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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

London Ambulance Service Trust Board Meeting - Reading of the riot act etc

Not been able to blog about this for almost a week, having had a very busy week last week plus being tied up with other things over the weekend - mostly pleasurable, although I was also running around like a maniac trying to get signatures on motions for the Green Party's autumn conference in September - deadline for motions is tonight at midnight.

Well when I wrote last week that the Board meeting would be frosty it was an understatement. I was subjected to the full reading of the riot act treatment, and made to feel like a miscreant, or probably what some whistleblowers experience in the NHS. I also discovered that my blog now has the full and undivided attention of the LAS Press Office, and so I am aware that anything I write here from now on will be closely scrutinised. However, as I have not written anything libelous or defamatory, I shall not be deterred as this is my personal blog after all.

I became aware of this at the Board meeting when the Chair suddendly turned and addressed his remarks to me and requested that they be minuted. Copies of my blog post of last week about the LAS and the involvement of Richard Barnbrook etc, were on the board table in front of the Chair and Chief Exectuive - later the Press Officer told me that she had brought it to their attention. I was accused of "serious misrepresentation" told that the LAS were striving to increase their BME representation among their staff etc. But two points really stood out for me in the Chair's statement. One was that the current vacancy on the LAS Board would be filled by "the most capable candidate" which clearly implied that there will be no effort to push for diversity. And secondly that the LAS will "work with all politicians whatever their background". The latter clearly refers to the BNP or their ilk. I simply do not think that this statement is sufficient and does not address the concerns I raised.

I listened to this reading of the riot act directed at me and, as I had predicted, apart from the Lead PCT Commissioner, I was the only member of the public present. I did not reply to this as it was the Chair's report to the board and I did not want to turn the meeting into a slanging match. However, when the Chair later stated that he and his board were not racist, I very quickly replied that I had not accused them of any such thing but of not having implemented their own policies on diversity.

There have been several developments since the meeting. Firstly, I have had some support from a blogger who works for the LAS and is asking similar type questions to mine.

Secondly, on Friday last the Green Party's Press Office issued a press release on the issue.

Finally, I was told that an article about all of this will be appearing in this week's issue of 'The Irish Post' one of the main weekly papers for the Irish community in the UK. All of this is likely not to go down well with the LAS but I have brought the debate into the open and I still expect many of my questions to be answered in a more satisfactory manner than they have been. I have also been assured of the support of the officers of the Patients Forum.

I pointed out to the Press Officer after the meeting that I have a responsibility to express the concerns of patients and service users no matter what hackles that may raise. And that the issue of equal ops provisions being sufficiently robust to prevent the election of a racist and Fascist to run London's ambulance service was a primary concern of mine and of many of the users of the London Ambulance Service.


And I do have to say that never have I felt the victim of a conspiracy theory before, but now I am certain that my blog is being perused for statements not in line with the views of the LAS senior management.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Lansley still isn't listening - Save the NHS!

Will
                                  Lansley listen?There have been many alarms about the future of the NHS - remember the 1997 general election slogan from Labour "48 hours to save the NHS"? Well now the NHS really is in real danger and Lansley's Bill must be stopped in its tracks. 38 degrees have launched the following petition which alreay has nearly half a million signatories. Sign now!



Dear Joseph,

Health minister Andrew Lansley's so-called NHS "listening exercise" ends on Tuesday. He wants to use the occasion to claim he's listened - then plough ahead with dangerous changes to our health service. So he's not going to be too pleased to see adverts across the newspapers, funded by donations from thousands of 38 Degrees members, showing him with his fingers in his ears.

The "listening exercise" ends in six days. We'll deliver a copy of the Save the NHS petition on the final day. Let's make sure that our huge petition, being carried in to Andrew Lansley's office – in full view of the media – becomes the enduring image of the whole process. That would stop him being able to use the "listening exercise" to justify dangerous changes to the NHS.

The petition has over 390,000 signatures so far. Can you help make it even bigger by next Tuesday by adding your name?

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

It's no surprise the Save the NHS petition is growing so fast. The NHS is a matter of life and death. We rely on it to look after us and our loved ones. So many experts - doctors, nurses, health charities, patients' groups - are all warning that Lansley's plans could spell the end of the NHS as we know it. We just can't risk that happening. [1]

Lansley's "listening exercise" has been carefully stage-managed from start to finish to paint a positive picture for the media. When 38 Degrees members went to meet their MP in Sheffield, they found out that there'd been a "listening exercise" in their city just hours earlier - but it had been kept secret until after it was over. [2] That's been the story across the country.

Thanks to donations from thousands of 38 Degrees members, Save the NHS adverts exposing the sham "listening exercise" will be in newspapers with a combined circulation of over 6 million people today. Check out the adverts, and add your name to the petition, here:

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

Working together, we are making it impossible for politicians to gloss over concerns about their NHS plans. 38 Degrees members voted in February to make the NHS our top priority. Since then hundreds of thousands of us have signed the petition, emailed and visited our MPs, and donated to run adverts in the newspapers.

We're turning the tide, but we're not there yet. So now let's make sure we have as big a petition as possible to deliver to the "listening exercise" next Tuesday. Please add your name here:

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

Thanks for being involved,

Johnny, Marie, Becky, David, Hannah, Cian and the 38 Degrees team

PS: You can see which papers our ads are in here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/our-lansley-ads

NOTES

Quote from Dr Hamish Meldrum: http://www.politics.co.uk/interviews/health/interview-bma-s-hamish-meldrum-$21388805.htm

[1] http://38degrees.org.uk/pages/save-our-nhs-who-is-worried

[2] http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/05/andrew-lansley-nick-clegg-still-not-listening-on-nhs/

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

"Standing up for trade union rights: past, present and future"

I will be going along to this event on Thursday night organised by the Institute for Employment Rights and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. As a UNISON member and Treasurer of the Green Party Trade Union Group, I am very interested to hear what Len Mc Cluskey in particular has to say on the future of the trade union movement during this period of real attack on workers rights and the trade union movement. With massive layoffs in the public sector being announced every day and the decimation of public services the role of the trade union movement is going to be vital The next test will be on June 30th and the national strike in the public sector over pension rights.
The Institute of Employment Rights & The Haldane Society

Invite you to hear:

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, UNITE in conversation with Sally Hunt, General Secretary, UCU
“Standing up for trade union rights: past, present and future”
chair: John Hendy QC

Thursday 26th May 2011, 6.30—8.30 pm
At Congress House, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS
Nearest Tube Tottenham Court Road
http://www.ier.org.uk/ www.haldane.org

2011 is an important anniversary year for the trade union movement. It marks

• 100 years since the 1911 Transport Workers strike

• 50 years since the Council of Europe’s Social Charter

• 25 years since the Wapping dispute and

• 10 years since the Friction Dynamics Strike.

2011 also promises to be a year of struggle as unions fight to defend jobs, pay, pensions and services.

So what lessons can we learn from our past to inform our future?

Two trade union general secretaries at the centre of current struggles offer their thoughts in this 2011 In Conversation event, Chaired by John Hendy QC.

Free Admission but pre-booking essential. To reserve your places email office@ier.org.uk

This event is kindly sponsored by OH Parsons, Old Square Chambers and Thompsons Solicitors.

Monday, 23 May 2011

London Ambulance Service Trust Board meeting tomorrow

Well in the aftermath of last week's press release criticising the presence of Richard Barnbrook, now apparently plotting the resurrection of the Far Right in the UK as an electoral force, at the Foundation Trust event for future LAS governors, and the total ignoring of equal ops issues by the LAS in terms of employment etc, I am attending the LAS NHS Trust Board meeting tomorrow, where I am certain to get a frosty reception. The issue of the Foundation Trust status is again on the agenda as are a number of other items including their response to the 7/7 Inquest and the recommendations to the LAS.

The Chief Executive of the LAS sent a rather waffly response last week about the press release which I issued on behalf of the Patients Forum - it is below. In the interim, I have heard some quite disturbing stories about ambulance crews and BME patients - more of that anon.  Not looking forward to tomorrow's meeting where I am, as usual, likely to be the only member of the public present.



Executive Office

Headquarters

220 Waterloo Road

London

SE1 8SD

17 May 2011

Dear Joseph

I write in response to your email of 13 May regarding the event for prospective foundation trust governors last week.

As you will be aware, the meeting was open to all members who had indicated an interest in standing as a governor.

I made reference to a number of those who were attending – including ex-members of staff and Patients Forum members – and did so to Mr Barnbrook in his role as an elected member of the London Assembly and member of their Health and Social Services Committee, which is currently carrying out a review of the Service. Indeed, it was clear from correspondence with him before the event that he was attending in this capacity. Furthermore, I was unaware he was a member of the LAS until that evening. We have around 5,000 public members as you know, and I am not aware of each individual member’s details.

Given the circumstances and public nature of the meeting, it was clearly not going to be possible to resolve your concerns at the time, and it was in this context that I and a number of other senior managers listened to and acknowledged the points you made.

However, it is regrettable that you should have felt the need to suggest going to the media before giving us an opportunity to address the issues and correct factual inaccuracies, as this is not at all helpful to our relationship with the Forum.

The process for electing members to the council of governors will be fully in line with the terms set out by Monitor. Anyone who stands for election will have to state whether they are a member of a political party in their nomination paper, and it will then be for the members of the constituency group that he or she is standing for to decide whether they wish to vote for them.

While acknowledging and agreeing with your point that there needs to be equal opportunities around this process, it should be recognised that this in itself will enable anyone to put themselves forward for election, regardless of their political beliefs or affiliations.

Moving to your statement regarding the diversity in our workforce, I can advise that currently nine per cent of our staff are recorded as being from a BME background. You will know that we would like this to be higher, but also that the Patients Forum has been involved throughout the development of the both the equality inclusion strategy and soon-to-be-published positive action strategy, and that you have representation on the equality and inclusion steering group itself.

We are also continuing to develop staff diversity forums, to help further assist our work to support key equalities initiatives and increase under-representation of these groups within the Service.

In terms of the Trust Board, in line with other NHS trusts we have had to recruit non-executive board members through the NHS Appointments Commission, which follows a clear and open process of recruitment.

Executive positions are appointed using a similarly transparent process, which is in line with best practice and includes external input to the selection procedure. We have improved our representation on the Board in a number of areas through our recruitment, albeit not visibly within BME groups.

I hope that this helps to clarify our position.

Yours sincerely

Peter Bradley CBE

Chief Executive Officer

Barack O'Bama - the first African American Irish President

Well Ireland has certainly been in the news over the last week or so. Firstly the first visit by a British head of state since 1911 and now the first visit by the US's first African American president, who is also claiming Irish ancestry via the tiny village of Moneygall in County Offaly. His nearest relative shares the same surname as mine (Healy) and apparently his ancestor was a shoemaker who emigrated to the US shortly after the Great Famine in 1850. For many Irish emigration was the only hope for improvement in a land ravaged by famine and injustice. Today this continues to be the case with many young Irish emigrating to Canada and Australia in particular. Indeed there will be a petition presented to Obama in Dublin to recognise the case of the undocumented Irish in the US, who may be covered by any amnesty on migration, which the President is already considering.

He will certainly imbibe some of the black stuff in the village pub, unlike her Maj who turned her nose up at the stuff in the Guinness brewery last week. But he is also due to give a large public address to the people in College Green in Dublin later today and it will be interesting to see if he addresses the problems of cuts and toxic banks and the deficit, which are ravaging Ireland at present. Indeed until now his administration has set its face against the policies being pursued across Europe and which are leading to the demonstrations in Spain and Greece and the mounting sense of anger and resistance across the continent. But the election of the Tea Party candidates in the US and the resulting blockage in the US legislature is producing economic policies which are the opposite of what his government has been supporting up to now.

His speech at the weekend about the 1967 borders was encouraging but he must now continue the pressure on Israel to give territory and concessions to the Palestinians. The real danger is that Bush's wars could become Obama's wars and disengagement from Afghanistan must be on the agenda, together with a complete realignment of US foreing policy vis a vis the dictatorships in the Arab world.

In the interim, the Irish group, the Corrigans, have composed this charming ditty to welcome him to Moneygall. A real bit of blarney!

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Damnation of Faust




Well when not involved in politics or the day to day business of earning a living one of my real passions is opera and I particularly like Berlioz's 'Damnation of Faust' with its really rich and dark music. Terry Gilliam's current production at the English National Opera, which I am going to see tonight, has received really good reviews. Gilliam, of course, is a film director and the idea of merging cinematic images and opera is not a new one but he has really brought this to a new level with Faust.

Gilliam has also brought the metaphor of Germany and its people having entered a faustian pact to this production and uses the images of German romanticism to start Faust's journey from jaded contemplation to self destruction. This includes images of the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the rise of Nazism and finally the Gotterdammerung of 1945 which mirrors Faust's own damnation. It really is a very political and imaginative reinterpretation of Goethe's tale and Berlioz's wonderful music. I look forward to hearing it and Berlioz is one of my favourite composers.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Anglo-Irish relations and the Queen's visit to the Irish Republic



The Queen's visit to the Irish Republic - the first British monarch since George V - will inevitably stir up strong passions as witnessed in this report. If she uses the visit to genuinely apologise for past British actions in Ireland and to build a spirit of reconciliation between the two islands and the two peoples, then it will be an opportunity for the best. But there are still many outstanding issues, not lease the future position of Northern Ireland.

Millions of euros are being spent on the visit by the supposedly cash strapped country, facing a possible default of its European Central Bank debt, and to a large extent the trip is seen as huge tourism and business PR exercise to increase levels of UK tourism and investment in the Republic. The security operation is also unprecedented and questions need to be asked about the crackdown on the right to protest etc, which is protected by the Irish constitution. Even the Guardian's Irish editor was threatened with arrest earlier today.

There are also questions to be asked about the role of the British security services in the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan in the 70s, which saw the biggest loss of life in the 'Troubles' and where the UK has refused to co-operate in opening the files despite a request from the Irish parliament to do so.

Here is a satirical video the classic UK Sky News view of Ireland and of the Irish economy. Worth pointing out though that Osborne was praising this economy only a few years ago and the joke doing the rounds is that the UK is just 2 years behind Ireland in its economic trajectory. The adage "he who laughs first, laughs last" may be true in this case.


Sky News HD Spoof - Ireland Financial Bailout - BANNED FROM YOUTUBE from Nathan Butler on Vimeo.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Fascists, racists and the London Ambulance Service


Last Wednesday evening I turned up for a meeting of potential governors of the London Ambulance Service in the Board Room of St Thomas' Hospital and was faced with a situation which I never expected to have to face - a Fascist and racist member of the London Assembly, Richard Barnbrook, was present at the event. What followed and my feelings about it I placed in the following email to the Press Office of the LAS last Friday:

Dear Angie,


I am about to issue a press release as the Chair of the Patients Forum regarding an incident which occurred this Wednesday night at the Foundation Trust event for future patient governors organised at St Thomas’ Hospital. Richard Barnbrook, a former BNP member of the London Assembly, was present, and I raised my objections to his presence with both Peter Bradley (Chief Executive) and Sandra Adams (Head of Corporate Services). Sandra Adams replied that he was a member of the Foundation Trust and that there was nothing she could do. The seriousness of the incident was compounded by Peter Bradley specifically welcoming him during the opening address, which I found very objectionable.

During the break I also raised my concerns with Margaret Vander, Head of PPI, and I was asked not to raise the issue during the workshops, although by that stage he had left the meeting. I told Margaret that there needed to be firm equal ops policies embedded in the conditions for the election of any future governor and now there is a distinct possibility that he may be standing as a governor of the LAS.

At a time when 96% of LAS employees are white, and this was painfully obvious in the staff photo presented at the event, and when there are no BME people whatsoever on the board of the LAS, representing the emergency service of Europe’s most diverse city, this is hugely insulting to BME patients and users of the ambulance service.

The Patients Forum has for some years now been expressing its concerns to the LAS about a lack of diversity in both workforce and board and about racist incidents which have occurred in the LAS and has written several times to both the CRE and its successor, the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

For me having a Fascist and racist attending an event for future governors of the LAS, being welcomed by the Chief Executive and with the prospect of standing for election as a governor is a grave cause for concern and protest and is a clarion call for the LAS to set its house in order.

Regards
Dr Joseph Healy
Chair of the LAS Patients Forum

Unfortunately as I had to spend most of Friday at work without the opportunity of compiling a press release, I sent out the following press release today to all of the major papers, BBC London, the Voice newspaper and the Health Service Journal. I sincerely hope that the LAS does something about this but the Patients Forum has been fighting this battle for too long on its own and now needs external support. There is no way that we can allow an avowed racist and Fascist to run London's Ambulance Service and the LAS has got to get its house in order.
Monday 16th May 2011.


Press Release

“The Patients Forum of the London Ambulance Service is seriously concerned about the involvement of the former BNP, and now Independent, Assembly Member, Richard Barnbrook, in the forthcoming election for governors of the London Ambulance Service, when it becomes a Foundation Trust later this year.
At an event last Wednesday at St Thomas’ Hospital, organised for potential governors, Barnbrook attended and was personally welcomed by the Chief Executive of the Trust, Peter Bradley. The Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, Dr Joseph Healy, objected to his presence and passed these objections on to both the Chief Executive and the Director of Corporate Services, Sandra Adams, but was told that Barnbrook was a member of the Foundation Trust.
At a time when the London Ambulance Service, which serves the most diverse city in Europe, has a 96% white workforce and a Board of Directors, which does not include one black or ethnic minority member, facts which the Patients Forum has continued to point out to the LAS and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, we consider this a serious development.
The LAS needs as a matter of priority to put in place safeguards around equal opportunities which will prevent Fascists and racists standing for election as governors of one of London’s main emergency services. Furthermore, we call for the LAS to urgently address the lack of black and minority ethnic representation within both its workforce and its governance system. Only when this issue has been properly addressed can the LAS truly claim to represent all of the patients and users of the LAS in Europe’s most diverse city.”
Dr Joseph Healy
Chair
Patients Forum London Ambulance Service

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Caroline Lucas speaks about Palestine while the commemoration of the Nakbah sparks unrest across Palestine



Caroline Lucas speaks at an event in London on Saturday to commemorate the Nakbah. Unfortunately I could not atttend as I was at the National Council meeting of the Coalition of Resistance, of which more later. Meanwhile across Palestine the event sparked clashes as Palestinians mark 63 years since 'The Catastrophe'.

And for Greens Engage and other apologists for the Zionist state within the Green Party, who recently libelled me and other Green Party members who reject their view on their website, dressed as a somehow April Fool's prank while accusing us of being anti-Semitic - I have replied in the pages of the forthcoming issue of Jewish Socialist Magazine - where I was asked to write a short piece on the attacks of these people on both the Green Party of England and Wales and out Australian Greens who have stood up for the policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Here are some images of how the same Zionist state has been reacting towards Palestinian protests on Friday in the West Bank.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Hardest Hit March yesterday



Here is the Channel 4 News report on yesterday's 'Hardest Hit' march. I will admit that I was unable to go as the disability organisation I work for, Disability Advice Service Lambeth, has been so hit by cuts and recent staff sickness that we would have been unable to deliver a service at all to our many disabled clients if we had shut down yesterday, but I was totally with the marchers in spirit. I also raised the march at last week's Coalition of Resistance committee meeting and we also sent our support.

Many MPs were lobbied, Caroline Lucas among them, and Caroline's office has sent the following response to disability activists in the party:
Caroline was lobbied as part of this day of action and had a useful conversation about DLA, housing benefit, support in the work place and several other topics. She will be following up with some parliamentary questions and has also offered advice about eg lobbying the Lords.
Alan Wheatley, the party's former Disability and Social Care Spokesperson, was also on the demo and a number of my friends from various disability groups were prominent on the march.

The pressure on this most mendacious government must be kept up as disabled people are on the front line of severe cuts to benefits which will hugely impact on their health and quality of life. I will also be bringing the issue up at the COR National Council on Saturday.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Julian Assange awarded Peace Prize

Good to see Julian Assange, someone who speaks truth unto power, awarded the Sydney Peace Medal. While in Dublin recently, my sister in law, who is a journalist for the awful right wing Daily Mail (Irish edition) criticised him for being "a narcissist" and someone who was carried away with his own reputation. I stridently disagreed with her, but I can see how he would get up the noses of right wing journos and commentators. He is also, of course, public enemy No 1 for the USA at present, now that Bin Laden has been "taken out" by 'Operation Geronimo'.

Perhaps Hilary Clinton is already working on 'Operation Sitting Bull' where Assange will be spirited away from the Norfolk countryside by helicopter, and then carried by submarine across to face US justice. I demonstrated in his support outside the magistrate's court several months ago during his extradition hearing. My sister in law acidly remarked that most men like him got their overweening pride and arrogance out of their system while still young and then went on conform and settle down. The fact that he has not conformed is to be saluted and he is now paying the price by facing a real sustained attempt to by the US to demonstrate that they will not have their power and prestige mocked. Yet as the judges of the Sydney Peace Medal commented, Assange's Wikileaks contributed considerably towards the Arab Spring, and may contribute to other upheavals and struggles for liberty of which we are not yet aware. As someone who in middle age has not conformed and is still prepared to speak out against injustice, I admire Julian Assange and wish him well.

I also see that he will be appearing at the Brighton Festival on May 21st but tickets are sold out already.

Coalition of Resistance National Council on Saturday


Cuts are not the cure: Video from March for the Alternative from Trades Union Congress on Vimeo.


The film above was shown at the TUC anti-cuts demo on March 26th. The Coalition of Resistance as the broadest based and most national anti-cuts movement has continued to meet forthnightly - I am on their Steering Committee. The National Council, which is the body which elected the Steering Committee and has national representation, meets on Saturday in the University of London to discuss where next for the anti-cuts campaign in this country and also to plan for the second national conference of COR on July 9th. Romayne Phoenix, National Campaigns Coordinator of the Green Party and Chair of COR has sent out the following invite to all the National Council members of COR.

With a divided coalition and the assault on benefits, disabled people, and the unwaged about to begin (a large march by disabled people due tomorrow called 'The Hardest Hit') now is the time to strike against this government of spivs and speculators. We must gear up - March 26th was only the launch pad of the campaign.

CoR National Council meeting - Saturday, 14th May, 12-4pm, room 3A, University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H
Dear CoR Councillors

We meet this Saturday to build on the success of the TUC demonstration on 26th March and to celebrate the part that the Coalition of Resistance played in building for this important day. 5000 placards and 25000 broadsheets gave us a strong presence and helped send out a powerful message to the government and to those people who have yet to become active in fighting cuts and privatisation plans locally and nationally. Lansley’s NHS ‘reform’ plans are now under threat. The size of the demonstration and other campaigning was a game changer.

CoR steering group have been working to identify ways in which to focus our campaigning effectively. CoR councillors are invited to bring suggestions for action to the CoR council meeting.

The programme for the day is:

12.00 - 1.00 Introduction, and report from CoR steering committee

1.00 - 2.00 Building the campaign:

• getting individual and organisational affiliations

• establishing regional representatives

• supporting or forming local and sectoral groups

2.30 - 3.00 Arrangements for CoR conference on Saturday 9th July

3.00 - 4.00 Proposals for action.

The Coalition of Resistance is becoming a recognisable and unifying focus for the anti-cuts and privatisation movement.

Your contributions to the discussion, and action plan suggestions, will help to shape our COR Conference 9TH July and to organise the building of COR work in the regions. I look forward to meeting you all on the day.

Romayne

Monday, 9 May 2011

The 7/7 Inquest - Recommendations to the London Ambulance Service

Tonight the Patients Forum for the London Ambulance Service, of which I am chair, holds its monthly public meeting in the LAS HQ on Waterloo Road from 5.30pm. One of the main topics on the agenda will be the coroner's report issued last Friday concerning the 7/7 bombings and the role of the London Ambulance Service in those events. The LAS is not yet in a position to mount a full reply to the inquest findings but they are sending spokespersons along to give a preliminary response.

All of the emergency services in London were found wanting on that day and the LAS was among them. The LAS says that since that time it has put in place several major changes. The statement of the LAS re the inquest findings is as follows:

Communications Department
Headquarters
220 Waterloo Road
London
SE1 8SD
Tel: 020 7783 2286
Fax: 020 7783 2120
http://www.londonambulance.nhs.uk/

News Statement

6 May 2011
Response to Coroner’s inquests verdicts into the London Bombings of 7 July 2005

Chief Executive Peter Bradley said:
“Our thoughts today are with the families of those who were killed and the people who were injured on 7 July 2005.
“We appreciate that this has been a very difficult inquest for everyone involved, but we hope that it has helped to answer some of the questions that people have had about what happened to their loved ones.
“We are pleased that the actions and bravery of our staff have been recognised by the Coroner. They did everything they could, and through the care and treatment they provided were able to help save the lives of very seriously injured patients.
“We accept, though, that some aspects of our response on the day could have been better; communications issues affected the speed at which we were able to send crews to some of the scenes. For this reason, we are genuinely sorry if any families or survivors feel unhappy about our response.
“The Coroner has recognised that we have made a number of key changes over the last five years. These include improving systems in our control room where we manage 999 calls, introducing much more effective radio communications, and putting a system in place to send a set number of vehicles and managers when a major incident is declared. We are confident that, as a result, we are in a much better position to respond to any similar incidents in the future
“We will now carefully consider the Coroner’s recommendations, and will work with all other agencies to make changes that will further improve our response to major incidents.”
Ends

Notes to editors:

Improvements to our major incident planning since July 2005

The London Ambulance Service has made a number of significant developments and improvements since the bombings. These include:


• introducing the Airwave digital radio system, which includes coverage underground and the ability to send update messages to staff’s radio handsets when they are away from their vehicle.


• sending a pre-determined response to a major incident, including 20 ambulances, 10 officers and all available emergency support vehicles carrying extra equipment.


• creating two hazardous area response teams, which have their own large equipment vehicles carrying equipment that is capable of delivering help to large numbers of patients simultaneously – for example, mass oxygen systems that can be used to treat 48 patients at the same time, and medical supplies to manage the care of up to 80 adults and 20 children with serious injuries, as well as up to 300 walking injured patients.


• replacing our previous incident control room with a new purpose-built incident control room able to help manage multiple simultaneous major incidents.


• improving major incident training. Rosters have been developed for frontline staff to enable them to attend a series of dedicated training days, with one of these set aside for a session to update and refresh them on major incident procedures, followed by a tabletop exercise looking at major incident management. Additionally, training for operational officers has been enhanced and builds on training received on other courses.


• improving the way we carry out triage during a major incident to ensure that at least two people will now carry out the initial assessments of the patients involved, rather than one. One member of staff will keep a tally of the number of patients who have been triaged and some basic patient details, while the other carries out the assessments. These initial assessments are rapid because the aim is to get an overall picture of the extent of patients’ injuries, but the presence of a second member of staff means some initial treatment can take place, for example, opening up a patient’s airway, possibly putting in an airway adjunct (a device to keep a patient’s airway clear), and in some circumstances applying dressings. Ambulance staff who follow behind the triage team will start to provide more treatment, for example, the provision of drugs and pain relief.


• introducing new medical equipment. Our staff can now use tourniquets to stop the flow of blood from catastrophic bleeding from limbs; and they now have use of a drill type device to gain access to a patient’s bone marrow (intraosseous access) to administer fluids and provide drugs for pain relief. This is more effective for treating patients when they are in shock as it may be difficult to locate any veins.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please call the Communications Department on 020 7783 2286.

The edited version of the coroner's main findings are below and especially where they refer to the LAS. It is important that we the Patients Forum and users of the ambulance service in London really ensure that these changes have been implemented. As one of the relatives said at the inquest, the findings of the Kings Cross Fire Inquiry, several years before, were never implemented. It would be good if members of the public come along to the Forum meeting tonight and also to the subsequent meeting of the Forum where a detailed response to all of this will be given by the LAS.


State for the Home Department


Director General of Security Service


London Resilience Team Transport for London


London Ambulance Service


Secretary of State for Health


Barts & London NHS Trust


6 May 2011

Dear [Secretary of State] etc

Report under Rule 43 of The Coroner’s Rules 1984

Preamble

1.

Fifty two members of the public were killed as a result of four bombs being detonated on London’s transport system on 7th July 2005 (“7/7”). The names of the deceased are set out at Annex A to this report. I heard the evidence in these inquests in the capacity of Assistant Deputy Coroner for Inner West London, from 11th October 2010 to 3rd March 2011. I sat without a jury and have given verdicts of unlawful killing, with the medical cause of deaths recorded as “injuries caused by an explosion”, in respect of each of the deceased.

2.

Where a Coroner is satisfied that the evidence gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will occur or continue to exist in the future, and is of the opinion that action should be taken to prevent the occurrence or continuation of such circumstances, she may report the circumstances to a person whom she believes has power to take action. announced in court on 11th March 2011 that I was proposing to make such a report under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984 (“the Rules”).

3.

I am satisfied that the criteria in Rule 43 (1) are met as far as some but not all of the recommendations put before me for consideration by the Interested Persons in these proceedings. This is my report.

4.

It falls into two sections. For ease of reference, I shall continue to call them “Preventability” and “Emergency response”, which were the headings under which I examined the issues. Not all of this report will be directly relevant to you, but I wished to make one report that would read as a consistent whole and reflected the wide ambit of my conduct of these inquests. I attach, therefore at Annex B, a schedule of the recommendations contained in this report together with a note of to whom they are addressed, in the hope that this will assist you in responding to the issues I address specifically to you.

5.

Given the public interest in these Inquests, it is appropriate that I provide an overview of the facts and circumstances relating both to what was and was not known about the bombers prior to 7/7, and the emergency response to the bombings. This is essential properly to set the context for the recommendations that I make. In doing so, I can also explain in outline those improvements which have already been made since 7/7 and therefore do not require further intervention.

6.

However, given the parameters of Rule 43, it is not appropriate to comment upon all the inquiries I have pursued concerning the bombings. Therefore I have not set out in detail all of the evidence which I have heard or the narrative which it establishes and informs. That evidence is now, in any event, a matter of public record contained on the Inquests’ website which will be transferred to and maintained by The National Archives.


Recommendations

R1. I recommend that consideration be given to whether the procedures can be improved to ensure that “human sources” who are asked to view photographs are shown copies of the photographs of the best possible quality, consistent with operational sensitivities.


R2. I recommend that procedures be examined by the Security Service to establish if there is room for further improvement in the recording of decisions relating to the assessment of targets


R3. I recommend that the London Resilience Team reviews the provision of inter-agency major incident training for frontline staff, particularly with reference to the London Underground system.

R4. I recommend that TfL and the London Resilience Team review the protocols by which TfL (i) is alerted to major incidents declared by the emergency services that affect the underground network, and (ii) informs the emergency services of an emergency on its own network (including the issuing of a ‘Code Amber’ or a ‘Code Red’, or the ordering of an evacuation).

R5. I recommend that TfL and the London Resilience Team review the procedures by which (i) a common initial rendezvous point is established, and its location communicated to all the arriving emergency services (ii) the initial rendezvous point is permanently manned by an appropriate member of London Underground.

R6. I recommend that TfL and the London Resilience Team review the procedures by which confirmation is sought on behalf of any or all of the emergency services that the traction current is off, and by which that confirmation is disseminated.

R7. I recommend that TfL (i) reconsider whether it is practicable to provide first aid equipment on underground trains, either in the driver’s cab or at some other suitable location, and (ii) carry out a further review of station stretchers to confirm whether they are suitable for use on both stations and trains

R8. I recommend that the LAS, together with the Barts and London NHS Trust (on behalf of the LAA) review existing training in relation to multi casualty triage (ie the process of triage sieve) in particular with respect to the role of basic medical intervention.


R9. I recommend that the Department of Health, the Mayor of London, the London Resilience Team and any other relevant bodies review the emergency medical care of the type provided by LAA and MERIT and, in particular (i) its capability and (ii) its funding.


By virtue of Rule 43A(1), as a recipient of this report you must provide me with a written response to it, containing details of any action that has been taken or which you propose to take in response to those parts of this report that are addressed to you (as set out in Annex B), or an explanation as to why no such action is proposed. This has to be provided to me within 56 days beginning with the day on which this report is sent. If you wish to request longer than this period to respond, you should write to me requesting an extension of time and giving reasons, as soon as possible.


Yours sincerely

The Rt. Hon Lady Justice Hallett DBE










Sunday, 8 May 2011

Great news from Brighton - now for the difficult part

Had a meeting of the Steering Committee of Coalition of Resistance on Friday, where there was an item on the agenda about the local elections. News of Green victories were just coming in and I was able to report that we seemed to be doing well. The view around the table was that the Tories had done well and must now be challenged much more on the cuts. I disagreed and said that the pressure needed to be maintained on the Lib Dems. I also pointed out that Labour had not done well in the South of England and there was a real danger of the resurfacing of the Blairite doctrine and the search for the Middle England 'safe' vote.

All of this will be debated at the COR National Council meeting next Saturday in London.

I then popped down to Brighton for the post election count celebration where I met Phelim Mac Cafferty, whom I had campaigned for several times in Brunswick ward, and his parents who had come over from Northern Ireland for the preceding week to also campaign. I also congratulated Christopher Hawtree who took the seemingly unwinnable Central Hove ward off the tories. Phelim and his running mate, Ollie, killed off the last Lib Dem representation in the city. The atmosphere was great and it was in inspiring victory.

However, I did speak to one or two of the councillors about the absolute need to continue to fight the cuts, which are impacting heavily on front line services. They have various ideas about how this should be done but whatever the outcome of the negotiations on which party leads the council, there must be no retreat on the opposition to these ideologically driven cuts. The spotlight will now be on the Greens in Brighton as never before and having witnessed closely the car crash which was the Irish Greens in government, they must be aware that every decision taken will have an impact on the party's reputation nationally and our relationship with the anti-cuts movement. As a Green and a committee member of Coalition of Resistance,I will be watching the unfolding situation closely. I hope that they will  choose wisely.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The death of Bin Laden - what next for US foreign policy?

Chris Nineham of Stop the War Coalition takes a long term view of what the world looks like following Bin Laden's death and the resulting jingoism and xenophobia from the US camp and its impact on Muslims.

Robert Fisk, a really serious and experienced journalist with a deep knowledge of the Middle East and the Arab world, poses the question, what is the future of US foreign policy now vis a vis Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

In the meantime, Stop the War Coalition has issued the following statements and news of forthcoming events.

STOP THE WAR COALITION

Newsletter No. 1199

4 May 2011

Email office@stopwar.org.uk

Tel: 020 7801 2768

Web: http://stopwar.org.uk

Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stopthewarcoalition



IN THIS NEWSLETTER:

1) BIN LADEN DEAD: WHERE NOW FOR "WAR ON TERROR"?

2) CAMPAIGNING IN THE COMING WEEKS

3) END THE SIEGE OF GAZA: NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION 14 MAY

4) CONFRONTING ANTI MUSLIM HATRED IN BRITAIN AND EUROPE

5) AFGHANISTAN AND THE WAR ON TERROR TEN YEARS ON

6) STOP THE WAR'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL



********************************

1) BIN LADEN DEAD: WHERE NOW FOR "WAR ON TERROR"?



Bin Laden is dead but the "war on terror" continues as before.

2011 is the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion

ten years ago. April was Iraq's most deadly month since 2009. The

war on Libya, still being sold as "humanitarian intervention" to

protect civilians, has sunk to the level of killing three of

Gaddafi's grandchildren, all under the age of twelve.



As Andrew Murray, national chair of Stop the War, wrote in his

recent Guardian article, bin Laden's death is a fork in the road

in world politics. The choices are stark: end the "war on terror"

now, or else continue with a policy "which only offers the

promise of thousands more Bin Ladens arising, vowing to take the

fight to the western powers in the only way they see available".

(READ FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://bit.ly/jcCgGA )



The day after Bin Laden's death Stop the War issued the following

statement:



HOW TO DRAW A LINE UNDER 10 YEARS OF WAR SINCE 9/11



The killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Pakistan

has been hailed a turning point in the 'war on terror'. The

assassination, it is claimed, will draw a line nearly 10 years

after 9/11. But if the US really wants to draws a line under

these wars it needs to adopt very different policies from those

which it is now pursuing.



The US and other NATO forces must now withdraw all troops from

Afghanistan. The capture or killing of bin Laden was a stated aim

when the attack began in October 2001 -- 'wanted dead or alive'

in the words of George Bush. Since that time, tens if not

hundreds of thousands have died in Afghanistan, the Taliban have

gained in strength, and the pro US government is one of the most

corrupt in the world. There is no justification for the war.



The US and Britain should remind themselves of the grievances

which bin Laden claimed in 2001: the presence of US troops in the

Middle East; the treatment of the Palestinians; and the continued

sanctions against Iraq. All of these grievances have worsened in

the last ten years. There are now western troops in Iraq,

Afghanistan, US bases all over the region, and an intervention

including troops and airstrikes in Libya. The Palestinians suffer

even more, and have been subject to aerial attack by Israel. Iraq

suffers full scale occupation as a result of the war in 2003.



The war has been extended into Pakistan, not just with Special

Forces operations such as the killing of bin Laden, but with

drone attacks which have killed thousands of Pakistanis and

created great instability in the country.



The US and its allies have followed a policy of backing dictators

and despots across the Middle East. Only the uprisings of the

peoples in these countries has in any way altered that policy,

and even now, while waging war in Libya, the west turns a blind

eye to the atrocities in Bahrain and the repression in Saudi

Arabia.



The war against Libya is not about humanitarian intervention but

about the western powers _ especially the former colonial powers

in North Africa_ trying to regain control of the region. The

airstrikes should stop immediately and all troops including

Special Forces and advisers should be withdrawn.



These policies have not helped to end terrorism, but have made it

more likely. Al Qaeda barely existed outside Afghanistan 10 years

ago; now it is a presence in a number of Middle Eastern

countries. The latest events will in all likelihood lead to more

attacks by al Qaeda, including in Europe and the US. The only way

to end terrorism is to change the policies which create space for

it to flourish in the first place.



THE STATEMENT IS REPRODUCED ON OUR WEBSITE, HERE:

http://bit.ly/mJZzTP



********************************

2) ANTI-WAR CAMPAIGNING IN THE COMING WEEKS



President Obama will be making a state visit to Britain at the

end of May and Stop the War will announce shortly the details of

a protest to denounce his continuation of the war policies of his

predecessor George W Bush.



We are asking all local Stop the War groups to organise events in

their communities, with public meetings, street stalls,

petitioning etc, to raise the profile of the anti-war majority in

this country that opposes the escalating aggression of the

western powers, and, specifically, to call for the immediate

withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan and an end to

the bombing of Libya.



Campaign leaflets and petition sheets are available to download

from our website.



If you would like to get involved in a local Stop the War group

in your area, contact our national office: Email

office@stopwar.org.uk or call 020 7801 2768.



********************************

3) END THE SIEGE OF GAZA: NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION 14 MAY



The plight of Palestinians continues to deteriorate, as Israel

maintains its siege of Gaza, denying its people basic resources,

and escalates its theft of Palestinian land and property on the

West Bank and in East Jerusalem.



Stop the War has joined with Palestine Solidarity Campaign, CND,

British Muslim Initiative and Palestinian Forum in Britain, in

calling a national demonstration on Saturday 14 May against

Israel's endless violations of international law. The

demonstration is supported by many other organisations. Full

details are available here: http://bit.ly/mLTDTI.



END THE SIEGE ON GAZA - FREE PALESTINE

JOIN THE PROTEST SATURDAY 14 MAY 2011

ASSEMBLE 12NOON DOWNING STREET LONDON SW1A

For updates, go to: http://bit.ly/mLTDTI



********************************

4) CONFRONTING ANTI-MUSLIM HATRED IN BRITAIN & EUROPE



The West's assaults on three Muslim countries in the last ten

years have been accompanied by a chorus of anti-Muslim

propaganda, which will no doubt swell further in the aftermath of

the killing of Osama Bin Laden.



To discuss the effects of Islamophobia and how to campaign

against it, Stop the War, as part of the Enough Coalition, is

organising a day conference which will bring together community

figures, campaigners, academics, experts, and victims of

anti-Muslim attacks, from Britain, Europe and the USA.



Speakers include Seumas Milne (The Guardian), Salma Yaqoob, Daud

Abdullah, Tony Benn, Lindsey German, Peter Oborne (Daily

Telegraph), Marwan Muhammed from France, Dr. Sabine Schiffer from

Germany and Professor John Esposito from the USA (FULL LIST OF

SPEAKERS HERE: http://bit.ly/f43fUZ ).



The event if free but places are limited, so early booking is

advisable. Please register to book your place at

info@enoughcoalition.org.uk.



CONFRONTING ANTI MUSLIM HATRED IN BRITAIN & EUROPE

CONFERENCE: SATURDAY 21 MAY 11AM - 6PM

LONDON MUSLIM CENTRE WHITECHAPEL, LONDON E11JX

Leaflet: http://tinyurl.com/65f7zu9

Register place: info@enoughcoalition.org.uk



********************************

5) AFGHANISTAN AND THE WAR ON TERROR 10 YEARS ON



Anger against the western powers will only be increased by recent

events. The Taliban have just announced the start of the fighting

season in Afghanistan, Pakistan is deeply destabilised by the

"war on terror". The British government has now admitted that the

war on Libya could be "a long haul".



Stop the War's day conference on Saturday 11 June will highlight

the disasters of the Afghanistan war and put it in the context of

wider imperialist intervention. Central to the discussion will be

the next steps in the campaign to get the troops home.



Speakers include Tony Benn, George Galloway, Tariq Ali, Lindsey

German, David Swanson from the USA, Pankaj Mishra, Mehdi Hasan

(political editor of New Statesman), Joan Humphries from Military

Families Against the War and David Gentleman, the artist who

designs the now legendary bloodspot placards and posters for Stop

the War.



AFGHANISTAN AND THE WAR ON TERROR 10 YEARS ON

DAY CONFERENCE: SATURDAY 11 JUNE

25 RED LION SQUARE LONDON WC1R 4RL

For updates, go to: http://bit.ly/gjt1qE



Admission is £5. Please book in advance by emailing

office@stopwar.org.uk or phoning 020 7801 2768.



********************************

6) STOP THE WAR'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL



Stop the War's YouTube channel, started just a few months ago, is

proving very popular, with close to 100,000 views already. Over

50 videos have now been posted and we are adding new films every

week. The two most recent are:



* Osama Bin Laden's death and the day America declared war on the

world.

* Look who came to the royal wedding: dictators, torturers, human

rights' abusers



WATCH STOP THE WAR'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE:

http://www.youtube.com/stopthewarcoalition



********************************--

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ireland - bankruptcy, politics, literature and the Big House

Just back from Ireland on Sunday. The economic collapse is evident everywhere – lots of empty shops and offices, including in the main street (O'Connell St) in Dublin. The elections for the Senate were just finishing when I was there – I had a vote for the Senate National University panel – where 3 senators are elected by graduates. There were 27 candidates on the list and it was all by STV and PR and none of this half baked AV.

The former Green senator on this list who had been appointed to the previous senate by the Taoiseach (PM) he is allowed to appoint 11, came something like 17th on the list. He was a former Mayor of Galway and riding high in the last government. The other former senator, Dan Boyle, from Cork stood for another panel (Industrial and Commercial) and came in very near the bottom. So the Greens have no representation at all in the current parliament. They are spoken of with detestation by all I met. There is going to be a referendum within the next year on the abolition of the Senate, as several of the parties are supporting this. This could lead to Ireland having a unicameral legislature.


They are having a leadership election next month and there are three candidates. One is the former Energy Minister, Eamon Ryan, who is closely associated with the leadership and is seen as very reactionary. The second is a councillor from Kilkenny who was critical of their role in government but who is not exactly on the Left – indeed you will notice the lack of any ideological content in any of their videos. He is seen as having only a local profile and no national one and the last is a relatively unknown candidate who is, like Ryan, from Dublin.
I met Bronwen Maher, former GP founding member and now Labour Party member, who spoke at the Green Left fringe in Brighton a couple of years ago. Her husband Steve Rawe was (irony of ironies) the former Head of Media Relations of the GP for several years. Steve is writing another piece on what happened to the Greens entitled ‘Forty Shades of Green’ which I will receive soon. Latest info is that the General Secretary of the party has gone and due to their current state of bankruptcy they are down to one employee, an admin assistant. Before the election they had 50. Their quango appointees still sit on some of the state boards but will disappear once their period of office expires. The general view is that membership has also collapsed. All of this is a grim warning for wannabe coalition partners with right wing parties.

The teachers union, INTO, were having their conference when I was there and were stating that no graduate teachers had any employment hopes now in Ireland and that emigration was the only option. The new government seems locked into the IMF/European Central Bank bailout with its punitive terms. More and more scandals are emerging about what happened with the toxic banks. The former Finance Minister told the BBC that his government was ‘conned’ into the bailout while it has now emerged that the IMF were in Dublin at least a week before the government admitted they were there. The Greens are regarded as having sleepwalked or acquiesced in all of this.

Meanwhile an economic report a few days ago stated the country’s economic state was worsening. All of this displays the spiral of cuts, followed by depression, followed by more cuts. As I have said before, Ireland is about 2 years ahead of the UK in this process. The new government is preparing for major welfare and other cuts because of the worsening deficit. I can see default as very likely at some point.

Friends of mine who are in the public service have taken a major pay cut and the health service is in a state of crisis. There is growing resentment towards the EU and Germany in particular regarding the bailout terms, while the projections are for growing unemployment and a big drop in property prices.

The tourism industry is hoping for holding on to jobs due to the Queen’s visit this month (the first British monarch since 1911) which is causing a huge security bill because of expected Republican protests and Obama later in the month (drinking the ubiquitous pint of Guinness in a village pub) and trying to secure the Irish-American vote. The united Left parties in the parliament (the Dail) are trying to resist the government’s economic policies.

My feeling is that most dissidents have left the Irish Greens and that they will not be a political force for a decade or more.

In between all of this catching up on the political and economic situation, I managed to enjoy some glorious weather and revisit a few haunts of mine from days gone by. I went along the river Liffey above Chapelizod, where I saw, for the first time in 35 years, the Trinity boathouse, where I spent three years as a coxwain in the rowing team and earned myself a few medals. It lies right inside the War Memorial Park, designed by Luytens, which is dedicated to those Irish soldiers who died in both world wars - they were busily spraying the stonework in expectation of the Queen's visit when I walked past.

I also managed, for the first time, to visit the James Joyce Museum, in North Great George's Street and watched several fascinating documentaries on Joyce produced by the National Library of Ireland, one of which was about his legacy and included the hilarious remark from a contemporary Irish writer, that most of those who dressed up in Edwardian costumes on Bloomsday each June in Dublin, to renact the famous day portrayed in Joyce's 'Ulysses' "have probably never read a word of Joyce in their lives." I also managed to get a copy there of the famous and, as far as I know, only film version of the famous novel, filmed in Dublin in 1966. I also spent an evening in the famous pub 'Kavanaghs' known affectionately as 'the grave diggers' because the gravediggers still drink there, strategically located outside the gates of Glasnevin cemetery. The pub has not changed one iota since about 1880 and is mentioned in two Joyce novels 'Portrait of the Artist' and also 'Dubliners'.

The old Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, which is probably Ireland's only Jacobean building of significance and which lay derelict for years has also been restored as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, where I saw a fascinating collection of paintings from the Gelman collection in Mexico of works by Frida Kahlo and Diego de Riviera. Both were fascinating and quite revolutionary in both their content and style.

Finally, on the recommendation of a friend, I attended one of the worst performances ever of Lorca's 'Blood Wedding' which was less like a gypsy wedding in Andalucia and more like a drunken Irish wake in Kerry. I had not seen the play for many years and was not familiar with its plot but my partner Julio, who knew it well, said that it had simply no resemblance to the Lorca original. It truly was an Irish farce and my friend kept apologising profusely for bringing it to us. But as I have always found with theatre, there can be good plays but lousy productions.

A good friend of mine is also involved in restoring old country piles and his latest expedition was down to County Roscommon in the West of Ireland, where he was working on a chippendale table. He regaled us with hilarious stories of the local town, including a pub which after closing time, ushered him into the back lounge which was full of the local Garda (police) having a late night sup - his host of the chippendale table was an ex-police officer.

Rather appropriately, that day I had gone to visit an exhibition at the Irish Photographic Archive on 'The Big House' which is how the Irish refer to the houses of the former Anglo-Irish landed gentry. There were many photos of various Georgian and Victorian piles, one even including a photo of Queen Victoria visiting the house, with the curious servants hanging out the windows. What was interesting was that many of the houses are still in existence, only a handful having been burned down by the IRA in the War of Independence, although some of them were now in the hands of religious institutions such as convents.

And so history comes full circle with the first visit to Ireland by a British monarch since George V in 1911 and a visit which is seen as the 'normalisation' of relations between the two states and the two islands. However, despite my enthusiasm for history and heritage, I find it astonishing that Cork City Council are spending 250,000 Euros on restoring the 'English Market' in Cork city for the royal visit. The country may be bankrupt but still knows how to curtsy to a visiting British royal. The spirit of the Big House may be more alive than we think.