Still in hospital

5 May2014 Still inHospital

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate Mildred has lost her boyfriend Priceless

Go and visit Mary sell two books tidy up

Scrabbletoday, I win not by much even though I get a seven letter word, perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.


Sir William Benyon – obituary

Sir William Benyon was a Tory MP and landowner who crossed swords with Mrs Thatcher but remained loyal to the end

Sir William Benyon, MP

Sir William Benyon

6:17PM BST 04 May 2014

Comments1 Comment

Sir William Benyon, who has died aged 84, was an innovative Berkshire landowner and for 22 years Conservative MP for what became the new town of Milton Keynes.

A grandson of Lord Salisbury, Bill Benyon chaired the “One Nation” group and joined Tory “wets” in opposing several of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, including the poll tax. But he respected her highly, and when his friend Michael Heseltine challenged her in 1990, he rallied behind the Prime Minister, declaring: “This is war.”

Despite their, at times, public disagreements — notably over parental contributions to student support — and the occasional “handbagging” when Mrs Thatcher met the executive of the 1922 Committee, the respect was mutual. After Benyon was mugged outside the gates of his estate, she wrote him a three-page letter of commiseration.

Bill Benyon’s surname at birth was Shelley; and he was 29, not long out of the Royal Navy and a manager at Courtaulds when, on the death of a second cousin, Sir Henry Benyon, his father inherited the Englefield Estate, west of Reading, and 400 properties in de Beauvoir Town, on the Hackney/Islington border. With his father in poor health, Bill took on the estate, which was run down and saddled with 80 per cent death duties. A condition of the bequest — which was completely unexpected — was that they change their name to Benyon.

Over the years Benyon cleared the debt, modernised the estate and added to it until it comprised 14,000 acres in Berkshire and Hampshire, always encouraging the concept of family farms and helping young entrants into farming . He put the estate into a trust from which he drew no benefits, and more recently it has been run by his elder son Richard, who followed him into the Commons as MP for Newbury.

Intelligent, reasonable and conscientious, the nearest Bill Benyon got to office was two years as PPS to Paul Channon and two more as a whip as Mrs Thatcher supplanted Edward Heath. He made his mark in the Commons with a series of Bills to tighten the law on abortion. His main contribution to British politics came, however, with his election for Buckingham in 1970 — for Benyon’s capture of the seat ended the parliamentary career of Robert Maxwell.

The future Daily Mirror proprietor had won Buckingham for Labour in 1964, and held it two years later with the slogan “Let Harold [Wilson] and Bob finish the job.” Benyon defeated Maxwell by 2,521 votes; then, at the two elections of 1974, he held off strong challenges from Maxwell despite a national swing to Labour.

No sooner had Benyon been elected than the Roskill Commission nominated Cublington, near Buckingham, as the third London airport, and Benyon led the successful campaign to kill off the project. The highlight was a protest cavalcade he organised. As it neared Cublington, the police found a “bomb” in the road and told them to stop. Realising that it was clearly a hoax, Benyon picked up the “device” and threw it over a hedge, where it landed at the feet of a policeman who had taken shelter.

Instead of an airport, his constituency played host to a new town, a project which Benyon embraced with enthusiasm. He welcomed the Open University’s choice of Milton Keynes as its base; he was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1993, and played a major role in founding the town’s ecumenical church.

When, in 1983, his fast-growing constituency was split between the safe Tory Buckingham and the unpredictable Milton Keynes, Benyon unhesitatingly went for the latter. He took it comfortably, and four years later held off a strong challenge from Bill Rodgers, of the SDP’s “Gang of Four”.

By the time of Benyon’s retirement in 1992, Milton Keynes’ electorate was, at 130,000, the largest in Britain. The constituency was split in two without waiting for a national boundary review, each part initially returning a Conservative.

Sir William Benyon with the Queen in 1995 (PA)

William Richard Shelley was born in London on January 17 1930, the son of Vice-Admiral Richard Shelley and the former Eve Gascoyne-Cecil, daughter of the Bishop of Exeter. Aged 13 he was sent to Dartmouth, where he passed out as Chief Cadet Captain, and in 1947 he was commissioned into the Royal Navy, his career culminating in a staff job under the Governor of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, during the Mau Mau emergency. Having also served in Korea and Malaya, he left in 1957 in the rank of lieutenant and joined Courtaulds.

After taking over the estates, Benyon was elected to Berkshire County Council in 1964. Initially he was on the Right of his party; a member of the Monday Club, he called for curbs on immigration and for Heath to put Enoch Powell in his Cabinet. In his maiden Commons speech he called for a continued naval presence East of Suez.

By the time Mrs Thatcher came to power, however, Benyon was clearly not “one of us”. He opposed cuts in spending on housing; helped force Heseltine to drop plans to make rate increases subject to referendums; and rebelled against the taxing of unemployment benefit. In 1982 he was elected to the ’22 executive.

Benyon sponsored, with the Labour Left-winger Frank Allaun, a Bill imposing a right of reply on the media, demanded that Britain have “dual control” of American Cruise missiles based here, and rebelled against Mrs Thatcher’s abolition of the Greater London Council.

In 1984 he stood for the chairmanship of the ’22, but was defeated by the loyalist Cranley Onslow. When, the next year, Francis Pym formed his abortive Conservative Centre Forward group, Benyon was one of the few recruits.

His last rebellion was against the community charge, which he branded “a bad tax: inefficient, expensive and unfair to the disadvantaged”. Thatcherites responded by denying him the vice-chairmanship of the ’22.

On leaving the Commons , Benyon chaired the Peabody Trust (1993-98), making full use of his knowledge of social housing. He completed 35 years on the University of Reading Council, and was a driving force in the rebuilding of Reading Minster. He was also active in the Country Landowners’ Association and the National Trust.

He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Berkshire in 1970 and High Sheriff in 1995.

He was knighted in 1994.

Benyon took politics very seriously, but lacked the pomposity or vanity that can accompany this trait. On one occasion there was a trivial survey of MPs’ favourite television programmes. Predictably high ratings were recorded for Panorama and Newsnight, but the MP for Milton Keynes replied disarmingly that he enjoyed The A-Team, Happy Days and Basil Brush.

Bill Benyon married, in 1957, Elizabeth Hallifax , who survives him with their two sons and three daughters.

Sir William Benyon, born January 17 1930, died May 2 2014


It is not only the world economy that is in crisis (IMF approves $17bn Ukraine bailout, 2 May). The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers and so shapes the societies we live in. Forty-one associations of economics students from 19 countries believe it’s time to reconsider the way economics is taught. We are dissatisfied with the dramatic narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place over the past couple of decades. This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research. It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century – from financial stability to food security and climate change. The real world should be brought back into the classroom, as well as debate and a pluralism of theories and methods. This will help renew the discipline and ultimately create a space in which solutions to society’s problems can be generated.

United across borders, we call for a change of course. We do not claim to have the perfect answer, but we have no doubt that economics students will profit from exposure to different perspectives and ideas. Pluralism could help to fertilise teaching and research, reinvigorate the discipline and bring economics back into the service of society. Three forms of pluralism must be at the core of the curriculum: theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary.

Change will be difficult – it always is. But it is already happening. Students across the world have already started creating change step by step. We have founded university groups and built networks both nationally and internationally. Change must come from many places. So now we invite students, economists and non-economists to join us and create the critical mass needed for change. Visit to read the full manifesto and connect with our growing networks. Ultimately, pluralism in economics education is essential for healthy public debate. It is a matter of democracy.
Severin Reissl, Max Schröder, Faheem A Rokadiya, Pia Andres, Glen Costlow, Joakim J Rietschel, Ayse Yayali
Glasgow University Real World Economics Society

Thomas Piketty has been widely feted for his economic history and analysis although it’s widely believed he is not good at providing practical solutions. His article on the EU (Comment, 3 May) will merely confirm this belief. He points to the problems of European integration and advocates solving them by – more integration. Such a pity.
Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics

• If we are lucky enough to have more grandchildren, we would like the girls named Astra, Zeneca and Pfizer (Pfiza?) and the boys Glaxo, Smith and Kline (Report, 3 May).
Charles Booth

• I look forward to Constance Briscoe’s first column (Report, 3 May). Or do you only give jobs to convicted criminals and proven liars if they also happen to be middle-class, male and white?
Bill Carmichael
Skipton, Yorkshire

• Good grammar might help you get laid (Hadley Freeman, 2 May), but should you decline to conjugate?
Michael Peel

• I thought it must be 1 April (Forbidden fruit, 3 May). Anu Anand should try Pakistani mangoes, best in the world.
Naseem Khawaja
Yateley, Hampshire

• I was always amused by the huge British Waterways sign, north of Blackwall tunnel, which announced “Bow Locks” (Letters, 3 May).
John Amos


Saturday’s leader wisely stated that “fame does not grant impunity” regarding the trial and subsequent sentencing of Max Clifford (Getting the message, 3 May). Though in the same issue, Jonathan Freedland declares that “Whatever Gerry Adams‘ past, peace trumps justice” (Comment, 3 May). Followed to its logical conclusion, this could mean an unofficial immunity for senior Northern Ireland political figures if “peace” appears jeopardised. This could make finding the “truth” about Jean McConville’s death impossible and “reconciliation” more difficult. Most of all, though, this outcome would leave the feeling that there will always be powerful people in the UK that are above the law.
Charles Jenkins
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

•  Jonathan Freedland believes that is a choice to be made between peace and justice and that to pursue Gerry Adams for his role in the past is “to jeopardise the current tranquility”. If so, a normal society cannot be achieved in Northern Ireland; on the contrary, if normality is to be attained, then all must be amenable to justice – ex-terrorists as well as former soldiers and policemen.

I am puzzled by the view that it is only those far away and without experience of the Troubles who want to see justice. He should speak to the children of the late Mrs Jean McConville on that subject. As for myself, my childhood memories include the wrecking of my family home twice by IRA bombs and the murder by the same organisation of a cousin by marriage and a school contemporary. It is little wonder that, pace Mr Freedland, I do not see peace and justice as mutually exclusive.
CDC Armstrong

•  The victims and families who have lost loved ones and suffered during the course of the conflict in Northern Ireland have every right to seek truth and justice. Unfortunately, the current investigations into past crimes are partial, and investigations into murders committed by state forces are sadly lacking. The political nature of some policing in Northern Ireland has been made clear both by the arrest of Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, and by the statement by the secretary of state, Theresa Villiers, last week that there would be no review of the cases of the 11 civilians who died during British army operations in Ballymurphy in 1971.

We call for an end to the politically motivated attacks upon Gerry Adams, which serve only to undermine the peace process. He has been one of the key figures in driving forward the peace process, resolving the conflict in the north and positively transforming the situation in Ireland. He has also led Sinn Féin as a party that is opposing austerity and inequality, and is seeing rising political support in the polls.

We share strong concerns about the motivation behind the timing of recent events, which can only serve the interests of those who oppose both the peace process and Sinn Féin’s political advances. We call upon the British and Irish governments and all political parties to commit to the ending of political policing and to positively engage in advancing the peace process.
Diane Abbott MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Ken Livingstone, Kate Hudson national secretary, Left Unity, Ken Loach film director, Adrian Dunbar actor, Victoria Brittain writer, Professor Roy Greenslade journalist, Andrew Burgin Coalition of Resistance, Lindsey German writer and anti-war campaigner, Salma Yaqoob former Birmingham City councillor, John Rees writer and broadcaster

• Malachi O’Doherty’s precipitate gloating assertion that “Adams has lost the south” (Comment, 2 May) does nothing for the cause of justice and peace in Ireland.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign of the peace process has been the beginnings of Protestant or formerly unionist support for Sinn Féin, based on its impressive commitment to community politics across the false divide, as exampled in the work of Belfast’s Sinn Féin mayor. It is this new kind of people-politics in Ireland that presents the greatest challenge to those Southern establishment parties.

As far as being tainted with violence is concerned, I’d like to know of a single political party that isn’t, in Ireland, Britain or anywhere else. The point is to get serious about building peace now.

The idea that partition is “inevitable and organic”, as O’Doherty suggests, is plain obnoxious. Partition was imposed without the say-so of a single Irish person, it has been a disaster for all concerned and it remains the greatest source of sectarian division and the main obstacle to a lasting peace in Ireland.

It is more important than ever that an all-Ireland party should be able to work peacefully to right this outdated imperialism and put an end to all the violence that has sprung from it.
J McMillan
Bridgwater, Somerset

The green belt needs to be preserved. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Paul Cheshire criticises green-belt policy but fails to mention the huge benefits that it has given this country (“Why Surrey has more land for golf courses than for homes“, News). The article focuses on Surrey, which is actually a prime example of the positive effects of green belts. Surrey has large areas of common land, nature reserves and natural beauty that green-belt policy has helped safeguard.

Without it, the low-density sprawl you find in London boroughs such as Croydon, which were once part of Surrey, would have marched across much of the rest of the county.

In fact, rather than weakening green belts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England believes that they need to be given proper protection. CPRE Surrey is currently opposing two developments for golf courses and evidence gathered by CPRE nationally shows that green-belt land has been allocated for 190,000 new homes, despite government promises to protect it.

This alarming figure has come about because of the intense pressure put on local authorities by the government to meet inflated housing targets.

The government needs to take steps to reduce the pressure for development in the green belt, including by actively encouraging the reuse of brownfield land and existing buildings. Some small-scale, exceptional revisions to green belts may be required to accommodate necessary development in the long run, where this is justified locally, but any wholesale weakening of the policy would have a catastrophic effect on the countryside and the nation as whole.

John Rowley

Campaign to Protect Rural England

London SE1

This is the situation in my small town in Cheshire East of just over 5,000 homes: as a result of the government’s national planning policy framework and the presumption in favour of development, we are highly likely to get a housing increase of 60%, mostly on greenfield and farmland.

This despite the fact that the town is currently unsustainable, with one health centre at capacity, no employment, B-roads that are routinely gridlocked, overstretched waste disposal, schools full – to name a few of the issues. The only thing that will save our community will be commercial considerations.

We have three brownfield sites that we would like to see developed but so far the only ones being built on are greenfields.

We, as residents, are powerless despite having a very active residents’ group able to put sound arguments and provide evidence. The inspectorate can hardly be said to be independent given some of its recent decisions. Our small town has been surrendered to the developers.

Dr M Wakelin



Emma Duncan, welcoming the decline of the high street and of “offline shopping” in general, strangely fails to address an underpinning economic reality (“The high street is dying. Hurrah…“, Comment).

I live in a small town, very distant from London. Although the commercial hub is sadly diminished, it still fulfils some important functions; for those who might for various reasons feel isolated, it’s a place where they can find human contact. But also, the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker still thrive, buoyed by the fact that, across the generations and classes, many are still reassured that they can buy locally sourced meat and vegetables whose quality they can trust.

If any Westminster government is serious about addressing the decline of facilities and retail business in smaller towns and trying to nurture social cohesion, they should adequately fund local authorities so that they don’t need to raise money by squeezing communities – entrepreneurs who want to trade, shoppers coming in from adjoining villages who need to park.

In rural areas, the high street is essential and bad governance, not internet shopping, is the main problem.

Marc Hadley




While I agree with Mark Steel (“If this counts as consultation, then Gove and his allies must be taking inspiration from Kim Jong-un”, 2 May), that the headteacher of Hove Park School has a different understanding of what consultation means to most of us, this was not always the case.

He has most recently denied the staff the right to a ballot on academy status; he has also denied the council’s offer to ballot the parents on the same issue. However, there was a time when he did understand what it means to consult. Three years ago, the school proposed a uniform change. All parents were invited to vote on this; we could vote for or against a new uniform, and we could then vote on which of many options of uniform we liked the most.

I am disappointed that he is willing to extend democracy to the colour of the trim on our children’s blazers but not to the future status of the school.

Alrik Green, Hove

PS: I voted in favour of the blue trim.

Here in Leeds the school community has for the most part avoided jumping to any general conclusions on the basis of the tragic death of Ann Maguire. Even when the facts are established this shocking incident is likely to tell us little or nothing about the day-to-day challenges faced by staff and pupils in our schools.

There is, however, one aspect of the aftermath which should tell policy-makers and politicians something of real significance. The intense level of support put into Corpus Christie Catholic College by the Leeds local authority has been excellent.

A host of skilled and experienced staff, from a range of services including counsellors, educational psychologists and human resources professionals, have been in the school all week. This has been linked up with work carried out by the other social services that support the local community.

Trade unions representing staff have been kept fully briefed.

There isn’t an academy chain in the country that could provide that level of support and expertise, not to mention the local knowledge that goes with it.

Serious incidents in our schools are very rare. When they do happen, however, schools and communities need a local authority to support them. Not an academy chain, nor a government department in London and nor (if you are listening, Messrs Blunkett and Hunt), a local schools commissioner

Patrick Murphy, Division Secretary,  Leeds, National Union of Teachers

Cancer: we can save even more patients

The Royal College of Radiologists welcomes news of the increasing cancer survival rates reported by Cancer Research UK (editorial, 29 April).

However, a finding by Macmillan Cancer Support that a quarter of cancer cases are diagnosed in accident and emergency departments, when their cancer is advanced and often incurable, indicates an enormous problem in the healthcare system. If this problem of late presentation were to be addressed, then it would have an enormous impact on the profile of cancer treatments offered to patients and require a greater investment in and availability of curative treatments.

Radiotherapy is a highly effective form of cancer treatment and contributes to cure in 40 per cent of the cancer patient population. It does this either alone or in conjunction with other treatment approaches such as surgery and chemotherapy. However, advances in the range and complexity of non-surgical oncology approaches means that there needs to be an expansion of the workforce if cancer patients are to receive modern treatments delivered to the highest international standards.

Figures from the Macmillan report on late presentation are disappointing but do indicate a very identifiable problem which we have the capability of addressing through improved screening and early diagnostic initiatives. Successful implementation of these strategies will see far more patients coming to oncology services at a stage when their cancer is still curable. With appropriate investment in the clinical oncology workforce, and with expansion of cancer services more widely, the vision of survival rates of 75 per cent seems achievable.

Dr Diana Tait, Vice-President, Clinical Oncology, Royal College of Radiologists, London WC2

It was heartening to read how well Guy Keleny’s lymphoma has responded to treatment. Unfortunately there is a potentially very misleading statement in his article (1 May).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a very heterogeneous condition; while in many cases it is indeed “about as mild as cancer gets”, in others it is an aggressive disease. Happily, there has been great progress in treatment of aggressive NHL, which can in many cases be cured.

Ken Campbell MSc (Clinical Oncology), Kettering, Northamptonshire


Church to blame in chancel liability row

The Archdeacon of Hereford’s attempted riposte (letters, 1 May) serves only to underline the heartlessness at the heart of the Chancel Repair Liability scandal. He callously suggests that it is the responsibility of conveyancing solicitors to find these things out, and that if house purchasers don’t trust their solicitors to get it right, they can always take out insurance at their own expense against the possibility of a demand.

One could equally argue that if parochial church council members are worried that if they exercise their consciences and elect not to behave like legalistic mafiosi they risk legal action being taken against them, and if they don’t trust their bishop to get it right, they could always insure themselves against him at their own expense. Of the two, the latter would be the more just course, since it is they who are the perpetrators of the injury: it is the householders who are the victims.

It is moral cowardice to place the onus upon the victims to fight their corner if they can. The right way forward is for the Church as a body to instruct its PCCs to refuse point blank to register any of these liabilities, use its influence in the House of Lords to get this pernicious, archaic, bad law abolished, and, in the meantime, take whatever action is necessary to protect their PCCs from personal liability in any legal disputes.

Chancels are holy places. You can’t “repair” them with the proceeds of extortion: you destroy their very meaning.

Bob Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Vince Cable’s Royal Mail mix-up

The claim that the early sales of Royal Mail shares prove that many agreed with Vince Cable’s mistaken valuation (letter, 2 May) is a fallacy.

There are many reasons for early sales. The two most common being that the purchaser just wanted to make a quick buck and couldn’t or wouldn’t tie up his money, and that the allocations were so miserly that it wasn’t worth the admin to keep them. One of these is the reason that I bought and immediately sold Royal Mail shares.

Of course this matter is all over and there is no point in grousing; but we must not forget it. At the next election Vince Cable will be touted as the Lib Dems’ business guru; if he made such a mess of this should we really trust him to make more important decisions?

Clive Georgeson, Dronfield,  Derbyshire

The Kremlin’s Italian style

Maybe it is possible to see the Kremlin less as a monument to the myth of Russia’s “otherness” (“Russia’s hidden heart”, 2 May), when we recall that Ivan III invited Italian craftsmen (Fioraventi in 1479, Solari in 1491) to complete or design considerable portions of it, and in the latter case to decorate a palace in the style current at Ferrara.

The idea of a nation’s otherness is often hard to sustain when one discovers that multicultural artists were at work.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Clarkson, big-mouth but no racist

I cannot imagine Jeremy Clarkson being embarrassed or mortified by anything he says or does. However, after listening to his N-word recording online I don’t believe there was any malicious or racist intent behind what he said either – it was hard to make much of the mumbling.

This “incident” revealed by the Daily Mirror was over two years ago and wasn’t even aired. Clarkson is an arrogant loudmouth but the only thing he is racist against is the Toyota Prius.

Emilie Lamplough, Trowbridge,  Wiltshire

Pity the poor cold-caller

You have published several letters about cold callers and how to deal with them.

Let’s remember that they are typically young people on minimum wage, trying to sell a product they may not believe in. We don’t have to buy what they’re selling; and we don’t have to be rude to them either. Asking them “what they have got on” (28 April) is just pathetic.

Keith Robinson, Beckington, Somerset


Nottingham students look for rooms — rent controls could kill short-term lets

Published at 12:01AM, May 5 2014

Ed Miliband’s plan to control rents is likely to make a serious problem even worse

Sir, If Mr Miliband’s proposals for rent controls are implemented (“Labour to bring back rent control”, May 1), it is likely that the cost of housing will plummet and rental properties will become almost unobtainable (as occurred last time such policies were tried). The policy would simply prompt many of the hundreds of thousands of buy-to-let landlords to sell — if rents lag behind inflation, mortgaged properties may be unaffordable.

Mr Miliband needs a broader vision of the rental market than an assumption that all landlords are budding Rachmans abusing their tenants for excess profit rather than, in many cases, ordinary people with tiny portfolios trying to build up modest funds for retirement.

Dr Julian Critchlow

Tregaron, Ceredigion

Sir, Under the old rent act tenants had security of tenure and housing was affordable. The family home should be just that and not a way to make money. The present surge in house prices should not be allowed to get out of control.

Bernard Parke


Sir, Ed Miliband’s rent cap proposal is flawed. Rents are determined by demand and property values. If house prices rise but rents are kept low, people won’t buy properties to let. Supply will fall and many people will have nowhere to live. I have no problem with the proposal to cap letting agents’ commissions but interfering with the rental market will have unintended consequences.

Russell Quirk

Brentwood, Essex

Sir, Rent control is one aspect of housing control. Thank goodness one political party recognises the social need and is prepared to raise an issue which is so fundamental and crucial. Oliver Kamm (“Ed’s ‘largesse’ won’t help Generation Rent’”, May 3) says “the most objective benchmark is the market itself”, but the market left to itself does not automatically provide the most desirable social outcome for a cohesive and prosperous community. One doesn’t need to be an economist to realise that — just a parent concerned for the future of their children and grandchildren.

Mike Wood

Formby, Merseyside

Sir, Ed Miliband is re-presenting the 1970s Labour socialist policy book. His previous attack on housebuilders assumes that they are wilfully passing up profit opportunities. Never mind that a good number of them went, or nearly went, to the wall during the recession that his party must take some blame for. His latest attack on landlords is also misplaced. When an asset is overpriced it is a sure indication that there is too little supply, so why is there no attempt to ease the planning regime, to look at state-imposed transaction costs and to release state-owned land to the market? Also, since Gordon Brown plundered pension funds in 1997-98 people have had to look at alternative investments. Labour’s state-knows-best policy would be less laughable if the state were not the problem.

Chris Watson

London E14

The HMIC report on crime data is disturbing, because many kinds of crime are not included

Sir, The findings of the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) into crime data and the potential under-recording of some crimes are disturbing (“Offenders unpunished as police fail to record a fifth of crimes”, May 1).

There is also a bigger debate about whether crime figures reflect the true level and extent of criminal behaviour, which the report does not raise. Offences such as child exploitation, paedophilia, money laundering, drug trafficking and gang activity are not reflected in crime statistics but involve many victims and take much police time and resources to investigate.

The report also fails to address the main reason why some officers record crime in the ways identified by the inspection. For many years the police service, like other public services, was remorselessly driven by a government-led culture of meeting targets. Metrics, league tables and spurious performance comparisons were prioritised above the the duty to protect the public and to attack the criminals. The effects of the target culture were reflected in the recently published Public Administration Select Committee report on the police recorded crime statistics.

Any performance culture of this kind will always run the risk of unintended negative consequences at all levels. This is precisely what the latest HMIC report has exposed.

Mick Creedon

Chief Constable of Derbyshire

Morris men dance with such enthusiasm that they move an entire hill from Somerset to Wiltshire

Sir, Apropos your item on trying everything once except for incest and morris dancing, accompanied by a picture of the Wyvern Jubilee Morris Men dancing at daybreak on Ham Hill, Wiltshire, the earth must certainly have moved for them, as last time I looked, Ham Hill was most firmly located in Somerset.


Dick Carlyon

Somerton, Somerset

A reader finds that her address has been borrowed in an attempt to cash in on HS2 compensation

Sir, Boris Johnson (Apr 29) may be right when he claims critics of HS2 are “really furious that their house prices are getting it”.

Upon inquiring of HS2 how my name has been added to those complaining that compensation levels are inadequate, I received the response: “It would appear that someone has chosen to use your address in order to submit an additional response to the Property Consultation Compensation 2013.”

Jane Berry

Tibberton, Shropshire

Jeremy Paxman has many admirers, but others are concerned about his style of political interviewing

Sir, If you are right to attribute Jeremy Paxman’s resignation to the BBC’s mismanagement of his talents (May 2), I suggest a different remedy. Why not make him chairman of the BBC Trust? His integrity, intelligence and ability to speak truth to power would then be devoted to a cause which he holds dear, the continuation of the BBC as a world leader in broadcasting. Lord Reith might at last have a worthy successor.

Margaret Collier

Lostock, Bolton

Sir, Michael Howard is typically generous in his tribute to Jeremy Paxman (May 2), but we should not allow this to conceal the fact that Paxman’s style of interviewing has done immense damage to the standards of political debate.

Part of this may not be his fault. The BBC allows much less time for in-depth interviews than when Robin Day and Kenneth Harris were in harness, but that does not explain the main difference. Both Day and Harris were meticulously prepared but they did not start with a desire to embarrass the interviewee with a single criticism or allegation. Because they were there to test the arguments, they listened to them. They had respect for the political calling, and for the complexities of government. They were not there to demonstrate, as Paxman often does, their personal contempt for the person they were interviewing, or for his arguments.

One has only to watch retrospective programmes on BBC’s Parliament Channel to see what we have lost. The Paxman interview style bears a heavy responsibility for bringing politics into contempt. It forces politicians to evade questions rather than engage with the argument. Perhaps interviewers get the politicians they deserve.

Richard Ritchie

London SW18


SIR – I read with great interest William Langley’s piece on the Britannia Coconut Dancers. While dancing with the Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men, the organisers of Horwich’s Day for St George, I noticed Mr Langley interviewing members of the Nutters.

His article really caught the flavour of a Morris event and treated the dancers with balance and humour without patronising them or sneering at eccentricity.

It’s strange that the Twitter-generated “controversy” about so-called racism continued at least a week after the Coconutters Day in Bacup on Easter Saturday.

As Joe Healey, the Nutters’ secretary, stated, black faces are part of a tradition dating back to the original dancers being coal miners and affected by coal dust. This tradition is shared by the Border Morris from the Welsh/English border, where dancers were mainly miners in the Shropshire coalfields.

I was glad to see that the piece also showed a younger member of the team. Although the Horwich Morris Men have musicians and dancers over pensionable age, the team also now has five dancers under 25.

With balanced reporting such as this, interest and involvement in this peculiarly English activity will hopefully continue to grow.

Bob Bradley
Secretary, Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men
Bolton, Lancashire

SIR – It is not surprising that two-thirds of practising Christians feel afraid to express their beliefs when faced with the confidence-sapping ambivalence of church dignitaries such as Rowan Williams, who calls our country a “post-Christian nation”.

This just adds to the perception that Christians are in the minority. David Cameron’s words, by contrast, will help tremendously. Contrary to what church leaders would like to think, attendance at church does not constitute being a Christian; that depends on one trying one’s best to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – Your poll on Christianity distinguished between “practising” and “non-practising” Christians. If you’re merely sentimental about Christ, then belief doesn’t come into it. And if belief doesn’t come into it, neither does Christianity. So the real statistic is Christian 14 per cent, non-Christian 86 per cent.

For credible politicians to be pushing some sort of trolley for the Established Church is disingenuous. Ours is a secular society at a loss to know what to do about First and Last Things.

Your survey might suggest that we are crying out for help.

Malcolm Ross
Littlehempston, Devon

SIR – Rowan Williams is right to maintain that “some individual Christians have had a rough time” in this country because of their faith, but that their treatment is not on a par with the violent persecution suffered by Christians elsewhere.

However, losing your job because you refuse to take off a tiny silver cross, or being arrested and held in a prison cell for preaching the Bible in public do not represent mere “stupidity and inflexibility” but a sustained campaign against Christianity.

It may not amount to deadly persecution, but it is an attempt to kill off Christian influence in Britain. If it succeeds, our chances of protecting the lives of suffering Christians throughout the world are slim indeed.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – As recently as the Fifties, the Church was booming: congregations were on the increase, and so were baptisms, confirmations and ordinations. I was brought up in a working-class district of Leeds and three of us offered ourselves for the priesthood in our parish alone.

This vibrant spiritual life was wilfully destroyed, first by the new theologians such as John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich. Then the General Synod was invented and with it the Liturgical Commission, which threw out the texts we had grown up with, the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. These were replaced by doggerel words and new hymns of stupefying banality.

Thirdly, the bishops and Synod abandoned the Church’s “one nation” role, that 16th-century creation of genius, and turned it into a Left-wing pressure group lending its enthusiastic support to every innovation in social policy that came along.

Rev Dr Peter Mullen
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – I watched Rev last week. The effects of a society that has been led by the nose by a Left-wing liberal agenda for several decades, coupled with a Church leadership that is so weak as to be ineffective, were admirably mirrored in the script.

So it was disppointing to read Rowan Williams declaring that Britain was a “post-Christian” country. While what he says is true, it will do little to encourage Christians. Bishops and clergy should lead by example and live the Gospel.

Rev Michael Wishart
St Athan, Glamorgan

SIR – Looking at a beautiful image from the Hubble Space Telescope of a spiral galaxy, it is difficult to conceive of an all-powerful deity. Equally beautiful was a recent choral evensong at Salisbury Cathedral. You do not necessarily need to be a believer to respect our Christian tradition as a force for good.

Tim Deane
Tisbury, Witshire

SIR – Last week you printed a letter from 16 very high profile financial institutions calling for action to avoid a savings crisis.

Unfortunately, the crisis is already upon us, as these same financial institutions, together with building societies and others, jumped to seize the Government’s cheap money, abandoning savers to their fate of derisory interest rates.

With the Government’s ever-increasing debt, do these people really believe a rate rise is likely when it will force ever higher payments on borrowings?

Saving will only come back when the Government and the populace start living within their means. With a decreasing debt mountain, interest rates can rise without bankrupting the country and causing a wave of house repossessions.

Present policy simply robs savers to support both Government expenditure and borrowers who are hooked on cheap money.

Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – Tony Steyning and his co-authors make a compelling case for addressing the savings crisis which the Chancellor has recognised through his recent initiatives.

Unfortunately even those who have prudently saved have suffered from the lasting damage caused by Gordon Brown’s withdrawal of tax relief on dividends received by pension funds. This has reduced their assets by £100 billion through tax, loss of income reinvested and growth foregone over the past 17 years.

Mr Brown and his Treasury team, which included the Eds Milliband and Balls, repeatedly claimed to champion “hard-working families” while secretively taxing the sources of their pension – asserting, absurdly that it would improve productivity in industry.

The public sector is very largely unaffected by this most stealthy of taxes.

Christopher Donald
Hexham, Northumberland

GP assessments

SIR – GPs should not be relying on the patient to decide which aspect of their health to bring to their attention.

It is the doctor that should assess this. GPs need to be able to examine the whole person to enable an accurate diagnosis and to prioritise problems .

Dr Annie Campbell
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Staying in the EU

SIR – The cost/benefit analysis of our membership of the EU which Christopher Gill claims successive governments have “refused to carry out” was in fact launched by the Coalition government in 2012 in its “review of the balance of competences between the UK and EU”.

Thirty-two detailed reports are analysing what EU membership means for Britain’s national interest. It is clear from those reports published so far that our national interest is best served by our remaining in the European Union.

Those relating to the single market, for example, show that “the GDP of both the EU and the UK are appreciably greater than they otherwise would be, thanks to economic integration through the single market” which “has had a net positive impact on UK trade” and investment.

The conclusion on foreign policy is typical: “Most of the evidence argued that it was strongly in the UK’s interests to work through the EU in a number of policy areas.”

David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey

One man’s wine…

SIR – Prof Hodgson’s trials that showed wine testers giving differing tastes to the same wines were flawed.

He has assumed that the three bottles of wine he gave them were the same. Anyone who has bought a dozen bottles of the “same” wine, produced in the same year and by the same producer, knows that some of them are different.

Grapes come from different areas of the vineyards, often on different days under different conditions. Fermentation is in different vats and oak casks vary in their wood and charring.

The wines are bottled using corks which allow in different amounts of oxygen. I’ve always wondered how wine judges tasting one bottle can really believe that the other 10 or 20,000 bottles from the vintage are exactly the same.

John Hanford
Taplow, Buckinghamshire

Signs of the times

SIR – Signposts only spoil the countryside. We should urge local authorities to restrict the amount of “street furniture” used. Ron Kirby should consider using a road map and planning his journey.

Neil Portlock
Highworth, Wiltshire

SIR – My wife and I have just driven about 1,200 miles through Portugal and Spain. After half an hour we were longing for the clarity of British signposting.

Robert Parker

Not all right

SIR – “You all right there?” now seems to have replaced “May I help you?” or “Next, please” in shops. It’s even creeping into pubs and restaurants.

What should my response be? A list of current ailments?

Jean Nield

We are lucky to have foreign ballet dancers

SIR – John Dunkin has missed the point. The remit of English National Ballet is not to provide employment for English dancers but to provide performances of the very highest standard for the benefit of English audiences.

That there are not more English dancers of such calibre as those he mentions is regrettable but is a fact of life. Our three major English ballet companies (the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Ballet) and other equally worthy smaller companies, would all love to employ more first-class English dancers. But such dancers are few and far between and the competition is great.

It is important to remember as well that the dancers Mr Dunkin mentioned all joined British ballet companies at a very young age and honed their craft here.

They have given us far more than we could ever give them and we should be proud of the fact that they want to be here.

Valerie Ridge
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – For over 50 years, English National Ballet has toured Britain bringing great ballet to audiences all over the country. For many people outside London it is through the company that they get to know classical ballet.

Ballet, like all great art, is not limited by nationality. We are immensely proud that such great artists as Carlos Acosta, Daria Klimentová, Alina Cojocaru and our own artistic director Tamara Rojo, all of whom have dedicated most of their working lives to creating great ballet in this country, have chosen to dance with us. We know that our audience agrees.

Caroline Thomson
Executive Director
English National Ballet
London SW7

What Dido’s dad did

SIR – I was very interested to learn that a film has been made about Dido Elizabeth Bell. I have a portrait miniature by John Smart, signed and dated 1787, of her father Admiral Sir John Lindsay. He was knighted in 1764 for bravery in the battle of Havana and in 1787 promoted to Rear Admiral. He died at Marlborough, on his way from a health trip to Bath on June 4 1788, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

D C Miles Griffiths
Maidenhead, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Am I the only one who is getting increasingly annoyed with Sinn Féin, without a hint of irony, complaining about “dark forces’”? For me, the term sits well with a cabal of cowards, who acted as judge, jury and executioner for a defenceless widow and mother of 10 young children, when, in 1972, they dragged her, begging and screaming, from her home and children never to be seen again until her body was discovered many years later. If Mr Adams were to be charged with any offence his trial would be in open court and he would have 12 upstanding citizens sitting in judgement of him. Yours, etc,




Co Down

Sir, – In the 1970s, a Belfast mother of eight was murdered, shot in the back when she was no danger to anyone, and this week her family’s legal attempts to establish the facts of her murder were halted by the state to a background of lack of interest from the Dublin establishment and media and silence from unionism.

I refer to Joan Connolly, murdered in Ballymurphy by the parachute regiment (whose commander in chief, HRH Prince Charles, may be invited to the GPO in two years’ time). Either we have a mechanism for truth recovery on all sides, or, as the Northern Ireland attorney general, John Larkin, has suggested, we move on. The Southern establishment is disgustingly using the memory of Jean McConville to divert attention from socio-economic questions. Their interest isn’t truth (they won’t press the British for awkward evidence on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings), but rather shielding their Thatcherite fiefdom from uppity “Nordies”. Yours, etc,


Antrim Road,

Belfast BT15 5GB

Sir, – Sinn Féin spokespersons have been at pains to suggest that the timing of the arrest of Gerry Adams was politically motivated, having regard to the current election campaigns. Mr Adams was in the Dáil last Wednesday morning and later chose to travel to Belfast to meet the PSNI. If he believed there were political motivations behind the timing of this meeting, he could quite easily have stymied those motivations by choosing to remain in Dublin and to defer meeting the PSNI until after the elections. This he did not do and so he himself was the author of the timing of his detention and arrest. Could it be that Mr Adams himself was politically motivated in choosing to present himself to the PSNI in the middle of an election camapign? Yours, etc,


Downside Park,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Mary Lou McDonald assures us that Mr Adams’s arrest as a suspect in a murder investigation is politically motivated. Indeed there might well be sections of the body politic that are happy about the arrest. However Mary Lou should cheer up when she remembers that for many years Mr Adams has been clearly uninvolved in the IRA. The process of justice on the island of Ireland has at its heart the principle that Mr Adams, or anyone else, is innocent until proved guilty. Mary Lou can derive some solace knowing that Mr Adams will not be bundled into the back of a car, driven to some desolate layby and summarily executed by a band of hooded criminals. Yours, etc,


Johnstown Road,

Co Dublin

Sir , – Mary Lou MacDonald makes much play of the fact that Gerry Adams always denied he had anything to do with the murder of Jean McConville. Does she expect that if he had he would admit it ? Yours, etc,



Co Meath

Sir, – Gerry Adams has been arrested in connection with an investigation into the abduction, torture and murder of a young widow, mother of 10 children. The pundits insist that, if prosecuted, he will be found not guilty of having any connection with this heinous crime.

Over a period of more than 40 years, Mr Adams has acted as pall-bearer for IRA members, has worn paramilitary-style uniform, has been a spokesman and an apologist for IRA violence and latterly has issued apologies to victims of that violence. Despite all this, he insists that he is not now, nor ever was, a member of the IRA.

It is to be hoped that charges will be brought against the murderers of Jean McConville, some of whom are known to both the family and the authorities. Nothing will bring her children solace but, at least, let us give them justice, however long delayed. Yours, etc,



Co Dublin

Sir, – Joe Humphreys, in his column of May 1st, insists that, based on the writings of Richard Kearney, atheists can still believe in God. Of course people can believe in anything they wish, if they share Kearney’s view that words are fluffy bits of cotton wool to comfort the troubled mind rather than tools for examining reality.

God, it seems, is not an omnipotent being who created the universe, so far as this latest incarnation of Father Trendy is concerned. On the contrary, God is a weak, wobbly substance that can be used as an all-purpose wild card that serves to mean anything the listener wants to hear, and to chime in with whatever is the current fashion in delusions and fantasy. God is the cosy reassurance that all their nighttime terrors are real and all their most fantastic dreams will come true, just as soon as their hearts stop beating.

Such people always dismiss Richard Dawkins as dogmatic, because of his irritating habit of insisting that some things are fact and some are fiction, and that some theories can withstand scientific testing and some cannot. It is perfectly reasonable for people to lament the death of God. I miss my late parents but my regret cannot breathe life back into their remains.

What is unreasonable is for people who describe themselves as philosophers to deal with their regret by ceaselessly shifting the ground of their argument on to the treacherous bog of sentimentality and fairy tales.

Joe and Richard can believe in their fashionably elusive deity if they want, but they should allow atheists in turn their right to prefer knowledge to faith and reason to waffle.

God save us all from people who encourage us to believe in lies. Oh, wait. No. He can’t do that. Can he? Apparently not. Yours, etc,


Sion Hill,

Rock Road,

Sir, – Arlene Harris (Health & Family, April 30th) highlighted the vital role of informal caregivers in looking after family members with special needs and elderly relatives. Data from the Growing up in Ireland study were cited that support the case that there is an increased risk of psychological morbidity among such caregivers. Evidence is also emerging that the chronic stress associated with caregiving may have an impact on caregivers’ cognitive functioning.

A new study is under way here in the NEIL (NeuroEnhancement for Independent Lives) programme at Trinity College Dublin that examines the link between stress and brain health in dementia caregivers. The aim of this research is to understand the impact of providing dementia care on caregivers’ wellbeing and to identify factors that could help to promote caregivers’ health. We are in the process of recruiting 300 people who are over the age of 50 and providing care at home for their spouse or partner with dementia to take part in the study. By understanding the effects of caregiving on cognitive functioning, we hope to develop interventions that will help to protect the health of the caregiver and, as a result, also have a beneficial effect on the quality of life of the person with dementia.

There are currently 41,740 people living with dementia in Ireland and this figure is expected to rise to 140,000 in 2041. Informal caregiving represents a vital and invaluable resource that is associated with better quality of life and positive health outcomes for the person with dementia. However, the current heavy reliance on informal caregivers as the main providers of dementia care will only remain feasible as long as the health and wellbeing of the caregiver is preserved. See Yours, etc,


NEIL Programme,

Trinity College,

Dublin 2

Sir, – It was heartening to read Brian Keane’s article about how he has found peace and joy in following the precepts of Buddhism and the practise of mindfulness.

Having worked in Asia for 11 years, I have learned a lot from my Buddhist friends and from our common search for truth and our struggle to be compassionate and loving, especially to those who are suffering and struggling in life. I also try to live in a mindful way: in our diocese in Hsinchu, Taiwan, we had a saying “The present is a present.”

I was therefore dissappointed to read Brian summing up Christianity in these words: “Christianity gives all power and responsibility to an external figure like a child does to a parent. And Buddhism reclaims that power and responsibility.”

At the heart of Christian anthropology is the idea that we have free will and that we have to take responsibility for our lives and actions. As Christians we are invited and challenged to choose the Gospel values of love, compassion, service, justice and forgiveness. Sometimes these choices are not easy and take a lot of courage and sacrifice.

The Gospels are full of references to how we will be judged on the basis of our actions – Chapter 25 of St Matthew’s Gospel clearly states that our Christian life is one of service and love, especially to the poor and marginalised: “When I was hungry you gave me to eat, When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me etc.”

In the parable of the Good Samaritan the last sentence of Jesus to the lawyer was “Go and do the same yourself.” As I understand it, the heart of the Christian message is one of love in action. As Christians we are responsible for the choices we make and how we live out our vocation to love. Yours, etc,


St Ronan’s,


Sir, – Having recently had the dubious privilege of scrolling down the comments stream of a report in of an incident I’d been involved in, I found myself sickened by abusive comments about a good friend of mine.

The “gaping internet-shaped hole in the fractured landscape of Irish journalism regulation” referred to by Harry Browne (Letters, April 29th) suddenly felt more like a strange vortex that can suck a person’s good name and dignity into the sewer of an unmoderated comment stream.

The comments policy reads: “While we do not and cannot review every comment …” This is less a statment of fact than the articulation of a time- and money-saving policy.

What I am saying is that these internet comment streams should be moderated in real time in the same way as Joe Duffy moderates Liveline; in’s case, this would mean comments being reviewed before being published. The current legislative dispensation in respect of unmoderated comment streams is scarcely worthy of the term regulation at all, never mind light regulation and sadly, we all know where that got us. Yours, etc,


Bayview Avenue,

North Strand,

Sir, – Like James Moran (May 3rd) and Christopher Sands (April 30th) I am a member of the Labour Party, but unlike my comrades I am making no attempt to defend the austerity policies imposed by this Fine Gael-led government.

In my view, to ask for Labour votes on the basis that “we had to trim our sails” or that “you have to cut where the big spend is” is a one-way ticket to a well-deserved electoral meltdown.

When I am canvassing, I am happy to ask for votes based firstly on the excellent record of our city councillors, and secondly, on the appalling vista of a Fianna Fail-controlled city council.

Come the next general election however, I will have nothing to say to voters, unless Labour have by then made a much bigger impact than we so far have on the economic policies and priorities of this government. Yours, etc,


Upper Rathmines Road,

Dublin 6

Sir, – In response to Neil Jordan’s somewhat presumptuous letter regarding not wishing to have an Irish naval vessel named after him or his fellow artists may I point out a couple of things? Firstly, Ireland is a neutral nation and therefore these vessels would not be used in an aggressive way. They will in fact only be used in a defensive, protective manner, a perfectly acceptable and indeed laudable role I would have thought.

Secondly , while Mr Jordan is indeed talented and I have enjoyed his work, I am struggling to identify any current Irish artists, as talented as they undoubtedly are, who would stand comparison to Joyce and Beckett.

Finally, may I say – as an Anglo-Irishman who holds an Irish passport and is proud of his Irish blood – that if future naming of these vessels becomes a controversial problem I wish to place on record that I would have no objections whatsoever in the powers that be calling one after me. Yours, etc,


School Lane,


Sir – Ben Eustace and John Browne (Letters, May 2nd.) are correct. Spending on cigarettes is a discretionary matter. However, as a non-smoker I am compelled to pay for the consequences of the smoking habits of others.

The cost to the health system, according to figures quoted by the Department of Health, is €1 billion per annum — many multiples of the income to RTÉ of the licence fee.

I suppose in the type of free market on which they seem so keen smokers will pay for the full cost, or failing that I will get a tax rebate from the health budget. Yours, etc,



Merrion Road ,

Dublin 4

Sir, – In an interview with Séan O Rourke on RTÉ radio on Friday morning (May 2nd), Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took pains to avoid answering a direct and straight question: “Do you believe in hell?” At the third time of asking, he conceded that he believed “in the possibility of hell”, and that’s as concrete as he would go on it. I was quite taken aback at such a lack of clarity on what is one of the basics of the Christian faith. There is no uncertainty in the Bible on the reality and existence of hell and in the New Testament Jesus Christ refers to it on more than a few occasions with a direct clarity and warning.

It seems that the archbishop is more concerned with saving the institution of the Catholic Church than with saving souls, for if he truly cared for the latter his words on such a crucial topic as eternity and hell would echo more closely those of Jesus Christ and the apostles, who warned of the reality of hell and the hope of the Gospel message which has at its centre the death of Jesus for the atonement of the sins of the world and through that death, eternal life in heaven for all who believe. Yours, etc,




Co Cork

Sir, – The banning of e-cigarettes and the practice of “vaping” by the HSE and other bodies (Report, April 25th) is a symptom of our current dystopia, where we seem to combine the social control of the failed communist system and the economic anarchy of cannibalistic capitalism.

We now have the worst of both systems, having neither the social protection of communism nor the wealth-generating capability of healthy capitalism. Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,


Co Dublin

Sir , – So bookseller Edward Tobin found the food in 1970s Spain dull (Obituaries, May 3rd). He was not alone. Around that time a family I knew used to pack Lyons tea, white sliced bread and rashers and sausages when going on Spanish holidays. “We have to,” one of them told me. “The Spanish food is s***e.” Yours, etc,


Seafield Court,


Co Dublin

Irish Independent:

Letters to the Editor – Published 05 May 2014 02:30 AM

* Kudos for Susan Denham, the Chief Justice of Ireland, for illuminating the roles and responsibilities of inclusive, pluralistic and independent media, not only in ensuring accountability, transparency and the supremacy of law but also in shaping public opinion and advancing public policy agendas.

Also in this section

We must face the music

Time to muzzle the dogs of war

On a power trip

Such a role could not be more prominent than the role of media in facilitating the exchange of ideas and intermingling of critical thoughts for the betterment and advancement of the human race.

In summary, it is all about humanity’s progress and consciousness to tame disappointments, failures and change course.

The latest World Health Organisation report on maternity and children’s health has alluded to the fact that social media has revolutionised our practices and democratised policy debates through the dissemination of health information across the entire populace to unprecedented levels of accessibility which was unknown in the past.

The contagious power of media has given hope for a more meaningful data-sharing and far-reaching translation of research innovations and knowledge regarding public health issues such as infections, vaccinations, immunisation and other vital health information.

This is the quiet revolution happening in deliberative democracies where the multiplicity of voices, views, pictures, facts, experts, researchers, citizens and policy- makers that pluralistic societies encompass, become not only fairly represented but genuinely engaged in the ongoing debates/discussions of the day.




* In his letter (‘Learn Private Sector Lesson’, April 30 ) Paul O’Sullivan launches a tirade against teachers. In comparison to them, he states that he has less than two weeks holidays a year, no pension and no guaranteed employment.

While he has no empathy with teachers, I would be worried if 70pc of the workforce were subject to the draconian conditions of employment he describes.

Rather than attacking other workers who have better terms and conditions of employment, his time might be better spent organising his fellow workers into a trade union.

His letter highlights the harsh reality for many Irish workers. It would be interesting and useful if the Irish Independent concentrated a bit more on how badly many private-sector workers are treated, rather than trying to create a false divide between private and public sector workers.




* How right Peter Howick is when he states in Irish independent’s ‘Weekend Review’ of how great a year 1971 was for classic rock music. To me, it seemed the stars were perfectly aligned and even the single 45s were exceptional.

‘Who Will Stop The Rain’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival and ‘He’s Gonna Step on You Again’ by John Kongos were only two of hundreds of brilliant 45s released in 1971.

What are the chances of those halcyon days for rock music ever returning in my lifetime?

Don’t bet on it!




* Did God make man or man make God it is often asked. But I think it is both. God allows man to make God and to fill God up with the good or bad desires in man’s heart. If man fills God up with love, kindness and self- control, then people will have a long lasting reward.

But if people choosing power, money or high status seek to put into God, then these things will eventually run out and leave people empty- handed. So, God exists in so far as what you put into him.




* As a former trade union member I wonder whatever happened to the trade union movement. It seems to have lost all mobility, whether in advancing the rights of workers or defending the living standards of its members. I recently passed Liberty Hall and hanging from the building is a poster of Emer Costello MEP that covers at least one-third of the building.

Now, I ponder the question, is SIPTU now acting as an agent for the Labour Party or does it have any interest in the hardship being enforced on ordinary people, such as property taxes and water charges?

It is sad to see trade union involvement in political circles that undermines the living standards of those they are paid to protect. I really don’t think collusion in politics is a formula that enhances their so-called ideals.

Just this year the pension age was increased to 66 and the transition pension of 65 abolished and not a murmur from the trade union establishment.

I think most reasonable-minded people want to see their living standards protected. This should be the reward of trade union membership.

To date, I believe they have failed and it is inevitable their demise will come at their own hand.




* I note with interest that the number of non-aligned candidates contesting the local elections now exceeds the number of Fine Gael candidates.




* P McDonagh and Killian Foley-Walsh seem to have taken issue with Paddy O’Brien’s “God-slamming” letter and the “typical self-assuredness” with which he expressed his atheistic views.

Is this not the same self-assuredness that is so admired when someone is described as being a person of great faith?

Paddy was simply expressing his opinion in an intelligent and articulate manner; he was not slamming God or being disrespectful in any way. This indignant and intolerant reaction to Paddy’s opinion has no place in this increasingly secular society. I would suggest those upset would do well to re-read Paddy O’Brien’s letter and take a lesson on how to make a point without being disrespectful.




* “Honohan warns on deflation risk” proclaims a bold headline in the Irish Independent’s Business Section (May 1). Quantitative easing is one policy option cited that may be employed to reduce the risk of deflation.

If quantitative easing (in layman’s terms, printing money) becomes a policy choice, I suggest that tearing up that infamous promissory note that Mr Honohan is nursing in his Central Bank vault will do nicely for Ireland’s share in printing money.

By my calculation, retiring the note would raise the money supply (M3) of the eurozone by a mere 0.00025pc, a figure that will be lost in the rounding up. Subtract the few billion Sean Citizen has already scrimped and saved to pay off unknown bondholders, and the effect on M3 is even less.

Let’s be creative Mr Honohan and in the process give the long-suffering Irish citizens a break.


Irish Independent


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