Snow

29 January 2015 Snow

A quiet day two Stephen Hawking books sold and it snows.

Obituary:

Mercy Haystead in Positano in 1949

Mercy Haystead in Positano in 1949 Photo: Bert Hardy / Getty

Mercy Haystead, who has died aged 84, was an actress who played a series of capricious characters in Fifties films such as What the Butler Saw (1950) and The Admirable Crichton (1957) before, on her marriage to the publisher Tony Samuel, becoming the unflappable chatelaine of Arndilly, a fine Adam house on the banks of the River Spey.

While her acting career was brief, lasting little more than a decade, it found her in the company, on stage and screen, of many of the stars of the period, including Kenneth More, Michael Hordern, Lionel Jeffries and Stanley Holloway. Mercy Haystead’s effervescent personality, ebony hair, doe eyes and expressive mouth marked her out, as one critic put it, as “another addition to the long list of ingénues to be watched – with pleasure”.

Her beauty and sense of fun had first been captured by the Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy in 1949 on the Amalfi coast. Hardy photographed her on the balcony of the Hotel Sirenuse in Positano rapturously dangling a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth.

She was a student at the time of her Italian trip – but not for long. She made her screen debut the following year, aged 18, in What the Butler Saw. It was the first of a number of plucky roles. She played Lapis, the daughter of the king of a tropical island who stows away in the luggage of a visiting British aristocrat, only to pop out of the crates at his castle (“Bwana, Lapis naughty!”). Unknown to the master of the house Lapis is in love with his butler.

Aristocrats, butlers and exotic locations also featured in perhaps her most famous film, The Admirable Crichton, directed by Lewis Gilbert, in which Kenneth More plays the Earl of Loam’s resourceful manservant. As Lady Catherine, the Earl’s wayward suffragette daughter, Mercy Haystead once again combined delinquency with charisma. After Lady Catherine’s arrest at a protest, the family depart to the South Seas to ride out the scandal – where they are promptly stranded on a desert island. Departing from London Airport in October 1956 for the location shoot in Bermuda, Haystead discovered that she did not have the required smallpox vaccination certificate. The airport doctor gave her a shot. Concerned about her swimwear scenes, she instructed him that “on no account must the mark show.”

In 1966 she gave up acting to become the wife of Tony Samuel, an SOE veteran, racehorse owner and chairman of the publishing company Herbert Jenkins (publisher of P G Wodehouse and George MacDonald Fraser). “There will be no honeymoon,” she told The Daily Telegraph ahead of their wedding day, “I couldn’t face one, and life, after all, is one complete honeymoon. I suppose we may go to the cinema.”

Mercy Jean Haystead was born on February 2 1930 in London, the elder daughter of Malcolm and Elizabeth Haystead. Her father was in the Army. Mercy grew up in Southfields and attended Mayfield School in Putney. During the war she was evacuated to the Midlands, where she boarded with an outworker for the Redditch needle companies. She spent her holidays potato picking and haymaking during visits to her sister, Jill, at a Quaker farm run by the Cadbury family near Clent.

Mercy Haystead in 1950 (PA)

Mercy Haystead studied Modern Languages at City of London College before attending Rada on a scholarship. Her early work included performances at London’s Q Theatre and in touring repertory productions (among them Alan Melville’s comedy Dear Charles in Germany).

She juggled film, stage and television work. In the West End she played in the musicals She Smiled at Me (St Martin’s Theatre) and Out of this World (Phoenix Theatre). On film she was perfect in gently risqué fare such as Dentist on the Job (1961), and the Riviera romp Girls at Sea (1958), with the tagline: “See what happens when three lovely girls – a blonde, a brunette and a redhead – spend a night on a warship with 500 sailors.”

However, the parts petered out as the Sixties progressed and her final screen credit was in the Billy Fury vehicle Play it Cool (1962). In 1965 she appeared at the Duchess Theatre in London as a French air hostess (opposite Nicholas Parsons) in Marc Camoletti’s farce Boeing Boeing. It was one of her last performances before she married.

Mercy Haystead and Jon Pertwee recording Pertwee’s Progress (S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Archive)

Mercy Haystead was Tony Samuel’s third wife (his second was another actress, the Rank favourite Beth Rogan) and the marriage was a happy one. Having given up stage and screen work (which she missed terribly), she devoted herself to making Samuel’s Scottish house, Arndilly, into a Palladian haven for friends and family. Visitors would enjoy the estate’s fishing and shooting and marvel at the Samuels’ collection of Impressionist paintings. They also kept a London home in St Leonard’s Terrace.

Mercy Haystead was a petite woman but an imperturbable wife. Many found her husband (the youngest son of the 2nd Viscount Bearsted and a grandson of Marcus Samuel, the founder of Shell) to be convivial but difficult. On one occasion her husband noticed that a dinner guest was wearing the same Cartier watch as him. Samuel commented on what a wonderful watch it was, saying that he had had the model for several months and had never had to wind it. Mercy calmly pointed out to him that Derby, the butler, wound it for him every day.

In later life the couple sold Arndilly and moved to a smaller house at Longparish in Hampshire; for many years the couple would take a suite at the Algonquin Hotel in New York while Samuel was visiting PG Wodehouse at his home on Long Island.

Mercy Haystead’s husband died in 2001, and she is survived by her sister.

Mercy Haystead, born February 2 1930, died January 11 2015

Guardian:

Paul Strohm (The Knight, the Wife and the wool, Review, 24 January) describes Chaucer’s Knight as “virtuous” and “judicious”, and his tale as a “sober romance”. In Terry Jones’s 1980 book Chaucer’s Knight, he demonstrates that the supposedly gentlemanly knight is nothing but a mercenary, a professional killer, and his tale a crude parody of Boccaccio’s Teseida that reveals the Knight’s own lack of education and little understanding of the tenets of chivalry.

In Chaucer’s day the listeners would have been howling with laughter throughout, from the description of the Knight himself, with his mismatched armour, patently stripped from bodies on the battlefield, to the crude behaviour of the characters in a tale whose subtleties he doesn’t understand, to his own, uncourtly, predilection for accumulating wealth.
Clifton Hughes
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

The Syriza victory (Radical Greeks vow to see off age of austerity, 27 January) has lessons not only for the eurozone, but for the EU as a whole. The real question for all 28 countries now is: is austerity working? It is dragging the eurozone towards deflation and even in Germany annual growth is now falling below 1%. In the UK all three main parties, tragically, agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20, even though wages have already fallen 8% in real terms, business investment has still not recovered, unemployment is still around 2 million, the trade deficit in manufactured goods at £110bn this year is now the largest in modern history, and household debt is now over £2 trillion and rising. This is not recovery, it’s semi-permanent stagnation.

It’s not even as though the deficit is being reduced by these savage cuts. Because shrinking incomes have now significantly cut government tax revenues, the UK deficit, which is still nearly £100bn, is likely to rise, not fall, in 2014-15 and in future years. Since cutting the deficit has been made the centrepiece of economic policy, why carry on with policies that are manifestly failing to deliver this objective, while wreaking havoc in the lives of a third of the population?

There is an alternative. At 0.5% interest rates a £30bn investment package can be funded for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs with good wages within two to three years. Even better, fund public investment to kickstart sustainable growth either through the two banks already in public ownership or through quantitative easing (as the European Central Bank is now doing) or through a special levy on the ultra-rich, whose wealth has grown substantially since the crash six years ago.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

Polly Toynbee points out (Cameron’s latest tax-cut conjuring is a trick too far, 27 January), drawing on work by Ruth Lupton and John Hills, that coalition policies have done relatively little to reduce the deficit. Instead, the government has doled out the gravy to higher earners, mainly through tax cuts, and financed this largely through cuts in benefits and services for those on low incomes. We need also to bear in mind the 2010 increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20%. For the first time in a generation indirect taxes are raising more than income and capital taxes put together – and indirect taxes hit the poor harder than the rich. Corporation tax has been cut from 28% to 21%, its lowest rate ever, making the problem of getting in enough money to run state services even tougher.

Coalition policies have shown that it is impossible to address the deficit and cut taxes, but increases in personal taxation are always unpopular. Something could be done to increase taxes on the corporate sector and on capital, but it has always proved hard to extract the money from people who can hire top accountants and who are globally mobile. Is it time to think about a move to social insurance for many of our public services, on the grounds that people might be willing to pay the money necessary to keep them going if they believed they were buying rights to something they valued in return?
Peter Taylor-Gooby
Professor of social policy, University of Kent

I am hoping, increasingly against hope, that Labour does not need more than one term in opposition to learn the mistakes of its past embrace with neoliberalism. Polly Toynbee and David Walker clearly set out why the radicalism of Cameron and co needs an equal and opposite radical response from Labour (Cameron’s coup: Has he finished what she started?, 28 January). But this will not emerge as long as Labour only halfheartedly accepts that its love of the City, privatisation and so-called “free” markets was a big mistake; that its tax credit subsidies to low-wage employers was the flip side of the minimum wage; that its policy of “governments can’t pick winners” was palpably false; that its fear of supporting such common goods as council housing was irrational.

What impels me to write is the mention in the article of the Tories’ sell-off of the RAF air and sea rescue service. Who started this? Labour. And when I protested in a parliamentary Labour party meeting against this astonishing but indicative privatisation, the then secretary of state responded with little more than a nod and a shrug. So, if air sea rescue, why not ambulances? If not ambulances, why not hospitals? If not hospitals, well, what’s left? With less than 100 days to go, and now with much attention on the general election, Labour has to work hard to show that it has shed the delusions about the market which once gripped its leadership. But before it can do that, it actually has to recognise they were indeed delusions – and that’s where the evidence is weak, despite an energy price freeze or two.
Colin Challen
Labour MP, Morley and Rothwell 2001-10

As part of my PhD research into education and the free market, I noted and made reference to Margaret Thatcher’s intention to reduce public services to a point where it would be too expensive for any future Labour government to reintroduce or reignite them. In that respect I think that we can say that, yes, Cameron is finishing what she started.
Dr M Wakelin
Alsager, Cheshire


The victims’ commissioner is right that too often victims of crime do not get what they need from the justice system (Victims of crime let down by criminal justice system, report finds, theguardian.com, 27 January). Efforts to address this are welcome. But the best way to engage and empower victims is to increase the availability of restorative justice, which enables victims to meet the offender, explain the impact that the offence had on them, and potentially receive an explanation and an apology. It can also help offenders to understand the impact of their actions, take responsibility and make amends.

There is widespread political and public support for greater use of this approach, which both improves victim satisfaction and reduces reoffending. Restorative justice should be made available to every victim of crime who wants it, wherever they live and at any stage of the criminal justice process.
Jon Collins
Chief executive officer, Restorative Justice Council

 

Independent:

I have just received two letters in the post that raise questions about the political process. One was from the Prime Minister and the other from the chief fundraiser for the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron’s is a survey about attitudes to Europe, presumably sent at random, as I don’t know the man. However, I quite often hear from the fundraiser as I am a Lib Dem member and donate when I can.

The Conservative survey is slanted towards such xenophobic attitudes and seems so likely to incite hate crime that I wonder if it is legal.

To give two examples, one asks views on “tougher and longer re-entry bans for rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters”.

Conflating these categories implies that anyone living on the street is a foreigner and dishonest, whereas the great majority of them are British people whose situation has been made worse by austerity policies.

The second example is “EU jobseekers will not  be supported by taxpayers and will have to leave if  they are not in a job  within six months”, which suggests that any citizen from another European country is a scrounger, and ignores the fact that very many British people benefit from free movement by working in mainland Europe.

One party in Government spends a great deal of money on a survey that seems to me designed to solicit the votes of bigots and incite hatred.

The other party, which stands for fair and liberal policies and attitudes which the majority of British people agree with, lacks money adequately to promote itself. How come?

Vivienne Kynaston, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

 

I received an email from David Cameron today, addressed directly to me. I feel privileged.

In it he says: “I believe that if you have worked hard and earned your own money, you should be able to spend it how you like. It’s your money, not the Government’s – and so  you should keep it. That is why I believe in cutting taxes.”

Let’s take his statement to its logical conclusions. Basically, he’s telling me that I have a right to keep my money and not hand it over to the Government.

But if all of us did that (and not just some of the big multinationals), there would be no government, no funding for education, no police, no NHS, no defence. Indeed, without all of us funding government, there would be no prime minister. Mr Cameron  has just talked himself out of a job.

Brian Mathieson, Plymouth

 

So David Cameron will promise voters more money for “a “nice meal out” (“Britons deserve a tax break, says Cameron”, 26 January) – even if that means less Government revenue”?

If you decide to eat out in Cheltenham or Gloucester, you may pass a hospital whose present financial support is so inadequate that, overwhelmed, it recently declared a “general incident”. Try not to fall over on your way home.

Alison Brackenbury, Cheltenham

 

A double standard: no buts about it

I read with much interest Howard Jacobson’s denunciation of the “But Brigade” (24 January) and my culpability in this crime. But (apologies for using the correct word) I’m afraid that he was very careful to miss the point, completely.

There was no “but” in the article of mine that elicited his fury. Rather, the article provided a series of illustrations of a highly significant general principle that was stated quite explicitly: “The more we can blame some crimes on enemies, the greater the outrage; the greater our responsibility for crimes – and hence the more we can do to end them – the less the concern, tending to oblivion or even denial.”

I can easily comprehend why Mr Jacobson would insist that the demonstration of the principle must be suppressed, but (apologies again) I see no reason to accede to his demand.

Noam Chomsky

Massachusetts Institute  of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Saudi Arabia opposes the UN charter

Will Gore (26 January) states: “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia… was an absolute monarch who had absolute disregard for what liberal Westerners would view as basic human rights”.

This is an unduly relativistic way of putting it: the rights in question are set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; this was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 after 48 nations voted in favour; Saudi Arabia was one of eight nations that abstained. The declaration is embodied in the UN Charter.

This is not simply a difference of opinion between an autocrat and Western liberals; Saudi Arabia is going against the UN Charter.

It behoves its allies, including the UK and the US, to follow the example of Amnesty International and remind Saudi Arabia of its obligations in respect of human rights.

John Dakin, Toddington,  Bedfordshire

 

Holocaust day must not be forgotten

There have been discussions around whether or not the time has come to put commemoration of Holocaust Day behind us, and move on. The answer is: absolutely not.

There is of course the argument as to how long we should continue to mark such important events. We will all recall the extensive coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, in addition to the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War. I noticed little dissension as we showed our respect for those who fought to retain our freedom, much of which is swiftly being eroded in the face of a different kind of conflict; random ruthless acts of terrorism in the name of religion.

Future generations of historians will be sure to ask the same question: what have we learnt? As a civilisation, not a lot it would seem. Wars involving many nations on such a scale may well be a thing of the past, as technological advances enable us to increasingly fight our battles remotely. However, there is barely a corner of the world in which there is not some strife, reported daily for us all to see on our TV screens, in gory detail.

I wonder if, with such constant, relentless, friction, we are at risk of becoming immune, preferring to tune into something more amusing and lighthearted as we while away our evenings over a glass of wine or two, rather than face up to the reality of the atrocities being committed elsewhere.

Without these reminders of what has gone before, we are in danger of putting the impact of such massacres, whether committed on our shores or elsewhere, out of our minds.

We must not forget, because the failure to remember will mean that we never learn the lessons that history can so vividly teach us, if we choose to learn.

Linda Piggott-Vijeh, Combe St Nicholas, Somerset

 

Disgusting prejudice against woman bishop

I am not a religious woman but I was moved by the accounts of the consecration of the Rev Libby Lane as the first woman bishop and the roaring affirmation the congregation gave her when she was challenged.

I was, therefore, disgusted to read in your editorial (27 January) that the soon-to-be Bishop of Burnley is not allowing the same clergy to “lay on hands” that touched Libby Lane because of his conservative views.

What on earth does he think will happen? Will he not speak to her at meetings or stand near her in the lunch queue either? It would be funny if it wasn’t so prejudiced.

Lesley Sainsbury

St Neots, Cambridgeshire

 

The damage done to schools by Gove

The report of the Education Select Committee (“‘No evidence’ primary schools benefit from changing to academies”, 27 January) points out that there is nothing to show that turning the small minority of primary schools into academies is resulting in higher standards or a better quality of education.

There is, however, compelling evidence of a different outcome. Gove’s academy and free schools policies have resulted in a near-fatal weakening of local democracy and accountability, and in a marked decline in the capacity of local authorities to support the large majority of primary schools, as well as a large minority of secondary schools, not opting for academy status.

But perhaps that attack on local governance and support was always part of Gove’s “grand” (or grandiose) design?

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

 

Nothing daft about abolition of zoos

Ian Birrell (26 January) criticises the Green Party’s “daft policies”, such as “the abolition of zoos”.

I am disappointed that Mr Birrell views this policy as daft; zoos are pernicious places that degrade and oppress animals for the sake of our pleasure.

The Greens may have some daft policies, but the abolition of zoos is not one of them.

Harley Miller, London SW19

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, Berks

More from Letters to the Editor

M-way flow

Published at 12:01AM, January 29 2015 Sir, The transport secretary speaks of raising the limit on motorways to 80mph to improve traffic flow (News, Jan 24)

Massively amazing

Published at 7:53PM, January 28 2015 Words that are overused in sport and on TV

Sir, With the Six Nations rugby championship fast approaching, we shall soon be reading or hearing “massive” applied to every match by players and coaches alike. Its overuse renders it close to meaningless. Perhaps we should yellow-card any player who utters “massive” in the 48 hours before a match.
David Newth
Byfield, Northamptonshire

Sir, Winterwatch on BBC2 is “amazing”, “fantastic” and “fascinating”, as the presenters never tire of telling us. In the January 20 episode I counted seven “fantastics”, and six occurrences each of “fascinating” and “amazing”. Perhaps the presenters should be invited to play Radio 4’s Just a Minute.
John Woolley
Whitby, N Yorks

Sir, The director-general of the BBC, is correct (News, Jan 27). There’s cold comfort in The Archers these days and definitely something nasty in the cowshed.
Ros Hield
Shrewsbury

Sir, Richard Morrison makes a fair analysis of problems facing the English National Opera (“Blood at the ENO”, Jan 27). But why no mention of the slavish obligation to sing in English? Italian and French libretti do not translate easily, they sound mannered and, sometimes, ugly; German, Russian and Czech operas are more easily managed. Surtitles are used anyway, so why not go the whole hog?
Brian Lees
London SW6

Telegraph:

Conservative MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce

Conservative MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce, wants to outlaw gender abortion

SIR – A proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill would make abortion on grounds of sex selection a specific criminal offence (“Gender abortion: it’s time for urgent action”).

Those pushing for this amendment claim abortions are being performed on women coerced into having the procedure, but any doctor in Britain performing an abortion on a woman against her will would already be committing a crime.

We have three main concerns about the proposed amendment. First, it would undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service, as it suggests that they need to be stopped from doing something that constitutes a form of violence and abuse and thus need to be prevented from harming women. This is a serious claim.

Secondly, it risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling that would, for example, require service providers to question Asian women specifically regarding their reasons for requesting abortion.

Thirdly, it seeks to construe abortion as an offence against “the unborn child”, specifically “the girl”. This is an attempt to secure a legal definition of a pregnancy that recognises the “rights of the unborn” – independent of the pregnant woman – and thus erodes women’s reproductive rights. MPs should seriously consider if they want to take that step.

Professor Sally Sheldon
University of Kent, School of Law
Dr Ellie Lee
Reader in Social Policy University of Kent
Professor Helen Allan
Professor of Nursing, Middlesex University
Dr Sylvie Dubuc
Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Nicky Priaulx
Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School
Professor Roger Ingham
Centre for Sexual Health Research, University of Southampton
Dr. Navtej K. Purewal
Deputy Director, South Asia Institute, SOAS University of London
Dr Maya Unnithan
University of Sussex
Dr Catherine Conlon
Trinity College Dublin
Jackie Cassell
Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Dr Sinéad Kennedy
Department of English, Maynooth University and Action for Choice Ireland
Hayley MacGregor
Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies at University of Sussex
Dr Lesley Hoggart
The Open University
Dr Marian Duggan
University of Kent
Dr Louiza Odysseos
Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Sussex
Marie Fox
Professor of Socio-legal Studies, University of Birmingham
Hilary Standing
Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex and Emeritus Fellow, the Institute of Development Studies
Professor Val Gillies
Goldsmiths College
Professor Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University
Eva Hoffmann
University of Sussex
Dr Fiona Bloomer
Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Ulster University
Francesca Salvi
University of Sussex
Sarah-Jane Page
Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Marilyn Crawshaw
Honorary Fellow, University of York
Dr Ruth Cain
School of Law, University of Kent
Dr Ruth Fletcher
Queen Mary University of London
Dr Lucy Frith
Senior lecturer in bioethics, University of Liverpool
Dr Sheelagh McGuinness
University of Birmingham
Dr Geraldine Brady
Centre for Communities and Social Justice, Coventry University
Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh
Keele University
Professor Liz Meerabeau
Kingston University/ St George’s University of London.
Jennifer Palmer
Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Elsie Whittington
Centre for Innovation and Research In Childhood and Youth, University of Sussex
Nicola Horsley
Research Fellow, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Alison Phipps
Director of Gender Studies, University of Sussex
Dr Georgia Philip
Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia
Gillian Love
University of Sussex Graduate Associate of the Centre for Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH), University of Sussex
Emilomo Ogbe
CORTH, University of Sussex
Jess Newman
M.Phil Doctoral Candidate, Medical Anthropology, Yale University
Dr Erica Nelson
Independent consultant in global health
Dr Graeme Hayes
Reader in French and Social Movement Studies, Aston University
Dr Samantha Lyle
Researcher, University of Oxford
Dr Gary Fooks
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Katherine Tonkiss
Aston University
Dr Pam Lowe
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Triona Fitton
Research Associate, University of Kent
Dr Carrie Purcell
Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Dr Pascale Hancart Petitet
Research Fellow, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Dr Lesley Hoggart
Senior Lecturer, The Open University Faculty of Health and Social Care


Rear view as two jet planes follow each other almost nose to tail on take off from London Gatwick airport

Rear view as two jet planes follow each other almost nose to tail on take off from London Gatwick airport Photo: Alamy

SIR – The Airports Commission will conclude its consultation next month regarding runway capacity in the South East, and prepare its recommendation to government.

As entrepreneurs and founders of businesses across a spectrum of industries, we recognise the importance of maintaining a competitive network of airports in the South East, to sustain choice and resilience in our access to overseas markets. This can only be achieved by expanding Gatwick to reinforce competition between it and Heathrow, not by restoring the latter’s monopoly and strangling the diversity that was so long in coming to Britain’s aviation industry.

Promoting choice for consumers is paramount and only expansion at Gatwick can deliver that, along with a positive effect on fares, service levels and innovation. At half the cost of expansion at Heathrow, it would be substantially cheaper to execute and require no support from the public purse. It would allow for the further development of low-cost business access to overseas markets, and especially to Britain’s major trading partners in Europe.

Above all what business needs after years of delay is a final decision. With the Heathrow proposals dogged by insuperable environmental problems and the threat of regression to the old industry monopoly, Gatwick is the only viable option for aviation expansion in the South East.

Luke Johnson
Founder, Risk Capital Partners
Martin McCourt
Former CEO, Dyson
Emma Jones
Founder, Enterprise Nation
James Lohan
Founder and CEO, Mr & Mrs Smith
Charlie Mullins
Founder, Pimlico Plumbers
Shaa Wasmund
Founder, Smarta
David Soskin
Co-founder, Howzat Partners LLP
Former CEO, Cheapflights
David Richards
CEO, co-founder and president, WANdisco
Duncan Cheatle
Founder, The Supper Club
Co-founder, StartUp Britain
Rupert Lee-Browne
Chairman and Chief Executive, Caxton FX
Rajeeb Dey
CEO, Enternships
John Armitage
Co-founder, Egerton Capital
Derek Browne
CEO and Founder, Entrepreneurs in Action
Shalini Khemka
Founder, E2Exchange
Robert Emmett
Founder, Emmett London
John Stapleton
Co-founder, New Covent Garden Soup
Co-founder, Little Dish
Tink Taylor
Founder and President, dotMailer
Matt Turner
MD, Creative Pod
Co-founder, Young Start-Up Talent
Neeta Patel
CEO, New Entrepreneurs Foundation

SIR – All European countries have a hub airport serving world destinations. Britain has Heathrow, which is also the preferred hub for most of western Europe.

Heathrow is nearly full, so we must make more space quickly, cheaply and with as little environmental impact as possible.

Peter Burgess
Horsham, West Sussex

SIR – There has been much recent publicity promoting the need for expansion at Heathrow in its guise as a hub airport.

By definition, a hub provides an axis for numerous radial spokes. The primary purpose of a hub airport is to provide a means for passengers in transit to change flights. It therefore follows that a hub does not need to be located near any particular area of business activity.

If Britain needs a high-capacity hub airport, why would it have to be located within an already densely populated conurbation? With a little imagination, a suitable location with undeveloped land, existing rail and road links and a need for improved employment opportunities could be found – away from the South East.

Harry Arrowsmith
Frimley, Surrey

Gender abortion

SIR – A proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill would make abortion on grounds of sex selection a specific criminal offence (“Gender abortion: it’s time for urgent action”).

Those pushing for this amendment claim abortions are being performed on women coerced into having the procedure, but any doctor in Britain performing an abortion on a woman against her will would already be committing a crime.

We have three main concerns about the proposed amendment. First, it would undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service, as it suggests that they need to be stopped from doing something that constitutes a form of violence and abuse and thus need to be prevented from harming women. This is a serious claim.

Secondly, it risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling that would, for example, require service providers to question Asian women specifically regarding their reasons for requesting abortion.

Thirdly, it seeks to construe abortion as an offence against “the unborn child”, specifically “the girl”. This is an attempt to secure a legal definition of a pregnancy that recognises the “rights of the unborn” – independent of the pregnant woman – and thus erodes women’s reproductive rights. MPs should seriously consider if they want to take that step.

Professor Sally Sheldon
University of Kent, School of Law
Dr Ellie Lee
Reader in Social Policy University of Kent
Professor Helen Allan
Professor of Nursing, Middlesex University
Dr Sylvie Dubuc
Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Dr Nicky Priaulx
Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School
Professor Roger Ingham
Centre for Sexual Health Research, University of Southampton
Dr. Navtej K. Purewal
Deputy Director, South Asia Institute, SOAS University of London
Dr Maya Unnithan
University of Sussex
Dr Catherine Conlon
Trinity College Dublin
Jackie Cassell
Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Dr Sinéad Kennedy
Department of English, Maynooth University and Action for Choice Ireland
Hayley MacGregor
Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies at University of Sussex
Dr Lesley Hoggart
The Open University
Dr Marian Duggan
University of Kent
Dr Louiza Odysseos
Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Sussex
Marie Fox
Professor of Socio-legal Studies, University of Birmingham
Hilary Standing
Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex and Emeritus Fellow, the Institute of Development Studies
Professor Val Gillies
Goldsmiths College
Professor Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University
Eva Hoffmann
University of Sussex
Dr Fiona Bloomer
Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Ulster University
Francesca Salvi
University of Sussex
Sarah-Jane Page
Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Marilyn Crawshaw
Honorary Fellow, University of York
Dr Ruth Cain
School of Law, University of Kent
Dr Ruth Fletcher
Queen Mary University of London
Dr Lucy Frith
Senior lecturer in bioethics, University of Liverpool
Dr Sheelagh McGuinness
University of Birmingham
Dr Geraldine Brady
Centre for Communities and Social Justice, Coventry University
Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh
Keele University
Professor Liz Meerabeau
Kingston University/ St George’s University of London.
Jennifer Palmer
Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Elsie Whittington
Centre for Innovation and Research In Childhood and Youth, University of Sussex
Nicola Horsley
Research Fellow, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Alison Phipps
Director of Gender Studies, University of Sussex
Dr Georgia Philip
Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia
Gillian Love
University of Sussex Graduate Associate of the Centre for Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH), University of Sussex
Emilomo Ogbe
CORTH, University of Sussex
Jess Newman
M.Phil Doctoral Candidate, Medical Anthropology, Yale University
Dr Erica Nelson
Independent consultant in global health
Dr Graeme Hayes
Reader in French and Social Movement Studies, Aston University
Dr Samantha Lyle
Researcher, University of Oxford
Dr Gary Fooks
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Katherine Tonkiss
Aston University
Dr Pam Lowe
Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Dr Triona Fitton
Research Associate, University of Kent
Dr Carrie Purcell
Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Dr Pascale Hancart Petitet
Research Fellow, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
Dr Lesley Hoggart
Senior Lecturer, The Open University Faculty of Health and Social Care

Trouble in the Church

Libby Lane has become the UK’s first female bishop (Eddie Mullholland/The Telegraph)

SIR – The front page photograph in yesterday’s Telegraph, from the ordination of the first woman bishop, illustrates all that is wrong with the Church of England.

The bishops pictured are just a small part of the vast bureaucracy of “chiefs” that exists while parishes are crying out for a single vicar. Our village has a vicarage but no vicar; we share ours with seven other parishes.

The Church of England is dying because, rather than going out to the people as the disciples did, priests are settling complacently into comfortable jobs.

K G Hunter
Gilling West, North Yorkshire

SIR – Can it be that “after decades of bitter, bruising battle” the Church of England should want to see those “traditionalists” who still object to women’s ministry “vanquished” (Comment, January 27)?

Since 1992, when the vote went in favour of women priests, I have been led to believe that the Church would do everything within its power to make me – one of those traditionalists – an included member of Christ’s body.

Patrick Hawes
Catfield, Norfolk

Saudi Arabia’s censors

SIR – I thought the flying of the flag at half mast on Westminster Abbey following the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (report, January 24) was an unnecessarily obsequious tribute to a country that to all intents and purposes bans Christianity.

However, this accommodation of Islamic susceptibilities is not new. In 1995 I was asked to adapt a TEFL book I had illustrated for use in Saudi Arabia. I had to delete all crosses – even those formed by the glazing bars in windows – cull pigs and dogs, lengthen skirts and change boys into girls and vice versa so that the two sexes were never seen together. I had to remove Westminster Abbey from a map of London, leaving a blank space.

To those who claim that Turkey is still a robustly secular state, I offer the example of my Turkish publishers who, in 2010, asked me to remove a medieval market cross from the Turkish edition of my book A City Across Time.

Peter Kent
Norwich

How Greece could turn its tragedy to triumph

SIR – The new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is in a very strong position, as he doesn’t have to pay back any money unless he wants to.

A new drachma, at a lower value than the euro, would invigorate the economy through increased tourism and income from services such as shipping – just as occurred with the pound when Britain left the Exchange Rate Mechanism – and it would once again be attractive for foreign investment.

David James
Colby, Isle of Man

SIR – The bureaucrats of Brussels must bear some of the responsibility for the problems in Greece. Eager to expand their empire, they welcomed Greece into the EU in the full knowledge that it failed to meet the criteria for membership.

Donald Sutherland
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – For Greece, Germany and the EU, read Scotland, England and the United Kingdom. In Greece and Scotland we have two minor states who want to enjoy all the benefits of membership of a strong union (the EU and UK respectively) with none of the inherent responsibilities.

One day they’ll go too far and find themselves cast out, facing the hard fiscal reality from which they have been insulated by membership of their respective unions. I hope sanity prevails before either of them reaches the door.

David Dunbar
Evesham, Worcestershire

SIR – Greece gets a new anti-austerity government. Within 24 hours a Greek fighter jet crashes and an internationally renowned Greek singer dies.

Is this a sign of things to come?

Jim Oliver
Chichester, West Sussex

Sondheim’s talent under the American radar

‘Sunday in the Park with George’ at Wyndham’s Theatre in London (Alamy)

SIR – While I agree that Britain can take pride in its role in increasing awareness of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, I would argue that America has not always been “fully aware of his worth”.

In the Eighties, prior to Sweeney Todd premiering at London’s Theatre Royal, I had the privilege of collaborating with Sondheim on a compilation of all his lyrics up to that era, called Song by Song by Sondheim. The only publisher interested in the work was a British publishing house, Rainbird Publishing Group, in London. A dummy book was produced, but with expanded material offering a substantial volume, we needed an American publisher to share the overhead costs.

Try as we might, the Americans continually put a spanner in the works by demanding a lower-priced book and the project was eventually aborted.

John L Fisher
Leeds, West Yorkshire

A hand out

SIR – To get the most out of her rubber gloves, Patricia Ford need only turn a left-hand glove inside out to make it into a right-hand one.

Jeremy Thomas
Birmingham

SIR – If only the Telegraph could bring Patricia Ford and my husband together. A reciprocal trade agreement in right- and left-handed rubber gloves would be much appreciated.

Carole Taylor
Lymington, Hampshire

Crumbling resolved

SIR – There is no art to controlling flaky croissant crumbs.

I always request a dinner plate.

Janet Toseland
Little Houghton, Northamptonshire

SIR – Take advantage of any sunny 10 minutes to have your croissant in the garden, where you will soon attract a number of small feathered friends who will be delighted to oblige with the clean-up.

In the absence of suitable weather, acquire a labrador dog.

Enid Bazire
Framlingham, Suffolk

Keep it under your hat

SIR – As a former police officer, I heartily agree with Paul Hornby on the importance of police helmets in Britain. They also provided a very useful storage space for food when on the beat.

Michael Carpenter
Glanffrwdd, Martletwy

SIR – I suspect Mr Hornby has never tried entering a foot race with a suspect while wearing a police helmet.

Steve Barry
Oxford

SIR – I thought all policemen’s heads were that shape?

Kevin Henley
Jubail, Saudi Arabia

Globe and Mail:

LYSIANE GAGNON

Quebec reopens its identity can of worms

Irish Times:

Sir, – A disservice has been done to the anti-water charges cause by those protesters in Finglas, with their reprehensible treatment of President Michael D Higgins (“President called ‘midget parasite’ by protesters”, January 28th). What diminishing public goodwill was remaining after protesters barricaded Tánaiste Joan Burton inside her car for hours in November is now surely nearing the point of total evaporation.

It would make for an interesting social experiment to see how those same protesters would react were they to witness a mob from beyond these shores spewing bile at the Irish head of state. It doesn’t seem overly presumptuous to think that their nationalistic colours might start to show at that point.

Rather than attempting to retrieve some respectability for his cause, Paul Murphy TD went on to further sully its reputation by defending the baying mob. Mr Murphy is right in saying that people should have the right to protest. However, there is nothing civilised about trying to intimidate a 73-year-old man, who had no option but to sign the water charges Bill because there was nothing unconstitutional about it.

Far be it from me to be an apologist for the Government, but nothing in recent months has swayed me more towards the argument in favour of water charges than seeing protesters chasing after our nation’s President, shouting “parasite”, “traitor” and “midget”. For shame. – Yours, etc,

JOHN HOGAN,

Ballyneety,

Co Limerick.

A chara, – Although I find the personal insults offered to President Higgins distasteful, I do not see why ordinary citizens who indulge in this behaviour are to be criticised when day after day we witness our political leaders indulging in the same invective and ad hominem attacks in Leinster House. When people see the often venomous and childish behaviour of our Ministers, TDs and Senators, are they not to be forgiven for assuming that they too can behave in a similar fashion?

When people are aggrieved – as many undoubtedly have been by the Government’s implementation of austerity – they have a right to protest. Personal insults, however distasteful (be they made by patrician or plebeian), do not make a protest violent nor do they delegitimise the valid grievance being protested about.

If our political leaders and sections of the media wish the citizens of this country engage in political debate without insults being bandied about, they should take the initiative and practice what they preach. – Is mise,

BREANDÁN Ó CORRÁIN,

Kinsale,

Co Cork.

Sir, – The gardaí that stood on duty in Finglas last Thursday to protect our President Michael D Higgins are to be commended for their patience and professionalism in dealing with the vile and disgusting behaviour of a few. – Yours, etc,

COLM McAREE,

Enniscorthy,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – The President is the first citizen and represents us all, outside of politics. What do the water protesters gain by insulting Mr Higgins, with such vicious personal vitriol? I am disgusted by their actions.

Is it a case of publicity at any price, especially with shock tactics?

By abusing the President, they insult all the citizens of the State. It does their cause no good whatsoever. – Yours, etc,

CHRIS RYAN,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Harry McGee reports that only two of the 18 recommendations of the Convention on the Constitution are to be put to referendum (“Only two proposals for Constitution referendum”, January 26th).

The Government’s delay in responding to the final recommendations of the convention is regrettable. February 23rd will mark a year since 85 per cent of the convention voted in favour of enhanced protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

Amnesty International has called on the Government to, at the very least, accept this recommendation in principle and, if deemed necessary, set up a working group for further consideration. Like the Convention on the Constitution, any such working group should be open to external expertise.

It should also have clear and public terms of reference and an expeditious and defined timeframe for reporting.

A Constitution that protects economic, social and cultural rights (such as the right to health, housing and education) would provide decision-makers and politicians with an objective, legally sound framework with which to make better, evidence-based decisions. It would also ensure a crucial linkage between economic and social policy.

Recourse to the courts would be a matter of last resort. International experience shows that courts tend to only intervene when an individual’s rights have been unjustifiably and significantly interfered with – not an easy threshold to meet.

Next year Ireland will mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. This gives us the opportunity to look back, but also to consider our present and shape our future. In doing so we might remember the vision that underpinned our Republic. Constitutional protection of economic, social and cultural rights is consistent with such a vision of an Ireland built upon the principles of equality, human rights and social solidarity. It is also, in our view, a critical reform that will help to ensure that our return to economic growth secures a society which betters serves all of its people. – Yours, etc,

COLM O’GORMAN,

Amnesty International

Ireland,

Sean MacBride House,

48 Fleet Street, Dublin 2.

Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 01:06

Sir, – It is good to read of the initiatives with an environmental focus as outlined by Harold Kingston of the IFA (January 27th). However, it is wrong to state that simple targets are not the answer, because if we wish to be sustainable, then targets to define what this means are definitely needed.

A target I would like to see would be to reduce the net imports of animal feeds costing half a billion euro annually (it is difficult to conceive that much of this feed is produced sustainably, and no domestic assurance scheme seeks to verify this).

Another useful target would be to reduce methane emissions from livestock, which though natural, as Mr Kingston says, are at unnatural levels due to our success at intensification. As this can be achieved in terms of methane emission per unit production, why shouldn’t a target be set?

A further target would surely be to reduce the 300,000 tonnes of manufactured nitrogen used in agriculture each year, given that making each kilogramme of nitrogen results in three kilogrammes of CO2 in the atmosphere, a figure equivalent to 10 per cent of our annual CO2 emissions, most of which do not even feature in our official statistics as it is imported.

And surely Mr Kingston could not disagree with a target to reduce phosphorus input, given that it is an essential input for plants to live, especially considering that the world supply of accessible phosphorus is finite, and when it runs out plant production (and consequently all agricultural production) will be impossible in the way that we currently operate it.

One would have to question the logic of supplementing Irish-grown animal feeds (produced using unsustainable fertiliser inputs) with imported unsustainable feed, to give to animals producing unsustainable emissions, to produce milk powder to be exported to countries where it sold as a healthier alternative to breast-feeding. Bizarrely the countries the fertiliser is imported from are often so polluted as a consequence of these types of industry that it might indeed be healthier for mothers there to feed their infants milk made from Irish milk powder than natural mother’s milk.

I would also like to see a target for reduction in hot air production by spokespeople for certain organisations. To say Ireland produces food more sustainably than most is not correct; although Ireland produces beef and milk more sustainably than most, there is a lot more to food than just these sectors, and we have a hell of a long way to go. – Yours, etc,

CORNELIUS TRAAS,

Life Sciences Department.,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – Further to Harold Kingston’s letter (January 27th), the organic natural gases he mentions, more precisely methane, which stem from animal husbandry, are responsible for almost a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Again, fully a third of the world’s agricultural land is given over to the production of animal feedstock.

One must not forget either that to produce a kilogramme of beef requires 15.5 tonnes of water. Even if people are unwilling to accept this, it will become impossible to sustain the current level of meat production due to a shortage of resources. – Yours, etc,

TERENCE

HOLLINGWORTH,

Blagnac,

France.

Sir, – An 80 per cent reduction in emissions globally will be required by mid-century to limit the effects of climate change. This requires a new approach across all energy-consuming sectors. No sector can opt out if we are to achieve that target, nor the current EU 20 per cent and forthcoming 40 per cent reductions by 2020 and 2030.

As agriculture in Ireland is both such a major contributor to our emissions and our economic wellbeing, it will be necessary that it is given the fullest possible opportunity to contribute. The same is true, of course, for our industrial, transport and housing sectors. Each will need to better understand its role and doubtless redouble its efforts.

There are very difficult and uncomfortable choices to be made and any lack of engagement now will result in much greater problems further, but not much further, down the track. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL HAMELL,

Oughterard,

Co Galway.

A chara, – It seems that some people never vote on the question asked in referendums but on a whole array of other issues. This referendum is no different.

Reading between the lines, it would appear that for some this is essentially a referendum on whether they approve of gay people and their relationships rather than on extending rights to a minority within our society. Why else the fascination with adoption?

As for the redefinition of marriage, we have already redefined it. Wives are no longer considered the property of their husbands. – Is mise,

SÉAMUS McMENAMIN,

An Uaimh,

Co na Mí.­

Sir, – People should wake up to the fact that this proposed referendum has nothing to do with marriage. It is a proposal to extend the rights that married couples enjoy to others of the same sex who form a contract or bond to live together. Call it what you will, it is not marriage. That the Government of a so-called Christian country should regard any such arrangement as marriage is a clear sign of moral and spiritual decadence. – Yours, etc,

ROBERT A SHARPE,

Cootehill,

Co Cavan.

Sir, – It is infuriating to hear the IAG bid being described as €2.55 a share when in fact IAG is offering to pay only €2.50 with the other five cent being paid as a dividend out of Aer Lingus’s own cash reserves. With 535 million shares in issue, five cent per share amounts to €26.75 million of the company’s own money.

Also, as Aer Lingus has nearly €400 million in cash in its balance sheet, the net offer of IAG is €940 million and not the €1.34 billion being touted.

If you were an IAG route planning manager who could use a Heathrow slot to send an Airbus A320 with 170 seats to Dublin or an Airbus A380 with 550 seats to Los Angeles, which would you choose?

Michael O’Leary is correct in saying IAG cannot favour any one shareholder over another and consequently copper-fastened guarantees about Heathrow slots is not permissible. That leaves just promises.

The Government owns 25 per cent of Aer Lingus and without those shares IAG would be unable to pass a special resolution. The sale of the Government’s stake requires a vote in the Dáil. Labour now has an opportunity to save its skin in the next general election by voting against selling the Government’s 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus to IAG. Jobs and slots would be protected. It’s the decent thing to do. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN FRAWLEY,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – How is it possible to introduce penal mandatory criteria for young home buyers and yet be unable to legally enforce the banks to pass on interest rate cuts to their customers? In a country that has not raised the minimum wage in years and which entertains ruinous employment contracts, the possibility of average working-class couples beating the landlords to the house keys is unlikely in the extreme. Roll on 2016. We have so much equality to celebrate. – Yours, etc,

EUGENE TANNAM,

Firhouse, Dublin 24.

Sir, – The Central Bank’s decision on mortgage deposits is to be welcomed. However, it is disturbing that a supposedly independent central bank has bowed to political pressure and allowed banks to provide extra leverage to first-time buyers. This is great news for anyone selling a small house or apartment in Dublin, as now there will be additional credit to goose up the selling price.

What is now needed is either a “use it or lose it” requirement for zoned development land – or a site tax to discourage further hoarding of land by developers in the hope of further price rises.

The current low interest rate environment makes a “wait-and-see” approach a one-way bet.

Lobbyists are using the historical costs of development land to justify sitting on zoned sites when in fact construction costs are now far below selling prices. Speculative historical prices paid are “sunk costs” and the new variable costs of material and labour should be more important in a rational market. Alas, the Irish property market can never be accused of being rational. – Yours, etc,

MATTHEW GLOVER,

Lucan,

Co Dublin.

Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 01:02

Sir, – The density of publicly accessible footpaths in Ireland is far inferior to that in England, Scotland or Wales. Sadly, although a denser network once existed here, many paths have subsequently fallen into disuse or been blocked by landowners. This situation has arisen, at least partially, from a missing level of local government in Ireland, namely the parish or community councils. In our neighbouring island and in many other EU countries, it is these locally elected bodies that, amongst their various functions, have a statutory duty to register and maintain footpaths. To cover their costs, they receive a small percentage of the district rates. Now that private property tax has been reintroduced here, would this not be a good time to set up a similar system in Ireland? – Yours, etc,

JOHN BUTLER,

Hollywood,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – It is great to read that many principals in State schools do not ask for baptism certificates (January 27th). However, the fact remains that they can if they want to, and some do.

When I moved to the area where I live now, I rang local schools asking for enrolment forms for my son. One of the more popular schools in the area said that it would need to see a baptism certificate before sending a form, and that the school “is for the Catholic children of the parish”. I was flabbergasted, and asked if it was legal to discriminate against children who are not Catholic or religious. The woman told me that I could “put his name down if you insist but I’m telling you now that he won’t get in”, before hanging up. I had a similar experience with a Church of Ireland school.

Even if my experience is not a typical one, the fact remains that these schools are within their legal rights to discriminate against children in this way, and even if only a minority do so, that is a horrible way for our taxes to be spent. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE NUTTALL,

Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

 

A scene from the film ‘300’. A modern-day Battle of Thermopylae is now set to be waged in Greece.
A scene from the film ‘300’. A modern-day Battle of Thermopylae is now set to be waged in Greece.

Perhaps it’s fitting that from the cradle of democracy itself, the flames of freedom and hope once more burn a little bit brighter in European politics.

  • Go To

The land where in 480BC King Leonidas and 300 Spartans stood and fought against tens of thousands of Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae.

Now a modern-day Battle of Thermopylae is set to be waged in Greece, once more against seemingly insurmountable odds, but this time the battle will not be waged with swords and spears, and will be waged against bondholders, markets and financial derivatives.

It remains to be seen how this particular fight will pan out, but one thing is for sure – the Germans would do well to remember recent history and the leeway afforded to them after World War II when billions upon billions were written off to help a crippled and defeated nation back on its feet.

The modern EU is a great idea in principle, but the subjugation of national sovereignty to serve the interests of an elitist few is an alarming and sinister development.

Perhaps it’s time for countries to take back their nationhood and stand proud together amongst the nations of the earth, as equals, celebrating our differences, not being ashamed of them.

And no longer being dictated to by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. If history teaches us anything it is that people don’t like being dictated to by faraway powers, in particular when those powers seem to serve only the few. It would be wise for our leaders to take note from history that the people can only take so much.

Seamus Hanratty, address with editor

 

Church must reform or wither

The Catholic hierarchical system, the clerical state, is built on shaky foundations. It reminds one of Christ’s parable about the man who built his house on sand. The building materials used are contaminated with a heretical ingredient from the time of Augustine. Simply stated, it is the heresy that holds material things to be evil and only spiritual things good. Hence sex is evil. The clergy, to be holy, must be male only, and protected from contamination from women. Hence the compulsory celibacy of the male-only clergy.

Because the foundations are not sound, the male clerical state is dying on its feet before our very eyes.

I can speak about one aspect of this matter from my own experience of 36 years living the compulsory celibate life. It’s all about the point of view. The view from the inside looking out is totally different from that of the outside looking in. When the Pope recently made the outrageous comment about Catholics not needing to breed “like rabbits”, he hadn’t a clue how it came across, because he hadn’t been there. No doubt he had been talking to the Filipino clergy about the exploding population there. When I went to the Philippines in 1959, the population was 35 million. Now I hear it’s over 80 million.

Old habits die hard, as my wife says. When Francis made that wisecrack, my first impulse was to laugh before I caught her eye and I bit my tongue.

And young priests today are ultra-conservative. What else is new?

Sean McElgunn, address with editor

 

Timely warning on extremism

John Waters’s timely reminder of how German responsibility for the Holocaust was successfully diluted by a global urge to facilitate an immediate “post-war reconstruction” of the former Nazi state, and remake it as a modern and inclusive liberal democracy (Irish Independent, January 28), should warn us all about the inherent danger of describing a totalitarian ideology “as an aberration of human history”.

This is as true of radical Islamic fundamentalism, as it was of Nazism, Fascism or 1990s Serbian ultra-nationalism. Indeed, even though Waters’s astute comment about an “unprecedented cauldron (where) terror and ideology operated in concert to seize and hold the hearts and minds of millions”, was describing the Nazi terror, it is equally as applicable to a sizeable pan-European cohort of disaffected and alienated modern-day Muslim extremists.

The only essential difference from Waters’s thesis is that instead of “history (being) the only God or master”, contemporary Islamic extremists have perverted the Koranic description of jihad, to justify the wholesale slaughter of anyone, including specifically those of the Jewish faith, who do not subscribe to their perverted ideology.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork

 

State subsidies for big families

I refer to the article on high childcare costs (Irish Independent, January 26).

I fully support the right of mothers to work outside the home and certainly it is positive for the economy as well as for the mother (and therefore her child/children) to be able to do so. It therefore makes some sense for the State to further subsidise childcare.

But when I read about the featured mother, who has three children and wants to have a fourth child, I lost all empathy.

I’m all for personal choice, as this is what we have been slowly working towards in our cultural and social evolution. However, we need to balance our wants with our social and other responsibilities.

If individuals or couples choose to have a number of children, so be it, as long as they can provide the nurturing and education children need to become psychologically healthy, productive adults. But why should I sponsor this choice via my taxes paid to the State?

The argument in the editorial in the same edition, that Ireland needs the younger generation to ensure the pensions of the older generation, is a very weak and narrow one. There are plenty of creative ways in which to deal with a reducing population – it would cut childcare costs for a start. We all have to realise that the enormous human population is a big contributing factor in the significant psychological, social, economic and environmental problems facing us today.

Ann Fielding, Cork city

Irish Independent

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