17 October 2014 Birthday

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day my birthday 58 today. I get a card from Sharland and Shanti and some wine chocs and biscuits.

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


Sheila Faith – obituary

Sheila Faith was a hardline Tory MP and the only woman in the party’s new intake in 1979

Sheila Faith (left) with Margaret Thatcher and Jill Knight

Sheila Faith (left) with Margaret Thatcher and Jill Knight Photo: PA

5:51PM BST 16 Oct 2014


Sheila Faith, who has died aged 86, was a Northumbrian school dentist who served one term as Conservative MP for Belper, Derbyshire, and went on to sit in the European Parliament.

The critical point in her career came prior to the 1983 election, when she decided that the new South Derbyshire constituency, which largely replaced Belper, was unwinnable. She tried elsewhere without success — only for South Derbyshire to be held by Edwina Currie, like herself a hardliner on law and order.

Quieter than Mrs Currie, the feline-featured Sheila Faith achieved much as a woman in politics without the drama. She secured the nomination at Belper despite the selection committee being advised not to choose a woman because the constituency was too large. And in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher came to power, she was the only woman in a sizeable Tory new intake.

Irene Sheila Book was born on June 3 1928 into the Newcastle rag trade; for much of her life she was a director of the family fashion business. From Newcastle Central High School she went to Durham University, where she read Dentistry. She then worked as a school dental officer.

She was elected to Northumberland county council in 1970, then moved back to Newcastle, taking on Edward Short, Leader of the Commons, at Newcastle Central in the October 1974 election. The following year, she was elected to the city council.

In 1979 she won Belper from Labour with a majority of 882. At Westminster she voted for the return of the death penalty, and became a founder-member of the health and social services select committee.

When in 1982 Willie Whitelaw promoted a Criminal Justice Bill that ended imprisonment for soliciting, Sheila Faith was the only member of the committee considering the measure to vote against it. She said that in her experience as a magistrate, prison was the only option for prostitutes who had already been cautioned twice and fined twice. The public, she added, would never forgive the government if the change brought an upsurge in prostitution.

Her greatest political embarrassment came in October 1982, during the by-election for the safe Labour seat of Peckham that brought Harriet Harman to the Commons. She and Norman Lamont, then a junior minister, each wrote to Ms Harman asking if she would be their “pair” once (not if) she was elected. Ms Harman duly published the correspondence, pulling the rug from under the Conservative candidate John Redwood; Mrs Faith professed herself “appalled”.

With her seat due to disappear, she decided South Derbyshire was unwinnable but, along with half a dozen other dispossessed Tories, failed to find a replacement. She lost out to Piers Merchant for her home seat of Newcastle Central, was runner-up at High Peak but was not even shortlisted for Buckingham.

Sheila Faith set her sights on the European Parliament, and was chosen to fight Cumbria in place of Elaine Kellett-Bowman, who had found seats at both Westminster and Strasbourg too much to handle. In 1984 she held the seat with the relatively comfortable majority of 39,622.

Her euro-constituency included the political hot potato of Sellafield, and in 1986 she accused Irish MEPs of spreading “misleading rumours” about radiation from the nuclear plant. Her interest earned her a move from the Parliament’s transport committee to its energy, research and technology committee.

She stood down at the 1989 election, becoming president of the Cumbria and north Lancashire euro-constituency. Two years later she was appointed to the Parole Board, based in London where she became deputy chairman of Hampstead and Highgate Conservatives. She also served on the Conservative Medical Society’s executive from 1981 to 1984.

Sheila Book married Denis Faith in 1950; they had no children.

Sheila Faith, born June 3 1928, died September 28 2014


Lord Freud Welfare reform minister Lord Freud issued a ‘full and unreserved apology’ after suggesting that some disabled people are ‘not worth’ the minimum wage. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

Disability campaigners and disabled people remain outraged at this attack against them (Minister forced to apologise for disabled insult, October 16). We say Lord Freud should resign after his disgusting comments that disabled people are not worth the minimum wage. Freud is the architect of the government’s noxious welfare reform programme that is pushing disabled people off benefits and causing untold distress and misery, in too many cases leading to suicides and avoidable deaths.
The policies Freud designed show utter contempt for disabled people. His latest comments made to a Tory councillor at a party conference fringe meeting confirm this. There are 11 million disabled voters plus their families in the UK. Do the Tories think that allowing this type of reprehensible comment to be made by one of their senior ministers will encourage any of us to vote for them? If they wish to retain any credibility and Freud refuses to resign they must sack him immediately.
Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, Ellen Clifford, Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts steering group, Jane Bence, Rick Burgess, Wayne Blackburn, Nick Dilworth New Approach

• Had Lord Freud not talked about “employing” certain people whose abilities prevented them performing effectively but instead talked about encouraging employers to find ways of allowing these people to perform regular tasks as therapy, there would have been no problem. Some employers would like to cooperate – even though it is not economically viable – as part of their social responsibility, because “going to work” can aid self-esteem. It would probably cost them money in extra training and continuous mentoring but they would be willing to take part.

It would be a great shame if having to pay the minimum wage prevented such altruism or if any such token earnings resulted in a cut in other benefits for the worker concerned. The noble lord may have expressed himself insensitively but he surely had a valid point. He was talking about a minority of people with disabilities whose work performance could never justify the minimum wage, not the majority who could contribute fully.
Andrew Papworth
Billericay, Essex

• In response to Lord Freud’s comments, Cameron says he won’t take lectures from anyone around disability. The latter point is a shame as under his leadership budgets for services for our children have been cut to the point that respite is under threat. As a parent of two disabled children, I know that Sheffield city council has fended off cuts for children’s respite services for the last three years and now has little option but to consider service reductions. As Cameron is knowledgable about parenting disabled children I am a little surprised that he hasn’t grasped the impact of lack of speech and language therapists, respite care and the stigma that has increased because of the negative media amplification over benefit provision since 2010.

Come on Dave, you look to tap into our empathy near elections, so how about showing some for us in policy?
Garry Devine

• The furore surrounding Lord Freud takes attention away from the real culprit regarding the barriers facing disabled people in gaining employment: capitalism. Employers require a certain level of productivity from employees to secure a net profit. When I administered the government’s supported employment scheme 18 years ago, wage subsidies were available in many cases to contribute to a full wage for a disabled person whose productivity was palpably below that required by the job. Properly run, such a system ought to be reintroduced to ensure a level playing field for disabled people and, yes, of course a proper wage for them at minimum wage or above.
Michael Stockwell
Basingstoke, Hampshire

• As a school that specialises in the care and education of boys who require additional support for learning we were deeply disappointed by the comments from the welfare reform minister, Lord Freud. We undertake a number of work placement programmes with local companies and have established our own programmes to give young people experience of the world of work. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with high loyalty and retention rates as well as ensuring that the resultant cost to society of having these young people out of work is avoided. On top of this there are various recruitment incentives on offer from the Scottish government, such as the employer recruitment incentive, to help employers to provide training and skills development opportunities.

This and other packages of support should be made more widely known, as well as a greater effort made to support employers to design jobs for young people and provide appropriate training. We would urge Scotland’s employers to look beyond the label of those with additional support needs, disregard the comments by Lord Freud, and give our most vulnerable young people the support they deserve.
Stuart Jacob
Director, Falkland House school

• While I would defend unreservedly the rights of everybody to earn equal pay for equal work, the uncomfortable truth is that some disabled people would love to work but are unable to do equal work. My son is severely autistic and has a cleaning job with a charity for which he receives £5 per session. He gains socially and feels very proud, believing that he has a proper job. In reality, the quality of his cleaning would not pass muster with most employers and can only happen at all with support from a carer.

The difficulty with making exceptions to the minimum wage is that unscrupulous employers would exploit vulnerable people. However, in an open market, competing for a job with a minimum wage, nobody would employ my son. In the spirit of generosity I’ll assume that was what Lord Freud intended to go away and think about.
Maggie Lyons

• As a 20 year old with Usher syndrome (deaf-blind) who has recently started a teaching degree, I have ambitions, just like any other 20 year old, to develop a career and play a full part in the workplace. I am also an ambassador for the deafblind charity Sense and spearhead my own charity, the Molly Watt Trust, and know that many disabled people make a huge contribution to society and the workplace. Lord Freud’s suggestions that some disabled people are “not worth” even the minimum wage is offensive and only widens the credibility gap between his government and disabled people. The government should be focusing on how to help more disabled people into work and Lord Freud should take the time to meet people like myself to understand the challenges and obstacles we regularly have to overcome.
Molly Watt
Molly Watt Trust

• Lord Freud’s comments beg the question: “Are some members of the House of Lords worth their daily attendance allowance?” Incidentally, is it included in the coalition’s definition of welfare?
Peter Wilson
Windermere, Lancashire

A model for our democracy? The panel from Strictly Come Dancing. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC

Polly Toynbee (Never mind Russell Brand – use your vote, 15 October) argues for proportional representation as a spur to the 35% of registered voters who do not vote at general elections. I think the system change should be more profound. The Scottish referendum drew 85% to the polling booths. All MPs should be independent. We should scrap party politics and adopt referendum politics. The electronic mechanisms for regular referendums have been tested for years. I no longer want to vote for glib promises that are abandoned the day after an election; I want to vote on specific issues. Strictly Come Voting is the system for the modern electronic era. Eg: “Do you want the Land Registry to be sold to American hedge funds?”
Noel Hodson

Supporters of British recognition of a Palestinian state with a banner in Parliament Square. Photogr Supporters of British recognition of a Palestinian state with a banner in Parliament Square. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP

You write (Editorial, 15 October) of the “growing frustration … with both the failure to make peace and the actions of the Israeli government”. I agree and as a frequent visitor to the occupied territories, I would report that this frustration is reaching boiling point among Palestinians, who have almost given up on the outside world influencing change. The House of Commons vote was therefore welcomed with joy, as this message from a Palestinian paediatrician colleague living in Ramallah demonstrates: “You can’t imagine how this changed the mood of all our nation. People are dancing in the streets, sweet shops are distributing sweets and knafeh for free… It is more than what could be expected or dreamed – 96% for recognition of a Palestininan state is volcanic. Is it a dream or a real thing? It is a sort of reconciliation between British people and Palestinians… Thanks to the people of UK!” Those who say the vote had no effect should recognise the importance of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Dr Tony Waterston
Newcastle upon Tyne

• I am currently in West Bank. Having read your judicious call to Israel, I have to say that at ground level there is no space left for a Palestinian state to exist. Israel has evolved into a virtual bi-national state, economically a well-integrated whole, where near-equal numbers of people are governed by either civil or military law depending on their ethnicity, within its self-declared sovereign territory of Judea and Samaria.

The UK parliament’s vote was significant, however, not for the number of MPs who voted yes, but for the majority that abstained instead of voting against the motion. Therein is the message for Israeli elite to ponder.
Mohammad Abdul Qavi
Beit Sahour, Palestine

• The vote to recognise a Palestine state is a stupid mistake for two reasons. First, the Oslo accords which created the Palestinian Authority specifically require that a Palestinian state can only arise by negotiation, not by unilateral declarations. Is it wise or moral for the UK parliament to encourage the betrayal of past Israeli-Palestinian agreements? If the Palestinian Authority can renege on past agreements, what point is there in any future agreement with the Palestinians? Second, the Israeli government requires that in return for a state the Palestinians must agree to end permanently the conflict, recognise Israel and agree to security measures – which they refuse to do. The reason the Palestinians want recognition now is to enable them to bypass an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. In other words, they want statehood without agreeing to a permanent peace. A Palestinian state without a peace agreement can only be a recipe for even more conflict.
James Fluss

The Tokyo stock exchange. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA The Tokyo stock exchange. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Pankaj Mishra’s article (Comment, 14 October) is an important warning about the unsustainable costs of global neoliberalism. But it is also based on a number of misconceptions – a case of Orientalism in reverse. There is no coherent western model of free-market capitalism and liberal democracy which is being imposed on the rest of the world. The west has produced capitalism, socialism, liberalism, and nazism and fascism. Undoubtedly, the US and its allies have aggressively pushed a distinctly neoliberal model on the rest of the world for the past three decades and have engaged in covert and overt wars to make the world safe for capitalism – but democracy has never been a major concern. Variants of capitalism are now adopted by non-western powers which are also exporting it to other parts of the world (China in Africa). Likewise, Latin America, the main crucible of resistance to neoliberal capitalism is largely inspired by Bolivarian socialism which is itself influenced by Western ideas (Bolivar was a great reader of Enlightenment philosophy).

Many societies are deeply divided over questions of democracy, religion, identity and social justice. In this sense the main battle lines of the contemporary world are not civilisational, but ideological and political.
Hadi Enayat

Demonstrators come face to face with police at the Mipim property conference Demonstrators come face to face with police at the Mipim property conference in London. Photograph: Richard Moffoot/Demotix/Corbis

I have just returned home from the protest against the Mipim property fair (Report, 16 October; Letters, 15 October). What is at stake is much more than a land grab for council estates. One of the Mipim sessions is “Exploring healthcare: opportunities for the property industry”. With Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust proposing to sell off 55% of Charing Cross hospital, 45% of St Mary’s Paddington and 100% of the Western Eye hospital, it is also health provision that is seriously under attack from rapacious property developers and starved NHS health providers.
Merril Hammer
Chair, Save Our Hospitals: Hammersmith and Charing Cross

• Now we know the Tories think their NHS “reforms” were a disaster (Report,, 13 October), can a law be passed to prevent any MP or peer from advising or holding a directorship with healthcare companies winning NHS contracts?
Dr David Wrigley
GP, Carnforth, Lancashire

• Mary O’Hara is right to highlight the lack of research into mental health compared with other areas of illness (Mental health research must be made a priority, Society, 15 October). Mental health has for too long been disgracefully neglected. The Liberal Democrats are determined to rectify this injustice, which is why we have committed to establishing a world-leading mental health research fund worth £50m by 2020. We have also committed to at least £500m a year for mental health funding in the next parliament. This is on top of the £120m injection from this government to introduce the first ever waiting time standards – described as a “watershed moment” by campaigners. We must ensure that mental health services are fairly funded if we are to build a fairer society with opportunity for everyone.
Norman Lamb MP
Minister of state for care and support


As a school which specialises in the care and education of boys who require additional support for learning, we were deeply disappointed by the comments from Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud that some disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage.

As a school we undertake work placement programmes, working with local companies and have more recently established our own programmes to give young people experience of the world of work. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with higher loyalty and retention rates, as well as ensuring that the resultant cost to society of having these young people out of work is avoided.

On top of this there are various recruitment incentives on offer from the Scottish Government, such as the Employer Recruitment Incentive (ERI), in order to help employers provide training and skills development opportunities for those in this group.

This and other packages of support available to employers and young people with additional support needs (ASN) should be made more widely known, as well as a greater effort made to support employers to personalise and design jobs for young people in this category and provide appropriate training. We would urge Scotland’s employers to disregard the comments by Lord Freud and give our most vulnerable young people the support they deserve.

Stuart Jacob
Director, Falkland House School, Falkland, Fife


Lord Freud should not resign over his comments on reducing wages for unemployed disabled people: he should be summarily dismissed. Such attitudes are a throwback to times when disabled people were looked down upon. These views should be treated with contempt, in the same way people like him treat disabled people.

Bearing in mind that the Tories voted against the minimum wage when Labour introduced it, you may see why he holds such views.

Gary Martin
London E8

Charles Dickens says: ‘Don’t vote Ukip’

In his report on the local context of the Rochester and Strood by-election (15 October), Oliver Wright highlights the extent to which the constituency is “a place steeped in island history and a particular type of Englishness”, citing Chatham’s links with Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson. However, for many visitors to the constituency the overwhelming impression is the very good living it earns from its associations with Charles Dickens.

Tourists are lured to Rochester by the plaques giving details of how Dickens incorporated various buildings into his novels. The author’s life and work may be explored in the city’s Dickens Discovery Rooms. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Dickens on a walking trail. Rochester also hosts an annual Dickens Festival and a Dickens Christmas Market, while Chatham offers the experience of Dickens World, complete with the sounds and smells of Dickensian England.

One of the hallmarks of Dickens is, of course, his humanity. As Fraser’s Magazine put it in its obituary of the writer: “He … regarded the Sermon on the Mount as good teaching … and quarrelled with nothing but intolerance.” In other words, the values that Dickens’s works embody are essentially the antithesis of what makes intolerant, xenophobic Ukip tick.

One cannot therefore convincingly profess to admire Dickens, bending over backwards to celebrate him at every opportunity, and at the same time choose to give Ukip one’s vote. If the voters of ostensibly Dickens-loving Rochester and Strood choose to elect Ukip’s Mark Reckless (whose surname would not have been out of place in a Dickens novel), the constituency risks being stigmatised for the hypocrisy and humbug Dickens so detested.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire

It is now some time since The Independent began to give a weekly column to Nigel Farage. In this time Ukip’s profile has continued to rise, to the extent that there are questions about the amount of coverage given in the media to this one party, which to date has one MP.

With a general election approaching, it is surely time that this one party leader is no longer given a large regular space within your paper – a space not given to the other parties.

What began as perhaps a laudable attempt to redress an unfair political balance now appears to go against the impartial ethos of The Independent.

Michael Brennan


The Lost magic of Dad’s Army

I was surprised to read that a film is to be made of the television series Dad’s Army (9 October). The programme was a huge success for many reasons, but mainly the chemistry of the team of actors who played the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea. The entertainment business is littered with the losses of producers thinking they could recreate earlier triumphs.

The director of 1937’s Lost Horizon, Frank Capra, was asked if he planned to make a sequel in which the valley of Shangri-La is revealed to the world. Capra replied: “Where will I find another Ronald Colman?”

Colin Bower

How trade deal could hit the NHS

How many Independent readers, I wonder, are reassured by Jeremy Hunt’s answers to readers’ queries on the NHS (11 October)? I would draw attention to one particularly weasel-worded answer.

On TTIP he writes: “It is totally untrue that TTIP can compel national governments to somehow privatise public services”. Has anyone suggested it could? He is evading the key issue, of health trusts which have already sought to privatise some services, and might wish to bring those services back into the public domain. It’s then that the private companies will seek to sue for loss of income. That is the worry.

Ian Craine
London N15


Unpaid intern work is on the way out

Natasha Daniels’ time as an unpaid public relations intern (report, 16 October) highlights a significant problem.

The PR industry is being dragged from a trade into a highly skilled, well-paid profession. It is trying to stamp out the invidious practice of using unpaid workers – and more than  100 agencies have publicly committed never to hire unpaid interns.

As a visiting lecturer in public relations, I urge students not to go and work for those companies who want unwaged staff. If an agency cannot afford to pay, it is probably unable to give the quality of experience that young people will value putting on their CVs.

Alex Singleton
Associate Director, The Whitehouse Consultancy
London SE1

Let Ched Evans go back to work

Judy Finnigan and Grace Dent (15 October) are commenting on the Ched Evans rape case because an online petition is circulating that states that after serving his sentence he should not be allowed to work as a professional footballer.

If the organisers believe that rape is not treated seriously enough they should campaign for longer prison sentences. What they should not do is seek to impose extra punishments that have not been sanctioned by Parliament or imposed by the court.

When Evans has served his sentence he should be allowed to rebuild his life, like any other ex-offender. There is a fine line between justice and vengeance.

Nigel Scott
London N22

Some votes are more equal than others

Sarah Dale (letter, 14 October) entirely misses the point. The fact that my vote (Green, if you must know) is part of the “historical” record is of scant comfort if my views are nowhere represented (I suppose I could move to Brighton).

If she is in any doubt about the “fairness” of the system, consider that in 2010 Labour received 8,606,517 votes and gained 258 seats, whereas the Lib Dems received 6,836,248 votes and got 57 seats. The Green party got 285,616 votes and only one seat.

In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP, 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?

Edward Collier
Cheltenham,  Gloucestershire

Release the marbles from northern gloom

I really must take issue with Natalie Haynes’s comment that the British Museum houses the Parthenon Marbles in a “spectacular gallery” (15 October). If she wants to see how the marbles should be displayed she needs to visit the genuinely spectacular Acropolis Museum,

Not only is the procession arranged coherently, unlike in the BM where it is inside out, but the marbles are bathed in light and set against a backdrop of the Parthenon itself. So different from the northern gloom of the Duveen Gallery.

Jim Hutchinson
London SE16


Sir, Welfare reform minister Lord Freud is being unfairly castigated (“Minister clings on after ‘£2 minimum wage for disabled’ gaffe”, Oct 15). Twenty years ago I was in charge of the University of Exeter’s research greenhouses, and we agreed with social services to use their severely disabled clients, who were being trained in horticulture, for mundane jobs such as pot-washing. We could not afford to pay them at a university rate but we gave them as much as they could receive without losing benefits. The clients were given self-respect and we had our pots washed. It is logical to suggest that severely disabled should be facilitated to participate in the job market at a rate lower than the national minimum wage — as other countries recognise.
Mark Macnair
Emeritus professor, Exeter University

Sir, Lord Freud was genuinely seeking to help those with disabilities in furtherance of a point made by the father of a handicapped person. The question was: “How to get such into employment?” Overreacting to Lord Freud’s comment does not further the search for an answer.
David Pitts
East Molesey, Surrey

Sir, The gaffe by Lord Freud highlights serious “disablism” at the heart of the establishment. In the Eighties my small business won a government Fit for Work award as one of the best employers of people with disabilities. Back then, a sensible scheme existed. The prospective disabled employee was independently assessed. If they could work at 60 per cent efficiency, then the employer would receive a 40 per cent reimbursement from the Department of Employment. This meant that people who otherwise were stuck at home and frustrated on benefits became wage earners with dignity, enjoyed fellowship, and were useful members of society. In the way of all government schemes, a civil servant persuaded his minister to scrap it and “save money”. Of course, they achieved the opposite. Two things should now happen: first, the government should consider introducing an
up-to-date version of that scheme; second, Lord Freud should be sent to his nearest job centre, clutching his own P45.
Arthur JA Bell
Coulter, South Lanarkshire

Sir, I agree with Lord Freud. My adult son has learning difficulties. He loves work but always needs supervision. He lives happily in supported living; he fills his week by voluntary work and paying to do various activities which are funded by social services. If he could earn £2 an hour he would feel valued. Any low wage would have to be flexible as there are many degrees of disability, but such a scheme would help my son.
Glenda Stock

Sir, As the father of a woman with severe learning difficulties, I applaud the intentions, if not the words, of Lord Freud. Ed Miliband chose to take this issue out of context to create a party political point. Little wonder that politics is viewed with such disdain.
Simon Yates
Croxton Kerrial, Leics

Sir, You would expect political opponents to make capital out of Lord Freud’s remarks. What is disappointing is the rush by those on his own side to disown his views.
Colin Parker
Great Sampford, Essex

Sir, I would be delighted to see my autistic son in a position that brought him self-worth and happiness. There may be extraordinary costs associated with such work — if an employer were forced to absorb those then there may be no job. Mr Miliband should avoid jibes which might compromise the dignity and achievement of some disabled people, and consider the best outcome for some of our most vulnerable citizens
Gordon Muir
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, While visiting a university in Spain, I was greeted by a woman with Down’s syndrome, who meticulously issued my visitor’s pass. Later I found that her wages were subsidised by the government. For such a scheme to work in this country we would need to change our system to allow those on benefits, such as severe disablement allowance, to earn more than £20 per week. If you are only permitted to keep £20 per week, being paid the minimum wage is hardly relevant.
George Plint
Whitway, Hants

Sir, We disagree with the comments attributed to Lord Freud. Many young people with whom we work say they feel like second-class citizens, and Lord Freud has helped to reinforce their perceptions. We call on the government to look at ways to reduce the barriers to work faced by people with disabilities. Organisations like ours support people to prove what they can do, not focus on what they can’t.
Kathryn Rudd
Principal, National Star College, Ullenwood, Glos

Sir, As somebody who was born with only one arm and no legs, I believe that the criticism of Lord Freud misses a more fundamental question over the approach entrenched in society by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). On many job applications, the question about disability is often framed: “The DDA defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities’. Do you consider yourself disabled according to this definition?”
I usually answer “No”.
True, without my artificial legs, my differences would have a substantial effect on my day-to-day activities. However, the same could also be said of anyone with glasses or hearing aids. A more discriminating definition would seem necessary if the legal rights enshrined within the act are to be enjoyed by those intended.
Dr John Hayward
Barton, Cambs

Sir, The Remploy factories worked well until the government withdrew funding, with the last factory closing a year ago. It gave thousands of people something to get up for every day. Time for a rethink.
Eric Wheelwright

Sir, I understand Keith Turner’s point about “garage” rhyming with “Farage” (letter, Oct 16). However, I am now gazing at my porage with some puzzlement.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent
Sir, I always refer to the man as Nigel Farrago.
Professor Neil Atherton

Sir, In the fashion article for “working women” (Times2, Oct 15), I note that two of the ensembles are priced at around £1,100 and others at £1,625 and £2,490. A cheaper one is priced at £660 but features only trousers and a baggy T-shirt. And not a pair of shoes or a handbag to be seen. Surely another £1,000? On the opposite page is a faux fur “clutch” like those that my daughters had as pencil cases at school . . . for a bargain £185. Am I missing something?
Adam Gilbert
Edenbridge, Kent

Sir, Your leader (“Migrant Benefits”, Oct 15) stated that our prediction of one million extra migrants in London by 2030 was “no doubt” exaggerated. Far from it. It is taken from the projections of the Office of National Statistics. Indeed all our work is based on official statistics and often casts light on aspects which those in favour of the present massive levels of immigration would rather not be properly understood.
Sir Andrew Green
Chairman, Migration Watch UK

Sir, Banning smoking in buildings, universally welcomed now, brought with it the “hold-your-breath dash” as we ran the gauntlet of smokers’ fog at the entrances of larger buildings. Will there now be the same at park gates? (“Boris set to ban smoking in London’s parks and squares”, Oct 16)
Douglas Martyn
Sandilands, Lanark

Sir, Could Boris also ban burger bars near parks? The smell of cooked onions ruins the pleasure of walking among the flowers.
Josephine Forrest
Nether Stowey, Somerset

Sir, Far from defending the use of Ripa to obtain journalists’ sources,
I said that such data should only be obtained where serious criminal offending is alleged (“DPP defends hacking of journalists’ contacts”, Oct 15). The two cases which have been highlighted involved a part-time judge deliberately perverting the course of justice for which she was jailed, and allegations of a police conspiracy against the government; this was not about either a confidential tip-off over speeding fines or the source of an embarrassing leak, both of which would have been totally inappropriate uses of Ripa in my opinion. A free and open press is vital to our democracy and maintaining confidential sources is an important part of holding power to account.
Alison Saunders
Director of Public Prosecutions


Pensions: will early withdrawals leave people dependent on state benefits later on? Photo: Ian Jones

6:57AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – What is George Osborne up to, allowing people who have accumulated pension pots, varying from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds, access to all that money to spend on whatever they want?

Clearly billions of pounds will be withdrawn and spent, boosting the economy and creating jobs, but what will be the ultimate cost?

The very people who have raided their pension pots will, upon reaching old age, be unable to support themselves as they might have done and will therefore become dependent on the state. Mr Osborne’s plan seems very short-sighted.

Don Roberts
Birkenhead, Cheshire

Folk dance traditions

SIR – Nadia Alnasser is wrong to assert that blackface in every form is racist. The Sweeps Festival in Rochester can hardly be accused of racism: the Morris sides are celebrating the annual day off given to chimney sweeps and the blacking represents soot.

Should we be asking similar questions about the custom of mime artists painting their faces white?

Jeremy C N Price

SIR – Nadia Alnasser claims social historians “agree” that Morris dancing mocks African tribal dances.

The earliest mention of Morris dancing dates to 1448, centuries before the “scramble for Africa”, and the part of the ancient hobby horse in Morris dancing has no African cultural equivalent.

Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Passive e-smoking

SIR – Does the fad for e-cigarettes constitute smoking in a public place? It is odd to see people puffing on trains and inside buildings, especially when we don’t know the effects.

Michael Owen
Chippenham, Wiltshire

SIR – Ban smoking in parks? Ban smoking.

Steve Cattell
Hougham, Lincolnshire

Barely decent: a commuter in Bangalore takes part in the annual ‘No Pants Subway Ride’ Photo: AFP

6:58AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – As a boy seaman confined with an ear infection in the Royal Naval Hospital in Singapore, I was asked by the surgeon admiral whether I wore underpants.

My answer in the affirmative was declared to be the cause of my condition. Is there any evidence to support this diagnosis?

Nick Young
Cavendish, Suffolk

SIR – The only advice my mother gave me regarding clothes was to make sure that everything I wore was clean, fresh, aired and with no holes surplus to specification. Nothing else matters.

She also advised me never to get a tattoo. Indeed, I have observed that a tattoo is a sure sign of lack of self-esteem, no matter how successful or rich the wearer.

Huw Beynon
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Anyone for gin?

SIR – I suggest that Mr Stephen substitutes damsons for sloes. They make for a very good gin tipple.

Graham Spencer

Strike a point for lefties

SIR – To Harry de Quetteville’s article on the benefits of being left-handed, may I add that five of the top 16 fencers in the world are left-handed, although only one in eight of the population is. We are still often viewed as sinister, gauche or just different – which is something to strive for nowadays.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

Webber on webs

SIR – Two years ago my wife and I tried using conkers to keep spiders at bay.

We put them in a bowl out of sight in our porch and rediscovered them a few weeks later, covered in cobwebs.

Don Webber
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

May 1994 : Refugees cross the Rusumo border into Tanzania from Rwanda  Photo: Reuters

6:58AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – I read with utter incredulity Gerard O’Donovan’s review of the BBC documentary, This World: Rwanda’s Untold Story.

Genocide denial is the final stage of genocide. That is why Holocaust denial is punishable with a prison sentence in some countries. In investigating possible crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the programme-makers seemed to try to present the story as one of ethnic violence.

This was certainly not the case. Rwanda in 1994 witnessed a very carefully executed genocide. The speed and intensity of killing were terrifying and could only have been carried out in the way they were with a high degree of preparation and organisation, involving officers of the state, politicians, and social and religious leaders at all levels of society.

Of course there were Hutus killed as well, but they were opponents of the Tutsi genocide. The greatest number of victims were killed not because they opposed the government, but because their identity card said they were Tutsi, or their father was Tutsi, or killers at the roadblocks thought they were Tutsi. As with the Holocaust, we will never know the exact number of victims.

Last year I worked with a group of Rwandan actors, most of whom had lived through the genocide, on a piece of theatre used in Holocaust education at a conference of teachers in Kigali, the capital city. The events of 20 years ago still have repercussions on individual lives. The Rwandan people have struggled to come to terms with what happened and, with strong political leadership, are managing with a quiet dignity to rebuild their society.

How insensitive of the BBC to film the trauma of individual memory, and then to use the footage in such a dangerous and reckless way, with no attempt to examine the past from all sides.

Jonathan Salt

Ebola screening has begun at Heathrow airport Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – The international response to the Ebola crisis, highlighted by the United Nations, lacks common sense.

There are two distinct facets to the control of the disease. The first, which is being addressed, is the treatment and prevention of the spread of disease within the west African countries. The second, and more important, is to prevent the disease becoming a worldwide pandemic.

The only credible policy is to isolate the three countries with closed borders until the disease is brought under control. This interim period would allow the immigration services to implement a policy of stamping exiting passports with a World Health Organisation logo plus the date, allowing destination airports to clearly identify individuals from this area.

These international travellers would be brought under a public health remit with further screening and medical advice without the farrago that is occurring at airports such as Heathrow today.

A G Murphy
London EC4

SIR – In my youth we were quarantined for infectious diseases. Is it because it contravenes human rights that we are not suggesting infected areas be quarantined and that people do not travel from those areas?

With Ebola’s incubation period of, I understand, up to three weeks, there seems little point in spending a fortune putting any screening into practice.

Sue Cooper
Upper Hartfield, East Sussex

Should the public pay extra on their NI contributions to keep the NHS afloat? Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 16 Oct 2014


SIR – Over the past three weeks, I have seen two consultants, had two blood tests, a CT scan and a biopsy. I have now begun long-term chemotherapy treatment.

My treatment is costly; my husband and I would be willing to pay a modest amount each month to ensure that our excellent NHS is available for future generations.

However, I often hear people say: “I have paid my NI contributions all my working life, so I am entitled to use the NHS.” True, but with an ageing population the demand is much greater now than before.

I also have heard it suggested that many people would be prepared to pay a little extra on their NI contributions. As our MPs are unwilling to propose this, perhaps a straw poll should be taken?

Jackie Sturdy
Westward Ho!, Devon

SIR – Spending more money on the NHS is not necessarily the right thing to do. The NHS was created when people couldn’t see a doctor and children were dying of diseases such as scurvy. It was not created to absolve families of looking after elderly relatives; to cure people of diseases that they have brought upon themselves; or to stop people from eating too much by stapling up their stomachs.

The NHS will never be adequately funded if we expect it to address the consequences of people’s failure to take personal responsibility.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – As a recently retired GP, I am saddened by the continuing decline of the NHS. The spirit of those working in the service has gone and the NHS has lost the respect of many who use it.

Sooner or later, a government will have to admit that it is no longer tenable for everything to be free at the point of delivery. No other country has adopted our system. Some payment is required, which could be insurance-linked or refunded in cases that warrant it.

Requiring that GP practices remain open 12 hours every day is also not the answer. What patients need is to know that they can contact a local doctor from 8am to 11pm. For many years we shared this responsibility with another practice, which meant that a GP was on call one in eight evenings and weekends: this was not too onerous and much appreciated by patients, who usually didn’t use A&E inappropriately.

Dr Dick Raffety

SIR – I have often wished that Mary Riddell was running the country instead of the present incumbent of 10 Downing Street, and now I wish that Bryony Gordon was in No 11. Her defence of striking midwives and her assessment of what is wrong with the distribution of work and pay in the NHS is bang on target.

Bryony Lee
Abergele, Denbighshire

John Grisham: we’ve ‘got nuts’ with locking up ‘sex offenders’

6:23PM BST 16 Oct 2014

SIR – May it please your Lordship, I had a bit too much to drink, was unsteady on my feet and, to help keep my balance, I grabbed hold of the gentleman next to me. As a result, my hand slipped into his pocket and became entangled with his wallet. I did not mean to steal anything, and so I plead the Grisham defence (“Child porn shouldn’t always mean jail”, report, October 16).

Peter Walton

Taxing problem

SIR – David Cameron talks about cutting inheritance tax (report, October 15).

I am more concerned about being denied my pension for another six years. This outrageous change mainly affects another huge group of voters – older and angry women – who are being disregarded and have not had time to make contingency plans. Yes, I want to be able to pass on my family home (which would probably not have met the current inheritance threshold anyway), but even more, I would like to have the opportunity to enjoy my modest retirement, supporting my children in work by helping with grandchildren, while I’m still alive.

Carol Fielding
Egerton, Lancashire

SIR – Many mistakenly think that the threshold for inheritance tax starts at £650,000. In fact, the threshold for a single person is £325,000, which is transferable to an existing spouse or civil partner provided it is unused at the time of the second death. Those of us widowed before this provision was enacted are unable to claim again. We still wish to provide for our families after death, but are restricted to the single person’s allowance.

The full inequity of inheritance tax should be revealed, so more people will realise that it applies to them.

Jennifer List
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Robert Colvile observes (Why we’re still in the red) that falling tax receipts are forcing the Chancellor to borrow more. He could, of course, simply spend less.

R P Gullett
Bledlow Ridge, Buckinghamshire

The power of contagion

SIR – Over the past months, 4,500 people have died from Ebola, a highly contagious and deadly disease. Western nations are now in a state of panic, attempting to prevent the disease from spreading in, and being exported from, Africa.

At the same time, 30,000 children die every day as a result of illnesses connected with malnutrition. Perhaps it’s a pity hunger isn’t contagious – if it were, then we might actually do something about it.

Roger West
Appenzell, Switzerland

Irish Times:

Sir, – Is the offering of tax relief on the water tax not the most ridiculous, contradictory, politically hollow decision made by a government in a long time? Imposing a tax and then providing relief against it? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – A budget prepared by public servants is likely to be biased in favour of the public sector. If the group preparing the budget were to be drawn from the private sector, I suspect the universal social charge would have been fairly and equitably applied across income bands. As it stands, it blatantly discriminates against the self-employed. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – So the Taoiseach has indicated Fine Gael’s intention to keep increasing USC on incomes over €70,000 in further budgets to prevent higher earners getting “disproportionate benefits” from tax cuts (“Taoiseach pledges to cut income tax rate again in next budget”, October 15th). Fine Gael seems to have switched from being pro-austerity to anti-ambition. Time for a true party of the right to emerge. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Why does it take two Ministers to deliver a budget speech? After all, the UK, with a population 16 times ours, manages perfectly adequately with one. – Yours, etc,


Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – While hardship is still widespread, it is nevertheless true that our exports are booming, our growth rate is amazing, 70,000 people have now got jobs who hadn’t a year ago, and we can now borrow money at a fraction of the interest rate that obtained not so long ago. We are clearly moving in the right direction towards getting our country back on its feet again, and there are four words that should be said, but never will be. It would be nice to hear “thank you” said to Enda Kenny and his colleagues in Government, and to hear “austerity works” said by Paul Murphy and his colleagues in the Anti-Austerity Alliance. – Yours, etc,


Blessington, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The lack of revenue from the 80 per cent levy on land rezoning is more a reflection on both the over-zoning that took place during the Celtic Tiger years, combined with a moribund building sector, meaning there has been no need for rezoning at all.

The best argument for the levy, first recommended in the 1973 Kenny report on the price of land, comes from the report of the Mahon tribunal, which stated that “the introduction of an 80 per cent windfall tax on profits/gains attributable to land rezoning . . . is likely to dramatically reduce incentives to make corrupt payments to influence land zonings should the opportunity to make such profits return”.

In that context the lack of revenue should be taken as a success, and the removal of the levy as opening the door again to planning corruption. – Yours, etc,


Ranelagh, Dublin 6 .

Sir, – I am puzzled as to why Michael Noonan chose to penalise the self-employed with a new rate of 11 per cent USC as compared to 8 per cent for PAYE workers.

This acts as a serious disincentive for people considering setting up a business.

When you factor in concerns that our new-found growth is being heavily lead by foreign direct investment (FDI) companies, surely the logical move would have been to attract people to set up business and create employment ? – Yours, etc,


Managing Director,

Snap Citywest,

Citywest Business Campus,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I welcome Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan’s plans to introduce legislation to outlaw discrimination in school admissions policies (“Blackrock old boys urged to fight ‘unjust’ Bill”, October 11th). Former Blackrock College students, known as “Rockmen”, and indeed alumni of other schools in the private sector, are being prompted to oppose the “unjust State interference” in the school’s admissions policy. This draft Bill, if introduced, would prevent schools from reserving places for the sons of past pupils.

We are now well used to the perennial debate on the issue of hard-pressed taxpayers subsidising fee-paying educational institutions of privilege and watching the formidable middle class and the well-resourced recipient private schools rushing to defend what is increasingly seen as the indefensible. The resilience of some of these private schools in weathering the economic tsunami washing over us is matched by their energy in defending the status quo of the restrictive admissions policies that make these school virtually inaccessible to children of immigrants, the Travelling community, children with special needs and those whose parents cannot afford the cost. Yet it is this same category of people who by their taxes help fund the State’s €100 million subvention of private schools. This subvention is then used to provide facilities that State schools cannot afford. There is also evidence that some of this State funding is used to lower the pupil-teacher ratio at these institutions of privilege, which in turn discriminates against children in State schools.

Fee-paying schools have been the best-resourced in the State. Just like private hospitals that are profitable businesses, private fee-paying schools with restrictive admissions policies must resource themselves.

Why should taxpayers, the vast majority of whom could never aspire to such a privileged education for their own children, be expected to subsidise exclusive boarding schools for the wealthy privileged when State-run schools are having their funding reduced? – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The opinion piece by Anthony White (“Why wind is not the answer to Ireland’s energy question”, Opinion & Analysis, October 14th) proffers a rather new solution to Ireland’s energy and CO2 emission problems, the large-scale importation of wood pellets from the US. It is suggested that these be used as fuel in Moneypoint, replacing imported coal. Would that it were so simple!

While it is true that this would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions compared to coal, burning wood still releases CO2. It would also do nothing to reduce our dependence on imported fuel.

In fact, we would have to import almost twice as much by weight as coal, depending on the moisture content of the wood pellets. The widespread assumption that the fuel is carbon neutral is also now being seriously questioned, as it depends on how the fuel is harvested and on forestry management methods. Cost is also highly variable, while unfortunately coal has never been cheaper, as gas from fracking in the US has meant it is no longer in demand there. Wind energy on the other hand does not generate CO2 (except in initial turbine and tower manufacture and construction). It is something we are not short of and at times produces up to 50 per cent of our electricity needs. In fact 16 per cent of our needs were provided by wind over 2013, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, resulting in massive reductions in CO2 emissions. Of course it is variable so we need some baseline electricity, as we always will. This is best provided by the relatively clean existing and planned combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations.

On one thing we can agree – coal-burning at Moneypoint should be phased out! – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Further to Kathy Sheridan’s “How much will Irish Water fiasco cost our democracy?” (Opinion & Analysis, October 15th), it is quite staggering to read that this awful company has spent €550,000 on public relations in its first 13 months.

Surely it is entitled to a refund? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Today I challenged a man who was taking photographs of the front of my house and those of my neighbours. It transpired he was working for Irish Water and they needed images of our houses. This means that the data collected and stored by Irish Water will include our name, email, phone number, address, bank account details, signature, PPS number and photograph of our dwellings. Is all this personal data required enough or would Irish Water also like a photograph of me in the shower? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Contrary to what RTÉ has been broadcasting recently, FM is not widely available in the north of Ireland and there is no digital signal here either.

I was amused to hear on the radio that RTÉ will travel to the “UK” to see what the problems are. What they mean is they will travel to Britain. What about those of us on the island of Ireland who will not be able to receive RTÉ without considerable financial outlay?

This issue is one that our politicians on both sides of the Border should be resolving and not RTÉ alone. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Depriving thousands of Irish people at home and, more importantly, abroad of this much-loved service will save a quarter of a million euro. RTÉ employs individuals working part-time for more than that amount. Who proposed this blunder? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – I write as the son of parents who left Ireland in the 1950s and started a new life in Birmingham and for whom the radio from home was hugely important – a way of keeping in touch, whether that was through news, music or sport. I recall many happy hours spent with my late father listening to GAA matches on a Sunday afternoon either in the comfort of our home or in the company of like-minded people gathered together in parks or on the touchline at GAA matches played in Birmingham. My continuing love of Gaelic sport was fired by those transmissions and has caused me to travel to Croke Park on many occasions. My mother still listens to RTÉ, falling into silence at the Angelus bell and tapping her feet to Céilí House. Simple pleasures that will be lost to her and many others. It is to RTÉ’s shame that the longwave transmission is to cease with no readily accessible replacement. It is a case out of sight, out of sound! – Yours, etc,


Hall Green,


Sir, – Surely now is the perfect opportunity for RTÉ to introduce the digital radio (DAB) service, currently available in just three regions in Ireland (Cork, Limerick and the greater Dublin area) to the entire country?

In the meantime, my digital radio remains as useful as an e-voting machine or a postcode here in the Kingdom. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

A chara, – Finally details regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have emerged from the shadows. If we are not careful, the citizens of Europe will sleepwalk into accepting an agreement that will fundamentally rebalance powers from ordinary people to multinational companies. The US negotiators seek to create a Europe where sovereign governments will be constrained from enacting progressive trade union legislation or even from raising the minimum wage. A Europe where environmental issues become increasingly irrelevant. A Europe where our food safety standards are lowered to those of the US. A Europe where public services such as education are plundered for profit. A Europe where billions of our tax euro will be given in compensation to big business by a secretive tribunal. A Europe that will be less democratic, less progressive and less secure. – Is mise,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Under the headline “President seeks a new vision for European Union” (October 16th), you report President Michael D Higgins as saying, among other things, the following in the course of an address to the Institute of International and European Affairs: “There is nothing wrong with technical efficiency, rather the contrary. The danger arises from a conception of economic policy and technocratic administration that are governed chiefly by the instrumental criteria of ‘efficiency’ and ‘success’ and are thus immune to moral-normative considerations ” .

Even allowing for the forum in which he was speaking, the second sentence must surely be in the running for a 2014 Fog Index prize. We simple folk also take an interest in what our President does and says. I, as one of them, can only guess at what immunity to “moral-normative considerations” entails. – Yours, etc,


Arklow, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I welcome the letter from my distinguished colleague, Frank Bannister (October 15th). When a great university such as UCD declines to below 200 in the World Rankings we must say that enough is enough. Nor can we accept spin about Trinity itself in the “prestigious” top 150.

The education of our undergraduates, in large part by inexperienced postgraduates, is a long-continuing scandal.

The Labour Party’s abolition of third-level fees in 1995 was just another bonus for the sons and daughters of bankers. It did little or nothing for the many brilliant Irish children from working-class backgrounds without access to our great universities. We must restore fees for those middle-class and upwardly mobile families able to afford them and add scholarships for those of poor backgrounds unable to face the prospect of adding future debt to present deprivation. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2

Sir, – The article “Bishops warn of secularisation of Catholic schools” (October 13th) quotes from the report Catholic Education at Second Level: Looking to the Future, which says, among other things, that “religious education deals with ultimate questions” and goes on to suggest that as such religion should be afforded a special status. So is this report saying that those of us of no religion are unable to deal with “the ultimate questions”? Or that schools of no denominational status are unable to facilitate and encourage any philosophical debate? I think not. In fact, I think that those with no faith-based prejudices are better able to facilitate debate on the ultimate questions. – Yours, etc,


Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Central Bank’s move to place restrictions on mortgages is a welcome first step in stabilising house prices. Yet it is astonishing to listen to people complain simply because the new rules prevent them from borrowing beyond their means.

The boom proved that we as a nation are incapable of making rational decisions when it comes to buying property.

The seductive power of cheap credit and the relentless encouragement to get on the “property ladder” left many people vulnerable to pressured decisions that led to grave financial consequences. It is time we matured as a nation and realised that we must live within our means, and if it takes regulations to force us to do so, then so be it. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – Further to Frank McCartan’s letter (October 11th), when and how did it become all right to inflict someone else’s idea of “music” on us, often at a volume that makes it impossible to ignore. I notice that both of the German-owned supermarkets have the solution – silence. – Yours, etc,


Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

Sir, – I find myself in agreement with the comments of Kieran McHugh (October 15th) regarding salaries in the 1970s. Working as a lab technician in Kevin Street in 1974 my salary was £27.50 per week, which on an annual basis was £1,430. Good money at the time. – Yours, etc,

MARY KING, Dublin 7.

Sir, – I wondered why the bus was crawling along what looked like an empty bus lane. It appeared that a long line of cars was encroaching on the lane, preventing the bus driver from using it. I wonder if car drivers could be asked to stay in their own lane. – Yours, etc,


Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

I took immense pleasure in reading your coverage of the One Young World Summit, which brought people of diverse cultures to share their ideas and worries about the future.

This is a respite from the panic and fear caused by the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. The old and experienced have worked tirelessly to find cures and vaccinations to intractable diseases, to reduce conflicts and poverty and to reconcile communities in conflict.

As the Ebola outbreak has demonstrated, many have sacrificed their lives to save others’ lives; others have worked and are still working without recognition to bring the condition under control, to defend human rights, to protect the environment and to promote democracy and social justice across the globe.

These challenges will lurk on the horizons for decades to come.

Young people are the backbone of societies. The impetus to success lies on their shoulders. They fall prey to sexual enslavement, labour exploitation, rape, diseases and murder. Their point of view should be included in any meaningful debates intended to unravel daunting issues, from climate change to human rights violations and democratic governance.

By hosting this conference, Ireland has expanded democratic horizons, allowing the young to share concerns with the elders. This is a remarkable feat that is bound to galvanize the ingenuity and energy of citizens, create healthy societies, promote democracy, ecological integrity and equity – and ultimately lead to fairer and just society.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2, UK

In thrall to the bondholders

When someone says we are paying €8bn a year in interest payments alone on our national debt, it tends not to be absorbed.

When they say that is the full tax paid by a total of 850,000 workers per annum paying €9,412 each, it certainly wakes you up.

It’s hoped that the most insidious taxes of late, in the form of water and property charges, will raise, at best €1bn per annum. If we were not paying that €8bn a year in interest, could you imagine the positive benefits it would have on all aspects of Irish life? And when you take this into account, the ridiculousness of even considering these tax impositions is clear.

But it’s unavoidable right? After all, some very prudent and thrifty bond market people lent Ireland real, hard cash so we could keep paying wages and funding our welfare and services, and they need to be rewarded in the form of interest bonuses.

However, like everything we accept about the economy, this is not the situation. This money is often provided by credit creation, ie, these people use banks to release credit to us based on our promise to pay them back. It is simply numbers typed into computers and it ensnares generations of our people.

It is funny how no economist, politician or commentator will say that the emperor has no clothes. An institution of our own could issue credit like this, most definitely interest free and partly or mostly debt free, if sufficiently controlled.

A significant proportion of the current national debt of €190bn is due to illusory credit creation based on our promise to pay. It could be written off at a stroke of a pen if the will was there, which it absolutely would be if the people knew the truth of it.

The irony is that the people who did lend Ireland real money are often our insurance and pension companies. So we ‘insure’ our individual futures but these companies use that contract to take our money and ensnare us via our national financing with hefty interest payments. Again, if we circulated our own credit, this would stop.

For those who would cry foul at the naivety of such an argument, well, if you believe it is okay for these bondholders to release credit to us that it then makes them legitimate creditors over Ireland and her people, then you believe these people own Ireland in perpetuity.

You see, they are the only ones who can ‘fund’ Ireland, therefore that means at any point they have the ‘potential energy’ to do this. That means before we have an idea of a new road or a school or increased welfare payments, they have control of it. Hence they own it both physically and ‘energetically’. Not us.

As I say, the stroke of a pen is all it takes.

Barry Fitzgerald

Lissarda, Co Cork

Bring on the bedroom tax

I must compliment the Government on its ability to balance the books by raising new taxes, especially the property tax and the water tax. The money is sorely needed to pay our TDs, public servants, semi-state bodies, etc.

However, there is scope for additional taxes which I believe no reasonable person would object to. In the old days, people living on the landlord’s estate had to pay tax on every window in their cabin, and if it had a chimney, they had to pay tax on that as well. More recently, in the UK, a bedroom tax has been proposed. Why not here?

Farmers in this country are very wealthy and it is only right that the Government should impose a tax on every cow, on every farm animal, and on every acre of land. That money could be usefully spent on those of us working in the public service. My Mercedes is now five years old and needs replacing.

Our social welfare funding is far too generous. There is no need for those of us contributing to a private or work pension to be paid the state pension. The state pension is only for paupers and silly people who did not make provision for their retirement. And it is absurd for the Government to provide welfare benefits and medical cards for people over 70.

As regards education, the Government should not pay student fees at all. I paid for all my degrees. Let me be frank. If you cannot pay for your education, you do not need it. Now, that’s common sense.

Today, money is king and we are very fortunate to have a Government that recognises that fact.

James M Bourke

Terenure, Dublin 6

Gaza response

I have just seen Dr Derek O’Flynn’s comments on my letter (Irish Independent, October 3) concerning the situation in Gaza. I am so pleased that he agrees with me in that subtle, nuanced, Irish way. As we say Derek, “aithnionn ciarog ciarog eile”. Gurbh maith agat.

Ted O’Keeffe

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

ECB came to our rescue

In his letter (Irish Independent, October 16), Simon O’Connor asserts that the ECB and EU threatened to “bankrupt Ireland” if we did not rescue the banks. He omits to mention the fact that, thanks to the decisions of a small number of its own most powerful citizens, this country, including its banks, was already bankrupt and that it was the ECB and EU, along with the IMF, that came to our rescue, using other countries’ taxpayers’ money.

He rightly points to the fact that the “rising tide of protest” across the country is a recognition of “the number of homeless”, “the number of suicides” and the length of “hospital waiting lists.”

He fails to mention, however, that, despite the rising tide of protest, the majority of people eligible to vote in the recent by-elections did not bother to turn up to vote.

Lastly, he omits to mention the fact that all of this has a background of a recently bankrupt and a currently over-borrowed country.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Rome should show compassion

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin recently spoke compassionately in support of divorced couples. Jesus, too, was a compassionate person.

Shortly afterwards, an Australian couple entertained the Vatican synod on the joys of sex.

Apparently, it was less easy to get children of divorced couples who might talk about the joys of separation.

Donal O’Driscoll

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Irish Independent


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