Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blood Transfusion

October 16, 2014

16 October 2014 Blood Transfusion

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I tidy the office and Mary is off for a Blood Transfusion.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gamon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Hugh Rae – obituary

Hugh Rae was a Glaswegian riveter’s son who wrote bodice-rippers as ‘Jessica Stirling’

Hugh Rae

Hugh Rae Photo: THE SCOTSMAN

5:28PM BST 15 Oct 2014


Hugh Rae, who has died aged 78, was a 15-stone Glaswegian son of a riveter and wrote blockbusting historical romantic fiction, mostly set in his native Scotland, under the nom de plume Jessica Stirling.

Rae began his literary career writing crime thrillers under his own name. The idea for Jessica Stirling was dreamed up in a coffee shop in Stirling where Rae was eating chocolate cake with Peggy Coghlan, an author of romantic short stories. Together they came up with Jessica, named after a publisher who had suggested that the two might collaborate on a historical romantic epic set in the Victorian period. It had to be written under a female pseudonym because, as Rae explained, “for some reason they [the publishers] are convinced that women only want to read romantic fiction written by women”.

With Peggy Coghlan, Rae wrote seven Jessica Stirling novels, and he went on to write some 30 more Jessica Stirling books on his own for Hodder & Stoughton, churning out about two a year and becoming one of the most popular authors of the “saga novel”, a genre perfected by Catherine Cookson.

Rae claimed that the experience had given him insights into the female psyche (“You women are all obsessed with your hair”), while his knowledge of the intricacies of female lingerie was second to none (“I know I probably spend longer wondering about women’s corsets than is healthy”).

Novels by Jessica Stirling (aka Hugh Rae)

For some 25 years his publishers faithfully preserved the fiction that Jessica Stirling was a woman, and for some years Rae was banned from speaking to the press. But his cover was blown in 1999 when Jessica Stirling’s new bestseller The Wind from the Hills, the second of a trilogy set in Mull in the 1890s (“Love did not burst upon Innis like a glorious red and gold Mull sunset after a day of torrential rain…”), was shortlisted for the Parker Romantic Novel of the Year prize, the bodice-ripping equivalent of the Booker.

After the story of Jessica’s true identity broke on an astounded literary world, Rae was nonplussed: “I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I had been out of the closet for about 20 years in Scotland, going to libraries and giving talks as Jessica in my hiking boots.”

Hugh Crauford Rae was born in the Knightswood district of Glasgow on November 22 1935 and published his first stories aged 11 in the Robin comic, winning a cricket bat the same year in a children’s writing competition. After leaving school at 16 he found a job in the antiquarian department of a Glasgow bookshop, where he spent 12 years, interrupted by National Service in the RAF. He continued writing short stories, many of which were published in American magazines. His first novel, Skinner, published in the mid-1960s when he was 28, was based on the case of the serial killer Peter Manuel, who was hanged at Barlinnie Prison for seven murders. The advance paid by the publishers allowed him to give up his job to become a full time writer.

Rae continued to write thrillers and crime fiction under his own name and a number of pseudonyms — his thriller The Marksman was made into a film by the BBC — but none of his other books was as successful as those he wrote as Jessica Stirling, which sold millions and were reported (in 1999) to be earning him more than £50,000 a year.

Rae’s novels were meticulously researched and, before starting a new work, he would spend up to £500 on books dealing with the relevant historical period. His last Jessica Stirling title, The Constant Star, was published in August.

Rae lectured in creative writing at Glasgow University Adult Education classes and served on the Scottish Arts Council and on committees of the Scottish Association of Writers and Society of Authors in Scotland.

Hugh Rae was predeceased by his wife, Liz. Their daughter survives him.

Hugh Rae, born November 22 1935, died September 24 2014


Sadiq Khan MP at Westminster, London, Britain  - 11 Oct 2012 Sadiq Khan is the man charged with restoring Labour’s fortunes against the Green party in the opinion polls. Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Rex

So Sadiq Khan MP, who has been charged by Labour’s election campaign manger Douglas Alexander to lead the fightback against Green gains in the opinion polls (Report, 15 October), thinks that Labour has changed and it shares Green values and “will be a government [Green supporters] can be proud of”. Really? Mr Khan is either delusional or very ill-informed on Green party policies. The Greens oppose all UK nuclear weapons worldwide and oppose replacing the £100bn Trident nuclear weapons system of mass destruction; the Greens oppose arms sales; the Greens oppose the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presently being cooked up by big business in their own interests; the Greens oppose fracking; and the Greens oppose nuclear energy, and particularly the building of the taxpayer-subsidised £34bn new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C (HPC).

Labour supports all of these. Indeed, on HPC, Tom Greatrex, Labour’s shadow energy minister, last week welcomed the European commission decision to permit massive subsidies for HPC, telling Business Green: “The commission’s decision emphasises the delivery of value for the consumer, and serves as a reminder to the government that transparency and accountability are important principles.”

Confusingly, Mr Greatrex subsequently wrote to the National Audit Office and parliament’s public accounts committee, requesting them to review the subsidies, stating: “We must ensure that consumers are getting the best possible deal in the construction of Hinkley Point C. The substantial changes brought about by the European commission raise questions about whether further scrutiny could lead to additional improvements.”

Labour’s position on HPC is as clear as mud. There are many deep green lines Labour has to cross before it has any chance of luring Green voters to switch. I am not holding my breath.
David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

• So, Sadiq Khan will be trying to persuade Green voters, rather than by scaring or intimidating them to vote Labour at the general election? If so, perhaps Khan could explain why Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton is one of Labour’s target seats. During the current parliament, Lucas is widely regarded as the most effective opposition MP. For many of us, she is the real leader of the opposition inside and outside parliament and puts Ed Miliband’s performances to shame. The reason for the “Green surge” is dissatisfaction with Labour’s merely being a negative alternative to the Con-Dem government. The Greens give the hope that Labour doesn’t.
David Melvin
Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire

• Given the findings of the 2014 annual Credit Suisse global wealth report which shows that the UK is the most unequal of all the G7 economies (Report, 15 October); and given that we know citizens of more economically equal societies enjoy happier and healthier and more fulfilling lives than those who live in highly unequal ones; that children from poor families are more likely to underachieve in schools than those from wealthier backgrounds; that the availability of good affordable housing – either to rent or to buy – is increasingly beyond the means of even middle-earners; and that substantial reductions in income and wealth differences are positively consequential for moves towards an environmentally sustainable way of life, why doesn’t the Labour leadership specify by how much it would like in government to redistribute income and wealth from the top 1% to the bottom 10% in order to promote greater equality, and how it would do so? Such a commitment, including proposals, would distinguish the Labour party from all the others in a graphic and electorally appealing fashion. It would also articulate well with the “One nation Labour” notion and Ed Miliband’s “togetherness” idea, not to mention the “democratic socialist” identity enshrined in the Labour’s constitution.
David Halpin

• It is not a question of immigration being a good or a bad thing for the UK (Letters, 14 October). It is far more complex. In economic terms, the fact is that the UK has never managed such a substantial unplanned rise in surplus labour as it has in the last 10 years. In recent times we’ve seen the re-emergence of the default tendency of many UK businesses to manage their operations with employees that can be easily laid off (or zero contracted) rather than take the risk of investing in new plant, machinery and technology. This is the explanation for why the number of people in employment has risen latterly while investment has remained stubbornly flat. Hence the UK’s much-vaunted labour flexibility and open borders are now actively contributing to the UK’s poorer productivity performance.

The UK economy derives so much of its activity from consumer spending that greater numbers of relatively low-paid people in work may boost overall GDP growth marginally but not increase GDP per capita, which is an arguably more important metric. As has been recently reported, the recent rise in employment in the UK has not led to an increase in income tax receipts to the HMRC, which entirely supports this thesis.

The reintroduction of immigration controls to limit the number of citizens entering the UK from anywhere, including other EU countries, is pretty much inevitable. This is not because immigration per se is a bad thing but because the uncontrolled movements of people may, at times, have unforeseen adverse effects. Until economists, university professors and politicians of different persuasions grasp this, Ukip will have a free ride in the immigration debate.
Andrew Harris
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

• Still in their own English rotten boroughs It is nice to know the spirit of Dame Shirley Porter lives on in Barnet council, when an estate will be redeveloped so that only the wealthy can afford the affordable housing (At yacht parties in Cannes, councils have been selling our homes from under us, 14 October). This will help turn West Hendon ward Tory and so in response, to an objector, Cllr Tom Davey naturally says: “Those are the people we want.” And yet, in the 50-year history of the borough, the Conservatives have only once won more the half the votes, but have misruled for all but eight years.

Labour must be regretting failing to introduce preference votes, like in Scotland, for local elections, now Ukip is on the rise in their own heartlands, having been able to ignore and sideline more moderate opinions. As the party base has withered away, the metropolitan elite has been able to parachute favoured candidates into safe parliamentary seats while taking their own activists for granted. The adoption of the single transferable vote, in lower-turnout local elections, would introduce some desperately needed stability with an injection of plurality and diversity without, like the list system used for the European parliament, giving lazy extremists an easy ride.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• The pattern of Ukip’s development has for some time been predictable to students of far-right interwar history: Ukip support will grow and result in a substantial bloc of MPs in 2015 – money is coming through (from whom?), defections have begun. Many Tories, half Eurosceptic already, would ally with Ukip, more will defect, Cameron is losing control. Labour, under Miliband and Balls, has been a singularly inept opposition. The only party consistently opposing Ukip and the suicidal proposals to exit from Europe and ditch human rights are the Lib Dems, with Nick Clegg the only leader openly to challenge Farage. Many are frightened of stating publicly the real danger Ukip presents – and that may drive more people into Ukip’s ranks. Democrats must speak out and actively campaign against the highly dangerous populism of Farage.
Peter Mullarky
Horsham, West Sussex

Lord Freud disability remarks Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who has suggested some disabled people are ‘not worth’ the full minimum wage. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

While ministers vilify people on benefits (Freud sorry for comment about disabled people, 15 October), we urge everyone who thinks this is wrong to stand up for benefit justice. Attacks on benefits threaten everyone who is low-paid, not working, sick, has disabilities or plain unlucky. Freezing housing and other benefits would cut the income of 50% of households – those with least money, without work or on low pay, zero hours and high rent. The threat to remove all benefit from people under 21 – many in full-time work, with children, and without rich families to support them – shows ministers’ contempt for our young people and how tough life is for them.

The least well-off, in work or not, did not cause the deficit, triggered by trillions in bank bailouts and subsidies. Why should they be penalised, while the richest benefit from more tax cuts? We should not stigmatise or blame each other, but defy and beat these attacks on Britain’s welfare safety net. We can force ministers to retreat, as we have in the fight against Atos, workfare and the bedroom tax. Now is the time to stand up and be counted. We will be supporting the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration on Saturday 18 October.
Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts
Eileen Short Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
John McDonnell MP Lab, Hayes and Harlington
Mark Serwotka PCS union general secretary
Len McCluskey Unite union general secretary
Austin Mitchell MP Lab, Great Grimsby, chair council housing group of MPs
Ian Lavery MP Lab, Wansbeck
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green party
Dot Gibson General secretary, National Pensioners Convention
Paul Kenny GMB union general secretary
Billy Hayes CWU union general secretary

• What Jeremy Hunt is actually saying (Pay rises would mean loss of 15,000 nurses says Hunt, 13 October) is that thousands of health workers need to take a pay cut in order to fund the NHS properly. Why is this fairer than everyone paying a small tax increase? Isn’t that how the collective model of health funding is supposed to work?
Ian Reissmann
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Ada Lovelace Ada Lovelace

I read with interest about Ada Lovelace Day (This woman’s work, G2, 14 October), as I too was a programmer at Elliot Brothers from 1951-53. I wrote the first in-house program for its prototype computer “Nicholas”, as well as the “initial orders” that instructed Nicholas how to read and assemble the punched tape holes which were to be fed to it. I left Elliot Brothers to marry and live in Cornwall. It was another 10 years before the first computer made an appearance. After bringing up my children I was informed by the government training department that anyone over 35 was past it as far as computers were concerned and I should concentrate on shorthand and typing. Eventually the advent of the PC remedied this. Now in my old age, I have no regrets for not making a fortune as did Dina St Johnston and Dame Stephanie Shirley. My riches are my memories of Cornwall, its beautiful coast and its Celtic culture. These too can change the world.
Brighid Simpkin

Woman with fingers in ears Piped music pain … wire-cutters should do the trick. Photograph: Aagamia/Getty Images

Imagine my surprise when, after very many years of trying, we have won the Azed crossword and the Guardian prize in the same week. What is more astounding is that someone else (MP Coan of Edinburgh) has the same achievement. What are the odds on this?
Allan and Jenny Cheetham
Upminster, Essex

• How about confining Brand, Emin and Fry to the letters page and giving some editorial space to Flett, Bright and Nicholson (Letters, 15 October)?
Pete Bibby

• Mrs Clooney is to advise on Greece’s claim for the return of the Elgin marbles (Report, 14 October). She might want to look closer to home. The font from our church, in which Mayflower Pilgrim Father William Brewster was baptised, languishes in a church in Mr Obama’s neighbourhood of Southside Chicago. Can we have it back please?
Ed Marshall
Scrooby, Nottinghamshire

• Christopher Hogwood (Obituary, 24 September) was not only an early musician but also an early activist against piped music. A model to us all, he would carry and occasionally bring into play a small pair of wire-cutters. Once, in a Cambridge restaurant, he asked if the inevitable Vivaldi might at least be turned down. As the waiter went off to attend to the request, a diner at the next table leant over and murmured sympathetically “We’re not musical either.”
Richard Abram
Wanstead Park, Essex

• Interesting statistics regarding women readers and your letters page (Open door, 13 October). I read it daily and often this results in breakfast table discussions. Perhaps male readers feel more of an urge to tell the wider world what they think.
Annette Dent
Bradford, West Yorkshire


The rising numbers of cases of Ebola is alarming. I am confused as to why the precautions to prevent the spread of this incredibly infectious virus are so different from those that would be adopted in the case of animal diseases. In the latter case we would see bans on movement of livestock from affected areas and other countries would prohibit the import of any animal or possibly affected product.

In this case the only precaution to prevent spread into the UK is a questionnaire which will almost certainly be ineffective and in any case will be applied too late to prevent infection of airport staff, other passengers and local health workers.

Is it not time to prevent any movement of people in and out of any country having several cases in the general population, except in exceptional cases, and then after a period in quarantine?

Britain must be a likely place for Ebola to occur, given that we have decided to allow our airports, particularly Heathrow, to be used a transit points for travellers from all over the world. The risk of disease transmission should surely be taken into account when considering whether this role should be expanded even further by the building of additional runways.

The profits of the airlines and the airport operators should not take precedence over the health of the local population.

Nigel Long

The Government has decided that there is sufficient risk to introduce Ebola screening on UK arrival. This implies that airline and other staff are exposed to that risk in transit.

What about the duty of care their employers owe them? What about the risk to passengers? Furthermore, aircraft may need special disinfection measures before reuse.

There needs to be much more rigorous screening, perhaps quarantine, before people are even permitted to leave high-risk countries, particularly for their own good.

Giles du Boulay
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Lying-in-state for a murderous king

The discovery of the remains of King Richard III has done nothing to dispel the fierce controversy surrounding his reputation (“Richard’s car park bones to be reinterred, after three days lying in state”, 15 October).

Despite all the protestation of the king’s “Ricardian” enthusiasts, it remains the consensus among historians of the period that Richard seized the throne illegally, arranged the judicial murder of Lord Hastings and was almost certainly guilty of having his nephews murdered in the Tower. His remains are of valid academic interest but holding an elaborate funeral procession followed by a lying-in-state for a murderer is quite inappropriate.

Still, at least now that we know where his grave will be, arrangements can be made to dance on it.

Dr Sean Lang
Senior Lecturer in History
Anglia Ruskin University


It is to be hoped that amid the pageantry and prayers that will accompany Richard III to his second grave there will be some remembrance of the men who were put to death to facilitate his becoming, as the Ricardians love to put it, “an anointed king”.

His sister-in-law’s relatives and associates Rivers, Vaughan, Grey and Haut were executed, apparently without trial, and their bodies dumped in some pit in Pontefract more nameless than a Leicester municipal car park. Lord Chamberlain Hastings was beheaded at a moment’s notice on Richard’s direct orders.

His nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, escaped with their lives only in the imagination of Richard III’s ardent fan club, which constantly reminds us that Richard was, as medieval kings go, a benign ruler, a sort of grandaddy of the welfare state. Might not these latter good deeds have been inspired by a guilty conscience?

Peter Forster
London N4


No excuses for Boko Haram

Professor Garry’s claim (letter, 15 August) that removing girls from their families against their will is normal in Northern Nigeria comes dangerously close to providing an excuse for Boko Haram.

The decision to marry off a girl is made by the family; and these girls’ families had taken the decision to educate their girls beyond marrying age (15). Furthermore, they came from mainly Christian families, who would not have consented to marrying their daughters to Muslims, or indeed to having their girls sold as concubines, fifth wives or slaves.

Thus, even if Boko Haram had conscientiously thought that these girls ought to be married, they must in conscience be consistent and defer to the families’ rights in this matter, which they did not.

Furthermore, if they were so conscientiously Muslim, why have so many of the girls been raped? Does not Islam forbid rape?

Culture is not a genuine explanation for this behaviour. It was kidnapping, rape and religious intolerance on a massive scale, and so for the kidnappers there should be not the tiniest excuse or the slightest mercy.

Francis Beswick
Stretford, Greater Manchester

When teachers had to take an oath

Brian Dalton, in his letter of 13 October, is rightly contemptuous of “oath-taking” by teachers. If this is the best idea that Tristram Hunt can bring back from Singapore, educational policy in this country has a mountain to climb.

As a teacher in southern China for many years, I was routinely asked to take such “oaths” and always refused. Foreign teachers were often asked to write “codes of conduct” for themselves, and at one stage to organise “self-criticism” groups, as though Mao Zedong were alive and well, and we had failed to quote passages from his little red book to an appropriately ardent and heartfelt standard.

Such suggestions were always made after pupil misconduct, where Chinese management seemed ineffective, or after some other crisis where management sought to deflect blame and change the subject.

“See how you foreigners can improve yourselves,” was a routine dodge I well recall. Is this really what we want here?

If Mr Hunt regards a “Hippocratic oath” as remotely relevant to education in this country, I suggest he start by taking one himself.

Something beginning “I do solemnly swear to get a grip…” should do.

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire


Unfair to denounce Nigel Farage

Ukip does not  stigmatise people who are HIV positive (letter, 14 October). Ukip is very sympathetic. However, we have a National Health Service, not an international one. The NHS is in dire straits with a £30bn black hole and cannot afford to treat the whole world.

Similarly, Ukip does not demonise Eastern Europeans. We do not have the room and the infrastructure for 250,000 extra people every year. Also, with the EU open-door policy other countries outside the EU including our Commonwealth cousins are discriminated against and cannot come here.

Ukip believes in an NHS free of charge, but other governments have allowed privatisation on a large scale, such as PFI arrangements from the Labour Government, which has saddled our children and grandchildren with a debt for years to come.

Ukip believes in low taxes, especially to take all those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.

Nigel Farage is not a populist. He has worked tirelessly and given up his life to get the country out of the undemocratic and corrupt EU. Whatever people’s views on this, we have never had a say since 1975. He is a conviction politician. Why should people denounce him? We used to have free speech in this country.

Barbara Fairweather
Bicester, Oxfordshire


I find it somewhat baffling that Mr Farage, while slating “Westminster parties” and “Westminster politicians” seems to be straining every nerve and sinew precisely to become one of them.

Angela Peyton
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Smoking ban in the wrong place

What a pointless suggestion from Lord Darzi, to ban smoking in parks. I have never been inconvenienced by smokers in the vast open spaces of our public parks, where I can easily avoid them.

If Lord Darzi would like to become a genuine do-gooder, why doesn’t he propose a ban on smoking at bus stops, where it is almost impossible to escape from the noxious fumes emanating from those recalcitrant baddies?

Alan Pedley
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Talkative cookware

I think kitchen appliances do talk to each other, even before the “internet of things” arrives (letter, 14 October). The pot has been calling the kettle black for years.

Tony Taylor
Church Minshull, Cheshire


Sir, Those correspondents blaming Andrew Lansley are misguided (letters, Oct 14 and 15). Multiple serious errors have originated in the health department, leading to huge financial waste. The loss of well-trained professionals is a reflection of the way the department has demoralised the NHS. Radical change is needed but the present problems cannot be solved by one top-down restructuring, and increased funding is not the answer.
Thomas Bucknill
London W14

Sir, The two main reasons for the rise in the number of patients waiting for surgery (“This is going to hurt”, Oct 13) is the increase in avoidable emergency medical admissions to empty surgical beds reserved for long-awaited elective operations, and delayed discharges. Emergency admissions can be minimised by setting up a “hospital at home”, which has been successfully piloted and has the advantage of not uprooting elderly people from their own surroundings. Delayed discharges cost £24.5 million in August alone, and many such patients are unnecessarily made “prisoners” and forced into a care home against their will.
Dr M Shaukat Ali
Emeritus consultant physician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich

Sir, The calls for more money for the NHS reflect both the unsustainable growth in funding by the last government and the unrealistic expectations it raised. Labour’s borrowing was made available in short order for political purposes, too short to train more GPs and surgeons: it sucked in staff who were unable to treat patients and discharge them with confidence. At the same time, erosion of the gatekeeper role damaged GPs’ ability to reassure patients and families that they don’t necessarily need high-tech medicine. The effect of this is being seen in overloaded emergency rooms and wards.
Adam P Fitzpatrick
Consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, That there are nearly 300 serious mistakes during surgery (“The good, the bad and the ugly”, Oct 14) should be a matter of national concern. But some “never events” go unaddressed or even unidentified because of a lack of regulation for professionals with responsibilities for patients’ wellbeing — for instance, those who assess the working of pacemakers. Such staff are not subject to fitness to practice tests and are outside the scope of the much anticipated “duty of candour”. They cannot be sanctioned in the way that doctors or nurses can be struck off. The government must address this matter urgently.
Amanda Casey
Chairwoman, Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists

Sir, Professor Mike Richards encourages the NHS to achieve a quality that matches “Sainsbury’s, Tesco or M&S” (“Grimy hospital wards as bad as Mid Staffs, warns watchdog”, Oct 14). Competition between these organisations is surely a major factor in quality improvement. The Health and Social Care Bill encouraged a tendering process and this is one means whereby competition can be developed in the NHS. I do not consider that a bad thing. Tendering is not unfair, usually heavily influenced by healthcare professionals, and is a gateway to innovative service delivery that is otherwise difficult to attain in a monolithic health service.
Dr Chris Loughran
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, It is a canard that the health department “can’t afford a pay rise in addition to increments”. Increments cost nothing: as some staff gain a point, others leave to be replaced by someone five points below them. “Incremental drift” ensures the wage bill is the same.
Robert Keys
Danbury, Essex

Sir, In reply to John Nairn (letter, Oct 15), when I was working in the NHS my “vested interests” were my patients and my medical, nursing and ancillary colleagues.
Dr Mike Lewis
Axbridge, Somerset

Sir, The NHS salary structure means that many doctors reach the HMRC pension cap in their mid 50s. There will be no public sympathy for this plight, but it is resulting in unprecedented early retirement. Losing our medical seniors a decade early is unfortunate for the public.
Simon Jackson
Consultant gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford

Sir, I asked one of my GPs if I could have a named doctor. I was told not until I was 75 years old. A patient’s medical history ought to play a part, not age alone.
Peter MG Hime

Sir, Dr Stuart Sanders (letter, Oct 14) proposes that the running of the NHS should be placed in the hands of a board of trustees. Can I suggest that the same should be done with education? Both are far too important to be left to the mercies of the short-term expediency that appears to drive our politicians.
Michael Hasler
Totnes, Devon

Sir, It is short-sighted to deny nurses and midwives a significant pay rise. Recruitment is down, negligence claims are rising, and the NHS is increasingly reliant on expensive agency staff, some of whom will be unfamiliar with the procedures on their wards, possibly resulting in more litigation. Surely it would be more cost-effective to give nurses and midwives more money,
Dr Elaine Yeo
Enfield, Middx

Sir, Media coverage of the midwives’ strike appalled me. We saw moving footage of women giving birth and ecstatic nurses saying that the joy of seeing a new baby is reward enough — but joy will not pay their bills or fund their mortgages.
Susan Higgins
Surbiton, Surrey

Sir, Why not have a government-run NHS lottery? We would all buy tickets. Our local hospitals could be saved. Everyone would be a winner.
Ann Wilson
Eastbourne, E Sussex

Sir, Apropos the remake of Dad’s Army, might I suggest to the new members of the platoon that they bear in mind the words of Sgt Wilson: “Do you think that’s wise, sir?”
His Honour Judge Denyer, QC
Bristol Civil Justice Centre

Sir, When my teacher Elisabeth Lutyens asked Constant Lambert to explain a zeugma (letters, Oct 13 and 14), he replied swiftly that one could draw a cork, nude or conclusion.
Brian Elias
London NW11

Sir, If a management consultant uses a client’s watch to tell them the
time (letter, Oct 15), be assured the client is someone with a very expensive watch who doesn’t know the time of day.
Leon Pollock
Fellow of the Institute of Consulting,
Sutton Coldfield, W Midlands

Sir, With the increasing repetition of the name of the Ukip leader, I am hopeful broadcasters will encourage us to use the word “garage” with its proper pronunciation.
Keith Turner
Horringer, Suffolk

Sir, What appears to be missing from debate over the Human Rights Act is mention of its beneficial effect on public administration. Every bill presented to parliament must contain a ministerial certificate that it will comply with the 1998 act, and every act or decision of a civil servant will have ensured that theact is observed. Coincidentally, in his book Servant of the Crown, David Faulkner states that the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights have been “a healthy discipline in the formation of policy and for drafting of legislation”, but adds that politically, “the act has come to be seen as an obstacle to be overcome, not a standard to live up to”.
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, QC
London N1


Get a load of this: horse manure delivered to your door Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – For our eldest son’s birthday, we bought him, at his suggestion, a ton of manure, which was delivered directly to his allotment.

We didn’t even have to wrap it, and we paid for it online.

Rev John Fairweather-Tall
Plymouth, Devon

Lost marbles

SIR – Having involved herself in the Elgin Marbles controversy Mrs Clooney (née Alamuddin) might like to campaign for the return of Henry VIII’s last suit of armour, which currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Eddie Hazel
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Unsolicited charity

SIR – I am increasingly concerned about the amount of marketing material I receive from charities, often including “bribes” such as pens and greetings cards. The other day I was sent a pedicure kit.

I do regularly support several charities but there is a limit to what can be afforded. Surely this nuisance is counter-productive for the very people it is trying to help?

John Vandenberghe
Hacheston, Suffolk

SIR – I have received an envelope from the British Red Cross containing a pen, a notebook, two cards and a bookmark. I am in need of none of them, and would think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Alex Perry
Thames Ditton, Surrey

No-go for sloe

SIR – This year, unlike 2013, we picked a good crop of plums, apples and pears, but our local hedgerows are virtually bare of sloes. We are now in search of an alternative seasonal tipple.

John H Stephen
Bisley, Gloucestershire

Union: freedom of movement is a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens Photo: Reuters

6:57AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson is mistaken when he says that David Cameron can regain control of Britain’s borders by reform of the European Union.

The free movement of persons is intrinsic to the existence of the EU. It was a core part of the original Treaty of Rome in 1957 and from the early days of the European Economic Community nationals of member states could travel freely from one member state to another. This is now a fundamental right guaranteed to all EU citizens by The Schengen Agreement, which led to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area in 1995.

EU Commissioners and other EU leaders have constantly reiterated that reimposition of border controls between EU countries can never be permitted.

Dr Max Gammon
London SE16

SIR – The population of Southampton is around 240,000, which is roughly the figure of net migration to Britain last year. What effect does this annual influx have on real wage levels, demand for housing, traffic levels, and demand for GPs, hospital services and schools? The answer is, I believe, self evident.

Most economists and the Bank of England say they would like to see real wage levels rise, but the simple laws of supply and demand will prevent this happening. The consequences of this are far-reaching as Government tax take will not increase in line with the demand for public services and payment of pensions. We are starting to see this already.

Many who recognise these issues can see no alternative but to give Ukip their vote.

Barrie Middleton
Matlock, Derbyshire

Rule Britannia: the Bacup Coconutters perform pagan dances to welcome in the spring Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – It is ludicrous to suggest that the Morris dancers with whom David Cameron was photographed were racist because they put blacking on their faces. It is a disguise, not make-up to imitate black people, and no more racist than SAS soldiers blacking their faces before a night operation.

The Foxs Morris troupe is similar in this respect to the Bacup Coconut dancers from Lancashire, who suggest that once upon a time, blackened faces gave them the advantage of disguise as they sang and danced during unlicensed begging.

There is much unexplained in the ancient world of Morris dancing. Some dancers disguise themselves as green men and devils. Don’t tell us that the Greens and Satanists will complain that they are offended by this traditional mummery.

Catherine Jackson

SIR – Social historians agree that blackface in every form is of racist origin, and that Morris dancing is a mockery of African tribal dance.

Nadia Alnasser

A Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in Gaza  Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

6:59AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – Parliament’s vote in favour of Palestinian statehood is welcome and, some may think, long overdue. Unfortunately for its Arab inhabitants, Hamas is not really a government as most people understand the term.

It is now decision time for the Israelis. Do they want to continue for ever protecting themselves from their neighbours with barbed wire, a wall, and anti-missile missiles?

Or will they finally admit that they have behaved disgracefully in taking by force land that, for generations, had been settled and owned by the Arabs?

The least they can now do is to apologise and try to make amends by helping the Arabs to reunite the separate parts of their country under a properly elected government.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – Shame on Parliament for supporting a Palestinian state run by Muslim terrorists – for that is exactly what Hamas are.

Our MPs should be supporting Israel.

Sir Gavin Gilbey
Dornoch, Sutherland

Shrunken Parliament

SIR – When Tam Dalyell posed the famous West Lothian question, he was – like everyone else since – looking at the constitutional problem through the wrong end of the telescope.

When the British Parliament decides to devolve powers to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Greater London Authority, its own status is automatically affected. For example, the Cabinet ministers for health, education, and culture, media and sport, to name but three, are not UK ministers – they are ministers for England. Theresa May is the UK-wide minister for immigration, but not for police, which has been devolved.

The UK Parliament and its MPs are left to deal with the 15 “reserved powers”, including defence, foreign policy, financial and economic matters, and, of course, the constitution. The last one, alone, should keep them busy.

David Donald
St Vincent-Jalmoutiers, Dordogne, France

SIR – On what basis does Gordon Brown hold that English votes for English laws would prejudice the fragile Union but that the creation of the Scottish Parliament hasn’t already done so?

Perhaps he would prefer a clear-cut English parliament, on a par with the Scottish one.

I know I would.

Ken Stevens
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

Savings: the NHS needs to reduce its costs Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – If it is impossible to put more funding from taxation into the NHS, the only alternative – however unpalatable – is to reduce cost. The complexity of tendering, employment law and the compulsory monitoring of performance means that any reduction of administrators is also constrained. The only remaining avenue, and it needs to be examined, is for cost savings elsewhere.

The NHS has to be more selective about the duties it undertakes. Possible areas include reducing some elective procedures, making small deterrent charges for access to GPs and A&E, requiring proof of entitlement to treatment through National Insurance contributions, and insisting on the same guarantee of payment by foreign patients as is required of Britons when abroad.

Tony Jones
London SW7

SIR – Any objective analysis of the likely growth of the British economy and of the costs of health care demonstrates clearly that the current situation is not sustainable.

All political parties must have access to this data, and yet they choose to ignore it as they seek to boost their election prospects by pledging increasing amounts of public money to the NHS. This is not in the long-term interests of the country.

The NHS should provide world-leading treatment for life-threatening illnesses, not free care for those who choose to get so drunk they have to attend A&E.

I also hope that, when deciding which model to adopt for the NHS, those taking the decision look not just at the efficiency of the health care system but at the model that provides the best outcomes (in terms of survival rates) for patients.

Graham Taylor
Hastoe, Hertfordshire

SIR – Paul Keeling makes the common mistake of comparing Britain’s expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP relative to many other Western nations.

I believe that the cost-effectiveness of the expenditure is a more relevant guideline. In this, we rank 23 out of 29 in a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – Why did NHS Scotland not strike? Because they got the recommended 1 per cent pay rise.

It is about time people in the rest of the United Kingdom were treated fairly.

Anne Parmley
Blackpool, Lancashire

SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, says that if NHS staff get a pay rise, then the number of staff must be reduced.

This should apply to Members of Parliament.

David G Walters
Corbridge, Northumberland

Donations: these days tactics go beyond asking for a little loose change Photo: ALAMY

10:55AM BST 15 Oct 2014


SIR – I complained to the Red Cross about its sending of unsolicited gifts. A senior fundraiser told me that this practice generates higher receipts but assured me I would receive no more.

The gifts continue to arrive and I no longer support this charity or others who follow suit. If other readers did the same and notified the charities accordingly it might put an end to this unpleasant practice.

Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – While I contribute to charities on a regular basis, I must express my annoyance at the intimidating tactics currently being employed by some collectors who position themselves in supermarket exit halls rattling collection boxes at eye level, partly blocking one’s path and, most annoyingly, making comments like “come on you can afford it”.

It is an intimidating and, I suspect, counter-productive practice. I note the name of the offending charity and promptly vote with my feet.

Ian Jones
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – There seems to be general positivity about the budget, and in comparison to the eight previous versions, this one is an improvement.

We should remember, however, that for someone being whipped while bound in shackles, if the whipping stops, it is an improvement but they remain shackled.

The USC tax persists, our pension savings continue to be raided and the impact of the property tax and water charges remain as extra indirect taxation for the majority of workers.

Regardless of the spin, it seems we shall remain shackled for the foreseeable future. – Is mise,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – In the interests of fairness and parity, will those of us who have our own supply of water and have our own wastewater facilities get tax relief on the cost of providing same? – Yours etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Now that the provision of water is no longer being paid for from general taxation (following the appropriate tax reductions in Budget 2015), can the opponents of water charges own up to the fact that their main motivation is just to squander as much as they want, just as they used to do with waste collection in the past? – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Tuesday’s budget has been described as “the end of austerity”.

What does this signal for the Anti-Austerity Alliance? Is it now irrelevant? Maybe it should rebrand to AAA to focus on upgrading Ireland’s position with the credit rating agencies. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – As the Ministers have reduced the number of people obliged to pay the Universal Social Charge, shouldn’t it now be simply called the “Social Charge”? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Last year the Minister introduced a single-person child carer credit to replace the single-parent tax credit.

This legislation discriminated against 50 per cent of separated parents, as only one parent – the so-called primary carer – was allowed to claim the new credit. Usually the primary carer is the mother.

Despite being repeatedly asked and lobbied about this, in the main from separated fathers, the Minister made no changes to this discriminatory legislation in the budget. Separated fathers should take note, discrimination in the tax system is to be maintained. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I’m married to a smoker and I’ve learned over time that no one is going to tell him when he will quit. Yet the Government seems to think that by increasing the price of cigarettes very year in the budget will stop him smoking (an extra 40 cent this year, bringing the price of 20 cigarettes to €10). It’s not about the money. It’s about the addiction.

This is just a cheap and lazy money-making scheme for the exchequer and it should stop. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – It is very interesting that the new 11 per cent rate of USC for income over €100,000 only applies to the self-employed.

Apart from the fact that the new rate doesn’t apply to civil servants, TDs or Ministers, what is the justification for only targeting the self-employed and not fat cat employees?

I know turkeys don’t vote for Christmas but did the Ministers and their mandarins have to be so obvious? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – John McAvoy, former general manager of the CAO, strikes an inflammatory note in his condemnation of TCD’s foray into “alternative” entry assessment criteria (“Students are the guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment”, Education Opinion, October 14th). But he’s right.

The Leaving Cert points race certainly has a lot of problems, but it is better than alternatives involving subjective judgment. Human judgment in entry selection has been shown to have very little ability to select students who will perform better (even when the judges are very confident in their own judgement).

Instead, it has been shown to increase social selectivity – you inevitably identify more with someone who resembles you. I don’t think for a moment it is TCD’s intention, but this scheme will increase the social exclusivity of their student body, benefiting the academically underperforming child of well-networked, affluent parents much more than the bright kid who needs a break.

There is one good element in TCD’s criteria, which is to rate students relative to their school. A student from an elite fee-charging school (or grind college) who gets 500 points is probably quite average, and you will see it in his or her university performance, but a student from a struggling school who gets 500 points is probably exceptional. A fair implementation would, of course, be very difficult. – Yours, etc,


Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – John McAvoy’s recent piece on Trinity College Dublin’s new admissions experiment displayed an appalling refusal to consider alternatives to a challenging problem. Third-level education and admissions ought to acknowledge that students are not only being academically trained, but are also being prepared to enter into industry, government, or other careers. Basing admission solely on the Leaving Certificate ignores alternative skills and experiences that may be valuable for those end goals.

As an alumnus of both Trinity College Dublin and American universities, I find it striking that Mr McAvoy felt the need to belittle elements of Trinity’s experiment without considering their effective use, for decades, in other countries. Those systems may not be perfect, but neither is the Irish model.

Changing the system may impact some students, but it may also allow for engaged students to enter third-level education – students who previously may have been left on the outside looking in due to the Leaving Cert. Broadening the basis of admission may also encourage students to be engaged in elements of their community outside of academics.

I am often critical of Trinity College Dublin’s unwillingness to experiment and change. On this subject, however, I can only hope that their newfound institutional flexibility is replicated elsewhere in Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Lake Shore Drive,



Sir, – John McAvoy describes Trinity College’s experiment with alternative entry requirements as “outrageous”. As director of a third-level course, I keep an eye on the extent to which Leaving Cert results are predictive of first-year grades at university. While admittedly based on a small sample, my experience has shown that total Leaving Cert points is a far better predictor of third-level performance than any single Leaving Cert result taken in isolation. For example, total points are a better predictor of university maths grades than is a student’s actual Leaving Cert maths grade. This phenomenon may be related to the central limit theorem, which implies that a well-diversified outcome, such as performance at third level, is best predicted by a well-diversified set of tests. Relying strongly on any single component, such as the HPAT, or an essay, reduces predictive accuracy because it lowers the overall diversification of the measure. John McAvoy is right. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Dr Anthony White suggests that our energy and climate change problems would be solved simply by converting Moneypoint power station to biomass (“Why wind is not the answer to Ireland’s energy question”, Opinion & Analysis, October 14th). This option has been examined many times in the past and, as most people would probably expect, the reality is not that simple.

Converting the plant would be complex and very costly, and would create a new dependence on imported fuel of volatile price and questionable environmental benefit. The Drax power plant in the UK cited by Dr White actually requires price supports almost double those paid in Ireland for wind energy, and its carbon saving benefit has recently been questioned by the UK’s chief scientific adviser on energy.

Why would we create a new dependence on other people’s resources to meet our energy needs? Ireland has excellent indigenous clean energy resources of many kinds, and we should exploit them all appropriately. For biomass, that means using local fuel supply to meet local heat needs, thereby keeping money in rural communities and creating jobs.

Wind energy is also benefitting Ireland. Our research in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland shows that in one year alone, 2012, wind energy reduced our carbon emissions by 1.5 million tonnes and our fossil fuel imports by €175 million. The detailed analysis showing this is available on our website.

Ireland needs to wean its energy system off exposure to €6.5 billion of imported fossil fuels, with associated emissions, at prices outside our control and with risks of disruption to supply. Wind and biomass both have their parts to play in this, but we should make our decisions based on facts and evidence, not wishful thinking. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Sustainable Energy

Authority of Ireland,

Wilton Park House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Today is World Food Day, with events taking place across the globe to focus attention on the important role played by the family farm in ending hunger and poverty.

This week’s budget brought a halt to cuts in Ireland’s overseas development assistance spending for the first time in six years. While we are still some way short of our international pledge to invest 0.7 per cent of GDP in overseas aid, the Government’s decision to end successive cuts has to be regarded as a step in the right direction.

A significant part of our overseas development assistance budget is invested in efforts to end hunger in Africa and elsewhere across the world.

Helping smallholder farming families to produce more and earn more from their small farms is vital to this effort. Upwards of 70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely directly on small farms for their livelihoods.

Only by committing resources to this area will we achieve the objectives of World Food Day, since it was first launched by the United Nations in 1981.

Growing more food is only a part of the equation, however, as the urgent need to improve nutrition for families is critical too if we are to end world hunger and poverty in our lifetime.

Although rarely listed as the direct cause, malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than a third of all child deaths in Africa.

Poor nutrition in early years can also have a lifelong effect on health, increasing vulnerability to common ailments and reducing cognitive and learning abilities.

Within agriculture and food production we must address both the challenge of food production and of improving nutrition, as we focus on supporting the poor to feed their populations in the years ahead. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Gorta-Self Help Africa,

Kingsbridge House,

Parkgate Street,

Sir, – Attempts are often made by those opposed to any loosening of the severe restrictiveness of our abortion law under any circumstance to blur the lines between fatal and non-fatal foetal diagnoses. Barry Walsh (October 15th) lapses into this error.

Anencephaly is untreatable and always fatal. Appealing to the statistically remote chance of an anencephalic surviving for up to one or two years rather than days, hours or not at all, and invoking such anomalous cases to justify denying women the option of termination of an often longed-for pregnancy, while perhaps well-intentioned by some, is ultimately cruel to those women who cannot bear to bring a fatally malformed pregnancy to term.

I do agree with Mr Walsh that framing a constitutional amendment or legislation around this issue would be problematic.

Certainly, adding another constitutional clause to the mess of Article 40.3.3 would merely be shovelling more detritus onto this legislative midden. Consider the onerous and demeaning barriers placed before pregnant women and girls at risk of suicide in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Are devastated women with fatal foetal diagnoses to be subjected to a panel (or two) of up to seven doctors?

The question asked by your poll, of course, is not misleading. Independent, unbiased opinion polling means asking the questions and letting the respondents think for themselves.

It is quite amazing to see anti-abortion campaigners shooting the messengers of all the opinion polls showing their position to be a minority one. The bogeyman of a perceived liberal media bias (“Pro Life Campaign criticises ‘extremely biased’ media”, October 12th) is invariably invoked by some – the poll is “biased” because the questions are not prefaced by their own Newspeak definitions of “abortion”, “fatal foetal abnormality”, etc. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 20.

A chara, – RTÉ longwave transmission (252kHz) is to cease from the end of October 2014. Large numbers of the Irish community in the UK will be affected by the switching off of this transmission waveband. This station plays a vital part in keeping the diaspora in touch with Irish news, music, culture and sport. The advertised alternatives are flawed. RTÉ FM and DAB broadcasts cannot be received in the UK. Internet transmissions are not nearly as practical as a radio that can be instantly switched on and is already tuned to RTÉ. Internet transmission cannot be listened to in a car. I understand RTÉ must move with the times and needs to invest in digital platforms; however there remain major restrictions with the technology. Currently the most effective way to reach the UK audience is via longwave – a proven service that has stood the test of time. – Is mise,


St Michael’s Irish Centre,

Ormskirk, Lancashire.

Sir, – Your online headline “Stunning and comprehensive 1-1 victory for Ireland in Germany” is a masterpiece.

Ireland has often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it takes genius to snatch victory from a draw. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I was very pleased to note that on the day that Michael Noonan conceded a “double Irish” to Germany, John O’Shea reminded them that a single Irish can cause them even more bother! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – A new Ming dynasty in Roscommon? As long as the porcelain factories are not located in Knockcroghery, I suppose. – Is mise,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Will the new arrivals in the Dáil, Messrs Murphy and Fitzmaurice, be referred to affectionately by their colleagues in the lower house as the “water babies”? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Looking at his new photograph, I thought you had fired Michael Harding and hired someone in his place (“Our Lady of the Telephone and the Palestinian poet”, October 14th). Michael, the new hairdo has changed you completely, but I am still a fan and so pleased and relieved it is still you. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

The late Con Houlihan often referred to the question posed by Napoleon in assessing the future potential of his generals. “Is he lucky?” asked Napoleon.

If Con was alive today it is likely that the element of luck and Napoleon would have featured in his match analysis of Tuesday’s dramatic conclusion in Gelsenkirchen.

Martin O’Neill’s team has now rescued four points from their visits to Georgia and Germany, when the sum total of one point in Tiblisi appeared to be the likely outcome as the clock ticked over the 90th minute in both games.

This should give us a real hope that the winds of fortune are behind us, as luck appeared to have deserted our national team under the four managers (McCarthy, Kerr, Staunton and Trapattoni) who succeeded Jack Charlton.

Snatching a late draw in Gelsenkirchen recalls our first competitive game away from home under Jack Charlton in Brussels on September 10, 1986. We were trailing 2-1 in the final minute against Belgium, when Frank Stapleton was brought down by the goalkeeper in the penalty area. Up stepped Liam Brady – now an RTE analyst – to score the penalty and secure a 2-2. The team went on to qualify for Euro 88 and the Charlton era was up and running.

Frank Burke, Terenure, Dublin 6

Panel beaters should be positive

Last night, after watching Ireland’s amazing draw against Germany (1-1), I decided to listen to RTE 2 soccer experts Messers Giles, Dunphy and Brady to hear what I thought might be more positivity, especially after what Michael Noonan delivered in the Budget. Alas, I was so wrong. The negativity was so unbelievable I almost thought we had lost the game. I really feel that the panel were hoping for Ireland to get a drubbing so that they could continue the rant against manager after manager of the Irish soccer team.

Let’s face it, to draw against the current world champions Germany was an immense result for the nation’s soccer team. We all know that a vast amount of the current squad are playing Championship football in England. Our achievement in gaining a point – which, in my eyes, will be crucial at the end of the campaign – should be congratulated.

Tomas O Cochlain, Address with editor

No denying democratic tide

In his missive yesterday (Letters, October 14) Anthony Leavy downplays the significance of protests that are rising across the country these last few months. He dismisses the protesters as “just another group with vested interests” and laments actions taken a decade ago.

We have paid the price for some poor governance in the past, but that does not absolve others for their part in our financial struggle, namely those in the ECB and EU that threatened to ‘bankrupt Ireland’ if we did not rescue the banks (to the detriment of the citizens).

The rising tide of protest across the country is a merely a recognition of the fact that – despite the so-called ‘good news’ regarding deficit targets – the reality is that the number of homeless is at record levels, the number of suicides is up and hospital waiting lists have skyrocketed.

Those that have the courage to stand up and protest peacefully are an example to the whole country. It is the only way ordinary citizens will ever have their voice heard. The “vested interests” that Mr Leavy speaks of tend to whisper quietly in the corridors of power – they dare not show themselves on our streets. There is a democratic tide sweeping across the country. People have learned not to take our politicians at their word anymore.

Simon O’Connor, Crumlin, Dublin

More questions than answers

An epiphany. Today – not for the first time – I spent 15 minutes trying to get an answer to a simple question from a service provider.

I was directed round the houses by a series of automated messages until I eventually got to speak to a person. The person was lovely, but didn’t have a clue.

What I wondered was this – is the reason why these providers make such strenuous efforts to avoid letting us speak to a person is that they know that their people may not know what they are talking about?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Budget 2015

Following the Budget, would Mr Spock say “it’s austerity Jim, but not as we know it?

John Williams, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

So you thought this was a giveaway Budget in order to win the next general election? Just wait till you see next years.

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

Change needed at Blackrock

We are writing in response to your article of October 10 (“Blackrock Appeal Over Pupils Policy”), in which you quote Shane Murphy, President of Blackrock College’s Past Pupils Union, as characterising the State’s intention to change the college’s admissions policy as “unjust”.

We have benefited from our education and experience in Blackrock College, its traditions and values, its ability to adapt to fresh challenges. The school taught us to have open enquiring minds.

We believe hereditary privilege should not be a deciding factor in access to such education. The proposed policy would increase the openness of our alma mater, strengthening its social inclusiveness, allowing it to produce students better able to meet a changing world in an even more constructive and critical manner. That’s a worthwhile aim.

Since Blackrock College receives substantial funds from the Exchequer, this move by the government seems quite just and – if anything – overdue.

Mr Murphy’s opinions do not represent those of all former pupils of our school.

Brendan Dempsey, Tom Duke, Robert Graham, Mark Leahy, Brian McGeeny, Addresses with editor

Time to remember our women

It is a sad fact that if Irish school students were asked to explain what Cumann na mBan meant, many would stare at each other in bewilderment.

It’s a poignant reality, but it’s the world we live in. Soap operas and psychedelic songs take precedence over how we as a country reached the stage of where we’re at today. Whose fault is it that large chunks of our history are deemed no longer important enough to put much emphasis on it in the class room?

There are many well-known members of Cumann na mBan like Maud Gonne MacBride and Countess Markievicz who did not shy away from armed action.

Markievicz is known to have shot an RIC man at St Stephen’s Green during the Easter Rising and, along with other Cumann na mBan members, subjected British forces to sniper fire.

This front-line action resulted in the deaths of many women volunteers, which has been overshadowed by the deaths of Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and other leaders who were executed as retribution for the rising.

An exhibition entitled ‘Women in Struggle’ will take place in Ostan Loch Altan, Gort an Choirce on November 1, starting at 4 pm. Well-known historian Helen Meehan (who is president of the Donegal Historical Society) from Mountcharles, and Mary Nelis, a former Derry City Councillor and civil rights campaigner and writer, will be among the various speakers in attendance.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Co Dun na nGall

Irish Independent



October 15, 2014

15 October 2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I go to the post office and the Co OP,books sweep the lawn.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Park Honan – obituary

Park Honan was a scholar and biographer of great writers from William Shakespeare to Matthew Arnold

Park Honan: he was adept at sifting through sources to build a picture of the subject

Park Honan: he was adept at sifting through sources to build a picture of the subject

6:05PM BST 12 Oct 2014


Park Honan, the American-born scholar who has died aged 86, wrote scrupulously researched and often revelatory biographies of major writers across a range of periods; his subjects included Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Matthew Arnold.

He was a “man of letters” of a sort that is increasingly rare: he read widely, avoided “lit crit” jargon and addressed his books as much to the general reader as to the specialist. Honan passionately believed that a writer’s life, family, friends and social background could all shed light on the work. The squabbles over literary theory in British universities held no appeal for him, but he was far from being a stick-in-the-mud. He was a hugely adventurous scholar, whose works included, in 1987, an anthology of Beat poets (themselves highly experimental young men). He was devoted to teaching but had little interest in administration.

Moving to Britain in the late 1960s, Honan built a reputation as one of the leading scholars of Victorian literature . Then, as a professor at Leeds University, he reinvented himself as a Tudor historian, producing acclaimed biographies of Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

He was a master at ferreting out detail from careful sifting of primary sources. He took between seven and 10 years to complete each biography, often writing all night while holding down academic jobs. Honan’s life of Matthew Arnold , published in 1981, established him as a serious literary biographer; it identified Mary Claude as the real woman with whom Arnold had been in love in Switzerland, the subject of his “Marguerite” poems.

Jane Austen: Her Life, which drew on previously unseen sources, came out in 1987; Kathryn Hughes in The Daily Telegraph wrote that it set “a daunting high-water mark”. Christopher Marlowe, Poet and Spy (2005), revealed for the first time that the gay playwright, unable to support himself through his writing, had become horribly tangled in obligations to his spymasters, which probably led to his murder aged 29.

Hobart Park Honan was born on September 17 1928, in Utica, New York, followed, 20 months later, by his brother William, later culture editor at the New York Times. Their parents were a thoracic surgeon, also called William, who died of a heart attack in 1935, and Annette Neudecker, a Southern belle who had been a school friend of Wallis Simpson. After her husband’s death, Annette rented a small house in Bronxville so that the boys could go to the excellent High School there. In 1946 Park left for Deep Springs, a tiny liberal arts college on a cattle ranch in the California desert, run by its 26 students plus a few teachers.

Park was fascinated by reptiles. “I adored rattlesnakes,” he recalled years later. “They sweetly and fairly warn you if you’re within 50ft of them – though when a horse drew to a quick stop once, I almost fell on a big rattler.”

He took on various jobs at the ranch, including that of garage mechanic, labour commissioner and slaughterer (the students had to slaughter their own meat). “My boots used to be awash in four inches of blood in the slaughterhouse. That helped to make me a pacifist.” After a day repairing the engines of Model A Fords in the garage, Park would read the works of Shakespeare, in the Variorum edition edited by the American scholar Horace Furness. This convinced him to read English instead of Law at the University of Chicago, where he went in 1948.

After graduating, he worked briefly at the Friendship Press in New York. One evening, Park’s brother introduced him to a French girl in a beret. It was Jeannette Colin – “a disturbing girl”, as Park put it. Their marriage in Manhattan in 1952 was a simple ceremony. “We stood for about half an hour in a queue of pregnant Puerto Rican ladies . Our music lasted 30 seconds. Someone lifted a needle from a scratched record, so that Here Comes the Bride stopped in mid-phrase; a clerk mumbled; we said: ‘I do’; and all was over in two minutes.”

Park Honan in the 1950s

Just as the Korean war was ending, Honan was drafted into the US army and, briefly, jailed as a conscientious objector. He spent a few hours in a cell with a forger, a Jehovah’s Witness and a man who had stabbed a postman. A judge agreed that he could serve as a stretcher bearer if needed and he was posted to France. Since under the GI Bill he qualified for a grant to complete his studies wherever he wanted, he decided to do his PhD on Browning at University College London (it was published as Browning’s Characters in 1961).

Returning to America he took teaching jobs, first at Connecticut College then at Brown University, Rhode Island. But when his friend the novelist David Lodge told him about a post as Lecturer at Birmingham University in the UK, Park jumped at the chance. He moved his family to Birmingham in 1968, staying there until 1983, when he was appointed Professor of English and American Literature at Leeds University.

It was at Birmingham that he produced his landmark study of Matthew Arnold and, before that, The Book, the Ring, and the Poet: A Biography of Robert Browning (1974). During the Leeds years, he completed perhaps his most ambitious work, Shakespeare: A Life (1988), which Stanley Wells, the leading British scholar of Shakespeare, considered the best biography in existence.

In his biographical technique, Honan was concerned to build a sense of immediacy or what he termed “presence”. He had a lifelong interest in drama and his work demonstrates a dramatist’s skill at bringing personalities to life. The scene in Christopher Marlowe in which the rakish young playwright is stabbed to death in a Deptford rooming-house is presented in vivid colours.

Among his other publications was Authors’ Lives: On Literary Biography and the Arts of Language (1990). He was one of the founders of the literary journal Novel. At the time of his death, he was half-way through a biography of T S Eliot.

Juliet Gardiner, Honan’s editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, described him as “persistent in his biographies and persistent in his friendships”. Park Honan and his wife had many friends and often entertained at their home in Leeds. Jeannette died in 2009. He is survived by their son and two daughters.

Park Honan, born September 17 1928, died September 27 2014


A male teacher writing on a blackboard ‘Parents are told good teachers mark books regularly, teach inspirational lessons, set homework, analyse pupil data to inform teaching and keep their knowledge up to date … A conservative estimate of doing a good job means spending 70 hours per week.’ Photograph: fStop/Alamy

The idea of a hit squad dispatched into so-called “failing schools” (Report, 13 October) should sound an alarm on a few counts. It signals the continuation of the use of force that engenders fear in urban schools, labelled not as challenging schools or, more pertinently, disadvantaged schools in local areas that usually rank high on the Index of Multiple Deprivation. It wages a propaganda war against teaching staff and multi-agency workers who are working extremely hard to try to combat exceptional social and educational inequalities in school communities that have suffered much from austerity policies. The charge of failure, code-named “inadequate” by Ofsted, is a political ploy to mask the effects in teachers’ classrooms of poverty and deprivation, which should be seen as mitigating circumstances when it comes to exam results, national benchmarks and floor targets.

This is a dangerous social experiment with these disadvantaged schools, overseen by the prime minister and led by authoritarian politicians like Michael Gove and now Nicky Morgan, who is seemingly content to carry on with a deliberate misrepresentation of the social realities of these frontline workers and subject them to intense policy pressures and sanctions, including job losses. More worrying, in the absence of adequate research-informed system support to meet pupils’ academic and social learning needs, is the power allocated to these politicians to shut down these schools, which are then cut adrift from the local authority and reopened as academies with corporate sponsors intent on profit-making and wealth creation. This then paves the way for global edu-businesses to come in and take over the nation’s state school system, which in turn raises serious questions about knowledge control and the control of teachers’ work, not to forget the fate of pupils from poor and deprived family and social backgrounds. The fallout from these vernacular forms of global neoliberal policies will echo down the 21st century, and as history has shown, there are dangerous precedents.
Professor Lori Beckett
The Winifred Mercier professor of teacher education, Leeds Beckett University

• I write as a retired headteacher who had thought that nothing that was proposed by this government could any longer surprise me. However, your front-page news about Cameron’s National Teaching Service has left me astounded by its complete lack of understanding of the ways in which children learn or should be encouraged to learn. In particular, the idea that the new service will introduce “standard punishments for bad behaviour”. No longer any need to treat children as individuals, then? Where are these “behaviour experts” to be recruited from, and if they are so special, why are they not already teaching?

When I was training to be a teacher, and while reading education for a degree, my studies included the writings of Rousseau, Piaget, Pavlov and such more recent icons as Denis Lawton. In other words, a knowledge of child development was considered to be an essential requirement for a teacher. No longer, it would seem.

Lastly, the “regional commissioners” will bring in new policies on “classroom discipline, uniform standards and homework”. I have no problem with the first of these, except that I have always believed that if a teacher can capture the imagination of children in class, behaviour will not be a problem. Perhaps my previous eight years as a policeman helped somewhat. Again, I have never been a fan of school uniform or homework; the best education relies, as ever, on the quality of teaching in the classroom. I have no doubt that I will be considered an idealist by many of your readers.

The type of school envisaged by Cameron is taking us ever backwards to a grey, standard Dotheboys Hall.
Harry Galbraith
Peel, Isle of Man

• As a teacher who retired after 38 years in the classroom, I have been giving some thought to Tristram Hunt’s idea of a “teaching oath” (Martin Rowson’s cartoon, 13 October; Stuart Heritage, G2, 14 October). May I suggest the following:

I swear always to do my best to raise the standard of education for all my pupils so they can achieve their fullest potential. In doing this I shall:
a) Campaign to bring the 3.5 million children out of poverty so that they may be able to focus on learning rather than worrying about their next meal or where they are going to live.
b) Refuse to implement any government policy which has not been rigorously piloted and found to raise educational achievement by independent researchers.
c) Not spend hours going to meetings or training sessions that do nothing to improve my performance as a teacher so that I may stand a chance of being awake, alert and teaching at my most inspirational throughout the day.
d) Care about the wellbeing of all in the school community so that together we can work for the benefit of all, but particularly the children.
e) Allow myself time to think about and develop my subject knowledge and reflect on my practice as a teacher so that I may continue to improve my skills.
f) Not live in fear of Ofsted nor performance-related pay, for they are sticks and carrots I do not need to be a good teacher, for I am happiest when I know my pupils are happy and learning.

I would like to think Mr Hunt would agree with me, but somehow I doubt it!
Richard Stainer
Bradfield St George, Suffolk

• I am old enough to have taught in primary and secondary modern schools in the West Riding in the 1950s. Children often came to school undernourished, and explanations of school absence such as “He’s got no shoes this week” were not uncommon. At least in those days we had an Educational Welfare Service, and shoes and clothing could be provided. I thought all that was long gone. Now I read Louise Tickle’s article (Food, clothes, transport, beds, ovens: the aid schools are giving UK pupils, 14 October). And yet we have the scandalous waste of money that is the free school programme, some of whose bizarre results are mentioned in the same edition (Speed read, 14 October). Do we still have an independent inspectorate? What do they look at?
John Thorley
Milnthorpe, Cumbria

• It is interesting to read about another “teaching guru”, Doug Lemov, tempting aspiring teachers to learn from his experiences (American who wrote the latest classroom bible, 13 October). On the same page is a half-page advertisement for people to train as maths teachers, with a “£25k tax-free” incentive.

Lemov appears to offer little to help stop the 40% of teachers who are currently leaving the profession in their first five years of teaching (costing taxpayers to train more to replace them). He does acknowledge that “teachers soldier on in anonymity, we never honour them”.

Why do so many teachers enter the profession, often with high aspirations of making a real difference, only to burn out within five years? Have public perceptions of what makes a good teacher been unrealistically painted by politicians, Ofsted, and the media?

Parents are told good teachers mark books regularly (weekly), teach inspirational lessons, set homework, analyse pupil data to inform teaching and keep their knowledge up to date. A secondary school history teacher might thus expect to spend over 20 hours marking books and giving feedback, 10 hours preparing lessons (including use of data), on top of a 40-hour week in school. This does not include meetings or parent consultations. A conservative estimate of doing a good job means spending 70 hours per week.

It’s a wonder it takes young teachers five years to realise there is more to life than appeasing Ofsted.
Jenny Page (retired maths teacher)
Newton Poppleford, Devon

Pro-Palestine supporter outside parliament in London Show of support for recognition of a Palestinian state outside the Houses of Parliament, 13 October 2014. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/Reuters

I watched the entire House of Commons debate on a motion to recognise a Palestinian state on Monday night, then read your report the next morning. It was as if your reporters were describing a different occasion. In just over 100 lines, you gave 38 lines to the admittedly significant change of heart by Conservative Richard Ottaway; five lines to the anti-recognition sentiments of Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind; 17 lines to the largely incoherent speech of an Israel supporter, Conservative MP James Clappison; and 21 to the rather measured words in support of the motion by Jack Straw. What was missing was any reference to the 40 or so passionate speeches by MPs of all parties condemning the decades of injustice, suffering and deaths imposed on the Palestinians by Israel, and calling for the British government to pressure Israel directly rather than make ineffectual statements of mild criticism from time to time. Although your paper presumably went to press before the vote, it was clear from the beginning of the debate that the House was overwhelmingly supportive of statehood for Palestine, and yet you hardly mentioned the arguments in favour, even those made by the proposer Grahame Morris, quoting one short phrase from his speech. As it was, the vote was an overwhelming 274 in favour of the motion and only 12 against, but no one would have guessed that outcome from your coverage of the debate.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

• Will the House be equitable and propose a motion that those who support the concept of the Palestinian state recognise the existence and right to exist of the state of Israel?

No other UN member state has to continually argue its right to exist. So will the House demand the unequivocal recognition without further debate of Israel by other UN member states (specifically Arab states)? And will it condemn the terrorist organisation Hamas and promise that only when such organisations are removed from the Palestinian political landscape can Britain recognise the legitimacy of a Palestinian state?
Stephen Spencer Ryde

• Having lent credibility to the Palestinian terrorists, British MPs should now be ready to do the same for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Sikhs in India, Kashmiris in Kashmir, Kurds in northern Iraq, Baluchis and Sindhis in Pakistan and so on.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

Tory MP Richard Ottaway nobly changes his opinion about Israel and admits that the Holocaust had had a “deep impact” on him after the second world war . He doesn’t mention the impact on Palestinian Arabs when Jews changed from victims to aggressors in 1948 and arrived with the armed terrorist group Irgun at their head to eject 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and into exile, where they or their descendants continue to fruitlessly wave their title deeds. It is precisely this kind of one-eyed amnesia from the west that continues to enrage even moderate Arab opinion and is a contributory factor to Middle East terrorism.
David Redshaw

• Patrick Wintour mentions a “carefully constructed Labour foreign policy towards Israel”. If he knows what this policy is perhaps he could enlighten your readers!
Doug Simpson
Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Conservative Party Conference Held In Birmingham - Day 3 Boris Johnson, who will be giving the opening keynote speech at the Mipim property fair in London, holds a house brick aloft as he addresses the Conservative party conference on 30 September 2014. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

This week the Mipim property fair is in London (Opinion, 14 October). A breeding ground for property developers, investment bankers, landlords and sellout politicians, Mipim represents the celebration of a housing system that puts concerns of profit over people’s right to a decent home. At a time when the UK housing crisis is causing homelessness, driving people out of social housing – such as the E15 mums – and forcing up rents for everyone, London mayor Boris Johnson will be giving Mipim’s opening keynote speech. We feel that no mayor of London should be attending this event and instead support the counter conference and mobilisation that has been organised to defend cities for people rather than profit. It is time to move away from treating houses purely as financial assets to be shuffled around for maximum gain and instead ensure that we provide affordable homes that meet people’s needs.
Jasmine Stone E15 Mums
Natalie Bennett Green party leader
Grahame MorrisMP Labour, Easington
John McDonnell MP Labour, Hayes & Harlington
Jeremy Corbyn MP Labour, Islington North
Cllr Rabina Khan Cabinet member for housing, London borough of Tower Hamlets
David Graeber London School of Economics
Darren Johnson Green party London Assembly member
Dave Wetzel Labour Land Campaign
Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty
Alistair Murray Housing Justice
Doug Thorpe Left Unity
Anna Minton Author, Ground Control
Rueben Taylor Radical Housing Network
Eileen Short Defend Council Housing
Pete Kavanagh Unite London and Eastern Region, regional secretary
Paul Kershaw Unite housing workers chair
Heather Kennedy Digs – Hackney Renters
Rachel Haines Southbank Centre Unite branch
Gerry Morrissey Bectu general secretary
Bella Hardwick Save Earls Court Supporters Club
Zaher Aarif Haringey Housing Action Group
Joseph Blake Squash Campaign
Liz Wyatt Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
Christine Haigh Lambeth Renters
Liliana Dmitrovic People’s Republic of Southwark
Nic Lane Brent Housing Action
Alex Finnie Our West Hendon

• The picture painted by Aditya Chakrabortty is not one which people working to regenerate Britain’s cities and towns would recognise. For 25 years – and this week in the UK for the first time – Mipim has brought together public- and private-sector experts and contributed to the urban renaissance across the UK. The revival of towns and cities ranging from London boroughs to Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds is admired around the world, and Mipim is proud to have played a part. Far from lacking in transparency, Mipim welcomes open discussion on all topics, from affordable housing to urban development, from green building to the well-being of all city dwellers. No other forum is so effective as a meeting place for cities and towns, and the listed property companies and pension funds who, by working in partnership, set standards around the world. Perhaps that’s why visitors from Asia and the Americas’ biggest cities travel to Mipim – to learn best practice which they can then use at home. We look forward to Aditya Chakrabortty accepting an invitation to attend Mipim UK this week to see what really goes on.
Peter Rhodes
Reed Midem UK

• Zoe Williams , 13 October) takes up the important point of rich foreigners buying up swaths of property, particularly in London. We spend far too much time worrying about less well-off hard working people form foreign lands coming into our country, rather than rich ones buying property and not properly contributing to the economy. Non-EU people or companies should pay an annual land tax on any freehold or long leasehold property that they acquire. Property is in short supply in Britain and there is not enough for the world to buy here. The tax would be easy to administer, not require a valuation by the hard-pressed district valuer’s office and yield a contribution from people who can easily afford to contribute to the services of this country. Those from abroad who do not want to pay can free up property for us British people.
Neil Spurrier
Twickenham, Middlesex

Overpaid, oversexed (allegedly) and now overexposed in your newspaper. Bad enough to have to see Russell Brand’s witterings in Weekend (11 October), but he gets another airing this week (G2, 13 October). Stop it, please, his views are irrelevant and puerile.
Jane Ghosh

• Russell Brand is becoming as ubiquitous as Tracey Emin and Stephen Fry. Could we not have a moratorium on those dreary individuals?
JMY Simpson

• Les Bright, Paul Nicolson and Keith Flett (Letters, 14 October). Is the Guardian pursuing a core letter-writers strategy (Open door, 13 October)?
Jeremy Cushing

Letters pic The route to secession? Photograph: Gary Kempston

Danger of drawing borders

We Anglophile Europeans have difficulties persuading our compatriots that British people are not as insular as often depicted, but the Scottish referendum and your seven pages of coverage on it undermine our efforts with the glaring absence of a European perspective (26 September). I’m not referring to the compatibility of British arrangements with EU laws or an independent Scotland in the EU. The problem is much deeper: Europeans have been killing each other for generations on the question of borders, on the alleged right of “cultural nations” to have an independent state. After the second world war, things were sorted out in western Europe but not in the eastern bloc, where we have recently seen the results in ethnic cleansing and mass graves. By all means Britain must solve constitutional problems, but it mustn’t awaken the spectre of ethnic rearrangement.

The contention that democratic voting is always good is a naive bromide: in my Basque country the very suggestion of such a vote a few years back created social divisions whose scars are still being nursed. Basque nationalists have been drooling with envy for the Scottish referendum and though disappointed with the result still consider it a milestone on the route to secession.

There is such a thing as a European project, even if Britons cannot decide whether to join it, and drawing new frontier lines on the map certainly goes against it. European leaders ought to stop pretending these are internal matters: they engage the heart of Europe. After the lessons we thought we had learned from history, the sight of David Cameron, a western European leader, giving a veneer of respectability to tribalism, is appalling.
Anton Digon
Vitoria, Spain

• Alexandra Jones of research unit Centre for Cities argues that further devolution is “all about galvanising urban hubs” like those in Lancashire and Yorkshire (26 September). But what about the rural sector? On a visit to my ancestral homeland I was disconcerted to hear a Cornishman say he had just “taken a break in England”, which for him is a foreign land across the river Tamar.

Under English rule Cornwall has become one of the most deprived regions. Further devolution might be similarly attractive in parts of Wales, whose union goes right back to Edward I and a later Act of Union in 1535; and we have long known that in Ulster a significant minority wants out of the UK. The Scots may be leading all the Celts to recover their identities and autonomy in Timothy Garton Ash’s “federal kingdom of Britain” (26 September).
Ren Kempthorne
Nelson, New Zealand

• You noted the challenges of asymmetrical federalism (26 September). Canada has had just such a situation for years. Quebec, which has a relatively small share of the overall population, has control of their pension plan, their healthcare and their immigration strategy. It seems to work. Support for independence is the lowest it has been in years.
Jane McCall
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

• How do you describe a vote of 55% to 45%, with a percentage margin of 10 points? According to Irvine Welsh, the “yes” side came “within a whisker of victory”. But Alberto Nardelli writes that “Scotland’s answer was a resounding no … a decisive result … and in reality nearer to a landslide”. So who is right?
Stuart McKelvie
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

We need Human Rights Act

I am appalled and horrified by the Conservative plans for the European Convention on Human Rights (3 October). Their proposals are tantamount to saying that we will agree with the court’s judgment if we like it, if not, we will ignore it. That is no justice at all. I am equally appalled that the supposed justification is the decision to allow prisoners the right to vote. Even if you disagree with that specific ruling, the fact that a minority of our population, only 85,000, has caused the loss of fundamental rights for over 64 million people is fundamentally wrong.

These are rights which were drafted by British lawyers after the second world war, a time when it could not have been clearer that a continent wide agreement was necessary. The ECHR codified our human rights and fundamental freedoms to protect us all from the horrors that were perpetrated. Our soldiers fought and died to protect future generations from those appalling acts.

We would be complacent in the extreme if we did not think that such atrocities are behind us. Around the world in countries without such a convention, torture, police brutality, no right to a free and fair vote, education for boys and not girls, are commonplace. The Conservatives should not play politic with rights that were hard fought for us all. We should stand up now, as others did before us, to protect them.
Grace Cullen
London, UK

In a better world

Priyamvada Gopal’s piece on India’s Mars mission (3 October) notes that not only “in a better world the search for knowledge and the quest for social justice would be necessarily intertwined” but all nations would work together to achieve both goals, universally and collaboratively.

It is essential that we curb the ever more pervasive worship of privatisation, profit, competition, individualism and nationalism. All of these are solidly rooted in a culture of permanent war.

We urgently need to acknowledge that only by working together do we stand a chance to save our civilisation and maybe start to improve it.

In fact, if we do not resurrect community spirit, our dominion on earth will destroy all of us, and Margaret Thatcher’s quip that “there is no such a thing as society” will become a reality to the point that there will not be humanity.
Bruna Nota
Toronto, Canada

We are able to adapt

What a dreadful picture Paul Verhaeghe (3 October) paints of our put-upon, post-industrial selves, the hapless victims of a “meritocratic neoliberalism [which] favours certain personality traits and penalises others”, such as “emotional commitment” or “thinking independently”. In short, he says that our fiercely competitive economy is “bringing out the worst in us”.

Not only have the nice guys finished last, but the bad guys are certifiable psychopaths. What Verhaeghe does not seem to take into account, however, in his sweeping condemnation of the sheep we have all become, is that some of us are trying to adapt, using whatever emotional intelligence we have left. As one wise man once said, “Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it.”

Now that is independent thinking, an option that Verhaeghe implies we no longer possess.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

Celebrating Ursula K Le Guin

Hallelujah to Alison Flood’s celebration of Ursula K Le Guin (Elegant, popular and enduring, 26 September). I’ve been reading and rereading this remarkable woman with untrammelled delight for 40 years. There are so many gifts in her work: perfect pitch for language; endless curiosity and concomitant willingness to be wrong; humour; fine-honed, stellar imagination; the ecology – boundless, intricate, evolving – of her mythic universes, Earthsea and Hain; passion and compassion; a fierce commitment to justice and truth; and a grappling with fundamentalism, particularly patriarchy and war, in all its odium.

And like fireflies all through her work are the aphorisms: “When the word becomes not sword but shuttle” (Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences); “If power were trust …” (Tehanu); “They didn’t rule, they only blighted” (City of Illusions); “Belief is the wound that knowledge heals” (The Telling); “…because he didn’t seek for dominance, he was indomitable” (The Dispossessed); “the verb ‘to be rich’ is the same as the verb ‘to give’” (Always Coming Home).

It’s an honour to share a galaxy with her.
Annie March
West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

New Zealand lurches to right

Bronwyn Sherman repeats the kind of tired political frame that actively helped John Key to keep power in last month’s New Zealand election (Reply, 3 October). The government’s apologists consistently miscast the message of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. These disturbingly well-informed specialists warned eloquently of the dangers of current massive government electronic snooping on New Zealand’s citizens.

So in a mixture of rightwing recasting of critical commentary and consciously ignoring major issues, they created a mood that carefully supports the rightward lurch of New Zealand politics over the last decade. The fact that it was foreigners bringing the bad news fed cheerfully into New Zealanders’ defensive rejection of outsiders, when we don’t want to hear the message.
David Cooke
Auckland, New Zealand


• You quote a Rome-based professor of theology: “the Catholic church doesn’t recognise divorce, so those individuals are still married … in the eyes of Christ” (3 October). True, if Christ were guided by the Catholic church rather than, as others might hope, the other way round.
Adrian Betham
London, UK

• Come back, Saddam: all is forgiven (Iraq air strikes, 3 October).
David Coy
Hamilton, New Zealand

Please send letters to


The letter by senior military and political leaders in Tuesday’s Independent drawing attention to our collective neglect of the problems in northern Nigeria is timely and welcome. Boko Haram is rightly and universally condemned for its savagery, and particularly for the truly shocking kidnap of 276 teenage schoolgirls six months ago.

However, before endorsing a military rescue of these poor children it is important to recognise the background in which these kidnappings took place. I recently briefly worked as an obstetrician for Médecins sans Frontières in northern Nigeria and was surprised to find that the average age that girls marry in that region is 15 years.

The local fundamentalist tradition is that girls are given in arranged marriages shortly after puberty, often against their will, to older men. The median age difference between girls and their spouses is 12 years. Sixteen per cent of the girls have given birth by 15 and almost 60 per cent by the age of 18.

Once married they may live in purdah. This involves the strict enforcement of seclusion rules. They are expected to remain indoors except in extreme circumstances, and when they do go out with their husband’s permission they must be completely covered by a hijab and escorted. Muslim Hausa women in northern Nigeria consider purdah and wearing the veil as important symbols of Islamic identity.

Removing 15-year-old girls from their family and marrying them off is therefore accepted as normal in this part of the world. Boko Haram’s kidnapping was therefore an enormously effective publicity stunt but was otherwise just an extreme and violent variant of what is commonplace and accepted there. Their view is that these girls should not be in schools receiving “evil western education” but should be married and bearing children.

Attempts to find the girls by military action might therefore be extremely difficult. Many of them may now already be in formal marital relations. There are many thousands of young women in this society who have been displaced from their families often against their will and have suffered similar if less violent fates to that being endured by their more famous kidnapped compatriots. Finding the kidnapped girls will be challenging, dangerous and possibly even counter-productive.

Professor Ray Garry MD FRCOG FRANZCOG
Guisborough, North Yorkshire

I strongly endorse the call for international action, including by Commonwealth governments, to support Nigeria against Boko Haram and seek the release  of the kidnapped girls.

In June the Commonwealth Local Government Forum board met in Abuja and pledged solidarity with our Nigerian colleagues. Local government is in the forefront in dealing with emergencies, whether terrorism, like the 2005 London bombings, or the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. Empowering local communities and ensuring they have the necessary on-the-ground capacity is therefore a vital component in defeating insurgents and mounting a rapid response to any emergency.

Carl Wright 
Commonwealth Local Government Forum,
London WC2


Of course we can afford the NHS

Congratulations on your excellent series of articles on the NHS. I am sick of the argument that we cannot afford a fully comprehensive health service, and that we are now a more “expensive” population because we are more numerous and have the temerity to live longer.

The NHS was created at a time when this country had never been poorer in modern times. In 1946, the population suffered from endemic diseases such as tuberculosis and polio, and contained the veterans of two world wars, mutilated in mind and body.

I remember the red blankets in a children’s isolation ward – red because when the tubercular patients coughed up blood, it was less frightening.

I remember the queues of miners waiting outside the “silicosis board”, where those with permanently damaged lungs waited to be assessed,

There were still wards full of shell-shocked soldiers hidden away from society, still streets with malnourished children suffering from rickets and head-lice.

Treatment for all this was paid for by a country practically on its knees at the end of the Second World War, bankrupted and exhausted, a population which had long forgotten personal luxuries.

We are a rich country now. Though we have a different set of health problems, of course we can afford to keep the NHS fully funded by taxing superfluous wealth. The Labour Party needs the guts to say so.

Jane Jakeman

As I stood outside Worthing hospital in the rain with the NHS staff picket on Monday morning I was struck by just how much support there was for this strike among the passing people of Worthing. Eight out of 10 passing cars beeped their horns in support.

It seems that the public share with the striking NHS staff the utter confusion over why incompetent politicians ruining the NHS through an unnecessary privatisation should get a 10 per cent pay rise while those saving lives don’t even get 1 per cent.

Dr Carl Walker
Worthing, West Sussex


Ukip joins the TV debate

So, having had an MP elected last week, Ukip has been promised inclusion in the leaders’ televised debates in next year’s general election; but no such promise has been made to the Green Party, which had its MP elected in May 2010.

Is this an example of what Tories claim is the BBC’s left-wing bias?

Pete Dorey

John Curtice (11 October) is wrong to state that “Ukip is undoubtedly taking votes from all parties.” The Green vote in both Clacton and Heywood and Middleton went up.

R F Stearn
Stowmarket, Suffolk

Coalition prevented a Tory government

Michael Ayton (letter, 11 October) posits an interesting but ultimately unconvincing counter-factual claim.

A minority Conservative administration in 2010 would not have endured for long. Within months the country would have faced a second general election, just as was the case in 1974. The result almost certainly would have been a majority Tory government. In the meantime, the vigilantes in the bond markets would have had a field day.

His argument also fails to take account of the consensus between the Conservatives and Labour on issues such as raising student fees. Under a minority Conservative government we would not have seen the compromises that have given us a graduate tax in all but name.

Those of us who remember the 1980s realise that the Coalition Government has been of a very different hue. Who, for example, would have thought that the overseas aid budget would have survived?

John Gossage
Coedcanlas, Pembrokeshire


Invaders from Europe

Thank you for underlining the dangers posed to us by the swarms of aliens invading our shores, many from Central Europe (“Alien species could cause an ‘environmental catastrophe’ ”, 13 October).

In your words, not mine, they are thieves and killers, they destroy our economy and, adding insult to injury, they smell. The photo you publish speaks volumes: reptilian eyes, lascivious lips, fangs, a moustachioed beast!

You describe how they are encamped across the Channel, poised to invade and transform our beloved Thames into a ghastly recreation of the Caspian! Gone for ever will be the days of old maids cycling past the rhododendrons to the pub for a pint of warm bitter and an unfiltered Players. No! It will be cheeky girls on mopeds with an e-cigarette in their pouting lips going to the discotheque for vodka!

Sean Nee

Worry over ‘psychic nights’

Simon Usborne’s article on Sally Morgan (11 October) resonated very deeply with a local concern on the estate where I live.

This relates to a series of “Psychic Nights” being promoted here by the local housing association. When I questioned the wisdom of this the official concerned seemed genuinely surprised.

As someone who values rational thinking I welcome the “psychic awareness month” that has been launched by the Good Thinking Society. With “new ageism” rife in the land we need all the help we can to retain clear thinking about spiritual matters.

The Rev Andrew McLuskey
Stanwell, Surrey

Why did the TV psychic Sally Morgan fail to foresee the homophobic behaviour of her husband and son-in-law (report, 14 October)?

Dr Alex May



Sir, As a non-executive director in a primary care trust a few years ago, it became abundantly clear that our 2 per cent budget deficit was nothing compared to the waste that an NHS reform would bring with it. We were just getting to grips with our task and making plans for our predominantly rural patch when structural reform was announced and we were discarded. Waste in the NHS does not stem from within; it stems from the here-today gone-tomorrow nature of the senior government role ascribed to the NHS: one of the biggest employers in the world flits from one personal aggrandisement project to another. The best change ever for the NHS at any one time would be to leave it as it is. Allow proper management to flourish, rather than change management.
Jonathan Duckworth
Nailsworth, Glos

Sir, The NHS is in yet another funding crisis, aggravated by uninformed political interference — and inevitable, too, as experience has shown that medical inflation is about three times that of general inflation. It is not realistic to continue with a comprehensive and free NHS that will bankrupt the country. The choice is between rationing the service or charging the patient, or a combination of these.
Julian Neely
Horsham, W Sussex

Sir, NHS reform is necessary. My disappointment is not with the government but with health service professionals whose response to proposals for change seems restricted to criticism of anything that threatens their vested interests.
John Nairn
Brookmans Park, Herts

Sir, Should we be puzzled to read that David Cameron and George Osborne failed to realise the extent of Andrew Lansley’s plans for reorganising the NHS (“NHS reforms our worst mistake, Tories admit”, Oct 13), when these plans were so huge that they were described by the chief executive of NHS England as “visible from space”? Both prime minister and chancellor need to distance themselves from the damage done to the NHS as the election nears. However, if this means claiming that they did not understand Mr Lansley’s plans, or did not spot what he was doing, they have to accept that they are not fit to govern.
Dr Jan Savage
London E1

Sir, At the moment when one is most likely to need the NHS, retirees such as myself become exempt from National Insurance contributions, part of which is a premium towards a health insurance policy. We need a fair system whereby older people support each other by helping to fund this wonderful service.
Neil Kobish
Barnet, Herts

Sir, Last Friday my wife was admitted to a hospital that is run under a PFI contract. I am an expert on PFI and it was clear that many aspects of facilities management were not being delivered to the standard I would have expected. Whoever is at fault for this — the contractors, administrators or both — the taxpayer is paying for a service they are not receiving.
Tony Clarke
Great Dunmow, Essex

Sir, Targets, intrusive inexpert management and the European working time directive have all contributed to a deterioration in seamless patient care and the training of junior hospital doctors.
Stuart L Stanton
Emeritus Professor of Gynaecology, University of London

Sir, How depressing to read the various versions of “I told you so” from members of the NHS workforce (letters, Oct 14). That such comments were also laced with complaints about pay and sniping at private provision is even more sad. Since elements of the workforce have opposed pretty well all changes to “their” NHS, there will probably be more such letters in future. To blame politicians is a lame excuse. To blame a shortage of money is just laziness. They need to be more creative and adaptive over ideas for change.
Peter Cobb
Tring, Herts

Sir, I was a non-executive director of the former Buckinghamshire Hospital Trust for eight years. Despite all our best efforts and training, I believe that neither myself nor other nonexecutive directors made any impact on decision-making. What we did do was absorb the time and energy of professionals who would have been better off running the hospitals. There are a lot of good things about the NHS and the dedication of staff is one of them. My suggestion is that to save money and move the organisation forwards, a new look at the governance structure is necessary.
Jane Bramwell
Rottingdean, E Sussex

Sir, It is worrying to read of the inconsistencies in care in hospitals (“The good, the bad and the ugly”, Oct 14). In the latest national cancer patient experience survey, 10 per cent of breast cancer patients reported that their doctors talked to them as if they were not there, and 12 per cent stated that their doctor did not deliver their diagnosis sensitively. For those living with secondary breast cancer, which cannot be cured, we know that inconsistencies in care are particularly distressing. We want the best breast cancer care and for secondary breast cancer to be a priority.
Diana Jupp
Director of Services and Campaigns, Breast Cancer Care

Sir, Of all the acknowledged truths about the NHS, that we are short of nurses must stand at the forefront. Training young people to nurse has to be good for society; not just filling nursing posts as at present, but knowing how to look after old and young in the community. It is an investment that will benefit us all.
Dr Alastair Lack
Coombe Bissett, Wilts

Sir, Why should we celebrate the fact that the “NHS is treating more patients than ever before”? (“Protecting the NHS”, leading article, Oct 13). Shouldn’t we wish for fewer patients?
Nicholas Norwell
Newbury, Berks

Sir, Mention of Balfron Tower (letter, Oct 14) reminds me of the importance of these high-rise homes to people in the Fifties. My sister was doing her teacher-training in an East End school and one little girl gave her “news” to the class a day after being moved from substandard accommodation. She said: “We have a lavatory — in a bathroom — which is just for us; me and my mum and dad. And I go to bed in a room which is mine, just for me, and I looked out of the window and all I could see was fairyland.”
Patricia White

Sir, Despite the doubts that ebola will enter the country via an airport, by installing screening the government seems determined to reassure the public that something is being done. Surely it is more likely that an ebola carrier will enter this country illegally in the back of a lorry? During their journey, illegal migrants can suffer horrendous sanitary conditions. They are often placed in crowded vehicles or boats for long periods of time. The nature of their journey and the travel times all point to this being the most likely vector of entry for this virus. Having arrived here in such a manner, it has to be assumed that few would come forward until their symptoms were advanced. While the NHS may be gearing up to prevent an outbreak, a practical approach has to be taken to protect police officers, border agency and immigration staff. Surely Cobra will have considered how to reinforce our porous borders, or is the Ukip bandwagon preventing sensible discussion of the matter?
F Donnelly
Stoke Poges, Bucks

Sir, Is it too much to hope that those who could make a difference to the planet’s response to ebola — Obama? Xi Jinping? — show world leadership before matters get out of hand?
Lars Mouritzen
London W2

Sir, I do hope that the plans of the health secretary Jeremy Hunt to prevent ebola from entering Britain are comforting for the nation, in view of his botched security job at the Olympics when he was sport minister.
Terry Duncan
Bridlington, E Yorks

Sir, This may help Rob Matthews (letter, Oct 10): a management consultant is someone who knows how to make love in 120 exciting, spectacular and exotic ways, but does not know any women.
David Himsworth
Filey, N Yorks

Sir, I thought a management consultant was someone to whom you lent your watch so as to enable them to tell you the time.
Tony Westhead
Amersham, Bucks

Sir, The votes here and in Sweden to recognise a Palestinian state are terrifying (“Labour backs call to recognise Palestine”, Oct 14). The Hamas charter is expressly a programme for the destruction of Israel and Jews. Hamas is not a political party seeking a two-state solution and it never has been.
Robert Willer
London EC1

Sir, It seems that a marginal majority of UK MPs (most did not turn up to the vote) support the Palestinian propaganda narrative. How little these MPs understand the Israeli mind. Far from influencing the Israeli government, this will make the Israelis listen less to the British.
Harold Miller
London NW7

Sir, The claim that Palestinian Arabs were the original inhabitants of what is now Israel is not, as Melanie Phillips writes, “historically illiterate” (“Recognising Palestine won’t promote peace”, Oct 13). Thanks to the work of the Israeli historian Benny Morris we can be clear how many of these inhabitants left their land following the 1948 war.
James Davis
London SW15


All the leaves are brown: a cobweb in the early morning mist in Richmond Park, London Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 14 Oct 2014


SIR – The best use for conkers is to place them around the house to deter spiders. As a lifelong arachnophobe, I recommend it.

Liz Howgill
Epsom, Surrey

SIR – I find bowls of conkers make good decorations. But does anyone know how to make them keep their rich, coppery glow instead of turning a dull, dark brown?

Jean Endersby
Guiseley, West Yorkshire

SIR – It is the time of year when we will read letters from those who want to keep British Summer Time permanently. May I beg them to think twice before sending them?

It would lead to mornings where fog and frost caused traffic chaos, and children in parts of the country went to school in the dark. It would be bad for business, the economy and all local services.

Let common sense prevail.

David Barlow
Cury, Cornwall

SIR – My wife, an American citizen, was denied re-entry into Britain recently because I, a UK citizen, had the temerity to ask if it would be possible for her to remain with me for the duration of my stay in Britain. This was interpreted as an attempt to obtain entrance to Britain without having the necessary pre-clearance. She was denied entry, despite being given a six-month entry permit earlier in the summer.

Contradictory advice, inability to get help from British diplomatic posts overseas and confusing terminology on the Government’s website contributed to this debacle. Were I a citizen of any other country in the European Economic Area, I would have the right to bring my wife into the country, regardless of her nationality, and she would then be able to obtain residence rights quickly and easily.

Why do UK citizens have fewer rights to bring their non-EU spouses into Britain than citizens of other EU states?

Jonathan Warner
Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

SIR – Glory, glory, Boris Johnson! He has finally listened to and understood what Ukip is saying about immigration.

Maybe he will bring his wisdom to bear on the other issues on which “kippers” are speaking with honesty and conviction.

Linda Hughes
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – Boris Johnson “calls for quotas on EU migrants”. Is he referring to the 1.75 million British citizens who live and work in the EU but outside Britain? Should they too be subjected to a points and quota system by their host nations?

Freedom of movement works in two directions, and so do restrictions on it.

Emeritus Prof Nicholas Boyle
Magdalene College, Cambridge

Celebrity reputations

SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan Hawkins. Naming alleged perpetrators, without formal charges being brought, must cause the individuals concerned potentially irreparable damage to their characters and reputations, without recourse.

If the Crown Prosecution Service believes it has sufficient evidence to prosecute, it should proceed to a trial. Other victims are more likely to come forward following a conviction, rather than unproven allegations.

If victims are, quite rightly, given anonymity pending trial, then the accused should be afforded the same courtesy.

Ian Melville

Subsidised wind power

SIR – The fortunate landowner Robin Hanbury-Tenison can only enjoy the fruits of his £60,000 investment in wind energy thanks to my 91-year-old mother (and millions like her) getting by on a pension and paying him ridiculous subsidies through utility bills for the energy he generates, which may not even be available when the grid needs it.

Ian Goddard
Wickham, Hampshire

Expiring underpants

SIR – After more than 40 years in general practice I can confidently assert that the spectacle of the typical Englishman in his underwear is little short of tragic. Retailers should put a use-by date in their products.

Incidentally, although I live in Norfolk, I do not wear Y-fronts.

Dr David Bryce

Ebola: can we avoid an outbreak in Britain? Photo: Rex Features

6:59AM BST 14 Oct 2014


SIR – I am writing from a London teaching hospital where there are no signs in the A&E waiting room advising anyone presenting with a history of travel to west Africa to make themselves known to staff, or better yet to go home and call a helpline. In fact, nobody has yet seen fit to instigate such a helpline or home assessment by specialist teams.

A virus that could burn itself out in Africa would have no chance to do so in London because of the population density. An outbreak (and subsequent imposition of martial law) in London would cost hundreds of billions of pounds, but the cost of basic measures just millions.

Dr Alexander Barber
Camberley, Surrey

SIR – The Department of Health’s over-reaction to bird flu and the subsequent money wasted on Tamiflu should not make us complacent about Ebola.

Its arrival in Britain is almost certain, but not necessarily from west Africa. The worst outcome would be a significant outbreak in rural areas of Eastern Europe that have little epidemiological experience and a migrant workforce.

Dr Robert J Leeming
Balsall Common, Warwickshire

Short man syndrome

SIR – The suggestion by Boris Johnson that Sir Winston Churchill was afflicted with “short man syndrome” is preposterous. Churchill, at 5ft 8in, was at least two inches taller than the average British male of his generation.

Hitler was also taller than average and it is doubtful if his madness was induced by lack of inches.

Every tyrant of short statute can be paired with a tall one, such as Edward II, the Hammer of the Scots, or Henry VIII, both of whom stood well over 6ft.

Alexander Johnston
Syston, Leicestershire

Chewed-up roads

SIR – I am currently witnessing the failure of an attempted repair that was made with some form of instant tarmacadam porridge less than two months ago.

I also recently observed a gang of operatives endeavouring, and largely failing, to remove chewing gum from the pavement.

Why do they not repair the holes in the roads with used chewing gum?

Tom Richardson
Colchester, Essex

War on Terror: organisation and equipment issues must be addressed Photo: REX

11:29AM BST 14 Oct 2014


SIR – The former chief of defence staff bemoans the drastic pruning of Britain’s Armed Forces in the face of current threats, but the problem is as much about organisation and equipment as it is about numbers.

Giant aircraft carriers and sophisticated Typhoon fighters are not much use against religious fanatics and terrorist organisations. Using an expensive smart missile to take out a pick-up truck sporting a mounted machine gun seems neither proportionate nor cost-effective.

The Israelis discovered in Gaza that a massive air assault may be technically impressive but it is largely ineffective against flexible and ruthless terrorists and risks many innocent lives, as well as outraging public opinion.

We have a wealth of experience of counter-insurgency operations, and the answer has always been a combination of intelligence gathering, extensive investment in winning hearts and minds, appropriate air support and, yes, boots on the ground in sufficient numbers and for sufficient time to both achieve and sustain the desired outcome.

The same principles apply now, albeit in the context of an international coalition and the need for the whole-hearted co-operation and commitment of the host country.

Air Commodore Mike Davison (Retd)
Holywell, Huntingdonshire

SIR – I question the value of teaching a few Iraqis how to use a relatively small number of heavy machine guns in Iraq by a few British soldiers, for a short time with no “mission creep”. A politically better solution with fewer costs, and probably better training, could be given by flying a few specially selected Iraqis to Britain and training them here. They could then pass on their knowledge to their compatriots in Iraq.

On a similar subject, I wonder who accepted the task of training cadets in Afghanistan along the lines of Sandhurst. Of course we could accept only a few of the required cadets in Sandhurst to train them here, as we do now I believe, but a Sandhurst in Afghanistan will undoubtedly become an attractive target and I fear that we will suffer casualties no matter what security we put in place. We will probably have to withdraw without completing the task of providing an organisation to train Afghan officer cadets, and I only hope that we will do so before too many of our soldiers are killed or injured.

It would be interesting to know what military advice was given to the politicians, and whether any such advice was overruled.

Brigadier Philip Winchcombe (Retd)
St Mary Bourne, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – In 2005 Prof James Slevin, then president of the Royal Irish Academy, and I submitted an opinion piece to The Irish Times about the deteriorating state of Irish undergraduate education. The article was never published, but its opening sentence “Ireland’s third-level system is like a slowly sinking ship” continues to be as true today as it was then.

In real terms, core funding per student is today a small fraction of what it was when Niamh Bhreathnach abolished third-level fees in 1995.

According to a recent report by Grant Thornton, the core grant per student in third level fell by over 40 per cent in the period 2007 to 2011 alone. But long before the collapse of the Celtic Tiger the cynicism with which successive governments treated the third-level sector in general, and the universities in particular, was deeply depressing.

The recession only made things worse. The core grant has been cut and cut; student numbers have been driven ever upwards; the reintroduction of fees continues to be verboten.

The Higher Education Authority plays a game of beggar my neighbour – incentivising each university to take on more students at the expense of its peers. The request, last year, that universities take on an additional 1,250 ICT undergraduates is typical.

Universities were “invited” to bid for extra students and told that they would get €1,000 per student; only later did they find out that this money would come from the core grant – ie it would be taken from other disciplines and/or universities – yet again robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Universities have responded to this funding crisis in a variety of ways. They have raised the so-called “registration fee” as far as the Government will permit them. And they have turned to other sources of income, notably research grants, philanthropy, non-EU students and commercial activities with, it must be said, some success, particularly in the research arena. But such sources of funding do not necessarily do much to improve the lot of the undergraduate. Research bodies pay academics to do research, not third-level teaching, and philanthropists typically donate to specific projects (like a professorship or building) rather than contributing to day-to-day running costs or teaching.

The result, as any honest academic will tell you, is that undergraduate teaching receives less and less attention. Promotion is achieved through research and the ability to bring in money; third-level teaching (along with its associated administration) is a distraction.

Young academics are smart people; they can see how this particular game is played. In the circumstances it is remarkable that Irish universities have managed to sustain the rankings that they have. The slide of UCD down the rankings may have grabbed the headlines, but given the chronic deterioration in its financial situation, the sector as a whole has held up remarkably well.

Universities are not like hospitals; when funds are cut, nobody is at risk of dying; nobody will have to wait for years in pain or discomfort for an elective procedure.

But just as failure to invest in primary health care leads to much larger bills down to the road, so the failure to maintain the quality of our third-level system will cost us in the end. It is hardly a surprise that employers increasingly complain about the deteriorating quality of our graduates.

University funding has been the victim of political cowardice for a generation; it is time for a change of direction. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Government has taken our last slice of bread (property tax, water tax, pension fund theft) yet we rejoice when it drops a few crumbs back onto our plates. What sad drones we have become. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Charge double and then offer half off. – Yours, etc,


Westport, Co Mayo.

Sir, – Now that the troika is but a distant memory, may I ask if it is a coincidence that budget day coincided with “Global Handwashing Day”? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The allegation by the Pro Life Campaign that media outlets are “extremely biased” on the issue of abortion appears to have been given some credence within a matter of hours of the claim being made (“Pro Life Campaign criticises ‘extremely biased’ media”, October 12th). The Ipsos/MRBI poll (“Majority of voters want abortion law liberalised”, October 13th) asked respondents whether they agreed that abortion should be permissible in situations “where the foetus will not be born alive”.

An answer in the affirmative to such a question might seem uncontroversial to many people, however the fact is that in medical terms the number of babies who “will not be born alive” and who cannot survive outside the womb for any period of time, as a percentage of all those diagnosed with serious foetal abnormalities, is tiny in number.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that it is very difficult for medical professionals to assess the likelihood of survival outside the womb in the first instance. Doctors simply cannot assess whether or not a child “will not be born alive”, so therefore it will be impossible to frame a constitutional amendment or legislation which covers such an eventuality.

The vast majority of babies diagnosed with abnormalities in the womb are born alive, even if they live for only a short time. Even in cases of anencephaly, probably the most serious abnormality which can occur in the womb, 75 per cent of children diagnosed are born alive and many will live for a number of weeks.

If these facts were put to respondents for your opinion poll, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there would have been a substantial reduction in the numbers who would support abortion in such circumstances.

Why was such a misleading question put to voters in an opinion poll in the first place? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – I read with interest David McConnell’s letter (October 13th) and found myself in agreement with his sentiments. I too was brought up in a church-attending Christian family environment.

I have continued to practice my faith for most of my life to date but at this stage in my early seventies, I am finding it more difficult to continue to accept core Christian beliefs. The element of supernaturalism is chief amongst my doubts. I am at present only an occasional church attender but, like Prof McConnell, continue to enjoy the opportunity to reflect, the beauty of singing and the words of powerful oratory at times.

My strongest belief is that we were all born with a conscience and the exercising of this to do good rather than evil is the key to a fulfilled life. There is room for both religion and humanism in our world and followers of each should encourage respect. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence (October 14th) on the question of aid or trade, there is no argument but that trade is essential to improve the lives of the world’s poorest citizens. Almost all evidence suggests smart aid and fairer trade policies will help improve quality of life for the world’s most disadvantaged.

But in the short term, improved trading policies or even large yearly economic growth will not immediately help the most vulnerable. Trade will not educate a Syrian child spending her third year in a Lebanese refugee camp. Nor will it stop the chain of transmission of HIV from a HIV-positive pregnant woman to her baby in Malawi. Aid, or specifically emergency education and the provision of antiretroviral drugs, will. Fairer trade policies are essential but they won’t improve and save lives immediately as aid will. This combination of smart aid and more equitable trade policies will make the world safer, healthier and more prosperous for us all. – Yours, etc,



Sierra Leone.

Sir, – The old mantra of “trade not aid” may hold true for Owen Brooks (October 14th), but for most, these are not strictly separate entities. If Mr Brooks were to investigate where overseas aid is spent, he would see that a sizeable portion of Ireland’s overseas aid is spent on small-scale economic projects, helped by Irish NGOs with funding from the Irish government. He is right that countries in the global south will only be able to work themselves out of economic hardship, which is the ultimate goal of projects like these, but for this to be possible, access to funding, credit or microfinance is required. Mr Brooks may argue that trade can solve this in one fell swoop, but it is clear that this does nothing but benefit the developed countries with whom they trade at an exponentially greater rate, and thus increase the relative wealth gap between richer and poorer countries. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – I have been listening very keenly to the Government since the dramatic reshuffle in the Labour Party to identify any change in direction on issues that are causing the electorate grave concern.

As a member of the Labour party in Dublin South West, and having been a TD in 1992 and a councillor for 18 years, I consider the result of the byelection in Dublin South West a disaster for the party, simply because we are not listening to the people, especially those who supported the party down through the years.

Dublin South West is the most left-wing constituency in the country and the party has come down from 33.92 per cent in 1992 general election to 8.5 per cent in the byelection.

It is self-evident from the result that the changes in Government have not had the desired effect and the people have come to the end of their forbearance with the imposition of water charges, which is the straw that has broken the camel’s back – no matter what allowances are given, it will not be enough to buy the people’s vote. Nothing less than a complete rethink will satisfy the public. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – Water charges, property taxes, pylons, gas pipelines, wind farms, incinerators, draining the Shannon – whatever gets proposed to deal with problems, we seem to be able to muster up a vocal cohort capable of claiming that every plan is an affront to our human rights, or a threat to our very existence.

Are we becoming a nation of hysterics, cheered on in our irrational stubbornness by grandstanding politicians and a sensationalist media?

The logical outcome is 200 TDs who are against pretty much everything and incapable of achieving anything. What a great centenary election 2016 will provide!

A centenary anniversary of the Rising of a nation?

More like a petulant 10-year-old having a sitdown protest because he was refused ice cream. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I have no objection in principle to paying separately for the water that I use. It makes sense in terms of broadening the tax base and in terms of conserving a vital commodity. But since we are already paying for the provision of water from general taxation, where is the consequential and corresponding reduction in general taxes that should make up for us having to pay this charge?

Indeed, as the citizens of this country will be forced for the first time to conserve water, the saving from general taxation should surely be greater than the new water charge. Why are we not being promised by the Government that we will be in fact be better off by a saving in income tax or some other tax? Could it be that there will in fact be no saving from general taxation for the citizen? Could it be that we will now be paying for water on the double and that this is just a tax on top of an existing tax?

No wonder the people have roared! – Yours, etc,


Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Water is the new oil. Mega-banks such as Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup and JP Morgan are buying up water resources, engineering infrastructure and water rights worldwide. They know that, as water becomes more scarce with climate change and population growth, there are vast profits to be made. In addition, the lucrative potential of “big data” means that Irish Water, as an asset, is far more valuable with PPS numbers attached than without. Not just water, but our very identities are being commercialised without our consent.

The privatisation of water transgresses all notions of natural justice and threatens ordinary citizens with withdrawal of a life-giving resource that nobody should ever have to live in fear of losing. Privatisation of public services has repeatedly been shown to have disastrous consequences, in terms of quality of service, workers’ rights and value for money.

Any country where access to the basic prerequisites of life can only be guaranteed to the wealthy is a failed society. We elect our politicians to run the country on our behalf, to distribute resources and to ensure a minimum acceptable standard of living for all citizens. In the perennial battle between ordinary citizens and the profit-seeking corporations that seek to dominate and exploit us, we pay our politicians so we can be sure they are on our side? Are they? – Yours, etc,


Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – On the subject of school admission policies favouring the children of alumni, the debate so far has been lacking a basic degree of perspective.

First, let us discard the notion that this is a practice exclusive to fee-paying schools: a quick scan of most school admission policies reveals it to be commonplace.

Second, there is a common misconception that these schools are wall-to-wall with children of past pupils, while other prospective students find it impossible to gain admission. This is simply not the case. Taking an example from our English neighbours, even at Eton – where this kind of policy is at the very core of the school’s ethos – children of past pupils make up only approximately 25 per cent of the student base, according to figures published in the Guardian.

Without expressing an opinion either way, I do hope the debate going forward can be sensible and avoid any further stereotyping or sensationalism. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Further to recent correspondence, the safety of those at sea is critically dependant on the availability of reliable weather forecasts – such as those produced by Met Éireann and broadcast by RTÉ Radio 1. There are over 1,100 boats in the Irish fishing fleet under 8 metres in length. There are many small leisure boats. For various practical reasons, most small boats do not carry marine-VHF equipment to receive broadcasts from the Irish Coast Guard and thus depend on the sea area forecasts broadcast by RTÉ Radio 1 that may be received on a low-cost, portable “transistor radio”.

VHF-FM radio has a limited broadcast range at sea and may be hindered by cliffs and mountains. Longwave transmissions reach many miles out to sea, regardless of time of day or radio conditions.

The planned cessation of RTÉ Radio 1 broadcasts on the longwave radio band will result in the loss of a clear radio signal at sea all around Ireland with consequent loss of access to Met Éireann’s sea area forecasts that are produced every six hours.

Maritime safety will be put at risk unless RTÉ Radio 1 fulfils its “public service broadcasting” remit by continuing to broadcast on longwave. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – Every civilised country in Europe seems to broadcast on longwave.

How much is saved by closing it down? Probably not as much as one of the radio stars gets in a year.

What is RTÉ up to? Not waving but drowning. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – As a member of the over-50 club, I identified with Rosita Boland’s article on this cohort of society in Saturday’s Irish Times. Am I right in thinking that an extra zero appeared erroneously in the salary earned by Noel Storey – £3,500 a year – as a messenger boy in the early 1970s (“I smoked a lot of hash, so my adolescence was quite hazy”, Weekend, October 11th)? If not a typo, I am either very envious or extremely depressed. My starting salary in 1976 was £1,000! – Yours, etc,


Howth, Dublin 13.

We are happy to confirm that Mr Storey’s recollection was reported accurately.

Irish Independent:

The Budget is the most curious piece of political theatre in the annual calendar.

Nothing else better symbolises the delusion and disconnect that characterises our democratic champions in government.

This year it takes on the significance of the phoenix, as our masters seek to seize the opportunity to rise from the economic cinders after seven years of hardship, hair-shirts, and harbingers of doom.

Well, good luck with that. Do they seriously expect us to clap them on the back and return them to office for taking less of what we already own from us; or else be eternally gratefully for allowing us to keep more of what is already ours?

The Budget has become the yardstick by which we have come to measure political performance.

That is well and good if we accept the dystopian notion that we are now an economy rather than a society. So, forget the human cost of emigration and long-term unemployment; the tax loopholes and the princelings too wealthy to have to pay their share thanks to all the State mechanisms of privilege.

Nor does it allow for the fact that Brussels has continued to view us as a minnow to be swallowed in the belly of the banking beast. Sure we took one for Team Europe, but don’t expect to get any relief on debt from Frau Merkel or even a nibble on any of the carrots dangled before us in order to secure our best-in-the-class certificates.

It has taken tens of thousands of marchers down the capital’s main thoroughfare to signal that you can’t actually fool all the people all of the time.

It is time for our leaders to leave their political bubble and get a sense of humility. Hubris demands a heavy price, a lesson Enda Kenny will have learned at the expense of John McNulty. But in the ever-spinning carousel of life, what goes around comes around.

T G Gavin, Killiney, Co Dublin

Church synod deserves praise

Mike Mahon asks if anyone finds it odd that “celibate men” are meeting to discuss family life (Irish Independent Letters, October 12) at the Vatican synod. Firstly, he therefore assumes family life is primarily about sex, otherwise celibacy is a non-issue. Priests listen to the trials and tribulations of married life in the confessional. All priests have families of their own – the ones they grew up in. Priests may have had partners prior to taking vows of celibacy. They surely have some insight into family life.

Secondly, as for the synod, one of the functions of the Church is to disseminate Catholic doctrine to Catholics. The synod is trying to ascertain why this does not seem to be happening and what can be done to make this happen. This does not necessarily mean the doctrine will change, but is to rather discuss how its importance to family life can be better communicated. There is nothing “odd” about a convocation of clergy whose job it is to discuss this.

Finally, he adds a little jibe about “men wearing skirts in public”. This is a rather tired old mantra by men who apparently can’t distinguish between a skirt, dress or cassock. If Mr Mahon asks any woman or priest I’m sure they’ll be happy to explain the difference to him.

Nick Folley, Carrigaline, Co Cork

Bono a force for good

Reading Colette Browne’s article about Bono (Irish Independent, October 13) brought the saying to mind “chewed bread is easily forgotten”. Instead of criticising Bono, we should be thankful to him and U2. Thankful for putting Ireland on the map, not just musically.

They have played many concerts here over the years and made videos in Ireland – all this led to many people getting employment as stage crews, security, food stalls and ticket sellers. Not to mention extra shifts for our gardai, extra tourists and all the tax returns that generated.

An article extolling Bono’s virtues might serve us better. We live in hope.

Seamus Keaveny, Kells, Co Meath

In defence of public servants

I have been reading with interest the various letters to the Editor concerning the pension levy as well as Martina Devlin’s excellent article (Irish Independent, October 9).

I found Marc Coleman’s contribution more caustic, especially his reference to public sector princelings. I have no doubt these princelings exist, but many retired public servants do not fit into this elite category. Are the public even aware that retired public sector workers have been paying this levy since its introduction in 2011?

I am a retired primary teacher whose  annual levy totals €2,471.30.

My total pension is less than the salary increase awarded to TDs who were elevated to the position of junior ministers.

Name and address with editor

Protest movement is not new

Dermot Ryan proclaims “a new dawn in our politics” because “thousands marched on Dublin” and “two Independent candidates” were elected to the Dail (Letters, Irish Independent, October 14). Does he not realise that those occurrences are the normal part of life in a democracy?

Does he not realise that the “loud howlings” he hears are those of various vested interests giving vent to their feelings of entitlement?

Does he not realise that the loud howlings of the marchers – for which he so enthusiastically proclaims support – are those of just another group with vested interests?

Does he not realise that it was decisions of our most powerful citizens, and not what he calls “the whims of foreigners”, which contributed to the bankrupting of this country?

There is no new dawn, just a continuation of the workings of a democracy.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

Putin is our cross to bear

I see Vladimir Putin, Russia’s presidential “New Age Tzar”, is pictured wearing a crucifix while riding a horse. Putin’s decision to wear a crucifix must be a tawdry fashion-statement.

This is because while Putin (like so many a celeb-set crucifix wearer) may think he can “walk on water” there was/is only one Man who ever did (and still can)!

And after what’s happened in Crimea, the Ukraine generally and the shooting down of MH-17 (not to mention the current threats to Hong Kong’s stability) Western apologists should never forget that Putin is ex-KGB! And that’s not “Kind Gentle Brothers”, as many former Soviets used to claim!

Howard Hutchins, Victoria, Australia

The conundrum of petrol prices

Petrol pump prices in Ireland are not far off their all-time high mark.

This coincides with a near four-year low in crude oil prices. Can anyone, petrol retailer or otherwise please explain this anomaly?

Dr Martin Ryan, Rathgar, Dublin 6

When the chips are down…

For some strange reason, the story about the man in New Mexico suing Burger King because the manager attacked him in a dispute over cold onion rings brought a tear to my eye.

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9


October 14, 2014

14 October 2014 Clinic

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I take Mary to the clinic long day., Mary has he first injection

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Sir Jocelyn Stevens – obituary

Sir Jocelyn Stevens was an irascible publisher, newspaperman and heritage supremo who delighted in hiring and firing

Sir Jocelyn Stevens surveys the site of the Rose Theatre in Southwark in 1998

Sir Jocelyn Stevens surveys the site of the Rose Theatre in Southwark in 1998 Photo: Stephen Lock

12:01PM BST 13 Oct 2014


Sir Jocelyn Stevens, who has died aged 82, forged a formidable reputation for himself as a saviour of ailing institutions, first in the newspaper industry and later as head, successively, of the Royal College of Art and English Heritage.

Stevens was at his best in a crisis, for his style of management was based less on his intellect than on the overpowering force of his personality. He carried with him an air of impatience and, though capable of great charm, he did not shy from ruthless, even brutal, behaviour where necessary. Private Eye christened him “Piranha Teeth”.

Indeed, at times there appeared to be no form of exercise that gave him greater pleasure than taking an axe to those he perceived as dead wood. Stevens was, par excellence, a sacker — he once dismissed 11 professors from the RCA in an afternoon — and there clustered about him a fund of oft-repeated stories about his towering rages.

Such was his reputation for belligerent cost-cutting that when he was appointed chairman of English Heritage in 1992, one commentator described it as “like putting Herod in charge of childcare”. It was an image in which, in public at least, Stevens revelled.

Sir Jocelyn Stevens at the The Crescent, Buxton (Paul Armiger)

Rich from birth, Stevens had first come to prominence in 1957 when, as a 25th birthday present to himself, he bought Queen magazine. He proceeded to transform the staid fortnightly — founded by Mrs Beeton’s husband — into the house magazine of the Swinging Sixties, helped by contributions from his friends Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Mark Boxer, whom he employed as Queen’s art director.

In truth, in 10 years Stevens only managed to increase his publication’s circulation by 60,000, but such was his flair for publicity — much of it self-publicity — that he quadrupled Queen’s advertising revenue within two years. Stevens undoubtedly had a sharp eye for business opportunities, and in 1964 he became one of the principal backers of the pirate radio station Radio Caroline.

It was at Queen that he first began to acquire a reputation for insensitivity and tantrums. Among stories told about Stevens were the occasion when he sacked an underling over the tannoy, the time he threw the fashion editor’s filing cabinet out of a fourth floor window, and the day he cut short one of his reporters’ telephone calls by cutting the wire to their receiver.

Years later, one of his art directors still quailed at the memory of being picked up by Stevens and shaken like a rat by a terrier, while change from his pockets cascaded on to the floor.

In 1968, Stevens sold Queen and became personal assistant to the chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers, Sir Max Aitken. “I hear young Stevens bites the carpet,” said Aitken of his protégé. “That’s no bad thing.” Stevens became a director of the Beaverbrook group in 1971, two years after he had been appointed managing director of the London Evening Standard. The Standard was then failing and Aitken’s brief to Stevens was terse: “Save it”.

Within three years Stevens had placed the newspaper on a sounder footing and was rewarded with the post of managing director of the Daily Express, the fortunes of which were also in long-term decline. Between 1972 and 1981 it was to lose a million readers and six editors; Stevens himself twice refused the editor’s job.

Though Stevens’s tenure coincided with the peak of print union truculence, his frank approach won their admiration, so much so that when he left the Express in 1974 he was “banged out”, the traditional send-off by printers for one of their own. By then he had persuaded them to accept the closure of the newspaper’s Scottish operations — with the loss of 1,800 jobs — and had transferred printing to Manchester without disruption.

Stevens became the managing director of Beaverbrook Newspapers in 1974, and continued as its deputy chairman when the group was bought out by Trafalgar House under Victor Matthews.

In 1979 he and Lord Matthews started the Daily Star, but they had different ideas about the future of what had become Express Newspapers, and in 1981 Stevens was sacked after he had told his chairman once too often what he thought of him. Many in the City suspected that Stevens hoped to buy the group himself, but he was never able to.

Having acquired a reputation as an ardent free marketeer, in 1984 Stevens was asked to enter the world of arts management and accepted appointment as Rector and Vice-Provost of the RCA. By the time he left eight years later, so had two-thirds of the staff, their 17 departments trimmed to four. But Stevens had also balanced the College’s books, introduced business sponsorship of students and increased the numbers applying to the RCA by 25 per cent.

Stevens was an equally unsympathetic but effective chairman of English Heritage. He was no philistine but nor was he a natural conserver of things, his instincts always favouring change. He presided over several well publicised sackings and rows — on one occasion ejecting the secretary of the Twentieth Century Society from his office with the words “Get out! And take that ghastly little man with you,” the latter being a highly respected city surveyor who had been left a hunchback after childhood polio.

But Stevens’s virtues included fighting tenaciously for causes he believed in, and at English Heritage he succeeded in keeping open more listed churches, presided over the restoration of the Albert Memorial and persuaded the Blair Government to improve the setting of Stonehenge by sinking the busy roads next to it. He retired in 2000.

Jocelyn Edward Greville Stevens was born on Valentine’s Day 1932. His mother, the daughter of the newspaper magnate Sir Edward Hulton, died shortly after giving birth to him.

Jocelyn’s father, Major Greville Stewart-Stevens, could never bring himself to forgive his son for the loss of his wife, and as a small boy Jocelyn was sent to live in his own flat in Marylebone, complete with a staff of cook, maid, priest and chauffeur — for the child’s Rolls-Royce.

His father afterwards remarried and Jocelyn grew up with his stepfamily in Scotland; his stepbrother, Blair (later Sir Blair) Stewart-Wilson, would became Master of the Queen’s Household.

Jocelyn was educated at Eton, where he reached the final of the Public Schools’ Boxing Championship. He then did his National Service in the Rifle Brigade; when, as a cadet, he won the Sword of Honour at Eaton Hall, his father declined to attend the passing-out parade.

Stevens went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he proved himself an accomplished oarsman but was sent down from the university for skipping tutorials to go skiing in Switzerland. Stevens had sent his tutor a postcard marked “Wish you were here”; from an early age he was no respecter of authority.

Sir Jocelyn Stevens with the sculpture of the Allied leaders on New Bond Street (Eddie Mulholland)

On his 21st birthday, Stevens inherited a substantial fortune from his mother. He rapidly acquired a standing in the gossip columns, partly because he was regular escort of Princess Alexandra, partly because he had a predilection for driving sports cars into lamp-posts.

But Stevens had ambitions beyond being a playboy and, having put himself through a course at the London School of Printing, in 1955 he went to work as a journalist at Lilliput, a magazine owned by his uncle’s Hulton stable. Two years later he bought Queen.

Stevens was tall, jut-jawed and fearless. He was immensely hard-working and possessed great brio and vitality. He was also a generous giver of parties, notably in company with his consort for many years in later life, the heiress and philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield, one of the few people who could match him for wealth and temperament.

Though seemingly impervious to insult, Stevens was sensitive enough of his reputation to raid the libraries of newspapers he managed in order to confiscate the cuttings held on him. He also did much work for charity, spurred by the condition of his disabled son Rupert. He cared deeply for his family, and when his daughter Pandora fell prey to drugs, he broke down the door of her squat, carried her to hospital and had her dealer hunted down.

Jocelyn Stevens was appointed CVO in 1993 and knighted in 1996.

He married, in 1956 (dissolved 1979), Janie Sheffield, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. They had a son and two daughters. His son Rupert predeceased him. After he and Vivien Duffield separated, in 2008 he married Emma Cheape, daughter of the late Sir Iain Tennant.

Sir Jocelyn Stevens, born February 14 1932, died October 12 2014


Ed Miliband and Liz McInnes Labour party leader Ed Miliband welcomes newly elected MP for Heywood and Middleton Liz McInnes to the House of Commons after she narrowly beat the Ukip candidate in the byelection. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

So Labour is being urged to get tough on immigration (Report, 11 October)? Fifty years of Labour party history suggests that they will do just that, only to be immediately outflanked by the parties to the right of them. No amount of policy-hardening can quell anti-immigration agitation. What is needed is a political party that will stand up to celebrate the contribution that immigration and the free movement of labour make to the UK while challenging those who attribute all our ills to immigrants.
Professor Robert Moore
University of Liverpool

• Labour’s high command have allowed a series of policy vacuums to emerge, leaving them open to getting involved in a bidding war in which the likeliest winners will be those who pander to, rather than challenge, prejudices. In common with many others, I believe that Alan Johnson may be Labour’s most underused resource, but he alone is not the answer to the individual and collective timidity that has beset the party and a shadow cabinet that seems determined to lose the general election so as to stage a leadership election in the months that follow. Labour must tell us what it stands for, and the ways in which Britain will be changed by defeating Ukip – not simply list cuts that match those being offered by the coalition partners as they square up to one another in the dog days of their administration.
Les Bright

• I could see a “frontline role” for Alan Johnson – as Labour leader. He might be a rightwinger but at least he lives on planet Earth and had a real job before entering politics (Review, 11 October), which makes him a hundred times more attractive to the electorate than the current cohort of complete wonkers “leading” the party into the abyss.
Alistair Richardson

• I feel increasingly baffled as to what Ed Miliband expects us to vote for if we vote Labour. We do not want Tory/Ukip-lite. When politicians talk about the disengagement, especially of young voters but increasingly of older people, do they really not understand why? When we were younger we knew which party supported which view of the kind of society they wanted and we could vote accordingly. When all parties appear to believe to some extent that it is ethical to penalise the poor for the mis-management by the rich, where does that leave us?

It used to be a basic tenet of the Labour party that the rich, however they had come by their wealth, should share with the poor. The view now seems to be: well, maybe a bit, if they don’t mind.

I accept that some areas of the country have specific problems related to sudden immigration and no money to help with schools etc. But that is not the cause of the country’s problems and it is dishonest and futile to pretend that it is.

I believe Ed Miliband to be a decent and thoughtful man, but unless he and his advisers remember what a Labour party is, they might just as well give up. (No, you’re right, there aren’t that many Labour voters in Bishop’s Stortford, but some of us haven’t given up yet.)
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

• It was surprising to read that John Mann MP (Labour, Bassetlaw) believes that immigration is responsible for “too much housing” and thus, indirectly, Ukip’s recent political success. Official estimates anticipate household growth in England is of the order of 221,000 households per year; if combined with official estimates of migration levels, net inward migration accounts for 27.8% of growing housing need. Since recent figures suggest we build barely half the number of homes needed to meet this demand (with 112,000-odd completions in England in 2013/14), it is factually not correct to state that immigration has led to too much housing.

It would be much more plausible to suggest that too little housing has led to political discontentment, with housing costs rising far faster than incomes, and increasingly those on lower and middle incomes finding that the sort of housing their parents expected is way out of their reach. That could only be addressed by building far more homes than we currently are.
Dr Ed Turner
Aston University

• Like it or not, Ukip’s rant and razzle-dazzle is working far more effectively than the Greens’ worthy exhortation, the Tories’ weasel-worded promises, the Lib Dems’ darkly comic somersaults and Labour’s floundering attempts to make Miliband and co look effective (Letters, 11 October). To a large extent that’s because their well-crafted policy statements, eloquently expressed objectives and (mostly) slick presentations are not resonating with us plain folks, something the policy wonks, spinners and party elites seem unwilling/unable to acknowledge. Well, as they are all discovering, commitment and belief is of limited value if it isn’t accompanied by insight and some sort of wow!
Jim Gillan

• Much of Britain’s Tory-dominated media managed to hype the Clacton and Heywood byelection results as nothing too much to worry about for Mr Cameron, the end of days for Mr Miliband and the start of a period of Faragist world domination. By contrast your editorial (11 October) is a model of careful consideration and balance. The way for Labour to deal with Ukip is not to move further right but to tackle the root causes that motivate those who may vote for the party – namely the continuing pay squeeze and job insecurity.

One hopes Mr Miliband and the rest of the Labour leadership will be on the TUC’s Britain Needs a Pay Rise demonstration on 18 October, and when the Mail and Sun attack them for it, they should see that as positive.
Keith Flett

• Owen Jones’s tale of woe about rootless, soulless political parties (Opinion, 13 October) needs a comment about a national institution that should be providing roots and soul to political thinking: the Church of England, which, despite all its faults, I love. We are both part of the problem and could be part of the solution by our input to a debate about a political system that is not serving the needs of all UK citizens. We are locked into and are beneficiaries of the extreme free-market politics and economics that have infected a rootless and soulless parliament. It has required low- and middle-income households to carry the burden of austerity.

As a church we tinker with staffing food banks and credit unions when what is needed is noisy, sustained and effective lobbying, drawing the attention of comfortable households to the innocent suffering of a substantial minority of the UK population in hunger, substandard housing, unmanageable debts, rent and council tax arrears. Nowhere is that noisy lobbying more absent than in London, where the bishops and archdeacons of the diocese of London, are all but silent in the face of the oppression of the poorest tenants by the state.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• I agree with Owen Jones that “British politics has become a careerists’ playground creating disillusionment that charlatans can exploit”. It is a pity, though, that he doesn’t mention the Greens as a credible alternative, when he exemplifies what the party stands for: “politics should be about hope, about satisfying people’s needs and aspirations”.
Jacqueline Dent

• Now, let’s see if I’ve got this right. Nigel Farage says vote Tory and get Labour. David Cameron says vote Ukip and get Labour. Presumably Ed Miliband would say vote Labour and get Labour. What could possibly go wrong?
Roger Carruthers

I can only wonder at the size of the family Jay Rayner mentions if it took a day and half to shop for them in the 1960s (The unromantic truth: supermarkets aren’t dying…, 11 October)? Was she by chance in a local army barracks, or perhaps she shopped for an entire school? I was 10 in 1962 and had to do the main shop on a Saturday for our family of four working adults – including my older brother and sister – plus my grandfather and myself, because my mum couldn’t lift the heavy bags. I could do the lot in an hour and a half, including carrying 20lb of potatoes in two bags to balance myself. We lived in a city and all the shops were two minutes away, unlike now where I have to drive 10 miles to the supermarket, park and queue for ages at checkouts and then drive home again. There’s nothing romantic about that either.
Eric Banks
Hamstreet, Kent

Yale universyaleity campus Tuition fees at English universities tend to be compared with Ivy League schools such as Yale, above. Photograph: Alamy

In the debates on university tuition fees, raised again by Peter Scott (Let’s fight the idea that high tuition fees are inevitable, 7 October), one relevant point seems to be continually ignored or glossed over. Comparison is often made with fees in the US, and very high fees are quoted as if they were the norm there. However, these figures always relate to the well-known private universities, especially the Ivy League schools, but it would seem that a more reasonable comparison for England is with the fees charged by public universities for in-state students. These are all lower than those currently levied by any English universities, in some cases considerably so. The most expensive, such as Berkeley and UCLA charge around $12,870 [£8,000], but at Chapel Hill (North Carolina) fees are $8,340 and at the University of Florida $6,630. These are major research universities, but most states also have schools with good undergraduate and MA programmes with fees at or below $5,000 per annum.

When the issue of fees is raised, especially with respect to lifting the “cap”, the claim is often made that fees in England are low by comparable international standards, and this seems to have become received wisdom. But such assertions do not become true by dint of constant repetition. Fees in England are already as high as anywhere comparable in the world.
Professor Martin Durrell

• I went for a meal with a friend, where we discovered that the waitress had recently graduated with a degree in mathematics. I have met this in several other restaurants, where young people 10 times smarter than I am are serving my table.

My silly companion told me that this proved that it had always been a mistake to send so many students to university. I think it proves that we live in the most badly governed country on Earth, where a nation’s most valuable resource is deliberately discarded into a moronic private sector of dreadfully poor judgment.

The intelligence of these youngsters could resurrect the most important part of a modern economy, the public sector, driving research and analysis to higher levels, to rebuild our nation and its commerce, to civilised standards of honour, integrity and reliable erudition.
CN Westerman
Brynna, Glamorgan

British Government Signs A Deal For New Nuclear Power Plant EDF’s Hinkley Point B nuclear power station. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Dale Vince of Ecotricity is wrong to suggest that end-of-life costs for Hinkley Point C will be an economic burden on the UK (Report, 13 October). These costs are already included as part of the agreements reached with government, and we will make full provision for them as the station generates electricity during its 60-year life. There is no hidden cost when the station closes.

Investment in nuclear energy is needed as part of a balanced mix of low-carbon energies, including wind power. It is cost-competitive with all these forms of energy and offers customer savings compared with other low-carbon choices.

Consumers will pay nothing until the power station is in operation, and EDF and its construction partners bear the risk of delivering the project on time and on budget. The arrangements have been subject to intense review over a number of years and were then subject to European commission scrutiny for a further year. This has been a careful and measured process. Last week’s approval from the commission demonstrates that agreements between the government and EDF are fair and balanced for consumers and investors alike.
Paul Spence
Director of strategy and corporate affairs, EDF Energy

Republican mural, Derry, 1989. Talking point: republican mural, Derry, 1989. Photograph: Peter Turnley/Corbis

Jonathan Powell (Shall we talk?, 7 October) has little to say except repeated rewordings of the near slogan: there is no military solution [to terrorism], you have to talk. His favourite example is Northern Ireland, but this is actually a very poor example. He writes: “No British government was ever going to concede a united Ireland against the wishes of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland [but] once discussions were begun with the Irish Republicans, we discovered that they were prepared to settle for something else.”

Not for 25 years they weren’t, so Britain had to face down the insurgency, which Britain did. Eventually an older, perhaps mellower, IRA leadership accepted that they weren’t winning, and settled for an agreement that they could certainly have got with the Heath government in the 1970s.

And the IRA had a comprehensible political agenda (a united Ireland). Does Islamic State (Isis) have a correspondingly comprehensible agenda? The nearest is a pure Islamic state purged bloodily of all dissenters, somewhere in Syria and Iraq. But this is envisaged to be permanently at war with the rest of the world, fighting to oppose all real and imagined grievances of Muslims everywhere.

Maybe Isis will eventually develop a meaningful agenda, and maybe will one day even be willing to compromise about it. But at present we are at 1970, not 1996, in Northern Ireland terms.
Roger Schafir

• Jonathan Powell is right; talking to terrorists is the only way to establish some sort of peace. He is also right that building trust takes time – “I spent a good part of the next 10 years [from 1997] flying back and forth across the Irish Sea to meet Adams and McGuinness”.

NGOs engaged in similar work also need time. And resources. But there is little funding from governments or the EU, because peacebuilding is regarded as too difficult, too risky, with no guaranteed outcomes.
Rev Donald Reeves
Director, The Soul of Europe

Jane Austen Jane Austen, above, wrote about bad mothers too. Photograph: Stock Montage/Getty Images

“Family” novels by women writers featuring bad mothers (Tim Lott, Family, 11 October) were a standard trope in 19th-century literature. Jane Austen’s lazy Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park prefers her pug to her children. Charlotte Brontë’s cold Mrs Reed in Jane Eyre spoils her children and believes her bullying son’s lies. Elizabeth Gaskell’s hypocritical Mrs Gibson in Wives and Daughters neglects her daughter. All are described with compassion and wit. Perhaps that makes them not quite bad enough?
Michele Roberts

• Pairing socks, hoover, dishwasher and the Guardian crossword were my late husband’s responsibilities when he was ill-health retired (Letters, 10 October). In his last few bedbound weeks he tried to hand over the crossword, but even after his intensive training it is still too cryptic for me. I have kept Radio 5 Live.
Miriam Bromnick

• Excellent idea, Tristram Hunt: I’m sure your “Hippocratic oath” for teachers (Cartoon, 13 October) will help to weed out those who begin their careers determined to lower standards in the classroom and ensure their students’ failure.
Tim Boardman

• I was surprised to see that the nurses testing Britain’s readiness for an Ebola outbreak did not have the whole of their heads covered (Report, 13 October). Suppose someone was sick over their neck? These protective garments are nothing like as good as the photographs I have seen in the Guardian of Médecins Sans Frontières workers in Africa. And MSF has had fewer deaths than the US and Spain. No point skimping.
Teresa Goss

• As a female letter writer (Open door, 13 October), I do my best to emulate Bradshaw, as quoted (in part) by Sherlock Holmes. My language is “terse, but limited”. Though not “nervous”.
Margaret Waddy

• Delighted that Martin Rowson (Comment, 8 October) explained the meaning of the “fur cup” in some of his cartoons. I’ll enjoy them all the more from now on.
Andrew Vaughan-Jones
Turvey, Bedfordshire


In her excellent piece on Monday, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown refers to Nigel Farage’s “veil of respectability”. What kind of respectable person casually stigmatises those who are HIV positive, or indiscriminately demonises eastern European immigrants, or suggests that leaving the EU will miraculously cure the country’s ills?

It is precisely because Nigel Farage has managed to convince so many people that he is respectable that he is so dangerous. His carefully cultivated man-down-the-pub persona is designed to persuade voters that he is one of them, when what he really wants, lower taxes for the rich, more NHS privatisation etc, is the exact opposite of what they believe.

Like other right-wing populists who have preceded him, he is a legitimiser and normaliser of prejudice and a malign influence on democracy. It is the duty of all of us, especially progressive politicians, to denounce him as such in the strongest terms.

Ian Richards


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown appeals to the main political parties not to roll over in the face of the Ukip “malignancy”, and she mentions the Conservatives and Labour as having already done so. What she did not say was that one of the main parties – the Liberal Democrats – is by no means rolling over.

At their party conference last week, Nick Clegg gave the speech of a lifetime. He stressed that the Lib Dems must continue to stand up for basic freedoms, economic fairness, the advantages of the EU and the European Court of Justice, freedom of movement and social justice in this country.

I am one of those Lib Dems who have been unenthusiastic about the Coalition and unsure about where I stood now. The Tory conference demonstrated an unpleasant lurch to the right which made me very uneasy, and Labour’s produced a lacklustre performance.

But at the Lib Dem conference, the conviction and, yes, the fire in Nick Clegg’s voice as he stressed the need for this party of the centre to stand up for fairness and freedom, brought tears to my eyes and reminded me at long last of why this is still the only party I can vote for.

Marjorie Harris
London NW11

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s assertion that many indigenous Britons are content to live alongside citizens from other parts of the world who have settled here is correct, but isn’t the full picture. Those same British-born people still have concerns about the financial cost of this cosmopolitan society, welcome as it is.

It is clear that the eastern European immigrants come to Britain to work, but the work tends to low-paid, and therefore any taxes they may pay are likely to be repaid to them in benefits to enable them to survive and support their families. They also tend to be young, and the overcrowded maternity wards bear testimony to another national expense that their meagre taxes cannot possibly cover, not to mention all the cost and infrastructure required to keep these children healthy and educated. There has been much in the media about the NHS budget, and whatever any politician may say to win votes, there is a limit to how much we can afford as a nation.

Of course we should have open borders and encourage harmony among all who have chosen this great nation as their home, but let’s do so on a sound financial basis.

Jeremy Bacon
Woodford Green, Essex

I saw a glaring example today of immigrants “stealing the jobs of UK workers”.

In a supermarket car park some Bulgarians had a mobile car washing set-up. They had found a niche market. People who were too busy to take time out to go to the car wash or wash their cars themselves were happy to let these guys do it while they shopped, and they did not have to drive their cars anywhere.

I watched them beavering away, doing a great job with enthusiasm.

Richard Topping
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

The political establishment has received a sizeable jolt from the Clacton and Heywood and Middleton by-elections. The fundamental conclusion that can be drawn from the inexorable rise of Ukip is that many people in Britain simply do not consider themselves European, and see the isolationist stance of Ukip as a strength, not a weakness.

The reason for this may be rooted in a combination of history, emotion and pride, but to counteract it the main political parties are going to have to address this matter head on.

Dr Shazad Amin
Sale, Cheshire


To save Britain from Ebola, Help Africa

As the Government introduces measures to try to  prevent the arrival of Ebola in Britain, it would be fatal to forget that the best way to help the UK is to help West Africa. This outbreak needs tackling at source, and in order to change the course of the crisis, we mustn’t simply hunker down in developed nations.

Donors must co-ordinate action to tackle what has become not only a health crisis, but an economic crisis and a human tragedy. The people of West Africa need massive assistance. They need it now.

Of course it is important for the UK government to protect people here, but the only truly effective way of doing so in the long term is to bring this crisis under control in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. We must break the chain of infection.

Tanya Barron
CEO, Plan UK
London EC1

That isn’t actually what the Minister said, was it? (“Minister: We need to start screening for Ebola”, 8 October). As the complete quote within the article makes clear, he actually said the case for increasing screening had to be examined and we need to consider whether existing controls are adequate. Examining or considering things are different from starting to do them.

Nigel Coopey
Thatcham, Berkshire

Homeopathy could save NHS money

Jo Selwood points out that the expenditure by the NHS on homoeopathy is £4m to £12m and that this treatment, which has no scientific basis, is no more effective than a placebo (letter, 9 October). However, she fails to complete her cost-benefit analysis.

The placebo effect is a powerful one and appears to occur even when patients are told that the treatment has no detectable therapeutic effect. Placebos do work and the majority of doctors do prescribe them from time to time – either genuine treatments that are not needed (such antibiotics for viral infections), or inactive substances such as sugar or water.

By having the freedom to divert certain patients into homoeopathy doctors could be saving the NHS money overall.  Homoeopathic remedies have the advantage of being as cheap as water. Some of these homoeopathic patients, the attention seekers or those who are simply hyper-vigilant about their wellbeing, might otherwise be clogging up the expensive diagnostic processes and therapies needed for those who have genuine serious health problems.

Before abandoning NHS homoeopathic treatments, we need a thorough cost-benefit analysis, including a study to establish the additional costs of having to treat with conventional medicine those patients who currently use homoeopathy.

Ian Quayle
Fownhope, Herefordshire

Chatty machines in the kitchen

I am reassured that, in the future, kitchen appliances will be able to communicate with each another (interview with Simon Segars, 13 October).

I would still like to know what a washing machine and a fridge could possibly have to talk about. I can only imagine that the washing machine would want to get to the bottom of that age-old kitchen puzzle: does the light really go off when the door is closed ?

Gary Clark
London EC2


You may not win, but your vote counts

I have been voting for 39 years and have never cast my vote for the politician who has been chosen to represent my constituency. Unlike Frances Gaskell (letter, 10 October) I do not see that my vote has ever been wasted or that, because I failed to get what I voted for, the process was undemocratic or unfair. All votes are counted, and the number of opposing voices are also part of the historical record.

It seems to me childish to say that if the game isn’t played according to rules that suit me I’ll not play at all.

Sarah Dale
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Express passports

Beverley Southgate (letter, 9 October) enthuses about getting a passport in five working days.

Mine took just four (application posted in afternoon of 6 October and received back at home by post on 10 October). It wasn’t an urgent application. Owzat!

Marc Patel
London SE21


Sir, It was refreshing, but deeply frustrating, to read that the government now admits that the Health and Social Care Bill was a huge mistake (report, Oct 13). Frustrating because in 2011-12, when medical professionals were united as never before against the proposed changes, there was little if any media reporting of that opposition. Instead, we had to read Andrew Lansley’s repeated assertions that doctors backed the legislation.

Those of us who urged our professional bodies, and in particular the Royal Colleges, to adopt a unified stance against the Act now see that we were right in telling them that they could make a difference. In 2012, David Cameron was indeed realising what a can of worms had been opened by his health secretary, and could have been persuaded to drop the legislation. I hope it isn’t only George Osborne who is “kicking himself” for failing to act.

Dr Bob Bury

Sir, Your headline “NHS reforms our worst mistake, Tories admit”, published on the day when caring midwives took industrial action for the first time in history, could, and perhaps should, have been written in June 1990. I said then that the introduction of Kenneth Clarke’s untried and potentially unworkable “internal market” could lead to the NHS standing for “No Hope Service” and ultimately “No Health Service”.

Sadly, despite a promise not to embark on “top down” reform of the NHS, the current government’s acceptance of the Health and Social Care Act, with its huge involvement of the private sector, accelerated the problems that flowed from the 1990 reforms. It reinforced my fears that, if I live long enough, I will see my 1990 prediction come true.

Dr John Marks
Chairman of the British Medical Association 1984-90, London NW8

Sir, Having just returned from the Royal College of Midwives picket line at the hospital I have worked in for the past 25 years, I stared with incredulity at your headline “NHS reforms our worst mistake, Tories admit”. A “mistake”? Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted because no one understood what Andrew Lansley was doing?

It sounds like a cruel joke but actually means that huge sums of money that could have been used to maintain and improve patient care have been lost, frittered away on “unintelligible gobbledegook”.

I am beyond angry. There is a great deal in the NHS that could be changed — and indeed needs to be. The fracturing and duplication of services, the failure to negotiate best price deals across the whole organisation, and the failure to invest, motivate and lead by listening and consultation instead of top-down diktat. A “mistake” that has led to increased waiting times, services buckling under financial and organisational strain and demoralised, increasingly militant staff. I am 55. I never imagined myself on a picket line. As important as it is to me and many thousands of other NHS staff who struggle to keep the service going, pay is but one factor in the impending disaster.

Heather Redhead RN, RM

Sir, Nowhere in your extensive coverage of the NHS (Oct 13) was there any reference to the fundamental dilemma facing the NHS — namely that there is a limitless potential demand for its services which has to be met by a strictly limited financial resource.

There is just one, and only one, way to resolve this dilemma, and that is to decide which services a tax-funded national health organisation can provide and which it cannot.

Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites
Fishbourne, W Sussex

Sir, Andrew Lansley’s talent for acting foolishly without regard to the financial consequences first became apparent when, as director of the Conservative Research Department, he changed the party’s manifesto for the 1992 election behind the back of John Major’s advisers while it was at the printer. It cost £50,000 to return it to the condition that the cabinet had approved. If the kindness of the party hierarchy had not saved his career at that point, the NHS budget today would be in a better state.

Lord Lexden(Deputy director, Conservative Research Department, 1985-97)
House of Lords

Sir, That the Health and Social Care Act was damaging to the NHS was made abundantly clear at the time of the debate around the bill by those both inside and outside the NHS who knew the consequences. The government should have kept its promise as enshrined in the coalition agreement of May 20, 2010, which stated: “We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.” Is there a lesson there somewhere for the electorate?

Professor Robert Arnott
Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, Since the start of the NHS in 1948 we have seen successive governments of differing political persuasions make inappropriate, poorly considered and often damaging structural changes.

Has not the time arrived to consider taking control of the NHS out of politicians’ hands and giving the NHS autonomy, governed by a board of trustees?

Dr Stuart Sanders, FRCGP
London W1

Sir, You report that David Cameron now regards the Health and Social Care Act as his greatest mistake. This is a ludicrous admission, as the reforms ushered in by the Act have yet to be fully bedded down. Andrew Lansley understood that there needs to be a means by which expensive hospitals are forced to become more efficient and the purchaser/provider split is the only way to do it.

In your consideration of the future of the NHS you might include how market forces might be brought to bear on such a huge organisation, with all the benefits which follow market arrangements. I doubt you could find a better way to do it.

Roger Fox
Down Hatherley, Glos

Sir, Your coverage of the NHS is welcome. but you fail to make clear that the changes introduced by Mr Lansley apply only to England. The NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not had to cope with the madness of Lansley’s “gobbledegook”. Also, Simon Stevens is not the “head of the NHS”. He is the head of the NHS in England.

Professor Rhys Williams

Essential for any WW2 soldier was the Burmese for ‘Do you have any Epsom Salts?’

Sir, With reference to your report (Oct 11) on the 1944 manual given to British soldiers, my late father was given, also in 1944 and while serving with the Royal Navy in the Far East, a booklet entitled Rubbing Along in Burmese. This contained useful phrases, translated into the local language, that every sailor would presumably find invaluable. Phrases included “Please shake hands, we have come in the cause of freedom”, “If you do as we tell you, you will come to no harm”, “Where can I find a bicycle?” and “Can you row a sampan?” It also included the Burmese for “Do you have any Epsom Salts?”

Robert Spicer

Colchester, Essex

If you want to see a full-size copy of the Parthenon, head for Nashville, Tennessee…

Sir, If the Elgin Marbles are to be copied (letter, Oct 13) may I suggest a visit to Nashville, Tennessee. Not only have all the sculptures been recreated but so has the entire Parthenon — faithfully and to scale. It was built for the 1897 Centennial Expo and reconstructed more permanently in 1931. At that time the city purchased casts of the Elgin Marbles which were then used by the sculptors Leopold and Belle Scholz to form the pediments in their original entirety.

The Nashville Parthenon is a sight as surprising as it is remarkable

Edward Hill

London W8

Hampton Court Palace is where Queen Anne ‘doth sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea’

Sir, It is good to see the return of the zeugma (letter, Oct 13). My favourite is Alexander Pope’s description of Hampton Court Palace as the place where Queen Anne “doth sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea”.

John Butler


The local Scottish population helped to inform the choice of names for Erno Goldfinger’s buildings in east London

Sir, Oliver Moody (Oct 4) extends his criticism of Ernö Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower to its name, which sounds to him like “an orc-ridden outpost of Mordor”. The inhabitants of the Stirlingshire village of Balfron will, I am sure, be dismayed. The adjacent building, also by Goldfinger, is called Carradale House, after the village on the Mull of Kintyre of that name, and the third substantial block was named Glenkerry House after a hamlet near Selkirk. There was a marked Scottish element in the population of that part of Bow in the 1960s, resulting in the choice of Scottish place names.

Balfron, incidentally, was the birthplace of the 19th-century architect Alexander “Greek” Thompson, so perhaps the name-chooser in the GLC was trying to suggest a subtle and not wholly unjustified affinity.

James Dunnett

London N1

Surely a slight reduction in crop yields is a fair exchange for not polluting the environment?

Sir, In his piece (Oct 6) on the impact of the moratorium on neonicotinoid use on farming, Matt Ridley asserts that oilseed rape crops are now being devastated because they are no longer protected by these chemicals, and that in some regions up to 50 per cent of the crop has been lost.

His figures are wild exaggerations: only days ago Defra revealed that in reality just 1.35 per cent of the crop has been lost. If that is the price for not polluting the environment with highly persistent neurotoxins, I suggest it is one we should live with.

Professor Dave Goulson

School of Life Sciences,

University of Sussex

Hampton Court Palace is where Queen Anne ‘doth sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea’

Sir, It is good to see the return of the zeugma (letter, Oct 13). My favourite is Alexander Pope’s description of Hampton Court Palace as the place where Queen Anne “doth sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea”.

John Butler



Lock-up: the Government has proposed building the largest children’s prison in Europe Photo: Gareth Copley/PA

6:56AM BST 13 Oct 2014


SIR – Government plans for the largest children’s prison in Europe are bad for children, bad for justice and bad for the taxpayer. Children in trouble with the law are some of the most vulnerable and challenging in our society. Many have been the victims of abuse and neglect.

Small, family-like, secure homes that focus on rehabilitation and tailored, individual learning are better at helping children turn their lives around. Instead we get a plan to create massive child prisons and no details on how they will be run. Proposals to house young children with older teenagers present serious safeguarding risks.

There are 40 per cent fewer children in prison today than when this policy of large prisons for children was first developed, and since 2002 youth crime has fallen by 63 per cent. The estimated £85 million of public money required for this project would be better spent on investing in what works rather than an expensive and dangerous child jail.

Warehousing children in massive prisons is the surest way to create more problems for the future.

Peter Wanless

Shami Chakrabarti
Director, Liberty

Paola Uccellari
Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England

Frances Crook
Chief Executive, the Howard League for Penal Reform

Penelope Gibbs
Chair, Standing Committee on Youth Justice

Juliet Lyon
Director, Prison Reform Trust

Kathy Evans
Chief Executive, Children England

Anna Feuchtwang
Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau

Susanne Rauprich
Chief Executive, The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services

Emma Smale
Acting Head of Policy and Research, Action for Children

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Sarah Brennan
Chief Executive, YoungMinds

Dame Sue Bailey
Chair, the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

Andy Bell
Deputy Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health

Shauneen Lambe
Executive Director, Just for Kids Law

Deborah Coles
Co-Director, INQUEST

Sarah Salmon
Interim Director, Criminal Justice Alliance

Pam Hibbert
Chair of Trustees, National Association for Youth Justice

Dave Clarke
Chair, Secure Accommodation Network

Gareth Jones
Chair, The Association of Youth Offending Team Managers

Dr Laura Janes
James Kenrick

Co-Chairs, JustRights

Joyce Moseley
Chair, Transition to Adulthood Alliance

Sara Llewellin
Chief Executive Officer, Barrow Cadbury Trust

Richard Garside
Director, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies

Deborah Russo
Joint Managing Solicitor, Prisoners’ Advice Service

Mark Johnson
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, User Voice

Chris Bath
Chief Executive, National Appropriate Adult Network

Dr Theo Gavrielides
Founder and Director, Independent Academic Research Studies

Sally Hunt
General Secretary, University and College Union

Winds of change

SIR – I have a well-placed 15 kWh wind turbine on my farm on Bodmin Moor, to which no one objected and which I regard as a thing of beauty, as do many of my neighbours. With the 50 kWh generated by my modest array of solar panels, I generate enough electricity for 33 average households, which is fed into the grid. I also drive a fully electric car.

My turbine cost me £60,000 three years ago and earns me about £10,000 a year – a fair return for using my capital to help the country stop using fossil fuels. If every farmer with a suitable site did the same, we could approach electrical independence without any capital investment from the Government. The countryside would look much as it did in the Middle Ages, when every village had a windmill.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison
Bodmin, Cornwall

Oven ready

SIR – After moving into a modest three-bed semi, I received a letter from British Gas stating that my projected gas usage for the next 12 months would cost £53,533.14.

I almost felt like sticking my head in the oven but realised I couldn’t afford to.

Mark Saban
Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

Blind leading the blind

SIR – Living east of your work, to avoid driving into the sun, indeed seems a good idea. But is it safer to be in a convoy knowing all the approaching drivers can see you perfectly, or to be converging on traffic being driven blind?

Terry Wall
Hiltingbury, Hampshire

SIR – The only work I can get that isn’t to the west of where I live is as a fisherman.

Brendan Martin
Broadstairs, Kent

Flying the flag: A Palestinian at the border with Israel Photo: EPA

6:57AM BST 13 Oct 2014


SIR – In 1917 my great-uncle, Sir Harold Nicolson, was a private secretary to the foreign secretary at the time of his Balfour Declaration. Nicolson, who was involved in crafting every word of the declaration, later wrote: “We never promised a Jewish State. All we ever promised was ‘a’ national home ‘in’ Palestine; and that promise was explicitly conditional on the maintenance of the rights of the Arabs.” (The Spectator, January 3 1947).

In the century following Balfour, we have witnessed those Palestinian rights trampled underfoot. Today MPs can vote to recognise the state of Palestine, which would help to restore the diplomatic balance and retrieve our reputation in the eyes of the world.

It would also warn Israel, as a friend, to save herself from a future even more disastrous than that facing white South Africa in 1990. In a single-state solution Israelis would be outnumbered, even before counting the millions of Palestinian refugees with a right of return.

Nick St Aubyn
Dunsfold, Surrey

SIR – We fully support a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, but it is vital that this is achieved through negotiations and mutual agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Parliament should avoid recommending any unilateral moves that would complicate efforts to find a mutually agreeable resolution. Compromise, conciliation and negotiation are the only routes to reaching a lasting agreement that brings security and stability to both sides.

We urge MPs to ensure that the weight and authority of the Commons remains behind encouraging a negotiated and lasting peace, rather than supporting steps that might make peace more difficult to secure.

Alan Aziz
Director, Zionist Federation

Simon Johnson
Chief Executive, Jewish Leadership Council

Dermot Kehoe
Chief Executive, BICOM

Gillian Merron
Chief Executive, Board of Deputies of British Jews

SIR – Driving around the Scottish Borders, I see many dead and injured pheasants. They make suicidal dives into the road, which makes them hard to avoid and attempts to dodge them can cause accidents.

Gamekeepers rear and release thousands of these birds for shooting estates and it has been suggested that feeding stations are sited too near highways.

If I were to try to take a bird from an estate, a keeper would undoubtedly challenge me. But if a pheasant were to damage my car I assume that no keeper would claim ownership, let alone liability.

Frances Evans
Coldingham, Berwickshire

SIR – In Clacton, a sitting MP, who resigned, has been re-elected as a Ukip candidate and with a lower majority. In Heywood and Middleton, a Ukip candidate came a close second.

The latter result is more likely to reflect the outcome of the 2015 general election.

Dennis Bryant
Ludlow, Shropshire

SIR – The Prime Minister seeks to persuade us to vote not for the party we want to govern, but for a party we do not want to govern, in an effort to prevent a party we want to govern even less from governing.

In view of the result in Heywood and Middleton, I am tempted to suggest that a vote for the Conservatives, rather than Ukip, is a vote for Labour.

Andreas Wright
Les Grandes Magnelles, Haute-Vienne, France

Victim of justice

SIR – Paul Gambaccini, a respected broadcaster and music industry professional, has been denied his good name and his income for a year without a single charge being laid (report, October 11). The process of naming suspects of the nastiest crimes without a shred of evidence, and then taking a year or more to decide whether or not to charge them, is quite simply unjust.

Jonathan Hawkins
London SW20

Steaming rhubarb

SIR – In Cornwall as a small child I would watch with horror as my father rushed out, shovelled up steaming deposits from passing horses and dumped them on the rhubarb – which I was later forced to eat.

But now I think that Heather Moore, who proposes nappies for horses, should make the most of the free manure – it does produce delicious rhubarb.

Jill Bayly
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – I am reminded of a story about an inmate peering over the wall of an asylum and asking a gardener why he is collecting horse manure.

When the gardener says it’s to put on his rhubarb, the inmate responds that he should join them in the asylum as they have custard on theirs.

Clive Robinson
Old Glossop, Derbyshire

Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone Photo: REUTERS

7:00AM BST 13 Oct 2014


SIR – As the Government introduces measures to try to prevent the arrival of Ebola in this country, it could be fatal to forget that the best way to help Britain is to help west Africa. We must bring the crisis under control in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Donors must urgently commit financial and human resources and co-ordinate action to tackle what has become a health and economic crisis, but, above all, a human tragedy. The people of west Africa need assistance and they need it now.

Tanya Barron
CEO, Plan UK
London EC1

SIR – Of course any decent person must have sympathy for the poor people of west Africa, but surely it is irresponsible to send 750 personnel and a hospital ship to attempt to stem the tide of this terrible illness.

If Ebola is not a world problem at the moment, it certainly could be once the 750 British personnel return from Sierra Leone, any one of them a potential carrier.

Ken Drury
Nayland, Suffolk

SIR – The United Nations and developed countries could assist in controlling the spread of Ebola by helping to install sanitary systems in west African cities.

Establishing a good source of clean running water and waste disposal would raise the standard of living and health as well as discouraging mosquito breeding.

Elizabeth Davies
Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Screening for Ebola at airports may be useful, but what about people entering through our ports and ferry terminals?

Roy Hughes
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

SIR – The Ebola virus was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 and scientists have repeatedly warned that it can pass from animals to humans who prepare or eat infected meat. Five outbreaks in Africa have been linked to handling meat from gorillas, chimps, fruit bats and other animals.

It is estimated that 7,500 tons of bush meat enters Britain every year illegally. Just one piece of infected meat smuggled into the country could unleash Ebola here.

Clark Cross
Linlithgow, West Lothian

SIR – I fail to understand those suggesting mass quarantining for people arriving in Britain and warning of catastrophic consequences because of our high population density.

Ebola is not highly infectious, except by direct bodily fluid contact and, crucially, it is not infectious until a person becomes unwell. Instead of fuelling the hysteria surrounding Ebola in Britain, we must focus on the real problem: controlling it in Africa, regardless of cost.

Dr Stewart McMenemin

Irish Times:

Sir, – Many excellent and compelling arguments against the proposed new lending rules were raised by Conor Pope (“First-time buyers? Dream on”, Weekend Review, October 14th). The proposed new rules on mortgage lending are ill-conceived and very poorly timed. The key measure in assessing risk is affordability and the proposed ratio of 3.5 times earnings is reasonable. The argument for a deposit, at any level, revolves around two issues – demonstration of financial discipline and the avoidance of negative equity. Anyone saving a 10 per cent deposit at today’s house prices clearly demonstrates good financial discipline. While negative equity can cause inconvenience for borrowers, limiting their ability to upgrade in the short term, it is not a serious issue over the lifetime of a typical mortgage. An adequately capitalised lender should be able to plan for short-term effects of negative equity, within a well-managed portfolio, on its balance sheet. Imposing a 20 per cent deposit is just going to drive borrowers, as it did in the past, to accumulate this burdensome deposit through opaque, poor-quality, short-term borrowing. This will result in greater financial stress on the mortgage applicant and also deliver a poorer risk for the bank. Or we may again see the banks promote the obscene equity release product – where pensioners, who own their homes, start to pay for them again a second time as they are driven, through guilt, to raise cash to help their children face this impractical condition.

A well-policed 10 per cent deposit, together with intense scrutiny on affordability, meets the needs of the bank, the borrower and the community. – Yours, etc,


Kells, Co Meath.

Sir, – The new requirement that people getting a mortgage will need to have saved a large chunk of the purchase money first is not unreasonable.

When the banking crisis happened, we wondered why prudent practices such as this has been abandoned in the eagerness to sell houses. Buying a house is not a right.

Indeed it was common practice that people saved for many years to buy a house and did not expect to be able to furnish it with the very best furniture, have cool gadgets, drive new cars, attend foreign weddings and go out whenever the mood arose.

Saving a large portion of the purchase price is evidence that the people buying the property have the developed habits of saving, budgeting, resisting temptation and attending to financial obligations.

Rating the purchasers’ commitment against the value of the property addresses the risk that should trouble arise and the security is insufficient, the banks (and the public purse) are not the only losers. It confirms that the purchasers have fully thought the matter through, beyond their desire to get on the property ladder.

There is no doubt this is difficult, but it wouldn’t be an achievement if it was easy. – Yours, etc,


Wilton, Cork.

Sir, – Is it possible that Irish people, when it comes to property prices, have gone from a mood of irrational exuberance to a mood of irrational fear; that any increase in prices is seen as a bubble, and therefore needs to be halted?

The Central Bank has announced measures that, as things stand, will have the effect of excluding a great many people from ever owning their own dwelling, and will leave them permanently dependent on the rented sector.

Before any such measures are adopted, the Central Bank will first have to establish that there is a bubble; that is not, so far as I know, quite as easy to establish as some people seem to think. If the measures are then seen to be justified, then the issue of social housing needs to be addressed: are people, already required to put up a 20 per cent deposit on their purchase of a dwelling, willing to see their taxes increased to meet this need? The evidence doesn’t appear to be there that they are. If they are not, where is the money going to come from?

The Central Bank was a disaster during the housing bubble; no one should take it for granted that they’ll get it right this time. Announcing measures to cure a problem they haven’t as yet established exists, but which will have a very serious impact on less well-off people, is unacceptable. The Central Bank still has a case to prove. – Yours, etc,


Mount Brown, Dublin 8.

Sir, – The proposal to limit mortgage lending to a fixed multiple of earnings is crude and illogical. A much more sensible approach would be to base a mortgage on the applicant’s savings history and monthly rent. It would be quite easy for a mortgage applicant to provide documentary proof of both of these and this would let a bank make a rational decision on lending based on proven ability to pay.

The 20 per cent deposit rule serves only to cushion the bank against a borrower losing their job and being forced to sell at a loss. Again this rule is crude and takes no account of the borrower’s job stability. For example, a permanently employed teacher or civil servant is a pretty safe bet and the bank should be able to make the appropriate commercial decision.

The current proposals by the Central Bank are crude instruments that carry the real risk of killing off the recovery in the property market. A more sophisticated approach, which would protect the banks, the borrowers and the State, is needed. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – Old-style politics continues to drag the already damaged political system into further decline, and some of our politicians continue to ignore the demand for change from the general public. The younger members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do get this message but their ability to influence the stubborn and intransigent leadership is nil. I predict a further move away from the mainstream parties to Sinn Féin and Independents. While the economic outlook may be improving, the political system continues to deteriorate and no longer serves the will of the people. – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We have seen a significant public turnout in the capital opposing water charges and electoral victories for the anti-austerity alliance and the anti-establishment “Ming movement”. What does this tell us about our preferred society? Anarchy? A future of sectional self-interests paying no heed to the common good? Embedded begrudgery? We’ll reap the whirlwind. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – Could this be what’s known as a tapping point? – Yours, etc,


Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – The proposal to appoint a key figure linked to the drinks industry to the board of RTÉ (“Opposition to RTÉ nomination of outgoing Meas chief executive”, October 10th) speaks volumes about our commitment as a nation to tackling the greatest social issue facing our country at this time.

In Ireland, television is the most powerful instrument available to the drinks industry, enabling it to promote its products to young and old, as it has done for well over 50 years since the establishment of RTÉ television. For that reason, the possibility that a person who has headed Meas, a drinks industry-funded “social responsibility agency”, beggars belief.

The drinks industry is fighting to influence decision-makers at all levels and in every sphere to ensure that the state does not step in to regulate the advertising and promotion of alcohol, as has been the case in other countries, notably in France, where the law limits the exposure of alcohol promotion to younger people.

Whether or not this appointment goes ahead is now in the hands of a Minister, Alex White, who up to very recently was responsible for the formulation of health policy in relation to alcohol and its promotion. Let’s hope he sees the big picture. – Yours, etc,


Crossmolina, Co Mayo.

Sir, – It was reported in this newspaper (“Council defends demolition of houses in Moyross”, October 10th) that Limerick City Council has defended the ongoing demolitions of valuable housing stock in Moyross, stating that such demolitions are “strategic demolitions planned due to strategic planning reasons”.

I have to ask whose strategic interests are being served by these demolitions? Certainly not the three 18-year-olds who arrived on my door today who have been sleeping rough in Limerick city. Certainly not the 30 or so parents with young children who have recently called to my office because they are homeless, are at risk of homelessness, or have no appropriate roof over their heads. I have to look such people in the face, often help dry their tears and can’t offer anything meaningful. Yet outside my window the trucks roll by with rubble from a freshly demolished house. I ask again, who benefits from this strategic demolition? I say again, stop! – Yours, etc,


Parish Priest,



Sir, – It is hard to disagree with Ross McCarthy (October 10th) when he says “a safer, healthier and more prosperous world is better for all of us”. However he produces no evidence to show that the maintenance or even an increase in Irish overseas aid will contribute to this objective. Over the past decade or so there has been significant economic growth in many developing countries, all of which has been caused by increased trade and investment. The old mantra “trade not aid” holds true. It is also true that the elimination or the much-reduced incidence of war in many of these countries has helped.

There is no reason why Ireland should continue to borrow over €600 million a year to waste on foreign aid projects. The funds would be better off used to finance much-needed spending on health or education services at home or indeed to reduce the fiscal deficit. If Irish people in general support foreign aid spending, they can continue to do it through the multitude of Irish and international charities. This is not to argue that Ireland should not allocate a small budget of say €100 million to contribute to short-term disaster and emergency relief programmes such as the current Ebola crisis. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Joe Humphreys (“Are university grades being inflated to suit jobs market?”, October 13th) suggests that companies demanding a first or 2.1 for entry level jobs or internships is a factor in the proportion of such degrees awarded. If Irish universities continue to respond in this way to the demands of employers, Ireland’s experience will likely mirror that in the US, where the minimum requirement for sustained employment in many fields is now a master’s degree. – Yours, etc,


Sterling Heights,

Michigan, US

Sir, – While David McConnell (October 13th) may, like Karl Popper, assert that “Mathematics, chess and music, poetry, plays and books of all kinds, symphonies and song, painting and philosophy, family, friendship and fellowship, ordinary conversations, scientific theories from relativity to plate tectonics to evolution by natural selection” are all inventions of mankind, as a member of the same species, I couldn’t possibly take any credit for these marvellous “inventions” which add such pleasure and meaning to my life without any satisfactory explanation as to how they may aid my mere survival. His confession that humanists “believe” (his word) that “nothing exists beyond the empirical realm” merely demonstrates a mind that is closed a priori to considering the abundant evidence to the contrary. – Yours, etc,



Co Derry.

Sir, – Thanks to David McConnell for a comprehensive and thoughtful contribution to the debate on belief. While I applaud all of the points he makes, the most important for me is his assertion that it is not fair for those who believe in God to insist that this belief should intrude into the lives of those who do not.

This is at the core of the difficulties we have experienced here in Ireland for very many years. Non-believers can live with the religiously denominated holidays and the inclusion of religion in the language (nobody has any difficulty with naming certain days of the week after ancient Norse and Germanic gods, after all), but as long as we have religious discrimination in our state-run, taxpayer-funded schools and as long as reproductive medicine continues to be influenced by religious precepts that make no sense to those who simply cannot come to believe in any supernatural explanations for the phenomena that we see around us, we will continue, as a nation, to serve up injustice. – Yours, etc,


Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to the news item “Belvedere past pupils join ‘Rockmen’ in admissions battle” (October 11th), if Belvedere and Blackrock College wish to preserve their distinctive ethos, reserving places for the children of former alumni, they will remain free to do so even under the new legislation. All they have to do is stop taking public money. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The new “In brief…” section of the online letters page is a welcome addition. If only more people would take the time to write shorter letters. – Yours, etc,


Adamstown, Co Dublin.

Facing the music

Sir, – Frank McCartan (October 11th) has highlighted an annoying trend of loud music in all aspects of the hospitality industry. It reminded me of a concierge in a Las Vegas hotel who laughingly answered my question “Where can I go for a quiet drink?” with the reply “Not in this town”. Perhaps Las Vegas has spread beyond the hills of Donegal! – Yours, etc,



Roy Keane’s autobiography

Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter reckons Martin O’Neill “should dump Roy Keane as soon as possible” (Opinion & Analysis, October 11th). I’m sure that Prof Ferriter was delighted to see that, after his shave, there was less of the hair apparent about Roy. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – In your online reports following the Gibraltar match there was not one mention of whatshisname.

That’s what I call a result. – Yours, etc,



Co Down.

Figures of note

Sir, – It’s all very well having the likes of Julius Caesar, Joyce and Yeats on the euro notes (October 13th) but with the current standing of the currency, perhaps Charles Dickens’s Mr Micawber would be more apposite. He was financially feckless yet forever optimistic, always believing something would turn up. – Yours, etc,




Vegetarianism and veganism

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence, veganism is not yet universally recognised.

A young woman was at a dinner in a Dublin hotel on Saturday evening and had rung the hotel beforehand for an appropriate Vegan menu. At the dinner, when the waiter approached her table for her order, she said “I’m vegan”, to which he replied “Oh, hi! I’m Sean”. – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Water meters

Sir, – In Tim O’Brien’s article of October 10th (“Some householders having trouble reading water meters”), Irish Water is quoted as saying: “By reading the cubic meter reading, your reader will get an accurate reading of his water consumption”.

From this, I understand that when Irish Water asks me to provide my PPS number, I can respond that it is a long number with a letter at the end. This answer will be completely accurate. Perhaps not very precise though. – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

I suspect that Pope Francis must be aware of the incongruity of holding an all-male gathering to discuss family life, even if there are some lay delegates to the current synod, giving women some peripheral voice in the proceedings. This is the strange world that the Pope has inherited and I trust him to bring reason and justice to bear on it.

The Pope is focusing not on particular teachings, but on the more pressing general issue about how the Catholic Church reaches conclusions about belief and moral practice. His call to the cardinals to come down from their ivory towers to experience the actual lives of the people they purport to lead is well placed, showing that he is more concerned with learning than with teaching.

This Pope seems determined to focus not so much on obedience to the Catholic Church’s teaching, but on the exercise of individual human responsibility. He has pleaded for a more critical fidelity, urging the cardinals to speak their minds, not to think like sheep and follow the flock.

The suggestion by some that the Catholic Church should not be a democratic institution, as the majority may be wrong, seems somewhat disingenuous and music to the ears of today’s dictators. Even conclusions about morality are not fixed for all time; otherwise we would still be supporting the practice of slavery. Our lives are informed by thoughtful reflection, not by sets of commands which we must obey. Obedience is not a virtue and can never trump human judgement.

The Pope is hampered by a church persistently identified with an over-emphasis on sexual behaviour. Though how we actually live our lives does not determine how we ought to live them, it is a significant reference point in moral debate. Pope Francis acknowledges this.

There is change afoot that challenges some and threatens others. I am reminded of John Henry Newman’s suggestion that to live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England


Rabbitte in a trap of his design

I would like to express my gratitude to Pat Rabbitte.

There is sea change taking place in Irish politics. The two-and-a-half party system that has dominated Irish politics since the foundation of the State is being dismantled, one election at a time. Such drastic change can sometimes be scary and some people may feel the need to fall back on the ‘old reliables’ of Irish politics.

Enter Pat Rabbitte. In an interview over the weekend, Mr Rabbitte lamented the rise of Independent politicians, dismissed them as “populist” and expressed his “fear” for the future of Irish politics. That’s right, despite the fact that the current party system has led us to ruin on more than one occasion, Mr Rabbitte fears the fact that the Irish people have chosen to elect politicians who don’t have to cow down to a party whip.

He also does not give himself enough credit for the role that he and his party have played in the surge in support for independent politicians. After all, in their 2011 general election campaign, the Labour Party opposed water charges. They also signed a “pledge” not to increase third-level fees. On the basis of these and many other promises made by the Labour Party (one need only look at the ‘Tesco ad poster’) the Irish people gave them a record number of TDs. Once they were in power, however, Mr Rabbitte and his colleagues swiftly and cynically set about breaking most of their campaign promises.

The Irish electorate have finally woken up to the manner in which the main political parties operate and they are choosing a new way of doing politics. It is this that Mr Rabbitte fears. He fears that in the future his party (should it survive the next election) and the other main parties will no longer be able to ‘tell people what they want to hear’ and saunter into power. With the Dail heavily populated with independents, the party whip system will no longer have control.

The bitterness and disrespect with which he speaks about the democratic choice of the Irish people is music to my ears. I hope the lesson is not lost on the rest of the TDs that put their party and their ideology before their country.

Simon O’Connor, Crumlin, Dublin 12


Dail could confound Da Vinci

“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see,” said Leonardo da Vinci.

The above quote is from one of the greatest minds to ever walk the Earth. Yet, despite the man’s undoubted genius across a wide range of subjects, time dealt him a cruel blow when he came up with that particular piece of wisdom.

You see he didn’t have the pleasure of observing Dail Eireann, where a whole new class of individual seems to have evolved on a rich diet of ignorance, cronyism and the ancient Irish art of duckin’ and divin’.

Da Vinci grew up in an Italy that was a collection of city states, many of them ruled by powerful families.

They did not have a history of having Flurry Knox type characters from ‘The Irish RM’. That gombeen who thought that by keeping in with the rich lad in the locality he made himself somehow important and somehow smarter than the guy that was cleaning out his neighbours.

Indeed, such was the cognitive dissonance of this type of evolved “Gobs***e” he could not see even if shown or told. Therefore a new, separate type must be added to Mr Da Vinci’s classification – those who will never see!

If you don’t believe me then I will offer the following proof.

The function, nay, the raison d’etre of Dail Eireann is to improve society. The inhabitants of Dail Eireann continuously tell us that we are broke, that the books aren’t balancing and that now a budget will be produced that will agree to a foreign power’s version of what our worth is. A foreign power that is now itself broke after it has cleaned out most of the EU.

I am not referring directly to any nation state, but rather a policy born in one that sees it deliverers making rakes of money while their citizens and former friends are thrown to the harsh winds of austerity.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co. Galway


The people have spoken

The recent by-elections in Roscommon and Dublin South West proved three things.

1. Luke “Ming” Flanagan has wings and coattails.

2. Water charges do not win hearts and minds or votes.

3. Austerity is no longer just an anti-establishment rant.

Kevin Devitte, Westport, Co Mayo


Democracy must be defended

I have just heard an independent TD on radio declare democracy in this country to be just “a charade”. This is a democratic republic, set up after nearly 800 years of colonial rule, in which all have the right to elect those that represent us in the Dail.

Yet the declaration that this democracy is “a charade” was unchallenged by the interviewer.

At a time when two independent TDs were elected to the Dail I hope that they have more appreciation of the privilege each of them enjoyed when they were elected to represent the rest of us in this democracy.

I also hope that they do not regard their election as “a charade”.

In addition our media should show more appreciation of the privileged position they hold. They should do that by challenging any attempt to demean the freedoms both the media themselves and the rest of us enjoy in this democracy.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin

Irish Independent

Garage roof

October 13, 2014

13 October 2014 Garage Roof

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I tidy up the garage roof and cut down isabella rose for Mary.

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


Ben Whitaker – obituary

Ben Whitaker was an Old Etonian Labour MP who was a key figure on the ‘trendy’ intellectual Left

Ben Whitaker, pictured when he was Labour MP for Hampstead

Ben Whitaker, pictured when he was Labour MP for Hampstead Photo: Camera Press

6:04PM BST 12 Oct 2014


Ben Whitaker, who has died aged 79, personified the liberal intelligentsia of the 1960s as the first Labour MP for Hampstead, a constituency “full of argumentative idealists like myself”. Chosen by Left-wingers who were unaware that he was a baronet’s son and an Old Etonian, Whitaker scored a symbolic coup in 1966 by unseating the former Conservative home secretary Henry Brooke .

Whitaker, whose constituents included 30 Labour MPs, was a bellwether for the intellectual Left, and The Daily Telegraph’s Peter Simple column mocked him for a trendy and ruinous liberalism.

Throughout his life Whitaker campaigned for more recognition of George Orwell, an idol of his; he secured a blue plaque outside the Hampstead book shop where Orwell wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and lived to see the BBC commission a statue from Martin Jennings.

Benjamin Charles George Whitaker was born on September 15 1934, the third son of Maj-Gen Sir John Whitaker, 2nd Bt, of Babworth Hall, Nottinghamshire. After Eton and National Service with the Coldstream Guards, he read Modern History at New College, Oxford.

Whitaker worked in Sicily for the reforming anti-Mafia campaigner Danilo Dolci, then in 1959 was called to the Bar at Inner Temple. He lectured in Law at London University, and became one of Britain’s first human rights barristers.

Angered by the “framing” of Stephen Ward during the Profumo affair, and by the so-called “rhino whip scandal”, which resulted in the dismissal of the chief constable of Sheffield, in 1964 Whitaker published The Police, in which he criticised the service’s resistance to change. He noted, for example, that 84 US police forces had computers, but Scotland Yard had none.

In 1965 Whitaker went to Rhodesia, his pregnant wife hiding leaflets attacking UDI in her dress. He penetrated one of Ian Smith’s detention camps, then went on the radio condemning “an illegal police state afraid of the truth”. Police raided the studio, and he had to make a swift exit.

He went into the 1966 campaign at Hampstead wishing Brooke a “happy retirement”; his election address mentioned his studies at Oxford and Harvard, but omitted Eton. He won with a majority of 2,253.

Anthony Greenwood, the minister of overseas development, appointed Whitaker his PPS, and when Greenwood moved to Housing and Local Government, Whitaker went with him. He resigned in March 1967 when he rebelled over the Defence Estimates.

Whitaker campaigned for an independent body to investigate complaints against lawyers; for action against those responsible for the Zinoviev letter after proof emerged that it was forged; and for a crackdown on “murky” insurance companies .

He embarrassed ministers by asking whether the visiting Sultan of Lahej had brought a slave with him to Britain, and upset Denis Healey, the defence secretary, by probing the Army’s allocation of a valet to the Duke of Kent.

His chances of office seemed to have gone when he spoke against James Callaghan’s Bill voting down boundary changes that would have favoured the Conservatives. But weeks later Wilson appointed him to the Overseas Development Ministry under Judith Hart. Taking six hours a day to get through his boxes, he enrolled in a speed-reading course.

In June 1970 Whitaker lost his seat to the Conservative Geoffrey Finsberg by 474 votes after a recount. He became director of the Minority Rights Group, for 17 years highlighting communities being destroyed by their governments or multinational companies. An early report exposed the plight of Biharis in Bangladesh (the Whitakers adopted a four-month-old Bihari boy).

Whitaker went on to spend 10 years as UK director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, dispensing £2 million a year. The Labour government appointed him to a UN subcommittee on minority rights, and as its vice-chairman he was asked in 1985 to investigate whether Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915. He embarrassed the Foreign Office by concluding that it had.

From 1976 he chaired the Defence of Literature and Arts Society . He was appointed CBE in 2000.

Ben Whitaker married, in 1964, Janet Stewart, now Baroness Whitaker of Beeston. She survives him, with their two sons (one adopted), their daughter, and his son from a previous relationship.

Ben Whitaker, born September 15 1934, died June 8 2014


Adam Smith ‘Even the Tories’ favourite economist, Adam Smith, denounced the size, nature and privileges associated with corporations, and we should heed what he said’. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The influence and control enjoyed by corporations over the body politic (Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within, 8 October) is an inevitable consequence of the 1844 Joint Stock Companies Act, a piece of legislation effectively marking the birth of modern capitalism. Followed by the Limited Liability Act of 1855, it established that the fiduciary duty of a director is to act in good faith for the benefit of the company as a whole, ie all shareholders. In practice, this means that what is referred to as the shareholder primacy norm obliges companies to maximise their profits without regard to other considerations. So claims by companies that they are driven by values enshrined in concepts of corporate social responsibility or fair trade should be seen for what they are – public relations exercises designed to attract custom that will ultimately enhance their bottom line.

Even the Tories’ favourite economist, Adam Smith, denounced the size, nature and privileges associated with corporations, and we should heed what he said. Nothing less than a dismantling and revision of the legal framework underpinning private enterprise will serve to alleviate the exploitation, abuses and environmental degradation that it brings but, as Mr Monbiot says, the political class and our so-called democracy is part of the problem rather than the solution. And if charities are too frightened or compromised to challenge this iniquitous system, it falls to other popular organisations like trade unions to oppose its worst manifestations such as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a deal that would give the transnational corporations unprecedented power to run the global economy for the further enrichment of their institutional shareholders at our expense.
Bert Schouwenburg
International officer, GMB

• George Monbiot is depressingly correct, but why is he surprised by the pro-business reassurances of certain charities such as Oxfam? Oxfam has always openly pushed for economically liberal pro-free-trade policies in the countries it is committed to help. Oxfam, as opposed to smaller charities or more politically aware ones such as War on Want, actually is a big “business” paying very large salaries out of public donations to its top management tier.
Françoise Murray

• I found Aditya Chakrabortty’s critique of “corporate welfare” (Cut benefits? Yes, let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout, 7 October) illuminating; £85bn is a staggering amount of money. However, as with the social benefits arising from social security, so can there be economic benefits from aids to business. For six years I was responsible for an EU scheme of assistance for small and medium-sized businesses that generated additional sales of £24 for every £1 of EU grants. As the business owners signed off on these numbers, I had a 90% confidence factor in them. The issue is to ensure that the scheme provides good-quality outcomes, ie provable sales increases rather than, say, quantity of contacts. For example, too much money is spent on export services to businesses that make no discernible impact on the balance of trade (but export trips to warm climes in winter are very popular). More focused schemes would cut the cost but raise the outcome. We should all regret the award of public money to companies that pay the minimum wage, have zero-hours contracts and don’t pay taxes.
Bob Nicholson
Frodsham, Cheshire

• What Aditya Chakrabortty calls “corporate welfare” is integral to what the US political scientist Philip Bobbitt in 2002 called “the new market-state”, which is characterised by a state-subsidised public sector that is dominant over a semi-privatised state sector. One consequence of this is that, while politicians may promise more “public spending”, eg on the NHS or education, increasing tranches of this go straight into the pockets of private investors, like the egregious Richard Branson and his Virgin Care.
Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich

• Recent articles by Zoe Williams, Larry Elliott, Aditya Chakrabortty and George Monbiot offer an alternative to the corporate lobby-driven policies all three major parties are peddling. These aren’t “business-friendly” policies. They are “elite-friendly” policies. It isn’t a “free market”, it is “a state-endorsed oligarchy”, as Monbiot puts it, returning to the subject of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which he so devastating exposed almost a year ago. If Labour cannot see this then what hope do they think they have to claim to speak as the voice of the 99%? Ignore the Lords Levy and Noon and listen instead to some sane advice from the Guardian. Larry Elliott (Talk is cheap, but tackling inequality requires action, 6 October) wrote that policymakers must be “prepared to redistribute resources from rich to poor”, create “an international tax system that prevents revenues being salted away in tax havens”, ensure “that trade agreements are not written by multinational corporations”, strengthen “welfare safety nets and the rights of workers” and recognise “that both the private and the public sectors have a role”. Not a bad manifesto. Stand up to the bullies, Ed. Join the “struggle over what remains of our democracy”. You might just regain some credibility.
John Airs

Ed Miliband, Liz McInnes canvassing in Heywood and Middleton Ed Miliband canvassing in the Heywood and Middleton byelection, with Liz McInnes, right. She later won the previously safe Labour seat but Ukip came a close second. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

Anxieties about the need to “come out” against immigration erupt in Labour electoral politics on a regular basis (How main parties became the strangers in Farageland, 11 October). Fears about parties like Ukip aren’t new. Labour’s failing has been its inability or unwillingness to build an internationalist politics. Its current “one nation” attitude does nothing to help people see how lives connect across continents and oceans; the histories and continuities of exploitation between countries; and the contingency of national identifications. If only an accident of birth makes us British, Indian or Nigerian, why should so much political weight be given to these attachments?

People, however, don’t acquire an internationalist perspective simply through being told to. Digging in and adopting a parochial sensibility has causes, some of which Labour could address. Too often the party leadership ends up moulding itself around the socially conservative effects of stressful, precarious lives. They would do better to address some of the contributing factors. A radical programme to tackle economic and social inequalities, along with the relentlessly dismissive ways that people without resources are often treated, might produce a more generous society. It might also produce a more engaged and vibrant politics.
Professor Davina Cooper
Kent Law School, University of Kent

• Nigel Farage’s policy of banning migrants with HIV (Report, 10 October) not only stigmatises 100,000 men and women in Britain living with the virus, it is also dangerously counterproductive.

Around the world there are an estimated 35 million living with HIV. Of these, half have not been diagnosed. That may be because, as we are seeing with the Ebola crisis, some health systems are underfinanced and inadequate. But it is also because there are formidable barriers to testing. For example, gay men are unlikely to volunteer if they risk prosecution, as they do in so many countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Mr Farage now wants to build a massive new barrier in Britain, where already up to a quarter of those living with HIV are undiagnosed. When every sensible worker in the field wants to encourage more testing, he pursues a policy that can only have the opposite effect.

Back in 1986 the Thatcher government rejected such checks. Instead, as health secretary, I was able to mount a public education campaign, which among other things made the point that “you cannot get the Aids virus from normal social contact with someone who is infected”.

Perhaps we should consider how today we can set out the facts and not allow the unscrupulous to play on public fears.
Norman Fowler
Conservative, House of Lords


Labour MPs are queuing up to lambast Ed Miliband’s strategy of appealing to his “core vote” (report, 11 October), but I see little evidence that he is doing this. I consider myself a core voter – someone who was brought up in a working-class home, and has almost always voted for Labour, save after the Iraq War, and the last election, when, with two children about to start university, I voted Lib Dem, (what a mistake that was!). Where is there any pledge to re-nationalise water, at least, if not gas, electricity and the Post Office? Where is there a commitment to build council houses? What about stopping the free schools policy? These are things I’d vote for.

Robert Carlin

London W10

How terribly sad, Labour just manages to win a by-election in a supposedly safe Labour seat. The next headline outlining future Labour policy is not about the economy, deficit or lifting the poor out of poverty. It is from the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, who, after visiting Singapore on a “fact-finding trip”, imagines that the way to improve teaching is to make teachers take an oath to emphasise the “moral calling and noble profession of teaching”.

How utterly disconnected from the real world that teachers live in, and how insulting to think that thousands of teachers need to take an oath to remind themselves why they are teachers.

I greatly fear that Ukip will do well next year because politicians have allowed the impression to be formed that they have absolutely no idea about the lives of the people they hope to represent. This idea from Tristram Hunt totally encapsulates why this opinion has been formed.

Some advice to Tristram; go into classrooms, teach Year 11 mathematics on Friday afternoon. Don’t just listen or find out about education – go and do it.

Brian Dalton


Your front-page article on 11 October “Miliband pays the price for Ukip surge” referred to disparaging comments made by senior Labour politicians, including Jack Straw, about the Labour leader. It stated that Straw “referred to Mr Miliband as having “panda eyes and strange lips”.

The article continued on page 6 where Straw’s words were quoted in context, giving the lie to the front page: “Mr Straw said Mr Miliband had leadership qualities and had united his party… I know people say he’s got panda eyes and strange lips. Well, I could make the same remark in different ways about Mr Clegg or Mr Cameron.”

Come on, Independent, this sort of misleading reporting is unworthy of you.

Deirdre Myers


Voters, unable to discern any real difference between Labour and Tory policies, are turning to something new. The shadow cabinet could not possibly countenance a total embargo on NHS privatisation (after all, they are ones who started it), soaking the rich (rather than feeling “relaxed” about them), a substantial hike in a statutory living wage, abandonment of Trident, diverting the money to investment in a green economy and welfare benefit payments, re-nationalisation of the railways and electoral reform. The message to Miliband from Heywood and Middleton should be interpreted as “Go left, young man.”

Colin Yardley

Chislehurst, Greater London

It should be obvious that Labour’s strategy of adopting Conservative policies but arguing they would do it better is ineffective. Those of us who want a fairer society have nowhere to go.

What we want is for the large US corporations and those on higher incomes to pay their fair share. So, increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour, abolish tax credits, reduce VAT to 15 per cent and introduce a 5 per cent sales tax.

The most important thing, though, is that Labour policies be different to Tory policies; otherwise Ukip is the only viable option.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

Palestinian statehood must be recognised

My maternal grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, was one of the earliest English Jews to support Zionism and was one of Theodor Herzl’s colleagues in campaigning for the Balfour Declaration. Six of his 11 children settled in Palestine and so most of my cousins are Israelis. My uncle Norman, his oldest son, was attorney-general in Mandatory Palestine and one of the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he was professor of international relations. But Norman (who died in 1971) was critical of the way Israel developed, not least its discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians and would have fully supported the long-overdue moves to recognise the state of Palestine.

What I find unconscionable is the hypocrisy of President Obama who recently told the UN General Assembly that he supported the two-state principle, yet still buckles under the “powerful Israeli lobby” of which our diplomats speak in their letter (10 October) and obdurately denies American recognition of Palestine.

This, despite the fact that the US constitution gives the president exclusive authority to recognise foreign governments – President Truman exercised it when recognising Israel in 1948.

Benedict Birnberg

London SE3

Though it’s been the wait of a lifetime, it will still be a source of pride, both as a citizen and as a Jew, if Parliament recognizes Palestine. But why on earth has Ed Miliband (11 October) made this anything other than a free vote?

Isn’t it obvious that this is one of those issues of conscience with opposing views within each party? The sense of turning a corner will be less if the vote is coerced, and the message to the Middle East weaker because it is less authentic.

Andrew Shacknove


Conservative MP Guto Bebb opposes British recognition of Palestinian statehood, asking “How can you recognise a state when the borders of that state have not been agreed?” Given that Israel’s borders remain undefined, I take it that in the interests of consistency he will also be pushing to withdraw British recognition of Israel?

Dan Glazebrook


The NHS has kept me on my feet

Congratulations on the excellent coverage of the NHS crisis during the past week. I think you need to be old like me (born in 1936) to really appreciate the value of our NHS. Nye Bevan’s introduction of this service in 1946 was inspirational and although nothing is ever perfect in this life, we have such a lot to thank him for and continue to thank all those now serving in the NHS.

Had I been born today, my shallow pelvis and malformed left foot would have been picked up at birth and treated at much less cost to the NHS than has since been spent on me. I can only thank all those concerned over the years for keeping me walking and I can honestly say that I am walking better now than ever before – all due to the skill of the surgeons at my local Great Western Hospital in Swindon.

Of course there are mistakes, every large institution has them, but I know where I would rather be when I need health care.

Jan Huntingdon

Cricklade, Wiltshire

The NHS is the most important institution in this country and it is important to every single one of us. So, if it requires more funding the answer to the question “where will the money come from?” is obvious – we must all pay more tax.

The fairest way of raising this tax is from income tax. A penny on the basic rate of 20p in the pound would not hurt anyone who is currently paying tax. After all, I remember when the basic rate was 24p in the pound and if I go back further, even 25p.

Such an increase would raise around £7.5bn which, in addition to the normal annual increase in funding, would make a significant difference to the NHS coffers.

The big question is will any of the parties have the courage to put this in their manifesto? The first party to do so gets my vote.

Iain Smith

Rugby, Warwickshire


I don’t know which hospitals June Green visits, (letter, 11 October) but all the ones with which I am familiar already have boxes to put money in, and usually more than the £2 she suggests. They are on metal posts in the car parks.

Mike Perry

Ickenham, Middlesex

Malala – a worthy winner of Nobel prize

I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize than Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (report, 11 October). The beauty of Malala is her youthful idealism and untainted sincerity.

As a Muslim she offers an enlightened alternative to the fanaticism that so dominates our perception of her co-religionists. As a schoolgirl she reminds us that education is precious and should not be taken for granted. In her Panorama interview she said: “Education is neither eastern nor western, education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”  The wisdom of this courageous child gives us all hope.

Stan Labovitch



Sir, Can our non-Ukip politicians not understand that others may have different views to themselves? That immigration is far more important than they believe it is? Voters do not seek to be educated in what their rulers believe is best for them — they want representative democracy.
R Bullen
Beachley, Chepstow

Sir, It is childish for David Cameron to say little more than “a vote for Ukip will let in Ed Miliband”. The Heywood and Middleton by-election showed that Ukip is the main opposition to Labour in many constituencies in the north. There, it is a vote for the Conservatives that will let in Labour.
John Kilclooney
Mullinure, Armagh City

Sir, Contrast Nigel Farage’s easy approach to the media with dour Miliband and condescending Cameron. For most voters, his policies are secondary to his persona and politics is in danger of becoming a celebrity-fest. The Ukip bandwagon could become more popular than The X Factor.
Terry Moran

Sir, Matthew Parris gives himself away by saying “We know [the voters] are wrong,” when referring to the Clacton by-election (Opinion, Oct 11). A man who thinks that an electorate is wrong when it makes a decision that he does not like cannot have much respect for democracy. Ukip is winning because voters think it tells the truth while other politicians continue to try to be all things to all men and avoid the hard questions.
David Williams
Horsham, Sussex

Mr Parris said politicians “know what to do” and quoted Jean-Claude Juncker: “They just don’t know how to get re-elected when they have done it.” The major parties have shielded the comfortable pensioners, homeowners, landlords and property speculators — in short those more likely to vote — from the effects of the 2008 crash, leaving those on low and middle incomes, mostly living in rented property or unable to buy, to carry the burden. Politicians know what to do: cap rents and reduce the value of property. But that is what not to do to get elected.
The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Sir, Mr Parris says that today’s politicians are the best ever; they are certainly very good at ignoring what voters want.
Alan Stephens
Lindfield, W Sussex

Sir, I support David Cameron’s dismissal of a Conservative pact with Ukip. I would have been forced to turn to the Lib Dems.
Susan Paine
Surbiton, Surrey

Sir, It is time for David Cameron to stand up to his backbenchers. When he promoted centralist one-nation Toryism I thought that at last Tories were losing “the nasty party” tag, but it is fast returning with tax cuts for the better-off and benefit cuts for the poor.
Valerie Crews
Beckenham Kent

Sir, Messrs Cameron and Miliband should learn from last week’s polls that Mondeo man no longer lives in working-class constituencies. His place has been taken by minimum-wage man, who is fed up with working hard and being rewarded with a subsistence standard of living.
David Burbridge

Sir, We don’t know whether Clacton people voted loyally for Douglas Carswell as their sitting MP or because he is now a member of Ukip. We should not let Farage’s blustering convince us that he is a major figure in British politics.
John Rogers
Camberley, Surrey

Sir, Like so many former Lib Dem voters, I shall never believe Nick Clegg again. But Philip Collins (Opinion, Oct 10) takes the biscuit. He tells us that at the tender age of 8 years old he went on a trip from Heywood to Clacton and remembers thinking at the time: “When there are simultaneous by-elections in these constituencies, I’ll get a column out of this.” Even the prophet Isaiah wouldn’t go that far.
CC Storer
Parkgate, Wirral

Having awoken to see Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell posing for a selfie (Oct 10), I am mourning the passing of Spitting Image.
Sally Hinde
Bury, Lancs

Sir, Rob Matthews says he is unable to understand management consultancy (letter, Oct 10). It’s simple: management consultancy is common sense overlaid with gobbledegook. The gobbledegook comes in various layers of opacity. The fee is in direct proportion to the opacity and size of the ensuing report.
John Gardner

Sir, Having been taught about the zeugma, “Mr Pickwick took his hat and his leave”, at Skegness Grammar School in 1960, it has taken me until today to spot one. “Keira Knightley enters the fray as Joan Clarke, with a blue velvet hat and a double first in mathematics”, (review of The Imitation Game, Oct 8). As to whether this is a zeugma type 1, 2, 3, 4, a diazeugma, a hypozeugma, a prozeugma or a mesozeugma, I remain as confused as I was in 1960.
John Clark
Keelby, Grimsby

Sir, The Care Quality Commission is in an impossible position (letters, Oct 8). About one fifth of care homes are below standard and should be improved or closed. The CQC knows this but it would take a far braver regulator to act decisively and with the aggression needed. Compare this with Ofsted’s position within the nursery sector. For all its foibles, it’s a good regulator with teeth. It can afford to be tough — only five per cent of nurseries are in the “very bad” category. However, until eldercare is as well funded as childcare, no care home regulator will ever get it right.
Ben Black
My Family Care, London SW6


Britain is currently expected to miss the government’s export target of £1 trillion by 2020 Photo: Bloomberg News

6:56AM BST 12 Oct 2014


SIR – Scott Barnes is right to argue that Britain’s medium-sized businesses need help when looking to export.

A fear of failure is a constant constraint even on reasonably ambitious companies. We need to provide more incentives to businesses looking to trade overseas.

Exploring these options surely amounts to research and product development, and if treated in the same way for tax purposes would mean that there would be less for a potential exporter to lose and, crucially, more to gain.

Similar incentives are offered by our competitors. We are currently expected to miss the government’s export target of £1 trillion by 2020. If we are to come close to hitting it, measures like this would be a great help.

Stephen Ibbotson
Director of Business, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
London EC2

Newmark’s morals

SIR – Why shouldn’t we judge a public figure such as Brooks Newmark, the MP for Braintree, by his legitimate private conductin the 21st Century (Letters, October 5)? He has betrayed his wife, his children and his constituents by shattering their expectations of an honourable member of parliament.

If he had been a member of Richard III’s 15th-century parliament he would have been found guilty of moral turpitude. Why should we not have great expectations for today’s salaried MPs, instead of condoning their foolish actions?

Harry Santiuste
Edenthorpe, West Yorkshire

A stunt too far

SIR – Young men from both Britain and Argentina gave their lives during the Falklands War, so the recent Top Gear debacle, which could only have caused distress to those who live with the loss of loved ones, is unacceptable.

We live in a fractured world which needs mending, and I just hope the people of Argentina do not associate such juvenile antics with the people of Britain.

Gerry Doyle

Alone in a crowd

SIR – My daughter was recently waiting for a lift to school, and when it failed to materialise she walked, arriving five minutes late. The school has a new rule which states that any pupils who are late will have to spend lunchtime in “isolation”.

On being asked how it was, she replied: “It was packed.”

Stephen Blanchard
London SE26

A family handout photograph of Alan Henning with an unidentified child. The undated image was taken at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border 

6:57AM BST 12 Oct 2014


SIR – Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is heavily critical of the Government for failing to secure Alan Henning’s release and says that by joining the US air strikes we “handed Alan and many other Western hostages a death sentence”. This is disingenuous and so far from the truth that it would, in different circumstances, be laughable.

The gang of murderers which is currently violating the freedoms, health and lives of untold numbers of people in Iraq and Syria has no regard for pleas for clemency on any grounds or for any standards of normal human behaviour. The responsibility for Mr Henning’s tragic murder lies squarely on their shoulders.

To blame the British Government for Mr Henning’s death is typical of the rationale of those who try to justify this sort of barbaric behaviour or to explain it away as a response to provocation. It is shameful.

Fred Hudson
Burnley, Lancashire

SIR – As an ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust, I am deeply concerned that the Government is not doing enough to prevent the growing prejudice against Muslims in Britain, which is increasingly alienating the British Muslim population.

Understanding and dialogue between this community and the rest of the British public are breaking down, particularly among the working class.

Although I too am horrified by the acts of Isil, I am equally horrified by the response on social media, where racism is flourishing, and by the increase in hate crimes against Muslims.

Ironically, this is likely to encourage further radicalisation and extremism among British Muslims.

In its efforts to combat Islamic extremism, the Government is ignoring incitement of hatred against Muslims. More than 28,000 pieces of “terrorist material” have been removed from the internet this year. The same should be done with racist, anti-Muslim material.

Rebecca Wilkinson
London NW1

Privacy at what cost?

SIR – Your report US threat to British online privacy highlights a dilemma.

The concept of privacy is the antithesis of a culture of openness and transparency, and the advocates of one should address the concerns of the proponents of the other. But some of those who would prefer privacy and secrecy might not be too concerned about free speech and other democratic values.

If encryption of data becomes the norm, personal privacy might be enhanced, but personal as well as collective safety and security will be degraded.

George Herrick
Pendleton, Salford

SIR – The attack on JP Morgan Chase’s customer information compromised the contact details of over 76 million homes.

The security of data is of critical importance to any business, especially the banks that hold our private contact and banking information. So why do we still see so many reports of security breaches?

As the skills of cyber criminals develop, it is becoming glaringly apparent that a simple password is no longer a strong enough security measure to protect a system, particularly if users are accessing data from their mobile phones and personal devices.

Organisations need to use stronger authentication methods and they must perform risk analysis. Fingerprinting and analysing the behaviour of users can provide more in-depth verification of an individual, without negatively affecting the user experience.

In order to maintain consumer trust it is essential that organisations take action.

Keith Graham
Irvine, California, United States

Charity funding

SIR – While I am concerned to hear that Kids Company is running out of money, I do not share your correspondent’s belief that the blame lies with a lack of funding from central government.

It is not the government’s role to fund charities.

Jonathan Robson
Sherborne, Dorset

Bang out of order

SIR – This year Londoners will be charged to watch the New Year’s Eve firework display over the Thames. This is apparently because the event is too big and the cost of stewarding too much.

What a load of tosh!

If it has grown too popular, by all means ticket the event, by lottery if necessary, but it is totally wrong to charge Londoners to attend an event they have already paid for.

How much does it really cost to issue an e-ticket? As for stewarding, we have a police force which is tasked with keeping public order and this event is held in a public place.

George Curley
London N7

Begging your pardon

SIR – Glenda Cooper makes the excellent point that one of the strengths of Received Pronunciation was “clarity and the grammatical precision that usually accompanied it”.

Grammatical errors are increasingly common among broadcasters, regardless of accent, and odd phrasing hinders comprehension further.

Am I just a grumpy former teacher of speech and drama or do others feel the same?

Kate Forrester
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – I was born in Durham, educated in a boarding school in Wolverhampton, married an RAF officer and have lived in Aden, Germany and several counties in England.

I think my voice is accentless but I sometimes find myself adopting the accent of the person I am talking to. I hope these people do not think I am being rude.

Yvonne Allison
Scotby, Cumbria

Cake mania: The Great British Bake Off finalists Luis, Nancy and Richard present their “showstopper” cakes  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 12 Oct 2014


SIR – Dr Linda Blair’s article about the psychological benefits of baking can only be described as misguided in this age of obesity.

It is very worrying to read that programmes like The Great British Bake Off are encouraging people to produce, and subsequently eat, cakes which require large quantities of sugar and butter.

May I suggest that the nation would be much better served by a programme like The Superb Soup Kitchen. The variety of healthy soups which can be produced from the amazing selection of fresh vegetables now available all year round is endless. This would give the cook just as much satisfaction and just as great a feeling of psychological well-being as baking a cake would.

June Stewart
Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway

Nichole Leggett and Carol Mills pose for a selfie with UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell in Clacton Photo: Nichole Leggett

7:00AM BST 12 Oct 2014


SIR – At the end of the party conference season, having witnessed purringly positive Cameron, negative Clegg, forgetful Miliband and sparky Farage, is it any wonder the electorate has blown a fuse and short-circuited British politics? The Clacton by-election result says it all.

The main political parties need to reconnect with voters who live outside the Westminster bubble, rather than try to dazzle us with elaborate smoke and mirrors. May 2015 is looming.

Patrick Tracey
Carlisle, Cumberland

SIR – “The British public looks with frustration upon the meddling of European institutions”. It’s also another reason why they vote Ukip.

Ken Culley
Marlborough, Wiltshire

SIR – Following Ukip’s victory in the Clacton by-election, the Tory party must now focus on building support for the forthcoming general election.

Two matters will be vital. First, HS2 should be deferred. This proposal only won Labour’s support because of the certainty that Tory seats would be lost. The funds would be better spent on existing rail services and facilities, including free car parking for commuters.

Secondly, if Better Together is to mean anything to those in Scotland, the Government must ensure Holyrood has dedicated funds and an agreed timetable to fully upgrade the A9 as far as the Dornoch bridge and the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen. This would provide tangible evidence that together really is better.

Ian Nalder

SIR – Upon leaving the Conservative Party and joining Ukip, Douglas Carswell said that the people of Britain thought the three main parties were all the same and did not deliver on their promises. He was right.

But he should have added that they are not in fact able to deliver. The larger problems facing the country – the economy, immigration, demands on the NHS, the benefits budget and constitutional matters – are not open to clear solutions, only to the management of one problem after another.

Ukip believes it has clear solutions to these issues. This is a delusion.

David Damant
Bath, Somerset

SIR – Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were right to move to Ukip if they thought that this would give them a better chance of putting their political views into effect.

They were also right to resign from the House of Commons to fight by-elections under their new party colours, but this does risk establishing a convention whereby MPs who change parties or are expelled from them must do the same.

There is a delicate balance of power between party leaderships, MPs, and the people. Such a convention would strengthen the power of the party leaderships over MPs, which is not in the public interest.

J A Smith
Epping, Essex

SIR – How much does it cost taxpayers to fund by-elections in constituencies that will cast votes as part of the general election only months later?

Prospective Ukip MPs have no qualms about spending taxpayers’ money to fund Nigel Farage’s publicity machine.

Graham Buckley
Denby Dale, West Yorkshire

SIR – Michael Moszynski is right to suggest the defections to Ukip could threaten Mr Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum, but that might be no bad thing.

A referendum under Mr Cameron could well be worse than not having one at all.

Any promises of reform that would encourage the British people to vote to remain in the EU would more than likely be reneged on, as they have been in the past.

David Rammell
Everton, Hampshire

SIR – Mr Cameron was laughing at Ukip; he isn’t laughing now.

Don Roberts
Birkenhead, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – It was with anticipation that I read my friend Derek Byrne’s piece, which quickly turned to dismay (“Marriage not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”, Opinion & Analysis, October 9th). He wrongly assumes that because he doesn’t encounter monogamous gay men in his day-to-day life that they must barely exist, and therefore marriage as it currently stands is not a “good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”.

The truth is far more likely to be that one doesn’t encounter many monogamous gay couples when out and about on the gay scene because, like their heterosexual counterparts, they have outgrown the bars and clubs which cater to singles and prefer to spend the majority of their lives in pursuit of what are, to all intents and purposes, “married” lives.

Yes, we may need to redefine marriage, which is an entirely different discussion, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many gay people who want to get married today. To say they are somehow betraying their roots is a touch patronising. If Mr Byrne doesn’t want to get married until marriage conforms to his vision, that’s his choice. But when it comes to voting in the referendum, I hope the people will allow the rest of us ours. – Yours, etc,


Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Sir, – I am gay, in a civil partnership, and know many same-sex couples who have been joined in civil partnership. I also know (as much as one can in these matters) that they, as I, live monogamously and have committed to do so for the rest of their lives – not because of a “village mentality” or “Catholic guilt” but on the basis of a desire to live by committing to an exclusive, intimate relationship. I do not appreciate Mr Byrne making assumptions about my “lifestyle” or that of my particular circle of friends by presenting them with “certainty”.

If Mr Byrne wants consultation and space for difference, let him start by not putting people into general categories on the basis of his anecdotal observations. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The recent call by John O’Connor of the Government’s Housing Agency for a reconsideration of the apartment sizes set out in Dublin City Council’s development plan (“Housing Agency calls for smaller apartments in Dublin”, October 4th) opens an interesting debate which could, in my view, be extended to cover a review of all the national standards that affect residential development.

As an architect and one of the consultants on the first government guidelines on residential density in 1999, I support the concept of higher density and more sustainable compact towns and cities. However there are many ways in which higher densities can be achieved without constructing tall buildings. In my view, the model we need to move towards, in the main, is low rise, higher density, except in the centre of towns and cities where the scale of building should be substantially higher.

In Dublin, we cite successful neighbourhoods such as Portobello, Phibsborough, etc, as ideal examples of residential design incorporating low-rise, family-friendly places to live. We need to examine why this is so and how it has been achieved.

The density in these areas is quite high and comparable with many high-rise schemes, but dwelling sizes tend to be smaller, gardens more compact, public open space limited and car parking kept to a minimum but with good access to public transport. The result seems to be vibrant places in which people like to live.

The standards set out in most of our current plans for new development require much greater areas of land to be kept free at ground level to facilitate gardens, open spaces and car parking than is provided in the neighbourhoods mentioned above. This inevitably results in pushing buildings “up in the air” in order to achieve sustainable densities.

In many cases this has often created unsatisfactory ground-level areas of unsightly surface car parking and large but soulless windswept open spaces. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate these standards and see if they are militating against achieving low-rise, higher-density solutions, particularly for edge of town and suburban locations where residents could live closer to ground level and have access to smaller, but better designed, more usable open spaces. A wider range of smaller dwelling sizes also needs to be looked at, which responds better to our current demographics and depends on access to public transport; car parking requirements, particularly directly outside the front door, need to be restricted.

This might allow us then to have “streets” in the true meaning of the word, as uncluttered places where people can walk, cycle or even play in safety. It is only from there that we can begin to move towards creating neighbourhoods, establishing a sense of place and building communities. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Rev Patrick G Burke (September 27th) kindly invited all of those attending the meeting in Galway celebrating 21 years of the Humanist Association of Ireland to spend some time in local churches, and some may well have done so.

I was brought up as a Christian, I attend church services from time to time and I value many friends who are religious. I am frequently moved by wonderful sacred music and I appreciate thoughtful addresses, notably at funerals, which bind people together and give us all some strength. I sometimes explain humanism as Christianity without God. Most of the people who signed the first Humanist Manifesto (1933) were Unitarian ministers. There is not much distance between the best of humanism and the best of religion, but it is fundamental.

My difficulty is that I was never able to find any reason to believe in the supernatural. On the other hand I had no difficulty in discovering that ethics have a sound basis in human experience. Rev Dr Twomey (September 29th), a distinguished theologian, and a sharp critic of his own church, advocates faith in addition to science (or reason), but faith in what, a God, a soul, life after death, transubstantiation, the virgin birth, the Trinity, resurrection from the dead, faith in the authority of his church? There is not a shred of evidence to believe any of the supernatural claims of any religion, which is why the churches, recognising the eternal hope for certainty and happiness in an uncertain and cruel world, must appeal to “faith”, uncritical acceptance of what one reads in books written thousands of years ago and what one is told by priests.

Humanists have found that they get on well without faith – they rely on what they can see and know from their own and other people’s reliable observations. Yes, humanists believe, in Dr Twomey’s words, that “nothing exists beyond the empirical realm” but that realm includes all the useful and reliable things and ideas that have emerged from people’s inquisitive and creative consideration of the world around them. Mathematics, chess and music, poetry, plays and books of all kinds, symphonies and song, painting and philosophy, family, friendship and fellowship, ordinary conversations, scientific theories from relativity to plate tectonics to evolution by natural selection, all of what Karl Popper called World III, the “world” invented by mankind, and yes, religion, are part of the humanist world. If we did not exist, none of these would exist. All these can be experienced and tested for their value in our efforts to lead contented and good lives. But everything invented by people – people made God, not vice versa – should be tested for its reasonableness and value. God may be a valuable idea to many people but not to humanists, and we do not think it is fair for those who believe in God, to insist that God should intrude into their lives.

Dr O’Leary (October 2nd) suggests we humanists should recognise the “phenomena of truth and falsehood, good and evil”.

Well of course we do recognise these, but in the end, while obeying the laws of democratic society, we decide for ourselves what is true or false, good or evil, doing our best to follow the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We do not unthinkingly follow the rules of any religion, and certainly not one which claimed it was heretical to say that the Earth went round the Sun, a church which burned (1600) the Dominican theologian Bruno because among other reasonable suggestions he thought there was life elsewhere in the universe (nearly 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered since 1995), a church which threatened the founder of modern science, Galileo, with execution, a church which still today says it is evil to use contraceptives (1968), a church whose leading bishops continue to claim that humanists are not fully human (Archbishop Murphy, 1968; Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor 2009), a church which assures us that women are lesser creatures than men. This is a church which, as an institution imbued with faith in the supernatural, on so many issues has not been able to distinguish truth and falsity, good and evil.

Please do not misunderstand me. The great majority of religious people have nothing to do with these views, and they have quietly rejected them. Many people find solace in religion and the goodness and decency of the great majority of our citizens has been influenced by their religious beliefs. I respect the many thoughtful contributions of religious people to our efforts to resolve the daunting moral dilemmas we face in the modern world, especially in my own field of genetics.

But fewer and fewer people believe in the place or need for supernatural guidance. They have learned that the supernatural is not reliable and not necessary.

If you have no faith in the supernatural, and if you believe in your own capacity to decide on what is true or false, good or evil, guided by your own experience and the verifiable experience and reasonable ideas of other obviously thoughtful people, you are to all intents and purposes a humanist.

As one good friend, a pillar of our society, said to me 30 years ago – “Sure lots of us are like that but we just don’t say so”. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Well done to Dr Edward Horgan for his illuminating and insightful letter regarding university league tables (October 7th).

I can easily relate to what he says as I too feel that younger academics are being exploited within the university sector.

This is particularly evident within the field of postgraduate doctoral research. Instead of fostering independent thought, the majority of senior academics advise students to specialise in areas that conveniently overlap with their own research interests.

As a result, many students suffer in silence and are forced to pay lip service to their supervisors so that they can increase their chances of employment and achieve some degree of permanency.

In my opinion, this approach reinforces the powerful position of the university elite and worsens the “employee apartheid” that is becoming increasingly common in third-level institutions.

If there is a willingness to address this problem, then there should be no reason why these seats of learning could not improve their status within the university league tables. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – A recent news report (“Rising museum postponed”, October 7th) refers to a proposed commemorative centre at 14 to 17 Moore Street, “believed to have been used by the leaders of the Rising”. All buildings along the Moore Street terrace were occupied and held by volunteers as the last headquarters of the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.

Number 10 Moore Street, the point of entry into the terrace by the GPO garrison and where the leaders spent their last night of freedom, is now being offered up in a proposed deal by Chartered Land supported by City Management. This would secure the planning application for a shopping centre on the last extant 1916 battleground – an area described by our National Museum as “the most important historic site in modern Irish history”.

It is truly remarkable that buildings that were occupied by five of the signatories to our Proclamation before their execution by firing squad are considered fair game. Elected members of the city council should not engage in this charade. It is deeply insulting to the memory of the men and women of 1916. It runs contrary to the recommendations of its own Moore Street Advisory Committee that has called for an independent battlefield survey of this historic area and the preservation of all 1916 buildings. That survey must now be implemented in the public interest, given the belated recognition of the historical importance of number 10 Moore Street – a building set to be demolished and lost forever under what in effect is now an outdated and redundant Chartered Land planning application. – Yours, etc,



Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – The negative reaction to the Central Bank’s mortgage proposals reminds me of the observation, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”.

House buyers will almost invariably bid the maximum amount they can get their hands on – a reduction in credit will therefore reduce the maximum price that will be bid by the typical buyer and therefore reduce prices generally as prices are always set at the margin.

While there is much to be said for assisting young people, this must be done via supply of houses for rent and purchase and by disincentivising landlords from crowding out first-time buyers from the market. More fuel on the fire is not needed, and the Central Bank is to be commended for looking out for the greater good. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – There has been much discussion in your sports pages about head injury and concussion in rugby (“Concussion on the political agenda”, October 3rd). When I played rugby (in the last century), the purpose of the tackle was to halt, not to hurt, the opponent. The introduction of the term and practice of the “hit” implies an intention to hurt or injure.

Rugby is becoming a dreary contest of beefed-up behemoths in crude collisions, with frequent consequential injuries.

American-style helmets serve only to increase the impact on the brain.

Rugby needs somehow to revert to a running, passing game where the speed of the man or ball wins, not physical force. Suggestions? Learn from Rugby Sevens? More running forwards like Sean Cronin? Less forceful tackles? – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Prof John A Murphy is right to state that the parallel drawn by John Bruton between Scotland today and Ireland a century ago is “unhistorical” (September 22nd).

It is, however, much less “unhistorical” to observe that Irish Party leaders such as Redmond and John Dillon were interested in dominion status and that they had first-hand knowledge of political developments in the self-governing parts of the then British Empire; it is also worth noting that one senior colonial politician, Edward Blake, the former Canadian Liberal Party leader and premier of Ontario, was an Irish Party MP from 1892 to 1907. The suggestion that Home Rule as offered in 1914 might have been a stage to greater autonomy, even eventually to dominion status, is hardly implausible or ridiculous. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Recently, while changing some euro, it struck me how boring our paper currency has become. Other countries, outside the euro belt, have portraits of their national figures – artists, philosophers and the like.

Europe has almost limitless possibilities but has failed to use this resource.

There are figures who, in the past, succeeded in uniting Europe; Julius Caesar springs to mind, although admittedly more recent personalities may be contentious.

Of course, where the world of art is concerned we are spoilt for choice – Johannes Goethe, Émil Zola, Cervantes, our own James Joyce and WB Yeats. And then music – ah music – glorious Mozart, Bach, Bono, Édith Piaf, Richard Tauber – the list is almost too much.

I haven’t even touched on the world of painting and sculpture.

Why has this opportunity been ignored? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – During the extended 1998-2007 drought in Victoria, water companies convinced customers to be more economical in their use of this precious resource. They then changed their billing practices, raising standing charges and downgrading usage charges.

Water may not be flowing with the same abundance as before but the water companies’ revenue streams are nonetheless in full flood. – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” (Edgar Allan Poe)

In the future, generations who live on this island will look to October 11, 2014 as one of the most special days in modern history. It will be revered as much as the Easter Rising, for on this day something truly ground-breaking occurred. Although we are all probably too close to the day to truly appreciate what happened, the fact is that for the first time in our history as an independent nation, we actually saw through that which has prevented us from truly joining the nations of the earth.

Just as the overpowering light of a full moon dims the far-off stars in the night sky, the traditional parties of Ireland have, since the foundation of the State, obscured in many ways our true past. Their self-professed loud howlings of knowing what is good for our nation have seen wave after wave of emigration of those who have been frozen out to the far reaches of the globe.

Their economic projections and claims that we live in a global economy were severely tested and the bluff was called.

Thousands and thousands marched on Dublin.

Two Independent candidates made a mockery of not only the pollsters but the bookies, who have to a certain degree maintained the myth that the only alternative for our nation’s future could come from two or three groupings of traditional parties that have, in the cold light of day, bowed to the whims of foreigners.

The Dail – a place that has seen a woman groped in full view of the world, that has produced eejits that think of sending crank calls to their fellow parliamentarians about pizza at taxpayers’ expense – is under great change.

When Michael Noonan presents the economic claptrap called the Budget he will be doing so from a position where those he represents are already yesterday’s news. The collapse in the vote of both Labour and Fine Gael is not something that will recover and nor should it, in my opinion. Nor should the few polished performers from other parties be seen as the deliverers of Ireland’s future.

All great crises bring great change. At the end of the crisis true people of character come to the fore.

Congratulations to those who won seats and congratulations to those who marched.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

Precious thing called love

I read recently that the late lamented Diarmaid O Muirithe, in one of his great contributions to our understanding of words, expressed his fear that the lovely word “precious” would ultimately disappear entirely except for its sacred use, as in “the most precious blood of the Saviour”.

Well, I can assure you Diarmaid, that it will never disappear in our house, as for many years I have been calling my lovely wife “precious”.

A wonderful word, “precious”, for a wonderful wife.

Brian Mc Devitt

Glenties, Co Donegal

Riddle of Childers’ execution

Your synopsis of the ‘Riddle of the Sands’ described the book’s author, Erskine Childers Snr, as “a political revolutionary . . . executed by the British in 1922”.

Was this Childers not executed by the Cumann na nGaedheal government (who were Irish) under anti-concealed weapon legislation, having been found carrying a small, ornamental pistol gifted to him by none other than Michael Collins?

Killian Foley-Walsh


The root of Keano’s pain

Even the most useless psychologist would cut to the nub of Roy Keane’s psychosis in a minute. It’s called “rejection”. Rejection by the man who moulded and made Roy.

Those runs, those rows with opposition hit men. That relentless drive and bossing in the dressing room for Alex came to nought when the legs went.

The sacrifice against Juventus in 1999; the subjugation of the Gunners and all the other noisy neighbours; the scattered feathers of the Liver Bird mattered not a whit to Alex when Roy became surplus to requirements.

Like a prodigal son spurned , Keane rails at the sky. Roy left but Alex continued winning. That’s the real pain for Roy. Look forward to the third book ‘Extra Time’ . . . and more Fergie time.

John Cuffe

Dunboyne, Meath

Imminent threat of Ebola

Ebola is getting out of hand. It is spreading and has already reached Europe.

When the news broke a few days ago that Spanish nurse Teresa Romero had contracted the deadly virus, the reaction in Spain was one of shock and horror: not only at the possible fate of the poor nurse but also at the realisation of the economic consequences on a country that largely relies on tourism to make a living.

Since then, 14 other people in Spain have been admitted for screening.

Make no mistake, Ebola is on its way here. Ireland has become interconnected in a world that has grown smaller and smaller in an unprecedented way.

Screening at airports and ports and securing the border may bring some assurance, but many people passing through such controls would present as asymptomatic. Besides, this strategy still needs to be considered. The Government, via the HSE, needs to roll out an information campaign to inform the population.

Killian Brennan

Malahide, Dublin 17

Reviewing corporate tax

It is good the Government has accepted that the rules on corporate tax have to be reviewed globally and that it will play its full part in that review. It is also good that it has been made clear that this does not extend to taxation rates themselves.

This last week, Minister of State Simon Harris made it abundantly clear that Ireland does not seek to attract brass plate companies.

Might it not be an idea to take the lead on this point and implement such national measures as we can to prevent these types of companies from registering here.

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin

Appointing deputy judges

Like anyone who represents a party, or parties, before our courts, I read with concern the comments the President of the High Court made about the shortage of judges.

Perhaps one way to address this matter would be to amend our Constitution to permit the appointment of part-time or deputy judges.

One perceived difficulty with the present system is that once a judge is appointed, if s/he demonstrates a lack of judicial ability, it is very hard to do very much about it, save the ultimate sanction of impeachment.

Appointing a deputy would have the benefit of addressing any shortage in judges, as well as allowing the Judicial Appointments Board to take into account the aptitude and experience of a deputy judge when considering them for full-time appointment in the future.

It might also make the proposed amendment on the issue of blasphemy more relevant to the voters, if another constitutional amendment was proposed along with it.

Johnnie McCoy BL

Law Library, Four Courts, Dublin 7

Irish Independent


October 12, 2014

12 October 2014 Sandy

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Sandy comes to visit, fixes dead laptop.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Shirley Baker – obituary

Shirley Baker was a photographer who chronicled a fast-vanishing world with gentle humour and pathos

Three girls skipping in the middle of a Manchester street photographed by Shirley Baker, 1962

Three girls skipping in the middle of a Manchester street, photographed by Shirley Baker, 1962 Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library

6:00PM BST 11 Oct 2014


Shirley Baker, who has died aged 82, was a photographer who recorded and celebrated life in the streets of working-class Manchester, as the terraces occupied by thousands of families were being demolished in favour of a “brighter future”.

Slum clearances in Britain had started in the 1930s, but were interrupted by the Second World War. They resumed in earnest in the 1950s, and in the two decades after 1955 around 1.3 million homes were demolished nationally, to be replaced by tower blocks which many believe have never been able to re-create a lost sense of community.

Sheila Baker’s best-known work was done during those years, in and around the streets of Salford, and from the very first she was keenly aware that she was preserving images of a vanishing world. People’s lives, she felt, were being destroyed; yet she was touched by the fact that, even as the terraces were being demolished, they remained as house-proud as ever, even scrubbing their front doorsteps as the dust descended around them. She was also moved by the resilience and good humour of the children, who smiled through the incipient chaos and fashioned toys from whatever scraps came to hand.

Thus she set about recording the trivia of everyday life: elderly women sitting on the doorsteps in a row of condemned houses; children playing amid the rubble and the rusting old cars. Her images are poignant, yet at the same time infused with a gentle humour.

“I love the immediacy of unposed, spontaneous photographs,” she once said, “and the ability of the camera to capture the serious, the funny, the sublime and the ridiculous. Despite the many wonderful pictures of the great and famous, I feel that less formal, quotidian images can often convey more of the life and spirit of the time.”

Two young girls outside a cornershop in Hulme, Manchester, photographed by Shirley Baker, 1965 (Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library)

Her photographs have appeared on book covers and music albums, and been exhibited in galleries and museums in Britain and abroad, including the Tate and the Louvre.

One of identical twins, Shirley Baker was born on July 9 1932 in Salford, where her father and his brothers ran a carpentry business. After attending Penrhos Girls’ School in Wales , she studied photography at Manchester College of Technology, going on to Regent Street Polytechnic and the London College of Printing. She later taught photography at Salford College of Art.

In 1957 she married Tony Levy, a GP with a practice in the North West, and from the 1960s she and her husband also had a house in the South of France, where she took the opportunity to record life on the beaches around St Tropez.

In the 1980s she was commissioned to produce a series of images at Manchester Airport, a project to which she brought her particular brand of wry humour; rather than taking the obvious course of photographing aircraft, she concentrated on the wearisome nature of travel, portraying the way in which people occupy space as they while away the dead hours, falling asleep on benches, or propped up against the terminal’s walls.

As a rule, though, Shirley Baker rarely worked to commission, preferring to record life as it occurred around her. She took a particular interest in the behaviour of couples, and how they went about creating an “amorous” space in the public arena. In the 1980s — when her husband’s work took them to London for a time — she produced a series of pictures of punks in and around Camden Lock and Camden Market. Another of her subjects was people and their pets.

Shirley Baker published two books: Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford (1989), and Streets and Spaces: Urban Photography — Salford and Manchester — 1960s-2000, which appeared in 1999 and showed how the same streets had been transformed in the intervening four decades.

On April 17 next year an exhibition entitled “Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men” opens at the Photographers Gallery in London .

An essentially modest and private personality, Shirley Baker expressed surprise when people admired her work. Outside photography, throughout her life she took a keen interest in sport. After an injury on the pitch forced her to abandon hockey when she was in her forties, she took up squash and was soon representing Cheshire’s first team. She was also a nifty table-tennis player, and enjoyed sailing.

She is survived by her husband and their daughter, Nan, and by her twin sister, Barbara, an artist.

Shirley Baker, born July 9 1932, died September 21 2014


Pressure point: Successive governments have increased the demands made of medical workers. Pressure point: Successive governments have increased the demands made of medical workers. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

I’m almost made ill by the spectacle of fly-by-night career politicians pontificating about the “impossible” public-service professions (as Freud tellingly called them), when in reality the narrow politicised calculations fuelling their pronouncements do a kind of violence to the complex and highly demanding services that dedicated health and education professionals provide for us all (“Health minister tells GPs: stop moaning about the job”, News, last week).

Such politicians commonly have neither the slightest idea about the emotionally challenging nature of these professions, nor any insight into how their political meddling and hyperactive “initiatives” make these jobs all the more “impossible”.

No wonder there are mounting GP and teacher recruitment and retention crises in this Gabraithian age of government-induced “public squalor” – and that the Royal College of GPs and the teaching unions are “moaning”; for recent Tory fag-packet policy pronouncements only reinforce what a catastrophe it would be for professionals’ working conditions if the Conservatives were to win next May.

Dr Richard Housel

Stroud, Glos

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has decided that NHS staff are not worth the 1% universal pay rise that was proposed, despite this being the recommendation of the independent NHS pay review body (“Most Tory MPs back NHS pay rise, says poll”, News last week). One assumes that this decision would have been made with David Cameron’s approval, despite his waxing so lyrical on the NHS at his party conference.

The recommendations of all other public sector pay review bodies have been accepted, except for health workers. Indeed, the justification for the MPs’ 10% salary hike is that it is the recommendation of an independent regulator and irreversible, despite public objection from the prime minister, his deputy and the chancellor.

I fail to understand the logic that a single minister can overrule one independent recommendation whereas the three most senior members of the government have no sway over another.

If the NHS is to be a major issue during the forthcoming election debates, then I fear the Tories may come to regret Mr Hunt’s decision. I suspect that the public’s sympathy will rest more with health workers than avaricious MPs. One potential compromise would be to offer the 1% to all NHS workers earning less than an MP’s salary.

Dr John Trounce

Hove, East Sussex

Earl Howe thinks GPs are “moaning” too much, putting young doctors off a career in general practice

We are in this sorry state of affairs due to constant reorganisation of the NHS, thanks to Conservative, Labour and now the coalition governments.

It is not only affecting the morale of GPs but also that of hospital doctors. The increased bureaucracy with diminishing resources is affecting the care that we provide for our patients. Recent election manifesto pledges such as 48-hour access and seven- day/8am to 8pm access will only make this worse. That, to me, is a very good reason to be moaning.

Dr Richard Ma

London N7

The anachronistic Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 mentality being so doggedly defended by members of Britain’s medical profession has no place in a modern seven-day, 24-hour society. Everybody else has embraced the idea, including other public servants. Now the promises must become reality.

Jane Stevens



As Paul Vallely says, Ebola has brutally exposed the inequity inherent in global health systems (“Different rules apply in Africa”, 5 October). In addition to lost lives, Ebola is dealing a severe economic blow to West Africa, with closed borders and abandoned farms driving up the cost of food. The necessity of emergency spending on health services is drawing money from already cash-strapped government budgets.

The epidemic is reversing years of economic gains. A disease that was identified five months ago and has spiralled out of control, threatening the lives of over a million people, shames the world. This is particularly true when comparing the millions spent on tackling the few cases in the West with what is being allocated to the thousands dying in West Africa. The international response is accelerating, yet ultimately, if the motor of Ebola – poverty – is to be overcome, the world must do more than donate aid.

Mike Noyes

Head of humanitarian response, ActionAid UK

It is “make-or-break time for Nick Clegg” (Jane Merrick, 5 October): well no, it’s break time. Some columnists are disinterring their “I agree with Nick” feelings, seeking comfort in collective amnesia for the past four years. It helps assuage the guilt of having been gulled by the Orange-bookers who enabled Cameron to wreak his havoc throughout the NHS. It is wishful thinking to imagine that Nick, or his party, have any chance of rehabilitation in 2015, and way too late for the Lib Dems to don another mask from their impressive collection.

Eddie Dougall

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Last week’s front page referred to the ghastly killing of Alan Henning as a propaganda stunt by IS. No one but a psychopath is likely to wish to embrace a belief system based on crude brutality. If IS’s reason for carrying out such barbarous acts is to frighten other nations and other Muslims that do not share their warped view of Islam, it has not learnt the lessons of history. Tyranny is the author of its own downfall.

Patrick Cleary

Honiton, Devon

It is often forgotten that, in prosecuting the Marquess of Queensberry for libel, Oscar Wilde was trying to get an innocent man sent to prison (Arts & Books. 5 October).

As I point out in my book, Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer, the law took a stern view of those that accused others of homosexual behaviour without proof.

As Wilde wrote himself, much of his testimony consisted of “absurd and silly perjuries”. If Queensberry had not had various youths with whom Wilde had had sex waiting in the wings, the trial would almost certainly have ended with Queensberry being imprisoned for criminal libel.

Antony Edmonds

Waterlooville, Hampshire

I was pleased to read Ben Chu (Comment, 5 October) say Jobseekers’ Allowance counts for less than 5 per cent of benefits paid to those of working age. For people on JSA, which included myself prior to May, are regularly targeted by a government which wants to portray those unemployed as skivers.

In many parts of the country, the work just doesn’t exist for people to go to. We can meet all the requirements, and attend scheme after scheme of cheap labour. But if there aren’t the jobs, individuals will remain claiming a dole that pays £72 a week, and whose value has fallen over the past two years thanks to a reduction in council tax support. A two-year benefit freeze to subsidise tax cuts for above-average earners shows again the oxymoron that is compassionate Conservatism.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Simmy Richman tells us about the greatest haiku ever written (5 October). I wonder how this one would rate; it appeared in the school magazine of King Edward VII School, Sheffield in the late 1960s written, as I recall, by John C Smith:

Many people think/that composing haikus is/such a waste of time.

Dr S Michael Crawford

Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire


Plaudits for creating a positive image of Muslims

I COMMEND The Sunday Times for last week’s excellent editorial “There is some hope despite this act of evil” and the “#IamMuslim” feature in the Magazine. You started the bold initiative several weeks ago by publishing a front-page report about a fatwa — a religious decree — issued by senior Muslim clerics in Britain against Isis, or Islamic State.

You have shown leadership in helping to break down Islamophobia and ignorance — including that of a tiny number of young, disenchanted British Muslims. There is a fascinating diversity in the Islamic world. Sadly, it took the brutality of Isis and the murder of Alan Henning for many to start the journey of discovery.
Riaz Nanji, London N6

dispelling ignorance

More of these testimonials, please — we live in ignorance, with irrational fears that breed intolerance. I greatly admire these young people. We need to engage at every opportunity and every level.
Gillian Moore, Chicago, USA

greater understanding

I am a middle-aged Jewish atheist who loves being Jewish and I loved every word of your article. Thank you for helping me understand more about this important religion.
Stevens A Scheermann, London NW3

on the offensive

As an ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust, I am horrified by the beheading of Henning and others, but I am equally dismayed by much of the response on social media. Police have removed 28,000 pieces of terrorist-related material from the internet this year.

Perhaps the same could be done with regard to anti-Muslim content.
Rebecca Wilkinson, Student, University College London

empty words

It is futile for David Cameron to vow to bring to justice those who have beheaded British citizens; without the use of ground troops in territories controlled by Isis, this would be impossible.

Moreover, the identity of the man who wields the knife is irrelevant: he is selected by his commander and cannot refuse, even if he is against the task.
Silas Krendel, London NW3

human angle

Congratulations on this humane and truthful feature.
Jack MacInnes, London W6

everything to play for

I’m heartened by such positive coverage. It’s a game-changer.
Rebecca Myers, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

wonderfully normal

What fabulous young people you interviewed. They are great people living their lives like the rest of us. Keep it up.
Liz Mount, Milton Keynes

Turbulence over Heathrow flight paths

I WAS shocked by the article “Suburbia in revolt at new flight paths” (News, last week), revealing that Heathrow prematurely stopped a trial of a new approach that went over Ascot in Berkshire. It led me to understand that because Amanda Smerczak, the partner of Adrian Newey, the chief technical officer of the Red Bull Formula One racing team, organised a petition, she forced an early end to the trial.

Does it mean that the quality of life of those who live under the current flight paths is less valuable than that of the people of Ascot?
Sylvie Vaughan, London SW6

frequent high-flyer

How delightful to read about a campaign against Heathrow flight paths led by the partner of an F1 executive. It would be interesting to know how many flights he takes to keep up with the sport’s travelling circus.

Presumably it is convenient to live near the airport, but to ensure that the noise is over someone else’s head.
Steve Mann, Ringwood, Hampshire

for whom the decibel tolls

It appears we must now add the “Nomas” (not over my airspace) to a growing band of Nimbys. Surely flight paths should be spread over a wider area to lessen the frequency of any slight increase in decibels in any particular community. For those who feel they would have to move, I’m sure there would be queues of people waiting to purchase their properties at knockdown prices because of the terrible noise problems.
Chris Brockman (BA captain, retired), Crowthorne, Berkshire

sounding off

How awful — new flight paths are interrupting garden conversations. I can’t image how people cope. Hang on, maybe I can. I live in what the press likes to call “a sleepy Suffolk village” and for 35 years was obliged to tolerate noisy US jet fighters taking off every few minutes from nearby airbases. Life is a compromise. The basic problem is one of attitude.
Roderick Macmillan, Ipswich

cleared for take-off

The office of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, was notified regarding the flight trials at Heathrow. A representative from Transport for London, the organisation Johnson charged with promoting the concept of a new hub airport to the east of the capital, attended the Heathrow noise forum. It was in this forum that information about the trials and the approach taken to communicating with the public was agreed.

Heathrow is committed to providing predictable periods of noise respite for residents — an issue that we know from feedback is a priority for local communities.
Matt Gorman, Director of Sustainability, Heathrow

Making a singular case for the beaver

AS A Canadian, I wince every time I hear talk about beavers (“Before we let beavers in, who’s going to control the dam things?”, Charles Clover, September 28). There is no such word. Beaver is like fish and sheep — one beaver, 10 beaver, no plural form. You don’t speak of a beavers’ dam; it is a beaver dam. The magazine Canada’s History used to be called The Beaver (singular) when it was published by the Hudson’s Bay Company and before the word had a rude connotation. And, yes, to introduce beaver into the wild in Britain is beyond nuts. Soon they will be planting poison ivy in public parks.Judith Steiner, London N6

honeybees endangered by mites

Clover is right that hornets eat bees, and there is a huge concern that the Asian hornet (now in France) will cross the Channel, as its appetite for honeybees is voracious (“An unexpected birdcall from the black redstart: more building, please”, Comment, last week). But the main reason for the decline in the size of swarms is the varroa parasitic mite. The swarms will not last another winter; there are no wild colonies — including swarms — that are known to survive into a third year in England.
Vince Johns (Beekeeper in the Forest of Dean) Soudley, Gloucestershire

Beating a retreat from Falklands question

THE humiliation suffered by Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear production crew in Tierra del Fuego highlights the malaise between Britain and Argentina (“Make no mistake, lives were at risk”, Focus, last week). In December 2015 it will be 50 years since the UN passed resolution 2065 on the question of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, calling for the two nations to discuss the disputed sovereignty. Until this happens, more incidents à la Clarkson can be expected.
Peter Hamilton, Ledbury, Herefordshire

gone with the wind

Who is interested anyway in the routine hot air that issues forth from the leader of a gang of laddish middle-aged egoists joyriding at BBC licence-payers’ expense?
Rachael Swift, Hassocks, West Sussex

friendly welcome at odds with Clarkson fiasco

WE spent six days in Ushuaia, Argentina, in February and March this year en route to and from Antarctica (“Make no mistake, lives were at risk”, Focus, last week).

We also spent four days in Buenos Aires. Throughout our visit we were impressed by the unfailing courtesy and friendliness of all whom we met. When obviously lost on the streets in Buenos Aires, complete strangers would approach and offer their help. At no time did we sense any resentment that we were from Britain.

The tone of Jeremy Clarkson’s article, in our view, was deeply irresponsible in portraying Ushuaia as a place where people from Britain are not made welcome.
Kevin and Linda Clarke, Kippen, Stirlingshire

conflict of interest

During the winter of 2000-1,

I spent 3½ months as a fishing guide in Patagonia, Argentina, near the towns of Trevelin and Esquel, as well as overnight stops in Buenos Aires. This was 14 years closer to the Falklands War. At no time was I accosted or even reminded of the conflict by anyone.

I found the Argentinians to be always welcoming. Is it just possible that Clarkson’s unique gifts of tact and diplomacy went unnoticed?
Franz Grimley, Falkirk

Capital captured the Scottish mood

MIKE STEVENSON’s article “Why Glasgow should be the people’s capital of Scotland” (Comment, last week) is as divisive and stereotypical as the campaign run by the “yes” camp during the referendum and is rooted in the same tub-thumping, misty-eyed, optimistic clichés that were trotted out at the time.

That this should be the outcome of a fierce political debate beggars belief, particularly given the fallacious nature of the premise used by Stevenson, namely that Glasgow is more representative of the mood of the nation. In the topsy-turvy world of the Thinktastic, the fact that most of the rest of Scotland voted with Edinburgh is a detail that can be conveniently ignored.

The name for Stevenson’s proposal is parochialism. The real debate is happening not only in Glasgow’s trendy West End but in Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and all points west.

Much of that debate centres on the SNP’s continued push for independence by any means in the face of the sovereign will of the Scottish people. Many are scandalised by this. We don’t want devo-max that will be badly administered by third-rate politicians. We do want honesty, transparency and accountability from our politicians and the strength and stability of the UK.
G A Simpson, Edinburgh

sliding scale

Stevenson doesn’t seem to have noticed that Edinburgh, in voting “no”, was a lot closer to the feeling in the country than Glasgow in voting “yes”. Alex Salmond regularly describes his slender, one-seat majority after the 2011 election as a “landslide victory for the SNP”. On that reckoning, the 28-4 regional vote for “no” can only be described as an avalanche.
Aline Templeton, Edinburgh

minority report

Stevenson offered more divisive nonsense. Glasgow was one of the tiny minority of areas which favoured “yes” in the referendum; Edinburgh, like the vast majority of Scotland, did not. In a recent survey of “happiness” in Scotland, Glasgow was one of the least happy.

Edinburgh is therefore more in touch with Scotland as a whole and Glasgow has issues which may or may not be addressed by the vast amounts of taxpayers’ money which is to be hurled at it. We have a referendum answer, we have a capital city, let’s grow up and get on with our lives without any more half-baked nonsense.
Hamish Hossick, Dundee

taxing issues

Michael McMenemy and Mrs A McMenemy-Rudge asked if the 45% who said “yes” are unaware of the additional benefits we receive while the remainder of the UK does not (“Union dues”, Letters, last week).

Perhaps the McMenemys should take a trip to London, for example, and see where most of Scotland’s taxes are spent.James Noel, Aberdeen

no rich pickings

Now that the Scottish people have shown that they do not wish to become McTribal again, perhaps it is time to invite those who voted for a single socialist-party state north of the border to visit towns such as Maidstone, Tonbridge, Slough and Crawley to see just how the so-called “rich” London commuters live in their under-invested towns with old schools, roads and often hospitals (“Gallant losers and Game of Thrones point to a stronger Britain”, News Review, September 28).

But the Scottish people have a point in that London is past its sell-by date and, in particular, parliament and its civil service are indeed a long way from Scotland — not as far away as Brussels, however.
Colin Gatenby, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire

powerful priorities

How do you get it into the heads of the English that the majority of people in Wales don’t want devolution and have never wanted it?

Now the health service is on its knees and the Welsh education system has slipped further down the international league tables, politicians are proposing to give the Welsh National Assembly even more powers. How about another referendum asking whether people want money spent on a better health service or on a gravy train for the political class?
Graham Jones, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan


sense of belonging

The answer to the question “To which continent does the UK belong?” is simple (“This charter for criminals deserves the death penalty”, Comment, last week).
It is Europe. And there is nothing Ukip or the Tories can do about that. Nor can any result of a referendum. Face the facts, separatists.
Nick Papadimitriou, London NW2

peer pressure

Lords Noon and Levy clearly believe that what the Labour party is short of is money and big-business friends (“Labour barons hammer ‘death wish’ Miliband”, News, last week). Wrong. What the party lacks is members and (as Lord Prescott remarks) more robust policies to attract them. Their lordships represent everything that made me abandon a lifelong Labour allegiance 11 years ago.
The Reverend Colin Smith, St Helens, Merseyside

trust account

It was interesting to see how David Cameron and Miliband scored against each other in your poll, and that the public doesn’t trust either of them on any subject (“General Paddy plots counterattack as Ukip prepares to grab beachhead”, News, last week). That’s the most important fact in British politics today.
Peter Richards, Poole

it’s a gas

Regarding greenhouse gases, what about the flatus from more than 7bn humans (“Whiff of success in fight to cut cow methane”, News, last week)?
Marion Judd, Didcot, Oxfordshire

taxing answer

What gives Crista Lyon the idea that pensioners are exempt from paying into the NHS (“Paying their way”, Letters, last week)? If she’s lived in Britain since the 1970s she should know pensioners are taxed on income just the same as anyone else. Maybe she believes that national insurance contributions support the NHS.
Sue Bright, Twickenham, London

contributory factors

As a British pensioner with years of experience of working in Germany, and a German wife, may I point out that many British pensioners would undoubtedly be pleased to pay NHS contributions if the UK state pension were to be raised to German levels.
David Sansom, Wells, Somerset

home truths

Geoff Kite’s claim (“London homes fair game for mansion tax”, Letters, last week) that a Labour peer’s £43m profit justifies “a tough mansion tax” does, in fact, quite the opposite. By taking the profit on his principal residence, he actually pays no tax at all, leaving the rest of us still in our “mansions” (as my semi is now called, apparently) to pick up the bill.
Ian Jefferson, London W6

no place for grammar schools in a democracy

EVEN if there was evidence that grammar schools conferred an advantage on those who attended them — at most 30% of the population — such a system, which left the remaining 70% in the old, unsuccessful, secondary modern schools, is not acceptable in a democracy (“Hands up for the return of grammar schools”, Letters, last week).
Robert Batchelor (retired headmaster, Hatch End High School, Harrow), Northwood, London

graduate nurses with healthy pay packets

Your excellent article “Geeks inherit the best graduate pay” (News, last week) highlights the need to choose both the right university and the right course, but it also raises a further question. What is so special about the nurses from Portsmouth University that they are earning more than £37,000 six months after graduating when the entry point for graduate nurses is £21,388, with salaries in London attracting a high-cost area supplement?
Alistair Nicoll, Sheffield

blame game

Paddy Ashdown was spot on with his comments on the SNP (“General Paddy plots counterattack”, News, last week). They are indeed Scotland’s Ukip and despite the rhetoric very much in line with the blame others, grievance ridden, one issue parties of protest now flourishing across Europe. Change the target of their grievances and they are all identical in attempting to cash in on general discontent with an all-things-to-all-men, grossly oversimplified approach to complex problems, and pie in the sky solutions.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

french rejection

Rod Liddle is completely out of order with his comments about the French (“Sorry, mon vieux. France really is skint, sapped and squalid”, Comment, last week). Gare du Nord is not the best station in the world, but the French have some of the best trains, and safest signalling systems. The French health service is also one of the finest. I am not French, I am Scottish. Being a Scot is why, when I am in France, I get a wonderful welcome. Andy Street of John Lewis, even though he has apologised, and Liddle should be stopped at the French border and refused entry.
Ann Jack, Cambridge

Corrections and clarifications

The article “Israel plans ‘iron spade’ to foil Hamas tunnellers” (World News, August 17) incorrectly stated that destruction of the tunnels under Gaza was the “pretext” for Israel’s land invasion. It should have been “reason”.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our website for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Martin Corry, rugby player, 41; Les Dennis, comedian, 61; Hugh Jackman, actor, 46; Ledley King, footballer, 34; Aggie MacKenzie, TV presenter, 59; Martie Maguire, musician, 45; Michael Mansfield QC, 73; Rick Parfitt, guitarist, 66; Angela Rippon, TV presenter, 70; David Threlfall, actor, 61; David Vanian, singer, 58


1492 Christopher Columbus makes first sighting of the New World; 1859 engineer Robert Stephenson dies; 1872 composer Ralph Vaughan Williams born; 1915 British nurse Edith Cavell shot as a spy by the Germans; 1984 IRA bombs Grand hotel, Brighton, where Conservatives are staying for their party conference, killing five


Andrew Whalley of REG Windpower says that 70 per cent of the British public support onshore wind Photo: Alamy

6:56AM BST 11 Oct 2014


SIR – Andrew Whalley of REG Windpower (Letters, October 9) claims that 70 per cent of the British public support onshore wind.

This is not really surprising, as at least 70 per cent of the British public live in places where these unsightly and inefficient edifices are unlikely to be erected. The main function of turbines seems to be that of making a fortune for the companies (most of which are not British) that promote and develop them.

E Peter Mosley

SIR – Should Mr Whalley look with disinterested eyes at the evidence on his product, he would realise that the reason for our poor energy security is that 25 per cent of our energy capacity is invested in wind power.

Wind turbines are spectacularly unreliable and have nothing to justify their use – except for the massive subsidies that are paid to him and his colleagues by the taxpayer and end user.

Pamela Wheeler
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

SIR – If, as Mr Whalley suggests, onshore wind power is considerably less expensive than other forms of generation, then the Government should withdraw the subsidy to companies like his, which the consumer pays through higher electricity bills.

Spencer Atwell
Felbridge, Surrey

£4,966.01 makes for 900 pair of Next’s best ankle socks

6:57AM BST 11 Oct 2014


SIR – My wife received her monthly statement from Next this week. I am pleased to say that her expenditure has been modest: one pack of ankle socks and two pairs of children’s trousers were purchased for £22.50. When added to items bought earlier, the balance came to £33.99.

What I find extraordinary is that, according to the statement, her available credit limit now stands at £4,966.01.

The bad news is that this is one of the reasons why our country is in the midst of an enormous consumer debt crisis.

The good news is that we are able to acquire 584 pairs of trousers or 900 pairs of ankle socks, should we wish to.

Simon Stokoe
Slinfold, West Sussex

Age appropriate

SIR – Why shouldn’t employers specify an age-range in job advertisements? Surely it’s better than wasting the time of people who don’t meet their criteria.

I was once due to travel for a job interview at an Asian embassy when the agency called to ask my height. It transpired that I would have dwarfed my boss and his colleagues, so the interview was cancelled. That could now be considered discrimination, but I am glad that my time wasn’t wasted.

Celia Middleton
Warminster, Wiltshire

Campaign medals

SIR – Action in the Netherlands would have been covered by the 1939-1945 Star (Letters, October 7), as were both Crete and Greece, where my father saw action.

Captain John Maioha Stewart (retd)
Breisach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Valuable deposits

SIR – When I was a child, horse manure was highly prized in our garden (Letters, October 10). Milk was delivered from a cart pulled by a horse named Jill. Should she deposit an offering within range of our terrace house, my grandmother and our next-door neighbour would emerge, armed with their shovels, and race to scoop up the prize. My grandmother invariably won and her roses benefited.

E M Blyth
Laxey, Isle of Man

SIR – All horses in Bruges wear nappies.

Peter de Snoo
Truro, Cornwall

Few moderate Palestinian factions wish to abandon their long-term goal in the fight against Israel

.A Palestinian child from the Msabeh family sits in a room of her family home which was destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel's army and militants from Hamas

A Palestinian girl this week amid the ruins of her home, destroyed during the 50-day conflict

6:59AM BST 11 Oct 2014


SIR – The fundamental flaw in the case for Britain’s recognition of Palestinian statehood is that the probable consequence would be the opposite of Peter Oborne’s aspiration to assist those Palestinians who argue for “peaceful negotiation rather than resort to arms” (Comment, October 9).

The harsh reality is there are very few proponents among moderate Palestinian factions willing to countenance the essential requirement for a lasting two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – namely the abandonment of the Palestinians’ long-standing goal to eradicate the state of Israel.

History is replete with examples of Palestinian intransigence: in 1947 when the UN proposed a two-state partition; in 1967 following the Six-Day War when the defeated Arab leaders issued their Three Noes of Khartoum; in 1993 following the Oslo peace accords; and in 2001 when the Palestinians rejected the offer of a sovereign state.

Recognition of Palestinian statehood, far from assisting the search for lasting peace, provides succour to the hard-line Palestinian leadership that has consistently sought statehood in order to isolate Israel and circumvent bilateral peace negotiations that inevitably require both parties to make monumental concessions.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

Fighters of the Islamic State wave the group’s flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 11 Oct 2014


SIR – I was appalled to hear the diplomat Jonathan Powell remark that we might – somehow – negotiate with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. He draws historical parallels with “terrorists” reformed in the past, such as Makarios, Kenyatta, and Sinn Fein.

But surely there can be no equivalence here. Isil has proved itself to be a vilely murderous entity, with unacceptable aims. For any historical resemblance in the Middle East, one would have to reach back to medieval Tamburlaine, and his boasted “Mountain of Skulls”.

I wonder what kind of advice Mr Powell would have given as chief of staff to Tony Blair during his little sortie in the Middle East.

Sir Alistair Horne
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

SIR – In saying that we should “keep out” of affairs in the Middle East, Ian Harris (Letters, October 9) fails to consider two important points.

First, there are a considerable number of fundamentalists whose ambitions stretch well beyond North Africa. Allowing Isil to destroy its immediate rivals before turning its attention to Europe does not strike me as a reasonable strategy.

Secondly, I suspect that there are a considerable number of people in North Africa who already blame the West for not intervening against Isil. I’m afraid that we might well end up being hated by all sides in this conflict.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

Rooney’s score card

SIR – Why all the nonsense about Wayne Rooney’s catching up with Jimmy Greaves in the England goal tally?

The total is immaterial. On average Greaves scored every 117 minutes, whereas Rooney has only achieved an average of a goal every 171 minutes, and that with the help of a couple of penalties.

Paul Fulton
Dereham, Norfolk

Riding westward

SIR – You report (October 3) that drivers have difficulty at this time of year with low-level sunshine coinciding with the rush hour, particularly on the M4.

My father was born in 1903, long before motorways were commonplace, and his advice was: “Never live west of your work.”

Meriel Thurstan
Taunton, Somerset

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – The fifth season of Love/Hate hit our screens on Sunday night with horrible violence. During the week Garda figures revealed knife murders have more than doubled so far this year.

Bad temper is one of the main causes of violence and it is in the home this should be nipped at the bud through child discipline, advice and example.

The gist of a story goes:  In a certain home there was a little boy who continually lost his temper, becoming quite nasty.  His father gave him a bag of nails and a hammer, warning him every time in future he lost his temper he must hammer a nail into the back door of the garage.

On the first day the boy had driven 32 nails into the door.  Over the next few weeks as he learned to take control of his temper, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.  Eventually, he discovered it was easier to hold his temper than driving nails into the door.

Finally, the day came when he didn’t lose his temper at all.  On telling his father of his success, the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed and the young fellow was finally able to tell his father all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the door of the garage.  He said: “You have done well, but look at all the marks on the door — it’ll never be the same again”.

When you say things in anger they leave scars just like these.  Stick a knife in a man and pull it out. It will not matter how many times you say “I’m sorry”, the wound is still there.  So, control your temper and never ‘do’ nor ‘say’ anything you will regret later.

James Gleeson,



Emer should have declined

Madam –  I read Emer O’Kelly’s piece (Sunday Independent 5 October) in which she is careful to point out she was never a PD supporter but that she was appointed to the Arts Council because Mary Harney was sick of her whinging about the arts.

And then Ms O’Kelly makes sure to mention she didn’t benefit financially directly while omitting to mention the very fact she was in attendance at all these arts events in her official Arts Council capacity has done her later career no harm at all.

It didn’t seem to have occurred to Ms O’Kelly to graciously decline the invitation from the Minister because she’d rather obtain it through an open and transparent application process.

It may surprise Ms O’Kelly that she’s not the only person to have been approached by various politicians over the years with the gift of appointment to one or other quango, but some of us have declined. She should try it if only for the look of incomprehension when you explain you don’t think it’s right to accept an appointment you didn’t apply for.

So if Ms O’Kelly thinks her little story about how she did us all a favour is meant to make us feel sorry for her she should think again.

The result of the story for me is that I think less of Ms O’Kelly for her lack of ethical standards in accepting the appointment.

Desmond FitzGerald,

Canary Wharf, London

Emer O’Kelly replies: Desmond Fitzgerald has things upside-down. I was a lifelong attender at arts events (at my own expense,). That’s what gave me the expertise that Mary Harney wanted to harness. Nor did I , or do I, expect anyone to be sorry for me. It was a privilege to give public service in thanks for the pleasure and enlightenment the arts have given me.

And I certainly didn’t learn about theatre “on the job” as a drama critic for this newspaper.

I was appointed because of my knowledge of theatre…through life-long attendance and study. And that appointment long preceded my membership of the Arts Council.

Is Enda Kenny getting fair play?

Madam – I have been buying the Sunday Independent for 50 years, but last Sunday’s edition (October 5) really annoyed me.

I had some students survey of the amount of derogatory remarks applied to Enda Kenny, not to mention the Taoiseach. It came to 112 times. Is this fair?

Margaret Hough,

Borrisokane, Co Tipperary

Have media too much power?

Madam – The power of the media in opinion forming and influencing our political attitudes will be measured by the survival or non-survival of the present Taoiseach in political life between now and the next general election.

Just one sentence by a prominent commentator recently highlights that fact: if the Taoiseach “dared to subject himself to even a single one-on-one encounter, any interviewer worth his or her salt would have destroyed him live on air.”

The implication of that sentence is that all citizens have an equal right to vote for people to represent them at the highest level of government.

But according to media, if media themselves so decide, people who are elected can be instantly destroyed live on air.

A Leavy,

Sutton, Dublin 13


Cronyism is a part of what we are

Madam – There is a hidden depth in Jody Corcoran’s analysis on power, (Sunday Independent, 5 October). It seems that cronyism may indeed be ingrained in the human condition. He quotes an explanation that “the system” was flawed from the outset, from the foundation of the state. There is a possibility that it goes back further, even as far back as Adam and Eve.

It would not make sense, in the pursuit of an endeavour, to surround oneself with competent strangers or for a government minister to appoint a member of the opposition as a director to the board of a quango to avoid being labelled a stroker. It would be more empowering to choose from one’s trusted associates, friends and family, gifted with ability, skills, shared beliefs and goals. This alliance is the route to go to in order to hold power.

After all, our public representatives resemble their fallible electorate. They mean well, have good intentions, and are sincere. They also make mistakes, errors of judgement and occasionally come before the courts. Imagine what it would be like if they were perfect. No scandals. No blunders. Nobody to blame. Nobody to write or report about. No hypocrisy to fuel outrage and indignation. Utopia could be very boring !

Mankind is in the twenty first century and yet governed by the primal and the tribal,

Alan O’Dwyer,

Carlow, Co Carlow


Space needed for children’s hospital

Madam – Regarding Claire Mc Cormack’s article (5 October) on the location of the National Children’s Hospital I agree with Dr Roisin Healy that it would be better to locate beside Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown where there is a large site of 145 acres available, rather than on the 15 acres at St James Hospital.

The site at Blanchardstown is near the M50 with good access to the whole 32 counties. It would also be very convenient to Dublin Airport for emergencies where air ambulances would be used, as we have a large number of airstrips all over Ireland.

There has also been a debate on a new maternity hospital for Dublin as older buildings go out of date. If it was decided to build a new maternity hospital in Dublin it would seem sensible to co-locate it beside the National Children’s Hospital. There is adequate space.

Conal Shovlin,


Co Donegal


Bizzare advice from celibate men

Madam – Pope Frances has gathered 300 bishops in Rome to discuss family life. Does anyone find it a bit strange that this group of old men, all celibate (at least officially) never married, never had children, are to pontificate on family life.

It is even more bizarre that they all wear skirts in public.

Mike Mahon


Dublin 6


Greed will cramp our living space

Madam – Hubert Fitzpatrick, of the construction federation in Ireland suggests that we need to make buildings taller and dwellings smaller to accommodate more people.

This reminds me of a great Genesis song Get ’em out by Friday. In this song the offices of ‘Genetic Control’ forcefully reduce human height so that developers can get “twice as many in the same building site”.

Perhaps we should put down our Orwell and our HG Wells and look to Peter Gabriel for our portents to a new dystopia?

Darren Williams,


Dublin 18


Better ways to spend social cash

Madam – It was interesting to read the article with regard to ‘Many long-term unemployed who are too depressed to seek work’ (Sunday Independent, 5 October).

Do people who behave in such a manner not feel guilty taking money they have not earned?

The country spent over €20bn on social welfare in 2013. This money could be well spent in the pockets of the ordinary PAYE workers.

Tommy Deenihan,

Blackrock, Cork


Joe’s spider article was appreciated

Madam – Based on Joe Kennedy’s article (Country Matters, Sunday Independent, 5 October), spiders are much more useful to mankind than the public thinks.

A natural pest controller, we see them working fastidiously on their webs and then waiting patiently for welcome visitors.

Some spiders swim, some fly and some even swing in order to trap live prey. Thankfully, The Irish spider varieties are relatively benign and we will celebrate their infamous reputation for spookiness as Halloween approaches. Thanks for the objective article, Joe.

Damien Boyd,


Sunday Independent


October 11, 2014

11 October 2014 Secom

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent. I ring Secom perhaps we may get a reduction.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down trout for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Paul Sidey – obituary

Paul Sidey was a publisher from a more convivial era whose authors included Ruth Rendell and Angela Carter

Paul Sidey

6:18PM BST 10 Oct 2014


Paul Sidey, who has died aged 71, was for 30 years a successful and popular editor with Hutchinson ; his authors included Ruth Rendell, Charles Handy, Angela Carter, John Lahr and Willie Donaldson, as well as actors such as Richard Attenborough, Anthony Sher and Anna Massey.

Sidey belonged to a convivial era of publishing, a world akin to that of advertising as portrayed in the television series Mad Men. The publishing houses were still independent; editors could spot and nurture individual talent; and sustained friendships were formed between commissioning editors, their authors and agents. From the long boozy lunches and evening launch parties, a great number of good books emerged. Sidey, a dapper, stylish man, was described by Willie Donaldson as looking like an old-time actor or even a retired soloist from the Ballet Rambert.

By the time he retired in 2011, however, publishing had changed. Sidey did not much like the conglomerates, which lacked the buccaneering quality and warmheartedness that had been a feature of his earlier career. He was commended by work colleagues for “reconnecting us to sanity after bouts of excessive bureaucratic pomposity or management-speak”.

Paul Anthony Sidey was born in Lincolnshire on July 21 1943, the son of Anthony Sidey, who served in the RAF and later worked for Barclays Bank before, on retiring, becoming a picture dealer. Paul’s sister, Jane, was for a time the third wife of the film composer John Barry.

After Dulwich College, Paul read English at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He then spent a year at the London Film School before launching Horoscope Films with a friend, as a writer, producer and director. He made one short film (with Al Mancini and Juliet Harmer), a story revolving around a Victorian hero defrosted from a block of ice who found himself fighting an old adversary, the Face, in 1960s London. It was not a success, and Sidey ended up living with his parents in Dulwich Village and trying to subsist on national assistance of four pounds one shilling a week.

In 1970 he secured a £1,200-a-year post as editorial programme controller at Penguin Books, in a laid-back office near Heathrow’s Runway No 1. There Sidey learnt two lessons that he would never forget: keep in with the production department, and never hurry back from lunch. Soon he was appointed an editor in Penguin’s editorial office in Bloomsbury, where, somewhat disconsolately, he started off working on books about geography, the environment, sociology and accountancy.

He was happier when he was asked to revive the Penguin Crime List in 1974, with Julian Symons as adviser. This gave him the chance to reissue Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh; bring back the neglected, like Ross Macdonald’s wife Margaret Millar, and the forgotten, like John Franklin Bardin; and to publish the new – PD James, Peter Lovesey, Jacqueline Wilson and Antonia Fraser (her first crime novel, Quiet as a Nun). Moving into general fiction, his greatest coup was to acquire Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in paperback.

Sidey’s first hardcover editorial job was John Lahr’s biography of Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears. Other authors who came his way included Graham Swift (whose first novel, The Sweetshop Owner, he edited) and John Mortimer, as well as François Truffaut and Charlton Heston.

In 1980 Sidey was made redundant, but three days later he joined Hutchinson, remaining there until he retired. He found himself with a mixed bag of authors, editing Evelyn Anthony, Clare Rayner, Margaret Yorke, Christopher Matthew and Peter Benchley. He published Carrie Fisher’s first novel, Surrender the Pink, and For the Record by Donald Regan, the former US Secretary of the Treasury, which exposed the Reagans’ reliance on an astrologer during the President’s period of office.

At the launch party for The Picnic Papers (compiled by Susanna Johnston and Lady Anne Tennant), Princess Margaret, one of the contributors, told him: “You have exploited me.” He could only reply: “Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure.” In 1997 he was asked to edit a book by Diana, Princess of Wales (ghosted by Martin Bashir), tentatively entitled In Faith and Hope. The Princess died before they could meet to discuss the project.

Sidey’s most enduring publishing relationship was with Ruth Rendell. He worked on all her books after 1983 and continued as her editor in retirement. He discovered Carol O’Connell, author of a series of highly original crime novels, and published the journalistic collections of Richard Littlejohn . Sidey also loved the stage and cinema, and enjoyed working on the memoirs of Antony Sher, Richard Attenborough, John Mills, Ken Russell, Arthur Smith, Alan Alda, Roger Corman, Mickey Rooney, Shelley Winters, George Burns and Peter Falk.

Working with Anna Massey on her memoirs, he said that he knew more about her than any living soul; and he respected the considerable mutual trust that this involved. A less easy collaboration was with the actor Nicol Williamson on an autobiographical novel which involved getting a typist to transcribe handwritten notes and long editorial sessions. At the end of one, Williamson told Sidey: “No one will buy this book. Everybody hates me.” This proved a correct assessment.

Sidey also published many books by the prolific Hollywood biographer Donald Spoto. One of his last books was Behind Closed Doors by Hugo Vickers, exposing the machinations of the Duchess of Windsor’s lawyer, Maître Blum.

Paul Sidey wrote two collections of poems for children, My Brother is an Alien and The Dinosaur Diner. In retirement he wrote four novels, unpublished at the time of his death.

He married, in 1984, Marianne Velmans, herself a successful publisher. They had a son and a daughter, and the family supported him through his long and courageous battle with cancer.

Paul Sidey, born July 21 1943, died September 17 2014


Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston

So, no great surprise about the result from Clacton (Ukip’s electoral breakthrough, 10 October). What has surprised me, however, has been the ease with which Messrs Carswell and Farage have been allowed to put the whole episode down as a matter of honour. There is no honour in resigning from a party a few months from a general election, and resigning also as MP specifically so as to trigger a byelection as the only way to usurp the long-standing Ukip member and properly selected candidate from his status.

Honourable? No. Jumping on the bandwagon and maximising media attention? Yes. If this is indeed “honourable”, then I’ll… well, I’ll just carry on being totally bemused by how far Ukip has managed to push the concept of honour down the pecking order of desirable traits among politicians.
John Westbrook

• David Cameron says “go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband” (, 10 October). Nigel Farage says “vote Conservative and you’ll end up with Labour” (, 10 October). They may be right. It is a wholly possible, perverse and predictable consequence of the first-past-the-post voting system. But hang on. Wasn’t Cameron the one party leader who urged us all to vote no to the alternative vote in the 2011 referendum? If he’s now hoist with his own petard, let us enjoy the spectacle.
Martin Linton
Chair, Make Votes Count

• Cameron has repeatedly claimed a vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour. The results in the byelections make clear that a vote for Ukip is a vote for Ukip.
John Boaler
Calne, Wiltshire

• Your report questions the delivery of political promises. The emergence of Ukip as a viable political force is the result of a declining labour market. Working people need employment that enables their families to afford to live in this country. The political establishment instead trades aggression directed at sectors of society that they already know will not vote for them. We seem to have no politicians big enough to address the issue of a viable future for working people.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• On Friday’s Today programme, Grant Shapps, Tory party chairman, made the strategy for the next election fairly clear when responding to the byelection results, by mentioning Ed Miliband 12 times in a short interview – once even referring to the Ed Miliband party. Perhaps the Labour party could counter this by regularly predicting the almost certain return to the cabinet of Michael Gove in the event of a Conservative government. At least until the start of the following election campaign.
Alan Pearson

• Now that Ukip has one MP, I assume that the media platform given to its ideas will be scaled down so as to be comparable to that given to the Green party’s. Or am I being naive?
Michael Ayton

• Is it any surprise Ukip have just won a byelection? They have consistently had huge press coverage despite, until now, having no MP, yet the Green party, which has had an MP since the last general election (not elected at a byelection) gets very little. Your feature (Conference party roundup, 10 October) proves my point. When will you redress the balance?
Liz Bebington
Croydon, Surrey

• “Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent,” the old A12 sign grafitto used to read. Now perhaps should be added: “And Clacton for the malcontent.”
Fr Alec Mitchell

• In his interesting article on minority governments (Opinion, 9 October), Martin Kettle argues that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would prevent a minority government from obtaining an early dissolution. Not so. The prime minister of such a government could put a motion before the Commons calling for a general election. The main opposition party could hardly refuse to support it, or it would be displaying lack of confidence in its ability to win the ensuing general election. There would then be the two-thirds majority needed for an early dissolution.

But if the opposition did vote against the motion, the PM could resign, and unless the opposition leader could form a viable government, which he would not have been able to do in 1974, the last general election to produce a minority government, there would have to be a dissolution. If the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was able to prevent an early dissolution, it would be harmful. Instead it is merely pointless. The sooner it is repealed the better.
Vernon Bogdanor

Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The independent monitoring board report on HMP Wormwood Scrubs is the latest in a series of stark, critical independent monitoring board and HM inspectorate of prisons reports that reveal a prison service buckling under the strain of unprecedented staff and budget cuts (Wormwood Scrubs cuts led to ‘chaos and dysfunction’, 8 October). If, as Eric Allison reports (Grayling’s prisons plan? Shoot the messenger, 8 October), justice ministers are considering making changes, they would be better advised to listen to a well-respected, independent chief inspector, read the information submitted by IMBs and act to put things right rather than ignore a growing crisis in our jails.
Juliet Lyon
Director, Prison Reform Trust

• The substance of Alan Travis’s report on the deteriorating state of the prison service would find few dissenters among officers or prisoners, but it is worth pointing out that the designation “official watchdog” does the independent monitoring boards no favours. Every prison and immigration removal centre has an IMB to monitor standards and procedures. Recruitment to them is a struggle. The IMBs are crucial to the prison system and any opportunity to raise their profile should be taken.
Professor Simon Miller
Ashburton, Devon

• Surely the answer to George Monbiot’s problem with the penalty clause in the contract for the privatisation of the probation service (Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within, 8 October) is to declare it unconstitutional (a government cannot bind a future government to a particular action) and an unfair contract – therefore rendering it invalid and unenforceable. Simple.
Jane Sullivan
Beckenham, Kent

Glasgow University. Photograph: G Richardson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis Glasgow University. Photograph: G Richardson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

We write as senior academics at the University of Glasgow who actively research the decarbonisation of energy to deplore the decision of our university court to divest from fossil fuels (Report, 9 October). The court’s position is vacuous posturing, since alternatives to fossil fuels are not yet available at scale for heat and transport, or for electricity production on demand. Indeed, our university has just committed itself to a new gas-fired campus heating system, not least because the only current renewable alternative (biomass) had a far poorer environmental profile. The skills and facilities of the hydrocarbons sector – many of whom are our alumni – are indispensable to the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS), without which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers there is no chance of the world achieving emissions reduction targets. CCS also offers the only sizeable prospect for actively stripping greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Moreover, most food consumed in Europe today relies on nitrogen produced from hydrocarbons and they are also the raw materials for the vast array of plastics our society demands – many of which can lock up fossil carbon for centuries. Again, no alternatives yet exist at scale. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

We trust that those academic colleagues who voted for this gesture have had the moral consistency to turn off the heating in their offices (entirely fossil-fuelled) and to switch off their computers and room lights for the 34.5% of the working day that fossil fuels provide electricity in Scotland.
Professor Paul Younger Rankine chair of engineering and professor of energy engineering
Professor Colin McInnes James Watt chair and professor of engineering science
Professor Fin Stuart Professor of isotope geosciences
Professor Rob Ellam Director, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Professor Adrian Boyce Professor of applied geology
University of Glasgow



Sir, Events in Kobani and Iraq demonstrate that Isis may be degraded by attacks from the air, but not destroyed. Already there is the inevitable evidence of collateral damage to civilians, who recognise with frustration the limited nature of the support given to them.

If Isis is to be destroyed, the military must be provided with the sources and material to disable its command-and-control sources, as well as its visible assets. This will require ground troops including special forces, and also high quality intelligence and other logistical support. Parliament should be asked without delay to provide fresh objectives and to remove the inhibitions currently preventing a successful military campaign.

The military effort must be seen to support all the people of Iraq, and their new, brave and conciliatory government. They want our help, and we should provide what is necessary rather than the merely politically expedient.

Iraq sits in a crucial place geographically. At the conclusion of the current and regrettably necessary hostilities, she should be able to take a comfortable place alongside her neighbours. This should be supported by the twin pillars of mutual and balanced benefits shared with those neighbours, including Iran and Turkey, and the recognition by her neighbours of Iraq’s sovereignty, free from outside interference.
Lord Carlile of Berriew
House of Lords

Sir, Your leading article “Saving Kobani” (Oct 9) claimed that “so far Turkey has sent only a lorry load of medical supplies to the besieged Kurds of Kobani and has otherwise confined itself to the role of spectator”. This claim disregards Turkey’s £2.5 billion of humanitarian aid and ignores the threat posed by terrorist groups.

Legal and humanitarian reasons mean that our borders must stay open. We already host more than 1.5 million refugees (a number larger than the population of some EU countries) and help many more in Iraq. In the space of a week, we received 200,000 people from Kobani.

Despite the risks, we continue to maintain an open door, regardless of refugees’ ethnicity. Aid is also being sent into Kobani and we have retaliated to Isis attacks on our territory.

Turkey has handled the issue of Ayn Al Arab/Kobani with sensitivity but the greater conflict cannot be viewed purely through developments in Kobani. A few months ago, we highlighted Isis’s advance towards the Turkoman villages of Tel Abyad and Çobanbey on our border, but this was ignored by the wider world.

Isis has been able to dig in because of air support provided by the Damascus regime, and so it is vital that a no-fly zone is put in place to enforce a safe haven. This strategy should also guard against regime elements or various terrorist structures replacing Isis in areas from which it is eliminated.

We should not be selective while reflecting upon and managing public opinion. It is important to give the complete picture. Above all, however, Turkey is not “confining itself to the role of spectator”.
Abdurrahman Bilgiç
Ambassador, Turkish Embassy, London

Sir, Turkey’s reluctance to help the Kurds fighting Isis is disappointing but predictable. There is sympathy for Isis in some sections of its population and government, and Turkey has a long record of oppressing its own minorities. This matter does, however, call into question Turkey’s suitability as a Nato ally and may mean an end to its hope of joining the EU.
Andrew Brown
Allestree, Derby

Sir, Given that the US and UK have ruled out sending in ground troops, it is odd that western commentators demand that Turkey becomes the first and only country to do just that. Given the tragic history of relations between Turks and Kurds, it is all the more important that the world acts collectively to protect them and others. If the West was serious about its objective of “degrading and defeating” Isis, it would devise a suitable military strategy. At present, it appears to wish to outsource to others what it is unwilling to do itself. Meanwhile, civilians pay the price.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warks

Sir, Following David Cameron’s indiscretion that the Queen “purred” over the result of the Scottish referendum, I am still waiting to read of the prime minister’s subsequent meeting with Her Majesty. Did she hiss, growl or spit?
Tony Killeen


Sir, May I express my disquiet at the piece in Times2 (Oct 9) which mentioned “#feelingnuts” — about young men holding their crotches for charity — and hereby apply for the post as the replacement to the late lamented Mary Whitehouse? That youth indulges in vulgarity does not make it acceptable to civilised society.
Helena Fielder
Southsea, Hants

Sir, The Speaker’s spin doctor has had to resign (News, Oct 9) because she may have jeopardised the impartiality of the Speaker by giving a speech at the Lib Dem conference. It is ironic that John Bercow uses a spin doctor to maintain his impartiality.
Jeffrey Box
Shalford, Surrey

Sir, The French MP Julien Aubert — who addressed Sandrine Mazetier as madame chairman instead of madame chairwoman and was fined €1,400 (“Le sexist jibe”, Oct 8) — may be heartened to know that he will find some solace across La Manche. Debrett’s informs us that in our second chamber, the lord speaker in the House of Lords should be addressed as lord speaker even if female.
AF Kellner
London W1

Sir, Your report (“Delay retirement if you want to avoid disaster in old age”, Oct 8) suggests that we all need to work for longer to avoid poverty, while also stating that many people stop working in their late 50s or early 60s because of poor health or redundancy. How are these people to live if not by using savings, and where are the jobs for the over-60s? The population in general may be living longer but there is no evidence that it is healthier, and many have to rely on benefits at an age when, had they been born five years earlier, they would have been enjoying a pension. For every Mary Berry, David Dimbleby and Nicholas Parsons who is able to continue working, there will be many builders, nurses, dustmen and others less able to continue to work — but they will have to do so because low wages have meant little opportunity to save.

No politician seems prepared to admit that age benefits have been too generous, and not means-tested, for much too long, meaning that those born after 1955 will have to make up the shortfall as well as trying to save enough for themselves to afford to eventually retire. It seems unfair that those who made it to pension age by 2010 are enjoying a state-subsidised retirement, the like of which will never be experienced by future generations.
Rosalind Taylor
Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – Last week I was the victim of an incorrect tax assessment, which after one telephone call was corrected. I say one call, but the bulk of the 40 minutes was spent listening to music or answering a voice mechanism that directed me to the wrong person.

So I actually had to make two calls. (A tip here is that when speaking to the machine you have to say “self-assessment”, even though there is no prompt for this, otherwise you are directed to a person who does not have access to your completed form.)

It transpired that a machine had “read” my completed self-assessment form, and, because I had written information outside the boxes as well as in the boxes, only part of the information was used to calculate my tax.

If HM Revenue & Customs had access to my bank account, as is proposed, I would have been spending my time trying to retrieve my own money wrongly appropriated by the tax authorities, and also spending large amounts of my own money and time listening to music on the telephone to HMRC.

Mike Stones
Lichfield, Staffordshire

SIR – I received from HMRC a calculation that indicated income tax due for 2013-14 of £331,562.75. My wife was a little worried.

I telephoned the relevant tax office and a polite lady asked me to hold on while she looked into it. After a few minutes, she returned to the phone, apologised for the mistake and said the correct amount was £4.60.

Michael Elton
Winchester, Hampshire

A lighter stocking

SIR – May I ask anyone kind enough to think of buying me a Christmas present not to give me Kevin Pietersen’s book? I have read quite enough “I was brilliant, but they were all rubbish, so they hate me” books.

Nigel Drury
Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Nappies for horses

SIR – The report about cow nappies made me wonder: why can’t horse nappies be introduced? In our village, roads are often fouled by horse dung. Riders need to clean up after their animals as dog owners do, or be heavily fined.

Heather Moore
Marlborough, Wiltshire

World-class: dancers of the English National Ballet rehearse at St Paul’s Cathedral in London  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – For more than 60 years, English National Ballet has toured Britain, taking great ballet to as wide an audience as possible. For many people outside London, we provide their introduction to the art form.

We foster home-grown talent in our school and in the company, while also being immensely proud to host great dancers of international reputation, such as Alina Cojocaru, Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, who have dedicated most of their careers to creating the best ballet in this country.

From Manchester to Milton Keynes, audiences show their delight in seeing great dancers whatever their nationality.

Caroline Thomson
Executive Director, ENB
London SW7

SIR – To suggest that the ENB does not nurture home-grown talent is nonsense when James Forbat and Laurretta Summerscales are dancing principal roles in Swan Lake this year. Miss Summerscales joined ENB from the ENB school in 2009.

It would be nice to have more British dancers in all UK companies. However, I can’t see how Tamara Rojo can produce world-class dancers if there are insufficient Britons of the required standard. That is probably why she is spending so much time backing the BBC’s Young Dancer competition.

The money that taxpayers put into the arts in Britain generates a huge return: people travel from abroad to buy tickets for world-class performances, bringing in lots of money from related tourism.

As Tamara Rojo said, bringing world-class ballet to the provinces runs at a loss; performing in London to world audiences is profitable. Would John Dunkin prefer the provinces to be denied access to the arts available to him from his London address?

David Brinkman
Poole, Dorset

Not everything you might have heard about Ebola is true.  Photo: REUTERS

7:00AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – In 1962, the last smallpox outbreak in Britain started at Bradford Children’s Hospital. A number of children, staff and patients died. I nursed the little girl who had recently arrived from Pakistan and who died from smallpox (undiagnosed until post mortem examination).

It was Christmas and contact between child patients was unusually high because they were carried round the wards to look at Christmas trees and decorations.

Everyone in the hospital was immediately quarantined: nobody came in or went out. It was terrible to see the parents assembled for evening visiting (there was no unrestricted visiting then) but unable to see their own children.

Over a number of weeks, nobody in the hospital was allowed to leave. A ward was set aside in which those who had contracted smallpox were nursed. Supplies were left in boxes at the end of the drive.

There was no spread of smallpox into the community. One parent was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital and died there, and a hospital cook died at the Bradford fever hospital. Our patients with smallpox were transferred there and we remained in quarantine until the prescribed period following the last patient contact had expired.

The outbreak was controlled initially by quarantine, then by tracing contacts and vaccinating 285,000 people.

Is it not possible to flag up those coming to Britain from areas badly affected by Ebola, even if they have come indirectly, and then to quarantine them for the duration of the incubation period? This is a heavy price for them to bear, but surely small in comparison to the potential price for us all. There was a vaccination available for smallpox; there isn’t one for Ebola.

Janet Reed
Mirfield, West Yorkshire

SIR – I recently flew from London via South Africa to Walvis Bay in Namibia. On disembarking, all passengers had to complete a form stating which countries they had visited. This was verified by checking passports. Before passengers entered the terminal, staff in protective clothing took everyone’s temperature.

On Thursday I flew via South Africa into London Heathrow. There was no sign of any health check on passengers. And we call Namibia a Third World country.

Lucy Lester
Wing, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Keith Vaz was right to call for immediate screening for Ebola, but this should be done in the affected West African countries. Waiting until possibly symptomless carriers arrive at British airports would be to take action far too late.

The British Government and others should fund quarantine centres close to the airports of infected countries. Troops that have been sent recently should ensure that all who board planes heading for this country can prove they have been free from infection for two weeks.

This would restore public confidence and prevent sad situations like that of the nine-year-old boy from Sierra Leone, banned from a school in Stockport.

Andrew Campbell

SIR – If I want to bring a dog into the country from outside Europe, it has to go into quarantine lest I import a disease. Up to now, if i had come home from Sierra Leone, I could pretty much walk straight in.

Kevin Wright
Harlow, Essex

SIR – We struggle to maintain a basic level of hygiene in British hospitals. The density of population in Sierra Leone is 32 persons per square mile. In the United Kingdom it is 106 persons per square mile. An Ebola outbreak would be catastrophic in Britain.

We should stop travel to and from any infected country, and should certainly not be sending 700 military personnel to one.

Andrew Green
Northwich, Cheshire

UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate Douglas Carswell arrives at the Clacton-on-Sea by-election count Photo: Getty Images

11:29AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – With a general election only seven months away, David Cameron has good cause to be worried following the by-election results in Clacton and in Heywood and Middleton.

There has been plenty of time to conduct a referendum on European Union membership in the course of this Parliament, which would have neutralised the UK Independence Party threat when it was perceived as a one-policy party. Instead, Mr Cameron continually has kicked the issue into long grass with “cast iron” promises of jam tomorrow.

Ukip now has the support of a significant and growing proportion of the electorate right across the political spectrum. The 2015 general election was Mr Cameron’s to lose and he has only himself to blame.

Max Ingram
Cénac-et-Saint-Julien, Dordogne, France

SIR – A by-election lost and the Conservatives predictably roll out the same old line that a vote for Ukip puts Labour nearer power.

They don’t see that a vote for Ukip is a vote for common sense, plain speaking, and a clear plan regarding Europe and immigration. If the Tories gave the country those things, the Party might have a chance of staying in power.

William Statt
Snarestone, Leicestershire

SIR – Surely these by-election results will persuade Mr Cameron to enter an electoral pact with Ukip, leading to a coalition.

Richard Duncan
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – As Fraser Nelson (Comment, October 10) says, the election will be decided by floating voters in marginal constituencies. That is part of the cause of continuing anger at the voting system and the dominance of the two large parties.

Like me, many voters live in “safe” constituencies, Conservative or Labour, and their votes are effectively nullified. This might have been acceptable when 90 per cent voted for one or other of the big two, but things are fragmented now and many seats are won with 30 or 40 per cent of the vote. This leaves 60 per cent unrepresented. A run-off between the two front-runners would ensure that someone was elected with more than 50 per cent.

Nicholas Wightwick
Rossett, Denbighshire

SIR – I grew up in a Britain of manners in debate, recognised round the world.

Now Mr Cameron wants a special deal for Britain, and if the 27 other EU members don’t agree, he threatens to leave. We apparently also want a special deal on a human rights accord that all of Europe has signed, apart from Belarus. And if we don’t get that, we’ll leave that too.

This petulance comes from the same well of prejudice that cheered on Nigel Farage’s abuse of Herman Van Rompuy as having “all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk”.

Boorishness has crept in almost unnoticed.

Derek Hammersley
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland

SIR – Last month you published my letter berating Ed Miliband for forgetting to mention the economy in his conference speech.

I now wonder if also forgetting to mention immigration will prove to be his more costly mistake.

Dominic Regan
Little Coxwell, Oxfordshire

SIR – At Heywood and Middleton the Labour majority was 617, reduced from over 6,000. The Conservative candidate received 3,496 votes. It is clear that a vote for the Conservatives let Labour win.

Reg Amos
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – In the television coverage of the Heywood by-election one could see the vote-counters continually licking their fingers as they flicked through the ballots. Perhaps the WHO could opine?

Emma Soundy
Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire


Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to Derek Byrne’s “Marriage is not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles” (October 9th, Opinion & Analysis), I celebrate difference as what makes Irish life and culture so rich and interesting, but to assume that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are part of, or want to be part of, a subculture, denies the reality of many people’s actual lives, hopes and dreams. LGBT people are not a homogenous group. We are all different – different classes, different income brackets, different levels of ability; some are religious; some are members of political parties and from across the political spectrum. We are part of every community in Ireland.

We are many things – sisters, fathers, girlfriends, lovers, doctors, singers, carers, sports fans, farmers – any numbers of combinations of identities. Of course our sexuality marks us out as different in one way to the majority of people, but so can many things about people.

However, for many of us, our lives are just the same as everyone else’s, just as ordinary (with its ups and its downs) and just as wonderful. Many of us are part of communities based on geography, family ties or common interests, where our sexuality is just one important part of who we are. It’s important because it’s about the people we love and our own families (as defined by us).

The movement for marriage equality has given visibility to many LGBT people who just want to be able to live our lives and grow old with our loved ones equally protected and respected in the country we choose to live in. It’s not about forcing people to get married. It’s about choice. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Derek Byrne ought to be commended for his article questioning the rush towards the introduction of same-sex marriage. No doubt he will be subjected to vilification for doing so, in line with the regrettable pattern that has characterised the debate on this issue to date.

He raises a valid question as to why organisations which campaign for same-sex marriage, which pride themselves on celebrating diversity and difference, are advocating a situation whereby same-sex couples would abandon this diversity and conform to a set of legal norms which currently apply only to heterosexual relationships.

There is a clear parallel between this debate and an argument which has raged within the feminist movement since the 1960s. Radical feminists such as the American lawyer Catherine MacKinnon have criticised much of that movement for having a vision of equality which encouraged the incremental acceptance by women of male norms, effectively leading to a “metamorphosis” of women into men and disregarding the distinctive characteristics of women in the process. She famously denounced the feminist movement as offering women “a piece of the pie as currently and poisonously baked”.

The parallel between this point of view and the debate on same-sex marriage is clear. The introduction of same-sex marriage would graft the legal treatment of heterosexual relationships onto same-sex relationships, and would bring about a similar “metamorphosis”. The rights to marry, adopt, and have beneficial taxation status would all be replicated directly from one type of relationship, and imposed on another type of relationship. How can this be in any way in accordance with the notion of the diversity of same-sex relationships? If anything it amounts to the subjugation of this diversity.

Since its inception, the foundation stone of marriage has been the difference between the genders. It is an inherently gender-based institution, because relationships and unions between couples of the same sex and couples of the opposite sex are inherently different.

So why the rush to amend our Constitution to bring about a legal fantasy which pretends that they are not? – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

A chara, – As burnt-out 1970s gay rights activists, my spouse and I have never abandoned our commitment to sexual liberation.

Unlike Derek Byrne, we see our marriage as a demonstration that institutions can evolve to reflect societal changes.

Many straight and gay Irish couples see marriage as an equal partnership where the two people who love each other decide together the values and behaviours that will sustain themselves.

Vive la différence!” is indeed what Irish people endorse regardless of sexual orientation. That is why the referendum on marriage equality will succeed. – Is mise,


Toronto, Canada.

Sir, – While many try to justify the notion of same-sex marriage on the basis of equality, we should bear in mind that the state of California last July passed a Bill removing all mention of husband and wife from its marriage laws. To make everyone feel more equal, everyone will be called “spouse”. Is that what we want? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Derek Byrne writes, “I know of many same-sex couples who have been joined in civil partnership and I can say with certainty only one of these is grounded in monogamy”.

Mr Byrne sees this as a reason not to vote for marriage equality in the upcoming referendum. He implies same-sex couples are simply not capable of sexual fidelity.

I don’t know what circles Mr Byrne moves in, but my experience has been the opposite. I know numerous gay couples, both male and female, living in monogamous relationships. Many met in pubs, nightclubs or online, even in gay saunas, but when they decided to commit to each other they stopped doing “the scene”, just like most heterosexual couples do. To continue on the “scene” after entering a relationship is asking for trouble – for any relationship, gay or straight.

Mr Byrne acknowledges that he knows of only one same-sex relationship that is grounded in monogamy. My guess is that this couple are not to be found cruising bars and nightclubs.

Mr Byrne might consider voting Yes to marriage equality for the sake of this couple alone. They deserve it. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Noise pollution is destroying so many of our places of entertainment. It is part of the myth of this country that we are supposed to be wonderful talkers, and many people come to Ireland expecting to find pubs full of lively conversation. Instead they find most of our pubs are now full of people staring blankly ahead because they are not able to make themselves heard by their companions sitting a few feet from them.

I recently spent a Saturday night in Cashel where a large part of the evening was devoted to an unsuccessful search for a pub where music was not being pumped out at a level which might make one’s ears bleed; it certainly would not be permitted on a factory floor.

Cashel is not unique in this but rather absolutely typical of our towns.

This pollution reached new heights for me in September when I attended the All-Ireland football and hurling finals. While waiting for the games to begin we were subjected at intervals to very loud and very irritating R&B music, which was repeated during half time. At the end of the games, within seconds of the final whistle blowing, the county songs of the winners were played through the public address system at a very high volume.

It would seem that the people now running the GAA have no grasp of the power of tradition, think that everyone in Croke Park on those days is terrified of silence, and that the supporters of the winning teams in each game are so emotionally illiterate as to be incapable of celebrating their team’s victory without external assistance.

It would seem that the entertainment and hospitality industry throughout this country believes that people are incapable of entertaining themselves or of creating an enjoyable atmosphere in a pub or restaurant elsewhere without having their elbows very forcibly nudged.

It is long past time that we started to fight against this condescension and started insisting upon our right to have a drink or a meal without having to bellow at the person we are trying to speak to.

From now on we should make a practice of demanding from staff that they turn down music that is offensively loud. – Yours, etc,



Co Down.

Sir, – In considering the reasonableness or otherwise of RTÉ’s decision to cease broadcasting RTÉ Radio 1 on longwave, consideration must be given to the foundation legislation for our so-called national broadcaster. Section 114 of the 2009 Broadcasting Act establishes the first object of RTÉ as being “to establish, maintain and operate a national . . . service which shall have the character of a public service, be a free-to-air service and be made available . . . to the whole community on the island of Ireland”.

The same legislation obligates RTÉ to publish a public service statement, the second principle of which states “RTÉ will provide for and be responsive to the interests, needs and concerns of the whole community on the island of Ireland”. It is absolutely clear that RTÉ’s responsibilities are not limited to the boundaries of the State. As a citizen of a northern county, I have had to deal with the reduction in service in 2008 when medium-wave services were terminated.

At the time, much was made of the continued availability of longwave services as a mitigating factor. Now many northern citizens face a further removal of service provision. RTÉ’s advice on how to stay tuned claims “98 per cent of Radio 1 listeners are not affected”. Is that 98 per cent of listeners within the State or 98 per cent of the listeners which RTÉ has a legal obligation to? Of course, potential solutions exist. There is an entire FM , DAB and MW broadcasting infrastructure in Northern Ireland. RTÉ Radio 1 could be provided on MW in the North to ensure full service provision for all citizens. These options should be considered before the removal of the longwave service. – Yours, etc,


Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence (October 8th) and Frank McNally’s “Irishman’s Diary” (October 9th), the problem with Dublin’s present motto “Obedientia civium urbis felicitatis” (The obedience of the citizens produces a happy city) is not that it lacks inclusiveness but that many citizens choose to ignore its message. As I saw during a recent visit, pedestrians don’t wait for the little green man or they cross where there is no zebra marking; cyclists use footpaths; motorcyclists dispense with silencers; car drivers exceed speed limits and/or blast whole neighbourhoods with amplified “music”, etc, etc.

We deserve something like: “Negligentia civium urbis ignominia” ( The uncaring attitude of citizens is a disgrace to a city). – Yours, etc,




Sir, – How about “Amor /Odio”? – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – “What are you looking at?” – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Joan Burton has expressed wonderment that those protesting against the installation of water meters have access to “extremely expensive mobile phones” (Home News, October 10th). Her amazement probably stems from the fact that they wouldn’t have an allowance of €750 every 18 months to provide them, as she and her colleagues do. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Tánaiste’s outburst proves beyond doubt that Labour under Joan Burton will be absolutely no different to Labour under Eamon Gilmore. The Coalition thinks that the great mass of Irish people are simply not poor enough.

Whatever their other cosmetic differences in policy, Labour and Fine Gael are united in one thing. They both clearly believe money does not suit the Irish psyche and we (but not they) would do well to have less of it. They been doing their best to rectify this disgraceful situation over the last few years. Paddy must still have a few bob stuffed away under the mattress that surely could be winkled out. Water charges might be just the ticket. – Yours etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – The story about a leaking water pipe being left for eight months while public bodies squabble over the ownership and responsibility for repair of the pipe beggars belief (“Broken water pipe left unfixed as ownership questioned”, October 10th).

Irish Water, we are told on its website, is responsible for providing and developing water services in Ireland. The website goes on to say that water is one of our most valuable resources.

This vignette is a stark example of much that is wrong with public service in Ireland. The reluctance of individuals and bodies corporately to take responsibility for putting things right creates the sort of mess that has been left in Dún Laoghaire for the past eight months.

Is it beyond the wit of someone in Irish Water to ramble down the pier with a stopcock tap under his or her arm to turn off the water? –Yours, etc,


Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Gerard Wrixon (October 8th) quite rightly brings attention to the scarcity of solar energy collectors in Ireland.

Many people seem to think Ireland is too far north to gain from solar power. Not true! A year ago, I installed a 4kw panel on my roof, expecting to generate 3,000 kwh electricity a year.

It has outperformed that forecast by 22 per cent. In the process, it saved the country almost two tonnes of carbon emissions.

It also powers an electric car, so less petrol pollution.

If it was supposed to do nothing but heat water, I could have received a grant towards the cost. It does heat the water, but also does so much more, therefore by some strange perverse logic, no grant is available! I have not used any gas for inefficient water heating from May to October, making another saving of carbon.

Much of the surplus energy goes into the grid for other consumers, yet I am still required to pay the public service obligation (PSO) levy to subsidise the ESB.

To add to the insult, my supplier now increases the standing charge in summer months because I am not buying any electricity from them.

Congratulations are due to Tipperary. County Council for the foresight to install on its premises the largest solar array yet in Ireland. I’m sure it will find, as I do, this is the best investment it could make. Other counties and government offices, please take note.

Ireland is struggling to meet our target reduction of carbon emissions and will face heavy EU fines for failure. Surely it would pay well to support many thousands of small productive installations like mine rather than forfeit the money to pay these fines.

So, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, you know what to do. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Miriam Lord (“Enda’s galley slaves send him in well armed on the Sinn Féin budget”, October 9th) has revealed the “curious questions” that go through her head when the Taoiseach answers questions from me in the Dáil on the Government’s austerity policies – whether I have a well, whether I rent in Louth, and why I remain in good form. Still waters do indeed run deep. – Is mise,


Teach Laighean,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Irish Independent:

Are we not in the position that supply and demand economics are starting to effect property prices? Have we now learnt from the recent boom/bust era and the aftermath for the Irish economy and its citizens? Good practice after the crash in the 1980s in UK and in Canada (a country that was not touched by the latest global crash) is still not being recommended by the Irish Central Bank.

Regardless of what techniques underwriters use, a good rule of thumb was 2.5 times the principle earner’s income plus one time the secondary applicant to a maximum of 75pc loan to value of property.

This loan-to-value rate was only increased where an indemnity bond insured the extra risk to the financial institution.

I was a mortgage underwriter in the late 1990s, when the ‘Three Cs’ (Collateral, Capacity to repay and Character) of credit scoring were thrown away, along with good common sense, as lending criteria was put into the hands of the marketing department personnel rather than hands of the underwriters .

Should the financial service industry be allowed to refuel the property market or should sensible lending criteria reflecting best practice derived from previous boom/bust scenarios be implemented by the regulator/Government?

Remember, we all bought houses in the 1970s and 1980s as first-time buyers and struggled with deposits and repayments.

Helen McMahon

Portrane, Co Dublin

Irish Water set to run and run

Irish Water has issued some helpful suggestions to its customers on how to reduce domestic water usage. However, here are a number of useful tips it somehow appears to have missed:

Always try your best to take your showers or baths with at least one other person, such as a partner or a friend (a very, very trusted friend) but never with complete strangers, no matter what assurances they may give you. Also, any neighbour calling to the door and offering, out of the blue, to share a bath with you should be very carefully vetted before you agree to take the plunge and sponge with them.

Washing up the dishes after meals is a major water waster. From now on serve and eat your meals only on biodegradable bin liner bags – opened up and spread out on the floor – and voila, mes amis – when the meal is finished les scraps can be very easily gathered and binned.

And, whatever you do, never use cutlery. If it was good enough for our prehistoric caveman ancestors to eat with their fingers it should be good enough for us too. Just be sure that you wear thin disposable latex gloves, thus obviating the use of any water for cleaning the hands after eating.

Toileting (a): Your number one priority is actually your number two. The days of the free-wheeling loose use of the toilet bowl have to be put behind us. From now on we need to start “thinking outside of the bowl” – or what looologists these days prefer to call “thinking outside of the bowel”. By far the best way to avoid flushing in your residence is to schedule most number twos for loos located outside of the home, at say, for example, your place of work, local library, pub, shopping centre, or in the Garda or Fire Station should a real emergency arise.

Toileting (b): Number One. There is no good reason why in decent weather most people could not just as easily “go” in their back gardens.

Finally, regarding children who continually fail to turn off the taps: Parents should seriously consider putting these thoughtless creatures up for auction on eBay. For parents who may bizarrely have some qualms about going the eBay route, a useful alternative for them would be to train a few Rottweilers or Pit Bulls to stand guard over the taps.

Ivor Shorts

Rathfarnham, Dublin

So Our Lord did a one-off and turned water into wine at a wedding! But sure haven’t we got our very own quango which has just miraculously turned water into a never-ending stream of bonus-buttressed super salaries and gold-plated pensions!

And so, another plush carriage, complete with bonus buffet and packed with all the usual mod cons, has been added to the non-stop State gravy train. I sometimes wonder what particular form the inevitable and unavoidable final showdown will take in our own case.

George MacDonald

Gorey, Co Wexford

What could be worse than FG?

John Waters’ article on Enda Kenny (October 8) may just be the best description of our Dear Leader I have read.

I guess the thing is Enda sees himself as “one of us” – and given the reception he gets at events such as the National Ploughing Championships it is a pretence that the masses are happy to go along with.

This means he has nothing at all to do with “that crowd up in Dublin” who are responsible for all those nasty extra taxes to keep bailing out our busted property speculators and their banks.

Perhaps the Irish subconsciously fear that if we were to openly rebel against “our” leaders then the dastardly Brits might return to rule over us.

And Heaven help us, but absolutely nothing could possibly be worse than that.

Gerry Kelly

Rathgar, Dublin 6

Crusades of the Middle Ages

In relation to Concetto La Malfa’s comment that we may be tempted to think “Isil are getting their sweet revenge after what the Crusaders did in their Islamic countries” (Irish Independent Letters, October 6) an important point must be made. Whatever we may think of them now, the Crusades from 1095 AD were a response to centuries of militaristic Islamic expansion.

An oft-forgotten fact is the Syrian church in the 5th century AD was by far the largest of the Christian regions in the world at the time – larger than both the Latin western or more Greek-leaning Orthodox churches.

It stretched all the way from what is now Syria across to Persia (modern day Iran) and even reached as far as China.

All of it was swept away under Islamic invasions from the late 7th century onwards. With Islamic armies pouring into Asia Minor (Turkey) and Constantinople next in sights, the Christian Emperor of Byzantium appealed to the western Church and world for help to repel the invaders.

With all due respect to our brothers in monotheism, Islam did not arrive in the Holy Land peacefully all those centuries ago. As they saw it, the Crusaders were not invading ‘Islamic countries’ but formerly Christian and Jewish ones that had been subdued by the sword.

Despite their flaws and ultimate failure, they were hardly an unexpected or unreasonable response for Christendom at the time, whatever their place in today’s world.

Nick Folley

Carrigaline, Co Cork

Keane still in play

Rather than reading Roy Keane’s book – The Second Half – this Christmas I think that I will wait until he publishes extra time or replay in order to get the full story.

John Finegan

Bailieborough, Co Cavan

Irish Independent

Flu jab

October 10, 2014

10 October 2014 Flu jab

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent. I go to the garage but alas no corn I book our flu jabs

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Fr Benedict Groeschel – obituary

Fr Benedict Groeschel was a Franciscan who started a new Order committed to a revival of the founder’s ideals of poverty and service

Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Father Benedict Groeschel at the St. Francis Center in the south Bronx, New York Photo: NYT/REDUX/EYEVINE

6:12PM BST 09 Oct 2014


Fr Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who has died aged 81, was a preacher, author and popular religious broadcaster; his chief love was always his work with the poor and with troubled young people.

Fr Groeschel was a friend of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and helped her set up a convent in New York in the 1970s; he also established the St Francis House for homeless young men and the Good Counsel House for pregnant unsupported young women in the city. Later, with his long beard and distinctive grey habit, he became a familiar figure to viewers of the Eternal Word Television Network, the Alabama-based international Catholic station. As a spiritual writer he published more than 40 books; he gave retreats and spoke at conferences around the world, and contributed to a range of Catholic and secular magazines and newspapers.

Robert Peter Groeschel was born on July 23 1933 in New Jersey, one of six children. He took the name Benedict Joseph after St Benedict Joseph Labre, a beggar saint, on joining the Capuchin friars in Indiana in 1951. His years with the Capuchins were spent chiefly in youth work, and he trained in psychology in order to give more effective help to the young people in the Children’s Village, a charity in New York where he was based for more than 10 years. Later, while running a retreat house and other projects, he became director of spiritual development for the archdiocese of New York, giving retreats that became hugely popular with people of all ages and backgrounds. He also taught psychology at St Joseph’s seminary in New York, an appointment that he held for more than 40 years.

In 1987, in a decision that was to have a major impact on the life of the Roman Catholic Church, he and seven other Franciscans left their community to establish a new congregation, the Franciscans of the Renewal, committed to a radical revival of original Franciscan poverty and service. He became the group’s Superior (or Servant, as it is known in Franciscan communities). Their first home in the Bronx was in the heart of a noisy, violent area and lacked basic facilities. They began immediately to work with the poor and over the years the community grew from the original eight members to more than 100. Their houses worldwide now include one in London and one in Bradford, in addition to two in Ireland and several across the United States and South America. A parallel group for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, has some 35 members and their houses include one in Leeds featured in the 2011 BBC television programme Young Nuns.

Fr Groeschel always dressed in his grey Franciscan robe – the community’s vow of poverty means that they patch and mend their robes until they are almost threadbare — and was at his happiest when collecting food for the poor, distributing turkeys and other Christmas goodies to families, and organising projects for young people in decaying urban districts. “As a psychologist, I have to say I have a Santa Claus complex,” he once said. Despite the flourishing of his new congregation, he always said that leaving his original Capuchin community had been the saddest day of his life, and he hoped for a reunion.

He was deeply involved in ecumenical activities, numbering several Protestant ministers and rabbis among his close friends. The Friars of the Renewal – all bearded and sandalled, always apparently cheerful and invariably travelling in a small group with at least one guitar and perhaps a football – have become familiar at all major international Catholic events, notably World Youth Day. Fr Groeschel, stooped in his old age, quietly spoken and unpretentious, seemed in his later years to be an unlikely founder of this vigorous network of energetic young friars, but his forceful teaching and deep spiritual commitment were nevertheless the real heart of the community.

Fr Benedict Groeschel was badly injured in a car accident a decade ago, but overcame serious injuries, started to walk again using a stick and resumed a punishing schedule of practical work with the poor, talks, retreats, and other activities. After a mild stroke in 2012 he retired to a care home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in New Jersey, where he died.

Fr Benedict Groeschel, born July 23, 1933, died October 3 2014


Liberal Democrats Party annual national conference. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg addresses the party’s annual conference. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Before we beatify Nick Clegg for his laudable intention of improving mental health provision (Revolution in mental health care revealed, 8 October), let us pause and consider the parlous state of our society after nearly five years of coalition government and how this may be linked to mental illness. The Lib Dems have supported the wanton fragmentation, further costly privatisation and impoverishment of our social and health services (including financial cuts for supportive charities) within the context of counterproductive and unnecessary austerity. Much mental illness arises from a milieu of multiple deprivation. The rapidly growing population of the poor, sick and disabled have had a torrid time at the hands of Iain Duncan Smith’s department and from the cuts to benefits and services.

Furthermore, as a recently retired teacher, I have been appalled by the growing levels of student anxiety, depression and self-harming. I believe that some of this correlates with the Govian target-driven, joyless, exam factories that schools have become.
Philip Wood
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

• In the coverage of the Liberal Democrat proposals for an expansion of provision of talking therapies, there has been little or no discussion of what the NHS will actually be providing, except for the fact that one prime goal is to get people off benefits and back to work (which some therapists would regard as an unethical goal). Many readers who are outside the debates on what constitutes adequate therapy probably imagine that millions of people are going to get something like the activity portrayed on TV in In Treatment or The Sopranos: two people in a protected space, choosing to work together at an agreed pace and duration to clarify and unravel (to the degree that is possible) the psychological issues of one of them. This is indeed what you get if you seek private psychotherapy and counselling (which may not be as expensive as you think).

But what the Liberal Democrats (and the Department of Health) mean by their version of a talking therapy is not like this at all. They are introducing, without any serious discussion, a palpable class system into the provision of therapy. If you can afford it, get “real therapy” privately. If not, then accept that your treatment will be governed inappropriately by the medical model of diagnose-then-cure, and that everything will take place within tight financial parameters – hence very few sessions. Much treatment will be carried out by scantily trained practitioners.

It is not hard to understand why the professional organisations of psychotherapists and counsellors do not speak up regarding this, though they know very well that this is the situation. The anticipation of jobs for their members – often unnecessarily retrained to deliver the state’s version of counselling and psychotherapy – has silenced them.
Andrew Samuels
Chair, United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy 2009-12, and professor of analytical psychology, University of Essex

• The announcement by Nick Clegg of reduced stigma and greater parity between physical and mental health services has been welcomed uncritically by the media and mental health charities. However, the coalition government should be judged on what it has done, not what it says. In Sheffield, where Clegg is an MP, the budget of the mental health trust is a seventh of that of the acute trust, and annual audited accounts show that the mental health budget has fallen disproportionately year-on-year since 2010, with services cut to dangerous levels. Nationally, more than £120m has been leeched out of mental health budgets, in effect to pay for the coalition’s privatisation agenda. If it ever reaches the front line, £120m of new funding will not restore services to 2010 levels, let alone “revolutionise” access to treatment of mental illness.

Conclusion: neither the Tories nor the Liberal Democrats can be trusted with the NHS.
Jeremy Seymour (retired psychiatrist)

• The promise to reduce waiting times for people needing access to talking therapies is very welcome. Mental health has long been the Cinderella of NHS provision.However, what Nick Clegg’s speech did not address is the standard and type of treatment that will be available. The experience, training, supervision and institutional support of those staff delivering the talking therapies is crucial to the effectiveness of the treatment delivered. Working clinically with people in distress inevitably impacts emotionally on the practitioner – and the more distressed and disturbing the nature of the mental health difficulties are, the greater is the impact on the clinician and the clinical team. This is not a criticism of practitioners but a description of the nature of working with psychological and emotional distress and disturbance.

Therefore mental health staff need good training and supervision, supportive institutions and regular access to opportunities to openly discuss their work with colleagues and skilled facilitators, who are experienced in working with disturbing mental health issues and with the impact such work inevitably has on practitioners. Without this consultative support there is a danger of staff burnout; of a retreat into illness; of mental health staff getting caught up in the distress of their clients; and, at the worst, staff finding themselves reacting to the disturbing states of mind of their clients.

So let us reduce waiting times but, crucially, let us equip the staff working in mental health with good training, skilled supervision and opportunities to regularly reflectively examine the inevitable impact of the work they are engaged in. There is no short cut to this essential requirement.
Stanley Ruszczynski
Clinical director, Portman Clinic, Tavistock and Portman NHS trust

• Nick Clegg plans to put treatment for mental health conditions on a level with physical health from 2015. In order to be clear, is that putting it on a par with the GP funding that has been cut by nearly £1bn, leading many surgeries to face financial collapse? Or is it putting it on a par with the A&E departments in crisis due to the number of hospital beds axed and where 5,000 A&E patients waited over four hours? Or perhaps on a par with cancer care, which saw a decrease in funding between 2009 and 2013 despite rising rates of diagnosis?

Mr Clegg might find it easier to seize the agenda on mental health had the austerity policies of his coalition government not ripped through the heart of mental health services. More than eight in 10 GPs now believe that their local mental health teams cannot cope with mental health caseloads, and nearly half said that the situation in their area had got even worse in the past 12 months. Research has shown the links between austerity economics – with its added financial strain, income inequality, debt, absence of essential services, and its regressive taxes like the bedroom tax – and the damaging impacts of such policies on people’s mental health.
Dr Carl Walker
Chair of the taskforce on austerity and mental health, European Community Psychology Association

• Front page: “Revolution in mental health care revealed. Taboo over issue must end – Clegg”. Solution to 15 across in crossword on page 47: “Loony bin”. Nick Clegg knows where to start work now, doesn’t he?
David Carr

Billy Connolly Despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2013, Billy Connolly, 71, has embarked on a sellout comedy tour of Scotland. Photograph: Ian West/PA

As a younger Parkie myself, it was good to read Eleanor Tucker’s piece giving a different perspective on Parkinson’s disease (Report, 6 October). So often Parkinson’s comes across in the media as a death sentence; inaccurate, and very depressing for anyone newly diagnosed. It would be good also to note that tremendous progress is being made towards a cure. The websites of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust and Parkinson’s UK highlight trials that are happening right now with drugs that are used for other conditions but are also proving effective in combating PD.

Funding is the big issue: there simply isn’t enough money to pursue all the promising leads. Yet, in financial terms alone, investment in research makes sense. A cure would make massive savings in the cost of the drugs currently being used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Bev Maydon
Author of

Synod On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican Pope Francis at the Vatican synod on the themes of family, 8 October. ‘It’s worse than the Tesco boardroom,’ writes Mark Davis. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The picture John Boyne paints of his suburban Dublin parish is at odds with my memories of growing up in rural Catholic Ireland in the 60s and 70s (‘They blighted my youth and the youth of people like me’, Family, 4 October). My pious, mass-attending parents successfully raised 13 atheists (I remember vividly thinking it was all crap when I was about eight). I include my brother with Down’s syndrome among that numberwho, when a priest actually did visit our house and the TV was duly turned off, thus depriving him of Top of the Pops, grabbed the priest’s coat and hat, took him by the arm and showed him to the door – to the horror of my parents but to much hilarity among his siblings.

I don’t know any social circles where mass-going was a prerequisite – certainly not in our local pub – and as for painting the house for a priest’s visit for tea (it’s actually broken tellies they think the world is full of – à la Billy Connolly’s joke), the question of even setting an extra place would not have been considered. Yes, this is my own personal perspective but suffice to say not every parish in Ireland was like John’s. In south Armagh in the 60s and 70s – given the tyranny of the Stormont regime and the subsequent tyranny of British military occupation – there wasjust no room for any more tyranny, and generally speaking the Catholic church there just didn’t “try it on”. People had enough on their plates without worrying about going to hell.
Kieran Murphy
Dromintee, County Armagh

• One of the consequences for the Catholic church of forgetting its origin in Judaism is that it has no means to undo previous pronouncements, change course (Opinion, 9 October). Hebrew scripture is a catalogue of prophetic denunciations of the errors and failings of its practitioners; Jews have actuallycanonised these upbraidings and made them part of their understanding of God’s dealing with them. Catholicism, with its power centralised, finds justifying any alteration of doctrine nearly impossible. It claims as the bride of Christ to be indefectible and so fears divorce if it changes, yet, as any married person could tell its celibate clergy, marriage is a continual process of admitting one hasn’t got it right, and asking, and getting, another chance.
Harold Mozley

• To review the Catholic church’s approach to social policy and the family, Pope Francis has convened an all-male group, none of whose members has any direct experience of family life beyond the time he entered the seminary, which in most cases was quite some time ago. It’s worse than the Tesco boardroom.
Mark Davis

Jonathan Miller, pictured in the Royal Opera House in 2010. Ethics of arts sponsorship is not a new concern: director Jonathan Miller, pictured in the Royal Opera House in 2010, attended discussions on the topic in the 1990s. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I agree entirely that arts sponsorship should be transparent (Tate and oil – does the art world need to come clean about sponsorship?, 8 October) and I find it puzzling that a charity’s audited accounts do not make them so. However, I was surprised to see Mark Ravenhill say of the Royal Court “we’ve been in this world since the 1980s, and there’s never been a serious discussion about the ethics”. When I was deputy director of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (now called Arts & Business) between 1988 and 1992, I remember sitting on many panel discussions, one, as it happens, at the Royal Court with, inter alia, Jonathan Miller, on this very subject. I also wrote ABSA’s Guidelines for Good Practice in Arts Sponsorship (c 1990), which encouraged cultural organisations to think precisely in this way and to have clear sponsorship policies and strategies: the easy example being the approach of an arts education programme to fags and booze sponsors. Other similar publications are available.

I hope and expect that these ethical matters are in fact considered as carefully today as they were 20-odd years ago. If any boards (and artistic directors) of arts organisations are not discussing their own ethics seriously, they cannot cite lack of material.
Caroline Kay
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Hector Rodriguez, Antino Alvarez The coffin of the murdered Venezuelan parliamentarian Robert Serra is carried to the national assembly in Caracas, on 2 October. Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP

We express our condolences and solidarity to Venezuela following the murder of Robert Serra (27), the national assembly’s youngest parliamentarian, who was found dead in his home on October 1 (, 8 October).

Government officials have stated it was tied to a terrorist plot from extreme elements of the rightwing opposition, with the secretary general of the Union of South American Nations, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper, saying: “The assassination of the young legislator Robert Serra in Venezuela is a worrying sign of the infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism.”

Worryingly, Serra’s murder joins the list of other assassinations of government figures and the situation resembles the prelude to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, when sections of the Chilean opposition did not distance themselves from violent actions, including the assassination of a general.

We condemn this murder and other examples of extreme, anti-democratic violence aimed at destabilising Venezuela’s elected government.
Ken Livingstone President, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Colin Burgon Labour Friends of Venezuela, Tariq Ali, Diane Abbott MP, Baroness Janet Royall Leader of the opposition in the House of Lords, Tony Burke Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union, Mike Wood MP, Elaine Smith MSP, Lord Nic Rea, George Galloway MP, Neil Findlay MSP, Katy Clark MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Mike Hedges, Welsh AM, Jenny Rathbone Welsh AM, John McDonnell MP, Michael Connarty MP, Kate Hudson General Secretary, CND,Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, Salma Yaqoob, Andy De La Tour, Victoria Brittain, Billy Hayes, General secretary, CWU, Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef, Doug Nicholls General secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions, Ronnie Draper General Secretary, BFAWU,Roger McKenzie Assistant general secretary, Unison, Professor Peter Hallward Kingston University, Dr Francisco Dominguez, Head, Centre for Latin American Studies, Middlesex University

SLADE - 1973 Slade in charge? Got promotion written all over ’em. Photograph: Roger Bamber/Rex Features

When my husband retired he decided to do all the washing up, all the ironing, all the brass cleaning, and all the vegetable preparation (Letters, 9 October). He was also responsible for all the hard adding up and listening to Radio 5. After he died, I bought a dishwasher, ironed as little as possible, sold the brass and learned to add up. I also eat out as often as possible. The housework gets done when I have visitors who might notice if I haven’t. I leave Radio 5 to those with stronger constitutions.
Diana Lord
Cranfield, Bedfordshire

• Your obituary of Andrea de Cesaris (7 October) brought back fond memories of James Hunt’s description of De Cesaris’s car as “a mobile chicane” because even when being lapped he would not voluntarily give way to faster cars. This, of course, in the era before blue flags forced slower drivers to let the leaders through.
Ian McAdam
Godalming, Surrey

• On the subject of unfinishable novels (G2, 9 October), I should like to submit Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve attempted this book in written form (three times) and in audio form (once) and have never managed to get further than the meaning of its title. I have read a book by Howard Jacobson, by the way.
Melanie White

• The owner of Cardiff City might be a little unorthodox, but appointing Noddy Holder and the lads to run the team might prove a step too far (Tan finally confirms Slade as new manager, Sport, 7 October).
Michael Cunningham

• Even supposing that a new Dad’s Army film is a good idea and notwithstanding the excellence of Toby Jones’s acting (Report, 9 October), surely David Cameron would be the ideal choice to play Captain Mainwaring. He has the combination of pompous bluster and inability to actually get anything done in practice down to a fine art.
Keith Flett


On 13 October the House of Commons will debate a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.” This is a rare opportunity for MPs to assist the Government to take a historic decision by conveying the feeling of the country on a non-party issue which is both open and important. We hope that they will seize it.

The debate will take place when the prospects for the peace process are bleak, in the aftermath of some of the worst violence in years in Gaza, and after Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama on 1 October that Israel was to build 2,600 new housing units, all of them illegal, between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Significantly, however, the next day the new Swedish government announced that it intended soon to recognise a Palestinian state.

The British government’s position, stated by William Hague on 9 November 2011, is that “We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.”

Our government recognised the state of Israel (without agreed borders or capital) in 1950. Today there is a common EU policy on the framework for final status agreement, including borders based on the 1967 line, subject to any negotiated modifications, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.

Given our own historical role, UK bilateral recognition would symbolically reaffirm and strengthen this position. Practically it would not sidestep negotiations but help them forward. Specifically it would give the parties rather less unequal status; it would give a very public political warning to the Israeli government and public to dissuade them from taking yet more unilateral steps which could soon leave nothing to negotiate; and it would strengthen the hand of those in the US administration who would like the US to show “tougher” love to Israel and play a more even-handed role, but who are frustrated by the powerful Israeli lobby. It would also, as the Swedish foreign minister said, give Palestinians more hope in the path of negotiation.

Our historical role, national values and self-interest all point to early recognition – a significant decision which would encourage many of our European partners to join the 134 other countries that have already recognised a Palestinian state. We hope that Monday’s vote will bring that decision nearer.

Robin Kealy
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem, 1997-2001

Sir Richard Dalton
HM Consul-General, Jerusalem  1993-1997

Oliver Miles
British Ambassador to Greece, 1993-96

Basil Eastwood
British Ambassador to Syria, 1996-2000

Sir Harold Walker
British Ambassador to Iraq, 1990-1991

Boorish British hatred of Europe

I grew up in a Britain of manners, grace and reasoned debate, and this was recognised around the world. How times change.

Now our Prime Minister wants to renegotiate a special deal for the UK in relation to the world’s most successful trading bloc, and if the 27 other European Union members don’t agree, he threatens to leave. We apparently also want a special deal in relation to a human rights accord that everyone else in Europe has signed up to apart from Belarus. And if we don’t get that, we’ll leave that too.

This petulance flows from the same well of prejudice that cheered on Nigel Farage when he insulted Herman Van Rompuy, telling him that he had “all the charisma of a damp rag”.

The hatred of all things European by a sizeable part of the population is worrying, and yet is cheered on in sections of the press and pandered to by our politicians, looking for a scapegoat for all our ills. And as a result of this hatred, a boorish unpleasantness has crept into our national discourse. We are the worse for it, and I don’t like it.

Derek Hammersley
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland, Edinburgh

The Tory proposal to withdraw from the European Human Rights Convention is merely a restatement of Tory policy since the time before the party was known as Tory, Conservative or any other name,

The Tories have a deep-rooted objection to being told what to do by any foreigners. If there are orders to be given they should be given by Brits.

The Tories also know that any orders that they give to people in this country will be obeyed by a great majority, thanks to the culture of subservience which has flourished over the centuries.

The human rights which have existed in this country are such that most people can’t afford to pay for them to be put into operation. I remember as a child seeing a performance of 1066 And All That. When Magna Carta  was introduced, every clause was followed by “Except the working man”. This summed it up perfectly and nothing has changed.

Bill Fletcher
Cirencester, Gloucestershire


Austerity is bad for mental health

If you broke your leg, would you think it was a good deal to wait two weeks to be treated? If your mind breaks with a psychotic episode, why is a two-week wait for treatment a good deal, when the need for treatment should be just as urgent as physical health challenges? (“Clegg pledges to end the shortfall in mental health treatment”, 8 October.)

There are insufficient beds, insufficient staff, inadequate training, inadequate care in the mental health sector.  Mental health needs increase with austerity, as life becomes harder. The odd hundred million pounds won’t address the problem. A radical change in priorities will.

Investment in health rather than warfare, and taxing the rich, and corporations who avoid their taxes, rather than removing beds and benefits from the mentally ill, will ultimately save far more lives.

Shirley Franklin
Mental health carer and Chair of Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, London N19

French buses in West London

Many thanks to Jim Armitage for his article on foreign state-controlled firms running much of the UK’s infrastructure (9 October). I thought it was just me not getting the finer points of government.

EDF also, of course, owns London Electricity. And if you get a United Buses bus, you may notice a small sign above the door: “Part of the RATP Group”. The Paris underground company, of course, owned by guess who? Thankfully, our excellent local fishmonger and greengrocer are both owned by the people who serve you, but I do worry.

David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex


Marginalised voters in safe seats

I, too, will not vote again (letters, 7 October) because in 46 years my vote has never made any difference. I have lived in nine different constituencies, including the political extremes of Tunbridge Wells and Islington. All have had safe majorities; none has been marginal.

I have turned out to vote every time. My vote has always been wasted. I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt, because I have been brought up to believe in democracy.

Frances Gaskell
Kilham, East Yorkshire

Victims of school rugby

Allyson Pollock’s article on the dangers of rugby (7 October) does not mention another, extremely rare, hazard for rugby players in schools: a broken neck.

For many years I dealt  with inquiries about university facilities from prospective students with disabilities. In that time I met three students who were using wheelchairs because they had broken their necks playing rugby, and I corresponded with a fourth.

Mary Foley

What killed the coal mines?

In her three-page article (8 October) on the miners’ strike Anne McElvoy finds room to quote, at length, numerous pre-Christian historians. The economics were dealt with in four words: “Coal was becoming uneconomical”.

Clearly there wasn’t space left to mention that the mining industry was expected to compete, by the Thatcher government, against a massively subsidised nuclear industry and Columbian coal imports mined by pre-teens for a pittance.

Mark Robertson
East Boldon, Tyne and Wear

Rooney chases Greaves record

If Wayne Rooney wants to match Jimmy Greaves’s goal-scoring total for England then he has a job on (“Rooney closes in on Greaves milestone”, 9 October). Jimmy scored 44 goals in 57 appearances. Rooney has 41 in 97 appearances. To match Jimmy’s scoring rate per match he will have to score 34 goals against San Marino.

Peter Evans
Billericay, Essex


Sir, In “How to Be a Man: that’s the book we need” (Oct 8) Alice Thomson is right to point to the growing emasculation and frustration felt by many young men. Feminism continues to redefine the identities of young, mainly working-class males. Since the 1980s middle-class feminists have skewed society to reflect an anti-male agenda.

Set against this has been a transition to a service economy, where “soft” skills are in demand. The result has been greater empowerment of women at work and growing financial independence from men. At the same time, perceptions of marriage have changed: gone is the certainty of family life of the 1950s and in its place are more fragmented environments, often without the paternal role models which are so important to the developing male identity.

This combination of factors creates many of the chronic social problems relating to young men. They leave school with inferior qualifications and poorer job prospects. Dismissed as potential husbands, fathers and providers by women at work or supported by the state, they feel unwanted, and express growing anger. The greater tolerance in society for “men are useless” statements, jokes and advertisements reflects a situation for which there is an increasing human and economic cost.
John Barker

Prestbury, Cheshire

Sir, Young people today are ready targets for those who wish to use them for their own ends, which often leads to their being so troubled while they try to find themselves. Media interest in young people may well encourage self-absorption and much advertising is directed their way. The notion of adulthood has been undermined and the subjection of boys to the same sort of media horror that confronts girls must be avoided. It is unfortunate for some young people that they are supposedly protected by being compelled to keep the company of other disaffected youngsters in school or college rather than learning about adult life from adults, such as employers of apprentices.

We do not need a book for boys. We need to ask how it is that we allow boys and girls to be misused by the very adult world that they are so keen to join.
Peter Inson
East Mersea, Essex

Sir, What an excellent piece by Alice Thomson. However, I did write a book for men, Saving the Situation, in 1996, with a foreword by Baroness Faithfull. She was so horrified by the statistics about male victims that she sent us to discuss the problem with Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Our estimate was that at least 100,000 men had been excluded from their homes due to false allegations of domestic violence since 1992. Our
statements were frowned upon by the government and nothing
was done.
Julian Nettlefold
Family Practice Press

Sir, Alice Thomson’s article is to be applauded. I am a retired female academic currently completing a book (with a former male colleague) about the occupational experiences of male primary school teachers. My data confirms the article’s views that men as well as women can be stereotyped and I suggest both women and men start to work together to end these unfair gender practices.
Dr Elizabeth Burn
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

Sir, I fear I would never be able to secure employment with a top management consultancy, not just because I’m a little unsure
what management consultancy is, but also because I have absolutely no idea what a “mani/pedis” is/are.
Rob Matthews

Formby, Merseyside

Sir, In view of the forthcoming BBC charter renewal, not to mention questions about the licence fee, the insistent refrain of the BBC Children in Need song, “God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You . . . ”, may appear somewhat portentous.
Sue Balsom
Llanfarian, Aberystwyth

Sir, The closure of Richard Branson’s Little Red airline (News, Oct 7) comes at a time when people in their millions are rediscovering trains, raising a question over the attraction and viability of short-haul air services. Together with the introduction of aircraft that can carry up to a third more passengers, this leads me to wonder whether we need new runway capacity.
James Miller
London N1

Sir, Apropos “To um or to er?” (Oct 6). My teacher in the Fiftiesused “Um” and less frequently “Like”. In our version of classroom cricket, the “Ums” were runs and the “Likes” were wickets. It required a lot of concentration to keep the score.
Dr James Visick

Sir, I was alarmed to read of Brian Blessed’s experience with “deceitful” genealogists (report, Oct 9). People wanting help with family history should be aware that the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (Agra) is the recognised body for genealogists and that our members are regulated and reputable.
Ian H Waller
Chairman, Agra

Little Red airline (News, Oct 7) comes at a time when people in their millions are rediscovering trains, raising a question over the attraction and viability of short-haul air services. Together with the introduction of aircraft that can carry up to a third more passengers, this leads me to wonder whether we need new runway capacity.
James Miller
London N1


Excursions: the Natural History Museum in London offers enjoyment and education in equal measure Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:56AM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR — Your correspondent’s comment that charging entry fees would “give us all a chance to enjoy our glorious galleries” (Letters, October 2) made me see red.

As a child I enjoyed many an exciting and educational visit to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, several times a year, free of charge. When I took my own children, the considerable entrance fee meant we visited as a family only twice. Now that entrance fees have been removed, my children regularly visit the museums and my grandson will, I hope, find these excursions as enjoyable and enriching as I did.

Removing the standard entrance fee has once again opened up our museums and galleries to everyone, regardless of budget.

Fenella Collins
Newbury, Berkshire

Coalition partners: the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister pose in front of 10 Downing Street

6:57AM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR – In complaining that the Liberal Democrat tail wags the Conservative dog, Jim Barrack must have forgotten the result of the 2010 election.

The Tories received about 3.5 votes out of 10; according to the rules of our democracy, they simply did not have the votes to govern alone.

The Liberal Democrats received around 2.3 votes out of 10. It was sensible that the two parties worked together and that each compromised to achieve what, in the opinion of many, has been a successful Government that has lifted the economy out of Labour’s recession.

David Forrester

Holland remembers

SIR – I grew up in Holland, not far from Arnhem, during the Second World War.

I have lived in Britain for 50 years now, and I give talks to the public and in schools about the years of occupation in the Netherlands. I always start by saying how deeply grateful the Dutch are for having been liberated by the British and their allies. May 4 is Remembrance Day in Holland and each year the Dutch unite to make sure they will never forget.

I cannot offer Major Edwin Gibson and his fellow veterans a medal, but I can express my thanks.

Liesbeth Langford
Hexham, Northumberland

Natural remedies

SIR – Tom Chivers is correct to say that science distinguishes between a herbal remedy and a medicine.

For cancer and infection, over half of our medicines can be traced back to natural sources. This is a compelling reason to protect the world’s natural resources: not just the rainforest, but also the marine environments which are just beginning to yield unique medicines for pain, cancer and heart disease, among other conditions.

Professor Marcel Jaspars
University of Aberdeen

Strictly amateurs

SIR – Now that the Strictly Come Dancing season is upon us once again, would it be possible to hang an L-plate on the contestants so that the less informed audience members can identify them as celebrities?

Francoise Percy-Davis
Melksham, Wiltshire

Vaccine: flu viruses are notoriously difficult to immunise people against Photo: Heathcliff O’Malley for the Telegraph

6:58AM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR – Since last December the Ebola virus has killed about 3,500 people. The influenza virus kills 500,000 people worldwide every year.

According to the media and government spokesmen, one of these is a global health crisis. I’m getting a flu jab.

Kevin Hennessy
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Affordable energy

SIR – Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, argues that opponents of onshore wind turbines are irrational.

Yet even Cabinet ministers are not immune to this lack of rationality. For ideological reasons Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, seems determined to block investment in onshore wind developments by overturning informed decisions made by his own Independent Planning Inspectorate. His actions fly in the face of his own Government’s polling, which shows that 70 per cent of the British public support onshore wind, a level of support far exceeding that of nuclear (42 per cent) and fracking (29 per cent).

Onshore wind is considerably less expensive than the other forms of generation, including offshore wind and nuclear. In many parts of the United States, onshore wind is already cheaper than gas. As energy security becomes an increasing problem, onshore wind can protect our energy supply and keep energy bills stable – as long as we don’t submit to nimbyism from a vocal minority.

Andrew Whalley
Chief Executive, REG Windpower
Guildford, Surrey

Naming sex suspects

SIR – The remarks by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, at a fringe meeting during the Conservative conference suggesting he may review the police practice of naming suspects in sex offence investigations are to be welcomed.

It is hard to overstate the damage caused to the reputation of such suspects by the full glare of media attention. Sex cases are arguably unique. While one can think of a number of rehabilitated high-profile offenders, the opportunity of rehabilitation following sex misconduct allegations – even if such allegations are unfounded or never proved – is much more difficult.

There is clearly a balance to be struck between a suspect’s right to privacy and the need to investigate serious crime rigorously. A debate about protecting reputations and recognising the pitfalls of certain investigatory practices is overdue.

Edmund Smyth
London EC1

Stump up stamp duty

SIR – Can anyone explain to me why stamp duty is paid by the purchaser?

Surely it should be paid by the vendor, who has the advantage of the tax-free gain on the property if it is his domicile.

Robin Young
Hungerford, Berkshire

Bearded gent on high

SIR – When the late novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard was small there was a picture on the wall of the study belonging to her grandfather, the composer Sir Arthur Somervell, that was treated with such reverence she believed it must be God.

Imagine her disappointment when an inventory compiled by removal men listed it as “Bearded gent in beaded frame signed J Brahms” (Letters, October 7).

Garry Humphreys
London N13

The economy must dominate in Brazil run-off

This election gives Brazil the opportunity to shape its future

Which way now? Campaign flyers outside a voting centre in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Which way now? Campaign flyers outside a voting centre in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Photo: Bloomberg

6:59AM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR – Brazil is now at a crossroads, with a path towards continued state intervention and almost Chavista populist politics in one direction, and the modernisation of industry, infrastructure and government systems in the other.

There is much dissatisfaction with the president, Dilma Rousseff, and her ruling Workers’ Party (PT) after several episodes of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency in running the country and the economy.

Brazil’s economic growth is the lowest it has been since 1894. While it is commendable that many have been raised out of poverty and unemployment is particularly low, those statistics mask the truth. Many previously starving families are now hooked on government handouts with no system in place to move them into proper employment and prosperity. Unemployment figures are skewed by the large number of low-paid jobs for jobs’ sake, such as multiple supermarket packers, compounding Brazil’s already terrible industrial productivity.

Under Ms Rousseff, Brazil has not just failed to open up its markets to external competition, but has seen a reversion to the protectionist and interventionist measures of the Seventies and Eighties.

If Brazil is to grow and be the international power that it seeks to be, it needs to become a greater participant in the global economy. With improvements in communication, perhaps that message will register and this election may spur the country towards a better future.

Len Pannett
Wallingford, Berkshire

Smoke rises after an US-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobane Photo: Murad Sezer/Reuters

7:00AM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has declared that it has created a caliphate.

Having launched an assault on the Syrian town of Kobane, it is reasonable to expect Isil now to push across the border into Turkey to further its ambition.

This incursion into Nato territory would surely lead to a change of military response and the deployment of ground troops. A critical stage of the “war on terror” is fast approaching.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

SIR – Turkey’s president is right to call for ground operations against Isil. Kobane is on his border, so his country is under threat. It is time he moved his own army in to deal with the problem – or would he like others to fight to protect him?

Alan Kibblewhite
Blandford Forum, Dorset

SIR – Naturally, we vent our fury against the perpetrators of the inhuman crimes being committed by the Islamic State against innocent hostages.

But surely we should consider acknowledging the immense courage of some of our compatriots while facing almost certain death.

Without setting a precedent, could we not award a posthumous decoration, if only to give their families the comfort of knowing that the nation has provided a permanent recognition of the victims’ final sacrifice?

Jeremy Watson
Marnhull, Dorset

SIR – It may seem heartless, but apart from providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, we should just keep out of it. All that our ineffectual military participation does is to unite Islamic fundamentalists in their hatred of the West, especially Britain and America.

The West has been drawn into a proxy war between two conflicting Islamic ideologies, with fundamentalists on one side being funded – although the governments of these countries deny it – by citizens of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and on the other side by Iran and Syria, while the Kurds seek independence from both.

Let’s keep out and let the Muslims fight their own war for the Middle East between themselves. The West cannot then be blamed for the collateral damage and massacres that already have and undoubtedly will continue to take place, with or without our help.

Ian Harris
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

SIR – I hope that Britain will not have anything to do with the 2022 World Cup, which is to be hosted by Qatar.

How could we ever think it was safe to visit when elements of Qatari society are apparently funding Isil, which targets innocent British citizens?

David Jonas
Hindon, Wiltshire

SIR – The Kurds are the lone ray of hope in this miserable mess with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

They are brave and committed but desperately under-armed. They need our help, not after the usual “mature reflection” (meaning too late) but right now. They do not need to be taught how to use machine guns and mortars. They just need the kit.

Despite the Coalition’s crucifixion of our Armed Forces, we still have the capacity for long-range air-drops out of RAF Akrotiri, on Cyprus. It is time our Establishment stopped party posturing and got in gear.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Turkey’s reluctance to help the Kurds fighting the Islamic State is extremely disappointing but entirely predictable. There is sympathy for Isil among parts of Turkey’s population and government, and the country has a long record of oppressing its own minorities, particularly the Kurds.

Turkey’s actions do, however, call into question its suitability as a Nato ally and, for many people, will finally put a nail in the coffin of its aim of joining the EU.

Andrew Brown

SIR – Turkish tanks immobile and inactive only yards away from the destruction of the Kurds in defence of Kobane are reminiscent of the Russians on the banks of the river Vistula, where they observed the annihilation of the Polish resistance by the Nazis during the Second World War.

M H Sobey

EU immigration limit

SIR – The news that the European Commission might condescend to allow restrictions on immigration from new member states in future sounds like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The commission is talking about only transitional restrictions, which could be short-lived. This doesn’t qualify as a triumph for David Cameron.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Good old chestnut

SIR – During the Great War, school children were asked to collect conkers not for charitable purposes, as the pupils at Clifton Green primary school in York have been, but for use in the manufacture of explosives as part of the war effort. Similar collections were arranged for the pits of certain soft fruits, which were converted into charcoal for use in gas mask filters.

Nigel Searle
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Well done, the children of Clifton Green primary school for collecting 50,000 conkers. They could add to the £1,300 they raised by inviting the public to help themselves, in return for a small donation. Bowls of shiny conkers look very attractive around the house and a few among sweaters and seldom-used clothes are also very effective for keeping moths at bay.

Joan Moore
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Air mail: ‘The Country Postman in the year 2000’, a French colour lithograph from 1913  Photo:

4:52PM BST 09 Oct 2014


SIR – In July, I sent a pair of earrings as a birthday present to my sister in Sydney using the Royal Mail “tracked” (formerly Airmail) service. When, after six weeks, the package failed to arrive, I submitted a claim for compensation, but this was rejected for the following reason: “As your item contained goods that are prohibited or restricted by Australia, I’m afraid I cannot compensate you for the loss.”

I contacted Australia Post and Australian Customs and Border Security, both of which said that they had no such prohibition. According to the long list on the Royal Mail website, besides jewellery, other “prohibited items for mailing to Australia” include “printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry”.

Geoffrey Miller
Flamborough, East Yorkshire

SIR – It takes two hours to drive from Herefordshire to Somerset, but three days for a first-class letter to travel the same distance.

Bill Gunn

Irish Times:

A chara, – It was news to me to hear from Derek Byrne (“Marriage not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”, Opinion & Analysis, October 9th) that we have counter-cultural responsibilities as gay people. I can only presume he imagines that as a member of Fine Gael, I’m failing in mine.

In a modern, liberal republic, each of us should be free to make our own decisions about our personal and family lives, with neither a duty to conform nor to rebel. That gay people should have this same opportunity is not a response to an Irish village mentality, as Mr Byrne argues, but something we are realising the world over.

If we vote in the spring to allow gay couples to marry, we will join countries as diverse as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, and more than half the US states.

Let us embrace this opportunity to join these countries in a vote that will respect and value the dignity of gay people’s lives and relationships. – Is mise,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I disagree with Derek Byrne in defining the LGBT community as a subculture, or classing its members as people who are different, and I think to do so misses the point of the marriage equality referendum.

If you choose to wear a pair of skinny jeans and you choose to drink exotic coffee while riding your fixed-gear bike and stroking your beard, it is probable that I would classify you as part of the hipster subculture. But that is a subculture you choose to be a part of. Being a member of the LGBT community is not a choice, so I refuse to consider its members different purely by the circumstances of their birth.

Marriage equality is about freedom of choice and the right to self-determination. It is not about whether or not it would suit all members of the LGBT community; it is not about whether or not any, or all, LGBT marriages would be monogamous or open relationships.

Marriage does not suit all heterosexual couples, nor are all heterosexuals marriages monogamous, but they are still entitled to marry. Marriage equality is about giving the right to choose to all who wish to marry.

It doesn’t matter a jot to me if a massive majority or a tiny minority of the LGBT community avail of that right; that is their choice. How they exercise that choice, much like their right to vote, is entirely a personal matter for each and every one of them. But denying the entire LGBT community that right because some may not want it, or exercise it, is wrong. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

Sir, – Derek Byrne writes that gay people are different from the norm and that “what we need are laws that celebrate our differences and provide for them, not laws that make everyone the same”. I disagree.

As a heterosexual individual I find it abhorrent that the choices open to me for living my life can be denied to others simply because their sexual orientation is different. The laws of society should be designed to enable individuals to choose the best life for themselves. If there are gay people who desire to celebrate their love through marriage, then so they should and the law must not prevent that. If some don’t wish to marry, then that’s their choice.

When you offer people these choices you are not making them the same but instead allowing them the opportunity to express their individuality. You permit them do what they personally want to do and to live their life as they see fit. That is the best way to provide for differences. If some gay couples decide to marry, that does not mean there is a pressure placed on all other members of the gay community to follow suit and tie the knot; the reduced pressure on heterosexual couples to marry in modern times is worth bearing in mind.

Mr Byrne says he cannot comprehend why some gay individuals would enter into a “heterosexual construct” and argues that the gay lifestyle conflicts with it. However, there is no single or best way to live a married life. While marriage may have its roots in a paternalistic society, it is capable of evolving into a more equal, inclusive and personal institution. We have already seen that with the removal of restrictions on interracial and interfaith marriages.

To deny people access to marriage on the grounds of their innate differences to other members of society is not a celebration of their differences. It’s discrimination. – Yours, etc,




A chara, – The new mortgage lending rules are a gift to first-time buyers. While some complain about how difficult it will be to save up a deposit, they ignore the fact that these measures are a hammer blow to high property valuations. Prices will fall, therefore deposits and mortgages will ultimately be substantially lower. While vested interests will kick and scream, the subsequent smaller mortgages will be a boon for the small business sector as more disposable income will be spent in the real economy instead of servicing debt. – Is mise,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – The recent announcement of proposed changes to residential mortgage lending is necessary and welcome, even if it is a little late. The lack of action from the Central Bank during the last crisis was a major contributory factor to the disaster that ensured and it would be inexcusable for the authorities to just sit on the sidelines again, watching the predictable chaos coming down the tracks in the absence of any meaningful policy initiatives.

However, the combination of a 20 per cent deposit, together with a 3.5 times earnings limit, is very onerous and this will place a huge burden on first-time buyers. The imposition of these restrictive measures on what to date has been little more than a “wild west” housing market will cause almost as many problems as it solves unless careful thought is given to the challenging position in which these first-time buyers will find themselves.

The private rental sector is insufficiently regulated to absorb the large numbers of 20 and 30 year olds who cannot afford to buy, and the last thing we need is to create conditions which attract the type of amateur landlords who are chasing a fast buck. The best type of landlord invests for the long term and is much more focused on sustainable rental income rather than short-term capital gain. Unfortunately, we still have too many of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. This is a problem if the policies we adopt force tens of thousands more into the rental market.

There is still time to reduce the impact of these necessary measures with a little simple but creative thinking. These aspiring first-time buyers do not deserve to be frozen out of home ownership and the Government has a responsibility to help them. The vast majority of them are in the relatively early stages of their careers and did not participate in the obscene financial feeding frenzy that preceded the economic and housing market crash. They should not be made victims for the past mistakes of others.

One simple suggestion I would make is the introduction of a first-time house buyer’s savings plan. These plans could be modelled on the popular and long-standing ISA accounts in the UK and could very easily be used to allow prospective first-time buyers to invest a capped amount of their gross income each year. Deposit interest or investment growth within these accounts should also be tax exempt but with a “clawback” condition which would reclaim any tax relief and tax-free growth if the proceeds were not used as all or part of the deposit for a home.

This creative measure would give some certainty to vulnerable young taxpayers as it would allow them to plan for their future. Of course, it would still take some years for them to accumulate their deposit but they would at least feel that home ownership was achievable. The alternative “do nothing” approach would be disastrous and would amount to a betrayal of this generation. Any Government that took this brave step would also reap the rewards as every one of these individuals has a vote and knows how to use it. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The response of would-be buyers to the Central Bank’s mortgage proposals is truly baffling and short-sighted. It seems that would-be buyers are still trapped in the mentality of “If I can just have more credit I can get my dream home” – ignoring that a general increase in credit only serves to push up prices for all. During the boom, every change to stamp duty thresholds served to disadvantage those whom it was intended to help.

The straw man of cash-rich buy-to-let landlords buying everything has also been trotted out without any data to support the assertions made. Sceptics also gloss over the fact that new mortgage rules are even tighter for this investor cohort – many of whom are unlikely to qualify for mortgages anyway given their current investments – not to mention the changes in tax treatment for rental income (increased PRSI and reduced interest deductions).

Former US Federal Reserve chairman William McChesney Martin famously described his job as “taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going”. It seems some people just want to keep drinking and forget about the hangover. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – The Government is considering cutting the top rate of income tax, which is 52 per cent for most workers. Top marginal tax rates of around 50 per cent are common across Europe. Where Ireland is unusual is the particularly low point at which workers begin to pay the top rate, currently €32,800 for single people. This is below average earnings. Most people agree that this is both unfair and it discourages work effort. It leads to the perception that Ireland is a high-tax country, even though overall taxes are below the European average.

Ireland has a very progressive income tax system, and the top 5 per cent of earners pay about 40 per cent of income tax.

This is unsurprising, as income inequality is wide, and high earners receive a disproportionate share of the income. Faced with continued budget deficits, now is not the time to deliver scarce resources to this group. Rather than cut the top rate, an alternative is to introduce a third, or fourth tax rate. A possible rate schedule might be 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent and 50 per cent. This would make the income tax system smoother, and ensure that workers don’t pay 50 per cent marginal tax rates until they earn, say, €100,000.

By adjusting tax bands and tax credits, marginal tax rates for many workers could be reduced, while maintaining income tax revenues. – Yours, etc,


Lough Gill, Sligo.

Sir, – With a recent Dóchas (Ipsos/MRBI) poll again showing that a large majority of our citizens support overseas aid and international development, I would encourage the Government to respect that support. Another cut in this year’s budget would be a further blow after six years of cuts. In an increasingly globalised world, our future also depends on the stability of the wider world. Increasing our overseas aid budget is not just the right thing to do, but in the most selfish way it is the smart thing to do. The Ebola crisis shows exactly what can happen if problems are neglected by the wider world. In short, a safer, healthier and more prosperous world is better for all of us. With this in mind I hope the Government increases our overseas aid budget this year, for our good and for the good of others. – Yours, etc,



Sierra Leone.

Sir, – Ireland has a great record in contributing to those in need , and we should endeavour to do our best in this regard. However, will the Department of Foreign Affairs reconsider its allocation of aid to India (€2.8 million in 2013) in light of India’s recent entry to the space race with its Mars orbital mission, its being a member of the G20, its economy being ranked 10th in the world by way of GDP, and its status as a nuclear power? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I am pleased to see Michael Creed TD drawing attention to the exchequer loss resulting from the sale of alcohol below cost price (“Reilly says says time to act on below-cost alcohol sales”, October 6th).

From both a public health and financial health perspective, the sale of alcohol below cost should never have been allowed. Below-cost sales fuel the consumption of excessive quantities of the cheapest alcohol. This has a serious negative health impact, particularly for younger people and harmful drinkers, who we know from studies are more likely to drink cheap alcohol.

The State loses twice on below-cost sales. Alcohol-related harm costs the State approximately €3.7 billion annually in healthcare, crime, absenteeism and costs of accidents. The sale of alcohol below cost further reduces the revenue available to the exchequer to the benefit of retailers who can claim a VAT refund on the difference between the sale price and the cost price.

However, a ban on below-cost selling should not be seen as an alternative to introduction of minimum unit pricing; rather it may be a complementary or interim action. We know from modelling conducted in the UK (by the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group) that the impact of a ban on below-cost selling would be 40-50 times less than the impact of minimum unit pricing. Therefore, even with introduction of a ban on below-cost selling, minimum unit pricing should continue to be the highest priority.

My colleagues and I have highlighted this in pre-budget submissions to the Government, calling for introduction of minimum unit pricing at a level which would see alcoholic products sold above cost. Government action to turn off the tap on cheap alcohol, as promised within the public health alcohol Bill, has our full support. It will reduce health impacts and doubly benefit the exchequer and the State. – Yours, etc,



Royal College

of Physicians of Ireland,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Unsurprisingly, the Drummartin Link Road in Sandyford, Dublin, has been revealed as one of the top 10 speeding locations in the country (“Gardaí identify Dublin’s top 10 speeding blackspots”, October 3rd). The road in question is a straight one, approximately a mile in length, with no houses fronting on to the road on either side, and one set of traffic lights half way down which can be seen clearly from either direction. The road is wide, with cycle lanes on either side. Perhaps a review of the 50 km/h limit to a more practical level would see it in a more realistic position in these league tables. – Yours, etc,


Sandyford, Dublin 18.

Sir, – John Colgan (October 9th) recycles the myth that fluoride added to our water is a “medicine”. Fluoride has never been classed as a medicine, and is of no concern to the Irish Medicines Board unless it forms part of a pharmaceutical formulation. It is quite simply a nutrient, not a drug. Just like chloride, iodide, selenium, zinc, manganese, copper, vitamin C and many more micronutrients that are essential to our health.

Dietary fluoride is important in the prevention of tooth decay and related disease. That does not make it a medicine – any more than potassium is a medicine (it is essential for nerve function), or vitamin C (essential for healthy gums), or calcium (essential for healthy bones) or iron (essential for transport of oxygen in our blood).

Those who wail about “enforced medication” and loss of human rights from fluoridation have swallowed illogical conspiracy theories based on pseudoscience and fear-mongering. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Appointing deacons Sir, – I note with interest the recent appointment of permanent deacons in the Catholic Church here. This is a welcome development in times when priests are becoming thin on the ground and is long overdue. I hope it will not take as long to begin appointing female deacons. Or would that be a move too far? – Yours, etc,


Raheen, Limerick.

Vegetarianism and veganism

Sir, – In response to the letters from vegetarians and vegans in recent days, may I suggest that vegetarian and vegan foods carry a health warning: “May cause smugness and self-righteousness”. – Yours, etc,



Sinn Féin’s poll performance

Sir, – Sinn Féin is neck and neck with Fine Gael in popular support and your excellent political editor Stephen Collins writes an analysis under the headline “Sinn Féin performance not guaranteed to translate into votes at election” (October 9th). May I point out that Fine Gael support may not translate into votes either. – Yours, etc,


Phibsborough, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

Because of new Central Bank restrictions on mortgage lending property prices should fall or stop rising further. Bank will be allowed lend less against property thus stalling price rises.

The average person or household that can’t afford the new level of mortgage probably would have been granted a higher value higher mortgage under previous lax lending rules.

Banks weren’t doing due diligence and were simply lending money – not on ability to pay – on rising property prices.

Property prices were rising simply because they lent more money against the same property. This is what caused the property crash in 2007.

Then, when people stopped buying property because they couldn’t afford to pay higher prices, property prices simply went into reverse. As property prices fell fewer people took out mortgages for fear of losing money and also because banks lend much less in a falling property market. This caused property prices to fall heavily very quickly.

This is why it is important that the Central Bank sticks to its guns and restricts credit lending rules, despite upsetting a couple of people. They should think of the average person or household on average incomes. This isn’t something new, it simply existed in pre-boom times.

Darragh Condren

Dundrum, Dublin 16

Mortgage guidelines a disaster

An Open Letter to the Minister for Finance.

It is my belief that buying a new or second-hand home will now be beyond reach of the vast majority of people, due to the new Central Bank guidelines for new mortgages from next January, which require an applicant to have a minimum of 20pc of the price of the home they wish to purchase.

The Central Bank has played into the hands of the large number of ruthless property speculators

Under the proposed conditions, these speculators will be able to command whatever rent they like from their unfortunate tenants.

I don’t have to state the social consequences that will occur if this uncontrolled action by the speculators is allowed.

What needs to be done in my opinion is to declare war on these speculators by the following action:

◊ 1. All homes that are not the permanent residence of the property owner must be deemed commercial investments and would therefore be liable for at least the equivalent of domestic rates. The home I live in has a poor law valuation of €25. It is a standard house and would yield a rate of €1,895 if this rule was applied. My home has approximately 1,100 square feet and would represent the vast majority of ordinary homes in the country.

◊ 2. Bring in a national maximum rent control. I would suggest an annual rate of €7 P/A per square foot.

◊3. All rental income to be liable for DIRT at the same rate that is currently payable on savings with financial institutions (42pc). This tax should be deducted from the rent payable by the tenant and the government could collect it in the following way. By deduction of tax credits from the tenant if that person is employed or by deduction from the tenant from social welfare benefits if the tenant is unemployed.

If this proposed rule was to be applied, it would force speculators to look elsewhere and would drive down property prices to a more realistic level and make home purchase a little more achievable and would help young people starting off in their lives.

David Whyte

Douglas, Cork

The meandering flow of Waters

Mr John Waters in his piece in your paper (“Enda the unlikeliest leader turned prototype puppet for a new way of governing” Irish Independent, October 8) seems to be very muddled as only John can. He says that if anyone was to be leader to run a full term it ought to have been Michael Noonan, Ivan Yates or one of the Brutons.

Perhaps it has escaped his attention that Mr Noonan got a shot at leadership, but failed badly in the general election in 2002, John Bruton became Taoiseach without an election but failed to win one in 1997, while Richard Bruton failed in a leadership heave against Mr Kenny in 2010. Ivan Yates gave up politics for business and being a sort of a hurler on the ditch – somewhat like Mr Waters!

Mr Waters then goes on to say that perhaps with passage of time history will convict Kenny, like his mentor by proxy, Charles Haughey, on the lesser charge of common-or-garden chancer. I seems to recall John writing in praise of Haughey in 2006 that he was truly great.

Brendan Cafferty

Ballina, Mayo

Water charges crucial for Earth

I am writing this letter in relation to the onslaught of articles surrounding the introduction of water charges. The public outcry to this new charge by Irish Water has been rather impressive, but I will also admit that it has been nothing short of mind boggling. This new sense of fight within the Irish public, against a government that has bled the working class poor dry over the years is most definitely a welcome sight, but the focus of the public’s ire is, in my opinion, entirely misplaced.

The fight against water charges is born out of principal. Water is a god-given human right that literally falls from the sky. Well this seems to be the general consensus amongst the public anyway.

In one sense, I can understand the harsh response to further charges on water, because the public do pay over €1 billion in taxes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the public water supply.

However, the charges introduced by Irish Water are not about bleeding further funds from an already financially-anorexic public piggy bank. They are about hammering home the need for change in the management of – not only this country’s natural resources – the resources of this planet on a global scale.

The fact is that the management of global water systems and supplies is simply not sustainable at the current level, and continuing down this path will have substantial socio-economic consequences in the future.

Consequences that may come too late to address. The public backlash may hold the appearance of a people pushed too far. In my view, the public reaction to the Irish Water debacle does nothing more than highlight the ignorance of the Irish people in regards to their planet and the sustainability of its natural resources.

Daniel Lynch

Address with editor

Jumping for Roy

I have been in poor health for the past 12 years. I can be relatively specific about the years, as I know it began around the World Cup in Japan/Korea

My illness peaks and wanes, but became particularly acute again these last few days.

This morning my doctor finally recommended that I visit one of the Keanesiotherapy clinics which apparently proliferate in the Netherlands and Flanders.

I thought that I should share this with your readers. many of whom must suffer from the same disease.

Indeed, could I suggest, sir, that as the Irish media may itself contribute significantly to outbreaks of the disease, you yourself should consider undertaking the therapy in question.

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin

Irish Independent


October 9, 2014

9 October 2014 Jill

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent. Jill comes to call

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


Andrew Kerr – obituary

Andrew Kerr was an ex-public school dropout whose New Age idealism inspired the original 1971 ‘Glastonbury Fayre’

Andrew Kerr in 2011

Andrew Kerr in 2011 Photo: GETTY

5:47PM BST 08 Oct 2014


Andrew Kerr, who has died aged 80, was an Old Radleian drop-out, New Ager and guiding spirit behind the “Glastonbury Fayre” of 1971, an event which subsequently morphed into the world’s most successful music festival.

The year before, Kerr had moved to Pilton, near Glastonbury, to indulge his fascination with the Arthurian and Druidic legends associated with Glastonbury Tor. In 1971 he rented Worthy Farm, overlooking the Vale of Avalon, whose owner, dairy farmer Michael Eavis, had put on a small pop festival in 1970 in an attempt to repay his farm’s overdraft. The festival had chalked up a substantial loss, leaving Eavis having to pay the £500 fee for his headline act, Marc Bolan, in instalments from his monthly milk cheque. However, something about the farm’s setting amid a confluence of ley lines inspired Kerr to think that he might do better.

Together with Arabella Churchill, the “wild-child” granddaughter of Sir Winston, Kerr promised to pay off Eavis’s debts if he would let them put on a “free” festival around the 1971 summer solstice. While Arabella invested £4,000 in a vast “psychic pyramid” stage built by a man who thought up the design in his sleep, Kerr set aside an area on the site as a landing pad for flying saucers and doused for ley lines to determine the most auspicious location for the stage (somewhere between Sagittarius and Capricorn).

The Glastonbury Fayre “manifesto” promised “a fair in the medieval tradition” and described the occasion as an “ecological experiment”, designed to “tap the universe” and stimulate “the Earth’s nervous system”. It spoke of spiritual reawakening, Joseph of Arimathea and his nephew Jesus, and the zodiacal significance of the Vale of Avalon.

David Bowie, Hawkwind and Traffic agreed to headline for nothing; free rice and lentils were paid for by Jean Shrimpton; news of the event spread by word of mouth — there was no advertising, no tickets, no programme. People were still turning up in August asking when it was going to happen.

Glastonbury Fayre-goers in 1971 (DAILY MIRROR)

Held over five days, the event attracted a crowd of 7,000 and was, by most standards, hopelessly chaotic. The Grateful Dead failed to show; neighbours complained about the noise and the mess; there were reports of illness caused by the failure of some festival-goers to use the earth latrines. Somerset’s television news show, Points West, sent its reporter, John Craven, who told how “straight society” was “horrified by the free love-making, fertility rites, naked dancing and drug-taking” going on.

“There was a lot of LSD about,” Michael Eavis conceded, “and people were freaking out, wandering into the village wearing only a top hat.” He also found his festival-organising colleagues “slightly unhinged”: “When I had a disagreement with them they threw a load of Tarot cards on the kitchen table. The message read: ‘No one with the name of Michael should be involved with the festival.’ And I said: ‘Hang on a minute, isn’t this my farm?’ ”

Yet the show was judged to have been a rip-roaring success, showing how, as one fayre-goer put it, “a music festival could really break through the conventional barriers that regulate behaviour and which prevent us from really being ourselves”. By the end of proceedings the police had recorded only two arrests, while, despite the mind-altering substances available, only one person, a naked druid, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

For the next seven years those involved went their separate ways. Michael Eavis went back to milking cows; Arabella Churchill returned to London, where she ran a restaurant for squatters, later moving to Wales to farm. Kerr headed north, with his Danish partner Jytte, to Scotland where they squatted in a deserted croft, had two children and endeavoured to become self-sufficient. When, after six years, Jytte left him for another man, Kerr drifted back south and worked, variously, as a dry-stone waller, as a worker in the Divine Light Mission of Guru Maharaji, and as a crumbling-cliff-fixer and scriptwriter in Los Angeles.

Free rice and lentils: the Pyramid Stage in 1971 (Photo: PA)

What saved Glastonbury was its fans. Although no more real festivals were held until the end of the 1970s, some pilgrims still turned up to Worthy Farm in June every year, holding their own, impromptu gatherings. In 1978, Eavis helped them to construct a makeshift stage and supplied electricity; the following year, inspired to try again, he secured a bank loan and invited the organisers of the 1971 event to have another go.

In June 1979, 12,000 people paid £5 apiece to see Steve Hillage, Sky and Peter Gabriel. But the festival made a huge loss and Eavis decided to take over the running himself. He proved to be an extraordinarily good organiser, turning Glastonbury into a huge and highly profitable annual event.

Kerr remained involved with the festival, on and off, and at the 2011 event marked the 40th anniversary of the Pyramid stage with his own “Spirit of 71” stage.

Andrew Kerr promoting biodegradable tent pegs in 2008 (GETTY)

Andrew Kerr was born on November 29 1933 at Ewell, Surrey. His father was a career naval officer and a descendant of the 6th Marquis of Lothian; his mother was from a Shropshire landowning family. His childhood was spent in Oxfordshire where his parents began to farm after the Second World War.

After education at Radley College, where – undiagnosed with dyslexia, he struggled and was ridiculed as unintelligent – and National Service as a stores assistant in the Royal Navy, Kerr had a go at advertising, worked as a receptionist with the Automobile Association and as a nurseryman, before landing a job as personal assistant and researcher to Sir Winston Churchill’s son Randolph, who was writing the official multi-volume biography of his father. When he turned up at his new employer’s country house in Suffolk, he was greeted with the words: “Mr Kerr, I’m afraid I was rather drunk last night and don’t really know why you’re here.”

So began what became a genuine friendship, during which Kerr travelled all over the world with his employer, becoming great friends with his daughter Arabella, though he found less in common with his son Winston, who dismissed him as “intolerably hip” (the description gave Kerr the title for his autobiography, published in 2011). As well as helping Randolph on his biography, Kerr’s duties included helping to provide a bolt-hole for John Profumo in 1963, standing in when the cook was away, fixing the boiler and acting as Churchill’s drinking companion: “He used to drink gin before lunch, wine with the meal and then watered whisky for the rest of the day, interrupted by wine at supper.” Kerr’s preference was for vodka and tonic, supplemented by the odd spliff.

When Randolph died in 1968, Kerr worked briefly for Yorkshire Television before returning to London where he found his niche in the grey area between bohemian hippiedom and high society. He hung out with the Grateful Dead, indulged a fascination with UFOs and experimented with LSD, but was also a regular guest at luncheon parties hosted by Lady Diana Cooper. At one of these he shared his theories of how the supernatural events in the Bible were carried out by extra-terrestrials with the person next to him – Princess Margaret; “I think she must have guessed I was a bit high,” he reflected.

It was a visit to the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 that inspired the idea for the Glastonbury Fayre. Appalled by the rampant profiteering, he decided to try and put pop culture to constructive purposes by staging a free festival at Stonehenge. But the plans had to be ditched after Jimi Hendrix, who had agreed to top the bill, died following an overdose of sleeping tablets. A few months later Kerr approached Michael Eavis.

In the 1980s, as well as helping out at Glastonbury, Kerr worked, variously, in special effects at Pinewood, as maître d’ in a restaurant, as a dry stone wall builder and yacht repairer and as a charter yacht skipper in the Mediterranean.

In 1992 another sudden surge of idealism saw him back in the West Country putting on the first (and only) Whole Earth Show in Dorset, promoting organic farming and sustainable technologies such as compost funerals.

Andrew Kerr is survived by his two children.

Andrew Kerr, born November 29 1933, died October 6 2014


Letchworth ‘Far from being a city, Letchworth was in fact a large village,’ writes David Robson. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

In discussing the development of Ebbsfleet (A city of dreams, G2, 2 October), Patrick Barkham avoided engaging in real quantitative terms with the question of “density”. When we bandy around terms like “low-density”, what does this mean? How low is low? When is high too high? What is the optimal range of densities for new peri-urban housing?

Letchworth, planned by Parker and Unwin in 1906, was built to densities that were half those proposed in Ebenezer Howard’s original theoretical blueprint “Tomorrow” of 1898. Far from being a city, Letchworth was in fact a large village. Unwin set out his arguments in favour of lower-density development in his 1912 pamphlet “Nothing gained by overcrowding”. Later, as a co-author of the 1919 Tudor Walters report, he helped to formulate the notional limit of 30 dwellings per acre which would shape suburban housing development in Britain throughout the 20th century.

The new towns of the postwar period were also infected by Unwinism and were built to unsustainably low densities, with land being wasted in over-large plots and purposeless areas of open space. Milton Keynes, trumpeted as a city, is in fact one huge garden suburb crisscrossed by featureless motorways; it is the ultimate no-place, consuming huge swaths of land while failing to establish any sense of urbanity.

Lower densities obviously use more land, but they also increase infrastructure and energy costs, reduce the viability of public transport, and encourage greater reliance on private cars. Just as significantly, by reducing propinquity, they discourage social cohesion and fail to establish the critical mass which is a prerequisite for urban living. Our history provides us with more viable models for urban housing: the Georgian town and the Victorian suburb were both built, successfully, to densities of over 50 dwellings per hectare.

We ignore the fact that we live in the most densely populated country in Europe and that land, particularly in the south-east, is a precious commodity. If we are going to build garden cities, let the emphasis be on “city” rather than “garden”, and let’s build them to sustainable densities.
David Robson
Hove, East Sussex

• Garden cities are not and never were the housing paradise. I was born in Welwyn Garden City in 1950, and although I remember it as a spacious and green environment, I also remember all too well how the population demographic was “controlled” by the way it was laid out. On the west side were all the privately owned houses, set in nice streets with driveways and garages and lovely tree-planting – still beautiful today. On the east were all the council houses with no garages or driveways, and all the factories. White- and blue-collar workers were deliberately kept separate from each other through the planning process.

One man’s “garden” was another man’s “factory chimney”. Let us not delude ourselves about how wonderful these places were, nor think that the same concept would potentially work any better today.
Carol Hedges
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

• Patrick Barkham quotes a Jeff Harvey as saying that Ebbsfleet is a name made up by Eurostar. As a native of Northfleet, I can remember my mother, over 60 years ago, taking us to Ebbsfleet to see my uncle, who was the head groundsman at the Blue Circle Cement sports club there.
Joanna Rodgers

• Congratulations to Nick Clegg for his really imaginative thinking regarding the possible location of new garden cities (Clegg pledges to build a string of new towns along the ‘brainbelt of Britain’, 6 October). We now need some joined-up thinking about how the proposed Oxford to Cambridge axis would then impact on HS2 and the siting of a future new national airport – housing, job creation and transport all being considered together. As well as radically improving the business case for HS2, we now have the beginnings of a national infrastructure plan that could benefit parts of the UK other than just London and the south-east.
Robert Oak
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

• As a former Winchester city councillor with an interest in planning, I’ve always thought that the term “affordable” when applied to properties for let was meaningless and should be scrapped. Boris Johnson’s approval of flats at a monthly rent of £2,800 (Report, 3 October) comes as no surprise to those of us living in Winchester, where house prices and rents have risen dramatically in recent years, given the knock-on effect of our proximity to London. Many people have no choice these days but to rent privately, but now that even “affordable” rents can be up to 80% of commercial rents, many essential workers and young people are driven out.

While we leave provision of housing and infrastructure up to private developers, we will never solve the problem. The bottom line for developers is profit, and with the planning legislation weighted in their favour, they run rings around councils too frightened of appeals and costs to refuse applications. “Viability” is the name of the developers’ game and is increasingly and creatively used as a means to avoid building even the unaffordable “affordable” housing. I will vote for any party committed to controlling private rents and giving local authorities the power to raise funds for acquisition of prime sites for council housing. Response from Ed Miliband would be welcome.
Karen Barratt
Winchester, Hampshire

• Unfortunately, it’s not only Boris Johnson who thinks four-figure monthly rents are “affordable”. Peabody, a charity whose founding purpose is to “ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy” in London, is also advertising homes on the key-worker estates it bought from the crown estate in 2011 at “affordable” rents that no key worker can afford. Effective campaigning by tenants prevented some 1,500 homes falling into the hands of private developers and secured a promise from Peabody’s chief executive, Steve Howlett, that he was “absolutely committed to keeping these homes affordable”. In fact a “market valuation” was immediately undertaken and rents then pegged at 60%-80% of these absurd levels, resulting in tenants seeing increases of up to 36% over three years while their wages remain static and living costs rise.

With a two-bedroom flat now costing up to £1,470 a month in rent, vacant homes are remaining empty and unlet for months while nurses, firefighters and teachers, as well as pensioners, are being quietly but inexorably priced out of their homes and boroughs. Residents’ representatives are now seeing cases of working families cutting back on essentials, or having to visit food banks, in order to pay the rents charged by this apparently philanthropic organisation. We call upon Peabody, which recently reported a £291m surplus, to scrap this ludicrous rent model and honour its commitments to us and to its founding principles. Readers can sign our petition at
Joannie Andrews, Julie Bragagnini, Madeleine Davis, Terry Harper
Chairs of the former crown estate residents’ associations

Queen's Road Baptist Church food bank. A church food bank, Coventry. ‘Presumably, to drive the poor to crime or death is businesslike,’ says a reader. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Surely if there is a substantive criticism to be made of the way that many charities are now run (George Osborne faces backlash after branding charities ‘anti-business’, 4 October), it is that they are run too much like businesses, from the inflated salaries and bonuses of many executives to the distasteful and counterproductive “chugging” and cold-calling. Far from being anti-business, many of them slavishly ape the worst aspects of business.
Phil Taylor

• Regarding the chancellor’s claim to members of the Institute of Directors that “plenty of charities” do not support the free market, I am a free-market capitalist, if I am anything, but even I would prefer a charity worker to manage my country or my finances rather than a company director. In my experience (57 years), one sees the wider picture, the other is inherently selfish.
Hugh Hastings

• George Osborne trashes charities. Does this extend to the charitable status of public schools, or is he only concerned with charities that actually attempt to combat the impacts of the government’s welfare cuts? Incredible that Eton, that bastion of upper-class male supremacy, should be a charity.
Helen Jones
Windermere, Cumbria

• Interesting that Osborne, when he “rails against anti-business charities”, does not include those churches contributing to food banks. Surely feeding those so less fortunate than oneself as to be near starvation is “anti-business” and, presumably, to drive such poor people to crime or death is businesslike in the eyes of this myopic, amoral government.
George Appleby

Smoke rising from a fire following an air strike in Kobani, Syria Turkish Kurds sit on the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, as they watch smoke rising from a fire following an air strike in Kobani, Syria. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo

As a Syrian citizen living abroad, it was disturbing to read your latest editorial on Islamic State (Assad cannot be part of the solution, 8 October). It confirms how your paper is so disconnected from reality. Assad’s survival secret is that he genuinely has a significant number of the population supporting him (like me). Not because we love dictatorships and corruption or personality cults, but because we are facing much worse alternatives.

People in the self-righteous west talk about getting rid of the regime, but no one is explaining to us, Syrians, what could be the replacement. Assad runs a state that still maintains basic facilities, still pays salaries, still guarantees security and order in government-controlled areas. None of this is happening in rebel-held areas where robbing, kidnapping and killing on a sectarian and ethnic basis are rife. The rebel-held part of Aleppo (eastern Aleppo), which you claim as a stronghold of the revolution, has cut off the water supply from the government-held part in the west of the city (where most people of Aleppo are). They cut electricity and attempted to cut the food supply.

There are no major military positions in western Aleppo. Yet they are bombarding the city with mortars every day to punish civilians (more than 300 dead in the past month, according to city hospitals). No one wants to report from there. My friends, my family, my dearest are living there, yet none of your editorial is about the population living inside. It’s as if they do not exist. Why? Because they live in regime areas?

We just want the killing to stop. Unfortunately, our only hope in a peaceful, unified Syria is an all-out victory of the Syrian army, or at least some kind of agreement that keeps the current regime in charge. We have no better alternative. Think of us as human beings, not as pawns in a dirty international standoff. Or better, leave us alone.
Hazem Akil
Brisbane, Australia

• The hearts of the Kurds are breaking and we must heed their desperate pleas. In Kobani, lightly armed Kurdish fighters are defending their people against a genocidal enemy armed with tanks, armoured cars and artillery. If the city falls, the Daesh fanatics will butcher the men and sell the women into sexual slavery. Not even the children will be safe from these thugs. Meanwhile, Turkish troops sit idle on the nearby frontier, and the authorities stop Turkish Kurds from crossing to assist their comrades. The scene is eerily reminiscent of the Warsaw uprising of 1944, in which Stalin ordered the Red Army to pause at the gates of the city to allow the Nazis to wipe out the Polish resistance fighters.

We must call upon Turkey to cease aiding and abetting Isis and to arm the Kurdish fighters. Governments must also drop the designation of the YPG Kurdish fighters as terrorists; they are secular nationalists who pose no danger to the world and who are fighting desperately to save their people and lands. Nor can we forget that they earlier saved the Yazidis from annihilation at the hands of the fanatics.
Dr John Tully
Senior lecturer in politics and history, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

• I have been deeply confused, frustrated and moved to tears by your failure to feature the mass rape of Iraqi and Syrian women on your front page (Air strikes on Isis in Syria ‘not enough’, 6 October). Thousands of women and girls are being held captive, murdered, brutally gang-raped, sold into slavery, and tortured. These are some of the worst horrors the world has seen in generations. You have featured air strikes and Kurdish forces on your front page, but what about the women?

When the dust of the desert has cleared and these women’s stories are known, we will ask: why were our cries of disgust and horror not louder?

I look forward to seeing these women’s terror given the full newspaper coverage it so desperately needs.
Kamila Kingstone

Waitrose supermarket in Exeter, Devon, England showing exterior facade and sign A Waitrose supermarket in Exeter, Devon. ‘Nearly 120,000 people have petitioned John Lewis to pay the living wage to cleaners’. Photograph: Lightworks Media/Alamy

Deborah Orr’s otherwise commendable article (The big supermarkets sowed the seeds of their own decline, 4 October) makes no mention of the employment practices of the major supermarkets, and in particular their failure to pay the living wage to employees. While Waitrose prides itself on its ethical trading, this does not appear to extend to paying the living wage to its staff. Waitrose staff are eligible for a bonus payment and overtime which annually may amount to the living wage but is not synonymous with receiving the hourly living wage rate, and the cleaners at the John Lewis group, who are contracted out (and therefore not eligible for the bonus) have been in long-term dispute with the company over this. Nearly 120,000 people have petitioned John Lewis to pay the living wage to the cleaners at
Jane Lambert

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independe Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Where’s a boy scout when you need one? Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Once again, plans to expand London’s airports are being resurrected (Party defies leader over airport U-turn, 8 October). Why is air travel being supported when lower-carbon forms of travel aren’t? It cost me the same to fly to New Zealand 20 years ago as it would today, not adjusting for inflation, and now I can barely afford to take a train anywhere, unless I plan the journey several months in advance. It is cheaper to fly to most UK cities than it is to take the train. Cheap foreign holidays and flying aren’t human rights. An unpolluted atmosphere should be.
Alex Hallatt
Frome, Somerset

• Am I the only person to be offended by the equation of “porn” with “wallpaper, coffee-table television” (The weekend’s TV, G2, 6 October). Or describing pretty, undemanding programmes about cats as “cat telly porn” (Watch this, G2, 7 October). Porn is exploitative, demeaning; it is not wallpaper, or pretty!
Janet Phillips
Heath Charnock, Lancashire

• Helena Newton (Letters, 8 October) may wish to know that the other half of Anuranonanist’s nom de plume translates as “one without a tail” – a member of the class Amphibia: in the vernacular, a frog or toad. My thanks to your correspondents for reminding me that Dorothy Parker allegedly kept a canary called Onan (as it spilled its seed on the ground).
Tony Rimmer
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

• From the picture of Farage on a tank (John Crace’s sketch, 8 October), are we to assume Ukip is expecting to lose the Heywood and Middleton byelection? The flag on the tank on which Farage is standing is upside down, which – as any boy scout will tell you – is a signal of distress.
Joseph Nicholson

• Further to your piece about who does the housework (G2, 7 October), I think Joan Rivers should have the last word: “I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes – and six months later you’ve got to do it all over again.”
Jenny Swann
Beeston, Nottinghamshire


In his conference speech David Cameron complained about the criticism of his NHS policy by the Labour Party. These crocodile tears do not bear scrutiny.

The commercialisation of the NHS, although started by Labour, has been taken to extremes under the Coalition. The public have made clear that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery and provided by organisations working for the public good, not private profit. The profit motive does not best serve the sick, as several failed eye operations, the collapse of out-of-hours care contracts and the employment of poorly qualified doctors with little grasp of English demonstrate.

The devolution of control to largely autonomous trusts and commissioning groups has led to priorities being set by the market and the media, which is not the same as the public good.

Pete Rowberry

Saxmundham, Suffolk


A very sick child required frequent attendances at the local hospital. His parents were well educated and well-to-do. The father was sufficiently articulate and assertive to attain high political office. The family was well known, so it was in everyone’s interest to move them out of the waiting area as soon as possible.

The parlous state of NHS finances exacerbates the fact that its defining competition is between patients for resources. Each of the characteristics listed above enhances competitiveness to the point that such a family will trounce anyone else in the emergency department, which is why the Prime Minister’s experience, emotively described at his party conference, cannot be seen as epitomising access to the service.

As well as individuals competing, policy decisions simply adjust the competitiveness of different groups; waiting list targets made patients scheduled for elective operations more competitive than before. Patients with mental illness consequently moved down the pecking order. Patients with cancer were not competitive until the late 1990s. Those whose cancers present with ambiguous symptoms remain relatively uncompetitive in access to diagnostic tests.

As the financial state worsens, social and economic inequalities increase as the less competitive in society lose out.

Dr S Michael Crawford

Consultant Medical Oncologist, Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire


Senior health service managers have warned that unless NHS funding is increased, charging for bed and board may become necessary (report, 7 October). Before this should even be considered, perhaps NHS managers should start making decisions about which services they are going to fund in the first place.

The NHS spends between £4m and £12m a year on homeopathy. This is despite the fact that the principles on which it is based are scientifically implausible (that illnesses can be treated by substances that produce similar symptoms, if that substance is massively diluted until little or none of it remains), and that comprehensive reviews of all the available evidence have repeatedly shown that homeopathy simply does not work.

The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee, after a comprehensive review of the evidence in 2010, recommended that the Government stop funding homeopathy. The current Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has also expressed surprise that the NHS continues to fund homeopathy. Yet the Government seems happy to continue funding a “therapy” which is no more than a placebo.

A saving of between £4m and £12m a year might seem a drop in the ocean compared to the size of the overall NHS funding gap, but every little helps.

Jo Selwood



What is the point of all these pledges? Before the election in 2010 David Cameron gave a solemn promise not to allow any major changes in the NHS while he was Prime Minister. A few days after the election his Minister of Health told us he had been planning for seven years “the biggest upheaval in the health service since its inception”.

Cameron had talked of his dead son and spoken with sincerity and passion. I believed him. Never again.

Margaret Tuckwell

Highworth, Wiltshire


A peace deal for the Falklands

Grace Dent (7 October) believes that for the sake of peace we should hand the Falklands over to Argentina, putting the Falkland Islanders under the thumb of their enemies; would they also consider it a peaceful resolution?

The Scottish referendum has just demonstrated to the world the UK’s adherence to the right to self-determination, a fundamental principle under international law.

Michael Gilbert

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Grace Dent is correct in condemning Jeremy Clarkson for his war jibe and deserves praise for her goodwill gesture towards Argentina.

Detailed history of events between about 1770 and 1833 demonstrates that the islands did belong to Argentina until usurped by Britain in 1833.

As it was not the time to transfer ownership in 1982 to a military government, it is certainly not the time to do so now to the most corrupt government ever, but the islands should be handed over at the first opportunity.

Robert Laver

London SE21


Why export the Premier League?

I believe your football editor, Glenn Moore, does the game a disservice by supporting the idea of playing Premier League games abroad.

He feels football should follow the example of the American sports that have staged games in London, like the recent NFL game at Wembley, but these sports are not “global” ones, just seeking to become so. Football, on the other hand, is already the most “global” of all sports and has no need of an impetus from the Premier League to expand.

As a general principle, I see no reason why a domestic league in a global sport needs to go “global”. When does “just one game” become two, or four, or more? And how long before “franchising” is mooted as per the American model?

Paul Dawson

Harpenden, Hertfordshire


Prisoners won’t get the vote

Like Andrew Bruckland (letter, 7 October), I can’t get hot under the collar about the prospect of certain prisoners having the right to vote. His parting shot that this might “even increase turnouts” is unfortunately the reason why it will never happen.

The prison service is in crisis, and those who are at the sharp end, the prisoners, have little or no say about it – they do not have the vote and they can safely be ignored.

If even a handful of the inmates of prisons were entitled to vote then sitting and prospective MPs would have to listen to their new constituents. In marginal seats containing one of the new super-prisons, the “prisoner vote” might even be worth courting.

John Orton



‘British values’ laid down by the UN

This year the Government is requiring schools to actively promote “British values”, defined as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that education must be directed to, inter alia, “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”, to respect for human rights and the principles of the UN Charter, as well as to the national values of the country in which the child is living.

It is surely therefore essential that the values are presented as standards expected across the international community.

John Eekelaar

Emeritus Fellow,  Pembroke College,  Oxford

Rachel Taylor

Fellow in Law, Exeter College, Oxford


Remember Isis, goddess of affection

Why do we keep allowing Isis to change the way we name it? Every time it has a change of ambition, it changes its name. It is yanking our chain. Isis was a female god of affection, and fruitfulness. Surely this is a good name to have?

JPC Bannerman



Seasonal disorder

My local branch of Marks & Spencer is, in the first week of October, selling not only hot cross buns, but also rotating musical Christmas trees. Which is the more inappropriate?

Mark Wilkinson

London SW18


Passport to happiness

The Passport Office has come in for a lot of flak recently, so let me record that I have today received my passport just five working days after applying. A great service!

Beverley Southgate

London NW


Sir, I would like to clarify the position of the CQC with regard to your stories “Green light for relatives to spy on care homes” (Oct 6) and “We don’t want secret cameras in care homes, say residents” (Oct 7). We know that cameras have been used to expose failings but they can also compromise a person’s privacy, dignity and human rights — the last thing we would want. Views are mixed, which is why we want to help providers and the public to be well informed and more able to make decisions. We will discuss this issue in public on Wednesday and expect to publish guidance at the end of the month. Also, we are launching a new inspection regime this month, following testing and consultation.

It is most important that care is provided safely, effectively and compassionately, and that staff are trained and supported. If anyone is concerned about a service and feels unable to raise it with the provider,
I encourage them to get in touch with us.
Andrea Sutcliffe
Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Care Quality Commission

Sir, Safeguards in care homes should not include covert CCTV. What is missing is recognition that homes should be located within communities. A theme of “community-engaged” ensures that links are maintained. One large operator with which I am familiar makes space available within homes for community groups to meet and to relate to residents. Visiting is encouraged and events involve the public. In these and other ways, introversion is avoided, caring skills are enhanced and human relationships fostered. Regulatory activity may weed out bad practices but it is well-supported local leadership that sustains high standards.
Chris Vellenoweth
Heswall, Wirral

Sir, The use of covert cameras in care homes only protects the fortunate few. Those staff who are less than scrupulous will be aware when a new “clock” or other spy device appears, and transfer poor care to another unfortunate soul. The real answer to better care is better management.
John Merrett
Devizes, Wilts

Sir, Cameras may “impact on residents’ freedom” says Davina Ludlow of in your report (Oct 6), but if your relative can’t move or speak for themselves, what freedom are we talking about? As for there being “a knock-on effect on the motivation of staff”, I would have thought that at about £6.50 an hour and 12-hour shifts would be the main factor here. Though many homes charge more than £1,000 a week, I know of no TripAdvisor-style review websites, and sites that “review” care homes give recommendations only, for fear of litigation.

In my experience CQC reviews are also not fit for purpose. Negative comments are “not upheld” unless the commission sees the same activity on one of its twice-yearly visits. Spy cameras are essential.
Clive Morris
Epsom, Surrey

Sir, Relatives of people in care should consider keeping a memory-jogging diary of their visits, recording facts and figures and what was said to whom and when. In this way they will build a picture of the care being delivered and systemic issues will become apparent. Our diary has been invaluable with regard to my mother’s care.
Brian Parton
Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Sir, The notion of using hidden cameras is riddled with flaws. Creating a Big Brother-culture will make homes increasingly defensive and may lead to higher costs. The negative perception of care homes is unfair: 99 per cent provide good quality care.
David Waters
Managing director, Care Home Insurance Services

Sir, Your report “Care homes lock up thousands of old people”, (Oct 4) conjures up an image of residents sedated and in straitjackets. In my Dad’s case a deprivation of liberty order protects him and others. At nearly 90, he couldn’t see the danger of obstacles such as pedestrians, kerbs and traffic. Now he has to have an escort, and this ensures his safety and continuing quality of life.
Christine Nixon

Sir, Confronting Isis, preparing for ebola, keeping the lights on. We face complex threats. Then in Weather Eye (Oct 7) I read that, “all the high arctic is experiencing some of the highest rates of climate warming on Earth” and I hear a fuse burning quietly a long way off.
James Shillady
London SW15

Sir, Lord Jones’s observation (You’re next, troubleshooter tells BBC”, Oct 8) that the BBC could halve production time by being more efficient, reminds me of a building project I undertook at an airport. When it was complete, I told the BAA that its procedures meant the project had cost twice what it should. BAA responded that this was good: it had budgeted on three times.
Patrick Hogan
Beaconsfield, Bucks

Sir, A Dutch report says that cars produce harmful emissions at six times those claimed (“Speed limit cut to reduce pollution”, Oct 8). This is irrelevant in the case of the proposed 60mph limit on the new A556 road in Cheshire; a car can be efficient at 60mph or 70mph. Many well-driven cars will be more efficient at 70mph.
John Ratcliffe
Cavendish, Suffolk

Sir, I wonder whether a driver of a battery-electric vehicle with zero tailpipe emissions would escape prosecution for driving at 70mph on this stretch of new road?
Dan Wild
Malvern Hills Electric Automobile Association

Sir, I read Mike Atherton’s article with interest (“Kevin Pietersen’s latest version of truth tries to deadhead Andy Flower again”, Oct 6). Mr Atherton was, as always, balanced, but to me KP is one of those people who believe they are always a victim. Such self-pity makes megabucks nowadays — but I won’t be adding to that.
Colin Brown
Wells, Somerset

Sir, What an unexpected pleasure it was, while attempting the crossword (Oct 8), to be able to doodle all over Kevin Pietersen.
Patricia Heath

Sir, I was interested to read that the world wide web is celebrating 25 years since its invention (Law, Oct 7). In the short film Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham (, password: Baim88), Mr Savalas says: “The library, which houses Europe’s largest collection of Shakespeare, has online computer searching service with access to 100 databanks from Italy all the way to California.” Is this the first description on film of the web? The film was shot in 1979.
Richard Jeffs
The Baim Collection


Around 200 soldiers from The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards take part in a Homecoming Parade in Glasgow, Scotland Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

6:56AM BST 08 Oct 2014


SIR – At last a senior general, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, has made it clear that this country needs to revise the policy of regimental attrition that has been in place for the past 50 years.

It is manifestly obvious from a study of military excursions since the last war that, ultimately, it is not high technology but rather boots on the ground that have determined the outcome. In the Sixties our Army was undeniably too large. It is now equally undeniably too small.

There is a second issue, and that is the sociological dimension. We would do better to have more regard for the traditional bulwarks of our society and seek to strengthen them.

Reviving some of the county regiments in particular would clearly meet a military imperative while also bolstering local and regional pride.

Algy Cluff
London SW1

SIR – So far, attempts to balance the significant reduction in regular forces by a modest increase in reserves have failed.

Thus it is timely to consider the reintroduction of national service. Such a programme, although potentially controversial, could be introduced gradually with the aim of producing a pool of manpower at immediate readiness for home defence and internal security.

William Pender
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Long-term defence funding can easily be achieved by abandoning Trident, whose only purpose is to provide Britain with the status of being a nuclear power.

We must decide whether we want to fund a meaningful force for stability and the defence of our global interests or an outdated pretension which is of benefit only to vainglorious politicians.

Dr Brian Studd
Southwold, Suffolk

John Cantlie and James Foley Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 08 Oct 2014


SIR – The issue of paying ransoms has been raised again in the light of atrocities carried out by Isil.

While it is absolutely right for the Government not to pay ransoms for government servants, an entirely different position exists for those who are asked to serve in dangerous parts of the world on behalf of their companies. The commercial world is based on trade and employees cannot be expected to put their lives at risk unless they have some assurance that their company will stand behind them if they encounter trouble.

Freelance individuals are in a different category – they presumably have added up the risks and have accepted them.

Timothy Royle
Donnington, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Isil kidnappers express pride in their extreme views.

If they are so proud of what they are doing why don’t they show their faces? Their failure to do so gives the lie to their claims and confirms their cowardly stance.

Mike Collard
Marnhull, Dorset

Yobbish managers

SIR – To see the managers of Chelsea and Arsenal square up during the Premier League match on Sunday brought professional football to its nadir. If managers cannot demonstrate a level-headed and professional approach to their sport, how can referees have any chance of curbing undisciplined and yobbish behaviour among the players themselves?

Both managers should be banned for at least three months from any involvement in football, and also prohibited from making any public statements for the remainder of the season.

Kim Potter
Lambourn, Berkshire

Fuel for discontent

SIR – Terry Boreham (Letters, October 7) complains that he has only seen a fall of 5p per litre in the pump price of petrol when oil prices have fallen by 20 per cent.

He should count himself lucky – my two local petrol stations have reduced their pump prices by just one penny.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

Fingers of Babel

SIR – J H K Reeves (Letters, October 6) draws attention to the practice of counting in base 12, using the thumb to tick off the phalanges of the other four fingers.

The ancient Babylonians – the world’s first astronomers – used to count in this way. This is why there are 12 hours in a day (plus another 12 at night), and why each hour is divided into 60 minutes.

Steve Howe
Grays, Essex

SIR – There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

Richard Hazeldine
Lytham, Lancashire

Precision strike

SIR – Last week I found a bag of dog mess in my back garden (Letters, October 6) at a distance of 100ft from the roadside. The same type of bag and mess appeared yesterday on my front drive.

I am concerned that the responsible person’s throwing arm may have suffered an injury.

Martin Bastone
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, argues that the retirement age needs to increase dramatically to reflect Britain’s ageing population Photo: Getty Images

6:58AM BST 08 Oct 2014


SIR – The news that the Government wants workers to defer retirement will not be welcomed by school-leavers and graduates.

Ministers fail to understand the basic fact that until someone retires a vacancy in the workforce does not become available. Taxable income is delayed and the housing market stagnates – except for the increase in demand for social housing – as young people cannot afford to buy homes until they are in their late thirties or early forties.

There is probably a stronger argument for lowering the retirement age.

Chris Barmby
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – I am in my mid-fifties and this proposal would lead to my retiring at around 74 years of age.

I can imagine my wife having to phone my employer to say: “He can’t come to work today, he’s dead.”

Phil Evans
Brixham, Devon

In the bleak midwinter

SIR – Is the Government going to reveal how it plans to keep the lights on this Christmas, despite taking four major power plants off the grid for repair?

Chris Bands
Selborne, Hampshire

SIR – I called British Gas on Monday morning, and, to my surprise, was greeted with the following recorded message: “Our offices are now closed for Christmas and we reopen on December 27.”

Ian King
Beoley, Worcestershire

Forever a dull moment

SIR – I have kept details of every litre of fuel bought, together with the mileage covered, for all 13 cars I have owned since 1978.

Please enrol me in the Dull Men’s Club.

Roy Hughes
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

SIR – I take great exception to the Dull Men’s Club’s encouragement to “celebrate the ordinary” by listing 125 eccentric events in its calendar.

As an organiser of backward running races, I can categorically state that snail racing, stone skimming or even worm charming are the antithesis of dullness.

James Bamber
Tiverton, Devon

World-class: dancers of the English National Ballet rehearse at St Paul’s Cathedral in London  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 08 Oct 2014


SIR – Tamara Rojo, the dancer and artistic director of the English National Ballet, has expressed concern about the size of the funding allotted to her company by the Arts Council.

In view of the taxpayers’ involvement, I was amazed that she made no reference in the interview to nurturing home-grown talent, but was rather more keen on scouring the rest of the world for dancers. Indeed a recent check on the composition of the company reveals that only 13 of the 71 dancers of the company are English, and that all the principal dancers for the next season will be from other countries.

Given the Government’s annual deficit of £100 billion, necessitating massive spending cuts, I question why the taxpayer is funding an organisation that is, in effect, a ballet employment agency to the world.

John Dunkin
London W11

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, has accused the Conservatives of being “obsessed” with spending cuts Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 08 Oct 2014


SIR – Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, accuses the Conservatives of being “obsessed” with spending cuts. While we continue to plunge ever deeper into debt, tinkering with spending hardly counts as obsession.

What Mr Cable and his party are obsessed with is borrowing and spending. Never do we hear of any serious attempt to reduce waste and get better value for money. The losses on certain government IT projects alone are a disgrace.

This Liberal Democrat tail wagging the Conservative dog is an insult to democracy and the British people. David Cameron made a terrible mistake in forming a coalition with Nick Clegg in 2010.

Jim W Barrack
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – What family, individual or corporation isn’t concerned about “budget discipline”?

Juliet Henderson
South Warnborough, Hampshire

SIR – I had high hopes for Mr Cable when he took office within the Coalition Government.

How disappointed I am that he has shown little grasp of the tasks in hand and has spent more time plotting against his own leader than he has furthering the cause of business in this country. Now he is hunting cheap popularity by tearing into his so-called partners and trying to portray himself as a champion of the poor.

The last government handed over a bankrupted state living well beyond its means with a bloated welfare budget that could not be sustained. Sad though it is, cuts to welfare and other services have to be applied if we are to get solvent again. Tax increases will also form part of the recovery plan, as more borrowing would be madness.

Mr Cable should retreat into the long grass now before the moment of truth arrives at the next election.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Had Mr Clegg not had a fit of pique after his proposed reform of the House of Lords was dropped by Mr Cameron and had voted to bring constituency boundaries up to date, the result of the 2015 general election would be sure to better represent the democratic rights of the people.

David Taylor
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – The Liberal Democrats should realise that “everyone else is wrong” is not a political philosophy; it is a clear sign of immaturity.

Just ask any teacher who has to deal with disruptive teenagers.

Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire

SIR – I noticed a slogan projected on to the wall at the Lib Dem conference: “Liberal Democrats – winning here.” Surely it should have read “whining”.

Rex Last
New Alyth, Perthshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – First of all let me declare my interest – none. I bought my home at the top of the market, I am very happy with it and plan to exit advised by an undertaker, not an estate agent!

Despite my purchase history, I regard myself as reasonably intelligent, but am baffled as to the quality of thinking behind the recent Central Bank proposals. As I understand it, if I wanted to buy a €300,000 house I would need a €60,000 deposit, ignoring practicalities such as furniture. My mortgage payment would be €1,300 per month over 25 years. Assuming my rent is €650 a month – and I can save the difference versus my €1,300 mortgage – it would take me eight years to save the deposit.

The only option to buy would seem to be gifts from relatives. Is this a plot to ensure affordable housing for the existing elite, keeping down those with just hard work on their side? We need to have practical, imaginative solutions that work in the long term.

I appreciate it is easier to criticise than propose, but really, is this the best we can come up with? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – “Wanted” – buy to let landlords. “Not wanted” – first-time buyers, young people, non-middle class, non-upper class, non-single people. Who are the new rules going to serve? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The Central Bank of Ireland’s new proposed 20 per cent deposit requirement for all new mortgage lending will disproportionately penalise young first-time buyers. Many seasoned economic commentators have described this tightening of the rules as a return to “prudence”. Their memories are longer than mine; when I was looking for my first house more than 20 years ago, many first-time buyers availed of 90 per cent mortgages – mortgages that are now in most cases paid off. It seems the return these commentators are looking to is back to the 1970s or earlier. I, for one, don’t want to go back to that Ireland.

Most Irish people aspire to home ownership, indeed home ownership is almost essential in our society as long-term decent rental alternatives are practically unavailable for most families. A young family starting off and hoping to buy a modest home worth €150,000 will now require a deposit of €30,000. That is €30,000 without a chair to sit on, or any other furnishings. Saving €100 weekly, a young family or couple would require almost six years to save that sum. These same young couples and families have to contend with high unemployment and low incomes. Modest comfort and security for young couples and families are becoming unattainable goals.

Older generations can’t just pull the ladder of opportunity and social mobility up after us. We need to extend opportunity and the chance of home ownership to the new generation, austerity or not. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – There is only one driver of residential property prices and that is how much someone will pay for the property. There are only two purchasers of residential properties – owner-occupiers and investors. Owner-occupiers will only ever pay what they are confident they can afford and crucially they will normally buy something they expect to stay in for years. The current proposed controls are aimed towards them. The huge growth in property prices over the last 12 months is driven by investors. Property is an asset which should attract a lower risk than something like a new business or shares because you are left with “bricks and mortar” and an income stream. Yields or your return/interest rate should be about 3-4 per cent above prevailing interest rates – a little above the bank rate to compensate for you potentially losing your capital (the price dropping compared to not losing your deposit in a bank) and lower than your return in a company (where you might make 10 per cent above the prevailing rate as you could lose everything). These principles are completely absent in the Irish property market because of our obsession with property and greed.

If you want to temper the property market, you need the Central Bank to make a rule that a bank must be happy that a mortgage is affordable at 3 per cent above current rates and allow for a 10 per cent drop in borrowers’ income for owner occupiers; apply a 90 per cent capital gains tax on residential property sales where the property is sold within four years of purchase if it is not your principal home, ie you are an investor; and ban interest-only mortgages for residential property. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 1.

Sir, – Following the reaction to the Central Bank’s proposed limits on mortgage lending, I despair for our nation.

Having spent six years howling about the irresponsibility of banks and the regulator, and vilifying the individuals concerned, we are now howling about the injustice of the proposed prudential regulations, demanding that banks should be allowed lend more, and claiming the governor of the Central Bank is disconnected from the plight of the people.

Roll on the next crisis. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The indications are that the priority of the Government in the upcoming budget is to reduce the amount of tax being paid by people on higher incomes. And this is despite the fact that one must earn more than 2½ times the maximum state pension before one starts to pay 41 per cent tax on the remainder of one’s income. I’m sure that the majority of our citizens would gladly pay that higher rate of tax, if only they earned enough to do so.

Some highly paid influential people, tax experts, business advocates, politicians and media personalities have been openly criticising the tax system to the extent that it has nearly become a mantra; one regularly hears things like, “you must earn €200 to pay a €100 bill”. Because of their high incomes, all of these people are subject to the higher rate of tax, and thus have a vested interest in reducing it.

If the Government does reduce taxes as indicated, it will be seen that the regressive taxes, ie the water and property charges on the poorest in our society, are being used to subsidise the wealthier by reducing their income tax bill. It appears that groupthink has again affected our leaders in relation to the direction the country is taking. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of inviting readers to speculate on how to spend an extra €160 million (“What would you do with €160 million if you were the Minister?”, October 7th), you asked them to think of ideas that would spend an existing €160 million better? You are feeding a false assumption that there is no problem that cannot be solved without some extra money. Money has come to be equated with concern. Our representatives’ only way of expressing that they care about an issue then becomes a commitment to spend extra resources on it.

We should know by now that pushing money into systems that are so poorly designed that they don’t work isn’t money that is going to deliver anything for the people the money is supposed to help or the problems it is intended to solve. There are many things the State is doing that others could do better, and there are many things the State does badly that it could do better. Let’s have that debate instead. – Yours, etc,


School of Law

and Government,

Dublin City University.

Sir, – I wonder will this Government deliver a budget that will be positively remembered in six months or will it have the courage to deliver a budget that will be positively remembered in 10 years? I don’t believe it can do both and alas I expect the former. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – For those on the contributory invalidity pension who have been forced to retire early due to ill health, the payment of PRSI is a tax. There is no benefit, immediate or later, from paying as their invalidity pension becomes the old age pension when they reach retirement age.

PRSI is charged on any income invalidity pensioners have in addition to their contributory pension. Most invalidity pensioners would not have any other income but a minority do, often interest on money inherited from a family member. The additional income is badly needed to top up the invalidity pension (€193.50 per week) to make their life bearable. My wheelchair-using friend uses her non-pension income to pay for carers which the HSE cannot supply due to budget cuts. She is now subject to a minimum “PRSI” contribution of €500 a year on her other income. This amount would pay for 50 hours of care.

This is not PRSI but a tax on the sick. It should end.

The bizarre thing is that if she was healthy and had two part-time jobs paying €350 per week in both, she would pay no PRSI, despite having a gross income of €700 a week. This relates to a concession whereby those earning less than €352 per week pay no PRSI but get credited with Class A0 contributions. This exemption does not reflect the fact that many people have more than one part-time job. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – The news that a nurse in Madrid has contracted Ebola is very disturbing. Despite an isolation unit, full protective equipment and all the facilities of a modern hospital, the virus still managed to spread from patient to nurse.

This appalling event demonstrates once again the dangerous approach being adopted by the HSE for suspected Ebola cases. Patients who may have contracted this deadly infection are essentially being urged to attend their general practitioner, despite the fact that no practice can provide the type of strict isolation and decontamination equipment that was used unsuccessfully in Madrid.

Those responsible for this policy should consider that, if a suspected Ebola case does attend a GP surgery, the risk to practice staff and other patients is far from insignificant. Furthermore, besides dialling 999, there is nothing useful whatsoever that a GP can do if the diagnosis is confirmed.

While I recognise that HSE administrators instinctively love nothing more than to dump inappropriate, unnecessary, unresourced and futile work on to general practice, in this instance such a mindset may well put lives in danger.

A far better, safer approach would be for the authorities to set up a dedicated telephone hotline which could be advertised on national radio and television. Patients who fear they may have contracted Ebola could contact this number whereupon a properly equipped team could attend them directly in their homes, and arrange transfer, thus minimising the risk of spread.

In Ireland we traditionally wait until disaster strikes before belatedly doing the right thing. Let us hope this does not happen with the Ebola virus. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Can we expect some irreverence in the upcoming soccer match against Gibraltar since it appears from your picture in Wednesday’s edition that Tommy Tiernan is in charge? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – Roy Keane has often spoken of the need for professionalism, focus on the job in hand, absolute dedication and attention to detail. How precisely does the decision to launch his book this week, while the national team is preparing for two qualifiers, square with this uber-professionalism?

I gather that Mr Keane receives some modest remuneration from the FAI for his work with the team so I take it that, as a man of absolute and impeccable integrity, he will reimburse the FAI for the time spent on personal media business which necessitates him being away from his job with the team?

A further possible explanation is that, given Mr Keane’s managerial and coaching career to date, he has decided that staying away from the team would best serve their interests. If that turns out to bear fruit over the next week, he has my undying gratitude and admiration. – Yours, etc,


Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – When Roy and Mick had their difference of opinion all those years ago, your letters page had many offerings defending the Corkman. Needless to say they mostly emanated from his own part of the country. As we read of his similar difficulties with Alex Ferguson, I am wondering if those same people will jump to his defence again. I doubt it very much. Those “red-tinted glasses” have become clear over the intervening years. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – It is reassuring to read that planners will resist calls to reduce the size of new apartments in Dublin (“Council sees no reason to change standards”, October 4th).

When similar pressure was being exerted in London in recent years, the Royal Institute of British Architects argued that in a rush to build quickly and cheaply, we risk storing up unnecessary problems for the future. They highlight the impact of a lack of space for basic lifestyle needs, like not being able to fit standard furniture, inadequate storage space or not having enough space to have quiet time in private.

Any assumption that couples will be able to “trade up” as their family grows is not supportable in the Irish context, where, unlike in other EU countries, managing housing inflation has never been a public policy objective. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16

Sir, – There is little point in a group of dentists commending the involuntary mass-medication of citizens as if their teeth were the only things that matter (October 6th). There is a superior interest, that of human rights – the right not to be involuntarily medicated. The benefits of fluoridated water on human teeth are disputed, as shown by decisions of other countries not to mass-medicate their population. Your dental experts assert that there have been no documented medical side-effects of water fluoridation. I am sure others better versed than I will disagree.

There is unanimity, however, that the purpose of fluoridation is medicinal and that our Medicines Board has never put the stuff to trials to confirm or otherwise that there are benefits or side-effects. Clearly, for the toothless, there appear to be no benefits. One would have thought that if this topic had not been overlain with powerful promotional propaganda for more than 60 years, the stuff would have been tested like any other proposed medicine? – Yours, etc,


Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Sir, – We must congratulate the person responsible for “corporate communications” at Irish Water, who on Morning Ireland surprised us all by stating that no individual at Irish Water will ever receive a bonus. However, she confirmed that they will be entitled to receive a “performance-related payment”. We were told that the parameters for the performance-related payments had not yet been worked out. Normally performance parameters are agreed in advance rather than after the event. Anything is possible at Irish Water! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Gina Menzies is quoted as praising Pope Francis for relinquishing “monarchical trappings and pomp” (Patsy McGarry, “The world has fallen in love with Pope Francis, but we should be cautious”, October 6th). The Vatican gave up its last claims to the papal states with the Lateran treaty in 1929; the Noble Guard and the sedia gestatoria disappeared in the 1960s; the last pontifical coronation was Paul VI’s and that pope sold the papal crown; and Benedict XVI removed the crown from the papal coat of arms.

Benedict XVI, she assures us, closed down all theological dialogue. What does she think his meeting with Hans Küng in 2006 was about? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – In support of his claim that the “just rebellion” theory is not applicable to Ireland in 1916, Dr Brian P Murphy (October 6th) takes me to task for ignoring his argument that the theory does not apply where a sovereign state is ruled by another. But in 1916 Ireland was not an internationally recognised sovereign state whose sovereignty had been violated – unlike, for example, Belgium in 1914. – Yours, etc,


Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Irish Independent:

Enda Kenny appears to completely misunderstand the growing resistance to the water charges which his Government is attempting to impose.

He stated yet again that water is a “precious resource that must be paid for” while at the same time emphasising that the State spends €1.2bn a year on water.

Who, I wonder, does Mr Kenny think is paying that €1.2bn? It is the citizens of this State who pay for water services through our taxes, as is right and proper.

Yet this Government has established a mechanism whereby people will pay for their water a second time.

Mr Kenny is right when he says that water is a “precious resource” but it is so much more than that.

Water is an absolute essential for life. It is not like electricity or gas, despite the weak arguments to the contrary by those in favour of water charges.

Drinking less water, or using less water for personal or domestic hygiene, have far greater health implications than simply switching off the TV to save electricity or throwing on a jumper to save on gas.

Water is not the same as other utilities and should not be treated the same.

The other line often trotted out in favour of water charges is conservation.

However, as far as I know, if the Irish people do start ‘conserving’ water, Irish Water is allowed to up the unit rate to compensate for the lower usage. This flies in the face of any suggestion that conservation of a “precious resource” is a factor. This is simply a thinly veiled revenue-raising exercise. It is also the first step in the potential privatisation of our water supply, which is an appalling vista.

The Irish people understand what is happening in regard to our water, perhaps it’s time we had a Government that understands the people.

Simon O’Connor

Crumlin, Dublin 12

Don’t stigmatise Africa over Ebola

The media has a solemn obligation to inform the public, explore uncharted territory and cover challenging topics in a global context.

In its coverage of the Ebola outbreak, the media should tread carefully by not stigmatising and stereotyping the African continent.

The stigmatisation of West Africa as the epicentre of the contagion is bound to have devastating consequences on health, education, economy, environment and social cohesion. No region has ever managed to prevent such outbreaks.

The Black Death, the Spanish influenza, the avian flu, BSE, foot and mouth disease, SARS are just some in a long list of transmissible viruses that wreaked havoc and paralysed societies and economies across the five continents.

Stereotyping and fear limits the chances of nipping the disease in the bud. People are afraid to travel to West Africa; visits, conferences and business trips have been cancelled.

As Dr Margaret Chan admitted, WHO is facing major challenges in recruiting sufficient numbers of foreign medical staff. Because a facility treating 70 patients requires 250 healthcare workers, in countries where basic infection control facilities are virtually non-existent, the gravity of the situation is clear. And as we live in multicultural societies, this will have an impact on the social fabric in the West.

We have been here before with the ostracising of ethnic communities, tarnishing them with the accusation of terrorism and portraying them as aggressive and backward.

Economic growth is an essential ingredient for a healthy society, and vice versa. Our humanity will not allow us to sink into the abyss of danger and uncertainty.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2, UK

It’s all about Roy

The Republic of Ireland soccer team are just about to play two very important matches that could very well determine the future of the FAI for the next 10 years or so. And, guess what, interest in these two matches is running a very poor second to the national obsession with Roy Keane – and that is what it is.

Keane, for some reason, was appointed as assistant manager and since that moment life in Irish international football has been all about Roy and very little else.

He was the captain of the biggest football club on the planet, the world was at his feet – and he was destined for immortality.

But he still wasn’t happy, so he set about his next project, which was to prepare an exit from Manchester United – and once again he was successful, but this time he realised that he had made a terrible mistake.

My view is that his exit from Man Utd is the reason that he is going around like a headless chicken!

RJ Hanly

Screen, Co Wexford

Stop the water fiasco

Former minister Fergus O ‘Dowd suggests that Irish Water is a disaster . . . a stopcock-up?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Pension levy versus people power

Hundreds of thousands of people are affected by the pension levy. The funds confiscated from their pension are gone and will not be reimbursed. It is time to ensure (1) that this disgraceful government action is ended and (2) that the people who promulgated it are punished so that they, or any future government, will never again attempt theft of this nature.

The number of people affected make an immensely powerful voting lobby. I have recently written to the two Fine Gael TDs in my constituency informing them that myself, my wife and two affected family members have made an irrevocable decision not to vote for any Fine Gael candidate in the next election over this measure.

The arrogance and ignorance of the protected political and civil service cabal will, I believe, have massive consequences for the government parties and, in particular, for Fine Gael, whose Finance Minister is the chief promulgator of this falsely labelled “temporary” levy.

I would urge all those people affected by the levy to do two things. Firstly, contact your pension adviser or provider and ask them to quantify the extent of the reduction in your pension. This is a simple actuarial exercise which they can quickly provide.

Secondly, without delay, write or email your local government TD and inform them that they will be held directly accountable and punished in the next general election on this red-line issue.

This is the only weapon you have – it is a powerful one, use it!

Brian O’Connor

Blackrock, Co Dublin

It has been said recently that on no major issue has the Government behaved quite so dishonourably as on the pensions issue. This is surely correct.

The Government prides itself on the “tough” but necessary decisions it is making for the good of the country. No doubt the levy is part of that story – and how tough it was not to keep the promise to terminate it. Tackling the public service unions next year on their demands for more pay will be a stroll after this.

Since most employers have decided to pass on the full cost of the levy (as prompted by the 2011 government legislation), the upshot of each extension of the levy is a further cut in pensions – for life. Pensioners and pension scheme members, be very afraid.

The €2.3bn bite taken from pension funds, far from being a source of government embarrassment, or a reason for ceasing such plunder, is now becoming the very reason for continuing with it.

The legacy of Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who is riding high at the moment, might yet be his role in wrecking the private pensions system. Is there no way to stop him?

Has any thought been given to the legality or constitutionality of what is going on here?

Michael Feeney

Churchtown, Dublin 14

Irish Independent


October 8, 2014

8 October 2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Alastair Reid – obituary

Alastair Reid was a Scottish poet who translated Pablo Neruda and ran off with one of Robert Graves’s ‘muses’

Alastair Reid, Scottish poet, translator and teacher

Alastair Reid, Scottish poet, translator and teacher Photo: WALTER NEILSON/WRITER PICTURES

6:19PM BST 07 Oct 2014


Alastair Reid, who has died aged 88, almost single-handedly sparked the boom in Latin American literature, introducing English language readers to the work of Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges.

Reid was many things – poet, translator, teacher – but most of all he was an unlikely wanderer. Pablo Neruda called him patapela: “Mr Barefoot”. His light-footed wanderings took him from Scotland through the Americas to a houseboat on the Thames near Cheyne Walk with critical stops in Mallorca, where for a time he was close to Robert Graves – until he fell in love with, and stole away, Margot Callas, the older poet’s “muse”. He also spent time in New York, and contributed to the New Yorker magazine for more than half a century.

Robert Graves (REX)

It was from that position that Reid introduced the English-speaking world to the poetry of Neruda and the uncategorisable poems and fictions of Borges. Neruda told him: “Don’t just translate my poems, improve them.” It is generally agreed that he made them live in English every bit as sensually as they breathe in Spanish. Along the way he turned out more than 40 books of poems, translations and travel writing.

Alastair Reid was born at Whithorn, Galloway, on March 22 1926, a son of the manse. His interest in wandering, he said, came from watching Irish seasonal farm workers in the fields near his father’s kirk. He served in the Royal Navy during the war, decoding ciphers, a foreshadowing of his skill in making Spanish authors shine in English.

After the war he read Classics at St Andrews University, but his naval travels had shown him that he had to move on from Scotland. He went to the United States and taught classics at Sarah Lawrence College in the New York City suburbs. In the mid-1950s, the young poet headed to Spain, and Mallorca, where he became part of the circle of acolytes around Robert Graves in Deya. The pair had Classics in common and worked together on translations of Suetonius.

His skill with the Spanish language was extraordinary. Acquiring it, he later wrote, was like “starting a new life”. This new life had consequences.

He became secretary and confidant to Graves; his relationship with Margot Callas put all that at risk. At the time Reid was married with an infant son, but he and Callas ran off to mainland Spain, leaving their partners behind.

Eventually Callas returned to Graves and was forgiven. Reid was cast out of the Deya circle forever – although for a time he kept a house with minimal comforts in a village nearby, handing over the keys to different groups of friends while he continued his wanderings.

In 1964 he met both Neruda and Borges for the first time and began translating their work into English. In a time of great cultural turbulence Neruda’s poems and Borges’s ficciones were to literature what rock and roll was to popular music: an earthquake. Reid was the quiet man behind the scenes bringing not just those he translated, but also other writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to notice in literary circles.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Reid continued to teach and became a kind of Pied Piper figure to his students. He was old enough to be their father and had been living the counter-culture lifestyle for at least 20 years. Yet he was no hippie; there was seriousness in his rootlessness.

Although rarely in New York, he was a New Yorker man. He was a protégé of celebrated editor William Shawn but in 1984 his relationship with the magazine began to change. The New Yorker is famed, and occasionally mocked, for its rigorous fact checking.

A few years previously, Reid had given a seminar at Yale University where he admitted that in some of his reportage he used composite characters. A student attending the seminar wrote about Reid’s comments in the Wall Street Journal. It created a terrible storm in the Manhattan media teacup. Composites were not facts, thundered the Dean of Columbia School of Journalism. Reid was judged guilty by the establishment of bringing the New Yorker into disrepute. It was an uncomfortable spotlight. After Shawn retired, the relationship with the magazine was not what it had been.

His wanderings continued, often to a new island retreat in the Dominican Republic, albeit one that was as lacking in creature comforts as the Mallorca house. He began to return regularly to Scotland in the early 1970s with a sojourn in Pilmour Cottage in St Andrews.

Visitors were told to drive across the golf course to find it, an unlikely set of directions, but in fact the house was reached by driving through a small gate at the bottom of the car park and following a gravel track along the course. Guests could join Reid and his young son Jasper picking potatoes in the garden and throwing lost golf balls back on to the course.

There was never much money in this life. Reid spent his last decades living in a one-and-a-half room flat in Greenwich Village with his second wife, Leslie Clark.

For much of his life, Reid supported himself through teaching. Those lucky enough to have learnt about poetry through him, and to have heard the love poems of Neruda read in his soft Galloway burr, with a rhythm that more than hinted of swaying Spanish sensuality have fond memories.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Alastair Reid, born March 22 1926, died September 21 2014


Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow. Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Polly Toynbee is far too lenient on Nick Clegg and his cronies in the Lib Dem party (Start telling the hard truth, Nick – there is no free lunch, 7 October). Having sacrificed any liberal principles they might have had at the Downing Street altar, and been complicit in everything that “a Tory government more extreme than any since the war” (in Toynbee’s words) has inflicted upon the ordinary and less fortunate people of this country, they deserve neither sympathy nor advice.

Totally swallowing the Tory line about how ignoring the deficit would leave the next generation with a mountain of debt, Clegg then allowed the tripling of university fees, ensuring all but the richest students had their own personal Everests. Their duplicity clearly knows no bounds; it beggars belief that they now are reaching out to “soft Tories who are fiscally responsible but do not like any hint of a nasty party” (Brutalise Tories over tax pledge, Clegg tells Lib Dems, 6 October). Presumably they regard such people as the only voters likely to be so daft as to forget that the Tory-dominated coalition government was only able to pass “nasty” legislation because of Lib Dem support.

What we are still waiting for is a response from Labour, who still insist on defending a risky lead with seven months to go, instead of providing “something different” that could give them the mandate to transform our socially immobile society. How can working people relying on benefits be expected to tighten their belts further, when their employers are receiving £85bn a year in taxpayers’ subsidies (Cut benefits? Yes, let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout, 7 October)? Even the Lib Dems spotted that the Tory conference had left an “open goal” for their opponents, but the Tories’ downright selfishness and cruelty have provided an easy target for years. The real mystery is why Labour doesn’t shoot.
Bernie Evans

• Polly Toynbee is absolutely right. Week after week, at prime minister’s questions, we have watched Nick Clegg sitting beside David Cameron, nodding sagely in support of the latter’s pronouncements. We have watched Danny Alexander stand with shiny confidence to support George Osborne, and we have seen Vince Cable, at any opportunity, deny any rift with his Conservative colleagues. The Lib Dems must be quite mad if they think we don’t remember this.
Bernadette Sanders

• The Liberal Democrats deserve our vote. They’ve earned it. Does anyone seriously believe we would have been in a better position with an unchecked Conservative government these last four years? Or a Gordon Brown Labour administration?

Media treatment of Nick Clegg has been as lazy, patronising and trivial as their attitude to coalition government. One would think he is the only politician ever to fail to deliver in government a promise made in opposition. Give me, and him, a break! The pledge on tuition fees was naive and unwise, but there was simply no money to deliver it.

Only 60% of the electorate bother to vote. Still fewer make the effort to understand the compromises coalition politics require. They want complex issues to be simple; and politicians to magic them away. The Liberal Democrats put country before party; and brought common sense and fairness to bear on a modestly endowed Conservative administration prone to lurch right at the first excuse.
Keith Farman
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Giles Oakley (Letters, 6 October) should look at his political priorities for a hung parliament. He accuses the Lib Dems of “repeatedly abandoning whatever ideals they are supposed to represent, just to stay in power”. The Lib Dems have implemented a good chunk of their 2010 manifesto, whereas Labour have not. The priority is surely to implement policy, not merely to obstruct one’s opponents.
Mark McKergow

• Though a confirmed Labour democratic socialist for life, I believe that Nick Clegg could have had, and may still have, an almost historic value in British politics (Clegg suffers poll setback on eve of Glasgow speech, 7 October). He has a straightforward and pleasant demeanour, a multicultural European background (like nobody else in parliament), he is multilingual, linguistically intelligent and a former MEP.

Given sufficient courage and the stamina he could speak up for Europe and the vast multitude of benefits the union bestows – economic, cultural, guaranteed peace (after a thousand years of wars), a broader and more exciting perspective for future generations (than our present timid subservience to all that is American) – and help forge a magnanimous, outward-looking and diverse Britain, unprecedented in our history of isolated narcissism. Europe is the most important issue of the century ahead.

The slogan for politics should not be “it’s the economy, stupid!” but rather “it’s the future, the culture and our inspiration that makes us eager and strong!” The former is the limited focus for small and short-term minds, the latter (and Clegg could be a formidable voice) could help rid us at last of the politically dull.
Ian Flintoff

‘We urge Hong Kong residents to express their views in a peaceful manner,’ says Chih-Kung Liu of the Taipei representative office in the UK. Photograph: unclesiu/GuardianWitness

Your report (30 September) is correct in its analysis of how we in Taiwan perceive the situation in Hong Kong. While it is true the people of Taiwan empathise with the people of Hong Kong in their struggle for democracy, it must be stressed that Taiwan is not Hong Kong and the “one country, two systems” formula has no bearing on Taiwan – a country ruled by its own sovereign government. As the report notes, Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, has clearly stated that we in Taiwan do not accept the concept.

Taiwan has had universal suffrage for quite some time and each time we hold an election many of our Hong Kong friends come to observe the proceedings. We understand and support the Hong Kong people’s demand for universal suffrage. As Hong Kong is an extremely important global financial centre, any political turmoil there will impact not only Asia but the entire world. So we urge the mainland Chinese authorities to listen carefully to the demands of the Hong Kong people and adopt a peaceful and cautious approach. At the same time, we urge Hong Kong residents to express their views in a peaceful manner. We do not wish to see any conflict. Observers outside Hong Kong hope that it will gradually move towards democracy. We believe that, if a system of universal suffrage can be realised there, both Hong Kong and mainland China would benefit.
Chih-Kung Liu
Taipei representative office in the UK 

• Our hearts must go out to the people of Hong Kong. It’s a travesty of democracy when voters are required to choose between, in the words of pro-democracy campaigner Martin Lee, “a rotten orange, a rotten apple and a rotten banana” (Report, 1 October). We must do all we can to ensure the people of Hong Kong can have the kind of genuine political choices we enjoy in the – er, UK.
Andy Croft
Ripon, North Yorkshire

Hinkley Point A, right, and Hinkley Point B in Somerset The nuclear power stations Hinkley Point A, right, and Hinkley Point B in Somerset. The financial deal behind plans to build Hinkley Point C is now under scrutiny. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Today (8 October) the 28-strong outgoing European commission will make a decision on the Hinkley C financial deal, with far-reaching consequences both for the integrity of decision-making in Europe and for the future of European energy policy (Conflict of interest concerns over EDF’s Hinkley nuclear project approval, 1 October).

In December 2013, the commission raised doubts on almost all aspects of the project, finding the state credit guarantee of £10bn for EDF “incompatible under EU state aid rules”. So why is competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, backed by former EU president José Manuel Barroso, recommending the commission give the deal the green light? Could it be that the German federal government has been involved in a backroom deal?

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has previously achieved exemptions from EU subsidy rules for Germany’s ambitious renewable energy plans. The legislation behind this, which provides feed-in incentives for renewable energy technologies, is helping transform energy generation away from fossil fuels and nuclear; renewables now account for around 30% of Germany’s electricity.

However, in return for these subsidy exemptions, Merkel is rumoured to have agreed to support British nuclear subsidies. So, while the Berlin government is decommissioning its own nuclear power plants and turning to renewables, it is at the same time undermining nuclear phase-out across the rest of Europe. Greens in the European parliament urge departing commissioners to hold fast to their principled opposition to this extremely dodgy deal and set all of Europe, not just Germany, on course for an energy policy for the common good.
Molly Scott Cato Green MEP
Rebecca Harms Green MEP
Claude Turmes Green MEP
Benedek Jávor Green MEP
Michèle Rivasi Green MEP

Ben Affleck in Gone Girl Ben Affleck in Gone Girl. Merrick Morton/Allstar Picture Library/New Regency Pictures

John Green continues to claim that the GDR did not employ torture at Hohenschönhausen (Letters, 4 October). Exhibitions at the prison – now a memorial and education and research centre – clearly show that torture was systematically used. Green also dismisses Anna Funder’s Stasiland as “secondhand evidence”. He forgets, for example, Erika Riemann’s 2003 memoir The Bow on Stalin’s Moustache, detailing her eight years of torture and rape after she was jailed at the age of 14 for defacing a poster of Stalin.
Terry Philpot
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey

• Joan Smith (Comment, 7 October) trivialises the serious question of rape myths with her opportunistic attack on Ben Affleck (and why not author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn?). Does she really believe the world would be a safer place if the entertainment industry restricted itself to statistically probable plots?
Paul Roper
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

• Giles Fraser (Loose canon, 4 October) seemed intrigued at parishioners who, although not related to the child in question, are known as aunties and uncles. As a child I had many aunties and uncles who were not related to me, and I am now auntie to a number of my friends’ children. It is commonplace in Scotland.
Lorna Elliott

• When I read the comment on housework from househusband Anuranonanist (G2, 7 October) I came over all faint and had to sit down, calling for water. If it’s really true, I have three questions: 1. What’s he on? 2. Does he polish his halo himself? 3. I notice his nom de plume includes the word “onanist”. Is there an activity he’s omitted from his list?
Helena Newton

• So a student union condemns the use of the words “mingers” and “sluts” in a rugby club leaflet, describing it as “inexcusably offensive and stigmatising language”. They do this in a student paper called Beaver Online (Report, 7 October)?
Helen Keats (@HelenKeats)
Kingston, Isle of Wight

Indoor herd of milk cows ‘Keeping cows in very large indoor herds requires exceptional animal husbandry skills.’ Photograph: David Levene

Jon Henley says in 1995 there were 35,000 dairy farms in the UK, now there are 13,000 (The battle for the soul of British milk, 2 October). There were 196,000 in 1950. This drop in numbers has happened everywhere, even in New Zealand, the most efficient dairy farming country in the world, and numbers are down by far more in most of Europe. In fact, UK dairy farmers have just come through one of their most profitable periods ever, with milk prices reachinged a record of over 33p/litre earlier this year. As a result,UK milk production has soared, this year up nearly 10% to the highest for 10 years. Though we are not immune to world markets – and world dairy prices have fallen by 40% this year, with the European dairy industry now seriously affected by the Russian trade embargo, the biggest problem for UK dairy farmers right now is how to pay their tax bills!
Barry Wilson
Editor, Dairy Industry Newsletter

• While it is important to maximise overall food production to cope with the ever-expanding population (a global problem), increase in volume is not necessarily the solution. The reason the Holstein-Friesian is basically the only cow used in milk production is that it produces the greatest volume. However, farmers have known for at least the last 100 years that its milk has the lowest content of butter fat – and the lowest level of protein. It would be interesting to know the nutritional value of the 11,000-litre milk yield of the indoor cows as against the 4,000-litre yield of Steve Hook’s cattle.

Also no mention of what routine is followed in an indoor diary re breeding and calving. My understanding, having grown up on a farm, is that a cow needs to calve annually to be able to produce any milk – unless there has been an incredible biological change in the reproduction of milk cows.
Christian Wangler

• Disease, combined with the difficulty of getting cows pregnant, results in 25%-30% of the adult animals being removed from the herd (culled) every year and replaced by young cows (heifers) reared on the farm or mature cows purchased from other farms. Replacing so many cows each year is a significant cost to the dairy business, especially if these are in their first or second lactation (dairy cows do not reach their peak production until after having their third calf and subsequent lactation). It also tends to be disruptive to the herd hierarchy and, if replacements are sourced from other farms, increases the risk of introducing infectious diseases.

Your author rightly points out that Holstein-based cows can produce very high milk yields, but this is dependent on feeding them large amounts of grain-based concentrate feed, which contains imported soya beans as a major source of protein. These modern cows are bred for performance and, like high-performance cars, require a high level of expert maintenance to avoid breakdowns. Keeping them in very large indoor herds requires exceptional animal husbandry skills if significant losses caused by disease are to be avoided. I believe that by attending to the losses caused by disease in all types of dairy herd, farmers will be able to reduce their costs and consequently improve their business performance.

In closing, it is interesting to note that the main photograph reveals that even a state-of-the-art indoor farm is still using old tyres to weigh down the plastic sheeting over the silage clamps. This constitutes a health risk due to the sharp pieces of wire released when the tyres break down in the sunlight which fall into the silage and are eaten by the cows, the wires subsequently penetrating the stomach wall. It is this attention to detail which all dairy farms need to address if they are to maintain a viable business.
Graham P David

• While drinking unpasteurised milk may be very natural, bear in mind that by doing so you are consuming a proportion of raw faeces, urine and blood. As a milk recorder taking samples on farms in the Midlands I have seen samples that varied in shade from slightly pink to the colour of red paint from the occasional cow that is still classed as “fit for human consumption”. Indeed it would appear that the only milk refused by dairies is that which contains antibiotics; this is mostly fed to calves or simply thrown down the drain.
Simon Rourke
Barby, Northamptonshire

• The traditional mixed-farm systems of which small-scale dairy production is a part were the basis for the rich diversity of meadows and farmland wildlife, birds, bees, flowers etc and the declines to both are parallel. The “charities” that dominate wildlife policy in the English countryside have never suggested a rerun of the Milk Marketing Board that helped guarantee both, and which Mrs Thatcher abolished.
Peter Hack

• The intensification of animal farming has arguably caused a greater quantity of suffering than anything else in history. Unnatural feeding, selective breeding and even genetic manipulation have created animals that put on weight so fast that some cannot stand properly; grazing animals are kept indoors; and many animals are in constant pain. A partial solution would be a worldwide ban on dosing farmed animals with antibiotics (except for individual sick animals), since the drugs both promote excessive growth and suppress the illnesses that would otherwise make overcrowded conditions untenable. As individuals, we can eat less meat, eggs and dairy, and buy only the highest welfare items. Ideally, we should avoid animal produce altogether; Animal Aid’s 2014 Vegan Challenge takes place next month – visit for details.
Richard Mountford
Development manager, Animal Aid

• Dairy farmer Steve Hook’s valiant attempts to bring raw milk to a greater public are soon likely to be thwarted as irreplaceable grazing land is being taken for housing around his farm without regard to the future needs of local food production and long-term sustainability. An already overstretched infrastructure is being pushed beyond sensible limits to appease a theoretical target for house building in this part of East Sussex. It must surely be common sense to build on urban brownfield sites where there may be access to transport links/schools/sewage disposal and even jobs, rather than jeopardise small farming enterprises that are showing a way forward for our ailing dairy industry.
Mike Lodge
Hailsham, East Sussex

bottles of champagne ‘The husband of a friend bought a bottle of champagne when their youngest left home. They found that this was not enough to truly celebrate and moved on to Cointreau.’ Photograph: Gary Hershorn/Corbis

When we deposited our younger child at Bangor, his parting shot was, “Thanks, Mum, thanks, Dad, see you at Christmas” (‘I was like somebody in a fable who had got everything they wished for’, 4 October). We took two days to get home because we found a delightful B&B with a restaurant next door. Our drive home was euphoric, we had rediscovered our inner irresponsibility.

When he finished and found a job, it was even better because there was money in the bank at the end of every month. The husband of a friend bought a bottle of champagne when their youngest left home. They found that this was not enough to truly celebrate and moved on to Cointreau. My friend said it was the best hangover ever.
Diana Lord


The Liberal Democrats deserve our vote. They’ve earned it. Does anyone seriously believe we would have been in a better position with an unchecked Conservative government these past four years? Or a Gordon Brown Labour administration?

The media’s treatment of Nick Clegg has been as lazy, patronising and trivial as their attitude to coalition government. One would think he is the only politician ever to fail to deliver in government a promise made in opposition. Give me, and him, a break! The pledge on tuition fees was naive and unwise but there was simply no money to deliver it.

Only 60 per cent of the electorate even bother to vote. Still fewer make the effort to understand the compromises coalition politics require. They want complex issues to be simple; and politicians to magic them away.

The Liberal Democrats put country before party, and brought common sense and fairness to bear on a modestly endowed Conservative administration prone to lurch right at the first excuse. We owe the Liberal Democrats a vote of thanks – or at least, a vote.

Keith Farman

St Albans, Hertfordshire


As the conference season closes and minds are drawn to the election, I am hearing more and more about parties having no overall majority and another coalition being likely. Personally, I like the idea that none of the parties should have completely free rein to further their agenda.

Politicians are beginning to make statements to the effect that if the will of the people is for no overall majority then they will work in partnership. But can anyone tell me how, in our voting system, I show my preference for such an outcome?

Ashley Herbert

Huddersfield, West Yorkshire


American ideas infect our health care

I am surprised that the authors of the open letter on health-service funding (6 October) do not mention the cost to the NHS of the previously gradual, but now galloping, privatisation of the service.

The NHS was the most efficient system in the world, with only 6 per cent of the budget going on administration costs. The implementation of the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 has cost an estimated £3bn. The Act has opened up the NHS to private, for-profit, firms with their hordes of lawyers, accountants and management consultants, which will be taking our NHS money and giving it to their shareholders.

The administration time and cost will increase as contracts are written, bid for and managed. Then there are legal costs if a private firm challenges a decision.

As our health care system is now being moved towards the American model, it is worth noting that in the American health care system less than 70 per cent of the budget goes on direct patient care. The remainder goes on insurers, hospitals and doctors billing each other, insurance marketing and profit, and administration (James G Kahn et al. “Cost of Health Insurance Administration in California”, Health Affairs 2005)

Margaret Ridley

Ely, Cambridgeshire


There’s something I don’t understand. Can anybody help?

When I look at my budget, I see that I have enough money either to pay for basic necessities (food, clothing, accommodation etc), or to fund a world cruise; but not both. I make the obvious, prudent choice.

Now, Britain has enough money either to provide adequate social services (health, police, education etc), or to build nuclear submarines and maintain a military presence on the world stage; but not both. This country is not, however, making the obvious prudent choice.

Why not? And if its current imprudent choice is not what we actually want, why are we allowing our elected representatives to make it for us? And how can we stop them?

Michael Swan

Chilton, Didcot, Oxfordshire


Casualties of the rugby field

With reference to Allyson M Pollock’s article “Isn’t it time we tackled rugby?” (7 October), when I joined a south London comprehensive, a strong rugby school, as a teacher in 1982, there was still much concern about a sixth-former who had broken his neck and was paralysed for life playing in an inter-school match the previous autumn.

Much later, around 1997, my youngest son was playing in a Midlands schools under-14 semi-final. He suffered a nasty injury to his genitalia, which required hospitalisation and several stitches. In the same match the scrum half broke his thighbone and was off school for several months.

Anecdotal evidence admittedly, but I am also concerned about the massive collisions in modern adult rugby which have resulted from recent rule changes – after all, they remain our children in adult life.

John Scholfield

Market Deeping, Lincolnshire


Internet anonymity breeds trolls

The woman unmasked by Sky News as a troll in the McCann case has apparently committed suicide. I feel immensely sorry for her, and I hope the McCanns do too.

The sooner that the internet insists on users using their true names and abolishes the alias, the better. And that goes for newspapers too.

What happens is this: people adopt the persona of their alias, and stupidly say things that they think their character might say. It is that simple, and that insidious.

Dai Woosnam


I was for a while a member of a Facebook group interested in wild flowers. To my surprise a fellow member began to accuse the McCanns of murder. (You may well ask what it had to do with wild flowers.) When I took her to task for this her attacks became worse and she included me in her insults. “It’s only Facebook,” she said.

It was only my warning that the McCanns can take people to court for slander and libel that caused this wretched woman finally to shut up, I think. I left the group, so I can’t be sure.

Why some people are so convinced, with no evidence, of the guilt of strangers that they hijack social media I don’t know, but it makes me glad that we no longer have the stocks or public hangings.

Sara Neill

Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Judaeo-Christian verdict on Ukip

Nigel Farage has said that this country needs “a much more robust defence of our Judaeo-Christian heritage”. Too right it does. Which – this may come as a surprise to Nigel – means that it needs defending against people like Nigel.

Because I can’t see Jesus being thrilled with the idea of “prioritising housing for people whose parents and grandparents were born in this country”. (That’s a line from the Ukip manifesto.) You see, I don’t remember Jesus saying, “When I was homeless, you gave me shelter – but only after asking where my parents and grandparents were born.” Of course, given the fact that Jesus’ mother wasn’t born where Jesus ended up living, Nigel would have kicked him out, wouldn’t he? Good old Nigel.

Emma Wilson


Political alternative that we already have

Your article on Mick Cash (6 October) reported how the new RMT chief thinks we need an alternative party on the left of politics, and you have also reported on Ken Loach and others thinking the same. I do wish you would report a little more often on the alternative party that we  do have.

The Green Party is the only party opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty, which will threaten jobs and force the NHS to open up to private US health care providers; it’s the only party that proposes renationalisation of the rail companies, an end to the cap on council borrowing for home building and the introduction of a living wage rather than our feeble minimum wage.

This is the alternative party, but Mick Cash, Ken Loach and others don’t seem to realise this.

Could it be that what we really need is an alternative press able to report more fairly on choices available to those voters who are rejecting all the parties whose annual conferences have had multi-page  spreads in all the papers recently?

Lois Davis

London SW11


Why go to Morocco?

The British holidaymaker Ray Cole, from Deal in Kent, has been jailed for four months in Morocco for “homosexual acts”. His family and a number of politicians have urged the Moroccan authorities to release him.

The Foreign Office website warns that in Morocco homosexuality is a criminal offence. Why did Mr Cole go there as opposed to the numerous countries which are more tolerant and welcoming? When in another country one must observe its laws or face the penalties.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow, West Lothian


Sir, Janice Turner’s piece “Don’t make me pay your staff, Sainsbury’s” (Oct 4) made me want to shout and dance around my sadly undecorated kitchen. I have two part-time retail jobs and I am a mother of a two-year-old son. I also happen to be a graduate with 15 years of international experience in retail marketing, who finds herself working on a supermarket checkout 12 hours a week. I have so many stories to tell: the low wages are just the beginning. Try the overriding sense of distrust, the docking of pay for being three minutes late, the constant searches of your bag and locker, and managers’ insistence on pushing store cards, with rewards and time off in return for opened accounts. A staff discount at the store is based on the “staff” credit card, so not only do the stores get away with low wages they can also trap the underdog into debt.

On the plus side, I have met and worked with the most amazing women, who keep the wheels turning, juggling family around ever-changing shifts and getting home later as the stores open later. Janice’s piece illustrates the country’s divide and the lack of connection between politics and ordinary people’s daily lives. Janice, please keep doing what you’re doing.
Elizabeth McGrath
London SE20

Sir, Janice Turner’s description of the way in which we reward our employees (Oct 4) is one-sided and not something we recognise. Sainsbury’s colleagues are rewarded better than employees of most other retailers and packages are comfortably higher than the national minimum wage. We have invested significantly in our pay rates and benefits, and this year has seen an industry-leading rise of 3 per cent for store-based colleagues. Furthermore, 134,000 colleagues shared a record bonus totalling over £80 million this year. Our people also value the other benefits they enjoy, including a discount card and a contributory pension scheme.
Angie Risley
Group HR director, Sainsbury’s

Sir, Janice Turner is spot on. Any political party brave enough to replace the minimum wage with the living wage [as set by the Living Wage Commission] would get my vote. Likewise any supermarket honest enough to pay that wage without legislation would get my custom.
Roy Thomson
Woodmancote, Glos

Sir, May I set Janice Turner a challenge? Set up a high street business, let’s say a book-shop, big enough to employ staff. Then — after rates, rent, interest payments, PAYE, national insurance, VAT on non-book sales, banking and accountancy charges, licences for music and alcohol (for the wine bar) — see if she can pay the living wage. Corporation tax would not be an issue: there would be no profit.
Peter Davies
Linghams Booksellers
Heswall, Wirral

Sir, If stores displayed a sign stating that all staff were paid the living wage, it would help people to choose where to give their custom.
Henry Kronsten
London W6

Sir, The comment made by Next — how could it be paying too little when 30 people apply for each job — is immoral. Retail workers have to apply for tax credits and loans to get by. Enlightened companies that show the way out of the 21st century blacking factory should be named — and the others shamed.
Judith A Daniels
Cobholm, Norfolk

Sir, Janice Turner says she buys from John Lewis “because it shares its profits with staff”. She should, for accuracy, point out that its cleaners are contracted-out and not eligible. Nearly 120,000 people have petitioned John Lewis to pay the cleaners a living wage.
Jane Lambert
London SW18

Sir, John Lewis is in the van of good practice in constraining its top pay to a multiple (75:1) of its average pay.
David Yates
Weymouth, Dorset

Sir, My understanding is that European competition law does not permit the government to subsidise companies. Surely paying tax credits to low-paid workers means that it is doing just that?
Jonathan Ward
Tredington, Warwicks

Sir, Proposals for restructuring the EU executive by Jean-Claude Juncker, president-elect of the European Commission, would weaken EU nature protection measures, a matter that I have raised with environment minister George Eustice. Under the flag of reform, Mr Juncker is focusing on deregulation and has asked for a review of all major EU environmental measures. His request does not mention the need to achieve full implementation of existing EU environmental objectives, let alone any new initiatives. The government would be well advised to exert all its efforts to defeat Mr Juncker’s retrograde proposals.
Stanley Johnson
London NW1

Sir, Just remember: all mushrooms are edible (letters, Oct 6 & 7). It’s just that some are edible only once.
Bill Leighton

Sir, Now that former Ikea boss Mikael Ohlsson is joining Tesco (Business, Oct 7), does this mean I will have to assemble my ready meals myself, using wordless diagrams, only to find out that two potatoes are missing?
Mike Parfitt
London SW20

Sir, The discovery of HMS Erebus (Weather Eye, Oct 7) raises the hope that one of Britain’s earliest railway engines could be recovered. In 1845 the Admiralty bought engine No 4 from the London and Greenwich railway and installed it in Erebus to drive its screw propeller. Any remains would have huge historic interest.
DJ McCollum
Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol


The France and Germany Star (third from left) is awarded for service in World War Two Photo: Rick Pushinsky

6:57AM BST 07 Oct 2014


SIR – More than 10,000 British soldiers, and others from the Empire, are buried on the Continent, almost all in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries.

There is a France and Germany Star for action in those countries. Why is there no Netherlands Star – or even a clasp on the France and Germany Star ribbon?

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have medals. Why are the heroes of Arnhem and Walcheren in Holland ignored?

We survivors are all in our nineties, so time is short.

Major Edwin Gibson (retd)
Arundel, West Sussex

Ultimatum: the Liberal Democrats want more taxes for the middle classes

6:58AM BST 07 Oct 2014


SIR – Yet more taxes on the middle classes; no relief from European human rights rulings; no military action against Isil in Syria, thus rendering the action in Iraq pointless.

Does Nick Clegg ever actually listen to himself?

Philip Ashe
Garforth, West Yorkshire

SIR – In petulantly demanding more taxes for middle earners as a price for his party’s support in any future coalition, Nick Clegg has allowed his hatred of the Conservatives to distort his judgment.

Who on earth is going to vote for more taxes? With this ridiculous demand he has signed his party’s death warrant.

Rachel Mason
Seaton, Devon

SIR – Oh, how I welcome the promise by Nick Clegg: “Cameron told: raise tax or no coalition” (report, October 6). Stick to your guns, Mr Cameron.

Alan J Wellan
Langley, Warwickshire

SIR – I am sure that, come the end of the party conference season, somebody will have made a tally of how often the word “hard-working” has been used. This empirical evidence could then be used as a basis for legislation to ban it.

Jeremy C N Price

Passports and patient records in safe hands?

SIR – I sincerely hope that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, does a swift job of sorting out the fiasco at the Passport Office.

Having heard countless stories of miserable holidaymakers chasing passport applications – which caused enormous angst at the height of the holiday season – I recently applied for my passport renewal on the understanding that things had settled down.

I was surprised and pleased to receive my new passport three weeks later, but soon found that the issue date read September 23 2014 and the expiry date December 23 2014. Is £72.50, with an additional Post Office checking fee of £8.75, not a little expensive for a passport with a three-month validity?

After hours of wasted time on the phone with the passport advice line I was offered no assistance other than a suggestion that I visit the nearest passport office, at my own expense, where I will have to wait to have this error rectified and receive a new passport.

In the meantime, I cannot apply for a visa for a country that requires me to have at least three months remaining on my passport.

Countess Alexander of Tunis
London SW6

SIR – Online access to medical records is a wonderful idea in theory, but potentially flawed in practice. With so much valuable data in one place, what’s the betting security will be breached in no time at all, leading to phishing expeditions of the likes we’ve never seen before?

Personally, I’d need a lot of convincing before I see the home of Google, Amazon, eBay and pornography as a safe place to park my medical records.

Joseph G Dawson
Withnell, Lancashire

Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow: traffic on the Queen Elizabeth II bridge spanning the Thames Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 07 Oct 2014


SIR – We recently returned from a nine-day break on the Continent in which we covered about 1,300 miles in France and Germany. Apart from the usual busy stretch past Lyon, our motoring was, on the whole, relaxing.

This came to an end when we arrived at the Dartford Crossing on our return. The queue was at least seven miles long and took a full hour to get through.

Some of the dubious costings used to promote the benefits of the proposed HS2 rail link were based on time saved. Has anyone assessed the costs of the Dartford Crossing in terms of time wasted and damage to the environment?

Perhaps the many billions to be spent on HS2 might be better spent on alleviating this very serious problem.

To add insult to injury, the fee for using the crossing has been increased from £1.50 to £2.

Brainwave: Boris Johnson wants to merge public-sector pensions Photo: Telegraph

7:00AM BST 07 Oct 2014


SIR – Boris Johnson is correct. We should amalgamate the thousands of public-sector pensions. If we were to copy Sweden, we would have about 40 instead of 39,000.

The 40 could be organised by theme and region. From the 40 there could be subscription to a Citizens’ Wealth Fund. It in turn would enjoy a AAA rating and would stand as a catalyst and partner to global capital coming ashore.

Managers of the 40 funds and the Citizens’ Wealth Fund would invest some of our long-term dormant capital and mitigate the coming problems of an ageing society through the funding of new infrastructure.

More is possible: capital when pooled could take higher risk and back innovative entrepreneurs whom we need to support.

Mark Florman
London SW7

SIR – Boris Johnson deals with two issues: the inefficient management of public-sector pension funds, and the use to which those funds are put. No one can argue against him about the former, but his idea that a consolidated state pension fund should be directed to financing public-sector projects is plainly wrong.

These funds are not the Government’s property; they belong to the beneficiaries, which is why independent trustees are appointed.

It is a primary function of the state to protect and respect property rights, not nationalise or command them for its own use. These are not to be confused with sovereign wealth funds.

By all means seek to reduce duplication in the management of these funds, but the way to persuade independent trustees to invest in public-sector works is simply to offer them an adequate return.

Alasdair Macleod
Sidmouth, Devon

SIR – A Citizens’ Wealth Fund? Good idea. But what makes Boris Johnson think that fund managers, with a “war chest of £180 billion”, could manage this vast amount? How would people who can lose pots of money running smaller public pension funds be expected to manage the whole lot?

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – It is illuminating to read that there are 39,000 public-sector pension funds, but the idea of one great pool for politicians to dip into in order to fund otherwise unviable projects is even less palatable.

The question to be raised instead is why the state runs pension funds at all.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – I have waited for years for something on which I can agree with Boris Johnson and at last it has arrived. Is this to be the start of something, like the cluster of London buses on the same route, or just a splendid one-off?

Richard Forth
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Hospital referrals are in the news again with the accusation that the HSE is manipulating the waiting list data (“Varadkar denies waiting lists are being manipulated to meet targets”, October 7th).

So-called “waiting list validation” is important when managing limited health resources, however the real issue is how this is achieved when you are dealing with vulnerable groups of patients.

Is the HSE aware that approximately one tenth of the population is functionally illiterate and an indeterminate proportion rely on advocates, eg family, neighbours, home helps, etc, when accessing even the most basic of healthcare?

The strategies used by hospital management to manipulate the figures are well rehearsed but one of the many problems encountered by GPs in the southeast is a volume of referrals that are marked “deflect”, a term used by one Dublin teaching hospital to return referrals to the GP on the pretext that they are “out of area”. How many of these referrals are in this “no man’s land” on the way back to GPs is unknown. These patients are usually re-referred to a hospital in another part of the country, usually more distant than the original hospital and usually involving significant inconvenience to all concerned.

GPs use a number of strategies to access care for their patients and commonly refer patients to a number of hospitals for the same health problem in the hope rather than the expectation that they will be seen in a timely fashion. We also send “expedite letters” in their thousands every year at the request of patients and relatives, even if the clinical situation remains unchanged.

Chronic under-resourcing and cutbacks at the gatekeeper stage of the referral are at the heart of this issue. GPs get a derisory 2 per cent of the health budget as opposed to 10 per cent in the UK.

The voracious appetite of the hospital sector ensured that general practice sustained a disproportionate cut in funding to feed the “monster” that is the hospital sector over the past six years. This is compounded by a medical staffing crisis across the board which is steadily getting worse.

There has never been a supplementary budget for general practice, unlike the hospital sector where this annual tradition is part of the credo. It is now time to resource GPs and allow them to commission care for their patients by giving them control of a defined budget.

It takes vision and courage to effect change for our patients but why not start with a little honesty and transparency when it comes to activity levels, or indeed inactivity levels, in health? – Yours, etc,


Enniscorthy Medical Centre,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – It is with utter disbelief I learned that the national broadcaster will be ceasing to broadcast RTÉ Radio 1 on longwave from the end of October 2014.

Having lived in Scotland for the past 16 years, I have grown very fond of listening to RTÉ Radio 1 on my commute to and from work every morning. On a Saturday it is Saturday Sport with Des Cahill, a fantastic show followed by Sunday Sport throughout the summer. Listening to fantastic commentary from around the island of Ireland and beyond is wonderful. I know that I am not alone in using longwave to listen to RTÉ radio; several of my friends also tune into longwave regularly, keeping in touch with the news and sport from home.

I don’t have digital radio in my car in Dundee, nor do I imagine does half the population of west Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, Inishmore or Glencolmcille.

Of course 96 per cent of the population of the island of Ireland can receive RTÉ Radio 1 on FM or digital radio, but do they have the technology to do so?

I believe this to be a short-sighted decision by RTÉ. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – For a large number Irish emigrants in Britain, RTÉ radio is their primary source of news and cultural contact with Ireland. Longwave radio broadcasts provide a cheap, reliable and, yes, mobile means of access via a portable radio. Hard as it might be to believe for those in the media, most older people feel excluded by the rush towards a hi-tech digital future. A couple of years ago the UK government and the BBC were forced to abandon a plan to cease all analogue radio broadcasts by a huge public outcry. RTÉ seems to have pushed through a cut to this service (transmitting to Britain since 1926) as a false economy. The service is actually a cheap way to project Ireland’s authentic voice into Britain and helps to foster regular visits to Ireland through cultural outreach.

I don’t know what consultation with the Irish in Britain was carried out before making this short-sighted decision but I’m asking for common sense to prevail and for it to be rescinded, or at least delayed until further research is done. Almost no-one I’ve spoken to here about the ending of LW 252 approves of it. Surely digital can go hand in hand with analogue to provide an important service for a small but significant part of the Irish diaspora here. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – When I spoke with RTÉ regarding the longwave shutdown, I was told that their priority was to shut down the longwave service first and think about the replacement later. There is a precedent that shows that RTÉ may take their time on this. Tara TV, the overseas television service, was unilaterally shut down by RTÉ in 2002. Some 12 years have passed and as yet no replacement has been announced. Like much of Official Ireland, RTÉ appear to regard the diaspora as a cash cow waiting to be milked rather than an integral part of the Irish nation. – Yours, etc,


Mill Hill, London.

Sir, – John Thompson (October 6th) seeks a cleverer way to help the working poor and points out the problems of seeking wealth redistribution simply by increasing minimum wages. It seems to me that if we accept that the current and growing income gap between top and bottom earners is unhealthy and dangerous to society, we should look at reducing maximum wages.

There have been suggestions that employers be precluded from paying top earners anything from 10 to 40 times more than the lowest-paid earners in their organisation.

These suggestions take no account of the varying sizes of organisations or of the possibilities of contracting out functions such as cleaning to low-pay firms and high-grade functions to self-employed consultants.

I would like to suggest the introduction of a social cohesion tax. It could contribute to improving the situation and would apply to the public, private and voluntary sectors. It would not preclude other taxation measures, such as taking more low earners out of the income tax net, increasing the level at which middle-income earners pay the present higher rate of income tax, introduction of a financial transaction tax or introduction of a more sophisticated form of wealth tax than the present property and inheritance taxes.

The social cohesion tax would be a very high rate of tax on very high incomes, to commence at a multiple of the minimum wage. Very high earners would be encouraged to support increases in the minimum wage as any improvement would enable them to keep more income out of the social cohesion tax bracket. With a minimum wage of €15,000 a year and a multiple of 40, the very high rate (say 70 to 80 per cent) would start at €600,000 a year. With a multiple of 30, the start would be at €450,000 a year. The multiple could be reduced over time.

All taxes pay for community services. Some taxes also have social engineering features; high taxes on tobacco encourage a healthier lifestyle.

The social cohesion tax is meant to encourage social cohesion. I would not expect it to succeed overnight and I recommend that a first call on funds raised would be to close loopholes in the system. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The recent inquest in Sligo on the tragic death of Dhara Kivlehan has focused attention again on shortfalls in the provision of intensive care beds in Ireland. In a 2012 survey, Ireland had 6.5 beds per 100,000 population, while the average in Europe was 11.5. Inevitably, our intensive care units (ICUs) run at 100 per cent bed occupancy and delays like that experienced by Mrs Kivlehan are routine.

There have been calls for a review of intensive care provision and needs. A comprehensive review has already been commissioned by the HSE and it reported in 2009. This was undertaken by Prospectus and entitled “Towards Excellence in Critical Care: Review of Adult Critical Care Services in the Republic of Ireland”. It recommended 418 critical care beds for existing requirements; we currently have only 233.

Delays in accessing intensive care are immediately life-threatening. These delays and treatment in sub-optimal settings are an everyday occurrence for the critically ill patients we treat. An increase in intensive care bed numbers to the level recommended by Prospectus is required to be able to provide immediate care for all those who need it. – Yours, etc,




Vice President,

Intensive Care

Society of Ireland,

Merrion Square North,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Further proof, if any was needed, that Fine Gael and Labour have no intention of stopping the country sliding even further back into the practices of the last government is the revelation that, in the midst of a scandal about cronyism at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan didn’t even blush at reappointing Michael Soden and Des Geraghty as members to the Central Bank Commission quango (“Soden and Geraghty reappointed to Central Bank Commission for five-year terms”, October 6th).

Is it not remarkable that the Minister for Finance doesn’t seem to have thought for a moment that it was time to get fresh faces around the Central Bank Commission table?

Did no one in the department think it would be worthwhile to advertise the positions to see who might apply?

It’s long past the point where a light was shone on the day to day management of the Department of Finance and the areas under its remit. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – Does Roy Keane’s autobiography really warrant front-page treatment in your newspaper (October 7th)? Do we need to know the details of who said what, to whom, and using what language? Is there nothing more important to discuss until Mr Keane is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – Yet another book on Roy Keane, and there I was just recovering from the nationwide news of Twink’s dog going missing.

I don’t know if my heart can take much more excitement. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Instead of talking to the Electrical Power Research Institute in the US about the problems of connecting solar electricity to the grid, why doesn’t ESB Networks talk to its counterparts in the UK about how easy it is (“Smart power to revolutionise future use of electricity”, Innovation. October 4th)?

There, over the past 15 years, over 250,000 solar energy systems have been installed, mainly in domestic or farm settings, for a total of 3,400 MW. In addition the solar electricity suppliers are paid over £0.13 for each unit of electricity generated as well as £0.05 for each unit exported to the power grid. In Belgium, with a smaller solar yield than Dublin, over 3,000 MW are installed whereas in all of Ireland we have less than 1 MW! – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir , – Laura Kennedy writes (“The Yes Woman: Vegan for a week and hungry the entire time”, October 3rd) that she tried a vegan diet for a week, was hungry all the time, experienced intense cravings for meat, had intensely negative emotions towards vegetarians and vegans and ended the week by going for a steak.

As a vegetarian for the past 34 years I feel qualified to comment on this article. A vegetarian and indeed a vegan diet is infinitely varied; for a person who eats in this way there is a vast choice of healthy foodstuffs. Ancient and advanced civilisations lived long and healthy lives, free from animal slaughter, respecting and honouring the lives of their fellow creatures.

A meat-centred diet for society has many far-reaching consequences. In Diet for a Small Planet, written in 1971, Frances Moore Lappe pointed out that an acre of cereals can produce five times more protein than an acre devoted to meat production; legumes 10 times more; and leafy vegetables (spinach) 15 to 20 times more. The sustainability of feeding grain to livestock to produce meat for human food, when much of the world is starving, is not sustainable. Much less so when vast tracts of rainforest are felled to produce soya farms to feed livestock.

Loss of this carbon-sink is irreplacable and, coupled with the fact that methane produced from the vast numbers of animals reared for human consumption contribute more to global warming than motor vehicles, it is now time to consider what it is that we put on our plate.

As for animal welfare, many creatures are reared and slaughtered in cruel conditions, with many such animals never seeing the natural light of day. Many health professionals now recognise that a meat-centred diet contributes to many of the serious diseases afflicting modern society. George Bernard Shaw, a lifelong vegetarian, described this as mankind digging their own graves with their knives and forks.

If Ms Kennedy has been bred and sustained on a diet of meat all her life, it is understandable that when she abstains for a week that she will have cravings, much as the abstainer from alcohol, cigarettes or sugar does. And so it is that she goes for a steak. If she tried for a little longer she might acquire a higher taste.

As a thinking journalist she might also consider some of the issues touched upon above, which underpin the substance on the end of her fork (the flesh of a dead bullock), before she puts it in her mouth. This will take courage. – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I have just read the article by Arminta Wallace inside the back cover of the Magazine accompanying the photograph of George Patrick Leitch (September 27th). She quotes Jack McManus as saying that George called his wife “Bates”, which may have been her maiden name. That is not so. He called her “Bets”, and I don’t know where that came from. Her maiden name was Sicily R Allen. At one time she acted with the Father Matthew Players, who were happy to welcome protestant actors. Her father was Maj George L Allen, who for some 30 years was registrar of the School of Physic in Trinity College Dublin.

In the 1930s, George Leitch used the small son of one of his wife’s sisters as a subject for amusing photographs at certain times of year. They illustrated putting back the clock in the autumn, bringing home the Christmas presents, and cleaning the chimney for Santa. That small boy still has prints of the original photographs.

How do I know all this? The small boy’s name was Dudley Levistone Cooney. – Yours, etc,



Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Sir, – I don’t agree with Hugh Gibney (October 7th) that there is no good reason why we should change our motto , “The obedience of the citizens produces a happy city ”. Who are the citizens obeying? Shelley was more accurate, “The man of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys”. – Yours, etc,


Blessington, Co Wicklow.

A chara, – I agree with Hugh Gibney. Some disinclination to accept rules and their enforcement – probably due to historical reasons in this country – displays effective contempt for good citizenship. It is damaging, antisocial and results in an unhappy city. – Is mise,


An Charraig Dhubh,

Átha Cliath.

Sir, – Pensioners are the big winners of the past eight years, airily proclaims Fiona Reddan (“Your Money”, October 7th).

To which I can only reach for the words of Pyrrhus to his generals after the battle of Asculum in 279 BC: “Another victory like that gentlemen, and we are done for.” – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

The report from the expert group on discretionary medical cards (Irish Independent, October 3, 2014) states that such cards should continue to be means tested, and that it is not practical to issue them on the basis of defined medical conditions.

Rubbish! And Professor John Crown agrees with me – the experts “should try harder”, he said, commenting on the report in on RTE’s ‘Six One’ on October 3.

Currently, there is one application form which everyone completes. This requests income details. The vast majority of medical cards are issued because the applicant’s income is below the limit. Those who are over the limit but have health issues have to argue their case for a “discretionary” card on the form and may enclose relevant documentation with their application.

This year, the removal of discretionary cards from sick people to save money became a national issue and affected local election results – hence the ‘expert’ group.

Why not have a second application form that does not ask about income? Call it the medical need medical card. The form would be drawn up by medical professionals with input from, say, a carer for a long-term sick person who would understand the costs of being ill. The medical team dealing with the applicant would complete the form and have to state in their professional opinion (1) that the card was needed in view of the health of the applicant and (2) after how many years a medical review should be made.

A sick person would have the security of knowing that he/she had the card at least for the period specified by their doctor. In my own case, my very sick husband was issued with a discretionary medical card after a long battle but it was then reviewed 11 months later, when it was known he had a late cancer diagnosis. Another fight ensued to save his card, during which I became ill with the stress of dealing with the HSE.

I made a submission to the expert group on the above lines. It obviously didn’t impress them, that’s assuming they even read it?

Enid O’Dowd

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Give Bono the Finance post

There’s a Budget coming up shortly and there will, of course, be the usual grinding of teeth, the who is right, and the who is wrong.

Why may I ask has no one bothered yet or considered to ask Bono to become our Finance Minister? Just take a look at his CV – not an ounce of cronyism anywhere.

Did Bono not single-handedly get the banks to write debts off for the underprivileged countries of the world?

If he could do that for them, what would he do for us, besides singing?

If we wait any longer, you know it’s going to be too late. The next thing you’ll hear is he’s living in Rome. Yes you’ve guessed it: Pope Bono, it even sounds right.

He’ll bring the teenagers of the world back to religion, so much so that you’ll have to pay to get into Mass on a Sunday.

Go out to Killiney, in Dublin, and ask him if he’ll take the job as Finance Minister. You know how well he manages his own finances.

Ask him, while you’re at it, if he’ll take over Irish Water as well. The people of the world will beg us to sell them some of Bono’s own water.

Fred Molloy

Clonsilla, Dublin 15

No incentive left to save

Far more important than the cronyism scandal at the ‘top’, is the shocking treatment dished out by banks and the Government on ordinary people putting a few bob away for the rainy day.

It’s hard to imagine some banks are paying as little as 0.01pc interest – a before tax return of just 10 cent for lodging €1,000 for one year. Think of the massive Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) of 41pc on top of that and you quickly realise the hypocrisy.

Where is the balancing act when the same banks charge 4.5pc upwards on money borrowed for mortgages or other uses?

Is this how these vampires should treat ordinary savers or taxpayers who indirectly bailed them out for billions less than six years ago, when their bad housekeeping caused the collapse of the banks?

The Government can also bow its head in shame. Interest on six of the State’s savings products, sold through An Post, has had a fourth cut in less than two years. This reduction means that €10,000 invested in State Saving Bonds will now return just €83 a year, down from €132.

Surely the Exchequer has the power to bolster these rates, or at least maintain them – since the ECB has slashed its lending rate to almost zero (0.01pc)! This is another kick in the rear to ordinary people who have been burdened with more than their share in taxes over the past year.

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Getting teeth into flouride row

I am incensed at Sarah Carey’s implication that working class people are incapable of brushing their teeth properly with a flouride toothpaste, available from grocery retailers for about 50-90 cent (‘Removing flouride from our water just indulges middle class liberals, Irish Independent, October 6, 2014). I also am enraged by her patronising assumption that all working class people eat dreadful, sugar-filled diets resulting in dental cavities.

I am a working class person and have drunk spring water all my life. At 50, I still enjoy chewing a balanced diet with my own teeth.

Eileen O’Sullivan

Bray, Co Wicklow

The real birth of Christ

Christmas seems to be assaulting the senses even earlier each year, as media outlets vie to promote the season as soon as the summer months begin to wane.

‘Christmas’ or ‘Christ’s Mass’ is the celebration of Christ’s birth in the western hemisphere, whereas the eastern and orthodox churches mark it on January 7. So who is correct?

By the fourth century, as Jews played a lesser part in the church’s affairs, the celebration by non-Jewish (or Gentile) Christians of the “Mass of Christ” to mark the birth of Jesus now became the norm as the congregations became increasingly Gentile.

This distanced the church from Jewish teaching and the significance of the Biblical feasts that Jesus celebrated. One such feast is the Feast of Tabernacles, known as ‘Sukkot’ in Hebrew, meaning ‘booths’ or ‘tents.’

This recalls the Exodus of the Israelites as they made their way from Egypt into the Promised Land and lived for 40 years in makeshift dwellings. When this celebration falls in September/October, Jewish homes around the world are decorated much in the way Christians decorate their homes for Christmas.

One factor that is overlooked by both Jew and Gentile is that this feast may well be the true birth date of Jesus Christ. From my own studies, I believe Yeshua (Jesus) was born on the first day of Tabernacles, or ‘Sukkot’. Tabernacles this year begins on ’15th Tishrei’. This means Yeshua’s birthday falls on Thursday, October 9.

Colin Nevin

Bangor, Co Down

Price we pay for our politics

It seems the Fine Gael “toe-the-line-dancers” are completely out of step. As Enda attempts to choreograph the ‘FG Hokey Cokey’ – ‘You put your right pal in . . .’ – political parties wonder why they fail to attract young people into their ranks.

More than 2,300 years ago, Plato proclaimed: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. Just goes to prove, nothing changes.

Sean Kelly

Tramore, Co Waterford

Irish Independent

Busy day

October 7, 2014

7 October 2014 Shopping

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day bank, Market, Coop, Post Office, Newsagent.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Dame Peggy Fenner – obituary

Dame Peggy Fenner was a Tory MP who rose from humble beginnings to became Food Minister under both Heath and Thatcher

Dame Peggy Fenner

Dame Peggy Fenner Photo: UPPA

5:53PM BST 06 Oct 2014


Dame Peggy Fenner, who has died aged 91, shrugged off humble south London beginnings to become Food Minister under Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, and represented the Medway towns at Westminster until she was well into her 70s.

An amiable, no-nonsense housewife, Peggy Fenner — who left school at 14 to go into service — personified the classless Conservatism of both prime ministers she served under. She made a highly credible food prices “watchdog”, saying of her own life on a budget: “I’m not mean, just shrewd.” Nor did she give herself airs and graces after being appointed DBE and a Deputy Lieutenant, remaining a determined but never flashy backbencher.

A feminist in the same sense that Mrs Thatcher was, Peggy Fenner was not a liberal. She opposed easier abortion and relaxed divorce laws, and was a consistent supporter of the death penalty. She represented Rochester and Chatham, and later Medway, winning five elections and twice being defeated. She had the option of switching to her home constituency of Sevenoaks when ousted in 1974 but stayed put, regaining her seat in 1979 but finally losing it in the Labour landslide of 1997.

Edward Heath welcoming 13 of the 15 Conservative women MPs elected in 1970. Peggy Fenner is on the far left (CENTRAL PRESS)

Peggy Edith Fenner (she never revealed her maiden name) was born on November 12 1922; a publican’s daughter, she was brought up at Brockley by her grandmother. They moved to Ide Hill, Kent, and at 14 she left the village school to become a mother’s help, married at 18 and went into wartime factory work.

Joining the Conservative Party in 1952, she was elected to Sevenoaks council five years later, chairing it in 1962 and 1963; she also served on the West Kent education executive. She made a strong impression among Kentish Tories, and in 1964 was shortlisted ahead of 104 applicants, almost all men, to succeed Harold Macmillan at Bromley.

She missed out in the final selection, then again at Brighton Kemp Town where the party was seeking — and would fail — to overturn a Labour majority of seven. Instead she was adopted for the unwinnable Newcastle-under-Lyme .

Rochester and Chatham Conservatives selected her to take on the Left-wing Labour MP Anne Kerr, and in 1970 she bettered the national swing to capture the seat by 5,341 votes. Both candidates bemoaned the fact that the other could not have found a man to defeat somewhere else, and when Peggy Fenner arrived in the Commons it was women’s issues that she took up.

Her first success was to force the Royal Navy to scuttle a “dial a sailor” scheme for the public to befriend sailors docking away from their home port, after Navy wives complained. She joined other Tory women in trying to amend the recently-liberalised divorce laws which ended the right of the “innocent party” to veto divorce after five years. Her work on the Expenditure Select Committee impressed, and in November 1972 Heath appointed her Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Agriculture with responsibility for prices, which were becoming an issue as inflation set in.

At Maff she took through the legislation obliging food producers to put sell-by dates on their products, but spent most of her time tackling a rising tide of complaints about higher meat prices, caused by a world shortage, and explaining a 48 per cent increase in food prices in three years.

When Labour’s Willie Hamilton complained of being charged 5p for a banana, she told him curtly: “You could certainly do with some help with your shopping. I bought six bananas for 17p recently, and I don’t have time to shop around.” Hamilton was back next week saying he had now been charged 16½p for three bananas.

In the February 1974 election called by Heath over the miners’ strike, Peggy Fenner’s majority slumped to 843. In opposition, she joined Britain’s contingent in the then-nominated European Parliament. She attended only a handful of sessions before Harold Wilson called another election and Labour’s Bob Bean ousted her by 2,418 votes.

She was out of the Commons for Mrs Thatcher’s overthrow of Heath, and as the Tories regrouped for a return to government. She won back Rochester and Chatham in 1979, by 2,688 votes.

John Nott’s decision to close Chatham dockyard was a blow to Peggy Fenner’s constituents, many of whom took it out on their MP. And before she could launch a campaign against the closure, Mrs Thatcher, in September 1981, gave her back her old job at Maff.

Prices were now less of an issue, so she could address concerns over quality: the conditions in which veal calves and battery hens were kept, the amount of fat in mince and water in sausages, dyes in pet food, tighter curbs on pesticides, pesticide residues on lemons that were polluting gin-and-tonics, and the unsuitability of cling film for microwave cooking. She also presided over the first raising of the Thames Barrier.

In 1983 she defeated Bean by 8,656 votes for the new constituency of Medway.

Mrs Thatcher dropped her in September 1986 in a cull of junior ministers, compensating her with a DBE. Dame Peggy became a leading campaigner against the high speed link across Kent to the Channel Tunnel. For a decade from 1987 she returned to Strasbourg as a delegate to the Council of Europe and Western European Union.

The 1997 election brought boundary changes and a heavy national swing to Labour. Dame Peggy, her 75th birthday approaching, went down by 5,354 votes to the colourful barrister Bob Marshall-Andrews.

She married, in 1940, Bernard Fenner; both he and their daughter predeceased her.

Dame Peggy Fenner, born November 12 1922, died September 15 2014


Turkey To Possibly Join War Against ISIS A refugee from the fighting between Isis and Syrian forces arrives in Turkey. Photograph: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

You are correct to point out that the trips of British citizens to support rebel fighters in Syria were “in keeping with Britain’s official anti-Assad policy at the time” (Not all enemies of the state, 4 October). By presenting a simplistic Manichean narrative of good democrats fighting evil dictators in a complex civil war, David Cameron, William Hague and the British media undoubtedly acted as recruiting sergeants for groups such as Islamic State (Isis) and Al-Nusra Front. Relatives of British jihadists have cited media coverage as key drivers. Those same politicians and media outlets – having learned precisely nothing from repeated cycles of supporting jihadists against secular bogeymen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, then facing the inevitable blowback – have shifted their role from recruiting sergeant to Grand Old Duke of York: a march that led inexorably to Mount Sinjar and genocide has been ignominiously put into reverse.
Peter McKenna

• Owen Jones (Isis is turning us all into its recruiting sergeants, 6 October) rightly highlights the political roots of the rise of Isis in Iraq, and argues persuasively for the need to address those as part of any response to the Isis threat. However, he does not extend this reasoning to Syria, where the Assad regime has been far more directly connected with the rise of Isis than Maliki – providing not only the fertile soil of repression but funding through oil purchases and allowing to Isis to thrive in order to take advantage of its attacks on other opposition groups. Isis managed to establish the capital of its “caliphate” in the Syrian city of Raqqa without Assad lifting a finger.

In the short term what is needed in Syria is serious support for the groups on the ground that are not only fighting Isis but have shown in the past that they are capable of defeating it – the Kurdish YPG and the Free Syrian Army, whose allied fighters have been locked in a desperate struggle to defend Kobani. What they need first and foremost is effective weaponry. Western air power may be able to assist, but only if it is closely coordinated with the local forces. At the same time, the root cause of Isis in Syria needs to be addressed – and that is the cancer that is the Assad regime.
Brian Slocock

• You refer disparagingly to the over-emphasis by some Muslims on how western countries set off the chain of troubles which led to Isis’s emergence (Editorial, 6 October). However, the argument has been made by a number of distinguished experts – Muslim or otherwise. Lakhdar Brahimi, the former UN special envoy to Syria, recently noted Isis was “originally and still is mainly an Iraqi phenomenon. And that is a direct result of the invasion of Iraq in 2003”. Professor George Joffe, a Middle East expert at the University of Cambridge, told the Huffington Post Tony Blair bore “total responsibility” for the rise of Isis.

Furthermore, the New York Times has reported of the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: “At every turn, [his] rise has been shaped by the United States’s involvement in Iraq.” The article goes on to explain that Baghdadi spent five years in a US prison in Iraq “where, like many Isis fighters now on the battlefield, he became more radicalised”.
Ian Sinclair

• During the 26 September parliamentary debate, the prime minister said that without British air strikes there was no realistic prospect of “degrading and defeating” Isis and destroying it as a serious terrorist force. While he was clear that “we should not expect this to happen quickly”, your report (6 October) that Syrian Kurds have said that US-led air strikes are “not enough” to defeat Isis forces attacking Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border, points to flaws in the US-led strategy.

First, Britain’s decision to limit our intervention to Iraq means we are powerless to come to the aid of Kobani. Second, the prime minister and President Obama insisted that their objectives could be met by providing air power in support of local forces, and by arming them. In Kobani, local forces have been receiving air support, yet still they may succumb to the terrorists. The strategy must be therefore be adapted so that it is capable of achieving its objectives.
John Slinger

• The US and UK have committed not to put “boots on the ground” but, without infantry, failure is likely. T here are already 600,000 boots on the ground. Not on the feet of the poorly trained Iraqi forces who ran at the first sound of gunfire, but on the feet of the 200,000-strong Syrian army and the 100,000 strong National Defence Force that maintains local security in pacified areas of Syria. This combined force includes Alawite, Sunni, Shia, Druze, Christian, Ismaili and Armenian soldiers loyal to the Assad regime. Their effectiveness is hampered by the need to defend themselves against ambivalent western- and Saudi-funded rebel forces, many of whom have crossed over to join Isis. Supporting Syria’s battle-hardened secular army against the Islamist terrorists is the only realistic way to defeat them.
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

• “Air strikes” sound like a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat posed by Isis, but drones, missiles, high-altitude and stealth bombers operate in virtually complete safety. The word “war” is hardly appropriate. Not only militants but non-combatants of all ages are being killed. Am I alone in my concern both for these unnumbered victims and for the moral and psychological condition of those who kill with the click of a mouse?
George Miller
Oswestry, Shropshire

Nick Clegg Q&A, Lat the Nick Clegg takes a question and answer session at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, 6 October 2014. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

If the conference season has been marked by one feature, then it is a political scramble to make a raft of baseless promises about NHS funding, upon the sudden collective realisation that the NHS might be important to people. Labour and Tory promises have little substance. They were successful in that they got headlines. That they were uncosted (Conservatives) or poorly costed (Labour) was seemingly less important. Perhaps the Lib Dems this week will promise that all patients will be chauffeur-driven to their local GP surgery at a time of their choosing (Report, 4 October). The reality is that unless the wasteful and unnecessary competitive market and PFI contracts are addressed, the NHS will continue to haemorrhage billions and patients will bear the brunt with poor care. We have a difference between income and expenditure of £6bn a year, approximately 5% of overall NHS spending. The introduction of the market has increased administration costs from around 5% to 15% of NHS spending. It is obvious that we need a move back from the free-market commissioning process to a public sector planning process.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party

• Vince Cable proposes to add £1 an hour to apprenticeship wages. At the same time he assures his colleagues that the transatlantic trade and i in response to a demand of the Arab uprisingsnvestment partnership is in all our best interests. Under the TTIP, Veolia is suing the Egyptian government after it raised the minimum wage.
Kate Macintosh
Winchester, Hampshire

• The tone of your reporting of the Lib Dem conference suggests that you are going to urge us to support them in next year’s election. If you do, you threaten my 55-year-long association with your paper.
John Dinning

The new chief executive of the civil service, John Manzoni, in 2000. The new chief executive of the civil service, John Manzoni, in 2000. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

It beggars belief that John Manzoni has been appointed as chief executive of Whitehall (Report, 3 October). According to BP’s own internal investigation into the Texas City disaster, which killed 15 and injured more than 150, he was found to have ignored “clear warning signals” from previous accidents and “failed to obtain information needed to understand better his most complex and important refining asset and the risk of a big accident”. Cue the chorus of praise heaped on Mr Manzoni. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude speaks of Manzoni’s “impressive record”; chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander opines, unaware perhaps of the irony, that “John’s experience speaks for itself”. The fact that former chairman of BP John Browne was apparently on the panel that appointed him is of course irrelevant.
Michael McColgan

• The civil service does not need a chief executive. It already has one in the form of the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service. The import of business people to the civil service over the past 40 years has not been an unalloyed blessing. The odd one has reached the very top, but many others have disappeared without trace within two or three years of taking up office. The achievement record is in fact very much the other way round, with some Whitehall-trained civil servants having become successful chairs of banks and other City-based firms, and others holding effective non-executive director positions in business. The one regret is that no former mandarins have moved to the trade unions or the wider Labour movement.
Robin Wendt

• According to John Manzoni: “My priority is building on the existing momentum to strengthen the execution muscle of Whitehall and embed a sustainable productivity agenda across government.” Mandarins whose physique is to be improved by Mr Manzoni in this way will no doubt be familiar with The Complete Plain Words, written by the late Sir Ernest Gowers at the invitation of the Treasury, with the aim of improving official English.
Adrian Whitfield QC

Your article Disney earns £170m in UK tax breaks (2 October) fails to acknowledge the contribution the film tax credit makes to the UK economy. Every £1 invested in the tax relief generates £12 for UK GDP. More than £1bn was spent on film production in the UK in 2013; a significant proportion of this was inward investment from productions basing themselves here, attracted by the UK’s tax relief, world-class skills, locations and facilities, and the creativity of our film talent in front of and behind the camera. The tax relief is a life-blood to the UK’s independent sector, which is the engine-room of creativity in British filmmaking. The UK has a competitive edge as a global centre for filmmaking and supports an industry that employs 117,000 people and turns over £7.3bn a year. It is because of film companies like Disney and others that invest in the UK that we are able to support all of these jobs, build our skilled workforce, raise the game of independent British filmmaking and grow the UK’s economy.
Amanda Nevill
Chief executive, BFI

The report by the Local Government Association (Welfare schemes ‘under threat from No 10 cuts’, 6 October) is a stark reminder of the lifeline provided by so many local authorities to vulnerable people in need. Members of the Keep the Safety Net campaign, a national network of voluntary sector bodies concerned about proposed changes to local welfare provision, see at first hand the vital difference these schemes can make to the lives of vulnerable people. It is essential the government clearly identifies this line of funding to allow councils to provide a much-needed safety net.
Rob Hull
Chair, Cripplegate Foundation for the Keep the Safety Net campaign

• If Karl Lagerfeld cared two hoots about feminism (Comment, 4 October), he’d allow his half-starved models to eat properly. Better still would be if models organised for the rights to proper nutrition and a more sensible female shape. I dread to think what these women are storing up for themselves: low resistance to infection, poor mental health, osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction and sub-fertility, to name but a few possible consequences of their enforced lifestyles.
Ruth Grimsley

• Alan Milburn rather unoriginally claims that many schools are letting down poorer pupils and that if some manage not to, there is no excuse for this (Report, 6 October). Who is to blame for the numbers of children living in impoverished or disadvantaged conditions – these not random misfortunes?
Ian Roberts
Baildon, West Yorkshire

• No doubt familiar with the slogan “no taxation without representation”, some Scots may well be daunted by discovering the converse can also be claimed (Salmond bans councils’ blitz on poll tax debtors, 3 October).
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire


“The Independent begins a week-long investigation into the parlous state of the health service’s finances … what’s wrong with the NHS?… what has caused the current crisis?” (6 October ).

What indeed? Many things, but some have not even been considered. I visited my local surgery last week. A large notice in the waiting room said “number of missed appointments in August was 196, equivalent to 51 hours or one week’s wasted time and resources of our practice”. You can find the same notices in hospital outpatients. Theatres stand idle when people do not turn up for routine operations. Translated nationwide, this is many million of pounds worth of loss per month, more per year, more still per decade. Free access costs a great deal and its abuse should not be allowed.

P P Anthony


If the conference season has been marked by one feature, it is the political scramble by all parties to make a raft of baseless promises about NHS funding, after finally realising that the NHS might be important  to people. Labour and Conservative promises were successful in that they got headlines. That they were uncosted (Tories) or poorly costed (Labour) was seemingly less important.

By this logic I’m looking forward to the Lib Dem conference this week. Perhaps we’ll see a promise that all patients will be chauffer-driven to their local surgery at a time of their choosing. This will be followed by post-conference deconstruction, where the promise slinks off to join tuition fees in the graveyard of Lib Dem pledges.

The reality is that unless the wasteful and unnecessary competitive market and PFI contracts are addressed, the NHS will continue to haemorrhage billions and patients will bear the brunt of lost money and poor care. We have a difference between income and expenditure of £6bn a year, which is 5 per cent of overall spending. Given that the introduction of the market has increased administration costs from around 5 per cent to 15 per cent of spending, then it is painfully obvious that we need a move away from the free-market process and back to a public sector planning process.

Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party, Worthing

How can your journalists write so many words about the parlous state of NHS finances without mentioning the private finance initiative (PFI)?  The Blair government boasted of the huge sums they spent on the NHS, yet much of it went on this monstrous credit-card style financing, and is widely recognised as a major cause of the current lack of money. The medical profession is sometimes accused of addressing the symptoms not the underlying causes; your analysis of this problem did much the same.

S Lawton
Kirtlington, Oxfordshire

As a consultant paediatrician (forced to retire due to illness), I feel ably qualified to respond to Charlie Cooper’s article in yesterday’s Independent.

I believe the following actions will help to improve our NHS: move specialist clinics to community bases; reduce investigations to the minimum required; reduce the huge amounts of medications; establish online communications between health professionals and trusts. If nothing is done, more professionals will leave their jobs.

Dr Michael Reynolds
Buxton, Derbyshire

We must protect the Human Rights Act

In 1950 the European Convention on Human Rights was drafted. This led directly to the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights. Britain was in the forefront of this development and  eventually 47 countries signed up.

Now the Tory party has published proposals that mean the UK could be the first country to leave. If we – as one of the countries with relatively few judgments handed down against us – find the concept of human rights too onerous to contemplate, where does that leave  many of the other countries, such as Italy for example, which has far more questionable records?   And if the Conservative Party’s plan proceeds and Britain’s exit is emulated by others, where does this leave our citizens who may become subjected to unfair prosecutions in these countries?

The Conservative Party is sending out a chilling message to anyone in Europe who believes in democracy and supports human rights.  Will the last country to leave please switch off the lights on the way out?

Nigel Scott

Whatever one’s opinion about prisoners being denied the right to vote, surely it is wrong to use this topic as a basis for an argument about withdrawing from the European Human Rights Convention. It has been suggested that the European Court rulings on the matter could be complied with by giving the right to vote to prisoners sentenced to one year or less.

It might be debated whether as a country we believe that part of the purpose of imprisonment is to prepare prisoners for reintegration into society as law-abiding and responsible citizens. If we do, why not permit prisoners whose sentence will expire within five years after a general election the right to vote at that election, thereby giving those prisoners some chance to influence the make-up of the government of the society into which they will be released? We might even increase turnouts as a result.

Andrew Bruckland


The Tory contempt that keeps on giving

In the opening lines of the speech she did not get to make at the Tory Conference in Brighton in 1984, Mrs Thatcher refers to the ‘‘mob of rowdies outside’’. This was, of course, a peacefully protesting crowd. Her comments reflect the Tory contempt for democracy and the right to protest, echoed 30 years on by their plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Keith Flett

Dear George, Thanks but no thanks

I think I am one of the beneficiaries of George Osborne’s latest pension reforms, having been a member of some good pension schemes during my working life. However, I resent being given such generous welfare benefits in a time of austerity, especially as I do not need them at the moment.

Nigel Wilkins


How to get people picking fruit

It is a shame that Mark Steel (3 October) should repeat the oft-heard statement that immigrants come here to do work that the British shy away from, with its implicit racist and demeaning undertones, namely immigrants are only good for menial, low-paid jobs.

Has he considered the option of paying higher wages to fruit pickers, say £15 or even £20 per hour, in which case thousands would flock to Hereford for a stint of fruit picking. I bet an hourly rate of £30 would tempt him to trot to the countryside; it would me.

Fawzi Ibrahim

Madness is… voting without PR

While I respect the intentions of Paul Jenkins in advising everyone to vote (Letter, 3 October), it takes a big effort every four years  for many of us to put that into practice. I have lived in the same constituency for 28 years and have voted in six elections ranging from the high tide of Thatcherism to the Blair landslides. In none of these elections has my vote made an iota of difference.

I live in a safe Tory seat. I never have and never will vote Conservative but I still faithfully make my way to the polling booth, put my cross next to my chosen candidate knowing it will make no difference at all. And, millions of voters around the country in safe seats will be doing the same. I realise campaigners down the years have suffered varying degrees of discomfort to achieve this right but I suspect that most of them were campaigning for real democracy and certainly not so that the trip to the polling booth would be one of utter futility.

One definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. It has taken me a long time but I am tempted to say that until a system of proportional representation is introduced for West-minster elections, I shall not be indulging in this pointless exercise again.

Stuart Russell

Will Cameron take on Saudi Arabia?

So, David Cameron has done for Alan Henning with his military posing. When will we learn to keep out of interfering in the Middle East? We should immediately cease all aid to Syria and leave the Syrians to sort out their own mess.

Without aid and air strikes, they might realise that it is Isis that is leaving them to suffer, and turn away from it to embrace a more realistic form of government. No amount of compulsion will do that.  Perhaps the only thing we can do is to stop Isis’s backers financing it: which probably involves daring to stand up to Saudi Arabia. Does our tinpot soldier premier dare do that?

Tony Crofts
Clifton, Bristol


Sir, Writing as someone who is — um how shall I put it? — over 25 (“To er is human, but only for the elderly”, Oct 6), I find that my favourite and indeed most useful word in a crisis is “doo-dah” .
Gaye Poulton
London N7

Sir, These days young people tend spontaneously to offer me a seat on the bus. This is at one level encouraging: good manners are not in decline. The shadow-side is the unwelcome confirmation that skinny jeans and a modern haircut don’t allow us septuagenarians to get away with it indefinitely.
The Rev Claire Wilson
London NW3

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein may be right on the narrow point (“Ukip is doomed to be the dead parrot party”, Oct 1) but he misses the wider picture. Ukip is to policy what the catwalk is to fashion: it launches outrageous and populist policies not in expectation that they will be adopted, but in order to watch the mainstream parties manufacture high street versions that are buyable. We will never wear Ukip, but everything on offer at the election will have been influenced by it.
Jane Shaw

Sir, There is no doubt that mushroom hunting should be a joy (letter, Oct 6) but the rise of the gastro pub eager to provide wild delicacies does little to help. The chef will have engaged the services of a fungi forager who will guard the patch that produces the best porcini or chicken of the woods. Woe betide a casual forager seeking “the quiet hunt” when they stumble across the professional’s cache of chanterelle. The observation by Mr Carluccio that they are “one of the most important elements within the ecological chain” should make us leave them well alone and get on with farming a more diverse array of fungi.
Rob Yorke
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, In France you can walk into any chemist’s shop with the mushrooms you have picked on a day out and be told which ones are safe to eat. It is a free public service.
Dr Robert Bruce-Chwatt
Richmond, Surrey

We are told that “the NHS needs billions of pounds”, yet no-one will recognise that its debt is dwarfed by the amount owed for private finance initiative (PFI) contracts. If the government would take action the deficit would be eliminated overnight. Most PFI contracts have been “rolled up” and sold on and are now in the hands of private equity companies, and are held almost entirely overseas. If the government were to buy back all contracts, at no more than 100th of a penny in the pound, the only ones hurt would be the private equity companies; there is little or no involvement by UK pension funds or shareholders. It would be a major gain for the economy.
M Cohen
Godmanchester, Cambs


SIR – The European Convention on Human Rights was drafted in 1949-50 by David Maxwell-Fyfe, later home secretary in Churchill’s post-war government. Its principal purpose, he said, was to provide “a beacon to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain, and a passport for their return to the midst of the free countries”.

The convention set out “the minimum standard of democratic government” which they would need to meet in order to rejoin the European family of nations. No one then envisaged major legal changes within democratic Western European countries.

On that basis Churchill expressed strong support for the convention in a speech in Strasbourg in 1949. He endorsed the establishment of a court on the strict understanding that it “would depend for the enforcement of its judgments on the individual decisions of the states now banded together”.

To this original Churchillian vision the whole of Europe now needs to return.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – You cannot address the European Convention on Human Rights without dealing with the EU. The convention is substantively incorporated in the Lisbon Treaty by virtue of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The treaty provides an opt-out from the charter for Britain and Poland, but academic opinion doubts its effectiveness, were the European Court of Justice (with whose judgments the UK is bound to comply) to test its validity.

David Cameron should add this aspect of our membership of the EU to what should be a long list of issues for reform.

Neil Voyce
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – Tony Blair’s Human Rights Act was passed in 1998. Has speech become freer since then? Is family life more secure? Is the state less intrusive? As another prime minister once said: “No! No! No!”

Joseph B Fox
Redhill, Surrey

Nice is wasting millions on anti-alcohol pills

SIR – The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has proposed that a drug, nalmefene, should be made available to 600,000 moderate drinkers who wish to reduce their intake (report, October 3). Each pill costs £3. If all took up this offer it would increase NHS costs by £675 million a year.

The Nice recommendation is based on a misunderstanding of the available evidence so complete as to be almost comic. There have only been three clinical trials of the drug, and they all produced similar results. The trials were on heavy drinkers, with between 18 and 22 “binge days” per month, who wanted to reduce their dependence. None was from the United Kingdom.

A large minority of the entrants were given an inert pill (placebo), while the remainder took the drug.

The outcomes were unambiguous: all the patients involved reduced their drinking, and there was very little difference between the two “arms”. The drug users reduced their intake by 49.05 grams per month, and those on placebo by 45.58 grams per month.

Other indicators, such as liver function tests, the number of heavy drinking days and so on, were not significantly different. The authors of the trials were suitably cautious about the results. There were a number of cases in which the drug caused unpleasant side effects.

So the only possible conclusion is that if you take an interest in people who drink too much and are worried by it, and give them any pill telling them it might help, they will reduce their alcohol intake and maybe feel a little better, at least for some months.

Nice’s proposal is based on a “health economics” analysis, which ignores the effect of the placebo and any side effects.

It is difficult to believe that Nice could have ever made this proposal, even in draft form, but it appears that it is incapable of evaluating evidence.

Professor G B Arden
London N21

SIR – As the conference season comes to an end, one has little confidence in the political classes. Tories: privileged; Lib Dems: pretentious; Labour: pathetic; Ukip: prejudiced.

Andrew C Pierce
Barnstaple, Devon

SIR – The Scottish referendum produced an 84 per cent turnout. The reason for this high proportion is that every vote counted.

Contrast this with Westminster elections, where the first-past-the-post system disfranchises a huge number of voters. In my own case, I have been entitled to vote in elections for 49 years, but have yet to be represented by a member of the party I voted for, despite its overall national performance.

If the political elite are truly interested in maintaining the interest shown in the referendum, it is surely time to move to proportional representation for all elections.

Douglas Howie
Elgin, Morayshire

SIR – Like Mel Goodman (Letters, October 3) I have voted Conservative for some time. Now I’m looking for a party offering to put an end to big government, that refuses to use taxpayers’ money to buy votes, that will end the dishonesty of separate National Insurance and income tax, and that will cut taxes first, having abolished the handing-out of taxpayers’ money regardless of need.

I live in a dream world, don’t I?

Geoff Dees
Alford, Lincolnshire

Licence to snip

SIR – When a motorist gets an endorsement, the corner of his plastic licence should be snipped off (Letters, October 4).

Thus, for those who keep a clean licence, the wretched paper part would be redundant.

J S Barnes
St Peter Port, Guernsey

SIR – I too tried to hire a car using only the plastic card part of my licence. I was told that I would be charged £10 for a phone call to check for endorsements; but, learning that a foreign licence was acceptable, I produced my Ethiopian driving licence.

It is mostly in Amharic, with all dates written according to the Ethiopian calendar. This was accepted without any call or extra charge.

Ronnie Bradford
Vienna, Austria

Displayed traditionally in beer bottles, the society’s tulips await judging at its annual show  Photo: HOMER SYKES

6:59AM BST 06 Oct 2014


SIR – I enjoyed the article by Charles Quest-Ritson (Gardening, September 26) on the Dutch garden of historic bulbs, the Hortus Bulborum. The collection of English Florists’ Tulips there, with their flamed and feathered marking, were supplied by the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society.

This society has been growing English Florists’ Tulips since 1836. Some of the varieties grown have very long lives, and flower year after year for decades. Unlike most viruses, those that affecting the tulip (and produce its markings) do not appear to mutate. The blooms today are just as illustrated hundreds of years ago.

Tim Lever
Beachampton, Buckinghamshire

Paxman’s clean-up

SIR – The Cornish coast visited by Jeremy Paxman is not the only place with plastic bags of dog excrement hanging on trees and fences (report, October 4). I do a lot of walking, and in this part of Hampshire and Surrey it is a common sight in country lanes and on common land; I guess you could find it anywhere in the country.

If someone of Jeremy Paxman’s standing could help to eliminate this practice it would be appreciated by all country lovers.

Kathleen Mitchell
Farnborough, Hampshire

SIR – My allotment is next to a piece of land used by people who walk their dogs in Windsor Great Park. We have a 7ft hedge to act as a windbreak – and the charming owners regularly throw their bags of mess over the hedge and on to my veg.

Cecil Lunn
Windsor, Berkshire

Joint exercises

SIR – Although humans have 10 digits (Letters, October 4), the phalanges of the fingers number 12 on each hand, and the thumb is a useful pointer with which mark them off. I have been using this method to count since my teens, when I saw a Sikh doing so.

J H K Reeves
Bradfield, Berkshire

Arab countries won’t provide ground forces in Iraq; Britain can’t

Demonstrators parade with ISIL flags

Isil must be engaged on the ground, but who will do it? Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 06 Oct 2014


SIR – Twenty two years ago, Britain could have put 30,000 front-line men on the ground, with good reserves and support, to deal with some thing like Isil. Had others joined us, the force could have been ten times larger.

Weak, liberal politics has reduced us to a bunch of also-rans with no potency. There is no political leadership and consequently no military leadership.

The sop of using air power alone is just that. It is clear that the Arabs do not wish to deploy ground forces. That leaves Europe, which is currently sitting on its hands.

You might have to wait till hell freezes over to get Arab forces on the ground, because no one Arab country will trust the other. Kuwait taught us that.

David Cameron has reduced us to this state of affairs, with his Liberal Democrat chums. Procrastination is now the thief of time, and the death warrant to an untold number to come.

Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France

SIR – Like others, I am glad the Prime Minister has moved strongly on to the front foot, but as the defence of the realm is his prime responsibility I was very concerned that he did not announce that further substantial monies would be made available to enhance our military firepower.

It would be good for morale in the armed forced and also make a very strong international statement that this country means business.

Lord Sterling of Plaistow
London SW1

SIR – How many more such barbaric killings like that of the brave aid worker Alan Henning are to be committed before the West will accept its responsibility and fully commit itself to defeating the murderous advance of Isil, which threatens the global economy and world order.

Military leaders say that air strikes alone cannot stop Isil, and that ground forces are required, but with the Iraqi army in some disarray and the region unwilling or incapable of providing the necessary forces, the West must act on the ground.

In committing forces to Iraq last week, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, said that the Middle East situation was now an international concern. Therefore international action is required.

David Vetch
Smallfield, Surrey

SIR – Since air strikes against Isil are aiding the Kurds and Iraqis to regain their lands, should not their undoubted high cost be funded from the overseas aid budget?

Bruce Clench
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – Is there a paper trail for the apparently new Toyota vehicles used by Isil that we see on television every day? Where are they manufactured, and how do they arrive in the desert?

David Smith
London W14

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole is to be commended (“It’s time the State treated our cultural institutions with respect”, Weekend, October 4th) on actively keeping the plight of the cultural institutions before your readers.

These institutions were at rock bottom in the 1950s (the line of buckets to catch raindrops on wet days along the upper floors of the National Gallery said it all). The reversal of a slow but real upturn from the 1960s is made all the more serious by the proposed replacement of real management boards , themselves instituted a decade ago under the National Cultural Institutions Act of 1997, by mere advisory bodies.

A restoration of civil service management is hardy reassuring, given the record of neglect in the past. There was never over many decades a civil service brief to Ministers on the development of these institutions or their needs. The few bold steps were wholly ministerial in origin – Liam Cosgrave in the early 1970s on archives and Michael D Higgins on the institutions at large in the mid-1990s.

As for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, under Jimmy Deenihan policy was a mere mantra of private philanthropy coming to the rescue. The Enda Kenny-Heather Humphreys debacle of recent days hardly promises a bright future. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – While the vigilance of the Dublin media in preserving artistic standards in public office is to be admired, I have to say that on a recent visit to Donegal I came across some watercolours and some poetry books. I can only assume they were left behind by a holiday visitor from the Pale, whose occupation, be it in law, medicine, theatre, politics, business, etc, fell from the stars and in no way can be traced to family connection or influence. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 24.

Sir, – Standards in public life could be given a new lease on life if the public elected members of the Seanad in the manner they elect members of the Dáil. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – With regards to appointments to State boards, why not allocate say two seats on each board for political appointees? These could be appointed by the relevant minister at their absolute discretion. The remaining board members could be appointed through the public appointments system, and completely independent of the government.

With each change of government the political appointees would tender their resignations, allowing the incoming ministers to replace them if they wished. This approach would clean up the appointments process and introduce transparency, while recognising that all political parties want to retain these appointments as a form of patronage. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, –Reading a crime novel by Donna Leon, I was struck by a remark attributed to one of the lead characters: “In the presence of a trough, it is difficult not to oink”. It was mainly Italian politics that she had in mind, I suppose! – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – As you say in your editorial (A temporary measure?) of September 30th, “on no major issue has the Government behaved quite so dishonourably as on the pensions issue”. This is surely correct.

The Government prides itself on the “tough” but necessary decisions it is making for the good of the country – and no doubt the levy, and how tough it was not to keep the promise to terminate it, are part of that story.

Tackling the public service unions next year on their demands for more pay will be a stroll after this.

Since most employers have decided to pass on the full cost of the levy (as prompted by the 2011 Government legislation), the upshot of each extension of the levy is a further cut in pension – for life. What then, should the levy be made permanent? Pensioners and pension scheme members, be very afraid.

The €2.3 billion bite taken from pension funds, far from being a source of Government embarrassment, or reason for ceasing such plunder, is now becoming the very reason for continuing with it.

The reputation of the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, riding high at the moment, might yet be his role in wrecking the private pensions system. Is there no way to stop him?

Has any thought been given to the legality, or constitutionality, of what is going on here? – Yours, etc,


Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Sir, –Several contributors to your newspaper have remarked on the apparent lack of outrage at the pension levy. Might I suggest the following reasons: private pension holders were already punch-drunk from the far larger “hit” they suffered at the hands of a pensions industry that awards itself some of the fattest fees for some of the worst investment performance on the planet.

Second, I suspect the victims of this heist are from a demographic that prefers its vengeance, well chilled, at election time.

May heaven help any government that attempts to force us into the high-cost, risky, and opaque products that are the stock in trade of this industry under the guise of a compulsory national pension scheme.

If this Government wishes to do something for private pensioners in recompense for this unjust levy, might I suggest the following two reforms in the upcoming budget (in addition to announcing the abolition of the levy): follow the example of the British chancellor and free Irish pension-holders completely from the shackles of increasingly bad-value annuities; and give each taxpayer the option of nominating a single deposit account in a bank or credit union where deposits would enjoy the tax treatment enjoyed by pension investments – on condition the capital could not be accessed until retirement without first returning the avoided tax. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Irish Water give as its excuse for demanding our PPS numbers (the kind of confidential information that we are discouraged from giving to anyone) that it needs it to verify how many free allowances to give to each household.

Perhaps logic has deserted me, but I can’t see why a single-person household, claiming only one allowance, needs to supply a PPS number at all. – Yours, etc,


Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.

Sir, – Linda McNulty (October 2nd) argues that single occupant households are being discriminated against, in the case of estimated billing. This ignores the fact that there are shared aspects of water consumption where two or more people share a household. As a crude example, a garden will require the same amount of water irrespective of the number of occupants in the household. So an estimated water bill for two should be less than simply twice that for a single person. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I see Irish Water will allow its domestic customers to pay for their water by installments. Water on the drip? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The Housing Agency’s contention that the current minimum apartment sizes set out by Dublin City Council are inhibiting the construction sector should be strongly supported (“Build smaller apartments to tackle shortage, says Housing Agency chief”, Front Page, October 4th).

I would also suggest a reduction in building standards, a ban on costly thermal and sound insulation, an abolition of any building inspections and a rowback on fire safety standards, as these will surely encourage a building boom and create many jobs. Feeding our children less might also mean future generations will fit into even smaller apartments.

If we do not bail out developers who paid too much for land by allowing them to build cheaply, we risk construction profits, the jobs they create and the lobbying power they finance. Are people really going to place having a decent home above jobs? Do they really value their dignity that much?

If the city council refuses to back down, the the developers should sit tight and hold the city to ransom.

I can only be thankful that, regardless of whether Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael hold sway in the Dáil, we are governed by the benevolence of the construction industry – an industry that has so generously added to the architectural riches of the city over the last 25 years. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to your editorial (October 4th) on Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s options, you should be mindful of the comment by William Cobbett (1763 –1835), the pamphleteer, farmer and journalist: “Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt”.

Messrs Noonan and Howlin could bear this in mind when framing the 2015 budget. – Yours, etc,


Old Ross,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – Regarding Dublin city councillor and former lord mayor Mary Freehill’s recent call for a new and more “inclusive” motto for the city, this prompts the question: who is excluded from the present motto (“Obedientia civium urbis felicitas” – “The obedience of the citizens produces a happy city”)? With its reference to “the citizens” which, presumably, means all the city’s residents, the present motto is as inclusive, in the proper sense of the term, as any conceivable alternative could be. According to herself, even Ms Freehill hasn’t devised a more “inclusive” alternative. The present motto has served Dublin well for over 400 years and is sufficiently fit for purpose to serve it well for another 400. – Yours, etc,


Athboy, Co Meath.

Sir, – I can remember a time when we had no need for a telephone directory. It was not the lack of fast broadband or slow dial-up, it was the lack of a dial – with a telephone attached to it! – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – The best possible solution to the glut of new unused telephone directories is to offer a new edition on production of an older edition. The principle of the “money-back bottle” should be alive and well in 2014. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The latest Times Higher Education league table finds that most Irish universities have dropped down the league table. One of the causes for this downgrading is perhaps being missed. There are increasing levels of employee apartheid in many Irish universities. An elite group of staff and senior permanent academics enjoy remuneration and conditions that are in stark contrast with those of part-time, temporary and hourly paid staff.

What probably began as a genuine effort to use postgraduate researchers as classroom assistants and tutors, thereby giving them important experience, has been expanded over the past decade.

Now complete modules and undergraduate courses are being taught by temporary hourly paid employees, many of whom have PhDs, but who are being denied opportunities to gain the permanent employment that their qualifications would justify.

Some of our best researchers and potential university lecturers are being lost to emigration and non-academic employment.

The working conditions of many of these hourly paid teachers include problems such as no access to university office and computer facilities. In addition, they are expected to work many hours unpaid for each paid lecture hour, including several hours of lecture preparation, student guidance, setting and correcting exams and assessments, attending meetings and other administrative tasks.

Younger academics, in particular, are being exploited, because they feel they have to suffer in silence so as not to endanger their chances of getting permanent status.

When it comes to the treatment of junior and temporary employees, most Irish universities are engaged in a race to the bottom. Universities are winning that race, at the expense of unjust exploitation of their employees, and decreasing standards of third-level education for their students. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The Helmut Kohl revelations regarding Angela Merkel support my view that our predominately male political leaders are simply not up to the task of dealing with this canny female political operator (“Kohl gives unflattering verdict on Merkel”, World News, October 6th).

Can I suggest that we employ the services of an equally astute Irishwoman to send to EU summits to represent our interests? Perhaps we will then have a chance of getting a real “game changer” debt deal. To date, the men simply haven’t cut it! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – As ever, people died in Ireland last week. I would have thought that among them there were individuals whose lives were interesting enough or important enough (in whatever sense) to have merited being written up in what holds itself to be Ireland’s premier newspaper.

However, your latest page of Obituaries (October 4th) is completely devoted to four people who died in the UK – an army officer, a literary editor, a member of their aristocracy and a music scholar. They would seem to have been chosen not because of international repute, but simply because of some perceived status in British society. I am left wondering about the weighting of your selection criteria. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – At the heart of the European project is the concept of free movement of capital and people. All European governments, bar Ireland and Malta, recognise this by permitting (and in most cases encouraging) their emigrants to vote in general elections.

A friend, born and educated in Rome, tells me his voter registration papers arrive every year from Italy and only his signature is needed to renew his entitlement to vote in elections there. He has been here more than 35 years. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I see we are going to have a referendum on whether to remove a phrase from the Constitution. Can anyone else think of 10 more important issues that should be put to the people before the blasphemy referendum? – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Irish Independent:

Maeve Halpin’s precise phrasing of the debilitative and disappointing real-politik of modern-day living and struggling relationships, hits a nail on the head. (Letters, October 6).

The shallow and shoddy vacuity of ‘venereal’ wannabeeism, celebritism and hyper-materialistic value systems offer little towards longevity or maturity for close relationships of the satisfyingly lasting kind. Chasing fame, fortune or fallow frippery may initially contrive a gloss of smug achievement, but will merely dissipate into a perennial cycle of emptiness, dashed dreams and so very little in the way of deep contentment.

The pervasive troika-pandemic of ‘virtuality syndrome, cyberism & have-to-have-ism’ coalesce to undermine steadfastness, practical imagination and authentic interpersonal dynamics. Such dynamics have both vagary and vicissitude as life-long bedfellows. Dwelling and struggling in the mire of friction, frisson and ‘fraughtability’ is grist to the mill of an enduring intimacy.

The natural strains, tensions and differentiated aspirations of individual partners within a dyad of shared living are challenging. Eventually, however, such challenges are (mostly) enriching, enlightening and transformative when addressed, processed and resolved.

Whether this needs a professional to process is a moot point. The patient, personal discipline to prevail through the dark (hopefully occasional) labyrinthes of conflict, is a part of real-life living together. No ‘happy-ever-after’ in sight.

“This fictional world gives people no preparation for the humility, compassion, effort and ability to compromise involved in making relationships work in the face of all kinds of change, both positive and negative.” Such sentiments should be roundly and regularly flagged throughout our early developing lives, to prepare for the fray of ‘day-to-day’.

Ms Halpin is right on the money to give the ‘negative’ equal status as the ‘positive’. Such is simply a real-life appraisal, but we needn’t, of course, aspire to wallow in the negative. Living through it with sentient aforethought is a valid recipe for success, where we can also revel in all the positive ‘ups’ which can regularly abound.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be suckered into the fallacies of unrealistic positivity, which will always disappoint and fail. A warm, practical ‘meso-melancholy’ of balanced acceptance, peppered with highs, as well as (some) lows, might be an optimum realism, affording a truly successful, authentic togetherness.

There is no handy ‘app’ to substitute for same!

Patrick J Cosgrove

Lismore, Co Waterford

Law needed on cyberbullying

The increasing occurrence of cyberbullying – not just in schools – cries out for legislation that will be effective in stemming the advance of this sickening trend, rescuing the victims from the bullies and the bullies from themselves. Reports have recommended that legislation under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act should be amended to provide for an offence of cyberbullying. However, this is slow in coming.

Bullying springs from low self-esteem that festers away behind a facade of bluster and bravado. The achievements of others are seen as a threat, so are confronted by instigating a programme of humiliation and the orchestration of a hate campaign.

A crucial task for the bully is to silence the victim, doing so by threat or by the intensification of the abuse.

The relentless attempt to destroy the chosen target has even led to the victim’s suicide in some tragic cases.

Those who bullied at school tend to continue the practice into their adult lives as a result of a persistent low estimate of their capabilities, failing to see that the real enemy is the enemy within that eats away at their confidence in themselves.

The greatest gift to the cyberbully is anonymity. The experience of freedom from detection creates a vicious world where bullying becomes almost recreational, on the assumption that the victims have no real redress, though there is redress – albeit inadequate – through the legislation relating to defamation and harassment. It is in the interest of all of us to identify the abusers and confront them with the seriousness of their behaviour. The excuse of “I was only joking” is a disingenuous attempt to suggest that the dramatic impact of bullying has its source in the victim’s over-sensitivity.

Appropriate legislation cannot come soon enough so that the perpetrators, not the victims, pay the price of this pernicious practice.

Philip O’Neill

Edith Road, Oxford

Taoiseach should meet soldiers

The 44th Infantry Group return to Ireland from their tour of duty on the Golan Heights in Syria this week. These Irish troops have had a stressful deployment and have engaged in a number of fire-fights with armed anti-regime groups – including groups associated with al-Nusra and al-Qaeda.

The 44th Infantry Group also rescued – under fire – a contingent of Filipino Peacekeepers from their besieged UN positions. The Irish people ought to be proud of their service and as examples of positive Irish citizenship in a troubled world.

I would ask that Taoiseach Enda Kenny meet these soldiers on return from their overseas service.

At a time when we organise civic receptions for returning football and rugby teams, an official reception for our peacekeeping troops is the least our government could do for them and their families.

This is especially so at a time – against a backdrop of crony-ism and toxic politics – when we as a nation are seeking to focus on genuine public service and true citizenship.

Dr Tom Clonan,Captain (Retired)

Booterstown, Co Dublin

Water charges inevitable

There are conflicting views on the introduction of water charges.

On various radio programmes presenters fail to explain that supply of water should never have been free to users. It is the public perception that because rain or river water is free that it should arrive in your home miraculously.

They fail to recognise that water must be captured, cleaned, distributed and the waste must be piped, distributed, cleansed and disposed.

The user is happy to pay for bottled water. Why? Simplistic solutions to national supply are immature and unworthy of their promoters.

Sean McCool

Address with editor

Boarding school blues

“Terror mixed with homesickness meant I cried myself to sleep, night after night” (Irish Independent, Weekend Review, October 4).

As a very young boy, Ivan Yates was sent to a boarding school in Bray.

As a very young boy I was sent to a boarding school in Dublin.

Every detail of Ivan’s boarding school misery I can relate to.

I congratulate Ivan Yates. His very courageous book – ‘Full On’ – deserves to be read.

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Ireland’s waist problem

I find it strange that Liam Fay (October 5) should have a problem with the “corpulent poor”, as I think of he were just to make a little effort and look around in this country alone he should have no problem seeing lots of politicians, bankers, rich business men and women with rather expanded waistlines and double chins!

Gemma Hensey

The Quay, Westport, Co Mayo

Irish Independent




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