Going home?

11April2014Going home

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Can our heroes redesign London’s roads? Priceless

Mary in hospital hints about goig home sometime next week

Scrabbletoday, I win and get over 400,Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Perlita Neilson – obituary

Perlita Neilson was an actress who starred as Anne Frank and declined the chance to go to Hollywood

Perlita Nielson, circa 1957

Perlita Nielson, circa 1957 Photo: getty images

6:48PM BST 10 Apr 2014

CommentsComment

Perlita Neilson, who has died aged 80, was one of the few child actresses in theatre to mature gracefully and successfully into an accomplished exponent of the classics.

She came to prominence as an adult in 1956, in two West End productions — as Nina in Michael Macowan’s revival at the Saville of The Seagull; and as the 13-year-old Jewish heroine in The Diary of Anne Frank.

As Nina, she achieved what few actresses manage with conviction: the transformation of a charming, romantic, starry-eyed adolescent into a tragically resigned provincial actress after a failed love affair with a famous novelist.

As the doomed Dutch schoolgirl incarcerated for two years with other Jews during the Second World War, scarcely daring to stir from her Amsterdam attic for fear of betrayal to the Gestapo, Perlita Neilson’s performance at the Phoenix Theatre led to her being invited to star in Hollywood’s film version of the play; she declined the offer, as it would have meant signing a long-term contract that would have kept her away from the stage.

Instead she went on to build a growing reputation in theatrical classics, especially in Shakespeare, Shaw and Oscar Wilde, as well in numerous plays for television.

She was born Margaret Phillipa Sowden on June 11 1933 in Bradford, but spent her early life in Argentina, where her father, Wilson Sowden, worked as an engineer. After her birth, her mother Isabel returned to Buenos Aires, where Margaret attended stage school and appeared aged nine with a variety group of the British Community Players.

She and her mother returned to Britain in 1945, and Margaret made her first foray on to the West End stage at the London Coliseum when she was 14, as Minnie in Annie Get Your Gun. The following year she played Lisa in Peter Pan (Scala) and was then cast as little Anukta in Tolstoy’s The Power of Darkness (Lyric, 1949).

Up to this point it had been “the sheer fun” of being on stage that had appealed to her. It was as the child marquise in Aimée Stuart’s Lace on Her Petticoat (Ambassadors, 1950) that she began to show her true mettle as an actress.

Perlita Neilson as Anne Frank (REX)

Aged 19, Perlita Neilson played in two Arts Theatre productions: Giraudoux’s The Enchanted and Romilly Cavan’s The Sun Room. By now she was attracting some serious critical attention.

During a spell with the Bristol Old Vic (1954-55) she gave what Kenneth Tynan described as a “perfect” performance as the terrified, hysterical servant girl Mary Warren in the British premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible; while her role as Dido in Marching Song, by John Whiting, won praise for its “heart-wringing pathos”.

Other Bristol credits included Hero in Much Ado About Nothing; Perdita and Mamilius in The Winter’s Tale; and Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice.

After her West End triumphs in The Seagull and The Diary of Anne Frank, Perlita Neilson appeared at the Dublin Theatre Festival in The Importance of Being Earnest, then went on to enjoy spells in repertory at Oxford and Nottingham, returning to London as Ellie Dunn in a revival of Shaw’s Heartbreak House (Wyndham’s, 1961), which later toured in Europe.

She continued to appear on the West End stage throughout the 1960s, and in regional rep until the mid-Seventies.

Among her television credits were The Eustace Diamonds (1959); as Harriet Smith in Emma (1960); Maigret (1961); Fall of Eagles (1974); and The Day of the Triffids (1981).

For the last 20 years of her life she lived quietly in a small garden flat in Brighton, where for a time she had worked in a bookshop. Her marriage to the production manager and cinematographer Bruce Sharman was dissolved.

Perlita Neilson, born June 11 1933, died April 7 2014

Guardian:

The parliamentary commissioner for standards does not propose penalties (A mess – and only Ukip, the anti-politics party, will benefit, 9 April), she sets out her investigation and her findings. Her role is to be an investigator, not a judge. Your article also suggests that “the MPs may have taken a dispassionate look at the evidence but they lost sight of the politics”. The committee’s job is to take a dispassionate view of the evidence. We leave the politics to others.
Kevin Barron MP
Chair of the committee on standards 

• If the Office for National Statistics introduces new measures of economic performance next year (Editorial, 9 April), shouldn’t it issue revised statistics on the same basis for the previous five years to enable a fair comparison to be made, rather than allow George Osborne to claim “a strikingly better record than many have expected”?
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

• Didn’t Sajid Javid have a mother (Bus driver’s son the first of 2010 intake to be in cabinet, 10 April)? Or did she drive the bus? Why do journalists so often ignore the fact that two parents contribute to a person’s development, not just one?
Sue Smith
Stourbridge, West Midlands

• Ted Hughes (Letters, 9 April)… wasn’t he the husband of Sylvia Plath?
Vee Singleton
Framlingham, Suffolk

• Your pedantic correspondent (Letters, 10 April) might be able to tell his arpeggios from his descending scales, but can he count? The “predominant piano theme” in Abba’s only memorable song surely contains only four notes not five.
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• You have to go to Yorkshire to indulge yourself at the Idle Working Men’s Club (Letters, passim).
Andrew Bailey
Wrexham

• In response to Margaret Squires’ plea for an end to this long-running correspondence about curious place names (Letters, 8 April), I’m sure many Guardian readers live in Hope (Derbyshire).
Ian West
Telford, Shropshire

Let the press utter not one single note of triumphalism, much less a fanfare, over the resignation of the culture secretary, Maria Miller (Report, 10 April). The cabinet minister’s passing is not a victory for the media over Westminster, rather an inevitable consequence of her own actions and the outraged public’s disapproval thereof. Neither must it be used as a justification for what her political colleagues will call a witch-hunt and what journalists will attempt to justify as a dogged pursuit of wrongdoing driven by popular opinion. This was an instance where the press functioned true to its role in our parliamentary democracy: a political misdemeanour was exposed in the public interest and the matter was not allowed to rest until a realistic outcome was achieved. That is all. As generations of reporters might have said to long-gone copytakers: “Ends message. No more to follow.”
David Banks
Editor, Daily Mirror 1992-94

• Is it now time, after yet another case of MPs’ expenses being thrown on to the front pages, that the government buys a house in each constituency so that all MPs have a home to live in while representing their constituents. This will end what seems to be the constant issue of MPs and their housing expenses that makes so many of the public angry.
Tim Battersby
London

• When it comes to cases like Miller, it is surely time to consider again the one demand of the 1838 People’s Charter that has never been implemented, namely the election of parliaments annually. Later 19th-century radicals amended the idea to elections every two or three years, but the institutional framework to hold MPs to account more frequently than the present five-year term would surely allow for much greater accountability of elected representatives.
Keith Flett
London

• Now that it has been revealed that the lay members of the parliamentary standards committee have no voting powers, I think the time has come for these cases to be heard by a different tribunal. My own preference is for a panel of, say, 12 lay members, each of whom has a vote. I believe such a tribunal already exists and could therefore be brought into use quickly and cheaply.
Steve Elliot
London

• Not enough attention has been paid to David Cameron saying in his letter to Miller that “I hope that you will be able to return to serving the government on the frontbench in due course” (Maria Miller’s resignation letter and David Cameron’s reply, 9 April). Miller hasn’t so much resigned as demoted herself temporarily from the cabinet. That isn’t good enough. There is no place for her in parliament – she should resign as an MP, or be thrown out. She should face a criminal investigation, and the full weight of the law if found guilty.
Bianca Todd
Principal speaker, Left Unity

• Like athletes found guilty of using drugs, there should be a specified period during which disgraced ministers cannot return: three to five years would be about right.
Tim Symonds
Burwash, East Sussex

Steve Hewlett (Comment, 7 April) says that news publishers, including the publishers of the Guardian, are considering their options for self-regulation of the press. He writes at length about one proposed regulator, Ipso, which has been created by the publishers of the Mail, Telegraph and the Sun. Ipso is independent of neither press owners nor politicians – who sit on its board – and is effectively a continuation of the discredited PCC.

The alternative regulator, which Hewlett does not name, is Impress, the independent monitor for the press, which was launched in December with the backing of Sir Harold Evans and a range of other distinguished journalists and free speech campaigners.

Guardian readers who would like to encourage their favourite newspaper to join a regulator which is independent of both press owners and politicians may support our crowdfunding campaign at indiegogo.com/projects/the-impress-project-phase-two.
Jonathan Heawood
The Impress project

George Monbiot’s conclusion that corporations “have no right to run our lives” is right, but wishing that “it would be better still if governments and global bodies stopped delegating their powers to corporations” (How have these corporations colonised our public life?, 8 April) is far too meek when standing in the wings is the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, which will give unimagined powers to companies. Rum when, as Monday’s Guardian reported: “The London-York-Edinburgh service is run by Directly Operated Railways, which returns all profits to the state.” I use the line regularly. It’s very good.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• George Monbiot demonstrates how the global giants control politicians; the previous day Gary Younge reported on how “the US supreme court has accelerated the capture of democratic politics by a wealthy elite” (Welcome to the greatest charade that money can buy, 7 April). This guarantees that people like the oil tycoon Koch brothers will control the US politicians who should be opposing climate change. Louis Brandies, the 19th-century jurist, wrote: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” We have the choice, if we recover our voices and votes.
John Airs
Liverpool

• George Monbiot and Gary Younge illustrate how prophetic was the science-fiction novel The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth. Published in 1953, it describes where the trends discussed in the two articles are taking the world. It seemed like fantasy as recently as the 1970s, but it gets more like reality every year.
John Wils

Sergei Lavrov’s article (It’s not Russia that is destabilising Ukraine, 8 April) is a masterpiece of half-truths and disinformation which shows that destabilisation doesn’t always need troops and tanks.

The ousted, corrupt Yanukovych government brought Ukraine to its knees economically and administratively. Lavrov is right on one point: it will take years to make Ukraine a well-run and stable democracy. That task will be made much harder by a Kremlin prepared to destabilise the situation still further, and justify its actions with the mantra of protection of Russian speakers without any regard for the truth.

Lavrov ought to read the latest poll by the International Republican Institute with Gallup. Two-thirds of ethnic Russians in Ukraine do not perceive any threat because of language or ethnicity; more than 80% of Ukrainians do not support Russia sending in its army to protect Russian speakers (and that includes two-thirds of respondents in the south and east), while three-quarters want Ukraine to remain a unitary country (including 60% in the south and east).

The door for negotiations is open, and the possibility of discussions between Ukraine, the EU, US and Russia is welcome, but those negotiations have to be on equal terms. If Russia can stop its economic blackmail of Ukraine, stop its campaign of misinformation and stop its demands on constitutional change, then dialogue will have a chance. If not, then we’ll all be living in the dangerous cold war world of the past.
Iryna Terlecky
Vice-chair, Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain

• Ever since Russian military forces started the aggression on Ukraine, I cannot get rid of the feeling that this isn’t real, this can’t be happening. Russia can’t invade Ukraine. Russia can’t consciously destroy the whole post-war international order. Sergei Lavrov, a diplomat par excellence, can’t insist on Russia’s right to behave internationally like an elephant in a china shop.

Yet it is real and it has happened. Lavrov tries to strike a conciliatory tone, bemoaning Ukraine’s “complex tasks in constructing a sovereign state”. But in the same breath he is blemishing the west for its “unproductive and dangerous line” on Ukraine and praising Russia for its effort in “supporting the independent Ukrainian state” and “promoting early stabilisation”. Now, this latter part really caught my eye.

If “supporting the independent Ukrainian state” means chopping off a chunk of territory, then, yes, Russia did nicely. And if “promoting early stabilisation” means flooding Ukraine with Russian citizens who beat people and tear down Ukrainian flags from administrative buildings, then yes, Russia contributed greatly.

It was pointed out that Russia subsidised Ukraine through low energy prices. It is only a half-truth. Six years ago, it decided to use the energy supply as leverage on Ukraine. Ever since we have been paying more than most European consumers. And now (obviously, as another act of “support”) Russia is about to charge us one and a half times more than the others.

Lavrov’s parallels between war-torn Kosovo and peaceful Crimea are equally misleading. Neither the eastern partnership nor the Nato enlargement was directed against Russia. Neither Russia nor anyone else can lecture Ukraine on what to do with its own constitution.

Let Russia demonstrate its real intention by deeds, not by words.
Volodymyr Khandogiy
Ukraine ambassador to the UK

• Lavrov is right that “de-escalation should begin with rhetoric” and that there is a need to “return to serious common work”. If only such sentiments were true of Russia’s position towards Syria. The conflict may have dropped from the headlines and there is not the same bombastic rhetoric being hit back and forth by Washington and Moscow, but it is a clear case of Russia not following its words with actions. How else can Damascus’s continued non-compliance with the Russian-agreed UN security council resolution demanding aid access to country be explained? Russia has strong relations with the Assad regime and as shown in a new European Council on Foreign Relations report this week has allowed the Central Bank of Syria to open several rouble accounts at Russian banks VTB, VEB, and Gazprombank as well as finalising discussions to allow the Regime to print money there. A clear sign of Lavrov’s willingness to work multilaterally and avoid a return to cold war tensions would be for him to pressure Damascus to allow aid in immediately while working with Kerry to find a date for the next Geneva peace talks.
James Denselow
London

• Lavrov’s extraordinary claim that Russia is not “imposing anything on anyone” in Ukraine comes weeks after his country has illegally annexed Crimea and while he demands constitutional reform to ensure that Ukraine would be subservient to Russia as “non-aligned”. Having picked apart Georgia and Moldova, Russia is now attempting to do the same to Ukraine. Having got away with it twice, the Russians are banking on weak western responses so they can have their way again. Surely the time has come for Nato and the EU to take a much tougher line? Are we really going to abandon Ukraine in the way that Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland were abandoned during the cold war?
John Strawson
University of East London

Your recent article (Gay men warned on serious dangers of ‘chemsex’, 9 April) highlights the serious threat to both individual and public health posed by the emergence of “chemsex”. While this impacts overwhelmingly on the gay community and in particular (although not only) in London, it is important to recognise other groups are also affected by the growing use of these drugs (as well as “legal highs”), including young people, students and clubbers, as mentioned in another of your articles on the same day (Steroid users pose new HIV infection threat, experts warn).

The strong association with high-risk sexual behaviour and sexual ill-health, including the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C, has highlighted the need for better links between sexual health and drug services. However, very few integrated services exist, and those that do are now only available to local residents due to recent changes in NHS commissioning. We are concerned that this will severely restrict access to care for these vulnerable groups from all areas of London. We call on local authorities in London to jointly commission fully integrated, London-wide, open access, LGBT-specific (but open to all) sexual health and drug services, and for other local authorities to do likewise in areas where similar problems have been identified.
Dr Ann Sullivan Consultant, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Jan Clarke President, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, Dr David Asboe Chair, British HIV Association, Yusef Azad Director of policy and campaigns, National Aids Trusts, Dr Emma Devitt Consultant, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Christopher Hilton Consultant liaison psychiatrist, West London Mental Health Trust/Imperial College London, Dr Alan McOwan Lead clinician, 56 Dean Street, Dr Michael Rayment Consultant, Homerton University Hospital,, London Dr Fiona Burns Consultant, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Christopher Scott Consultant, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Alan Winston Reader in HIV medicine, Imperial College London

Independent:

Times:

Sir, We are three war widows. Two of us can retain our war widow’s pension entitlement if we remarry or cohabit and one of us cannot (Forces Pension Society letter, Apr 9 & 10). This is purely a lottery as to when your husband was killed. There is a wrong time to die!

If a serving person was killed before 1973 or after 2005, his widow is free to remarry while retaining her pension. Others, like Squadron Leader Garry Lennox, killed in the first Gulf War, leave widows whose war widow’s pension is paid under the 1973 War Pensions scheme, and is forfeit if they remarry or cohabit.

Surely as we commemorate the start of the First World War we can ensure that all our war widows can keep their pensions for life. We urge the prime minister to do the decent thing by the post-1973 war widows.

Anne Lennox

Fran Hall

Renee Linder

The War Widows Association of Great Britain

Sir, Campaigning for the equitable treatment of service widows is an uphill struggle. My husband, an RN helicopter pilot, was killed on duty in 1966. At that time I had a child of six months and was pregnant with another. Two years later I married another serviceman, a Royal Marine subaltern. The MoD promptly removed my war widow’s pension, leaving him to raise the family without their help. The unfairness of it rankles still, but entreaties over the years have proved fruitless.

Elizabeth Linn

Hurstpierpoint, W Sussex

Sir, It is argued that it is unfair if armed forces widows/widowers lose their pensions upon remarriage or cohabitation. Exactly the same applies to bereavement benefit and so if the rules are changed for armed forces personnel, it should also apply to bereavement benefit for civilians. To do otherwise would be unjust for those who have lost a partner and have children to support, just because their partner was not a member of the armed forces.

I imagine that the principle is that once the widow or widower meets a new partner they no longer need the state’s support. While I question this principle and the difficult position it puts a widow/widower in, should the system be changed for armed forces widows/widowers, it should also change for everyone else.

Peter Causton

Frodsham, Cheshire

Sir, The shabby treatment of service widows is not confined to the rule on co-habitation or remarriage. During my 38 years’ service in the RAF, pensions were a closed book. Officially they were described as generous, giving a pension of half one’s final salary. Service pay was much lower than comparable civilian jobs to fund this pension. In my case my pay was much less than similarly qualified civilian pilots.

The arcane rules governing widows’ pensions were never publicised, so I was not aware that if I should marry after leaving the service my wife would not be entitled to half my pension should I predecease her. Had we married while I was serving, she would be entitled to half my pension for the rest of her life. However, we were married after I left the service, so as a widow she will be entitled to only about one quarter of my pension. The new Armed Forces Pension Scheme would be an ideal opportunity to redress this and other inequities of previous regulations.

AR Bell

Goldsborough, N Yorks

We waste vast quantities of food. With the right health and legal controls one solution is to feed it to pigs

Sir, One way to reduce the shocking amount of waste food discarded by consumers in industrialised nations — highlighted by the House of Lords EU committee — is to remove the ban on feeding waste food (swill) to pigs.

Heating products contaminated with pig diseases such as foot and mouth to 100C for 1 hour will render them safe for feeding to pigs. Leaving responsibility for the heat treatment to farmers is inadequate. In 2001 the failure of one farmer to follow the rules resulted in the FMD epidemic which cost the UK some £10 billion. Strict procedures to ensure that waste food was properly heat treated and handled could, for example, be done at licensed premises under the supervision of local authorities.

In addition to reducing our scandalous waste of food, removing the ban would be a significant financial benefit to pig farmers who no longer have to buy expensive feed, often based on imported grain.

Alex Donaldson

(Head, Pirbright Laboratory, Institute for Animal Health, 1989-2002)

Burpham, Surrey

A reader praises Tony Blair for his willingness to state unpopular truths about western military action in Syria

Sir, Tony Blair was right to criticise Parliament’s failure to approve military action against Syria and to predict catastrophic consequences both for the people of Syria and for the UK (“We’ll pay for staying out of Syria”, Apr 8).

The long-term damage to Britain’s special relationship with the United States is incalculable and while the decision may have been forgiven by the current US administration, this will not have gone unnoticed by
those aspiring to succeed Barack Obama.

Not only has the free world permitted the use of chemical weapons to go unpunished, it is hard not to conclude that such appeasement of the Assad regime has at the very least provided succour to President Putin.

I have always disagreed with his politics but Mr Blair deserves my respect for his courage, foresight and willingness to state unpopular truths.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey

Some say depression is over-diagnosed among the elderly but Esther Rantzen says it is all too common, and ignored

Sir, The chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ old age faculty, of which I am a member, is misguided in suggesting that millions of older people are suffering from undiagnosed “depression” (Apr 8).

Depressive disorder is hugely overdiagnosed in all age groups, including the elderly. Yes, many older people have grave problems with illness, disability, bereavement, loss of independence and isolation. Such distress reflects poorly on our society, but it is not a disease to be treated by doctors.

Yet antidepressants are dished out like proverbial Smarties to the elderly. Common side effects including falls, confusion and salt imbalance can occasionally lead to serious ill-health and even death. I seek not to alarm the relatively small number of older people who are truly mentally ill and for whom the benefits of such drugs outweigh the risks, but overtreatment is the true crisis.

Dr Richard Braithwaite

Ryde, Isle of Wight

Sir, Jenni Russell (Apr 10) correctly spotlights the feelings of loneliness and loss that all too often afflict older people. When The Silver Line launched in 2013 we commissioned a survey which found that 2.5 million older people admitted that they often felt lonely, but there is a stigma attached to loneliness which prevents them reaching out for help; 84 per cent don’t confess their feelings even to their family, because they don’t want to be a burden. It’s not just pride, it’s about a national attitude to older people. Some 800 callers a day are using the free, confidential 24-hour telephone line because, as one said, “When I get off the phone, I feel like I belong to the human race.”

Is it not a disgraceful reflection that anyone in the UK should feel they are no longer a part of the human race, simply because they are older?

Esther Rantzen

The economic conditions are right for us to be much more adventurous and high-tech in the way we build our houses

Sir, The rising cost of building sites has pushed the ratio of “site cost” to “fabric cost” from about 1:5 40 years ago to about 3:2 now. This, and the the serious skill shortage highlighted by Mike Bialyj (letter, Apr 7), should be an opportunity to drag house construction out of the past.

Modern industry is an impressive mix of consumerism, technological innovation and highly sophisticated production methods, all applicable to the problem of providing homes — in stark contrast to the conventional brick-built house, a soulless kit of parts, archaic, inflexible, expensive, technically inept, environmentally destructive and aesthetically joyless.

A change of approach must come, sooner or later.

R. Goodall

Bewdley, Worcs

The founder of the Virgin Group reckons his investment in Virgin Galactic will be the best he has ever made

Sir, You spoke of Virgin Galactic being a black hole (Apr 7). Sadly we won’t be travelling that far, but if you mean our finances on Earth, I’m pleased to say it’s anything but a black hole. I believe our investment in Virgin Galactic will prove to be the best I’ve made in 40 years of business.

As to Virgin Atlantic, now the 787s are finally arriving after a three-year delay, it will return to profitability by the end of the financial year as we forecast in our two-year plan.

Virgin Atlantic has a proud tradition of challenging the status quo for the last 30 years, and we look forward to doing the same for the next 30.

Richard Branson

Virgin Group

Telegraph:

SIR – A report was launched last week which calls on the NHS to do more to prevent increasing numbers of people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities from developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes diagnoses in BME groups have increased by 21 per cent in the past three years, compared with 14 per cent in the white population. At the current rate, half of all people from BME groups will have developed diabetes by the time they are 80.

The NHS spends around £8.8 billion a year on treating type 2 diabetes, 80 per cent of which is on avoidable complications. Clinical commissioning groups need to implement strategies to improve outcomes in BME groups, target NHS health checks at people from a younger age in BME groups and improve understanding of diabetes in BME groups. The Government and the NHS need to recognise the severity of the problem, and take action now.

Virendra Sharma MP (Lab)
Chair of the Diabetes in BME Communities Working Group

Professor Wasim Hanif
Professor Diabetes & Endocrinology, Clinical Director, University Hospital Birmingham

Professor Kamlesh Khunti PhD
Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, University of Leicester

Adrian Sanders MP (Lib Dem)
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes

Keith Vaz MP (Lab)
Vice Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes

Lord Lyndon Harrison
Vice Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes

David Lammy MP (Lab)

Dr Chris Walton
Chair, Association of British Clinical Diabetologists

Jacqui Stevenson
Acting CEO, African Health Policy Network

Harj Nijjar
Business Unit Director, Janssen

Dr Abdul F Lakhdar
Consultant endocrinologist, Barts Health NHS Trust, Whipps Cross University Hospital

Dr Partha Kar
Clinical Director, Diabetes, Portsmouth hospitals NHS Trust

Professor Sauid Ishaq
Professor of Medicine MD Gastroenterology, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Milan K Piya
NIHR Clinical Lecturer, University of Warwick; and University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust

Professor Guy A Rutter
Head of Section of Cell Biology, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London

John Lehal
Managing Director, Insight Public Affairs

Jenne Patel
Equality and Diversity Manager, Diabetes UK

Professor Kamlesh Khunti PhD
Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, University of Leicester

Dr Stephen Lawrence
GPSI Diabetes, Primary Care Medical Advisor, Diabetes UK/Clinical Diabetes Lead RCGP

Dr Sheldon Steed
Founder, mumoActive Limited

Professor Satyan Rajbhandari
Consultant Physician, Lancashire Teaching Hospital, Honorary Clinical Professor, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Trudi Deakin
Chief Executive, X-PERT Health

Philip Newland-Jones
Advanced Specialist Pharmacist Practitioner for Diabetes and Endocrinology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Nina Patel
Diabetes Nurse Consultant, Ealing Hospital NHS Trust

Dr Gary Adams
Associate Professor in Diabetes Health and Therapeutics, University of Nottingham School of Health Sciences

Dr Jyothis T George
Senior Clinical Researcher, University of Oxford

Amanda Cheesley
Long Term Conditions Advisor Royal College of Nursing

Dr Harpal Singh Randeva
Clinical Director Ambulatory Services, University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust

Gurdev Singh Deogon
Principle Diabetes Podiatrist, Warwickshire Institute for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism [WISDEM], UHCW NHS Trust

Dr Albert Persaud
Co-founder and Director, The Centre for Applied Research and Evaluation International Foundation

Rajmohan Thampi
Chair, Diabetes UK Ealing Voluntary Group

Dr Pankaj Sharma
Head, Imperial College Cerebrovascular Research Unit (ICCRU), Imperial College London & Hammersmith Hospitals

Dr Ken Earle
Consultant Endocrinologist, St George’s Hospital Trust

SIR – Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, describes London’s air quality as “intolerable”, and promises that “we can beat it”.

If Mr Johnson really wants autumnal London air to “be alpine in its freshness” or, in spring, “like champagne”, he’s going to need to take the problem much more seriously. His claim to be spearheading a “relentless drive to reduce pollution” is pure fantasy. Mr Johnson’s big idea for action is the ultra-low emission zone, which will take another six years to get started. It’s nowhere near enough.

The Green Party is the only major party taking the issue of air pollution seriously and calling for workable measures, such as a ban on idling for parked cars. We need to cut the amount of traffic on our city centre roads and move towards cleaner transport.

Jean Lambert MEP (Green)
London E17

SIR – One of the most polluted places in Britain, the Euston Road in London, is already four times over the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide levels. These are certain to increase if government plans for HS2 go ahead, making Euston the largest inner-city construction site in Europe. Multiple long-term road closures and a thousand daily lorry journeys for 10 years will add to the number of Londoners killed by Britain’s failure to tackle a major health threat.

Air pollution must not be allowed to get worse before it gets better.

Martin Sheppard
London NW1

Tips on ordering a pint that’s served with a smile

SIR – As the author of How to Open and Run a Successful Bar, I believe that the reason for poor service in many pubs is simple. Customers don’t tip, as they do in America and most European countries, so there is no need for the staff to be polite.

Sadly, the jolly barmaid has become as rare as the whistling errand-boy.

Christopher Egerton-Thomas
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – Gordon Hughes asks what makes a “proper pub”. My local, The Queens Arms, displays a sign outside: “No lager, No children’s room”.

This seems to make the establishment work very well.

Jonathan Hancock
Cowden, Kent

SIR – I went into a “proper pub” some years ago and on ordering drinks at the bar saw a sign that said: “In case of fire, lift this flap”. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and lifted the flap. Underneath it said: “Not now, you idiot, in case of fire!”

On returning to my table, I saw all the locals laughing at me.

Peter Gilbert
Ditton, Surrey

Willow tree hazards

SIR – The slowing of water flow into rivers from the outer edges of the catchments may be a priority, but enhancing the flow out of the rivers into the sea is of even greater importance to the intensely floodable areas surrounding the lower reaches. There, overgrown willow trees on the water’s edge are a serious impediment to flow, and a contributory cause of flooding.

Gloucester, on the lower reaches of the Severn, is a case in point. The trees used to be managed in the days of horse-drawn barges, and the passage of the barges moved the silt. Now, the outfall of Britain’s longest river is becoming choked with silt and overgrown willows. This adds to all the problems of man-made obstructions in the flood plain, including a huge landfill site.

Jeremy Chamberlayne
Gloucester

Confidential banking

SIR – When I was 18, I wanted to buy a new motorcycle. So, accompanied by my father, I made an appointment to see the bank manager regarding a loan.

He told me how much the loan would cost, but then asked me to go away and work out whether I could afford the repayments on my salary. I said, surely he knew how much I was earning as my salary was paid into my account, to which he replied: “Of course I know, but it is confidential, and if I mention it, your father will then know too.”

John Snook
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Banquet faux pas

SIR – In view of the past troubles, was it tactful of the Queen to include a “bombe glacée” on the menu at her banquet for the Irish president?

John Sorrell
Paris

156 Comments

SIR – I was relieved to hear of Maria Miller’s resignation from the Cabinet, not a moment too soon.

But does this limited action indicate that she considers her behaviour is acceptable fir a backbench MP?

Ray Melvin
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

SIR – It speaks volumes for the poor ethics of Mrs Miller that she has resigned because of the “distraction she has caused to the Government” and not because of her deceit which, if undertaken by most other workers, would almost certainly have resulted in dismissal and criminal charges.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

SIR – At last Mrs Miller has resigned, but she must not be allowed to walk away without paying back the £45,000 she owes the taxpayer. She was not found innocent by the law, but by a panel of MPs who may have dodgy expenses as well. The police need to investigate whether a crime has been committed here.

Peter Cresswell
Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

SIR – No doubt we shall be told that it is the expenses system that is the problem, not the dishonesty of MPs. Every one of them should be reminded that the Parliamentary Green Book states: “Parliamentary allowances are designed to ensure that MPs are reimbursed for costs properly incurred in the performance of their duties.”

Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey

SIR – Why all the fuss about Maria Miller? Surely it is the members of the Commons Standards Committee who should all be sacked. It is this committee, with representation from all three main parties, which, by its dismissal of the recommendations from an exhaustive investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, reignited the perception that financial indiscretion by MPs will continually be pushed under the carpet.

R Michael James
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

SIR – David Cameron’s biggest weakness? His failure to understand public opinion and take appropriate action. This weakness could cost him the next election.

Captain John Maioha Stewart (retd)
Breisach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

SIR – Maria Miller may have resigned but, yet again, David Cameron has shown what a weak leader he is, and how out of touch he is with most people in this country. He seems determined to lose the next election by continuing to ignore public opinion.

Michael Slater
Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire

SIR – The continuing distrust of MPs and their expenses, and public fears over attempts to gag journalists following Leveson, have hit a bursting point over Maria Miller’s case, the rights and wrongs of which appear to be immaterial.

I lament the loss of a female member of the Cabinet and a good politician but the fact that a group of MPs can alter by tens of thousands of pounds the verdict of the independent commissioner for standards on expenses, and that an aide is prepared to use a thinly veiled threat about press freedom to deter a journalist’s probing is simply not acceptable.

Maria Miller herself actually played no part in either of these, but she provided the scenario and has to take the rap.

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – I reckon this guarantees a record low turnout for the general election.

Paddy Germain
Marden, Kent

SIR – In light of Maria Miller’s resignation, is it not time to re-examine the issue of Government-funded mortgage payments on MPs’ second homes? If the Government refunds an MP’s mortgage payments, the Government, in effect, shares in the equity in their property. And if there’s a capital gain when the property is eventually sold, then surely the Government should recoup a slice of that gain – it shouldn’t all go into the MP’s pocket.

Graham Tillotson
Oxshott, Surrey

SIR – In America, all administration appointees must be approved by Congress. Perhaps we should adopt a new policy here that any individual who has to resign from the Cabinet is no longer allowed to return.

David Bowman
Andover, Hampshire

SIR – Doubtless to counter the bad press over Maria Miller’s expenses, David Amess and 14 other Tory MPs list the achievements of the Conservative Party in giving the poorer members of our society a better life (Letters, April 9).

If they hadn’t given away so much of Britain’s sovereignty to unelected and corrupt foreign bureaucrats in Brussels, they might well have had something to shout about between now and May 22.

Carole Taylor
New Milton, Hampshire

SIR – Search as I might, I could not find in the letter from David Amess (and 14 others) one item in the long list of achievements by Conservatives that is so proudly claimed by the Prime Minister.

Surely, one of the 15 signatories might have suggested the introduction of same-sex marriage in the list.

Arnold Kingston
Four Elms, Kent

SIR – If MPs were all issued a go-anywhere rail card and an Oyster card, there would be no need for travel expenses, and the rail companies could pick up the bill.

Don Edwards
Manningtree, Essex

SIR – The resignation of Mrs Miller is not enough. We want our money back.

Michael Cleary
Bulmer, North Yorkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The suggestion by consultancy firm Grant Thornton (“TCD says it will ’act’ on ideas for rebranding”, April 9th) that universities need to become more commercially self-sustaining is a welcome one but does not go far enough. The idea should be extended to secondary and primary schools, which could do much more to bring in income rather than simply relying on the State to fund them, as if education were a public good.

The education of young people, who do not pay any taxes, places an uneconomical burden on the precarious finances of our State. Primary schools could begin by attracting fee-paying international five-year-olds to generate new income. While this might reduce the number of places available to Irish students, the important thing is that profits are made. Educational institutions are, first and foremost, businesses, and their job is to create wealth. If, as this report suggests, they are currently at breaking point due to ever decreasing Government funding, the solution is obvious. Increasing commercialisation will enable the Government to waste less money on this parasitic sector and invest in areas that actually make a return to our economy. Yours, etc,

PROF KEVIN MITCHELL,

PROF AOIFE MCLYSAGHT,

Smurfit Institute of Genetics ,

Trinity College Dublin

Sir, – As a young student at TCD I remember a day in the early 1980s spent discussing history and revolution in Ireland with my father. I, in youthful fervour, had expressed a criticism of pointless violence and professed a lack of support for the 1916 rising and its participants. My father, born when Ireland was under British rule, was not impressed. His retort was this: “You’d not be attending that godless college of yours if there had been no 1916.” It seems Trinity is now about to make his then politically motivated comment the truth by taking the Bible from its logo. There is no incompatibility between Christianity and scholarship, nor should any institution deny its roots. The Emperor’s new clothes only left him naked. Yours, etc,

ISOLDA O’CONNOR,

Kilnaclasha,

Skibbereen

Co Cork

A Chara, – In light of the current discussion regarding the rebranding of Trinity College, your readers might be interested to know that according to the college’s website “The legal name of the College is ‘the Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and the other members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin’ and should be used on all legal documentation relating to the College.” Le dea-mhéin,

SEÁN Ó RIAIN,

Gort an tSeagail,

Achadh an Iúir ,

Contae an Chábháin

Sir, – It is not surprising that the rebranding of Trinity College Dublin is creating such a lot of heat and noise. After all, the stakes are so low. Yours, etc,

BRIAN AHERN,

Meadow Copse,

Clonsilla,

Dublin 15

Sir, – While atheists are understandably challenged if asked to swear on the Bible, the book, or rather collection of books, is increasingly becoming a problem for Christians too. The Bible contains some of the vilest racist, sexist and homophobic remarks in literature. It is inexplicable that female garda recruits, not to mention gay and lesbian gardaí, could hold this book up as symbolic of the values they intend to uphold. One can only assume they do not know all of what its written in it.

It is time to remove from this book all remarks that give offence to human beings. Just as we have regular constitutional amendments to remove injustices from our legal system, so too we should have regular amendments of all so-called holy books to remove all that is offensive to human beings from their pages.

In the gospel of St Mark (2:27), Jesus is quoted as saying that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” So too it might be said that the Bible was made for man, not man for the Bible. If there are offensive words within its pages let us have the courage to remove them so that the book might adequately serve us rather than we it. Yours, etc,

DECLAN KELLY,

9 Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Sean Alexander Smith (Letters, April 10th) finds it strange but true that the  Holy Trinity and Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ are referred to in the preamble of the Constitution. I don’t find it one bit strange. It simply reflects the religious and cultural heritage of the vast majority of the people of this island, going back to the time of St Patrick.  Understandably, at swearing-in ceremonies the Bible is used. Jewish or Muslim people can use their respective holy books , the Torah or Koran as the case may be. People with no metaphysical beliefs , such as humanists, can make a secular affirmation of allegiance to the State. So I don’t really see what the problem is ? In this pluralistic world there is room for all of us and no one need feel left out. Yours, etc,

JOE MURRAY,

Beggars Bush Court,

Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4

Sir, – I didn’t see any objections to Presidents Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela or Mary Robinson putting their hands on the Bible during their innaguration ceremonies. Neither were there objections to one saying “So help me God”, to another saying “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us” and the latter praying “May God direct me so that my Presidency is one of justice, peace and love.”

So what exactly is the problem with a new garda being allowed to do the same. Surely the New Testament, which Heather Abrahamson (April 8th) wants to exclude, is the great book of inclusion, where enmities and hostilities are broken down (Eph 2:8-18), where equality is proclaimed irrespective of background, culture or gender (Gal 3:28) and the message is one of peace and reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-19). Have we become so “modern” and “multicultural” that we should take offence at such things and choose to settle for the least common denominator for fear of upsetting the latest fad. Yours, etc,

SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,

29 Bullock Park,

Carlow

Sir, – Fingal County Council decided on March 31st not to support the holding of a plebiscite in relation to a directly elected mayor for the Dublin metropolitan area. Most media comment on that decision has been very critical. However, I watched the webcast of the meeting and was struck and indeed impressed by the reasoned and mature approach of all the councillors who spoke, both for and against the plebiscite.

Some of the arguments against the plebiscite rested on the view that a Dublin metropolitan mayor would not be in the interests of Fingal residents. However, it was the logistics and timing of the proposed vote which generated most cross-party support.

I heard Fianna Fáil , Fine Gael, Labour and Socialist Party councillors highlighting what they saw as insufficient detail or clarity in the proposal together with a lack of real public awareness of what was at stake. The conclusion seemed to be that it would be folly to hold a plebiscite as proposed on May 23rd.

In rejecting the plebiscite as framed, I believe Fingal councillors have acted not just in the interests of Fingal residents but also in that of Dublin as a whole. They did not deserve the negative comments made about their decision.

I would recommend anyone interested in the issue to look at the webcast of the meeting, which is available on the Fingal County Council website. Yours, etc.

DANNY O’CONNOR,

Seapark,

Malahide,

Co Dublin

Sir, – With reference to the Fingal councillor who voted against the plebiscite on a directly elected mayor on the basis that, if Dublin had a mayor there would be “no chance of getting a pothole fixed in rural Fingal”, perhaps that is the extent of the issues he faces in his electoral area.

In representing his constituency, how far does a councillor’s responsibility extend? Does it extend to how Dublin as a city region may fare in a competitive global market? Or do double yellow lines in Balbriggan mark the limit? I would have welcomed the plebiscite on a directly elected mayor in May, not least as it might have raised public debate, in Dublin and nationally, about what constitutes appropriate governance for our cities, towns and localities, and indeed our role as an electorate in that governance.

By the way I recently reported a pothole to Dublin City Council, via the council’s website, without resort to councillors or TDs. It was fixed today. Yours, etc,

FINOLA O’DRISCOLL,

Larkfield Gardens,

Kimmage,

Sir, – It is good to hear that a member of the British royal family is to be invited to the ceremonies in 2016. Before dissenting voices make themselves felt, let me recall that French president Jacques Chirac invited German chancellor Gerhard Schröder to the Normandy beaches for the 60th commemorative celebration in 2004. This was in remembrance of a conflict which ultimately led to the end of the second World War, the last of many dreadful conflicts between those traditional enemies France and Germany. In the process of making friends with neighbours, no one was forgetting anything: Chirac recalled, for instance, that the chancellor’s father had been one of the millions killed in the war and Schröder explicitly referred to German atrocities. Seen in the context of the world today, Europe is a small place. Let us greet every step, every gesture, which brings us together. Yours, etc,

GERARD P MONTAGUE,

Zaumberg,

Immenstadt,

Allgäu,

Germany

A Chara,  – The Taoiseach’s use of the term “our authentic historians” (April 10th) in London is interesting given the opinion piece by Roy Foster in your paper on the previous day. Foster writes that British rule in Ireland by the time of the revolution was not oppressive. He seeks to minimise the revolutionary generation’s actions as flowing from mere Anglophobia. I doubt if the new mutually fulfilling relations between our two countries will be “nearly as good as sex”, as Foster appears to think.   Yours, etc,

ANTHONY JORDAN,

Gilford Road,

Dublin 4

A Chara – The word “Our” in the title of the article by Mark Hennessy (“Our special love/hate relationship with Britain”, April 5th) should have alerted me to the fact that this did not concern the likes of me living in South Armagh. The fact that the “hate” part of that relationship – something with which we might have had a possible understanding in these quarters – wasn’t even alluded to, suggested that this was one for those south of the Border.

The reason the term “Éire” grates from the mouth of an Englishman (or a Northern unionist for that matter) is that it is used specifically to refer to the 26-county state and not to the island of Ireland. If you want to call the 26 counties “Ireland” then please be consistent and cut the Six Counties off your tourist maps. And see how you sell that to the Yanks.

Yours, etc,

KIERAN MURPHY,

Dromintee,

Co ArmSir, – One frequently hears and reads of people reaching out for, and seeking basic truths about, the probable order of things. This is normal and good, as we are all spiritual as well as temporal beings. It might however help to use logic in thinking in this spiritual field. For example, our universe is moving (expanding) so it must have had a beginning, and therefore have been created (the “Big Bang”). In this context, arguably the only type of entity which could have created our finite universe is an infinite one. However, we are finite beings and so cannot comprehend the concept of infinity. There is therefore a tendency for people to try to to explain the infinite in temporal terms.

However if there exists an overall infinite universe then as finite beings there is an infinite amount that we cannot and do not know. This wisdom was well expressed in the early 1500s by Michel de Montaigne when he wrote: “All I know is that I know nothing, and I am not even sure about that.” Socrates said much the same thing: “The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.” This wisdom should encourage us to keep open minds on spiritual matters, and as advised by Albert Einstein, continue learning all of our lives, right to the very last day. Yours, etc,

TOM MOLYNEUX,

Ripley Hills.

Bray.

Co Wicklow

Sir, – Edward Hanlon (Letters, April 9th), calls the Big Bang theory “bonkers”. He is limiting himself in his scope, why stop at the Big Bang if you are prepared to deny overwhelming physical evidence and the expert opinion of thousands of scientists? He can use the same method of simple denial to classify our currently accepted “Theory of Gravity” as bonkers, but is he prepared to jump off his house roof to prove his point? Your Etc. Sean McGibbon 10 The Knoll Cashel Downs KIlkenny

Sir, – Shane O’Doherty (April 8th) suggests a study to observe the effects of removing the bus lane. There’s no need. On Conyngham Road in Dublin every morning from eight to nine the rules are simply ignored. From my apartment I have a bird’s eye view of the lead-up to the Chesterfield Avenue/Infirmary Road junction. Motorists turning left queue in single file for the lights in the left lane for 300 metres. The effect is not to speed up their own journeys one iota but merely to impede the progress of several buses, each carrying 50 or more passengers.

The selfishness of the car drivers would be blameworthy even if an advantage were gained. But in fact their actions are not just illegal but futile. Fortunately I have other transport options, namely Luas and bicycle. Many do not. Mr O’Doherty’s dismissal of these people on the basis of taxation is obnoxious. Yours, etc,

PAUL KEAN,

Long Meadows Apartments,

Conyngham Road,

Dublin 8

Sir, – I was dismayed to read Shane O’Doherty’s comments on cyclists’ safety. Not only are his remarks objectionable; they also disregard the observable behavior of motorists in Dublin city. Surely I cannot be the only person to have noticed that the number of drivers who treat red traffic lights and pedestrian crossings with nothing but contempt has reached epidemic proportions? Education and enforcement of the rules of the road for all road users are desperately needed, now more than ever. Yours, etc,

GARRET LEDWITH,

Tudor Road,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Much of the debate on Heidegger’s legacy (Fintan O’Toole, April 5th, and Letters, April 8th) rests on a misunderstanding of what it means to interpret a philosophical work. The injunction on the reader is to approach the work thoughtfully and critically.

Heidegger’s major work, Sein und Zeit (1927) – Being and Time in English – is an attempt to see what role time plays in our understanding of being. While it can and should be questioned whether such a project has political implications, insofar as the Enlightenment project of understanding nature mathematically works with a distinction between events that occur in time and the timeless laws that govern them, insofar as philosophical theology traditionally speaks of God’s eternity as distinguished from creation and insofar as Plato distinguished the timeless and the true from the temporal, Heidegger can be seen to be raising an issue of central philosophical significance.

I would suggest that the consideration of the relation between Heidegger’s work and politics and between philosophy and politics more generally is ill-served by thoughtless polemic. Yours, etc,

DR AENGUS DALY,

Carnaper Str,

Wuppertal,

Germany

Irish Independent:

Padraic Neary Tubbercurry, Co Sligo – Published 11 April 2014 02:30 AM

* I refer to an article by Brendan Keenan (April 10), regarding the type of recovery we need. Nobody in good health should want ‘recovery’ unless they erroneously think they are ill. That appears to be where the economic establishment of the world is at the moment: deluded, mistaking the greatest economic success ever for failure.

Also in this section

See no bubble, hear no bubble, speak no bubble

Women laid groundwork for Michael D’s visit

Injustice in our way of life

Economic activity at its most basic is providing the goods and services required by the human race. All through history there has been failure: inability to provide enough, leaving shortfall between what could be produced and what was needed. This gap in supply and demand always meant we needed to produce more, thereby facilitating the need and opportunity for continual economic growth.

As the production process depended substantially on human labour, employment was always guaranteed. At the end of the 20th century, everything changed. The introduction of computerisation enhanced life and was especially successful in commercial matters. Suddenly we could produce practically everything, in abundance, and transport it anywhere in the world at minimal cost.

As the economic diagnosis was wrong in the first place, wrong policies were enacted to rectify the situation. Conversion of debts from private to national incurred public debt that will run for generations. Austerity pushed an enormous number into penury, and policies making those employed work harder, longer and into later retirement are about as wrong it is possible to be in a world where work diminishes by the second.

The real tragedy is that the policies adopted by the Irish and EU Governments have not addressed the real problem at all. Instead of ‘recovery’, we need adaptation. Rather than recover, we need to adapt to the very best economic time that ever existed. The first step is to understand what has really happened: how technological success has transformed economic activity forever. Then we should thank our lucky stars to be living at this time.

SUGGESTION WIDE OF THE MARK

* It was bad enough to hear that the queen of England might help out with the 1916 celebrations – but the suggestion by our esteemed President that we should support the England soccer team in Brazil is out, out, out!

SAME OLD 1840S OPPRESSION

* The 1840s are back again. The international and Wall Street bankers are the absentee landlords, still able to suck the blood of the timid. The havoc they caused in America and beyond was pure evil, yet none of them were ever charged with fraud. Bernie Madoff screwed his own people and was rightfully punished. The land agents of the 1840s are our bankers. The politicians of today are the small farmers of old, who exported their produce while their cousins starved to death. The Garda are no different than their RIC counterparts – all Irishmen, who see injustices every day yet do very little. The lawyers are the Lords, the starving peasantry are the unemployed, and the Catholic Church, and all other churches, are still the same – silent.

This time, we can’t blame the English.

THE HANDSHAKE HORRORS

* During that ‘Irish’ night (before the President’s visit), I saw someone extend his hand to the queen who appeared not to ‘notice’ the gesture. Must be a bit like a western showdown when one meets her highness. . . keeping an eye trained on her ‘gun hand’, waiting for her to make her move?

OUR JOB TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD

* World Health Day on April 7 has passed unnoticed. It is fair to state that the World Health Organisation has been admirable in championing the rights of the marginalised, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the poor in societies across the globe. It has had an unparalleled track record in defending those who endure unspeakable torment and ill health; political, sexual, racial and social prejudices; and those who suffer from the ills and dilemmas of contemporary societies in pursuit of health-related millennium development goals.

There have been successes in downgrading several communicable and non-communicable diseases since the advent of the 21st century. However, there are daunting challenges that lie ahead as the world evolves into an increasingly interdependent and unpredictable entity. This demands urgent action to ease the burden of gender inequality, youth unemployment, social and economic disparities, carbon dioxide poisoning and environmental degradation and, most importantly, man’s inhumanity to fellow human beings. This lies outside the purview of the ministries of health and transcends to encompass the realms of education, housing, environment, defence, economy, foreign policy and transportation, to mention just a few.

This demands us to be creative in sparking debates, spurring social change and instigating social dialogue – in summary to work towards the betterment and advancement of the human race.

IT DOESN’T FEEL A YEAR OVER 700

* Amidst the tsunami of verbal diarrhoea we have had to endure from the Irish media during the President’s visit to Britain, one phrase confused me. It was the “800-year relationship” between our islands. Am I right in thinking that “relationship” in journo-speak means “unrelenting brutal colonisation”?

CIVIL WAR POLITICS STILL RAGES

* The letter from Fr Tom Grufferty (April 10) kind of touched a nerve for me. I can also understand where (I think) Fr Tom is coming from insofar as, back then, official Ireland was conspicuous by showing very little interest in our British exiles, other than on St Patrick’s Day.

Such places as the Banba Hall on the Foleshill Road in Coventry were very far from Aras an Uachtarain on a Saturday evening, and reading the ‘Irish Press’ at the back of the church on Sunday morning might be as close to home as one might get for a long time.

Those were the days when, if there was a photo of a politician in the paper, he (for there were no shes) would, most likely, be kissing John Charles McQuaid’s ring.

But all that is in the past and the queen has come to our place and Official Ireland has called over to Windsor and believe it or not, Catholicism is no longer compulsory in either Ireland or Britain – and the job of both heads of state is to represent all citizens in their respective countries.

Earlier, I commented on understanding Fr Tom, but in all this growing up and forgetting the past with the old enemy, we are still fighting the Civil War at home.

Why can’t Fianna Fail and Fine Gael agree to hang the portraits of Dev and Mick side by side in the Taoiseach’s office and not behave like children each time there is a change of government?

Now, about Westminster Abbey!

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