Caroline and Nicky

20 December 2014 Caroline and Nicky

I still have arthritis in my left toe but its nearly gone. I go to the tip, and Waitrose and see Caroline for my feet and Nicky for my hair,

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

Obituary:

Mandy Rice-Davies – obituary

Mandy Rice-Davies was the star performer in the Profumo scandal and reinvented herself as a successful businesswoman

Mandy Rice-Davies, left, with her friend and flatmate Christine Keeler, on their way to the trial of Stephen Ward

Mandy Rice-Davies, left, with her friend and flatmate Christine Keeler, on their way to the trial of Stephen Ward Photo: AP

Mandy Rice-Davies, who has died aged 70, stole the show in 1963 at the height of the Profumo affair when she appeared as a witness in the court case involving Stephen Ward, the society osteopath who had introduced the Conservative Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, to Christine Keeler.

Mandy Rice-Davies’s role in the Profumo affair was, in fact, a fairly minor one. As friend and flatmate of Christine Keeler, who was sleeping alternately with Profumo and with the Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, she was called to give evidence when Ward was prosecuted on charges of living off immoral earnings (she was said to have been in a chain of call girls run by Ward, which included Christine Keeler).

Ward, as it transpired, committed suicide before sentence was passed, but the real star of the show was Mandy Rice-Davies. Her pert reply to counsel when told that another participant in the drama, Lord Astor, had denied having slept with her — “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” — entered the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and has been much plagiarised ever since.

While Keeler was the more beautiful of the two girls, Mandy was by a long chalk the more resilient and streetwise. With her heavily mascara’d eyes, pouting lips and bouffant fair hair piled and lacquered in place, she seemed to enjoy the limelight and emerged from the scandal a winner.

Her unerring instinct for the perfect sound bite, her saucy innuendoes and good head for business enabled her to build her sex-laden notoriety into a lucrative career. With what she described as a “natural aversion to unhappiness”, she emerged emotionally unscathed but financially better off from a chain of marriages and affairs, and became a novelist, actress and successful businesswoman.

She was born Marilyn Rice-Davies at Pontyates near Llanelli, Wales, on October 21 1944, the daughter of a former medical student turned police officer and finally technologist for Dunlop; her mother was a Welsh girl from the Rhondda Valley. Brought up in the prosperous Birmingham suburb of Solihull, as a child Mandy sang in the church choir and did paper rounds to raise money to feed her beloved Welsh mountain pony, Laddie.

It was while she was ministering to the needs of Laddie that she had her first sexual encounter — with a local “maniac” who exposed himself to her when she was riding her bicycle. Even at the tender age of 13 Mandy showed a gutsy instinct for self-preservation. “He didn’t touch me,” she recalled, “but the minute he stopped my bicycle I knew what he was after so I hit him with my bucket which had bran mash in it.”

As a child she had been inspired by the story of the medical missionary Albert Schweitzer and, aged 12, decided that she too wanted to become a missionary and “hug lepers”. Deciding after further research that this was not as attractive an occupation as she had imagined, when she left school aged 15 she took a job as a sales assistant in the Birmingham store Marshall & Snelgrove. She began modelling there and was “discovered”. She was cast in the film Make Mine Mink with Terry-Thomas, draped herself over a Mini at the Motor Show, then, aged 16, ran away to London.

Mandy Rice-Davies in 1964 (REX)

On her first day in London, armed with just £35, she answered an advertisement placed by Murray’s Cabaret Club, Soho, for dancers. It was there that she met Christine Keeler, and the two women briefly shared a flat together. Through Christine Keeler she met Stephen Ward (with whom she had an affair), and was soon circulating in smart London society, though, like Christine Keeler, she always denied being a prostitute. “We were just young girls in search of a good time,” she told an interviewer on Radio 4 last year. On another occasion she observed: “I was certainly game, but I wasn’t on it.”

Within her first year in the capital, she claimed to have been proposed to by the ageing Lord Dudley; she had an affair with the fraudster Emil Savundra; and, still aged 16, became the mistress of Peter Rachman, the notorious slum landlord. Rachman called her “Choochi”, she called him “Chich”, and they lived together for two years. Despite the affectionate nature of their relationship, he never told her he had a wife. This created difficulties after his death from a heart attack in 1962 when his wife, Audrey, reclaimed the Jaguar he had given his 16-year-old mistress.

In between these amorous encounters, with that irrepressible hope of better things to come that had brought her to London, Mandy Rice-Davies continued to pursue a career as a model and actress. She appeared in advertisements for Pepsodent, singing “You’ll wonder where the yellow went”, and for Pepsi, although she always refused to allow herself to be photographed in the nude on the ground that “You never know, you might become prime minister.”

After Rachman’s death, Mandy Rice-Davies moved back to Stephen Ward’s house in Wimpole Mews, where within weeks she had succumbed to the blandishments of Lord Astor, to whom she had been introduced by Ward some two years previously and who had paid the rent for the flat which she and Christine Keeler had shared in Comeragh Road.

When Stephen Ward was arrested and charged with living off immoral earnings, initially Mandy Rice-Davies refused to talk to the police. But once the trial got under way, she seemed rather to relish the publicity. Her sally to some American journalists “Call me Lady Hamilton” endeared her briefly to newspapers in three continents; and when she revealed that she had been the mistress of Peter Rachman, not to mention Lord Dudley, she became many a middle-aged man’s fantasy.

Mandy Rice-Davies outside the Old Bailey during Stephen Ward’s trial,1963 (GETTY)

After the trial ended, Mandy Rice-Davies accepted an invitation to be a cabaret singer in Germany, where she found solace with a new love (in 1966 she was cited in a divorce case by Baroness Cervello against her husband Baron Cervello), before moving to Spain and then to Israel where, aged just 21, she married Rafael Shaul, a former El Al steward. She learnt Hebrew and took six years of instruction before converting to Judaism.

Together, she and her new husband built up a chain of restaurants and opened two nightclubs, including Mandy’s, a fashionable establishment in Tel Aviv; she also acted in Israeli theatre. During the Six Day War she was rumoured to have worked as a volunteer for the Israeli Red Cross, but when the writer Auberon Waugh went to Israel to visit her, he discovered she had in fact been working in her nightclub at the time, although she was “happy to jump into nurse’s uniform and pose for photographs with the wounded soldiers”.

She and her husband parted company after the birth of their daughter, and Mandy Rice-Davies subsequently moved to Spain, though she retained a string of business interests in Israel and elsewhere. After her divorce, she had as lovers an Argentine consul, a rich Swiss businessman and an even richer Canadian. In 1978 she married a Frenchman, Jean-Charles Lefevre, a restaurant owner, but the marriage lasted less than a year and she returned to Britain.

In 1981 she played Maddy Gotobed in a touring production of Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen and appeared in the long-running West End production No Sex Please, We’re British. She was in A Bedful of Foreigners for 10 months and acted the part of Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet at the Ludlow Festival. In 2013 she was involved in the development of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward the Musical, in which she was played by Charlotte Blackledge.

Her film credits include Nana (1982), an X-rated piece of erotica based on Emile Zola’s book of the same name. She appeared on numerous television chat shows, took small parts in Heart of the Country and Chance in a Million (both BBC series) and made a guest appearance on Absolutely Fabulous.

In 1988 she married, thirdly, Ken Foreman, the chairman of Attwoods waste disposal group. She and her husband led a luxurious and peripatetic life between their houses in Virginia Water, Surrey, Miami and the Bahamas. An occasional holiday companion was Margaret Thatcher late in her life with her husband, Denis, who knew Foreman through business.

Mandy Rice-Davies’s autobiography, Mandy, was published in 1980. She also wrote several works of romantic fiction and cookery books.

Reflecting on her scandalous past in later life, she remarked: “I have never been sorry for myself. I’m of the existential school. I did it and that’s it.”

She is survived by her husband and her daughter, Dana.

Mandy Rice-Davies, born October 21 1944, died December 18 2014

Guardian:

The Christmas truce, 1914: German and British troops fraternising on the western front. Illustration
The Christmas truce, 1914: German and British troops fraternising on the western front. Illustration: Alamy

My grandfather, 2nd Lieut EF Eagar of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, wrote to his mother after spending Christmas 1914 in the front line at Fauquissart, near Lille (The truce in the trenches was real, but the football tales are a shot in the dark, 17 December): “It was bitterly cold, but bright and sunny – I have got my left big toe slightly frostbitten, but it’s going on all right now.

“The papers may say what they like about the Germans, but I know that our particular lot are good sportsmen and soldiers. On Christmas Eve we did not fire at all and early on Xmas morning about 6.30, a German with a loud voice came out in the dark and shouted, ‘A merry Xmas, we don’t fire’. Thus we had a truce which lasted two days and a night, and probably more lasting than an official truce would have been.

“We did not go near their trenches, but walked about at will, outside ours and, in many instances, in other parts of the line, large parties met half way and made friends. Their trust in us was wonderful, for they would have come into our trenches if we had let them. Three came towards my bit of trench, and as I did not want them to see too much of my wire entanglement, I got out and stopped them half way. They were all about my own age, very clean, warmly clad and cheerful looking.

“We shook hands and I carried on quite a long conversation in French with one of them. They gave me a lot of German newspapers which I am keeping as a souvenir. They had a huge concert in their trenches on Xmas night, and next day were to be seen wandering about their parapet while we were kept down below, but of course no one fired at them, and when we were relieved no one was firing in our part, though here and there one could hear them hard at it.”
Patrick Eagar
London

• In 1945, Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel chemistry prize for discovering uranium fission and opened the atomic age. In 1914, he was commanding a German machine gun platoon in Flanders. “I shall never forget the afternoon of that Christmas Eve,” he wrote in his 1970 book My Life. “At first there were only a few among us and the English who looked over the parapet of the trenches, which were about 50 metres apart. Then there were more and more, and before long all of the soldiers came out of the trenches. We fraternised. The English gave us their good cigarettes, and those among us who had candied fruit gave them some. We sang songs together, and for the night of 24/25 December the war stopped. All was quiet on the 25th too. No shot was fired.

“But in the course of the day the first orders to resume fire were given. We asked our company commander where the enemy was, since we could not see any and therefore did not know where to shoot. On 26 December, however, firing was resumed, on both sides of course, and the war went on.”

Hahn’s further adventures in the war are told in my book Great Scientists Wage the Great War.
William Van der Kloot
Horley, West Sussex

• It may not have been a matter of luck that there was a football around in the trenches on Christmas Day, 1914. Footballs being kicked towards enemy trenches were reported at Loos and, by a Colonel Alfred Irwin of the 8th East Surrey Regiment, at the Somme (From Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur: “Captain Nevill … said that as he and his men were all equally ignorant of what their conduct would be when they got into action, he thought it might be helpful … if he could furnish each platoon with a football and allow them to kick it forward and follow it. I sanctioned the idea … I think myself, it did help them enormously, it took their minds off it.”

The ball used by Captain Nevill was marked “The Great European Cup – The Final – East Surreys v Bavarians”. Nevill was killed minutes into the attack.
John Beresford
Cambridge

• That a football match between British and German soldiers took place is corroborated by an excerpt from a letter to the Times published on 1 January 1915 (page 3). A major in the Royal Army Medical Corps wrote: “The —– Regiment actually had a football match with the Saxons, who beat them 3-2!!!” So it would appear that Robert Graves was not writing fiction and a football match did indeed take place. And he even got the score right.
Claude Scott
Richmond, Surrey

• Stephen Moss does not make mention of the German whose grandfather said there was no such truce, only a lull in the fighting for each side to bury their dead.
John Daramy
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

• It seems unlikely someone produced a match-grade football from the trenches on Christmas Day 100 years ago, so the games, such as they were, had an improvised character. Even so they are not something that has been introduced at a later date by those keen to mythologise the war. They were noted at the time. The Herald (weekly in wartime) on 2 January 1915 reported they had taken place and added that it was, “saddening to think that such soldiers are not in charge of the affairs of Europe instead of the diplomats and potentates”. This is unlikely to be the official sentiment when the 100th anniversary is marked in the days to come.
Keith Flett
London Socialist Historians Group

• Among the many references to works about the 1914 Christmas truce, I’m sorry to see no mention of US folksinger John McCutcheon’s wonderful and moving song Christmas in the Trenches. It goes: “The ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame, and on each end of the rifle we’re the same”.
Joe Locker
Surbiton, Surrey

• War profiteering used to be a crime. I realise the moral compass has been swinging wildly lately, but surely I can’t be alone in finding Sainsbury’s advertisement featuring the Christmas truce crass and insensitive? Sainsbury’s pursuit of profit in the name of young men who were ordered to kill and maim each other shortly after having enjoyed a friendly game of football leaves a very nasty taste in my mouth.

Susannah Everington

Bridport, Dorset

• Wednesday, dull and wet. Radio 4’s Midweek tells me Christmas carols have no religious origin. The Guardian tells me football at the 1914 Christmas truce was pretty much a myth. Next they’ll be telling me Father Christmas doesn’t exist.
Rupert Besley
Newport, Isle of Wight

• While the truce football match may be a myth, it is quite possible a match could be played in such muddy conditions, as those of us old enough to remember Derby’s Baseball Ground in the 70s can attest.
Michael Cunningham
Wolverhampton

Jim Murphy, new leader of the Scottish Labour Party. The trade union Unite will work with him, says
Jim Murphy, new leader of the Scottish Labour Party. The trade union Unite will work with him, says its general secretary. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The recent attack on Unite (Editorial, 15 December) ought to be beneath your paper. It made incorrect accusations and in doing so exposed a fundamental lack of understanding of how trade unions function. Unite did not spend “enormous amounts of money” to “thwart” Jim Murphy. The money we spent to support Neil Findlay was used to communicate to Unite members, entirely in keeping with Labour party rules. The decision was in itself taken by Unite members – the working men and women of our regional committee who opted to back him – because that is how we operate, as a member-led, decision-making body. Far from being “out of touch” as you suggest, we are duty bound to listen to the day-to-day voice of our members and act upon their wishes.

How our individual members cast their vote is up to them, in the privacy of their own homes. They are not the lumpen electorate your writer considers them to be, as can be seen in the votes for the other two candidates. Six in 10 of our members chose to back Neil Findlay because they support his policies. Jim Murphy is now the Scottish Labour leader. Consistent with the values of our movement and the wishes of the electorate, Unite will work alongside him in the hope of winning back disillusioned Labour voters. I urge that the Guardian reflects upon the true nature of this vote and the genuine challenges ahead for Labour in Scotland, and in so doing resists the temptation to indulge what seems to be little more than the anti-union bias of some on its editorial team.
Len McCluskey
General secretary, Unite the union

• Your interesting two-part series, Britain on the brink and How the kingdom survived (17-18 December) had an unfortunately misleading subhead: The real story of the Scottish referendum. You explained very well the unity of the establishment in overcoming the threat to its existence but readers might have come away with the impression that it was only the SNP that stood against them. A grass-roots movement of remarkable proportions spread the Yes vote across the country. The Radical Independence Campaign, Hope over Fear, the National Collective, the Common Weal and others built one of the largest anti-austerity movements in Europe. For them it was not a campaign to support nationalism but a burning desire for social change and self-determination. This partly explains why 97% of Scots registered to vote – the highest level in Scotland or Britain since the introduction of universal suffrage – and turnout was 85%, compared with 65% at the 2010 general election.

And the campaign continues. For example, the post-referendum conference of the Radical Independence Campaign, held in Glasgow last month, attracted more than 7,000 requests for tickets. In the end only half that number could be accommodated but to do so the organisers had to hire extra venues to cater for meetings on an astonishing range of social and political topics. The conference agreed a policy of a social alternative to austerity and privatisation; a green sustainable economy; a modern republic for real democracy; and internationalism based on opposition to Nato and Trident.
Murray Armstrong
London

• Your account of the referendum campaign exposes the SNP’s obfuscation, now even more successful than ever in pulling the wool over the eyes of so many Scots. Three months on, Alex Salmond has obtained a safe seat to carry him to Westminster, Nicola Sturgeon coasts along promising referendum 2 and neither has yet been called upon to answer their false promises to the needy in Scotland. Horrid cliche, hence perfect for David Cameron and the SNP – be careful what you wish for.
Carolyn Kirton
Aberdeen

Glossop
Glossop, Derbyshire: birthplace of noted women. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Has anyone else noticed that Hilary Mantel, Eileen Cooper (first woman keeper of the Royal Academy) and the soon to be first woman bishop in the Church of England (Report, 18 December), the Rev Libby Lane, were all born in Glossop? I hope the town feels proud of its pioneering women.
Maggie Butcher
London

• The Interview has been pulled because of a terrorist threat (Report, 19 December): popcorn-eating surrender monkeys?
Graham Walsh
Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire

• At the age of 90 I celebrate the years and so, along with my Spanish friends, I choose to be regarded as “un jubilato” (Letters, 19 December).
Bernard Bloom
Manchester

david stoddart
David Stoddart: a larger than life character

The geographer, conservationist and coral atoll expert David Stoddart held anarchist beliefs. He also rediscovered the work, published in the second half of the 19th century, of an earlier geographer with an anarchist outlook, the Frenchman Elisée Reclus.

In the geography department at Cambridge University, Stoddart was a larger than life character. However, it was a running joke among undergraduates that we saw less of him than of other members of staff because of his idyllic-sounding research areas of distant tropical islands.

David Smith’s article about Sudan (Report, 8 December) is a good example of Guardian reporting as far as it goes. Its strength is the in-depth interviews with leading politicians, activists and UK embassy staff. But it neglects to mention the achievements and social progress the Sudanese government has realised.

Several achievements stand out. The government initiated a policy of empowering Sudanese women and mobilising their energies for development by allocating 25% of parliamentary seats to them. It has consolidated their right of equal pay for equal work and opened up employment in the judiciary, the civil service and foreign ministry. The deputy speaker of parliament is a woman, so are 80 judges, 45 diplomats, including 12 ambassadors, a lieutenant general in both the army and police, two cabinet ministers, six state ministers and three republican palace advisers. Currently, 45% of the civil service are women.

Furthermore, after the secession of the south, the Sudanese government embarked on a process of democratisation that culminated in the inclusive national dialogue which is now under way. Nineteen new universities were established as well as hundreds of secondary schools.

Motorways now link Port Sudan and Darfur to the rest of the country and are bound to accelerate development and modernisation. This is politically significant because years of US sanctions have devastated the transport infrastructure. In the past, railways played the main role in breaking down tribal barriers in central Sudan.

Thus through these new projects, the Sudan government addresses the complaints of distant areas that feel marginalised and propels development within those regions.
Khalid Al Mubarak
Media counsellor, Embassy of Sudan, London

 

 

Independent:

Your correspondents (19 December) rightly point out that religion played a part in the crazed thinking of the Sydney gunman. This does not mean that many Muslims do not want to live a decent, peaceful life, or that other types of believer do not do so either. The bad behaviour of some does not negate the good of others. The Taliban killers in Pakistan were fired by an extremism that is fed as much by politics and the frustration of the marginalised as it is by distorted ideas about Allah.

They, and we, are all human beings first, before they are any type of believer or unbeliever. If religion was not in their conceptual stew then something else would take its place.

Why not report on the good and peaceful things being done in the name of faith? These include food banks and soup runs, visiting the lonely and sick and, in the Muslim world, the wonderful initiative of Al-Azhar university in Cairo. In addition various religious leaders support dialogue and denounce the persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq. Branches of a reconciliation movement known as Family House are spreading through Egypt – why not report this?

Fr Kevin O’Donnell
Rottingdean, East Sussex

 

Dr Munjeb Farid al Qutob (letters, 17 December) ignores the Islamist undertones of the incident in Sydney. And Mohammed Samaana (letters, 18 December) claims that Muslims are always the oppressed, that everyone else is out to get them.

And here lies the core of the problem. Denial and an unwillingness to confront the issues that give a bad name to the great religion that is Islam will not do anything to reduce terrorism. Most practitioners of Islam lead a highly disciplined life based on strong values and love for humanity. Introspection and a mass movement led by religious leaders of every community is badly needed.

Arun Ratnam
Amersham,  Buckinghamshire

 

We have seen Christians as well as Muslims condone the killing of those who don’t accept their religious teachings. The crusades, Serbia, St Bartholomew’s eve, Northern Ireland and the Spanish Inquisition are just a few of the many instances when good Christians felt it their religious duty to wreak havoc on the rest.

Of course, much good has been carried out in the name of religion, but I can’t help thinking that this is not so much because religious people can be good, but rather because good people can  be religious.

D C Hooley
Newmarket, Suffolk

 

The vast majority of what Dr Munjed Farid’s Al Qutob’s says will be echoed by most readers. However, hidden away is “salvation”. I struggle to understand from what or for what I need to be saved. I live my life (without religious belief) trying to be as moral as I can. I know that I will die and have seen no evidence that I will continue to exist, in any conscious sense, beyond this. This view may be disconcerting to some but that is no reason to assert that a belief in a deity who can save me is a sensible way to live my life.

Roy Hicks
Bristol

 

Your correspondents link religion with terror. If one studies the Sermon on the Mount and the writings of Peter in the New Testament, it is clear that the founders of Christianity were pacificists. Why is it that so few Christians have followed their teaching? So many of our cathedrals and churches have chapels etc dedicated to the remembrance of military exploits.

Roger Atkinson
Lincoln

 

Not shouting,  just talking

Howard Jacobson (13 December) tells how staff in a shop accused him of shouting when he tried to get information about a Blackberry Passport. This has confirmed my view about what some people regard as shouting.

Before retirement I worked in a behaviour unit with secondary pupils. If I asked them to sit down and get their books out, in an assertive way but absolutely not shouting, some kids would kick off as they said I had “shouted” at them.

A friend, who is a librarian, had to talk to a student about the return of a very late book. No shouting, just telling her to return the short-loan book by the following day or she wouldn’t be allowed to borrow any more books. Later that day the mother of the student rang up to make a formal complaint as she said the librarian had shouted at her daughter and made her cry. No shouting, lots of witnesses, but being told what she didn’t want to hear equated to shouting.

I have thought for a long while that, as Jacobson says, “the surly, the disobliging and the downright rude believe they have a human right never to be admonished”. Also, some people do not understand that assertive clear speech is not shouting.

Christine Armstrong
Swanton Novers, Norfolk

 

Whenever my lovely, dulcet-toned mother-in-law admonishes her husband for bad behaviour such as drinking too much, or being rude in shops, he complains “Joan has been shouting at me”. She never has to raise her voice by so much as a decibel to be accused of this.

Veronica Willis
London SW10

 

Reading Howard Jacobson’s experience in the Vodafone shop I recalled my totally different experience when, aged 75, I purchased my Mac Book Air in the Apple shop. The staff were utterly polite, helpful, considerate, and I have to say completely wonderful.

Elspeth Allison
Fleckney, Leicestershire

 

I recently had my annual review with my pharmacist for the painkillers I take for arthritis. During the review I referred to the Cox-1, Cox-2, and Cox-3 systems. He threw a tantrum: “You are a patient. You should not know these things!” I told him I have a degree in biochemistry, among others. “You shouldn’t. Patients should do as they are told.” I have met this arrogant attitude from doctors of various sorts, now pharmacists are at it. I think I shall be changing pharmacy. Why are these so-called “professionals” quite so keen to keep knowledge as a privileged preserve?

David Critchard
Exeter

 

We lose libraries at our peril

It is said that knowledge is power, and one only has to think of the various “powers” that have tried to ban books in the past to acknowledge this fact (“The great British libary betrayal”, 18 December).

From the earliest times libraries have played a part in storing and disseminating books and latterly public libraries have had a huge role in this. Of course, some authors have thought of the library as the enemy, having the idea that they might sell more copies to the public if such institutions did not exist. However, in many cases, and certainly with more serious literature, the opposite is true. Since the establishment of the large municipal libraries, publishers have been able to rely on a certain number of sales to such institutions to make publication viable and economic. Sadly, this is probably no longer the case. Only last week while perusing the TLS I noticed a biography of Archbishop Pole in which I was interested. It was priced at £70, despite having only 300 or so pages; quite out of the reach of the ordinary reader.

Do I need to spell out any further how important the public library is to society in general and to the book trade in particular? We lose our public libraries at our peril.

Robert Senecal
London WC1

 

Another aspect of library provision worth mentioning (18 December) is their local history collections. Each of these is unique, and they are much valued and used by local and family historians. The latter category includes people all over the world, who enquire and sometimes make long journeys to consult material about their ancestors. They are an important part of our national heritage and must be preserved.

DW Budworth
London W4

 

Where do you stand on brand?

Reading “Russell Brand and an RBS banker: whose side are you on?” (18 December) and the letter that “Jo” wrote to Brand, I was perturbed by his references to Brand’s past misdemeanours committed while he had a drug problem. Like Brand, I have made many silly mistakes in my distant past, but unlike Brand mine were not made in the public eye, giving me ample opportunity to get sober, grow up and become a contributing member of society. Lucky me.

Mr Cold Lunch might also want to reflect on his language. Using the word “bikes” to refer to women, celebrity or otherwise, is beyond offensive.

Had a pupil submitted this to me as an essay I would have advised that all accusations regarding Brand’s income were unsubstantiated and required further research. And I would have suggested a cold lunch is not very important in the grand scheme of things.

Sandra Mills
Blackwood, S Lanarkshire

The next time Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage “a poundshop Enoch Powell”, as he did on Question Time, Farage should reply: “Then you are a 99p store Che Guevara.”

That should result in a temporary collapse of the polysyllabic party.

David Woosnam
Grimsby

Times:

Sir, President Obama’s move on Cuba is a canny foreign policy ploy. By increasing the cap on remittances, the US is dangling the carrot of prosperity, which may provide its best hope for regime change. And through the expansion of internet provision, Cubans will learn more about the outside world and may question the value of its regime, leading to popular demand for reform. In all this, US businesses stand to benefit.

As an aside, an interesting geopolitical question is what will become of an old Soviet spy base the Russians had hoped to reopen on the island, and for which a provisional agreement had been reached in July.
Daniel Rey

London SW17

Sir, It is salutary to remember in view of the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba, that in 1963 JFK said: “To some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”

I wonder if the now inevitable return of American influence will really benefit the majority of the Cuban populace or if a small number of individuals will become very wealthy at their expense, thus allowing history to repeat itself.
Niall Milligan

Penzance, Cornwall

Sir, Cuba embodies the failure of US foreign policy (“Two close neighbours bound by mutual hatred for half a century”, Dec 17). More than 50 years of embargo has failed to motivate Cuba’s people to overthrow the communist leadership.Today, Cuba has one of the world’s most efficient education systems, universal literacy, health coverage and clean drinking water and sanitation. It places children and young people at the heart of its policies. It has very low infant mortality and high life expectancy. It has built partnerships and mutual respect among nations. The recent ebola outbreak in West Africa has affirmed Cuba’s noble principles of equity, social justice and solidarity with the needy everywhere; something Cuba has always done without asking for favours in return. It is time for the US to take notes.
Dr Munjed Farid al Qutob

London NW2

Sir, Michael Binyon’s (report, Dec 17) account of the Cuban Missile Crisis differs from Seymour Hersh’s carefully researched account in The Dark Side of Camelot. Hersh records that the placement of Soviet rockets on Cuba was in direct response to the US government’s placing of rockets along Turkey’s border with the Soviet Union. Nuclear war was averted by the US removal of their rockets from Turkey, after which the Soviet Union withdrew from Cuba.
David Lee
Kingston upon Thames

Sir, Michael Binyon is inaccurate in one key factor. JFK was urged by all his military advisers and many others to “Nuke Cuba”. However, JFK had the immense wisdom to ignore this advice and put a naval ring/blockade around the island. It was Khrushchev who backed down. To suggest that JFK’s actions were a “face saving act” is untrue.
Ian R Elliott

Whistable, Kent

Sir, Congratulations to President Obama for following the advice of Lord Palmerston (Prime Minister 1855-58 and 1859-65) in regard to America’s new relationship with Cuba. In 1848 Palmerston stated, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual.”
Peter Porter

Ashford, Kent

Sir, Peter Froggatt asks “Where is the next US-free holiday destination if Cuba falls?” (letter, Dec 19). How about North Korea? However, he may find that the attractions of choreographed massed parades pale beside Cuba’s music, tequila and cigars.
Kevin Cooper
Wargrave, Berks

Sir, Do I have to take down my Che Guevara poster now?
Peter Sergeant
Loughborough, Leics

Sir, After tramping the streets of Havana for four hours fruitlessly looking for a cup of coffee or indeed any other form of refreshment, my wife and I would have paid big money for anything McDonald’s had to offer. Ever since our trip we have advised friends intending to visit Cuba to wait until the Americans get in there and sort the place out.
Peter Hutchesson

London, W4

Sir, Reading “Concrete lessons that can be learnt from the Romans” (News, Dec 18) makes me wonder how “ivory tower” some universities are. In Europe, it has been common for many years to mix “fly ash” into cement. It reduces cost and improves some properties. Fly ash is the residue from coal-fired power stations. It is available by the millions of tonnes and is effectively free.

Decades ago, I worked on plans for burying nuclear waste in concrete. Our argument for its longevity was based on the nearby Roman wall. We developed a mix of Portland cement and fly ash that, once set, was chemically almost identical to Roman cement. This information was not secret and was published in detail in the 1980s.
Anthony J Foster, CEng
Peterlee, Co Durham

Sir, As Jim Hacker would say (letters, Dec 18) “I don’t want an inquiry, I want to know what happened”.
David Finnigan
Leatherhead, Surrey

Sir, Diz Williams is correct, the collective noun for geese in flight is a skein (letter, Dec 18).

However, if the geese are flying in a V formation, that is known as a wedge of geese.
Julian Rivers

Earls Barton, Northants

Sir, Psychology does indeed play a part in the consumption of brussel sprouts (“Science unlocks secret of perfect Christmas lunch”, Dec 19).

As a teacher in a girls’ school, I once explained to my 12-year-olds that one’s taste changed, so that a woman would like brussel sprouts but a girl would not. At the school Christmas lunch there was an unprecedented rush on brussel sprouts.
Carol Chambers-Workman

Horsham, W Sussex

Telegraph:

France is more euro-sceptic than Britain, survey shows

It has been suggested that Britain’s renegotiations in Brussels could trigger a referendum in France Photo: Reuters

SIR – Having ignored repeated warnings from European Union leaders that his plans to reform their pet project are unacceptable, David Cameron has now been given the plainest message yet that any attempt to revise the Lisbon Treaty will be vetoed by the French.

Since that would effectively block any meaningful change in our terms of EU membership, the Prime Minister appears to be left with only two options: to accept the status quo, or to join Ukip.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – One of the reasons given by France for its opposition to Britain’s renegotiation is that a change in the EU treaty “might trigger a referendum in France”.

Has French democracy been corrupted so much by the malign influence of the EU that a referendum, in which the country’s citizens can have their say, is seen by their political rulers as a threat?

So much for liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

SIR – As the general election approaches, the electorate’s choices are bleaker than I can recall in any I have voted in over the past 50 years. Nor has there been a general election in that period where the leader of the Conservative Party presents as big a danger to the country as the present one.

The gap between David Cameron’s rhetoric and his achievements is nowhere more apparent than in the recent Scottish referendum, where he agreed to exclude the nearly one million Scottish-born people living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland from having a say on the continuance of the Union.

Their exclusion has allowed the SNP to claim that Scotland is still on a path to independence, forcing a panicking Prime Minister to offer Scotland goodies that will only serve to whet its appetite for another referendum. It also raises a series of other constitutional questions which serve to distract the Government from dealing with the far more serious issue of Britain’s financial and economic plight.

As Mr Cameron has already demonstrated his incompetence in negotiating the terms on which the Scottish referendum was held, can anyone believe he is capable of negotiating any significant changes to our current relationship with the European Union?

Chris Davies
Salford, Lancashire

SIR – Our nation is facing an identity crisis. A large number of Scots hate the English. The Union is already broken and the wranglings about the West Lothian question stem from a refusal to accept that fact.

Thus far, this Scottish hatred has not been reciprocated in England, but the mood is shifting.

Alan Richardson
Sockbridge, Cumbria

Arbitrary Euro arrest

SIR – Torquil Dick-Erikson says that standards of evidence in many European criminal justice systems are different from our own – “mere suspicion, based on clues, is enough”.

Last summer my husband, a teacher of Ancient Greek and Latin, and I were exploring the southern Peloponnese in Greece. Because someone had seen our hire car in the vicinity of a fire in the countryside, a European Arrest Warrant was issued in my husband’s name, as he was listed as the driver of the car. We had nothing to do with the fire.

Three months later, when returning to Britain from a weekend in Paris, my husband was arrested at border control. He was charged with arson and attempting to destroy property.

He spent five weeks in police custody or under house arrest in France before being extradited to Greece, where he endured 30 hours in frightening conditions before being freed by the investigative judge. The case has not yet been closed and the costs for lawyers, expenses and loss of earnings are considerable.

The same could happen to any British traveller in Europe who happens to be near the scene of a crime or an accident. None of the safeguards being proposed by the Home Office can prevent this happening and Britain is powerless to intervene.

The European Arrest Warrant is being wrongly used as a first resort without indictable evidence and without any preliminary requests for information.

Philippa Hainsworth
Hampton, Middlesex

Overdressed bishops

The Rev Libby Lane is to become the UK’s first female bishop (Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph)

SIR – May I offer Libby Lane my warmest congratulations on her recent appointment.

Is it too much to hope that the presence of a woman in the House of Bishops might now lead to a 21st-century abandonment of all the fancy dress? Is anyone drawn to Christ by a bishop’s robe and mitre?

Jesus himself wore what ordinary people wore. In an increasingly secular age, what message do medieval robes convey to people in the street?

Daphne Clarke
Richmond, North Yorkshire

Stem is for girls, too

SIR – I was alarmed to learn that just one per cent of parents want their daughters to become engineers.

In Britain, 60 per cent of young people aspire to a career in business. But the jobs being created for tomorrow look different from today’s and will rely heavily on Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills.

In order for Britain to compete on the global stage, we need more young people to study Stem subjects. With so few girls considering a career in engineering in particular, we are missing out on half the potential workforce in this crucial sector, leaving Britain at risk of falling behind other leading economies.

Edwina Dunn
Chairman, Your Life campaign
London SW1

‘I’m on the train…’

SIR – It is good to read that mobile phone operators have agreed to end coverage blackspots in rural areas.

Before they do so, could they provide reliable coverage on the South West Trains line from Waterloo to Guildford? The signal always disappears south of Clapham Junction and south of Woking – hardly rural areas. With 150 trains in each direction on this line daily, there must be many commuters who would be pleased to be able to browse the Telegraph website without interruption.

Julian Gall
Godalming, Surrey

Missing ending

SIR – I disagree with Gerard O’Donovan’s critique of the open-ended conclusion of The Missing. Sadly, for some parents of missing children there is no closure. A happy ending would have trivialised the issue.

James Nesbitt, who played the boy’s father, captured perfectly the anguish and despair of parents in these circumstances.

Pauline Downes
Greatworth, Northamptonshire

Why a crazy (short) golf game just isn’t up to par

SIR – I cannot understand why anyone would want to introduce a shortened version of golf.

Barry Smith claims that other sports have been improved by condensing them into a shortened time span. Cricket introduced international 20/20 and rugby started sevens, but these abbreviated games are hardly the same as the real thing.

Maybe golf could introduce a magnificent putting green in a purpose-built stadium with all the instant thrills of the final stages of a game. Maybe snooker could be played with only three reds, just to get a move on.

If you want instant everything, as in cooking, then you lose the flavour. Sport is for players, not spectators.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Celebrating the many signs of the festive season

Santa claws (AFP/Getty images)

SIR – So far I have been encouraged to buy the following “seasonal” items: an Isa, a night in a French hotel, electrical spares and a ferry crossing. Is there anything that doesn’t count as Christmassy?

Martin Moyes
Holt, Wiltshire

SIR – Jeremy Price can display his e-greetings by copying them onto a memory stick and displaying them on a photo viewer. He can retain the sender’s details in a folder on his email software, all ready to respond to.

Paul Siddall
Leeds

SIR – Friends of my parents who went to live in America used to send us a Christmas card each year, along with a letter containing their news. One year a card from the wife alone arrived – her husband had died suddenly, one son had divorced, another’s business had gone bust and a grandchild was sick. To my father’s delight, the card bore the message: “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.”

Jan Gillies
Knaphill, Surrey

SIR – So far this season we have received two cards that contain not only the names of the senders, but also of their dogs. What is the correct way of responding?

Terry Gorman
Weaverham, Cheshire

SIR – Buying Christmas trees too big is a family tradition. My father used to buy a 16ft tree for a 14ft ceiling, which led to much sawing at the bottom and clipping at the top. It always fell over at least once, until the introduction of a hook in the ceiling and a fishing line. That’s progress.

William Mills
Coolham, West Sussex

A zoom with a view

SIR – On a recent visit to the city of Florence, I noticed street traders were selling “selfie sticks” – which can be attached to one’s smartphone – mainly to tourists from the Far East.

However, the tourists did not use them to take pictures of themselves, but to lift their camera phones high over the heads of the intervening throng in order to photograph the objects and locations their guides had mentioned.

It struck me as the ultimate madness to fly halfway around the world in order to take photographs of something you cannot see for yourself because too many taller people are in the way.

John Carter
Shortlands, Kent

Ungrateful Belgium

SIR – Sarah Rainey describes how the German invasion of Belgium prompted great sympathy from Britons. Surely this cannot be the same Belgium that refused to sell us ammunition during the Falklands war?

James B Sinclair
St Helier, Jersey

Pooling teeth

SIR – Gillian Roxburgh describes cleaning dentures as a student nurse. As a ward sister, my friend was horrified to find that, on instructing her student nurse to clean her patients’ dentures, the youngster went round the large ward and eventually presented my friend with a bowl full of false teeth.

Loris Goring
Brixham, Devon

Irish Times:

Sir, – It may come as news to Fintan O’Toole (“How gang of four runs the country”, Opinion & Analysis, December 16th) that myself and the Tánaiste disagree on certain matters. In fact, we have had many such exchanges in recent years on issues, she in the important capacity as Minister for Social Protection, the largest spending department in the State, and me in my role as Minister for Public Expenditure.

You would expect that to be the case. We also continue to work together as friends and colleagues for the recovery of our country and its economy from an unprecedented economic shock and in the name of our party, the Labour Party, of which both of us have been members all our adult lives.

Sometimes you can’t win. If Joan Burton and I agreed on every issue, all the time, we would be justly accused of being party automatons incapable of independent thought.

To see our respective views on the Economic Management Council (EMC) traduced by Fintan in justification of what is a highly unlikely conspiracy theory would be bizarre if it did not indicate how little one of Ireland’s most highly regarded commentators understands about cabinet government and Irish politics.

In my piece in the Sunday Business Post I set out a reasoned analysis on the rationale for the Economic Management Council, its origins in this Government and how it fits into the nexus of the interparty and Taoiseach/Finance relationships as they have evolved over time and responded to new circumstances, particularly those thrown up since 2011.

Fintan’s response, channelling Citizen Smith, is to complain that the EMC was set up when we should have devolved “power to the people”. Now I don’t know that that means, other than to say that Fintan now seems to have a problem with representative democracy in which people are elected to take decisions on behalf of the country.

The crisis facing the country at the time was considerable and I am satisfied that the EMC played some role in improving our national lot.

Fintan asks has the Cabinet taken different views on issues discussed at EMC, and the answer is yes. He objects to advisers attending meetings and when I point out that is not always the case, he has a problem with that too. He derides some of the most important officials of the State. His cited example of the EMC usurping Government decision-making in relation to an education budget proposal some years ago defeats his argument. This decision was taken collectively by the Government because, as he points out earlier in his piece, constitutionally decisions are not the sole preserve of any line Minister.

I conclude that Fintan is determined not to afford this Government any credit for its work over the last four years. He complains that he does not “rule” but if my memory serves me correctly he refused to stand for election when the country truly faced a crisis in 2011. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN HOWLIN,

Minister for Public

Expenditure and Reform,

Government Buildings,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Attempts to represent recent Broadcasting Compliance Committee rulings on two radio discussions about the same-sex marriage referendum as somehow unclear are misleading.

If broadcaster Will Faulkner is correct that there is some anxiety about these decisions among broadcasters (“Lack of clarity on broadcast treatment of same-sex marriage debate”, Opinion & Analysis, December 19th), then they ought to relax.

The law is simple and not new. It requires every broadcaster to ensure that “the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate, is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of his or her own views”.

Some broadcasters have been campaigning for years to change the law. The National Union of Journalists and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties should think twice before lending their weight to that campaign. The law protects the people whom they represent.

A combination of broadcasters who wanted to make more emotive programmes, and big business that correctly anticipated deregulated broadcasting as being more favourable to its interests, campaigned successfully to have the US abandon its “fairness doctrine”. Fox News is one outcome. Shock-jocks another.

The Broadcasting Compliance Committee, of which I am a member, applies a legal requirement that is more than 50 years old in both Ireland and Britain.

It means, for example, that a general election debate will not consist entirely of Fine Gael supporters.

Una Mullally (“Who does the BAI ruling on marriage equality serve?”, Opinion & Analysis, December 8th) thinks it “unfair” for a gay journalist to have to sit in a studio with someone who opposes gay marriage. On the contrary, when the forthcoming referendum is being discussed it would be unfair if opponents of gay marriage were given unopposed access to the airwaves.

The decisions of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, all available online, show that we have not “zoomed in on” the gay marriage referendum, as Una claims. A small proportion of all complaints from the public relate to it, and most of those have been rejected (no doubt because most professional broadcasters are well aware of what is required).

Down the years all political parties have reasserted their support for fairness in broadcasting. The alternative is, presumably, unfairness. – Yours, etc,

Prof COLUM KENNY,

School of Communications,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – Rob Wright’s evidence (“Department gave ‘very little written advice’ at height of crash to the banking inquiry”, December 18th) suggests two things – there was a Civil Service phobia about freedom of information, and a high degree of incompetence at higher levels of the Civil Service (especially in the Department of Finance).

Is it unreasonable of us to expect our Civil Service to be as professional as that of Canada or Australia?

Can’t they just write it down, or do they have something to hide? – Yours, etc,

RONAN BRADY,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – I would like to thank the Finnish government bank official Peter Nyberg for summing up the banking disaster in Ireland (“Peter Nyberg tells banking inquiry soft landing was ‘quite unlikely’”, December 18th). He has saved the Irish taxpayer a fortune.

Could the committee now please disband, claim their expenses and get back to helping us recover instead of doing Perry Mason impressions? – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL ROONEY,

Knocknacarra,

Galway.

Sir, – The temperate letter from former senator Dr Mary Henry (December 19th) reminds us all of the folly of making complex decisions in turbulent political times. And those were extremely turbulent years – 1981-82 – when we had three elections in two years. The question of abortion unfortunately became a political football and led to the folly of a majority of the Dáil endorsing wording which was put forward by Fianna Fáil. The then attorney general Peter Sutherland solemnly advised that the wording was dangerously ambiguous. Therefore, the government then put forward its own wording, “Nothing in this Constitution shall be invoked to invalidate or to deprive of force or effect any provision of the law on the grounds that it prohibits abortion”. This was defeated in the Dáil.

Those of us in government campaigning against the Fianna Fail wording met great hostility and well-organised hate-mail campaigns. However, the referendum was carried with a turnout of 50 per cent and a two-to-one majority.

In her letter, Dr Henry has detailed the sad and sorry consequences for Irish women. Some 31 years later, I believe the eighth amendment would be deleted from the Constitution if a referendum were held. But we know that referendums in Ireland, for a variety of reasons, are unpredictable. And even more so if held in the heat of election campaigns. Therefore, surely the responsible way forward is for all the parties to set out exactly where they stand. If – as I suspect – all of the main political groups acknowledge that the eighth amendment should be deleted, it would not be a political flashpoint and could be dealt with calmly – after the next election. – Yours, etc,

GEMMA HUSSEY,

Dublin 4 .

Sir, – The real obstacle to the creation in Ireland of long-distance walking and cycling trails along the continental model lies in the fact that most of our national and local politicians have scant interest in either activity. At best, they are disinterested observers. At worst, they regard the outdoors as a branch of hippiedom. They could not possibly have any understanding or appreciation of the economic benefits that flow to the providers of such trails and the advantages to the physical and mental health of the users. – Yours, etc,

JUSTIN MacCARTHY,

Sandymount,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – As the TD who brought the Access to the Countryside Bill to the floor of Dáil Éireann in June 2013, I write to support the remarks in your editorial (December 16th).

You are absolutely correct to say we need much better access to the countryside for walkers. We get at least 750,000 tourists each year who want to walk in our beautiful countryside. They, and Irish walkers, are far too restricted in terms of where they can walk.

Some progress on a voluntary basis has been made but we need some legislation to progress the situation so that Ireland can compete with the likes of Scotland and Wales.

In addition to being good for people’s health, walking trails actually generate considerable income for the local economy. The Fife Coastal Path in Scotland generates something like £28 million annually with 500-600 jobs created.

In the new year, I will put as much pressure as I can on the Oireachtas environment committee to progress my legislation. Any support I get from the wider public on this issue would be helpful. – Yours, etc,

ROBERT DOWDS, TD

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I found Sean McCann’s (December 19th) opening line “Obviously we need a proper network of hiking trails on publicly owned land’’ a bit ironic.

He decries the perceived suburbanite expectation that farm land should be open to access by ramblers.

At the same time he makes no reference to the fact that frequently the most vociferous opponents of opening up as walkways public assets such as redundant railway lines are the people who own land abutting them.

Generally these people are farmers who can’t seem to differentiate between their own land and public land adjoining their property.

This failure to differentiate has on occasions extended to squatting on public property and suing for adverse possession. – Yours, etc,

TADHG Ó FOGHLU,

Vincentia,

Australia.

Sir, – It is clear from all the justifiable outrage generated by the Áras Attracta scandal that the main issue in relation to monitoring of services for the most vulnerable people receiving care is one of oversight.

Good management has an important role, as has the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), but the most important way to ensure that good standards of care are maintained is objective monitoring by advocates. These can be voluntary or paid but must be independent of the service provider and user.

This would ensure that independent individuals are overseeing the care provided and families would feel free to voice concerns to their relative’s advocate without the worry that their loved one might suffer as a result.

This level of oversight could possibly be provided by the HSE’s National Advocacy Unit, if this were extended to all service areas, particularly those used by vulnerable people.

Another way is to open all these service areas to Garda-vetted volunteers, who would provide much-needed social interaction and stimulation, while at the same time observing the standard of care provided by staff.

The model that comes to mind is one that is used in the Royal Hospital, in Donnybrook, Dublin. This hospital has over 100 volunteers that are coordinated by a designated member of staff.

As one of these volunteers, I have observed very good standards of care in the Royal, but would still feel free to comment or intervene if I saw a situation where this was not the case. – Yours, etc,

MAUREEN FALLON,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Many years ago I received a Christmas card from my local TD, a man who would in due course become a government minister. My immediate reaction on receiving it was, why not send one to him? So I sent one. Within a week I received no fewer than four more identical cards, two of them signed by the TD himself, a third with his wife’s name beside his, and the fourth with no signature, presumably sent by his secretary. And so I finished up with five. And then I gave up. – Yours, etc,

CECIL MILLS,

Monkstown,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The amount of personal data demanded by the National Prize Bonds Company in its new application form for gift prize bonds is amazing – including the dreaded PPS number. This distinctly unfestive form has all the characteristics of a mini-CAB investigation. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK HASTINGS,

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

The upsetting images from Aras Attracta - such as Mary Maloney being force-fed - showed much work still needs to be done on patients' rights.
The upsetting images from Aras Attracta – such as Mary Maloney being force-fed – showed much work still needs to be done on patients’ rights.

I was saddened but not surprised at the alleged abusive behaviour of some of the carers in Bungalow 3 at Aras Attracta.

I am, however, shocked at the failure of commentators and indeed psychologists to understand the dynamic behind abuse in the wider area.

Many have proposed complex reasons for the ill-treatment of vulnerable people.

But the reason for abuse, in general, whether in the home or in organisations, is simple. The abusive personality is typically fuelled by an instinct for power and control.

Power itself does not corrupt, but abusive or narcissistic people strive for power, and exert it over others physically, verbally, psychologically, financially or sexually.

The controlling tendency is wired in the brain from about the age of 13 onwards, and bullies will never change without significant professional help, which only a minority seek because they have an inbuilt sense of entitlement, black and white thinking, and a blaming mind set, to name but a few characteristics.

Despite the urge to control and hurt they could, however, choose not to do so.

Non-abusive people will never hurt another person, even if they are in bad cultures, but unfortunately in environments of power they may tend to stand back and not interfere, because of the fear of what might happen to them. There is plenty of evidence of this. They may become involved in abusive behaviour in authoritarian states such as Nazi Germany, to save their own lives, but in nursing and care homes this is not relevant.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that 25pc to 30pc of people are controlling and the abuse they perpetrate is done in secret.

To solve this problem you need dedicated non-abusive supervisors, constantly on the alert to stamp out abuse.

Unfortunately abusive people are extremely charming and can easily fool interviewers, so that some bosses are bullies who make life miserable for others.

Dr Jim O’ Shea, Thurles, Co Tipperary

 

Spirit of the Christmas Truce

This year the Great War was publicly remembered across the world with very respectful solemnity. This was a war that displayed a capacity to deal out death and destruction with a ferocity and efficiency that had never been seen before on the face of the earth up to that time.

However, on the first Christmas Eve of the war, amid the horror and madness of the trenches, something amazing happened. Bitter enemies who had spent months trying to kill each other were touched by something deep within their being. They laid down their arms, walked into No Man’s Land, wished each other “Happy Christmas” and acknowledged the sacredness of that night by jointly singing ‘Stille Nacht/Silent Night’.

My wish this Christmas is that special something might also move the President and the Taoiseach to replicate that gesture and pay homage to the fallen by wishing the citizens of our country “Happy Christmas” also.

If for some reason of political correctness known to themselves and/or their advisers they decide not to do this, could I respectfully suggest they say nothing at all. Instead could I suggest that they keep their greetings and felicitations and utter them on New Year’s Day, which is World Peace Day. In that way no person or group could be possibly offended, as that day would be far more appropriate and inclusive for people of all cultures and religions, and none.

Aidan Coburn, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow

 

Nationalism is normal

Kate Casey (Irish Independent, November 29) defines nations as merely “imagined communities” and nationalism as “negative”. Instead, she backs “only big units”, e.g. the EU, with an “ideology of liberty”. Yet liberty is the lifeblood of democratic self-determination and national identity. Hence nationalism remains natural and normal.

Alas, the views your correspondent advances reflect historical revisionism and imperialism. Did she never hear of the United Irishmen inspired by the universal ideals of “liberty, equality and fraternity”? In Irish history, “Wolfe Tone is the name and Wolfe Tone is the man”.

Anthony Barnwell, Dublin 9

 

Pearse deceived his own men

With reference to Rory O’ Callaghan (Letters, Irish Independent December 15), there were two general elections held in 1910 and Padraig Pearse did not contest either one.

In fact, he was not loyal to his leader Eoin MacNeill – he said that MacNeill had resigned and appointed himself to be head of the army and President of the Republic as well. The people showed their disapproval of the Rising in their reaction.

As regards Britain being imperialist after World War I, it gave away more territory than the whole of Europe in the “Statute of Westminster 1931”. Britain gave effective independence to its Dominions: Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and the Irish Free State. It was a change from the love of power as in the Empire to the power of love freely given within the Commonwealth. World War I was fought by the Allies, in the words of US President Woodrow Wilson, to make the world a safe place for democracy and to defend human rights.

Pearse deceived his own followers, the ‘Castle Document’ was a forgery, Eoin MacNeill did not resign and he called off the Rising. Pearse told his followers that the Germans had landed and it was only a matter of holding Dublin until they arrived.

Kate Casey, Barrington Street, Limerick

 

Out for the Count

‘Count Curly Wee’ in the Irish Independent must be the longest running feature of any daily newspaper. My father, a man of the land who loved wild life and was an avid reader, never missed out on ‘Curly Wee and Gussie Goose’. I can still recall, as a child, that wry smile on his face as he flicked from the cartoon to the racing page.

I believe my grandfather was also an ardent follower of the feature. Now I have become the third generation of my family to become a fan of the cartoon. Over the past two years, I haven’t gone a day without reading ‘Count Curly’.

The classy, clear pictures and free-flowing descriptive verse is hard to resist. Count Curly, the pig, is a proper gentleman and a true Samaritan to all in animal, fur and feather-land – regardless their predicament or needs. What a pity the series could not continue through the weekend – it would be sure to boost circulation of the ‘Sunday Independent’.

Generally a newspaper has a lot of dry and depressing stuff. Turn to the ‘Count Curly Wee’ gem on page 52 of Irish Independent and in two minutes you will be cracking that smile a day that makes the newspaper well worth its cost.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

 

A sad week for world’s children

What a sad week it was for the children of the world. The atrocity in Pakistan was heartbreaking and to learn now of the deaths of eight children in Australia, especially at this time of the year, seems all the more incomprehensible. No doubt they are all at peace,

All of us must understand that we have a duty to cherish and protect the little ones.

But we must not forget the bigger ones too whose frailties and weakness go unnoticed in the whirl of every day. We all need minding – if Christmas means anything around the world, behind all the tinsel and fairy-lights, the message has to be that we could do a better job of it.

M O’Brien, Sandycove, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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