10 December 2014 Listing

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to start listing Joans‘ books .

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


Margaret Aston

Margaret Aston Photo: Sophie Buxton

Margaret Aston, the historian, who has died aged 82, started exploring the medieval mind early. It never lost its fascination for her throughout a long and distinguished career which, by choice and chance, did not follow a conventional path.

Margaret Evelyn Bridges – always “Martha” to family and friends – was born on October 9 1932, the youngest of four children of Kitty and Edward, later Lord Bridges, the greatest civil servant of the last century. Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, was her grandfather. She grew up at Goodman’s Furze, on the North Downs near Epsom, and went to school at Downe House.

A scholarship took her in 1951 to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to read History, and there her academic career took off. She became a lecturer at St Anne’s College in 1956, and embarked on a DPhil. In 1954 she married Trevor Aston, fellow and librarian of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was a brilliant scholar and teacher, but his many talents were clouded by bipolar disorder. A difficult marriage became deeply unhappy, and they parted, although divorced only in 1969. Margaret went to Germany in 1960-61 as a Theodor Heuss Scholar, then spent five as a research fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge .

She had chosen Thomas Arundel (1353-1414), Archbishop of Canterbury, as the subject of her doctoral thesis. Arundel had to deal with the Lollards and their belief in the written word alone, which he countered by asserting the need for images as aids to devotion, “books for the illiterate”. Amid widespread unrest, he was humane and politically adroit. Thomas Arundel: a Study of Church Life in the Reign of Richard II was published in 1968. Arundel’s concerns with the roots of piety were to be a recurring theme in her own work.

Next, however, encouraged by Ernst Gombrich, she wrote The Fifteenth Century: the Prospect of Europe, an illustrated general work on original themes: the East, the concept of news, the layman’s voice and “the sense of renewal”. This was a by-product of a residency at the Folger Shakespeare Library at Washington, DC, during which she taught at the Catholic University from 1966 to 1969.

In 1984 she published Lollards and Reformers, bringing together some of the many articles she had now written, on images, the Lollards, women priests and on Richard II’s reputation as “a literary construction”.

In 1984-85 she was honorary Senior Research Fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast. This enabled her to complete a masterpiece, England’s Iconoclasts (1988), an exploration of the long complex reactions of English men and women to images in the practice of religion, which she traced from Byzantine roots to Oliver Cromwell. Right or wrong, venerated or smashed, images as theological topics or visible objects dominated the Reformation years. The Second Commandment forbidding idolatry now became a secular crime, punishable in court. Aston’s thoroughness in research and subtle perception of overt and covert issues attracted wide admiration.

King Edward VI (1537-53) and the Pope, c.1570 (oil on panel) by English School, (16th century) National Portrait Gallery

In 1993 she published two more books. The King’s Bedpost elucidated the strange group portrait in the National Portrait Gallery of Edward VI as the biblical king Josiah, triumphing over the Pope, watched by his courtiers. Old Testament imagery, popularised by the Dutch engraver Martin van Heemskerck, was used to justify more iconoclasm. But if Queen Elizabeth was another Hezekiah in repudiating idolatry, she still maintained a crucifix in the royal chapel. Faith and Fire brought out more related work, on Wyclif and the growth of the vernacular, Cain as the archetype of heresy, and the absence of aesthetic judgment among the iconoclasts.

Another pictorial survey, The Panorama of the Renaissance, came out in 1996, then two more collections of essays, edited jointly with other scholars. Her own work was celebrated at a conference in 2008, published as Image, Text and Church, 1380-1600.

A second marriage to Paul Buxton, a diplomat, in 1971 brought her much happiness and two daughters, one with Down’s syndrome. This made a conventional academic life difficult, but her husband’s last posting, as under-secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, coincided with her fellowship at Queen’s University. The Buxtons’ house beside Belfast Lough was blown up by the IRA. They had early warning and escaped injury, but Margaret Aston’s papers were all scattered; mercifully, it was a dry night, and her work was retrieved. Latterly they lived peacefully at Castle House, Chipping Ongar.

Distinguished in appearance, her voice clear, Margaret Aston stood out in any gathering. A fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Royal Historical Society, she was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1994. York University gave her an honorary doctorate in 2001, and she was appointed CBE in 2013.

England’s Iconoclasts was planned as part of a diptych, and she was able to finish the second part before she died. Broken Idols of the English Reformation will appear next year; the two books together will be a monument to a lifetime of deep and original scholarship.

Margaret Aston’s second husband died in 2009. She is survived by one of her two daughters.

Margaret Aston, born October 9 1932, died November 22 2014


Frank Field on a visit to a food bank in South Shields as part of all-party parliamentary inquiry in
Frank Field on a visit to a food bank in South Shields as part of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty. Photograph: Mark Pinder

I would once again like to thank the Guardian for its outstanding reporting of Feeding Britain (Confront the simple fact that hunger stalks Britain, report urges ministers, 8 December). But might I also respond to the assertions made by some commentators about our recommendations?

We do not support or propose the institutionalisation of food banks in their current form. This would, I believe, amount to a new Poor Law-style system which none of us wants to see. Food banks shouldn’t be given the job of the heavy lifting in our fight back against hunger.

Our proposals seek instead to reduce as soon as possible the number of people having to rely on food banks. Hence our proposals to boost wages at the bottom, to improve the delivery of benefits, and to keep more money in poorer families’ pockets by tackling the rip-off charges they currently face on household essentials.

But even if each of these reforms does come to pass, we cannot escape the fact that some of our fellow citizens would still be hungry: those who don’t have a roof over their head, for example, or who have the weight of an enormous debt hanging around their neck. Our inquiry showed that, for these people, food is the best chance we have of helping them to turn their lives around. What good would it do for them if food banks were to be abolished? A recurring message in our evidence was that churches and other groups providing food assistance are adept at “reaching the hardest to reach”, who often struggle to make and maintain contact with statutory services. These are individuals who, for one reason or another, are isolated and in desperate need of an arm around their shoulder. Their hunger, as our report highlights, predated the recession and will outlast the recovery.

So Feeding Britain issues a rallying cry on two fronts. First, that we put to use the scandalous amount of good food that is thrown to waste, instead to engage with our most vulnerable citizens through a reformed food bank model that gets to the root of people’s problems, and offers them a way out of the rut they are in. Second, and running concurrently, to reduce immediately demand for food banks.

I hope your readers will join us in pursuit of our goal of a hunger-free country.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead

• There is a real danger that the proposed solutions in the Feeding Britain report deflect from the political urgency of addressing the structural and underlying issues of poverty. Instead, the issue is portrayed as one that can be solved by a more effective redistribution of “food waste” to the poor. Food is a social marker (one of the reasons why many people refuse to use food banks), and the idea that food waste is suitable for a particular category of (poor) people is deeply problematical as it reinforces the dominating media rhetoric that those on benefits are somehow less deserving, harking back to days of “less eligibility”.

We should start by questioning why the enshrined right to food is disregarded. The international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (ratified by the UK in 1976 and rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) sets out a right to adequate food – this, the relevant UN committee spelled out later, means that countries should ensure “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture”.

If the justiciability of the right to food is to be regarded as anything more than illusory, it is critical that we look upstream at addressing the adequacy of wages and social security. If not, we will find that emergency food is rapidly institutionalised in the UK (as it already is in other neoliberal states) as the appropriate response to hunger.
Richard Bridge (@richardbridge7)

• What do we need to do to get the government to listen and attend to the warnings of the archbishop of Canterbury concerning the shameful level of poverty endured by children and their families in the UK (Church v state rift over hunger, 8 December)?

As Jewish religious leaders, we share the archbishop’s concerns. We live in a time of gross injustice in which the rich are getting richer and the poor only becoming poorer. We watch with increasing incredulity phenomena such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, leading to overconsumption and waste, while too many others are forced into diluting milk or missing meals so that their children are able to eat.

We must think critically how changes to the benefits system are impacting on poor families, many of whom are in work yet do not earn enough to sustain themselves and their families. The answer lies not in creating more food banks, for these should never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British life. We must instead change the conditions which make food banks necessary.
Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Rabbi Charley Baginsky Rabbinic Conference, Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Sybil Sheridan Chair of the Assembly of Rabbis, Movement for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rachel Benjamin, Rabbi Miriam Berger, Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts, Rabbi Douglas Charing, Rabbi Cliff Cohen, Rabbi Howard Cooper, Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, Rabbi Janet Darley, Rabbi Colin Eimer, Rabbi Helen Freeman, Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander, Rabbi Anna Gerrard, Rabbi Amanda Golby, Student Rabbi Naomi Goldman, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, Rabbi Yuval Keren, Rabbi Sandra Kviat, Rabbi Rachel Montagu, Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi Dr Judith Rosen-Berry, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Rabbi Irit Shillor, Cantor Gershon Silins, Rabbi Michael Standfield, Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Rabbi Pete Tobias, Rabbi Roderick Young, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, Rabbi Kathleen Middleton, Rabbi Monique Mayer, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah

Nick Clegg calls for a rethink on benefits, a rethink on poverty and food banks; the government is seeking to avert one of its biggest rifts with the Church of England for decades over the same issue; and an all-party report on food banks warns that Britain is stalked by hunger caused by low pay, growing inequality, a harsh benefits sanctions regime and social breakdown. Clegg and his cronies propped up Cameron and his cronies, and between them they let this happen – stable doors and bolted horses come to mind. How long does it take to spot a bloody disgrace?
Professor Andrew Melrose
University of Winchester

• Given the archbishop of Canterbury’s shock at Britain’s food banks and the tightening screw of austerity measures, I am surprised that George Osborne has yet to attract the epithet attached to Heinrich Brüning, German chancellor 1930-32, of “the hunger chancellor”. Maybe because we all know where it led.
Robert Gildea
Professor of modern history, University of Oxford

• I assume Matt Hancock, who says one reason for rising food bank use “is because more people know about them”, will be telling the BBC to remove Casualty from its schedules, as its unremitting advertising of hospital provision undoubtedly increases the ill health of the population.
Richard Stainer
Bradfield St George, Suffolk

• Towards the end of the 20th century, a Conservative government manipulated the secondary school curriculum to demote and almost abolish cookery as a subject. Surely Lady Jenkin (Conservative peer forced to eat her words after claiming that poor people can’t cook, 9 December) is old enough to remember that?
Jan Dubé
Peebles, Scottish Borders

• A hand-to-mouth existence is hard. A hand-to-mouth existence when there’s nothing in your hand is far worse.
Jill Mortiboys
Stowmarket, Suffolk

Janet Suzman and Khayalethu Anthony in Solomon and Marion – Anthony gave 'a magnificent performance'
Janet Suzman and Khayalethu Anthony in Solomon and Marion – Anthony gave ‘a magnificent performance’, but few black people came to see it. Photograph: Ruphin Coudyzer

My comments quoted in the Guardian (Suzman criticised for calling theatre ‘a white invention’, 9 December) obviously refer to only a small part of a larger picture. I was not, when asked on the phone by the writer and standing in a noisy corridor, about to launch into a wide discussion with her about the origins of all world theatre. Her question to me was to comment on Meera Syal’s plea for wider representation of Asian subjects. My answer was to invest in and commission Asian writers. There are many marvellously gifted Asian actors, of whom Meera is tops.

What I was referring to was a picture that I have of the West End or commercial London/ and British product. My impression is that commercial British product is very, very white – apart from a musical import from the Young Vic called The Scottsboro Boys. A pretty good starting point, if you are to avoid the pitfalls of a general history lesson, is the formal beginnings of English drama, and that, for my money, begins with William Shakespeare – or, rather, the ancient Greeks, as we still regularly turn to their plays if primal subjects are in favour. When managements start to invest in Asian or black writers, things can start to pop. The Royal Court and Stratford East already do a lot of this.

I stand by my comment that going to the theatre is a pretty white way of spending an evening – and expensive. Of course, if you can boast Lenny Henry or Chiwetel Ejiofor as your leading man, black patrons will no doubt come along. The play I have recently done sported a magnificent performance by a young man from the townships of Cape Town and, as I say, one, maybe two, black people turned up in the whole run. I was disappointed, if not wholly surprised. It was completely packed out with white faces.

But that absence indicates that going to a fringe theatre is not much on the black agenda. It is, therefore, quite apparent that work needs to be done at all levels to change this.
Janet Suzman
University of Cape Town

The Virgin and Child enthroned, by Jean Fouquet (1420?-1481) - the vicar might not have approved. Ph
The Virgin and Child enthroned, by Jean Fouquet (1420-81) – the vicar might not have approved. Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images

During the war, our family regularly travelled to Cornwall for a summer holiday. The trains were packed with troops and children; soldiers thronged the corridors. In my fevered recall, the journey, including frequent stoppages, took about eight hours. At one point my mother started, naturally enough, to breastfeed her new baby, at which point a clergyman (in a dog collar) sitting opposite with his daughter looked first horrified, then angry (Breastfeeding in European art: an image of everything Ukip abhors, 9 December). Eventually, with an air of disgust, he covered the little girl from head to foot with his own black coat like a shroud. I wanted to cry out indignantly: “What about the Virgin Mary?”

Seventy years later, I still regret that I didn’t have the courage.
Antonia Fraser




End our nuclear love affair

In your article US and China strike deal on carbon cuts (21 November), we read, “It will require China to deploy an additional 800-1000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero-emission generation capacity by 2030 – more than all the coal power plants that exist in China today”. There will be similar cuts for the US. While the general population is largely asleep about the dangers of decommissioning a nuclear power station, we are told only of the danger of reaching an increase of 2C in global temperature.

Nothing we know of will dissipate the radioactivity from closed nuclear power stations. Meanwhile, climate temperatures for the future depend on computer predictions, based on particular assumptions about past increases, with carbon as the only possible cause.

The way forward is to increase ecological sources of energy, using the money dedicated by the present UK government’s deals for restarting the nuclear power industry. Our goal should be a significant decrease in energy use. As we wean ourselves from energy-intensive computers and other gadgets, we will create a more natural lifestyle, which will solve many of our present human problems.

The end of the UK’s love affair with Trident and nuclear defence would also release vast sums of money for a better future, including a reduction in the national debt.

Can’t we learn from the years of “cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant” that still continue (21 November)?
Brian Dawes
Montrose, UK

Enough is enough

I read with some dismay Will Hutton’s rabidly expansionist article (5 December) on the growth potential inherent in the collapse in the world oil price. Even if we ignore the widespread economic and social damage caused by the US fracking revolution, to hear him echoing the blinkered view of the majority of those attending the recent G20 that we must, first and foremost, promote economic growth, gives me little hope for any answer to the world’s most pressing problems: climate change and inequality.

As George Monbiot has noted: “Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels” (28 May). Economic expansion has almost always been achieved at the cost of the profligate use of highly polluting fossil-fuel reserves, accompanied by a widening rift between the haves and the have-nots.

Our choices are not simply between stagnation and rapid, unrestrained economic expansion. There is a middle road, albeit one that will require restraint. The concept of a steady-state economy has been developed since the 1970s by such forward-thinking economists as E F Shumacher and Herman Daly, and has come to the attention of the current generation of economists and planners with the pioneering work of Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill.

Any exhortation to exploit the recent fall in the crude oil price to pursue the unsustainable path of more of the same is irresponsible. We can hope that Hutton’s piece does at least encourage further discussion on what constitute the real values and attainable goals of a sharing culture.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

This cold war is no surprise

Thanks to Simon Tisdall for his analysis of the new cold war (28 November). The auguries of this second cold war should have been apparent almost immediately after the end of the first. Vladimir Putin is quite right when he points to the continued existence of Nato as the main cause of tension. Nato has been redundant since 1991.

Those who had vested interests in its continued existence should have been confronted with this fact. It made impossible the extension of a rapprochement that seemed to be growing before Mikhail Gorbachev’s departure. The alliance that replaced the Warsaw Pact was not created until 1992. The failure to grasp the opportunity of making Nato redundant is one that the world will regret.
Peter David Rees
Lesmahagow, UK

Burkeman got it wrong

I am sorry, but Oliver Burkeman has got it wrong this time (November 28). After a neat introduction to Dunbar’s number, he makes the assumption that social networks are networks between equal friends. They are not, and thus his conclusion that “densely linked friends are better friends” is erroneous.

The internet’s social networks should be renamed in popular jargon for what they mostly are: me networks. Most postings are examples of a person who is so alone that he or she believes that the words or video he or she offers are of interest to the world. “Listen to me”, the person screams.

Naturally, there can be very small social networks, two to eight persons at most, who find it more convenient to chat online than to write a letter. They have to live with the fact that their social chit-chatting is open to a vast range of people, some of whom will try to take advantage of whatever is said or shown. This vast range doesn’t constitute a social network: it’s merely an audience.

You might wonder where the number eight comes from as the upper limit of a group of interactive friends. It is the approximate number of people in a committee who can come to a decision, according to Parkinson’s law of triviality. Any more and the committee will split into subcommittees to do any work.

I suspect that number works for the internet too. Dunbar’s number of 150 is merely the larger pool from which groupings of eight can be chosen for any particular subject.

That said, Burkeman’s column is always worth reading. It makes you think.
John Graham
Hoogstraten, Belgium

Our leaders are very selfish

In Owen Jones’s article Inequality is not a human instinct (28 November), the researchers quoted are probably right in claiming that normal human beings are not dog-eat-dog selfish. However, I am not convinced that the same holds true of our leadership, who appear to rate strongly on checklists devised to identify the minority of individuals with narcissistic psychopathy.

In all walks of life, whether self-appointed or elected, we find leaders who have superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, a lack of remorse, a shallow affect, a callous lack of empathy, who are cunning, manipulative, irresponsible, and pathologically untruthful. These traits almost come with the job, and the rest of us feel out of place among such people.

Surely, with such people in charge, we are not likely to achieve a more just and equal world.
Bernard Galton
St-Nazaire-sur-Charente, France

Kosovo is no success story

It seems awfully strange to expect the failed state of Kosovo to function properly and thrive when it was constructed on illegal foundations after Nato’s savage war on the Serbian people (14 November). Whether or not the Hague war crimes tribunal agrees, many of Kosovo’s leaders operate without any understanding of law and order; rather, they use their advantage in society for personal benefit instead of serving the citizens who elected them – and kowtow to wealthy western businesses.

If Kosovo is considered a “success” of western policy in the Balkans, I shudder to imagine what a failure would comprise.
Michael Pravica
Henderson, Nevada, US


• Philip Ball writes that science has “an obligation to cultivate healthy systems for making … forecasts” of processes such as weather, climate and earthquakes (21 November). Peer-reviewed science does a good job of quantifying probabilities. It is journalists who frequently fall short in their obligation to report scientific predictions correctly.
David Cotter
Woodbridge, UK

• To suggest as Paul Mason does, that anti-war images designed to influence public opinion date back to 1924 – “a precise moment in history” – is misleading. His otherwise timely article (28 November) overlooks the efforts of earlier artists whose repugnance at the atrocities of war led them to produce horrific images.

Who cannot be moved, for example, by Francisco Goya’s horrific 19th-century series of prints depicting battlefield mutilationsr? Mason’s premise that graphic records of war’s savagery have never deterred humankind is greatly strengthened by similar records made centuries before the dawn of photography.
Jack Benlow
Heathfield, South Australia

• As research into the benefits of nostalgia continues apace (28 November), I add this bit from biologist Edward O Wilson’s chapter on Free Will from his new book The Meaning of Human Existence: “we summon stories of past events for contrast and meaning”. Our “human necessity” for what Wilson calls “confabulation” helps us to make decisions based on “multiple competing scenarios”. Thus, “Memories of past episodes are repeated [not only] for pleasure”, as confirmed in your article, but also “for rehearsal, for planning, or for various combinations of all three”.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

• It was not only the lads who were delivering the mail at Christmas (28 November). As an impecunious student at LSE in the 40s, I remember finding the sorting room of the Royal Mail a bit boring. The professional postmen, with whom I would chat in their van, were very matey and amused by my company; when I told them my lecture hours they thought I could easily combine a student’s life with a full-time postman’s job.
Pat Stapleton
Beaumont du Ventoux, France


Is Sir Anthony Seldon right about the need for ‘radical solutions’ if we are to make any progress?

Sir, Sir Anthony Seldon bangs a well-worn drum in preaching to Nicky Morgan that she “needs to provide the means for all independent schools to sponsor academies” (“Build character and you close the class divide”, Opinion, Dec 9). He is on shaky ground; early results suggest that Sir Anthony’s skill in running Wellington College has not produced comparable success for its academy.

Why should it be otherwise? More than 30 years of leading and governing independent schools has not given me generic skills for running schools for less privileged children, even though my first headship was of a school that had been declared closed and had shrunk to near extinction. If today it is a thriving community, two and a half times its former size, its success derives in no way from help given by other independent schools.

Independence means working out your own solutions. One of my governors, the head of another Catholic school, told me that admitting girls would not generate the revenue to pay for the toilets. His school remains single-sex and small, while ours took off.

When, as chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, I was asked to provide a panacea for high standards in the maintained sector, my answer was that they should be freed from local authority control. It is nonsense to urge academies to be independent and then state that their success will depend on sponsorship by independent schools.

Patrick Tobin
(HMC chairman 1998) Wootton, Isle of Wight

Sir, How kind of Sir Anthony Seldon to remind those of us in the state sector about the importance of teaching “character” — whatever that nebulous term may mean. This constant demeaning of our pupils by so many in the independent sector and by the government borders on the offensive. We could give more attention to it here in central London if we weren’t too busy trying to meet ludicrous targets with class sizes of 30-plus pupils, nearly all of whom do not speak English as a first language, in dilapidated buildings. Even so, we still achieve great results — and for a fraction of the day fees at his institution.

Ian Slade
London N7

Sir, Sir Anthony Seldon writes that we will never see social mobility rise in Britain until disadvantaged young people acquire the confidence and character skills of independent school leavers. Yet, only recently, we read how the bullish and charmless confidence of some privately educated pupils can “asphyxiate the society they move in” (report, Dec 1).Surely what we need is more opportunities for young people from all walks of life to learn from each other. In my experience, it’s when young people volunteer together to make change happen that barriers are most effectively broken down and character built. More volunteer service years, which offer young people the opportunity to meet those different from themselves, while making a difference, could be one of the “radical solutions” that Sir Anthony is calling for.

Sophie Livingstone
Chief executive, City Year UK

Sir, Rather than making a thinly disguised sneer at the government’s offer to make soldiers available to schools to give advice about grit and resilience, Sir Anthony Seldon would be better served remembering the military heritage and sacrifice that led to the founding of Wellington College.

Likewise, his statement that his pupils have a regular assembly emphasising social values would have more credibility if certain of his pupils did not display rude and arrogant behaviour in the college’s local village of Crowthorne.

Michael Taylor
Crowthorne, Berks

Did judges ever, even in the good old days, enjoy silver service lunches with the finest claret?

Sir, I retired as a recorder more than seven years ago; even then, in a large crown court trial centre, the full-time judges and we part-timers sat huddled in a small room opening our Tupperware boxes at lunchtime (report and leader, Dec 8, and letter, Dec 9). We were unable to go out to local establishments for fear of encountering members of the jury or witnesses. The implication that this situation is due to current cuts is wholly misleading.

Ian Wilson

Shoreham-by-Sea, W Sussex

Sir, The Lord Chancellor’s decision to deprive judges of proper luncheon arrangements is a false economy. The Court of Appeal has been saved a good deal of work by lunchtime discussions about a contemplated direction to the jury, or a possible sentence in the event of conviction.

Roger Venne, QC


Sir, I am a retired circuit judge, and recall that my wife used to make my sandwiches for lunch. It was not because the court canteen could not cater for me, but because she did not trust me not to order chips every day.

His Honour Ronald Moss

Harrow, Middx


The poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg was one of the most famous members of a Bantam battalion in the First World War

Sir, One of the most famous members of the Bantam battalions (“Soldiers show size doesn’t matter for heights of bravery”, Dec 6) was the poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg. He enlisted in 1915 and wanted to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but being under 5ft 3in was recruited for the 12th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, a Bantam battalion. He fought with them and was later transferred to the 1st King’s Own. He was killed by a German raiding party on April 1, 1918.

Professor Stuart Stanton

London SW19

How is it that many American comedians live so much longer than British ones?

Sir, The relatively premature deaths of British and Irish comedians (report, Dec 8) is in stark contrast to the longevity of many American comedians. Both Bob Hope and George Burns reached the milestone of 100, Sid Caesar died at 91 and still thriving today are Carl Reiner (92), Mel Brooks (88), Mort Sahl (87) and Bob Newhart (85). At least in the United States, laughter is clearly the best medicine.

Adrian Brodkin

In any ursine competition there can, it seems, be only be one winner: Rupert Bear

Sir, If we’re going to make claims for ursine superiority (letter, Dec 9), there is no competition: Rupert Bear is the winner. Due to turn 100 in 2020 and resplendent in fashionable red jersey and yellow check trousers and muffler, he is as popular today as ever, as is his Christmas annual.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath, Herts

Set a limit on the amount to be spent, and see how many gifts you can buy at your local charity shop

Sir, I welcome the suggestion from the Archbishop of Canterbury to frequent charity shops for Christmas presents (“Welby tells Cameron to back food banks”, Dec 8). However, he is behind the times. In our house my husband and I have been buying our Christmas presents from charity shops for a number of years. We set a limit on the amount to be spent and see how many gifts we can buy. It’s always exciting opening the parcels on Christmas day and seeing the variety of the treasures inside.

Pauline Mayer

Basingstoke, Hants


Government urged to act as food poverty hits 18% of UK: volunteers sorts through donations of food at the Hammersmith and Fulham food bank run by the Trussell Trust

Volunteers sorts through donations of food at the Hammersmith and Fulham food bank, run by the Trussell Trust  Photo: AFP/GETTY

SIR – I was struck by two contrasting headlines on the same page of yesterday’s Daily Telegraph: “Fussy shoppers blamed for four million tons of food waste a year” and “Let children leave some food on their plate, parents told”.

Derek Wellman

SIR – How can the expansion of the food-bank system be squared with the discarding of tens of millions of food items every day because of the “sell by” or “best before” dates? These give rise to greater sales and increased profits, regardless of whether the food is safe or indeed healthy to eat.

R M Flaherty
Auchterarder, Perthshire

SIR – If the obese could donate some surplus food it would be a win-win situation.

Alan Sabatini
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – Four million tons of food waste a year in Britain is an average of 6oz per person per day, split between waste at home and in the supply chain. There are scandalous examples of waste, but overall this is not as bad as the headline numbers suggest.

Stephen Gledhill
Evesham, Worcestershire

SIR – We should be educating our young people about nutrition, and teaching them how to cook inexpensive, nutritious meals and not to rely on expensive processed food that comes in packets and boxes.

Patricia Bond
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – How certain are food bank researchers that their data are accurate? No one wants to see people starving but, having grown up in the East End of London just after the Second World War, I have a fair idea what poverty means.

Standards have changed, but when a country has lived beyond its means for years, adjustments have to be made and people must learn to fend for themselves.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Food banks are needed because of the cuts, and the increasing cost of heating, lighting, housing etc. But do the costs of a Sky subscription and a mobile contract come into assessment of need?

G G Garner
Ravensden, Bedfordshire

SIR – It angers me to see footage of people arriving at food banks with cigarettes in their mouths. The £7 or so one pays for a pack of 20 could buy an awful lot of food.

At university in the Eighties, and in real poverty, I would buy flour, margarine and baked beans to make a nutritious and filling bean pie. Today’s dependency culture would have seemed like a joke to us then.

Stephen McKeown
Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

Hospital pay TV

SIR – My 90-year-old cousin has spent some weeks in the rehabilitation ward of a general hospital after a stroke.

She has been confined to her bed, being unable to walk. She would like to watch television but, through lack of movement, cannot view the communal one, in another room. She can watch her own television for two hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon (the latter coinciding with the visiting hour) free of charge.

Cards can be bought to watch at other times. A £15 card gives 24 hours’ viewing. There is no possibility for her to save money by stopping the time on the card ticking away when she falls asleep or there are visits by doctors or nurses.

Surely it is unreasonable to charge such rates to someone so limited in her physical ability, whose mind is active and needs stimulating but whose purse is limited?

Paul Harrison
Organford, Dorset

Forever amber

SIR – I was interested to read of the proposal to switch off traffic lights at quiet times. Where my son lives in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, many lights revert to a flashing amber after 10pm and this seems to cause no problems. I found it strange at first but after many visits I am quite happy with the system.

Here in Somerset I have often sat at the lights at Nether Stowey on the A39, waiting for a green, with no traffic around between 4am and 5am, on the way to Bristol airport for an early morning flight.

Alan Grieve
Minehead, Somerset

Out of stock

SIR – My wife placed an internet order with a supermarket for home delivery of bulk items, such as bottled water and wine. The value of the order was £169, yet the value of goods delivered was £107, as so much was out of stock. How can a supermarket stay in business when it can only supply 63 per cent of a straightforward order?

Leslie Davies

The cost of women fighting on the front line

An Israeli woman combat soldier from a mixed battalion training with her M-16 rifle . Photo: Getty

SIR – Having spent more than 28 years as an infantry officer, I am more than familiar with the arguments for and against women on the front line.

Notwithstanding the strong physiological and psychological arguments against most women becoming infantry soldiers, some women can fight alongside men, provided they pass the gender-free (not gender-fair) assessment at Catterick, or the platoon commanders’ battle course at Brecon.

That said, I am surprised the MoD is considering forcing this transformation on the infantry at a time of shrinking public budgets. To provide appropriate facilities for the relatively tiny numbers of women who would both want and be physically able to join the infantry selection would be a waste of scarce resources.

Tim Cain
Richmond, North Yorkshire

SIR – For three years I served on the board responsible for assessing potential officers at Sandhurst based on character, intelligence and physical ability.

I once had three exceptionally athletic female candidates, who all jumped at the chance to attempt the more demanding male obstacle course. Of eight obstacles, two female candidates managed to complete three and the other only one. In short, none came close to meeting the male standard.

The difference in physical strength between the sexes is significant and few females are up to present infantry standards to serve on the front line. If these standards are lowered in order to meet female quotas, military effectiveness will be reduced.

Colonel Finlay Maclean (retd)
Rimpton, Somerset

More babies will put greater strain on resources

SIR – Charles Moore’s solution to the problem of an ageing population – produce more babies – has a fundamental flaw: these children will be unproductive for a good 20 years, so the working percentage will decline.

After 2035 the balance might improve, but who can be sure what the world will look like by then? Perhaps the only certainty is that overpopulation will be an ever greater threat, so we should be trying to reduce numbers, not increase them.

David Gadbury
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – Under the spectre of overpopulation, governments of both Left and Right have contributed to our “birth dearth” by forcing mothers into paid work, refusing to treat couples as such for tax relief purposes, and making it more advantageous for couples in receipt of benefits to separate.

A society of rootless individuals may appear attractive to capitalism, but this short-term increase in buying power has been achieved at the expense of British taxpayers.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Break up the Coalition

SIR – If the Conservative Party hopes to have an overall majority at the next election it is essential that the existing Coalition be brought to an immediate close, enabling the party to distance itself from the ongoing negativity and fiscal irresponsibility of Lib Dem aspirations.

Failure to do so will make it easier for Labour, with or without a coalition partner, to form the next government.

Dr Gabriel Jaffe
Bournemouth, Dorset

Wasting police time

SIR – Neil Rhodes, the head of Lincolnshire Police, is worried about bobbies on the beat becoming a thing of the past. I can tell you what lots of them are doing.

I spent a few years reporting crime in London. What struck me were the vast police resources available for reporting mobile phone thefts for insurance purposes. Hundreds of officers in London, and no doubt elsewhere, were logging reports, issuing crime numbers and closing reports. They worked in a target-driven atmosphere; it was utterly morale-destroying and pointless.

Tom Venour
Hampton, Middlesex

Annual bribery

SIR – As a public school housemaster in the Sixties, my father would be offered the odd Christmas “gift”, which tended to come from parents of overseas pupils or those loosely described as nouveaux riches. This was against his own moral code and the rules of the school, so the presents were always returned, with a polite note.

How times have changed. The gifts outlined in your article could generously be described as a means of currying favour, but more accurately as blatant bribes.

Geoff Pringle
Long Sutton, Somerset

Borrowing to donate

SIR – Much has been written about the madness of borrowing to fulfil a legally determined, ring-fenced quota of foreign aid. It is even more mad to borrow in order to bail out Ireland, which in turn fulfils its own foreign aid quota with Irish Aid.

Michael McGough
Loughton, Essex

Money-back guarantee

SIR – When Alex Salmond left the House of Commons by his own volition at the 2010 general election, we gave him £65,000 to assists him in “adjusting to non-parliamentary life”.

If he returns next May, can we have our money back, please?

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

Blairy Christmas

SIR – My wife and I have been huge fans of Tony and Cherie Blair for many years.

We were so inspired by their 2014 Christmas card that we decided to base our own family greeting on it, to pay tribute to this fabulous couple who have brought so much cheer and goodwill into the world.

Adam Long and Alex Jackson-Long
London N14

Untying the knot

SIR – How many marriages, of whatever longevity, are shortened each year during the ritual of Unravelling the Christmas Lights?

Ken Wortelhock
Orewa, Auckland, New Zealand

Irish Times:

Sir, – John Mulligan (Letters, 2nd December) rightly bemoans the lack of cycle trails in Ireland and attributes this to purely local thinking.

As a keen hill walker I am convinced that this is not the cause but instead it is the mantra in local and government circles: “landowners must not be disturbed”.

Legal rights for walkers and cyclists might possibly disturb landowners, hence only a vestigial infrastructure (off-road paths and tracks, footbridges, parking, signing, etc) for walkers and cyclists exists. Never mind that Ireland has wonderful, remote scenery, or that landowners have received billions over the years from taxpayers. Never mind that outdoor tourism would benefit the local economy, or that landowners elsewhere in Europe have freely conceded legal rights to recreational users. Never mind the common good. It’s shameful and so unnecessary but until government attitudes change I am privileged to do most of my walking in Wales, where the difference in attitude makes that between chalk and cheese look insignificant. – Yours, etc. DAVID HERMAN, Meadow Grove, Dublin 16 Sir, – Billy Timmins may question Alan Kelly’s choice of greenways, (Alan Kelly’s funding of Greenway routes ‘a real slap in the face’”, December 1st) but Mr Timmins has missed the point. The key issue is of connectivity.

Connecting local greenways, like the Great Western Greenway to a national network is now of key strategic importance. Connectivity and a network is what will bring growth in this lucrative tourism sector.

The Tuam Greenway and the Sligo-Mayo Greenway projects are campaigning for a greenway from Athenry to Sligo on the closed railway route. If this were connected to the Dublin-Galway Greenway at Athenry and the Great Western Greenway in Mayo, imagine the boost to West of Ireland tourism, creating jobs along its entire length.

In the same report, it was mentioned that a greenway in Kerry is running into problems due to landowners objecting. If Kerry wants to turn its back on a €4.2 million investment then let’s have the money redirected to where there will be no landownership issues. – Yours, etc

The closed (and unlikely to reopen) railway line from Athenry to Sligo is in public ownership and so there is a 110 km strip of land sitting there crying out for Greenway treatment, which could be done very cost effectively.

It’s not rocket science is it? – Yours, etc,



Co Sligo.

Mr Kelly can save the Irish exemption by making the commitment in the river basin management plan that actual water polluters will pay, that funds collected for water infrastructure in existing taxes will be used to upgrade our systems and by creating incentives for improvements to domestic water use like rainwater collection system.

There is still time to save the Irish exemption – and the Irish people are in the mood to defend it because once the exemption is gone, we can never get it back. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – The Taoiseach believes that the current protests are not about the water charges (“Enda Kenny says protests ‘not about water’”, November 17th). He is correct. The protests are about the Coalition’s failure to deliver the new politics and by extension a root-and-branch reform of the public service.

For many citizens Irish Water epitomises all that is wrong with the Irish political system and those that administer it. Irish Water was to be a commercial utility company but its first chief executive was a former local authority manager without commercial experience. The large investment in this new enterprise was overseen by a senior government minister who denied any knowledge as to how the funds were being spent.

The operating staff transferred from the local authorities was in excess of what was required to operate Irish Water efficiently, under a 12-year service agreement negotiated by the city and county managers whose sole interest was to reduce their payroll costs.

The local property tax was paid to fund the local authorities but the reduction in payroll costs resulting from this transfer was not passed on to the taxpayer. Instead we are being asked to pay again with water charges.

Irish Water is now overstaffed and inefficiencies thus created will be perpetuated – work will expand to meet the staff available.

There has been condemnation of Irish Water’s poor communications, but why are we surprised?

It is a surrogate of the public service where communication with the citizen is not a priority and in some cases borders on contempt.

The source of all this lies in our dysfunctional political system where the citizens’ entitlements are regarded as favours to be granted by politicians and public servants and not seen as a right that should be objectively and professionally processed.

The political system has created a culture of dependency and entitlement that precludes a republic that is managed by rules and regulations. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – Recently, I alerted people to the existence of the “Irish exemption” from the EU requirement to charge for domestic water (“Why the Government is not required to implement water charges on households”, Opinion & Analysis, November 21st).

Subsequently, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly stated that, “We do not have a derogation because we now have committed to the model that we have”.

The good news is that Ireland’s exemption is still in place. The challenging news is that it is under imminent threat of cancellation by the Minister himself!

In accordance with article 9.4 of the water framework directive, our exemption is embedded in the 2008 river basin management plan (RBMP). Any renewal or cancellation of the exemption would be under the next seven-year RBMP. And it is the Minister for the Environment who assembles and submits this plan. The plan is due in Brussels by January 1st, 2015, although there may be more time as Ireland is often late in meeting EU deadlines.

In 2010 the troika told us to privatise and charge for domestic water and both the Irish government and the European Commission trust that Mr Kelly will obey by stating in the river basin report that the only way we can protect our rivers is by charging for domestic water use!

But is this true?

If the money being spent on metering and that already collected in taxes for water is spent on domestic water infrastructure then households will meet their river management targets.

Because the EU water legislation is based on the “polluter pays principle”, the most obvious strategy for financing clean water is to identify the real polluters of water in Ireland and make them pay.

In the 2008 plan, the sources of pollution are listed. They included agriculture and rural septic tanks. These sources have been tackled at great expense to rural dwellers and significant improvement are being made.

Other listed sources, such as quarrying, mining, landfills, forestry, industry, etc, are still major sources of pollution. If it is the polluter who is supposed to pay then it should be these for-profit industries which pick up the tab for river basin protection.

Privatisation will not solve our water infrastructure problems because private companies are about profit.

It will make sense to invest in 500 metres of new piping in a city because it will serve hundreds of paying households. But there will be no incentive to do the same pipework in a rural area for five homes.

A privatised water system will still be a leaky water system!

Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 01:09

Sir, – It is disheartening that the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has chosen to enter the debate on the promised referendum on civil marriage equality in an attempt to justify and perpetuate discrimination against lesbian and gay people (“Bishops say same-sex marriage would be ‘grave injustice’”, December 4th).

The sentiments we had been hearing about compassion and treating people with dignity and respect are beginning to sound a bit hollow. It would seem that the bishops are claiming for themselves the exclusive right to define marriage, or else are deliberately setting out to obscure the different concepts of civil marriage and the sacrament of matrimony. If the promised referendum is carried it will in no way affect or alter church marriage, which I expect would still be the choice of most couples.

Civil marriage, however, is a right provided for in the Constitution and is regulated by statute law and the civil courts. It ought not to be denied to any sector of society.

The Constitution is the expressed wish of the Irish people as to how they want their civil society ordered. An evolving social society therefore requires constitutional change to reflect its social values.

I am a church-attending Catholic but, subject to seeing the actual wording, intend voting in favour of amending the Constitution to allow same-sex marriage. I see it as my conscientious moral duty to uphold the principle of equality for all citizens before the law.

It is an issue of civil rights. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – Stephen Collins reports on the rising support for the introduction of “same-sex marriage” (“Poll shows rising support for same-sex marriage”, Front Page, December 8th). There is no such thing as “same-sex marriage”. Since the original and accepted definition of marriage involves one man and one woman, the term “same-sex marriage” is nothing short of a travesty.

Any arrangement between two men or two women should be known by some other terminology such as “union”, “contract”, or whatever, for it is definitely not a marriage. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

A chara, – Una Mullally does not appreciate what a friend she has in The Irish Times. She writes of her concern about regulations for balance in broadcasting as she launches her new book on the movement for marriage equality in Ireland (“Who does the BAI ruling on marriage equality serve?”, Opinion & Analysis, December 8th).

On December 6th, your newspaper devoted 2,210 words to extracts from her book. On December 8th you published her opinion article of 853 words. In that same issue, right on the front page, Stephen Collins had 316 words on the 80 per cent of decided voters in favour of a Yes vote.

In the same issue, Mr Collins had another 412 words to say on the same topic.

Ms Mullally concludes her December 8th article: “It’s not about winning an argument, as the argument has already been won. I can wipe the floor with any anti-equality argument, but real censorship happens before you even open your mouth. Ireland has seen this social change. There is now something very dark about not being allowed speak about it.”

Not allowed to speak? – Is mise,



Dublin 16.

A chara, – If ever we needed an example of the dangers of allowing private enterprise into what should be the purview of the State, one need only look at the headline in your newspaper yesterday regarding the level of profit made by private companies providing direct provision accommodation for asylum seekers (“Irish asylum firms made millions in profits”, Front Page, December 9th). We have all heard the first-hand accounts of the dreadful conditions that families endure in some of these accommodation centres. We have seen the controversy regarding the President making a visit to one of these centres. We have seen the residents of these centres protest for the most basic of rights and amenities. Yet private companies are making millions of euro in profit from running these centres on behalf of the this State. The Government’s primary responsibility is to the people of this country, both current and prospective, and not to the profit margins of business. – Is mise,



Dublin 12.

Sir, – The Government has dismissed us as people of no consequence. We have nothing to lose by voting for Independents. – Yours, etc,


Passage West,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Are there sufficient numbers of voters who truly want radical, reforming politics, and are thus willing to eschew the perceived benefits of clientelism? Will those newly elected “radical” TDs fearlessly pursue those reforming policies, and thus abandon parish pump issues, once and for all? We have heard such promises so many times in the recent past; the evidence to date does not bode well for this promised “new dawn”. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – In his letter of December 8th, Sean Burke makes the point that local property tax (LPT) is raised to pay for local services. Such services currently include public parks, libraries, open spaces and leisure amenities, planning and development, fire and emergency services, the maintenance and cleaning of streets and street lighting.

As this is the case, should the amount of LPT depend on the level of these services received in communities rather than any other criteria? Put simply, you assess the LPT due on a property, you divide it into tranches based on the services mentioned above and then you pay for the number of “services” you can actually receive.

Because, of the categories mentioned above, I can confirm that here in rural county Galway, and in the rest of rural Ireland, we can count on fire and emergency services – some of which we have to further pay for if we actually use – but little else.

Occasionally the hedges get cut and some awkward junctions may have a light over them, but few or none of the other services are available to us.

I don’t see how it is equitable to charge everyone “equally” but not to supply services “equally” to all those being charged. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – The headline “Women held back by ‘family obligations’, says MIT professor” misrepresents both Dick Ahlstrom’s article (December 5th) and the primary message I delivered at WiSER’s (Centre for Women in Science and Engineering Research) Trinity College Dublin event.

It is the undervaluation of equal work if done by a woman that is the primary cause of women’s low representation at the top in science.

Failure to redesign professions to accommodate family obligations contributes as well, but it is unconscious gender bias that is by far the greater obstacle to women’s equality. – Yours, etc,


Massachusetts Institute

of Technology,

Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sir, – The letter published last week (December 5th) regarding Arts Council funding cuts to Irish publishers made my blood boil.

How come our publishers are giving out about the lack of support they receive from the Arts Council (and the taxpayer) when they get most of their books printed abroad?

They do very little to support our indigenous print industry.

Any future Arts Council support publishers get should be linked to their commitment to use local printers.

The taxes paid by the local printers would go straight into our national coffers and could then be used to fund organisations such as the Arts Council.

It is simple but the publishers don’t see it that way. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Instead of the Central Bank telling people to use 1 cent coins (“Central Banks seeks return of millions of copper coins”, December 9th), why not tell shops to stop displaying 99 cent prices, thereby preventing a shortage of 1 cent coins from occurring in the first place? And why do shopkeepers persist with 99 cent prices? Is it laziness or a lack of imagination, or because they have a low opinion of their customers’ intelligence? –Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I notice in your radio listings that you still suggest the BBC World Service is being broadcast on medium wave 648khz. This transmitter, in Suffolk, was closed down about two years ago. The shortwave frequencies you mention carry the BBC World Service for only a few hours a day. This is due to cost-cutting measures. Listeners in Ireland can receive the service via the Astra Satellite, Freesat or on the internet. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I love Ulster. All nine counties. – Yours, etc,


Headford, Co Galway.

A chara, – How about a large banner with the slogan, “Welcome to the capital”? – Is mise,


Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

People’s memories are a funny thing. Ask any Irish person the names of the characters in Glenroe and they will sing off a list with Blackie, Biddy and Miley. Or ask them who won the All-Ireland in God knows when and they will sing it off like a bird – but ask them to recollect Irish politics over the last ten years and their memories fade.

Irish media has been flooded lately covering the debate on Irish Water. It seems Enda Kenny has become the Irish tsar that everyone wants to hang in the name of Irish liberty. Instead of proclaiming “let them eat cake” he is being ridiculed for asking us to pay for our water.

But I ask you this – what of the Celtic Tiger’s dowry?

Whilst Fianna Fail bought silk shirts and make-overs the Irish people stayed numb and quiet. Where was your protest outside the Dail then? Now whilst Fine Gael tries to regain Ireland’s reputation and regain our country from economic downfall they are been labelled criminals for a crime not of their doing! It was Fianna Fail who placed the gun into their hands.

This is a tough economy for us all. None more so than for the hard-working folk. My father always said: “It’s not that bad, people aren’t darning their socks yet.” We have fallen on bad times, but at least we have roofs over our head and a breath in our bodies. We need to believe that things will get better. I have faith in Fine Gael.

That’s what is funny about Irish memory. We can recall the words to a song during a sing-song, but ask someone who was involved in the Arms Crisis and they don’t remember. It was Charlie again. Fianna Fail robbed this country of our nest egg – not Fine Gael. That is unforgivable. Maybe Enda Kenny is seen as a pariah, but at least he has some dignity.

This is why I will vote for Fine Gael, because – unlike Fianna Fail with their false promises and mismatched suits – Fine Gael are able to make hard choices, even if it costs them their head. I believe strongly that we should all get behind Fine Gael. To allow Fianna Fail back in power is a road to designer suits and not much else.

I would rather hand my money over in the name of Irish Water than in the name of the Bertie Bowl. It’s only a pity we didn’t protest then.

Julie Bennett

Southend-On-Sea, Essex

Everyone should pay their way

I wish to inform you that I have completed my water deductions form some time ago and I encourage every other good citizen of this country to do the same.

Water is an essential product that we all require. We are being asked to pay a nett €1.15 per month. For the price of a pint you would have paid for a minimum of four months charges, for 20 cigarettes you would pay for eight months of charges.

The charge is not just for the water we get out of our taps, it’s to repair the huge amount of leaks we have and to give decent water back to the people of Roscommon, Galway, etc.

Go on your protest, put the present Government out of power if you want, but you will regret it. Stop and think about the state this country was in 3.5 years ago and look at it now. This Government has done what was expected of them – and more. The wound has been lanced, the pain is fading and we are going to make a full recovery.

The Government have made mistakes – even they will not deny this. Unemployment was 14pc, now it’s almost down to 10pc, retail sales are up, the unions are getting ready to look for pay increases – what other signs do you want?

Does anyone seriously think that a government of Independents or Sinn Fein can run this country? If they are in power we might as well book the first-class plane tickets for the Troika to return. You who do not want to pay your charges, surely you see that the Government have done as much as they can? I write as someone who has had to tighten my belt and have taken pay cuts but, thankfully, I see the bigger picture as a citizen of Ireland. I will pay my way.

Donough O’Reilly

Kimacud, Co Dublin

Corporations should serve us

Before reading the article entitled: “Our corporation tax doesn’t need to be reformed. It needs to be abolished (December 5)” Dan O’Brien must have been reading Homer’s ‘Iliad’. In it Odysseus instructs his soldiers to abandon their plans and leave Troy. But it’s a ruse to test their resolve. And Odysseus is pleased the soldiers reject his offer to return home instead of taking Troy.

Dan O’Brien must also be hoping the Irish will reject his lazy offer that we abandon seeking corporation tax altogether. After all, we only managed to wring a few million from a few billion of Facebook’s profits. So it must be pointless? And what’s a few million when you can make twice that from old age people’s heating allowance slashing? It seems unseemly to him to beggar poor corporate multinationals so hard just to get money to pay a nation’s way. Odd given that this nation is the nest that lines their wallets. Imagine lowly us taxing their billions of profits, where there are local services that can be cut, social projects to be abandoned? The cheek of us!

O’Brien wrote that even the OECD is stumped by the mammoth task of begging at the gates of corporate Troy. Those OECD boffins are finding implementing worldwide corporate tax plans, without an obvious referee, unnervingly difficult. Oh, danger here!

Just as well for planet Earth that the UN weapons inspectors or pandemic flu fighters, or the International Criminal Court’s little people don’t throw their arms up in the air when finding the international waters getting tough.

Dan O’Brien thinks modern companies are “one of the greatest inventions of all time”. I’d love to see how he established that.These modern companies get a lucky (tax) break and siphon off billions from the labour of their workers, using tax mechanisms they’ve bent countries to bow to, and there are thus great inventions? Edison would think dimly of it, no doubt. So will the freezing pensioners. And we are to judge a society on how it treats its most vulnerable, not its corporations.

Phelim Doran

Address with editor

Protests about more than water

A Leavy’s concerns (Letters, December 8) about our levels of borrowing are understandable. All services have to be paid for, either by individual households or through general taxation. But the former (neoliberalism) leads to inequality and the economic stagnation we see in Europe, while the latter (social democracy) supports social cohesion and economic sustainability.

Social democracy promotes private enterprise and also distributes wealth through equitable public services and universal welfare. This creates a foundation of stability on which society can successfully operate.

Under Thatcherite neo-liberalism, public services have been largely reduced to commodities that provide profit to shareholders. Flat taxes such as water charges means that services are available only to those able and willing to pay.

This represents the rolling back of decades of social, economic and political progress. It re-creates a neo-feudal world where the new gentry (multi-national corporations) hold the lives of the peasants (citizens) in the palm of their hands.

The water protests are not just about water. They are about the rejection of an exploitative global financial system that has become decoupled from humanity.

Protesters want to reclaim not just our natural resources, but our hard-won representative democracy, from those who would sell it off for 30 pieces of silver.

Maeve Halpin

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

In A Levy’s letter published this week Ireland’s borrowings were listed as being over “a trillion euro’ and not €180bn as originally stated by Mr Levy.

Irish Independent


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