29 August 2014 Checkup

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I go to the health center for a checkup

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, corn for tea and her back pain has flared up!


Dr Jack Dominian – obituary

Dr Jack Dominian was a psychiatrist and Catholic theologian who celebrated loving sex between unmarried and gay partners

Dr Jack Dominian, psychiatrist

Dr Jack Dominian

7:15PM BST 28 Aug 2014


Dr Jack Dominian, who has died aged 84, was a British psychiatrist and Roman Catholic theologian who championed a rethink on Christian sexual ethics at the same time as he fought to uphold the institution of marriage.

As early as 1977, Dominian had warned against the Catholic Church’s preoccupation with marital chastity at the expense of other factors in a successful marriage. Writing shortly after the Vatican had published its Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics decrying the corruption of moral standards brought about by the “unbridled exaltation of sex”, Dominian outlined his own Proposals for a New Sexual Ethic. There he argued that the presence of a genuine love between two people – whether they be married or not – validates sex, making it an activity worthy of celebration. Sexual pleasure, he wrote, must not be trivialised in the eyes of the Church, being one of the “gifts of God to Man which can become the springs of joy, pleasure and loving communication”.

Dominian went on to extend the same argument in defence of the love between same-sex couples. To think of sex solely in terms of procreation, he wrote in New Internationalist in 1986, was to deny its “capacity to give life in a more than biological sense”, its role in strengthening a couple’s sexual identity and their sense of commitment to each other. While Dominian admitted that the teachings of the Bible condemned homosexual practices, he ventured that same-sex marriages would one day be possible, and that couples should receive the support of Church and State.

At that time Dominian was working as a senior consultant at the Central Middlesex Hospital in Acton, where he had been struck by the number of dissolved and unhappy marriages among his patients. Wanting to understand more, in 1971 he founded the Marriage Research Centre (now One Plus One) to conduct research and offer marriage advice.

Under his direction the centre tracked the progress of 65 volunteer couples from their wedding day in 1979 through the first six years of marriage, and then at regular intervals thereafter, in an attempt to identify the factors behind spiralling divorce rates. Using this data, Dominian identified three separate phases to a married relationship: the crucial first five years, during which some 30 to 40 per cent of all divorces take place; the middle decades, during which couples must juggle commitments to immediate family with commitments to work and their ageing parents; and the final decades, when one half of a couple is often left to cope with the death of the other.

Yet Dominian came to feel disillusioned with the ability of counselling to resolve long-standing marital discord, since by the time most couples arrived at One Plus One the issues that had led to their unhappiness were already too deeply entrenched. From the mid-1990s he began to call for an approach that focused on the prevention of relationship breakdown, rather than belated attempts at a cure. In the future, he argued, couples would need to be prepared for marriage, and given tools to develop the “companionate” love that arises from intimate coexistence.

It was a love that had been markedly lacking in Dominian’s early life. He was born Jacob Dominian in Athens on August 25 1929, to a Catholic father and Greek Orthodox mother, and attended the Lycée Léonin, one of the city’s oldest independent schools, before moving with his family to India at the age of 12. His father, elder brother and sister were all distant figures throughout his childhood, and the relationship with his mother was often under strain. “Nowadays, she would have been a business magnate, but in those days she took her frustrations out on me,” he later recalled. “She was a very self-centred person.”

Yet it was from his mother that he inherited his keen sense of ambition, and after National Service he went up to read Medicine at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, gaining his Master’s degree from Exeter College, Oxford. He met his future wife, Edith, at a 1955 meeting of the Union of Catholic Students in Worcester, and they married later that year.

Having attended the Maudsley Hospital in London to complete his psychiatric training, Dominian became a consultant physician to the Central Middlesex Hospital in 1965, where he remained for the next two decades. He was appointed MBE in 1994 for his services to marriage counselling.

In all he published more than 30 books, including The Definitive Guide to What Makes a Marriage Work (1995), and One Like Us: A Psychological Interpretation of Jesus (1998), which employed modern psychoanalytic theories to explore Christ’s childhood development.

Applying psychiatry’s diagnostic criteria to himself, Dominian identified his own personality type as neurotic — “but then,” he added cheerfully, “neurotics can be fascinating to live with”.

Dr Jack Dominian’s wife predeceased him in 2005, shortly after the couple had celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. They had four daughters.

Dr Jack Dominian, born August 25 1929, died August 10 2014


Dark clouds over Rotherham: those in positions of authority in the town who failed to act on child s

Fears about race relations have been mentioned as a possible reason why those in charge failed to act to stop the horrific sexual abuse of children in Rotherham (Failures led to sexual abuse of 1,400 children, 27 August).

This may be so but other issues must be considered too. The first is the problems that stem from our first-past-the-post system in local government elections, which, exacerbated by the cabinet system of patronage of the leader, results in never-ending party fiefdoms that breed complacency, cronyism and a blurring of the roles of senior officers and elected members.

Second, there is what the scandal shows about attitudes towards women in our society. In Rotherham, what happened was implicitly seen as the fault of the victims. This echoes the arguments of rapists that it was their victim’s fault because of the way she behaved or dressed or the type of woman she was.

There is much current talk about British values. Decency and fair play are often cited. But until the exploitation of people is no longer acceptable, whoever they are and in whatever circumstances, such values will remain a distant pipe dream.
Jenny Budden
Exmouth, Devon

• The intransigence of Shaun Wright as elected police and crime commissioner highlights one of the serious defects in making these posts directly elected, to which those of us opposed to the reform drew attention at the time (May joins calls for police and crime commissioner to resign, 28 August). Had the elected South Yorkshire police authority continued, its chair could have been removed by a vote of the members of the authority. Even better, if we still had the metropolitan county councils, abolished by the Thatcher government in 1986, the chair of the police committee would have been an appointment of the whole council.

Such collective responsibility is paradoxically more democratic than the direct election of a single chief executive and certainly less dangerous, as the appalling Rotherham example demonstrates.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Some say they believed the scale of child sex abuse in Rotherham was exaggerated. A total of 1,400 cases does indeed seem barely credible. Yet even had the true figure been a tenth of this, would not 140 cases have been sufficient to warrant vigorous action? Many who were in positions of authority claim they were not told. At best this indicates that they were unapproachable and uninterested. Given how little use they were in public office, should they not now go?

Some were afraid, but in extreme situations we may require courage of those charged with defending the public. Is fear of being called a racist an adequate excuse for dereliction of duty? This is not an occasion for applying collective blame to one ethnic group. But it is an occasion to blame those who applied collective immunity to one ethnic group and who did so for reasons of electoral advantage.

The police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright,must not be the only one held responsible. This was not the 1960s, when, we are now told, sex abuse was considered normal. It is in very recent and supposedly enlightened times. We should be seeing prosecutions, resignations, sackings and forfeiture of pension rights. Some of those who can’t be prised out must never see another pay rise or promotion.
John Riseley
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• While the ethnicity of alleged perpetrators in the child exploitation scandal in Rotherham and other parts of the country may be relevant, there are other factors that should be examined.

During the 1970s I worked in an inner-city social services team in West Yorkshire and over a period of time we came across evidence of the exploitation and attempted exploitation of children and young persons within the care system and known to the local authority. The perpetrators at the time were, almost entirely, white British males predominantly employed in the night-time economy – taxi companies, late-opening take-aways, and clubs and pubs that turned a blind eye to underage drinkers.

In many instances it was the particular work situation of the perpetrators which gave them access to vulnerable youngsters. I suspect that, in Rotherham and elsewhere, this issue has direct relevance to understanding and addressing what has happened.
 David Hinchliffe
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• Professor Alexis Jay’s Rotherham inquiry reveals that a 2002 report was “effectively suppressed” by senior police. This raises the total number of cover-ups and obstructions to bringing child-abusers to justice up to at least 40. The Jillings inquiry was all but boycotted by North Wales police. Detectives have been pulled from cases when they were getting close to VIPs. Both the Waterhouse and Kincora inquiries were given restricted remits, and MPs’ concerns were ignored. The list goes on and on.

I am no conspiracy theorist, but for police, Crown Prosecution Service and assorted civil servants to trip over so many times stretches credulity way past the limit.
Dr Richard Lawson
Winscombe, North Somerset

• The Home Office’s 2002 report onchild sexual exploitation in Rotherham – 12 years ago – identified the problem: but what was done to ensure police and council stayed on the case? It seems most councillors were unaware or failed to intervene. What did officers do to keep them fully informed and seek their leadership? The police appear to have failed large numbers of vulnerable victims. Was this due to a culture of laziness or prejudice? Or was it complicity or worse?
Chris Naylor

• The stories of abused children in Rotherham are heart-breaking. The perpetrators should not get out of jail. There is a problem, however, with the attention given to the perpetrators’ ethnicity. We do not see such attention when sex offenders are white – especially white celebrities like Jimmy Savile. Coverage of abuse of children by Catholic priests does not tar an entire faith group. The coverage of the Rotherham story by some sections of the media will lead to dangerous stereotyping and prejudice.
Mohammed Samaana

• Although it’s (somewhat) reassuring to hear from the Jay report that changes have been introduced over the last four years that mean the Rotherham scandal can’t happen now, justice would be far better served if the cowards who were in positions of authority more than four years ago, who did not do their basic, fundamental duty, were identified and held to account. This report is clear. There is no doubt they were in severe breach. Their reward should not be anonymous retirement on a comfy state pension.
 Kenneth Charman
Wokingham, Berks

• It is quite right to blame the authorities in the Rotherham case for their wilful blindness, and some resignations would certainly be in order.

However, it also seems that too many decades of the nanny state have deprived us of all initiative and responsibility in looking after ourselves. Where were the parents in all this (of victims and perpetrators alike)? Everything from such major horrors down to fixing a pothole in the road is always down to “them”; “they” have to sort it on our behalf.
Nick Wrigley
Boscastle, Cornwall

• On child sexual exploitation, addressing the lack of data-sharing between agencies is less important than you imply (Editorial, 28 August). What really matters is how joint working is organised, as Professor Alexis Jay says in her report on Rotherham. Three of her 15 recommendations relate to the joint child sexual exploitation team.

Data-sharing is not an end in itself, but one requisite for effective joint working. But everybody’s business must not become nobody’s responsibility. As Jay says: “Agencies should commit to introducing a single manager for the multi-agency CSE team. This should be implemented as quickly as possible.”
Dr Alex May

Ed Miliband, Francois Hollande, outside Westminster

Ian Birrell’s rant (Look to France for a vision of life under Ed Miliband, 27 August) shows that Tory Central Office is getting really desperate in its attempts to blacken Ed Miliband. It is economically illiterate to compare France with the UK without once mentioning the crucial difference that France is lumbered with the euro and forced to accommodate Merkel’s anti-growth austerity policies without being able to adjust its interest rates or exchange rate. To pretend that French and British economic experience can be linked because of the personalities of Hollande and Miliband is just so much vacuous propaganda.

It would be far more relevant to point out that, even without the eurozone straitjacket, under Osborne’s austerity policies (very similar to Merkel’s), the UK has had to endure five years of falling living standards (expected to continue till at least 2018), a grossly unbalanced and unsustainable recovery (which the lack of business investment shows no confidence in), household indebtedness rising to nearly £2tn and a trade deficit reaching unprecedented levels. Any objective analysis would note that the ostensible aim of austerity was to cut the deficit, yet that is scarcely falling despite the human price being paid by nearly a million persons being made destitute (sanctioned with loss of all benefits) and more than a million reduced to dependence on food banks.

The real issue is whether the British people want five more years like the last five, or a policy of investment, jobs and growth to replace prolonged austerity.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West

• Ian Birrell usually writes quite well-researched items but this was just full of all the old Tory smears without any analysis. Most notable of these errors is the talk of “the legacy of its [Labour’s] spendthrift time in office”. In 2008, before the bank-induced recession, Britain’s borrowing as a proportion of GDP was the lowest of the developed nations except for Spain, far lower than that of Germany. The problem was not government debt but personal and bank debt that was higher than that of all the other developed countries. This was due to the removal of almost all controls on banks initiated by the Thatcher government and pursued by all governments since. It is time to stop repeating the myth that Tories are good with money and Labour are spendthrift. Several times since the war Tory governments have inherited sound economic situations after Labour had put right previous Tory mishandling of the economy.
Michael McLoughlin
Wallington, Surrey

• From the blatant neoliberalism of Ian Birrell you segue to the more subtle and therefore more dangerous dismissal of a serious alternative to that sclerotic ideology (Hollande’s gamble could be exactly what Europe needs, 28 August). Martin Kettle’s language is a giveaway: the “old left” (older than the right?) espousing “the politics of dreamland, a place that far too many on the left in all countries are too comfortable in”. Language like that exposes him as a promoter of Owen Jones’s establishment, “characterised by institutions and ideas that legitimise and protect the concentration of wealth and power in very few hands”, ie the status quo (G2, 27 August). Larry Elliott (the same day) imagines looking back from 2017: “Parties on the extreme left and right were dismissed as irrelevant. But support for them grew. And grew.” Take heed, Birrell and Kettle.
John Airs

Stanlow oil refinery Ellesmere Port Cheshire UK

There are at least four problems with Chris Huhne’s paean to growth (Comment, 25 August). First, he fails to distinguish between relatively and absolutely decoupling energy use and economic growth. Energy intensity per unit of growth is indeed decreasing, but overall final energy consumption in the UK is increasing – from 148.6m tonnes of oil equivalent in 1988 (Huhne’s preferred date benchmark) to 154.8m toe in 2008 (Decc figures).

Second, he conveniently skates over the outsourcing of UK energy use to other countries. According to the US Energy Information Administration, global energy demand will increase from 524 quadrillion British thermal units in 2010 to 820 quadrillion Btu in 2040 – a 30-year increase of 56%.

Third, energy is not the only limit we have to contend with; research by the Stockholm Resilience Centre suggests we have exceeded, or are on course to exceed, safe levels relating to the nitrogen cycle, biodiversity, climate change, ocean acidification, freshwater use, land system change, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.

Fourth, he erroneously equates growth with wellbeing. According to the Office for National Statistics, GDP per person has grown by a factor of 3.5 since 1955, allowing for inflation. Yet economists David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald write that reported levels of happiness in the UK in the unprecedented years of prosperity from the 70s to the 90s were practically flat. The Green House thinktank will shortly be publishing a major inquiry into post-growth politics. There we conclude that growth is indeed an “enemy of the planet” – and of its people.
Professor Andrew Dobson
Spire, Keele University

• A new form of quantitative easing to fund green activity would strengthen the economy not only of the UK but also of the rest of Europe, were it to be introduced continent-wide. This approach would be preferable to the proposed “helicopter money” solution (Report, 25 August), whereby newly printed money is showered indiscriminately on the majority of EU inhabitants. This would suck in more imports rather than paying for the kind of labour-intensive, green infrastructure programme that could help provide every community in Europe with a sustainable local economy.
Colin Hines
Convenor, Green New Deal Group

Malorie Blackman, children's laureate: subjected to abuse on Twitter. Photograph: Sean Smith

There is a sad connection between Alison Flood’s report on the racist abuse heaped on children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (Racists cannot silence me – children’s laureate, 27 August) and the opening of Little House, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir, quoted in Flood’s report on its publication 80 years on (26 August). Writing beautifully, Wilder nevertheless embeds the colonial myth of empty land: “It was lonesome and so still with the stars shining down on the great, flat land where no one lived.” Yet people had lived there. The young Laura grows up in a white community where “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

Sky News’s misrepresentation of Malorie Blackman’s words about the stark lack of diversity in children’s books has a long, painful history. The virulent racist responses to her on Twitter show how deeply that history remains ingrained. What does the “market god” – that now largely rules the children’s book world – have to say?
Beverley Naidoo

One Man Two Guvnors at the National Theatre in 2011.

The case made by Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons (Letters, 27 August), for work for detainees is perfectly cogent and would, I suspect, receive near-universal support. The issue that provokes concern is the way G4S and Serco might extract fiscal benefit from the services provided by detainees. It is probable that these firms would have bid for their contracts assuming payment for these services would be made at the minimum wage or higher. I suspect it is fanciful to assume that these paragons of venality would not reap the subsequent bounty but instead pass it up as a windfall from the taxpayer.
Dr Andrew Peacock
Heriot Watt University

• Michael Billington describes a hand movement of the comic Sid Field as the ancestor of a gag in One Man, Two Guvnors (A Book That Changed Me, 28 August). As Freddie Davies’s autobiography, Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy, reveals, however, Field’s mannerisms were borrowed in their turn from Davies’s grandfather Jack Herbert, a comedian to whom Field was straight man in the 1920s. If Field’s influence does indeed live on, perhaps now is the time to give credit to the man who taught him.
Anthony Teague
Co-writer, Funny Bones

• Miriam Taylor (Letters, 28 August) mentions the attraction of Scotland’s summer bank holiday. In fact, most Scottish holidays are regional rather than national, so that we do not suffer traffic jams caused by having the whole country on the road simultaneously.
Alasdair Drysdale
Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

• When I worked in Customs and Excise in Aberdeen in the 1970s I was asked by someone from HQ in London if I could “pop out” to get some information from the Shetland office (Letters, 26 August). And when staff in Shetland had to give the location of their nearest railway station on travel claims, they quite truthfully put Stavanger.
Ian Arnott

• “Does no one say ‘groovy, daddio’ any more?” (Letters, 28 August). Only we hep cats, baby, only we hep cats.
Chris Trotter


It’s time to stop the nonsense about the excuse in Rotherham being “the fear of being accused of racism”. In the first place, Pakistani girls were also being abused. In the second place, it is racist to apply different and lower standards to a minority ethnic community than the white English community.

It was, then, not about political correctness gone mad or the failures of a multicultural society (Edward Thomas, letter, 28 August). It was about extreme sexism on the part of all those who viewed the girls as prostitutes instead of victims.

Merry Cross



Is there any evidence that the authorities would have acted differently if the perpetrators had been white? It seems that they would have had different conversations to engineer different excuses, but would that have changed their actions?

The race angle is a red herring, designed to distract us from a pervasive victim-blaming culture that runs through all communities, including white ones.

Samantha Chung



I do not seek to comment upon the individuals whose neglect allowed the shocking abuse in Rotherham, but to raise the question of how great a part the decades of domination of Rotherham by a single political party played in allowing the scandal to continue for so long.

Under one-party control, too often “Buggins’ turn” operates and more active individuals of that same party are held back or denied the opportunity to serve as councillors. It also engenders a tendency to “not rock the boat”. In contrast, a change of political control can act as a fresh breeze, invigorating both councillors and council employees. The threat of losing a seat can enliven councillors, while council staff are aware of the pressures that a strong opposition can bring. Equally the opposition, spurred on by the prospect of power, are likely to pursue a whiff of scandal – even if only for political gain.

Why were there no whistleblowers in Rotherham? With 1,400 cases of abuse? Surely one person at least ought to have raised and pursued the issue with council officers or councillors. What was (is?) wrong with the political culture in Rotherham that let the abuse continue for so long?

Brian Jones



Worst result is a close result

I believe there could be a bad public reaction to a very narrow majority in the Scottish vote.

If there is a clear majority either way it will be accepted by all. But it is likely that the majority will be vary narrow one way or the other. In this event, I foresee problems as people become resentful at “losing their birthright” or “being dragged into a foreign country against their will”. Civil disturbances and even “racist” attacks could follow.

Have the civil authorities on either side of the border taken this calamitous possibility into account and made plans to cope with the situation? Or will they just “muddle through” as usual?

Peter Milner



If England and Scotland were already separate independent countries, would people from either country be clamouring for a union between the two nations? I find it difficult to imagine such a demand arising.

Andrew Davis

Weybridge, Surrey

No one is consulting me about the Scottish referendum, nor the millions like me. We don’t have a vote and yet we care about it very much.

My mother was a proud Scot from the Highlands, and she married an Englishman. I enjoy hybrid vigour. It so happens that I live in England, but I am not English or Scottish.

This is not about who scores the best points in a TV debate. It is about who we are. I don’t want an independent Scotland or an independent England. I am British, and I want to remain a citizen of the United Kingdom, with all the pride that belonging to that union implies.

Elizabeth Morison Proudman



A question that seems neither to have been asked of nor answered by Alistair Darling, and which may greatly influence voting intentions: if Scotland does vote for independence, would he stand for the new Scottish Parliament or would he find an English, Welsh or Northern Ireland seat and seek to continue his Westminster career?

John Hein


This is a war between Sunni and Shia

I find it difficult to agree with your editorial of 22 August, in which you conclude that “what we are dealing with is an explicit war against America and the West”.

On the contrary, I see the Islamic State war as an escalation of the ongoing struggle between Sunni and Shia. Atrocities against Christians, Yazidis, and the odd British or American hostage are guaranteed to provoke Western governments into violent reaction, but what is the point of bombing Isis, when Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states in the Middle East appear to condone their activities?

I have not seen any reports of these states condemning the horrors Isis is perpetrating in the name of Sunni “purity”. Perhaps a better solution would be for the West to use diplomatic channels, either direct or through the United Nations, to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to cut off military and financial aid to Isis.

John Read

Saffron Walden, Essex


Workers motivated by public spirit

I feel sorry for Ian Jones (letter, 20 August). He seems to live in a world where the only reason to perform better is competition with a rival company.

The most effective driver to improve is self-respect and a desire to do one’s best for others. When I worked at John Lewis in the 1970s, I rarely met members of the public. I moved furniture, prepared deliveries etc. However the ethos of my fellow workers ensured that I always tried to do my best, which also made the job more enjoyable.

As a teacher, I wanted to do better because I was affecting the futures of hundreds of young people, not in order to get better results than others.

Now, in retirement, I work as a volunteer for a charity, putting in many hours a week. We all try to make our project as successful as possible. If other such charities also do well, that is cause for celebration, not an inquest as to how to better them.

Is it not screamingly obvious that people will work much better if they have a stake in the enterprise? Being told that one is a “human resource”, there to maximise profits and grind rivals into the dust, leads to an uninterested workforce that is only there to get paid in order to live.

Rod Auton

Middle Handley, Derbyshire


Why hospital parking charges go up

I find it ironic that Jeremy Hunt is calling for a reduction in hospital car parking charges.

The Government is starving NHS trusts of funding and so they are looking to make ends meet by bringing in extra income from other sources. Unfortunately many of these sources are the ones which impact on visitors and staff.

Hunt and this government refused to honour the NHS independent pay review boards’ recommendation that NHS staff be given a  1 per cent pay rise. Instead a limited number of health-care staff are getting a small increase, but one which will be removed in 2016, taking them back down to the same level of wages as they earned in 2013.

Demoralised staff are likely to leave, many opting for agency work. The costs of agency staff are huge in comparison with properly employed NHS workers, so it means the hospital has to look for other ways to bring in vital revenue. Hence a hike in car parking fees.

If the Government would honour the pay award with a consolidated 1 per cent, and pay a living wage for the 35,000 NHS staff who are paid under it, they might find their retention levels improved, they spent less on agency staff and didn’t need to get money in from increasing car parking charges.

Jo Rust

King’s Lynn, Norfolk


A poor ‘victory’ for Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the seven-week conflict in Gaza ended in “victory”. Presumably he is not taking into account the fact that thousands of people around the world will now be looking a lot closer at the country of origin on the products they buy.

Sam Semoff



Power vacuum in Brussels

From 1 September, companies will be prohibited from manufacturing or importing any vacuum cleaner with a motor above 1,600 watts. The European Commission is guilty of blowing yet another blast of hot air.

Colin Bower



Those who turned a blind eye to years of abuse must now face hard questions

Sir, Andrew Norfolk’s piece on the harrowing Rotherham child abuse report (“Officials hid evidence for a decade”, Aug 27) was a salutary lesson in the post-Leveson era.

The excoriating conclusions of Professor Alexis Jay’s study laid bare a grim history of how the council and South Yorkshire police “disbelieved, suppressed or ignored” clear warning signals in 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Mr Norfolk played a key role in exposing the child sex abuse and the apathy and cynical cover-up surrounding it in Rotherham. Shockingly, even when the 2010 murder of Laura Wilson, a teenage victim of grooming, forced a serious case review, the council’s safeguarding children’s board published only a heavily redacted version concealing the ethnicity of those who had groomed Laura Wilson and that they had known about her abuse for several years.

Next Rotherham council threatened a High Court injunction in a bid to gag The Times and then called in South Yorkshire’s disgraced police force, and external lawyers, to identify the source of Andrew Norfolk’s well-informed “leaks”.

As an exercise in self-serving cynicism and an arrogant attempt to pervert the public interest, it rivals another grim chapter involving South Yorkshire police, the Hillsborough disaster scandal.

It is surprising that South Yorkshire’s PCC, Shaun Wright, formerly the council’s cabinet chief for child protection, has not stepped down from his PCC post.

Andrew Norfolk’s dedicated role in helping to uncover this scandal — despite the efforts to silence him — is a sharp riposte to Lord Justice Leveson’s view that “whistleblowers” should complain in-house rather than turn to the press.

Paul Connew

(former editor, The Sunday Mirror)

St Albans

Sir, It has been said that officials who are no longer in post cannot be disciplined for failings in the Rotherham scandal. However, there is a common law offence which may yet see some of them in the dock. The offence concerns a failure to act or a failure to properly perform one’s duty while in public office. Such an offence might extend to employees of a council, social services and the police. The offence is rarely used; there is no time limit on prosecution and, in theory, it could attract life imprisonment. What is required is for the CPS, judge and jury to accept that the lack of action amounted to conduct which, if proved, should be punished by a criminal penalty. It seems to me that the senior decision makers who chose not to act have a case to answer.

John E Bailey

(Former Detective Chief Inspector)


Sir, Having just retired after 25 years with Kent Police, nothing about the Rotherham scandal surprises me. I spent years scraping drunk and drugged youngsters off the streets, and locking them up, because a cell was the safest place for them.

At every level, adults who had to deal with such nasty, violent desperately sad children were always secretly delighted when they disappeared — life was so much easier without them. I include parents who couldn’t wait to wash their hands of their responsibilities and dump them on the state.

Seriously, what did education authorities think would happen to all the disruptive, disadvantaged children they excluded? Many were stopped from going to school at 11, some before that. No one bothered to provide any alternative because, frankly, staff were delighted to see the back of them.

What did councils expect when they allowed private enterprise to run children’s services? I met landlords leasing houses to social services at inflated rents, and then being paid thousands a month to look after a vulnerable child. It was a shame the people doing the caring were poorly paid, poorly trained, if at all, because the child certainly did not benefit from this arrangement. When things went wrong — as they always did — staff were instructed to call the police. Social services were complicit, and happy to leave children in cells for days — they were quite put out when told by an angry custody sergeant that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice has something to say about unlawful detention.

And what about the authors of all this misfortune — the parents? They are swanning around carefree, and richer with one less mouth to feed, yet their bad parenting created the aggressive, damaged individuals so desperate for love and care that they self-medicate with drink and drugs and cry when they leave the police station because it is the only place they are warm, clean and safe.

Parents who allow their children to end up in the care of the state must be made to pay. Home owners should have a charge put on their property and those in council accommodation should be moved to smaller properties and pay a levy with their rent.

And the police — well, senior managers were always glad to see a 13-year-old cautioned for throwing a cup at a care worker: violent crime detected, biological data captured, very little paperwork and very low cost. Win-win for all — except for the 13-year-old, whose criminal record, courtesy of social services, would be retained for 100 years. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

Bev Kenward

Hythe, Kent

Sir, Why are the parents of the abused girls not being blamed for neglect, as well as the social workers and police? Not all the children were in care.

Madeline Macdonald

Knebworth, Herts

Sir, An allegation of sexual abuse some 30 years ago against Sir Cliff Richard results in a search of his home by South Yorkshire police, complete with a helicopter film of their visit courtesy of the BBC. In Rotherham the same police force and council officers appear to have abetted the sexual exploitation of young girls on an industrial scale over 12 years.

The priority must be to help and seek justice for the victims. Second we need an independent review of police and council action and inaction — and real consequences for those people who are shown to have failed in the exercise of their duty. The victims, the community in Rotherham, and the wider public deserve nothing less.

D Yaw

London SW15

It is not marching drill that makes soldiers brave, it is regimental loyalty

Sir, I read your report “Marching in sync ‘boosts bravery’” (Aug 27) with amusement and incredulity. After 37 years in The Parachute Regiment, I can say it was axiomatic that our officers and toms (soldiers) would be “brave” in conflict. My commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones VC OBE, exemplified this on Darwin Hill on May 28, 1982, with his life.

I am bemused by the scientific proof that we were made “brave” through marching on the drill square. For my part I loathed this complete waste of my time at Sandhurst and much regret that this exercise appears still to dominate all other considerations at the Royal Military Academy. “Marching” never took place in any of our recent conflicts — it was simply part of the job in front of local dignitaries afterwards.

I wonder why such investigations do not seek the opinions of those of us who have been on operations in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. We never needed “marching” to foster “togetherness” — it was a consequence of intense regimental loyalty.

David Benest

(Colonel ret’d)

Pewsey, Wilts

Phasing out the car windscreen tax disc could pose problems for Britons driving overseas

Sir, You report that car windscreen tax discs are to be phased out (Aug 26). No thought seems to have been given to those of us who drive in continental Europe. I cannot imagine a French gendarme contacting his office to get them to contact the DVLA to ascertain the tax status of the vehicle — he is more likely to arrest the driver or make an on-the-spot fine. Would the DVLA indemnify the motorist?

There must be a printable receipt for the tax, which one may fix to the windscreen . . . like a tax disc.

Dr JD Baines

Penpillick, Cornwall

Sir, The police and other agencies may be able to check the tax status of a vehicle, but how can a third-party driver check that the vehicle they are about to drive is taxed? Having to inquire online is impractical if one is hiring or test-driving a vehicle or if one’s boss instructs one to drive a particular vehicle — we don’t always have a computer handy or mobile reception. I can see many innocent individuals being caught out by this. To drive without tax is a road traffic offence that also invalidates the vehicle’s insurance.

Ian Spencer

Cherry Burton, East Riding

A former head of the Muslim Council of Britain asserts his opposition to Islamic extremists

Sir, You attack me for my role in the campaign against the Satanic Verses in the 1980s (leader, Aug 26). I reject any notion that I led “an inflammatory and threatening campaign” against the author of that book. The campaign was for the withdrawal of the profane book that had hurt millions of followers of a faith who had little recourse to defend themselves. It was conducted in a civil manner, despite worldwide outrage and the fatwa of the late Ayatollah.

I yield to no one in my opposition to extremism. I have been physically attacked by the very real extremists whom you mention. It is most unfortunate that you now cast me in the same light as these extremists.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie

New Malden, Surrey

The language of signs conveys messages above and beyond the call of duty, sometimes …

Sir, I was being shown around the maternity unit of a hospital in Ontario and when I came to the labour ward the sign on its doors read “Push! Push!”

Dr Owen Gallagher

Glenavy, Co Antrim

Sir, Some years ago I delivered babies at a maternity home whose delivery ward was on the second floor. Patients well on in labour were carried up to it in a lift. As they entered the lift they could read a big sign above it with a reminder of a famous song: “You should have danced all night”.

Dr Michael Bott

Kirkella, E Yorks


A still from a recruitment video, which features several Britons, calling for jihadists in Iraq and Syria

6:58AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – In order to curb the rising anti-Western frenzy among radicalised young Muslims living in Britain, we must impose a blanket embargo on all media imagery depicting fanatics with their weaponry and victims, as this only feeds their egos and risks glamorising the cause to other extremists.

Moreover, the Government urgently needs to seek emergency powers to revoke the British citizenship of and immediately deport anyone guilty of anti-British or terrorist actions here or abroad.

Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Americans never seem to learn that they cannot destroy an insurgency by bombing. Their Vietnam war proved that.

R S Hoe
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – David Blair (Comment, August 25) and the Foreign Secretary (report, August 22) are wrong in their assessment of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

As he is the most ecumenical and popular of the Arab dictators, we will have to come to an accommodation with him, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire

Ticked off tourists

SIR – I am a great admirer of what Boris Johnson has done for London, but he should have been at Tower Hill Tube station last week to see the effect of ticket office closures.

I and thousands of others, mostly disgruntled tourists, had been to see the poppies at the Tower of London. With both ticket windows at Tower Hill closed, there was chaos.

As tourism contributes billions of pounds to our economy each year, surely it makes financial sense to have at least one human being available to resolve ticketing and travel problems.

Chris Platford
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Waste of water

SIR – The online ALS ice bucket challenge to raise money for motor neurone disease (report, August 26), and similar campaigns, may support worthwhile causes, but they are also a form of bullying. People either want to donate or they don’t; they shouldn’t be harassed into doing it.

Sheila Corbishley
Fenham, Northumberland

How to help families

SIR – The Government has decided that struggling families need to be helped (report, August 19). The Prime Minister suggested that counselling and services providing advice on how to cope would help families stay together.

The Home Start charity has been providing exactly this type of practical support for many years. Home Start volunteers (remember the Big Society?) visit families every week.

Yet, the Loughton branch of Home Start has had to close this week because of budget cuts. If this charity received the support it needed, it would continue to make a great difference to distressed parents with young children.

David Conway
Theydon Bois, Essex

Better together

SIR – I am the former chief executive of a UK-wide conservation charity, the Scottish division of which decided in the early Eighties that it would do better as an independent Scottish charity.

The honeymoon lasted for a few years, but once the Scottish charity’s ability to raise funds locally was exhausted, the cost of duplicated resources reduced its effectiveness and financial stability, so that it was no longer sustainable. It has since reamalgamated as part of the UK-wide organisation.

Robert Morley
Frilsham, Berkshire

SIR – While refitting at Rosyth dockyard in 1959, HMS Gambia assumed the title of “Scotland’s own cruiser”. The attempt to man the ship with an all-Scottish crew never succeeded, but the image was maintained during the subsequent time at sea, when entering and leaving harbour was marked by a piper playing from the top of the forward gun turret.

The ship was fortunate to have one member of the company who could play the pipes – an Englishman.

Mike Jackson

Departure tax

SIR – Your report (“Families pay £1.9bn to fly abroad”, August 22), and the letter from Messrs Herring and Isaby, remind us that Britain’s Air Passenger Duty, or “departure tax”, is the highest in the world.

At the same time, air travellers are often subject to unacceptable delays when returning to our shores.

Is it not possible to devise some simple – preferably computer-free – system by which sufferers from such delays could reclaim part or all of their departure tax, depending on how long it took them to clear passport control?

John Carter
Shortlands, Kent

Across the board

SIR – May I, on behalf of the four Messrs A Cross in the Manchester telephone directory (and many more across Britain) reassure Julian Down (Letters, August 26) that he is not alone in his daily appearance in The Daily Telegraph crossword.

Dr A W Taylor
Oldham, Lancashire

Scaling Kate’s Heights

SIR – After seeing Kate Bush’s photograph on the front of every national daily yesterday morning, and watching Newsnight’s fawning, uncritical review of her first night, may I suggest Ed Miliband’s PR people speak to her PR people.

The incredible case of the misuse of language

Jonathan L Kelly
Yatton, Somerset

SIR – With respect to Ian Thomas (Letters, August 27), I think the most over-used word in the English language is not extraordinary but incredible – nearly always used in relation to something known to have occurred.

John Blakey
Heaton Moor, Lancashire

SIR – Lessons have been learnt appears to have taken on the meaning of sorry. Both acknowledge fault or shortcoming in the past but only sorry expresses real regret.

John Mash
Cobham, Surrey

SIR – What has happened to me? The word is hardly used today – it’s always myself. Perhaps people think it sounds posher.

Richard A Cook

SIR – I used to enjoy it when they broadcasted programmes on the telly. Nowadays, they just seem to air content.

Roger Dowling
Lymm, Cheshire

SIR – The most over-used and ugly word in today’s parlance is amazing. In the past 10 days, in a variety of television programmes, I have counted 81 instances.

Robin Nonhebel
Swanage, Dorset

SIR – My previous word processor would sometimes display: “It looks like you are writing a letter”, which used to jar terribly. Now this usage of like is almost universal, both orally and in writing.

David Vaudrey
Doynton, Gloucestershire

SIR – The word cheerio is not in decline at Home Park football ground. Plymouth Argyle supporters at the Devonport end sing “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio” lustily to the tune of Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue when one of the opposition gets a red card.

Kit Carson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Peace and quiet: not all gym members want a pumping soundtrack while pumping iron Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – James Barr’s point about obtrusive noise in cinemas (Letters, August 6) also applies to private gyms.

I am committed to staying fit, but I also suffer from tinnitus. Even industrial ear protectors could not block out the audio system in the gym I attended for 20 years.

I was told that reducing the volume would be inconsiderate to users who needed a disco atmosphere for motivation.

Perhaps the company will face compensation claims in the future from staff members who are exposed to levels of noise that the local department of health and safety might well deem unacceptable working conditions.

Bel Roberts
Caerphilly, Glamorgan

Rotherham: more than 1,400 children were sexually abused over a 16-year period by gangs of paedophiles Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 28 Aug 2014


SIR – I listened to the Radio 4 interview with some hapless Rotherham councillor yesterday morning and felt a mixture of disgust at the scandal and anger with the BBC as the interviewer bayed for the councillor’s head.

It is the council staff and police involved who should all be summarily sacked. But following the Sharon Shoesmith fiasco, nobody will lose their job unless they go voluntarily.

Until public sector staff can be fired for incompetence, vindictive people will make a councillor with no authority the whipping boy. For a refreshing change, try punishing the guilty.

Richard Billington
Gomshall, Surrey

SIR – What sort of world is it where a police force can work in concert with the BBC to inform the public on national television that they may potentially be charging a famous person prior to telling him, while at the same time turning a blind eye to hundreds of rapes and other abuses committed over a decade because they are scared of being regarded as racist?

Neil Mitchenal
London SW1

SIR – Both the tragic situation in Rotherham and Emma Barnett’s article on sex education reveal the dangers our children face from sexual predators and the internet.

In this context, it is most important to underline the role of parents and of other responsible adults, such as teachers, in knowing the whereabouts of children in their charge and what they are getting up to. Sex education must take place in schools in close consultation with parents; we must get out of the habit of usurping the rightful role of parents in bringing up their children.

I cannot, however, agree with Ms Barnett’s call to emphasise the recreational side of sex and “safe” sex. It is precisely this that has landed us in the parlous situation we now face. It is not just, as she says, that children should be taught that sex should take place “ideally inside the confines of a loving relationship” but that sex is the physical expression of love and commitment. Without these, it is neither safe nor really enjoyable.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1

SIR – To describe the perpetrators of these disgusting crimes as “Asian” is a bit sweeping. It is also true that the Holocaust was perpetrated by “Europeans”, which would include you and me. Billions of Asians are condemned when you funk the obvious truth that almost all of these outrages were committed by Pakistanis.

Antony Stanley Clark
Mosterton, Dorset

SIR – What price the Macpherson report?

Peter Morle
Southwick, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – I have been following the correspondence on these pages and have been keeping track of anti-abortion comment in print, on radio and television on our latest national disgrace.

The word I keep seeing come up is “care”. I would like to know what exactly these people mean by “care”?

What kind of care do these people think should have been given to the young woman in the remaining 14 weeks of her pregnancy?

The only “care” I can think of that would result in a favourable outcome in the eyes of these people is forcibly restraining and force-feeding this woman to term. Or perhaps they mean exclusively psychiatric care?

Some people seem to believe that psychiatrists have the supernatural power to change women’s minds about such an important and private question as whether or not they wish to give birth. A few encouraging words and a pat on the back and, hey presto, they’ll see the error of their ways. And yet these same people came out of the woodwork during the debate last year to tell us that psychiatrists cannot adequately assess suicide risk, something they are trained to do and do so every week.

It seems what psychiatrists can or cannot do depends on what will serve the anti-abortion line of argument.

We need to challenge these euphemistic misnomers, fudges and hollow catchphrases at every turn. Yes, they are couched in a language of care and compassion, but strip that phoney veneer from them and they merely serve to justify the infantilisation, brutalisation and humiliation of women.

I certainly hope I never end up in their “care”. – Yours, etc,


Lally Road,


Dublin 10.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole lists the 14 bodies that established the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign in January 1981 (“Why Ireland never faced up to the issue of abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 26th). He labels 10 of them as “sectarian” on the basis that they were “explicitly and exclusively Catholic”. By this definition to be a member of any body which is explicitly Catholic is to be “sectarian”! My local parish is explicitly and exclusively Catholic. Does this make me “sectarian” in the eyes of your illustrious columnist? – Yours, etc,


Brackenbush Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It is disappointing to see some of the vitriol directed at Fintan O’Toole for daring to speak his opinion and point out some inconvenient facts. I was just into voting age when the 1983 amendment went to the ballot box. Even then, in my youthful inexperience, I remember thinking what a peculiar beast Irish politics was, as we had just had three national elections in less than two years. I remember the venom on the streets with tales of campaigners being spat on for just daring to encourage a No vote.

I asked my father about the reason behind such a referendum when abortion was already illegal. He explained to me, with some irony, that it wasn’t illegal enough and some people wanted to ensure, no matter what the majority wanted in the future, that no government could ever make it legal even if it tried.

Given recent events in 2014, it seems that his words are as true now as they were back in the political mess that was 1983. – Yours, etc,



Bandon, Co Cork.

Sir, – Brendan Ó Cathaoir contends (“Civil War left in its wake a less caring society”, Opinion & Analysis, August 27th) that mother and baby homes were “symptoms of a traumatised society” after the Civil War.

If this is the case, how does he explain the fact that mother and baby homes first appeared in England in 1891 under the guidance of the Salvation Army in London?

I would certainly agree that the Civil War was a traumatic event in Irish history but I doubt very much that it had any significant impact on social policy in Britain.

Attitudes to children born outside marriage and their mothers were much the same in the UK, US and Ireland during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Poverty may well have made their treatment worse here in Ireland, but Ireland was hardly unique in providing a cold welcome to children born outside of wedlock during the period in question. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Brendan Ó Cathaoir is certainly right to identify the Civil War as contributing to a national trauma that affected generations of Irish men and women, and the church as having a particularly devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable and marginalised within Irish society.

The Treaty split and Civil War that soon followed it were indeed devastating, and resulted in many of the institutional and interpersonal loyalties that had been formed and reinforced in the preceding years being shattered or realigned, not always to the benefit of all Irish citizens, as Dr Ó Cathaoir identifies.

But it is important to recognise that republicanism was not the sole doctrine of the Irish people, and that a variety of traumas – some imposed by separatist nationalists – were playing out in different ways in Ireland at the time.

The isolation felt by many Irish civil servants is worth noting, as are the experiences of Irish veterans of the first World War who, in a different way, struggled to find their place in the new State.

Overall, I am thankful to have read the article and the online comments that ensued.

Trauma in Ireland is an unfortunately fruitful, if under-examined, theme in Irish history. – Yours, etc,



Idaho State University,

Yale Street,



A chara, – Agreeing to fly the “gay flag” from a Garda station sets a nightmare precedent. Now every cult, group or association will rightly demand that their own particular flag or emblem should receive the same support and be flown from Garda stations all over Ireland.

An Garda Síochána, like every other State service, must serve Irish citizens of every colour, creed and sexual persuasion without fear or favour. Granting special status to any one group because of its sexuality is entirely discriminatory and anti-democratic. If any flag needs to be flown from any State building, it should be our national flag, the Tricolour.

Some may think they’ve gained a big victory with this issue but paradoxically they’ve attacked the very thing they yearn for – equality. – Is mise,


Shantalla Drive,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – I agree with John Barnewell (August 28th) at his concern at the rainbow flag of gay pride being unfurled at a Limerick Garda station. In my view this exercise, although well intentioned, is seriously misguided.

The consensual nature of policing in the Republic is determined by those citizens in the village square who look to the Garda as custodians of the public peace, who go about their business in a professional manner, influenced by nothing but the desire to protect the well being of the populace.

This perception by society could well be fractured if it sees the agents of law and order supporting a specific interest group, however honourable. – Yours, etc,


Lonsdale Road,

Formby, Liverpool.

Sir, – The editorial “Mismanaging expectations” (August 27th) claims that “the cut in public sector pay in 2009, via the public service pension levy, was offset for many by continued payment of increments”.

The reference to “the cut” strongly implies that it was the only reduction; in fact there have been four pay cuts since 2009.

These were: the pension levy referred to as “the cut”; a pay cut across all grades, even the lowest paid, in 2010; an explicit pay cut for those earning above €65,000 in 2013; a cut in the hourly rate for all grades, again in 2013, by increasing working hours with no compensation. That this is a pay cut is clearly proven by a corresponding fall in overtime rates.

The reference to increments offsetting pay cuts “for many” needs to be backed up by figures. What percentage of public sector workers were in receipt of increments over this period?

The editorial goes on to complain that the “the remarkable pension benefit for retirees – the pay parity link . . . has been retained”.

This link has not been retained for new civil servants. They join a new pension scheme whose payments will be based on career average earnings, not final salary, and where pension increases will be linked to consumer price index (CPI) changes.

Furthermore pay parity for existing pensioners has been used only to implement pension cuts since 2010 (the first for all pensions over €12,000, the second on pensions over €32,500), and the Government has publicly made clear its intention to link existing pensions to the CPI, as well and eliminate pay parity for all public sector pensioners. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I have not often in recent years so heartily applauded The Irish Times. However your editorial “Mismanaging expectations” travels very much in the right direction for me and I am sure many others.

The deplorable bidding by politicians for our votes is deeply symptomatic of a dysfunctional political class that treats us like children asking for more. We need vision and ideas.

Why do we not, for example, look at domestic Irish employers and ask in a serious way, “How can we help you to create and save jobs and stay in Ireland?”

Every serious Irish success, like it or not, is being driven by tax breaks from our corporation tax rate, to capital gains tax breaks given to most property investors, including owner-occupiers.

But, curiously, our own entrepreneurial and SME job-creating class has been systematically hammered by ever heavier taxation and regulation and a nearly indiscriminate blitz of onerous new measures.

Luckily for us, we are being saved from disaster by our multinational “friends”. But how long will they remain “friends” is an issue for many.

Just ask Barack Obama. – Yours, etc,


The Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – John Mulligan (August 23rd) claims that “the banks of the Barrow are about 10 metres wide, sometimes wider, and providing a narrow, grit-surfaced two metre-wide strip on one bank will still leave lots of room for people who prefer to walk on grass”.

The bank of the Barrow on which the towpath runs is not 10 metres wide. It is about four to five metres wide before one is either falling into a drain on one side, or the river on the other. When you allow for the verges full of wild flowers and grasses on either side of the path, you are left with two to three metres of walking and cycling space. Contrary to what your correspondent claims, there will not be lots of room for people who want to walk on grass if a two metre unbound hard surface strip is put down.

More important, the present grassy sod surface is beautiful and the proposed gritty surface is ugly. The existing grassy towpath is shared by walkers, joggers, cyclists and anglers alike. It is unique, a long-distance grassy path, and should be marketed as the glorious wild way that it is.

In an earlier letter (August 21st), Mr Mulligan referred to the towpath as “derelict”. I have spent most of this lovely summer walking and picnicking on the towpath. Waterways Ireland keep it well. I have yet to find the dereliction he speaks of. – Yours, etc,



Save the Barrow Line,

St Mullins Road,


Co Carlow.

Sir, – The Road Safety Authority has noted the doubling of child road fatalities (“Warning over road safety as children return to school”, August 28th). They include a long list of actions to protect young pedestrians and cyclists. So far, so good.

Sadly, not a single one of these recommendation is addressed at drivers. The clear implication is that child pedestrians and cyclists and their parents are solely responsible for road safety. The chief executive even suggests that children should get “streetwise”.

This message follows the theme of previous Irish road safety campaigns, warning the public that walking and cycling are inherently dangerous and that anyone engaging in such risky activity should dress up like a Christmas tree. The result is to frighten people back into cars. Because inactivity is a greater threat to public health than sudden accident, this approach is harmful.

Would it be too much to ask the RSA to run a campaign reminding drivers to look out for those few schoolchildren who walk or cycle and to perhaps join them by getting out of their cars once in a while? – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Place,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Barra Ó Seaghdha (August 28th) has a point when he says that Home Rule, as passed 100 years ago, was a “scheme of provincial autonomy” within the United Kingdom. As viewed by its opponents at the time, however, it was of much more significance.

Nearly half a million unionists signed a covenant to “use all means necessary” to stop it being implemented. Unionists threatened to set up a “provisional” government in Belfast if a parliament was set up in Dublin with even very limited powers of administration for the whole island.

Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative opposition, and some of his parliamentary colleagues went so far as committing treason by expressly backing threats of civil war against home rule.

Whether it was, as Redmond described it, a “final settlement”, its opponents did not see it as such.

Whatever its historical significance, the reality is that whether the passage of the Home Rule Act should be denigrated, remembered, analysed, commemorated or celebrated at the present time is very much down to present political viewpoints. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“Belgium gave Irish men reason to enlist and fight”, Rite & Reason, August 26th) argues that it was “morally right” to defend Belgium’s neutrality in the first World War.

At that time the global economy was controlled by the European powers whose economies were served by colonies (ie the rest of the world).

Belgium itself was also part of this system with the rule of Leopold II, killing millions in the Congo.

Britain and Germany dominated global trade, and Germany was challenging the existing hierarchy of this European colonial system.

The European powers fought to preserve their vast overseas empires and indeed the system of empires itself. In this context it is difficult to see how any of the European powers engaging in the first World War could have been “morally right” to do so.

This system survived the first World War. Its end came about in Newfoundland in August 1941 when Roosevelt told Churchill that America would not support its continuation after the second World War.

The 1941 Atlantic Charter set the Allies’ objectives for the postwar world, which led to the postwar independence of European colonies, the move towards free trade and the current global economic system. – Yours, etc,


Cap Estate,

St Lucia.

Sir, – Further to Sarah Waldron’s “Trainers are the new work uniform” (August 27th), while the wearing of designer trainers in certain creative work environments may now be virtually de rigueur, I don’t think Patricia O’Riordan’s suggestion (August 28th) of banning men’s ties from the office would be a runner. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Is Patricia O’Riordan telling tie-lovers to get knotted? – Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Two teams may moan, and journalists may find a reason to write articles about the venue, but Limerick will greet you all, so just get on with it.

Limerick has been hosting national and international sporting events for decades, so you’re all welcome. Just enjoy the game and the weekend in the Riverside City, the sporting capital of the country. – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Irish Independent:

The reconstruction of Gaza is a priority for the international community. Education is central to reconstruction. Irish third-level institutions can make an important contribution to this process.

May I commend to each of them, and to the Education Minister, the setting up of Gaza scholarships?

These scholarships, especially in the fields of medicine and nursing, horticulture and engineering, would make an important contribution to the rebuilding of Gaza’s infrastructure where it matters most, by investing in young people.

By taking the lead within the EU in establishing these scholarships, Ireland would serve as an example, encouraging other countries to follow.

The initiative has the capacity to make an important contribution to the reconstruction of Gaza. For Ireland, the funding requirement would be minimal. Nor would it be complicated. The initiative simply needs to be supported by the president of each institution and taken to the governing body, ideally with the expressed endorsement of the minister working with the authorities in Gaza.

By taking a collective initiative, coordinated by the HEA with the Association of University Presidents, the impact of the initiative, and its visibility across the EU, would be maximised.

What changes lives, changes economies. The Gaza scholarships would do both.

Professor Ray Kinsella

Ashford , Co Wicklow

Changing the Garda culture

Tom Brady reports (Irish Independent, August 28) that a new training strategy for 100 recruits to An Garda Siochana is intended to purge the force of a culture of groupthink.

The term ‘groupthink’ was created in the 1970s by Iriving Janis, a Yale university professor, who concluded that it occurs when groups make faulty decisions because group pressure leads to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment”.

Groupthink, for example, was deployed for centuries by the immensely wealthy Protestant Ascendancy to reinforce claims to social superiority over the impoverished Catholic majority population as the Ascendancy squatted on large tracts of confiscated, rich arable land and Catholic rents paid to them accounted for 25pcof Ireland’s modest GDP.

But new Garda recruits will be more influenced in practice by what they discern throughout An Garda Siochana and the example of the senior Garda leadership than what they learn in the classroom in Templemore, a facility that has been mothballed for five years.

Should the flying of a rainbow flag over a garda station in Limerick, coinciding with a gay pride parade, be construed as a product of groupthink, faddism or a genuine expression of parity? Surely the ultimate expression of esteem in a republic, by a strong and confident national police service, would be to fly the national flag in pristine condition over Garda premises on special occasions.

Such a gesture would remove An Garda Siochana from allegations of partisanship, or an expectation to lend their prestige and reputation to a myriad of lobby groups and political activists when these are in celebration or campaign mode.

The starting point for fundamental culture change is strong leadership with acute vision. The route to real transformation will not be shortened by empty gestures.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

Medics treated Dad as their own

Three months ago, my 64-year-old father was diagnosed with cancer. On Sunday, August 17, my father left this world after a courageous battle against a raging cancer throughout his body. My dad suffered night and day all the way through.

I’m writing to you with a broken heart, but in a world in which we hear stories of how our health service has failed so many, I wanted to praise the amazing workers of Tullamore Regional Hospital – Dr Kyran Bolger and his team, Margaret Claffey and all the amazing nurses of Tullamore’s Oncology Unit and so many others. Dad was sick for 12 weeks and we spent 10 of those weeks living in the hospital.

The hospital became our home and it was the warmth and love shown to our dad over the hardest weeks of our lives that leaves our broken hearts warmer than they should be. Dad suffered so much in those 12 weeks, but the one thing we as a family have tried to focus on is the love, passion and care the Oncology Unit gave Dad. He had never been to a doctor or left his farm in 64 years, but from the day we walked into that hospital until the day we walked out without him, the staff treated him like their own father, and for that we could never repay these wonderful people.

The Coghlan family

Broadford, Co Kildare

Haughey’s good works

If Paddy O’Brien (Letters, Irish Independent, August 28) had any true appreciation of CJ Haughey’s time in politics, he would see that he too “did the State some service”.

However, many of his welcome political directives in the area of welfare and care of older folk are now being rowed back on, which leads citizens to lament the destruction of his good work.

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

Ashes to ashes

Recent suggestions about the possibility of another ash cloud is perhaps a case of an ash arís ?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Ice Bucket clips a linguist’s dream

Regarding the current ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ phenomenon, when you think about it, at no other time in history have so many Irish people been simultaneously recorded saying pretty much the same thing – it’s a future linguistics scholar’s dream!

If all the existing Irish Ice Bucket recordings were to be voluntarily uploaded to a database, complete with details of the place of origin of the individual involved, it would be a unique snapshot of Irish accents (of most age groups) at a particular point in time.

Now there’s a project just waiting to happen! When will so many Irish people ever record themselves in such a short space of time again?

Professor Salvador Ryan

St Patrick’s College

Maynooth, Co Kildare

E-cigarette policy is all hot air

As a seasoned smoker whose lung capacity has greatly improved thanks to e-cigarettes, I am disappointed that the WHO now wants proof of a negative (that they do not harm).

We already know inhalation of sulphurous and other gases is bad for us. To ensure coherence of policy, will it now regulate flatulence to avoid passive inhalation? It could start by prohibiting entry to public places within four hours of eating boiled eggs.

John F Jordan

Brussels, Belgium

Fishing failures and the Famine

My wife and I were touring the west of Ireland last week and stopped at the museum in Ballyferriter, near Dingle, Co Kerry.

It was a very beautiful museum with many wonderful items on display concerning the history of the area and the Irish Famine. However it was two short words – “fishing failed” – that made me curious. How could it be that these two words seemed to be given as the reason for the awful famine in the west of Ireland? Surely fishing could not have failed all around the coasts of Ireland?

Tommy Shields

Banbridge, Co Down

Irish Independent


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