26 November 2014 Vet

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

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down nothing for tea and her tummy pain is still there.


Paul Vaughan – obituary

Paul Vaughan was the presenter of the BBC’s arts show Kaleidoscope whose velvety tones on serious programmes saw him hailed as ‘the first invisible star of television’

Paul Vaughan

Paul Vaughan

5:23PM GMT 25 Nov 2014


Paul Vaughan, who has died aged 89, became one of the most familiar voices on radio and television as presenter of the long-running arts magazine Kaleidoscope on Radio 4 and narrator of the television science flagship series Horizon on BBC Two.

Vaughan’s velvety tones made him, in the view of one critic, “the first invisible star of television”. He was also greatly in demand as a voice-over artist for television and radio commercials and trailers. “When God speaks,” observed another commentator, “he uses Paul Vaughan’s voice.”

Launched in April 1973, Kaleidoscope under Vaughan’s conductorship became emblematic of the Radio 4 soundscape of the day with its informed but informal tone of arts coverage. Originally broadcast live and late at night, in order to include first night reviews from the West End, the programme marked a change of pace from the stately progress of other arts shows: the opening week featured an interview with Joan Baez, studio discussions about quasars and Picasso, and music from Diana Ross.

Inevitably on a live, reactive programme, there would be glitches. Vaughan recalled the unavailing scramble to contact Stephen Spender in 1973 on the day W H Auden died and having to make do with a drunken Laurie Lee, who could manage only “a little grief-stricken sob” for the listeners before falling silent.

Vaughan’s voice sounded perfect on heavyweight programmes such as Horizon, possessing just the right degree of neutral authority that lent his commentary a kind of oracular power. He was also in constant demand for corporate presentations, voicing films and videos for staff training, promotions and for drumming up business.

For television and film commercials, his voice was used to sell a range of products and services from credit cards and toothpaste to building societies and disinfectant. Perhaps the most famous of the slogans he intoned was for a mobile phone company – between 1994 and 2008 it was Vaughan who assured us that: “The future’s bright — the future’s Orange”.

The younger of two brothers, Paul William Vaughan was born on October 24 1925 in Brixton, south London. His father, chief clerk in the counting house at the Greenwich Linoleum Company, became secretary of the Linoleum and Floorcloth Manufacturers’ Association, the industry’s trade body, a position that would eventually suggest the title for his second son’s first volume of memoirs, Something in Linoleum (1992). In 1934 Vaughan père moved his family to New Malden in Surrey and a house on the Kingston bypass.

Joan Baez, a guest on the first episode of Kaleidoscope (REX)

Young Paul immersed himself in the culture of suburbia (it became a lifelong fascination) and attended Raynes Park County School, where the flamboyant headmaster, John Garrett, became a major influence in his quest for self-improvement. Garrett knew W H Auden, persuaded him to write a school song, and hired the painter Claude Rogers to teach Art and the Marxist Rex Warner to teach Classics. Paul Vaughan’s fellow alumni included two other future Radio 4 broadcasters, Derek Cooper and Robert Robinson.

As a teenager, Vaughan became a talented amateur musician, playing first clarinet in the Worcester Park orchestra and later second clarinet in the Wimbledon Philharmonic (Colin Davis played first). He read French at Wadham College, Oxford, his studies being interrupted in 1944 by conscription into the Queen’s Royal Regiment. He returned to Oxford three years later to complete his degree.

In 1950 Vaughan joined Menley and James, pharmaceutical chemists, which occupied hangar-like premises on Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell, that had once been an ice-rink and before that had served as headquarters of the Edwardian theatre impresario Fred Karno. Among the firm’s products were Mother Siegel’s Syrup (for dyspepsia), Antidipso (for alcoholism) and Dethblo (for ringworm). As assistant export manager, Vaughan found himself with time on his hands, and after enrolling on a correspondence course for writers was amazed to have his first article, about Victorian toy theatres, accepted by The Lady magazine.

After five years at Menley and James, Vaughan was appointed an assistant public relations officer with the British Medical Association, then a conservative-minded body with an aversion to personal publicity for its members. Vaughan’s boss defined public relations as “the art of explaining away”; some of the doctors he encountered would joke about the term “PR” because it was medical shorthand for “per rectum”.

In such unpromising circumstances Vaughan again managed to scratch his scribbler’s itch, producing a short history of the BMA called Doctors’ Commons (1959).

In October 1958 Vaughan had made his broadcasting debut with a two-minute report on the BMA’s annual clinical meeting in a World Service radio programme called New Ideas. The experience finally persuaded him to strike out on a media career, and he resigned from the BMA, taught himself shorthand, joined the Press Club and the National Union of Journalists and decided to go freelance.

Laurie Lee: he gave a drunken soundbite to Vaughan (PA)

Filing stories about the state of British medicine to a thrice-weekly American magazine called Medical Tribune kept him afloat for six years. During the early 1960s he bought a portable tape recorder and supplemented his income with radio features for the Today programme on the BBC Home Service, and contributions to the World Service series Science and Industry, later renamed Science in Action. In 1969 he became a reporter for Radio 4’s innovative science series New Worlds, and covered Britain’s first heart transplant operation before moving across to the presenter’s chair.

From there, in 1973, Vaughan was invited to present Radio 4’s new arts and science magazine series Kaleidoscope. The science element was discarded after a year, and the programme became a fixture – in a variety of slots – for a quarter of a century until 1998, when a new network controller replaced it with Front Row.

In 1970, while working as deputy editor of a glossy monthly magazine called World Medicine, Vaughan was auditioned (along with Tony Benn, who had briefly been employed as a BBC World Service producer) to replace Christopher Chataway as narrator for BBC Two’s documentary science series Horizon. He remained the voice of the programme for 20 years.

Vaughan’s second book, a paperback guide to birth control for the Family Planning Association which, daringly for 1969, carried explicit anatomical drawings, was followed by The Pill on Trial (1970). Vaughan traced the story of how the contraceptive pill came to be developed, reviewed the evidence on its safety, and discussed its impact on sexual customs and on the growth of world population.

Vaughan was disappointed when the book failed to sell well. He admitted that another medical journalist may have had a point when he told him: “Women who aren’t on the pill don’t care. Women who are don’t want to know.”

Following the success of Something In Linoleum, Vaughan published a further volume of memoirs, called Exciting Times in the Accounts Department (1995).

Paul Vaughan married, in 1951, Barbara Prys-Jones. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1988 he married a BBC producer, Pippa Burston, who survives him, with their two sons and the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage.

Paul Vaughan, born October 24 1925, died November 14 2014


19.41 GMT

Rather than accusing Emily Thornberry of displaying the patronising attitude of the metropolitan elite towards the working class, is not Tristram’s Hunt’s education policy a better example (Private schools have done too little for too long, 25 November)? Our children, or in my case my future grandchildren, will benefit from being taught by their social betters, who will bring their “world-beating educational attributes” to our state schools. This reflects the ingrained prejudices of the metropolitan elite, who know that state education is markedly inferior to private education and that only by their constant interference will the state education system be dragged screaming and kicking into a better place. It is the mindset of a Michael Gove who sees the main obstacle to good state education as being the teachers with their anti-aspirational attitudes, naive child-friendly educationists, and never a lack of resources or the constant ill-informed micro-management of schools from whoever is the current education secretary.

What I find most offensive is Hunt’s total disregard of what is good in state schools. This is something I feel very strongly as I went to a secondary modern school (a school barred from entering students for the GCE exam, as it was thought an inappropriate education for the children of the manual classes), but thanks to the efforts of my aspirational teachers I got a place at a Russell Group university. A much simpler solution would be to treat the private schools as the businesses that they are, so ending their charitable status, which confers a virtual tax-free existence, and use the new tax revenue to fund a levelling-up of state schools.
Derrick Joad

• Tristram Hunt was himself privately educated, and yet he seems to be in blissful ignorance of what private schools are actually doing these days. Most private schools do this already, and not so that we can get away with tax relief. In York, we do it because the state sector cannot provide enough Latin teachers; we do it because we want to improve the experiences of all children in York; we do it because we have each come to trust our colleagues on the other side of the imaginary “Berlin Wall”. People work best together in education if the political climate encourages sincere and respectful dialogue, rather than pantomime caricatures and ominous threats. Should he ask nicely? Yes: because it works.
Leo Winkley (@LeoWinkley)
Headmaster, St Peter’s school, York

Tristram Hunt joins the list of those who wrongly imply that private education is a financial burden on the state and thus can be financially sanctioned in the cause of its social aspirations. In fact, whatever its social merits or demerits, private education is a substantial contributor to state finances.

The Treasury earns in excess of £4bn per year from the present system. This could be used to provide state bursaries to increase the number of private school places by more than 50%, contributing significantly to the social mobility we all support. Alternatively it could be used to increase spending on the 8 million state pupils by 25%, greatly improving the quality of state provision at a stroke.

The 500,000 or so pupils in private education save the state £800m in education costs per year (at £1,600 per head). Charitable status of these schools costs the state £100m. Even after taking £165m for business rate relief, the system is in credit to the tune of £535m. In addition, some £3.5bn will have already been levied in UK income and other taxes on the £7bn earned to pay for private education.

The oligarchs’ offspring (ie foreign students) account for less than 5% of the total of private students. They are not in any way a burden on us taxpayers but net contributors to our balance of payments.
Christopher Rance

• Tristram Hunt does not go nearly far enough in his efforts to breach the Berlin Wall between private and state education (Labour’s assault on private schools, 25 November). The removal of tax breaks and the requirement to share expertise and run joint programmes will do little to overcome the huge disparity in outcomes and opportunities for those educated in the different sectors.

In its efforts to create a fairer and more equal society, Finland, which has one of the highest-achieving education systems in the world, abolished private schools in the 60s. The effect has been to significantly narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor children.

Labour needs to be bolder than this if its commitment to social equity is to be believed. Watering down the status quo is no longer an option.
Fiona Carnie
European Forum for Freedom in Education

• “Labour’s assault on private schools”? The business rate relief claimed through “charitable status” is only a tiny part of the huge state subsidies – exemption from income tax; corporation tax; capital gains tax; VAT; stamp duty; donations and legacies. Parents also benefit from covenants and insurance policies and exemption from VAT on school fees. Generals and diplomats also receive hundreds of millions of pounds to send their children to private schools, all courtesy of the taxpayer.

Taking away one small part of the huge state subsidies to private schools is hardly an “assault”, and no doubt lawyers, consultants and lobbyists will strive might and main to evade it. To say that Mr Hunt has laboured mightily and brought forth a mouse would be extremely generous. Once again Labour politicians have quailed at the prospect of simply abolishing charitable status outright. This is the equivalent to an “assault” from one of Ken Dodd’s tickling sticks.
Richard Knights

• Parliament makes the laws. The courts interpret and enforce them. Right? Yet you report that “Labour had advocated depriving independent schools of charitable status if they did not meet a clear public benefit test, but a 2011 court case brought by the Independent Schools Council in effect closed that route”. Please tell me why parliament can’t pass a new law opening up that route.
Chris Birch

• Tristram Hunt’s call, that private schools should do more to help state pupils or lose £700m in tax breaks, is a welcome initiative. But it is puzzling that he said nothing about the principal cause of the often superior performance of private schools. His mantra should be “class size, class size, class size”.

The HMC school website claims that “HMC independent schools have some of the lowest student-staff ratios in UK schools, one teacher for every 9 pupils compared with one teacher for every 22 pupils in the state sector. Significantly smaller class sizes are proven to improve academic achievement as the ability to spend more time with each child allows teachers to get to know their personal strengths, weaknesses and learning styles, ensuring that their individual needs are met.”

There you have it. Come on, Tristram, address the real issue!
Neil Holmes
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

• I can’t believe that, in a time of austerity, we have been handing over millions in tax breaks to private schools.
Alex Hallatt (@arcticcircle)
Frome, Somerset

• Labour should go much further and utilise this private sector accommodation for children in care. Few places are already set up to facilitate children on such a scale.
Vaughan Thomas

• I would be embarrassed for Tristram Hunt if he really believed that the Labour proposals he sketches out would significantly affect what he recognises as the “corrosive divide of privilege”. They won’t, and he must know that.
Michael Sheldon

• It’s all very well for Labour to tinker with private schools, but whatever they do short of abolishing them altogether, they will re-create themselves in other forms. Private education is a necessary institution in the replication of the dominant elite. Through a specious narrative of being better than their state counterparts, they guarantee the passage of the elite’s children into the next generation. This cultural self-accreditation is pernicious, and Labour should finally resolve to tackle it head-on.

But don’t hold your breath. At least half of the shadow cabinet is part of this very same elite.
Tim Gay
Barnstaple, Devon

• A voice from the wilderness at last. “The division between state and private education damages our society, stifles opportunity and, by wasting talent, inflicts damage upon our economy,” writes Tristram Hunt. Wow! What insight. So what’s the action he suggests? “We will encourage [encourage?] each institution to reflect the skills, traditions and educational needs of their locality”. How clueless can you be? Has he looked around and seen where Harrow, Eton, Westminster and the rest are located? Get on your bike, Mr Hunt, and go and experience where the unequal quality of opportunity is driven in to the heart of struggling – but proud – local working-class communities. You will need to do much better than that

If words can be followed by more thoughtful action, we may, at last, be on to something. But I do not hold my breath.
Leon Winston
(Chair of governors at an academy school), Shaldon, Devon

• It is good that Tristram Hunt does not support the bursary approach, which allows public schools to cream off a token handful of the state sector’s best pupils. However. the continued existence of an education system where the rich and powerful have little or no interest in, or knowledge of, the state sector in which 0ver 90% of us are educated is a disgrace. Public schools do not just reinforce class barriers, they actively create them, and deserve no state encouragement at all. Forget business rates – a Labour government should put an end to the laughable concept of charity that benefits only the very best off in society, and the Charities Act 2011 should be amended accordingly. A commitment to universal access to a world-class education system – now that would be something.
Paul Jeremy

Obama Discusses His Immigration Plan At Visit To Las Vegas High School Barack Obama speaks about his executive action on US immigration policy, 21 November 2014. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Israel’s increasing insistence that it should be defined as a Jewish state (Report, 24 November) has serious and unforeseen consequences for world Jewry as well as for the 20% of its citizens who are not Jewish and will therefore see more of their rights eroded. The more stridently Israel proclaims its Jewishness, the less it can complain when its illegal and inhuman actions, in Gaza and elsewhere, are described by outsiders as Jewish actions, tarring Jews everywhere with the same brush, and increasing rather than reducing the likelihood of antisemitism. Is this really what Israel wants?
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

• With Obama firing on all cylinders with executive action (Report, 22 November), how long must we wait for the US to recognise the state of Palestine?
Benedict Birnberg

• Bhasker Bhadresha writes (Letters, 25 November), “In the 60s, 70s and 80s ‘Paki-bashing’ was a common pastime among white people”. That is so absurd a statement as to merit the word “fantasy”. I write as someone who participated in anti-fascist demonstrations in each of those decades, along with many other white people.
Dr Harry Harmer
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Re Owen Jones’s comment that “toddlers have been repeatedly observed attempting to help struggling adults without being prompted” (24 November). Severely disabled, I use a stick. Walking in the garden with my four-year-old neighbour, she asked me “shall I hold your stick?” Not quite there practically, but her altruism and desire to help were very clear.
Michael Somerton

• Christina Wakeford (Letters, 25 November) may have started some hares running. I remember how Professor JL Austin wrote about starting hares by splitting them. Not such a pleasant image as her Pilates teacher brought to mind.
Richard Fortin
Hooksway, West Sussex

Prison Officer locking a gate ‘I can assure you, for those on the receiving end, it certainly felt like an increase in the total amount of violence,’ Nick Hardwick says of HMP Elmley. Photograph: Mark Harvey/Alamy

Guardian headline writers can answer for themselves, but Professor Baigent and Dr Osman (Letters, 24 November) are absolutely wrong to imply our inspection report into HMP Elmley that you reported on 12 November “over-hyped” the level of violence.

It is not possible to exactly assess levels of violence in a prison in the way they want because it depends both on what prisoners report and on what the prison itself records. Neither tells the full story. We come to our judgments based not just on the official data, but also on what prisoners themselves tell us and what we ourselves observe.

Your correspondents refer to just the summary of our report. If they read the report as a whole they would see that recorded incidents indicated that there were 60% more fights and assaults in April 2014 than there had been in April 2013 and that reflected a steadily rising trend. The number of serious incidents had increased sharply over the same period; incidents of concerted indiscipline had increased; incidents of self-harm and suicide had become more frequent; 92 prisoners had self-harmed in the six months before the inspection; and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection.

We compared that data with what prisoners told us. In a representative survey, 56% of prisoners told us they had felt unsafe at some time in the prison and 25% said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection; 44% said they had been victimised by other prisoners. This compared with 39%, 14% and 23% respectively at the last inspection. When we spoke to prisoners and staff individually, they said the same. Inspectors witnessed vulnerable prisoners being harassed without staff intervention. I can assure you, for those on the receiving end, it certainly felt like an increase in the total amount of violence.

On the basis of that combined evidence, we concluded that “there was a rising level of violence and the number of serious incidents had increased sharply”. It was a sound judgment and the recommendations we made as a result need to be acted on.
Nick Hardwick
HM chief inspector of prisons

Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who worked at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary during the second world war. Photograph: Hulton Getty

“Geordies like to talk … allow at least 10 minutes just to buy a newspaper,” advises Harry Pearson (The UK’s best city: in praise of Newcastle upon Tyne,, 22 November). Wittgenstein worked as a lab assistant in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary during the war. His Jesmond landlady said he was chatty in the morning, to the annoyance of the other lodgers, but morose in the evenings. From the poem “Geordie Henderson replies to the biographer of Ludwig Wittgenstein” (Mugs Rite, Bay Press, 1996), by the recently late poet, eccentric and bibliophile Mike Wilkin: “Div aa knaa oot more / aboot him? Fella, arl else / aa remember, is that / the only gala time / aa got im near a pint, / knaaing he was a Delphi / Oracle, aa askt him / if the Magpies would ever / climb back to the Shangri-La / of Division One. And he wrote / doon arl magisterially / on a raggy beer mat / (which is clagged-up / in wor netty yet!) / “Whereof one cannot spowt / Thereof one must say nowt.”
Joan Hewitt (@TurkishBathsNCL)

Modi has his blind spots

Since Narendra Modi is one of the most powerful Indian prime ministers to have emerged in recent years, and with his visit to the UK in 2015 having just been announced, it was with a sense of incredulity that I read of his apparent belief in the scientific achievements of ancient Hindu peoples (7 November). Using Lord Ganesha’s elephant head as an early example of plastic surgery and Karma’s birth “outside his mother’s womb” as evidence of reproductive genetics are extraordinary enough, but as part of his speech to a gathering of doctors and other professionals it simply beggars belief. Beyond this, doesn’t it also imply that the gods of the Mahabharata were somehow the works of man?

This Hindu nationalist clearly has his blind spots, as is becoming more evident in his dangerous exclusion of Muslims from decision-making in government. We in the west should take care about becoming too close to Modi and the lucrative trade deals he so temptingly offers.
Lesley Hampshire
Shanklin, UK

What are the EU’s options?

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s new foreign policy chief, has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of economic and financial sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s behaviour (7 November). So then what are the EU’s options to counter Russia’s aggression against Ukraine?

A) Do nothing, be nice to Russia and hope that Putin comes to his senses;

B) Impose limited sanctions against individuals in Putin’s inner circle, and escalate them to companies and business sectors;

C) Supply Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal military aid to help Kiev beat back the terrorist thugs;

D) Send in Nato troops and air power.

Well, we know that option A had no effect on the Russian invasion of the Crimea; meanwhile Russia continues to support the Donbass rebels even though the EU has already made concessions to Russia on implementation of its accord with Ukraine. We also know that option D is basically a non-starter. And so if option B is not doing the job, that must mean, and one can only hope, that Mogherini is seriously considering option C.
Morris Ilyniak
Toronto, Canada

Building cyberpeace

If Nato is on frontline of cyberwar (7 November), who is building cyberpeace? The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – known for its unarmed mission in Ukraine – has almost twice as many member states as Nato, including both the US and Russia. For more than a year the OSCE has been developing cyber-security confidence-building measures to de-escalate cyber-conflicts. This contrasts with Nato’s new Enhanced Cyber-Defence Policy, which includes retaliatory action under the common defence principle.

Europeans should work toward a world where security is something that we all share, and not something we seek for ourselves at the expense of others.
Andrew Lane
Quaker Council for European Affairs
Brussels, Belgium

The age of loneliness

George Monbiot hits the nail on the head in his column Dehumanising people requires euphemism (31 October). Nineteen Eighty-Four has been absorbed into the fabric of our society with very few of us even noticing. Working in personnel consultancy in the late 1970s, a few of us were even then resisting the use of the term human resource management but it seems in vain.

Since then, the commodification of natural assets, including people, has continued apace. A further aspect is the use by the military of such terms as collateral damage to justify the accidental slaughter of innocent civilians in their inhumane quest to eliminate every potential enemy or latent threat with the use of disproportionate – and increasingly remotely controlled – weapons of personnel destruction. We are distanced from the consequences of our actions not simply by weasel language, but by robotics.

Newspeak is now the accepted official language of politicians, the military and business leaders alike. Margaret Thatcher infamously claimed that there is no such thing as society. Her followers have adopted the same mentality in their unspoken attempt to ensure that her pronouncement becomes truth. The media is complicit in its language, as well as its evident desire to bring about this very outcome.

What can we do to counter this progressive assault on common human values? I shall continue to heckle those who promote the devaluation of human culture and our natural inheritance, but however many of us do so, on its own this can scarcely be sufficient. It must become an essential component of our educational curriculum to question the use of demeaning and immoral language by our leaders.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

• George Monbiot writes that our present age of loneliness has left us bereft of love, and that “there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism”. The word “heroic” is perhaps unfortunate; the term “selfish individualism” is perhaps a better fit, because the “great deed” of real heroes, says Joseph Campbell, is not to achieve money and fame, but to discover “unity in multiplicity and then to make it known”, thereby helping to amend what Monbiot calls our “social isolation”.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

• George Monbiot’s article about the social needs of humans is well taken. However, he clearly didn’t do well in biology class. Stating that we humans have a lot in common with bees when it comes to socialisation is really not a good analogy.

First off, not all bees are social; some live solitary lives, such as the carpenter bee, which is perfectly happy to bore holes in people’s porches and not be bothered with community activities. Moreover, honeybees, which live in hives, have a social order more like that of the Hindu caste system or the early Hawaiian kapu system: not, I think, what Monbiot had in mind for 21st‑century humans.

Otherwise, his article was a valuable discussion of what is missing in modern life: ie, a sense of community beyond ourselves and our families.
Leonard A Cohen
Northampton, Massachusetts, US

• George Monbiot is the new George Orwell. Just as Orwell slated the political hacks of his time for masking the inhumane acts of his time in cloudy euphemisms, so Monbiot fearlessly calls the corporate and military hierarchies of the world to task for reducing their underlings and victims to landfill by the use of inhuman abstractions. Strange how our commanders manage to see themselves as above and separate from the “biomass”. The mangling of language makes it easier to defend the indefensible.

Orwell was able to distance himself from “the squalid farce of leftwing politics” (his words) without ever aligning himself with the right, which has so enthusiastically, and for the most part ignorantly, taken him up as a mascot since his death. It is my hope that our George, having transcended the brutal standards of the class in which he was raised, does not fall into the double standards of the self-deluding left.
Frederick R Hill
Eschol Park, NSW, Australia


• Oliver Burkeman’s column (14 November) on FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, recalls what is said to be a national characteristic of Singaporeans: kiasu, or fear of losing (out). I have had students boasting of this rather negative trait, which has made Singapore tour groups in China and the antipodes very unpopular when it takes the form of piling buffet plates high with food, much of which is left unconsumed. Perhaps the promotion of Burkeman’s life-changing JOMO, or Joy of Missing Out, is the solution?
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK

• The News in brief item on the Royal Mail recruiting for Christmas post (24 October) took me back to those days 50 years ago when it was the norm to have lads doing the rounds: trudge through snow and slush with the khaki shoulder bag, but the occasional perk, a tip and even a sherry on the doorstep. And our first-ever pay packet.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

• The 10 million stateless people mentioned by the UN refugee agency (14 November) could be deemed citizens of the world and issued with a United Nations international passport. Possession of such a passport would give them automatic priority when emigrating and seeking residence in any nation.
Henry Collins
Cronulla, NSW, Australia

• In your 7 November issue, you state that The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is “part of the UN”. As a former IOM staff member, I can confirm that it is not, and never has been, part of the UN system. For the record, it was founded specifically to carry out certain activities not open to UN bodies.
David Stieber
Coppet, Switzerland



Sir, It is a sine qua non that we British resolve our disputes through combat (“Shocking cost of divorce for children”, Nov 24). Criminal matters may be best served by trial by jury but, as a family therapist and mediator, I submit that family law needs a major overhaul.

For most people the law is expensive, time-consuming and, crucially, damaging to children.

Couples who try mediation before they go to court find that it helps them to compromise, and to put the needs of their children over their own need to win. Those who don’t are often caught in a legal whirlpool with lawyers who believe that experts and evidence can persuade a judge that “who is right” can be adjudicated successfully. It is hardly surprising that children suffer collateral damage.

In court, I meet many lawyers who want to do what is right for families but I also see those who simply want to win — and who appear to have little idea of the impact their conduct and actions have upon children.

A debate is overdue. Let’s start with an investigation into the effect of divorce upon children in a range of other jurisdictions.
PRW Richardson
Welwyn Garden City, Herts

Sir, Your report mentions that the effect of divorce is of growing concern to schools. Aged 11, my form master approached me with “I hear you’ve had upsetting news at home, young sir. From what I know of you, you are manly enough to work through it. But if ever you need help, I’m here.” No more was said about it for the remaining seven years of our excellent relationship, apart from quizzical glances and reassuring nods and winks. Admittedly I have no alternative outcome against which to measure the benefit that I gained from this good man, but the conclusions of the survey commissioned by Resolution — having to report such negativity and alarm, connecting divorce so directly with bad behaviour and impaired education when decent human nature should be able to cope with the challenge — is a disappointing commentary.
Keith Robinson
Littlewick Green, Berks

Sir, Mental health clinicians can help families to recognise and minimise the effect on children, and they assisted many families from all parts of society until legal aid was removed for divorce. Now, we only help those who can afford to fund themselves. This study shows that the cost to children far outweighs the cost of providing legal aid for all.
Dr Judith Freedman
Consortium of Expert Witnesses to the Family Courts

Sir, The conclusions of the Resolution survey are based on answers to closed questions given by just 500 children, and not on large-scale demographic data. No inquiries I have made have turned up any conclusive data on the oft-made link between educational attainment and divorce. Laying the blame for society’s ills at the door of divorce is dangerous and retrogressive and small-scale surveys such as this, even if commissioned in good faith, may lead to further demonising of
one-parent families.
Dr Diane Bebbington
London SW19

Sir, It is sad that research is only now showing the impact that divorce has on children. My brother and I were permanently affected by the gruelling and acrimonious divorce of our parents in 1963. Our education suffered with poor exam results, our ability to trust was damaged and the course of our lives redirected. Divorce is a course of action that should be discouraged, never made easy.
Jennifer Latham
Wedmore, Somerset

Sir, Disputes between parents should be resolved swiftly to minimise the impact on everyone directly affected by a divorce. Court should be the last resort. Reforms introduced in April mean that both parties must attend a mediation intake assessment meeting before being able to issue court proceedings. Contact and residence orders have also been replaced with child arrangement orders; this change in terminology is designed to guide parents to think about their children rather than concerning themselves with unhelpful labels such as who has “residence”.
Stuart Ruff
Thomas Eggar LLP, Chichester

Sir, If John Betjeman would have approved of HS2’s termination at St Pancras (letter, Nov 24), then he would have bridled at Philip Hardwick’s monumental entrance to Euston being dubbed an “arch”.
Euston’s Greek Revival entrance was a Doric propylaeum.
Professor Emeritus A Peter Fawcett

Sir, You give EUOUAE (Scrabble leading article, Nov 24) as “a cry of Bacchic frenzy”. EUOUAE is not a word; it is an abbreviation, found in Gregorian chant books, and reduced to the salient vowels, of “saeculorum, Amen”, the last words of the doxology, “for ever and ever, Amen”. It indicates to the singer which psalm tone is being used.

I will now always think of pious religious communities in orgiastic frenzy under pretext of praising the Almighty.
Father David Sillince

Sir, It seems that we patients must respect the status of doctors (“Chummy young doctors”, Nov 24), even those young enough to be our grandchildren, by refraining from addressing them by their first names. But what about the other way round?

For the past 20 years I have been called Kathryn, or luvvie or darling or sweetheart, or whatever takes their fancy. It’s unacceptable — but it is a losing battle. My health, however, would be improved by old-fashioned respect.
Kathryn Dobson

Sir, My late husband, a surgeon, liked to quote, “Never make friends of your patients or patients of your friends”.
Elan Griffith

Sir, Mr Hatton (letter, Nov 25) seems a little hard on his doctor. Our doctors here in Fressingfield are quite decent chaps.
Peter Demetriadi
Wingfield, Suffolk

Sir, Alastair Lack’s assertion (letter, Nov 21) that avoidable post-operative complications are the fault of nursing staff is puzzling. Surely a surgeon does not absolve responsibility of the patient once the “last stitch is in”. As a registered nurse, I feel that his statement is a disservice to the individuals in health teams (including physios, nurses and, yes, doctors), who strive so diligently to ensure that their patients recover safely.
Victoria Burch
Kings Newton, Derbyshire

Sir, Mick Hume (Thunderer, Nov 24) stayed just shy of explicitly endorsing Ched Evans being allowed to train with Sheffield United after his release from prison for rape. But his condemnation of the media’s “obsession” with “what footballing folk say” is an attempt to diminish a serious issue.

It is not a sign of “obsession” when a furore erupts over a person in a position of power who says or does something despicable; nor is it “ridiculous” when the chairman of Wigan Athletic is threatened with being “hounded out” for allegedly using antisemitic language.

Most importantly, however, these incidents are not a result of “attempting to dribble through moral minefields”. We have every right to expect human decency from those who have immense financial and cultural power.
Eleanor Cassidy
London W4


Letters: Boris should take a leaf out of Amsterdam’s book

Learning from Amsterdam’s drugs policies; living beyond our means; sexism in the police force; and getting fed up of EU rules and regulations

Gone to pot: a 17th-century Chinese meerschaum hashish pipe in a Dutch collection

Gone to pot: a 17th-century Chinese meerschaum hashish pipe in a Dutch collection Photo: Jeff Rotman / Alamy

7:00AM GMT 25 Nov 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson recently dismissed the “progressive” approach to drugs by countries such as the Netherlands as outdated. He said parts of Amsterdam city centre are “sleazy”, and went on to praise the war on drugs that conservatives have been waging in Britain and America.

First, the sleaziness he is referring to is overwhelmingly caused by groups of drunken English bachelor parties dressed up in mankinis in the red light district.

Secondly, the war on drugs, of which Mr Johnson is so proud, has led to wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. Black Americans are sent to state prisons for drug offences 13 times more often than other races, even though they only comprise 13 per cent of regular drug users.

The drugs war in Britain has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, with no effect on the level of drug use. Most Brits believe the decades-long campaign by law enforcement agencies against the global narcotics trade can never be won. Nick Clegg has publicly said it is “unwinnable”.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, recently came under fire for trying to bury two critical drug reports in which scientists concluded that British politicians can learn from experiences and policies in countries such as the Netherlands.

Amsterdam has always been a bastion of tolerance and freedom, with room for everyone to be whoever they want to be. There are some rough edges here and there, but that is not something Amsterdam is ashamed of. I would rather live in a city with this reputation than one known for its increasing disparity between rich and poor.

Coen Pustjens
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

It’s not just immigration that is the threat, but Britain’s rising annual deficit

SIR – Debate continues on immigration, the health service, education and welfare, but no one in a position of influence seems to have quite pulled it all together yet.

The fact is that even after four years of Coalition government “austerity”, we are this year spending about £100,000,000,000 more than we earn. If my helpful letter from HM Revenue and Customs is to be believed, we are spending it mostly on health, education and welfare, the very services whose costs relate in large measure to the numbers of people using them. In other words, even those of us paying our full whack of direct and indirect taxes are, by providing these services, living beyond our means. And the cost of these services continues to rise. Of course it does as, under our present polity, our population inexorably increases.

So it matters not if new arrivals pay their taxes, are “hard working” or willing to take on jobs that others already here won’t do, because their numbers alone make our existing problems more acute. This is not necessarily an argument for turning off the immigration tap, but it is one for looking at the problem in its entirety.

We cannot go on spending, taxing and increasing our numbers at the levels we do. The political party (or coalition) that grasps this nettle and tells the electorate in coherent terms what it wants to do about it and then gets on and does it, would at least have earned a cross on the ballot paper.

Stephen Wikner
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Michael Howard made immigration one of the key planks of the Conservatives’ 2005 general election campaign. They lost.

Hugh Payne
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – The disillusionment with our present system of government, manifested by the increasing popularity of Ukip, is not difficult to explain.

Over the past 20 years our politicians have failed to regulate the banks, which is the primary cause of our present financial difficulties.

They failed to control immigration, to the extent that many of our cities have changed out of all recognition.

They led us into a disastrous war in Iraq, on false premises.

They failed to maintain our power-generation, so that we now have to import electricity from other countries.

They dumbed down our education system, so that we no longer produce enough young people with appropriate qualifications for our modern industries.

They failed to build enough houses to accommodate our growing population.

They led us into ever-closer union with Europe, without consultation.

Is it a surprise that ordinary people are looking for a change?

John Russ
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – David Cameron is determined. Determined to win back the Rochester and Strood constituency; determined to claw back sovereign powers from Brussels; determined to deal with immigration.

It’s a pity that he cannot convert that determination into concrete results.

Sandy Pratt
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – In March 1962, as a young reporter, I stood inside the Orpington council chamber some time after midnight and heard the Liberal by-election victor Eric Lubbock cry: “If we can win here, we can win anywhere!” This might sound familiar to Nigel Farage.

The now Lord Avebury lost the seat in 1970. It has remained Tory ever since.

Peter Willoughby
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The last time I pulled up at the traffic lights next to a white van the driver was listening to Allegri’s Miserere.

Anne Weizmann
Caversham, Berkshire

Uneven airport tax

SIR – English airports make valuable contributions to the regions we serve, providing connections for local economies, supporting jobs, driving inward investment and promoting inbound tourism.

Continued calls for devolving the rate of Air Passenger Duty to both Scotland and Wales risk distorting the UK-wide level playing field on which we currently operate. This would jeopardise up to £1.2 billion in output and more than 2,500 jobs in the North East and South West of England alone over the next decade, according to economic impact assessments carried out by the air transport consultants, York Aviation.

David Cameron, the morning after the Scottish referendum, stated a wish for a settlement “fair to people in Scotland and, importantly, to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well”.

Advocates for devolving Air Passenger Duty who point to economic benefits do not mention that these would come at the expense of neighbouring English regions.

We urge all parties to rule out the devolution of Air Passenger Duty. It is a tax that should be reformed UK-wide.

Paul Kehoe
CEO, Birmingham Airport

Robert Sinclair
CEO, Bristol Airport

David Laws
CEO, Newcastle International Airport

Papal plot

SIR – Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor would like to dispel any misunderstanding arising from Austen Ivereigh’s book on Pope Francis. He would like to make it clear that no approach to the then Cardinal Bergoglio in the days before the Conclave was made by him or, as far as he knows, by any other cardinal to seek his assent to becoming a candidate for the papacy.

What occurred during the Conclave, which did not include Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor because he was over 80, is bound by secrecy.

Maggie Doherty
Press Secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor
London SW1

Police confessions

Ken German recalled life as a bobby in Confessions of a Copper. Photo: Channel 4

SIR – Tom Rowley wondered what the interviewees would make of Channel 4’s “one-sided” Confessions of a Copper. I took part in what I believed to be a documentary on social change in the police. I am proud of serving for 32 years in the Bedfordshire police force. In my interview I described many positive aspects of the integration of women officers, but this was edited out.

Police in the Seventies were indeed sexist and racist, but that reflected British society. After two high-profile cases, they made efforts to change. I was responsible for training my force in community and race relations. Most were professional enough to accept the need for change, even if they objected to being branded as racists.

The old-time coppers featured in this programme were not representative of the honest, hard-working ones I served with.

Carole Phillips
Retired Police Superintendent
Newton Abbot, Devon

Benefits of volunteering

SIR – Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, is right to encourage volunteering. Giving time to our communities not only helps others, it also enriches and expands the life of the volunteer, increasing productivity, health and wellbeing.

I see volunteering as part of the work of the City of London. Giving something back keeps us mindful that we are all part of the same community and that every City person needs to be a citizen.

Alan Yarrow
Lord Mayor, City of London
London EC4

Give Gandhi a statue, despite Indian partition

SIR – Damien McCrystal argues that Gandhi’s insensitivity to Muslims led to India’s partition.

Muslims have done far better in Hindu-dominated, secular India than any non-Muslim minority has in Muslim-dominated Pakistan. Muslims have led India’s armed forces, been the chief justice of the Supreme Court and excelled as artists and film stars. India has had two Muslim presidents since independence in 1947.

Arvind Singh

SIR – The statue of Gandhi in Tavistock Square is perfectly good. Parliament Square is getting rather crowded.

Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3

SIR – What is our world coming to if we cannot celebrate a man who demonstrated the power of peaceful protest on the grounds that it might provoke terrorists?

Alan Shaw
Halifax, West Yorkshire

Slice of life

SIR – My wife asked the Waitrose bakery section to slice her seeded loaf. This is no longer allowed because of the risk to those with food allergies.

Dr Paul Turnbull

Alverstoke, Hampshire

Iron hand in glove

Beware of the Marigold. Photo: Alamy

SIR – Brussels wants to interfere with our rubber gloves (report, November 24). I am unaware of injuries caused by Marigolds.

During the German occupation of Guernsey it was verboten to cycle two abreast. There is something very weird about the European pysche.

Lady Coward
Torpoint, Cornwall

Princely formula

SIR – Prince Harry addresses the racing driver Lewis Hamilton as “mate”.

How should Mr Hamilton reply?

Professor Ged Martin
Youghal, Co Cork, Ireland

Irish Times:

Sir, – Frequently on top of Carrauntoohil I pondered on its cross. I assume those who erected it were honouring God, but were, ironically, altering the mountain they believed God created.

It was not a pretty cross but it was iconic.

Knocking it was an act of absolute vandalism, an extreme form of censorship and an affront to the efforts and beliefs of those who – with good intention – erected it.

When I next stand beside it – re-erected – I will be happy to see it as a noble symbol, standing against an extreme absolutism. How ironic is that? – Yours, etc, GERRY CHRISTIE, Tralee, Co Kerry. A dhuine usail, – Would Colm O’Brien (Letters, November 25th) be intolerant of structures on the Rock of Cashel or Croagh Patrick too, or even Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro? – Is Mise, BARRY O’CONNOR, Cannonstown, Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Dr Eilís Ward and Dr Gillian Wylie boldly state in their letter (Letters, November 25th) that “the Swedish model doesn’t work” and as evidence say that there are still indications of some trafficking in Sweden.

There may well be some truth in that but there are plenty of other sources that show that Swedish laws have made a significant difference to reducing both trafficking and prostitution in that country.

Writing in the New Statesman in the past week, Rachel Moran reports that comparative official figures between Denmark and Sweden show much higher rates of both in Denmark.

Some will argue that just because the Swedish model does not solve all problems it should not be implemented. The alternative is to maintain the status quo.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported last year that there are about 400,000 women involved in prostitution in Germany but only 44 of them are officially registered with the authorities, as German law allows.

To base a law on the minority “who don’t see themselves as victims”, is to leave the vast majority exposed to exploitation. Germany’s laws are, as Der Spiegel pointed out, are now being viewed as a pimp’s charter.

The Swedish model is not perfect but it is far and away the best proposal on offer. – Yours, etc, KIERAN McGRATH, Child Welfare Consultant, Kilmainham, Dublin 8

A chara, – Kathy Sheridan’s article (“Telling the grim truth about prostitution”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th) was a welcome contribution to the ongoing debate about the situation of prostitution in Ireland, a discussion which has regrettably been dominated by distorted representations of the reality.

Ms Sheridan highlights certain myths which are central to the pro-sex work argument, including the “boys will be boys” justification, and the question of women freely choosing to enter prostitution.

These myths are perpetuated within an overall framework of denial.

We are in denial about the pervasiveness of patriarchy and its impact on our society. We are in denial about the clear links between gender inequality, the relentless commodification of female sexuality in our culture, and the demand for commercial sex; we are also in denial about the exploitative nature of prostitution which supplies this demand.

Prostitution is a symptom of gender inequality in this country, with women from economically-marginalised backgrounds making up the majority of those who are affected.

It is no coincidence that the Nordic countries are consistently ranked among the most equal societies in the world in terms of gender.

It is essential that we understand prostitution in the wider context of gender attitudes in our country, and challenge the denial that perpetuates the “happy hooker” image that pro-sex work advocates would have us believe is the norm; in reality, it simply doesn’t come close to the grim truth about prostitution. – Yours, etc, RUTH KILCULLEN, APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking), St Mary’s, Bloomfield Avenue, Dublin 4.

A chara, – While John A Murphy’s contribution (Letters, November 24th) to the discussion on how best to commemorate the centenary of 1916 is welcome, it seems he is rather missing the point.

Yes, Pádraig Mac Piarais did use the English version of his name when signing the proclamation as did four of the other six signatories, and yes, it is also true that no Irish language version of the proclamation was issued during the Rising.

Conradh na Gaeilge’s criticism of the lack of recognition for Irish in the Government’s plans for the centenary is, however, based on the well-documented interest many of the leaders in 1916 showed in our national language prior to the Rising.

The role Irish and Conradh na Gaeilge played in motivating them to ask questions about the condition of Ireland, better understand our heritage, imagine the Ireland they wanted to construct for the future, and in giving them the confidence to think outside the colonial box has often been the subject of academic debate, and will hopefully be the subject of much public discussion in the run up to the centenary.

We will certainly be doing our utmost to stimulate this discussion, and trust the Government will grant our language the central role in the commemorations it undoubtedly deserves. – Is mise, CÓILÍN Ó CEARBHAILL, Uachtaráin, Conradh na Gaeilge, 6 Sráid Fhearchair, Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 01:06

First published: Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 01:06

A chara, – You published two thought-provoking articles relating to violence in Ireland. Jennifer O’Connell (“Bill Cosby story highlights troubling societal attitudes to consent,” November 24th) wrote about the issue of rape and consent; Úna Mullally wrote about men as hidden victims of violence (Opinion, November 24th).

Census 2011 reported that in 2008, 81.8 per cent of homicide victims were men; 79.9 per cent of serious assault victims were men; 88.1 per cent sexual assault victims were women.

The UN estimates that deaths resulting from intentional homicide amounted to a total of 437,000 in 2012. Every one of these crimes is abhorrent.

On the same day, another story, too late for your print edition, sounds a jarring note for me: Katie Taylor’s fifth world boxing title.

All the reaction I have heard so far is universal acclaim. It is generally seen, it seems by most, as an outstanding achievement. What I say will be, I am sure, an unpopular minority view, but I know I am not alone, and it should have some voice.

The idea of two human beings, men or women, physically beating one another for sport – I find this abhorrent. Yes, they undertake it voluntarily, but I still find it abhorrent.

The fact that the participants wear protective gear and that the referee can intervene alleviates harmful results, but it does not change the essential picture.

People may say that it is not the intention to inflict harm; but then I hear a commentator on radio speak admiringly of a blow to the head given by Katie Taylor to Yana Allekseevna in the third round. It is perhaps the nearest thing we have today to the gladiatorial contests of the past.

We may admire the skill and prowess and dedication of Katie Taylor, but it is misdirected.

President Michael D Higgins offered his congratulations: “All of us are so proud of her.” Not all.

I realise many will see my opinion as ungracious, but I hope for the day when all such “sports” are found unacceptable, although it probably will not happen in my lifetime. Amid all the acclaim for Katie Taylor’s achievement, perhaps you would also allow some space for whatever minority of your readers who may wish to have a contrary opinion expressed. – Is mise, etc, PÁDRAIG McCARTHY, Sandyford, Dublin 16.

Sir, – I concur with the remarks of Mr McQuaid’s letter in yesterday’s Irish Times. I have just ceased my friends’ membership of Wexford Fetival Opera after 37 years.

My memories of the 100-plus performances attended in the old and more recently in the new opera house are most positive.

However, while it is beautifully appointed, giving the Wexford Opera House national status is rather fanciful. There are opera houses throughout Italy in rural areas such as Pesaro which host summer festivals most successfully and with seating capacity even more than Wexford, but the prime opera houses are in Rome and Milan.

We are the only capital in Europe not to have an opera house. We promote this country on the world stage as on a par with others regarding financial services and conference centres so why not an opera house? Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, please note. – Yours, etc. ANN McLOUGHLIN, Nutley Avenue, Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Government has just promised that high-speed broadband is to be made available to every house in the country. People don’t believe these ridiculously optimistic proclamations any more.

I was in the midlands last Saturday and couldn’t get a good signal on my radio to listen to the Ireland v Australia rugby match! We’ve a bit to do before any promises about broadband will be believed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Surely, the most equitable way for mortgages to be approved is on the basis of affordability not some random deposit figure (Letters, November 25th). For example, is it okay if someone borrows the 20 per cent deposit as a personal loan or gets it from a friend. Is it equitable if their parents can just give them the deposit? Does that make them more financially responsible than someone who lives within their means and is applying for a mortgage within their salary range but can’t afford to save a 20 per cent deposit, while meeting all the other costs of modern life in Ireland?

Isn’t the better way to cool down the housing market, not by stamping out demand with artificial deposit ranges from a bygone era that makes no sense in the current market, but to approve loans on a case-by-case basis according to what the customer can afford.

Perhaps Prof Drudy should have a chat with his children or grandchildren and compare and contrast their financial reality now with his financial reality when he was their age. Things have changed. It’s long since time that the rules for mortgage lending should be set by the generation who are actually applying for and paying mortgages. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Irish Independent:

For many, the water charges seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. But everyone has their own epiphany. A point is reached when you just realise that enough is enough and that you have to do or say something.

I reached this point last Monday when I was charged €100 by Galway Co Council for a letter stating that the road outside my property was in its charge.

I queried this fee that same day and asked to speak to a supervisor. No one was available so I asked for an email address. I duly emailed the person asking for a justification for this exorbitant charge. I have not received a reply. This was the final straw for me.

During the previous week I had read Donna Hartnett’s letter in the Irish Independent and I cried because I was relieved that I wasn’t the only person feeling as she did. Then I read about the expenses our TDs are claiming. How can our politicians justify the immorality of claiming up to and above €200,000 in expenses?

Donna Hartnett spoke about the squeezed middle, the people who have to pay for everything, the people who are assumed to be well off because they have jobs. These are the people who are keeping this country going, the people who have to find €50-€60 to pay the GP when a child is sick. These are the people who work so hard that they are miserable and their children are miserable. We don’t complain because it is not in us to complain.

We don’t live in a Third World country, we are the privileged. But injustice is injustice no matter what part of the world you live in, and Irish society has become very unjust. The gap between rich and poor seems to be getting wider.

This is why I would encourage people to go out and protest on December 10. Water charges may not be the biggest issue for you but if you feel that an injustice is being done to you, your family, your neighbours or your friends, get out there and let your voice be heard.

There are still many issues out there that have not gone away. There are still children with special needs who are not getting the therapies they need because of cutbacks, or because staff are not replaced when they go on maternity leave. Just ask anyone who works for or is a client of the Brothers of Charity services or other service providers.

Protest about the issues you feel are important. Demand that our politicians be accountable, demand that our county councils be accountable to and respectful of the people they serve.

And we don’t need Paul Murphy or any ‘professional’ protesters telling us how we should protest. We are tired of being treated like submissive fools. Politicians, dismiss us at your peril!

Mary O’Donovan

Ballymoe, Co Galway

Socialists’ utopia is a pipe dream

With the rise to prominence of the Socialist Party’s Paul Murphy, an anti-water charges TD, it is worth a visit to his party’s website.

Alongside their ideological rhetoric there are mawkish historical articles, one of which refers to Vladimir Lenin’s Russia as “the most democratic form of government ever embarked on”.

However, the reality for Russian peasants was that after Lenin’s revolution came a prolonged epoch of famine and poverty.

Hard-left politicians have gained a newfound popularity, which is partly due to us being led by a detached Government that is out of touch with public sentiment.

The Socialist Party, has, by concentrating all its efforts on the single issue of water charges, propelled itself to the centre stage of a campaign that mobilised an austerity-weary citizenry.

The populist policies of the hard-left create a fanciful image of a utopian society but they are hardly the basis for a sustainable economic future. Those who may consider switching their allegiances to the hard left should familiarise themselves with the historical failures of Marxist ideology.

History has shown that nowhere in the world has there ever existed a utopian Marxist society – simply put, economic policies that stifle private enterprise and individual creativity have ruinous consequences.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Immigrants just want equality

I am just a normal person living a normal life in this country. I was in Ireland for college and now I’m working here. I always thought Irish people have this great tradition of hospitality and generosity. But I’m afraid I can’t say that anymore.

I don’t know whether you walk or drive pass Burgh Quay every morning. But thousands of people do, and I recommend that you try it some time. There is a great view out there, hundreds of people waiting outside the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) office, waiting for their visas. Or should I rephrase that – hundreds of foreigners. The freaking queue runs for three blocks. Excuse my language, but I can’t accept the truth.

We are just people who want to go home this Christmas. We’re just people who want to meet our family. And we are just people who have been standing outside the INIS office since 3:30am, in this cold weather, in the rain!

I certainly cannot believe this is how you treat foreigners in this country, and I certainly could not believe I was being treated in this way.

I work hard and I pay my tax. I paid nearly €30,000 every year when I was in college in Ireland, and now I am being treated like a refugee. No, worse – refugees don’t need to pay for the service, but we do.

I don’t know whether Irish people feel shame when they see this as they walk by. I don’t know whether other foreign investors or businessmen feel depressed seeing this when they drive by.

But I know I feel terrible standing out there on the street.

We don’t expect more than anyone else, we just want to be treated equally.

Tianqi Guo

Address with Editor

Marginalising women is unfair

Desmond FitzGerald tells us that having more women in the political system would not be “any different” to the present situation in which nearly 90pc of politicians are male (Letters, Irish Independent, November 25).

In this democracy, which is supposed to be representative, the fact that more than 50pc of the electorate are female and yet since independence women have had a representation in the Oireachtas in single figures in percentage terms says it all.

The reason why we should have more women in the most important decision-making forums in our democracy is not, as Mr FitzGerald implies, that they are better.

The reason is that marginalising the talents, interests and perspectives of the half of the electorate that are women is inefficient and unfair.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin

Don’t protest, just get on with it

The silent majority in this country are too busy getting on with their lives to protest. There are still enough driven people in this country for whom rising taxes is just an incentive to work even harder. We are still a very wealthy country.

JP McCarthy

Annascaul, Co Kerry

Water meters: get the facts right

Would politicians and journalists, including those on RTE s ‘This Week’, please get clued up on the meaning of:

(a) estimate cost

(b) budget cost

(c) tender price

(d) contract price

They need to do this to avoid making further idiotic and erroneous comments on the projected cost of the installation of the water meters.

Martin Glynn


Irish Independent


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