Planks

1 March  2014 Wood
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to sort out an unidentified intruder, can it be a ghost ship? Priceless
Cold slightly better but muddle through take the planks up stairs
Scrabble today  Mary wins  but gets under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Irving Milchberg, who has died aged 86, was the wartime leader of the “cigarette sellers of Three Crosses Square”, a gaggle of Jewish youths who sold smokes to German officers in wartime Warsaw while covertly spiriting food into the city’s ghetto and smuggling arms to the resistance.
For four years Milchberg’s survival, along with approximately 20 other youngsters, relied on a balancing act of “extreme fear and extreme hubris”. By hiding in plain sight they went unnoticed even to the hawkish SS who were garrisoned at the heart of their trading patch. In occupied territory a Jewish surname could be a death sentence, so Milchberg adopted the gentile name “Henrik Rozowski” and later the nickname “Bull”. His friends were safely known by the Polish versions of Toothy, Hoppy, Conky, Baldy, Whitey, Carrot Top and Chopper. Like the Baker Street Irregulars, this gang of street urchins “bargained, haggled and undersold each other eagerly” while helping others in need.
After the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940 the Jewish community, approximately 30 per cent of the city’s population, had been jemmied into a district representing less than three per cent of the city’s space. Three Crosses Square sat in the Aryan area in the Central District, where a triumvirate of crosses capped St Alexander’s Church and two facing columns. It had been a major thoroughfare from the 18th century and during the occupation became a hub for the Nazi machine. The SS, German gendarmerie and Gestapo were all stationed in its vicinity.
Yet Three Crosses Sqaure was something of a haven from the horrors of war and the nearby ghetto. According to Joseph Ziemian, in his memoir The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square (1970), life there was “relatively normal”; and Milchberg and the crew bartered packets of cigarettes and theatre tickets. Even so, it was a dangerous business. Milchberg was careful and resourceful,
acquiring a work permit for the Ostbahn railway yard, where he unloaded coal trucks.
The Ostbahn workers became a channel to resistance units within the ghetto. Using a network of contacts, including an uncle and a tram-conductor , Milchberg smuggled in small arms hidden in hollowed-out loaves (the only food allowed through the barricades). The weapons added to the cache used by the Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Uprising of April and May 1943.
To the other boys and girls he was a natural chief. “In their eyes he was grown-up and experienced,” wrote Ziemian. “Bull had authority.” Milchberg, however, took a practical view of his wartime bravery. “To tell you the truth, I never thought much,” he said last year. “If I had to do something, I did it. I didn’t have time to analyse it.”
Ignac Milchberg (later known as Irving) was born in Warsaw on September 15 1927 into a merchant family which traded in household goods. His upbringing was a happy and relatively affluent one. “Warsaw was once the centre of my universe,” recalled Milchberg late in life.

After the invasion his family was rounded up and placed in the segregated quarter, crammed into a single room above a grocery. His father “appraised the situation correctly early on and was among the first of the ‘outside’ workers” – those allowed beyond the walls to work in the lumberyards. This kept the family in food. “The very idea of going to a favourite football field only five blocks away was like going to the moon,” Irving later recalled.
Milchberg lost his entire immediate family in the war. His father was executed in 1942 by a German gendarme after attempting to smuggle a packet of saccharine into the Ghetto. The sentry told him to run and then shot him in the back. “At this tragic moment, although only 15 years old, Bull showed a surprising energy and ability to cope. He established contact with other outside workers and through them exchanged clothes and other articles for food,” noted Ziemian.
In the wake of his father’s murder Milchberg was detained, but he managed to escape in the swirling crowds in the Umschlagplatz, which had become a holding pen for the Treblinka trains. On returning to the family’s room he found the door wide open – a bad sign. Inside, however, nothing had been touched. He cried out for his family, but there was no response. His mother and three sisters had been sent to Treblinka where they all perished. From 1940 to 1943, more than 400,000 of Warsaw’s Jews died in the walled Ghetto or in the camps.
Milchberg escaped two further deportation attempts, finding safety in the kindness of strangers: he was taken on as an apprentice to a cobbler then as assistant to an ice cream maker. The threat of death hung over all parties. While being chased in the street by anti-Semitic Poles he fell and seriously injured his leg. The cobbler, once again, hid him (this time in his attic) against the objections of his terrified wife, before delivering him to a sympathetic doctor.
After the war Milchberg relocated to Canada, where he settled in Niagara Falls and opened a jewellery store. It was there, in 1953, that he met his wife, Renee, a visiting tourist. Renee’s war had been similarly dramatic, as she had managed to survive for years in a Russian labour camp.
In 1993 Milchberg travelled to Warsaw, in the company of his daughter Anne, for the first time since emigrating. He was accompanied by a Canadian film crew. In Return To The Warsaw Ghetto, an hour-long documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Uprising, he was left visibly shaken by the ghosts of his wartime youth. Hoppy (Josef Szindler) and Frenchy (Kazik Gelblum) were just two of the cigarette boys killed by the Germans. “You handle it by having a family, by creating a new life for yourself,” he declared in defiance. “We need to show those murderers that we survived, in spite of them.”
He is survived by his wife Renee, along with a son and a daughter.
Irving Milchberg, born September 15 1927, died January 26 2014

Guardian:

I am amused by the tone of some of the reporting of recent events in Ukraine, in particular the shock and outrage at the discovery of the level of luxury enjoyed by the Ukrainian head of state at his private residence (All the president’s bling, G2, 25 February). The pictures we were shown, however, were of a lifestyle that seemed positively spartan in comparison with that enjoyed by our own head of state, whose series of private residences make that curiously ugly chalet near Kiev seem modest in comparison. Likewise, we are expected to share disgust that Mr Yanukovych and his party have been kept in power by contributions from the nation’s super-rich. But why does calling such persons oligarchs make them any different from the super-rich who, for their own vested interests, bankroll the Tory party? “Look homeward,” wrote John Milton.
Robert Smallwood
Eastham, Worcestershire
• You say (Report, 26 February) that Crimea is “the only region of Ukraine with a majority of ethnic Russians”. Whatever the dubious term ethnic might mean here, the most recent authoritative survey shows that Russian is the language spoken at home over a good half of the country, not only the east. The language situation is more complicated still, since in much of central Ukraine the vernacular is a mostly Russo-Ukrainian mixed dialect called Surzhyk.
Robin Milner-Gulland
Emeritus professor, University of Sussex
• Before western opinion-makers start pontificating about armed “Russians” seizing government buildings in Crimea (Report, 28 February), they should recall that only a few days ago they cheered on the seizing of government buildings in Kiev (and never noticed that some were armed and affiliated to neofascist groups). They should also recall the example set by brutal and illegal aggression against so many countries, from Iraq in 1991 to Libya in 2011.
It is western chickens – not Putin’s – that appear to be coming home to roost in Ukraine and the autonomous republic of Crimea.
Peter McKenna
Liverpool
• I was amused to read about Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev’s concern that the aberrant behaviour of anti-government forces in Kiev should not be regarded as legitimate since it stems from a mutiny. If that is the case, then the mutiny of sailors on battleship Potemkin and the ensuing revolution – which ultimately established Lenin, Stalin and succeeding cronies and thugs such as Putin – is an equally tenuous basis for the legitimacy of the Russian state. The only significant difference is that in Kiev there has been a genuine public uprising against a violent and corrupt state. In Russia one violent self-serving clique merely supplanted another more moribund one.
Alistair McIntosh
Burford, Oxfordshire
• Simon Jenkins (Comment, 26 February) conflates Tahir Square and Maidan and assumes that many of today’s activists are students and middle class. But the majority of the Maidan were not that young and were unlikely to be students. He says Yanukovych has some semblance of legitimacy, albeit threadbare, but Yanukovych delegitimised his position as president by his tyrannical actions. The “crowd” which Jenkins disdains were understandably unpersuaded by the patchwork peace deal brokered at short notice to keep in place the regime which the day before had murdered and terrorised its own people.
Richard Wainwright
London
• It was already clear that Crimea is a special problem for Ukraine when I was part of an EU delegation 20 years ago, advising the new government on public finance, not long after independence. The new ministers wanted advice on objective criteria for distributing central funds which would satisfy Crimea as a special case, without overt discrimination. It is reasonably clear what needs to happen now: an elected president and interim government, with emergency financial support co-ordinated by the IMF in a troika with Russia and the EU, will need to work out a federal constitution (like Germany) with a stated timetable and subject to continuing international supervision, after which provinces including Crimea must be offered a referendum (like Scotland). As Simon Jenkins says, getting from here to there will be anything but easy – but Tunisia is (hopefully) showing the way.
Alan Bailey
London

Professor David Marsland (Letters, 26 February) may not be aware of the scores of churches involved in housing the homeless every night, especially in London, and the hundreds of churches around the country accommodating food banks.
All this for free and supported by local congregations, clergy and bishops (my local church just donated another £300), and staffed by large numbers of volunteers. Our support for the welfare state must run into millions.
Meanwhile fat-cat bankers triple their pay and there isn’t even a bonus tax, and Amazon, Starbucks, Google etc are still busily avoiding paying tax.
These would perhaps be more appropriate targets for your ire, Professor Marsland, and I trust that you are donating generously to your local food bank, even if it is in a church.
Rev David Haslam
Methodist Tax Justice Network

I was disappointed to read Patrick Strudwick’s article (It’s a scandal that therapists are not regulated like doctors, 27 February). ChildLine volunteers receive far more than a “few in-house training sessions” with all new volunteers enjoying a comprehensive 60-hour training programme. The programme requires the volunteer to secure specific standards ahead of becoming an active volunteer. They are then mentored by a supervisor for several initial shifts and receive ongoing training as well as daily briefing sessions. Our supervisors are also highly experienced and well-qualified professionals.
Mr Strudwick mentions that we are “part-funded by the government”. But government funding only covers a very small proportion of the running costs of ChildLine and our adult helpline provided by the NSPCC, with the vast majority of funds depending entirely on donations from our generous supporters. Our service has existed for 27 years and has spoken to over 3 million children. We are proud of our volunteer staff, as well as our paid workforce, and the incredible service they deliver to vulnerable children, many of whom have nowhere else to turn.
Peter Liver
Director, ChildLine
• It is incorrect, as well as damaging, to suggest that mentally ill patients in the UK are left at “the mercy of the untrained, the unqualified and the unethical”. The psychotherapy and counselling professions are regulated by organisations such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The quality of our registers has recently been endorsed by a government-backed professional standards authority scheme. Many of our members in the NHS work with distressed and suicidal patients. It is a standard requirement for NHS positions that psychotherapists are registered with an appropriate professional body to ensure high standards of care and ethical practice.
On gay conversion therapy, Mr Strudwick has done good work. The voluntary (not statutory) regulators of the psychological professions have taken his work forward. UKCP has published clear and specific ethical guidelines for therapists, and we have worked with other professional bodies to develop public information on this disturbing practice. This will be released shortly. Regulation of healthcare professions can be improved, but I do question the simple assumption that all ills could be cured by state regulation, and voluntary regulation is no regulation at all. Vulnerable people suffering emotional distress might read the article and think most therapists are untrained. Mr Strudwick risks harming the people he wants to protect if his article frightens them away from seeking professional help.
David Pink
Chief executive, UKCP

I see that even the Guardian is not immune from using government-inspired rhetoric: “Lowest paid workers likely to get inflation-busting 3% increase” (Report, 27 February). After national insurance and tax deductions they’ll be lucky to get 2% of their extra 19p per hour increase. Hardly inflation-busting.
Chris McGorrigan
Ulverston, Cumbria
• Now we have seen through the sentencing of the killers of Lee Rigby that terms of whole-life and 45 years are lawful (Report, 19 February), are these to be handed out to the killers of women and children – or must they be reserved for those who kill soldiers?
Angela Singer
Cambridge
• Schools minister David Laws lauds “sharp-elbowed parents” who fight for their children’s rights (Report, 27 February). Two questions arise: who made education a battlefield in which rights have to be contested? And what happens to those children who don’t have sharp-elbowed parents?
Ann Burgess
Lincoln
• A huge thank you to Susie White (Country diary, 28 February) for rekindling my teenage years fishing under Oakpool Bridge on the East Allen. The idyllic time I spent in the Keenley valley working at Gill House and Hindley Hill farms was punctuated by descending Appletree Bank, flycasting in those very same pools, and, yes the ever-present dipper was there even then.
Angus MacIntosh
Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire
• We haven’t been following the recent correspondence about Gilbert O’Sullivan songs (Letters, 28 February), but from now on we will.
Tim and Corry Walker
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
• A brimstone so late in the month (Letters, 28 February)? That’s nothing. I saw my first one this year on 8 February in West Sussex.
Emma Dally
London
• And a tortoiseshell yesterday.
Deirdre Flegg
Poole, Dorset

Emmeline Pankhurst is again being given the oxygen of publicity (Pass notes, G2, 24 February). Remarkable woman that she was, voted woman of the millennium in 2000, nonetheless Emmeline Pankhurst was neither a peace activist in the first world war, nor was she ever force-fed for the cause. Although she was part of the hunger-striking campaign, the Liberal government would never have dared to risk the fragile frame of this “reed of steel” by giving permission for torture to be carried out on the leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The Pankhurst who did endure this punishment some 13 times was her daughter, Sylvia. Her mother and her older sister supported the war effort and were employed by David Lloyd George to persuade women into munition production. Emmeline went to Russia as Lloyd George’s emissary during the war. There is a photograph of her saluting the Women’s Battalion of Death, marching past with fixed bayonets.
Some years ago, David Doughan, Librarian at the Women’s Library, told me that when Emmeline addressed a packed Royal Albert Hall, her passionate “Join us” was delivered with a faint Lancashire accent, a challenge that the greatly talented Ms Streep will surely meet with aplomb.
Sylvia Ayling
Woodford Green, Essex
• Priyamvada Gopal (Comment, 28 February) says it all – or nearly all – on the subject of remembering and honouring the heroism of the first world war refuseniks. I still painfully recall the considerable social pressure to “register” for the armed forces when I was 18 in 1956. I knew I was wrong to comply with the stridently expressed, but vacuous, arguments of those around me, but it took a stronger young man than I was to resist. I shall avoid any of the commemorations unless the group identified by Ms Gopal is included, alongside a second neglected group – that which comprises soldiers who were killed or maimed, and who were all someone’s son, brother or husband, but happened to be German.
Bob Caldwell
Daventry, Northamptonshire

Independent:
The financial sector has shown its true colours in the past few days. Its main driver is greed, with total absence of compassion, integrity or honour.
In the financial sector it is accepted that despite the business making losses, the top employees still get large bonuses.
RBS was saved by money from the Government, ie money from the whole country, which could have otherwise been spent on projects of value for ordinary people.
Shady, immoral or illegal activities come to light and fines are imposed. Again, these fines come out of money originally provided by the general public.
RBS, still afloat only because of money from the public, is making huge losses. Despite this, a huge sum is put aside for “bonuses”.
Barclays is still showing a loss and is laying off 7,000 lower-paid staff but at the same time is increasing bonuses by 10 per cent (to the highest-paid staff). The Government seems to think that restricting bonuses to once the annual salary is a punishment, even when the annual salary is £1m.
One of the factors that appears to have influenced Standard Life in looking at possibly moving out of Scotland is that, if the vote is yes, the tax regime might include increasing tax for the higher earners.
Even pension fund managers have been known to give themselves a large bonus, which is almost the same as stealing money which should have gone into funds to provide better pensions for those who pay in their hard-earned cash.
I have been told, by someone in the financial sector, that only by paying bonuses can they insure that people work hard. What an insult to the rest of society. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lecturers, farmers, fishermen, miners, police, builders, garbage collectors and almost everybody not in finance work hard without ever getting a bonus.
In no other business would senior staff take pay rises (and certainly not bonuses) if their business was making a loss. The financial sector is amoral.
Dr Evan Lloyd, Edinburgh
The bonus pot at RBS of £500m is beyond belief. Every year, when bailed-out banks pay themselves eye-watering sums, banker apologists in the media trot out the same well-worn cliché. They say we need to pay this money to stop good staff leaving.
The bankers being paid bonuses at RBS have presided over six consecutive years of losses. Some bankers have been involved in the mis-selling of PPI and rigging the Libor rate, defrauding everyone. If these are the “right” people, who knows what the wrong people would do.
Most working people have had years of wage cuts and austerity to pay for the bank bailout. Bankers now get bonuses simply for turning up to work.
The blame for the banking crisis lies at the door of Labour and Tory politicians who, after six years and a £1.2 trillion taxpayer bailout, are still allowing bankers to dictate the rules.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
Let me get this straight
Despite reporting an £8.2bn pre-tax loss and despite huge losses for six consecutive years and despite the £45bn taxpayer bailout and despite the fact that shares are now worth 326p (and the taxpayer paid 500p per share) and despite the RBS chief executive eloquently describing the situation as “We are too expensive, too bureaucratic and we need to change”, the intention is to pay out £576m in bonuses.
It all makes perfect sense. Does RBS stand for Right Bunch of Shysters?
Alex Taylor, London W5
Immigration is not UK’s big problem
Net immigration rose by 200,000 last year – where’s the problem? We know that immigration is good for our economy and that immigrants make a substantial net contribution.
During the past year we have seen record falls in unemployment and our economy has been growing faster than those of other European nations. So where is the problem?
The problem seems to be that our infrastructure, particularly the NHS, hasn’t grown to match the increase in our population. Even if net immigration were reduced to zero, our infrastructure would still be under strain.
But we are a wealthy nation growing wealthier, in no small part due to immigration, so is it too simplistic to ask why we haven’t been investing enough of this extra wealth in our infrastructure?
Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon
In 2009, Gordon Brown, following the publication of a poll showing immigration was the biggest issue cited by defecting voters, and perhaps realising he was coming up to an election he was unlikely to win, upped the ante on immigration and launched an attack on the student visa system.
In what could be seen as a desperate game of one-upmanship, David Cameron’s last bet was a promise to reduce net migration to under 100,000.
When decisions like this are taken by politicians to win elections, rather than in response to evidence or as a step to developing a sensible and achievable result and a long-lasting national strategy, we sadly end up with squabbling, recriminations and broken promises.
David Wilkins, London W12
We are certainly not alone
Your editorial (“Earth 2.0?”, 28 February), commenting on the discovery of 715 new planets, concludes that the discovery of signs of life on such a planet “would raise the deepest philosophical questions about our own place in the universe” and “would mean that… in all likelihood, we are not alone. And that would change everything.”
It is difficult to know what you mean. We are part of the universe, not separate from it. We are composed of elements that probably occur everywhere. We are products of the universe. We probably represent an example of an assemblage of molecules that in time would arise inevitably in certain conditions. And we are not alone – look at the myriad life forms on Earth.
Newton’s contribution to the Enlightenment was the demonstration that the Earth is not unique, and that the same physical laws apply elsewhere, perhaps everywhere, in the universe. So let us go another step and recognise that the laws of life are probably universal too. Identification of another 715 planets, including warm damp ones, changes nothing.
Gavin P Vinson, London N10
You report on the 715 planets newly found – of which four are “neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, which we must assume to be essential ingredients for life”. I do not profess to be an expert, but is it not conceivable for life forms to exist that do not depend on water nor on the other elements or compounds necessary for life on Earth?
I remember an episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk and his cohorts arrived at a planet where the life forms were silicon-based and mistaken for canisters. In the words often attributed to Spock: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” When we talk of planets suitable to support life, we should qualify “life” with those words.
Stephen Wright, Pinner, London
Time for rethink on how we treat animals
I found Bob Comis’s disquiet on being a livestock farmer (“Farming confessional”, 26 February) interesting, including all the hoops he’s going through to justify what he does.
He has an idea that “conscientious animal farming is necessary for a transition towards a vegan world”. Surely, being part of an industry that produces 60 billion animals a year as a “crop” makes him part of the problem rather than part of the solution?
He feels he is betraying the 500 pigs he breeds, fattens and trucks to slaughter each year. As a vegan, I agree. I suggest he stops being part of an industry that uses animals as a product. His conscience will let him rest far easier and the vegan world he hopes for will come that tiny bit closer.
Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent
With 5,000 animals being killed each year in European zoos (report, 27 February) it’s obvious that the aim of zoos’ breeding programmes is not to breed animals so they can be rehabilitated to the wild, but to breed them so they can be gawked at. If zoos were genuinely seeking to “save” species they would be rehabilitating them to the wild, not killing them.
When circuses came under fire for imprisoning “exotic” animals, zoos needed a reason to enable them to continue confining them. Hence the “breeding programmes” that they are quick to mention whenever a new baby rhino, lion or giraffe is born. The truth is that nothing attracts zoo patrons– and their money – like a new “wild” baby.
If we genuinely want to conserve species we need to conserve their habitat.
Jenny Moxham, Monbulk, Victoria, Australia
The Scots won’t have to switch off BBC
“Vote ‘Yes’ and you will lose the BBC, Scots are warned”, you report (27 February). “Vote ‘Yes’ and you will lose the BBC, unless you have a satellite dish, Scots are warned”, surely?
Goff Sargent, Loughborough, Leicestershire

Times:
Sir, Jenni Russell has hit the nail squarely on the head regarding the poor in this country (“Only the State can protect the poor in this crisis”, Opinion, Feb 27). Politicians on both sides of the divide have failed to take in the lessons of recent history and the fates of so many of their own constituents. So many people work hard merely to stay still while even more slip backwards. The cost of living is too high in this country despite what mere statistics might suggest. Recent reports also suggest that wages have risen and more of us have extra money in our pockets. This is wrong and to base future policy on such untruths is merely storing up trouble for the future.
Ms Russell seemed to find it shocking that so many families have no savings. The real shock is that in the Britain of the 21st century so many of us are just one wage away from disaster. We are constantly told we must save for our old age (what is National Insurance for?), but with what? Most can barely exist to the end of the month.
Andrew Harrison
Holmfirth, W Yorks
Sir, Jenni Russell identifies “the huge structural changes” affecting modern economies, especially those affecting wage levels. In the 1960s, more than 60 per cent of our national income derived from wages and salaries. By 1997, this figure had fallen to 50 per cent. Not twenty years later, it has fallen to 40 per cent. The consequences are diverse, and incongruous. Who would have thought a “small government” Conservative Chancellor would, year after year, raise taxpayers’ money to subsidise the wages paid by firms?
In economic terms, it probably matters little how the national income is made up. However, we live in a political economy, and when interest, rents, capital gains and dividends make up more than 60 per cent of earnings, and most of society is excluded, we must eventually expect a political response. Work has to pay, or why engage in it?
All our political parties have been in power while this happened, and one is left wondering why our senior politicians went into politics in the first place.
Mike Clegg
Lytham St Annes, Lancs
Sir, How exactly does one define poverty (“ ‘Faux’ poverty”, letter, Feb 28)? It surely depends on individual expectations. To me absolute poverty is homelessness with no possibility of a comfortable bed, or at least one good meal each day.
In the early 1970s, with two young children, I often ordered a bag of potatoes and a dozen eggs from the milkman on Wednesday morning; this fed us until Friday, when my husband got paid (the milkman’s bill was paid on Saturday morning).
Recounting this story to my granddaughter, she said “You must have been really poor then?”
I didn’t feel poor at the time.
Linda Miller
Dereham, Norfolk

The case for Scottish independence does not depend on yields from North Sea oil, the net fiscal deficit, or whether Scotland could remain in the EU
Sir, When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, that which had been a national asset — the fishing grounds — became a European Community asset. We might prompt some honesty in the Scottish independence debate if it was made clear that North Sea oil would, by a similar process of negotiation, remain a community asset owned jointly by the North and South Britons. We could also be honest by admitting that Scotland has a fair claim on its proportion of whatever gold reserves Gordon Brown did not sell off.
However, the case for Scottish independence does not depend on venal calculations of the yields from North Sea oil, the net fiscal deficit, or whether Scotland could remain in the EU. Rather, it depends upon the continued renaissance of genuine radical thinking and genuine national culture, freed from the shackles of a stultifying political class at Westminster.
David Radlett
Lecturer in Law, University of Kent
Sir, I hesitate to tangle with a fellow of All Souls, but I challenge Professor Waldron’s analysis (letter, Feb 28) of the right of an inanimate body (“UK-EWNI”) to claim Britishness. This island was known by Julius Caesar, on his brief excursion, as Britannia. For centuries its northernmost mainland extremity was accurately known as North Britain. Continental Europeans more often describe the island’s inhabitants as English no matter from whence they actually hail.
Should secession ensue, I suspect that many millions of those citizens relegated to the role of spectators in the forthcoming poll of the North Britons would have no objection to the BBC being thenceforth known as the EBC — notwithstanding the seemingly disproportionate number of Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish currently represented by it, at least on Radio 4.
R. J. Plunkett
Birmingham

The principle of prioritising treatment of the young over the old has merit, but each case must be dealt with individually
Sir, In principle I am with Matthew Parris (Notebook, Feb 26) when prioritising treatment of the young over the old, but then I think, hang on a minute, I’m doing all I can to stave off ill health and dementia, both for my quality of life and so not hopefully to overly burden the State. I exercise, eat the right foods, socialise with friends, make love with my wife, pay my taxes, act charitably and do not smoke or drink much alcohol. So if at some future date I need some help from the NHS, I may well be irritated if resources are diverted instead to a younger model suffering from, say, an alcohol, smoking or obesity-related condition such as Type 2 diabetes.
It’s a difficult one to call.
Geoffrey Wood
Nottingham
Sir, Matthew Parris should feel no guilt over the cost to the NHS of his hand operation. If everyone who could actually opted out of the NHS — prompted by their conscience or anything else — how long would it be before they objected to contributing to it? It only works if most people support it, and that means using it.
philippa hutchinson
London NW6

It must be time for female leaders to stop the convention of greeting male counterparts with a kiss — a handshake should suffice
Sir, Is it not time for eminent women in the public world to make one last stand for equality by demanding an end to the ridiculous and relatively recent convention of being greeted by their male counterparts with kisses on the cheek (cover photograph, Feb 28)? Please, women leaders, send your aides ahead with the message that, friendly though you hope your meeting will be, you would much prefer a polite but distant handshake.
Professor Brenda Almond
Lewes, E Sussex

The principle of prioritising treatment of the young over the old has merit, but each case must be dealt with individually
Sir, In principle I am with Matthew Parris (Notebook, Feb 26) when prioritising treatment of the young over the old, but then I think, hang on a minute, I’m doing all I can to stave off ill health and dementia, both for my quality of life and so not hopefully to overly burden the State. I exercise, eat the right foods, socialise with friends, make love with my wife, pay my taxes, act charitably and do not smoke or drink much alcohol. So if at some future date I need some help from the NHS, I may well be irritated if resources are diverted instead to a younger model suffering from, say, an alcohol, smoking or obesity-related condition such as Type 2 diabetes.
It’s a difficult one to call.
Geoffrey Wood
Nottingham
Sir, Matthew Parris should feel no guilt over the cost to the NHS of his hand operation. If everyone who could actually opted out of the NHS — prompted by their conscience or anything else — how long would it be before they objected to contributing to it? It only works if most people support it, and that means using it.
philippa hutchinson
London NW6

‘Hospital data is already being used for medical research without patient consent, with the Government using Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006’
Sir, Most of the discussion on NHS England’s Care.data is around patient data uploaded from GP surgeries. However, hospital data is already being used for medical research without patient consent, with the Government using Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006.
It is to be hoped that NHS England will now include in the opt-out form (but preferably an opt-in form) a section for hospital records.
Dr Martin F. Seely
Worsley, Manchester

Telegraph:

SIR – As long-standing National Trust members, my wife and I were horrified to find that, from April, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which leases the estate at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, will be imposing car parking charges there, including for National Trust members. Parking for one hour will cost visitors £2, and an all-day stay will be £10.
We regularly visit with our friends, buy lunch and spend money in the shop. I cannot see this continuing with the charges as proposed.
I urge those responsible to think again about the scale of the charges before they find it financially backfiring on them.
Tony Saunders
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – During the 19th and early 20th centuries, housing was the burning political issue. Rent control was created to provide affordable housing for the soldiers who had fought alongside our politicians and officers during the First World War. Should our present politicians be doing something about housing, too?
There can be no question that the price of housing is artificially sustained by commercial rings, which really means price collusion. There never was such a thing as an auction without a ring, which is why it is crucial to attach a reserve to whatever may be sold. Though such rings have been outlawed, Parliament can never eliminate them altogether. But in the field of housing, a modest start could be made by an improvement of record-keeping at the Land Registry. We need standardised and consistent forms of entry in order comfortably to follow through how, from one sale to the next, the price of a property has been prejudiced by commercial interests.
Lord Sudeley
London NW1
West End winner
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SIR – Tim Walker suggests that if there had been people of equal stature to myself around me, I would never have written about such an uncommercial subject as Stephen Ward.
Ignoring that the show’s director is Sir Richard Eyre, the former head of the National Theatre, the producer is Robert Fox and the writers are both Oscar winners, Mr Walker suggests that Jeffrey Archer (who incidentally proposed to me no fewer than 14 titles for the show) might have questioned the commerciality of the subject matter.
The difference between success and failure in musical theatre is a horrifyingly fine line. However, I believe that if you choose a subject purely because it appears commercial, catastrophe looms.
If money was the only goal, would I have embarked on a musical (strangely not mentioned by Mr Walker) that was inspired by an anthology of poems by a dead poet (and not lyrics by Tim Rice), was directed by a commercially untried director from the Royal Shakespeare Company, was presented by a young producer who had had no major West End hit, which featured dance heavily at a time when it was perceived that West End dancers had two left feet and certainly couldn’t sing and dance at the same time, was opening in a graveyard theatre in which even Grease, starring Richard Gere, had flopped, was to open with most of its investment missing – causing me to take a second mortgage on my house – and, worse still, featured human beings dressed as cats?
We are all immensely proud of Stephen Ward. But what makes a hit musical? Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.
Andrew Lloyd Webber
London WC2
Farmer’s almanac
SIR – You report that today is “officially” the last day of winter.
The first day of spring is Thursday, March 20, the vernal equinox, so the last day of winter is surely March 19.
Colin Heaton
Brindle, Lancashire
SIR – I live in a small village in Germany. On Wednesday I witnessed the first and sure sign that spring is here.
Was it a cuckoo? A crocus? Snowdrops? No, the Italian ice cream parlour reopened after the winter break.
Flt Lt Graham Chipperfield (retd)
Gütersloh, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Treating dyslexia
SIR – Reading came easily to me as a child and, like Prof Elliott of Durham University, I spent most of my life sceptical that dyslexia existed; I thought poor teachers were to blame.
Then I had a stroke in my visual cortex at the age of 60 and lost reading skills that had previously enabled me to scan and comprehend up to 30,000 words a day.
After the stroke I could scroll very slowly down narrow columns of type, but couldn’t remember what I had just read. It was impossible to read across a wide measure without putting a ruler under each line. I had to retire hurt from my work as a writer.
Help came a few years later, when I was introduced to the dyslexia clinic at my alma mater, Aston University.
There, I was prescribed yellow-tinted glasses that maximised the contrast between print and page. It took time, but my brain rewired itself and, 12 years later, I can now read, though not quickly. I also still confuse words of similar length that begin with the same letters – for example, versatility and Versailles.
I still believe poor teaching is the cause of illiteracy in the majority of cases, but equally that there is a neurological basis for the genuine dyslexia of a minority. My optician recently installed a colorimeter device and prescribes tinted glasses to dyslexic children. I understand their reading skills blossom as a result.
Ian Hamilton Fazey
Liverpool
Flying the flag
SIR – Tony Parrack asks what flag to fly to represent London.
He could adopt the one used by the City of London: an adapted Cross of St George with a red sword in the top-left corner.
If he wants a wider representation of London, there are the arms granted to the now defunct London County Council, comprised of a St George’s flag surmounted by a golden lion, over three wavy bars, representing the River Thames. The St George’s cross was later replaced by the Greater London Council with a red field surmounted by a modern gold crown.
Jonathan N Fox
Green Street Green, Kent
Status quo divorce
SIR – We have decided to split everything evenly, but she will stay on as the cook and I will remain as the chauffeur-gardener.
Cdr J R M Prime
Old Bedhampton, Hampshire
Armed Forces recruitment from Scotland
SIR – If Scotland were to become independent, would it remain a member of the Commonwealth? If so, the British Army and other parts of the Armed Forces could still recruit there as they do at present from the Caribbean, Kenya or Fiji.
Scotland would have to set up its own defence systems if it wished to remain in Nato. I suspect Alex Salmond has not budgeted for that, either.
Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire
SIR – Any suggestion that the Union flag might change in the event of Scottish independence is preposterous. Scotland does not own the colour blue, and the Union flag is at the core of what it is to be British.
White and red are the colours of St George, while blue is the predominant colour of the Royal Navy.
Gregory Shenkman
London W8
SIR – Mr Salmond is keen to tell us that an independent Scotland would aspire to emulate Norway. It was not long ago that his aspirations for Scotland were to emulate the small “successful” economies of Iceland and Ireland, and we all know what happened there.
Professor Jeremy Dibble
Durham
SIR – I, like many fellow Scots, have been a “Don’t know” for quite some months on the matter of separatism. Now, I am tired of being browbeaten and threatened by all the bad things that will happen to Scotland if it votes for separation.
Are those outside Scotland frightened of losing us? Don’t be afraid, we won’t be that far away.
My mind has now been made up. I refuse to be cowed or scared by the plethora of disasters that we are told will befall us if we go our own way.
George Meldrum
Edinburgh
SIR – We now have a situation where a suspected IRA terrorist charged with a bombing atrocity on the streets of London has been given immunity from prosecution, while soldiers who were serving the Crown on the streets of Belfast can still be charged with murder.
The Government should stand up for our Armed Forces and push through an Act of Parliament giving all who served in Northern Ireland similar immunity.
Phil Harris
Crewkerne, Somerset
SIR – Given the ruling handed down by Mr Justice Sweeney to throw out the prosecution against John Downey, does this now mean that British soldiers facing prosecution for the Bloody Sunday shootings will be accorded similar protection (Tim Collins, Comment)? Surely the IRA cannot have everything its own way?
A D Holman
Dublin
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SIR – In May 1982 my wife and I attended a peaceful garden party at Buckingham Palace which was interrupted by the brutal murder of four soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery by the IRA. The complete inability of the British legal system to bring the accused to justice can only be described as inhuman and lacking in integrity.
Members of the judiciary and civil servants responsible for this poor performance must be held to account and punished, otherwise our democratic society will be exposed to the further erosion and decline of its moral values.
Major Michael Addenbrooke (retd)
Hepworth, West Yorkshire
SIR – We must all feel despair at the news that the suspected Hyde Park bomber will evade justice. All those involved in the decision to promise him immunity from prosecution have blood on their hands and must be made accountable.
While in a democracy we must accept that some unpopular decisions are necessary for the greater good, it seems that secret deals behind closed doors resulting in the Good Friday Agreement are totally unjustifiable. Perhaps it was really the Black Friday Agreement.
Kate Graeme-Cook
Tarrant Launceston, Dorset
SIR – Your report “Victims of IRA bomb cheated of justice by a ‘monumental blunder’” suggested that the monumental blunder was committed by the police in sending a letter.
In fact it was the Blair government’s concession in favour of terrorists.
Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey
SIR – The victims are, indeed, cheated, as are all who believe in the rule of law in our country. To allow anyone to grant immunity from prosecution without proper process can only lead to anarchy.
John Hardy
Stockport, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Olivia O’Leary’s article on judicial remuneration (Opinion, February 28th) should be compulsory reading for our much-beleaguered Cabinet.
Chief Justice, Mrs Susan Denham and the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns argue that the reduction in remuneration and expenses will produce a “second best” judiciary.
What a gratuitous insult to the thousands of frontline staff in our health services, gardaí, teachers, etc, who have endured pay cuts without any hope of redress, and most of whom will never even see a salary that will remotely match their lordships’ pensions.
The statements of “mluds” is further proof, if further proof is needed, of the existence of a strata in our society whose self-assessed worth places them on a different plane to everyone else.
Now, where’s that bottle of wine . . . I need a well-rounded, full-bodied vintage with a good nose to wash the taste of disgust from my mouth!
Could “mluds” advise or even better, refer me to the “mendicant monk”? – Yours, etc,
JO O’DONOVAN,
Kilnock,
Ballon, Carlow.
Sir, – As a mendicant friar I read with intense interest Olivia O’Leary’s column (Opinion, February 28th). Your distinguished columnist writes “It’s not easy, being a mendicant friar . . . with a taste for fine wine”.
As someone who dabbles a little in church history as well as living the day-today life of the aforesaid profession, I can assure Olivia O’Leary that the two roles are not at all incompatible. – Yours, etc,
Fr IGGY O’DONOVAN,
O’Connell Street,
Sir, – How refreshing and encouraging to read Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s honest appraisal of the results of the consultations on church teachings in Dublin (Home News, February 28th).
It comes as no surprise to me that the people consulted felt that there was a “theory-practice” gap in the church’s perception of issues like same sex unions, divorced people remarrying and homosexuality. Pope Francis continues to engage with his flock through his ministers to bring these aforementioned topics into the limelight. His honesty and inclusiveness will add value to all Catholics’ lives. – Yours, etc,
PAT BURKE WALSH,
Ballymoney,
Co Wexford.
Sir, – That Catholic teaching on marriage is “poorly understood” is scarcely surprising (Home News, February 28th). For any teaching to be understood, it must first be taught. – Yours, etc,
PAUL BYRNE,
Callary Road,
Mount Merrion,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has promised Ireland will have “world-class” protections for whistleblowers by Christmas. The main objective he said was to ensure “the protection of workers in all sectors of the economy both public and private against reprisals in circumstances where they make a disclosure of information relating to wrongdoing which comes to their attention in the workplace”.
Might I suggest he discusses his proposed legislation with the HSE, which has recently produced a draft contract for the provision of services by GPs for children aged under six. This document contains a clause which states that the GP “shall not do anything to prejudice the name or reputation of the HSE”. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement can lead to the termination of the contract. – Yours, etc,
REGGIE SPELMAN,
Health Centre,
Bridgetown,
Co Wexford.

Sir, – In the Editorial “Obama’s army” (February 28th) and in the report “America’s military set to slim down” (World News, February 28th) much is said about the overall size of the US defence budget. However, these comments did not include some basic facts. A congressional budget office report on the 2013 defence budget stated $150 billion goes to salary and basic benefits (such as housing) for current and retired service members; this is 28 per cent of the base budget. $130 billion is dedicated  to health care for injured, ill or disabled veterans. $48 billion is allocated for the defence department health programme for service members and their families.
The defence budget is not all about weapons systems. To a very significant degree it is concerned with providing for those individuals who voluntarily put themselves at risk in defending the nation, and for the families of such dedicated individuals. – Yours, etc.
DAN DONOVAN,
Shandon Street,
Dungarvan,
Co Waterford.

A chara, – Niall Ginty (February 28th) is correct when he highlights the discrepancy between the Census figure he quotes and the true number of Irish speakers. A more accurate reflection of the situation would be the 77,000 people who say they speak Irish on a daily basis outside of the classroom. Therefore, if he wanted to have a conversation as Gaeilge with random people on the street he probably wouldn’t get very far. Why would he? Irish is a minority language.
I do take issue with his mindset, which is widespread among monolingual speakers in this country: “I only speak English, therefore, everyone else should too”. – Is mise,
MÍCHEÁL Ó LEIDHIN,
Bóthar na Ceapaí,
Cnoc na Cathrach,
Gaillimh.
Sir, – Many of your negative-sounding correspondents on the question of the Irish language – in recent times and over the years – are living in a warp, or illusion, that manifests itself only in their own limited time and space. They are not visionaries – people who can see into the past and far into the future. They cannot see the richness and the vastness of the Irish language as it stretches back to pre-Christian times and moves boldly and imaginatively into the future, albeit almost friendlessly.
The awful limitations of their vision means they cannot see and admire the language in the past, present or future, cannot speak it, embrace it, read its literature or sing its songs. Why don’t they just shut about it, then? What exactly is their problem? Might it be some form of nagging, unacknowledged personal or collective guilt, or some form of self-loathing which is typical of many post-colonial societies?
So, we must look to visionaries for guidance on the subject, the likes of Emerson, who says: “Where are the Greeks? Where the Etrurians? Where the Romans? But the Celts are an old family of whose beginning there is no memory, and their end is likely to be still more remote in the future, for they have endurance and productiveness – a hidden and precarious genius.”
That vision should keep us going for a while, Celts and non-Celts alike. – Yours, etc
GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK,
Gleann na gCaorach,
Co Átha Cliath.

Sir, – There were presidential elections in the Ukraine in 2010. There were a total of 3,249 international observers including several from Ireland supervising the election. The international observers including those from the OSCE called the election transparent and honest.
This government has now been overthrown and the leaders of the European Union supported its overthrow.
When the Irish people rejected the Lisbon Treaty, which was in essence about accelerating the centralisation and militarisation of the EU, the response of the Fianna Fáil government was to abolish the Forum on Europe, chaired by Maurice Hayes (who had believed in and supported democratic debate). Then, with the rest of the Yes side, it spent millions of euro ensuring a Yes vote in the second referendum.
Whatever the values of the EU are, a commitment to democracy is not one of them.
Yet, however bad it might be to live in a profoundly anti-democratic EU, already some of the EU fanatics are calling for “intervention” in the Ukraine. Does this mean the EU battle groups are going to be sent to the Ukraine? What would be the consequences of such a decision? Would Russia stand idly by?
The Red C poll commissioned by the Peace & Neutrality Alliance in September 2013 showed that 78 per cent of the Irish people in the Republic supported a policy of Irish neutrality, so I am confident of the wish of the Irish people not to become involved in the conflict in the Ukraine that could so easily spiral out of control. I am not so confident that the political/media elite will allow such views to be expressed, let alone supported. After all, the corporate media largely ignored PANA’s Red C poll. – Yours, etc,
ROGER COLE,
Glenageary Park,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – Claims that the Irish electricity system will be in danger of blackouts due to renewable energy or upgrading the transmission network are without basis (“Reports for anti-pylon group warns of ‘blackouts’ and dearer electricity”, Home News, February 20th).
Developing the national grid will in fact improve security of supply and reliability through stronger infrastructure, and will facilitate inward investment and regional development, as well as enabling Ireland to meet its targets for renewable energy.
On numerous occasions in recent years up to 50 per cent of electricity being carried on the Irish transmission system has come from wind generation. Ireland and EirGrid are recognised as world leaders in integrating wind energy.
The European Union has set binding targets for renewable energy to be achieved by 2020. EirGrid has put in place a detailed programme of work to ensure that Ireland can achieve these targets by delivering 40 per cent of electricity through renewable energy.
Through the use of smart technologies, new procedures and the upgrading of our transmission infrastructure, we will integrate renewable energy to ensure a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL KELLY,
Communications Manager,
EirGrid
Shelbourne Road,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Sir Ivor Roberts (Opinion, February 25th) quotes Churchill to the effect that, in general, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”. He agrees that this was not the case in the lead-up to the second World War “knowing what we now know about Hitler”, but argues that the policy of appeasement was well worth trying. Leaving aside the fact that many people, Churchill among them, did indeed “know about Hitler”, he argues for the appeasement policy on three grounds:
1. Britain and France were far too weak in the mid-1930s to stand up to Hitler. However, he omits to mention that Germany at the time of the re-militarisation of the Rhineland (1936) was weak too, and that Hitler would probably have been stopped in his tracks had Britain and France reacted.
2. An isolationist Congress would never have allowed US intervention – Congress was just as isolationist in 1939, when Britain and France did declare war on Germany, as they were in 1936.
3. Hitler did not enter into a “devil’s pact with Stalin” until August 1939 – there was no such pact in September 1938, when Britain and France abandoned Czechoslovakia to its fate.
Appeasement is discredited for a reason. (Peace in our time, indeed). – Yours, etc,
HENRY BACIK,
Ravensdale,

Sir, – Regarding John B Reid’s letter (February 28th), one need not be a professional rugby analyst to know that the reason for Saturday’s loss was anything but an anthem (or lack thereof, as Mr Reid claims). England’s defence and discipline especially in last 15 minutes had more say in the matter than a mere song.
Having been at this game, I can tell you that the particular song posing a problem in Reid’s perception, was in fact sung with absolute gusto by the thousands of Irish fans present in the Twickenham stadium who got behind their team throughout the entire eighty minutes of play. “National embarrassment”? Nothing like that at all. – Yours, etc,
WILLIAM G McILWAINE,
Ballymore Lane,
Galway.

Sir, – I refer to an article by Chris Johns (Business, February 28th), expressing a great need for “growth” in Europe.
Growth! The elusive elixir of economic recovery. Continual increasing economic production? It was always wanted in the past to bridge the shortfall between what could be produced and what was needed. Not any more, however.
The 21st century has ability to produce everything in abundance; to overproduce on a gross scale, if not restrained. In such a situation economic “growth” as known through history is unnecessary and impossible. Economics of “growth” are overtaken by economics of “sufficiency” or enough. We must learn to survive and prosper without the big G. – Yours, etc,
PADRAIC NEARY,
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo.

Sir, – Having regard to Fionnuala Walsh’s suggestion (February 27th) that the abandoned cable ties that litter and deface poles and lampposts all over the city, should be colour coded, I would suggest that a far simpler, more sensible, practical and environmentally acceptable practice would be the comprehensive banning of the erection of all posters and other such material on poles and lampposts.
The erection of such material serves no useful purpose; it only contributes to the litter and the defacing of an already seriously compromised environment. – Yours, etc,
PHILIP O’REILLY,
Grosvenor Place,
Rathmines,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – Fáilte Ireland must be applauded for its Wild Atlantic Way initiative aimed at driving tourism along the western and southern coast (Home News, February 27th).
However, why is Waterford excluded? Is our Atlantic coast not good enough?
As we clear up the ocean wave damage from the recent storms in Tramore, we are quite puzzled. – Yours, etc,
PETER FOLEY,
Johns Hill,
Waterford.

Irish Independent:
* I do not share Gerard O’Regan’s sentiments that few have suffered as much as Russia, and therefore its agonised history won’t allow it to look the other way.
Also in this section
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Letters: Give the children room to embrace GAA
Ballyhea still says ‘No’ to this gross injustice
Russia is such a wonderful place. I have visited Russia and tremendously enjoyed the hospitality of its people, the attractiveness of its nature and the splendour of its iconic palaces, cathedrals, opera and ballet theatres and museums. Just visit the Hermitage overlooking the Neva river in St Petersburg and see the grandeur of this gem and relax in its surrounding canals and parks. It has an unrivalled corpus of literature collections and cultural treasures.
Russia was also the bulwark of human consciousness against Nazis. It rose on its feet at a critical juncture in history defending humanity against the barbarism of Nazism. I visited the Holocaust memorial museum in Kiev (which was part of the USSR for centuries), depicting images of death chambers, famines and the moral depravity of man towards fellow human beings.
It is true that the Russian empire is besmirched with criminal mischiefs. But every empire has had its share in cruelty. British involvement with slavery stretches over 2,000 years. The Amritsar massacre is regarded as a seminal moment of the British rule of India, when British troops fired on unarmed protesters in Punjab, killing up to 1,000 and possibly more within 10 minutes. The Ottoman empire was responsible for the Armenian genocide and other massacres. And above all the Holocaust is still vivid in the consciousness of humanity as the most depraved act history has ever witnessed.
Those who do not learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them. It is immensely important to build bridges of trust and cooperation with Mother Russia and Ukraine. The east-west strife is going to plunge the world into an abysmal spectacle. It is for that reason the agonised history shared by humanity is bound to allow all nations to traverse their political differences for the betterment of human lives.
DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB
LONDON NW2
Proud of our care
* I recently had the misfortune of having to travel home from America to be at my Dad’s bedside as he struggled through his last days of life. My Dad’s last days were spent on the Laurel ward at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Dublin.
I have been away a long time, but like to stay in touch with all the goings-on in Ireland, the quality of healthcare being very much to the forefront of many discussions.
Well, let me tell you that there may be many process and funding issues, but there is nothing wrong with the quality of care offered by the nursing staff, at least on the Laurel ward at JCMH.
My Dad was there for two-and-a-half weeks and I had firsthand experience of the care offered for 11 days. I was there with my Mam and five siblings and they could not have done more for our Dad, our Mam and for that matter all of us. There is something so very genuine about the Irish nurses.
They made us feel so welcome during our difficult time and I will be forever grateful to them for that.
I will look back over the last few weeks with great sadness but also with great pride at the service that was provided to my family in the much maligned health services of Ireland.
From the bottom of my heart thanks to the palliative care team and all on the Laurel ward at James Connolly Memorial Hospital.
FEARGAL ROCHE
HAVERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
LETTERS CONUMDRUM
* Question: How do you deliver letters to people on the run?
JAMES FINNEGAN
ASHGROVE, BALLYVELLY, TRALEE, CO KERRY
HEART OF THE MATTER
* May I just refer to what is in my opinion a worrying organisation called Pure in Heart.
The group goes around the country giving sex education talks in schools. It has used such tactics as taping teens’ wrists together before pulling it off, all in the name of promoting sexual abstinence.
What in God’s name is this all about? This to me seems to be very stressful for young school kids and should not be tolerated. Have we not learnt from the mistakes of the past?
BRIAN MCDEVITT
CO DONEGAL
WE MUST RETHINK ‘WORK’
* David McWilliams writes excellently on an employment anomaly that defies logic or justice, but is of minor consequence compared to the jobs disaster that will descend on society if there is not a serious rethink of work, jobs and employment in the 21st century.
Unemployment is a catastrophe for the individual, the family and society. Since industrialisation, employment is the only dignified method for inclusion of the masses in the economic life of the world. While work was a necessity in the production of goods and services, there was sufficient employment to sustain coherent society.
All that is changed; technology and automation is eliminating work on an enormous scale and the process is accelerating. Unless policies of generating more jobs from a diminishing pool of work are urgently implemented, the social implications could be horrendous.
The ‘Economist’ highlighted such a scenario last month; sadly no Irish politician, economist, newspaper or broadcaster even mentioned the article.
One hundred years ago the leaders of Europe marched their populations into a devastating catastrophe because they failed to understand the enormous transformation of warfare by advancing technology.
The present leadership of Europe lead us towards what could be an even more horrific conflagration because they fail to understand the transformation that technology has wrought on economics in recent decades.
I conclude by quoting Mr McWilliams’s final sentence. “We can put our heads in the sand because the answers are too awkward, but that’s hardly a strategy.”
PADRAIC NEARY
TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO
BETHANY HOME EVENT
* I would be grateful for the opportunity of both informing and inviting readers to a very special and poignant event next month.
On April 2, 2014, at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin, a service will take place in honour of 222 babies and young children who died in the Bethany Home, Orwell Road, Dublin, during 1922-1949.
The service will commence at 4pm, and we are delighted that representatives from four of the main Christian denominations will be participating.
In addition, we are pleased to be able to announce that following the service, a memorial headstone will be unveiled at the cemetery.
We wish to acknowledge that the considerable cost of the headstone has been met by the Department of Justice, sanctioned by Minister Alan Shatter.
For too long, the short lives of these children have been unacknowledged and their remains unmarked.
It is appropriate that at last we can now rectify this situation, and that all of us have the opportunity to pay our respects, and to jointly remember a very sad occurrence in our history.
I therefore heartily extend an invitation to all, to join with us on this very special day.
DEREK LINSTER
CHAIR, BETHANY
SURVIVORS GROUP

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