24 October 2014 Tidy

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day sweep the path give away an old computer

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


Michael Hayes was an actor turned TV director who filmed three series of Doctor Who and gave Julie Christie her first screen role

Michael Hayes on location in Tenby in 1961

Michael Hayes on location in Tenby in 1961

5:49PM BST 23 Oct 2014


Michael Hayes, who has died aged 85, was a prolific television director and producer, radio newsreader and former Shakespearean actor .

He is best known for directing three series of Doctor Who (starring Tom Baker, 1978-79), An Age of Kings (1960) and The Promise (1969). He gave Julie Christie her screen debut in the seminal science fiction serial A for Andromeda (1961), directing all seven episodes. His directorial work also includes episodes of Z-Cars, Maigret, Sherlock Holmes, Take Three Girls, The Onedin Line, When the Boat Comes In and All Creatures Great and Small.

Later, his distinctive voice became familiar to many radio listeners when reading the BBC World Service News from 1986 to 1994.

Michael Hayes was born at Barking, Essex, on April 3 1929, to Thomas Patrick Hayes, a civil servant, and his wife Alice (née Tindale), who died when her son was two years old.

He was evacuated to Yorkshire in 1940 and educated at Harrogate Grammar School. In 1944 the 15-year-old Hayes was “discovered” by the playwright Dr Falkland Cary while appearing in a local amateur theatrical production, and was given a principal role in Cary’s latest play, Burning Gold, at the Royal Hall in Harrogate. He told Cary of his intention to pursue a theatrical career, and subsequently achieved his ambition by touring in America with the Old Vic and becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His BBC career began as a studio manager for the World Service, after which he transferred to television as a floor manager and assistant director. His first credited work as director was An Age of Kings, a linking together of Shakespeare history plays portraying the lives of monarchs spanning the decades between Richard II and Richard III. Hayes directed all 15 episodes, in which he worked with such future stars as Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Frank Windsor, Anthony Valentine and Robert Hardy.

He took on the Doctor Who assignment in 1978 with a short-lived early lack of enthusiasm, but by the end of his third series he had abandoned these misgivings and afterwards counted the actor Tom Baker as one of his friends.

A keen horseman and ornithologist, Hayes moved to the Kent countryside in 1971 and commuted to Wood Lane and later Bush House for the World Service.

He leaves a daughter, Alisoun, from his marriage to the actress Mary Chester, and a son Patrick and daughter Kelly from his marriage to writer Jane Phillips.

Michael Hayes, born April 3 1929, died September 16 2014


Blood pressure test: the chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens. Blood pressure test: the chief executive of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

One of the major failings of the NHS Five Year Forward View (Price of saving the NHS: £8bn extra by 2020, 23 October) is the lack of emphasis on social care and the need for a more integrated approach. Over the past few years social care has been cut back to the bare bone by cash-strapped local authorities. As a result, many disabled and older people will miss out on the services they desperately need for day-to-day life.

Inadequate social care has a knock-on effect and results in further demands on the NHS. For example, the deaf-blind people we support can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care. The government must act and provide the funding that will allow disabled people to receive adequate care, which in turn would reduce pressure on the NHS.

It is vital that social care is not overlooked in NHS planning. The potential long-term savings to the public purse and benefits for older and disabled people cannot be ignored.
Richard Kramer
Deputy chief executive, Sense

• Denis Campbell’s scepticism about Simon Stevens’s “tablets of stone” (the NHS Five Year Forward View) is right (How to save the NHS in just 50 pages, 22 October). As Tony Blair’s senior health adviser, Stevens [now chief executive of NHS England] was instrumental in furthering the privatisation of the NHS started by Thatcher, now continued by Cameron. In 2002 Stevens, with the health secretary Alan Milburn and his adviser Paul Corrigan, met the CEO of Kaiser Permanente, the Californian healthcare company. Further visits followed, culminating in the Commons health committee going as a group to California in 2007 to discuss how to plan a free-market health system and the likely shape of the future workforce.

Blair’s government also invited UnitedHealth, another major privatisation player, to play a leading role determining how NHS services in England should be configured. Stevens became UnitedHealth’s vice-president, later president, for global health, in which position he was credited with playing a key role in resisting President Obama’s health reforms. He was formerly a trustee of the King’s Fund, an oft-quoted, as if independent, health thinktank. I hope I’m wrong that Stevens’s “tablets” will connive at establishing further NHS privatisation leading to a two-or three-tier NHS, funded by insurance payments, modelled on US lines.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• The NHS is asking for £1.5bn a year over the life of the next government, on top of the annual rises it’s been getting so far. That would pay for big once-for-all improvements as well as the routine stuff. If it gets the money, and the economy grows at a reasonable 2.5% a year, then by 2020 the cost of the NHS will have risen from 6.4% of GDP to 6.8%. The GDP we have left to spend on everything else will have gone up by 2.4% a year. Sounds very affordable to me.
Cristina Howick

• There is only one fair way of funding the NHS and that is via income tax. I do not think many people would object to paying, say, an extra 2% if it were hypothecated. Call it the health tax, if you like. It would be easier to collect than a mansion tax and more reliable than an extra tax on cigarettes and alcohol, just two examples that have been floated.
John Marriott
North Hykeham, Lincolnshire

• Abandoning the internal market would save the English NHS £10bn and removing the disastrous Wonga-style PFI loans would save the taxpayer about £50bn. There’s a good chunk of money to invest in patient care.
Dr David Wrigley (GP)
Carnforth, Lancashire

• Recently I had to undergo an unavoidable surgical operation. As the surgeon of my choice was unavailable at the local NHS hospitals, I chose to dip into my savings to be referred to him at the nearest BMI hospital where he worked. I had to stay there for 10 days before being sent home to complete my recovery. I discovered that this excellent hospital had unused bed capacity, so it also accepted some overflow patients from the local overloaded NHS service.

It seems that one reform that would relieve pressure on NHS hospitals would be to allow subscribers to private health insurance to offset these subscriptions against their income tax. This would open up private medical facilities to less affluent taxpayers. It would also increase the services offered by providers of health insurance. It extends personal freedom, also.
Geoffrey Bucknall
Barnard Castle, County Durham

• Once again the debate about the NHS centres around people managing their own lives more healthily on the basis that prevention is better than cure. So we are led to believe that obesity, alcoholism and diabetes all result from people’s lack of willpower and that if they’d only have more self-discipline all would be well.

But people’s choices are constrained by the culture within which they live and by the choices open to them. A glance around any supermarket will show a proliferation of foods high in sugar and fats. Even hospitals host food outlets whose shelves heave with unhealthy foods.

We were promised minimum-priced alcohol and plain-packed cigarettes but this never happened, so we can only conclude that the profits of companies takes priority over the nation’s health. Alcohol, food and cigarette companies can do what they like to maximise their profits and the tab is picked up by the NHS.
Eileen Peck
Benfleet, Essex

• Shortfall for NHS: £30bn (Report, 23 October); shortfall of tax collection: £32bn (Report, 22 October). Problem solved, with a bit left over.
Dr Neville W Goodman

• It was timely reading the article by David Oliver (We should stop talking about burdens, Society, 15 October). Here in Bolton integrated care is rolling out for the over-65s; in one area this has meant a nurse knocking on doors asking to carry out an intimate body examination for pressure sores: no warning and no prior permission sought. Apparently we have all been “risk stratified” without our knowledge in order to prevent us from being admitted to hospital.

The coalition will roll out this US-style healthcare approach in April: more hospital beds will be cut and healthcare moved to the community. I really think we need to start the debate about integrated care: it purports to offer a quality, cost-effective alternative to hospital-based care for elderly people but research on the English pilots has found it is not cost-effective and patients found that they had much less control over their healthcare.

Are we experiencing upheaval and spending millions on a healthcare system that is discriminatory and rations healthcare for the elderly by denying them access to hospitals and specialist care? As David Oliver says, “it is inherently ageist to be talking about how older people should be kept away [from hospitals]”.
Christine Howarth

• If the sustainability of the NHS depends on “a radical upgrade in prevention and public health”, the first step is already well mapped out. The Boorman report on the health and wellbeing of more than a million NHS staff showed clearly what health employers need to do, to benefit population health and staff productivity and to save costs every year. There would also be knock-on benefits to the families of the staff, many of whom also care for relatives. Simon Stevens was interviewed by Jeremy Vine about employers and obese employees on Radio 2 today. A subsequent caller berated the NHS because they saw so many obese staff working there. This neglect of occupational health is real, requiring a caring and co-ordinated national response. Does Mr Stevens have the required heart and guts?
Professor Woody Caan
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge

• Reading about the future plans of NHS England leaves me deeply concerned (NHS boss Simon Stevens defends privatisation, theguardian.com, 23 October). While the focus of the report on meaningfully addressing the root causes of ill-health and the need for radical upgrade and financial support for prevention and evidence-based public health interventions is to be admired, the defence of the infrastructures of the market and privatisation are deeply problematic. What is worrying about the report is the broad acceptance of the ethic and discourse of privatisation, with its emphasis on personalisation, local flexibility in rules and regulatory requirements and a focus on efficiencies. The issues of infrastructure and organisation in the NHS are issues of funding. Breaking down boundaries between doctors and hospitals and between physical and mental health may in some contexts be useful but they are not THE key issues that are faced by services, professionals and patients. This plays into the “the NHS is unfundable and needs to change” idea where there appear to be no alternatives. There are alternatives beyond the politics of tinkering embraced by the three main parties. The key issues facing the NHS are constant chronic underfunding compared to other developed countries, wasteful internal markets, bankrupting PFI deals, damaging physical and mental health impacts of austerity economics, and a clear failure to understand the way that other core economic issues impact the funding available for the NHS (for instance, tax avoidance, paying £600m in bonuses to publicly owned RBS bankers despite its continued loss making, George Osborne campaigning against EU bonus caps, record income inequality and wage stagnation to name but a few). We pay at least £5bn annually on an internal market that does not improve patient care . We have just seen an unnecessary and damaging £3bn top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The answer to the health of our nation is manifestly not efficiency savings and use of the private sector.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party

Enoch Powell in front of union flag, 1969 Tory Enoch Powell also did badly in the 1964 general election. Photograph: Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Keith Graham (Letters, 21 October) suggests an alternative reason for Patrick Gordon Walker’s 1964 Smethwick defeat. But his theory that it was the intervention of a Liberal candidate, on a higher turnout, that swung the result is factually wrong and also at odds with the national trends in that election. The turnout was down, not up, in Smethwick, by 2% (also nationally). Obviously, third candidate reduced the percentage votes of Tory and Labour. However, across the country the Tories lost a parliamentary majority of 100, their vote down by 6%. In Smethwick their percentage vote increased by over 2%. In contrast, in neighbouring Wolverhampton, one Enoch Powell, with a Liberal also intervening, lost nearly 7% of his vote. Peter Griffiths’ unsavoury campaigning is still the best explanation of the 1964 result.
Dave Padley
Le Bourg, Blanot, France

Foot of new born baby ‘Until mothers are treated with real kindness while having children, mental health problems will continue,’ writes Christina Naylor. Photograph: Kennet Havgaard/Getty Images/Aurora Creative

Your report (£8bn cost of mental illness in maternity, 20 October) made me very sad. I have been involved for 13 years in Home Start, a charity that supports young families, many of which suffer from postnatal depression, by supporting them with trained volunteers in their homes until they feel able to cope. Our small branch supported 68 families with 159 children last year. However, earlier this year, our funding from the county council and health authority ceased after 17 years and we’ve been unable to attract other funding to continue supporting young families in this area. We have been turned down by some funders as we are not considered a deprived area. We still have a team of trained volunteers and referrals from health visitors but are unable to respond without funding. Government and local authority policies are shortsighted and by cutting costs this way create more problems.
Susan Eden
Denford, Northamptonshire

• As is suggested in the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s report, the cost of £8bn a year is likely to be an underestimate – with considerably greater expenditure if the calculations include the cost of educational intervention and support. Children who, through no fault of their own, do not experience good care in the early stages of life very often later require specialised staff and resources in schools. In over 25 years of working in some of the most deprived parts of the north-east, I’ve witnessed the disastrous effects of poverty and poor care on children’s wellbeing and education. As you also report in the same issue (Council asks: what would you cut?) the effects of “austerity” (aka extreme poverty) on the capacity of key agencies to make a difference is increasing. Thus, at the present rate we should, sadly, be expecting an above-inflation rate of increase on the £8bn already cited. When will we start to join up the dots?
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, programme director for initial training in educational psychology, and head of education, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, University of Newcastle

• Your article highlighting the lack of prenatal mental health care misses the most important point. That is the quality of care women have during childbirth. Having had four children, I know how women can feel abandoned (left to get on with it), and how first-time mothers, especially, can feel shocked at the pain. Luckily it is temporary. Everyone coos over the new baby, and the mother’s ordeal is forgotten. Until mothers are treated with real kindness while having children, mental health problems will continue. The present shortage of midwives will only make things worse.
Christina Naylor
Languenan, Brittany, France

This handout picture taken on September Rescuers from the Italian navy help migrants to leave an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean sea. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Many thanks for the report on deaths of migrants at the frontiers of Europe (‘It costs $10,000 to get from A to B…’, 21 October). In October 2013, with its Mare Nostrum operation to rescue migrants at sea, Italy took on a responsibility that the rest of the EU shirked. Mare Nostrum has not been exempt from criticism – for its military nature, lack of transparency, its failures in view of the fact that according to UNHCR 3,000 people have drowned since the start of this year. But the operation at least started using a different perspective. Italy’s attempt to enact a mere “humanitarian corridor” adapted to the Euro-Mediterranean context is a first step.

The Mare Nostrum operation is scheduled to end on 1 November. The European commission and the EU member states have not proposed any solution to take over from the operation. The planned strengthening of border controls by Frontex through operation Triton in the Mediterranean (Frontex Plus) is not a sea rescue operation. However, more than a humanitarian rescue operation is needed. To put an end to migrants’ deaths in the Mediterranean and elsewhere requires increased entry into the European territory for those who choose it or are forced into exile.

We think of the English Channel as our frontier. But as experienced by migrants including refugees, the UK frontier is in Calais, the Mediterranean and UK consulates worldwide. To help improve the problems faced by migrants in Calais, Greece, Italy and the Mediterranean requires action by the whole EU, including the UK.
Bill MacKeith

A city council security guard photographs a piece of street art attributed to Banksy in Bristol A security guard photographs a piece of street art attributed to Banksy titled The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum after it was defaced in an alleyway in Bristol. Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters

George Monbiot (‘Cleansing the stock’ and the doublepeak we must defeat, 22 October) could be said to be restating George Steiner’s arguments for what he called the “retreat from the word”, whereby language is deformed and then reformed entirely empty of human or humane content, terrifyingly in Nazi Germany, and no less disturbingly in “the benefit units” and “collateral damage” of our linguistically perverted times. Some of the worst offenders in this debasement of language are those responsible for what passes today as educational policy, just as guilty as the militarists in hanging on to miserable and demeaning metaphors.

“To know what we are talking about: this, in more than one sense, is the task of those who want a better world,” sighs Monbiot at the end of his piece. Some sigh … little hope.
Bruce Ross-Smith
Headington, Oxfordshire

• George Monbiot rightly deplores the deliberate use of euphemisms to disguise unpalatable truths. Their insidiousness is such that he admits that even in his own article there may be “dehumanising metaphors” that he has failed to spot. However, he focuses on mainly military usages. More sinister are those everyday euphemisms that are so familiar that we fail to recognise their veiling of the truth. Warming is something we do to teapots and cold beds, something welcome, so global overheating is called “warming”. The damage caused to the climate is called “change”. Horrific illustrations are called “graphic”. And so on. Could the Guardian produce an anti-euphemism supplement to add to the style guide?
Gerry Abbott

• Language expresses biases in many ways. Why did you not describe the Banksy “mural” (Report, 22 October) as vandalism? If it’s because it’s “art”, then perhaps the “blue paint splashed across it” could also be thought of as art, a gestural response to the crude and trivialised parody of a superb Vermeer.
Dr Donald Smith
Haddington, East Lothian

Ofsted criticises academy chain ‘Inspection plays a critical role in driving up standards in education,’ writes Dave Penman of the FDA. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

Zoe Williams states that the problem with Ofsted “is the fact that the entire culture – targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count – discourages what education thrives upon: trust, cooperation, participation” (The entire schools inspection culture is the problem, 20 October). As the union representing Ofsted inspectors, we would agree that education thrives upon trust, cooperation, participation, but dispute that the culture of inspection is one of targets and terror, name and shame, compete and count. Inspection plays a critical role in driving up standards in education. Inspectors are civil servants – politically impartial and appointed under authority of the crown – who work hard to ensure that inspections are conducted robustly and independently within the legal responsibilities laid down by parliament. That is why they believe passionately that Ofsted must inspect every institution without fear or favour, and must continue to guard against politicisation.

Driving up standards in education is rightly at the forefront of most political agenda but it can often be deeply divisive: like most public-sector organisations, Ofsted is neither perfect nor dysfunctional. It’s time to recognise the vital work undertaken every day by these dedicated, passionate public servants who work countless unpaid hours to deliver high-quality inspections in the interest of the nation’s children. Perhaps fingers also need to be pointed at politicians and commentators whose agendas are not progressed by a balanced and evidence-based debate.
Dave Penman
General secretary of the FDA, the union representing senior staff in Ofsted, including Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI)

• Zoe Williams is right to identify that competition is the driving force behind Ofsted, but needs to place its creation in a historical context. In the 80s, the Tories had ambitions not just to privatise the provision of schools, the first stage of which was the introduction of the Local Management of Schools, but also to give each parent a monetary voucher to be spent in whichever school they chose. While the voucher system proved unworkable, the concept of a market was introduced though the notion of “parental choice”, which in turn required criteria upon which such choice could be made. These were introduced in the form of the common curriculum for all schools (except private ones), constant national testing and league tables, with Ofsted created to rate each school on a standardised scale.

As has been pointed out repeatedly by reputable academics ever since, the whole system is ruthlessly based on the demands of free-market economics at the expense of the educational wellbeing of our children. And it is to the eternal shame of Labour and the Liberal Democrats that they have complied in not just the perpetuation of such an iniquitous and damaging system but continue to advocate its expansion.
Colin Burke

• Zoe Williams’ important and perceptive article highlights that “competition can only be fostered in a world of constant measurement”. True, but what is unfortunately not widely recognised is that Ofsted’s approach to measurement is fundamentally flawed. As a physicist and, until recently, a parent governor for my children’s primary school, I have been appalled at the level of statistical innumeracy at the core of Ofsted’s methods.

A key example is Ofsted’s Data Dashboard, which governors are expected to use to inform their decision-making. Remarkably, the dashboard provides no information at all on the statistical reliability of the data – schools are compared and ranked with no indication of the extent to which the variations can be explained by natural statistical fluctuations. Often, the year-to-year fluctuations within a single school are larger than the variation between so-called “similar” schools (and the methods behind identifying “similar” schools are far from robust and well-established).

We teach our first year physics undergraduates that to make a measurement without including an estimate of the error bars is, to quote Wolfgang Pauli slightly out of context, “not even wrong”. One can only imagine what the famously irascible Pauli would have made of Ofsted’s abuse of data.
Philip Moriarty
School of physics and astronomy, University of Nottingham

• Zoe Williams perfectly illustrates the fundamental flaw in so much of social policy – if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count. Or expressing the McNamara fallacy: you start by measuring what is valuable and end up only valuing what is measurable.
Rick Hall

• After 22 years of doubtful practice and constant moving of goalposts, it is time to abolish Ofsted and re-empower local authorities with local advisers and inspectors who understand the neighbourhood problems of difficult schools. Put the £70m released by ending Ofsted into a massive development of Sure Start centres, linking them to their local primary schools in order to promote language development. Over a few years this will help ensure that many more toddlers get the home support, parental interest and talking and listening skills that prepare them for making good progress in school.

Investment in the cultural as well as the physical development of the earliest years of life, through Sure Start centres, is a key to successful education for many children, and especially for those growing up in impoverished communities.
Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

• As an ex-chief examiner and chair of an A-level board with 35 years of experience, I did not find this report surprising (Fears over poor marking as appeals for A-level and GCSE exams hit new high, 22 October) but Russell Hobby’s concern over inequities as to the ability of schools to challenge grades is disturbing. Boards do have rigorous systems to try to meet the required standards, and examiners are usually reasonably qualified and try their best but are bedevilled by restrictions of time and cost. For instance, a procedure whereby principal examiners and chiefs would laboriously go through all scripts on the borderline to make sure the grade was correct has long since been abandoned as too time consuming and expensive.

As the joint council said, most of the mark changes were “relatively small”, the vast majority of these appeals would have been covered by borderlining and schools would not have had to pay. At grade-setting meetings there is an elaborate procedure of checking scripts but not enough to time to really do it despite the appearances of so doing. Scripts that have been wrongly marked are flagged up and passed to a principal for remarking but these are only a tiny proportion of small samples so it is known that there must be others.

Marking is not an exact science in most subjects so re-marks are essential, but if the numbers are increasing it would seem the reason is more to do with time and expense than the markers and the procedures in themselves. A return to borderlining would mitigate against the observed inequities.
Susan Saunders Vosper

Coffin with brass handles ‘My mother’s funeral cost us around £3,500; her insurance policies paid out £80 and £120 respectively.’ Photograph: George Doyle/Getty Images

You report Ukip’s assertion that profits from Mike Read’s Calypso single were to be donated to the Red Cross “for their Ebola outreach programme” (Report, 23 October). It’s worth mentioning that the Red Cross responded by saying it cannot accept donations from party political sources, and that its job is to help precisely those that Mike Read and Ukip “negatively refer to”. Oh, and it doesn’t have an Ebola outreach programme. And before the single was withdrawn, it was made clear that all proceeds from sales were for Ukip party funds.
Dan Adler
Farnham, Surrey

• Jonathan Watts reports from Rio de Janeiro that 402 square kilometres – “more than six times the area of the island of Manhattan” – of the Brazilian Amazon was cleared in September (Report, 20 October). Being English and reading my English newspaper in England this is of limited value. How many Isles of Wight is that?
Chas Moore
Wickford, Essex

• I read with interest the funeral directors’ comments about people taking out their own penny insurance policies to pay for their funeral (Return of the pauper’s funeral, G2, 21 October). My mother had told us we would not have to bear the expense of her funeral as she had two life insurance policies, which included one taken out by her mother in 1924. She died 10 years ago aged 93, and her funeral cost us around £3,500; the insurance policies paid out £80 and £120 respectively. So much for prudent planning.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

• I told my stepmother, a dressmaker, and a very good one, who was very fussy about her appearance, that I belonged to a profession that didn’t judge people by the way they dress (Why do academics dress so badly, 21 October). “Well, they ought to,” she snapped back.
Dr Roger Leitch

• Surely it must be the Selfiescene (Letters, passim)?
Roger Walker



Sir, The proposal to pay GPs £55 for each new patient diagnosed with dementia beggars belief (report, Oct 22). Diagnosing illness is not an extra service commitment, and introducing financial incentives for a diagnosis sets a dreadful precedent. What about other conditions, cancer for example? The fact that this proposal has been put forward illustrates the gap between the objectives of an honourable profession and a managerial bureaucracy that is intent on its deconstruction.

The reality is that patients do not always want a diagnosis, especially with conditions like dementia. In these circumstances, many individuals, who in the early stage of the disease are coping independently or with family support, do not want a label for their condition. There may be medicines that slow the process, but they are of no interest to an individual who is avoiding the issue, and while they are mentally competent their wishes should be respected. To subject such individuals to tests and scans to prove they have dementia is inhuman, yet that could be the result of this proposal.
John Spivey
Consultant surgeon (Ret’d), Watermillock, Cumbria

Sir, It is essential to promote good health through preventive medical care, rather than just treatment. Enormous credit must go to those GPs and community services that regularly check patients for ageing conditions and recommend preventive measures, such as establishing a lifestyle — including exercise and diet — which is known to limit the onset of dementia.
RKM Sanders, MD
Tewkesbury, Glos

Sir, Having an aged parent with advanced Alzheimer’s, I’m strongly supportive of better and earlier diagnosis of dementia, but I find NHS England’s proposal deeply disturbing. Well-intentioned it may be, but this initiative looks more like an ugly combination of a medical bounty and a deeply flawed PR gimmick.
Paul Connew
St Albans

Sir, When my wife started to have memory problems, our GP referred her to a local psychiatric hospital. A consultant psychiatrist came to our house and tested my wife, which took the best part of an hour. A preliminary diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia was made and later confirmed by other tests. When are GPs going to find time adequately to test patients for dementia?
Peter Woodcock
Wigan, Greater Manchester

Sir,Many GPs have little training in mental health, and until this is rectified it will be best to refer patients who may have dementia to community mental health teams. I assisted with running a memory clinic, so saving the time a GP would take. The screening included a memory test and also a look at how well a person deals with everyday tasks, which was useful for social services to assess the level of help needed. The problems that dementia brings can be eased by close co-operation between the NHS and social services.
Alistair Milner
Retired mental health nurse,
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Sir, I have more than 40 years’ experience of caring for older people, and understand the importance of early and accurate diagnosis of conditions like dementia. However, the idea that GPs need a financial incentive is ridiculous. That money should instead be spent on training professionals who work with older people to identify the signs of dementia and offer swift support.
Leon Smith
Executive vice president,
Nightingale Hammerson

Sir, I would pay my GP double the £55 fee for him not to tell me I have a crippling disease, for which there is no cure, and for which treatment is forbidden by Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) until it’s too late.
Kate Saunders

Sir, Many GPs would, I’m sure, be happier to see the proposed £55 payment for each diagnosis go instead to the Alzheimer’s Society or a local memory clinic.
Dr Larry Amure, BCHIR
Over, Cambs

Sir, A bored tunnel at Stonehenge of at least 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long would solve both the traffic problems with the A303 and visual blight around this important part of our heritage. The National Trust’s recent advocacy of a 2.9km tunnel, protecting its own land, is short of what is needed. We have asked the government to consider a 4.5 km tunnel.
Reuben Thorpe
Chairman, Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust, Hertford

Sir, Word lists for Scrabble seem to be encouraging some barbarous crimes against language (News, Oct 23) but the words can take care of themselves. Let our transatlantic cousins “unlearn” words. I prefer to “forget” them, which is not only more elegant linguistically but scores three points more.
Edward Turner

Sir, I was about to congratulate you on keeping our Shropshire eateries out of your guide to “Best Food Places”, but then you sneak in, near the end, a Ludlow pub. Can’t you help keep the trendies and yuppies out of our beautiful county? Please.
Ken Broad
Church Aston, Shropshire

Sir, In your report “Chocks away as air officials say ‘roger’ to Spitfire trips” (Oct 20), you say that the Messerschmitt Bf 109 “with its stubby wings cannot match the Spitfire for agility”. One advantage of the German plane generally was that it had fuel injection, whereas Spitfires had carburettors. Messerschmitts could go into a steep climb, in which the Spitfire might stall.
James Swain
Tadworth, Surrey

Sir, It would be fascinating if those who have been so scathing of Renée Zellweger’s new look (“Why Renée’s face broke the rules”, Times2, Oct 23) were brave enough to post pictures of themselves on social media, together with their ages, so we can see the justification they have to judge others.
Richard Spoerry
Broadstairs, Kent


Without landlines there would be little communication in places like Cornwall

People in remote areas often rely on landlines to keep in touch with people

People in remote areas often rely on landlines to keep in touch with people

6:55AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I don’t think Cornwall could have been included in the survey of landline usage across Britain. Without a landline there would be little communication in many areas.

I always call to a landline if possible because at least then I know where the recipient is and there is less chance of the call breaking up or the recipient being tempted to talk while driving or being otherwise distracted.

Mag Humphreys
Wadebridge, Cornwall

SIR – My internet went down for about five minutes the other day so I headed downstairs and spoke to my family.

They seemed like nice people.

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

Brushing up

SIR – If schools are to supervise the brushing of children’s teeth, then at a bare minimum they will need to employ a dental care professional.

There is a network of general dental practices throughout Britain, conveniently situated in every town and village, that is already fully compliant with regulations. Why not pay them for the task?

Howard Koch
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

White water

SIR – I am not surprised at the longevity of Viv Coffey’s skimmed milk.

Skimmed milk has had everything that imparts any taste or flavour removed from it, and is little more than coloured water.

I do not worry about the use-by date on my gold-top as it is consumed with relish long before then.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Lesson for trolls

SIR – Internet trolls can avoid longer sentences (“Tougher sentences won’t stop trolls”) by using more full stops.

Peter Iden
Totnes, Devon

We cannot resolve the problems in our relationship with the EU within the existing framework

The European Scrutiny Committee has recommended the repeal of European laws Photo: REUTERS/STEFAN WERMUTH

6:56AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – The present EU architecture undermines British democracy and generates massive economic and political instability throughout Europe.

We must reassert the sovereignty of Parliament and enact the present Referendum Bill to allow British voters to have their say as soon as possible.

The European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am chairman, published its unanimous report in November last year recommending the repeal of European laws, where necessary in our national interest, by enacting legislation “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972” (thereby bypassing the European Court of Justice) and reasserting the use of the veto. We would then make our own laws and would continue trade and political cooperation within Europe.

It is simply not in our national interest to pretend that we can resolve fundamental differences in our relationship with the European Union within the existing framework of European law.

If the Liberal Democrats stand in the way, then the Coalition must be ended.

Sir William Cash MP
London SW1

SIR – José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, has been criticised widely for his comments supporting the free movement of people within the European Union.

However, over the last decade Mr Barroso has been entirely consistent in his statements. The free movement of people is a cornerstone of the ultimate EU objective of a European super-state.

It is our own politicians who have told us that the EU is something that it isn’t.

Terry Lloyd

Zimbabwe should be invited to join the wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph

The Cenotaph: Lutyen's masterpiece

The Cenotaph: only Commonwealth members take part in the Armistice Day ceremony Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I was born in Southern Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, a country that we were once proud to describe as the last bastion of the British Empire in Africa.

This year marks the centenary of the First World War. Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth so, despite suffering many casualties, she is barred from laying a wreath at the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph. Rhodesia was only 24 years old when the war broke out. The bulk of the population, and therefore its soldiers, was of British stock.

An article in January voiced Australia and New Zealand’s concern regarding the “whitewashing” of the contributions made by their military to the war effort. It seems that the Rhodesian dead are suffering the same fate.

Joseph Franco
Cape Town, South Africa

The contract of marriage is rightly enforceable by law

A senior judge has described state support for marriage as ‘social engineering’ Photo: PHOTOLIBRARY

6:58AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – The notions of Nicholas Mostyn, the High Court family judge, that there should not be two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage” and that state support for marriage is “social engineering” are utterly misconceived.

The sole justification for the involvement of the courts in the distribution of marital property is that divorce involves the unravelling of a contract. When people get married they freely and formally agree to share their property: and that agreement, like any other, is rightly enforceable by law.

If an advocate stood up in the Commercial Court and protested that the court should not be influenced by a trivial matter such as whether or not the parties had entered into a contract with each other, he or she would likely be reported to the Bar Council. It is disappointing to find that a senior judge is unable or unwilling to grasp this fundamental point.

Alexander Pelling
Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2

Children’s inheritance

SIR – A review of inheritance tax is welcome, but why not keep it simple and fair by excluding homes from the liability?

Most people work all their lives to end up with a home they own, so they resent 40 per cent being taken by the Government. If they can pass on the value to their children, this will help more people to own their own homes without taxpayer-funded schemes.

It has been shown that the cost of collecting inheritance tax negates, to a large extent, the net value to the Treasury as it is so complex. My proposal would also reduce the number of tax inspectors needed to collect the tax, which will otherwise surely need to increase as more people become liable.

Mary Sutherland
London SE23

Roaring success: a boy poses in front of the Merlion statue, Singapore’s trademarked mascot  Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – We have much to learn from former colonies such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Some years ago I was offered a temporary post in Singapore as a professional engineer, but first the country’s Department of Labour had to assess my skills and experience against local availability. Once employed, I remained responsible for my own housing and medical expenses and paid local taxes.

In order to overcome labour shortages, quotas were introduced for contractors to import overseas labour, with employment terms monitored to prevent abuse such as poor accommodation or low wages.

Singapore’s approach to controlling skilled professionals and unskilled workers helps to drive its economy forward without reducing employment opportunities for its citizens or putting extra burdens on the state.

Robert Reynolds
Long Compton, Warwickshire

SIR – As one born and educated in colonial Singapore, I know of many aspects of its legislation that would be welcomed by other British citizens, including stiff punishment for littering, vandalism, graffiti, weapons and animal abuse. No softer community service option may take the place of fines or prison sentences.

Diana R Lord
Cockfosters, Hertfordshire

SIR – Two of my children – and their children – live in Singapore and I’m very pleased that my grandchildren’s education and health expectations are so much better than they would be in Britain. As regards “democratic deficiencies”, it’s certainly not a police state. The authorities simply don’t put up with any nonsense and there is a much more disciplined ethos in schools and society generally. We could learn from that.

Dick Soper
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Britain’s jobs rich recovery isn’t helping the Chancellor’s coffers Photo: PA

6:07PM BST 23 Oct 2014


SIR – I am a stay-at-home mother of twins whose professional life is becoming a distant memory. Practically everything my family eats is cooked by me from scratch, with the exception of bread and occasionally fish fingers or baked beans.

This is sometimes rewarding, mostly tedious and undoubtedly a complete waste of my former skills. But I do this because I believe that to rely on convenience foods is to compromise my family’s health.

How can policy-makers be persuaded to recognise that overworked households cannot remain healthy households?

Incidentally, our children’s school dinners, even at their well-run state school, continue to be dull and nutritionally unimpressive.

Rosalind Oliver

SIR – Instead of spending money on child care, why doesn’t the Government give it to the mothers who stay at home?

Maybe then we would see a return to better-mannered children who benefit from a family life and are not shunted off to child-minders.

Shirley Clayton
Pitsea, Essex

SIR – While I respect the decision of any mother to go out to work if she wishes to, I feel that mothers have a very important job at home bringing up the next generation, which is being totally undervalued.

Perhaps if one parent stayed at home there would be no need for teachers to take on parental duties such as brushing teeth.

Sheila Robbie
Killearn, Stirlingshire

SIR – George Osborne wants to encourage stay-at-home mothers to “work”. The NHS wants us to take responsibility for our physical and mental health. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Borrowing for September rose to £11.8 billion, reportedly due to weak tax receipts. The majority of mothers returning to work would fall beneath the tax threshold, so increased funding for child care would offer no financial benefit to the Government.

Mr Osborne wants to encourage stay-at-home mothers into jobs. This mother intends to encourage him out of one.

Margaret Rogers
Stroud, Gloucestershire

SIR – Many grandparents will incur a full-time unpaid child-care burden, since professional child care is unaffordable.

What will happen as grandparents are forced to retire later?

D M Watkins
Plaxtol, Kent

SIR – Back-to-work mothers, frozen eggs, toy-boys for the over-40s, otherwise lots of ice-cream: all good for the economy. First things second?

The Revd Lionel Atherton
Buxton, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – After the Ryan and Murphy reports, Irish people know the deeply scarring consequences of blind loyalty to an organisation. Some within Sinn Féin now rank alongside those Catholic bishops that put the protection of their own institutions ahead of the protection and needs of the victims of abuse and, indeed, ahead of simple, human decency. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – If given the choice I wonder if Gerry Adams would prefer trial by media or trial by a paramilitary “court”. I think I know which I would prefer to receive my “sentence” from. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Gerry Adams is again being “tried” by the media and politicians without due process. The irony is that many of those involved are amongst a coterie of individuals that also took part in savage, vitriolic attacks on John Hume when the peace process was in its infancy and subsequently, as that process matured into the Belfast Agreement.

It is hard to believe it now but that campaign against John Hume was every bit as vicious as the current campaign waged against Mr Adams. Thankfully, they along with many others persevered and brought that part of the peace process to its final conclusion, with the signing of the Belfast Agreement, much, I might add, to the discomfort and displeasure of many of those individuals who would have preferred to see the process fail. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Sinn Féin’s vice-president Mary Lou McDonald TD is reported as claiming that the party has no information on child abuse. Does she really believe that the IRA punishment beatings and kneecappings of minors were not child abuse? Does she really believe that nobody in Sinn Féin had any involvement in this? Incredible. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Reading the plethora of letters from readers slating Irish Water, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland was an otherwise well-run country with Singaporean efficiency and Swiss neatness.

In fact, the daily conduct and aspirations of the average citizen are broadly reflective of the body politic and its progeny, Irish Water.

We moan about traffic and delays but jaywalk, ignore junction boxes and drive in bus lanes. We lament the poor quality of water and the blight on the landscape from turbines and pylons, but allow ugly one-off houses with septic tanks polluting the groundwater. We crib about taxes and young people struggling to buy houses but demand loose credit and resist efficient land-use taxes.

Now we grudgingly accept charges for water but demand allowances and credits for all and sundry and then complain the system is complicated and requires our PPS numbers. After decades ignoring the high salaries and generous pensions of employees in monopolistic semi-State companies, whose unions then demanded slices of company equity, we are suddenly exercised, with a Tea Party-like fervour, by remuneration in this new utility .

I could go on, but I would just ask these newly emerged experts on water treatment and corporate management why they are surprised by any of this? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Writing in the October 9th edition of the London Review of Books, James Meek has this to say about the water supply in the English town of Thanet (the target seat for the Ukip leader Nigel Farage in the British general election in 2015): “Thanet’s water supply and drainage system belong to Southern Water, which is owned by a consortium of Hong Kong investment funds and Australian and Canadian Pension funds, advised by an American and a Swiss merchant bank. Sewage spills by Southern regularly force the closure of Thanet beaches”.

The future for “Irish” Water? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – As part of our bailout conditions, the Government was required to begin charging for water in order to make additional significant contributions towards paying back the loans.

Government spin-doctoring has been trying hard to make us believe that water should be conserved. If we conserve this “product”, the vendors (Irish Water) won’t make any significant profit on what they’re selling, and the company will contribute little towards the loan repayments.

I appeal to all Irish patriots to use as much water as you possibly can to help with performance-related pay, a fancy head office building, new PR consultants to better communicate the spin, high-tech meters and the ongoing maintenance thereof, bill collection, employee pension contributions, Irish Waters’s likely imminent rebranding, etc.

Perhaps then, after the huge running costs are deducted, if there is any profit after the first decades of Irish Water’s existence, some loan repayments will be made. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – The entry into the debate on university entrance criteria in Ireland of the dean of admissions at Harvard University Dr William R Fitzsimmons (October 22nd) illustrates one of the fallacies that dog this debate. Harvard is a private institution with an endowment of more than $36 billion and tuition fees annually of some $40,000. No student has a right of entry to the university – no matter how bright they are. The dean of admissions will have as his goal each year to admit a balanced class of freshman – balanced in terms of intelligence, leadership potential, race, gender, sporting ability – and balanced also in terms of having the potential through family connections or otherwise to increase that $36 billion endowment in the future.

Irish universities have a quite different model for admission. For good or ill, they are governed by a concept of fairness to all citizens of Ireland and that fairness is expressed in terms of the student’s perceived academic ability as measured by the Leaving Certificate examination. In the Irish model, the child of the factory worker is meant to have exactly the same chance of entry as the child of the billionaire property developer, the future poet as the future dot.com entrepreneur, if they have the same academic ability. The model may be skewed by extraneous factors – by money and class – but it is a proper model for a democratic republic.

The introduction to the Irish system of a personal essay by a candidate for admission would be a major additional obstacle in the attempt to provide a fair system of admission. Apart from the ability of money to distort the impartiality of such a system through professional assistance in essay writing and essay purchase on the internet, there are no such things as unbiased professional judges for such essays and no acceptable criteria by which they can be judged – other than by academic ability as measured by an unbiased examination such as the Leaving Certificate.

We have an excellent system. Don’t mess with it! – Yours, etc,


Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – While it is true that the majority of students attending universities such as UCD and TCD with very high Leaving Cert entry requirements come from the middle or higher classes, it is not true to infer that those who attain lower points at Leaving Cert level or those from poorer backgrounds are deprived of third-level education in this country. Indeed the development and expansion of the institutes of technology sector over the past 20 years in particular has accounted for ever increasing numbers of students from working class and poorer backgrounds participating very successfully in third-level education and has provided them with opportunities that were never provided to them by the universities prior to this. Indeed, in a recent survey Tallaght IT came second in terms of the employment rate for its graduates relative to other institutes of technology. Many of these students will tell you that they prefer what they perceive as the more supportive environment provided in this sector in comparison with what they perceive as being provided in the corresponding environment in the university sector. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Mathematics,

Institute of Technology,



Sir, – It was much remarked in the late 1990s and early 2000s that there was a direct correlation between the mushrooming in the fee-paying secondary school sector and the abolition of fees at third level in 1995. Fee-paying schools in certain catchment areas grew exponentially as some parents no longer had to put away money to send children to college. It is for this reason that the fee-paying schools cluster in urban areas where there is a university close by.

The fee-paying option is not open to parents in rural areas, and some provincial cities, who still have to pay to accommodate their kids in university cities and towns, which is an ever-increasing burden given rising rents. This is unfair to parents outside the cluster because they are not able to avail of a taxpayer-funded subsidy, which is limited to certain postal addresses in Dublin.

It is also clear that since the universal abolition of university fees, the subvention to fee-paying schools has siphoned funds away from the third-level sector, leaving our universities slipping in the global rankings. It also sets up an uneven playing field between State schools and fee-paying schools in the same catchment area – by siphoning off the cream of the crop, fee-paying schools are degrading State-funded infrastructure. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Attempting to right the wrongs of our society by picking on private schools is not only inappropriate but an avoidance of reality.

The reality is that most parents whose children don’t attend private schools wouldn’t want them to. It’s not in the family ethos and, lest we forget, ethos is what we are talking about. Free education is a right and an entitlement that most are happy to avail of; that is, of course, if they can get places for their children, in a sector that successive governments have failed to resource adequately.

Out of approximately 733 secondary schools, 55 are fee paying. Were they to close tomorrow or collectively enter the already overstretched State system, the cost to us the taxpayer would be considerable. Sure, the teachers’ salaries in all schools are paid by the State. That really is an entitlement. However, the State in turn should be delighted that parents are providing additional facilities at no cost to the taxpayer.

For that, should “private” schools be penalised by losing control over their intake?

Is it really necessary to attempt to gain a “popular” advantage by eliminating the ethos of a small minority of schools that have years of tradition behind them, to satisfy some strange notion of equality? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 6.

Sir, – This month we celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Thomas Davis, one of the most attractive figures in the Irish patriotic pantheon. It is strange, however, how many authors have been in error about the date of his birth. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, in his seminal Thomas Davis, The Memoirs of an Irish Patriot 1840-1846, published in 1890, states that Davis was born on October 14th, 1814. This has been repeated by almost all subsequent writers and historians, including the late eminent historian Prof TW Moody, who wrote eloquently on Thomas Davis at the centenary of the death of Davis in 1945 and in 1966 in a public lecture in association with the golden jubilee of the 1916 rising. In 1995 the Australian historian Prof John N Molony wrote a stimulating biography of Davis entitled A Soul Came into Ireland: Thomas Davis, 1814-1845, in which he again gives the date of birth as October 14th, 1814. The curious thing is that Prof Molony’s book has a full-page photograph of the gravestone of Thomas Davis in Mount Jerome cemetery on which is given the correct date of birth – October 24th, 1814. Presumably all who have written on Davis visited at some time his grave in homage to him but failed to notice his proper date of birth.

Until that is the late Prof Helen F Mulvey produced her Thomas Davis and Ireland: A Biographical Study, the finest and most judicious single volume on Davis, in 2003. Prof Mulvey gives the correct date – October 24th, 1814 – and notes that Kevin MacGrath’s article in the Irish Book Lover in June 1952, which gave important facts about the Davis family, had given the correct date. So as a little product of the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Thomas Davis let us, once and for all, get his birthday right!

There are, of course, many more serious aspects of the bicentenary reflections on Davis than his actual birthday. As Gavan Duffy noted in his final eulogy “the life he led was the greatest lesson” – he remains an inspirational figure because of his unselfish character and his moral courage. As WB Yeats observed in 1914, Davis is “the foremost moral influence on our politics”. John O’Hagan, who knew Davis, writing in 1890, of his “grace of nature and manner” reached for an Italian word to describe his “gentilezza”.

Samuel Ferguson saw the civic virtues taught by Thomas Davis, which he captured in his lines about making Ireland the nation it might be:

“Self-respecting, self-relying, self-advancing,

In union or in severance, free and strong;

And if God grant this, then under God, to Thomas Davis

Let the greater praise belong!” – Yours, etc,


Sir, – Thanks to John McKenna (“The best thing since sliced bread? Ban the sliced pan”, Health + Family, October 21st) for highlighting the nutritional deficiencies of white bread. I am old enough to remember the coarse brown bread we all had to eat during the war years when white flower was in short supply. Eating it took some getting used to.

We were too young to appreciate the health benefits of wholemeal bread, and it is fair to say our poor parents were not up to speed on nutritional information, either. Unknown to us was the fact that after the white flour was extracted from the grain the residue, which contains the wheat germ, was used as animal feed. Nutritionally, the animals were better fed than we were!

Up to the mid-1800s wheat was ground between large stone wheels. These could only produce flour that was not fully white because stonegrinding was unable to remove the germ which contains all the nutrients in the grain. With the advent of steel rollers, white flour came into being. The result was white bread. However, it was more expensive to produce. Only the well-off could afford to buy it and the poor continued to buy the coarse brown variety.

Older readers will remember with fondness the wholemeal small loaf that Bewley’s produced in the 1950s. Two slices from this delicious brown loaf at breakfast kept one satisfied well up to lunchtime. With white bread one is likely to end up full of wind by mid-morning! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Frank Greaney (October 18th) seems to be entirely missing the point of bus lanes – we shouldn’t be using them to help general traffic flow, but to help buses and cyclists avoid that self-same traffic! Bearing in mind the mountains of data to the effect that public transport (and even more so cycling) is good for the environment and quality of living in cities, and that it usually those of more limited means who use public transport, we should be making more efforts to facilitate buses and bicycles in urban areas.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should confess to being, as a student obliged to cycle into the city centre every day, one of Mr Greaney’s “usual suspects”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Sir, – Arriving into Dublin Airport this week I noted with some surprise that the automated border control gates (e-gates) being trialled at Dublin Airport are only in use from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm.

Do these gates belong to a public service union? If so, why haven’t they negotiated a lunch break as well? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to Gerry Adams’s view of John Redmond (Home News, October 20th), pots and kettles are called to mind when Gerry Adams accuses someone else of being a “man of violence”. – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

There was a speech given by an American during his 1946 campaign to be elected for the first time as a congressman. John F Kennedy was 29-years-old then and remains relevant at a time when many are disappointed with our political system. He gave speeches of an elegant quality, the like of which are rarely heard today.

He quoted an earlier American politician and diplomat, John W Davis, when he said: “First, then, make choice of your political party, on grounds that satisfy your reason as best you can, by tradition or by environment or sentiment or impulse if you have not the wit to do better. In any event, make choice.

“Do not wait until you find an aggregation of demi-gods or angels; they are scarce – some people think they are even scarcer than they used to be. Perhaps even you might not feel comfortable in their midst. And do not expect to find a party that has always been right, or wise, or even consistent; that would be scarcer still.

“Independent judgement and opinion is a glorious thing, on no account to be surrendered by any man, but when one seeks companionship on a large scale, he must be content to join with those who agree with him in most things and not to hope to find a company that will agree with him in all things.”

Mr Kennedy led a busy political life from 1946 to his death in 1963 when he was US President. His personal life with its flaws is well known, but not so much is known over here of what a hard-working, serious politician he was. We need inspiration in our times, when there is so much brutal violence in the world and in parts of the Middle-East (where our Irish UN Peacekeeping soldiers are facing more dangerous times). When Mr Kennedy was asked about his legacy, he replied he would like it to be said “he kept the peace”, with regard to the Russian missile crisis in Cuba. That situation required delicate diplomacy and patience.

His times were different, when it was possible to solve intractable political problems with diplomacy. Whereas in our times this is almost impossible, with merciless killings and torture of men, women and children taking place in war-torn countries of the Middle East, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.

Mary Sullivan, College Road, Cork

Time for shock and law in Dail?

Regarding the infantile behaviour leading to the suspension of the Dail yesterday, I wonder would it be possible for those responsible for the Leinster House creche to assist the Ceann Comhairle in the seemingly-impossible task of making TDs keep all of their toys in their prams?

Should this not be feasible, might the Ceann Comhairle then be allowed to run an electrical current through the TDs’ seats to bring them to order should they appear unruly or disruptive?

This would also have the benefit of guaranteeing that our public representatives are both plugged in and switched on.

T G Gavin, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Politics must evolve

Enda Kenny, Gerry Adams and Micheal Martin – maybe unbeknownst to themselves – definitely have something in common.

In terms of their political evolution, vision and judgement, if gauged by the geological time scale, they would comfortably inhabit the Triassic Period when our little island was still solidly part of the continent and fellow dinosaurs roamed freely.

At that time Enda would have been very familiar with all kinds of seismic shifts, due to the initial tectonic movements at the time. The big bonus was that it was definitely the pre Phil Hoganite era and the fault lines of Irish Water were still dormant. In those turbulent times, it was every man for himself and the art of cronyism was only evolving.

Gerry would also have been very happy in the shifting sands of the time, as it was pre-IRA and he wouldn’t be pestered by those pesky journalists about membership of illegal organisations. His howling against the volatile and volcanic elements would have been to little or no avail.

Micheal would be equally contented, as the ghosts of Haughey and the lads were just zygotes making their way in the murky and soupy seas. Thankfully, he was where he was, the economy was safe and the financial wrecking ball of Fianna Fail hadn’t yet been spawned.

Essentially, these three men of uncertain vintage are more suited to a different era, rooted in and suited to the distant past where the ancient art of politics was just that – ancient, more in tune with Neanderthal modes of conduct in a different epoch.

Evolution, in the meantime, has been ruthless in rooting out the weak, the error-prone and the dispensable: their respective parties would do well to consider the serious and seismic consequences of inaction before the next general election.

John Healy, Bishopstown Road, Cork

With so many of our politicians “making mistakes” and “learning lessons” I propose the establishment of a new third-level institute to resolve the problem – The Learning Institute for Mistaken Politicians” (LIMP).

The award would be made by a Tolerant Aware Public (TAP) and would be entitled the Doctorate in Gravitas (DIG). The costs of the new institute would be kept off balance sheet because they would be borne by the consultants to Irish Water and bonus-awarded staff of that same semi-state. There would be no shortage of candidates for enrolment and the teacher-pupil ratio would be acceptable to the Department of Education since there would be no shortage of volunteer lecturers.

This suggestion should “wash” with the public and would “clean up” some problems for the government.

Liam Cooke, Coolock, Dublin 17

Mairia Cahill case

Two issues have arisen lately in this sad series of events in relation to the Mairia Cahill case.

How can Gerry Adams apologise in Leinster House on behalf of the IRA, if he was not a member of said organisation? And how can the Taoiseach ask for a full investigation into how the IRA deal with issues like this, when they are a faceless group? That is simply not possible.

Declan Carty, Sandymount, Dublin 4

Action needed on cyclopaths

Our pavements are no longer safe for walkers and have been taken over by cyclists. A whole generation of cyclists now use the pavements as a right. They are unaware that it is prohibited by law, simply because of the lack of enforcement over many years. Maybe the cycle lanes could be converted into safe walkways?

Harry Mulhern, Kilbarrack, Dublin 13

EU is not our friend

Referring to banking debt (private debt) A Leavy (Letters, October 23) writes: “it was all Irish debt and was, therefore, our responsibility”.

Nonsense. That rational would suggest that if any Irish-owned private business found itself in financial difficulty, and on the verge of bankruptcy, it could then turn to the State (Irish taxpayers) for support. Why have bankruptcy laws at all?

The EU does not have our best interests at heart. It is an affiliation of countries where the large dominates the small. As for the EU countries that underwrote our so-called ‘bailout’ loan? They stand to make billions in profit, all coming from taxes imposed on Irish citizens.

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co Louth

Make mine a large one

Should anyone now ordering a whiskey with water be entitled to a bonus pint?

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Irish Independent


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