I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get out to optician, eyesight okay better even back in 6 months.

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


Nathaniel Branden in 1985 Photo: Los Angeles Times

5:33PM GMT 10 Dec 2014


Nathaniel Branden, who has died aged 84, was for many years the lover and chief disciple of the American writer and libertarian monstre sacré Ayn Rand (1905-82); the story of their relationship and its bitter ending served to illustrate some of the pitfalls of her philosophy of ethical selfishness.

When they first met in 1950 Nathan Blumenthal, as he then was, was a 19-year-old Canadian psychology student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Ayn Rand, a Russian-Jewish emigrée in her late forties, was the bestselling author of The Fountainhead (1943), a torrid ideological melodrama of Nietzschean individualism, whose merciless celebration of the human ego, unfettered by religious restraints, not to mention its racy dose of sadomasochistic sex, had attracted an army of young admirers.

Having more or less memorised the novel, Nathan Blumenthal wooed Ayn Rand with fan letters and his devotion earned him an invitation to visit her California ranch. He came for an all-night conversation, and on his next visit introduced his girlfriend and fellow Rand groupie Barbara Weidman.

When the young pair moved to New York for graduate study, Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor (an actor she had married because he looked like the hero in a picture book she had loved as a child), followed. For part of the trip O’Connor, a mild-mannered man with an interest in flower-arranging, was literally chained to the manuscript of Atlas Shrugged (1957), Rand’s most famous work, then a novel-in-progress, which travelled in a case attached to a handcuff. When Barbara and the by-now renamed Nathaniel Branden (a name suggested by his idol to incorporate her own) married in 1953, Frank and Ayn served as best man and matron of honour at their wedding.

Though Branden was 24 years younger than Ayn Rand, the relationship between author and acolyte turned physical in late 1954. Determined to apply rational principles to a potentially complicated situation, Ayn Rand assembled the parties involved for a discussion. O’Connor and Barbara were “rationally”, if extremely reluctantly, persuaded that sex between Rand and Nathaniel was the logical concomitant of their intellectual communion. Their twice-weekly trysts took place at regular hours at her apartment, with O’Connor dispatched to the local cinema to wait out the assignation. The two men would sometimes acknowledge each other in passing at the door.

The affair continued, on and off, for 14 years, during which Ayn Rand became the host of weekly salons, known as “the Collective”, at which a group of admiring young acolytes (including the future Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan) would assemble at the feet of their guru for marathon philosophy sessions.

Ayn Rand’s most famous dictum was “Check your premises”, but the self-professed individualists in her entourage never dared question hers for fear of being exiled from the fold. They adopted Ayn Rand’s tastes in everything, forming a cultish circle that came to be governed by loyalty tests. Branden became the group’s disciplinarian, staging “kangaroo courts” at which deviants were castigated, and if necessary expelled, for “psychological errors”.

Ayn Rand (Time & Life Pictures/Getty)

When Atlas Shrugged (dedicated jointly to O’Connor and Branden) was panned by the critics, in 1958 Branden established the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI) to promulgate Ayn Rand’s philosophy of “Objectivism”, which she described as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life”. Together they published a magazine, The Objectivist, and gave lectures. By the mid-1960s the NBI was running Objectivist courses in 80 cities in America out of an office in the Empire State Building.

Branden also pioneered Objectivist psychotherapy, an alternative approach to healing which involved the rational mastery of emotions. But by 1964 he was having trouble controlling his own feelings, after the Collective was joined by a nubile 23-year-old fashion model called Patrecia Wynand, to whom Branden was soon giving private lessons in Objectivism.

Ayn Rand (who was described by one journalist as combining “the shape of SpongeBob with the beauty of Nurse Ratched”) knew something was amiss, but it took Branden four years to confess. When he did so the results were explosive.

Declaring that their relationship was “sexual or it’s nothing”, Ayn Rand demanded he resume their affair. A Randian superhero, she maintained, would not abandon a Randian heroine because of such trivialities as advancing age. Branden must therefore be suffering from a serious character defect. When he fabricated a story that he was having a “sexual freeze”, she went into meltdown, shrieking: “You contemptible swine!” and worse.

In what became known as the “Objecti-schism”, in 1968 Branden was effectively kicked out of his own institute, while, in vengeful fury, Rand wrote an open letter in The Objectivist accusing him of “moral failures” and unspecified crimes against Objectivity. A week or so later, Barbara Branden, too, was excommunicated. Ayn Rand spent most of the rest of her days as a recluse, alienated from old friends, most of whom she had discarded for disobedience. She died of lung cancer in 1982. Her husband had predeceased her in 1979 after years of alcohol abuse.

The Brandens fled to California, where their marriage soon broke down. Nathaniel’s affair with Ayn Rand had been kept secret from all but those most closely involved, but in 1984 Barbara Branden wrote a memoir in which she revealed all. This was followed, two years later, by a less well-reviewed apologia by her former husband, Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand, in which he observed that what Ayn Rand wanted was “a man whose esteem would reduce her to a sex object”.

In 1999 their affair was dramatised in an unintentionally comic television film, The Passion of Ayn Rand, with Helen Mirren as Rand and Eric Stoltz as Nathaniel. The scriptwriters had Mirren’s Rand, in a cod Russian accent, announcing she needs sex with Nathaniel at least twice a week with the words: “Lesser people could never accept it. But veee are not lesser people.”

In California, meanwhile, Branden began repackaging Rand’s ideas, shifting their focus from self-interest to self-help. He founded a new Institute of Biocentric Psychology, and wrote a book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem (1969).

Ayn Rand’s 1968 expulsion of Branden sent shock waves through the ranks of the faithful, many of whom had come to see him as the embodiment of a Randian superhero. It seemed that her cult might never recover. But it did, her visceral hatred of collectivism in all its forms inspiring the Right-wing “Tea Party” movement, whose protest placards often bear the legend “Atlas Shrugs”.

Nathan Blumenthal was born on April 9 1930, in Brampton, Ontario, and grew up in Toronto.

After his divorce from Barbara he married Patrecia Wynand. She died in a freak drowning accident in 1977 and the following year he married Estelle Devers, from whom he was also later divorced.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Laurie, whom he married in 2006.

Nathaniel Branden, born April 9 1930, died December 3 2014


Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe. ‘Jack Monroe’s article will have shocked many readers and there’s just the outside chance that it might be a siren call to those who dismiss poverty, its cause and effect,’ writes Angus Macintosh. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Jack Monroe’s very personal testimony of her own earlier experiences of poverty (Poverty has left me unable to open my own front door, 10 December) is the most powerful, compelling and brave piece of writing I have ever read on poverty and its devastating impact on families. A visceral sense of shame and powerlessness sweep through her text, and reminds us that the contemporary view of poverty, as the responsibility of the individual, is not only pernicious, but damages the very fabric of society. Poverty is a collective responsibility, that we should all shoulder and work towards alleviating, especially as its causes lie far more in the practices of the rich and powerful than in those of the poor and powerless.
Professor Diane Reay
Faculty of education, University of Cambridge

• You see the face smiling from the heading, you read the recipes and, yes you try them. Great. Little do you know of the terror, anguish and heartache that underpins this outwardly positive and dynamic woman. Jack Monroe’s article will have shocked many readers and there’s just the outside chance that it might be a siren call to those who dismiss poverty, its cause and effect. Jack, you’re column will be read with a great deal more of affection by all of us.
Angus MacIntosh
Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire

• “One of the big problems with politics today: instead of discussing the issues, the baying mobs on all sides are waiting for someone to say something imperfect” – Jack Monroe is spot on; debate is stifled, people are vilified, careers are ruined and we make no progress. Janet Suzman (Letters, 10 December) or Anne Jenkin slink off chastised and others are discouraged from entering the discussion. Every day you hear the weasel words of politicians and others unable to say anything honest, unable to say “we were wrong”, “we don’t know”, or “I can’t make absolute promises because circumstances change so we might need to change policy to reflect that”, because they know how negatively those words will be portrayed by the media. The media say they only reflect the views of an “outraged” public, but how much of that outrage actually exists and how much is invented, or certainly inflamed, by the media itself to increase circulation and profit, or to achieve a political agenda? Can an honest politician survive in politics today? I doubt it.
Gill Evans
Uckfield, East Sussex


Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the surveillence of US military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Photograph: Shane McCoy/Getty

Ian Cobain notes (UK among allies fearing revelations over role in rendition programme, 9 December) that the nature of the involvement of the UK in the CIA‘s “war on terror” torture and rendition programme “remains unclear”. The resulting injustice is multiple. First, there are the victims of practices which were illegal and immoral, and which the US Senate has also found to have been “ineffective”. Where is their “closure”? Second, there are those in the UK who authorised and participated in these practices. The current position means that many of them are still in post, administering and in some cases legislating, and all the while untroubled by any requirement to account for their actions. Third, however, is the injustice done to those who opposed this civilisational collapse in the face of pressure from a US government in the grip of neoconservative hysteria.

Some officials in the US are known to have resisted the slide towards barbarism. One thinks of Alberto Mora, US navy general counsel, who warned William Haynes, counsel to Donald Rumsfeld’s defence department, that Rumsfeld’s own position was threatened if torture was adopted as an instrument of policy. Philippe Sands QC, in his book Torture Team, memorably records Mora as telling Haynes – lawyer to lawyer – to “protect your client” (p.168). Who were the Moras on this side of the Atlantic? They as much deserve to be exonerated as those who colluded deserve to be exposed.
Roger Hallam

• Hot on the heels of the US Senate report on abuses by the CIA, Brazil’s truth commission published its report into the abuses of the military regime that ruled the country between 1964-85 (Report, 10 December). Human Rights Day was deliberately chosen for the ceremony. There are also interesting contrasts. The Brazilian process was initiated, not by parliamentarians, but by the head of state, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and continued by his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, both victims of the military dictatorship, and Rousseff wept on receiving the report. The Brazilian report is available in full on the internet.

Brazilian transparency, perhaps defective in that an amnesty law for the moment prevents prosecution of alleged abusers, should still encourage those in Britain who campaign for full disclosure of British complicity in US abuses.
Francis McDonagh

• In the context of auto-da-fé, or the brutality of colonial powers such as the British and the French in the 1950s and 60s (the French favoured the use of a blowtorch applied to captive Algerian resistance fighters, as I recall), the torture of suspects by the CIA was frankly “torture-lite”, however disagreeable it might have been to those on whom it was inflicted.

Of much greater concern is the way in which the US administration dispensed with the rule of law and due process – individuals kidnapped and abused at the discretion of their captors, without any legal oversight. A continuing disgrace – compounded by Obama’s assurance to CIA personnel that those who “followed orders” had nothing to worry about – not an acceptable excuse for Nazi concentration camp guards at Nuremberg.

The US lost a few thousand civilians in the 9/11 attack – a drop in the bucket in the context of annual deaths in the US by homicide and automobile accidents – and the US government played right into the hands of the perpetrators, spending trillions in revenge, to no permanent effect and engendering a new generation implacably hostile to the US. At the time some US commentators asked, apparently sincerely “why do they hate us so?” without stopping to answer their question. All quite mindless behaviour.
Andy Smith
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

• Surely this is now the time for Obama to use his authority as president, as he claims he will (Report, 10 December) and close Guantánamo as promised at his inauguration. Terrible tortures continue to be inflicted there on men, like our own British Shaker Aamer, who have been cleared of all charges and should be released immediately. The truth is now out and the evidence that Shaker and others can provide about their treatment should no longer be a barrier to their freedom.
Margaret Owen

• It’s great news that David Cameron has found his conscience again. In 2009 he said “It is vital that we get to the bottom of whether Britain has been complicit in torture”. In power, he set up the Gibson inquiry. A year ago, Gibson concluded there were 27 key questions which the government needed to answer. Maybe he could make a New Year resolution to start filling in the detail. We don’t need general condemnation; what’s required is some detailed answers to very particular questions. The Americans have done it. Now it’s our turn.
Paul Francis
Much Wenlock, Shropshire

• I’m glad that the weasel words of Jack Straw and David Miliband, on the subject of rendition and torture, will now come back to haunt them. And I’m glad Labour elected the right brother after all.
Tim Grollman

Police officers in Hong Kong stop protesters from blocking a road
Police officers in Hong Kong stop protesters seeking free elections in the former British colony from blocking a road in the Mong Kok district. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

I write to express strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the views in your editorial on Hong Kong (2 December). First, Occupy Central is in no way “peaceful protest”. It is a farce that is against the purpose of democracy and jeopardises the rule of law. Months of blocking artery streets and putting government buildings under siege are neither democracy nor freedom. They are illegal activities that amount to a political trifle and disturb the social order. Most people in Hong Kong have a clear understanding about this. So does China’s central government and the government of Hong Kong.

Second, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China after its return. Its affairs are solely China’s internal affairs. Britain has no sovereignty, no right of administration or supervision, and no moral obligation towards Hong Kong. By proceeding with political reform in accordance with the relevant decisions of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress on the election of Hong Kong chief executive in 2017 and the basic law, Hong Kong will, for the first time in history, witness election of the chief executive through one man one vote. That will be a historic step in Hong Kong’s democracy. The Chinese government firmly opposes interference in its domestic affairs by any foreign government, institution or individual. The House of Commons foreign affairs committee’s visit to Hong Kong (Report, 3 December) is an interference in China’s domestic affairs. China is firmly opposed to it and will never accept it.

Third, democracy is not a patent of the west. All countries have the right to choose the political system and development path suited to their national conditions. China is endeavouring to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. It is willing to listen to well-intentioned and constructive suggestions and proposals from all sides. To lecture China like a schoolmaster and with a sense of superiority is not acceptable. China is a staunch force for world peace and development, which now contributes to nearly 30% of the world economic growth and 50% to Asia’s economic growth. Its development will bring more opportunities to other countries. A peaceful, prosperous, stable and growing China will always be a positive force in the international community.
Miao Deyu
Spokesman of the Chinese embassy

• Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 2 December) is wrong to swallow the Chinese line that what happens in Hong Kong is China’s internal affair in which Britain has no legitimate interest. The Sino-British joint declaration on the future of Hong Kong, under which Hong Kong was returned to China, is an international treaty registered at the UN. Hong Kong was returned to China against the wishes of its people and the obligations placed on China by the declaration were the reassurance intended to make the transfer acceptable. Britain has a moral duty as well as a legal right to speak out when those obligations are broken.

It is also untrue that Britain’s influence in Hong Kong died in 1997. It is precisely because of Britain’s continuing influence that the Chinese government, always paranoid about opposition, has stopped the British MPs from entering, just as it has repeatedly stopped former Tian An Men Square student leader Wang Dan, now based in the US. What happens to freedom in Hong Kong is important for the future of the world. China’s totalitarian system of economic development behind a massive firewall of censorship is not compatible with democratic values, but is gaining worldwide support, from Sri Lanka to Ethiopia to Hungary.

The battle of ideas between the two systems is being fought out in Hong Kong. That is why the fight of the Hong Kong democrats is our fight too.
Paul Harris
Founding chairman, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor

Juncker presser on Luxembourg leaks
Jean-Claude Juncker, now president of the European commission, praised Luxembourg’s tax policies in 2005 when he was prime minister of the Grand Duchy. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Your article was correct to point out that, while Luxembourg has produced some of the most striking cases, tax avoidance is a Europe-wide problem (Skype and Disney revealed among tax scandal firms, 10 December). In reality, similar tax rulings have been applied in 22 of 28 EU member states, and lib dem MEPs from across Europe are pushing the European commission to disclose the extent of these. Last week, despite some reluctance from my conservative and socialist colleagues, I secured an agreement for two reports to be produced by the European parliament; an inquiry report to examine the fiscal practices of member states and a legislative report to table a concrete proposal to the commission to end tax evasion and tax avoidance. One solution could be to propose a European convergence code based on a common consolidated corporate tax base. I hope in the coming weeks and months we can work quickly to find a way forward. But let’s be clear, we will only deal with this problem by securing a truly European solution to what is a Europe-wide problem.
Guy Verhofstadt MEP
President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

• UK politicians take note. Manager voters told the Chartered Management Institute this week that they want parties’ election manifestos to include promises to close loopholes used by businesses to avoid tax on UK activities. With a score of 79% net support, this was one of three top policies the electorate would back. The findings, from CMI’s annual survey of more than 1,200 managers – the Future Forecast report – reveal that our Westminster elite are missing the mark. There’s a real need for policy-makers to refocus on productivity. That means moving on from a debate that has been dominated by the EU and immigration and looking more closely at other thorny issues like fairness and transparency when it comes to business taxes and management pay. This is a wake-up call not just for Luxembourg but leaders in London too.
Petra Wilton
Director of policy, Chartered Management Institute


The idea that poor people cannot cook (Report, 9 December) may well be patronising, but it highlights another pressing matter. The poor have no voice, only representation by people who have not experienced or may have become removed from their reality, however well-meaning they may intend to be. It would be refreshing to hear from badly paid zero-hour workers trying to hold down a job while supporting a family or elderly parents.
Dr Paul Clements

• Some Tory wag suggested of the Lord Rennard affair that, “only the Lib Dems could have a sex scandal in which no one actually has sex”. Following Roger Bird’s claim (Ukip suspends senior official, 9 December) that he and Natasha Bolter had an affair, and her denial of such, it seems that only Ukip can have a sex scandal in which no one knows whether they had sex.
Bob Jenkins

• Re Nigel Mills playing Candy Crush (Report, 9 December): would the best solution just be to ban politicians called Nigel?
Marian Nyman
Whitstable, Kent

• Reading Notebook (Good luck stealing an Anselm Kiefer, 9 December), I recalled a buyer for a group of grand hotels who was asked his main criteria in selecting paintings for the guest bedrooms. “Usually I look for works that are larger than the average suitcase and always larger than the normal overnight case,” came the reply.
Brian Baxter

• Following the IOC proposals on easing the complexities of the Olympics bidding process (Sport, 9 December), surely a simpler solution would be to select prospective hosts, for the Olympics and the football World Cup, by lottery. Not only would this be cheaper, but would end all suspicion of corruption at a stroke. No amount of bribes or wining and dining could influence the outcome. Watching a worldwide televised draw would be a bit of global fun as well.
Guy Stoate
St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire

• Spotted on 7 December in a west Sussex garden: a lively red admiral butterfly. Is this a first? Or a last?
Emma Dally


Meal-times offer a chance to ‘chew over’ the problems of the day. We lose them at our peril

Sir, Circuit judges are to lose their lunches (report and leading article, Dec 8, and letters, Dec 9 & 10). Is this a reasonable economy affecting an affluent section of the community, or a sign of the terminal decline of interest in wellbeing at work? In our hospitals, genuine meal breaks for staff are a lost cause; compulsory meetings at meal-times are accompanied by water only, not food; and junior medical staff on call at nights and weekends are fed via soulless vending machines in isolated corridors.

Mealtime interactions in the workplace between those who cook, serve and eat enable the sharing of knowledge and burdens, and can contribute to good health and good work. We have an epidemic of workplace stress and absenteeism in the UK; it will be interesting to see how the latest economies in the courts service are reflected in future measures of workplace health and wellbeing.

Dr Anne De Bono

Cropston, Leics

Sir, The Lord Chancellor should rethink the decision to abolish the judicial dining room. After all, the jurors, witnesses, lawyers, police and even defendants need a dining facility, so why not just one small room for the judges?

Judging is a lonely job, and judges need somewhere to “chew over” the problems of the day with colleagues.

His Honour Barrington Black

London NW3


Matthew Parris is wrong about the truce of 1914 — ordinary soldiers used it to reaffirm their humanity

Sir, Matthew Parris’s criticism of the Christmas truce iof 1914 rather misses the point (My Week, Dec 10). Ordinary soldiers took an initiative to affirm that enemy troops were human beings like themselves, and not the blood-crazed brutes commonly portrayed.

Curiously, too, Parris finds it “little short of sick-making” that two opponents, both sure they are right, should seek support from the same person. Hardly unusual or disgusting. True, many chaplains, as he suggests, believed the war propaganda. But while politicians gave no heed to the Pope’s steady exhortations to negotiate for peace, most chaplains were sustaining the living, burying the dead — and praying for peace.

Tom McIntyre

Frome, Somerset

American comedians may live longer, but one British comic has proved that laughter is the best medicine

Sir, One British comedy veteran, at least, can testify to the medicinal qualities of laughter (letter, Dec 10). Despite a heart attack last year, Freddie “Parrotface” Davies (77) was wowing them on stage at Cromer a mere matter of hours after having a second stent fitted.

Anthony Teague

London N9

How long before we hear demands for the bluestones of Stonehenge to be returned to Wales?

Sir, Amid the growing calls for the repatriation of objects removed from one country and displayed in another (letters, Dec 10), how long will it be before we hear demands that the bluestones currently forming part of Stonehenge be returned to the Preseli hills of Wales whence they came?

David Wilson

Bridell, Pembrokeshire

We meet more medical schools, with more places, rather than to play with entry criteria for aspirant doctors

Sir, Your report “Half of all schools sent no pupils to do medicine” (Dec 10) bemoans the lack of access to medical schools by candidates from less privileged backgrounds. Less demanding A-level grades are suggested as a means of allowing a wider range of candidates to compete.

Where equality of opportunity trumps all other considerations, this approach obviously appeals. But taken in isolation, it would certainly make the task of student selection an even more ferociously difficult business than it is already. Whether, five or more years down the line, patients would be served by a more efficient, more able, more empathic generation of doctors than today is questionable.

There is ample evidence that there are many more suitably qualified aspirant medical students, from all backgrounds, than there are medical school places for them. Equally, there is plenty of evidence of a shortage of doctors in the NHS. The overriding need now is not to play with entry criteria but to create more medical schools with more places, ultimately producing more doctors. If economics dictate that they be paid less than at present, then so be it.

John Rose

(retired medical director)

Boston Spa, W Yorks

KIng John signs Magna Carta in 1215 - cause for a national holiday next year to mark its 800th anniversary?

KIng John signs Magna Carta in 1215 Photo: Alamy

SIR – Today, as the world marks the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that “Magna Carta for all humanity” – we call on those in positions of power to reflect on the meaningful, often quiet, ways that human rights make a difference to people in their everyday lives.

From ensuring protection for those receiving care services to equality for same-sex couples, our Human Rights Act is helping to deliver the promise of the UDHR in Britain; the promise that each person’s equal dignity and worth is respected.

The legacy of Magna Carta – which has its 800th anniversary in June – is that the exercise of political power cannot be unrestrained: it must follow the law.

We hope that 2015 will be the year that those in power stand with us to respect human rights laws.

Stephen Bowen
Director, British Institute of Human Rights
Gary Fitzgerald
Chief Executive, Action on Elder Abuse
Paul Breckell
Chief Executive, Action on Hearing Loss
Steve Johnson
Chief Executive, Advice UK
Richard Williams
Chairman, Age Alliance Wales
Jeff Hawkins
Chairman, Board of Directors, Age Connects Wales
Brian Sloan
Chief Executive, Age Scotland
Caroline Abrahams
Charity Director, Age UK
Samantha Mauger
Chief Executive, Age UK London
Matthew Evans
Director, AIRE Centre
Joe Powell
Director, All Wales People First
Henry Simmons
Chief Executive, Alzheimer Scotland
Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK
Federico Moscogiuri
Chief Executive Officer, ARMA
Sally Gibson
Artistic Director, Artspace Cinderford
Shaminder Ubhi
Director, Ashiana Network
Wayne Myslik
Chief Executive, Asylum Aid
Ewan Roberts
Manager, Asylum Link Merseyside
Donna Covey
Director, AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)
Abdul Khan
Chief Executive Officer, BECON
Priscilla Nkwenti
Chief Executive, BHA for Equality
Ann Chivers
Chief Executive, BILD (British Institute of Learning Disabilities)
Elizabeth Prochaska
Co-Chair, Birthrights
Asif Afridi
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, BRAP
Tom Hore
Director, Bristol Mind
Bridget Robb
Chief Executive Officer, British Association of Social Workers
Andrew Copson
Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
Dr Mark Porter
Chair of Council, British Medical Association
Helena Herklots
Chief Executive, Carers UK
Judith Wester
Director, CEDAR CIC
Prof Katja Ziegler
Director, Centre for European Law and Internationalism
Paola Uccellari
Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England
Jim Bowen
Director, Clynfyw Carefarm
Jatin Haria
Executive Director, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
Annemarie Monaghan and Lynn G Blair
Directors, Community Brokerage Network
Liz Sayce
Chief Executive Officer, Disability Rights UK
Barbara Cohen
Chair, Discrimination Law Association
Leigh Daynes
Chief Executive Officer, Doctors of the World
Carol Boys
Chief Executive, Down’s Syndrome Association
Shona Laidlaw
Manager, Dundee Independent Advocacy Support
Bharti Patel
Chief Executive Officer, ECPAT UK
Arvinda Gohil
Chief Executive, Emmaus UK
Sarah Green
Acting Director, End Violence Against Women (EVAW)
Jo Glanville
Director, English PEN
Amanda Ariss
Chief Executive, Equality and Diversity Forum
Jago Russell
Chief Executive, Fair Trials International
Steve Miller
Senior Consultant, Faith Based Regeneration Network UK
Mustafa Field
Director, Faiths Forum for London
Cathy Ashley
Chief Executive, Family Rights Group
Julia Bleet
Chair, Free Cakes for Kids Hackney
Jonathan Hyams and Andrew Gough
Co-Directors, FRESh
Chris Whitwell
Director, Friends, Families and Travellers
Bernard Reed
Trustee, Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES)
Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Grandparents Plus
Bella Kosamala
Director, Greenwich Migrant Hub
Reverend Mike Firbank
Vicar for Church Gresley, Gresley Church
Helen Hibberd
Centre Manager, Hackney Migrant Centre
Councillor Rob Polhill
Leader of Halton Borough Council, Halton Borough Council
Sandie Smith
Chief Executive Officer, Healthwatch Cambridgeshire
Emma Craig
Chair, Healthwatch Hackney
Rosie Newbigging
Chief Executive Officer, Healthwatch Northamptonshire
Cornelius Katona
Medical Director, Helen Bamber
Damien Short
Director, Human Rights Consortium, University of London
Alison Gerry
Chair, Human Rights Lawyers Association
David Mepham
UK Director, Human Rights Watch
Simon Hancock
Board Member Equality Champion, Hywel Dda University Health Board
Adrian Berry
Chair, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
Imran Khan
Partner, Imran Khan and Partners
Helen Shaw and Deborah Coles
Co-Directors, INQUEST
Sara Khan and Kalsoom Bashir
Co-Directors, Inspire
Jo Baker
Chief Executive, International Service
Habib Rahman
Chief Executive, JCWI
Shauneen Lambe
Director, Just for Kids Law
Ratna Lachman
Director, JUST West Yorkshire
Tatiana Garavito
Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service
Julie Bishop
Director, Law Centres Network
Andrew Caplen
President, Law Society
Steve Hynes
Director, Legal Action Group (LAG)
Jenny Beck and Nicola Mackintosh
Co-Chairs, Legal Aid Practitioners Group
Paul Fitzgerald
Interim Chief Executive Officer, Leicester LGBT Centre
Sean Humber
Head of Human Rights Department, Leigh Day
Paul Martin
Chief Executive, Lesbian and Gay Foundation
Jenny Rowlands
Chief Executive, Lewes District Council
Paul Roberts
Chief Executive Officer, LGBT Consortium
Shami Chakrabarti
Director, Liberty
Anna Gaughan
Chief Executive, Life Story Network
Eithne Rynne
Chief Executive, London Voluntary Service Council
Phillip Watson
Chief Executive, Manor Gardens Welfare Trust
Paula Twigg
Director, Mary Ward Legal Centre
Dan Squires
Head of Human Rights Department, Matrix Chambers
Emma Mlotshwa
Coordinator, Medical Justice
Zrinka Bralo
Executive Director, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum
Don Flynn
Director, Migrants Rights Network
Paul Farmer
Chief Executive Officer, Mind
Deborah Gold
Chief Executive, NAT (National Aids Trust)
Annette Lawson
Chair, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)
Des Kelly
Executive Director, National Care Forum
Rob Greig
Chief Executive, National Development Team for Inclusion
Jeremy Taylor
Chief Executive, National Voices
Gabby Briner
Chief Executive Officer, Network for Change
Julia Lyford
Chair, North East Equalities Network
Colin Devine
Coordinator, North West Community Network
Anjona Roy
Chief Executive, Northamptonshire Rights & Equality Council
Patrick Yu
Executive Director, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities
Sarah Yiannollou
Managing Director, NSUN
Kath Parson
Chief Executive, Older People’s Advocacy Alliance
Karen Chandler
Coordinator, Pembrokeshire People First
Sally Daghlian
Chief Executive, Praxis
Lu Thomas
Chair, Pride Cymru
Juliet Lyon
Director, Prison Reform Trust
Ross Diamond
Chief Officer, Redbridge Council for Voluntary Services
Carla Ferstman
Director, Redress
Rita Chadha
Chief Executive Officer, Refugee & Migrant Forum of East London
Maurice Wren
Chief Executive, Refugee Council
Shauna Leven
Director, Rene Cassin
Clare Algar
Executive Director, Reprieve
Emma Scott
Director, Rights of Women
Michele Lamb
Head of Department of Social Science, Roehampton University
Andy Gregg
Chief Executive, ROTA (Race on the Agenda)
Professor Cathy Warwick
Chief Executive Officer, Royal College of Midwives
Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive & General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Dr Omar Khan
Director, Runnymede Trust
Barbara Natasegra
Chief Executive, Safer Wales
Marjorie Wallace
Chief Executive, SANE
Robert Sutherland
Convener, SCOLAG
Richard Hawkes
Chief Executive, Scope
Tam Baillie
Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People
Jane Gordon
Co-Founder, Sisters for Change
Sharon Allen
Chief Executive Officer, Skills for Care
Cath Evans
Chief Executive Officer, Slater & Gordon (UK) LLP
Daisy Bogg
Co-Chair, Social Perspective Network
Briget Robb
General Secretary, Social Workers Union
Hannana Siddiqui
Coordinator, Southall Black Sisters
Jan Gavin
Chief Executive, Southern Advocacy Services
Gil Baldwin
Chief Executive Officer , St Andrew’s Healthcare
Joy Hibbins
Director, Suicide Crisis
Ngoyi Barthelemy Malumba
Managing Director, Tameside Human Rights Watch
Dr Rosemary Gillespie
Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust
Dr Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director, The Equal Rights Trust
Sarah Rochira
The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
Jon Barrick
Chief Executive Officer, The Stroke Association
Juliet Harris
Director, Together Scotland
Penelope Gibbs
Director, Transform Justice
Martin Coyle
Director, True Voice
Frances O’Grady
General Secretary, TUC
Bridget Warr
Chief Executive Officer, UK Homecare Association
Dave Prentis
General Secretary, UNISON
Diana Holland
Assistant General Secretary, Unite
Natalie Samarasinghe
Executive Director, United Nations Association – UK
Alexandra Runswick
Director, Unlock Democracy
Mike Sherriff
Chief Executive, Voluntary Action Islington
Phil Jarrold
Chief Executive, Wales Council for Voluntary Action
Steve Clark
Managing Director, Welsh Tenants
Eleri Butler
Chief Executive, Welsh Women’s Aid
Jonathon Toye
Co-ordinator, West Norfolk Disability Information Service
Joyce Kallevik
Director, Wish
Rachel Halford
Director, Women in Prison
Vivienne Hayes
Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Resource Centre
Polly Neate
Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Aid
Annie Campbell
Director, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
Sharon Baxter
Trustee and Chair of the Advocacy Committee, Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance
Harkirit Bopari
Coordinator, York City of Human Rights
Tom Doyle
Chief Executive, Yorkshire MESMAC Group of Services


Unions growing amid austerity cuts

A cause for protest? The TUC demonstrates against the Government’s austerity measures Photo: Getty Images

SIR – Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, criticises his Coalition partners for wanting to continue with austerity. If austerity means the state and its people living within their means, avoiding excessive debt and encouraging individuals to save for their next holiday rather than just paying for it on credit, then I hope it will continue.

To get the British economy back to a stable position we need a much longer period of austerity, not just the length of one Parliament. I hope the next government realises this, even if Mr Alexander doesn’t.

Geoff Blackman
Mullion, Cornwall

SIR – You state (“Battle lines drawn over the size of the state”, Leading article, December 6) that Australia tends to invest more in infrastructure than Britain does. It must be noted, however, that 18.9 per cent of British taxes are devoted to the NHS, whereas health provision in Australia is obtained through personal insurance schemes.

In Australia, one is even required to cover the cost of using an ambulance in an emergency. The country is also very careful not to lavish welfare payments on the undeserving. Perhaps we could learn from this.

Carl Graham
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – You highlight the generosity of Britain’s welfare system”. Tax credits, introduced by Gordon Brown, have resulted in taxpayers subsidising low wages, “which is good for employers looking for cheap labour and immigrants whose incomes are topped up”, but not so good for the rest of us.

This allows British firms to pay subsistence wages and compete successfully against Continental firms which have to pay better. If this isn’t unfair competition, what is?

Even as far back as the 19th century, something called the Speenhamland System topped up low wages, which led employers to lower them again and again.

Before our EU partners get around to working out this nitty-gritty beneath that euphemistic banner of “flexibility”, perhaps we could aim for a trade-off between cuts in benefits to those in work and a significantly improved minimum wage.

Charles Sangster

SIR – The best indication of the health of the economy is GDP per head of population. If job losses and immigration exceed the number of jobs created, the overall result is negative. Falling unemployment is only good news if those in work are in full-time jobs.

The real problem is not money; it is the social structure of our country and the way it is managed.

Barrie Skelcher
Leiston, Suffolk

Saving the police force

Should the police merge into a single force? (Alamy)

SIR – Neil Rhodes, the head of Lincolnshire police, has told the Home Secretary that current funding arrangements will render his force unsustainable.

There is, however, one big saving that the police and the Home Office have not yet made, and that is to merge into a single force. At present, England and Wales have 43 local forces and three more non-Home Office forces, each with its own chief constable, headquarters, training centre, personnel department, IT department and control rooms. The total annual cost of all these police forces is around £10 billion. If just 5 per cent could be saved by merging them all, sharing assets and eliminating duplication, then this would be £500 million, or the cost of preserving 10,000 front-line police posts.

Merging 46 independent forces into one national force would not be simple, but a similar merge in Scotland in 2013 secured a considerable budget reduction without the loss of a single police officer post.

Stephen Love
Chief Constable, MoD Police 2005-2013
Ryde, Isle of Wight

Clean cars

SIR – It would be an inexcusable waste of public money to subsidise the scrapping of almost-new diesel cars, on the grounds that they have been found to pollute the atmosphere far more seriously than previously realised.

Nearly all diesel models have petrol equivalents and could be converted to use the cleaner fuel with a new cylinder head, injection equipment and the addition of electronic ignition.

David Burton
Wellington, Shropshire

Phones on the table

SIR – I was surprised and shocked to read your report of an MP playing Candy Crush during a Work and Pensions Committee meeting.

As a manager in the Home Office and later the Ministry of Justice, I chaired regular meetings with service managers. With the rise in the use of mobile devices, I eventually introduced a policy of all such items being switched off and deposited on a table just inside the meeting-room door.

This was readily accepted by all present and ensured that there were no distractions. Commons committees could introduce a similar policy.

David Pick
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

Glorious bustards

SIR – Recently our local radio station broadcast an item about the nomination of a bird to represent Great Britain, as the eagle does the United States.

My immediate thought was the great bustard. The initials – GB – would be easy for the public to recall.

I would welcome other readers’ suggestions for an alternative.

Mike Elliott
Dore, Sheffield

O Christmas tree

SIR – As a family of limited acting ability, we were thrilled a few years ago when my daughter was cast in the role of “Tree” in her school Christmas play.

I duly noted the rehearsal schedule, requiring “Trees 1-6” to be at school one Sunday morning. “No, that doesn’t include me,” she said. “I’m not a numbered tree.”

Jo Marchington
Ashtead, Surrey

Bahrain base

SIR – I find it extraordinary that experts believe the best place to site a British naval presence in the Middle East is Bahrain. Exposing the Royal Navy’s new destroyers and aircraft carriers to the risk of the Strait of Hormuz being blocked seems a schoolboy error.

Charles Hamill-Stewart
Amport, Hampshire

SIR – Britain already has a military presence east of Suez. RAF Akrotiri is at 32 degrees, 59 mins, 16 secs east, whereas Suez city is at 32 degrees, 33 mins east, a difference of more than 26 minutes of arc.

Andrew McEwen
Poole, Dorset

Imported reindeer must be handled with care

Laplanders in northernmost Sweden prepare to leave for the winter fair (National Geographic/Getty Images )

SIR – I read with sadness the sorry tale of Tinsel, the albino reindeer. The indiscriminate practice of importing reindeer from Scandinavia to be sold on to unsuitable places across Britain continues unabated.

Since 2005 more than 1,100 have been imported into Britain to feed the demand for captive reindeer.

Reindeer do not thrive in permanent captivity. Many hundreds have died.

I work at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, which is home to Britain’s only wild reindeer herd. Animal rights groups have been targeting reindeer used in Christmas appearances this year. They would do better to address the broader welfare issues of these imported reindeer.

Tilly Smith
Aviemore, Inverness-shire

Feeding the hungry is not always the top priority

SIR – Some people in Britain go hungry as a result of government policy.

Leicestershire County Council has approved the building of a plant to take 3,000 tons of food per year, much of it still in its wrappings, from the stores of just one supermarket chain in the county – not to give to the needy but to process into electricity.

This spectacularly inefficient process is made profitable because government policy pays the plant more than double the value of the electricity it produces in subsidies.

Dr Philip Sullivan
Frolesworth, Leicestershire

SIR – Yesterday the M25 was closed due to an incident. Local councils have limits on when lorries may approach supermarkets and have forced delivery bays to give time-slots to the lorries. All the lorries stationary on motorways missed their slots and were therefore turned back, with all perishable food on board sent to landfill.

This all adds to the shelf price that causes food poverty.

Sue Doughty
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – The launch of the Feeding Britain report confirms what many of us have known for some time. The huge rise in the usage of food banks demands urgent action.

Time and again at Turn2us we hear from parents forced to forgo eating properly to feed their children. These families have no choice but to approach food banks for help or be overwhelmed by debt as they try to support themselves.

The report also highlights families in crisis facing benefit delays of up to 13 weeks, which further compounds the problem. It is more important than ever that people can receive financial support and advice.

Simon Hopkins
Chief Executive, Turn2us
London W6

In beer veritas

SIR – You list Doom Bar as David Cameron’s choice of pint. Opinion in my local suggests that Doom Bar is the preferred option for lager aficionados who fancy themselves as real ale drinkers.

Not too far away from Doom Bar’s source in Rock, Cornwall, there is an IPA brewed in St Austell. It is known as Proper Job. Mr Cameron should try this – it might provide him with the inspiration he needs.

Mike Littleton
Glastonbury, Somerset

Sir, – As a parent of a person with an intellectual disability, last night’s Prime Time programme sent shivers down my spine. As a parent you get accustomed to the two sides of the intellectual disability world. On the one hand you can meet and be moved by professionals who show incredible kindness and care, while on the other you come face to face with those whose only concern is the exertion of power, their own career advancement and control. I am keenly aware that parents have very little say or choice as to what service their sons or daughters can avail of, and to some degree it is a total act of faith. This imbalance of “power” is perhaps at the core of the abusive behaviour we witnessed in this programme.

The staff who featured in this programme have not only degraded the nation but they have cast suspicion on all those good professionals dedicated to caring for and protecting people with an intellectual disability. It is clear that policies and training are not enough to ensure the welfare of those in day and residential care. All staff, from senior managers to the most junior, have a duty of care, and the culture of turning a blind eye must not be tolerated.

In addition, I suggest that senior managers turn off their computers, stop demanding meaningless reports, get out of their plush offices and visit the centres and residential units. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – The scandal of the abuse of the intellectually disabled patients within Áras Attracta is shocking but it also demands answers to questions, such as what standards were followed in the selection, training, and supervision of the staff that were assigned to work with this vulnerable group. There can be no excuses for those workers who abused patients or did not intervene to stop the abuse, and one can only wonder why these workers felt there would be no sanction regarding their behaviour.

What is of deep concern is the failure of our statutory regulators to ensure that care plans on file are actually implemented and the failure of senior managers to recruit the right type of person to show leadership in creating the proper culture of person-centred care that all staff can be proud of. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Following on from the Primetime revelations on practices in Áras Attracta, there are a number of things that we can expect, apart from the customary hand-wringing already on display. These will be the promises of change, the now par for the course independent review or inquiry and lesser heads to roll.

What we can also expect is that nothing will really change and it is likely that the situation in residential homes may actually decline even further. This may sound pessimistic but it may be true.

First, we have been here before. There have been exposés and reviews conducted on similar places in the past, prompting the question of how many times can it happen before it’s actually fixed.

Second, the vision of the HSE is in fact to have only one large service provider for each county in Ireland, dispensing with the smaller and often more person-centred local organisations. This might seem like economic sense but there is not a shred of evidence it will result in better services for the most vulnerable in society, which is what people with intellectual disabilities simply are. Big organisations typically become big institutions and all the ills of big institutions follow suit. Rhetoric will not escape that likelihood, and experience seems to have taught us little in this regard.

Third, the widely accepted goal of services is to have people with intellectual disabilities living in

normal homes, in normal places, doing normal things. However, the legislation underpinning services states that these homes must de facto reach the standard of nursing homes in many respects. Nursing homes are not ordinary homes, as much as we may wish to think so, and one consequence will likely be the creation of a small number of purpose-built homes. To make these economically viable and to achieve “value for money”, they will probably have to cater for a greater number of residents under one roof and will seriously hamper an individual’s personal choice over where to live and how to live, owing to the restrictions service providers now have to adhere to. Higher numbers of residents living together means less individualisation of service. There’s a wealth of research evidence to support this but it’s an inconvenient truth.

Fourth, and perhaps more worryingly, is the fact that funding for service providers has been cut year on year, and as night follows day it is inevitable that it truly becomes a struggle to deliver a genuine personalised service in a reality of reduced staffing, no training budgets, temporary contracts for staff, etc. Real quality is not cheap. It costs.

Fifth, and finally, we can expect a denial of all the above as denial enables the status quo to trundle along bar the odd earthquake like Áras Attracta, until the inevitable next time occurs. – Yours, etc,


Adjunct Associate Professor

of Clinical Psychology

and Intellectual Disabilities,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – The Prime Time documentary “Inside Bungalow 3” has once again demonstrated the plight of people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. It has also shone a light on the inherent inequity of a system that has been historically grounded in the congregation and marginalisation of people who are perceived to be different.

As expert consultant to the documentary, I must say that the revelations of what was happening, whilst terribly upsetting and wholly inexcusable, are of no great surprise, as I and others have been highlighting the presence of oppression in such services for many years. Indeed, it confirms suspicions that, despite apparently positive changes to services (non-institutionalised clothes, group homes, increased choice), there has not been a change in the fundamental societal inequity that led to these people being excluded from the mainstream of Irish life in the first place.

The instances shown in the programme point to a continuation of the marginalisation and exclusion of such people by society. Such exclusion is dehumanising, and exposes them to subhuman conditions based on control and subjugation. They are, however, only the tip of an iceberg as the culture of control is arguably inherent in the current service model and, as Minister of State for Disability Kathleen Lynch noted, such situations cannot be ruled out elsewhere in the service system.

So, where to from here? It is clear that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) inspection regime could not have exposed what was happening in Áras Attracta. Many such inspections can, by their nature, be anticipated or, if unannounced, will only reveal what happens in front of the inspectors. The idea of formalising the use of “undercover” staff and hidden cameras has been mooted but may be fraught with legal and privacy concerns.

I have been engaged in intellectual disability nursing and social care education for many years and the vast majority of people who come into such programmes are value-based individuals who are driven by a spirit of altruism. This spirit can, however, be dulled during placement, by the experience of controlling service cultures in which the students learn to “keep their heads down and survive”. Once this pattern becomes internalised in the student, it becomes difficult to break free from. It is imperative that higher education institutes providing programmes for service staff address this issue forthwith and ensure that emerging staff are equipped with the resilience and skills to maintain quality standards of service provision. It is also vital that the HSE and other service agencies implement proper governance systems that support such staff to blow the whistle safely.

Finally, there must be truly independent advocates available to each person with intellectual disability whose role is clearly set down in law.

As Irish people, we are required to speak out too. We must recognise that we have allowed the values inherent in our Constitution to become irrelevant to the lives of many people with intellectual disabilities, and we have failed to stand up alongside those people who were perceived to be different to the rest of us. What type of society do we have when we can ignore the fact that people with intellectual disabilities routinely have their human rights removed? What type of people are we when we do not scream “Stop” in the face of the verbal, physical, societal and/or situational abuse of a group of citizens because they are “different” from the rest of us? Something is fundamentally wrong and needs to change now. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Intellectual

Disability Nursing,

Trinity College Dublin.


Sir, – Any objective reader of your extensive coverage of the CIA torture report (“CIA lied about ‘brutal’ interrogations that amounted to torture, says report”, Front Page, December 10th) could only conclude that our various governments down through the years have been little more than bag carriers for our dear duplicitous old Uncle Sam and just as two-faced. Utterly shameful. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Mike Scott (December 9th) wonders what would come after the Government signed away sovereignty over cyberspace – “What next, our airspace?” I am sorry to have to inform him that this has long gone. With the permission of the Government but without any agreement from the Irish people (in fact with their strong disagreement), Shannon Airport has been used by the US as a staging post for whatever warfare and renditions it wishes to engage in, including the illegal and vastly counterproductive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no authorities (apart from some ordinary citizens and one or two TDs) try to check what is in the aircraft. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Timely indeed that Neil Briscoe (“Diesel vs petrol”, Motors, December 10th) should assess the pros and cons of the trend in this country towards diesel vehicles, promoted by vehicle registration and motor tax. The previous day, the UK environmental audit committee suggested a scrappage scheme for diesel vehicles to cut air pollution. Diesel vehicles produce higher emissions of a range of air pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

A recent European Environment Agency report estimated that PM2.5 was responsible for 1,229 deaths in Ireland. The current incentives for diesel vehicles seems to be based solely on CO2 emissions, and only “tailpipe” emissions at that – on a wider lifecycle assessment, the CO2 benefits of diesel versus petrol vehicles may be more marginal. We need to be careful not to create a national air pollution problem while seeking to solve a global climate one. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 20.

Sir, – The savaging of the O’Brien Press funding by the Arts Council is evidence that the key creative role of publishers is simply not understood.

Despite hyping of the self-publishing route, it remains generally the case that authors’ work can no more be financed, curated and widely disseminated without publishers than plays can be produced without theatres. A flourishing Irish publishing industry is essential if Irish culture – in the widest sense – is to be properly represented and articulated.

A good and successful publisher, such as O’Brien Press, fosters and nurtures local writing talent; the key remains the on-the-ground contacts, meetings, discriminations, and deep knowledge of the Irish context that only a local industry can supply. Until this essential role is adequately supported, the Irish publishing industry, which has made such strides since its rebirth in the 1970s, will sink once again to the situation lamented by Sean O’Faolain: “It is to a frightening degree the English public which decides both what Ireland should read and write . . . how can you be independent when your country’s mind is dominated from outside?”

For this reason, the 84 per cent cut to the O’Brien Press should be reversed and annual funding restored. – Yours, etc,



Clé – The Irish Book

Publishers’ Association,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – If the wind sector is of such inestimable benefit to the Irish economy, why has my PSO (public service obligation) levy been increased this October by almost 50 per cent? This PSO levy was imposed on all consumers to subsidise wind farms, peat power stations and Aughinish and Tynagh. The bizarre design of the PSO means that as gas prices fall internationally, the subsidy to these entities is increased. The hard-pressed electricity consumers in Ireland cannot benefit from lower energy prices while this subsidy exists. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Lucille Redmond’s An Irishwoman’s Diary (December 9th) rightly draws attention to the remarkable level of anti-Irish prejudice implicit in the Kipling and Fletcher School History of England (1911). It did not go unnoticed at the time. The Irish historian Alice Stopford Green wrote an angry letter to the Westminster Gazette on November 9th, 1911, censuring the “contempt and calumny” of the authors and wondering if such a view expressed the imperial mind of England. Through Green’s influence the matter was raised in the House of Commons. On November 23rd, Cathcart Wason MP addressed a question to the chief secretary, Augustine Birrell, on whether the book was available in national schools in Ireland. The minister assured the house that the offending work was not in common use in Ireland, even if it was widely distributed in the English school system. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – It is great to see the coverage of research on meditation in the Science pages of The Irish Times (William Reville, “Let’s be mindful about the benefits of meditation”, December 4th).

However, as a teacher of transcendental meditation for the past 35 years, I have to disagree with Dr Reville’s final statement that a system of values is needed to get the most out of meditation.

In my experience, stress distorts people’s feelings and thought patterns. It prevents them living according to their most cherished values. One of the highlights of my profession is to see people becoming a truer, more rounded version of themselves as their lives become freer from stress. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Homeless crisis Sir, – Calling for the return of bedsits to alleviate the homeless crisis is like calling for the return of workhouses to ease unemployment (“Tánaiste wants Dublin bedsit ban reviewed”, December 3rd). I would wager that most of the “bring back the bedsit” merchants have never actually lived in one. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

The price of water A chara, – Flood warnings on the day of the water protests. You couldn’t make it up. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Anatomy of a car crash Sir, – Congratulations on publishing Peter Murtagh’s excellent series of articles “Anatomy of a Car Crash”. By exposing the hidden costs and sorrows associated with such tragedies, I hope it will make more people realise that “road safety” is not just a meaningless phrase to be ignored at will. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Making cents

Sir, – I read that the Central Bank is on the prowl for 1 and 2 cent coins (December 9th). May we assume, therefore, that the services of the governor of that organisation will no longer be required as the euros will be looking after themselves? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.

Irish Independent

A still from RTE’s ‘Prime Time’ probe into abuse of residents at Aras Attracta care home.

I saw ‘Prime Time’ last night, which exposed how people with intellectual disabilities have been treated recently in a residential care home, Aras Attracta in Swinford, Co Mayo. This shocks me, as a I am a mum to a child aged nine with a severe to profound disability, both intellectual and physical.

I thank ‘Primetime’ for exposing these people. The people of Ireland cannot take any more of this. We need to say enough! Our children and adults with disabilities are equal to, not less than, anyone else. They are vulnerable and that means we must advocate for them.

The programme sickened me to the core. I did not sleep last night. I think the only answer is to have cameras installed. Sadly, it’s the only way to prevent this from happening.

How can anyone think it’s OK to treat vulnerable people like this? You wouldn’t treat an animal in this way. I am so worried for the future.

My son is not a burden on society, and I wrote this poem about him:

Some people think he’s a burden

But he is my son

I grew him inside me for nine months

And I have carried him for nine years

He is not a burden

He is my son

He has a name

He has my heart

He has a smile

His innocence is forever

He loves unconditionally

He trusts everybody

He is still my baby boy

I will always be his mum

I will always be his carer

There is no burden lighter than love.

Aisling McNiffe

Straffan, Co Kildare

Horror at care home revelations

I’m sure no one got much sleep last night after watching ‘Prime Time’ and the inexcusable treatment of the three ladies shown in RTE’s report. I know I didn’t.

While we can all condemn what we saw and ask for proper criminal investigations to be launched, perhaps we could all try and turn this sorry story into something positive. Can I suggest that people angered by what we saw, show their support by sending a Christmas card or maybe some flowers to the three ladies who were in the report?

The one part of the programme which really got to me, was when one of the relatives noted that their loved one never retaliated when they were struck, such was the gentleness of this resident. Perhaps we could all take a leaf out of her book, and show our support to these women at this time, to show them how much they are thought of, and that despite what they have endured, there are so many who are so upset at what they endured.

Perhaps an outpouring of support to these ladies would mean more to them than any anger shown towards those so-called care workers. Let the Government and authorities do their job and investigate what they need to. Meanwhile, let the rest of us angered by what we saw, do what we can to make these ladies feel loved!

Fr Michael Toomey

Holy Cross Church

Tramore, Co Waterford

It’s 1.15 am and I need to be up for work in five-and-a-half hours. But I can’t sleep! I can’t sleep because of the sickness in the pit of my stomach, caused by the heartache and upset over the footage of Bungalow 3 in Aras Attracta shown on ‘Prime Time’.

I’m from Mayo, and have lived here nearly all my life. I work in Dublin three days a week, and choose to commute because I love my county and the people who live in it.

But tonight I feel nothing but shame. To think that people with intellectual disabilities were treated in such a disgusting, inhumane manner in my beloved county sickens me to the core.

There are carers throughout our county, and country, who look after the sick, in hospitals and homes like Aras Attracta. And they show the patients nothing but love and care. They do this with ease, because this is not a job to them, it’s a vocation.

There are not enough words to describe what happened in Bungalow 3. My 13-year-old son went to bed that night with tears in his eyes, feeling sick. His last words to his sister were, “no way are Mam and Dad ever going to a home, we will look after them”.

Enough said.

Martina Jennings

Hollymount, Co Mayo

Unchecked power led to austerity

I agree with Julie Bennett when she says that “it’s a pity we didn’t protest” when decisions were being made during the boom by a small number of the most powerful people in the country which eventually bankrupt the nation (Letters, Irish Independent, December 10).

But I am not sure that the partisan party political part of her letter adds anything to the basic point.

That is we should remember that the damage was done by human beings who were in virtually unchallenged power for far too long over the years of the boom and that the present austerity is a consequence.

To be fair to all of us, things would have been much different if a media campaign, matching for example the present anti-water charges campaign, had been conducted against the recklessness of the boom.

But as Ms Bennett tells us we should not forget what the causes of the present austerity are and when they occurred.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin

Recession didn’t hit everybody

Julie Bennett (Irish Independent, December 10) states she will be voting for Fine Gael because despite it all, they’ve made hard choices even if it costs them their head and she says “this is a tough economy for all of us” and she’d rather give her money to Irish Water than to the Bertie Bowl.

But that’s just the point. It is not a tough economy for all of us, as there are quite large numbers of people for whom the recession is just something they have read about and something that apparently angry people write to their office about, but as TDs and ministers have assistants to filter out those letters, it doesn’t affect them that much. Similarly, the sacrifices made have not been shouldered equally.

Does Ms Bennett really think Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan, Joan Burton or Brendan Howlin have ever had to choose which bill to pay because they literally do not have the money for two bills? Have they ever given a moment’s thought to the cost of turning on the heating or have they ever checked the receipt for the weekly shopping? Do they ever worry about retirement or if they get ill? Of course not, because the Irish taxpayer will fund their lavish retirements and the cost of their private healthcare package.

Was anyone astounded that Mr Kenny is so out of touch with reality that he seemed genuinely surprised at the struggles homeless people face?

Our taxes are already funding a water system.

Mr Kenny asked us to trust him in 2011. He asked if he could borrow our votes because he was different. He would separate the level of bank debt we carry for the sins of the private banking sector from the extra debt we would incur from the lower tax revenue and increased social welfare costs it is right we incur. He told us he would reform transparency and accountability within politics and all across the public sector.

We were told there was a Democratic Revolution in 2011. As is always the case with a revolution, the first act is never how events ultimately unfold.

So it makes sense that having brought down the monolithic Fianna Fail, the voter is now going to do the same to Fine Gael and Labour in 2016. The problem for Fine Gael and Labour is that they deserve the same fate as Fianna Fail.

The problem for the country is that having done in a rotten political system on the surface, its foundations remain embedded in the fabric of society and to finish the job, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein/IRA need the Irish Parliamentary Party treatment. We can’t build a new Republic, whatever that may be, on the rotten corpse of the old one, which needs to be removed first. Then we can debate what we want to replace it with.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf, London, UK

Irish Independent




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