12 Febuary 2015 Hospital

Mary goes into hospital.


Sandra Chalmers

Sandra Chalmers Photo: MANCHESTER DAILY NEWS

Sandra Chalmers, who has died aged 74, spent much of her career working for the BBC; the sister of the broadcaster Judith Chalmers, she had a natural flair for radio broadcasting, and moved seamlessly from the microphone into management, notably as editor of Woman’s Hour during its heyday in the 1980s.

Sandra Locke Chalmers was born on February 29 1940 at Gatley, Cheshire. Her father was an architect, her mother a medical secretary. She attended Withington Girls’ School and Manchester University, where she read English and was president of the Women’s Students’ Union. After graduating she had a spell with J Walter Thompson in London before joining the BBC in Manchester as a radio announcer; her role involved everything from reading the news to introducing brass bands. From there she became head of radio presentation for the corporation in Manchester.

Sandra Chalmers had had her first experience of radio broadcasting as a schoolgirl, with Children’s Hour in Manchester in the 1950s, successfully establishing herself alongside Judith (later well-known as a presenter of travel shows) as a talented performer.

In the era before television sets were widespread, Children’s Hour was a popular mixture of quizzes, plays, stories, competitions and natural history. The programme had a regular nature slot called “Wandering with Nomad” (in which Sandra also featured). The microphone responded well to the clarity and richness of her voice as well as her warm and lively personality.

It was the infant BBC Radio Manchester that gave Sandy (as she was known) the niche in which she excelled – talking with callers on live phone-ins and sharing their concerns and aspirations.

She was full of ideas for this new form of community radio and soon became the first woman in Britain to run a local radio station – at Stoke-on-Trent . Her success in the Potteries was soon spotted by the senior management at the BBC and she was appointed editor of Woman’s Hour .

There was to be no avoiding of delicate issues under Sandra Chalmers – as she said: “In the North we call a spade a spade.” Health awareness became an important theme, including the hitherto taboo subject of testicular cancer.

She also created It’s Your World, a live “phone-in” which was transmitted to both Radio 4 and World Service audiences. Guests included King Hussein of Jordan, Margaret Thatcher, Kenneth Kaunda and Pik Botha. Radio 4 phone-in regulars had to compete for air time with articulate teachers from Kuala Lumpur and passionate farmers in the Australian outback. It made for refreshing listening.

Sandra Chalmers

During this period BBC radio had to respond to aggressive competition from daytime television and commercial radio. Sandy Chalmers was taken on as BBC head of press and publicity, to lead a tougher promotional stance.

This prompted her next brainchild – a national touring radio festival, complete with “big top” and live programmes from all the networks, many not having been heard outside the capital. The radio circus went to almost 40 towns and cities across Britain. She persuaded the director-general to allow the basement of Broadcasting House in London to be used as a visitor centre for three years.

Sandy Chalmers was generous and concerned for the welfare of the less fortunate. It was a natural transition when, in later life, she became director of communications for Help the Aged . She also ran courses in communication for Ofcom and the BBC, and advised numerous charities.

In spite of her active life, Sandra Chalmers’s family was more important to her than her career. Only a few weeks before she died she took her children and their families for a last holiday to Lapland.

Her marriage to John Lynton-Evans was dissolved, and she is survived by a son and a daughter.

Sandra Chalmers, born February 29 1940, died February 2 2015


Trawler fishing
Trawler fishing. Pulse fishing trials use ‘small, lightweight electrodes to stimulate fish off the seabed and into nets,’ writes Dr Fiona Murray. Photograph: Maurice Mcdonald/PA

While George Monbiot (We should be outraged by Europe slaughtering sea life in the name of ‘science’, 9 February, is entitled to his views on the scientific validity of the Japanese scientific whaling (with which I agree), he is wrong to conflate this issue with the European pulse fishing trials.

Traditional trawling and dredging fishing methods have been proven to cause huge environmental damage to the sea bed, have massive by-catch issues and use vast amounts of fuel dragging the heavy gear across the sea bed.

Initial trials of pulse fishing, where small, lightweight electrodes stimulate fish off the seabed and into nets, such that gear does not need to drag along the bottom, and which leaves other species behind on the sea bed, would appear to demonstrate a potential answer to all of these challenges. Indeed, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) awarded one pulse fishing trawl a Smart Gear award in 2009 for developing a “fishing device that improves commercial catch quality and lessens seabed damage”.

Given these potential benefits, and the fact that the current trials are just that, scientific trials, I fail to understand Mr Monbiot’s outrage as fishermen, governments and scientists work together to improve the sustainability of our fishing fleets.
Dr Fiona Murray
Research associate, centre for marine biodiversity and biotechnology, Heriot-Watt University

Lords at the state opening of parliament
Lords at the state opening of parliament. ‘Labour refused to support a programme motion [on Lords reform], choosing instead to play party games to embarrass the government,’ writes Paul Tyler. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty

Your editorial comment (Too many peerages. First cap the total, then change the system, 10 February) reignites the case for reform of the House of Lords. On 10 July 2012 the House of Commons gave an unprecedented 338 majority to the second reading of the coalition government’s Lords reform bill, squarely based on Jack Straw’s 2008 white paper. Conservative MPs voted 193 to 89 in support, Labour 202 to 26, and Liberal Democrats were unanimous.

Only then did the Labour leadership refuse to support a programme motion – any programme motion, no matter how many days’ debate it allowed – choosing instead to play party games to embarrass the government.

Had Labour stuck to its principles, we would by now be within weeks of the first elections to the Lords, with the resultant end of political appointments and a consequent reduction in the size of the house. Will the UCL Constitution Unit recommend the reintroduction of the bill immediately after the general election?
Paul Tyler
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords

First Edition Of Charlie Hebdo Published Since Paris Terror Attacks Arrives In The UK
A man holds up a copy of Charlie Hebdo magazine. ‘I read with concern your article suggesting that police had tried to monitor sales of the magazine. This was never our intention,’ writes Chief Constable Peter Fahy. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty

As national policing lead for preventing extremism, I read with concern your article (More police forces ask who bought Charlie Hebdo, 11 February) suggesting that police had tried to monitor sales of the magazine. This was never our intention.

Following the attacks in Paris, there has been an increase in incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Officers have been actively monitoring possible sources of tension and investigating reports of hate crimes.

Forces were aware of the potential for heightened tension with the release of Charlie Hebdo and many neighbourhood police officers, who are well known in their communities, may have opted to visit sellers to establish any concerns and provide reassurance. It is through work such as this that we learn more about people’s worries and can help to solve problems.

Unfortunately, there will always be groups and individuals who try to exploit situations to spread hatred and division. There were people who posted copies of this magazine to mosques just to cause offence.

However, it is important that we do not erode the very freedoms that we are trying to protect. I understand why asking for the names of those who might have bought this magazine will appear overzealous and unnecessary. There was no national guidance to this effect and it is not to be supported unless there is clear evidence that a crime has been committed.
Chief Constable Peter Fahy
National policing lead for Prevent, Association of Chief Police Officers 

I have bought the Guardian almost every day for 50 years, but would leave you over your Charlie Hebdo badge offer (7 February) if I had anywhere else to go. The free speech I value is the freedom enjoyed by my Muslim neighbour and my atheist self to express our own beliefs, and our considered responses to each other’s beliefs, without being murdered, arrested or spat on. Publication of mocking or obscene images of others’ sacred objects appears to me to be a form of graphic spitting, less about free speech – there are other ways to advance a legitimate argument – than about exhibiting contempt, advertising one’s cleverness, and selling magazines. To be murdered for such behaviour is tragic and undeserved, but does not make one a martyr in a sacred cause. Je ne suis pas Charlie.
Ruth Brown

Trudie Goodwin: ‘I had to struggle on, constantly saying pardon, often not being able to hear cues, and missing out on a lot of the banter and fun that is one of the perks of my job.’ Photograph: Woman’s Own/Rex

I passionately agree with Jackie Ashley that the funding for hearing aids cannot be cut (The short-termism of our NHS is spelt out in this scandal over hearing aids, 10 February). My hearing has been poor from childhood, but has deteriorated in the last few years. I was given a hearing aid on the NHS a long time ago but it was bulky and not very good so rarely got used. I’m an actor, working mainly on TV, where it was impossible to wear this aid without it being obvious, so I had to struggle on, constantly saying pardon, often not being able to hear cues (the bane of my working life was the mumbling actor!), and missing out on a lot of the banter and fun that is one of the perks of my job.

Last year I went for a long-overdue hearing test and was given, with no problem at all, fantastic, tiny new hearing aids free of charge. I’ve been banging on about them ever since. I had no idea how much the technology had improved and how inconspicuous hearing aids can be. I’m a fairly confident person and very open about my bad hearing, but have nevertheless found the condition isolating and extremely frustrating. These new aids have definitely improved my life, and I can now mumble along with the best of them.
Trudie Goodwin

If North Staffordshire clinical commissioning group is given insufficient funds to meet the needs of its population, why pick on hearing aids? Instead, it could close a couple of paediatric wards, stop wasting money treating cancer, or sack a bunch of psychiatric nurses. Next!
Dr Howard Stoate
GP, Bexley; former member, House of Commons health select committee

Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Say that again, Jackie. Ah, not regarding moderate hearing loss as serious would be a false economy – I agree. Already too many people are reluctant to use aids, worsening their distress and relationships with those closest to them. Once used to wearing them, we still need others to project and not speak behind hands, and to recognise that numbers, letters, names and other context-free sounds can be very hard to distinguish. Lack of deaf-awareness is sadly as common among health professionals as it is with ordinary Joes (or was that Joans?). These proposed cuts suggest that this extends right to the top of the emerging medical/political establishment.

The only ones excused are comedians – even though one of the worst aspects of deafness is missing jokes. Punchlines, by definition, defy logic, what’s expected, common sense and all the other cues on which deaf people depend. Asking for the joke to be repeated just isn’t cool; but we get used to enjoying just joining in with the laughter.
Richard Stainton (@everynowhere42)
Whitstable, Kent

Victims of the black death … woodcut. Image: Alamy
Victims of the black death … woodcut. Image: Alamy

I have heard it suggested that the black death, which devastated European populations in the 14th century, was Ebola fever rather than bubonic plague, as generally believed. Is there any evidence for this theory?

Tony Dennis, Leighton Buzzard, Beds




Readers give many and varied reasons for the Conservative party’s poor current showing

Sir, It is hard to imagine a greater public relations disaster than the Conservatives’ black and white ball (“Tax scandal tycoon gives top prize at Tory gala”, Feb 11). Vast sums were paid by the winning bidders for star prizes such as a night at a London nightclub, “with a £20,000 tab thrown into the offer” supplied by a businessman “at the centre of an HSBC tax avoidance scandal”, and a five-night stay in a hotel suite on Santorini donated by a Greek businessman whose Bermuda-based company apparently pays very little in tax. After five years of austerity, with more to come, many people will find this display of ostentatious wealth in support of the Conservative party highly distasteful and a world away from their own lives.

The image that emerges from the gala at the Grosvenor House hotel is that the Conservatives are the party protecting the lifestyles of the very wealthy, and that austerity and taxes are for ordinary people, not for the super-rich. The real meaning of the slogan “We’re all in this together” is revealed as “You’re all in this together”. No wonder the Tories have given up hope of retaining a number of seats they won at the last general election, including Boston and Skegness, where they had a majority of 12,426 (“Tories ‘have given up on Ukip seat’ ”, Feb 11).

Michael Patterson
Swineshead, Lincs

Sir, Some years ago my father, a lifelong Tory, informed me that I should be happy to pay my taxes because the more I paid meant the more I was earning. After reading your reports on how the wealthy, including royalty, use Swiss bank accounts to keep funds away from tax authorities, I have to say that my father was wrong. The real test of wealth is, have I amassed sufficient funds to enter these schemes?

Ray Bright
Nailsea, Somerset

Sir, You ask why the Conservative party is not making a stronger showing in the polls (“Why the Tories are not Ahead”, leader, Feb 7). I suspect one reason is that an increasing number of people are attuned to being in debt, and that the Tory emphasis on tackling the national debt does not appeal to them if it involves making cuts to public spending. People of earlier generations were much more averse to incurring debt. My father never bought anything that he could not afford to buy in cash, including my childhood home, which was rented.

The financial burden on government represented by the state sector is one to which I now contribute. I retired from my public sector job 20 years ago. Last year, the combined income from my occupational and state pensions after tax exceeded my salary when I took early retirement in 1995. The most public-spirited contribution I could make to the national economy would be to die, but our state-funded NHS recently decreed that I should start taking statins at further public expense to reduce the likelihood of this happening any time soon.

Martin Litchfield
Wimborne, Dorset

Sir, Matthew Parris (“A warning to Cameron from down under”, Feb 7) is wrong that gay marriage is no longer an issue. I know of many people for whom this is a constant source of deep sorrow, including a large number of Conservative supporters who regard it as a betrayal so profound that they can never vote Tory again. Some have moved to Ukip; many have not and seek in vain for a party which supports the values that they hold most dear.

Mrs Mary Douglas

Sir, Your leader (Feb 7) omits an important point about politicians. It is that they simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth — particularly in manifesto pledges. The Tory promise not to reorganise the NHS was a clearly calculated mockery, with disastrous consequences for patients. The Lib Dems (2010) and Labour (2005) similarly made manifesto pledges that were broken.

I will find it difficult to vote in the next election — not because I can’t be bothered, but because I will not give my support to people who do not keep their word.

Alastair Lack
Coombe Bissett, Salisbury

Peter Tann learnt the Wales-England rugby score by mistake. But what about the football results?

Sir, Peter Tann’s letter (Feb 11) reminded me of an overriding desire in the 1970s, as a family, to avoid seeing football results on Saturday afternoon before the evening highlights. Watching a Five Nations rugby match, a “latest” football score was displayed. The only course of action was to stick black tape across the bottom of the screen. Later in the match, a result scrolled across the top of the screen. I watched the last few minutes of the match through an ever-smaller space surrounded by a black tape border.

Paul Obey
Sevenoaks, Kent

Bovril asks that customers kindly do not deface its meaty message – or face prosecution if they do…

Sir, When I was a young executive in the food industry I was told about a prewar Bovril advert (letter, Feb 11) which read: “Bovril represents the goodness of bullocks.” It was followed in smaller type by: “Anyone defacing this message will be prosecuted.”

Frederick Marsh

London SW6

There’s one tip that diplomats sent to the Foreign Office’s academy would do well to remember

Sir, One hopes the new Foreign Office academy (Feb 11) will also include among its do’s and don’ts for future ambassadors Talleyrand’s advice: Le meilleur auxiliaire d’un diplomate c’est bien son cuisinier (the diplomat’s best assistant is certainly his cook).

Terence Hughes

London SW15

Why urge caution on pay rises for employees when senior management have awarded themselves inflation-busting increase?

Sir, Stephen Ibbotson’s letter (Feb 11) defies belief. Despite an upturn in confidence he says that business leaders are right to be cautious about making long-term commitments on employee pay due to a variety of future uncertainties. I would ask why the same logic does not seem to apply to the stratospheric awards that the business leaders give themselves.

This has all happened on the back of harsh austerity measures and wage cuts for the majority. There will always be an excuse for not sharing growth, despite pleas from the PM.

John Walton

Shepperton, Surrey

We are seeing a marked increase in suicidality, self-harm and general psychiatric deterioration in victims whose abusers are pressuring them not to speak out

Sir, Dr Peter Green’s concern (letter, Feb 7) about the lack of suitable therapeutic provision for maltreated children in the light of the Rotherham report is timely. The long-term psychological consequences for adults whose plight was not realised earlier are severe. The Survivors’ Alliance has worked tirelessly to ensure an adequate inquiry into organised abuse and has been emphasising the need for adequate therapeutic support during and after disclosure. No single therapy is right for everyone.

While waiting for the inquiry and its investigative arm we are seeing a current and marked increase in suicidality, self-harm and general psychiatric deterioration in victims whose abusers are pressuring them not to speak out, in some cases with direct threats or by causing them harm.

For a successful outcome with reduced risk to survivors from disclosure, the media, forensic services, clinicians and politicians all need to work together.

Dr Valerie Sinason Consultant psychotherapist
Dr Rachel Thomas Consultant clinical psychologist
London NW11

If pupils do properly what they are asked to do at school, there will be no need for any additional — and expensive — assistance

Sir, Leading independent schools, including Eton, have repeatedly voiced their opposition to tutoring (report, Feb 11). Academically, it often leads to pupils failing to cope with the standards expected once they are at senior school and have to work independently. It can ruin what are meant to be holidays, as parents fill their children’s time with extra work, creating resentment towards what should be the excitement of learning.

If pupils do properly what they are asked to do in the ordinary course of their school term, there will be no need for such additional — and expensive — assistance.

Paul Dean



Some argue pensioner bonds will help the elderly to boost their incomes Photo: Alamy

SIR – The recovery of the economy depends upon our ability to persuade those who have money to spend it on British goods and services (report, February 9).

Encouraging pensioners to lock away their cash for three years, with zero interest receivable until the end of the term, is not helpful. We need to return to the Guaranteed Income Bonds to provide a regular monthly income.

Tony Mann
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

SIR – Who formulated the structure of these one-year and three-year instruments in such a way that interest would be paid only upon maturity?

Most pensioners are looking for a regular monthly income stream, so clearly these are not designed for them.

Nor do they seem to be designed for the wealthier pensioner, who can wait for maturity to claim the income, as the maximum amount that can be placed is set relatively low.

Despite this, the bonds have attracted quite a number of investors; I suspect mainly the better-heeled who consider lobbing £10,000 into each of them possibly worth the punt.

James T M McNie
Rafford, Morayshire

SIR – It is intriguing that George Osborne has issued Pensioner Bonds through National Savings and Investments (NS&I). Government services are often criticised for being inefficient and anti-competitive. These bonds are in direct competition with private businesses who can’t compete against this taxpayer subsidy.

The main way governments borrow is by issuing treasury stocks, often called gilts. Surely it would have been better if the Government had issued a new type of treasury stock, essentially identical to others except that they pay a bonus interest rate where they were owned by funds that only serve pensioners – such as pension funds, annuity funds, and products to help pay for residential homes on the proceeds of selling the family home.

That way private savings products are able to innovate and compete against each other, to provide pensioners with better products.

Jonathan Morse
London SE25

SIR – Savers have been hit hard by deliberately low interest rates (Leading article, February 9), but plenty of these savers are young and desperately trying to save for a deposit for their first flat or house.

If Mr Osborne is interested in “fairness”, and not cynical bribery why are these bonds not open to all?

David Brewis
Windsor, Berkshire

SIR – I don’t think that pensioner bonds are any good to us. We’re too busy spending the kids’ inheritance.

Jackie McCrindle
Prestwick, Ayrshire

Labour and the NHS

SIR – Today Sir Robert Francis will publish his report on the bullying of whistle-blowers in the NHS. This is a deep-seated cultural problem in our health service which has its roots in the last Labour government’s obsessive pursuit of national targets and favourable headlines.

As patient safety campaigners, we have first-hand experience of the stonewalling, slander and silencing that whistle-blowers faced from managers and politicians determined to hit targets and suppress bad news in that era.

Many problems remain, but the current Government is confronting them and attempting to deal with the rotten culture it inherited, making real progress on patient safety.

We have seen no evidence that Labour has learnt the lessons from presiding over this toxic bullying culture. The party can not be trusted to run the NHS again. Labour would take the NHS back to the days of cover-up and denial about poor care, putting patients’ lives at risk.

Julie Bailey
Founder, Cure the NHS

Deb Hazeldine

Carl Hendrickson

Liza Brady

The dependence of charities on public funding


SIR – When the Big Society was launched five years ago, it envisaged a partnership between public services and the voluntary sector. Statutory agencies and those charitable organisations that existed to provide support for people who fell through the safety net of state provision would work together to meet the needs of vulnerable people. This was a concept few could quarrel with.

However, since then many charities have become heavily dependent on public funding. Far from providing help to those beyond the reach of statutory agencies, they are increasingly involved in providing services that local authorities are statutorily obliged to provide.

Many charities at first welcomed local authority funding, but it often came at the cost of deviating from their charitable objectives, and in many areas there is no longer a safety net for those ineligible for public provision.

Thus a well-intentioned public policy initiative has had serious unintended consequences.

Prof Derek Pheby
Harnham, Wiltshire

Nurses’ pay

SIR – Nothing has changed. I was travelling back from Warsaw Chopin Airport in late 2003 to Manchester with Lot, the Polish national airline. The aircraft was an Embraer 145 with 47 seats. There were about 15 passengers, one travelling first class. Printed on the back of her fleece were the words: “Working for the NHS”.

First class then cost more than £700, and economy around £350. I was in disbelief at this blatant misuse of public money.

Howard Marshall
Altrincham, Cheshire

SIR – David Cameron says it is time to give the private sector pay rises to reflect the reduced cost of doing business (report, February 10). Is this the same David Cameron who, despite independent review, said we could not afford the recommended pay rise for nurses?

Presumably this is because hospitals make no profit, even when privately run, as shown by Circle’s withdrawal from their contract at Hinchingbrooke hospital (Comment, January 10).

Susan Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire

Legal defence costs

SIR – In the uproar over general cost-cutting in legal aid in the past two years, it has largely gone unnoticed that as a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, defendants who are found innocent no longer have any realistic hope of recovering their legal costs – even in cases that are thrown out at “half time” because the prosecution evidence is insufficient to allow a safe guilty verdict.

Under the new rules, introduced by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, defendants must prove that the decision to prosecute them was “perverse”, which is virtually impossible in any practical, legal sense.

Thus a key financial deterrent to pursuing politically motivated cases has been removed from the Crown Prosecution Service. It explains why the CPS feels able to continue prosecuting tabloid journalists on trumped-up conspiracy charges. But the public is probably unaware of the other effects: that, for instance, people who are found innocent are being driven into bankruptcy by a state which will not pay the price of its own follies.

Defendants who attempt to prove theirs was a “perverse” prosecution are told that the CPS will fight them in court and hold them liable for the state’s costs (as well as their own, of course). Only the wealthiest and most determined defendants can consider proceeding in the face of such bullying and legal manipulation.

Damien McCrystal
London W14

SIR – When I was a teacher I set up a weather station at my primary school. The children recorded daily weather readings on a special chart shaped like a big cloud.

One wintry day we not only enjoyed playing in the snow, but we also did a science experiment with it. We put some snow into a beaker and each pupil guessed how much liquid would be left when it melted. They were surprised it was lower than their estimates, and less than the amount of liquid left from a thick piece of ice from the school pond. It is exciting to educate using natural happenings.

Leslie V Snow
Newport, Isle of Wight

Big Brother

SIR – The news that televisions may be recording our conversations (report, February 10) at last brings some verification to the frequent, irritating parting comments of some television announcers who say: “See you later.”

Christo Scaramanga
Matfield, Kent

A father, nesting

SIR – On the birth of my second child 16 years ago, my husband took a week’s annual leave since there was no provision for paternity leave. He spent the week building a shed.

I can only dream of how much nicer our shed might have been had Mr Miliband been in power then.

Jane Jacklin

A little distraction can pay off for schoolchildren

The 230 ft wingspan Bristol Brabazon (top) and the Saunders-Roe Princess in flight (

SIR – What a pity the schoolchildren in Norfolk (report, February 9) were not allowed to enjoy the sight of snow.

When I was at junior school in Gloucestershire in the early Fifties, the daily timetable was rigid. Afternoon lessons began with handwriting. Once, while we were silently copying from the board, a loud rumbling noise started outside. Our teacher looked out of the window and shouted: “It’s the Brabazon. Everybody outside!”

We rushed into the playground and watched the massive aeroplane passing slowly overhead, on a circuit from its Bristol home.

As we filed back to our lesson I looked at the windows of the other wartime, prefab classrooms. Every head was down, concentrating on handwriting. What a treat they had missed. The Brabazon did not fly over the area again, and within a couple of years it was scrapped.

Diana Holl
Clevedon, Somerset

SIR – When I was a teacher I set up a weather station at my primary school. The children recorded daily weather readings on a special chart shaped like a big cloud.

One wintry day we not only enjoyed playing in the snow, but we also did a science experiment with it. We put some snow into a beaker and each pupil guessed how much liquid would be left when it melted. They were surprised that it was lower than their estimates, and less than the amount of liquid left from a thick piece of ice from the school pond. It is exciting to educate using natural events.

Leslie V Snow
Newport, Isle of Wight

No news is bad news

SIR – I buy the Telegraph when I can, and read articles on the website when I cannot. I also like to watch the news on television. BBC World News is the usual British source in hotels abroad. How very poor it is for news. Most of the content is promotion of itself and future items; the news content is minimal. The BBC – so respected worldwide – lets itself down with World.

I find I have to watch France 24 in English, or even Russia TV to keep up with the news. Euronews is also good.

BBC, why not broadcast BBC 24 abroad?

G G Garner
Ravensden, Bedfordshire

Early climbing vine

SIR – All those worrying about historical inaccuracies in Wolf Hall (“Swearing by the historical veracity of ‘Wolf Hall’ ”, Letters, February 10) need to get out more.

There’s plenty to entertain them outside. The best example was in last week’s episode, when Anne Boleyn went gliding past a mature specimen of Wisteria sinensis, a plant that only arrived from China in 1816.

Margaret Higgins
Askett, Buckinghamshire



Globe and Mail:


Janet Smylie: Put an end to racism in the ER

What actions could end the shocking disparity between the prosperity of Canada and the deprivation of First Nations? In our series Rich Country, Poor Nations, a range of contributors argue for one idea that could make a difference.

Janet Smylie is a family physician and research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, an associate professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and a CIHR applied public health research chair.

Universal access to medical care and the right to live free from racial discrimination are two underlying principles that are highly integrated into the fabric of Canadian society. A challenge to either is bound to incite heated debate. Calling an individual or group “racist” is highly insulting and predictably rejected by those on the receiving end. The recent response to accusations of racism in Winnipeg is a good example.

Most readers will be aware of the striking, persistent health inequities faced by aboriginal people in Canada. For example, infant mortality rates two to four times higher than those of non-aboriginal Canadians, and the fact that as many as 36 per cent of aboriginal households are food insecure. It may be news to some that these particular inequities do not improve with urban residence, which is where most aboriginal people now live.

Clearly, there is tension between these highly regarded social values and the existence of such inequities. How is it that First Peoples continue to experience such striking inequities in accessing Canada’s relative wealth of health and social resources?

The evidence points toward an epidemic of faulty logic. Let me explain.

There is a universal and deeply rooted tendency for humans to discriminate by sorting people they meet into “in groups” and “out groups” based on appearance. Our automatic responses tend to favour in groups over out groups. Our automatic associations about new information are based on what we have previously learned.

If we take the case of non-aboriginal people’s views of aboriginal people, the starting point will be a tendency toward discrimination as a result of “out group” sorting. Add to that the constant barrage of negative images and stories about aboriginal people generated by the news media and our public education systems and we have perfect-storm conditions. It is almost impossible to live in Canada and not have underlying automatic negative associations about aboriginal people.

Not buying it? Try listing the first three social problems that you associate with aboriginal people and then three social strengths or assets. Which list takes you longer? One set of assets built into many aboriginal societies is the highly valued concept of respect and protocols that guide interactions with “out groups.” If followed, these teachings and protocols can effectively mitigate the problematic human tendency to discriminate and preferentially share resources with those who we perceive as most like us.

The problem with underlying and unacknowledged negative associations is that they lead to unfair treatment. For example, one of the most common negative associations made about aboriginal people in Canada is links with alcohol abuse. In fact, studies have shown that rates of both abstinence and problem drinking are higher in aboriginal populations than in the general population. Unfortunately, in health-care settings, the misdiagnosis of aboriginal people as suffering from alcohol intoxication is far too common. For Brian Sinclair, who died of a treatable bladder infection after a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg emergency room in 2008, this misdiagnosis proved fatal.

Such faulty logic allows Canadians to pretend that the principles of equitable access to health care and freedom from racial discrimination are being upheld despite striking evidence to the contrary. Aboriginal people can be blamed for their own health and social conditions, rather than blaming the failure to uphold these principles. It is reminiscent of the “civilizing” rationale used by European colonists to justify the appropriation of aboriginal lands and the abduction of aboriginal children to residential schools.

It is a good thing that racism carries a strong social stigma in Canada. The energy of this rejection needs to be put toward weeding out false assumptions, rather than burying them. We must sharpen our minds and actively challenge our assumptions. In order to move forward, aboriginal people must been seen as holding the solutions, not the problems.


How to keep Ontario’s schoolyards in community hands

Irish Times:

Sir, – I would like to thank Wicklow TDs Anne Ferris (Labour) and Stephen Donnelly (Independent) for representing the majority of their constituents by supporting Clare Daly’s Bill to legislate for a termination of pregnancy where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

The Government voted against this legislation because it believed it to be unconstitutional. However unconstitutional it may or may not be, it is utterly wrong that it would vote against it while refusing to hold a referendum on the issue. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I commend Clare Daly for trying to bring some clarity to this awful situation which women are faced with. What was reprehensible was the attitude of Sinn Féin, which didn’t vote, a cowardly act by that so-called republican party. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 22.

Sir, – The Government and the Labour Party in particular have brought politics to a new low in opposing Clare Daly’s Bill to give a choice to parents of foetuses with fatal foetal abnormalities to terminate their pregnancies in this country.

So now we are faced with a situation where 83 per cent of our political representatives in the Dáil have said no to a proposal supported by the vast majority of the population, according to many opinion polls since 2011.

The Labour Party has “copped out” of its responsibility to the electorate, claiming that the issue of fatal foetal abnormality did not form part of its political manifesto at the last election.

This is crass hypocrisy and particularly so as the party actually promised in its manifesto not to introduce property tax and water rates.

I have never felt more sickened and nauseated at the cowardice and narrow self-interest of the majority of our elected representatives.

Political expediency has clearly ruled the day.

Anne Ferris has shown courage and sensitivity to the plight of many families affected by this tragedy and she should be applauded and not ostracised by the Labour Party.

The Labour TDs who didn’t turn up to vote in the Dáil are the sorriest group in this sorry saga; the fence they straddle will seem very precarious when they face the electorate in the next election.

Clare Daly may have lost an important vote today, but she stands for human rights and has won the hearts of the electorate. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – How long until there is a Bill to terminate the lives of the elderly with terminal illnesses? – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – The Government said it could not, for constitutional reasons, support Clare Daly’s Bill to allow for terminations in circumstances where an unborn child has no prospect of life outside the womb. One can understand and fully appreciate that position, based on a clearly stated legal concern. But what I found deeply disturbing is that the Government, and indeed some Opposition parties, were loathe to allow a free vote on this Bill. – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – So Labour had to oppose Clare Daly’s bill because it was “unconstitutional”. Apparently after the next election it will have become “constitutional”. I believe Dev stated in 1918 that “Labour must wait”. In his wildest dreams the Chief could hardly have imagined that in 2015 his Constitution has kept Labour still “waiting”. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Well done to Miriam Lord on her withering summary of the defeat of Clare Daly’s Bill (“Dáil Sketch”, February 11th). It highlighted the difference between politicians who try and change society and those whose only consideration is not associating themselves with anything that might jeopardise their chances of re-election. Enda Kenny’s cynical approach was to take the opt-out opportunity afforded by the attorney general’s advice and kick this issue to beyond the next election. His statements carried his usual patronising tone. It is a tone one associates with somebody who thinks the position he occupies suddenly provides him with a wisdom superior to those on the fringes, but actually reflects a shallowness associated with somebody out of touch with his electorate. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The word “British”, as used for example in the term British Isles, must have, for many people, an association with colonial possession, otherwise why was the British Commonwealth renamed the Commonwealth of Nations? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

Sir, – I would like to ask those readers who object to the use of the British Isles when it refers to Ireland if they feel Lancastrians should , in a similar way, object to swimming in the Irish Sea when they go for their summer dip in Blackpool. Similarly, should Brazilians object to being labelled South Americans, or Canadians North Americans? I would ask these readers to not get too hung up on geographical descriptions. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – When your correspondents have agreed a suitable replacement for “British Isles” to designate the western European islands, I invite them to turn their minds to the equally vexing issue of how to rebrand the country sometimes misleadingly referred to as “America”, but which in fact occupies less than 25 per cent of the land mass of the Americas. One of your correspondents usefully suggested a recipe for resolution of the “British Isles” conundrum inspired by Macedonia and the idea commends itself here too – “The Former American Colonies of the British Crown”, perhaps? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The “Scots-Irish-Anglo-Welsh-Manx Sea” anyone? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – John A Murphy (February 7th) suggests that the “only objection” to the extension of the term “the British Isles” to this island comes from those with “a postcolonial chip on their shoulder”. Not so. What about those who simply prefer accuracy?

If your correspondent’s assertion is valid, however, is it not equally arguable that those with no objection to the contested title are afflicted with a postcolonial mentality? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The ongoing discussion regarding the usage of the term British Isles shows the extent to which we still are in a postcolonial mindset. We have now gone beyond the inferiority complex and, in our efforts to show how relaxed we are now with our erstwhile overlords, we embrace all things British, including a term which is simply inaccurate.

Since when is it okay to use a term which is politically inaccurate and justify it by claiming that is is a geographical descriptor? Parts of northeastern Germany and northwestern Poland share very similar characteristics; however no Pole would consent to the use of Pomerania to describe it, and no German would dare to use it either as it dates from a time when this part of modern Poland was in Germany. Why would we accept a similar situation in Ireland? Europe’s borders have moved considerably over the last few hundred years and old terms fall out of usage when they lose their political validity; the same must apply to the British Isles.

Australia and New Zealand have much in common yet there is no suggestion to call both islands the Australian Isles.

Let’s not get so caught up in postcolonial “maturity” that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. The term to describe these two islands is quite simply Ireland and Britain (or, but not automatically so, Britain and Ireland). Apologies to the weather forecasters! – Yours, etc,




A chara, – You report that researchers from the Dublin Institute of Technology have found that 43 per cent of those aged 9 to 16 do not know how to use the “report abuse” button on social media (“Online usage patterns of children suggest they are not equipped with adequate internet safety skills”, February 10th). While I am sure that this statistic may be fairly accurate, I suggest that parents, teachers and other responsible adults would wish for more detailed information.

In my view, the age spread is too wide, as those aged 16 can be expected to know far more about these things than almost any child aged nine. The extent of this greater knowledge can only be determined if we are given separate statistics for, at a minimum, two age groups within this spread: 9-12 and 13-16, as 12 years of age is an important milestone in many young people’s development. Better still would be figures for four age groups: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-16. – Is mise,


Baile Átha Cliath 4.

A chara, – It was good to read that Anthony J Jordan (“Church aside, of course all babies go to heaven”, Rite & Reason, February 10th) was able to trace the burial and baptism of his infant child Antonia who died in 1970. It seems to be a universal human trait in all human cultures, including those of no religious faith, to have practices to mark the life and death of one of the community.

Following the Second Vatican Council, the renewal of various Catholic rites, including that of funerals, took place. The revised funeral rite was published in 1969, and an English translation in 1970. These had sections to include children who died before baptism. The revised edition of this in 1989 includes provision for the naming of the child where this has not already been done. Other Christian churches have their own rites. Dealing with such events in hospitals where the child is born has also developed greatly.

It is difficult for us today to imagine what was normal practice 50 and more years ago. In the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, it is particularly welcome that Judge Yvonne Murphy will be joined by Prof Mary Daly, a social historian. “The methodology . . . shall include a literature-based academic social history module to establish an objective and comprehensive historical analysis of significant matters.” This is essential in any good investigation of years gone by. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – What would we think of any parent who put their children out the door at the age of 18 and told them that they could no longer have any contact with the family, would have to find their own accommodation, would have €188 deposited in their bank every week to fund themselves and would be able to meet a support worker (if one was available) once a week for an hour?

What outcomes would we expect for those young people? How many of our 18-year-old offspring would cope?

It is time that the State, in loco parentis for these young care-leavers, realised that children (and especially children who have suffered the loss of their birth home and family and perhaps other trauma) do not suddenly grow up on their 18th birthday. They need substantial ongoing support into adulthood.

The State’s failure to address this injustice creates many victims and hidden costs that are never attributed to this source. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – I think it is sad and disappointing to see that so many people take up incorrectly what Pope Francis was endeavouring to say in relation to the proper disciplining of a child. I believe he was stressing the importance of rebuking children when they are in the wrong, and to rebuke them in a calm and rational way, and then to move on.

If we are to live in a civilised society, it is vital that both children and adults alike understand the importance of “discipline” in the broad sense. – Yours, etc,


Drumree, Co Meath.

Sir, – Anyone in high public office has to be aware that anything they say in public will be subject to the most meticulous scrutiny, especially in this age of instant communication.

The papacy is now a victim of its own success as an expected source of “good” media stories. Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff remark “Who am I to judge?” in relation to gay people had a world-wide impact in changing the condemnatory attitudes of previous popes towards gay people .

However, last Wednesday’s off-the-cuff remark in which he approved of slapping, once it didn’t humiliate the child, has shown another side of Pope Francis .

I’m sure, as Fr Federico Lombardi of the Vatican press office has stated, that the “Pope was not encouraging parents to hit their children” but that’s how it comes across if you read the full transcript of the pope’s remarks (“Pope not encouraging smacking of children, says Vatican”, February 10th).

Surely in this instance, if that is the pope’s position as stated by Father Lombardi, then the proper procedure should be for the pope to withdraw his remarks and state without any ambivalence or conditionality that all violence against children is wrong and demeans them. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Cans and bottles, both glass and plastic, litter public beaches, parks and roadsides. If money were available for the return of these bottles and cans, surely this would bring a greener, cleaner Ireland, with more jobs in the recycling sector and money in our pockets?

In the Canadian province of British Columbia, millions of beverage containers have been recycled and diverted from landfill owing to the recycling regulation known as the “Bottle Bill”. All beer, wine and soft drinks sold in recyclable containers are subject to a refundable deposit. The deposit is collected at the point of sale and refunded for redeemed containers of the same type and brand.

Why not bring in a similar law for Ireland to ensure a higher rate of recycling? – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I note that an official from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has warned against investing in Glenalbyn swimming pool as over half the population of Stillorgan is over 40 (“Stillorgan’s ‘ageing population’ could scupper pool plans”, February 9th).

I am in my early seventies. Until the Glenalbyn pool closed two years ago, I swam 2,000m every morning with the Glenalbyn Masters Swimming Club. I still swim in the sea every weekend during the winter and I am looking forward to swimming this summer in the Leinster open sea races, the Liffey swim and the Dún Laoghaire harbour race.

Swimming is a sport for life. As swimming is gentle on the body, many senior citizens can keep swimming long after they retire from other sports. An investment in Glenalbyn swimming pool is an investment in the health and welfare of all the local population. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – “Unexpected item in bagging area.” “Lift doors closing.” “Lift going up.” “Lift doors opening.”

I think it would be nice if we began to hear Irish accents in these and other announcements. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – For at least six months now the website of Irish Genealogy, operated by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has had a notice which says that civil records are temporarily unavailable. This temporarily unavailability has gone on for far too long. Perhaps someone should whisper the meaning of temporarily in the Minister’s ear. – Yours, etc,



South Africa.

Irish Independent:

Clare Daly's abortion bill was not passed by the Dáil
Clare Daly’s abortion bill was not passed by the Dáil

The failed attempt by Clare Daly to get a bill authorising termination in case of fatal foetal abnormality passed by the Dáil is surely disappointing for the families who have to deal with such tragedies.

  • Go To

Anything to ease the sadness and pressure on these families would be welcome. Unfortunately, some people in Fine Gael don’t seem to agree. Perhaps Catholic conservatism is too deeply ingrained in their prominent supporters to go along with the bill or perhaps they don’t want Clare Daly, a socialist of the first stripe, to get the political credit for such a worthwhile step. Whatever the reason, a chance to make some social progress was missed.

In 2016, this country will be celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Rising, perhaps the most famous and far-reaching event in our country’s recent history. The 1916 Proclamation, among many fine idealistic statements, stated, “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”.

I wonder did the authors of the proclamation ever envisage that pregnant Irish women would have to go to England to get relief from such terrible afflictions as fatal foetal abnormality?

Somehow I feel they would not be best pleased to see the present situation. Ireland, a sovereign country, effectively forces its female citizens to go to England in such situations, and then denies it ever happened.

These unfortunate women are deprived of such human comforts as the consolation of family at termination and the burial of the foetus in family graves.

With 80pc approval rating in the country for such a step as Clare Daly’s bill, the Government is walking a very thin line.

It should remember the coming General Election.

The parties in the current Coalition might emerge from that election suffering from a few political ailments which may prove terminal.

Liam Cooke

Coolock, Dublin 17

Hold a poll on abortion law

The Government, and Labour in particular, are getting a lot of bad press for their decision to vote against Clare Daly’s proposal on the right to terminate a pregnancy in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. First off, the current situation is ridiculous and the right to terminate in such circumstances should exist. That said, I support the decision to vote against the bill.

It would be irresponsible for a government to vote to approve a bill that is expected to be unconstitutional, according to advice of the Attorney General. This is not advice that should be dismissed lightly. If the bill was passed, then it would be reasonable to assume that the first woman who exercises her right under this new law would be challenged in court. This would cause undue stress to both her and every other woman waiting on similar procedures that would now be delayed until the case is decided. Furthermore the State will have to defend the law, probably all the way to the Supreme Court, at the cost of millions to the taxpayer. If the AG is correct, the Government would lose and a referendum would have to be held, at the cost of even more millions.

If there is a real will to pass such a law then millions should not be wasted on useless lawsuits and causing unnecessary stress. I would prefer that politicians and parties campaign during the next General Election on holding a referendum to alter the problematic clause. If they get their mandate, hold the referendum, update the Constitution and then pass legislation that will not be challenged in court.

Mel Gorman

Address with Editor

Prophets weep, profits stack up

President Michael D Higgins’s latest poem ‘The Prophets are Weeping’ (Irish Independent, February 2) surely does not apply to Ireland. For the privileged, profits are in fact booming.

Regarding the poem’s observation about the abuse of “words”, compare what Labour is doing in Government with the words contained in its ‘Core Party Principles’ document and many will weep “At their texts distorted” and the suffering and injustice being “imposed in their name”.

Jim O’Sullivan

Rathedmond, Co Sligo

Greece’s brass neck

J Woods praises Greek “guts” in the ongoing argument about Greek debt (Letters, Irish Independent, February 11).

It does not take much guts to bankrupt a country. It just takes recklessness and irresponsibility.

It does not take much guts to demand that everyone else should pay for the bankrupting of that country. It just takes hypocrisy and a brass neck.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Look up, it’s … who?

Sacramento is the state capital of California, the most populous state in the USA.

Recently, I checked in at Sac International Airport for a flight: United Airlines to Chicago, and then Aer Lingus from there to Dublin. As the check-in clerk scanned the ticket, she turned to her companion.

“Who the heck’s Aer Lingus?”

The companion screwed up her face. “Who?”

The clerk addressed me. “Sir…Aer Lingus?”

“It’s the Irish national airline,” I replied.

The clerk shrugged. “I guess you live and learn?”

I cite the above as an example of how well known Aer Lingus is. Yet given the furore over the attempt by IAG to acquire the company, you’d think it is a major international airline flying worldwide.

In a recent edition, the Irish Independent printed a comparison table. IAG subsidiary Vueling is shown as having revenue of €1.39bn, operating profit of €136.8m, a fleet of 64 and 1,937 employees. Meanwhile, Aer Lingus had revenue of €1.42bn, an operating profit of €61.1m, a fleet of 50, and 3,616 employees. The comparison does not make for encouraging reading.

When Kraft Foods made a takeover bid for Cadbury, did the UK government try to scupper the deal? When Volkswagen made a takeover bid for Scania, did the Swedish government try to scupper it?

The IAG bid for Aer Lingus is purely a commercial venture that fits into its forward business strategy and, apart from the fact that a proposed takeover cannot favour one shareholder over another (regarding slots, connections, employment, etc), this whole exercise must be viewed within the context of what’s best for the Aer Lingus shareholders, and Ireland generally, and not clouded by sentimentality, in which our myopic TDs and Taoiseach and the public at large, appear to revel.

We’re given to understand that the route between Dublin and Heathrow is the third busiest in the world. Is IAG really going to give-up this cash cow? Wise up.

Michael Dryhurst

Four Mile House, Co Roscommon

EU-wide solution to euro crisis

In Ireland, we have a joke where if a stranger asks for directions and the route is very complicated you might answer by saying, “Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”.

It’s the same with the current euro crisis: A currency still not fit for purpose. A Europe where trust between Member States is fast eroding and where politicians in all Member States make promises they can’t keep or tell their edited version of the truth to their citizens. Yes, there were reckless borrowers and some lived beyond their means but equally there were reckless lenders and tons of cash fuelled by low interest rates to suit certain Member States flowed across European borders in a torrent.

Those who were lucky enough to grab a lifeboat should now help the other survivors to clamber aboard or at least throw a life buoy. The solution will not be just between Greece and Germany; we need a European solution, one that does not reward or promote moral hazard but one that is sustainable for all Member States.

Yes, we would prefer not to start from here – but we are here and we must start.

Marian Harkin MEP (Independent)

European Parliament, Brussels

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