25 November 2014 Clinic

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to do the housework and take Mary to the clinic.

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


The Venerable Richard Ninis – obituary

The Venerable Richard Ninis was a long-serving archdeacon whose zeal for parish reorganisation earned him the nickname ‘Dick the Knife’

Richard Ninis: the potential unpopularity of his parish reforms was mitigated by buffet suppers hosted by his wife, dubbed 'Jane the Fork'

Richard Ninis: the potential unpopularity of his parish reforms was mitigated by the buffet suppers hosted by his wife, dubbed ‘Jane the Fork’

4:55PM GMT 24 Nov 2014


The Venerable Richard Ninis,who has died aged 82, was Archdeacon of Lichfield from 1979 to 1998, having previously been Archdeacon of Stafford, also in the Lichfield diocese. Happy to be described as “a fixer, a mover and a shaker”, at the time of his retirement he was the longest-serving archdeacon in the modern Church of England .

His appointment as an archdeacon came at a time when a serious shortage of clerical manpower and money was demanding radical pastoral reorganisation throughout the Church. He had already had experience of, and developed an enthusiasm for, the creation of team ministries .

There was ample scope for this in the sizeable Lichfield diocese, embracing largely rural Shropshire and industrial Staffordshire. Ninis set to work with an enthusiasm fuelled by a vision of a reformed and renewed church life.

Successive diocesan bishops were more than ready to let him carry the burden of anger and distress often aroused in parishes about to lose their resident priest, and before long he was referred to as “Dick the knife”. Later it was mischievously suggested that, on seeing the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral, he had recommended the merging of the front two and the redundancy of the third.

Potential unpopularity was, however, often mitigated by face-to-face contact with a kind personality who cared deeply for the clergy and their parishes and worked long hours to produce the facts and figures on which responsible decisions might be made. Generous buffet suppers hosted by his wife (dubbed “Jane the fork”) at his home in the Close at Lichfield also helped.

Invariably Ninis was able to demonstrate that reorganisation was the only constructive way forward. Although not every scheme proved successful, his efforts over so many years played a large part in securing the survival of the parochial system in Lichfield diocese.

Richard Betts Ninis, the son of a Somerset farmer, was born on October 25 1931. While reading Agriculture at Lincoln College, Oxford, he felt drawn to Holy Orders, and after graduating he prepared for ordination at Lincoln Theological College. The curacy at All Saints, Poplar, which followed (1955-62) proved to be highly influential. The already large East End parish was extended further and some of its many curates, including Ninis, were designated team vicars with responsibility for particular areas.

Richard Ninis with his wife Jane

When the rector of Poplar, Mark Hodson, moved to become bishop of Hereford in 1961, he invited Ninis to follow him as vicar of St Mark’s church, Hereford, with responsibility also, from 1966, for the neighbouring rural parishes of Upper and Lower Bullinghope, Grafton, Dewsall and Callow.

Thus experienced in the leadership of a multiple-parish benefice, Ninis was appointed diocesan missioner in 1971 and made a prebendary of Hereford Cathedral. An important new responsibility was that of planning officer for the Church’s ministry in the growing new town of Telford, straddling the diocesan boundaries of Hereford and Lichfield. A team ministry, rather than several separate parishes, was prescribed.

Greatly impressed, three years later the Bishop of Lichfield invited Ninis to become Archdeacon of Stafford – a title changed to that of Archdeacon of Lichfield following a reorganisation of diocesan structures in 1979. As canon treasurer, Ninis was by tradition responsible only for the cathedral’s treasures, not for its finances. But he was never going to be constrained or seek the protection of this tradition, and the arrival of a new dean, John Lang, charged with the task of overhauling the cathedral’s creaking administration, led to a fruitful partnership.

Later Ninis was responsible for the creation of an attractive bookshop at the west end of the cathedral; the introduction of a preparatory department in the cathedral school; and the raising of a significant part of a £4 million appeal for the cathedral’s music. His sermons, it was noted, rarely lacked reference to the stewardship of money.

From 1978 to 1990 he was also chairman of the council of the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, playing a part in its development to become the University of Derby, of which he was vice-chairman from 1992 to 1998 .

Richard Ninis retired to his native Somerset in 1998. He is survived by his wife, Jane, whom he married in 1967, and three children.

The Venerable Richard Ninis, born October 25 1931, died October 15 2014


Prince Charles is given a tour of the National Heritage Garden by Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir Prince Charles is given a tour of the National Heritage Garden by Raymond Blanc at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, on 21 November 2014. Photograph: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

As a foreign outsider, I view British politics from a neutral viewpoint. The problem of Prince Charles’s letters to ministers (Last act in nine-year battle to see content of Charles’s letters, 22 November) points out the very knot of your political system – a system that is only superficially different from the one that has ailed western countries for centuries. Having got rid of kings and princes, such countries claim that democracy is now the prevalent regime. This is a big lie. The will to replace monarchies manifested – and still manifests – the merchant and financier class’s eagerness to suppress all possibility of intervention on the part of a monarch acting as an arbiter in favour of the other classes, more particularly the lower middle class and the lower classes.

That Prince Charles should feel it his duty to wish to intervene in British politics shows that he is fully aware of what is wrong with the present political system. In the UK as well as in France, Italy, Spain, the US, Switzerland and so on, the prevailing system is by no means democracy (elections are a farce) but plutocracy, ie a gathering of bankers, financiers, multinational and deep-state leaders supported by such global institutions as the IMF, the World Bank, the European Central Bank, Nato, the European Union etc, all of them subservient to Washington. Prince Charles’s attitude bears witness to his deep sense of the good he could do to the British people. The hullabaloo his attitude causes demonstrates that the plutocracy intends to defend what it calls globalisation (“a sophisticated system of plunder”, John Pilger justly calls it) and its prerogatives to the bitter end.
Michel Bugnon-Mordant
Fribourg, Switzerland

• Your article (The reign of Charles III, 20 November) said Prince Charles is known for his “meddling”. However, I’m grateful that the Prince of Wales takes the time to meet MPs and write letters to them. He is a voice of reason when he tries to put a brake on governments promoting genetically modified food. His views on GM crops, architecture and more natural farming methods are more in tune with most ordinary people’s opinions. No one now denies that Prince Charles was right about the ugly 1960s and 1970s tower block “architecture”. Unlike government ministers, he doesn’t have to curry favour with the prime minister to safeguard his career, or bow to the demands of industry and other powerful vested interests. We are fortunate to have a prince who doesn’t just sit back and relax, but is concerned about health and the environment.
A Wills

• Prince Charles’s friend Patrick Holden asks how many of us go back to our desks after dinner and remarks that this poor overworked man even writes at 35,000ft (on the royal jet, of course – nothing so dull as a scheduled flight). Well, my husband does, as do millions of other workers who come home to the domestic necessities of life before eating a meal and then returning to essential work for the following day. Maybe Mr Holden and His Royal Highness should abandon some spirituality and worry less about things he obviously knows little about.
Janet Mansfield
Aspatria, Cumbria

• I’m interested to know what form Prince Charles’s “heartfelt interventions” in public life will take. Given his London base, perhaps he would be interested in helping out the London residents of the New Era housing estate by using his not inconsiderable private fortune to buy out the new American owners and thereby giving the present residents back their homes and security (How New Era went from tight-knit community to a global investment, 22 November). It would be a huge statement of the concern he claims to have for the people of this country.
Julia Hall
Morebattle, Scottish Borders

• Admirers of Prince Charles are keen to highlight his interest in organic farming and education, but his views on fur are less well known. In his diaries (entry for 7 March 2006 in Decline and Fall), Chris Mullin records a conversation with John Gilbert, who told him of a time at the MoD when there was a debate on the future of the Guards regiments wearing bearskins. The prospect of artificial bearskins being used resulted “in a letter of protest from the heir to the throne”. Much to Gilbert’s credit, the letter went unanswered.
Tim Wood
East Cowton, North Yorkshire

• Let us not forget that Charles (Speak up, Your Highness. But be ready for the backlash, 21 November) will also be the future King of Australia. I for one hope he shares his dislike of anything post-1967 with us antipodeans, for I can think of no better individual to reinvigorate the cause for an Australian republic.
Richard McKenzie
Melbourne, Australia

• If Prince Charles wishes to make “heartfelt interventions”, he should relinquish the succession and write letters to the Guardian like the rest of us.
David Parker
Meltham, West Yorkshire

Hand shake ‘Strong trade unions must have a central role in a fairer, safer, more secure workplace,’ says Stephen Cavalier. Photograph: Alamy

Seumas Milne (Austerity has clearly failed, 20 November) rightly points out the destructive economic and social effects of an insecure workforce, through zero-hours contracts, the exploitation of migrant workers and the lack of secure and stable jobs.

The workplace relationship needs to be rebalanced, so that everyone at work is treated with dignity and respect, producing a more positive and productive working environment. Strong trade unions must have a central role in a fairer, safer, more secure workplace. Under this government, insecurity, limited rights, economic uncertainty and a lack of legal protection have all become part of a day’s work for too many people in the UK. Huge numbers of workers feel disempowered, disenchanted and disengaged.

That’s why in parliament last week we discussed with MPs and trade unionists our idea for a workplace pledge for every worker, based on the principle of giving rights at work which are fair, clear, understood and enforced. The workplace pledge would provide a framework for tackling and reversing the current trend towards ever greater insecurity, while providing a tool to help rebuild strong, union-organised workplaces.

Every worker, on day one at work, would receive a pledge that sets out their rights and how to exercise them. Key to this would be a fair rate of pay, transparency of pay rates, an end to zero-hours contracts, a safe and secure workplace, an end to employment tribunal fees and a voice at work with the right of access to an independent trade union to advise and represent.

By establishing a pledge to be honoured by all employers, we could tackle exploitation and establish enforceable collective standards applicable to all, bringing an end to the casualisation and undercutting that has such damaging and divisive effects.
Owen Smith MP Labour, Pontypridd, and shadow Welsh secretary, Stephen Cavalier Chief executive, Thompsons Solicitors Hugh Lanning Labour parliamentary candidate for Canterbury


Three crucial issues are misrepresented in the increasingly hysterical “debate” about EU immigration into the UK.

First, Eurosceptics claim that EU immigrants are “taking British jobs”. In reality they are taking jobs that Britons could have, but won’t do at the wages on offer. This is not only the case at the bottom of the scale: 2,300 Polish doctors have come to work in the UK, but in the last year alone over 500 British GPs took their skills abroad.

A second assertion is that the cost of accommodating immigrants damages the British economy. In fact the UK’s vaunted “economic success” depends on a constant supply of labour prepared to work hard for low pay. Any restrictions the government manages to impose on economic immigration will hurt employers first, and the rest of us later.

Finally, eurosceptics endlessly point to Norway and Switzerland as countries which can make their own rules, free of EU red tape. The reality is that both countries maintain their access to European markets only by accepting all aspects of EU freedom of movement regulations – as well as 95 per cent of other EU regulation.

Both are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, and both belong to the Schengen agreement abolishing borders and passport controls within Europe.

Eurosceptic politicians know that most of their claims about EU immigration are demonstrably nonsense. Nevertheless, they appear to be prepared to spout whatever they think might maintain their party in government or themselves in jobs. Where is the genuine leader, of any party, who will cut through the obfuscation and win the arguments by telling the truth? Voters do not like to be taken for fools.

John Brand


I wholeheartedly agree with Ian Richards (letter, 24 November) in that the economic benefits of immigration are undeniable and that the country would be in a sorry state were we to leave the EU. However, Ukip is capitalising on the areas of the country that have seen inward migration on a massive scale with no corresponding increase in local spending. The Government would do well to remember that there are costs at a local level associated with immigration, as well as benefits.

The people in these areas have raised valid concerns about provision of housing, sanitation, education, and medical and dental services, and have long been decried as racist by the media and politicians.

While I am in no way supportive of Ukip in general, I applaud the fact that the immigration issue is actually now being discussed and that there’s a chance of people’s concerns being properly addressed rather than ignored.

Alan Gregory

First they came for the immigrants from outside Europe.

Then they came for the (almost non-existent) EU immigrants who come here just to claim welfare.

Now they’re after the EU working poor (getting rid of tax credits for hardworking immigrants in menial jobs).

I’m an Irish immigrant who’s worked hard and paid taxes here for almost 20 years. I wonder when it will be my turn.

David Clarke

Young, poor and unrepresented

Your headline “The young are the new poor” (24 November) is impossible to disagree with. Even more sadly, the problems of the young can only get worse. Their prospects are dire as your article details, and all indications are that future demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour can only get less.

Technology will ensure that work can be done, and therefore profits made, with less and less involvement by human beings. Can anyone imagine employers not taking this chance with both hands?

Only a complete rethink of social and financial conditions will even begin to solve the problems that loom, and there are no signs that any political party has even considered them, much less begun to work out a solution.

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester,  Gloucestershire


Andreas Whittam Smith (20 November) raises some very pertinent questions in his excellent piece on the widening wealth gap.

Of course it cannot be right that chief executives and other board members of most public companies “earn” 120 times the average salary of their full-time employees. Why does no political party rail against this “conspiracy in the nation’s boardrooms”, which rewards custodianship rather than entrepreneurism?

Of course, investment in deprived areas would raise the overall economic output of this country. Why does no political party understand this?

Yes, correcting gross inequality is an obvious political programme in search of a political party.

It is a sad fact of modern British politics that the main parties are increasingly appealing to the fringes of the political spectrum.

Having spent the last two weeks on jury service, I am reminded that the vast majority in this country are decent, hardworking and right-thinking people, broadly at the centre of the political spectrum, who no longer have any political party representing their views on what makes for a just and equitable society.

Nick Eastwell
London SE10

Tweet from inside the Westminster bubble

As Premiership footballers are failing to realise, tweeting gets you into trouble. If Ed Miliband has saved Emily Thornberry from being hounded by the press, he has done her a favour. Her failure to realise the tweet would get into the papers and round the political world underlines a bigger problem – the lack of reality of the political class.

As Hazel Blears MP has pointed out, the number of politicians who have no experience of life is rising. They live in the Westminster bubble and hob-nob with each other in a world of gossip and chit-chat.

Maybe discovering someone with the English flag on their house seemed worthy of attention in the world Ms Thornberry lives in, but who in the real world would pay it a moment’s notice?

If the political class thinks tweeting is a good idea, what chance do they have of understanding anything serious – such as the rise of the SNP and Ukip?

Trevor Fisher


We often and rightly go by appearances, even though sometimes they lead to error

If, in an election with Ukip as front-runner, a Labour politician sees a house decked with English flags, she may well sigh and judge the residents Ukip supporters; she may even tweet the image, showing what she is up against.  Isn’t it time that politicians and the media grew up, instead of blowing up every possible interpretation of every action?

Peter Cave
London W1

Emily Thornberry may have been contemptuous of White Van Dan, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that she was prepared to work hard to improve his lot. Was it Charlie Brown or Snoopy who said “Humanity’s all right. It’s people I can’t stand”?

Jim Vickers
Redcar, Cleveland

Polite Jewish response to incitement

In a predominantly Jewish area of London on Saturday, a group of protesters appeared unannounced handing out anti-Israel leaflets with a Palestinian flag behind them and with anti-Israel slogans around them.

While their action was potentially inciteful to the local community, people accepted their right to free speech and argued politely. No protection was needed. The most extreme form of challenge took the form of neatly tearing up the leaflets and handing them back to the protesters (so as not to litter the pavement).

I wonder how pro-Zionist and Jewish protesters would fare down in Tower Hamlets, in east London, with an Israeli flag draped behind them and pro-Israeli slogans and leaflets?

Stephen Spencer Ryde
Finchley, London N3


Hit the bosses, not the banks

We have had yet another spate of fines for the misdeeds of banks. A substantial proportion of the fines diminishes our pensions, as pension companies are major shareholders of the banks.

The directors of banks are responsible for whom they employ and the actions of their employees. Is it not time that company law was amended so that directors, rather than their companies, would be directly penalised for the behaviour of their employees?

Roger Booth

Hamilton wins, Britain loses

It was good to see Lewis Hamilton proudly waving the Union Flag after he won the Formula One world title.

Perhaps he will follow this up by moving back from Monaco and start paying taxes in the country of which he seems so proud.

James Gibb
Ampthill, Bedfordshire


Far from being ‘prisons of the mind’, the vast majority of faith schools passionately uphold respect for others

Sir, Far from being, as your headline puts it, “prisons of the mind”, Catholic schools are envied precisely for the excellence of their teaching and performance across all disciplines (Janice Turner, Opinion, Nov 22). In professions such as science and philosophy, where independent minds and openness to ideas count most, Catholics excel.

Yet because fanatics have manipulated some Muslim “faith schools”, Janice Turner thinks that faith schools are particularly vulnerable to fanaticism. But Muslim fanatics manipulate secular schools as well; and pupils of Catholic “faith schools” are the least likely to engage in the tragic sectarianism that centuries of political manipulation have caused and fostered, sometimes deliberately, in Northern Ireland.

Catholic parents pay the taxes that fund their schools. Must their children be forced into schools, secularist in principle, where their faith is treated as “something other people do”?

Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset

Sir, If Janice Turner wants all schools to be diverse communities that provide a high standard of education while promoting respect for others, she should rejoice in the vast majority of faith schools that passionately uphold these values. Instead, by hijacking a serious issue in an attempt to advance her own anti-religious agenda, she undermines the very principles she claims to advocate.

David Culley

Sir, Rachel Sylvester (“Ministers take sides in Tory culture clash”, Nov 18) misses the point when she claims that some Tories are “complaining about the promotion of equality”. Our letter to Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, highlighted the serious challenges to freedom of religion, both legal and philosophical, inherent in her new regulations.

The state requiring faith schools to actively promote things that are antithetical to their faith undermines the entire ethos of these schools, as well as striking a powerful and disconcerting blow against the freedom of conscience.

The regulations also mark a complete volte face from decades of previous Conservative policy of offering schools, families and communities more freedom from state-enforced orthodoxies.

Sir Edward Leigh, MP
House of Commons

Sir, Rachel Sylvester misses out a key player in the story of getting the drains unblocked in No 10. The person who persuaded the PM to go into “Dyno-Rod mode” on the GCSE religious studies criteria was Stephen Lloyd, the MP for Eastbourne, who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on religious education. What he understands is the key role that good religious education plays in preparing young people in all our schools to live successfully in a world where faith and belief are, for better as well as for worse, at the top of the news on a daily basis.

Dr Joyce Miller
Chairwoman, Religious Education Council, London N1

Sir, Is it not time for an urgent national debate about the place of religious studies in schools, whether state, faith or private? Janice Turner calls for the minimisation of the subject in the face of fears about partisan teaching and social unrest. Whether such dangers are justified or not, there is no doubt in my experience that a model of religious studies that has philosophy (and not dogma) at its heart is a popular one, and as such can enable a truly open society to flourish.

This is something which politicians of all persuasions might embrace, not least because students want to explore ideas, religious and atheist alike, and to be taken seriously as members of society. Any new plans for the subject and the curriculum should surely take this into account.

Esmond Lee
Head of Religious Studies, Trinity School, Croydon

A checklist can save a child’s life — and so too, it would seem, can a procedure more suited to reviving lambs

Sir, Atul Gawande’s article “How a checklist saved a little girl’s life” (Opinion, Nov 22) reminded me of an event in the late 1970s, when an infant fell into the garden pond of one of my neighbours. On hearing an anguished scream followed by pleas for help, I and an elderly neighbour dropped our gardening tools and struggled over the hedges and fence that separated us from the commotion.

The three-year-old girl was at the bottom of the pond; I jumped in, pulled her out and passed her lifeless body to my neighbour. He lay her down, got hold of her ankles, lifted her up and began, in a lunatic fashion, to swing her around his head. Horrified and paralysed, the child’s mother and I watched as, moments later, water poured from the child’s mouth and nose, and she gave a loud cry.

I asked my neighbour where he’d learnt to do such a thing. He said he’d been a shepherd for 30-odd years, and when lambs were born “dead” it was the standard way of making them breathe and of ridding their mouth of birth debris. But for the grace of this old shepherd, Aaron, that child would not be alive today.

Anita Menzies


Surely it is time that players should use words in common usage, not ones that no-one has ever heard of

Sir, The Scrabble dictionary may have promoted domestic tranquillity (leader, Nov 24) but it has severely damaged the game. Instead of being one of skill and ingenuity, the game has now become one of memory: the winner is whoever can memorise enough obscure words from that wretched volume. At least half the words on the championship-winning board (Nov 24) would not figure in any reasonably well-educated person’s vocabulary. How many people have used, or even heard of, diorite, gapo, kon, kaw, talaq, umu, ventrous, or xenic? Not to mention all those highly dubious two-letter words such as al, de, et, si, or xu?

Could not the publishers of the Scrabble dictionary take a leaf out of the compilers of concise dictionaries, and produce a list of words in common usage?

Julian Le Grand


What are the real implications of GPs being on first-name terms with their patients?

Sir, I paternally encourage my doctor to be on Christian name terms with me (“Chummy young doctors are bad for your health”, Nov 24) so as not to emphasise the social differences between us.

John Hatton

Nailsworth, Glos

How can anyone really think that French motorway service stations are something for Britain to aspire to?

Sir, I am amazed that anyone still thinks that French motorway service stations are superior to their UK counterparts (Nov 24). The worst meal we have ever encountered was in a service station near Orleans. Wanting something that would be relatively quick, we ordered two omelettes — and watched as the server opened the freezer, took out a bag, put it in the microwave and then emptied it onto a plate.

We have had a house in France for 20 years, and for several years now have found the quality of everyday eating establishments (especially pubs) in the UK to be considerably better than it is in France.

Gill Walker

Ilminster, Somerset


Letters: A Tory’s vote for Ukip could mean propping up Labour with the SNP

The danger of voting Ukip; women proving themselves in the police force; protecting children from the cyber-threat posed by webcams without passwords.

A UKIP supporter waves to photographers outside party headquarters in Rochester

A UKIP supporter waves to photographers outside party headquarters in Rochester Photo: 2014 Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 24 Nov 2014


SIR – I hope that voters currently deserting the Tories and supporting Ukip in

by-elections will think seriously about the outcome of continuing to do so at the general election.

With the collapse of Labour in Scotland and loss of Tory seats to Ukip, there is a real possibility that the next government could be a coalition of Labour and the SNP. The thought of Ed Miliband as PM is bad enough, but the price the taxpayers of England would have to pay for his SNP support is even more concerning.

R W Mansell

SIR – There may be truth in your warning that those voting for Ukip could help put Mr Miliband into No 10. Whether this is true or not, there is one certainty about the general election: if we continue to vote the same, we will just get more of the same.

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

SIR – Nigel Farage’s battle cry is: “Vote for Ukip, you get Ukip.”

Then what? On the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme yesterday, Ukip’s first elected MP (Douglas Carswell) disagreed with a statement on immigration made by the party’s newly elected MP (Mark Reckless). Confusion already in the ranks.

Elaine Nobbs
Pyrford, Surrey

SIR – What worries me most about Thursday’s events is the spectre of the further Americanisation of our politics, with Ukip playing the fundamentally negative Tea Party role, preventing the major parties from developing and proposing sensible, moderate policies which might have cross-party appeal.

The crassness of Emily Thornberry’s actions will increase the sense of a culture war, pitting the elite against the common man, and therefore her departure is to be welcomed. However, I cannot help but feel the Conservatives are reaping what they sowed in their opposition to voting reform in the 2011 referendum; our system rewards the largest minority and, unless the major parties stop acting like preening public schoolboys at a debating competition, next year’s general election may just see Ukip benefit from this, to the detriment of all of us.

Andrew Jukes
Eye, Suffolk

SIR – The saddest aspect of Emily Thornberry’s ill-judged Rochester tweet is not her alleged sneering at white van man, but that the white van man apparently didn’t even know there was a by-election in Rochester and Strood.

In the aftermath, the white van man apparently was happy to be hijacked by the popular press to make a cynical and wholly ignorant point about democracy in distasteful publicity shots outside Emily Thornberry’s home.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

Women in the police

SIR – Isabel Hardman says she sees less and less sexism in the workplace. As a WPC, from 1972 I served in three police services for 25 years: on foot duty; in the Criminal Investigation Department; and in the Mounted Branch.

When women were first accepted into specialist roles within the police, of course they were scrutinised. At that time, there was a real fear among men that, in violent situations, a woman might burst into tears and run away, or seek protection of her male colleagues. A weak link would have made the men more vulnerable to attack.

Was it really unreasonable to ask any police officer: “Are you able to do this particular task to the required level of expertise?” Both men and women were exposed if they were not up to the task.

An ability to laugh at oneself and with others was as essential as being able to keep calm in volatile situations.

There was no concept of a “nominal woman” in the Mounted Branch; when I applied, I simply was expected to meet the requirements of the role. Once I had proved that I was equal to men in terms of ability, fitness, loyalty and courage, then I was totally accepted and respected within the great family that is the police service. Surely that is equality.

I think there will always be disgruntled people who have chosen the wrong career paths and blame the organisation for their lack of success.

Margaret Hopkinson
Theydon Bois, Essex

Christmas too soon

SIR – As a member of a number of social and sporting clubs, I am frequently invited to Christmas celebrations. Some of these are held as early as November, mainly because they would not otherwise fit in with all the others. I decline to attend any of them on the grounds that I am keeping my taste buds fresh for the real thing. Thus, I am branded a curmudgeon and a killjoy.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Breakfast of champions

SIR – My dad always had a decent breakfast before work: bacon and two eggs with bread fried in lard. At the weekend he added fried tomatoes and mushrooms.

Alas, he died of a heart attack, just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

Harvey Clegg
Woodbridge, Suffolk

The new cyber-threat

SIR – It is common practice for many networked products, such as webcams and routers, to have either no password set or a published default password set when they are first installed.

To protect their security, users need to ensure that these devices are correctly set up and, where applicable, new passwords or Pins are set. This basic cyber-hygiene helps protect the safety and privacy of children, and it is particularly important where devices such as webcams are installed in bedrooms.

As more consumer devices are networked as part of the emerging “Internet of Things”, this issue will become more pressing.

Manufacturers or suppliers of those networked devices should consider whether there are ways of encouraging the user to set a password or new password when the devices is first installed. This might, for example, involve disabling the device until the password has been set.

Hugh Boyes
Institution of Engineering and Technology
London WC2

Recycling too much

SIR – In my area, paper and card for recycling go into large red bags. We have two newspapers a day, plus freebies and cardboard. Our bag is always full.

Last week, the paper got wet, and was therefore heavier than usual, and the council-issued bags don’t close at the sides.

Last Monday we were reprimanded for recycling too much paper, had our red bag taken from us, and were told to use plastic carrier bags in future.

It was only after a great deal of argument and my pointing out that we have been told not to use plastic bags that I managed to have a red bag reissued.

We are keen recyclers and composters, but there is a limit to how much paper we can mix into our garden waste.

Gillian Lurie
Westgate-on-Sea, Kent

Floral tribute

SIR – Our 21 prolific Silver Jubilee roses have given us and our neighbours great pleasure over the 32 years since they were planted.

Could this year’s output of 1,061 blooms be a record?

Margaret Finlay
Bowdon, Cheshire

SIR – On Saturday I thought I would surprise my wife and bought her some oriental lilies advertised in the florist’s window as “£6 a bunch”, plus some freesias.

When I got home, my wife quite rightly said it was difficult to make an arrangement with two lilies. Since when did two constitute a bunch?

Brian Lee
Saffron Walden, Essex

French leave

SIR – In the spring term in 1958, I was 21st out of 21 in my form in French. At Easter, I went on an exchange to Paris and Aix-les-Bains.

At the end of the summer term, I was fourth in French in my class. The following year I returned to Aix: I had fallen in love at 13 with my exchange boy’s cousin, Marie-Christine.

Alas, I broke my right leg in three places on my first day skiing and, strangely, my most abiding memory of that time is being offered a whole boiled artichoke by a lovely nun in hospital.

Simon Edsor
London SW1

Honouring India’s war dead on the South Downs

The Chattri memorial was built where a ghat, or funeral pyre, once stood above Patcham

SIR – General Lord Dannatt and others call for all Britons to remember the contributions of soldiers from across the Empire in the First World War. Indian sacrifice is certainly remembered in Brighton, where some 12,000 Indian soldiers – wounded and sick from the Western front – were treated at three hospitals in 1914-15.

Each June we hold a service at the Chattri war memorial at Patcham, which stands in memory of all Indians who fell in the First World War, but is particularly associated with the 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died in Brighton hospitals (their 21 Muslim brothers in arms were buried at Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking).

In 2010 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission belatedly erected a Cremation Memorial adjacent to the Chattri. This memorial lists the names and regiments of the men who were cremated on the site.

Tom Donovan
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – The “Remember WW1” campaign is an admirable attempt to honour the memory of the war dead.

Sadly, an institution that also aims to prevent our forgetting what happened 100 years ago, the Imperial War Museum’s library, is under threat of closure due to funding cuts. The letters, records and diaries available to ordinary people to study all aspects of British and Commonwealth involvement in conflict since 1914 should not be closed.

Rohaise Thomas-Everard
Dulverton, Somerset

Why St Pancras cannot be the HS2 terminus

SIR – Stuart Robertson may be surprised to learn that there was a proposal for an automated people mover (APM) between Euston and St Pancras stations published by HS2 Ltd at the behest of the Government in 2009. However, it was subsequently decided that an HS2-HS1 rail link would be preferable, and the APM was cancelled.

A report issued in June 2013 by GreenGauge 21, the non-profit group that investigates high-speed rail, showed that the uptake by international passengers of a rail link would be very low and, in fact, it would be of more use to domestic passengers – for example, those travelling from Birmingham to Stratford or Old Oak Common to Ashford. The Government has now cancelled the link altogether, but has not reinstated the APM which is needed.

Euston was not plucked out of the air. Twenty-nine options for a London terminus were considered. All were eliminated for practical reasons, including St Pancras. Anyone who thinks that it can be built at the latter should tell us how 11 1,360ft-platforms can be built there without demolishing the British Library.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

Irish Times:

A Chara, – In his critique of the Irish education system and the quality of its teachers, your education correspondent (Joe Humphreys, Weekend, November 22nd) fails to mention a number of significant factors which cannot be measured by test results or performance – levels on international comparisons of education performance.

As the American educator and writer Diane Ravitch comments, “when we reflect on why education matters we think of virtues that are not and cannot be measured: character, curiosity, responsibility, persistence, generosity, compassion, creativity, moral courage”.

Good teachers and good schools constantly strive to promote these virtues and often with insufficient State support. My colleague, who teaches in a mixed first/second class with 35 students, would love to find herself in class tomorrow morning with that “average” number of 24.

I would like to invite any commentator, journalist or politician to gather that number of people in to a small room for a day and keep them merrily on task, from nine o’clock in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon, not forgetting the 10-minute break mid-morning and the half-hour break for lunch – unless of course it is your yard-duty day.

It is not an easy task. And it requires huge investment and expertise. – Is mise, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – I have heard many promises that the new Junior Cert will avoid “teaching to the test”.

The statement is just put out there without any evidence.

No examples of how this happens are ever presented. A teacher teaches the curriculum which appears on the Junior Cert. I can’t see many predictive patterns in English Junior Cert.

I teach the entire curriculum safe in the knowledge that I don’t know exactly what is coming up.

But if there are patterns in the existing Junior Cert that lend themselves to “teaching to the test” any chance the media might dig them out, rather than trotting out clichés?

At present I don’t write Junior Cert papers. I don’t have access to them. Under the new proposed system I will decide project/test work. I will be the author, or perhaps, part of a committee of authors. Not only that but I will correct it too.

It would be terrific to live in a world where a teacher would not redraft student work or where a student might not enlist the work of others to redraft their work but sure as day follows night – it will happen despite all the well wishing in the world. – Yours, etc, BARRY HAZEL, Bray, Co Wicklow. Sir, – The Chicago public school system which educates 400,000 students each year made available all the data from its standardised annual tests of students in elementary and secondary schools from 1993 to 2000 to an academic study.

It used algorithm methods to determine if teachers cheated when administering these exams to their own students. The findings proved that 5 per cent of teachers had cheated.

This figure was considered conservative as the algorithms only detected egregious cheating.

The main reasons determined for cheating varied from career enhancement, self-esteem, and concern for their students.

No wonder teachers are concerned about the independence and fairness of the Junior Cert. Continuous assessment is very much a part of every teacher’s and school’s armoury but a once-off national standard test should be administered independently.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan should also know what every business person in the country knows about change management – it only works if the people it affects at least have a say in its development but, preferably, if they think it was their idea in the first place.

Why were the teachers not properly consulted?

Listen to the teachers. Listen to the parents . – Yours, etc, PATRICIA CRISP, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Apparently my 92-year-old mother will be in good company (“Relatives to play key role in 2016 Rising commemorations”, November 13th) as there are many sons and daughters of 1916 Volunteers still kicking up their heels well into their 80s and 90s and even some centenarians.

These “children” of the 1916 men and women are a direct living link to the spirit and ideals of 1916 as set out in the Proclamation. They are national treasures. They have something to say on how they would like the 2016 national commemorations to go ahead and how they would like their parents remembered beyond 2016.

Has anyone remembered to ask them? And will they take note and act? Fast. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The elephant in the room is the huge increase in property tax that will fall into the Government’s lap in January 2016, only 14 months away, as a result of vastly increased property values over the past 18 months.

The 15 per cent reduction in the charge is a tiny concession in a market where prices have risen by over 60 cent in many areas. We are tied into paying these charges as, unlike in the case of water charges, provision has already been made to deduct this tax at source from wages, pensions, and unemployment benefit if we do not voluntarily pay up.

Property tax should cover provision of infrastructure for services to our homes.

This windfall to Government coffers should be ring-fenced and invested in upgrading the water service and fixing the leaks in our long neglected water system, leaving us to pay minimal charges for water provision.

– Yours, etc, ANNE-MARIE MOCKLER Marino, Dublin 3.

Sir, – As a recent climber of Carrauntoohil mountain I am not sorry to see the cutting down of the cross.

Structures such as the cross have no place on top of such a beautiful mountain. It was out of place and a blot on the landscape.

Before people go charging up to restore the cross I hope they remember to apply for planning permission as I am sure there are a lot of like minded people who would like to object. Keep crosses off the tops of mountains and leave mountain tops joyful and spiritual places to be. – Yours, etc, COLM O’BRIEN, Old Bawn, Dublin 24.

Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 01:05

First published: Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 01:05

Sir, – Following on from the various contributions to the debate about prostitution in you pages we would like to offer three points to this debate. We are two feminist scholars with expertise in the areas of prostitution, trafficking, migration and public policy.

First, the experiences of women (and men) in the sex trade are diverse. There are victims and there are those who do not see themselves as victims and do not seek help or protection.

Second, the so-called Swedish model does not work. It has reduced on-street prostitution significantly, but off-street activities have apparently grown. Migrant women are still showing up in the sector. There are profound difficulties in implementing the law to do with resources and the kinds of evidence needed for prosecutions.

Third, evidence from states the world over shows one thing: the desire to regulate prostitution through the criminal justice system systematically displaces and reproduces the activity in ways in which the seller of sex invariably comes off worst in the long run. Good public policy, likely to reach its goals, is much enhanced when it draws on evidence-based research and begins by conceptualising the problem in the round.

The problem is not simple and the solution is not either. – Yours, etc DR EILÍS WARD, NUI Galway. DR GILLIAN WYLIE, Trinity College Dublin. Sir, – The most oppressive element of sex work is the shortfall in our society that still leaves some people cornered in situations where they have no honest and viable economic alternative to selling sexual services whether they are comfortable with that or not.

There is no justification for “end demand” legislation aimed at destroying the market for sexual services until we, as a society, have first thoroughly ensured that we are not continuing to leave people cornered with no honest and viable options. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

A Chara, – The news that Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash intends to carry out a study into the prevalence of zero-hour and low-hour contracts and their impact on low-paid employees is welcome but research alone is no substitute for robust legislation to outlaw these ultra-exploitative practices.

Such zero-hour contracts are nothing more than the latest cynical use of the recession to further undermine working conditions and wages. They are an attack on the dignity and rights of workers.

Workers on these contracts are not guaranteed employment from one week to the next, have no guaranteed weekly hours or weekly income and are unable to take on other work as they have to be on constant call from employers.

Workers on zero-hour contracts are unable to get mortgages, plan family life and many have worries about putting food on the table. Employers use these contracts to keep staff in a permanent state of insecurity, cut wages and avoid paying pensions and holiday pay.

Over one million workers in Britain are contracted to this insecure form of employment and a recent study suggested that the practice is far more widespread than official figures estimate.

In Ireland, workers have at least some protection under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. But there is evidence, that despite legislation, many companies are using zero-hour contracts, predominantly in non-unionised workplaces in the service industries.

Even though several of these companies are large multi-nationals raking in millions of euro in profit, the State is in reality subsidising their low pay and exploitative practices through increased social welfare and family income supplements at an estimated cost of some €280 million per year.

Outlawing zero-hours contracts would immediately help improve the lives of thousands of low-paid workers.

It would save the taxpayer millions in reduced social welfare spending and boost consumer spending in the economy. – Is mise, etc, KEVIN P McCARTHY, Headford, Killarney, Co Kerry.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion November, 22nd) makes reference to the proposed adaptation of the concept in Article 38 (1) of the German Basic Law into the Irish Constitution by way of the draft 34th Amendment of the Constitution (Members of the Oireachtas) Bill 2014, as a means to impose a relaxation of the rigid whip system.

However, in the Bundestag, the binding guidance of fraktionsdisziplin (political party caucus voting cohesion) still applies and is effectively adhered to by German party parliamentarians.

In reality, Article 38 (1) is only invoked on relatively rare occasions and certainly would not, for example, allow a parliamentarian to be safeguarded from internal party discipline upon persistent opposition to the policies of that party, which seems to be a major rationale for the introduction of the aforementioned bill.

In order to satisfactorily alleviate the rigidity of the whip system, a better resolution would be to replicate the modus operandi within the UK House of Commons, where one-line and two-line whips are regularly granted.

There is no constitutional amendment necessary to adopt such a practice into the Oireachtas.

The main obstacle to this, however, would be the fact that Opposition and media criticism of one-line and two-line whipped votes lost by the Government would persistently permeate, as is the case in the UK whenever a government bill is defeated as a result of “backbench rebellion”.

Allowing a greater culture of agreed bilateral authorship on new legislation to prevail in the Oireachtas would be the strongest antidote to such an intrinsic dilemma. – Yours, etc, JOHN KENNEDY, Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – I notice that the 20 per cent housing deposit proposal by the Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan is unfortunately coming under fire.

The opponents are apparently pushing for some sort of insurance scheme to cover half the deposit.

This is on the lines of the misguided “Help to Buy” scheme in the UK which contributed significantly to the escalation of house prices, especially in the Greater London area.

Have the opponents of the Central Bank proposal forgotten so quickly that the crash of 2008, and the consequent suffering of our people, was caused largely by irresponsible lending and an unsustainable borrowing frenzy?

The recent unsustainable increases in house prices can only lead to one thing – a further crash and more suffering.

The Central Bank is simply attempting to avoid the excesses of the past.

The 20 per cent deposit would be to the advantage of those wishing to purchase a home.

It would stabilise or even reduce house prices. What on earth is wrong with that? – Yours, etc, PJ DRUDY , Emeritus professor of economics, Trinity College Dublin,

Sir, – It is beyond my comprehension that Wexford Opera House, a regional theatre, will achieve national status.

I speak from experience. I’ve attended more than 130 of Wagner’s operas live in performance in all major cities in Europe, as well as other operas and concerts. I’ve attended numerous Wagner Festivals at Bayreuth. I’ve also attended Wexford Festival Opera.

Recently, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre was sold by Nama to a third party, instead of being taken by the State and converted into an opera house.

The Grand Canal theatre has all the appearances of an opera house, and it is located in the capital city. It has seating capacity for 2,111 patrons.It does not need to be exclusively for opera. Wexford Opera House seats up to 750 and while it’s beautifully appointed, it doesn’t otherwise cut the mustard. If Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys goes ahead with this plan, Ireland will still be the only country in the Europe not to have an opera house in its capital city.

It’s a very disappointing decision. – Yours, etc, CHRISTOPHER McQUAID The Wagner Society of Ireland, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Irish Independent:

Politicians and some sections of the media have recently been telling me why, for the first time in my 50-odd years, I recently walked in protest against the Government. Apparently I was there because of a “lack of communication” and I was suffering from a “lack of clarity” on the issue of Irish Water.

Allow me the space to “clarify” and “communicate” with those politicians who apparently have the insight – some might call it arrogance – to be able to inform me of my motivations for protesting. The charge for water can’t be seen in isolation, because this new tax (and it is a tax) comes out of the same wage packet as all the other taxes heaped upon us by this Government under Enda Kenny. The Government was given a mandate by us to stand by their promises to reform the body politic and protect this country and economy from the predations of the international financial community and the so-called ‘austerity’ programme proposed by the EU.

Not only did Kenny’s Government fail to do this, it actively conspired with the banks and the EU to implement these same measures.

Can we now ignore all the years of accumulated emotional and political baggage around the 1916 Proclamation? Just look at what it says: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible . . . The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.”

Are we not entitled to this, after so many years of self-serving politicians paying lip-service to such high ideals? And to those who would scoff at such an idea, who would dismiss such talk as pipe-dream idealism, I would say that without idealism, without those dreams, we forsake a vital part of our humanity and have truly been defeated and become soulless slaves serving an inhuman economic machine.

Most founding states rightly begin by stating such noble aspirations and measure their success by how close they come to achieving them – in much the same way that, as individuals, we aspire to embody all the noble human virtues. We accept these virtues may be impractical or even unattainable, but it is the holding dear of, and the struggle to remain close to, such ideals which gives our lives real purpose.

These ideals of citizenhood are not the property or sole province of any race.

They don’t get votes in an election. But their protection and promotion nourishes the soul of a nation. I refuse to give up on these high ideals.

As things stand, the quality of our political leadership is summed up in a few lines from the poem ‘The Secret People’ by GK Chesterton:

“They have given us into the hand of the new unhappy lords,

“Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.

“They fight by shuffling paper; they have bright red alien eyes;

“They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.

“And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs.

“Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.”

This is why I recently walked the streets of my town in protest.

Kevin Power

Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Lessons from the Celtic Tiger

The first serious signs of economic growth since the death of the Celtic Tiger do not call for unconditional celebration, as economic recovery does not imply equitable distribution of the fruits of growth.

Many economists see inequality as the price we pay for growth, whilst others find little overall relationship between inequality in wealth and rates of growth.

What seems more obvious to me is the negative impact of the relationship between levels of individual wealth and access to political power and to productive resources.

Governments have to trust their civil servants and advisers in making economic decisions.

They work with the very inexact science of economics, where significant margins of error characterise their efforts. By the very nature of the job, governments can get things badly wrong.

There are two separate threads to economic life.

On the one hand, we have the finance sector involved in gambling with money; on the other hand, we have innovative entrepreneurs creating new businesses, new products and jobs to go with them.

Though the small to medium-sized enterprises (here I include farming) form the backbone of the economy, rewards in the finance sector are increasingly disproportionate and undeserving.

This arises from the concentration of political and market power in the finance sector, rather than from the sector’s greater contribution to economic growth.

In the Celtic Tiger years, the wealth of the country was hijacked by the ineptly regulated failing banks, with the collusion of some senior politicians and business barons, leaving a carcass for the rest to pick over.

This is the setting where our young people feel powerless and at a loss as to know where their lives are taking them.

Many leave the sorting house of school with little hope of employment or a place in third level institutions.

This is a very debasing world, where so many struggle to preserve their dignity and self-confidence.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, OX1 4B, England

Politics is still a man’s world

I note that in her article (Irish Independent November 24) Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald didn’t mention the name of one other woman in the entire world who provides an example of the type of female leadership she is talking about when she called for more women in politics.

There have been plenty of female leaders in all sorts of different countries – particularly in countries were equality is vastly below any western country – yet when it boils down to it, are any of those women any different to the men they replaced. Are the lives of women in India, Pakistan or elsewhere any better for having had women leaders?

In the case of Ireland, what type of woman does she mean when she says she is creating a ‘talent bank’ of women to serve on state boards, presumably for positions that are never advertised and appointed following a public and transparent process?

Some change that’ll be, and what’s the bet that all of the women chosen will just happen to have links with Fine Gael and Labour.

Perhaps the reason the Irish public is not as keen, as Ms Fitzgerald would like, on choosing candidates based on their gender, is because there is no evidence, in the Irish context at least, that the women who do get through the political system turn out to be any different to the men.

The various women who held senior office over the last two or three decades are as responsible for the mess the country is in as any of their male counterparts who protect us from more women like Heather Humphreys.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf, London

Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: