24 March  2014 Mary
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to  test a new electronic gun range finder. Priceless
Cold slightly better post office sold 3 books Mary very under the weather
No Scrabble today  Perhaps I  will win tomorrow.


Lord Moran, who has died aged 89, was the son of Sir Winston Churchill’s physician and made a name in his own right as a career diplomat, the author of an award-winning biography of Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and a distinguished cross-bencher in the House of Lords, where he campaigned to improve the lot of the Atlantic salmon.
In the 1970s Moran served as Ambassador to Hungary and then Portugal, but by his own admission it was his final posting — as High Commissioner in Canada from 1981 to 1984 — that proved the most testing.
He arrived in Canada in the middle of a major political controversy. The previous year Canada’s prime minister Pierre Trudeau had informed the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of his intention to “patriate” the Canadian constitution which, until then, could be changed only by acts of the British Parliament — albeit with the consent of the Canadian government. Trudeau’s move would require the British government to pass legislation, but the majority of Canadian provinces were opposed and appealed to the British Parliament, as the guarantor of their rights, to defeat Trudeau’s plans.
As Canadian Indians in full costume converged on Westminster, and representatives of the provincial governments wined and dined MPs, the British government was faced with the choice either of damaging relations with the Canadian government by refusing to introduce legislation, or risking defeat by a strong cross-party lobby in Parliament. “There was the possibility, if things went wrong, of a confrontation between the two parliaments, which would have been unprecedented and very serious,” Moran recalled. To make matters worse, Moran’s predecessor, Sir John Ford, had just been called back to London “for briefings” after complaints that he had been “meddling” in Canadian affairs.
A colleague on one of the many environmental bodies on which he served in later life observed that Moran was a man who “with his quiet manner, achieved more by raising an eyebrow than the rest of us achieved by raising the roof”. His discretion, courtesy and intelligence served him well in Canada as he sought to calm tensions and explain the British government’s position to the Canadian people. Mrs Thatcher, he explained, was “absolutely rock solid. Anything the Ottawa Parliament wanted, she would do.” But she was “not certain she could carry her own troops with her”. British MPs, he observed, were “not as disciplined” about following the party line as Canadian MPs.
Moran put such points across without ruffling feathers, and the feared confrontation was avoided as Trudeau eventually concluded a deal with the provinces that changed the arithmetic so that only Quebec stood out against patriation. The Canada Act was duly passed in 1982.
The goodwill this brought paid off when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands a few months later and Moran found himself having to ask the Canadian government for help in equipping the Task Force sent out to recapture the islands. “The Canadian Government did everything we asked them to do,” he recalled.
Moran’s time in Canada came back to haunt him in 2009, however, when, under the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC obtained a copy of his valedictory dispatch, “Final Impressions of Canada”, written in 1984 at a time when no one imagined that such musings, typically written for the amusement of colleagues, would reach the public domain.
“One does not encounter here the ferocious competition of talent that takes place in the United Kingdom,” Moran observed in his bracingly candid piece. “Anyone who is even moderately good at what they do — in literature, the theatre, skiing or whatever — tends to become a national figure, and anyone who stands out at all from the crowd tends to be praised to the skies and given the Order of Canada at once.” As for Canada’s Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, he had “never entirely shaken off his past as a well-to-do hippie and draft dodger”, while “the majority of Canadian ministers are unimpressive and a few we have found frankly bizarre.”
His remarks led to a predictable outcry in the Canadian press, though a few calmer souls pointed out that Moran’s strictures were mainly directed at the country’s political class, and that many Canadians would agree with him. In fact, Moran was generally positive about the country, observing that he would miss “the cry of the loon” and the country’s “cheerful shop girls and waitresses” and arguing for a “less dusty and more positive and substantial” relationship between the two countries.
Richard John McMoran Wilson was born on September 22 1924. His father, Charles Wilson, was Winston Churchill’s personal physician from 1940 until the former prime minister’s death and was raised to the peerage in 1943. The author of The Anatomy of Courage (1945), a pioneering account of the psychological effects of war, he would write a far more celebrated and controversial work, Winston Churchill, The Struggle for Survival 1940-1965: this was a memoir, published soon after Churchill’s death, which brought accusations that the 1st Lord Moran had breached patient confidentiality, but it provided historians with an indispensable first-hand account of one of the greatest historical figures of the 20th century. Richard would write an introduction to an edited version of the book, published as Churchill at War in 2002.
From Eton, Richard went up to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1942. After just six months, however, he joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman and was assigned to Belfast on Arctic convoy duty. On his first voyage he took part in the sinking of the Scharnhorst, recalling that the only casualty in Belfast had been a reindeer, presented to Admiral Burnett by his Soviet counterpart, which died of shock during the confrontation.
After officer training in 1944, Wilson was promoted to sub-lieutenant and posted to motor torpedo boats at Gosport, escorting the invasion force on D-Day. His final posting was in the destroyer Oribi, again on convoy duty. When the war ended he was in Travemunde, Denmark, where he was shot in the leg by a British sentry.
In 1945 Wilson joined the Foreign Office. After postings in Ankara, Tel Aviv, Rio de Janeiro, Washington and South Africa, from 1968 to 1973 he served as head of the West African Department and, concurrently, as a non-resident ambassador to Chad.
Among other things he dealt with the British response to the Biafran War (the attempted secession of the south-eastern provinces of Nigeria), setting up an International Observers’ Group in Nigeria, accompanying the Prime Minister Harold Wilson on two visits to the area, and disbursing aid after the collapse of the breakaway state.
He went on to serve as Ambassador to Hungary from 1973 to 1976 where, among other things, he sought to alert British trade union leaders, starry eyed after being wined and dined by the Communists in Budapest, of the true nature of the regime. His subsequent posting was to Portugal, where he pressed for Britain to make greater efforts to revive its historic friendship with the country as it returned to democracy. In 1981 he was posted to Canada.
Moran, who listed his hobbies as “fishing, fly-tying, birdwatching”, succeeded to the peerage on his father’s death in 1977. After his retirement he became involved in conservation issues, serving as vice-chairman, then vice-president, of the Atlantic Salmon Trust; as president of the Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association; chairman, then executive vice-president, of the Salmon and Trout Association; chairman of Wildlife and Countryside Link; and president of Radnorshire Wildlife Trust.
He was also vice-president of the RSPB until 1997, when he resigned following the society’s decision to allow Barbara Young, its chief executive, to stay in her job after being made a Labour working peer.
In the House of Lords, Moran chaired a joint Fisheries Policy and Legislation working group, known as the Moran Committee, which brought together all the main national NGOs concerned with angling and fisheries to advise the government and the Environment Agency. He also served as president of the All-Party Conservation Committee of both Houses of Parliament.
In 2002 he organised a rare cross-bench-led defeat of the Labour Government, using an obscure parliamentary procedure to force a floor debate. Against a government three-line whip and with no official Conservative opposition, he persuaded peers to vote against a clause in the Animal Health Bill that would have given ministers greater powers to cull cattle in the event of another foot and mouth outbreak.
During spare moments from his duties as a diplomat, Moran devoted himself to historical research. His time in South Africa inspired him to write a biography of Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, the Liberal prime minister who had granted self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, thereby securing the Boers’ loyalty to the British Empire despite their recent defeat by the British in the second Boer War. Published in 1973, it won the Whitbread prize for biography, and in 1985 he published a biography of the Civil War general Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Moran was appointed CMG in 1970 and KCMG in 1981. Last year he was awarded the Arctic Star for his service on the convoys.
A strong family man, he married, in 1948, Shirley Rowntree Harris, who provided staunch support to her husband throughout his diplomatic career. She predeceased him and he is survived by their daughter and two sons, of whom the elder, James, born in 1952, succeeds to the title.
Lord Moran, born September 22 1924, died February 14 2014


The new £1 coin (Budget reports, 20 March) has 12 straight edges and does not have a constant diameter. But to work in a slot machine a coin must be able to roll smoothly. This requires that the coin have a constant diameter. To achieve this, the coin must therefore be circular (as in the penny) or have an odd number of edges each of which is an arc centred on the opposite corner (as in the 50p and 20p coins). Still, I’m sure they’ve thought of this.
Jim Warren
• Kale would be more highly praised if supermarkets stopped chopping it into tiny pieces, reducing its keeping qualities and making it harder to clean and pick over (In praise of…, 21 March). And buying at local markets rules out any suggestion that it is cheap – a stall in the former spa town of Streatham in south London has been offering it at 99p for 100g. Hardly cattle feed, at £10 a kilo.
Tim Barnsley
• Low, even dismal, productivity in a service-dominated economy should come as no surprise (Editorial, 18 March). After all, a hairdresser can only cut one head of hair at a time.
Roy Boffy
• WTF is not an acronym (Letters, 22 March). It is an initialism. An acronym is a word formed by the initials. Imgom is an acronym: I must get out more.
Richard Barnard
Wivenhoe, Essex

The unfair, unbalanced rightwing press in the person of Peter Hitchens (Letters, 19 March) moved quickly to dispel any notion that BBC reporting may be fair and balanced. And what’s this? A pincer movement attacking the BBC licence fee is mounted by 140 Tory rightwingers, who have long hated the BBC’s fair and balanced reporting of areas where a Murdoch, Barclay or Dacre-influenced spin would align with their desire to control the content and flow of information to the electorate (TV licence fee evasion could be decriminalised, 19 March).
If magistrate’s courts are clogged with licence fee dodgers, the answer is simple – introduce a fixed penalty that can be imposed by inspectors in a similar manner to parking fines. Maybe double or treble the licence fee would be appropriate, but using this excuse to justify a backdoor scheme to undermine the BBC’s revenues will not wash. The BBC and its supporters should take a more robust line in arguing for its continued financial security, allowing it to remain independent of political influence. What we do not want is for the broadcast news agenda to be set by the likes of Fox News in the US, which exists only to further the political and commercial aims of its proprietors and the political parties that they support.
Nigel Beatty
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
• Among the complaints about BBC bias one correspondent asked why there were no programmes revisiting the issues of the miners’ strike upon its 30th anniversary (Letters, 19 March). We might also ask, given the late cultural critic Stuart Hall did most of his broadcasting for the BBC, where were the TV retrospectives commemorating his life? No programmes either to mark the 80th anniversary of the birth of space pioneer Yuri Gagarin on 9 March despite his strong links with the city of Manchester where the BBC is based.
Dr Gavin Lewis

Britain faces unprecedented challenges: a financial system still too big to fail or jail; austerity causing unnecessary hardship to those already at the bottom of a massively unequal society; climate change flooding people’s homes; and a democratic system that seems pretty irrelevant to any of these problems. To begin to tackle these challenges the country needs not just a change of government but a transformative change in direction.
That demands a Labour or Labour-led administration. But if Labour plays the next election safe, hoping to win on the basis of Tory unpopularity, it will not have earned a mandate for such change. It must take into the election a vision of a much more equal and sustainable society and the support of a wider movement if these formidable challenges are to be met.
As members of the progressive community that recognise the need for Labour to play a leading role after 2015 we would urge the party to adopt an approach to its manifesto that is based on the following principles:
Accountability of all powerful institutions, whether the state or market, to all stakeholders.
Devolution of state institutions, by giving away power and resources to our nations, regions, cities, localities and, where possible, directly to the people.
Prevention of the causes of our social, environmental, physical and mental health problems, which requires a holistic and long-term approach to governance.
Co-production of public services by workers, users and citizens, to make them more responsive and efficient.
Empowerment of everybody, so they are equipped with the resources (time, money, support) to enable them to play a full role as active citizens.
National government has a continuing strategic role to play but the days of politicians doing things “to people” are over. The era of building the capacity and platforms for people to “do things for themselves, together” is now upon us.
Working in this way, with others, Labour can help act to fundamentally disrupt power relations and reframe the debate to make a good society both feasible and desirable. It is time people had the power.
Neal Lawson Compass, Rob Philpot Progress, Patrick Diamond Policy Network, Anna Coote Nef, Andrew Harrop Fabian Society, David Clark Shifting Grounds, Mark Ferguson Labour List, Tim Roache Class, Maurice Glassman, Ruth Lister Compass, Robin Murray LSE, Anthony Barnett Opendemocracy, David Marquand Mansfield College, Oxford, Charles Secrett ACT! Alliance, Marcus Roberts Fabian Society, Cat Hobbs Director, We Own It, David Robinson Changing London, Colin Hines Convenor, Green New Deal Group, Professor Victor Anderson Global Sustainability Institute
• It came as no surprise that young people did not benefit from the budget (Older people vote – that’s why George Osborne’s budget is for them, 21 March). Under-25s are an easier target for government cuts because four million of us are not registered to vote. I’m the chair of the Centrepoint parliament, a group of homeless young people from Centrepoint hostels. We believe young people are invisible to politicians, so launched our “You Got A Problem?!” campaign encouraging others to register to vote and realise how politics affects us all.
We’re already facing a lack of jobs and affordable housing, and if threats to cut housing benefit for under-25s go ahead, many of us could be on the streets again. Important services, such as Connexions, that advised and supported young people have been forced to close, leaving fewer places for homeless young people to go for help. So it was surprising to read that “2 million over-65s own assets in excess of £1m and still get universal winter fuel allowances”. It is hard to see some people receive benefits they don’t need while we face cuts and then more cuts.
Young people need to register to vote to see a change and make politicians realise that ours is a vote to be won. Millions of young people can stand together so that the government has to listen. Then who’s got a problem?
Chair, Centrepoint parliament (
• “Not in my name” are these gerentocratic policies pursued. As a 61-year-old, I don’t relish being one of the grizzled leisured ones being waited on in restaurants and shops by the underpaid, poorly housed young. Such policies reflect the skewed and cynical political values of the current and recent governments, not those of our relatively idealistic generation. If there is a party with the courage to redress the balance, let them say so loudly and throw all resources at mobilising the votes of the young. The generous and idealistic old will gladly back them up.
David Longson

The current journey time from Crewe to London is as little as 1 hour 35 minutes (Fast-track plan for HS2, 15 March). The journey time on HS2, following a longer route through Birmingham, is unlikely to be much shorter and there would be relatively little economic or social benefit in any time saving which might be possible. Economic geographers have always known that express rail travel rather like air travel, only comes into its own on long journeys, because a relatively large proportion of the travel time on a short trip is taken up just getting to and from one of a limited number of hubs. The real potential for HS2 is surely to improve direct accessibility between the north of the UK and continental Europe. This is after all what HS1 does for London.
The decision to scrap the short direct connection from HS2 through London to HS1 will add considerably to interchange times, not to mention the inconvenience of lugging baggage through two busy stations and along Euston Road. As it is now proposed, HS2 will find it hard to compete with air travel to European markets and holiday destinations. It will instead add yet more to London’s relative locational advantages compared with the rest of Britain.
Jerry Spencer
Tarporley, Cheshire
• How very disappointing that David Higgins has gone to Manchester to deliver his report yet fails to recommend that work should commence in that city. If the idea is to bridge the north-south divide, surely it should start in the area most in need of rejuvenation?
Noel Livesey
Carnforth, Lancashire


George Osborne has rashly promised to allow savers to take all of their pension pots, subject to tax on 75 per cent of it, to be used as they see fit. This is a highly populist policy which not even Nigel Farage will be able to trump.
All the main parties have said that they will support the idea in principle and the Chancellor will have to implement it – in spite of the several disadvantages which are emerging day by day. For example, will people who are tempted to take the lump sum appreciate that they will receive considerably less (having suffered tax on its removal) than they would have had they left well alone?
Osborne will have effectively taxed, ie raided, the pension pots of anyone taking the lump sum rather than the annuity option, and he will not be around when those who may prove to be profligate need state assistance in their later years.
David Hindmarsh
The Chancellor promised that pensioners who retire on defined contribution pension schemes will be offered free, impartial, face-to-face advice on how to get the most from the choices they will now have. He does not say who will provide this admirable service. If he has in mind the financial services industry, let us hope that it’s not the same parcel of rogues that over the past 25 years conned us out of billions by giving us free advice, often face to face, to put our money into personal pensions, mortgage endowments, equity-release schemes, personal-equity plans, precipice bonds, absolute return funds, interest-rate swaps and payment-protection insurance.
Ian Mackersie
Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear
Is it likely that an individual who is prudent enough to give up spending today to secure an income decades in the future will suddenly become the kind of spendthrift who, as one minister suggested, might go out and buy a Lamborghini (report, 21 March)? I think not.
Osborne’s proposals for the liberation of pensions is most likely to encourage a far greater level of pension saving; the existing alternative prospect of being forced to “invest” in an annuity which benefits insurance companies far more than the annuitant, has been extremely unattractive. It is also likely that this liberation will tilt the annuity market in favour of the purchasers as insurance companies cease to have a captive market and, necessarily, become more competitive.
David Bracey
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

For nine years, I lectured to young people (19-29) starting in business, with the help of a grant from a royal charity. My advice to start a personal pension as soon as they started earning money was greeted with derision. Advice to start thinking about retirement met the same response. There is no alternative, therefore, to taxes high enough to meet both objectives. If people want to save extra, they could have a tax-efficient personal pension, which would be the icing on the cake. As your interviewee Rita Young pointed out (report, 20 March), our pensions are the smallest in Europe, and “this budget was for Tories and no one else”. She is not fooled, so why should anyone else be?
William Robert Haines

The change in the rules concerning compulsory annuities will mean that many retirees will be looking for a safe and lucrative market to place their pension-pot lump sums. One such area may well be property. Investing in this sector will surely inflate the housing bubble still further. Is this just another example of the law of unintended consequences? Perhaps. Or perhaps George Osborne knows that rising house prices always play well with the middle-aged and elderly, home-owning, Tory faithful. Unfortunately it does little to help younger people desperate to get on the property ladder.
Malcolm Harris
Grimsby, Lincolnshire

The idea that following the Government’s liberalisation of defined contribution pensions, ordinary people will blow their pension pot and then be left to a life of penury recalls the age-old prejudice about the feckless working class. Of course those with a more elevated social status, bankers for example, are well known for the care they take with money.
Keith Flett
London N17
Garden city will be no such a thing
Janet Street-Porter (22 March) is spot on about the proposed Ebbsfleet garden city. How easily and glibly the term “garden city” is used by politicians to justify and sell large-scale housing projects such as this.
The notion that builders/developers would subscribe to the low housing density, the spacious airy houses, the large gardens front and back, the integrated community amenities and the parks and woodland provided for a population drawn from all socio-economic groups that were the characteristics of the original garden cities is utterly absurd. There would be no profit in it for them.
If such a new town is to be built, let us be honest and call it something like a “prestigious and exclusive development of executive houses and apartments with prices starting in the region of £500,000”.
Nick Hudson
Welwyn Garden City

You report that 15,000 homes are set to be constructed at a new garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent. The Chancellor has said that this will be a “proper garden city”, like Welwyn Garden City or Letchworth. This announcement, while welcome, is only one of the measures needed to address England’s need for housing. For while the garden city idea offers one concept of a better quality of life, I would question whether this is really what many people want, today or in the future.
In fact, planning permission already exists for 22,000 homes to be built in Ebbsfleet, so one would challenge whether this is truly a new garden city, or just a rehashing of an existing scheme.
The idea of garden cities, in the historical sense, may not on its own be able to solve the current housing crisis. People are still going to be drawn to the bright lights of the city. Perhaps another solution would be garden suburbs, built on the outskirts of large cities and set only a short commute from people’s workplaces.  I suggest that the garden city principles (including long-term stewardship, together with the delivery of a sustainable and well-designed community) might be captured as much in that format as in a stand-alone new settlement.
Aman Sahota
Associate, Real Estate and Development, Lewis Silkin LLP, London EC4

Dungeness is perfectly safe
Contrary to your alarmist front-page story “British nuclear plant’s ‘Fukushima alert”, (19 March) EDF Energy’s nuclear facilities at Dungeness have always been extremely well protected from severe weather and seismic events.
Suggestions of a cover-up are completely incorrect. We take very seriously the need to be transparent. The local community was consulted and kept informed about our plans at all times and media were told. Furthermore we have recently reopened our visitor centre at Dungeness and have welcomed 5,000 people to see our operations in action over the past year.
Even before the Japanese tsunami, Dungeness was safeguarded against the worst flood risk that could be expected. Yet following the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, EDF Energy acted with humility and leadership and worked with our regulator to establish whether there were more steps that could be taken to enhance safety.
Following an extensive programme of analysis, modelling and physical testing we decided to strengthen the flood defences at Dungeness still further. They have now been developed to an extent that the power station is protected against levels of events whose probability is vanishing small.
Similar exercises were carried out at all nuclear facilities, scrutinised by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which has since acknowledged the safety of EDF Energy’s operations.
Martin B. Pearson
Station Director
Dungeness B, Kent
Make up has nothing to do with beauty
Alice Jones writes about the trend for women to take “no make-up selfies” (22 March). Many of us choose not to wear make- up daily. But it’s against the mainstream. I recently heard a commentator say the number of women spending money on cosmetic surgery showed the economy was on the up. No – rather it shows a culture swamped by the power of advertising.
We all have beauty within. As Benjamin Zephaniah puts it in his poem “(She don’t want to be) Miss World”: “Beauty is about how you greet /the everyday people that you meet”.
This is the beauty we should strive to develop, until it shines out of us, blinding each other with our natural radiance.
Louise Hall
Crimea and scotland: spot the difference
The UK Government has furiously condemned the referendum in Crimea saying it is illegal and that to have legitimacy the independence issue would have to be decided by Ukraine as a whole. Perhaps it would care to explain why it has not taken the same approach over the Scottish referendum where the rest of the UK has been denied a vote?
RL Davey


Many doctors have strong opposing views — could they not agree at least to be neutral?
Sir, Dr Mark Porter’s excellent article (Most doctors support assisted dying — they want the option themselves, Mar 18) was a much-needed corrective to the hysteria that frequently surrounds the assisted dying debate.
Dr Porter rightly points out the disconnection between the monolithic opposition of bodies such as the BMA and the deeply divided views of the doctors whom they are supposed to represent, most of whom see neutrality as the correct stance. Surveys have shown similar disconnection between people of faith (overwhelmingly in favour) and their leaders (against); likewise, people with disability and those who claim to speak for them.
Meanwhile dying people and their loved ones are suffering. It is wrong that unrepresentative spokespersons can so dominate a debate as to be able to block a compassionate law that would permit greater choice for mentally competent people at the end of life.
Professor Raymond Tallis
Chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying
Sir, Mark Porter is quite right that senior figures of the Royal College of General Practitioners may be out of touch with their membership on assisted dying. I write as one of the regional representatives appointed by the RCGP to assess the attitude of their GP members towards assisted dying. I acted for my patch of East Anglia where there are 1,700 members. Briefly, 7.5 per cent replied to my e-ballot, 47 per cent wishing to maintain opposition, 33 wised to move to neutrality, and 20 per cent were seeking the RCGP to move and lead on assisted dying.
The RCGP refusess to allow its 49,000 members to have a ballot on assisted dying stating that the subject was “too contentious and difficult an issue” for a simple vote.
Like Dr Porter, I believe that the RCGP should move to neutrality on assisted dying in order to best represent the opinion of the majority of its GP members,
Dr Philip Hartropp
Alwalton, Peterborough
Sir, Dr Porter believes that the opposition of the RCGP to assisted dying reflects the views of those who work “in the ivory towers of medical politics”. In fact, the opposition to a change in the law is the result of a consultation of GPs last year. Of the 1,700 members who responded, 77 per cent are against a change in the law. They felt it would undermine the doctor-patient relationship, put the most vulnerable at risk from coercion.
Dr Euan Dodds
Sir, The recent consultation by the RCGP suggests that nearly four out of five GPs consulted wanted the College to stand firm in its opposition to assisted dying.
Dr Porter says doctors can assess a patient for assisted suicide and leave it to another doctor to supply the lethal drugs, but the main problem for most doctors is the near-impossibility of making the life-or-death assessments involved.
Doctors are all too aware of the vulnerabilities of seriously ill patients. They also have an important role to play in preventing suicide. Is it any wonder that most of them, and their professional bodies, are opposed to attempts to foist assisted suicide onto them?
Dr Idris Baker, Professor Marie Fallon, Dr Jim Gilbert, Professor Robert George, Dr Craig Gannon, Dr David Jeffrey, Professor Scott Murray, Professor Patrick Stone (UCL)

Leading figures from the worlds of theatre, ballet and opera welcome the Chancellor’s tax credit largesse
Sir, We welcome the extension of the creative sector tax credit regime to all UK theatre productions, including live performance in theatre, opera, ballet and dance, as the Chancellor announced in last week’s budget.
This is a powerful encouragement to the creative sector, stimulating jobs, live performance, cultural exports, and more public engagement in the arts across the whole country.
British theatre leads the world. We have some of the finest writers, directors, designers, actors, dancers, singers and technicians, and we must guarantee this pre-eminence for future generations. In particular, we are pleased that these proposals provide the greatest incentive for touring productions. This will stimulate the UK regions which so often are the training ground for new talent in our industry — at present, for almost a third of the year our regional theatres are “dark”.
We welcome the inclusion of opera, dance and ballet, alongside all forms of theatre. Importantly, these measures put theatre and all these performing arts on the same footing as those creative sectors that already benefit from a tax credit regime such as film, animation and high-end TV drama.
Christopher Barron, Birmingham Royal Ballet; Dan Bates, Sheffield Theatres; Sir Peter Bazalgette & Alan Davey, Arts Council England; Alex Beard, Royal Opera House; Julian Bird, SOLT & UK Theatre;
Hugh Bonneville; Matthew Bourne & Robert Noble, New Adventures Dance Company; Nica Burns, Nimax Theatres; Simon Callow; Stephen Daldry;
Sir Richard Eyre; Alan Finch & Jonathan Church, Chichester Festival Theatre; Sonia Friedman, Sonia Friedman Productions; Rupert Gavin, Incidental Colman; Nigel Havers; Sir Nicholas Hytner & Nick Starr, National Theatre;
Felicity Kendall; David Lan, Young Vic Theatre; Sir Cameron Mackintosh; Richard Mantle, Opera North; Caro Newling, Neal Street Productions; Sir Howard Panter & Rosemary Squire, Ambassador Theatre Group; Kim Poster, Stanhope Productions; David Pountney, Welsh National Opera; Ian Rickson; Josie Rourke & Kate Pakenham, Donmar Warehouse; Mark Rubinstein; Mark Rylance; Mark Skipper, Northern Ballet; Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells Theatre; John Stalker; Nadia Stern, Rambert; David Suchet; Rachel Tackley, English Touring Theatre; Caroline Thomson, English National Ballet

Experts from the offshore dredging industry point out that obtaining building materials on land would be more damaging
Sir, Jenni Russell (Mar 21) lists world peace, an end to rape and a ban on dredging in the sea as three goods. Sea-dredged aggregates have long been used for building, and if sea dredging were banned it would mean the despoliation of more sites on land. Marine research has repeatedly shown that sea dredging makes no appreciable difference to beach protection or marine habitats.
David Harris
London SW13
Sir, May I, as a chief officer aboard a British dredger working off the UK coast, assure Jenni Russell that we run under stringent regulations which include care for the environment and sensitivity to marine life.
The land-based alternatives to marine aggregate dredging are far more destructive. Maintenance dredging, keeping ports open and rivers from silting up, is a separate issue, but one equally important to an island nation reliant on sea trade.
Peter Dixon
Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset

Harping on scientists’ gender and skin colour damages science and discourages youngsters from studying it
Sir, I was proud to be a scientist this week when the Bicep2 collaboration released evidence of events moments after the Big Bang (“Echoes of the Big Bang confirm theory of how Universe began”, Mar 18).
Unfortunately, some people still manage to see past these wonders and focus only on the gender and race of those involved. A columnist in one newspaper wrote that Maggie Aderin-Pocock (space scientist and expert science communicator) and
I were invited to comment on these results on Newsnight because of our “diversity”.
Maggie and I are both women with dark skin. If this is worthy of mention at all, it should be to celebrate that individuals in modern British society are achieving their potential, regardless of their appearance or heritage. Likewise, the Bicep2 team
is composed of men and women of many ethnicities, all with hard-earned expertise. These scientists are working together to uncover the secrets of the Universe, as opposed to peddling an outdated worldview from behind a fake name. I deeply pity the sort of person who can watch a report about ground-breaking news on the origins of the Universe and everything in it, and see only the gender and skin colour of the scientists involved. These attitudes are deeply damaging to science, and discourage women and people from different backgrounds from studying and engaging with science.
Dr Hiranya Peiris
Reader in Astronomy, UCL

A naval historian believes that propoals to paint HMS Victory all black are historically incorrect
Sir, Your report “Victory’s modern paint hides dark secret” (Mar 19) was intriguing but off beam. Ships’ hulls used to be coated with a mix of tar and black paint, but it was also common for naval ships to have wide bands along the wales of the hull painted in a variant of “English yellow”, between a light ochre and a reddish yellow.
Since she was saved for the nation in the 1920s, the Victory has been restored to look as she was in 1805 before the battle of Trafalgar. While analysis of paint layers has been useful it is not the only evidence; the returns of naval carpenters and dockyard stores are also studied. Contemporaneous paintings clearly show that in 1805 Victory had yellow bands along her hull.
The consultants state that the great cabin and captain’s cabin of Victory, being working spaces, would not resemble “country houses as they do now”.
While this shows little grasp of Georgian naval culture they have a point. The decoration of such cabins reflected the taste and status of the occupants, whose houses were typically decorated in light blue, yellow, pale grey and ivory white. The dark varnish in Victory’s grander cabins is a Victorian anachronism which should be rectified.
The suggestion that the Victory’s hull should be repainted all-over black would ruin a beautiful ship — and it would be historically incorrect.
Justin Reay
Editorial director,

SIR – Sir Michael Pitt, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, seeks to defend one of his staff, Paul Griffiths, or “Inspector Blight”. Mr Griffiths has allowed 19 of the 22 appeals regarding wind turbines that he has considered since May 2009, to the fury of the local people who opposed them.
This record seems extraordinary. It is difficult to accept that all these people, who have extensive local knowledge, are wrong and Mr Griffiths is the only one who is right.
It is not surprising that the High Court did not find fault with one of his decisions on the grounds that local people were ignored. Matters of planning judgment are the exclusive province of the Secretary of State. There is no way of challenging an appeal decision except in narrowly prescribed circumstances.
The Planning Inspectorate, with its unknown, unelected and unaccountable inspectors, is an impediment to localism. Its reform is long overdue.
Alan Overton
Reading, Berkshire
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Crimea sanctions
SIR – Given that Crimea was always part of the USSR until Khrushchev inexplicably transferred it to the Ukraine, it is not surprising that Vladimir Putin sought to use the Ukrainian unrest to achieve its return to Russia. Although his methods have been devious and no doubt illegal, the joy of the Crimean people at their imminent return to Russia has been plain to see.
As Mr Putin has stated that he intends to go no further and that he wants a peaceful and secure Ukraine on his border, Western sanctions, which could lead to tit-for-tat repercussions, seem rather futile.
It may be more realistic for the Western powers to keep their powder dry, accept the inevitable, and determine far stronger sanctions and actions to be brought into play should Mr Putin go back on his word. A bit of realpolitik is required.
B J Colby
Portishead. Somerset
Budget bonanza
SIR – May I thank George Osborne, the Chancellor, for the staggering generosity he displayed in the Budget by reducing a pint of beer by 1p?
This means that, with a pint costing approximately £3, I will now save £10 for every £3,000 I spend on beer.
I reckon that if I drink an extra 20 pints a week I could make this saving in a year or so. I had better get drinking.
Alan Lewis
Cheadle, Staffordshire
Assisted dying Bill risks error and abuse
SIR – Ann Farmer writes cogently about the risks associated with Lord Falconer’s Bill on assisted dying, comparing it to the Abortion Act 1967 and its similar provision that two doctors must give their approval before an abortion can be carried out.
During my career as a psychiatrist, I came across a number of physically ill, suicidal patients who regained their will to live when treated for their underlying depression.
Would depression always be correctly diagnosed by the two doctors making the recommendation?
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – From assisted suicide to persuaded suicide is a small step, and from persuaded suicide to mercy killing is another small step. Those who seek to legalise assisted suicide now may come to regret the consequences.
Ray Cantrell
Colchester, Essex
HS2 connections
SIR – There is great potential for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2 via the connections to the east and west coast main lines, but this needs to be addressed now if these locations are not to fall behind.
Many of these smaller cities could also be reached by HS2 trains moving to the classic railway network to complete their journey. But this will require new or significantly enhanced stations.
It is time for an urgent dialogue between HS2, Network Rail, the train operating companies and local authorities.
Jeremy Acklam
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2R
Training paramedics
SIR – You report (March 9) that Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director, suggests that fewer 999 patients should be taken to hospital and that paramedics need more training in order to feel comfortable treating patients at home. Yet these are the people officially appointed by the NHS to deal with emergencies.
Some authorities, according to your report, are also using financial bonuses in an effort to persuade undertrained staff to take risks with patients’ lives. At the same time we have highly skilled doctors, trained at great expense and experienced in a vast range of diseases and conditions, saying: “If you have an emergency, don’t call us.”
And we are told that the NHS is the envy of the world.
Dr Philip E Elwood
Nettleham, Lincolnshire
SIR – The excellence of our NHS has become something of a credo. Last month I was in China and found myself unable to stand or walk properly. I went to the hospital, registered (10 yuan/£1), was taken to a nerve specialist who diagnosed the ailment as CCCI (insufficient blood to the brain), prescribed some medicine, and suggested I have a scan when I returned to Britain. I bought the medicine in the hospital pharmacy (£1.40), and was out of the hospital in 40 minutes. Back in Britain, I had to wait five days to see my GP, who referred me to a “super GP” at our local hospital – in five weeks’ time. This, the hospital informed me, was an urgent appointment.
Hari Thorpe
Swanage, Dorset
Bankers’ salaries
SIR – You report that suspect accounting standards may have allowed banks to overstate their profits and thus contribute to the bankers’ huge bonuses. We have previously read about alleged manipulations of index benchmarks such as Libor and foreign exchange prices, not to forget the ridiculous fiasco of payment protection insurance.
But who benefits from all this dubious activity? It is not the banks’ customers, who are now suing the banks in massive class actions. The shareholders don’t benefit either – they seem to have to pay for the losses and lawsuits. As for the taxpayer – the Government, the Bank of England and the regulators seem to shore up the system with our taxes while incurring huge liabilities for future generations.
Why do the banks and investment institutions pay such large salaries and bonuses to their employees, managers and directors?
Steve Male
Highampton, Devon
Long-range aircraft
SIR – The huge areas covered in the search for Flight MH370 reminds us of the need for long-range maritime patrol aircraft in Britain’s front line.
With a range of over 7,000 miles (or more with air-to-air refuelling) and sophisticated radar and acoustic sensors, the Nimrod MRA4 would have been tailor-made for this operation. Britain’s reputation would suffer if it were unable to offer such assistance in the event of a similar incident in the Atlantic.
Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Roberts (retd)
Lymington, Hampshire
Diet scaremongers
SIR – When will those who try to scare the living daylights out of us about our diets and lifestyles realise that the more they preach that things are bad for us, the less notice anybody will take?
Dr Michael Barley
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – As the founder and director of Zippos Circus and its associated school, the Academy of Circus Arts, I was delighted to read Dea Birkett’s article (News Review, March 16) supporting traditional circus in the face of the launch of the National Centre for Circus Arts (NCCA).
While I welcome any initiative that raises the profile of circus arts or brings in new audiences, it is important to put the NCCA into perspective as a training organisation which largely supports theatre and nouveau cirque. Yet it would seem to have appointed itself rather arrogantly as the ambassador for Britain’s entire circus industry.
There is actually another whole world of circus out there. “Big Top” circuses are thriving, with up to 40 tenting shows performing at some point each year around Britain. They are socially inclusive and culturally diverse, playing to huge audiences across the country, often for less than the price of a cinema ticket.
Furthermore, our academy is the only travelling tenting circus school in the world and prepares students for the reality of life in the ring, as opposed to a career in theatre or opera. When I want fresh talent I’ll be looking for highly skilled artists who also know how to rig their own equipment and hammer in a tent stake (and possibly even make candyfloss). I won’t be running to the NCCA’s door for a student with a BA.
The NCCA will never threaten the real magic of the Big Top – the show will most definitely go on.

SIR – I was pleased to see David Cameron set out his seven targets for a new Europe in The Sunday Telegraph.
He is now publicly committed to ensuring that Britain will no longer be bound to ever-closer union with other EU members under the Lisbon Treaty. But you were right to sound a cautionary note in your supportive leading article. He has to follow through.
David Sprague
Dorking, Surrey
SIR – David Cameron seems just as unlikely to keep his promise of holding a referendum after renegotiating our relationship with Brussels as the promise he made in 2008: that he would hold a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty was not fully ratified before the Tories came to power.
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It must have been clear to Mr Cameron at the time that all the indications were that the treaty would be safely voted through. The majority was 140.
Today Mr Cameron would have us believe that he can persuade not only an obdurate EU Commission, but also all other EU member states, to effectively tear up the Lisbon Treaty and come up with a new one designed to suit Britain’s needs – all by the end of 2017, and without invoking Article 50 of the treaty. Surely he must know that he is making yet another empty promise.
Rather than an honest debate on our EU membership, we are getting more political misdirection and obfuscation. By entering an election campaign hoping he can fool enough of the electorate to win, Mr Cameron evades the truth, abuses trust, and debases democracy.
Carol Doggett
Barton on Sea, Hampshire
SIR – Mr Cameron’s negotiating hand would be strengthened if he were to announce that, in the event of his seven targets not all being achieved, he would campaign for a No vote.
Alan G Cox
Belper, Derbyshire
SIR – Having read Mr Cameron’s seven points for a new Europe, I am disappointed that not one of them refers to the undemocratic, indeed anti-democratic, nature of the European Union. In 1975 I genuinely believed that I was voting for an association of sovereign states in a customs union. Despite governments giving away further political power without our consent over the years, I can still see the sense in some form of political treaty.
What I cannot understand is how Mr Cameron, his cohorts and others before him have failed to perceive how offensive it is to be governed by a corrupt organisation manned by second-hand politicians who exercise executive power without being accountable to the electorate. I would be prepared to support a European treaty if it provided an elected parliament which dispensed laws authorised by an electoral mandate.
Since I believe that Mr Cameron’s programme will not succeed at all, this attempt to encourage people like me to vote for him in the next election demonstrates the gulf that exists between the rhetoric of politicians and the reality of what can be achieved.
Major Gordon Bonner (retd)
Leeds, West Yorkshire
SIR – If the changes to Europe that Mr Cameron seeks are to be achieved, this first requires an EU convention to be set up to host the negotiations over the reforms between the member states. An essential precondition to setting up this convention, though, is that there are enough states interested in reform to constitute the quorum necessary to trigger its formation. Thereafter, of course, any reforms unanimously agreed by the convention will still have to be ratified by all 28 member states, some by a referendum.
At present, however, there is precious little evidence that any of this is going to happen before 2017, or indeed at all.
John Graham
Epsom, Surrey
SIR – Every week, it seems, we hear what “David Cameron thinks” or “David Cameron says”. When are we going to read that David Cameron has actually done something?
Don Minterne
Bradford Peverell, Dorset

Irish Times:

A chara, – Further to Ann Marie Hourihane’s article “Cinderella of public dental health braces itself for a cultural shift” (Health + Family, March 11th), over the last number of years, public dental services have been decimated.
Falling staff numbers, due to the recruitment embargo, and retirement, have had a hugely negative effect on the everyday operation of the service, with the decreased availability of service to patients, and target class primary school screenings in some areas, simply not being met. Where services have been reduced, we have seen an increase in patients presenting with pain and infection, necessitating complex treatment, and, in certain circumstances, acute hospital admission, a reprehensible consequence of the circumstances which now prevail, and simply unacceptable for a first world country. Waiting lists for oral surgery and treatment of both children and special needs patients under general anaesthesia continue to soar due to lack of resources and facilities.
While the introduction of orthodontic therapists, as alluded to in the article, may expedite treatment in some cases, the basics have been overlooked. Many orthodontic issues could be flagged and possibly intercepted earlier if the manpower was available to see and treat children more frequently, with the emphasis put on the maintenance of a decay-free primary dentition, which could, in turn, reduce the bottleneck which now exists, particularly in the provision of care under general anaesthesia.
At the annual general meeting of the Public Dental Surgeons Group of the Irish Dental Association in October 2013, this group called on the HSE to ensure adequate dental staffing in all areas, to allow patients access equitable services, irrespective of geographical location, thereby safeguarding their oral health. This group also called on the Department of Health and the HSE to ensure appropriate and timely provision of dental general anaesthetic services for children and special care patients in order to avoid unnecessary delays in treating pain, sepsis and dental trauma. These requests remain.
To no other profession does the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine” ring more true. Dental decay is the most prevalent, preventable disease worldwide. The simple messages of maintaining adequate oral hygiene and reducing frequency of intake of sugar remain to the forefront in the constant battle against it. – Is mise,
Public Dental
Surgeons Committee,
Irish Dental Association,
Belvedere Hills,
Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – The National Transport Authority has submitted for public consultation their proposal for a “Bus Rapid Transit” project encompassing three corridors: Blanchardstown to UCD; Clongriffin to Tallaght; and Swords to City Centre. It is proposed to use streamlined buses, with a capacity of 120 passengers, which are much cheaper than alternative rail solutions, it is claimed. Such bus transit projects have been a solution in Latin America in places such as Curitiba and Mexico City and in a few provincial European cities.
The acceptance by planners to allocate dedicated road space to efficient public transport is laudable. However, there is a touch of Groundhog Day here. Decades ago when reopening the then disused Harcourt Street line was under consideration there were strong proposals made for a busway. Eventually, the siren allure of lower capital costs was resisted and a quality light rail system was built. Ask the present users of the Green Line Luas if they would prefer a diesel-powered busway and you would get a dusty answer.
At first sight, busways have cheaper capital costs (though unlikely to be as cheap as the claimed one-third of comparable rail costs). However, operating costs can be higher, as a properly designed light rail system can carry a higher throughput of passengers for a lower cost. Buses have a design life of around 12 years, as opposed to the 30-year life of a light rail vehicle. There is the pollution from diesel versus the non-pollution of electric traction. Finally, it has been difficult to lure motorists from their vehicles to travel on buses, as opposed to light rail. A light rail system would have higher patronage than a busway – look at the crowded Luas at rush-hour.
People may not realise that in the Dublin of 1900, there was a dense network of electric trams providing easy access across the city. Dublin is a European capital. To maintain its attraction to inward investment, not to mind the quality of life for its citizens, it should be an enhanced urban environment with high-quality transport system that is fast, safe, reliable and clean. Let’s get back to the future, invest wisely and move towards eventually having a dense network of Luas services in Dublin. – Yours, etc,
Frankfort Avenue,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I find the carelessness of our Civil Service in mislaying the records of the late Brian Lenihan’s phone calls at the crucial moment for our country of the putting in place of the bank guarantee to be farcical (“Department of Finance has ‘no record’ of Lenihan phone calls”, Home News, March 20th). In light of Edward Snowden’s revelations of the diligence and thoroughness of the British secret service in keeping track of our telephonic communications, I wonder has your correspondent considered applying to GCHQ for details of Brian Lenihan’s phone records? If they were feeling in a generous mood I’ve no doubt they might even – in contrast to our Civil Service – provide a transcript of the actual conversations themselves! – Yours, etc,
Old Youghal Road,

Sir, – Chris Johns makes the case that Ireland would make €400 million a year in tax by legalising cannabis (“Marijuana tax yield may prove the final blow to war on drugs”, Business Opinion, March 14th).
Surely it is time for Enda Kenny to show that Ireland could really be the best small country in the world in which to do “cannabusiness”? Can we afford to miss this opportunity?
Considering that the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, is a Nobel Prize nominee for his innovative lead in moving away from the failed “war on drugs” and that Uruguay’s health system has now been placed in the top three countries in the world, surely Minister for Health James Reilly will lend support to this idea?
If given the nudge, President Michael D Higgins might be persuaded to champion this initiative by contacting his counterpart in Uruguay who – as it happens – lives just off the O’Higgins Road near Montevideo!
Crucially, Michael O’Leary could annoy Aer Lingus by emblazoning the cannabis leaf on aircraft – a branding symbol of Ryanair’s nicer, more relaxed flying experience. – Yours, etc,
Lecturer in Communication,
Cork Institute
Sir, – Technology has transformed economic activity in the last two decades or so. The balance of supply and demand has been reversed; supply exceeds demand rendering economic growth unnecessary and impossible, yet all recovery strategy is based on restoring growth. It was such a strategy of throwing money at growth that gave rise to unmanageable debt; growth cannot occur when growth is not needed and overproduction capability ensures growth is no longer needed.
Overproduction capability has been achieved by elimination of dependence on human labour, the elimination of work. To prevent social collapse job numbers must be restored; employment must be generated from less work but all policies are aimed at having those employed work harder, more efficiently, longer and into old age. Such policies only ensure fewer people will ever work. In future we will have more people working less or fewer people working more.
Attempts to have the impact of modern technology introduced into economic discussion have met a surprisingly hostile reaction, especially in broadcasting. Government departments, politicians and economists have simply refused to enter into any discussion on the subject as if by ignoring the possibility it might go away.
It will not go away; impending unemployment due to work elimination by advancing technology is a reality of the 21st century and the greatest social problem to be confronted. The only possible solution is more employment generated from less work. Shorter hours, longer holidays and earlier retirement must be considered.
I challenge the political, economic and media establishment to acknowledge the crisis of work elimination and enter debate on how to create more jobs from less work. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – Further to Morgan Kelly’s article “Our real economic crisis will begin if ECB credit stops” (Opinion and Analysis, March 14th), the National Treasury Management Agency did not sell bonds in December. The NTMA’s last issuance of 2013 involved short-term treasury bills, not bonds, and took place in September.
More importantly, neither the treasury bills issued in September 2013 nor the bonds issued this year following Ireland’s exit from the EU/IMF programme were “bought entirely by the State-controlled (or effectively controlled) banks AIB and Bank of Ireland”. In fact, the majority of the issuance (approximately 80 per cent) was acquired internationally. – Yours, etc,
National Treasury
Management Agency,
Treasury Building,
Grand Canal Street,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – I’m sure everyone is aware of the considerable damage caused to our countryside by the recent storms. This includes damage to our forests as well as our roadside, hedgerow and parkland trees. As the body representing the forestry profession in Ireland, the Society of Irish Foresters is very concerned at the possibility of an over-reaction by local authorities and others which could lead to widespread, unnecessary felling of healthy trees.
All landowners are obliged by law to act in a prudent manner. However, trees considered for felling should be inspected by competent professionals to determine if felling is justified on safety grounds. – Yours, etc,
Society of Irish Foresters,
Glenealy, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Charles Lamb, I think it was, who, having been shown a rough draft of one of Milton’s poems, declared that he never again would look into an artist’s workshop.
Dick Ahlstrom’s article on the detection of gravity waves from “the dawn of time” (Signal from ‘dawn of time’ helps explain the birth of the universe”, Home News, March 19th) deals with things that, for me, are getting very near to the original artist’s workshop. But my reaction is quite different from that of Charles Lamb. I want more of it for it’s where science and religion meet. Is this not creation? – Yours, etc,
Leinster Park,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – I’m sure Brendan Behan would have had something to say on your editorial’s reference (The quare fellow, March 20th) to the “assassination” of Michael Collins, who died fighting, armed and in uniform among comrades similarly employed, armed and dressed. – Yours, etc,
Palmers Green,
London N13.

Irish Independent:

* Controversy surrounding the use of the word ‘disgusting’ by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is descending into an unworthy pantomime of political brinkmanship by ministers vying for public sympathy.
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No new politics on offer
Quotas contrary to equal opportunity
Monumental achievements
The Oireachtas has been advised in four special reports by the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) since 2000 that An Garda Siochana management of the collection of road traffic fines has been inadequate. Official criticism of this matter has prevailed throughout the entire tenure of four garda commissioners and seven ministers for justice and none of them has taken effective remedial action.
Five government departments – Justice, Finance, Transport, Tourism and Sport – share responsibility for road traffic fines with An Garda Siochana but the PAC report noted that there was no analytical data to allow the issue of enforcement to become more focused and effective.
The C&AG’s fourth report in July 2012 was prompted by a member of the gardai presenting a file relating to 4,000 cases where it appeared that fixed charge notices issued had subsequently been cancelled.
In many cases the fixed charge notices had been cancelled corruptly and illegally and a number of persons who had benefitted from one or more cancellations of fixed charge notices for speeding or dangerous driving had subsequently committed similar offences, resulting in some cases in deaths and/or injury to themselves or others. Transport Minister Leo Varadkar is responsible for the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2013 to 2020, which aims to reduce road collision fatalities from 162 in 2012 to 124, or fewer, by 2020 and a 30pc reduction of serious road traffic injuries.
Is this target achievable if the commissioner merely withdraws the word ‘disgraceful’? Will the public be reassured by politicians and the garda commissioner merely using the media to play Scrabble with them?
* Everybody enjoys a bit of a laugh, a bit of banter, which is perfectly normal and acceptable. At times however, this bit of banter, may be had at the expense of someone else who may not enjoy being the subject of others’ entertainment. This is where, sometimes, people should perhaps consider a few things …
We can never know what’s going on in a person’s body, head or heart. A simple comment or gesture, made in the quest for a 20-second chuckle or to bask in the applause of a few peers, may be the most hurtful thing we can do to another and trigger a journey on a downward spiral that can result in untold harm and damage, not only to that person, but to those who they love and care for.
Such spur-of-the-moment decisions can result in a loss of self-esteem and self-respect.
So, please, before you decide to have a laugh at someone else’s expense, ask yourself this: “Is my 20-second chuckle worth the damage I may do to them and theirs?”
* Around 1921, Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins sent private emissaries to Washington to plead with the US government to reduce the number of visas it issued to young Irish men and women because they needed the youth of Ireland in Ireland to advance the nation.
In 2014, without any hint of embarrassment, the leader of the Irish Government pleads publicly in Washington with the US government to alter legislation to allow permanent residence to Irish illegals.
The contrast between the selfless Irish statesmen of 1920s’ Ireland and the selfish elite of today, posing as caring politicians, could not be greater.
* I was shocked by the patronising attitude of Helen Moorhouse last week (‘There’s something about do-gooding on social media that doesn’t sit right’, Irish Independent, March 22) regarding the unified approach of women (and men) who participated in an online campaign to donate money towards cancer research.
Many of the participants had suffered from cancer and had the scars to prove it. These people were not worrying about pimples. They were posting pictures online because they believed in the power of people working together.
The Irish Independent reported that €500,000 had been raised towards cancer research.
As far as I’m concerned people who take the time and effort to participate and donate to this campaign are wonderful.
So Helen, next time you write an article, try and look at the big picture.
* I am writing as an octogenarian who has just spent six weeks in two Kerry hospitals recently, due to a fractured femur.
I have been in different hospitals throughout my long life, but it was my first experience in Kerry. It was an eye-opener, to say the least. The sense of duty from all staff should be seen to be believed, may the Lord bless them.
In my opinion, the staff are all God’s representatives and are continuing Mother Teresa’s good work.
I would hope Health Minister James Reilly and all current and future governments appreciate the vital role that all care staff play in all our lives.
* Does anyone remember the vicious assault on the young Italian student, Guido Nasi, who was playing football in Fairview Park in 1999?
His wallet was stolen and when he tried to get it back he was hit with a bottle and left paralysed. He lives with his elderly mother in Italy and requires full-time care. The Irish people were deeply shocked by this dreadful attack and many contributed to a fund to help him.
I was reminded of Guido when I saw the horrible attack on a young Brazilian man in Dublin by two thugs who kicked him in the face and left him lying unconscious on the road. It was filmed by someone and posted on YouTube for the whole world to see.
RTE’s ‘Liveline’ has been full of reports of unspeakably violent incidents in Ireland. There was an attack on a non-national family on the Luas and dreadful cases of the most horrible cruelty to defenceless animals by sadistic thugs.
Viciousness, cruelty and sheer savagery are all on the increase. Dublin is not a safe place to be. I often watch the innocent tourists as they walk around, carrying cameras and admiring our city. They are so trusting and vulnerable. I have visited many countries but I have never felt the palpable sense of menace that pervades Dublin. O’Connell Street and North Earl Street are awash with drug addicts – a particular phenomenon that seems to have developed in the past two years. Why is it tolerated?
It seems that feral thugs believe that they can do what they like and nothing will be done about it.
And while we’re at it, could we perhaps show our deep sympathy and support to that unfortunate Brazilian student by establishing a fund to help him and show him that we are all sickened by what happened on the feast of our national saint?

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