Blood Transfusion

16 October 2014 Blood Transfusion

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I tidy the office and Mary is off for a Blood Transfusion.

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


Hugh Rae – obituary

Hugh Rae was a Glaswegian riveter’s son who wrote bodice-rippers as ‘Jessica Stirling’

Hugh Rae

Hugh Rae Photo: THE SCOTSMAN

5:28PM BST 15 Oct 2014


Hugh Rae, who has died aged 78, was a 15-stone Glaswegian son of a riveter and wrote blockbusting historical romantic fiction, mostly set in his native Scotland, under the nom de plume Jessica Stirling.

Rae began his literary career writing crime thrillers under his own name. The idea for Jessica Stirling was dreamed up in a coffee shop in Stirling where Rae was eating chocolate cake with Peggy Coghlan, an author of romantic short stories. Together they came up with Jessica, named after a publisher who had suggested that the two might collaborate on a historical romantic epic set in the Victorian period. It had to be written under a female pseudonym because, as Rae explained, “for some reason they [the publishers] are convinced that women only want to read romantic fiction written by women”.

With Peggy Coghlan, Rae wrote seven Jessica Stirling novels, and he went on to write some 30 more Jessica Stirling books on his own for Hodder & Stoughton, churning out about two a year and becoming one of the most popular authors of the “saga novel”, a genre perfected by Catherine Cookson.

Rae claimed that the experience had given him insights into the female psyche (“You women are all obsessed with your hair”), while his knowledge of the intricacies of female lingerie was second to none (“I know I probably spend longer wondering about women’s corsets than is healthy”).

Novels by Jessica Stirling (aka Hugh Rae)

For some 25 years his publishers faithfully preserved the fiction that Jessica Stirling was a woman, and for some years Rae was banned from speaking to the press. But his cover was blown in 1999 when Jessica Stirling’s new bestseller The Wind from the Hills, the second of a trilogy set in Mull in the 1890s (“Love did not burst upon Innis like a glorious red and gold Mull sunset after a day of torrential rain…”), was shortlisted for the Parker Romantic Novel of the Year prize, the bodice-ripping equivalent of the Booker.

After the story of Jessica’s true identity broke on an astounded literary world, Rae was nonplussed: “I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I had been out of the closet for about 20 years in Scotland, going to libraries and giving talks as Jessica in my hiking boots.”

Hugh Crauford Rae was born in the Knightswood district of Glasgow on November 22 1935 and published his first stories aged 11 in the Robin comic, winning a cricket bat the same year in a children’s writing competition. After leaving school at 16 he found a job in the antiquarian department of a Glasgow bookshop, where he spent 12 years, interrupted by National Service in the RAF. He continued writing short stories, many of which were published in American magazines. His first novel, Skinner, published in the mid-1960s when he was 28, was based on the case of the serial killer Peter Manuel, who was hanged at Barlinnie Prison for seven murders. The advance paid by the publishers allowed him to give up his job to become a full time writer.

Rae continued to write thrillers and crime fiction under his own name and a number of pseudonyms — his thriller The Marksman was made into a film by the BBC — but none of his other books was as successful as those he wrote as Jessica Stirling, which sold millions and were reported (in 1999) to be earning him more than £50,000 a year.

Rae’s novels were meticulously researched and, before starting a new work, he would spend up to £500 on books dealing with the relevant historical period. His last Jessica Stirling title, The Constant Star, was published in August.

Rae lectured in creative writing at Glasgow University Adult Education classes and served on the Scottish Arts Council and on committees of the Scottish Association of Writers and Society of Authors in Scotland.

Hugh Rae was predeceased by his wife, Liz. Their daughter survives him.

Hugh Rae, born November 22 1935, died September 24 2014


Sadiq Khan MP at Westminster, London, Britain  - 11 Oct 2012 Sadiq Khan is the man charged with restoring Labour’s fortunes against the Green party in the opinion polls. Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Rex

So Sadiq Khan MP, who has been charged by Labour’s election campaign manger Douglas Alexander to lead the fightback against Green gains in the opinion polls (Report, 15 October), thinks that Labour has changed and it shares Green values and “will be a government [Green supporters] can be proud of”. Really? Mr Khan is either delusional or very ill-informed on Green party policies. The Greens oppose all UK nuclear weapons worldwide and oppose replacing the £100bn Trident nuclear weapons system of mass destruction; the Greens oppose arms sales; the Greens oppose the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presently being cooked up by big business in their own interests; the Greens oppose fracking; and the Greens oppose nuclear energy, and particularly the building of the taxpayer-subsidised £34bn new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C (HPC).

Labour supports all of these. Indeed, on HPC, Tom Greatrex, Labour’s shadow energy minister, last week welcomed the European commission decision to permit massive subsidies for HPC, telling Business Green: “The commission’s decision emphasises the delivery of value for the consumer, and serves as a reminder to the government that transparency and accountability are important principles.”

Confusingly, Mr Greatrex subsequently wrote to the National Audit Office and parliament’s public accounts committee, requesting them to review the subsidies, stating: “We must ensure that consumers are getting the best possible deal in the construction of Hinkley Point C. The substantial changes brought about by the European commission raise questions about whether further scrutiny could lead to additional improvements.”

Labour’s position on HPC is as clear as mud. There are many deep green lines Labour has to cross before it has any chance of luring Green voters to switch. I am not holding my breath.
David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

• So, Sadiq Khan will be trying to persuade Green voters, rather than by scaring or intimidating them to vote Labour at the general election? If so, perhaps Khan could explain why Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton is one of Labour’s target seats. During the current parliament, Lucas is widely regarded as the most effective opposition MP. For many of us, she is the real leader of the opposition inside and outside parliament and puts Ed Miliband’s performances to shame. The reason for the “Green surge” is dissatisfaction with Labour’s merely being a negative alternative to the Con-Dem government. The Greens give the hope that Labour doesn’t.
David Melvin
Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire

• Given the findings of the 2014 annual Credit Suisse global wealth report which shows that the UK is the most unequal of all the G7 economies (Report, 15 October); and given that we know citizens of more economically equal societies enjoy happier and healthier and more fulfilling lives than those who live in highly unequal ones; that children from poor families are more likely to underachieve in schools than those from wealthier backgrounds; that the availability of good affordable housing – either to rent or to buy – is increasingly beyond the means of even middle-earners; and that substantial reductions in income and wealth differences are positively consequential for moves towards an environmentally sustainable way of life, why doesn’t the Labour leadership specify by how much it would like in government to redistribute income and wealth from the top 1% to the bottom 10% in order to promote greater equality, and how it would do so? Such a commitment, including proposals, would distinguish the Labour party from all the others in a graphic and electorally appealing fashion. It would also articulate well with the “One nation Labour” notion and Ed Miliband’s “togetherness” idea, not to mention the “democratic socialist” identity enshrined in the Labour’s constitution.
David Halpin

• It is not a question of immigration being a good or a bad thing for the UK (Letters, 14 October). It is far more complex. In economic terms, the fact is that the UK has never managed such a substantial unplanned rise in surplus labour as it has in the last 10 years. In recent times we’ve seen the re-emergence of the default tendency of many UK businesses to manage their operations with employees that can be easily laid off (or zero contracted) rather than take the risk of investing in new plant, machinery and technology. This is the explanation for why the number of people in employment has risen latterly while investment has remained stubbornly flat. Hence the UK’s much-vaunted labour flexibility and open borders are now actively contributing to the UK’s poorer productivity performance.

The UK economy derives so much of its activity from consumer spending that greater numbers of relatively low-paid people in work may boost overall GDP growth marginally but not increase GDP per capita, which is an arguably more important metric. As has been recently reported, the recent rise in employment in the UK has not led to an increase in income tax receipts to the HMRC, which entirely supports this thesis.

The reintroduction of immigration controls to limit the number of citizens entering the UK from anywhere, including other EU countries, is pretty much inevitable. This is not because immigration per se is a bad thing but because the uncontrolled movements of people may, at times, have unforeseen adverse effects. Until economists, university professors and politicians of different persuasions grasp this, Ukip will have a free ride in the immigration debate.
Andrew Harris
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

• Still in their own English rotten boroughs It is nice to know the spirit of Dame Shirley Porter lives on in Barnet council, when an estate will be redeveloped so that only the wealthy can afford the affordable housing (At yacht parties in Cannes, councils have been selling our homes from under us, 14 October). This will help turn West Hendon ward Tory and so in response, to an objector, Cllr Tom Davey naturally says: “Those are the people we want.” And yet, in the 50-year history of the borough, the Conservatives have only once won more the half the votes, but have misruled for all but eight years.

Labour must be regretting failing to introduce preference votes, like in Scotland, for local elections, now Ukip is on the rise in their own heartlands, having been able to ignore and sideline more moderate opinions. As the party base has withered away, the metropolitan elite has been able to parachute favoured candidates into safe parliamentary seats while taking their own activists for granted. The adoption of the single transferable vote, in lower-turnout local elections, would introduce some desperately needed stability with an injection of plurality and diversity without, like the list system used for the European parliament, giving lazy extremists an easy ride.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• The pattern of Ukip’s development has for some time been predictable to students of far-right interwar history: Ukip support will grow and result in a substantial bloc of MPs in 2015 – money is coming through (from whom?), defections have begun. Many Tories, half Eurosceptic already, would ally with Ukip, more will defect, Cameron is losing control. Labour, under Miliband and Balls, has been a singularly inept opposition. The only party consistently opposing Ukip and the suicidal proposals to exit from Europe and ditch human rights are the Lib Dems, with Nick Clegg the only leader openly to challenge Farage. Many are frightened of stating publicly the real danger Ukip presents – and that may drive more people into Ukip’s ranks. Democrats must speak out and actively campaign against the highly dangerous populism of Farage.
Peter Mullarky
Horsham, West Sussex

Lord Freud disability remarks Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who has suggested some disabled people are ‘not worth’ the full minimum wage. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

While ministers vilify people on benefits (Freud sorry for comment about disabled people, 15 October), we urge everyone who thinks this is wrong to stand up for benefit justice. Attacks on benefits threaten everyone who is low-paid, not working, sick, has disabilities or plain unlucky. Freezing housing and other benefits would cut the income of 50% of households – those with least money, without work or on low pay, zero hours and high rent. The threat to remove all benefit from people under 21 – many in full-time work, with children, and without rich families to support them – shows ministers’ contempt for our young people and how tough life is for them.

The least well-off, in work or not, did not cause the deficit, triggered by trillions in bank bailouts and subsidies. Why should they be penalised, while the richest benefit from more tax cuts? We should not stigmatise or blame each other, but defy and beat these attacks on Britain’s welfare safety net. We can force ministers to retreat, as we have in the fight against Atos, workfare and the bedroom tax. Now is the time to stand up and be counted. We will be supporting the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration on Saturday 18 October.
Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts
Eileen Short Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
John McDonnell MP Lab, Hayes and Harlington
Mark Serwotka PCS union general secretary
Len McCluskey Unite union general secretary
Austin Mitchell MP Lab, Great Grimsby, chair council housing group of MPs
Ian Lavery MP Lab, Wansbeck
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green party
Dot Gibson General secretary, National Pensioners Convention
Paul Kenny GMB union general secretary
Billy Hayes CWU union general secretary

• What Jeremy Hunt is actually saying (Pay rises would mean loss of 15,000 nurses says Hunt, 13 October) is that thousands of health workers need to take a pay cut in order to fund the NHS properly. Why is this fairer than everyone paying a small tax increase? Isn’t that how the collective model of health funding is supposed to work?
Ian Reissmann
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Ada Lovelace Ada Lovelace

I read with interest about Ada Lovelace Day (This woman’s work, G2, 14 October), as I too was a programmer at Elliot Brothers from 1951-53. I wrote the first in-house program for its prototype computer “Nicholas”, as well as the “initial orders” that instructed Nicholas how to read and assemble the punched tape holes which were to be fed to it. I left Elliot Brothers to marry and live in Cornwall. It was another 10 years before the first computer made an appearance. After bringing up my children I was informed by the government training department that anyone over 35 was past it as far as computers were concerned and I should concentrate on shorthand and typing. Eventually the advent of the PC remedied this. Now in my old age, I have no regrets for not making a fortune as did Dina St Johnston and Dame Stephanie Shirley. My riches are my memories of Cornwall, its beautiful coast and its Celtic culture. These too can change the world.
Brighid Simpkin

Woman with fingers in ears Piped music pain … wire-cutters should do the trick. Photograph: Aagamia/Getty Images

Imagine my surprise when, after very many years of trying, we have won the Azed crossword and the Guardian prize in the same week. What is more astounding is that someone else (MP Coan of Edinburgh) has the same achievement. What are the odds on this?
Allan and Jenny Cheetham
Upminster, Essex

• How about confining Brand, Emin and Fry to the letters page and giving some editorial space to Flett, Bright and Nicholson (Letters, 15 October)?
Pete Bibby

• Mrs Clooney is to advise on Greece’s claim for the return of the Elgin marbles (Report, 14 October). She might want to look closer to home. The font from our church, in which Mayflower Pilgrim Father William Brewster was baptised, languishes in a church in Mr Obama’s neighbourhood of Southside Chicago. Can we have it back please?
Ed Marshall
Scrooby, Nottinghamshire

• Christopher Hogwood (Obituary, 24 September) was not only an early musician but also an early activist against piped music. A model to us all, he would carry and occasionally bring into play a small pair of wire-cutters. Once, in a Cambridge restaurant, he asked if the inevitable Vivaldi might at least be turned down. As the waiter went off to attend to the request, a diner at the next table leant over and murmured sympathetically “We’re not musical either.”
Richard Abram
Wanstead Park, Essex

• Interesting statistics regarding women readers and your letters page (Open door, 13 October). I read it daily and often this results in breakfast table discussions. Perhaps male readers feel more of an urge to tell the wider world what they think.
Annette Dent
Bradford, West Yorkshire


The rising numbers of cases of Ebola is alarming. I am confused as to why the precautions to prevent the spread of this incredibly infectious virus are so different from those that would be adopted in the case of animal diseases. In the latter case we would see bans on movement of livestock from affected areas and other countries would prohibit the import of any animal or possibly affected product.

In this case the only precaution to prevent spread into the UK is a questionnaire which will almost certainly be ineffective and in any case will be applied too late to prevent infection of airport staff, other passengers and local health workers.

Is it not time to prevent any movement of people in and out of any country having several cases in the general population, except in exceptional cases, and then after a period in quarantine?

Britain must be a likely place for Ebola to occur, given that we have decided to allow our airports, particularly Heathrow, to be used a transit points for travellers from all over the world. The risk of disease transmission should surely be taken into account when considering whether this role should be expanded even further by the building of additional runways.

The profits of the airlines and the airport operators should not take precedence over the health of the local population.

Nigel Long

The Government has decided that there is sufficient risk to introduce Ebola screening on UK arrival. This implies that airline and other staff are exposed to that risk in transit.

What about the duty of care their employers owe them? What about the risk to passengers? Furthermore, aircraft may need special disinfection measures before reuse.

There needs to be much more rigorous screening, perhaps quarantine, before people are even permitted to leave high-risk countries, particularly for their own good.

Giles du Boulay
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Lying-in-state for a murderous king

The discovery of the remains of King Richard III has done nothing to dispel the fierce controversy surrounding his reputation (“Richard’s car park bones to be reinterred, after three days lying in state”, 15 October).

Despite all the protestation of the king’s “Ricardian” enthusiasts, it remains the consensus among historians of the period that Richard seized the throne illegally, arranged the judicial murder of Lord Hastings and was almost certainly guilty of having his nephews murdered in the Tower. His remains are of valid academic interest but holding an elaborate funeral procession followed by a lying-in-state for a murderer is quite inappropriate.

Still, at least now that we know where his grave will be, arrangements can be made to dance on it.

Dr Sean Lang
Senior Lecturer in History
Anglia Ruskin University


It is to be hoped that amid the pageantry and prayers that will accompany Richard III to his second grave there will be some remembrance of the men who were put to death to facilitate his becoming, as the Ricardians love to put it, “an anointed king”.

His sister-in-law’s relatives and associates Rivers, Vaughan, Grey and Haut were executed, apparently without trial, and their bodies dumped in some pit in Pontefract more nameless than a Leicester municipal car park. Lord Chamberlain Hastings was beheaded at a moment’s notice on Richard’s direct orders.

His nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, escaped with their lives only in the imagination of Richard III’s ardent fan club, which constantly reminds us that Richard was, as medieval kings go, a benign ruler, a sort of grandaddy of the welfare state. Might not these latter good deeds have been inspired by a guilty conscience?

Peter Forster
London N4


No excuses for Boko Haram

Professor Garry’s claim (letter, 15 August) that removing girls from their families against their will is normal in Northern Nigeria comes dangerously close to providing an excuse for Boko Haram.

The decision to marry off a girl is made by the family; and these girls’ families had taken the decision to educate their girls beyond marrying age (15). Furthermore, they came from mainly Christian families, who would not have consented to marrying their daughters to Muslims, or indeed to having their girls sold as concubines, fifth wives or slaves.

Thus, even if Boko Haram had conscientiously thought that these girls ought to be married, they must in conscience be consistent and defer to the families’ rights in this matter, which they did not.

Furthermore, if they were so conscientiously Muslim, why have so many of the girls been raped? Does not Islam forbid rape?

Culture is not a genuine explanation for this behaviour. It was kidnapping, rape and religious intolerance on a massive scale, and so for the kidnappers there should be not the tiniest excuse or the slightest mercy.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester

When teachers had to take an oath

Brian Dalton, in his letter of 13 October, is rightly contemptuous of “oath-taking” by teachers. If this is the best idea that Tristram Hunt can bring back from Singapore, educational policy in this country has a mountain to climb.

As a teacher in southern China for many years, I was routinely asked to take such “oaths” and always refused. Foreign teachers were often asked to write “codes of conduct” for themselves, and at one stage to organise “self-criticism” groups, as though Mao Zedong were alive and well, and we had failed to quote passages from his little red book to an appropriately ardent and heartfelt standard.

Such suggestions were always made after pupil misconduct, where Chinese management seemed ineffective, or after some other crisis where management sought to deflect blame and change the subject.

“See how you foreigners can improve yourselves,” was a routine dodge I well recall. Is this really what we want here?

If Mr Hunt regards a “Hippocratic oath” as remotely relevant to education in this country, I suggest he start by taking one himself.

Something beginning “I do solemnly swear to get a grip…” should do.

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire


Unfair to denounce Nigel Farage

Ukip does not  stigmatise people who are HIV positive (letter, 14 October). Ukip is very sympathetic. However, we have a National Health Service, not an international one. The NHS is in dire straits with a £30bn black hole and cannot afford to treat the whole world.

Similarly, Ukip does not demonise Eastern Europeans. We do not have the room and the infrastructure for 250,000 extra people every year. Also, with the EU open-door policy other countries outside the EU including our Commonwealth cousins are discriminated against and cannot come here.

Ukip believes in an NHS free of charge, but other governments have allowed privatisation on a large scale, such as PFI arrangements from the Labour Government, which has saddled our children and grandchildren with a debt for years to come.

Ukip believes in low taxes, especially to take all those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.

Nigel Farage is not a populist. He has worked tirelessly and given up his life to get the country out of the undemocratic and corrupt EU. Whatever people’s views on this, we have never had a say since 1975. He is a conviction politician. Why should people denounce him? We used to have free speech in this country.

Barbara Fairweather
Bicester, Oxfordshire


I find it somewhat baffling that Mr Farage, while slating “Westminster parties” and “Westminster politicians” seems to be straining every nerve and sinew precisely to become one of them.

Angela Peyton
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Smoking ban in the wrong place

What a pointless suggestion from Lord Darzi, to ban smoking in parks. I have never been inconvenienced by smokers in the vast open spaces of our public parks, where I can easily avoid them.

If Lord Darzi would like to become a genuine do-gooder, why doesn’t he propose a ban on smoking at bus stops, where it is almost impossible to escape from the noxious fumes emanating from those recalcitrant baddies?

Alan Pedley
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Talkative cookware

I think kitchen appliances do talk to each other, even before the “internet of things” arrives (letter, 14 October). The pot has been calling the kettle black for years.

Tony Taylor
Church Minshull, Cheshire


Sir, Those correspondents blaming Andrew Lansley are misguided (letters, Oct 14 and 15). Multiple serious errors have originated in the health department, leading to huge financial waste. The loss of well-trained professionals is a reflection of the way the department has demoralised the NHS. Radical change is needed but the present problems cannot be solved by one top-down restructuring, and increased funding is not the answer.
Thomas Bucknill
London W14

Sir, The two main reasons for the rise in the number of patients waiting for surgery (“This is going to hurt”, Oct 13) is the increase in avoidable emergency medical admissions to empty surgical beds reserved for long-awaited elective operations, and delayed discharges. Emergency admissions can be minimised by setting up a “hospital at home”, which has been successfully piloted and has the advantage of not uprooting elderly people from their own surroundings. Delayed discharges cost £24.5 million in August alone, and many such patients are unnecessarily made “prisoners” and forced into a care home against their will.
Dr M Shaukat Ali
Emeritus consultant physician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich

Sir, The calls for more money for the NHS reflect both the unsustainable growth in funding by the last government and the unrealistic expectations it raised. Labour’s borrowing was made available in short order for political purposes, too short to train more GPs and surgeons: it sucked in staff who were unable to treat patients and discharge them with confidence. At the same time, erosion of the gatekeeper role damaged GPs’ ability to reassure patients and families that they don’t necessarily need high-tech medicine. The effect of this is being seen in overloaded emergency rooms and wards.
Adam P Fitzpatrick
Consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, That there are nearly 300 serious mistakes during surgery (“The good, the bad and the ugly”, Oct 14) should be a matter of national concern. But some “never events” go unaddressed or even unidentified because of a lack of regulation for professionals with responsibilities for patients’ wellbeing — for instance, those who assess the working of pacemakers. Such staff are not subject to fitness to practice tests and are outside the scope of the much anticipated “duty of candour”. They cannot be sanctioned in the way that doctors or nurses can be struck off. The government must address this matter urgently.
Amanda Casey
Chairwoman, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists

Sir, Professor Mike Richards encourages the NHS to achieve a quality that matches “Sainsbury’s, Tesco or M&S” (“Grimy hospital wards as bad as Mid Staffs, warns watchdog”, Oct 14). Competition between these organisations is surely a major factor in quality improvement. The Health and Social Care Bill encouraged a tendering process and this is one means whereby competition can be developed in the NHS. I do not consider that a bad thing. Tendering is not unfair, usually heavily influenced by healthcare professionals, and is a gateway to innovative service delivery that is otherwise difficult to attain in a monolithic health service.
Dr Chris Loughran
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, It is a canard that the health department “can’t afford a pay rise in addition to increments”. Increments cost nothing: as some staff gain a point, others leave to be replaced by someone five points below them. “Incremental drift” ensures the wage bill is the same.
Robert Keys
Danbury, Essex

Sir, In reply to John Nairn (letter, Oct 15), when I was working in the NHS my “vested interests” were my patients and my medical, nursing and ancillary colleagues.
Dr Mike Lewis
Axbridge, Somerset

Sir, The NHS salary structure means that many doctors reach the HMRC pension cap in their mid 50s. There will be no public sympathy for this plight, but it is resulting in unprecedented early retirement. Losing our medical seniors a decade early is unfortunate for the public.
Simon Jackson
Consultant gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Sir, I asked one of my GPs if I could have a named doctor. I was told not until I was 75 years old. A patient’s medical history ought to play a part, not age alone.
Peter MG Hime

Sir, Dr Stuart Sanders (letter, Oct 14) proposes that the running of the NHS should be placed in the hands of a board of trustees. Can I suggest that the same should be done with education? Both are far too important to be left to the mercies of the short-term expediency that appears to drive our politicians.
Michael Hasler
Totnes, Devon

Sir, It is short-sighted to deny nurses and midwives a significant pay rise. Recruitment is down, negligence claims are rising, and the NHS is increasingly reliant on expensive agency staff, some of whom will be unfamiliar with the procedures on their wards, possibly resulting in more litigation. Surely it would be more cost-effective to give nurses and midwives more money,
Dr Elaine Yeo
Enfield, Middx

Sir, Media coverage of the midwives’ strike appalled me. We saw moving footage of women giving birth and ecstatic nurses saying that the joy of seeing a new baby is reward enough — but joy will not pay their bills or fund their mortgages.
Susan Higgins
Surbiton, Surrey

Sir, Why not have a government-run NHS lottery? We would all buy tickets. Our local hospitals could be saved. Everyone would be a winner.
Ann Wilson
Eastbourne, E Sussex

Sir, Apropos the remake of Dad’s Army, might I suggest to the new members of the platoon that they bear in mind the words of Sgt Wilson: “Do you think that’s wise, sir?”
His Honour Judge Denyer, QC
Bristol Civil Justice Centre

Sir, When my teacher Elisabeth Lutyens asked Constant Lambert to explain a zeugma (letters, Oct 13 and 14), he replied swiftly that one could draw a cork, nude or conclusion.
Brian Elias
London NW11

Sir, If a management consultant uses a client’s watch to tell them the
time (letter, Oct 15), be assured the client is someone with a very expensive watch who doesn’t know the time of day.
Leon Pollock
Fellow of the Institute of Consulting,
Sutton Coldfield, W Midlands

Sir, With the increasing repetition of the name of the Ukip leader, I am hopeful broadcasters will encourage us to use the word “garage” with its proper pronunciation.
Keith Turner
Horringer, Suffolk

Sir, What appears to be missing from debate over the Human Rights Act is mention of its beneficial effect on public administration. Every bill presented to parliament must contain a ministerial certificate that it will comply with the 1998 act, and every act or decision of a civil servant will have ensured that theact is observed. Coincidentally, in his book Servant of the Crown, David Faulkner states that the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights have been “a healthy discipline in the formation of policy and for drafting of legislation”, but adds that politically, “the act has come to be seen as an obstacle to be overcome, not a standard to live up to”.
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, QC
London N1


Get a load of this: horse manure delivered to your door Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – For our eldest son’s birthday, we bought him, at his suggestion, a ton of manure, which was delivered directly to his allotment.

We didn’t even have to wrap it, and we paid for it online.

Rev John Fairweather-Tall
Plymouth, Devon

Lost marbles

SIR – Having involved herself in the Elgin Marbles controversy Mrs Clooney (née Alamuddin) might like to campaign for the return of Henry VIII’s last suit of armour, which currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Eddie Hazel
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Unsolicited charity

SIR – I am increasingly concerned about the amount of marketing material I receive from charities, often including “bribes” such as pens and greetings cards. The other day I was sent a pedicure kit.

I do regularly support several charities but there is a limit to what can be afforded. Surely this nuisance is counter-productive for the very people it is trying to help?

John Vandenberghe
Hacheston, Suffolk

SIR – I have received an envelope from the British Red Cross containing a pen, a notebook, two cards and a bookmark. I am in need of none of them, and would think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Alex Perry
Thames Ditton, Surrey

No-go for sloe

SIR – This year, unlike 2013, we picked a good crop of plums, apples and pears, but our local hedgerows are virtually bare of sloes. We are now in search of an alternative seasonal tipple.

John H Stephen
Bisley, Gloucestershire

Union: freedom of movement is a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens Photo: Reuters

6:57AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson is mistaken when he says that David Cameron can regain control of Britain’s borders by reform of the European Union.

The free movement of persons is intrinsic to the existence of the EU. It was a core part of the original Treaty of Rome in 1957 and from the early days of the European Economic Community nationals of member states could travel freely from one member state to another. This is now a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens by The Schengen Agreement, which led to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area in 1995.

EU Commissioners and other EU leaders have constantly reiterated that reimposition of border controls between EU countries can never be permitted.

Dr Max Gammon
London SE16

SIR – The population of Southampton is around 240,000, which is roughly the figure of net migration to Britain last year. What effect does this annual influx have on real wage levels, demand for housing, traffic levels, and demand for GPs, hospital services and schools? The answer is, I believe, self evident.

Most economists and the Bank of England say they would like to see real wage levels rise, but the simple laws of supply and demand will prevent this happening. The consequences of this are far-reaching as Government tax take will not increase in line with the demand for public services and payment of pensions. We are starting to see this already.

Many who recognise these issues can see no alternative but to give Ukip their vote.

Barrie Middleton
Matlock, Derbyshire

Rule Britannia: the Bacup Coconutters perform pagan dances to welcome in the spring Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – It is ludicrous to suggest that the Morris dancers with whom David Cameron was photographed were racist because they put blacking on their faces. It is a disguise, not make-up to imitate black people, and no more racist than SAS soldiers blacking their faces before a night operation.

The Foxs Morris troupe is similar in this respect to the Bacup Coconut dancers from Lancashire, who suggest that once upon a time, blackened faces gave them the advantage of disguise as they sang and danced during unlicensed begging.

There is much unexplained in the ancient world of Morris dancing. Some dancers disguise themselves as green men and devils. Don’t tell us that the Greens and Satanists will complain that they are offended by this traditional mummery.

Catherine Jackson

SIR – Social historians agree that blackface in every form is of racist origin, and that Morris dancing is a mockery of African tribal dance.

Nadia Alnasser

A Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in Gaza  Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

6:59AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Parliament’s vote in favour of Palestinian statehood is welcome and, some may think, long overdue. Unfortunately for its Arab inhabitants, Hamas is not really a government as most people understand the term.

It is now decision time for the Israelis. Do they want to continue for ever protecting themselves from their neighbours with barbed wire, a wall, and anti-missile missiles?

Or will they finally admit that they have behaved disgracefully in taking by force land that, for generations, had been settled and owned by the Arabs?

The least they can now do is to apologise and try to make amends by helping the Arabs to reunite the separate parts of their country under a properly elected government.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – Shame on Parliament for supporting a Palestinian state run by Muslim terrorists – for that is exactly what Hamas are.

Our MPs should be supporting Israel.

Sir Gavin Gilbey
Dornoch, Sutherland

Shrunken Parliament

SIR – When Tam Dalyell posed the famous West Lothian question, he was – like everyone else since – looking at the constitutional problem through the wrong end of the telescope.

When the British Parliament decides to devolve powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Greater London Authority, its own status is automatically affected. For example, the Cabinet ministers for health, education, and culture, media and sport, to name but three, are not UK ministers – they are ministers for England. Theresa May is the UK-wide minister for immigration, but not for police, which has been devolved.

The UK Parliament and its MPs are left to deal with the 15 “reserved powers”, including defence, foreign policy, financial and economic matters, and, of course, the constitution. The last one, alone, should keep them busy.

David Donald
St Vincent-Jalmoutiers, Dordogne, France

SIR – On what basis does Gordon Brown hold that English votes for English laws would prejudice the fragile Union but that the creation of the Scottish Parliament hasn’t already done so?

Perhaps he would prefer a clear-cut English parliament, on a par with the Scottish one.

I know I would.

Ken Stevens
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Savings: the NHS needs to reduce its costs Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – If it is impossible to put more funding from taxation into the NHS, the only alternative – however unpalatable – is to reduce cost. The complexity of tendering, employment law and the compulsory monitoring of performance means that any reduction of administrators is also constrained. The only remaining avenue, and it needs to be examined, is for cost savings elsewhere.

The NHS has to be more selective about the duties it undertakes. Possible areas include reducing some elective procedures, making small deterrent charges for access to GPs and A&E, requiring proof of entitlement to treatment through National Insurance contributions, and insisting on the same guarantee of payment by foreign patients as is required of Britons when abroad.

Tony Jones
London SW7

SIR – Any objective analysis of the likely growth of the British economy and of the costs of health care demonstrates clearly that the current situation is not sustainable.

All political parties must have access to this data, and yet they choose to ignore it as they seek to boost their election prospects by pledging increasing amounts of public money to the NHS. This is not in the long-term interests of the country.

The NHS should provide world-leading treatment for life-threatening illnesses, not free care for those who choose to get so drunk they have to attend A&E.

I also hope that, when deciding which model to adopt for the NHS, those taking the decision look not just at the efficiency of the health care system but at the model that provides the best outcomes (in terms of survival rates) for patients.

Graham Taylor
Hastoe, Hertfordshire

SIR – Paul Keeling makes the common mistake of comparing Britain’s expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP relative to many other Western nations.

I believe that the cost-effectiveness of the expenditure is a more relevant guideline. In this, we rank 23 out of 29 in a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – Why did NHS Scotland not strike? Because they got the recommended 1 per cent pay rise.

It is about time people in the rest of the United Kingdom were treated fairly.

Anne Parmley
Blackpool, Lancashire

SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, says that if NHS staff get a pay rise, then the number of staff must be reduced.

This should apply to Members of Parliament.

David G Walters
Corbridge, Northumberland

Donations: these days tactics go beyond asking for a little loose change Photo: ALAMY

10:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – I complained to the Red Cross about its sending of unsolicited gifts. A senior fundraiser told me that this practice generates higher receipts but assured me I would receive no more.

The gifts continue to arrive and I no longer support this charity or others who follow suit. If other readers did the same and notified the charities accordingly it might put an end to this unpleasant practice.

Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – While I contribute to charities on a regular basis, I must express my annoyance at the intimidating tactics currently being employed by some collectors who position themselves in supermarket exit halls rattling collection boxes at eye level, partly blocking one’s path and, most annoyingly, making comments like “come on you can afford it”.

It is an intimidating and, I suspect, counter-productive practice. I note the name of the offending charity and promptly vote with my feet.

Ian Jones
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – There seems to be general positivity about the budget, and in comparison to the eight previous versions, this one is an improvement.

We should remember, however, that for someone being whipped while bound in shackles, if the whipping stops, it is an improvement but they remain shackled.

The USC tax persists, our pension savings continue to be raided and the impact of the property tax and water charges remain as extra indirect taxation for the majority of workers.

Regardless of the spin, it seems we shall remain shackled for the foreseeable future. – Is mise,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – In the interests of fairness and parity, will those of us who have our own supply of water and have our own wastewater facilities get tax relief on the cost of providing same? – Yours etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Now that the provision of water is no longer being paid for from general taxation (following the appropriate tax reductions in Budget 2015), can the opponents of water charges own up to the fact that their main motivation is just to squander as much as they want, just as they used to do with waste collection in the past? – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Tuesday’s budget has been described as “the end of austerity”.

What does this signal for the Anti-Austerity Alliance? Is it now irrelevant? Maybe it should rebrand to AAA to focus on upgrading Ireland’s position with the credit rating agencies. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – As the Ministers have reduced the number of people obliged to pay the Universal Social Charge, shouldn’t it now be simply called the “Social Charge”? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Last year the Minister introduced a single-person child carer credit to replace the single-parent tax credit.

This legislation discriminated against 50 per cent of separated parents, as only one parent – the so-called primary carer – was allowed to claim the new credit. Usually the primary carer is the mother.

Despite being repeatedly asked and lobbied about this, in the main from separated fathers, the Minister made no changes to this discriminatory legislation in the budget. Separated fathers should take note, discrimination in the tax system is to be maintained. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I’m married to a smoker and I’ve learned over time that no one is going to tell him when he will quit. Yet the Government seems to think that by increasing the price of cigarettes very year in the budget will stop him smoking (an extra 40 cent this year, bringing the price of 20 cigarettes to €10). It’s not about the money. It’s about the addiction.

This is just a cheap and lazy money-making scheme for the exchequer and it should stop. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – It is very interesting that the new 11 per cent rate of USC for income over €100,000 only applies to the self-employed.

Apart from the fact that the new rate doesn’t apply to civil servants, TDs or Ministers, what is the justification for only targeting the self-employed and not fat cat employees?

I know turkeys don’t vote for Christmas but did the Ministers and their mandarins have to be so obvious? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – John McAvoy, former general manager of the CAO, strikes an inflammatory note in his condemnation of TCD’s foray into “alternative” entry assessment criteria (“Students are the guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment”, Education Opinion, October 14th). But he’s right.

The Leaving Cert points race certainly has a lot of problems, but it is better than alternatives involving subjective judgment. Human judgment in entry selection has been shown to have very little ability to select students who will perform better (even when the judges are very confident in their own judgement).

Instead, it has been shown to increase social selectivity – you inevitably identify more with someone who resembles you. I don’t think for a moment it is TCD’s intention, but this scheme will increase the social exclusivity of their student body, benefiting the academically underperforming child of well-networked, affluent parents much more than the bright kid who needs a break.

There is one good element in TCD’s criteria, which is to rate students relative to their school. A student from an elite fee-charging school (or grind college) who gets 500 points is probably quite average, and you will see it in his or her university performance, but a student from a struggling school who gets 500 points is probably exceptional. A fair implementation would, of course, be very difficult. – Yours, etc,


Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – John McAvoy’s recent piece on Trinity College Dublin’s new admissions experiment displayed an appalling refusal to consider alternatives to a challenging problem. Third-level education and admissions ought to acknowledge that students are not only being academically trained, but are also being prepared to enter into industry, government, or other careers. Basing admission solely on the Leaving Certificate ignores alternative skills and experiences that may be valuable for those end goals.

As an alumnus of both Trinity College Dublin and American universities, I find it striking that Mr McAvoy felt the need to belittle elements of Trinity’s experiment without considering their effective use, for decades, in other countries. Those systems may not be perfect, but neither is the Irish model.

Changing the system may impact some students, but it may also allow for engaged students to enter third-level education – students who previously may have been left on the outside looking in due to the Leaving Cert. Broadening the basis of admission may also encourage students to be engaged in elements of their community outside of academics.

I am often critical of Trinity College Dublin’s unwillingness to experiment and change. On this subject, however, I can only hope that their newfound institutional flexibility is replicated elsewhere in Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Lake Shore Drive,



Sir, – John McAvoy describes Trinity College’s experiment with alternative entry requirements as “outrageous”. As director of a third-level course, I keep an eye on the extent to which Leaving Cert results are predictive of first-year grades at university. While admittedly based on a small sample, my experience has shown that total Leaving Cert points is a far better predictor of third-level performance than any single Leaving Cert result taken in isolation. For example, total points are a better predictor of university maths grades than is a student’s actual Leaving Cert maths grade. This phenomenon may be related to the central limit theorem, which implies that a well-diversified outcome, such as performance at third level, is best predicted by a well-diversified set of tests. Relying strongly on any single component, such as the HPAT, or an essay, reduces predictive accuracy because it lowers the overall diversification of the measure. John McAvoy is right. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Dr Anthony White suggests that our energy and climate change problems would be solved simply by converting Moneypoint power station to biomass (“Why wind is not the answer to Ireland’s energy question”, Opinion & Analysis, October 14th). This option has been examined many times in the past and, as most people would probably expect, the reality is not that simple.

Converting the plant would be complex and very costly, and would create a new dependence on imported fuel of volatile price and questionable environmental benefit. The Drax power plant in the UK cited by Dr White actually requires price supports almost double those paid in Ireland for wind energy, and its carbon saving benefit has recently been questioned by the UK’s chief scientific adviser on energy.

Why would we create a new dependence on other people’s resources to meet our energy needs? Ireland has excellent indigenous clean energy resources of many kinds, and we should exploit them all appropriately. For biomass, that means using local fuel supply to meet local heat needs, thereby keeping money in rural communities and creating jobs.

Wind energy is also benefitting Ireland. Our research in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland shows that in one year alone, 2012, wind energy reduced our carbon emissions by 1.5 million tonnes and our fossil fuel imports by €175 million. The detailed analysis showing this is available on our website.

Ireland needs to wean its energy system off exposure to €6.5 billion of imported fossil fuels, with associated emissions, at prices outside our control and with risks of disruption to supply. Wind and biomass both have their parts to play in this, but we should make our decisions based on facts and evidence, not wishful thinking. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Sustainable Energy

Authority of Ireland,

Wilton Park House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Today is World Food Day, with events taking place across the globe to focus attention on the important role played by the family farm in ending hunger and poverty.

This week’s budget brought a halt to cuts in Ireland’s overseas development assistance spending for the first time in six years. While we are still some way short of our international pledge to invest 0.7 per cent of GDP in overseas aid, the Government’s decision to end successive cuts has to be regarded as a step in the right direction.

A significant part of our overseas development assistance budget is invested in efforts to end hunger in Africa and elsewhere across the world.

Helping smallholder farming families to produce more and earn more from their small farms is vital to this effort. Upwards of 70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely directly on small farms for their livelihoods.

Only by committing resources to this area will we achieve the objectives of World Food Day, since it was first launched by the United Nations in 1981.

Growing more food is only a part of the equation, however, as the urgent need to improve nutrition for families is critical too if we are to end world hunger and poverty in our lifetime.

Although rarely listed as the direct cause, malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than a third of all child deaths in Africa.

Poor nutrition in early years can also have a lifelong effect on health, increasing vulnerability to common ailments and reducing cognitive and learning abilities.

Within agriculture and food production we must address both the challenge of food production and of improving nutrition, as we focus on supporting the poor to feed their populations in the years ahead. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Gorta-Self Help Africa,

Kingsbridge House,

Parkgate Street,

Sir, – Attempts are often made by those opposed to any loosening of the severe restrictiveness of our abortion law under any circumstance to blur the lines between fatal and non-fatal foetal diagnoses. Barry Walsh (October 15th) lapses into this error.

Anencephaly is untreatable and always fatal. Appealing to the statistically remote chance of an anencephalic surviving for up to one or two years rather than days, hours or not at all, and invoking such anomalous cases to justify denying women the option of termination of an often longed-for pregnancy, while perhaps well-intentioned by some, is ultimately cruel to those women who cannot bear to bring a fatally malformed pregnancy to term.

I do agree with Mr Walsh that framing a constitutional amendment or legislation around this issue would be problematic.

Certainly, adding another constitutional clause to the mess of Article 40.3.3 would merely be shovelling more detritus onto this legislative midden. Consider the onerous and demeaning barriers placed before pregnant women and girls at risk of suicide in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Are devastated women with fatal foetal diagnoses to be subjected to a panel (or two) of up to seven doctors?

The question asked by your poll, of course, is not misleading. Independent, unbiased opinion polling means asking the questions and letting the respondents think for themselves.

It is quite amazing to see anti-abortion campaigners shooting the messengers of all the opinion polls showing their position to be a minority one. The bogeyman of a perceived liberal media bias (“Pro Life Campaign criticises ‘extremely biased’ media”, October 12th) is invariably invoked by some – the poll is “biased” because the questions are not prefaced by their own Newspeak definitions of “abortion”, “fatal foetal abnormality”, etc. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

A chara, – RTÉ longwave transmission (252kHz) is to cease from the end of October 2014. Large numbers of the Irish community in the UK will be affected by the switching off of this transmission waveband. This station plays a vital part in keeping the diaspora in touch with Irish news, music, culture and sport. The advertised alternatives are flawed. RTÉ FM and DAB broadcasts cannot be received in the UK. Internet transmissions are not nearly as practical as a radio that can be instantly switched on and is already tuned to RTÉ. Internet transmission cannot be listened to in a car. I understand RTÉ must move with the times and needs to invest in digital platforms; however there remain major restrictions with the technology. Currently the most effective way to reach the UK audience is via longwave – a proven service that has stood the test of time. – Is mise,


St Michael’s Irish Centre,

Ormskirk, Lancashire.

Sir, – Your online headline “Stunning and comprehensive 1-1 victory for Ireland in Germany” is a masterpiece.

Ireland has often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it takes genius to snatch victory from a draw. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I was very pleased to note that on the day that Michael Noonan conceded a “double Irish” to Germany, John O’Shea reminded them that a single Irish can cause them even more bother! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – A new Ming dynasty in Roscommon? As long as the porcelain factories are not located in Knockcroghery, I suppose. – Is mise,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Will the new arrivals in the Dáil, Messrs Murphy and Fitzmaurice, be referred to affectionately by their colleagues in the lower house as the “water babies”? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Looking at his new photograph, I thought you had fired Michael Harding and hired someone in his place (“Our Lady of the Telephone and the Palestinian poet”, October 14th). Michael, the new hairdo has changed you completely, but I am still a fan and so pleased and relieved it is still you. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

The late Con Houlihan often referred to the question posed by Napoleon in assessing the future potential of his generals. “Is he lucky?” asked Napoleon.

If Con was alive today it is likely that the element of luck and Napoleon would have featured in his match analysis of Tuesday’s dramatic conclusion in Gelsenkirchen.

Martin O’Neill’s team has now rescued four points from their visits to Georgia and Germany, when the sum total of one point in Tiblisi appeared to be the likely outcome as the clock ticked over the 90th minute in both games.

This should give us a real hope that the winds of fortune are behind us, as luck appeared to have deserted our national team under the four managers (McCarthy, Kerr, Staunton and Trapattoni) who succeeded Jack Charlton.

Snatching a late draw in Gelsenkirchen recalls our first competitive game away from home under Jack Charlton in Brussels on September 10, 1986. We were trailing 2-1 in the final minute against Belgium, when Frank Stapleton was brought down by the goalkeeper in the penalty area. Up stepped Liam Brady – now an RTE analyst – to score the penalty and secure a 2-2. The team went on to qualify for Euro 88 and the Charlton era was up and running.

Frank Burke, Terenure, Dublin 6

Panel beaters should be positive

Last night, after watching Ireland’s amazing draw against Germany (1-1), I decided to listen to RTE 2 soccer experts Messers Giles, Dunphy and Brady to hear what I thought might be more positivity, especially after what Michael Noonan delivered in the Budget. Alas, I was so wrong. The negativity was so unbelievable I almost thought we had lost the game. I really feel that the panel were hoping for Ireland to get a drubbing so that they could continue the rant against manager after manager of the Irish soccer team.

Let’s face it, to draw against the current world champions Germany was an immense result for the nation’s soccer team. We all know that a vast amount of the current squad are playing Championship football in England. Our achievement in gaining a point – which, in my eyes, will be crucial at the end of the campaign – should be congratulated.

Tomas O Cochlain, Address with editor

No denying democratic tide

In his missive yesterday (Letters, October 14) Anthony Leavy downplays the significance of protests that are rising across the country these last few months. He dismisses the protesters as “just another group with vested interests” and laments actions taken a decade ago.

We have paid the price for some poor governance in the past, but that does not absolve others for their part in our financial struggle, namely those in the ECB and EU that threatened to ‘bankrupt Ireland’ if we did not rescue the banks (to the detriment of the citizens).

The rising tide of protest across the country is a merely a recognition of the fact that – despite the so-called ‘good news’ regarding deficit targets – the reality is that the number of homeless is at record levels, the number of suicides is up and hospital waiting lists have skyrocketed.

Those that have the courage to stand up and protest peacefully are an example to the whole country. It is the only way ordinary citizens will ever have their voice heard. The “vested interests” that Mr Leavy speaks of tend to whisper quietly in the corridors of power – they dare not show themselves on our streets. There is a democratic tide sweeping across the country. People have learned not to take our politicians at their word anymore.

Simon O’Connor, Crumlin, Dublin

More questions than answers

An epiphany. Today – not for the first time – I spent 15 minutes trying to get an answer to a simple question from a service provider.

I was directed round the houses by a series of automated messages until I eventually got to speak to a person. The person was lovely, but didn’t have a clue.

What I wondered was this – is the reason why these providers make such strenuous efforts to avoid letting us speak to a person is that they know that their people may not know what they are talking about?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Budget 2015

Following the Budget, would Mr Spock say “it’s austerity Jim, but not as we know it?

John Williams, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

So you thought this was a giveaway Budget in order to win the next general election? Just wait till you see next years.

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

Change needed at Blackrock

We are writing in response to your article of October 10 (“Blackrock Appeal Over Pupils Policy”), in which you quote Shane Murphy, President of Blackrock College’s Past Pupils Union, as characterising the State’s intention to change the college’s admissions policy as “unjust”.

We have benefited from our education and experience in Blackrock College, its traditions and values, its ability to adapt to fresh challenges. The school taught us to have open enquiring minds.

We believe hereditary privilege should not be a deciding factor in access to such education. The proposed policy would increase the openness of our alma mater, strengthening its social inclusiveness, allowing it to produce students better able to meet a changing world in an even more constructive and critical manner. That’s a worthwhile aim.

Since Blackrock College receives substantial funds from the Exchequer, this move by the government seems quite just and – if anything – overdue.

Mr Murphy’s opinions do not represent those of all former pupils of our school.

Brendan Dempsey, Tom Duke, Robert Graham, Mark Leahy, Brian McGeeny, Addresses with editor

Time to remember our women

It is a sad fact that if Irish school students were asked to explain what Cumann na mBan meant, many would stare at each other in bewilderment.

It’s a poignant reality, but it’s the world we live in. Soap operas and psychedelic songs take precedence over how we as a country reached the stage of where we’re at today. Whose fault is it that large chunks of our history are deemed no longer important enough to put much emphasis on it in the class room?

There are many well-known members of Cumann na mBan like Maud Gonne MacBride and Countess Markievicz who did not shy away from armed action.

Markievicz is known to have shot an RIC man at St Stephen’s Green during the Easter Rising and, along with other Cumann na mBan members, subjected British forces to sniper fire.

This front-line action resulted in the deaths of many women volunteers, which has been overshadowed by the deaths of Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and other leaders who were executed as retribution for the rising.

An exhibition entitled ‘Women in Struggle’ will take place in Ostan Loch Altan, Gort an Choirce on November 1, starting at 4 pm. Well-known historian Helen Meehan (who is president of the Donegal Historical Society) from Mountcharles, and Mary Nelis, a former Derry City Councillor and civil rights campaigner and writer, will be among the various speakers in attendance.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Co Dun na nGall

Irish Independent


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