21 January 2014 Windows


I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Heather has broken off her engagement to Leslie and started one with Pertwee. Priceless.


Peter Rice arrives to put in upstairs windows, order Thermabloc Amelia turns up to pick up cd holders, and Book Green deal the KWh


Scrabbletoday Mary winsand gets over400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.






Chuck Smith, who has died aged 86, was a Christian fundamentalist pastor whose appeal to disillusioned hippies of the Haight Ashbury era fuelled the rise of the “Jesus movement” of the 1970s and inspired the introduction of religious worship into pop culture.


When Smith became pastor of the tiny non-denominational Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Orange County, California, in 1965, his congregation numbered about 25. Two years later, 400 miles up the coast in San Francisco, tens of thousands of young people descended on the Haight Ashbury district to “turn on, tune in and drop out”.

But, as the 1967 “Summer of Love” gave way to winter, many of the Haight Ashbury hippies hitchhiked south to warmer climes with several groups setting up makeshift communes on the beaches of Orange County. When Smith and his wife Kay toured the area they were shocked by the sight of miserable-looking youths, dishevelled and unwashed, huddling together on the sand or spaced out on drugs.

Not long afterwards, a boyfriend of their daughter’s who had been picking up some of the hitchhikers and preaching a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the means to salvation, began bringing some of his more promising candidates for conversion to the Smiths’ home, where he performed baptisms in a pool in their backyard.

Feeling that they were in danger of becoming a hippie commune, Smith rented a house for the stragglers that became so overcrowded that he soon expanded it into a network of “Jesus houses”, including a hotel where he baptised 65 youths in a fishpond the first two weeks it was open.

Smith recalled the first time some of his new converts turned up at his chapel during a service: “First I heard bells tinkling. Then here came 15 kids, most of them with these tiny strings of bells tied around their ankles… and flowers in their hair. They swayed barefoot up the aisles and sat right down there on the floor in front of the pulpit, even though there were still pew seats to be had. You could almost hear an audible gasp from the rest of the congregation. But they had such love that they captivated everybody’s heart.”

A couple of weeks later, a small group approached Smith and asked if they could play some rock music at one of the services. “Love Song”, as the group became known, played their first concert on a Monday night, missing the Sunday service because one of the guitar players had spent the weekend in jail on charges of marijuana possession. Before long Smith was carrying out mass baptisms — sometimes 500 at a time — in the Pacific Ocean at Pirates Cove in Corona del Mar.

Eventually Calvary Chapel grew into an empire of some 2,000 independent congregations, while Smith’s own chapel, where the flock grew to more than 10,000, became one of the best-attended churches in America.


But Smith’s influence went far wider. In 1971, to promote the bands who played in his church, he founded a company, Maranatha! Music, which went on to play a powerful role in spreading the popularity of “Jesus rock” — also known as “praise and worship” — in mainstream churches more widely. Meanwhile, out of the ranks of hippies, beach bums and druggies whom he converted emerged a cadre of idealistic youths, known disparagingly as “Jesus freaks”, who went on to fill the ranks of the “Jesus movement” of the 1970s and establish what has been called a “new paradigm” of independent mega-churches.


But if Papa Chuck, as he was known to his followers, replaced pipe organs with electric guitars, preached in Hawaiian shirts and jettisoned traditional church symbols and rituals, theologically he was about as far removed from the hippie counterculture ethos as it was possible to be. He preached damnation for the unsaved; the wickedness of homosexuality as “the final affront against God”; and had a habit of finding signs of divine wrath and impending Armageddon in everything from earthquakes to terrorist outrages (the September 11 attacks were, in his view, an indication of God’s displeasure with America’s acceptance of homosexuality and abortion).


In particular he was a powerful exponent of the “Rapture”, the notion that God’s chosen few will be whisked off to His side when He destroys the world to punish it for its sinful ways. When Smith predicted that “the Lord is coming for His church before the end of 1981”, many of his followers congregated on New Year’s Eve expecting to be beamed up out of their pews at any moment. Though New Year’s Day 1982 dawned without incident, Smith remained unperturbed and continued to announce the imminence of the Rapture with cast-iron confidence: “Every year I believe this could be the year. We’re one year closer than we were.”


He had never, he said, known a moment of doubt.


Charles Ward Smith was born in Ventura, California, on June 25 1927, to “Bible quoting Christian” parents. Originally he had wanted to become a doctor, but at the age of 17, at a Christian summer camp, he came to the conclusion that “being a doctor would help people in the here and now, but becoming a pastor could help people in this life and afterward.”


After training at the Bible college of the Foursquare Church, a Pentecostal denomination, Smith served as a Pentecostal pastor in various communities before leaving to set up his own church in the early 1960s and moving to Calvary Chapel in 1965.



In the late 1980s, by which time many of his ex-hippie followers were approaching middle age, Smith decided to reach out to a new generation of young people and in 1990, he co-founded the “Harvest Crusade”, a non-profit ministry which has become an international movement.


If Smith appeared a warm, avuncular figure to his followers, there was not much room in his theology for human frailty. In one of his books he championed “the ideal of a biblical man who is strong and not vacillating or weak” and denounced “the new touchy-feely man”. This approach led to differences with his son Chuck Jr, who was, at one time, seen as his likely successor, but who had developed a more open-minded, questioning approach to faith. In 2006 Smith was instrumental in removing Chuck Jr from ministry in the Calvary Chapel movement, subsequently issuing a memo denouncing tolerance for homosexuality and “the soft peddling of hell as the destiny of those who reject the salvation offered through Jesus Christ”.


Chuck Smith is survived by his wife and by his two sons and two daughters.


Chuck Smith, born June 25 1927, died October 3 2013






My grandfather, Claud Mullins, was a Metropolitan police magistrate during the 30s and 40s. One of his battles was to improve the police use of language in court, which he found ludicrously pompous (In praise of… euphemisms, 20 January). Policemen never took someone anywhere but “conveyed” him; they never watched anyone but “kept observation on him”; they never helped but “rendered assistance”; they never came out from but “emerged”; they never found out but “ascertained”. During the war, with so much bomb damage, gaps in fences were described as “apertures”. One policeman wanted to explain that a motorcycle’s handbrake was not working and said: “No braking power was transmitted.”


I’m not sure how effective my grandfather’s efforts were to make the police use plain English, but the officers in his court were just using language to make their work seem grander than it was, not to conceal the truth.
Emma Dally

•  You reported without comment the euphemistic reference by the chief inspector of constabulary, Tom Winsor, to members of certain Midlands communities as having been “born under other skies” (Report,, 18 January). What, pace John Cooper Clarke, extra-celestial, not like us?
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

•  I have always admired Pooh-Bah’s explanation of his evidence in the Mikado as “merely corroborative detail intended to give artistic verisimilitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative”. It worked for him.
Nicolas Wadsworth
Broadstone, Dorset

•  It’s unfair to Winston Churchill to include his “terminological inexactitude” in your leader on euphemisms. Parliamentary rules would not allow him to call his opponent a liar.
Roderick White




I am writing in response to an editorial published in your newspaper on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death (5 December). The article drew comparisons between Mandela, Nehru, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and me. Such comparisons belying a hegemonic mindset demonstrate a lack of understanding of the reality of those faced with struggling for freedom.

In describing me as “feared and worshipped”, I detect hostility towards those who are forced to rely on their self-belief in their struggle against slavery, massacres and policies of denial. Since I have been imprisoned under conditions of solitary confinement on an island for the last 14 years, it is difficult to see how I can be credibly described as a source of fear for anyone except perhaps my captors.

Such a description belittles the four decades of struggle for freedom of the 40 million Kurds who see me as representing their will and have placed their trust in my efforts to reach a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. In that respect, I can say in all modesty that Dear Madiba and I have more parallels than contrasts. He managed to bring an end to the apartheid regime as a leader in whom the South African people had placed their complete faith in his commitment to peace. He has become a shining star for the peoples of Africa. Our historical mission is to ensure the ever brilliance of this star for the peoples of the Middle East.

Negotiation and struggle are both important processes in determining the future of peoples’ movements. It is not those who are feared but rather those who have the confidence of their people that can lead those processes.
Abdullah Öcalan
The prison island of Imrali



John Harris (What can private schools teach the state sector?, 20 January) maintains that a private school education would have little benefit for high-achieving pupils whose parents cannot afford the fees. In fact, our research has shown that those educated at the best independent day schools not only gain disproportionate access to leading universities, including Oxbridge, but also provide the majority of places in the professions, including the law, politics, the City and the civil service.


The Sutton Trust’s Open Access proposals, based on a successful pilot in Liverpool, would open up 100 leading independent day schools to all students on the basis of ability rather than their ability to pay, and in doing so open up the professions. There would be needs-blind admissions, so that those from low-income families pay no fees and those from middle-income families contribute on a sliding scale. Participating schools would receive the same state funding as other neighbouring schools. Unlike Dr Anthony Seldon’s proposals, there would no question of levying charges on parents who choose to remain in the state system. At the same time, we believe fairer admissions to the most academically successful comprehensives and improved outreach at grammar schools are also critical to increasing social mobility.

Until those from low- and middle-income families get the chance to maximise their potential, Britain will remain trapped in a system where power is the preserve of those with privilege.
Conor Ryan
Director of research and communications, The Sutton Trust

•  Anthony Seldon’s proposal that rich parents of children at popular state schools should be charged fees of up to £20,000 would in effect privatise a chunk of state education. The next stage need only be a system of vouchers for parents to “spend” at the remaining schools, and a fully privatised three-tier class-based system will have been achieved. Back to the 50s, with added profit!
Mike Hine
Kingston upon Thames

• So, according to Ofqual, practical work in science is integral to assessing students at GCSE but not at A-level, where they can be assessed in a final exam (Report, 18 January). Meanwhile, in geography, Ofqual is proposing the opposite, bringing back fieldwork assessment at A-level but abandoning such assessment at GCSE. Has Ofqual lost touch with reality?
Dr John Hopkin


The lessons of the Food Standards Agency salt campaign are worth recalling more accurately if effective measures to tackle obesity are to be considered. Jeff Rooker (Letters, 13 January) is correct to say it was voluntary and that industry co-operated, but omits to say why that was the case. The FSA systematically published surveys of salt in processed foods that received widespread media coverage making clear the potential adverse health impacts of too much salt in the diet. This transparency allowed consumers to make their own choices, forcing retailers and manufacturers to respond. They were held to account for verifiable changes in the composition of their foods. Some changed willingly, others reluctantly joined as it had become a competitive issue. At that time the memories of BSE and industry capture were still fresh and the FSA was a genuinely independent regulator that put consumers first and took action based on scientific evidence. In 2010 responsibility for nutrition and labelling was transferred to government departments. In the much-hyped bonfire of the quangos, a policy that consumers should be protected by an agency independent of government and sectoral interests also went up in flames.
Neil Martinson
Director of communications, FSA, 2000-06




My mother, the anti-war activist and writer Margaretta D’Arcy, is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick prison for trying to stop the violation of Irish neutrality by US military planes, which stop over at Shannon airport on the way to and from the war in Afghanistan. She took peaceful direct action to stop crime being committed by lying down on the runway of the airport. Margaretta, the widow of playwright John Arden, is 79 and undergoing treatment for cancer. Imprisoning her for an act of conscience is inhumane. I call upon the Irish government to release her immediately and for the British government to use its influence to secure her release. To keep her spirits up while she remains in prison, I urge readers to send cards c/o Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, Ireland.
Jake Arden

•  So Total, unable to frack in France, invests £48m, a trivial amount of cash for a fossil fuel giant, in the UK and gets the government to replace its jobs forecast for the industry with one emailed to it by the UK Onshore Operators Group (Report, 18 January)? When the prime minister says the government is “for shale”, it’s hard not to think he means “for sale”. I suppose they all are, but few come so cheaply.
Martin Porter
Glossop, Derbyshire

• If E Shannon (Letters, 20 January) read as far as the obituaries in the same edition, it would have become clear that the answer to the question “where are the snowdrops this year?” is that Alistair McAlpine had collected them.
Roy Kettle

• After three recent appearances (In praise of…, 10 January; Country diary, 17 January; Letters, 17 January) I assume phalaropes will soon be a solution in the cryptic crossword?
Lesley Kant

• In 1986 we saw Roger Lloyd Pack (Obituary, 17 January) as Mandelstam in Dusty Hughes’ Futurists. We were overjoyed to find that our tickets for the National’s Cottesloe theatre were categorised “unrestricted left”. Sounds like something Roger would have appreciated.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood





Most historians would question the claim that the Habsburgs should not be blamed for causing the first world war (Report, 16 January). In 1914, certainly, each European state including Britain embarked on war to protect its vital interests. It is also true that the Habsburg archduke Franz Ferdinand was usually a peacemaker and, had he lived, would have argued against war with Serbia in July 1914. However, most of the Habsburg elite in Vienna – following Emperor Franz Joseph’s mindset – were determined to crush “the Serbian snake”, and knew this risked provoking war. They took that risk and therefore bear a large portion of blame for events spiralling out of control. The elitism of Austria-Hungary’s rulers and their paranoia about the Balkans has always been a key factor in explaining why the Great War finally occurred.
Mark Cornwall
Professor of modern European history, University of Southampton



We Labour women always knew that we had someone to thank for the leak that child benefit was under threat; we now know it was Malcolm Wicks (Mystery of whistleblower who saved child benefit is solved after 38 years, 20 January). We were told at the time that it was because the union men did not like their women having independent money. The leak resulted in a lobby of parliament by women from all over the UK, many of us active members of the Labour party. I had written ahead to warn my MP, Tony Benn, that I would be coming to parliament to join a major lobby to retain child benefit and ensure it was paid to whoever had the care of children. When Tony came out, he spotted me, placed me by the turnstiles and asked me to confirm which women were part of the lobby to the security. I let them all in!


Subsequently the lobby outside the main chamber filled up with women, all calling their MPs out right in the middle of a three-line whip. Michael Cocks, the chief whip at the time, had his staff running ragged trying to bring MPs back to vote. In the end he had the main ringleaders (me included) into his office in an effort to try to calm things down. We pointed out that we women were not just members of the party to make tea but were major contributors to its working. The message got through to the party and the whole idea was dropped. Thank you, Malcolm, on behalf of all women, then and now.
Cllr Jenny Smith
Southmead Ward Bristol; formerly chair of the Bristol Labour women’s council


•  How we could do with a civil servant of Mr Wicks’s courage right now. It would be strangely appropriate for the long-suppressed Defra report on emergency food provision to be leaked to Frank Field as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and poverty. Surely then even Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud would not be to continue to deny the links between food bank usage and welfare reform.
Richard Bridge (@richardbridge7)


• Malcolm Wicks may have felt justified in leaking cabinet minutes about child benefit in 1976 (‘I took what I regarded as an ethical decision’, 20 January) but he should have had the courage to identify himself as the leaker, knowing that others would be wrongly suspected. I had been Frank Field’s predecessor as director of Child Poverty Action Group and, at the time of the leak, was a special adviser to the social services secretary David Ennals. Unsurprisingly I was identified in the press (notably the Sun) as a prime suspect and, until now, my name has never been cleared.
Tony Lynes


•  The photograph of the Labour government’s front and backbenches of November 1976 is worth careful examination. First, count the women – just three of more than 50 MPs and ministers. One is Barbara Castle, recently sacked by Jim Callaghan. But who is sitting next to her? Is it a youthful Roy Jenkins or just a Roy Jenkins lookalike? There is only one woman on the frontbench, Shirley Williams. But who is third woman, sitting on the first row of backbenches?


Next, sitting on the frontbench below the gangway is Harold Wilson, accompanied by a very youthful Dennis Skinner. Then comes a gap where normally the leader of the house sits. So where is that great parliamentarian, Michael Foot? This photograph alone was worth the price of the Guardian.
Pete Browning
Kingsclere, Hampshire


•  It is interesting to note in the 1976 picture of parliament who is seated next to whom. I reckon that is Dennis Skinner next to former prime minister Harold Wilson, probably musing over whatever happened to “Old” Labour. John Smith in the second row, and three women; Shirley Williams on the frontbench, Barbara Castle three rows back, and on the second row I’m guessing is Margaret Jay.
Rick Hall


•  Your photo reminds us that, whatever people may have thought of Harold Wilson, he, who won four elections, did not consider himself so grand that he could no longer continue as an MP after resigning as PM.
Mark Knight







I fully agree with Dr Peter Gray (“Give childhood back to children”, 13 January) in his comments about the need and right for children to have their childhood, and his view that many useful life skills are learnt outside the classroom.


He mentions Michael Gove’s desire to see UK educational standards equal China’s. I have two objections to this. First, if standards did improve to such an extent, that would simply push the bar up in the competition for all the top jobs. Secondly, as a Beijing-based teacher myself, I question the means by which such high standards would be achieved.


Many Chinese students are under a lot of pressure to achieve the top grades. A number of students at my school suffer a draconian study regime at the hands of the Tiger Mother and/or the Wolf Father, parents who force their children to study long hours at home and take extra classes to improve their grades, and who won’t accept anything from their children but A-grades and being top of the class.


At least one student has complained that all this extra study hasn’t improved her grades – just left her with no time to herself, something she hates. The same would apply anywhere. If the ability isn’t there (and some people are more able than others), then all the extra study in the world isn’t going to change that.


King Edward VII was an example. His childhood was ruined by such a regime imposed by parents who branded him as lazy and stupid, when he simply just wasn’t a natural scholar. All the extra study sent him off the rails somewhat when he got to university and he didn’t complete his degree, I think, so fat lot of good all that extra study was for him.


The above said, the idyllic childhood that Dr Gray advocates is unlikely to happen, while the media and other parties exaggerate the dangers of playing outside. Traffic is heavier than it used to be, but the other dangers, such as paedophiles, are no greater now than they used to be.


Steven Crake




No wonder our children are suffering from “toxic stress” (report, 20 January). We know that animals in a zoo suffer from “toxic stress” if they are confined to their houses without having the freedom to move around and exercise outside. They are therefore given this opportunity.


Contrast this with our children, the vast majority of whom are kept indoors because on the street outside priority is given to the motor car. This is not the fault of parents but of successive governments, who have ignored the freedom to play out in the street as enjoyed by countless previous generations.


Rob Wheway


Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry


A Power grab by global corporations


Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris are quite right that the EU-US trade deal threatens to give global corporations massive power over the laws of this country if it includes, as expected, an investor-state dispute settlement process (“British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal”, 14 January).


In fact, it is more correct to think of the deal as a charter for corporate rights, rather than a “free-trade treaty”. It threatens to lock in market principles to public services such as the NHS, begin a “race to the bottom” in terms of health and safety standards, undermine post-financial-crisis economic regulation, and reinforce inequality within Europe.


The deal, a core priority of the Cameron government, is one of several far-reaching “trade” and investment treaties currently being negotiated. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, they represent the biggest power grab by global corporations for a decade.


Whether you’re interested in public services, health and safety standards, labour rights or simply democracy, there’s more than enough reason to oppose this offensive.


Nick Dearden


Director, World Development Movement,


London SW9


It was good to see The Independent give front-page coverage to negotiations for an EU-US free trade agreement, especially as this highlighted the threat to national sovereignty posed by the investor state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), currently included in the treaty.


What was not touched on was a further threat to sovereignty from an additional proposal within the agreement. This is for a new Regulatory Co-operation Council that, for the foreseeable future, will give extensive powers to corporations to alter new or prospective parliamentary legislation or judicial rulings where these conflict with their corporate interests.


So while it may or may not be the case, as a Department of Business spokesperson is quoted as saying, that “investment protection provisions do not limit the ability of states to make or repeal any law or regulation”, it seems that the Regulatory Cooperation Council will do just that.


Jan Savage


London E1


Fracking crosses climate threshold


Peter Lilley has stated that those who oppose fracking may be concerned about the burning of fossil fuels, but that they have “failed to make a convincing case” (BBC Radio Five Live, 13 January). Actually it is not the anti-fracking protestors that need to make the case, since this has already been done in the five reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Furthermore, virtually every government world-wide has accepted that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere must not exceed 450 parts per million (ppm) if we are to avoid runaway climate change. Since it is currently 400 ppm and increasing by 2-3 ppm per annum, we only have 20 years before we exceed the 450 ppm threshold.


So in reality it is Peter Lilley, George Osborne and David Cameron who are required to justify their reckless support for  a technology that will make the UK dependent on fossil fuel extraction for the next 30 years and longer.


Dr Robin Russell-Jones


Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire


Floating islands for everyone


Thank you for taking the time to explore and report about the Seasteading Institute (27 December). However, I’m not clear how you construed that the first settlement was for very rich libertarians.


Purchasing a unit at €5,500 a square metre is not only for “very wealthy” people. That’s lower than the average price for housing in London. Although our founders are from the libertarian persuasion, our movement is much larger than this and our goal is to make seasteading a technology available to anyone who wishes to pursue a new form of governance. We are not all “right-wing” and nor do we want to pay others to do our “dirty work”.


You chose not to write anything about our vision of enriching the poor by creating new spaces that welcomed immigrants where they could start fresh new lives; you didn’t write about how we hope experimenting with new systems of governance will help existing nations choose better policies after witnessing them tested on a seastead; you didn’t write anything about how we want to peacefully create new nations as a solution to the political bottleneck of nearly all established nations. I invite your readers to learn more about our initiative and to read my full response to The Independent’s article at


Randolph Hencken


Executive Director, The Seasteading Institute,  San Francisco


My days of freedom


From time to time I take a mini-break.


I travel by public transport (the avoiding the motorway cameras), paying for my ticket with cash. I keep my mobile phone switched off. I pay for my accommodation, meals,  and all other purchases  with the cash I withdrew from my local cashpoint before setting out.


I return feeling refreshed and also a little triumphant, secure in the knowledge that I have just been to, say, Cornwall and back, and neither GCHQ nor the NSA know a thing about it. It may be a very small victory, but it pleases me. Am I disgraceful to value my personal freedom so?


Bob Gilmurray


Ely,  Cambridgeshire


Mantel backs the Duchess


It was good to read of Hilary Mantel’s forthcoming novel (“Mantel turns to Thatcher for inspiration”, 17 January), but for the finishing paragraph. Hilary Mantel did not “attack” the Duchess of Cambridge in her lecture last year.


She was in fact attacking the perception of the Duchess which has been set up in the tabloid press. She was supportive of the Royal Family – ending her lecture with: “Don’t do to this young woman what you did to Diana.”


Elspeth Allison




Further divine intervention


Outside my window this morning, there was a most beautiful rainbow. God is obviously pleased with the Ukip councillor who spoke out about the connection of the storms and floods to gay marriage.


H N Stanley









Sir, In your response to Lord Ashdown’s warning about the loss of trust in our institutions (leader, Jan 3), you urge politicians to “promise less but deliver more”. If they are to regain the trust of most people, politicians must first regain their respect. A good place to start would be the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, which is all that most people ever see of Parliament in action. The conduct of nearly everyone involved is simply appalling and this a major factor in people’s — and especially young people’s — disenchantment with our democratic processes.


No school head — and I write as a former secondary headmaster — would permit for a moment such conduct in a mock election. If MPs show scant respect for each other they can hardly be surprised if the electorate has little for them.


Is it too much to ask that the Leader of the Opposition should put genuine questions, that the Prime Minister should actually answer the question asked, that they both refrain from cheap jibes and that all in the chamber refrain from the various puerile noises with which they endeavour to interrupt opposing members?


PMQs is just about the worst advertisement for our democracy and does incalculable damage to the reputation of Parliament. Party leaders, MPs and the Speaker are grossly irresponsible in allowing the sessions to proceed in such a fashion. An appropriate new year resolution for all of them would be to seek to restore the dignity of Parliament, starting with PMQs.


David Terry


Droitwich, Worcs


Sir, Shouting and point-scoring do indeed ensure that what happens in Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons lacks any sense of views being exchanged or questions being fairly put and sensibly answered and smacks of behaviour that would not be tolerated in a primary school during break time (leader, Jan 16). This is because it is patently obvious that the whole raison d’être of the occasion is the automatic loud gladiatorial denigration by each side of anything the other side has to say.


Tony Phillips


Chalfont St Giles, Bucks


Sir, At PMQs it is largely the fault of the BBC that we are subjected to the deafening (and childish) roars of members. The BBC, and indeed all broadcasters of programmes with live audiences, seem to delight in keeping their microphones of audience noise at full pelt while the poor chairmen or speakers find their introductions made totally unintelligible to listeners. There once was a time when someone actually balanced the various microphone outputs so that we could hear what everyone said. Bring back that day.


Jim Mann Taylor


Westbury-on-Severn, Glos


Sir, Question Time in the Commons is not a time for nursery games. Cannot Mr Speaker exert his authority to control this hooliganism?


Ronald Brown




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





The Syrian peace talks need to focus on the plight of children caught up in the conflict

Sir, With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Switzerland tomorrow, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Children are being targeted in this conflict, in the shelling of residential areas and attacks on schools and hospitals. More than 11,000 Syrian children have already died. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatised, hungry and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.

As the parties to the conflict arrive in Geneva, we urgently call on them not to target children, and to commit to the following three points: do not prevent life-saving aid from reaching children; do not target, or allow military use of, schools or health facilities; and do not use explosive weapons in populated areas.

Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.

Desmond Tutu; Anthony Lake, Unicef; Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner; Margaret Chan, WHO; Ertharin Cousin, World Food Programme; Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for the UN Secretary General; Mark Malloch Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary General; Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council; Louise Arbour, International Crisis Group; David Miliband, International Rescue Committee; Justin Forsyth, Save the Children; Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International; Kevin Jenkins, World Vision International




The boarding school isolation that made it possible for abuse to be perpetrated simply does not exist any more

Sir, One big difference between boarding school life today and in the past is the technology. Nearly every student in a UK boarding school has a smartphone, and all have access to computers. Most children, British or international, keep in daily contact with their parents by phone, Skype or other means. Therefore the closed communities that were yesterday’s boarding schools, within which it was possible for abuse to be perpetrated, simply do not exist any more.

Boarding schools are no longer isolated from the outside world; children and their parents are no longer separated in any meaningful sense. To ignore this factor is to collude in scaremongering.

Caroline Nixon

Chairman, British Association of International School and Colleges



Wales and Scotland have set up high street optometrists as the first port of call for NHS patients with urgent eye problems

Sir, The letter (Jan 17) from Nikhil Kaushik, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, prompts me to point out that Wales and Scotland have successfully set up high street optometrists as the first port of call for NHS patients with urgent eye problems.

Optometrists have the expertise and specialist equipment rarely found in GP surgeries to treat eye complaints safely and effectively. Patients like having a local service offering timely and convenient appointments. And it reduces pressure on A&E and GP surgeries.

In the rest of the UK though there is a postcode lottery. The NHS in England and Northern Ireland and their patients would benefit from a universal service.

Dr Kamlesh Chauhan

The College of Optometrists, London





Until bankers recapture the motive of working in every customer’s best interest, there will be no behaviour change

Sir, Mr Dicken (letter, Jan 20) is right to talk at length of the bonus culture being pernicious and of the behaviour being selfish. Yet a simple and vital element is missing from the argument, and that is of working in every customer’s best interest. Until all work, be it financial services or not, recaptures this motive of doing level best for he who ultimately pays the wage, there will be no turnaround in behaviour — management or individual.

Selfishness takes so many forms that this rudimentary principle can easily be lost in elaborate discussion of the organisational problems.

Keith Robinson

Littlewick Green, Berks

Sirs, The current bonus culture in the financial and banking industries should be converted into a share culture.

Performance rewards would be in the shape of an immediate share allocation or option for future purchase. A minimum period of ownership would introduced to ensure that the share bonuses were in the company’s and customers long-term best interest and not subject to actions for instant and individual employee gratification.

Robert E. Collett

Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Sir, You report (Jan 16) the Governor of the Bank of England as having in one sentence three times used the word “compensation” in the context of bankers’ pay.

If even Mr Carney does not consider as “pay” the money that bankers receive for their work, perhaps we should all have much more sympathy for bankers in their difficult and, obviously, distressing work. Maybe their bonuses should be increased rather than reduced?

Robert Rhodes, QC

London, WC2




What better year than 2014 to address the sad neglect of Commonwealth War Graves in Britain

Sir, On the subject of restoring war graves overseas (letter, Jan 14), we have the same problem at home. At the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey, where thousands of servicemen rest, the grounds are sadly neglected. They deserve better, and what better time could there be than in 2014.

F. Vickers

Woking, Surrey







SIR – I was interested to read the growing problems that the northern Rhubarb Triangle is having.


Rhubarb was first recorded growing in England by the botanist William Coys, in one of his walled gardens at Stubbers, his home in Upminster, Essex.

He grew more than 340 hitherto unknown plants in his walled gardens, all brought to him by Elizabethan explorers of the day, particularly from the newly explored Americas. In 1580, it was not confidently known whether rhubarb was edible and, as we now know, the leaves are poisonous.

Veronica Smith
Stow Maries, Essex

SIR – Before your readers who suffer from any of the ailments — such as gout and constipation — listed by Michael Leapman start adding to the shortage of rhubarb, they should know that it was the peeled roots, not the stalks, that gave the plant its medicinal reputation.

John Goulding
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

SIR – I would advise Mr Leapman to visit his rhubarb patch before March. I had my buckets in place over pink shoots before I read last week’s article and am not living in the balmiest of locations.

J M Clarkson




of young people I hear saying they are going into teaching because they can’t think what else to do. As the mother of a recently qualified teacher who is passionate about her job and works extremely long hours in order to bring the very best of her efforts to her class, I think it should be made more difficult to become a teacher, not easier. Then we may get the teachers our children deserve and need.


Anne Penney
Fetcham, Surrey


SIR – As a retired headteacher who spent my whole career teaching in the tougher areas of London, I can tell you exactly why teachers leave the profession in large numbers: disruptive pupils and endless paperwork. No teacher should have to tolerate poor behaviour in class and his time should be spent teaching, not doing endless preparation and form filling.


Trevor Lashbrook
Bude, Cornwall


Trivialising abortion



SIR – How can destruction of a foetus be “downgraded to a trivial procedure”? What about the consequences? Each one is a huge decision.


Richard Parkhouse
Llanfairfechan, Caernarfonshire


SIR – I am a practising Christian, and have listened to the arguments for and against abortion. Now, yet another “clarification” is being given by the Department of Health.


No one can believe that this is what David Steel envisaged when he introduced his Bill in 1967. His concerns were for the tragic cases of pregnant women dying at the hands of back-street abortionists.


As a country, we need to demonstrate compassion for those women whose lives do not allow for a baby to be born into it. However, where possible, both the father and mother should be present and agree that their actions have led to this outcome. To ignore the father’s role is wrong.


Geraldine Lee
Aylsham, Norfolk


Full service


SIR – My watch recently stopped working. The digital display correctly showed the time, but the analogue hands would not move, suggesting that I needed more than a new battery, so I went into the town centre to look for possible replacements.


One of the local jewellers had the ideal model, but he would not sell it to me until he had had a good look at my watch to see if he could get it going.


A day later, he telephoned to say that he had not succeeded, as the motor that drives the hands had failed. He had telephoned the manufacturer, which no longer made spares for that model.


I will be returning to his shop to buy the replacement. I could get it cheaper online, but none of the internet providers would have thought of mending my old watch.


Paul Newton
Whitnash, Warwickshire


Day of rest


SIR – A friend has a number of hens and, over a period of two years’ careful monitoring of the number of eggs laid, it has become apparent that far fewer eggs are laid on a Sunday than any other day. Is there a reason for this? Could it have anything to do with the European work time directive?


James Lonsdale
Lostock, Lancashire


Fracking areas


SIR – Because offshore platforms are extremely expensive to construct and install, the offshore oil industry is expert at achieving large outputs from small areas. That expertise is reproducible onshore.


On land, Wytch Farm (for which I was once responsible) accesses an oil and gas field some 30 miles across (measured at the surface) from a wellsite area only some two or three football pitches in area, and it is well hidden in the environment.


Incidentally, one point missing from all the current arguments about who should get what share of the income from shale gas is that there hasn’t been any yet, and the earliest is probably two years away.


Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey


SIR – Manorial rights do not apply to rights for extraction of gas or oil, including shale gas. Rather, the right to extract petroleum is vested in the Crown.


The Government issues petroleum licences and companies wishing to carry out exploration or production under these licences have to meet a series of stringent regulations and secure landowners’ permission.


Britain has more than 50 years’ experience of successfully regulating the onshore oil and gas industry. We have been clear that shale gas fracking must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way and with the support of communities.


Michael Fallon MP (Con)
Energy Minister
London SW1


Moving on


SIR – In a news story, you report the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack as having died, in his obituary as having died, but in the leading article as having passed away.


In the Deaths column where, arguably, because of its heading neither term is required, it seems that people are increasingly passing away, rather than dying. The relative number of either as published in the Deaths column makes an interesting subject on which to bet.


Norman Hudson
Upper Wardington, Oxfordshire


January jelly


SIR – We usually find frog spawn in our pond on Valentine’s Day. This year it appeared on January 15.


Any earlier sightings?


Glynn Walker
Winsford, Cheshire


De-centralise arts funding to avoid London bias


SIR – Jesse Norman fails to take into account the extent to which the arts funding cuts of recent years have increased the disparity in support between London and the rest of the country. The cuts — and not just in the arts — are a significant aspect of a continuing disempowerment of the regions. Cuts to local authority funding have prompted predictions, such as that made by a 2013 Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, that local councils may cease funding the arts altogether by 2015.


Moreover, further centralisation of the decision-making process is an inevitable result of cutbacks in the administration of core funding.


The result of this is a greater bias towards the most prestigious London-based institutions, which are themselves struggling to maintain standards. In the long term, more real political power needs to be allowed at regional level.


Most immediately, the cuts must be reversed so that local communities have the funds available to make considered decisions about their arts future.


Earl of Clancarty
London SW1


SIR – I can never understand why visitors to Britain are not charged entry to our museums. When we travel abroad, we are certainly charged entry fees to museums.


Ken Sharpe



SIR – The proposal to build a garden city at Yalding in rural Kent is yet another act of supreme folly by this Government, which seems determined to destroy its support in the Home Counties by covering vast swathes of our countryside with wind farms, solar panels and housing.


Building a new town in this area between Maidstone and the Medway towns would not only create a huge conurbation in the heart of the countryside, but would also destroy for ever valuable agricultural and recreational land on London’s doorstep. And that is before we even consider the ludicrous idea by the Mayor of London to build a new hub airport in the Thames estuary, with an associated need for tens of thousands of additional homes to accommodate its employees and their families.

Kent is one of the most overcrowded counties in England, with a population rapidly approaching two million and diminishing green space. It has several motorways, a high-speed rail system, busy ports and nuclear power stations. We in Kent have more than done our bit for the country, and it should now to be the turn of other, less populated and built-up areas in England to make some sacrifices.

Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The supposed plan to build a new garden city at Yalding is an intriguing prospect. In the light of recent events, perhaps a marina with houseboats might be more appropriate.

Norman Sherry
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – What a telling juxtaposition of Nick Clegg’s article (Garden cities are the answer to a problem we can’t ignore) and news that English farmland far outperformed gold over the past year. To me there’s an obvious correlation: Government planning policies (especially the National Planning Policy Framework) are directly responsible for demand from developers for land – to build us out of austerity – which seems to have little to do with Government’s alleged commitment to “sustainable development”.

It is also clear that, when push comes to shove, central power trumps local power.

James Derounian
University of Gloucestershire

SIR – There is a housing crisis because the Labour government’s policy of mass immigration, and because being in the European Union apparently means we have no control over our own borders. Net immigration for the year ending in June was 182,000. Assuming that is mainly young people who will have children, the effect on the population total is probably double that figure. Instead of forcing us to take immigrants, the EU should be looking to encourage people to set up businesses in underpopulated areas – like Romania.

Richard Munday
Kenilworth, Warwickshire



Irish Times:






Sir, – A child waiting for a wheelchair is a human rights issue. Tom Clonan describes the impact on his son Eoghan of sitting in a wheelchair that is too small for him (“I defy the board of the CRC to explain its obscene behaviour to my son”, Home News, January 18th). He describes his legs curling back, increasing his risk of leg contractures.


Sitting in a wheelchair that is too small can have major consequences on children’s development, not only impacting on their limbs, but also leaving them at risk of chest infections and pressure ulcers. Being squashed in a wheelchair can affect individuals’ feeling of safety, their mental health, their ability to concentrate and communicate and to actively participate in play, school and employment.


Unfortunately Eoghan’s story is not uncommon. Anne Rynne (Letters, January 18th) writes about her adult son, left lying in bed for a year.


There are approximately 40,000 individuals in the Republic who use wheelchairs and without this essential equipment they cannot survive. A wheelchair enables a person to sit up and be mobile; it is an essential primary need. It becomes part of a person’s skin, their legs, In research I have conducted, one person has described when the wheelchair is not right or when it breaks down as “like cutting my two legs off”.


While wheelchair services in Ireland have grown over the years, they lack regulation and are without specific government policy to ensure timely and appropriate delivery.


I would like to think if anything happened to me, my child, my family or my friends that I could pick up the phone and know I could get a wheelchair without waiting 12 months.


This human rights issue is relevant to the whole of society, and a national review of wheelchair services is called for. – Yours, etc,






Kilrush Road,


Ennis, Co Clare.



Sir, – The issues raised regarding funding relating to travel expenses at CRC do not apply to me (Home News, January 16th).


I am a frontline staff member working for the Central Remedial Clinic. I am passionate about my work and care very much about the rights of children and adults with special needs, so much so that I completed a master’s outside work hours and research to benefit CRC service users with minimal monetary recognition from the CRC.


When requesting some remuneration for travel expenses related to presenting research at an international conference I was informed that due to budgetary constraints there would be no monetary support other than the conference registration fee. I accepted this as I was proud to represent the CRC, which as a day-to-day organisation is a great one, due to excellent frontline staff and the service users that never cease to inspire and amaze me.


  CRC frontline staff, like those in most other public sector organisations experience similar difficulties when it comes to acquiring time and monetary support for expenses related to continuing professional and service development and should therefore not be tarnished with the same brush. – Yours, etc,




Old County Glen,


Crumlin, Dublin 12.


Sir, – Numerous commentators have called on Paul Kiely to repay some, or all, of his €740,000 pension package (Home News, January 18th). These calls are, I believe, misplaced. If money should be repaid then it is the members of the board of the CRC, who authorised the payment, who should make the repayment. This would act as a deterrent to other boards to act in such a cavalier manner with other people’s money. – Yours, etc,






Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny.


Sir, – How come the fundraising departments in the CRC have so much money in their accounts? Why was this money not used to enable their service users have what they need (eg wheelchairs and physiotherapy)? Is this not the reason we donate to charities – to make the life of their service users somewhat more bearable? – Yours, etc,




Frankfort Park,


Dundrum, Dublin 14.


Sir, – Is it ironic that a substantial amount of the questioning and condemning of management’s recent and past behaviour at the Central Remedial Clinic is being done by people in both politics and the media who have themselves secured very generous remuneration packages over the years? – Yours, etc,




West Glasson,


Athlone, Co Westmeath.


Sir, – Your item on the charities controversy (Home News, January 18th) reports the Minister for Health as saying that the Government would use all available options open to it, including corporate enforcement and the Garda and the civil courts to try and get the money (Paul Kiely’s retirement package ) back.


Hopefully they won’t have to resort to such drastic measure to repatriate the €120,000 or so that his colleague the Minister for Finance would have received via the Revenue Commissioners as their cut from the taxable portion of Mr Kiely’s lump-sum. – Yours, etc,




St Peter’s Place,




Co Wicklow.


Sir, – Congratulations to Patrick Freyne for his wonderful report on 24 hours on O’Connell Street (Weekend Review, January 18th). It was enlightening, funny, nostalgic, wise, and ultimately heartbreaking. – Yours, etc,




Wellington Street,





Sir, – I have loved and admired 79-year-old Margaretta D’Arcy for 40 years. I do not plead for mercy for her. The moment she gets out, she will be back on her justifiable protest. The Government has a problem on its hands, (as now, do I, at 69, yet again. In this case, a joyful one.) We pensioners have not gone away , you know. – Yours, etc,




Rugby Road, Dublin 6.


Sir, – I join with my fellow artists in calling for the release, on compassionate grounds, of our colleague, Margaretta D’Arcy, from Limerick prison.


Surely, by refusing to discontinue her anti-war activism, she is doing precisely that which is required of her by the court – undertaking to keep the peace? – Yours, etc,




The Crescent,


Monkstown, Co Dublin.


Sir, – In expressing his acute indignation at the imprisonment of Margaretta D’Arcy (January 18th), Theo Dorgan makes some extraordinary comments.


He notes that “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”.


To my knowledge, the decision to send Ms.D’Arcy to jail was taken by a judge in a republic which operates a classic separation of powers between the political and judicial systems. Despite all of our failings as a State, that separation remains intact.


Mr Dorgan further notes the jailing of elderly people for “offences technical in nature (such as failing to purchase a TV licence)”. Failure to purchase a TV licence is not a technical offence, it is an offence proper.


Ms D’Arcy is free to protest about whatever she wishes to as much as she likes. She may not do so, however, having trespassed on the tarmac of an airport. She was given a reasonable option to avoid prison which she declined. Her peacenik and artistic pals should calm down. The rest of us will at least be spared her letters to The Irish Times for a while.


I wish her well personally. – yours, etc,




Clontarf Road, Dublin 3.



Sir, – What an astonishing photograph gracing Frank Miller’s article on bygone Dublin (Culture, January 17th). “Cyclists waiting for a green light”. . .The past is a different place. – Yours, etc,




Meadow Close,


Churchtown, Dublin 16.






Sir, – Congratulations to both contributors for their evocative deliberations on brain/mind connectivity (Letters, January 15th & 16th). Would it be a fair analogy to say that the brain is hard wired while the mind is wireless? Just a thought? – Yours, etc,




The Demesne,


Killester, Dublin 5.



Sir, – I wish to congratulate your newspaper on its extensive coverage of the Military Service Pensions Collection, which in turn reflects the excellent work undertaken by Comdt Patrick Brennan’s team at the Military Archives over the past eight years to make this wonderful resource available to the public in such an easily accessible format.


The initial refusal of an Army Pension to Margaret Skinnider, an opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (Home News, January 17th), is worthy of contrast with the award of a Military Service Pension to the pro-Treaty Dr Brigid Lyons. While members of Cumann na mBan were not eligible for pensions under the 1924 Military Service Pensions Act, Lyons was deemed to have given service in the Irish Volunteers and also fulfilled the criterion of serving in the Irish Army during the Civil War. A question arose over her eligibility on account of her gender, but the then attorney general, John A Costello, considered the term “person” in the legislation to be covered by the Interpretation Act of 1923 and thus to include women.


Stephen Collins makes an important point about the monetary value of the pensions, though it should be noted that until 1953 pensioners who were in receipt of other remuneration from the State had their pensions reduced proportionate to their other State income, so government ministers were unlikely to receive the full value of the nominal pension awarded. In such cases the motivation for applying was recognition; applications were made initially for Certificates of Military Service, and when these were granted a pension could be applied for.


There was significant political opposition to the inclusion of the Connaught Rangers mutineers in this post-revolutionary compensation process, with a sceptical (and no doubt parsimonious) Ernest Blythe declaring that their “patriotism was an afterthought”. The fact that many of the Connaughts covered by the legislation enlisted voluntarily in the British army after the conscription crisis of April 1918 was reflected in the decision only to award them smaller one-off gratuities rather than pensions. – Is mise,




School of History &




Queen’s University Belfast.


Sir, – Even in the 21st century I find it almost unfathomable that a civil servant in Dublin in the 1930s could come to the view that a woman volunteer who was shot three times by a British soldier while on service in the St Stephen’s Green garrison in 1916 could be refused a pension because he (and it would have been a he) deemed the law only was “applicable to soldiers as generally understood in the masculine sense” (Home News, January 17th).


Margaret Skinnider, who was my aunt, and our family were very close in Dublin. She was very proud of her service in 1916, and later in the Black and Tan war and in the Civil War. I don’t recall her making any mention of the pension refusal. Her indignation would have been immense. I suppose Countess Markievicz was dealt with in a similar fashion. – Yours, etc,




Pacific Highway,




New South Wales,






Sir, – The three-day Theatre of Memory symposium which His Excellency President Michael D Higgins inspired and which he opened at the Abbey Theatre last week was a diverse, provocative, stimulating interrogation of things that matter and should matter to us as a nation. One could not have asked for 32 better contributors, nor for a better-organised and more smoothly-run event.


And yet The Irish Times deliberately attempted to throw a hand grenade in the works with its timed front page and full-page reductionist “rate my theatre” pieces (Main paper & Weekend Review, January 18th).


Every National Theatre strives to be world class and with this in mind it is admirable that the Abbey, in conjunction with the Arts Council, set in motion an evaluation and assessment of its recent productions.


What I object to is the publication of a report, accessed through Freedom of Information, that is clearly not yet signed off on nor yet delivered to the Abbey. This was shoddy opportunism. – Yours, etc,




Prince Arthur Terrace,


Leinster Square, Dublin 6.


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s report on the Abbey Theatre’s “world-class” standing made sad reading for us in Limerick (Front page & Weekend Review, January 18th). Indignation is rife here over the miserable €7.1 million the Government toss to our internationally-renowned National Theatre. The Abbey’s commissioning of daring modern work by fresh young voices doesn’t come cheap, and we are ready to support the Abbey till our noses bleed.


The Dublin media should get down here to gauge the level of support for our National Theatre. No birthday candle is extinguished without a wish for the Abbey to come down and grace Limerick with one of its exquisite triumphs; the Limerick air at New Year crackled again with fresh resolutions to travel up to the Abbey, if there is anything on.


In short, Limerick wishes the Abbey all the very best for a speedy return to its rightful world standing – no matter the cost. And we live in hope that one day soon, the Abbey will meet its stated aim to “actively engage with” us, and tour a production of a modern Irish play, in Ireland. It can’t be that hard. – Yours, etc,




Ballysimon, Co Limerick.


Religion is not merely a sociological phenomenon which can lend itself to curious study, and reducing any religion to that narrow focus is to disrespect the truth claims of religion. I believe we have every right to be proud of the fact that our Constitution, written in the context of the darkening clouds of totalitarianism which were to engulf Europe in the horror of the second World War and all that it involved recognised religious freedom and the right of a free conscience.


Ireland must have appeared as a beacon of hope to those in Europe caught in destruction of a civilisation which owed its strength to its Christian roots.


The expressed intolerance by various government ministers to the religion of the vast majority is in sharp contrast to the more liberal drafters of the 1937 Constitution. Mr Cox may be surprised that at the Catholic secondary school that I attended in the 1950s there was a large minority, about 10 per cent, in final year who were Buddhists from Asia studying for Matriculation.


Time and space was made available to them for their religious practices and we were encouraged to respect their loyalty to their religion. That was an example (which was common) of religious tolerance. – Yours, etc,




Ballintlea North,




Co Clare.




Sir, – “We are where we are”, going forward of course. – Yours, etc,




Rutledge Terrace,


Dublin 8.


Sir, – Listen. – Yours, etc,




Millmount Avenue,




Co Westmeath.


A chara, – A phrase trotted out on the news on every conceivable occasion by the “authorities” after an event with serious consequences: “Lessons will be learnt”. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were. – Is mise,




Sutton in the Isle,








Sir, – “Swing by” ; unless, improbably, chariots are involved. – Yours, etc,




Carrickbrennan Road,




Co Dublin.


Sir, – After nearly two weeks of contributions for the above perhaps it’s nearly time for “end game”. – Yours, etc,












Irish Independent:



State should not be let off hook for charities


Also in this section


We deserve much better governance than this


Cheap drink comes at a cost


Letters: Disagreeing with Donal on suicide


Irish citizens with a disability have for decades been relying on charity to obtain or supplement vital services.


Over time we have created a charity culture where numerous regulated and unregulated charities have emerged to bridge the gap, leaving the State off the hook.


People with a disability are therefore regarded by society as charity cases who rely on the generosity of those around them.


Their families, who are very busy caring for their son or daughter, take to the streets to shake buckets and organise quiz nights and marathons to fundraise.


What a kick in the teeth for the unfortunate families of clients of the Central Remedial Clinic to discover where their very hard-earned fundraising cash has gone.


As a parent of a child with a moderate learning disability who is in the educational system but not receiving state services, I am uncomfortable on many levels with fundraising.


I feel we are missing the bigger picture: should the need for these charities exist?


We are all equal citizens of Ireland entitled to equity and for all our basic needs to be met by the State, regardless of our physical or intellectual disability, in order to live full lives with dignity and without having to rely on charity of any kind.


The State’s money should be spent on frontline staff such as teachers, special needs assistants, care workers and therapists who do great and meaningful work.


We need to change our disabled citizens’ status as charity cases to equal citizens with equal rights.








* Really, nobody should be surprised by the salary revelations emanating from the Central Remedial Clinic and Irish Water controversies.


This sense of entitlement is, of course, a top-down national disease, and is endemic in politics, business, trade unions and some professions.


The unspoken truth is that we have a President, who is a socialist and humanitarian, who feels entitled to a salary of circa a quarter of a million euro per annum plus hugely generous expenses and allowances.


We have two ex-presidents, happy to take pensions of more than €100,000 per annum.


The Taoiseach, who presides over a bankrupt little country, is quite content to be among the highest-paid leaders in the world, as are his colleagues in cabinet who are the envy of their peers in Europe.


We are blessed to have five ex-taoisigh, four of whom are festooned with pensions and perks of around €140,000 each, as well as myriads of ex-politicians and senior civil servants on equally grotesque lifelong pensions, not to mention the CRC-scale golden handouts received on exiting the stage.


This unfounded, innate sense of self-worth and entitlement, we should never forget, is funded by impoverished and ultra-compliant Paddy, who unfortunately has long ago lost his sense of outrage or self-esteem.


What’s happening at the CRC is the tip of the iceberg and we all know that this cancer can only be stamped out by political leadership, courage and example. We were promised as much in 2011.


Sadly, neither of the government parties or Fianna Fail, as permanent self-interested beneficiaries of the party system, have ever shown any inclination to stop the tide and are less likely to do so in the future.


We have, however, a glorious opportunity to declare our disgust at the forthcoming elections.








* News that delegates from the new super-quango Irish Water were sent on a laughing mission to Croke Park for a morale-boosting €6,000 exercise has all the hallmarks of Walter Mitty at his finest.


However, next time just get them to look at us muggins paying for all this malarkey! That will have them in hysterics for free!






* Are there no ethical standards left in this country or have we become an institutionalised nation of greed? Charity chief executives topping up goes beyond belief. People with disabilities are the most vulnerable in our society. It is our moral duty to support and protect these people, especially given our history of past institutions of care. Has this country learned nothing? How many CRC service users suffered cutbacks during this financial abuse?


Irish carers have been providing the Government with free services for years. Put us and our people with disabilities in charge of our own resources within our own communities. We don’t want overpriced institutionalised care. Enough is enough.








* With American politics having The Tea Party, could our Reform Alliance become known as The Cocktail Reception?








* Over the past few months I’ve grown tired of politicians saying that we need to copy the Swedish economic model. Or that the Swiss health system is fantastic and we should replicate it..


I ask, why can’t Irish politicians come up with some of their own original ideas, instead of belatedly following our European neighbours. Surely, we can be the trendsetters.








* I read with incredulity, Daragh Mangan’s self-assured letter (Irish Independent, January 20) in which he supported huge salaries being paid to executives in the employ of charitable organisations.


He seems bewildered that a charity should be “vilified for hiring the most capable staff it can because they demand a respectable wage”.


I am not sure what Mr Mangan’s idea of a “respectable wage” is, but I would wager it is quite different to my notion of what constitutes one.


Nowhere in his letter does he mention the morality of executives receiving large salaries, while at the same time charities, to stay afloat, rely on the goodwill of our citizens, many of whom themselves are struggling financially.








* Language matters. It forms our thoughts and shapes our lives.


The Irish language, because of exclusion from public life, has gone from being the majority language in the early 1800s to being a minority language today. This was the greatest social change in Irish history.


Imagine had England been conquered and its language replaced by Spanish, French or German. Imagine an English population unable to read Shakespeare except in translation and cut off from their own history. Imagine the effect this would have on the psyche, confidence and sense of self of any people.


Our English-only mentality costs us export markets and jobs. The Danes learnt English without abandoning Danish and have a stronger economy than us.


Speaking Irish makes Ireland sound and feel like a regular European country.


It will recover our intellectual and cultural sovereignty and contribute to an inclusive Irish identity beyond colour or creed.






Irish Independent




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