30 October 2014 Servas

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day off to the postoffice and the Co op. The ‘Servas’ visitor finally answers the phone and I cancel his visit.

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


Michael Sata was a former British Rail train driver who became president of Zambia on his fourth attempt, aged 74

Michael Sata gesturing upon his arrival at the Solwezi airport before an election campaign meeting in 2014

Michael Sata gesturing upon his arrival at the Solwezi airport before an election campaign meeting in 2014 Photo: AFP

6:09PM GMT 29 Oct 2014


Michael Sata, who has died aged 77, was a populist president of Zambia who denounced China’s role in Africa and promised to stop his country from being a “dumping ground for their human beings”.

Prickly, irascible, intolerant and notably inept at the business of administration, Sata had to wait until he was 74 before winning the presidency on his fourth attempt. Yet for all his faults, he became the insistent voice of millions of Zambians who bitterly resented the impact of Chinese investment on their country.

As a mineral-rich nation laden with copper, Zambia was an early target of China’s sweep into Africa. By the early 21st century, Chinese companies were operating mines and running supermarkets in the capital, Lusaka.

While Beijing called this a “win-win” partnership, ordinary Zambians could not help noticing that one side tended to win much more than the other. The minerals that China extracted were vastly more valuable than the infrastructure it built in return; Chinese factories put local competitors out of business; and a series of accidents claimed scores of lives in Chinese-run mines.

During the 2006 election, Sata, by then leader of the Patriotic Front party, sought to mobilise this anger behind his bid for the presidency. “We want to work with the Chinese, but they must change,” he said as the votes were being counted. “Their labour relations are very bad. They are not adding any value to what they claim is investment. Instead of creating jobs for the local workforce, they bring in Chinese workers to cut wood and carry water. We don’t want Zambia to be a dumping ground for their human beings.”

When Sata was defeated, his supporters mounted the first anti-China riot in Africa, rampaging through Lusaka and looting Chinese-owned shops and businesses. While Sata gained only 28 per cent of the total vote, he won majorities in the areas most affected by Chinese investment. In Lusaka, he polled almost three times as many votes as Levy Mwanwasa, who was re-elected president.

In opposition, Sata warmed to his theme, saying in 2007: “We want the Chinese to leave and the old colonial rulers to return. They exploited our natural resources too, but at least they took good care of us. They built schools, taught us their language and brought us the British civilisation. At least Western capitalism has a human face; the Chinese are only out to exploit us.”

Michael Sata campaigning in 2006 (AFP)

When he finally won the presidency in 2011, however, Sata did not act on his words. By that time, China’s stake in Zambia was such a vital component of the economy that only a supreme effort of political resolve could have reduced Beijing’s influence. Sata, elderly and increasingly infirm, was simply not up to the task.

Having been the first senior African politician to challenge China, he became a compliant partner for Beijing once he was in power.

Michael Chilufya Sata was born on July 6 1937 in the Mpika area of what was then the British Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia. He attended a mission school and briefly trained for the Catholic priesthood – until he was expelled from Lubushi Seminary for bullying and fighting.

He then served in the colonial police force for two years before going to jail for incitement to violence. Sata was locked up for giving an inflammatory address in a miners’ beer hall in the Copperbelt region. Whether he was delivering a passionate condemnation of colonial rule – as he later claimed – or whether his liquid diatribe was actually on more prosaic matters remains unclear. But Sata served six months of a two-year sentence. On his release, he moved to Britain in 1959 and worked variously in a laundry in Bromley, a car factory in Luton and at Victoria station. Sata enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of British Rail, being promoted from cleaner to porter to conductor and, finally, train driver.

He returned to his homeland shortly before it achieved independence as the new nation of Zambia in 1964 and began his political career as a follower of Kenneth Kaunda, the country’s first president.

Sata made his mark as an energetic governor of Lusaka from 1985 onwards. But he fell out with Kaunda – who would later dismiss his subordinate as “not presidential material” – and joined a new opposition party, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD).

After the MMD unseated Kaunda in 1991, Sata held a series of ministerial posts, including at the departments of labour, local government and health.

But he was disgusted when his new party failed to choose him as its presidential candidate in 2001. Sata was appalled to see this accolade go to Levy Mwanawasa, a dull and reliable man popularly known as “the cabbage”.

Sata walked out of the MMD and formed his own party, the Patriotic Front. After losing three elections, he defeated Rupiah Banda and finally became president in 2011.

Yet, sick and exhausted, Sata was only sporadically in charge of Zambia’s government. He would disappear for months at a time, surfacing only to make erratic announcements.

When students at the University of Zambia dared to protest against the removal of subsidies on maize and fuel in 2013, Sata flew into a rage and ordered the immediate expulsion of all those involved in the demonstrations. Police stormed the university campus, drenched the halls of residence with tear gas and arrested 23 students. Only the intervention of foreign ambassadors led Sata to back down from this outburst.

As his health worsened, the day-to-day governance of Zambia was effectively left in the hands of Guy Scott, a Cambridge-educated economist who served as vice-president.

Last month, with rumours swirling about his condition, Sata stood before Zambia’s parliament and proudly declared: “I am not dead!”

He promptly disappeared again, missing the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of independence, before the government yesterday told Zambians that their president had died in a London hospital on Tuesday.

Michael Sata married first, Margaret Manda, and secondly, Christine Kaseba. He had at least 10 children.

Michael Sata, born July 6 1937, died October 28 2014


British military personnel depart Camp Bastion British military personnel at Kandahar airfield, preparing to leave Afghanistan for the final time. Photograph: EPA

As an anti-war activist, I see no reason to celebrate the British troops’ withdrawal from Helmand province, although this has happily brought to “an end a costly chapter in the 13-year campaign, with the vast majority of the 453 troops who died in the conflict losing their lives fighting the Taliban insurgency in Helmand” (Report, 27 October). Private security firms, arms dealers, people smugglers, cheque-book journalists and other merchants of war must be bitterly regretting the end of what has been a very lucrative business enterprise.

Of course they would have long anticipated this change and made concrete arrangements to relocate their bloody operations to Libya, Syria, Iraq, northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, where they are hoping that the longer the conflicts last, and the more civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable people lose their lives, the higher the profit margin will be. It is this business aspect of war which is making it very difficult to achieve lasting world peace and security – which is vital for ending poverty.
Sam Akaki

• It was not the lack of a strategy by the US and the UK in Afghanistan that was wrong; it was the whole benighted exercise (No victory parade for the fourth Afghan war, Journal, 28 October). The illegal “intervention” in Iraq was not a “strategic blunder”, but quite simply a war crime, in line with the Nuremberg ruling that waging aggressive war is the primary crime within which are subsumed all others. The attack on 9/11 was a crime, not an act of war, as was conceded by Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, in her Reith lecture. It could and should have been responded to using the mechanisms of international law, imperfect though they are.

Had diplomacy and international law been used in 2001, instead of the mightiest military power in history attacking one of the world’s poorest countries in the name of the “war on terror”, many thousands of lives would have been saved. And the world would be much safer today.

Of course, saying this does not help those thousands of casualties – they are still just as dead – but a general recognition of this fundamental point is essential to the quest for a long-term solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Frank Jackson
Harlow, Essex

Your editorial (28 October) is right to say that the British army needs to examine serious questions like what it is for, how and when it can be useful. These questions are unlikely to be answered by the present government, though, when the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, foolishly makes claims such as that “we have the best armed forces in the world and I am going to keep them that way”. Indeed, the problem is much wider, since major parts of the main political parties have still not managed to come to terms with the fact that Britain is no longer a world power. Vainglorious boasting like Fallon’s not only does nothing to help, but actually impedes the process of recognising where we really do stand in the world.
Dr Richard Carter

• Now our forces are returning from Afghanistan, is it not time for a full assessment of what roles are likely to be appropriate for our armed forces in the future? While you draw attention to the need for assessing the future role and requirements of the army, surely there is need for a more far-reaching consideration. In particular, what purpose, if any, will be served by the very expensive replacement of Trident and the commissioning of the new aircraft carriers. Here is surely an opportunity for the Labour party to show initiative and relevant concern for Britain’s future.
John Chubb
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

• In all the reports about Afghanistan, the total number of British war dead in this conflict (453) has been repeatedly stressed. But nowhere have I seen any mention of the number of Afghans, both combatant and non-combatant, who have been killed, either accidentally or deliberately, by the British troops there. Surely, we should also be given this figure to help us make a more balanced assessment of the role the British have played there over the past 13 years?
Mike Garnier

• Hugh Hetherington (Letters, 25 October) cites Syria as an example of unsuccessful “non-intervention”. He is mistaken. A long list of countries has provided military aid to the rebels, including Saudi Arabia, France, Britain, the US, Turkey and Qatar – and have resolutely held the rebel forces to a position of non-negotiation with the Assad regime. Possibly a majority of Syrian rebels are not Syrian; and the fact that the rebels are dominated by hardline Islamists is a direct consequence of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Syria is another disastrous casualty of “intervention”.
Peter McKenna

Wilshaw Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted. ‘Ofsted is not going to go away – there is no political will for that; no political capital to be gained from it,’ writes Professor Colin Richards. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

Your vox pop of senior education figures (The verdict on Ofsted? ‘requires improvement’, Education, 28 October) was damning. It is clear that all trust has been lost; Ofsted is regarded as a highly politicised, untrustworthy, damaging organisation. That’s one reason why the Green party is calling for its abolition and replacement with continuous collaborative assessment and a national council of educational excellence working closely with local authorities.

Of course we need more change than that. The state of Ofsted is a reflection of the state of a system that is vastly overfocused on exams, has lost local democratic accountability, and has left teachers overworked, disempowered and increasingly demoralised.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green party

• The views of 16 educationalists on Ofsted and its inspection of schools leads me to wonder, what is Ofsted for? Is this intimidating body with its constantly changing goalposts the best way of spending £70m on improving education? My answer is that, after 22 years’ meandering, it should be abolished. In its place is needed a revitalised, small, well-trained HM inspectorate looking at national issues and local inspectors/advisers giving challenge and support to schools in a locality that they are familiar with. Yes, returning to the school support system of pre-1988 that was demolished for political reasons and not on the basis of research evidence.

If, as I suspect, this would liberate substantial funds, they could be spent to great value on Sure Start centres, linking them to primary schools to give parental support in helping the language development of those very young children who sadly are growing up in culturally impoverished families. This would be a much more effective strategy for raising educational standards than Ofsted inspections because it would focus on those all important first two years of life and parent-child verbal interaction. With limited funding for education we should not waste it on ill-conceived inspections.
Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire

• I obviously inhabit a parallel universe to that of your editors and contributors. In my Britain, black and minority ethnic children and young people are more likely to end up in schools struggling to give them a high-quality education, their parents are more likely to be frustrated then engaged and black and minority ethnic teachers are more likely to have disciplinary proceedings taken against them. In this world, it is difficult to find evidence that Ofsted has led to improvements in the experience of these children, their parents or this group of teachers, except to note that “outstanding” schools have very quickly been shown to be failing as a result of a “Trojan horse”.

I look forward to your next review of Ofsted and how it has contributed to progressing equality for all.
Jabeer Butt
Deputy chief executive, Race Equality Foundation

• I hope the consultation Ofsted is engaged in will involve a wide spectrum of opinion – far wider than the Guardian’s so-called “public inquiry” which, with one or two exceptions, features the usual suspects. I am surprised at the political and educational naivety of many of their responses. Ofsted is not going to go away – there is no political will for that; no political capital to be gained from it. In the current climate, parents and local communities are not going to be satisfied with peer evaluation by schools, even if moderated by a distant Ofsted. There can be no return to a golden age of stress-free inspection and evaluation.

Certainly Ofsted requires improvement – as it itself has belatedly acknowledged. Its culture is shifting for the better (in my judgment) and the way to work towards a more responsive, more proportionate and more humane inspection regime is to support that shift, though not in an unquestioning way.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Prime Minister David Cameron Greets Emir of Qatar David Cameron. ‘Perhaps our 27 fellow EU members and the ­commission have become so fed up with Britain’s persistent moaning that they’d quite like to see the back of us,’ writes Dick Boland. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty

The £1.7bn statistical adjustment is painted as some sort of invoice for money to be spent by “Eurocrats” (EU’s €2bn demand on UK, 24 October). No mention of the fact that this money will largely be spent in member states and that poorer countries get a larger proportion of that. Some time ago it was thought to be in the UK national interest to support less-affluent economies, in particular in southern and eastern Europe. That apparently has changed to just making sure to pay as little as possible.

On that note it is misleading to show a graphic just with the total payment and repayment numbers by country. These countries vary massively regarding the size of their economies. Payments in percent of GDP would show a more appropriate picture and demonstrate the UK’s €1.7bn is not that exciting. Another interesting possibility would have been the percentage of total contributions since 1994, the period this adjustment covers. That little bit of adding context would have made the difference to the tabloid papers.
Stefan Wundrak
Garching bei München, Germany

• Jonathan Freedland’s article (In his anger, Cameron has made Britain a toxic brand, 25 October) hints at but does not develop what could be a very real scenario. Perhaps, just perhaps, our 27 fellow EU members and the commission have become so fed up with Britain’s persistent moaning and general obstructionism that they’d quite like to see the back of us.

Perhaps the £1.7bn “adjustment” is part of a cunning plan to push us further in that direction. Perhaps if or when Britain does vote to leave their attitude will be “OK, off you go and good riddance; oh and don’t think for a minute you are going to get a sweetheart, single-market, trade deal”. Just a thought.
Dick Boland
Lewes, East Sussex

• It has recently come to the light of the authorities, mainly because I’ve been bragging about how much better I’ve been doing than my neighbours, that my income over the previous years has been greater than I have previously declared. I also failed to reveal certain cash-in-hand, black-economy items. I am now being pursued for a “surcharge” on my extra income. This is grossly unfair. Will Mr Cameron please help me?
Doug Edwards

I was saddened to read Rose George’s article about dementia and to realise just how bad things are in the UK (How not to solve the dementia crisis, Journal, 29 October). I am thankful for moving to France 17 years ago. Four years ago my wife started to lose her memory. Within four weeks she had seen a specialist and a psychologist, and had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. She was put on to medication at once and her progress was followed by our family doctor and the specialist.

A year ago she had reached a point where she was unable to wash and dress herself and she was assigned the aides-soignant. At about 8.30am the aide arrives, takes her into the bathroom, toilets and showers her, with hair washed and dried too if necessary, then dresses her. At the same time, the service of an aide for persons who have problems living at home came in. My wife was assessed, then help decided on. Now, each month I receive a book of cheques which I can use to pay for a carer to spend time with her. The cheques cover three hours a week and I pay for an extra one, so that she has two two-hour sessions per week. She has now been accepted for the local day centre. This means she will be in a group of similar people, maximum size 15 and with five specially trained nurses, and will spend the whole day being worked with and cared for. Also she is collected by taxi each morning and returned the same way in the evening. I do have to pay for this service – €55 a day. We have started with one day a week, but I have the option to increase it to two days a week which I will certainly do.

It is obvious that France is a long way ahead of the UK – largely thanks to that much-reviled former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who had the foresight to realise this was something that would grow and that the country needed to be ready for it. When will the UK catch up?
Ian Cooper
Molitg les Bains, France

A boy of 10 looking sad and depressed in his school uniform Casually offensive remarks about religion, ethnicity sexuality or looks can be taken harshly by young people. Photograph: TMO Pictures/Alamy

I was saddened, but not surprised to read of the archbishop of Canterbury’s warning about an upsurge in racist comments (Cameron hardens stance on Brussels’ £1.7bn demand, 28 October). Although these are not criminal or violent acts, the language we use casually to describe others we perceive as different in any way, can have an equally damaging long-term effect. Our educational charity, the Anne Frank Trust UK, works with over 30,000 young people a year, in schools, prisons and communities throughout the country, and we hear from many young people what it feels like to be the victim of casually offensive remarks about their religion, ethnicity, sexuality or looks. But all is not lost for our next generation, thanks to a teenage victim of racism who speaks across the generations about where casual bigotry can lead. A recent study by the school of psychology at the University of Kent and Independent Academic Research Studies, found that 92% of young people who had gone through an Anne Frank Trust intensive educational programme better recognised the dangers of prejudice. We hope they will carry these lessons with them through life.
Gillian Walnes
Co-founder and executive director, Anne Frank Trust UK

The aviation minister believes it is so vital to keep “our regions connected with London” that he’s coughed up a £3m subsidy for Newquay airport (Report, 27 October). I didn’t hear much from the minister when Blackpool airport closed two weeks ago. Perhaps some regions are more important than others.
Ron McGarvey
Sandbach, Cheshire

• Isn’t it ironic that as Sir Nicholas Winton is awarded the highest of civilian honours by the Czech Republic for saving 669 children from the Nazis (Report, 29 October), the Home Office intends to let migrant children and their families drown rather than save them (Report, 28 October)? What does Sir Nicholas think of this, I wonder?
Phil Rhoden
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

• It may be that diets of apples and Diet Coke, or nine eggs a day, are ridiculous and extreme (Why all the ludicrous macho diets, Shortcuts, 28 October) but Charlie Falconer an idiot? Never. Can’t speak for the other two.
Margaret Prosser
House of Lords

• If Rosemary Auchmuty is correct (Letters, 28 October) it follows that there is little point in feminism – after all, women have significant differences between us on the basis of class, colour, religion, wealth etc. It is through what we’ve in common – ie fighting discrimination hatred and violence – that women, black people and disabled people have created movements for change. I’ve lived through many of the struggles for solidarity of the LGBT community and they are little different from the ones I’ve addressed against racism and violence against women. Solidarity or atomisation?
Linda Bellos

• I am 66 years old and I have not led a sheltered life. Penises and menstruation I know about – but what on earth is hydraulics (The woman on a crusade to give the internet generation a porn-free sex education, Family, 25 October)?
Phil Harvey


My late father, Kit Davison, never having met his own father (Private William Reginald Davison, killed Ypres 1915, around the very day my father was born), Armistice Day means a lot to my family. But to remember the fallen, we should keep it to a day, or maximum a few days.

TV presenters starting to wear poppies on 1 October is nauseating. Armistice “Day” will become meaningless if we “celebrate” it for two months. We all know that, immediately after Halloween, our supermarkets will start playing muzak such as “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”.  And in January they’ll put Easter eggs on the shelves.

Perhaps even worse is the new tendency for celebrities to out-poppy one another. I am writing this while angered by Home Secretary Theresa May’s glittering designer  poppy during Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons. How dare she?

Every man who fell during the Great War – the grandfather I never got a chance to hug, his comrades, officers, and their young German and other enemy counterparts – had nothing in common but for the last breath they took.

They died equal. The poppy is a symbol of equality, not of status or celebrity. Lest we forget, keep it simple. Otherwise we may indeed forget.

P J Davison
Richmond upon Thames


Another Afghan fiasco is ending. My heart sank in 2006 when the Defence Secretary John Reid announced Britain was once again to invade Afghanistan to “help the Afghans construct their own democracy”.  I knew my soldier son, who had already invaded Iraq at Tony Blair’s behest – and seen two of his best friends killed in that benighted adventure – would be deployed

After eight years, he made it back alive but he left 450 of his comrades in the desert wastes where the former Defence Secretary had suggested “not a shot would be fired”. He left an Afghan government mired in corruption, opium production at record levels and the Taliban, as strong as ever, waiting to return as soon as Western troops leave.

Nothing speaks more clearly of our failure than the memorial wall at Camp Bastion being dismantled and shipped home to stop it being desecrated by “grateful” Afghans.

The Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews


We must act now against Ebola threat

I hope that those members of the Home Affairs Select Committee who met with the Mayor of Calais (report, 29 October) also read your editorial on the problems of the illicit immigrants from Africa who risk everything to reach mainland Europe, and also your front page piece on the problems facing the West African countries in seeking to control the Ebola epidemic.

Unless a truly international response, in money terms on the scale of spending on the wars against terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, is mobilised at once, and the epidemic is somehow contained, then it will spread not only to other African countries but to the rest of the world with Europe being the first stop.

It would only take a small number of those fleeing West Africa to pass the infection on to those crossing the Mediterranean. Given the conditions of life of those packed into boats, in shipping containers or in the makeshift camps where they settle temporarily once they have landed, the spread of the disease would be inevitable and impossible to contain.

The European countries affected, including Britain and France, should be taking steps immediately to ensure that all new illegal immigrants are received and accommodated properly and in such a way that as soon as one with Ebola is identified then they can be properly isolated and treated and others quarantined. This should apply to the unauthorised camps at Calais, and cross-channel agreement reached now on what happens when the first case of Ebola breaks out there.

John Orton

Forget HS2, let’s focus on HS4 and HS5

The Independent, registered in Derry Street in London, risks failing to see that infrastructure is a countrywide issue. It might be thought that the paper has a one-track mind, that being HS2 (editorial, 28 October).

HS3 would bring real benefits to the North, in contrast to the incredibly expensive HS2, the object of which is to extract resources from the provinces and transfer them to imperial London. That is the opposite of the devolution we need.

Rather than attacking HS3, The Independent should promote HS4, and HS5, from Bristol, across Saxland (South-east, South- west and East Anglia), and improved commuter lines within the city regions. That could all be done for a fraction of the cost of HS2. But it would mean investing in the provinces, instead of spending many times as much on London.

Robert Craig


The carbon-intensive rail project HS3, like HS2, is a costly fantasy. The proposal for an HS3 to cross the Pennines is a tacit admission that the entire concept of HS2 is a disastrous mistake. It’s an acknowledgement that instead of building routes into London that only the rich can afford, we should be looking to increase capacity and provide better connections between our northern towns and cities.

But the HS3 proposal is not the way to do it. By re-opening old lines – such as that between Skipton and Colne, and the “Woodhead” route between Sheffield and Manchester – we could produce a major capacity increase, adding two trans-Pennine routes at less than 10 per cent of the cost of the proposed HS3.

Rupert Read
Green Party transport spokesperson


Your editorial (28 October) refers to the Humber Bridge as “the majestic sweep of another transport infrastructure project that promised much but failed to deliver”. Unlike HS3 which, if I ever live to see it, will bring significant economic benefits to the long-neglected M62 corridor, the Humber Bridge was a simple political bribe at the January 1966 by-election for the Hull North marginal seat.

Harold Wilson had a majority of just three and was facing defeat but he relied on a speech from the Transport Minister Barbara Castle made in the week before the poll in which she promised to build the bridge. Labour won with a 4.5 per cent swing, the largest swing to a governing party in a marginal by-election since 1924. As a result, the Humber Bridge was constructed in the late 1970s, during the time I spent at Hull University studying economics. I watched as the magnificent structure was being built, the longest single span suspension bridge in the world and, as my wonderful economics lecturer Dr Eric Evans was famous for stating, “a bridge to nowhere”.

Jeff Caplan
Hale, Cheshire


The public, not Farage, is setting the agenda

Andrew Grice (25 October) asserts that Nigel Farage is now setting the political agenda. Not so: it is (at last) the British people.

Many UK voters have for years had their perfectly rational fears about many aspects of the EU’s governance, and in particular levels of immigration into the UK, ignored by the main political parties. Ukip is articulating these fears, and in doing so appears to be drawing in support from across the political spectrum – including people like myself who have always voted Liberal.

For too long most politicians have seemed deaf to the concerns of many UK residents. They now appear to be worried that their policies are not reflecting the views of an ever-growing proportion of the electorate.  If the established political parties broadly believe in the EU as currently constructed, they should defend their positions. The unseemly rush by the both Labour and the Tories to update party policy, in an attempt to head off Ukip, reflects badly on leadership and policy makers in both camps. It does however suggest that the body setting the political agenda is the voting public.

Michael Forster
East Horsley, Surrey


Argentina’s hypocrisy over the Malvinas

The hypocrisy of Argentina’s “Secretary for the Malvinas” (a vacuous government non-job if there ever was one) is staggering. It takes quite a brass neck to complain “about sovereignty, about territory” when his country has been quite happy to strip that from others.

 Until Argentina grants independence to and restores its tranches of the kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia, whose aborigine Mapuche peoples were invaded and annexed by Chile and Argentina and have suffered under Buenos Aires’ colonial boot-heel for over 150 years – continuing to be discriminated against today – Argentina does not have even the flimsiest moral position from which to complain about British “imperialism”.

Robert Frazer

What’s wrong with bumping into the PM?

Your report on the unfortunate Dean Farley  (28 October) simply said:  “He was released without charge.” What did the poor man do, except collide with Cameron, whose security detail were caught napping? He should sue for wrongful arrest.

P J Hill


Sir, Emma Duncan’s piece on a more tolerant Britain (“Believe it or not, the bigots are dying out”, Oct 28) ironically appeared just a few hours after the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning about an upsurge in racist comments reported by clergy. Much of what Duncan says about attitudes changing over the decades is sound. But Archbishop Welby is also right to voice his concern. The language we use casually to describe others can have along-term effect. Here at the Anne Frank Trust UK we work with 30,000 young people a year and hear directly what it feels like to be the victim of casually offensive remarks about religion, ethnicity, sexuality or looks. Our programme helps these young people to better recognise the dangers of prejudice. We hope that they will carry these lessons with them, and that in future decades Britain will be held as a beacon of tolerance.
Gillian Walnes
Executive director, Anne Frank Trust UK

Sir, The forms of bigotry of which Emma Duncan writes are dying out — but an alternative strain of the disease is growing. It can be seen in those who insult, ostracise and seek to gag those who disagree with the accepted wisdom, of which the new bigots perceive themselves to be supreme arbiters. This approach, combined with an excessive fear of causing offence and the often synthetic outrage thus engendered, has hampered debate and impeded problem-solving in myriad areas: the issues associated with immigration and climate change are but two. I am as pleased as Duncan at the progress that our nation has made. My hope is that we can grow into a country where, within the constraints of the law, everyone feels free to express their views and others have the civility to listen carefully and respectfully, however much they might disagree, and where no one seeks to cause offence but all realise that they have no right not to be offended. In such an atmosphere we might make mature and sensible decisions.
Mark Franklin
Bromyard, Herefordshire

Sir, In the late 1960s invitations to my house were shunned by classmates. Rumour had it that they would be forced to eat sheep’s eyes for supper as my family not being English ate “foreign” food. Thank goodness the bigots are, as Emma Duncan claims, dying out. However, Duncan’s surprise that concern over immigration is growing at a time when racism is in decline is curious. Equating the two has, after all, helped to stifle debate for many years. She may be right in believing that the concerns of some for their wages, jobs or culture are just selfish or de minimis, but she should not just dismiss them all as bigots.
J Mark Martyrossian
London SW1

Sir, While I agree with much of what Emma Duncan says, the patronising style of the conclusions is quite extraordinary. Yet another establishment figure deigns to tell the “mass” that their concerns are really ill-founded because she knows better. This is exactly what is driving voters to Ukip.
Kevin Smith
Berkhamsted, Herts

Sir, Emma Duncan wonders why racism plays no part in the current concern about immigration. I suggest that the concern is caused simply by pressure of numbers in an overcrowded island, regardless of people’s country of origin. Excluding Malta, England is Europe’s most densely populated country and our precious countryside is being lost to development. Public concern is justified.
Rosemary Horsey
Stockbridge, Hants

Sir, Reading the opinion pieces by Emma Duncan and Ed Conway (“Europe is still awaiting its Thatcher moment”), it seems we can lay claim to leading western Europe in both tolerance and economics, strong cards indeed — and we have a chance to build our relationships with the rest of the world based on our strengths. It is infuriating, then, that our government prefers to pander to Ukip and so waste this historic opportunity. It’s easy to forget that the UK rose as one nation to cheer home Mo Farah, a black, Somali-born Muslim just two years ago. Some of us are still out here cheering, wherever Cameron and his cronies may try to lead us.
Ian Midgley
Hadlow, Kent

Sir, The problem of “revolving-door payments” for public-sector executives (report, Oct 28) is often the result of staff cuts that are made too quickly. This leads to organisations struggling — and so the need to rehire. Yes, action should be taken to address payments to senior staff who quickly return to the public sector, but better planning is needed too.
Eamon Keating
Chairman, Defence Police Federation

Sir, Apropos your report which said that “stealth jets are to land in 2018, but only four of them” (Oct 29). How will we know if there are only four?
David Leibling
Pinner, Middlesex

Sir, Why would anyone want Elsanta strawberries at Christmas? (report, Oct 29). We won’t buy them at any time — totally tasteless!
Martin O’Keeffe
West Chiltington, W Sussex

Sir, Following the letter on whether Manchester is in the north (Oct 29), it should be pointed out that the centre of Great Britain is near Dunsop Bridge (as computed by Ordnance Survey using the centre-of-mass principle). This is 35 miles north of Manchester, so that city together with Leeds and Hull are in the southern half of Britain. The border between south and north lies 1.5 miles south of Forton (Lancaster) services on the M6, or at Junction 46 (Wetherby North) on the A1 (M). York can be called a northern city (but only just).
Scirard Lancelyn Green
Bebington, Wirral


Chopin composed the Heroic Polonaise in 1842 

6:55AM GMT 29 Oct 2014


SIR – I’ve never met a Pole I didn’t like.

Only the other day, absent-mindedly whistling a tune from some bit of classical music as I cycled through the streets, I passed a group of building workers having a break. They all looked up at me and grinned: one gave me a wave. I was puzzled, then realised I was whistling Chopin – the Heroic Polonaise.

How many British builders would be able to identify an early 19th-century piano work?

Mike Foster
Teddington, Middlesex

Haitch is for Harrius

SIR – Your correspondents who so hate unnecessary aspiration may like to know that the defect has been abhorred for a long time.

The poet Catullus, of the first century BC, writes about a certain Arrius who so annoyed his contemporaries in Rome with his aitches, that “everyone’s ears had a rest” when the culprit was posted to Syria.

Much to their dismay they learnt not long afterwards that after Arrius’s passage, the Ionian Sea had become the Hionian.

Sally Knights
Classics Department, Redland High School

Blue-sky thinking

SIR – Your headline “Met Office pledges reliable forecast” implies that this will be a one-off event.

Can you please find out on which day this will occur so that I can plan ahead?

Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – Surely we don’t need a shiny new computer from the Met Office to tell us it will rain on bank holiday Monday as usual.

Peter Golding
St Austell, Cornwall

We should restore real discretionary power to head teachers

What a carry on: millions will soon be grappling with the family’s annual holiday packing dilemma

Should parents take their children out of school for holidays? Photo: PHOTOLIBRARY.COM

6:56AM GMT 29 Oct 2014


SIR – Throughout my 31-year teaching career, it was accepted that a head teacher could, in certain circumstances, allow pupils to be absent for 10 consecutive school days in order to accompany their parents on holiday.

Those circumstances did not permit parents to take a holiday during term time simply because off-season prices were lower. They certainly did not allow pupils to miss odd days for trips to see relatives or to go Christmas shopping. It amazes me that some local authorities feel that the latest legislation to stem the tide of absence is wrong.

The problem could, of course, be solved by restoring real discretionary power to head teachers.

Christopher Pratt
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – No matter how worthy the intentions of those who insist children should not be removed from school for holidays, they take no account of parents who work in service industries.

During my employment it was common that some parents only had leave in school holidays every three years, which is unfair to both children and parents.

Chris Spurrier
Eversley Cross, Hampshire

Bustling buses

SIR – Around 6.5 million bus journeys are made every day across the capital and the numbers continue to grow. Buses are rarely empty, although inevitably there are fewer people on them when approaching the terminus.

Our growing city requires major redevelopment works that affect all traffic. Nevertheless, bus reliability remains exemplary and the quantity, quality and range of services provided in London is the envy of the rest of the country.

Mike Weston
Director of Buses, Transport for London
London SW1

SIR – Your correspondent complains that his two-mile taxi journey took an hour because of numerous empty buses.

There would have been less congestion if he’d taken the bus.

Nick Cowley
Nuthurst, West Sussex

Dean Farley, the man who ran into David Cameron, clearly had his thoughts elsewhere at the time

The unidentified young man was bundled away by police officers after shoving Mr Cameron as he left an engagement in Leeds

Dean Farley being bundled away by police officers after shoving Mr Cameron as he left an engagement in Leeds Photo: Steven Schofield/

6:57AM GMT 29 Oct 2014


SIR – Dean Farley, the man who ran into David Cameron, denied seeing him. As photographs show Farley wearing earphones, this is likely to be true.

I have lost count of the number of times that distracted runners have crossed the road in front of me without looking. Fortunately I have managed to read their body language and avoid a collision.

Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire

SIR – While holidaying in the Isles of Scilly in the Sixties, my girlfriend and I were walking to our hotel when there was a power cut. Struggling through the dark and crowded street, I cannoned into a man: we each offered our apologies and went on our way. My girlfriend then pointed out that it was Harold Wilson, the prime minister, that I had almost knocked down.

He and his wife owned a house there and consequently were frequent visitors. In those days there were no security guards in attendance, and he could often be seen walking alone on the beaches with his dog.

David Partington
Higher Walton, Warrington

Protect British heritage for the sake of tourism

The Ely bypass will have a negative impact upon city views, and all for the sake of convenience

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, 1924-1926

Changing views: Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, 1924-1926, by F C Varley  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 29 Oct 2014


SIR – It is sad indeed that the sublime prospect of Ely Cathedral from the surrounding Fens should be forfeit for the sake of saving a few minutes for residents driving to their local railway station or supermarket. The new bypass was opposed by English Heritage, which proposed an alternative, but its advice was set aside by the local bureaucrats.

Heritage is vital for our tourist industry, one of Britain’s few growing and important export earners. Unfortunately, this message has not penetrated the skulls of the planners and councillors.

Peter Milne
Old Catton, Norfolk

SIR – Your article about the Ely bypass only tells one side of the story. In a poll more than 80 per cent of the people of Ely supported the proposal. The A142 runs through the south of the city and crosses the railway line near the station. Cars can go under a low bridge but lorries have to use a level crossing that is closed for approximately half of every hour. This corner of Ely is therefore spoiled by long queues of lorries. A predicted increase in the number of goods trains passing this way means that the queues are only going to get worse unless something is done.

The bypass will have some impact on views of the city from one of the four approach roads. Many of us who have studied the plans believe it will not be too severe, and there is no doubt about the benefits. When the main A142 no longer runs through our lovely city, it will be a more pleasant place to live in and to visit.

Wendy Cope
Ely, Cambridgeshire

The new laws should apply to all managers, not just those earning over the £100,000 threshold

NHS Budget

New laws should stop NHS managers receiving redundancy pay-offs only to be rehired elsewhere in the health service Photo: Alamy

7:00AM GMT 29 Oct 2014


SIR – The eye-watering redundancy payouts to revolving-door NHS chiefs should never have been allowed to happen.

NHS trusts are not private companies, they are taxpayer-funded.

Why does this new legislation only apply to those earning more than £100,000? Legions of NHS middle management employees would also benefit from excessive payouts, far outweighing payments to top management.

And why are the Armed Forces, the

BBC and the Bank of England to be exempt?

Bill Parish
Bromley, Kent

SIR – For many years hospitals were managed by ward sisters, matrons and a competent management committee.

Now we have managers managing the managers, on undeserved salaries.

Pat Booth
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

SIR – I retired from the NHS in 2007, after 40 years of service. Shortly before this I was having lunch with a colleague, a senior consultant surgeon, who said that he and I were retiring in the nick of time.

Looking at the volume of correspondence on the subject of the NHS, and notwithstanding the undoubtedly large quantity unpublished, I can only agree with him wholeheartedly.

It saddens me greatly.

Dr John Gladstone
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, highlights the importance of making savings within the NHS.

I have just seen the practice nurse at my local surgery to have a single stitch removed. The nurse used a 12cm stainless steel pair of tweezers, which are “single use”.

No wonder savings are needed.

Nigel Harrison
Edgefield, Norfolk

SIR – The five-year plan for the NHS presented by Simon Stevens shows the economic cost of our unhealthy lifestyles.

Physical inactivity can lead to obesity and a higher risk of chronic conditions, placing huge demands on NHS resources. Walking is the easiest and most accessible form of exercise and is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.

To encourage people to take action we must make our streets safe and attractive. An Active Travel Bill, like the one passed by the Welsh Assembly last year, should be introduced for the rest of Britain. It would give priority to pedestrians by addressing issues such as pavement parking, high traffic speeds and dangerous crossing points, thus allowing local authorities, transport departments and planners to make walking safer and easier for all.

Joe Irvin
Chief Executive, Living Streets
London. E1

Irish Times:

A chara, – I see from his column (“Never mind the evidence, feel the ‘truthiness’ of what Gerry says”, Opinion & Analysis, October 28th) that Fintan O’Toole is now an expert on me. This on top of his other accomplishments. – Is mise,


Teach Laighean,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole should remember that the equivalent of “truthiness’ for the IRA is “mental reservation” for the Catholic Church. – Yours, etc,


Glin, Co Limerick.

Sir, – I was drawn to the recent story in The Irish Times which declared dramatically in its headline “Adams and Sinn Féin suffer drop in support” (October 27th).

I was surprised to discover that on closer examination the story which followed declared that the Sunday Business Post poll indicated support for Sinn Féin had dropped by 3 per cent, while another poll in the Sunday Times showed support for the party unchanged. In the same polls, it was reported that Fine Gael support was down by 2 per cent in one poll, and up by 2 per cent in the other poll. Fianna Fáil remained unchanged in both polls. How can this be declared a slump in support for Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams?

Would a far more accurate headline not be “Kenny and Adams show drop in support, Fianna Fáil unchanged”?

The past week has seen a media frenzy, most of it directed against Sinn Féin and in particular Gerry Adams. The coverage was unbalanced, with an antiGerry Adams and Sinn Féin agenda permeating the entire coverage. What seemed to be forgotten in the media frenzy was that at the heart of this story was a young woman who had suffered a great deal.

Media outlets in Ireland have not covered themselves in glory in recent decades, failing to predict the economic crash, not giving support to the peace process in its infancy, and failing generally to act as a critical watchdog for the people of Ireland. The worry is that while the media outlets are once again in overdrive over Sinn Féin, what really important story are we missing?

I wonder if your readers would agree that having had the banks tested recently, a Dáil committee about to investigate the banking collapse, numerous inquiries into the Catholic Church, that the time has come for the media in Ireland to be stress-tested? It is the only institution that has avoided intense scrutiny. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

A chara, – Once again the ordinary people are getting hit in the pocket with the news that fares on public transport are to be increased yet again (“Public transport fares to increase”, October 29th). This truly is an outrage.

Only last week Enda Kenny was in Brussels seeking an improved deal on greenhouse gas emissions in an offsetting arrangement for our agricultural sector. The latest fares price rise will only serve to push people back into their cars. Traffic on our roads has already increased to pre-recession levels with our road infrastructure now requiring upgrading to deal with same. The National Transport Authority and the Coalition have not taken a cohesive approach here on any level.

The public transport companies have argued that they need the fare increases to supply the services. The travelling public is an easy target.

If the Government cannot increase subvention to the public transport companies then the time has come to introduce competition into the public transport sector. If Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus cannot provide much-needed services at an affordable price for the consumer, then open up the sector to operators who can. Enough is enough! – Is mise,


Malahide Road,

Dublin 17.

Sir, – I nearly fell off my chair last night when I read that the minimum bus fare is now €1.95, a 39 per cent increase since 2012. To get a bus to bring you a couple of stops is nearly the price of a taxi fare. The bus and rail officials state that the numbers travelling have increased. Who are they fooling? Have they looked at the age profiles lately; there are now more over-65s than ever and they can travel for free. We hear about deficits and shortfalls but the reason for the losses is that bus travel is now not affordable to people on a low income. The minimum fare for a couple of stops should be no more than €1.

Look what happened in the past with real reductions in air fares – the overall revenues increased. Needless to say, next year there will be more price increases because the deficit will be even larger! – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Carol Coulter’s article regarding the second interim report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project is both informative and thought-provoking (“Family court urgently needed for vulnerable parents and children”, October 28th). It is obvious from the report that there is a need for the setting up of family courts throughout the country to ensure consistency and continuity of care and support for some of the most vulnerable children and parents.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the quality and consistency of care provided by foster families. The vast majority of foster families provide a loving, caring and nurturing environment for children.

Many of these families work closely with the Child and Family Agency to ensure optimum care is provided.

However there is a minority of foster families whose quality of care is not what it should be.

Thankfully such foster families are in the minority, but with agencies crying out for families to foster children, it is incumbent on all to monitor carefully the welfare of children placed in foster care. With so many social workers weighed down with heavy caseloads, it is inevitable that some children will fall through the cracks.

There is an onus on all of us in society to ensure the welfare of such children is not compromised further because there are not enough social workers employed to monitor their progress, development or wellbeing. – Is mise,


Drogheda, Co Louth.

Sir, – We are in a brief hiatus in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and US on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

In official EU circles it is painted as an opportunity to improve efficiencies between EU and US markets through alignment of regulatory bureaucracy. The advocates promise significant increases in GDP, jobs and standards of living. If the results of previous trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) are anything to go by then ordinary citizens can look forward to job losses, wage stagnation and degradation in public services through exploitative privatisation. Corporate interests were well served by Nafta and no doubt will be well looked after with TTIP. Thus of more than 560 lobbying encounters with the TTIP, approximately 92 per cent were from business lobbyists.

One of the most controversial aspects of the proposed agreement is the concept of ISDS or investor state dispute settlements, the inclusion of which is still in the balance despite recent declarations by Jean-Claude Juncker.

This would allow for corporate interests to sue host countries if, for example, a democratic decision were made to reverse a policy of privatisation of public services. These negotiations are being run by unelected technocrats, under the influence of corporate lobbyists and with little visibility to ordinary citizens for whom the impact will be most significant. What little protections there remain for public services and worker rights within the EU would be in serious danger if TTIP goes ahead.

This agreement, like those before it, merely facilitates the growing global corporate hegemony at the cost of democratic sovereignty. Unlike previous EU treaties there will be no referendum, but the impact of this agreement may be more far-reaching than any previous EU treaty. Increased public awareness and debate on this issue is vital now before any deal is ratified. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – By the time this letter is published, the official death toll from the current outbreak of the Ebola virus will have passed the 5,000 mark. The real figure is, of course, much higher.

The mixture of emotions this provokes is hard to describe. Naturally, I think of friends and associates in west Africa who face the threat, some of them working hard to counter it on behalf of everyone else. But there is also profound frustration that it has come to this, when the situation could have been avoided. Médicins San Frontières (MSF) has been working on the ground from the very start, and warning for many months that urgent action was needed.

It’s not as if we don’t know how to tackle Ebola. It has been stopped in the past, and Nigeria and Senegal have both halted outbreaks in recent weeks, largely with their own resources. Work on vaccines and treatments is of course welcome for the medium term, but we already have the technology to stop the epidemic. This mainly involves education, treatment centres, chlorine and personal protection equipment, contact tracing and trained staff. It is not a high-tech challenge.

Ebola is not infectious until it shows symptoms. Most of those who are infected have been dealing with people who were ill or died in the community. When people are turned away from treatment centres because there is no space left, their return to the community can only mean one thing – that it will spread to more people.

When mobilised, humanity is capable of cooperating to achieve extraordinary and seemingly impossible things – some of them inspiring and positive, others frivolous or even destructive. It’s one of the things which defines us. The way we have collectively responded to this outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which have achieved so much since emerging from war, is not one of our successes. The opportunity to prove ourselves as a species in this case is rapidly disappearing. – Yours, etc,


Institute for International

Conflict Resolution

and Reconstruction,

Dublin City University,

Sir, – I find it extraordinary that Eircom boasts of offering “extra-fast” broadband (“Eircom to offer extra-fast fibre broadband”, October 28th). In rural areas, one relies on atmospheric pressure or what phase the moon is in to see how long it takes to download one’s emails or surf the web! – Yours, etc,


Mount Plunkett,

Co Roscommon.

A chara, – I was bemused to read today that Eircom is to offer extra-fast fibre broadband in 66 towns across the State. Here in Sixmilebridge, Eircom maintains it has efibre available since August. I know of nobody locally who has it installed. Although our home is less than 900 metres from the nearest fibre-enabled cabinet, nobody at Eircom can tell me when, or indeed if, it will actually be available. The newly announced roll-out should be taken with a very large grain of salt. – Is mise,


Droichead Abhann

Uí gCearnaigh,

Co an Chláir.

Sir, – Many of my patients travel to nearby Fermanagh to fill their prescriptions because it is cheaper to do so there. Paul Cullen reports that the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association has stated in a booklet that the price of new medicines must reflect a “fair return” on investment (“Pharma lobby warns against new drug price cuts”, October 28th).

A question that ought to be asked more rigorously is, how many of these new medicines offer a real improvement on existing cheaper medicines? The fact is that few new medicines are what is known in the industry as “breakthrough drugs” (ie offering a real advance in treatment). Many new medicines are “me too ” medicines (ie they do much the same thing as existing medicines).

The State bill for reimbursable medicines is over two billion euro annually. Surely we should be comparing all new medicines with existing medicines and only reimburse at a higher price if the newer medicines are shown to offer a genuine improvement for patients? – Yours, etc,


Virginia, Co Cavan.

Sir, – Tom Cooper (October 17th) suggests that State subsidies enable private schools to provide facilities that State schools cannot afford. This idea complicates and, I believe, distorts the reality. State subsidies go to all schools and enable them to function with a barely adequate level of facilities. (Many supposedly free schools ask parents to “volunteer” the cost of specific extras.)

Fee-charging schools use the income from fees to provide the extra facilities (including additional teachers) that raise standards and maximise their pupils’ advantages. The parents contribute through taxation to the subsidies to all schools. They should not be penalised for seeking higher standards for their children by paying extra.

The unfairness of the system should be addressed by increasing the State’s general subsidies to education, and not by discriminating against fee-paying schools. – Yours, etc,


Avenue Louise,



Sir, – Regarding the launch of Des O’Malley’s memoir Conduct Unbecoming, your newspaper notes that “A galaxy of luminaries from the former political party was in attendance, including its three former leaders, Michael McDowell, Mary Harney and founder leader Des O’Malley” (“PDs gather for founding leader’s book launch”, October 29th). Shouldn’t that be “three of the party’s five former leaders”? Or do Ciarán Cannon’s (2008) and Noel Grealish’s (2009) albeit ephemeral periods as leaders of the once radical, but now redundant, PDs not count? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Incessant changing of lanes for short distances with fast overtaking cars cutting in early to facilitate even faster overtaking cars is a common sight; drivers do well when they mind their own business. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Every day I wake up with great anticipation of the day’s driving ahead. What is in store for me today? The merry lane-change waltz? This is where several cars, without any indication, sweep into your lane or my lane, sweep out again, into the path of a hapless motorist, who is clearly traumatised by the experience. It’s the ballet of the motorway.

Provided you can keep your nerve, you can be entertained for hours. I also love the massive trucks tailgating Micras. Just for fun, I guess. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Every year there are letters in The Irish Times complaining about the Dublin marathon.

This event has been run on the same day for 35 years so it’s not as if those who complain don’t have enough notice of the event.

Marathons are held in hundreds of cities around the world and they bring in tourists; over 4,000 people this year visited to run. Add to that figure the family and friends who came to watch.

As someone who ran in the marathon, I can say the crowds who came out to watch and support were phenomenal. But, as they say, there’s always one.– Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:

Once again, the ordinary folks are getting hit in the pocket with fares on public transport due to be increased yet again -by as much as 28pc in some cases. This truly is an outrage.

Only last week Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in Brussels seeking an improved deal on greenhouse gas emissions in an offsetting arrangement for our agricultural sector. The last price hike will only serve to push people back into their cars. Traffic on our roads has already increased to pre-recession levels, with our road infrastructure now requiring upgrading to deal with the increased volume of traffic.

The National Transport Authority and the Fine Gael / Labour Government have not taken a cohesive approach in relation to this on any level. The public transport companies have argued that they need the fare increases in order to supply the services. The travelling public are an easy target.

If the Government cannot increase subvention to the public transport companies then the time has come to finally introduce competition into the public transport sector.

If Bus Eireann, Iarnrod Eireann and Dublin Bus cannot provide much-needed services at an affordable price for the consumer then open up the sector to operators which can! Enough is enough!

Killian Brennan

Clare Village, Dublin 17

Cigarette price hikes foolish

I am a former smoker – 40 cigarettes per day for 55 years. However, I am very concerned at the claims by NGOs such as ASH.

Their main proposal aimed at reducing smoking is to increase the price of cigarettes. They seem to ignore the fact that increasing the price of cigarettes has resulted in a significant increase in the consumption of legal and illegal cheap foreign cigarettes.

More worrying is the fact that many dangerous counterfeit cigarettes are being consumed.

It is also a fact that the poor and vulnerable spend a greater percentage of their income on cigarettes. It seems reasonable to assume that in these cases every euro increase results in less food, clothing, etc for the children of the poor.

Is this not contrary to the spirit of the “Children’s Referendum”? More of a “Phyrric loss” than a victory.

Charlie Ryan


Honour war dead, not wars

“The people who’ve died in war should be honoured, but war should not be honoured” said the late great historian Howard Zinn. That statement encapsulates the current trend of glorifying war.

The Remembrance Poppy may not be as widely available in Ireland as it is over here in England, but if your readers see them on sale I would encourage them to ask if they sell the white poppy.

Unlike the red ones, the white poppy is to honour all of the war dead, including civilians (around nine out of 10 fatalities in war today are regular people like you, me, and your children). The white poppies are made by Peace Pledge Union.

In Britain we have to get out of this delusion that all of ‘our boys’ are heroes. Britain, the US and it’s allies killed around a million people in Iraq alone. War turns everyone into ‘bad guys’. And when you hear “they died for their country”? That’s a lie. Their lives were taken away from them, and they died for their government. Unfortunately, Britain is less safe now since its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

War must be abolished!

Colin Crilly


Private schools a public flaw

Private schools are a means to divide society, giving privilege to one over the other. It starts with children and is immoral and unjust. Democratic societies should abhor and prohibit such practises.

Who is alright with this?

Harry Mulhern

Kilbarrack, Dublin

Irish Water

Irish Water is a derivation of Bord Gais. It is interesting to look at some recent events in that latter company, to see what may be in store for Irish Water.

Bord Gais Energy – which was a constituent part of the main holding company was recently sold to Centrica (UK) – for less than a €1bn.

The sale contained the new Whitegate electricity generating plant, which reportedly cost over €400m to build and was valued in the sale at just over €100m. This write-down was a considerable loss to the taxpayer.

However, Bord Gais awarded themselves over €50m as a result of the sale, money which was split up among some 1,000 employees.

It suffices to take a quote or two from Fr Ted – “down with this sort of thing” and “careful now”.

Donal Deering

Kilkenny city

Having been submerged in the mess of the on-going saga that is Irish Water I have finally waded onto a piece of partial dry land. Still soaking from my Irish Water encounter I began to think aloud to the squelching wet noise of my shoes.

Is it possible that the model being used by Irish Water managing director John Tierney et al to get us to give them our PPS numbers and our money was designed around the Revenue collecting the water charges, as was done with the local property tax (LPT)?

With Revenue behind them it would have been clear sailing all the way, a la the LPT.

Did the Revenue abandon the plan to act a debt collector at the last minute? A situation which left Irish Water ill equipped to collect the water charges?

Either the above is correct or Tierney et al are not as smart as their salaries suggest.

Time to get back in me bath. Ahhhhhh, lovely.

Damien Carroll

Kingswood, Dublin 24

Only in Ireland can you turn water into a whine.

Kevin Devitte

Westport, Co Mayo

Making allowances

In relation to the clothing allowances paid to RTE “stars” – is it not reasonable to assume that someone earning anything from €5,000 to €12,000 a week should be able to buy their own half-decent guna or suit and tie, etc?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont D9

All life must be respected

Colette Browne (October 28) refers to “an inconvenient truth” with pregnant Irish women buying unregulated abortion pills online and the possible adverse side effects they might cause. She also refers to our “draconian” abortion laws, which preclude abortion, except in a minority of cases where a woman’s pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to her life”.

There is another inconvenient truth; that is the existence of the very real human life growing within the woman’s womb, an entity itself, yet like a new-born baby still reliant on its mother for life. The message we should teach those who feel compelled to seek abortion pills online is that all human life is sacred; both the born and the unborn.

Our abortion laws are neither draconian nor merciless; by giving a voice to those who have none they simply respect the sanctity of all human life.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Irish Independent


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