20 February 2014 Break
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge has to deliver a load of booze to the Trativia trade fair, can Pertwee keep away from it?
Better day Mary much improved. A day off no medical treatment today Sharland visits, Map picked up
Scrabbletoday Mary wins but gets under 500, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Mavis Gallant, who has died aged 91, was among the greatest writers of short stories in the English language — indeed, one American reviewer considered her superior to her fellow (and better known) Canadian writer Alice Munro, adding that “Alice Munro, wonderful as she is, plays the part of Elizabeth Gaskell to Gallant’s Jane Austen. Only Gallant’s better than Austen.”
For some 60 years, writing as an expatriate in Europe, Mavis Gallant produced controlled, sharply witty observations of the 20th century’s rootless and disconnected. Mostly in the pages of The New Yorker, her platform from the early 1950s, her characters were the flotsam and jetsam of the postwar period: people cast adrift and isolated by temperament or history, forced to construct new lives in alien circumstances — an Australian spinster in Paris, an American in Salzburg, an English girl among Algerians.
She wrote brilliantly and perceptively about the small selfishnesses and hypocrisies that make up human relationships, and the stratagems people use to keep chaos at bay. In Madeline’s Birthday, one of her earliest stories, a German student disappoints his self-appointed American saviour by failing to conform to her notions of what a German orphan should be like. “Thus,” observes the narrator, “did she frequently and unconsciously remind him of his origin, although part of her purpose in inviting him to spend the summer had been to help him forget it.’’
Mavis Gallant rejected any comparisons with Jane Austen, describing the reviewer who made the comparison as “so wrong”. Critics observed that although, in terms of wit and acute social observation, Mavis Gallant might stand comparison with Austen, her writing lacked warmth. The New York Times writer John McGahern found her “a scalpel-sharp anatomiser of various forms of stupidity”, but observed that her writing sometimes left an unpleasant aftertaste, “as if the witty, controlled prose is functioning at the expense of her characters”.
“Do read [her] stories,” advised Charlotte Moore in The Daily Telegraph, “but don’t read them all at once.”
She was born Mavis de Trafford Young in Montreal on August 11 1922, the only child of an English father and an American mother. Both her parents were Protestant, yet a few weeks after her fourth birthday they dispatched her to a French-speaking boarding school run by a semi-cloistered order of Jansenist nuns who forbade all toys and examined her English books for signs of immorality. “The only thing I remember,” Mavis Gallant said later, “is my mother putting me on a chair and saying, ‘I’ll be back in 10 minutes’. She just didn’t come back.” From then on Mavis returned home only for the holidays.
When she was 10, her father, an unsuccessful artist, returned to England to die, but Mavis was not told of his death for three years. Her mother quickly remarried, to a man Mavis did not like, and moved to New York, leaving Mavis with relatives in Ontario before depositing her in various boarding schools in Canada and the United States (17 in all), an experience which she recalled “with horror”.
In Youth is Pleasure, one of her semi-autobiographical “Linnet Muir” stories, Mavis Gallant recalled how she had kept waiting for her father to send for her, “for my life was deeply wretched and I took it for granted that he knew. Finally I began to suspect that death and silence can be one.” She would litter her stories with betrayed, abandoned children who may not fully understand what they are seeing but have an instinctive awareness of parental bad faith. “In many, many of the things I write, someone has vanished,” she told an interviewer. “And it’s often the father. And there is often a sense that nothing is very safe.”
The moment she turned 18 Mavis escaped to Montreal, the last place she had seen her father, thinking that “if I got geographically out of the way [of my mother] I could breathe”. After a period of dogsbody work for the Canadian National Film Board, she got a job with a Montreal English-language newspaper, The Standard, where, refusing to be sidelined as a “woman writer”, she became a respected feature writer, causing controversy in 1946 with a piece entitled “Why are Canadians so dull?”
In 1942 she married John Gallant, a hotel lounge pianist from Winnipeg. The marriage did not last, but she kept his name, and the pair remained on good terms.
But by the end of the 1940s, fed up with the Canadian small-town mindset, she decided to leave Canada for Europe; and in 1950, with the aid of an airline executive who provided a ticket, she arrived in Paris. For the next 25 years she travelled all over the continent, jotting down observations in her notebook.
Before leaving Canada, Mavis Gallant had been commissioned by the editor of The New Yorker, William Maxwell, to write a short story — for which she had been paid $600. During her early years in Europe she did not realise that the work she had left with her agent at home had continued to appear in the magazine. The agent had pocketed the cash while informing the magazine that she was living in Capri and did not wish to be disturbed; meanwhile, he told her that her work had been rejected. In Madrid, in 1952-53, she was forced to sell her own clothes to have enough to eat.
Equilibrium — and income — was restored after she came across a copy of the magazine with one of her stories in it, and the truth was revealed. The New Yorker would go on to publish more than 100 of her stories.
In 1954 Mavis Gallant acquired a small house in Menton, in the south of France, which remained her base until the 1970s, when she returned to her base in Paris. A period spent in Germany yielded a novella, The Pegnitz Junction (1973, her own favourite), and many stories of Germans struggling to find a post-war identity : “The streets still smelled of terror and ashes, particularly after rain,” she wrote in An Alien Flower (1972). “No one was inferior, because everyone was. A social amnesty had been declared.”
In the early 1970s she was commissioned to write a biography of Alfred Dreyfus, the French-Jewish war hero who fell victim to French antisemitism in the late 19th century. She never published it, but her research led her to reimagine her Canadian roots: “I was haunted by the way Dreyfus walked. I went to where he had lived and I walked over the same bridge [that he would have crossed]. I was reminded of Montreal… and I began to write the stories about the girl [Linnet Muir] who is in New York, but comes back to Montreal when she is 18. She looks at her old convent school and thinks, all you have to do is wait to grow up and then you are free.”
Mavis Gallant published a dozen collections of short stories, two novels, a play and numerous essays and reviews. She was always protective of her privacy and seldom gave interviews. Until 1988, when she appeared on a French literary television show, her Paris neighbours did not even know that she was a writer.
But by the late 1970s Mavis Gallant had established a reputation in most parts of the English-speaking world — apart, that is, from her native Canada, where it seemed that many could not forgive her for preferring to live in exile. Thirty years and seven books after she began writing, Macmillan Canada ended the neglect by publishing two volumes of stories, one of which, Home Truths (1981), won the Governor General’s Award. In the same year she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, advanced in 1993 to Companion of the Order of Canada.
Mavis Gallant, born August 11 1922, died February 18 2014
The giant hedgehog highlighting the launch of Natural Curiosities, David Attenborough’s new TV show, is just amazing (Making a point, 17 February). A new report reveals that a quarter of Britons have never seen a hedgehog. This is a sad but not surprising fact, given that their population is declining at the same rate as tigers are globally. We have joined forces with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species in a project called Hedgehog Street to try to reverse the decline. Part of that project involves citizen science. We are asking people to sign up to a simple survey before the end of February: each time they see a hedgehog, alive or dead, between now and 31 August, they complete an online form. Readers can sign up at www.hedgehogstreet.org. As well as providing really useful distribution data, monitoring hedgehog activity will help us guide conservation strategies. So each citizen scientist who signs up will help us to help hedgehogs from the comfort of their own home.
British Hedgehog Preservation Society
Your leader (17 February) forgets that the international community, particularly the European Union, has lost interest in Bosnia. The high representative’s influence has considerably diminished in recent years; the international community has failed to contain the Republika Srpska (the Serbian entity) as it inches its way towards some sort of independence. Mostar remains a bitterly divided city – in spite of the symbolism of the restored bridge, there has been no local government since 1995. A recent survey by Mostar University shows how many Bosnian Croats want their own “entity” and, given the inability of many Bosniak politicians to put the interests of their country before their own, there is a worrying new development: the growth of radical Islamism, which will certainly thrive in a population where 57% of young people are unemployed. Officials from the EU do little but publicly reprimand politicians and urge them to show “leadership”. But the recent protests offer new possibilities, particularly among a younger generation weary of the old nationalisms. Some NGOs are calling for a national dialogue. If politicians can’t or won’t wake up, then it will be up to these NGOs to take a lead in refashioning Bosnia’s future – and the least the EU should do is to make funding available at once for such an initiative.
The Rev Donald Reeves
Director, the Soul of Europe
• Bosnia has indeed become “a mess of overlapping and competing administrations which turned into a happy hunting ground for ethnically based politicians, who could exploit its many possibilities for patronage and personal enrichment”. This succinct and accurate description poses a stern question for those who have crowed over the break-up of Yugoslavia, the overthrow of Saddam and Gaddafi, and who act as cheerleaders for armed opposition to Assad. Does intervention by the US and its allies leave the situation in the country concerned better or worse?
University of Westminster and UCL
While your excellent leader (14 February) acknowledges the authorities’ “widespread complicity in sexual abuse”, three letters (17 February) call for a time limit on rape prosecutions and the prosecution of women accused of making a false allegation. There is already a zealous drive to prosecute women for lying. This is despite whistleblower PC James Patrick exposing widespread police pressure on women to retract rape reports, targeting the most vulnerable victims, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission finding that this had been a “standard operating procedure” in one London borough. Once women have been pressed to retract, what is to stop the police from accusing them of lying and the Crown Prosecution Service from prosecuting?
Is there a greater victim than the one who, having suffered violence, is jailed while her attacker goes free? We are working to overturn two miscarriages of justice – the convictions of Layla Ibrahim and Gail Sherwood, jailed after reporting rape by strangers. We brought these and other cases to the attention of Keir Starmer when he was director of public prosecutions. And while he is building a career as the victims’ champion, the CPS under him prosecuted more vulnerable women and girls for “false allegations” than previously. The criminal justice agencies should indeed be ashamed of having treated pre-Savile victims with contempt. Too many rapes, recent and historic, were blocked by the authorities. Look at Oxford, Rochdale, Caldicott preparatory school … which reached convictions – eventually.
A not-guilty verdict doesn’t prove that the victim lied. Yet after each celebrity acquittal, there are immediate calls for time limits on prosecutions and anonymity for the accused. Both display a unique eagerness to protect the accused and to disbelieve the victim. Both would silence victims – back to pre-Savile days.
Women Against Rape
• Neil Jopson (Letters, 17 February) is quite wrong to lament the difference between limitation periods for civil claims and their absence in criminal cases. Abusers of the young and vulnerable are often manipulative and threatening, with the consequence that a child may be traumatised for years by guilt, shame and fear. It is not until well into adulthood that he or she finds the courage to speak out, knowing that this is likely to mean a torrid time, leading up to and in court, when the abuse has to be lived through again. To impose a time limit on criminal proceedings would be to achieve the precise result that manipulative and threatening behaviour aims at. Reform of the trial process along the lines of the 1989 Pigot report, so that all the evidence of the complainant would be recorded before trial, would encourage victims to speak out and reduce the lottery effect of the court process, peculiarly chronic in this kind of case.
• I think Neil Jopson should think about “cold cases” in the UK where murderers have been convicted decades after the crime on DNA evidence. In the US, convicted murderers have been proved innocent on such evidence after a decade or two on death row (thanks to the slowness of the appeals system). Not all evidence depends on fallible memories, and rape, too, may well leave such evidence.
The Treasury’s suggestion that Papworth hospital should be relocated and joined with the loss-making Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust is deeply disturbing and clearly based on financial aspirations rather than sound medical considerations (Report, 15 February). When I was appointed consultant cardiothoracic surgeon to Papworth 42 years ago, I was told by the regional medical officer that we’d be moved to the Addenbrooke’s site within four years. Events conspired against this. However, after my retirement I served as a non-executive on the Papworth board and, following lengthy discussions with Addenbrooke’s, it was unanimously agreed that we should move to its site in Cambridge. There we would have our own building and retain our own management and identity as a separate trust, but would share some expensive services that would be used by both hospitals.
Our reason for wanting to remain independent was because of our success. We had excellent management and, being a single-specialty hospital, were able to focus efficiently on treating patients with heart and lung disease without being subjected to the demands and pressures of being part of a large general hospital. We were in agreement that both hospitals would benefit from the proximity of our respective clinical services and, for Papworth, the presence of world-class research-based organisations and the medical school on the same campus were added attractions. This still has to be the best option for the patients of East Anglia and for those who attend our supra-regional services from further afield. It is intolerable that this should be put at risk by this late intervention from the Treasury.
• The real iniquity associated with the Papworth hospital PFI bid is not with Mr Osborne’s decision to reject it but the rush to PFI by successive governments, saddling the country with massive debt. The NHS is a publicly funded body, bound by statute to provide healthcare free at the point of delivery from taxpayer’s money. Implicit within this must be the provision of hospitals and facilities for the delivery of that care. Instead of wasting vast amounts of money on foreign expeditions, our politicians should be prioritising care for our own population first. This should include the building of modern hospitals for the delivery of state-of-the art healthcare for our people.
Papworth has been at the forefront of cardiothoracic surgery and medicine for half a century and is recognised around the world as a top institution. It is a jewel in the NHS crown and yet visitors from other countries are appalled at the facilities within which this work has to be carried out. To cause years of delay in its rebuilding on the Cambridge University hospitals campus (one of the largest and most advanced in the world), its rightful site in the 21st century, demonstrates nothing if not political blindness to the importance of the scientific developments in medicine.
For a mere £150m, the UK would be delivered of a fine state-of-the-art facility that patients and staff deserve. There can be little doubt that the populace, whose taxes should be used appropriately, would support such a move. After all, if a new cardiothoracic institute can be built with 100% government funding at a previously unrecognised site such as Basildon, surely it should be shamed into funding this worthy project. PFI-developed projects cost the taxpayer a factor of three to four times the cost over a 30-year period and, at the end of it, the builders retain control. Millions of pounds are being poured into the pockets of developers , with additional income streams generated for them by the excessive running costs of these institutions that they control.
Consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, Papworth hospital
• I can empathise with Stephen Bridge, the chief executive of Papworth, and his anxiety over its future, but I think he is being naive on at least three counts. First, the quality and levels of medical services and care are determined by the teams of clinicians and support staff, not the location or the name on the door of the hospital. Second, he raises the question of the financial problems facing the Peterborough hospital caused largely by its PFI debt, but in the same breath says Papworth would be raising £80m through that same facility. PFI schemes have been one of the biggest sources of financial problems to beset the NHS in recent years. Third, he argues that location in the Cambridge biomedical campus is vital. Given the facilities of modern communications and the proximity of Peterborough to Cambridge – only 30 miles – it is difficult to accept this as a strong argument.
Having served for 10 years as a patient governor on the councils of both Moorfields and now University College London, I am well aware of the benefits of hospitals being a part of academic health science centres, as I am also of the problems of financing the building of new hospitals and the use of PFI to do so. Moorfields is facing a move to a replacement facility and UCLH used a PFI loan for its Euston Road premises. Stephen Bridge would do well not to confuse “NHS politics” with economic probity.
• It could be amusing, were it no so wretched and destructive, to point out that the possible “shotgun partnership” of Papworth hospital (“at the forefront of medical innovation”) with Peterborough and Stamford NHS foundation trust (“the NHS’s most loss-making foundation trust”) would be a stark example of the fallacy of the second accident, popularly known as a “secundum quid”.
Jeremy Hunt has it in his secretary of state’s power to nip this in the bud and insist that Papworth should realise its move, 10 years in the planning, to the 310-bed hospital in the Cambridge biomedical campus, next door to Addenbrooke’s, where Roy Calne pioneered liver transplantation and much more. In this situation, the Department of Health should stick to its decision to back Papworth’s move and tell Hunt to tell the Treasury to get lost. If the Treasury decides against and Hunt gives in, then Papworth will drown and decades of British and global medical transplant care and advance will be matters of history and, yet again, the fallacy of the second accident will have prevailed.
Given the alarming state of affairs in Ukraine (Report, 19 February), is it not time Nigel Farage stepped up to the plate? He should get himself to Kiev, interpose himself between the police and the rioters, and explain to the latter why their enthusiasm for the EU is misplaced. That should calm things down.
Brighton, East Sussex
• The DWP requires claimants to spend 35 hours a week sending off at least 50 fruitless applications every week (Jobseekers live in culture of fear, say charities, 19 February), and then, should they fail to meet their target, stops their social security and removes them from the number of unemployed, claiming that their lives have been transformed. Money saved, unemployment down, job done.
Fr Julian Dunn
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
• Record number of evictions and record number of Ferrari sales in the UK (Report, 18 February). Are we really all in this together?
• Following Ian Birrell’s reference (Comment, 19 February) to the “dark horse” among candidates for next Tory leader, has anyone noticed the likeness between Jeremy Hunt and Niccolò Machiavelli in the Santi di Tito portrait?
• Melissa Kite doesn’t know much about boats (Comment, 18 February). If you yank a tiller on a boat hard to the right, you will cause the vessel to turn sharply to the left.
• Thanks to all who donated to my parish in response to Joanna Moorhead’s feature (15 February) in which I took part. The generosity of strangers in response to our need for roof repairs is truly humbling.
The Rev Canon Graeme Buttery
St Oswald’s, Hartlepool
• Isn’t Ruth Eversley’s “can thus be” exactly equivalent to “can so be” (Letters, 19 February)? Looks so to me. So it appears as if her letter can thus be safely ignored.
In the midst of the great trauma suffered by people affected by the UK floods, it is a great shame that some commentators are using the crisis to score political points against foreign aid.
The false choice presented by Nigel Farage and the Daily Mail has been quickly and firmly rebutted by many, including, to their credit, the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister. In the face of an often vitriolic campaign, Mr Cameron has shown great resolve in maintaining his commitment to aid, and notable international leadership in pressuring those countries which are not meeting their aid obligations.
The UK’s floods have provided us with a taste of the devastation regularly endured in developing countries, most recently in the Philippines, as a result of increasingly extreme weather related to climate change. The British people and the UK Government have responded generously – but aid alone will not solve the global ecological problems we now face. Climate change represents the greatest threat to global prosperity for this and future generations, in rich and poor countries alike.
So global leadership of the sort that Mr Cameron has shown on aid is urgently required on climate. It is important that he accepts his invitation from the UN Secretary General to attend a special summit on climate change in New York in September. He must also give the same short shrift to climate deniers that he gave to those who favour diverting aid money to pay for the UK’s floods.
Ben Jackson, Chief Executive, Bond, Chris Bain, Chief Executive, Cafod, Christine Allen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Christian Aid, Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB, Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director, Unicef UK, London SE1
In praise of the PMQs
Your article “Bercow attacks PMQs” (18 February) discusses the Hansard Society’s reporting on Prime Minister’s Questions.
PMQs are but a tiny part of overall parliamentary business – a mere 0.01 per cent of all parliamentary activity. It is therefore perplexing that the Hansard Society has given disproportionate time to reporting lengthily, and indeed harshly, on PMQs. That attention is largely po-faced and rather puritanical. Yes, PMQs engender a lot of noise, but they also offer a unique opportunity for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition succinctly to summarise the differences which divide them in every policy area. PMQs is an excellent institution – long may it continue.
Michael Batchelor, Swansea
The House of Commons Speaker is looking for ways of improving Prime Minister’s Questions.
I cannot be alone in thinking that PMQs is beyond redemption and should be done away with altogether.
Could anything be better calculated to engender a withering contempt for the “democracy” our leaders persist in trying to foist on the rest of the world than the cringingly embarrassing spectacle to which Westminster treats the world every Wednesday?
D Maughan Brown, York
There’s no bias at the BBC
Contrary to the claims by Professor Justin Lewis, the BBC Trust did not play down research he believes found a right-wing bias in the sourcing of BBC news content (“BBC accused of political bias – to the right not the left”, 15 February).
Far from it – this research was published, in full, as part of an independent review into the breadth of opinion reflected in BBC output. The review’s author, Stuart Prebble, concluded that in general a wide range of viewpoints were reflected in the BBC’s output over the period in question.
Ensuring the impartiality of the BBC is a key priority for the Trust. This is why we regularly conduct independent impartiality reviews and publish the findings.
David Liddiment, Trustee, BBC Trust, London W1
Nothing innocent about speeding
Nigel Farage (19 February) suggests the removal of speed limits on motorways. I’m against that, but it is a perfectly respectable idea to put forward. However, he then makes out that cameras and speed traps are somehow sneaky and underhand ways of raising cash from innocent motorists. But speeding is not an innocent activity – it is lawbreaking. Speed limits are laws voted for by Parliament for good reasons. Laws require enforcement, and speed cameras and speed traps are perfectly legitimate ways to catch those who consider that the laws of the land do not apply to them – an all too prevalent attitude among motorists, apparently including Farage. It is disturbing that someone who aspires to be a member of Parliament should be so sympathetic to the breaking of the laws that it has passed.
Bill Linton, London N13
Rooney’s wage is perfectly rational
Stephen Westacott (Letters, 19 February) writes of Wayne Rooney’s recent huge pay settlement and the death of Sir Tom Finney and asks how, where and when football went so wrong. Nothing really went wrong. It’s just that football changed into a global game followed by millions, if not billions, of people. Wayne Rooney is a hugely talented player and is simply getting a freely negotiated slice of the vast revenues the game creates. He’d be a fool to do otherwise.
William Roberts, Bristol
In the early 1960s, I was a pit deputy working at Treeton colliery near Sheffield. I earned 18 guineas a week, and United and Wednesday footballers got £18 a week. I bet the difference is now somewhat greater, and the other way around.
Pete Wainwright, Goathland, North Yorkshire
Sir, It makes sense to limit some expensive drug treatments to the people who can best benefit society as well as improving the quality of life for the patient. I am an old person (73) and an ex-nurse and I do not understand why so many oldies are obsessed with getting every treatment available, to prolong their lives.
My mental and physical health are deteriorating. This is a fact of life, not a complaint. If I should become ill I will gladly forgo any expensive cure to allow someone younger than me to improve their opportunity of a better quality of life, and the chance of being more use to society. I ask only for palliative care and the chance of a quick release from life when I feel ready to go. I am not alone in this attitude.
The fact is that many old people are a burden on society. Like all nurses I have cared for the elderly as well as I could, but there were many occasions when I wondered why we were doing it. People who cannot accept this argument should work for a few months in a care home where many patients are demented, incontinent, unable to care for themselves, and have no visitors.
Like many of my friends I have made a living will to express my wishes in the event of acute illness. I would like to be able to apply for a prescription which could be used if I ever feel like a quiet and peaceful exit before things get too bad.
Sir, As a care professional of 25 years standing I consider that medicines for older people are often over-prescribed and poorly monitored. It often seems that GPs write prescriptions for older people as a cheap panacea. However, it now turns out that this approach is not cheap after all and that older people (we do not say “the elderly” in care, we are all older than someone) may be denied medication for the wider societal benefit, ie, cost cutting.
This in itself is pretty offensive but the comments by the head of NICE, Sir Andrew Dillon, were worse. I realise that he was attacking the “fair-innings” approach when he said “We don’t want to say that those ten years between 70 and 80, though clearly you are not going to be working, are not going to be valuable for somebody”. But how clumsily put, and implicitly ageist.
To whom must we prove our value? Expected to work until 70, I am about to enter my 70th year and still commute to work in London from Norfolk. May we not be entitled to enjoy these years for ourselves alone? The work we have done throughout our lives should entitle us to a few years of leisure and pleasure, with or without medication.
The 1 in 6 people in the UK who are over 60 contribute on average a total of £800 million to the economy every week. We have monetary value, as well as intrinsic value to ourselves, our grandchildren and our communities.
I should also like to make an observation which may have escaped the statisticians who tell us that the longevity of men has now increased to match that of women. When I first started working in care homes in the late 1980s there were few male residents; numbers started to increase from the late 1990s. It was obvious to us, the carers, that many young men had died during the Second World War and as that cause of death became more distant there were more men alive in the community.
Sir, Andrew Billen on Bible Hunters (TV review, Feb 14) notes that the resurrection accounts in the four gospels are “inconsistent”. Doesn’t he, a journalist, find such accounts, first written down 30+ years after the event, quite surprisingly consistent?
Allowing for second-hand tradition, memories telescoped over time and interest in significant individuals, besides different author purposes, literary conventions and reader cultures, surely four identical records would look rather suspicious.
Sir, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe worries that British men are being radicalised in Syria (“250 jihadis spark UK terror alert”, Feb 16). It is more likely that these men were already radicalised at home — which is why they went to wage jihad in Syria, with which few have any connection. The responsibility for this lies with failure of government policy on both the foreign and domestic fronts. The folly of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have radicalised significant numbers of Muslims as was predicted by many.
The present and previous governments stressed the importance of faith identities and of Britain being a “multifaith” society. Don’t be surprised if some believe that their primary allegiance is to those of their faith around the world, to the point of waging jihad in support of them. Sectarian conflicts abroad spill over at home, as with the Sunni-Shia rivalry in the Middle East — those going to Syria are fighting a Sunni jihad against the Shia, or vice versa.
This kind of development supports those MoD officials who now rule out a repeat of the Afghanistan or Iraq invasions because Britain, being an increasingly diverse (ie, multifaith) nation, would have to deploy troops in countries from which UK citizens, or their families, once came. In other words, they are highlighting the risk of “blowback” — that is, of future wars “coming home”. I hope that the political establishment will learn the appropriate lessons.
Dr Rumy Hasan
SPRU, University of Sussex
Sir, It is expensive to provide parking spaces (letters Feb 15, 18). Apart from physical maintenance, there is also the opportunity cost — the benefit foregone from not using the car park for some other, productive, purpose. It is only right that the users of any car park should pay in full for these costs which they incur. In the case of hospital carparks the argument for them to pay is even more compelling since, if they do not, the costs have to be borne by the health budget. Is it really acceptable when many people are denied vital treatment for lack of funding that NHS finance should be spent on carparks? Health money for treating patients, not for subsidising car drivers.
Sir, Wales has gradually curtailed hospital parking charges. One of the first hospitals was in the constituency of our esteemed First Minister for Wales Mr Carwyn Jones. So far so good, but there is a downside at hospitals and health centres close to motorways or major roads: it is sometimes impossible to park at all as they have become park-and-ride centres for commuters. Added to this, the disturbance in side streets and residential areas close to hospitals is immense because of an overspill effect with car parking at a premium.
Sir, You refer to faggots being called “savoury ducks” in the Middle Ages (“Forgotten faggots make supermarket comeback” Feb 18). I remember them being called savoury ducks during the war (the last one!) in Staffordshire, and that was not the Middle Ages. They were appetising, sustaining and morale boosting at a time of national crisis; no wonder they are making a comeback now.
John N Brown
SIR – At the Sochi medal ceremony where Lizzy Yarnold received her gold medal (Sport, February 15), Clare Balding questioned the rather odd version of the British national anthem that was played. She was later informed that it was exactly the same as had been played at the London 2012 Olympics – more’s the pity.
What a shame that that version was exported to Russia. It has a quite awful linking passage that sounds as if it was written for Sparky’s Magic Piano, scored for a kazoo. It is the last legacy that should have been handed on from London.
A H W Izod
SIR – Over the past few weeks we have heard plenty from those affected by the floods about their “rights”, which extend, it seems, to a disproportionate share of public funds to protect their homes. Now we are about to have Flood Re – a scheme set up to help insure high-risk homes.
Those of us who insure our homes and live on elevated ground have already been subsidising those who live on a flood plain, as there is no distinction when it comes to premium calculation. The only exception is where there has been flood damage to a property before. Insurers do not allow those who live on hills to refuse cover for flooding even though there is no risk.
Now we are to subsidise further those who choose to live next to a river, to enable them not to bear the full cost of insurance premiums based on the risk they present. Isn’t one subsidy enough?
G M Lilley
SIR – As a technical director on flood management, I am aware that the amount of money that the Government will contribute to flood and coast protection is based largely on the number of residential properties, and therefore people, at risk.
The number of properties at risk of flooding on the Somerset Levels is relatively small, and the long duration of flooding is not covered by the rules. There is a larger number of properties at risk on the Thames between Windsor and west London. However, they are spread over a large area, and the cost of protection is high. The floodplain soils are permeable and simple walls along the banks of the Thames would not be effective. According to Treasury rules, the Government can contribute about half the cost of the Environment Agency’s Lower Thames Strategy for reducing flood risk. The other half, more than £200 million, must come from other sources.
It may not be possible to provide flood protection schemes for these areas unless the rules are changed. An option is to increase the resilience of the affected communities during future floods.
SIR – Little did I imagine in 1974, when I was completing the drawings for the hydraulic cylinders that operate the Thames Barrier, that 40 years on our company would be complimented for its “superb engineering”. The cylinders were manufactured in Yorkshire. We had to store them for four years during the usual site delays, but we now have good cause to “give thanks for the Thames Barrier”.
Tips for Tube travel
SIR – Last month my husband and I went from Yatton, Somerset to Paddington, London. We bought our First Great Western rail tickets, including Tube fares for zones one to six, online in advance. We had trouble-free transport all day. Clive Witcomb should purchase Oyster cards for his party. He can both buy them and top them up online.
SIR – Taking photographs of one’s food in a restaurant is not always a bad thing. My sister-in-law, on being served a microscopic pot of crème caramel for her pudding, was so amused that she took a photograph of it. The manager, witnessing this, immediately offered her a much larger portion.
Scottish or British
SIR – I am proud to have been born in Scotland to an Italian father and English mother, and have spent the majority of my life in England. I consider myself to be British with a Scottish birth certificate. I have no right to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence and feel disenfranchised.
Should the referendum lead to independence, I assume I will become a Scottish citizen whether I like it or not. Will I have dual nationality?
I am quite happy with my British passport and citizenship, and consider it an imposition if constitutional matters are changed unilaterally by a minority vote of the British population in Scotland.
SIR – If Scotland were to vote for independence and go ahead and establish its own currency, what would it be called?
Perhaps it could be based on the historic bawbee, which my trusty 1954 New Imperial Reference Dictionary tells me was named after its inventor, the Scottish mint-master Alexander Orrok of Sillebawbe, in 1538, when it was a silver coin worth three Scots pennies. The basic unit might be the New Bawbee or Sillebawbe, and one hundredth of a New Bawbee would be worth an Orrok.
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
SIR – The Roman world to which the Christian Gospel first came was multi-faith, multicultural and sexually “liberated”.
If early Christians had taken the current Archbishop of Canterbury’s advice that the Church undergo a massive “cultural change”, the Gospel would have sunk without trace.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – In the Fifties, my father travelled by train to Preston to watch Preston North End versus Manchester United.
He boarded a bus outside Preston station to travel to the Deepdale Stadium, and was joined by Tom Finney, who was playing in the match that afternoon. He was carrying his boots in a canvas bag.
A starring roll for all the liturgical seasons
SIR – In the good old days, most supermarkets sold toilet rolls in the full range of liturgical colours (Letters, February 18). A priest friend of mine used to change them with the seasons, so his loos would sport green for the season of Trinity, purple for Lent and Advent, and pink for saints’ days. Alas, this practice has largely died out and white predominates, so it is Christmas all year round.
SIR – Perhaps Michael Draper (Letters, February 17) should nip over to France for blue toilet rolls. Last year in Provence I came across toilet rolls in all manner of colours, including black. It may be cheaper than redecorating his bathroom.
SIR – My sister brings me green loo rolls from Rome; maybe the Italians also sell blue ones.
E F Stokes
SIR – I have found blue loo paper extremely hard to find for the past two years. I used to buy pale green, but that disappeared, so then I changed to pale blue paper.
There are shelves and shelves of beige and white – obviously for a lot of boring people with boring bathrooms.
SIR – During my 28 years in America, I was never called upon to conduct a study of the usage of coloured versus white loo paper.
However, I can assure Dr Wynne Weston-Davies, from personal observation, that a significant percentage is, in fact, paper of color (non-U, of course).
SIR – My heart goes out to all those who struggle to find loo paper to match their sanitary decor. I know the problem. My bathroom is brown.
First, although individual patients’ names will not be included in the centralised record, there is enough other information to allow many individuals to be identified by their illnesses, postcode and other information. Data-mining software is sophisticated enough to pinpoint individuals who may be subsequently identified by organisations.
Secondly, this potential breach of privacy will lead to patients being reluctant to share sensitive information with the very medical professionals who may be able to help them. The obvious consequence of this is that the quality of their care will diminish as conditions and illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated.
Case law has already found that to preserve confidence in the medical profession, it is vital to respect the confidentiality of health data. The 2008 European Court of Human Rights judgment (I v. Finland) found in favour of a nurse whose career was compromised when details of her illness were leaked to her hospital employer.
That judgment stands. The Government should strengthen the rules on opting out and limit data entering the database that could lead to personal identification.
19 Feb 2014
19 Feb 2014
Tristram C Llewellyn Jones
Ramsey, Isle of Man
SIR – Scaremongering over the supposed privacy risk of an NHS database has been going on for years and has seriously held up progress on delivering a 21st-century joined-up health care service.
A centralised, anonymised database that can be mined for medical research and used for insights into patient demographics and disease trends is essential for deploying our scarce health-care resources across the country. It is also important that authorised care providers can have access to individual patient records in order to deliver improved patient care.
More and more personal data is being joined up and shared for the benefit of society. Just look at the move to online services in banking, insurance, tax and shopping. Individuals may be identified from the database occasionally, but should this really stop progress that will enable improved health care for millions and save money for the NHS?
Fontmell Magna, Dorset
SIR – I have yet to find anyone who has received the information from NHS England regarding the national database. It is now only five weeks before the deadline. NHS England say the matter is in the hands of the Royal Mail.
We should not need to visit our GPs’ surgeries to obtain the information necessary to opt out.
Sir, – If we are to begin to solve the issues of housing shortages, social housing waiting lists and pressures on homeless services, we need a fundamental shift in how we view and approach housing provision. The Minister for Housing and Planning Jan O’Sullivan announced recently that she intends to establish a cross-departmental team to review and create a sustainable housing-led solution to homelessness. Surely that high-level group’s first function must be the creation of a national housing strategy which has, at its core, the right to a home?
This weekend the Constitutional Convention will also review the issue of economic, social and cultural rights which includes the right to a home. Ireland has an obligation to make gradual progress to achieve the economic, social and cultural rights the UN International Covenant on provides for, however, almost 25 years since it ratified the covenant, we have yet to realise that while not everyone can afford one, everyone has the right to a home. – Yours, etc,
Peter McVerry Trust,
Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1.
Sir, – There have been endless reports and strategies; and massive funding has been spent in recent years on the development and provision of services for people who find themselves homeless. Yet it is impossible for members of the public to find out what services are available and even for those providing services in this area. It has now become increasingly difficult to know who has responsibility for what in the area of homelessness.
We can, in our capital city, inform the public as to where car spaces are available, yet the information about bed spaces is impossible to find. Freefone numbers are not worth the paper they are written on if people cannot get through and those tasked with the difficult job of answering the phone have no beds to offer.
Thanks to journalist Carl O’Brien for informing the public (Home News, February 8th) on the role of the Civil Defence in the provision of emergency beds. This information was only made available to some agencies and certainly not to the general public. Concerned citizens increasingly come up against brick walls when attempting to help their fellow human beings. – Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder,
Bride Road, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell (Life, February 19th) describes recent research published by John Cacioppo’s laboratory in the University of Chicago, reporting that lonely individuals were twice as likely to die as non-lonely counterparts during the six-year study. Cacioppo’s laboratory has an international and deservedly stellar reputation; however, similar research is also being conducted closer to home.
Here at the NEIL (Neuroenhancement for Independent Lives) programme at Trinity College Dublin we are conducting novel research into how we can develop strategies to intervene upon social isolation and loneliness among older adults. While studies such as Cacioppo’s are important in demonstrating the link between loneliness and health, it is also incumbent upon researchers to devise ways, as O’Connell says, to create opportunities for social engagement.
The study, entitled RelAte, combines nutritional and social support for older adults who are living alone. We are in the process of recruiting 100 older adults to take part in this study, and we have the help of 50 volunteers over the age of 50 to provide this support. The volunteers will visit the homes of the participants, to cook and share a meal with them, once a week for eight weeks.
It is hard to overstate the importance of research into loneliness. Loneliness is a health risk that is comparable to that of smoking or obesity (House, Landis & Umberson, 1988) and it is crucial that future health policy reflects this. See www.tcd.ie/Neuroscience/neil/research/relate.php – Yours, etc,
Dr JOANNA McHUGH,
Trinity College Dublin,
Sir, – In your Editorial (February 19th) you criticise the absence of clarity and certainty in the debate, and go on to refer to bickering between Ministers, citing by way of example an alleged conflict over GP services for the under-sixes.
For the sake of the clarity and certainty you rightly advocate, perhaps you would correct your own wholly inaccurate claim that I had suggested a GP attendance fee for children under six was possible. I have never made any such suggestion. It follows that Minister for Health James Reilly has not rejected such an approach, because it has never been proposed.
In fact, the only suggestion that has ever been made of such a charge has been in your Editorial. There will be no charges nominal or otherwise for GP services to children under six. – Yours, etc,
ALEX WHITE TD,
Minister of State,
Department of Health,
Hawkins House, Dublin 1.
Sir, – The initial draft contract proposed for GPs to provide services under the free scheme, includes a “gag” clause. This prohibits GPs from making comment that might undermine the HSE. An important part of the role of a doctor is to advocate for the patient, and this may involve criticism of the HSE or others. It would appear that the HSE is above all concerned with protecting its reputation.
I will not be signing any contract which requires me to be silent in a situation where the patients are at risk. What is the HSE afraid of? – Yours, etc,
Dr CLAIRE GAUGHRAN,
Sir, – Here in the north west we are somewhat bemused at the perception that there is a housing shortage (Editorial, February 18th). Our towns and villages are overwhelmed by housing estates which, although left unfinished, contain large numbers of dwellings a small investment would bring to use.
The problem is that the economic recovery, welcome as it is, has been patchy and over-concentrated in the Dublin area. What we lack in this area are the employment opportunities to support those young people who, according to John Fitzgerald of the ESRI, are faced with the prospect of living with their parents until 35.
To avoid that fate, we can offer them the best of houses that can, in the current market, be acquired for less than €100,000, fine schools with spare capacity, sporting facilities in the form of golf, tennis, sailing, surfing, rowing, fishing, football, cycling, hill-walking, kitesurfing (and more) clubs all crying out for members and of course, the best little soccer club in the world to support. If that’s not enough, the landscape can just be admired.
Rather than continue to feed the growth of Dublin by constructing yet more houses and having to deal with the demands for services and facilities this will bring, what we need is to rebalance the economy with planned and controlled investment to provide the regions with the jobs they need. – Yours, etc,
Stephen Street, Sligo.
Sir, – It is one thing to endeavour to print a wide range of opinions in your letters section; it is quite another to print alarmist and misleading information about health. Declan Waugh (February 18th), deliberately or otherwise, is omitting the fact that fluoride has only been associated with brain development impairment at high doses (“Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”, 2012, Anna L Choi, et al). To quote that paper: “Such circumstances are difficult to find in many industrialised countries, because fluoride concentrations in community water are usually no higher than 1 mg/L, even when fluoride is added to water supplies as a public health measure to reduce tooth decay.”
A claim about an individual might encourage legally vetting a letter for libel before publication. Perhaps scientific claims require a corresponding approach? – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – How many times does it have to be pointed out (Declan Waugh, February 18th) that since the Republic introduced fluoridation in the 1960s the numbers of decayed missing and filled teeth in young adults has been halved compared to a similar population cohort in the North of Ireland where there is no fluoridation? QED. – Yours, etc,
FR BAIGEL (B Dent Sc 1961 –
Sir, – The new Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, unlike his predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, will not march in this year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade because of the parade organisers’ refusal to allow distinctly gay organisations, as opposed to individuals, to participate (Simon Carswell, World News, February 6th).
The parade committee regards the march, as well as the Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral, which precedes the parade, as a celebration of the patron saint of both Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York. Their right to control what groups can march in it, as well as to assert the distinctly Catholic character of the event, has been confirmed by the United States Federal Courts. Gay organisations have several parades specifically labelled Gay Pride Parades and can also participate in at least one other distinctly Irish parade in the New York area.
To insist on their inclusion in the Fifth Avenue parade would be comparable to requiring Corpus Christi processions to allow distinctly gay contingents if being conducted on a public thoroughfare. – Yours, etc,
JOHN P McCARTHY, PhD,
Professor Emeritus of
A chara, – How low have we fallen? For centuries we sent out missionaries to preach the Christian message to the world and incidentally did much in doing so to save civilisation in Europe. Now we are sending out and paying 28 members and representatives of the most godless government ever in this State to preach, what? Nihilism, with a begging bowl.
And spuriously they are doing so in the name of the man who brought the Christian message to us and was one of the great champions of Jesus Christ. – Yours, etc,
LIAM Ó LONARGÁIN,
Páirc Dhún an Óir,
Co Átha Cliaith.
Sir, – Rónán Mullen’s 900-word call for a “lucid debate” on the issue of marriage equality (Opinion, February 19th) spends, by my rough count, 840 words bemoaning the stifling of debate by his opponents, and 60 words actually alluding to arguments that could be made to support his position.
These arguments all refer to a supposed “redefinition” of parenthood by the marriage equality referendum; given a) the thousands of children currently being raised by same-sex parents, b) the proposed Children and Family Relationships Bill, which will likely deal with issues of gay adoption and surrogacy long before the referendum, and c) the existence of same-sex couples who (like many opposite-sex couples) wish to get married but have no intention of having children, it is hard to see this “redefinition” as taking place anywhere but in the Senator’s own head.
Might I suggest that if the Senator is so concerned with a lucid debate, and whether “conservatives” will be allowed to make arguments against marriage equality, he use his next opportunity to write an unchallenged 900-word article in the paper of record to actually make some? – Yours, etc,
Upper Grand Canal Street,
Sir, – Re Fintan O’Toole’s column (Opinion, February 18th) and references to gay marriage passim, it seems to me the cart is being continuously put before the horse and that validation of marriage is continuously and mistakenly assumed to be the job of the State.
I think it is axiomatic that anyone and everyone should be allowed to get married under the aegis of an institution, religion or belief of their own choosing. Anyone and everyone, hetero or gay, should be allowed to confirm their love for each other and plight their troth in an appropriately solemn setting with the blessing, specific or merely understood, of some appropriate celebrant/facilitator.
That any institution of religion would refuse to marry/witness the marriage of two people who have sufficient care for, and belief or confidence in, that institution seems somewhat counterintuitive, if not positively oxymoronic.
On the other hand, that anyone would want the cold eye of the State to confirm their relationship seems almost perverted. The State is indifferent to the hearts and minds of would-be wedders. It doesn’t give a fig about the genuineness of their intentions.
Perhaps if we put the horse first, it could be that the State should have no say in a marriage per se, but that where two people, married or not, have taken on the care of children [home grown or adopted] it is the State’s duty, and in its interest, to provide for the safe upbringing and financial security if the relevant child[ren]. – yours, etc,
Sir, – Regarding Patsy McGarry’s article (February 18th) about the London GAA team who joined my 1916 Walking Tour: while in the initial charge into the GPO on Easter Monday, 1916 there was only one woman, Winnie Carney, throughout Easter Week there were many women in the building. They included Elizabeth O’Farrell, Julia Grennan, Louise Gavan Duffy and at least 30 more who I regularly talk about on my tour. In light of attempts in the past to denigrate the role that women played in the Rising, it is incumbent on us all to ensure that this is not perpetuated. – Yours, etc,
Cypress Grove Road,
Sir, – Frank McDonald’s article on Waterford (Home News, February 17th), highlighted the inadequacy of current local government reform, as a large part of Waterford city and its catchment is in Co Kilkenny.
This applies even more strongly to Limerick, where Clare has a direct impact and Shannon is a recognised adjunct to the city, and this makes the regeneration of Limerick much more problematic as it draws development out of the city.
The other merger of North and South Tipperary makes no sense as North Tipperary is the Limerick city catchment and South Tipperary is the Waterford catchment.
We need regional governance, which can be put in place while retaining our historic county structure. Regional governance would be able to provide the full range of expert services, which many smaller counties cannot provide, indeed many central department services could be decentralised to the regions, as recommended by Barrington, rather than the problematic decentralisation undertaken in recent years.
In relation to Limerick and Waterford, the Mid West Region should comprise Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary and the South East, Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and South Tipperary and Carlow. – Yours, etc,
JAMES PIKE FRIAI,
O’Mahony Pike Architects,
Mount St Anne’s,
Sir, – Topic for debate among insomniacs. GSOC: Bugged or mugged? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Being married to Gerald Murphy (February 18th), may I point out that his dozing in front of the television is not a sin; it’s a blessed relief ! If nothing else, I can take control of the remote. – Yours, etc,
ANNE Mc GRATH,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
Sir, – With regard to over-coverage of rugby in your paper (Paul Regan, February 19th), I am all for it! We have little enough to be positive about these days, so more rugby, please.
Thank you, Alan Quinlan for a great article (Sport, February 19th). My blood is up and I’m ready for the English. Roll on Saturday. God knows we need “a lot of little victories”. – Yours, etc,
* Regardless of the fact that I am an avid reader of Mary Kenny, I was enraged and extremely disappointed after reading one of her recent articles which was published in your paper. In this article, she condemns modern Irish women and their “inability” to deal with unwanted sexual advances.
promoted the rights and views of modern, liberated women throughout the years? Ms Kenny now seems to be sliding towards the clutches of conservatism, where those who believe modern women are weak and feeble dwell.
In this particular article, Ms Kenny states that older generations of Irish women were confident and assertive enough to slap down unwanted advances, unlike modern women, who hide behind the legal system to fight their battles. As a 17-year-old who listens to her elderly relations regularly, I believe Ms Kenny is looking back on these years through rose-tinted glasses.
We are all aware that up until the last few decades, Irish women were branded as second-class citizens. Men ruled firmly with a rod of iron and any woman who challenged this authority was seen as a troublemaker.
Protesting against unwanted gropings by a local man would also lead to a female being dismissed as a troublemaker. As a result, most Irish women simply “put up and shut up”. Ms Kenny’s example of a suffragette defending herself against the unwanted advances of David Lloyd George in the 1920s was certainly not the norm, much as she would like us to believe otherwise.
Thankfully, in 21st-Century Ireland, women are no longer the mute, passive creatures they once were. They have opinions, voices, rights. One of these rights is the option of bringing sexual harassment cases to court. Why, Ms Kenny, do you have a problem with this, since you have campaigned for women’s rights for so long?
Thanks to the Irish legal system, women can now stand up for themselves against brutish and brawny males who won’t take no for an answer.
THURLES, CO TIPPERARY
WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN
* When I hear the Taoiseach and ministers saying we have turned a corner or there is evidence of green shoots in the economy, I laugh. How can we have turned a corner or be better off when this year we must pay a full property tax and imminent water charges, not to mention the rising cost of health insurance?
We were fed doses of this double-speak during the so-called Celtic Tiger.
We have less disposable income now than we had three years ago, so how can things be on the upturn?
As the saying goes – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
REHAB’S WAGES OF SPIN
* Rehab chairman Brian Kerr said in your paper: “We are satisfied that this is a competitive and fair remuneration for the person leading the Rehab Group.”
Well I say this to Mr Kerr – there is nothing fair or right about this remuneration and it only insults the intelligence of all the decent and generous people of this country. End of story.
GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL
UKRAINE FACING CIVIL WAR
* Ukraine is rapidly plunging into all-out civil war. The ruthless suppression of protesters is despicable. But as with Syria, Ukraine is being used as a pawn in the power struggle between the West and Russia. And while the West has no interest in stopping the bloodshed in Syria, it cannot allow another Kosovo-style war to unravel on its doorstep with far-reaching economic, human, environmental and social consequences.
The outpouring of millions of Syrian refugees into neighbouring countries has placed natural resources and infrastructure under an intolerable burden.
Spillover from Ukraine could be more disastrous with global powers fighting each other at close range. The global community should not walk away as it did in Syria.
DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB
LESS WORK IS MORE!
* Finance Minister Michael Noonan expresses the hope that tax cuts will generate additional jobs.
Work is dead. Thanks to modern technology we are free, free to live lives of leisure.
But we cannot let go or escape the ideology that we must “earn our bread by the sweat of our brow”.
Rejoice, be glad and generate more employment from less work.
TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO
ST PAT’S TAKES PRIORITY
* It is amazing that any mention of funding for special needs, medical cards, schools, hospitals, road upgrades or, more recently, funding for the flood damage, is met with immediate resistance from the Government – but the funding for various trips by ministers across the globe for St Patrick’s Day festivities, albeit for trade and investment, magically appears without fuss or bother.
It seems there is no limit to the Government spending where our public representatives are concerned. Slainte guys, agus go n-eiri an bothar libh go leir.
TRALEE, CO KERRY
COMPARE LIKE WITH LIKE
l In making the case for same-sex marriage, Gary J Byrne does not compare like with like. In the situation of heterosexuals, the inability to gift life is exceptional; in same-sex unions there can never be the possibility of progeny. That is the salient difference between these totally different unions. In both scenarios when procreation is impossible, other than by choice, there is reason for sadness and personal anguish.
It is in that realm of understanding that the debate should be conducted.
COLM O TORNA
GARRAN GHLEANN SCEICHE, BAILE ATHA CLIATH
BAD LAW IN BELGIUM
* When we look at what has happened in the Belgian parliament, which has seen fit to introduce euthanasia for terminally ill children, we can only appreciate the wisdom of our own Supreme Court in a relevant recent decision.
As legislation adopted in other member states of the European Union can influence legislators in other states, would it not be appropriate for Ireland to protest this Belgian action in the most vigorous manner possible? A state that fails to vindicate the rights of its most vulnerable citizens deserves to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights.
Would our very active Minister for Foreign Affairs turn his eyes to human rights abuses closer to home?
And would Amnesty International Ireland consider supporting him?
DOUGLAS, CO CORK
DITCH STERLING, SCOTLAND
* I do not understand why Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond wants to retain the pound and monarchy in an independent Scotland.
As a republican Englishman, I admire the way the Republic of Ireland has its own democratically elected head of state and, until it joined the euro, the punt.
Mr Salmond should grasp the opportunity and offer the Scottish people their own currency or join the euro, and an elected president, too.