26 February 2014 Third Treatment
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to investigate a haunted ship. Priceless
Mary’s third treatment no hold ups Primroses planted
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Captain John Huckle, who has died aged 89, was thrice decorated for his wartime service, being awarded a DSC and Bar as well as an Arctic Star; post-war he added the Polar Medal.
In October 1946, as an RNVR lieutenant, Huckle was appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor of the Falkland Islands for that Antarctic summer. His duties included supervising a four-man team in the relief of the Antarctic bases which had been established by the Navy to guard against the occupation of remote islands in the Southern Ocean by the Germans or the Japanese. The five men constituted the Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey, whose members were known as “Fids”.
He stayed on throughout 1947, first as base commander at Port Lockroy on Graham Land (on the Antarctic Peninsula) and later at Deception Island in the South Shetlands. There — albeit a junior officer — he found himself the sole representative of the British Empire, standing on the foreshore and delivering protests on behalf of the King each time an Argentine or Chilean warship arrived.
05 Jun 2013
Lieutenant-Commander Don Ridgway
22 Jan 2014
Commander Eddie Grenfell
30 Jun 2013
The 4th Lord St Levan
07 Apr 2013
In 1948, when Vivian Fuchs arrived at the then southernmost Antarctic base, Marguerite Bay, Huckle volunteered to drive a team of huskies on long journeys to survey George VI Sound. The following year pack ice prevented the relief ship, John Biscoe, from reaching the base, and Fuchs and his scientists, who became known in the newspapers as the “Lost Eleven”, were forced to remain another year, during which time they accomplished several lengthy traverses. Despite the failure of the relief ship to deliver new supplies, Fuchs and his colleagues also conducted a study of emperor penguins at a newly discovered colony.
It was not until February 1950 that the sea ice cleared and John Biscoe was able to break through. Huckle and his original four companions had thus endured three consecutive years in the Antarctic, the first team to have stayed so long on the southern continent. Huckle returned to Port Stanley in 1950 to resume his duties as aide-de-camp. His next challenge was to command the Fids’ 50-ton ketch Penelope during voyages around the colony. With a crew of four sturdy “kelpers” he delivered the first government-issue radio telephones to 20 isolated settlements, which until then had used fire beacons to signal emergencies.
The following year Huckle was appointed King’s Harbour Master, when his responsibilities included the seaplanes used as air ambulances. In order to act as relief pilot for the flying doctor, Huckle spent his first leave in England learning to fly, and subsequently divided his time between running the harbour, flying a seaplane, and serving as relief master of the Falkland government’s hospital ship, Philomel.
He was awarded the Polar Medal in 1953, while an 8,000ft peak on Alexander Island was named Mount Huckle.
John Sidney Rodney Huckle was born at Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, on June 22 1924 and educated at Berkhamsted School. As soon as he could he joined the Navy, serving on the lower deck before being commissioned a midshipman (RNVR). He served first as a submariner before becoming the anti-submarine warfare officer in the destroyer Calder in the 4th Escort Group, which accompanied convoys across the treacherous Arctic seas to Russia.
He was awarded a DSC for his part in the destruction of the German submarine U-1051 on January 26 1945, south of the Isle of Man. On April 8, south-west of Ireland, Calder was credited with sinking U-774 and, 12 days later, in the same area, with damaging another U-boat ; Huckle was awarded a Bar to his DSC. He then served briefly in the submarine Vulpine.
In 1957 he returned to the Antarctic aboard the Danish coaster Oluf Sven, base ship for the Falkland Islands and Dependences Aerial Survey Expedition, serving as the navigator . That season Oluf Sven conducted 800 miles of soundings in previously uncharted waters.
His interest in the Antarctic reawakened, Huckle signed a three-year contract with the whaling company Christian Salvesen to serve as a helicopter pilot aboard the factory-ships Southern Venture and Southern Harvester. He later conceded that this was the riskiest undertaking of his life: searches for whales in underpowered, single-engined Whirlwind helicopters often extended hundreds of miles from the mother-ship over freezing seas; in the event of a ditching, rescue would have been unlikely.
Subsequently he joined World Wide Air Services, an Anglo-American company specialising in oil exploration. This job took him across the world, and his career encompassed more than 10,000 hours’ flying in aircraft from lumbering multi-engined flying boats to tiny three-seater helicopters. His proud record was that none of his passengers ever suffered any injury, although he confessed: “One or two aircraft ended up rather bent.”
His worst experience came while flying near the South Sandwich Islands. Curiosity overcame his habitual caution and, as he peered into a volcano, sulphurous fumes filled the cockpit; without a supply of oxygen, the engine coughed and spluttered, and the aircraft plunged several hundred feet before recovering.
On November 1 last year John Huckle was presented with the newly-created Arctic Star for his services on convoys to Russia .
He married first, in 1953, Ann Hargreaves, and secondly, in 1966, Eileen Uttley, who survives him with a son and two daughters of his first marriage.
Captain John Huckle, born June 22 1924, died December 9 2013
Tim Lott’s quote from the song Turn Around (Family, 22 February) calls for a reminder of one of the finest writers of children’s songs and protest songs of the 1960s. It was not written by Nanci Griffith but by Malvina Reynolds, a California schoolteacher, writer and composer of several immortal ballads – Little Boxes, Morningtown Ride, What Have They Done to the Rain?, and Magic Penny. Credit where enormous credit is due.
• Cameron and other guardians of the rich run the country for their own benefit, with many deliberately anti-public, antisocial and anti-human policies. Surely this makes their intended “rebranding” (The Workers’ party? That’s us, say Tories in bid to rebrand, 25 February) an insult to those who are in work, yet still find themselves impoverished.
Mark Jay Smith
• Hardly a day goes by without David Cameron or George Osborne appearing on TV in hard hats and hi-vis jackets. Do they think posing as construction workers will boost their appeal with the working class?
• The Tories used to berate Labour by reminding us that during its time in office the dead could not be buried nor the bins collected due to strikes. Now Labour has the gift of reminding us that under the Tories and Lib Dems, the poor were allowed to starve or go to food banks (Jonathan Freedland, 22 February).
• I see that “compensation” (Letters, 24 February) is again being used, with regard to Stuart Gulliver’s bonus (Banker’s £32,000-a-week rise, 25 February) And what has he done to deserve this? Among other things, he has cut 40,000 “roles”. Would those be what we used to call “jobs” or “livelihoods”? Compensation seems due, but not to him.
• Like Gilbert O’Sullivan and others (Letters, 25 February), I’d like to know who scheduled the Brits and Folk Awards on the same evening. But it’s not Clair.
Harriet Harman and former officers of the National Council for Civil Liberties are not the only people to be suffering discomfort about historical associations with the Paedophile Information Exchange (Harman attacks Mail for ‘smear campaign’ over paedophilia, 25 February).
In 1979, as a 19-year-old student, I made my way up from Exeter University to London for my first ever Gay Pride march. The event was filmed by Granada TV’s World in Action, and I recall the confusion and embarrassment when the subsequent broadcast footage showed several of my fellow students marching in close proximity to a large vehicle which had PIE posters displayed all over it.
This was far from an isolated incident. In 1980 I attended a National Union of Students gay rights conference at Leeds University. One of the keynote speakers, who was allowed to address us uninterruptedly for more than half an hour, was a member of PIE. He claimed that pre-pubescent children were fully capable of giving full consent to sexual activity with adults.
When I angrily asked the organisers what the PIE agenda had to do with the rights of adults like myself (still legally underage) to consent to same-sex behaviour, I was brushed off and told to mind my own business.
• Back in the 70s and 80s, few people knew about the horrors of paedophilia. In the early 80s, the Paedophile Information Exchange held its annual conference in the premises of the department of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, where I then worked. Were the department apologists for child abuse? Of course not. It was just another booking from a then-legal organisation, and they welcomed the income. Today people are much better informed and such a booking would be totally inconceivable.
• We still don’t know the full facts of the links between the NCCL and PIE in the 70s, but I think we should be very wary of the Mail’s holier-than-thou headlines. Anyone who has had professional dealings with alleged and convicted paedophiles – prison officers, legal representatives, probation officers, prison education teachers etc – may find themselves compromised in future if the Mail decides to pursue their stories.
I was a teacher in prison education for many years and I was paid to improve the educational achievements of a range of offenders, some of whom were convicted paedophiles. The fact that I ran a lively, productive working environment in my classroom did not mean I advocated or espoused any of their sexual proclivities but I was there as a professional person who accepted that they had a right to educational opportunities. If the Mail remains unchallenged, who will they come after next?
• Asking Harriet Harman to apologise for working at the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s because a paedophile organisation once infiltrated it is a bit like asking David Attenborough to apologise for working at the BBC because Jimmy Savile worked there too.
David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith refer to benefit cuts, sanctions and tougher rules as part of their “moral mission” (DWP accused over action against blind man, 20 February), giving people hope and self-respect. Can it really be moral to blame people for being unemployed and sanction them, when there are well over 2 million unemployed, yet only half a million vacancies? Are people really gaining hope and self-respect when they have to resort to food banks? Should we place much trust in a government that trumpets reduction in unemployment figures, when many people have been driven off benefits into being clothed as “self-employed”, yet earning very little?
• It is essential to make a clear distinction between what Mr Duncan Smith is rightly doing to improve the entire benefits system and the quite separate system of cruel sanctions raised by the bishops (Report, 21 February) and earlier by Polly Toynbee (8 November 2013). A young man I have been mentoring was given a three-month sanction in May 2013 for failing to attend a meeting the DWP had not told him about. His appeal was refused in late July. A tribunal hearing on 20 January found against the DWP. A month later he has heard nothing from the DWP, and certainly has not received the money he is owed. Meanwhile he is on a zero-hours contract that has given him no work for three weeks. No work means no money. No money means no food, no heating and inability to pay the rent. He can’t resign because to make himself voluntarily out of work means he would get no benefits for six months even though, in reality, he is not employed. This cannot be right.
South Petherton, Somerset
• Instead of complaining about the elected government’s policies, the bishops and archbishops could house thousands of the homeless in their rectories, churches and cathedrals. They could give away half their not-insubstantial stipends to feed the poor. They could sell-off their surplus properties and accumulated treasure, and distribute the proceeds to the destitute directly.
Professor David Marsland
Institute of Social Systems Analysis
• Zoe Williams laments that the left can’t countermand the image of the “not really” disabled by quoting figures (It’s the cumulative impact of benefit cuts that is shocking, 20 February). True; but it would help if Rachel Reeves (“tougher than the Tories on benefits”) didn’t join in the narrative.
Labour councils are persistently pursuing residents who are in council tax and bedroom tax debt – largely the consequence of benefit reforms – with summonses, bailiffs and evictions. This sends a message that those under attack at best aren’t worth fighting for and at worst deserve it. A national local council campaign of legal non-co-operation with the council tax support scheme and bedroom tax, backed by community groups and campaigners, alongside a serious demand for David Cameron to make up the funding shortfall, would cut through any existential doubt that such mistreatment was in some way justified, would give hope to those under attack, and pave the way for fighting off other disastrous welfare reforms. If not now, when?
Nottingham & Notts Scrap the Bedroom Tax Defend Council Tax Benefit
• Zoe Williams makes a powerful case. In order to understand how shocking the position is, it is surely worth adding that it is now impossible to get legal advice on welfare benefit matters through legal aid. This scandalous policy removes access to justice for a large number of our fellow citizens, many of them disabled.
House of Lords
• Tenants of private landlords certainly do not escape the bedroom tax. It is delivered to them another way, through the local housing allowance, which takes into account how many bedrooms that household is entitled to for the purpose of assessing housing benefit. The results are the same: move to something smaller if you can find it, pay the rent shortfall yourself if you can, or be evicted.
Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz
• As providers of advice services in Newham, one of the most deprived areas of the country, we were shocked to read that a leaked DWP memo suggests sanctioned claimants should pay for appeals (Report, 21 February). We understand that appropriate use of sanctions has an important role in changing behaviours and supporting people back to employment – indeed, we are providers of the Work Programme. However, locally we are finding many problems with the sanctions process. Some claimants do not fully understand the rules; some are sanctioned due to error at the jobcentre; some are sanctioned for very minor offences and even when it is clear they are trying to find work.
For the nearly one million people who were sanctioned last year, the result too often is destitution. We work every day with people who have been sanctioned. We support them to appeal and provide practical support, including emergency food packages, during the period when they are, in effect, destitute. The suggestion that destitute people should have to pay for appeals – which in 58% of cases are successful – would be disastrous for the most vulnerable. Where does the DWP think someone with no income would find £250 to secure their rights?
Chief executive, Community Links
• Has Iain Duncan Smith any idea how many people in UK earn less than £150 a week (EU migrants face new barrier to accessing UK state benefits, 20 February)? As a welfare rights worker I see too many clients who are paid just below that.
Using earnings of £150 a week as a threshold to access benefits would exclude those workers most likely to find themselves having to claim benefit, of which EU migrants form only a percentage. We already subject British passport holders to the habitual residence test; once the crowing about the numbers in work, albeit still in poverty, dies down, will this be applied across the board too?
The National Farmers’ Union doesn’t appear to grasp the seriousness of soil structural damage (compaction or squeezing the life out of soil) and its implications for water movement in the environment. My peer-reviewed paper published in December 2013 by Soil Use and Management was referred to by George Monbiot (How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes, 18 February) and subsequently by Andrew Clark from the NFU (Letters, 19 February). In my extensive field study of 3,243 sites, 75% of land under maize showed serious structural degradation (smeared, rutted and severely compacted) and was producing enhanced surface runoff across the fields. This is inevitable when crops are harvested late in the year (October and November) by heavy machinery.
Some 30% (93 sites) of this degraded maize land carried well-drained, naturally permeable soils over aquifer rocks. Historically, rainfall on these soils readily percolates vertically down through the soil and recharges groundwater resources. After maize cultivation, the damage to soil structure is so severe that rainfall cannot penetrate the damaged upper soil layers, and lateral surface runoff results.
A typical winter atmospheric depression (now referred to in the media as a storm) will produce 20-30mm of rain over a 12-hour period. Optimistically, assuming that up to one half of this rain percolates into these damaged maize soils, this leaves the volume of half an Olympic-sized swimming pool (in excess of 1m litres of muddy water) to be shed laterally across the surface of this “sealed” land for every 10-hectare block of maize stubble. So this winter, when the Meteorological Office reports 30 “storms”, every 10-hectare block of damaged land under maize stubble has produced the equivalent of 15 Olympic pools (more than 375m litres) as enhanced runoff. And 196,000 hectares of maize were grown in 2013, an increase of 24% on 2012. How can the NFU fail to understand the implications of this land use for catchment flooding?
David Hare does not need to look far to see the rage against the dominance of security services and a supporting judiciary that he finds wanting in England (Where’s the rage?, 22 February). In Dublin I witnessed the public support for another playwright, Margaretta D’Arcy, whose outstanding contribution to Ireland’s artistic life is honoured through her membership of Aosdána. She is serving three months in prison for non-violent protests against Ireland’s complicity in rendition flights and other uninspected US military uses of Shannon airport. By trespassing on airport land, she and her co-defendant, Niall Farrell, are highlighting exactly the lack of democratic accountability of security services of which David Hare speaks, not only in Ireland but in the UK and other European countries.
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities has expressed support for D’Arcy. Glasgow’s Prestwick airport has similarly been complicit with US rendition flights, as have several English airports – another reason for Scotland to dismiss David Bowie’s much-publicised plea and become an independent nation again.
I read your item on water reserves drying up with anger and consternation (World’s water reserves dry up, 14 February). It is not only farmers around the world who are using these finite supplies to grow food for an ever-increasing, unsustainable population, but also giant mining and energy companies.
In Australia in particular, billions of litres of precious underground water are used to wash coal. The water cannot be reused as it is toxic, but there have been many instances of holding dams leaking into the environment. Also, companies exploring for gas are fracturing underground water aquifers, threatening the livelihoods of whole communities due to contamination of the indispensable underground water reserves.
What is most horrifying is that both state and federal governments are encouraging these activities for short-term gain. Why are we so desperate to get at what’s left of resources? Too many people is always the problem.
Our politicians seem to have lost sight of the fact that nothing can live without water.
Birdwood, South Australia
• Two of the major problems occurring from climate change are rising sea levels and drought. Couldn’t a simple solution be for developed and developing countries (some who will suffer most from sea level rises) to build a large number of desalination plants around the world? Linking pipeline infrastructure to drought-stricken areas would kill at least three birds with one stone. Sea levels drop, water becomes available in dry areas, and many jobs would be provided by building and maintaining infrastructure – and mostly in countries that need an economic boost the most.
Desalination plants can be powered with renewables (wave, wind, hydro, solar etc) and the excess salt redelivered offshore, to prevent a local saline buildup. Salinity levels worldwide would remain stable, as the ocean is currently being diluted by glacial melts and large amounts of rain falling uselessly over the seas.
This would take a massive amount of co-operation from a number of wealthy countries, but I dare to dream. It would benefit almost every creature on this planet.
Steve Le Marquand
Terrigal, NSW, Australia
• Perhaps World’s water reserves dry up was not the best choice of lead story for your recent issue – at least for British readers who would be glad if anything would dry up.
Australia’s global shame
When the Guardian Weekly arrived condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers (Locked up and out of Australia, 7 February) I wanted to weep with gratitude for your showing us up, shaming us publicly to the rest of the world. Then came a letter by Jed Dolwin (Reply, 14 February) trying to justify our government’s inhuman stance.
I feel it is all very well for people living in upmarket suburbs to be happy with the current situation – but can they have any idea of what hell such refugees have been, and are, going through?
I trust I speak for the majority of Australians who have pity in our hearts, and deplore our government’s illegal treatment of people who are only – as surely as we ourselves are – trying to do better for themselves and their families.
Siti Salamah Pope
Perth, Western Australia
• I think your letter writer Jed Dolwin is confusing immigration and asylum seeking. Under Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people seeking asylum in a country are not illegal nor are they considered immigrants. People who come to Australia on a visa and overstay may be considered illegal.
Asylum seekers are people who are fleeing countries where their life or freedom is threatened, who have seen their families killed or tortured. They are not in a queue; there is no queue. Anyone who wants to seek asylum must flee their country first, and the concept of an orderly queue is not the reality of the asylum process. Ninety-two percent of people arriving in Australia by boat since 2008 have been assessed as genuine refugees fleeing war, persecution, genocide or torture.
Perhaps Australia has to reassess its population limits, but let us not do this at the expense of those of us who have suffered unimaginable horrors and who only want a better life. Let us not persecute the persecuted to send a message to people smugglers, an abhorrent policy perpetrated by a government with no compassion or regard for their signature on the Geneva conventions.
Deans Marsh, Victoria, Australia
• Jed Dolwin is proud to accept 210,000 immigrants per year into Australia, including skilled migrants brought in specifically to take our jobs. On the other hand, he justifies extreme, expensive and inhumane methods to keep out a mere few thousand refugees on the grounds that we have to cap our population. This is a con, designed by conservative politicians to pander to popular prejudice while serving the need of capitalists for cheaper, more exploitable labour. Refugees pay the human price while Aussie taxpayers fund the hugely expensive stunt.
None of the arguments that justify Australia’s current treatment of refugees make sense. When the irrationality of any one argument is pointed out, the refugee haters just drag out another that is equally specious.
S W Davey
St Torrens, ACT, Australia
The joys of solitude
I was rather disappointed with The Joys of Solitude (14 February). I was hoping that Sara Maitland would tell us about her happy life of solitude in Scotland. The article turned out to be a defence of being a loner. I feel the article would have been more meaningful if she simply told us the things she does every day living by herself.
I’m a 72-year-old loner who is happy to be by myself. I live in a small rural town in the foothills of northern California. I enjoy curling up with a good book to read. I love doing crosswords and watch television in the evening. I subscribe to almost 30 periodicals, including the Guardian Weekly, so I’m well aware of what is going on in the world.
I simply prefer my own company. I have contributed to society by being in the military and my 27 years as a public school teacher.
Grass Valley, California, US
• Just to add a comment or two to Sara Maitland’s excellent article on our fear and negative perceptions of solitude. First, it has historically always been harder for women to withdraw to solitude, because we are expected to keep things running smoothly and not desert our posts; and second, corporate capitalism encourages people to congregate in large numbers, such as in shopping malls and at sporting events, in order to expose the greatest possible number to the advertising of the consumer culture. To step outside both those expectations takes courage and wit.
Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia
• I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sara Maitland’s article The Joys of Solitude. And what better day to contemplate the topic than on Valentine’s Day.
It seems people living in solitude are wrongly viewed with suspicion and accused of living a selfish existence. However I do believe that living in such a way certainly helps to learn much more about oneself. With such contemplation this hopefully leads to self-acceptance and a greater love of self.
I would contend that without knowing and loving this, the closest point of our existence how can we know and truly love others? Ultimately this aloneness leads to true altruism.
Byron Bay, Australia
Condemning the car cult
“The open sewers of the car cult”: what a brilliant phrase (Worship on four wheels, 31 January). All that glamour, sexiness, speed, convenience and comfort are indeed a lie. Cars not only drive oil wars and climate change; they foul air, water and soil at all stages of their parasitical life/death cycle. They’re the apotheosis of privatised, noxious, armoured living: a hegemony that reduces our cities to noisome rat-runs.
Cars prey on the vulnerable – the young, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, pedestrians and cyclists; turn a third of urban land into a tarmac eyesore; and trump community, displacing us from our neighbourhoods, which become murderous thoroughfares for other people’s busyness. And since it seems we’re unable to give up a habit that is irrevocably harming the biosphere on which our own wellbeing depends, cars aren’t just cult – they’re a life-threatening addiction.
Is being forced to inhale car excrement as harmful, as much an infringement of human rights, as passive smoking? Can one be a car-atheist?
In Australia, cars kill more than 1,000 people a year, and upwards of 4 million native animals. Yet whenever there’s a fatal shark or crocodile attack – three or four annually – we start hysterically and randomly culling sharks and crocodiles.
Wake up. Go sane. Cull cars instead, beginning with our own.
West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
• On reading that an independent Scotland might have a struggle to join the European Union (21 February), this is extremely bizarre in the face of the noise now being made about Ukraine.
Thank you to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (24 February) for her eloquent protest about the impact on children of the Government’s “ideological mission to punish and degrade the poor”. We should be outraged that families in the UK are having to use food banks.
I have worked with ministers in Whitehall, so I appreciate how complex it can be to balance public finances with welfare costs. But the Coalition’s actions are, as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says, purely ideological. The money is available (implementing a tax of 0.05 per cent on financial transactions would quickly raise enough to replenish the Local Welfare Assistance Fund, at the very least), but they care more for cosseted bankers than for children in need. Most of the Cabinet have no experience of state schools or NHS treatment or of genuinely striving to make ends meet.
When they lose power, their shameful legacy will be the proliferation of food banks for many and increased wealth for a few.
Jeremy Oliver, London SW12
What is the anti-charity logic of all those repeatedly telling us no one should have to rely on food banks?
It appears to go like this. If anyone can’t or won’t pay for food (either because they can’t or won’t get a job), then government must give them other people’s money to buy some. If some recipients spend that money on things that aren’t food, then government must just give them more of other people’s money.
The same reasoning can then be applied to clothing, housing, heating, and so on – until millions of taxpayers wonder why we’re bringing in foreigners to do “the jobs we don’t want to do” while paying healthy, working-age people to do nothing.
To defend this logic, it is necessary to denounce as “insulting” any references to buying cheaper clothes, downsizing to a smaller (taxpayer-funded) flat or donning a cardigan when cold. Dare to notice tattoos, cigarettes or wide-screen televisions and you’ll be attacked as “judgmental”.
In fact, even to point out any of the above is to invite a furious rant accusing you of dividing “the most vulnerable” into “the deserving and undeserving poor”. No wonder benefits reform has been such a struggle.
Keith Gilmour, Glasgow
I suspect that if M R Battersby (letter, 25 February) had been one of those made unemployed by this government’s ideology, he would expect a civilised country to ensure that he and his family were provided for, until he was in a position to do so himself. As a tax and National Insurance payer he would have a right to expect that.
I think he is falling for Tory propaganda which leads people to believe that all those on benefits do not wish to work, whereas I believe it is only a small proportion who do not.
We should be generating the wealth to keep people employed by creating jobs to work on the country’s infrastructure, such as building adequate flood defences. We should not be making people unemployed in areas such as the NHS only to pay far more in agency fees, and compensation for the resulting inadequate care.
D Wallace, Bradford
Fathers demand right to stay at home?
Terence Blacker (24 February) discusses the postmodern marriage, suggesting things have been improved by a change in gender roles. Mr Blacker cites a survey which found that more than one fifth of fathers would rather care for their children full-time than return to work.
If this is the case, where are these fathers? Why are they not marching in the streets, petitioning government and loudly demanding equal parental rights in the same way second-wave feminists demanded gender equality? If fathers are serious about equal parenting then they should take action immediately.
Of course, they would also have to persuade mothers to loosen their grip on what has, traditionally, been women’s main source of power, in favour of a much less certain outcome. I wish them luck.
Sarah Crooks, Derby
Tax land, not homes and jobs
The case for a land value tax was well made by Ben Chu (25 February). However, it should be made clear that the annual levy would not be based on the market value (suggesting capital value) of the site but on the annual rental value.
Advocates of land value tax emphasise that in addition to replacing stamp duty, council tax and business rates, taxes on wages, production, sales and savings could be reduced and eventually abolished.
The immediate benefits would be that everyone had more money to spend and the resulting increase in demand for goods and services would provide opportunities for new business start-ups and job creation. Additional benefits that are rarely mentioned are that, unlike other taxes, a land value tax cannot be avoided and cannot be passed on in higher rents and prices, and that marginal sites would be zero-rated to provide an added incentive for new businesses to become established.
Michael J Hawes, Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire
Cut off aid to anti-gay Uganda
So, after threatening to introduce its anti-gay legislation for over two years, Uganda has finally done so.
While we are obliged to respect other countries’ cultural and traditional norms, the line has to be drawn when those standards conflict with almost universally accepted human rights, and are abhorrent to us here in Britain. And when such a country is a recipient of our financial support through the Department for International Development, as in the case of Uganda, it should be imperative that our aid be made dependent on changes to what we perceive as unacceptable ethical standards.
I look forward to The Independent informing us shortly that the UK’s DfID will be following Sweden’s proposed example and ceasing all aid to Uganda unless and until this abhorrent legislation is rescinded.
Dr Michael B Johnson, Brighton
If Scotland votes to leave
What happens to the Scottish peers in the event of a “Yes” vote for independence? Strangely the House of Lords website does not provide the facility to search on the criterion “Scottish”, but the newly created Baron Livingston of Parkhead, in the city of Glasgow, is now Minister of Trade and Investment. Other Scots peers include Lord Irvine, former Lord Chancellor, and David Steel.
Surely even the most ardent supporter of the undemocratic House of Lords could not accept lords of a foreign land enjoying life-long political power over the English, Welsh and Northern Irish, and £300 per day attendance money, tax free. Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian question retains its relevance.
Peter Slessenger, Reading
I’m getting a little tired of people saying that Scottish independence is a purely Scottish affair. After all, the vote has ramifications for the whole world. For instance, if the vote is Yes, then the glow of self-satisfaction from Alex Salmond’s massive, smug face will surely contribute to the reduction of the polar ice shelf.
Steve Wetherell, Corby
Making independent schools affordable
In her price on independent schools (25 February) Rosie Millard makes the all-too-common mistake of picking the biggest number she can find and crafting a lively narrative around it.
The majority of pupils who attend independent school, at least in Scotland, are day pupils who live locally. Annual fees, for those who do pay full fees, are well below £10,000 – not the £30K figure quoted, which is more than any full boarding experience in Scotland would cost.
On top of that, the charity law in Scotland requires means-tested financial assistance for pupils who wish to access the education of independent schools but require fee assistance. The sum of that assistance is well above £30m annually, with bursaries ranging up to 100 per cent.
All of which is why the landscape, seen from here, is a lot more diverse and welcoming than Rosie Millard sees.
John Edward, Director Scottish Council of Independent Schools, Edinburgh
Safe haven for Christians
Robert Fisk is right to regret the tragic exodus of Christians from the Middle East (24 February). In Egypt, Iraq and other Arab countries, their places of worship are being attacked, their homes and businesses burnt down and their lives threatened.
Christians in Israel, however, are prospering and increasing in number. They enjoy complete freedom to practise their religion and its rituals, like all ethnic and religious minorities in Israel.
Murray Fink, Manchester
‘Wouldn’t it be better for people in England to have to positively agree to the use of their GP data, as is proposed for Scotland?’
Sir, NHS England has a plan to take the coded confidential records of all general practice consultations and upload them onto a central database. The database will include details of prescriptions, tests, mental illness management plans, alcohol consumption and so on — things that, until now, have been considered as confidential between patients and their doctors. It will form the largest coverage database of the population because the NHS covers almost everyone — a very detailed personal record, rather like a super-identity card scheme.
Under the terms of the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 any organisation, including the police, government departments and pharmaceutical companies, will be entitled to apply for access to that central database, called Care.data. They would be able to use it for profit-making activities. The Departments for Work & Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs have applied for access to personal health data. The groups that will specifically not be allowed access to the database are the patients themselves and their GPs, who are being forced to upload it — it will be a statutory requirement for them do so. Data analyses are potentially useful and at Imperial College we have analysed hospital data in several countries (and highlighted the problems at Mid Staffordshire in the UK), but we have not needed confidential GP data to do so.
Patients are being informed about the system by means of a leaflet sent in the post with the junk mail. Patients can opt out of the system, if they can be bothered, by writing to their GP, but the leaflet says little about the drawbacks. People are told that if they don’t opt out they can change their mind at any time, but in fact once data has been uploaded it cannot be removed or deleted. Six months ago patients were not even going to be allowed to opt out.
The data will not exactly identify people, but experts think that it will be possible, though illegal, to identify some individuals and combine it with the information that organisations with access hold themselves. The NHS and government departments are notorious for data leaks.
After protests, NHS England has decided to delay implementation of the scheme until September, but so far there are no plans to make substantial changes. Wouldn’t it be better for people in England to have to positively agree to the use of their GP data, as is proposed for Scotland?
Professor Sir Brian Jarman, FRCP
Imperial College London
Sir, Your 57 correspondents (letter, Feb 24) rightly draw attention to the benefits of data linkage and cite instances where the sharing of data has allowed valuable health benefits to be realised. That is not the issue with the Care.data project. The scope of the information proposed to be held in a central database far exceeds anything previously envisaged.
If the data will be as secure as we are told, why has an exemption from the Data Protection Act been granted? None of the past studies that are listed as having provided such great benefits required such an exemption. Nor were their data made available to organisations, including public companies, in a pseudonymised form that certainly does not guarantee anonymity.
The issue here is not whether or not data linkage has value. That is unarguable. It is one of security, confidentiality, personal choice and the potential for data to be misused.
Clive A. Layton, FRCP
Abbess Roding, Essex
‘It is through engaging with civic society that Christians, Jews, Muslims and others of faith can influence our society’
Sir, Lord Carey of Clifton’s Opinion article (“It’s simplistic for bishops to oppose welfare cuts”, Feb 25) is patronising in tone and outdated in its approach. It is no longer sufficient to repeat the old mantra that Christians and those of other faiths should not meddle in politics. It is through engaging with civic society that Christians, Jews, Muslims and others of faith can influence the shape and direction of our society.
Spending choices by any political administration reveal the value systems which lie behind those choices. The witness of the three great Abrahamic faiths in their prophetic writing (for example, the books of Isaiah or Haggai) contain searing criticism of the political and societal leadership of their times.
People of faith should be more, and not less, involved in thinking politically. Religious leaders are correct to join the debate on the kind of society we want to live in.
The Rev Rebecca H. Watts
Newcastle upon Tyne
Sir, There is a longstanding tradition in the Church of England that the clergy do not interfere in the affairs of their former parishes, or in any way criticise or embarrass their successors in office. This principle (it is no more than common courtesy) applies a fortiori to the bishops, and it is regrettable that Lord Carey, since his retirement from office, has continued to intervene publicly in the affairs of the Church in a way which can only embarrass his successors and frustrate them in their mission.
He is free to disagree with them, but he should preserve a humble and courteous silence.
The Rev Alan Robson
Sir, For some time I was puzzled by your front-page headline, “Carey hits out at ‘naive’ bishops in poverty row”. Surely bishops live in palaces, not in poverty-stricken housing. Ah yes! Row as in “dispute”, not as in a line of houses. No wonder foreigners find English difficult.
David Pannick’s defence of judicial review really is important to the moral fabric of our land
Sir, Bernard Harrison’s re-telling of Tom Finney’s reaction to the award of an erroneous penalty for Preston at Brentford in 1950 (Lives Remembered, Feb 20) demonstrates how important David Pannick’s defence of judicial review really is to the moral fabric of our land (“Why judicial review needs protection from our politicians”, Feb 20).
Mr Pannick articulates, as always, the sound reasons why further incursions into the citizen’s right to ask for review of arbitrary or unlawful decisions of the State should not be dependent on anything as crude as the likely result. Mr Harrison recalls the loudest cheer he ever heard at a football ground when Sir Tom deliberately kicked the “unlawful” penalty into the crowd behind the goal. This Government would do well to reflect on what Sir Tom knew: it wasn’t just the result that mattered.
My firm has, over the years, obtained many successful judicial reviews for vulnerable clients notwithstanding the innately conservative judicial view that it would not have affected the outcome. Those decisions have been very useful in making sure people in authority keep to the rules in the future.
Results do matter but they are not as important as how the game is played.
GT Stewart Solicitors, London SE5
‘How much of the North Sea oil would Scotland get if the borders between the fields were drawn on international boundary principles?’
Sir, Your editorial (“UK Oil”, Feb 25) on oil and Scottish independence discusses the issue without mention of what is for many the central point: how much of the North Sea oil would Scotland get if the borders between the fields were drawn on international boundary principles rather than the present arbitrary line of latitude at the border between Scottish and English legal jurisdictions? It is this latter line only that assigns almost all the oil to Scotland, and Alex Salmond disingenuously talks as if that line would survive genuine separation. It could not. No one knows how international arbitration would go, but the best guess seems to be that about half would go to Scotland.
Moreover, if — as polls suggest — Scots voters could be swayed in the referendum by theoretically being either £500 better off or worse off, this realistic future for the remaining oil should be a serious consideration.
Professor Yorick Wilks
Although Charles Edward led the Jacobite attempts of 1744-46,the aim was to secure the throne for his father
Sir, May I draw attention to a rare inaccuracy in your admirable Weather Eye column (Feb 24)? The attempted French invasion of 1744 was indeed intended to secure a Stuart restoration to the throne, but it was the Old Pretender (James Edward Stuart) who would have been restored (as your column says) as James III. Although Charles Edward (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”) led the Jacobite attempts of 1744-46,the aim was to secure the throne for his father. It is often forgotten that the latter lived on until 1766; had the ’45 rebellion succeeded, he would have been king for some 20 years.
J. R. G. Edwards
SIR – The Princess Royal’s suggestion (report, February 22) that “small schemes of between six and 12 homes could be scattered around villages”, instead of building large single developments of up to 15,000 houses, makes complete sense.
Small numbers of new and affordable houses will revive villages whose numbers are dwindling, by bringing in young families. This organic growth will provide work for local builders, ensuring that buildings have local character instead of conforming to the tasteless template favoured by large construction companies.
Little Glemham, Suffolk
SIR – Our towns and villages weren’t planned consciously by planners, but grew spontaneously over time. Building new towns and “garden cities” will repeat the mistakes of the 20th century. Families would rather live in areas that have character, soul and history, not places that were solely built for people to live.
Concerns over the Government’s legal aid figures
25 Feb 2014
The unnecessary expense of staging rival Cabinet meetings in Scotland
25 Feb 2014
James A Paton
SIR – The Princess Royal is misguided in suggesting that the problems of new homes can be solved by building small quantities of houses in villages. Such houses would be rapidly purchased as second homes and contribute nothing to village life or help to solve the housing shortage.
Peñíscola, Castellón, Spain
SIR – I do not disagree in principle with adding a few houses to each village. But the problem is that old villages and towns discharge their sewage from septic tanks to local fields via combined pipes which carry rain and waste water to the sewage plant. In heavy rain, anything over half a pipeful is dumped into the nearest water course, sewage and all. While Defra claims that this is “approved sewage”, if a farmer inadvertently lets some sewage into the same watercourse, he is fined heavily.
Developers of new housing must be forced to install dual pipework, one for rainwater and one for waste water.
T C Bell
SIR – The background to Sunday’s Scientology marriage may be more significant than at first appears. In December 2013, the Supreme Court recognised Scientology as a religion.
In 1970, the Court of Appeal had upheld the judgment of the High Court that the Registrar General was right to refuse to register a Scientology building as a place of public religious worship (a prerequisite of registering a building for marriage). The judgment was that Scientology was secular and Scientologists did not worship a Supreme Being.
However, following the Marriage Act 1994, a Scientology building could be registered for marriage as an “approved premises”. Readings and secular additions could be added to the words of declaration and contract required by all non-Anglican marriages in England and Wales.
This week’s ceremony was the same as that which could have taken place without Scientology being declared a religion. The difference is that, previously, it would not have been recorded in the register as according to the rites and ceremonies of Scientologists. While marriage may have been presented as the main reason for having taken this recent case to the Supreme Court, significant financial and other benefits to Scientology stem from such a lifestyle-group having been legally declared a religion. This opens a very wide door.
Deputy Registrar General for England and Wales, 1983-1994
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Silence is golden
SIR – Unnecessary announcements are everywhere. We are constantly harangued on trains and station platforms. Is the nation afraid of silence?
East Leake, Nottinghamshire
Get children into sculpture by letting them climb on it
SIR – Children should not only be allowed in museums, they should be encouraged to visit them (Arts, February 20) by parents, teachers and the museums themselves. Children should be introduced to all categories of culture at a very young age.
My father, John Skeaping RA (1901-1980), was commissioned to carve works that he actively encouraged children to climb on, including a pair of giant granite tortoises in 1938 (now sadly lost somewhere in the Ashdown Forest) and a bear in Irish limestone in 1956, still at a school in Rugby and hopefully still enjoyed by children.
Of course, not all sculpture should be climbed on but some works in the Tate could be easily misconstrued as a climbing frame by a child.
SIR – Who had the foolish idea of turning Tate Britain into a kindergarten for the half-term holiday? Loud musical instruments and amplified microphones in every room might have been fun for the hundreds of toddlers running around, but it had nothing to do with the art and made it impossible for anyone else to enjoy the work on the walls.
Dr Michael Paraskos
SIR – The House of Bishops of the Church of England has recently issued pastoral guidance which states that nobody in a same-sex marriage will be accepted for ordination and that existing clergy will be disciplined if they enter a same-sex marriage. In justifying these announcements, it says: “There will, for the first time, be a divergence between the… definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England.”
They have forgotten their history. The Church of England enforced a view of marriage as indissoluble long after civil law allowed remarriage of divorcees. During this period a king was forced to abdicate because he wanted to marry a divorcee, and Princess Margaret could not marry the man of her choice because he was a divorcee. It was not until 2002 that the Church formally accommodated remarriage of a divorced person.
The bishops believe that the challenge that gay marriage presents to the Church is unprecedented. They will not be able to reason their way to truthful guidance for the present by starting from false premises about the past.
Professor Iain McLean
Nuffield College, University of Oxford
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch
St Cross College, University of Oxford
Professor Linda Woodhead
SIR – Those responsible for the release of confidential patient information should be named. If data protection law has been breached, they should be prosecuted. All data obtained in this way must be destroyed so that patients can, again, seek advice knowing that their medical history is not available to a person in a call centre, or others seeking to profit from their misfortune.
G B Hopkinson
The right fanfare
SIR – The best version of the national anthem is the one used by the BBC before the 7am news on the birthdays of the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. It is a military band with suggestions of an orchestra, and includes a fanfare. I have recorded it in case I ever need to use it.
Taxing the nation
SIR – Although still in full-time employment, I have not paid a penny in National Insurance since I reached pensionable age several years ago. Renaming NI as Earnings Tax suggests that this may no longer hold true.
I hope that the Chancellor will bear in mind the power of the grey vote in his deliberations on what could become a very contentious issue.
SIR – The renaming of National Insurance is welcome. However, Earnings Tax is still not right. National Insurance is paid by employers as well as employees. NI is not paid on earnings from savings or investments. Its title should be “Job Tax”.
St Ives, Huntingdonshire
SIR – The structure of the academic year is ridiculous because it is based on the Victorian need for children to be out of school for harvest (report, February 25). Everybody is trapped in this pattern, which has led to intense week-long half-term breaks and expensive holidays.
We should move towards a four-term year and more evenly spread holidays. Many of our schools would like to split the Easter holidays from the religious festival for the reason that Easter can be such a movable feast, but the status quo is so deeply ingrained in this country.
If there was less of an expectation to follow the rigid format of term-time and holidays we are all used to, the peak times for high-price holidays would be far less concentrated.
Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
SIR – While we debate whether travel companies should charge more for holidays taken during half-term, can we also discuss the “single room” supplements charged to travellers who, through no fault of their own, travel alone? I recently paid more than £100 to stay in a room on my own, while couples on the same holiday paid £89.99 between them.
SIR – Derrick Hedley is wrong to think that the West Lothian Question will be settled by Scottish independence. MPs of Welsh and Northern Irish constituencies will still be able to vote in Westminster on devolved issues that only affect inhabitants of England. Perhaps it could be rebranded as the West Glamorgan Question?
Put the flags out
SIR – London will shortly boast its own .lon domain name, and I think we should have a flag. My front garden flagpole on Saturday flew the Cross of St George for England rugby. On Sunday, I raised the Olympic flag. I fly the appropriate flag for the 4th of July, on Bastille Day and whenever my Argentine mother-in law wafts in for Sunday lunch.
The branding opportunities are endless for proud Londoners: T-shirts, bumper stickers, tea trays, etc. Perhaps the adoption of a flag would even spawn an independence movement, which is all the rage at the moment.
Pupils benefit intellectually from studying RE
SIR – The lack of support for religious education is astounding given the subject’s merits. No other subject creates as many possibilities for cross-curricular study. Teachers can help students broaden their intellectual horizons by linking RE to history, geography, English, drama, poetry, music, maths – the list is endless.
What a shame that politicised educational dogma, compartmentalised subject teaching and exam targeting so often rob children of opportunities for intellectual growth.
Rev R C Paget
SIR – In an increasingly uncertain, even fragile world, our children need to be able to think for themselves about the political, moral and personal issues that affect us all.
This requires them to be literate in the forms of thought – both religious and otherwise – that apply to anything from the international affairs of the Middle East to East-West relations in the Ukraine to the ethics of medical research. Children need an understanding of diverse beliefs and philosophies, and this requires a well-rounded education.
Students want to learn how to cope with a future that they will help to shape. To enable them to develop their thoughts impartially, religious education teachers need proper training, as well as sensitivity and expertise.
Head of Religious Studies, Trinity School
SIR – Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, has written to Chris Grayling’s permanent secretary and to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to complain that parliamentary answers from the Ministry of Justice are being “deliberately manipulated for party political purposes”. We are also concerned about figures being released on the supposed costs of legal aid.
Mr Grayling quotes £92 million as the cost of “very high cost cases” to justify a 30 per cent cut to legal aid fees, yet ignores the fact that these costs will have already fallen to £67 million by April – a significant reduction in itself.
Shailesh Vara, the justice minister, recently stated that the average barrister’s annual earnings were £84,000, a figure that takes no account of VAT or overheads, which reduce the actual figure by more than half. This is inconvenient information for a government keen to portray all state-funded criminal lawyers as fat cats – a myth we have disproved time and again.
We have attempted to work with the Government to find solutions to provide the £220 million savings they state they need to make, while maintaining the integrity of a legal profession which is revered worldwide. They must be as open in their financial statements to the public as we are in our attempts to achieve both objectives. This has not been the case so far.
Sarah Forshaw QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit
Small housing schemes could revive villages
25 Feb 2014
The unnecessary expense of staging rival Cabinet meetings in Scotland
25 Feb 2014
Andrew Langdon QC
Leader of the Western Circuit
Andrew O’Byrne QC
Leader of the Northern Circuit
John Elvidge QC
Leader of the North Eastern Circuit
Paul Lewis QC
Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit
Mark Wall QC
Leader of the Midlands Circuit
SIR – The EU has been raising expectations that Ukraine will be able to join Greece and other defaulters in a bail-out, thus increasing the financial burden on Britain and other net contributors.
By doing so, it has increased hopes of a “Ukrainian Spring”, at the risk of baiting Russia and causing a civil war. Western politicians believe that they can inject democracy where it did not exist before, while neglecting the law of unintended consequences. They should stop meddling.
Roger J Arthur
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – The splendid East India Club deserves to be remembered, not only for the sad loss of £500,000, but for one of its most distinguished members: Sir Denis Thatcher. He was frequently seen sitting in a window seat, away from the turmoil of No 10.
Knot tangled up
SIR – Philip Brennan probably has trouble with his bow tie as a result of using a mirror. The technique is simple, and one I perform when in stationary traffic on my way to the surgery.
Cross the tie ends, leaving one long (to the left) and one short (to the right). Place the left forefinger horizontally behind the long end. Lift the long end behind the finger using the right hand. Tuck the short end into the hole. Tuck the short end into the rearmost space. Adjust by feel, folding forward to test symmetry.
Dr Andy Ashworth
Bo’ness, West Lothian
SIR – David Cameron, the Prime Minister, held a full Cabinet meeting in Aberdeen yesterday. Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, held a full Cabinet meeting in Portlethen, seven miles away, on the same day. They were addressing the future of the North Sea oil industry in light of the Scottish independence debate.
But at what cost, and at whose expense? Each cabinet has its own fully furnished office in Whitehall and Holyrood respectively. Extra expense is unnecessary.
And Mr Cameron is pressing the EU to reduce its costs by having only one parliamentary site, not two.
Concerns over the Government’s legal aid figures
25 Feb 2014
Small housing schemes could revive villages
25 Feb 2014
Alex Salmond warned of jobs exodus
25 Feb 2014
SIR – Kenneth Jones suggests that Alex Salmond’s position will be strengthened by a 40 per cent vote for Scottish independence. Even before the unravelling of the Yes campaign, this outcome was unlikely.
The SNP’s 45 per cent vote share at the 2011 Scottish Parliament election was an aberration, achieved on a turnout of only 50 per cent when Labour was deflated following its 2010 election defeat and the Liberal Democrat vote had collapsed. One year later, the SNP became the largest party in Scottish local government but with its customary vote share of 32.3 per cent.
In the Eighties, Alex Salmond was expelled from the SNP for his extreme-Left republican views. While he may avoid a similar fate if the referendum is lost, the most likely consequence will be a reduction in SNP support and an internal challenge to Alex Salmond’s leadership and long-term position as First Minister.
SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, will it still be legal to fly the Union Flag?
SIR – If an independent Scotland that bans nuclear weapons is consequently refused membership of Nato, will Nato deploy defensive military forces along the English side of the border as it does in similar situations elsewhere in the world?
SIR – Unwillingness by the “Yes” campaigners to recognise the facts on currency union and the EU insults the intelligence of the Scottish people.
If the SNP said: “It’s full independence we want, with a new currency probably tracking the pound. We will have practical immigration policies to ensure no need for an English border. EU membership is likely in due course, but possibly not immediately. Obviously we take our share of UK debts. It will be tough for a time but let’s stand on our own feet.” Then there’d be something worth considering voting for.
The current desperate gravitation to devo max is embarrassing.
SIR – If Scotland becomes independent, I assume that will settle the West Lothian Question.
A chara, – Chief Justice Susan Denham warns the Government the quality of judges is threatened due to lower pay which has reduced by “50 per cent for those appointed after 2012” (Home News, February 25th). The pay would have to be lowered by a lot more than 50 per cent for it to be comparable to the salaries of those working in industries such as engineering, science or information technology, which, because of the world we now live in, are arguably more intellectually demanding careers.
It is time we moved on from the Victorian era and stopped assuming that doctors and lawyers should be earning many multiples more than the rest of society. There are very simple things such as increasing competition, increasing college places and most of all, encouraging students to do courses based on their interest (not just what pays best), that would serve us all well. – Is mise,
Donabate, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I refer to your Front page story on judiciary pay cuts (February 25th).
I would like to believe that not all judges are motivated solely by financial considerations and that some of our best judges are happy to serve their country for honourable and patriotic reasons. Would our judicial system not be better off without judges whose criteria for accepting judicial posts are largely pecuniary?
Integrity, principle and common sense are surely more important attributes. And of course political appointments should be a no-no. – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park South,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Surely there cannot be a better illustration of modern values than the news that the chief justice has warned that the Irish judicial system could be seriously compromised unless judges are paid annually a salary slightly more than half of what Wayne Rooney will be getting a week. – Yours, etc,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Would Chief Justice Susan Denham’s great fear, ie, a “second best ” judicial system, be any worse than the one that sent Louise O’Keeffe traipsing around Europe looking for justice, or the one which could not define a constitutional right to provide mercy and understanding for the late Marie Fleming? Such a statement also suggests that other officers of law and order in the State, such as the gardaí, are second best, just because they are paid far less than a High Court judge. It is unfortunate that people feel so defined by their income. – Yours, etc,
Firhouse, Dublin 24.
Sir, – In recent times we have witnessed the ousting of two democratically elected presidents. The Egyptian president Morsi was deposed in an army coup which, strangely, was not regarded elsewhere as a coup. Pro-Morsi demonstrators suffered about 800 casualties at the hands of the police and army. Little outside sympathy was shown towards the massacred and their families.
The Ukrainian president Yanukovich was deposed as an outcome of anti-Yanukovich demonstrators. Approximately 80 demonstrators were killed by the police. In this case, great publicity and sympathy has been shown towards the dead and their families. Neither of the presidents would seem to be very attractive individuals. In the case of Morsi, his policies were certainly of an Islamist nature. Yanukovich was an oligarch with a sickeningly opulent lifestyle. But his jailed political nemesis Yulia Tymoshenko was equally oligarchic with a lavish lifestyle.
However, if people elect unsavoury individuals in democratic elections then they should be free to dispose of them in subsequent elections.
Finally the US has now warned Russia not to intervene militarily. This is almost amusingly ironic given the long list of American military interventions since 1945 whenever there has been a perception of American political, economic or strategic interests being at stake. In a parallel to that of Russia and its neighbour Ukraine, one would not bet on American non-intervention. – Yours, etc,
Bishopscourt Road, Cork.
Sir, – It is welcome news that Getty Images is collaborating with Sheryl Sandberg on the new empowering “Lean in collection” of stock photographs of women and families (“Getty’s a gas”, Emma Somers, February 17th).
I hope the Getty company will soon undertake a similar review of its currently available images for mental-health terms particularly “schizophrenia” and “psychotic”. The former’s webpage is currently peopled by men wrapped in straight-jackets or brandishing knives while the latter degenerates into a collection of killer zombies and men in hockey masks.
Undoubtedly the images on the Getty website reflect the stereotypes related to those with psychotic illnesses. However, many of the images that are part of the new “Lean in collection”, eg people at work, or with their family, could just as easily be linked to schizophrenia. It would be refreshing if the reality for those who live with chronic mental illness could be reflected on Getty’s pages. It has a duty to provide the media with a “healthy option”. – Yours, etc,
Dr ERIC KELLEHER,
Chair, Trainee Committee,
College of Psychiatrists of
Sir, – In his report on the Barroso-Salmond stand-off on whether an independent Scotland would be in or out of the EU, Mark Hennessy writes that some other member states fear that Scottish independence would encourage secessionist forces in their countries (World News, February 18th) . Spain is usually mentioned as determined to veto Scotland’s re-entry into the EU. I believe this can’t happen.
Article 4.2 of the Consolidated Treaty on European Union requires the Union to respect member states’ “national identities inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional . . . self-government”. If the “Ayes” win the Scottish referendum, its independence will become part of the UK’s fundamental constitutional structure, and the EU’s institutions will be required to respect that situation, either by re-admitting Scotland, or, more likely, by deeming it not obliged to leave in the first place.
In the interval after the referendum, the UK would, however reluctantly, have to present forthcoming Scottish independence as a new regional self-government arrangement approved under its laws, and to argue for the retention of Scotland within the EU. Any attempt by Spain to veto this would be invalid as contrary to Article 4.2.
Spain’s fears about this process encouraging Catalan secessionism are groundless. Whether Madrid keeps the status quo, or makes changes in the status of Catalonia short of independence, its policies must be respected by the EU’s institutions, including the other member states in council. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Oh God, here’s more of it; the infuriating, Orwellian misuse of the English language with words and phrases that say absolutely nothing in an attempt to confuse and distort. “Government Ministers are leaning towards . . . a ‘scoping’ exercise to investigate . . . allegations of misconduct and negligence by gardaí” (News Agenda, February 25th).
At least, your article does helpfully inform the reader that the term “scoping” means “preliminary” in this case. Perhaps officialdom might then clarify why the word “preliminary” didn’t suffice to describe their intentions? My initial thoughts were that the term sounded vaguely reminiscent of some procedure carried out under anesthetic via the nether regions of a patient! – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I wonder does Joachim Fischer (February 25th) consider mathematics to be a “science” . . . after all, 1+1 = 2 and 1+1= 10. – Yours, etc,
Broadale, Douglas, Cork.
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 01:07
First published: Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 01:07
A chara, – While Eanna Coffey (February 24th) is more than entitled to his opinion, one feels he may be coming from rather a limited viewpoint. As someone who has managed this far to receive all education through Irish (up to Masters level), and who communicates professionally and personally through Irish every day, nobody told me that “the Irish language is functionally useless in the modern economy, and as such the money spent is an extremely poor investment”.
I believe I may be the antithesis of Mr Coffey’s rather unfounded sweeping statements, along with many others who contribute to Ireland’s modern economy, and who have managed, thus far, to stay in employment since leaving university. I may be part of a minority, but I prefer this to being part of the majority still leaving Ireland to find employment. – Is mise,
Baile na hAbhann,
Co na Gaillimhe.
A chara, – They say you can use statistics in an attempt to prove anything and Eanna Coffey’s letter criticising the use of the Irish language (February 24th) certainly gives credence to that.
According to Census 2011 the main statistic concerning the use of the Irish and Polish languages stated that 1.77 million people speak as Gaeilge on a daily basis here, while 112,811 speak Polish. This fact should put the rest of Mr Coffey’s letter in some perspective. – Is mise,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
A chara, – Perhaps Eanna Coffey is mistaken about the simple demands made by muintir na Gaeilge in the past few weeks. Far from demanding that Irish replace English in Ireland, an aspiration given up on by the government in 1965, fair and equitable treatment by both governments is all we seek. It would seem from Brian Mac a’ Bhaird’s letter that far more resources were squandered by Revenue in trying to dissuade him from using Irish than simply fulfilling its own legally binding commitment as laid out in its own language scheme.
The Iarchoimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin has stated that the structural changes needed to provide these services would be “cost neutral”. It is not a matter of money. It is a matter of practice, recognition and respect. While we all agree, especially muintir na Gaeilge, that changes need to be brought in to the curriculum, hyperbolic accusations that children are “force-fed” like foie gras Gaeilgeoirí are not representative of reality or of the attitudes of all young people. Mr Coffey should ask the thousands of young people who gave up their Saturday at midterm to march for language rights their opinion rather than speaking for them. – Is mise,
MAITIÚ de HÁL,
Páirc na Canálach Ríoga,
Baile an Ásaigh,
Baile Átha Cliath 15.
A chara, – According to Eanna Coffey “the Irish language is functionally useless in the modern economy, and as such the money spent is an extremely poor investment” (February 25th). Even were that true, why should we value things only on their economic utility? And, given that the country has been economically wrecked by following the wisdom of the so-called financial experts, I see no reason to think that investing in our culture and identity isn’t a sound idea; even if it doesn’t bring money rolling in, at least it won’t end up with us owing foreign banks and investors vast fortunes. – Is mise,
Revd PATRICK G BURKE,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – Questions are being asked about why Ballinasloe did not score as highly as Roscommon on the ability to respond to patients with life-threatening emergencies (“Bed battle rages on over Ballinasloe”, Health + Family, February 25th).
While there is a 24-hour emergency department located in the town of Ballinasloe, the acute mental health in-patient beds are located a number of kilometres away. If a patient requires an emergency response an ambulance has to be called via the 999 system to respond to the emergency. This takes a minimum of 15–20 minutes (or longer if the ambulance is already responding to another emergency) at which stage the outcome for the patient would be seriously compromised. Roscommon County Hospital has a 24-hour medical response team on site, with medical staff who can respond within minutes if a patient has life-threatening injuries such as severe blood loss, overdose or compromised breathing.
The decision made by the clinical experts was reviewed by the HSE West regional director for performance and integration; it was subsequently reviewed by the national director for mental health services. An implementation team was established in autumn 2013 to plan the reconfiguration; Phase 1 of the Plan completed on January 20th with the transfer (not closure) of five beds to Galway University Hospital; Phase 2 completed on February 17th with the transfer of a further five beds and the implementation team is finalising Phase 3.
It was stated that Ballinasloe has the lowest rate of hospital admission in the HSE West region; almost half that of many other counties. This is a testament to the successful implementation of community services in the East Galway area and is proof positive that when you reconfigure resources from institutions to community front line services, admission rates to inpatient beds drop.
This reconfiguration is a major investment in mental health services in Galway and Roscommon; with an additional 44 permanent staff posts at a cost of €2.6 million. The reconfiguration is solely based on improving outcomes for patients. – Yours, etc,
Dr AMANDA BURKE,
Executive Clinical Director,
Galway Roscommon Mental
Child and Adolescent
Sir, – Surely Kitty Holland’s report “Men over 40 at greatest risk of suicide, new figures show” should have been on the Front page instead of yet more “news” on the Anglo saga (Home News, February 20th)?
According to the report, 507 people died by suicide in 2012. The statement given by HSE director of the Office of Suicide Prevention, Gerry Raleigh that “Ten people this week will lose their lives to suicide. Eight of those will be men and six of those will be over 40 years of age” is a true catastrophe for Irish families.
That this information was relegated to page 7 is most unfortunate. I would like to encourage Kitty Holland and The Irish Times to continue to focus on this tragic situation. A lost life never touches only one person. – Yours, etc,
Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Sir, – Perhaps I am being too simplistic in my approach to funding universal health care. Why not use the tax system? It is very adaptable and it has a record of the income of all adults. People on benefits and on pensions could easily be included. Everybody would pay according to their means. Everybody would be entitled to health care and the only criteria would be need. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Has it really come to pass that the Government has so lost the confidence of honest rank-and-file gardaí that the leader of the Opposition has now become the confidential recipient? – Is mise,
Sir, – I think Brendan Behan would have preferred to be remembered for The Hostage rather than the postage. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I shuddered when I read Breda Kennedy’s contribution to the same-sex marriage controversy (Letters, February 25th). She writes: “Gay being homonymous with happy and carefree, who could not but wish for a gay marriage?” Surely the last thing we need is to risk raising the spectre of homonym-phobia in this debate? – Yours, etc,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
* This Sunday, we will mark the third anniversary of the first ‘Ballyhea Says No’ protest march. Every week since March 6, 2011, we have marched in Ballyhea and Charleville, many times with additional mid-week marches, all with one purpose – to right the wrong that was done with the imposition of €70bn of private bank debt on to the shoulders of the Irish people.
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We have been told that people’s protest is pointless and achieves nothing. We point to so many momentous changes throughout the ages, from Kiev and North Africa in recent years, back through the civil rights marches in the Six Counties, in the USA and countless other examples of achievement through public demonstration.
We have been told that it’s all too late, that the bank money is all paid. We point to the €25bn in promissory notes sovereign bonds now sitting in the Central Bank, awaiting sale; we point to the €3.1bn bond from the 2012 promissory note bond, likewise held by the Central Bank; we point to the eurozone leaders’ statement of June 2012 – “We affirm that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns”, with its inherent recognition that what was done to Ireland was wrong; we point to the fact that on foot of this statement, Ireland is owed the €20bn taken from our Pension Reserve Fund to fund the bank bailout, and should not have to pay the remaining approximately €20bn that is now owed to the various EU emergency funds.
We’re told this was our own fault – Irish bankers, Irish regulators, Irish politicians, Irish electorate. We say this was all due to the launch of a fatally flawed currency, with neither foresight nor oversight, as hundreds of cheap billions poured from the core of Europe to the periphery, swamping several economies, all on the watch of the ECB. This was all foretold by top Belgian economist Paul de Grauwe in an article in the ‘Financial Times’ in 1998 and confirmed by the same economist in a report for the European Commission in 2013.
We’re asked how long we’ll continue to march – as long as it takes. Our campaign isn’t founded on the shifting sands of hope or optimism, foundations all too easily undermined; our campaign is founded on determination.
BALLYHEA, CO CORK
THIS DYING LANGUAGE
* The Irish-language protests in Connemara last weekend, reported by Brian McDonald (Irish Independent, February 24), were a damp, unfocused squib.
Irish-language groups, such as Conradh na Gaeilge, contend that the Irish-speaking community is getting angry “at its second-class status” and that the State is to blame because there are not enough handouts.
Conradh na Gaeilge was founded in 1893 and in 2012 taxpayers provided almost €45m to directly support the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the islands. The language is not growing in daily use, despite a 20-year government target adopted in 2010 to increase daily usage from 83,000 to 250,000 persons, and the day is nearing when the last of the native Irish speakers is born.
The GAA was founded in 1884 and in 2012 slightly over €3m of the €52.7m total revenue earned by the association was accounted for by state funding, an outcome achieved after attracting 1,360,070 supporters to inter-county football and hurling championship games. Over 300 of the 2,550 clubs affiliated to the GAA are international clubs and over 81,000 children participated in Kelloggs GAA Cul Camps in 2012.
If one expression of Gaelic culture that has been nurtured for over a century is thriving and the other, also nurtured for over a century, is withering, surely the protesters need to analyse why Irish-language advocate organisations are failing so badly in achieving their own objectives in evangelising the language, while the GAA advances from strength to strength with minimal state involvement?
BELLEVUE AVENUE, GLENAGEARY, CO DUBLIN
DANGER IN UKRAINE
* A victorious German general once quipped: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” I would say the same thing about idealism.
Take the recent deposition of Victor Yanukovych as an example. ‘Power to the people’ and ‘pro-democracy’ work fine as slogans but in practice they may have contributed to a nightmare of a problem.
The protesters who gathered in Kiev to take back their country’s future seem to have reckoned without the strength of the pro-Russian half of their country. Every poll taken, whether formal or informal, by journalists or not, indicates that Ukraine is split down the middle between pro-EU and pro-Russia elements.
And none of this takes into account the simple fact that Russia is right next door to Ukraine. It is highly likely that Mr Putin and ‘Mother Russia’ will not take kindly to having their noses diplomatically bloodied with Russia’s “man in Kiev” being run out by what it may see as Western-backed dupes.
Whether it’s the bear or the hammer and sickle, I just hope the protesters and the West realise this before the Russian ruling class takes a swipe at its enemies.
And then, after the bear attacks, how then will we feel about our ideals?
CLARA, CO OFFALY
NO WHISTLING ALLOWED
* Why aren’t there any gardai in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’? It’s because they not allowed to whistle while they work.
WESTPORT, CO MAYO
OUTSOURCE OUR SPYING
* Get with it! What branch of internal national security (in any nation these days) needs to actually do the spying on another internal agency when all one has to do is ask for a favour (in lieu of favours given, past, present or future) from those whom we are naturally on such good terms with, such as the US’s NSA etc?
SUTTON PARK, DUBLIN 13
* Ian O’Doherty (Irish Independent, February 24) falls into the trap of attempting to find a simplistic understanding of suicide and the effects such a death can have on the bereaved. Unfortunately, he advocates a return to the attitudes of the past, a dark past well known to people of my generation, a time when the unmentionables of the day were swept out of sight, and whose existence were denied by the institutions of the country, political and religious.
A change of mind will not be effected through harsh prescriptions like Mr O’Doherty’s “fear of eternal damnation”, not through condemnation, but through compassion, which the author Paul Gilbert describes: “Its essence is a basic human kindness, with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things.”
Compassion is not a cliche.
KILKENNY BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT
STOP THIS HOMOPHOBIA
* One can safely suppose that our Tanaiste fully supports the proposed EU sanctions that may be imposed on the Ukraine. Another way is, as Irish history teaches us, the good old boycott. This is what Joan Burton proposes to do with regard to the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City.
Considering Mr Gilmore’s staunch and committed allegiance to the proposed referendum on same-sex marriage, would it not be right and proper for Mr Gilmore to call for sanctions at an EU level against Uganda given its recent decision to introduce laws that are, to use the correct term in the correct context, homophobic.
DERMOT RYAN ATHYMON, CO GALWAY