Work continues

1 February  2014 Work Continues
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Captain Povey has decided on a divide and rule policy.   Priceless.
Thermabloc started to be put up progress made more boxes come
Scrabble today Mary wins,   and gets  exactly 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Miklós Jancsó, who has died aged 92, was the most distinctive Hungarian film-maker of his generation, with an instantly identifiable visual style that won him wide international recognition in the Sixties and Seventies.
Jancsó (pronounced “Yancho”) specialised in historical subjects, ranging from the Kossuth rebellion of 1848 to the communists’ rise to power in Hungary a century later. For Italian television, he ventured into aspects of ancient Roman history, though these projects were less successful.
His fame rested less on the content of his films than on their idiosyncratic treatment. He spun variations on a small number of recurring themes and images: horses snorting and galloping on the great Hungarian plain (the puszta); soldiers marching in formation; naked women dancing with scarlet ribbons; horsemen cracking whips; burning hay ricks.
He filmed these scenes with a constantly prowling camera, the characters weaving in and out of the frame while the camera itself performed intricate arabesques. He pushed the long take to its limits, as Hitchcock had done in Rope and the Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, imitating, would do later.
One Jancsó film consisted of only 12 shots, changes of angle and perspective being achieved through the moving camera. This technique required extensive rehearsals with cameraman and actors, though the players were spared the need to be word perfect — during the shot, they mouthed the lines, which were dubbed in later.
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Critics and audiences were at first spellbound by this approach. When he experimented with colour and widescreen in such works as The Confrontation (1969), it was as if he had discovered a new way of making films that rendered others obsolete. Yet his very originality contained the seeds of future doubts and reservations.
As Jancsó used this technique again and again, questions were increasingly raised about the content of his work. His scripts, usually written by Gyula Hernádi, were found to be too abstract, the characters mere symbols on which to hang Jancsó’s preoccupations and visual obsessions.
While The Round-Up (1965), the film which brought him international renown, was a powerful drama with characters with whom audiences could identify, later works such as Agnus Dei (1970) and Red Psalm (1972) were almost entirely allegorical. However ravishing to look at, they barely communicated at a human level.
The backlash against Jancsó focused particularly on a film about Attila the Hun which he made for Italian television in 1971. Called Technique and Rite, it seemed in its very title to underline the ritualistic, virtuoso aspects of his work which many had come to consider its principal limitation.
Jancsó’s style could not be sustained for long. Theo Angelopoulos, the director most conspicuously in his debt, was able in the Eighties and Nineties to modify it and take it in new directions, which Jancsó proved unable to do. He failed to find new themes and techniques, and his later work was little seen outside Hungary. It was a sad end, for in his prime he achieved what all artists strive for — a perfect fusion of form and content.
Born at Vác, a village near Budapest, on September 27 1921, Miklós Jancsó studied Law and Ethnography in Romania, took his degree in 1944 and was briefly a soldier and a prisoner of war. After the liberation, he returned to Budapest and enrolled in the Academy of Drama and Film Arts. He and his fellow students were ardent socialists and welcomed the communist victory in 1947.
He graduated in 1950 and began to work on newsreels and shorts of a conventional propagandist nature celebrating May Day, harvest time on cooperative farms and visits by Soviet agricultural delegations. Jancsó later admitted that his early shorts were made on the Zhdanov principle that cinema’s sole function was to reflect the prevailing party line.
His first feature film, The Bells Have Gone to Rome (1958), was a stolid Second World War drama indistinguishable from other Hungarian films of the time. Cantata (1962) was little better, but in 1964 he began to attract favourable notice with My Way Home, which deals with a young Hungarian soldier caught between the German retreat and the Soviet advance in the last stages of the war. Its elliptical narrative, expressive use of barren landscapes and emphasis on the moving camera rather than editing were all early manifestations of Jancsó’s mature style.
In Britain it was released after the extraordinary impact of his next film, The Round-Up (1965). Set in the aftermath of the 19th-century Kossuth rebellion, it depicts the efforts of the police in a remote prison on the great plain to pinpoint the rebels among the many in captivity. Playing one prisoner off against another and planning every move like a chess game, they spring their trap and the revolt is snuffed out. Cold, brutal and harrowing, it was immediately hailed as the work of a brilliant stylist.
The Red and the White (1967), a Hungarian-Soviet co-production made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, developed his choreographic style still further. The CinemaScope screen was used in a formalised way to underline the striking compositions — diagonals, horizontals and circular patterns echoing the contours of the landscape itself.
Torture, nakedness and ritualised atrocities became vivid illustrations of the breakdown in humanity during the fighting between the Whites and the Reds in Russia in 1918. Both sides were shown as equally culpable – hence the film was never released in the Soviet Union.
Elsewhere, Jancsó was the man of the moment. Silence and Cry, his 1968 film, was a change of pace — a chamber piece rather than epic in scale, but no less impressive. Set, like The Round-Up, on the great plain, it was an intense drama of lust, betrayal and murder on a remote farm in 1919.
It was followed by The Confrontation (1969), Jancsó’s most audacious film to date. Though set in 1947, it was seen as an oblique comment on the student riots in Budapest in 1968-69. Jancsó’s first colour film, it dramatises the conflict between Roman Catholic and Marxist educational theories in the early days of the Hungarian communist state. There are songs, slogans and dances, escalating to book-burning and violence, with the camera and the students performing an almost balletic illustration of the dialectics.
The Confrontation was not universally admired, but neither of its successors was much liked by anyone. Winter Wind (1969), about a gang of Croat terrorists in 1930s Chicago plotting to assassinate King Alexander II of Yugoslavia, was too cryptic for many tastes. The reduction of the film to only 12 sequence shots was considered self-indulgent and attention-seeking.
Agnus Dei (1970), though one of Jancsó’s personal favourites, was even more esoteric. Handsomely shot and full of nightmarish images of torture and nudity, it was so nationalistic as to be virtually impenetrable to non-Hungarians. Even critics who had hailed the originality of his early films felt that he had ploughed his furrow once too often, and was sacrificing ideas and characterisation to sterile display.
A two-year break in Italy seemed to confirm this. The Pacifist (1970), intended as a radical departure and his first contemporary subject, turned out a hollow pastiche of Michelangelo Antonioni, starring his favourite actress, Monica Vitti. By the time of Technique and Rite, it seemed he was plumbing the depths of self-parody, transporting Jancsó’s regular Hungarian motifs to the inappropriate context of ancient Rome.
He returned, however, with two striking pictures. Red Psalm (1972), though featuring his familiar trade marks, found a new simplicity in dramatic construction, elevating a tale of peasants, landowners and military intervention on the puszta to a kind of epic poem. All agreed that it looked stunning. His Marxist version of Elektra (1975), had the triumphant Elektra and Orestes ascending in the end in a flame-red helicopter .
This proved the high water mark of Jancsó’s fame. Artistically, his subsequent work disappointed. Private Vices, Public Virtues (1976) abandoned the long sequences that had become his signature in favour of an explicitly erotic reinterpretation of the Mayerling affair. Hungarian Rhapsody and Allegro Barbaro (both 1978) formed the first two parts of an uncompleted trilogy on the life of a nationalist executed in 1944 for his involvement in an anti-Hitler plot. Both were judged too parochial to travel abroad.
His last films included an uncharacteristic Renaissance costume piece, The Tyrant’s Heart (1981); a Franco-Israeli co-production called Dawn (1986); Season of Monsters (1987); and God Runs Backwards (1990). They passed almost unnoticed outside Hungary.
In later years, Jancsó was more active in the theatre. He directed a notorious production about the life of Mata Hari and a still more scandalous Jack the Ripper (1977), in which the Limehouse serial killer was finally unmasked as Queen Victoria. In 1980 he staged Verdi’s Otello in Florence.
Between 1999 and 2006, he made six films about the adventures of Kapa and Pepe, two comical anti-heroes .
Miklós Jancsó married first, in 1949, Katalin Wowesny, with whom he had a son and a daughter. He married secondly, in 1958, the film director Márta Mészáros; their son Miklós Jancsó Jr is a cameraman. With his third wife, Zsuzsa Csákány, whom he married in 1981, he had another son; she and his four children survive him.
Miklós Jancsó, born September 27 1921, died January 31 2014


Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (Comment, 28 January) is absolutely right about the need for real sex education in schools. Unfortunately most schools aren’t up to delivering it. I have taught at a number of schools and recently retired from a boys comp, where I taught science. Part of my remit was to teach reproduction, but not sex education, to year 7 pupils and it was obvious that many boys had been watching porn by the questions they asked. Though I was confident about delivering this topic, I feel I would struggle to deliver effective lessons covering pornography with all its ramifications. Some of the older science teachers struggled to teach even reproduction effectively. What is needed is an outside agency that employs teachers, actors or other suitable persons who can come into schools and deliver, in the right language, theatre or talks that engage pupils and encourage discussion about a topic that is damaging their ability to judge what are normal relationships.
Jake Beckett

In the many fine and valid tributes to Pete Seeger (Obituary, 29 January), insufficient attention is paid to what a superb musician and charismatic performer he was. His initial popularity and stature were based on the bedrock of this musicianship, and developed from there. In his early years as a performer he was compelling and exciting: fast, clean rhythmic banjo playing, strong, high voice, lots of body movement, and audience participation. In concerts with others, the audience would wait patiently through other very good performers, and erupt when he took over. Same at Weavers concerts, where the numbers he led were always the highlights of their shows. Union meetings where he was booked drew far greater attendances than regular union hall meetings. I imagine most current scribes never saw him perform in 1940s and 50s America. I did. He was great.
Joe Locker
• In 1962, when I was two, my family moved from London to the US for a year. We returned to London with Pete Seeger’s album We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert. I sang these songs in the school playground while other children sang English nursery rhymes. I loved the melodies, but it wasn’t until I reached my teens that I began to understand the lyrics. Of all the childhood, pop and folk songs I have heard, Seeger’s have made the greatest impression. There is a quality to his voice that hits the heart, tear ducts and vocal chords. I have sung Guantanamera in Cuba, marched to We Shall Overcome at demonstrations, and cried to Where Have all the Flowers Gone at the celebration of a life lost.
Sian Williams
• Shame on Billy Bragg (Seeger taught that songs are more than just records, 29 January) for not knowing the English version of This Land is Your Land. In the late 1940s Princess Elizabeth could be heard singing this lullaby to baby Charles: This land is your land, this land is my land, From Devon and Cornwall to the Canvey Island, From the Kielder Forest to the Romney Marshes, This land was made for you and me.
Peter Taylor
Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear
• Billy Bragg uses “working class” in relation to Pete Seegers’ sad passing in the context of an exclusive club. Seeger came from anything but a working class family. And he went to Harvard. He was proud of both. I’m not working class and enjoy both Seeger and Bragg – Is that all right, Billy? Is that allowed? Thank God we Irish don’t have a strict class system.
Peter Fitz Gerald
Bandon, West Cork, Ireland

Melissa Kite’s assertion (Comment, 31 January) that “you can build 300,000 houses a year but you can’t stop those homes putting on value to a point where the people for whom they were built can’t afford them” is true only if they are built for sale. The answer is to build social housing to rent.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords
• So Ukip supporter Demetri Marchessini believes the word homophobic “cannot be found in any dictionary, nor does it have any meaning” (Ukip donor attacks pro-gay columnist, 29 January). Well, it’s in mine (Chambers, 10th edition) along with a definition. As is the word “delusional”.
Charlotte Hofton
Ryde, Isle of Wight
• In dealing with my late brother’s estate, Inverclyde district council has so far taken the biscuit for crassness. A letter arrived addressed to him stating that his housing benefit was terminated due to death, and informing him of how to appeal. Presumably if he just walked into the office, he might receive the same response as Mr Waller did (Letters, 29 January), but appropriately this time.
Ralph Houston
Dunoon, Argyll and Bute
• Harry Shearer (Nixon was way to the left of Obama, G2, 30 January) says “if any band could get the celebration of their 30th anniversary chronologically wrong, it would be Spinal Tap”. True, I’m sure, but they’re not the only ones. In 2000 I attended Hawkwind’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Brixton Academy, 31 years after their founding.
Greg Hughes
• Having a large torso but less than long legs, I’m shorter than average when standing up, yet taller than average when sitting down (Size isn’t everything, 30 January). I find this gives me a rare and enviable sense of proportion about body size, so I’m unbearably pompous and aggressive for only half the time.
Jon Griffith
Hastings, East Sussex
• I haven’t read any egg pun letters for a few days. Are they ova?
Adrian Willson
Simon Jenkins is so, so right (Germany, I’m sorry. This is the British at their worst, 31 January). Comparing Michael Gove to Vladimir Putin in the misuse of history is a masterstroke. The only thing Jenkins fails to do is answer his own question: “Can we really not do history without war?” So long as modern prime ministers and their cabinets see preparations for, and the engagement in, warlike actions as necessary policies for their own survival – even at the expense of other people’s lives – so they must glorify what they see as national victories, and the heroic sacrifices of our ancestors, in previous wars.
In 2014, David Cameron has other motives for recalling the politicians’ war of 1914, as Gove so brilliantly exposed. If it is counted as the moment when the UK was at its best, commemorating it can be utilised both in a political campaign to defeat the Scottish Nationalists in their referendum and the Labour party in the run-up to a general election in 2015. Brand all opponents as lefties and anti-British and you win hands down. As Jenkins so admirably demonstrates, there is a vast weight of public sentiment already primed through the mass media and school syllabuses to take the view that we won and they lost because we were the goodies and they were the baddies.
Paul Anderton
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
• Niall Ferguson (Report, 30 January) would objectively probably be quite correct in saying that strategically Britain may well have done better to stay out of the conflict until it was more ready to intervene on the basis of finance and naval power. However, the government at that time was facing a number of extremely difficult issues at home. Throughout 1913 and 1914, there had been a massive wave of national strikes in key industries, which looked set to resume, the windows were still crashing everywhere from the women’s suffrage campaign, and civil war in Ireland was threatening with Carson on the march in Ulster to prevent the Irish Home Rule Act from coming into force.
Asquith’s government must have been relieved to be able to declare war on Germany in order to put the country into a state of national emergency, to stop the strikes by recruiting the workers into the army to shoot the German workers; to persuade the women to leave their demands until after the war; to put the Home Rule Act into abeyance and to call on the ultra-patriotic Ulstermen to do their duty and defend the King. I think the government jumped at the chance of war with very little idea about how a continental conflict against Germany would actually be fought.
Rinaldo Frezzato
• The flaw in Niall Ferguson’s argument that Britain should have kept out of the first world war is that whereas Napoleon and Hitler were brought down by their defeats in Russia, Germany actually defeated Russia in the first world war. It is difficult to see how Britain could have dealt with a victorious Germany at a later stage without the help of a large continental ally like Russia – all Britain’s successful military interventions in continental Europe have been achieved with the help of grand coalitions. It is also not clear how Britain could have built up the tough professional army required to defeat Germany without actually participating in the war.
Incidentally, the peace treaty imposed on Russia by Germany at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 gives a flavour of what a German-dominated Europe would have been like – large swaths of eastern Europe would have been handed over to Germany or German-controlled vassal states, had it won on the western front, to create Lebensraum for the Greater German Reich, a policy very similar to Hitler’s in the second world war.
Hugh Wellesley-Smith
• I agree with Niall Ferguson that the first world war should never have happened. But his reasoning is faulty. The war was fought not because of German expansionism, but because all the major European empires were in conflict with one another. The rapid process of colonisation that began with the scramble for Africa and ended in 1914 was the cause of greater imperial rivalry than anything seen before. Germany had less access to colonies in Africa and elsewhere than France or Britain, or to the far eastern ports that the Russian empire controlled. At stake was who would control not just Europe but large parts of the world. Britain’s increased spending on its navy before 1914 was to protect the empire. It succeeded temporarily, but at terrible human cost.
Lindsey German
Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
• Like Simon Jenkins, I have been concerned that only one side of the first world war will be discussed. That is why I have started a petition to have Edith Cavell on a £2 coin as a counterbalance to the Kitchener coin. Hers was a small voice of reason who saw duty as being to all soldiers. A woman of principle.
Sioned-Mair Richards
• Simon Jenkins might like to append the French to his apology to the Germans for our aggrandisement of military victory. Next year it will be 200 years since Waterloo, and 600 since Agincourt. C’est formidable, non?
Dan Adler
Farnham, Surrey
• This year offers anniversaries other than that of the first world war. February marks 40 years since Tory premier Ted Heath called a general election on the back of a miners’ strike. He asked the electorate “who governs Britain?” and they decided, narrowly, that the answer was Labour and the trade unions. The miners won a 30% pay rise. Those kind of days are worth remembering.
Keith Flett


It is difficult not to see the similarity between our Government’s slow response to the flooding of the Somerset Levels and George Bush’s slow response to the disaster in New Orleans.
What we are witnessing is right-wing ideology in (in)action.
The state is being minimalised, many services are being privatised, and government is everywhere being slimmed.
As the inhabitants of these Somerset villages depend on boats to continue their lives, the Government sits on its hands, waiting for the private sector to manage our rivers.
I hope these voters who have been enjoying the floods in their homes for nearly a month are appreciating these political niceties – in the knowledge that their taxes should be as low as possible, that our economy is keenly competitive, and that the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, with his broad experience gained in his family’s leather business, will bring help without further delay.
Dennis Leachman
The decision this week to call in the Army to tackle flooding in Somerset focuses on the need to find the right long-term solution for this catastrophic problem. The Landscape Institute has been campaigning for sustainable drainage for a long time as a cost-effective, green and sustainable solution.
Sustainable drainage mimics nature by absorbing water into vegetated surfaces. It slows down water and prevents flooding, as well as supporting biodiversity.
Sustainable drainage is one of a range of measures in the flooding toolkit, but countries such as Australia, the US, Sweden and Japan have all embraced this approach as an economical and sustainable way of protecting against the human and environmental costs of flooding.
We desperately need Government, local councils, the Environment Agency and water companies each to play their part in incentivising and funding the necessary changes.
The joy of soft, green, sustainable drainage is that it is relatively quick to implement, and we start to see the benefit, however small, as soon as it is built. At present there is a culture of everyone blaming everyone else for the problems and delays. We need a single focus on the outcome, and a positive attitude to problem-solving if we want this to happen quickly and effectively.
Do we want to spend our money putting back together people’s homes, lives and businesses every time we have major storms – or in preventing the problems happening in the first place?
Sue Illman
President, Landscape Institute, London WC1

Golden rice is no instant panacea
The theory that GM “golden rice” is a major humanitarian success story (“Greenpeace has blood of millions of children on its hands, says co-founder”, 31 January) is based on a number of misconceptions, the main two being that “golden rice” is available now, and that better alternatives don’t exist.
Over 20 years after this GM research project began, the developers of “golden rice” in the Philippines expect research to continue for at least two more years before it becomes available, if ever. Meanwhile, Helen Keller International, the organisation leading the fight against vitamin A deficiency (VAD), details six proven vitamin A strategies that are working now.
The World Bank has found vitamin A supplementation programmes to be “among the most cost-effective of all health interventions”, and VAD is already dropping so rapidly in the Philippines that it may cease to be a significant problem before “golden rice” comes on to the market.
Dr Doug Parr
Chief Scientist
Greenpeace UK
London N1

‘Fish oil’ from plants  a major step forward
The letter from Ben Martin (25 January) concerning the properties of flax (linseed) oil, as well as those of other plant sources, recounts a canard that is understandable but scientifically invalid.
There is no current plant source, other than the GM oilseeds like those produced at Rothamsted, which produces the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oils.
The major fatty acid in linseed is alpha-linolenic acid, for which there is no compelling clinical evidence for significant health benefits compared with other oils from plant sources such as olive oil.
Nutritionists value fish oils for the special effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the major lipid of human brain tissue, and well documented for health effects. Given the dwindling stocks of oily fish, Rothamsted’s plant-based “fish oil” is a major step forward. It will provide a terrestrial source of these oils and reduce pressure on the marine environment.
Professor Maurice Moloney
Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation, North Ryde, New South Wales, Australia

Medical data and fears over privacy
Dr Kevan Tucker’s letter (15 January) was misleading, as it confused pseudonymised data and identifiable data.
Since the 1980s, the NHS has been collating information about hospital admissions. This is used to assess the safety of hospitals, compare quality of care, and help plan new health services. At the moment, we are missing this type of information for much of the care outside hospital.
Later this year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will begin collecting this missing information. The HSCIC uses a combination of the NHS number, postcode, gender and date of birth to link a patient’s details. Once a patient’s record has been matched, these identifiers are removed and a reference number for the record is allocated instead.
The HSCIC makes information available in a variety of formats, each of which is protected by a different suite of privacy safeguards, as specified by the Information Commissioner. No identifiable data will be made available to organisations outside the NHS unless there is a legal basis to do so.
Dr Geraint Lewis
Chief Data Officer
NHS England
London SE1

In your report “Patients will be identifiable when firms are given access to confidential NHS data, experts warn” (20 January) you say: “The information for sale to profit-making firms will contain NHS numbers, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.”
As a psychiatric medical records administrator with responsibility for the integrity of a large database of patient details, I can identify anybody in the country in less than 10 seconds, with just their date of birth and NHS number. This will also provide me with their full name and last recorded address.
Truly anonymous data can be useful for trying to analyse statistical trends about patterns of illness and so forth, but there can be no excuse whatever for a gross violation of privacy.
Michael Richards
Leave prison problems to the professionals
Having worked as a professional psychologist and adviser to the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, and being a magistrate, I couldn’t let Mary Dejevsky (30 January) go uncorrected.
She, Vicky Pryce, Denis MacShane and Chris Huhne aren’t qualified to comment with authority on the state of prisons in this country, either by virtue of being a columnist or by spending a few weeks in a low-security prison.
And when criminals reoffend, it isn’t the fault of the prisons. It is the fault of the criminals. The rehabilitation programmes in British jails are among the best in the world.
To conclude that the “whole system needs to be rethought from the ground up” shows how ignorant Dejevsky appears to be of that system. Her view seems grounded in the arrogant presumptions of what she refers to as “well-educated, middle-class” people who have been convicted of crimes.
The Ministry of Justice is staffed with well-educated, middle-class (and non-middle-class) professionals who know what they’re doing. Whatever challenges they face will be far better addressed by the staff in prisons who know what they’re talking about.
Dr Eric Cullen
Winslow, Buckinghamshire

Mary Dejevsky’s lionising of her jailbird acquaintances Denis MacShane, Vicky Pryce and Chris Huhne would have been less irritating if any of the quartet had showed any acceptance of the trio’s wrongdoing.
Professor Chris Barton
Longton, Stoke-on-Trent
Record use of one newspaper?
Is this a record? On 21 January, my daughter took my copy of The Independent (which I had already skim-read) on a bus journey from London to Ghent. She read it cover to cover. Three English-speaking people at her destination devoured it keenly. And many of the topics that arose were discussed over dinner that night. The following day, she got very wet and stuffed pages from the newspaper into her boots; the rest was used to start a fire.
Jane Penson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire


The public may not be interested in what barristers earn, but they should know that legal aid cuts are already creating a risk of serious miscarriages of justice
Sir, You had a photo of me carrying a banner outside the Old Bailey on Jan 6 protesting with other barristers for the first time in my 35-year career and the first time in the history of the profession (Law, Jan 30). You should know that I then went to defend a woman on trial for child cruelty and facing prison. One effect of the cuts is that no solicitor assisted at that trial, which put the client at risk of serious injustice. Fortunately, she was not convicted by the jury.
The public may not be interested in what I earn, but they should know that legal aid cuts are already creating a risk of serious miscarriages of justice.
Worse, a day of court time was wasted because (due to prior cost paring) the court video equipment did not work. This institutional “managed waste” costs far more than any saving that is made by spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar in individual cases.
Ivor Frank
Temple, London
Sir, As a magistrate in central London, I could not agree more with Alice Thomson (“Spare a copper for a poor legal aid barrister”, Jan 29). We often see defendants in need of good advocates. Often the duty solicitor is over worked, rushing from one court to the next, desperately trying to represent individuals who have a raft of problems (mental health issues, language etc). Usually they do a good job, but legal aid cut inevitably affect the most vulnerable people.
Lucy Lubbock
London SW6
Sir, Further to Alice Thomson on the fees paid to independent criminal barristers undertaking legal aid work, the Ministry of Justice is advertising permanent jobs in its Public Defence Service involving the same work. In contrast to the median gross annual fees of £56,000 reportedly paid to the independent barrister, the MOJ is offering £46,036 to £125,000 plus benefits including pension, paid holidays, parental leave, training etc.
It does not take a genius to work out that these benefits plus the cost of administrative overheads means that the government is willing to pay much more to its junior employees than it is to the barrister of average seniority doing the work independently.
Grant Goodlad
Thornby, Northants
Sir, It’s surprising that the Ministry of Justice is reluctant to trumpet that since the coalition came to power £264m has been saved from the criminal legal aid budget. Ignoring the rise in VAT, the bill has fallen by 20 per cent. It’s against that background that barristers complain that cutting a further £220m will make the independent criminal bar unsustainable.
Jon Mack
London EC4
Sir, The bigger picture is that the Government does not want to pay for those who oppose the will of the State (whether in criminal or other cases). The Human Rights Act limits its aims to paying lawyers as little as possible. The true governmental aim is to control the political debate on the topic; so lawyers who oppose the will of the State must be made unpopular as possible.
This is all pretty obvious to those who have long experience of governmental attitudes to the legal profession.
Roger McCarthy QC
London WC1

Many students will need to work to support themselves during their time at university, making almost all courses ‘part-time’
Sir, I agree with much of what Jenni Russell writes in “Some universities teach and some do not” (Jan 30), but she does not mention of the impact of part- or full-time employment on students’ ability to engage in a course of full-time education.
With the massive increase in fees over the last decade, which not all academics agreed with, education for many university students is now only notionally “full-time”.
Those students whose parents cannot afford to support them, will
be working to support themselves — to the detriment of their full-time study.
Dr Andy Hamilton
Admissions Tutor, Philosophy Dept, Durham University

Distant relatives of the Prime Minister, via the Pub Landlord, and the resemblance of Thackeray to Les Dawson
Sir, I was unaware of Mr Al Murray’s illustrious ancestry and Oxbridge pedigree, which seem to outshine that of the prime minster, to whom he is related via mutual connection to the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (“Ale in the family: Cameron’s pub cousin”, Jan 29).
The most cursory search on the internet discloses Thackeray’s interest in and penchant for humour, clearly a family trait if not a little distant. Thackeray did, however, say, “A good laugh is sunshine in a house” — a perfect quote particularly for the PM if the indefinite article is replaced by the definite article.
A. F. Kellner
London W1
Sir, I have never been able to take the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray seriously since I realised he was the spitting image of Mr Les Dawson, the illustrious comedian.
Des Machale

All visitors to the Hagia Sophia are welcome without religious or gender based restrictions — although appropriate attire is appreciated
Sir, As an Iznikian, I am puzzled by Professor Elizabeth Jeffreys’ letter (Jan 25) and what she says about Hagia Sophia in Iznik. Granted, I have yet to meet a local who understands why we need yet another mosque but the building is still open to tourists. All visitors are welcome without religious or gender based restrictions — although we find those in the shortest of shorts or bikini tops somewhat disconcerting. Access is of course briefly compromised during prayer times but our guests can visit other historical sites in town or sit in the Hagia Sophia garden until the building reopens to visitors.
In 1920 during the War of Independence Greek forces destroyed most of the building. The Turks would not have damaged what had been a mosque since 1331. I imagine the Greek soldiers had no idea of the importance of Hagia Sophia to the Greek Orthodox Church.
For over 80 years it stood roofless, open to the elements with the mortar turning to dust and the fire damage evident on the inner walls. I cannot recall any foreign concern about its dilapidated state or the importance of our Byzantine heritage. In 2007 it was restored with monies provided by the Turkish Department of Antiquities.
Professor Jeffreys and the further 52 scholars are welcome to visit us anytime.
Azize Ethem (Osmanoglu)
Iznik, Turkey

There are many good reasons why schools may not always offer a hot lunch — a lack of kitchen and dining facilities among them
Sir, The idea of a hot lunch at school is admirable (Jan 30) but problematic. I am vice-chair of governors of a large infant school. We have nearly 400 children eligible to receive a lunch starting in September. We have no kitchen and no dining hall. The existing hall can seat only 75, would mean six sittings; thus, the hall would be unavailable for PE etc and curriculum requirements could not be met. Even if we have funds to build a kitchen and dining room, the playground is the only space available and this is already inadequate.
Diana Cobden
Christchurch, Dorset

Despite the rise of the internet and emailed publications, the printed parish magazine still has a place in community life
Sir, I have a copy of The Gospeller, the July 1894 parish magazine for Hellidon and Catesby, two Northamptonshire villages (“What the Lord giveth, the internet taketh away”, Jan 27).
We still have a parish magazine to serve Hellidon and Catesby, as well as nearby Staverton, with which we became a united benefice in 1951. As far as I can tell, a parish magazine has been continuously produced since the early date, certainly since 1966.
Like Haworth in your article, we envisage the time when we too shall have to distribute our articles and notices via the internet.
Jenifer Fell
Hellidon, Northants
Sir, The news that a parish magazine has changed format from print to electronic version comes as no surprise. We compete against local press, free magazines and websites. There is still a place for a printed edition but it needs to be combination of church newsletter and community magazine. Our magazine makes a healthy profit, kindly supported by local businesses as well an effective way of reaching the community.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2009, parish magazines “are the most widely read Christian publications — and many people are likely to read them without ever setting foot inside a church.”
David R. Pickup
Stone, Dinton and Hartwell Parish Magazine, Bucks
Sir, I have a Church Monthly dated 1892 from Swynnerton and Cotes Heath Church (Staffordshire) It was addressed to a grandma I never met and cost 6d. It contains many items of interest to me as most of my family were from this area. It contains a year’s details of births, marriages and deaths, amount of money collected at each service, including the number of coins, eg, 32 coins = 8/6d. At the back are items about the choir outings, games and poems. Not bad at 1/2d a month. A very treasured book.
Irene Ash
Moreton Morrell, Warks

SIR – Much of Radio 3 output (Letters, January 29) is wonderful. Performance on 3, the weekly operas, the proms and many features are just terrific. It remains my radio station of choice.
But it has introduced embarrassing interviews with listeners, songs from the shows, a bit of didactic pop music, dreadful world music and other “popular” stuff.
Radio 3 also appears to be desperate to claim that its audience is in excess of two million, when the number of listeners to its mainstream output is well below that.
The BBC should be honest about what Radio 3 is and embrace it or kill it. The devotees of great music would soon rally round and sponsor a new service, using new technology, with a budget big enough for the orchestras and the broadcast output.
H C Marshall
Shatterford, Worcestershire
SIR – My two-year-old daughter adores Classic FM. This stems, I like to think, from its miraculous effect when I used it to soothe her as a baby.
She has a radio in her nursery tuned to Classic FM and switches it on herself. The other afternoon I found her dancing, quite happily, to Handel’s Violin Concerto.
Sarah Crosbie Jones
Groombridge, Kent
The smoke police
SIR – There are laws against texting and telephoning while driving, against motorway lane-hogging and about lane-changing. Parliament is now debating a ban on smoking when children are present in motor cars.
Surely it is better to attempt to educate adults. Who is going to police the driving habits of millions of motorists?
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
Journey into space
SIR – Tom Bower claims that Virgin Galactic has “no licence” and “no rocket” to go into space (report, January 27). The recent rocket-powered flight to 71,000 feet renders Bower’s main claims increasingly removed from reality. The company’s rocket motor burned for the full duration.
He also fails to note that the team has an experimental permit from the Federal Aviation Administration, the proper regulatory form for the test-flight programme. Nor does he mention that we applied for a commercial licence in 2013. We expect to receive it well in advance of commercial service later in 2014.
There is no doubt that what Virgin Galactic and its customers are doing is hard. Sadly, Mr Bower’s book fails to give a fair summary of it.
George Whitesides
CEO, Virgin Galactic
Mojave, California, United States
Fresher frozen
SIR – Michael Halpern (Letters, January 30) questions the need for freezers when 20 million homes are within a 10-minute drive of fresh food. You have reported before now that it can take two weeks for fresh produce to get to the table after picking, with up to 45 per cent of important nutrients lost in fresh vegetables.
Produce that is frozen after being picked has more nutrients sealed in, but must be stored in freezers to be eaten at home.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – The reason for a freezer? I enjoy ice cream and I like to have it to hand.
Robin Dudley-Warde
Bitton, Gloucestershire
Taking a punt
SIR – Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, holds an Irish passport, but did not mention Ireland in his speech in Scotland on currency unions (report, January 30). Ireland remained in monetary union with sterling from 1922 to 1978, when it joined the EMS.
Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal
Unpossessive name
SIR – An early example of the dropped apostrophe (Letters, January 28) is in London. Margery Arnold’s Grove became Arnold’s Grove, then Arno’s Grove and finally the Tube destination of Arnos Grove.
Arthur W J G Ord-Hume
Guildford, Surrey
A country walk, a dog and a parish magazine
SIR – I am not a churchgoer, but I happily deliver the local parish magazine (Letters, January 29) when walking our labrador.
The church being locked most of the time limits the possibility of people collecting a copy there. This month I have enjoyed meeting the recipients as I collect their annual subscriptions.
Many parish magazines are now online, so paper copies may indeed soon be consigned to history.
Richard Strother
SIR – I was sad to read that Haworth’s parish magazine may cease to exist. Despite our village church being joined with two others, each village still produces a parish magazine, eagerly awaited each month. Our village prints 400 each month, in simple A5 form, largely funded by advertisements from local businesses.
Veronica Bliss
Compton, Hampshire
SIR – The cover of the parish magazine here has been designed by David Juniper, illustrator of the legendary Led Zeppelin II album cover. That probably makes it a collectable item. The inside ticks all the right boxes, too.
Julie Juniper
Symondsbury, Dorset
SIR – The parish magazine of Bolton Priory, North Yorkshire, has been distributed since 1884. We still print 500, delivered free monthly to every household in the parish. We also have postal subscribers and we cover costs through advertisements.
We are developing a new website, while continuing the traditional printed version. As with most newspapers, we have found that “both” is better than “either or”.
Val Middleton
Judy Allen
Brenda Sheard
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

SIR – The tragedy at Dunblane in 1996 followed glaring errors in police procedures, according to Lord Cullen, chairman of the inquiry.
I am told that had the correct procedures been followed in applying firearms laws, which are quite adequate, then Thomas Hamilton would not have been granted a firearms certificate.
If this is the case, then handguns were banned for political reasons, rather than for public safety. Moreover, since then, criminal use of handguns has increased, creating a worse public-safety issue.
I do not believe that this question has been debated satisfactorily, and the official Dunblane papers cannot yet be viewed. Why not?
Derek Stimpson
Chairman, Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association
London WC1

SIR – Let’s not waste time on yet another review of flooding response. We have the comprehensive Pitt Review of the floods of 2007 already. Reviews are like public apologies, and only allow organisations to make the same mistakes in future.
Having been the county emergency planning officer for Oxfordshire, 1992-2008, I would say that what needs to be done now is: river dredging where appropriate, without concern for EU laws, then disbandment of the Environment Agency.
Local authorities should also have much stronger powers to ban house-building on flood plains without resilience measures, such as sacrificial basements, and providing houses with plastic skirting and lower walls, high-level sockets, moveable kitchen equipment and stone ground floors.
Insurance companies should be forced to repair to a better resilience standard, as in any new build, with local authorities having the duty to sign off such repairs and act as advocate for residents.
The Environment Agency should be broken up, and a new authority formed for all water matters. All environment and regulatory matters should be returned to central government. No quango should have both regulatory and delivery roles.
The Civil Contingencies Act, in place since 2004, must be applied. The Ministry of Defence should be included in the Act as a category responder, in order to give it a duty to offer help under the Act’s prevention section.
Penalties must be applied to all organisations involved in emergency response that fail the primary duty of the Act: to prevent incidents.
John Kelly
SIR – During his visit to Somerset, Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, announced that water is being pumped away at “something like a million tons a day”. That is about a million cubic metres a day. Some 25 square miles are flooded, or about 60 million square metres. With pumping at this rate, the water should drop by less than two centimetres a day. It would be gone in a few months – if it doesn’t rain.
John Blagden
Milverton, Somerset
SIR – At Sockbridge, near Penrith, gravel deposited during the 2009 floods has diverted the river, is destroying fields and threatening our new bridge. The Environment Agency refuses to remove the gravel.
T C Bell
Sockbridge, Cumberland
SIR – The river problem is not so much sediment, though that has to be removed, but weed. This affects the whole water column. A clear river not only speeds flow but also lowers the water table, enabling land to absorb more water before flooding starts.
John Marshall
Horsington, Lincolnshire
SIR – Reports have suggested that the Environment Agency stopped dredging where it found voles on the river bank.
Was no thought given to the effect such a policy would have on badgers, a protected species, who live in underground setts, and have probably been drowned in their hundreds?
Neil Gillies
Orpington, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – I wish to give a tentative welcome to the new Child and Family Agency (Home News, January 31st).
Tentative, because I am disturbed to see psychology is not one of the core services provided by the agency. During my career in the area of the children’s health service as a psychologist, I repeatedly saw the value of a psychological perspective included at the earliest stages of many interventions with children, whether it was an infant who was not thriving because of maternal depression, a pre-schooler with anxiety and toileting problems, a school- aged child who was being bullied because of a learning disability, or a teenager who was depressed because of identity issues.
This psychological perspective is even more important when trying to understand and help young people who have been hurt by difficult or traumatic experiences often resulting in behavioural, cognitive and emotional problems which lead to placements in care.
I am not sure why psychologists are not part of the new agency. It has been many years since I worked directly in the children’s services, but I would appeal to all the stakeholders involved to come together to give our children the best holistic service possible. – Yours, etc,
Ard Gaoithe,
Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
Sir, – The new Child and Family Agency has been set up to ensure that there will be better communication between State agencies and a standardised approach to care. Except at its inception, not all necessary services have been transferred.
Why have public health nursers and children’s mental health services not been included? If this new agency is, as the Taoiseach said in his speech, “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to reform child protection and welfare services, the omission of these crucial service is an opportunity wasted. The Irish Times should investigate why these essential services have not been brought under the authority of the new agency. – Yours, etc,
Ballinteer, Dublin 16.

Sir, – January saw the replacement of the One Parent Family Tax Credit with the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit. This new credit means only the parent who has the primary custody of the children now retains an additional tax credit. The impact is that de facto mostly single and/or separated fathers have lost a significant tax credit and consequently their pay packages are negatively impacted.
As a practising barrister I am already receiving queries in relation to the impact of this, largely unnoticed and unpublicised, change to the tax code. Clients are unable to meet their maintenance payments and this is inevitably going to lead to an increase in cases being entered into the court system to resolve disputes between parents. This in itself causes a financial difficulty in that maintenance orders which have been made in the Circuit Court must be reviewed by the Circuit Court with the obvious considerable cost implications for parties.
In addition, I believe that this regressive action will lead to fathers not being able to take up overnight access with their children as they will no longer be able to afford appropriate housing for them and for their children.
The Department of Justice published a briefing note on the proposed Children and Family Relationships Bill, where it is proposed that the “best interests of the child” be the “paramount consideration” when considering matters of custody, guardianship and access. It is hard to see where the best interests of children lie in a decision which will, for many fathers, push their already fragile financial positions to a place where they will no longer be able to afford appropriate housing.
Prior to the budget both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan stated that no person’s pay packet would be affected by the budget. This is patently untrue.
In the wake of the recent European Court of Human Right finding in the Louise O’Keeffe matter, it begs the question how of we as a society wish to treat all children and in particular how we wish to promote ongoing and healthy relationships with both parents. – Yours, etc,
The Hill,
Co Limerick.

osure of the population, even small risks to health from the proposed pylons may have a large impact on the population. Children are particularly vulnerable as their nervous and other physiological systems are still developing and they have a longer lifetime exposure. It is therefore of paramount importance that the risks to health are accurately known. It is clear that they are not.
There are many methodological problems in identifying adverse health effects from this type of radiation. In particular there are great difficulties in assessing exposure; and individuals are not generally aware of the levels to which they are exposed. As a result, epidemiologic studies to date have relied on rather crude proxies for exposure. It is therefore understandable that not all studies would show adverse health effects; and childhood leukaemia has been linked to such exposure by some studies, but not by others.
Further studies have found an increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in people living less than 600 metres from a power lines, while others have not.
Exposure to non-ionising radiation is governed internationally by guidelines issued in 1998, by the International Commission for Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These guidelines are used by national governments, including the Irish Government, to regulate levels of exposure to this type of radiation. The ICNIRP guidelines acknowledge the difficulties in ascertaining exposure levels. However, since the current guidelines from ICNIRP were issued, two large studies have been undertaken, both of which raise concerns.
The EU REFLEX report involved 12 research groups in seven countries and reported its findings on radiation and health in 2004.
The researchers found an “intriguing pattern”, for example, intermittent exposure to radiation at a common electrical mains frequency appeared to be toxic to DNA in some types of human cells. Furthermore, the SCENHIR report, issued by the European Commission in 2009, is quite explicit, stating that its previous conclusion that ELF (extremely low frequency) magnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic, chiefly based on childhood leukaemia results, “is still valid”.
Two simple precautionary measures may be proposed.
First, that data on exposure to non-ionising radiation be included on all new entrants in the National Cancer Register. And a decision on the proposed pylons should be deferred until we know the risks to which we are exposing the population.
The tragedy of avoidable illness is only superseded by the knowledge that it could have been avoided. There is an onus on public health professionals to take the lead. This is the time for the precautionary principle to come into action. – Yours, etc,
Irish Doctors’
Environmental Association,
Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Much has been said and written lately concerning the RTÉ drama Amber; the predominant opinion being one of anger and frustration towards the programme-makers at the lack of explanation at the end of the storyline.
As a member of a family living with the ongoing reality of a missing person, I find it regrettable that the general discourse was much less inclusive of the fact that there are many in our society living with a lack of resolution, but one that is real and not fictional.
In recent times there has been an effort – admirably so – to recognise and have compassion for those among us suffering with mental anguish. I would hope that a similar appreciation could be held for those of us living with the lack of closure that an inexplicably absent loved-one creates. – Yours, etc,
Eugene Street,
Dublin 8.

A chara, – Martyn Turner published a cartoon in The Irish Times on February 21st, 1995, entitled “Reconciliation in Northern Ireland . . . How it Will Work”’. Needless to say, in the cartoon it did not work. I have a faded copy on my noticeboard, but if readers don’t have access to the original cartoon they can always turn instead to the news about the reconciliation event at the Skainos Centre in east Belfast last Thursday night.
Patrick Magee played a part in the 1984 bombing that killed Jo Berry’s father. Jo Berry has forgiven Magee. The two of them spoke together at the reconciliation event.
Outside were loyalists – some of whom were not born in 1984 – who were prepared to use violence to stop the event. Four PSNI officers were hurt during the disorder. Many prominent people have tried to paint a rosy picture of life in Northern Ireland. However, sectarianism is endemic, many migrants are facing nightly racist attacks, there is no agreement on parades, flags or the past, and the entire notion of reconciliation has been rejected by unionism and loyalism. Still, Martyn Turner can save on a bit of ink. There is no need for him to revisit the topic; his assessment in the cartoon is as accurate today as it was in 1995. – Is mise,

Sir – Do I detect the embryonic stage of an Irish solution to a perceived problem, the establishment of non-religion teaching schools under religious patronage? – Yours, etc.
Co Westmeath.
Sir, – I think Ruairí Quinn’s proposal to reduce and soon eliminate the teaching of religion in schools is brilliant! With absolutely no moral education, future generations of Irish jail inmates will be able to read and understand Ulysses, while simultaneously counting the number of years they will be “inside”. – Yours, etc,
Bawnard West,
Midleton, Co Cork.
Sir, – With regard to Bill Bailey’s suggestion (January 28th) that increased religious education is some kind of panacea for the inherent dishonesty, corruption and general lack of integrity throughout the elite of the country, let us not forget that the Catholic Church had a moral monopoly in this State for much of the last century, a period during which our elites (including the Catholic church) hardly covered themselves in glory.
It is also worth noting that, according to the world ranking on corruption perception in 2012, the least corrupt country out of 174 was Denmark, a country which emerged as the third least religious country out of 143 in a 2009 Gallup poll on the importance of religion (18 per cent of Danes said religion was important; 80.5 per cent said it was unimportant), while the most corrupt country was Somalia – the fifth most religious country in the 2009 poll (98.5 per cent of Somalis said religion was important; 1.5 per cent said it was unimportant).
To contend that there is a correlation between religiosity and reduced dishonesty and corruption is not borne out by the evidence. – Yours, etc,
Stocking Avenue,

Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 01:03
First published: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 01:03

Sir, – I was saddened to learn of the death of the former journalist, broadcaster, sportsman and politician Ted Nealon. Stephen Collins (Home News, January 29th) summed up this exceptional man’s life well.
I was a trainee researcher with Telefís Éireann (RTÉ) in the late 1960s. In those pre-Google days it was often difficult to search for information, necessitating long, laborious hours perusing reference books and musty papers in the National Library. Early on I was advised that Ted was “the man to go to” if there was an urgent question that couldn’t be answered or needed to be verified.
He was always most helpful and agreeable, with an encyclopedic knowledge of Irish politics (and of many other subjects). It was not surprising that he eventually won a Dáil seat and was appointed a government minister by Garret Fitzgerald – the country could not afford to waste such a valuable fund of knowledge! Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad was, of course, legendary and a must-read for political anoraks; but he also wrote Tales from the Dáil Bar, an entertaining collection of anecdotes. Contained within it is the story of the lifeboat man who, in 1985, rescued the leader of the opposition, Charles Haughey, when his yacht sank off Mizen Head. The young man then asked the taoiseach for a State funeral because he reckoned his father would kill him when he found out he had rescued Haughey.
Ted Nealon will be missed. Ní fheicfimid a leithéid arís. – Yours, etc,
Mount Argus Court,
Harold’s Cross,

Sir, – On behalf of the members of Institutes of Technology Ireland I wish to express our deep sadness at the death of Seán Flynn.
Seán had a curious and questioning mind which was at the heart of the very many fine pieces he wrote for your newspaper. He also understood and explained the complexities (and sometimes contradictions) in Irish education with clarity and precision. Most importantly, he challenged us to be better, and that’s how it should be.
Education has lost a good friend and we send our deepest sympathies to Seán Flynn’s family and colleagues. – Yours, etc,
Chief Executive,
Institutes of Technology
Fumbally Lane,

Sir, – “There are less people here today”, “Not thought to be life-threatening”, and “Loose cows on the road”; each a long-term favourite of our national broadcaster. – Yours, etc,
Orwell Park, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – I’m surprised nobody has mentioned “I mean”, which is regularly used to pepper conversations and interviews. I mean, it’s the new “You know”, you know. – Yours, etc,
Belton Terrace,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – “Window of opportunity”. But does it have “transparent” glass? – Yours, etc,
Shinrone, Birr, Co Offaly.

Sir, – As someone with a modicum of legal knowledge, I am amazed at the Department of Education’s assertion that it had no responsibility whatever in the Louise O’Keeffe (and similar) cases. I’m even more amazed that our senior courts upheld that assertion (now overturned by the ECoHR). Responsibility cannot be devolved in such cases. Duties and tasks yes, but ultimate responsibility, no. Not entirely at least. On the other hand it seems to me, though I haven’t read the ECoHR findings, that others must also have had co-responsibility, not least the perpetrator of the abuse; but also the parish priest as “patron”, the board of management of the school and to a lesser extent the parents.
If compensation is to be paid, then will all those listed above, but most especially the church authorities, be asked to cough up, or are they to walk free, again? Or is it to be yet another burden on the unfortunate taxpayer. After all the government has no funds out of which to pay compensation except what we, the taxpayers give them! And we are not only entirely innocent of this crime, some of us are victims too! Yours, etc,
Barrow Lane,
Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – The news that Louise O’Keeffe has won her case against Ireland in the European Court of Human Rights finally rips away the last pretence of generations of Irish governments to evade responsibility for their negligence in protecting children in Irish schools. All Irish people should feel a sense of shame that it took a European court to lance this festering Irish boil.
The Irish legal system comes out of this whole affair more than slightly soiled. The courts always turned down Louise O’Keeffe’s case because they accepted the plea of the executive – even though the State paid for Irish education, it gave a free hand to the Roman Catholic Church to run the schools. It was a grubby quid pro quo – the church got control of the minds and lives of the young and did not make trouble for the State. The State paid up and everything was hunky-dory. Mistreatment? Cruelty? Sexual abuse? Not a chance. The church would not and could not countenance such a travesty. We all know what happened when that can of worms was opened in the past 20 years or so.
The amount of compensation payable now to the living victims of this abuse is almost immaterial. The State fighting to the last gasp when justice demanded a generous approach shows the real attitude of our governments. Money and political power counts – justice is just a word to be trotted out to impress people when the need arises, like an election. Otherwise it’s the always open-to-interpretation law that rules the day.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 was a great day for Louise O’Keeffe and the other abused children of this country. But it was a day of shame for successive Irish governments, the Irish legal system, the Roman Catholic Church and all those patriots, big and small, who heard no evil, saw no evil and, therefore, did not speak up when they should have.
If this State does not abide by the true principles of truth and justice this tragic type of events will happen again and again. When will we learn our lesson? – Yours, etc,
Greencastle Avenue,
Dublin 17.

Irish Independent:
* The landmark judgment in the case of Louise O’Keeffe reflects similar rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that give recognition to children’s rights. In the 1980s, a series of cases were adjudicated in Strasbourg concerning corporal punishment in British schools under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The same legal provision has now been applied successfully to include the sexual abuse of children. Although the O’Keeffe case dates back to the 1970s, it sends an important message to the Government today about its duty of care and the legal, as well as moral, obligation to not only protect minors but to put in place adequate safeguards.
Also in this section
We need to support our sporting heroes
Brian Hayes – a contract with Irish voters?
Letters: Quinn needs to educate himself on faiths
The ruling also signals a cultural shift in Ireland concerning the status of children. Added to the findings in the Murphy, Ryan and Cloynes inquiries into clerical abuse, there is now clear validation that children have a right to be taught in a safe environment and that their physical integrity must be respected by teachers.
This is in keeping with developments elsewhere such as Scandinavia, which has been particularly vigorous in promoting child welfare and challenging inappropriate adult authority.
The implications of this judicial review are that, as a signatory to the European Convention, the Irish State and particularly the Department of Education will need to raise its game to ensure the public feels confident that existing and future generations of children are protected within the educational system.
* Pete Seeger inspired many, but you always knew it was a lost cause when people started singing “We shall overcome”.
* I feel compelled to write to support Frank Cummins (Letters, January 28) regarding the abolition of the Transition Pension.
The fact that workers whose contract of employment states that they have to retire at 65 and then make themselves available for work to claim Job Seekers Benefit is quite frankly absurd. I also think it is grossly unfair that a person who retired on December 31, 2013 at age 65 is entitled to claim the Transition Pension but a person retiring a couple of days later at the same age cannot.
Then there is the situation where a person who would have qualified for a pro-rata Transition Pension – having worked initially in the private sector for a number of years and then entering public sector employment pre-1995 and paying a modified stamp – ends up having no entitlement to the Job Seekers Benefit. Some of these would be lower-paid public service workers, who would not have enough service to qualify for a full pension and who would have depended on the Transition Pension to make up the shortfall.
I have heard very little from our public representatives, trade unions and bodies representing pensioners on this issue, particularly when you consider that the Job Seekers Benefit is almost €50 euro less than the Transition Pension and the retirement age is set to rise in the coming years.
* While trying to get to St Vincent’s hospital last Monday for a breast scan, it took me two-and-a-half hours for a journey that would normally take an hour. While in a little panic, I saw a clear bus lane ahead and wrongly decided to use it. A garda pulled me in and read me the law. He was right. Thankfully, his human heart understood my distress and allowed me to continue my journey.
On returning from the hospital I realised the amount of time Irish people sit in traffic while trying to get to hospital appointments.
A simple solution: when the hospital sends out an appointment for a specialist treatment, they issue a blue cross with the date inscribed which would be placed on the windscreen on the day of travel, which would allow the patient to use bus lanes.
Let the NRA, the HSE and the gardai get together and put some humanity back into our country.
* Reading Emmanuel Kehoe’s reflections on being in one’s 60s, it might come as a consolation to know that he (and indeed the undersigned) are both younger than Rod Stewart. . . Let’s rock on so!
* Paddy O’Brien, in a recent letter, wrote: “God exists not in heaven but in the mind of man; the near-death experience. . . is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain.”
I can indeed accept this theory. But perhaps Paddy could explain how a group of people could be affected by my brain chemicals in June 2004.
A roof I was on collapsed and I fell 12 feet to the ground. My head bounced at least three times. I was in a different place metaphysically and assumed I was dead. I thanked my Creator for my life and said I would accept His/Her decision.
As I came to, I heard a voice: “Get on with your life.”
This was all in a matter of seconds. I checked my reflexes as I waited for the ambulance to arrive. I walked on to the lowered stretcher. After being placed in the ambulance, the paramedic began to lower the back of the stretcher. I heard a clicking noise in my neck. The pain was so intense I asked the paramedic to stop lowering. His response: “I have to bring you into casualty lying down.” After a short discussion using some Irish words, he desisted.
In the scanner it was discovered I had severely fractured my C1 and C2 vertebrae (the hangman’s noose), and had also suffered a 5cm separation of the brain from the skull, along with numerous skull and facial fractures.
I recovered 100pc. The surgeon told me my neck was hanging by a thread and that if the paramedic had ignored my request I would have died in the ambulance. He also told me I had suffered two injuries, each of which, to all intents and purposes, should have been fatal.
For the record, Paddy, I don’t believe in God; rather I believe Him/Her.
* The story of Susan O’Connell and her daughter Shauna, who suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Carrigaline home (‘”Sixth sense” mum flees from gas leak flat with daughter’, October 23), serves as a stark reminder about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the Department of Health, more than 40 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and thousands more are treated in hospital. It is likely many more victims go unrecognised because the early symptoms can easily be mistaken for flu or food poisoning.
The only way to fully protect yourself and your family is to have an audible alarm. They are widely available from any good DIY store.
Carbon monoxide has no smell, taste or colour, meaning it is easily inhaled without a victim realising. It is produced, most commonly, when a household fuel-burning appliance such as a boiler or cooker is installed incorrectly or poorly maintained. It can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
For more information, visit


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