Meg and Lynn

4 February 2014 Meg and Lynn

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Lady Todd Hunter Brown has seen a ghost ship Priceless.

Hospital,, diesel, post office, Co Op, Meg and Lynn visit

Scrabbletoday Mary wins, just.and get under 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Eva Tovarich, who has died aged 93, was a post-war circus artiste who balanced Big Top drama with power and ingenuity in an act billed as “The World’s Greatest Equilibrists”.

As one of the foundations of The Tovarich Troupe, she entertained audiences in variety theatres and circuses across Britain, Europe and America, from the late 1940s through to the mid-1970s. Equilibrism involves performers balancing on props or, as often was the case in the Tovarich act, the bodies of their fellow acrobats. Each member then fits together into a towering human scaffold. It is a precarious art, to which Eva’s statuesque figure was well suited.

Her husband, Joe, was the troupe’s founder and linchpin, while Eva Tovarich was the “bearer” – the person who lifted the other members into the air.

She proved a formidable and striking presence in the circus ring: “A marvellous physique, tall and large-boned, with not a hint of fat,” judged one Bertram Mills Circus employee. “So elegant and graceful, yet strong.”

Natascha Slivinskas (professionally known as Eva Tovarich) was born August 15 1920 in Mariampole, Lithuania. Her father was a miner who brought the family to Hamilton, Scotland. It was there that she later met Joseph “Joe” Slivinski, whose Russian family had gone into exile following the 1917 revolution. Joe formed the Zarovs, an acrobatic group, before creating the family act and, post-war, The Tovarich Troupe moved from the Blackpool Tower Circus to the famous Bertram Mills arena after being spotted by Cyril Mills, son of the circus’ eponymous founder.

To begin with their performances included Joe’s three sons from his first marriage. Later, Eva performed with two of the couple’s daughters in an all-female aerial act under the name “Eva, Toots and Eva”. Two of the sons went on to form The Two Harvards, a comedy routine performed on ice skates. In various incarnations the family performed at the Belle Vue Circus, Manchester (1955-56), the Boswell’s Circus in South Africa (1961), the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth (1964) and with the Cirque Pinder in France (1965). In 1967 they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in America.

The couple retired in the mid-1970s and settled in Benidorm, where Joe Slivinski died in 1992. Four years later tragedy struck when armed intruders broke into their villa. Their son, Jan Juri, was murdered and Eva Tovarich was left in a coma. However, with a constitution fortified by a career under the canvas of the world’s greatest circus tops, she recovered from her injuries and continued to live in Spain for the rest of her life.

She is survived by her three daughters and one son, Nikolai, Ringmaster of Circus Krone, Europe’s largest travelling circus.

Eva Tovarich, born August 15 1920, died January 4 2014

Guardian:

ling machine for testing, say ministers, 30 January) incorrectly lends to the impression that the Responsible Gambling Trust’s research programme is being frustrated by an unco-operative gambling industry and is not independent of the industry.

It’s fair to say that some elements of the gambling industry have been slow to accept the role they could play in facilitating research into the way people behave when playing gaming machines but it is completely false to argue that the industry is now frustrating our research programme.

The research the article mentions was commissioned by a now defunct body and inherited by the RGT when the charity was established in 2012. It is a matter of regret that no bookmaker was persuaded to participate in that project. However, we also published in December research commissioned by the RGT to systematically assess how the data held by machine operators can help us understand how people behave when playing on those gaming machines offering the highest stakes and prizes in Britain, and what helps people to stay in control and play responsibly.

This was a first step in a major research project that has the full co-operation of 13 machine operators, including the five largest bookmakers. Together these businesses operate 80% of the market for gaming machines with the highest stakes and prizes in Britain. Specifically, operators have offered to provide category B2 gaming machines (those found in bookmakers) for research purposes, which is an opportunity the RGT will ensure is taken up in the next phase of its research.

I am proud the RGT has secured the co-operation of the gambling industry, which is greatly assisted by having trustees who work in the industry, only one of whom is a bookmaker.

I am equally proud of our governance arrangements, including having trustees independent of the industry as well as government observers, to ensure that all research that we commission is independent, peer-reviewed and published.
Marc Etches
Chief executive, Responsible Gambling Trust

Though there may be something to be said for Alain de Botton’s suggestions for the usefulness of celebrities (Why sneer at celebrity?, 1 February), deeper thought suggests that the idea of individuals to “look up to” is comparatively recent in our human story – a few thousand years at most – and was imposed by psychopaths through conquest, violence, torture and intimidation. As Shelley suggests in Ozymandias, the desire to see one’s image writ large and wide, and to wallow in that propagation, is a form of insanity. The men and women who think and do the fine things Alain rightly commends are, on the whole, anonymous while they live and forgotten when they die. Which is as it should be. Leaders (the top-ranking celebrities) in times past and present are, on all sides, often solely responsible for the massacre and suffering of millions. This is why true democracy is so important – “ordinary” men and women tend to be wiser, braver, and less self-seeking than leaders or celebrities.
Ian Flintoff
Oxford

• I think Alain might be somewhat missing the point. We “sneer at celebrity” because most of the so-called celebrities adored by the masses are not, in fact, “distinguished others”. We continue to celebrate the distinguished, and sneer merely at the reality “royalty”.
Melissa Scrivin
Salford Priors, Warwickshire

Dr Rumy Hasan complains of separatism in Team GB (Absence of Asians from sport and arts, Letters, 3 February). Since independence the six countries of south Asia, with a combined population of in excess of one and a half billion, have won 34 Olympic medals, mostly for hockey. Just one individual gold medal has ever been won (10m air rifle) and only one woman has figured in the medals tables: the outstanding athlete Susanthika Jayasinghe (200m, Sydney 2000) in the face of constant harassment from athletics officials in her home country of Sri Lanka). This is not about separatism but attitudes to sport. Now if cricket were an Olympic sport…
Charles Allen
Camden, London

•  Returned from a dinner party with a group of political illiterates, all of whom have the vote, to read Polly Toynbee’s sane article on enfranchising 16-year-olds (Sixth-formers, get a free bus pass: first you need to vote, 31 January). But why limit the vote to 16 and above? A true democracy would give it to everyone. It should not be forgotten that we make 10-year-olds responsible for crimes they commit. At the very least let us empower those we are prepared to punish.
Professor Emeritus Michael Freeman
UCL; Editor of International Journal of Children’s Rights

• James Cox (Letters, 31 January) thinks homophobia must mean, because of its Greek roots, hatred or fear of twins. On the same logic he presumably believes that a hippopotamus must be a horse that lives in a river.
Chris George
Seaford, East Sussex

• I’ve noticed, not for the first time, that the expression “a big ask” has migrated from the Sport pages to the main paper (Editorial, 31 January). May I now look forward to “the boy done good”?
Neil Annat
Stratford-upon-Avon

• I’m willing to have another crack at the egg puns (Letters, 1 February). I could probably manage two in a roe.
Vin Miles
London

• So it’s a boom for the bust (Cosmetic surgery hit all-time high in 2013, 3 February)!
Christiane Goaziou
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire

Your report on the pupil premium presents an unduly negative picture (Pupil premium struggling to close GCSE attainment gap, 28 January). It is correct to note that the attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and all other pupils at GCSE is difficult to shift. The strong relationship between educational outcomes and wealth has long been a feature of our school system, despite many years of effort. It would be unrealistic to expect the pupil premium funding to change this overnight.

However, there are signs of promise, which your coverage ignored. While the gap has not narrowed in secondary schools, in primaries it has. The most recent data for key stage 2 shows the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and all other pupils narrowed from 20% (2011) to 17% (2012). We should, of course, be cautious about relying on a single year’s data, but cherry-picking to create a negative story is unhelpful.

As members of the judging panel for the 2013 Pupil Premium Awards, we have seen positive signs that the pupil premium is making a difference in many schools. We have seen through the awards and many examples beyond that schools can narrow the gap. What we need to do now is ensure that those who are not using the premium well have the challenge and support to do the same. As a start, this means ensuring that all schools have access to evidence to inform the decisions they make, and that effective approaches are shared widely.

Spending your way to success is never simple. But the pupil premium is an important policy with the potential to make a huge difference to the poorest children in our society. Dismissing it at this stage would be deeply misguided.

Professor Becky Francis Professor of education and social justice, King’s College London, John Dunford National pupil premium champion, Kevan Collins Chief executive, Education Endowment Foundation

•  In response to Jenny North’s call to introduce payment-by-results for the pupil premium on the basis that it is “a key principle of public-service funding and can turn a good idea in theory into improved outcomes in practice” (Letters, 30 January), I quote Matthew Arnold: “the great task for friends of education is, not to praise payment by results, which is just the sort of notion to catch of itself popular favour, but to devise remedies for the evils which are found to follow the application of this popular notion”. That was in 1869, seven years after the introduction of the Revised Code, whose central plank was payment-by-results. Elementary education endured 20 more years of “evils” before it was eventually phased out. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
Ian Thackray
University of Gloucestershire

Had Ed Miliband‘s proposed reforms (Labour shake-up to ‘let people back into politics’, 1 February) been in place in 2010, he would now be in his brother David’s shadow cabinet. This simple truth should disabuse apologists for the top-heavy involvement of trade union hierarchies in Labour leadership elections of the idea that democracy is best served by this form of gerrymandering. The trade union section swung the vote in Ed’s favour, against the wishes of a majority of party members.

Miliband, ironically or not, is taking a courageous and principled stand and should be supported by trade unionists and non-unionists alike. Union members should not be compulsorily affiliated to a party that they may not support. Those who are committed should be able to opt in to party membership and exercise their democratic rights accordingly, rather than have them appropriated by union bureaucrats pursuing their own agendas. If the Labour party is out of pocket as a result, so be it. Financial consideration can never be allowed to outweigh democratic accountability.

Miliband’s reforms would put pressure on the Tories to defend their own source of contributions; Labour could justifiably ask whether shareholders and customers of big companies are being consulted about huge donations made to Tory coffers. It might also reopen the debate about public funding of parties, ultimately the only way to ensure an equal playing field in democratic politics.
Brian Wilson
Glossop, Derbyshire

•  Ed Miliband’s proposed changes will concentrate power in the hands of a leader chosen by an increasingly grand election process where the say of ordinary party members and trade unions is reduced and votes are offered freely to anyone who registers an interest. It does not take much imagination to see that under these rules Labour leadership elections would increasingly resemble US presidential primaries. Without strict, low limits on campaign spending (not mentioned so far by Mr Miliband), the only candidates would be rich, or have rich backers. It seems we are moving further towards being “the best democracy money can buy”.
Alasdair Beal
Leeds

• Your “Fixing the fixers” editorial (1 February) patronisingly and misleadingly asserts that some of the suggested changes would “bring Labour very close to being an individual membership party”. On the contrary, they would not benefit the party’s individual members (who currently have special rights in elections for its candidates and leaders) but its “registered supporters” (people who are eligible to become members but choose, for whatever reason, not to do so). Lord Collins wrote in his interim report that “Labour members are the lifeblood of our party. It is essential that the rights that come with membership are recognised and understood”. The way forward for Labour must lie not in diluting the rights of existing members but in putting forward a political programme that will attract many others to join them.
Francis Prideaux
London

• Davina Cooper (Letters, 28 January) seems to feel there is something wrong with a political party attempting to establish what potential voters want. I would have thought that, in a representative democracy, this is exactly what parties should attempt to do. Professor Cooper goes on to describe the 1980s as “an era when the [Labour] party was hugely vibrant, politically active and influential”. I recall it as one in which the party descended into sectarian navel-gazing and factional infighting – remember the long-lasting obsession with “Labour party democracy”? – at the expense of addressing the very real day-to-day concerns, needs and aspirations of potential voters. I believe that this failure to connect with ordinary people contributed in no small measure to our election defeats in the 1980s. It is therefore crucial to continue to engage with the greater public “outside the tent”.
Peter Halfpenny
Whitstable, Kent

•  So glad that ordinary people are to have more say within the Labour party. At the last election for party leader, members could only vote after MPs produced a shortlist of six, all of whom had been to Oxbridge. Will we ordinary members now have a say in the shortlist?
Bob Holman
Glasgow

Your editorial (3 February) attributes the sacking of Baroness Morgan as chair of Ofsted to “partisan grounds”, and Labour tries to embarrass David Cameron by claiming that her sacking is part of a larger pattern. However, the real issue is Michael Gove‘s determination to gain control of Ofsted and silence its outspoken chief inspector. Seeking to widen the argument merely lays Labour open to counter-charges and distracts attention from Gove’s doings.

Two features of Sir Michael Wilshaw’s reign as chief inspector have made him intolerable to Gove: the ease with which he commands headlines for pronouncements that do not always support Gove’s ultra-reactionary ideas, and the fact that Ofsted has dared to find serious fault with some academies and free schools. It would be egregious to sack Wilshaw at this point, so replacing the “superlative” (Gove’s term for her) Morgan with the head of an academy chain would be an obvious first move.

If Ofsted becomes an enforcer of government policy, Wilshaw’s position will become untenable as he is ordered to shut up and start giving an easier ride to failing academies and dodgy free schools.
Michael Pyke
Campaign for State Education

•  I cannot accept the argument that Michael Gove is trying to sabotage the independence of Ofsted by politicising it. Under Gove, Ofsted has never been either legally or educationally independent; it has been politicised throughout. The chief inspector may have sounded off from time to time about grammar or independent schools, but the organisation over which he presides has instituted a flawed inspection regime that has reinforced the government’s educational agenda and forced compliance on a cowed state sector. In that sense Gove is absolutely right to praise Wilshaw and his organisation for “superb” work. It’s ironic that that regime is now being attacked for forcing the same degree of compliance on the government’s so-called “free” schools.
Professor Colin Richards
Former inspector of schools

•  Why shouldn’t Sally Morgan be replaced at the end of her contract, given that Blair’s ex-aide had limited experience in education in the first place (Number 10 dragged into Ofsted row, 3 February)? The question should be how the departing Labour government got away with putting so many of its supporters in top jobs.
Dr Quetta Kaye
London

• Time for fresh ideas? Time for Michael Gove to consider his own position?
Maggie LeMare
Birmingham

• The move against Sally Morgan following the removal of other non-Conservative figures from public bodies (Ofsted chair’s fall from favour, 3 February) must make the remaining former Labour worthies nervous. Will Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency – particularly vulnerable in view of the perceived performance of that body in the Somerset Levels – be able to keep his head above water following a flood of dismissals?
John Allison
Warwick

Independent:

You suggest that Pakistan is right to negotiate with the terrorist organisations in their midst (editorial, 30 January).

These people murdered nearly 700 Shia in 2013. They boast of the assassinations and massacres they commit, brazenly affirming their genocidal objective of eradicating the whole “infidel” population of Pakistan, which includes Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Last September, their suicide bombers killed at least 75 worshippers attending Mass in Peshawar’s historic All Saints Church .

A fortnight ago gunmen murdered three Express TV workers in Karachi, and their spokesman struck a deal live on air with a senior journalist from the channel, that they would stop killing Express journalists on condition they were given air time to present their extremist views. So anybody who disagrees with them is a target.

These people want to change Pakistan, and ultimately the world, into an Islamic caliphate governed by seventh-century rules. Negotiating with them is futile, because they believe murder of infidels, and the promotion of the caliphate, are commanded by God.

Eric Avebury, House of Lords

A political leader without policies

In his article of 27 January, Nigel Farage suggested he was only a candidate for Ukip in the 2010 election. It is true that he abandoned the leadership in the run-up to the election, but he remained the leader in all but name. He made far more visits to the Ukip campaign HQ than Lord Pearson, the official leader. Ahead of media appearances, he was briefed at length by Ukip staff on the relevant policies, which he would then argue and defend.

I authored the 16-page summary of the manifesto which was launched by Mr Farage at the Ukip spring conference in 2010, despite his claiming proudly on arrival that he hadn’t bothered to read the thing. Mr Farage recently boasted about the appointment of a new dedicated Head of Policy “to develop intelligent, costed policies which will form a manifesto for the 2015 general”.  That “new” appointment is Tim Aker, who did sterling voluntary work writing parts of the 2010 manifesto Mr Farage denounced as “drivel”.

Mr Farage referred to a manifesto of 486 pages. This is wholly inaccurate. The 486 pages were 17 separate policy papers produced by over 100 policy experts, including the former commander of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet, who put together the defence paper – which was warmly praised by the UK National Defence Association. All were binned by Mr Farage, who’d prefer to have a blank piece of paper than a manifesto.

Mr Farage is a political leader who doesn’t believe in policies. Without policies he can be neither serious nor credible.

David Campbell Bannerman MEP, (Conservative), Brussels

Fit matters more than fat

The World Health Organisation in its obesity report (3 February) appears not to have noticed that the car dominates our residential roads, and this prevents children from playing outside close to home, as they have done since before becoming Homo sapiens. When they can play out, children are active and have a healthy lifestyle without costly intervention from the state.

The major problem is lack of fitness rather than obesity. Obviously they are related but primacy needs to be given to addressing the lack of fitness.

Rob Wheway, Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry

Common sense or shifting blame?

While I wholeheartedly agree that rape is always the fault of the rapist and never the victim (Alice Jones, 1 February), I think Irma Kurtz had a fair point.

Choosing to become intoxicated beyond the point where you can reasonably expect to make your feelings and preferences obvious in a coherent way, is to choose to put yourself at unnecessary risk.

The decision to rape someone is made by the rapist, but don’t we all have a responsibility to ourselves to put our safety first? We should ensure rapists are stopped and punished. We should also ensure as we raise our daughters that they develop self-awareness and adopt a positive attitude to keeping themselves and their friends safe from myriad situations where huge intakes of alcohol increase their vulnerability.

Vicky Bayley, Buckinghamshire

Alice Jones is being rather unkind to Irma Kurtz, who asks women not to put themselves at risk of rape by drinking excess alcohol.

Does Alice Jones believe in leaving her sports car with the hood down, keys in the ignition, on the High Street? Perhaps a sign in the window saying “Theft Is Wrong” will work? I hear no campaign against insurance companies who will reduce your claim, when it is stolen, on the basis of “contributory negligence”.

There are nasty people about. Rape is wrong. Theft is wrong. But please don’t pillory people, like Irma Kurtz, who just talk common sense.

Phil Isherwood, Leigh, Lancashire

If we had stayed out of the Great War

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown bemoans current efforts to commemorate the First World War (3 February). Might I suggest that remembering, as we do on Remembrance Sunday, is not the same as glorifying.

She also quotes Niall Ferguson as being antiwar. I read his article in this month’s BBC History Magazine. In the same issue six other historians suggest that Britain’s involvement was either inevitable, morally necessary, or both. Presumably, the alternative would have been some form of appeasement – not a policy with a proud record.

Graham Hudson, London SW19

Niall Ferguson’s view that the Great War “was the biggest error in modern history” is at least in part shaped by the belief that without it the British Empire might well have survived as a multi-national super-power – as would the more authoritarian multi-national empires in central and eastern Europe.

Not such a bad idea in my view, but I am surprised to find it supported by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Is she secretly nostalgic for the European and world order before August 1914?

R S Foster, Sheffield

Yes, minister for education

Come come, Sir David Bell, you and Baroness Morgan have very short memories. Ministers of Education have always wanted yes-men. The graveyards are full of memorials to the Advisory Councils, the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations, the Secondary Examinations Council, the Schools Curriculum Development Committee, the National Curriculum Committee,  the School Examination and Assessment Committee and countless others which failed to jump to the whim of whoever happened to be the minister.

Perhaps it’s time, come to think of it, to refresh the office of Secretary of State. The present incumbent’s been there quite a long time.

John Mann, (formerly Secretary,  Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations), London NW2

Prevent floods? As soon hold back the tide

I live on the edge of the Somerset Levels on a bump, so, thankfully, we are dry. The Levels are a true, 100-square-mile flood plain. They hold the water that drains from  the surrounding hills: the Mendips, the Poldens, the Blackdowns, the Quantocks and Exmoor.

The plain’s small rivers cannot empty themselves into the sea because the 15-metre spring tides have the second highest range in the world. High tides approach and recede every 12 hours; then the rivers cannot empty themselves and flood back over the plain. Only during the 12 hours of ebbs can they drain.

If the little rivers were widened and dredged, they would be more efficient, but not enough to stop the flooding.

It would certainly help if fewer ill-designed, tiny, unwanted and expensive homes were built on the Levels’ slopes. This would preserve ground-water retention and stop this unneeded despoliation of our lovely county.

If artificial rivers were constructed, that ran directly into the sea, they would do what our little rivers and drains cannot. But they would need to be big and numerous, each with far larger control-barrages than the Thames’s.

Are these solutions absurd and all too much to hope for? If so, we should try the ridiculous and reduce the tidal range. I hear that the Chinese are mining minerals from the moon and bringing them back to earth. If they did this really well, they might make it hollow and reduce its mass. This would work.

Mick Humphreys, Creech St Michael,  Somerset

It seems that everyone is to blame for the flooding in Somerset. The fact that it has rained almost every day for a month, and is some of the worst weather for 100 years, doesn’t seem to matter. It’s someone’s fault.

Sometimes we have to accept that you can’t do anything about this. This is nature.

Martyn Pattie, Ongar, Essex

Times:

Mr Gove has failed to make it clear to teachers in simple, objectively quantifiable terms what he sees as outstanding practice in the classroom

Sir, That state education is a game of political football at which its practitioners and users are merely hapless spectators is embarrassingly obvious in the internecine strife over Ofsted. We see the Secretary of State at odds with a junior minister, with the chair of Ofsted and also with its chief inspector (report, Feb 3).

As a retired practitioner and now caseworker, I can tell you that Mr Gove and Ofsted have signally failed to make it clear to teachers in simple, objectively quantifiable terms what they see as outstanding practice in the classroom. This is hardly surprising, as Ofsted, largely due to political manipulation, has never enforced the same inspection regime long enough to justify Sir Michael Willshaw’s claim that it has done “more to raise standards in its 21 years of existence than any other organisation”. His statement about the alarming drop-out rate of newly qualified teachers is hardly a ringing endorsement of Ofsted either. Only hubris could blind him to the fact that this is largely the result of oppressive and demotivating monitoring and capability procedures in schools.

He recently claimed that there are now 16,000 incompetent teachers. Twenty years ago Ofsted Chief Inspector, Chris Woodhead, estimated only 15,000. Isn’t it about time that Michael Gove “refreshed” the leadership here as well? As far as educational leadership is concerned, someone is clearly taking the michael.

Robert Jones

Maldon, Essex

Sir, As a retired teacher I can only seethe at the further disenfranchisement of teachers. Yes, I did start teaching in the 1960s but I was far from being left wing. Like most of my colleagues, I was fulfilled by the joy of holding a class in the palm of my hand, interested and stimulated by the lessons I presented. All that has disappeared.

A long series of education ministers, of whom it seems Michael Gove will be the most damaging, vie for a place in history as the person who made the most difference to education. For 40 years and more teachers have had to implement one ill-thought initiative after another whether or not they agree.

Last week has to rank as one of the most frustrating weeks on record. First we hear that 4-year-olds have to be subjected to testing, regardless of the fact that Foundation Stage teachers already carry out baseline testing matched to the needs of the children in their care. Then Baroness Morgan of Huyton is to be replaced because she not to be a crony of Mr Gove. Finally we hear that naughty children are to clean the hall and pick up litter. What next?

Lynne C. Potter

Retired headteacher, primary adviser and inspector

Hexham, Northumberland

Sir, Michael Gove says he wants parents to be unable to distinguish between state and private schools, and yet says nothing about funding, which is the biggest differentiator. State schools already provide the extra-curricular opportunities he seems to imply they do not, and they educate the vast majority of students who go to university. One can only wonder how much more they would be able to do if they had the additional funding per pupil that private schools have. This amounts to at least £6,000 per pupil per year — or £6 million a year for a secondary school with 1,000 pupils.

Gove, of course, makes no mention of the vastly greater resources private schools have nor of the the superior effectiveness of the use to which state schools put their meagre funding. If the best he can do is to exhort schools to punish pupils who misbehave with lines or litter picking duties, he should heed his own explanation for removing Sally Morgan from her role at Ofsted and step down so that “a new pair of eyes could be brought to bear” on defining a vision for state education for the 21st century.

John Gaskin

York

Governments face daily the challenges of balancing the interests of business and the protection of the environment

Sir, Residents in Somerset accuse the Environment Agency of putting bird sanctuaries before the interests of farmers (letters, Feb 1). In the same issue Simon Barnes accuses the authorities of putting the interests of business before the wild world.

As a former Secretary of State for Industry and for the Environment, may I point out that these opposing views reflect starkly the dilemmas facing governments almost daily. I was the minister who gave the first government grant to the UK Council for Economic and Environmental Development, a charitable body, still going strong, founded to promote the dual concept: industry, which includes farming, cannot flourish if it does not respect the environment; and environmentalists will not achieve their aims if industry is unable to provide the resources to fund their work. Both have entirely legitimate objectives which must be reconciled.

Of course, elected politicians argue about where the balance should lie, but in the last resort MPs are elected by people — like those who live on the Somerset Levels. The urgent review set up by Owen Paterson must have that at the forefront of its work.

At the same time, I hope Simon Barnes, whose articles I always enjoy, can recognise that imperative.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

House of Lords

Sir, Further to the interesting origins of the name Muchelney (letter, Feb 3), Somerset derives from Seo-mere-saetan, meaning “settlers by the sea lakes”. Somerset is Glad yr Haf in Welsh, Gwlas an Haf in Cornish, and Bro an Hanv in Breton, all of which translate as “Country of the Summer” (presumably the only time that large areas of it were habitable).

Maggie Bell

Goldsborough, N Yorks

Rather than extending the age at which one may serve as a juror, perhaps we should be considering whether cases should be brought at all

Sir, I read with some alarm (Feb 1) that it proposed to raise the age for Jury eligibility to 75. I have just completed two weeks jury service, the summons having arrived just before my 65th birthday. This thwarted certain immediate plans for my retirement, and I am sure will not be looked upon kindly by those now facing an even later retirement age.

My experiences lead me to ask whether we in fact need to enlarge the pool of jurors. It was obvious to me that several cases should never have come to court.

Edward Jenkinson

Twickenham, Middx

Sir, The Rev Jane Twitty, of Muchelney, has a great deal more than floods around the village to contend with, if as you say (“Charles wades in to flood crisis where minister feared to tread”, Feb 1), the church has a knave.

Katharine Minchin

Easebourne, W Sussex

Telegraph:

SIR – I share Cristina Odone’s joy at seeing Emma Thompson shrug off her “painful and pointless” high heels at the Golden Globes ceremony.

I feel exactly the same way when I see Richard Branson, Jeremy Paxman and other high-profile men shrug off the tyranny of the tie. Ties must vie with high heels for the title of most uncomfortable and pointless item of clothing.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

SIR – Baroness Morgan of Huyton, in claiming a Tory bias with regards to appointments in public roles, carries on a rich tradition of Labour hypocrisy.

During Labour’s years in power, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ensured that sympathetic placemen filled as many influential posts as possible. I believe that it is still the case that many quangos remain controlled by people who are biased against the Tories.

It seems to me that about the only Tory that New Labour put into a significant public post is our esteemed Speaker.

Quentin Skinner
Lower Zeals, Wiltshire

SIR – In October 2007, the Commissioner for Public Appointments disclosed that 394 Labour activists had been appointed to quangos over the previous year compared with 96 Conservatives and 78 Lib Dems.

Maritz Vandenberg
London SW15

Radio me-too

SIR – Michael White’s claim that BBC Radio 3 has converged on Classic FM is nothing new.

Several months before Classic FM went on air, I ran a trial station on a special licence, to test out Classic FM’s proposed output on listeners in the Manchester area. Within days the BBC were on the case, researchers with clipboards knocking on doors to sample listener responses to the new station. We knew this because one such researcher happened to knock on the door of our own chief studio technician.

Classic FM was to be a classical music station formatted as a rock station: friendly presenters, regular time checks, a playlist led by the most familiar works of the best-known composers and simple links to single movements rather than full works.

A month before Classic FM officially went on air, the BBC relaunched Radio 3 with many of the same features.

Nicholas Tresilian
Former Classic FM broadcaster
Cumnor, Oxfordshire

It’s a wrap

SIR – What about those little red strands on packets of digestives that are specifically put there to ease entry? Why do they always either break off at the quarter-inch point, or spiral off in the wrong direction, chamfering the first 10 biscuits?

Keith Macpherson
Houston, Renfrewshire

Flexible ticketing

SIR – More than a year ago, when I wrote “Home Works”, my report on flexible working, many people told me that working remotely or part-time was difficult, due to the cost of commuting.

Despite the Mayor of London’s initial scepticism, I’m glad to say that we have won him over, as shown by his commitment to introduce flexible ticketing from next year. I’ll now be working hard to make sure that my recommendations of a part-time travelcard and a system of annual rebates for under-used full-time tickets will be delivered. This would mean that people working three days a week will no longer have to pay for a full week’s travel.

This is real progress. Flexible ticketing will help make part-time work pay, encourage full-timers to work remotely for a day or two a week, and reduce demand on London’s overcrowded public transport.

Roger Evans
London Assembly Member (Con)
London SE1

Recruiting reservists

SIR – Captain Jeremy Tozer correctly notes the miserable failure to recruit sufficient reservists to replace the 20,000 regular soldiers being sacked.

Army recruitment has been delegated to a private contractor – Capita. At the Sunderland Air Show last summer it set up a recruitment tent next to three military charities – Help for Heroes, Combat Stress and Homeless Heroes. They did not enjoy any success that particular day.

How can a civilian private contractor relate to potential recruits who wish to hear from experienced soldiers about what life in the Army is really like? How can Capita provide this vital expertise?

It makes no sense whatsoever to sack 20,000 regulars before recruiting and training 30,000 reservists. And even then, it is doubtful that reservists can properly replace fully trained and experienced regular soldiers.

Major Patrick O’Sullivan TD (retd)
Sunderland, Co Durham

MPs’ B&Bs

SIR – A Commons committee asked the Queen to open Buckingham Palace more. In order to supplement their income and to offset some of their maintenance overheads, should not MPs be encouraged to open their homes for bed and breakfast?

David S Baber
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Economic and practical reasoning for freezing

SIR – Michael Halpern wonders why people need freezers when most people live within 10 minutes’ drive of a food shop. As a retiree living alone, I find it difficult and uneconomic to buy meat for a single meal. It is easier and cheaper to make something such as a curry in batches and freeze portions of it.

If I want roast chicken for Sunday lunch, I shouldn’t have to eat it all in one go.

David Booth
Macclesfield, Cheshire

SIR – Michael Halpern presumes everybody uses a car to go shopping. He is obviously not a cook or a gardener either. The contents of my freezer include tomato sauce, tomato soup, pears in grape juice and herbs – all from the garden last year.

Vanessa Travers
Epsom, Surrey

SIR – When my rheumatics and arthritis are in full spate I give thanks for my freezer.

At these times, the 10-minute walk to my local shops is too much for the old bones, and as for trailing round my local supermarket – no thanks.

John Driver
Esher, Surrey

SIR – Without a freezer, where on earth would one keep the Cointreau and the Kummel?

Jane Cullinan
Padstow, Cornwall

SIR – The reason for owning a freezer is obvious: it is the perfect place to keep tights and so prevent them from laddering.

Heather Berry
Wellington, Shropshire

SIR – The increased dredging of rivers will not address the root cause of flooding, which is water being allowed to run off upland areas too quickly. Agricultural subsidies should be realigned so that landowners are compensated for protecting rivers from excessive silt input from fields, so cutting down on the need to dredge. Planners must also stop permitting new building on flood plains.

Communities and the economy will be much the better for such catchment management, and the aquatic environment and its species will be protected from the damage inflicted by emergency measures.

Paul Knight
Chief Executive, Salmon & Trout Association
Fordingbridge, Hampshire

SIR – As a member of an internal drainage board for almost 30 years, I have witnessed the decline of river maintenance since the Environment Agency took control some 18 years ago.

Boards administer land drainage and water level management in the 10 per cent of the country that is low-lying and prone to flooding. They do this in conjunction with the Environment Agency, which manages “highland water” rivers that flow through these lowland areas. The drainage board areas are dependent on the agency’s rivers being well maintained if there is to be a seamless system of flood defence. However the agency has concentrated on environmental issues rather than flood defence, as we can now see in Somerset.

Every excuse is made by the agency not to dredge rivers regularly. At a meeting of the Association of Drainage Authorities last summer, the agency representative was asked what progress was being made with dredging the rivers serving the Somerset Levels, where many farms had already been under water for more than a year.

The answer was that no action could be taken until yet another environmental assessment was carried out because a rare hairy click beetle had been discovered.

Peter Pridgeon
Willoughby, Lincolnshire

SIR – I refer to Ian Liddell-Grainger MP’s comments on Environment Agency staff..

It is reasonable to have a sensible debate about the root causes of the flooding in the Somerset Levels. It is shallow and unreasonable to mount personal and very public attacks on the staff, chief executive and chairman of the Environment Agency, who are all completely focused on protecting lives and property from flooding.

John Varley
Board Member, Environment Agency Newton Poppleford, Devon

SIR – The National Farmers’ Union has accused the Environment Agency of putting wildlife before dredging. But wildlife is under extreme pressure and dredging is known to damage the habitats of endangered species such as the water vole.

Humans will survive the bad weather. Wildlife needs all the help it can get.

Gary Spring
Southgate, Glamorgan

SIR – The Regional Water Authorities used to be responsible for land drainage. When the water industry was privatised the task fell not to the new private companies but to the National Rivers Authority. This did a great job in cleaning up Britain’s waterways until it was wound up in 1989 when the Environment Agency took over.

Mark Harland
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

SIR – After the 2009 floods, the residents of Cockermouth and Keswick were told by the Environment Agency that dredging rivers was not policy and there were no funds for it. The National Rivers Authority used annually to dredge and maintain the whole length of the banks of both the Derwent and Cocker rivers.

No dredging for 20 years caused debris and vegetation to build up under the arches of bridges and along many stretches of both rivers. This was a major contributing factor to the flood.

Suzanne Greenhill
Cockermouth, Cumberland

Irish Times:

Sir, – The HSE has recently published a draft contract for doctors in order to facilitate “free” GP care for children under-six. To my disbelief this document requires medical practitioners to state that they “shall not do anything to prejudice the name or reputation of the HSE”.

The clear objective of this despicable clause is to gag GPs and prevent them from publicly highlighting the failings of incompetent administrators. It is an appalling reflection on both this Government and its Minister for Health that such a deliberate act of censorship is being actively contemplated.

I believe this contract constitutes a direct assault on freedom of expression for GPs. Furthermore, these Soviet-style tactics effectively destroy the ability of doctors to advocate for their patients, which is one of the core duties of a medical practitioner.

While I appreciate the power of the government spin machine and recognise the sheer level of anti-medical hostility that exists in our national media, it would be a dark day indeed if this document is allowed to go forward unchallenged. Action must be taken immediately. – Yours, etc,

Dr RUAIRI HANLEY,

MICGP, Kilskyre,

Kells, Co Meath.

Sir, – As a social worker, I welcome the new Child and Family Agency, at least because it offers the potential of a standardised approach to assessing and protecting children, and transparency in terms of its ring-fenced budget. Miriam Kelleher (February 1st), wonders why public health nursing and child and adolescent mental health services, are not included in the new agency.

Surely this is because those services argued, that public health nurses work with the public from the cradle to grave, and are better positioned within the new primary care directorate, and child and adolescent mental health services are specialist mental health services and are better placed within the new mental health directorate?

What is key is that all agencies work together, each doing their bit to ensure that child welfare is paramount and those children at greatest risk are protected. – Yours, etc,

FRANK BROWNE,

Ballyroan Park,

Templeogue,

Dublin16.

Sir, – Noirín Clancy, chair of the “5050 Group”, points out that just 25 per cent of all local election candidates are women and blames political party selection conventions which she says “will tend to favour tried and tested [male] incumbent candidates rather than the new [female] candidate” (Letters, February 3rd). Ms Clancy seems to have based this view on an assumption rather than on actual evidence.

First, Dr Adrian Kavanagh of NUI Maynooth maintains an interesting website that lists the candidates being put forward by each of the political parties. It shows that Fine Gael, by far the largest party with the most male incumbents, has nominated at least one female candidate in 68 of the 120 electoral areas in which they have held selection candidates so far (57 per cent). This does not suggest female candidates are being shafted wholesale at local level; it suggests quite the contrary. Local media coverage of selection conventions being held across the country, of which Ms Clancy’s group ought surely be aware, shows that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are actively seeking female candidates and that any woman who is willing to run for either party would be welcomed with open arms, not snubbed.

Second, if Ms Clancy’s claim is accurate then surely it would further manifest itself in a much higher ratio of women among Independent and non-party candidates, where no such party political barriers exist. However, according to Dr Kavanagh just 25 per cent of Independent candidates are women, which is only marginally ahead of Fine Gael but significantly behind the Labour Party which is at 32 per cent. Clearly, if women are not running as Independents in any greater numbers than as members of political parties, then local selection conventions cannot be having the negative impact which Ms Clancy alleges.

The fact is that women are far more reluctant than men to express an interest in running for election, either as members of a political party or as Independents, due to a range of deep-seated reasons surrounding the culture of Irish politics and the workload that comes with being an elected representative.

These problems will not be solved in quick-fix fashion by crass gender quotas imposed across the board, but by directly addressing these underlying factors. The sooner that feminist organisations abandon this obsession with quotas, and focus on more worthwhile solutions, the better for all women. – Yours, etc,

BARRY WALSH,

Brooklawn,

Sir, – Four weeks into 2014, I understand Limerick City of Culture 2014 has not yet received the €6.2 million promised in the October budget from the Department of Finance. Many artistic events, culture and community projects and festivals now seem in jeopardy as it appears finance is not available to initiate pre-production or confirm artists’ contracts.

Nor has the board announced recruitment to fill the positions left vacant in management and the artistic team. Why? – Yours, etc,

KATIE VERLING,

Mayorstone,

Limerick.

Sir, – The call by the State’s judges for a radical overhaul of the judicial appointments process is to be welcomed (Breaking News, January 30th). The overhaul must be extended to cover the appointment of State solicitors. – Yours, etc,

DONAGH CRONIN,

Oliver Plunkett Hill,

Fermoy, Co Cork.

Sir, – Oh how preoccupied we get when the ballot box appears on the horizon.

The Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore declares his party’s local elections manifesto will promise cuts in property tax (Home News, February 3rd) . The Labour Party is already in Government – and it introduced the property tax! Had Mr Gilmore forgotten? – Yours, etc,

RONAN QUINLAN,

Bothar tSlí Leathan,

Baile Atha Cliath 15.

Sir, – Thank you to Róisín Ingle for her beautiful piece (Magazine, February 1st) – reminding us that Ann Lovett’s pregnancy was not a replication of the immaculate conception. – Yours, etc,

SARAH IRONSIDE,

Rue Bordiau,

Brussels, Belgium.

Sir, – Prof Damian McCormack’s letter (January 29th) intrigues me. He criticises trade missions to countries whose human rights record does not meet his approval. He appears to want Ireland not to have any dealings with those whose human rights values he questions.

I am typing this letter on a computer manufactured in China, which has a poor human rights record. The computer company is situated in the United States, which uses the death penalty. Many of the computer parts are made in India, which conducts a space programme while many of its citizens go hungry.

Should I abandon the computer age and revert to the pencil? – Yours, etc,

SEAN O’SULLIVAN,

Crossabeg,

Sir, – Irish Water is being compared to the HSE, with the chaos and inefficiencies that appeared after the HSE’s establishment. Irish Water is to be complimented for its planning, foresight and openness in informing the public of its intention to be overstaffed, inefficient, and broken well before it is even up and running. That is planning Irish-style. – Yours, etc,

JOHN ROGERS,

Ballydorey,

Rathowen,

Co Westmeath.

Sir, – I applied for a renewal of my driving licence on November 26th and after a four-hour wait at the NDLS centre in City West managed to complete all the formalities. By January 29th I had still not received the licence – which meant I had to cancel or delay several trips abroad which required hiring or driving a car. I also attempted to contact the NDLS service by phone and email on a number of occasions without success until this morning (January 29th). It has now assured me my licence was put in the post yesterday (January 28th). Hopefully this will soon enable me to re-book my flights.

The situation is analogous to the situation with Irish Water where a service previously provided by local authorities is now being centralised into one specialised agency. While one might expect some teething problems in this process the failure to deliver such a basic and legally required service has serious consequences for citizens and businesses who need to travel abroad. I wonder will the Government learn from this episode and ensure that similar problems aren’t experienced with Irish Water? – Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Red Lane,

Blessington, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – A particular story told by the late lamented Ted Nealon – whom I knew along with his friend John Healy when we were on the Irish Press staff – deserves to be on public record. It concerns the provenance of the Liam Cosgrave “mongrel foxes” reference to the Garret FitzGerald clique who were said to be plotting his downfall as leader of Fine Gael.

Many years later Ted told me that he sat at the press table in Cork as Cosgrave addressed the annual Fine Gael gathering. With the copy of the script in front of him he was re-reading in tandem, awaiting off-the-cuff quotable remarks. Suddenly, he noticed that Cosgrave was reading again from an earlier page. No one seemed to notice.

He looked up and saw that Cosgrave was shuffling the pages to get back on track. As he did so, the wily huntsman talked about the mongrel foxes who, he said, were out to derail the party. It is probably the only quote that has survived from that Fine Gael gathering. – Yours, etc,

JOE FOYLE,

Sandford Road,

Ranelagh,

Sir, – I was shocked to read that the “Exchange” art space in Dublin’s Temple Bar is being forced to close its doors (Home News, February 1st). How inspiring of Temple Bar Cultural Trust to shut down one of the only alcohol-free art spaces for young people in the city and what visionaries Dublin City Council truly are, that we will now have another vacant building to admire in the capital. – Yours, etc,

JOHN A KENNY,

Waterside,

Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – As beloved by broadcasters “Live in the studio . . .”. What’s the alternative?   – Yours, etc,

GERRY McDONNELL,

Kippure Avenue,

Green Park, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Enough already. – Yours, etc,

JOHN DOYLE,

Enniskeane, Co Cork.

Sir, – Could we do away with the euphemism “Passed away” and “Passed”? I heard a person on the radio saying recently that someone had been “pronounced passed away”. If there’s a major incident involving loss of life, do we say “100 people passed away when the train/plane/cars crashed?” Dead, Died. End of. – Yours, etc,

MAIREAD MASON,

Ballymore Eustace,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – “Welcome back”, on radio or TV, when I’ve gone nowhere. – Yours, etc,

OLIVER DUFFY,

Melbourn Estate, Cork.

Sir, – “Ireland and Northern Ireland”, defying the laws of geography. – Yours, etc,

BERNARD

Mac BRÁDAIGH,

Annascaul, Tralee, Co Kerry.

Sir, – May I commend your readers on their endeavours to reduce down the use of superfluous words and banal everyday phrases. Take “reduce down”, for example. Too often we hear this grating sound-byte from politicians in austerity mode, but it is ridiculous. Who has ever heard of reducing something up? – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DOORLEY,

Sidmonton Gardens,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

 

Sir, – Given the magnitude of their loss on the rugby field (Sport, February 3rd) should Scotland be seeking not independence, but amalgamation with Wales, England or (God help us) the French? – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY,

Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal.

Sir, – If anyone said today to coloured members of our Irish community that they should not have the right to marry one another, he or she would rightly be accused of making a racist comment. If this is the case, does it not logically follow that it would be equally unjust of anyone to state publicly to members of the Irish homosexual community that they should not have the legal right to marry each other?

Could anything be more simple and just than to look into one’s heart and see that love between two consenting adults is as equal and just and as meaningful as love between all consenting adult couples. The emotions of human heart should be superior to the passions of old long-standing principles and traditions. – Yours, etc,

SEAN O’BRIEN,

Clonliffe Road, Dublin 3.

Sir, – Following Kevin Butler’s call (January 31st) for the State to “exit the marriage battlefield”, may I propose the Government introduce the Colourful Partnership Bill.

Based on the equality of the primary colours, and with red and yellow representing male and female, the combination of the two equates to orange. Partnerships could then be colour coded and any nuances and inequalities catered for in legislation.

Such a move would: 1. Rid us of all references to homophobes, subhumans, vampires and the Catholic Church; 2. Overcome any deficiencies in the Civil Partnership Act and 3.For those who still want to trade in insults, those who dissent can be regarded as suffering from chromophobia. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

Bullock Park, Carlow.

Sir, – At the risk of being described by “Catho-phobes” as a “homo-phobe”, may I suggest that attacks on the stance of the Church of Rome may be misplaced.

I understand that the church is unique among western churches in having seven sacraments of which one is “matrimony”. The modern “techie” generation will presumably be unaware that “matrimonium”, its Latin root (alongside its Latin cognate “maritrare”) is to do with the state of “motherhood”.

Whether you believe evolution was divinely set up or was the result of an infinity to one chance “Big Bang”, it remains an objective fact of evolution that the sole means of reproducing the human species is through the conjunction of the male sperm and the female egg, whether artificially or, hopefully, through more pleasurable methods. It follows then that a same sex couple cannot both be the biological parent of the same child, nor can one partner impregnate the other so as to make the other a mother. How can one expect the Church of Rome whether theologically or logically to confer (if that is the right term) matrimony in such cases?

The English word “wedding” has none of this awkwardness attached. To “wed” is to “pledge” so let the Government bring forward same-sex weddings. As far as I know, the Irish word “pósadh” has no awkwardness either so it might fit for the Irish translation of the legislation.

At the same time, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan might abolish all tax and legal reliefs applicable to the married and civil partnership states, because it is more and more clear that marriage as a vehicle for producing children is of far less relevance today than ever before. – Yours, etc,

GERALD MURPHY,

Marley Avenue,

Marley Grange, Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:

* I watched a ‘Neknomination’ video the other day and someone that I love was nominated to do it. All of a sudden it sounded very real.

Also in this section

Letters: Living in fear, cut off from the outside world

Keep challenging consensus

Top-ups beat ’em all

The second I heard it I said, “I hope he doesn’t do it”, then I thought, of course he will, but what if he is the unlucky one?

How would I feel if he was no longer with us? So I private messaged him (not to embarrass him) and asked him not to do it.

This rubbish has to stop. Young people feel they have to man-up, they can’t be seen to ignore/shy away from the challenge of a Neknomination.

Some even feel they must outshine their nominator and go a step further by drinking that bit more or making a video that is even more impressive!

And yes, it will earn you endless likes on Facebook and you will feel great. But please stop and think!

I think it takes a bigger person to ignore a nomination.

Let’s just say you’re lucky, you complete the challenge unscathed, get plenty of likes and nominate more friends. But suddenly, one of your nominees dies. How would you feel?

Medics break the news to the family that this sudden death was as a result of this game. How would you feel?

You have to face the parents and explain that you nominated their child. How would you feel?

Your own parents cannot comprehend that their child is responsible for the death of another. How would you feel?

It makes national news and the local papers. How would you feel?

Everyone in your locality is talking about you. How would you feel?

This person’s partner watches the video and that becomes their last memory of the one they had planned to spend the rest of their life with. How would you feel?

You attend the funeral but are asked to leave to avoid further upsetting the family. How would you feel?

Every time you see a drink you think of this tragedy and how you nominated your “friend” to complete this fatal act. How would you feel?

Send this to your family and friends and anyone who gets nominated. Sorry if we embarrass you but if it keeps you alive or prevents you from the shame of killing a nominee then surely it’s worth it?

I’m sure this sounds dramatic, and I bet I don’t look cool posting this. Thankfully I’m not bothered about how it makes me look!

It is pretty shocking but not impossible.

So, how would you feel?

ELAINE O’ROURKE

CO LAOIS

SEEKING OUT JUSTICE

* Michael Dryhurst (An inspiration to us all, Letters, February 3) ponders “how wonderful would be the country of Ireland if only we had politicians with the commitment, courage, determination and unflinching resolve of a Louise O’Keeffe”. A laudable sentiment which few would argue with.

Ireland has evolved into a better and more caring society thanks to people like Ms O’Keeffe – and others who have fought to have their stories of horrendous abuse told, heard and believed despite almost insurmountable objects placed in their paths.

There are others with harrowing stories. Derek Leinster, a former child resident of the Bethany Home in Rathgar, is one of those. Mr Leinster has fought relentlessly for many years to have former abused Bethany residents included in the Residential Institutional Redress Scheme but has been met with persistent rejection.

Speaking in the wake of the Children’s Referendum in 2012, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government would respond “positively and wholeheartedly” and match the new legislation with appropriate action.

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald referred to the decision of the people as giving a voice to children, that it was a historic day for the children of Ireland that would ensure their rights were better protected.

Despite being treated with coldness, Mr Leinster, like Ms O’Keeffe, personifies forgiveness and warmth as they continue their journey seeking justice, not revenge.

TOM COOPER

TEMPLEOGUE, DUBLIN

WEIGHTY MATTERS

* Recent health warnings about obesity make me wonder whether the Government might consider a gravity levy. I’m carrying a few extra kilos myself, but I wouldn’t mind paying if it meant such a valuable resource was properly managed.

A standing charge could apply to that portion of an individual’s weight considered healthy, while the excess would incur a per kilogram charge. Naturally, the difference would have to be certified by a state-approved body, perhaps the National Gravity Testing Service (NGTS).

As a last resort, serious defaulters would find themselves losing their footing on terra firma as gravity service was withdrawn and they drifted aloft at the mercy of the prevailing winds. A grim prospect indeed given the scything turbines and crackling pylons lining our horizons.

KEVIN GIBBONS

LEIXLIP, CO KILDARE

LUCK OF TOSS STILL EXISTS

* The credited old idiom “better born lucky than rich” was never truer than today. Every gain by the less privileged is highly appreciated and used to advantage.

On entering a shop on Saturday morning, a friendly discussion on the €30,000 cash to be paid to hundreds of householders living close to the controversial high voltage power lines was in progress.

One man remarked: “I’d move out my business and live abroad if that was to happen to me.”

A near retirement fellow with a jolly smile who was standing close by thought it “a great idea if they passed near him.

“With that money the missus and myself could slip away for an odd cheap holiday in the sun. God knows she deserves it after all her year of slaving for the family.”

A well-heeled farmer and a smallholder chatting outside the ring at Monday’s cattle mart were discussing the new changes coming about in farming.

The smallholder, a little elevated after successfully bidding on three nice store heifers, said proudly: “Did I ever think after struggling to rear four children on 12 acres, with three cows and two sows, the day would come when I would have 30 acres, 12 cows and be getting my entitlements like the ‘big fellow’?”

Who would envy the luck of the 4,000 local authority staff the new Irish Water doesn’t need but has to employ them until 2025 when their service contracts expire?

Enda Kenny hardly ever dreamt, as he worked in a dreary classroom in the west of Ireland, he would, one day, represent his country as Taoiseach, at the recent financial conference in Davos, dealing with the richest business people in the world.

Life is real, life is earnest – but it’s a gamble well worth taking!

JAMES GLEESON

THURLES, CO TIPPERARY

WATER THE NEW GOLD

* In the elitist dictionary, words are manipulated for different meanings that differ to the common man. For example, the word justice, when used in accordance with the elite, that terminology changes to Just – Us!

Then we have the universal word God. In elite religion that means gold, oil and diamonds. However, a new elitist currency is evolving: water!

A currency that is beginning to flow between river banks. Soon we will all be slaves, as civil law becomes maritime law. The law of water.

At birth humans will become the property of commercial maritime bankers. Water will become the law of the land for the elite. Much more precious then gold.

ANTHONY WOODS

ENNIS, CO CLARE

Irish Independent

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