12 December 2014 GP

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get out to the GP, shr proscribed something for my gout.

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


NJ Dawood, translator of The Koran into English

NJ Dawood

NJ Dawood, who has died aged 87, was a translator whose English language version of The Koran, first published by Penguin in 1956, remains a classic and has never been out of print.

When it appeared in the bookshops, few people in the English-speaking world had even heard of The Koran. Previous translations had been so archaic and literal as to be virtually unreadable. Dawood set out to produce a modern translation that would be readily accessible to an uninitiated readership.

To this end he rearranged the original surahs (chapters) into more or less chronological order, to make them easier to understand, in line with the approach taken by the Jewish rabbis and Christian scholars who compiled the biblical canon. At the same time his lively, idiomatic English translation aimed to bring out the poetic beauty and eloquent rhetoric of the Arabic original, giving the reader some sense of why the work has had such power over generations of Muslims.

In his later revisions Dawood reverted to the traditional sequence of the surahs, and he worked constantly to improve, refine and revise the text. His translation was reprinted more than 70 times in several revised editions, most recently in May this year.

Nessim Joseph Dawood was born in Baghdad on August 27 1927 into an Iraqi-Jewish family. His father was a merchant who had served as an officer in the Ottoman army. Nessim’s skills as a translator developed at school, when his Arabic renderings of English short stories were published in Iraqi newspapers.

On leaving school in 1944, he was awarded an Iraqi state scholarship to London University, which had been evacuated from the capital during the war. He therefore studied for degrees in English Literature and Arabic at the University College of the South West, in Exeter.

After graduating, he worked briefly as an English teacher and as a journalist, while toying with the idea of translating Shakespeare into Arabic.

His life took a different turn, however, after he attended a talk by E V Rieu, the translator of The Iliad and The Odyssey and founding editor of the Penguin Classics series. Rieu spoke of a new approach to translation which sought to capture the spirit of the original text and was not just about accuracy but about good writing.

Dawood immediately wrote to Rieu enclosing the prologue to The Thousand And One Nights that he had translated into English from the original Arabic. In the next post he received a letter offering him a contract.

NJ Dawood

His first translation, The Thousand and One Nights: The Hunchback, Sindbad and Other Tales, was published in 1954 and was so effortlessly fluent that readings and dramatic adaptations were broadcast on BBC radio, recorded by Terence Tiller. A further selection, Aladdin and Other Tales, was published in 1957, also in the Penguin Classics series. In 1973 both books were combined into a single volume, which remains in print.

After publication of The Koran, Dawood enrolled at University College London for a PhD in English, but had to abandon his studies after six months when he could not afford to continue. Instead he began working as a commercial translator, and in 1959 founded his own company, the Arabic Advertising and Publishing Company (now Aradco VSI).

The Middle East was just beginning to develop as a market for Western products and services, and he applied his skills to the translation of advertising copy and other literature for a wide variety of consumer products, including tea, pharmaceuticals, cars and defence equipment.

For some products, Arabic, as an ancient language, did not have the necessary vocabulary, and Dawood played a key role in guiding its engagement with the modern world, coining new words and contributing to specialised dictionaries.

At the same time, Dawood taught himself to create complex hand-drawn artwork, inspired by Arabic calligraphic traditions. He and his colleagues produced designs for Middle Eastern coins, currency, postage stamps, passports and brand logos. He also recorded voice-overs and commentaries for Arabic radio and television.

In Britain, Dawood became a trusted resource for the Ministry of Defence and other government departments in their dealings with the region, and played a central, if unsung, role in helping British exporters at a crucial point in Britain’s relationship with the Arabic-speaking world.

Dawood’s other publications include the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, which he edited and abridged for Princeton University Press, and children’s versions of the Nights for the Puffin Classics series. He also wrote book reviews and literary articles for The Times.

In the late 1970s Dawood bought a house near Stratford-upon-Avon in order to be close to the theatre. In 1948, as a guest of the British Council, he had attended the official Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations and luncheon in the town. In 2011, attending another commemorative lunch as the oldest surviving guest of that post-war event, he gave a lively account of those earlier celebrations, that season’s productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and recalled meeting the young Claire Bloom and Alfie Bass in the theatre bar .

Nessim Dawood married, in 1949, Juliet Abraham, who survives him with their three sons.

NJ Dawood, born August 27 1927, died November 20 2014


Man with peg on nose
‘It’s incumbent on all of us to vote in whichever way is most likely to avoid the disaster of a Tory government – with clothes pegs on noses if necessary,’ writes Ian Soady. Photograph: Getty Images

Polly Toynbee highlights what she sees as some of the key differences between Labour and the Tories (Ignore the flaws. For only Labour can beat the Tories, 9 December). We think it is easier and even more informative to highlight some of the similarities. After all, it was Labour who introduced hospital trusts, compulsory competitive tendering in the NHS and academy schools. Arguably, the coalition has simply built its policies on the NHS and education on foundations laid down by Labour.

Perhaps more importantly, Labour, like the Tories, has signed up to the austerity agenda, including the coalition’s spending cap and 2015-16 spending plans. So, like the Tories, Labour will pursue policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the less well-off. Moreover, given the straitjacket of the political funding system, the lobbying industry and the globalisation of decision-making, as described by George Monbiot (There is an alternative, 8 December), the similarities between the two parties are likely to become greater over the life of the next parliament, rather than to decrease. This same straitjacket also places a large questionmark over Labour’s proposed £30bn leeway in spending that Polly takes as a given.

We also read the polls differently. In our view it is not escapism to hope that tactical voting might lead to a Labour-led coalition with the SNP and the Greens. If so, we might even hope that the latter two parties will provide enough backbone for Labour to support policies that benefit the less well-off at the expense of the wealthy. Unlike Polly, we are not inclined to trust a Labour government to do this – especially after what happened the last three times we took them on trust.
Lucy Craig and Gordon Best

• No need for Polly to write a long article to convince me to vote Labour. It is the only alternative. But she can’t stop me from being disappointed with the weakness of the opposition to Osborne’s cuts.

Why does it fall to the OECD (Report, 9 December) to make a case for the total failure of the coalition’s economic policy? The failure is obvious to anyone who takes a look at our town centres. The only economic growth you’ll see is in the form of pound shops and pawnbrokers. You can’t do a cost-benefit analysis on the cuts, but you don’t need to be an expert to do a “harm-saving analysis” showing a lot of harm done with very little saving. Here in one of the richest countries in the world, it seems we can’t afford libraries, countryside services, road repairs, or even to look after the most vulnerable properly, but quite a lot of us can have more and more expensive cars, for example. The Tories have used the financial crisis as an excuse for doing all the nasty things they’ve wanted to do for years.
Steve Lupton

• The Labour party is far from perfect but voting for parties which may align more with our preferences could result in another Tory government, which is a luxury we cannot afford. It’s incumbent on all of us to vote in whichever way is most likely to avoid that disaster – with clothes pegs on noses if necessary. If the Tories should form another government, anyone who has allowed that to happen through misguided sensitivity should be forced to stand outside their nearest food bank and apologise personally to the queue.
Ian Soady

• I hope Polly Toynbee is right when she claims that Labour would be able to avoid £30bn of Osborne’s £48bn of cuts, though even that raises the question of why to cut further. Austerity has gone too far. Labour has no plausible strategy I can see to pay for the better society she rightly wants.

For five years the burden has fallen almost entirely on the young, the least privileged and lower-skilled workers. Top pay, bonus culture and wealth are all out of control. A chief executive of British Gas who met his targets was offered the chance of earning 1,000 times the £13,500 that the minimum wage offers those lucky enough to get full-time work. So isn’t the answer tax increases, and looking at wealth taxes on property and inheritance?

In 1919 a Conservative government raised the funds to pay off the debts from the Great War with inheritance taxes, according to the recent BBC series Long Shadow by David Reynolds. Royalty excluded, it resulted in the break-up of many of the aristocracy’s estates. Labour needs similar guts and a strategy that convinces.
Brian Corbett

• How often must a Labour government disappoint before Polly Toynbee will accept they are a lost cause? Voting Labour to keep Cameron and Osborne out will not give the country what it needs – a progressive government committed to the welfare state, an ethical foreign policy, responsible capitalism, equality and respect for the environment. These are central to the Green party’s “moral crusade”.

True, our undemocratic voting system could produce a Tory-led government committed to further savage cuts to services on which the most vulnerable people in our society rely. Contrary to what Toynbee says, this will not be irreparable. But it will require a more principled party to make the repairs, and brave enough to challenge the wealthy and powerful.
Derek Heptinstall
Secretary, Thanet Green party

• Polly Toynbee suggests Britain should embrace proportional representation. In Australian elections, it has been a continual nightmare. PR is used in upper house elections in most states and for the Australian senate. More than a year after a national election, no political party in the Senate has a working majority, and some provisions of this year’s budget either have not been passed by the house or have been abandoned by the Abbot government of the lower house. The transition to PR in the legislative council in New South Wales resulted, initially, in a ballot paper nicknamed the Tablecloth – there were so many candidates. Subsequently, political parties have run a form of party ticket, which negates the freedom of choice implicit in PR.

PR would make the entire UK a single electorate. Presumably the ballot paper wouldn’t be so much a tablecloth as a circus tent. It eliminates single-member constituencies, which raises the interesting question of where voters should go to seek the kind of redress and advice they now get from their local MPs. Whether a parliament of members elected in this way would have the authority of comprehensive review over the bureaucracy that it has at the present is open to conjecture. The island state Tasmania, which embraced PR for all its elections, also created a hydro-power authority (HEC) with wideranging powers. It has been viewed as a law unto itself ever since its inception.
Michael Rolfe

• I’ve been faithful follower of Margaret Drabble through the years (You’ve lost my vote, Ed, if you kowtow to private education, 5 December). But how can we expect change if we abandon the one possibility of stopping the present march to an unfair and calamitous world in the UK? Oh, Margaret, how could you? Fight for fairness from within – don’t destroy our only hope.
Mary Drinan (now 80)
Ruyton-XI-Towns, Shropshire

I vote in south Cambridgeshire. Even if we had had AV, and I had voted Green with Labour as second preference, it would have made no difference: I would still have got Andrew Lansley – and next year I shall get his successor.

If Polly Toynbee wants a fairer system, she should consider the single bankable vote, in which unsuccessful candidates can bank their votes for next time round, spending them when they get voted in. Candidates bank votes at a rate that is a reasonable measure of their relative popularity, which will be reflected in the frequency with which they are elected. Even relatively unpopular candidates will get elected eventually, though there are ways of preventing the outer fringes from getting that far.

The system can be run exactly as now: one voter, one vote, and first past the post. The only difference is noting the votes for losing candidates, something that is known already. It’s simple and fair.
Tim Gossling

We’re not even into 2015 yet and already Polly Toynbee’s pulling out the electoral nose peg. Sorry, been there, done that – most notably at the last general election. It was obvious to anyone with even a shred of political instinct where the Tories intended to take us in the wake of the shambolic meltdown brought about by their pals in high finance. Sadly, this seemed lost on many, including the Guardian, which was embarrassingly seduced by the hollow men of the Lib Dems. Now you advise us to vote for a party that accepts the same ruinous austerity narrative and proposes its continuation but with less spiky edges.

The only way to bring about the end of the rotten politics you lament is to undermine the traditional beneficiaries of the system and their cohorts – and that includes establishment-lite Labour. So I won’t be voting for Ed and his crew next May.
Colin Montgomery

Like Polly Toynbee, I am no tribal Labourite, but recognise that the realities of our electoral system mean that anyone wishing to avoid the nightmare of a majority Conservative government must vote anti-Tory next May and return a Labour government.

It is interesting though, how popular and attractive the Green party now looks for left-of-centre social democrats. Under PR, the Greens would surely not only win a significant number of MPs, but possibly play a part in government. Caroline Lucas as, say, environment secretary looks a very enticing prospect and perhaps one that Ed Miliband should consider, even if he does achieve a low-vote majority. Sadly, though, in most cases, a vote for the Greens will surely be a wasted vote. Anyone tempted, perhaps exasperated by the complacency and downright cowardice of Labour policy, yet desperate to avoid the Cameron horror show, must indeed don the proverbial nose peg, in order to return Labour to power.

In 1906, the Liberal party won a landslide victory while fledgling Labour returned six MPs. Less than 20 years later, Labour was in government and the Liberals had been reduced to a rump. There may be great times ahead for the Greens, but in May 2015 we must stick with the past in order to avoid a wholly unpalatable future.
Brian Wilson
Glossop, Derbyshire

I’m confused about Ed Miliband supposedly rejecting the Iraq war. It can’t be the UK’s continuing bombing of Iraq, because he voted for this. And I’m not aware of him making any significant public statement in 2002 or 2003, the crucial time to speak out, against the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Seriously misjudging the depth of anger among the public, he did make a semi-apology in 2010, though this was obviously an attempt to consolidate support behind his new leadership and an early electioneering move. All of these are hardly the actions of what the Polly Toynbee calls “a decent man”.
Ian Sinclair

Ed may also like to consider fewer public appearances with Justine Thornton (Letters, 9 December). Ordinary working people do not, by and large, walk around hand in hand with their partners looking happy. The leaders of the Greens, SNP, Ukip and others seem to have recognised this fact and seen their support surge as a result.
Peter Newell

Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning. A call for her release will be made in London on 17 December. Photograph: AP

Martin Pengelly’s article (8 December) on the denial of Chelsea Manning’s transgender rights rightly argues that it has become a “cause celebre for transgender rights in the military and even worldwide”. Chelsea has become one of the world’s best-known whistleblowers. Not only the LGBTQ movement but also the anti-war, anti-racist, anti-rape and anti-zionist movements have organised actions in 10 cities so far – from Berlin to Vancouver, San Francisco and Istanbul – to mark Chelsea’s birthday on 17 December. Since we have all benefited from her whistleblowing, we have a responsibility to get her out. In London, we will stand at St Martin-in-the-Fields, from 2.30pm to back her transgender rights and demand her release. All are welcome.
Didi Rossi Queer Strike
Ben Martin Payday Men’s Network

Stagecoach double decker bus by bus stop in Manchester city centre UK
A Stagecoach bus in Manchester. ‘On average every bus that leaves the depot has a 50% public subsidy.’ Photograph: Alamy

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach does not want Manchester or Newcastle to benefit from a London-style franchising system for their buses (Free bus travel comes at a cost – Stagecoach, 11 December). Since bus services were deregulated outside London in the mid-1980s, bus companies have exploited the travelling public by making twice the rate of return on capital employed in the regions as on London operations. It is not surprising that Stagecoach wants to maintain this lucrative system, to the detriment of passengers, who pay higher fares for inferior services away from the capital.

Griffiths also makes a false comparison between free travel for bus passengers and free food at supermarkets. It is true, as he says, that the government does not ask Tesco to give pensioners free meals, but neither does Tesco ask for an annual subsidy of £2.5bn. Stagecoach and other private bus companies make their profits by playing the grant and subsidy system, not by taking risks and making innovations. On average, every bus that leaves the depot has a 50% public subsidy.

The sooner the whole of the country is allowed to benefit from franchising where competition takes place at the tender stage and not on the roads, where it causes congestion, the better. We can then stop having to listen to the self-interested bleatings of fat cats like Mr Griffiths.
Graham Stringer MP
Labour, Blackley and Broughton

• That the private finance initiative is discredited is a given, but Martin Griffiths uses a scatter-gun approach to make spurious accusations and illogical conclusions, one minute praising Ed Balls, the next bashing Labour and lefties. He then bleats, “for the risks we take, we get underpaid” – Griffiths’ salary is £2.2m per annum. It raises the question: how do we know the benefits of investment in railways are fairly distributed?

Griffiths says he believes that Labour’s rail plans are playing to the gallery rather than serious reforms: “They’re politicians. That’s what they do.” But until the question of land ownership is addressed by all political parties, there will not be a level playing field.

For example, Don Riley, a London property owner who owned buildings close to two of the stations being constructed for the extension of the Jubilee underground line, found in 2001 that, because of the taxpayers’ investments in that railway, he was being enriched without lifting a finger. By assessing the rise in properties around stations along the route south of the Thames, he discovered that landowners were enriched by about £13bn. This was three times more than the rail-building costs. Is that fair? The findings were confirmed by an expensive follow-up study sponsored by Transport for London.
Ed Drake

• Martin Griffiths says that Tesco could not hand out free food. Actually, considering the wasteful habits of supermarkets, their abuse of suppliers and the increasing population dependent on food banks, it’s a good idea. It is interesting the corporate world regards it as unthinkable.
Edward Coulson
Keighley, North Yorkshire

• George Monbiot (There is an alternative, 8 December) highlights the fact that limited liability is not a right but a remarkable gift given to companies’ shareholders, and that it could be withdrawn. A good place to start would be with those companies that pay their chief executives (or anyone) total remuneration exceeding, say, 30 times the company’s median wage.
David Harington

Battle of Britain 70th anniversary
A Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire make a flypast over the national memorial, at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. ‘The mythologised view of that war and our role in it is deeply corrosive, culturally and politically,’ writes Chris Donnison. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Geoffrey Wheatcroft (The myth of the good war, 9 December) argues that a distorted and sanitised view of the second world war has created a cult of the noble cause justifying 21st-century foreign adventures. However, it goes deeper than that. The mythologised view of that war and our role in it is deeply corrosive, culturally and politically. All our wars in the current and last century have become noble causes, while our numerous, brutal colonial conflicts are airbrushed despite some of the worst occurring since the second world war. It sustains not only disastrous foreign wars but also an oversized military, a parasitic weapons industry and a fragile national egotism that looks forever backwards.
Chris Donnison

• Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s differentiation between a “good” war and a “necessary” war was revealing but, from a personal perspective, his mentioning of the Italian campaign (most notably Anzio and Salerno – and the comparison with the Somme) resonated, and was unusual in that Italy is very rarely mentioned in any context at all.

My father, and many others, endured two opposed landings on those beaches, and I’m reminded of Lady Astor’s comments when she implied that the troops in Italy were “D-day dodgers”. I wonder what they must have thought of her as she pontificated in the Lords, all those hundreds of miles away. I have a good idea because, after my father died, in his papers, I came across a well-worn typewritten copy of a song to the tune of Lili Marleen. It seems to be a humorous riposte of about seven verses, but with a devastating ending.

It starts off: We are the “D-day dodgers out in Italy, Always drinking vino, always on the spree, and continues in that humorous vein for five more verses. But the final verse is: Look around the mountains through the mud and rain, You’ll find battered crosses, some which bear no name. Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone, The boys beneath them slumber on. They were the “D-day dodgers”, the lads that D-day dodged.

I’m not sure if my father, or any of them, thought that much about Lady Astor, or the intricacies of whether war was justified, or good or necessary. But I do know one thing: he was very glad to get home.
John Finnigan
Ormskirk, Lancashire

Espresso coffee cup
Let the Guardian’s Quick Crossword complete your coffee. Photograph: Alamy

So Anthony Sher would “be happy just playing Meryl Streep’s doorman” (Bring me my fat suit, G2, 10 December). In the 1990s I visited the Barbican and Anthony Sher held the door open for me. I was so starstruck I could only squeak, “thank you.” I wanted to ask him all kinds of questions and tell him how wonderful he was as Richard III, so now, via your pages, I can. Thank you.
Judi Lambeth
Welwyn, Hertfordshire

• “Today we are announcing our support for the creation of a new, independent College of Teaching that can drive the profession forwards, hoping to put it on an equal footing with other high status professions like … medicine and law” (Ministers answer calls for a College of Teaching, 9 December). Would this equal footing extend to salaries?
Mike Turner
Teddington, Middlesex

• Thank you for using product placement in the Quick crossword (10 December). It encouraged my wife and me to enjoy “a coffee-flavoured rum drink” (3-5) with our mid-morning espresso.
Bob Hargreaves
Bury, Lancashire

• I’m afraid Jim Perrin (Country diary, 6 December) is mistaken if he thinks he has found three-toed woodpeckers and pine grosbeaks in the French Pyrenees. Pine grosbeaks are birds of the north, the nearest being in Scandinavia. Although three-toed woodpeckers do nest in eastern France, they haven’t yet made it that far west. Crossbills and lesser spotted woodpeckers, perhaps? Love the “dram of Edradour” of the turtle doves, though.
Stephen Moss
Mark, Somerset

• Given that no other papers I saw reported that “43% of Britain’s homes were powered by wind last Sunday … a new record for the UK” (Report, 10 December), shouldn’t you have reported it as a scoop, not on p28?
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• Years ago I bought a badge on a street stall in York with the message: “1903 – Wilbur and Orville taught you to fly. 2003 – George and Tony fly you to torture” (Letters, 10 December). Succinct and unredacted.
Louise Summers


The decision by Yvette Cooper (Another Voice, 10 December) to support “Buffer Zones” around abortion clinics to prevent “harassment and intimidation” of women seeking abortions ignores the fact that “harassment and intimidation” is already illegal and the police have ample powers to deal with it should it occur.

The multi-million pound abortion industry makes frequent allegations of harassment and intimidation which are not supported by hard evidence. As a lawyer I have professional experience of this. I have advised pro-life prayer vigils which have been threatened with legal or police action regarding alleged harassment or intimidation. When the people who made the allegations were challenged to produce any evidence there was none.

The abortion industry is seeking to demonise peaceful and law-abiding protesters because some women are persuaded not to proceed with an abortion and instead seek the help and support that pro-life organisations offer. When that happens the abortion industry loses money, and that is the real reason they are seeking “buffer zones”.

Neil Addison

National Director, Thomas More Legal Centre, Liverpool


I was underwhelmed by the arguments of my Oxford contemporary Yvette Cooper. People are bound to be suspicious when the central question, “Are we talking about the ‘termination’ of a human being or not?”, is not even addressed.

If procedures are shocking, posters of them are bound to be shocking – that’s the fault of the procedure. And protesters are naturally going to film, so that their accusers can freely test the truth or otherwise of their many allegations.

Dr Christopher Shell

Hounslow, Middlesex


Yvette Cooper favours legislation to prevent “harassment and intimidation” of “staff on their way to work [who] have found themselves surrounded, filmed, and even prevented from entering premises”.

It is true that being “surrounded by a group of six protesters, barracking her and bombarding her with questions” could be “very distressing” for anyone and that “protesters have no idea what the personal circumstances are of those they are judging and harassing”.

Many would agree that staff should be “free from intimidation or abuse”.

When might we expect a Bill introducing “buffer zones” around relevant workplaces to prevent striking trade unionists from harassing those exercising their right to work?

John Fishley

London SE1


No judge of the modern workplace

Almost more shocking than the racial stereotyping implicit in Judge Terence Richard Peter Hollingworth’s remarks during the Preston procedural hearing (report, 8 December) was his lack of understanding of how difficult and stressful working-class life can be at the sharp end of employment.

It is often the case that, even in one of the “unimportant” jobs he assumed was Ms Patel’s, a demanding employer, of which there are many, can make it very difficult for an employee to take time off at short notice.  The judge’s failure to appreciate this basic fact of modern life makes him unfit to practise his profession without a compulsory course of “back to the shop floor” life experience.

Rosy Leigh

London W3


BBC on the centre ground

You are right to argue that, by irking those on the left as much as it does our right-wing tabloids, the BBC occupies some political centre ground (editorial, 10 December). And it could well be that the Murdoch press’s beef with it is principally commercial, for Murdoch detests competition in a free-market economy.

You could, though, have gone further; not least by pointing out that it’s  unedifying to witness a media group that hacks the phone of a murdered schoolgirl pretending to occupy a moral high ground.

There is more. George Osborne, for whose extreme neoliberal politics very few voted, bridles at the perfectly defensible representation of his projected economic policies returning us to a version of Dickensian Britain. The inference is that the BBC should descend to the broadcasting of propaganda.

The Sun and Mail are as utterly intolerant of the expression of political views other than their own, and this informs their own attacks on the BBC. Their abuse of their position to promote powerful vested interests has the potential to be very harmful to what little democracy we have in this country.

Michael Rosenthal

Banbury, Oxfordshire


Thought police nab a chatty scientist

I had the good fortune to be introduced to James Watson by my favourite physics teacher, Richard Feynman, when I was a young PhD student in X-ray crystallography. Feynman was almost as big a tease as Watson –  entertaining Cal Tech visitors in girlie bars – and I was assumed to be a fellow lunatic.

Watson sent up any pompous git who crossed his path, and there were plenty of those in the groves of academe, but his teasing could sometimes verge on perilous territory.

In the end Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe, a former student, did for him by writing up some chatty suggestions that race and intelligence might be linked (“A human riddle wrapped in a DNA double helix”, 6 December).

Since science has no agreed-upon definition of “race” or “intelligence” he was hardly making a serious statement, but in today’s fetid atmosphere the thought-police at last had their man.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews


Food giant’s abuse of power

The actions of Premier Foods as revealed in the Newsnight investigation into “pay and stay” payments are dispiriting and morally questionable.

All local and independent suppliers are small or at best medium-sized businesses. Premier Foods is not. To use its superior market position in this manner is an abuse of power, if not in law, then in spirit.

Agriculture and the food supply chain are fragile enough in this country at a time when this sector is going to be asked to produce a lot more with less, as well as maintaining  our countryside for everyone’s benefit.

Buying from local producers and farmers is not just an act of convenience for large corporations or a fad for middle-class foodies but an investment in the secure future of this country’s food supply and agriculture. Premier Foods and its like can come and go according to the whims of its investors and shareholders. Farmers cannot and must not.

Ed Martin

Hadlow, Kent


I am surprised that you quote a retail expert (6 December) as saying that the conduct of Premier Foods in requiring supplier payments to retain their status is lawful. I thought that the abuse of a dominant market position was a fundamental breach of EU anti-trust law.

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey


The purpose of bouncers

Ramji Abinashi is mistaken when he says that bouncers in cricket are intended to hurt (letter, 8 December). They are primarily used, sparingly and within the laws, to get a batsman out by exposing any weakness in technique – such as giving a catch through an inability to keep the ball down, or failure to protect his wicket when facing subsequent deliveries.

The freak accident which brought about the death of Phil Hughes would not have been prevented by a red card system; though cricket lovers everywhere will now expect existing laws governing intimidatory bowling to be enforced consistently and at all levels of ability.

Malcolm Watson

Welford, Berkshire


No right to free IVF

Knowing as I do the pain of being unable to father children you may be surprised that I wholeheartedly agree with Margaret Morrison and Colin Howson’s views on IVF being available for free on the NHS (letter, 10 December).

Infertility is not a disease, nor are children an essential part of an otherwise healthy adult’s life in an already overpopulated world. It wouldn’t be a vote-winner but I strongly feel the Government should abolish free IVF, which would ease the burden a little on an apparently overstretched NHS.

Name and Address Supplied


Christmas spirit of money-making

Three normal Christmas cards – two to Ireland, one to Canada – £4.59 in postage. Scrooge is alive and well and has taken over the Royal Mail. I pity the poor souls running the individual post offices who are seeing their business rapidly being priced out of the market.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey


Sir, The report commissioned by the Medical Schools Council which concluded that half of schools in Britain failed to send a single pupil to study medicine is well analysed by your education editor (Dec 10). The only sensible conclusion one can form is that there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of the nature of the problem or of its very serious nature.

There are more than 88,000 applicants each year for only 8,000 places. These students are all high quality and well motivated. What would be the point of more schools taking part, perhaps doubling the number of applicants who would later be rejected? More importantly, when will we see the end of there being too few places in our medical schools, given that it is perpetuating a situation in which we have a chronic shortage of doctors at the same time as a large number of people reaching retirement age.
Clive Hooper
Wroughton, Wilts

Sir, The Sutton Trust welcomes the Medical Schools Council’s recognition that more must be done to improve access to a career in medicine for students from low and middle-income backgrounds. This year we launched a pilot programme with Imperial College London that will take practical steps to increase the numbers of students from low and middle-income families applying to study medicine. It will reach 180 students over three years, offering them the support and information they need to compete with those from affluent backgrounds. The Pathways to Medicine programme includes help with interviews and applications, work experience and a one-week summer school where students get the chance to take part in hands-on experiments and medical seminars.

We hope this kind of practical support for low and middle-income students, together with a contextual approach to admissions, will radically alter the composition of our medical schools, making the profession accessible to all based on merit rather than money.
Sir Peter Lampl
Chairman, The Sutton Trust

Sir, The shortage of doctors and nurses in this country does no credit to any recent government. It has been official policy to rely upon imported doctors for some years now — imported from countries that can ill-afford to see them go. That, and the cutback in training places, has meant that we are now finding it difficult to find doctors to fill consultant posts and to become GPs.

In nursing the position is as bad. There is no shortage of people wanting to do nursing — simply a lack of training places, with the consequence that we rely on agency nurses from the Philippines and Portugal to staff our wards.

Our excellent school of nursing has been closed, the internationally renowned Nightingale School of Nursing is a shadow of its former self, amalgamated in the name of “efficiency savings”, as have been so many medical schools.

Nursing is an advanced life skill and communities need trained nurses to function properly — to help to look after people at the extremes of age, or who have left hospital, or to provide advice over smaller medical problems (so that people don’t need to go to A&E).

It costs society far more not to have doctors and nurses than it does to train them.
Dr JA Lack
Coombe Bissett, Wilts

Sir, It is not just a question of broadening intake for medicine, but of creating more training places for doctors, midwives, nurses and other health personnel. It is a false economy to attempt to shore up the NHS with imported staff, which plays into the hands of Ukip.

Successive governments and health leaders have constantly lamented staff shortages in the NHS, but it has been nobody’s fault but their own. If there were more places then the entry conditions need not be quite so harsh, (and also less arbitrary). Urgent steps should be taken by the coalition so that we become self sufficient in this precious commodity.
Julia Doherty

Winchelsea, E Sussex

Sir, Let me be unequivocal: no proposal to merge the catering services of the two Houses has ever been put to the House of Lords by the House of Commons, despite what Carol Midgley says in her article on the Lords catering service (Dec 10). The joint champagne procurement that Sir Malcolm Jack was referring to in evidence to the House of Commons governance committee was more than a decade ago. Since that time we have established a joint procurement service which is seeking even better value for the taxpayer.

Ms Midgley makes much of the number of bottles of champagne sold by the Lords, saying that, “since 2010 the House of Lords has spent £265,700 on 17,000 bottles of fizz — enough for the 788 members to drink 20 bottles each.” In the last financial year, 57 per cent of all champagne sold was in connection with receptions and dinners, usually organised by external bodies, and 30 per cent through our giftshop. This leaves 13 per cent sold through refreshment outlets. All alcohol sold in the Lords is sold at a profit, which has helped to reduce the cost of the catering service by 27 per cent since 2007-08.
Lord Sewel
Chairman of Committees, House of Lords

Sir, Dr Michael Cullen (letter, Dec 9) may well be quite right to point out how limited are the artefacts of Great Britain. However, we do have to my mind probably the greatest artefacts of all, and they reside close to where Dr Cullen lives. The Ashmolean Museum has five platonic solids which were found in Orkney in a Neolithic burial mound. They are stone geometric shapes, about marble size, depicting each of the Platonic Solids. They can only have been used for teaching geometry and maths of a high degree. They show that the society in Scotland and farther north was very advanced indeed. They existed thousands of years before Plato wrote about them. To understand how the platonic solids work is to understand a great deal, and in Orkney they did.
Edward Williams

Poole, Dorset

Sir, In view of the recent fall in the price of crude oil, it is odd that there has not been a corresponding reduction in the price of domestic gas and electricity. Previous increases in the price of domestic fuel, we were told, were caused by increased crude oil price because they were linked. It would seem the link is only one way.
K Miller
Plymstock, Devon

Sir, At a time when the return to the standard of public services enjoyed in the era of The Road to Wigan Pier appears a real possibility, I read with interest the attempt by David Aaronovitch (Opinion, Dec 11) to redefine the parameters of private profit and public investment in respect of the NHS.

If a contracted service provider owes their ultimate allegiance to any profit motive, a service has been privatised. Conversely, if a contracted service provider owes their ultimate allegiance to the public this is public enterprise, carried out for the good of the greatest number of people.

Any attempt to argue otherwise can only be described as Orwellian, and a road back to the 1930s. As far as the NHS is concerned, it seems to me a case of “public investment good, private profit bad”.
CNA Williams

Trowbridge, Wilts


NHS managers' standards set after Mid-Staffs

NHS expenditure on managmeent consultants has doubled under the Coalition Photo: ALAMY

SIR – Professor David Oliver is right to highlight the scandalous expenditure by the NHS on management consultants.

As a non-executive director and audit chairman of an acute NHS Trust I was shocked by the inability of NHS management to “manage” without the support of highly remunerated and unaccountable management consultants. It is an embedded culture and all of those to whom NHS Trusts report, including the senior officials at the Department of Health, must take responsibility.

In the case of my own Trust I voted against a £6 million contract for management consultants, and eventually resigned.

Robert Smart
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – The interventions of expert management consulting firms mean that many NHS institutions have cut their costs, responded effectively to rising demand and introduced changes that improve patient care. Consultancies have also assisted the change to new structures and political priorities.

Engaging this outside support when it is needed is a sign of good sense. One recent consulting project delivered recurrent annual savings of over £50 million. The NHS should draw on the best available skills, insights and knowledge in order to do its job most effectively.

Alan Leaman
CEO, Management Consultancies Association
London EC3

SIR – If NHS management need to employ management consultants to help them do their jobs, why do we not appoint managers who are capable of doing the job for themselves?

Grenville Morgan
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – When I worked for the businessman Sir Arnold Weinstock, he maintained that you could hire management consultants any time you wanted – but your resignation had to accompany the request.

Keith Appleyard
West Wickham, Kent

SIR – The Patients Association is right to highlight the deficiencies of the NHS ombudsman.

However, failings in care are hard to address when tens of thousands of health professionals, including those who conduct vital tests on patients, remain outside proper regulation and oversight. Their work has the potential to cause serious harm, but the health service lacks the means to rid itself of incompetent practitioners. Nor are these professionals subject to the NHS’s new duty of candour.

Amanda Casey
Chairman, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists
Lichfield, Staffordshire

London’s air pollution

Photo: Alamy

SIR – The Mayor of Paris’s decision to ban diesel cars by 2020 is encouraging. Here in London, air pollution is responsible for around 4,000 premature deaths annually, and diesel – which was sold as an environmental solution – is a major cause.

In the City of London we have prohibited engine idling and introduced a 20mph speed limit to help improve air quality. These measures support the Mayor of London’s reform proposals but we still need to do more to reduce pollution from diesel vehicles. In particular, government funding is urgently needed to finance the replacement of diesel taxis with cleaner models.

Wendy Mead
Chairman, Environment Committee
City of London Corporation
London EC2

Don’t cap police bail

SIR – When police bail was introduced, more than 30 years ago, I was a serving officer. The police had time to investigate crimes and, on the whole, this system was not abused.

Thirty years on, the thin blue line has been stretched beyond all recognition. The rise of internet crime, mobile phones, 24-hour media, the Crown Prosecution Service, new legislation and regulation, incessant demand for statistics, targets and political interference mean that the police no longer have the time to do everything required of them. This is at the heart of police inquiries often not being completed on time.

The danger in restricting police bail to 28 days is that many thousands of criminals will walk free. Career criminals will say nothing or send the police on false errands knowing they will be bailed for further inquiries to be made and the officers won’t have sufficient time to investigate.

The answer lies in freeing police officers from the endless red tape that prevents them from focusing on investigating crime.

Nick Hazelton
Poole, Dorset

Recovery under threat

SIR – It is not just households that may be hard-hit by rising interest rates, but many thousands of businesses as well.

Companies across Britain are investing again, after an unprecedented period of retrenchment. Premature rate rises would mean fewer new jobs, less training, less new equipment and less investment in premises at companies across Britain.

While the Bank of England ponders the threat early rate rises pose to households, and Westminster politicians are desperate to keep rates at rock-bottom for voters ahead of next year’s election, both would do well to remember that low rates also remain essential to the business growth and investment they are so keen to foster.

John Longworth
Director General, British Chambers of Commerce
London SE1

Cocksure minister should brush up on grammar

Photo: Alamy

SIR – Penny Mordaunt, the Conservative minister, is mistaken when she refers to the word cock as being an abbreviation of cockerel.

Cockerel is in fact the diminutive form and describes an immature male domestic fowl up to the age of about six months, when it will generally begin to crow and become a mature cock. Sniggering at this double entendre belongs in the playground and I am sure that your readers, without being cocksure about it, will use the word in the correct context and cock a snook at those who are unable to take the English language seriously.

Major John Carter (retd)
Bream, Gloucestershire

Early cancer diagnosis

SIR – While we welcome the news that more people are surviving cancer than ever before, it is too soon to be celebrating any success, particularly since ovarian cancer remains overlooked.

Currently 43 per cent of women with ovarian cancer survive for five years or more, yet 90 per cent would survive the same period if diagnosed at the earliest stage. Shockingly, a third of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in A&E, and more than 1,000 women every year die within two months of diagnosis. If we were to match the best survival rates in Europe, 500 lives would be saved every year.

It is imperative that current and future governments continue to prioritise improvements in the early diagnosis and successful treatment of all cancers, including ovarian.

Alexandra Holden
Director of Communications, Target Ovarian Cancer
London EC1

Driving out stereotypes

SIR – Erin Baker’s description of women drivers is complete balderdash.

Having taught more than 1,000 male and female drivers in the past two decades, I can say without doubt that the standard of driving for both sexes is equal in terms of car control and general attitude.

On the several occasions that I, while conducting a driving lesson, have encountered cars travelling the wrong way across roundabouts, the offending driver has always been male.

I also find that most female learner drivers are rather more proficient at parallel parking than their male colleagues.

Russell Jones
Bingham, Nottinghamshire

Wheelchair users can’t rely on people’s goodwill

SIR – The general public display little common sense or goodwill when they refuse to move a buggy so that a wheelchair user can find room on a bus. Neither does good sense prevail in the use of lavatory facilities.

I had to wait yesterday at the Nottingham Concert Hall, because one disabled lavatory was being used as a baby-changing facility and the other was occupied. The lady who eventually came out wasn’t disabled and my wife heard her tell her friend that she couldn’t see why she shouldn’t use the lavatory if there wasn’t a disabled person waiting.

Steve Cattell
Hougham, Lincolnshire

SIR – We have all had to wait for a bus, after not getting on the first, but most of us were not awarded £5,500 as a consequence. What about the rights of the mother and her sleeping baby? What about the fare-paying, able-bodied passengers? Should bus companies be able to turf off a passenger, who has already paid his fare, in order to make way for a wheelchair user?

In this instance the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the ruling was eminently sensible.

John Clarke
Stourbridge, West Midlands

SIR – Most laws are made because the “good sense” of the people cannot be relied upon. To leave a wheelchair user to the raw weather when a pushchair can be folded up to make room is despicable.

Maureen Maddock
Fulford, York

SIR – Public transport should be easily available to all, so surely there should be provision on all buses for both wheelchair users and parents with buggies.

I can remember being left in tears at a remote bus stop some years ago, after the conductor refused to take me plus buggy and baby on his bus, which had very few passengers.

Lesley Bright
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

A shining example

SIR – Having read Ken Wortelhock’s letter, it seems that the success of our 43-year marriage could be due to the fact that my husband diligently winds our Christmas tree lights around a piece of card every January, so that we unravel them easily each year.

Anne Cotton
Bath, Somerset

Rule Bird-tannia

Photo: Alamy

SIR – Mike Elliott asks for suggestions for a national bird for Britain.

Surely the robin would be the obvious choice. It is friendly, can appear puffed up at times, enjoys spending time in the garden, but is brave and willing to fight to the death when its territory is threatened.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Perhaps a budgie would be appropriate. These days most of the nation seems to spend its time tweeting, “who’s a pretty boy, then?”

Elizabeth Davy
Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

Irish Times:

Sir, – We need a deeper understanding of why some care staff behaved as presented on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday night. When the Ryan report on child abuse was published in 2009, our national conversation seemed to blame the religious congregations, instead of the dehumanising effect of large residential settings.

Although there are many kind staff, there is no such thing as a good large residential setting for people with intellectual disabilities. No amount of training, resources, investigations or inspections will ever change a culture in which people can be treated as less than human. No one would want to live in an institution. No one would choose to live apart from his or her loved ones and away from neighbours. So why are institutions good enough for 3,700 of our most vulnerable citizens? The only answer is institutional closure. Then the work of social inclusion may begin. – Yours, etc,


Senior Clinical Psychologist,


Co Roscommon.

Sir, – Your newspaper quotes HSE director general Tony O’Brien: “Much of what was viewed on Prime Time falls well below the standards that we expect in the health services. Such standards should not and will not be tolerated in the HSE” (“HSE issues apology over Áras Attracta mistreatment”, December 10th).

The irony is not lost on some of us. While the head of the organisation responsible for health provision in the State is rightly indignant about what happened to vulnerable citizens with a learning disability in Co Mayo, that same organisation continues to preside over a system whereby medically ill, vulnerable children as young as 15 and below are being wrongly “housed” in adult psychiatric hospitals even as we speak. One can’t help wondering if the children would be treated differently if the hospitals were located beside the Dáil? – Yours, etc,


Consultant Child

and Adolescent Psychiatrist,

Ros Mhic Triúin,

Co Chill Cheannaigh.

Sir, – In 2010 the McCoy report into the abuse of intellectually impaired people in a Brothers of Charity institution was published. This was after an almost 10-year fight by myself to uncover the awful regime there. McCoy did not go further than describing the abuses. I fought to have further investigations but to no avail.

This is what happens in Ireland – first the “scandal”, then the inquiry (a description of what happened), finally the report, and then nothing.

Unless there is a root-and-branch reform of the cultural ethos within such residences, we will see more such instances of abuse. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Surely if bank workers and shop workers are filmed while at work, the same should be done in care units and homes to protect those who cannot speak for themselves from being victims of the same horrific abuse of power. – Yours, etc,


South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir,–RTÉ is to be congratulated and deserves our gratitude for bringing to light this terrible abuse. – Yous, etc,



Co Dublin.

Members of the council are shocked and saddened by the contents of the documentary and are ashamed to contemplate that nurses were associated with the care provision in Unit 3 as outlined by the programme.

While it was acknowledged that there were examples of good practice in Áras Attracta, the most shocking aspect was the scale and nature of the abusive practices which were perpetrated and in which others were complicit by their refusal to intervene. The documentary portrayed scenes of vulnerable female residents being force-fed, roughly handled, and compelled to stay in chairs for extensive times. The casual and seemingly routine nature of the abusive care appeared to be an endemic part of the culture within Unit 3.

This documentary provides visual confirmation that the systems designed to protect vulnerable individuals have failed. The report challenges us to reflect on methods used to date in the education of healthcare professionals and in particular to focus on the caring, nurturing and safeguarding role of the nurse in the care of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Perhaps most importantly consideration needs to be given to the approaches used to support individuals to report or whistleblow on instances of poor care provision, misconduct and disrespect that they witness in clinical settings. In addition, within schools of nursing and midwifery we are committed to ensuring that nurses recognise that they are failing in their role if they do not report instances of poor care provision, misconduct or disrespect that they witness in clinical settings.

The council is willing to engage with any official inquiry to explore what can be improved in the education, training and continuous professional development of healthcare professionals and to assist in the process of informing how to move forward in terms of education, research and utilisation of future technologies. – Yours, etc,




Irish Council of Professors,

Deans and Heads of Nursing

and Midwifery,

University College Cork.

Sir, – I was and still am extremely shocked and upset by what I saw on the Prime Time programme. I am an occupational therapist and have worked in the profession for over 40 years. During that time I have worked in various settings, and more recently I have worked with adults with intellectual disabilities who live in communal houses, as well as in day centres where clients live at home but attend activity-based programmes.

The one issue that has struck me as an occupational therapist is that in most, but not all, of these settings, there is a lack of meaningful occupation for both staff and residents. As humans, occupation is a basic need. In many places, day programmes are set in place, whether leisure activities or work-based activities, which give meaning to both staff and residents.

There are activities which can be carried out, whether supported, assisted or adapted to match the needs and abilities of the residents or clients.

Over the past several years, occupational therapists have been unable to find work in this country. Members of the profession have a valuable contribution to make to the care and welfare of this client group. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I joined the protest in Dublin yesterday, the first I’ve ever attended. I did so not because I object to paying for water – I understand that the investment has to be made, though I cannot fathom why it was not done during the years when we told that we had more money than we were able to spend – but because the Government, in allowing Irish Water to be set up as it was, gave us, their fellow citizens, two fingers. For me, the Irish Water charge is not so much a tax too many as an insult too many. I also wanted to show that, notwithstanding the ravings of Fine Gael backwoodsmen, protesters are not necessarily loony leftists or dupes of some sinister fringe. I experienced a peaceful, positive and very enjoyable event and I’m looking forward to the next one. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir , – The leaders of the various “can’t pay – won’t pay” water charges factions assure the Irish people on an extremely regular basis that “hundreds of thousands” of citizens will not be paying water charges under any circumstances. Strange then that a significant proportion of these people pay to the government on a voluntary basis large amounts of VAT on non-essential and luxurious items (particularly at Christmas time). Similarly large numbers also voluntarily pay staggeringly large amounts of money on a daily basis in respect of alcohol and tobacco. Peculiar then that they are so reluctant to pay a few cent per day for the life-giving water that is delivered to their homes. This surely demonstrates that the behaviour of the “can’t pay – won’t pay” brigade is unthinking , irrational and bizarre and it must be a cause for concern that so many people can be so easily led. – Yours, etc,


Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Huge questions remain regarding the years of neglecting the national water infrastructure and a pricing regime that doesn’t actually discourage wasteful use of a precious resource. On the question of free water, however, the anti-water charges protest movement should get its facts straight. Free water is not a human right – affordable water is. The right to water is not specifically mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the UN general assembly in 1948. However, various resolutions since then, such as resolution 64/292 of 2010, explicitly recognise the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledge that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The right to water has also been defined by the UN as “the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses”.

Affordable, not free. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – The very fact that the capital city was brought to a standstill 15 days before Christmas is an absolute disgrace. There was absolutely no reason to blockade O’Connell Street. – Yours, etc,


Rialto, Dublin 8.

Sir, – What struck me about the water protest was the sheer volume of gardaí on duty. The entire length of Kildare Street, the western side of Merrion Square and part of Molesworth Street were cordoned off by barriers, preventing any access by the citizenry to these public streets of the capital city. If the streets had been free for people to traverse, the protest would have been over many hours earlier. It revealed a bunker mentality by a fearful Government that is driving a bigger wedge daily between itself and the citizens of Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The best of luck to the JD Wetherspoon pub chain in its attempt to introduce genuine competition to the Irish pub scene (“Weatherspoon axes Heineken after Dún Laoghaire pub row”, Business, December 10th) It seems their refusal to slap a few extra euro on the price of a pint has not gone down well with the established players.

The native licensed trade will no doubt be cheering on “Big Beer” from the sidelines. The last thing it needs is some brash upstart threatening its carefully engineered cartel in the run-up to Christmas. But this challenge is long overdue. While some Irish pubs have raised their game in recent years, many cling stubbornly to a losing formula of a limited beer range sold at extortionate prices, with the backing track of televised soccer on every wall. Throw in a 19th-century licensing system that effectively operates as a high wall around the existing trade – and the reform of which publicans have fought tooth and nail against – and it is easy to find oneself rooting for the underdog.

Solely in the interest of ensuring your readers are accurately informed, I have visited Wetherspoon’s first such pub in Blackrock and can confirm it is a very pleasant establishment with reasonably priced food and drink, attentive staff and a refreshing absence of televised sport or screeching pop music. – Yours, etc,


Clane, Co Kildare.

Sir, – I refer to your article “Digicel warns of scaling back in the Caribbean” (December 9th), which displays a serious lack of understanding of the telecommunications landscape in that region and also arrives at several misplaced conclusions.

Digicel chose not to acquire Columbus Communication because we did not believe it was worth in excess of $2 billion. Cable & Wireless Communications are proposing to pay over $3 billion for the business which we believe is excessive – but that is their business. The real issue, however, is that unlike Digicel, which is predominantly in the mobile space, Cable & Wireless Communications and Columbus combined will result in several monopolies in their overlap markets.

As is the case with any transaction which will result in monopolies or virtual monopolies, this proposed transaction needs to be very carefully examined by the relevant regulators and appropriate measures taken to ensure that there is no abuse of the pro-forma monopolies which will be created in six countries. Indeed this has been recognised by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority, which stated last Friday that, “In the review of the proposed merger the ministers noted that potential new scenarios will emerge where monopolies or near monopolies will exist in the provision of fixed network services which will have an impact on both residential and business consumers.”

Your statement that we “would also have had a stranglehold on certain segments of the market in the region, instead of CWC” is simply not true. It is also wrong for you to conclude that we need time to “formulate a strategy to respond” to the proposed transaction. Our strategy remains unchanged. What we do want to ensure is that the appropriate consumer and industry protections are put in place so that we can pursue that strategy in the knowledge that there will be a level playing field for new entrants like ourselves. – Yours, etc,


Group Chief Executive

Officer, Digicel Group .

Sir, – I always look forward to reading Conor Pope. However, I was more than dismayed by his piece on how to do “Christmas on the cheap” (December 8th). He certainly gets the cheap bit right but in very much the wrong way when he advises readers to “ditch the cards and you could knock €50 off the spend” and suggests we use Facebook, Twitter email or whatever to replace them.

At Christmas, if you really want to know who your real friends are, they are the people who will select a card, sign it and stamp it to make sure you get it. Costly, yes, but if anyone sends me an electronic message, off my list they go! I’ll find some other way to save €50 but not at the expense of good tradition and the personal touch. No silly hashtags or LOLs. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – I am a bit dismayed by the latest weather soundbite “weatherbomb”. I really hope that every winter storm doesn’t become one such bomb – much like every time the temperature creeps above 23 Celsius we have a “phew, what a scorcher” or conversely when the temperature drops a bit we get a “beast from the east”. – Yours, etc,


Department of Geography,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – I believe that the only sensible way for Ireland to move forward economically, and thus socially, is for the old Civil War enemies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to unite. Going by current opinion polls, they would not have the numbers in the Dáil following the next election to form a government and would need support from some remnants of Labour and reasonable Independents.

The alternative is mayhem. – Yours, etc,


Glin, Co Limerick.

A chara, – An historic moment indeed for Co Tyrone and congratulations to Róisín Jordan (“Tyrone set to make history”, December 9th). However Róisín will not be the first female county chair in the history of the GAA. That historic first goes to Co Europe and Eileen Jennings, who was our county chairwoman in 2007. – Is mise,


Cisteoir (2004 – 2010),

European County

Board GAA,

Clichy, France.

Irish Independent:

Isn’t it time the “silent majority” reclaimed the streets?

I listened to various RTE reporters and presenters discussing the numbers of protesters on the streets for Wednesday’s marches against water charges.

It ranged from 30,000, to in excess of 30,000, to between 50,000 and 100,000. The Gardai said about 30,000, or just in excess of that figure. To my mind, there is a very big difference between 30,000 and 100,000.

I didn’t hear any of the presenters/reporters disagree with the figures – or even refer back to previous claims by well-know socialist politicians that the turnout would be close to double the size of the previous demonstration (200,000?/300,000?).

Excuses are now being made that the day was cold and wet, it was too close to Christmas, or that it was a work day and workers could not get time off.

Why wasn’t it held next Saturday then?

I am a pensioner and I sent back my forms before the end of October, as did my two daughters, who are both in rented accommodation and low-paid jobs. One million others also apparently sent the forms back.

To my way of thinking, 30,000 or 50,000 are a very small percentage of a million people.

I don’t want to pay any more taxes or charges, I am finding it difficult. The water system in the country is a mess and it needs repair/replacement. How can it be done without raising additional monies to do it? If the water charges don’t happen then our taxes will increase. And who is going to pay those? Yes, “the already hard-pressed middle” – i.e. the majority of hard-working Irish people. These taxes will, in my view, be higher. And, like the property tax, will be enforced by the Revenue and therefore impossible to avoid.

What can/will the combined forces of Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, the Socialist Party and other various TDs sharing a similar outlook do for us if they achieve power? I shudder to think.

I don’t think the present Government have covered themselves in glory, but are they the best of a bad lot?

So come on the ‘silent majority’, let’s reclaim our streets and our country.

Name and address with editor

Irishmen and Irishwomen:

I travelled to Dublin to attend Wednesday’s water protest. I brought with me a large copy of The Proclamation of the Republic, which a friend had given me several years ago.

I consider ‘The Proclamation’ Ireland’s most valuable document, even more important than the Constitution itself. My reason for making it my banner of protest was the following lines:

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.

The words you have just read were written almost a century ago by honourable courageous men who looked at a shackled Ireland and said “No more”. Those men looked into our future and the future of their own descendants. To protect us from those who would harm us they entered those three or four lines into the Proclamation.

Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Alan Kelly pass our proclamation each day in Dail Eireann, but they surely cannot have read it. For if they had they would know that what they are doing to the Irish people is nothing short of treason. While our ordinary people struggle to put food on the table our Government politicians, on bloated salaries in the Dail, dictate to us about how we should all put our shoulders to the wheel for the sake of the nation.

I marched in Dublin, along with thousands of men, women and children from all over our island. And, as I looked around me, I heard those words from the Proclamation ringing in my ears. I felt proud, proud that we were standing up, and that 100 years later we were saying to our aggressors: “No more”. No more to your austerity, no more to your bully-boy tactics and no more to your bloody water tax.

That evening, after I returned home, my young son asked me why I had gone to the protest. I told him I went there to protect his rights and his future, for he is also one of the cherished children of the nation mentioned in Ireland’s proclamation.

Barney O’Keeffe

The Curragh, Co Kildare

A pint of order

I want to wish the JD Wetherspoon pub chain the best of luck in its attempt to introduce genuine competition to the Irish pub scene.

It seems their refusal to join in the ancient Irish tradition of putting the bite on pub-goers by slapping a few extra euro onto the cost of a pint has not gone down well with all the established players.

The native licensed trade will, no doubt, be cheering on Big Beer from the sidelines. The last thing they need is some brash upstart threatening their trade in the run up to Christmas.

But this challenge is long overdue. While some Irish pubs have raised their game in recent years, many cling stubbornly to a losing formula of a limited beer range sold at extortionate prices, with a backing track of televised soccer on every wall.

Throw in a 19th-century licensing system that effectively operates as a high wall around the existing trade – and the reform of which publicans have fought tooth and nail against – and it is easy to find oneself rooting for the underdog in this fight.

Solely in the interest of ensuring your readers are accurately informed, I have visited Wetherspoon’s first such pub in Blackrock. I can confirm it is a very pleasant establishment, with reasonably priced food and drink, attentive staff and a refreshing absence of televised sport or screeching pop music.

Philip Donnelly

Clane, Co Kildare

Aras Attracta

As a woman who has worked as a Prison Officer for nearly 30 years I have been subjected to both verbal and physical assaults in my daily working life. This abuse is to be expected in such an environment. As such I have learnt to both ignore verbal abuse and how to protect myself from the physical abuse. The ethos of the Prison Service is to provide “safe and secure custody of its inmates” whilst also protecting its staff.

Having watched the ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme (December 9) on the abuse and assaults perpetrated by staff on non-verbal service users, I am compelled to write to express my utter horror and disgust.

These vulnerable patients were treated worse than criminals, and I only hope that the families of these poor women will bring assault charges against the responsible staff and that justice will be served upon them with a prison stay.

I would call upon the minister to order CCTV to be installed in all similar institutions, as has been done within the Prison Service. These cameras protect both staff and inmates. If people have nothing to hide then there can be no objection.

Name and address with editor

Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: