Astrid and Michael

23 January 2014 Astrid and Michael
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey has to test a new navigation system on Troutbridge. Priceless.
Go and see Astrid and Michael, Peter Rice finished the windows. Clear half of attic no Thermabloc no boxes
Scrabble today Mary wins   and gets  over   400,  Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Tom Rosenthal, who has died aged 78, was one of the most eminent publishers of his generation, successively directing the fortunes of Secker & Warburg, William Heinemann and André Deutsch.
He was also an art historian, broadcaster, bibliophile, opera buff, literary critic, and all-round cultural connoisseur. Moreover, he looked the part, his cigars, red shirts, yellow polka dot bow-ties, imperious beard and high brow (in both senses of the term) giving him an unmistakable profile on the intellectual scene.
Although his final years were dogged by ill health, Rosenthal was active to the end. In 1997 he founded the Bridgewater Press with his friend Rick Gekoski, the rare book dealer; it published limited editions by authors such as William Boyd and Ian McEwan. And in his seventieth year he gained a PhD on the strength of his books about Jack Yeats, Sidney Nolan, Paula Rego and Josef Albers. These works were based on personal knowledge as well as scholarship. When a Kokoschka expert on the Cambridge examination board asked him the source of a quotation, he replied: “The artist.”
Thomas Gabriel Rosenthal was born in London on July 16 1935. His parents, Erwin and Elisabeth Rosenthal (née Marx), were refugees from Nazi Germany. They first settled in Manchester, but Tom and his sister Miriam (who went on to an award-winning career as an editor of children’s books) spent their adolescence in Cambridge, where his father became a Fellow of Pembroke College and a Reader in Oriental Studies – he spent 30 years completing his edition of Averroes’ commentary on Plato’s Republic.
Tom attended the Perse School, where he excelled at English and drama. He was early bitten by the collecting bug, accumulating a hoard of matchbox labels and bicycling from Cambridge to London to attend meetings of the Phillumenists’ Society. During his National Service he gained a commission in the Royal Artillery. The Army helped to make him, as he sardonically put it, “a sort of crypto-Englishman who can pass for white, but at heart, deep down, I have always known myself to be nothing other than a German-Jewish intellectual.”
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Rosenthal had won an Exhibition to Pembroke College, where he read History and English. But he devoted much of his time to the theatre, touring with the Pembroke Players and becoming secretary to the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Club. After university, in 1959, he joined Thames & Hudson.
This firm had been founded by Walter Neurath, who created the template for finely designed, well-printed and colourful art books that is taken for granted today. Doing everything from selling to commissioning, Rosenthal quickly mastered the technical, commercial and editorial processes. His most signal achievement was to carry out complicated negotiations with Trinity College, Dublin, which resulted in the publication of a beautiful and affordable edition of The Book of Kells.
In 1961 Rosenthal became chairman of the Society of Young Publishers. He wrote readers’ guides to art history and modern American fiction. He did much occasional journalism, notably as art critic of The Listener from 1963 to 1966. He contributed to the BBC Third Programme, conducting a particularly revealing interview with LS Lowry, whose work he championed in the face of metropolitan condescension.
He also bought one of Lowry’s paintings, soon becoming, he confessed, “a pathological, wholly insane collector of books and pictures whose house is more like a museum than a family home”. In 1971, seeking further scope for his energies and ambitions, he moved to Secker & Warburg as managing director.
Booming in his Soho office, expansive over Garrick lunches, hospitable at home in Primrose Hill, Rosenthal acted as impresario to a glittering array of authors. Many were new recruits, most became friends: Malcolm Bradbury, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, Melvyn Bragg, John Banville, David Cairns, Nicholas Mosley, Saul Bellow, Carlos Fuentes, Günter Grass, JM Coetzee, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino.
There were major coups, such as the publication of a one-volume edition of The Lisle Letters, a unique tapestry of Tudor England. There were dramatic moments as Rosenthal personally auctioned the paperback rights of Piers Paul Read’s Alive, or fended off Sonia Orwell’s demand for the pulping of all 20,000 copies of Bernard Crick’s biography of her late husband. And there were stimulating initiatives: with advice from Anthony Thwaite, Rosenthal began a new poetry list, launching the career of, among others, James Fenton.
In 1980 Rosenthal’s success at Secker was rewarded by promotion to the chairmanship of the Heinemann publishing group, of which it was a part. This was an unhappy translation since he was saddled with onerous corporate responsibilities and, as he came to realise, the whole concept of big business was inimical to him. He resigned in 1984 and teamed up with another small publisher, André Deutsch. However, Deutsch evidently wanted to retain a degree of control after selling out to Rosenthal in 1987 and they parted on unfriendly terms.
Rosenthal faced overwhelming difficulties. The firm was undercapitalised, it lacked a paperback arm, and trading conditions were adverse. He did score some triumphs, weaning Gore Vidal away from Heinemann and publishing Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize-winning novel Moon Tiger. And Private Eye paid a backhanded tribute to his standing in the publishing world by making him a character in its strip cartoon “Snipcock and Tweed”. In 1998, however, he had to sell the business.
For more than a decade Rosenthal endured what his doctor called “multiple morbidities”. With his fondness for black humour, he liked the phrase, replying to inquiries about his health with (at first) “Mustn’t grumble” and (latterly) “Don’t ask”. He continued to indulge his passions to the last, enjoying meals, watching cricket, attending operas, reading books. A month before his death, in a moving ceremony, he donated his 2,000 art books to Pembroke College library.
He is survived by his wife, Ann Warnford-Davis (née Shire), a distinguished literary agent, and his two sons, Adam, a surgeon specialising in gynaecological oncology, and Daniel, author of the 50th-anniversary history of the National Theatre.
Tom Rosenthal, born July 16 1935, died January 3 2014


The shooting of Cambodian garment factory workers on strike over low wages (Retailers tackle Cambodian PM over shootings, 21 January) is yet another example of the impact that making our clothes can have on people far away. It’s right that clothing brands call for an investigation. But there are many problems linked to the making of our everyday products, from unfair pay and dangerous working conditions to environmental destruction. To help prevent these, a range of solutions is needed.
A first step is greater transparency about the impacts companies have. It’s disappointing, therefore, that the UK government is trying to water down proposed new EU rules requiring all large companies to report on these impacts. The fact that only 6% of large EU companies report annually on these issues shows the voluntary approach isn’t working. The government says it is committed to greater corporate transparency. Vince Cable has the opportunity to show this by supporting strong EU regulation to ensure all large companies – both listed and unlisted – are required to report on their full supply chains, in compliance with the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.
Peter Frankental Economic relations programme director, Amnesty International
Neil Thorns Director of advocacy, Cafod
Kitty Ari Acting director of policy and advocacy, Christian Aid
Marilyn Croser Coordinator, Core Coalition
Andy Atkins Executive director, Friends of the Earth
Philippa Bonella Head of communications and education, SCIAF
Catherine Howarth CEO, Share Action
Nicola Smith Head, economic and social affairs department, TUC
Trevor Hutchings Director, UK and EU advocacy, WWF-UK
• At first I was cheered to read that “dozens of the world’s biggest clothing brands … have demanded Cambodia’s PM explain the use of ‘deadly force’ against striking miners” and that they’re demanding thorough investigation. Great, they wanted the workers’ pay increased and their conditions improved too, I thought. Alas not, it turned out; all they were worried about was industrial unrest damaging their confidence in Cambodia as a “stable sourcing location” with cheap labour costs. No change there then.
Robert Sanderson
Managing director, Nottingham Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall

The decision of Brighton council to hold a referendum on whether to increase council tax to pay for essential services is a bold commitment to democracy and equality (Report, 17 January). Everyone is feeling squeezed as a result of the Tories’ draconian cuts to local government and public services, but a political contest over which party will manage austerity more effectively won’t change the terms of debate. Money raised collectively, spent collectively and targeted where there is the most need is as essential in Brighton as it is across the UK. A “good politics” must also be measured in other ways than just the cost of living – in solidarity to protect public services and in the vibrancy of the public realm, where democratic power trumps consumer power. As belief in politics withers, here is an example of a local council trusting the people to make a big decision. They should be applauded.
Professor Ruth Lister Chair of Compass MC
Neal Lawson Chair, Compass
John Hilary Executive director, War On Want
Professor Richard Sennett LSE
David Arnold Brighton Labour party member and trade unionist
Heather Wakefield Unison
Anthony Barnett Open Democracy
Linda Jack Liberal Left
Indra Adnan Soft Power Network/The Downing Street Network
Dr David McCoy Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and chair of Medact
Lynsey Hanley Journalist
David Walker Author
Stuart White Jesus College, Oxford
Guy Standing Soas
Andrew Simms NEF
Brendan Martin Public World
Professor John Weeks University of London

Warwick Mansell (Report, 21 January) shows how the disappearance of pupils from school rolls affects GCSE performance. Two academy providers cited “turbulence” or “transience” by way of explanation. While it is true that residential movement can reduce a school’s roll, it is often the case that those moving on – recent arrivals from overseas or children in homeless family accommodation, for example – are replaced by others. If such children are not being offered places in schools in key stage four, what’s happening to them?
Dr Janet Dobson
Migration research unit, UCL
• The Lib Dems have voted for the bedroom tax, other welfare cuts, tax cuts for millionaires, tripling of university fees, the badger cull, and privatisation of the NHS. And they believe it’s Lord Rennard who has brought them into disrepute (Report, 22 January)?
Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire
• Not only is Emer O’Toole’s article (20 January) arguing that women should stop shaving the hair on their legs and under their arms illustrated with a picture of hairless legs, but on the same page there are two photographs of men with shaved faces. What conclusions should we draw from this?
Carolyn Beckingham
Lewes, East Sussex
• Given that the CIES report recognises that the major football leagues are now made up largely of expat players (Report, Sport, 22 January), should the World Cup be revised from a country-based competition to an inter-league competition?
David Lund
Winscombe, Somerset
• Becks teams up with Del Boy (Report, 21 January). I see that the BBC has found the new Trigger.
Chris Maher
Blackwood, Gwent
• Firing the letters editor seems a bit harsh (Letters, 21 January). Might not gardening leave be more appropriate?
Pete Bibby
• Brief letters with their quirky items and occasional chains of absurd responses are a daily delight. Long may they continue.
Terry Vincent
Pierrelatte, France

Your report (Patient records to be sold from NHS database, 20 January) is yet another example of the betrayal by this government of the values of the NHS. Andrew Lansley said there would be “No decision about me without me” when the health and social care bill was going through parliament, yet the leaflet assumes consent for patient records to be uploaded unless one writes to one’s GP to object to this. The government’s record with regard to keeping information confidential is not good and the previous attempt to put all records online so as to improve patient care failed lamentably. It would be much cheaper for patients to ask their GP to email them the relevant information about their history and treatment which could then be downloaded on to a memory stick and kept in one’s wallet, handbag or on a keyring, so the information is available in the case of an emergency admission to hospital.
The leaflet describes the benefits to research and the possibility of planning services better, but the removal of strategic health authorities that used to plan services regionally, and the general administrative chaos and lack of clear lines of responsibility in the new system, cannot be remedied by collecting masses of data from individual GP records. Ramesh Randeep is quite correct in his analysis of the situation, which is all about the “NHS being open for business”.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public
• Your article had some omissions. No information can be released unless an independent advisory group that advises the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) agrees that the release of it would directly benefit patient care. Once it is established that this is the case, and the example of insurance companies wanting to calculate premiums would clearly not meet this criterion, a contract is signed. Breaking it would mean fines or criminal sanctions from the Information Commissioner’s Office if any identifiable information was either leaked or used by the company. Patients and their carers should know that no data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance, as this would break these strict rules. The data will be issued on a cost recovery basis and not “sold”.
Your readers should be reassured to know that the HSCIC board last week agreed that a report detailing who we give data to and the grounds on which it has been released, will be made public on the website every quarter. We are committed to the public understanding what is being done with their information as well as to people realising they have a right to object, if they feel uncomfortable with the process. I hope your article helps encourage an intelligent, grown-up debate about this significant change that could have a tremendous positive impact on both medical research and health service planning.
Kingsley Manning
Chair, HSCIC
• Alice Bell (No debate on this data, 20 January) leaves out the key critical website. The Big Opt Out campaigners have since 1996 fought to protect the confidentiality of medical records against successive governments’ plans to put every NHS patient’s medical record in a central data bank – without either the patients’ knowledge or consent. The highly successful campaign website has both information and advice how not to have one’s medical record automatically included. There are medical matters many might wish to keep confidential, such as mental health, abortion, cancer etc which might affect their employment or insurability. Far from there being no debate, the Big Opt Out, together with strong pressure coming from the medical profession, was successful.
We are told we can opt out but of what of is unclear. The argument our GP, dentist or hospital can share our computerised medical records to improve patient care sounds reasonable. But little is being said about the fact that the central data bank is designed purely as a resource to sell to researchers. It will make no direct contribution to patient care. So patients get nothing in return for the government pretty much appropriating our data.
Nor do we get any say in what kind of research projects are to be given access to our data. We are to be reassured they will have an ethics advisory body but all the legislation specifies is that they must be qualified researchers. Again, although the legislation trumpets the anonymised and pseudo-anonymised data, this reassurance is spoilt by that section in the legislation which says researchers can under certain conditions have access to our personal identities. There is still time to checkout the Big Opt Out site and decide whether you want to stay in or opt out.
Hilary Rose
• Your article highlights the use of our personal medical information for research purposes, with the NHS number as a key “patient identifier” to link different NHS sources to the same patient. Currently, HIV services are almost alone in not always using the NHS number because of the additional confidentiality concerns for a stigmatised condition. But that means people with HIV lose out on the significant benefits for research into how well the NHS across its different services is meeting their needs. HIV clinics need to use the NHS number consistently if we are to identify effectively any areas where NHS treatment and care can be improved. But individuals with HIV should also have a right to opt out of such data collection for research purposes if they are unhappy about it. The right to opt out of such research use of one’s data is not always enshrined in law – it needs to be, urgently.
Yusef Azad
National Aids Trust
• The Department of Health’s glossy leaflet sets great store by the assertion that data will not contain information which will identify patients but, in its concluding paragraphs, it states that patients who do not want information that identifies them to be shared outside their practice should [opt out]. So is it saying that the data be unidentifiable – or not? The DoH will de facto get its way because most people will not be bothered even to read the leaflet. Those who do and decide to opt out will put a further strain on hard-pressed GP practices through the increased bureaucracy involved.
Brian Saperia

I had the luck to have two books published by Tom Rosenthal. He combined the sharpest of editorial eyes and a penetrating critical intelligence with warm encouragement and support. Working with him, I got to know and love an exceptional personality. But, as I discovered, beneath his powerful, confident manner, inside that noble head (like a Spanish grandee of the 17th century) and behind the rich, sonorous voice that his friend Rik Gekoski likened to “the voice God would use if he had sufficient self-confidence”, lay a vulnerable soul.
Though very much a secular Jew, Tom was intensely conscious of his heritage. Once, when we were discussing Saul Bellow’s Herzog, he told me how keenly he, a proud Jewish father himself, felt for Herzog when, compelled to watch from outside, through a window, he sees someone else putting his young daughter to bed. Tom remained acutely sensitive to the slights, and worse, of casual antisemitism: as when a gentile friend innocently wondered why “you people are so keen on cricket”. For once, Tom recalled, he found the elusive esprit de l’escalier: “I suppose it’s because we’re all so desperate to win the approval of you people.”

British scholars are concerned about reports (19 October 2013; 14 January 2014) that contrary to the 1958 Public Records Act the government has retained 1.2m Foreign and Commonwealth Office files, going back to the Crimean war. They are evidently held at the ironically named HMG Communications Centre at Hanslope Park. Efforts to oblige the government to be clear on what files it holds and on plans to release them have not been successful.
While the GCHQ story tells us that the government has wholly unexpected capacities to unearth information about its own citizens, the right of citizens to investigate UK foreign and colonial policy over the last 150 years and more is clearly being denied. Those of us who work on the history of some other countries are used to government obstruction when it comes to researching official papers, but the UK is supposed to be a free society. The writing of full and impartial accounts of the cold war, Britain’s colonial past, and other key subjects depends on access to all the available records.
As fellows of the British Academy, we call upon the foreign secretary to issue a statement about the government’s plans to release these documents to the National Archives, and for a mechanism to be established to include professional historians and archivists in the process of declassification. We have today written to him, offering to meet and discuss this further.
Professor Iain McLean
British Academy vice-president
Professor Sir Adam Roberts
British Academy past president
Professor Maxine Berg
Professor Archie Brown
Professor Peter Clarke
Dr John Darwin
Professor Marianne Elliott
Professor Sir Richard Evans
Professor Cécile Fabre
Professor Rosemary Foot
Professor Roy Foster
Professor Conor Gearty
Professor Robert Gildea
Professor Ruth Harris
Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh
Professor Geoffrey Hosking
Professor Ian Kershaw
Professor Shula Marks
Professor David Marquand
Dr Ross McKibbin
Professor Lyndal Roper
Professor Alan Ryan
Professor Robert Service
Professor Gareth Stedman Jones
Professor Carolyn Steedman
Professor Megan Vaughan
Professor Jeremy Waldron
• So the Foreign Office is yet another institution that no longer can be trusted (Slave trade files among huge cache of illegally held papers, 21 January). We are now told that a vast archive exists that hitherto had not been disclosed, which contains – well, we don’t know, do we? We know it contains papers that date as far back as British involvement in the slave trade and, more recently, on the Kenya Mau Mau emergency. What else might it contain? I have been struggling for years to get information on my father, Uszer Frucht, who was a Jewish communist immigrant and who was deported at the end of the war. I was told a file had been held on him but it had been destroyed. Might his file be in the Hanslope Park archive? Why the culture of secrecy in British officialdom?  Who is being protected? Surely we, as British citizens, have a right to know.
Professor Gaby Weiner
Lewes, East Sussex


Leaving to one side Lord Rennard’s guilt or innocence, in all the opinions aired the fundamental point raised by the Rennard affair seems in danger of being missed.
Yes of course those women alleging his inappropriate conduct could have administered a slap on the wrist or a smartly aimed heel, but why should they have to do this, or even find themselves in this position in the first place?
I worked for many years in a large multi-national and in all that time it was always abundantly clear to all employees that each should be treated with respect, irrespective of race, gender and more recently, of sexual orientation. While this was reinforced by HR policies and a well-developed grievance and disciplinary procedure, it was, and this is the crucial point, embedded in the organisation’s culture. The sort of behaviour alleged would not have been tolerated, and had it occurred would have been dealt with.
The real issue is that respectful behaviour must become similarly embedded in the culture of Parliament and the political parties, so that all those entering either House are placed in no doubt that inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
Why on earth, in the 21st century, can Parliament not simply follow the example set by large businesses by being absolutely clear on the behaviour expected, and why cannot the political parties adopt and embed the culture and supporting processes found to be so effective by large corporations?
Mark Albrow, Hampton, Middlesex
Barbara Sanders is missing two key points in her critique of the women who complained about Lord Rennard (letter, 22 January).
First, there is the crucial question of power. Chris Rennard was their boss, a person with influence over the careers of the young women concerned. Second, there is no justification for anyone, male or female, to assume that invasion of personal space is acceptable. It isn’t. An assumption that a man may do this to a woman, wittingly or otherwise, without causing offence still is far too widespread.
I expect that few women who have worked for over 40 years in mixed environments have avoided the unwanted pat, “footsie” or over-close thigh, often from people senior to us, usually when we were young and unable to deal directly with the offender. Congratulations are due to those who in a meeting or other formal space have been brave enough to clearly ask the offender to stop, or who have dealt with their boss via a slap or stiletto. A rare breed in my experience; the rest of womanhood has come to rely on good employment practice to deal with their situation.
Sadly, it transpires that the Liberal Democrats have no such practice and their Byzantine constitution has ensured that the Rennard saga is a complete mess.
Paula Jones, London SW20
Hungarian far right not welcome here
I read with dismay that the Hungarian Jobbik party intends to visit England shortly. As a British citizen who lived in Budapest for nearly 10 years, I am appalled to think that this government is going to allow this group to speak in the UK.
Jobbik appeals to Hungary’s poorly educated young nationalists, who have been taught that Hungary has been treated badly by the rest of Europe and that by following Nazi ideals of persecution of minorities it will be able to regain its (perceived) status in the world.
I lived 50 metres from Heroes Square (Budapest’s Trafalgar Square) and was disgusted to see members of Jobbik being allowed to rally in the national square, whilst burning effigies of Jews and chanting anti-semitic filth. The Hungarian police, who have many Jobbik supporters within their ranks, are always present and are very often seen singing along and joining in the rally.
People are housebound during these rallies and gypsies (Roma) dare not be seen on the streets at risk of their lives. I have seen first-hand how the Roma are treated in Hungary and how Jobbik supporters are allowed to desecrate Jewish cemeteries for fun.
In any other EU country Jobbik’s conduct would result in arrest and prosecution. We would be doing a service for the rest of Europe if we banned Jobbik from entering the country, encouraging other decent, right-minded countries to do the same.
Paul Stanford, Devizes, Wiltshire
Storm warning for Nigel Farage
Most of us are aware that the evidence for man-made climate change and the need for world leaders to address the problem with urgency are compelling. Though we cannot yet be certain, this climate change could be largely responsible for the weather patterns that have subjected us in the UK to all the floods, along with the current blistering heat in Australia.
In his column on 20 January Nigel Farage states that he thinks “the floods were caused by the weather and not by gay people, man-made climate change, or an increase in the consumption of hollandaise sauce in Bedfordshire”. It seems worrying that the leader of a political party with surging popularity has not only dismissed man-made climate change as having any influence but also lumped it together with two utter absurdities.
Mark Burrows, Weymouth
Nigel Farage has announced that women who take time off to have babies are worth less than the rest of us. Let us hope that Farage, who has declared his commitment to weeding Ukip of barmy crackpots and real extremists, in the wake of one his followers blaming bad weather on gay marriage and others of his flock demonstrating the ugliest of racist views, will now throw himself out of the party.
Christian Vassie, York
I write concerning the response by Nigel Farage to Owen Jones (20 January). He states that rail privatisation occurred as a result of an EU directive.
This is quite wrong, as I assume the directive referred to is 91/440, which merely required the separation of railway accounts relating to operation and infrastructure. The Conservative government of the time used this as a model for the privatisation of British Rail, but such privatisation was not required by the EU.
If privatisation of railways was required by the EU, why have other countries not privatised their railways?
Chris Hall, Derby
I cannot allow Nigel Farage’s claims to go unchallenged (20 January). I have not gone. I remain a member of UKIP, I spend Sunday mornings on candidate training for the 2015 elections, I continue to put financial resources into the Yorkshire region, and I have persuaded scores of my personal friends who are in regional executive positions within UKIP to remain at their posts regardless of the poor quality of national leadership. The cause is more important than anything else.
I resigned the whip permanently in despair. My first resignation was in February 2013, which I withdrew under pressure from the Yorkshire membership.
All this Mr Farage would know if he ever left the Home Counties or allowed the North of England to be represented on the governing body.
Godfrey Bloom MEP, Wressle, East Riding of Yorkshire
Refugee crisis on Syria’s borders
With my own country of Lebanon on a knife-edge as a side-effect of the war in Syria, I agree with you that “it is always better to be talking than not, however far away a solution may be” (editorial, 22 January).
Agencies like mine are at breaking point dealing with the refugee crisis on our border, despite the generous support of our British colleagues at Cafod. If all Geneva achieves is a recognition by all sides of their obligations to allow safe passage of humanitarian aid, that will be huge progress. We can only pray for more than that.
Father Simon Faddoul, President, Caritas Lebanon, Beirut
Our NHS is in  good health
I’m tired of all the NHS-bashing that’s going on (“NHS staff morale falls to new low ”, 22 January).
I live in Northumberland, and it is, I believe, one of the top five NHS trusts. We are extremely fortunate to live here. Our GPs are caring and hard-working, our hospitals are wonderful, clean, efficient, with competent, caring, cheerful nurses, doctors and surgeons. My husband and I are pensioners, and we are very well taken care of by our GPs at the Haltwhistle Medical Practice.
If the rest of the country came up to the standards we experience there would be none of this constant carping at the NHS.
Vivienne Rendall, Melkridge, Northumberland
Tell me if I’m still alive
Chris Maume tells of people whose obituaries were published when they were alive (“Living dead”, 21 January). In old age the actor A E Matthews used on waking to read the day’s obituaries. If he wasn’t there he’d roll over and go to sleep again.
Robert Davies, London SE3

I write this at my wife’s bedside as she dies of pancreatic cancer. We came into hospital a fortnight ago. She has been under palliative care since then, and unconscious for the past week. Her death is as inevitable as night follows day. No treatment, save pain relief, is being given. She has received no nourishment for 14 days and no water other than drops in the mouth for seven of those. Yet still her body will not shut down. I know my wife would have been horrified at the prospect of dying in this manner. She is receiving exceptional love and care from this, our local NHS hospital, and we are assured that the syringe driver is keeping her pain free. But when you look into her ever-open eyes you see a pleading look. How sure can we be that she is not suffering enormous mental anguish? Not administering nourishment and fluid intravenously is simply euthanasia in slow motion. We love her enormously and will be desperate when she passes, but after this harrowing experience that our children and I are going through, there is for me, no contest; if death is inevitable, then it is only humane to shorten the process. I think we must follow the Belgian and Dutch models. It would be up to doctors, clergy and politicians to find acceptable common ground over the necessary safeguards.
Edward Frewin
Watchet, Somerset
Sir, Peter Franklin’s argument against a change in the law on assisted dying conflates assisted dying (the right to a prescription which the terminally ill, competent person can take to end their life) with voluntary euthanasia (both terminally ill and non-terminal but incurably ill patients’ lives can be directly ended by doctors). The Benelux euthanasia laws are often incorrectly cited as an example of a slippery slope in action. However, both the Belgians and Dutch deliberately and from the beginning created laws with the specific intention of allowing non-terminally ill people to be directly helped to die. This doesn’t confirm the slippery slope, but rather confirms that the law you enact is the law you get. The assisted dying law I propose is similar to the laws working effectively in the US states of Oregon and Washington, where eligibility has never been extended beyond terminal illness, nor has there been pressure for such a change.
It is a feature of this debate that opponents rarely argue against the change in the law actually proposed (for terminally ill, mentally competent adults), but for a law which isn’t proposed. The answer to such concerns is not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of some dying people, but rather to achieve a consensus on a safeguarded law. Those opposed to a change in the law have every right to raise their concerns. But in doing so they also have a responsibility to either explain why some dying people should have to suffer against their wishes at the end of life or alternatively they should set out their own safeguarded law.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton
House of Lords
Sir, It is depressingly defeatist to assert that assisted euthanasia should not be legalised on the grounds that one of the most sophisticated legislatures in the world is incapable of devising a means of ensuring that the necessary safeguards are enforced. It is nothing less than the wilful abnegation of the responsibility to allow the ending of intolerable suffering and it is as cowardly as it is inhumane.
Tony Phillips
Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Sir, As Derwent May says, not everyone welcomes muntjac deer (Nature Notes, Jan 21). My golden retriever once grabbed an unwary male muntjac.
After a tussle the dog needed 35 stitches to slash wounds inflicted by its tusks and spiky antlers.
M. I. L. Roberts
St Nicholas at Wade, Kent

Sir, Neither Julian Brazier, in his article about Army Reserves (Jan 18), nor former US Secretary of Defence Gates, last week expressing concerns about Britain’s forces, mentioned land-based aircraft. Both make clear the Royal Navy is the UK’s strategic priority; CDS, and General Richards before him, expressed similar views.
Forces’ websites are telling. Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army pages highlight operational business. The RAF spotlights the Second World War, aircraft displays, sport, much less operations.
This RAF modesty is right. It has 220 combat jets, 650 support aircraft and 36,000 personnel yet, after withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, just four jets, a few other aircraft and 1,000 airmen will be overseas. The bulk of the £7bn-a-year RAF will be home, facing no air threat, our islands safeguarded by Nato in Europe and an expanse of ocean, yet those 220 Typhoon and Tornado jets cost £20bn.
Defence experts here, and across the Atlantic, argue that independent air forces are no longer necessary or affordable. Land-based combat jets have limited roles, flying mostly supporting operations on land and sea. Huge cost and manpower savings would follow transferring essential frontline land-based aircraft to Navy and Army control. The RAF owns 80 per cent of UK military aircraft assets — reorganisation is overdue.
Lester May
(Lieutenant Commander RN ret’d)
London NW1

Sir, Public discontent over MPs can only be heightened by the stark contrast between the disappointingly empty chamber for the vast majority of debates and the overcrowded attendance at the largely irrelevant PMQs. If MPs really think that there is anything to be learnt from PMQs, they are surely mistaken. Indeed, it seems to me that they seem to treat the occasion, not as a serious discussion, but as an entertainment. Therefore, why not treat it as a private matter and stop televising, broadcasting or reporting it?
Richard Warnock
Melton, Suffolk

Sir, I thought that Judge Jeffreys (letters, Jan 20) suffered from “the stone” — kidney or bladder stones. I can testify to the debilitating agonies caused by such stones. If he was suffering from gout as well, one can only wonder at his self-restraint at the Bloody Assizes of 1685.
Andrew McConaghy
Balsall Common, W Midlands
Sir, I was taught that Judge Jeffreys suffered from a pharyngeal pouch, and it was the constant regurgitation of decomposing food that led to his bad temper and severe punishments.
John Hines
Consultant Urological Surgeon
Loughton, Essex

SIR – As a nutritionist, I was irritated to read your report (January 16) about a head teacher banning parents from putting fruit juice in their children’s lunch boxes. Head teachers are exceeding their authority if they seek to impose their own health-promotion hobby horse on parents. Do they have the right to inspect sandwiches to ensure that they are made with wholemeal bread (high in fibre), or to check that fillings do not include cheese (high in saturated fat) or ham (high in salt)?
It is difficult to provide a packed lunch acceptable to a child that does not break some modern dietary taboo. Priorities in health promotion change; it is not long ago that fruit juice would have been considered a healthy choice. Parents should be advised on a reasonable total diet for their children rather than be subject to arbitrary bans imposed on individual foods by head teachers.
Dr Geoffrey P Webb
London E15
SIR – I find it frustrating that nearly every council-run leisure centre I have visited has vending machines packed full of junk food including crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks. It seems ludicrous to have these machines in a place where the Government is encouraging people to take exercise.
Surely the nation’s health is more important than extra cash from lucrative vending machines? Healthy snack bars should be on offer instead.
Grania Maynard
Aldsworth, Gloucestershire

SIR – Boris Johnson is correct – there is no need for new towns when so much of London, and other towns and cities, is available for house building. I am thinking, in particular, of shopping areas where empty properties reflect the economic downturn and the impact of the internet.
In Bromley, the largest of the London boroughs, a long stretch of the high street could be redeveloped to become apartments intended for those trying to get on to the property ladder. Such properties would be within easy walking distance of shops, restaurants, the cinema and theatre and a railway station. Those businesses in that area that are managing to survive could be offered incentives to move into the busier, pedestrianised, part of town.
John Carter
Shortlands, Kent
SIR – While politicians continue to debate Government plans to build two new garden cities, in Scotland we are looking to deliver a new, sustainable co-operative settlement called Owenstown, in South Lanarkshire.
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Owenstown is not being delivered by property developers intent on making a profit. Instead, all surplus funds will be reinvested in the community. In addition, the initiative does not require any public-sector support and, already, a database of residents and businesses demonstrates a substantial demand from people who wish to live and work in the new settlement.
Bill Nicol
Why pubs close
SIR – Peter Oborne blames Labour’s smoking ban for pub closures. While this may have contributed, it is by no means the main reason. The landlady at my local tells me that, not only does she have to pay more than £1,000 a week in rent, but the pricing structure of the owning chain means she has to charge 50p a pint more than her neighbour for the excellent ale brewed just two miles up the road.
She has ceased stocking these ales as she is regularly blamed for profiteering; her neighbouring owner-occupier’s pub is doing well.
Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
Crumbling tradition
SIR – In the small burgh of Darvel in Ayrshire, it was common up until the early Seventies for newlyweds to be given a root of rhubarb as a wedding present. That was before wedding lists were commonplace.
John F Crawford
Lytham, Lancashire
No running joke
SIR – Here, in Lincoln, we have the aptly named Steep Hill. My knees are not as young as they were, and do not enjoy going down steep slopes in the conventional manner. So I walk down the hill backwards. I get some funny looks, but my knees don’t mind.
Derek Wellman
Family dialogue
SIR – As it is not unusual to have very extended families, we have been searching for a term to describe the non-blood, same generation relationship of my grandson to his half-brother’s half-brother. My son has come up with the suggestion of siblink.
Roger Hart
London NW1
German energy
SIR – Bruno Waterfield is right to draw attention to Germany’s disastrous energy policies. These are causing electricity bills to rise, spreading fuel poverty and threatening to cripple German industry. They will not even reduce CO2 emissions. The fossil fuel power stations needed for back-up when wind and solar power are off-line are so inefficient when used intermittently that emissions will keep rising.
We can only watch with dismay as Nick Clegg and David Cameron press on with similar policies here and Ed Miliband, who introduced them, tries to lay the blame for rising prices on the “big six” rather than own up to his own folly.
David Watt
Brentwood, Essex
Protecting patients
SIR – You report that mistakes are made in a fifth of disciplinary cases against doctors. In our recent audit of the General Medical Council’s fitness to practise cases, we found technical errors in 22 of the 100 cases audited, but we did not judge in any of them that the GMC had failed to protect the public. It is not possible to conclude that “thousands of doctors” are unsafe. The GMC does have improvements to make, but this was a positive audit and we are confident that the GMC will make the necessary changes.
Harry Cayton
Chief Executive, Professional Standards Authority
London SW1
Permanent pupils
SIR – Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, believes all jobseekers who lack basic skills should be forced into training courses.
Will these courses be provided by the educational establishment that failed to teach them basic skills during their 13 years of state education, creating illiteracy rates not seen since the 1870s?
David Paul
St Mary Cray, Kent
Can’t keep watch
SIR – My watch stopped recently, thanks to a flat battery. A replacement battery was twice as expensive as a new – but identical – watch, which included a working battery.
John Sully
Forest Row, East Sussex
Support for women considering an abortion
SIR – It is worrying that our society, which has become so risk-averse in recent years, should consider it unnecessary to have proper checks and protection in place to safeguard women considering abortion.
As a counsellor trained and experienced in dealing with cases of post-abortion stress, I am aware of the risks these women and girls face. I have worked with women who have suffered guilt, nightmares, grief, regret, relationship breakdown or depression. In some cases, they have turned to alcohol, drugs, self-harm or even attempted suicide.
There is a high risk that the decision to terminate has not been freely made by the woman herself, but under pressure from her partner or family. She is likely to be vulnerable and confused, and will benefit hugely from time to discuss her wishes with an impartial professional. The Government has already decided that she can manage perfectly well without counselling, and now it seems that a doctor’s input is also unnecessary.
This decision is one of the few life choices that you can’t change your mind about. Surely those considering it deserve all the support and protection available.
Hazel Sewell
Preston, Lancashire

SIR – The Liberal Democrats have failed to deal with the Lord Rennard allegations in a swift and decisive manner. Sexual harassment occurred frequently in organisations in the past and probably continues today, to a lesser extent.
It is normally dealt with in a manner that does not threaten the credibility of the organisation involved. The fact that the Lib Dems have allowed it to dominate the news is a reflection of the party’s incompetence.
Oliver Pugh
Kinver, Staffordshire
SIR – The attack on Lord Rennard by Nick Clegg and his cohort is nothing to do with what is right and what is wrong. They think that they can get more votes by attacking him than they can by supporting him.
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Raymond Whittle
Marlborough, Wiltshire
SIR – This sanctimoniousness on the part of the Lib Dems is distasteful. Nick Clegg prefers to join the witch hunt within his party rather than act honourably.
The correct thing for him to do would be to say that neither the police nor his own appointed QC have found sufficient evidence to take matters further. But I fear he is too weak and too smug for that.
Brian Clarke
London W6
SIR – For an apology to be meaningful, it must be made voluntarily by a person who has acknowledged wrongdoing. It is wrong of Nick Clegg to try to force an apology from Lord Rennard.
Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset
SIR – Who is more disreputable? Someone who refuses to apologise for something he says he didn’t do, or someone who ignores the evidence and caves in to the prejudices of a baying mob?
K J Phair
Felixstowe, Suffolk
SIR – A relatively straightforward procedural change could well prevent the Liberal Democrats embroiling themselves in a similar future fiasco, in which one of their members is found not guilty of allegations against him according to the criminal standard of proof, yet is still expected to offer an apology for his actions.
They should amend their rules so that allegations of misconduct in internal disciplinary hearings are determined according to the less onerous civil standard of proof: ie, based on all the evidence, is the alleged event or behaviour more likely than not to have taken place? This is used in many professional regulatory bodies.
Philip Jewell
Barnstaple, Devon
SIR – Nick Clegg is gathering a huge female vote in standing by his firm principles on the dignity of women and their right to be unmolested at work.
Susan Munday

Irish Times:

Sir, – The news that the Government has decided to reopen the embassy to the Vatican (Home News, January 22nd) gave my heart a lift. Two years ago I was dismayed when it was closed but now applaud the courage to seem to do a U-turn.
It is sensible when one makes a wrong turn to recognise it and go back to re- consider. For those in the public eye, that does take courage and I welcome and encourage more of it . – Yours, etc,
Carrickbrennan Lawn,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – If there’s a job going for one single diplomat to represent us at the reopened Vatican embassy, I would like Marie Collins to be considered for the post. – Yours, etc,
Coleraine Street,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Now that the Irish embassy to the Holy See is to be reopened, a very suitably qualified candidate for the post would be our former president Mary McAleese, who is currently studying in Rome.
I’m sure the reformist Pope Francis and herself could spend many hours in theological discussion and structural reform in the church over a glass of Chianti in the new austere Irish Ambassador’s residence. – Yours, etc,
The Moorings,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – A Jones (January 22nd) feels we should open embassies in other cities that are holy to religions other than Catholicism, First off the embassy is to the Holy See not the Vatican. The Holy See is the sovereign entity that represents the Catholic Church and is separate from the Vatican City State. Secondly Mecca, Amritsar and Salt Lake City are not separate sovereign entities and are in countries with which we have diplomatic relations. The examples given by A Jones are spurious. – Yours, etc,
Circular Road,
Kilkee, Co Clare.
Sir, – Following reports that the Irish embassy to the Vatican is to be reopened, A Jones asks whether we can expect embassies to be established in other holy cities.
Unlike Mecca, Amritsar and Salt Lake City, the Vatican City is a sovereign state. Ireland has embassies in Riyadh, New Delhi and Washington DC to handle any affairs involving the three holy cities mentioned. – Yours, etc,
Viewmount Park,
Sir, – Charlie Flanagan of Fine Gael tells us that it was always the case that the question of our Vatican embassy stood to be reviewed once we had an economic upturn. Great!
Could he now tell us what other harsh decisions, mainly in health and welfare, taken because of the economic situation, will now be reversed? Pope Francis would certainly rate these as of more urgency in terms of benefiting from any upturn. – Yours, etc,
Flower Grove,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I welcome the Government’s decision to open the Irish embassy in the Vatican again. I am sure it makes sense in terms of having a relationship with an influential state, but one can’t help feeling the Government’s decision was based on advise from spin-doctors regarding what is the most populist decision, given the presence of the respected new pope, Francis. One wonders if deflecting from the political meeting of the Reform Alliance this week was a consideration too. Heaven forbid members of the public would get excited at the thought of a new politic, of open honest dialogue with values at its core. – Yours, etc,
Ballyroan Park,
Templeogue, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I couldn’t help but smile as I read Fiach Kelly’s article (“Gilmore links Pope Francis to Vatican embassy decision”, Home News, January 22nd). It tells us the Government’s very welcome decision to reopen an Irish Embassy to the Vatican was taken because of “the Holy See’s renewed focus on tackling ‘hunger and world poverty’ under Francis”. Are we to read into this that our Tánaiste has been touched by the “Francis effect” or even had a Damascene conversion to the faith? Might we look forward to our Tánaiste regularly visiting some of: the one in five Irish children that go to school or bed hungry; the estimated 5,000 homeless people in Ireland; or the 16 per cent of the Irish population that lives on an income which is less than the official poverty line (of €210 per adult per week).
Can we expect the Tánaiste to seriously address the issues of domestic poverty and hunger? And in the meantime, as a stark reminder of the reality of the society we live in and as a cry for social justice, should we not advance the year on the banner that drapes Dublin’s Liberty Hall (ie “Dublin 1913, Thousands lived in poverty, trapped by low pay and few jobs”) to 2014 and change “lived” to the present tense? – Yours, etc,
The Rise,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Sir, – The longest word in the English language, writes Patsy McGarry (In a Word, Time Out, January 20th) is antidisestablishmentarianism, unrivalled. It has 28 letters. But it does not appear in my admittedly ancient Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1955). What does appear is the word that used to delight us as children: floccinaucinihilipilification. It has 29 letters. Dating from 1741, it means the action or habit of estimating as worthless. – Yours, etc,
Schull, Co Cork.

Sir, – Minister for Justice Alan Shatter complained in the Dáil on Tuesday that the State expended more than €17.3 million in security costs at Shannon between 2004 to 2013 because of opposition to the US military presence at the airport.
There is, of course, an obvious solution that would save the State these utterly wasted millions and, simultaneously, would ensure the speedy release of the indomitable Margaretta D’Arcy from Limerick Prison. Ask the US war machine to remove itself from Shannon Airport and restore the facility to civilian use only. – Yours, etc,
Lennox Place,
Portobello, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Whether or not he likes it, President Higgins and his family no longer have the luxury or the freedom to do as they want. With great privilege comes at least some responsibility. Sabina Higgins, as a private citizen, is free to visit whoever she likes in prison. Like Caesar’s wife, as the spouse of the President her choices may need to be more circumspect.
Her husband has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers which recognise the independence of the judiciary. Under Article 13.6 of the Constitution he also carries the responsibility of exercising the right to pardon, commute or remit punishments imposed by any court exercising criminal jurisdiction. The President must, like the Chief Justice who swears to do so, exercise the office “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man” (or woman). It is therefore important that the Office of the President should always be seen to accord the highest of respect to the judicial system and never to knowingly undermine the authority of its judges or the decisions of the courts.
If anyone connected with the President’s household does wish to visit a prisoner he or she should do so with the utmost discretion? One presumes that Ms Higgins did not use the office to effect special facilities or privileges when visiting Limerick prison or use taxpayer funds to book, travel or be accompanied on such a visit. It may be too egalitarian to expect that she was accorded the same level of courtesy and respect that prison officers usually give to those visiting their friends and family in the bleak and terrifying confines of our State prisons. – Yours, etc,
Moyclare Close,
Dublin 13.

Sir, – Ronan McGreevy (Home News, January 18th), quotes from a written copybook account kept by Edward Keogh of his time in the Irish Citizen Army, the 1916 Rising and War of Independence. The copybook has been kept by his son, Liam Keogh for more than 50 years.
I, my sister and two brothers are children of Seán Forde who joined Fianna Éireann in 1912, transferred to the Volunteers in 1914, and fought at the Magazine Fort (Phoenix Park) and in the Church Street Area in 1916. He was active throughout the war of Independence and the Civil War.
My father, like many veterans, did not leave us any written account of his experiences. I have been researching his history, as best I can, for the last number of years. While having received, a number of years ago, from the Department of Defence, a photocopy of his Pension Application which set out for us, for the first time, his involvement in chronological order, the Military Service Collection files released last week by Military Archives are already proving a great source of new information for us. They (along with witness statement files previously released) help us relate and put in perspective the memories and stories we heard.
Ronan McGreevy states that Liam Keogh (95) is one of the last surviving children of Easter Rising veterans. I assume that at 64, I am one of the youngest. The family and folk memories of these few remaining people, who knew the veterans intimately, provide the last opportunity to record a personal and human aspect to their deeds and lives.
Now, as the centenary is upon us, I for one, have a have a much more questioning approach than I had, say, 50 years ago. The files have helped humanise rather than lionise. Now, as I relate the stories and the man to the history, I better appreciate the uncertainties and nightmares suffered and yet, despite what may be my uncertainties, I have greater pride than ever in my father.
While we attend yearly, the Easter Sunday commemorations, the Arbour Hill Mass and the National Day of Commemoration, neither my siblings nor I received an invitation or even a notification of the recent Garden of Remembrance commemoration of the centenary of the founding of the Volunteers.
With the benefit of history and hindsight, only now available with the release of the files, is there anyone out there who might undertake to record the memories? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Fiach Mac Conghail, the Abbey Theatre’s director, and Niall MacMonagle can be proud of their contribution to theatre and writing respectively. But in their complaints (Home News, January 21st & Letters, January 21st) about Fintan O’Toole’s report (Front page & Weekend Review, January 18th) detailing external reservations about the theatre’s performance, they show a sad misunderstanding of a journalist’s job.
Fintan O’Toole is not obliged to, and indeed should not, be expected to wait until the Abbey has prepared its particular spin on the assessors’ opinions. Citizens who book the seats, taxpayers who subvent the Abbey, and indeed Irish Times readers are entitled to such information when it emerges, just as Mr Mac Conghail has a right of reply and comment.
There are still too many people, Government, utilities, charities among them, who don’t like releasing information, except of course on their own terms. – Yours, etc,
Templeville Drive,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The Theatre of Memory symposium at the Abbey Theatre has received a warm response from the participants, admired for addressing themes that “should matter to us as a nation” (Niall McMonagle, January 20th) – memory, trauma, imagination, migrations. But what constitutes “us”?
Why were the keynote speakers, to a man, Irish born and bred? How was it that there were no contributions by resident populations not of Irish origin? Central Europeans and Nigerians, for example, have come here from cultures rich in experiment with memory and theatre.
Why did the symposium not offer any international point of view on how theatre might now impact on “us as a nation”? No speaker, of the 32, was a practitioner with experience of managing theatre overseas. Why does the Abbey not invite conflict and welcome the stranger’s gaze? – Yours, etc,
Professor Emeritus,
School of Humanites,

A chara, – Contrary to Joe Conroy’s claim that the European Parliament is of no use and nobody can point to any its achievements (January 20th), the European Parliament is necessary. It adds more democracy to the EU as it is the only elected body of the EU. Along with that, it is jointly responsible with the Council of Ministers for decision-making in the EU. The president of the European Commission cannot be appointed without its approval.
The European Parliament has passed legislation to bring down the price of mobile telephone prices when roaming. It has worked to toughen the rules about selling cigarettes in order to discourage younger people from taking up smoking. More recently, the civil liberties’ committee of the parliament issued a report on American and British electronic surveillance, declaring it illegal and it now wants the EU to better protect its citizens data and privacy. These are only some of the actions of the European Parliament that prove it is beneficial to the citizens of the EU.
The European Parliament elected in May will have even more power. Mr Conroy is correct that the EU “is a multilateral international organisation that plays a very important role in citizens’ lives”. It is often the European Parliament that ensures that the EU plays such a role. – Is mise,
Rue William Turner,
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article (Opinion, January 22nd) highlighting the sense of entitlement prevalent in Ireland is apt in the week that our alleged betters meet for their annual global review at Davos.
O’Toole highlights how we allow our elected officials perpetuate a sense of entitlement among the professional and business elite in this country. It seems our political class quickly forgets its mandate and seeks to be validated by a self-appointed elite. This week the global corporate elite invites political leaders to Davos for discussion on the theme “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”. Here it will listen while political leaders and celebrities highlight their concerns regarding inequality and look at options to reduce the income gap between rich and poor.
However, rather than our elected leaders outlining to business leaders how society will be organised and wealth distributed, they will wait to hear the wisdom of this unelected group on how they should legislate to minimise impact on the status quo while providing some minimal conciliatory gesture to societal concerns.
The issue that Fintan O’Toole has highlighted is not local, it merely reflects a global culture of deference by elected politicians to the business and professional class. – Yours,etc,
Linden Avenue,

Sir, – “It could be worse”. No, it couldn’t! – Yours, etc,
Boleybeg, Galway.
A chara, – With respect, I didn’t interrupt you. – Is mise,
Dunsany, Co Meath.
A chara, – Cheers. – Yours, etc,
Ascaill Bhaile na Fuinseoige,
Cnoc Liamhna,
Baile Átha Cliath 16.
Sir, – OMG, OMG. – Yours, etc,
Hollywood Drive,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – I am unable to comment at this stage due to possible pending legal action. – Yours, etc,
Newtown Road, Wexford.
Sir, – We seem to have allowed ourselves to lie outright to those around us with statements such as “I’ll be with you in two seconds”. Now, however, it often includes the word “literally”. So although you could still be left waiting for minutes or hours, you are told, “I’ll be with you in two seconds, literally”.
This advance in phrases we live with makes me sick literally! – Yours, etc,
Templerainey Mill,
Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* It is heartbreaking to learn that only €9,000 out of €4m raised by Rehab lottery cards was actually used to help those who need it most.
Also in this section
CRC pay scandal endemic of way country is run
Letters to the Editor
We deserve much better governance than this
That desperately needed money was diverted from patients is a national shame.
It begs the question: are decency and fair play dead and buried in Irish life?
Those of us lucky enough to be in full health and able to go about our lives independently cannot truly appreciate the personal heroics demanded by people with disabilities in getting through the day.
The spirit and courage demanded to meet the daily struggle to survive cannot be grasped by those of us who take walking, talking, hearing, and seeing for granted.
But there are people who do recognise this unequal battle, they supported Rehab and gave whatever they could afford to help.
This generosity is the dynamic that keeps the wheels of the charity sector turning.
Revelations about the €742,000 CRC payout to Paul Kiely, and now the bombshell from Rehab, totally undermine the trust that is the oxygen of the charity sector.
How could this happen? How could anyone think that siphoning money away from the vulnerable is justified at any level?
This appaling vista has opened up at the heart of the caring community. The collateral damage, or blowback, from this scandal is that the phenomenal people who work at the interface with people who need them are also tainted.
This, of course, is monstrously unjust.
Their compassion and kindness is the glue that keeps the system together, but they have been betrayed as much as the clients of Rehab and the CRC.
If we can not be trusted as a society to take care of the vulnerable, then what hope is there for us?
* If Bono’s daughter pretends her father is a doctor should my daughters pretend I am a pop singer with the answer to all the world’s problems?
* You can’t reform politics without re-examining the values on which you are going to base your work. And politics is compromise, so if you’re going to work with allies you need to agree a reasonable overlap of values to which you all assent. What values would an informed Christian conscience include?
Surely, at the least:
* Ask “how much is enough?” What should be the ratio of CEO salary to the average worker’s (in the public, private and voluntary sectors)?
* Our national well-being would improve with some thoughtful giving – from targeted social welfare through to fulfilling our international aid obligations.
* Guard human dignity. Policy-making should enshrine the best of measures to protect those whose dignity is most at risk.
* Practise authenticity. This may be the value that the public craves the most. They want leaders who lead by example (like Jesus did) – and who can blame them.
Authenticity is first forged in the crucible of private life. It requires personal commitment from a leader and also an understanding of forgiveness.
* It would appear that the people of Ireland have been less than fair or just to those responsible for the progress made during the Celtic-Tiger era. These achievements dramatically improved the socio-economic, social and cultural infrastructure of our country and most political parties supported the positive developments of the Celtic Tiger.
We have failed to acknowledge publicly our indebtedness to those involved and tended to demonise developers and builders as a category. It is time to portray a more balanced assessment of probably the greatest period of development since the foundation of the State.
This is not to deny that aberrations, serious excesses and omissions took place.
Of course, it is right and proper to have mistakes and excesses investigated in a thorough and fair manner.
But the emphasis being reiterated publicly, day in day out, reveals an obsession with the deviant without fair acknowledgement of the positive overall outcome which, in my opinion, greatly outweighs the negative aspects of this period.
Some of the many significant achievements of the Celtic-Tiger period are as follows: the renewal of our housing stock; the building of the major roads and infrastructure; the construction of major sewage and water schemes; the building and expansion of schools, colleges and universities; the construction of factories and office blocks; the improvement of sports facilities and community services. And thanks to social partnership (in part), we achieved nearly 20 years of industrial peace.
* The Government intends to open a ‘scaled down’ diplomatic mission to the Holy See to ‘save money’.
The rationale cited for closure was never terribly convincing, especially after the total failure of diplomacy to produce the collaboration of the Holy See with major state investigations into child sex abuse by hundreds of priests.
We have a new Pope who is acclaimed by the flock and he is busily overhauling Vatican bureaucracy. But what strategic influence could Ireland possibly derive by transferring the role of Ambassador to the Holy See from the personal mandate of the highly experienced and distinguished Secretary-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs to a more junior and less experienced diplomat, expected to operate alone in a system governed through status, rank and rigid boundaries of hierarchy?
* Lest we forget, while being appalled at the pension of ex-CRC boss Paul Kiely, all the bloated pensions paid to young and retired ex-Taoisigh, ex-ministers, ex-TDs and ex-senior servants are paid from taxes. Where did this sense of entitlement start?
* It is disappointing that it has taken the CRC scandal to finally create the political will to appoint a charity regulator. Given the lack of transparency in so many sectors of society, it would be appropriate to appoint a regulator that is fully independent and to ensure that they are chosen through a fair, open and transparent process.
In recent years a €300m annual lottery fund for charities has often been used as a discretionary fund for politicians. An independent regulator can ensure oversight of this important fund and demonstrate that the Government is prepared to walk the talk when it comes to transparency and reform.
Whatever the course of action, a regulator must be appointed with urgency before any further damage is done to the charity sector.
* Charlie Flanagan of Fine Gael tells us that it was always the case that the question of our Vatican Embassy stood to be reviewed once we had an economic up-turn. Could he now tell us what other harsh decisions, mainly in health and welfare and taken because of the economic situation, will now be reversed?
Irish Independent


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