22 February 2014 Month Off
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge has to ftake Sir Willowby to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, but end up I Shanghai by mistake Priceless
Last day of Peter for a month, boxes exchanged
Scrabbletoday I wins but gets under 500, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
Susan Hillyard, who has died aged 87, was the “First Lady” of the lost world of Abu Dhabi’s expat community before oil changed the region for ever; when she arrived in 1954, most of the emirate’s population had never set eyes on an English woman before, a potentially difficult situation she smoothed out through her cheery embrace of the emirate’s culture and people.
At that time Westerners of any description rarely visited the region, let alone a young Englishwoman decked out in trim skirts and cardigans, with a make-do-and-mend Home Counties demeanour and a beaming smile. Susan Hillyard, her husband Tim — a BP representative — and their daughter Deborah, were the first Europeans to settle in a city that had yet to become a hub for the oil industry. While Tim oversaw the construction of an offshore exploration centre and liaised with Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the ruling emir of Abu Dhabi — and his brother Sheikh Zayed Al Nahayan (later the first president of the United Arab Emirates), Susan Hillyard was left to settle into an alien environment where “civilisation” consisted of a kerosene-run fridge and a copy of The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide.
But she soon fell in love with the region. By the time BP struck oil in 1958, at the Umm Shaif offshore field, she had become a valued link between the closeted realm hidden behind the walls of the royal palace of Qasr al Hosn — with its veiled sheikhas and heady incense — and the gin-and-tonic set of émigrés and struggling oil prospectors.
She was born Susan Watt on May 2 1926 at Weybridge, Surrey. Her father Ronald Watt and grandfather, AP Watt, were literary agents and, aged six, Susan wrote a short play titled The Burglar which her grandfather sent to Rudyard Kipling (whom he represented). Kipling wrote back encouragingly.
She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College before going up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read Modern History and served as secretary to the university Conservative Association the term before Margaret Thatcher became its president. Coming down, she taught History, Latin and English at Jersey College for Girls, Châtelard School in Switzerland, and St Helen’s in Quebec.
On her return to England from Canada she was introduced to her future husband through a mutual friend. The “chemistry was instant”, she recalled. They were engaged within three weeks. After their marriage in 1950, the couple moved to Baghdad where Tim was working and where Susan taught English and History at Baghdad University. From there the pair set off, three years later, for Abu Dhabi.
When her husband first proposed the move Susan was taken aback. “Aberdovey?” she asked. “What is BP doing in Wales?” Correcting her, Tim, who had previously travelled around the Gulf, explained that they would have to build their own house and she would need to learn Arabic as soon as possible. “My eyebrows shot to the back of my head,” she recalled. ‘“Dead easy,’ said Tim, ‘You go to the zoo, stand in front of the camel enclosure, and when you can say ‘Ghuqghq’ like them, you’ve cracked it’.”
Their sea passage to Abu Dhabi took them via Dubai and Bahrain. When Susan attempted to wash Deborah’s nappies over the side of their dhow a large grey shark swooped on the dangling bait .
They arrived at night in September 1954, to the crack of a rife shot from a nervous port guard, and settled into the house that Tim had built on the edge of town. By modern standards “Bayt Al Yard” (Arabic for Hillyard’s House) was rudimentary: a whitewashed cube, its walls were constructed out of coral heads harvested by pearl divers — their porosity helping to keep it cool — and the water for the cement had to be brought from Dubai, the water in Abu Dhabi being almost as salty as the sea.
BP, they soon realised, were counting the pennies and conditions were harsh. “Life, in fact, was grim, not just for the inhabitants but for us, even though we were used to hardship having gone through the war,” Susan wrote years later. “There was no blood, but toil yes, sweat aplenty for eight to nine months of the year and tears of loneliness, despair, and, I hate to confess it, self-pity.” She was, however, resolved to make it work and so embraced the sunny side of her new life. “Moaning is tedious and laughter has much more to recommend it,” she declared.
Susan Hillyard was to become such a fixture at the court of Sheikh Shakhbut — where she struck up close bonds with the women — that she was present at a royal birth. When their English friend dangled the baby boy by his feet to drain fluid from his lungs (the practice of many an English midwife) the surrounding Arab women were aghast. Only when the new mother repeated the action did the group relax.
Susan Hillyard threw elaborate birthday parties for Deborah, for which scores of local children were rounded up by a BP driver calling out “Deborah’s Christmas, Deborah’s Christmas”. The young guests were treated to sweets and introduced to English party games (a special shopping trip to Bahrain was required). “I had got in 144 bars of chocolate and 144 balloons,” Susan remembered late in life — for the 288 children who played pass-the-parcel and tag on the sand plains outside Bayt Al Yard.
The family became an incongruous yet accepted part of the landscape. She recounted the story of a tradesman arriving from the Buraimi Oasis at the crossing to Abu Dhabi Island who greeted the guard in the traditional fashion:
“Peace upon you.”
“And upon you be peace. What is the news?”
“There is no news. By God, Al Yard’s [Hillyard’s] lorry is stuck in the sabkha.”
“In God’s name what a mess!”
“What is to be done? It is the will of God. At least there are no camels involved.”
The family left Abu Dhabi after the discovery of oil in 1958 as Susan was concerned that if they stayed longer Deborah would later find it difficult to integrate with English children. Tim’s BP postings took them first to Canada, where a second daughter, Susanna, was born in 1960, and subsequently Alaska, Libya and Australia, before returning to England in 1967. In the early 1970s Susan was a consultant to Shell Oil on a proposed project to educate 25 Muscati boys from Oman at a British boarding school.
Tim Hillyard died in 1973 and Susan subsequently settled in Derbyshire where she was active in the Anglican church and researched her memoirs. Before the Oil (2002) was a labour of love, written at the insistence of her old friend Sheikh Zayed who declared that she was “now the only person who clearly remembers Abu Dhabi as it was”.
Abu Dhabi was to change forever and Susan Hillyard was a great source of information on the city’s social history (she advised the British Museum and architects restoring the Qasr el Hosni). She returned to the city a final time in 2007 to find it unrecognisable from the small port she had known 60 years earlier. Until the end of her life she remained fascinated by the links between Western and Arab cultures; in her last days Susan Hillyard’s family sat reading to her from her own annotated copies of the Bible and the Koran.
Susan Hillyard is survived by her two daughters.
Susan Hillyard, born May 2 1926, died February 16 2014
I agree with most of Suzanne Moore’s rage against the awards (I’m sick of awards ceremonies, G2, 20 February) but if she had pressed the BBC red button on Wednesday evening and avoided the Brits she would have seen another side of our cultural life in the form of the Radio 2 Folk Awards. The designer gowns, six-inch heels and all the rest were replaced by comfortable jeans, loose shirts and the kind of pretty dresses you might wear to visit your gran. More importantly, the award winners displayed fine talent and a grounded attitude to life which will carry them far in their musical careers. Even the boot camp for the Young Folk Award nominees (shown on film) was a model of fun, hard work and a co-operative spirit. These awards didn’t have the glitz and the glamour associated with the ceremonies that Ms Moore was describing but they involved rounded personalities who represent an authentic voice in our arts scene in Britain.
• Dr John Boardman (Letters, 21 February) wonders when the idea of joined-up thinking between science and land-use policy will infiltrate Defra. I suggest that he doesn’t hold his breath. There’s no sign that authoritative, peer-reviewed science has recently had any impact on government policy on climate change, drugs, health, crime, national security, or anything else I can think of.
• How much time are employers expected to invest reviewing the 50-plus job applications submitted each week by a DWP claimant (Jobseekers live in culture of fear, 19 January)? A waste of everyone’s time.
Woodford Green, Essex
• Please let Scotland go (Letters, 17 February). If Scotland separates from the UK we English can have double summer time again and then my grandchildren can play out as late as we did in the second world war.
• Only 76 apologies to Scotland from England (G2, 20 February). The list of apologies to Wales will be a bit longer.
Wakefield, West Yorkshire
• Just picked the year’s first wild garlic leaves from the somewhat soggy banks of the River Irwell.
That it is mutual and communitarian and supports and finances left-of-centre political action are the historic principles on which the Co-operative movement is founded (Co-op Group accused of endangering political party, 18 February). This is the package. If members want to shop and get services from stock-market quoted retailers then they can. If members do not want to support left-of-centre political action then they do not have to join or shop at the Co-op. Chief executive Euan Sutherland’s quote “that in recent years the Co-operative has lost touch with its customers and members [I note he puts ‘customers’ before ‘members’] and with the communities within which it operates – we haven’t been listening” is the kind of vacuous platitude expected from someone whose experience has been in stock-market quoted companies where principles are rare and often sacrificed for profits.
Encouraging members to dismantle the historic principles of Co-operative movement through a “what do you think?” questionnaire is absurd. I am not aware of any stock-market quoted company that has ever asked its customers if it should give the vast sums some of them do to the Tory party. The Co-operative Group appears to have been badly managed as a co-operative. Members are furious with what has happened to mutuality at the now so-called Co-operative Bank. If the group goes belly-up because of mismanagement, then kick out the managers, change the governance structure and retrench, but this does not mean co-operative principles have to be ditched.
Sutherland’s job is to manage the group as a mutual and a co-operative not, as is suspected, slim down some of the businesses for selling off. I am not aware that, since his appointment, he has introduced himself to members, made any statement that he is committed to mutuality and co-operative principles or written to members with his plans.
Dr Robin Richmond
• I appreciate the group is heavily indebted and know the board is formulating a strategy to allow us in the co-op to move forward – this to include consideration of all the society’s assets. We were encouraged that our insurance business is not now to be sold, but am anxious to ensure disposal of our Co-operative farms will not be considered. Some assets are, because of their finite value, more important long-term than others. We must protect our farms which could ultimately enable us to control the provenance and integrity of major areas of our food chain.
As the largest farmer in the UK, producing from Aberdeen to Canterbury, we are nurturing a priceless asset. We could lead in “sustainable innovation” and move from being Britain’s largest farmer to its “leading farmer”, demonstrating a long-term commitment to stewardship and the community, a beacon of sustainability. Land is finite, probably the most precious of resources. Once land is gone, particularly in UK, it is well and truly gone. Land holds the key to production of food, water and energy, and also control of the environment, fracking, and development. I have been assured that our farms are not being considered for disposal and we need to ensure this stance is maintained. We have it in our hands to restore public confidence in the quality of our food. We need to remind ourselves of our values and principles. Are we just another business or something very different? The decisions that are taken now will give the group the opportunity the show “our difference” and bring us back to where we started.
• I filled in the questionnaire and there was no question that asked whether funding to the Co-operative party should continue. Had there been, I would have said yes – the Co-operative party is part and parcel of the overall Co-operative. The question asked was whether it is appropriate for “big business” to donate to political parties. To that I responded “no”. Big business is, for me, and for most people, organisations, often multinational, making huge fortunes on the back of the British taxpayer – not the small Co-operative movement donating a comparative small sum to the party which is part of the organisation. Should anyone interpret the question as referring to the Co-op’s support for the Co-operative party they are being deliberately disingenuous and could face a legal challenge.
• Letting go of structural links with the Labour party does not mean the Co-op has to abandon politics (Editorial, 18 February). It could return to being a movement influencing and enriching different mainstream political parties. Yes, it might have to work hard to get a hearing with the Tories, but then it has often struggled to gain support for co-operative principles at Labour conferences. As a lifelong Liberal who grew up in a co-operatively built house, I have often regretted my own party not challenging the 1927 link with Labour. If a former Bradford councillor has inadvertently encouraged a more open debate on the matter, so much the better.
Rev Geoff Reid
• I am a long-time member of both the Labour and Co-op parties. Now I find that the latter has more ideas on alternatives to private enterprise, namely co-operatives. Further, the Co-op party is less dominated by wealthy elites than the Westminster Labour party. Has the time come for the Co-op party to put up parliamentary candidates quite distinct from Labour?
• The Co-operative is to be congratulated on its online “Have your say” initiative to help inform the future development of its business and co-operation in the UK. Co-operatives are about collective action, where people join together to find practical solutions to their everyday problems. How can the conversation include the 25% of citizens who could benefit from Co-operative structures and approaches who do not have internet access?
What is it Ivor Mitchell (Letters, 15 February) thinks parents ferrying their children to school in cars will be doing after dropping them off? Driving home and sitting on their sofas eating chocolate biscuits? Sadly, I don’t have time to spend 40 minutes walking to my son’s school and 40 minutes walking back because I have to work, keep up to date with ever-increasing professional demands, food shop, cook healthy food from scratch, clean the house, wash the clothes, sort the recycling, tend my garden to encourage wildlife, do voluntary work, keep up with modern technology to make sure my children are safe, keep in touch with my elderly relatives, check my bank statements to make sure we haven’t been scammed, regularly switch our insurances, utilities, bank account and credit cards, keep up to date with politics so I can vote in an informed way, make sure my kids are doing their homework so they will have a hope in hell of getting a job, have a social life, have a sex life, get seven hours sleep and all the many other things that responsible parents and adults are expected to do these days. Gone are the day when you could just push your kids out the door and send them on their way.
Have you taken a flight anytime in the last decade, Mr Mitchell? Do you buy food from your supermarket that has been flown around the world? Do you buy products using palm oil, such as raisins and soap, which are contributing to mass deforestation? Are you consuming products made in China, where new power stations is being built at an alarming rate? Maybe you should look at your own lifestyle before pointing the finger at other people? Finger pointing – very thinly and smugly disguised as irony.
Local politicians must take action to protect provision of quality for young children. We are profoundly concerned about the widespread loss of local early years provision of quality and the resulting harm to children and their families. We understand that the resources available to local government are being reduced, and therefore difficult decisions must be taken. But we urge local politicians to protect early years provision, which can have a lifelong, positive impact on young children and their families. Otherwise, we will all pay in the long-term for cuts being made in the short-term.
Since 2010, the number of children’s centres in England has reduced from 3,631 to 3,116; and some of these centres are information hubs open in name only – “half a person and a bunch of leaflets” as Naomi Eisenstadt, the first national director of the Sure Start Unit, has summarised the situation. The House of Commons select committee also reports that “many maintained nursery schools have closed in the last decade” (over a hundred in England) despite robust evidence to show that they offer the best outcomes to disadvantaged young children. The benefits of attending a maintained nursery school last right the way through the school system: their closure represents the worst sort of short-term thinking. The youngest and most vulnerable children are being harmed by these irresponsible actions.
Where is the quality for two-year-olds? Local government has a vital role to play in the successful delivery of the national programme to provide free nursery places for disadvantaged two-year-olds. We know children will only benefit if they attend a good-quality early years setting with appropriately qualified staff. So we are dismayed that some councils fund settings without a good Ofsted rating, and further dismayed by the cutbacks to training courses and to teams of early years advisers. Without training and ongoing support, how will quality be sustained and the poorest settings improve?
A recent report on summer-born children has highlighted the pressure being put on children and parents by local authorities and schools to enter reception class before the age of five.
All these short-term actions which damage children in their early years will have an upward impact as they go through their schooling. This in turn damages communities. Local authorities must do more than blame national government and the economic recession. We therefore call on candidates in the forthcoming local elections in England and Northern Ireland to stop cutting early years provision and pledge their support for the high-quality provision that will benefit young children and their families now, and for years to come.
Helen Moylett President of the British Association for Early Childhood Education, Prof Tina Bruce Marion Dowling, Retired Her Majesty’s Inspector, Bernadette Duffy Head of Thomas Coram Centre for Children and Families, Prof Aline-Wendy Dunlop, Jean Ensing Retired HMI, Professor Chris Pascal, Rosemary Peacocke Retired HMI Prof Iram Siraj, Lesley Staggs Retired national strategies director of early years, Prof Kathy Sylva, Prof Colwyn Trevarthen, Denise Hevey Emeritus professor in education, University of Northampton, Anne Nelson National Association for Primary Education, Wendy Ellyat Save Childhood Movement, Jo White Headteacher/head of centre, Portman Early Childhood Centre, Dr Margy Whalley Director, Pen Green Centre for Children and Families and Pen Green Research Base, Ben Hasan Chair, National Campaign for Real Nursery Education, Jane Payler Chair, Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators, Pamela Calder On behalf of The Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network, Melian Mansfield On behalf of Early Childhood Forum, Nancy Stewart Early Learning Consultancy Emeritus professor Tricia David, Nick Swarbrick Oxford Brookes University, Dr David Whitebread University of Cambridge, Beverley Nightingale University Campus Suffolk, Rosalind Godson Unite/Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, Penny Webb Proprietor of Penny’s Place Childminding, Kathryn Solly, Edwina Mitchell On behalf of OMEP, Michelle Melson, Chris Palmer Chair of trustees of Centre for Research in Early Childhood, Birmingham (CREC), Maureen Saunders Trustee of CREC, Sheila Thorpe Trustee of CREC, Professor emeritus Philip Gammage Trustee of CREC, Professor emerita Janet Moyles
Suppose you are wealthy and have £3m to stash away; you have several choices. You could buy gold, which will cost you around 1 per cent to store and insure – £30,000 a year; or you could buy property in New York State which will cost you around 1.5 per cent in taxes – £45,000 a year. Or you could try a London property, costing you around £2,000 a year in band H council tax, £1,000 a year if you are clever enough to keep it empty. Which would you choose?
The answer is obvious: simply charge taxes the way that most other countries do, as a percentage of value. This would send most of the parasites rushing out of the country and would push down London prices drastically.
Most of us would see our council tax remain the same, or go down, and councils would have enough money to take care of the local community.
The rather silly “mansion tax” would be complicated and full of loopholes, collect less and benefit central government rather than the locality in which the property is located.
John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire
Ed Miliband’s declaration of war on housing shortages is his latest in a series of welcome moves to win the young vote. Housing is arguably the biggest issue for today’s young. There are not enough homes out there, particularly in urban areas and London in particular. Prices are too high, first-time mortgages impossible and rents (the only other option) unaffordable. At the same time, young people are feeling the fall in real wages far more than other demographics.
As Miliband identifies, this is bad news all round for the UK. If young people can’t get a foothold in the cities, businesses are denied access to their life-blood.
Miliband has identified an area where he can make a play for an electorate still very much up for grabs ahead of the 2015 election. The Conservatives continue to prioritise their 45-65 year-old sweet spot, while the Lib Dems have failed to recover from reversing their promises on tuition fees. Despite Labour, and Ed Miliband especially, spending much of the last few years struggling for an identity, they may just have stumbled across one by standing for the interests of the young.
George Baggaley, Director, @NextGenParty, London SW12
How outsourcing cripples government
Andreas Whittam Smith (21 February) is so right to call for an end to outsourcing.When the practice started, government was naturally seen to be the “intelligent customer” for the services provided. Four decades later, an unintended consequence of privatisation and outsourcing has been a catastrophic loss to government of institutional memory and intelligence.
The need for public interest institutions to fill the gap is now blindingly clear.
Bill Bordass, London NW1
The invented ‘crime’ of blasphemy
The various Muslim signatories, including Sadiq Khan, (report, 20 February) rightly condemn the imposition of the death penalty upon Mohammed Asghar on trumped-up charges of blasphemy. They conveniently focus on the execrable human rights perspectives of this appalling case but ignore its underlying theological dimensions.
What the Pakistani clerics and their Wahhabi-Deobandi paymasters must be told in no uncertain terms is that nowhere in the Holy Qur’an is there any scriptural foundation for blasphemy. The “crime” of blasphemy is an invented doctrine originating from a toxic fusion of questionable hadith (prophetic sayings of Muhammad) and perverse ecclesiastical opinion (ijmah). Neither of these secondary and often suspect sources can override the primacy of Islam’s divine text, which repeatedly says that Almighty God is exclusively responsible for everyone’s spiritual destiny. And not some over-zealous Pakistani court.
Therefore, leading British Muslims should be less pusillanimous and more proactive in exposing the twisted theology of a corrupt Pakistani religious fraternity, instead of only denouncing the ultimate legal sanction that now faces this poor elderly British citizen. It would be better and more effective to wage a combined human rights and theological campaign to secure the release of Mohammed Asghar, rather than just appealing to the good conscience of the Pakistani authorities to defer the death sentence.
Dr T Hargey, Imam and Director, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford
The joke about German cheese
I was very pleased to see an article extolling Germany as a tourist destination and how to get there by train (The Traveller, 15 February). I have been visiting this beautiful and friendly country for over 40 years and it saddens me that so few people form the UK take the trouble to find out what Germany is really like.
In mentioning various delicacies I really think you should have mentioned Handkäs mit Musik in Frankfurt. This consist of a very low-fat cheese, the portions of which are moulded by hand during manufacture. It is served with bread and a sauce made from chopped raw onion.
It is, of course, best accompanied by Ebbelwoi, which is the dialect name for apple wine. The combined effect of this and the raw onions on the digestive system manifests itself a few hours later. Hence the Musik. Who says the Germans haven’t got a sense of humour?
Donald Payne, Tipton, West Midlands
Misleading ‘fair tax’ badge
The so-called “Fair Tax Mark” has no basis in fairness whatsoever (Ben Chu, Outlook, 20 February). If it is used in marketing literature by companies that happen to be marked as compliant, it will mislead some investors and consumers into believing that these companies are somehow better than those which prefer not to waste time on such subjective and unscientific badges.
It is for politicians to enact tax laws which provide the appropriate balance between collecting taxes to meet essential public expenditures and ensuring that the country is sufficiently attractive to entrepreneurs and global investors.
There are many wholly acceptable reasons why some companies, and, yes, even multinational companies, pay less tax than a cursory glance at their accounting profits might suggest. The reasons are more often than not complex, and are always incapable of being reduced into a mark out of 20.
I’m afraid I have to disagree with your columnist; this “mark” is certainly not “pro-business”.
Stephen Herring, Head of Taxation, Institute of Directors, London SW1
Give councils power over their money
In his column on 12 February Oliver Wright discusses devolution of power outside London, looking back to the powers of Joseph Chamberlain in Birmingham. He identifies the problem as the calibre of locally elected officials.
But who would want the role when council income is tightly restricted by Whitehall and central government will try to micromanage the frequency of refuse collection? Elected mayors and police and crime commissioners do not devolve power; they are merely a distraction. Years of experience have taught me that proposals to increase devolution more often have the opposite effect.
Devolution will not happen until finance is devolved and government grant is less than local tax income. Until then we will get over-zealous enforcement of parking regulations and other ways of increasing local authority income.
The City of Nottingham has part-financed a tram line extension from a levy on business parking, but that is an exception. It would be interesting to know why it succeeded while schemes elsewhere failed. The city rejected the option of a mayor, so the reasons lay elsewhere.
Vaughan Clarke, Colchester, Essex
Sir, A couple of years ago I found my 17-year-old son and three friends breakfasting after a sleep-over. All four had had or were about to have major shoulder reconstruction surgery as a result of rugby injuries. Having seen frequent paramedic, ambulance and air ambulance emergency responses at youth rugby tournaments, I ought not to have been surprised (“Fearful parents are forcing their children off the ball”, Feb 18, and Simon Barnes, Feb 21).
Professional players are very fit but still get hurt. Youth coaches (and touchline parents) urge their players to show similar speed, commitment and aggression. However, children are much less well prepared. No wonder serious injuries result and parents become protective.
Aston Upthorpe, Oxon
Sir, Rugby can be a healing sport, not a hurtful one. My elder son was overweight, dyspraxic, prone to emotional outbursts and shunned by his peer group. Unlike any other sport, mini club rugby, which encourages all sizes, personalities and abilities, gave him a place where he was valued, encouraged and eventually lauded by his teammates as a tenacious prop.
The value this gave to his life was beyond measure. I now have an active, confident and outgoing son at university. Most of this change in his early outlook was as a direct result of his participation in mini rugby.
Sir, Professor Allyson Pollock’s work shows that a young person has a 20 per cent chance of being injured in a full season of rugby. Mr Henderson of Bristol says that his experience of coaching and refereeing does not bear this out (letter, Feb 19). When I played rugby at school I sustained a fracture every other year, on average. I once had two fractures in one game, although I still finished it. My experience on its own would give a figure in excess of 20 per cent.
However, I do realise that no single individual’s experience can give a full picture of the risks.
Sir, The more a child is shielded from risk today, the harder it will be for them to make safe and informed decisions tomorrow. Minor knocks and spills are powerful teachers — especially about the threats and opportunities posed by time and gravity, but also about our friends. The consequent damage to our bodies (and sometimes to our pride) is an essential part of learning and growing. The main danger comes, I suspect, when children who have never been allowed to play in the streets, hills or woods suddenly have to deal with hitherto unknown risks. The later they learn, the more they are likely to struggle. Of course, the more skilled they become the harder they will push their luck, and so tragedies will always occur in our play and our sporting life.
Sir, Parents not letting their children play sport saddens me. My three sons, now middle-aged, played cricket, football and rugby at school. There were minor injuries and visits to A&E but no serious sporting injuries. On one occasion my middle son came home after playing a school match. When I mentioned that he had blood on his face he replied “I wondered why people on the bus kept looking at me.”
Changes to the system and the setting of targets mean that family law cases are being rushed and not prepared for properly
Sir, We are concerned by the case in the Family Proceedings Court (“Family court judges are ‘in cahoots’ with social workers”, Feb 19) about a baby reunited with the mother after an appeal in the High Court revealed a system of “rubber stamping” by the lower court. We are also concerned that a fellow psychologist apparently provided a report that was prepared in a day without having time for adequate investigation.
The Ministry of Justice emphasises that delay is to be prevented and cases are to be concluded within 26 weeks regardless of the circumstances of the case.
Local authorities and social services are scrambling to “front load” assessments so that when the case gets to court, it can be concluded as quickly as possible, preferably with minimal or no analysis from an independent expert.
In the rare cases where experts are being instructed, we are presented with ever tighter deadlines, less time in which to see families, lower fees, and often with instructions not to read all the documents, ie, we are not able to spend the time we know that is required to do the job properly. As a result senior experts are leaving this field in droves, and those who remain are at risk of developing excessively cosy relationships with local authorities, affecting their independence. We believe that this is unlikely to secure children’s best interests.
Dr Kari Carstairs
Dr Mair Edwards
Sir, Now that the skiing season is under way, I hope our recent misfortune will serve as a warning to others.
Travelling by train through the Valais region of Switzerland, we had to change at Visp. This meant going down to a lower level and then up again to the right platform. No lifts or trolleys, so we had to struggle with cases, boots, etc, and we were grateful for the offer of help from two polite strangers. In fact, they helped themselves . . . to our valuables.
The Swiss police told us that for three years highly professional gangs, usually East European, target hapless travellers. Although the offer of help with luggage is a known ploy, there are no warning notices, and we saw no police on the platforms.
I hope the Swiss authorities will address this problem with more urgency than they have hitherto.
Sir, The headmistress of my school decreed that learning poetry or Shakespeare should be always a pleasure, and so was unsuitable as a punishment.
Writing out lines was considered pointless and bad for handwriting.
If you were caught without your hat or beret or wearing it “inappropriately”, however, you had to wear it in school for the whole of the next day.
I don’t know if it worked but now I rarely leave the house bare-headed, and often wear a beret, but almost always at a rakish angle.
North Ferriby, East Riding
Sir, Whatever concerns Hilary Mobbs (letter, Feb 18) has about the short public consultation and proposed changes to Land Registry, it is clear from my experience over the past three years that the present system needs serious improvement when it comes to transparency and accountability.
In 2011 the Land Registry refused my sister and me title to more than half the land in our hill farm, which has been owned by our family since 1875. We discovered from searches that third parties (including our tenants who have been paying us rent for it for over 40 years) had been granted title to some areas.
Our requests (with payment) to Land Registry to see evidence of third-party ownership are repeatedly rebuffed by the Registry with the claim that it has failed to retain the relevant documentation. An electronic record without documentation is unjust and is an encouragement to fraud.
SIR – Colin Bond asks why Scotland wishes to throw away any independence by becoming a full member of the EU (Letters, February 18).
The answer is simple: the emotional driver is separation from England rather than real independence. England needs to understand this and to avoid a situation where, with “devo-max”, Britain could become like Belgium, with so much delegated to the separate nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) that nobody knows or cares if there is no central government for a year or more.
Le Biot, Haute-Savoie, France
SIR – Allister Heath (Business, February 19) makes a compelling argument on the economic issues surrounding Scottish independence. His closing proposal, however, suggests centralising monetary policy but devolving fiscal policy. Would this not recreate the problems of the eurozone on a smaller scale?
SIR – If Scotland achieved independence but failed to acquire EU membership, then would it be necessary for Scots wishing to work in England and Wales to obtain work permits? Quite what happens to the many itinerant Scots who already work in England and Wales is equally uncertain: would they be illegal immigrants?
P R H Preston
Dressing the part
SIR – John Bercow, the Speaker, has asked party leaders to curb “yobbery” at Prime Minister’s Questions. There is no doubt that the Speaker himself is the problem. His predecessors wore the robes of an office respected by MPs. He dresses like a prep-school master, and is treated as such.
Coming up for air
SIR – The best option for Clive Witcomb, who, on reaching London, had a long queue for an Underground ticket(Letters, February 17), would have been for his party of five to take a taxi for their short journey. This would have been cheaper than the Underground, even with Oyster or add-on fares, and quicker, and they would have had the luxury of a seat each.
Paper in the cigar box with instructions for use
SIR – Two of my paternal bachelor great-uncles ran a farm well into their nineties. The lavatory paper (Letters, February 20) was Daily Telegraph pages, cut into three vertically and folded into a cigar box.
However, a note on the lid declared: “The Editorial sheet [which was changed daily] is for reading purposes only – to be placed back on top in the box.”
SIR – I am obliged to carry sheets of white toilet paper with me at all times as I am excruciatingly intolerant of the dyes used in coloured paper.
Barbara A Southward
Southend on Sea, Essex
SIR – I remember a retired gamekeeper and his wife living up in the hills who always had a bucket of dried hay.
SIR – Anyone who matches the loo paper to the colour scheme ranks with those naff people with a fluffy cover for the seat.
SIR – As a joky Christmas present, I gave my future son-in-law a roll with sudoku on each sheet. I wonder how long he spends in the little room.
SIR – If anyone sold blue paper with a ring of 12 gold stars on each sheet, I’d buy it.
SIR – My wife places the roll on the holder with the loose leaf against the wall. Initially this was accidental, but after raising it, I think she now does it maliciously.
SIR – As an Englishman, I shall rather miss rooting for Scottish curlers at the next Olympics if Alex Salmond has his way.
Mannings Heath, West Sussex
SIR – Could someone, please, please, invent extreme curling?
SIR – As landscape architects, architects, engineers, hydrologists, ecologists and other specialists with the experience necessary to tackle flooding, we would like the Government to be aware that the expertise of our professions is available and, we believe, urgently required.
While we are pleased to hear that the Prime Minister will provide leadership and funding, it is essential that government actions are based on best practice developed over many years.
Water management techniques could have helped prevent the effect of flooding on villages, towns and over surrounding land seen recently. Emergency measures are in order for the immediate crisis. But in the long term, the management of water requires a clear strategy.
We need to look at how forestry, land management and soft-engineered flood alleviation schemes can hold back water in the upper reaches of rivers, and how dredging may assist in the lower reaches.
We need to fit sustainable drainage systems comprehensively for existing buildings and all new buildings. Buildings and land that cannot be properly protected should be made resilient to withstand flooding. All new housing on flood plains must be resilient when built.
Co-operation is needed between the professions, the water companies, internal drainage boards, local authorities, the Environment Agency, and Natural Resources Wales. They must all work with landowners and residents to be effective.
In the Environment Agency are people experienced in addressing these problems, as there are among the members of all our organisations. We need to mobilise that joint expertise.
We are asking David Cameron to convene without delay a cross-departmental conference, including the professions, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Communities, the Environment Agency and National Resources Wales, similar to the one convened to address the problem of ash dieback.
S E Illman
President, Landscape Institute
President, Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
Chair, Institution of Environmental Sciences
Executive director – policy, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment
Chief executive, Institute of Chartered Foresters
Chief executive officer, Institution of Environmental Science
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Institute of Fisheries Management
Chief executive officer, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
Chief executive, Energy Institute
Chief executive officer, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management
Chief executive, Arboricultural Association
Dr Peter Spillett
President, Institute of Fisheries Management
Chief Executive, Institution of Agricultural Engineers
Professor William Pope
Chairman, Environmental Policy Forum
President, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
Council Member, Institution of Environmental Science
Print off, drop in, opt out
SIR – I too received no information about opting out of the new NHS database (Letters, February 19). But at a website called medconfidential.org one can print off an opt-out letter, sign it and drop it in to one’s GP. That is what I did.
SIR – Nul points in your letter heading (February 19) is not French, whatever fans of the Eurovision Song Contest may think. So I must pedantically award you nul point.
Professor Emeritus Peter Lack
To knot or not
SIR – You report that the sportswear giant Nike expects to release self-tying shoe laces by 2015.
If the technology could be applied to black bow-ties, I would be seriously interested.
I have known him since he was a toddler. His home circumstances were not settled and it was little surprise when, in his teens, he took the easy option of living “on the social” rather than qualifying himself for a job. Now he is in his late forties, still on benefits, still unqualified. He owns nothing and has no future. He is angry, aggressive, dishonest and deeply unhappy with himself and the world.
I often think that had he not been offered that poisonous choice when young, he would now be a happy and valuable member of society.
It also strikes me that the money wasted over decades on bribing him to be useless could have been far better spent on providing him a job. But the state, always ready to solve its immediate problems by throwing other people’s money at them, pre-emptively siphoned money out of the productive parts of society.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols should reflect that offering the option of a life on benefits amounts to tempting people to be useless, unhappy, pauperised failures. Many of us lack the strength of character to resist.
SIR – Have I got this right? David Cameron’s “moral mission” is based on the idea that the only way to motivate poor people is to give them less money and the only way to motivate rich people is to give them more money.
SIR – The universal opinion is probably that people should work for their living, but there are those who cannot.
I have encountered a woman who, having left a violent partnership, with her children, while pregnant, waited five weeks for any money to be allocated. When her child was born prematurely, her benefits were stopped pending reassessment.
She is one of very many cases of real hardship. Could Mr Cameron or Iain Duncan Smith explain how she and her family were expected to eat?
SIR – Archbishop Nichols says that some people are left hungry and destitute for weeks on end. David Cameron says that the safety net remains in place.
Which is it? They cannot both be right.
SIR – It seems that “the buck stops here” has truly died. Why should young people bother learning resilience (report, February 11), if leaders such as Nick Clegg blame incompetent officials for people being reliant on food banks?
Sir, – Am I alone in my scepticism that the universal health insurance proposal from Dr James Reilly is likely to represent good value for the citizens of Ireland? I can’t help but suspect that, as a former head of the Irish Medical Organisation, the Minister might have a bias towards protecting the interests of his profession.
The proposed system is based on that of the Netherlands. In 2011, the 12 per cent of GDP which the Dutch spent on healthcare was the highest in developed world after the US. During the same year, the United Kingdom provided universal healthcare to its people in the form of the NHS, while spending slightly less in GDP terms than Ireland (9.3 per cent v 9.4 per cent). Taking value for money into account, surely the UK health system is a better model to aspire to than the Dutch one? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Household charges, local property tax, universal social charge, next up comes water charges – the full range of delights that this wretched Government has imposed on struggling Irish citizens since they took over from Fianna Fáil in 2011.
Its latest proposal to further financially cripple the populace, for the good of our commercial elite, is explained in your Front page story (Martin Wall, February 22nd): “People who refuse to purchase mandatory cover for a basic package of health benefits would have the costs deducted from their earnings or benefits under confidential Government proposals for its new system of universal health insurance”.
Leaving aside the emotive words such as “mandatory” and “refused”, this latest escapade could end up costing the average citizen hundreds if not a few thousand euro per person per year and, although some citizens might still have elected to avail of our public health system this will no longer, essentially, exist. And of course, as per usual, we need to implement this because it’s “the norm across the European Union”.
Perhaps someone can explain to me what part of all of the above does not amount to effective dictatorship? – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly’s proposal for universal health insurance (Home News, February 21st) came as quite a surprise to me. That a health insurance package could cost an individual over €1,600 came as a shock. That it would be mandatory and could be deducted at source from the earnings or benefits of any dissenters almost sent me into palpitations.
This is more nanny-state interference with an individual’s right to choose. Many already struggle while contributing compulsory payments for their health care through PRSI and the universal social charge. Is the Minister so myopic he cannot see this? – Yours, etc,
Dunleer, Co Louth.
Sir, – I am reading the Sunday newspapers on February 16th and it feels like I am watching the Groundhog Day movie. The flashbacks and memories of the gardaí trying to frame me for a murder that didn’t happen aided with the help of Garda informants comes rushing back to remind me of the injustice committed against my family and I at the hands of corrupt gardaí, each day repeating itself over and over and at the stroke of midnight the nightmare starts over again and again. What has changed?
These are the issues that need to be addressed.
Garda reform and recommendations from the Morris Tribunal report need to be implemented.
GSOC: to be given the powers and properly funded by Government to be totally independent and no member of An Garda Síochána past or present to be allowed to work for the GSOC.
GSOC: to be given oversight powers of senior Garda management right up to the rank of Garda Commissioner when allegations of wrong-doing are made against senior Garda management. GSOC: to be given the same powers as its counterpart in Northern Ireland. GSOC: to be given the remit and powers to investigate complaints against the force from allegations made by Garda whistleblowers.
The establishment of new policing boards for each Garda district in Ireland to be put in place with proper powers to enable them to hold senior Garda management to account for policing and that the current joint policing committees be terminated. I have been a member of Donegal’s joint policing committee since 2009. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The former Garda inspectorate Kathleen O’Toole’s work over the five years she was in the job needs to be fully published.
Informants: oversight and constant inspections by an independent authority needs to be established concerning their operations and handling to ensure that no criminality occurs.
For example, after the Morris Tribunal, the Garda force was required to register informants under its Covert Human Intelligence Source system (CHIS). Informants are not supposed to be actively engaged in criminality. What watchdog ensures that the rules are not broken?
See Fr McVerry’s (Jesuit Centre for Faith & Justice) report (workingnotes.ie) on the Morris Tribunal in 2004 long before its conclusion and An Garda Síochána Bill 2004. It makes for interesting reading. See also Morris’s reports.
The problems that have been aired over recent weeks all stem back to the handling by An Garda Síochána of informants and the intelligence-gathering conducted through their flawed system CHIS.
We must have an independent oversight of the Department of Justice as this is where the heart of our problems lies and their relationship with the Minister and Garda Commissioner is questionable to say the least in a modern day democracy. Reform needs to happen here also.
The question that now needs to be asked is how many innocent people are in jail at the hands of corrupt gardaí. We need to stop this and begin to look at policing in the past, present and into the future so we can learn from our mistakes. Accountability.
Publish the Carty report (internal Garda investigation): this will show why we need reform of the Garda.
So what has changed? Nothing. The only thing that has changed is the gardaí have more power and what comes with more power, more abuse of power.
A threat to justice anywhere in Ireland is a threat to justice everywhere in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
FRANK MCBREARTY Jnr,
Lifford, Co Donegal.
Sir, – The Constitutional Convention meets today and tomorrow to discuss social economic and cultural rights in the Constitution. In 1937 the idea that people had economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, as we now call them, was well ahead of its time.
Is is hardly surprising therefore that basic social and economic rights are expressed as being directive as opposed binding on legislature. Article 45 starts by stating the principles of social policy in the article are intended to be of “general guidance” to the Oireachtas. Financial constraints played a part in ensuring these principles of social policy were non-binding.
What is surprising is that the right to a home or suitable accommodation is not mentioned in the principles of social policy. It cannot be that housing conditions in 1930s were that far beneath the radar.
Given the current crisis in housing, and the likelihood that it is going to get worse, I hope that the members of the Constitutional Convention see the merit of including in the Constitution a right to a home or suitable accommodation as a fundamental right, not just one which is of general guidance to the Oireachtas.
If the members of the Convention have any doubts about the need for a specific right to housing, which is binding on the legislature, I suggest they read Fr Peter McVerry’s very informative letter “Lack of help for the homeless” (February 21st). We have to give people in housing need more than just a sleeping bag.
Terenure, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – Olivia O’Leary (Opinion, February 14th) gave the best possible analysis of the parish pump politics with which we are afflicted in this State. However, all the blame must not be laid on the politicians, as the old adage has it; in a democracy we get the politicians we deserve. As anyone who has canvassed is well aware, the most frequent question is: what can you do for me?
With the new council set-up we have a good opportunity to modernise TDs to deal with national and international affairs: if there’s not enough to keep them busy, reduce their numbers. The parish pump would then be left to councils and the local property tax a council tax applicable to all householders.
Meanwhile a citizens advice bureau should be set up in each town to advise people of their rights. – Yours, etc,
Bunclody, Co Wexford.
Sir, – It is regrettable that the Alliance Party MLA Anna Lo has been subjected to a flood of racist insults over comments she made in regard to the flying of flags and displays of sectarian murals during the forthcoming Giro d’Italia cycle race in Northern Ireland. It is further regrettable, but not surprising, that some senior members of the DUP were not more supportive of the views expressed by the PSNI and the Alliance Party at the comments directed at Ms Lo.
Italian race supporters considering waving their national flag in support of their team should be advised to exercise caution. In 2012 leading NI victims campaigner Willie Fraser branded a school in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone as “the junior headquarters of SF/IRA” and “an IRA training ground” having mistaken an Italian flag flying outside the building for an Irish Tricolour. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Alliance MLA Anna Lo has worked hard for all her constituents and other people throughout Northern Ireland regardless of race, religion or political allegiances. She has always taken a stand against racism and sectarianism and it is extremely sad that she herself is the subject of racist abuse.
We will never have peace until we have a real shared society for everyone. To say that paramilitary murals and symbols should be retained as they attract tourists to Northern Ireland is a strange way to enhance tourism. We should not glorify the dreadful deeds done by paramilitaries and should feel shame if people coming from overseas regard this as what defines our country and makes it worth visiting.
I want tourists to come here to enjoy our beautiful countryside and the friendliness of most of the people without having to confront sectarian and racist symbols. – Yours, etc,
Cairnshill Avenue, Belfast.
Sir, – Every time I read an Irish newspaper I get a sense of déjà vu. Now we are being told that 3,000 people will be forced to work for their dole, with an extra €20 thrown in for their bus fare. They tried this scheme in the 1980s. I remember the shocked look on the Anco (as it was then) interviewer’s face when I told the person I wasn’t interested in its “work experience”, having spent one year as a “temporary clerical trainee” in the civil service. It was just a cheap labour scheme. I went to London and got some real work experience.
Then as now we have gutless, toothless trade unions giving the okay to these cheap labour schemes. Yes, nobody will be displaced, but people will end up doing real work for no money, undercutting working conditions. With trade unions like those, is it any wonder they country is in the state it is. What ever happened to them standing up for workers rights? They should instruct their members to have nothing to do with it. That means not dealing with those on “work experience”. – Yours, etc,
GEARÓID Ó LOINGSIGH,
Sir, – I want to thank Irish Rail for their excellent service to us passengers travelling on the 11am Dublin to Cork line on February 12th, the day of storm/hurricane Darwin.
The train stopped as expected at Mallow, but we were then told it could go no further because of debris on the line. We were told buses for those going to Cork would be available. However, we then heard that buses could not travel either as it was too dangerous and we were advised to stay on the train where it was warm. Mallow station itself had no power. We remained there for five hours where free food and hot drinks were available as long as supplies lasted, which was most of the time, I think.
A member of the train staff kept walking up and down the train sharing what small bits of information he had in a very good humoured way, and, as happens in such circumstances, conversations started up.
What really made the uncertain wait tolerable was the information we were being given informally and readily. I commend the staff for continuing to be at our service throughout the long wait. – Yours, etc,
Brian Dillon Park,
Dillon’s Cross, Cork.
Sir, – Brendan Behan must be smiling wryly that due to the “self-adhesive” stamp he has escaped having the citizens of Ireland lick his posterior (An Irishman’s Diary, February 21st) . – Yours, etc,
D O’SHEA ,
Sir, – It is amusing to observe those teasing suggestions that The Irish Times be rebranded as “The Rugby Times” or as Michael Durack more recently suggested “The Leinster Rugby Times” (February 21st). Personally I’m hoping that after today we would all be happy for the rebranding to be “The Grand Slam Times”! – Yours etc,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – The response of the Department of Social Protection (February 19th) to welfare payments to homeless people comes straight from the manual, but bears little resemblance to what is actually happening on the ground.
I know many homeless people who have been, and continue to be, denied welfare payments for weeks, even months, on end. Homeless people are routinely told that welfare payments can only be paid if they have an address, and to provide proof of their address, they must furnish receipts for several nights’ hostel accommodation. They are also expected to pay for their several nights’ hostel accommodation, even though they have not yet received any welfare payments!
Dublin City Council will no doubt reply that homeless people are not refused accommodation if they have no money. Again this is straight from the manual, but in practice, a homeless person who contacts the homeless helpline at 2pm (when beds are available) will be asked if they have money to pay for their night in the hostel and if they say “No”, they will be told to ring back at 10.30pm, at which time all the beds will have been filled.
Many homeless people, when they seek accommodation, are offered sleeping bags to sleep rough because there are not sufficient beds available. They, therefore, have no receipts and will not be paid. Others choose to sleep rough because much of the emergency accommodation available is full of drugs, their belongings are robbed, their dignity is destroyed. They feel safer sleeping on the streets. They, too, have no receipts and will not be paid.
There is a growing crisis of homelessness which is being ignored. More people will be unable to access a bed when the “cold weather” beds, which were provided several weeks ago, are closed down at the end of March. It is difficult enough being homeless without being penniless as well. To survive, they have no choice but to beg, borrow or steal. – Yours, etc,
Fr PETER McVERRY SJ,
Jesuit Centre for Faith and
Upper Sherrard Street,
* This year is the 100th anniversary of World War I and it is natural that there will be debates and arguments on the reasons for a war that led to the deaths of an estimated 10 million soldiers.
Also in this section
But modern war 100 years later is equally inhumane, with a civil war on an epic and vicious scale affecting civilians in Syria. Efforts by the UN and the US, urging both sides to end the conflict, have failed.
The war is three years old and last year the UN Secretary General said 100,000 people had been killed and 9.5 million had fled their homes within Syria. This is twice Ireland’s population.
This war has displaced millions of people from their homes, not knowing if they will ever return. Some are living across the border in tent cities in Lebanon and Jordan and others have moved to Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Irish and international charities are in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, but they can’t do it alone. The governments of the US, Britain, Kuwait, Australia, Japan, Russia, Norway, Italy, Finland, Canada and Ireland and other countries have sent aid.
The UN has repeatedly told the Syrian government to preserve the lives of non-combatant civilians and captured enemy forces in the regime’s attacks on what it believes are enemy bases.
Thousands of refugees rushed over Syria’s borders this month, claiming that they had been fired on by government jets.
Some say charity begins at home, but the Choctaw Indian people in the US looked into their hearts and sent money that they collected to our own humanitarian crisis in the 1845-49 Great Famine. They suffered, too, in their history.
President Mary Robinson remembered them at one of the many 150th anniversary of the Great Famine events in the 1990s.
COLLEGE ROAD, CORK
GOOSE AND THE GANDER
* So the Minister for Justice and Defence is being called on to resign and the Taoiseach and his Cabinet have expressed full confidence in Alan Shatter. What does history teach us about the current situation?
For that answer, one may look at Mr Kenny’s statement when the last minister to hold a similar position resigned from his post. It was, of course, Willlie O’Dea. Following Mr O’Dea’s correct decision to stand down, Mr Kenny said: “The refusal of the Taoiseach and his colleagues in government to demand any accountability for this behaviour was the reason that I tabled a motion of no confidence in Deputy O’Dea. Now that he has bowed to the inevitable, he leaves behind a Cabinet whose credibility is in tatters.”
He added: “This debacle raises fundamental questions about the Taoiseach’s willingness to enforce proper standards of behaviour in government.”
To my mind, one of the iconic photographs of the current Taoiseach’s tenure is the image of Mr Kenny chasing a goose. One wonders if Mr Kenny has ever heard of the saying “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
GROWTH HAS HAD ITS DAY
* I greatly welcome John Bellow’s response (Irish Independent, Letters February 21) to my assertion that “work is dead”. Mr Bellows disagrees with me but his challenge to my viewpoint is an indication that healthy debate on a most important aspect of our future might begin.
The 21st Century is a time like no other; no previous period in history was as successful for the human race. Far from it being a ‘low point’, it is the highest point, economically speaking, the world has ever experienced. The balance of supply and demand has swung greatly in favour of supply. Present economic ideology has no mechanism for restraining or controlling oversupply.
Oversupply adds to the present difficulty by eliminating the great driving force of economic activity through the ages. ‘Growth’ is no longer needed, or indeed possible, in a situation where production has already ‘grown’ to oversupply potential.
This requires urgent management and restraint if business and marketing are to survive and prosper and we are to avoid constant chaos.
* The news of Health Minister James Reilly’s proposal for universal health insurance (UHI) came as quite a surprise to me. That a UHI package could cost an individual over €1,600 came as a shock. That it would be mandatory and could be deducted at source from the earnings or benefits of any dissenters almost sent me into palpitations.
This is more nanny-state interference with an individual’s right to choose. Is the minister so myopic he cannot see this?
PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
TIME TO PUT A GSOC IN IT?
* Alan Shatter’s response to opposition questioning: GSOC it to me.
WESTPORT, CO MAYO
COLD WAR IS STILL WITH US
* The received wisdom since the fall of the Wall and the ‘dissolution’ of the USSR in the early ’90s has been that the Cold War is over. However, the recent events in the Ukraine have thrown up some interesting questions regarding whether or not the past truly is behind us.
Ukraine is at a crossroads, having come to a showdown between those determined to keep close to its old Soviet past and those who demand a closer future with the EU.
Furthermore, this issue highlights the extent to which the Cold War still exists in may ways between NATO and Vladimir Putin‘s modern, oligarchical Russia, a Russia ruled by super-rich ex-USSR men.
The idea that history moves in cycles is an old one and a relevant one.
CLARA, CO OFFALY
* Surely motorists who use their portable razors at the wheel are in danger of having a really close shave?
BEAUMONT, DUBLIN 9
TIRESOME VERBAL TICS
* Am I alone in detecting a proliferation of verbal tics in Ireland?
The single most overused verbal tic is the use of the phrase “I suppose…” It may well go something like this:
Presenter: “Well, I suppose, Minister, you are anxious to see an improvement in these figures?”
Minister: “Well, Mary (Sean, Pat, George…), I suppose we have to look at the whole background” blah, blather… ad nauseam.
Another is the widespread misuse of “absolutely”, when in fact, the person merely needs to say “yes”.
Again, some contributors insist on the reply of “correct” instead of a simple affirmative.
If we can moderate these verbal tics, I feel I’d be right in asserting that we could well eliminate supposition absolutely, oh… going forward.
WATERFORD COUNTY COUNCIL, DUNGARVAN
NO BARRIERS TO LOVE
* It is obvious that two women or two men cannot have a child together. But it is also obvious that often neither can one man and one woman.
Does anyone have a case that is not based on the Bible, personal feelings, or on a situation that can just as easily occur in a heterosexual relationship, for barring two people of the same sex who are in a loving relationship from marrying?
WOLLI CREEK, NSW 2205, AUSTRALIA