Still still clearing out

20 January 2014 Still still clearing out

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to deliver the Tood Huinter Browns to some remote location ans Leslie has gotten them lost.

Clearing out attic for insulation

Scrabbletoday Mary winsand gets over400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

 

Obituary:

 

Sir Christopher Chataway , who has died aged 82, was the athlete who paced Roger Bannister to the first sub-four minute mile, finishing second himself. He later served in the governments of Harold Macmillan, Lord Home and Edward Heath; was a pioneer of commercial broadcasting; and served as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Although “built all wrong for running” and fond of a post-race cigar, Chataway was a world-class competitor from the half-mile to the half-marathon, with a fearsome final kick. He broke the world 5,000 metres record; competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics; and in 1955 broke the four-minute barrier himself, finishing second to Laszlo Tabori at White City in 3 min 59.8 sec.

A “really fast mile” had been promised when the Amateur Athletics Association met Oxford University at Iffley Road on the blustery afternoon of May 6 1954 as Bannister, a medical student, set out to beat his British record of 4 mins 3.6 sec.

With Chris Brasher, Chataway set a cracking pace, recording 4 mins 7.2 sec. Bannister excelled with laps of 57.5 sec, 60.7, 62.3 and a final 58.9. As he collapsed through the tape, three timekeepers certified the result, then Norris McWhirter took the loud-hailer. Cheers drowned him out as he gave the time as “Three…”. Bannister had shattered Gunder Haegg’s world record by two seconds with a run of 3 mins 59.4.

For Chataway, the bridge from athletics to politics was television. The reader of ITN’s first bulletin on October 11 1955, he was one of a cluster of contemporaries who became household names: Robin Day (with whom he shared ITN’s debut), Ludovic Kennedy and Geoffrey Johnson Smith. Setting up commercial radio as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, he would spend 12 years with the medium as chairman of LBC.

He was in the vanguard of social reform, co-sponsoring Humphry Berkeley’s Bill to legalise homosexuality and telling for the Ayes in the 1964 vote to end capital punishment. As leader of the Inner London Education Committee, he upset grassroots Tories by letting comprehensive plans for seven boroughs go ahead, before securing a reprieve from the Labour government for 44 grammar schools.

Pro-European and very much a Heath man, Chataway left Parliament in 1974 , moving effortlessly into the boardroom before his appointment by John Major to head the CAA. He remained an athlete at heart, querying Harold Wilson’s creation of a Sports Council, opposing Mrs Thatcher’s efforts to force a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics and chairing the Commonwealth Games Council and UK Athletics. Taking up running again after stopping smoking, he turned in a 5 mins 48 sec mile at the age of 64.

With three friends, Chataway was prime mover of World Refugee Year, which raised £9 million in Britain alone and brought him the 1960 Nansen Medal. He was an early chairman of Oxfam, and went on to chair Action Aid and the Bletchley Park Trust.

Christopher John Chataway was born in Chelsea on January 31 1931, spending his childhood in Sudan, where his father was in the political service. At Sherborne he excelled at rugby, boxing and gymnastics and did not win a race until he was 16. He caught up fast, finishing second in the Public Schools’ championships despite losing a shoe, and in 1950, running for the Army, clipping 2.4 seconds off the Inter-Service mile record to 4 mins 15.6 sec.

Reading PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, Chataway won a cross-country Blue in his first term. Early in 1952 he cut Bannister’s Oxford mile record to 4 mins 10.2 sec; that July he knocked five seconds off the British all-comers’ two-mile record.

In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he tripped going for the lead in the 5,000 metres, recovering to finish fifth, 12 seconds behind Emil Zatopek. In his last year at Oxford, in the Varsity match, he cut his best for the mile to 4 mins 8.4 sec, then the third fastest by a Briton. In May 1953 Bannister set his record of 4 mins 3.6 sec, paced by Chataway.

Chataway joined Guinness as a transport executive, but continued to run. Gordon Pirie and Australia’s John Landy had talked of breaking four minutes, but the barrier stood until that day at Iffley Road. At White City in July, two months after he had helped Bannister make athletics history, Chataway and his fellow Briton Fred Green broke Gunder Haegg’s world three-mile record, with a time of 13 mins 32.2 sec.

Then, on October 13, again at White City, Chataway captured the world 5,000 metres record, beating Russia’s Vladimir Kuts in 13 mins 51.6 sec. Although Kuts regained his record 10 days later, the Soviet authorities made Chataway a Master of Sport. The drama of this clash — millions had followed the race on television to see the Briton win in the last few strides — made him the BBC’s first Sporting Personality of the Year, ahead of Bannister. After running his only sub-four minute mile, on July 30 1955 Chataway broke his own world three-mile record by nine seconds.

Before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Chataway set a personal best for the 880 yards of 1 min 53.3 sec. He should have taken on Kuts and Zatopek in London, but the Russians withdrew after their team-mate Nina Ponomareva was caught allegedly shoplifting hats in Selfridges. Melbourne was a disappointment, Chataway fading in the final stages of the 5,000 metres, and he retired from the track.

Chataway joined ITN two months before ITV went live . He excelled, but wanted to do more reporting — and in 1956 he moved to the BBC as an interviewer with Panorama.

In 1958 he was elected to London County Council, and in 1959, at 28, won Lewisham North from Labour by 4,613 votes. He played himself in slowly at Westminster, supporting the Rev David Sheppard’s refusal to play cricket against South Africa and probing an alleged “colour bar” at a dance hall in Catford. He wrote on athletics for The Sunday Telegraph and continued to broadcast.

Early in 1961 Richard Wood, Minister of Power, made Chataway his PPS, and the following year Macmillan brought him into his government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Education. His priority was doubling the number of trainee teachers.

Chataway held Lewisham North in 1964 by just 343 votes. In opposition he remained an education spokesman until the incoming Edward Heath moved him to overseas development.

Defeated in the Labour landslide of 1966, he rejoined the BBC, presenting Horizon. But he had to limit his broadcasting when, the following April, he became leader of Ilea’s education committee; his personal assistant was Jeffrey Archer. Seeking another seat, Chataway was defeated for the Reigate nomination in 1968 by Geoffrey Howe . But early in 1969 he was selected for Chichester, which he won in a May by-election, his majority of 26,087 making it the Tories’ safest seat. That October he rejoined the front bench as environment spokesman.

After winning the June 1970 election, Heath made Chataway, not yet 40, Minister for Posts and Telecommunications . He came under immediate pressure from Mary Whitehouse to “clean up” programmes, and from colleagues to stop jamming pirate stations such as Radio Caroline and to legalise commercial radio.

His 1971 White Paper, and subsequent Sound Broadcasting Bill, created an Independent Broadcasting Authority and up to 60 local commercial radio stations, with the BBC limited to its existing 20. He resisted pressure for breakfast television and a fourth channel.

In April 1972 Heath promoted him to the new sub-Cabinet post of Minister for Industrial Development. Chataway spent much time brokering the survival of lame ducks: the collapsed Upper Clyde Shipyards under new ownership, Cammell Laird, Rootes Motors (under Chrysler), BSA and International Computers.

On deciding to leave Parliament in late 1974, Chataway went into merchant banking with Orion, where he was a managing director until 1988, heading mergers and acquisitions. He joined the boards of BET, Fisons, Allied Investments and Macquarie Securities, and later chaired British Telecommunications Systems, United Medical Enterprises (his share options made him £360,000 on privatisation), Kitcat & Allen and Isola 2000.

When bidding opened for a breakfast television franchise in 1980, Chataway chaired the unsuccessful AM Television, backed by Pearson. From 1981 to 1993 he was chairman of LBC, the London news radio station set up under his legislation.

In 1991 Chataway took the chair at the CAA. His greatest challenge was bringing on stream the computerised NERC air traffic control centre near Southampton. He defended BAA’s monopoly control of London’s three main airports, but rebuked the government for allowing British Airways to take over Dan-Air, and accused BA and Virgin of price-fixing, while trying to resolve their public feud over “dirty tricks”.

He was knighted in 1995, and retired the following year .

Christopher Chataway married first, in 1959 (dissolved 1975), Anna Lett, with whom he had two sons and a daughter . He married secondly, in 1976, Carola Walker, with whom he had two sons.

Sir Christopher Chataway, born January 31 1931, died January 19 2014

 

Guardian:

 

 

To be sure banking still needs fixing, but why must that automatically mean grovelling at the altar of competition (Miliband vows bank reform not retribution, 18 January)? Labour faced down the EU competition/state-aid police once before when Gordon Brown, in extremis, forced them to allow the Lloyds/HBOS deal. The same crisis is far from over, so Miliband must be bold enough to do so again, and enable the creation of the bank we actually need – a national, stripped-down, utility, Mittelstand bank, carved from the bones of RBS (which we already own), regionally organised, with cast-iron regulation, pay linked to middling civil service grades, and draconian and easily enforceable penalties for dodgy dealings.

It’s competition that brought the whole thing down: traders competing to do the biggest deal and net the biggest bonus, high-street banks competing to sell us the most worthless products at the biggest profit margins. Simply admitting new entrants to such a dysfunctional “market” on the basis of a mandated minimum market share risks moving from too-big-to-fail to too-small-to-succeed without addressing the problems with the underlying culture of the industry. Just as with buses, trains, utilities and healthcare, we don’t need competition, we just need one bank that does it right.
Root Cartwright
Radlett, Hertfordshire

• The banks have recapitalised using money provided through quantitative easing (QE), which they are sitting on and not lending to small businesses. They also have any savings up to £85,000 guaranteed by the government. We badly need investment in small businesses to provide local jobs for our children and grandchildren. Why not take the QE money from the banks and set up regional banks, funded from this money and operated for the public via our post offices? Any savings in these new banks would be 100% guaranteed by the government, while it would remove the easing and savings guarantee from banks that insist on paying divisive salaries and bonuses.

This should lead to a significant shift of funds into the new banks, while private banks would have to insure or build more capital to offer the same security. No doubt private banks would offer welcome higher rates, but at a higher risk, to keep their savers. The above would offer a social solution for banking in the interests of the general public, while at the same time allowing the private banks to operate in the market (under regulation) but without taxpayer support. Surely this is how capitalism is supposed to work.
David Walker
Dudley, West Midlands

• Labour’s contrition over their past relationship with the banks (Editorial, 16 January) should be limited to an admission of naivety. If, like many customers, they trusted the banks then that trust was, and continues to be, blatantly abused. Going into the next election as a consumer champion would be no bad thing, with the Conservatives locked into market dogma. However, the strategy for fixing broken markets should be consistently applied: financial transparency, separation of retail operations, and that no business should be too big to fail. Forcing the sale of bank branches would not change the fundamental problems of the financial sector. As with TSB, it would just cause inconvenience for customers.
Richard Gilyead
Saffron Walden, Essex

• Polly Toynbee states (Comment, 17 January) that no one expects unwarranted bank bonus payments to be clawed back under new legislation. Throughout the PPI scandal I have yet to read of any commission paid back by those who benefited from mis-selling. And who, in the end, pays the fines imposed on banks, power firms etc? We customers do when they’re included in the costs of services we need.
Gren Gaskell
Malvern, Worcestershire

Thank you, Michael Rosen (A levy on grief, 15 January) for describing so poignantly how the absence of a dear one is felt in the empty room. Space is rationed and proscribed, always by those who have plenty. Enough space to store belongings, develop a hobby, study in peace, have someone to stay – could members of the current cabinet imagine life without this?
Hazel Imbert
Worthing, West Sussex

• Can I in Tottenham have some of the Guardian magic which restored the newsagent to Dartford station (Letters, 15 January)? Our newsagent has burnt down with a week’s worth of our vouchers inside. None of the other newsagents here delivers or will take vouchers. That only leaves Sainsbury’s Local, the opening of which I opposed because of the detriment to small businesses.
Carol Sykes
London

• Jon Savage says “without financial power or overt political affiliations, young people are too often ignored” (Comment, 18 January). At what age does this end? I’m 58 and I still feel I’m being ignored.
Petar Bavelja
Sheffield

• As any true fan of Peppa Pig will tell you (Letters, 18 January), it is Peppa’s little brother George who is the budding palaeontologist. And “dine-saw” is just about all he ever says.
Stephen J Hackett
Salisbury, Wiltshire

• There may not be dandelions growing in Tynemouth (Letters, 15 January) but there are a little further south in Durham. I also picked two blackberries yesterday, a bit sharp, but edible.
Alan Pearson
Durham

• To quote François Villon: “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan.” More to the point, where are the snowdrops this year?
E Shannon
Westleton, Suffolk

 

The ghost of Rwanda hangs over the Central African Republic (CAR), and again the UN warns of the danger of genocide (Report, 16 January). However, it is significant that EU ambassadors unanimously proposed last week in Brussels that urgent consideration be given to the proposal made by Cathy Ashton that there should be a rapid deployment of a battalion-size force to back up the African and French peacekeepers in their efforts to restore security in the CAR. According to them, there is a “pressing need” to restore security in order to “avoid the CAR sliding towards complete state failure … and large-scale massacres”.

The force would have the status of a common security and defence policy, modelled on Eufor RD Congo in 2006, which used EU member state soldiers under the command of a senior EU member state military official. This proposal would be likely to prepare the way for a better-equipped and effective UN force able to back up the African Union mission.

While the majority of EU member states, including the UK, do not have a direct interest in the CAR, or in taking action, the alternative is unthinkable. Fire support, intelligence, medical support and transport, including helicopters, would make a big difference. I very much hope that on Monday at the EU foreign affairs council in Brussels, William Hague will respond positively before the terrible predictions of genocide are realised.
Glenys Kinnock
House of Lords

Chris Grayling’s announcement that a 320-bed “secure college” is be built adjacent to the existing young offender institution at Glen Parva in Leicestershire is a serious step backwards, all the more saddening given the progress made in recent years to dramatically bring down the number of children and young people in custody from over 3,000 to fewer than 1,300 (Report, 17 January). This will not be the rehabilitative, educational “pathfinder” it is said to be. It is for children the “Titan” equivalent of the 2,000-bed prison the government plans for adults near Wrexham. Economies of scale are fine for the production of nails; they don’t work for seriously troubled adolescents. What are needed are relatively expensive, small, local, intimate units closely linked to the community agencies with whom troubled children and their families dealt prior to their custody and with whom they will have to relate on release. Large, misleadingly cheap, geographically distant institutions will, despite the best efforts of their teaching staff, fit the description the minister wants to put on the tin: colleges – but of crime. The likely outcome will be the displacement and closure of the local authority secure units. It is dispiriting to find the Youth Justice Board, now firmly back within the Ministry of Justice, endorsing the plan.
Rod Morgan
Former chairman, Youth Justice Board

• It is outrageous that at a time of swingeing cuts to other services for children and young people, the government proposes spending millions on a new 320-bed child prison. This flies in the face of evidence which indicates that where children have to be detained, small local units with a social care and therapeutic regime are most effective. While education is an important component in helping children who are in the criminal justice system, it is counterproductive to suggest that locking up even more of them is the way to ensure rehabilitation. The average time spent in custody is 11 weeks, and children who end up in custody have a myriad of needs which are unmet before and after their sentences. Providing education in a “fortified school” for a short period and, for many children, at a great distance from their home and community, will not deal with the impoverished lives, mental health and learning difficulties and lack of opportunities that most of them will return to. It will neither protect the public nor help children to stay out of trouble.
Pam Hibbert
Chair of Trustees, National Association for Youth Justice

 

 

 

Independent:

To offer or conduct psychotherapy or counselling with the express aim of altering sexual orientation is profoundly unethical (“The woman who thinks Tom Daley’s gay because his Dad died”, 17 January).

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and all other leading therapy organisations have spoken out against this practice, including the Association of Christian Counsellors.

While UKCP agrees with the good intentions behind Geraint Davies’s Bill, we don’t necessarily need more legislation to ban gay conversion therapy.

The voluntary professional bodies have already issued guidance to their registrants. We would welcome the statutory regulators (the Health and Care Professions Council which covers arts therapists and psychologists, and the General Medical Council which covers doctors) rising to the challenge and following suit.

People who are struggling with conflicting feelings about relationships and sexual attractions need support, whatever their sexuality.

They need confidence that the therapist whom they see abides by a robust ethical code.

UKCP is calling for clear professional guidelines and high-quality public information, and is working with professional partners and the Department of Health to deliver both.

David Pink

Chief Executive,

UK Council for Psychotherapy,

London EC1

Dr Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust was reported as saying: “On what grounds should a married man with children be forbidden the opportunity to reduce unwanted same-sex attraction in order to hold his family together?”

Surely it’s unrealistic to see feelings in terms of “unwanted” or “wanted”? Our feelings are part of the raw material that makes us. They offer information in regard to ourselves and the world, and as such signal a potential.

I support Geraint Davies’s Bill. Any counsellor or psychotherapist who attempted to eradicate “unwanted” feelings  would be failing to recognise that human processes are not the same as medical ones.

Sexuality is more  complex and interesting than that.

Chris Payne

Registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy  and the UK Council for Psychotherapy,

London NW1

 

The media and  teenage suicide

Emily Dugan’s article “The tragedy of Tallulah: how a secret online identity took over a girl’s life” (18 January) seemed to jump on the bandwagon of accounting for teenage suicide by headlining the use of Internet sites by teenagers.

She is perhaps unaware that one person committing suicide often leads to others they know – or who hear of it – being more likely to kill themselves.

As the parent of a 16-year-old who knew Tallulah, I was horrified to open the paper and find the glamorous photograph – first used, irresponsibly, in another paper the day after Tallulah’s death.

Journalists should think very hard about how such issues are explored in order to prevent other young people looking at this image and thinking they, too, could receive such attention after their deaths and have their photograph in the national news. All forms of media can be dangerous to vulnerable people, not just the Internet.

Loraine Hancock

London W9

 

Lost girls: Think of a mother’s dilemma

There has been a great deal of outrage expressed about the “lost girls” who may have been aborted, and the need to stop people learning the gender of their babies until after the abortion time limit has passed. However, there has been little concern expressed for the woman who is in the position of being pregnant with a daughter not wanted by the father, as well as possibly by the mother herself and her extended family.

How will it help these mothers to force them either to seek an illegal abortion at an unregulated clinic or to carry to term an unwanted child?

And what kind of life will these unwanted daughters live, with fathers who wish they had never been born, and mothers who are ashamed of having produced them?

We allow women to terminate pregnancies of up to 24 weeks on the basis that, until it is viable, a foetus is a part of the mother’s body and not a separate human being. If that is the case, a mother’s reasons for requesting a termination before 24 weeks should not matter.

Of course, doctors do not want to be a part of forcing an abortion on someone. But isn’t it patronising to assume that a woman cannot make a rational decision to terminate a baby, sad though the prospect is, rather than bring a daughter into a family where she isn’t welcome?

It is terrible that women are being coerced into abortions by husbands and families. But the root of the problem is entrenched sexism, which needs to be tackled with education and community outreach, not by restricting mothers’ options.

Ellen Purton

Twickenham

Why would it be “draconian”, as Dr Sarah Wollaston argues (“Britain to act on illegal gender selection”, 16 January), to withhold gender information totally from expectant parents? Why is it necessary for any expectant parent to know the gender of their unborn child?

Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. In fact, it could be regarded as unnatural. Countless generations of humans have managed perfectly well without this foreknowledge. The element of surprise through not knowing can add to the pleasure of the birth event.

Refusal by the medical profession to reveal the gender of the foetus would certainly put paid to much of the selection.

Iain Smith

Rugby, Warwickshire

 

I have just listened to the news with its litany of rape, sexual assault and generally unacceptable behaviour by a wide variety of men and boys. I also felt horror at The Independent’s revelation of the rate of abortion of female foetuses in certain areas of the world and the fear that it is even happening in this country.

It all adds up to make me feel extremely depressed at the state of our society. Misogyny seems to be everywhere and the casual “use” of women so widespread that many men don’t even recognise it.

Where have we gone wrong that our men are so dysfunctional and have such a distorted idea of the way they should relate to women? Do they not realise that women are people – as they themselves are – and not simply commodities?

Angela Peyton

Beyton. Suffolk

 

British spirit is a thing of the past

I read that the Royal Mail suspended deliveries to two villages near Swansea after a postman complained that paths were slippery and dangerous because of rain.

However, a resident is reported to have said that the condition of the paths was no worse than in other winters; and a neighbour said it was absolutely fine with a pair of wellies.

There was a time when the Royal Mail was proud that, whatever the weather, the mail was delivered.

During the freezing winter of 1947, a train delivering coal to a town on the east coast became frozen solid. But the railway staff knew that the town was almost out of coal, and despite the perishing cold and incredible discomfort, they managed to start the train, and the vital fuel arrived in time.

Where is the British spirit and pride these days in overcoming all difficulties to finish the job?

Perhaps we should be grateful that a different generation was around during the Second World War and that the health and safety brigade had not yet appeared on the scene.

Colin Bower

Sherwood, Nottingham

I understood that the Government privatised the Royal Mail in the best interests of both the business and its customers.

Recently, a notice has been pinned to our local postbox stating that to achieve business efficiencies the collection time on Saturdays is being brought forward by half an hour.

For many years we have received our mail between 9.30am and 11am. We have noticed since New Year that deliveries have gone back to between 1pm and 2.30pm.

Today, our post included a letter from the local sorting office saying that in the interests of efficiencies, rounds had been reorganised and the delivery “window” extended. As a customer, am I missing something?

Roy Baker

Marston Green,  West Midlands

 

Humane approach to lethal injection

Between reading your accounts on 17 and 18 January of the clumsy execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, I had to have an elderly and sick cat put down.

The process was entirely peaceful. A first injection sent the animal gently to sleep, and a second injection finished him off, with no distress whatsoever being caused. Have the authorities in Ohio and other American states that use lethal injection missed something?

D W Budworth

London W

 

 

 

Times:

 

Sir, George Osborne’s suggestion that the time is ripe for an above-inflation increase in the national minimum wage is economically prudent and politically astute (Jan 17). Opponents may claim that employment prospects of the lowest paid will be adversely affected but the independent Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER) report published in February 2012 found no evidence of significant adverse impacts on pre-recession employment arising from the minimum wage.

The return of strong economic growth and the rapidly improving jobs market supports the timing of the Chancellor’s statement which is one of the most significant Conservative policy reversals of David Cameron’s leadership. The lingering public perception that the party is hostile to the poor is now firmly contradicted by the huge increase in personal allowances focused exclusively on basic rate taxpayers, the freeze in fuel duty and council tax and the belated admission that the party was wrong to oppose the introduction of the minimum wage in the 1990s.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey

Sir, You assert that people on the minimum wage earn just over £12,000 a year. This is incorrect. The majority of those on this hourly rate are working part-time; many are students. The minimum wage is an ineffective anti-poverty instrument which does little for working families. A significant rise in the rate will, however, close off entry-level jobs for many young people. We already have a million under-25s looking for work — Mr Osborne’s generosity with other people’s money will do little for them.

Professor J. R. Shackleton

University of Buckingham

Sir, You say “there is no better welfare policy than better pay”. Surely the best answer is to align the proposed national minimum wage with the income tax personal allowance. For a 37-hour week at £7 per hour this would amount to a £13,468 annual tax threshold so that no one on the minimum wage pays income tax.

Derek Edwards

Brentwood Essex

Sir, A rise in the minimum wage will in the first instance attract even more migrants from within the EU. As for policing it, this will prove in the longer run to be a mug’s game. Better to acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Curtail immigration and the market will automatically raise unskilled wages.

There will, of course, be a transfer of purchasing power from the majority “haves” to the minority “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for all who espouse One Nation cohesiveness.

Only a “penny wise and pound foolish” society would import cheap labour with the aim of driving unskilled pay below a living wage. Not being able to control migrants from within the EU is tantamount to importing cheap labour.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

 

 

A retired Colonel contacts the Times to offer up his own experience of titular misunderstanding

Sir, Colonel Dewar (letter, Jan 18) should be so lucky! I have been addressed in correspondence by the abbreviated title Colon.David Cooper, Colonel (retd) Sidmouth, Devon

 

As the “disease of kings” becomes more prevalant, Times readers write in to share anecdotes and home remedies

Sir, It is said that Judge Jeffries was suffering from gout when he made the long journey from London to Dorchester in a poorly sprung coach over roads that were even more potholed than they are today (“UK gout epidemic is no laughing matter”, Jan 16). The upshot was the “Hanging Assizes”.Robin HughesEast Ogwell, Devon

Sir, I suffered five bouts of gout during the course of 2012. Through 2013 I daily took a couple of teaspoons of Montmorency cherry juice (available at a fairly large price from your pharmacist). I had no recurrence of gout in 2013. Can there really be a connection?Shirley ThurstonHampton Hill, Middx

 

Reward systems with a high-bonus element lead to employees performing in a manner that is penny wise but pound foolish

Sir, The growth of the bonus culture in banking and in financial service industries has spread worldwide and is proving difficult to control and even harder to reverse (report, Jan 15).

Reward systems with a high bonus element are pernicious: they distort performance towards narrow and short-term objectives, they exhibit upward creep under competitive pressures, and they are perceived as unfair by those not eligible. They are popular only to those who receive them and they are sustained by fallacious arguments about attracting good people but they are most attractive to the avaricious.

I worked for many years in industrial operations management where our research indicated that bonus payments, or payment by results, works best for simple manual work. Here it is easy to relate earnings to tons of material moved or packed, and where proportional reward can be paid in relation to effort expended. In more complex roles, the direct relationship between effort and output is hard to define, and bonuses linked to specific business targets leads to distorted or selfish behaviour which diverges from the wider and longer term aims of the organisation.

The only way out of the present contentious and pernicious bonus culture in the banks, which has now run way out of control, is to bring it to an end. Governments and shareholders should work together to encourage distaste for these bad reward systems.

Arthur Dicken

Prestbury, Cheshire

 

It is wrong for banks to pay out huge bonuses when a fifth of renters are borrowing simply to meet housing costs

Sir, News of RBS proposals to pay some staff bonuses twice the size of their banking salary contrasts sharply with Shelter’s survey finding that a fifth of those in rented accommodation are borrowing simply to meet housing costs. No government should tolerate such active polarisation of UK society: any acquiescence of politicians to payment of these ridiculously inflated sums is socially irresponsible and unacceptable.

Robert Gower

Egleton, Rutland

 

The head of Ofsted has a habit of using anecdotes and personal opinion as if they were of equal value to inspection evidence

Sir, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, says trainee teachers have been sent into schools without proper guidance on professional behaviour or dress (Jan 16).

Sir Michael had no experience as an inspector before his appointment but this is no excuse for his tendency to use anecdotes and personal opinion as if they were of equal value to inspection evidence when he is speaking as the Chief Inspector.

He also suggested that weaknesses in training led to teachers leaving the profession early because they found pupils’ bad behaviour too challenging. As we are in the second year of a three-year programme of inspections of initial teacher training providers, in which inspectors are charged with checking on trainees’ preparation to meet the professional standards, including managing pupils’ behaviour, we might expect Sir Michael to refer to the inspection reports that led him to this conclusion. There are, after all, a large number of inspection reports from last year available on the Ofsted web-site. I can find nothing in these reports that would lead an impartial reader to think that there were weaknesses in the training provided by schools and their Higher Education Institution partners to help trainees manage pupils’ behaviour. Perhaps the contradiction between the inspection evidence and Sir Michael’s anecdotal evidence is the reason he is willing to ignore his own inspectors’ conclusions.

Norman Blackett

(former HMI) Malvern, Worcs

Sir, Michael Wilshaw is shocked that 40 per cent of new teachers leave within five years. Many others are leaving and this is probably due to exhaustion. Heads believe that a 9am to 3pm working day with eight lessons, a short morning break, a short lunch and no afternoon break is acceptable.

Finland, a top performer internationally, has the same working day but with five lessons, each with a 15-minute break, and a lunch hour.

The breaks are used to track pupils and to mark work produced in class. Finnish teachers have job satisfaction, have no inspections, and pupils have 1 hour of homework per week. Our school system needs a rethink.

Ken Rotheram

Maryport, Cumbria

 

 

Telegraph:

 

SIR – Congratulations to Alan Titchmarsh for his article about manners (Life, January 12).

The demise of good manners is a sad reflection of poor parental care in today’s society.

When an elderly gentleman, passing me in the park the other day, raised his hat and said “Good morning, madam,” I was so delighted I had to run after him and tell him he had made my day.

Jo Swindells
Hereford

SIR – Why have the manners and morals of our country changed so much for the worse?

Of course we must progress, but not to the detriment of a civilised society. Sadly, I feel we are all on a slippery slope to losing these things completely.

Anna Nicholas
Tutshill, Gloucestershire

SIR – Children need to be taught table manners and not to eat in front of the television. Saying “please” and “thank you” costs nothing but means so much.

I am always delighted when a gentleman opens a door for me or offers me a seat. I hope these things do not disappear.

Mo Sparrow
Morchard Bishop, Devon

SIR – As teachers, we led many school outings together. We never had any discipline problems. Boys always wore uniform on journeys and when we stayed in hotels on skiing trips in the Cairngorms they changed into their grey suits for the evening meal.

Table manners were most important. Once, in Holland, a small boy was seen watching our boys having a meal. When we asked why he was there, he said that he was the manager’s son and had been sent to observe the English schoolboys’ manners.

Michael and Christine Johnson
Birmingham

 

SIR – The wind energy industry’s claim that “the UK is the windiest country in Europe” is misleading (“Britons pay more for wind farms”, January 12).

Scotland is the windiest country in Europe. Most of onshore England has modest wind speeds, and too many English turbine developments underperform as a result. Seeing static turbines in fine landscapes or close to residential areas fuels public opposition to them.

Permitting wind energy developments where wind speeds are low should cease forthwith. Ed Davey should stop telling us not to worry because we only pay for the electricity they produce. All this does is demonstrate that subsidies are too high.

Professor Michael Jefferson
Melchbourne, Bedfordshire

SIR – Support paid for onshore wind in Britain is lower than in many other countries, such as Poland, Brazil, Italy and Japan.

To establish a secure and affordable electricity supply, we need government support to develop renewables. The amount required is falling as costs fall. Onshore wind is currently one of the cheapest large-scale renewable technologies, and we cut support rates by 10 per cent in April 2013, in line with falling costs. Support will be cut more in the future.

We are also looking to move to “competitive allocation” sooner than previously announced. This means onshore wind will have to compete on cost in order to be considered for a contract.

Wind is a vital contributor to our energy supply and met 6.6 per cent of our electricity needs last year.

Edward Davey
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
London SW1

SIR – As the warmists blame the storms and floods on climate change, perhaps we should look back a few years to when chaos theory was popular, and it was suggested that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world.

If this is the case, one wonders what the turbulence from the thousands of turbines will do to the world’s weather.

Brian Clarke
Wivenhoe, Essex

Sexualised society

SIR – I was struck by the contrast between the First World War letters and the article by Hannah Betts on misogyny in Stella last week (January 12).

Those tender love letters were written under harrowing conditions by young men and women reared in a God-fearing culture in which most tried to live by the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. I wonder how many young people today even know what these are.

Young men now are being raised on hardcore pornography. Alas, not even the most energetic placard-waving feminist can overcome this.

Barbara Fisher
North Marston, Buckinghamshire

SIR – For several decades, young women have been subjected to propaganda in magazines and films, which seeks to persuade them that, unless they have casual sex with every male who shows interest, there is something wrong with them.

When I was a youth, a kiss and a cuddle was the limit of a young man’s expectation. Teenage pregnancies were unheard of.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Policing the world

SIR – We would save huge sums of money and many lives if we refrained from joining in every foreign war (report, January 12).

We should still maintain a powerful enough Army to defend ourselves or overseas interests such as the Falklands. Other countries can take their turn to act as the world’s police force.

Michael Faunce-Brown
South Ferring, West Sussex

Angel of Woolwich

SIR – Why did the New Year Honours List fail to recognise Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the gallant woman who got off a bus in order to help the fusilier Lee Rigby? She found herself confronting a blood-stained murderer holding a meat cleaver, and held him in conversation for 10 minutes until the police arrived.

George Crosses have been awarded for less.

Godfrey Dann
East Grinstead, East Sussex

Bankers’ bonuses

SIR – I would be prepared to accept that bankers in the banks bailed out by the state should be given bonuses.

However, they should only be paid when the bank is returned to the private sector and at a profit to the state. This would certainly exercise their minds.

John Spiller
Long Ashton, Somerset

Affair and square

SIR – It is surprising that France’s first lady should be hospitalised due to shock over her partner’s alleged affair, when she herself allegedly continued an affair with Monsieur Hollande for some four years while he was with Ségolène Royale.

Narguesse Stevens
Newton Abbott, Devon

 

 

SIR – The attempt by 95 Conservative MPs to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in his negotiations for treaty change was bold, but doomed to fail (“95 Tory MPs call for EU law veto”, report January 12).

Unfortunately, José Manuel Barroso and his colleagues seem intent on cocking a snook at David Cameron’s reasonable aspirations to renegotiate our EU membership and refuse to take them seriously.

As things stand, the only way is Ukip, for the European elections at least. A large number of Ukip votes could hope to stop the juggernaut in its tracks, and lead to a sensible negotiation being pursued.

Alec Ellis
Liverpool

SIR – If the EU is confirmed by a referendum to be a permanent feature of our lives, I would recommend that we go the whole hog and rid ourselves of the 650 MPs and 780 peers who are now functionless, and spend their time bickering at Prime Minister’s Questions and clocking in and out in order to have lunch.

They have failed to maintain our independence or keep us safe from foreign powers.

Peter Griffith
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – Anyone standing for Parliament should be expected to study the 1972 European Communities Act and the Hansard debates relating to it, and then be tested on it.

Our MPs would then realise that calling for a “pick and mix” EU is not an option. Their predecessors voted for Parliament, and all future British governments, to be subservient to the foreign power then known as the Common Market, now the European Union, with all its laws having priority over all British law. The only way of vetoing EU laws would be to repeal the 1972 Act, thus taking Britain out of the EU. Talking about vetoing EU laws is like whistling in the wind.

Derek Bennett
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Perhaps the 95 Tory rebels were exercising loyalty to the people who should matter most to them – their constituents.

A prime minister can be replaced. Most of the 95 MPs’ constituents could not be dispatched so speedily.

Chris Keats
Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – The late Professor Kenneth Minogue once said that “an ideological movement is a collection of people, many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world”.

Isn’t this an excellent summary of the ideologically driven European federalists, whose project is in free-fall, and yet still they dogmatically pursue their ends while insisting that the crisis is over?

James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex

SIR – Would the 95 Conservative MPs who want the power to veto EU laws be happy at the prospect of other countries being able to veto laws that were clearly in Britain’s interests?

Alan Pavelin
Chislehurst, Kent

SIR – Surely, if all the MEPs who disagree with their monthly decamping to Strasbourg stayed in Brussels and got on with their paperwork for four days, it would embarrass the EU into taking action? Perhaps not.

William T Nuttall
Rossendale, Lancashire

SIR – If a man couldn’t decide which of two cities, 300 miles apart, to live in, and his solution was to live for a month in each and go to and fro 12 times a year at great expense, he would rightly be regarded as mad.

Yet this is what is costing the EU £93 million a year.

David Cook
Cottingham, East Yorkshire

SIR – The Tories said: “There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty” while Labour’s slogan was: “In Europe, not run by Europe”.

Both very similar, and equally untrue.

Robert Edwards
Hornchurch, Essex

 

Irish Times:

 

Sir, – Your Editorial (January 13th) highlighted the continuing crisis in relation to ongoing overcrowding in hospitals, particularly in our emergency departments (ED).

The sad reality is that seven years after being described as a national emergency by the then Minister for Health, there is still no end in sight to this problem.

The fundamental problem with overcrowding stems from a reduction in bed numbers at a time of increasing population. The IMO believes that the problems in EDs will not be solved until this Government addresses the issue of integrated health care and bed capacity. It is the lack of vision and resources that cause the problems in EDs all over the country and it must be recognised that emergency departments represent just one of the many pressure points in the system.

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) theoretically looks at the total picture of a hospital but the reality is that so much more needs to be done – where are the long stay units for elderly and high dependency patients? Where are the so-called community services? Where are the beds in the hospital when at any given time wards are closed for budgetary reasons further reducing capacity?

It is not acceptable to blame the crisis on the season of the year or the ageing of the population – the sad but true fact is that our health services are starved of resources and cannot deliver the quality of care required for patients. – Yours, etc,

Dr MATTHEW SADLIER,

President,

Irish Medical Organisation,

Fitzwilliam Place,

 

Sir, – Last October I filled out the annual statistical census in my school. One of the easiest sections was a straight Yes/No answer to the question, “Does your school operate a book rental scheme?”. With justifiable pride I clicked “Yes”. With an average donation per child of €60,with parents most generously sending in all their children’s used books in order to create a stockpile and with a committee of staff and parents giving up to two weeks of their summer holidays, we ensured that every child in our school was part of our new book rental scheme. Click “Yes” for a job well done!

What would have happened had I clicked “No”? What if the parents had not donated €20,000 as well as their used books to provide the initial outlay? What if the staff had not given their time along with the PA volunteers to put the scheme into effect? Simple. The school would have received €150 per capita over the next three years (approximately €50,000) to introduce a book rental scheme.

Minister of Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn has decided to reward the no-clicking schools with a €15 million grant (Home News, January 9th). Damned if you do, damned lucky if you don’t. – Yours, etc,

PETER GUNNING,

Principal, Scartleigh NS,

Saleen,

Midleton, Cork.

 

Sir, – Reporting on the Government-backed launch of an online version of Ireland’s Memorial Records, Stephen Collins (Home News, January 11th) repeated the official statistic that “49,000 men from the island of Ireland” died in the 1914-18 war. This figure is simply untrue.

In 1979, I began a thorough examination of the Memorial Records, which had originally been compiled by Eva Bernard 60 years before. I found that some 11,007 of the 49,400 dead had not been born in Ireland, and that 7,245 were without a listed birthplace. However, no simple conclusions may be drawn from these raw figures. Willie Redmond, for example, who emphatically was Irish, was born in Liverpool, and Lord Kitchener, who emphatically wasn’t, was born in Co Kerry. Similarly, neither the English John Kipling, son of the poet, killed in action with the Irish Guards in 1915, nor the Irish Tom Kettle, killed in action with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1916, are accorded a birthplace. What muddies the waters considerably is that the Memorial Records also include men from Britain who either served in Irish regiments, or enlisted in British service battalions with the parenthetic (Irish) attached. No authentic Irish connection was required for such enlistment.

Other listings defy analysis, such as those of Demosthenes Guilgaud, died of a heart attack in Canada, in 1919, William Jennings Bryan, died in Colorado Springs 1916, and Richard Smythe, drowned in Jaffa Bay 1919.

Overall, I found that some 31,000 of the dead were born in Ireland, and I concluded that some 35,000 could properly be considered Irish. Other analyses, notably Pat Casey’s, generally – if not in detail – concur with my far lower estimate than the “official” figures. I published my findings in a long article in The Irish Times on November 11th, 1980. Yet, more than 33 years later, the utterly inaccurate figure of circa 49,000 is still being cited. Perhaps one reason for this is that anyone doing a search in The Irish Times online archives for material on the Great War will not find my analysis: page 10 for November 11th, 1980, which contained that article is – quite uniquely in my very extensive experience of the archives – missing in its entirety. How very curious.

The official recycling of statistical falsehood as historical fact comes hard upon the widespread allegation last month that Major Willie Redmond asked not to be buried in a British military cemetery in 1917, in protest at the execution of the 1916 leaders. This utter falsehood, with its calumnious implication that he did not wish to be buried with the men he so gallantly led into battle, has no documentary basis whatever – yet it has now found its way into Wikipedia, with RTÉ News being cited as a reputable source. Innocent students interested in the Irish involvement in the 1914-18 war are now being systematically misled by publicly-funded institutions into believing complete fabrications.

This follows the deplorably one-sided commemorations of the 1913 industrial disputes, tendentiously and inaccurately named “The Lockout”. These differing examples suggest that an officially-supported fiction masquerading as history remains, as always, the Irish narrative of choice. In which case, God help us all come 2016. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN MYERS,

Ballymore Eustace,

Co Kildare.

Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, the page referred to above did not go online. This is being rectified.

 

 

Sir, – Is it not time the European Union considered abolishing the European Parliament?

I doubt if even 1 per cent of the Irish electorate can point to any achievement of the European Parliament. The democratic element in the union is already provided by the Council of Ministers where democratically elected government representatives have much stronger credentials for representing the local electorate. It is time we stopped pretending the EU is a state. It is a multi-lateral international organisation that plays a very important role in citizens’ lives, but is not a national state.

The European Parliament is an expensive charade which does little for the good governance of Ireland, but has been established to provide hefty salaries to “has been” national politicians. It is time to abolish it. It makes the Irish Senate actually look good. – Yours, etc,

JOE CONROY,

Eglington Road,

Brampton,

Toronto,

 

Sir, – You have published three interesting figures recently.

The first was that our agricultural exports were worth almost €10 billion last year, a great achievement by that industry.

The second was that the interest paid on our national debt was €8.1 billion ( almost all paid to holders outside the Irish jurisdiction and therefore a total loss to Ireland Inc) which largely wiped out the benefits of the above.

The third is that we Irish have approximately €90 billion worth of savings, most of which is held outside Ireland. The Post Office, our banks and prize bonds pay a derisory rate of interest which does not match inflation, why doesn’t the State offer to pay us the 3.53 per cent it is paying international lenders and thereby ensure we fund our own deficits and the interest paid remains in our economy? – Yours, etc,

DONALD PRATT,

Avoca Handweavers,

Kilmacanogue,

 

Sir, – When my late father David Faiers married Peggy Tansey (my mother) in Haddington Road Roman Catholic church on August 29th, 1953, there were no guests and just two witnesses.

The marriage ceremony was conducted at a side altar and there was no Mass, candles, nor flowers. There was however a dispensation from Pope Pius XII. My father had to sign an agreement to have all children of the marriage raised in the Roman Catholic faith. This was, he contended throughout his life over many a glass of Bushmills whiskey, a form of ethnic cleansing .

By profession he was a marvellous sports journalist, but according to his neighbours he was the “black Prod” on the avenue. I was baptised a Roman Catholic and I practise very hard at being a good Christian. I suspect that inside me there is a “raging Protestant” trying to emerge. – Yours, etc,

HELGA FAIERS,

Kildavin,

Bunclody,

 

Sir, – If, in his answer to Prof Sheila Greene (January 15th), Prof Kevin Mitchell (January 16th) had stuck with “mental states arise from brain states” and that such brain states incorporate all the complexity of past experiences, I would be happy to declare him the winner in this exchange.

However, he exposes a narr owness in neuroscience by say ing that past experiences are “written in changes to brain circuits”. Since there is much about matter and consciousness and how they interact that we do not understand, such an assumption is just an unproven theory. So, for the time being, we might be wise to stick with the view of that other Trinity College academic, George Berkeley, who said: “What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.” – Yours, etc,

TONY CAREY,

Glencree Road,

Enniskerry,

Sir, – I gladly noted Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s decision to drop its plans for an €800,000 refurbishment of its chamber (Home News, January 11th).

The plan, which was to allow extra seating for the increased number of councillors to be elected next May, was expensive and unnecessary. People want to see money being spent on their local services, not on plush new surroundings for the council.

A focus on providing social housing, more community grants and improved library and educational services is where this vital funding is needed. This extravagant refurbishment was never essential. If we learn anything from the past, surely it is to first think of the most cost-effective way to deliver a solution. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE KINGSTON,

Merrion Grove,

Booterstown,

 

Sir, – Emmet Malone’s excellent article on the links between Ireland and Everton FC (Sport, January 15th) omits mention of perhaps the most remarkable connection, the signing in 1939 by Sligo Rovers of the legendary ex-Everton forward Dixie Dean.

Dean’s 60 goals for Everton in 1927-28 stands as the record for most scored in a season in the top tier of English football. His prolific strike rate continued with Rovers and helped the club reach the FAI Cup final, and secure runner-up spot in the league in 1939. – Yours, etc,

DAVID ROUSE,

Royal Canal Park,

Ratoath Road, Dublin 15.

 

 

 

Sir, – Eamonn’s McCann’s article (Opinion, January 16th) lacked one important thing – namely, facts, to support his thesis.  At no point does McCann provide any evidence that the biblical quotes he provides, or any part of the Bible, had any impact on Ariel Sharon’s political ideology.  Rather than facts, McCann merely writes his personal suppositions of Sharon’s belief system.  Moreover, he makes false historical claims.

For instance, he stated that Sharon wanted to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Israel yet the only mass cleansing under Sharon’s leadership is when he forcibly removed the Jewish community of Gaza.  Taken in sum, it appears that McCann’s goal is not to educate the readership of The Irish Times but to teach them to demonise religion. – Yours, etc,

JASON LEVINSON,

Beechnut Street,

Houston,

Texas, US.

Sir, – I’m scratching my head at Ena Keye’s evaluation (January 16th) and wondering has s/he perhaps confused this Sabra and Shatila iconic “. . . warrior hero raised up to defend Israel and deliver peace to the land . . .” with a certain biological detergent of similar appellation and coincidental white-washing reputation? – Yours, etc,

DAMIEN FLINTER,

Castleview Estate,

Headford,

Co Galway.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann’s latest piece of anti-Israeli agitprop (“Paisley and Sharon driven by ideology of biblical destiny”, Opinion, January 16th) claims that both Ian Paisley and Ariel Sharon based their ideologies “on books of the Bible”. Unfortunately, because Sharon was not religious McCann has to pepper his references to him with phrases like “. . . will have been mindful of” and “. . . will have believed”.

The simple fact is that Ariel Sharon supported, for example, settlement building not as a result of some biblical command but rather as a means to make Israel secure. Ariel Sharon had many faults, but religiosity was not one of them. – Yours, etc,

KARL MARTIN,

Bayside Walk,

Bayside, Dublin 13.

 

 

Sir, – Cutting through the verbiage, the justifications and the slippery self-righteousness of those who constitute themselves as cheery advocates of the bonus culture, it might be timely to resurrect what the economist JK Galbraith wrote in his 2004 book, The Economics of Innocent Fraud, when he commented, “Performance-related pay is called salary. Bonuses should be beneath the dignity of professionals, as bribes should be beneath the dignity of commerce”. – Yours, etc,

CIARAN COSGROVE,

Hillcourt Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is time for the annual State ceremony to mark the founding of Dáil Éireann on January 21st, 1919 to be given more emphasis and publicity. I would suggest an Army presence on Dawson Street, Dublin, to mark the turning of the sovereign seal ceremony in the Mansion House.

Traffic could be diverted from the top of Dawson Street for about an hour and the ceremony relayed outside on speakers. Schools could be given a brief talk on this most important event, including a copy of the chief justice’s annual reading. – Yours, etc,

DA HURLEY,

Frenchpark,

Co Roscommon.

 

Sir, – Martyn Turner’s cartoon “The 7 wages of MANagement” (Opinion, January 17th) is slightly misleading as the sack of money for the pension should be at least three times the size of the others.– Yours, etc,

MICHAEL STOREY,

Glencar, Co Sligo.

 

Sir, – “Roadmap”, especially when applied to anything maritime, such as the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (European Commission, some 10 years ago). – Yours, etc,

UNA O’DWYER,

Nutley Park,

Dublin 4.

 

 

 

Irish Independent:

 

* Another week, another government scandal — be it Irish Water revealed to be splurging tens of millions of euro on consultants without the minister in charge seemingly being aware, or more details leaking out about how leeches on the board of the CRC considered themselves more worthy recipients of charitable donations than the people the CRC was established to help.

Also in this section

Cheap drink comes at a cost

Letters: Disagreeing with Donal on suicide

Letters: Just ask ‘how are you?’

Something is seriously wrong with the country’s governance. Politicians, civil servants and people in semi-state bodies are too commonly putting self-interest before public service.

They should be open, direct and fully accountable to the public for their actions and their custodianship of billions of euro worth of public assets.

Instead when forced out of their bunkers into the glare of public scrutiny, they all too often hide behind excuses of data protection and commercial confidentiality, and heavily redact (ie, censor) any documents squeezed out of them under freedom of information laws. So much for democracy.

A key function for elected representatives should be to hold government to account, but instead too many members of the Oireachtas are more concerned with preventing public scrutiny of government actions for political reasons.

This state of affairs is likely to continue until TDs and senators are given broader powers to question decision-takers and hold them fully accountable for their actions. Why not give Oireachtas committees the responsibility for deciding the variable pay/bonuses of senior decision-takers? Additionally, our highly restrictive freedom of information laws should be brought in line with those of other EU countries.

It’s often said that a country gets the government it deserves. The problem is that Ireland deserves and needs a much better government than it has got.

ROGER BLACKBURN

NAUL, CO DUBLIN

PAISLEY‘S SUNNY MOOD

* It’s hard to believe that Ian Paisley is now saying that he was aware of the injustices that stirred the civil rights protesters into action half a century ago.

It really can only be explained in the context of him becoming a happier man in recent years.

He was clearly a deeply unhappy man at the beginning of the Troubles, demonstrating great bitterness and anger at Catholics, Nationalists and the Catholic Church. He was also pretty hard on mainstream unionists.

This serves to explain well the power of moods in our lives. This unhappy man had to be right every time, to suppress and intimidate his opponents and know everything there is to know about everything.

A happier Paisley, with his memories of sitting in government with Sinn Fein and regularly making Martin McGuinness laugh, is much more at ease with himself. He has nothing to prove, conquered many of his demons and can speak his mind without being concerned about incurring the wrath of friend or foe.

Truth becomes more important than anything else and incurring the wrath of those in the DUP who have, as yet, not found happiness and, because of this, persist in telling the tribal account of recent history, is not a particular concern.

I hope more politicians find happiness, for it is a powerful mood for progress. We might even hear Gerry Adams say that things aren’t as bad as he’s been telling us they were.

JOHN O’CONNELL

DERRY

MINISTER’S BIG IDEAS

* Environment Minister Phil Hogan seems to think that this Irish Water scheme is really the equivalent of the electrification of the country (by German engineers) in the 1920s, when really it is no more than a metering system.

Little wonder, then, that the consultants hired by Irish Water were able to sell their expensive expertise without the minister apparently being aware.

RICHARD DOWLING

MOUNTRATH, CO LAOIS

HOLIDAY SUGGESTIONS

* You know Christmas is long gone when we are bombarded with holiday ads. Many of them offering trips to places I never heard of and have no wish to be in. I have never been in ‘Cahoots’ as you can’t get there alone ; you must be with someone. I’ve never been in ‘Cognito’ as nobody would recognise me. However, I have been in ‘Sane’. It has no airport, as you must be driven there. I’ve also been in ‘Doubt’; sad place, won’t go back. I was also in ‘Flexible’, but only when I was cranky.

A while ago, I was in ‘Denial’ where I met a lot of quango bosses and ‘top-up’ CEOs. My doctor says when I get much older, I’ll be in ‘Continent’. I still don’t know the place, but I’m told it’s wet and damp. On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just head for ‘Lisdoon’ in September. I met her sister there last year: ‘Nothindoin’.

SEAN KELLY

TRAMORE, WATERFORD

CHARITIES IN WITCH-HUNT

* Of late, your paper’s letters section has been filled with people bemoaning the wages earned by individuals working in the charity sector in Ireland. This has been prompted not only by the CRC scandal, but also by your paper’s surveys into how charitable donations are spent in this country.

I would like to raise a number of concerns I have regarding the logic that is applied by those who are taking part in what can only be described as a witch-hunt of those working in the charitable sector in Ireland today.

Despite what many people like to believe, the charitable sector is in constant competition with the private sector. This is because, as every economics’ student knows, consumers have a limited amount of resources. They shall spend these resources as they see fit, and the private sector, through marketing, attempts to influence their economic decisions.

Now I would like to ask you this — if the charitable sector is competing with the private sector for limited resources (donations), yet is vilified for hiring the most capable staff it can because they demand a respectable wage, how can it possibly manage to actually tackle the massive issues that it sets out to fix?

DARAGH MANGAN

CARRIGRUE, CO WATERFORD

INCONVENIENT ELECTIONS

* I wish to register, on behalf of my generation, my disgust at the choice of May 22 as the date for the upcoming local and European Elections.

The Council of the European Union has confirmed that the European Parliamentary elections will be held between May 22-25. However, given this scope, our Government has decided that Thursday is their day. This proves to be of significant inconvenience to working people (especially commuters) and of devastating inconvenience to the student population of Ireland.

ALAN J. MCKENNA

KILKENNY CITY

BRAVE SHANNON ACTIVIST

* The writer, activist and citizen Margaretta D’Arcy has taken a brave stance against the use of Shannon Airport by US military flights. She is to be applauded for this selfless action. Her refusal to rule out further protest has put her, knowingly, on the wrong side of the law.

The issue now is to get her out and home, but also to see that the publicity that has followed her sacrifice (for such it is, despite our cynical times) is used to bring pressure on a government that allows this ‘grey area’ in Irish neutrality to persist.

PAT BORAN

BALDOYLE, DUBLIN 13

Irish Independent

 

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