22 January 2014 Liz and Anna
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Leslie has to pass a navigation test, but the examiner is an old flame of Mrs Poveys. Priceless.
Liz and Anna come for lunch, not a success, get lots of books, Peter Rice finished the windows.
Scrabble today I wins and gets over 400, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
The Reverend Professor Ernest Nicholson, who has died aged 75, was a leading scholar of the Old Testament and served from 1990 to 2003 as Provost of Oriel College, Oxford.
An Ulsterman by birth, Nicholson made substantial contributions to the study of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses comprising Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) . One of his main preoccupations was the concept of the “covenant” which he saw as central to the development of what is distinctive in the faith of Israel.
In a major survey, God and His People; Covenant and Theology in the Old Testament (1986), Nicholson concluded that: “on the whole … it is fair to regard ‘covenant’ as a theological theory about God’s relationship with Israel … Thus understood, ‘covenant’ is the central expression of the distinctive faith of Israel as ‘the people of Yahweh’, the children of God by adoption and free decision rather than by nature or necessity.”
His biblical scholarship and his expertise in Latin, Hebrew and Semitic languages brought Nicholson international renown and he travelled all over the world. Yet he was always happy to admit that as a boy he had failed his 11-plus, using the experience to encourage young people that anything could be achieved through hard work and application.
The son of a farmer, Ernest Wilson Nicholson was born into a Protestant family at Portadown, Co Armagh, on September 26 1938. After his disastrous 11-plus , he was educated at the town’s technical school.
Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor
15 Nov 2013
Obituary: Professor John Strugnell
02 Jan 2008
Canon John Fenton
08 Jan 2009
Professor Martin Hengel
12 Jul 2009
He spent four years there but wanted to enter the Church and eventually mastered enough Latin to move to the grammar school, Portadown College. From there, Nicholson went up to Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Theology and was greatly influenced by the Hebrew scholar Jacob Weingreen.
Nicholson went on to Glasgow University, where he took a PhD under CJ Mullo Weir. His thesis, on the literary history of the book of Deuteronomy, accepted the widely-held belief that the core of the book could be identified with the “book of the law” which was discovered in the Jerusalem temple in 621 BC and which influenced King Josiah’s reformation of worship in Judah. It was published in revised form (in 1967) as his first book, Deuteronomy and Tradition.
In 1962 Nicholson had returned to Trinity College as a lecturer in Hebrew and Semitics. In 1967 he moved to Cambridge as University Lecturer in Divinity with a fellowship at University (now Wolfson) College. After his ordination in Ely Cathedral in 1969, he became Chaplain, and later Dean, of Pembroke College. In Preaching to the Exiles (1971), he traced the history of the “Deuteronomic” tradition from its beginnings to the Babylonian Exile.
Nicholson moved to Oxford in 1979 to take up the post of Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, with a fellowship at Oriel. As well as serving as college Provost he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1993 to 2003.
As Provost of Oriel, Nicholson was known for his kindliness towards all members of his college, while his concern for student welfare was reflected in his appointment as chairman of a university committee on student health. A dignified man who valued tradition, he was an assiduous fundraiser and it was his idea to produce an official history of the college. The book, a substantial collaborative effort, edited by Jeremy Catto, was published in November last year.
At Cambridge, Nicholson had begun to turn his mind to wider issues concerning the origins of Biblical traditions in such works as Exodus and Sinai in History and Tradition (1973). At Oxford, in addition to God and His People (1986), he published The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen (1998).
Ernest Nicholson was a Fellow of the British Academy, which awarded him its Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies in 2009.
He married, in 1962, Hazel Jackson, who survives him with their three daughters. A son predeceased him.
The Reverend Professor Ernest Nicholson, born September 26 1938, died December 22 2013
I was one of a group of women who gave evidence to the parliamentary select committee considering transferring child benefit from mothers to fathers (Letters, 21 January). As far as I am aware, there was no meaningful number of male trade unionists who had their beady eyes on the money. The proposal to transfer the money from purse to wallet was merely made to streamline and simplify the benefits and tax systems. The consequences of this – that a far smaller proportion of the money would find its way to supporting children – had simply been overlooked. We drew the committee’s attention to this and its members accepted the argument, and we won the day. It was a good victory, but there’s no need to cloud the picture with imaginary male villains.
• I was working in the private office of the Department of Health and Social Security at the time. David Ennals had just become secretary of state and was on a canal holiday when the leak came to light. He didn’t want to cancel his holiday, but it was a big issue and he wanted to be kept informed. This was in the days before mobile phones, so we had to arrange to call a telephone box alongside the canal at a given time. A man I didn’t know answered the phone. After a little confusion I asked if there was anyone nearby who appeared to be waiting. “Well,” he said, “there’s a man reading the Daily Telegraph.” “That’ll be him,” I said, “can you hand him the phone.” We never did establish what a Labour secretary of state was doing reading the Daily Telegraph.
An alternative version to the origins of Babes in the Wood (Country diary, 20 January) comes in the book The Dark River: the Irwell by Cyril Bracegirdle. In this the legend was inspired by an incident which took place at Agecroft Hall in the Irwell Valley in the reign of Edward III. “Pining of grief for the death of her lord in the French wars, Lady Joan de Langley had left her young son in wardship to her late husband’s patron John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. On the morning of the Feast of Ascension, in 1374, the villainous Robert de Holland ‘with many others assembled with him, armed in breastplate and with swords, and bows and arrows, by force took possession of the said lordship of the duke’.” Exactly how the noble duke was occupying himself while this dastardly business was taking place is not recorded. But it appears that the young Langley and his sister escaped to the shelter of the forest which then covered the slopes of the Irwell Valley, where they were cared for by loyal retainers until Lancaster rescued them. Agecroft Hall was shipped lock, stock and barrel to Richmond, Virginia.
We understand from the chancellor’s autumn statement that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills faces additional cuts of £305m over the next two years. Reports suggest the Treasury is seeking to achieve this by abolishing the student opportunity fund, administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This fund aims to support the less privileged into university study and the threat of its abolition will fill many with horror. But the flipside is that it appears to be either this or further cuts to the adult budget for further education.
So, for every pound of the HE opportunity fund not cut, a pound will have to be found from money to support adults gaining skills in FE. Put starkly, the country faces a choice between enabling the less privileged to access college or to access university (Education, 21 January). Universities have a loud voice – but what of England’s more than 350 further education colleges? The 157 Group represents 30 of the largest, and our members alone train over 300,000 adults each year and contribute over £16.5bn to the UK economy. Tuition fees for a typical full-time programme in FE are about half what a university would charge, so saving the FE budget could benefit twice as many people. Many FE colleges offer degree-level programmes, so it would be possible for more to achieve to this level if the FE budget were retained. And the focus of FE on the vocational – and on skills – would seem to be more in keeping with our growing economic needs.
As Vince Cable said in 2012: “In our popular culture today, the contestants on Masterchef or Great British Bake Off receive infinitely greater exposure than the teams on University Challenge. We rightly admire craft and skill as much as – if not more than – knowledge.” To invest in skills is to invest in further education. If a stark choice has to be made, then preserving the chance for more to access high-quality vocational education at their local FE college seems to be self-evidently the right choice.
Executive director, 157 Group
In your report (18 January) on the possibility of the Church of England appointing a woman bishop by Christmas you say of the main candidates: “Faull is the least controversial candidate. Osborne produced a report friendly to gay clergy 20 years ago that frightened conservatives, and Winkett has been accused of antisemitism after an art installation at her church represented the Israeli separation wall around Bethlehem.”
This unsourced statement about Rev Lucy Winkett is below-the-belt journalism. The Guardian was one of few mainstream news outlets to give the Bethlehem Unwrapped event any coverage, so one would think it would avoid repeating such antisemitic innuendo.
This kind of statement is damaging to the reputation of Lucy Winkett and a slur on the congregation, which is fully supportive of the event that took place at St James’s church over the 12 days of Christmas. It devalues the real antisemitism which is still a phenomenon in post-Holocaust Europe. St James’s has a long-standing and honourable public record of opposition to racism, religious intolerance and injustice in any form, and staunchly defends the right of the state of Israel to exist with secure borders.
Deputy church warden, St James’s church, Piccadilly
• The Anglican church supported the Bethlehem Unwrapped festival, which was organised and celebrated in response to an appeal from the Holy Land Trust and other Christian and Jewish and Israeli organisations which work for reconciliation. Its purpose was to draw attention to the immense difficulties for all those living either side of the Bethlehem separation wall. The message of the festival and of the replica wall was “build bridges not walls”. Messages on the wall were encouraged and when I attended the last-night concert a part of the wall was ceremoniously transformed into a bridge. It was inspiring and moving,
I understand there was harsh criticism from some Israelis and from Christian Zionists, but that there was much more support from many Jewish visitors and, as would be expected, from organisations such as Israelis Against Demolition and other Palestinian, Israeli and Jewish organisations working for reconciliation.
• The decision by Lucy Winkett and Justin Butcher (creative director of the festival) to hold it at St James’s was an act of remarkable moral courage, for which they should be congratulated, not vilified. The festival was, explicitly, to support the people of Palestine and Israel, as an act of solidarity for a just and sustainable solution for both communities.
• So the C of E “can now move on to arguing about gay clergy and the blessing of gay marriage”, topics of little interest to most people, but which are so much easier for synod to get steamed up about than really important issues such as poverty and inequality. Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, giving a voice to the voiceless – these should be the priorities of those who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. When they are, then perhaps the church will regain some relevance.
Giggleswick, North Yorkshire
I was delighted to read that the Sutton Trust intended its Open Access proposals to open up access to the top independent schools “to all students” only to have my happiness confounded immediately on the next line on discovering this access was to be “on the basis of ability” (Letters, 21 January). So, not so much an exercise in open access as creaming off the state schools to cement the existing grossly unequal system. Some reform!
• The one principled defence corporate tax-avoiders offered was that it is for companies to minimise their tax bills within the rules and for governments to change the rules if the outcome is unacceptable. It now seems (Tech firms make last-minute bid to halt tax clampdown, 20 January) that they abandoned that minor peak in the moral high ground just as soon as governments responded to their invitation.
• The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, one of the most influential psychoanalysts after Freud, saw that the impulse to steal is connected to the impulse to love, the need to have something felt to be good (Thieves smash urn holding Freud’s ashes, 16 January). Since the thief wanted literally to have psychoanalysis, let him be given it. Of all the groups to provoke, has he not managed to select the one most able to offer him understanding and reparation?
• Regarding dandelions and snowdrops (Letters, 20 January), les perce-neiges de cette année sont dans nos jardin, en County Durham, aujourd’hui.
Mordon, County Durham
• Four hundred letters a day from the wide, wide world and you choose to give us mind-numbing news from a few back gardens. Who the hell does the choosing? Please fire them.
• On 20 January, I observed daffodils flowering on the south-facing garden outside St Nicholas of Myra church in Brighton. I also saw a bee inspecting flowers in a window box in a nearby street.
Enough of this “we’re all victims” hand-wringing (Why make such a fuss? Here’s why, Lord Rennard, 21 January). I worked for the Liberal party in the House of Commons from 1976 until 1987, and it may surprise some that neither my female colleagues nor I put up with constant manhandling because we were either too ambitious for political advancement or too stupid to recognise it as sexual harassment. It simply didn’t happen. Of course there was the occasional hand on knee or hug from a male MP or member of staff. If it was unwelcome, it was dealt with firmly at the time and there the matter ended, with no tears and no years of depression or counselling required for either party.
Perhaps it is a generational issue, but I resent being made a victim by Polly Toynbee and those Liberal Democrat activists who seem to have allowed a few embarrassing incidents to blight their lives and the lives of others, and with a few facile generalisations have also managed (perhaps inadvertently) to tarnish the reputations of those women who have had political success.
By screaming “sexual harassment” at the slightest touch, they trivialise the real humiliation and violence suffered by too many women every day. By depicting women as too fragile to deal with the occasional clumsy approach without the intervention of a more powerful male, they undermine our achievements in the workplace and beyond.
• Workplace harassment needs to be handled according to the problem. If a place of work has a sensitive enough policy with trained mediators/counsellors to implement the policy and deal with the issue at a very early stage then the rarely successful “costly employment tribunal cases” Polly Toynbee refers to can be avoided. A method that lets a person know their behaviour is unacceptable is often the first step. The four Lib Dem women would sit in a room, with a friend if necessary, and tell Lord Rennard how they felt when he did what he did. He could also have a friend with him. Being publicly confronted in this way allows him to hear the impact of his behaviour and is a first stage. It is vital to support and empower the “victims” and turn them into “survivors” who can learn how to deal with the problem if it ever happens again.
If the behaviour does not stop, then the matter can be taken further to disciplinary level. Sometimes, several meetings with either side or with both sides is required. With 20-plus years’ experience of dealing with staff (colleagues and managers) and student problems, from teenage cyberbullying to thoughtless management groping, I found that the “perpetrator” rarely uses the words “I’m sorry” but will often respond positively to the question “Can you understand and acknowledge why your behaviour is not acceptable?” A suitable remedy can usually be found but may not be enshrined in policy.
Developing a trustworthy outsider status to encourage people to come forward (even if they only think it is a “trivial” matter), to manage the whole process and support both sides, means people may be able to get back to their work and their lives. Agreement to address harassment and bullying must be verbalised from the top management and “collusion” with one’s fellow managers is not acceptable. Talking to the “perpetrators” about their behaviour sometimes worked. Initially being accused of being a “persecuting witch” by one senior manager was only helpful in that it made me more determined to put the item on the agenda, assist those affected by it and wherever possible reduce the impact on them. At least the perpetrators knew I was “watching” them and sometimes that really was enough to stop the behaviour.
Former equality manager and head of student services at Bradford College
• I would have more time for the views of Lord Rennard’s “friends” (Rennard threatens legal action after Lib Dem suspension, 21 January) if any of them were female; certainly none have raised their head above the parapet. Is this not just the equivalent of the Conservative Bullingdon Club transferred to the Liberal Democrats?
• ”[T]he portly peer … this physically unprepossessing man”? Had similarly unflattering and irrelevant remarks been made about the physical appearance of a woman, Ms Toynbee would doubtless be incandescent. Surely what’s unacceptable for the goose is also unacceptable for the gander.
Margaret Drabble is half-right (10 January). Advances in science are indeed keeping too many of us alive too long. What is the point of more and more years contemplating our slippers in the residential home?
But we are not helpless in the hands of the doctors. You don’t have to take the pills or sign the form for a surgical intervention, or call the ambulance, or even go to see the doctor in the first place. You can say no. You can make a living will that is legally binding on the medical profession, indicating your wish not to receive certain types of treatment or resuscitation. More control over our own destiny is possible than Drabble allows.
She also underestimates the dangers of legalised euthanasia. Medical professionals are legally obliged to act in “the best interests of the patient”, but families are not. If euthanasia were legal, many vulnerable and suggestible old and sick people would come under pressure from the relatives to take the pill that Drabble recommends. After all, granny is using up her life’s savings in the Home, and we were counting on the old girl’s money, weren’t we? Or we simply want it now, not to wait until she’s gone. So, “You’re not very happy here are you, gran? Why don’t you ask the doctor for that nice little pill?” And so on.
I may want to have more say in when I go, but I don’t want others deciding it for me, neither doctors nor those closest to me.
• Excellent article by Margaret Drabble. The only point missing is the fact that other countries are once again ahead of the sclerotic UK. Leaving aside the well-known case of Switzerland, all three Benelux countries have legislated to allow, subject to appropriate safeguards, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide for patients with an incurable illness that is causing them unbearable suffering.
Moreover, three US states (Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have legalised medically assisted suicide. These governments have recognised that the right to self-determination includes the right of the individual to decide the time and manner of his or her death. When will Britain follow their enlightened example and allow the same freedom to its citizens?
• My mother-in-law, who lives in the Midlands, is certainly a good example of Ivan Illich’s theory that doctors may do more harm than good. Now in her 97th year, she has refused to see a doctor since she was 50. Not only that, she has taken no medicine, apart from one acetaminophen some years ago (which she quickly judged did more harm than good).
She undoubtedly has good genes and has been fortunate in avoiding the maladies that have afflicted her siblings, but that is not to say that she has not suffered from some others. We believe that she probably has osteoporosis, observing that she is now much shorter than she used to be. She has had various chest ailments that have, presumably, lasted longer that they would have had she taken antibiotics. She fell and, by her own judgment, probably broke some ribs, yet steadfastly refused to see a doctor, claiming that he would not be able to do anything anyway. Her big fear is that someone will take her to a doctor and that he or she will find something wrong with her, a fear that is undoubtedly justified.
In the meantime, she continues to live entirely independently, walking to the shops (with no aid), cleaning her house more thoroughly than most people, doing some gardening and competing the daily crossword without the aid of reading glasses. Long may she stay away from doctors!
Dundas, Ontario, Canada
• I heartily concur with most of Margaret Drabble’s comments on attitudes to the elderly and most of these comments apply equally to pensioners in New Zealand. Particularly one can’t help wondering whether those newspaper columnists and others who accuse us of being The Selfish Generation will decline to receive the pensions and bus passes – “the well-earned consolations of age” – when their turn comes. It inevitably will.
Auckland, New Zealand
Fracking ruins our home
Suzanne Goldenberg’s article on fracking (10 January) is welcome. Perhaps you will follow it with a semi-covert-ops journalistic safari into the wilds of the all-new American gold rush. Send some roughneck reporter to the bars frequented by the Joes and Josies in the field. How is it on the ground inside the perimeter fence on the driller’s payroll?
Fracking is to the average citizen of any modern civilisation as global opium production is to the junkies of this world. The primates of the Earth may be, well, primitive, but they are healthier animals by far with a much clearer view of the difference between the natural order in all its wondrous, terrible majesty and our relentless, grievous disturbance thereof.
The whaling magnates of yore and the fracking executives, board-members and so on of today are the same as ever: the same sorts who keep us sheep warm and direct-wired into their age-old system of rampant, ever-escalating desecration of the only place any of us has to live.
Shaftsbury, Vermont, US
Vestiges of colonialism
It was bizarre to read that those celebrating the reinstatement of the law against same-sex relationships in India claim that such relations are a disease imported from the west, when the law in question (section 377 of the penal code) was imposed by the western colonial rulers of India a century and a half ago (20 December). The same “blame the west” nonsense is being perpetuated by the Ugandan government (3 January) in extending a colonial era law to oppress homosexuals, using the same colonialist rationale (“against the order of nature”).
My Indian and Ugandan homosexual friends are trapped in a dreadful catch-22, where even to speak out against these oppressive laws could render them liable to persecution and violence from the state, and from those who feel empowered by its bigotry. From the safety of living in an ex-colony that decriminalised homosexual relationships 28 years ago, I therefore feel impelled to point out that such laws are from a very bad bygone era of colonialism, when racial discrimination and persecution were also condoned by the state. The sooner they go the way of other discriminatory laws, the better it will be for India, Uganda and all other ex-colonies.
Port Levy, New Zealand
Do not fire unless you’re sure
In Why the US drone programme is horrifying by Heather Linebaugh (3 January), she writes: “The video provided by a drone is far from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a clear day.”
There is a simple solution to the problem: if you are not 100% sure whether the target is an armed terrorist, don’t fire. Stationed far away from the combat zone, UAV troops enjoy the luxury of time and energy to study the pictures of their targets for extended periods: they should not push the button unless they are fully satisfied that their targets are armed insurgents and not women and children.
Since the aerial bombardment introduced by the German Zeppelin attack on London in the first world war, civilian casualties have become an inevitable part of modern warfare. Only drones provide an opportunity to avoid such civilian casualties.
UAV troops should be advised only to fire when they are sure about their targets. As they don’t face any danger faced by pilots of bombers, UAV operators can take time to ensure that they are not attacking any civilian targets. In fact, drones can be used effectively against armed groups if proper steps are taken to avert civilian casualties.
• Regarding your article In praise of … crystallography (10 January): the real discoverer of DNA was Rosalind Franklin and it was done in the rather primitive x-ray laboratory at King’s College London. I was studying crystallography in King’s geology department and used to visit Rosalind with my samples for analysis, but she wouldn’t let me stay long because of leakage of x-rays. This Englishwoman told me she was working out the structure of this new material sent to her from a New Zealander and an American at Cambridge, but died soon after from radiation poisoning. I think the Guardian should also remember this most important scientist.
Manly, NSW, Australia
• I always look forward to Oliver Burkeman’s column, but to hear that laziness is not one’s own fault was music to my ears (3 January). But I would go further: laziness is not a fault at all. We lazy people are the only ones with the time to savour, to contemplate, to ponder over and to reflect upon the hard work of others. For that alone, surely we are worth our own weight in couch potato.
Moreover, think of the resources we are not using up, the environment we are not polluting, the money we are leaving others to make, the competitions we are letting others win. Where would the rest of you be without us?
If Burkeman does set up a campaign for the rights of the lazy, I dare say I would lift a finger to press “like”.
St Louis, France
• The celebrities whom we admire for their remarkable ability to remain young and fit (10 January) do not tell us about the time and money they spend to hire the best trainers, cosmeticians and surgeons; that such expensive image maintenance is a thankless and endlessly time-consuming pursuit leading to mixed results; and finally, and most discouragingly, that it is subject to relentless public scrutiny and criticism – in short, plain hard work.
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
What a Lib Dem own goal! Molehills and mountains, storms and teacups come to mind. My more than 40 years of a career in a mainly male environment taught me that:
a) There always are and always will be unpleasant, arrogant or inadequate men who will “try it on”. (We’re not talking about illegal offences here.)
b) The problem is invariably solved by a slap on the wrist of the offending hand, a shoe heel brought smartly down on the male foot, or a sweetly but loudly voiced, “Please keep your hands to yourself.”
If these delicate women lack self-reliance they should stop whingeing, gather up their smelling salts and retire to their ladies’ boudoirs. If their life skills are so weak then these sensitive flowers have no place in politics or business; they only impede the advance of genuinely capable women. Not to mention the harm they do to their party.
This country has big issues to face. This pantomime is not one of them. Weakness, embarrassment and time-wasting all round, Lib Dems.
Barbara Sanders, London SW20
Either we have the rule of law in this country or we don’t. If we do, then we are going to have to start taking the presumption of innocence a lot more seriously than is currently the case in relation to Lord Rennard.
The overwhelming majority of press comment, including Joan Smith’s comment piece (21 January), has been based on the assumption that the allegations against Lord Rennard are true. I don’t know if they are, but then neither does she. What I do know is that the case was looked into over a long period of time by the Metropolitan Police, who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed, and that that was also the conclusion of the independent inquiry into the matter, carried out by Alistair Webster QC, which put the likelihood of success in court at below 50 per cent. Had the case gone to court it would seem that both the police and the inquiry would expect Lord Rennard to be acquitted.
The only regimes which have allowed suspicion or unproven allegation to be the basis for condemning the accused have been dictatorships and tyrannies. The secrecy and lack of due process which has characterised the Liberal Democrats’ handling of the case may invite uncomfortable comparisons with such oppressive regimes, but I would have hoped that an independently minded newspaper would have had more respect for the rights of the accused.
Sean Lang, Sawston, Cambridgeshire
How to defuse the current emotions threatening the Lib Dems? The matter has been brought into the open and aired publicly. The Lib Dem rules need reviewing and tightening. The women involved seemed to have some catharsis. Lord Reynard remains adamantly opined that he did nothing wrong. Yet he is denied the key report requiring him to apologise. As Lord Carlile, his legal adviser, said, this is contrary to natural justice. Of course this is unfair and unreasonable. He must see what is being said of him.
Maybe it is time for quiet reflection or some long walks alone. The Lib Dem opposition in the Lords has been the only real bulwark to the worst excesses of right-wing Toryism. Allowing this festering boil to further damage the Lib Dems is pointless and dangerous.
Justice has been done as far as it can be; attentions are better focused now on the Tories’ naked politics to win power in 2015 with such cheap point-scoring as a £7 minimum wage while reducing higher rate tax from 50p to 45p – which gives £100,000 earners a mere £3,000 or so for doing nothing.
End of story? I hope so.
Keith W D Jago, Brighton
Thatcher house and Tory values
The revelation that Baroness Thatcher’s home in Chester Square, London, will be placed on the open market (“Yours for £12m”, 18 January) alluded to the claim that the property was owned by an offshore trust registered in the British Virgin Islands, thus avoiding inheritance tax. Surely this is not the same “blessed Margaret” who preached Victorian values, saying that the Victorian era was the era of “selflessness and benefaction”.
How is it that someone who may have deliberately avoided paying money into the state coffers should be rewarded with a title, a pension and a state funeral? No wonder that there are feelings of disaffection and incredulity among many hard-working and hard-taxed sections of the public.
It is about time that the Government made attempts to improve social cohesion by introducing measures to prevent tax avoidance, to complement the measures being taken to lower the benefit budget.
Dr David Bartlett , Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Is anybody surprised to read that Margaret Thatcher’s house in Chester Square “being registered in the British Virgin Islands, was effectively outside the will” and she “may have legally avoided millions in inheritance tax by keeping a chunk of her fortune off-shore”?
It emphasises that “We are all in it together” is no more than a cynical rendering of her saying that “there is no such thing as society”. It remains a grab-what-you-can society and, I suspect, it always will be under the Tories.
Charles Bidwell, Oxford
No scope for today’s working-class heroes
It’s not just “vanishing acting opportunities” that Stephen McGann should be highlighting (“Estate kids like me aren’t getting chances, says actor”, 21 January). Class divisions are ever greater and the odds are stacked against a child becoming successful in any career without the background of privilege.
People with a private education make up the majority of the Commons front benches, clog up the music charts and run corporations. Decades ago, it did seem possible that talent and hard work led to fame and fortune.
Have the working classes lost all aspiration to follow their dreams or is it that the old school tie network is now a necessity for success? We need more working-class heroes.
Angela Elliott, Hundleby, Lincolnshire
Whether compulsory or not, it does make sense for job seekers to have to study basic skills in maths and English if they don’t already have the appropriate certificates. But with no new jobs being created and graduates unable to get work, let no one think that what the Labour spokeswoman is saying will have a positive effect in getting people back into employment.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
When you really need a lawyer
H Trevor Jones (letter, 13 January) asks why we still need legal aid when we have independent judges and randomly selected juries. There are several reasons.
First, article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that a person accused of a crime be given access to legal representation.
Second, without legal training a person will not be able to subpoena witnesses, question witnesses, or know which questions or evidence is not admissible. Thus “simply tell their own story truthfully” isn’t enough to ensure that an innocent person will be found innocent, especially when a witness is falsely testifying against them or the police are trying to frame them.
Third, it has been demonstrated in the USA that if people get poor legal representation they are substantially more likely to be imprisoned, even if they’re innocent. After being exonerated they will be eligible for a substantial amount of compensation. Failing to give people proper legal representation has a great financial and human cost.
Thomas Wiggins, Wokingham, Berkshire
Bumps and scrapes of childhood
A very moving letter (21 January) from Stephen Crake in Beijing. Of course there are dangers in allowing children to play in the street or even in the fields and woods. I remember childhood playfellows suffering broken bones and proudly showing off black eyes.
But I am sure they, and I, would have preferred this to being confined to the house all day long. Bring back the skipping ropes, the cookers, even the whips and tops, allow children to climb trees, and let them take some risks.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
If Eric Pickles and the Conservatives are planning to site one of their “garden cities” at Yalding, Kent (news, 20 January) it is likely to contain an extremely big water feature.
Shane Malhotra, Maidstone, Kent
No way off the grid
Seems churlish to rain on Bob Gilmurray’s freedom parade (letter, 21 January) but there is no escape. On his travels he has appeared on probably hundreds of CCTV cameras.
Trevor Beaumont , Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Sir, This disclosure of abuse in schools is welcome, for boarding schools are very “closed worlds” and children as young as 7 are still being sent into the care of strangers solely because it is “the done thing”. Abusers can find it easy to groom children who are very lonely and vulnerable as they move into the strange life of an institution.
Paedophiles often blame the children. Of course they can be condemned whatever their age, as all abusers have always known the damage they cause. This is why they work in a dark world of secrecy, lies or threats to silence their victims.
Andrew Norfolk (report, Jan 20) is absolutely right in saying that no one can be confident that abuse does not exist today. Two things would help reduce the risk.
Firstly, schools need to be truly open and honest about the nature of abuse instead of repeating that it is a thing of the past and all boarding is now safe. It is not, and some in authority collude in the abuse as they silently let known paedophile teachers move to other schools without telling the police.
Secondly, the government has to take this issue seriously. There is no such thing as “mild paedophilia”. Urgent action is needed to change the law, making it mandatory to report all abuse.
Sir, Your report on child abuse raises important issues, and no one involved in education would wish to ignore, still less condone past incidents. However, it does seem spiteful to put on an interactive map schools where teachers were acquitted, or where no case was found to answer. A zealous attitude of “no smoke without fire” risks undermining trust in such reports. Not all those accused of a crime are guilty.
Headmaster, The King’s School
Sir, You imply that schools are to blame if the abuse does not lead to prosecution for many years. I’ve twice taught in schools where such a case occurred. In both the school acted promptly when the abuse came to light. In neither was there enough evidence for prosecution though both tried to have the perpetrator included on the sex offenders list. One attempt failed for want of evidence, though the headmaster took the risk, when later he learned that the man was applying at another school, of warning its head. Schools are natural targets for paedophiles, boarding schools offer more opportunities and victims often can’t speak about the abuse for years. For most of your 130 you list only one offender. In how many of those cases do the victims blame the school?
Sir, All criminal acts within schools are deplorable. Modern communications do indeed render children less vulnerable to such abuse (letter, Jan 21). Far more significantly, however, extensive legal, regulatory and educational safeguards are now required, including rigorous inspection.
The events of the past cannot, alas, be undone. But the concerns and actions of the present will continue to ensure ever safer and more rewarding educational experiences in the UK schools of the future.
Dr Tim Hands
Chairman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
oluntary organisations to speak out, on behalf of millions of supporters, on causes that matter to the British public is at risk.
The Lobbying Bill was intended to restrict the use of “big money” in our politics. Instead it is going to restrict the activities of campaigning and voluntary organisations that have never been a threat to democracy. In fact, organisations like our own play an essential part in public debate — without us, would we have seen civil partnerships, child labour laws or the recent restrictions on smoking?
Peers have done their best to reduce the impact of this misguided legislation by removing the need to count the cost of charity and campaigning groups’ staff as election-related expenditure. Today we need MPs to preserve the changes made in the Upper House. If MPs reverse these changes, it will not only be the voluntary sector that suffers, but public debate and society as a whole.
Concern Worldwide UK
British Heart Foundation
National Federation Women’s Institutes
The Wildlife Trusts
Sir Barney White-Spunner
League Against Cruel Sports
Friends of the Earth
Sir, Shirley Thurston (letter, Jan 20) is correct in that there is a connection between cherry juice and gout, but she could save herself a lot of money. The NHS guidelines on gout point out that taking vitamin C can reduce the risk of gout. I take 1g a day and have not had an attack for 18 months. My GP pooh-poohed the very idea.
Dr Philip Pugh
Chandler’s Ford, Hants
Sir, Your report (Jan 20) that the British are no longer the “happy breed” we once were but are now only “rather happy” and less cheerful than others worldwide. And small wonder; I find it increasingly depressing that so many of our great institutions are lately under critical scrutiny. I am thinking particularly of the BBC, the NHS, the Police Federation, the high street banks, and the House of Lords. When will we once again become “this scepter’d isle” full of cheerful people?
SIR – I agree with Paul Newton (Letters, January 20) that small shops that make the effort deserve our custom, even if a chain store or the web offers the cheapest option.
When I took my old watch to that rarest of things, a watch-repairers, in central London, the man at his bench opened it up and took a good look with his glass.
After a few deft movements, he closed it and handed it back to me, saying: “It was some dust that was making it go fast.” When I asked how much I owed him, he said: “No charge.” I felt like dropping some money through his letter box after closing time.
After all, if reliable independent traders don’t earn our support, they’ll eventually have to shut up shop.
SIR – Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP, rightly raises the importance of funding arts and culture outside London. But the proportion of Arts Council money spent outside London has not been “falling for decades” – rather, the reverse is true.
His own party introduced the National Lottery 20 years ago. This transformed the funding of regional arts, and greatly increased overall investment. Sixty per cent of Lottery funding through the Arts Council has been spent outside London since 1992, but in the last three years that has risen above 70 per cent. The trend is clear.
The Arts Council only accounts for a small part of funding since the bulk is committed directly by the Government to the national museums, or by local authorities around the country. Having said that, this is a necessary debate to have. Arts and cultural organisations outside London face two disadvantages: the historic difficulty of fundraising beyond the capital, and ongoing reductions in local authority arts budgets.
So, although the Arts Council only accounts for an element of arts funding, we will work, with our partners, to help ensure a healthy cultural life for all of England.
Sir Peter Bazalgette
Chairman, Arts Council England
Ofsted should focus on motivating and retaining teachers, not paperwork
21 Jan 2014
Appreciating the skills of independent traders
21 Jan 2014
Talk about welfare
SIR – David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, have a brilliant idea to force integration of welfare recipients by abolishing interpreters and foreign language pamphlets in welfare offices. But how will this ever work?
How about introducing a free national educational programme? It could involve English volunteers, who would not need much training. This could blow some fresh air into foreign-speaking communities and encourage residents to become English-speaking Britons.
Dr Christopher Everett
The ones that got away
SIR – I simply do not have enough old girlfriends to cope with the amount of passwords I now use, so I wonder if I could use the nicknames of those that I wish had been my girlfriends?
That would be more than sufficient.
Reverse running risks
SIR – Reverse running is indeed dangerous (Letters, January 17).
At 15, I was Leicestershire’s county champion runner, and had the chance of winning the junior Victor Ludorum trophy at my school’s sports day. My main competitor was a superb athlete, and, in a silly moment of bravado, I boasted that I could run faster backwards than he could forwards. I set off reverse running so quickly I did not notice the cricket sight screen behind me. I hit this with such force that I spiralled through the slats, and lay stunned, bruised and covered in horrendous splinters. A trip to the hospital ensued, and I missed the sports day.
My rival duly won the trophy.
SIR – As cadets in the Forties, we did backwards running as part of our training programme. It is an excellent exercise, but I had to give it up some time ago.
Warnham, West Sussex
Minimum wage rise
SIR – George Osborne’s plans to raise the minimum wage are questionable. I left school with average GCSEs, and got my first job, part-time in a clothes shop, at £2.70 an hour. This proved a strong enough motivation for me to do better. After 15 years my hourly rate stood at £21.55, a 698 per cent increase, at an average of 46 per cent a year. Even then, £2.70 wasn’t much. Overtime was vital and helped me learn skills. Now I find myself interviewing applicants for weekend jobs, but cannot give them the overtime I used to get.
There are two big effects of the national minimum wage on fashion retail. First, since a pound buys fewer hours of work, there are fewer staff to serve customers. This can be partly offset, if managers increase productivity and each employee’s skills. But in retail it’s more about the number of staff available to serve the customers and replenish the missing sizes on the sales floor.
Secondly, there is less encouragement for employees to progress. Take someone who started in October 2008 on £5.73 an hour, who performed well and gained supervisory experience. His performance-linked pay might have risen by 1 or 2 per cent a year, and he might now earn just over the current minimum wage of £6.31. Yet if that person had done no more than the basics, he would still receive the minimum wage now.
With the minimum wage, how can a business employ the number of heads it needs in order to operate? Where is the motivation for employees to progress?
SIR – It’s not just dogs that possess a self-cleaning ability. When left to its own devices, human hair cleanses itself without the need for shampoo.
Egging them on
SIR – A simple explanation for the lower rate of egg-laying on a Sunday recorded by James Lonsdale’s friends is that their chickens are not released from the henhouse as early that day.
Less light equals fewer eggs. If I need eggs from my brace of magnificent old girls, I have to get up with the lark to give them their breakfast of porridge and sweetcorn.
NHS data sharing will exclude the patient
SIR – Last week’s letter from the health foundations omitted the fact that the one key person who is not permitted access to view their own NHS data online is the patient. I have opted out of the Summary Care Record and Connecting Care Record schemes until this somewhat major omission is corrected.
Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire
SIR – On the face of it, sharing NHS data is a good idea. But if a patient doesn’t want their information to be available to outside organisations they have to opt out at their surgery, thus taking up more GPs’ time with paperwork.
I have no objections to my data being used for research and have in the past given my permission for such use. But I strongly object to my records being available without my consent, and possibly for a fee. Each individual’s NHS number will be visible, meaning they can ultimately be identified. It will not be long before someone outside the NHS works out how to match NHS numbers to individuals.
We still do not have a secure, integrated NHS system whereby records can be accessed by all relevant NHS staff. This should be a priority.
Market Bosworth, Leicestershire
SIR – Sadly, GP records have been hopelessly corrupted due to the reckless stupidity of the last government, not least in allowing all and sundry to add data.
I am a retired GP, but my former practice has identified more than 800 errors entered by Child Health, after discovering children weighing several tons and boys who had apparently had caesarean sections. Unfortunately, most of the bogus information is not so easily found. Furthermore, GPs cannot remove data inserted by others, even when it is clearly false.
Dr P R Outen
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, is concerned that two fifths of teachers drop out of the profession within five years.
I once asked an Ofsted inspector if she thought she might strike terror into the hearts of the teachers she inspected. Her reply: “They have nothing to fear as long as the paperwork is in place.” There was little regard for what makes a good teacher – the ability to enthuse and impart knowledge to pupils, combined with a love of the subject.
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – Our granddaughters both love and respect their teachers. And our daughter, a teacher, recently had her lesson described as “fantastic” by an Ofsted inspector. So the teacher training system is not completely broken. But perhaps it is time for Ofsted to learn how to motivate, instead of generally criticising its workforce.
Funding art in the provinces
21 Jan 2014
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – Nowadays, it is common for children starting school to be unable to speak, understand the simplest of instructions, exercise self-control or manage their own hygiene. Their first years of school are wasted in learning social skills and behavioural norms that should have been acquired at home. Actual applied learning gets pushed out of reach for many children. Even the most dedicated teachers become dispirited when large parts of their days are spent teaching these basic things instead of their subjects. No wonder so many quit to find a more satisfying job.
Schools are always blamed for poor standards. Yet, over a year, school takes up a fairly small percentage of a child’s time. The environment with the most influence on a child’s development is the home.
SIR – Your leading article raises an important question: why are so many teachers dropping out?
There is a great deal of support for teachers in the first year of training, but it significantly reduces as soon as they qualify. This disparity is undoubtedly a central factor. Our teacher support line is inundated with calls from teachers in the middle of their training who feel they were ill informed about the reality of the classroom. Many feel they lack the support when they need it most.
To retain the best and most promising new teachers, Ofsted must ensure that teachers are supported for the duration of their career.
Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network
SIR – If licensing teachers is a good idea to raise educational standards (report, January 11), why don’t we license MPs, police, civil servants, bankers and so on to raise their sometimes woeful standards?
Sir, – What exactly is the public to make of the widespread reporting of the visit of a private citizen to a prisoner in Limerick jail (Home News, January 21st)?
The fact Sabina Higgins is wife of the President does not make her private visit to a friend a matter of public interest or concern. She is not a public office holder.
By reporting this matter so widely, including on the 9pm television news, the media runs the risk of blurring the clear lines between the President and the judiciary.
If this had not been a private visit the public could interpret it as being a commentary on the trial and sentencing of Ms Higgins’s friend.
The media should speedily clarify. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – How fitting that Ireland’s first lady, Sabina Higgins, chose to visit Margaretta D’Arcy in a show of solidarity with this wonderful woman of courage, conviction and conscience.
In its latest statistics, Shannon Airport proudly announced an increased 1.4 million passengers transiting last year, but one wonders just how many of them were in fact US soldiers on their way to or from war?
We need to wake up and reclaim Shannon Airport as the civilian airport it claims to be.
Shannon belongs to us, not the US. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am rather perplexed at the decision of Sabina Higgins to visit jailed protester Margaretta D’Arcy in prison.
What sort of message does this send out – especially given that I have not read of the first lady visiting other prisoners?
While no one likes to see a person of any age in prison, it might be no harm to look at the facts. Ms D’Arcy was convicted before the properly constituted courts of this land for intrusion at Shannon Airport, she received a suspended sentence for so doing, but has refused to enter into a bond giving effect to the suspended sentence. She has therefore, her release in her own hands.
While I am sure there are mechanisms on humanitarian grounds for releasing a person detained, those salient facts must not be lost sight of. We have separation of powers here, and the advocates of such separation are often the first to shout when such an independent body makes a ruling not of their liking and call on politicians to intervene.
The courts here are still thankfully one of our few institutions still untainted, and if we do not respect their decisions and independence, then we have nowhere left to turn. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I do not understand why the President did not accompany his wife on her visit to Margaretta D’Arcy – was he not a supporter of her cause in 2003? Perhaps he was otherwise engaged.
I accept that Ms D’Arcy has broken the law and is therefore entitled to be committed to jail. What I cannot understand is how a woman of 79 years, seriously ill with cancer, can jump an almost endless queue of people who have broken the law and should be in jail – but are not and never will be. – Yours, etc,
FRED J FITZSIMONS,
Sir, – We in the Irish Workers Group would like to add our voice to those calling for the unconditional release of Margeratta D’Arcy from Limerick prison. This demand will not be easily conceded as it challenges the courts.
We need a mass struggle centred in the trade unions and the USI to win it.
To this end, we must begin a mass struggle of civil disobedience for Ms D’Arcy’s release, and the unconditional dropping of all charges against her.
The Galway Alliance Against War and the local Shannon Watch groups should set the ball rolling. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy was sentenced by an Irish court to three months in Limerick prison for refusing to renounce in writing her political protest at the administratively condoned use of Shannon Airport for foreign military and extra-judicial operations.
The use of the Irish prison system to extract a written self-denunciation from an elderly artist who has devoted many decades to the promotion of human rights and the practice of principled dissidence, however unpopular the cause or uncomfortable the truth, is a national scandal. Had it been perpetrated in another jurisdiction, it would have been denounced for the grotesque misuse of power that it is. Ireland’s standing in the world has, in the past, been based on the ability to speak the truth on oppression and injustice to more powerful actors.
The State’s treatment of Margaretta D’Arcy suggests that this standing is now just another casualty of war. – Yours, etc,
SARAH BUGGY, AILEEN DILLANE, JACK FENNELL, JOACHIM
FISCHER, MICHAEL G KELLY, CARMEN
KUHLING, TOM MOYLAN & DEIRDRE
Ralahine Centre for Utopian
University of Limerick,
Sir, – It’s sad to report, but I’m not at all surprised by the jailing of a 79-year-old artist and anti-war activist. In a State that has completely lost its moral core it’s almost inevitable that those who tenaciously pursue their principles and speaks out against the hypocrisy of power will find themselves silenced.
If Ireland is to find its way out of the present morass it will need more citizens like Margaretta D’Arcy, armed like her with a strong moral compass, and not the self-serving crew who currently helm this sorry ship of State. – Yours, etc,
Arbour Hill, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Yesterday (Tuesday), demolition of a building of great significance in the human, medical and architectural history of Ireland commenced.
Ffrench-Mullen House (1944) on Charlemont Street was an offshoot of St Ultan’s, the hospital for children under two years old, the first of its kind in these islands, which was founded by Dr Kathleen Lynn with her lifelong friend and co-worker, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen. Kathleen Lynn, doctor, feminist, revolutionary, public representative and community benefactor, commissioned Michael Scott, now considered the most important Irish architect of the 20th century, to design this small block of flats/apartments and the design, which had survived remarkably intact, was worthy of being highlighted in an episode of Poirot!
Dr Kathleen Lynn, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, Michael Scott and the extensive group around them deserve celebration and gratitude for their contribution to the human and artistic history of this country. Instead this monument to them is being removed.
It is difficult to understand why we lack European-style city designers who are able to integrate older buildings into their plans rather than demolishing them.
By Thursday one building with something of the Bauhaus, of medical and social innovation and reminders that good things were done in bad times will be gone. – Yours, etc,
HONOR O BROLCHAIN,
Sir, – So Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab, doesn’t want to disclose her salary because 60 per cent of its activities are “in the commercial arena” and only 40 per cent of Rehab is funded from public funds and fundraising (John McManus, Business, January 20th). Fine, so let her tell us what 40 per cent of her package is and we’ll work out the rest for ourselves. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your newspaper reports Rev Ian Paisley’s reaction to news of Tony Blair’s imminent conversion to Catholicism was to call him a “fool” (Front Page, January 20th).
Presumably Rev Paisley has read the Bible. In light of his admonishing of the former British prime minister, he might reflect on the Gospel of Matthew 5:22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Having worked in the Academy system in the UK, I have experienced teacher-assessment first hand. In spite of claims to a holistic or student-centred approach, teachers and students were presented and assessed in terms of results. Consequently the pressure on teachers to attain results led to “pro-active” marking.
I now teach in Ireland and find that the Junior and Leaving Certificates, while cumbersome and costly, do provide transparency, accountability and, above all, equality. Both exams, however, dominate teaching and learning in Irish schools. They restrict more innovative teaching and limit learning outside of curriculums that one can pick and choose from in order to maximise points.
Some of proposed changes are to be welcomed. We need to move to a formative form of assessment that would maintain the virtues of our current system. A formal approach to continual assessment is a positive move. Nevertheless, that teachers would assess their own students would impinge upon the integrity of any such assessment.
That those who seek to implement the Junior Cycle Student Award do not seem to understand the consequences that such an approach to assessment would have is worrying for all concerned. – Is mise,
Sir, – This inaugural symposium at the Abbey Theatre (Home News, January 18th) addressed the role of theatre in evoking memory where it is associated with individual or collective trauma. The context was the upcoming commemorations of the 1914 war, 1916 Rising, etc. From the opening scintillating speech by President Michael D Higgins to a host of outstanding talks and interviews, it was, first to last, a seminal event.
The President was followed by Mannix Flynn, who immediately attacked the self-indulgence of cultural elite prematurely turning the testimonies contained in the Ryan Report into “a night out” . This reality check and a thoughtful presentation by Carl O’Brien on how a new group of people, immigrants, are being traumatised today, hidden away as they are in camps for years as our Kafkaesque judiciary recycles their applications for asylum, brutally closed off any propensity toward sepia-tinted centenary remembrances.
One would hope that The Irish Times will do justice to the event with a proper of series of analyses. Joyce was invoked for his discussion of catharsis in Greek tragedy in Portrait of the Artist, but it is notable that we tend to prefer to concentrate on the pity aspect with its empathy, ignoring its twin, the terror aspect, which also needs to be faced if the cause of trauma is to be fully apprehended and healed. In so doing we militate against gestating another cycle of harm when awakening old, or in rendering recent, trauma. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I see from your Stories from the Rising supplement (January 17th) that the patriots of 1916-1923 were just as preoccupied with their pensions as today’s politicians and charity bosses. – Yours, etc,
JOHN F HYLAND,
Sir, – I must take exception, in the otherwise excellent coverage in The Irish Times of the release of the Military Service Pension Records, to the claims that a document contained in the Pension Records archive is the “only eyewitness account” of the burial of the leaders of the Easter Rising (Ronan McGreevy, Home News, January 18th).
A letter written in 1932 in which a civil servant received information over a decade earlier from an unidentified sergeant major who claims to have been on duty when the graves were prepared can hardly be classified “an eyewitness account”.
The Letters of 1916 project, on the other hand, does indeed have an eyewitness account, written by an Irish soldier serving in the British army, who was on duty in Arbour Hill when the leaders were executed. He was one of a small number of soldiers assigned to bury the bodies.
The letter, written by Private Herbert Shekleton (originally from Kingscourt) who was serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, to his mother on May 5th, 1916 begins: “It seems as if I had a terrible nightmare so terrible & strange things I have been through since I wrote you before Easter”. Private Shekleton met his own untimely death the following year in Arras.
This letter, along with hundreds of others, are available at letters1916.ie for transcribing. The project is gathering letters related to Ireland written between November 1915 and October 1916. This wholly new archive, which has been generously funded by the Department of Arts, Culture, and the Gaeltacht and Trinity College Dublin, will change our understanding of this critical period in Irish history through the unmediated voices of the people who lived through it. – Yours, etc,
PhD, Trinity Long Room
Hub, Ass Prof in Digital
School of English,
Trinity College Dublin,
Sir, – The publication of the Military Service Pensions Collection is to be welcomed (Home News, January 17th). Perhaps that great mystery of Irish history can now be resolved: who was actually in the GPO in 1916. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In light of reports that the Government is about to re-open the Irish Embassy to the Vatican (Breaking News, January 21st), can we now expect on grounds of fairness to all our new citizens that embassies will be established in other holy cities? Surely our Muslim population can expect the same facilities in Mecca, Sikhs in Amritsar, Latterday Saints in Salt Lake City, etc? The principle is the same. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is a funny world, with Louise Phelan of PayPal, calling for deeper Government spending cuts in order to pay for tax cuts for higher paid workers (Business + Your Money, January 21st).
Was it not the higher paid executives who brought Ireland to its knees? Now it is the mostly lower paid workers who are paying for their unbridled greed.
The “plutocrats [are] on the attack” (Paul Krugman, Business, January 1st), blaming the lesser paid for higher taxes. The basic question should be asked: do these people deserve to be paid so well? As Krugman writes, we have “the myth of the deserving rich” versus the undeserving lower paid. – Yours, etc,
Hanover Square, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Where on earth did the phrase “happy out” come from? Please, no more.
– Yours, etc,
Raheny, Dublin 5.
Sir, – If I see, hear or read, once more, the phrase “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” used to justify the existence of yet another stupid, arrogant, wasteful, incompetent fool, who passes for a public-body CEO, politician or senior civil servant, I will put my fist through the television, radio or newspaper that has spewed it out. – Yours, etc,
Crumlin Road, Dublin 12.
Sir, – “They scored at just the right time”! Is there a wrong time? – Yours, etc,
BRIAN Mc KENNA,
Howth Road, Dublin 5.
Sir, – I don’t believe the dogs in the street know all that much. – Yours, etc,
Clancys Strand, Limerick.
Sir, – “The real economy.” – Yours, etc,
Mount Argus Court,
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – “Is there no end in sight?” “Oh please.” – Yours, etc,
Chapelizod, Dublin 20.
Like everything else in this country, the people controlling the Central Remedial Clinic were allowed free rein – their salaries tied to the runaway public service pay – without any monitoring or accountability by successive administrations.
Also in this section
Letters to the Editor
We deserve much better governance than this
Cheap drink comes at a cost
After all, these people, with their sense of entitlement, probably thought what’s good enough for their political masters was good enough for them – all feeding at the trough of public funds. No wonder the country is in such a state of shambles.
There is more of the same to come, I feel, but it will take the Public Accounts Committee time to uncover some of the other unsavoury aspects of many organisations.
Vulnerable people have been exploited. Remember what Kieran Mulvey, the head of the Labour Relations Commission, said last year about sheltered workshops where people were on endless training receiving a minimum allowance and the money going who knows where?
Once again no accountability – a word these people do not apparently understand.
The same thing comes up over and over again, yet no lessons are learned. One would think lessons would have been learned after the FAS fiasco; a state body that ran amok with taxpayers’ money.
We have the HSE, still top-heavy with management but short on clinical staff to provide services to people with disabilities. Why is this still happening? Why is it more important to have layers of management than physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists etc?
Power without responsibility and accountability is totally unacceptable, particularly when public money is involved.
How did we get to the point in this country where salaries and pensions of CEOs and managers, paid out of public funds, are deemed more important than the needs of those they purport to represent or provide services for?
ENFIELD, CO MEATH
DON’T FEEL GUILTY
* Why are we being preached to about the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)?
Ever since the revelations that donated money was being used for top-line bonuses at the CRC, there have been many commentators preaching about the good work done by its frontline services.
We also heard of the diminished funds raised at Christmas for the clinic and, as sad as it is for the frontline providers, we don’t need a lecture about the need for donations.
The fact that the services have to do without is not our fault, and potential donators refraining from doing so is perfectly understandable.
If you heard that such payments were being made to high-end officials in a foreign nation we were sending aid to, the country would be in uproar to get the Government to withhold funding. And wouldn’t that be a fair assessment by the Irish people?
We are all aware of the hard work being done by charity providers, but when our money goes to the payment of a CEO we are all entitled to hold on to it and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it. When the money goes solely to the frontline, we will all donate to the frontline.
EDENDERRY, CO OFFALY
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE
* Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty is adamant that paranormal phenomena don’t exist, that there is no life after death, and that all mediums are either frauds or deluded.
He has written several pieces in which he expresses an intense dislike of religious belief or belief in paranormal activity of any kind.
He is entitled to his opinion. I agree with him, up to a point, about mediums who seek to “prey upon the vulnerable”. I also have no time for those “phone a psychic” services that are so blatantly open to abuse.
But I cannot agree that all mediums are frauds or suffering from delusion, any more than I would state that all accountants, solicitors, doctors and plumbers are chancers or not what they claim to be.
Throughout history there have been outstanding mediums whose credibility was rock solid. People like Leonora Piper, the 19th Century US woman whose abilities were exhaustively tested by scientists and never discredited; the Englishman Leslie Flint, who became one of the “most tested” mediums of all time, allowing himself to be studied in “laboratory-like” conditions and still demonstrated his prowess in communicating with the “other world”.
Near-death experiences are worthy of consideration, too – especially the ones where the patients describe “leaving their bodies” and can describe parts of the hospital they have not seen, or those in which the brain was declared “dead” during the experience.
The universe is a very big place and quantum physics is finding out all sorts of new interesting things about it every day that defy previous notions and theories about what’s really out there. There’s a lot of dark matter in space that we know next to nothing about.
I don’t expect Mr O’Doherty to abandon his position on religion and the paranormal, but he might at least keep his mind open to the possibility that there may be something awaiting us after death besides a hole in the ground.
END FG MUSICAL CHAIRS
Isn’t it marvellous? Senior Fine Gael strategists reckon John O’Mahony would make a better candidate for MEP than Jim Higgins.
Fair enough, but wait a minute, isn’t Mr O’Mahony a TD? As recently as 2011 didn’t he ask the voters to give him a five-year contract to represent them in Dail Eireann? So why should they now facilitate him in walking out on that contract just to suit himself or his party?
Obviously, they shouldn’t but, with breathtaking arrogance, Fine Gael mentors assume they would. Why? Because they always have in the past. Enough! Time to call a halt to this game of musical chairs played by political parties with our seats! Time to make it clear that, irrespective of party loyalties, we will not vote for sitting members of the Oireachtas as MEPs or vice versa.
WATERFALL, CO CORK
PAY THAT’S ‘RESPECTABLE’
With regard to Daragh Mangan’s letter ‘Charities in witch-hunt’ (Irish Independent, January 20), neither my letter (January 18) nor any letter for that matter in your paper, referred to wages earned by staff working in the charity sector.
These wonderful people should demand and deserve their “respectable wage”. But please don’t tell me that the various CEOs of these charities can justify earning €2,000 a week? A respectable wage? I think not.
BRIAN MC DEVITT
GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL
A FUNNY AXE TO GRIND
Brendan O’Carroll’s account of his mother buying a fridge and later discovering it had to be plugged in (innocent days some of us can indeed remember!) reminded me of the man who brought a chainsaw back to the hardware shop.
His complaint was that it took him half a day to cut down a small tree in his back garden. The counter assistant, in order to check the saw, started it up . . . “My God what’s that dreadful noise?” exclaimed the customer.
BEAUMONT, DUBLIN 9