22 September 2014 Boredom
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp quiet day we are bored but too tired to do anything about it
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.
Rivers Scott – obituary
Rivers Scott was a literary editor, diarist and agent who pruned the prose of Britain’s authors
6:38PM BST 21 Sep 2014
Rivers Scott, who has died aged 92, was the most experienced literary editor in London during the 1960s and 1970s, working for The Sunday Telegraph, Now magazine, the Mail on Sunday and The Tablet.
Starting as deputy to Anthony Curtis on The Sunday Telegraph’s books page, he reviewed travel books, war memoirs and novels and was highly valued for his skilful cutting of copy from a talented stable of reviewers, who included the Malta-based critic and novelist Nigel Dennis, the poet Kathleen Raine and the comic writer Arthur Marshall. In addition there was the formidable Dame Rebecca West, who succumbed to Scott’s charm over the phone as he cut her back to 1,000 words. On one occasion a lead review of the collected poems of CP Cavafy prompted a complaint from management that poetry was never again to be given such prominence. When Scott remonstrated, another memo repeated the prohibition, adding: “What is worse, it was a Greek.”
The son of a stockbroker, Francis Geoffrey Riversdale Winstone Scott was born on December 12 1921. At Eton he started a film society which made a feature about a day in the life an Etonian.
He then went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read History. Commissioned in the 17th 21st Lancers, following the outbreak of the Second World War, he was captured in his first significant action, at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, after rescuing a gunner from a blazing tank. He was sent to a camp outside Naples, from which he was released after seven months by the Italian commandant.
With a colleague he then spent three months on the run, sleeping in barns and learning to speak Italian from peasants who gave them shelter when Germans forces came close. After reaching Switzerland, Scott was appointed interpreter to an Australian transport officer, then became ADC to General “Monkey” Morgan at Caserta. After the war Scott learned French in Paris and ran a schools’ magazine in English and French for three years, then joined the Times Education Supplement, reporting on school and university drama at the Festival of Britain.
Taken on by The Daily Telegraph he arrived for his first day on the Peterborough diary wearing a trilby, only for Harry Dickens, great-grandson of the novelist, to take him aside: “On this column we wear bowler hats.” Scott claimed to have been an indifferent reporter, but he fitted the classic model of a diary journalist, being well-bred, likeable, high-spirited, and with a mischievous streak; his brother John was to become the paper’s racing columnist “Hotspur”.
Although never particularly ambitious, Scott found he greatly enjoyed being in charge when he was unexpectedly elevated to the position of literary editor in 1962. After four years he left to run the non-fiction list at Hodder, but soon moved to Now magazine for double the salary ; two years later Goldsmith suddenly announced Now’s closure.
Scott was next asked to join the new Mail on Sunday, an experience he did not enjoy, though he had time to edit a volume of John Donne’s prose for the Folio Society. After 18 months he found himself the only original section editor still in post. A convert to Roman Catholicism, he then became literary adviser to The Tablet, whose reviews he raised to an unsurpassed standard .
By 1981 Scott had had enough of journalism, and started up a literary agency with Gloria Ferris, demonstrating a flair for editing, then selling, unusual manuscripts to a wide variety of publishers for such authors as the polar biographer, Roland Huntford, the film encyclopedist Leslie Halliwell, the historian Trevor Royle, the Tory Attorney General Peter Rawlinson as well as Ned Sherrin and the runner Steve Ovett.
Rivers Scott married, in 1950, Christina Dawson, daughter of the historian Christopher Dawson. She died in 2001, and he is survived by their five sons.
Rivers Scott, born December 12 1921, died May 22 2014
Anti-TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) protest, Brighton, July 2014. Photograph: Kate Nye/Corbis
Owen Jones (This trade deal puts private profit above people’s needs, 15 September) is an intelligent political and social commentator, not a one-man campaigning NGO. So he must know that investment protection treaties don’t allow multinationals “to sue sovereign governments … on the grounds that their profits are threatened”. And he must certainly know that, as with any lawsuit, the fact that Philip Morris has brought proceedings against Australia over the plain packaging regulations doesn’t mean that either side has won this highly contentious case before judgment has been given.
What investment treaties typically do is offer investors (in either direction) reciprocal guarantees of basic principles such as fair and equitable treatment, protection and security, non-discrimination both generally and by comparison with local investors, and against expropriation without compensation (also guaranteed by the European convention on human rights).
Writing as one of those “so-called” arbitrators Owen Jones refers to, I’ve been prompted to do something I’d never thought of doing before: draw up a balance sheet of all the arbitration tribunals on which I’ve sat. It seems that in seven cases we decided for the investor, and in nine cases for the government. All of these decisions bar two were unanimous (ie including the arbitrator nominated by the investor or, as the case may be, the government); and in one case, although we found some breaches of the guarantees described above, we awarded no compensation because the investor failed to prove any loss, and in another the investor apparently found the amount of compensation we awarded so modest that it chose not to contest a subsequent attempt to upset our ruling.
There are many weighty arguments against the TTIP, as there are in its favour. But they deserve to be debated on their objective merits, not by mythological scaremongering.
Frank Berman QC
Essex Court Chambers, London
• Congratulations on Owen Jones’s article highlighting the threat that the proposed EU-US free-trade deal known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presents to our sovereignty – not to mention our standards of workers’ rights, environmental standards and food safety rules.
As he rightly says, it is astonishing that the Tories and Ukip, which claim to be gravely concerned about British sovereignty, have only positive things to say about TTIP. Even more surprising perhaps that Labour and the Liberal Democrats do likewise. Indeed Menzies Campbell defended the secrecy of the negotiations when discussing them with me on the BBC2’s The Daily Politics, saying the public should know nothing until they are “eventually presented with a package”.
The lack of general media attention and examination of TTIP has been a matter of grave concern to Green parties, which in the UK and across Europe are at the forefront of opposition to the proposal. And there should be an outcry about the EU commission decision to block a proposed European citizens’ initiative on TTIP and the similar EU-Canada proposed deal (Ceta), which was backed by more than 200 organisations across Europe.
Please keep reporting regularly on TTIP, and let’s all demand that the BBC and other news outlets cover this critically important issue.
Leader, Green party of England and Wales
• On behalf of the European commission I would like to reassure Owen Jones that the TTIP trade deal with the US will be no threat to the NHS. Publicly funded health services are excluded from most trade deals. Healthcare services are excluded from the general government procurement agreement at the World Trade Organisation. They are even in large part exempted from the EU’s own single-market rules.
TTIP will be no different. The deal the commission will propose will not require the UK government or NHS to put anything out to private contract. TTIP will not give US companies leeway to sue a future UK government for returning privatised or contracted-out health services to direct public provision. Neither will we be compromising on food safety in the EU, as some of your other correspondents have alleged.
Furthermore, European governments and parliaments – and not “faceless EU bureaucrats”, as Mr Jones alleges – make the final decisions on all EU trade deals.
The commission will put before them a TTIP deal that will mean more growth and more jobs. Not one that would undermine things that citizens across Europe hold dear and that would anyway have no chance of agreement.
Head, European commission office in London
• Owen Jones sees the TTIP and its system of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) as an attack on democracy. Looked at from the opposite direction, ISDS effectively dismantles capitalism. The justification of capitalism has always been that it directs capital to those best able to use it. ISDS replaces this impetus of capitalism with the comfort blanket of permanent society support. ISDS removes the risk from business investment and places all risk on the consumer and on the taxpayer. As corporations no longer pay tax, society effectively underwrites all risk. The last time this happened, we called it feudalism. Under feudalism, the barons acknowledged allegiance to the monarch, under God. Under ISDS, monarchy is replaced by corporate bodies under their God, money.
• Well done, Owen Jones, for the long-awaited and very welcome follow-up to George Monbiot’s article last November. Let’s hope it isn’t too late. As the letter from the World Development Movement, War on Want and others that you published on 12 September warned, that day was the last chance for Vince Cable to use the UK’s veto to remove ISDS from the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta). The TUC’s international head, Owen Tudor, has said that once Ceta is implemented, “most of the worries people have about TTIP will already have come to pass”. Any news on that lethal agreement? Was it finalised on 12 September? Did Cable use his veto? (Or are those airborne porkers passing my window now?) Please let us know.
• Owen Jones is quite right that the anti-EU right’s failure to object to the TTIP “demonstrates the duplicity of rightwing Euroscepticism”. However, he seems not to notice that the issue also illustrates the dishonesty of centre-left Europhilia. Jones does not even name the European commission among the villains of the affair. The TTIP gives the lie to those commentators who insist the EU is a force for social progress. If the TTIP goes through as it stands, support for continued membership of the EU will be incompatible with any position that can claim to be social democratic.
Perhaps the Guardian could publish the answer to this question: the TTIP is a treaty between the EU and the US; if it is finalised while the UK is a member of the EU, would a subsequent “Brexit” free us from its rules?
Irvine Welsh lives up to his reputation as a writer of fiction with his assertion on the front page of Saturday’s Guardian that the yes campaign came “within a whisker of a sensational victory” in the Scottish referendum. The noes polled 24% more votes than the yeses (2,001,926 to 1,617,989). And only four of Scotland’s 32 regions voted yes. That’s more of a country mile than a whisker.
Dallington, East Sussex
• As a yes voter, my eyes filled with tears on reading Carol Duffy’s poignant poem, September 2014, on Saturday’s front page – as if I had grasped that thorny thistle. So much said in so few words!
• As a Scottish voter bewildered by the issues in the referendum, I welcomed the exceptionally high quality of comment on the subject by Guardian writers. What I found even more helpful, however, was your letters page. Day after day, readers on both sides of the debate expressed their views in clear, knowledgable, passionate and often brilliantly worded language, often illuminating aspects not covered elsewhere. What a resource are Guardian readers!
• If only English MPs are to be permitted to vote on English laws (Report, 20 September), surely only women MPs should be allowed to vote on subjects affecting women’s rights, and so on.
• You note that the referendum turnout was “awesome” (Editorial, 20 September). Your conversion to the world view of the Lego Movie is welcome. As it reminds us, “everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team”.
Community energy: fitting solar thermal water heaters onto the roof of a cottage on the Hebridean island of Eigg, which has a completely renewables-powered electricity grid. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters
How silly of Jenny Turner, in her review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, to refer so patronisingly to the “knit-your-owns” (Review, 20 September). Of course governments should be taking on this threat – and of course we keep on telling them so. But voluntary groups like Ovesco, a community-owned and -funded renewable energy company, also create large amounts of green energy through lots of hard and mostly unpaid work. Organisations like ours are the means by which many people know about climate change, understand that renewables are simply common sense, and see that there are ways in which they can act. Big things arise from little things; governments will not take notice until the many start demanding that they do. It will be a welcome day when/if we are able to pass the task over to them; I am quite looking forward to doing some knitting.
Lewes, East Sussex
In the current climate of ever-rising work-related stress and mental illness caused by working conditions, it only surprises me that it would surprise any researcher to discover that psychopaths are very likely to be in authority roles in large organisations (Report, 19 September). In the public sector as well as private companies, a lot of people on the receiving end have been aware of it for a long time.
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
• A “theoretical physician” (Who said Britons were drunk, dirty and deplorable?, 20 September) sounds a rather dangerous thing to be; I think João Magueijo must be a theoretical physicist, which is a very different occupation.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
• While their exploits are legendary, there is nothing made-up about the existence of Ireland’s three patron saints (Letters, 17 September). Saint Patrick, Saint Brigit and Saint Columba were all real people, as was Saint Piran, patron of Cornwall, another “home nation” that might one day gain independence.
• Great story from Hilary Mantel (The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983, Review, 20 September), but I would not have missed that stabbed-in-the-back, tearful exit from Downing Street for anything.
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
• Kay Ara (Letters, 20 September) may be very happy looking at photographs of a man in pants. It put me off my dinner. I do not expect that on Page 3 of the Guardian.
Sir, As an Anglo-Scot with a Scottish wife, I heard the good news on Friday that I was not, after all, going to be married to a foreigner. The last thing I now wish to see is the growth of an harrumphing Longshanks tendency in Westminster. Having worked in London in an office overlooking Big Ben, I am very aware of the evolution of a form of government which aggravates hitherto-submerged cultural divisions.
William the Conqueror took no account of the north until its peoples rose against him. The result was genocide. Nevertheless, the Conqueror found England to have a most profitable, efficient, system of centralised tax gathering and local government. The evolution of government from these early beginnings is peculiar to Britain. In Europe a revolution was needed before the Napoleonic system could be either adopted or imposed, yet ironically this was more suited to the devolution of the power to govern and raise taxes.
Here, nothing can be done without central government approval or oversight. The British system has reached the stage where it is totally unsuited to such devolution. In our former American colonies the problem was overcome by federalism and the sometimes-bloody assertion of states’ rights, while all the time retaining the Anglo-Saxon posse comitatus.
The downside to the British genius in retaining some of the old while evolving the new, is the production of back-of-a-fag-packet solutions.
Devolution undoubtedly requires a federalist solution, to which our old, creaking system of local government is totally unsuited. For the first time in our history we now perhaps need to tear things up and start again.
Keith Elliot Hunter
Ilkley, W Yorks
Sir, I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1983 but I profoundly disagree with the Labour leadership on how to deal with the fall-out from the “No” vote in the independence referendum.
The only viable solution for the UK is a genuine federal system, whereby the UK Parliament is responsible for agreed federal issues and devolved assemblies in the four home countries deal with the residue. If that causes problems for Labour in England so be it.
Both Canada and Australia — Commonwealth territories to whom we have bequeathed parliamentary systems — both operate on a federal basis.
Sometimes parents should follow the examples of their children.
Sir, I find it preposterous that Messers Cameron, Gove, Hague, Redwood et al seriously think that their solution to the West Lothian Question, namely English votes for English laws by the same set of English MPs who also legislate on UK-wide policy is remotely tenable, for it raises more anomalies than it solves. The one that I would like to raise is: how is it possible to imagine an MP from a non-English constituency ever becoming the British prime minister?
An English parliament together with a US senate-style UK parliament does solve this, and many other anomalies. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians could think beyond short-term political expediencies? For the sake of the long term stability of the UK, I hope all parties will give this proposal proper consideration, and not simply regard it as the goal of a nationalistic minority.
Sir, In addition to examining (“How Germany kept its trust in teachers”, letters Sept 18), it might be be worth a look at the German political system also — should politicians be intent on their pledge to review the British system in the wake of the Scottish Referendum. Given the success of the coalition government, thanks in no small part to David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s courage, it would seem that coalition governments can and do work — whatever the Jonahs say. Much of the economic success of Germany can be ascribed to the stability and even-handedness of its political system.
Sir, True Scots should not be too despondent. Now that Brown, Darling and Cameron et al can return Scotland to the backburner and ensconce themselves on their cosy green benches at Westminster, 45 per cent of us can excuse ourselves from culpability when the promised extra powers to the Scottish parliament are cast aside, minimised or deferred. The 55 per cent will have much to contemplate when they are left grinding on the rusty Tory/Labour swings-and-roundabouts of London establishment politics
Sir, With regard to the Union, we should examine England’s tendency to bray the national anthem at the other home nations before sporting events. If I were Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish I would be irritated beyond civility by another home nation singing my national anthem at me. Should we not take a leaf out of the books of athletics and cricket and use another song?
Islington Green, N1
Sir, Westminster is going to need superb constitutional advice, as was provided by the previous Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Robert Rogers. You reported that he left because of Mr Bercow’s behaviour
(“Parting shot from Commons clerk questions Speaker’s role”, Sept 21). Surely it is not too late for MPs to oust Bercow, thus allowing Sir Robert to return to his duties? The needs of the country must take precedence over one individual.
Sir, More people live in Essex than voted “Yes” in the Scottish referendum, so if more powers are to be devolved to Scotland then the higher subsidy paid to those living there should cease.
sir bob russell,
Lib-Dem MP for Colchester,
Sir, Westminster’s challenge now is to engage 84 per cent of the electorate outside of Scotland.
Victims of trafficking need more and better support after they come forward
6:58AM BST 21 Sep 2014
In Britain nearly 3,000 trafficked women are working as prostitutes at any given time. Instead of being helped, many trafficked victims face prosecution, deportation and the risk of being re-trafficked, which means they are often reluctant to testify against their traffickers.
While the Modern Slavery Bill is a step in the right direction, as it offers victims immunity, there needs to be a far greater focus on the support available once they come forward. Proposals to extend statutory support to victims beyond 45 days are absolutely vital and must become law.
Chief Executive, Housing for Women
Uniting against Isil
SIR – Turkey was understandably loath to join a multinational response to Isil while 49 of its citizens stil remained captives of the organisation and after Nato failed to invoke Article 5 in its defence.
Without evidence of robust support, the message to all aggressors was clear: concerted Nato action can easily be avoided by seizing hostages from the sovereign territories of diplomatic missions.
Bricks and nostalgia
SIR – As David Kynaston points out, planners, given the opportunity, will always sweep away the old in favour of the new.
Like Prom organisers who like to set Beethoven beside Boulez, London’s architectural planners preserve a St Pancras Station here but insert a Shard there, just for the sake of the frisson created by the old-new contrast.
Isolated concessions, such as the campaign to save Giles Gilbert-Scott’s redundant Battersea Power Station, may come across as exercises in nostalgia and ultimately speed the plough of unsentimental modernisers.
SIR – It is no wonder the National Health Service is experiencing financial problems when it is drowning under too many tiers of bureaucracy.
Each area of the NHS is managed by scores of different trusts, all with several layers of management and all apparently carrying out identical tasks for the area covered by their group.
Other successful industries have a board to make policies and one layer of managers to implement them.
Let doctors and nurses use their skills without being harassed by inexperienced box-tickers.
A royal injustice
SIR – I am less concerned about cruelty to goldfish in Jamie Lloyd’s Richard III than I am about Shakespeare’s cruelty to the real Richard III, possibly the best king of England and certainly no murderer.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Baroness Hanham racked up a bill of almost £1,000 in taxi fares for 38 journeys between the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo.
A single ticket from Westminster to Waterloo on the Jubilee Line costs £4.70, or just £2.20 with an Oyster Card. The walk can be pleasant, costs nothing, and might do the baroness a power of good.
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – There is only one viable way in which the British constitution could be changed to permit the delegation of powers to England to match those to be granted to Scotland: the creation of a separately elected English parliament in addition to the UK Parliament at Westminster.
The cost of introducing an extra tier of government could be mitigated by greatly reducing the number of Westminster MPs, while moving the new English parliament away from London could lend it wider acceptance.
SIR – The leaders of the three main parties had no mandate whatever from the voters who elected them to promise further powers to the Scots, who are already over-privileged and over-funded by comparison with everyone else.
Any MP who has a conscience should vote against implementation of such a promise before justice for the less privileged Welsh and the totally exploited English majority is secured. Otherwise, the only party deserving our votes in the general election will be Ukip.
SIR – While the SNP will be disappointed that it has not achieved independence for Scotland, the result surely gives the party the best of both worlds – the security of knowing that Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom and also, with a 45 per cent vote for independence, the ability to put pressure on Westminster for more devolved powers.
SIR – Whatever changes are made to the terms and conditions of the Scottish devolution agreement must be matched by more economic and political autonomy for England.
The new constitutional arrangements must be written into a binding legal statute.
SIR – In their last minute scramble to persuade the Scottish voters to remain part of the UK, our inept political party leaders offered them all kinds of financial inducements.
The people of Scotland already enjoy an enhanced slice of the UK cake and I, for one, do not agree with increasing the differential.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – The Scots have voted in favour of the Union, and politicians now have a responsibility to strengthen the values which bind the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Alongside the devolution agenda, the UK Government must pursue policies which actively benefit the entire realm socially, financially and politically.
I propose that Parliament establishes a permanent Standing Committee to advise ministers on the likely effects of projected legislation on the home nations, chaired on a rotational basis by members from each of the constituent countries.
SIR – Scotland has voted No to independence; how does that demonstrate that Scotland wants more devolved powers?
As for England – or indeed Yorkshire, Manchester or London – where is the evidence that we want devolved powers?
Given that the main parties are apparently now all committed to devolution, do we not deserve some referendums?
SIR – The Scottish independence debate has focused attention on the need to reform radically the structure of the United Kingdom.
The current system may be described as one of asymmetric devolution; that is, devolution of powers unequally to the four nations. Creating a new English parliament would transform the current system into one of symmetric devolution.
A fully federal system – which would require a significant additional step, namely the drafting of a written constitution specifying the division of powers between the centre and the parts – may represent the only solution that would prove sustainable, meeting the now evident demands for national autonomy without dismantling the Union.
Dr John Law
SIR – More devolved powers for Scotland? Then more devolved powers for England.
L A Lawrence
SIR – The Scots have had their say, now it’s time for the rest of the UK to have ours on issues such as the end of Barnett Formula, devolution and House of Lords reform.
SIR – As an Englishman, I would like to congratulate those living in Scotland who decisively voted for the best of both worlds. Not only will it bring more devolved powers to Scotland, it seems to have persuaded our Prime Minister to think about the English for once.
For too long, the majority of people in the UK has been marginalised in the political pursuit of minority interests.
SIR – Now that the Scots have had their opportunity, what chance is there of England being offered the right of independence from Scotland?
Michael I Draper
Nether Wallop, Hampshire
SIR – Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Queen should act right away. Arise, Sir Gordon Brown.
Lower Bourne, Surrey
SIR – Scotland still has the Tory-led Government it didn’t vote for and now, next year, England will almost certainly have the Labour government it won’t vote for. Democracy?
Graham De Roy
SIR – As a Better Together campaigner, I am, of course, very happy that No has won fairly comfortably. It would be even better if, in a parallel universe, the Yes campaign had won and its supporters had seen if Alex Salmond’s promise of milk and honey came true. As it is, they will always claim it would have done.
SIR – Are we proud to be Scots? After a referendum costing millions of pounds, which has divided the country, split families and friends and left us with an uneasy truce, I wonder.
Port of Menteith, Perthshire
SIR – The Prime Minister is reported to have said that the Scottish nation will have to live with its No decision for another “generation”, whilst Alex Salmond is reported as having used the word “lifetime”. If, by a “generation”, Mr Cameron means about 25 years, and, by “lifetime”, Mr. Salmond was hinting at a much longer 70 years, does that all imply that these referendums on Scottish independence will continue until an emphatic Yes vote is registered, such that the zip that is Hadrian’s Wall can be undone and Scotland allowed to drift off on its own ?
Frederick Reuben Parr
SIR – The best way to ensure new legislation required by the Scottish vote is agreed before the next general election is to cancel all MPs’ leave.
SIR – In the interest of unity, presumably we will have to continue with GMT in the winter and GMT plus one hour in the summer?
Lewes, East Sussex
SIR – This week Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, made all her models at London Fashion Week wear “Yes” badges in support of Scotland’s bid for independence because, as she told her adoring audience, she hates England (telegraph.co.uk, September 15).
Obviously her hatred doesn’t extend to refusing a damehood.
SIR – Until 2006, Radio 4 played the UK Theme every morning before the Shipping Forecast, but this was ejected in favour of Westminster prattle – the last thing anyone wants to hear at break of day. To celebrate Scotland’s decision, and in the renewed spirit of union, could the UK Theme come back?
E G Nisbet
SIR – If it was Yes, I vowed never to drink Scotch whisky again. What a relief.
Sir, – Paul Cullen (“Slow response to Halappanavar report”, September 12th) deserves credit for his report on the slow implementation of recommendations made following the death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway almost two years ago. It’s encouraging to see that apparently significant work has since taken place with many recommendations implemented in UHG. Most worrying, however, is the slow pace of change and that only one of 39 hospitals ranked itself as “excellent”. A further concern is the use of self-assessment as the method to assess performance in the implementation of recommendations.
Qualitative self-assessment by hospital management is, by itself, a most unsatisfactory way to measure patient safety. Quantitative standards of performance, subject to independent audit, are required. The fundamental flaw throughout our health service is lack of responsibility and accountability. If hospital management is slow to accept responsibility for the speedy implementation of patient safety recommendations, what hope for accountability?
Perhaps the more interesting revelation in Paul Cullen’s report is that the validation of UHG’s self-assessment comes from external management consultants, and not the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) – the statutory body established under the Health Act 2007 to set standards and monitor compliance. I believe that patient safety verification is too important to be delegated, with or without regulatory control, to private enterprise.
Many of the problems in our health service can be linked to the failure of successive governments to clearly define the role of public bodies such as Hiqa and the HSE. These bodies should be empowered to accept responsibility and be accountable.
The Health Act 2007 is the classic example of ambiguity. Hiqa is required to set standards on safety and quality, and then monitor compliance in relation to services provided by the HSE or service provider. Hiqa’s only function thereafter is to advise the Minister and the HSE. Hiqa claims that it’s not responsible for patient safety, but rather the HSE.
The HSE is compromised in its approach to patient safety. The patient safety test it uses is a self-assessed assurance provided by a public hospital that the resources provided by the HSE are being used by the hospital in the most efficient and effective manner. This assurance is accepted even if the resources provided by the HSE are inadequate to ensure the necessary standard of patient safety. Hiqa is also required to operate within the constraints of inadequate resources even if, as a result, patient safety standards are not in line with best international practice. A review of the Health Act 2007 is long overdue. – Yours, etc,
JIM LAWLESS, MBA
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.
Sir, – Dr John M Regan (September 17th) commenting on Charles Townshend’s review of Gemma Clark’s Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War and focusing specifically on the depopulation of southern Irish Protestants between 1911 and 1926, rejects Prof Townshend’s observation that this population decline, if not ethnic cleansing, was a process far from normal.
The exodus of tens of thousands of Protestants from the Irish Free State heralding the decline in the Protestant population was not as a result of sectarianism, intimidation or land-grabbing. Such views clearly promote a sectarian narrative about republican actions during the War of Independence and is not supported by evidence. Although some Irish Protestants were victims of a process of expulsion, coercion, and in some cases murder – acts which would have been abhorred by those who planned the Easter Rising – there are reasons other than those suggested by Prof Townshend.
A significant contributor to this population decline can be identified with the Great War and aggressively encouraged Protestant relocation north. The horrific slaughter of young Irish Protestant men in the first World War had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the male Protestant population of the South.
This was reflected in the birth rate for decades following the war. In addition, the Northern Ireland regime led by Sir James Craig enticed large numbers of Protestants, through the offer of government jobs and housing, to relocate north of the Border in an attempt to offset Catholic majorities in Border counties. Some in government service chose to leave with their families rather than enter the civil/public service of the Free State.
In addition, there was a large British military establishment in Ireland which was stood down in 1922. This group was disproportionately Protestant.
Others left because they no longer enjoyed social and official privilege being Protestant once brought.
Furthermore, the strong religious, cultural and political ties which southern Protestants had in common with the northern majority resulted in a sizable shift of Protestants north across the Border.
It is worth noting that two Protestants who decided to stay south subsequently became presidents of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The subject of Protestant depopulation in the area of independent Ireland continues to provoke analysis and comment, especially within the scholarly community.
John M Regan mentions the recent publication by Prof David Fitzpatrick on the subject of Southern Irish depopulation. It is particularly gratifying to see that Prof Fitzpatrick has arrived substantially at the same conclusion I arrived at in 1993 in my article in the Irish Economic and Social History Journal. In a study of the Dublin Protestant working class (with conclusions on the whole Protestant experience), I concluded that the causes of Protestant decline in Dublin, apparent since the 1820s, were social and economic.
The deindustrialisation of Ireland led to economic decline, leading in turn to a fall in immigration of Protestant persons from Great Britain, along with accelerating out-migration of Irish Protestants.
However, also very significant was the social force of marriage, especially the marriage pattern of Irish Protestant women marrying British military grooms on an Irish tour of duty.
I found that fully one-third of Protestant brides married British military grooms. The loss of young marriageable females to British soldiers was much more significant than the notorious Ne Temere decree in depleting Protestant society.
It seemed to me then, in 1993, and recent research has tended to confirm my conclusions, that social class is more important than religion in explaining depopulation.
The survival of a confident and prosperous Protestant middle class in the independent Irish state suggests that the simple category “Protestant” is not sufficient to sustain an historical explanation. – Yours, etc,
Dr MARTIN MAGUIRE,
Department of Humanities.
Sir, – John Bruton’s assertion that the Home Rule Act of 1914 would have ultimately led peacefully to national independence is mere speculation (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says Bruton”, September 18th). The parallel he now draws with Scotland is absurdly unhistorical and ignores the radically changed contexts of a century. Even if the 1914 Act had been implemented (with some form of partition) it would have delivered no more than a mild measure of local government, of the kind later provided by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The truth is that the imperial government was determined to preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom at all costs.
At a time of rapid transformation of a London-controlled British Empire to a Commonwealth of self-governing states (at least for the former “white” colonies), the London government set its face adamantly against dominion status for Ireland, with Lloyd George denouncing the notion as “lunacy”.
Whether we like it or not, the imperial mindset was forcefully changed only by the nationalist resurgence of 1919-1921 guerrilla war, a successful counter-administration, civil resistance, dramatic hunger strikes, the impact of British and world liberal opinion – resulting in the 1921 treaty. That settlement, whatever its limitations,provided the essence of independence, and constituted a chalk-and-cheese difference from 1914 home rule.
Moreover, independent Ireland, and the way it came about, was a world removed from the genteel order envisaged by well-off, elite, gentlemen politicians and their latter-day admirers. – Yours,etc.
JOHN A MURPHY,
of Irish History,
University College Cork.
Sir, – Congratulations on your editorial “Humanity and asylum” (September 17th). I have never understood why Ireland is so uniquely vulnerable to hordes of job-hunting asylum seekers that we are the only EU country (apart from Lithuania) which bars these poor people from working. Similarly I have never understood why we are among the very few nations in Europe that bars the children of asylum seekers from subsidised third-level education.
Why do we allow this cruel system of depriving a small number of defenceless people of work and education to continue? Rather than hide behind a few hard-faced senior bureaucrats in the Department of Justice, the Minister, Frances Fitzgerald – a decent, liberal woman – should end it as soon as possible. Ireland’s image as a civilised and humane nation demands nothing less. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – There can hardly be better proof of the correlation between the political “silly season” than the current controversy about the direct provision system for asylum seekers.
Much has been made of the fact that some people and their Irish-born families have been in the system for up to a decade. Apart from the trademark State inefficiency in doing anything, they are there because they have chosen not to accept the answers given to their asylum application and appeal which were negative. These processes are now dealt with in 12 and 18 weeks, respectively. They are instead pursuing an eight-stage process at taxpayer expense which has resulted in over 849 appeals being listed at the High Court on June 14th and many more at Supreme Court level.
Among the “rights” being demanded for asylum seekers are that they should be allowed to work and attend free university education. Can you imagine the influx these pull-factors would generate? How many more “unaccompanied minors” would appear to claim their third-level education, and more “workers” for the dole queue?
It is clear to what the real agenda is – cancellation of current deportation orders and no future deportations. This would mean effectively no State control over who stays in the country – once you’re in, you’re in for ever.
Comments by the neophyte Minister of State for Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin that the system is “inhumane” are plainly inaccurate and potentially dangerous in a country already burdened with a host of litigious victim groups. –Is mise,
A chara, – I was somewhat surprised by the unexpected rush of emotion and disappointment I experienced upon confirmation of the referendum result on Friday morning. A scan of Irish social media and online commentary appeared to display a similar feeling in our national psyche.
It occurred to me that this feeling of disappointment stems from a simple inability to comprehend why a nation would choose to maintain ties to an archaic, hierarchical and still monarchy-centred power structure, rather than make the first move away from it.
And then I remembered that every morning, I get to wake up and live in this great – albeit imperfect – little democracy, where our hardworking political leader has the air of a kindly country uncle and our much-loved head of state the defiant pose of a radical poet.
And I rejoiced that because we as a nation made a different choice, many years ago, I could help to elect whomsoever I choose to these positions of power. And I put my shoes on and went to work in a Republic where I strongly sensed – to quote a Mayo poet – “Davitt’s ghost smiling everywhere”. – Is mise,
Co Mhaigh Eo.
Sir, – I was shocked on a return pilgrimage to Oliver Goldsmith’s Lissoy parsonage to see how the structure has deteriorated over the past half a century. Goldsmith spent his formative years here. His most famous poem resounds with the sights and sounds and characters of this unassuming midlands area.
Stones seemingly stand in mid-air with little to support them. Should one apparently floating boulder collapse, it would irreparably damage the last remaining window frame. While awaiting proper restoration, even some pointing work would protect from the forthcoming frosts. But unless something is done soon, the remaining walls will crumble to the ground.
A lamentable disrespect to the man whose poems moved millions and writers as diverse as Samuel Johnson and James Joyce. I hope he would forgive the parody – Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and sacred sites decay. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Daisy Hawksworth (September 15th) laments the “perfection” of magazine models. Has she not noticed how miserable most of them look? Sadly the modelling and photographic worlds seem to be ignorant of the fact that the best (and cheapest) beauty treatment is a smiling face. – Yours, etc,
ROSE MARY LOGUE,
Sir, – Further to the letter of Sofia Rainey (September 16th), oh, if only I had read when a teenager! I’m now 63 and still trying to catch up! I never will; the older you get the harder it is to keep the concentration going.
So, please teenagers, start reading now. It’s something you will never regret. No technology will replace the magic of reading. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I recently flew Aer Lingus, returning home to Dublin after a trip to the US. The passengers were of all ages, including toddlers, children and teenagers.
Midway through the flight the captain made an announcement that duty-free items were on sale. He made a particular point of mentioning that cheap cigarettes could be purchased. He didn’t place the same emphasis on the favourable deals on any other products. Large cartons of cigarettes were the most prominent articles displayed as the trolley went around the aisles.
I’m not suggesting that the airline has a deliberately pro-tobacco agenda. That would be ridiculous. But it certainly didn’t sit well with me that the pilot and crew of the aircraft – people whose positions I expect are admired by many of the children aboard – appeared to be supporting smoking, however tacitly.
Even though cigarettes are proven to cause numerous fatal diseases, I’m a firm believer in people’s right to choose what risks they take regarding their own health. However, I would encourage Aer Lingus to give some thought to how it handles the advertisement, display and sale of tobacco products when there is a captive audience of children on board. – Yours, etc,
Dr JAMES MAHON,
in Medicine for the Elderly,
St James’s Hospital,
Sir, – My enjoyment of the nostalgic correspondence on the above topic is somewhat tempered by an apprehension that some time in the future, people will question why nobody called a halt to the current practise of paper sellers walking up and down between rows of commuter traffic inhaling exhaust fumes for a couple of hours every afternoon.
Surely those with responsibility for health and safety at work, or indeed those charged with enforcing the Road Traffic Acts, should act before we are reminiscing about a time when paper sellers had the lung capacity to shout at all. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The web is awash with critics panning U2 for flooding iTunes with their latest “free” album. Whatever about the music, lambasting U2 for allegedly promoting a culture of free music is seriously misguided.
Contrary to what their critics think, U2 may have just spotted a smart way for musicians to create a new avenue to make future income from their copyright or recorded work in a universe where it has evidently no direct value to consumers. – Yours, etc,
Andres Mellado, Madrid.
In 21st century Ireland women are still being excluded from access to third-level education.
We hear a lot from the Government about getting people back into education and lifelong learning in order to improve job prospects and get people off social welfare.
Access courses are designed to provide access to third-level education for people whose socio-economic background prevents them from entering third-level education.
Of the 12 or so institutions in Dublin to provide such courses all bar three of the courses are full-time. And two of those three are held in the evenings.
How can women and men with children, single parents and carers (the majority of whom are women and save the State significant costs in care bills) hope to use this service?
The very socio-economic background that qualifies candidates for entrance to these courses means that they have lives which are not 9-5. We need part-time access courses in the daytime and they need to be widely available.
When ‘Women and Education in Ireland ‘(NUI) was published 15 years ago it identified the very same problems. And when a candidate enters third level having finished the Access course – it is a full-time commitment.
Third-level education is a challenge of intelligence and creativity and that is the way it should be. However, it should not be made harder for people with families, mothers of young children, single parents and carers or care-givers and those who cannot attend full-time – most of who are women.
Social Welfare and the course providers need to come together and offer a pathway to third-level education which is flexible, accessible and where people are not scared off with cuts in benefits if they attend.
“Women do not enter or return to education for an easy time. They do it to get a job, to get a better job, to be a role-model to their kids, to lift themselves and their families out of a history of dependence on the state. It radiates out and benefits very level of society.”
The quote above was written in 1864. It is as relevant today as it was then because it is timeless.
Marguerite Doyle, Santry, Dublin 9
North must not be abandoned
In her column last week (September 16) Liz O’Donnell questioned Sinn Fein‘s suitability for government in the Republic. Thankfully, that decision lies with the people who rejected Liz’s now-defunct Progressive Democrats.
Ms O’Donnell questions Sinn Fein’s ability to reach agreement in the North on welfare cuts and outstanding issues in the political process.
Sinn Fein has built and delivered agreements from the Hume/Adams initiative through to the Good Friday and ancillary agreements. Sinn Fein has always honoured its commitments, abided by agreements and sustained the institutions.
It is not Sinn Fein that is threatening the political process. Look at the record of Martin McGuinness to see how far Sinn Fein has moved to promote reconciliation and reach agreement.
A section of political unionism however, is opposed to power-sharing and equality. This element has walked away from Programme for Government commitments, threatened the institutions, failed to abide by legal rulings of the Parades Commission and challenged the independence of the courts.
Unionist leaders refused to accept the Haass/O’Sullivan compromise proposals on parades, flags and dealing with the past.
Unionist leaders walked out of talks and have yet to return.
Sinn Fein wants agreement on these issues, but it must be on the context of the Good Friday Agreement, which was by the people of Ireland.
As co-guarantors of the Agreement, the Irish and British government cannot walk away from their obligations.
Efforts to hollow out the agreements and undermine the institutions must be resisted by London and Dublin.
It is no surprise that Liz O’Donnell, as a former PD, supports cuts to welfare benefits to the disabled and a tax on people in social housing. But, as far as Sinn Fein is concerned, these cuts are wrong. They have had a disastrous impact in Britain. We would oppose such cuts in Dublin, Cork or Donegal and will not impose them in the North.
Sinn Fein has demonstrated its capability for government.
Sinn Fein has not, and will not, shy away from hard decisions in government or in the peace process. But neither will Sinn Fein be forced into making the wrong decisions.
There is a need now for both governments, with the support of the US administration, to defend the agreements that have been made and to ensure their implementation.
Gerry Adams, TD, Leinster House, Dublin
Scotland an example to all
The Scottish referendum must be taught in schools. Scotland has gained worldwide admiration for its ingenuity, rationality and democratic performance.
There was no deployment of tanks and military personnel such as the case in the Crimean peninsula, no electoral fraud and rigging as the case in many parts of the world, and – most importantly – no illegal forms of voter intimidation.
The voting was a happy ending, a colourful demonstration of a strong sense of belonging to the UK. The UK has asserted itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. As Prime Minister David Cameron put it “now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and move forward”.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London
Balfour no friend of Home Rule
John Bruton – both in his articles on Home Rule and also during his recent appearance on RTE’s Prime Time – refers to former British prime minister Arthur Balfour as supporting Home Rule. I would respectfully suggest that, before Mr Bruton releases some more howlers about Mr Balfour and Home Rule that he read and study ‘Aspects of Home Rule’ by Mr Balfour. It is a collections of speeches collected from the Times newspaper with the assistance of the Conservative Central Office. The Book – 247 pages of vitriolic anti-Irish language – was published in 1912 by George Routledge and Sons. In three words Mr Balfour describes the Home Rule Bill as “a legislative farce”.
Mr Balfour’s statement in Belfast on April 3 1893 sums up his feelings about Home Rule.
“Whatever be the combination of forces arrayed on the side of this iniquitous measure, the forces against is so united and so strong in principle, and above all so strong in the righteousness and justice of their cause, that surely in the end they will prevail.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies.
Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway