24 February 2014 Under the Weather
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. There is a spy in their midstPriceless
Very tired tidied upstairs. Both of us under the weather 1 book sold
Scrabbletoday Mary wins but gets exactly400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Beatrix Miller, who has died aged 89, was the exacting and benevolent longtime editor of British Vogue, who for two decades cultivated a hothouse of creativity at the glossy bible to high-fashion.
With quiet precision she steered the magazine with enormous success through the swinging Sixties, the fey Seventies, and into the hard-nosed Eighties with the same incisive intelligence and feeling for the moment, the same rigorous literary standards and visual discrimination that kept the magazine ahead of its competitors. But it was in her ability to help others achieve their aspirations that she found her forte. “What do you really want to do, darling?” she asked of leagues of impassioned writers, editors, photographers, models and designers.
Beatrix Miller (often known as Bea) was born on June 29 1924, the daughter of a country doctor. Educated abroad, including a period at the Sorbonne, she started her journalistic career as a secretary on the society magazine, The Queen (later Queen), eventually rising to the position of features editor.
After several years, however, she decided to broaden her horizons and in 1956 left to work in New York, where she was offered a job on American Vogue. Two years later she received a call from Jocelyn Stevens, the recently appointed proprietor of The Queen. “You don’t know who I am,” he said, “but I am ringing to offer you the job of editor of The Queen.” Half asleep, she dismissed the offer. “It’s 4am, you’re mad,” she replied and put the phone down. Eventually, after several further nocturnal requests, she was persuaded to return to England and, with the maverick Stevens and the accomplished artistic director Mark Boxer, formed part of a triumvirate which was to turn the magazine into a byword for wit and originality.
In 1964 she was asked to take over the editorship of British Vogue, a magazine which, at the time, represented a life lived in the drawing-rooms of Eaton Square and on the lawns of country houses. But English life had already become much looser, livelier and unconventional. It was to this new world that “Bea” Miller began to introduce the Vogue reader.
“Vogueland” she believed, was “relatively superficial but in the broadest sense it is the mood of the moment translated visually — the words people use, the books they read, the sounds they hear, the houses, they live in, the pictures they look at.” The magazine she created from this brief possessed a freshness and quality that was a particularly English version of glossiness. Opening the pages of one of her issues was like being invited to an exclusive party of the creative, the patrician, the exotic and the influential. Julie Christie, Charlotte Rampling, Joanna Lumley, Jean Shrimpton, Lady Antonia Fraser, Bianca Jagger and Michael Caine were just some of those who appeared in Vogue under her editorship.
Even in the demotic Sixties, however, she continued to attach great significance to the aristocracy and the Royal Family, and was prepared to hold back an issue from the printers to get in photographs of a noble wedding or party.
Often she had insider information. Sarah Spencer, the older sister of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was at one stage her secretary, while their other sister, Jane, worked in the beauty department. It was scarcely surprising that the 19-year-old Diana Spencer turned to Vogue for advice when she entered the public spotlight.
Unsociable and uninterested in her own personal style (though she always dressed in Jean Muir, her outfits were chosen by the fashion department), Beatrix Miller was not someone who herself craved the spotlight. Her strength as an editor lay in her unerring ability to spot and nourish the talent of others. “Bea Miller had a way of coaxing the best out of everyone,” said the model Grace Coddington.
She rarely took writers from other magazines but liked to discover and foster new talent. Some writers — like Marina Warner — she hired straight from university, but many others (Candia McWilliam, Georgina Howell, Helen Simpson, Leslie Forbes) were the product of the annual Vogue talent competition, which was her entrance examination to the magazine. On hiring editorial staff, she would appraise interviewees’ suitability by asking if they knew the work of the novelist Lesley Blanch (Vogue’s feature editor from 1937 to 1944).
She also had an eagle eye for those whose talents lay in images rather than words and she was fearless in her appointments and commissions. “I’ve got the photographer here for that idea of yours about men of back-stairs influence,” she told the journalist Adrian Hamilton in the late sixties. “Why don’t you come in and try to persuade him?” Her choice was the “famous and choosy” Henri Cartier-Bresson. She also despatched Cecil Beaton to photograph Roy Strong on his appointment as director of the National Portrait Gallery and ushered in a young, wayward David Bailey to becoming Vogue’s unofficial chief photographer.
Grace Coddington, meanwhile, stepped off the catwalk to become Miller’s unexpected choice as junior fashion editor. Miller interviewed her over lunch at the Trattoria Terrazza in Soho. “She seemed far more interested in what I was reading than in what I was wearing,” recalled Coddington, “I could sense myself being mentally marked down as a dimwit. Nevertheless, by the end of the meal I was recruited.”
Miller was a truly great patron because she would permit experiment but not madness, encouraging and understanding and at the same time knowing how far she could push them. She trusted her fashion editors to bring back something marvellous, but never wanted to know too much about how they managed it until afterwards. The downside of this liberal approach was that she was totally unimpressed by practical difficulties.
On one occasion Lord Snowden — a long-time contributor to Vogue — went to photograph the couture collections in Paris in a shoot which involved performing horses, forty-foot backdrops, all-night photography, and a model nearly getting killed. All Beatrix Miller said when she examined the result was: “The dress is no good”. The pictures were never used.
She could, on the other hand, be immensely supportive and would allow editors, against all received wisdom, their head and never allowed editorial to be dictated to by the demands of advertisers.
On retiring, in 1985, she helped set up a “think tank” with, amongst others, Sir Terence Conran and the designer Jean Muir, to provide a link between the government and the fashion industry.
Often likened to a headmistress (all but a select inner band addressed her at all times as Miss Miller), with her upright bearing, ample bosom, round Teutonic face and short, curly blonde hair, she was a quietly formidable presence. Witty and at times endearingly considerate, she avoided all show of ambition, effort or anxiety.
She never appeared on television or gave an interview, rarely attended public engagements and seldom entertained, preferring, when not at her Hanover Square office, to garden or read a book at her home in Chelsea.
Beatrix Miller never married. She was an intensely private and shy woman devoted to her career — a dedication that strove for nothing but the very best. “Legends collect around such editors,” commented one writer on Beatrix Miller’s retirement. “But I was there when one day she summoned 48 members of staff into her office and told us: ‘I want you all to know that, as far as I am concerned, the July issue is a write-off. There is a mistake on page 136.”
Beatrix Miller, born June 29 1924, died February 21 2014
We deplore the wave of violence from minority and extremist sections of Venezuela‘s opposition, that left three dead, 60 injured and saw physical assaults on government institutions, including shots and Molotov cocktails attacks on the state TV channel and a state governor’s residency (Jailed López tells his allies to keep fighting, 22 February). This followed a recently launched campaign by Venezuela’s extreme right for La Salida (the ousting) of the government of President Maduro before his constitutional mandate ends in 2019. La Salida is led by extremist politicians Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, who were both implicated in the 2002 coup in Venezuela. This is not the first time that the sections of the opposition have sought to oust the elected government by unconstitutional means, having lost at the ballot box.
We believe that while people in Venezuela have the right to protest – and that the Venezuelan constitution guarantees these and other democratic rights – this must be done peacefully. There is no justification for violent opposition to the elected government in Venezuela. We strongly support the statement of the Union of South American Nations that violence to seek to overthrow the elected, constitutional government is unacceptable. We join them in both condemning the wave of violence and in supporting calls for dialogue and peace.
Grahame Morris MP Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela, Colin Burgon Chair, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Ken Livingstone, Tariq Ali, Billy Hayes CWU, Peter Hain MP, Professor Doreen Massey, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Sandra White MSP (SNP), Ken Loach, Professor Julia Buxton, John Pilger journalist & filmmaker
Bruce Kent peace campaigner
Dave Anderson MP Labour
Michael Connarty MP Labour
Richard Gott writer & journalist
Andy De La Tour actor
Paul Flynn MP Labour
Roger Godsiff MP Labour
Ian Lavery MP Labour
Elfyn Llwyd MP Plaid Cymru
John McDonnell MP Labour
Chris Williamson MP Labour
Mike Wood MP Labour
Baroness Gibson APPG on Latin America
Murad Qureshi London Assembly Member, Labour
Professor Julia Buxton academic & consultant
Dr Francisco Dominguez Head of Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies, Middlesex University
Tim Potter Barrister & Haldane Society
I was pleased to read Jeremy Beecham’s trenchant comments on calling pay and bonuses “compensation” (Letters, 18 February). There is an even worse misuse of language that has even been seen in the Guardian: “high net worth”. People so described are wealthy; only some of them are worthy. Would that Simon Hoggart were still with us since he could lead an onslaught on such nonsense.
Professor Robert East
Kingston Business School
• Please do not include the 2.4 Children supplement (22 February) with the Guardian, even if it is independent. I’ve never witnessed such overt incitement of middle-class angst over private education, academic ability and the right clothes. Let the children be.
Saxtead Green, Suffolk
• Bullshit alert (Letters, 21 February) surely should not be about “difficult decisions”. They are always “tough”.
• Now Wayne Rooney’s wages are £300,000 a week (Report, 22 February) will he be taxed on PAYE like other weekly-paid workers?
• Heard from a commentator after one of the Olympic bobsleigh runs: “They’ve got a mountain to climb now.”
• Anyone else share Gilbert O’Sullivan’s outrage at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards being held the same night as the Brits (Letters, 21 February) or is he alone again (naturally)?
Britain in the 1930s was gripped by recession and unrest. In 1932, the “hunger marchers” headed for parliament with a one-million-strong petition. About 100,000 people gathered to meet them, but they were obstructed by thousands of police officers, including agents provocateurs masquerading as marchers and trying to incite violence. Journalist Ronald Kidd was in that crowd, witnessing the bloodshed first-hand. That’s why, 80 years ago, on 22 February 1934, he and a handful of friends – HG Wells, AA Milne, Vera Brittain and Clement Atlee among them – formed the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty.
They vowed to protect not only the right to peaceful dissent but “the whole spirit of British freedom”. Threats to freedom reappeared throughout the years. Each time, Liberty was on hand to hold the powerful to account. Its campaigns paved the way for a fairer mental health system, race relations, gay equality and human rights protections. ID cards were rejected and 42-day pre-charge detention defeated.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, Britain is again dealing with economic strife. Protesters take to the streets over legal aid cuts and against police violence. Undercover officers have infiltrated peaceful protest groups and even grieving families such as that of Doreen Lawrence. So Liberty, in its 80th year, is as important as ever, and resolves – with the help of its members – to continue to keep watch.
For the fight for the liberties of the people, as Kidd recognised, is the fight that is never done.
Shami Chakrabarti Director of Liberty, Ed Miliband MP Leader of the Opposition, David Davis MP, Tim Farron MP, Andrew Mitchell MP, Doreen Lawrence House of Lords, Frances O’Grady General secretary TUC, Caroline Lucas MP, Malorie Blackman Children‘s laureate, Ken Follett, Nicolas Bratza Past president, European court of human rights, Gareth Pierce Solicitor, Vivienne Westwood, Vanessa Redgrave, Jude Kelly Artistic director, Southbank Centre, John Sulston Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation
• David Hare (Where’s the rage?, 22 February) is concerned about the “quietism” among citizens in response to over-reach by the security services. As he surely knows, the problem goes deeper. The Blair government eroded the freedoms of speech and of assembly, the right to a jury trial, and habeus corpus. It also sustained a change made by the Tories eroding the right to silence by persons being questioned by the police – which undermined the presumption of innocence. And yet, as John Kampfner recently noted, opinion polls have persuaded Miliband’s Labour party that there is little to be gained by promising to restore these ancient rights. The bulldog breed has turned docile.
Professor James Manor
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
• Thirty-three children have died in custody since 1999. Are we really being asked to believe that the Youth Justice Board is only now waking up to the fact that there is room for improvement in the way we lock up these vulnerable children and then subject them to bullying and restraining techniques, and allow some of them to die? The promised review, to be led by Lord Harris (Report, 7 February), is concerned only with the death in custody of 18- to 24-year-olds. The problem of the younger children is to be swept under the carpet yet again. What sort of a government deliberately neglects the welfare of children?
• You devote three pages to the celebration of Liberty’s work in promoting liberty and human rights over the past 80 (Review, 22 February) but sadly none of your contributors show any awareness that their emphasis on such concepts reflects and sustains the neoliberalism that so besmirches contemporary culture. I grew up in a South Wales valley community where civil rights were not on anyone’s agenda in the 1930s; the concern then, as now, was for a democratic government to attend to the social injustices which prevailed. It is a long time since the historian RH Tawney warned that it is essentially the pike in the pond that benefit from freedom.
I agree with Kevin McKenna (“Memo to George: England’s bullying of Scots will drive us into the Yes camp“, Comment) that George Osborne’s statement rejecting a currency union is likely to alienate Scots further. But this has more to do with his manner and choice of language than with the substance of what he said. We Scots should be under no illusion that there will be any chance whatsoever that the rest of the UK will agree to share a currency with an independent Scotland.
McKenna asks with incredulity: “Does he [George Osborne] think English company bosses will accept the millions of pounds that tariffs would entail?” Assuming Scotland remains in the EU, there will be no tariffs. What there will be is currency conversion transaction costs – the same costs English company bosses have had to thole, that is, bear, by not being part of the eurozone.
Half of the rest of the UK’s trade is with the eurozone, while something less than 10% is with Scotland.
The question that should be asked with incredulity is – do Kevin McKenna or Alex Salmond really believe that the rest of the UK will agree effectively to underwrite the sovereign debt of a foreign country, in order to avoid these transaction costs on 10% of its trade?
Kevin McKenna avoids addressing, as do Salmond and the SNP, the core arguments concerning a currency union. That is, in brief, for such a union to work it would also require a fiscal and banking union and, most importantly, political union. This has been conclusively demonstrated by the eurozone crisis.
I hold no brief for the execrable Osborne and his party but he is certainly justified, as are the Lib-Dem and Labour party leaders, in pointing out the inherent weaknesses, not to say contradictions, in Salmond’s project. As it is, the rest of the UK is essentially being asked to underwrite Scotland’s independence, potentially much more damaging to the UK economy than the comparatively minor transaction costs that McKenna mentions (again, rather slavishly echoing Salmond).
Ian Grant Seton
It seems to have passed Kevin McKenna by that all three major political parties (yes, including the main representative of those trade union households whose shared values Kevin rightly holds so dear) are not prepared to underwrite a Scottish bailout in the more than theoretical possibility that Scotland is unable to pay its way in the not too distant future. Working-class solidarity is one thing but a wholesale charity bailout is quite another.
There are many who already think that Scotland gets a pretty good deal out of the Barnett formula. A median-income, middle-aged Geordie may well look across the border with some envy when obliged to fund his children’s university education and his parents’ care home fees while paying for his own prescriptions. It is pie in the sky to expect any regional devolvement that would deliver the same advantages to those parts of England currently enjoyed north of the border, as McKenna seems to think. If Scotland really wants to ride the high wire alone, let it do so without the safety net.
Why does Kevin McKenna express his sympathy for the potential plight of the 400,000 or so expat English living in Scotland, but take no account of the equally significant number of expat Scots living in the UK? At least the Scottish-based English will be able to vote in the referendum. We Scots now living in England are being denied that privilege. Salmond’s wish to lead Scotland into darkness will affect us no less if granted, and I strongly believe our voice should be heard. There’s still time to set the necessary machinery in place if the will is there.
Your editorial “A God delusion” (22 February) is critical of the letters recently written by churchmen of various denominations to newspapers. I read the letters and found them thought-provoking and, in the main, justified in their doubts about aspects of the Government’s welfare policies.
I was not aware of any claims by the bishops to exercise “special authority”, let alone “a divine right to be heard”. The only “right” claimed would seem to be that of writing to the press to express an opinion – as I am doing now. The papers in question were not obliged to publish the letters any more than you are obliged to publish mine.
As for your suggestion that because churchmen are not democratically elected they should be cautious about stating their well-founded opinions – may I respectfully mention that newspaper editors and columnists are not elected either. If I disapprove of your ideas, I may cease to buy your paper and if I am offended by the stance of a bishop or archbishop I may stop going to his church.
Jenny Bryer, Birmingham
Good on the Church of England bishops! Their intervention was a courageous wake-up call to the Coalition government about the dreadful effects of their “benefit reforms”.
One Tory defender of these God-awful policies suggested that sanctions against benefit recipients are a “last resort”. This, to my personal knowledge, is at best disingenuous, and at worst a blatant lie. As a volunteer for local food banks, I can tell him that sanctions against legitimate claimants for often the most trivial of reasons – five minutes late for an appointment, failure to remember to bring along the appointment card to a benefit review – are immediate and merciless. It is up to people like me to pick up the pieces of these poor people’s broken lives, and to try to help give them some hope.
This awful government is in a barely disguised campaign to demonise and vilify the poor. While continuing to protect their super-rich friends against any suggestion of paying their fair share of tax, ministers relentlessly pursue a wicked campaign to push the poor back to Victorian days when they were utterly helpless, and dependent upon the largesse of the wealthy.
W P Moore, Norwich
Of course the welfare system needs reforming, but over time and with care and compassion. Reforms need to be made, but not at the expense of the genuinely poor and needy.
The Government, with its tedious and patronising buzzwords – “closed curtains”, “shirkers and strivers”, “hard-working families” – may think it is on a moral crusade. In fact it’s an immoral crusade.
It is a disgrace.
Neil Coppendale, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Who will speak out for poor and vulnerable people? Politicians will not – they are all on the side of “hard-working families”. Newspapers by and large will not; it does not sell. Thank God that the church leaders do. In their letter to the Daily Mirror the bishops and others did not claim “an unassailable moral position” (editorial, 22 February), they said “there is an acute moral imperative to act”, which there certainly is. It is the Prime Minister who seeks to claim the righteous high ground by referring to his welfare reforms as being a “moral mission”, while denying the immoral consequences for thousands of people who have no voice.
Anthony Slack, Rochdale, Lancashire
One reason that the Church has a right, indeed a moral right, to “meddle” in politics is because, in today’s economic climate, it and many charities are expected and relied upon to support the poor and vulnerable, including those who slip through the welfare safety net because of the cutbacks. Indeed the Church is an important part of the “big society” that David Cameron once promoted.
Dave Richards, Combe Martin, Devon
Far from representing a “tiny fraction of the population” in fact over 59 per cent of the population of England and Wales identified themselves as Christian at the 2011 Census. This is rather more than the proportion of the electorate who voted for the Coalition government, yet alone the proportion of the total electorate who voted for the Government.
M Howell, London SE22
When both Government and opposition seem almost at one in agreeing that there has to be a reduction in benefits and in disparaging those on benefits, who will speak truth to power for those who have no voice? A repeated and central concern of the Old Testament prophets and of Jesus is that those who are marginalised – the poor, the widow, the “alien in your midst”, the orphan and others – should be not only spoken for, but cared for.
Surely it is irrelevant what percentage of the population the church represents. After all, what percentage of the population is represented by the regularly published trenchant views of The Independent? What is important is the issue of truth.
Robert Fyfe-Taylor, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Religious leaders do not speak by “dint of historical influence” but as representatives of their fellow-believers here and now – whose numbers, incidentally, however much you may wish it otherwise, are very far from being a tiny minority. Drawing attention to injustice and unfairness does not constitute “meddling in politics” – it has been and is the bounden duty of prophets and priests in every age. Presumably you would have directed the same criticism against the Levellers or William Wilberforce?
Michael Broadbent, Bishop Auckland, County Durham
Hs2 threatens both city and country
Mary Dejevsky (“Fly-unders are the future”, 21 February) mentions the villages that will be blighted if HS2 goes ahead, but not that the greatest loss of homes to HS2 and its infrastructure of construction compounds will be in inner London.
In the London Borough of Camden 226 homes are due to be demolished, more than twice the number (107) on the whole of the rest of the line to Birmingham. The borough will suffer devastation, 24-hour noise, pollution, transport disruption and congestion and thousands of extra HGV journeys over a 10-year construction period. Homes, office blocks and shops will be demolished and other businesses destroyed as they are forced to close for years or lose trade.
Sue Prickett, London WC1
Name and shame these tax avoiders
DJ Chris Moyles admits that he was naïve in signing up to a tax-avoidance scheme called “working wheels” (report, 22 February). You report that the same scheme counted 450 fund managers, celebrities and other high earners between 2006 and 2008 as members.
Do these people not realise that there is a moral dimension to this, in a situation where many are striving to overcome welfare reductions, and are having to resort to food banks in increasing numbers? All members of the scheme should be named and shamed, although I am not sure that they are capable of shame – except in the sense that “it is a shame that I didn’t get away with it”.
John Cooper, London SE23
Parliamentary man on the buses
Finally – an MP with first-hand experience of his brief (“The world was his oyster card”, 22 February). Lord Adonis can now speak with a well-informed voice on infrastructure matters after riding the London night buses for a week. Michael Gove should now endure an Ofsted inspection and Iain Duncan Smith should dine at one of those foods banks he thinks people use by choice. This could be the end of government by Walter Mittys.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Atos under fire for doing its job
It is interesting that Atos wants to withdraw from its contract because it has became so unpopular in trying to implement the Coalition’s policies that its employees are subject to abuse and even death threats (report, 22 February). And yet Atos was appointed by our democratically appointed Coalition.
What is the truer voice of democracy – the actions of a Coalition implementing policies not in its manifesto, or the reactions to Atos as it tries to fulfil its contract?
Dennis Leachman, Reading
Nothing wrong with Rooney’s wages
Why all this fuss about Rooney being paid £300,000 per week to play football? Surely about half of this goes in tax to the revenue? A great contribution to the nation.
Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset
You report on £300,000 a week for Wayne Rooney – unworthy and obscene! And on £500,000 raised to help save the elephants (21 February) – worthy and fantastic!
Brighton, East Sussex
There have been several proven cases of “victims” of sexual abuse having turned out later to have brought cases mischievously
Sir, The DPP, Alison Saunders, in her robust defence of historic sex abuse prosecutions (“We will carry on pursuing old sex offenders”, Feb 20), has come dangerously close to undermining the acquittal of every defendant who juries have ever found innocent of such crimes with her proposition that there is a “myth” that victims bring these cases forward only for financial or other motives.
The recently acquitted Messrs Roache and Lee-Travis, witnessing Ms Saunders effectively warning the public that they may have got off on the strength of a “myth”, could be forgiven for consulting their lawyers about an action against her for defamation.
There have, after all, in the past been several proven cases of “victims” of sexual abuse having turned out later to have brought cases mischievously. Perhaps, if Mrs Saunders is really sincere in bringing criminal prosecutions on behalf of proven victims where the DPP in the past was reluctant to do so, she might look again at the disturbing number of cases of totally innocent individuals who have been shot dead by the police while minding their own business.
Sir, I dispute Alison Saunders’s easy assumption of unqualified public support for the policy on prosecuting cases of alleged child sex abuse introduced by her predecessor a year ago. In the past nine months the Crown has lost four high-profile cases — three of them against Coronation Street actors, all of whom were speedily and unanimously acquitted. The decision a year ago to prosecute Michael Le Vell was particularly disturbing, as the NW senior regional prosecutor had declared at the end of 2011 that the evidence against him could not possibly support a conviction. This was reversed in London, without the accession of any new evidence, after an unconscionably long 13½ months.
The field on which this game is played is not a level one. Some complainants — particularly where celebrities are involved — may well be malicious or opportunistic but they act with no hazard to themselves. Their identities are protected, and they face no financial costs. On the other hand, those they accuse are soon named, face months of misery while awaiting trial, and have to bear all the expense of defending themselves. This is surely a disgrace.
J. Martin Stafford
Sir, You report that Mrs Saunders claims that the public would be “horrified” if complaints about historical abuse did not lead to prosecutions. I think the word she sought was “delighted”. The law of the land has decided that the parties were innocent and the public does not enjoy seeing the legal profession fattening itself, largely at public expense, on barmy accusations.
Antony Stanley Clarke
Sir, Alison Saunders’s article makes for depressing reading. What qualifies a prosecutor to tell the public that all prosecutions have been, and will be, correctly brought? The DPP cannot possibly know what would horrify the public.
Prosecutors need to acknowledge the fact that both accusers and the accused must be treated fairly. They also need to learn lessons from the outcomes of historic prosecutions.
Roger McCarthy, QC
Sir, In the debate about the plans to link people’s health care data (report, Feb 19), scant attention has been paid to the benefits not only in improving individual’s clinical care but also of protecting and enhancing the health of the public. If data linkage in the UK had not been undertaken in the past we would know less about the causes of disease (eg, pregnant women living near landfill sites have an increased risk of giving birth to babies with congenital anomalies), be unaware of the dangers of some treatments (eg, some drugs for asthma were associated with a 50-fold increased risk of death; metal-on-metal hip implants are best avoided in most patients) and be ignorant of inequities in access to care (eg, women are less likely to receive intensive care for some conditions). None of these discoveries, and the remedial action taken, would have occurred without our ability to link patients’ data from different publicly funded databases. Current plans to widen the linkage of hospital and primary care data will lead to further improvements both in the prevention of disease and in the effectiveness and safety of healthcare for the public.
Professor Nick Black, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Professor Lord Ara Darzi, Imperial College
Professor Terence Stephenson, Chair, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
Professor Sir Cyril Chantler, Chairman, UCLPartners
Lord Nigel Crisp, Past Chief Executive, NHS
Professor Dame Nicky Cullum, School of Nursing, University of Manchester
Professor Martin McKee, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Lord Bernie Ribeiro, Past President, Royal College of Surgeons
Professor Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic, University of Cambridge
Professor Norman Williams, President, Royal College of Surgeons of England
Professor David Haslam, Chair, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive, The Health Foundation
Dr Hilary Cass, President, Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health
Professor Sir Robert Lechler, Executive Director, King’s Health Partners
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President-elect, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Professor Sir Andrew Haines, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Midicine
Professor Karen Luker, Head, School of Nursing, University of Manchester
Dr David Richmond, President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Dr J-P van Besouw, President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive, Royal College of Nursing
Professor Iain Cameron, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton
Professor Andy McKeon, Chief Executive, Nuffield Trust
Professor David Adams, Dean, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University
Sir, Danny Finkelstein (Opinion, Feb 19) puts his finger on a critical point regarding our public services. So many quangos were originally set up to create a distance between ministers and day-to-day management. The Conservative regime in the 1990s set this ball rolling. But recent events such as the flooding have shown that taxpayers demand elected politicians take ultimate responsibility.
The hypocritical complaints from the semi-professional quangocrats are embarrassing and self-serving. British administrations are too polite to cleanse the Augean stables and so live with the medium-term consequences of poor appointees from the past.
A serious rethink is required, with ministers appointing and being responsible for the actions of these agencies.
Sir, Regretfully, Cardinal Nichols may not be elevated to the peerage. The Roman Catholic Church does not permit its bishops and priests to be legislators, and if the archbishop were offered a peerage he would be obliged by his superiors to decline it (as Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had to).
Sir, Tom Burton, after referring to your correspondents’ “negative” views, asks for a “sensible” debate on Scottish independence. Judging by your report “Cybernats attack ‘phoney’ Bowie”, (Feb 21) this may be hard to achieve.
If David Bowie’s support for the existing union attracts such personal and public abuse from Scots who support independence, what hope is there of a sensible debate?
Being English and citizens of one party to the union, Mr Bowie and I are surely entitled to express a polite opinion on the subject, even if we do not have a vote on it. Supporters of independence do themselves no favours by resorting to such tactics.
Herstmonceux, E Sussex
SIR – I would be surprised if all ladies shared Mary Kennedy’s view of beards as mere repositories for dropped crumbs and the like.
After all, the act of shaving is to reduce a male to the state of pre-pubescence, facially at least; there can be few more unnatural acts cosmetically for an adult male than to shave.
It seems likely that the current fashion for beards, whether mere stubble or full whiskers, is a reassertion of their maleness on the part of men in an era when the female principle appears to be in be in the ascendant, at least for the time being.
Theydon Bois, Essex
SIR – Andrew C McWilliam claims that beards hinder mate selection by females, who would like to see the features of their prospective partners.
He should grow a beard to discover the advantages. Mate selection is enhanced by a beard: kissing a man without a beard is like eating an egg without salt.
SIR – I am so sorry to hear of the troubles that Mary Kennedy is having with beards. Competent trimmers are available at larger Boots and similar outlets and, in my experience, a trim to a length of half an inch or so usually solves the problems she describes.
SIR – Although Matthew d’Ancona outlines the correct strategy to beat Ukip, I fear that David Cameron has made too many mistakes to sway the electorate in his direction.
He may be showing leadership in the wake of the floods, but there are many people up North and in Somerset who will be thinking that, for Mr Cameron, money is no object only when the water arrives in his own back yard. We have the spectre of a Labour victory despite Ed Miliband.
SIR – The attraction of Ukip is its libertarian policies. I can assure Matthew d’Ancona that my own Cannock branch has a quite disparate political base.
Heath Hayes, Staffordshire
SIR – Supporters of the EU accord on the free movement of peoples, including Matthew d’Ancona, happily plunder Romania and Bulgaria of their expensively educated doctors. These globalists also worship Mammon – hence their eagerness to import cheap labour, driving unskilled pay well below a living wage. This is good, they say, for economic growth. Indeed, but not necessarily for per capita GNP.
Combine that with their approach to immigration, which is tantamount to an open-door policy, and you can say goodbye to a nation state that naturally commands the allegiance of its people. Maybe that’s what the EU is all about.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
SIR – In the same week that I read about the serious shortage of doctors in NHS Accident and Emergency departments, I learned that my granddaughter (predicted to achieve three As in her A-levels) has not received an offer from any of the medical schools to which she applied.
Leeds, West Yorkshire
SIR – My solicitors charge £380 per hour in London and £220 per hour in Hertford. The doctor who earned £3,717 for 30 hours spent on call was paid £124 per hour.
Even if he only worked half those hours in hospital, he would have barely earned as much as a country solicitor.
Quality of trains
SIR – Every day, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow commuters on the packed journey between Weybridge and London Waterloo. Why does South West Trains not put more trains on at peak times to ferry people in a comfortable fashion? Why does my monthly ticket cost over £260, when people are transported like cattle?
Since I started this commute, the fare has risen far in excess of inflation. Why has there been no discernable improvement to the quality of my daily journey?
SIR – The problem is not that there are 5,000 people earning £100,000 (or 21,000 earning over £60,000) while living in social housing. The problem is that there are eight million people enjoying social housing at subsidised rents regardless of need. People earning far less than these amounts are perfectly capable of putting a roof over their heads.
Social housing rents are below the market rate and below the cost of providing the housing.
Tinkering with the system by charging increased rents to higher earners would be chaotic and would not address the cause of the problem. When you sell something for less than it is worth, you create demand that would not otherwise exist.
G L Dees
SIR – During my speech to the Advertising Association, I congratulated the industry on employing half a million people and contributing £10 billion to the economy and £2 billion in exports a year. I praised the Advertising Standards Agency, which I believe does a good job of regulating advertising, but said that politicians should keep an eye on the advertising of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy foods because of the huge costs of getting public health policies wrong.
I hope Sir Martin Sorrell , who was not in the room when I gave my speech, will now be satisfied that Labour is pro-business and recognises the benefits the advertising industry brings to Britain.
Shadow Minister for Culture
SIR – It was heartening to read that a leading theatre director has suggested that theatres should not “dumb down” to attract younger audiences.
But some directors are already doing this. The recent, much-praised West End production of Ghosts had a running time of 90 minutes, without an interval. A London Fringe production of Hedda Gabler was even shorter.
These shortened versions make a travesty of a playwright’s vision, and are a severe disappointment for regular theatre-goers, who expect to see these masterpieces produced in their original form.
Protecting flood plains from building projects
SIR – Development on Britain’s flood plain must stop. As a victim of the recent flooding, I have been subjected to the real-life implications of what failure to plan can “achieve”.
Bloor Homes is currently planning to build 400 new properties as part of the central Government-forced, strategic plan placed on Maidenhead and Windsor district council. The scheme, under allocation, and being driven by the Government’s planning quota, is located directly opposite my house on the M4 junction, in Maidenhead.
This area is home to a diverse natural habitat, is green belt, and a flood plain, which today is partly underwater, holding back the flood from Datchet, Staines and other towns and villages.
Take note from the people of Holland, who are now reversing flood plain development and allowing their rivers to do what they have always done.
Rivers, like all living things, need to breathe. Smothering our green belt, which falls into flood plain, with bricks and mortar, is putting a spreading cancer in the lungs of our waterways.
SIR – Mark Wilson comments that house purchasers should be warned about possible flooding.
Our house lies between two smallish rivers and falls in an area the Environment Agency website map lists as subject to flooding. But in spite of my recording 28.2 in of rain over the last nine weeks, neither river has overflowed nor, in fact, has either shown any sign of doing so. As far as anyone knows, the house has never been in watery danger since it was built in 1865.
We should therefore be very wary of arbitrary mapping procedures that assume every river valley is a high-risk area.
SIR – You report that Junk & Disorderly was honoured for having the best punning shop name in Britain.
The best I’ve seen is a butcher’s in Tooting, called: Halal – Is It Meat You’re Looking For?
SIR – Until a few years ago, an antiques shop in Bures, Suffolk, bore the name Den of Antiquity.
A hairdressing salon in Raynes Park, London, bore the title Coiffure by Comber.
On the same street, a doctor’s clinic was denoted by the plaque: Dr Hackett, Surgeon.
In 1808 Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act 1807, outlawing the slave trade.
In the following year, the Royal Navy’s African Squadron was formed, its mission to put an end to the slave trade.
Its enemies were many and formidable: the African tribal chiefs who sold their own people into slavery; the Arab traders who rode shotgun on the slave caravans to the coast; and the slave ships of the rest of the world, heavily armed and prepared to do battle to defend their right to traffic in the forbidden “black ivory”.
That African slavery was a monstrous trade, and that many prominent Britons amassed fortunes on the back of it, cannot be denied, but no other nation had either the will or the ability to stamp it out. The Royal Navy deployed 30 ships and 4,000 men against the slave traders, who were predominantly Spanish, Portuguese and American, and 2,000 British seamen gave their lives so that African slaves might be free, while the 30-year campaign cost the British taxpayer in excess of £2 billion in today’s money.
In 1838, Robert Peart, a slave of Spanishtown, Jamaica, wrote: “Thanks to Almighty God and next to the English nation, whose laws relieved us from the bondage in which we have been held.”
The debt has been paid in full.
SIR – The idea that Britain should compensate anyone for its role in the history of slavery is as preposterous as it is impractical.
Restitution could only be satisfied if Britain were to transport every West Indian of African origin back to Africa. I do not think there would be many takers.
Those who did choose to return to Africa should then sue the governments of countries whose kings and chiefs sold their ancestors to European traders in the first place.
While Britain must take its share of the blame for the evils of slavery, it should take pride in the fact that it was responsible for the abolition of both the slave trade and slavery throughout the Empire, and that it encouraged (and where necessary, forced) the rest of the world to comply.
SIR – If the slavery compensation case against Britain has any validity, may I suggest that our Government take immediate action for similar claims against the modern nations from which the Romans, Vikings and Normans originated.
Each invaded this country, killing and enslaving many of our forebears.
SIR – My sympathies are with Willie Thompson, the Jamaican striving for compensation from the British Government for the misery of the slave trade.
However, during the 18th and 19th centuries, three quarters of Jamaica was owned by Scots, so perhaps his claim should land on the desk of Alex Salmond, rather than that of David Cameron.
A glance through the street names of Glasgow and Edinburgh reveals strong connections with the Caribbean islands.
Wealthy Scottish landowners had no compunction about despatching their own peasant workers to work as bonded servants beside the Africans on their plantations. Many of the Scottish plantation workers married African slaves, who in turn took Scottish names; Willie Thompson’s own name is a classic example of the Scottish influence in Jamaica.
The plantation owners made huge fortunes from their slave-driven plantations, and many mansions and estates in Scotland still exist through ancestral barbarity.
What they couldn’t bring back to Scotland was slaves, because the laws of Scotland declared that no person in Scotland could be owned by another.
Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire
Sir, – The Director General of the Law Society of Ireland, Ken Murphy, writing about the proposed introduction of plain packaging of tobacco, states the Law Society’s concern regarding intellectual property rights and trademarks “would be the same if the underlying product was a food, drink, medicine or any other product” (Letters, February 21st).
Tobacco, however, is unique in that it kills half of its users. In Ireland, 5,200 people die of tobacco-related diseases annually. I would respectfully suggest that if it were discovered that a “food, drink or medicine” was killing one in every two users, concerns over intellectual property rights would be obsolete as the product would immediately be withdrawn.
The Irish Cancer Society is concerned that the Law Society has decided to argue the exact same case on plain packaging as all tobacco companies, particularly on intellectual property rights, but that in the process is representing only one side of a complex argument.
The tobacco industry is trying everything to block, amend and delay the introduction of plain packaging in Ireland and the issue of intellectual property rights is a key argument for it. The Irish Cancer Society has sought its own legal advice on the issue, however and we are informed that the Irish Constitution recognises that in a civil society, property rights have to be balanced by principles of social justice and in accordance with the common good. Plain packaging seeks to protect and promote public health by, in particular, preventing young persons from taking up smoking and consuming tobacco products.
Tobacco companies argue that plain packaging will mean the “acquisition” of their brands by the State. In Australia, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act was challenged in the High Court (the counterpart in Australia of the Supreme Court in Ireland). Japanese Tobacco International and British American Tobacco-alleged that the Act was unconstitutional, as it was an “acquisition” of property by the state. The court held that there was no “acquisition” as the state did not receive any benefit.
Mr Murphy states his concerns regarding international investment implications for Ireland should plain packaging be introduced. Ireland is party to trade agreements such as the Paris Convention and the WTO TRIPS Agreement, but they have not been incorporated into domestic law. The Paris Convention mainly concerns the administration of trademarks, and not their use. It gives parties to the Convention reciprocal rights in other countries when it comes to registering trademarks. The registration and administration of trademarks is not affected by plain packaging. We are advised that the effects on international trade are negligible.
Ireland already restricts the use of tobacco related trademark, for instance in the banning of advertising of tobacco. This measure is the next step to reduce the power of tobacco companies to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking tobacco. – Yours, etc,
Head of Advocacy &
Irish Cancer Society,
Sir, – Pat Doyle CEO of Peter McVerry Trust (February 20th) suggests that everyone has a right to a home. As a social worker in the area of mental health, I agree, but finding and especially maintaining the right home for homeless people with complex needs such as; addiction, mental health, intellectual difficulties or a combination of all three is no easy task.
Different levels of support are required and different types of accommodation, from independent living units, to supported or staffed housing units, but for our more vulnerable and challenging homeless, a statutory requirement is needed that publicly-funded professionals from all relevant services work together. A commitment too, where possible, from the homeless themselves to adhere to tenancy agreements and treatment plans will be key to sustaining their right to a home. – Yours, etc,
Templeogue, Dublin 16.
Sir, – The headline, “Jobseekers to be put to work in local authorities” (Home News, February 21st) demanded an immediate check to see where this was to happen – maybe North Korea or some other such off-the-wall dictatorship? But no, this “initiative” is to take place here in Ireland and what is even more extraordinary is the fact that we are under the governance of a Cabinet in which members of a Labour Party hold a veto.
Aside from the very reasonable view that forcing people to work for a rate of pay that will amount to about half the legal minimum wage is discriminatory – or is a case of the State resorting to slavery – but the denial of the opportunity to protest against this exploitation by the threat to cut welfare supports is repugnant to the values of any democratic State.
This has all the hallmarks of a policy inspired by the views of one William Martin Murphy who was confronted and resisted by none other than the founder of the Labour Party, Jim Larkin. Indeed it was the fact that Murphy organised business owners to deny workers basic conditions that most probably inspired both Connolly and Larkin to consider establishing a political wing to further the interests of workers. As it now appears that the Labour Party has become indistinguishable from its Fine Gael partners in power, how utterly wrong they were. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In principle I can agree with Dr James Reilly’s vision (Opinion, February 18th) of establishing universal health insurance (UHI). However, there are practical and implementation issues that I find worrying.
Take the proposed split into purchasers and providers of health services. Central to this is some element of competition between providers. However, all our public hospitals (including the voluntary ones) are at present State-financed, very closely monitored (as the board of St Vincent’s will testify) and their employees’ pay and conditions make them public servants all but in name. Real competition will mean allowing individual trusts to negotiate independently over all aspects of their cost structure.
Is the Department of Health ready for this? At present health insurers negotiate on prices with private hospitals, but are forbidden by ministerial edict to negotiate prices with public hospitals. I fear that the mindset of the Department of Health is totally at odds with any meaningful moves towards flexibility or competition.
Dr Reilly makes no mention of where the several billion euro of current direct State expenditure on public hospitals will go. Will there be tax cuts to offset increased premium costs of UHI? If not, will this tax revenue just go to increase public expenditure on non-health areas? To what extent will UHI deliver subsidies to lower-income clients? Will we end up with a universal system which may deliver equality – but at the unsatisfactory level of service at present enjoyed by public patients?
The track record of the Department of Health in estimating the costs of new developments does not inspire confidence. Remember the spectacular underestimate of the cost of giving medical cards to the over-70s – which was a trivially simple exercise compared with the move to UHI. – Yours, etc,
Willbrook Lawn, Dublin 14.
A chara, – I refer to the interview with Alf-Helge Aarskog, Marine Harvest’s chief executive (Una McCaffrey, Business This Week, February 14th).
That you saw fit to print a full page piece painting a very uncritical version of the salmon aquaculture industry, save for a single allusion to the “potential” environmental risks was very surprising.
The arguments for and against large-scale open cage salmon aquaculture are however much more complex, and the outcomes far less rose-tinted than this article would have us believe.
With respect to the promised employment dividend, our Government is right to energetically pursue job creation, but not at the expense of existing jobs. For example the wild crab and lobster fishery in Galway Bay, the proposed site for Europe’s largest offshore open cage salmon farm directly employs 200 people and annually exports millions of euro of high quality shellfish to the continent. These fishermen have expressed grave and well-founded fears that the vast quantities of pesticides to be necessarily used on this enormous site for sea lice control will kill shellfish larvae, leading to a collapse of their hitherto sustainable fishery, as has happened elsewhere.
In addition, this project would imperil Galway Bay’s internationally important remaining runs of wild salmon and sea-trout, in a similar manner to which intensive salmon farming has decimated wild salmon stocks in the west of Scotland and certain Norwegian fjords. In the Galway Bay area, hundreds of jobs in the wider angling tourism industry depend on wild salmon and sea trout returning to their native rivers.
Mr Arskog’s ready access to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture lies in stark contrast to the Minister Simon Coveney’s outright refusal to meet any of the campaign groups arraigned against his plans for the enormous expansion of our open-caged salmon aquaculture sector on the reported grounds that it would necessarily bias his decision-making in this regard. Not only is this stance now open to ridicule, but this again illustrates how much in thrall our political classes are to foreign direct investment (FDI) at the expense of sustaining and growing our indigenous industries. Worse still, this FDI is arguably in direct conflict with an existing and flourishing indigenous industry as described above in the example of Galway Bay.
We would invite your journalist, Una McCaffrey to examine the significant and real (as distinct from “potential”) environmental risks posed by large scale open-cage salmon aquaculture projects, which BIM consistently attempts to justify based on flawed science
In principle we support the development of a sustainable aquaculture sector in Ireland, but certainly not if it risks our existing jobs, our world-renowned inland fisheries which generate €750 million annually and the long-term viability of our coastal communities. – Yours, etc,
Dr FERGUS GLYNN,
Chairperson, Galway Bay
A chara, – I am delighted to see that Senator David Norris’s proposal was agreed unanimously (“Seanad agrees unanimously to invite Pope Francis to address the Upper House”, Home News, February 20th). However, I was disappointed to see that it was left to Fianna Fáil’s Senator Jim Walshe to suggest the visit should be pastoral in nature. After all, Jesus is on record as saying that we should “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
When An Taoiseach downgraded our diplomatic status a couple of years ago I wrote to suggest it was time for the Roman Catholic church to decide if it wanted to be treated a religion or as a state. Senator Walshe has reopened the discussion.
We now have the opportunity to indicate that we, as a nation, would be happy to welcome a papal visit as a pastoral event, while not treating the Pope as a head of state with all the pomp and ceremony, not to mention expense, that it would entail. – Is mise,
SEÁN O KIERSEY,
Deansgrange, Co Dublin.
Sir, – On February 18th, Greg Scanlon wonders whether publishing two letters from the same contributor (Derek Henry Carr) on February 15th was a record.
On that same day, February 18th, you published two separate “record breaking” letters (from Greg Scanlon and from John Cronin). Is this a record? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Twice in the last week a bottle of wine has been added in error to my restaurant bill, in addition to the glass I ordered, in two different city centre restaurants. The excuse was, “Oh I pressed the wrong button,” on both occasions. Is this a trend? – Yours, etc,
* It was my hope that Joe Schmidt would end Ireland’s status as the ‘nearly men’ of world rugby.
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I still believe he can achieve this; a distinction that has proven to be a mission impossible for his predecessors. That said, the shadow of the ‘nearly men’ loomed large over Twickenham.
Yes, we got a performance out of an exceptional group of players, but given that it was Brian O’Driscoll‘s last hurrah, in the home of English rugby, I expected them to meet with the intensity of the white lightning that was inevitable in the opening exchanges.
We were, in fact, blown away. Let’s give them credit for finding their passion and pride later in the game, and in fighting fire with fire, but let us not delude ourselves.
We were not the better team on the day, despite the fact that we would have been considered the better team on any other day.
The unvarnished truth was plain: collectively, England wanted it more.
Playing catch-up from the outset, what we delivered was too little too late.
This was a hugely important milestone for us.
How often do we get to a point where a grandslam is so close to our grasp?
The collective experience and abilities of this group of players, once known as the “golden generation” really ought to have been sufficient to close the deal.
There was the usual individual heroism – from the usual individuals – but overall, we were less than the sum of our parts.
All this is to take nothing away from a well-deserved English victory.
But the taste of what might have been will be bitter for the Irish lads.
Looking ahead, England proved we have a ways to go, and it will be tough – but in Joe Schmidt we have a genuine visionary, one uniquely capable of exorcising the demons of the ‘nearly men’.
KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN
ROLE OF THE GARDAI
* It’s important to recognise that there are many excellent gardai like Maurice McCabe and John Wilson in our force. So far, too few of them have taken the courageous actions that Maurice and John have undertaken, because they fear the abuse they may be subjected to.
In the interests of justice, they need to feel the fear and do it anyway. Genuine mistakes are inevitable in every human organisation. Such mistakes are usually easily resolved if quickly acknowledged and corrected.
We know from history and from other jurisdictions that it is only when a culture of cover-up and false loyalty takes root, that such mistakes lead to disasters in which serious crimes are committed which should have been prevented by proper garda crime prevention.
In the early decades of its history, the Garda force and its members were noted for their dedication, bravery, and loyalty to the State and to the people.
These recent difficulties, therefore, can and must be overcome. Crime prevention must be re-established as the primary role of An Garda Siochana.
NEWTOWN, CASTLETROY, LIMERICK
* In a piece regarding St Mary’s Rugby Football club, in Limerick, (Irish Independent, February 21) the impression was given that the clubhouse facilities were built by handouts from the State.
The tremendous facility was built by the same spirit that saw Ger Hogan help his neighbours with his horse Peig during the recent floods in nearby St Mary’s Parish. Ger’s family lived a stone’s throw from the original woodhut clubhouse in the Abbey.
It was built from the savings of old age pensioners, a weekly draw subscribed to by good people, which brought in up to €1,500 per week. It was built by members who picketed the town hall for two weeks to push planning permission through.
The clubhouse was designed, engineered, project-managed and physically built by St Mary’s people and when it was opened there was very little money owed to the bank.
So let it be known the proud people of St Mary’s didn’t rely on charity to build this magnificent development.
BRIAN O DONOGHUE
THORNFIELD, MONALEEN, LIMERICK
UNJUST RENT INCREASES
* Following the news that a young couple with a baby renting a small cottage in Dublin’s docklands for €1,100 per month were told by their landlord of a €200 monthly increase in the rent, is it not time Dublin tenants were given the same legal protections as tenants in London, who may avail of appeals to a Rent Assessment Committee where they feel that rent increases are unfair?
There is no requirement for landlords to provide Building Energy Rating information before being allowed to advertise or conclude an agreement.
Many landlords do not provide or use rent books. Rent increases are effectively outside anyone’s control since the definition of an “open market rate” is Kafkaesque, to say the least: “The rent which a willing tenant not already in occupation would give and a willing landlord would take for the dwelling.”
Tenants in London must be given six months’ notice of a rent increase.
The Irish propensity for avoiding official bodies such as the Private Residential Tenancies’ Board is creating a bubble of greed, with the young, the poor, the elderly and the homeless the victims.
HOLLYBROOK ROAD, CLONTARF, DUBLIN 3
ST PATRICK’S DAY TRIPS
* I am sure I speak for all taxpayers when I request a detailed account of those ministers going abroad for St Patrick’s Day.
After all, we are the ones funding these trips.
Who accompanies them? I note that Ministers Brian Hayes and Ruairi Quinn are staying home to mind the house.
I am cynical enough to believe that Mr Hayes is preparing his campaign for the European elections and that Mr Quinn has been there, done that and burned the T-shirt.
I doubt if the gain from these trips will cover their costs. Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch is going to Mexico. Be sure to give us a Mexican wave, minister!
RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 14
* Few capitals could conjure up scenes of endurance, fortitude, anguish and gallantry as the Ukranian capital has done over the past few days.
Kiev has now become a symbol of people power against tyranny.
It seems the discourse of history is unstoppable.
From al Tahrir square in Cairo to Independence Square (Maiden) in Kiev, people can no longer be deceived.
People can no longer be silenced by money or power.
When the people become fearless and stand up to their oppressors and break the shackles of this oppression, they can truly become heroic.
It is this victory that has made Ukranians admirable in the eyes of the world.
Now it is time the international community stepped in and helped them to create a vibrant and democratic country.
DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB
President Putin, you have been warned . . .