Flu jab

10 October 2014 Flu jab

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent. I go to the garage but alas no corn I book our flu jabs

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.

Obituary:

Fr Benedict Groeschel – obituary

Fr Benedict Groeschel was a Franciscan who started a new Order committed to a revival of the founder’s ideals of poverty and service

Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Father Benedict Groeschel at the St. Francis Center in the south Bronx, New York Photo: NYT/REDUX/EYEVINE

6:12PM BST 09 Oct 2014

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Fr Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who has died aged 81, was a preacher, author and popular religious broadcaster; his chief love was always his work with the poor and with troubled young people.

Fr Groeschel was a friend of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and helped her set up a convent in New York in the 1970s; he also established the St Francis House for homeless young men and the Good Counsel House for pregnant unsupported young women in the city. Later, with his long beard and distinctive grey habit, he became a familiar figure to viewers of the Eternal Word Television Network, the Alabama-based international Catholic station. As a spiritual writer he published more than 40 books; he gave retreats and spoke at conferences around the world, and contributed to a range of Catholic and secular magazines and newspapers.

Robert Peter Groeschel was born on July 23 1933 in New Jersey, one of six children. He took the name Benedict Joseph after St Benedict Joseph Labre, a beggar saint, on joining the Capuchin friars in Indiana in 1951. His years with the Capuchins were spent chiefly in youth work, and he trained in psychology in order to give more effective help to the young people in the Children’s Village, a charity in New York where he was based for more than 10 years. Later, while running a retreat house and other projects, he became director of spiritual development for the archdiocese of New York, giving retreats that became hugely popular with people of all ages and backgrounds. He also taught psychology at St Joseph’s seminary in New York, an appointment that he held for more than 40 years.

In 1987, in a decision that was to have a major impact on the life of the Roman Catholic Church, he and seven other Franciscans left their community to establish a new congregation, the Franciscans of the Renewal, committed to a radical revival of original Franciscan poverty and service. He became the group’s Superior (or Servant, as it is known in Franciscan communities). Their first home in the Bronx was in the heart of a noisy, violent area and lacked basic facilities. They began immediately to work with the poor and over the years the community grew from the original eight members to more than 100. Their houses worldwide now include one in London and one in Bradford, in addition to two in Ireland and several across the United States and South America. A parallel group for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, has some 35 members and their houses include one in Leeds featured in the 2011 BBC television programme Young Nuns.

Fr Groeschel always dressed in his grey Franciscan robe – the community’s vow of poverty means that they patch and mend their robes until they are almost threadbare — and was at his happiest when collecting food for the poor, distributing turkeys and other Christmas goodies to families, and organising projects for young people in decaying urban districts. “As a psychologist, I have to say I have a Santa Claus complex,” he once said. Despite the flourishing of his new congregation, he always said that leaving his original Capuchin community had been the saddest day of his life, and he hoped for a reunion.

He was deeply involved in ecumenical activities, numbering several Protestant ministers and rabbis among his close friends. The Friars of the Renewal – all bearded and sandalled, always apparently cheerful and invariably travelling in a small group with at least one guitar and perhaps a football – have become familiar at all major international Catholic events, notably World Youth Day. Fr Groeschel, stooped in his old age, quietly spoken and unpretentious, seemed in his later years to be an unlikely founder of this vigorous network of energetic young friars, but his forceful teaching and deep spiritual commitment were nevertheless the real heart of the community.

Fr Benedict Groeschel was badly injured in a car accident a decade ago, but overcame serious injuries, started to walk again using a stick and resumed a punishing schedule of practical work with the poor, talks, retreats, and other activities. After a mild stroke in 2012 he retired to a care home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in New Jersey, where he died.

Fr Benedict Groeschel, born July 23, 1933, died October 3 2014

Guardian:

Liberal Democrats Party annual national conference. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg addresses the party’s annual conference. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Before we beatify Nick Clegg for his laudable intention of improving mental health provision (Revolution in mental health care revealed, 8 October), let us pause and consider the parlous state of our society after nearly five years of coalition government and how this may be linked to mental illness. The Lib Dems have supported the wanton fragmentation, further costly privatisation and impoverishment of our social and health services (including financial cuts for supportive charities) within the context of counterproductive and unnecessary austerity. Much mental illness arises from a milieu of multiple deprivation. The rapidly growing population of the poor, sick and disabled have had a torrid time at the hands of Iain Duncan Smith’s department and from the cuts to benefits and services.

Furthermore, as a recently retired teacher, I have been appalled by the growing levels of student anxiety, depression and self-harming. I believe that some of this correlates with the Govian target-driven, joyless, exam factories that schools have become.
Philip Wood
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

• In the coverage of the Liberal Democrat proposals for an expansion of provision of talking therapies, there has been little or no discussion of what the NHS will actually be providing, except for the fact that one prime goal is to get people off benefits and back to work (which some therapists would regard as an unethical goal). Many readers who are outside the debates on what constitutes adequate therapy probably imagine that millions of people are going to get something like the activity portrayed on TV in In Treatment or The Sopranos: two people in a protected space, choosing to work together at an agreed pace and duration to clarify and unravel (to the degree that is possible) the psychological issues of one of them. This is indeed what you get if you seek private psychotherapy and counselling (which may not be as expensive as you think).

But what the Liberal Democrats (and the Department of Health) mean by their version of a talking therapy is not like this at all. They are introducing, without any serious discussion, a palpable class system into the provision of therapy. If you can afford it, get “real therapy” privately. If not, then accept that your treatment will be governed inappropriately by the medical model of diagnose-then-cure, and that everything will take place within tight financial parameters – hence very few sessions. Much treatment will be carried out by scantily trained practitioners.

It is not hard to understand why the professional organisations of psychotherapists and counsellors do not speak up regarding this, though they know very well that this is the situation. The anticipation of jobs for their members – often unnecessarily retrained to deliver the state’s version of counselling and psychotherapy – has silenced them.
Andrew Samuels
Chair, United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy 2009-12, and professor of analytical psychology, University of Essex

• The announcement by Nick Clegg of reduced stigma and greater parity between physical and mental health services has been welcomed uncritically by the media and mental health charities. However, the coalition government should be judged on what it has done, not what it says. In Sheffield, where Clegg is an MP, the budget of the mental health trust is a seventh of that of the acute trust, and annual audited accounts show that the mental health budget has fallen disproportionately year-on-year since 2010, with services cut to dangerous levels. Nationally, more than £120m has been leeched out of mental health budgets, in effect to pay for the coalition’s privatisation agenda. If it ever reaches the front line, £120m of new funding will not restore services to 2010 levels, let alone “revolutionise” access to treatment of mental illness.

Conclusion: neither the Tories nor the Liberal Democrats can be trusted with the NHS.
Jeremy Seymour (retired psychiatrist)
Sheffield

• The promise to reduce waiting times for people needing access to talking therapies is very welcome. Mental health has long been the Cinderella of NHS provision.However, what Nick Clegg’s speech did not address is the standard and type of treatment that will be available. The experience, training, supervision and institutional support of those staff delivering the talking therapies is crucial to the effectiveness of the treatment delivered. Working clinically with people in distress inevitably impacts emotionally on the practitioner – and the more distressed and disturbing the nature of the mental health difficulties are, the greater is the impact on the clinician and the clinical team. This is not a criticism of practitioners but a description of the nature of working with psychological and emotional distress and disturbance.

Therefore mental health staff need good training and supervision, supportive institutions and regular access to opportunities to openly discuss their work with colleagues and skilled facilitators, who are experienced in working with disturbing mental health issues and with the impact such work inevitably has on practitioners. Without this consultative support there is a danger of staff burnout; of a retreat into illness; of mental health staff getting caught up in the distress of their clients; and, at the worst, staff finding themselves reacting to the disturbing states of mind of their clients.

So let us reduce waiting times but, crucially, let us equip the staff working in mental health with good training, skilled supervision and opportunities to regularly reflectively examine the inevitable impact of the work they are engaged in. There is no short cut to this essential requirement.
Stanley Ruszczynski
Clinical director, Portman Clinic, Tavistock and Portman NHS trust

• Nick Clegg plans to put treatment for mental health conditions on a level with physical health from 2015. In order to be clear, is that putting it on a par with the GP funding that has been cut by nearly £1bn, leading many surgeries to face financial collapse? Or is it putting it on a par with the A&E departments in crisis due to the number of hospital beds axed and where 5,000 A&E patients waited over four hours? Or perhaps on a par with cancer care, which saw a decrease in funding between 2009 and 2013 despite rising rates of diagnosis?

Mr Clegg might find it easier to seize the agenda on mental health had the austerity policies of his coalition government not ripped through the heart of mental health services. More than eight in 10 GPs now believe that their local mental health teams cannot cope with mental health caseloads, and nearly half said that the situation in their area had got even worse in the past 12 months. Research has shown the links between austerity economics – with its added financial strain, income inequality, debt, absence of essential services, and its regressive taxes like the bedroom tax – and the damaging impacts of such policies on people’s mental health.
Dr Carl Walker
Chair of the taskforce on austerity and mental health, European Community Psychology Association

• Front page: “Revolution in mental health care revealed. Taboo over issue must end – Clegg”. Solution to 15 across in crossword on page 47: “Loony bin”. Nick Clegg knows where to start work now, doesn’t he?
David Carr
Leeds

Billy Connolly Despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2013, Billy Connolly, 71, has embarked on a sellout comedy tour of Scotland. Photograph: Ian West/PA

As a younger Parkie myself, it was good to read Eleanor Tucker’s piece giving a different perspective on Parkinson’s disease (Report, 6 October). So often Parkinson’s comes across in the media as a death sentence; inaccurate, and very depressing for anyone newly diagnosed. It would be good also to note that tremendous progress is being made towards a cure. The websites of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Parkinson’s UK highlight trials that are happening right now with drugs that are used for other conditions but are also proving effective in combating PD.

Funding is the big issue: there simply isn’t enough money to pursue all the promising leads. Yet, in financial terms alone, investment in research makes sense. A cure would make massive savings in the cost of the drugs currently being used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Bev Maydon
Author of thejellychronicles.net

Synod On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican Pope Francis at the Vatican synod on the themes of family, 8 October. ‘It’s worse than the Tesco boardroom,’ writes Mark Davis. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The picture John Boyne paints of his suburban Dublin parish is at odds with my memories of growing up in rural Catholic Ireland in the 60s and 70s (‘They blighted my youth and the youth of people like me’, Family, 4 October). My pious, mass-attending parents successfully raised 13 atheists (I remember vividly thinking it was all crap when I was about eight). I include my brother with Down’s syndrome among that numberwho, when a priest actually did visit our house and the TV was duly turned off, thus depriving him of Top of the Pops, grabbed the priest’s coat and hat, took him by the arm and showed him to the door – to the horror of my parents but to much hilarity among his siblings.

I don’t know any social circles where mass-going was a prerequisite – certainly not in our local pub – and as for painting the house for a priest’s visit for tea (it’s actually broken tellies they think the world is full of – à la Billy Connolly’s joke), the question of even setting an extra place would not have been considered. Yes, this is my own personal perspective but suffice to say not every parish in Ireland was like John’s. In south Armagh in the 60s and 70s – given the tyranny of the Stormont regime and the subsequent tyranny of British military occupation – there wasjust no room for any more tyranny, and generally speaking the Catholic church there just didn’t “try it on”. People had enough on their plates without worrying about going to hell.
Kieran Murphy
Dromintee, County Armagh

• One of the consequences for the Catholic church of forgetting its origin in Judaism is that it has no means to undo previous pronouncements, change course (Opinion, 9 October). Hebrew scripture is a catalogue of prophetic denunciations of the errors and failings of its practitioners; Jews have actuallycanonised these upbraidings and made them part of their understanding of God’s dealing with them. Catholicism, with its power centralised, finds justifying any alteration of doctrine nearly impossible. It claims as the bride of Christ to be indefectible and so fears divorce if it changes, yet, as any married person could tell its celibate clergy, marriage is a continual process of admitting one hasn’t got it right, and asking, and getting, another chance.
Harold Mozley
York

• To review the Catholic church’s approach to social policy and the family, Pope Francis has convened an all-male group, none of whose members has any direct experience of family life beyond the time he entered the seminary, which in most cases was quite some time ago. It’s worse than the Tesco boardroom.
Mark Davis
London

Jonathan Miller, pictured in the Royal Opera House in 2010. Ethics of arts sponsorship is not a new concern: director Jonathan Miller, pictured in the Royal Opera House in 2010, attended discussions on the topic in the 1990s. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I agree entirely that arts sponsorship should be transparent (Tate and oil – does the art world need to come clean about sponsorship?, 8 October) and I find it puzzling that a charity’s audited accounts do not make them so. However, I was surprised to see Mark Ravenhill say of the Royal Court “we’ve been in this world since the 1980s, and there’s never been a serious discussion about the ethics”. When I was deputy director of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (now called Arts & Business) between 1988 and 1992, I remember sitting on many panel discussions, one, as it happens, at the Royal Court with, inter alia, Jonathan Miller, on this very subject. I also wrote ABSA’s Guidelines for Good Practice in Arts Sponsorship (c 1990), which encouraged cultural organisations to think precisely in this way and to have clear sponsorship policies and strategies: the easy example being the approach of an arts education programme to fags and booze sponsors. Other similar publications are available.

I hope and expect that these ethical matters are in fact considered as carefully today as they were 20-odd years ago. If any boards (and artistic directors) of arts organisations are not discussing their own ethics seriously, they cannot cite lack of material.
Caroline Kay
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Hector Rodriguez, Antino Alvarez The coffin of the murdered Venezuelan parliamentarian Robert Serra is carried to the national assembly in Caracas, on 2 October. Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP

We express our condolences and solidarity to Venezuela following the murder of Robert Serra (27), the national assembly’s youngest parliamentarian, who was found dead in his home on October 1 (theguardian.com, 8 October).

Government officials have stated it was tied to a terrorist plot from extreme elements of the rightwing opposition, with the secretary general of the Union of South American Nations, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper, saying: “The assassination of the young legislator Robert Serra in Venezuela is a worrying sign of the infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism.”

Worryingly, Serra’s murder joins the list of other assassinations of government figures and the situation resembles the prelude to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, when sections of the Chilean opposition did not distance themselves from violent actions, including the assassination of a general.

We condemn this murder and other examples of extreme, anti-democratic violence aimed at destabilising Venezuela’s elected government.
Ken Livingstone President, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Colin Burgon Labour Friends of Venezuela, Tariq Ali, Diane Abbott MP, Baroness Janet Royall Leader of the opposition in the House of Lords, Tony Burke Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union, Mike Wood MP, Elaine Smith MSP, Lord Nic Rea, George Galloway MP, Neil Findlay MSP, Katy Clark MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Mike Hedges, Welsh AM, Jenny Rathbone Welsh AM, John McDonnell MP, Michael Connarty MP, Kate Hudson General Secretary, CND,Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, Andy De La Tour, Victoria Brittain, Billy Hayes, General secretary, CWU, Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef, Doug Nicholls General secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions, Ronnie Draper General Secretary, BFAWU,Roger McKenzie Assistant general secretary, Unison, Professor Peter Hallward Kingston University, Dr Francisco Dominguez, Head, Centre for Latin American Studies, Middlesex University

SLADE - 1973 Slade in charge? Got promotion written all over ’em. Photograph: Roger Bamber/Rex Features

When my husband retired he decided to do all the washing up, all the ironing, all the brass cleaning, and all the vegetable preparation (Letters, 9 October). He was also responsible for all the hard adding up and listening to Radio 5. After he died, I bought a dishwasher, ironed as little as possible, sold the brass and learned to add up. I also eat out as often as possible. The housework gets done when I have visitors who might notice if I haven’t. I leave Radio 5 to those with stronger constitutions.
Diana Lord
Cranfield, Bedfordshire

• Your obituary of Andrea de Cesaris (7 October) brought back fond memories of James Hunt’s description of De Cesaris’s car as “a mobile chicane” because even when being lapped he would not voluntarily give way to faster cars. This, of course, in the era before blue flags forced slower drivers to let the leaders through.
Ian McAdam
Godalming, Surrey

• On the subject of unfinishable novels (G2, 9 October), I should like to submit Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve attempted this book in written form (three times) and in audio form (once) and have never managed to get further than the meaning of its title. I have read a book by Howard Jacobson, by the way.
Melanie White
Reading

• The owner of Cardiff City might be a little unorthodox, but appointing Noddy Holder and the lads to run the team might prove a step too far (Tan finally confirms Slade as new manager, Sport, 7 October).
Michael Cunningham
Wolverhampton

• Even supposing that a new Dad’s Army film is a good idea and notwithstanding the excellence of Toby Jones’s acting (Report, 9 October), surely David Cameron would be the ideal choice to play Captain Mainwaring. He has the combination of pompous bluster and inability to actually get anything done in practice down to a fine art.
Keith Flett
London

Independent:

On 13 October the House of Commons will debate a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.” This is a rare opportunity for MPs to assist the Government to take a historic decision by conveying the feeling of the country on a non-party issue which is both open and important. We hope that they will seize it.

The debate will take place when the prospects for the peace process are bleak, in the aftermath of some of the worst violence in years in Gaza, and after Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama on 1 October that Israel was to build 2,600 new housing units, all of them illegal, between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Significantly, however, the next day the new Swedish government announced that it intended soon to recognise a Palestinian state.

The British government’s position, stated by William Hague on 9 November 2011, is that “We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

Our government recognised the state of Israel (without agreed borders or capital) in 1950. Today there is a common EU policy on the framework for final status agreement, including borders based on the 1967 line, subject to any negotiated modifications, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

Given our own historical role, UK bilateral recognition would symbolically reaffirm and strengthen this position. Practically it would not sidestep negotiations but help them forward. Specifically it would give the parties rather less unequal status; it would give a very public political warning to the Israeli government and public to dissuade them from taking yet more unilateral steps which could soon leave nothing to negotiate; and it would strengthen the hand of those in the US administration who would like the US to show “tougher” love to Israel and play a more even-handed role, but who are frustrated by the powerful Israeli lobby. It would also, as the Swedish foreign minister said, give Palestinians more hope in the path of negotiation.

Our historical role, national values and self-interest all point to early recognition – a significant decision which would encourage many of our European partners to join the 134 other countries that have already recognised a Palestinian state. We hope that Monday’s vote will bring that decision nearer.

Robin Kealy
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem, 1997-2001

Sir Richard Dalton
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem  1993-1997

Oliver Miles
British Ambassador to Greece, 1993-96

Basil Eastwood
British Ambassador to Syria, 1996-2000

Sir Harold Walker
British Ambassador to Iraq, 1990-1991

Boorish British hatred of Europe

I grew up in a Britain of manners, grace and reasoned debate, and this was recognised around the world. How times change.

Now our Prime Minister wants to renegotiate a special deal for the UK in relation to the world’s most successful trading bloc, and if the 27 other European Union members don’t agree, he threatens to leave. We apparently also want a special deal in relation to a human rights accord that everyone else in Europe has signed up to apart from Belarus. And if we don’t get that, we’ll leave that too.

This petulance flows from the same well of prejudice that cheered on Nigel Farage when he insulted Herman Van Rompuy, telling him that he had “all the charisma of a damp rag”.

The hatred of all things European by a sizeable part of the population is worrying, and yet is cheered on in sections of the press and pandered to by our politicians, looking for a scapegoat for all our ills. And as a result of this hatred, a boorish unpleasantness has crept into our national discourse. We are the worse for it, and I don’t like it.

Derek Hammersley
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland, Edinburgh

The Tory proposal to withdraw from the European Human Rights Convention is merely a restatement of Tory policy since the time before the party was known as Tory, Conservative or any other name,

The Tories have a deep-rooted objection to being told what to do by any foreigners. If there are orders to be given they should be given by Brits.

The Tories also know that any orders that they give to people in this country will be obeyed by a great majority, thanks to the culture of subservience which has flourished over the centuries.

The human rights which have existed in this country are such that most people can’t afford to pay for them to be put into operation. I remember as a child seeing a performance of 1066 And All That. When Magna Carta  was introduced, every clause was followed by “Except the working man”. This summed it up perfectly and nothing has changed.

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

 

Austerity is bad for mental health

If you broke your leg, would you think it was a good deal to wait two weeks to be treated? If your mind breaks with a psychotic episode, why is a two-week wait for treatment a good deal, when the need for treatment should be just as urgent as physical health challenges? (“Clegg pledges to end the shortfall in mental health treatment”, 8 October.)

There are insufficient beds, insufficient staff, inadequate training, inadequate care in the mental health sector.  Mental health needs increase with austerity, as life becomes harder. The odd hundred million pounds won’t address the problem. A radical change in priorities will.

Investment in health rather than warfare, and taxing the rich, and corporations who avoid their taxes, rather than removing beds and benefits from the mentally ill, will ultimately save far more lives.

Shirley Franklin
Mental health carer and Chair of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, London N19

French buses in West London

Many thanks to Jim Armitage for his article on foreign state-controlled firms running much of the UK’s infrastructure (9 October). I thought it was just me not getting the finer points of government.

EDF also, of course, owns London Electricity. And if you get a United Buses bus, you may notice a small sign above the door: “Part of the RATP Group”. The Paris underground company, of course, owned by guess who? Thankfully, our excellent local fishmonger and greengrocer are both owned by the people who serve you, but I do worry.

David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex

 

Marginalised voters in safe seats

I, too, will not vote again (letters, 7 October) because in 46 years my vote has never made any difference. I have lived in nine different constituencies, including the political extremes of Tunbridge Wells and Islington. All have had safe majorities; none has been marginal.

I have turned out to vote every time. My vote has always been wasted. I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt, because I have been brought up to believe in democracy.

Frances Gaskell
Kilham, East Yorkshire

Victims of school rugby

Allyson Pollock’s article on the dangers of rugby (7 October) does not mention another, extremely rare, hazard for rugby players in schools: a broken neck.

For many years I dealt  with inquiries about university facilities from prospective students with disabilities. In that time I met three students who were using wheelchairs because they had broken their necks playing rugby, and I corresponded with a fourth.

Mary Foley

What killed the coal mines?

In her three-page article (8 October) on the miners’ strike Anne McElvoy finds room to quote, at length, numerous pre-Christian historians. The economics were dealt with in four words: “Coal was becoming uneconomical”.

Clearly there wasn’t space left to mention that the mining industry was expected to compete, by the Thatcher government, against a massively subsidised nuclear industry and Columbian coal imports mined by pre-teens for a pittance.

Mark Robertson
East Boldon, Tyne and Wear

Rooney chases Greaves record

If Wayne Rooney wants to match Jimmy Greaves’s goal-scoring total for England then he has a job on (“Rooney closes in on Greaves milestone”, 9 October). Jimmy scored 44 goals in 57 appearances. Rooney has 41 in 97 appearances. To match Jimmy’s scoring rate per match he will have to score 34 goals against San Marino.

Peter Evans
Billericay, Essex

Times:

Sir, In “How to Be a Man: that’s the book we need” (Oct 8) Alice Thomson is right to point to the growing emasculation and frustration felt by many young men. Feminism continues to redefine the identities of young, mainly working-class males. Since the 1980s middle-class feminists have skewed society to reflect an anti-male agenda.

Set against this has been a transition to a service economy, where “soft” skills are in demand. The result has been greater empowerment of women at work and growing financial independence from men. At the same time, perceptions of marriage have changed: gone is the certainty of family life of the 1950s and in its place are more fragmented environments, often without the paternal role models which are so important to the developing male identity.

This combination of factors creates many of the chronic social problems relating to young men. They leave school with inferior qualifications and poorer job prospects. Dismissed as potential husbands, fathers and providers by women at work or supported by the state, they feel unwanted, and express growing anger. The greater tolerance in society for “men are useless” statements, jokes and advertisements reflects a situation for which there is an increasing human and economic cost.
John Barker

Prestbury, Cheshire

Sir, Young people today are ready targets for those who wish to use them for their own ends, which often leads to their being so troubled while they try to find themselves. Media interest in young people may well encourage self-absorption and much advertising is directed their way. The notion of adulthood has been undermined and the subjection of boys to the same sort of media horror that confronts girls must be avoided. It is unfortunate for some young people that they are supposedly protected by being compelled to keep the company of other disaffected youngsters in school or college rather than learning about adult life from adults, such as employers of apprentices.

We do not need a book for boys. We need to ask how it is that we allow boys and girls to be misused by the very adult world that they are so keen to join.
Peter Inson
East Mersea, Essex

Sir, What an excellent piece by Alice Thomson. However, I did write a book for men, Saving the Situation, in 1996, with a foreword by Baroness Faithfull. She was so horrified by the statistics about male victims that she sent us to discuss the problem with Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Our estimate was that at least 100,000 men had been excluded from their homes due to false allegations of domestic violence since 1992. Our
statements were frowned upon by the government and nothing
was done.
Julian Nettlefold
Family Practice Press

Sir, Alice Thomson’s article is to be applauded. I am a retired female academic currently completing a book (with a former male colleague) about the occupational experiences of male primary school teachers. My data confirms the article’s views that men as well as women can be stereotyped and I suggest both women and men start to work together to end these unfair gender practices.
Dr Elizabeth Burn
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

Sir, I fear I would never be able to secure employment with a top management consultancy, not just because I’m a little unsure
what management consultancy is, but also because I have absolutely no idea what a “mani/pedis” is/are.
Rob Matthews

Formby, Merseyside

Sir, In view of the forthcoming BBC charter renewal, not to mention questions about the licence fee, the insistent refrain of the BBC Children in Need song, “God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You . . . ”, may appear somewhat portentous.
Sue Balsom
Llanfarian, Aberystwyth

Sir, The closure of Richard Branson’s Little Red airline (News, Oct 7) comes at a time when people in their millions are rediscovering trains, raising a question over the attraction and viability of short-haul air services. Together with the introduction of aircraft that can carry up to a third more passengers, this leads me to wonder whether we need new runway capacity.
James Miller
London N1

Sir, Apropos “To um or to er?” (Oct 6). My teacher in the Fiftiesused “Um” and less frequently “Like”. In our version of classroom cricket, the “Ums” were runs and the “Likes” were wickets. It required a lot of concentration to keep the score.
Dr James Visick
Norwich

Sir, I was alarmed to read of Brian Blessed’s experience with “deceitful” genealogists (report, Oct 9). People wanting help with family history should be aware that the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (Agra) is the recognised body for genealogists and that our members are regulated and reputable.
Ian H Waller
Chairman, Agra

Little Red airline (News, Oct 7) comes at a time when people in their millions are rediscovering trains, raising a question over the attraction and viability of short-haul air services. Together with the introduction of aircraft that can carry up to a third more passengers, this leads me to wonder whether we need new runway capacity.
James Miller
London N1

Telegraph:

Excursions: the Natural History Museum in London offers enjoyment and education in equal measure Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:56AM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR — Your correspondent’s comment that charging entry fees would “give us all a chance to enjoy our glorious galleries” (Letters, October 2) made me see red.

As a child I enjoyed many an exciting and educational visit to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, several times a year, free of charge. When I took my own children, the considerable entrance fee meant we visited as a family only twice. Now that entrance fees have been removed, my children regularly visit the museums and my grandson will, I hope, find these excursions as enjoyable and enriching as I did.

Removing the standard entrance fee has once again opened up our museums and galleries to everyone, regardless of budget.

Fenella Collins
Newbury, Berkshire

Coalition partners: the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister pose in front of 10 Downing Street

6:57AM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – In complaining that the Liberal Democrat tail wags the Conservative dog, Jim Barrack must have forgotten the result of the 2010 election.

The Tories received about 3.5 votes out of 10; according to the rules of our democracy, they simply did not have the votes to govern alone.

The Liberal Democrats received around 2.3 votes out of 10. It was sensible that the two parties worked together and that each compromised to achieve what, in the opinion of many, has been a successful Government that has lifted the economy out of Labour’s recession.

David Forrester
Glasgow

Holland remembers

SIR – I grew up in Holland, not far from Arnhem, during the Second World War.

I have lived in Britain for 50 years now, and I give talks to the public and in schools about the years of occupation in the Netherlands. I always start by saying how deeply grateful the Dutch are for having been liberated by the British and their allies. May 4 is Remembrance Day in Holland and each year the Dutch unite to make sure they will never forget.

I cannot offer Major Edwin Gibson and his fellow veterans a medal, but I can express my thanks.

Liesbeth Langford
Hexham, Northumberland

Natural remedies

SIR – Tom Chivers is correct to say that science distinguishes between a herbal remedy and a medicine.

For cancer and infection, over half of our medicines can be traced back to natural sources. This is a compelling reason to protect the world’s natural resources: not just the rainforest, but also the marine environments which are just beginning to yield unique medicines for pain, cancer and heart disease, among other conditions.

Professor Marcel Jaspars
University of Aberdeen

Strictly amateurs

SIR – Now that the Strictly Come Dancing season is upon us once again, would it be possible to hang an L-plate on the contestants so that the less informed audience members can identify them as celebrities?

Francoise Percy-Davis
Melksham, Wiltshire

Vaccine: flu viruses are notoriously difficult to immunise people against Photo: Heathcliff O’Malley for the Telegraph

6:58AM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Since last December the Ebola virus has killed about 3,500 people. The influenza virus kills 500,000 people worldwide every year.

According to the media and government spokesmen, one of these is a global health crisis. I’m getting a flu jab.

Kevin Hennessy
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Affordable energy

SIR – Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, argues that opponents of onshore wind turbines are irrational.

Yet even Cabinet ministers are not immune to this lack of rationality. For ideological reasons Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, seems determined to block investment in onshore wind developments by overturning informed decisions made by his own Independent Planning Inspectorate. His actions fly in the face of his own Government’s polling, which shows that 70 per cent of the British public support onshore wind, a level of support far exceeding that of nuclear (42 per cent) and fracking (29 per cent).

Onshore wind is considerably less expensive than the other forms of generation, including offshore wind and nuclear. In many parts of the United States, onshore wind is already cheaper than gas. As energy security becomes an increasing problem, onshore wind can protect our energy supply and keep energy bills stable – as long as we don’t submit to nimbyism from a vocal minority.

Andrew Whalley
Chief Executive, REG Windpower
Guildford, Surrey

Naming sex suspects

SIR – The remarks by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, at a fringe meeting during the Conservative conference suggesting he may review the police practice of naming suspects in sex offence investigations are to be welcomed.

It is hard to overstate the damage caused to the reputation of such suspects by the full glare of media attention. Sex cases are arguably unique. While one can think of a number of rehabilitated high-profile offenders, the opportunity of rehabilitation following sex misconduct allegations – even if such allegations are unfounded or never proved – is much more difficult.

There is clearly a balance to be struck between a suspect’s right to privacy and the need to investigate serious crime rigorously. A debate about protecting reputations and recognising the pitfalls of certain investigatory practices is overdue.

Edmund Smyth
London EC1

Stump up stamp duty

SIR – Can anyone explain to me why stamp duty is paid by the purchaser?

Surely it should be paid by the vendor, who has the advantage of the tax-free gain on the property if it is his domicile.

Robin Young
Hungerford, Berkshire

Bearded gent on high

SIR – When the late novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard was small there was a picture on the wall of the study belonging to her grandfather, the composer Sir Arthur Somervell, that was treated with such reverence she believed it must be God.

Imagine her disappointment when an inventory compiled by removal men listed it as “Bearded gent in beaded frame signed J Brahms” (Letters, October 7).

Garry Humphreys
London N13

The economy must dominate in Brazil run-off

This election gives Brazil the opportunity to shape its future

Which way now? Campaign flyers outside a voting centre in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Which way now? Campaign flyers outside a voting centre in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Photo: Bloomberg

6:59AM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Brazil is now at a crossroads, with a path towards continued state intervention and almost Chavista populist politics in one direction, and the modernisation of industry, infrastructure and government systems in the other.

There is much dissatisfaction with the president, Dilma Rousseff, and her ruling Workers’ Party (PT) after several episodes of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency in running the country and the economy.

Brazil’s economic growth is the lowest it has been since 1894. While it is commendable that many have been raised out of poverty and unemployment is particularly low, those statistics mask the truth. Many previously starving families are now hooked on government handouts with no system in place to move them into proper employment and prosperity. Unemployment figures are skewed by the large number of low-paid jobs for jobs’ sake, such as multiple supermarket packers, compounding Brazil’s already terrible industrial productivity.

Under Ms Rousseff, Brazil has not just failed to open up its markets to external competition, but has seen a reversion to the protectionist and interventionist measures of the Seventies and Eighties.

If Brazil is to grow and be the international power that it seeks to be, it needs to become a greater participant in the global economy. With improvements in communication, perhaps that message will register and this election may spur the country towards a better future.

Len Pannett
Wallingford, Berkshire

Smoke rises after an US-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobane Photo: Murad Sezer/Reuters

7:00AM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has declared that it has created a caliphate.

Having launched an assault on the Syrian town of Kobane, it is reasonable to expect Isil now to push across the border into Turkey to further its ambition.

This incursion into Nato territory would surely lead to a change of military response and the deployment of ground troops. A critical stage of the “war on terror” is fast approaching.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

SIR – Turkey’s president is right to call for ground operations against Isil. Kobane is on his border, so his country is under threat. It is time he moved his own army in to deal with the problem – or would he like others to fight to protect him?

Alan Kibblewhite
Blandford Forum, Dorset

SIR – Naturally, we vent our fury against the perpetrators of the inhuman crimes being committed by the Islamic State against innocent hostages.

But surely we should consider acknowledging the immense courage of some of our compatriots while facing almost certain death.

Without setting a precedent, could we not award a posthumous decoration, if only to give their families the comfort of knowing that the nation has provided a permanent recognition of the victims’ final sacrifice?

Jeremy Watson
Marnhull, Dorset

SIR – It may seem heartless, but apart from providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, we should just keep out of it. All that our ineffectual military participation does is to unite Islamic fundamentalists in their hatred of the West, especially Britain and America.

The West has been drawn into a proxy war between two conflicting Islamic ideologies, with fundamentalists on one side being funded – although the governments of these countries deny it – by citizens of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and on the other side by Iran and Syria, while the Kurds seek independence from both.

Let’s keep out and let the Muslims fight their own war for the Middle East between themselves. The West cannot then be blamed for the collateral damage and massacres that already have and undoubtedly will continue to take place, with or without our help.

Ian Harris
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

SIR – I hope that Britain will not have anything to do with the 2022 World Cup, which is to be hosted by Qatar.

How could we ever think it was safe to visit when elements of Qatari society are apparently funding Isil, which targets innocent British citizens?

David Jonas
Hindon, Wiltshire

SIR – The Kurds are the lone ray of hope in this miserable mess with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

They are brave and committed but desperately under-armed. They need our help, not after the usual “mature reflection” (meaning too late) but right now. They do not need to be taught how to use machine guns and mortars. They just need the kit.

Despite the Coalition’s crucifixion of our Armed Forces, we still have the capacity for long-range air-drops out of RAF Akrotiri, on Cyprus. It is time our Establishment stopped party posturing and got in gear.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Turkey’s reluctance to help the Kurds fighting the Islamic State is extremely disappointing but entirely predictable. There is sympathy for Isil among parts of Turkey’s population and government, and the country has a long record of oppressing its own minorities, particularly the Kurds.

Turkey’s actions do, however, call into question its suitability as a Nato ally and, for many people, will finally put a nail in the coffin of its aim of joining the EU.

Andrew Brown
Derby

SIR – Turkish tanks immobile and inactive only yards away from the destruction of the Kurds in defence of Kobane are reminiscent of the Russians on the banks of the river Vistula, where they observed the annihilation of the Polish resistance by the Nazis during the Second World War.

M H Sobey
Dartmouth

EU immigration limit

SIR – The news that the European Commission might condescend to allow restrictions on immigration from new member states in future sounds like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The commission is talking about only transitional restrictions, which could be short-lived. This doesn’t qualify as a triumph for David Cameron.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Good old chestnut

SIR – During the Great War, school children were asked to collect conkers not for charitable purposes, as the pupils at Clifton Green primary school in York have been, but for use in the manufacture of explosives as part of the war effort. Similar collections were arranged for the pits of certain soft fruits, which were converted into charcoal for use in gas mask filters.

Nigel Searle
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Well done, the children of Clifton Green primary school for collecting 50,000 conkers. They could add to the £1,300 they raised by inviting the public to help themselves, in return for a small donation. Bowls of shiny conkers look very attractive around the house and a few among sweaters and seldom-used clothes are also very effective for keeping moths at bay.

Joan Moore
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Air mail: ‘The Country Postman in the year 2000’, a French colour lithograph from 1913  Photo: http://www.bridgemanart.com

4:52PM BST 09 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – In July, I sent a pair of earrings as a birthday present to my sister in Sydney using the Royal Mail “tracked” (formerly Airmail) service. When, after six weeks, the package failed to arrive, I submitted a claim for compensation, but this was rejected for the following reason: “As your item contained goods that are prohibited or restricted by Australia, I’m afraid I cannot compensate you for the loss.”

I contacted Australia Post and Australian Customs and Border Security, both of which said that they had no such prohibition. According to the long list on the Royal Mail website, besides jewellery, other “prohibited items for mailing to Australia” include “printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry”.

Geoffrey Miller
Flamborough, East Yorkshire

SIR – It takes two hours to drive from Herefordshire to Somerset, but three days for a first-class letter to travel the same distance.

Bill Gunn
Hereford

Irish Times:

A chara, – It was news to me to hear from Derek Byrne (“Marriage not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”, Opinion & Analysis, October 9th) that we have counter-cultural responsibilities as gay people. I can only presume he imagines that as a member of Fine Gael, I’m failing in mine.

In a modern, liberal republic, each of us should be free to make our own decisions about our personal and family lives, with neither a duty to conform nor to rebel. That gay people should have this same opportunity is not a response to an Irish village mentality, as Mr Byrne argues, but something we are realising the world over.

If we vote in the spring to allow gay couples to marry, we will join countries as diverse as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, and more than half the US states.

Let us embrace this opportunity to join these countries in a vote that will respect and value the dignity of gay people’s lives and relationships. – Is mise,

WILLIAM QUILL,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I disagree with Derek Byrne in defining the LGBT community as a subculture, or classing its members as people who are different, and I think to do so misses the point of the marriage equality referendum.

If you choose to wear a pair of skinny jeans and you choose to drink exotic coffee while riding your fixed-gear bike and stroking your beard, it is probable that I would classify you as part of the hipster subculture. But that is a subculture you choose to be a part of. Being a member of the LGBT community is not a choice, so I refuse to consider its members different purely by the circumstances of their birth.

Marriage equality is about freedom of choice and the right to self-determination. It is not about whether or not it would suit all members of the LGBT community; it is not about whether or not any, or all, LGBT marriages would be monogamous or open relationships.

Marriage does not suit all heterosexual couples, nor are all heterosexuals marriages monogamous, but they are still entitled to marry. Marriage equality is about giving the right to choose to all who wish to marry.

It doesn’t matter a jot to me if a massive majority or a tiny minority of the LGBT community avail of that right; that is their choice. How they exercise that choice, much like their right to vote, is entirely a personal matter for each and every one of them. But denying the entire LGBT community that right because some may not want it, or exercise it, is wrong. – Yours, etc,

EOGHAN KENNY,

Irishtown,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Derek Byrne writes that gay people are different from the norm and that “what we need are laws that celebrate our differences and provide for them, not laws that make everyone the same”. I disagree.

As a heterosexual individual I find it abhorrent that the choices open to me for living my life can be denied to others simply because their sexual orientation is different. The laws of society should be designed to enable individuals to choose the best life for themselves. If there are gay people who desire to celebrate their love through marriage, then so they should and the law must not prevent that. If some don’t wish to marry, then that’s their choice.

When you offer people these choices you are not making them the same but instead allowing them the opportunity to express their individuality. You permit them do what they personally want to do and to live their life as they see fit. That is the best way to provide for differences. If some gay couples decide to marry, that does not mean there is a pressure placed on all other members of the gay community to follow suit and tie the knot; the reduced pressure on heterosexual couples to marry in modern times is worth bearing in mind.

Mr Byrne says he cannot comprehend why some gay individuals would enter into a “heterosexual construct” and argues that the gay lifestyle conflicts with it. However, there is no single or best way to live a married life. While marriage may have its roots in a paternalistic society, it is capable of evolving into a more equal, inclusive and personal institution. We have already seen that with the removal of restrictions on interracial and interfaith marriages.

To deny people access to marriage on the grounds of their innate differences to other members of society is not a celebration of their differences. It’s discrimination. – Yours, etc,

JAMES FAGAN,

Hackney,

London.

A chara, – The new mortgage lending rules are a gift to first-time buyers. While some complain about how difficult it will be to save up a deposit, they ignore the fact that these measures are a hammer blow to high property valuations. Prices will fall, therefore deposits and mortgages will ultimately be substantially lower. While vested interests will kick and scream, the subsequent smaller mortgages will be a boon for the small business sector as more disposable income will be spent in the real economy instead of servicing debt. – Is mise,

ALAN W LALLY,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – The recent announcement of proposed changes to residential mortgage lending is necessary and welcome, even if it is a little late. The lack of action from the Central Bank during the last crisis was a major contributory factor to the disaster that ensured and it would be inexcusable for the authorities to just sit on the sidelines again, watching the predictable chaos coming down the tracks in the absence of any meaningful policy initiatives.

However, the combination of a 20 per cent deposit, together with a 3.5 times earnings limit, is very onerous and this will place a huge burden on first-time buyers. The imposition of these restrictive measures on what to date has been little more than a “wild west” housing market will cause almost as many problems as it solves unless careful thought is given to the challenging position in which these first-time buyers will find themselves.

The private rental sector is insufficiently regulated to absorb the large numbers of 20 and 30 year olds who cannot afford to buy, and the last thing we need is to create conditions which attract the type of amateur landlords who are chasing a fast buck. The best type of landlord invests for the long term and is much more focused on sustainable rental income rather than short-term capital gain. Unfortunately, we still have too many of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. This is a problem if the policies we adopt force tens of thousands more into the rental market.

There is still time to reduce the impact of these necessary measures with a little simple but creative thinking. These aspiring first-time buyers do not deserve to be frozen out of home ownership and the Government has a responsibility to help them. The vast majority of them are in the relatively early stages of their careers and did not participate in the obscene financial feeding frenzy that preceded the economic and housing market crash. They should not be made victims for the past mistakes of others.

One simple suggestion I would make is the introduction of a first-time house buyer’s savings plan. These plans could be modelled on the popular and long-standing ISA accounts in the UK and could very easily be used to allow prospective first-time buyers to invest a capped amount of their gross income each year. Deposit interest or investment growth within these accounts should also be tax exempt but with a “clawback” condition which would reclaim any tax relief and tax-free growth if the proceeds were not used as all or part of the deposit for a home.

This creative measure would give some certainty to vulnerable young taxpayers as it would allow them to plan for their future. Of course, it would still take some years for them to accumulate their deposit but they would at least feel that home ownership was achievable. The alternative “do nothing” approach would be disastrous and would amount to a betrayal of this generation. Any Government that took this brave step would also reap the rewards as every one of these individuals has a vote and knows how to use it. – Yours, etc,

MAURICE McCANN,

Killiney,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The response of would-be buyers to the Central Bank’s mortgage proposals is truly baffling and short-sighted. It seems that would-be buyers are still trapped in the mentality of “If I can just have more credit I can get my dream home” – ignoring that a general increase in credit only serves to push up prices for all. During the boom, every change to stamp duty thresholds served to disadvantage those whom it was intended to help.

The straw man of cash-rich buy-to-let landlords buying everything has also been trotted out without any data to support the assertions made. Sceptics also gloss over the fact that new mortgage rules are even tighter for this investor cohort – many of whom are unlikely to qualify for mortgages anyway given their current investments – not to mention the changes in tax treatment for rental income (increased PRSI and reduced interest deductions).

Former US Federal Reserve chairman William McChesney Martin famously described his job as “taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going”. It seems some people just want to keep drinking and forget about the hangover. – Yours, etc,

PAUL KEAN,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – The Government is considering cutting the top rate of income tax, which is 52 per cent for most workers. Top marginal tax rates of around 50 per cent are common across Europe. Where Ireland is unusual is the particularly low point at which workers begin to pay the top rate, currently €32,800 for single people. This is below average earnings. Most people agree that this is both unfair and it discourages work effort. It leads to the perception that Ireland is a high-tax country, even though overall taxes are below the European average.

Ireland has a very progressive income tax system, and the top 5 per cent of earners pay about 40 per cent of income tax.

This is unsurprising, as income inequality is wide, and high earners receive a disproportionate share of the income. Faced with continued budget deficits, now is not the time to deliver scarce resources to this group. Rather than cut the top rate, an alternative is to introduce a third, or fourth tax rate. A possible rate schedule might be 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent and 50 per cent. This would make the income tax system smoother, and ensure that workers don’t pay 50 per cent marginal tax rates until they earn, say, €100,000.

By adjusting tax bands and tax credits, marginal tax rates for many workers could be reduced, while maintaining income tax revenues. – Yours, etc,

STEPHEN McNENA,

Lough Gill, Sligo.

Sir, – With a recent Dóchas (Ipsos/MRBI) poll again showing that a large majority of our citizens support overseas aid and international development, I would encourage the Government to respect that support. Another cut in this year’s budget would be a further blow after six years of cuts. In an increasingly globalised world, our future also depends on the stability of the wider world. Increasing our overseas aid budget is not just the right thing to do, but in the most selfish way it is the smart thing to do. The Ebola crisis shows exactly what can happen if problems are neglected by the wider world. In short, a safer, healthier and more prosperous world is better for all of us. With this in mind I hope the Government increases our overseas aid budget this year, for our good and for the good of others. – Yours, etc,

ROSS McCARTHY,

Freetown,

Sierra Leone.

Sir, – Ireland has a great record in contributing to those in need , and we should endeavour to do our best in this regard. However, will the Department of Foreign Affairs reconsider its allocation of aid to India (€2.8 million in 2013) in light of India’s recent entry to the space race with its Mars orbital mission, its being a member of the G20, its economy being ranked 10th in the world by way of GDP, and its status as a nuclear power? – Yours, etc,

D O’SHEA,

Grange,

Cork.

Sir, – I am pleased to see Michael Creed TD drawing attention to the exchequer loss resulting from the sale of alcohol below cost price (“Reilly says says time to act on below-cost alcohol sales”, October 6th).

From both a public health and financial health perspective, the sale of alcohol below cost should never have been allowed. Below-cost sales fuel the consumption of excessive quantities of the cheapest alcohol. This has a serious negative health impact, particularly for younger people and harmful drinkers, who we know from studies are more likely to drink cheap alcohol.

The State loses twice on below-cost sales. Alcohol-related harm costs the State approximately €3.7 billion annually in healthcare, crime, absenteeism and costs of accidents. The sale of alcohol below cost further reduces the revenue available to the exchequer to the benefit of retailers who can claim a VAT refund on the difference between the sale price and the cost price.

However, a ban on below-cost selling should not be seen as an alternative to introduction of minimum unit pricing; rather it may be a complementary or interim action. We know from modelling conducted in the UK (by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group) that the impact of a ban on below-cost selling would be 40-50 times less than the impact of minimum unit pricing. Therefore, even with introduction of a ban on below-cost selling, minimum unit pricing should continue to be the highest priority.

My colleagues and I have highlighted this in pre-budget submissions to the Government, calling for introduction of minimum unit pricing at a level which would see alcoholic products sold above cost. Government action to turn off the tap on cheap alcohol, as promised within the public health alcohol Bill, has our full support. It will reduce health impacts and doubly benefit the exchequer and the State. – Yours, etc,

Prof FRANK MURRAY,

President-designate,

Royal College

of Physicians of Ireland,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Unsurprisingly, the Drummartin Link Road in Sandyford, Dublin, has been revealed as one of the top 10 speeding locations in the country (“Gardaí identify Dublin’s top 10 speeding blackspots”, October 3rd). The road in question is a straight one, approximately a mile in length, with no houses fronting on to the road on either side, and one set of traffic lights half way down which can be seen clearly from either direction. The road is wide, with cycle lanes on either side. Perhaps a review of the 50 km/h limit to a more practical level would see it in a more realistic position in these league tables. – Yours, etc,

JOE CONNOR,

Sandyford, Dublin 18.

Sir, – John Colgan (October 9th) recycles the myth that fluoride added to our water is a “medicine”. Fluoride has never been classed as a medicine, and is of no concern to the Irish Medicines Board unless it forms part of a pharmaceutical formulation. It is quite simply a nutrient, not a drug. Just like chloride, iodide, selenium, zinc, manganese, copper, vitamin C and many more micronutrients that are essential to our health.

Dietary fluoride is important in the prevention of tooth decay and related disease. That does not make it a medicine – any more than potassium is a medicine (it is essential for nerve function), or vitamin C (essential for healthy gums), or calcium (essential for healthy bones) or iron (essential for transport of oxygen in our blood).

Those who wail about “enforced medication” and loss of human rights from fluoridation have swallowed illogical conspiracy theories based on pseudoscience and fear-mongering. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD CORMICAN,

Claregalway,

Co Galway.

Appointing deacons Sir, – I note with interest the recent appointment of permanent deacons in the Catholic Church here. This is a welcome development in times when priests are becoming thin on the ground and is long overdue. I hope it will not take as long to begin appointing female deacons. Or would that be a move too far? – Yours, etc,

T McELLIGOTT,

Raheen, Limerick.

Vegetarianism and veganism

Sir, – In response to the letters from vegetarians and vegans in recent days, may I suggest that vegetarian and vegan foods carry a health warning: “May cause smugness and self-righteousness”. – Yours, etc,

PETER CONNAUGHTON,

Wexford.

Sinn Féin’s poll performance

Sir, – Sinn Féin is neck and neck with Fine Gael in popular support and your excellent political editor Stephen Collins writes an analysis under the headline “Sinn Féin performance not guaranteed to translate into votes at election” (October 9th). May I point out that Fine Gael support may not translate into votes either. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK O’BYRNE,

Phibsborough, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

Because of new Central Bank restrictions on mortgage lending property prices should fall or stop rising further. Bank will be allowed lend less against property thus stalling price rises.

The average person or household that can’t afford the new level of mortgage probably would have been granted a higher value higher mortgage under previous lax lending rules.

Banks weren’t doing due diligence and were simply lending money – not on ability to pay – on rising property prices.

Property prices were rising simply because they lent more money against the same property. This is what caused the property crash in 2007.

Then, when people stopped buying property because they couldn’t afford to pay higher prices, property prices simply went into reverse. As property prices fell fewer people took out mortgages for fear of losing money and also because banks lend much less in a falling property market. This caused property prices to fall heavily very quickly.

This is why it is important that the Central Bank sticks to its guns and restricts credit lending rules, despite upsetting a couple of people. They should think of the average person or household on average incomes. This isn’t something new, it simply existed in pre-boom times.

Darragh Condren

Dundrum, Dublin 16

Mortgage guidelines a disaster

An Open Letter to the Minister for Finance.

It is my belief that buying a new or second-hand home will now be beyond reach of the vast majority of people, due to the new Central Bank guidelines for new mortgages from next January, which require an applicant to have a minimum of 20pc of the price of the home they wish to purchase.

The Central Bank has played into the hands of the large number of ruthless property speculators

Under the proposed conditions, these speculators will be able to command whatever rent they like from their unfortunate tenants.

I don’t have to state the social consequences that will occur if this uncontrolled action by the speculators is allowed.

What needs to be done in my opinion is to declare war on these speculators by the following action:

◊ 1. All homes that are not the permanent residence of the property owner must be deemed commercial investments and would therefore be liable for at least the equivalent of domestic rates. The home I live in has a poor law valuation of €25. It is a standard house and would yield a rate of €1,895 if this rule was applied. My home has approximately 1,100 square feet and would represent the vast majority of ordinary homes in the country.

◊ 2. Bring in a national maximum rent control. I would suggest an annual rate of €7 P/A per square foot.

◊3. All rental income to be liable for DIRT at the same rate that is currently payable on savings with financial institutions (42pc). This tax should be deducted from the rent payable by the tenant and the government could collect it in the following way. By deduction of tax credits from the tenant if that person is employed or by deduction from the tenant from social welfare benefits if the tenant is unemployed.

If this proposed rule was to be applied, it would force speculators to look elsewhere and would drive down property prices to a more realistic level and make home purchase a little more achievable and would help young people starting off in their lives.

David Whyte

Douglas, Cork

The meandering flow of Waters

Mr John Waters in his piece in your paper (“Enda the unlikeliest leader turned prototype puppet for a new way of governing” Irish Independent, October 8) seems to be very muddled as only John can. He says that if anyone was to be leader to run a full term it ought to have been Michael Noonan, Ivan Yates or one of the Brutons.

Perhaps it has escaped his attention that Mr Noonan got a shot at leadership, but failed badly in the general election in 2002, John Bruton became Taoiseach without an election but failed to win one in 1997, while Richard Bruton failed in a leadership heave against Mr Kenny in 2010. Ivan Yates gave up politics for business and being a sort of a hurler on the ditch – somewhat like Mr Waters!

Mr Waters then goes on to say that perhaps with passage of time history will convict Kenny, like his mentor by proxy, Charles Haughey, on the lesser charge of common-or-garden chancer. I seems to recall John writing in praise of Haughey in 2006 that he was truly great.

Brendan Cafferty

Ballina, Mayo

Water charges crucial for Earth

I am writing this letter in relation to the onslaught of articles surrounding the introduction of water charges. The public outcry to this new charge by Irish Water has been rather impressive, but I will also admit that it has been nothing short of mind boggling. This new sense of fight within the Irish public, against a government that has bled the working class poor dry over the years is most definitely a welcome sight, but the focus of the public’s ire is, in my opinion, entirely misplaced.

The fight against water charges is born out of principal. Water is a god-given human right that literally falls from the sky. Well this seems to be the general consensus amongst the public anyway.

In one sense, I can understand the harsh response to further charges on water, because the public do pay over €1 billion in taxes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the public water supply.

However, the charges introduced by Irish Water are not about bleeding further funds from an already financially-anorexic public piggy bank. They are about hammering home the need for change in the management of – not only this country’s natural resources – the resources of this planet on a global scale.

The fact is that the management of global water systems and supplies is simply not sustainable at the current level, and continuing down this path will have substantial socio-economic consequences in the future.

Consequences that may come too late to address. The public backlash may hold the appearance of a people pushed too far. In my view, the public reaction to the Irish Water debacle does nothing more than highlight the ignorance of the Irish people in regards to their planet and the sustainability of its natural resources.

Daniel Lynch

Address with editor

Jumping for Roy

I have been in poor health for the past 12 years. I can be relatively specific about the years, as I know it began around the World Cup in Japan/Korea

My illness peaks and wanes, but became particularly acute again these last few days.

This morning my doctor finally recommended that I visit one of the Keanesiotherapy clinics which apparently proliferate in the Netherlands and Flanders.

I thought that I should share this with your readers. many of whom must suffer from the same disease.

Indeed, could I suggest, sir, that as the Irish media may itself contribute significantly to outbreaks of the disease, you yourself should consider undertaking the therapy in question.

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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