31March 2014 Mary
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have an party for the admiral, Mrs Povey tries to get promotion for Henry. Priceless
Cold slightly better Mary very under the weather visit her
No Scrabbletoday Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.
Kate O’Mara – obituary
Kate O’Mara was an actress who delighted ‘Dynasty’ audiences with her glowering showdowns with Joan Collins
Kate O’Mara with her Dynasty co-stars John Forsythe and Christopher Cazenove Photo: REX
8:24PM BST 30 Mar 2014
Kate O’Mara, who has died aged 74, was an actress whose cliff-high cheek bones, brooding glare and nifty line in tough talk fuelled a successful international television career. She first came to prominence in cult British series, such as Dr Who and Triangle, but found international fame as Joan Collins’s catty sister in the hugely popular American television show Dynasty. However, her onscreen persona — granite graced with lace — was often at odds with the more placid elements of her personality. “Recently I did The Graham Norton Show, which was very alarming,” she said in 2008. “He was being crude and I’m not very good with crude. I like sophistication and elegance.”
As Cassandra “Caress” Morrell — the revenge-obsessed sybling of Collins’s Alexis Colby — O’Mara excelled in bouts of verbal sparring with her British co-star over the course of 19 episodes in the mid-1980s. Cassandra is a jailbird with payback on her mind. Having been released from a Venezuelan prison — where she was incarcerated over an incident involving Alexis — she arrives in Denver, Colorado, under the name Caress. Her plan is to make a fortune by writing a searing exposé on her sister’s dark, salacious past.
Kate O’Mara at home in 2008 (REX)
Alexis discovers the ploy, however, covertly buys up the publishing company and pulps the project. “I’ve come to ask you for your autograph, congratulations sister dearest, it’s a wonderful piece of fiction,” sneers Alexis. “Of course I’ve read it. It doesn’t take very long. It’s like a comic book without the pictures.”
“We had a tremendous bitchy tension between us,” recalled O’Mara. “My character Caress was like an annoying little mosquito who just kept coming back and biting her.” The performance was a masterclass in melodrama — delivering a rollercoaster ride of fictional success and trauma that was matched by her own life story. “I’m part of six generations of a theatrical family,” she wrote in her memoirs, Vamp Until Ready: A Life Laid Bare (2003). “For over 40 years I’ve done everything from Shakespeare to Hollywood soaps, from Restoration Comedy to Cult Television Drama, from Westerns to Pantomime. I have been nothing if not diverse! My personal life, however, has been a disaster area. Rape, desertion, adoption, divorce and numerous relationships with very much younger men. And this for someone who sees herself as an intellectual and can’t be doing with sex at all… Oh well, the show must go on!”
Kate O’Mara with her Dynasty co-stars, Christopher Cazenove, John Forsythe and Joan Collins
Kate O’Mara was born in Leicester on August 10 1939, the daughter of John F. Carroll, an RAF flying instructor, and actress Hazel Bainbridge. After boarding school she studied at art school before becoming a full-time actress (her younger sister, Belinda, followed suit). Her early television appearances during the 1960s included roles in series such as The Saint, The Champions, The Avengers and Z-Cars.
In the early Seventies she made a more selacious name for herself as the voluptuous figure of desire in erotic horror B-movies such as The Vampire Lovers (1970). Equally dubious was Triangle, an early-Eighties soap opera in which she starred. Set on a North Sea ferry running a route between Felixstowe and Gothenberg it has often been cited as one of the worst pieces of television ever produced (although retrospectively it drew admirers).
Kate O’Mara in The Saint in 1967
The move to America for Dynasty came with its own problems for a country girl from England. “I had a five-year contract on Dynasty and after two months I was thinking, goodness, how am I going to stand it out here?” she recalled. “It’s just relentless sunshine. It’s a desert at the end of the day. I love the seasons, I love winter and autumn and rain. The people were very charming but I did find that it wasn’t terribly good for my soul.” She was let go after a series. “The studio said: ‘Joan thinks it’s not a good idea to have another brunette on the show,’” recalled O’Mara. “I was quite relieved. I’d been asked to appear in King Lear back in Britain, and they said: ‘Oh you go back and do your little play,’ which I thought was hilarious.”
If Triangle had been Crossroads-on-sea then her role as a cut-throat businesswoman in thee sailing soap opera Howard’s Way in 1990 at least saw her play up-stream with the regatta set. O’Mara also had a recurring role playing the renegade Time Lord “The Rani” in the cult Doctor Who series. Appearing opposite both the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy incarnations of the Doctor, her scientifically-minded devilish character enslaved planets to experiment on their subjects (during last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the series she expressed a wish to come back to the role as an older woman).
Kate O’Mara, alongside Shirley Bassey and Joan Collins, meeting the Queen at the Royal Academy in 2012
In later years she returned to familiar territory playing another character with a difficult sister — this time playing second sibling to Joanna Lumley’s Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. During the Ninties she followed her Joan Collins lead and turned her hand to writing, publishing two novels (When She Was Bad, 1995, and Good Time Girl, 1993) and two autobiographical volumes (Vamp Until Ready, 2003, and Game Plan: A Woman’s Survival Kit, 1990).
In 2012, her son, Dickon Young — formerly a stage manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company — was found hanged at the family home. He had had a history of mental illness. Late in life she talked how she had overcome her own bouts of depression : “particularly during my first marriage break-up 31 years ago. But I’ve since learnt a cure for depression: listening to J.S. Bach and reading P.G. Wodehouse. This got me through the break-up of my second marriage 17 years ago. The great thing about Wodehouse is that his books are full of romantic problems and yet so hilarious that it puts things in perspective.” The quiet country life in occassional retirement in Somerset suited her. “I’m not frightened of dying, but I love the countryside so much and I’m going to miss it. I’d like to be out in the wind and the trees for ever.”
Kate O’Mara married twice. First to Jeremy Young in 1961 (dissolved in 1976) and, secondly, in 1993, to Richard Willis (dissolved 1996). Her son, from a separate relationship, predeceased her.
She is survived by her sister.
Kate O’Mara, born August 10 1939, died March 30 2014
The Ministry of Justice ban on families and friends sending books to prisoners is petty and mean-spirited (‘It is the most bonkers thing I’ve ever heard’, 29 March). It is argued that, should a prisoner be of good behaviour, their earnings will be at a higher rate and they will be able to buy books through the earned privileges scheme. The latter offers “basic”, “standard” and “enhanced” regimes, though a more austere one below “basic” was recently introduced for all new prisoners. Prisoners are unlikely to be able to afford books until they reach the “enhanced” level, which some never do. In over 30 years as a prison governor, I never knew of one prisoner who was badly behaved when they had their head inside a book.
For some nine years after retiring, I was a trustee of the estimable charity Prisoners Abroad. One small comfort that could be offered to British nationals jailed in some of the harshest punitive regimes imaginable was to post books to them. Well done, Mr Grayling. In this respect you have proved yourself more callously restrictive than some of the world’s most backward dictatorships.
Helperby, North Yorkshire
• No need to employ somebody to check the parcels – Chris Grayling and Joanna Trollope, please note (Thoroughly modern Jo, 29 March). Books pose no threat if sent to prisons directly from a major supplier, as recommended by the excellent website sendbookstoprisoners.co.uk. Yet the Secret Footballer books that I bought from Amazon for my son languish unopened in one of our young offender institutions. They could only have had a positive impact, so I was surprised when they were kept from him. He was told that the subject matter was unsuitable. Now I know the truth, and I’m appalled. Appalled too that it’s taken four months for news of the ban to reach the general public. The government’s action is unspeakable, though understandable – the last thing they want is well-read people leaving our prisons armed with inquiring minds and the ability to question and rebel.
Labour is the only realistic option to win the next general election and counter the punitive policies inflicted on the least affluent people in the UK. My heart sinks at Ken Loach‘s attempts to sell Left Unity as a viable alternative (Labour is not the solution, 28 March). Look at our electoral system – no party other than Labour has a realistic chance of getting a majority and, whatever its faults, it offers the best and quickest way of getting rid of the current lot of small-minded, nasty, scapegoating politicians.
The “left” of UK politics has a history of splitting into smaller groups who are passionate about their beliefs but who will not get a majority at an election to implement those beliefs – people who would rather be “right” than in government. That partly explains why Thatcher was able to win on a minority of the votes of the electorate. I don’t need an impassioned argument about the purity of Labour’s policies – I’ll stay in the Labour party and try to influence from within. I do need to have a Labour government in 2015 rather than the lot we have now – that’s the choice.
• Ken Loach is absolutely right to say that “Labour is part of the problem, not the solution” to the question “Where is our political fightback [against austerity]?” At the forthcoming local council elections the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), co-founded by Bob Crow and, since 2012, officially backed by the RMT union, is organising the biggest left-of-Labour challenge in such elections since the immediate aftermath of the second world war. We already have 400 candidates in place, with more coming forward each day. The recently founded Left Unity group has been invited to participate in this election coalition, joining the anti-bedroom tax campaigners, trade union activists, and members of a number of different socialist organisations who will be standing under the TUSC umbrella in May. Possibly, together, we can reach the broadcasting authorities’ threshold for “fair coverage” during the election period. This would be a breakthrough for the anti-austerity socialist message, which I’m sure Ken would support.
TUSC national election agent
• Ken Loach is wrong to be so dismissive of the Green party. Most of the policies he lists at the end of his article are supported by the Greens, and his call for a assertion of the public good accords with the Green party slogan “for the common good”. Furthermore, the Green party has a social justice agenda and the infrastructure and volunteer activists to deliver it.
• I can’t help thinking Ken Loach is a little out of touch. He clearly feels the Labour manifesto of 1945 is a good starting point for political change in the 21st century. He goes on to say that the Labour government of ’45 “chose not to realise that ambition” and that the task today “is to turn the words of the manifesto into reality”. If the postwar government – with its enormous majority, a relatively large and homogeneous working class behind it and a powerful trade union movement – couldn’t implement socialist ideals, what chance has Left Unity? The country was indebted to a large conscripted army and needed a co-operative manufacturing workforce. None of these factors exist now. The conditions for socialism were never more right than they were in 1945, and they are certainly not right today. You may not like the social and economic reality, Ken, but, as Marx might have said, it’s got to be your starting point.
• Ken Loach must realise the futility of trying to form a new party of the left at this stage of the electoral cycle. The crucial thing is to get the Tories out as soon as possible, and Labour, however feeble, is the only credible opposition we have. To attempt to divide it would be fatal. We have to persuade as many people as possible to use their vote to get a Labour majority. Then we must work to get a leader and cabinet who’ll legislate to curb the activities of big business, the banks, landlords, the aristocracy and money-grubbers everywhere as ruthlessly as Thatcher did to get rid of the miners, the steelworkers, the shipbuilders and the rest of the politically active workers. Goodness knows there are so many people damaged by the effects of the Tory policies Ken mentions that they only need a credible promise to make things better for them to vote to get rid of every Tory MP outside of Kensington and Chelsea.
• The Labour thinktanks’ call for a strategic change in direction towards more devolution of power (Letters, 24 March) is welcome, but it is only a start. If your report of Jon Cruddas’s speech to Progress is accurate (25 March) – “a Labour government from 2015-20 has to be about redistributing power and not resources, he argues, because austerity makes cash handouts impossible and power becomes the new money” – there is still a long way to go. Power without resources is a contradiction in terms. And the attempt to justify this on the grounds of austerity, given the present degree of inequality in our society, is absurd. Labour must stand for the redistribution of resources, and therefore power, from large corporations to consumers, workers and local communities, and from central to local government. That would indeed be new politics.
• There is an easier way for Labour supporters to get behind an opposition party that represents their values than writing letters to a newspaper or using comment pieces to urge their leader to be more radical in policy (Polly Toynbee, 25 March) and bolder in approach (Diane Abbott, 26 March). They could simply join the Green party, which is already calling for the policies listed by Labour’s thinktanks and others as offering a radical, progressive approach: introducing a national living wage; bringing the railways back into public ownership; and launching a major programme of investment to build more affordable homes. And, if you don’t like any of our policies, we offer a far more democratic route to changing them than penning open letters: become a member and vote on policies at conference. Join us for a fairer and more progressive kind of politics.
Leader, Green party of England and Wales
Gay couples, according to the house of bishops, can be prayed for but the B-word – blessings – is out (Bishop praises couple on eve of first gay weddings, 29 March). The day after the bishops made this decision I got an invitation to the opening of a new dairy at our local agricultural college. The ceremony included a blessing of the dairy herd by the bishop of Carlisle diocese. Now, our bishop is a good man, but there’s no better illustration of the hypocritical position in which the church now finds itself. Perhaps if my partner and I turn up at church dressed as pantomime cows we can solve the problem?
• One G2 reader complains that she had to look up “plushophilia” (Letters, 25 March) and suddenly “anthropomorphic” has an explanatory footnote (30 Minutes with… Kermit the Frog, G2, 27 March). Honestly! We’re not all jobbernowls, you know.
• If you see Sid, tell him we woz done (Miliband calls for new curbs on energy bills, 28 March).
• I thought that “conscious uncoupling” (Pass notes, 27 March) meant throwing a bucket of water over a couple of dogs.
• As in life, so in Yorkshire – it’s only a short distance from Booze to Bedlam (Letters, 29 March).
Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire
‘We can only serve the needs of victims [of domestic violence] by approaching this in an integrated multi-agency way’
Sir, There is considerable frustration in the police service regarding the Inspectorate report on the police handling of domestic abuse (Mar 27).
Cases of domestic abuse invariably include a far wider range of social issues, indeed only about 30 per cent of cases result in a recorded crime. Many victims refuse to make a complaint against their abuser or later withdraw the allegation because they don’t see that the criminal justice system can make their lives better.
There is a significant overlap between domestic abuse and complex dependency issues and with those involved in gangs and organised crime. Even if police can remove an abuser from a victim’s life the victim may well live in a community where they will face pressure from their families or criminal networks.
We can only truly serve the needs of victims by approaching this in an integrated multi-agency way which links up all the issues of complex dependency, as we are doing in Greater Manchester. We cannot have a system which relies so much on the victim in an abusive relationship having the courage to go to court when it is in the very nature of an abusive relationship that their self-confidence is destroyed.
My officers deal with an average of 170 domestic abuse incidents every day and become weary that the wider system is not dealing with the underlying issues or that society is not taking this more seriously.
To that end I would like to see the creation of full-item specialist magistrates able to impose a range of conditions for the protection of victims and the control of offenders, to which the police could take all high risk cases within 24 hours whether or not the victim wishes to make a complaint. This would create the space for the full range of agencies to put in a comprehensive solution.
The police can always do better but it has to be acknowledged that there are fundamental flaws in the way the wider system safeguards vulnerable victims.
Sir Peter Fahy
Greater Manchester Police
Sir, It really is time that the Government called a halt to the public “bashing” of those in front-line public services, in the misguided belief that this is in the interests of so-called transparency. The effect on morale is devastating and counterproductive. My daughter police constable rang me tonight almost in tears at the lack of balance shown in this report. She is one of the vast majority of police officers who are dedicated to bringing violent partners to justice. They face overwhelming odds. I have watched over the years as she has expended much time and emotional energy in dealing with these cases. It is difficult and dangerous work. The violent partner at the scene will often turn on the policeman or policewoman. The victims, despite all the protection and assurances provided, will frequently retract their evidence at the last minute, squandering the efforts of many and unsurprisingly making the hard pressed CPS less than enthusiastic about bringing every case to court. Using the police as scapegoats for society’s ills in this way is unfair; this group of dedicated professionals deserve much better support and balanced judgment from those who are tasked with leading them.
Sir, Britain needs a proper debate about Europe. Mr Clegg and Mr Farage (Mar 26) do not properly represent the opposing views on the issue. Mr Farage, who appears on one programme after another, does not have a single MP but rides on the coat-tails of those Conservative backbenchers who, since the Maastricht Treaty, have turned opinion within the party and in opinion polls. All he can do therefore is to undermine Conservatives, many of whom hold similar views. However, by defeating them in the marginals he guarantees not only to defeat them and the Conservative Party but also his own objectives, which they share, of returning self-government to the UK Parliament.
Bill Cash, MP
House of Commons
Sir, Max Lines (Mar 27) may be reassured; a significant number of other ranks PoWs escaped from work camps in the Reich during the Second World War. The opportunity to do so presented itself particularly to those taken each day to their place of work, where inattention by the guards gave those with pluck and the desire to slip away their opportunity.
As the Red Army and the Western Allies forces fought their way into Poland and Germany it became easier, though still very dangerous, for such PoWs to escape and return to the UK. The understandable attention given since the end of the war to the ingenuity and heroism of escapers from Colditz and Stalag Luft III (Sagan) has masked not just the bravery and resolve of those other ranks who did escape, but also the appalling conditions under which many other ranks PoWs were housed, fed and worked. It has also obscured the fact that some of those escapes were aided by local civilians, even, remarkably, in Dresden after the fire-bombing in February 1945.
Dr P. R. Gregory
Sir, Too many young people are still out of work and risk becoming trapped on benefits. With a bit of creative thinking, we can get them off the dole and set up for life.
One idea is to divert young people’s job seeker’s allowance (JSA) cash to small businesses for apprenticeships. So, if a suitable apprenticeship is offered to a JSA claimant who turns it down or quits it, they would lose their unemployment benefits. The JSA cash which is freed up by moving the job seeker into paid training — about £3,000 per year, per person — would be given to small businesses to help them take on more apprentices. We think it is reasonable to impose benefit sanctions if someone turns down or drops out of paid training. It makes no sense to have young people going nowhere on benefits when they could be learning a trade.
If we get half of the UK’s 314,430 JSA claimants off benefits and into apprenticeships, it would free millions of pounds to fund these opportunities.
Future research at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is vital to resolve looming ecological or agricultural crises
Sir, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is first and foremost a scientific institution. Kew’s research is essential to address looming ecological and agricultural crises. Recent cuts in the science budget (Mar 28) threaten to undermine this. I trust that, after the proposed restructuring, Kew’s director will prioritise science. If it is to provide a credible voice on issues such as food security and biodiversity, Kew must be able to perform research of the highest quality.
Dr Samuel Brockington
Department of Plant Sciences University of Cambridge
Sir, Now the government has abolished the IPP (imprisonment for public protection) sentence, it’s time to return to a sensible system of fairness, proportionality and just deserts (Mar 25). There is already provision in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act for a release test which would make the State responsible for producing evidence to prove that someone still presents a significant risk. Improvements should be made to sentence planning for IPP prisoners including better use of the open estate and the well planned use of release on temporary licence. Unacceptable Parole Board delays must be eradicated. This is a hard sentence to unwind but, to restore public confidence and legitimacy, the government should finish the job it started and eradicate a stain on our justice system.
Prison Reform Trust
SIR – As Barbara Woodhouse’s daughter, I am sure my mother would have thought that training dogs in a simply “positive” or “negative” way was too inflexible.
My mother was always firm but kind to dogs. I have never heard of any dog being traumatised by her. It was the reverse. As soon as she took a dog from its owner, its tail went up and it looked at her with adoration. My mother advocated giving treats to dogs when they deserved extra praise.
She trained more than 20,000 dogs and was in the Guinness Book of Records for the most dogs ever trained by anyone.
She was just as popular in America and did numerous television programmes, including Barbara Woodhouse in Beverley Hills. All the Hollywood stars whose dogs she worked with agreed that her training methods were excellent.
I was very pleased that Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer”, supported my mother’s methods, and that Roger Mugford, the animal psychologist, has said that relying on positive training could lead to spoilt and badly behaved pets, which I heartily agree with.
Heath and Reach, Bedfordshire
SIR – William Hague is right to say that Europe must stand up to Russia.
He also points out that corruption and the absence of the rule of law or independent institutions have damaged Ukraine. This gives me deep misgivings about the EU’s intention to develop deeper ties with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Do we wish to be associated with countries that are undemocratic, and are we prepared for military action in their defence? If not, then provoking Russia in this way is hardly wise.
Cdr Malcolm Williams
SIR – The Crimea situation reveals first that the EU is not, and never will be, a military power to be reckoned with, that Britain is no longer a world power and should recognise this and that America is sick and tired of involvement in wars in far off countries.
This being the case, the governments and peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Crimea should be left to sort out their own problems, hopefully without bloody wars. The West has blood on its hands and should stop interfering in the affairs of other countries. Vladimir Putin is well aware of this and cannot be in the least concerned about the huffing and puffing of the West.
SIR – While I can understand Alan Overton’s negative opinion of the Planning Inspectorate, one also has to consider the situation when local planning committees override the recommendation made by the case officer when applications come before them.
In many cases, appeals to the Planning Inspectorate come about because planning committee members are inexperienced in planning matters, and are often more concerned about appeasing their electorate by refusing to consent to a contentious application than making a balanced judgment based upon the local plan and Town and Country Planning Legislation.
Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire
Assisted dying Bill
SIR – Ray Cantrell is concerned that the legalisation of assisted dying may be abused and lead to “persuaded suicide” or “mercy killing”.
We know that assisted dying already takes place, and that the legal system is (rightly) reluctant to prosecute those who help a terminally ill loved one who wishes to end their own life.
However, because this assistance is still illegal, people do it secretly. Others who wish to speed up the death of a dying relative against that relative’s will may well be able to disguise their behaviour in a similar fashion.
Lord Falconer’s Bill would prevent this abuse, by bringing things out into the open. It would only allow assisted dying for terminally ill adults, who are declaring a well-informed, persistent and voluntary wish to end their own life early, as assessed by two independent doctors. The Bill would therefore protect the wishes of terminally ill people who wish to live on until their illness kills them, as well as those who wish to end their lives at a time of their choosing.
SIR – David Thomas’ New Magna Carta was a masterpiece. It summed up everything I would like to see happen to Britain.
I have cut it out and framed it.
Great Somerford, Wiltshire
Stay-at-home mothers are being penalised
SIR – Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the indispensable role mothers play in the home. But, as the recent Budget made clear, policy-makers only value mothers when they are doing paid work outside the home. Families with a mother or father at home full-time are penalised heavily in the tax system, often paying at least half as much tax again as dual- earner families.
Supporting paid work over unpaid care for children will not encourage mothers back to work. In a 2013 Department of Education survey, 71 per cent of parents at home said they were there by choice; only 13 per cent cited cost of childcare.
But choice has been removed from poorer families who can’t afford to survive on one income. The only viable option is for both parents to work. It is not choice if the only option is to do paid work. We call for real choice to be introduced through a fair taxation system which doesn’t penalise single and low-income families but rather recognises family responsibilities.
Mothers at Home Matter
SIR – It is unacceptable that any religious group’s laws should be promoted above others. The same law should apply to everyone.
This is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. If you allow one religious group to apply its own laws, then you open up the possibility of extending the same principle to other groups.
SIR – As a retired solicitor, I was appalled to read of the Law Society’s intention to “promote” the recognition of wills made under sharia. I feel ashamed to have been a member of the society for 40 years. Which of its members consider this to be a sensible course of action?
Our laws against racial, religious and sexual discrimination have been built up over a long time and our legal system is respected throughout the civilised world. Why encourage a minority group to change that for its sole benefit?
Disputes over sharia wills and their enforceability under English law will become rife – no doubt creating more work for the lawyers.
SIR – The Law Society exists to guide and police the conduct of our legal representatives in the application of British law, not to promote the inclusion of the laws of another culture.
For its president to say that its guidance would promote “good practice in applying Islamic principles in the British legal system” took my breath away. He admits that sharia principles could potentially overrule British practices in some disputes which may need to be tested in court.
Previous immigrants to this country (Huguenots, Jews, West Indians, etc.) have enjoyed the freedom to practise their own religion but have also had to accept our laws.
East Horsley, Surrey
SIR – We read that the Law Society has decided that its members should support sharia in Britain, presumably for financial reasons.
Should it not be for Parliament to decide upon such important matters, not a trade union?
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – So keen are some people to pander to “inclusiveness” that they are willing to throw overboard Magna Carta and the 800 years it took to enshrine the principle of one law for all.
Enough is enough.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – We have a legal system which recognises equality regardless of sex, ethnicity or religion. Religion should not be part of our law and we should uphold this principle of equality.
Why some people insist on treating women as inferior I cannot imagine.
SIR – If Islamic law were to be enshrined in our legal system, we would have two legal systems running in parallel. This is patently absurd. It would be like having one law for the rich and one for the poor. This is this the slow drip of the tap – the erosion of the British way of life by the minority.
R J Russell
SIR – It is enshrined in English law that you may leave your estate to anyone you like. If you choose to divide it between your favourite nephew and a cats’ home, then that is your right. The exception is when you have a title, and that may only be passed to your eldest son. Can someone explain to me why it is any different to leave your estate in line with your religious beliefs?
I strongly dislike much of sharia, but if there is an unqualified British right that one may dispose of one’s estate as one wishes, then everyone is entitled to that right.
Doncaster, West Yorkshire
SIR – Apart from the fact that these wills would be extremely prejudicial to women at a time when the implications of feminism for Muslim women are increasingly under discussion, why is it that the perceived rights of a population of about three million people trump the rights of the other 60 million or so people in this country?
Muslims are a minority in Britain, and their views should not be allowed to impinge on the majority. This favouritism should be stamped out.
SIR – It is time we stopped being afraid of upholding our hard-won democratic values for fear of offending newcomers.
SIR – Lawyers have much to be ashamed of: the culture of blame and compensation, European human rights and now this. The profession is a disgrace.
SIR – In light of 529 citizens being sentenced to death in Egypt and many Muslim countries being embroiled in extremism, misery and mayhem, it is difficult to understand why the Law Society should wish to integrate sharia guidance into our own tried and tested system of law; unless perhaps, to fill the pockets of its lawyers.
SIR – I am not a Muslim, but a member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters. As I understand it, in Islam there is a hadith (tradition) that says, “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequeath not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.”
I have been aware for many years that English intestacy laws and sharia succession are not compatible and I know how to draft a will for a Muslim who wishes to pass on his estate according to sharia.
What the Law Society has done is just remind solicitors that care needs to be taken in writing a sharia-compliant will and it has given an outline of how to do it. If a sharia-compliant will is not drafted correctly, an estate may pay a larger amount of inheritance tax than need be, because full use of the spouse’s exemption has not been made.
The Law Society is not suggesting that solicitors do anything against UK law (or introduce sharia to UK law).
SIR – What about non-religious groups with particular views on society that they would like to have recognised?
We must have one set of laws for all, otherwise it just becomes a “pick and mix” depending on whether you personally agree with that law or not.
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
SIR – Your front page (March 23) encapsulates several horrors: England now has sharia, the EU demands that migrants should be able to take my money and the money-grubbing Blairs appear in a picture looking like saints.
I look forward to my death.
SIR – In Britain, people often talk about how the EU needs reform, but do not recognise the reforms that have already been made, which stem from much hard work by Conservative MEPs and a Conservative government.
A few days ago, we completed a major agreement on how to change international laws for failing banks. The United Kingdom achieved three important victories.
First, future bank collapses will not result in taxpayer bail-outs but in large creditor bail-ins, with ordinary people’s deposits protected. Secondly, eurozone bank failures will not undermine the rest of Europe’s economy and create the uncertainty of recent years, thanks to a common fund for resolving their difficulties, managed at an EU level. And thirdly, Britain has been protected by a firewall from having to pay towards bank failures in a currency we chose not to join.
All this was achieved because we sat at the table and promoted this reformist agenda. That includes the final 16-hour all‑night negotiations with EU ministers.
This shows that not only is reform of the EU possible, but that we are delivering it already. We can only build on these successes if we have MEPs willing to sit around the table and fight Britain’s corner.
Vicky Ford MEP (Con)
SIR – Fraser Nelson (Comment, March 28) is perceptive in his analysis of the evolving direction of Europe. Sometimes the further one looks back, the further one can look forward. It is indeed in the major chancelleries of Europe that hard realities are determined, not in televised debates.
In 1878, Disraeli and Bismarck negotiated a treaty at the Congress of Berlin that secured the critical interests of Britain and Germany in the Europe of those days.
The hand of history is similarly on their successors, David Cameron and Angela Merkel, to secure the interests of their countries in the context of today.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – Isn’t it time that the British people were given a referendum on whether they want an EU referendum?
Dr Alan B Thomas
Great Sankey, Cheshire
SIR – It is a tragedy that so many prisoners are unable to read and write (Letters, March 29). Surely the best thing would be to enable them to do so, rather than just let them watch television.
For all concerned, I just hope that they can be sent books.
My life on a desert island would be impossible without a book.
Towns with clowns
SIR – Happy to say that the Sandow clowns are doing very nicely, appearing at provincial theatres around the North (“Tears of the clowns who are out of a job”, report, March 29). We provide good old clean slapstick that the children still love.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
SIR – Welcome into the world the wonderfully named Elektra Esmeralda Easter (Births, March 28) and congratulations to her and her siblings Dorothy, Wulfstan and Cleopatra on having such delightfully imaginative parents.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Causes of death in hospital
SIR – The sharp rise in the coding of deaths in hospital as “palliative” is very troubling (“Hospital fiddling death-rate figures,” report, March 28). The code is only supposed to be used when a patient’s death in hospital is an inevitable consequence of their condition – such as that from a terminal illness. Death certification is often not done well and is in need of urgent reform.
Understanding the cause of death is vitally important to our understanding of disease, its prevalence and, longer term, how we find ways to prevent or treat illness.
The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 introduced a role of independent medical examiner to look into the circumstances of apparently natural deaths to ensure that cause of death is correctly recorded.
This new role would also be a conduit for any relatives with concerns about the cause of their loved one’s death.
Pilots where independent medical examiners scrutinised death certification show that almost a fifth of death certificates had a different underlying cause of death. This suggests that analysis by the medical examiner of information about the cause of death would improve understanding of the conditions that led to the death.
The scandal at Mid Staffordshire exposed how it is possible to miss causes of death that would reveal poor care.
We call for the introduction of this valuable new medical role with no further delays.
Dr Archie Prentice
President, Royal College of Pathologists
TB cull for cats
SIR – Now that domestic cats have been identified as a reservoir of tuberculosis, should not Defra institute a cull similar to that recently directed against badgers?
Dr John H F Smith
SIR – Cat owners should be reassured that their pets are extremely unlikely to have tuberculosis and even less likely to pass the disease on to them.
TB in cats is very rare. It is believed that the small numbers of cats that do become infected have been hunting small wild rodents.
By far the greatest TB risk to people is spending time with infected people. Keeping a cat is far more likely to improve the well-being of its owner than cause any health problem.
Blue Cross Animal Hospital
Police singled out for blame on domestic violence
SIR – HM Inspectorate of Constabulary last week issued a report into the performance of police forces in relation to domestic violence. It is a massive, complex problem, with which the police cannot deal alone.
Many publicly funded bodies have a responsibility to deal with this, yet now (as so often) society seeks to place the blame for everything at the door of the police.
Police do take resolute and direct action when faced with such circumstances, but they then have to struggle within a system that seems to stack up against them.
I have yet to see a senior Crown Prosecutor called to account at a press conference after an offender walked free after a poorly presented bail application or a decision to discontinue a prosecution, which led to a tragedy.
Social services have a 24-hour responsibility to keep the vulnerable safe, yet police officers face an uphill battle in getting much out of them after 5pm.
It is also incredible that the one person who seems to escape criticism is the actual offender. Short of putting a police officer outside the home of every vulnerable person, it is almost impossible to stop all those intent on an act of violence.
We accept there is a chance to improve, but those joining the current feeding frenzy should look at the whole picture.
One final question – we are far from perfect, but which one of all the police services in the world you would swap us with if you had the opportunity?
Chairman, Greater Manchester Police Federation
Sir, – I refer to Breda O’Brien’s column (Opinion & Analysis, March 23rd). Surrogates have been referred to as gestational carriers for the past 20 years. It is the legal term that was used by the first court to distinguish traditional surrogates, who relinquished their own genetic child, from women who were merely carrying the child of another. The term is the proper one in the US, and the only type of surrogacy that is permitted in most US states.
She is accurate in saying surrogates earn on average $30,000 for their services over the three months of IVF treatment and nine months of gestation (equal to approximately $2 per hour), and that the overall cost for intended parents is between $100,000 and $150,000. These numbers are clearly expressed on our website and cost sheets.
However, contrary to the assertion that when it comes to the final cost, surrogates are getting the short end of the stick, most of the remaining funds are not for the agency, but paid for the IVF, lawyers, travel and medical expenses/insurance for the surrogate and the child. The agency fees are actually less than the amount the surrogate earns.
Ms O’Brien states: “You do not find wealthy women acting as surrogates.” Our surrogates come from an array of socioeconomic backgrounds, a good percentage of whom are nurses making six-figure salaries. The majority of Circle’s surrogates are middle class, educated, and, most important, financially secure women.
It was also disappointing to see the “women are being exploited” argument surface again. Within this misconception is the notion that women are too ignorant or ill-advised to make an informed decision about becoming surrogates. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our surrogate screening team spends on average six weeks per candidate to ensure that Circle’s surrogates are fully educated on the process and aware of what surrogacy asks of them.
Ms O’Brien looks to Germany (rather than England, which permits reasonable compensation to surrogates) as a moral compass. However, Germany, despite its law banning compensated surrogacy, regularly permits intended parents to return from the United States with children born through gestational surrogacy, and to get German citizenship for those children. There is a process established for this return, which is all Ireland is looking to do as well.
What Ms O’Brien is missing most of all is the great joy that surrogacy provides to everyone involved.
At the end of the day, it’s the child’s welfare and best interests that are at the heart of every surrogacy arrangement at Circle Surrogacy. Our relationship-building between intended parents and surrogates has meant that every child born through our programme knows from where they came. – Yours, etc,
Director of Legal Services,
First published: Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 02:00
Sir, – The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, continues to insist that Mr Callinan made his own decision to resign – and he is technically correct. However, the fact of the matter is that Mr Callinan had no real choice given the actions of the Taoiseach in the lead-up to his decision.
It is obvious that Mr Kenny made a calculation that in order to retrieve anything from the awful treatment of the whistleblowers at least one of two had to go. He had previously invested so much emotional and political capital in Alan Shatter that he could not safely give him the chop. So there was only one doll still sitting on the wall and he had to be bounced.
By sending a very senior emissary to Mr Callinan’s home late on Monday evening last with the dire news that the Government was in a lather over the phone taping and that the Taoiseach was particularly upset (“this is terribly, terribly – and I mean terribly – serious, Martin”) he took any decision away from the retirement-aged commissioner.
Notwithstanding this, Mr Callinan still double-checked the following morning to ascertain if there had been any reduction in temperature, only to be told by the same official that “nothing has changed” – roughly translatable by anyone with a brain as “you know what you have to do”.
It is very important to maintain a firm grasp of reality so that “spin” does not ultimately replace it. Yours, etc,
Sir, – What would now be the chances that in maintaining intact his loyalty to Mr Shatter the Taoiseach will reinstate Meryvn Taylor’s old job of Minister for Equality and Law Reform in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle?
Mr Shatter would thereby be kept at the Cabinet table and would be able to concentrate on what he seems to do best while the operational issues he has spectacularly failed to master are subsumed into one of his colleagues’ portfolios. Yours, etc,
A chara, It doesn’t hugely matter whether Alan Shatter knew on March 10th or on March 24th what was going on. If he knew on March 10th and did nothing, it is not good enough; and if he runs his department in such a way that it knew on March 10th and he wasn’t informed until March 24th, it isn’t good enough either. Is mise,
REVD PATRICK G BURKE
Sir, – The University of Dublin may very well be right to remove the Bible from its crest and replace it with an “open book”. The step is no doubt intended to be more “inclusive”. But the college’s description of the removal of the Bible as a “forward-facing” step is not without its own semiotics. Would it not then be equally appropriate to leave behind the uniquely Christian appellation “Trinity” in the same “backward” periods of the university’s history as the Bible? Yours, etc,
FERGUS A RYAN,
Sir, – I see that Trinity College has opted to blow “religious symbolism out of the college’s ancient crest” (March 29th). Whether this is motivated by an ecumenical heart or plummeting rankings is open to question. I do note that repenting of religious symbolism hasn’t extended to the ancient and, from a marketing perspective, more significant name. To avoid their rattling around for eternity in hollowed-out hypocrisy might I suggest TCD employ the following answer to the obvious question: “Why, pounds, shillings and pence!” Your, etc,
Sir, – As a chronicler of the Irish in British construction ( The Men Who Built Britain , published in 2001), I am often asked acerbically “what about the women?” I am delighted therefore that the President will on his state visit to Britain honour the contribution of Irish women to Britain’s national health service. While Irish women worked in a great many occupations the NHS is probably the one sector which is most readily identified with Irish women emigrants in the second half of the twentieth century – a time when that institution stood for selfless service to the common good.
In the same era the construction industry was the largest single employer of Irish male migrant labour in Britain.
The indispensability of the Irish, and their colossal contribution to the building of modern Britain, were warmly acknowledged in Scottish contractor Sir William McAlpine’s 1998 remark to me that “The contribution of the Irish to the success of this industry has been immeasurable.”
The President’s awareness of this achievement has been expressed many times in his UK speeches so further public acknowledgment on this occasion might seem superfluous.
However the very inclusion of the NHS event in this itinerary points up the uniquely symbolic nature of all such gestures made on British soil in the course of a state visit by an Irish president. We cannot know which actions originate with the British and which with the Irish governments but undoubtedly they are agreed by both.
For that reason I very much hope that this visit will not be allowed to pass without some gesture or statement from the President acknowledging the contribution of generations of Irish construction workers, past and present, to the material wellbeing of both countries. Such a statement ought to clearly convey not only Irish recognition, but also British acknowledgment, of these men’s worth. They and their families deserve no less. Yours, etc,
The Potter’s Yard,
Sir , – What must rank as one of the fastest U-turns in modern times has been the decision of World Vision US, a Christian humanitarian organisation with an annual budget of about $1 billion , to reverse its policy after two days on hiring employees in same-sex marriages.
Last Monday it announced that it was changing its employment policy to allow the hiring of such employees. By Wednesday, after pressure from evangelical and pentecostal Christian organisations throughout the US, it reversed its decision. A major pentecostal denomination, The Assemblies of God, had urged its members to boycott World Vision and instead support evangelical organisations which followed biblical teachings .
In its message last Wednesday addressed to its “Dear Friends”, the president of World Vision US, Richard Stearns, said that that the organisation now realised it had made a mistake and was choosing to “revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness. We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”
The incident shows the power of the US fundamentalist Christian movement to successfully oppose any recognition of the human right to marriage equality. Yours , etc,
Sir, – Today while standing in a queue at the checkout in our local supermarket I saw two separate incidents of mothers struggling valiantly to resist their children’s demands to buy them sweets displayed beside the counter. I was surprised, because I thought the cynical practice of placing sweets beside the checkout had been abandoned some years ago. At a time when the country is struggling with the tragic effects of widespread childhood obesity it is reasonable to ask supermarkets to stop putting this rubbish on display where parents are blackmailed into buying. Apart from the fact that frequent consumption of sweets is bad for children, it encourages the idea of eating whenever one is bored. The world is sometimes boring but it is better for children to learn to develop patience. Yours, etc,
Sir, – When told the reason for daylight saving time the Old Indian said: “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.” Yours, etc,
Sir, – Only one headline could have further enhanced the uplifting photo of Barack Obama and the pope on your front page (March 28th), and that would have been your large headline on page 9 of the same paper: “Slight chill in air as Obama meets pope”. An excerpt from Paddy Agnew’s Rome report there – referring to the photo session – states that “the president was all smiles but his interlocutor remained sombre, serious and impassive”. Well … as they say … he could have fooled me!
PADRAIG J O’CONNOR,
Lower Dodder Road,
* Six months ago, I had a chance meeting in a pub with an Australian and an American. The Australian, who has lived in Dublin for many years, was visiting the area to show his visiting American friend some of the well-known tourist sights. He said: “It’s good to get out of the city. In the city sometimes it’s hard to see the horizon.”
Also in this section
At the time, that remark resonated with me. I live in the countryside. I see the horizon every day from my home. I tried to imagine living in my home and not being able to see the horizon, it was difficult at the time.
Not any more. Since then I have discovered that my home is directly in the path of a proposed pylon corridor that is part of the planned EirGrid gridlink project.
The plan to erect 45m-high pylons carrying 440kV power lines from Cork to Kildare will mutilate the horizon and the landscape of this country forever.
It will change not just for me and all the other so-called NIMBYs but for everybody in this country and for future generations. It is an issue that is too big to ignore.
Now when I look at the horizon, this is what I think. The countryside is not a vacuous space that the Government and its vested interests can carve up and exploit at the expense of many.
The countryside is alive and well, living and breathing. It belongs to all of the people of Ireland and it is up to us, the people, to be proactive in protecting it for future generations.
TALLOW, CO WATERFORD
MORE WORK FOR TEACHERS
* I’m amused at the suggestion by DCU president Brian MacCraith that one way to get around teachers objecting to correcting their own students in the new Junior Certificate is for an online system that would have teachers anonymously correcting students from other schools.
Basically he wants me to do unpaid work previously paid for by the SEC because essentially it is how the present Junior Cert operates. Teachers don’t know the students they are correcting in July.
I wonder how motivated I and others might be in such a system? I have had pay cuts of plus-15pc, been told I no longer have a reasonable chance at promotion, barely get a chance to actually teach as another initiative lands on my desk, and had suggestions from the minister that CCTV cameras might be installed in my classroom. Not to monitor the kids, you understand – but me!
So excuse me if I would not be enthusiastic for such an idea. At least now those correcting are given payment. However, my union colleagues will probably be ballot-whipped into this eventually and told it’s “the only deal in town”. I despair.
ASTI CEC, BRAY, CO WICKLOW
* The news that the boss of Aer Lingus, Christoph Mueller, was paid €1.5m last year while he expects his workers to endure further cuts smacks of inequity and injustice.
Given that his workers are facing the prospect of a 20pc cut to their pensions and the imposition of coordination to their defined benefit scheme, the increase in the contribution rate from 25pc to 40pc to the chief executive’s pension pot must really stick in the craw of those workers.
Unions are often accused of bellyaching but they won’t take this lying down and they can’t be blamed either. The Government needs to sit up and pay attention. A third marginal rate of tax, or “rich” tax, should be introduced and the raising of corporation tax explored.
The Transport Minister should also step in before this gets out of hand and a summer of travel chaos ensues.
MALAHIDE ROAD, DUBLIN 17
* Thankfully, I rarely see cancer in my under-six population. I more often detect something of concern in my older patients and early diagnosis can make a huge difference.
The Government has decided that all under-sixes should get free GP care irrespective of need but has raised the income threshold for medical cards for the over-70s and some are losing them as a result.
Healthcare must be targeted to those for whom there is proven need and benefit from improved access to their family doctor.
DR ELUNED LAWLOR
LOUGHBOY MEDICAL CENTRE, KILKENNY
* Darragh Roche, chairperson of University of Limerick’s Clubs and Societies’ Council (C&SC), justifies (Letters, March 27) the vote rejecting the Life Society, claiming there were “several objections and legitimate questions . . . not answered adequately”. However, not a single objection, nor any inadequately answered questions, were identified to UL Life Society before (or after) the vote by C&SC delegates.
In fact, according to C&SC’s own rules, approval of new societies is on the basis of satisfying the conditions in their guidelines for new societies.
That UL Life Soc did satisfy these conditions was explicitly stated to council before the vote by the C&S Development Officer with responsibility for this.
These conditions include membership being open to all UL students, as per C&SC’s common constitution for all societies.
This specific membership fact was also explicitly restated by myself in the information and Q&A session before the vote.
To give the impression now that we would be “vetting” potential members is simply wrong.
Our reasonable expectation is to be shown the same fair treatment as any other club or society in UL, in accordance with the “policy of inclusion” mentioned by Mr Roche.
UL LIFE SOCIETY CHAIRPERSON,
UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK
* The most disgusting part of our recent political shambles is not the precise meaning of each word uttered by various ministers, the commissioner and the Taoiseach, but their part in blatant obstruction of finding the truth.
This political positioning protecting their own at the expense of justice and what is right has been shown to the public in broad daylight.
Fortunately, no amount of forced and belated withdrawals of what has been said can hide this underlying political dishonesty – and contempt for finding the truth.
This is disgusting politics. All those who stand by Mr Shatter and his contempt for whistleblowers and GSOC have no place in Dail Eireann.
NEWCASTLE, CO WICKLOW
* Whistleblower, beware. On March 10, by notifying his boss regarding the existence of some tapes, Martin Callinan became perhaps one of the highest level whistleblowers in state history; 15 days later he was retired.
* One of the main qualities the next garda commissioner will need is to be shatterproof.
SWORDS, CO DUBLIN