Hair

13 June2014 Hair

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Off to have our hair done with Louise

ScrabbleIwin a not very respectable score well under 400 and only by one point perhaps Mary will win tomorrow

Obituary:

Martha Hyer – obituary

Martha Hyer was an actress who played cool beauties but longed to let her hair down

Martha Hyer

Martha Hyer Photo: REX

5:46PM BST 12 Jun 2014

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Martha Hyer, who has died aged 89, starred in many overwrought melodramas of the sort that the Hollywood studios cranked out in the 1950s, winning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her role as a snobbish and sexually repressed schoolteacher seduced by Frank Sinatra in Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running (1958).

Martha Hyer and Frank Sinatra in Some Came Running (MOVIESTORE/REX)

Some felt the nomination was surprising (Shirley MacLaine was considered a more deserving nominee for Best Actress). None the less her performance was memorable for a scene in which her elaborate blonde hairdo, held stiffly in place by hairspray and pins, comes undone in Sinatra’s hands, tumbling down over her shoulders, symbolising her erotic liberation from middle class respectability.

Martha Hyer’s physical resemblance to Grace Kelly (albeit with elements of Diana Dors) led her to be typecast as the ice-cool society beauty — as seen, for example, in Audrey Hepburn’s 1954 romance, Sabrina, in which she played the glamorous fiancée of playboy David Larrabee (William Holden), and in Houseboat (1958) in which she played diplomat Cary Grant’s rich sister-in-law. But with few other opportunities to let her hair down, either literally or metaphorically, by the early 1960s Martha Hyer’s career had started to fade. She was considered for the role of Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) but lost out to Janet Leigh.

“I would like very much to convince people that I can be something more than a well-dressed sophisticate,” she told an interviewer. “I go from one picture to the next getting wealthier and wealthier, but I’d like to do it with the hair down — either as a nymphomaniac or an alcoholic. I want to be a problem.”

She had her opportunity in 1963 when she was booked for the part of Janine Denton, the Hollywood call girl who becomes a film star in Edward Dmytryk’s The Carpetbaggers (1964), a tawdry, though commercially successful, melodrama, based on a novel by Harold Robbins, whose principal attraction lay in watching Martha Hyer appearing before George Peppard’s wife and daughter with nothing on but a mink stole.

Martha Hyer in The Carpetbaggers

But it was not the comeback she was hoping for.

By this time, Martha Hyer had bought into the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, giving interviews in which she boasted of her collection of fur coats and claimed to have run out of wall space for her collection of French Impressionist paintings: “It’s very embarrassing when you are forced to hang an original Renoir in the bathroom,” she observed.

But her spendthrift ways caught up with her and in her 1990 memoir Finding My Way, Martha Hyer admitted overspending so badly that she ended up in debt to loan sharks.

Martha Hyer was born on August 10 1924, in Fort Worth, Texas, the daughter of a judge who would participate in the prosecution of Second World War criminals at Nuremberg.

After taking a degree in Drama from Northwestern University, she joined the Pasadena Playhouse, where she was spotted and signed to a contract by an RKO talent scout.

After making her screen debut in The Locket (1946), she found small roles as a cowgirl in low-budget westerns, before her role in Sabrina led to her being typecast as the “other” Grace Kelly.

In 1951 she married the producer/director Ray Stahl, whom she met on the set of Oriental Evil (1951) and who directed her in The Scarlet Spear in 1954 — the same year the marriage ended. Her roles in 1960s films such as Bikini Beach (1964) Picture Mommy Dead (1966) and House of 1,000 Dolls (1967, described by one critic as “quite possibly the sleaziest movie American International Pictures ever made”), were seldom enthusiastically received, though some, such as Sidney Pink’s Pyro (1964) have acquired belated cult status on DVD. In this she played the title role of the vengeful mistress with a liking for matches (“the strange desire that feeds on her cannot be quenched by love alone!”) opposite Barry Sullivan.

Martha Hyer (EVERETT COLLECTION/REX)

In 1966 she married the director Hal Wallis. Although she remained with him until his death in 1986, she complained that he had sought to limit her spendaholic habits. Yet he clearly failed because by the 1980s she was so badly in debt that, desperate for a loan of $1 million, she delivered a Monet, a Gauguin, and two Frederic Remingtons to con men as collateral. The works belonged to her husband, who knew nothing about the loan and wound up in a legal dispute with the gallery that eventually acquired them.

After her husband’s death, Martha Hyer — who became a born-again Christian in the late 1980s – moved to Santa Fe where she lived a quiet life and shunned the spotlight.

Martha Hyer, born August 10 1924, died May 31 2014

Guardian:

The study published this week in the BMJ, which shows that the recent threefold rise in prediabetes has led to a third of adults in England being at high risk of type 2 diabetes, makes shocking reading (Report, 9 June). It is a stark warning, and the government needs to respond in a serious and coordinated way. Otherwise the number of diabetes-related deaths and people enduring devastating health complications such as blindness and amputation will continue to rise. The pressure and financial impact on the NHS will cause problems for all health service users and for taxpayers.

First, we need to identify those at high risk. The NHS Health Check is doing an important job in this, but less than half of the eligible population received a check last year. Those identified need to get effective support to make the lifestyle changes that can prevent them from developing diabetes.

But we need to go beyond this. The government urgently needs to review its strategy for tackling the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes: obesity, lack of activity and poor diet. The voluntary approaches to improving the nation’s diet, such as through the Responsibility Deal, are not working. The government should consider legislation to drive reformulation, introduce restrictions on the marketing and distribution of unhealthy food, and encourage healthy lifestyle through taxation and price signals.

We need schools to do more to educate children and normalise healthy eating behaviour by providing free school meals and having mandatory food- and nutrient-based standards for school food. This is an epidemic. Without strong and decisive leadership, the crisis for families and the NHS will be inexorable.
Barbara Young
Chief executive, Diabetes UK

• Your health correspondent, Denis Campbell, informs us of the risk to NHS staff of a jail sentence for wilful neglect of patients (Report, 12 June). Of course this approach is proper in the main. However, as a recently retired GP, I see the loss of patient responsibility in many areas of health compared with the start of my career in 1974.

What does Denis think about a proposed “Go direct to jail” Monopoly-style card for those thousands of NHS patients with huge excesses of obesity leading to profoundly skewed health spending and consequently lowering the health benefits to the more prudent folk in today’s nanny NHS?
Dr Gavin Ewan
Whitchurch, Aylesbury

• I do wish writers like Ms Gold (Obesity is not a disability, 12 June) could get it into their heads that obesity has causes other than overeating. For 20 years I had an undiagnosed illness that caused me to gain weight relentlessly: I increased one dress size each year. I told my doctor that I could starve myself to death and I’d still die fat. “With your condition, you would,” he (eventually) agreed. I was often told to “lose weight”, as if it were under my control. At last it was diagnosed as a total collapse of my endocrine system. I was not diabetic because I was fat; I was fat because (among several other things) I was diabetic.

This misconception about a lack of self-discipline in obesity sufferers (and the causes of conditions like diabetes) not only hurts obese people; it also contributes to the lack of a sensible solution.
Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Gordon Brown on

Former prime minister Gordon Brown who criticised David Cameron for turning the referendum into a battle about Britain v Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

While it was good to see the Better Together campaign finally being urged to accept that its negative campaign has not worked in Scotland (It’s not Scotland v Britain, 10 June), Gordon Brown continues to miss one crucial point. When the former prime minister argues that “Scottish Labour has to breathe new life into, and devolve new responsibility to Scottish civic institutions”, he ignores the fact that Scottish Labour has for a number of years been forced to remain silent and refrain from espousing any policies that might reflect the culture of the Scottish polity for fear of upsetting the metropolitan elite in London, or the Ukip supporters of England.

An example of this is the recently published document The Common Weal by the Jimmy Reid Foundation. This is exactly the sort of debate that in the past Scottish Labour would have engaged in: a political debate which reflects the cultural and aspirational goals of the Scottish people. Regrettably there is just silence, as anything which breaks from the dominant neoliberal market-driven agenda of Westminster is to be ignored. I, like many others in Scotland, will be voting yes on 18 September. Not for an SNP government, but one led by a Scottish Labour party, which, removed from its Westminster shackles, will once again be able to argue for the egalitarian politics that Gordon Brown wishes.
Geoff Earl
Edinburgh

• It is no surprise that JK Rowling chooses to vote no in the Scottish independence referendum (Magic day for no campaign as JK Rowling donates £1m, 12 June). She is English-born and raised, after all, and wants to maintain the link with her homeland. Even if she has lived in Scotland for the last 20 years, that does not make her Scots. I lived in England for six years and did not feel the least bit English. We are what we are, for better or worse. Like most English people, I would suggest, she does not know the concept of independence because the English have always considered themselves to be independent. Technically they are not, but it is understandable that they might feel that way, as they make up 80%-plus of the UK population.

So she is voting with her heart. One cannot say the same of the traitor knaves Brown and Darling. Of course they and all the other Scots MPs at Westminster stand to lose their jobs, well-paid with generous expenses, were the referendum to go against their wishes. I shall also be voting with my heart – “just for the glorious privilege of being independent”, as Burns would say.
Tom McNab
Edinburgh

• As we hit the 100 days to go in the run-up to the referendum and amid what seems to be a consensus among all three unionist parties that they will promise the Scots devo max as their main hope of defeating a vote for independence, why have we still heard not a peep about one of the key implications for the UK’s constitutional arrangements if Scotland does vote no? Surely it is now impossible to avoid Tam Dalyell‘s West Lothian question? You cannot have more devolved government and still have Celtic MPs determining English-only policies. The implications of this are so stark, particularly for the Labour party, that one can well understand why the politicians have taken a seeming vow of silence on the issue. But it will not go away and will loom ever larger as the referendum and the general election come ever closer.
Simon Sedgwick-Jell
Cambridge

• A federal structure for a united UK is impossible because Scotland has its own distinct legal system. Similar powers cannot be given to regions within the UK without splitting the English legal system into several diverging versions. English law cannot be administered by a single Westminster legislature at which Scottish MPs have votes. It cannot be administered by a sub-assembly of English MPs without running the risk of that sub-assembly having a different political colour from the main Westminster government. Those who advocate federalism are deluded.
Hugh Noble
Appin, Argyll

• Gordon Brown is right that the problem is economic and social dislocation and he is right that no political party is offering a compelling vision of Britain’s future. What the SNP has offered the Scottish people is the chance to imagine something better. Both the SNP and Labour succumb to neoliberal rhetoric and, for fear of vilification, avoid serious debate about taxation and borrowing for public investment. Instead, their social democratic aspirations are couched in admiring references to the Scandinavian countries. And so it is up to the rest of us to engage with these issues to win the vote for independence. It is not a matter of patriotism, but of politics.
Barbara MacLennan
Stirling

• Rather than David Cameron, how about Gordon Brown debating with Alex Salmond ? At least he has some knowledge of the issues and emotions involved, while Cameron and the rest of the Tory tribe just talk counterproductive rubbish. The UK’s future depends on our being united (the kingdomship is optional) but, without Scotland, Britain will be sadly diminished economically, socially and politically. Scottish independence means little in today’s globalised world, but separation will create the Little England that Ukip wants. Scottish engineers, doctors and, yes, politicians, have helped make Britain greater than either nation would have managed alone. We are stronger together.
David Reed
London

• Gordon Brown is right, it’s not Scotland v Britain. But the SNP is offering Scotland what Britain also needs. Shifting to a social democratic economy would benefit all of the people in the UK instead of the wealthy and powerful. And a written constitution is a must for a modern European state. These are just two things the SNP is offering us, so why isn’t Labour offering this for everyone in the UK? Could that be why so many Labour voters in Scotland are seriously considering voting for independence?
Malcolm Stewart
Edinburgh

• Better hurry up to teach “British values” in schools. If Scotland votes for independence, then there will not be much of Britain left to be valued.
Tim Bornett
Old Buckenham, Norfolk

• Much as I agree with his analysis of the deficiencies of the no campaign’s relentlessly negative strategy, Gordon Brown, like so many other labour politicians, comprehensively misses the point of independence for socialists intending to vote yes. We are not voting for the SNP or it’s policies; we are voting to ensure that in future, if Scotland votes for parties espousing fairer economic policies, including his, we might actually get a government capable of enacting them. It’s for that reason that large numbers of Labour voters intend to vote yes, not because of their fondness for the SNP.
Professor Robin MacPherson
Edinburgh

• Gordon Brown succeeds in casting some light on the issues facing us as we evaluate the prospect of independence. But hard facts remain hidden behind his gloss on an egalitarian covenant he considers to have emerged in the last century. It is hard to see how equality is manifest in a UK society which, in the three decades following the flow of north sea oil, has seen the greatest increase in the gap between the richest and poorest in society of all OECD countries. This accrued wealth has not been distributed fairly. It could, as Dr Brown indicates, have been used to mitigate deindustrialisation, to improve housing, to upgrade skills.

But it was not. It was frittered away in the financial sector and trousered by the already wealthy. I am not a nationalist. I abhor the current posing behind British nationalism, with ever present union flags (often incorrectly flown), but I am attracted by the prospect of a written constitution, a statement of individual rights and the opportunity to vote for a parliament with a mandate to deliver social justice. I will vote yes on 18 September.
Andy Hawkins
Cupar, Fife

In the UK only around 55% of eligible 17- to 24-year-olds are registered to vote. Of that number, only 24% are “certain to vote”. Despite these stark figures, as honorary president of the non-partisan movement Bite the Ballot – a fantastic organisation seeking to empower young voters – I know how enthusiastic young people are about political issues when they are taught about the power they hold at the ballot box.

This simple premise forms the basis of the voter registration bill which I introduced in the House of Lords on 10 June. The bill will authorise electoral registration officers to “fill in the gaps” on the register using information held by bodies such as the Passport Office, DVLA and DWP. Crucially, this will be an opt-in process and information will only be shared with electoral administrators with a person’s consent. The bill will also require EROs to take active steps to increase the number of people registered from under-represented groups, including organising at least one voter engagement session per year, per school or college in her area of responsibility.

This bill is the first step in tackling our youth democracy crisis. We need to equip EROs with the right tools to make our democracy as strong as possible. The bill, I suggest, is a leap in the right direction, and I very much hope that the government gives it a fair hearing in this parliamentary session and considers its proposals carefully. Not to do so will only widen the democratic deficit, making our bad situation even worse.
Roger Roberts
Lib Dem, House of Lords

Socks on display

A Guardian reader ponders his footwear. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

With Isis militants now getting ridiculously close to Baghdad (Report, 12 June), is it not discomforting that British politicians are more interested in discussing passports and water cannon? Thousands of refugees fleeing cities is more important than people missing their holidays. Our politicians should not be afraid of talking about the situation in Iraq because of Tony Blair’s actions more than 10 years ago. There are ways to intervene in Iraq that do not involve war.
Gabriel Osborne, aged 14
Bristol

• The best ever (only?) poem about socks that have come asunder (G2, 12 June,) is Greg Delanty’s The Sock Mystery: “There should be an asylum for single socks,/ Lost, dejected, turned in on themselves.” Unless any other readers know a better one?
Jenny Swann
Beeston, Nottingham

• “Most people ignore most poetry, Because most poetry ignores most people.” (Adrian Mitchell, 1932 – 2008).
Nicholas Jacobs
London

• Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire: “Ow bist?” There’s a Facebook page and even car stickers devoted to a greeting that’s become a marker for local pride.
Ed Collard
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

• For Brazil 2014 (Editorial, 12 June) we need a wall chart showing the money flows in and around Fifa.
Dr Alex May

Manchester

• How does Belgium do it (Sport, 7 June)? Never mind football – how does Belgium also produce the best beers and chocolate in the world?
Barry Norman
Drighlington, Bradford

• Black cab blockade in London (Report, 12 June). Should be no congestion south of the river, then.
Michael Cunningham
Wolverhampton

• In France, 1978, Sic was available alongside Pschitt (Letters, passim). Perfect D and V combination.
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge

Having personally witnessed the injustice visited upon the Palestinian people in the territories occupied by Israel, it is with the utmost sadness and dismay that we, the undersigned international authors and artists, note Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval last week of yet another 1,500 new illegal settlement units in the West Bank (Report, 5 June). This is particularly unfortunate at a moment when the Palestinians have formed a unity government that has been recognised by the international community. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have long been pronounced illegal by international law. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is itself illegal, and declared so by the international community through various UN resolutions. Additional settlements can be seen only as an act of aggression, showing utter disregard not just for the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people, but for international law.

We applaud the non-violent efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and express our solidarity with its demand that Israel should comply with the precepts of international law by:

Ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the separation wall.
Recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The Israeli government should respect international law and reverse the approval of the thousand plus additional settlement units in the West Bank.We call on the international community to work to induce Israel to uphold the basic principles of international law.
Harif Abdel Kouddous, Susan Abulhawa, Teju Cole, Nathan Hamilton, Nathalie Handal, Brigid Keenan, Sabrina Mahfouz, Michael Ondaatje, Ed Pavlic, Eliza Robertson, Sapphire, Kamila Shamsie, Ahdaf Soueif, Linda Spalding, Janne Teller, Haifa Zangana

Independent:

JK Rowling (12 June) offers a reasoned case for supporting Better Together in the Scottish referendum. The reasons for voting Yes are far stronger.

There are “cybernasties” on both sides but the really vitriolic attacks on the political leaders of the referendum debate sadly have come from the Better Together campaign leaders against the Yes campaign, something the mainstream media appears to have neglected.

Going it alone, which is not about narrow nationalism, is not the worry, but the risks of staying in an unhealthy, unjust, avaricious, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe and bellicose UK are an enormous worry. As indeed are the cuts in the UK science budget which Scotland can avoid in the future.

JK Rowling writes about the 14 professors in Scotland who expressed concerns about threats to Scottish medical research if Scotland becomes independent. It is only fair to mention that over 100 academics in Scotland   also wrote a letter recently that fully supported independence.

I should add that I am English but live and work in Scotland. I am not a member of any political party but I am involved in public health research. I will be voting Yes in the referendum.

Professor Andrew  Watterson

Kippen, Stirlingshire

I haven’t actually read JK Rowling’s books, but I am sure she thoroughly deserves her success. Now, having read her article on Scottish independence, I can only applaud her writing (and you for publishing it).

Thoughtful, lucid, balanced, self-deprecating, generous to her adopted homeland, it sets out an argument which gently but remorselessly destroys the case for independence.

The only omission I can spot is any reference to the one group who would benefit with absolute certainty from an independence victory – the lawyers who would be entitled to argue expensively for decades over who owns what.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

John Rentoul, in his otherwise admirable article in defence of JK Rowling (12 June), maintains that only the residents of Scotland should have a say in whether the UK breaks up.

At present there is a proposal that our country should be split into two entities: Scotland and another area that (for want of a name so far) could be called the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (KEWNI).

As a current citizen of the UK and a possible citizen of KEWNI if the split occurs, I would like my views on the subject to be sought. However, no one seems to have any plans for doing so. The fate of a country with 64 million people is being left in the hands of just  5 million. Is it too late to give us all a say?

Sam Boote

Keyworth, Nottinghamshire

Extra burdens on GP services

Rosie Millard (10 June) encapsulates a large part of the problems of access to GPs. She asks what should someone do if the GP surgery is closed, if their child has meningitis, if they have toothache, or if they have run out of the contraceptive pill.

A child with meningitis definitely needs to be in hospital, not seeing a GP; someone with toothache needs a dentist; and someone taking the oral contraceptive pill will generally know to the day, six months in advance, when they are due to run out, so there really is no need for this to be an emergency. The idea that all these conditions need urgent GP attention is one reason for the pressure on appointments.

A significant percentage of GP workload is now made up of seeing patients who 10 or 15 years ago would have been dealt with in hospital. They are now managed in general practice, and there has been no comparable expansion of GP numbers.

I am a GP. My surgery opens every day all day. We don’t close for lunch, and we don’t close in the afternoon other than once every couple of months for approved training.

James Ward-Campbell

Long Whatton, Leicestershire

Rosie Millard’s criticism of her GP service is understandable, but I wonder why she does not register with a different surgery which might meet her needs better.

The practice I attend is open regularly five days a week from 8am to 6.30pm, and in addition on two days it opens earlier, and on two days it stays open until 8pm. Making an appointment is never difficult.

There is so much criticism of the NHS, but there are substantial bits of it (for which I am enormously grateful) that remain outstanding.

Angela Crum Ewing

Reading

I notice a pattern in your correspondence on patient care in the NHS. People with personal experience are very positive, whereas negative letters are strangely abstract, based on generalisations.

I spent three months in the hands of the NHS and social workers in the past year and occasionally I try to think of something negative to say, no matter how trivial, just as an exercise. So far, I have come up with nothing at all.

Sean Nee

Edinburgh

 

Tax system favours owners over workers

Richard Horton (letter, 10 June), in arguing against a progressive property tax on expensive homes, makes the surprising assertion that those that live in them are not wealthy. The often-quoted example is of a person who bought the property when its value was very low and is now sitting on a large tax-free capital gain, but has low income.

The essence of his argument is that earned income should be taxed and wealth arising merely from holding assets should not. There is no moral justification for taxing the worker far more than the owner of capital, yet that is what we do.

If there is to be more fairness in taxation, the taxing of wealth would be a good place to start, beginning with a property tax, which, by its nature, cannot be avoided. And who knows, it could lead to more efficient use of housing, just like the bedroom tax, and not the use of housing as the best way to provide tax-free capital gains.

Nick Bion

Reading

A nation ruled by posh boys

One crucial “British value” that Matthew Norman neglects (11 June) is respect for one’s betters. A willingness to be ruled by rich posh boys educated in single-sex schools where they wear weird costumes and are isolated from the rest of the community is absolutely central to what makes us British.

And, of course, it is vital to have the state education system run by people who weren’t educated by it, a principle that all major parties have embraced.

John Newsinger

Brighton

After Iraq, stop trying to save the world

The long war in Iraq has been a waste of time. More importantly, it has been a colossal waste of money. Critically, it has been an enormous waste of life.

I feel for all those families who have lost young men and women – for what? To say that we have kept terrorism at bay and made our country safe is obviously unsupportable.

What is just as worrying is that what we are seeing in Iraq will undoubtedly occur in Afghanistan too, once the troops are all gone.

We should put our energies into making our own back yard safe and forget trying to save the rest of the world, which doesn’t appear to want to be saved.

Graham Pearce

Winkleigh, Devon

Islamic fundamentalists are blazing a swathe of destruction across Iraq, as they have in Syria. In Nigeria, Boko Haram  kidnaps hundreds of innocent girls to sell into slavery. And once again the western world wrings its hands and declares that “something must be done”, while ignoring the massive elephant in the room.

All of these fundamentalist groups derive patronage and funding from the extremist wahhabi ideologues in Saudi Arabia. Yet when was the last time you heard a government minister say a single word of condemnation of the Saudi regime? Where are the sanctions against the Saudi rulers?

It would seem that in UK plc, oil and arms deals mean more to our rulers than human rights or combating the hydra of Islamic fundamentalism.

Jo Selwood

Oxford

With the unfolding prospect of jihadists seizing Baghdad and the fragmentation of Iraq into sectarian provinces, perhaps Tony Blair can be questioned under oath as to why he led Britain into a fruitless and costly war based on deceit and without UN approval, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of UK soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Iraq’s imminent future offers catastrophe for its hapless people and the West. Blair should be hauled before the court in The Hague for war crimes, instead of earning millions on the lecture circuit.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London SW3

Times:

People on benefits cannot be fined at the level being mooted for speeding

Sir, You report (June 10) on plans to increase the fines for several motoring offences and other offences. Under this government’s sentencing guidelines, fines must be related to an offender’s ability to pay. So, unless the guidelines are changed, this is just another meaningless law’n’order soundbite.

Marvyn Slater, JP

London N3

Sir, A punishment is supposed to fit the crime. I consider these new proposals ludicrous. A 10mph overspeed on a deserted motorway — incidentally still the UK’s safest roads — at 3am could cost six months’ average salary. How long before we resort again to hanging for stealing a loaf of bread?

John Atkins

Chelmsford, Essex

Sir, The plan to increase motoring fines and penalties is overdue. Too many motorists have an à la carte attitude to the rules of the road, where speed limits become targets and the compulsive need to use a mobile phone for any purpose has become a divine right.

However, increased powers to impose eye-wateringly sobering punishment will be ineffective unless we see more police pulling over recalcitrant drivers who take a neocon view about their freedoms behind the wheel. Lives saved are more important than so-called “rights” preserved.

Charles Foster

Chalfont St Peter, Bucks

Sir, Once again, the government is targeting motorists, because they are easy targets. What about £10,000 fines for habitual shoplifters and burglars. What about £10,000 fines for people who get drunk and then kick people senseless. Instead of letting them off with a caution or deferred prison sentences, hit them where it hurts. Yes, many will not be able to afford it, but it can be deducted from their income for years to come. I’m sure that it will deter many.

Melvin Haskins

London EN5

Sir, The proposal to raise fines for motoring and other offences by up to 400 per cent is by any measure, disproportionate and draconian. To threaten, for example, a single mum living on a sink estate with a fine of up to £4,000 because she can’t get her child to school is ludicrous and oppressive. Legislation that does not have the support of the court of public opinion lacks legitimacy and is, in the words of Mr Bumble, an ass.

Frank Greaney

Formby, Liverpool

Sir, Given that the overwhelming majority of people who appear before magistrates are on benefits, from which only £5 a week may be deducted, increasing fines will have absolutely no effect.

I recently had a case where the defendant should have been fined up to £20,000 but because he claimed to be on benefits we were pushed to fine him £1,000. All fines are related to income, and the government can make them as high as it likes but very few people will ever pay them.

Alexandra Kingston, JP

Twickenham, Middx

Landowners might be more enthusiastic about fracking if they got a share of the proceeds

Sir, Matt Ridley says “You don’t own the land 300m below your feet”, (June 9), and believes the law of trespass should be amended accordingly to permit fracking — though it is not clear how rights would be given or protected in Scotland where there is no corresponding law of trespass?

Many UK landowners might welcome fracking under their land if they shared in the financial returns. Surely the debate on fracking under private land would be all the richer if land owners (and local communities) had a right, enshrined in law, to receive payment based on the area of their land. Only if negotiation were unsuccessful would satisfaction need to be sought in the courts.

Landowners clearly do own the land 300m below their feet, otherwise why would the law of trespass need to be changed to allow what many see as an act of theft?

Rodney Basford

Aberdeen

Students on science degrees seem to work harder for longer than arts undergraduates

Sir, Katerina Gould’s son’s experience (letter, June 11) is diametrically opposed to my daughter’s. She is in her second year of reading zoology at a Russell group university and has been worked to the bone since she started. Each week she has many hours of lectures, with tutors turning up, experiments to perform and write up, massive scientific tomes to read and make notes from, and essays galore. Now she is on a two week intensive field trip studying, measuring and analysing data on fauna in a given area. Of course she is taking a science degree rather than arts and perhaps this is the difference.

Neil Jones

London SE24

The increase in the number of over-65s getting married may have more to do with tax than with romance

Sir, One prime reason for getting married in later life is to avoid paying George Osborne two tranches of inheritance tax and your report (June 12) seems naive in suggesting more romantic interpretations. It is of course iniquitous that those who prefer to cohabit because they disapprove of state intrusion into their intimate lives should have to compromise and wed or risk ruin.

Phillip Hodson

Tetbury, Glos

A reader offers Fink Tank a hefty bet that Italy will win the world cup

Sir, I was surprised by some of the Fink Tank ratings (The Game, June 11). They imply Russia is eight times more likely to win the World Cup than Italy (0.3 per cent); and both Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina have a better chance than the Azzurri. I’d be happy to take those odds in a private bet with the Fink Tank: I have £3,000, does it have the £1 million required to cover a surprise Italy win at 332 : 1?

Joan Phillips

Sheffield

Cameron did not mention the most important British value – equality, of sex, religion, race

Sir, David Cameron’s definition of British values (June 10) omitted an important — and given the ideology imposed in the six Birmingham schools, perhaps the most important — value that we regard as inalienable. That is equality, of the sexes, of races, of religions, and of people of a different sexual persuasion. Without a grounding in this fundamental right, values such as tolerance and respect have no real focus. Equality should be emphasised to the young by their parents, educators and religious leaders. In cultural milieux where this may not happen in the home, it is up to educators to explain its importance.

Unfortunately, meaningful discussion on this issue between Muslim religious leaders and the government does not seem to have taken place — or at least has not been widely reported.

Susan Ward

London N1

Sir, While I welcome the Prime Minister’s support for the teaching of British values in our schools there was a glaring omission in his definition of our accepted values: gender equality.

At the same time as a major conference on rape as a weapon in war and evidence of the normality of rape of women in Egypt, surely the equality and respect for both sexes must be embedded into any discussion regarding British values.

Leo Mccormack

Sedgefield, Co Durham

Telegraph:

SIR – Sadiq Khan promises that a Labour government would free our courts from the obligation to follow the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, without repealing the Human Rights Act 1998.

I cannot see how this could work. Since the Human Rights Act incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, and since the European Court of Human Rights is the authoritative interpreter of that Convention, the British courts have no practical choice but to follow clear rulings of that European Court.

Jonathan Morgan
Fellow in Law, Corpus Christi College
Cambridge

The value of the BBC

SIR – My assertion regarding “free access” on the BBC’s Points of View (report, June 10) never meant anything other than free access to all BBC services at point of use. I believe that the licence fee is the best way of funding a public broadcaster of the scale, range and quality of the BBC. At 40 pence a day, the BBC’s services are extraordinary value for money.

Danny Cohen
Director of Television, BBC

Recalling Rik Mayall

SIR – Many of us who were Conservative parliamentary candidates in the Eighties regarded Rik Mayall’s The New Statesman as a cross between a documentary and a training exercise.

Cllr Chris Middleton (Con)
Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Angel of advertising

SIR – Given Antony Gormley’s displeasure at his Angel of the North sculpture being used to advertise a Morrisons baguette, creating a new work that looks like Lego is just asking for trouble.

Michael Powell
Tealby, Lincolnshire

Message on a bottle

SIR – I have an old milk bottle (Letters, June 10) which bears the slogan “Wonderfuel Gas”. I bring it out annually, when I make a cup of tea for the engineer who calls to service my gas boiler. Sadly, so far none of them has noticed it.

R R Mohile
Lancing, West Sussex

Speed limits

SIR – John Ewington found his speed-awareness course interesting (Letters, June 11), but appears not to have picked up two key themes evident from the three courses I have attended.

First, the difference between 30mph and 34mph is not negligible when it comes to stopping distance; and secondly, there is already a scale of penalties. The driver who is 10mph or more over the limit would not be offered the course as an alternative to the £90 fine and three points on their licence.

Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire

SIR – The 30mph limit is usually imposed in a built-up area and where one should take special care. Another 5mph could be the difference between injury and death.

Car owners have become far too blasé about their driving speed. I find this to be especially true in the case of drivers with many years’ experience, who risk becoming blind to their own worst habits.

Ann Baker
Torpoint, Cornwall

In the night garden

SIR – On the subject of nocturnal gardening (Letters, June 10): I used to work in Shepperton with the late Jimmy Wright, who was a film-maker and founder of the Spelthorne Talking News.

When I called him late one evening, his wife answered the phone and said she would fetch Jimmy indoors as he was busy gardening. Unthinkingly, I replied, “But it’s pitch dark!” Jimmy, of course, was blind – he had been shot down in the war and was horribly disfigured by burns, costing him the sight in both eyes. He was one of Sir Archibald McIndoe’s “Guinea Pigs”, and his energy and commitment to his work was a constant inspiration.

Carole King
Ilfracombe, Devon

Here’s to the hackney

SIR – I rely on taxis for transport. Harry Mount ignores the fact that, unlike minicabs, they are heavily regulated.

Taxis are therefore safer, and there is also the privacy offered by the voice switch. Minicabs, on the other hand, are not regulated; in many cases they are pricier, and the incessant talk is a big deterrent.

D B Cohen
London W1

SIR – Any extra charge levied by black cab drivers is more than compensated by the solutions they offer, over their shoulder, to the world’s problems. Do they all belong to the same debating society?

Robert Vincent
Wildhern, Hampshire

Early risers

SIR – With regard to sleep and health (Letters, June 11), my cockerpoodle wakes at 7.15 and we are out walking by 7.30.

An eight-hour sleep is a dream, and my health has certainly been affected: I’ve lost half a stone.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

Dress for success

SIR – As a current A-level student, I read with interest your report regarding the theory that wearing a lab coat could improve performance in a science exam. What shall I wear to help me in my politics exam tomorrow?

Alice Roberts
Kineton, Warwickshire

The British values of responsibility and respect

SIR – Among other British values (Letters, June 11), the Prime Minister should promote personal responsibility.

This extends to one’s own health and well-being. Type 2 diabetes is the result of lifestyle choices, and yet the individual expects the state to pick up the cost. The central value of responsibility has been eroded by an over-generous welfare system that gives the impression that everything can be had for free.

Frank Sloan
Rochester, Kent

SIR – Children should be taught respect in schools, as well as at home. Respect for life, for oneself, for the rights of others as enshrined in law and for the environment.

If religious schools wish to justify this in terms of obeying God’s word, what difference does that make?

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – Much could be achieved by devoting just an hour a week in secondary school to the meaning of democracy, the roles of government and national institutions and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

This used to be called citizenship. If it also embraced a non-partisan exploration of the role of religions in society, all schools could be truly secular, as in France.

Mike Davison
Holywell, Huntingdonshire

SIR – There is one British value that always seems to get forgotten – the good manners of putting the other man at his ease.

Michael Jeffrey
London W12

SIR – The identifying characteristic of British values is the ability to queue.

Andrew Wauchope
London SE11

SIR – Boris Johnson’s purchase of water cannon doesn’t seem to chime too well with British values. However, if they were adapted to fire real ale rather than water, that would be uniquely British.

Keith Flett
London N17

A dog’s life on the Grand Union Canal, which stretches from London to Birmingham  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 12 Jun 2014

Comments12 Comments

SIR – Having lived on a narrowboat, Joanie M, for the past seven years, I’m afraid the annual running costs for a premium mooring and 3,000 miles of cruising are a lot more than £3,760 (Property, June 7).

Diesel is currently around 90p a litre (even higher for fuel used for propulsion), and residential moorings, if you can find one, are around the £3,000 mark.

Living on a boat is great, but you must go into it with your eyes open. Hiring one first to see if you like the lifestyle is good advice, but do it in the winter, not in the glorious summer months.

Peter Earley
Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire

The new NHS statin guidelines ‘risk harming patients’, doctors have claimed Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 12 Jun 2014

Comments40 Comments

SIR – At last, doctors have pointed out that much of the research undertaken relating to statins has been funded by the drug companies. Medicating people “just in case” can never be right.

Perhaps now we can have an open debate on these drugs before millions more people sleepwalk into taking them, possibly compromising their health.

Christine Watson
Burghfield Common, Berkshire

SIR – Again we hear of drug companies producing favourable reports about their products, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) absorbing this advice and passing it on to the NHS. Bewildered patients will do as their doctor says and take these unnecessary chemicals when a simple change of lifestyle might fix the problem. I refused to take statins, and more people should stand up to their doctors and do the same.

Neville H Walker
Orton-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire

SIR – It would be far better for people to change their lifestyles than to take statins. Avoid food loaded with sugar, reduce salt intake, and take regular exercise: these will lessen the risk not only of cardiovascular disease, but all the others that cause disability and early death.

Over-50s who are overweight, and those who have a family history of cardiovascular disease, should ask their doctor to check their cholesterol levels. If high, they can consider taking statins.

The remainder of over-50s should save the money to be spent on something more worthwhile.

Gillian Seward
Bristol

SIR – If my experience is typical, I believe the full extent of the side-effects may not yet be known.

My GP was understanding about the problems I experienced with two different brands before prescribing a third. However, it was not apparent to me that these side-effects were being recorded. I have had fewer problems with the third brand but, even so, at the moment I take less than the prescribed dose.

James Thacker
Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

SIR – There is an economic side-effect of statins: the automatic increase in travel insurance premiums, because there is an assumption by insurers that the applicant has a heart condition. In my case, the premium doubled.

If the Government continues with this policy, then some way will have to be found to remove this impact.

Bill Halkett
Bispham, Lancashire

SIR – Thanks to Nice, I can eat and eat and drink and drink, take a statin a day and be OK. If more problems should appear, they’ll have another pill for me.

Brian Farmer
Chelmsford, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – There has been a great deal of emotional reaction to the Tuam mother-and-baby burial story. I welcome the reporting and analysis by Rosita Boland and Patsy McGarry (June 7th). The actual situation doesn’t elicit the mass hysteria generated by the mis-reporting of the “septic tank” mass graves.

There is no doubt that we are justifiably ashamed of our treatment of unwed mothers and their babies in the past, when they were conveniently hidden away in Victorian buildings. But we need to remember that it was members of the Catholic Church who initiated the change in our treatment of these women.

In the 1960s and 1970s a Dominican priest, the late Fr Fergal O’Connor, set up the organisation “Ally”, which sought to move single pregnant women out of mother-and-baby homes and into family placements.

This was the first effort to remove stigma and shame from women who found themselves pregnant out of wedlock. I played a small part in this work by agreeing to host some young women who were placed in our family by a religious sister (a professional social worker) employed by the diocesan social service centre in Limerick.

Mostly it worked out well in that the single pregnant women acted as an au pair in exchange for her board and keep. With some we developed a lasting friendship. However, the situation depended on mutual respect and a guarantee of absolute confidentiality.

Over 21 girls and women came to live with us from 1971 until 1985; by then the necessity of hiding away began to change.

My experience of more than 21 women who varied in age, education, class and background was that each of them cared passionately for the unborn child.

The majority concluded, after much soul-searching, without coercion, that the best option for the child would be adoption.

Could it be that adopted babies sometimes did get a better deal in life as a result of the mother’s choice? Could it be that at present some are keeping babies that do not get a good deal from that choice? Are there social pressures now that push people towards poor outcomes for children?

Change starts at the margins with quiet work, often in the background. – Yours, etc,

STEPHANIE WALSH,

Newport,

Tipperary.

Sir, – The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (“Apology for stigmatisation of unmarried mothers”, Home News, June 11th) has apologised “for hurt caused by the church” in terms of its role in society’s “culture of isolation and social ostracising” of unmarried mothers. Again they refuse to accept full responsibility when they add “unmarried mothers were often judged, stigmatised and rejected by society, including the church”. These bishops know full well it was the Catholic Church who created that society and made the rules. – Yours, etc,

JOHN T KAVANAGH,

Braemor Road,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Darach MacDonald (June 12th) makes a spirited defence of the dictionary definition of “unionism”, and rightly points out that purity of blood is a fiction in the modern world. But culture is not transmitted through the genes, and anyone observing an Orange parade should be left in no doubt of the existence of “unionist” culture.

The constitutional question is far from the “single common identifying policy” that unites unionist political parties. Support for monarchism, the Orange Order and Scottish cultural heritage, together with disdain for the Irish language, Gaelic sports and (historically) the Catholic Church have long been commonly held positions. None of these follow automatically from the dictionary definition, so the dictionary definition must be incomplete.

It is unfortunate that a political term has come to have a non-political meaning. But whatever name we decide to use, most people understand it to mean more than just a single policy position. It also identifies a distinct, shared worldview that can be difficult to fully appreciate from the outside, leading to a gulf in understanding that perpetuates conflict.

It has never been just about the Border. – Yours, etc,

ANDREW GALLAGHER,

Trimbleston,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Dick Keane (June 9th) suggests that the Belfast Agreement should be rewritten so that “a united Ireland is off the agenda until a majority of unionists request it” rather than “an overall simple majority” of the Northern Ireland electorate.

The existing arrangement has already been approved by referendum on both sides of the Border, including, in Northern Ireland, a clear majority of the unionist electorate. In other words, a majority of the unionist electorate has already agreed that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland should be determined by “an overall simple majority” of the Northern Ireland electorate. Indeed, this was their long-standing demand.

Northern Ireland is a financial liability to Britain, which would be better off without it. Its retention in the UK is normally justified by British politicians to the British people on the grounds that this is what “an overall simple majority” of the Northern Ireland electorate wants. Does Mr Keane seriously think that the British people would want to pay for the privilege of hanging on to Northern Ireland against the wishes of “an overall majority” of its electorate?

That said, the holding of a referendum now would be completely pointless. What is the point of asking a question to which everyone already knows the answer? – Yours, etc,

ED KELLY,

Keswick Road,

St Helens,

Merseyside,

England.

Sir, – Mairin de Burca’s tale of her attempts to quit the Catholic Church (June 12th) contained so many curious assertions that I found myself squinting in disbelief.

Two claims stood out. First, Ms de Burca considers it a “serious breach of a citizen’s civil rights” that recorded defection is no longer available to her and others.

While I am aware that a European court has recently carved a “right to be forgotten” out of thin air in the Google case, I am aware of no analogous right in ecclesiastical contexts. Indeed, a similar regime would be very peculiar given that this matter involves canonical, not civil, rights.

Second, I find it a bit strange to, on the one hand, declare that the Catholic faith is meaningless for one personally, and yet on the other hand, insist that a parochial registry of the Catholic Church – recording one’s (meaningless) baptism – be amended. Ms de Burca’s real objective must be to undo whatever “hold” the Catholic Church is perceived to exercise over its former members by refusing to alter the historical fact of baptism. Ms de Burca claims that her “baptism was rescinded”. As a church historian I would be most interested to see a document stating that fact, given that in both the Code of Canon Law (canon 849) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1272), baptism is referred to as “indelible”.

It seems to me that, given the entirely voluntary nature of religious participation, the plainest way to “cease to observe the Catholic church’s rituals” is to do exactly that. – Yours, etc,

Dr SEAN

ALEXANDER SMITH,

Chao de Loureiro,

Lisbon.

Sir, – It might be helpful if atheist contributors to your letters page (June 12th) desisted from claims such as faith and logic being mismatched. In fact, if pure logic is demanded, then the proper position is agnosticism, not atheism. When this is pointed out, the atheist customarily moves his position to the “burden of proof” argument, apparently unaware that the legal burden of proof is a utilitarian doctrine rather than a scientific or academic one; it is accepted in law for practical reasons, but outside of a courtroom, there is no assumption of “innocence” or “guilt” as such, and the burden of proof rests on whomever is making whatever assertion.

For the atheist, this is problematical, since the concept of a creator God is a perfectly reasonable one, particularly when placed against the alternative of life from random chance, a likelihood (as calculated by scientist and atheist Sir Roger Penrose) as being one in 10 to the 10th power to the 123rd power, a number so vast that, were you to write it out as a single “one” with all the zeros behind it, it would stretch beyond the limits of the universe.

With such odds, there is no particular reason to assume atheism as the default.

The problem is that atheism – at least in its newer, Dawkinsian variety – is an affectation. Most atheists are motivated less by an attachment to logic and more by a desire to perceive of themselves as being just a little more intelligent, just a little less gullible than their fellows.

In one regard, they are the living proof of the doctrine that what you think of God comes out in what you think of others. More thoughtful atheists, like the philosopher Thomas Nagel, have noted this phenomenon, commenting that “atheism, like religion, can often rest more on a will to believe than on dispassionate rational arguments”.

He is, of course, quite correct. – Yours, etc,

DAVID SMITH,

Harmonstown Road,

Artane, Dublin 5.

Sir, – The Health Information and Quality Authority has released yet another report critical of hand-hygiene practices in hospitals, and the immediate response from the hospital concerned is to introduce aggressive, disciplinary-based approaches to ensure hand-hygiene compliance (“Hygiene at Wexford hospital criticised in Hiqa report”, June 11th). With these reports becoming more common, might I suggest we adopt a different approach to hand-hygiene compliance?

In other areas of healthcare, in particular surgery, a “no-blame” culture is now standard. In the event of an error, it may be instinctive to seek immediate punishment, but this paradigm is actually counterproductive to preventing further errors. While it discourages blame, it is not a “no-fault” system. It does not tolerate malicious or purposefully harmful behaviour, and supports disciplinary actions against those who engage in such behaviour. This culture recognises that human error and faulty systems can lead to mistakes and encourages an investigation of what led to the error, instead of an immediate rush to blame an individual. Through this process, systems that may perpetuate errors can be fixed. It also gives healthcare professionals the opportunity to feel more at ease reporting errors and a sense of empowerment for system improvement, instead of being afraid. – Yours, etc,

Dr PETER LONERGAN,

Dargan Building,

St John’s Road West,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – The failure of the HSE to take action to stop top-up payments to senior staff is yet another example of how the insiders look after the insiders, and as the people receiving these utterly cynical payments were able to eyeball the HSE management face to face, the HSE blinked first (“HSE U-turn means some executives may retain pay top-ups”, Front Page, June 12th).

I bet if cleaners or hospital porters had been found to have been overpaid then the HSE would stop those payments immediately and request a repayment of the amounts already paid.

But given the HSE lacks the guts to take on these overpaid people directly, there are other options for dealing with the issue of senior public-sector staff abusing both the letter and the spirit of the policies of austerity everyone else faces.

The easiest way would be for every single person above a certain grade across the entire public sector to be required to publish their tax certificate, as is the norm in most countries, and face the judgment of society. However, as this would also cover the political class it’s unlikely to happen.

Or the HSE could change the rules so that those employed by the public sector must also declare their private-sector income and then the HSE could deduct funding to the relevant health organisation by the amount paid that exceeded the public-sector cap.

A similar tactic would also work for former office holders, who seem to think that it is acceptable to receive a public-sector pension while still being employed elsewhere.– Yours, etc,

DESMOND FitzGERALD,

Canary Wharf,

A chara, – As regards Sean Glynn’s problems with signage translated into Irish (June 11th), it must be said that not all his examples are that intolerable. The “daddy of them all”, as he says, above the X-ray department in the Bon Secours in Galway is quite acceptable as a piece of Scottish Gaelic. “Gaillimh Thiar” and “Gaillimh Siar” are both correct, but don’t mean exactly the same thing. Taking a longer linguistic perspective, both “Bóthar Átha an Rí” and “Bóthar Átha na Rí” are both all right, depending on whether we speak in the singular or the plural.

The attitude of many sign painters and that of their advisers, when given an Irish job, seems to be “throw in a síneadh fada if in doubt”, but even so, I shall leave to those of your readers who are well read in the variety of nominal compounds in Irish to decide on the merits of “Séan Nós”. – Is mise,

LIAM Ó MURCHÚ,

Bóthar an Tóchair,

Corcaigh.

Sir, – Michael Harding, it barely needs saying, is blessed with a writer’s gift of lifting our spirits and somehow elevating everyday things above their ordinariness (“Thoughts about priests in a priestless world”, June 12th). His latest offering serves as a timely reminder that there’s no shortage of goodness and down-to-earth decency in those men drawn to the priesthood at some point. – Yours, etc,

OWEN MORTON,

Station Road,

Sutton,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly’s new Bill to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes (“Reilly hails Bill on plain packaging for tobacco”, June 11th) will be welcomed by smugglers, and will result in further lost revenue to the State. This move will make it a lot easier for criminals to produce a plain package, resulting in an increase in contraband products, thus eroding further our tax take on tobacco products. – Yours, etc,

VINCENT DEVLIN,

Oakview Avenue,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – We can only thank Senator Catherine Noone of Fine Gael for bringing her call to regulate the use of ice-cream van chimes to public attention (Home News, June 13th). Therehas to be an inquiry or tribunal, or at the very least a Garda investigation, to get to the heart of this matter. Perhaps we could lump it in with all the other tribunals, inquiries and Garda investigations that are going on.

Or maybe, just maybe, parents could take responsibility for their own children, and leave the State to take care of more pressing matters. – Yours, etc,

PHILIP BOYLE ,

Carrickbrack Lawn,

Sutton,

A chara, – Given the increase in use of helmet-mounted cameras used by cyclists to “shame” motorists (June 10th), perhaps pedestrians could take to using their mobile phones to document the daily instances of cyclists dangerously and arrogantly breaking red lights and mounting footpaths at speed. – Is mise,

SIMON O’CONNOR,

Lismore Road,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – The headline in your Property supplement (June 12th) concerning Lisselan House, near Clonakilty, Co Cork, informs us that the house’s owners also “once owned the former Cheltenham Golf Cup Winner, Imperial Call”. Has the horse learned to play golf in his retirement or did you mean the Cheltenham Gold Cup? – Yours, etc,

ANNA GRAHAM,

Chapel Close,

Balbriggan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Could somebody please tell me why I can’t buy fruit and nut chocolate made with dark chocolate? – Yours, etc,

ALAN BELL,

Church Road,

Greystones,

Sir, – It is absurd to expect a person who is already licensed to watch television and to listen to radio to pay a second time when staying away from home in a holiday caravan or cottage. Will they next consider a compulsory television licence for our summer tourists? – Yours, etc,

HARRY MULHERN,

Millbrook Road, Dublin 13.

Irish Independent:

* I’ve got to thinking lately that this little country of ours should scrap the title ‘Isle of Saints and Scholars’ and instead be known as the ‘Island of Immaculate Conceptions’.

For it would appear that an inordinately high number of Irish babies, past and present, have come into this world without any male involvement in the process at all.

As the sickening revelations about the thousands of Irish women and children who were condemned to live and die in religious institutions continue to emerge, I’m struck by the fact that not a single father seems to have existed in this whole sad and deplorable saga.

Even up to this day, it’s become impossible to switch on the radio without hearing another lone parent (always a mother) decry the State’s inability to provide sufficiently for her children. Again there never seems to be a father in sight.

These children are not of course an issue of some miraculous intervention. Rather they are an issue of spineless, irresponsible men – except in the case where the father is deceased.

I am calling on the current generation of ‘non-existent fathers’ to come out from behind the bushes and take responsibility for your offspring.

Because, as a hard-pressed taxpayer, I am bloody well sick and tired of paying to raise your children.

MARGARET GREALISH

KNOCKNACARRA, GALWAY

NUNS DIDN’T DIE OF MALNUTRITION

* During the period in question regarding the mother-and-baby homes, mid-1920s to mid-1960s, how many nuns died of malnutrition?

D K HENDERSON

CLONTARF, DUBLIN

* In light of the recent baby-home scandals, which have followed the Magdalene Laundries and industrial homes scandals, can some of your readers explain to this mystified non- Irishman how and why it was the people of those periods ignored the inhumanity that what was going on under their roofs?

With all the media coverage on this subject, nobody has actually broached the angle of how it was there was no protest.

I have asked endless Irish people this particular point and all you ever get is vague answers. Even young Irish people don’t ask why their parents’ generation turned a blind eye to the mayhem that was being perpetrated across the land. Will it be left to historians in a future Ireland to explain what went on under their ancestors noses?

Surely, if we are going to learn from history, you can’t just brush it off by blaming it on to the so-called culture of another period and time.

I await answers.

VICTOR FELDMAN

JOY STREET, RINGSEND, DUBLIN

LET’S NIP APPLE ROW IN THE BUD

* A creative, relevant and agile government response is required for the tax probe launched by the EU into Apple, the concerns of the US Senate, and the widely reported comments of Governor Brown of California if the impact of these is not to inevitably take their toll on the sentiment of foreign direct investors towards Ireland.

Major international corporations will be extremely concerned about unanticipated liabilities and the reputational implications of any EU ruling that is discerned as being adverse to their interests and those of their institutional and personal shareholders.

The consequences for Ireland will be missed investment opportunities and fewer fact-finding visits around the country by prospective investors.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spends in excess of €57m promoting Ireland’s economic interests overseas but bears no accountability to deliver the value claimed as a consequence of this expenditure.

The department declares that the rationale for spending this money is exports and services from Ireland worth €182bn and 250,000 jobs in the country attributable to foreign direct investment.

However, over 90pc of the nation’s exports are derived from foreign-owned companies, without any intervention whatsoever by any Irish authorities, agencies or the nation’s ambassadors.

It would therefore make compelling sense to have IDA Ireland report to the Foreign Affairs and Trade ministers.

A rationalisation of embassies, consulates and the 19 IDA Ireland overseas offices, as a well as the combination of public diplomacy with the skills and know-how to secure foreign direct investment, would surely mean that Ireland’s efforts in the foreign direct investment sphere would be more focused, defensible and successful.

MYLES DUFFY

GLENAGEARY, CO DUBLIN

US ARMY IS COUNTING THE COST

* When the Cold War ended in stalemate; with both sides winning victory in each of the main battlefields of all wars, the world learned some very important lessons.

With Russia winning the military struggle, by proving it had the capability of annihilating the Americans, we learned that America is the second most powerful military in the world at best.

When America won the field in the economic battlefield, and thus saw the collapse of the Russian economy in both structure and wealth, we learned that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

The problem facing the American military right now, particularly given the recent billion-dollar investment in “Fortress Europe“, is that it may soon fall foul to not being able to afford its military prowess.

Recent events in Iraq point to a world police force that is on the point of over extension. History proves this to be a terminal viewpoint for those who have relied on the “might is right” principle to earn their daily crust.

DERMOT RYAN

ATHENRY, CO GALWAY

MYTHS OF THE WELFARE STATE

* Your editorial (Irish Independent, June 11) on the ESRI research paper ‘Welfare Targeting and Work Incentives’ and story on same may have lent the impression that there is a massive problem with welfare traps; that welfare pays more than work in many cases; that many people therefore prefer to stay on welfare; and that the Department of Social Protection is doing little to tackle the problem. None of this is the case.

As the ESRI itself has stated, the paper “confirms that work pays more than welfare for close to six out of seven unemployed people – even when costs like childcare and travel to work are taken into account.”

Furthermore, the research shows that in relation to the small numbers of people who would actually receive more on welfare than work in the short term, “more than seven out of 10 choose work rather than welfare” – because they recognise that wages can increase with time and there are significant additional benefits to being in work.

In your editorial, you state that “the problem … means that when the economy needs workers, they are not available and there is the double blow on the Exchequer of having to make welfare payments and forgo income tax.”

In fact, all the available evidence shows that as jobs become available, jobseekers take them – and the fact that unemployment has reduced from over 15pc to 11.8pc under this government’s watch demonstrates as much, as does the fact that the Live Register has fallen for 22 months in a row.

NIAMH FITZGERALD

PRESS OFFICER,

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL PROTECTION.

Irish Independent

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