14 May2014 Shona

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate Helping the Health Service Priceless

Knock wall down upstairs, Shona, Tracy

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins just by a few pointsperhaps I’ll win tomorrow.


Professor Howard Erskine-Hill – obituary

Professor Howard Erskine-Hill was a literary scholar who championed Pope but derided Jacques Derrida and examined the notion of ‘the ideal republic’

Professor Howard Erskine-Hill, English Literature, Cambridge University

Professor Howard Erskine-Hill

6:57PM BST 13 May 2014


Professor Howard Erskine-Hill, who has died aged 77, was a literary scholar who during his three decades at Cambridge revolutionised the critical approach to Alexander Pope ; in 1992 he led a campaign against the university’s decision to award an honorary degree to the bafflingly complex philosopher Jacques Derrida.

Erskine-Hill wrote his thesis at Nottingham University on “Tradition and Affinity” in the work of Pope, and the poet would remain the cornerstone of his work. From 1960 to 1969 he taught at Swansea, thereafter moving to Jesus College, Cambridge. There he published his first book, The Social Milieu of Alexander Pope (1975), which redefined the relationship between the poetry and its historical context.

Starting from the observation that “a literary artist, like any other man, lives in a shared world,” Erskine-Hill described six historical figures either featured in Pope’s work or whom the poet knew well; he analyses Pope’s work in the light of that knowledge, unlocking the allusive poetry with rigorous clarity. The book received glowing reviews.

His other major work was The Augustan Idea in English Literature (1983), published three years after he had moved from Jesus to Pembroke College, and two years before he was elected a fellow of the British Academy. The Augustan Idea explores how writers from Shakespeare and Jonson to Dryden and Pope used the model of the Emperor Augustus to laud or criticise the political establishment. In opposition to scholars such as Howard Weinbrot, Erskine-Hill mounted a qualified defence of the notion that Augustus was viewed by some poets as presiding over an ideal republic.

Though widely praised, The Augustan Idea received a hostile review from Frank Kermode, a former colleague. Kermode was irritated by a passage in the introduction affirming the author’s commitment to “the principle of truth”, as against “subjective myth in the guise of criticism”. This was a direct attack on the new critical approaches Kermode had encouraged while at Cambridge.

This war of theory then became as vicious as anything from Swift’s time when, in 1992, Cambridge proposed Derrida for an honorary degree. Such was the opposition that the decision was, highly unusually, put to a ballot. Erskine-Hill argued that Derrida’s scepticism about truth undermined the basis of scholarship. Somewhat dramatically, he claimed the award would be “symbolic suicide”. In the end Derrida got his degree by 336 to 204 votes.

Howard Henry Erskine-Hill was born in Wakefield on June 19 1936. He attended Ashville College in Harrogate, a Methodist boarding school. His parents’ marriage broke down during the war and his father Henry, a Scottish architect, started a family with another woman. This abandonment had a profound effect on Erskine-Hill’s attitude to personal relationships: he would remain studiedly single all his life.

After the divorce he became deeply protective of his mother. While at Nottingham, he dipped into his student grant and sent her 10 shillings a week, a considerable sum. She moved in with him in Cambridge, and they lived together until her death in 1991.

In 1994 Erskine-Hill was appointed Professor of Literary History, a position he held until his retirement in 2003. He published a highly regarded student’s guide to Gulliver’s Travels in 1993, and in 1996 produced two books on English poetry and politics ranging from Shakespeare to Wordsworth.

In later life he got to know his father’s two children from his second marriage. He grew especially close to Diane, his deaf half-sister, with whom he went on walking holidays to Scotland to see the buildings their father had designed. She died last November, at around the same time his health began to deteriorate.

As a student Erskine-Hill was a Left-wing atheist. But during his teaching career at Cambridge he moved to the Right and, in his last years, his antipathy to the EU led him to embrace UKIP. His support for Amnesty International, though, remained consistent until his death. As his politics changed so did his religious beliefs. He started slipping into Evensong at Pembroke Chapel and rediscovered his faith. When the Church of England began ordaining women in 1994 he became – like his hero Pope – a Roman Catholic. He wrote religious poetry and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He loved singing plainchant and preferred the Latin Mass.

He also became a passionate Jacobite, and collected prints, coins and medals related to the cause. He threw merry suppers where he sang “When the King Comes Home in Peace Again”, and observed the Feast of Charles, King and Martyr, on January 30. While some thought this a harmless eccentricity, others felt his work on the 18th-century was compromised by his bias. In any case, he expressed himself reconciled to the Queen.

He could be an intimidating admissions interviewer. One student who boasted about his knowledge of Pope was, in his own words, “skewered and toasted like a marshmallow”; another was pulled up for winging a discussion of Gulliver’s Travels having only read the famous bits. Yet many of these students were grateful for Erskine-Hill’s stringency and grew protectively fond of him.

Walking through college he greeted students with a shy smile and stiff salute. In supervisions, however, Erskine-Hill quickly relaxed once the sherry was passed round – and there was always plenty of sherry. Upon graduation he sent each student a hand-written congratulatory letter. Though never one for acolytes, he proudly showed off a shelf of books written by his former students. In 2008 two of them, Richard McCabe and David Womersley, edited a Festschrift in his honour entitled Literary Milieux.

His retirement project was a biography of Pope. The book was much delayed due to ill health and an unwillingness to use computers. However the typescript is all but complete and will be published posthumously. It will likely to crown a career that aimed to live up to Pope’s ideal as described in An Essay on Criticism: “The generous critic fanned the poet’s fire, / And taught the world with reason to admire.”

Professor Howard Erskine-Hill, born June 19 1936, died February 26 2014


As schools officer for Granada Television in 1962, I remember Antony Hopkins being involved in the series The Art of Music. Schoolchildren with him in the studio in Manchester composed tunes, and he improvised on them on the piano. Eventually he orchestrated them so that the Hallé Orchestra could play the finished result in front of the children. The 13 programmes were broadcast across the ITV network and were considered to be a great success.

Polly Toynbee is right that profiteering from residential childcare is at the extreme end of outsourcing (Now troubled children are an investment opportunity, 13 May). It is also the at sharp end of social inequalities.

Proportionately, 12 times more children in the most disadvantaged 10% of small neighbourhoods are being looked after in care than in the most advantaged 10%. As social inequality in childhood is predicted to grow, this gap will grow also. Inequalities in child safeguarding interventions are not just about parenting skills, just as health inequalities are not just about lifestyle choices. Care-home profits reflect the human casualties of an unequal society.
Paul Bywaters
Professor of social work, Coventry University

• I am sure I cannot be the only one who contrasted Norman Lamb’s response to the exposure of abuse in an Essex residential care home – when he suggested greater use of CCTV monitoring – with that of Steve Mort, head of Corpus Christi Catholic college in Leeds, where the fatal stabbing of Ann Maguire occurred, who rejected calls for metal detectors in schools (Report, 29 April).

Lamb, the minister for care and support, stressed there were risks in relying solely upon CCTV to guard against abuses. He said relying on this measure to develop a good culture and compassionate care could fail completely.

Nevertheless, the emphasis upon either surveillance or trust-based approaches is significant. Strategies based on surveillance reinforce unhelpful power differentials and are often applied when trust has not been established or has broken down. Safe and compassionate spaces need to be co-created with mutual respect and cooperation (Steve Onyet, among others, has written and spoken about this.) Psychologically healthy environments help people to become and give the best they can. We have a choice.
Gillian Bowden
Clinical psychologist, Norfolk

Aneurin Bevan, the health minister, visits Park hospital, Davyhulme, Manchester, for the official launch of the NHS in June 1948. Photograph: PA

Dr Nick Hayes writes in praise of the voluntary system that helped to support many of the large acute hospitals providing care in the period before the introduction of the NHS (Letters, 9 May). He suggests that “a weekly contribution of 2d or 3d per week” would provide patients with the cover they needed for treatment in the voluntary hospital. Having worked as a house surgeon in two such hospitals before July 1948, I found things very different. First, the weekly contributions were nearer 5 shillings and, second, the lady almoner’s department was the rigorous gatekeeper, guarding access to the system. Patients were means-tested to make sure that they qualified for hospital treatment and were constantly being approached, or even badgered, to see if they could, or would, pay more.

Dr Hayes admits that care for the old, the chronic sick and mentally ill patients was patchy; in many such hospitals, it was virtually nonexistent. He also says that contemporary surveys and polls indicated that the majority of the population were largely satisfied with this system, and this is undoubtedly true, but there is presently a wealth of evidence to indicate that people are just as satisfied with the service provided by the NHS, and probably more so. From my experience of the United States and many parts of Europe, they are largely correct in this belief.
Keith Anderson

• I was born in the 1920s and am old enough to remember the health provision before the days of the NHS. It was minimal for panel patients, and the medication availablefor most ailments was a bottle of the “mixture” or the “liniment” in a clear blue, brown or green bottle, depending on the problem. It was made up at the surgery by the doctor or an employee from a row of unchanging bottles and jars on the doctor’s shelves. They did their best but were totally restricted by lack of funds.Of course it could be covered by a few pence a week and charity, but the expectation of life for the poorest was much modified as a result.

The NHS was a wonderful thing because it belonged to us. It was not cold as charity but was a national insurance-based organisation. We all paid for it from our earnings when we were young, working and fit, and we could all count on it when we needed it.

If the funding is removed from this and drawn from income tax, it can be avoided by the rich, along with so many other taxes. Money for health will be viewed as charity that should only go to the deserving poor.

There should be no ceiling on national insurance payments; they should be deducted at source from all salaries, and the money should be kept for a purpose separate from income tax. If more is needed, the charge should be increased and paid by everyone in proportion to their pay.

The reason the wealthy who govern us want to privatise everything is so they can reduce the service to the poor and buy the best for themselves as happens in the US.
Deirdre Davey

• I was born in 1936. My father had been unemployed for seven years, and my mother needed a caesarian section. My father was called to see the almoner and asked if he could afford to pay the fee. Obviously, he could not so had to approach his father to borrow the money – humiliating for a man aged 37. Fortunately, his father stumped up; I might not be here today had he not. I still have the invoice “for maternity services” in the sum of 2.5 guineas.
Margaret Gooch

Henry McDonald (Labour rejects Peter Hain’s call for Troubles amnesty,, 12 May) must know, or might have checked with me, that I have never supported an amnesty, let alone a “blanket” one for Troubles-related crimes. Labour‘s shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Ivan Lewis heard me reject an amnesty on the record in parliament. As the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland who helped negotiate the historic 2007 settlement, I believe it is no answer to pursue prosecutions for Troubles-related crimes, especially when in 90% of these cases going back 40 years or more, the evidence cannot be retrieved. That means victims need redress and justice in another way, as suggested by the 2009 Eames-Bradley and 2013 Richard Haass reports, joined by Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin. Northern Ireland’s politicians need to have the courage to agree a new approach and move on from the past of horror and evil.
Peter Hain MP
Labour, Neath

Your columns regularly call for Labour to produce a manifesto, or at least some statements of intent. If Mr Miliband glanced at your readers’ letters, he would find excellent material for a programme of reform: increasing inequality of wealth and its consequences (7 and 8 May); the case against zero-hours contracts (12 May); the case for rent controls (7 May); the case for local authority management of schools (6 May); the case for public ownership – of railways (6 May), of the NHS (9 May), of the Land Registry (8 May). All this within a week.
Jim Dening
Ledbury, Herefordshire

• I’m always impressed by the incisive quality of many of your letters. So often I think to myself something like “Yes, that’s what should be done” and I make a mental note to add it to my own wishlist. With the general election coming up, wouldn’t it be good to collect all your readers’ brilliant ideas, put them on your website and ask people to vote on them so we can end up with a Guardian readers’ manifesto?
Peter Hanson

• The prime minister doesn’t think Gary Barlow should be deprived of his OBE “because of his charity work” (Report, 13 May). Maybe if Mr Barlow and the hundreds like him paid their full taxes there wouldn’t be a need for so much charity.
BJ Cairns

• Thank you, Mark Cocker (Country diary, 12 May), for highlighting the insect/pesticide issue. Every year I wait in trepidation for the arrival of the swifts who nest under our eaves and every year there seem to be fewer. They are the most wonderous, joyful creatures and they lift my heart as they scream overhead. If this world is going to survive, my grandchildren must be able to sit, as I am doing now, and watch the swifts over the river.
Margaret Hunt

• My husband is over 70 and many of our closet friends are homosexual (Most over-70s uncomfortable about gay people – Farage, 12 May).
Spencer Butler
Bridport, Dorset

• If Scotland votes yes and Farage persuades the rest of the UK to vote no in 2017, could we be faced in 2022 with the first Labour prime minister of Scotland seeking a referendum to rejoin the UK and thereby leave the EU?
John Kinder

Jealous of the US? Is John Graham kidding (Reply, 2 May)? I am a US citizen living in the US, and I would love to move to Europe.

What is to be jealous of here? We have one of the most unequal societies in the world; our healthcare is the most expensive and one the most inefficient in the world; the quality of our education is on a par with third-world countries as Republicans continue to eviscerate it through lack of funding.

We have no regulations on Wall Street; the US is one of the most corrupt countries, with legalised bribery ubiquitous; racism is rampant; guns sales are unregulated and are rapidly increasing (one can even purchase machine guns and hand grenades!).

We have a president who undercuts jobs and wages by making corporate trade deals; the internet is on the verge of losing its neutrality; whistleblowers are sent to prison and the media is controlled by corporations; our infrastructure is a disaster, again, through Republican efforts to block any funding; and the president talks about addressing climate change while encouraging the development of fossil fuels.

Who would want to live here?
Thomas Hohn
Ithaca, New York, US

Blair shows his ignorance

I would have passed over Tony Blair’s call for jihad against Islamic extremism as nonsense, but Patrick Wintour gives it a semblance of authority (2 May). In what you call his “keynote speech … Blair urged a wilfully blind west to realise it must take sides and if necessary make common cause with Russia and China to counter the Islamic extremism that lies at the root of all failures of western intervention”.

In echoing this rubbish, you help turn truth on its head: the rise and spread of Islamic extremism was the product of western intervention. We armed and fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan as once we armed Saudi bigots in Arabia,and blocked popular nationalism in Iran.

Wherever the west has most vigorously intervened in Muslim countries, the dragons teeth of Islamic insurgency have taken root.

What Blair ignores is the unfinished history of enlightenment in Europe and the west. Such secular democracy and religious tolerance as we now enjoy was not achieved by foreign, let alone military, intervention, but by often bloody argument among ourselves.
Greg Wilkinson
Swansea, UK

Scottish independence

Re: the view from England on independence for Scotland (2 May). Scotland will not separate for certain obvious reasons. First, as a part of the UK, a Scot living in Scotland can become the prime minister of Britain, but an Englishman living in England cannot become the first minister of Scotland.

Second, as an independent state, Scotland will be obliged to have its own army, navy and air force and its own embassies abroad. This will cause heavy financial strain.

Third, the breakup of the UK will make both England and Scotland less attractive for foreign investors. For these obvious reasons, I think the voters in Scotland will reject separation out of hand.

Recently, voters in French-speaking Quebec in Canada rejected the separatist Parti Québécois and elected the federalist Liberal party, despite the fact that the francophones have genuine concerns about the future of the French-language and culture in an overwhelmingly English-speaking continent. Most francophones have come to realise that they can protect their French language and culture without separating from Canada. The same applies to Scotland.
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada

Worshipping capitalism

A thank you to Guardian Weekly for following up on the aftermath and compensation (or lack thereof) for the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster (2 May).

The Communist Manifesto had it right: “The cheap prices of [the bourgeoisie’s] commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls” (for production as well as for consumption). Capitalism and immiseration go hand in hand.

As long as the Moloch of capitalism is worshipped, fresh sacrifices will be required. Will the sweat shops of the 22nd century continue in Lagos? Hanoi? Offshore?
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US

Devon was its own world

Beyond the Cornish pasty by Michael Morpurgo evoked many memories (2 May). I grew up in a north Devon village on the coast with Lundy Island in full view. Cornwall was a foreign country. They even put their jam and cream on a cutround in opposite sequence.

Broad Devonian was a language with its own complexities. Before the second world war most Devonians seldom ventured away from their villages and spoke in dialect. Outsiders were completely bewildered trying to translate the ordinary conversation.

Children of my generation were the first to learn normal English. Radio – the BBC – was a teacher of the universal national language. Come the war there was a vast upheaval. The Devonians learnt to cope with Scots and Scousers, Cockney and Geordie, and many more.

To add to the melting pot, vast numbers of Americans came from 1942 to 1944. And the airfield nearby was home to a mix of pilots and ground crew from Poland, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. The place that prime minister Neville Chamberlain described as “a far away country” was one whose people we knew little about.

By comparison, Cornwall was not subjected to the influences of a myriad of “vurriners” talking their own brand of English. No wonder the Devonian dialect is now the province of a select few linguistic specialists.
Tony Fletcher
Mandurah, Western Australia

• Michael Morpurgo states: “The trouble for Devon, when it comes to identity, is maybe that we are not far-flung enough” and cites Thomas Hardy’s “old association” of people and landscape.

Well, I lived in Lulworth and Max Gate, Dorchester, for 20 years and travelled the county studying Hardy’s works and places, and am convinced Dorset has no problem with a sense of identity.
Edward Black
Pauanui, New Zealand

Proofreading is essential

I bet Hadley Freeman had someone glance through her piece, just in case; she’d never live it down (9 May)! It’s impossible to proof-read our own stuff, try as we may. The most eagle-eyed writer drops random howlers to the delight of the smug.

How right she is. Grammar, like spelling, is now a discipline, refined and defined by its universality, no longer an arbitrary Elizabethan freestyle. We can’t all be proficient, but we should and can be readable, by sharing the manuscript with others, humbly, for correction and advice, before publication, or emailing the desired one. Anger and excuses are childish.

Have pity and good-humoured forbearance, though, on those bright, intelligent, interesting but dyslexic ones who write with the wild abandon of a dropped tray of martinis.
Andy Jenner
Nudgee, Queensland, Australia

Words are very important …

As George Orwell famously said: “Words are important.” The rationale for selling the personal data of British citizens is contained in one word: “customers” (25 April). HMRC thinks citizens and taxpayers are “customers”. That sort of thinking transforms citizens into commodities that can now be legitimately used to create another income stream for a particular business.

It is all part of a regrettable trend to use the language of private enterprise as though it were entirely applicable to government activity. We’ve certainly seen this phenomenon in Canada, and it appears that we are not alone in our folly.
Peter Kagis
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

… And so are captions

Accompanying Chris Brown’s review of You Are Here (2 May), is an image that is labelled, “No place to hide … a vintage compass on an ancient world map”.

The compass may be vintage, but even that may be cast into suspicion by the fact that what you depict is not an “ancient world map” but a detail of a late 18th or early 19th century chart of the area just to the west of Vinyardhaven, Maine. I spent much of my youth sailing the waters of surrounding Hurricane Island and Greene’s Island (as it is now known).

This sort of careless captioning of an image supposedly representative of the article casts the entire pairing of images in the Guardian Weekly into an uncomfortable light. Image department, take note!
Anthony H O’Malley
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


• I thought the whole point of drones is that they are pilot-less (Shortcuts, 9 May). Has nobody else noticed the absurdity of a “pilot project” for drones?
Ted Webber
Buderim, Queensland, Australia

• I am amazed at the naivety of Steven Kleinman in not understanding the CIA’s James Mitchell’s continuing support of torture (25 April). Samuel Johnson summed up Mitchell’s attitude in 1775: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Jim Burns
Jesmond, NSW, Australia


Nigel Farage complains that while he is willing to engage in argument, his opponents are engaging in orchestrated violence against him. As someone who was manhandled out of the Ukip public meeting in central London last Wednesday after heckling one of the speakers, I take issue with this.

Since there was apparently no room for discussion from the floor, how else could a challenge to Ukip’s toxic, scapegoating views be made? Heckling is a long-established democratic tradition and to equate it with violence is ludicrous.

Nigel Farage and Ukip talk a lot about free speech. They certainly receive more than their fair share of it. They have received remarkable levels of media coverage.

In reality, what Farage and Ukip object to is being challenged over their views at all. They expect a free ride and wish to intimidate their opponents. We won’t shut up.

Mark L Thomas, Stand Up To Ukip, London N16 

It would be all very well for Aidan Harrison to berate Ukip for its irrationality (letter, 10 May) if he also berated the main political parties for the same.

A significant section of the Conservative Party shares Ukip’s denial of climate science, and the complex tax system supported by the three main parties that has allowed companies such as Amazon to pay little or no tax is wholly irrational.

Peter Moyes, Brightlingsea, Essex

My wife’s 86-year-old aunt turned to me, knowing of my support for Ukip, and said: “I received my postal ballot form today and I see there are two Independence parties.”

She had been confused by the inclusion of the clumsily but deliberately named An Independence for Europe. I thought I’d mention this just to let Mike Nattrass and his fellow party members know that their apparent plan to confuse voters has met with some success.

The Electoral Commission can decide to refuse to register a new political party if its name is confusingly similar to another party’s. One has to wonder why this did not happen in this case.

Tom Trust, Redruth, Cornwall

There is more than a whiff of hypocrisy about a party that celebrates freedom of speech when a member talks about “bongo bongo land” and labels women as “sluts”, but as soon as it disagrees with a negative comment about it, it calls the police (Ukip complaint prompts police to question Green blogger”, 13 May).

It speaks volumes that this party can pick and choose when the free speech argument can be used, and we should be very wary of any political party that thinks it could possibly be right to use uniformed officers to crush dissent.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex

Nigel Farage and Ukip state that over 75 per cent of our laws are made by the EU. Are not these laws passed by the European Parliament whose members happen to include English MEPs one of whom is Nigel Farage?

So it is not as if we don’t have a say in the framing and ratification of these laws. Perhaps he should do a better job at arguing his case if he believes they are poor laws.

Ken Osborne, Hayling Island, Hampshire

In the run-up to local and national elections in Holland large roadside boards appear plastered with the posters and slogans of competing parties.

I note that of the 20 different parties displaying their opinions, 50 per cent were anti-EU. Of these most were demanding that the Netherlands withdraw from EU membership.

As for the remaining 10 parties – almost all acknowledged anti-EU sentiment by emphasising that they placed Dutch interests above those of Brussels. This in a country which at one time was uncritically besotted with the vision of a united  liberal Europe.

Adrian Marlowe, The Hague, Netherlands

Torture is different in the real world

It is sad news that 44 per cent of Britons reject the idea of a global ban on torture (“‘24’ effect: a third of Britons think torture can be justified”, 13 May)

In fictional dramas such as 24, as in many books, films and video games, it is easy to set up a scenario in which cruelty to an enemy is necessary in order to save the lives of innocents.

First, we should realise that such situations almost never occur in real life. Even the notorious waterboarding of terror suspects by US personnel was found to produce little or no lifesaving information that was not already obtained by normal interrogation.

What it did do was erode the standards of treatment of prisoners, which had been unquestioned for decades in the armed forces.

Second, we need to look at how torture is actually used in those many countries where it is routinely practised. It is not employed to save innocent lives. It is used by those in power to suppress dissent, to persecute minorities and to humiliate and terrify political opposition. There are no good reasons to oppose a ban.

Sue Gilmurray, Ely, Cambridgeshire

It is depressing that so many people support torture. Perhaps they mistakenly think that only the guilty are tortured. Maybe they should imagine themselves or their children or parents being tortured, when innocent; I wonder if they would then support the practice.

Peter Cave, London W1

let’s have more of the Edith Cavell spirit

The final episode of the BBC’s television series about volunteer nurses in the First World War chose to draw a parallel between one of the main characters in the drama and the real-life nurse Edith Cavell.

The Crimson Field has been described by critics as “fluffy”, a “period soap”, and an “opportunistic mishmash” of previous hit TV shows. So the reference to Edith Cavell may be aimed at offering some sort of “balance” by touching on the real-life courage and ultimate sacrifice of those involved in the war.

While the hospital sister in The Crimson Field faces execution by the British for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of her German fiancé, Edith Cavell was tried and executed for helping 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German-occupied Belgium.

The two “offences” sit worlds apart. But it is a pity that the courageous, caring exploits of Edith Cavell were largely overlooked by the producers. Instead, her inclusion in the storyline seemingly only serves to deliver an anti-war, anti-establishment message by one of the other characters saying there is nothing like an executed nurse to “reignite the fervour” and get everyone behind the war effort.

It was the outcry from the general public following Edith Cavell’s death that led to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust being set up in her memory and it continues to support retired and current nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in need today.

It is to be hoped that if a second series of The Crimson Field is commissioned, then the sense of duty, vocation and self-sacrifice shown by nurses such as Edith Cavell will be uppermost in future episodes.

Kate Tompkins, Chief Executive,, Cavell Nurses’ Trust , Redditch

First remove the beam from your own eye

I was amused to see that the Archbishop of Canterbury wishes to eliminate homophobia from church schools (“Welby condemns anti-gay bullying in schools”, 12 May).

He could start by getting rid of the verse in the Bible which states that people who commit homosexual acts should be put to death. While he’s at it, he should also get rid of the verses that relegate females to a lower status than men, as well as those that condone slavery, and those that indicate that the Earth and the universe are only a few thousand years old.

Not to mention the numerous passages where his deity comes across as nasty and vindictive.

Or he could just admit that he cherry-picks the bits of the Bible that fit in with his own opinions and ignores the bits that don’t.

David Love, Torquay

German or not, royals should stand down

John Dakin’s letter (13 May) saying that the royal family are not German may be true, but there is one inescapable fact with our royal family and that is that their claim to the throne is illegitimate.

They are descended from the Tudors via the Stuarts, and the Tudors are descended from the illegitimate Beaufort family which was John of Gaunt’s second family while still being married to Constanza.

When will the Windsors relinquish the throne and allow a legitimate heir to claim it?

J K Apps, Bury St Edmunds

This sounds like a standing joke

If it really is true that Network Rail’s proposed Northern Hub will “handle 700 more trains a year, carrying 44 million extra passengers” (“‘Oldest railway station in the world’ threatened by Network Rail plans”, 12 May), can I be guaranteed a seat?

John Driver, Abberley, Worcestershire


Sir, While I do not sympathise with Gary Barlow and other tax avoiders, should we not also be condemning the “creative” accountants who are paid to advise high-earners where to put their money (reports, May 12, 13). If Barlow and others are fined by the taxman, they should consider suing their advisors who led them into such activities.

Dr Alan Baum

Staplehurst, Kent

Sir, Gary Barlow is doing what all of us with offset mortgages are doing. They have no purpose other than avoiding tax. Venture Capital trusts anybody? What about family trusts to avoid inheritance tax? Not to mention many celebrities who avoid tax by simply not living here — some of them have knighthoods and you’re not asking for those back. Give him a break. At least he is nice to look at and writes brilliant songs.

Annabel Cartwright


Sir, No politician is daring to use
the E word about the scheme that Mr Barlow got embroiled in. “Aggressive avoidance” seems to be the gibberish of choice. Avoidance is legal — we all do it, with ISAs, pensions etc. We pay what we owe. When/if the line is judged as having been crossed from avoidance to evasion, then m’learned friends can hitch up their gowns and wigs and Mr Barlow can adopt the bread and water diet, not otherwise.

Return an OBE? When the duck house goes back, perhaps.

Tony Hale

Barnt Green, Worcs

Sir, I am delighted that the prime minister has clearly rebuked such overt tax avoidance. Leaving aside acceptable assurances on research and British jobs, I am surprised that he has equally unambiguously condemned Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca. The Treasury should not be allowed to prosper by Pfizer paying less tax in Britain than in other jurisdictions. Surely the government would not act in such a cynically hypocritical manner?

John Kennedy

Harpenden, Herts

Sir, HMRC is dysfunctional, unresponsive, and impossible to hold to account. It treats its captive customers with contempt and demands action from them within timescales and under evidential circumstances which it refuses to apply to itself.

The concept that this organisation will be able to raid private bank accounts in a manner which undermines centuries of established laws and liberties is enough to justify anybody seeking to put their funds beyond its extrajudicial reach, at least until a fair accounting can be made. Add to this the state’s record on wasting tax money, squeezing the earner, and raiding the prudent to subsidise the feckless, and I am sure as many people will raise a glass to Gary Barlow as will condemn him.

Victor Launert

Matlock Bath, Derbys

Sir, We may be annoyed with aggressive tax schemes that enable wealthy individuals to avoid tax thereby putting a greater burden on the rest of us but equally I’m sure all of us would like to pay the least tax possible. It seems unfair to demonise Barlow and his fellow Take That members when they only involve themselves in such schemes on the advice of their professional advisers. They are musicians not tax experts.

Gareth Tarr

Chertsey, Surrey

As a group, they are some of the most principled, personable, noble and public-spirited people I have ever met

Sir, Your leader “In Praise of Whistleblowers” (May, 7) rightly urged support for both a review of some past cases, both to address past injustice and to send out a message of encouragement to whistleblowers of the future.

However, having represented a number of whistleblowers over the past 20 years, I was struck by the implication of your suggestion that they “can be difficult people and uncomfortable colleagues. They may act from a number of motives, not all of them noble.” Although those statements are self-evidently true, in literal terms, they do not fairly reflect the whistleblowers whom I have met and for whom I have acted, many of them in the health sector. As a group, they have been some of the most sensible, principled, personable, noble and public-spirited people whom I have ever met.

Patrick Green, QC

London EC4

Roy Race of Melchester Rovers had an unfortunate habit of playing with his boots on the wrong feet

Sir, Giles Smith’s article (May 10) on Roy Race of Melchester Rovers was good, but neglected to mention his unfortunate habit of playing with his boots on the wrong feet, as illustrated. If only he could have remembered to check this before he went out I think his record would have been the equal of Dickie Ord’s, the Sunderland icon, who almost always remembered.

David Cousin

Abingdon, Oxon

Scots may yet rue the finality of the vote — and the lack of a chance to see the exact terms of the deal

Sir, With the referendum in Scotland barely four months away, and the polls showing a closer result than at one time seemed likely, there is one aspect of the process which has so far received almost no comment.

The referendum is very unusual in that the electorate is being asked to vote for or against independence with very few details of what a Yes vote will entail. This is the original “pig in a poke”. And if the Scots vote Yes, they will have given their politicians carte blanche to negotiate the best terms they can for the separation from the rest of the UK, but with no recourse and no ability to reject those terms if they turn out to be unfavourable. In a strange twist, if the Scottish electorate votes Yes, it is committed, and neither it nor its negotiators will subsequently have the power to say No if the terms of the separation are not acceptable.

This changes the negotiations after a Yes vote. With the Scots not able to walk away from the table and say, in effect, “If those are your final terms we reject them and choose not to exercise our right to leave the UK”, what incentive does Westminster have to concede anything it doesn’t want to?

Scots may yet rue the finality of the vote on September 18, and the lack of a chance to see the terms of the deal before they decide whether to accept them.

John Nugée

New Malden, Surrey


This bulldog will be banned from many beaches around Britain during the summer months  Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:58AM BST 13 May 2014

Comments114 Comments

SIR – We have just returned from a few days in the beautiful town of St Ives in Cornwall. It’s a friendly place, with wonderful views, restaurants and accommodation. Despite all this, we felt unwelcome, because we were dog-owners.

The local council at St Ives bans dogs from almost all its beaches from the Sunday before Easter until September 30. We appreciate that there are dog-owners who are irresponsible, but we certainly don’t fall into that category, and nor do the majority of dog-owners.

We would not think of returning to St Ives because of this. But what are the local dog owners to do? Many are unhappy about the situation. One elderly lady, who walked with the aid of a crutch, could not find an accessible beach on which to walk her two small dogs.

Of the two beaches we did find, one was very small, and you almost needed climbing gear to access it. The other was a long way from any practical parking.

Terri and Neil Burman
Medstead, Hampshire

SIR – David Lowe’s disgraceful treatment by the BBC is a reflection of the change that has happened to its local radio services over the past 20 years.

When BBC local radio began in the late Sixties, local contributors from the community, such as David Lowe, were the backbone of the station’s schedules. Programmes reflecting local music, the arts and leisure activities were presented by people who also had day jobs. Sadly, many of these people have been squeezed out of the schedules, often replaced by people muttering inane comments and pressing buttons to play music from the BBC computer system. There is a drift away from the localism that once underpinned BBC regional radio.

At a time when commercial radio has been reducing its regional focus, surely it’s time the BBC spent more on providing that very element that listeners want from local radio. The BBC should find local talent, use it and nurture it. And then treat it better than they have treated Mr Lowe.

Roy Corlett
Manager, BBC Radio Devon 1982-93
Southport, Lancashire

SIR – I thought that every radio show has a producer, whose job it is to come up with a running order. This means checking out every feature on the programme, including all music to be played. After all, you don’t want to play the amusing, if inappropriate, version of Living Next Door To Alice.

So why was the producer of the show not fired, instead of Mr Lowe?

Huw Beynon
Penybanc, Carmarthenshire

SIR – David Lowe is a much-loved DJ who has given many years’ service to BBC Radio Devon, and commands a loyal audience.

His faux pas was playing one recording which contained the “n-word”. For this he attracted one complaint – set this against the furore caused by Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and Jeremy Clarkson – and has been summarily discarded. Where is the BBC’s equal rights policy on this one?

Susie Coke-Woods
Taunton, Somerset

Testing times

SIR – Anne Longfield, the chief executive of 4Children, advocates assessing children at 11 years of age to determine if they need extra help.

This is too late to rectify poor attainment and it must be daunting, at least, for a child to be advanced to a large comprehensive if they cannot read properly, and are not sufficiently numerate. There should be tests in primary schools at nine years of age. This then leaves two years for the teachers, parents and pupil to work hard to get the child to the required standard, with the proviso that if that standard is not reached, the pupil does not progress to secondary level until it is achieved.

Teachers, parents and pupils would then have a real incentive to get the child to the correct standard.

Jennie Naylor
London SW20

The perfect cuppa

SIR – An American company is marketing a machine, with an £8,000 price tag, that is said to brew the perfect cup of tea.

But in America it is impossible to find a decent cup of tea. From diners to five-star hotels, when ordering a cup of tea you are presented with a cup of hot water with an unopened tea bag on the saucer.

Any attempt to explain to the server that in order to brew properly, the tea bag needs to be steeped in boiling water is met with a look of bemusement.

Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset

Abuse in schools

SIR – The historic abuse of children at some private schools is indeed shaming, but Ray McGovern, the chairman of the Boarding Schools Association, is wrong to suggest that it is limited to the Sixties and Seventies.

William Vahey, an American teacher exposed as a serial child molester, was abusing children until last year, and the recent suicide of Frances Andrade, who killed herself after giving evidence against a former music teacher, exemplifies the deep pain felt by victims in perpetuity. Just this week, I received a letter from the father of a recent abuse victim describing the hurt still felt as a result of the actions of the jailed paedophile Paul Woodward.

In too many cases, schools have been aware of suspicions and hesitated to act appropriately, with abusers occasionally being allowed to move schools without sanction. What is shameful is the obfuscation within the sector and government over new legislation requiring the mandatory reporting of child abuse suspicions – a loophole that only favours those who prey on our children.

Neil Roskilly
Chief Executive Officer, Independent Schools Association
Saffron Walden, Essex

Barefoot poet

SIR – As long-term advocates for change on critical issues surrounding disadvantaged children, we recently became aware of the poet Philip Wells, who is undertaking an epic 1,000-mile walk barefoot across Britain. His endeavour will raise awareness and funds for the billion barefoot children of the world living in chronic poverty, and the voiceless street children whose desperate needs are often overlooked.

Mr Wells’s “barefoot billion” campaign has already gone global, with more than 300 schools involved in over 50 countries.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Chair, All Party Group on Street Children

Sally Russell
Co-founder, Netmums

Marcus Lyon
Ambassador, Consortium for Street Children


SIR – Short men live longer? Maybe, but I am 83 and once stood 6ft 6in. Now, if I stretch out, I might be 6ft 4in. Perhaps we should conclude instead that old men grow shorter.

Maxwell Macfarlane
Southborough, Kent

Scottish, English, British – or all of the above?

SIR – Andrew H N Gray is uncertain as to his nationality and that of his brother. I think he is English by place of birth, but Scottish through his parentage, so has dual nationality. His brother is Scottish both by birthplace and parentage.

Residence in a country, for however long, does not change one’s nationality – unless of course one is a South African by birth who longs to play cricket for England.

However, in the context of the forthcoming referendum, both Mr Gray and his brother are clearly British, and I would hope they wish to remain so.

Martin Johnson
Pathhead, Midlothian

SIR – I have spent the past 25 years living in England and the previous 25 years in Scotland. I arrived in Scotland aged two, having been born in Malta to a Scottish father serving in the Royal Navy, and an English mother.

I always thought I was Scottish but I fear I no longer qualify according to the criteria laid down by Alex Salmond.

My sister, who has lived in Spain for the past 25 years, had the foresight to be born in Scotland, and therefore not only can she call herself Scottish, but her children will receive free university education in Scotland, unlike their cousins living in England.

Fiona Merchant
Thames Ditton, Surrey

SIR – I must agree with Mr Gray that he is Scottish. Since his parents are Scottish it follows that he must be Scottish, even if he was born in England. If a cat had kittens in an oven would you call them biscuits?

Dr Robert Hanson
Waterlooville, Hampshire

SIR – I have just received my postal voting form for the forthcoming European elections.

In the North West region, we have the choice of 11 parties covering 83 candidates. Of these, I recognise only one of the candidates’ names. As for the rest, I don’t know who they are, where they live, what they do and what they think. Election leaflets have been minimal.

My vote will have to be based on the party’s name and the little that I have read about its plans. We are encouraged to vote, but it is difficult to feel engaged when it all seems so remote and impersonal.

Malcolm Slee
Lytham, Lancashire

SIR – The impending EU elections will enable voters to register their anger and frustration over the failure of the main political parties to provide a referendum on EU membership. The Prime Minister says that he will allow us a say, once he has renegotiated our terms of membership, and only on condition that we re-elect him for five more years. Why not hold a referendum now, while he is still in power?

Politicians have allowed us to be sucked into the vortex of a federal European Union without mandate. They were only authorised to make us members of the Common Market. Let us hope that the electorate shows its displeasure on May 22.

Peter G Jones

SIR – David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate our membership of the EU.

But negotiations will be a conference with others with a view to compromise. What is left for us to give up in return for the repatriation of all the rights the British people want to recover?

John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

SIR – Your headline “Cameron refuses to bar EU workers” implies that the Prime Minister has considered doing this, and has decided not to. My understanding is that neither he nor our Parliament have any power to do such a thing while we remain members of the EU.

Stuart Roberts
Southport, Lancashire

SIR – It has been stated by the Lib Dems that up to 156,000 jobs in north-east England are linked to EU membership. I asked where this figure came from, and was pointed in the direction of the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Having checked the CEBR research, I came upon the following statement: “This piece of research does not imply that the estimated jobs would be lost if the UK were to leave the EU; it is an analysis of demand arising from UK exports to the EU.”

I appreciate that political statements are carefully worded, but this one suggests that the public will view these figures as actual job losses.

John Hewett
Ponteland, Northumberland

SIR – Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is talking about the possibility of Ofsted, the state inspectorate in England, inspecting English independent schools.

In Wales, Estyn (the office of HM Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales) has been inspecting independent schools for years.

While independent schools do vary in quality, should vast amounts of public money be spent in England on inspecting top public schools only for most of them to be awarded “Excellent”?

At least when an independent school is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), the schools have to pay for it themselves.

Elaine Thomas
Head, The Grange Prep School

SIR – Nick Gibb MP’s dislike for so-called progressive methods of teaching is well known. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that he paints a distorted picture of the Ofsted workforce and demonstrates a poor understanding of what happens during an inspection.

I agree that traditional teaching has a role to play in raising school standards, so it’s wrong of him to suggest that we routinely penalise those who employ these methods. As Sir Michael Wilshaw has made abundantly clear, Ofsted has no preferred style of teaching.

While we want to see schools close the attainment gap between poorer and more affluent pupils, it is not true that a school would be marked down if it was driving up results for all pupils.

Mr Gibb also suggests that Ofsted is the enemy of innovation. Far from stifling creativity, inspectors have been critical of those schools that have failed to take advantage of their new freedoms to improve teaching and outcomes for pupils.

It should come as no surprise that those free schools that have been criticised by Ofsted are the ones that are failing to get the basic things right: marking books, planning lessons and managing pupils’ behaviour.

Michael Cladingbowl
National Director for Schools, Ofsted
London WC2

SIR – As a former social care inspector for Ofsted, I am not impressed by Michael Gove’s statement that Ofsted should have direct responsibility for all schools in England. Ofsted did actually have responsibility for inspecting care standards in the independent sector from 2007. However in 2010, when this Government took office, it transferred the inspection of care standards in independent schools from Ofsted to the ISI.

Now, it seems, Mr Gove wants to hand the inspection of these schools back to Ofsted, in more glorified form. He is clearly using inspection as an electoral gimmick. I would suggest the inspection of these schools is safer with the ISI.

Debra Maria Flint
Clevedon, Somerset

Irish Times:

Sir , – Maureen Dowd’s article “American nuns at rough end of Pope Francis’s mixed messages” (World, May 12th) raises a critical question on the direction the Catholic Church is taking under his papacy.

His publication Evangelium Gaudium and its inspiring content are at odds with what continues to emanate from the Vatican, especially from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is not the case that Pope Francis is unaware of the continued hard-line position being adopted by this doctrinal watchdog.

Although he inherited the well-known hardliner Archbishop Gerhard Müller as its boss, nevertheless he reappointed him and promoted him to cardinal, the highest position apart from pope in the Catholic Church .

As Ms Dowd has written, Cardinal Müller has once again harangued the organisation representing over 80 per cent of American religious sisters and has demanded that a US archbishop must be allowed to supervise all their work and even attend their meetings as they are under suspicion of “positive errors of doctrine”.

We have learned that Cardinal Müller has effectively silenced an internationally known Jesuit theologian from India, Fr Michael Amaldoss, and forbidden him from giving lectures and publishing until this Jesuit has “reworked” his most famous work The Asian Jesus. This effective silencing of Fr Amaldoss must certainly have the approval of his fellow Jesuit , Pope Francis.

Pope Francis has now signed a decree recognising a miracle attributed to a recent predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and has announced that this pope responsible for the ban on artificial contraception in the Catholic Church will be beatified on October 19th of this year .

This proposed beatification means, inter alia, that Pope Francis is officially endorsing this infamous ban on artificial contraception.

Pope Francis must not only be judged by his cool gestures and inspiring rhetoric but also by what he is doing or allowing to be done in his name, especially in the continuation of the doctrinal hardline approaches of his predecessors. – Yours, etc,


The Moorings,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Maureen Dowd contrasts the “liberal” St John XXIII and the “conservative” St John Paul II. This distinction between the two popes is now so well established as to be unquestioned; and yet questioned it must be.

On the one hand, one cannot think of any sense in which St John XXIII was a liberal – if, that is, what is meant by liberal is a person holding progressivist and relativistic opinions. The innovations that some Catholics wish to see introduced into the church were never espoused by St John XXIII.

On the other hand, it is possible to think of gestures made by St John Paul II – for example, his visits to Anglican and Lutheran cathedrals and to a synagogue – which were never even contemplated by his predecessor. – Yours, etc,


Ulidia House,


Sir, – Maureen Dowd takes Pope Francis to task over the censure of American nuns who, according to her, are “inspired by Vatican II” and are prevented from “caring for the sick” in order to “parrot church teaching”.

I would have thought it was totally acceptable that nuns, who wish to remain in the church, would at at least be willing to promote its teaching.

It is no harm to state that Catholics accept the pope as the successor of Peter appointed by Jesus to continue His ministry.

It is surprising that Ms Dowd does not see that promoting the images of God as “father, lord and king” is basic Catholic teaching. It never ceases to amaze me that so many religious wish to remain in the church while undermining so much of what it teaches.

I don’t know what “gospel-infused spirit” the nuns are allegedly being punished for but it is not for following the teaching of the church.

Catholicism is freely chosen by those who wish to follow Jesus under the leadership of the pope.

However, so many dissidents, so welcomed by the secular media, seem to wish to transform the church into their own image and likeness. For myself, as an adult I freely choose membership and am aware that if decide I cannot accept its teaching, I am free to leave, but I do not think I have the right to undermine the faith of those who wish to remain.  – Yours, etc,



Donegal Town.

Sir, – Maureen Dowd’s article on Vatican ambiguity makes for very interesting reading. Like most people, I think Pope Francis has made huge steps in giving the Catholic Church back to the ordinary people. His focus on the poor is a clear statement of intent. Therefore we might be better to take a pragmatic approach and allow more time for a truly inclusive discipleship that we would be witness to. On the other hand, Jesus did it in three years – why is the Vatican taking so long? – Yours, etc,


Manor Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Further to your coverage of the correspondence between Jacqueline Bouvier and Fr Joseph Leonard (May 13th), John A Costello also corresponded with her, as I have detailed in my biography of that taoiseach. Jacqueline went on a year’s visit to Paris in 1948. With her stepbrother Hugh Auchinloss, she came to Ireland for the Dublin Horse Show. Her contact in Dublin was Fr Leonard, who had met and become a friend of her uncle Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis at Strawberry Hill in London. Fr Leonard entertained the visitors as they spent a few weeks touring the country. He brought them to meet his friend John A Costello, who described Fr Leonard as a deeply spiritual man who had little time for the “dangerously devout”.

Jacqueline again visited Dublin in 1955, with her husband Jack Kennedy. Fr Leonard gave them a book inscribed “To Jack and Jacqueline, with love and admiration. 29 September – October 2 1955”.

Costello recalled that Jacqueline invited Fr Leonard to come to Washington to baptise her son in 1960, but ill-health prevented him from making the trip. – Yours, etc,


Gilford Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – I was most alarmed to read how Donald Trump proposes to change the shape of things to come with the development of Doonbeg golf club (“Trump card: property tycoon lays out big plans for Doonbeg”, May 12th).

At the risk of appearing obtuse, I was flummoxed at Trump’s description of his newly acquired course in Doonbeg, along with two of his other courses in Turnberry and Aberdeen, as the “Trump Triangle” and his further illustration of the three courses being “literally a straight line from here to Turnberry and on to Aberdeen”. Let’s hope the course engineers are fully aware of these recent geometrical changes currently under way in Co Clare. – Yours, etc,


Sitric Place,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – The reception afforded Donald Trump at Shannon Airport earlier this week fell far short of what Shannon is capable of. Where were the dancing cailíní and the Bunratty harpers? – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – The unedifying spectacle of a Government Minister greeting a swashbuckling property developer who appears to share the obsession of many of his ilk with helicopters and golf courses (something to do with soft landings perhaps?) indicates that our ruling elite have not yet got over their infatuation with such people. However I hope that Michael Noonan at least summoned up the temerity to inform Mr Trump that the showband era is over and it is many a long year since any Irish businessman made any money or provided any employment by opening what he so quaintly terms a “ballroom”! – Yours, etc,


Claude Road,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Many are annoyed at idea of a royal presence in Dublin 2016 in context of a “shared history”. Diarmaid Ferriter writes that “the suggestion that Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth . . . is indicative of a worrying postcolonial inferiority complex” (“Ordinary lives best define our revolutionary decade”, Opinion & Analysis, May 9th).

The Commonwealth is a free, voluntary association of independent states. As an Irish citizen, I prefer to see the prospect of Irish Commonwealth membership as a self-confident choice by a mature independent people and nation. – Yours, etc,


Kew Green,




Sir, – Una Mullally’s argument in favour of water charges does not present a compelling case for imposing water charges nor for the privatisation of services (“It may be hard to swallow but we should pay for water”, Opinion & Analysis, May 12th).

It is true that we are facing a global water crisis; primarily as a result of climate change. However, comparing Ireland’s situation to that of California, a desert region, does not enable our wider understanding of the issues. Ireland and California’s water challenges may both be borne out of mismanagement of public services but both regions face incomparable challenges in terms of climate and population.

Ms Mullally fails to address the fact that water is considered a fundamental human right, protected by international law. States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right of access to safe drinking water. While this does not exclude imposing water charges nor privatising services, the State must ensure that water is accessible and affordable to all, particularly the least well-off in society.

In many instances of water privatisation, particularly in the developing world, neither access to nor the quality of water has improved. In fact the opposite often occurs. In 1999 the public water company in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was privatised. The price of water increased by nearly 50 per cent over a number of weeks but there was no corresponding improvement in either access to or the quality of the local water supply. The multinational company Bechtel was focused solely on making a profit rather than maintaining infrastructure or improving the supply and quality of water. This led to a series of protests in 2000 during which the local citizens reclaimed the public water company.

Finally, Ms Mullally’s use of the 2030 Water Resources Group as an example of progress towards sustainable water governance is baffling. Each of the companies participating in this group, with the exception perhaps of the World Bank, represent some of the principle suppliers of bottled water worldwide, and have deeply vested interests in promoting further the privatisation of water.

Yes, a debate on global water governance is urgently needed. However, this debate should be based on human rights principles rather than economic imperatives. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to John McManus’s claims about the implications for the public finances arising from the €240 average domestic water charge (Business Opinion, May 12th), in order to ensure Irish Water’s borrowings are excluded from the general government balance (ie State debt), certain Eurostat rules must be met. The decisions taken by the Government last week have been framed by our understanding of the Eurostat requirements and I am satisfied that these requirements will be met. The budgetary framework is based on Irish Water being classified as a market corporation from inception.

The introduction of domestic water charges is another difficult measure for the public, but is a vital part of reforming the water sector. It will ensure sustainable funding of water services and bring essential improvements to our public water and waste water systems. Sustainable funding will secure water supply in the coming years and decades. This will become increasingly important as demand increases through a growing population and a recovering economy, and new challenges emerge from a changing climate. – Yours, etc,


Minister for the



and Local Government,

Custom House, Dublin 1.

Sir, – We recently entertained some friends from Scotland. They commented on the way the city was festooned with election posters, a practice they do not know of at home. I began to wonder if anyone has ever looked into the effectiveness of these posters.

I would be interested to hear from any of the many candidates, or their campaigners, or anyone from the back rooms of the political parties, who have any evidence – other than anecdotal – that posters are an effective tool in election campaigns.

Campaigns have become such micromanaged affairs in recent years that I cannot believe that the political parties, at least, would waste money on unproven methods. But it appears to me that, in previous elections, unsuccessful candidates spent just as much on posters as successful ones. This prompts me to think that the reasons candidates use posters is “because the other candidates use them”.

Could someone with data show me that I’m wrong, and that posters are of some proven benefit to candidates? – Yours, etc,


Grangebrook Close,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The stories of the undocumented Irish in Simon Carswell’s report on the visit of President Michael D Higgins to Chicago (“Higgins believes US politicians ‘won’t be able to ignore plight of undocument’”, Home News, May 13th) again show the human misery which results when immigration reform is stalled.

While our political leaders have been quick and adept at pointing to the impact of delayed reform in the US, few have paid heed to the personal hurt and isolation caused on our own shores by similar delays.

For the sake of thousands living in limbo in Ireland, the Government, under the guidance of Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, must end five years of delay and deliver on its promise to publish new legislation this year.

At the Immigrant Council of Ireland we have used our frontline and legal experience, as an independent law centre, to set out priorities which would make a real difference not just for migrants but also for Irish citizens.

Priorities include the introduction of clear, straightforward and fair rules and guidelines to replace a system primarily based on discretion, the right of family reunification to be enshrined in law, and an independent appeals system in the immigration system, as current users do not enjoy the protection of the Office of the Ombudsman.

These are reforms that will not only deliver real change for thousands of people torn apart from their loved ones but will also strengthen our position when making the case for US reform on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

We are committed to working with politicians from all parties to deliver these changes, and encourage Ms Fitzgerald to act decisively and end the delay on this important issue. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Immigrant Council

of Ireland,

Andrew Street,

Sir, – There is a great deal of publicity regarding the new fish processing factory in Killybegs, Co Donegal, and the fact that boarfish are to be the principal feedstock of this enterprise (“Biomarine plant to bring jobs to Donegal”, Home News, May 10th).

Not wanting to pour cold water on the enterprise, but these fish are presently viewed as a nuisance catch in mackerel fisheries. Try telling that to the larger species which live on them.

Would it not be better if the present system of discards was harnessed to provide an ethical and environmental friendly source of feed stocks rather than pillaging yet another valuable and unappreciated natural asset? – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

A chara, – Jason Fitzharris (May 9th) need not worry about the media explaining how our voting system works. From now until the results of the upcoming elections are announced, we will hear journalists telling us repeatedly that “transfers will be crucial”. – Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive,

Kiltipper Road,

Dublin 24.

Irish Independent:

Published 14 May 2014 02:30 AM

It’s not too often that I’ll be stuck for words, but this is exactly what happened to me a few days ago while out delivering mail of a political nature.

Also in this section

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Let’s hope moral ground in Garda Siochana rediscovered

Letters to the Editor

A similar incident happened to me in 2011 during the presidential election when I knocked on a door and after assuming there was nobody at home, I was about to turn to walk away when the door opened and a woman with tearful eyes greeted me.

On asking her ‘was there something wrong? she did not reply but thrust her hand with a piece of paper in it towards me. On reading it, I felt utterly helpless, as it was a letter from the bank threatening repossession of her home.

After getting over the initial shock, I set things in motion with a few phone calls to get her some help. Now, in 2014, and the same scenario greets me at a doorstep, as a woman opens up to me and invites me – a complete stranger – into her kitchen.

The family are at their wits’ end in fear of the postman delivering a similar letter warning of bank repossession.

I have to say that it upset me much more than I can put into words, as I lay awake thinking what could I do to help?

I would challenge any pro-austerity politician to knock on their door and explain to them why they think it is right that they are being made pay for the reckless mistakes of others?

All in a vain, shameless attempt to pay Europe‘s super-wealthy elite who gambled on our insane, runaway Fianna Fail-led economy.

The banking guarantee saw to it that those wealthy gamblers were never going to lose out, because the likes of this family I’m referring to – along with every other breadline family in the country – are the pawns who are going to spend the rest of their lives paying the price.

We are being continuously drip-fed filtered leaks and promises that we have turned a corner and things are now on the way up.

Here in Donegal things are certainly on the way up and have been for a long time – if you’re talking about unemployment and emigration.


Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall



Instead of having an election to see which politicians we send to Europe, why don’t we have a referendum as to whether we want to be a part of the EU in the first place.

Maastricht was the last fair treaty of consequence, and there are at least two generations of Irish citizens that haven’t had a say on whether they want to be part of a united Europe. I suspect also those that voted in favour of Maastricht never envisaged quite how much sovereignty we would eventually cede.

Since 1992, the Irish people have been asked to vote on Nice and Lisbon – twice on each treaty. It appears, however, that rejecting those treaties was never actually going to be an option available to us. We have also had the fiscal treaty, which was presented as part of the solution to the financial crisis.

With the UK about to give its citizens a genuine say as to whether or not they want to be part of the EU, would it not be appropriate for Ireland to do the same thing?

As things stand, we have an increasing level of governance coming from EU institutions and while most of our political class are ideologically attached to the idea of the EU, the Irish people haven’t had a genuine voice in decades (at least not one that was accepted). That is the very antithesis of democracy.

The time has come for the Irish people to give a democratic renewal to the EU, or for the EU to accept that we no longer want to be part of the European project.


Crumlin, Dublin 12



I wish to protest at the programmes being foisted on viewers in the name of comedy. I refer to ‘The Republic of Telly’ and ‘The Centre’, respectively.

These programmes are rude, crude and devoid of any content remotely resembling comedy.

It is ironic that they are being foisted on viewers by a station where once one could see or listen to the peerless Maureen Potter, the talented Brendan Grace and last, but not least, that doyen of comedy Brendan O’Carroll, whose creation ‘Mrs Brown’ has become one of the great comedy hits of this decade, not only in Ireland but worldwide.

As an OAP I do not have to pay a licence fee but in the name of justice for the viewer being done – and being seen to be done – I will cheerfully dust off my Zimmer frame and join the protest.


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14



In response to Rob Saidlier’s letter (‘But indeed where is God’) I would certainly reiterate that the atheistic answer in the search for the ultimate meaning of life on Earth is the blindest of blind perceptions.

It is the wrong answer to that pivotal question posed by every human being.

The belief that we all have a creator – whether we call him ‘God, Truth, Allah or Sat-Chin-Ananda’ – has been embraced by and proved inspirational in the histories of peoples throughout the ages.

It has guided and maintained European civilisation up to about 200 years ago.

Rob mentions the “thousands of children who die in the world every day” as an indication that a merciful God does not exist.

Believers know that, after death, they and all others who are totally deprived do in fact attain perfect happiness in paradise.

Atheism can only offer condolence, heartfelt no doubt, to their loved ones. But it fails them completely in proffering some sort of existential nothing-but-ness as having been their unfortunate lot in life.

It also affronts our deepest and sacredly held beliefs in the existence of love, of justice and of egalitarianism as entitlements of human kind.

Simone Weil – ‘saint of those on the outside’ and formerly a Cartesian type agnostic – came to the realisation that a reality exists outside time and space and that “corresponding to this reality, at the centre of the human heart, is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object of this world”.

His visits to Auschwitz caused Rob to wonder “Where was God?” His existence was certainly witnessed to by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edith Stein during their incarcerations and in their deaths in Flossenburg and Auschwitz concentration camps respectively. Many other believers survived and also came to forgive their tormentors.

The potential to gain paradise is open to each human being in any situation. Albert Camus‘ remark, ‘I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is’, is highly perceptive.

However, Christ, in certainly transforming the prevailing acceptance of cruelties as well as challenging the elitism of his own people, taught that it is in loving and in accepting obligation to one another that civilised life can be made realisable.


Baile Atha Cliath 5



Ian O’Doherty asks why, with the best fishing grounds in Europe, did the Irish people of the 1800s not eat fish instead of potatoes? The problem being that the local landlord had to be paid first before anybody could launch from the shore. Denied on land and sea.


Miltown Malbay, Co Clare

Irish Independent

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