Lost book

30 August 2014 Lost book

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 find a ‘lost’ book

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


Bill Kerr – obituary

Bill Kerr was a distinguished Australian character actor who made his name on radio in Hancock’s Half Hour

Bill Kerr (l) and Sid James (r) recording BBC Radio's Hancock's Half Hour in 1954

Bill Kerr (l) and Sid James (r) recording BBC Radio’s Hancock’s Half Hour in 1954  Photo: S&G AND BARRATTS GENERAL

7:21PM BST 29 Aug 2014


Bill Kerr, who has died aged 92, was an Australian actor who made his name on the radio in Britain in the 1950s, becoming particularly well-known for his role (alongside Sid James and Hattie Jacques) as one of Tony Hancock’s three cronies in Hancock’s Half Hour.

But Kerr was also a character actor of distinction, giving memorable performances as a racketeer in My Death is a Mockery (1952); as the bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955); and as a mentally disturbed crook in Port of Escape (1956), co-starring Googie Withers and Joan Hickson. His other films of this period included Appointment in London (1952), You Know What Sailors Are (1954) and The Night My Number Came Up (1955).

Bill Kerr, Tony Hancock and Sid James during rehearsals for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1956

After more than two decades in Britain, in 1979 Kerr returned to Australia, where he had been brought up from early childhood, settling in Perth. The British entertainment industry’s loss was Australia’s gain, as Kerr continued to forge a successful career on both stage and screen.

William Henry Kerr was born in Cape Town on June 10 1922. Both his parents were in showbusiness and they took him on stage when he was still in infancy. “My mother took about 10 weeks off to have me, and when she returned to the stage the producers said rather than bother with a doll for the baby, why didn’t she use me,” Kerr said in 1995. “So you could say my stage career began when I was only a few weeks old.”

By the time the family moved from South Africa to Australia, Bill was old enough to go on tour playing child parts such as Little Willie in a production of East Lynne. By the age of eight he had started in variety. He appeared in his first film, a short called Harmony Row (in which he was credited as Billy Kerr), in 1933, and from the age of 16 he was taking part in children’s broadcasts from the Australian National and commercial radio networks.

Having served with the Australian Army in the Second World War, Kerr arrived in Britain by ship in 1947, immediately securing roles on radio programmes in which he was billed as “the stand-up comedian from Wagga Wagga”. After a spell performing at the Camberwell Palace, he toured the Moss and Stoll theatres.

Kerr was one of a host of repertory stars in Variety Bandbox, playing alongside names such as Frankie Howerd and Reg Dixon on “steam radio”. His droll, lugubrious character had the catchphrase “I’ve only got four minutes”, and after the laughter this generated had subsided he would come back with a riposte such as: “I don’t want to worry you, but you people in the balcony — those pillars don’t look too safe.” For audiences of the late Forties, this counted as black humour.

His first British film was a programme-filler called Penny Points to Paradise (1951), which also featured Peter Sellers, Alfred Marks, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.

During this early period of his career Kerr was also active on the stage, in productions such as Pommie; The Bed Sitting Room (alongside Spike Milligan) at the Mermaid; and Son of Oblomov at the Comedy.

In 1954 he joined Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on the radio for six series and later moved on to television. As Hancock’s Australian lodger at the dilapidated 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, Kerr appeared as the gormless, slow-on-the-uptake butt of his landlord’s humour. The role made Kerr a household name in Britain, and he later resumed his partnership with Sid James in the first series of the television comedy Citizen James (1960).

Kerr’s other television appearances in Britain included one of the Doctor Who stories, “The Enemy of the World” (1968), alongside Patrick Troughton; and the BBC soap opera Compact, created by the same team that went on to devise Crossroads.

On the big screen, he had parts in The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), and in two of the “Doctor” films, Doctor in Distress (1963) and Doctor in Clover (1966).

For much of the 1970s, Kerr concentrated on theatre. He appeared in Cole at the Mermaid; The Good Old Bad Old Days, co-starring with Anthony Newley at the Prince of Wales; and in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime at Sadler’s Wells. He charmed audiences as Sakini in a national tour of The Teahouse of the August Moon; was a forcefully ingratiating Devil in Damn Yankees; and proved a hit as Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam at the Globe.

Bill Kerr as Uncle Jack, with Mark Lee as Archy (r), in Gallipoli

After settling in Perth he played serious roles in a number of Australian films, including in the Peter Weir pictures Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). He also co-starred in Razorback (1984), about a murderous wild boar running riot in the Australian outback.

He was active on the Australian stage — in My Fair Lady he was a critical success as Alfred Doolittle — and appeared in numerous television series, including Return to Eden.

Bill Kerr, who was three times married and had four children, is said to have died while watching television at his home.

Bill Kerr, born June 10 1922, died August 28 2014


Eton College The historic cobbled school yard of Eton College. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Simon Jenkins’s patronising dismissal of the recent findings in the report by the social mobility and child poverty commission reflects exactly what the report says: that an elite is running the country and is out of touch with ordinary citizens (Merit is not the be-all and end-all of good leadership, 29 August). In writing that “most countries are run largely by the products of middle-class education”, Jenkins ignores Britain’s bloated private education system that is not replicated in any other European country. He also uses the term “middle class” in a meaningless way if he equates it with our present wealthy and privileged ruling elite. The middle class by definition is in the middle!

Finally he writes that “all evils ‘starting with the education system’ is the oldest of cliches”. It is, though, a basic truth that if you allow a wealthy minority to effectively jump the educational queue by paying for the education of their children, you are helping to cement elite structures that dominate all sections of society. Only the abolition of private schooling and decent state education can bring about genuine equality of opportunity as the most progressive European nations demonstrate.
John Green

• Among the examples of how the 7% who attended private schools monopolise the top positions in society that you mention from the social mobility and child poverty commission’s report, is that 43% of newspaper columnists have that background.

Unlike the other examples, this is one you could do something about. Why not have, say, a three-month period in which you commission no articles at all from the private-school-educated elite of quality journalism. Keep the Guardian’s pages free from the whole lot, from grandees like Simon Jenkins to relative newcomers like Laurie Penny. You may find that state-educated journalists can be just as good, or even better.
John Wilson

• The social mobility and child poverty commission findings (Report, 28 August) once more publicise what we all know in our hearts, that Britain is a fundamentally unequal society in which opportunities and rewards are largely reserved for those who have attended public schools. Not only is this blatantly unjust but it prevents the submerged talents of the vast majority of people from working to the benefit of the nation.

As a political party committed to promote greater social equality, it is up to Labour to come up with an answer, and one, moreover, which will command public support so that it may be implemented. One step would be to phase in a quota system for all public appointments, including judges, diplomats, permanent secretaries, senior educational officers, BBC controllers and so on. The aim would be to move to a situation in which these choice appointments in the public service would be made in proportion to that of the ratio of the state/private school population, at the moment 93% to 7%. The party should go to the country on the slogan: “Give your child a fair chance.”
Alan Chedzoy
Radipole, Dorset

• Could it perhaps be that wealthy parents are more clever and thus have better-paid jobs than the rest of us? And that their offspring are also often above average intelligence, so they can go to high-flying universities? Similarly, do the numbers of clever people in the more academic jobs (astrophysicists, brain surgeons, judges, cabinet ministers, etc) receive higher pay? Yes, of course. It is not fashionable to point out that some people are cleverer than others, but the fact remains. It does  not mean these folk are more important, nor even better citizens, and other folk with different talents are useful in other directions, such as artists, musicians, gardeners, carpenters, etc. It takes all sorts.
Mary Smith
Upminster, Essex

• The commission report reveals nothing we didn’t already know. The statistics reveal that over a year on the BBC programme Question Time just over 40% of the panellists were Oxbridge graduates and just under 40% from private schools. Meanwhile, 71% of judges went to an independent school, as did 52% of Conservative MPs. You get the picture.

To counter the correlation of private schooling and high-powered jobs, the commission suggests employers should ask for an overview of a candidate’s academic achievements that is “university blind” and that the social background of staff should be published. Although this new bureaucracy might help, we need a more fundamental shift in culture. This is a class issue. As the wealthy rule our country, its media, the arts, the judiciary system, etc, they inherently project their own ideology, consciously or not. No amount of bureaucracy can change that.

Ethnic minorities and the white working class share the same financial barriers to private education. For example, Muslims in the UK suffer more than double the UK’s average poverty level. There are few role models in mainstream culture. Not only is the elite putting up financial barriers, it makes it harder for young members of ethnic minorities to aspire to the top professions, whether it be politics or acting (just look at programmes like Doctor Who, you will only see white – and green – faces). Social elitism projects a skewed view of Britain’s diversity.
Mohammed Ali
QED Foundation, Bradford

• I fail to understand why there is such a clamour for opening up access to the nation’s leading institutions. It is, after all, only a mere 160 years since the Northcote-Trevelyan report (1853) called for the opening up of the civil service to “the ablest and most ambitious of the youth of the country”. What’s the hurry?
Ian Worthington
Wymeswold, Leicestershire

• To help solve the problem of social mobility, let us start with something simple and remove the charitable status of private schools.
Simon Harris

• Reading the article reminded me of a friend working at the BBC who once had someone storm out of a meeting she was leading with the words: “I won’t have someone with a 2.1 from Liverpool tell me what to do!”
Ivan Ruggeri

• The Milburn report rightly condemns the system whereby a small elite from private schools and Oxbridge dominate top positions (Report condemns ‘closed shop’ of Britain’s elite, 28 August). Labour spokesman Tristram Hunt agrees with the report. Yet Hunt (private school and Oxbridge) accepted being imposed by a Labour party panel as the parliamentary candidate for Stoke-on-Trent to the loss of a capable resident of the city. As long as the Labour party is biased towards the privileged and prejudiced against the working class, the closed shop will never be opened.
Bob Holman

• Sadly, Tristram Hunt’s analysis of the social mobility and child poverty commission’s report is flawed. The report does not show that “the coalition was failing on social mobility”. On the contrary, a government which, immediately on coming to power, scraps the Education Maintenance Allowance, then triples university fees, passes school assessment reforms which disadvantage children from poorer homes, cuts funding for Sure Start centres and libraries, and appoints the majority of its cabinet from the likes of Eton and the Bullingdon club, has succeeded in achieving its objective.

As the report says, this “social engineering” has created the “elitism so embedded in Britain today”. Should a government determined to increase social mobility ever gain power, it would have to restore the pre-2010 level playing field in GCSE and A-level examinations, end not only as Owen Jones says, “the charitable status for private schools”, (A racket for the uber-privileged, 28 August), but also the exemption from VAT on private school fees, as well as properly attacking the tax avoidance industry which enables so many of those fees to be paid.

University fees have to be reduced, and a cap placed on charges for halls of residence, while the Oxbridge domination will only be ended by legislation, as these universities have long shown themselves unwilling to change. How about a law which only allows any university to recruit 7% of its undergraduates from private schools, in line with the national figure? As long as universities favour privately educated applicants, money will beget money.

Lastly, that government would require an education secretary from neither private school nor Oxbridge!
Bernie Evans

• Owen Jones (How power works in Britain, 27 August) quotes Henry Fairlie on “the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is organised”. This is what needs illuminating for the rest of us outside this matrix. I want to know the detail of who the people are who really run this country and who’s influencing them – Fairlie’s “subtle social relationships”. How are politicians, the media, civil servants, business “leaders” and “opinion formers” connected by the schools they attended, by university education, family connections, business relationships, membership of clubs, public, advisory and other bodies?

Before I can analyse, and where necessary challenge, what they do and why I need maps of these concealed configurations. Where can I find them? Without sustained exposure and illumination of the ecology of these interlocking elites I can have no confidence in our democracy, which will remain a superficial pantomime, and its future.
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire

• If only Owen Jones were leader of the opposition.
Kate Guggenheim
Halesowen, Worcestershire

Ticketless Kate Bush fan Ian, 67, from London with his photograph of the singer outside Hammersmith Ticketless Kate Bush fan Ian, 67, from London with his photograph of the singer outside Hammersmith Apollo for the first of her concerts. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Bill Hawkes, who claims to have played viola on Kate Bush’s last record, bit the hand that fed him with a miserable, curmudgeonly, mean-spirited and tin-eared rant about the current excitement surrounding her live shows (Letters, 27 August). The internet is replete with suitable ripostes about viola players. Here’s my favourite. Q: Why do viola players stand for long periods outside people’s houses? A: They can’t find the key and don’t know when to come in.
Edward Collier

• Look, I like Kate Bush: some of her music has been outstanding over the last 35 years, and her commitment to taking control of her career and ploughing her own furrow was admirable and groundbreaking in an industry used to manipulating female artists. But can we ease up on the brown-nosing adulation?

Playing 22 nights in London is simply lazy, as well as being insulting to all Bush’s fans living more than 100 miles from the capital who don’t have hundreds of pounds to spare for transport and hotels in addition to the hugely expensive tickets.

I also doubt any record company in the late 1970s would have given the undoubtedly talented young Kate the time of day if she’d been an unknown teenager in the bleak north rather than a supremely well-connected lass with friends like Dave Gilmour to kick open industry doors for her. Just adding a bit of perspective, guys.
Norman Miller

• If Bill Hawkes feels he has nothing to learn from Kate Bush in terms of musicianship, perhaps he should take a lesson from her on manners and courtesy.
Peter FitzGerald-Morris
Rochester, Kent

• Unfortunately for Bill Hawkes, who “laughed himself silly” at Kate Bush’s “nonsensical” lyrics while playing viola on her last album, his letter says a lot more about him – and not to his credit – than about the talents of the woman whose money he was happy to take while sneering at her behind her back.
Pam Thomas
Chippenham, Wiltshire

• Bill Hawkes set me thinking me of my experiences of live concerts. Hearing pop stars performing live usually left me disappointed compared to the LP. Classical music concerts had the opposite effect: there was something there that the recording lacked.

I remember in my youth hearing PJ Proby performing in Stockport. He was playing for 10 minutes before I realised who it was.
Michael Grange
St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Indian movie director Satyajit Ray (1921-92): Richard Attenborough was principal patron of the found Indian movie director Satyajit Ray (1921-92): Richard Attenborough was principal patron of the foundation set up in his memory. Photograph: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone says that Richard Attenborough always used the word “darling” because he couldn’t remember names – but there was at least one name he always remembered: Satyajit Ray. Both possessed the creativity and brilliance of the world’s finest filmmakers. Dick always said he was fortunate enough to know and have worked with Ray on The Chess Players. Dick was always proud that he was the first and principal patron of the Satyajit Ray foundation, which was set up in 1993, and he was incredibly generous in supporting it financially and on occasions presenting the annual Ray award to the directors of first feature films that demonstrated the qualities present in Ray’s own work. We feel his loss deeply and, as he would have wished, we will strive to keep Ray’s work alive for filmgoers.
Pamela Cullen
Chair of the Satyajit Ray foundation

Michael Caine in the 1967 film Funeral in Berlin: ad-lib in a bar. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar Michael Caine in the 1967 film Funeral in Berlin: ad-lib in a bar. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar

Jonathan Jones (Awe-inspiring art deserves to stay in London, 27 August) argues that the Auerbach pictures, which have been “given” to the nation in lieu of £16m of inheritance tax by Lucien Freud’s executors, should remain in London. However, the tax is owed to the UK Treasury and so the benefits of the arrangement should be shared throughout the UK. In my view, London has more than its share of artistic and cultural treasures. Perhaps Jonathan Jones would like to consider which of them might be relocated to the galleries and museums outside London as a swap for the Auerbach pictures?
Rhiannon Craig
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• May I be the first to say I am in love with Paul Mason and ask when can I move with him to our ideal mythical city (What makes a perfect city?, 25 August)? Having seen him dance on his TV documentary about northern soul, I was already half-lost. But now I realise I can also swim in the sea with him before cycling along bicycle lanes to the theatre in a sunny courtyard in our ideal city, I am completely lost.
Christine Peacock

• Thank you for highlighting the huge problems caused by the lack of toilets in India and Africa (Report, 29 August). One easy thing we can all do is twin our toilets (www.toilettwinning.org). A £60 donation to toilet-twinning can really make a difference. And you get a twinning certificate to hang in the loo!
Barbara Williams
Sparsholt, Oxfordshire

• Current correspondence on inept spying (Letters, 27 August) puts me in mind of Michael Cain’s ad-lib as the spy Harry Palmer in the film Funeral in Berlin. Sitting in an airport bar, a waiter asks: “Bitte, mein Herr?” To which Cain replies: “No thanks, I’ll have a lager.”
Robert Brady
Twickenham, Middlesex

• The letter about the two martinis reminded me of a similar confusion with language on a French trip. One of our party asked another what type of beer he was drinking, the reply was “wheat”. On going to order my friend had to stop the barman after he’d poured three.
Andy Newburn
Newcastle upon Tyne


The disadvantages of Britain’s multi-tiered elitism (editorial, 28 August) start at the moment of birth. A few are born with royal privileges denied to the rest of us, including the opportunity to become head of state, a right enjoyed by every citizen in true democracies.

Next comes education. The most favoured private schools are almost exclusively for boys of wealthy parents, and so, contrary to Charity Commission requirements, “exist to benefit the narrow interests of a closed group”.

Then comes the honours system, a demeaning pyramid of deference that diminishes us all. No fair society would tolerate the class distinction ironed into every absurd title. One title conferred decades of respectability on two perverts of the worst kind.

Finally, the House of Lords, the high altar of privilege, its unelected life members eagerly sought as adornments to boardrooms or television studios. Properly qualified but untitled candidates are passed over, and talent lost to the nation.

It will take a lot more than the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s feeble wish list to undo the wrongs inflicted on ordinary people by this wicked witch’s brew of discrimination.

John Hughes
Brentford, Middlesex

Shock! Horror! Parliament has just discovered that British society is rigged from top to bottom. Oh me! Oh my! When did this happen? The “ordinary people” have become bewitched by tradition and flummery, baubles and trinkets. Now they believe in kings and queens and princes and princesses and pixies and goblins and fairies. Something must be done. Send in Ofsted to be Very Rigorous. And to set New Targets.

Miles Secker
Heckington, Lincolnshire

The rotten borough of Rotherham

Your report (28 August) mentions residents lamenting that none of the Rotherham councillors have resigned. Yet there has been an entire electoral cycle since this issue first arose in 2010.

Neither Conservative nor Labour governments have done anything to remove the rotten boroughs in local government in England and Wales caused by the first-past-the-post system. Councillors in Rotherham and elsewhere can act with impunity, knowing that their party will be in power for generations whatever they do.

If the Liberal Democrats had insisted on STV for local government as part of the Coalition agreement then that would have been a more long-lasting legacy of their five years in office.

Christopher Anton


Having read the 159-page report on the Rotherham abuse scandal, I am impressed and angered. The report is clear, unequivocal and lucid. It’s easy to follow and a “must read”.

But as one reads it, anger about the treatment of the girls is replaced by much stronger feelings of rage at the arrogant individuals who chose to ignore the evidence.

Most striking is the treatment of the Home Office-sponsored researcher who analysed and created a report years ago that was not acted upon by the councillors and the local police commander.

Distressed by their reaction, she wrote to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. The reaction from the police commander was to call her in and reprimand her for going over his head rather than discuss the issues she had identified. Who was this jack-in-office? Is he still employed? Does he have a pension?

At last, this researcher is vindicated; the report says that in all particulars, save some dates, her report was accurate.

Tim Brook


Presumably there now will be sighs of relief in councils and other departments throughout the land in the certainty that their jobs, salaries and pensions are not at risk, and only lessons need to be learnt.

Laurence Shields
Wingerworth, Derbyshire

Tory defector’s battleground

Few places in the South-east of England rank as highly as Clacton-on-Sea and the surrounding area as requiring an injection of vociferous new thinking, investment and national attention.

There are areas experiencing significant social deprivation, and  health provision is at breaking-point as a result of a barely coherent strategy from NHS England. Douglas Carswell’s constituents would be right to welcome the spotlight they will find themselves under over the coming weeks and months, as their former Tory MP fights a by-election following his move to Ukip.

However, if Douglas is to be truly effective in addressing the many very real issues affecting the local area, he will have to prove himself as adept at health and social care policy as he has at generating headlines – something he has sadly failed to demonstrate during the course of his current tenure.

Dr Jonathan Geldard
Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

Will there be punch-ups on the beach at Clacton-on-Sea between the modernisers and the off-your-rockers? My only observation is to all centre-ground Conservatives and Labour members: join the mods. That is, the Liberal Democrats.

Richard Grant
Burley, Hampshire


Look forward to grammar schools

I am surprised to see that your editorial on Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories (29 August) makes a throwaway comment about grammar schools being “backwards-looking”.

Surely a system where children are sent to “better” schools on the basis of academic merit is more forwards-looking than one where children are selected through their parents’ postcode (often based on family wealth).

With the debate about elitism in British society and the glut of private school pupils at the top of the pile, a debate over the reintroduction of selective state education in some form may be pertinent, especially since the fall in social mobility has coincided with the abolition of grammar schools.

In fact, according to a 2013 YouGov poll, 80 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds were in favour of increasing the provision of grammar schools.

Harrison Edmonds
Cheadle, Cheshire

The Sutton Trust is deluded (“Parents pay half a million for state school education”, 26 August). Take the children from the “best” schools (that is the middle-class children) and move them to the worst schools, and vice versa with the poor children, move them to the best schools. Suddenly the “worst” schools, despite being in poor areas, will become the best.

Teachers have very little effect. A school is just a collection of young people in a building; they are good when they are full of children who have been imbued with a desire to learn from an early age. They are murder when there is a critical mass of children who reject learning because their families have no idea how to support them.

Stop chasing red herrings looking for easy solutions, and address the real issue, which is making proper provision for all children from birth. This would cost a fortune.

Catherine Lane


Fighting for Isis could be treason

British citizens who, in the words of the 1351 statute law, adhere to the Queen’s enemies in her realm, giving them aid and comfort in her realm or elsewhere, are guilty of treason. And the 1916 trial of Roger Casement established that the wording included acts committed abroad.

If the UK takes hostile action against the self-styled “Islamic State”, then any British citizens who actively support that entity are guilty accordingly. They could also be deemed to have adopted a dual nationality, and hence could lawfully be deprived of UK citizenship without breaching international law.

Philip Goldenberg

Too much sport? Impossible!

Following various letters complaining about too much sport of one kind or another being reported, I should like to say that I prefer the sports writing in The Independent to that of any other newspaper.

I even read the news about sports I have absolutely no interest in – Formula One, for example. And although I think all of your football writers are great, Sam Wallace is, in my opinion, the best football journalist in the UK.

Gary Clark
London EC2


You can survive without Kate Bush

Don’t worry, Archie Bland (28 August), I couldn’t care less about Kate Bush or her type of music; and guess what, my heart is still behaving normally, I get out of bed in the morning and enjoy life hugely without listening to a single note played or uttered by her.

I’m just waiting for Cameron to tweet his admiration of Mme Bush’s art, to show he’s so achingly hip and trendy.

Glynne Williams
London E17


Views of Scotland from outside range as widely as those within the country

Sir, Over the past year I have found myself moving towards being a Yes supporter. I am English, so this is academic, but the more I examine where England is as a nation, the more I am appalled at the failure of socio-economic neo-liberalism that creates a tiny powerful elite while marginalising everybody else.

From housing to welfare to justice, to education to economic fairness we in England are morally skewered. That Scotland has a chance to shake off the legacy of elitism and exclusion is fantastic. In doing so I hope Scotland provides the radical mind shift that we in England so desperately need to embrace fairer ways of doing things.

The earthquake that would come from Scottish independence would force us to rightly look at ourselves and what we truly stand for.

Gerard Brown

London W2

Sir, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown heading the No campaign? Where are the English politicians telling Scotland why we want them, why we need them and why they should stay with us?

Leslie Howard

St Albans

Sir, Listening to the Yes campaign one might think that Scots are an oppressed people living in poor conditions. But our island is a haven of freedom and relative prosperity which people risk their lives to join. What sort of paradise do the Scots think they can create by this messy, expensive and divisive divorce?

Professor Robert Elkeles

Northwood, Middx

Sir, It defies logic that Scotland might retain the pound. It would remain hugely dependent on the remaining UK government’s economic policy but without any representation. It is better off now.

Michael Old

Poole, Dorset

Sir, With this recent defection of a Conservative MP to Ukip, the upcoming Scottish referendum and a possible future referendum on EU membership, it is not conceivable that in the near future we could be out of the European Union while Scotland is in.

Dan Green

Ewell, Surrey

Sir, I have, like most in England, only had a passing interest in the Scottish referendum but I would be keen to know what the chances are of keeping “English” Summer Time throughout the year if the Scots decide to depart, as I am certain it would improve the road safety of the inhabitants south of the border.

It would be left to the Highland dairy industry to plead directly with Alex Salmond for their historical light-saving advantage that we have afforded them in the past.

Stephen Williams

Saffron Walden

Sir, There are a dozen countries in the EU with populations similar to or smaller than Scotland’s. None shows any desire to change its status even if its economy is dependent upon its larger neighbours. The arguments so far have concentrated on the economic disadvantages of a Yes vote. Little regard has been given to national pride or the emotional appeal of self-rule. It would be strange if Scotland were to enter the history books as the nation that rejected independence. Is it not said that it is better to be governed badly by one’s own than to be ruled well by strangers?

Charles Mccarthy

Stamford, Lincs

Not all private school pupils come from predictably privileged backgounds

Sir, I am wary of conclusions drawn from statistics outlined in your article about the backgrounds of people in top jobs (“Old boys and girls still take the top jobs”, Aug 28).

The statistics do not say how
such people came to be privately educated. Some fit the upper-class stereotype, of course, but many do not. Sport is an example. Public schools often offer scholarships to talented individuals who then go on to greater things.

I suspect that a great many people come from ordinary families which, in the previous generation or two, have been successful after a state school education. In turn, they decided to seek what they perceive to be best for their offspring by providing for them a private education.

If we look at the wider backgrounds of these “top” people, a different picture emerges: more people from ordinary backgrounds end up in influential positions than is generally realised, and this is to be applauded.

Ian Hale

Farnham Common, Bucks

Cramped airline seats provoke rage, despair and fury, even before the one in front starts to tip back …

Sir, Recent polls suggest that Janice Turner is very much in a minority in seeking to defend her “right” to recline her airline seat (“Why I will defend my air space to the last”, Aug 28). I don’t use a laptop, but if she puts her seat back with me sitting behind her then she is likely to find herself with an impression of my kneecaps in her lower back as most airlines simply provide insufficient economy class legroom for any normal sized person.

No one has a right to make themselves comfy at the expense of the person behind but unfortunately there are many who still do.

Colin Bishop

Cranleigh, Surrey

Sir, With all sympathy to Janice Turner, if you’re 6ft 6in with non-detachable legs some intrusion into the next row’s reclining rights is unavoidable. Selfish passengers who claim those rights by repeatedly slamming their backrest into your knees just make life worse for both of us. Nor is this a special plea for men. I suspect women are just as affected by the issue as men. You only need to look around in the street to see that our height is no longer exceptional.

derek Nudd

Portsmouth, Hants

The charity asserts its right to speak out on the causes of the social ills it seeks to address

Sir, Tim Montgomerie (“You don’t save children by arming terrorists”, Aug 28), criticises Oxfam for speaking out on austerity in Britain and Europe. We speak out on these issues because our research and experience tell us that cuts in spending and increases in indirect taxation are having a detrimental impact on poverty reduction. In the UK austerity is hurting society’s poorest. It is important to stress, as we have done, that this is not just an issue for the UK — the UN has said that fiscal tightening in a number of developed countries has hurt global growth and pushed millions more into poverty.

It is Oxfam’s job to highlight not just the problems of poverty but also the underlying causes. We do not see that as a left or right issue.

Ben Phillips

Director of Campaigns, Policy and Influencing, Oxfam

Sometimes we should allow very old people the comfort of a peaceful departure from this life

Sir, While baking my mother’s 103rd birthday cake last week I read your report “Four in five doctors would not help patients to end their lives” (Aug 23).

There is an associated aspect of this important ethical dilemma which I believe we, as a society, are ignoring. I applaud Professor Raymond Tallis’s advocacy of the “secondary aim” of doctors — the reduction of suffering.

My mother’s death has been postponed three times in the past five years by medical intervention which was unavailable to an earlier generation. She suffers increasing levels of pain, discomfort, distress and miserable confusion. This suffering comes after an active, fulfilled and positive life. It is unbearable to watch, and her situation is far from unique.

In a caring society, surely we need sometimes to allow very old people to die, simply offering them pain relief and a peaceful departure from this life?

Rosie Wood


Not all private school pupils come from predictably privileged backgounds

Sir, I am wary of conclusions drawn from statistics outlined in your article about the backgrounds of people in top jobs (“Old boys and girls still take the top jobs”, Aug 28).

The statistics do not say how
such people came to be privately educated. Some fit the upper-class stereotype, of course, but many do not. Sport is an example. Public schools often offer scholarships to talented individuals who then go on to greater things.

I suspect that a great many people come from ordinary families which, in the previous generation or two, have been successful after a state school education. In turn, they decided to seek what they perceive to be best for their offspring by providing for them a private education.

If we look at the wider backgrounds of these “top” people, a different picture emerges: more people from ordinary backgrounds end up in influential positions than is generally realised, and this is to be applauded.

Ian Hale

Farnham Common, Buck


SIR – There will be conflicting views about whether Douglas Carswell is to be praised for leaving the Conservative Party and joining the UK Independence Party.

However, people on both sides should commend him for standing down from the House of Commons and contesting a by-election with his new party. Mr Carswell clearly understands that he is accountable as a Member of Parliament to the electors of Clacton and to no one else.

Martin Collier
St Ives, Huntingdonshire

SIR – As a constituent of Douglas Carswell and a lifelong Conservative, I welcome his decision to join Ukip.

David Cameron has no chance of substantial change in our relationship with the EU. All we get with him is a Prime Minister returning from endless negotiations waving a worthless “peace in our time” document.

R G Hopgood
Kirby-le-Soken, Essex

Ebola in Britain

SIR – I nursed for many years in infectious disease areas at Great Ormond Street and St Mary’s, Paddington. My colleagues and I frequently travelled to collect and treat the latest exotic, unidentified fever to arrive at Heathrow. We are all alive.

I never volunteered to serve abroad. Many colleagues did. Their expectation of repatriation in emergency was entirely reasonable, in fact tourist-standard, and grudging it is miserable.

Stephen Dunn

SIR – You describe William Pooley, the British nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, as a “hero”.

We have Red Cross medals, and the Florence Nightingale Medal (awarded to women), but not all nurses are female. Our many aid workers do equally important work to improve the lives of people they do not know. They also need to be recognised by the nation for their brave actions.

Nathan Gill MEP (Ukip)
Llangefni, Anglesey

Miliband’s next gig

SIR – Ed Miliband taking a leaf out of Kate Bush’s book may not be a bad idea. After all, she disappeared from public view for 35 years.

Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire

Blessed e-cigarettes

SIR – I was a heavy smoker for more than 60 years and had no problems with coughing nor any shortness of breath. However, a pre-op check revealed a small growth on my left lung, which was successfully removed by keyhole surgery.

E-cigarettes saved my sanity during my recovery, and I bless the people who invented them. I am able to use them in most cafés, pubs and restaurants, although never during a meal, and my wife is delighted that the furniture no longer “stinks”.

Now some busybodies want to ban them. Why? Are we going to allow such legislation to be passed?

David Craddock
Radstock, Somerset

SIR – What a pleasure it has been, since the smoking ban came into effect in 2007, to breathe in clean air and no longer have to gaze at things through a haze of smoke.

Whether or not e-cigarette vapour causes lasting harm to bystanders is a consideration for the experts, but the thought of breathing in visible vapours exhaled from strangers is just as distasteful as breathing in cigarette smoke was.

As a reformed smoker, fortunate enough to have seen the light through the smoke many years ago, I am in favour of banning e-cigarettes from public buildings.

Barry Morris
Bath, Somerset

SIR – I am a seasoned smoker whose lung capacity has greatly improved thanks to e-cigarettes. I am therefore disappointed to discover the World Health Organisation wants proof that e-cigarettes do no harm.

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

John F Jordan

Catching fire

SIR – I disagree with Rupert Christiansen’s assessment of his grandfather Arthur Christiansen’s acting in The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

He brought an air of authenticity that the established actors (such as Edward Judd, Leo McKern and Janet Munro) did not.

Alan Stranks
West Molesey, Surrey

Scotland’s money

SIR – Alex Salmond wants a full currency union with Westminster after having won independence for Scotland, which is contradictory. As for using the pound, or a currency tied to the pound, Ireland tried that from 1928 until 1979. Freeing the punt from sterling was an essential part of having an internationally competitive economy, an advantage lost with the euro.

Jeremy Eves
Bangor, County Down

Exit this way

SIR – I read in Peter Oborne’s column that “Bercow is now looking for a way out”. We should help him find it quickly.

Morton Morris
London NW2

Going without

SIR – Driverless cars, windowless planes, toiletless trains, a could-not-care-less society and life’s no fun any more.

Ray Black
Abersychan, Monmouthshire

Devastated, indeed, by the over-use of words

SIR – Which is the most over-used word in the English language? Indeed. Why do we say “Thank you very much indeed”, when we can just say “Thank you very much”? Why “Well done, indeed” instead of just “Well done”?

Ken Norman
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Surely the most used and abused word in the English language has to be devastated.

Diane Bingham
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – The most over-used words are ahead of. What has happened to before?

Stanley Rubin
Whitefield, Lancashire

SIR – The increasing misuse of sustainable is not sustainable.

Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire

SIR – Richard Cook asks “What has happened to me?” (Letters, August 28).

I can’t answer him. Rather, I commiserate, as I received a telephone call the other day in which the person asked: “Have yourselves heard of ourselves?” I was lost for words.

David Shaw
Codford, Wiltshire

SIR – I notice that on radio and television weather forecasts, temperatures no longer rise, they lift. Lift what, exactly?

Chris Wright
Carnforth, Lancashire

SIR – Reading David Cleave’s letter (August 22) reminded me that the word cleave is one of only two words I know that each have two diametrically opposite meanings: cleave can mean either “join together” or “split apart”, according to context.

The other word, used colloquially in one of its meanings, is wicked.

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

SIR – Obviously, obviously.

Jenny Bundy
Lymington, Hampshire

Is a blackbird behind the curse of the shallots?

Blackbirds accused of causing havoc in vegetable patches across the country

BBlackbirds on average rise 11 minutes after daybreak

Blackbirds: the early bird catches the shallot Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 29 Aug 2014


SIR – The culprits responsible for the destruction of Margaret Mackley’s shallot patch in Devon are undoubtedly blackbirds – nasty, malevolent creatures.

Our garden in Lincolnshire is currently being preyed upon by a super-sized female trio of these avian thugs.

Barbara and Nick Shimmin
Helpringham, Lincolnshire

SIR – The curse of the Lady of Shalott?

Helen Mills
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The extent to which officials in Rotherham failed in their duties to protect children is now becoming clear

Professor Alexis Jay

Professor Alexis Jay wrote the latest report into child sex abuse in Rotherham Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 29 Aug 2014


SIR – We live in a society that can devise, enact and enforce a ban on light bulbs but cannot protect children from abuse on an industrial scale.

Once again public officials show no inkling of remorse nor any idea that serving the public just might be what their jobs are about.

John Smith
Great Moulton, Norfolk

SIR – The extent to which a blind eye has been turned to child sex abuse in Rotherham would appear to warrant prosecution of some officials as accessories to the abuse. A trial would reveal more than an inquiry.

Bill Parish
Hayes, Kent

SIR – I was a middle manager at Rotherham council from 1987 to 1999, responsible for taxi and private hire licensing. Illegal plying for hire by private hire vehicle drivers was a major problem. A majority of licensed drivers were Asian, and enforcement was often met by accusations of racial discrimination. Yet we were only doing our jobs.

I recall a senior councillor requiring me on one occasion to produce statistics on the issue of licences to prove that I wasn’t racially motivated. It put me under massive pressure.

David Wright
Worksop, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Professor Alexis Jay’s report disclosed that a police officer dismissed a case of a 12-year-girl having sex with five men because the acts had been “consensual”. A police officer should know that sex with any child under 16 is statutory rape even if the child consents. The law is there to protect children from themselves as well as against predators.

Chris Platford
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – For more than a decade, South Yorkshire Police apparently disregarded allegations of gang rape and child sex abuse. This is the same police force that, accompanied by a BBC television entourage, raided the home of Sir Cliff Richard to investigate a single historic complaint of alleged sexual assault.

I look forward to further television coverage of dawn raids in South Yorkshire.

John Dickinson
Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Leicestershire

SIR – Inhuman lack of care in Mid-Staffordshire hospitals, the parliamentary expenses scandal, the Trojan horse schools affair in Birmingham, horrors at the BBC and now widespread incompetence by Rotherham social workers and council bosses.

How many of those responsible have resigned, been sacked, or criminally charged? How many of those responsible have been promoted?

Philip March
Croydon, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Noel Whelan (“Abortion amendment didn’t happen by accident”, Opinion & Analysis, August 29th) seems to suggest that “the political reality” of an alleged lack of interest in an abortion referendum matters more than the lived reality of all women of childbearing age living in Ireland. In any kind of civilised society, the discomfort of strangers should never outweigh the real lives of women who find themselves with decisions to make about their own bodies, responsibilities and capacities. As a woman, I truly hope that the Irish electorate views me as a human being with rights over my own body and health. As an Irish woman, it seems increasingly clear that it does not. – Yours, etc,


Ranelagh Village,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Barry Walsh and Paul Daly (August 28th) are quite correct to state that it is the people who voted to amend the constitution to adopt Article 40.3.3. What made the matter come before the people, however, has its genesis in the political instability that was successfully exploited by the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign. Three general elections were held between 1981 and 1983, the year of the referendum. The passage of the amendment Bill through the Oireachtas cannot be unrelated to the fact that it coincided with one of the weakest governments in the history of the State.

In light of the travel amendment, also duly adopted by the people, I wonder precisely what ethical commitment the Constitution currently protects. The cognitive dissonance behind the current position which enables abortion unless you are unable to travel is redolent of a political and intellectual immaturity that Fintan O’Toole has perfectly described in relation to other social questions such as contraception, divorce and homosexuality. These are all issues which took Irish society far too long to face up to. – Yours, etc,


The Rise,

Bishopstown, Cork.

Sir, – As an Irish GP working in the NHS in England for the past 30 years, I read with interest the contrasting articles on August 23rd by Diarmaid Ferriter (“Class secrecy and morality shaped abortion question”) and Breda O’Brien (“There are two very vulnerable people in this nightmare”).

My experience of a system where abortion is in effect available on demand is that it has little if any benefit for women in terms of equality, dignity or rights. Indeed I would suggest that the opposite is the case. I work in an inner-city area with high levels of social and financial deprivation and the situation may be different for women from higher social classes.

What I see is that when women become pregnant, even if it appears initially that the pregnancy was unplanned, the decision on proceeding with the pregnancy or aborting depends on whether the woman has the support of her partner or her family. If the woman has support, in general, the pregnancy goes ahead. My colleagues and I have often discussed the phenomenon of women who months after having an abortion become pregnant again and this time go ahead with the pregnancy.

What had changed? In our experience the situation tends to be that the woman’s partner or family have now come to terms with the idea of her being pregnant and having a baby and have rallied in support. To suggest that this support should happen first time is seen to be denying a woman’s right to choose. It cannot be right to put women through the distress of an abortion when we men or parents, families and society should be providing the support that the woman really wants rather than the easier option for us of supporting abortion.

There are of course situations where these observations are not relevant and a pregnancy is truly unwanted. I don’t have an answer to this.

I remember a friend, one of the British Medical Association’s advisory committee to the British government preparing the 1967 Abortion Act who said, referring to the subsequent availability of abortion on demand, “This is not what we had intended would happen when the Act was introduced”. – Yours, etc,


Prospect Medical Group,

Westgate Road,

Newcastle upon Tyne,


Sir, – Carter Dillard (August 28th) argues that “countries are free to implement population policies that gently guide their citizens to make good decisions, in much the way that some states guide their citizens to wear seatbelts and avoid cigarettes”. However unlike wearing seatbelts and avoiding smoking, the long-term effects of China’s one child policy are not yet known.

The extra population might have drained China of resources, and it is probably more economically powerful as a result of the one child policy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Chinese society is “better”. Major social changes are occurring in China’s population. Confucian teachings (among other things) have influenced a distinct preference for male children in Chinese society. Therefore we see an increase in sex-selective abortion, a lack of care for female babies, and a rising gender imbalance. Words such as “cousin”, “aunt” and “uncle” are losing their meaning. There is huge pressure on men to marry, and there is a danger that the realm of marriage may become a reality only for the privileged upper class.

Vanessa Fong of Harvard University, in her extensive studies on the one child policy, finds that many of China’s “only children” have developed behavioural problems and negative personality traits.

While many of these areas will require much more in-depth investigation over the coming years, to create a dichotomy whereby “population control equals good” and “population growth equals bad” in China, without examining the effects of both in a more nuanced manner, is misleading and disingenuous. – Yours, etc,


Davis Terrace,

Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Sir, – Much of the recent commentary on the proliferation of low-quota CAO entry routes claims that it has been driven by colleges fighting to secure high-points prestige courses (“Universities have been ‘using the points system’ to inflate demand”, Front Page, August 28th). This is a simplification of a very complex problem, and credits us with a level of organising ability that I suspect we do not possess.

Given the cost structure and the nature of academic appointments in higher education institutions, it is extremely difficult to reallocate resources in the short and even in the medium terms. If a college experiences a significant shift in student preferences from one discipline to another, one discipline will find itself underutilised – the other under-resourced.

A tried and trusted way of managing demand in this type of environment is to use a quota system to channel demand to match the resources available. Irish higher education institutions mostly manage demand through CAO quotas at intake – ensuring as far as possible that students will be well serviced. Some demand management occurs after intake, where, for example, a general science intake is allocated across the various science specialisms at the end of two years of study.

In a severely resource-constrained environment, with very “sticky” resources, the arguments for using quotas at point of entry are strong, not only from the point of view of resource management, but also for the assurance it gives successful applicants that they can complete the course they choose. The arguments for allocating demand at some point after entry are also strong; not least that it allows students to experience a broad range of courses before they make important intellectual and life choices.

Nevertheless, it is widely agreed that our current entry system has spun somewhat out of control, and is in need of the kind of “pruning” that university presidents have recently promised. But make no mistake, demand will have to be managed at some point, and arguably, it is more difficult to manage after intake.

The notion that university presidents manipulate admissions quotas in an effort to outdo each other in a race for high-point prestige courses is crass, and a practice that I do not recognise over a long career in the sector. – Yours, etc,


School of Business,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – If we want to find anything positive out of the conjuncture of the home rule crisis and the outbreak of the first World War, we might recall that it took tens of thousands of adult Irish males willing to fight for, or against home rule and sent them overseas to kill foreigners instead of each other. The British War Office paid them for their services and gave money to their dependants while we were spared the collateral damage of sectarian, tribal warfare.

Meanwhile the disarming of the Irish Volunteers after the Easter Rising in 1916 ensured that when war did eventually come to Ireland, from 1919 to 1924, it was on a much more limited scale than would otherwise have been the case.

Compared with other combatants in Europe we came off comparatively lightly. The absence of guns and people willing to use them was a blessing in disguise. As subsequent events proved, political violence could not cure the underlying social and economic maladies that beset Irish society north and south in subsequent decades. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s good that this campaign is highlighting one of Ireland’s hidden treasures. It seems everyone agrees that this is an important route, and the only issue seems to be how best to share it and facilitate access. Here I must declare an interest: I so like the Barrow Way, and believe more people should discover and enjoy it, that last year I made an app and audio guide to the full 116km, from Lowtown to St Mullins, with funding from Waterways Ireland.

Having canoed, cycled and walked the Barrow, I can say that the grassy towpath is not suitable for cycling, other than over very short distances. The grassy surface is often highly “corrugated” by vehicle tyres, and cycling over this is punishing – even one mile can bring tears to your eyes! Ironically, some of this damage is caused by the machines that are used to maintain the grassy towpath sections.

No one wants a high-speed tarmac cycle lane, but a conditioned gravel path, covering approximately half the towpath, would mean cyclists could share the way with walkers and anglers, and enjoy Ireland’s loveliest off-road route.

The Barrow was once a busy industrial river, with noisy mills and cargo traffic. Today, you can drive a car along the path in places, to access private residences. There is surely room for cyclists?

This would create a stunning long-distance route with tremendous tourism potential, and open the Barrow Way to more people in a sensitive way.– Yours, etc,


Manor Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Your reviewer Donald Clarke finds the Newfoundland film The Grand Seduction (“Craggy veterans steal the show”, August 29th) verges on the twee because it features a doctorless small town with the name of (“oh, dear!”) Tickle Head.

Clearly Mr Clarke knows little about Newfoundland. Many small towns in Canada, especially in Newfoundland, lack a family doctor. Enticing a doctor to town is a major challenge for small, remote communities.

And Tickle Head is by no means a fanciful name for a small Newfoundland outport. Ragged Harbour, Bat’s Path End, The Gut, Heart’s Delight and Heart’s Desire are all names of real communities in Newfoundland. And so are Baker’s Tickle, Black Tickle, and Chimney Tickle.

Maybe a trip to Newfoundland might tickle Mr Clarke’s fancy. – Yours, etc,


Berkley Avenue,

Ottawa, Canada.

Sir, – The display of a rainbow flag by An Garda Síochána during the upcoming Limerick Gay Pride festival is a simple gesture that is long overdue and very welcome.While I wholeheartedly agree that the Garda should, must, and do apply the law equally and fairly to all they encounter, I am quite frankly offended that this modest gesture is criticised. Need we bear in mind that since 1993 homosexuality is no longer considered a crime in Ireland and that all of our citizens should be treated equally and with respect?

That said, community outreach is a very important part of policing; minority groups, including those who identify as LGBT, must be represented, protected and supported. Stating your support for a minority does not detract from anything; if anything it educates and ensures that we all care more for our fellow citizens. What’s bad about that ? – Yours, etc,


Jervis Park,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – We have all these recommendations from the local bishops and priests of the church regarding what’s acceptable in terms of music, readings and eulogies for Catholic funerals yet when someone known to the priest, to the town, to the country or the world dies, everything goes out the window.

When my loved ones died over the years, I had my work cut out to get their names pronounced correctly. Asking permission to say a few words had to be framed as a “short thanksgiving” after communion. For double standards, I give the prize to the Irish Catholic Church – for the umpteenth time. – Yours, etc,


Beau Street,


Sir, – Further to “Anger among workers after second wage delay in a month” (August 28th), should a public servant miss a direct debit payment to a bank, the bank will charge €10 for the missed payment.

Am I to assume that, now that the Bank of Ireland has missed two payments to the public servants, they are all due €20 from the banks? – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower, Kilkenny.

Sir, – As a resident of Tralee, I look forward to The Irish Times of the weekend after the Rose festival because I enjoy the reviews and your journalists’ efforts to distance themselves from an event which obviously isn’t high brow enough for frequenters of drinks receptions in Dublin. Predictably, this year your writers did not disappoint.

If your journalists who stay in the safety of southside Dublin have nothing good to say about the Rose of Tralee, send them down to us for re-education next year! We won’t tell their friends. – Yours, etc,


Rock Street,

Tralee, Co Kerry.

Sir, – I feel obliged to point out that, despite his long career, James Alexander Gordon (“Much loved voice of BBC’s Saturday soccer results service”, Obitiaries, August 23rd) never had occasion to read out the scoreline Manchester United 5 Liverpool 0. – Yours, etc,


Edenasop East,

Fintona, Co Tyrone.

Is it time to ask if policies and procedures in all sections of the public service have become so focused on management systems that the primary function of public service, namely to serve the needs of ‘the public’, has been compromised.

Surely the way in which a society is governed is a reflection of the importance our Government, local governments and our heads of public service place on their responsibilities to every citizen of the State?

Media coverage on issues relating to principal private residence taxes, health service inaccessibility, educational disadvantage, homelessness and many other social issues suggests that the systems, policies and procedures and legislation are the primary determinates of how people are treated.

I had always been reared to believe that leaders were people with vision and integrity. When issues were raised in all areas of social governance, I expected that those leaders would respond honestly and openly to provide the rationale for matters that affected ordinary people.

More and more, I have become disillusioned by the silence that seems to permeate the higher echelons of all those with leadership responsibilities

It is not acceptable that countless people are homeless in this country. It is even more unacceptable that Government and local councils claim to be unable to address this problem in a much shorter timeframe than currently proposed.

There are solutions, but only if our ‘leaders’ recognise the cancerous nature of this deprivation.

It is not acceptable that those in need have huge difficulties in accessing treatment in the public health service. It is not acceptable that access to education is becoming more dependent on economic status and that the notion of equal access for all has been erased.

It is not acceptable that the avoidance of admitting any liability for past injustices governs the responses of our public representatives and indeed the leaders of our public services. It is not acceptable that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

There are so many things in our society that are not acceptable and yet those who have been tasked to govern and lead, namely our Government, local councils and heads of the public service, take no responsibility and hide behind systems of governance, policies and procedures which they have constructed.

Fred Meaney, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Nash steps out of bounds

I think Junior Minister Ged Nash needs a quick lesson in political boundaries. Private sector employees’ wages are ultimately determined by the businesses that employ them, and should not be the concern of politicians.

The factors that shape such determinations are staggeringly varied, depending on the particular business in question. Interestingly, one significant influencing factor on wage levels in the economy is employment, and this determinant engages the straightforward economics of supply and demand.

If Mr Nash could take Jobs Minister Richard Bruton‘s lead and contribute ideas that may assist job-growth generally then perhaps he will be doing the State some service – after all, the greater the number of people at work, the higher average wages will be.

It is bewildering to see a Labour minister’s focus on increasing the wages of those people already lucky enough to be in employment at a time when unemployment is still exceptionally high.

Talking up the economy is all well and good, but it does little to put money into the pockets of struggling small and medium enterprises, the businesses that have to pay the wages. It might do the minister no harm to remember that.

Keith Winters, Riverview, Waterford

Perpetuating smoking

As someone who has worked for decades on policy measures to reduce the horrendous toll from smoking, it was a great pleasure to read Dr Ruairi Hanley’s column on e-cigarettes (Irish Independent, August 29), while I was in this country to drop my daughter off at medical school.

Those people, including some misinformed and misguided officials at WHO, who are seeking to put barriers in the way of a massively less hazardous replacement for smoking are perpetuating smoking.

As Dr Hanley points out, what we need are policies that encourage smokers to reduce their risks rather than the pursuit of an unscientific and inhumane abstinence-only campaign against nicotine. If his clear thinking and compassion for the people he treats is any indication of the views of the profession here, it reassures me that my daughter’s choice to study medicine in Ireland was a good one.

David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, Canada

Coalition needs a reality check

We have an official unemployment rate of more than 11pc in Ireland and continuing emigration of our talented young people, yet a big campaign for same-sex “marriage” is the Government’s priority for next year (Irish Independent, August 29)?

The current Government needs a further reality check.

John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin

The cock-up to bonus ratio

I wish to ask your readers a simple question, one which they should be able to answer in less time than it takes to read this letter: do they think that Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher’s next bonus will be affected by the recent cock-up over payment of wages to various account holders?

Brian Cosgrove, Cornelscourt, Dublin 18

Thank the taxpayer

A Dublin bus just passed me with an advertisement for a building society that reads “We wouldn’t have this house if it wasn’t for …”.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a large billboard display on behalf of our Irish financial institutions that reads, “If it wasn’t for the Irish taxpayer, we wouldn’t have a business”.

How about it Enda? It would win some votes.

Darren Williams, Dublin 18

Coexistence in the Middle East

Siobhan O Connor’s article (Irish Independent, August 29) was inspiring and bold, especially as it comes at a crucial time when we hear about Christians being driven from their homes in droves in Iraq, and other minorities being humiliated and mistreated by Islamic extremists.

It is true that spirituality is seeing things more clearly and that it is through adversity that we gain strength. The recent bombardments of Gaza, and Western governments’ repressive policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, have undeniably inflamed tensions between a myriad of religious groups and cultures.

However, religions have always coexisted harmoniously with each other and the Middle East has always been a sanctuary for those fleeing religious persecution.

In Jordan, Christians constitute 7pc of the population. They were in Jordan 600 years before Muslims, making them the most ancient Christian community in the world.

They enjoy political, religious and social rights equal to Muslims, and their rights are safeguarded by the state and the law. They continue to play a leading role in interfaith harmony and all walks of life.

Even in Syria, Christians were safe for centuries. Armenians used to have al Arman neighbourhood (the Armenian quarter in the capital city, Damascus), where they prospered.

At the present time, Jordan is an oasis of stability, tranquillity and peace in a region ravaged with atrocities committed in the name of God.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, NW2

Irish Independent

Irish Independent:


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