he hoped was long gone” (Home News, January 17th) strikes me as an utter nonsense, seeing that former CEO Paul Kiely resigned in July of last year, and his successor Brian Conlan only last month. The entire travesty beggars belief, if not satire, and Jonathan Swift must be spinning in his grave. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY GLAVIN

Iveragh Road, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Lady Valerie Goulding must be spinning in her grave. – Yours, etc,

TERRY MOYLAN,

Bluebell Road, Dublin 12.

Sir, – There is no evidence of an independent review and approval process at the Central Remedial Clinic in the determination of the outrageous scale of remuneration, termination and pension arrangements with its former chief executive, or the source of cash to pay these, contrary to basic standards of acceptable institutional governance.

American public charities and private foundations must provide, through Form 990, detailed information about their governance, income and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service in order to maintain tax-exempt status. This information is published on the website of each filing charity and is relied on by some donors and some members of the public as the primary, or sole source, of credible information about a particular charity. Should Irish charities be obliged follow a similar procedure with the Revenue Commissioners and publish tax returns?

The Irish not-for-profit sector claims annual revenues of the order of €5.7 billion, of which 65 per cent is spent on salaries, according to remarks made by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in July 2012. Only an estimated €500 million of this revenue was provided through public donations and philanthropy at that time and the bulk of this was from two private foundations, one of which has ceased operations. The State has an overwhelming responsibility to demand high standards of governance from those obtaining taxpayers’ money, as well as donations from the public.

The capacity of the charity sector to redeem public trust, reputation and public voluntary donations will be hugely influenced by their credibility and integrity, expressed through the calibre, competence and independence of their leadership and the standard of transparency and accountability to which they subscribe. – Yours, etc,

MYLES DUFFY,

Bellevue Avenue,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

 

 

Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy, aged 79 and seriously ill, has been jailed for refusing to promise she will not again protest against the use of Shannon Airport by foreign soldiers in transit to and from a war zone. The history of successive Irish governments in facilitating these transits teaches us that her protest in the past was ineffective, in practical if not in moral terms, and that any likely protest she may make in the future is unlikely to succeed in actively impeding this activity. It cannot be imagined, therefore, she is or will be in a position to cause material danger to anyone.

Nevertheless, she hopes, if her health permits, she may yet be in a position to make her heartfelt moral protest again. In asking her to undertake not to do so, the court in effect asked her to stifle her personal moral outrage, to deny herself the expression of her examined and considered conscience. The State will attempt to justify her imprisonment on the cold, technical grounds that she refused to give an undertaking required by the court. I am appalled that the court required this undertaking in the first place, and sickened that the ordinary human discretion which justice requires of the law was not subsequently exercised in her case. As the decision to imprison Ms D’Arcy was taken by organs of the State, it is not possible to view her incarceration as other than a political act.

All of which said, it is also the case that Ms D’Arcy is one of a growing number of senior citizens being imprisoned for offences technical in nature (such as failing to purchase a TV licence) which nevertheless can hardly be considered, by a reasonable person, serious enough to warrant the severity of imprisonment.

The Prison Service has the discretion to release Ms D’Arcy and many other senior citizens on a number of grounds, human compassion being one, common sense another.

The service should exercise the available power of discretion immediately, but I think it unlikely it will feel confident in doing so without a directive from the Minister for Justice. Alan Shatter, a lawyer himself and a servant of our Republic, should be keenly aware of the humane distinction between law and justice. I look forward to an immediate practical demonstration that he does, in fact, understand and value this vital distinction. – Yours, etc,

THEO DORGAN,

Moyclare Park, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Keep Margaretta D’Arcy in jail and her indomitable spirit before the public to remind us of the price demanded from all those awkward witnesses for social justice and human rights. – Yours, etc,

LELIA DOOLAN,

Kilcolgan, Co Galway.

A chara,   – As Irish artists we are deeply disturbed and outraged at the jailing of artist Margaretta D’Arcy for protesting against the use of Shannon Airport by US warplanes. This grossly inappropriate and shameful treatment of a 79-year-old woman (who has cancer) is made all the more shocking when we consider the State has refused to jail any of the politicians or bankers responsible for the near collapse of the State, yet seeks to jail an elderly artist for standing up for integrity and human rights.

We declare ourselves in complete solidarity with her actions, applaud her bravery in a time of tremendous cowardice, and call for her immediate release. – Yours, etc,

DYLAN TIGHE,

DONAL O’KELLY, OLWEN

FOUÉRÉ, MICHAEL

HARDING, JIMMY FAY &

GER RYAN (On behalf of

240 Irish artists),

C/o Mespil Apartments,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy is not in jail for her political beliefs. She is in jail because she broke the law. The particular law she broke has nothing to do with her political beliefs. Granted, she is an elderly woman and I wouldn’t expect or indeed condone her incarceration for very long. However, I must put this question to your outraged correspondents. If she weren’t put in jail for breaking the law, law passed by the democratic will of the Irish people, would this not be a gross injustice to the rest of us? – Yours, etc,

CONAN KENNEDY,

Gore Street,

Killala, Co Mayo.

Sir, – In 2003, I attended anti-war demonstrations in Dublin, Cork and Shannon alongside senior Labour Party figures. Up to 100,000 people marched through Dublin, and tens of thousands mobilised elsewhere across the island. Apart from opposing the planned US invasion of Iraq, we were united in rejecting the use of Shannon Airport by the US war machine. What a difference a decade makes! Several of those senior Labour Party figures are now in government and presiding over the continued misuse of Shannon by the US military. Their volte-face on Irish, ahem, “neutrality” was made plain on Wednesday with the jailing of 79-year-old writer and anti-war activist Margaretta D’Arcy, who is in poor health.

There has been much talk about “economic treason” and outrage against bankers, property developers and politicians who laid our economy low. How many were sent to prison? Yet anti-war activists are jailed for standing by principles once shared by those now in the leadership of the Labour Party. They should hang their heads in shame! Ms D’Arcy is a brave and principled lady. She should be released immediately with a formal apology from the Minister for Justice. – Yours, etc,

FINTAN LANE,

Lennox Place,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy’s gravest crime (Home News, January 16th) is her refusal to swear a false oath, while crossing her fingers behind her back. People such as Ms D’Arcy belong in prison, as did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. Like these great moral leaders, her uncompromising refusal to trim her sails to the prevailing winds of expediency, and her insistence on acting in accordance with the principles of justice and honesty, have marked her out as a troublemaker who has to be defeated and crushed.

Simply put, Ms D’Arcy had to be incarcerated; how else could the two-faced dishonesty that is our State’s position on neutrality be upheld? – Yours, etc,

CORMAC Mc MAHON,

Tweed Street, Highett,

Victoria,

Australia.

Sir, – Tom O’Gorman is a tremendous loss to the intellectual fabric of our country (Home News, January 14th). He was a highly educated, religious, peaceful and very good-humoured man who did crucial work for, among others, the Iona Institute and the Pro-Life Campaign, behind the scenes and never sought the limelight.

I first encountered Tom O’Gorman when I entered UCD as a student; Tom had graduated by that stage, but he returned often for pro-life events in the university and I was privileged to call him an acquaintance. Ireland is a poorer place since he was killed. May others be inspired, by his good work, to take up his baton. – Yours, etc,

JOHN B REID,

Knapton Road,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

 

 

Sir, – “Swing around into compliance”. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL CULLEN,

Albert Park,

Sandycove, Co Dublin.

A chara, – “When you were in government.” – Is mise,

CAITRIONA McCLEAN,

Weston Avenue,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Best practice. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK O’BYRNE,

Shandon Crescent,

Phibsborough, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Am I the only one . . . hoping this correspondence ends soon? – Yours, etc,

CHRISTIE COLHOUN,

Cennick Grove,

Gracehill,

Ballymena.

Sir, – An Aussie import, now an epidemic: “No worries”. Somehow it doesn’t sound right without the Aussie accent! – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL ROONEY,

Hillcrest Court,

Knocknacarra,

Galway.

 

Irish Independent:

* What is it about governments and their highly paid advisers that any new semi-state project, big or small, has first to be submitted to a consultancy firm (at enormous expense) to test its feasibility (a PR term now beaten to death)?

Also in this section

Letters: Only secularism truly allows religious freedom

Letters: Accept the bank guarantee tab, Mr Trichet

So how do we pay these new bills, Mr Noonan?

It baffles me that these backroom geniuses who are regularly headhunted for their skills are so afraid of their shadow, or is it their jobs, that they pass the buck to a consultancy who apparently can charge any fee they like without question and let the taxpayer pay for it.

This latest fee of €50m (and mounting by the hour) ‘to advise’ on a new water scheme is beyond comprehension and an enigma. The original Enigma machine will have to be taken out of the mothballs to decipher all the arithmetical progressions and blacked-out secrets that are emerging.

One wonders where this fairly recent phenomenon began whereby consultancies set themselves up as miracle workers who charge millions of euro for their expertise and get away with it.

Up until now, questions have never been asked, or answers given, about how they arrive at such costs; all very secret and kept under the radar.

Are they some infallible lot sent by God from Mount Sinai to redeem broken-down economies? What is it about the information given that makes it so ‘commercially sensitive’ and shrouded in mystery.

These geniuses weren’t around in Ken Whitaker’s day, yet denied of their priceless knowledge and expertise, he, together with a small band of good men and patriotic workers, got this country out of the doldrums in the 1960s and turned it into a thriving economy in less than a decade. I’m sure there were numerous problems along the way, but I can recall little about large consultancy fees and automatic bonuses.

With the ousting of the old regime and the arrival of the new broom, the public were promised wasteful spending and bad management would be brought to a hurried end. On Enda’s watch, all this would cease.

Today, however, those at newly formed Irish Water, hardly out of the womb, are being guaranteed their bonuses. How about that for arrogance?

The old ways are alive and well and thriving like a newborn calf, while ministers smile glibly and pray, God make me pure, but not just yet.

All we hear from them is blather and gibberish. One could go on and on. The old maxim still holds good: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

CHRISTY WYNNE

BOYLE

GOULDING BETRAYED

* How the wonderful Lady Valerie Goulding, founder of the Central Remedial Clinic in 1951, has been betrayed by all that is taking place.

It is an absolute disgrace that her life’s work which she put into the CRC, seeking nothing for herself except to serve, has become a byword for greed by those who followed on.

You have disgraced yourselves again, Ireland.

ROBERT SULLIVAN

BANTRY, CO CORK

* There are two parts to the dismay people feel as yet more revelations of greed are revealed.

The first part is why so many people, at all levels of the public sector, are so economical with information about how much their remuneration is costing the taxpayer. It’s hard to know whether the public sector is the victim of venal people or whether it has been contaminated by standards of behaviour by some politicians over the last 30 years.

But the second and most important part is the nauseating hypocrisy of those at the very top of the public sector now wringing their hands about how ‘shocked’ they are. When this Government took office, it would seem it did not carry out an audit of every single layer of government to include every single contract across the public sector, and that there is still no central HR database for the public sector where every contract is collated and reviewed to ensure it meets the required standard.

So when we get hot under the collar about the allowances and pensions paid to former charity heads, hospital administrators or consultants, and wonder how this can happen five years into a depression, we should remember the high rates of pay and expenses of our political leaders who have oversight responsibility. Their renumeration is amongst the highest in Europe.

Why doesn’t the media focus on the tax-free unverified expenses and allowances of all the sanctimonious TDs and senators who now think they can sit in judgment of others?

DESMOND FITZGERALD

CANARY WHARF, LONDON

* A recent survey of 40 charities in Ireland showed us that most of the CEOs are paid over €100,000 a year.

May I ask, what in God’s name do they do to justify earning €2,000 a week? This is a disgrace and hard for the generous people of this country to stomach. We really do tolerate too much of this dreadful nonsense. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

BRIAN MC DEVITT

GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL

* Charity begins at home . . . now it’s going to stay there!

K NOLAN

CALDRAGH, CARRICK-ON-SHANNON, CO LEITRIM

* Now we know it wasn’t out of shame or principle that the CRC board resigned en masse last December. Their secretive and repulsive actions have come to light. However, the Perseverance, Action and Competence of the PAC has done a great service in exposing many ugly skeletons in the CRC boardroom cupboard and clearly more to come!

LARRY SHERIN

FOXROCK, DUBLIN 18

CAT CONUNDRUM

* Andrew Lloyd Webber was inspired by them, but I am distracted by a plague of cats. Felines are fine if they keep their distance, but they have become predators of the small birds that nest in my back garden.

Their gruesome handiwork may be natural, as they are hunters by inclination, but it is deeply distressing to behold. Besides, the birds are entitled to sanctuary.

I was hoping one of your readers might have some advice on how to keep these malevolent moggies at bay. I may yet resort to a drone unless a more humane solution is suggested.

C O BRIEN

GREYSTONES CO WICKLOW

H2 WOE IS DROP IN OCEAN

* As the revelations regarding Irish Water unfolds by the day, and staggering amounts of money are drained away, it appears that the Government should have left control of water services with local authorities.

Unlike Wellington Quay (aptly named) and the North Quay in Drogheda, Minister Fergus O’Dowd had little difficulty wading into the issue and stated that “Freedom of Information will apply retrospectively” to Irish Water.

Brilliant! So, O’Dowd hopes that the issue will become stagnant over time, and that our interest will simply evaporate.

But I suppose that this PR disaster is just another drop in the ocean for the Government.

Puns relating to water have run their course and I realise that readers’ patience is not infinite. So I’ll get to the point, The Narrow Water Bridge connecting Down to the said minister’s constituency, Louth, is in limbo because of a shortfall of €18m. This money could not be found, but €50m could be siphoned away merely for consultants.

ALAN CASSIDY

TULLYALLEN, DROGHEDA

TEXT MYOPIA

* Could the myopia of British and American foreign policy be caused by reading 200 million texts a day?

DR JOHN DOHERTY

CNOC AN STOLLAIRE, GAOTH DOBHAIR, CO DONEGAL

Irish Independent

 

 

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