Sweeping

28 January 2015 Sweeping

A quiet day I sweep the drive and trip the ivy.

Obituary:

28 January 2015 Sweeping

A quiet day I sweep the drive and trip the ivy.

Obituary:

Jean Lindenmann, scientist who co-discovered interferon

Jean Lindenmann

Jean Lindenmann, who has died aged 90, was a Swiss scientist who, with a British colleague, discovered interferon, a family of proteins which are released when animal cells are attacked by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, or tumour cells, and which help protect other cells from infection.

Synthesised forms of interferon are now widely used to treat such diseases as hepatitis (B and C), Aids-related Kaposi’s sarcoma and malignant melanoma.

Lindenmann and his colleague Alick Isaacs made their discovery in 1957 at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, north London, while researching how cells develop an ability to fight off viral infection.

When they injected chick embryo cells with an influenza virus, they found that the embryos produced minute amounts of a protein that destroyed the invading virus and increased resistance to other viral infections. They named the protein interferon, because it interfered with viral infection of a cell.

Researchers around the world soon jumped on the bandwagon, revealing an entire family of interferons produced by cells of numerous vertebrate species, including human beings, in response to infection.

It was discovered that, once produced, the interferons migrate to other parts of the body, binding to specific receptors on the surface of healthy cells, where they “orchestrate” a series of events that interfere with viral reproduction, including alerting nearby cells that they are in danger of being attacked.

At first interferon was hailed as a wonder drug – a major breakthrough in the treatment of viral infections and potentially cancer – but the difficulty and expense of its production at the time discouraged further research. For one thing, the various forms of interferon were found to be species-specific, which meant, for example, that mouse or chick interferon would not work in humans. Human cells were found to produce very little interferon. The race to develop interferon as a therapeutic drug was nearly abandoned, an article in the journal Nature talking of the “Rise and Stall of Interferon”.

It was only from 1980, when ways were found to manufacture it economically, that its value was recognised as a weapon against cancer and some viral diseases. Now it is the standard treatment for conditions as varied as hepatitis, hairy cell leukaemia, genital herpes and multiple sclerosis.

Jean Lindemann was born on September 18 1924 to Swiss parents in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), and brought up in Zurich. After taking a degree in Medicine at the University of Zurich he stayed on to do postgraduate research at the university’s Institute of Hygiene and won a fellowship from the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences to do postdoctoral research at Mill Hill.

After a year in Britain, Lindenmann returned to Switzerland to teach at the Institute of Hygiene, where he decided not to pursue the logical next step in interferon research — its purification and molecular analysis. He thought that would best be carried out by biochemists.

But interferon would not leave him alone. In the late 1950s he found a unique strain of inbred laboratory mice that were resistant to mouse influenza; he showed that this resistance was due to a specific gene, unique to the mice, which acted seemingly independently of interferon. However, further research revealed that, even though the gene was able to suppress the replication of the virus, it had to be activated by interferon.

Jean Lindenmann’s wife, Ellen, predeceased him, and he is survived by their two sons.

Jean Lindenmann, born September 18 1924, died January 15 2015

 Guardian:

Independent:

 

Times:

The Times columnist Matt Ridley thinks we should kill the rats and move the bats. Is he right?

Sir, Matt Ridley highlights the clash between conservation of nature and conservation of art (“It’s common sense: kill the rats, move the bats”, Opinion, Jan 26). Britain is fortunate in having much religious and commemorative art preserved in the settings for which it was designed. The memorials by Nicholas Stone in the V&A do not have the same impact as his great monuments in churches such as Redgrave in Suffolk. Painted screens in churches constitute a greater body of native medieval painting than may be boasted by all museums put together. The Cassey brass at Deerhurst (Gloucestershire), with its dog Terri (now severely damaged by bat urine) is not only distinguished art but puts us close to the emotional life of a couple who lived 600 years ago.

We undervalue British art, particularly sculpture, because it is not presented to us in museums, but where it has always been and was intended to be, freely available in churches countrywide. It is the business of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to follow the Treaty of Rome’s provisions for the safeguarding of cultural heritage, and protect this rich national legacy. Meanwhile Natural England feels free to ignore the Treaty and promote nature conservation policies that actively destroy this art.

Dr JL Wilson
President, Church Monuments Society

Sir, Our ancient churches are not animal sanctuaries. Bat droppings are doing incalculable harm to our great legacy of artworks, including the finest collection of funerary monuments and memorials in the world. During my many visits to English parish churches to study funerary art, I have been appalled to see and smell bat excreta in quantities that not only constitute an obvious danger to health but cause staining and erosion of materials, notably alabaster, a beautiful stone used for funerary effigies.

Professor James Stevens Curl
Holywood, Co Down

Sir, Matt Ridley’s article brings some common sense into the conservation debate, and highlights the work to eradicate rats from South Georgia. Rats were introduced inadvertently to South Georgia by sealers and whalers over the course of 200 years. The result has been the decimation of birds breeding on this spectacular 100-mile-long sub-Antarctic island. Scientists estimate that with rats eradicated the bird population will increase by up to 100 million, avoiding the possible extinction of at least one endemic species, and returning South Georgia to its status of one of the most important seabird sanctuaries in the world.

The £7.5 million project is being carried out by the South Georgia Heritage Trust. We are already witnessing the results, with endemic species seen to be rearing young in places where they have not nested in living memory. With continuing support from our generous donors, South Georgia should be rat-free by the middle of this year.

Howard Pearce
South Georgia Heritage Trust

Sir, As a zoologist, Matt Ridley should know why bats roost in churches and houses. They like contact with wood because it doesn’t conduct away their body heat. They roosted originally in rot holes and woodpecker holes in the ancient woodland which covered much of Europe, but we have cut that down to build, inter alia, churches and houses. It is hardly surprising that the bats have followed the wood.

Restoration of their natural habitat would be “true conservation”.

Paul Racey
Regius Professor of Natural History (Emeritus), University of Aberdeen

Sir, I worked for some time as a quantity surveyor on the stabilisation of Combe Down Stone Mines, Bath, which cost £140 million. More than £1 million of this sum was spent on bespoke galleries and roosts for greater and lesser horseshoe bats, pipistrelle bats and vesper bats. One day, the bats upped and off en masse.

Money well spent?

Robert Chalke
Bruton, Somerset

Sir, Matt Ridley is wrong to say that “the demise of the dodo on Mauritius was actually caused by the introduction of alien species . . . rather than humans themselves”. Although introduced alien species did contribute to the dodo’s extinction, visiting seamen played a major role, as the large flightless birds — the size of a swan — provided an irresistible source of fresh food.

Dr Sir Christopher Lever, Bt
Winkfield, Berk

So the Green party would abolish the monarchy, yet admires Sweden as a ‘model’. Eh?

Sir, Natalie Bennett (Saturday interview, Jan 24) is reported as saying that the Green party would abolish the monarchy, with room being found for the Queen in one of the many new council houses that will be built. She is further said to have described the Scandinavian countries as her “model”. Of course, all three — Denmark, Norway and Sweden — are monarchies, and pretty secure ones at that.

Stanley Martin

London SE22

Just what is the link between drinking tea or coffee and trips to the lavatory?

Sir, Meg Wilkes’s letter on tea and diuresis (Jan 23) is misleading. Tea per se is not a diuretic. Diuresis is generally triggered when roughly 400mg of caffeine is consumed in one sitting. That would mean that Ms Wilkes would need to have consumed approximately eight cups of tea, or four cups of coffee, in one go.

William Gorman

Executive chairman, UK Tea & Infusions Association

Nicola Sturgeon is not ‘Scotland’s Barry Manilow’. But she does look like a 1970s pop star…

Sir, Hugo Rifkind’s comment (Jan 24) that Nicola Sturgeon has hair like Barry Manilow is outrageous.

Surely he is old enough to realise that Ms Sturgeon is a dead ringer for at least one of the Bay City Rollers?

Paul Kilvington

York

In case you forgot, we’ve never had it so good, as Melanie Reid says. And here is why…

Sir, Melanie Reid (Notebook, Jan 26) is right to remind us of very real improvements in basic living conditions. On a less serious level our lives have also changed a great deal. Some of the things that have transformed my life since I was a child (I’m now 70) are: adhesive tape (what an improvement on those tiresome fiddly pieces of string when doing up parcels); hair conditioner — it’s transformed haircare for countless women (and men?); more trains (from one to four an hour all through the day on our line — I don’t even bother with a timetable).

Seona Ford

Witham, Essex

 


 

Telegraph:

Syriza Party leader Alexis Tsipras speaks to supporters during a main pre election party rally on June 14, 2012 in Athens, Greece

Alexis Tsipras, head of anti-bailout party Syriza, speaks to supporters during a main pre election party rally in Athens, Greece

SIR – Your leading article “Last gasp for the one-size-fits-all euro” is right. Quantitative easing will not solve the fatal weaknesses at the heart of the euro. To reach economic equilibrium with the core of the eurozone, while sharing its currency, the national economies of its Southern periphery will need to accept the kind of sustained deflationary reduction in their standard of living that cannot be delivered in modern democracies.

They will not do it, as the Greeks have now said they will not. Any reduction in the pressures on Greece, Spain and Portugal permitted by the European Central Bank will prove temporary.

The eurozone, as now configured, is doomed. The will of the people will kill it. Promises by the European Central Bank “to do whatever it takes” to save the euro were cynical – not least because few European central bankers feel a fraction of the pain they prescribe for the periphery.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

SIR – The financial troubles of Greece stem from its huge black economy, massive tax evasion and a retirement age for public-sector workers that it cannot afford. The bail-outs were meant to help it restructure its economy to deal with these problems.

Now Greece has voted to stop repaying its loans after having spent the money. Will the EU pursue the Greeks with the vigour that it does Amazon or Starbucks for tax avoidance or Microsoft for anti-competitiveness?

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Beware Greeks bearing ballot papers.

Allan Mercado
Newbury, Berkshire

SIR – Greece has voted to end the austerity that its people have described as a “national humiliation”.

To beggar a country so that a bureaucratic elite can force through its federalist ambitions is surely inhuman, especially when in their eagerness to establish power this (unelected) elite chose to overlook the highly questionable suitability of Greece to enter into economic and monetary union in the first place.

Democracy has often proved an inconvenience to those holding power in the EU, who evidently need reminding that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. Mikhail Gorbachev drew a parallel from history when he described the EU as the “Soviet Union of Western Europe.”

David Rammell
Everton, Hampshire

SIR – Hurrah for the Greeks! They invented democracy. Let us now see whether they can destroy the euro and bring hope back to a broken Europe.

Andrew Bremer
London SE21

SIR – The pips have squeaked.

Adam Secretan
Lewes, East Sussex

Vets as dogsbodies

(Getty)

SIR – For many years most veterinary surgeons in general practice have been registered as Local Veterinary Inspectors (LVI) with the government so that they can undertake minor administrative chores – such as tuberculosis testing, signing pet passports and inspecting imported animals – on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This saves the department having to employ its own staff to do fairly simple jobs. With the exception of tuberculin testing, the department does not pay practising vets to do this work, and veterinary surgeons are expected to invoice the client.

From this year on, the department has decided that LVIs will have to pay a registration fee and undergo training at their own expense. Only one provider has been chosen to offer this training, so there will be no element of choice either.

It is a cheek to charge us, the vets, to do government work.

Russ King
London N11

Death and taxes

SIR – For anyone who pays inheritance tax, a pre-paid funeral plan is not a good idea at all.

All costs associated with a funeral can be offset against the inheritance tax liability. The costs of an advance-purchase funeral plan cannot.

Richard Childs
Eagle, Lincolnshire

Green Party views

SIR – The views expressed by Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party (“We would scrap Army and let all immigrants stay, say Greens”) – particularly those relating to her party’s fiscal policy, terrorism and scrapping the Army – will need to be explained in much greater detail by the time we get to the leaders’ debates. No wonder David Cameron wanted the Greens to take part; their views make him seem remarkably sensible.

Andrew Edwards
London SE15

Prescription errors

SIR – I was sorry to read David Nunn’s wish to see no further digitisation in the NHS. With regard to electronic prescribing, he writes that he will no longer be able to pick up a drug chart at the end of a patient’s bed. He will instead have to look at a computer at the end of a patient’s bed.

On a recent inspection at a trust neither he nor I work at, I found more than 20 prescribing errors in a single bay of five patients on one ward. Nationally the error rate in prescribing is around 10 per cent, and this is true for both consultants and junior doctors. The direct cost of this is over £750 million a year. More importantly, these errors harm those we are meant to be helping. Electronic prescribing is one of a number of mechanisms by which this harm can be mitigated.

Electronic systems, of which electronic prescribing is one, are already improving patient care markedly. Electronic discharge summaries give GPs information when they need it, so that they can assume effective care for patients on discharge. The old paper-based systems were lamentable, arriving weeks later and bearing inaccurate and incomplete information.

Electronic patient-tracking systems, increasingly routine in most acute hospitals, alert doctors to any patient who is deteriorating. Such systems have reduced the number of in-house cardiac arrests by more than 50 per cent.

Electronic systems are not the land of milk and honey, but they are important in delivering health care efficiently and safely.

David Beattie FRCS
Chichester, West Sussex

The waste of NHS drugs that are never used

SIR – As a pharmacist I campaigned for many years to limit prescribing quantities to 28 days, with packaging to suit. Massive quantities of unusable drugs – resulting from incomplete courses, inappropriate or excessive prescribing or deceased patients – are destroyed through pharmacies.

Philip Horton’s case is a classic example of this waste. Why was over £3,000 worth of drugs prescribed in the first place? It is extremely dangerous to suggest any returned drugs should be re-allocated as storage conditions, tampering or infection present genuine risks.

However, pharmaceutical manufacturers are content to allow wastage to boost their profits and make little attempt to standardise packaging or encourage sensible and economic prescribing.

Gerald Fox
Whipsnade, Bedfordshire

SIR – While working in the community as a nurse in the Nineties, I tried to get hospital pharmacies to take back drugs – such as morphine and some of the costly new antivirals – but to no avail. I was advised to crack open the vials of morphine and flush the contents down the lavatory.

Shortly before my husband died, six years ago, a new batch of prescription drugs and liquid feeds was delivered. I took the whole lot back to the local chemist within hours, but I was told they could only accept them to be destroyed.

I understand that some drugs may be affected by incorrect storage, but the present practice is profligate to say the least. Wastage is one of the biggest drains on the NHS and should be addressed as a priority.

June Munro
Achandunie, Ross-shire

The effect of manorial rights on property values

SIR – Manorial rights have been around for hundreds of years. All that has changed is that the Land Registration Act 2002 required the owner of such rights to register them or lose them. The owner of manorial rights can only enter someone’s land to exercise mineral or sporting rights with the owner’s consent. It can therefore be seen as a consensual process.

The report by the Justice Committee states: “Some of the evidence received also pointed to concerns regarding the impact of manorial rights claims on future property sales and securing loans. However, in the majority of cases this does not appear to have happened in practice.”

If the Land Registry improved its information on the nature of these rights there would be no concerns of this nature.

Henry Robinson
President, Country Land and Business Association
London SW1

Polite put-down

SIR – How to judge good breeding? Guests who leave the lid up are rarely invited back.

James Edmondson
Ilchester, Somerset

Eye, eye, Sir

SIR – As a young lieutenant serving in HMS Drake, I had an eye test which revealed that I needed a corrective lens for one eye. “Perhaps I should have a monocle,” I suggested.

The Surgeon Commander conducting the test snorted in derision: “Monocles are for commanders and above only.” By the time I became a commander it didn’t seem such a good idea.

Graham Creedy
Stamford, Lincolnshire

Hoaxes at No 10

(Andrew Parsons)

SIR – I am not sure which is more worrying: that a hoaxer managed to get through to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street by claiming to be the director of GCHQ, or that a hoaxer got in to 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister by claiming to be a Conservative.

Mark Hudson
Smarden, Kent

SIR – The problem of potential security breaches by hoax callers is very easily sorted out.

Install an identical phone system to the ones used by HM Revenue & Customs and by banks. Pranksters and terrorists will soon tire of waiting.

John Buggins
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

Right-hand woman

SIR – Might it be possible for manufacturers of rubber gloves to sell them separately, rather than as pairs?

I find my right-hand glove wears out quickly and I am left with loads of spare left-hand gloves. There must be people who are in the same – but opposite – situation.

Patricia Ford
Tamworth, Staffordshire

 

 

Globe and Mail:

ANDRÉ PICARD

Provinces, doctors need to defuse compensation

Irish Times:

Sir, – In Ireland in 2012 there were 72,225 births and 49 domestic adoption orders granted, 33 of which were to family members and 16 to non-family. Perhaps we can now get back to discussing the referendum on same-sex marriage. – Yours, etc,

JUSTIN McALEESE,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – The proposed amendment tells us that marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex. It suggests that we can change the meaning of marriage. The defining element of the distinction between a male and a female is to be no longer required.

Human nature finds expression in either male or female. Marriage – as the intimate union of man and woman – is the unique expression and embodiment of the wholeness of human nature and is therefore given a distinct status in our Constitution in accordance with this reality. Neither man, nor woman, fully captures what it is to be human but in their union, including a sexual union, man and woman capture something about the wholeness and integrity of human nature in its entirety.

The pressure for same-sex marriage is self-defeating. In seeking equality with something unlike yourself, by changing it in order to join it, the thing that you join is no longer what you were trying to join in the first place.

It is not necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to give constitutional recognition to same-sex unions. A different referendum in this country could give constitutional protection to civil partnerships while preserving the distinction between marriage and these partnerships. This would give constitutional recognition to same-sex unions but not in a way which obliterates the true meaning of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Can we not find a group of people with different views on this issue who could formulate a new recognition for same-sex unions in our Constitution which is really dignified, graceful and imaginative while retaining the truthful meaning of marriage as between a man and a woman? This would honour the dignity of difference and lead to the most truthful resolution of this question. The first step, however, is to vote No in this forthcoming referendum. – Yours, etc

PATRICK TREACY SC,

Dr RIK

VAN NIEUWENHOVE,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – In the interests of balance, not to mention the sanity of the surprisingly large portion of us for whom same-sex marriage is neither the most important human-rights issue facing mankind nor the end of family life as we have known it, column inches and broadcast minutes devoted to the subject should be the same as those dedicated to the other referendum taking place on the same day. – Yours, etc,

DAVE SLATER,

Kilkea, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Thank God for the daily “pause” for the Angelus on RTÉ. It’s not that I’m a devout Catholic but that particular minute of peace seems to be the only programme that does not feature a member of the Iona Institute. – Yours, etc,

PAT BURKE WALSH,

Ballymoney,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – Victoria Mullen (January 24th) puts forward a critical view of the Gender Recognition Bill, which the Tánaiste Joan Burton initiated through the Oireachtas last week.

In fact, the legislation is a very significant milestone in progressing the civil rights of transgender people.

The legislation ensures that persons who receive a gender recognition certificate will be officially legally recognised by the State as being of the preferred gender from that day forward. They will be recognised in the preferred gender for all purposes, including dealings with the State, public bodies, and civil and commercial society. They will be entitled to marry a person of the opposite gender or enter a civil partnership with a person of the same gender, and will be entitled, where relevant, to a new birth certificate that shows the preferred gender and new names (if names are also changed).

The application process for gender recognition certificate is fair and reasonable. It requires a statutory declaration by the applicant that they intend to live permanently in the new gender, and validation by the primary treating physician that the person has transitioned or is transitioning to the preferred gender.

The process will not require details of care including medical history or confirmation of a diagnosis, nor will the person have to confirm he or she has been living in their preferred gender for a specific period of time prior to their application. This is a much more progressive, less onerous and less invasive approach than is the case in many other countries.

As Ms Mullen notes, the Bill requires that an applicant for gender recognition be single. This is pending the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage due to take place in May 2015. While this is not ideal, the existing constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage is a blockage in that respect. This is a reality which your columnist, Una Mullally, also fails to take into account (“Trans rights are only basic human rights after all”, Opinion & Analysis, January 26th).

If the outcome of the referendum is that same-sex marriages will be constitutionally permissible, then it will be possible to revisit this aspect of the legislation. The Government will be campaigning vigorously for marriage equality and if the referendum is passed, the Tánaiste’s firm intention would be to return swiftly to this aspect of the legislation. – Yours, etc,

PAUL O’BRIEN,

Deputy Government

Press Secretary,

Government Buildings,

Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Further to Diarmaid Ferriter’s article (“Kenny should confront State-funded schools insisting on baptism certificates”, Opinion & Analysis, January 25th), this year, 2015, marks the eighth centenary of the Magna Carta and its limit on sovereign power. It ends in paragraph 63 with a royal oath that “the English Church shall be free and enjoy her rights in their integrity and her liberties untouched”.

This demand attends the fact that any political system presumes a civil society that pre-exists the state; that the life of the civic community is fed by mediating institutions like the family, churches, and fraternal organisations. Democracy is built on two practical pillars that emerge from these institutions – co-operation and conflict. Cooperation satisfies a natural hunger for solidarity that makes all community possible. Conflict is necessary because people have competing visions of what’s right and true.

Thomas Davis’s vision, as recounted by Prof Ferriter, would whittle away the mediating institutions and replace them with an uncompromising state monopoly in terms of values and beliefs about human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. Religious faith is one of the necessary limits to this state power.

Prof Ferriter doesn’t mention the Catholic Church’s desirable agreement to transfer trusteeship of some schools to non-Catholic bodies. But planned excessive state restrictions on the educational content and approach of the remaining Catholic schools seeks to render them playthings of secular policy.

The restrictions also inhibit Prof Ferriter’s principle of people being able to live what they believe thus ushering in an undemocratic and degraded notion of liberty. – Yours, etc,

NEIL BRAY,

Cappamore

Co Limerick.

Sir, – It is quite dextrous of Diarmaid Ferriter to discuss the issue of parental choice while ignoring the Forum on Pluralism and Patronage in Irish Education. This official body has uncovered no significant evidence that parents are demanding any change in patronage.

Facts and figures are absent when Prof Ferriter refers to “pragmatic baptisms” as an issue. It is simply hearsay. By comparison, the CSO reports that in 2011, 3,831,187 people identified themselves as Catholics in Ireland.

It is richly ironic to see a historian discussing Archbishop Paul Cullen without any reference to the 19th-century context of the penal laws or the Famine. Prof Ferriter suggests that Cullen was motivated by some narrow-minded sectarianism. Instead, he should acknowledge the churchman’s tireless defence of his flock’s basic right to live out their faith, as part of an inclusive nation, of course. – Yours, etc,

DAVID BURKE,

Navan,

Co Meath.

Sir, – Further to John Kelly’s letter (January 27th), the Rules for National Schools and the infamous “Rule 68” insist that religion is the “most important” element of schooling. The department’s own rules require that a large portion of the curriculum is given to religion, almost as much as maths or English and twice as much as PE. I have experience of such rules being imposed.

I appreciate that Mr Kelly does not ask for baptismal certificates on admission. Does his school’s admission form ask what religion the parents are? And does he consider that his ethos and admissions policy may influence their answer?

There are many pragmatic principals and teachers ignoring or working around these rules but that does not make them right. – Yours, etc,

ANDREW DOYLE,

Bandon, Co Cork.

Sir, – My three children attend national school in Leixlip. When enrolling them for school, I was asked for a birth certificate, PPS number and a utility bill. Later, I chose to present my children for first communion preparation and was, at that time, asked for a baptism certificate. Either my experience was highly irregular, or Diarmaid Ferriter’s sweeping observations of State-funded schools insisting on baptism certificates are a bit far-fetched. – Yours, etc,

GRAINNE HYNES,

Leixlip,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – I struggle to understand the ongoing failure of our Government to rectify the fact that one must make a religious declaration to take higher office.

The declaration’s references to God – as specified in our Constitution – were criticised in a 1993 report of the UN Human Rights Committee. The 1996 Constitution Review Group proposed that the President and members of the Council of State should be permitted to substitute a non-religious affirmation.

Disappointingly, the upcoming referendum to lower the minimum age for the presidency to 21 does nothing to address this issue. A simple inclusion in the referendum of a clause allowing the right to “truthfully affirm” as an option on taking up office would resolve the issue forthwith. Without such a clause, the referendum should not proceed without opposition. – Yours, etc,

NIAMH KELLY,

Bandon,

Co Cork.

Sir, – According to your report of January 26th, Martin McGuinness told a Sinn Féin party meeting in Omagh at the weekend that a united Ireland is “within our grasp”. Forthcoming elections will “give us the opportunity to take more huge strides towards our ultimate goal”, presumably through a greatly increased Sinn Féin vote.

Whence does Mr McGuinness derive this exuberant confidence about unity, apart from feeling it in his bones? Big Sinn Féin victories, North and South, will not help the peace process – rather the reverse. Mr McGuinness’s nationalist approach seems to take no account of unionist opposition to a united Ireland, now as adamant as ever, despite the best (or worst) efforts of Sinn Féin and the IRA. In fact, unionists see the Belfast Agreement as guaranteeing their place in the UK indefinitely.

Mr McGuinness cherishes a bogus mystique that “the establishment of the 1916 Republic is inevitable”. ( He does not recognise the present living Republic of Ireland). This self-delusion is the only source of his optimism about imminent unity. It is only to be hoped that his simplistic views do not damage the real work for peace and reconciliation in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

JOHN A MURPHY,

Cork.

A chara, – As the pernicious role of the whip system comes under closer scrutiny, Jason Fitzharris (January 25) calls for all TDs to be allowed to vote by secret ballot, as this “allows weak politicians the courage of privacy”.

I have enormous sympathy for politicians who come under pressure – be it political, financial, or emotional – from “vested interests”. However, if a TD cannot have courage in his or her convictions, stand up to these vested interests and publicly vote tá or níl on a matter of national importance, then I don’t think they belong in Dáil Éireann in the first place.

Exceptions could be made for internal parliamentary matters – votes of no confidence, or the election of the Ceann Comhairle, for example. But in other matters, for our elected representatives, the only honest vote is an open vote. How else will we assess their performance come the next election? – Is mise,

Dr HUGH ADLER,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

Sir, Further to Charles Lysaght’s letter (January 20th), Marcus de Burca’s superb book Murder at Marlhill did indeed do much to expose the irregularities of Harry Gleeson’s initial trial.

Flattering though it is of Mr Lysaght to say so, David Langwallner does not have a doctorate nor has he ever claimed to.

For the sake of clarity, it was the Irish Innocence Project that initiated the novel procedure of an executive pardon and/or an argument within the structure of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 which led to Mr Gleeson’s pardon after an independent inquiry was set up by the Attorney General as a consequence of our submissions. In addition, the project submitted new or newly discovered facts before the independent inquiry, including an independent forensic report. – Yours, etc,

DAVID LANGWALLNER,

TERTIUS VAN EEEDEN,

ANNE DRISCOLL,

Irish Innocence Project,

Justice for

Harry Gleeson Group,

The Law School,

Sir, – With the election of Syriza, the EU and its institutions are now at a crossroads.

They could heed the verdict of the Greek people, and attempt to find pragmatic, society-led solutions and policies that focus on the most pressing problems facing the people of Europe – unemployment and a contraction in opportunities for social progression.

Or they could crush the newly elected Greek government back into a conformity that is failing ordinary people, at the expense of the most powerful in society, and ultimately make Japan’s “lost decades” look like the Roaring Twenties.

Your choice, Europe. – Yours, etc,

TOMÁS M CREAMER,

Ballinamore, CoLeitrim.

Sir, – With all due respect to Christine Lagarde, I think that when history comes looking for the “real heroes” of the Great Recession, it is more likely to find them in Greece rather than in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

MIKE SCOTT,

Ballybough, Dublin 3.

Sir, – Perhaps it is not “political correctness” that has “gone mad”, as Michael Lowry asserts (“Lowry reacts to reappointment controversy”, January 27th), but an appointments system that tolerates the type of lobbying that the former Fine Gael minister indulged in. – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Dhún na nGall.

Sir, – I’ve always considered Michael Lowry to be bright, intelligent and perma-tanned looking. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN AHERN,

Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Simon Comer (January 24th) advises drivers with back ailments to slow down when travelling over speed ramps. As someone who suffers frequently from sciatica pains, I’d like to point out that this approach still comes with its ups and downs. Instead, I’ve found that any speed ramp problem can be overcome by simply getting over it. – Yours, etc,

STEPHEN McDERMOTT,

Drumcondra,

Dublin 9.

Irish Independent:

During America’s Great Depression Walter Lippmann – an American writer, journalist and political observer – wrote that: “A demoralized people is one in which the individual has become isolated. He trusts nobody and nothing, not even himself. He believes nothing except the worst of everybody and everything. He sees only confusion in himself and conspiracies in other men. That is panic. That is disintegration. That is what comes, when in some sudden emergency of their lives, men find themselves unsupported by clear convictions that transcend their immediate and personal desires.”

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In Ireland in 2009 – when banks were near bankrupt and people were worried about savings and of a run on the banks – the FF/Green Party government guaranteed savings of up to €100,000 and bank liabilities. Investment agencies, companies and people were withdrawing their funds to secure banks in the North and in Europe. Last year, a FG/Labour government minister frankly said there had been little trust in the quality of information from the banks and that was why outside auditors were brought in by his government too.

The truth in Lippmann’s observation – about how circumstance can cause a person to believe “nothing except the worst of everybody and everything” was shown many times in the first two years of the crises affecting Irish banks.

Walter Lippmann lived through both World Wars, US wars in Korea and Vietnam and was one of hundreds consulted by Senator Robert F Kennedy in 1968 as to whether he should run for the Presidency. Three months into his campaign, Kennedy was killed and buried beside his brother in Arlington. Tragically, RFK did believe in many good things for his country.

When RFK was a federal attorney general in Washington DC in the 1960s, assisting the civil rights movement, there was a plaque in his office that read ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be given hell from both sides’. In 2009 in Ireland that could have been: ‘Blessed are the decision makers, they will get hell from all sides’.

Hopefully, the new Dáil committee banking inquiry will answer remaining questions and bring some closure.

Walter died in 1974 aged 85.

Mary Sullivan, Cork

 

To remember is not enough

This week the Holocaust is remembered throughout the world. The Nazis, aided by many Europeans, murdered about six million Jews in Germany and across Europe. Another five million were killed as part of the Nazis’ mass murder, including Roma, homosexuals, communists, and mentally handicapped.

While many are justifiably opposed to crimes against humanity committed by state of Israel against the Palestinian people, we must not make the mistake of becoming racist against the Jewish people as a whole.

Likewise we must not support Islamophobia just because the United States and its allies have unleashed a war on terror that has caused a predictable blow-back of terror by some Muslim groups. The tragic truth about genocide is that it has been relatively successful and many of the perpetrators have never been held to account. Infamously, Hitler is reputed to have said to his generals: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Let’s never forget the genocide of the Herero in South West Africa committed by Germany (1904-07). Let’s never forget the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turkish Government (1915-22). Let’s never forget the Holocaust of the Jews, perpetrated by the German Nazi government (1939-45). Let’s never forget Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia 1975-78 caused indirectly by the US war in Vietnam and Cambodia. Let’s never forget the genocides by European invaders and colonisers in Australia, Africa and in all parts of the Americas.

But just not forgetting is never enough.

Let’s do all we can every day of our lives to prevent acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

And let’s hold all governments to account for complicity in crimes against humanity.

Edward Horgan, Castletroy, Limerick

 

Vatican should look to its past

I’m afraid many dead mothers were turning in their graves at the Pope’s recent crude comment about the rabbits.

Does he not know that it was the Vatican that laid the burden on our mothers to have as many children as possible, under pain of mortal sin and eternal fire in hell?

Sean McElgunn, address with editor

 

Open letter to Joan Burton

Dear Ms Burton,

Last week my daughter called into the local social welfare office to ask about what arrangements will in place when her one-parent-family payment ceases this year when her son reaches his 16th birthday.

When she explained her particular situation she was told there would be absolutely nothing available to her. You can imagine her distress on being given this information… or can you?

If she had sat back and did nothing for the last 16 years I gather there would be courses, job seeker’s allowance, internships and other options that she could avail of.

But, because she has always tried to work whatever hours she could get, she doesn’t fit the model for any of these options.

If you sit back and do nothing you get rewarded. If you try your best to be employed you are punished. How demoralising is that?

I am surprised that you would be so callous with mothers who represent one of the groups most at risk of poverty.

I also wonder if anyone believes that somehow children cost less as soon as they reach a certain age.

In the past, I have been impressed with the way certain less well-off groups are looked after in this country and am convinced this is one of the proverbial “cracks” in the system.

Name and address with editor

 

Can Michael O’Leary save us?

“Disastrous error” was how I have previously charcterised the sell-out of Aer Lingus (Letters, January 23), the most prestigious and necessary of our national assets – ‘the family silverware”.

To jeopardise key air connections from airports all over Ireland, and Britain in particular – as well as putting at serious risk services from Cork, Knock and Shannon to London – for short-term Government gain of €341.6m, is beyond comprehension. We are an island nation and must control our own airline – sporting our marketing national emblem and colour, indefinitely.

It is now dangerously obvious the Government is displaying weakness.

Life without hope is a life without meaning. So our only option to save the day seems to be Michael O’Leary. He is the player with the biggest hand, most patriotic heart and completely independent.

I plead with you, Michael, “put the foot down – you cannot lose”. And, as you are well aware, your rewards in the future will be many-fold. The relationship with Aer Lingus and Ryanair was compatible and competitive in the past and can only progress.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

 

A novel idea for those in power

What this country is badly in need of is a Department of Common Sense.

Mary Devane Wilson, Dingle, Co Kerry

Irish Independent

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