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3 December 2014 Home

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get round the park I wait in for District Nurse, Secom etc

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up duck for tea and her tummy pain is still there. We go to see the GP


Alan Tyrrell – obituary

Alan Tyrrell was a QC who defended the ‘Beast of Islington’ and employed his persuasive skills in the European Parliament

Alan Tyrrell

Alan Tyrrell Photo: PA

5:32PM GMT 01 Dec 2014


Alan Tyrrell, who has died aged 81, was a versatile QC who expanded his practice to take in European law after spending five years as one of the first elected Conservative members of the European Parliament.

He was a prime mover in the campaign – strongly resisted by France – to base the Parliament entirely in Brussels instead of duplicating its functions in Strasbourg and initially Luxembourg.

Alan Rupert Tyrrell was born on June 27 1933, the son of a clergyman, and educated at Bridport Grammar School. He read Law at the LSE, then in 1956 was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn (he would be elected a bencher in 1986).

He built a reputation appearing in both criminal and commercial cases, and in 1972 was appointed a Crown Court recorder, serving until 1998. He took silk in 1976.

With the first elections to the Parliament scheduled for June 1979, Tyrrell was selected to fight London East, and took the seat by 13,015 votes over Labour.

In the wake of the 1978-79 “Winter of Discontent” he represented employers in several cases involving picketing. One – an appeal to an industrial tribunal by five Safeway lorry drivers sacked for refusing to cross a picket line at the supermarket’s Warrington depot – was halfway through when the campaign began; the chairman adjourned it until Tyrrell’s result was in.

Despite his commitments across the Channel as the Parliament bedded in, Tyrrell remained active at the Bar, that autumn defending a 17-year-old mugger who said it was “unfortunate” that his 75-year-old female victim later died. He also continued to sit as a recorder, in 1980 quashing the conviction of a motorist who claimed police had been trespassing when they arrested him at home for failing to give a breath test.

One of Tyrrell’s most challenging cases came in 1983 when he defended Rudolph Nugent, the “Beast of Islington”, on six charges of rape and attempted rape, seven of robbery and one of arson. Nugent received six life sentences and one of 25 years.

Tyrrell’s powers of persuasion served him better in the Strasbourg hemicycle. In February 1980 he upset the French, who had unveiled grandiose plans to expand the Parliament’s buildings there, by proposing that MEPs, rather than governments, have the final say on its location.

He proposed an embargo on sales of all surplus commodities to Russia in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the exile of Dr Andrei Sakharov, and pressed for changes in Mrs Thatcher’s government’s British Nationality Bill to remove the risk of the grandchildren of British citizens living abroad being born stateless.

In 1982, with tensions high over Northern Ireland, Tyrrell headed a committee of MEPs which called for “common principles on extradition between member states”. Its recommendation was directed at the Irish Republic, whose constitution did not allow extradition for “political” offences.

When MEPs came up for re-election in 1984, Tyrrell lost his seat to Labour’s Carole Tongue by 12,159 votes. He stood again in 1989, but lost by a wider margin.

Tyrrell became chairman of the Bar’s European group and in 1988 of the Bar Council’s international practice committee, and in 1990 was appointed a deputy High Court judge.

That year he appeared at the public inquiry into what became the A14, representing objectors to the plan to route it across the Civil War battlefield at Naseby. When the inspector rejected their arguments Tyrrell took the fight to the High Court, but the scheme went ahead.

Tyrrell in 1994 saw the Court of Appeal strike down as “plainly wrong” his decision that a man who suffered brain damage as a baby during an operation 30 years before could not sue the hospital.

At various times he was London region chairman of the National Federation of Self-Employed, a General Commissioner of Income Tax, arbitrator for the Paris International Chamber of Commerce, a director of Papworth Hospital NHS Trust, and a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board . His books included The Legal Professions in the New Europe (1992).

Alan Tyrrell married Elaine Ware in 1960. She survives him, with their son and daughter.

Alan Tyrrell, born June 27 1933, died October 23 2014.


The A303 at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, where a tunnel is to built for the road where it passes the anc The A303 at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, where a tunnel is to built for the road where it passes the ancient monument. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

You refer to the accusation that the road programme announced on Monday is promising road improvements in marginal constituencies to gain votes for the coalition (Clegg denies ‘motorways for marginals’, 2 December). Here in the Arundel and South Downs constituency we have a Conservative MP with a majority of 16,691. Is it a coincidence that the road scheme announced for Arundel – a new bypass – is the only scheme in the whole road investment strategy for England which is a major, hugely damaging dual carriageway through unspoilt countryside? All the other schemes listed are widening of existing major roads and motorways, and junction improvements.

All the routes proposed for the bypass cross the magnificent Arun valley floodplain. The western end of the bypass either slices through a very large woodland within the South Downs national park or terribly damages three beautiful villages – Tortington, Binsted and Walberton. Was this held to be a bypass scheme that could be included in the programme because there was little chance of the opposition to the bypass (which is considerable) mattering on election day?
Emma Tristram
Binsted, Sussex

• Spun A1? Readers south of Watford reading about “the conversion to dual carriageway of the A1 all the way from London to Ellingham” (Report, 1 December) might like to know that the A1 has for many years been dual carriageway all the way from London to Morpeth. The £290m extension to Ellingham will involve upgrading about 12 miles of single carriageway.
Peter Hunt
Swanland, East Yorkshire

• For 70 years the University Grants Committee distributed five-year grants to the universities in a way that was secure and free from political interference. It was described as a model piece of government machinery. Just before abolishing the UGC in 1989, the Thatcher government also ended tenure for university teachers, another guarantee of independence.

Now George Osborne is offering a secure five-year grant to the Highways Agency. The aim is to free the road programme from the “interference” that could arise from the election of another government. Modern Toryism’s priority is here laid bare: for cars, not learning.
Thomas Lines

• The chancellor always seems to be able to find a couple of billion pounds when he needs to, but how much of the latest contribution to the NHS will really go to private contractors (Osborne under fire over £2bn NHS pledge, 1 December)?
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• Polly Toynbee warns that all parties are in a PR austerity race, to cut the alleged deficit (The economic dishonesty is the deadliest deficit of all, 2 December). Any money system as large, rich and old as the government or the City, without constant public vigilance, is infested with debilitating parasites and tapeworms. But the greatest parasite, the deepest media silence, the most unmentionable political taboo, is UK money in tax havens, from £1tn to £3tn (8 million well-paid, real jobs). “Tax haven” identifies it as tax-evasion-capital-flight, which if hidden by a lowly Stockport plumber would be recovered by HMRC, in a back-tax case. The UK is not poor: £3tn is the liquid surplus of all past and present generations’ work, siphoned out by the 0.5%. Repatriated, it will pay all deficits and reboot the UK economy. Will the Guardian break the tax-haven taboo?
Noel Hodson

• We were disappointed to read of the science minister Greg Clark’s unwillingness to commit to a continued ringfencing of science spending in the Conservative party’s manifesto for 2015 (via interview in Research Fortnight, 12 November). Despite expressing a hope that his party’s support of science research would “continue and deepen”, the minister declined to give assurances on a continued ringfence of the science budget if the Conservatives were re-elected.

As a group of Liberal Democrat MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates seeking a stronger voice for science and engineering in the next parliament, we are proud that our party has already committed to continuing the ringfencing of the science budget, and providing greater public funding on a longer timescale. We have challenged the other parties to match our ambition for a 3% above inflation increase for the next 15 years – so far, none of them have backed us on this.

Investment in science and engineering stimulates economic growth: every pound invested in medical research generates an estimated ongoing return of 30p per year (Wellcome Trust, MRC and Academy of Medical Sciences); a report released last month showed the UK’s space sector growing at 7% per year, employing over 34,000 people and supporting an additional 72,000 jobs downstream.

In the months leading up to the election, we will continue to make the case for greater investment in the UK’s Stem research, and hope to build consensus among all parties for a secure and sustainable science budget.
Dr Julian Huppert MP Cambridge, Simon Wright MP Norwich South, Judith Bunting PPC, Newbury, Lucy Care PPC, Derby North, Layla Moran PPC, Oxford West and Abingdon, Dr Jenny Woods PPC, Reading East, Dr Ed Long Campaign organiser, Team Science

Jim Broadbent Jim Broadbent – not as the Virgin Mary, but as WS Gilbert in Mike Leigh’s film Topsy-Turvy. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext Collection/Sportsphoto/Allstar/Cinetext Collection

People should not be shocked that none of the retailers in the FTSE 100 pay the living wage (Scrooge to pay visit to Primark shareholders, 1 December). Their profitability and expansion is based on low wages. Five Leaves Bookshop is a small radical bookshop in Nottingham. If we can pay the living wage, it can only be greed that stops these big companies doing so. We take the view that nobody involved in bookselling should have to get by on less per hour than the cost of a basic paperback novel. It would be good if others in our industry felt the same.
Ross Bradshaw
Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham

• I’ve been boycotting Amazon for more than two years (Thousands pledge to boycott Amazon, 2 December). One of my greatest pleasures is accessing someone’s wishlist and clicking “bought elsewhere”.
Alison Hallum
Tonbridge, Kent

• The deserved appreciation of Jim Broadbent (National treasure? Oh no. Well, yes, in a way. C-list, G2, 27 November) omitted his luminous partnership as part of the National Theatre of Brent, with Patrick Barlow. A grieving Virgin Mary played by a large crumpled man in a crumpled suit with a tea towel on his head was a breathtaking moment of theatrical clarity, honesty, courage and insight, which ranked with the finest acting performances.
Mike Jakeways
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

• Early day motion EDM 585 draws attention to the closure of Berkshire local newspapers in particular and the closure of 150 of such other local newspapers in recent years (Report, 1 December). I hope that as many MPs as possible will support the EDM because it is becoming more and more difficult for citizens to have their letters published, and this must be a matter for regret in any democracy.
Jim Wright
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

• Re your editorial on NHS spending (2 December): the NHS budget for 2014 was £127bn, while the total wealth of the UK’s 1,000 richest people is £519bn. Which of these can’t we afford?
Andrew Sayer

London sewer London’s Victorian sewerage system, while still in very good condition, now lacks the capacity to meet the needs of an ever-growing population. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

The suggestion that the Thames Tideway Tunnel is not needed (£4bn super sewer – money down the drain?, 28 November) is deeply misguided. The fundamental problem is that London’s Victorian sewerage system, while still in very good condition, now lacks the capacity to meet the needs of an ever-growing population. Last year 55m tonnes of sewage was discharged into the tidal river Thames. “A few minor works” could not solve that. The reality is that the capital needs both the tunnel and sustainable drainage systems. It is not an either/or choice, as other world cities such as Washington DC are already demonstrating. The critical point is that a fit-for-purpose sewerage network is essential for the city’s prosperity and wellbeing. Finally, the £70-80 a year average increase in Thames Water’s wastewater charge (at 2011 prices, excluding inflation) is a worst-case scenario. We are confident we can deliver the project well within the £4.2bn budget.
Andy Mitchell
CEO, Thames Tideway Tunnel

Disabled, MDGs The rights of disabled people often denied, which affects their economic, social and political progress and that of their families. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

Disabled people are among the poorest and most socially excluded people in the world and, on 3 December, international day of persons with disabilities, we are calling on the UK government to make sure that their rights are not forgotten in international development work.

The millennium development goals, which end in 2015, make no reference to the rights of disabled people, and disability is not mentioned in the supporting indicators. Governments around the world must not repeat this critical mistake when considering the sustainable development goals, which will follow the MDGs. There are more than a billion disabled people in the world, of whom 80% live in developing countries. Disabled people rarely have equal access to basic goods and services, and their rights are often denied, which affects their economic, social and political progress, and that of their families.

The UK government will launch a new disability framework today, which we hope will ensure that disabled people in developing countries will be included in DfID’s work and be part of the decision-making process. But it is vital that this work is continued on an international stage. We urge the government and party leaders to recognise that the rights of disabled people, including disabled children, must be recognised in the SDGs to build diverse, prosperous and inclusive societies.
Ben Jackson chief executive, Bond, Tiziana Oliva international director, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Dr Caroline Harper chief executive, Sightsavers, Barbara Frost chief executive, WaterAid, Justin Byworth chief executive, World Vision UK, Simon O’Connell executive director elect, Mercy Corps, James Thornberry director, Sense International, Tim Wainwright chief executive, ADD International, Aleema Shivji director, Handicap International UK, Ben Simms director, StopAids, Rev Rachel Carnegie and Rev Andy Bowerman executive directors, Anglican Alliance, Joanna Clark director of Deaf Child Worldwide, Jane Anthony director, Able Child Africa, Charles Thomson chief executive, Children in Crisis, Peter Walker national director, TLMEW, Aaron Oxley executive director, Results UK, Andrew Betts director, Advantage Africa, Peter Ackland chief executive, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Richard Frost chief executive, Motivation, Andrew Ketteringham treasurer, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Anna-mai Estrella executive director, Chance for Childhood, Peer Baneke chief executive, Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, Firoz Patel chief executive, Child Reach, Anthony Williams chairperson, Near East Foundation UK, Kirsty Smith director, CBM UK, Lael Mohib director, ECI (the Enabled Children Initiative)

• The tragedy of people around the world not having access to Aids drugs could worsen dramatically as a result of the EU-USA trade agreement, the TTIP, being pushed by Cameron and the European Commission. One proposal is to expand data exclusivity rules, which could significantly push up the cost of the generic drugs that provide the backbone of the international Aids response. Countries that used their legal right to override intellectual property laws to access generic medicines in response to health emergencies could also find themselves at the mercy of a lawsuit from pharmaceutical multinationals under the controversial investor-state dispute settlement. Fighting the global Aids crisis means the introduction of progressive legislation and strengthening public health services; the TTIP would undermine both.
Polly Jones
Head of campaigns and policy, World Development Movement 

Royal Mail postman ‘In 10 years, from the early 80s, the government plundered £1bn from the Post Office’s earnings before a penny went into the business’s own coffers.’ Photograph: Katie Collins/PA

Ofcom is right to raise fears that unfair competition is damaging Royal Mail’s ability to deliver to every UK home for a set price. Competitors are creaming off profitable urban mail, while leaving expensive rural mail for Royal Mail to deliver. What a pity no one listened to me and my colleagues in the Post Office press office when we were warning of this nearly 30 years ago.

Again, no one listened 20 years ago, when competitors were allowed to start delivering letters. The then government threw Royal Mail to a pack of wolves without a thought for the universal service obligation, and the then regulator said the only issue for him was to make sure big business got lower prices. I heard him say so at a conference.

In 10 years, starting from the early 80s, the government plundered £1bn from the Post Office’s earnings before the business saw a penny go into its own coffers – and then they taxed that. Members of the trade and industry select committee didn’t even know, or perhaps care, that the Post Office was being taxed twice over. So let’s not have any hand-wringing by politicians saying this world-envied service that binds the country together is at risk. Crocodile tears count for nothing. They pawned the future of Royal Mail for short-term political posturing and free-market dogma.
Alan Whitt
Former chief press officer, Post Office

Mohommod Nawaz A mobile phone photograph of Mohommod Nawaz holding a gun found in his possesssion and that of his brother, Hamza Nawaz, when they were arrested in Dover. They had travelled to Syria with the intention of attending a militant training camp. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

The case of Mohommod and Hamza Nawaz raises profound questions about British justice (London brothers first to be jailed for joining Syrian jihad, 27 November). The two young men were given long sentences, of four and a half and three years in prison respectively, the prosecution claiming that it was “beyond question” that they shared an extremist ideology and that they had travelled to Syria for the purposes of jihad.

However, the judge accepted that “there was no evidence that [they] planned any terrorist activity in this country” or that they had engaged in fighting against Syrian forces. Does this mean that people are being imprisoned now simply for thought crimes, for sharing an extremist ideology, rather than for what they do, or plan to do? And does this apply only to Muslims, or is anyone liable to be had up for what the state cares to describe as “extremist”? Truly, we seem to be entering the world of 1984, and it is very ugly.
Dr Richard Carter

• So, the government implements charges of terrorism against its citizens who are otherwise free to discuss, vote and debate these issues at home but also have a right to move freely around the globe wheresoever they might choose.

Tomorrow I shall visit old friends in Halifax, a multicultural town, and will stand in Bull Green, where there was formerly a bench dedicated to a young man, Ralph Fox, who made his own decision to become a terrorist. He had decided, with thousands of others, to oppose, by his own means, the fascists of Spain. Would he have been freely admitted back into our country today? No, he would have been imprisoned. Likewise the supporters of Ian Smith’s regime who travelled in the 1960s to fight in southern Rhodesia.

Ralph Fox died for a cause that he thought right. Unfortunately, he was killed, like scores of our young men and women in Syria and Iraq. Should we distinguish such men and women from each other? Surely we can all morally unite and condemn the government’s position as deeply shameful.
Michael Leeder

• It’s shocking that the UN has been compelled to curtail its food programme for 1.7m Syrian refugees for want of funding (Report, 2 December). How much are the wealthy regimes in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states contributing to the relief of misery on such a massive scale?
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

Palestine, ruined building The new law raises the question of who the foreigner is in Israel. The Palestinians consider themselves the indigenous people of the land. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Though I agree with Giles Fraser’s analysis (Loose canon, 29 November) that “Netanyahu’s nationality bill is at odds with [the] Hebrew Bible,” and contradicts Israel’s declaration of independence, which affirms “complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”, his quotation from the Book of Numbers – “The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you” – raises the question of who is and who is not a foreigner in historic Palestine.

The Palestinians consider themselves the indigenous people of the land and descendants of the Canaanites, while the population of Israel, which was established in part of Palestine in 1948, is made up of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Arab countries, Europe, the US and other countries.

If the principles of equality were to be applied sincerely across the board to all Jewish and Palestinian people in historic Palestine, it would be easier to resolve the conflict between the two sides.

Netayahu’s policies, whose aim is to declare Israel a national Jewish state, pose a clear threat to the Palestinians who remained within the borders of Israel and became citizens of the new state after the 1948 war, which involved the ethnic cleansing of many of their villages and towns. It is also an attempt to deny the Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland, which they were forced to flee.

The world demands that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people’s lands should end, that an independent Palestinian state should be established next to Israel, and that the two states should coexist in peace and security. The will of the world community and the resolutions and principles of the United Nations should be enforced and considered as binding as the moral principles of major religions in our world.
Maher Othman
Barnes, London

PD James PD James spent childhood years in Ludlow, Shropshire, before her family moved to Cambridge.

PD James spent her formative formative years in Ludlow, Shropshire. My colleague Derrick Anderton and I drew and interviewed James for the Shropshire Magazine in 1994. When Derrick asked whether she thought fondly of those days, she said: “It was a beautiful, beautiful town in which to spend one’s childhood.”

She spoke of knowing Ludlow well: “We used to explore all the paths around the castle, all around the hill. Down below there was the river Teme and the water meadows. I can remember very, very clearly the school I went to, and the names of some of the children come right back to me. The British school, it was called, and the earliest poem I learned there was called Mamble.” As a farewell, she recited the verses to us, adding: “I hadn’t thought of that since I was about nine.”

car green graphic ‘Greening’ an economy requires the provision of alternative energy sources.

Beware the avalanche

I was reflecting on the recent climate meetings of the UN and of promises made by President Obama on climate change, and wanted to mention a German expression, Blechlavine, which means the “tin avalanche”. This is used to describe heavy traffic, on a motorway, for example (21 November).

As it is, my route to work takes me across several dual carriageways and motorways in and around Cologne and, since the clocks have changed, the Blechlavine has become more obvious than ever, with multiple streams of slow-moving tail lights and headlights stretching as far as the eye can see. The same applies to the sky, where, on any clear day, you can see another avalanche of vapour-trails criss-crossing the heavens. And, of course, this is certainly not unique to Cologne.

People talk of “greening” the economy but even if these avalanches of cars were, tomorrow, to be magically powered by electricity, the energy for that would have to come from somewhere and at the moment that would be predominantly fossil and nuclear.

Agencies (eg the UN) and people (Barack Obama) can say whatever they like and can make all kinds of pledges and promises, but until we start to actually reduce the many “energy avalanches” that exist all around us, how can anyone take any of this rhetoric seriously?

This is a tragedy for the planet and an indictment of humankind and, at some point, the avalanche will hit us and then we won’t be able to ignore it any more.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

Right to self-determination

When considering the story Shaping a new world order (21 November), surely it is time to recognise that all peoples have the right to self-determination, and this takes precedence over territorial integrity, whether we are discussing the Kosovans, South Ossetians, Abkhazians, Crimeans or the Russo-Ukrainians. In each of these cases there are indications that the majority of the people in their respective territories want to choose their nationality for themselves. In the case of those territories “annexed” by Russia, the error was that of not arranging internationally recognised referendums as, for example, those provided by Canada for the Québécois and the United Kingdom for the Scots.

There are, of course, many other examples of people wanting autonomy that should be addressed in a new world order. And there have to be caveats: any decision to change must receive the support of 50% plus one of the adults eligible to vote, a simple majority of those voting is not enough; the human rights of the minority must be guaranteed; and in some cases the referendums should be supervised by an independent body such as the UN.
Cy Chadley
Escondido, California, US

Aggression toward Russia

How do the US, EU and their media get away with the continued aggressive stance towards Russia (Browbeaten Putin beats G20 retreat, 21 November)? Do they want to bring on a third world war?

It is US-EU meddling that supported a coup in Kiev in February against a democratically elected government that is responsible for upsetting historic relationships and causing a civil war in Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea because it is historically part of Russia and home to the Russian navy. Why has this not been emphasised by the western media?

The US-UK invasion of Iraq is surely a far greater crime, causing serious problems for world security, and the US and UK can’t claim a territorial relationship with Iraq. Why have western media not continually castigated the US and UK for this act, which destroyed cultures and spawned the development of the radical Isis fighters who are now transfixing the world?
Kay Weir
Wellington, New Zealand

Fingertip falsehood

According to your piece by Emma Brockes (21 November), before 1952 window washers would “hang on by their fingertips”. Picture standing on a window sill and doing upper and lower sashes of a window single-handed. Picture daily dramatic falls, squashed pedestrians, lawsuits, tabloid headlines. Is it even possible in fantasy?

Look at the window frame of a tall commercial building erected during the inter-war years in New York. You will find hooks for a washer’s safety belt on both sides. The washer opened the window, fastened one end of his harness, stepped out on the sill (not the ledge) while holding the window with one hand, and then attached the other end of the harness. Now he could lean back, leaving both hands to close the lower sash and start washing. Unless the harness broke, or the window hardware was defective, he was safe, as soon as one end of the harness was hooked.

Thousands of New Yorkers saw this process every day. Now, with sealed windows, it is less common. But how could you have published anything so absurd?
Olaf Olsen
New York City, US

• Jonathan Jones writes in praise of the iconic tall building One World Trade Center (21 November). The pictures of its tower, with the stranded dangling basket against it containing two window washers who needed rescue, revealed the building to me as another ugly, monstrous totem of misguided wealth. It’s not worth risking the life of a single window washer whose tiny human figure is rendered so completely insignificant in relation to the building’s huge scale.
Lynette Dunn
Wareham, UK

Nature watch is poetry

It is always a pleasure to encounter, mid-Guardian Weekly, the poetry of the Nature watch column by Paul Evans and Mark Cocker. So it was with surprise that I encountered a less-than-apt rendition of the morse code sent by a nuthatch hammering at a hazelnut (Nature watch, 7 November). A radio or telegraph operator sending morse (or CW “continuous wave” as it is known) does not think of “dots” and “dashes” but rather the phonemes “dit”, shortened to “di-” where it is elided with another dot or a dash in a symbol, and “dah”.

Thus the nuthatch (dah-dit di-di-dah, dah di-di-di-dit di-dah dah dah-di-dah-dit di-di-di-dit) would send the word nut as dah-dit di-di-dah dah. Anyhow, to both writers for their evocative nature reveries, my heartfelt dah di-di-di-dit di-dah dah-dit dah-di-dah di-di-dit.
Gary Hovey
Braidwood, NSW, Australia

Recharge the batteries

What a magnificent achievement by the European space agency in sending a satellite to intercept a comet and then to land an investigative probe, Philae (21 November). I suspect everyone in the world was awed by the achievement. Yet, it failed in its larger mission as the result of a simple mistake that we often make here on earth: lack of battery recharging capability.

Yet, the satellite Pioneer 10 penetrated the asteroid belt and left the galaxy entirely still sending out signals. It was launched in 1972 and the last signal received was in 2001. That’s 29 years of power and it may still be alive … it is simply too far away to be heard. It used RTGs (Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generators) with nuclear isotopic power because solar power is unreliable. Solar power comes from one direction and can be hidden, as we have seen. That has been known since space exploration began.

Why was Philae not powered with RTGs rather than left to die in the dark?
John Graham
Hoogstraten, Belgium


• Fear breeds suspicion, amplifies anxiety, paralyses positivity. From three articles in the 21 November issue, it would appear as if fear were the new opium of the British people: a nation stupefied by fear of a potential terrorist attack, fearful of a winter crisis in NHS hospitals and in fear of economic recession.

Perhaps the UK government could think of some cheap and cheery way of keeping up our spirits? Free hot water bottles and a cuddly toy for all, maybe?
Cleo Cantone
London, UK

• Owen Jones (28 November) is right that greed is not inevitable. I worked as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and the instincts of my students demonstrated that the capitalist presuppositions of my home culture were wrong. Despite the inequalities by which we were paid three times as much as my indigenous colleagues, whenever my students brought in food from their gardens, it was shared equally.

Fundamentally, we are created to be by nature selfless.
Martin Jewitt
Folkestone, UK

• My lips were smacking as I read Amy Stewart’s review of The Brewer’s Tale (21 November). Beer, glorious beer! One quibble, however. Fifteenth-century monks made beer, but they weren’t Trappists, who didn’t appear on the scene until the 17th century. And a notable 20th-century Trappist, Thomas Merton, has, in my view, the last word on beer: “I love beer, and by that very fact, the world.”
Donald Grayston
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


The news that Cameron and Osborne “are winning the economic argument against Miliband and Balls” beggars belief, and surely reveals the power of the biased media (“Tories more trusted than Labour with economy…”, 2 December).

The Tories` propaganda machine did an excellent job in 2010, when they blamed Labour for the economic crisis, and stressed the subsequent need for deficit reduction and the imposition of austerity. However, the facts suggest that Tory propaganda works more smoothly than their economic policies.

Remember how the deficit had to be removed immediately? Living beyond one’s means was wrong, and failure to act would mean lumbering the next generation with massive debt? The country fell for it. Reducing the deficit was neither as essential nor as urgent as they claimed, especially as quantitative easing would soon re-capitalise the banks and kick-start the economy.

It did give them, though, the excuse they wanted to make savage cuts in government spending, which meant at least 350,000 job losses in the public sector, and huge reductions in benefits to the less fortunate; their real aim was a low-wage economy for the people and a low-tax regime for corporations and the rich.

In 2010, Osborne predicted the effect of the cuts would be to reduce the deficit to £40bn by the end of this year, but it is likely to be near £100bn. So much for Tory expertise. What about their point of it not being fair to lumber future generations with debt? Strange how this didn’t figure at all when they tripled the fees university students would have to pay.

Labour gets the blame because of all the borrowing its Blair and Brown governments had done. But when the figures are examined, which party deserves the criticism? In the past five years, the Coalition has borrowed £157.5bn, with billions more on the cards, compared with the £142.7bn borrowed by Labour in its 13 years in government; a much-vaunted long-term economic plan which fails to balance the books and leads to exponential borrowing, needs to be seen for what it is: a complete failure.

Still, we are told, because of Osborne’s shrewd handling, the economy has recovered. Really? National income is higher now than it was in the first quarter of 2008, but population has grown by 3.5m, so income per capita is down 3.4 per cent, and real wages for most are down 10 per cent. CEOs of the FTSE 100 companies earn 143 times that of their average employees.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts spending cuts of another £48bn under a Tory government. The myth that the Tories are able economists, and that the economy is safe in their hands is one that needs serious debunking.

Bernie Evans


Has Christmas come early? Despite a current deficit of almost £100bn and rising – some £60bn more than Mr Osborne anticipated – the Government has recently announced the following spending plans: another £3bn on the NHS; £2.3bn more for flood defences; £15bn for roads; £7bn for tax cuts; more money for social housing; possibly a lagoon power scheme. No doubt there will be more goodies to come. There is just one problem. They want the voters to accept a post-dated cheque that will expire on 8 May 2015.

John Naylor



Fracking fisk report misleading

The quotation marks in your headline “Fracking risk ‘is similar to asbestos and thalidomide’” (29 November) are misleading. The government report does not say this – and does not imply it either.

I expect better from The Independent than completely misrepresenting expert opinion. If you want a quote from the report, how about this: “The development of shale gas will bring multiple economic benefits to the United Kingdom.”

Or, possibly the most balanced summary conclusion: “Fracking can be done safely in the United Kingdom, but not without effective regulation, careful management, robust environmental risk assessments and rigorous monitoring.” (These are actual quotes from the report.)

Mark Gugan

Dorchester, Dorset


The threat from across the Atlantic

Referring to the growing dominance of Stagecoach in mainline train services as a result of the rush to re-privatise the East Coast line before the 2015 election, Dr John Disney of Nottingham Business School writes “This is essentially a private monopoly analogous to British Rail Inter City” (letter, 1 December).

Worse will be to come if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) US/EU trade deal is ratified: no current franchises could ever be returned to public ownership although there is growing public demand for re-nationalisation of the rail system.

Some politicians are rightly alarmed that this fate awaits the NHS, but inexplicably, most don’t care/realise that TTIP demands access by predatory US organisations to all parts of our (and EU) publicly owned utilities/companies.

TTIP in its current form must be rejected totally.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk

No one should be denied justice

Robert Morfee (letter, 1 December) is right to complain of the appalling cost of going to law in Britain.

Next year there will be celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta; but we are still waiting for the implementation of the key clause of Magna Carta promising that “to none will we sell, delay or deny justice”. We should not have to pay for justice. We have had a National Health Service for nearly 70 years – is it not time we had a National Law Service?

John Smurthwaite


People don’t need  to ‘fight’ cancer

Thank you for Margaret McCartney’s article “Peacefully, at home” (28 November). I too have been angered by the cancer organisations stating “fight/beat cancer”.

I agree with Jenny Diski’s comments. People suffering from cancer do not need this rhetoric. They are put under pressure to keep “fighting” when what is needed is consideration and care for their final months, not medical intervention.

That is why I support the Macmillan nurses who come into your home to give that essential care and pain relief.

Hazel Burton

Broadstairs, Kent

Lebanon deserves the world’s help

Lebanon is facing its greatest challenge with a massive influx of displaced Syrians – which has produced an unparalleled humanitarian crisis in this small country.

Lebanon has become the biggest host country, per capita, in the world. And its response to the situation, despite its limited resources, has been applauded by world leaders and international organisations.

But the international community’s response to the crisis has been below needs and expectations.

A recent World Bank study revealed that the total cost to Lebanon will reach $7.5bn by the end of 2014. Lebanon is calling on the international community and donor countries to offer some much needed support.

Inaam Osseiran

Ambassador of Lebanon

London W8

Remembering Gordon Brown

The Great Clunking Fist clunks off, haunted by the three moments when his nerve failed him – ducking leadership elections against John Smith and Tony Blair and a snap 2007 election.

At Edinburgh University, when I knew him, he seemed to me, even then, a thin-skinned brooder, a grinder rather than brilliant, but possessed of the most manic ambition.

He became Prime Minister but he seemed to have no idea what to do with such power, and his failures as Chancellor cancelled out whatever good he may have done in that long decade. His two most revealing moments were when he misspoke: “We have saved the world” and when he went ballistic after his encounter with the “bigoted woman”.

He emerged from his self-imposed purdah to save a referendum which really did not need to be saved and – typically – his “vow” may, in fact, be the thing that does break up the UK.

Rev Dr John Cameron,

St Andrews, Fife

Imagine all those countless tragedies

The shock and dismay at the death of the cricketer Phil Hughes has been felt and expressed far beyond the cricketing world. There has been a visceral, almost tangible reaction to our helplessness as witnesses to a young, talented, and blameless life eclipsed at the whim of chance.

As the centenary year of the First World War draws to a close, it may be fitting to bring Phil Hughes to mind, then to conjure up the image of the poppies at the Tower Of London, and to imagine each poppy as another Phil Hughes,

George Taylor

Westmill, Hertfordshire


Sir, Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, rightly points out that “It’s urban jams, with their impact on air pollution levels and general quality of life, that should worry us most” (“Money for roads . . . but no end to jams,” Dec 1). He has also identified a “dramatic” drop in the number of young people driving.

It would surely make sense for ministers to encourage this trend by making bus services better and more affordable rather than allowing the Department for Transport’s forecast of continuing decline to be fulfilled. Public transport is far more efficient than cars in terms of passengers carried per metre of road.
Barry Goodchild
Carshalton, Surrey

Sir, The government’s plans for new and improved roads to be completed within the next five years are designed in part to ease road congestion. The problem is that by the time the roads are completed the population will have risen by at least two million. We will still be gridlocked and will still fall down the same potholes.
Phil Willan
Mellor, Blackburn

Sir, The announcement of further road improvements is very welcome, but the increase in congestion is caused only in part by the greater number of vehicles; the other factor is larger cars. The current VW Golf is 2ft longer and 1ft wider than the first model 40 years ago, and this is typical. Perhaps vehicle tax should take into account road space used as well as engine emissions.
Dick Bell
Esher, Surrey

Sir, English Heritage has, it seems, been successful in suckering the government into returning Stonehenge to its “natural setting” by closing a stretch of the A303 and building an expensive tunnel. The key advantage of the current arrangement is that so many people at least get to see Stonehenge. Burying the A303, while pleasing the few, would massively reduce the number of people able to enjoy a glimpse of this national monument.
Gregory Shenkman
Fifield, Wilts

Sir, We need to know how many ventilation shafts will be poking up into the Stonehenge landscape. Maybe a widened existing road would do less harm after all.
Stephen Marks

Sir, The proposed Stonehenge tunnel will cost either £1.3 billion or £1.4 billion depending on whether it is 1.8 or 2.8 miles long. How then can a plan for a 13-mile tunnel to connect the Isle of Wight to the mainland be priced at £1 billion? One of the estimates must be awry.
Paul Pearce
Letchworth, Herts

Sir, It is interesting that all the new road improvements are in England. Is this a snub to Scotland for nearly leaving the UK?
Harry Cooksley
Findhorn, Morayshire

Sir, Forget testing for the elderly (letter, Dec 1): the costs would be prohibitive. Instead, every driver should have one driving lesson a year with a certified instructor. Insurance would only be available to those who have proof of having had this refresher. This would undoubtedly improve driving standards and might also be an easier way to persuade those whom an instructor considers dangerous to give up their licence: much less harsh than leaving it to family members to do the deed.
Fiona Rolt
Blakesley, Northants

Sir, My 18-year-old daughter decided to try motorway driving a few weeks after passing her test but was cut up within the first mile on the M25. Her suggestion is that all drivers be retested every five years, both theory and practical. If they fail twice consecutively, they should begin lessons again.
Shân Ayres
Cheshunt, Herts

Sir, As an occasional user of the Dartford crossing I have discovered I now have to pay the £2.50 fee by going online (which I rarely do), or via a smartphone (which I have not got), despite the infrastructure being paid for many times over. I have always rendered to Caesar and will continue to do so, but this Dartford charge is an utter nuisance and makes assumptions about my technological capabilities which I will have difficulty delivering.
The Rev Canon Alan J Bell
Clenchwarton, Norfolk

Sir, Apropos “Time to put the Turner out to grass” (Dec 2). Why, each time the Turner prize is awarded, does my mind irresistibly murmur the words of Ambrose Silk in Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags: “ ‘My dear,’ Ambrose had said, ‘you can positively hear her imagination creaking, as she does them, like a pair of old, old corsets, my dear, on a harridan.’ ”?
Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset

Sir, Your conclusion that the introduction of police and crime commissioners has been a “fiasco” because a few PCCs may have behaved less than admirably (“Spent force”, Leader, Dec 1) is no more valid than concluding that our system of gallantry awards is corrupt because of issues relating to one or two recently awarded medals.

The majority of PCCs have carried out their responsibilities with integrity. They have introduced a more holistic approach to crime prevention, achieved better value for money, encouraged more innovation in the way local policing is delivered and forged closer links between police forces and their communities.
Lord Wasserman
House of Lords

Sir, The Bahrain elections (News, Nov 24) drew massive support from citizens who chose to turn the page on the kingdom’s challenging past, and despite calls for a boycott and the intimidation that ensued, the country saw a 52.6 per cent voter turnout. Far from being “chaos”, the day went smoothly. Our country lies in a hostile and volatile environment that requires the support of the international community. This is not the time to politicise the military cooperation that Bahrain has with its allies.
Alice Thomas Samaan
Ambassador, Bahrain Embassy

Sir, Samuel Gray (letter, Dec 1) suggests that we should increase our milk price to £1.50 to help support dairy farmers. We buy our milk only from farmers with whom we have been working for many years, and we pay them a market-leading price. We treat our farmers fairly.
Heather Jenkins

Sir, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is right (Thunderer, Dec 1) about the scandal that is the waste of fish via the EU policy of “discarding”. He is also right that we find ourselves on the cusp of what would be a watering down of the “discard ban”. I’d like to reassure Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall that my colleagues on the fisheries committee will vote against any wrecking amendments.

Restoring to Britain the right to have its own fisheries policy — along the lines of what I’m sure Hugh and millions of voters want — is critical.
Nigel Farage
Ukip leader

Sir, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s call is laudable, but ending discards could have a negative effect on the marine wildlife that now relies on this practice. Although the European Commission is confident that sea birds will adapt their feeding habits, we should be prepared to see more gulls foraging on inland refuse dumps.
Rob Yorke
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire


The effects of mass migration; tunnel vision at Stonehenge; the real Cdr Alastair Denniston; and soft drinks to get you through a dry January

Before the EU: Portuguese migrants arriving in London in search of work, 1917

Before the EU: Portuguese migrants arriving in London in search of work, 1917 Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

7:00AM GMT 02 Dec 2014


SIR – It worries me that our politicians focus on immigration as the defining issue in our relationship with the EU. I can foresee David Cameron extracting some concessions from our EU partners on such things as benefits (but not overall numbers arriving) and seeking to use such “success”, together with some fiddling with our budget contribution, to argue that this represents a “renegotiation” and that we should stay in the EU.

The union is a deeply undemocratic, bureaucratic and corrupt institution in which the interests of individual voters and sovereign governments are subsumed within a group of 28 disparate states. Mr Cameron should negotiate the repatriation to national governments of all powers that do not require a pan-European solution, the primacy of national laws, a veto on issues that damage national interests, the alignment of the UK budget with those of member states and an insistence on EU accounts receiving a clean audit.

Ian Jefferson
London W6

SIR – Mass immigration over an extended period has overloaded Britain’s health, housing, education and benefits systems.

British people who choose to live on the Continent are likely to be retired, with the resources necessary not to be a burden on their hosts. To suggest that Britons might choose to go to other EU states in order to gain access to their welfare benefits, when most of these are far inferior to those of Britain, is ridiculous.

A cap on EU immigration to Britain should be introduced immediately.

Mick Richards
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire

SIR – Mr Cameron proposes that EU immigrants to Britain must wait four years before being considered for council housing. I am British, and out of work, and have waited more than four years for a council house or flat to no avail, because so few remain. Is Mr Cameron promising to build more council housing for the natives?

The Rev Richard Haggis

SIR – Your report on police checks for migrants brought to mind my late father’s remarks about his experiences after the Second World War. As a recently demobbed Polish soldier in London, he had to take his alien registration papers to be stamped weekly at a police station.

The part of Poland where he had lived before the war was taken over by the Soviets. Compared with the treatment he had received in a Soviet gulag, he considered his trips to a police station a small price to pay for the widespread freedoms that he and his hosts enjoyed and for which, together, they had fought so hard.

George Andruszkiewicz
London N13

Stonehenge tunnel

SIR – Tunnelling past Stonehenge would be total madness and vastly more expensive than adding another carriageway alongside the existing A303, which could be built with the absolute minimum of disruption to traffic.

Those who are so vocal about preserving a national monument, which Stonehenge certainly is, have never been able to prove that traffic on the A303 damages it unduly. Those of us who regularly use the A303 should not be deprived of the sight of Stonehenge in its natural setting.

Keith Webb
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – As of this week, access to and from Kent via the Dartford Crossing is controlled by the French tolling company Sanef. Weeks ago, the Department of Transport told Dart-Tag holders (who currently pay in advance) that Sanef would advise them by mail or email how to transfer their account. A “verification code” finally arrived, but when I tried to use this online, I was asked instead for a password, which I do not have. I remain unable to access my account, or the credit on it.

Sanef’s UK headquarters at Harrogate has advised that it cannot help, as a new company has been established for the Dartford Crossing operation. All web-based advice directs one to an 0300 number. For days I was unable to get through, and eventually an automated reply informed me that they were suffering “communications problems”.

Is this a French ploy to prevent those north of the Thames from entering Kent?

Roger Stainton
Buntingford, Hertfordshire

Bletchley reality

A family photo of Cdr Alastair Denniston (left) who was played by Charles Dance (right) in The Imitation Game.

SIR – As one of the few still alive who worked at Bletchley Park, I cannot believe that any of us would endorse the representation of Commander Alastair Denniston in the film The Imitation Game. When I encountered him he seemed a kindly and dedicated man.

This country owes Cdr Denniston a considerable debt for the persistent work he did over many years, which brought about the achievements of Bletchley Park and shortened the war.

Is it not time that the law of libel was changed to enable descendants to issue a writ when their forebears have been grossly misrepresented?

Lady Body
Stanford Dingley, Berkshire

SIR – Radio amateurs played an important part in providing received intelligence to Bletchley Park during the Second World War. They used their skills under very secure conditions at home to intercept enemy Morse transmissions on short-wave bands whenever they could (often staying up all night), before sending their reports to ”Station X’’. It was mostly a one-way correspondence, but occasionally they would hear back from Bletchley with requests of “More of the same”.

The “secret listeners” were unable to share their experiences for many years — and it seems that even now there’s a reluctance in official circles to acknowledge their contributions fully.

Rob Mannion
Bournemouth, Dorset

Look further afield for long-term airport solution

SIR – The three proposals put forward by the Airports Commission would provide a short-term solution to the problem of airport congestion, but there would be no room for further expansion.

In the long-term, a new hub airport will be required. It is suggested that it should be built in the West Midlands. Using HS2, the transit time to central London would be comparable to that from Gatwick.

A major airport in the Midlands would encourage development in that area, rather than in the overcrowded South East.

Harry Mead
Cheam, Surrey

SIR – There is a perfectly good and under-used airport at Birmingham. It is only 70 minutes from Euston by rail – quicker than getting to central London from Heathrow by tube. It is time people looked further than Watford.

Paul Regan

SIR – Adding infrastructure to under-used airports in the South West would cost far less than at Heathrow. The reduction in the number of people forced to use Heathrow could go a long way towards providing the added capacity that the City is crying out for, without the need to create an additional runway, destroying homes in the process.

Michael Cuttell
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – Boris Island is the answer to our present lack of airport capacity. Our

19th-century forefathers were never held back by nimbies and self-interested conservationists.

As a nation that once led the way in engineering, we seem to be suffering from a collective loss of vision for our future generations.

Marion Gilbert
Long Buckby, Northamptonshire

SIR – Is it possible that A T Brookes has a personal interest in suggesting Heathrow as the site of airport expansion, living, as he does, next door to Gatwick?

Aidan Gill
Windlesham, Surrey

Musical class division

SIR – While waiting to be connected to an assistant, one used to have to listen to Vivaldi. SSE, the energy firm, now offers a choice of pop, classical, jazz or rock.

Is this a method to analyse the socio-economic groups of their customers?

Peter de Snoo
Truro, Cornwall

Not following the crowd

SIR – My wife and I did not buy a single item on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Are we unusual, or very unusual?

John Roberts
Wokingham, Berkshire

Soft drinks to get you through a dry January

Gin and tonic, but hold the gin. Photo: Alamy

SIR – Finding something non-alcoholic and exciting to drink during “dry January” is not easy. Mixing apple or cranberry juice with plain or fizzy water is a good start. A large wine glass makes it more enticing.

An alternative to dry January – when you quit alcohol for 31 days – is to cut out alcohol for two days a week throughout the year, which will give you 100 dry days altogether and is far more manageable.

Jack Hay
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

SIR – To ameliorate the awful prospect of a dry January, I recommend Tesco’s Fiery Ginger Beer (with no added sugar). Readers can find it tucked away on a bottom shelf, near the serried ranks of Coca-Cola.

Roger Fowle
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

SIR – During dry January I go for a “pink pearl”: low-calorie tonic (Schweppes is best, but any port in a storm) with a couple of drops of Angostura bitters. The month goes (relatively) quickly.

Patrick Fossett
Cobham, Surrey

Irish Times

Sir, – As I was leaving the city centre in the evening a few weeks ago, I met John Corrie, the homeless man who died on the streets this week. He was with another man who was homeless and who was trying to convince John to come with him to a hostel. But neither he nor I could talk him into it. I ended up talking to them both for a while, and convincing them to at least let me get them something to eat.

John said he would stay where he was, and we could bring him something back if we wanted.

The other man went with me to get the food, talked to me for a while, told me about how long he had been out, and about some of the challenges he was facing.

In the end he thanked me and said he was going to find a hostel. But he warned me John wouldn’t. When I offered to give John money for a hostel, he flatly refused and told me I shouldn’t trust him with it – that it would only go towards him helping himself get through another day, and nothing more.

We all shook hands and two of us went in different directions. John stayed behind.

When I heard the news, I was worried that it might be John. I’m glad now that I asked for his name, and gave him mine. He seemed suspicious of my question at first, and would only ask why I wanted to know. When I told him that everyone has a name, and names should be remembered and spoken, he shook my hand and told me that he was John Corrie, 43 years-old. I will always be thankful he trusted me with that.

I know John was a troubled and complicated man. Even our brief conversation told me that, and John himself admitted it. But he was a person, and he needs to be remembered.

Even when we feel we can’t do much to help, we can remember, and we should take it as our duty to do so. – Yours, etc, KYLE HUGHES Bray. Co Wicklow. Sir, – The tragic death of a homeless person in Dublin must result in real and effective action to address the fact that our homeless hostels are usually full, and vulnerable individuals are left to fend for themselves on our streets.

Clearly more social housing units and hostels are required but what is seldom discussed is the need for a minority of homeless people – those who lack capacity because of the effects of mental illness or addiction – to have their finances managed and so ensuring that limited funds are available to pay for their basic needs.

Many agencies run shy of taking on the responsibility of acting as social welfare agents regarding this cohort, and the fact that the Capacity Bill 2013 is yet to be enacted is an additional obstacle to those who lack the capacity to access the care and support that could transform their lives in terms of both physical and mental health. – Yours, etc, FRANK BROWNE Templeogue, Dublin 16. Sir, – The horrific death of a young homeless man so close to Dáil Éireann should be a stark reminder that very little has happened since the death of Peggy and Danny, who died on the streets back in 1992 on a cold snowy December day.

It is high time that politicians set aside a full day to debate this problem. It should never happen again.We cannot be proud of our city if individuals are dying on our pavements.

Homeless people may have other social or medical problems, which for some is the reason they are not coping, and we as a Christian country have to assist them.

These individuals have been let down and while we can boast about research and quote statistics we are not giving human beings a place to sleep, keep warm and clean, eat and stay safe. We should bow our heads in shame.

There are simply no excuses.– Yours, etc, ANN MARIE McMAHON Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Sir, – It is bordering on immoral that we let homeless people die in the street while planning to spend up to €30 million on the 100th anniversary of 1916.

Why not spend four or five million on the anniversary, and use the rest to partially solve the homeless problem? – Yours etc, JOHN O’BRIEN, Churchtown, Dublin 14. Sir, – Resulting from the death of a homeless man in Dublin over the weekend there is a clamour from politicians and organisations from all sides to do something about housing such people.

The suggestion is that more housing is needed, but this surely is a long-term solution and action is needed now.

It’s time to think outside the box. Let the Government, or whichever local authority is responsible, either buy or hire a cruise liner. This would give instant accommodation with all the facilities of a hostel. Fund it properly and let one of the existing caring organisations run it.

This would give time to seriously look at the problem and consider how to house the homeless in a proper manner. – Yours, etc, GERRY BROUDER Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Yesterday the teachers unions held the first in a potential series of strikes in protest against the reform of the Junior Cert. Gerry Quinn of the TUI has denied the strikes are related to pay and conditions. 

The unions have affirmed the strike is about the fundamental nature and philosophy of education. If we accept the need for a Department of Education, headed by an elected minister, surely it is the responsibility of the department to set the policy. Are teachers looking for a veto on all future educational reform?

What other groups will be allowed to conscientiously object to reforms? Would we accept a strike by the Garda in protest over a change in drug crimes or of the registrars following a change in marriage laws. I think not. – Yours, etc, EOGHAN Ó BRAONÁIN Claremorris, Co Mayo. Sir, – I can’t understand why secondary school teachers are kicking up such a fuss regarding internal marking of students’ continued assignments.

As a lecturer in a British university, and before that in Ireland, internal marking of students’ grades is the norm, indeed it is best practice at third-level in both countries.

The system works because of internal moderation processes and external auditing. Each batch of students’ work is first moderated by a fellow member of staff (samples from fails to firsts are moderated). Additionally, external examiners are responsible for reviewing samples of each batch of assignments and examinations during the course of the academic year. This two-way process ensures staff members are not left feeling vulnerable to accusation of bias towards a particular student.

It’s about time educators in Ireland caught up with the rest of the western world and embraced innovative learning and teaching practices. – Yours, etc, DR STEPHEN KELLY Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool.

Sir, – Could someone please explain to our Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan that the integrity and objectivity are not things to be compromised on in assessment.

We have seen the results of light-touch regulation in the financial sector and independent quality assessment is an essential in manufacturing and service sectors.

Education needs its checks too. – Yours, etc, FERGAL CANTON Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny. Sir, – Geraldine Mooney Simmie (Letters, December 1st) does well to warn us against complacency regarding the increasing impact of the neo-liberal agenda on education policy.

However, her suggestion that the current Junior Cycle proposals are predicated on market values is based on some rather dubious grounds that simply do not add up.

Mooney Simmie seems to be under the mistaken impression that our education policies up to now have been untainted by market ideology. However, any schools have already been, in her own words, “finding their own way within the logic of the markets” and have been adopting “exploratory”, “adventurous” or “cautious” positions.

The Junior Cycle pilot schools, whose principals wrote so honestly in this paper recently, obviously fall into the adventurous category. To suggest these necessary and progressive changes, whose introduction was mooted 10 years ago during the Celtic Tiger era, are motivated by financial considerations is wide of the mark. – Yours, etc, PROF JIM GLEESON Australian Catholic University Brisbane.

Sir, – Complaining that tourists cannot climb the Wellington Testimonial or the Spire, Frank McNally writes, “For the city of Oscar Wilde to have one tall but useless monument is unfortunate. Two must give visitors the impression we don’t need money” (An Irishman’s Diary, November 28th).

At one time Dublin did have a monument that tourists could climb. Because it commemorated Nelson, the local patriots, showing their usual wisdom, blew it up. – Yours, etc, F HEMMENS, Sevenoaks, Kent.

Sir, – Cantillon (“Boat owners at sea over EU action on use of ‘green diesel’”, November 29th) says that boaters are bemused that the European Commission expects the Irish government to stop subsidising yacht-owners by allowing them to use green diesel in their private pleasure craft.

I am surprised that boaters failed to notice that Ireland agreed to end this subsidy in 1992. Like the UK, it was granted two derogations to allow it time to install the appropriate infrastructure. It sought a third derogation in 2006, but the European Commission’s patience had expired and it refused the request.

Ireland might, at that point, have introduced a simple regulation requiring “white diesel” be used in private pleasure craft. Instead, it introduced what Cantillon calls an honour system: voluntary taxation for the well-heeled. Yacht owners would be allowed to use cheap green diesel and at the end of each year they would pay the Revenue Commissioners the the difference in duty between green and white diesel.

The problem is that the system does not work. I do not know how many diesel-powered private pleasure craft there are, but I suspect the number is over 10,000. The numbers of owners who paid the duty were:38 in 2011 (for 2010): 41 in 2012 (for 2011): 22 in 2013 (for 2012) and 23 in 2014 (for 2013).

The European Commission knows that; its press release of November 26th, 2014 says “the low number of tax returns indicate that the minimum level of taxation is not applied”. The Government’s ludicrous pretence of compliance with the Energy Tax Directive has now been exposed.

Any boat-owners scratching their heads about the commission’s action must be trying to remove the sand in which their heads have been buried for the last 22 years.

But if more of them had paid the duty, if there had been more honour amongst yacht-owners, the Commission might not have had to act. – Yours, etc, BRIAN J GOGGIN Castleconnell, Co Limerick.

Sir, – It is high time that politicians found guilty of wrongdoing or criminality while in office should be made to forfeit their pensions.

It is galling to see fat cat corrupt politicians cream the system and then to get rewarded by their victims for doing so. – Yours, etc, PETER CAFOLLA Athy, Co Kildare.

Sir, – I am a doctoral research student at the University of Roehampton, London. My area of interest is Irish Catholic chaplains in the British army during the second World War.

Of the approximately 680 chaplains in the army, over 160 were Irish. I seek to be in contact with family members who may have letters, stories, reminiscences and artefacts recounting the wartime experience of their chaplain relative. All communications will be gladly acknowledged. – Yours, etc, RISTEARD DE BURCA Department of Humanities, Grove House, University of Roehampton Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PJ.

Sir, – Your article (“Oil falls to four-year low as Opec maintains production levels”, November 27th) caused me to wonder what is the relative cost of road fuel (petrol and diesel) today compared with four years ago. Fortunately AA Ireland publishes average fuel figures over this period.

The average cost of diesel is just above 140 cent per litre. Four years ago in November 2010, it was 125 cent per litre and just after the last tax increase in December 2009 it was 112.4 cent per litre.

I hope we can all now expect to see fuel prices rapidly dropping to the historic levels justified by the current cost of crude oil. – Yours, etc, MICHAEL REDFERN Oranmore, Co Galway

Sir, – Nigel Ryan is alarmed by the campaign poster for the White Ribbon campaign, a male led organisation whose aim is to try to end men’s violence against women (Letters, December 2nd).

Mr Ryan finds the statement “helping end men’s violence against women” to be “a ghastly unqualified indictment and collective libel”. Perhaps his disgust would be better directed towards the statistics and facts around male violence against women. Just last week, Women’s Aid held a demonstration outside the Dáil in remembrance of the 78 women, who along with 10 children, have been murdered by their partners in Ireland since 1996.

Women’s Aid estimate that one in five women in Ireland have been affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives.

While any kind of violence, sexual or otherwise, is inexcusable, whether perpetrated by a man or a woman, the facts are that statistically, women are far more likely to suffer violence and abuse at the hands of a man.

This is what the White Ribbon campaign is trying to end.

As a woman, I would be more than happy to lend my support to any campaigns to stop gender-based violence against men. – Yours, etc, JILL MURRAY Headford, Co Galway.

Sir, – The appropriate authorities seem somewhat surprised that Dublin is losing out to cities like Amsterdam and Edinburgh as a tourist destination.

This suggests some kind of visual appreciation deficiency, as areas of long-term dereliction and decay, littering and bad road surfaces are pretty obvious.

There has to be a recognition that an experience does not just happen – it is the result of an ongoing involvement and commitment of the various stakeholders. Westport and Kinsale (Kinsale and Westport scoop national tourism awards, November 27th) won tourism experience awards and implicit to their success was a sense of place.

While appreciating that these are relatively small and naturally strong on community, it seems Dublin’s sense of place needs to be rediscovered or reinvented. Common denominators in developing and sustaining the character of a city are leadership and vision-for a city as increasingly diverse as Dublin. – Yours, etc, BRIAN ROSS Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Is the re-erection of the cross on Carrauntoohil a sign that religious fervour among the mountain-walking community in Ireland has reached new heights?

A man-made structure on the top of a mountain is a violation of the mountain walkers’ maxim: “leave no trace except your footprints”. – Yours, etc, TOM FULLER Glasnevin, Dublin 11.

Irish Independent:

I seem to be living austerity eternally – before, during and after the Celtic Tiger years and all through the ‘official’ austerity years – but that is not why I write. The €2.50 on my prescription shoved my medication of 40years onto my luxury list – now often missed. But that’s not why I write. Uisce Eireann’s form came through my door today – more expense – but that’s not why I write, either.

I write about my Free Travel Pass – my lifeline. Lorraine Courtney’s article (‘Free travel passes are pricing the rest of us out of train travel’, November 14) sent alarm bells ringing and icy cold fingers up and down my spine. With my Free Travel Pass I connect with the world. Even if I haven’t the price of a cup of coffee in my pocket (which sometimes happens) I can visit cities, enjoy walks in parks, listen to bands. I can browse in shopping centres and enjoy bracing walks on the seafronts. I can visit places that lift my spirits – the National Concert Hall, art galleries and museums. Through the windows of the train or bus I watch the seasons unfold around me in their beauty and splendour. Even more importantly – I connect with people. I use my Pass to visit family and former colleagues. I use it to visit people who can’t get out of their homes very often.

Not everyone on the train/bus is glued to a laptop, tablet, etc, so conversations take place. This contact with people is so important for mental well-being.

Transport personnel, when not rushed off their feet, have time for a chat. Local personnel have a good idea of my routine and will double-check with me if I request an unusual destination.

After a day visiting places and interacting with people I am ready to return home – physically tired and mentally content.

Without my Free Travel Pass I would be consigned to staring out the window at the same grey footpath, grey strip of asphalt and grey walls – day in, day out, endlessly – a death knell surely?

What is the solution to the cost of travel? – I don’t know. But consider me – and so many others like me – when you (the Government and electorate) think about putting an end to the Free Travel Scheme. Think of us and weigh the cost of free travel against the cost of treating mental health conditions arising out of loneliness and isolation.

Name and address with editor

Peaceful protest will win the day

Can we not see that violent marches about water charges are not only about paying for water, which is justifiable?

They are about unbridled consumerism, where the powerful rich can thumb their noses at water charges, pay up, and continue to indulge their urge for possessions without suffering, while the middle classes, often in cruelly straitened circumstances, must, unwillingly, count every cent.

The fumbling way in which the issue of water charges has been handled exasperates the public. But peaceful, dignified protest will counter-balance the agitation and confusion at Government level far more than uncontrolled anger and violence.

The public will then be seen to have maturity beyond that of the powers-that-be, thus encouraging more ethical discernment in presenting the whole matter.

Angela Macnamara

Churchtown, Dublin 14

Farmers must join the fight

Farmers need to join the protesters against water charges on December 10 to make Enda Kenny see the victimisation towards them in the amended water charge proposals.

City, towns and village households can use all the water they want to wash cars, water gardens, etc. However, if you are classified as a farmer and own an acre or two of land you will be expected to pay the county councils a meter charge over standard allowance, so it is up to members of the Irish Farmers’ Association and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association to protest strongly and get this inequality and discrimination done away with.

T Wheeler


In memory of Jack Kyle

On a balmy summer evening several years ago, as I turned the corner onto a deserted Kildare Street, I made out the figure of a sporting legend coming in my direction. He was carrying an overnight bag and had the look of someone intent on catching a train.

In the precious moments available, I almost physically willed myself to stretch out my hand, but, alas, courage failed me. Our eyes briefly met and Jack Kyle gave me a kindly look, as if reading my metaphorical dropped ball and unseized opportunity.

I remembered our non-verbal communication when listening to his extraordinary rendering of Yeats’ verses on radio at the weekend (Sunday with Miriam, RTE).

Oliver McGrane

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

People paying for false promises

There is no doubt that both parties of this Government came to power on false promises. The only promises they have consistently delivered on are continuous and increased levels of austerity and emigration.

Prior to assuming office, they were well aware of the financial situation and they were rightly critical of the disastrous situation created by the previous government.

They promised a new era of politics, consisting of transparency and change. Unfortunately, the only change we got is whatever change we may have left in our pockets after having everything else stripped away. For many people it has come to the stage that the Government may as well take all their income and give them back their change.

All of their policies have been geared towards protecting the golden circle – cosseted elite, millionaires, foreign banks and bondholders – at the expense of those on lower to middle-income. This has created ever-increasing inequality, poverty, despair, depression and sadly in some cases, suicide.

For a Government that promised new politics working for the people, it has taken them more than three years to partly listen to the concerns of the people.

This pretend-listening process has only been brought about due to the increased widespread protests and resentment shown to them by the people on the streets.

Despite their somersaults and U-turns on the water charge issue, their main reaction to these protests has been to ridicule and demonise the participants so as to discredit them, both for their own benefit and in order to limit and curb their impact.

They are quite happy to continue with their austerity policies once the people are willing to take them lying down. However, at last the people have woken up to the treachery of this Government. They realise that the guiding principles of this Government are not based on democracy, but on coercion, harassment and dictatorship.

These latest mass protests are not solely about water, but about the cumulative effect of so much austerity and impoverishment over the past seven years. The people cannot take anymore.

Despite what some people say, this Government is not out of touch. They just simply do not care because they and their ilk are unaffected, they continue to be sheltered and protected.

This Government were elected to deliver fairness for the ordinary people and not to blackguard people. For too many the green shoots of recovery is only that of mildew in the far-away hills.

We now have Fianna Fail claiming credit for the austerity measures which are supposed to be contributing to that mildew, which shows that their policies are no different from the present Government. Of course, it is their policy template that has been adhered to. They both ought to make perfect future bedfellows to ensure that the rotten party political system and cronyism continues.

Christy Kelly

Templeglantine, Co Limerick

Irish Independent


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