7 February 2014 Hair
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to find an alibi    Priceless.
Have hair done tip, put plasterboard in wrong skip, box,
Scrabble today Mary wins, just.  and get under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Eileen Joll, who has died aged 97, played a small role in the operation in which the RAF dropped into occupied France a spare prosthetic leg for the captured air ace Douglas Bader.
On August 19 1941 the then Eileen Sassoon Sykes, an ambulance driver attached to Roehampton Hospital in south-west London, was instructed to drive a prosthetic leg to No 18 Squadron at RAF Horsham St Faith, Norfolk . It was the first stage of the operation to deliver a replacement prosthetic to the legless Wing Commander Bader, who had been shot down on August 9 over northern France and had landed by parachute without his artificial right leg, which had been trapped in his downed aircraft.
The Germans offered safe conduct for a small aircraft to fly across France with a pair of spare legs, but this chivalrous offer was declined; instead the leg was dropped by parachute in the St Omer area during a bombing raid by the leading Blenheim of No 18 Squadron, escorted by Bader’s Spitfire Wing.

Eileen Mary Sassoon Sykes, was born in Manchester on November 4 1916, the younger daughter of the millionaire cotton merchant Joseph Sassoon Sykes and his Australian wife, Marjorie Benjamin, first cousin of the composer Arthur Benjamin. Sykes, a member of a cadet branch of the Sassoon family, had been born in Baghdad and arrived in England in the early 1880s, becoming a prominent member of the Manchester Cotton Exchange and a highly successful proprietary merchant specialising in the international trade in tea, opium and cotton.
Shortly after the First World War, Sykes retired and moved his family to Nice on the Côte d’Azur, from where he dedicated the rest of his life to managing his wealth, playing golf and bridge, and assembling one of the great 20th-century collections of English furniture and clocks. Initially the family lived in the Hotel Negresco but, after four years Eileen’s mother demanded that the family and its staff move into their own house.
Sykes duly acquired Villa la Sauvagère in the fashionable Nice suburb of Cimiez; the Aga Khan, a regular golfing partner of Sykes, and Charlie Chaplin were their immediate neighbours. At Villa la Sauvagère the Sykes family lived in considerable style, entertained lavishly and played host to many of the celebrities wintering on the coast, including Prince Aly Khan; Baron Nahum, the society and ballet photographer; and the stars of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, in which Eileen’s first cousin Prudence Hyman (who danced under the name of Prunella Strogova) was a rising star.
At the age of eight Eileen was packed off to boarding school in Switzerland, and at 13 she was transferred to St Monica’s School for Girls in Surrey, an institution thought by many of its alumni to be the model for St Trinian’s. Arriving speaking better French than English, she loathed the school from her first day, and consoled herself with tennis. In the holidays she was taught to play golf by Walter Hagen, a skill she later refined under the tutelage of Henry Cotton.
In anticipation of a European war, in 1937 Sykes moved his family back to England, acquiring a large house in St John’s Wood (now the residence of the Sri Lankan Ambassador), a country house at Cookham, Berkshire, and, later, a house in Beverly Hills, California. On the outbreak of war Eileen joined the Mechanised Transport Corps, a unique organisation whose lady members owned their own cars and wore a rankless uniform modelled on a Guards officer’s tunic.
It did not take long for Eileen to tire of sitting outside government offices endlessly waiting for middle-ranking civil servants for whom the MTC acted as chauffeuses. In 1940 she traded in her smart uniform for the humble serge of an ambulance driver, working until late 1941 at the artificial limbs unit at Roehampton Hospital, and then with the burns unit at East Grinstead, where some of her pre-war friends were being treated.
After the war she married Ian Kenneth Sefton Joll, DFC, a Battle of Britain fighter pilot who, in 1944, had joined the staff of Lord Mountbatten’s Combined Operations Staff, first in London (where he met Eileen) and then in Delhi. They set up home at Hurley, Berkshire, where they entertained a wide circle of friends, among them the actor Jimmy Edwards and the ballet stars Anton Dolin and Robert Helpman. Ian Joll died in 1977 after a long battle with cancer.
On her 90th birthday Eileen’s children took her to visit the Battle of Britain Memorial on the Embankment and she quickly found not only the name of her late husband but also recognised the names of many former friends, regaling her party with heroic or salacious stories about them all.
She is survived by her son and daughter.
Eileen Joll, born November 4 1916, died February 5 2014


As the Sochi Games begin it is worth remembering that two of the most important political moments in Olympic history have followed failed boycott attempts (World authors join protest against Putin, 6 February). In 1936 the American Athletic Union, repulsed by Nazi Germany’s treatment of its Jewish citizens, collected over half a million signatures in favour of boycotting the Berlin Games. Only reassurances from Avery Brundage, antisemite and future IOC president, ensured American – and thereby Jesse Owens’s – participation. The story of Owens is complex, but his achievement is commonly remembered as a demolition of Hitler’s claims to Aryan superiority.
Similarly in 1968, athletes in the US called unsuccessfully for a boycott under the banner of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Two of the most outspoken athlete-activists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, would raise clenched-fist salutes on the medal rostrum in a powerful statement against racism and poverty. Vilified by many at the time, their dignified protest remains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. With no boycott campaign materialising, Sochi offers athletes a unique opportunity to register disgust at Putin’s treatment of the LGBTQ community in Russia. Any athlete who finds the courage to do so will achieve a legacy that resonates far beyond their sporting success.
Gareth Edwards
Portsmouth, Hampshire
• Stephen Fry and other celebrities have rightly drawn attention to the dreadful treatment of gays in Russia. Russia, however, does not have the death penalty. The other superpower does (US executes 14th woman since 1976, 6 February). Recently a man was executed by lethal injection in Ohio. It took him 15 minutes to die. Some 3,000 are on death row, many have been there for half a lifetime. Yet not a squeak of protest, as far as I can tell, from our celebrities.
Ian Jones

Female genital mutilation (Special report, 6 February) is surely an archaic abomination. I would say to Mr Gove, if you found yourself in a hidden room, and an innocent child was about to be cut with a razor, would you not try to move heaven and earth to prevent it? That such practices occur in this “enlightened” country in the 21st century defies belief. You cannot justify inaction on this travesty which goes against every human right. Please make haste and support Fahma Mohamed and all campaigners in their quest to stamp out this appalling practice.
Jennifer Reynolds
Farnham, Surrey
• While the amount identified to be paid out for PPI is massive (£22bn), I note that it is “set aside” rather than paid out (Report, 4 February). Am I being cynical in suspecting that actual amounts paid out are substantially less but the extra sums set aside reduce declared profits and the resultant tax bill. Of course, corporation tax is being reduced and if the sums set aside come back on the balance sheet in forthcoming years then the tax paid is less to the tune of millions.
George Krawiec
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
• Isy Suttie thinks Phyllis Pearsall invented the London street guide, does she (Right up her street, G2, 6 February)? So why do I have a battered copy of Bacon’s Up to Date Atlas and Guide to London, published about 1933, several years before Pearsall’s A-Z? It even has a 100-page A-Z listing of streets. Pearsall had good PR, though. Still does.
Alan Burkitt-Gray
• May I thank Ray Collier for transporting me from my lounge to Findhorn Bay, in the Highlands, as I sipped my morning coffee (Country diary, 6 February). From the safety of my armchair, I have heard the waves and felt their power; powerful description that means I have no need to cause further disruption at the coastline and will inform my prayers on Sunday.
Rev Carole Natton
Noctorum, Wirral
• Snowdrops in full bloom, the occasional fly whizzing by in Headingley. What happened to the free Guardian calendar this year? I’ve tried everything else to get a letter printed over the last 35 years.
Khosro Jahdi

Tony Juniper, like many commentators, correctly highlights the dangers of building on flood plains (How to really stop flooding, 2 February). But what never seems to be mentioned is why this trend will inevitably accelerate, making it much more difficult for the UK to adapt to the future adverse effects of climate change. Official figures show that the UK’s population is projected to increase by almost 10 million over the next 25 years. Staggeringly, that is around 2 million greater than the entire present population of Greater London. About 60% of this increase is expected to be due to future migration and the children of migrants.
Yet the UK is a densely populated country that today only grows about 60% of its food. The environment select committee has warned that the government is failing to protect the UK’s most valuable farmland from flooding and that this poses a risk to future UK food security. Tackling future flooding and its threat to agricultural production will therefore mean expanding the national debate way beyond dredging. It must also encompass the need to halt population growth and the implications of that for immigration policy.
Colin Hines
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Some 5 million people, 2.3m homes and 185,000 businesses are on flood plains in England and Wales (PM takes control of emergency response to floods, 6 February). Around 10% of houses in England are at risk of flooding. The real scandal is that around 10% of new homes in England are built on flood plains each year, justified by local planners by the fig leaf of Suds (Sustainable urban drainage systems) that do not work on flood plains during flooding. In Norway or France, if a planner or mayor gives permission to develop in the flood plain then they are held liable, and may go to prison. Why don’t people who buy new homes on the flood plains sue their councils or developers for selling them homes that are not fit for purpose as homes?
Councils love to put buildings like sheltered housing, schools and even hospitals on flood plains where accountability is vague. Why don’t all those affected sue the people who put their lives and wellbeing at risk for profit? There are lots of legal precedents for doing so, as in the Environment Agency v Tonbridge & Malling district council (2001), Bloor v Swindon borough council (2001) and many others. A legal precedent was set by Ryeford Homes v Sevenoaks district council (1990) where a claim was made for damages against the planning authority in respect of flooding caused by allowing over-development. Developers must be reined in. They should not be allowed to ruin lives. Why do councils do it?
Professor Sue Roaf
• I note that David Cameron has promisedto do “everything that can be done” in regards to the recent flooding. Presumably this won’t extend to reducing greenhouse gases by curbing his obsession with burning new shale gas fossil fuels and investing more in renewable energy?
Mark Nickol
Chelmsford, Essex
• Climate change discourse has been constructed, by the rich and powerful, around a misguided belief that it is only the poor who are vulnerable to climate variability. The recent events in the UK prove that wealth cannot stop the wind blowing or the water rising. As the impacts of climate change start to impact both the rich and poor, perhaps we will finally see concerted action to address the threat – a threat which is likely to make the current weather events impacting the UK more frequent and intense. What we are witnessing today may be a harbinger of what we should expect for the future. This is not about engineering, or technological solutions, this is fundamentally about our violent relationship with nature and our addiction to a way of life that cannot be supported by this little planet.
Mike Edwards
Lindfield, West Sussex
• Pots are not well advised to call kettles black; and Prince Charles is not well advised to call those who are sceptical about climate change “headless chickens”. But the heir to the throne has at least done this debate one favour by demonstrating that not all climate change fanatics are lefties. It is a much more natural creed for rightists, like Charles, who dream of an ancient pastoral world where material goods were the prerogative of his ilk. As a lefty, I accept that climate change is probably occurring, and that it is probably man-made; but I worry that over-zealous measures to combat it will end up damaging the already-squeezed living standards of the mass of our people.
David Lipsey
House of Lords
• Never mind rail investment in HS2. In the light of climate change, rising tides and coastal erosion, the vulnerability to storm damage of the only rail link to the south-west of England was proved by its severance at Dawlish this week; and Network Rail report that it could be out of action for many weeks. Surely urgent consideration should be given to reopening the old Southern Railway mainline from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton? It served as an inland diversionary route until its closure under Beeching in 1962. Furthermore, much of the track and its infrastructure is still there.It’s reopening would certainly help in maintaining a reliable railway link to the south-west which is so vital.
Chris Bennett
• The austerity policies promised and followed by George Osborne have, in the opinion of many economists, resulted in a delaying of the recovery of the economy and brought about a fall in the GNP through the reduction in expenditure and incomes (Editorial, 6 February). The massive damage wrought by the recent weather may, by forcing the government to spend vast sums in public works, supply the investment prescribed by those opposed to the austerity measures and provide the kickstart and the Keynesian multiplier effects which will set the economy on an upward curve.
Francis Westoby
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Martin Kettle (Sport, and politics, must find space for talented mavericks, 6 February) does not go far enough. Kevin Pietersen should not only be retained in the England team, but should be made captain again, for a trial period. Given the responsibility, say initially for five tests and some ODIs, he would be obliged to consider and deal with the concerns of other members of the team as well as his own. My guess is that this would bring out the best in him, both as a player and a leader. His alleged egotism and proven talent would drive him to rise to the challenge and help bring to an end England’s sad slump. Cook, a man reputed to be strong, sound, modest and committed, but somewhat unimaginative, could be a supportive vice-captain.
David Evans
Wallasey, Wirral
• Martin Kettle argues that, whatever the dressing-room difficulties, Kevin Pietersen should remain part of English cricket because of his valuable free-thinking. But it was not his freedom of thought that was so disturbing, it was his freedom from thought.
Michael Holroyd

We are pleased that your paper has chosen to focus on our borough of Enfield over the next couple of years (Saving Enfield, 3 February). However Aditya Chakrabortty has started on the wrong foot. He has put only a foot in one part of the borough, Edmonton, rather than base his analysis on the whole borough, which includes our two constituencies of Enfield North and Enfield Southgate. Edmonton certainly does have deep-rooted problems. The economic and social legacy of previous government failures is particularly stark there. But across the borough there is a growing recovery as the ingenuity and hard work of local people, inward investment by new companies, and investment in education, housing and welfare reform begin to bear fruit.
In response to the question you posed in your headline “if living in Enfield holds them back”, increasing numbers of constituents are answering with a resounding No. Take jobs: unemployment is lower than at the time of the last general election and more people, particularly young people, are in work than ever before. Or crime: the up-to-date position is that crime is down, serious youth violence has reduced by 19% and we have 65 more police with another 25 to follow. Or small businesses, where one company alone has reported over 60 start ups last year taking advantage of government backed loans.
It’s true that the 2011 riot in Enfield Town and the north-east of the borough (not Edmonton) was a major blow. But most rioters came from outside Enfield and the community responded magnificently by supporting local high street businesses, feeding the local economy and rebuilding civic confidence. It’s also true that we face significant social challenges, particularly in relation to housing and health. We hope the council and clinical commissioning group can make good use of the £3.3m new homes bonus and an extra £33m health and social care funding. While we can reminisce about our manufacturing heritage, there has been significant business investment, not least in the north-east of the borough with Sony – whose entire plant was burnt down – reinvesting, and Kelvin Hughes relocating in Enfield Lock.
Far from Enfield holding people back, Enfield is well placed to support growth through government investment in infrastructure, including the newly approved rail expansion to Angel Rd (Edmonton) and subsequently to Enfield Lock, the redevelopment of the A406 area, and the planned Meridian Water housing and business development. You may like to spend time on the so-called Enfield experiment, but in the meantime our constituents are increasingly getting into jobs, off welfare and growing businesses due to a government that has a long-term economic plan.
Nick de Bois MP
Con, Enfield North
David Burrowes MP
Con, Enfield Southgate
• Aditya Chakrabortty’s moving account of the recent history of Enfield missed one important innovation associated with the area: the state management scheme, or nationalised pubs, serving the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield Lock between 1916 and 1922. With pubs closing in droves and pub tenants now complaining that under pubco private enterprise, profits are made from increasing their rents rather than providing cheap beer, it is time that this tried and tested system was revived. Pubs also create jobs people like.
DBC Reed


Climate change discourse has been constructed, by the rich and powerful, around a misguided belief that it is only the poor who are vulnerable to climate variability. The recent events in the UK prove that wealth cannot stop the wind blowing or the water rising.
As climate change starts to impact both the rich and poor, perhaps we will finally see concerted action to address the threat – a threat which is likely to make the current weather events in the UK more frequent and intense. What we are witnessing today may be a harbinger of what we should expect for the future.
This is not about engineering, or technological solutions, this is fundamentally about our violent relationship with nature and our addiction to a way of life that cannot be supported by this little planet.
Dr Mike Edwards, Lindfield, West Sussex
We are a densely populated island. In order to supply our nation with vegetables, fruit, milk and meat, we have learned to farm more difficult landscapes. They may be the harsh uplands of Exmoor, Cumbria or Scotland, the flood-prone East Anglian Fens, or the Somerset Levels.
The farmers of these regions do not exist in isolation – they rely on their stockmen and women, their tractor and combine drivers, and their fruit and veg’ pickers to assist their businesses. These workers typically live locally to the farms, and these small communities may have a local shop, a pub, a garage, a school, and residents who work for these businesses and other support industries.
It is no more valid to criticise people for living on the Somerset Levels (letter, 3 February), where land drainage has become a finely tuned infrastructure over many generations, than it is to criticise people who live in the upland areas, where snow and ice are a frequent hazard, and occasionally in extreme weather extra support is needed from the emergency services.
When nature tests our defences, and a community is in need, we should all rally round to help. Without the rural community, providing food for our tables, we would all suffer the higher costs and greater dependence on imports. It’s not a case of town versus country, and a choice of where to live – we are all in this together.
Dave Bearman, Stawell,  Somerset
The Great Western main line between Exeter and Plymouth has been severed once again by weather conditions. It shows the folly of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s when the alternative (Southern Railway) main line, which ran via Okehampton and Tavistock, was severed.
I travelled on this line many times as a young matelot in the early 1960s and can vouch for the scenic beauty of this route. It would be better to spend some of the billions earmarked for that glorified white elephant, HS2, in restoring this missing link.
Roger Padfield, Cardiff
What state schools need to offer
As the headmaster of an independent school rated outstanding by inspectors, I certainly recognised some truths in Archie Bland’s caricature of the real “Berlin Wall” between state and private (5 February).
The effect of children’s early upbringing is profound when it comes to education, and there is no doubt in my mind that children who have received love, conversation and stability as babies start school streets ahead of those who have experienced neglect, instability and lack of human interaction. The argument that it is this that causes the gulf in attainment is clearly attractive, as shown by the massive online majority strongly agreeing with the article.
The same day as I read this piece, the parents of two children at a local primary school, also rated outstanding, visited me seeking places. Mr Bland would argue that their children, who have had excellent starts in life and the best state education available, will gain no advantage by moving – so why did they come? It is here where, I believe, Michael Gove is right.
As excellent as their children’s school is, the state primary system is simply not geared up to provide the opportunities available in the best independent schools. Primary children thrive on high expectation and ambition. They devour specialist teaching in areas such as science, computing and languages. They need to play music and sport, to experience competition, to take part in drama, to create art, to explore poetry and have the time to tackle open-ended questioning and go beyond the curriculum. Only if we can replicate this model in the state primary sector will we give all children the advantages currently enjoyed by the few.
Nicholas Bevington, Headmaster, Town Close School, Norwich
That all schools should strive for excellence is incontestable. Until the Government invests massively in re-siting, rebuilding, refurbishing, and re-equipping a vast number of state schools, and improving the staff-pupil ratio, I find that Mr Gove has no credibility.
John McLorinan, Weston super Mare, North Somerset
New age of warfare without risk
In modern warfare at least 15 civilians are killed for every combatant. As the machines take over, with unmanned aircraft (“The Few become none”, 6 February) and with unmanned tanks and submarines on the way, the tally will become 15-0.
At least the military could take some pride that they put their own lives at risk. We and our American friends will soon be able to kill people in large numbers without moving from our home bases. Difficult to take pride in this.
We are urged to celebrate this “extraordinary achievement in British engineering”. Count me out.
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
It’s great to learn that we now have a force of fantastically efficient  drones that can take out our enemies without any loss to our armed forces. No doubt we will get lots of lucrative orders from our allies, such as Saudi Arabia, and make a lot of money for “our country”.
Let’s hope that our enemies don’t get their hands on some too and decide to target our top politicians or monarchy because of what we  stand for.
Derek Siggs, South Yorkshire
‘Ailing’ radio 3  in good shape
I was surprised to read that BBC Radio 3, is “ailing” (“Radio 3 requiem: 6 Music to overtake ailing station”, 6 February) when our recent spring season launch demonstrated the fine creative form we’re in, with new drama, jazz and world music programming through to live classical music concerts every night.
The BBC is also the organiser of the BBC Proms and Radio 3 exclusively broadcasts every one of those Proms concerts live.
Our listening figures remain stable at around 2 million per week, as they have since Rajar records began. Audience figures are only one measure of success, and there is no pressure from within the BBC for Radio 3 to increase its audience.
We do not chase ratings, but I am delighted that the station has experienced recent growth in its distinctiveness and audience appreciation figures and remains a vital part of the UK’s cultural landscape.
Roger Wright, Controller, BBC Radio 3, Director, BBC Proms, London W12
Shifting blame on to rape victims
Both Vicky Bayley and Phil Isherwood (letters, 4 February) ostensibly agree that rape is wrong whilst effectively blaming the victims for “choosing to put themselves at unnecessary risk” and “contributory negligence”, respectively.
Would anyone argue that a black teenager who entered a pub known to be frequented by white teenagers was complicit in any violent attack which might have occurred? No, I didn’t think so. Rape is less about sex than it is a hate crime. Arguing that a woman bears responsibility for a rape because she is drunk, is analogous to the contention that she “asked for it” because she was wearing a short skirt.
The “common sense” argument is just another way of shifting blame on to female victims.
Sarah Crooks, Derbyshire
Multi-tasking at the wheel
If Baroness Blackstone (The Big Questions, 1 February) stood near a busy road for 10 minutes or so, she would realise that the law banning drivers from using mobile phones is often ignored. A ban on smoking with children in the car is likely to achieve a similar level of compliance.
Thomas Williams, Dorney, Buckinghamshire
Lynn Hutchings’ letter (5 February) about the driver who was texting while lighting a cigarette reminded me of the time I was following a car during the morning rush-hour. The occupant was using both hands to apply eye make-up while steering with her elbows. I watched open mouthed with admiration and horror in equal measure.
Peter Spilman, Snitterfield, Warwickshire


Sir, “House price boom to last 10 years, signals Osborne” (Feb 5) must be the most depressing headline ever. Unless and until the average wage can buy the average house we are never going to see our children adequately housed. Despite the Chancellor’s good intentions on housing supply, governments failed to see through the con of house price inflation, while, to be fair, we were willing dupes. His Help to Buy scheme props up prices that are still ludicrously overblown. The only winners over the past 20 years have been the professionals whose bonuses have been linked to property’s selling prices. If parents wish to help their children buy homes, parents can empty their pension pots or conveniently die.
There is a twin solution. Learn the lesson of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and re-introduce “moral hazard” to the lexicon of money lending while enabling the builders to satisfy the demand for homes. Mr Osborne is right when he seeks to simplify the planning process but he has a long way to go. His “green shoots” appear to be taking root; it is crucial that the benefits of this are invested into industry and commerce, not in bigger mortgages.
Mark H Levy
Knutsford, Cheshire
Sir, George Osborne’s dedication to building more homes is welcome, but ordinary families will remain priced out of home ownership as long as he continues to pursue a policy that is causing house prices to rise four times faster than wages.
By offering high loan-to-value mortgages, Help to Buy merely treats the symptoms of this crisis. We will only truly fix the housing market when we wean ourselves off our addiction to rising house prices, and poll after poll shows that the British public recognises this. The Chancellor’s “methadone mortgages” might give some people access to home ownership, but as prices spiral ever upwards many more will see their dream of comfort, stability and independence slip further away.
Dan Wilson Craw
London SW12
Sir, The Chancellor says that house prices are likely to rise for at least another decade. So mortgage and rent costs will remain at unprecedentedly high levels, and both parents of most families must work harder, and for longer, to pay the bills — all at the expense of a “normal” family life for their children.
The forced continuation of exceptionally high debt levels means that real (inflation adjusted) interest rates must remain negative, in order to keep the average household solvent. As a result those same families, who are now struggling to pay their bills, will find it even harder to save for their retirement than their parents did. That, no doubt, will be a major crisis a couple of decades or so from now.
No one, except highly indebted landlords, benefits from this situation, or would vote for it if they were asked what a reasonably structured economy and (at the indivual level) a happy family life should look like.
The Government says that it is unable, or unwilling, to correct this most basic aspect of our economy and the Opposition (when it was in Government) created and even welcomed these conditions in the first place. The Liberals look on, inertly, from the sidelines and Ukip probably doesn’t care anyway. What are politicians for these days?
David Boorer
Llandovery, Carmarthenshire

Unified command, the pivot of successful military action, is an enduring principle of war fighting despite technological progress
Sir, Jeremy Larken’s lucid letter (Feb 3) highlighting the myth perpetuated by the RAF and fellow air power enthusiasts that “air power is indivisible” is long overdue. I go further; the very term “air power” is a flawed concept which has led to the inefficient and ineffective use and misuse of air borne military capability. The sheer complexity of warfare in the technological age necessitates the “indivisibility of command”. Admiral Larken implies this a priority. Unified command, the pivot of successful military action, is an enduring principle of war fighting despite the chimera of technological progress over the centuries. Indeed the expensive, cumbersome and artificial 20th century organisational anomaly, namely the RAF has been the root cause of the unnecessary loss of life, prolongation of military conflict and utter waste of precious resources. It is now bolstered by a massive industrial lobby contributing to the ultimate “self licking lollipop”.
We can no longer afford to be hobbled by this dysfunctional, expensive and ineffective use of scarce resources. The myth of the indivisibility of air power has to be extinguished along with its its alter ego; the RAF itself.
Paul Fisher
Durban-Corbieres, France

The price of bottled water might be part of the problem here, rather than the lowering price of cheap alcohol
Sir, Your report (“Time called on beer sold for less than water”, Feb 5) surely says as much about the extortionate mark-up on bottled water as it does the availability of cheap alcohol.
Paul Granger
Alresford, Hants

At a time when suppliers need to restore trust, it is important that energy companies comply with Ofgem requests
Sir, I would like to make it clear that Ofgem and the Office of Fair Trading make no apologies for asking energy companies to provide the information to assist with the first of the annual assessments of competition in the energy market (“Energy chiefs lash out as Ofgem looks into trades”, Feb 3). At a time when suppliers need to restore trust, it is important that these companies comply with these requests rather than sniping at the regulators for doing their job.
Ofgem and the OFT take a proportionate approach to gathering information and we have not asked for information on every single trade. However, we will not hesitate to acquire the information we need for our review.
This is a wide-ranging review looking at how well competition in the markets for gas and electricity is serving the interests of households and small firms.
Andrew Wright
Interim Chief Executive, Ofgem

In terms of average legal expenditure per person England and Wales rank 10th out of 14 advanced European economies
Sir, The Ministry of Justice defends cuts to the criminal justice system by claiming that ours is one of the world’s most expensive legal aid systems. This is not true. The National Audit Office concluded that spending on criminal justice as a percentage of the state budget in England and Wales was exactly on the European average of 0.33 per cent. In terms of average legal expenditure per person England and Wales rank 10th out of 14 advanced European economies.
We believe that the savings sought by the MoJ can be achieved without cuts, however there is a problem of access to information. The MOJ is suppressing important reports, by KPMG and Otterburn Legal Consulting, which analyse proposed changes in the supply of defence work, and the Legal Aid Agency will not disclose its raw data or its financial models.
We call on the MoJ to release the reports before it publishes the consultation response and we call on the LAA to allow expert analysis of its data base. Without disclosure how can there be an informed debate as to whether the cuts and reforms are sustainable or irreversible harmful?
Nicola Hill
Chair, National Justice Committee


SIR – As the providers of housing for all diocesan bishops in the Church of England, the Church Commissioners consider the sustainability of the ministry of any bishop of crucial importance. Their homes should be places of rest and privacy.
In Wells, the Bishop’s Palace had 61,100 visitors in 2013. In addition, 53 events were held there, including festivals, fairs, medieval falconry and outdoor theatre. The commissioners share with the Palace Trust, which is responsible for day-to-day running of the palace, the hope that visitors and activity will continue to increase.
It is right that issues such as privacy for a new bishop are considered and whether it is sustainable for him and his family to live in an increasingly busy tourist attraction. In this instance, the commissioners are aware that their decision has not been popular. It must, however, be balanced against wider considerations.
Rev Arun Arora
Director of Communications, Church Commissioners
London SW1

SIR – No one doubts the huge effort put in by Environment Agency staff during the past few weeks, but landowners, like all private property owners, should have the right to defend what is theirs. We propose a three-point plan.
Emergency European aid should be drawn upon to provide financial assistance to farmers and home owners who have faced uninsurable losses.
A major remedial programme, funded by the Government, is needed to restore main rivers and channels to their capacity, to be started as soon as weather permits.
A fully funded and sustainable management system should be put in place to allocate costs, resources, rights and responsibilities fairly between the different parties, central and local government and internal drainage boards.
Henry Robinson
President, Country Land and Business Association
London SW1
SIR – Now that the rail link between Exeter and Plymouth – and therefore the whole of Cornwall – has been cut off by the storms and is likely to be out of action for a considerable period, it is surely time for the Government to divert funds projected for HS2 to building a new inland rail link with the South West.
Is it not a priority to provide a safe and reliable service between London and Plymouth rather than saving 20 minutes on the routes to Birmingham?
Hubert Pragnell
Canterbury, Kent
Royal family’s privacy
SIR – Your report “Question of privacy for the Duchess as Palace yields to the paparazzi” suggests the Royal Household has changed its stance on the publication of paparazzi photographs.
Our position is clear and unchanged. We believe that members of the Royal family have the right to go about their day-to-day private lives without constantly being pursued, photographed and published. We ask that editors comply with their own codes of practice, those of the industry, and work within the law.
This has nothing to do with “image control” or “yielding to the paparazzi”. We never sanction or approve the use of paparazzi photographs. More to the point, of course, we would much prefer that none were taken in the first place.
Ed Perkins
Communications Secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry
London W8
Texting in class
SIR – Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, says that he wants to improve discipline, which is sadly lacking in many schools. I believe the often-used phrase is “low-level disruption”.
He could make a start by banning mobile phones and other devices from classrooms. How are pupils going to learn anything when they are busy texting?
Stephen Bowers
Rudgwick, West Sussex
Selective hugging
SIR – I agree with Rowan Pelling regarding the “hug culture” pervading society.
My hugs are reserved for my immediate family. But what is the best way politely to deter an acquaintance who is clearly intent on full body contact? One does not wish to appear standoffish.
Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire
Corporate crime
SIR – David Green, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, is right to be pushing for a change in the law on companies whose employees break the law. However, this Government does not behave as though it considers white-collar crime to be a priority. If it did, the SFO wouldn’t have to appeal to the Treasury for a £19 million emergency
bail-out just to carry on with its caseload.
Mr Green’s proposals would receive a far warmer reception from Labour, which recognises that Britain has an enforcement problem with corporate crime – the SFO hasn’t landed a single corporate conviction in the past three years. We also recognise that other jurisdictions do this better, and we have a lot to learn from them. The change Mr Green recommends – making companies liable for frauds their staff commit on the job – is essentially what they have in America. It is the centrepiece of Labour’s policy review – Tackling Serious Fraud and White Collar Crime.
So far, ministers haven’t shown the slightest inclination to carry out the reforms that Mr Green, I, and many others have been calling for.
Emily Thornberry MP (Lab)
Shadow Attorney General
London SW1
Demonising sugar
SIR – Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. Who thought up that diversion? Sugar has been with us for 500 years.
What is new is the manufactured fat used for frying almost everything. It is in nearly all cookies, biscuits, cakes and pastries, bagels, buns, sauces, snacks and ice cream.
Read the small print before buying: if it has got vegetable oil in it, then put it back.
Dr George Yuille Caldwell
SIR – In the drive to encourage us to eat less sugar, could the many television chefs be persuaded to use artificial sweeteners?
Allan Littlemore
Sandbach, Cheshire
Name-tape revival
SIR – I have done my share of label-sewing and I never expected to start again in my sixties (Letters, February 5). But with a husband who has lost three walking poles, two rucksacks, hats, scarves and gloves, labels have again proved their value.
I recommend iron-on ones for clothes, and stick-on ones for items of equipment.
Betsy Everett
Askrigg, North Yorkshire
Paper, hair and silk: the best way to dress a neck
SIR – The best neckwear? I would suggest a beard – a proper one, not the scruffy designer stubble.
Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey
SIR – Either wear a tie with the shirt properly done up at the neck or wear an open shirt. Wearing a tie with the top button of the shirt open may be comfortable, but it looks very scruffy.
Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire
SIR – Just after the Second World War, detachable collars were the norm. One could wear the same shirt all week and just change the collar. For half a crown a dozen, one could buy stiff white paper collars, discarding them when they were dirty.
When working on a farm in 1939, I recall seeing one of the farm labourers putting on a dickey – a stiff shirt front about a foot square with an attached stiff collar. He donned a tie and put on his Sunday best jacket – no shirt – and went off to church.
Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire
SIR – How can one tell which regiment or public school a chap belonged to if he isn’t wearing a tie?
Terry Critchley
Knutsford, Cheshire
SIR – Why the negativity about ties? I own more than 100, each assigned a number. Drawing a random tie from my lottery bag each morning is the highlight of my otherwise depressing pre-work routine.
Eugene Smith
Harrow, Middlesex

SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, heralds the dawn of a new, open NHS culture following Robert Francis QC’s report into Stafford Hospital. As evidence, he cites 1,000 whistleblower reports a month, a number that is rising. But whistleblowing is symptomatic of the old secretive culture that Mr Francis criticised.
At present, the whistleblowers reporting poor care are doing so behind a veil of anonymity. That makes the NHS look more like a police state than an open culture.
David Drew
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
SIR – If it takes whistleblowers to introduce care into a caring profession, then the NHS is recruiting the wrong type of person.
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Colin Bligh
Rusthall, Kent
SIR – When will those in authority understand that the real problem with the NHS is not the surgeons, doctors or nurses but the bloated management.
A thorough, ongoing investigation is needed into how the service is managed; management numbers could probably be reduced by 50 per cent, more than enough to fund the nurse shortfall.
Donald A Wroe
Ulverston, Cumbria
SIR – While the majority of NHS staff deliver fantastic care, some patients are still being let down when they are at their most vulnerable. One in six patients say doctors talk in front of them as if they weren’t there, and a third of cancer patients say their hospital room or area is not always clean and tidy. Treating people like this does nothing for a patient’s morale.
While Jeremy Hunt rightly observes that “it takes time to change culture”, there are simple steps that can be taken to encourage cultural change. Today, Macmillan is releasing a report that highlights patient-led, practical solutions with a proven track record of improving patient experience. For example, some hospitals have filmed patients talking about how they were treated by staff, who then watch it.
Every member of staff in the NHS should be supported in adopting these solutions if we are serious about putting patients at the heart of the service.
Ciarán Devane
Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support
London SE1
SIR – Mr Hunt has announced, as one of the changes he has put in place as a result of the Francis inquiry last year, that there are to be “names above beds”, showing who is in charge of that particular patient.
Thirty years ago, this was the norm; all patients had the name of their consultant visible at the head of the bed. Perhaps it is time to reinstate ward sisters and matrons too?
Malcolm Freeth
Bournemouth, Dorset

Irish Times:

Sir, – In 2000 my wife and I visited our son in Groningen, in the Netherlands, where he was studying at university. This fine city is 5.2 metres under sea level. It is still dry there. So whose finger is stuck in the dyke?
Ireland wake up and dry up. Perhaps we should invite the Dutch to replace the IMF and troika to really look after our liquid assets. – Yours, etc,
Co Galway.
Sir, – As concerns move from coastal flooding to our rivers, it is worth noting that the best flood defence is to hold the water at source.
Instead of baring our uplands in order to make sure that every hectare is “available for foraging” as required under the EU Area Aid, farmers should be encouraged to avail of forestry grants which should include existing scrub, the precursor to native woodlands.
A study in the UK published last year records that water sinks into the soil under native broadleaf trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass. This is because the tree roots transform the ground into a spongy reservoir that will absorb water and release it slowly.
Contrast this to foraging animals which concentrate intense pressure beneath their hooves, poaching the ground and compacting the soil into a hard pan which sheds rain as quickly as it falls.
These changes in grants would be revenue neutral, forestry grants simply replacing the current area aid. All that is lacking is the vision to make these changes, which would not only greatly alleviate riparian flooding downriver but reverse the widespread biodiversity destruction that is being forced on farmers to avoid loss of Area Aid grants.
Such a programme would not only alleviate flooding without expensive and limited engineering solutions, but would also provide essential wildlife corridors and amenities for recreational users. – Yours, etc,
Friends of the Irish
Co Cork.
Sir, – The current United Nations report on the abominable abuse of children within Roman Catholic institutions underlines again the need to confront such crimes with the best resources of my church (Breaking News, February 5th).
There are still large parts of the RC world where the necessary radical reforms have not taken place.
In view of his exemplary record in tackling clerical child abuse in the diocese of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin would seem an ideal person to implement the Vatican’s promise to protect all within its care. He would offer a guarantee of action rather than rhetoric. – Yours, etc,
North Circular Road,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Few people who have read media reports and commentary on the recent UN Committee report on the Holy See’s obligations in the matter of children’s rights will doubt its credibility. However, for those who read and scrutinisze the document itself, it raises rather than relieves uncertainty about its trustworthiness.
As far as it draws on the work of established investigative commissions and their fruits, such as the Ryan Report in Ireland and the Winter Commission in Canada (p14), the UN report’s findings should be taken seriously. However, it seems plain from reading the document that the UN Committee has done almost no investigation of its own. In fact, the text is seriously weakened in those places where it makes wholesale recommendations – such as urging the church to “review its position on abortion” (p12) – based on single, widely-reported instances.
Some of the proposals are simply eccentric. On p13, the committee exhorts the Holy See to re-assess its position on “adolescents’ enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive information.”
I don’t know what to make of this foggy suggestion, except to say that I attended state-funded Catholic schools from 1997 to 2004 in several countries and I was never deprived of information concerning my “enjoyment” of these matters.
As to the committee report’s motions to renovate the church’s teachings on contraception (p13), homosexual conduct (p5), and illegitimacy (p5), the committee clearly strays from delivering what could and should have been an objective report, and instead provides a weird compendium of “What’s-Wrong-With-Catholicism.” – Yours, etc,
Clon Brugh,
Aiken Village,
Dublin 18.

Sir, – “The latest returns showed the State collected nearly €650 million less than expected in tax last month” (Front page, February 5th). The anomaly was blamed on the introduction of SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) system which slowed down the Revenue Commissioners’ collection of VAT, corporation tax and employers’ PAYE and PRSI.
Instead of payments being processed within two or three banking days it will now take seven banking days.
Where will the funds be held during this time and who will benefit from the overnight rates?
Another banking contribution to the economy! – Yours, etc,
Co Galway.

Sir, – I identify with much of what was reported in the recent Sex Talk series (Peter McGuire, Education, February 4th).
The only formal sex education I received in the late 1990s was a single science class on the reproduction system in Junior Cert year. In my Leaving Cert year, during a religion class, the priest showed us a grainy film of an abortion, along with some very biased interviews promoting a particular ideology. The school had a Catholic ethos and was headed by a priest, reporting to the bishop, who in turn reported to Rome – not Dublin. Relationships and Sexuality Education was not on the curriculum.
The school I attended condoned institutional bullying, homophobia, racism, sexism and corporal punishment, though happily the latter was weeded out during my stay. The lessons of the abuse scandals go unheeded; who really knows what goes on behind closed classroom doors? The Minister for Education and their civil servants certainly don’t. However, they have achieved one success in sex education – previous generations were dispatched from the school system ignorant, whereas now they exit ill-informed. I guess that is some progress. – Yours, etc,
Saffron Central Square,

Sir,– Your Editorial (February 6th) is welcome. I applaud its sentiments, but I have difficulties. You wish contributions to have “some reasonable approximation to an arguable truth”. Reasonable? Arguable? Truth? Even Christ didn’t claim these attributes for the gift of Faith. Like many others, I challenge the rationality of the premises of various “Faiths.”
To suggest that such premises deserve equal treatment with scientific observations is to go along with arguments such as: “creationism” is a theory deserving of equal time in science class with that other “theory,” evolution. Logical thinking is hard to teach under such circumstances. – Yours, etc,
Forest Hills,
New York, US.

Sir, – The proposal to close Exchange Dublin, on the grounds of it “generating anti-social behaviour” (Home News, February 1st) raises serious questions regarding how this issue is being tackled in our city. While we welcome last week’s commitment by Dublin City Council and Temple Bar Cultural Trust to support the development of Exchange Dublin, we believe the best way to do so is through co-operation with this deserving initiative by keeping the doors of Exchange Dublin open.
Exchange Dublin is an all-ages, inclusive, open arts and cultural space. The safe, drug-free, non-alcohol environment enables young people to socialise and develop their creativity. Participatory cultural events and workshops support democratic practices and civic empowerment through artistic expression.
Despite the challenge of a lack of resources that affects so many arts spaces in the present economic environment, the volunteers of Exchange Dublin have provided an event and social space to thousands of people over the past four and a half years, contributing enormously to the civic well-being of our community.
We believe in a vision of the city with arts and culture available to everyone. We believe that locking one of the few spaces that has provided inclusive cultural participation is a grave mistake.
By removing Exchange Dublin, and offering no ongoing alternatives to its multi-users, Dublin City Council is inevitably furthering the anti-social behaviour it claims it is trying to combat in the area.
Surely closing a social space is anti-social? – Yours, etc,
Comhlamh; THEO
DORGAN, Poet and writer; JESSE JONES, artist; Prof KATHLEEN LYNCH, Equality Studies, UCD; SHANE O’CURRY, European Network Against Racism; GARRATT MULLEN, Show Racism the Red Card & SHANE FITZGERALD, We’re Not Leaving Campaign,
North Circular Road,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – In response to Michael Austin’s letter (February 6th), I cannot claim to know William Wilberforce’s “motives and intentions” towards same-sex marriage; however, I do know that my Christian convictions of “universal human dignity” fuels my support of marriage equality. – Yours, etc,
Ballinlough, Cork.
Sir, – Noel Whelan (Opinion, January 25th) worries about the “intolerance” of liberal activists who level accusations of homophobia against those who do not support same-sex marriage.
Yet the fact homophobia has been defined as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people” does not mean that this is the only form homophobia takes: it wears many masks, including that of mild-mannered men and women who proclaim to feel loving concern for gay people, while maintaining that homosexual activity can never be compatible with a moral way of life.
It is neither surprising nor unreasonable for supporters of marriage equality to contend that the arguments of many of their opponents are based on assumptions about the nature of human sexuality and the ethical standing of homosexual relationships that are deeply repugnant to a liberal perspective. There are many in our society who will never accept same-sex marriage, or that homosexual activity can ever be compatible with a moral way of living. They are entitled to their views, and to vote with their conscience, but if they live in hope that those of us who find such beliefs homophobic will refrain for speaking out against them, they should expect to be disappointed. – Yours, etc,
Cowper Road,
Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – In your Editorial, “Dangerous Games” (February 5th), the writer plays a very dangerous game by disregarding the truth in stating “this [neknomination] game, which the drinks industry has now forsaken, is a manifestation of the creativity and effectiveness of alcohol promotion and society’s vulnerability to exploitation”.
Suggesting the drinks industry in any way supports such activity is irresponsible, misrepresentative and offensive.
The drinks industry has consistently condemned the irresponsible consumption of alcohol.
The drinks industry is extremely careful not to target minors in any of our marketing or sponsorship activities. That is why we have developed some of the most stringent co-regulatory codes of practice anywhere in the world for alcohol marketing. Indeed, in many cases, Ireland is used as a testing ground for advertisements or marketing campaigns in other countries as companies know that if their ads are acceptable to the Irish market then they will be perfectly suitable for other countries.
Since 2002 we have funded and supported Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS). MEAS has two key objectives: to foster responsible promotion of alcohol within the drinks industry and to promote the responsible consumption of alcohol among consumers. Through its strict voluntary code MEAS regulates the promotion, packaging and sampling of alcohol products by the industry. Through MEAS brings the message about responsible consumption to the public, with a particular focus on young adults. Indeed, MEAS was among the first organisations to draw attention to the horrific potential dangers associated with neknomination in this country over a fortnight ago.
We are a legitimate and responsible industry. It is unfair and ill-founded to demonise an entire industry, and an insult to the many thousands of people who work in that industry, to claim that we in some way are encouraging alcohol misuse. – Yours, etc,
Director, Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland,
Baggot Street,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – I have no gripe with Garth Brooks, his music or his fans. I knew Croke Park was there when I purchased a property in 2007 and attend GAA games at Croke Park with great regularity. I am, nonetheless, somewhat disturbed at the potential disruption foisted upon the residents this coming July.
I enjoy Championship Sundays and having to negotiate the traffic on those days is a small price to pay for the enjoyment garnered from such occasions. However, to impose this extravaganza on residents for five consecutive days, including three weekday working days (and more for many) leaves a significant responsibility with the GAA to ensure maximum co-operation, communication, and assistance with and for residents.
The association will make a lot of money this July. Will it step up to the plate? – Yours, etc,
Distillery Road,
Dublin 9.

Sir, – I was interested in the report of Prof Jürgen Habermas’s address to the SPD in Germany (“Habermas warns Germany risks undermining EU”, Derek Scally, World News, February 4th). He articulates what everybody, except this Government, has been thinking and saying for the past five years. Why was this report relegated to page 11 and not on the front page for everyone to read? – Yours, etc,
Clanbrassil Terrace,
Dublin 8.
Sir, – Phrases or cliches to be expunged include “Pushing the envelope”, “Singing from the same hymn sheet”, “Thinking outside the box” and “Down to the wire”. – Yours, etc,
Castlesize Close, Sallins,
Co Kildare.
Sir, –   “Warren Gatland should have selected O’Driscoll”. – Yours, etc,
Pine Valley Avenue,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – A man is helping police with their inquiries. – Yours, etc,
Carragh Hill, Galway.
Sir, – Have I stepped up to the plate this time? My last effort unfortunately did not cut the mustard. – Yours, etc,
Maudlin Court,
Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – “Heavily pregnant”,  as opposed to? – Yours, etc,
Green Park,
Dublin 12.
Sir, – Nothing is so useless as a general maxim. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* Michael McCarthy (Sports Pages, February 5) bemoans the chronic discord and ambivalence attached to Ireland’s competing – but less than competitive – rugby anthems.
Also in this section
Letters: Why are we paying debts already written off?
Letters: Instead of reforming HSE we get stealth tax
Letters: Stop and think before joining drinking craze
As long as the farce continues – the Ulster boys standing in stone-faced defiance of ‘Amhran na bhFiann’; those with half an ear justifiably refusing to aid and abet Ireland’s Dirge – the national team will never realise its full potential.
Mr McCarthy goes on to suggest Phil Coulter might clear up the mess by essaying a replacement – but surely that would be to risk another paean in the neck.
And anyway, there’s no need; we have an anthem ready made, beautifully formed, and perfectly fit for purpose – indeed, the most poetic, most melodious, most stirring rugby anthem on the planet.
I refer, of course, to ‘There is an Isle’, long the signature of Shannon RFC but entirely adaptable to the national rugby team or teams, as indeed to the island at large.
And one can guarantee that if and when sung pre-match with feeling – as, for example, by the wonderful Suzanne Murphy – it would leave not a nape hair unstiffened and hardly an eye unmoistened in Lansdowne Road.
I recognise that those responsible for the inane cheerleading and pyrotechnics that lately mar big games in Dublin 4 are unlikely to go with such a progressive change, even though it might mitigate another serious problem.
If, as seems possible in my opinion, Munstermen are soon to be entirely excluded from Joe Schmidt’s selections, a song from rugby’s heartland would leave a once-proud province with at least some token investment in the national cause.
* An expectation that logic can be applied to the economic system seems to be Desmond Fitzgerald’s problem (Letters, February 6). He seems to expect that government money going into a commercial entity should do something other than simply disappear without detailed explanation.
We live in a world of panic and mayhem where the “market” has turned into a grand production of illusion and trickery. Confidence tricks rather than wisdom can often be seen to hold sway.
The worth of a company or even a country or countries can be determined by how we “feel” about it on the day, and everyone wins by playing “chicken”, talking up worth then jumping off before reality crashes the party.
If it was kids doing it, it would be all over the headlines calling for an end to “Marketnomination”.
Our system of values seems to have become disconnected from reality; otherwise the Government would have bought the Irish residential home mortgages from the bank at fire-sale prices, and passed the saving on to homeowners. This would have reset the Irish system, at a lesser cost.
What about Europe? I think the outpouring of gratitude from our European neighbours for putting our interests below that of the big European banks has shown what a great decision that was.
* Desmond Fitzgerald’s letter complains about what he calls ‘the big bad German and French banks’ for loaning this country so much money that it went broke.
He then asks the question as to what part of debt write-off has he missed. I do not think he missed anything since there was no write-off.
Among the many things missed by Mr Fitzgerald, and indeed by practically everyone else at the time, was that the scale of the original borrowing from whatever foreign banks was reckless and should not have been undertaken.
* What is happening to healthcare in this fourth-world country? We pay through the nose for it, with covert and overt taxation, and what do we get? People being left in hospital corridors on trolleys to die alone. Do we get value for money? Or is it all being wasted on bureaucracy?
There is no dignity, humanity or kindness in hospital treatments, and it needs a new solution. We are not cattle to be herded into rooms, and left for hours on end waiting to be seen by consultants.
It’s about time they pulled their fingers out from their fat wallets and gave us what every person is entitled to: proper, first-world medical health services.
* I believe that every Irish citizen is proud of Louise O’Keeffe, who throughout the last 15 years had the temerity and the courage to take on the State represented by politicians, the judiciary and the legal profession.
Now, instead of mealy mouthed, legally framed and meaningless apologies, maybe Kenny and Gilmore, as well as those honourable judges involved in the High Court and the Supreme Court cases, would explain in simple terms why an innocent person was hounded, and in the end, how they, with all their resources, got the outcome so horribly wrong.
Perhaps they would also tell us how much taxpayers’ money was wasted. And, oh yes, we would also like to know if anybody will be held accountable.
* The best way to describe the latest furore over the high-wattage pylons and whether they are safe or not is to use the words of former US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.
Setting aside the medical known unknowns, my view is that the pylons are just plain ugly. Ireland’s landscape is beautiful – why destroy the beauty with something that can be buried and unseen?
l Your motoring editor Eddie Cunningham writes: “I may be wrong, but there appears to [be] a lot of people smoking in cars. More than before, I am inclined to think.”
Mr Cunningham says there should be a “blitz of massive fines, possibly bans, for anyone found smoking while others are in the car with them”.
We don’t condone smoking in cars with children present. It’s inconsiderate at best, but the number of people doing it has fallen dramatically. Legislation, accompanied by fines and other penalties, would be a huge and unnecessary over-reaction.
Perhaps I could refer Mr Cunningham and your readers to a study by the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population, which involved observing 2,230 drivers over three time periods in two Dublin locations.
The study found the prevalence of mobile telephone use was 2.56pc and just 1.39pc for smoking.
This was reported by the Irish Independent on April 10, 2013, under the headline, ‘Ban on smoking in cars would have little impact, says study’.
Irish Independent


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