Author Archive


October 2, 2013

2 October 2013 Meg

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to launch a rocket with one of them in it into outer space from Troutbridge. Leslie ends launched into orbit Priceless.
I get Meg to put books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who has died aged 93, survived the Warsaw Ghetto to become, in the words of one colleague, “Germany’s most read, most feared, most observed, and therefore most hated literary critic”.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki Photo: EPA
6:20PM BST 01 Oct 2013
In a country uneasy in its own identity, Reich-Ranicki’s folksy, bluntly-expressed opinions, grounded in an encyclopedic grasp of European literature, were capable of making or breaking the reputations of struggling first-time novelists and Nobel Prize winners. With his heavily-accented German and lacerating wit, Reich-Ranicki became a cult figure, notably through regular appearances on a popular television books programme, Das Literarische Quartett, but also through acerbic articles in Die Zeit and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, whose literary editor he was for 15 years.
No one, from Heinrich Böll to Günter Grass, completely escaped his wrath; indeed Grass became something of a favourite target. In 1995, four years before Grass won the Nobel Prize (and many years before it was revealed that he had served in the SS), a cover of Der Spiegel featured a photograph of Reich-Ranicki ripping apart the celebrated author’s latest novel, Too Far Afield.
Yet for much of Reich-Ranicki’s career as “the Pope of German letters”, two central facts of his own identity – his Jewishness and his experiences in wartime Warsaw – were scarcely mentioned. Indeed he recalled that the first German to ask him about his past had been a young journalist he had met in 1964 and rather liked – Ulrike Meinhof.
However, when in 1999 Reich-Ranicki published his autobiography, My Life, the book remained at No 1 in the German bestseller lists for more than a year, and there is little doubt that his status as one of just a handful of Jewish public figures to resettle in Germany after the war formed a cornerstone of his influence. For not only did he represent continuity with the great German humanistic traditions that were destroyed by Nazism, but in a nation still nursing its damaged conscience, his Jewishness meant that he could get away with a level of rudeness and absolutism in opinion that might have been judged unacceptable were he a German.
He was born Marceli Reich in Wloclawek, Poland, on June 2 1920. His father ran a construction company, but when Marcel was nine the company went bankrupt and Marcel was sent to live with relatives in Berlin.
There he attended a Prussian Gymnasium. By his teens he had become an avid theatregoer and bibliophile, working through Heinrich Heine, Schiller, Goethe, Thomas Mann and Georg Buchner, as well as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare and Dickens, Balzac, Stendhal and Flaubert.
Marcel gained his high school diploma but was denied entry into a German university because he was Jewish, and in October 1938 he was sent back to Poland. When Germany invaded the following year, he was herded into the Warsaw Ghetto with his parents and his brother.
It was his knowledge of German that saved his life. Though he could only stand by helplessly as his parents and brother were loaded into the cattle trucks to Treblinka, he managed to avoid the same fate by working as a translator and clerk in the Judenrat, the council that administered the Ghetto until it was liquidated in 1943.
Among other things he recalled typing out the infamous order of July 22 1942 announcing the deportation of the entire Ghetto for “resettlement” (ie to the death camps) while, outside the window, SS troops lounged in the sunshine playing Strauss waltzes on a portable gramophone. Hearing that translators, and their wives, were exempt for the time being, Marcel married his sweetheart, Teofila Langnas, the same day.
The following year, shortly before the final phase of the Ghetto uprising, the pair managed to escape from a column being taken for “resettlement”, fleeing through an abandoned building. They found refuge with a Polish typesetter and his wife on the outskirts of Warsaw, where Marcel “paid” for their accommodation by telling the couple stories from all the books and plays he had read, remembering that “the better they liked a story, the better we were rewarded – with a slice of bread, with a few carrots”.
Emerging from hiding after the Red Army occupied Poland in 1944, Marcel enrolled in the Polish Communist Party. After the war he was recruited as an intelligence officer and posted as the Polish consul to London, where he organised spying on émigré groups, a mission for which he adopted the Polish pseudonym Ranicki – later incorporating it into his surname. But as anti-Semitic purges swept across Eastern Europe, Reich-Ranicki found himself out of favour. He was thrown out of the party and, following his return to Poland, briefly imprisoned.
On his release he began working as a translator and critic, but found himself frustrated by the censors and by further bouts of anti-Semitism. In 1958 he and his family managed to travel abroad and fled to Frankfurt in West Germany.
There, first with Die Zeit and then as head of literature for the FAZ, Reich-Ranicki soon established himself as one of the country’s most prominent voices. In his early years he championed the Group of 47, a loose affiliation of young writers that would produce two Nobel Prize winners: Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. From 1988 he hosted Das Literarische Quartett, where his outspoken and often inflammatory criticisms won him a large popular following.
The taboo against discussion of his Jewish background began to break down after the fall of the Iron Curtain brought an influx of younger Eastern European Jews to Germany . But the new openness also emboldened some of Reich-Ranicki’s enemies to take potshots at the eminence grise of German literary criticism. In 2002 his cultural roots formed the focus of Death of a Critic, a novel by Martin Walser about a Jewish critic who is murdered by an angry author. In the ensuing outcry Reich-Ranicki found himself becoming an unwilling lightning rod for disputes about the meaning of the past and the return of the far Right.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s wife died in 2011. Their son survives him.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, born June 2 1920, died September 18 2013


The support of the Daily Mail and its owner Lord Rothermere for Nazi Germany and the Blackshirts here in Britain in the 1930s, when Nazi thugs were escalating their violent attacks on Jews and socialists, is well known. For the same paper to pursue this same agenda 80 years later with the nonsense it is printing about Ralph Miliband is remarkable in its stupidity (Report, 1 October). However, as the Spectator put it in January 1934, “the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made.” Plus ça change.
Martin Quinn
Tavistock, Devon
• In 1977 I travelled to Saudi Arabia from London by VW van with my boss (Driving harms ovaries, Saudi cleric claims, 30 September). One day the police stopped us and told me I was to be arrested for driving. I clearly was not doing so, but they’d not seen a right-hand-drive vehicle before. So they decided I should be locked up for driving without a steering wheel. I started to smile; my boss swiftly told me to grovel or it could be 20 years. I said I was very sorry for driving without a steering wheel and wouldn’t do so again.
Charlotte Breese
Devizes, Wiltshire
• Ben Ainslie was already in Team USA’s squad so, rather than being akin to signing Lionel Messi at half time (Letters, 27 September), his appearance on Team USA was more like keeping Messi on the bench going 8-1 down and then thinking it might be a good idea to bring him on.
Peter Mourant
Picture editor, Jersey Evening Post
•  From 1998 to 2000 I worked for the European commission in Belarus. Every so often we received a letter stamped by the Belarussian postal services with apologies because it had been “found open” in the post and resealed by them (Letters, 26 September). Perhaps the rest were just better resealed after scrutiny.
Bob George
Tiverton, Devon
• Get your girls into politics, Melissa Benn urges (G2, 30 September). What an excellent idea; when they become home secretary the Guardian can then publish a picture of their shoes at the top of the front page (1 October). Get a grip.
Ken Coker
Edale, Derbyshire

In March Liberal Democrats among others expressed concerns that regulations introduced under schedule 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 would force the NHS to put all contracts out to tender. The concerns were not just that this would favour private providers of healthcare. There are major concerns over the increased costs and complexity of putting detailed contracts out to tender, evaluating bids and defending contested decisions. The regulations were announced with the minimum possible time for consultation, but the public outcry was nevertheless considerable.
They seemed to breach assurances given by Lord Howe during the passage of the bill in 2012: “Clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best. We intend to make it clear that commissioners will have a full range of options and that they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets, particularly where competition would not be effective in driving high standards and value for patients.”
When it was pointed out firmly to the government that the section 75 regulations did in fact compel commissioners to introduce competition, the regulations were modified, and health ministers in both houses repeated the reassurances. Similar assurances were given by the prime minister and deputy prime minister. Close observers of Lansley’s health reforms will be more saddened than surprised to read this week not only that most new contracts in the NHS have been put out to tender, but that clinical commissioning groups believe the regulations make this compulsory. Lawyers may argue the finer points of competition law, but in the face of the legislation that has been foisted on the NHS, few CCGs will dare to take on the powerful legal forces mustered by healthcare corporations. We believe the prime minister has questions to answer.
John Ball Suffolk Coastal Lib Dems
David Beckett Newcastle under Lyme
Eleanor Bell Winchester
Gareth Epps Reading
Spencer Hagard Cambridge
Fiona Hornby Devizes, Wiltshire
Neil Hughes
Linda Jack
Nigel Jones
Nick Perry Parliamentary spokesman, Hastings and Rye
Paul Pettinger Westminster borough
Nigel Quinton
George Roussopoulos Hindhead
Naomi Smith Westminster borough
Charles West Shrewsbury and Atcham

Your letters (30 September) show a completely one-sided view of Israel’s response to Rouhani and his attempt to thaw relations with the west. As usual Israel is painted as the bad guy and Iran the innocent bystander which has a legitimate right to nuclear weapons. Iran has long been a sponsor of international terrorism, primarily directed at Israeli and US targets. It funds and supports Hezbollah and together they are both supporting Assad in Syria’s civil war. All three have the blood of innocent Syrian’s caught up in the conflict on their hands.
To allow a state like Iran that has repeatedly suggested that “Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth” (no matter what translation you use), to acquire or develop nuclear weapons would be dangerous in the extreme. Any attempt to equate Israel’s (unconfirmed) nuclear arsenal with that desired by Iran is foolish. Iran, given its previous record of international terrorism, would either use them at first opportunity or pass them to one of its proxy terror groups. And then deny any responsibility. Israel has repeatedly said that any use of its nuclear arsenal would only occur if the survival of the state was threatened.
Many suggest that Israel should give up this arsenal or join the NPT. It is the threat that the unconfirmed arsenal presents that has kept its hostile neighbours from trying a repeat of the many wars that have been raged with the sole intent on destroying it. Rouhani is described as a moderate compared to Ahmadinejad. This would be similar to describing Herman Goering as a moderate compared to Adolf Hitler.
Marc Levine
• The reason that you receive letters exclusively from people (including Jews) who are hostile to Israel is that no one who supports Israel bothers to read the Guardian any more. That is why your circulation is dwindling to zero, by the way.  The support of your correspondents for Iran – a theocracy ruled by tyrants – is pathetic. Israel is quite right to be very wary of Iran, since what its leaders say and what they do are at odds, especially their support of Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Gaza. The letter-writers are the same people whose heroes were Hafez al-Assad, after his accession to the Syrian dictatorship, and Muammar Gaddafi, before his downfall. Incidentally, the whole of the Sunni Arab world is fearful of Shia Iran. What do the Birnbergs and Kaufmans say to that?
Josephine Bacon
• Israel professes to want peace, yet whenever there is a danger of this happening, it protests loudly that the adversary is not to be trusted. In the case of the Palestinians, it sabotages peace efforts with assassinations and intensification of its illegal occupation. Without mythical enemies, Israel cannot justify its huge expenditure on security and defence, which contributes so much to the prosperity of the country. Israel’s hypocrisy is most blatant in its possession of nuclear weapons, which it condemns in the hands of anyone else in the area. Without the artificial threats, money would not pour into the country from the US government and from Jews who have no desire to live in Israel, but contribute out of feelings of guilt. One day, Israel is going to have to realise that its only hope of peace and security is a fair and just sharing of the land with the people who used to form 90% of the population, the Palestinian Arabs. It was the theft of that land that led to the continuing hostility of Arab and Muslim countries, a hostility that will only go away when the Palestinians receive justice.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History
As a 57-year old jobseeker’s allowance recipient of a couple of years’ standing, I stand aghast that in the 21st century we have a Conservative chancellor preaching Victorian “tough love” to the long-term unemployed (Osborne in crackdown on jobless costs, 30 September). It takes an expensive education not to be able to see what should be obvious – that the unemployed are there because they are superfluous to the requirements of the nation’s employers. If there were five million vacancies and nobody was filling them because of their quotidian attachment to the Jeremy Kyle show, a six-pack of Stella Artois and an afternoon siesta, the Tories’ campaign would make sense.
The idea that people will have to sign on every day is just petty harassment. Why not hand out whips and demand a daily 10 minutes of self-flagellation? Why not put people in stocks so they can be pelted with rotten vegetables by a public riled by the latest scrounger revelations in the Daily Express or the Mail? Most unemployed people I know are volunteering already, primarily to retain their sanity but also to accumulate experience and work contacts. A bit of non-exploitative, paid, state-mandated community work would be welcomed by many.
The problem in the Tory party is that their normal Rotary Club prejudices have fused with the US Republican party tactics of attacking “welfare queenism” to produce this particularly toxic brand of populist political attack. People of my age have 35 years of tax and national insurance under their belt; so have the parents of many of the young unemployed. The conflation of a drunken lumpenproletariat (which certainly exists) with the bulk of claimants is an absolute outrage.
Alan Sharples
•  How much more quickly can claimants lose their benefits? Quicker than immediately they miss an appointment because their mother has died that morning? Quicker than being sanctioned immediately for being at the hospital with a partner giving birth? Quicker than being sanctioned after finding a job, so that the back-to-work package does not have to be paid? We now live in a world where jobcentre employees have targets and are in fear of losing their own jobs if they do not keep to them. Perhaps you could try living in the real world, Mr Osborne!
Jennie Collins
Food4U, Stanley, Co Durham
•  I eagerly await a Polly Toynbee article following each horrific addition to the Tory agenda of kicking the poor, as her perceptive critiques always raise my spirits. However, her latest (Who will vote for Osborne’s even nastier medicine now?, 1 October) does reveal a weakness: a tendency to believe that as soon as the electorate wake up to reality they will follow her advice and vote Labour with conviction. “It will soon dawn on voters…” she writes, but far too often, Polly, it doesn’t – and one of the major reasons for this in the recent past has been that a step in the right direction by Ed Miliband is frequently followed by months of silence, an inexplicable inability of shadow ministers reluctant to pursue publicly Ed’s train of thought, and a consequent loss of momentum. It is vital now that the initiative gained on power prices is not frittered away; otherwise voters will have no moment of revelation as Polly hopes.
Ted Woodgate
Billericay, Essex
•  Polly Toynbee is correct in criticising the fundamental flaws of a conscripted workfare force. However, she misses out a very important point about Osborne forcing the long term unemployed to “clean graffiti and cook for the elderly”, and that is: what have the elderly done to deserve unwilling and possibly unemployable workers forced upon them? I was part of a compulsory “work boost” in 2010, and like so many people I was forced to work in a residential care home for four weeks. It was obvious by the end of the second day that the staff had taken me on sufferance. I bit the bullet and completed my work boost. But the idea of grabbing hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed who may not have basic social skills or may even have an embittered misanthropic world view and forcing them to work in a residential home will lead to abuse of the residents and possibly murderous violence.
Theo Robertson
Edinburgh, Scotland
•  We are a group of benefit claimants who have come together to make a film about the reality of welfare reform, and the government’s attempts to “help” people back to work. We were motivated to do this by the government’s labelling and stereotyping of benefit claimants as “scroungers” who do not want to work. George Osborne’s latest announcement on workfare yet again shows that he does not have a clue. Many of us already volunteer. The Work Programme is not working, and tougher sanctions aren’t what’s needed, nor making us sign on every day. We want to work, where that’s a realistic prospect. We need real help and real support, and for jobs to actually be there. Workfare is simply a threat – and one which isn’t needed. Until Osborne and his gang recognise this, their welfare reforms will inevitably fail.
Adrian, Chloe, Isobella, James, Cath, Sam & Susan
•  So the government, having turned the unemployed into social outcasts, now proposes to treat them as criminals. Reporting to the jobcentre every day is harsher than bail conditions.
Gren Jones
Bewdley, Worcestershire
•  How will unemployed people in rural areas will report to jobcentres every day? The government can’t have thought about it at all. There are few buses and those that do run are very expensive when related to benefit income. This is statist madness.
Richard Davey
South Petherton, Somerset
•  Where are they going to put them (Some benefit claimants face 35 hours a week in jobcentre, 1 October)? There are millions of them. And they’ll all want to go to the toilet if they are there all day.
Bob Ross

Cafod, the catholic aid agency, should resist the growing clamour for action against Damian McBride (Diary, 26 September). I got to know Damian a little after he lost his job in politics and started work at my son’s school, where he became immensely popular, loved and admired by teachers and pupils alike. He then got my old job as head of media at Cafod, and more recently I was invited to sit on his interview panel for promotion to director of communications. He was an exceptional candidate, the warmth and admiration for him from his senior colleagues was striking and my overwhelming impression was that an overseas aid agency that often struggles to grab the media’s attention was lucky to have found this talent. Cafod trustees may justifiably be cross with Damian for publishing his book and and he will have to work hard to regain lost trust. But an agency associated with compassion, charity and forgiveness should act on those values, not react to outsiders desperate to see this man get an even bigger kicking.
Fiona Fox
Former head of media at Cafod

My alarm bells rang in deafening tones after reading four features in the 20 September issue (Twitter eyes stock market; California is the face of the new economy; How not to do it; and Geoengineering “last resort” to stop global warming). Interface all four and a recipe for disaster emerges.
The disconnect of almost all world political leaders from science and technology is well documented. Peter Wilby’s critique of The Blunders of our Governments makes an equally compelling case for what we have all long suspected: the total lack of awareness on the part of our ruling regimes regarding the needs, desires and day-to-day existential demands of most of their electorate – or should that read “subjects?”
Will Hutton’s conclusion that the current Californian “Silicon Valley” example is one we should emulate is surely based on an idealistic view of world society: one where venture capitalism collaborates with information technology/social media and wise, benevolent government, in order to bring about a new version of the industrial revolution, but this time with fewer or no casualties.
I’m sorry, Will. The momentum of short-term exploitation of people and resources, which exemplifies the present model of capitalism in vogue world-wide, will not easily be stopped, or even slowed down, simply by asking Apple to slap on a few more human-friendly apps or seeding clouds with seawater. It will require a much more radical reappraisal of our core values and methods of choosing our leaders to achieve the necessary turnaround. We can only hope we’re not already too late to make the change.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia
• In Alok Jha’s article about geoengineering (20 September), the astronomer royal Lord Rees appropriately describes such action as “an utter political nightmare”. Two of the strategies under consideration are cloud seeding and the injection of sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere, in both cases with the intention of reducing the solar radiation reaching the earth. However, such an approach would mean that both thermal and photovoltaic solar panels would work less efficiently, thereby increasing the demand on carbon-based energy sources. Thus these approaches might prove to be self-defeating.
As Lord Rees says, the time to start decarbonising the world’s power generation is now.
Roger Browne
Alexandra, New Zealand
Keep Kenya’s aquifers safe
The discovery of vast aquifers in the arid areas of north-west Kenya (20 September) is good news indeed as it has the potential to transform the livelihoods of the people in the area. I worry, though, about our exploitation of this valuable resource and suspect that it will end up being plundered rather than used carefully and sustainably.
The first steps to take would be a) accurately determining the recharge source(s); b) finding out the rate of recharge; and c) aggressively protecting the recharge watershed. Collectively, our history of resource exploitation suggests that this will not happen and opportunists will already be plotting how vast sums of money can be made from the discovery.
Stuart Williams
Kampala, Uganda
Migration policy myopia
Re: Migration debate “needs to change focus” (20 September), there’s a blind spot in the global debate over migration and that’s exactly the way the new Australian government likes it. By only communicating select information about the arrival of asylum seekers in its waters, they use this blind spot to their advantage. The blind can only lead the blind.
Never mind the International Organisation for Migration report mentioned in the article, which states that migrants between poor countries fare poorly and are unlikely to feel optimistic about their lives. Never mind that the burden of refugee crises across the globe already fall on disadvantaged nations. Never mind that Australia is the envy not only of poor nations, but rich ones as well.
Ignore these realities and the border between the rich and poor – the sovereign border – will be secured.
Eddie Tikoft
Perth, Western Australia
Keep Greens off the fringe
At last a mention of the UK’s Green party in the Guardian Weekly (UK News in brief, 20 September). And a clue as to the inclusion of the tiny article? The Green party leader is a former Guardian Weekly editor.
Why the almost total lack of coverage of any other than the major parties? Even the current percentage of the vote smaller parties receive in UK elections is a mystery to me.
Here in Australia the Greens are a much stronger political force and its players and policies command a high profile in the media, albeit often a negative one in the Murdoch-dominated press. However, if coverage of Green party policies in the broader British press is as poor as that in the GW, then surely the UK Green party is doomed to remain on the fringe.
Gabby Whitworth
Tasmania, Australia
IOC must confront Russia
Owen Gibson’s critique of the new IOC president, Thomas Bach (September 20), was a welcome change from the usual worshipful treatment of all things and all men Olympic.
However, Gibson omitted one significant act reported in other media.
After Bach had received the congratulatory phone call from President Putin, he “joked” to reporters that they had not discussed Russia’s anti-gay law. To trivialise this issue, one of the biggest challenges facing the Olympic industry since the bribery scandals, is more than just a bad beginning to Bach’s presidency. It’s one more indication of the IOC’s moral bankruptcy.
Helen Jefferson Lenskyj
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Much ado about doing
I found your banner headline Merkel’s mantra: “Do as we do” (13 September) very interesting. Far from only being the mantra of Germany’s Angela Merkel, it is probably one of the world’s most used and the cause of the vast majority of wars. If only we could all adopt a philosophy based on the Indian expression “paach angulia bara bara nahin”, meaning that on one hand the fingers are all different but they work very well together.
David Murray
Montbrun-Bocage, France
• An old saying, but still a valid one: He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Bronwyn Sherman
Tutukaka, New Zealand
Leave family out of women’s careers
In reference to Rowan Moore’s article: Zaha Hadid: queen of the curve (20 September), we are not aware of any proven relevance of a partner or children to an architect’s creativity or career. Indeed in Moore’s piece on Richard Rogers in July this seems of no real significance. When will the unnecessary noting of a successful women’s family life, appearance or fashion be recognised as simply another form of misogyny? Were you just throwing us a curve ball or have you already forgotten your rightful indignation at the similar treatment of Julia Gillard?
Melissa Hamilton
Mugnanese, Loc Gioiella, Italy
• Re: Henry Porter, Britons and privacy (13 September). It may be that Britons who do understand privacy to be important have also, rightly, always presumed that it has never existed on the internet. But the government that tells us that if we have done nothing wrong we have nothing to fear from exposure also fears its own activities being exposed.
Our real fears are that the agencies will then misinterpret the information they procure. They did on intercepting Iraqi communications actually referring to the long ago destruction of the country’s weapons of mass destruction, and judging by the amount of car parking around NSA and GCHQ offices in Cheltenham, they cannot work out bus timetables. And of course it is those being spied upon who are paying for the spying.
Adrian Betham
London, UK
• I am an 85-year old male born in England and can honestly say Nancy Blackett, intrepid captain of the sailing dingy “Amazon”, was the fictional hero who shaped my life. Somehow Kate Mosse (Where have all the brave girls gone? (20 September) must have missed out on the Manchester Guardian’s wonderful Arthur Ransome who wrote about the Swallows and Amazons in 12 books, detailing these amazing children from the Lake District. Recently I received pictures of an Arthur Ransome festival held near Henley-on-Thames. My granddaughter and all the girls there wanted to play the part of Nancy Blackett.
Tony Taylor
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
• I liked David Shariatmadari’s piece on the threat of plastic bank notes (20 September). He can rest assured that if he ventures outside the eurozone and Anglo-Saxonia, he’ll still find some fabulous paper notes.
Steve Morris
Tonbridge, Kent, UK


Has the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, read a different report to the rest of us? (“Climate change? People get very emotional about the subject. It’s not all bad”, 1 October). The latest report by IPCC scientists proves beyond doubt that climate change is a huge threat to the world and that urgent action is needed to slash global emissions.
Oxfam knows from its work with poor farmers around the world that climate change is hitting people’s lives right now. The IPCC makes it crystal clear that it will become even harder in the future for millions of families to earn a living and feed themselves unless global emissions are urgently cut to keep the planet on a path of 2 degrees warming or less, to limit the damage.  
Worryingly, Mr Paterson – who is in charge of ensuring Britain is able to adapt to the impacts of climate change – does not seem to have read the verdict of his own department. Defra’s own Climate Change Risk Assessment from 2012 warns of the risks of flooding, water stress and biodiversity loss at home and also repercussions from climate change abroad. In the light of this and the latest evidence provided by the IPCC, Mr Paterson needs to take seriously his responsibility to protect Britain’s future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.
Hannah Stoddart
Head of Economic Justice Policy, Oxfam, Oxford
It is very worrying that Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is so complacent about the risks created by rising greenhouse gas levels.
Climate change is already affecting the UK. The average annual temperature has increased by about 1C since 1970, and the seven warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000.
There is strong evidence that the UK is experiencing mounting risks of coastal and inland flooding due to climate change. Global sea level has already risen by 39 centimetres since 1901 and is now increasing at a rate of more than 3 centimetres every decade. The Met Office has pointed out that annual rainfall is increasing, that heavy downpours are becoming more frequent, and that four of the five wettest years on record have all occurred since 2000.
Last year, the second wettest on record, the insurance industry paid out more than £1bn in claims for flood damage. Our flood insurance system is at breaking point because of the rising number of homes and businesses that are at significant risk. But Mr Paterson’s department has now proposed a new insurance scheme based on faulty analysis that ignores the findings of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, which was published last year, and assumes that climate change will not increase the risk from flooding.
Mr Paterson needs to understand that his views on climate change are not only eccentric and unscientific, but they are also potentially dangerous because they could expose millions of lives and livelihoods across the UK to serious risks.
Bob Ward
Policy and Communications Director,
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science
Thank you for printing such a splendid endorsement of Owen Paterson , the Environment Secretary.
It is rare for a left-leaning newspaper to sum up so concisely the finer points of this man of the people. Printing in comparison the incoherent ravings of the climate change fanatics, who fly off the handle every time anyone dares to oppose the views that keep them in their various well-paid public offices, was inspired.
Congratulations, and keep up the good work.
Cllr Chris Middleton
P S: I don’t suppose you’ll publish this, but thank you for giving me such pleasure this morning, reading your excellent, if eccentric, newspaper.
Unemployed are not being immoral
“Ought” implies “can”: that’s a principle of moral philosophy. You ought to save the children from drowning, only if you can. If you cannot swim, you do not merit blame for not saving them.
Transpose the principle to the arena of the unemployed. Only if the unemployed can find jobs do they merit blame for not doing so. With at least 2.5 million unemployed and half a million vacancies, manifestly there are not the jobs for at least 2 million – so obviously they cannot find them.
Hence, contrary to the Government’s current stance, the vast majority of the unemployed deserve neither blame nor penalties – and being compelled to sit every day in a Jobcentre is hardly likely to create the required jobs.
Peter Cave
London W1
What I have always found strange about those on the right is their view that the state of the economy is determined by the attitude of the unemployed.
Since the unemployed are unemployed by choice, booms and busts are caused by their behaviour. Recessions result from laziness, as more people choose to be unemployed; recovery starts when people go out and look for work. All so simple. Throw away the macroeconomics textbook.
Nigel Wilkins
London SW7
Why the military prescribes Lariam
In reference to your article entitled ‘The Lariam scandal’ (27 September) I want to emphasise that mefloquine is a drug that is licensed in the UK by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency.
This is based on the expert guidance of the advisory committee for malaria prevention of Public Health England, which advises on malaria prevention for all travellers from the UK, and mefloquine remains one of the drugs that they advise may be used. Mefloquine is used across the UK, not just by the military, and is only ever prescribed after an individual risk assessment. It is also used by other countries around the world including the wider EU.
The life-threatening risks of malaria are extremely serious, and mefloquine is one of a number of effective antimalarials that we use. We need to be able to use the most appropriate drug for the areas to where our people deploy, to help ensure their resistance to this disease.
The MOD will continue to follow the best advice as provided by Public Health England.
Air Marshal Paul Evans
Surgeon General, Ministry of Defence, London SW1
Take back mail and railways
To put it politely, the Labour Party does not have much of a history of unanimity. Yet its Party Conference voted unanimously to renationalise the Royal Mail, and again unanimously to renationalise the railways. Polls consistently show those to be the views of 70 per cent of the electorate, the same percentage that supported Ed Miliband’s successful prevention of a military intervention in Syria.
If Mr Miliband were to announce that he intended to renationalise the Royal Mail, then he could stop its privatisation, since no potential buyer would take the risk. As for the railways, whereas the private franchise-holders cost the taxpayer colossal sums in subsidies and have abysmal levels of passenger satisfaction, the publicly owned East Coast Main Line is very highly rated by its passengers, and it is heavily in profit. Yet this insane Government wishes to return it to the private sector from which it has already needed to be rescued not once, but twice.
Miliband should promise to take back each of the franchises into public ownership as they came up for renewal in the course of the next parliament. Renationalisation could then be achieved at no cost whatever. On the contrary, the precedent suggests that it would transform appalling drains on the public purse into a tidy contributor to it, the East Coast Main Line writ large, British Rail. Most people already recognise that. Let them be given the option of voting for it.
David Lindsay
Lanchester, Co Durham
Why they call  us nimbys
It is hardly a surprise that the Labour Party is going to promise to increase the number of new houses to be built, primarily around London. It is also unsurprising that local opinion is going to be ignored, as in a recent survey of my area: 94 per cent of respondents were against a massive increase in housing.
The reasons for the chronic shortage of affordable houses in the London area are threefold: an increase in life expectancy; family breakups which involve two houses instead of one; and immigration. One of these is a direct result of central government policy.
Thus people like me, who moved out from London to give our families a better quality of life, are called nimbys and are given their comeuppance by London moving to us.
Lyn Brooks
Ongar, Essex
The end of a tolerant era
Reading Robert Fisk’s heartbreaking narrative of what has befallen the 2,000-year-old town of Maaloula (26 September) it occurs to me that Syria is finally broken. It cannot be put back together. The dystopian ideology of Wahhabism/Salafism nurtured in the sands of Arabia is succeeding in putting an end to the culture of pluralism and tolerance in Eastern Mediterranean for all time. That it is being done with active support of our political elite for the perpetrators who raided Maaloula in the name of Islam is a matter of  conscience for each of us.
M A Qavi
London SE3
Protest ignored
On Sunday I, along with at least 50,000 other people, marched through the centre of Manchester to protest at the Government’s cuts – especially what they are doing to the NHS. Given that the police said that it was one of the largest demonstrations they have policed, I thought that you would have some mention of it in Monday’s paper. You, like the BBC, appear to have ignored it. If there had been trouble I have no doubt that it would have got major headlines in all the media.
Rachel Gallagher
Gravesend, Kent
Peril at sea
At least it was a stolen kayak in which burglar Paul Redford tried to escape across the Channel, not a Thames amphibious tour craft.
Ian McKenzie


Getting rid of formal structures abandons the majority — who generally need structures — and consigns the less able to the junk-heap
Sir, The debate between Mr Gove’s department and its critics (report & letter, Oct 1) is as much about professional autonomy as about the deleterious or otherwise effects of testing on children. My mark books of 40 years ago tell me that I constantly assessed and regularly tested the progress of pupils. However the tests were tailored to my teaching and the outcomes were for private diagnosis, not public branding.
If teachers were then left too much to their own devices, the reverse is now true; the message that they are incompetent, untrustworthy and about to be exposed is not calculated to bring out the best in them. The description of the Secretary of State’s critics as “The Blob” by a “source close to Mr Gove” is strange — anyone familiar with the 1958 movie of that name will surely equate the slimy space invaders with the National Curriculum and Ofsted.
Andy Connell
Appleby in Westmorland, Cumbria

Sir, The approach to education advocated in the letter from academics and writers is that we should get rid of formal structures, and replace them by giving an “abundance of new experience” to “natural learners”. This approach does benefit the self-motivated and intelligent. It also abandons the majority — who generally need structures — and consigns the less able or less self-motivated to the junk-heap. This is exactly the opposite of what we want our State education system to achieve, and the signatories should be ashamed of themselves for advocating it.
Simon Gleeson
Rendham, Suffolk
Sir, I am a retired teacher from a family of teachers with children who teach, and Mr Gove does not rate highly on my popularity list, but the 200 writers and academics must get their facts correct when attacking him. If anything, by stopping or limiting coursework and stopping endless repeats of modular exams, Mr Gove has reduced the endless testing, not increased it.
When I was a secondary school teacher of maths every pupil had an end-of-year exam and ones through the year to monitor progress, as did virtually all schools in nearly every subject and that went back to my school days in the 1960s. My wife, as a primary teacher, set “tests” for her class to measure progress. Focusing only on tests results is wrong — writers and academics should do their research properly before pontificating.
K..S. Paterson
Fakenham, Norfolk
Sir, Patrick Derham, the Head Master of Rugby School, (letter, Sept 28) writes eloquently of the visionary approach taken by Victorian educators in encouraging their students to adopt a visionary and reflective stance towards important issues, an approach which, as he rightly points out, hardly obtains in the present climate. However, he must be aware that this privilege was available only to a tiny minority.
Thomas Hardy had siblings in education, and his second wife had also previously been a teacher. One needs only to read the Hardy biographies by Gittings and Manton to appreciate the lowly status of ordinary teachers at that time and the grudging attitude with which even basic training was doled out to the less advantaged by “the powers that be”.
Richard Merwood

‘Any form of decriminalisation will still require a basic distinction between what will be allowed and what will not’
Sir, Mike Barton rekindles the debate (report, Sept 28) concerning the decriminalisation (or is it legalisation) of the possession of drugs but does not deal with what should happen in relation to those drugs that — even in the liberated times he espouses — no state would dare sanction or tax.
Any form of decriminalisation will still require a basic distinction between what will be allowed and what will not. It would be a surprise if any government were to sanction the sale of crack, crystal meth or skunk because of the terrible damage they do to health.
However, because many users actually prefer these drugs to their less exotic variants, there will still be a ready market for them.
Dealers will demand a premium price to compensate for the increased risks that they take. Even though users may face no criminal penalty for possessing them they will still have to pay severely over the odds to buy them. This will lead to the same consequences that they face today — namely stealing and prostituting themselves to fund their unlicensed addiction.
Very few people go to prison for simple possession of drugs; they go there because of the crimes they commit to fund their habit. Mike Barton’s proposals will make little difference to those who would prefer to use what the State will not allow others to sell and that is a lot of drugs.
Chris Miller
Assistant Chief Constable, Hertfordshire Constabulary,

‘Judicial supervision reduces the risk or perception of collusion and it also limits the room for accusations of political interference’
Sir, Dame Stella Rimington is right that the covert, intrusive powers of the UK intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies require greater oversight (report, Oct 1).
However, the problem also lies in the executive’s responsibility for approving those agencies’ eavesdropping, electronic surveillance and informant operations. As long as ministers control these operations, the public will believe that there is an unhealthy, seamless relationship between those ministers and the agencies they supervise.
The executive must leave the authorisation of these highly intrusive methods to the judiciary. That means that application must be made direct to the judiciary for authority to eavesdrop, intercept telephone and electronic communications, mine the communications data sought by the Communications Data Bill, and employ informants.
Judicial supervision reduces the risk or perception of collusion and it also limits the room for accusations of political interference. This concept of judicial authority for intrusive covert surveillance is not new. Many jurisdictions adhere to it and appoint judges for the task.
I have worked under this system, and I was relieved not only to have those balances ascertained judicially , but also at trial. It is a system I would wish to see in all the UK agencies’ covert, targeted operations.
David Bickford
Former Legal Director, Intelligence

The treatment of actors by British politicians is appalling, particularly in the land of Shakespeare and the home of the best drama since Athens
Sir, As one who has worked in the performing arts for most of my life, I’m alarmed to think that many of the highly talented young people striving to get a foothold in these professions will be forced to take jobs that are irrelevant to their talents (report, Oct 1).
In the past such people would have been willing to struggle on dole money until they got their breaks. European cultural attachés have told me how appalled they are by British politicians’ treatment of actors in, of all places, the land of Shakespeare and the home of the best drama since Athens. The dole is a way to survive for the fine actors of tomorrow, as well as for the painters, musicians and (dare I say it?) the poets.
Yet Shakespeare, Austen, Turner, Shelley, Garrick and Dench will, happily, count for much more in the future than those who strive to make their followers pick up rubbish in the streets.
Ian Flintoff
(former Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actor)

It is bewildering that the Government is now proposing to offer mortgages of up to 95 per cent – is this not a huge risk to the taxpayer?
Sir, I am bewildered by the Government’s proposal to offer up to 95 per cent mortgages (report, Sept 30). Following the condemnation of what was deemed to be reckless lending by the banks, contributing to the economic downturn in 2008. Does this seem like a good idea now that the risk will be effectively underwritten by the taxpayer?
Marisa Cardoni
London W5


SIR – It is of huge concern that the financial value of fashionable breeds has soared, resulting in so many being stolen (“Kate’s fashionable dog leads to thefts”, Mandrake, September 26).
From huskies to chihuahuas, the attitude that dogs are fashion accessories to be bought and sold as the latest must-have status symbol has led to ever-increasing numbers being abandoned at rehoming centres, such as those run by the animal charity Blue Cross. Dogs are dogs, not trophy items.
Kim Hamilton
Chief Executive, Blue Cross
Burford, Oxfordshire

SIR – Making claimants work for their benefit money is surely a good idea (report, September 30). A work ethic has to be learnt and that is the way to start.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Mr Osborne’s policy of eliminating the “something for nothing” culture is to be applauded. We have yet to hear when he will apply it to those who buy and sell property at a profit they haven’t earned, and on which they pay no tax. Or will it be one rule for those on welfare, another for Middle England?
Revd Richard Haggis
Barton, Oxfordshire
SIR – It seems that the failure to impose fines on people and businesses for littering has created an opportunity for me, a long-term unemployed person, to “contribute” to society.
Related Articles
Dogs are pets to be cared for, not trophy items
01 Oct 2013
I would sooner be empowered to apprehend litter louts and ensure that they are financially penalised as a result of their anti-social activity. I do much unpaid charity work, as do many others in my circumstances. Will we be taken off those voluntary tasks to pick up litter?
David Watts
Rochester, Kent
SIR – George Osborne’s announcement on tough dole conditions is welcome. But why not start those conditions on day one of signing on?
Provision of compulsory training and working to keep streets clean are positive state interventions to the benefit of both claimant and wider society. The more people in employment and paying taxes, the more productive the economy, while cleaner streets and surroundings make for a more attractive Britain.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – Welfare claimants required to participate in any Community Work Placement scheme should receive the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour, (£189.30 per week less benefits). For example, if a welfare claimant receives £71.70 Jobseeker’s Allowance per week, he should be paid an additional £117.60 per week for being on a work placement.
Any Community Work Placement should be commensurate with a welfare claimant’s skills and abilities. There should be no “punishment without law” and no work without pay. The proposed scheme is punitive. A benefit is not a benefit if it has to be earned.
Nick Fenney
Tetbury, Gloucestershire
SIR – During three months of unemployment in 1962 I was required to sign in, every weekday, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, at pre-determined times. There were penalties for being late.
Alan Anning
Crowthorne, Berkshire
Overstretched GPs
SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is correct that the 2004 GPs’ contract is a bureaucratic monster (report, September 28), but the Government’s meddling over the past three years has made things much worse. Its soundbites have led to the erosion of effective family medicine, instilling instead the expectation of a service that cannot be delivered with current resources.
As a GP, it is not a case of wanting to earn more, but that there are no more hours in my day. The necessity of ticking boxes to maintain income via the Quality and Outcomes framework has eaten into the time available for the empathic patient-centred family medicine of years gone by.
Email consultations, with the expectation of rapid response, would increase this workload. Perhaps I will find myself answering emails instead of heading home at 8pm, as at present. If Mr Hunt wants an improved service, then there will have to be an increase in the GP workforce.
Dr Peter Grimwade
Bampton, Oxfordshire
SIR – Complex interaction in a consultation cannot be reduced to email. I would love to “keep tabs on the elderly” more frequently, but I cannot do this and be accessible instantly for every runny nose and sore throat.
Mr Hunt may not understand that the elderly are more likely to be ill and therefore require acute admission, investigation and treatment.
Dr J O J Powell
Swansea, Glamorgan
Condemning violence
SIR – Allison Pearson assumes that the entire Islamic community supported the recent violence against Christians by so-called “Muslims” in Nairobi (Comment, September 26). This is not only provocative, but it is also wrong.
The Somali community is singled out because al-Shabaab are Somali-led and based in Somalia. But the Somali people, both in the West and within Somalia, hate al-Shabaab. They have killed more innocent Somalis than any other group before them. Act4Somalia condemned them on the first day of the attacks, and we continue to denounce them for their savagery and barbarism.
The Somali people are a victim of this murderous group. We need globally co-ordinated action and support for the new Somali government to root them out and destroy their violent philosophy.
Liban Obsiye
Communications Director, Act4Somalia
TV detector vans
SIR – Having worked in TV detector vans for 20 years, going all over the British Isles, I can assure you that they were working vans (Letters, September 30). They could tell us what programme was being watched and the distance of the television from the van. My van was Van 13 – lucky for some, but mostly unlucky if we picked up an unlicensed television set signal.
Stan Heath
Ashford, Middlesex
Incorrigibly plural
SIR – When I gave a talk on mausolea, which had been announced to be about mausoleums (Letters, September 30), I recalled the story of students at the Royal Military College of Science telling their tutor: “Yes, we have finished the experiment with pendula, have done the sa and are sitting on our ba sucking winega.”
James Wraight
Chatham, Kent
Neighbouring Gibraltar
SIR – As a Brit living in Spain for 10 years, I think the best way to explain the situation in Gibraltar is through an analogy.
Imagine you have a neighbour who lives in rather a modest house. Over the years, you haven’t had a very good relationship with him for a number of reasons. First, he often boasts he doesn’t pay any council tax due to some strange exemption. Secondly, vans pull up and dump boxes in his garden at night, and people pick him up in flashy sports cars. You’re sure it can’t be legal stuff that they are transporting.
Moreover, there are always car engines, oil and petrol cans scattered around his garden. You’re worried that there might be an explosion that could affect your house. Then there’s the neighbour himself, a rather obnoxious person who has the habit of popping his head over the fence when you’re relaxing to insinuate that you must be on some kind of illegal scam to lead such a comfortable life.
So when the neighbour starts building a structure from “cement blocks” in the middle of his garden, spoiling your view of the surrounding hills, you finally decide to talk to the local council. Being a good neighbour is one of the defining characteristics of the British, and I cannot understand why Gibraltar cannot make more of an effort to be one.
Clive Tyrell
La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Domestic jurisdiction
SIR – What business does the UN have to “stand by its bedroom tax critic” (report, September 27)? Article 2.7 of the UN Charter says: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”
I understand heated debates about whether or not intervening in a country’s civil war might contravene Article 2.7, but not housing benefit payments.
Anne Jappie
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Useful utilities
SIR – I have just moved house and
utilities companies are hugely enthusiastic about helping. I thought it might be of interest to share how I scored their performance out of 10 – Royal Mail: 10. Lloyds Bank: 6. Royal Bank of Scotland: 0. British Telecom: 0. Scottish Water: 8. Scottish Power: 7.
Hywel Davies
Nevern, Pembrokeshire
Growing economies cannot rely on wind energy
SIR – The debate about global warming continues (“Global warming ‘unequivocal’, say scientists” report, September 28), but it isn’t realistic for major industrialised countries to make drastic reductions to their carbon dioxide emissions.
Will America, Europe, China and India rely on wind turbines and solar panels to power their huge and growing economies? Will the oil- and gas-producing countries agree to leave their huge reserves of crude oil and gas in the ground? Will shale gas and shale oil be abandoned, too? And what about the ships and aeroplanes that cannot operate without oil products?
Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by building nuclear power stations, improving energy efficiency and by replacing a lot of coal by shale gas. But covering the world with wind turbines and solar panels is a pipe dream, because huge numbers of back-up fossil-fuel-fired power stations would have to be built to compensate for the unreliable electricity supplies generated by these sources.
James Allan
Hartlepool, Co Durham
SIR – I was a meteorologist during the Seventies when glaciers in Europe and other continents had been growing for the previous 10 years, and pack ice had been increasing during winters to cover almost all of the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. Scientists were then warning that the Earth could be entering another ice age.
The current deliberations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have conveniently overlooked this. Before insisting that humans have been the main cause of global warming an explanation of this apparent anomaly should be promulgated.
Captain Derek Blacker RN (retd)
Director of Naval Oceanography and Meteorology, 1982-84
Newton Abbot, Devon
SIR – So the IPCC is 95 per cent certain that mankind has been the main cause of climate change. Do they simply mean that 19 out of every 20 of their scientists agree?
Harvey T Dearden
Llandudno, Caernarfonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Governments tend to tell us what we like to hear. In these times of economic hardship, the alleged cost-savings associated with dissolution of the Seanad seem impressive. Yet, €14 million is being happily spent on a referendum while the homeless are told they must wait until 2016.
So, what is the emergency for Seanad dissolution? Are the vocal, non-party, competent, conscientious Senators too influential in enlightening the masses?
Currently, a four-person cabinet runs Dáil Éireann – surely this is undemocratic? If there is a Yes vote, might this number be reduced to two, or, perhaps, to one – Emperor Enda? A few lashes from his “whipster” would then keep the toddlers in toe in this, the authentic nursery. The thought is nauseous. I shall vote No to Seanad dissolution. – Yours, etc,
Beatty Park,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Sir, – The cynical logic of the Fine Gael poster which states that saving € 20 million (highly debatable, anyway) and having fewer politicians are reasons for abolishing the Senate, infers, in the same cynical mode, that we can save much more than € 20 million and have an even greater reduction in the number of politicians by abolishing the Dáil. It’s confusing, and also insulting to the electorate. “Demand real reform” sounds much more honourable, and is so – especially if it is meant. – Yours, etc,
Woodland, Letterkenny ,
Co Donegal.
Sir, – A question was posed to the Taoiseach on RTÉ radio recently as to whether the Fine Gael party would survive the current difficulties in Government. His response was that the Fine Gael brand was strong and would survive into the future. This begs the question whether Fine Gael sees itself as a “brand” rather than as a political party with an ideology.
A Senate made up of at least 50 per cent of wise people, without political affiliation, would be a welcome and important counterpoint to a single house legislating within the confines of the party whips. – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park East,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Referendum Commission’s Guide to the Seanad and Court of Appeal Referendums poses, in the English language version, two questions for answering in the referendums: “One asks do you agree to the abolition of Seanad Éireann” and “The other asks do you agree to the establishment of a court of appeal and other changes to the courts system.”
Whereas, in contrast to the one-sided description of the questions to be answered in the English language version, the Irish language version more properly describes the two issues to be decided “i gcóir nó nár chóir” – for or not for – the proposed change in each question. The one-sided description in the English version is unacceptable coming from a professional body charged with being scrupulously fair.
If one reads further into the commission’s explanatory booklet it becomes clear that not only are we being asked to abolish or not Seanad Éireann, but also to implement consequential changes to the Constitution and, additionally, to abolish the right of the President to refer a Bill to the people for decision in certain circumstances. The latter is not a consequence which would follow if the Seanad were to go; it is a separate matter, but it has been hidden away in that it has received no mention in the introduction. Many recipients of the guide may read no more that the chairperson’s introduction to the referendums. – Yours etc
Dublin Road,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – It is somewhat bemusing that the Democracy Matters campaign is emphasising that abolition of the Seanad would constitute a “power grab”. The Taoiseach’s ability to appoint 11 senators following a general election all but ensures the majority of senators are supportive of the government of the day. This argument made with respect to the current Taoiseach is all the more remarkable given that most of his chosen 11 nominees were Independents.
Effectively, on that basis, there is practically no ultimate transferral of additional powers to the executive in the advent of abolition. Special distinguishing powers as stipulated for the upper house in the Constitution are so rarely invoked that they are irrelevant in a modern sense. For example, the argument that the Seanad has “90-day brakes” on legislation has been made during this campaign. The last time such a power was invoked was in 1964, in relation to pawnbroking. The “power grab” assertion is therefore a disingenuous one, and represents one of the weakest possible arguments for retention.
The Seanad’s main role in a realistic sense is to contribute to legislative advisory review oversight. The Government is maintaining that the parliamentary committees (which already sit for more hours per annum than the Seanad) can be correspondingly adjusted to assume further capacities, with a stated determination to consult more civic voices in the preparation of legislation. The Taoiseach has even stated in the Dáil that letter writers (such as those to your newspaper) could be asked to contribute at parliamentary committee stage. Such an ambition would be equivalent in a de facto sense to the objectives of possible Seanad reform in terms of reaching out more to society in a vocational sense with respect to legislative analyses. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 14
Sir, – We are appealing for a No vote. We believe the abolition of the Seanad will make the adoption of EU decisions and legislation easier for a government that is determined to do so, even if those decisions are inconsistent with the stated views of the Irish people. Abolishing the Seanad will eliminate the chance of ever establishing a reformed institution that could scrutinise future EU military issues and will make it less problematic for Enda Kenny and his successors to pass controversial legislation.
With the EU pushing for more militarisation there is a need to increase scrutiny and accountability, not support a decision that will allow for the easier passage of such decisions. Compared to Scandinavian countries, Germany and many of the new member states, Ireland’s has one of the least effective scrutiny systems of EU legislation. A reformed Seanad could potentially correct this weakness in Ireland’s oversight of EU policy-making, particularly on military issues.
The recent European Parliament session, which approved a report on EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects, demonstrates that the further erosion of Irish neutrality and the continued militarisation of the EU are on the EU and Government agenda and this will be made easier by removing the threat of a reformed Seanad.
This report, aimed at boosting efforts to further militarise the EU, calls for the creation of a fully-fledged EU military headquarters, for the strengthening of EU battle groups, for more money to be spent on arms production and research, and for a closer relationship with Nato.
While the report is non-binding, it sets the agenda for the EU Council meeting in December where further EU militarisation and increased support for arms production and research will be discussed. It is most disturbing to note that all Fine Gael MEPs – the party that wants the Seanad abolished instead of reformed – supported this report and only one Irish MEP, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party voted against it.
Just because the Seanad has failed to promote peace and neutrality issues in the past is not a justifiable reason to support its permanent abolition. The failures of the Seanad are the direct result of the failure and refusal of the political parties to reform it.
It seems the Government’s strategy is to “to get rid of the Seanad quickly” before there is a chance to reform it in a way that would make any future government’s task of passing controversial legislation more difficult.
While we all agree with the criticism of the current Seanad and the undemocratic procedure for allocating seats. If abolished, it can never be reinstated without a referendum, and the only body that can propose this is the government itself. Thus it’s unlikely that the institution that wants the Seanad abolished will ever propose its reinstatement. – Yours, etc,
Retd Army Commandant &
UN Military peacekeeper;
Shannonwatch coordinator;
Galway City Councillor;
Shannonwatch activist:
Former Green Party MEP
and peace & neutrality
activist; Prof JOHN
MAGUIRE, Prof of
Sociology, UCC,
C/o Iona Road,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – The Senate has proved one thing very clearly – how quickly politicians change colour when it suits the agenda. It does nothing to assure me of anything political. – Yours, etc,
Fortmary Park,
Sir, – We generally get the opportunity to elect individual politicians every four years or so. This time we have the opportunity to eliminate 60 of them in one fell swoop. It looks like a case of the chickens coming home to roost! – Yours, etc,
Bullock Park,
Sir, – To those who wish  to reform the Seanad, here are some reform measures.  
First, I would propose  two senators representing each of the 26 counties, making a total of 52, and elected by the people of their respective county just  like senators  in  US, representing their state.  The  position should be an  honorary one, with no salary save for travelling expenses to and from Dublin, including accommodation. 
Senators should  be a voice for the social and economic problems of their respective county  and “play” with vigour and enthusiasm of Gaelic footballers or hurlers.  Yes, the Seanad should give balance to democracy, but above all the position of Senator should be an honorary one, where people act out of love and passion for their county. Am I going to see this? No.
That’s why I am voting with Molly Bloom’s words. Yes, yes and yes again. – Yours, etc,
Beggars Bush Court,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – How ironic that your long-overdue discussion on voting rights for emigrants (Ciara Kenny, “The votes at home: Is the diaspora disenfranchised?”, September 28th) was printed adjacent to a full-page spread on the referendum to eliminate from our electoral system the last vestige of franchise for the diaspora!
For the past 40 years, the postal ballot for the NUI Seanad seats was my only connection with the Irish political system. Over the years, I have had the satisfaction of helping to vote in such diverse personalities as Gemma Hussey, Gus Martin, Brendan Ryan (of the Simon Community) and Michael D Higgins. Together with the TCD senators (especially Mary Robinson), they have disproportionately enriched Irish political culture. Admittedly, we were a privileged sub-set of all emigrants. But what a shame that the standard response to the charge of elitism is to level down rather than level up!
Ireland needs to harness more of its elites, not less. A broadening of the representation of significant sections of Irish society both at home and abroad would take no more than a full utilisation of the flexibility inherent in Articles 18 and 19 of our Constitution. – Yours, etc,
The Parade,
Co Cork.
Sir, – As an ordinary non-academic citizen of Ireland who believes in a democratic electoral system, I will this Friday for the first time have a right to vote in relation to the Seanad. I will be voting Yes. That’s real democracy. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – We are told a new court of appeal needs to be established because of an “unacceptable” backlog of cases on appeal. This new court will involve, of course, the appointment of new judges, and more money trickling down the line for the legal profession.
Meanwhile, our health (and education) services are crippled by a recruitment embargo, which prevents the appointment of new medical personnel, teachers, etc, despite “unacceptable” backlogs and lengthening waiting lists in all hospital departments.
Existing health (and education) staff are expected to work harder and longer. Why can’t the judges do the same? Shorten their holidays, lengthen their working day, and let the legal backlog be dealt with the same way as hospital backlogs.
If we don’t have money for our hospitals, why should lawyers jump the queue? When we stop paying money to the banks, and have put the crisis behind us, then perhaps we might look at the idea of a new court, more judges and more money for the privileged. Let’s get our priorities right. – Is mise,
Riversdale Avenue,
Dublin 22.
Sir, – So the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, feels the proposed court of appeal is a “crude device” that will lead to a rise in appeals. (Front page, September 30th). The fact is that the referendum on Friday has been called to deal with the issue precisely because there is evidence that the backlog on appeals is so considerable that it goes far beyond mere administration and case management as suggested by Mr Honohan. It is a truism to say that justice delayed is justice denied. I assume that Mr Honohan will accept that, under the Constitution, our citizens are mature enough to make up their own minds on whether the proposed court of appeal is necessary or not. It is part of the democratic process for voters to decide on such matters. – Yours, etc,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.

A chara, – We have become used to disastrous opinion poll figures for the Labour Party, but Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin’s response (Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll, Front page and Breaking News, October 1st) is so blinkered as to be delusional. He argues Labour’s figures won’t improve until voters get money in their pockets, oblivious to the sense of betrayal that working class voters feel towards Labour and to the fact that indeed they have been betrayed.
Everyone knows that the bank crisis and subsequent economic collapse impose severe restraints on our society. But it isn’t a question that the bills left by the collapse must be paid, but who will pay them. And Labour has pushed the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil policy of toeing the EU line and making the poorer sections of society pay, so that the bankers – at home and abroad – can maintain or regain their wealthy status.
It will take working people generations to undo the damage being inflicted on them at the moment, but people’s anger is there because they know it is unnecessary: that it is the rich and the people who made the big profits out of the boom who can and should pay.
No amount of recovery is going to assuage that anger.
I have always thought the Labour Party was an essential component of any united Left alternative to the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil alliance, but unless honest voices who have learned the real lessons of the betrayal come to the fore in Labour, it is becoming increasingly hard to see any role in the future for a party that has proved such a woeful disappointment to those who voted for it. – Is mise,
Ascaill Ghleanntán
na hAbhann
Cluain Dolcáin
Baile Átha Cliath 22.
Sir, – Your Front page report (October 1st) shows Labour support at just 6 per cent in your latest opinion poll. Meanwhile, the Letters page features an appeal for a No vote in the Seanad referendum, signed by 29 politicians of various hues. The signatories include two Labour TDs, despite Seanad abolition being the agreed policy of the coalition Government of which their party is a member.
The lack of cohesion and coherence in Labour’s ranks is a godsend to the party’s opponents, who continue to peddle snakeoil remedies that purport to provide an alternative and pain-free escape route from the crisis in our national finances.
Labour TDs, MEPs and councillors need to hold their nerve and hang together. Otherwise, they will surely hang separately! – Yours, etc,
Haddington Park,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – We are a diverse group of politicians, and we will all vote No in the Seanad abolition referendum.
We come from different political parties; some have never been members of any political party. We come from across every social, religious, and educational background.
We agree on very few things, but we agree to vote No. The interests of Ireland are best served if the Irish people vote No. The Seanad has an important role to play in our democracy.
There are many reasons to vote No, each of us has their own reasons why we will vote No. But this is not a sign of discord, it is a sign that a No vote goes beyond politics. – Yours, etc,
C/o Leinster House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Surely Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) is misguided if she thinks a ballot paper with anything other than the vote on it, will “probably” be counted. A spoiled vote is just that, as any self-respecting scrutineer would tell her. – Yours, etc,
Dale Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – What’s the problem with Taoiseach Enda Kenny refusing to debate on Prime Time at Micheál Martin’s invitation? Were I at war with an enemy I would not go to battle on his chosen ground. To do so would prove my real weakness to lead. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – I feel Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate with Micheál Martin on RTÉ (Breaking News, September 28th) not only goes against the origins of democracy, but also gives us a flavour of life in Ireland without the Seanad. Surely debate in Ireland is at our core? Is it not the Irish voice that has held our place in the world much more so than our economic relevance? Of course we have to reduce costs, but not at the cost of who we are. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Enda Kenny will not debate the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad because he has realised his mistake and he cannot justify the unjustifiable.
It is a power grab of phenomenal proportions. If this referendum is passed the Taoiseach can then remove Supreme Court judges, the ombudsman and the comptroller and auditor general if he has a sufficiently large majority to which the whip can be applied. Garret FitzGerald would never have proposed such a constitutional amendment. – Yours, etc,
Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.
Sir, – A letter from some of our university colleagues (September 27th) raises some valid points about accountability in Irish governance.
However, we argue that the wider campaign against Seanad abolition has overstated the potential of upper houses generally to effectively perform a check upon government.
It has been widely claimed that Seanad abolition would remove an important check on executive power, amounting to nothing less than a “power-grab”. But the purpose of upper chambers, where they do exist, is usually to assist in the legislative process, not to sanction government. In practice, oversight is better exercised by the lower chamber to which government is directly responsible.
Indeed the referendum will effectively make it much more difficult for the Government to secure the removal of a judge or a president because a greater level of cross-party Dáil support will be needed. If this is a “power-grab”, it is not a very well designed one.

We are also puzzled by our colleagues’ support for the Quinn/Zappone plan, as this retains the vocational and graduate-specific structure of the current Senate. The “panel” seats have never been meaningfully vocational, and there is no good reason to believe this could now be achieved simply by expanding the franchise. It is much more likely to yield a miniature and pointless replica of the Dáil, risking parliamentary gridlock.
Finally, we urge caution against our colleagues’ suggestion that the national parliament should give direct representation to “expertise”, whether through vocational panels or otherwise. There are many good ways of incorporating expert knowledge in the legislative process without giving experts parliamentary seats.
We believe a Yes vote is a reasonable step towards a reformed political system. – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’MALLEY, School of Law and Government, DCU; BEN TONRA, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; EOIN DALY, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; KEVIN RAFTER, School of Communications, DCU; JOHN O’DOWD, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; ALAN DUKES, former TD and Minister; RICHARD HUMPHREYS, Law Library, Dublin 7; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JIM POWER, Economist & SEAN DONLAN, School of Law, UL,
C/o Sutherland School of
Law, UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – With the exception of the six university seats, Seanad Éireann’s members are elected democratically, but by indirect franchise.
Forty-three of the Seanad’s 60 members are chosen by the members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad and the country’s major municipal authorities, all of whom, with the exception of the outgoing Senators, have already been elected by direct universal franchise. Accordingly, the TDs, Senators and county and city councillors effectively constitute an electoral college for the election of a new Seanad. This system is not unlike that for choosing the president of the United States, with each state of the US electing a certain number of delegates to an electoral college, which in turn elects the president.
The Taoiseach’s 11 nominees also get their seats by indirect franchise. The Taoiseach is elected by the members of Dáil Éireann who are in turn directly elected by universal franchise.
While it can be argued that the university senators are chosen by a privileged minority, these panels could be extended, not only to include graduates of all third-level institutions, but also to give representation to members of trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and to registered members of employers’ and business groups such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. This would reflect a much wider range of interests and provide a valuable input into the scrutiny of proposed legislation.
The Seanad may need a makeover but it should be retained and reformed. – Yours, etc,
Ardbrugh Close,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Labour Party’s Seanad referendum poster proclaiming One Parliament Yes! is intriguing. Is it possible the Labour Party thinks the Seanad is a national parliament? If it were, Ireland would be unique in the whole world. – Yours, etc,
Castle Avenue,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Breda O’Brien calls on those seeking reform of the Seanad to “choose No to abolition, and then write ‘Reform’ on the ballot” as the ballot will then “be set aside for later examination and, as any fair-minded scrutineer could only find there was a clear intention to vote No, it will in all probability be counted in that way” (Opinion, September 28th).
While this is technically correct, having observed many election counts I would advise her that the inclusion of political slogans or statements of any kind on the ballot is a very hazardous enterprise.

Under the Referendum Act 1994, the returning officer has the power to exclude a ballot “on which anything is written or marked which, in the opinion of the local returning officer, is calculated to identify the elector”. While this seems to restrict the power to exclude a vote to a very limited instance, in practice it gives the returning officer quite a degree of latitude to exclude ballots which have anything written on them. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to take a gamble that my vote would not be counted!
There are only two options in this referendum. Anyone wishing to abolish the Seanad should vote Yes. Anyone who wants to retain it, or believes that it should be reformed, no matter how slim the chance of that might be, should vote No. With all due respect to Ms O’Brien, the detail of one’s views on a referendum ought to be conveyed directly to one’s political representatives, rather than to the returning officer on the face of a ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

The interesting thing about the forthcoming referendum is the level of interest it has generated in an institution that not too many people have taken much notice of in recent years.
Also in this section
Charges of a not so light brigade
Flippant words
Recognise teenage angst for what it is
It’s like having a clear-out and deciding on what items you really want to keep. Sometimes you come across a discarded item and find a new use for it. Could this be the case with Seanad Eireann?
Well, first of all, the public needs to be informed of its uses and limitations. I read through the booklet that came through my letterbox and really felt no wiser afterwards.
I notice that there are two proposals: the Seanad abolition and the provision of a Court of Appeals.
The latter appears straightforward as there are long delays and it will accelerate the judicial process.
However, as regards the campaign on Seanad abolition, the only signs I have noticed are very negative, eg, save €20m a year by abolishing the Seanad and we will have 60 fewer politicians.
Can we choose the 60 to go? Perhaps, like the ‘X Factor’, we could swap some of the 166 TDs in Dail Eireann and keep Feargal Quinn or John Crown.
There have been many arguments on both sides of the debate but despite the importance of such a decision, the Taoiseach refuses to debate the abolition of Seanad Eireann on TV.
Is it not important enough, and if so why have a referendum on whether to abolish the institution without a wider discussion?
Mike Geraghty
Newcastle, Galway
The rich get richer
Ireland is a country of two cultures, the culture of the rich and that of the poor. It is a division that is locked in place by the persistent inequitable distribution of the country’s wealth.
There is a glaring contradiction between the Christianity or Humanism we profess and our tolerance of shameful levels of basic need experienced by so many.
A recent report by Social Justice Ireland suggests that 700,000 of our citizens live in poverty. The proportion of people who do not have access to healthy, nutritious food is particularly alarming. We are landed with a failing welfare system that is clearly not fit for purpose.
The Government has institutionalised insensitivity to the glaring injustices that define our way of life by building a brazen shield against the recurring outrage generated by the official appropriation of Ireland’s finances through self-administered excessive salaries, expenses and pensions.
Additionally, we are trapped in an insidious class system that is based on the vulgar display of possessions as we steadily lose our sense of enough and our awareness of the needy.
We seem to give raw approval to any indication of improvement in the country’s wealth without giving serious consideration to identifying its potential beneficiaries.
The uneven struggle between politics and principle has led us to lose sight of the significant moral issues about equality and respect for human lives that arise in relation to the distribution of wealth.
Philip O’Neill
Debt mountain
 Every cloud has a silver lining. I found mine in the realisation that the global debt mountain is now so high, our children can take refuge on it after the high tides we bequeathed them from global warming sweep the rest of us away.
T O’Brien
Sandycove, Co Dublin
Reform or abolition
 Like many people who long to see rigorous Seanad reform, I have reluctantly opted to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. I do so because I suspect that the Government will not enact the necessary reforms, any more than any previous government has honoured pledges to democratise this toothless and increasingly irrelevant institution.
A factor that might have dissuaded me from voting for abolition is the handful of outstanding senators we’ve had, among them Mary Robinson and Noel Browne. But the vast majority of those who entered Seanad Eireann have, sadly, been party hacks, line-towing career politicians, and cute-hoor types who used it either as a launching pad for the next Dail election or a halfway-house or retirement home following the loss of a Dail seat.
I have taken the trouble to review a list of senators from 1937 to the present day and I honestly feel that the number of truly noteworthy ones does not justify the Seanad’s retention.
The senators have had ample opportunity over the decades to press for meaningful reform and allow all people of voting age have a say in who did or didn’t get to sit in the chamber.
But instead they were content to enjoy the perks and privileges of the Upper House, huffing and puffing and having no demonstrable effect on anything.
John Fitzgerald
Callan, Kilkenny
Demolishing the house
There’s this property in which I, among others, have a small but symbolic stake as landlord. It comprises an interconnected set of venerable old houses, constructed in the 1920s, which are well-located in the heart of the capital and enjoy ample car-parking.
It is seen as a much-prized des res to the extent that we have never been short of candidates when renewal of places occurs at the end of every five-year lease.
For all this grandeur, having never been properly modernised, the internal structures of the complex are not entirely fit for purpose. Its timbers creak – possibly due to the strain of too many tenants (although it is said that they are only ever there for a limited number of days); it is prone to leaks; and a great deal of the hot air generated within seems to be released without having any real beneficial effect.
Nonetheless, its residents have always seemed extremely happy with their conditions. Once they have moved in – some having been there for decades – precious few among them have shown any serious interest in the prospect of the disruption that would arise if meaningful renovations were to be carried out.
Almost as an afterthought to the imposing main house, a much smaller but equally well-appointed building of the same vintage is annexed to it.
This is practically out of sight. Looking at the dusty old deeds, it seems that among the original intentions for this opulent outhouse was to house the night watchmen to ensure that those in the big house would not lose the run of themselves.
It has instead been variously pressed into action as a temporary halfway house for those who have fallen on hard times and been evicted from the main house, as a granny-flat for retirees and even a creche of sorts.
Overall, its tenants have tended to keep to themselves. To be honest, even as their landlord, I don’t know what most of the current batch do.
Recently I’ve received notice from the head of the residents’ committee that a majority of the tenants of the main building wish to carry out some significant building works. At first I imagined that they were looking to fix the entire roof or insulate the external walls. Instead, it turns out that they plan to focus attention on the second house in isolation.
Rather than renovating, they want to demolish it entirely, taking some of the fixtures and fittings into their own building, and leaving a vacant space where it stood.
This is a much more far-reaching proposal than tenants asking permission to put up some shelving so it merits very careful consideration on the part of us owners.
The question is, will this course of action improve how the property, as a whole, functions, given that the structural problems are by no means confined to the smaller of the buildings? What effect will knocking down significant support pillars have on the overall architecture? Indeed, could the whole edifice be weakened and come crashing down?
Ronan Gingles
Brussels, Belgium
Irish Independent


October 1, 2013

1 October 2013 More Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to launch a rocket with one of them in it into outer space from Troutbridge. Priceless.
We good to hospital Mary a bit better. I put even more books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Professor Alan Carrington
Professor Alan Carrington, the chemist who has died aged 79, specialised in investigating the structure of molecules.

6:55PM BST 30 Sep 2013
Working at the level of subatomic particles, Carrington was aided by rapid developments in the abstruse and emerging world of quantum theory, which examines the apparently bizarre behaviour of the smallest units of matter. Yet his research had crucial practical applications, furthering our understanding of the ways atoms bond together.
Alan Carrington was born on January 6 1934, the son of Albert and Constance Carrington (née Nelson). He was educated at Colfe’s Grammar School and the University of Southampton where, as well as his aptitude for maths and sciences, it became clear that he was also blessed with great musical talent.
After completing his PhD he became a Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge, in 1959. It was there that Carrington worked alongside Christopher Longuet-Higgins, professor of theoretical chemistry and widely considered one of the pioneers of quantum theory as applied to molecular systems (later he would develop a profound interest in artificial intelligence).
On returning to Southampton in 1967, Carrington developed a reputation as an eminent chemist, wholly dedicated to his science. This was not always easy, particularly at a time when academics were beginning to come under significant pressure to do work of immediate commercial interest. Carrington instead pursued fundamental molecular science. This involved “interrogating” molecules through various spectroscopic methods.
In particular Carrington worked on electron spin resonance. A spinning electron creates its own magnetic field. Any molecule with an unpaired electron (which is known as a “free radical”) can thus – in the presence of an external magnetic field – exist in two states. In the first, stable, state, the field due to the electron spin opposes the external magnetic field – in an analogy with two bar magnets, the North pole of one is adjacent to the South pole of the other. The second, unstable, and higher energy state, occurs where the “North pole” of one is adjacent to the “North pole” of the other.
By driving electron pairs from stable to unstable states, Carrington was able to make breakthroughs in the field of electron distribution, so becoming a leading international figure in determining the structure of molecules. Later he also used vibrational spectroscopy and microwaves – the former method identifying the strength of bonds between atoms; the latter allowing the examination of the molecule in rotation, further revealing its structure.
Doing so successfully proved extremely challenging. Accurate use of spectroscopy required an understanding of the energy levels of a molecule. Yet according to quantum theory it is impossible to observe both the position and the energy of a subatomic particle, because the act of observation will change the particle’s energy. However Carrington understood that it is possible to observe the transition between two states, for example the energy at which electrons jump between orbitals around an atom’s nucleus.
He remained at Southampton until 1999, barring a three-year break between 1984-1987 at the University of Oxford, where he was professor of chemistry.
Never one to work on (comparatively) large molecules, in recent times he worked on the H3+ ion, one of the simplest triatomic bodies in existence. He resisted the urge to examine molecules in solution, preferring to study them in isolation. This required an extremely sophisticated set-up at his laboratory.
Outside that laboratory, Carrington was a sociable man and a keen sportsman. He enjoyed wicketkeeping for his local cricket team, and was a dedicated sailor, keeping a 505 dinghy on the Hamble, and later a larger boat at Lymington. Above all, however, he was a superb pianist. One of his proudest moments came alongside the 1971 Nobel laureate for Chemistry, Gerhard Herzberg. Just as Carrington had considered a career as a concert pianist, so Herzberg had mulled a career as an opera singer. Though they had preferred sciences, the two men put on a concert together which was very well received.
Alan Carrington was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1971. He received the Faraday Lectureship Prize in 1986 and the Davy Medal in 1992. He was appointed CBE in 1999.
He is survived by his wife and their three children. Their daughter, Rebecca Carrington, is a professional viola player; their son, Simon Carrington, is principal timpanist at the London Philharmonic Orchestra and senior timpani professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
Alan Carrington, born January 6 1934, died August 31 2013

I was disappointed by the lack of understanding of the dynamic position in the UK higher education sector expressed in your article (Party less, pay more: deal that delivers degrees a lot sooner, 28 September).
First, there are now four private, non-state-funded institutions in the UK to have been granted university title, not one. The University of Buckingham and Regent’s University London are not-for-profit charities that offer a broad portfolio of programmes, have strong international linkages and maintain a research profile. The University of Law and BPP University of Professional Studies have fewer degree students but offer first-rate professional training with real value for money. They are predominantly UK-focused but will undoubtedly increase their degree programmes and international reach.
Second, a university experience is not simply about gaining knowledge for a profession but about developing broader awareness, skills, perspectives and an understanding of the globalising environment. At Regent’s our students, from more than 140 countries, work face to face with tutors and each other for a minimum of 20 hours a week to gain an understanding of subjects and approaches other than their own, and enjoy their university years socialising – if you must, “partying” – to develop contacts that they will maintain throughout their lives.
This cannot be done in two years. Our programmes take three to four years. Without this breadth of experience we would not see many of the global leaders that play such a vital role in every area of our lives.
It may cost more upfront but the investment is justified by the return.
Prof Aldwyn Cooper
Vice-chancellor and CEO, Regent’s University London

What is remarkable about the Ministry of Defence document (How to sell wars to public – MoD study, 27 September) is that it wrongly argues that there was “robust” support for military operations in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 2007.
The first opinion poll indicating that a majority of the British public supported withdrawal was published in September 1971. From the mid-70s until the peace process there were consistent majorities in favour of withdrawal. The Conservative government and the military referred to the Northern Ireland experience as a reason not to become more aggressively involved in Yugoslavia in 1991.
Polls suggested majority public opposition to the war in Afghanistan a few months after the escalation of Britain’s involvement in 2006. This preceded the Wootton Bassett phenomenon and General Sir Richard Dannatt’s statement in 2010 that the commemoration could fuel support for British withdrawal.
Paul Dixon
Editor, The British Approach to Counterinsurgency (Macmillan, 2010)
•  Your story demonstrates the impact that more than a decade of anti-war campaigning has had on public opinion. The MoD is clearly worried that such opinion makes it harder to wage future wars.
However we are concerned about the military response to this: more use of private security firms, drones and other remote weapons, and cyber operations. These are seen as less likely to be unpopular, because they do not involve high levels of British forces casualties. Surely a better course would be to recognise that these wars were wrong in the first place, and to look for solutions that bring peace.
Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
•  If the MoD wants to deaden our senses to Nineteen-Eighty-Four-style endless distant conflicts resulting in an ongoing stream of pointless deaths rather than protect and defend its citizens and territory at home, it’s time it came clean and renamed itself the Ministry for War.
Mark Lewinski
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire

The nauseating effrontery of Michael Herzog’s jeremiad at what he terms “the smile offensive” of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, is breathtaking (Israel can’t trust Iran, 28 September). While he talks of “Iran’s history of deceit” over its “continual pursuit of nuclear weapons”, not a word is uttered about Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, which it still officially denies and which for years it concealed from the world until Mordechai Vanunu exposed them, for which “crime” he was abducted and imprisoned for 18 years and has been denied permission to leave Israel ever since. And complete silence on Israel’s refusal to sign the non-proliferation treaty. Nor has he anything to say on the manner in which, applying the apt words of Milton’s Lycidas to the settlers’ colonisation of Palestinian lands under successive Israeli administrations, “the grim wolf, with privy paw, daily devours apace, and nothing said”.
All this from a man who, for the past 20 years or more, has played a key role in Israel both in the so-called “peace process” and as a senior aide acting as liaison between the Israel defence ministry, the IDF, the intelligence community and Israel’s powerful defence establishment, and who concludes his article with an ominous statement that Israel “will be left alone with a terrible decision between ‘the bomb’ and ‘the bombing’”.
It really is time for Jews worldwide to stand up and be counted: dissociate us from the suicidal impulses that are ever present in Israel.
Benedict Birnberg
•  Michael Herzog might well be asked: why can’t Iran and most of Israel’s neighbours trust the Tel Aviv regime? Doubtless, were the UN to impose on Israel the kind of sanctions levied on Iran, forcing the regime to comply with international law, we would see a speedy, just resolution to the 65 years of oppression suffered by the Palestinian people.
Ian Lowery
Kensworth, Bedfordshire
•  With Iran, it’s not really about nuclear weapons at all. It’s about the hawks in Israel and the US needing a suitable enemy to justify their belligerence. Rouhani doesn’t fit the bill – they’d rather have Ahmadinejad.
Peter Adams
Stroud, Gloucestershire
• Simon Jenkins (If we fear an Iranian bomb, we should back Rouhani, 27 September) rightly questions the effectiveness of sanctions, but he misses the irony of what has happened with Iran.
“Targeted sanctions” were devised in the late 1990s as a response to the manifest failures of traditional, broad-based economic sanctions. In 2006 this new approach was adopted to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. The original aim was to focus economic pressure on key individuals and entities, but avoid causing extensive collateral damage to the general population. However, having failed to achieve anything, the sanctions regime has been successively “toughened” (ie expanded). The result is the sort of broad-based economic blockade that everyone agreed long ago to be a bad idea. It would seem that as far as sanctions are concerned what goes around comes around.
David Smart
Associate fellow, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies
•  It is difficult to disagree with the logic of Simon Jenkins, but he has overlooked a political dynamic. He says “Israel’s boycott of Iran’s hand of friendship is madness”. Not so. The “existential threat” reinforces US support for Israel and its hostility towards Iran. This leverage is too important to give away. And Israel has probably calculated that a rapprochement led by Obama can be defeated in Congress, especially with its help. To break this dynamic, Britain and Europe need to show willingness to pursue rapprochement without, if need be, the US.
David Angluin
• Is the Netanyahu who has “vowed to ‘tell the truth’ about Iran’s nuclear programme” (Report, 30 September) the same Netanyahu who refuses to tell the truth about Israel’s huge stockpile of nuclear warheads and the missiles with which to fire them, and who refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?
Gerald Kaufman MP
Labour, Manchester Gorton

Saturday’s magazine leaves me fashionably confused for the week ahead. On the one hand I’m shown how to pair a kilt with a white silk blouse that has a gold designer zip at the front (How to dress, Weekend, 28 September). And then on the same page you tell me that superfluous zips are “going down” (The measure). To quote: “a zip in the centre of a blouse doesn’t cut it”. Which is right, please?
Amy Kennedy
Ashford, Kent
• Not only were the “I’m Backing Britain” T-shirts made in Portugal (Report, 30 September), the union flag was printed upside down as well (the distress signal). Source: Blue Peter, 1968.
Jeremy Hayes
Snodland, Kent
• I very much enjoyed the photographs and paintings illustrating Simon Jenkins’ selection of views (50 best views in England, 28 September) and have already decided to visit the few that I have not already seen. I have only one quibble. I have lived in or near Liverpool for more than 50 years and have never heard anybody referring to the buildings at the Pierhead as “The Three Graces”.
Jim Grindle
Formby, Merseyside
• So Malcolm Gladwell thinks that Canada has no luxury brands (Interview, G2, 30 September). Has he never stayed at a Four Seasons hotel?
Richard Saxon
• Regarding unmanned airliners (‘This is your pilot sleeping…’, G2, 30 September), several years ago I was told by an aircraft designer that plans were afoot to have a plane manned only by a dog and one pilot. The dog was there to attack the pilot if he touched any of the controls, and the pilot was there to feed the dog.
Allan McRobert
•  I’ve heard so much about the economic crisis, the effects of the cuts, the unfairness of who pays how much tax, and more. There’s one thing I haven’t heard: I’d pay an extra penny per pound in income tax to protect the most vulnerable from the cuts. Wouldn’t you?
Kate Green


There are remarkably few Jobcentres in villages and small towns. Equally, in many rural areas, there is little or no public transport. How much will the Chancellor grant in extra benefits to the long-term unemployed to allow them to afford either the petrol or taxi fares to attend a Jobcentre that is, possibly, 25 or more miles away? Would he prefer tented encampments outside Jobcentres in larger towns so that people can be sure of being there daily?
Or perhaps he envisages small re-enactments of the Jarrow march as streams of people walk for hours to the Jobcentre and then back again? It is doubtful whether they would also find time to pick up litter or volunteer for charity.
As for those currently employed in clearing litter or cooking for elderly people, presumably they would be sacked so that the unemployed can do their jobs. Then, of course, they could find themselves doing their old jobs, but unpaid.
It would be reassuring to voters and taxpayers if the Chancellor would put such silly ideas to some sort of Common Sense Committee before he spouts them off to rest of the UK.
Pamela Guyatt, Lamerton, Devon
The Government decides to reduce the welfare bill by encouraging people to downsize (bedroom tax). It seems a good idea except that there are  thousands more possible applicants for smaller homes than properties available.
They then decide to help people to buy their own homes by backing a 95 per cent mortgage. The demand will rise along with house prices because there are not enough affordable homes being built.
So then good old George decides to reduce the unemployed figure by forcing the long-term unemployed into work. How? There are not sufficient jobs available for school leavers and employable people. Who will employ those who prefer to live on benefits?
I despair of this government ever thinking a plan through. Any manager worth his salt would consider the whole programme, not just the party conference sound bite.
W Sandys, Chinnor, Oxfordshire
Pilots awake but still a danger  to passengers
There is a danger arising from aircrew fatigue (report, 27 September) more insidious than falling asleep at the controls, and that is impairment of mental faculties, which may lead to poor judgement when decisions must be taken in critical situations. A fatigued pilot may be “awake” but not at his or her best at assimilating and responding to inputs to the brain from eyes, ears, and tactile senses.
Although alarming, both pilots falling asleep in an airliner flying straight and level on autopilot might not be as hazardous for passengers as an “awake” but fatigued crew flying a manual approach and landing at an airport poorly equipped with navigational aids in marginal weather conditions. Fatigued pilots might not even be aware that their judgement has become impaired.
Julien Evans, Retired Boeing 757 captain, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
Drug laws  weakened
You ask (leading article, 30 September) how “die-hard supporters of the status quo” will react to the latest call for weaker drug laws, from the Chief Constable of Durham. The question itself and the absurd claim that drug liberalisers are “silenced” by derision show a curious lack of knowledge or observation.
Liberalisers are in fact guaranteed a prominent and uncritical hearing in most of the British media. Politicians, it is true, noisily proclaim their supposed toughness on the subject to gullible media. But the status quo – as any police officer should know – is that informal decriminalisation of drugs has been under way in this country for more than 40 years, and many of the ills that we now see are the results of that.
Those caught in possession of illegal drugs, including those in Class ‘A’, rarely face any serious punishment. Abusers of heroin are expensively provided with substitutes (mostly methadone) by the taxpayer.
As for the connection between drugs and crime, there is no reason to believe that legalisation would end it. Much crime in this country is based on the smuggling of cigarettes, and on the manufacture of alcohol. Both of these are, for better or worse, entirely legal.  
Women who choose niqab
Patricia Baxter (Letters, 26 September) puts wearing the niqab in the same category as genital mutilation and honour killings. This will not do – the latter are monstrous things done to people; yet it is clear from your interview with Shalina Litt on 18 September that some women are choosing to wear the niqab.
A Radio 4 interview with a lady called Anisha Patel told how she and her teenage daughter were approached by two men who tore off her daughter’s face veil and then walked away laughing. The report said that the Cross-government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred put some blame on the media for prejudice against Muslims, and said that stories about the veil had not helped.
Your columnists have contributed to this. Such intolerance, expressed in liberal papers like the Independent, and the failure even to try to understand niqab-wearers’ point of view, are truly shocking.
John Dakin, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
The ostensible purpose of the niqab is to be modest. To most English people it is something strange and exotic, so it looks like attention-seeking. 
I suspect that many of the new teenage adopters will eventually find that life is more fulfilling without it. Too much heavy-handed criticism will only polarise opinions.
David Ridge, London N19
Alleged bias in GP exam pass rates
I was dismayed by your report (“Ethnic minority doctors far less likely to get senior NHS jobs”, 27 September) about an article on, which considered unproven allegations of discrimination against black and minority ethnic (BME) medical graduates taking our MRCGP examination – which is a gateway for entrance into general practice.
Your article said the report on had stated that “racial discrimination in the marking of the [exam]” could not be “excluded” as a reason for the fact that BME candidates – many of whom are international students – fail our exam at a greater rate than their white counterparts. However, on the very same day as the publication of the article, a six-month independent investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) found that “the method of assessment is not a reason for the differential outcomes [observed]”.
The authors of the GMC report said: “Our observations suggest that international medical graduates are treated exactly the same as British graduates.” They went on to say that “lack of preparedness” of international medical graduates “may be an explanation for the differences”.
The RCGP takes equality issues extremely seriously, and the official GMC report notes that we ensure all our examiners have “mandatory training” in equality and diversity issues.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners, London NW1
Counter-factual coalitions
Ian Dickins (letters, 24 September) displays supernatural certainty about what would have happened if the Lib Dems had not coalesced with the Conservatives. True, a minority Conservative government might have swiftly fallen and been replaced by a majority Conservative government. Even so, that would have been a different government, in which moderate Conservatives might have been stronger, less needful of support from the right.
But other possibilities are also conceivable. The Lib Dems might have continued to rise in popularity, and been even stronger in a second election. Labour might have got over their downfall and become more ready for a centre-left coalition. Alternative history-writing offers many possibilities for the imagination: the “no alternative” defence for the Coalition does not stand scrutiny.
Professor John Coleman, Oxford
Rail lines ripped up in the 1960s
Malcolm Everett’ claim (letters, 27 September) that our Victorian forbears “omitted to provide sufficient north-south rail capacity” is misleading.
The lack of capacity now – which Mr Everett quotes in arguing for HS2 – is as much about what was foolishly ripped up or down-graded in the mid-20th century as it is about what was built in the first place. 
The Great Central main line from London to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester was built right at the end of the Victorian era as a high-speed main line, and it was built to more generous dimensions than earlier railways so it could take the larger continental European trains. It would be a valuable asset now had it not been thrown away by closure in the 1960s.
John Harrison, Wokingham
My journey home from central Manchester on Sunday was considerably disrupted by row upon row of coaches which had brought protesters from south of Watford to the TUC march. What a pity we don’t already have HS2 so they could all have come to Manchester by train.
Graham Curtis, Manchester
Food aid will kill future children
Thoughtlessly providing food aid for children today will not merely mean that they might die tomorrow, as Ray Chandler implies (Letters, 24 September): it also means that an exponentially increasing number of children will inevitably die tomorrow. So will the environment which has hitherto supported their forebears.
I know that the cold-blooded expression of such facts opposes all sentiments of kindness and dignity, but the laws of mathematics apply to biological systems, which include ourselves, as much as they do to the performance of weaponry.
The unconditional provision of food alone or, probably worse, of food and an alien culture, may well increase the eventual total suffering.
Sidney Alford, Corsham, Wiltshire
Dangerous men
Was that a “Spot the Psychopath” photo-competition that accompanied the story “Netanyahu moves to block Iran’s return to diplomacy” (30 September)?
Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


‘Competition between children through incessant testing and labelling results in a public sense of failure for the vast majority’
Sir, We, the undersigned academics and children’s authors, are gravely concerned at the impact that current developments in state education in England are likely to have on our children and their futures.
The new national policies around curriculum, assessment and accountability are taking enormous risks with the quality of children’s lives and learning. Competition between children through incessant testing and labelling results in a public sense of failure for the vast majority. The drive towards ever-higher attainment in national tests leads inevitably to teaching to the test, which narrows the range of learning experiences. Harmful stress is put on young people, their parents and their teachers.
These damaging developments must stop. If they go ahead there will be devastating consequences for children’s mental health, for future opportunities and, most importantly, for the quality of childhood itself. Children are natural learners who deserve an abundance of new experience, but the proposed straitjacket of government demands on their teachers will destroy the educational richness that should be children’s birthright. Childhood is too important to be squandered or exploited. It needs wide horizons, high hopes, confident expectation and absorption in the joys and challenges of meaningful learning.
We urge the Government to suspend its proposed changes in education and to establish a major Commission that examines the potential consequences of these proposals and, if necessary, offers alternatives. It is time to seek a consensus of parents, teachers, academics, children’s authors, business leaders, politicians of all parties and other public figures to decide on what we want for our children and how best to achieve it. Arrest change and seek consensus on the future of education.
Prof Michael Bassey, Nottingham Trent University; Susan Cox, University of East Anglia; Prof Colin Richards, Cumbria University; Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate; Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate; Rachel Kelly, Chief Executive, Reading Matters; Alan Gibbons, author; Prof Patrick Ainley, Greenwich University; Sylvie Allendyke, Manchester Metropolitan University; Ashley Barnes, Sheffield Hallam University; Jonathan Barnes, Canterbury Christ Church University; Prof Bernard Barker, Leicester University; Prof Lori Beckett, Leeds Metropoitan University; Jon Berry, Hertfordshire University; Prof Ron Best, Roehampton University; Tamara Bibby, Institute of Education, London; Prof William Boyle, Manchester University; Prof Patricia Broadfoot, Bristol University; Prof Margaret Brown, King’s College London; Prof Tony Brown, Manchester Metropolitan University; Patricia Carroll, University of Cumbria; Prof Joyce Canaan, Birmingham City University; Prof Guy Claxton, Winchester University; Prof Clyde Chitty, Goldsmiths College, London; John Coe, Oxford Brookes University; Prof Frank Coffield, Institute of Education, London; Prof Helen Colley, Huddersfield University; Lucy Cooker, Nottingham University; David Cudworth, De Montford University; Gerry Czerniawski, University of East London, Helen Davenport, Manchester Metropolitan University; Kelly Davey Nicklin, Birmingham City University; Helen Demetriou, Cambridge University; Prof Justin Dillon, King’s College London; Sean Doyle, Institute of Education, London; Tony Eaude, Oxford University; Gail Edwards, Newcastle University; Anne Emerson, Nottingham University; Prof Keri Facer, Bristol University; Prof Martin Fautley, Birmingham City University; Prof Michael Fielding, Institute of Education, London; Tony Fisher, Nottingham Univerity; Judith Flynn, Manchester Metropolitan University; Colin Foster, Nottingham University; Prof Harvey Goldstein, Bristol University; Peter Gates, Nottingham University; Amy Godoy-Pressland, University of East Anglia; Tracey Goodyere, Birmingham City University; Prof Lucy Green, Institute of Education, London; Austin Griffiths, De Montford University; Prof Vivienne Griffiths, Canterbury Christ Church University; Stephen Griffin Newman, University College; Marilyn Grossman, Institute of Education, London; Prof Helen Gunter, Manchester University; Linda Hammersley-Fletcher, Manchester Metropolitan University; Jon Hanneke Jones, Newcastle University; Prof Richard Hatcher, Birmingham City University; Joanna Haynes, Plymouth University; Pete Hick, Manchester Metropolitan University; Christine Hickman, Liverpool John Moore University; Philip Hood, Nottingham University; Gillian Johnson, Nottingham University; Louise Khalid, Birmingham City University; Debra Kidd, Manchester Metropolitan University; Rene Koglbauer, Newcastle University; Prof Marilyn Leask, Bedford University; Prof David Leat, Newcastle University; Chris Loynes, Cumbria University; Gee Macrory, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Meg Maguire, King’s College London; Ralph Manning, University of East Anglia; Alpesh Masuria, Anglia Ruskin University; Gillian Marie McGillivray, Newman University; Jane Murray, Northampton University; Prof Roger Murphy, Nottingham University; Jane O’Connor, Birmingham University; Andrew Pearce, Leeds Trinity University; Rajesh Patel, De Montford University; Prof Heather Piper, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Richard Pring, Oxford University; Ariza Pura, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Alex Rendall, Birmingham City University; Gill Roberts, Birmingham City University; Prof Anna Robinson-Pant, University of East Anglia; Lesley Saunders, Institute of Education, London; John Schostak, Manchester Metropolitan University; Stephen Scoffham, Canterbury Christ Church University; Mark Simmons, Nottingham University; Peter Sorensen, Nottingham University; Prof Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham; Alison Taysum, Leicester University; Spyros Themelis, Middlesex University; Prof Norman Thomas, Hertfordshire University; Prof Pat Thomson, Nottingham University; Prof Paul Thomson, Nottingham University; Dave Trotman, Newman University; Prof Stan Tucker, Newman University College; Mary Tyler, De Montford University; John Wadsworth, Goldsmiths College, London; David Westgate, Newcastle University; Prof Julian Williams, Manchester University; Peter Wright, Institute of Education, London; Prof Terry Wrigley, Leeds Metropolitan University; Sarah Youngie, De Montford University; Janine Amos; Bernard Ashley; Ros Asquith; Steve Barlow; Martyn Bedford; Susan Bentley; Jon Berry; Mary Bird; Helen Bonney; Steve Bowkett; Lynn Breeze; Marilyn Brocklehurst; Melvin Burgess; Anne Cassidy; Cathy Cassidy; Alison Clarke; Lucy Coates; Isabella Coles; Rebecca Colby; Jo Cotterill; Dave Cousins; Kevin Crossley-Holland; Michael Dance; Berlie Doherty; Thomas Donaldson; Tommy Donbavand; Kay Dunbar; Trevor East; John Foster; Janet Foxley; Prof Maureen Freely; Mark Gallagher; Owen Gallagher; Carolyn Garcia; Marie Gray; Julie Green; R. S. Gregory; Joanna De Guia; Daniel Hahn; David Hamer; Sue Hampton; Sue Hardy-Dawson; Vanessa Harbour; Mary Heycock; Mary Hoffman; Michael Holroyd; Lynn Huggins-Cooper; Bernadette Hyland; Matt Imrie; Marie-Louise Jensen; Curtis Jobling; Kelly Jones; Terry Jones; Naomi Kingston; Aliss Langridge; Tanya Landman; Alison Macdonald; Bethan Marshall; Sharon Markless; Jane McLoughlin; Katherine Morgan; Moira Munro; Joanna Nadin; Beverley Naidoo; Carol Naylor; Donald Nelson; Angela Noble; Michael O’Connor; Korky Paul; Duncan Pile; Bali Rai; Danuta Reah; Anne Rooney; Michael Rose; Michael Rosen; Anita Rowe; Kate Scott; Louise Searl; Andy Seed; Izabella Shaw; Lesley Sharpling; Colette Shine; Nicky Singer; Alison Smith; Jane Spence; Susan Stegell; Jeremy Strong; Alan Summers; Sara Tomlinson; Jacob Turner; Sarah Vanden-Abeele; Meena Vyas; Kay Waddilove; Steve Weatherill

Sir, The Head Master of Rugby School (letter, Sept 28) is surely right in underlining the importance of encouraging students to embrace uncertainty, tolerate ambiguity and cultivate constructive reflection. The problem is that these qualities are largely independent of content, subject and the formal curriculum. They are not susceptible to education management but depend on the calibre, personality and skills of the teacher.
All the teacher training in the world is as nothing compared to one’s own memories of one’s own great teachers. Where such role models are sparse the solution lies not in further layers of educational theory but in the mentoring of new teachers by those with the required element of pedagogic charisma. Reinstating such excellence is not a quick process.
Dr David Brancher
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, Your Good University Guide (Sept 28) shows that Europe’s most successful economy, Germany, has no universities in the top 35 of the world ranking whereas we have four of the top ten. Does this suggest that we have the wrong sort of university?
Clive Bone
Buckland Brewer, Devon

Private investors need to be persuaded to spend billions of pounds to create a cleaner and more efficient power sector for the UK
Sir, It is disappointing that the Chancellor has chosen to create more confusion about the direction of government policy on energy and climate change (“Osborne threatens to put brake on green taxes”, Sept 28).
His comments are likely to further undermine the confidence of private investors who need to be persuaded to spend billions of pounds to create a cleaner and more efficient power sector for the UK. Such investment would create jobs and growth while the economy is still sluggish, unemployment is high, interest rates are low, and many potential investors are in a strongly liquid position.
The Chancellor’s argument that the UK should slow down the rate of its reductions in greenhouse gases because he does not want us to be “the only people out there in front of the rest of the world” is based on flawed analysis. Many other countries are taking strong action, including China, which is moving towards a low-carbon future through its 12th five-year plan and intentions for the 13th plan.
Mr Osborne should remember that the main driver of the increase in energy bills over the past few years has been the UK’s increasing dependence on expensive imports of oil and gas. The Government should show it is serious about low-carbon energy because vacillation deters investment, increases the likelihood that the lights go out, and makes the UK a much less attractive place to do business.
Bob Ward
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

The fund could be best used if every cancer patient had their genome and that of their tumour sequenced before treatment
Sir, The extra £400 million that is being put into the Cancer Drugs Fund (“Cancer fund extended”, report, Sept 28) is to be welcomed. The fund provides access for patients to drugs that have not yet been approved by NICE. I suggest that the fund could be best used if every cancer patient had their genome and that of their tumour sequenced before treatment. Such sequencing is already carried out in several centres. Most of the new cancer drugs are specifically targeted, and comparing the sequence of the tumour DNA to the patient’s normal DNA can show whether any particular drug could be effective.
Taking this approach would maximise the effectiveness of treatment and, by not treating patients with drugs that would not work on their tumour, would save money and avoid those patients being needlessly exposed to any adverse side affects of the drug.
The cost of whole genome sequencing is falling, and will fall further as more sequences are done; it is already less than the cost of a course of treatment with any of the new cancer drugs. So adopting this approach would be a win-win both for patients and the NHS.
Moreover, if the sequences are contributed to the public database then this will add to the sum of knowledge about genetic changes in tumours, improving future treatment regimes and helping the development of new drugs.
Dr A. R. Williamson
Beaconsfield, Bucks

‘When Keynes put forward his economic theories he was responding to the problems of his times within the conditions of those times’
Sir, The name of John Maynard Keynes seems to have become ever more prominent recently (letter, Sept 27). The difficulty is that our economic problems are the problems of our times. When Keynes put forward his economic theories he was responding to the problems of his times within the conditions of those times. For example, in the 1930s the British Empire was still in existence: it had massive and underutilised economic resources that could be used to bolster the British economy. Nobody can be sure what he would have proposed as the way out of today’s problems. It is likely he would have made radical proposals not considered either by those invoking his name or by those opposing him. The shame is that he is not here to put forward some innovative cure.
Arthur Bell
Goldsborough, N Yorks

‘The evidence from the rest of the Western world is that a more balanced provision between ownership and secure rental is preferred’
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Sept 30) is correct in identifying access to decent and affordable housing as a cornerstone of family stability, but he is wrong in focusing on home ownership as the only route. The evidence from the rest of the Western world is that a more balanced provision between ownership and secure rental is preferred. Mrs Thatcher’s policies on council housing lie behind today’s problems, not because of the sales aspects but for the forced removal of local authorities from the affordable housing market. For all their faults it should be remembered that, by and large, local authority-directed housing programmes had all but resolved the housing crisis created by the Second World War by the time Mrs Thatcher came to power.
We need more homes; politicians need to be less blinkered as to how they are provided.
Paul Heasman
London SW1

SIR – On the matter of the origins of stage names (Letters, September 26), I believe Vesta Tilley, the male impersonator, born Matilda Powles, got the name Vesta after her manager heard someone say, “Pass the Vestas, Tilley.”
David Thurlow
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – Hutton Conyers and Bretton Woods, the music-hall artists, stayed at a pub run by my parents in the Fifties, when they appeared at the Chatham Empire. Their stage names came from a village in Yorkshire and a resort in New Hampshire.
Peter Comben
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – David Cameron, the leader of the Conservatives, trumpeted a £200 tax break for married couples on the very day when thousands of us were dropping off our children at university, to face an £18,000 fees hike over a three-year course.
If he doesn’t expect us to feel as if we are being treated as fools, what does he expect?
John Tipping
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – I wish politicians would stop courting votes with ill-thought-out carrots. The electorate yearns for less government, less tax and the freedom to dispose of its income as it chooses.
Related Articles
A music-hall artiste by any other name…
30 Sep 2013
Alex Turner
Basingstoke, Hampshire
SIR – The party conference season has brought a pre-election bribe-athon, with free school meals, frozen energy bills and married-couple allowances.
But, given the uproar created by the introduction of the Same Sex Marriage Bill – which did not feature in any party’s manifesto – perhaps the electorate should be more concerned with things the parties intend to introduce but won’t have the courtesy to mention before the election.
Jonathan Lister
Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire
SIR – The Prime Minister says that marriage should be encouraged, and I agree. Yet by using the tax system, he will give those who become widows or widowers a £200 tax increase. Can it be right that the mourning wife of a soldier killed in action gets a higher tax bill?
Andrew Taylor
Hove, East Sussex
SIR – Mr Cameron’s preoccupation with securing a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats (report, September 28) doesn’t inspire confidence. I don’t know whether it is due to arrogance or stupidity that he is not entering into discussions with Ukip, whose membership is largely made up of Right-of-centre Labour supporters and disaffected Tories.
Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire
SIR – It will not surprise Conservatives that Mr Cameron has held talks about a second coalition. It seems that he has finally recognised that his brand of politics without principle is so repulsive to former and potential Conservative voters that he has no other chance of clinging to power.
Dr Max Gammon
London SE16
SIR – You report that Mr Cameron is seeking a further coalition with the Liberal Democrats to foil those people who vote against him.
I suggest he also seeks a coalition with Labour, and we can stop wasting money on elections.
Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex
The cost of drink
SIR – Britain has a drinking problem. Every year, alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost society £21 billion and the NHS in England £3.5 billion, yet we continue to drink to massive excess.
The Government’s 2012 Alcohol Strategy rightly committed it to a minimum unit price for alcohol and better access to treatment. But 18 months later, pricing proposals have now been dropped and treatment rates remain shamefully low.
The simplest way to reduce alcohol-related harm is to ban irresponsibly cheap drinks. This has been demonstrated in countries such as Canada, where minimum unit pricing has led to a 32 per cent reduction in wholly alcohol-related deaths.
Despite the enormous economic impact, and the burden on individuals and families, only about 6 per cent of people in England who are dependent on alcohol receive treatment. Yet evidence shows that for every £1 invested in specialist alcohol treatment, £5 is saved on health, welfare and crime costs.
The NHS acknowledges the impact of alcohol-related liver disease. A reduction in alcohol consumption would help to alleviate this and other such diseases.
As the Conservative Party meets in Manchester, we urge David Cameron to reinstate his commitment to minimum unit pricing and increased access to treatment.
Alastair Campbell
Ambassador, Time to Change
Eric Appleby
Chief Executive, Alcohol Concern
Katherine Brown
Institute of Alcohol Studies
Professor Oscar D’Agnone
Medical Director, Crime Reduction Initiatives
Shirley Cramer
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Dr Nigel Carter
British Dental Health Foundation
Joss Gaynor
Director of Policy, Adfam
Dr Carsten Grimm
Clinical Lead, Alcohol Misuse Services
Locala Community Interest Company, Kirklees
Natika Halil
Director of Health, Family Planning Association
Dr Linda Harris
Chief Executive, Spectrum Community Health
Jules Hillier
Deputy CEO, Brook
Dr Francis Keaney
Vice-Chairman, Addiction Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Kieran Moriarty
British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Tony Rao
Chairman, Royal College of Psychiatrists Older People’s Substance Misuse Working Group
Paul Richardson
Royal Liverpool University
Jonathan Shepherd
Cardiff University
Dr Jenny Lisle
Dr Louise Sell
Dr Fiona Wisniacki
Believers’ rights
SIR – We agree that the West must help persecuted Christians, whose plight has long been ignored in the media (Cristina Odone, Comment, September 26).
However, rarely in these situations is one minority suffering alone. For instance, although Christians in Pakistan are being murdered with impunity, so too are Hindus, Ahmadiyya and Shia Muslims.
It is time to talk of these situations in terms of human rights. It is time to talk in the same breath of the Christians in Syria; the Shia Muslims in Quetta, Pakistan; the Rohingya Muslims in Burma; the humanists in Indonesia; and the Baha’is in Iran.
The Foreign Office has made freedom of religion or belief a priority. Human rights abuses for many faiths and for humanists are on the increase. Supporters of our all-party group disagree theologically but agree on the right to freedom of religion or belief of those they profoundly disagree with.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has commented on BBC Radio 4: “We would stand up for any minority that is being targeted because of its faith. It is not acceptable to attack people because of their faith.”
It is 65 years since freedom of religion or belief was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the wake of the Holocaust.
We shall be asking the Government to commemorate this anniversary with the appointment of an Ambassador on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Baroness Berridge (Con), Chairman
Lord Alton (Crossbench)
Jim Dobbin MP (Lab)
Angie Bray MP (Con)
Baroness Cox (Crossbench)
All Party Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief
London SW1
Too many handles
SIR – Clive Davidson (Letters, September 28) is quite right about public-sector titles getting too complex.
At a recent meeting at Wythenshawe Hospital (now the University Hospital South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust), I had the pleasure of meeting the Directorate Manager, Respiratory Medicine Directorate; the Directorate Manager, Cardiothoracic Directorate; someone from the Patient Experience Team and the Chief Nurse.
I can’t be certain, but I think they were all nurses.
Edwina Currie Jones
High Peak, Derbyshire
Cut-off patients
SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary (Interview, September 28), insists that “GPs must treat elderly better”. He also says: “Doctors will be encouraged to consult their patients via email to save time and money.” Should he be reminded that, according to statistics, less than one in four elderly persons have access to the internet?
Ian Minchin
Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Vicki Woods (Comment, September 28) wonders why her dictionary prefers crematoria but referendums.
In Latin the ending -orium has the plural -oria. There are two endings -ndum: the future passive participle (sometimes confusingly called the gerundive) as in memorandum, which forms its plural in the same way as -orium, and the gerund, which, in Latin, has no plural at all.
If referendum meant “a matter which should be referred to the people”, the plural would end in -a. But it does not: it means the act of reference. Referenda is therefore a malapropism.
Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Stamp of Britishness
SIR – As the instigator of the oldest postal service, Britain is not required to show the name of the country, just the monarch’s head. It is one of the many things that defines the nation. Selling off the Royal Mail would be inappropriate if the Queen’s head cannot be guaranteed to appear on our stamps.
Dr A P J Lake
St Asaph, Denbighshire
The myth of television detector vans
SIR – From 1960 to 1963, I served as a uniformed Customs officer at Newry on the border of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. Our patrol cars were serviced at the local post office garage where the TV detector vans (report, September 28) were also serviced.
We were often there with the drivers of the vans and engaged them in conversation. The vans were open and there was never anything in them. However, it was probably a very effective deterrent.
Bill Streeter
Marlow Bottom, Buckinghamshire
SIR – As a television engineer at the time, I remember the old TV detector vans. The working principle was said to be based on picking up the high-frequency output from the third anode – that’s the whistling bit that connects 20,000 volts or so to the chunky body of old television tubes.
It may be that they don’t work today (no third anode), but they once did, I believe.
Joseph G Dawson
Chorley, Lancashire
SIR – Television detector vans appeared all too regularly on the east London estate where I grew up in the Sixties. The alert would sound through the back gardens: “Switch off, switch off!”
One or two got caught, simply because their televisions were on too loud.
Lesley Thompson
Lavenham, Suffolk
SIR – I’m surprised that the spokesman from TV Licensing was not forthcoming as to why the vans’ detection evidence did not feature in the leaked BBC document.
In answer to a Freedom of Information request from late December 2010, the Corporation – after some prodding – explained: “TVL uses detection evidence when applying for search warrants. If, following service of the warrant, an individual is found to be evading payment of the TV licence, then the evidence obtained via the search warrant is used in court, not the detection evidence.”
Dr Geoff Goolnik
Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – We are a diverse group of politicians, and we will all vote No in the Seanad abolition referendum.
We come from different political parties; some have never been members of any political party. We come from across every social, religious, and educational background.
We agree on very few things, but we agree to vote No. The interests of Ireland are best served if the Irish people vote No. The Seanad has an important role to play in our democracy.
There are many reasons to vote No, each of us has their own reasons why we will vote No. But this is not a sign of discord, it is a sign that a No vote goes beyond politics. – Yours, etc,
C/o Leinster House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Surely Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) is misguided if she thinks a ballot paper with anything other than the vote on it, will “probably” be counted. A spoiled vote is just that, as any self-respecting scrutineer would tell her. – Yours, etc,
Dale Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – What’s the problem with Taoiseach Enda Kenny refusing to debate on Prime Time at Micheál Martin’s invitation? Were I at war with an enemy I would not go to battle on his chosen ground. To do so would prove my real weakness to lead. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – I feel Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate with Micheál Martin on RTÉ (Breaking News, September 28th) not only goes against the origins of democracy, but also gives us a flavour of life in Ireland without the Seanad. Surely debate in Ireland is at our core? Is it not the Irish voice that has held our place in the world much more so than our economic relevance? Of course we have to reduce costs, but not at the cost of who we are. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Enda Kenny will not debate the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad because he has realised his mistake and he cannot justify the unjustifiable.
It is a power grab of phenomenal proportions. If this referendum is passed the Taoiseach can then remove Supreme Court judges, the ombudsman and the comptroller and auditor general if he has a sufficiently large majority to which the whip can be applied. Garret FitzGerald would never have proposed such a constitutional amendment. – Yours, etc,
Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.
Sir, – A letter from some of our university colleagues (September 27th) raises some valid points about accountability in Irish governance.
However, we argue that the wider campaign against Seanad abolition has overstated the potential of upper houses generally to effectively perform a check upon government.
It has been widely claimed that Seanad abolition would remove an important check on executive power, amounting to nothing less than a “power-grab”. But the purpose of upper chambers, where they do exist, is usually to assist in the legislative process, not to sanction government. In practice, oversight is better exercised by the lower chamber to which government is directly responsible.
Indeed the referendum will effectively make it much more difficult for the Government to secure the removal of a judge or a president because a greater level of cross-party Dáil support will be needed. If this is a “power-grab”, it is not a very well designed one.
We are also puzzled by our colleagues’ support for the Quinn/Zappone plan, as this retains the vocational and graduate-specific structure of the current Senate. The “panel” seats have never been meaningfully vocational, and there is no good reason to believe this could now be achieved simply by expanding the franchise. It is much more likely to yield a miniature and pointless replica of the Dáil, risking parliamentary gridlock.
Finally, we urge caution against our colleagues’ suggestion that the national parliament should give direct representation to “expertise”, whether through vocational panels or otherwise. There are many good ways of incorporating expert knowledge in the legislative process without giving experts parliamentary seats.
We believe a Yes vote is a reasonable step towards a reformed political system. – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’MALLEY, School of Law and Government, DCU; BEN TONRA, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; EOIN DALY, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; KEVIN RAFTER, School of Communications, DCU; JOHN O’DOWD, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; ALAN DUKES, former TD and Minister; RICHARD HUMPHREYS, Law Library, Dublin 7; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JIM POWER, Economist & SEAN DONLAN, School of Law, UL,
C/o Sutherland School of
Law, UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – With the exception of the six university seats, Seanad Éireann’s members are elected democratically, but by indirect franchise.
Forty-three of the Seanad’s 60 members are chosen by the members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad and the country’s major municipal authorities, all of whom, with the exception of the outgoing Senators, have already been elected by direct universal franchise. Accordingly, the TDs, Senators and county and city councillors effectively constitute an electoral college for the election of a new Seanad. This system is not unlike that for choosing the president of the United States, with each state of the US electing a certain number of delegates to an electoral college, which in turn elects the president.
The Taoiseach’s 11 nominees also get their seats by indirect franchise. The Taoiseach is elected by the members of Dáil Éireann who are in turn directly elected by universal franchise.
While it can be argued that the university senators are chosen by a privileged minority, these panels could be extended, not only to include graduates of all third-level institutions, but also to give representation to members of trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and to registered members of employers’ and business groups such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. This would reflect a much wider range of interests and provide a valuable input into the scrutiny of proposed legislation.
The Seanad may need a makeover but it should be retained and reformed. – Yours, etc,
Ardbrugh Close,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Labour Party’s Seanad referendum poster proclaiming One Parliament Yes! is intriguing. Is it possible the Labour Party thinks the Seanad is a national parliament? If it were, Ireland would be unique in the whole world. – Yours, etc,
Castle Avenue,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Breda O’Brien calls on those seeking reform of the Seanad to “choose No to abolition, and then write ‘Reform’ on the ballot” as the ballot will then “be set aside for later examination and, as any fair-minded scrutineer could only find there was a clear intention to vote No, it will in all probability be counted in that way” (Opinion, September 28th).
While this is technically correct, having observed many election counts I would advise her that the inclusion of political slogans or statements of any kind on the ballot is a very hazardous enterprise.
Under the Referendum Act 1994, the returning officer has the power to exclude a ballot “on which anything is written or marked which, in the opinion of the local returning officer, is calculated to identify the elector”. While this seems to restrict the power to exclude a vote to a very limited instance, in practice it gives the returning officer quite a degree of latitude to exclude ballots which have anything written on them. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to take a gamble that my vote would not be counted!
There are only two options in this referendum. Anyone wishing to abolish the Seanad should vote Yes. Anyone who wants to retain it, or believes that it should be reformed, no matter how slim the chance of that might be, should vote No. With all due respect to Ms O’Brien, the detail of one’s views on a referendum ought to be conveyed directly to one’s political representatives, rather than to the returning officer on the face of a ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
A chara, – I was not aware until now that if the referendum is carried, Article 27 of the Constitution and a right of the people will be removed.
As it stands, a portion of the Dáil and Seanad may petition the President for a referendum on a new Bill before it is made law. In the event of a government being at odds with the people, this is a significant power.
The present referendum proposal, if passed, will ensure that power is taken away from the people. The referendum on the Seanad has been poorly discussed and the people badly informed. The Irish people should not be tricked into reducing what little political power they have. Voting No postpones change to our Constitution until the electorate is fully informed. – Is mise,
Baile Gaelach,
Béal Easa, Co Mhaigh Eo.
A chara, – It is distressing to note so few compatriots resident in the 26 counties have argued for the retention of the Seanad in order to extend the franchise to Irish citizens in the North and abroad. The Quinn/Zappone Seanad reform Bill would do just that.
As I have long argued, since the Seanad cannot overrule the Dáil, it is the appropriate place for such representation. Non-resident citizens would have a voice in the Oireachtas while citizens living in the State would retain their final and absolute say on legislation. Such a reformed Seanad would correct Ireland’s biggest democratic deficit. – Is mise,
Charles Street East,
Toronto, Canada.
Sir, – In an elegantly written piece on “constitutional immobilism” (Opinion, September 27th), Frank Callanan, SC cautions against rejection of the Seanad abolition proposal as if all meaningful political reform depended on its acceptance. This is fallacious and profoundly unconvincing. It is simply wrong to suggest that what has not been reformed cannot be reformed. In the way in which the same argument is made by some in Fine Gael – particularly the debate-resistant Taoiseach – it is little more than a form of moral blackmail: if you vote No we will maintain the status quo. In the way in which it is made by Sinn Féin, it is shamefully defeatist: if you vote No we won’t be in a position to change the status quo.
I will be voting No because I believe reform of the Seanad is possible and desirable. – Yours, etc,
School of Law, NUI Galway.
Sir, – Politicians, wind farm developers and planners are quick to issue public statements about the importance of involving communities to ensure support and co-operation for wind farm developments. However, it would appear these utterances are sound bites with no substance. The IWEA (Irish Wind Energy Association) holds its annual conference this Thursday entitled Building a Sustainable Energy Future sponsored by Coillte. The following Friday, the Irish Planning Institute holds its autumn conference, Planning to Harness Ireland’s Energy Future.
Not a single representative from any of the 30 recently formed Midlands community groups concerned about the impact of wind developments has been invited to be present. It is not surprising that these proposals for large industrial wind-farms create division and polarisation when community groups are excluded from powerful stakeholder meetings; especially those supported and sponsored by State companies and addressed by Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Jan O’Sullivan.
Do the Government, planners and industry really want community engagement or is it just a box that must be ticked as part of the planning process? Our experience has been that wind developers and the Government have consistently refused to allow communities participate in any meaningful way. The absence of community representation at these two influential gatherings further confirms that belief. – Yours, etc,
Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Sir, – In recent weeks there has been an intensification of the long-running climate contrarian campaign of myth and misinformation. One of the most common claims is that espoused by Patrick Cooke (September 27th) that “There has been a reduction in the warming trend from 1998 to 2012”.
In fact, when all data – including ocean heating, air, land, and melting of ice – are taken into account, it is clear there has been a significant increase in global warming over the past 15 years. While it’s true the surface warming trend from 1997 to 2012 is lower than the average projection, this is easily accounted for by the cooling effect of ocean cycles on surface temperature during this period. Heating effects of such cycles also caused warming to exceed projections in the previous 15 years. Over time, these effects tend to average out, though temperatures are increasing slightly faster overall than had been anticipated.
There is no scientific controversy as to whether anthropological global warming is real and potentially catastrophic. Self-styled “sceptics” are nothing of the sort: to reject all evidence and arguments that contradict your world view, while failing to apply critical thinking to any claims that seem to support it, does not constitute scepticism in any useful sense of the world.
The unanimous agreement achieved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from so many scientists on a subject of such complexity and importance is unprecedented (Front page, September 28th); its latest report has been subject to one of the most rigorous peer review processes in the history of science and is quite possibly the most exhaustively researched scientific document ever published.
Despite its conservative nature, the report warns with greater confidence than ever before of the devastating and possibly irreversible effects if carbon emissions are not reduced. We ignore these findings at our peril. – Yours, etc,
Lower Rathmines Road,

Sir, – Someone should telephone Croke Park to let them know we are in the middle of a serious recession with record levels of emigration, unemployment, debt, and depression, while the GAA behaves like boom-time brats serving up enjoyment and happiness as if they never end; blasting the pundits of doom with levels of entertainment of the highest order at absolutely minimum cost.
Poor soccer has to pay Gareth Bale €100 million to score a goal a week while our heroes from Clare, Cork, Dublin and Mayo provide superior displays of skills and scores for practically nothing. Did you ever see the likes of Anthony Nash’s free? Lift, hop, swing, and whack! You’d feel like singing, “Messi, I hardly knew you”.
It’s just not fair, amateurs beating professionals at their own game while providing the populace with happy, healthy, wholesome entertainment for practically nothing.
The GAA should be reported to the European regulator for “unprofessional practices” and for defying all market principles. No! No! On second thoughts, better say nothing. I know it’s wrong to be smiling, laughing, backslapping, and (God forgive) smirking in this era of austerity, but we can’t help it.
Let’s discreetly congratulate the management and players of the Gaelic Games for the superb contests of skill, passion, endurance and commitment they served up this summer, and snuff the troika! – Yours, etc,
Synge Street, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Since Donald Clarke’s article about the changing meanings of words (Opinion, August 31st), I have received correspondence from two different hospital out-patient departments, informing me that, following receipt of referral letters, the patient in question had been “appointed”. (The position was unspecified). If this new found enthusiasm for “appointing” people could only be applied to the hiring of badly-needed staff, perhaps the patients would not have to remain at their appointed station on the waiting list for quite so long. – Yours, etc,
Woodford Grove,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Irish Independent:
* It’s not just about “RTE’s licence to print money” (Letters, September 27); I would also take issue with the charge system itself.
Also in this section
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
Inference is a bridge too far
On top of property, household, water and waste charges comes a household broadcasting charge.
While you are at it, Mr Rabbitte, why not introduce toothbrush, slipper, carpet, lightbulb and teapot charge systems as well? After all, most “non-cavemen” households have those too.
Just one more roundabout way to raise money without calling it tax, and as it is levied on property occupiers rather than owners, controls are scheduled to continue, costing the State €12m yearly in supervision added to internal accounting expenses – which could have saved some health service in the West of Ireland instead.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, etc, have large public broadcasting stations with funding over the national budget. Outside Europe, specific citizen charges are the exception.
Do Canadian CBC or Australian ABC “lack” in government critical reporting? Hardly, also when compared to RTE. Government funding control is not the same as government editorial control avoided via separate boards making directorial appointments; funding can be set five-yearly by each incoming Government, and licence/broadcast charges can be altered by Government anyway, for what, after all, supposedly is a “public service”.
Also, with licence/broadcast charges going to sound and vision subsidies for all broadcasters, the RTE “connection to viewers” is not there either: an odd connection at the best of times, since not paying the licence puts people behind bars. Real RTE connection to viewers and listeners would mean internet forum with producers, ‘RTE Guide’ letters page, mailbag programmes or other critical review broadcasting with citizen feedback, none of which RTE has.
Similarly, Mr Rabbitte, is this public consultation not just another government ploy to appear democratic, and then you do what you were going to do all along?
Peter Douglas
Pearse Street, Dublin 2
* Someone should telephone Croke Park to let them know we are in the middle of a serious recession with record levels of emigration, unemployment, debt and depression while the GAA behaves like boom-time brats serving up enjoyment and happiness as if they never end – blasting the pundits of doom with levels of entertainment of the highest order at absolutely minimum cost.
Poor soccer has to pay Gareth Bale €100m to score a goal a week while our heroes from Clare, Cork, Dublin and Mayo provide superior displays of skills and scores for practically nothing.
Did you ever see the likes of Anthony Nash’s free? Lift, hop, swing and whack! You’d feel like singing, “Messi, I hardly knew you.”
It’s just not fair: amateurs beating professionals at their own game while providing the populace with happy, healthy, wholesome entertainment for practically nothing.
The GAA should be reported to the European Regulator for ‘unprofessional practices’ and for defying all market principles.
No! No! On second thoughts, better say nothing. I know it’s wrong to be smiling, laughing, backslapping and (God forgive) smirking in this era of austerity but we can’t help it.
Let’s discreetly congratulate the management and players of the Gaelic games for the superb contests of skill, passion, endurance and commitment they served up this summer, and stuff the troika!
Bernard Hayes
Synge Street, Dublin 8
* I do not wish to express a personal opinion on the upcoming referendum. I would instead like to refer to some words written in 1795, by Thomas Payne.
“It is the nature and intention of a constitution to prevent governing by party, by establishing a common principle that shall limit and control the power and impulse of party, and that says to all parties, thus far shalt thou go and no further.
“But in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.” ‘First Principles of Government’ (1795).
These words from over 200 years ago show how little politics has changed, or perhaps ever will.
Let the people decide.
Kevin Bailey
Dundalk, Co Louth
* Thank goodness we have scientists in Ireland (Prof John Sweeney) who are not burying their heads in the sand. Ireland has led the way in law and literature and has educated some of the world’s best scientific minds.
However, I wonder if we can do anything about climate change when Australia dismisses a group of climate scientists in order to produce more coal. If we must mine coal, then at least put in place a means to collect the resulting carbon dioxide.
The ‘blip’ in the rise in global temperatures filled me with more worry than if the temperatures had continued to rise steadily. The graph of global temperature rise looked exactly like the one I drew at school when melting ice with a short levelling-out of temperature rise due to latent heat.
If ice is absorbing energy at the cost of temperature rise, we could be in more trouble soon. No scientist will be willing to cause panic by raising such fears until we have scientific reason for it but will it be too late then? Is it too late already?
It will be if some use the ‘blip’ as an excuse for continuing to produce greenhouse gases.
Ruth Moram
Killarney, Co Kerry
* Once again, we have a major report on climate change and yet once again nobody will mention the elephant in the room. We are still breeding like rabbits and there will be just too many of us on planet Earth.
Population control should be the number one priority on the UN’s climate-control agenda.
K Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
* I was reading about Mr Noonan and the complete mystery it is to him why young people are still emigrating while having jobs. I would like to clear this one up for him. Young people, middle-aged people and people coming close to retirement age are all sick to death of the cuts and the lies that are constantly being spun by this Government.
We want a quality of life, the ability to grow and prosper and to live without the feeling that I am only one pay cheque away from being made redundant.
For the last two years, I have been working in a company hit by recession. I have suffered two pay cuts and tax increases, not to mention the property tax, increase in commuting costs, increase in food, education, medication, the list goes on.
I’ve looked for work in many places elsewhere and, despite my qualifications, I haven’t been able to secure an interview. With a 13pc unemployment rate, the competition is too high.
Will we do what Irish people are expected to do by the Government and take it and “ride out the storm” that has been raging for five years, or do we pack up like millions of Irish have done before us and find a better way of life?
It’s not too much to ask to want security in your life. Come the new year, I know what I’m doing.
Name and address
with editor
Irish Independent

More book books books

September 30, 2013

29 September 2013 More Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide transport for the Admirals barge naturally Leslie forgets it then sinks it Priceless.
I put even more books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Stephen Malawista
Stephen Malawista, who has died aged 79, led the team of scientists which in 1976 identified the tick-borne infection Lyme disease, a crippling ailment affecting an estimated two to three thousand people a year in Britain and 300,000 or so a year in the United States.

Stephen Malawista 
5:45PM BST 29 Sep 2013
Lyme disease is a serious multi-stage infection which comes from the bite of a tick infected by the bacterium Lyme borreliosis. Left untreated it can attack the central nervous system in unpredictable ways, spreading to muscles, joints, the heart and even the brain. Neurological problems following tick bites had been recognised from the 1920s but because the symptoms of Lyme disease were often mistaken for those of other ailments, before the 1970s outbreaks tended to go undetected.
In 1975 two mothers living in Old Lyme, on the east side of the Connecticut River, whose children had fallen ill with fever, aches and swollen joints, independently refused to accept a vague diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis from the doctors and began contacting other mothers in the area. In one street one mother found four children with similar symptoms. Convinced that the disease must be caused by an infective agent, they contacted health officials and asked them to investigate.
The matter was referred to a team under Malawista, head of rheumatology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Allen Steere, who began painstakingly reviewing cases of the then unnamed disease. Comparing the incidence of the illness on the east and west sides of the Connecticut River, they found that cases were 30 times more frequent on the east side, where there was also a greater population of deer and deer ticks. In the adjacent towns of Lyme, Old Lyme and East Haddam, they counted 51 cases, a rate about 100 times the normal incidence of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Moreover they noticed that most victims of the disease lived in wooded areas and that the cases had occurred, almost exclusively, in the summer months — an indication that it could be an insect-borne disease. (Later, some would speculate that the infection-bearing ticks had arrived centuries before on the livestock imported by Dorset-born immigrants, some from what is today Lyme Regis).
In January 1977 the scientific team reported on a disease they named Lyme arthritis (later renamed Lyme disease) in an article in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism; six months later they published another article suggesting that antibiotics could help in some cases. At the time, however, they thought the disease was caused by a virus (it was later shown to be a bacterium with a distant kinship to syphilis).
The identification of Lyme disease led to Yale Medical School becoming a centre of research into the disease, and in the 1980s Malawista helped to demonstrate the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating the disease in its early stages. However efforts to develop an effective and reliable vaccine have not yet borne fruit, while the protocols for treating the disease with antibiotics remain hotly debated.
Meanwhile recent years have witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of infections — in the United States Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases — due to a combination of factors including more people taking up outdoor pursuits, a growth in the population of deer — the ticks’ most common animal host — and climate change.
Stephen Evan Malawista was born on April 4 1934 in Manhattan and studied experimental psychology under BF Skinner at Harvard University, after which he took a degree in Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After two years at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases, he joined the Yale School of medicine in 1966, becoming head of its rheumatology department.
As well as leading the team that identified Lyme disease, he was a leading authority on the role of white blood cells in inflammation.
Stephen Malawista is survived by his wife, Tobé.
Stephen Malawista, born April 4 1934, died September 18 2013


Your editorial (Unthinkable? Teaching CPR in schools, 27 September) raised a very important issue of public health. Schools in Bolton have already taken Fabrice Muamba’s near-death experience as an impetus to extend the PE curriculum to include the British Heart Foundation’s Heartstart programme. For example, Rivington and Blackrod high school, near Bolton Wanderers’ stadium, begins at the start of year 7 by teaching basic life-saving skills, and these are updated and extended annually through to year 11. This programme, now in its second year, fits well within the healthy living module and is embraced by staff and pupils.
It is a shame, however, that efforts by Bolton West MP Julie Hilling to persuade the government to include this in the national curriculum have fallen on deaf ears, despite a 100,000-signature petition. She has now teamed up with the local paper, the Bolton News, to ensure that all children within Bolton receive life-saving training before they leave school. This goes hand in hand with a goal of providing defibrillators in schools and public places.
We hope schools in other areas, who have not considered teaching their young people invaluable life-saving skills, will now follow Bolton’s innovative example.
Megan Scott and Judith Marsden
• Earlier this year, I helped launch a free app and website, Lifesaver, to teach practical CPR using interactive films based on real-world scenarios. In the absence of a co-ordinated approach to teaching CPR in schools, the app makes a vital contribution to raising skills and awareness.
Jenny Lam

I understand that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a new heraldic device (Report, 28 September). Might I suggest, as an alternative: helicopter volant (or) hovering over party bag rampant (azure) quartered with an impaled stag and a couple of disembowelled foxes (gules) supported by a taxpayer couchant (vert). Tasteful enough?
Cathy Wood
Chiselborough, Somerset
• King’s Cross Square might be a pleasure (In praise of…, 27 September), but the new underground system has become a Kafkaesque maze of endless tunnels, with signs maliciously pointing travellers away from the shortest routes, many of which have been cut off. Was that really necessary? Just think of disabled people! The designer should be made to walk the tunnels for a whole day. At least!
Jurgen Diethe
Fortrose, Highland
•  As the ending of the spare room subsidy has become known as the bedroom tax, perhaps not benefiting from a tax allowance only available to married couples (Report, 28 September) should be known as the sin tax.
Rebecca Linton and Brian Corrie
•  Since the average cost of a wedding is now around £20,000, it would take around 100 years of tax breaks to make it financially worthwhile.
Jennifer Evans
Aldershot, Hampshire
• In response to your special supplement (50 best views in England, 28 September), surely the best views are standing on Offa’s Dyke looking west.
Martyn Bracewell
Bangor, Gwynedd

In regard to the uncomfortably large uncertainties with respect to global warming predictions, your editorial (27 September) states that “uncertainty is political anathema”. I submit that politicians are deluding themselves if they think they cannot deal with uncertainty, because they do it all the time, except that the uncertainties are either not given or are sometimes contrived.
What was the uncertainty for weapons of mass destruction before George Bush and Tony Blair went into Iraq? Where were the uncertainties in economic models when the world economy came perilously close to freefall in 2008? Does anyone really believe the costs and benefits of HS2 estimates? Did Nasa really know there was a one in a hundred chance for a crash before the first space shuttle disaster? The list goes on and on.
The public should be thanking climate scientists for an open and honest assessment of uncertainties, which – although they have been reduced somewhat over 20 years – are still troublesome. What the public really needs to do is hold politicians to the same level of uncertainty scrutiny as they do the climate scientists. And politicians in turn have to ask much harder questions about their own proposed course of actions rather than just doing what “feels right”, and then hanging on to their decisions for ego reasons.
Thomas Crowley
Former professor of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh
• George Monbiot misunderstands the process of scientific peer review (Climate change? Try catastrophic climate breakdown, 28 September). He describes how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report has been produced through a process of negotiation between scientists which is then endorsed by politicians, claiming that this constitutes “perhaps the biggest and most rigorous process of peer review conducted in any scientific field in human history”. The point of peer review is to ensure objectivity, to the extent that it is ever achievable. In order to do so, scientific peer review is conducted “blind” by experts in the field in question, and it is their expertise that qualifies them as peers. Scientists producing the IPCC report were in effect openly negotiating around a table, not blind-reviewing each other’s work. Further, while politicians have a role to play in considering the implications of climate change for the people they represent, they are, by definition, not impartial scientific peers. Monbiot should therefore not find it surprising that many reasonable people suspect elements of the report may be partial.
Dr Eamonn Molloy
Pembroke College, Oxford
•  The reasons why climate-change deniers control the political agenda are many and pernicious, but one of them should not be articles by George Monbiot. George knows that it was not during times of “benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered”: our species evolved in Africa during (and probably thanks to) the last ice age, spread to the rest of the world in its rapidly changing climatic aftermath, and has prospered as the world has gone from glacial to interglacial via bouts of sea-level rise, warming and cooling. Using a scientifically incorrect, easily deniable statement to characterise what the IPCC “report describes” (I’m sure it doesn’t say any such thing) just plays into the hands of the deniers.
John Martin
•  In view of the frightening prediction set out in the report by the IPCC, humanity is left with few, if any, possible solutions if it is to survive for much longer on our planet. A central campaign must be the introduction of energy rationing, as unpalatable as that will be for many. Like the ban on smoking – seen as a utopian demand only a few years back, but then accepted as normal and necessary – we would very quickly adapt to, and accept, individual energy rationing. This has to be made a central, urgent demand and our MPs asked to commit to it – we owe it to our children and future generations who will otherwise perish in a devastated and desolate world collapsing in a final violent and existential struggle for water and land.
John Green
• Why all the fuss about whether human activity is responsible for climate change? Surely the only questions that matter are: is it happening? If so, is it bad? If so, can human activity slow or reverse it? Those answers are much more certainly “yes”. So let’s forget who is to blame and just get on with it.
Phil Wells
Hadleigh, Suffolk
• The IPCC’s latest assessment was released the same week that Ed Miliband pledged to introduce an energy price freeze and to build an extra 200,000 new homes per year. Given the hardening certainty on human-made climate change, will Miliband commit to the following: a programme of new investment in renewable energy in order to lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels; and a low-carbon building programme for all new-build housing?
Same question for the leaders of the other political parties.
David Humphreys
Open University
• Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze fuel bills has certainly grabbed the headlines (Report, 25 September). But the Labour leader’s promise to decarbonise the UK power sector by 2030 is equally significant, because this would end the nation’s addiction to fossil fuels – which have rocketed in price in recent years and are the main reason for soaring fuel bills.
If we want to fix our broken energy system we must embark on a major energy-efficiency programme to really stamp out waste. For too long our homes and offices have been heating the atmosphere – while the people inside frequently shiver in the cold. The UK is also blessed with huge renewable energy resources, with the potential to create thousands of new jobs. Unfortunately, the coalition has completely undermined confidence in clean power and driven investors away.
Craig Bennett
Policy and campaigns director, Friends of the Earth

Generations of journalists were inspired and encouraged by Geoffrey Goodman (obituary, 7 September). He was generous with his time and tireless in his support. No strange handshake or secret codeword was required to become one of Geoffrey’s unofficial apprentices. You just had to ask.
Quite often he would listen more than he spoke. But when he did speak he summed up your situation with clarity and wisdom, making him a kind of secular rabbi to half of Fleet Street.
At the party to mark Sir Brendan Barber’s retirement from the TUC last year, trade union leaders from this and other eras came over to pay homage to Geoffrey. Their respect for him was enormous and endless.
Geoffrey showed that, in a naughty world, it is possible to be successful without doing others down, to gain respect and admiration on all sides while keeping your integrity intact.


Your leading article’s statement “ultimately, the solution [to climate change] lies with the market” (28 September) is astonishing since climate change is caused by none other than the market itself. 
A cursory look at the major stratigraphically significant trends over the past 15,000 years shows a sharp rise subsequent to the industrial revolution and the onset of the market economy. This is why when analysing environmental indices (CO2 emission, global temperature, sea levels, biotic and sedimentation changes, etc), they are compared with pre-industrial levels. 
While the actions of mankind over the past few thousand years have had a detrimental effect on the environment, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution and the onset of capitalism that such effect became geologically significant – so much so that two eminent scientists, Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, proposed in 2000 that this age be called the “Anthropocene”, “the recent age of man”. 
Capitalism – a system that is incessantly expansive and inherently wasteful – is the precise opposite of what is required to combat climate change. You are right that “the cost of mitigating climate change is certainly high”; the cost is the market economy itself and that’s the reason for the US, UK and other governments’ reluctance to take up any serious measures to counter global warming. 
It is a stark choice that confronts us: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.
Fawzi Ibrahim, London NW2
Two facts: earth’s climate is changing; there are things we can do to reduce the damage. Why are we standing around arguing about the causes? 
If I see a heavy truck rushing towards me I take evasive action – the sooner the better. I don’t stop to argue about whether the driver is mad, the brakes have failed, or it is an uncontrollable skid. I get out of the way, as quick as I can.
Let flat earthers believe what they like. Let climate-change deniers pretend they are shivering. If they obstruct, they will have to be pushed aside.  But for heaven’s sake, stop wasting time arguing with them. Get moving! Go on! Move!
Kenneth J Moss, Norwich
Mark Avery (25 September) is right to highlight the lack of concern by the main British political parties about the state of our environment. Our future well-being is dependent on a healthy environment and the only way to achieve this is policies which put the environment first. This means long-term thinking. There is a gaping hole in our politics here. At the moment, none of the mainstream parties are anywhere close.
Mark Holling. North Berwick, East Lothian
Land seizures, from Henry VIII to Ed Miliband
The rule of law, cited by James Paton (Letters, 27 September), exists to uphold the interests  of the community at large,  not just segments of it, such  as property developers.
Indeed, Ed Miliband’s “use it or lose it” plan for developers’ land banks is not without precedent in England. In the 1540s, when most people rented their homes, difficulties were being caused by owners who had let their properties fall into decay or ruin. The outcome was a series of urban regeneration acts. One such, passed in 1540 under Henry VIII, was an “Act for re-edifying of decayed Houses in sundry Towns, and Places of the Realm”. The measures it laid out were radical. Head-lessees, and then owners, were required to repair or rebuild the properties concerned. If neither did, then after five years they would forfeit their leasehold or freehold interests to the local authority concerned.
The measures worked – not surprisingly, in view of their stringency. To them we probably owe some of the fine 16th-century houses which are now so much admired.
Arthur Percival, Faversham, Kent
The compulsory purchase of land banks proposed by Ed Miliband puts Labour’s housing policy in line with the supporters of land value tax (LVT). We believe that the present taxation system is flawed and unfair. When the value of UK land increases due to increased demand, the owners, including UK and international speculators, have done nothing to increase their personal wealth.
Renters gain nothing while their rents increase. The issue is how to make some of the increase in land value available to all. LVT taxes some of that increase in land value.
It should result in the abolition of the regressive council tax and business rates. It should cover all land, used and unused, so bringing land banks and empty homes into use, making investors look for income from renting, building and creating jobs to cover the tax. HMRC would spend less chasing tax-free money parked in overseas accounts; banks have yet to find a way of moving land into their vaults.
John Lipetz Coalition for Economic Justice Richard Murphy Tax Research UK Dr Stephen Battersby Pro-Housing Alliance Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17
The niqab affects all our freedoms
May I add something to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article on the niqab (23 September)? When she writes that “some good friends I deeply respect defend the choice [of the niqab] as a fundamental liberty” we need to make a total denial of that fallacy.
There is really only one fundamental liberty; the liberty not to be incarcerated without due cause and process. All other liberties are conditional on not affecting those of others. Whether it is the supposed liberty to take other people’s property, to drive uninsured, to wear Nazi regalia at a Jewish funeral, or use foul language in a public place, the rights of others may be legally enforced to limit it.
Those who have been most vociferous in the cause of liberty to wear the niqab – if it is in fact a liberty – are from cultures which are most punitive in respect of female dress and female activities. The niqab is offensive to a majority of British people including many Muslims; it has led to breaches of the peace in France; it is discriminatory, being discarded in all-female gatherings; it damages free intercourse between people; it poses dangers through restriction on peripheral vision, denial of recognition and the possibility of substitution of one person for another. These matters must not be swamped by irrational opposition.
Tony Pointon, Portsmouth
Bad experience  of Lariam
Eight years ago my daughter went to Ghana during her gap year, to work in an orphanage. She was prescribed Lariam as her anti-malarial drug before leaving. (“The Lariam scandal”, 27 September.)
She experienced unusual feelings of depression and detachment despite liking her new environment, and it took her a couple of months to work out that these were chemically driven and not a reaction to being far away from home etc. She went to a hospital and her anti-malarial medication was changed. The symptoms abated, never to return.
At around the same time, I emailed her because I had been sitting at dinner next to a medical consultant who told me “I wouldn’t give Lariam to my dog”.
B Davey, London N6
How to limit the cost of libel suits
I don’t entirely agree with your leading article “Fettering of the press” (17 September): the Ministry of Justice’s one-way cost proposals would not entirely remove the restraint on opportunistic claims for libel, defamation, or invasion of privacy, since claimants would still, after all, be liable for their own costs.
But a better idea might be  that the losing side, be they claimant or defendant, should  only be liable for their own  costs plus a maximum of the  same again from the other side. This provides a greater disincentive to vexatious claims, while  still discouraging the other side from throwing money at teams of expensive lawyers. Because it would apply either way, it also gives some relief to newspapers  or journalists threatened by rich claimants.
Overall, costs should come down, since both sides are aware of the hazard of out-spending the opposition. The result would be more even-handed justice and fewer protracted cases.
David Watson, Reading


The modern game exemplifies technical expertise and stamina but the behaviour of the players on the pitch would make Ebenezer Morley turn in his grave
Sir, Ben Macintyre (“Sporting hero who thought outside the box”, Sept 27) rightly pays tribute to the foresight and achievement of E. C. Morley in the establishment of the Football Association on October 26, 1863 and the later promulgation, under its auspices, of the first set of laws for Association Football on December 8 of the same year.
Less well known is the fact that the earliest surviving written laws of soccer were drawn up in Cambridge and signed on December 9, 1856 by university undergraduates including two representatives each from the main protagonist footballing schools of the day, Eton, Rugby, Harrow and Shrewsbury.
This followed earlier attempts to unify the laws made by Cambridge undergraduates a decade earlier (of which unfortunately no record survives) notably H. de Winton and J. C. Thring (1846) and H. C. Malden (1848).
Their contribution was recognised by your late Football correspondent Geoffrey Green, in his book The History of the Football Association (1953).
Keith Michel
Trustee, Cambridge University AFC
East Horsley, Surrey

Sir, In celebrating English football at 150 and those who made the beautiful game what it is today, let us not forget the Royal Engineers. Under Major Francis Marindin, the Royal Engineers (The Sappers) were one of the founding members of the Football Association, playing in the first-ever FA Cup Final in 1872 and winning the Cup in 1875.
The Sappers invented the “passing game” in which the team plays in combination rather than individually, and consequently they were the first team ever to be described as playing “beautifully”. This approach now forms the core of all modern tactics. They also invented the goal net.
However, their greatest contribution was to take Association Football to all corners of the British Empire and beyond, hence sowing the seeds of what has become a truly global phenomenon.
Tom Foulkes
President, The Royal Engineers Association Football Club, 1992-2002
Fleet, Hants

Sir, I fully endorse Ben Macintyre’s nomination of Ebenezer Morley, the founding father of English football, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square but cannot agree when he states that the game has hardly changed during the last century. The rules of the game remain largely unchanged, but football is now a billion-pound global enterprise. During the transfer season players are bought and sold for millions like commodities in an auction mart. Our Premier League teams are largely owned by oil sheikhs and businessmen from abroad who have hardly any cultural link with football. The game thrives on television franchises and advertisements. By virtue of free market, our Premier League teams are dominated by players from South America, continental Europe and Africa. As a result, the English national team lacks home-grown talent.
The game exemplifies technical expertise and stamina but the behaviour of the players on the pitch such as “diving” histrionics, gambolling after scoring a goal, surreptitious elbowing and disabling tackles, biting an opponent and spitting would make Ebenezer Morley turn in his grave.
Sam Banik
London N10

Healthcare is not a simple market: the primary relationship is intangible but always lies between the doctor and the patient
Sir, We support the interim report of the Competition Commission’s investigation into private healthcare, and its call for transparency of information in both the NHS and independent sector. However, the Commission has not focused on those Private Medical Insurers (PMIs) which are increasingly imposing clinical restrictions, causing detriment for subscribers when they are sick and reliant on their policies.
Healthcare is not a simple market; the primary relationship is intangible but always lies between the doctor and the patient. The PMIs do not have any data about the quality of medical care or about specialists’ competencies, a fact noted by the OFT and which all PMIs, apart from Bupa, have acknowledged. It is unacceptable that a commercial financial services company should interfere with clinical pathways or propose medical treatments. Nor should it propose clinical guidelines which are the responsibility of NICE, medical royal colleges and specialist associations.
Some PMIs are now using an “open referral” method (actually a “closed” method) which prevents GPs from advising patients about the most appropriate consultant. Patients lose choice and continuity of care may be broken. Reductions in subscriber benefits by some PMIs may also impose an unavoidable shortfall.
We ask the Competition Commission to recognise the need for portability of private medical insurance allowances which would permit all insured patients to use their agreed benefits however they wish when they are sick. Only then can patients exercise true choice about how and where they wish to be treated and by their consultant of choice.
William Harrop-Griffiths, President, Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland
John Primrose, President, Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland
Tim Briggs, President Elect, British Orthopaedic Association
Valerie Lund, President, ENT-UK
John Schofield, President, Hospital Consultants & Specialist Association
Adrian Casey, President, British Association of Spinal Surgery
Simon Donell, President, British Association for Surgery of the Knee
Rajiv Grover, President, British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
Graeme Perks, President, British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons
Mark Speakman, British, Association of Urological Surgeons
Rohit Kulkarni, President, British Elbow and Shoulder Society
John Timperley, President, British Hip Society
Simon Henderson, President, British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
David O’Brart, President, United Kingdom Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons
Duncan Dymond, President, London Consultants’ Association
Ian Mackay, President, Independent Doctors’ Federation

The Police Act makes it unlawful for officers to undertake any form of industrial action – unlike members of the fire service
Sir, Ian Graham makes a good point in respect of industrial action within the emergency services (letter, Sept 28). He can, however, rest assured that the police will remain on duty whatever grievance they may have. The Police Act makes it unlawful for them to undertake any form of industrial action or for any other person to encourage them to do so.
Dave Cousins

It is not the place of government to dictate whether parents vaccinate their children – we run the risk of paying vaccine damage compensation, as in the US
Sir, Many of us are aghast at Labour’s proposal to cut child benefit for parents who don’t vaccinate their children (report, Sept 23). This is not consistent with the British ethos of freedom of choice. It is not the place of government to dictate whether parents vaccinate their children.
The big pharmaceutical companies have consistently put pressure on the government and the medical establishment so that they in turn bully parents into vaccinating their children, in the absence of balanced and objective information on the downside of vaccines. America has already paid out $2 billion in vaccine damage compensation. If one day Ed Balls’ retraction is overturned, there could be a similar flood of damage compensation claims in the UK.
Gabriel Millar
Stroud, Glos

Our long-standing legal framework has fostered a strong safety culture that ensures the UK has one of the best aviation safety records in the world
Sir, Ian King (Sept 27) criticises the Civil Aviation Authority for not naming specific airlines involved in safety incidents. Legislation prevents us from disclosing details of individuals or organisations who report such incidents. This guarantee of anonymity is balanced by a legal obligation on all UK airlines and pilots to report all safety-related occurrences. The legislation does not preclude us taking action against individuals and organisations in cases of gross negligence. This long-standing legal framework has fostered a strong safety culture that has been copied by many other countries — and industries — and ensures the UK has one of the best aviation safety records in the world.
Stephen Rooney
Civil Aviation Authority

Sir, The assertion that native English speaking pilots are not required to demonstrate their competence in actually speaking English is not correct (report, Sept 27). All pilots, regardless of nationality or background, are required to demonstrate to a Civil Aviation Authority examiner their competence in this regard, and only upon award of a “level 6” pass are they exempt from further periodic testing.
Certain elements of the pilot fraternity, however, have expressed reservations about level 6 passes awarded to Scots, Geordies, and estuary-English speakers.
Mike Goodman
Harrogate, N Yorks


SIR – I very much hope that Godfrey Smith, the first responder who was sacked for doing 33mph in a 20mph zone and driving the wrong way around a bollard, is re-instated and his steadfast contribution to lifesaving recognised.
He will have developed skills that anyone at risk would have been praying for: the ability to assess a life-threatening situation rapidly and then take immediate and effective action.
I would like to see the Government considering a legal change to highway standards for first responders rather than letting someone die while the first responder trundles along at 19mph in a 20mph zone.
Sally Wainman
Ipswich, Suffolk
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29 Sep 2013
SIR – I am not aware of any Standing Orders that Godfrey Smith’s Authority may have in place, but he should have been protected by the Emergency Vehicle Road Traffic Legislation under Sec 87, RTR Act 1982.
He can also claim an exemption to drive on the wrong side of a “keep left” bollard if safe to do so when responding to an emergency. At all times it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of road users.
Peter Brookes-Tee
Retired senior ambulance service driving instructor
Wigton, Cumberland

SIR – Once again the Labour Party demonstrates why it should not be allowed to govern.
First we had Gordon Brown’s raid on pension funds, leading to lower private pensions; light-touch regulation contributing to a greater impact from the global financial crisis; and gross mismanagement of the public purse, causing a prolonged period of painful austerity.
The latest proposal from Ed Miliband on energy prices belongs in the same bucket.
It fails to take into account the reduction of tax revenues to the Treasury and the impact on small shareholders or their pension funds who own part of these companies. It may not even be legal under EU law.
It is clear that Labour is intent on dragging us back to the Seventies.
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Let common sense prevail for this community hero
29 Sep 2013
David Shearer
SIR – There is a simple method of reducing the nation’s energy bills that seems to elude most politicians. Abolishing the wind farm subsidy will remove the need for one of the many stealth taxes imposed by Gordon Brown which the current Chancellor now thinks it prudent to retain.
Not only would prices come down, but many millions would be lifted out of fuel poverty.
John McLachlan
Falmouth, Cornwall
SIR – I despair at the immaturity of Ed Miliband’s latest policy announcement; not only is a 20-month freeze a short-term measure, but it will have the unintended consequences of: increased prices in the run-up to the next election; reduced or delayed investments until after Labour fails to return to Government; and massive increases after the 20-month freeze. The way to fix the market is with proper regulation. The public will have confidence when retail charges fall in line with any downward movement in the wholesale price.
There should also be a robust challenge to Green energy subsidies.
Declan Salter
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Ed Miliband’s price-freeze promise is obviously going to be popular with many voters, but he seems to be missing the point.
The difficulty is not simply the cost of gas and electricity, it is also the sustainability of supply, and the two are linked. As there is an ever-increasing demand for power, the cost of supplying it must rise. We have to find new sources of fossil fuels, build more nuclear power stations and invest in sustainable energy.
Giving everyone a fixed price is a senseless way of tackling the problem; it can only lead to our continuing to use energy at the present level – or even increasing our usage if we are not concerned about the cost.
Peter Walton
SIR – Ed Miliband’s pledge to give the vote to 16-year olds ignores scientific research about the formation of the human brain. Several independent studies have revealed that the young adult brain is not fully developed before the late teens and early twenties. Perhaps the Labour Party hopes that these immature young people will be persuaded by its over-simplistic arguments.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
SIR – The development of new and renewable energy production is mostly funded by foreign companies who are allowed to sell energy back to us at extortionate rates.
I’m naive, I know, but I would like to see our utilities as British-owned and British-controlled monopolies, giving us national resource security, where the pricing structure is simple and poor families can be helped directly through the tax system.
Douglas Maughan
Winchester, Hampshire
SIR – Twenty-five hours per week of free child care? Does Ed Miliband not understand that there is no “free” – and that someone, some time, has to pay?
Oh well, stick it on the national credit card with all the other debt. After all, what really matters is that Ed gets the keys to number 10.
Michael Gray
Kendal, Cumberland
Price guarantee for British dairy farmers
SIR – Ben Fogle is right to shine a light on the difficulties faced by our dairy industry (Country Travels, September 22). But not all supermarkets are the same. Sainsbury’s has worked hard for years to create a sustainable model that guarantees a fair price for our British milk producers.
Many dairy farmers have long been faced with volatile costs, but for our farmers at least there is no “supermarket effect” that abandons them to making a loss. From October 1 our farmers will in fact see a price increase to 34.15p per litre.
The pricing model we use was adopted following a vote among our farmers last year and includes a bonus that rewards them for high standards of animal health and welfare and reducing their impact on the environment.
Sue Lockhart
Head of Agriculture at Sainsbury’s
London EC1
Pollution priorities
SIR – The global warming “scientists” should concentrate on reducing the immense amount of pollution pouring out of the emerging economies of India, China, Brazil, etc., beside which Britain’s pollution is quite insignificant (Opinion, September 22).
We should instead be focused on the inevitable national power cuts to which Green policies are condemning us.
Arthur Quarmby
Holme, West Yorkshire
SIR – I suspect and fear that the climate change scaremongers have too much at stake to admit that they were wrong.
Keith Ferris
Coxheath, Kent
Assisted dying Bill
SIR – With Lord Falconer’s Bill on assisted dying scheduled to receive its Second Reading in the spring of next year, the BBC is to be commended rather than criticised for instigating debate on the subject. (“BBC ‘shows bias for euthanasia’”, report, September 22).
The Bill has a narrow focus which is confined to giving mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option of a physician-assisted death. This would be achieved by providing patients with a prescription that may be used at a time and circumstance of their choice should their suffering become unendurable.
Opponents such as Dr Peter Saunders know this very well. Yet they continue to obfuscate debate by referring to euthanasia, which is when the doctor administers a lethal injection; or by using emotive language such as “killing the disabled”, when they know that neither euthanasia nor the disabled are included in the Bill.
Both the public and the medical profession need to be well informed about what Parliament will be asked to decide. This is not helped by inaccurate and scaremongering tactics from opponents of the Bill.
Sir Terence English
Married tax breaks
SIR – Will married tax breaks (Letters, September 22) also be for homosexual married couples? If so, taken in context with the end of child benefit, this government policy redistributes wealth from parents and children to couples who cannot reproduce. It also penalises children born out of wedlock, through no fault of their own.
While I do not wish to judge homosexual married couples, I feel that they should not receive automatic tax-payer subsidy and the same applies to childless heterosexual married couples. There is no benefit to society.
However, if we bring back child tax credits, any gay couple with adopted children would benefit from such a policy, as would married or unmarried couples deciding to raise children.
Philip Ridley
Markyate, Hertfordshire
Cross-border ties
SIR – As a staunch unionist, the growing anti-English sentiment in the debate over Scottish independence (News Review, September 22) is both disturbing and unwelcome. My maternal grandparents migrated from Fife to Liverpool in the early Twenties, but neither they nor their relatives who settled in Birmingham forgot their Scottish roots. Cross-border ties were cultivated and continue to this day, making the independence campaign seem quite anachronistic in the modern era.
Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire
Violent video games
SIR – The perpetrator of the latest mass shooting in America was addicted to violent computer games. This has been a common denominator in many of America’s recent gun massacres.
We should heed the warning, especially since the release of one of the most violent computer games yet – Grand Theft Auto V. Such games should come with a mental health warning
Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset
Pension age
SIR – Why is there a set pension age for everyone?
There are greater physical demands on builders and nurses than on office workers.
Kay Ennals
Dorchester, Dorset
Over-feeding pets is killing with kindness
SIR – We read your report “Got a fat pet? It may be comfort eating” (September 22) with real concern. It’s already hard enough for vets to broach the sensitive subject of pet obesity with clients who think they are doing the right thing. Suggesting that reducing food intake increases anxiety will reinforce the mistaken view that giving extra food to your pets is a way of showing that you love them.
Too many pet owners are killing their pets with “kindness” by over-feeding and giving too many treats and inappropriate foods, such as leftovers from their own plates. If coupled with little or no exercise, their life spans will often be cut short by preventable obesity-related conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
Providing a healthy diet for pets involves restraint on the owners’ part. It can be hard to resist that hungry look from your dog and too easy to substitute real attention and interaction for treats, but it’s in the pet’s best interests to get it right.
Significant changes to a pet’s diet should always be discussed with a vet first to make sure it is done carefully and gradually.
Robin Hargreaves
President Elect
British Veterinary Association
London W1
Dark side of shunga
SIR – Lesley Downer (Opinion, September 22) hails the attitudes to sex revealed in the Japanese shunga prints, but barely touches on the human cost of the sexually liberated culture they portray.
The great courtesans may have started out as slaves and reached the top of their profession, but what of those women who didn’t reach the top and remained slaves throughout? Nor are we told about the fate of the children born as the result of this “life-affirming attitude,” who were subjected to mabiki, or “the thinning out of rice shoots,” with the lucky being selected for nurture and the rest killed by smothering. Sex may have been free, but life was cheap.
David J Critchley
Winslow, Buckinghamshire
Battering the butcher
SIR – “Mumford & run: brother battles thug” (Mandrake, September 22) reminded me of an incident I witnessed nearly 60 years ago in Wellington, Shropshire.
A man and his wife were having a fight in the street when a butcher came rushing out of his shop to try to separate them, whereupon they both started to batter him instead.
William Lonsdale
Nelson, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – In his argument for abolition of the Seanad, Des O’Malley (Opinion, September 24th) pronounces that “Powerful second chambers merely slow down policy change”. Mr O’Malley presumably thinks this is a bad thing.
On the contrary, it is surely best practice to take some time to properly debate the principles and tease out the practicalities of a proposed change in national policy. The difficulty with the argument that as “a small open country Ireland has to be faster to adapt”, is that our chosen “adaptations” tend to be short-termist, with a plethora of unintended consequences.
If the boom times taught us anything, it is surely that rushed adaptation to temporary market demands is a recipe for long-term pain. If a reformed Seanad can serve to provide measured counsel of caution, then I am all in favour of its retention. – Yours, etc,
Carrigaline, Co Cork.
Sir, – I would like to compliment Des O’Malley on his persuasive argument, for voting Yes in the referendum (Opinion, September 25th). I have been in two minds on this issue. It is hard to argue in favour of retaining the Seanad, especially in its current format. However, voting No would not mean the Seanad would be reformed and would instead probably be allowed to drift along as it has done for many years. Against that, it is tempting to vote Yes as a response to the cack-handed way that Fine Gael have driven this issue: Enda Kenny’s mysterious conversion to abolition, the €20 million seemingly plucked from the air, their criticism of the Seanad for not reforming itself, etc.
Mr O’Malley has brought a dose of realism to the whole debate. Yours, etc,
Brian Avenue,
Marino, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Des O’Malley opines (Opinion, September 25th) that Seanad Éireann is not the problem (with Irish politics), nor is it the solution. His conclusion is correct but his analysis in support of a Yes vote in the Abolition Referendum is flawed. Most accept the need for root and branch reform of our political system. They care more about what Mr O’Malley was not doing about it during his 34 years in Dáil Éireann and less about whether he was ignoring debates on the role of the Seanad. Voters care more about what he would do now about political reform and less about the consistency of his view on the Seanad over time. The difficulty with the referendum proposal is that it puts the cart before the horse.
Let us see the necessary political reforms implemented before we remove a fundamental plank of our existing constitutional democracy. – Yours, etc,
Brittas Grange,

Sir, – The dictum employed by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (September 23rd) in relation to delayed justice over-states the case.
Justice delayed is, in most cases, merely justice temporarily denied. Expense, rather than delay, is the greatest impediment to justice for most potential litigants. Unaffordable justice is a much more complete denial of justice than delayed justice.
The proposed court of appeal will provide an extra layer of potential expense, as its rulings may still be appealed to the Supreme Court by a respondent with a large purse, such as the State. This will significantly add to the potential costs of litigation and significantly increase the financial deterrent to citizens from seeking remedy against the State in the courts.
Unless it is balanced by some mechanism of financial protection for citizens wishing to litigate against the State, the provision of an extra layer in the judicial system will result in a de facto reduction in citizens’ rights and a significant alteration in the balance of power between citizens and the State. This will be to the further detriment of citizens in an area in which they are already at a major disadvantage. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – As a newly-qualified (two years) secondary school teacher, I do not know what it was like to teach pre-austerity. I know only of daily life in a busy secondary school in Cork. I know of big classes, big work-loads and people doing their best. I have a Masters (in my subject) that is not acknowledged by the department. I am not in receipt of the teaching through Irish allowance.
Newly-qualified teachers’ pay is down 15 per cent since 2011. I’m appalled at the increase in the size of classes, at the cutbacks in special education needs resources and the constant air of gloom that pervades. What happened to valuing the individual and of nurturing their potential? I consider it an achievement just to have spoken to every student by the end of certain classes, never mind meeting their specific educational needs.
I invite Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to spend a day shadowing me through the minefield that is secondary education. Although I might not have time to speak to him. – Is mise,
Leacan Fionn,

Sir, – John McManus is to be congratulated for his revealing article (Business Opinion, Business + Innovation, September 23rd) on “O’Flynn and Nama triumph”. He exposes the true purport of Nama which was always to benefit the banks and developers. The Government’s reluctance to bail out taxpayers in mortgage arrears is explicable by its desire (and even more so in the case of its Fianna Fáil predecessor) to look after “the Big Guy” at the expense of “the Little People”. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – As a Dubliner I’d like to congratulate all the volunteers who gave their time during the National Ploughing Championships. Along with the GAA and other institutions that depend on volunteerism, they demonstrate the best of us as a people. – Yours, etc,
The Mill,
First published: Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 01:08

Sir, – I am pleased to see that An Taoiseach (Opinion, September 20th) is advising prudence following the announcement by the CSO that the recession was over. His rhetorical question: “Does Ireland need a second house?” resonates. Isn’t that what got us into the economic mess in the first place – second homes! – Yours, etc,
Main Street,

Sir, – Robert McCarthy (September 23rd) states that 50 per cent of children in a Dublin Protestant fee-paying school are Catholic.
In the same way that there are a number of Protestant children in Catholic schools, of course Protestant schools are open to those of any religious background. Parents’ choice may be because the ethos of the school appeals to them or that it is the nearest school. It is not always viewed as elitist education. My child attends a Protestant school not because it is elitist, but because it is a school catering for our ethos, and most parents at the school I believe feel the same way.
In my area, there is a choice of five schools – all of which are of a Catholic ethos. In order for my child to attend a school of our religious ethos, we have to pay for him to attend, whereas children of a Catholic background have a choice of free local schools and fee-paying schools. The nearest schools of our ethos are at least an hour’s car journey away, which means my son has to board.
There are a lot of assumptions made about fee-paying schools and I would suggest before anyone makes judgment, that they talk to the struggling parents trying to get an education of their ethos for their child in the same way every parent does. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Although there is a grain of truth in Desmond FitzGerald’s intemperate attack on Michael D Higgins (September 25th), his main argument – that only those who have divested themselves of all possessions can urge justice for the poor – is as hackneyed and as illogical as it ever was. Even Jesus liked his wine, we know that from the Gospels.
He is, however, right that €250,000 is not justified as a President’s salary. Neo-liberalism has been so unopposed for so long in this country that it clouds the thinking even of those who oppose it like Mr Higgins and the Labour Party. One of its tenets is the belief that money is the only motivator, and consequently if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This pseudo-scientific doctrine has justified the opening of a huge gap between average wages and those of the elite.
Mr Higgins commendably took a voluntary pay cut when he became President, but if you want to oppose neo-liberalism, you must support a return to the differentials that existed before neo-liberalism became the country’s religion, under Haughey and MacSharry. Does anyone seriously believe the quality of our politicians has risen in parallel with the rise in politicians’ salaries in the past 30 years? I suggest the evidence of the crash points to a contrary conclusion.
Mr Higgins’s pay cut is not nearly enough to restore the relation that existed between politicians’ wages and the average industrial wage in 1987 and that is what what he and the Labour Party should be aiming for in the both the public and private sectors. Instead, both the President and Tánaiste have employed advisers whose pay has breached the Government’s own salary cap.
How can an adviser prepare speeches against neo-liberalism when their own pay contract implicitly condones the “L’Oréal – because we’re worth it” elitist fantasy that is at the heart of neo-liberal “philosophy”.
I’d still vote for him. Nobody’s perfect. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In the course of his well- reasoned case for the retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate for Ireland’s hospitality sector, Conor Brady (Opinion, September 26th) concluded, “The hospitality sector is in steady recovery. It is offering talented young people an alternative to emigration”. The facts are certainly there to demonstrate a recovery in the hotel and restaurant sectors, but what is happening with the resultant employment boost?
Over the past couple of months, I spent a series of short-term holiday breaks in well-known hotels near Athlone, in Westport, and in counties Donegal, Kerry and Waterford. There is little doubt all of these offer an excellent working environment. Yet a remarkable feature was the predominance of non-Irish staff in these hotels. Let me hasten to add, I have nothing against non-Irish nationals.
What puzzles me, however, is that we have hundreds of thousands of Irish people claiming unemployment benefits, and the prevailing media narrative across the airwaves and in print is that there are no jobs out there. So why aren’t more Irish people competing for, and securing, these additional hospitality jobs? – Yours, etc,
Morehampton Road,
First published: Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 01:02

Sir, – If we are to have three constituencies for the European Parliament elections (Home news, September 26th) could we simply call them North, South and Dublin? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m absolutely flabbergasted by your report by Gordon Deegan (Home News, September 25th) detailing the obscene amount of money paid to a few farmers to conserve a few birds. €11 million to 377 farmers for 144 birds means €29,177 per farmer, and wait for it, €76,388 per bird!
This at a time when medical cards are being withdrawn from sick children and cancer patients, along with all the other cutbacks in health, education, etc. What have we come to and who decides our priorities? – Yours, etc,
Greeen Road,

Irish Independent:

Madam – I must take issue with some of the language used by Maeve Sheehan in her article, “Elaine and the fatal attraction of sexual fetish” (Sunday Independent, September 22, 2013). The analysis piece about the discovery of Elaine O’Hara’s remains in the Dublin Mountains was disturbing to me as an average reader.
Also in this section
Recognise teenage angst for what it is
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
The opening paragraphs were especially distasteful in their tone: “A fibia here, a tibia there”, the opening lines read. In my view, this language is flippant, and did not reflect the tone one would use when discussing the remains of a woman who met such a tragic end. I appreciate that there is little a writer can do when describing a scene – but this type of writing is grossly inappropriate, and simply unnecessary in an ‘analysis’ article.
Not only was this description of Ms O’Hara’s remains undignified, but the writer then explained how “a body had been shoved into the undergrowth and left there to rot, gnawed on by wild animals and the bones dragged hither and thither”. What need is there to describe the “gnawing” of Elaine O’Hara’s body? Is this analysis?
The writer then had the presence of mind to add this at the bottom of her article: “The O’Hara family has pleaded for privacy to cope with their loss, understandably distraught at the developments of the past week.”
As much as Maeve Sheehan is correct in asserting the family’s obvious distress, wouldn’t her language as laid out above add further upset to a family member unfortunate enough to read her article?
Justin Kelly,
Edenderry, Co Offaly
Sunday Independent

Madam – Recently I read an article on the stresses of being a teenage girl and coping with distress in mental health.
Also in this section
Flippant words
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
Are we making too big a deal of ‘depression’ among teens? Many people with depression suffer due to financial problems, family issues etc – but what about teenage girls? Teenage girls stress about exams, self-confidence and schoolyard drama. Is this a form of mental illness or just a rite of passage during teen years?
Without a doubt there are many cases of teenage depression, but are we right in branding one in three teenagers as mentally ill?
Caring about appearance, stressing about exams, and having little to no self-confidence is all part of the teen years, and it is important to nourish and encourage girls to accept themselves and enjoy these years. Telling girls they are depressed because they worry about looks and weight isn’t good for their mental state nor will it benefit them in later years. How are girls supposed to differentiate between being upset and being mentally ill?
There are too many influences in the world telling girls to look a specific way, and obviously this will have a negative impact on many.
But learning to accept who you are is more important than being diagnosed with depression. Eating disorders are common among teens, and should be treated as soon as possible. Again, should we brand this as being linked to depression? Severe, yes. Depression? I don’t think so.
Emily O’Grady (16),
Fedamore, Co Limerick
Madam – The letters by Mark Harten and Patrick Fleming on the violence and non-mandated aspects of 1916 raise interesting issues (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013).
Mark Harten questions the effectiveness of those who used ‘innocence and shrewdness’ in dealing with the British.
Patrick Fleming, on the other hand, supports the view that ‘constitutional methods would have been better’ than the ‘unelected and unmandated’ rebellion of 1916.
We do, however, have to accept what Patrick Fleming calls ‘the facts of history’.
It could be argued that John Redmond used ‘innocence and shrewdness’ quite well to do what Parnell failed to do, i.e., get Home Rule. But the effectiveness and credibility of constitutional Irish nationalism, under Redmond, was destroyed by the imperial parliament in London.
The threat of civil war against Home Rule by the Ulster Covenanters, expressly backed by Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative opposition, intimidated the most powerful parliament in the world from implementing its own Act.
The failure of that parliament, at the head of a worldwide empire, to implement an Act, passed and signed into law by the monarch, made the ‘unelected and unmandated’ rising of 1916 inevitable.
A Leavy,
Sutton, Dublin 13
Madam – Mark Harten (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), does not seem to be in tune with modern historical thinking in relation to Michael Collins when he criticises me for leaving the former Irish leader out of my short list of effective politicians in the last 200 years.
He suggests that: “Collins made a great deal of progress for this country and was, indeed, one of the lead negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that founded this State.
“Collins, of course, does not accord with Mr O’Connell’s conclusions: he was shrewd, but he was certainly no dove, and yet he proved himself quite capable of dealing successfully with the British.”
I understand that the reason Michael Collins was sent to negotiate with the British was because he was not sufficiently competent to realise that he was not going to achieve what he had fought for and that he would have to sell a deal Eamon De Valera would not agree to, even though he sent Collins to do the negotiating.
I feel that Ireland was pushing at an open door at that time in relation to the 26 counties and that much of what happened need not have happened, particularly the civil war. And we’re still up here inside the UK, so it wasn’t good for us.
John O’Connell,
Madam – I am suffering from a new syndrome which I call ‘Seanad fatigue’. The Government first announced its proposals on the abolition of the Seanad in June. Since then the print media has bombarded us with superfluous column inches dedicated, for the most part regurgitating the same old arguments for and against. I suspect that anyone who is going to vote will have made up their mind long ago and will not be swayed by any more enlightened views.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – In Barry Egan’s column (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), he states that a celebrity left her partner at home “babysitting” their son while she attended a birthday party. In the ‘Dear Mary’ column, a man is advised as follows: “On a separate night, your wife should go out with her girlfriends while you babysit.”
According to the dictionary, the meaning of ‘babysit’ is to “look after a child or children while the parents are out”. When a man is socialising, nobody says his wife is babysitting. The fact that this word is used when the man is at home implies that the child is not really his responsibility, that he is doing his wife or partner a favour.
So, if a woman is out and somebody enquires “Is your husband babysitting?”, they should be told “No, he is looking after his own children!”
Bernadette Carroll,
Navan, Co Meath
Madam – At last your newspaper, in The Despair Of Debt (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), has acknowledged the large number of citizens in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s that are struggling and just cannot cope with super-sized mortgages.
While economists write reams on the background, knocking ridiculous mileage from the causes of grossly overvalued debt products, they have proved ineffective in the ‘Solutions’, ‘Corrective Actions’ and ‘Continuous Improvement’ departments.
The top priority for people in despair is ‘Solutions’. Industry best practice restructures for grossly overvalued debt is not exactly rocket science. The Central Bank targets for leaving 80 per cent of these mortgage holders dangle in anxiety is just not good enough.
The Central Bank of Ireland plus the Irish banks need to work a 39-hour week and just get on with it.
Mike Flannelly,
Co Galway
Madam – Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid have learnt a very expensive education about drug trafficking. When you are caught hook, line and sinker it doesn’t matter which way you plead, you are guilty by association.
For the two young women the consequences have been severe and brutally exposed to them by the authorities in Peru.
Anyone who might be gullible enough to consider undertaking the same venture will have a very good appreciation of what they are letting themselves in for when McCollum Connolly and Reid are sentenced next month.
However, the general rule of thumb is very straightforward when considering smuggling illegal substances in any jurisdiction; leave well alone.
Unless you can cope with losing years of your liberty incarcerated in virtual hellholes. The forfeiting of dignity and basic human rights in most circumstances. Plus the added dubious bonus of daily violence among your new-found chums
Some lessons are best never to be tutored in?
Vincent O’Connell,
New Ross, Co Wexford
Sunday Independent

Books books books

September 29, 2013

29 September 2013 Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide transport for the Todd-Hunters Browns but can Leslie sail up the Thames without hitting anything? Priceless.
I put my books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


David Hubel
David Hubel, who has died aged 87, shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with his colleague Torsten Wiesel and with Roger Sperry, for insights into how visual systems process information, solving a puzzle that had baffled scientists for centuries.

David Hubel Photo: CORBIS
6:08PM BST 25 Sep 2013
When Hubel and Wiesel began experiments on vision and the brain in the late 1950s, neuroscientists thought that images from the retina were transmitted to visual centres in the brain, and projected onto the cerebral cortex in the same way as a photograph on to film. But the two scientists discovered that the messages reaching the brain from the eyes are not simply transmitted, but transformed and analysed by a complex system of nerve cells known as neurons.
For more than two decades, first at Johns Hopkins University and later at Harvard Medical School, the pair probed electrodes into the primary visual cortex’s of anaesthetised cats and monkeys. By flashing lines on a screen in front of the animals’ eyes and recording signals from individual nerve cells, they mapped exactly which neurons are involved in processing an image.
They demonstrated that the visual cortex contains columns of cells, each able to recognise specific details — for example stationary horizontal lines, or corners, or colours or vertical lines moving in a specific direction. The columns build up a complete image, which is then sent to higher brain centres, where the visual impression is formed and the memory of the image is stored.
More importantly, Hubel and Wiesel showed the importance of the brain receiving visual stimuli early in life. When a newborn kitten had one eye sewn up for a few weeks, they found that when unstitched, though the eye itself was normal, the kitten was rendered blind in that eye for life because the vital connections in the visual cortex had not been made during the crucial early developmental period.
This insight led to pioneering treatments for conditions in newborn babies — such as cataracts and strabismus (squint) — that otherwise could lead to blindness or impaired vision. Before their discovery physicians often used to wait until a child was three to five years old before treating such conditions, by which time their vision was usually permanently impaired.
David Hunter Hubel was born on February 27 1926 in Windsor, Ontario, to American parents, and took a degree in Mathematics and Physics at McGill University, Montreal. Though he was accepted to do graduate work in Physics he decided on a whim to apply to the university’s medical school. “To my horror I was accepted there, too,” he recalled.
After graduation and a period of military service in the US Army, Hubel took up a research post at Johns Hopkins, where he began his partnership with Wiesel, a young scientist from Sweden. In 1959 the pair moved to Harvard Medical School where, over the next few decades, they played a central role in developing its new neurobiology department.
In their jointly-written memoir Brain and Visual Perception: The Story of a 25-Year Collaboration (2004) the pair recalled that their early experiments measuring visual cortex activity in cats had been so frustrating that they had sometimes taken to dancing wildly in front the animals — even showing them alluring images of beautiful women — to try and elicit a response. It was only when one of the pair happened to move across the screen on to which they were projecting visual stimuli, casting a shadow, that electrodes in the animals’ brains registered a response.
A man of wide-ranging interests, Hubel became a leading advocate of the need for scientists to make scientific concepts accessible to the general public, arguing that the best training for a would-be scientific genius is to “learn to write English really well”. Not surprisingly he was a leading voice in putting the case for animal research.
In 1953 David Hubel married Ruth Izzard, who died in February. Their three sons survive him.
David Hubel, born February 27 1926, died September 22 2013


In the face of 95% of scientific evidence informing us that “human activities are driving climate change”, a recent survey shows that the number of people who do not believe this has now risen from 5% in 2005 to 19% to date (“Scientists give their starkest warning yet on climate change”, News).
Unfortunately, what these climate change sceptics, deniers and liars are expecting is that someone will soon come up with “the technological fix” that will solve what is a multifaceted problem. What is not being realised or accepted is that the technology already exists – in the form of renewable energies – and that what is missing is the global social and political will and framework to employ them. So, in truth, what is really being hoped for is divine intervention, but we should remember that “God helps those who help themselves”.
Ashley Gunstock
London E11
There is one curious aspect of the debate on climate change that commentators never remark on (“To fight climate change, we must trust scientific truth and collective action”, Will Hutton, Comment). Those who deny that climate change is happening are generally on the right, while those who argue that climate change is a reality are generally on the left. However, when it comes to putting these beliefs to the test, leftwing people are just as likely to use temperature-raising air travel as rightwing people.
Ivor Morgan
What concerns me most about climate change sceptics is that many measures essential to address climate change, if mainstream scientific views are correct, would make sense anyway.
Improved food security, habitat conservation, less pollution, alternatives to fossil fuels and reduced waste would all still be sensible if climate change were totally natural, a damp squib or even took an unexpected turn. A major volcanic eruption (eg Tambora in 1815) could cause temporary global cooling and hence major disruption of food supplies.
Sadly, the predictable attempts to prove a position will distract from measures that could yield massive benefits regardless. I occasionally despair of the seemingly unavoidable human urge to prove oneself right instead of doing something useful and effective.
Iain Climie
The authors of all the articles on climate change in last week’s Observer conflate global warming with its cause. That the world has got warmer is a fact; that man’s production of greenhouse gases is the cause is an untestable hypothesis. Support for the hypothesis comes only from models. If we are to accept model projections, at least the estimates of past global mean annual temperature should be close to estimates from observations, but whether they are I cannot tell. The latter are available on the web, but the former are not. I have made repeated requests for the “hindcasts” of the latest Hadley Centre model finally invoking the Freedom of Information Act, but so far without success.
Philip Symmons
Will Hutton is right about fighting the deniers of manmade global warming. The battle is both difficult and urgent. But does he realise how much ammunition is provided by examples of extreme weather this year?
Like 63,000 people missing after unprecedented floods hit northern India (19 June), a curtain-raiser to reports of “worst ever” flooding from Alberta (22 June), Puerto Rico (2 Aug), Manila (21 Aug) and Colorado (13 Sept).
We also had the Danube at an all-time high (June 6); Canada’s worst wildfire in Quebec province (July 15); Mexico’s “worst weather crisis since 1958″ stranding 40,000 tourists (18 Sept); and hospitals struggling in Namibia to cope with children malnourished from the “worst drought in 30 years” (21 Sept).
Eric Alexander
High Wycombe

As someone who began teaching in 1948, I have long believed that making children aware of their place in the order of performance is not the best way to ensure progress for all. As was found by Murphy and Weinhardt in their study, parental influence, confidence, perseverance and resilience have large effects on achievement (“Confidence ‘is key to doing well at school’”, News). There is, however, another issue that is at least as important as these. Children need to be interested in what they are learning to do and to be able to apply that learning both in school and in their wider lives. It is not enough to expect them to learn simply because the teacher – or even the education secretary – decides they should. More and more, we need a national curriculum that recognises the vital importance of motivation within the children. They need to find learning useful and not simply to answer questions in tests.
Professor Norman Thomas
St Albans, Herts
Council cramping cafe society
Long-term residents of Notting Hill will recognise Ed Vulliamy’s description of its loss of character and community spirit since the arrival of the super-rich (“Development hell: how the upmarket vandals ruined my childhood streets”, In Focus). Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council also seems determined to stamp out whatever lively atmosphere is created by our independent coffee bars and restaurants with the heavy-handed approach of licensing officers towards businesses that try to accommodate locals and the thousands of visitors who pour down Portobello Road, especially at weekends.
This summer, the Portobello Cafe Campaign staged protests outside the coffee bar Kitchen & Pantry following the council’s decision to remove half its tables and chairs, depriving patrons of outside seating all summer and seriously affecting the income of the cafe. More than a thousand signatures and many letters to the council had no effect: it is not interested in local views.
Sylvia Parnell
Claire Simmons
Portobello Cafe Campaign
London W11
No cover-up at Yarl’s Wood
In your articles of 15 and 22 September, you refer to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by staff at the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in the six years that it has been run by Serco.
Sexual contact between residents and staff is always completely unacceptable. As Serco’s director for Yarl’s Wood, I wish to make clear that this behaviour is not widespread or endemic. Most importantly, it is not in any way tolerated. Serco views this type of behaviour extremely seriously and wherever there is evidence of misbehaviour, we take prompt disciplinary action and report it to the police as appropriate. This has resulted in dismissals on the few occasions on which it has been uncovered in the past six years. I have reviewed complaints in the past year and the deeply regrettable incident you reported is the only complaint of this nature to have been made in that time.
The articles allude to a “cover-up” by Serco, which is absolutely not the case. Complaints at Yarl’s Wood are made securely by posting them into a locked post box. Only the Home Office or the Independent Monitoring Board can access these post boxes and the complaints; Serco has no access to them.
Complaints are processed by the Home Office or IMB and passed to Serco’s senior management when appropriate. Serco and Yarl’s Wood staff would not be able to cover up complaints, nor would we want to.
John Tolland
Director, Yarl’s Wood IRC, Beds
Scotland’s thrilling prospects
Catherine Bennett’s sympathy for Scotland’s right to rule herself would be better informed by a visit to Scotland
(“Yes to Scottish independence. No to nationalism”, Comment. At the independence rally last weekend, thousands of people proclaimed their hopes for a fairer, more prosperous and independent Scotland.
In every speech, our egalitarian cause shone through, particularly in two internationalist anthems, Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye and Robert Burns’s A Man’s a Man For A’ That sung by the TradYES group. There was not a shred of chauvinism and every sense of the thrilling prospect of making our own way in the world in the sisterhood and brotherhood of nations.
Rob Gibson MSP
Wick, Caithness
Smoking and violence in jail
Barbara Ellen wrote last week that it would be sadistic to ban smoking in prisons and that if it is to be banned indoors, there should be smoking areas in the grounds. However, this would be the cruellest solution of all. Smokers suffer whenever they have to spend more than an hour or two awake without a smoke, and the nature of prison life is such that this would be happening every day. This repeated deprivation will potentially lead to aggression and violence.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent
Bach best? Think again
Bach “is arguably the greatest of all composers” (“Revealed: the beer-soaked, brutal world of young JS Bach”, News). Really? As the conductor Karl Böhm once remarked, in answer to this implied question: “You mean, apart from Mozart?”
Raymond Calcraft
In the summer of 2002, my husband and I toured the Outer Hebrides in a camper van with our children, Rosie, then seven, and William, four. We had a magical two weeks on the islands after catching the ferry to Barra, then driving up to Stornoway. Evenings were spent parked by deserted beaches, enjoying the fabulous scenery and this photograph is still on our kitchen wall as a reminder. The gaps in Rosie’s teeth depict a specific time in her childhood and William’s expression sums up the novelty for him of having a one pound note for his Scottish holiday pocket money.
However, not everything went according to plan. We had hired the van in March and were assured that the ancient model on show was purely to give us an indication of size – a more up-to-date version would be available later on in the year. This was not the case and as the van stood outside our house on the evening before our departure, many neighbours expressed grave doubts that we would make it to the border, let alone get further north.
On the first night, once the children had been lifted up into their sleeping platform, we prepared our own bed and my husband discovered he was unable to stretch out fully. One morning, he said that he must be getting used to lying curled up as he’d enjoyed a great night’s sleep – then we noticed the door had slid open during the night and his feet were poking outside. Another morning we awoke to something bashing the side of the van, which was a little disconcerting – it was a ram making it very clear that we were on his territory!
Karen Gammack


I believe the reason we, as a nation, are being so polite regarding the niqab, in answer to Joan Smith (22 September), is obvious. The British are famously polite. Is not polite debate preferable to absolute chaos?
I must say to call something “ridiculous”, though Joan’s perfect right, is rather harsh, and not at all in the tradition of politeness! I agree that the niqab should not be banned, except in specific situations that would incur difficulties for practical reasons.
However, I would like to point out that the “modesty” argument does not have to wash with Joan, or anyone else for that matter; it is meant, as I understand it, purely for God, and I cannot see how it is up to any of us to dispute somebody else’s personal relationship with their God. If they believe it creates a closer relationship with more piety, and thus modesty, then it is subjectively so.
Whether it is, in reality, more modest or not is irrelevant to a dispute that should surely be centred on more practical reasonings? We cannot alter belief or opinion just proffer our own. It certainly wouldn’t be very polite to try in any case.
Helen Brown
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Joan Smith says it is OK for a woman to wear the niqab on the 94 bus. Does that bus have CCTV? Allowing people to hide their face makes it ineffective. The only equitable answer is a ban on all headcovering in public which is designed to hide the appearance and which would also include young men wearing hoodies.
Rob Edwards
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
I wonder if the Which? survey into food prices took account of how much food is discarded, partly because of strict adherence to “best before” and “use by” dates, and also because of a reluctance to use left-overs (“One in three struggling to feed themselves”, 22 September).
You have reported in the past that as much as one third of food is jettisoned in some households, and it’s not rocket science to think that the two may be related. Janet Street-Porter in the same edition espouses cookery lessons in school, which would make the young more aware of what can be achieved by judicious use of “raw materials”. Providing free school meals will not help with this, though there are more practical reasons for supporting such a proposal.
Dave & Carol Fossard
via email
Those of us who are opponents of independent education should nevertheless welcome as a temporary ally the new chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (“School boss tells Michael Gove: The system isn’t broken”, 22 September). As Tim Hands implies, state schools under Michael Gove have no incentive to innovate, only a perverse incentive to conform to an increasingly dirigiste, test/examination-dominated regime. I would urge all state primary and secondary schools to follow Tim’s example and devote at least an eighth of their curriculum to non-examination learning – “Independent Studies” .
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
I disagree with the Department for Work and Pensions spokesman that “sanctions are only used as a last resort” (“Homeless jobseekers hit hard by benefit cuts”, 22 September). I know of someone who lost money simply by being late for an interview, while others have been penalised for not applying for enough vacancies.
In a place like Grimsby there isn’t much work and the unemployed are forced to go for jobs they know they won’t get simply to meet job-centre targets.
Tim Mickleburgh
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
I read the article “Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal” with dismay (22 September). This is a cruel method of killing animals. This country brought in laws to stun animals before slaughtering and then allows certain groups to ignore them.
Another worry is that we could be buying and eating halal meat which is not labelled as such. We have the backing of scientists that animals should be stunned before slaughter.
Jenny Bushell

Fight to save England’s beauty
IN THE two months since the launch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE’s) charter to save our countryside, we have seen new research showing that more than half a million houses are planned for open countryside, with a further 150,000 in the green belt.
The scale of this projected development is unprecedented. This needless sacrifice of our green spaces should not be tolerated when England currently has suitable brownfield land for 1.5m new homes that could help regenerate our towns and cities.
As artists and writers who have been inspired by the matchless beauty of England, we urge the government to support the three basic principles set out in the CPRE’s charter to save our countryside.
First, build on suitable brownfield land first, rather than unnecessarily sacrificing the countryside. Second, real localism: give people a proper say in shaping the places they love. Finally, we must build more houses — not executive houses on green fields, as is too often the case now, but well-designed, affordable homes in the right places.
We urge your readers to support the CPRE’s charter at
Sir Andrew Motion (President, Campaign to Protect Rural England), Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes Sir Quentin Blake, Lord Bragg, Bill Bryson, Jane Gardam Maggi Hambling, Alan Hollinghurst Ken Howard, John le Carré Marina Lewycka, Dame Penelope Lively David Lodge, Robert Macfarlane Alice Oswald, Cornelia Parker Philip Pullman, Rose Tremain Jeanette Winterson, Benjamin Zephaniah

Niqab fear exposes our thinly veiled prejudices
I AM one of the “let anyone wear what they like except for reasons of security and job effectiveness” brigade (“The other side of the veil”, News Review, last week). What I am absolutely certain about is that our interpretation of the niqab is no basis for a ban in Britain. Some of the opposition is based on prejudice and Islamophobia.
Jaime Green, London E14
Discomfort zone
Rosie Kinchen got a hostile reception with her niqab but imagine someone (be it a man or a woman) on the Tube, or in any public place, wearing a balaclava — I think all of us would feel uncomfortable and threatened. It has nothing to do with religion or tolerance.
Irith B Sassoon, By email
Foreign powers
The wearing of niqabs is promoted by Saudi Arabia, which pours money into the creation of ultra-conservative mosques here. Muslim friends from other parts of the world tell me that they feel bullied and intimidated by Wahhabi Muslims. Surely politicians must be aware of the power of Saudi influence.
Josephine Smith, London
Taking offence
What an excellent article by Maajid Nawaz (“Behind that veil, Britain is losing its spine”, Comment, September 15). The veil is an insult to decent men who do not see women as sex objects, not to mention the fact that wearing it is also an unhealthy practice.
Dr Salim Ghori, Preston, Lancashire

Ex-military personnel are assets to society
MYTHOLOGY surrounds not just post-traumatic stress disorder but also other indicators of a poor transition to civilian life after military service, such as homelessness, imprisonment and general mental wellbeing (“Shooting down myths of post-traumatic stress”, Letters, September 15).
In each category the incidence is no greater — and is often less — than that of the equivalent general population. Which isn’t to say that each case is any less tragic — or any less deserving of the nation’s support — but it can lead to a dangerous misperception that all those who leave the service bring with them such baggage. They don’t. Most make the transition extremely successfully, and go on to become significant contributors to society.
Of course, we in the third sector must assist those who struggle in every way we can but we should also recognise the evidence — such as that in our recently published reports on transition and mental health — that the quality of the ex-servicemen and women remains extraordinarily high, and that employers should be fighting to sign them up.
Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock (retired), Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust

Lawyers keep the antibiotics pumping
I BELONG to a profession that is the worst perpetrator in over-prescribing antibiotics (“The drugs don’t work”, News Review, September 15). I recently saw a patient whose dentist prescribed them for a loose screw in an implant-supported crown. I routinely carry out minor oral surgery for which I am informed by peer review that I must prescribe both pre- and post-operative antibiotics, which I strenuously avoid.
Research now suggests the preventive prescription of antibiotics has no place in a clean operating environment. I am aware I invite litigation in the event of implant failure, in which case the first question I would be asked by my indemnity provider — quickly followed by the lawyers — is: “Why didn’t you prescribe antibiotics in order to stay in line with current adopted practice?”
As a way to approach this massive public health challenge, I feel we first need to tackle an increasingly aggressive culture of litigation.
Steve Garner, Specialist in Oral Surgery
Dangerous drugs
Warnings about inappropriate consumption of antimicrobial drugs are invariably based on the idea that if we take these powerful substances for trivial infections, and/or fail to complete a course, we are likely to increase the pool of resistant bacteria circulating in the population.
But the same thing can happen in an individual patient. There is a small but significant risk that resistance heightened by the indiscriminate use of such drugs today will trigger the emergence of an antibiotic- insensitive bacterium that can cause a serious, possibly life-threatening, infection in that same person at a later date. It would be prudent for health education messages to highlight this danger, rather than simply appeal to people’s altruistic instincts at a community level.
Dr Bernard Dixon, Ruislip, London
Course work
Standard advice includes completing the course of antibiotics and not wasting them on viral infections. Would it were that simple. How in general practice is it known that there is not an accompanying bacterial infection?
More important, resistant strains are favoured by exposure to antibiotics, whether used wisely or not, so there is an urgent need for research to determine the shortest effective course of treatment. Finally, considering the ever-widening range of adult body weights, is it not time that dose was adjusted accordingly — as is normal practice for animals — to avoid under-dosage or wastage at the extremes?
Professor A R Michell, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Costly school uniforms don’t add up
IT IS not David Laws, the schools minister, but the headmistress Jo Heywood who totally misses the point on uniforms (“The ties that bind”, News Review, last week). Her school obviously has parents who are able and prepared to pay the often inflated prices demanded by monopoly suppliers; the vast majority of schools do not. If uniforms are important — and I believe they are — they should be made available from different sources. Heywood suggests the quality of supermarket merchandise is suspect; has she tried and tested them all? I suspect not. Furthermore, spending an inordinate amount on uniforms sends a mixed message to children when their parents may have been forced to buy at charity shops to finance their education.
Judy Reid, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Dressing room
As a libertarian Conservative I could no more support school uniforms than I could the closed shop, censorship or identity cards. It’s a simple question of freedom of choice. At the very least there should be no rules about the length of skirts, or with regard to shirts, trousers and hairstyles — they can hardly be worn differently outside school.
Mark Taha, London SE26

Pay dispute
I was intrigued by the BBC’s defence that its executive salaries are discounted by an average 73% against the commercial sector (“More £200,000 chiefs enter BBC revolving door”, News, last week). On that basis there appears to be a finance director earning about £1.4m, a director of news on £1.25m, a director of strategy being paid £1.1m and a general counsel making almost £800,000 — all in companies with 22,000 employees or fewer. I wonder who they are and where they work?
David Elstein, London SW15
Viewing figures
Eamon O’Sullivan (“Corporation tax”, Letters, last week) suggests that the BBC could have commercials between shows. It already does. Unfortunately, they don’t bring in money but cost the corporation in fees to advertising agencies and leave viewers fed up with the never-ending self-promotion.
Patrick Cunningham, Winsford, Cheshire
Unsporting conduct
I recently went to a talk given by the chaplain to London Wasps rugby club in which he said there were two dangers affecting young professional sportsmen: porn and gambling (“Porn is making addicts of our sons”, News Review, and “Brain scans find porn addiction”, News, last week). Since the arrival of laptops for professional players to analyse DVDs of their performances, there has been a rush to view porn and gambling sites. These pros have ample time to indulge themselves, and many become addicted.
Paul Churchouse, Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire
Political struggle
Former Tony Blair adviser Patrick Diamond (“Labour’s idle talk on raising living standards”, Comment, last week) suggests that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls “should exploit voters’ instinct that the Tory leadership doesn’t understand what life is like
for millions of families struggling to make ends meet”. A private education for Balls, a comprehensive in Hampstead for Miliband, and then Oxford and a parachute into the junior ranks of the Labour hierarchy for both hardly qualifies them to understand the struggle “to make ends meet”.
Greg Sheen, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
No time to lose
Anyone considering alternative therapies should bear in mind the timescale for their particular form of cancer (“My choice”, Style, last week). While patients are trawling the internet or seeking out “wizard” healers who experiment with cannabinoid tinctures blessed in the light of the full moon, they could pass the point when conventional treatment has any chance of being effective. Chemotherapy saves many lives. It did mine.
Jennifer Rees, Cardiff
Beyond the law
The dentist Omar Sheikh Mohamed Addow (“Dentist struck off for offering female mutilation”, News, September 8) is now back in Somalia when he should at the very least have faced trial in Britain. In May 2012 I was with French anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaigners just after news of your paper’s “sting” broke. My hosts refused to believe me when I said Addow would escape prosecution. France has an interest in the UK’s failure so far to prosecute: it is believed we have become a magnet for FGM tourism.
Vera Lustig, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
The wages of spin
Damian McBride has regrets about his actions as a Labour spin doctor (“Forgive me my spins”, Focus, last week). After one nasty episode, he is said to have thought of himself as a “cruel, vindictive, thoughtless bastard”, apparently asking himself what kind of person he had become. The timing of the publication of his book in the week of the Labour conference must add to his guilt; will he refuse to benefit from the profits of his “spins” and donate the income to charity?
Michael Saffell, Bath, Avon
Mousse hunt
Gizzi Erskine’s recipe for chocolate mousse (Magazine, last week) says it serves six but ends with “Fill 4 glasses with the mousse”. Is it that the four glasses should be shared between six in these straitened times, or an acceptance that most cooks are chocoholics?
Maureen Symons, Cambridge

Corrections and clarifications
Last week’s Sunday Times Good University Guide wrongly reported a degree dropout rate of 81.9% for Birmingham City University. The correct dropout rate was 14.3%. The completion rate was 81.9%. We apologise for the error.

Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime minister, 77; Chris Broad, cricketer, 56; Lord Coe, athlete, 57; Mackenzie Crook, actor, 42; Colin Dexter, crime writer, 83; Anita Ekberg, actress, 82; Patricia Hodge, actress, 67; Jerry Lee Lewis, singer, 78; Ian McShane, actor, 71; Mike Post, composer, 69; Lech Walesa, co-founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement, 70; Amy Williams, Olympic skeleton champion, 31

1571 birth of Caravaggio, painter; 1758 Horatio Nelson is born; 1810 birth of Elizabeth Gaskell, author; 1829 Metropolitan police carry out first patrols; 1938 Germany, Britain, France and Italy forge Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to annex Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia; 1979 John Paul II becomes first pope to visit Ireland, and calls for an end to violence between Protestants and Catholics


SIR – Matt Wrack, the Fire Brigade Union’s general secretary, has said that “It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s; the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered” (report, September 23).
Half the fire brigade appear to be engaged in knocking on doors and offering to check your smoke alarms and exit routes, as I have experienced recently. If the bright-eyed young officers who called on me were to change places with their more elderly colleagues, there would be no need for them to be attempting to “rescue families in their late-50s”. It is better for them to be advising us while their younger colleagues do the fire-fighting.
John Palmer
Wellington, Herefordshire

SIR – Fraser Nelson’s analysis of Ed Miliband’s ambition (Comment, September 27) is both true and scary.
There is no doubt that Mr Miliband has struck a chord with the public about the ever-increasing cost of energy. His promise to freeze prices will be very popular.
Unfortunately, the quick response of the energy companies has only added weight to his argument. The chairman of Centrica, for instance, has stated that if wholesale gas prices rise there is no alternative to increasing domestic prices, if bankruptcy or under-investment are to be avoided. This is known as a cost-plus solution, which in theory any business could apply – if your costs increase, you pass them on to your customers.
The solution to rising energy prices is increased efficiency and competition. The energy regulator could and should enforce this, and David Cameron should champion such an approach.
Barry Hawkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
Related Articles
Let young firemen fight fires, not knock on doors
28 Sep 2013
SIR – Has no one pointed out to Mr Miliband that it is already possible to freeze one’s energy prices for up to four years in return for a small price increase covering the whole period?
I would prefer him to have promised to remove the “green” taxes added to our bills that provide profits to the operators of the useless windmills covering some of the most attractive parts of rural Britain.
David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – With the likelihood of real energy-price reductions following the development of fracking, how can it make sense for the Labour Party to discourage investment in energy industries for the next seven years?
Andrew Glossop
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The cart has been put before the horse. Hard-pressed, low-paid people and British industry need cheaper energy. The solution is more supply.
This means a massive expansion of energy infrastructure, based upon nuclear and coal. And this is where the Government has a strategic role to play in underwriting investment with a crown guarantee and forcing through the planning process.
That’s how you get long-term, cheaper and more reliable energy.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – To return to the socialism of the Sixties and Seventies is a horrific thought for those who remember In Place of Strife, strikes, inflation, power-cuts, the three-day week and months of uncollected rubbish.
If in a year’s time there seems any chance of Ed Miliband becoming the next prime minister, we can only pray that the Scots save us by voting for independence, so minimising Labour’s chance of ever forming a Westminster government again.
Peter Sander
Hythe, Kent
Unreliable evidence
SIR – In view of recent criminal cases, it is regrettable that the old form of committal proceedings has been abolished. Formerly, the prosecution case could be tested before the magistrates’ court (professional or lay) to assess its strength. Often the case would be dismissed at that stage and not be sent to the Crown Court if the evidence was not there or was not satisfactory against the defendant. It was a procedure that could save much Crown Court time and expense.
The case of Michael Le Vell is an example where there appeared to be no proper evidence to convict. He could have been spared years of anguish and expense by the possible disposal of the case in the lower court. Similarly, all the recent cases where allegations are made years after the events could be tested in the lower court.
Roger Davies
Former District Judge
London SW1
Digital dread
SIR – I am sure that my household is not alone in wishing FM radio to continue (report, September 26).
I can understand digital radio manufacturers lobbying the Government for FM to be switched off to boost their sales, but with digital reception in most areas being no better than FM, why should listeners be forced to spend hundreds of pounds on replacing existing sets, many of which include additional features?
Derek Grimston
Andover, Hampshire
Original prankster
SIR – Julian Barrow’s prank of openly carrying through Trafalgar Square a copy of Goya’s Duke of Wellington, which had been stolen from the National Gallery (Obituaries, September 18), was not the only time that the painting inspired humour.
Sean Connery as James Bond spotted the stolen picture on an easel in Dr No’s headquarters in the 1962 film. With Wildean symmetry, the original was found in the lost luggage office of New Street Station, Birmingham, in 1965.
Hugo Vickers
London W8
International Ainslie
SIR – How wonderful it was to see Britain’s finest, Sir Ben Ainslie, assisting Team USA in winning the America’s Cup.
Perhaps Roy Hodgson should ask Lionel Messi if he might be willing to help out in our attempt to qualify for and win next year’s World Cup?
Bruce Chalmers
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
Bullying Champion
Sir – Is it just me or are job descriptions in public offices getting too complex?
What does a Pastoral Director Year 8 Achievement Co-ordinator and Teacher of Science (innovation zone) do, precisely? He has four Assistant Pastoral Directors, including one who doubles up as a Bullying Champion.
Our City Treasurer’s Office has changed into a Corporate Services Directorate – Finance Division. The Town Clerk has morphed into Corporate Services Directorate – Law and Administration.
I have also received a letter about council tax from the Customer Services department of my local authority. I was under the impression that a “customer” was a person who chooses to make a purchase – council tax is not an option.
Clive Davidson
British students abroad
SIR – The idea that British students are applying to US universities in droves is not supported by the data (report, September 26). Figures out this week from Ucas, the admissions service, show an increase in acceptances by UK universities compared with last year, climbing back towards their levels before fee rises.
The number of British undergraduates at American universities has remained constant at about 4,300; a tiny percentage (0.3 per cent) of the 1.7 million British undergraduates enrolling at UK universities every year.
Official data show a record 16,335 Americans pursuing full degrees at British universities in 2011-12; five per cent more than the previous year. Ucas figures for courses starting in 2013-14 reveal a 10 per cent increase in applicants from America.
Very high student satisfaction levels make the United Kingdom so attractive to home and international students. The proportion of British students who study abroad is much lower than in countries of similar size, such as France and Germany.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief Executive, Universities UK
London WC1
Christians in Pakistan
SIR – Peter Stanford (Features, September 27) correctly identifies the extent of the persecution of Christians worldwide.
He underestimates, however, the number of Christians in Pakistan. As their tormentors well know, one way to make a community insignificant is officially to depress its numbers. This is widespread in the Middle East and beyond.
Some claim that Christians in Pakistan number around 6 per cent of the population. My experience suggests that the BBC World Service estimate of 4 per cent is nearer the mark. There may be many who are simply invisible and have not been counted.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1
A tomb with a view
SIR – The problem with burying Richard III in Westminster Abbey (Letters, September 25) is space. Pitt’s monument was put over the west door, and the monument to Spencer Perceval, another prime minister, had to be put on a window ledge. Whether the choice is Leicester or York, at least put the king somewhere where the tomb can be seen.
Donald Rumbelow
London SE6
HS2 will free up lines for local commuters
SIR – There is more to the capacity of a railway route than just how far apart successive trains can run (Letters, September 27).
The theoretical capacity of the current network is destroyed by mixing fast and slow trains on the same lines. For instance, on the “fast” lines out of Euston, stopping a through-train at a station, or running even the fastest suburban train, wipes out the next through-path, if not the next two.
Hence, after recent upgrades for through-trains, stops at Watford have all but disappeared. The European Rail Traffic Management System will not change that.
As a new route for through-trains only, however, HS2 can work to its full theoretical capacity while leaving the current route free to deliver a better local and commuter service. That is in addition to cutting journey times by 35 minutes to Birmingham and an hour to Manchester.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – Sir David Higgins was reported as saying that he only took the role of chairman of HS2 because the Government assured him it was committed to seeing the project through. It would have been sensible for him also to seek an assurance that the business case remained valid in the face of factors that may have been wrongly weighted, changed, or not yet taken into account (Letters, September 27).
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – I regularly travel on the Virgin Pendolino service from Stockport to Euston (Letters, September 23) and can say that the trains are extremely comfortable for the sub two-hour journey, with plenty of windows to see the countryside. The trains do not slow down to 19th-century speeds. My 1960 timetable shows average journey time then was in excess of three hours.
Gerald Huxley
Stockport, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – As a former member of the staff of the City of Dublin Skin & Cancer Hospital on Hume Street, Dublin, and as the author of the history of the hospital, A Century of Serviceit saddens me to see the destruction of the six formerly well-maintained Georgian houses that comprised the hospital.
Until recently the property was the responsibility of Nama, which neglected to maintain the buildings.
How is it that Dublin City Council can enter into protracted legal proceedings to prevent the installation of a dumb-waiter in a listed building on Merrion Square yet apparently turn a blind eye to the wholesale destruction of a block of listed buildings on Hume Street? – Yours, etc,
Clifton Terrace,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I wish to take issue with the academics who wrote a letter in relation to the Seanad referendum (September 27th).
In very eloquent language they argue for “tackling major issues affecting our society” by “more executive accountability”, strengthening “the level of vocational expertise”, intensifying “political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes”, etc.
All of these grandiose objectives are to be achieved by “giving all citizens the right to elect our senators”.
Far from “bringing new expertise into the parliamentary system” as argued by these learned academics, all that is doing is electing another Dáil.
That would do one of two things. It would reinforce the present power structure, making for less executive accountability. Or it would set up another power structure with the capacity to gridlock decision-making and cause even further frustration to citizens already annoyed with the inability of the democratic processes to deal with everyday problems.
I, therefore, do not think that the proposals by the learned academics will do anything to tackle the major issues affecting our society in a bankrupt country. – Yours, etc,
Shielmartin Drive,

Sir, – I agree with your Editorial “A church more open to all” (September 21st) where you highlight his attitude to church governance: “I do not want token consultations, but real consultations.” So when his “outsider” advisory group meets next month Pope Francis should consider expanding this group of eight cardinals to 16 by adding eight women.
Or are women to continue to be excluded from all church governance until a “theology of women” has been developed? I can think of numerous well qualified women who would be a breath of fresh air in the Vatican! – Yours, etc,
Avoca Avenue,
Sir, – As a member of the ASTI, I am proud of the stand taken by the members of our union. We have given more than our share in the current crisis, while large corporations pay derisory amounts of tax. Enough is enough. The cutbacks have had profound effects on schools.
In my own school we have 1,200 students. Having lost many of our posts of responsibility, we operate a large science department with no subject co-ordinator. We share out the work between the teachers. I would like to thank the Minister for Education for encouraging subject departments to be run as socialist collectives. – Yours, etc,
Croydon Park Avenue,
Marino, Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:
* I believe that every secondary school student should have tablets or ebooks. I am aware that since schools came back after the summer there has been a lot of debate in the media on this issue and I feel very strongly that schools need to embrace this change.
Also in this section
Short-changed by RTE’s licence to print money
This is Ireland, so nothing is anybody’s fault
Let’s stick to the €3.1bn budget adjustment
Every day, I have to walk home with a heavy schoolbag on my back. It doesn’t help that our school is at the top of a steep hill and students are wrecked and in pain by the time they reach the school doors.
It is time for schools to face up to the fact that technology is the future. Look around you. Everyone is using a smartphone, an iPad, all of those gadgets.
The internet is a huge part of our lives. Everyone relies on it, whether for work or for leisure. Some people might argue that having internet access on an iPad used in a school will lead to students surfing the web, rather than concentrating in class. Maybe an ebook would do and there is no need for the iPad. The school could block internet access except in a computer lab.
Think of all the trees that are used to make textbooks. If we buy tablets we help the environment.
As I said I feel very strongly about this issue. I enjoyed debating the issue with my classmates, some of who opposed my views.
I remain convinced, however, that tablets are the way forward for Irish students.
Eoghan Maher-McGrath
Ballinagh, Co Cavan
* The need for an inquiry into the banking crisis, as supported by your editorial of September 25, is anything but as clear as the Irish Independent seems to think. It can be argued that we do not need an inquiry into how this country was bankrupted, since we know the answer already.
National bankruptcy was the result of decisions by a small number of our most powerful citizens at the head of government and financial institutions during the Celtic Tiger period.
The motivating force behind these grandees was arrogance. Recent tapes only confirm this. They used the media to reflect their own self-importance and the rightness of what they were doing.
Blaming foreigners for what happened in relation to the bank guarantee, as your editorial does, is hypocritical. As the harm was already done, all of us were going to suffer, whatever was decided at that time.
Setting up a proverbial show trial now is a distraction from the job of getting this country back on its feet.
A Leavy
Sutton, Dublin 13
* There is something timid, some might say cute, at the permanent caught-in-the-headlights face of Professor Honohan, our beloved head of the Central Bank.
But when push comes to shove, he has no problem when bankers say they are picking his (our) cash out their arses, so he obviously is on the side of the likely lads who mocked him and us and who are continuing to live the lives they feel entitled to.
There is nothing illegal in helping to destroy the country, apparently.
Isn’t it lovely for them, all the same? Could we have been wrong about them all along, now that their naughtiness has again been endorsed by the lamb-like Patrick Honohan?
Perhaps it is indeed the case that the phrase “we’re all in this together” only applies when those in the banking sector are looking out for each other.
The rest of us know the true meaning of that phrase when we try to pay our way with aspirations, rather than real money. Nothing is going to change in this rotten State.
Do something, Prof Honohan. Show us that you have our best interests at heart for a change.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* If Professor Honohan, as governor of the Central Bank, can act so indifferently to the ‘Punch and Judy’ Anglo Tapes and on how the banks conduct their business, is it any wonder that ordinary people under stress are angry and perplexed in dealing with them?
The various banks promised to put forward their plans to solve mortgage debt over the past three years, then came up with useless plastic-surgery ideas that did little other than prolong the agony of the 100,000 Irish families in mortgage arrears. Each bank, apparently, had different approaches, none of them simple.
As head of the Central Bank, it should be Prof Honohan’s job to guide, devise and put in place a common workable plan that would deliver a sustainable solution to those unfortunate mortgage debtors and to ensure that all lenders act on his advice immediately. Eviction should be a last resort.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* It is interesting that the Mater Hospital in its statement confirming that it would abide by the law of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act does not use the word ‘abortion’.
Pregnancy is a state that has a termination; it does not go on forever. Sometimes in late pregnancy, complications may occur which, in a Catholic hospital are dealt with by terminating the pregnancy but not by intentionally destroying the life of the unborn child.
Abortion (the direct and intentional destruction of a human life) usually occurs in circumstances where no one suggests that continuation of the pregnancy represents any particular threat to the woman. Rather, it is the survival of the child that must be prevented.
Catholic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with the 17 Irish martyrs (beatified in September 1992) in their graves.
Gerry Glennon
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
* I fully support the appeal being heard by An Bord Pleanala against what I believe to be a flawed decision by Dublin City Council to grant permission to build a memorial to victims of institutional abuse in the Garden of Remembrance.
No one doubts the necessity for this memorial. Many of the victims of institutional abuse are either elderly or have passed away.
There are two reasons I support the appeal. Firstly, the Garden of Remembrance was purposely built to remember those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom. Secondly, these victims deserve a standalone memorial in a conspicuous location in the city – lest we forget these victims.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* In common with Irish agencies Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the GRETA report (‘Ireland Criticised For Failing To Prosecute Pimps’) liberally uses the emotive term ‘trafficked’ to back its agenda.
Given that this term is now conflated so casually with the despicable practice of sexual exploitation, it’s important to remember that both groups categorise all foreign nationals merely advertising as escorts as a priori having been trafficked. This absurd misuse of language is a disservice to public debate, distorts the true picture and is an affront to those who have truly been exploited.
Trevor O’Neill
North Circular Road, Dublin 1
* I am currently compiling a list of the Irish fatalities and those taken prisoner during the Korean war. Some of your readers might be able to help with this worthy project. Please send details, photographs and documents to the address below. All material will be treated with the utmost care and returned.
James Durney
Naas, Co Kildare
* I don’t see what all the fuss is about the large amount of money found at Tom McFeely’s house. I am sure there is a very reasonable explanation, such as that he won it on a horse!
Seamus McLoughlin
Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
Irish Independent

Meg, Lynn and Milly

September 28, 2013

29 September 2013 Meg, Lynn and Milly

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide transport for the Todd-Hunters Browns but can Leslie find the right country before the gin runs out? Priceless.
Meg, Lynn and Milly come for lunch and may help with the books
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


Robert Barnard
Robert Barnard, the crime writer, who has died aged 76, was revered less in his native Britain than in the United States where, as a grand caricaturist of the genre, he was acclaimed a master of the English mystery with a comic twist.

6:43PM BST 27 Sep 2013
A devotee of Agatha Christie, Barnard wrote from the urbane perspective of the golden age of British crime fiction. His novels often featured upper-class or academic victims, as in Death On The High C’s (1977) and Unruly Son (1978), or claustrophobic settings, as in A Little Local Murder (1976), set in a fictional East Anglian village called Twytching.
Before the onslaught of the Nordic noir genre led by Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, Barnard used to say that he was the world’s northernmost mystery writer. In the 1970s, he was a professor of English at the University of Tromso in Norway, 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle. One of his earliest mysteries, Death in a Cold Climate (1980), was written and set there.
A round-faced, ruddy and cheerful figure who prided himself on having a “nose for human awfulness”, Barnard wielded his pen with a comic wit admired as sharp and quietly malicious .
His first mystery, Death of an Old Goat (1974), about the brutal murder of a university professor, stemmed from his experience teaching for five years at the University of New England in Australia. The solution is not disclosed until the very last sentence.
A later suspense novel, At Death’s Door (1988), encompasses a once-great novelist in the throes of Alzheimer’s; his former mistress, a flamboyant actress; their daughter, bent on revenge on her neglectful mother by means of biography; the actress’s wimpish husband; and the novelist’s legitimate children – a neurotic, status-seeking daughter and a compassionate, commonsensical son.
Barnard said that two real-life people inspired At Death’s Door. One was Sir Rudolf Bing, one-time head of the Metropolitan Opera in New York who spent some of his declining years absent-mindedly roaming England, leaving behind piles of unpaid hotel bills: “the old man who was once in control now pretty much helpless”. The other was Anthony West, whose biography of his father, HG Wells, was — Barnard thought — an “incredible” way of getting even with his mother, the writer Rebecca West. (Dame Rebecca sued to stop publication of her son’s 1955 novel Heritage, about a son torn between two literary parents, a case that Barnard paralleled in his novel.)
Barnard created three series characters, all detectives: Peregrine Trethowan, Mike Oddie, and Oddie’s sidekick Charlie Peace, the last of these mischievously named after a notorious 19th century murderer, burglar and cracksman.
The first, Perry Trethowan, was the Scotland Yard superintendent with the streak of “dry facetiousness” that mirrored Barnard’s own. Trethowan was introduced in Barnard’s 1981 novel Sheer Torture with the arresting opening sentence: “I first heard of the death of my father when I saw his obituary in The Times.”
Against his will, the sardonic Trethowan, estranged from his artistic, eccentric family after joining the Army, is drawn into investigating the death. In a touch of vintage Barnard, the father, Leo Trethowan, a dilettante composer, is killed submitting himself to a form of Spanish Inquisition-style torture known as strappado while dressed in gauzy spangled tights.
The Skeleton in the Grass (1987), a tale of two British upper class pacifists, and an earlier, literary novel, Out of the Blackout (1985), a suspenseful account of a young man’s attempts to learn his true identity, are set in pre-war England. But for all his predilections for the vanished England of Agatha Christie and her ilk, Barnard spent much of his adult life abroad.
Robert Barnard was born on November 23 1936 at Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, not far from Tolleshunt d’Arcy, the Regency village that was home to Margery Allingham, one of the great English mystery writers of the 1930s.
Educated at the Royal Grammar School, Colchester, Barnard considered himself “a horrid, snobbish little schoolboy, who went straight to mysteries, early.” Later he wrote a much-admired book, A Talent to Deceive (1980), analysing the success of Agatha Christie, “the master puzzler”.
At Balliol College, Oxford, Barnard wrote a doctoral dissertation on Dickens’s imagery, which was later published as a book. Politically active on the Left, his first job was running a bookshop for the Fabian Society. He was a campaign worker for Labour in the 1959 general election, which Macmillan’s Conservatives won.
After teaching adult education in the north of England, Barnard emigrated to Australia. When he saw an advertisement for a job teaching English in Bergen, Norway, he moved there in 1966, and on to Tromso in 1976. Financed by sales of his books, he returned to England in 1984.
Barnard also wrote a solution to The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), the book that Dickens never completed and that has tormented authors ever since. “Absolutely convincing,” Barnard believed. “But no one will publish it.”
Barnard, who settled in Leeds on his return from Norway, set A City of Strangers (1990) in a fictional Yorkshire city called Sleate; the book featured Jack Phelan, the scourge of the Belfield Grove Estate.
A scabrous father of six, contentedly unemployed for nearly 20 years, Phelan spends his days guzzling beer, insulting the neighbours, picking fights and smashing up furniture. The vicious Phelan teenagers, Kevin and June, are already hardened criminals; the younger children, with one exception, are precociously depraved. When the family descends on a local supermarket, the townsfolk scatter:
“There were five of them going the rounds of the aisles: the parents, June, Jackie, and Dale. Dale’s pushchair and the supermarket trolley made them a formidable group to encounter — practically an armoured battalion. Jack pushed the trolley aggressively, shouted instructions, got out of no one’s way, cursed old ladies who were peering at prices to save a penny or two on a packet of tea bags, and abused one of the shelf-boys who happened to be black.
“’I wouldn’t go to a Paki shop and I don’t expect to see the buggers here,’ he shouted ostensibly to his wife, really to all and sundry, and the black youth in particular, who was in fact Caribbean.’’
With this Barnard novel, one American critic hailed a convincing microcosm of the new underclass of Thatcher’s Britain: “riotous, savage, with nothing to lose’’.
Barnard’s hero Perry Trethowan returned in The Missing Bronte (1983), a reflection of Barnard’s fascination with Emily Bronte, a biography of whom he published in 2000.
Barnard published some 30 mystery titles under his own name, and as Bernard Bastable turned out three more featuring a retired Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer turned amateur sleuth.
Entertainment, he wrote in an essay in Colloquium on Crime (1986), should be the foremost function of the mystery story: “I like my crime stories to be well written, but that is a marginal pleasure compared to the pleasure of their being well plotted, fast, ingenious. I do not want the genre to attain a borderline literary respectability.”
Barnard was chairman of the Bronte Society between 1996 and 1999, and again from 2002. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger by the Crime Writers’ Association in 2003, and published his last novel in America, A Charitable Body, last year. In the United States his books earned him six Edgar nominations.
Robert Barnard married, in 1963, Louise Tabor, a librarian he met in Australia, who survives him.
Robert Barnard, born November 23 1936, died September 19 2013


The review of Fidelio at the Coliseum by Andrew Clements (27 September), which he concedes “glosses the original rather than presenting it as truthfully as some may want”, reminds me of some productions I’ve suffered in the past. Chief among them was a production of Figaro at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, many years ago, where the set featured a small indoor swimming pool. Worse, while singing his most beautiful aria, the count rode around it on a small silver bicycle; the ensemble singing was superb. More recently a production of Faust at Nottingham Theatre Royal included the chorus thrusting their mobile phones aloft at every opportunity, and apparent American political conventions going on while the speech screens at the side of the stage made it clear they were singing about going off to war. Worst of all, with Marguerite in the cathedral praying, we were treated to a stage setting at an abortion clinic with protesters wearing baseball caps back to front parading around with placards. All you could do was close your eyes, try and suppress your irritation, and listen to the fantastic voice of Peter Auty (and the Marguerite was his equal).
I don’t go to opera that often and when I do I like to see what the composer and librettist intended, though obviously this is too boring for some of those professionals involved in production, and perhaps some of those who can afford to go frequently. I wonder what the singers feel about these weird interpretations; are they always completely on board?
Rosemary Muge
• If the director has changed both the words and the music of Fidelio, as Andrew Clements’ review informs us, what right has ENO to advertise the work as Beethoven’s? It may be well known to followers of the director Calixto Bieito that the work has been mutilated, but this is not referred to by the ENO, who speak only of Bieito’s “unique vision”. Clements states that in this production “all the characters … are trapped in one kind of prison or another”. Not only the characters, it seems, but also the composer.
Simon Nicholls

Conventional “retail” bank accounts run cautiously can’t ever differ widely in their returns, so why your euphoria over bank switching (Editorial, 21 September)? Is a customer base that is constantly churning really what we now need? Imagine when Northern Rock first showed weakness – surely every customer would have screamed “switch”: instant chaos. Expect lots more crazy schemes by sociopath banksters, with apparent incentives whose complexities ordinary people can’t fathom. Most of us don’t spend our time obsessing over the financial press, we just want responsibility and good service.
Dr Stephen Caunce
Arnside, Cumbria
• I was saddened by Pass notes 3,188 (Y Farteg, G2, 26 September), which is so redolent of the Anglocentric ignorance so prevalent in the English press. In Welsh the letter F is the equivalent of the V sound in English. Only those who perceive the world from a monoglot English perspective could possibly link the English “fart” with the name of the village in question. What arrogance!
Gruffudd Roberts
Dyserth, Sir Ddinbych
• Manchester’s tramcars, 1930s, on the door enclosing the driver, “Do not spit here”, and immediately beneath: “Use the Ship Canal” (Letters, 27 September).
Bernard Bloom
• Years ago, probably in the 1950s, when notices in London buses said “No spitting. Penalty £5″, I heard of a granny helping her four-year-old grandson count up his Christmas money. It came to £4 16s 6d. With round eyes he said: “Coo! I’ve nearly got enough to spit on a bus!”
Marion Bolton
• My ex-colleague Mike Bury (Letters, 26 September) is right to say that Immanuel Kant was “highly sociable”. He was of course “a real pissant who was very rarely stable” (Bruces’ Philosophers Song).
Liz Meerabeau
• Where is the Guardian’s balance (Letters, 27 September)? You must have had at least one letter in support of what your leader on Thursday called “Labour’s meddlesome Lord Mandelson”.
Jeff Rooker
House of Lords

Thank you for giving prominent coverage to the crass way Asda, Tesco and others have reinforced the stigma around mental illness by marketing such insensitive fancy dress costumes (Report, 27 September). Alastair Campbell’s brilliant article on the subject (Stigma is not a bit of fun, 27 September) should be compulsory reading for all healthcare professionals and politicians. Having struggled with mental-health problems since my student days in the late 60s, I fail to comprehend why so many still view the brain/mind as less important than any other part of the body. Surely that is all that makes humans superior to other creatures? Yet even supposedly well-educated people often see it as somehow shameful or weak to be treated for psychiatric illness. Would they refuse insulin for diabetes, or antibiotics for pneumonia?
Far from weakness causing my own severe psychotic breakdown in 1977, determination helped me survive it. A brilliant NHS psychiatrist restored my sanity, after inappropriate treatment in the private sector resulted in a near-fatal suicide attempt. A succession of excellent NHS consultants then gave me wonderful support for many years. Now, NHS psychiatry seems hardly to exist. I’m lucky: my outstanding GP sees me regularly, and I can pay a private counsellor, who is equally good. Sadly, few sufferers enjoy such advantages. Not only are we reverting to the Victorian concept of the “deserving” versus the “undeserving” poor; the same labels are being attached to the sick. Mental health matters more, not less, than physical, and should be viewed and funded accordingly. As Campbell so rightly concludes: “Stigmatising it takes us back to the dark ages.”
Diana Stow
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

The University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Athens Polytechnic have been forced to halt all activities as a result of Greek ministry of education proposals to suspend unilaterally 1,655 university administrative workers. The impact on teaching, research, clinical work and international collaboration is unparalleled and the threat to higher education in Greece as a result of stringently imposed EU austerity measures is a cause of great concern far beyond Greece’s shores. As academics, university workers, students and others, we call on the EU and the Greek government to protect the status and staff of Greek universities, to ensure that they remain able to engage in education and research and to recognise that these institutions are more important now than ever. They are and must remain beacons of critical thinking in a Europe whose social structures are being eroded by massive cutbacks and over which the shadow of far-right extremism looms.
Dr Kevin Adamson University of Stirling, Dr Marianne Afanassieva University of Hull, Jose Arroyo University of Warwick, Dr Cathy Bergin University of Brighton, Dr Nora Bermingham TVAS (Ireland) Ltd, Professor Andrew Bowie University of London, Dr Maud Bracke University of Glasgow, Clare Brennan University of York, Dr Daniel Bye University of Bedfordshire, Mark Campbell London Metropolitan University and UCU national executive committee, Dr Theodoros Chiotis University of Oxford, Professor Katharine Cockin University of Hull, Colin Creighton University of Hull, Professor Costas Douzinas University of London, Dr Martin Paul Eve University of Lincoln, Dr Kirsten Forkert Birmingham City University, Professor Des Freedman University of London, John Holloway Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, Dr Eleftheria Ioannidou University of Birmingham, Professor Laleh Khalili University of London, Dr Alexandra M Kokoli Middlesex University, Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni University of Glasgow, Dr Theodore Koulouris University of Brighton, Dr Elena Loizidou University of London, Paddy Lyons University of Glasgow, Dr William McEvoy University of Sussex, Professor Luke Martell University of Sussex, Andy Medhurst University of Sussex, Dr Shamira Meghani University of Leeds, Dr Keir Milburn University of Leicester, Dr Jonathan Neale Bath Spa University, Ewan Nicholas University of London, Dr Catherine Packham University of Sussex, Dr Maia Pal University of Sussex, Dr Polly Pallister-Wilkins University of Amsterdam, Dr Dimitris Papanikolaou University of Oxford, Dr Eleni Papargyriou University of London, Professor Adam Piette University of Sheffield, Dr Anindya Raychaudhuri University of St Andrews, Dr Lucy Robinson University of Sussex, Dr Eleanor Rycroft University of Bristol, Dr Edmund Schluessel Cardiff University and NUS national executive council, Dr Despina Sinou University of Paris 13 and University of La Rochelle, Dr Olga Taxidou University of Edinburgh, Dr Peter Thompson University of Sheffield, Dr Georgina Voss Royal College of Art, Dr Aaron Winter University of Abertay Dundee
• Richard Seymour seems to suggest the violence of Golden Dawn should be dealt with by a militant response from the left (Comment, 24 September). This implies that only the left has the duty or right to stop fascism, and that fighting fire with fire is the appropriate response. Given that the fringes of the Greek extreme left have quite a record of recent violence themselves, would it not be best to urge the government to deal with Golden Dawn by using the full force of existing laws, rather than further stoke the flames simmering on the polarised streets?
Christos Proukakis

Not considered in the article by Kate Adie (Don’t write first world war women out of history, 23 September) are those who travelled to The Hague in April 1915 to object to the war and to promote the radical idea that international disputes should be resolved by negotiation. As one organiser, Aletta Jacobs, said: “We feel that we can no longer endure in this 20th century of civilisation that governments should tolerate brute force as the only solution of international disputes.”
Illustration by Gary Kempston
Amid the carnage of surrounding warfare, 1,200 women from 12 countries met and elected five delegates to take their programme to end the war through mediation to European and US governments. The international team travelled back and forward across Europe and to the US during the summer of 1915, visiting 14 countries and meeting 24 influential leaders: prime ministers, foreign ministers, presidents, the king of Norway and the pope.
The women urged the political leaders to set up continuous mediation by neutral countries to end the war. Although each statesman declared himself sympathetic, not one would take the first step. However, US president Woodrow Wilson adopted many of their proposals in his “Fourteen Points” speech, which later laid the foundations for the League of Nations.
If Ms Adie includes the comments of the House of Commons about women politicians in 1917, she should also have quoted what the congresswoman Jeannette Rankin said: “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.”
To ignore the women who promote peace can still be a prejudice of war correspondents. However, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom continues to promote the idea that political leaders have the responsibility to use their expertise and skills to resolve international disputes through negotiation and mediation, thereby creating political solutions rather than promoting military destruction.
Helen Kay
• It is curious that Kate Adie argues that women “have views on war and peace”, but chooses only to highlight the role of women in the war effort. She joins the ranks of the men who dominate accounts of the war, all too often totally ignoring the work of women who tried to stop the war. No history of the role of women should ignore the International Manifesto of Women delivered by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance to the Foreign Office and all the foreign embassies in London in 1914, arguing strongly against the war that Max Hastings and many others have described as “catastrophe”. The IWSA later organised a mass meeting in London to protest against the war.
Jane Grant
• Kate Adie is right to suggest that women should not be written out of history. Many of us have worked hard over the past 20 years to redress the balance, and consequently women’s history has a place on the university curriculum and is even addressed in many schools. The Women’s History Network encourages and promotes research into and the teaching of women’s history. It holds an annual conference and a variety of regional women’s history conferences throughout the year. Women’s history is alive and well – it just needs help raising its profile, and articles from prominent journalists like Kate Adie may just do that.
Sue Johnson
• My mother, who lost both her brothers in the war, was a doctor at the hospital at Royaumont Abbey on the western front. This hospital was unique as all the personnel were women – surgeons, doctors, nurses, orderlies, stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers. They were all British women working for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals organisation, who did a magnificent job and gained an excellent medical reputation. This little-known story needs to be remembered.
Ann Fox
• Kate Adie mentions the women who drove ambulances under fire, but gives inadequate attention to the extent to which nurses put their lives at risk and suffered casualties. Whether tending patients in field hospitals that could be subjected to enemy shelling or on troop ships vulnerable to submarine attack at sea, they were often in the heat of the battle. It is anomalous and unjust that their service alongside men is so rarely mentioned in accounts of the war or featured on memorials to it.
Christopher Tugendhat


Privatisation of the gas and electricity industries has had a catastrophic effect on the wealth of ordinary people in Britain and the country as a whole. Rather than billions flowing to the Treasury for reinvestment, as was the case when the industries were publicly owned, most such profits now go abroad.
Further, thousands of people are now employed doing jobs that are literally useless to the country and the economy; one such example are those employed to persuade customers to switch from one energy company to another – a huge waste of human resources. Furthermore, true competition is not possible given that the gas and electricity industries are natural monopolies with only one set of infrastructure each. The result is higher than necessary prices.
The gas and electricity industries were effectively given away by the Thatcher government. The simple solution to the energy companies’ appalling reaction to Ed Miliband’s sensible suggestion of an energy price freeze would be to  re-nationalise them.
John Stratton, Haltwhistle, Northumberland
King Canute dealt with the sycophants who said he could control the tides by commanding the incoming sea to retreat when he knew it wouldn’t. Ed Miliband lacks Canute’s wisdom. He seems genuinely to think that the cost of fossil fuels can be controlled by a government, when in fact they are commodities traded worldwide and subject to the forces of supply and demand. As the world’s population is growing and fossil fuels are a finite resource, it is reasonable to suppose that, over the long term, fuel costs will rise until supplies are exhausted. 
Henry Best, Ilminster, Somerset
It would be tragic if our national debate about energy returned us to the 1970s via a showdown between state intervention and big business.
Energy is where Britain can tackle serious economic problems at the same time as tackling social problems, as well as our large and growing democratic deficit. There is a growing community-energy industry in this country where neighbours are collaborating, creating jobs and growing their social capital as well as economic power. There are social investors helping them flourish. Recent research suggests that community energy could grow to 89 times its current size if existing barriers were lowered. There is much to learn from the way other countries are developing their own community energy and renewables at a fast pace, while the UK suffers.
The energy market is a perfect illustration of why economic and social policy can and must be mutually reinforcing in 21st-century Britain.
Ed Mayo director general, Co-operatives UK Peter Hobrook chief executive, Social Enterprise UK  Cliff Prior chief executive, Unltd Lord Victor Adebowale chief executive, Turning Point Steve Wyler chief executive, Locality Andrew Croft chief executive, CAN Celia Richardson director, Social Economy Alliance, London SE1
Patients suffer when profits enter the NHS
Doctors agree with the head of NHS England that key government policies are preventing hospitals from improving. (“Competition is harming patient care, NHS chief warns in parting shot”, 26 September)
Sir David Nicholson suggested the rules governing private-sector style competition in the NHS are harming efforts to improve patient care and hospitals are being held back from changes that make “perfect sense” from the point of view of patients because they do not meet new guidelines requiring competition between healthcare providers.
The BMA urges the Government to put patient care in front of the profit motive and remove the destructive influence of commercial competition in the NHS.
Dr Mark Porter , Chair, BMA Council , London WC1
So Sir David Nicholson now reveals that hospitals are being held back from making changes that made “perfect sense from the point of view of patients” because they did not meet new rules on competition between healthcare providers.
He cannot be surprised. The day after the Health and Social Care Bill was published in January 2011, I warned (as Labour’s shadow health secretary) in a speech to the Kings Fund that “forced market competition will replace collaboration for the patient at the heart of the NHS, creating barriers to cooperation and integration of services”.  This is why we were able to  build such a wide coalition of concern against the Bill inside  and outside Parliament.
Sir David’s revelation is not an unintended consequence of Coalition policy; it is the very purpose and logic of their legislation. So if he is also correct in saying that Jeremy Hunt says “patient safety must always trump any competition concerns”, then Hunt will have to do as Labour says and repeal the Bill’s provisions that expose the NHS to the full force of competition law.
Rt Hon John Healey MP, House of Commons, London SW1
Richard III doesn’t deserve this pomp
Your report on the dispute over the proposed tomb of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral (24 September) raises the question of whether his relics should be looked at with modern or medieval eyes. On either view it beggars belief that the remains of a serial killer and suspected child murderer should be enshrined so ostentatiously and that, at a time when food banks are struggling to meet demand, the Church of England should be prepared to spend many thousands of pounds on a tombstone.
Even by the standards of his age the Duke of Gloucester’s blood-stained path to the throne was beyond the norm, and the murder of King Edward V, who along with his brother Richard, Duke of York, was under the protection of his uncle in the royal apartments in the Tower, was an act of unspeakable barbarity. 
The contemporary view was beyond doubt that Richard had ordered their deaths. Despite the best efforts of modern revisionists to muddy the waters, Richard had the motive, means and opportunity and the subsequent confession of Sir James Tyrell puts him squarely in the frame.
If anyone deserves a proper monument it is surely King Edward V, the rightful King of England on his father’s untimely death, now airbrushed out of history as a “prince in the Tower”.
John E Orton, Bristol
Ainslie helped the wrong side
Ben Ainslie is far from being a “British hero” (27 September). I refer of course, to the defeat of David by Goliath in the America’s Cup. The plucky Kiwis were within two minutes of a glorious triumph, when the pettyfogging jobsworths on the race committee abandoned the race, as to continue would exceed the 40-minute time limit. The furious gnashing of teeth could be heard from Auckland to San Francisco! This gave the perfidious Yanks a respite, during which they had time to tweak their boat, and appoint Ben Ainslie, knight of the realm, British Olympic god, and adopted Cornishman, as race tactician. Seduced by the mighty dollar this traitor to Queen and Commonwealth proceeded to trounce his Antipodean cousins, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! Come on Your Maj, strip Ainslie of his knighthood, and incarcerate the ingrate in the deepest, dankest dungeon in the Tower!
Richard Guscott, Liskeard, Cornwall
PO: rural routes not at risk… yet
I am concerned about the outcome of the privatisation of the Post Office. When water, electricity and gas services were sold off the government did not retain a controlling share. As a result a large percentage of these businesses is now foreign-owned with profits and dividends from these essential, basic services going abroad.
We are told that the privatised Post Office will legally have to maintain existing services, including deliveries to rural areas. One wonders how long it will be before a future government, under pressure from new owners, agrees to rewriting the agreement?
K T Green, Chichester
Has CPS got its priorities right?
The Crown Prosecution Service responds with alacrity to the protest by Caroline Lucas against fracking, by deciding almost immediately to prosecute her. At the beginning of July an inquest jury brought in a verdict of “unlawful killing by unlawful act” in the case of the Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga, following restraint by G4S guards during deportation. The CPS is still deliberating whether or not to prosecute the guards, having previously decided that there was no case to answer.  It is surely time that the CPS  reconsiders its priorities.
Diana Neslen, Ilford, Essex
Sympathy for the City is misplaced
Does a day’s sailing on a luxury yacht turn journalists supine and sympathetic? (Chris Blackhurst, 27 September.) Michael Spencer may not have been personally involved in the Libor-fixing scandal, but he heads an organisation that uses the arcane workings of abstract capitalism to generate excessive wealth. City traders are yet to be caught fixing a high-interest investment in society.
Ian McKenzie , Lincoln
World Cup crimes against humanity
The International Trade Union Confederation claims that appalling working conditions in Qatar will cause the death of over 4,000 South Asian workers before a ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup (report, 27 September).
Despite warnings made two years ago no substantive steps have been taken to improve workers’ conditions. How long can the United Nations, Fifa, the FA and ordinary football fans ignore this crime against humanity?
Anthony Hentschel, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
Fly killer
As the plethora of smudges over the ceilings and walls of my childhood home used to bear witness, there is no more efficient way to splat flies right between the eyes than to roll the wide end of a necktie around the forefinger of the firing hand, hold the narrow end between trigger-finger and thumb under tension, aim and fire.
Only squeamishness at the thought of holding the soiled and contaminated KO end prevents me from reviving this old skill.
Ben Marshall, London N11


Sir, Rail freight plays a crucial role in the UK economy, contributing almost £1 billion a year and supporting an economic output of six times that. The proportion of our freight carried by rail is predicted to double by 2030 yet the rail network already faces a capacity crunch.
Building HS2 will free up much needed capacity on the West Coast Mainline which is a vital freight artery. That is good news, not just for us as freight companies, but for consumers. It could remove up to 500,000 lorries a year from our motorways. With fuel and road costs predicted to increase the costs of running lorries by 36 per cent by 2040, additional rail capacity will ensure that food and drink continues to reach our supermarket shelves at affordable prices. It will also, crucially, allow our exports, such as automotive components, to continue to reach European markets.
That is why we are firmly in support of HS2 and why it matters for Britain.
John Smith, Managing Director, GB Railfreight
Nigel Jones, Head of Planning, DB Schenker Rail
Russell Mears, Chief Executive, Freightliner Group
Neil Mcnicholas, Managing Director, Direct Rail Services
Stephen Haynes, Managing Director, Rail Services, Colas Rail

Sir, With Sir David Higgins’s appointment to lead HS2 there is an opportunity to revisit the underlying approach. Sir David is a pragmatist and will be focused on delivering as fast as possible at as low a cost as possible. He clearly understands that the need to increase capacity is the real rationale for the project and faster journey times only a secondary benefit. KPMG produced a report recently highlighting economic benefits. Sir David needs to address the enormous cost and the damage to the countryside from the new route.
Why not build the second track alongside the current line? This would deliver the increased capacity and much of the increase in speed at less cost and with much less damage to the countryside. A parallel route would reduce the cost of acquiring land and paying compensation and for much of the route would be relatively simple to construct. A fresh approach could deliver a cheaper and more popular project.
Nick Green
London SW6

Sir, Roger Bale (letter, Sept 27) makes the comparison of door-to-door travel times to argue against the suitability of HS2 expenditure. He ought to try driving 400 miles between houses each 30 minutes from their local airports (Inverness and Manchester). This takes nearly seven hours door to door and the same if you fly. If HS2 ever reaches the North, I know which I would prefer for this journey.
Iain Slinn
Dingwall, Highland

Sir, It is interesting to note that the letters backing the HS2 development are from the South. Here in the North there will be no benefit whatsoever. In any case, the so-called benefits for the area between Birmingham and Manchester will not happen for 20 years or more. It seems an awful lot of money to save 20 minutes’ travel time between Birmingham and London. It could be better used providing a decent road network and rail links for the population beyond Birmingham.
Jo Chilcott
Lamplugh, Cumbria

‘The premature rollout of immature and uneconomic alternative energy technologies is pouring investors’ and taxpayers’ money down the drain’
Sir, Now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported (news, Sept 27), the wise response is not to panic but to work for the long term. The premature rollout of immature and uneconomic alternative energy technologies is pouring investors’ and taxpayers’ money down the drain: the green energy stock market index is down over 80 per cent in the past five years.
The countermeasures so far have caused much more harm to society than the climate problem they were supposed to cure. Continued research and development aimed at enhancing energy efficiency measures and maturing the lower carbon technologies, combined with moves to get profligate energy consumption to be considered as antisocial behaviour, will more likely succeed in economic, social and environmental terms. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Professor Michael J. Kelly
University of Cambridge

Over a century ago, many British educators pioneered a style of teaching through which young people were encouraged to embrace uncertainty and think innovatively
Sir, Although they were often as overworked as their modern counterparts, Victorian children benefited from a visionary approach to education that is sorely lacking today (“The test of time: why exams were just as tough for young Victorians”, Sept 26). Over a century ago, many British educators — including Rugby head Thomas Arnold — pioneered a style of teaching through which young people were encouraged to embrace uncertainty and think innovatively about big problems. The liberal tradition, which first recognised the difficulty of achieving absolute truth on any given philosophical issue, allowed pupils to apply a critical and reflective approach to all of their work. In an age in which learning is increasingly utilitarian in scope, more must be done to ensure it survives.
Patrick Derham
Head Masterof Rugby School and Editor of Cultural Olympians: Rugby School’s Cultural Leaders

Police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards should all be subject to a disciplinary code that excludes striking
Sir, The fact that firefighters have once again decided to go on strike (report, Sept 26), raises issues over their terms of service. It is important for the country that the emergency services attract and retain high-calibre individuals, and in return gives them a decent salary and long-term security of employment. What is not acceptable is a for a militant union to be able to lead the rank and file into a strike that endangers the public through the suspension of its members’ services.
The Government needs to be bolder on this issue and place all emergency services personnel on to similar terms of service as the Armed Forces.
This would mean that police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards would all be subject to a disciplinary code that excludes striking. Personnel would, however, be encouraged to join staff associations that would represent their views to ministers.
Ian Graham
Port Carlisle, Cumbria

The Supreme Court recently asserted that “adoption of a child against her parents’ wishes should only be contemplated as a last resort — when all else fails”
Sir, Your coverage of the increase in the number of adoptions from care risks implying that all children in care should be adopted (“Reforms bring huge increase in adoptions”, September 27).
It should be borne in mind that having analysed relevant child welfare considerations and international human rights norms, the Supreme Court recently asserted that “adoption of a child against her parents’ wishes should only be contemplated as a last resort — when all else fails”, and that a child’s best interests “include being brought up by her natural family”.
For its part, the Court of Appeal has expressed concern about “recurrent inadequacy of the analysis and reasoning put forward in support of the case for adoption”, a problem that can hardly be solved through haste.
Adoption might be beneficial for some children, and no doubt there are some undesirable bureaucratic hurdles damaging children for whom it really is the only option.
This drastic and near-irrevocable step is not, however, a panacea for all children whose natural parents encounter difficulties in looking after them.
Dr Brian Sloan
College Lecturer, Director of Studies and Fellow in Law, Robinson College, Cambridge


SIR – Doraine Potts (Letters, September 18) states that Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia is her favourite play, and I’m delighted to find a fellow enthusiast. Though I can only claim three attendances to her five, mine were for three separate productions: first at the Haymarket, during its original run, secondly at Chichester (a mediocre effort which nevertheless failed to depress my liking for the play) and thirdly for a recent production at the Duke of York’s Theatre.
Jennifer Parsons
Horam, East Sussex
SIR – Like Peter Fayers (Letters, September 24), I also saw and enjoyed The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus in 1990.
Loosely based on an ancient Greek satyr play, one of its themes seemed to be that ordinary people today were being deliberately excluded from cultural enlightenment, which might otherwise curb their more savage instincts.
The topic was reinforced by a poll tax riot going on nearby.

SIR – I read that the Labour Party’s plans to freeze energy prices has led to an overnight reduction of £2 billion in the market capitalisation of the publicly quoted energy suppliers (“Miliband accused of ‘economic vandalism’”, report, September 26). As people saving for their pensions are the beneficial owners of these companies, is this another example of doing things for the many and not the few?
Ian F McFadzean
London W1
SIR – Last year I received £600 for producing electricity from eight solar panels on my roof, paid for by subsidies introduced by Ed Miliband when he was energy secretary. Those subsidies are paid for by the power companies and have added an average of £110 to household bills. Mr Miliband has conveniently forgotten that he was the architect of rising energy prices.
Geoffrey Bailey
SIR – If Labour wants to freeze power bills for 20 months, why does Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, simultaneously attack the Coalition for failing to finalise the planned so-called “strike price” and “contracts-for-difference” for new nuclear power plants?
Related Articles
The Stoppard play that won’t stop enthralling
27 Sep 2013
The strike price would freeze power prices at double the current rate for up to 40 years to the benefit of the French state nuclear generator, Électricité de France (EDF Energy), which plans to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Dr David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surre
SIR – Any Government-imposed cap on domestic energy prices is surely a breach of the original agreement under which the energy companies supply power to households; and as such, it should be illegal, or at least render the contract voidable.
Roger Earp
Bexhill, East Sussex
SIR – One wonders what Mr Miliband has in mind concerning energy prices after his planned 20-month freeze. As we show in our book, Government Intervention in the Brewing Industry, Labour froze the price of beer in public bars for three years from 1966. In 1969, following a lengthy investigation into the brewers’ finances, the quasi-independent National Board for Prices and Incomes sanctioned a price rise of 43 per cent.
John Spicer
Chris Thurman
John Walters
Simon Ward
London SE21
SIR – If the Labour leader was sincere about freezing energy prices, he could go one better and propose to remove the
5 per cent VAT charge on gas and electricity. Keeping warm is a necessity – not a luxury.
Brian Lord
Clapham, Bedfordshire
An unsightly tomb
SIR – Christopher Howse (Comment, September 25) adds a note of sanity to the absurd debate on the resting place of the alleged remains of Richard III.
However, he fails to mention that the proposals for interring the remains in Leicester Cathedral entail major changes to the interior of the building. When the former parish church of St Martin was raised to cathedral rank in 1927, the chancel was handsomely refitted by the distinguished architect Sir Charles Nicholson. The proposals would wreck Nicholson’s arrangements and result in the removal of many of the fine furnishings designed by him.
The aim appears to be to transform the cathedral into little less than a shrine to Richard III – presumably with the aim of bringing in tourists. The proposed design for the king’s tomb is lumpy and obtrusive and the dignity of the east end of the building would be entirely lost.
It is surely better that King Richard be laid to rest in a side chapel in York Minster or Westminster Abbey.
Kenneth Powell
London SW12
Undermining HS2
SIR – Following a successful trial, the European Rail Traffic Management System will enable trains to run far closer together than currently, allowing extra services on the busiest lines (, September 23). The Great Western main line out of Paddington and the Thameslink route through Kings Cross/St Pancras should have the system installed by 2019, cutting operating costs by up to 40 per cent. Surely, this will fatally undermine the business case for HS2, which rests on the lack of capacity.
Instead we could fund a toll-free A14, and the missing East-West rail link between Bedford and Cambridge.
Roger Smith
Chairman, Hitchin Rail User Group
Meppershall, Bedfordshire
A load of old cobbles
SIR – I, too, was horrified to read (Letters, September 25) that the wonderful old cobbles in York were being ripped up and replaced by modern flagstones – and I’m a wheelchair user.
Any uneven surface is uncomfortable in a wheelchair. Cobbles are the worst, but to consider taking up a whole square is ridiculous. All that is needed is a metre-wide strip of smooth surface at one side, not across the centre.
Joan Thornton
Wilsden, West Yorkshire
SIR – Peter Saunders (Letters, September 25) seems to have no concept or experience of living with limited mobility.
We should be celebrating good access for those with disabilities so that they, too, can enjoy York.
Kristina Carnaghan
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Dinner for One
SIR – When I visited Germany several years ago, my hosts were delighted to show me a piece on YouTube entitled Dinner for One, featuring a drunk Englishman played by Freddie Frinton. It is a very popular sketch across much of Europe and Scandinavia, especially on New Year’s Eve.
My hosts, however, were a little disappointed when I explained that Freddie Frinton was in fact a teetotaller who had taken his stage name from Frinton-on-Sea, which until quite recently was the only town in Britain without a pub.
Jeff Martin
West Bergholt, Essex
Remembering the Navy
SIR – It is understandable that much of the commemorative effort for the centenary of the First World War will focus on the Western Front, where so much blood was shed. However, something needs to be done to ensure the losses suffered by the Royal Navy are also properly remembered.
Ninety-nine years ago, the German submarine U9 sank three obsolescent armoured cruisers (HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy) in the North Sea with the loss of some 1,500 personnel. On November 1 1914, off Coronel in Chile, a German cruiser squadron under Admiral Graf von Spee sank HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth with the loss of all on board, including my grandfather.
Many of the crews of these ships were recalled reservists or pensioners, and many officer cadets and midshipmen were very young. It would be appropriate to ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten, even if it is limited to locating the wrecks and casting poppy wreaths on the sea.
Michael R Field
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
National parks
SIR – While “biodiversity offsetting” – the practice of replacing lost habitat elsewhere – is better than nothing, it cannot and should not be viewed as an equivalent to the original site (report, September 25).
Each habitat is unique in its exact set of environmental conditions, and has often developed over the course of decades or even centuries into the community of species we see there today. Furthermore, species exist as a number of fragmented sub-populations. Migration of individuals between them can be essential for their persistence. Further fragmentation would likely have consequences beyond the boundaries of the development. Evidence suggests that in many cases targeted species never establish in their new “home”.
Samantha Mullender
Corringham, Essex
Naughty Nick
SIR – I was saddened to read of the death of my friend Nick Robinson (Obituaries, September 24). However, I would like to clarify that we were actually expelled from the Winchester College fishing club for fishing with bread using handlines, and were caught because we chose to do so in one of the best pools immediately outside the gamekeeper’s house!
Not our finest hour.
Robin Lane
Devizes, Wiltshire
What can oil and gas really buy for Scotland?
SIR – Dr J M Morrison (Letters, September 23) states that most of the estimated £1.5 trillion worth of the UK’s recoverable offshore oil and gas lies in Scottish waters, and that an international financier would therefore be more willing to lend to Scotland, with its £100 billion debt, than to the rest of the UK, with a £900 billion debt.
Scotland’s debt may look very small compared with the estimated value of oil and gas reserves. However, what is relevant is not the £1.5 trillion value, but the amount that can be guaranteed to remain after the costs of recovery and a realistic return for the operators and investors are taken into account. It is this figure that should be calculated and compared with Scotland’s debt.
The nationalists have overstated what can be funded by oil revenues.
B C Monaghan
SIR – Since a British Government would never force Scotland either to leave or remain in the Union against the wishes of the majority of the Scottish people (as with Gibraltar or the Falklands), extending the Scottish referendum to the rest of the UK would be pointless. However, it should be made clear by all political parties that the UK would not enter into a monetary union with an independent Scotland without the consent of the people in a referendum.
Vicki Menday
Weybridge, Surrey
SIR – What will we call ourselves in a year’s time if Scotland votes for independence?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but not Scotland? Or The United Kingdom of Wales, Northern Ireland and England? (I’m Welsh).
Kenneth Wilshire
Cheam, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – I wish to take issue with the academics who wrote a letter in relation to the Seanad referendum (September 27th).
In very eloquent language they argue for “tackling major issues affecting our society” by “more executive accountability”, strengthening “the level of vocational expertise”, intensifying “political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes”, etc.
All of these grandiose objectives are to be achieved by “giving all citizens the right to elect our senators”.
Far from “bringing new expertise into the parliamentary system” as argued by these learned academics, all that is doing is electing another Dáil.
That would do one of two things. It would reinforce the present power structure, making for less executive accountability. Or it would set up another power structure with the capacity to gridlock decision-making and cause even further frustration to citizens already annoyed with the inability of the democratic processes to deal with everyday problems.
I, therefore, do not think that the proposals by the learned academics will do anything to tackle the major issues affecting our society in a bankrupt country. – Yours, etc,
Shielmartin Drive,
Sutton, Dublin 13.
Sir, – We’ve too many politicians; “it” has no real power; and we’re spending money we don’t have as we face into a hard budget. That sums up the Yes side in the Seanad abolition campaign.
It’s worth noting more than 500 amendments to legislation suggested by the current Seanad were accepted by this Government to date. Who will suggest these amendments if the Seanad is abolished?
Eamon Ryan, as a Minister, regularly put Bills into the Seanad first, believing it was a good place to listen to different drafting suggestions. How often over the years has flawed legislation moved from the Dáil to Seanad Éireann where through discussion and debate substantially improved legislation was enacted?
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is on record as saying in relation to the Credit Union and Co-operation with Overseas Regulators Act that “a wide range of issues were raised by members in both Houses in the course of the debate and many non-Government suggestions were taken on board which were ultimately made by way of Government amendments”. This was also the case in the property tax legislation where “the spirit” of a proposal by Senator Jillian van Turnhout was accepted.
As for savings, monies in reality will be diverted to the Dáil and its committees.
Over the decades our democracy has been enhanced through voices raised in Seanad Éireann and we are being asked to silence these voices, independent voices that have contributed to national issues and have not been subject to the parish pump politics that many of our Dáil representatives engage in.

I believe retention and reform of Seanad Éireann rather than abolishing the upper house to be in the best interests of the people. – Yours, etc,
Áth Buí, Co na Mí.
A chara, – A group of 27 university academics write to The Irish Times (September 27th) advocating a No vote in the Seanad referendum.  That’s the same Seanad which gives university graduates a vote. Now there’s a shock. – Is mise,
Whitehall Road,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – On a visit to Ireland to stay with relatives I was able to read the Independent Guide to the Seanad and Court of Appeal Referendums published by the Referendum Commission.
On Page 6 it states: “The Constitution provides that Bills may be referred to the people for a referendum if a majority of members of the Seanad and not less than one third of the members of the Dáil ask the President not to sign a Bill because it contains a proposal of such national importance that the decision to have such a law should be made by the people. The President may agree or disagree with this request.”
It goes on to state that if the referendum is passed “this possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution”.
This seems to be a sufficiently good reason to vote against abolition of the Seanad. Its removal will increase the power of the Taoiseach over the legislature and further limit the power of the people to hold him or her to account. Ireland is in danger of becoming an “elected dictatorship”. – Yours, etc,
Keswick Road,
St Helens,
Merseyside, England.
Sir, – Rather than rushing into abolishing the Seanad, the Government could have kept its firm pledge to put a cap of €92,000 on the massive pay (up to €168,000) of the numerous unelected ministerial advisers it has appointed and retained. All these themselves earn far more than Senators and no doubt wield great power, particularly as many are plucked from the printed and spoken media and PR. Presumably, if the Seanad is abolished it will be an opportunity for the numbers of unelected and powerful advisers to multiply. There will be additional appointed unelected committees, boards, quangos, executives who will be highly paid. Where is the greater democracy, not even to mention the promised “savings” ?
How is it possible to treat the serious issue of Seanad abolition as anything but a populist measure after so much hypocrisy over election pledges in the past two years? We have yet to hear any convincing and reasoned argument for abolition. All we get are sound-bites and spin.
It is a power-grab by the Dáil which will serve the purposes of future governments to act without fear of further scrutiny by the Seanad, which, admittedly, needs to be reformed. This could be easily be done. But we are not being given that choice.
As far as this referendum is concerned there is an important maxim to be followed: “If in doubt, don’t do it.” – Yours, etc,
Sunday’s Well Road,
Sir, – I confess to admiring the considerable intellect and abilities of John Waters but his views (Opinion, September 27th) on the possible abolition of the Seanad are incorrect.
The proposal is not a “radical attempt to reduce permanently the democratic powers of citizens” as he suggests, but a long-awaited opportunity to cleanse our country of this political waiting room/knackers’ yard that with a few notable exceptions has been the resting place of the rejected, the dispossessed and the irrelevant. The Seanad is a costly and immaterial piece of political decoration that should be abolished. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – So, we have learnt that the actual saving to be made by abolishing the Seanad might be only half the €20 million claimed by the Government. In the light of this, the total vote in favour of abolishing the Seanad could also be halved given the huge importance attributed by Government to their estimate of potential savings.
The realisable annual saving amounts to less than 10 per cent of the cost of running Leinster House and to an almost invisible 0.02 per cent of total annual State expenditure. Holding a referendum to secure these minor savings is hardly significant in the current scheme of things, so I assume that there are other more pressing reasons which may not have been fully disclosed to the electorate. – Yours, etc,
Ardmeen Park,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – If Fine Gael believes the dubious logic of one of its referendum posters, why doesn’t it take the next step and produce a new poster: Save €50 million; No politicians; Abolish Dáil Éireann; Vote
– Yours, etc,
Kennington Crescent,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I agree with your Editorial “A church more open to all” (September 21st) where you highlight his attitude to church governance: “I do not want token consultations, but real consultations.” So when his “outsider” advisory group meets next month Pope Francis should consider expanding this group of eight cardinals to 16 by adding eight women.
Or are women to continue to be excluded from all church governance until a “theology of women” has been developed? I can think of numerous well qualified women who would be a breath of fresh air in the Vatican! – Yours, etc,
Avoca Avenue,

Sir, – As a member of the ASTI, I am proud of the stand taken by the members of our union. We have given more than our share in the current crisis, while large corporations pay derisory amounts of tax. Enough is enough. The cutbacks have had profound effects on schools.
In my own school we have 1,200 students. Having lost many of our posts of responsibility, we operate a large science department with no subject co-ordinator. We share out the work between the teachers. I would like to thank the Minister for Education for encouraging subject departments to be run as socialist collectives. – Yours, etc,
Croydon Park Avenue,

Sir, – Article 13.9 of the 1937 Constitution does not forbid a President from voicing his opinion – as distinct from “exercising powers”. As he represents all the people, President Higgins was certainly in tune with the majority view that the political class has made a hames of the economy over the past five years (Business, September 20th).
Even those of us who would disagree with him over neo-liberalism as the cause would still agree that for the wealth pyramid to work, those at the bottom layer need to earn and spend, yet the Government is still shrinking the economy. The American neo-liberal bankers took a salary of $1 until they had turned around their banks with public money, but that sort of commitment is not found here.
One way or another the State employs those in the civil service, the semi-states, a news service, the universities, the banks and Nama. I welcome the President’s ability to say: “it could have been done better” when nobody else will. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Harry Williamson (September 23rd) wonders if we have overlooked the millennial commemoration of Brian Boru’s death on Good Friday 1014. Here are a few suggestions towards putting that right. 1. Brian’s Day . . . Diageo-sponsored celebration of National Drowning Our Sorrows Day (responsibly, of course). 2. The Dubs vs The Danes – The Rematch! (under New Compromise Rules – no last-minute cynical beheading). 3. 1013 – The Extra Time Controversy National Forum chaired by Diarmaid Ferriter. 4.Revisioning Clontarf – Score or Miss? Fintan O’Toole’s controversial book with startling Hawkeye revelations. 5. Good Friday – Bad Friday? Theme for the Sinn Féin Gathering.
It’s a start. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Of course hospital A & E staff will not ignore anyone who presents (Magazine, September 21st). All are equal. And we need to have equal but separate facilities for dealing with patients who drink themselves to the point of needing medical intervention. We don’t need extra staff; just a triage system that does not permit an old woman to wait more than 10 hours while drunk after drunk gets expert attention from our emergency staff.
It’s simple. Stream the drunks to their very own equal but separate corner, or room, in A & E. Monitor them to make sure they’re not in immediate danger. Treat every single sober, waiting patient. Then treat those who have deliberately drunk themselves into belligerence or incoherence. No extra expense. No extra staff. Security personnel could pay special attention on their walk through A & E.
An added upside is that, if they have to wait 10 hours, they may very well have slept off the effects of their binge and just stagger home.– Yours, etc,
Castelgrange Park,

A chara, – Fionola Meredith has done the nation a huge service by writing about the problem of partition causing small numbers of people to study in universities either side of the Border (Opinion, September 26th). She is indeed correct in highlighting the disaster that is the division of Ireland. Her article is another reminder of why Ireland should be united.
I am in full agreement with her about the benefit of choosing to study across the Border. Having completed my degree in the University of Limerick in 2004, I moved to Belfast in January 2005 to do a postgraduate management course. It was my most enjoyable learning experience. All bar three of us in the class hailed from Ulster. Despite knowing no-one when I moved there, I was made very welcome by my classmates and within two weeks they had elected me a class representative. Belfast is like a second home to me and I have very fond memories of being there.
For anyone from the 26 counties’ area who is thinking of studying in the North, I would say “Go for it!” A very warm welcome, new friends and much fun awaits you. – Is mise,
Sir, – The civil court of appeal is about 40 years overdue. It is ridiculous that a court with the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court should have to decide some important constitutional issue that affects every citizen, one day; while the next it has to consider if the award to Mrs Brown for her slip and fall is adequate.
The delay in establishing this court is due to the Constitution containing specific directions as to the courts as opposed to giving the Oireachtas general powers to establish whatever courts are required for the administration of justice.
This delay highlights the inconvenience and dangers of having specifics in the Constitution. Recent examples of this are divorce and abortion. We were denied the civil right of divorce until 1996 as a result of a specific ban in the Constitution. A 1983 amendment to the Constitution which was supposed to copper-fasten the illegality of abortion actually resulted in the legalisation of same. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The announcement that Twitter will employ an extra 100 individuals in Dublin is great (Business, September 25th).
What a shame it did not stretch to 40 per cent more, as it could then have announced that its growth would lead to an extra 140 (real) characters here. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 24.

Irish Independent:

RTE Director-General Noel Curran claims the current annual €160 licence fee is “too low”, is below the European average and that it is “much higher” in most other European countries – the grown-up equivalent of ‘all the other kids have them, so why can’t I?’
Also in this section
This is Ireland, so nothing is anybody’s fault
Let’s stick to the €3.1bn budget adjustment
Taxes and charges driving our family away
So the time has come to put this particular myth to bed once and for all. Out of 38 countries in continental Europe (including Russia) 14 have no TV licence, while data is not available for two states. Of the remaining 22, some countries have much higher licence fees – for example, Germany at €215, Switzerland at €385, and Denmark at €303. But many countries have much lower fees – for example, the Czech Republic at €65, Italy at €113, Poland at €52, and Albania at just €5. Averaging out all the licence-fee paying countries, we see that the fee is €145.
If we include the countries where no licence fee is paid, we see the European average is just €89 per annum. So, no, the Irish licence fee is not “quite low” compared to the European average. If RTE want more money to produce more boring talk shows and reality cookery programmes, no doubt they will get it.
If the communications minister decides to introduce a universal broadcasting charge to make up the shortfall in those who evade the licence, no doubt the final result will defy logic and not be cheaper than at present.
Fine, just shake us little leprechauns hard until we reveal the whereabouts of our crocks of gold, and have done with it. But please stop insulting our intelligence by thinking we don’t know what happens beyond our borders.
Nick Folley
Carrigaline, Co Cork
* Our family is living with the prospect of a wind turbine being placed 500 metres from our home. This, according to the founder of renewable energy firm Mainstream, Eddie O’Connor is a reasonable distance. This may be true if they were still only 80 metres tall.
However, they are now 150 to 186 metres tall. So how can this be reasonable? Politicians seem to be the only ones distancing themselves from this topic.
At this stage I would be delighted to be in negative equity; if these things go ahead, I would be in zero equity. How is this fair? My children will have zero inheritance.
My only recourse will be to stop paying my mortgage, as politicians and bankers only seem to emerge from their slumber when people threaten to withhold their mortgages.
By the way Phil Hogan, will my property tax be zero on my unsellable house? I can tell you now Mr Hogan, you can whistle for that.
C Cunningham
Co Offaly
* It just seems to get madder and madder doesn’t it.
Regarding the latest twist in the Anglo saga, surely the relevant questions are pretty straightforward:
Was the Anglo ‘arse picking’ exercise part of a deliberate deception designed to hoodwink the Central Bank? Did this contribute significantly towards massive additional debt having to be foisted on the taxpayer?
Did this deliberately deceptive strategy materially contribute to the subsequent imposition of widespread austerity driven and potentially dangerous income cuts and additional taxes?
Can it be shown that any Irish citizens were actually harmed in any way as a result of such deceptive tactics?
We already know that austerity has forced thousands to leave private health insurance. This will inevitably cause additional casualties as a result of overloading an already struggling public health system.
Among the many already affected will also be some particularly vulnerable ill and elderly, some of whom will probably suffer from the loss of their fuel allowance.
This will be one obvious and inescapable result of taking the new property tax, water tax and all the other cuts and taxes from single, small fixed incomes.
Increasing numbers of citizens are coming to the end of their physical, financial and, in some cases, mental tethers.
But if yet another lengthy investigation is simply going to result in a long, drawn-out gold rush for a privileged few then perhaps the biting of yet another bitter bullet might be the best course of action. Pragmatism can be very painful, but we already owe too much.
George MacDonald
Gorey, Co Wexford
* If Patrick Honohan thinks that the strategic mortgage defaulter idea is bogus, why didn’t he say this before now?
It is not acceptable for him to be purely reactive (to questions by the Finance Committee). He must be proactive.
Brendan Casserly
Abbeybridge, Cork
* The Irish people were resigned to the fact that nobody would ever be prosecuted for the financial chaos that was brought upon our country and left it where it is now. But we do expect the mistakes to be used as some precedent to make sure this egregiousness never has to be addressed again.
Then I read in your newspaper yesterday about the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan yet again bemoaning how the banks in Ireland are a lawless bunch. And then Mr Honohan admitted he has not listened to a full set of the Anglo Tapes, which are there as a guidebook on how not to run an institution.
Recently, I spoke to a colleague in the financial industry who had never heard of the Enron scandal. This to me was shocking. The world should never forget how Enron corrupted corporate America.And it should be remembered that it was one reporter – Bethany McLean – who refused to believe Enron’s shiny success story. Mr Honohan, at least have the decency to try to learn from the past.
Darren William
Sandyford, Dublin 18
* There seems to be unending discussion about the amount of ‘savings’ to be achieved in the upcoming Budget, with a key figure of €3.1bn being used.
What seems to be ignored is the budget deficit to GDP ratio. The 2014 deficit target set by the troika is 5.1pc of GDP. This is the important figure, not €3.1bn, €2.5bn or whatever figure in-between. If we meet, or better this target then we have met the target set by the troika. End of story.
Tim O’Sullivan
Liskillen, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo
* Lucinda Creighton voted against Enda Kenny because his proposal was not part of the Fine Gael election manifesto. She now wants us to vote against a proposal that was part of the manifesto. Am I very cynical to think that this cherry-picking of what policies she will support has cash as its root cause. Maybe not, after all her recent stand was based on principles. Cynical old me.
Vincent Ryan
Navan, Co Meath
* Those who sit near the big table feel the warmth of the ruler’s fire. He may scold them, but banish them? Never. NAMA was set up to hot-house and protect the wealthy. They even paid some debtors €200,000 a year.
Meanwhile, a family in Cork have the bailiffs at the door. They are going to be evicted. They owe money but nothing like the debt the builders, bookies and auctioneers along with politicians left us with.
Local gardai gather like the old RIC, while the brains in garda HQ cannot figure out how to charge a single thief who looted the nation.
The little blonde guy who exited Croke Park last Sunday like a fly from a fire might look at the plight of those people whose only sin was to lose their job and fall into house arrears. Something needs to be done.
John Cuffe
Co Meath
Irish Independent

Still tired

September 27, 2013

27 September 2013 Still Tired

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide the band for a dance night but Pertwees relatives get locked up for stealing lead while waiting to perform. Priceless.
I have a rest we go and see Joan
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Tom Vernon
Tom Vernon, who has died in France aged 74, cut a Falstaffian figure in the series of gently affectionate programmes he made for Radio 4, Fat Man on a Bicycle .

Tom Vernon Photo: REX FEATURES
7:03PM BST 26 Sep 2013
As radio’s itinerant 19-stone Fat Man, Vernon broke out of the confines of the radio studio. He combined a natural empathy with a novelist’s descriptive powers in meetings with “real” people on their own turf, drawing from them observations about their lives that were more intimate and personal than almost anything that had been heard before.
And while to radio and television audiences he will be remembered as the Fat Man, to a generation of children he was the reassuring voice who answered when they telephoned Father Christmas. It was perfect casting.
The son of a soldier turned colonial administrator, Thomas Bowater Vernon was born in London within the sound of Bow bells on April 23 1939, a premature four-pound first baby to his 42 year-old mother. His father, a former Bengal Lancer who had seen service in the Khyber Pass had gone on to become head of prison services in Nigeria. (Foreign Office interview: “Play polo, Vernon? Send you to northern Nigeria. No tsetse fly there.”) In Nigeria he had met his future wife and Tom’s mother, a hospital matron.
Tom attended grammar schools in Shropshire, Sussex, Dorset and Kent; he was the first boy to go from Gillingham grammar school to Cambridge. There he notionally read English as an exhibitioner at Pembroke College, in fact devoting most of his energy to drama and music.
On coming down Vernon became a teacher, then a public relations officer, first for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and then for the British Humanist Association, where he helped to get legislation passed on abortion reform and against enforced religion in schools. He also wrote a prize-winning and influential pamphlet called Gobbledygook for the Plain English Campaign.
But he could not resist performance. He was moonlighting as a period-costumed minstrel at the Elizabethan Rooms in Kensington Gore when he met Sally Pearce, who was to become his second wife. She was working as a wench.
Vernon soon found a regular slot on the Today programme, creating instant songs about the news. When BBC Radio London began in 1970 he became its first presenter, with a brief that was as wide as his expansive personality, creating various literary, historical and musical programmes. He would read whole novels in which he played all the characters, and direct his own scripts of the musical history of London with two performers playing 20 parts.
His love of music and words and delight in people brought many awards including Personality and Presenter of the Year and one for Best Radio Documentary. Then in 1979 he set out to pedal from north London to the south of France for the first series of Fat Man on a Bicycle. His first book, based on the French ride, became a bestseller.
The Fat Man format translated to television on Channel 4 with Vernon travelling further afield — so far, in fact, that he was awarded a medal by the government in Buenos Aires for Fat Man in Argentina (for improving relations with Britain not long after the Falklands campaign).
Moving to BBC1, Vernon abandoned his bicycle and became Fat Man in the Kitchen, recorded in his own handcrafted Victorian home in Muswell Hill. To the horror of the Daily Mail, his cat was seen parading across the kitchen table, and some meat accidentally dropped on the floor was quickly put back in the pan. His bonhomie carried the show, but his real flair on television came from unplanned encounters. His kindly enthusiasm, acute observation and affection for the unusual were compelling.
In the 1990s he and his wife, Sally Pearce, began spending more time in the house that they had bought at Valleraugue in the Cevennes. It was a mirror of the man: large, unpretentious, comfortable, full of potential. There Vernon’s gentle personality allowed him to find his place in the local community, and he participated in local music groups and choirs.
Tom Vernon had an early marriage. He married his second wife, Sally, twice: first in 1967 and then, after their divorce of 1986, again in 1991. The latter ceremony was held at their house in France, accompanied by a fusillade from local hunters and dancing in the orchard. She and their two sons survive him.
Tom Vernon, born April 23 1939, died September 11 2013


The UK certainly had a major biological weapons programme to develop anthrax in the second world war, as Steven Rose asserts (Letters, 20 September), but his statement that “Churchill had to be energetically dissuaded” from using it is wrong. With the help of the Guardian letters page, among others, the late Professor RV Jones and I spent much time in the 1980s showing that this allegation was a myth, based on a misreading of documents about the V-weapons crisis of July 1944. Churchill wanted to use poison gas in response to the V2 rocket threat. He did not ask for germ warfare to be considered, but the chiefs of staff looked into its practicability anyway. They concluded that gas would be counterproductive, whereas sufficient anthrax bombs were simply not available. It was gas, not anthrax, which they dissuaded Churchill from using. This episode is covered in Martin Gilbert’s biography of Churchill, in RV Jones’s Reflections on Intelligence and in appendix 8 of my book, Changing Direction.
Julian Lewis
Cadnam, Hampshire

Zoe Williams highlights the antisocial and divisive nature of many free schools and academies (Comment, 26 September). A number of them have introduced creationism into the curriculum as an alternative to evolution. It is outrageous that children should be thus indoctrinated with anti-scientific ideas. In my Catholic school decades ago evolution was taught as a given, no question about it. In some American states creationism has been introduced to the biology curriculum as a way of getting religion into the classroom in state schools. This is because the constitution enforces a separation of church and state. In Britain that great religious leader Tony Blair must take some blame for a system that has allowed children to be taught ideas that were already being phased out in Darwin’s day. I hope to see in Labour’s manifesto a commitment to reversing this lamentable state of affairs.
Joseph Cocker
Leominster, Herefordshire
• Zoe Williams makes passing reference to rumours of Ofsted “scoring” academies higher than maintained schools. It’s a shame she repeats them without any determinable reference to fact. Ofsted judges schools – whether maintained, academy or free school – on the same rigorous model. We have no preference for type and judge solely on the quality of what inspectors see.
Michael Cladingbowl
Director of schools, Ofsted
• Other faiths must sort out their own strategies for spiritual development but I have always opposed the existence of Christian schools because of the damage they do to the cause of Christianity – for all the reasons cited by Zoe Williams. The approach to power and influence represented by Christian schools, old and new, is one of the biggest blockages to people recognising the spirit and teaching of Jesus in the life and organisation of the churches.
Rev Geoff Reid
• Zoe Williams is right to point out the Kafkaesque impotence of parents who disagree with the alarming increase in faith-based free schools. Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, it is the faith groups that have the foot soldiers and infrastructure in place to unfairly take advantage of the new order.
Stan Labovitch
• Perhaps Seneca the Younger knew the answer: “Religion is seen by the common people as true, by the wise as untrue, and by the rulers as useful.”
John Riddell
South Brent, Devon
• In her advertisement for free schools, Susanna Rustin (Report, 21 September) seems to have swallowed wholesale the propaganda presented by Natalie Evans, the director of the New Schools Network. Rustin tells us that Building Schools for the Future was a “colossal investment”. However, she assures that, though it was abandoned, “leaking roofs and peeling paint are no excuse” for poor performance. This scheme would have ensured that children from all backgrounds had a chance to be taught in decent surroundings. Instead a huge amount of taxpayers’ money has been poured into an ideological experiment. Rustin conveniently avoids telling us how much this plaything of Michael Gove costs.
Janet Mansfield
Wigton, Cumbria

The article by your science correspondent on the way the sun will expand (Long-range forecast: sunny spell will wipe out life, 19 September) in about 3bn years’ time reminds me of a lecture given by Sir Arthur Eddington on the same subject. When he had finished, a chap in the audience asked: “Could you say again how long it will be before the sun expands?” Sir Arthur replied: “We think it will be about 3 billion years.” The chap replied: “That’s a relief – I thought you said 3 million years.”
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk
• Disappointed to see the Guardian stooping so low with the comment on page 2 on the dress sense of Ed Miliband’s wife (Stylewatch, 25 September). Give us a break and confine style to the supplement if you have to at all – and on the back of a decent interview at least.
Jeanne Breen
Buckden, North Yorkshire
• So Team USA win the America’s Cup after Olympic yachtsman Sir Ben Ainslie joined the crew when they were trailing 1-8 (Report, 26 September). Isn’t that a bit like signing Lionel Messi at halftime? (Not to mention the billionaire backer and faster boat.)
Adrian Brodkin
• The French were good spitters, too (G2, 26 September). The only French phrase I remember from a 1949 school visit to Paris, seen everywhere, is “Défense de cracher”.
Mike Broadbent
• Before the 1914 war London buses had the warning: “Do not spit but swallow it / For every gob costs forty bob!”
John Chater
Battle, East Sussex
• Trevor Preston (Letters, 26 September) wonders if his letters to the Guardian go unacknowledged because they first go to GCHQ. But the latter always reports intercepted receipt of my own, sadly innocuous contributions to the letters page. It’s those who don’t get these official “thank you” letters who should worry.
Brian Smith
• If @stephenfry is so worried about mass surveillance (Report, 24 September), why doesn’t he just leave Twitter?
John Collins

Lord Mandelson is wrong in his criticism of Ed Miliband’s energy plan (Report, 26 September), yet was also wrong when he was business secretary. In 2009 his lordship recognised after meeting French business leaders that France was better at setting strategic goals, citing examples such as nuclear energy, high-speed rail and aerospace, then claiming that: “We have something to learn from continental practice [but] we are not talking about public ownership.”
Yet public ownership was central to the success of France in these sectors. It was crucial to its state-owned Électricité de France achieving the target of gaining four fifths of national energy through nuclear power, without a Three Mile Island meltdown. It was through the state-owned SNCF that it gained its TGV national rail system, now in its second generation. Without long-term public finance in sustaining Concorde, despite it never covering its development costs, France would not have retained the advanced engineering capacity in aircraft that made Airbus possible.
Also, while praising French industrial strategy in 2009, Mandelson was proposing to privatise the Post Office, apparently oblivious that France’s publicly owned Caisse des Depôts et Consignations is investment manager for both savings banks (Caisses d’épargne) and the French Post Office. It is through these public institutions that France for decades has assured a long-term supply of savings for productive investments in both its public and private sectors.
Further, while denigrating allegedly Old Labour, and the risk of returning to it, Labour’s industrial strategy of the 1970s was modelled on French planning agreements which made the long-term investments by Électricité de France, SNCF and Concorde-Airbus possible. This was both better informed and more up to date then than his lordship is now.
Stuart Holland
Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Portugal
• The idea that this is a backward step in Labour’s industrial policy reveals only the extent to which Mandelson, the architect of Blairism, continues to cling on to the bankrupt policy of cosying up to big business which precipitated the banking crisis with disastrous effect.
Let us not forget that Mandelson, while a minister, was obliged to resign under a cloud, not once but twice. Remember too that he publicly declared himself relaxed about people “getting filthy rich” under New Labour and has counted among his contacts Russian oligarchs and owners of luxury yachts who have entertained him alongside, not so ironically, George Osborne.
That Ed Miliband has the courage to stand up to the energy companies that have blatantly ratcheted up prices by eye-watering margins under the current administration is admirable. It is to be hoped that as a result of this policy, come 2015, a UK government will no longer turn a blind eye to the obscenity of the preventable deaths each year of those who cannot afford to pay for the unreasonable profits of energy company executives and their shareholders.
Barbara Cairns
• Lord Mandelson presumably still supports the principle of a minimum wage. In a monopsonistic labour market, paradoxically the demand for labour goes up when employers are forced to pay a minimum wage, assuming that the level is set correctly. That is the way of profit maximisation under the minimum wage constraint. In a market where employers have to compete with each other for labour, this paradox may not obtain, and the argument for a minimum wage is one of fairness.
If Mandelson accepts these arguments, he cannot criticise the mirror image argument for a price ceiling in a monopolistic energy industry. Such a ceiling may, paradoxically, even lead to higher production of energy by the logic of profit maximisation in that industry.
SP Chakravarty
• What a pity that Peter Mandelson can’t use his analytical abilities to help Labour craft a more responsible form of capitalism in the way that Lord Sainsbury has attempted, rather than simply seeking to defend his own “legacy” as business secretary. His accusation that Ed Miliband’s planned energy price freeze is taking Labour policy backwards smacks of someone who just doesn’t “get it” – that voters feel that unfettered markets do little to protect the consumer from being ripped off.
The challenge for Labour is to devise mechanisms to ensure that the markets for energy, water and rail deliver the investment that any decent long-term strategy shows we need, while protecting the consumer from companies such as Centrica, which plead poverty one day and then find plenty of cash to reward shareholders the next. Perhaps Lord Mandelson could apply his skills to this challenge, rather than uncritically supporting the current energy market framework.
John Rigby
• Critics accuse Ed Miliband of a lurch to the left and say his energy price freeze is unworkable. Up pops Mandelson to agree that the proposals are a step backwards and won’t work. Instantly, fears and doubts are swept away. It’s a brilliant stroke by Mandelson to ensure that the public supports Labour’s energy policy.
Martin Freedman
• Curious to know how Mandelson, Milburn and assorted other New Labour types think their incessant chorus of public criticism of their leader helps the party? Why should people join and work locally for the party if national figures constantly weigh in with comments that undermine progress at this critical time? What’s wrong with a discreet call, an email or a face-to-face meeting if they want to log concerns with the leadership? And don’t tell me Labour is “a broad church”. This is tribal, egocentric nonsense.
Richard Clifford
• Perhaps Mandelson’s cry of anguish expresses his fear that if Miliband is right on this then New Labour’s backside-licking of big corporations might eventually come to be viewed as most people now view its insistence that Britain be involved in Iraq – a moral outrage and a gross disservice to the British people that New Labour were elected to serve.
Peter Freeman
Chislehurst, Kent
• The acutely perceptive Baron Mandelson has noticed that the Labour leader’s speech was driven by politics. Surprise, surprise! Whatever next?
Chris Birch

Ian Martin is right to call for “international actors to stay engaged” in Libya and that Libyans have no appetite for an “over-assertive western approach” (Remember Libya, 20 September). A mixture of diplomatic caution and Libya’s considerable wealth means that they are getting little of either from the British government directly. Instead, what Libyans need from the UK is meaningful commercial, educational and institutional engagement.
I’ve twice returned to Tripoli since the fall of Gaddafi, once to teach at Tripoli University and again with a small, UKTI-backed delegation from the Royal Institute of British Architects to establish partnerships with Libya’s built-environment policymakers and fledgling institutions. However, such privately funded, loss-leader initiatives with substantial security overheads mean that active engagement is a philanthropic disincentive to otherwise willing businesses, educators and institutions. It should be the job of government to play the long game where British SMEs cannot, by facilitating Anglo-Libyan partnerships with all the hands-on diplomatic, logistical and financial support that they require. The cost of harnessing the greatest peace-building asset in our arsenal might be worth the prize of a major new market for British expertise. The cost of a failed state three hours from London would be greater.
Philip Graham
• Ian Martin says Libyans now “experience freedoms they were long denied”. Does he mean the freedom to not have running water, state healthcare, sanitation, security? He may see political ethics and the lessons of history as “point-scoring”, but the west should not have bombed Libya for seven months. It needs to be rebuilt because western leaders destroyed it. For them, Libya is just another Arab state broken by their violence to achieve their geopolitical goals – as long as it is opened up to their oil companies and big businesses, they’ll be content to leave its people in the chaos they created.
Peter McKenna

Simon Jenkins makes a lot of sense in his destruction of the argument made by the three major political parties for retaining and renewing Trident (This £100bn Armageddon weapon won’t make us safer, 25 September).
If only he had seen the light when he edited London’s Evening Standard in the late 1970s and the Times in the early 1990s, and thundered against Trident then too.
But it is not only British senior politicians who suffer cognitive dissonance over nuclear weapons of mass destruction: good for us; bad for them.
US president Barack Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday that the US was “determined to prevent” Iran from “developing a nuclear weapon”. Yet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told the gathered world leaders and top diplomats that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction had “no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine”.
President Obama also stressed his wider opposition to nuclear WMDs in the Middle East, saying: “We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction … We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
Obama failed to mention that Israel already has some 200 nuclear warheads, and missiles to deliver them across the region. Why was this?
Dr David Lowry
Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre
• Simon Jenkins’s well-constructed blast against successive British politicians’ obsession with retaining a nuclear weapons capability missed one essential point. If Britain gave up the bomb it would leave France as the sole European nuclear power. Now, I’m not suggesting that this would leave the entire continent having to live in the shadow of a Gallic parapluie nucléaire – but the Daily Mail might …
Gavin Greenwood
Director, Allan & Associates


It is disturbing that the Crown Prosecution Service finds it in the public interest to prosecute Green MP Dr Caroline Lucas for the way she opposed the threat of fracking in a community near her Brighton constituency (report, 26 September) but to date has  not prosecuted a single  banker for their role in wrecking our economy.
City financial watchdogs have fined companies involved in dodgy dealing in the banking industry, but unlike in the United States reckless individuals are never fingered by our prosecuting authorities.These bankers and brokers get the huge bonuses paid personally, even if earned from reckless deals, but never receive the fines personally when caught out.
Meanwhile Dr Lucas gets prosecuted. She has tried traditional methods to raise widespread concerns with fracking; for example, she secured a debate in Parliament just before summer recess on 18 July. Readers can judge for themselves by reading the energy minister Michael Fallon’s response to the concerns Dr Lucas set out whether he is prepared to take on board popular worries over fracking by reading his response on the Parliamentary website: /pa/cm201314/cmhansrd /cm130718/ hallindx/130718-x.htm
One of several key points raised by Dr Lucas was this: “It is also pretty appalling that the new planning guidelines are set to come into force without public consultation, denying communities that stand to be affected by fracking any say in the new process. It is clear that ministers and the fracking firms, which are, sadly, increasingly indistinguishable, are keen to press on rapidly, but it is wrong to refuse to consult on new planning guidance aimed at making it easier for developers to cast aside community concerns.”
It is impossible for politicians to represent popular concerns over environmental risks if ministers either ignore them when raised through usual democratic channels, or deliberately create planning processes that are exclusive of key community stakeholders.
Dr Lucas is a dedicated, concerned, selfless and hardworking MP. Do our law officers really want to prosecute such politicians?
Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey
Thank you for devoting two pages to the dangers of the chemicals used in fracking (“Is fracking a mortal threat to our livestock?”, 18 September). It is truly astonishing that David Cameron, who wanted the Coalition to be “the greenest government ever”, is so keen to promote fracking. 
To allow such toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to be pumped into the ground strikes me as equivalent to toxic waste dumping on a grand scale. Accidental spillages and leakages from imperfect well linings will be inevitable, not to mention complex geological factors that may in time bring these chemicals to the surface and into our food chain.
That we would be spared  the shocking US legislation that allows fracking companies to hide details of the chemicals they use is of little comfort. It is time for a major U-turn in policy.
Justin Douglas, St Albans,  Hertfordshire
Ed Miliband’s advocacy of theft is a disgrace
Does Ed Miliband understand property rights in regards to his “use it or lose it” threat to property developers sitting on vast land banks? The rule of law is supposed to protect our property rights from the potential arbitrary power of government, but Miliband thinks he can stamp on this fundamental principle of civil association and limited government for the sake of trying to win votes. Miliband was advocating theft and property confiscation; it is an absolute disgrace to hear such rhetoric from a “serious” politician. 
James Paton, Billericay, Essex
No doubt “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage” (Owen Jones, 24 September”) will make a fine slogan for Ed Miliband at the next general election. On the other hand, it is uncomfortably close to “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage”, as used by Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s, which my working-class grandmother always cited as her reason for voting Conservative.
D J Taylor, Norwich
Ed Miliband gave a really first-class speech at the Labour conference. The average voter will applaud his commitment to freezing energy prices. Most of us will certainly also be in favour of breaking up the big energy firms and bringing in a new, tougher regulator.
Building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 will in addition go down well with younger and older folk wanting a place of their own.Truly, here we have an excellent, thoughtful young leader who would certainly make an excellent prime minister in 2015.
Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Twickenham
Once again Labour shows that it has no basic understanding of business; that’s partly why it  ruined our economy while in government last time. Ed Miliband is not capable of running our country, and conference headlines might please the fickle but won’t win them an election.
T Sayer, Bristol
The blatant attempt at blackmail by the energy companies with their thinly veiled threat to pull the plugs on our energy supply if the government attempts to regulate their obscene profits, despite the fact that many elderly, sick and disabled people depend for their safety on that energy, shows beyond doubt that these fat-cat companies are totally unfit to be allowed to continue managing our energy infrastructure.
The government should make it absolutely clear that any such attempt at such sabotage would result in seizure of all assets, jailing of the perpetrators, and immediate renationalisation without compensation of the energy network. But of course we won’t see that from this government, who wouldn’t dream of offending their rich shareholder friends.
Ian McNicholas, Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale
We can’t afford not to build HS2
Ed Balls has raised questions about the affordability of HS2 and alternative uses for the available funds. Surely the question he should be asking is not “Can we afford to build it?” but “Can we afford not to build it if we want a globally competitive future for our country in the 21st century?”
Our 19th-century Victorian forbears left a legacy that  enabled us to meet most of our infrastructure needs for the 20th century, and we became lazy and parsimonious in our thinking on national infrastructure investment. 
Sadly, they omitted to provide for sufficient north-south rail capacity for the 21st century and for national success this will be most keenly felt in respect of freight capacity. Whether we like it or not, we are in a globalised economy competing with emerging economic power-houses falling over themselves to invest in their national infrastructure. It would be interesting to know what questions of affordability and alternative uses for the funding Mr Balls raised when his government was planning and initiating the construction of Crossrail.
The HS2 project will cost each year a broadly similar sum to that which has been spent each year for the past decade and more on Crossrail. Surely it can’t have anything to do with the fact that Crossrail benefits the economy of London, whereas HS2 benefits the economy of much of the rest of the country?
Malcolm Everett, Birmingham
State-school sport  is thriving
Has David Hewitt (Letters, 23 September) been anywhere near a state school recently? My children’s school has a state-of-the-art gym and sports hall. PE is valued and taught with excellence and enthusiasm. There is no sign of “apathy”. Pupils have experience of a wide variety of sports (all those mentioned in his list, apart from squash and many more besides) before, during and after school. They compete against other schools and are certainly not restricted to being “grudgingly allowed to play sport one afternoon a week”.
State-school sport is actually alive and kicking and achieving incredibly high standards.
Helen Smithson, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
Primary principles
English primary schools do not need an American for-profit company to tell them that “you can have fun from learning” and that core values of “compassion, wisdom, respect, justice, courage, hope, responsibility, and integrity” are essential ingredients of good education (report, 25 September). The person who needs this advice is Michael Gove, who seems to think that transmission of skills and facts and the testing thereof is the essence of education.
State funds should go into state schools, not private pockets.
Michael Bassey, Coddington, Newark
Niqab makes a  spectacle of piety
The defenders of the niqab are laying claim to the British virtue of tolerance  (Letters, 24 September), but completely ignoring another long-standing aspect of our national character, a very strong dislike of those who make a  spectacle of their own piety and virtue mostly in order to highlight the supposed sin and vice of  everybody else. This idea is  enshrined in our language in  expressions like “self-righteous” and “holier than thou”.
R S Foster, Sheffield
For once, I’m backing Boris
I’m not a fan of Boris Johnson, but I praise his call for the super-rich to follow the example of their American counterparts to “do something for society” – to demonstrate some philanthropy. You reported his perfectly reasonable comments as a “rant”.
Funny, up until then I thought I’d been reading The Independent.
Stanley Knill, London N15
Ukip jests, surely
Farage showed the refreshing  candour and no-nonsense forthrightness for which he and his party are renowned when he said of ex-Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom: “Nearly everything he has said has been meant as a joke.”
I trust Bloom will return the compliment and say the same of Farage and Ukip.
Christian Vassie, York
Ancient cricketer
I noticed, in yesterday’s Birthdays, that former cricketer Ian Chappell is 701. I presume this is 701 not out?
Nick Marler, Otley, West Yorkshire


The ‘lost generation’ of graduates who cannot find paid work, the success stories of social science students, and teaching ‘employability’ at school
Sir, I have yet to hear any of the political party conferences say something positive about youth unemployment, especially about graduates. They seem to have been forgotten, with almost 19 per cent of graduates unemployed and youth unemployment overall running at nearly 21 per cent.
My daughter has been unemployed for a year now. She has three A levels at grade A, a degree and a master’s from one of the top five universities in Britain and, after applying for many jobs in the museum and art world, has never been offered an interview. Almost all the applications she sends do not even get a reply and because many of the employers use an internet-based system for applications which does not allow for correspondence, she is unable to get any feedback. Her experience of some art and auction institutions also seems to suggest a high degree of nepotism.
She has had many unpaid internships and is currently volunteering for a charity. However, she would like a proper paid job and so has reluctantly set her sights lower. She recently applied for a sales assistant role at a national retail store. This involved a long group interview, with tasks and presentations. She thought she had done well, but three days later she was told she hadn’t got the job. No feedback, just an unreplyable, automated email.
She refers to herself as part of the “lost generation”, a whole swathe of young people who have been forgotten, who have worked hard at school and university, encouraged by the politicians to do well, only to find that there is nothing for them at the end of their studies.
Keith Spooner
Sir, We were sorry to read in your article “Salary fears put courses in peril” (Good University Guide, Sept 25), that social science subjects are facing difficulties in student recruitment since the introduction of the £9,000 fees. John O’Leary is right to point out the perception that social science degrees don’t offer good career prospects.
However, the Campaign for Social Science can demonstrate that this perception is unfounded. We will shortly be releasing a report entitled “What do Social Science Graduates Do?”, analysing data from the latest Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey. Among its findings are:
A higher proportion of social science graduates are in work than STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or arts-humanities graduates, three and a half years after graduating.
At the same point in time, higher proportions of social scientists are “managers, directors and senior officials” than any other subject group.
Greater proportions of social science graduates, too, are employed in the professional and scientific industries.
Professor James Wilsdon
Professor Cary Cooper
Campaign for Social Science
London EC2

Sir, The modern schooling system has failed to adjust to the fact that the economy is in recession and is flooded with graduates. Schools must engage their young people in employability skills from the age of 15. Not to do this can mean many years wasted on overly academic courses which often take young people no further forward in terms of earning a living.
Elizabeth Oakley
Dursley, Glos

Converting redundant railway routes for road use, and taking a leaf out of France’s book when it comes to interconnectivity
Sir, Nissan last month caused a stir by declaring that it will be ready to sell cars capable of fully autonomous driving by 2020. Mercedes has a research vehicle which autonomously retraced the 103km route between Mannheim and Pforzheim originally navigated by Mrs Bertha Benz in 1888.
Railways including the proposed HS2 run between buildings where no fare-paying passenger lives or works, thus giving rise to two further journeys. Even if the journey time by rail over distances of up to 200 miles is halved, it is doubtful that the door-to-door journey time (as distinct from station-to-station time) will equal the convenience or time of a start-to-destination time by road.
The bad news is, if built, HS2 will on completion be redundant. The good news is railway routes convert into excellent grade separated roads.
Roger M. Bale
St Clement, Jersey

Sir, According to George Thackray (letter, Sept 26), the high-speed trains’ lack of flexibility “limits interconnectivity with the existing network”. The French TGVs on which I have travelled from Paris to Annecy, Strasbourg to Lille, and Paris to Dijon, running for part of each journey over the regular network, appeared to have no problems in this regard. Why should HS2 trains be any different? Admittedly, the track over which they ran would need to be electrified, but that would apply to any electric train on the existing network.
R..M..G. Baker
Rickmansworth, Herts


When reporting on the America’s Cup, perhaps the truly international nature of those making up the winning crew should be emphasised
Sir, The US wins the America’s Cup (for sailing): humbug. The winning boat, Oracle, is owned by Larry Ellison, the third richest citizen of the US, and one fellow citizen was a member of the 11-strong crew. Also in the crew were four Australians (one of whom was captain), two Kiwis and one member each from the UK, Italy, Holland and Antigua.
Marcus Brooke
Giffnock, Renfrewshire


This reader has a comeback to Lord Skidelsky’s letter concerning our leader writers’ inability to understand the ‘paradoxical’ nature of Keynesian economics
Sir, The de haut en bas tone of Lord Skidelsky’s letter (Sept 26) chiding your leader writers’ inability to understand the “paradoxical” nature of Keynesian economics would be tolerable, or nearly so, if the rule he implies by use of the word “would” in relation to the effects of government spending (without, one may remark, saying where the government got the money) were as falsifiable as a real scientific law. It is not.
Nick Parmée
London SW11

The recent case of Michael Le Vell at Manchester is an example of where committal proceedings could have saved both time and money
Sir, In view of recent criminal cases it is regrettable that the old form of committal proceedings has been abolished. Formerly, the prosecution case could be tested before the Magistrates Courts (professional or lay) to assess its strength. Often the case would be dismissed at that stage and not be sent to the Crown Court if the evidence was not there or was not satisfactory against the defendant. It was a procedure which could save much Crown Court time and expense. The recent case of Michael Le Vell at Manchester is an example where there appeared to be no proper evidence to convict (reports, Sept 11 & 12). He could have been spared years of anguish by the possible disposal of the case in the lower court. Similarly all the recent cases where allegations are made years after the events could be tested and perhaps sorted out in the lower court.
Roger Davies
(former District Judge)
London SW1


SIR – Two other popular comedians who created stage names from an outside source (Letters, September 24) were John Eric Bartholomew, who took the name of the town where he was born to become Eric Morecambe, and Ted Ray, born Charlie Olden in Wigan, who adopted his stage name from a well-known professional golfer of the early 1900s.
Ron Mason
Grinstead, West Sussex
SIR – The origin of Mark Twain’s name is an interesting one. It had been adopted from the custom of dropping a line with knots spaced every 6ft into the river to test its depth.
When it had reached the second knot, the leadsman would shout, “Mark, twain!” indicating that there was a depth of 12ft and it was therefore safe to proceed.
Richard N Underwood
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – In his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Ed Miliband proposes fixing power prices, nationalising land for building and giving everybody a pay rise (report, September 25). How can this be? Is this really what the shadow cabinet were taught as sound economics?
Don Edwards
Manningtree, Essex
SIR – Nothing illustrates more precisely why Labour is unfit to govern than Mr Miliband’s absurd pronouncement on energy prices. In Canute-like fashion he will hold back market forces, and stop the price of power increasing – presumably supported by state subsidy and government spending. That is how Labour got us into this mess in the run up to 2010.
I don’t know how Mr Miliband can present such policies with a straight face.
Steve Willis
Olney, Buckinghamshire
Related Articles
The comedian who named himself after a town
26 Sep 2013
SIR – The only way Mr Miliband could fulfil his election pledge to freeze household energy bills would be by lifting the obligation imposed on power companies to buy open-ended amounts of renewable energy at two or three times the cost of alternatives. This would not just freeze our bills, it would reduce them.
That would please everyone except Chinese solar panel makers, Danish turbine companies, and the leaders of the Conservative Party. Power companies could retain a fair profit for investment in our future. Customers would see bills go down.
The prospect of no more turbine or solar blight could see “Red Ed” swept to power on a wave of Tory heartland votes, bemused and frustrated at their own party’s failure to make such a pledge.
Michael Tyce
Waterstock, Oxfordshire
SIR – Mr Milband’s energy price freeze promise could come back to haunt him.
Britain’s energy infrastructure is creaking already, having been left virtually untouched by successive governments for the best part of 30 years, while our energy consumption grows relentlessly. We expect more energy, lower prices and reliability, yet we have done nothing at all to achieve these things. Coal-fired power stations and old nuclear reactors are closing down, while new builds are not coming on stream fast enough.
Already Britain is facing a winter with a tiny margin of safety on our total production capacity. One breakdown and the lights could start going out. This requires more (not less) money to fix it.
John S Parris
Haresfield, Gloucestershire
SIR – Does Ed Miliband have any understanding of the operations of a commercial energy company? The cost of electricity (other than nuclear and hydro) is dominated by the cost of fuel. Gas and coal prices are subservient to international pressures and demand.
In the 24 hours up to 11 am on Tuesday, electricity was generated as follows: gas 29 per cent; coal 42 per cent; nuclear 20 per cent; wind 0.3 per cent, while the interconnector from France supplied 5 per cent. We should therefore be installing another interconnector, not spending billions subsidising wind turbines.
Paul Spare
Davenham, Cheshire
SIR – Perhaps Mr Miliband would be kind enough to fix the price of oil. As our village in North Oxfordshire has no mains gas, we have to work with the vagaries of the oil market, which seems to be more volatile than the gas or electricity markets.
Failing that, he could always try and fix the price of logs.
David Swan
South Newington, Oxfordshire
SIR – What exactly does Ed Miliband think the energy companies will do when his proposed 20-month freeze is over?
Colin Bridger
Camberley, Surrey
SIR – After Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze prices, the energy companies complain they are only making 5 to 6 per cent on investment. Pensioners, like myself, can only dream of such returns, despite having no option but to pay inflated energy costs.
Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
SIR – Will Ed Miliband confirm that, if he is elected as prime minister, he will not abandon the pensioners’ £100 winter fuel allowance even if he freezes energy prices for 20 months?
Tony Perkin
Reading, Berkshire
SIR – Let us hope that our Prime Minister has more pressing matters to address than spending two weeks rehearsing his speech before he takes to the stage at the Tory party conference.
We do not need a slick pantomime act. I will be quite happy if David Cameron uses copious notes and doesn’t walk all over the stage. He should keep focused and deal with what matters, in order to ensure that the country does not slip back 40 years come the election.
Tony Greatorex
Syston, Leicestershire
SIR – It seems we’ve moved from the 1992 Sun headline: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”, to a possible 2015 one: “If Miliband wins today, please make your way to the exit as the lights are being turned off”.
Phil Coutie
Twickenham, Middlesex
Grounds for reburial
SIR – Robert Ingle (Letters, September 23) advances arguments for the remains of Richard III to be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave dealt with these points when granting permission to the Plantagenet Alliance to proceed with its application for judicial review of the decision to re-inter Richard III in Leicester Cathedral under arrangements made by the Leicester authorities.
Mr Ingle relies on “good archaeological practice”. This generally relates to unidentified remains, and the unique event of the discovery of the undisputed remains of a king of England 528 years after his death in battle calls for a rather different approach. Although he belittles the Plantagenet Alliance, it has, at least, ensured that the decision on the reburial will be an informed and authoritative one after proper consideration of the law and all the facts and circumstances.
Chris Eadie
London N21
Running on empty
SIR – I, too, used story-telling to encourage my children to come on walks (Letters, September 23). Mine centred on an Italian ice cream seller called Mr Fernandes who had a floating van on the river Avon. He would provide free ice cream whenever I walked there unaccompanied, but was never there when my children joined me.
I think this caused them great psychological damage.
Peter Rosie
Ringwood, Hampshire
Holding on for dear life
SIR – When my employer, an American multi-national, initiated telephone hold music it chose the theme to the series MASH, as it would be recognisable around the world (Letters, September 25).
However, it was soon replaced when it was realised that the music was entitled “Suicide is Painless”.
Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey
Sentences must be fair
SIR – When I was an acting magistrate, I often found the most appropriate sentence for a particular offence to be a conditional discharge (report, September 24).
Many defendants appeared in court pleading “guilty”, but due to exceptional circumstances (as in the case of Godfrey Smith who was recently sacked by the South Central Ambulance Service for speeding), it would have been wrong to impose the normal sentence of a fine or a disqualification from driving.
In these circumstances, the defendant would only be brought back to court and punished if he committed another similar offence in the next six months, or whatever period the court considered appropriate.
This way the dignity of the law is upheld, but the defendant usually feels the sentence to be fair.
R I Cahn
Itchingfield, West Sussex
Sex and videotape
SIR – Channel 4’s plan to base a television show on couples having sex is disgusting (report, September 24). The Campaign For Real Sex is insulting decency in pretending it will encourage “a frank conversation” and “reclaim sex from pornography”.
It will only encourage greater acceptance of pornography in society and debase what is meant to be beautiful.
Jonathan Longstaff
Woodford Green, Essex
Roman holiday
SIR – Travelling with five children, Judith Woods and her husband found themselves feted in Venice by the child-friendly Italians (, September 24).
When I lived in Rome I took an even larger brood (six of mine, five from another family) to visit Ostia Antica. At the entrance I was asked if they were all mine.
When I nodded in assent we were ushered in without charge – past a hurriedly assembled reception line, a flurry of salutes and cries of “Mamma mia!”
Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Double yolked eggs are actually quite common
SIR – Finding a box of six double-yolked eggs is not as unusual as one would imagine (report, September 24).
Recently, I purchased a box of six large free-range eggs from my local butcher. “Large” is an understatement – they were so big that they scarcely fitted into their box, which had to be secured with an elastic band.
Every one of these eggs proved to contain a double yolk. The eggs came from a local supplier in Ledbury, Herefordshire.
Mariegold Ward
Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – On Monday, I purchased my usual dozen eggs – free-range Columbian Blacktails – from Waitrose. I scrambled six of them for our grandsons’ tea and found that four of them were double yolked.
The next day we had four of the same dozen, poached, and three of those were doubles. The last two I used to make a Victoria sponge – and yes, they were both doubles.
Nine out of 12. Amazing. Is it due to the warm summer?
Carolyn Robinson
Emsworth, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – As academics engaged in research in a variety of different disciplines we strongly advocate a No vote in the upcoming referendum on Seanad abolition.
We believe that to tackle the major issues affecting our society, it is vital that there should be more scrutiny of legislation and executive accountability, not less; that the level of vocational expertise in our parliamentary system should be strengthened, not eliminated; and that political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes should be intensified, not reduced. While the Seanad, as currently constituted, is not sufficiently equipped to deliver on these ideals, the reform proposals set forth in the Seanad Bill 2013 proposed by Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone go some way to meeting them.
By broadening the nomination process and giving all citizens the right to elect our senators, the Quinn-Zappone Bill seeks to implement the real value of bicameralism in providing space for reflection and debate by two sets of qualitatively different representatives. By increasing the Seanad’s powers of scrutiny in a range of areas and providing for the right of the people to force the Seanad to debate on an issue of national importance, this reform package has the capacity to bring new expertise and scrutiny into the parliamentary system and to provide a channel for citizens to express their views, their ideas and their suggestions for change, thus strengthening the foundations of democracy in our country.
The only hope for real reform is a No vote. – Yours, etc,
Prof IVANA BACIK, School of Law, TCD; Dr CATHRYN COSTELLO, Faculty of Law, Oxford University;
Dr YVONNE DALY, School of Law and Government, DCU; Dr SHANE DARCY, School of Law, NUI Galway; Prof FIONA de LONDRAS, Durham Law School, Durham University; LARRY DONNELLY, School of Law, NUI Galway; ; Prof DIARMAID FERRITER, School of History and Archives, UCD; Dr Graham Finlay, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD;
Prof CONOR GEARTY, Dept of Law, London School of Economics; Dr AIDAN KANE, School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway; Dr PADRAIC KENNA, School of Law, NUI Galway; Dr ROBERT MOONEY, School of Sociology, UCD; Dr RONAN McCREA, Faculty of Laws, University College London; Dr NOEL McGRATH, School of Law, UCD; Dr CIAN MURPHY, School of Law, King’s College London; Prof GARY MURPHY, School of Law and Government, DCU; COLM O’CINNÉIDE, Faculty of Laws, University College London; Prof DONNCHA O’CONNELL, School of Law, NUI Galway; Dr EOIN O’DELL, School of Law, TCD; CHARLES O’MAHONY, School of Law, NUI Galway; Prof GERARD QUINN, Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway;
Dr NIAMH REILLY, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway;
Dr CIARA SMYTH, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof JENNIFER TODD, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; Dr JOHN WALSH, School of Languages, NUI Galway; JUDY WALSH, School of Social Justice, UCD & SUZANNE EGAN, School of Law, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4.
Sir, – Noel Whelan (Opinion, September 21st) argues, “In deciding how to vote in the Seanad referendum on the October 4th, voters should have regard not only to the merits or otherwise of the proposal itself, but also to the origins of the proposal, the timing of the referendum, the nature of the argument being advanced by the Government in support of it, and the extent to which the Government is prepared to debate it”. In this he is wrong.
We have had too many referendum campaigns influenced by extraneous issues and used to send a message to the incumbent government, rather than by the pros and cons of the substantive issue. The referendums to be held on October 4th (and future referendums), should be decided only on the merits or otherwise of the proposal itself. If voters are unhappy with the government, a general election is the time to express it. – Yours, etc,
Beechwood Park,
Ballinlough, Cork.
Sir, – The arguments used in the referendum campaign seem increasingly irrelevant. For example, the notion that Seanad Éireann should be a watchdog, or a bulwark against government excesses, is not reflected in the Constitution, which rather provides for the complementary roles of Dáil and Seanad in processing legislation.
Allowing for roseate-tinted nostalgia, my own experience of the Seanad from the late 1970s to the early 1990s is one of constructive co-operation with the government of the day, especially where Bills were initiated in the House on educational,cultural and social matters. The informed and harmonious debate in the spring of 1991 on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, introduced by Mary Harney, showed the Seanad at its best,entirely free of party rancour, and this was warmly acknowledged at the time by the minister. – Yours, etc,
(Independent Senator,
Douglas Road, Cork.
Sir, – The arguments advanced in these columns over many weeks may be reduced to three. 1. The Seanad is costly, elitist, and toothless – abolish it. 2. That may be true, but it is our only bulwark against the whipped tyranny of the Dáil and once it’s gone it’ll never be restored – reform it. 3. But abolition will remove the figleaf from the Dáil, leaving it exposed as the lickspittle dogsbody to, at most, a dozen Inner Party politicians who will run the country as their own private fief; then it will simply have to be reformed. For this the GPO was scarred in vain. – Yours, etc,
Birr, Offaly.
Sir, – Right vote, wrong house. – Yours, etc,
Whitehall Road, Dublin 14.
Sir, – It is to be hoped that President Higgins, as an academic and intellectual, would welcome robust discussion on his position on ethics for all, and it is a pity that many of the responses to Dan O’Brien’s reflection on his DCU speech (Business Opinion, September 20th) were so defensive.
As a researcher and occasional lecturer in clinical ethics, I welcome President Higgins’s investment of energy and authority into the topic of ethics for all. However, a number of aspects of his address troubled myself and others who were at the lecture.
In the first instance, it was pity that the ethics for “all” seemed to get funnelled towards companies, auditors, economists and politicians, rather than equally relating to individual citizens – illegal turf-cutters, strategic buy-to-let mortgage defaulters, those working in, or availing of, the black economy – for whom there is equally a challenge in developing a sense of a society with a more embedded ethical perspective.
Secondly, we were offered a very bleak view of economists, and economics as a rigorous academic discipline and a broad church, declared a craft rather than a science. Joseph Stiglitz, Tyler Cowan and Paul Krugman counter this, as do the economists engaged in TASC in Ireland. It is notable that Jürgen Habermas in a talk in UCD in 2010 indicated that economists such as Stiglitz were key elements of intellectual discourse on how we shape society.
In any event, while it is very good to get ethics more centre stage and promoted as a fundamental of civil society, let us ensure a lively and open debate which liberates the subject as far as possible from ideology.
Professor in Medical
Trinity College,
Dublin 2.
Sir, – It is illuminating to discover that President De Gaulle used to pay the electricity bill for the Élysée Palace for the time after 6pm when the workers had gone home and Eoin Dillon (September 26th) suggests President Higgins should follow this precedent. As well as being honourable and brave, De Gaulle was devoted to rectitude. Even as president, De Gaulle and his strict wife, Yvonne, paid for their own telephone calls. Dinner parties with the De Gaulles were resolutely gloomy, frigid and dreary. Neither believed in small talk and Yvonne de Gaulle got a migraine at the mere thought of meeting a divorced woman. Do we want all this in the Áras? Merci, mais non. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.
Sir, – Desmond FitzGerald (September 25th) is right: “Let’s see Mr Higgins and his ilk lead by example and make some sacrifices to lessen the burden they place on the taxpayers of a small bankrupt country.” Furthermore, if President Higgins really wishes to participate in public discussion of the ethics of the current macroeconomic management of our affairs let him answer Dan O’Brien’s convincing critique (Business, September 20th) via a letter or article within the same length limits of that article. – Yours, etc,
Sandford Road,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – I read Dan O’Brien’s critical comments (Business Opinion, September 20th) on President Higgins’s DCU speech, entitled “Towards an Ethical Economy”. The President’s speech was a tour de force on truth, values and choices. That is the moral and philosophical leadership that we expect from a President, especially from one who is a distinguished intellectual with a well worked-out view of the world.
The values of friendship, love and caring that the President espoused in his speech, clearly invites us as citizens to look beyond acquisitive individualism, as the basis of the good society. This thinking is, of course, challenging for those who do not share the President’s critical humanistic vision. Evidently, they think our first citizen should be silenced. There are shades of the trial of Socrates in these demands for intellectual orthodoxy.
I will be recommending the President’s inspiring speech to my students as a powerful discourse on the contested meaning of truth in the contemporary world. – Yours, etc,
Dean of Social Science,
University College Cork.
Sir, – While Desmond FitzGerald’s personal attack on President Higgins (September 25th) is itself undeserving of comment, it does show that the President’s remarks have hit home. – Yours, etc,
Maynooth Park,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Nearly all schools with a Protestant ethos are in the fee-paying sector. Therefore, most parents of minority religions have little choice but to send their children to a fee-paying school.
In contrast parents of the majority religion have a choice of sending their children to a fee-paying or a free school. Protestant schools have to cater for the entire socio-economic spectrum and for all academic abilities. This they do well by providing bursaries and the block grant which is distributed on a means-tested basis. Our schools have always welcomed children of all faiths and none whose parents choose our schools particularly because of our ethos and are hugely supportive of their characteristic spirit.
The government’s action in successive budgets of increasing the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying schools has had a disproportionate effect on Protestant schools. Sadly the continuation of this campaign threatens the future of these schools and if this happens the diversity they provide to the country’s educational landscape will be lost. – Yours, etc,
Council of Governors of

Sir, – John Gibbons’s article (Opinion, Septemebr 23rd) would have you believe the planet is facing oblivion. However, it omitted to mention that the IPCC’s forthcoming ARP5 (Fifth Assessment Report) accepts there has been a reduction in the warming trend from 1998 to 2012. It would appear the IPCC is unable to fully explain this reduction, citing several possibilities – none of which is definitive. This reduction, despite the increases due to CO2, surely indicates that IPCC’s predictions are questionable to say the least and at most point to its inability to arrive at believable ones based on its computer modelling. Despite somewhat arguable consensus frequently quoted by the media, there are many scientists and climate experts who do not accept the IPCC’s dire predictions on the climate.
Such an alarmist attitude as adopted in this article is surely unnecessary and indeed irresponsible until it can be established with far more acceptable levels of accuracy than heretofore that the planet is heading for disaster. History is full of such doom-laden predictions that never materialised – and no doubt we’ll have more in the future. – Yours, etc,
Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.

Sir, – Vincent Browne is certainly consistent is his relentless campaign to write negatively about as many people as possible (“Ingenious, driven, reckless, avaricious”, Arts & Books, September 21st).
Tony Ryan was determined and demanding. He gave many people a chance, including me.
I worked for him between 1983 and 1985 as a personal assistant (aka general dogsbody). It was interesting, challenging and exciting. I made mistakes but I certainly learned an awful lot from Tony Ryan.
In my mind he was unquestionably one of Ireland’s greatest entrepreneurs – not just because in GPA he built the world’s largest aircraft leasing company. A failed flotation resulted in him leaving the company. But, for me, his greatest achievement and his most outstanding contribution to Ireland economically and socially, has been Ryanair. He was a man who had taken a very public humiliation but got back into the cockpit and headed skywards again.
By any yardstick Ryanair is one of the world’s most successful airlines and that is down to the unique combination of Tony Ryan and Michael O’Leary.
Ryan was proud of his roots and was a consummate Irishman. He supported Irish artists, loved hurling and embarked on one of the finest restoration projects undertaken in the past century, the Lyons Estate.
His family has continued the generous and discreet philanthropy he practised.
Once again Vincent Browne gives his version of events and chooses to omit many salient and relevant details in relation to matters he was directly involved with Tony Ryan. He declined to be interviewed for the book. That has its own wry irony for a person who berates all and sundry for not subjecting themselves to his erratic form of scrutiny.
When I was growing up, my parents always counselled me not to speak ill of the dead. – Yours, etc,
Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Having held a coffee morning in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation last week, I proceeded to the Bank of Ireland named on the enclosed Giro slip to lodge the proceeds of the event. Having filled in the slip as requested, “notes, coins and cheques”, I was informed by the cashier she was unable to take coins, which totalled €17. These coins were mainly €2 pieces and would have taken her less time to count than to explain to me that she was unable to do so.
I was flabbergasted by this development. Having worked in the bank myself, I couldn’t believe my ears. I then went to my own bank, AIB, and while it would accept coins, it wouldn’t accept two of the cheques as they were payable to the Irish Hospice Foundation and not Our Lady’s Hospice as stated on the Giro, another blank.
I then had to drive to the fundraising office of Our Lady’s Hospice to give it the lodgment directly, as the banks wouldn’t or couldn’t complete the transaction.
Thousands of people in homes and offices held coffee mornings last week for this most worthy cause, but I should like to warn them not to include coin in their lodgments and to ensure the cheques are payable to the correct payee or they will go on a wild goose chase, like I did. The banks are treating the public who bailed them out like scum, and I for one am sick of their attitude. – Yours, etc,
Rathdown Park,
Dublin 6W.

Sir, – In place of Arthur’s Day I propose Mrs Doyle’s Day. We could all sit and drink tea with our friends and neighbours. Better yet, we could make it Fairtrade tea. Then we remind people of the other qualities the Irish are known for: charity, hospitality and conversation. Ah go on, go on, go on! – Yours, etc,
Drinagh Road,
Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Irish Independent:

* Why should there be “disbelief” that the damning Anglo Tapes will not lead to a proper probe into banking activities here (Irish Independent, September 25)?
Also in this section
Let’s stick to the €3.1bn budget adjustment
Taxes and charges driving our family away
History repeating itself
Since 2008, evidence has been pouring out of every one of our rotten banking system’s orifices.
None of this is to mention the cabal of untouchable politicians, some ex and some not, who, by virtue of their greed and incompetence, bankrupted the country. Why on earth should there be disbelief in our society over anything any more when we remember all that?
Killian Foley-Walsh
* I find it hilarious that Environment Minister Phil Hogan is actually “surprised” that the Central Bank has decided no further action will be taken on The Anglo tapes.
Why is Mr Hogan “surprised”?
For far too long, nobody in this country has ever been accountable for their actions.
From scandal after scandal, involving clergy, politicians, developers and bankers, accountability seems practically non-existent.
Perhaps therein lies all our problems.
Catherine Dolan
Tralee, Co Kerry
* Today, Arthur’s Day, is our ‘national day of drunkenness’, with Arthur Guinness as its patron saint. We forget that Arthur Guinness was part of an elite ruling class in this country during the 18th Century.
Guinness has always been seen as this patriotic Irish drink, when in fact Irish state papers released after the 30-year rule last year revealed that the company considered dropping its association with Ireland during the Falklands War and also as result of the IRA’s bombing campaign.
Guinness chiefs seriously considered promoting it as an English company, because of deepening resentment of Ireland and Irish brands in the UK. Surely that’s an eye-opener of what a company will do to maintain its vast profits.
Would people ever get a grip and stop celebrating this farcical lore and especially hailing Arthur Guinness as some great romantic Irish hero.
Barry Mahady
Leixlip,Co Kildare
* I rarely find myself in agreement with Bruce Arnold on EU matters but in his article (Irish Independent, September 23) he raises some important issues in regard to the Lisbon Treaty.
He mentions the yellow-card and red-card system, whereby a certain percentage of national parliaments can halt a proposal from the EU Commission or, in conjunction with the EU Parliament, can actually stop it. These are important safeguards.
The Seanad has an equal vote with the Dail in this process and can act independently. Losing that independence of action and only trusting in the Dail to object is getting rid of crucial checks and balances.
We were promised that Ireland’s interests were protected in vital areas of national sovereignty, eg corporation tax. Our guarantee was and is that there had to be unanimity for any changes to take place. We also had a fall-back position in that not only had the Dail to agree to a change, so too had the Seanad.
While I am not suggesting that this particular Government will do a U-turn on corporation tax, how can we know if in five or 10 years’ time another government may be press-ganged into submission? If that happens and we have no Seanad, then our final line of defence is gone and we have nobody to shout stop.
Marian Harkin MEP
European Parliament, Brussels
* Richard Bruton TD continues to claim that abolishing the Seanad is “enough to pay for 350 primary school teachers or 1,000 new garda cars”. Perhaps he might indicate which of these two options he will guarantee will come to pass in 2014 if the people support the constitutional changes on October 4.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne
Gorey, Co Wexford
* I propose a “teacher swap”. Send the moaning teachers over here to a London school for a week and we’ll see if they last. They infuriate me. They are striking once again and I can only wish for a job at home in Ireland.
(Name and address with editor)
* I must object to the despicable manner in which Fr Iggy O’Donovan is being pilloried by a church which prides itself as being a caring institution.
I am not a regular Mass-goer but I have been present on several occasions at ceremonies, Masses, funerals and blessings conducted by Fr O’Donovan. On all these occasions I have been impressed with the caring and understanding manner in which he has conducted these ceremonies.
In regard to the complaint about a recent baptism conducted by him, I would place far more trust in the comments of Fr Tony Flannery, a spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, than anything Cardinal Brady or any of his minions would have to prognosticate on the matter.
Jack Keaveney
Bettystown, Co Meath
* Arising from the latest ‘Growing Up In Ireland’ report, while the media picked up on the obesity crisis affecting children, there was less mention of a more serious issue, that one in five children has a speech or language problem.
As more parents get caught up in the virtual world of social media and computer games, this leaves them little time to chat with their children.
Even more worrying is that some parents, despite the advice of paediatric professionals, are giving their under-fours computer games and iPads. Admittedly, this is a great way to keep them quiet, but don’t be surprised if your child can’t speak properly, can’t read facial expressions and becomes withdrawn.
Unless parents cop on, switch off their phones and engage with their children, there will be an even sharper collapse in our educational standards.
John Devlin
Erne Terrace, Dublin 2
* The Government is making two propositions in the Court of Appeal referendum but is not allowing the electorate to vote separately on them. It wants to establish a Court of Appeal and to allow each Supreme Court justice hearing a constitutional case to publish his or her opinion.
The second proposition would eliminate the article in the Constitution which excludes the possibility of each justice publishing a separate opinion in relation to the constitutional review of a law.
There are vital safeguards in the existing procedure, which have secured the independence, prestige and authority of the court. Decisions have been clear, final and unambiguous, based on solid legal principles and public understanding.
The proposed change could have serious unintended consequences if the personality and personal ambition of each justice were to overshadow the decision being made.
Public confusion could ensue and the spectacle of deep disagreement being aired in public could undermine public confidence in the entire court system. Individual opinions about the Constitution could also be hijacked by powerful vested interests. We might even see the spectacle of judicial decisions being subsequently measured in opinion polls, reducing the stature of Supreme Court deliberations to that of a bland popularity contest.
Myles Duffy
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


September 26, 2013

26 September 2013 Tired

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to take some globetrotters to the Antarctic, of course Leslie gets losts and ends up in the equator. Priceless.
After too busy days I have a rest buy house insurance
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and gets under over 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


Anthony Lawrence
Anthony Lawrence, who has died aged 101, was a BBC foreign correspondent of an old but distinguished school.

Anthony Lawrence Photo: BBC
6:11PM BST 25 Sep 2013
Although Lawrence flirted with television, he was first and foremost a radio, or, as he would have politely preferred, a wireless broadcaster. For two decades he was the voice of the BBC in the Far East, first in Singapore and then, definitively, in Hong Kong.
He was the least pushy or self-publicising of men and partly because of this he never achieved the fame of such colleagues as Alastair Cooke, yet he was as consummate a professional as any of his generation. With a voice that was classless in the best possible way, a judgment that was shrewd and always scrupulously well-informed, and an uncanny ability to speak fluently and at exactly the length required without apparent benefit of notes, he was for years the pre-eminent journalistic authority on south-east Asia and China.
Throughout his career he was offered more obviously glamorous postings in Europe and North America. But he always politely declined, arguing that it was ridiculous to “appoint an ignoramus to a foreign post and then replace him with another ignoramus a year later”. Instead, like his formidable friend and sparring partner, The Daily Telegraph’s Clare Hollingworth, he stayed in Hong Kong long after his retirement and the end of British rule, becoming doyen of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and a unique source of wisdom about the strange and to him endlessly fascinating city that he had come to love and to regard as home.
Anthony John Lawrence was born on August 12 1912 in Wimbledon, south-west London, one of five children. His grandfather had worked for the Manchester Guardian and one of his uncles was political correspondent of the Daily Mail.
After King’s College School, Wimbledon, he went straight into local newspapers, working as a reporter in various parts of Greater London until shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939, when he enlisted in the Army and served for the duration – ending up as a captain in the Royal Artillery.
He married and then, shortly after D-Day, transferred to France. There he ordered his company to bolster flagging French morale by saluting all French uniformed personnel as smartly as possible. His men, taking him literally, spent several days snappily saluting every French postman who moved. “I don’t suppose it did any harm,” he commented laconically.
Back in England his pregnant wife, Sylvia, unnerved by renewed bombing of the capital, moved into a shelter for expectant mothers. Shortly afterwards Lawrence received a telegram. The shelter had received a direct hit: “I had lost them both.”
After fighting through France he found himself in Germany where his experience in newspapers led to his being assigned to the British Army’s Information Control Unit, which effectively acted as midwife at the birth of the post-war German press. Based mainly in Hamburg and Lübeck he was instrumental in helping German journalists found the influential weekly Die Zeit. It was here too that he met and married a young German girl, Irmgard Noll.
“The French and Belgians were not happy about this at all,” Lawrence recalled in an interview recently. “They asked why I couldn’t find someone in one of the other countries. The simple truth is I fell in love with her.”
After being demobbed in early 1946 Lawrence joined the BBC and spent 10 years working for the World Service, becoming a supervising editor with responsibility for such programmes as. In 1956 he suddenly felt that, as he put it: “I could do the reporting job just as well as the chaps I was editing” and was consequently offered a post as the Corporation’s man in Singapore. At first, having no knowledge or experience of the East, he was reluctant to go, but his wife, never entirely at ease in England, was keen to explore new horizons and his young son, Alexander, acquiesced provided he could have a monkey as a pet.
After a year Lawrence had developed what was to become a lifelong affection for Asia. There were always, he believed, riveting stories to be told about this part of the world, but they were often stories that developed slowly and to interpret them properly required time and tenacity. An early example of this was the emergence of Singapore’s leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who was at first regarded by most British people as an out and out communist. Lawrence was one of the first to recognise that he was nothing of the sort.
In 1960 the BBC decided to move its base from Singapore to Hong Kong and Lawrence accepted the transfer with enthusiasm. For the next 15 years he was the head of the Far East bureau and reported virtually everything that happened in those turbulent years. This included riots and rebellions in Singapore, Malaya and Indonesia; the British atomic test at Christmas Island; the rise of Japan from its crippling wartime defeat and, most dramatically, the Vietnam War. A Reuters colleague recalled a particularly hairy day involving much dangerous helicopter travel not long after the killing of the photographer, Larry Burrows. “I’m getting a bit old for this sort of thing,” said Lawrence. He was 58 years old at the time and much the oldest person on the battlefield.
Nearer his own doorstep he became a frequent visitor to mainland China, though it took him some years to obtain permission to enter the country and he claimed never to have learned more than some two hundred words of Mandarin.
It was typical of his sceptical nature that he should have been able to tell something approaching the truth about Chairman Mao’s vaunted “Great Leap Forward” and the disastrous famine that followed from 1958 to 1961. He also cast a beady eye on the so-called Cultural Revolution that scarred China from 1966 to 1976. Then in 1997 he came out of retirement to play a prominent part in the reporting of the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government.
Yet though he was a fine reporter and interpreter of great events he was almost more at home explaining the arcane mysteries of real life among ordinary Hong Kong folk. He and Irmgard, who was fluent in Mandarin, made many Chinese friends, and Lawrence was able to write and broadcast sympathetically and knowledgeably about what it was like to live in cramped and crowded conditions in a high-rise tenement or to be summarily sacked from one’s job without any compensation.
Apart from his broadcasting he wrote several books including Foreign Correspondent (1972), about his family’s first years in Singapore, and The Fragrant Chinese (1993), which sought to explain the Chinese of modern Hong Kong to western readers. He also lectured widely and continued to take an interest in social and political events of all kinds. Until his death he was an active chairman of the Hong Kong branch of International Social Service, which helps refugees from across Asia who flee to Hong Kong.
Even in his nineties he marched with hundreds of thousands in sweltering heat to protest against the post-British government’s attempts to introduce legislation limiting freedom of expression. He also spoke memorably — and as usual without notes — to a rapt audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in order to explain why, despite his advanced age, he had finally decided to spend his final years in his beloved Hong Kong rather than the Britain of his birth and upbringing.
Anthony Lawrence was appointed OBE this year.
Irmgard died in 2001. Their son also predeceased him.
Anthony Lawrence born August 12 1912, died September 24 2013


Simon Jenkins makes a lot of sense in his destruction of the argument made by the three major political parties for retaining and renewing Trident (This £100bn Armageddon weapon won’t make us safer, 25 September).
If only he had seen the light when he edited London’s Evening Standard in the late 1970s and the Times in the early 1990s, and thundered against Trident then too.
But it is not only British senior politicians who suffer cognitive dissonance over nuclear weapons of mass destruction: good for us; bad for them.
US president Barack Obama told the United Nations on Tuesday that the US was “determined to prevent” Iran from “developing a nuclear weapon”. Yet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told the gathered world leaders and top diplomats that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction had “no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine”.
President Obama also stressed his wider opposition to nuclear WMDs in the Middle East, saying: “We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction … We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
Obama failed to mention that Israel already has some 200 nuclear warheads, and missiles to deliver them across the region. Why was this?
Dr David Lowry
Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre
• Simon Jenkins’s well-constructed blast against successive British politicians’ obsession with retaining a nuclear weapons capability missed one essential point. If Britain gave up the bomb it would leave France as the sole European nuclear power. Now, I’m not suggesting that this would leave the entire continent having to live in the shadow of a Gallic parapluie nucléaire – but the Daily Mail might …
Gavin Greenwood
Director, Allan & Associates

Why does Giles Fraser (The west is in thrall to Kantian ideals of personal freedom, 21 September) have to back Iris Murdoch’s strange suggestion that Immanuel Kant is to blame for launching 20th-century egoism?
The passage in Kant of which she complained merely says that we can’t judge somebody else’s actions – can’t even judge them favourably, not even when that somebody is Christ – unless we already have our own conscience and our own moral sensibilities in working order.
If you’ve no idea at all what is right and wrong, then this subject is closed to you. There is no suggestion here that praising somebody means that we are “setting ourselves up in judgment” on them. The trouble arises, I think, from the current confusion over the whole idea of “moral judgment” as necessarily involving red robes, wigs and hypocrisy. If it did, human society would have had to close down long ago.
Mary Midgley
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Giles Fraser makes a powerful point when he argues that “when we seek freedom from the things that bind us together, then we are not free. We are lost”. He rightly distinguishes between achieved and ascribed identity. 
I too benefited by achieving upward occupational and educational mobility. But we must never forget that such ascribed achievement is only experienced by a small minority. It is shaped by a narrow version of equality of opportunity in a society notable for glaring inequalities of treatment, wealth, income and the exercise of power.
A significant reduction of these inequalities is a prerequisite if we are to achieve social solidarity and value the ties which bind us all together.
Michael Somerton
• Giles Fraser states that Immanuel Kant was a man “with arguably the most boring personal life of any philosopher who ever existed”. In fact, as Manfred Kuehn’s 2001 biography shows, Kant was a highly sociable individual. He enjoyed convivial company and good food and wine, and he had a wide range of friends, including a number of women, though he never married.
True, he worked long hours teaching and writing, but the idea that he led a dull and boring life has become an oft-repeated myth. Supporting rationality and science as well as individual autonomy, as Kant did, did not mean he was unaware of the benefits of community and social ties.
But the “things that bind us together”, as Fraser puts it, can also be the source of irrational beliefs and intercommunal conflict, as the history of religion amply demonstrates. Individuality can have negative consequences to be sure, but so, too, can a “nurturing community”.
Michael Bury
Emeritus professor of sociology, Royal Holloway, London
• Giles Fraser is confusing Immanuel Kant with Ayn Rand. His categorical imperative – “always act in such a way that you can also will that the maxim of your action should become a universal law” – is not the principle of an individualist for whom “loyalties are a temporary convenience”.
Kevin Hilliard

We support the campaign by Action for Palestinian Children to ensure the rights of Palestinian children are upheld in accordance with international human rights treaties and international law.
We call on Israel to implement these recommendations: 1) An end to Israel’s nighttime raids and shackling of Palestinian children; 2) Audio-visual recordings of all interrogations; 3) Parents given the right to be present during questioning and the child’s right to access to a lawyer before their interrogation respected; 4) An end to the transfer of children to prisons inside Israel in breach of article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention; 5) An end to the use of solitary confinement.
We call on Israel to implement all recommendations made in the independent report Children in Military Custody.
Geoffrey Bindman QC
Caryl Churchill
William Dalrymple
Owen Jones
Elizabeth Laird
Ken Loach
Maxine Peake
Kika Markham
Bella Freud
Michael Rosen
Mark Rylance
Ahdaf Soueif
Alf Dubs
Glenys Kinnock
Jenny Tonge
Peter Bottomley MP
Richard Burden MP
Sandra Osborne MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Andy Slaughter MP
Grahame Morris MP
Katy Clark MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Prof Hilary Rose
Prof Steven Rose
Dr Nur Masalha
Karma Nabulsi
Dr Ghada Karmi
Antoine Zahlan
Dr Salman Abu Sitta
Dr Hilary Wise
Prof Kamel Hawwash
Dr John Yandell
Frances O’Grady
Len McCluskey
Mark Serwotka
Dave Prentis
Christine Blower
Mick Whelan
Bob Crow
Paul Kenny
Steve Gillan
Bob Monks
Ian Lawrence
Ronnie Draper
Sally Hunt
Michelle Stanistreet
Matt Wrack
Larry Flanagan
Christine Payne
Manuel Cortes
Billy Hayes
Rodney Bickerstaffe
Keith Sonnet
Kevin Courtney
Max Hyde
Mary Compton
John Austin
Roy Bailey
Victoria Brittain
Tony Graham
Rev David Haslam
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Betty Hunter
Bruce Kent
Hugh Lanning
Martin Linton
Jeremy Moodey
Chris Rose
Peter Tatchell
Kiri Tunks
Diana Neslen
Julie Bourne
Sarah Ker
Alex Kenny
Glyn Secker
Maisie Carter
Jenny Flintoft
Gill Swain
Martin Lynch
Steve Bell
Diane Hutchinson
Sue Plater
Paul Thomson
Maha Rahwanji
Yasmin Latif
Louise Regan
Pete Bevis
Maggie Bevis
Ivan Wels
Ruth Hooper
Dave Clinch
Liz Clinch
Guy Shennan
Orlando Hill
Sabrina Rahman
Kate Parsley
Bruce Mackenzie
J Normaschild
Penny Leach
Sue Owen
Natasha Posner
Katrina Thornton
Veronica Plowden
Dennis O’Malley
Sami Ramadani
John Lloyd
Ellen Graubart
Louise Ashworth
Darienne Hemington
Monica Brady
Carola Towle
Yukiko Hosomi
Martin Francis
Brian Durrans
Trilby Roberts
Zahra Asif
Jack White
Dr Rob Tunbridge
James Gibb
Martin Powell-Davies
Holly Smith
Sylvia Cohen
Colin McKean
Brenda Gaillie
Mark Kelly
Robert Lugg
Terry Conway
Eddie Wilde
Rachel Cheeseman

Given that the bedroom tax is about reducing the billions spent on housing benefit, it is rarely mentioned that very substantial beneficiaries are those private landlords content to charge claimants sky-high rents knowing the tab will be picked up by the taxpayer (Society, 25 September). The amount of housing benefit paid to private landlords will rise this year from £7.9bn to £9.4bn. Rent controls – abandoned under Margaret Thatcher – would curb this unremitting rake-off. They work well in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, and they are about to be introduced in France. Why not here?
Patrick O’Brien
• Could it be possible that we have some tin left in Cornwall (Why is Apple being evasive about where it buys its tin?, 24 September)? And maybe other places in the UK with similar geology? Then perhaps we could mine it responsibly: after all, we used to be quite good at mining.
Helen Rees
• The shift in the role of the curator – from custodian of a collection to creative supremo – is the real issue (Letters, 24 September). Increasingly, artists seem to be included in exhibitions merely to service some overarching curatorial thesis.
Seamus Staunton
• In the 1950s, in north London, life began at 15 (No, 25 is not the new 18, 25 September). As with all of my school friends who started work then, my mother took the £1 note out of my wage packet for housekeeping, leaving me the rest – about 18 shillings (90p) – for entertainment and clothes. From then on I was considered a grownup.
Charles Cronin
• First I read a letter from Alex Orr. Then I saw a mention of David Orr in the letter from Bob Baker. And finally there was a reference to Deborah Orr in the letter from Waldemar Januszczak. All on 24 September. Is this some kind of coup? Or are they just trying to get their Orr in?
Mike Walton
• I notice that my emails sent to the Guardian do not get an automatic acknowledgment, as in the past. Is that because they are going to GCHQ first?
Trevor Preston
Rye, East Sussex

A Labour campaign concentrating merely on living standards will be shallow, unimaginative, expedient and stuck in the same old discourse of postwar British politics (Miliband fires up faithful with assault on fuel giants, 25 September). It will ignore the desperate need for a framework of critique and policy to challenge and reform the structures of the inequality which is undermining democracy and intensifying health, economic, environmental and social problems.
An understanding of inequality and an account of its ramifications should be the spine of Labour’s strategy, informing its positions on every issue, for example housing, taxation, child care, education, health, food, social services, welfare, role of trade unions and constitutional change. Positions grounded in explicit analyses of inequality, challenging conventional wisdoms, will move debates away from blaming victims. It’s obvious that Labour needs to be “for” something. In the recession and its aftermath inequalities could hardly be clearer. So, will Labour waste the opportunity this crisis offers finally to take on inequality?
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire
• As a relatively frequent critic of Ed Miliband and Labour policy, I think his pledge to freeze energy prices is a cracker. It means that privatisation was wrong from the start. All that has happened is that we now have half-a-dozen private firms, all with highly paid executives and shareholders to keep happy, running a system which used to run by civil servants, just as efficiently and at a lower cost.
What should have been “liberated” was the ability for new companies to provide energy to the national system, if they could do so at a lower price. I don’t expect we will see nationalisation on any agenda, but hopefully this move will bring some balance back to the energy business.
Now how about railways, water and the rest?
David Reed
• Ed Miliband could not have picked a better topic to kick off a debate on the future of our economy. Energy is where Britain can tackle serious economic problems at the same time as social ones. There is a growing community energy industry in this country where neighbours are collaborating, creating jobs and growing their social capital as well as economic power. There are social investors helping them flourish.
Recent research suggests that community energy could grow to 89 times its current size if existing barriers were lowered. There is much to learn from the way other countries whose companies own our energy providers are developing their own community energy and renewables at a fast pace, while the UK suffers.
This debate cannot be about big state versus big business, but about big problems versus big opportunities. The energy market is a perfect illustration of how economic and social policy can and must be mutually reinforcing in 21st-century Britain.
Ed Mayo
Co-operatives UK
Peter Hobrook
Social Enterprise UK
Cliff Prior
Victor Adebowale
Turning Point
Steve Wyler
Andrew Croft
Alastair Wilson
The School for Social Entrepreneurs
Celia Richardson
Social Economy Alliance
• It was an impressive speech – but in reality complete tosh. If Ed Milliband ever makes prime minister and attempts to deliver on this headline-grabbing promise, he will spend the rest of that parliament trying to pick up the pieces of an energy system that is already almost broken and will inevitably collapse under this ill-researched piece of political posturing. In this he will fail (since no government in the past three decades has done anything significant to improve our energy infrastructure) and subsequent governments will be haunted by the mess left behind, just as the British people are haunted by the financial shambles left behind by New Labour.
We are trying to break away from fossil fuels, but we have failed to replace nuclear power plants at a rate appropriate to the phasing out of the earlier stations. Renewable power (particularly wind turbines) has proved to be more politically motivated hot air than solid power-generating sense. And Labour was forced to pour money into the banking system to prevent its complete collapse – money which could have been spent on energy research and on modernising our energy infrastructure.
John S Parris
Haresfield, Gloucestershire
• If nothing else, the threat of the power companies to turn the lights off in the face of price controls illustrates anew precisely why energy should be owned and controlled by the state. Natural monopolies, as exemplified here by power generation and distribution, should never be in private hands – the risk of blackmail is just too high.
Alistair Richardson
• At the age of 92, I have been longing for the kind of speech which Ed Miliband gave on Tuesday, as policies based on real socialist principles are, at last, made clear. Ten years ago, Blair’s policies caused me to leave the Labour party; Miliband has encouraged me to rejoin. I hope many other of your readers do the same.
Martin Sheldon
• Red Ed? Don’t make me laugh! Red Ed would have taken the gas and electricity companies back into public ownership rather than reining in their obscene profits for a couple of years.
Alan Wright
Worthing, West Sussex
• I’m not a man of violence but I have to admit I took enormous vicarious pleasure from seeing Steve Bell’s cartoon depiction of Ed Miliband rise up Charles Atlas-style to dob David Cameron straight in the middle of his repellently smooth and smug pink face, something I feel like doing every time I see him on TV. It perfectly caught the feeling of liberation that the Labour leader’s spirited speech created, making it seem possible that – at last – a real fightback is possible against this ghastly, overbearing Tory-led coalition, on behalf of “weaklings” everywhere.
Giles Oakley

The survey mentioned in the recent blog on how businesses no longer see NGOs as being agenda setters in development seems highly predictable and simplistic. CEOs see themselves as good guys (don’t we all), but to characterise them as “stuck on a plateau of good intentions” is quite frankly laughable. Most businesses are there to make profit for shareholders and no more. They have to be incentivised and regulated to ensure they will produce outcomes that are good for society as a whole.
Sustainability to CEOs will mean many different things depending on the market and the individual. Sustained profitability and having a monopoly is what most of them aspire to. Of course innovation and entrepreneurship are useful in delivering solutions and vibrancy to an economy but in a world where we are asked to deify CEOs and entrepreneurs, perhaps we should take a step back and ask whose interests they act in. After all, profit-driven companies are at the forefront in keeping poor people poor by driving down wages and reducing the size of the public sector by avoiding tax.
Martin Norris
Global health project manager in Glasgow, Scotland
Balanced development needs multi-sectoral input
To me, it is clear corporate businesses and the private sector want to take over the third sector. After all, the more control they have over how the world develops, the better it is for them!
But real, balanced development needs multi-sectoral input. It’s crucial to facilitate to the self-mobilisation of grassroots groups and communities to develop in a way that suits them, and this means creating a sustainable model which promotes integrity, transparency and accountability on both sides. In my eyes, multi-national corporations and private businesses rarely have a genuine interest in what is best for people in developing countries. And please understand, ‘genuine’ in the sense that their words and promises become their actions! We all know that anyone can promise anything, but doing is what matters.
It is unfair to expect a developing country to speedily plunge itself into a business-orientated world. We may be moving to mass globalisation, but developing populations will struggle to comprehend how to utilise new services. Uncontrolled money flows will create further corruption and greed. Poverty is one of the lowest considerations for corporate social responsibility projects, and I wonder if they [corporations] really believe that their involvement in developing will reduce poverty, and help those at grassroot levels.
Annie Perez
Research fellow working for an NGO in Delhi, India
Businesses can’t build relationships with communities like NGOs can
In east Asia, soft power relations help to build connections between communities and development groups. Strong and trusting relationships are important building blocks for development and precursors for doing business. NGOs are better positioned to deliver soft power than businesses, because businesses see their overall responsibilities as being to maintain their bottom line and keep their shareholders happy.
How do developing countries see the role of businesses in development? Have they been asked?
Charles Howie



As Ed Miliband has raised the spectre of regulatory risk, the cost of capital will rise — which means higher prices
Sir, Thanks to Ed Miliband price rises in the energy sector will now be bigger and earlier than they otherwise would have been (reports, Sept 25). Here are three reasons why:
1. Since he has now raised the spectre of regulatory risk, the cost of capital in the industry will rise, and that will have to be passed on to consumers. In the longer term, investment will be reduced and this will lead to tighter market conditions and hence higher commodity prices.
2. The only rational response from suppliers will be to raise prices by more than they otherwise would before the election to carry them through the proposed 20-month freeze. If a freeze is implemented, there will be a massive price rise as soon as it is over.
3. During the freeze the impact on smaller energy suppliers will be much harder felt and the level of competition in the market will drop.
Bill Bullen
Managing Director, Utilita

Sir, If anyone doubted how unsuited Labour is to run the economy, Mr Miliband’s idea to hold energy costs cannot possibly be credible. Britain imports most of its energy and no government can control worldwide prices. The energy companies generate wealth and pay dividends to millions of investors, directly and through their pension funds. Such state theft of private assets will leave many people poorer. The last person to leave will not have to turn off the lights. With no investment in energy infrastructure, they will have to find their way out by torchlight.
Steve Devereux
Beuste, France

Sir, The response to Ed Miliband’s speech has concentrated on the effect of an energy price cap on investment and security of supply, but it will be wider. It seems Labour will return to seeing profit as immoral, whereas those of us in the private sector see profitable businesses as essential to our future welfare as pensioners, unlike public sector pensioners whose income in retirement is insulated from any failure of government economic policy. Miliband’s “one nation” looks likely to split into the haves in the public sector and the have-nots in the private sector just as it did under the last Labour governments.
Neil Bryson
Sychnant Pass Road, Conwy

Sir, It’s very hard to get a sensible discussion on fiscal policy going right now. Perhaps Keynesian economics was always too paradoxical to impress the plain men and women who write Times leaders on the subject (“Labour and Responsibility”, Sept 24). In their world view, Labour’s modest spending pledges — notably on childcare — would, if implemented, “draw money from business”. They do not realise that government spending only draws money away from business if the economy’s resources are fully employed, which is patently not true today.
In face of heavy unemployment, extra government spending draws money towards business by creating additional purchasing power for people to buy goods and services. But I expect this is a paradox too far for our current opinion leaders.
Professor Lord Skidelsky
House of Lords

Sir, What about all those of us who have oil-fired central heating? Has Ed Miliband forgotten us in his pledge to freeze energy prices?
Andrew Hooker
Towcester, Northants

A Save the Children report says that as many as 10.5 million men, women and children in Syria desperately need food aid to survive
Sir, What is lost in the debate on Syria is the devastating hunger and malnutrition that is claiming the lives of children in the war-torn country. A Save the Children report says that as many as 10.5 million people need food aid to survive.
The Syrian Government is not allowing access to all the areas in need of aid. The UN Security Council should be pressing the Government to allow this access to reach many starving people. Funding also has to be increased for aid agencies. This is the biggest humanitarian mission of our time.
The international community is obviously failing miserably to bring an end to this war. But until such time we should at least be doing a better job providing the humanitarian aid that is going to be needed for years to come. The food production system in Syria has been destroyed by the war. The Syrian people clearly have another enemy to fight in hunger and malnutrition.
William Lambers
Cincinnati, Ohio


During the last Ice Age, the temperature rose far more and far faster than any of the forecasts made today for the next 100 years
Sir, It is rarely mentioned that the last Ice Age ended only 10,000 years ago, before which eastern England was joined to Jutland, and the North Sea did not exist. The temperature rose far more, and far faster, than any of the forecasts made today for the next 100 years, and sea levels by hundreds of feet, not a few inches. Man’s carbon emissions were clearly not to blame.
Earth’s history has been punctuated by periods of extreme heat, and extreme cold, caused by external influences. Quite apart from whether the current “global warming” is stoppable, the concern many people have is the waste of huge amounts of taxpayers’ money, which will have no effect, while countries such as China and India continue to belch out increasing quantities of carbon.
Rupert Godfrey
Stert, Wilts

The Assisted Dying Bill tabled in the House of Lords does contain adequate specific safeguards to prevent coercion
Sir, Baroness Grey-Thompson is wrong when she states that the Assisted Dying Bill I have tabled in the House of Lords does not contain any specific safeguards to prevent coercion (Thunderer, Sept 23). The Bill provides that two doctors must separately examine the patient and their medical records and independently decide whether they are satisfied that the patient is terminally ill (with a prognosis of six months or less), has mental capacity, is fully informed of all their end-of-life care options, and is making a voluntary and informed decision without pressure.
Currently, for those who seek an assisted suicide, for example by travelling to Switzerland, there are no safeguards. Any investigation of the independence of the patient’s decision-making occurs after they have died.
The Bill clearly defines terminal illness, and only dying, mentally competent people would be eligible for an assisted death. It is my own firm belief that a change in the law to allow assistance to die for non-terminally ill disabled people would not be appropriate now, or ever.
The purpose of the Bill is the antithesis of devaluing some people’s lives. It is to allow people to make an informed decision about how they would like to die when their death is imminent and inevitable. The question that opponents of change have yet to answer is: for those suffering at present and taking matters into their own hands, is it better to turn a blind eye, or rather to try and reach a consensus on a more compassionate and safeguarded approach?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, QC
House of Lords

For James Bond to think about choosing a Jensen FF to replace his old, much-loved Bentley is entirely apt
Sir, Mr Grimsdale’s “shocked” reaction (letter, Sept 24) at my choice of a Jensen FF for James Bond to drive in my novel Solo is a little overwrought. Despite its American engine, the Jensen is one of the classic British marques. Also, Bond did admire some American cars himself (Felix Leiter’s Cord, for example, in Live and Let Die) and, even more tellingly, Ian Fleming himself was the proud owner of a Ford Thunderbird and a Studebaker Avanti. For Bond to think about choosing a Jensen to replace his old, much-loved Bentley is entirely apt.
William Boyd
London SW3


SIR – I was saddened to learn that York is replacing the historic cobbles in King’s Square with modern paving (“Historic cobbled path being ripped up to help disabled”, report, September 20) and hope this will not encourage Norwich to look at those in its equally renowned Elm Hill.
I was pleased, however, to be reminded of York’s snickelways. These are all the more enjoyable if you explore them with a copy of Mark Jones’s delightful book A Walk around the Snickelways of York in hand. As a Sussex man, it’s difficult not to call these alleyways “twittens”. I expect many other regional names have been coined for them.
Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The formula of a party conference speech goes like this: tax reduction (for some) + tax increase (for others) = increased spending (on some) + decreased spending (on others). In other words, the deck chairs are switched around in the hope that as many beneficiaries of the formula as possible can sit on them and will be grateful at the ballot box for the opportunity to do so.
Never once is the more imaginative formula applied: tax reduction (for all) + debt repayment = reduction of the cost of government. Unfortunately, the idea of reducing the cost of government is unpalatable to ministers and civil servants, whose very jobs would be in the line of fire.
Nicholas Nelson
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The “jobs guarantee” for the young by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, is an unaffordable socialist gimmick.
Related Articles
Taking a walk through the snickelways of York
25 Sep 2013
Over a million private-sector jobs have been created without it. Yet Labour still wants to spend public money to cut unemployment because by that method the party retains control. The Conservatives, meanwhile, want lower taxes and less regulation. Only the latter is sustainable.
Kieran Bailey
SIR – Ed Miliband is now proposing to help small businesses by reducing the amount that they pay in business rates, yet he also proposes to increase the national minimum wage. Surely this is a tax on employment, so how does he consider that small businesses will be any better off? The man hasn’t a clue about business and I wouldn’t trust him to run a bath, let alone the country.
Nick Cudmore
Grimoldby, Lincolnshire
SIR – Ed Miliband’s pledge to scrap the benefit cut nicknamed the “bedroom tax” is a cheap ploy aimed at capturing desperate people’s votes at the next election. This particular cut was both necessary and unavoidable.
The Government has the unpleasant task of delivering unpleasant economic medicine – but deliver it, it must, and will. Mr Miliband is not fit to become First Lord of the Treasury.
Dominic Shelmerdine
London W8
SIR – Ed Balls proposes to increase the silly and unjustified tax on banks.
It is ordinary people who pay this tax: the employees, customers and shareholders, while the people at whom the tax is aimed are able to dodge it.
Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley
Bembridge, Isle of Wight
SIR – Listening to Ed Miliband’s speech, it was easy to take oneself back to Sheffield and imagine one was hearing the noble Lord Kinnock all over again.
Geoff Eley
Dunmow, Essex
Combating extremists
SIR – After yet another outrage committed by supporters of al-Qaeda, on this occasion in Kenya, it is time for society and Muslims to think carefully about what is happening.
Western society, so hated by al-Qaeda, continues to be tolerant towards those of the Muslim faith, through its equality laws and the behaviour of most non-Muslim people. The tolerance is based on the knowledge that the Muslim faith, practised correctly according to the Koran, is as much a loving and peaceful faith as is Christianity, and the al-Qaeda extremists are not “normal” Muslims.
But even tolerant people are getting close to the end of their patience as atrocities continue to increase around the world – often with British extremists involved, as in Kenya. The risk is that moderate people in countries such as Britain and America will start to turn against ordinary Muslims, in spite of equality legislation designed to prevent such behaviour.
If the populations of Western countries are to continue to respect Islam, then the Imams and Muslim leaders across the world need to solve what is essentially their own problem. They must root out the extremists in their midst and expel them. Time is running out.
Andrew Robinson
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Trusting the BBC
SIR – John Ware’s claim that the BBC Trust is responsible for the BBC’s difficulties over the past year doesn’t withstand serious scrutiny (Comment, September 23). The BBC’s Charter hands the job of operational management of the BBC, including decisions about pay and severance pay, to the Executive Board, not the Trust.
None the less, I recognise that people expect better from the BBC, and that they want action, not excuses, about who is responsible for what. That’s why we are working with Tony Hall, the new director-general, to re-examine the relationship between the Trust and the Executive Board, so that it is clearer, and able to provide more effective oversight of the way the licence fee is spent.
Anthony Fry
BBC Trustee
London W1
Neat, but not so smart
SIR – Comments regarding the standards of student attire (Letters, September 24) remind me that the members of the (unsuccessful) 1969 Aberdeen University Challenge team received some solace from a letter in the local paper which noted that “perhaps Aberdeen didn’t win – but at least they were all neatly dressed”.
I seem to recall that we all wore ties.
Stewart Kidd
Wilburton, Cambridgeshire
Hold on a minute
SIR – Forget listening to Mozart while on hold (report, September 24). I rang one of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants in Bray some months ago to book a table.
When put on hold, I was delighted to hear Alan Bennett reading from Alice in Wonderland. When I inquired about this, I was told Mr Blumenthal was in an “out of this world” phase.
Emily Say
Burnham, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The hold music for TalkTalk used to be Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, which included the line, “We could be holding on for ever.”
It has since been changed.
Michael King Macdona
High school lesson
SIR – I share Boris Johnson’s dismay about the abolition of grammar schools (Comment, September 23), resulting in a decline in opportunity for able children from less advantaged backgrounds.
As Mayor of London, has Mr Johnson considered the example of New York, which, as a city, has for many years provided three outstanding grammar schools for its residents? The three schools – Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech – attract pupils from all backgrounds, have outstanding results, and send many of their pupils on to elite universities.
Why not have the same in London?
Professor Carla Munoz Slaughter
London SW7
Army travel costs
SIR – Captain Levison Wood (Letters, September 24) is mistaken about the costs to the Ministry of Defence of duty travel for Armed Forces personnel. The discount HM Forces railcard can only be used for non-duty (leisure) travel. Commuting between home and place of duty is not allowed.
Duty travel expenses have always been claimed at the full rate. However, Reserve Forces personnel are eligible for the railcard during periods of full-time service of at least three months, but as with their Regular counterparts, for leisure travel only, which is subject to restrictions similar to other railcards.
Col J M C Watson (retd)
Welford, Berkshire
Stage name inspiration
SIR – John Goulding (Letters, September 24) is not quite correct when he says that Nosmo King got his name from a sign in the London Underground. There were swing doors to the auditorium of the London Palladium. On the left hand was written “NO SMO”, and on the right hand side “KING”.
Adrian Holloway
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire
Finding double yolkers
SIR – The odds against finding six double yolk eggs in one box apparently are a trillion to one (report, September 24). As a poultry farmer, I would have retired a good deal sooner had I placed a bet. Double yolk eggs are easily recognised because they are almost always laid by young pullets when they first start laying.
Brian Griffiths
Burgess Hill, West Sussex
Lay King Richard to rest in Westminster Abbey
SIR – The most appropriate location for the burial of Richard III is Westminster Abbey. After the rebuilding of the Abbey under Henry III, the church became a royal necropolis. Apart from Henry himself, several of his successors had their tombs there, grouped around the shrine of the great royal saint Edward the Confessor.
In the past, dishonoured kings have been disinterred and moved to locations of greater dignity. The unlucky Richard II was initially buried at King’s Langley, Hertfordshire, before Henry V transferred him to Westminster to lie next to his wife, Anne of Bohemia. Richard III himself moved the body of the deposed Henry VI to St George’s, Windsor, where he lay opposite his old rival Edward IV.
Westminster Abbey is the traditional burial place of England’s medieval kings and Richard III deserves to be laid to rest among them. Henry VII, Richard’s opponent and successor, was buried there. Furthermore, Anne Neville, his first wife, was buried in the abbey in 1485 and the king is recorded as having publicly wept at her funeral. Reuniting husband and wife in death would also be a kindness.
Jeremy Goldsmith
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
SIR – Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, had his heart buried in Melrose Abbey and the remainder of his body at Dunfermline Abbey. Richard III, his sixth cousin four times removed, could solve the current dispute by having the ribs closest to his heart buried in York and the remainder of his skeleton buried in Leicester. As he is reputed to have loved York and been loved by its citizens, the Plantagenet descendants may be content with this symbolism.
W F Hogarth
Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire
SIR – Put him back in that car park – an appropriately humiliating resting place for a tyrannical infanticide. Thank heavens Henry Tudor won at Bosworth and ended the Middle Ages. We haven’t looked back.
Bill Walden-Jones
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – Many have rightly pointed out how the inclusion in the first Senate of unionists – not just Protestants – eased that community’s transition from the UK to the Irish Free State. Such a generous allocation was vital given the leaching of Protestants whose flight was being hastened by events like the Dunmanway massacre of April 1922.
In later generations, and after the 1937 Constitution, the existence of the three Trinity College seats, in particular, enabled the election of differing minorities, not just Protestants but secular liberals, a prime example being Owen Sheehy Skeffington. These were voices very rarely heard in the Dáil, it being the chamber elected through party and by popular vote. They were probably unelectable, yet vital.
The university senators perform a similar role to this day, outwith the discipline of the whips. Maybe they are and were an elite, but then without elites we would have very little art or architecture.
Those university senators were joined over more recent years by a series of Northern Ireland people amongst the taoiseach’s nominees like John Robb, Gordon Wilson and Maurice Hayes (and in one instance by Sam McAughtry, the Belfast writer and journalist who was elected off a panel). The non-nationalists appointed were Ulster voices from the partitioned part of Ireland. Their presence was proper, indeed necessary given the Articles 2 and 3 claim on the six counties.
As the Constitution now states, “It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions”, such a presence remains necessary.
I have or had an interest, being an unsuccessful candidate for a Dublin University seat in 2011. Other dissenting voices need a platform in the Oireachtas, be they from declining or unfashionable groups like Roman Catholics, or non-statists, conservatives, iconoclasts whose opinion is still beyond the pale, or those with ideas as yet unheard of. The continuation of Seanad Éireann will give Ireland a chance to hear what it may not want to hear. – Yours, etc,
Mount Prospect Park,
Sir, – Des O’Malley (Opinion, September 25th) asks: “Who could say any chamber that contains Mick Wallace, Ming Flanagan, Peter Mathews, Shane Ross, Pearse Doherty, Leo Varadkar and Joe Higgins is in need of a supplement because we don’t have “enough different voices on the national stage” (as Éamon Ryan argued (Opinion, September 5th)?” A woman might. – Yours, etc,
Wilton Place, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Shortly after the convening of the present Senate I heard one of the Taoiseach’s nominees being interviewed on radio. The Senator was asked if, in view of the parlous state of the national finances, it might be a good idea to forego the generous expenses allowance. Flushed with success at landing in the Senate without the messy business of having to get elected, the Senator replied: “I will not. I have a child to put through college.” All at once, the lofty claims that have been made for the upper house evaporated like dew on a summer morn.
The scales fell from my eyes and I saw the institution for what it really is – a clever wheeze to get me and my fellow-taxpayers to pay the college fees of the Senator’s offspring. Having long ago abandoned all hope of climbing on board this particular gravy train myself, I have decided to vote for its abolition in the referendum and will be encouraging my family and friends to do likewise. I may be a spoilsport. But I’m damned if I will be taken for an idiot. – Yours, etc,
Abbey Terrace,
Howth, Dublin 13.

Sir, – The Government is posing two propositions in the court of appeal referendum, but it is not allowing the electorate to vote separately on each of them. It wants to establish a court of appeal and it wants to allow each Supreme Court justice hearing a constitutional case to publish his, or her, opinion.
The second proposition would eliminate the Article in the Constitution which excludes the possibility of each justice publishing a separate opinion in relation to the constitutional review of a law. There are vital safeguards in the existing procedure which have secured the independence, prestige and authority of the court. Decisions have been clear, final and unambiguous, based on solid legal principles and public understanding.
The proposed change could have serious unintended consequences if the personality and personal ambition of each justice were to overshadow the decision being made. Public confusion could ensue and the spectacle of deep disagreement being aired in public could undermine public confidence in the entire court system. Individual opinions about the Constitution could also be hijacked by powerful vested interests. We might even see the spectacle of judicial decisions being subsequently measured in opinion polls, reducing the stature of Supreme Court deliberations to that of a bland popularity contest.
Opinion polls indicate that public understanding of the underlying issues in the court of appeal referendum is appallingly low. This is not surprising as the Government has failed to define a clear purpose for changing the “one judgement rule”. But it also reflects very badly on the capacity of the Referendum Commission to educate the public.
We could well rue the day if personalised judicial decisions about the interpretation of the Constitution were to be reduced to the status of a children’s beauty pageant. – Yours, etc,
Bellevue Avenue,

Sir, – In the past, whenever a president delivered a prepared speech on a matter that concerned national policy it had added significance because it was assumed to be given with the prior authority and advice of the government as specified under Article 13.9: The powers and functions conferred on the President by this Constitution shall be exercisable and performable by him [sic] only on the advice of the Government . . .”.
Can we take it then that the views President Higgins expressed in his DCU speech were endorsed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and therefore represent the Government’s outlook? – Yours, etc,
Moyclare Close,
Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Sir, – One of the reasons neo-liberal ideology has remained largely unchallenged in many parts of the public arena, despite its catastrophic results, is that people, including politicians, who set the agenda have been beneficiaries of policies which have seen an enormous widening of the pay gap between people at the top and the bottom. The presidency is an example; media panjandrums another.
President Higgins has put neo-liberalism on the agenda. Desmond FitzGerald (September 25th) is right: either the presidential lifestyle is trimmed, or the incumbent is not in a position to criticise neo-liberalism with credibility.
There is a precedent. President De Gaulle used to pay the electricity bill for the Elysée Palace for the time after 6pm when the workers there had gone home. – Yours, etc,
Ceannt Fort,
Mount Brown,
Sir, – I am but one of the many Tyrone GAA supporters at the end of their proverbial tether regarding unfair and unjustified reporting on Tyrone (and Ulster) teams by various southern media outlets, including The Irish Times. The report by Gavin Cummiskey on the All-Ireland minor final between Tyrone and Mayo (SportsMonday, September 23rd) again highlights the issue; sports reporting which is aimed not so much at accurate analysis, more on justifying and reinforcing existing prejudices. Thus in one paragraph of the report the allegation that Tyrone’s Frank Burns “fouled with the subtlety of a veteran Ulster-born defender” was immediately linked in the next sentence with the reference that Tyrone player, Daire Gallagher “dropped deep as they attempted to put the squeeze on Mayo’s flowing approach”. What interpretation can be put on this reference, other than that it was innuendo seeking to also implicate Daire Gallagher in unfair play, even though no evidence whatsoever was provided for such an allegation?
As for the accusation that Tyrone forward Conor Mc Kenna “aggressively attempted to clip two Mayo defenders” after he had scored a second-half goal, your reporter appears to have been the only observer who interpreted what the player did in this way. Cummiskey’s analysis is made all the more strange by his quotation from the Mayo manager, Enda Gilvarry, who sportingly and accurately acknowledged what was clear fact to any reasonable observer; that “both teams were fouling”. This reportage is a particularly pernicious variant of the partitionism evident in certain sections of the media. It should be abandoned in favour of the facts. – Yours, etc,
John Street,
Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Sir, – With regard to Harry Willianson’s inquiry (September 23rd) about the Battle of Clontarf Millennial Anniversary, in fact there are many groups planning events around Ireland, including in Killaloe (birthplace of Brian Boru)  and Armagh (Brian’s final resting place).  In Clontarf, community groups are working with Dublin City Council to commemorate this important event in Irish history.  The full programme will be launched shortly and will commence this autumn, leading to a culmination of events at Easter 2014. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf 2014 Committee,
Dollymount Park,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – While I did once share the fear of Harry Williamson (September 23rd) that, amid the noise of other commemorations, the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf next April might be forgotten, may I reassure him? There are indeed commemorations planned and I would like to invite him to join us in Trinity College on April 11th-12th, where a major historical conference will be held on the subject, open to all the public and entirely free of charge ( – Yours, etc,
Professor of Medieval

Sir, – Patrick Rigney of the Dalcassian Wines and Spirits Company gives a good lashing to those anti-Arthur’s Day “vested interests” groups whose agenda he decries. It would seem from his letter that alcohol consumption linked to Arthur’s Day has beneficial economic effects on his industry. Indeed, from the picture he paints, every Arthurian participant is a responsible drinker and possibly even a tourist. Much like Arthur, this is a myth.
If everyone had a single pint or two then the economic impact cited would be fairly negligible to Mr Rigney’s monetary interests.  Sadly Irish people drink to excess.
We may not all be falling over fighting in the gutter, but the “few pints” or the “glass of wine with food” is rarely actually that. It is not responsible to drink every or most nights. It is not responsible to binge drink (more than four units/ two pints/ two glasses of wine per session). Pretending that an occasion promoting a culture of drinking, in a society pathologically incapable of ethanol moderation, is something very much not to be welcomed. The job creation benefits are unimportant where said jobs are dependent on health endangering behaviours.
My vested interest, for clarity’s sake, is the health of the many not the wealth of the few. – Yours, etc,
Beechwood Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Arthur’s Day might become the catalyst to change our relationship with drink. Drinking any way other than sensibly is unacceptable at every level. The costs are too high. Arthur has given us a green light to open that can of worms – we could begin to pay heed for the first time. The game is up. Cheers Arthur. – Yours, etc,
Glasthule Road,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – May I ask why beautiful Grafton Street is being paved grey? Isn’t Dublin grey enough already?
By the way, wouldn’t it be a good idea for shops in Grafton Street to exclusively use small vans for deliveries, and not the large trucks that likely have destroyed the pavement in the first place? – Yours, etc,
Lower Kevin Street,
Dublin 8.

Sir, – Barry O’Halloran (Business, September 13th) states “The co-ops control the quotas in each of their regions and determine what an individual farmer’s share will be”. John McManus (Business, September 16th), further writes that farmers had “extra quota allocated to them by the bigger co-ops – which has strings attached”. These statements are incorrect and fundamentally misrepresent the operation of European milk quota regulations in Ireland.
Co-ops do not control quotas which are an EU-wide constraint on milk production. The quota system is regulated by national legislation and audited by the Department of Agriculture and the EU. Milk quotas are the property of individual farmers who, as correctly stated, can take their quota and move it to another milk buyer on giving three months’ notice. The department also operates milk quota trading schemes where farmers can trade quotas among themselves, within co-op regions, but independently of the co-op.
McManus also asserted co-ops contrive to run a two-tier pricing structure (between branded and own-brand milk) to exploit the consumer. This is not only incorrect, it is unfair.
Own brand milk forms a growing market sector. But co-ops don’t control selling prices for milk; retailers do.
Co-ops have invested heavily in developing their brands, innovations in packaging, enhanced nutritional benefits, and in certified quality systems. This creates choice and value for the consumer and supports investment and jobs in rural areas. It also adds cost to their production process.
McManus accepts that, on the basis of National Milk Agency statistics, the farmer receives only about 33 per cent of the final retail price. We also know, from published accounts, that dairy co-operatives struggle to deliver a profit margin of 1-3 per cent. That suggests strongly that retailers enjoy substantial margins and there is a lack of competition in the retail sector.
As regards price differentials between own-brand and branded milk, own-brand milk is cheaper. It is packed, often by co-ops or other processors at the behest of the multiples. It is a basic product which makes no contribution to investment, to innovation, or to the quality systems operated by the co-ops which have no influence over the price at which it is offered.
McManus further suggests farmers accept a poorer milk price in return for a dividend or share value growth. The principal objective of dairy co-operatives is to ensure members receive the highest milk price the market can return. The issue of dividend or share value appreciation is not a factor in most dairy co-ops as shares have a nominal value, normally €1, and are redeemed at par on retirement.
Finally, milk supply from Northern Ireland has increased by 51 per cent or 671 million litres since 1993, due to the transfer of unused milk quota into Northern Ireland from Britain. Over 70 per cent of this increase has been exported into the Republic for processing and for liquid (consumer) milk. More than a quarter of total liquid milk consumption in the Republic is now milk produced in Northern Ireland – over 150 million litres annually.
In the Republic, farmers are constrained to produce milk within the national quota of just over five billion litres, about 10 per cent of which is used for liquid consumer milk. If southern farmers produce over the quota, then they pay an EU superlevy fine of 28 cent for every litre that they produce over their individual quota.
The Irish Times is right in one respect. There are challenges in the liquid milk market. The problem, however, does not lie with the margins being retained by either the farmer or the co-op. – Yours, etc,
Chief Executive,
Irish Co-operative

Irish Independent:

The country is still bleeding money due to day-to-day spending which is increasing a debt we cannot inflate away by printing money. At a stretch, the deal can be called savings, but it’s savings in the same way as “Buy this TV, it was €900 and now it’s €600 save €300″. There is no €300 savings, there is only €600 expenditure.
Also in this section
Taxes and charges driving our family away
History repeating itself
Men of 1916 unmandated
Borrowing for investment is one thing, but borrowing for day-to-day expenditure is picking up a hand grenade and pulling the pin on yourself. “Growth” that requires borrowing of €1bn a month that must be repaid later is not growth. It is an accounting trick that will crucify us later.
Burning the bondholders is not an answer. It did not happen when it should have prior to the banking guarantee and now it is sovereign debt we cannot default on without severe penalties – certainly we will not be able to borrow the money to keep paying daily expenses.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan should continue with the budget adjustment be it through reform of services to eliminate redundant roles, welfare reform to eliminate the “welfare trap” etc.
Then, maybe some day, we won’t rely on international lenders just to keep the country open.
Mel Gorman
* The recent decision by the 17,000 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) to reject the Haddington Road proposals must be seen as a very pragmatic one.
Teachers were offered a straight choice: cram extra work into an already overloaded schedule or accept another pay cut. It is not surprising that they opted for the latter.
OECD reports show that Irish second-level teachers spend more time teaching their students than their counterparts in the majority of other countries, and that they work with the largest class sizes in Europe.
Teachers have papered over the cracks in our under-funded educational system for decades by voluntarily carrying out work that is the role of support staff in most other European countries.
By twice rejecting the Croke Park 2/Haddington Road proposals, ASTI teachers have, to some extent, protected both their working conditions and the quality of the education that they provide to their students. The Government, through draconian legislation, has also secured the savings it wanted.
While not ideal, many teachers can accept this situation. No industrial action is necessary unless the Government makes a further move.
Kevin P McCarthy (ASTI member)
Killarney, Co Kerry
* The rebellious behaviour of secondary school teachers mirrors the adolescent behaviour of the young adults they teach.
Martin Walsh
Claregalway, Co Galway
SEANAD 1970S TO 1990S
* The arguments used in the Seanad referendum campaign seem, to me, to be increasingly irrelevant. For example, the notion that Seanad Eireann should be a watchdog, or a bulwark against government excesses, is not reflected in the Constitution, which rather provides for the complementary roles of Dail and Seanad in processing legislation.
Allowing for roseate-tinted nostalgia, my own experience of the Seanad from the late 1970s to the early 1990s is one of constructive co-operation with the government of the day, especially where bills were initiated in the House on educational, cultural and social matters.
The informed and harmonious debate in the spring of 1991 on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, introduced by Mary Harney, showed the Seanad at its best, entirely free of party rancour, and this was warmly acknowledged at the time by the Minister.
John A Murphy (Independent senator, 1977-1983, 1987-1992)
Douglas Road, Cork.
* In response to the “Upstream battle” letter (Irish Independent, September 24), Mr Kelly suggests that the employment and value projections put forward by BIM for the proposed salmon farm in Galway are inaccurate.
A recently completed study from the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (NOFIMA) estimated that every 5,000 tonnes of production from salmon farms from the country’s Troms region generated 635 man-labour years. As another example, a salmon farming company in Ireland, which produced in the region of 10,000 tonnes in 2011, directly employed almost 280 people. So BIM’s projected 500 jobs, both on-farm and in downstream activities for a unit producing 15,000 tonnes per annum is, if anything, conservative.
With regard to the projected value of the harvest, the bulk of Irish farmed salmon is certified organic, and Irish salmon farmers lead the way internationally in this regard. As a result, our salmon harvest enjoys a premium in the market place and, at today’s prices, 15,000 tonnes of organic certified salmon would actually be worth much more than the €102m in BIM’s estimates.
Mr. Kelly appears to believe that BIM’s planned farm would pose a risk to angling tourism. BIM has been supporting coastal fishing communities for more than 60 years, and would not engage in development which was not environmentally sound.
Jason Whooley
Chief executive, BIM
* It can be deduced from the September 4 report in the Irish Independent, “Agreement with US will ‘open door’ in adoption process”, that there is strong demand from Irish couples to adopt children from foreign countries due to a lack of Irish children available for adoption.
Upon reading the article, I was reminded of the regrettable number of Irish people who travel to Britain each year for an abortion, usually for social reasons. It strikes me that it would be enormously helpful to those Irish couples, searching far and wide for children to adopt, if Irish persons travelling to Britain each year for abortions were to instead opt to put their unwanted children up for adoption rather than abortion.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
* There has been a lot of criticism levelled at the health service in recent times. I feel obliged to share my recent experience at the A&E in St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin.
Upon arrival, I was immediately checked in by an extremely pleasant and knowledgeable receptionist. She advised me that I would be seen by a nurse in five minutes. Seven minutes later I was being seen by a nurse who was equally pleasant and caring. Ten minutes later, I was being examined by a doctor.
Subsequently, I had to go through various procedures in different departments. At no stage was my waiting time more than 10 minutes. I also have to add that my condition was less than critical, I think.
The system worked very well for me, and all the people whom I met during the process are to be congratulated for doing such a wonderful and professional job.
Kevin C Murphy
Foxrock Wood, Dublin 18
* How refreshingly honest for Bono to admit that “U2 is in total harmony with our Government’s philosophy”.
That philosophy: “Austerity for the many – impunity for a few” could be the basis for a song.
Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal
Irish Independent


September 25, 2013

25 September 2013 Halifax

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are Pertwees Theater tickets turn out to be a bid dodgy and Lt Murray and Heather are not pleased Priceless.
Meg rings we go to Halifax see the Piece hall and pick up some books
We watch Dads army v good.
No Scrabble today


Garry Davis
Garry Davis, who has died aged 91, was a US Army veteran and peace activist who, in 1948, renounced his American citizenship and went on to found the World Government of World Citizens, enlisting thousands to his cause.

Garry Davis Citizen of the World Photo: TIME&LIFE PICTURES/GETTY
6:00PM BST 24 Sep 2013
Davis was 26 years old and disillusioned by America’s postwar nuclear policy when , on March 25 1948, in Paris, he officially became stateless. As his story gained public notice French artists and intellectuals such as André Breton, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre came forward to express their support, and a former Resistance fighter, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sarrazac-Soulage, volunteered himself as Davis’s manager.
Then, on November 19, Davis mounted a barricade near the spectators’ balcony of the UN General Assembly and launched into an unauthorised speech, calling for a “World Constituent Assembly”. Though he was swiftly removed, Sarrazac-Soulage finished the speech on his behalf, while 20 friends captured proceedings on camera. “A star was born,” noted Art Buchwald, the American columnist. “Clad in his leather bomber jacket, Garry became a hero and an instant celebrity. ” Letters poured in from around the world, at one time numbering 400 a day. “I think you are Christ come back to Earth”, wrote one Italian fan.
Within a month Davis had got his wish. The International Registry of World Citizens, at 30 Rue de Gamont in Paris, began handing out identity cards to European war refugees. Davis’s goal was world federation within 10 years – a goal which, if achieved, he envisaged as “the greatest nonviolent revolution in man’s history.” Sarrazac-Soulage conceived a tour of French towns and villages, where Davis and his supporters would urge communities to declare themselves “world territories”, committed to achieving political and economic equality between nations. By the summer of 1951 some 400 French communities had been “mundialised”.
But the relentless media attention exhausted Davis, to the point where he admitted a sense of “complete revulsion” for the whole project. In July 1949 he resigned from the International Registry of World Citizens and returned to the United States as a French immigrant. His statelessness soon caused him difficulties, however. An attempt to reach Berlin later that year was thwarted by the border authorities, and upon arriving in England he was escorted to a psychiatric hospital after he sought sanctuary at Buckingham Palace .
Davis therefore decided to tackle the problem on an international stage. On September 2 1953 he founded the World Government of World Citizens in Ellsworth, Maine, and the following year its administration agency, the World Service Authority (WSA), started drafting World Identity Cards, World Marriage Certificates and World Passports.
Today the WSA operates from Washington, DC. A World Passport, printed in seven languages and supposedly valid for seven years, is available to any applicant prepared to enclose a cheque of 100 US dollars. The WSA website claims that 180 countries to date, from Afghanistan to Zambia, have accepted the World Passport on a de facto basis – yet Davis’s own experiences travelling on World Passport No 1 were far from uncomplicated. He was arrested dozens of times and tried for fraud; forced to stow away on ocean liners; and, on one occasion, made the crossing from Monte Carlo to Italy in an inflatable rubber boat. Upon arrival he was picked up by the police and spent three months at Frascati, a former concentration camp. “But I have a profound belief that this is what I should be doing,” he insisted. “It justifies my being alive.”
Gareth Davis was born on July 27 1921 in Bar Harbor, Maine, the third of five children. His father Meyer was a celebrated bandleader, known as “the Millionaire Maestro” for his performances at high society gatherings ; his mother Hilda was herself a talented pianist . At 18 Garry left the Episcopal Academy in Overbrook to pursue a career on Broadway, studying acting at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.
When America entered the war in 1941, Davis enrolled in the Air Corps . Flying B-17 missions over Germany , his experiences began to turn him against the war effort. His brother Bud was killed during the German invasion of Salerno in 1943, and in August 1944 Davis was shot down over Peenemunde . Interned in Sweden, he made his way back to America three months later . But as the Cold War developed, so did Davis’s sense of discontent. Taking inspiration from the work of HG Wells, a self-proclaimed “world citizen”, he set out for Europe.
Returning to America after his release from Frascati in 1953, Davis wrote his first book and launched an unsuccessful court bid to reverse his “excludable alien” status. In 1986 he ran for mayor of Washington, DC, as the World Citizen Party candidate, receiving 585 votes; he stood for US president in 1988. Upon the re-election of Ronald Reagan he moved to Vermont, his home for the last two decades.
Though he ceased to travel extensively, Davis continued to expound the philosophy of world citizenship. At his behest, Julian Assange received an honorary World Passport in 2012, and Davis made headlines again just a few weeks prior to his death, when the WSA issued a passport to the whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Garry Davis published numerous books, including My Country is the World: Adventures of a World Citizen (1961); World Government, Ready or Not! (1984); and Passport to Freedom: A Guide For World Citizens (1992).
He married, in 1950, Audrey Peters, with whom he had one daughter. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1954 newspapers reported that he had wed Gloria Sandler in a self-performed ceremony at sea. That marriage also ended in divorce, as did his third marriage, in 1963, to Esther Peter, with whom he had three children.
Garry Davis, born July 27 1921, died July 24 2013


Although the spectacle of the honest artists of Hackney storming the lofty halls of Bankside is a thrilling vision (Letters, 24 September), I wonder who, post-revolution, would organise exhibitions and displays, look after permanent collections, research and write catalogues, and make sure that our art museums remain the most important buildings in every town and city. Not, surely, art critics?
John-Paul Stonard
• While your Breaking Bad article (Who’s bad?, 21 September) talked about Walter White’s desire to provide for his family, his less altruistic motivation for becoming a criminal wasn’t mentioned: he has to find huge amounts of money – around $300,000 – to fund the cancer treatment that he’d get in the UK for the relatively trivial amounts he would already have paid in national insurance.
Karin Barry
• The Year of the Sex Olympics has arrived (Couples to have sex in studio for C4 show, 23 September). Nigel Kneale’s 1968 BBC play predicted a world where the “high drives” in government controlled the “low drives”, by diverting them with sex shows, food shows and a “live-life” show; this would stop them thinking. The play had a tragic ending, one to which we seem to be sliding.
Jane Coles
Twickenham, Middlesex
•  The Guardian allows fuck and cunt but still delicately refers to “the N word”. Orally it is offensive but is seeing it in print going to turn us all into racists?
Roland White
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
•  Ben Preston says that Radio Times readers watch less television. Exactly. I buy the Radio Times because it gives good coverage of radio.
Maureen Makki
• A shortage of houses in the £30m-£50m range (Why money, money, money isn’t so funny in rich man’s world of London property, 21 September, page 3) and a shortage of one-bed homes for those forced to downsize by the bedroom tax (Report, 21 September, page 6). Truly, we are all in it together.
Stan Zetie
Streetly, West Midlands

Ian Sample’s article about sarin (Death is in the air, G2, 18 September) was informative, especially with regard to the MoD’s 50-year cover-up of the death of Ronald Maddison following tests carried out at Porton Down. Another cover-up involves military personnel who were exposed to low levels of sarin released by the allied bombing campaign in the Gulf war (1990-91. Alarms specifically designed to detect sarin were repeatedly sounding over the battlefield, but they were intrusive and as there were no apparent casualties they were switched off. Because there were no immediate deaths it was wrongly assumed that low-level exposure would have no significant health effects.
Extensive studies by US researchers have led to the conclusion that Gulf war illness, or Gulf war syndrome, is a well defined complex chronic multi-system illness found in 25%-30% of the 697,000 US veterans deployed in the war. All the major systems of the body are affected – central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems (with neuropsychiatric symptoms), cardiac, respiratory – in addition to those described by Ian Sample.
In the UK there has been no attempt to follow up the US studies, and the syndrome has been deceitfully and wilfully described as a psychogenic illness under a variety of acronyms of ignorance: SSIDs (signs, symptoms and ill-defined medical conditions), MUS (medically unexplained symptoms), PUPS (persistent unexplained physical symptoms). The US studies have firmly concluded that it is not in most cases related to post-traumatic stress. The Guardian would do great service to the neglected veterans of the Gulf war by exposing the shameful obfuscations of successive governments.
Professor Malcolm Hooper

As Steve Hewlett says, the BBC Trust’s role is to act as guardian of the licence fee and public interest in the BBC (It’s the BBC Trust that’s created this crisis, not the charter, Media, 23 September). This is why we made overall senior executive pay and numbers one of our priorities, and the BBC has responded with significant reductions over the past four years. Steve also points out that the operational detail of severance payments is a matter for the executive board. Clearly, there has been a difference of views about who knew what about some overpayments. None of this reflects well on the BBC or the BBC Trust. We recognise that people expect better and that they want action, not excuses about who is responsible for what. That’s why we are working with Tony Hall, the new director-general, to re-examine the relationship between the trust and the executive board. We want to try to remove any ambiguity about our responsibilities, and to provide clearer and more effective oversight of the way the licence fee is spent.
Diane Coyle
Vice-chairman, BBC Trust

In 2000, when 189 world leaders signed up to the millennium development goals, there was one omission no one appeared to notice: the one billion people across the world with disabilities. As the official UN process gets underway to establish the post-2015 global development agenda to end extreme poverty, we are calling on heads of state to ensure that, this time, no one is excluded, especially people with disabilities.
Living in poverty is tough. Living in poverty as a person with disabilities is often even tougher. In some countries, children with disabilities are twice as likely as children without disabilities not to be in school, and women and children with disabilities are significantly more likely to face violence and sexual abuse. Exclusion from work opportunities means that people with disabilities are disproportionately likely to be among the very poor. Four out of five persons with disabilities live in developing countries; many are among the poorest, most neglected people in the world.
Their exclusion from the millennium development goals has resulted in them being left out of development programmes. In fact, ignoring persons with disabilities costs poor countries – UN studies have shown that the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market causes countries to lose up to 7% of GDP.
Children and adults with disabilities have the same hopes and aspirations as their peers. They have just as much to contribute to society, and they have the right to the same opportunities to fulfill their potential and to have a say in their future. Many people become disabled at some point – but we wouldn’t expect to lose our basic rights as a result. The UN this week has a critical opportunity to ensure that disability is included in the new global development goals.
Abraham Tarbei Kenyan athlete and Paralympian gold medallist, Ade Adepitan British Paralympian and broadcaster, Aimee Mullins US Paralympic athlete, model, actress and speaker, Amadou and Mariam musicians from Mali, Amy Conroy British Paralympian, Andrea Begley singer, Angelique Kidjo singer from Benin, Anne Wafula-Strike British Paralympic Wheelchair Racer and author, Ben Quilter British Paralympic bronze medallist, Catherine Naughton Chair of the International Disability and Development Consortium, Daniel Dias Brazilian swimmer and Paralympian gold medallist, David Korir Kenyan athlete and world record breaker at the London 2012 Paralympics, Esther Vergeer Dutch wheelchair tennis champion and Paralympic medallist, Francesca Martinez British standup, actress, writer and campaigner, Frank Williams founder Williams Formula One racing team, George Abraham Indian philanthropist and founder of the World Blind Cricket Council, Dr Heba Hagrass Egyptian advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Arab region, Henry Kirwa Kenyan athlete and world record breaker at the London 2012 Paralympics, Joseph Mawle British actor, Josh Blue US comedian, Kenya Disability Parliamentary Caucus (Kedipa), Mary Nakhumicha Kenyan athlete and Paralympian, Stephen Merchant British comedian, actor, writer and director, Samuel Mushai and his guide runner James Boit Kenyan Paralympians, Sarah Storey British track and road cyclist and Paralympian gold medallist, Sophie Christiansen British equestrian and Paralympian gold medallist, Teresa Perales Spanish swimmer, Paralympianmedallist and politician; Eric McKinnie, Jimmy Carter, Joey Williams and Ben Moore members of US gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama; Warwick Davis British actor, Yannis Vardakastanis chair of the International Disability Alliance

The discussion on which designer designed the Intercity 125 (Letters, 13 September) is of little relevance to the current question of whether the UK will have the right train ready at the right price and the right time. The story of the IC 125 began on 14 July 1967, when the British Rail board planning committee gave me the responsibility for specifying in outline a fast train to counter the traffic loss to the motorways and domestic airlines. The choice was between the 155mph advanced passenger train, of highly complex design and uncertain performance; a new Deltic of possibly 6,000hp; or to develop a simple design without radical change.
First we estimated the desired journey time for each route and the revenue it was likely to attract, choosing the largest net gain. The key decision was to set aside some of the funding to improve the track where the need to slow down could be reduced at low expense. This lowered the target maximum speed for the train to achieve the desired performance, simplifying its design. The next step was to discuss with the chief engineer the maximum axle load he was prepared to accept for running at 125mp – 16.5 (long) tons as it turned out. The result? The power was divided into two units, one at each end of the train. Lengthening the cars achieved further weight reduction. These basic features were in my report dated July 1968 and were accepted soon after. Walter Jowett’s excellent train met its specification splendidly. Approximately a hundred sets took over most major diesel powered routes. BR held on to its traffic.
The point is that economics and engineering are phases in one process. High speed must be paid for by those who are prepared to use it. A transport system that lets politicians use vanity projects for vote-getting without clear understanding of the purpose that justifies some gigantic expense is something no country can afford.
Peter Detmold
Baie d’Urfe, Quebec
• Two things are surprising about the rail unions’ letter on HS2 (21 September): that they are allowing themselves to be blackmailed by the Conservative government (“if you don’t support HS2, you won’t get any other rail investment”); and that they remain blind to the proposed governance of HS2. In Tallinn in October, the EU TEN-T project will take the next step, “the new legal framework”, to moving the governance of core European routes (and HS2 is one such) to Brussels. The unions’ appeal “to examine all models for the running of HS2″ is way out of touch with what has been signed up to by the UK government.
Madeleine Wahlberg
Offchurch, Warwickshire
• Manchester’s Richard Leese is right to call Ed Balls’ weakening on HS2 a “cheap shot” (Report, 24 September). How a wannabe chancellor can oppose a project that will revitalise northern cities and pay back double its cost in jobs is beyond belief. And in the week his former crony Damian McBride is still spreading his poison, Balls repeats history by setting up splits and arguments with the party leader. Labour’s been here before and must do better. I hope Mr Miliband’s reshuffle finds Balls on a slow train to nowhere.
Alistair Dalby

In the run-up to military intervention, it is all too easy to simplify the two-year-old Syrian civil war by attributing the conflict to long-simmering sectarian disputes or regional rivalries. Nevertheless, any lasting peace will eventually require a better understanding of its underlying causes.
Although neglected in most media accounts, the Syrian civil war may be a harbinger of the future, as climate change rewrites geography and displaces millions of refugees from previously fertile lands. According to scholars such as Nayan Chanda, editor of the YaleGlobal Online Magazine, a brutal four-year drought (2006-2010) created massive water shortages and rural unemployment, transforming 60% of Syria’s richest agricultural lands into desert and killing 80% of its cattle stock. As a result, the first mass protests of the Syrian Spring in Dara’a in 2011 were fuelled by farmers and rural poor fleeing the blighted countryside.
Granted, their protests were met by government policies that discriminated against the Sunni majority, for example in the granting of well drilling rights for water. Nevertheless, climate change was a spark that ignited the flames of war.
A similar case can be made for recent unrest in the grasslands of the Sahel, which are rapidly being overrun by the Sahara desert.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether climate change reflects natural cycles or human intervention. Rising sea levels, droughts, and desertification will inevitably lead to mass migrations of climate refugees and conflicts over scarce resources. Unless we adjust our world view to recognise and mitigate large-scale climate disruption, Syria will not be the last example of civil strife and unimaginable suffering related to our changing climate.
Atul Sharma
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
• Gary Younge rightly speaks of the US credibility deficit (13 September). Does anyone now remember Agent Orange first used 52 years ago? The living victims certainly do. Has the US been charged with crimes against humanity? I understand that the use of Agent Orange is not defined as chemical warfare because it destroys the vegetation and the earth and not human beings. The lives of many children have been ruined by physical deformities of a monstrous kind. Even American soldiers have suffered although it is rarely mentioned. Condemn Assad by all means but perhaps it would give him more credibility if Obama was to make an official apology to Vietnam for the appalling damage still being endured.
Pat Stapleton
Beaumont du Ventoux, France
Two sides of privacy debate
I would like to say thank you to Henry Porter (Britons seem to think privacy is less important, 13 September) for putting into words what I feel but have been unable to express. I feel as if I am a dinosaur.
Hilary Bergeretti
La Buisse, France
• I don’t care in the slightest if The Powers spy on my personal privacy as long as they do not use it for a wrong purpose, and as long as they endeavour to try to stop internally and externally Washington shootings and the London bombings and others for the future.
Edward Black
Pauanui, New Zealand
Richness, wealth and poverty
In his article Poverty saps capacity for tough tasks (6 September), Alok Jha outlines many of the disadvantages that befall individuals living in poverty and trying to make ends meet. Among these he lists lower IQ levels and less productiveness. These characteristics, however, are not exclusive to those living in poverty; they also are features of the financially wealthy individual.
One particular individual I know rises at 10am, takes a leisurely breakfast, checks the progress of his seven-figure investments, then frets over the gardener’s wages, positively irate in the belief that there had been an inflation of 15 minutes written in the log-book.
Conversations with the person always concerned money, were repetitive, exhausting and fruitless; his IQ level had long since flatlined.
Some of the “richest”, most engaged and vibrant people I have met have also been, financially, the poorest.
Annie Thompson
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Fiddling in the financial crisis
Thank you to Ha-Joon Chang for his admirably lucid explanation of the international economy and its tie-in to domestic economic policies (The rich have an addiction to bubbles, 6 September). I now know that bubbles are synonymous with uncertainty and unsustainability in stock markets, property markets and commodity markets.
I have finally come to understand a bit of how quantitative easing works well for the rich elites and rich countries (slow recovery but clinging to the flawed, old economic model). Also of how it screws emerging-market economies (currency devaluation with rapid outflow of capital and creating uncertainty), eurozone periphery countries (could explode any time with colossal unemployment and deepening austerity), developing countries (collateral damage from currency overvaluation that generates credit booms), as well as screwing most of the rich countries’ own residents (fear of unemployment, shrinking safety nets, unstable part-time jobs and contracts, and poorer work conditions).
A number of time bombs have been planted. The Neros of the rich countries and elites are playing their fiddles in this process.
Axel Brock-Miller
Langford, British Columbia, Canada
Recreating Roman vintages
Re the article Italian archaeologists to make wine as Virgil suggested (6 September). Your readers and Tom Kington may be interested to know that a similar project already exists near Beaucaire in the south of France. When the owners of the Mas des Tourelles discovered their domaine was on the site of a Gallo-Roman villa which produced wine and olive oil, they consulted texts by Pliny the Elder and Columella and eventually recreated a working Roman cellar with treading vat, wooden wine-press and terracotta pots to mature the wine. There was much trial and error, of course, but they now produce a red and two whites using honey, sea water and fenugreek as preservatives. It is a fascinating experience to taste wines very similar to the ones once sampled by the Romans and they are very drinkable.
Denise Mingeaud
Trans-en-Provence, France
• Point number 14 in your extract from the publication The Big Questions in Science (13 September) “How do we solve the population problem?” is notable for the fact it refers to the problem of the dramatic increase in the world’s population, but the solutions suggested are fatuous. It would be far better to take family planning and women’s health and education more seriously.
Included should have been the only science which can really solve the population problem. That is by reducing the numbers.
Steve Thomas
Yarralumla, ACT, Australia
• Science’s big questions posed by Birch et al are truly exciting, but I see no deliberations on where “it all” came from in the first place. Is science limited to just dealing with this side of the big bang, beyond which reality must forever be “model-dependent”, with ever-diminishing prospects of meaningful empirical testing?
Ivor Tittawella
Umeå, Sweden
• Thank you to Don Boswell (Good to meet you, 6 September) for his admitting to a naughty antipodean feeling of nostalgic connection to the UK. It’s not something one admits to here either, in Australia. Yet it does exist for some of us, even of a younger generation.
Sometimes it is nice to relent, and be content with the thought that one is not indigenous and does have cultural roots elsewhere on Earth. The modern cultural cringe has flipped from what it was a generation or two ago (when we had an “old country”), and makes believe that being born in a place is enough to eclipse all other cultural identity. Perhaps it’s a slower process than that?
Sam Wilson
Fremantle, Western Australia
• As I understand it, Tony Abbott’s agenda (13 September) is that Australia is too densely populated, that there is no global warming and that large companies pay too much tax.
I do wonder what newspaper he reads.
Adrian Betham
London, UK


Is Howard Jacobson being unsympathetic when he complains of the disruptions caused cyclists and triathletes (20 September)?
Documentary makers have made much of the time and effort such people put into their chosen discipline, surely a sign that these obsessive narcissists have a significant body-image problem. Public money should be dedicated to providing therapy for these unfortunates, rather than supporting mega sporting occasions which only serve to legitimate their delusions and disrupt the lives of ordinary folk.
Moderate exercise is good for one’s health, but figures seem to indicate that the Olympic legacy has been more people in their living rooms watching the telly. If the Government wants to encourage people to be more active, then they need to show that sport is something that ordinary people can do and enjoy rather than a full-time occupation for masochists.
Sean Barker, Bristol
Is there no end to Howard Jacobson’s hatred of anyone who is not driving a car? On Saturday he wrote of “any city where runners and cyclists maraud.”  Maraud – I looked it up, and here’s the definition: “To rove or raid in search of plunder”.  So, to Howard Jacobson, runners and cyclists – anyone who doesn’t go around inside a ton of steel – is the modern equivalent of an 18th-century highwayman. Please supply evidence.
Jean Elliott, Upminster, Essex
David Hewitt (letter, 23 September) extols the provision of sport in independent schools and talks as if sport is important. It isn’t. Most people have no interest in organised competitive sport, whether in doing it themselves or in watching others do it, and nor should they.
Most of us can keep fit and healthy through leading busy, active lives and enjoying recreations such as walking, cycling and gardening, and we don’t need to make fools of ourselves in playing silly games. Time wasted on school sport would be much better spent on constructive activities such as music and drama, which are much better at teaching the virtues of teamwork and co-operation.
Sam Boote, Nottingham
Private schools save money for the taxpayer
Archie Bland (23 September) complains that private schools receive £100m subsidy because of their charitable status. This figure has been quoted in many articles for a number of years but it isn’t easy to find out where it comes from. Those private schools that are charities do not make profits, so they are not saving corporation tax. They cannot claim gift aid relief on school fees. They cannot claim back the VAT they pay. I would interested to know where this “subsidy” comes from.
If there is such a subsidy though, and removing charitable status reduced the size of the sector by a few per cent, any saving would be swallowed up by the cost of educating those children in the state sector.
The saving to the state sector of educating children privately is several billion pounds a year. Although this is not an argument for charitable status, both sides of the equation need to be considered before stating that private education is “subsidised by taxpayers”.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
Archie Bland peddles the usual half-humorous half-truths about independent schools.
Independent schools, rather than being subsidised by the taxpayer, in fact save the taxpayer billions in educating half a million children outside the state-funded education system; relieve pressure for new school places that will have to be created to cope with rising demographics; fund out of their own reserves places for tens of thousands of children, aided each year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in free and subsidised places. 
It’s easy to mock what you don’t understand. But no serious effort is ever given to suggesting how removing charitable status would represent an improvement in the educational offering of our world-beating schools.
Matthew Burgess, General Secretary, Independent Schools Council, London WC2
Ukip’s secret: seem human
I read that Labour’s policy co-ordinator, Jon Cruddas, describes Nigel Farage as having “that sort of interesting character which means he has a seductive quality with the people”.
His only seductive quality, Mr Cruddas, is that he talks like one of the free-range human beings commonly found in the UK, rather than the professional political automatons so extensively manufactured by the three main parties. This quality is innate to everyone before they get PR training, even our own Leader of the Opposition.
Why not take advantage of this by trying to get Mr Miliband to stop talking in sound-bites and instead to act a little bit more as though he was in the pub debating a topic about which he actually cared? (And give the man some credit; it’s obvious that he does care.)
Forget trying to be Winston Churchill – oratory is not his strong suit. Just get him to talk like a normal bloke and everyone in this country will take him much more seriously.
Kris McDermott, Manchester
A few months ago there was a debate on the letters pages about middle-lane cruisers. Astonishingly, there were quite a few people prepared to write in to defend the practice. Now we are getting letters defending Ukip. It occurs to me that the same characteristic, a complete lack of ability to carry out rational thought, is shared by these two groups.
Is it possible that there is a high correlation between middle-lane cruisers and Ukip supporters? I think some research is called for!
Professor Chris G Guy, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading
If anyone in Scotland is still undecided about how to vote in the independence referendum, the likelihood of Ukip being the third largest party in the UK (probably mean England as usual) should be enough to send them to the polls swinging their claymores.
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Godfrey Bloom is a silly man who shouldn’t be worrying his pretty little head with things he doesn’t understand, like politics. He should leave that to the ladies.
Catherine Petts, Steventon, Oxfordshire
Children’s care needs a strategy
The Education Secretary’s proposed reforms to children’s homes (“Private equity firms are making millions out of failing children’s care homes”, 14 September) are dangerously narrow. All children should have safe, effective care whether in fostering, kinship care or children’s homes. The vast majority of the victims in the Rochdale and Oxfordshire cases were living with their birth families, and these changes will have no impact on the lives of vulnerable children at risk of harm and abuse.
Quality is not a question of whether the provider is a local authority or independent provider. Indeed, independent homes were less likely to be rated inadequate, and cost on average over £14,000 less per child per year, than local authority-run homes. Where homes are inadequate or located in unsafe areas, this must be addressed, and quickly, but the majority of children’s homes provide young people with support that will enable them to live fulfilled adult lives.
Currently, children’s homes are too often used as a last resort for children with very challenging behaviour only when all else has failed. The DfE’s data show that nearly a third of children in children’s homes have been through six or more placements. This is the real scandal, with poor commissioning decisions denying children the stability and security they need.
The DfE recently revealed it had decided against developing a care strategy, instead choosing to implement piecemeal reforms – such as to the adoption system – that do not impact upon the majority of looked-after children.
We urge the Education Secretary to rethink this decision and take a strategic approach to reforming the wider care system in order to best meet the needs of vulnerable children, rather than making piecemeal changes.
Mike Davey, Director of Witherslack, on behalf of the Children’s Services Development Group, London SW1
Villains of an innocent era
Thank you Ian Craine (letter, 23 September) for your evocation of the wonderful Garry Halliday, the DC3 pilot and adventurer who taught Indiana Jones everything he knew.
My favourite scene? Where Traumann, the Voice’s hapless hit-man, offered his apologies for once again allowing our hero to slip through his fingers. “It won’t happen again next time, Voice,” stammered the perma-shaded functionary. “There won’t be a next time, Traumann,” his boss replied, as a silenced gun-barrel wobbled into the bottom corner of the screen – for the Voice, as you might expect, was never seen – and dispatched Traumann to wherever hopeless goons in all great kids’ TV shows go.
Now, who remembers Space Patrol?
Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall
Rash SNP promise
In “promising” long-term pensions for an independent Scotland larger than for the UK, the SNP has gone beyond exaggeration to outright dishonesty.
Scotland has a slightly older population than England, and with less immigration it is aging faster, so our pensions will cost more. Oil, while a long way from running out, is in long-term decline, while with oil reserves worldwide increasing it is likely to drop in price, so that, over decades, we must expect less money from it.
If the economies of both stay the same, it is inevitable a separate Scotland will have less money, per person, for pensions.
Neil Craig, Glasgow
No swatting
There is a simple and ecologically sound method for ridding a house of flies which was taught to me by my father. For best results live in an old house. Encourage spiders by never killing them or removing their webs. Result:  flies gone in a flash, fat happy spiders and a good excuse for those dusty cobwebbed drapes in the corners. No flies and less housework. Perfect!
Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey
Don’t hang up
I am not sure that forcing queuing callers to listen to Simply Red is acceptable in human rights terms, even if it does reduce the abandoned call rate for Lincolnshire County Council.
Nigel Scott, London N22


‘Belief is appropriate (if at all) only with regard to those things that cannot be disproved by science or logic. Everything else is a hypothesis’
Sir, The climate debate (letters, Sept 23 & 24) is distorted by those who don’t understand the physics and who don’t wish to understand it — possibly politically motivated. John Tyndall, FRS, working at the Royal Institution in 1859, showed experimentally that greenhouse gases hindered the passage of energy from the Earth’s surface to space and caused the surface and the atmosphere to become warmer than it would be in their absence. He used the analogy of a dam restricting the passage of a river; the height of the dam (greenhouse gas concentration) determined the amount of water held back (the temperature of the surface/atmosphere system).
The sceptical argument used currently to “destroy” the greenhouse effect of CO2 is invalid. That the Earth’s temperature has not altered appreciably in the past 15 years is because natural factors have essentially cancelled out the small amount of warming expected from the higher CO2 concentration. Similarly, the reduction in temperature between 1940 and 1976 caused some people to denigrate the physics. Between 1976 and 1998 the considerable rise in temperature occurred because the warming effects of CO2 and Nature worked hand-in-hand. There are difficulties with the models of the future climate, but, as Niels Bohr once opined, “prediction is difficult, especially that of the future”.
Dr Jack Barrett
Poling, W Sussex

Sir, While Hubert Lamb undoubtedly did help to unravel the history of climate, (Weather Eye, Sept 23), in the early 1970s he predicted that we were about to enter a new Ice Age and that as the century progressed the weather would grow colder. His view was that climatic change was affected by natural phenomena such as volcanic or solar activity. After the heat wave of 1975 his view changed and he wrote, “On balance, the effect of increased carbon dioxide on climate is almost certainly in the direction of warming but is probably much smaller than the estimates which have commonly been accepted.” Lamb did not attribute possible global warming solely to greenhouse gases, neither did he think that climatic change was man-made.
Kay Bagon
Radlett, Herts

Sir, Climate change is complex enough. Please do not further obfuscate the issue with surveys purporting to tell us how many people do or don’t “believe” it exists, or how many people “don’t know”. I do not “believe” in climate change, or indeed in any other scientific theory, and never will. But I am very comfortable that the preponderance of evidence is overwhelmingly that it is happening, and that, given the potential adverse consequences, the only sensible position for us is to act on that assumption. Belief is appropriate (if at all) only with regard to those things that cannot be disproved by science or logic. Everything else is a hypothesis, in which one may have much, some or no confidence, but about which keeping an open, ie, sceptical, mind is second nature to any scientist.
Hence I cannot “know” that climate change exists, and nor can anyone else. As Dr Russell-Jones’s letter (Sept 23) shows, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports talk of (now strong) likelihoods, but not certainties, nor could they.
Richard Burnett-Hall
Houghton, Hants

The difficulties of resistance to a widening of any proposed law, and the restrictions imposed on existing laws in other parts of the world
Sir, Baroness Grey-Thompson is to be applauded for highlighting the impracticality of devising legal safeguards for assisted suicide and the consequent risks for disabled people (Thunderer, Sept 23). Over the past decade, the Netherlands has moved from justifying euthanasia and assisted suicide for those with unrelieved suffering, to include people with dementia, newborn babies with spina bifida and even in some cases patients without their explicit consent. This shows the impossibility of resisting a widening interpretation and application of the law.
Dr David Jeffrey
Headington, Oxon

Sir, The laws regarding assisted dying in force in Oregon, as described in Judith Wyss’s letter (Sept 24), are mistakenly inadequate in insisting on terminal illness as a condition. My first wife was driven to the step by Parkinson’s, a degenerative but not a terminal condition, whereby the sufferer gets more and more helpless until mercifully carried off by something else. This is surely a situation at least as distressing as a terminal illness, and arguably more so as no end is perceivable. I gained some obloquy for describing my wife’s decision and actions as “rational and courageous”; which I will say again, because that is what they were. But they would still have fallen foul of that all too limiting requirement for the illness to be “terminal”.
Michael Grosvenor Myer
Haddenham, Cambridge

‘The Police Service has an appalling propensity to complicate simple matters under the guise of scrupulousness’
Sir, If the Home Secretary, Theresa May, goes ahead with her plans to abolish police performance targets she could be making the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. By all means she should reduce the ridiculous number of such targets laid down by the various police and crime commissioners and confine them to easily measurable performance indicators.
It would concentrate the minds of all concerned, for example, if the annual appraisals of every officer contained hard statistics of how their overtime income and sick leave compared with the force average.
Any glaring anomalies could be identified and explanations sought. It would be naive to deny that some abuse of these facilities does happen.
But our Police Service has an appalling propensity to complicate simple matters under the guise of scrupulousness, knowing that the easier it is to measure, then the easier it is to criticise.
John Kenny (Metropolitan Police Officer, 1965-95)
Acle, Norfolk

This reader has experienced the realities of spending time under the flight path for Heathrow, and would back another option
Sir, So Ed Balls would prefer a third runway at Heathrow to HS2 (report, Sept 24). A few weeks ago I attended a wedding in Richmond Park. I travelled from the Midlands by train and the Tube to Twickenham. Low-flying planes soon spoilt what was up to then an enjoyable trip. At the reception in Richmond Park, low-flying planes were going over continually. You could hardly have a conversation. Back at my hotel there were still more planes. If I was living in this area, I would be backing HS2 and the “Boris Island” airport.
Ian Martin
Harlaston, Staffs

If allowed to grow untrimmed, a hedge becomes thin at the bottom and useless for the control of animals – one of its main functions
Sir, While the savagery of the implements used to trim roadside hedges is deplorable (letter, Sept 23 & 24), the timing and method of such work has altered with the years. Farm hedges are there to define boundaries and to keep animals either in or out. If allowed to grow untrimmed, a hedge becomes thin at the bottom and useless for the control of animals, the only remedy being hedge laying by hand which is expensive. This was done between haymaking and harvest, thus allowing hedgerow trees to grow upwards. With later hedge trimming, we have come to expect a riot of roadside berries, and there is no real reason why the work should not be carried out later in the year.
Henry Moore
Weston Beggard, Herefordshire


SIR – Agatha Christie would be turning in her grave at the announcement that there is to be a new Poirot novel (report, September 4).
While I am sure Sophie Hannah will do an excellent job, the reason that Agatha Christie killed off her detective in Curtain was to prevent any such future spin-offs after her death. During her lifetime, Agatha Christie’s daughter Rosalind fervently protected the integrity of her mother’s work. It is sad that such integrity no longer appears to be the cornerstone of Agatha Christie Ltd.
Cathy Cook
Author, The Agatha Christie Miscellany
Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – Labour is promising 25 hours a week of free child care to help working parents. This follows on from the pledge made by the Lib Dems for free school meals for infants. How about cutting taxes for families so that they can afford to pay for children out of their own earnings? A fully transferable personal allowance, for example, would allow more parents to stay at home to look after their children.
For years, the Labour Party policy has been to enlarge its client state by bribing voters with their own money. This is more of the failed socialist programme from the Gordon Brown era.
Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex
SIR – Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, should be congratulated for his frank admission in Brighton that he’s a socialist and wishes to “bring back socialism” (Comment, September 23). Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the mantra for wealth redistribution was “fairness” – the S-word was barely ever mentioned.
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One case too many for Agatha Christie’s Poirot
24 Sep 2013
A healthy majority of British voters, particularly those mindful of the Seventies, know that socialism is an equal share of misery for all. It is good that the Labour leader has reminded them of this axiom.
Alasdair Ogilvy
Stedham, West Sussex
SIR – The Government is servicing a debt of over a trillion pounds; it is also strangling business with excessive regulation and taxation. As a result, growth is slow, private enterprise is crushed and 53.4 per cent of households receive more transfers from the Government than they pay in tax.
Ed Miliband thinks we need to “bring back socialism”. But it never left. We need a lot less government spending, taxation and regulation and a much bigger private sector and more self-sufficient households for prosperity to be fully restored.
James Smith
Stock, Essex
SIR – After three years of the Labour Party insisting that the Coalition’s plan for economic recovery was flawed, we have a change of tack now there is evidence that the plan is showing signs of working.
The attack is now on shrinking living standards. It does not take a first class economics graduate to realise that this was always going to be the outcome of any strategy that involved austerity in an attempt to clear up the mess left by Labour. Now the mantra is about the three wasted years in which the Coalition has seen no economic growth.
Perhaps the Opposition should focus on their three wasted years. Mr Miliband has persevered with the same individuals who were identified as responsible for the economic crisis of 2008. Until he shows the strength to purge the Opposition front bench, both he and his party will never regain the electorate’s confidence in the Labour Party to manage the economy.
W G McLellan
Army railcard
SIR – As a serving officer in the Reserve Forces, I would like to draw attention to the inequality in the issuance of discount railcards within the Armed Forces.
Regular soldiers are rightly offered the opportunity to purchase an annual railcard, whereas reservists are not. This is in spite of the fact that many reservists must travel exceptionally long distances to reach their Territorial Army centre – expenses may be claimed, but only at the full rate. This costs the Ministry of Defence one third more than if reservists were entitled to the Forces discount.
If the MoD wishes to create a “one Army” ethos, then small things such as equal entitlements would go a long way to doing this, as well as boosting the morale of volunteers who give up considerable time, especially at weekends, in service to their country.
Captain Levison Wood
London WC2
Orange but green
SIR – Oranges growing in warmer regions, in the absence of cool nights, will not turn orange, but will remain green until they are ripe (Letters, September 21).
Oranges ripen during the winter months and require cool nights to turn orange. Once an orange has been picked, no further ripening or colour change will occur, no matter what the temperature is.
Green oranges are a common sight in tropical markets, but it is uncommon for such fruit to arrive in Britain, because we are conditioned to eating orange-coloured fruit. However it is normal in Brazil and the Caribbean to see yellow and green fruit in the marketplace, which is often processed into juice – some of which is shipped to Britain.
Barrie Preston
Beverley, East Yorkshire
Student dress code
SIR – Alan J Eyre (Letters, September 18) asks why the contestants on University Challenge “look so weird, with even weirder hairstyles?” It’s because they are students. We wouldn’t expect then to wear sombre suits, white shirts and ties, with good, strong, sensible shoes.
Alastair Cannon
Bridport, Dorset
Walking and talking
SIR – We used storytelling to encourage our young children to come on country walks (Letters, September 23).
A fairy called Shillyshally lived in a tree root near the river, and sometimes left a treat under the leaves. Unsurprisingly, she had many friends, who always lived round the next bend. Long walks were always a great pleasure for us all.
Daphne Kemp
Newcastle upon Tyne
SIR – I didn’t tell my daughters bedtime stories, they told me their own.
Their imaginary friends ruled the house, and were more scary than anything I might have conjured up.
Michael Leonard
Origins of stage names
SIR – Jeremy Wheeler (Letters, September 23) refers to the music hall entertainer known as Nosmo King. His stage name originated from the “No Smoking” sign in a London Underground carriage.
How many other names arose in similar ways, I wonder?
John Gouldin
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
Gambling on results
SIR – Your report that Ladbrokes has launched a “service” for students to bet on their degree results to “help them clear debts more quickly when they graduate” (“Undergraduates can gamble on their degree result”, September 20) raises serious issues about present public policy on gambling.
Ladbrokes claims to provide facilities for “responsible gambling” and its leading advice on “staying in control” is that “Gambling should be entertaining and not seen as a way of making money.”
The notion of “responsible gambling” was introduced after 2005 as a substitute for the previous policy of providing commercial gambling on the basis of “unstimulated demand”. This had allowed those who wanted to gamble to do so but prohibited its commercial promotion.
Representing the Royal College of Psychiatrists throughout the passage of the legislation, especially in the joint parliamentary committee that scrutinised it, I drew attention to the likelihood that the notion of “responsible gambling” would be used as a fig leaf to allow promoters free range.
It is ironic that young students should now be targeted.
Dr Emanuel Moran
Enfield, Middlesex
Theatrical highlights
SIR – I, too, had problems choosing my favourite play (Letters, September 18).
It is easy to misinterpret this as favourite production, which in my case would be Trevor Nunn’s film of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. But this is in no way my favourite play.
Rather, I asked myself “Which play would I most like to see again?” After many happy hours reminiscing, I decided on Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhyncus, which I saw at the National in 1990. However, I somehow fear this is unlikely to get the popular vote.
Peter Fayers
Cape Town, South Africa
No hunting today
SIR – In fairness to Louis XVI (Letters, September 23), he kept a hunting diary in which he simply noted where he had hunted and details of that day’s kill.
On those days when he hadn’t hunted (such as July 14 1789, the day the Bastille was stormed), he always wrote rien (“nothing”) in his hunting diary.
Leslie Glegg
Garstang, Lancashire
Should food aid be sent to the developing world?
SIR – Sir David Attenborough says that it is barmy to send food aid to Africa (report, September 18). I have lived in East Africa for 14 years, and have on a few occasions requested and received food aid, and ensured its delivery to those in greatest need. Most people, Christian or not, believe that human life has equal value everywhere, and we who have so much can afford to share our excess with those whose life is less secure, especially subsistence farmers in Africa.
Their problem is not so much a lack of land to farm, but a lack of reliable rainfall.
Climate change caused by the industrialised West has made the rainfall in Africa less consistent, and the lives of that continent’s population less secure. Most aid to developing countries is focused on helping them find ways to help themselves.
Rev Edward Tufnell
SIR – While trumpeting improved farming techniques, Clive Aslet (Comment, September 19) overlooks the other environmental problems that overpopulation inflicts on the Earth: deforestation, overfishing, increased pollution and global warming, the extinction of thousands of species of flora and fauna and the overcrowding of our towns and cities.
Mike Wheeler
Alverstoke, Hampshire
SIR – It is surprising to find Sir David Attenborough using the Malthusian language of natural selection with regard to population growth. As any development economist would tell him, the real problems are artificial borders preventing the free movement of people to find pasture and water. Underlying these problems are civil conflict, corruption and mismanagement.
As China and India show, population may not be the problem but the answer in leading nations to prosperity. Ethiopia is not a good example to give of a “basket case”, since it has done a great deal to put its house in order.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Constitution provides that Bills may be referred to the people for a referendum if a majority of members of the Seanad and not less than one third of the members of the Dáil ask the President not to sign a Bill because it contains a proposal of such national importance that the decision to have such a law should be made by the people.
The Referendum Commission states that if the proposed Referendum is passed “this possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution.”
Unicameral absolutism of such significance?
I can think of no better reason to reject the Seanad abolition proposal. – Yours, etc,
Castleconnell, Co Limerick.
Sir, – I will be voting to abolish the Seanad because with the Seanad gone it would be easier to focus on radically reforming the Dáil, which would solve at least some of our chronic political problems.
It’s not that I’m so naive as to believe such radical reform will ever take place. But when the choice is between supporting two white elephants or one, one will do fine. – Yours, etc,
Russell Court,
Ballykeeffe, Limerick.
Sir, – Like many others on this island, I find myself in the strange position that, in a couple of weeks’ time, I am being asked to vote to abolish an institution for which I don’t have a vote. In spite of this, I intend to vote No, as I believe that the present government, with the establishment of the “Gang of Four”, the downgrading of local councils and their ambition to leave us with a unicameral legislature, will have achieved a power grab unprecedented in the history of this state.
I also believe that, in spite of their assertions to the contrary, if we vote this proposition down, the Government will have no option but to reform the Upper House and make it a truly representative body. Seanad elections should also take place on the same day as the general election, forcing our representatives to choose which house they were competing for on day one.
The argument that abolishing the Seanad will save €20 million annually is patently spurious but, even if it were not, the plain people of this country would like to see savings of this nature effected by not paying political pensions until the recipient has either reached a specific age, (say 55), or been out of politics for at least 15 years. Another tranche of savings could be achieved by not allowing the word “unvouched” to appear before the word “expenses”, by asking members of the Oireachtas to buy their own mobile phones (and pay the attached bills from their salaries), and to bear the normal expense of travelling to work. In other words, it would be nice to see them living in the same world as the rest of us. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Prof Ray Kinsella (September 21st) cites the expertise and commitment of people such as John Crown, Sean Barrett and Fergal Quinn as a reason to retain the Seanad. However, given its very limited powers, the talents of the aforementioned are wasted in the Upper House. It would be better if they were in the Dáil. There they would have more influence and might even go on to become ministers.
Among the reasons that talented people are attracted to the Seanad university panels, rather than the Dáil, are because of the national make-up of the constituencies and because there is not a requirement to carry out large amounts of clientelistic constituency work.
It would therefore be preferable to proceed with abolishing the Seanad and then change the system for electing the Dáil, so that a portion of the seats (40 to 50) are allocated using a list system. In addition, the Constitution should be changed to allow persons outside of the Dáil to be appointed to the Cabinet. – Yours, etc,
The Friary,
Castledermot, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Opinion, September 20th) argues we should abolish the Senate because other small nations have only one chamber and we need to continue a policy of doing “more with less”. Mr Kenny also promises a new dawn for civic engagement through a committee system inside a reformed Dáil. These arguments do not withstand closer scrutiny and have a weak evidence base in the context of a global policy world intent on reducing the public sphere for debate in all countries.
First, I will examine the argument that we as a small nation are comparable to other small nations. We have not yet developed in Ireland a strong democracy as the Scandinavian countries have. Their single chambers have no whip system, have co-equal numbers of women and men and have a long history of tolerance of dissenting voices. We have a long way to go to emulate this and it is highly unlikely we can achieve this by simply developing a reduced public space.
Second,the unreflective celebration of “doing more with less”, a policy associated with austerity and the troika, has sadly led to a brain-drain, as we continue to lose our educated young people to Australia and Canada. How could that be such a great thing for a small nation trying to hold its own in a turbulent Europe and an uncertain global world?
Third, I want to examine the promise that if we vote to abolish the Senate that a reformed Dáil will create participatory politics. According to Gerry Stoker, professor of politics from the University of Manchester, participatory politics needs the messiness of argument and debate and contestation. There is no evidence committees have the capacity to deliver this type of politics. Committees are controlled by tight agendas and often do not function in democratic ways. Committees deal with complex issues in simplistic, speedy and technically efficient ways. We have no evidence to date of the capacity of the Dáil to engage in any type of participatory politics. In fact we have witnessed how the Dáil has chosen to deal with politicians, such as Róisín Shortall and Lucinda Creighton, who have raised critical questions that the government of the day does not want to hear.
Who will really benefit from the abolition of the Senate? Will it be the citizens of Ireland and future generations? Or will it be the government of the day which will have seized total control of all dissenting voices and be better poised to meet the needs of such vested interests as bankers, big business and unsecured bondholders? I rest my case. – Yours, etc,

Lecturer in Education,
Faculty of Education and
Health Science,
University of Limerick.
Sir, – I was going to vote Yes. Then I read the Referendum Commission’s “Independent Guide”.
I was struck by two changes regarding removal from office of the President or a judge. The present position requires two thirds of both houses for removal of the President (simple majorities for removing a judge) – a relatively straightforward matter for a sitting government using the whip. If the electorate votes to abolish the Seanad, removal of a judge will require two thirds of total membership of the Dáil (four fifths for the President). I rang the Referendum Commission and was told I had understood correctly, but it doesn’t give reasons. I was given a telephone number to someone in the Taoiseach’s office who would be better able to inform me.
The argument is that since current impeachment proceedings require passing two hurdles that the removal of one necessitated (in somebody’s opinion) the heightening of a single hurdle. When I pointed out that since the Seanad, in its present form, is loaded anyway, the “two hurdle argument” is spurious, my informant said, “You’ve got a good point there”.
Yes, the judiciary should be independent, but not of the people exercising their judgment through our elected government. This proposal, as I understand it, significantly weakens the power of the Oireachtas to initiate impeachment proceedings. This is not good. In my opinion this is a strong reason for voting No.
Might I propose a compromise, that the amendment be changed to read “a majority of members”, ie 84 votes to remove a judge, 110 to remove the President (to be adjusted in the event of the number of TDs being reduced). – Yours, etc,
Clare Island, Co Mayo.
Sir, – There are two referendums being put to the people on October 4th. People know a little about one but nothing about the other. The first, we are told by our political masters, is about the abolition of the Seanad, and the second is about the setting up of a new court.
But that is only a fraction of the story, and I guarantee you that if we don’t get a majority No vote to both of these referendums, we, the people, will have betrayed our children and future generations in the most unbelievable way. We will have handed them over, lock, stock and barrel to the EU justice system, and Big Brother will then be free – finally – to impose its brand of law on us and on our children.
Already the plans are well advanced, both here and in Europe to bring in an “effective mechanism to enforce respect for EU law” on our people. EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has described this mechanism. And the Commission will not be afraid, we are told, to use the “big stick” it is carrying, to enforce its brand of justice on our people.
Our politicians are a thundering disgrace. I will be voting No in both referendums. – Yours, etc,
North Circular Road,

A chara, – Perhaps Liam Cooke (September 23rd) rather than wondering what the Jesus Christ of the Gospels might do, would consider taking up Pope Francis’s offer to encounter the same Jesus Christ in the church and the Gospel?
It seems to me that His words on judgment and beams and motes, (Mth 71:-3) and straining gnats and swallowing camels (Mth 23:24) are pertinent.
Peter’s – and therefore the Pope’s – entrusted task is to feed the flock (John 21) and strengthen his brethren (Luke 22). Binding and loosing (Mth 18) is at the service of that task of bringing Jesus Christ to the world.
Pope Francis brings new vigour and a new method to proclaiming the eternal Jesus Christ.
He is a pontiff, a bridge builder – not a regulator. – Is mise,
Páirc na Seilbhe,
Baile an Chinnéidigh,
Co Chill Mhantáin.

Sir, – I would second much of what’s Una Mullally writes regarding the cultural problems that serve to enable a large degree of male violence against women (“Telling women to be careful gets men off the hook”, Opinion, September 23rd). However, I feel her article implies a glaring fallacy that is important to refute.
Encouraging people to be aware in a tactical or practical sense regarding to their personal safety does not automatically strip criminals of moral responsibility. I take care not to walk down dark alleys in dangerous urban areas at night. If I neglected to follow my own advice and was attacked, would my assailant be any less morally culpable because of my recklessness? Of course not. Am I, therefore, going to neglect to watch my back in town at night? No way.
Let’s put the blame where it belongs, and at the same time encourage awareness, street smarts, a healthy suspicion of strangers, and self-defence training for anyone who might need it. (All of us). – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The furore over Arthur’s Day created by some vested interests in Irish society reflects a new agenda that the drinks industry and its brands can never do good, regardless.
It is a worrying development for those who work responsibly in an industry that supports countless thousands of jobs in Ireland in manufacture, tourism and distribution in pubs, hotels and restaurants. It is also an industry that gives enjoyment to countless customers who enjoy alcohol responsibly.
Overall, Arthur’s Day is a welcome development that is good, does good and has evolved into a cultural event focused mainly in the hard-pressed pub sector, where tourism is an important factor.
To the tourist and the responsible drinker, Arthur’s Day is to be welcomed and not misrepresented by vested interests,
We should be careful what we wish for.

Sir, – Dan O’Brien is right (Business Opinion, September 20th).
President Higgins needs to be reminded that every cent spent on the trappings of his office is borrowed money that the taxpayers he claims to care so much about have to repay with interest.
If he really had an ethical morality he wouldn’t be accepting a salary of €250,000 per annum, plus tax-free unvouched expenses. Instead, a salary of €100,000 is more than enough for a person who doesn’t have to put his hand in his pocket for seven long years and who became a far wealthier man from his political career, with all the various salaries, pensions and expenses he has received, than if he’d remained with his initial career choice. His demands on the taxpayer make a mockery of his claim that all he seeks is the honour to serve.
I’m tired of listening to hypocrites like Mr Higgins, who turn up at expensive conferences, paid for by the taxpayer, in a top of the range car with all the bells and whistles, who then pontificates and patronises the rest of us about what changes and sacrifices “we” need to make to help the less well off.
Let’s see Mr Higgins and his ilk lead by example and make some sacrifices to lessen the burden he places on the taxpayers of a small bankrupt country. – Yours, etc,
Canary Wharf,

Sir, – Pope Francis says, “See everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little” (Front page, September 20th). He sounds like he worked in the Central Bank or the Regulator’s Office pre-2008.
While everybody has their own style of doing things, one wonders would the Jesus Christ of the Gospels do likewise? – Yours, etc,
Greencastle Avenue,
Coolock, Dublin 17.

Sir, – The Minister for Justice (September 23rd) does not mention the cost of the proposed new court of appeal.
To put an extra court in place on the basis that there is a backlog to be cleared looks a little like arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Can the Minister guarantee us that this extra court will not itself become part of the problem rather than the hoped for solution?
While a simple solution to a complex problem may seem attractive, a complex response, which may take time, is normally more effective. Regarding institutional change, it may also be worth considering that if we always do what we always did we will always get what we always got. – Yours, etc,
Clancy Road,
Sir, – An easy narrative for journalists to hang their opinions on for this dispute is: pesky teachers in secure jobs ask broke nation for money. It is more complex than that. Few teachers expect pay cuts to be reversed because of industrial action. Then why take action?
First, ASTI teachers don’t trust the Government. Croke Park was meant to run to the end of this year – not July. They trust even less this Government promising what the next government will do, in 2018.
Second, acceptance of Haddington Road means de facto acceptance of the new Junior Certificate, with its incumbent problems. Does anybody believe teachers can be fully objective in marking their own students? Will a Gonzaga school cert really be equal to that of a disadvantaged VEC?
Third, with the erosion of management posts in schools and a plethora of initiatives from Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, we want the pause button pressed so we can concentrate on teaching/discipline and not some poorly resourced initiative.
Lastly, we are tired of bully-boy deals: accept this or we will make things worse for you.
I look forward to a more truthful narrative but I won’t hold my breath. – Yours, etc,
Killarney Road,

Irish Independent:

24 September 2013
Instead of enjoying our retirement with grandchildren, sons, daughters and friends, we have been left broken-hearted and despairing.
Also in this section
History repeating itself
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Since this lot took over, things have gone from bad to worse.
Their job may not have been easy, granted, but what they’ve done is a bloody disgrace.
We now have to pay property tax, water tax, septic tank tax, etc. Just where the hell are we supposed to find all the money to pay for it all? We’ve worked all of our lives from the age of 14 or 15, raised our families, built our own home and paid for it. We’ve paid all and any taxes, but for what? To watch as our sons, daughters and families had to go away.
This lot should be ashamed for collecting €1,200 just to turn up at that never Neverland they call work, keeping all those perks while cutting school funding, old people’s money and help for the disabled and special needs.
They’re squeezing every last penny out of ordinary folk while letting the bankers and builders away with it. “We’ll burn the bondholders,” they said. Burned them all right – bloody big holes in their pockets with the money you paid them.
PJ & Kate Williams
Co Longford
* I am so relieved that Dublin beat Mayo because it would have been galling to hear Enda Kenny taking credit for winning the Sam Maguire Cup.
He’s that type of Irish redneck politician – the parochial ‘hupyaboyo’ cheerleader. And he’s the only man in the country who believes we’ve “turned the corner and economic recovery has arrived”.
Why do we get our politicians from a lucky bag?
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* Here’s a short quiz to while away the time.
Who said the following: “It must be stressed that during the last decade the Seanad did not play a substantive role in challenging unsustainable policies. While its debates are frequently more thoughtful than those in the Dail, this suggests the need to reform the Dail rather than the retention of the Seanad.”
Was it Eamon Gilmore, Enda Kenny or Micheal Martin?
Hands up all who said Enda Kenny?
Wrong, this quotation is taken from page 30 of the Fianna Fail 2011 election manifesto so we will accept Micheal Martin as the correct answer.
Brendan Casserly
Abbeybridge, Co Cork
* Angela Merkel has two motivations. The first is a strong Protestant ethic, which urges people to help others, but only on condition they make all necessary efforts to help themselves. The second is the lesson of history Germans have learnt – that a strong Germany in the middle of Europe has to be tied in to Europe to preserve peace.
Her one really bad decision, for which her motivations are really hard to grasp, was closing all German atomic energy facilities. As a result, shortages of electricity will have to be filled with purchases abroad at a higher price and the requirements will be produced in neighbouring countries with atomic facilities.
As a scientist she knew this very well. The only explanation for this crazy decision is that it undermined the Green Party by fulfilling its main demand.
Her motivations are shared by many and by remaining calm and patient she has proved trustworthy.
Imme Mallin
Herbert Park Lane, Dublin 4
* Figures released on September 9 last ( stated that 162,000 tonnes of Scottish-farmed salmon had a value of £537m (€638m) and sustained a total of 1,500 direct and indirect jobs.
These figures suggest that a 15,000- tonne salmon farm as proposed by the state agency An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) would produce farmed salmon worth €60m. Utilising the Scottish figures as a benchmark, such a farm would create 138 jobs.
At first glance this looks like a great opportunity. However, if you look at claims by BIM that a 15,000-tonne salmon farm would create 300 jobs and produce salmon to the value of €102m, it would seem that maths is not the strong point of those within that state agency.
Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd recently stated that the value of angling tourism to the Irish economy was €750m per annum, much of this attributable to fishing for wild salmon.
All this is at risk due to the negative impact that open-net cage salmon farming, as proposed by BIM, will have on our environment and wild migratory stocks. I would urge those in positions of power nationally and in Europe to look very closely at these proposals before embarking on a course that leads to disaster.
Jim Kelly
Co Kilkenny
* How comforting to know that Enda is Angela’s favourite puppet.
H Swords
Co Mayo
* I have just received copies of the new telephone directory for Dublin. Before people discard their previous copies, could I remind your readers that a telephone directory is one of the most valuable research tools to have at your disposal when doing local or family history research?
The continuing decline in the use and listing of landlines will make it increasingly difficult to trace the location or prevalence of family names in any given area, severely limiting any possibility of contacting those whose mobile numbers we do not already know.
How in future will we be able to find the address of those without a landline?
I am holding on to my back copies from now on.
Gabrielle Brocklesby
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
* I must compliment your reporter Ailish O’Hora on her piece in the Irish Independent (September 19) regarding Health Minister James Reilly and his interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1 last week.
She hits the nail on the head with almost everything after informing us that when the minister tells the nation that free GP care will soon be available to all Irish citizens and that his Government will be launching free medical care for all children almost immediately, these are utter untruths.
When this minister took office in March 2011, one of the first things he did was tell us that he was going to do all the above as well as lots more in the immediate future. The only thing that he did carry out immediately was disband the board of the HSE.
His department still requires €12bn per annum in spending alone, of which over 65pc is spent on staff wages and salaries.
In March 2011 he informed us of his plan to introduce a ‘Dutch model’ to Ireland. Twenty months later it has become apparent that the only thing remotely close to Holland that the minister has done is spout ‘Double Dutch’.
Ms O’Hora compares the minister’s public statements to a scene from ‘Father Ted’ involving dreams and reality with Father Dougal.
While I acknowledge this humorous line, I am afraid that I cannot agree with Ms O’Hora as this comparison is a gross insult to Fr Dougal’s intelligence.
James Campbell
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon
Irish Independent

Busy day

September 24, 2013

24 September 2013 Busy day

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to rescue the Admirals barge with the Admirals still on it Priceless.
Piano in road, pallet of books arrive, chop 3 ash trees start apple wine
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and gets under over 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


Nick Robinson
Nick Robinson, who has died aged 58, created one of Britain’s last genuinely independent publishing houses, Constable & Robinson, with particular strengths in modern fiction, “cosy crime” and psychology.

6:50PM BST 23 Sep 2013
His Victorian ancestor, Henry Tate, had achieved success by purchasing a German patent to make sugar cubes; Robinson brought the same entrepreneurial zeal to books. He spotted opportunities and gaps, broadening into new areas — from China and supermarkets to e-books and websites (he was responsible for setting up, a site for car-buyers).
As a result, he survived and thrived in an era especially difficult for independent publishers, and showed how an old firm could adapt. “In some paradoxical way,” he said only recently, “there’s never been a better time to be a small publisher.”
Though deeply literary, Robinson was no traditional literary publisher. He rarely thought in terms of individual books, but in terms of lists. Just as John Murray depended on Kennedy’s Latin Primer to fund its other titles, so the Mammoth books of True Crime, Horror and Science Fiction enabled Robinson to build up a formidable operation.
Yet the business did not dominate his life . Rather it was a means to get out of the office and on to the grouse moor near Cambusmore, a Scottish estate on the coast near Golspie where he spent many summers; and latterly, in to the woods around Wardour, Wiltshire, with a Harris hawk called Jess clamped to his wrist. If there was an individual book that gave him most pleasure to publish, it was probably The Doomsday Book of Giant Salmon.
Nicholas John Winwood Robinson was born on February 18 1955 in Cheltenham, the second son of Major ERW Robinson, MC, and Prudence (neé Arthur), and grew up at Moor Wood farm outside Cirencester. He was educated at Winchester, where he was expelled from the college fishing club for laying night-lines on Meads, and for using “bombers” — huge (and illicit) lures.
Academically a slow-burner, he liked to tell how he got into Cambridge to read Archaeology and Anthropology by memorising a learned essay on King John by his fellow Wykehamist Christopher Vajda (now a European Court judge). At Downing College, he changed to History of Art under David Watkin.
The death of his mother when he was 21 left an all-male household at Moor Wood. After his father’s death in 1985, a second home was Essex House at Little Badminton, where his great-uncle, the diarist James Lees-Milne, lived. “Nick is the best man in the world, and the human being I am now most fond of,” Lees-Milne wrote in his journal. “His very presence does me good. He arrived like a breath of fresh Scotch air. In a neatly-fitted tweed suit.” Lees-Milne gave him intellectual guidance and stimulation, and introductions to the London publishing scene which were invaluable in the late 1970s.
Through Lees-Milne’s contacts, Robinson worked for Denys Sutton at the art magazine Apollo (1978-79) and for Norah Smallwood at Chatto & Windus (1979-82). He set up his own imprint after three years with the book packagers Breslich & Foss (1982-85).
He founded Robinson Publishing in 1983, operating out of his one-bedroom flat in Shepherd Market, Mayfair. His formula was simple: to repackage and republish out-of-copyright classics, such as HE Bates’s In the Heart of the Country, and to pan through the detritus of the big publishers. An early Robinson author was the neglected Boston crime-writer George V Higgins, who flew to London, keen to be shown Robinson’s premises.
Finally admitted into the Robinson bedsit, Higgins looked around, and seeing a rotting pheasant hanging outside the bathroom and two spaniels, said: “I need a drink.” Robinson then invited him to the Flyfishers’ Club for lunch .
An important break came in 1989 when Robinson met Guy Parr, founder of Parragon , which distributed titles to Asda and Sainsbury. Parr had grown up on a Liverpool council estate and had to fight to get into the business: “Nick was the first person in the publishing establishment who was prepared to listen to me, and one of the first to see the potential of getting books into supermarkets.” Through Parr, Robinson sold, in prodigious quantities, the cheapest complete works of Shakespeare in the English-speaking world (for £1.99), and the mini Oxford English Dictionary (for 99p), which sold 1.5 million copies.
Another stroke of luck was Robinson’s meeting in Frankfurt with the New York publisher Herman Graf, who agreed to take any Mammoth title in America. Together they published more than 90, of which The Mammoth Book of True Crime, compiled by Colin Wilson, was the most successful; it remains in print.
One of the earliest British publishers into China in the 1990s, Robinson secured the UK rights to the novel Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui, which was banned in China. It sold more than 200,000 copies, and with the proceeds Robinson was able to secure the future of Britain’s oldest independent publisher, Constable & Co, which he bought to create Constable & Robinson.
Robinson was wary of fiction, partly because he saw how much could be wasted in large advances. He veered away from trophy authors, not least because he was bankrolling the company from his own pocket . A fundamentally modest and private man, the trophies he came to cherish were the Bookseller Industry Awards in 2012 for Independent Publisher of the Year and Digital Publisher of the Year.
In 2009 Robinson was diagnosed with colon cancer, which he fought with courage and without self-pity.
In 1990 Nick Robinson married (dissolved) Alice Webb, who survives him with their son and daughter. In 2010 he married Nova Jayne Heath, who becomes chair of the board.
Nick Robinson, born February 18 1955, died August 30 2013


Robert Newman takes incomplete quotations out of context and selects his facts in order to construct a straw man to argue against (Don’t panic over people, 23 September). It is disingenuous to misquote David Attenborough as saying it is ” ‘barmy’ to send food to Africa”, when he actually said that it was barmy to imagine that this alone would be enough to end hunger there if, at the same time, not enough is done to tackle the problem of population growth. 
Whether one chooses to call a projected growth of the world’s population to 10 billion by the end of the century an “explosion” or not is a semantic choice, one which does not add or subtract any number from the total. That fertility rates are falling is well-known and understood by all those expressing concern over population growth, and the UN projections take this fully into account.
Newman is neither adding facts to the debate nor contradicting anyone’s calculations when he draws attention to it. Perhaps he does not realise that a fall in fertility rate takes a long time to lead to a fall in birth rate, especially where there has been a previous high growth rate (this is because there are so many young people yet to have children – a phenomenon called demographic momentum). 
In any case, fertility rates fall because people have access to contraception and education. Given that more of both is exactly what campaigners like Attenborough call for, drawing attention to how successful this has been so far is hardly an argument against spreading these benefits further.
Chris Padley

In her account of Grayson Perry’s Reith lecture about the workings of the art world, Deborah Orr (21 September) describes how the art market operates as a “formidable cartel”, and advises us to recognise it as a “gargantuan practical refutation” of the idea that only free markets create economic growth. She’s probably right. But by bringing money into it, as usual, she is once again pointing a finger at the wrong bad guys.
The real problem with the art world is not the money men scavenging in its wake – they’ve always been there – but the pirates who’ve taken over the ship. I am thinking of course of that awful art world species: the curator. When I started writing about art, there were no curators. Now they are everywhere. They go to the same biennales; speak the same meaningless art language; and control the art world from within by privileging their creativity ahead of the artist’s. For 5,000 years art survived perfectly well without curators. Now they are its gate keepers.
What we need is a revolution, akin to the impressionist revolution in 19th-century France. Just as the impressionists overthrew the salon and put artists back at the centre of the art world, so someone out there needs to overthrow the Tate empire. Come on Hackney. Rise up.
Waldemar Januszczak
• In addition to the advantages libraries bestow (What libraries do for us, 23 Sept), you can add the findings published in the journal Research Stratification and Mobility (2010), which found that having books around the house, even unread, correlated with how many years of schooling a child will complete. Living with 500 or more books was as great an advantage of having university-educated parents. Given children are more likely now to have sight of e-readers than books and parents who can’t afford to go to university, where else but libraries can they be immersed in books?
Anne Strachan

So, 48 NHS England bosses earn more than David Cameron, (Report, 20 September), the highest being paid £211,249. Well, fancy that. Last month 740 partners at Deloitte UK each took home an average £772,000 in the year to the end of May, the highest being £2.7m (Report, 12 August). Well, fancy that. Why do we pay NHS managers and the prime minister peanuts when compared to bean-counters?
Rev Barry Parker
• You note that not enough is done to mark the history of the labour movement (In praise of…, 23 September) and mention a few unnoticed anniversaries. The Labour party is, I hope, ready to mark an imminent centenary that merits equal attention. Next year Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – a book known to have influenced George Orwell, among many others – will have been continuously in print for a hundred years.
Gerry Abbott
• I’ve a lot of time for Benjamin Disraeli (Letters, 21 September ) – he did, after all, refer to a Conservative government as an “organised hypocrisy”.
David Kenrick
Widnes, Lancashire
• Perhaps political parties need all stop fretting about gender balance among MPs (Where are the Lib Dems’ women? 19 September) and legislate to ensure parliament’s balance represents that of the whole country – slightly more women than men.
Andrew Kitchen
Kessingland, Suffolk
• The Lib Dems are unhappy about their low percentage of women MPs. The Green party is delighted to have reached 100%.
Maurice George
Ormskirk, Lancashire
• Years ago an aunt gave my two daughters a Tiny Tears doll for Christmas (Letters, 23 September. You filled these with water and when you squeezed their tummies they did a wee. Imagine my delight in their creativity when, on Boxing Day, I saw them in the garden racing around using their dolls as water pistols.
Kay Ara
Trinity, Jersey

While the eventual U-turn by the Labour party on the bedroom tax is to be welcomed (Editorial, 23 September), it has only taken it six months of confusion, twists and turns to come to a position on what is quite clearly a damaging and unfair tax. Labour was in fact panicked into making this announcement in fear of looming bad headlines over its internal splits. The fact it has taken this long to make any decision, after all the contradictory statements we’ve heard, is evidence that we cannot trust this one.
We know from its history that the party cannot be trusted to keep the policies it is forced into. In 1997 Labour cut single-parent and disability benefits and we know Alistair Darling reneged on a Labour promise to introduce a wind-chill factor to cold-weather payments. The only guaranteed way for Scotland to get rid of the bedroom tax is with independence. Independence will ensure that Scotland’s welfare policy is in Scotland’s hands and allow us to address other punitive welfare cuts from a Tory government we didn’t vote for.
Alex Orr
• Your editorial (20 September) makes a misplaced comparison between the bedroom tax and the poll tax. There were no caps and cuts under the poll tax; benefits were increased to pay it. Last year the coalition proceeded, despite authoritative warnings in parliament, to pass a series of acts which deliberately impose unmanageable debts on poverty incomes. These debts lead to individual and family ill-health, eviction, temporary and overcrowded accommodation, and damage children’s education. It is not only the bedroom tax which is creating these increased costs to the taxpayer in the NHS, schools and wider economy. The £500 overall benefit is cap forcing mothers to pay rent out of the child benefit, because of the 1% freeze on benefit increases for three years, while the prices of necessities escalate.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• It is good to have some respectable research to back up our opinions (Half the families hit by bedroom tax ‘now in debt’, 19 September). The Simon Community has been working with homeless and poor people for 50 years and we are appalled at the cruel imposition of the immoral and ill-thought-out bedroom tax. To impose additional costs on tenants in social housing if they refuse to move to nonexistent smaller properties is as ridiculous as it is indefensible.
The evidence clearly shows that this shameful rule has already pushed tens of thousands of people into rent arrears. It will certainly result in serious debt for tens of thousands more. Inevitably this will end in eviction and destitution for many. It is impossible to quantify the terrible effects of the fear and anxiety which this has brought to social housing tenants – and this includes the working poor and disabled people, as well as the easier-to-stigmatise unemployed. We support the calls from David Orr, chairman of the National Housing Federation; Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary; Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s special rapporteur on housing; and the growing number of other well-informed experts demanding the immediate repeal of this iniquitous measure.
Bob Baker
Director, Simon Community
• I’m puzzled that such a sensible tax, designed to prevent under-occupation of valuable public housing, isn’t to be levied on privately owned dwellings. Surely it’s no less desirable that private dwellings be underused than public. Most of Mayfair, and one large dwelling at the end of the Mall, seem to be seriously underoccupied and a tax, set at a rate reflecting the apparent value of these properties, would both raise revenue while improving the housing market’s efficiency. It’s time that both sides of politics recognised the virtues of this tax, fairly applied.
Adam Thomson
• Your list of good reasons why households might want to have a spare room is not complete. An acquaintance (undoubtedly a Tory supporter) commented to me recently that she could not understand homelessness, for “surely everyone knows someone with a spare room”.
William Solesbury
Research fellow, King’s College London
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Edward Said, the renowned US academic and author of Orientalism, the groundbreaking critique of western colonialism. Jerusalem-born Dr Said fought for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and abhorred violence on both sides. In the 1990s he co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim in an attempt to promote mutual understanding. During his immensely productive period as professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, Said suffered intimidation because of to his unstinting support for Palestinians suffering human rights abuses in the occupied territories. His brilliant essays on the post-colonial world and western foreign policy, together with classical music and literary reviews, found him allies in the form of Noam Chomsky, and high-profile opponents such as the historian Bernard Lewis. At a time when the Middle East is as troubled as ever, the world continues to miss such an informed and eloquent voice for peace and reconciliation.
Andrew Allen

It is now your turn. By holding credible elections earlier this year and through other recent developments, the Iranian government has taken substantial steps towards reform in Iran (Editorial, 20 September). The people of Iran seized the opportunity to elect Hassan Rouhani, a reform-minded lawyer and proponent of normalisation of Iranian international relations. And as a result, we have witnessed the release of several political prisoners and relative progress in the country’s public and political atmosphere over the past weeks. It is often claimed that important decisions in Iran are made, not by the president, but by the supreme leader. But today even the supreme leader is speaking of “heroic flexibility”, and Iran is now united to engage in constructive engagement with the world. 
The promising trends in our country has set the stage for cutting the Gordian knot of more than three decades of Iran-US alienation – and specifically resolving disagreements over Iran’s nuclear programme. In the prospective negotiations, Rouhani and the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, have the support of not only the Iranian government, but also a majority of Iranian voters, as well as a wide spectrum of political and social activists and many political prisoners.
Greater economic and political engagement with the world will be essential in increasing political freedom in Iran. If the US government and the international community fail to seize this golden opportunity, they will aid the cynics of both countries and make it more difficult to believe in the willingness of the US to improve relations. Any success that Rouhani achieves in foreign policy will help his domestic agenda in opening the political, social and economic spheres.
Mr President,We call upon you to take advantage of Rouhani’s presence in New York to repair Iran-US relations and improve the regional prospects for peace which requires further cooperation between the two countries. This is an important historical opportunity that must not be exhausted. It is now the turn of the US, and that of the international community, to reciprocate Iran’s measures of goodwill and pursue a win-win strategy that encompasses the lifting of the unjust economic sanctions on Iran.
Asghar Farhadi, Saeed Hajjarian, Sadeq Zibakalam, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Isa Saharkhiz, Ali Shakourirad, Masoud Behnood, Alireza Alavitabar, Zahra Eshraghi, Trita Parsi, Ahmad Shirzad, Saeed Shariati, Nazanin Khosravani, Parisa Bakhtavar, Mostafa Malekian
For a full list see:
• Now that Syria has agreed to get rid of its chemical weapons (Report, 19 September), an opportunity has arisen to achieve a WMD-free Middle East. Iran would be the first to agree, given its bitter memories of having been at the receiving end of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons. This will require the west, in particular the United States, to pressure Israel into joining the chemical weapons convention and giving up its nuclear weapons.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
• And when will Israel allow its courageous whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, to leave the country?
Benedict Birnberg
Ernest Rodker


‘Militarily speaking, Britain is not important enough to deserve a “pre-emptive” blow’
Sir, I was surprised to read former high-ranking officers and defence secretaries (letter, Sept 19) claiming that the Liberal Democrat policy of equipping submarines with nuclear missiles only in an international crisis “could provoke a pre-emptive strike against us”.
These gentlemen seem to operate on the assumption that in such a hypothetical crisis the Royal Navy would be a major player — a thought which is so far fetched that it is likely to inspire more Russian jokes about insignificant but conceited little islands. If ever we find ourselves in a crisis involving serious nuclear powers (rather than rogue regimes and terrorist plots), what matters is what the US forces do, not how rapidly we equip our few submarines with nuclear missiles.
Militarily speaking, Britain is not important enough to deserve a “pre-emptive” blow, and if ever we are attacked by a superpower, this would be after the forces of our allies have been all but vanquished. At that undesirable point, rather than a pre-emptive strike, such enemy attack would be a coup de grace, which is, metaphorically speaking, what the post-imperial delusions of these former strategists would deserve.
Eugenio F. Biagini
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge

Sir, Thinking about nuclear deterrence, as the late Sir Michael Quinlan argued, is “in a strict sense speculative”. It is based on particular ‘beliefs’ and judgment, not on absolute certainty. Quinlan was perhaps our most influential and deepest thinker on nuclear weapons during the past 40 years.
He would have joined Lord Robertson and his colleagues (letter, Sept 19) in challenging the Liberal Democrat ideas about the efficacy of their ideas of “virtual deterrence”. He saw a “formidable difficulty” in such ideas and he would have wanted to know the details of such things as how nuclear warheads would be stored and the dangers of re-assembly during a crisis. At the same time, however, he was acutely aware of the very serious tensions between policies of nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation.
In a book, published shortly before his death, Quinlan argued that “it cannot be right to acquiesce uncritically, for the rest of human history, in a system that maintains peace between potential adversaries partly by the threat of colossal disaster”. He accepted that we would have to live with nuclear weapons, but he was anxious to think about new ideas. In particular, he wanted to see an open and honest debate about the alternatives to past policies. We would do well to follow that advice, not dismissing out of hand alternative nuclear policies, and challenging the “beliefs” we all hold.
Professor John Baylis
Mumbles, Swansea

Sir, The claims of those now supporting the reinforcement of
our nuclear armoury that this policy would maintain our strategic security are spurious. Has this intended happy state in fact been achieved to date or has the only significant direct consequence of our nuclear armament been
that half a dozen other nations have felt it necessary to acquire and develop their own ? Has this investment and massive diversion of resources really established a safer world? No.
Anthony Winters
Hoghton, Lancs


‘Both protagonists present an argument that appears to be convincing to those of us who don’t have the time or opportunity to check out the facts for ourselves’
Sir, The debate on climate change has degenerated into little more than a dialogue of the deaf (report, Sept 19 & letters, Sept 23). Supporters of the view that the actions of man are making the planet warmer ignore the strong and reasonable arguments put forward by their opponents, accusing them of not looking at the evidence. The climate change deniers fail to acknowledge the strength of the opposite case and put forward their own point of view, with a few swipes at any weaknesses in the other case.
Both protagonists present an argument that appears to be convincing to those of us who don’t have the time or opportunity to check out the facts for ourselves. Both have their followings, based more on temperament than on science.
The view of those who believe in climate change is supported by those to whom it comes naturally to trust experts and by those who believe that Western lifestyles are damaging the planet. The deniers win support from those who distrust bandwagons and who believe that we are all being taken for a ride by experts and politicians.
If both sides engaged with the stronger aspects of their opponents’ arguments, we might get somewhere.
Henry Haslam

The frequency of binge drinking among unemployed people who are not abstainers has increased, by almost two-thirds
Sir, In your report on “drunk-tanks” (Sept 21), you quote a nightclub owner who reports seeing more drunkenness since the recession. By coincidence, the previous day we published a study in the European Journal of Public Health showing how, although overall alcohol consumption in England has fallen since the start of the recession, the frequency of binge drinking among unemployed people who are not abstainers has increased, by almost two-thirds. As the police constable you interviewed noted, the idea of privatised “drunk-tanks” has not been thought through and would fall at the first hurdle of creating a plausible business plan. Instead we should focus on the one policy that would work, minimum unit pricing. It is unfortunate that, in this case, the government is determined to ignore the evidence.
Professor Martin Mckee, CBE
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr David Stuckler
Department of Sociology, University of Oxford

Sir There is no need to finance drunk tanks or extra policing. Instead, just restore the licensing hours in place before the last government’s daft idea of creating a “cafe society”.
Ian Robertson
Falmouth, Cornwall

Circular wards in hospitals have been tried before, but could cause confusion among new arrivals on the medical staff
Sir, Circular wards also featured at the general hospital in Nottingham, with the fittest patient in the bed in the nurses’ blind spot on the other side of the central chimney (letter, Sept 21). To add to my confusion on arrival as a very green registrar the identical appearance of the ward was enhanced by the sisters on male and female wards being identical twins.
When I was a houseman I was in charge of two Nightingale wards, one above the other for males and females. If we wished to use more beds than standard, we put them down the middle of the ward. Privacy was minimal but you didn’t get overlooked.
Robin Hughes
East Owell, Devon


The dining car of the much-loved Brighton Belle was elegant and refined, with the possible exception of when the train took a fast bend
Sir, The breakfast catering on the much-loved and lamented Brighton Belle was both splendid and comical in equal measure (Daniel Finkelstein, Sept 21, letter, Sept 23). The napery and decoration on each of the tables in the elegant dining car were always just so, the waiters deft and all tricked out in their neat little boleros, while every favourite hot option – including kippers – was constantly available. But there was a problem: because the journey between London and Brighton, even in those days, was such a brief one, by the time the meal was served, practically no one had time to actually eat the thing.
The final laugh was reserved for when the train hit the bends just before Brighton station, whereupon recent refills of tea and coffee would slop out of the china cups and all over the white and starchy tablecloths, as well as down the fronts of the unwary. The good news is that quite a few carriages from this legendary train have since been incorporated into the privately operated British Pullman and Northern Belle – and aboard both the catering is quite superb.
Joseph Connolly
London NW3


SIR – This month, the BBC’s excellent drama The Wipers Times reminded me that my mother, then Lilian Watson of Aylesbury, went to Rouen in 1917 as part of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps to work in the Army records office.
Her main motivation was to find my father, serving with the 1st Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire regiment, who had been posted as missing but was in fact left for dead in no man’s land on the Somme. He was picked up from a shell hole by a German patrol and hospitalised.
While she was in Rouen, my mother also joined a concert party that performed for the troops in the theatre, when it was said that “her legs were the toast of Rouen”.
Their performances were organised by Cecil Watson, whose brother was the music hall entertainer known as Nosmo King.
Jeremy Wheeler
Byfield, Northamptonshire

SIR – The intention of the Ministry of Justice to “defend vigorously” the decision to re-inter Richard III in Leicester Cathedral is welcome (report, September 18). Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, is under no legal obligation to consult, or seek the consent of, anyone, because the remains are over 100 years old.
In any case, whom should he consult? He cannot consult Richard’s descendants for none exist; Edward, Prince of Wales, the only child of his marriage to Anne Neville, died in April, 1484, probably before his 10th and certainly before his 11th birthday.
Members of the Plantagenet Alliance can perhaps claim descent from Richard’s siblings, but they must be a tiny minority of millions scattered across the globe who would be able to claim similar descent. So far, they have never produced any authority to speak on behalf of anyone except themselves, so why should their views be given stronger weight than others?
The last drama in the tumultuous reign of Richard III was played out in Leicestershire and it is appropriate, and in accordance with good archaeological practice, that he be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral – this time with all due dignity.
Robert Ingle
Related Articles
Entertaining troops in wartime music halls
23 Sep 2013
SIR – The Justice Department ought not to be backing any one claimant for the burial place for the remains of Richard III, nor ought it to be decided by judicial review. The obvious person to make the decision is the Queen.
John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
SIR – May I point out that Richard III was a practising Roman Catholic and would, almost certainly, have attended Mass and taken Communion on the morning of the battle of Bosworth where he died. As he would have regarded the Anglican Church, and therefore both York and Leicester Cathedrals, as heretical, it would seem that neither are suitable sites for his grave.
Logically, the best place for his tomb to be placed would be Westminster Cathedral.
Peter Williams
Newbury, Berkshire
SIR – To spare King Richard from being involved in another war, I suggest he should be buried close to where he was born – Fotheringhay’s magnificent collegiate church in Northamptonshire. He was born in the castle nearby, but that, like so much of England’s history, has been destroyed. Leicester Cathedral is one of the new ones, created in 1926, and it was once part of the diocese of Peterborough, in which Fotheringhay firmly sits.
Rev David Saint
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire
SIR – King Solomon would order that the remains of Richard III be cremated, and that half of the ashes be buried in Leicester and the other half in Yorkshire.
Sandy Pratt
Lingfield, Surrey
Scottish debts
SIR – Malcolm Parkin (Letters, September 21) identifies a problem with the national debt in the event of Scottish independence. The question is – who has the problem?
If the £1 trillion debt is divided pro rata, then, as he correctly says, Scotland has a debt of £100 billion, which leaves the rest of the UK with a debt of £900 billion.
There is estimated to be about £1.5 trillion worth of recoverable offshore oil and gas, the bulk of which lies in Scottish waters. If Mr Parkin were an international financier, whom would he lend money to?
Dr J M Morrison
SIR – Roger Hannaford (Letters, September 21) asks why a 70-year-old Englishman cannot decide the fate of the nation when a 16-year-old in Scotland can. The answer is obvious: England does not have a Parliament of its own but relies on the UK Parliament to manage its affairs for it.
If you want free prescriptions, free universities or a referendum on independence for England, then roll up your sleeves and get your own Parliament.
Steve McIntosh
Johnstone, Renfrewshire
SIR – If we are ever allowed a referendum on our membership of the EU, would Roger Hannaford expect citizens of all its member states to vote in it?
Joseph B Fox
Redhill, Surrey
Blood diamonds
SIR – The Government’s decision to support lifting the ban on the sale of diamonds from Zimbabwe (report, September 19) is deeply wrong. Not only is it wrong in principle, given the bloody history of the Marange diamond fields, but, by destroying the reputation of the diamond market in Europe, it will have damaging impacts on countries such as Botswana, which has an exemplary diamond industry, and Sierra Leone, which has changed dramatically from its terrible past. Who will buy a diamond ring that is tainted by blood?
Euan Nisbet
Egham, Surrey
SIR – Since the Fifties, successive British governments have had very little understanding of how Africa works. The decision to allow Zimbabwe’s diamonds to be sold in the EU bears out this notion.
T T Walton
North Curry, Somerset
Plebgate delay
SIR – Dan Hodges writes that the “Plebgate” inquiry is taking too long (“And still Andrew Mitchell waits for justice”, Comment, September 19). Why should Mr Mitchell be treated any differently because he is an MP? Twelve months isn’t long compared with some of the Operation Yewtree cases. Moreover, cases heard by the Medical and Nursing Councils can take up to four or five years.
Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire
SIR – When will the Chilcot Inquiry report on Iraq be published?
Jim Smith
Canterbury, Kent
Deficient diary
SIR – Some make unmemorable diary entries on memorable days (Letters, September 19), but no one could outdo Louis XVI, who, on July 14 1789, the day that the Bastille was stormed, entered one word in his diary: “Rien.”
Helen Johnson
London N7
Overpopulation truths
SIR – Sir David Attenborough is right – Ethiopia is a good example of what happens if we supply food to a country and fail to address the root cause of the problem: overpopulation (report, September 18). In 1984 there was famine in Ethiopia. Huge efforts were made to supply food to the hungry. In 2011 there was again famine. But the population that was 40 million in 1984 had grown to 80 million in the intervening years. The result of delivering aid in 1984 was a much larger number of hungry people 27 years later.
Stabilising the population in such a country is difficult, but it can be done. It requires government action to establish family planning, and special clinics for children under five, as well as a change in social custom which enables boys and girls to have equal education opportunities.
Dr John Moor
Petersfield, Hampshire
Awaiting HS2
SIR – The HS2 debate was given some meaning for me recently. A closure of the East Coast Main Line due to a not-uncommon failure of its electrification infrastructure forced me to take a Manchester train from Euston up the West Coast Main Line.
HS2 cannot come a moment too soon, and should serve not just Birmingham but the north of England and Scotland, too. The Virgin Pendolino trains are cramped and claustrophobic and offer minimal views out to the countryside. They are the result of designing the fastest possible train for the existing route’s loading gauge and alignment. I hope I never have to use one again.
At a point not far north of Birmingham, even the Pendolino is reduced to a 19th-century speed through endless sharp curves. The country that gave the world the railway should offer better than this in both comfort and timing.
Neil Ruddock
Middleton, Co Durham
Festive summer
SIR – The early references to Christmas (Letters, September 21) make the words of the singer Paddy Roberts sound prophetic.
In the second verse of his 1962 record Merry Christmas You Suckers, Roberts refers to falling for Christmas a bit sooner each year. He then warns: “If it goes on like this you’ll find pretty soon you’ll be singing White Christmas in the middle of June.”
David Bennett
Hove, East Sussex
A bedtime story to thrill (and frighten) children
SIR – Your readers seem to have such rosy recollections of childhood storytelling (Letters, September 18). My father conjured up for my brother and me a pair of ghouls who operated a crude canning factory in the disused bunker of a local airfield.
Here, they used to process small children. I think one of them had chainsaws for arms. We were terrified and thrilled in equal measure – I still can’t pass the airfield without a shudder.
Dominic Weston Smith
Faringdon, Oxfordshire
SIR – My children always enjoyed the numerous Brer Rabbit stories told, from memory, by grandad, as he, granny, and our three all squeezed together in a 4ft 6in bed in the morning.
The children all knew it was time to get up when he told them the story of Brer Rabbit’s tail – it was very short.
Margaret Higgs
Shillingstone, Dorset
SIR – My son was regularly visited by a figure named Black Spot, who obliged him with maps of treasure sites and tales of piratical derring-do. His messages, on faux parchment, came via the bedroom window.
It took a long time for the perpetrator to be uncovered, and even then, my son didn’t really want to know. It would have spoilt everything.
Anthony Barlow
Kingsbridge, Devon
SIR – My two boys were brought up listening to stories about a mythical elephant named YoYo, who shadowed our family around the world. He skied in Austria, surfed in Cornwall, visited Penang, discovered digital clocks, defeated Moriarty and gave the boys a love of stories.
He then became a friend to my granddaughters; one of whom has added to the tales.
Robin Croslegh
Bideford, Devon

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Minister for Justice (September 23rd) does not mention the cost of the proposed new court of appeal.
To put an extra court in place on the basis that there is a backlog to be cleared looks a little like arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Can the Minister guarantee us that this extra court will not itself become part of the problem rather than the hoped for solution?
While a simple solution to a complex problem may seem attractive, a complex response, which may take time, is normally more effective. Regarding institutional change, it may also be worth considering that if we always do what we always did we will always get what we always got. – Yours, etc,
Clancy Road,

Sir, – The Minister for Justice (September 23rd) does not mention the cost of the proposed new court of appeal.
To put an extra court in place on the basis that there is a backlog to be cleared looks a little like arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Can the Minister guarantee us that this extra court will not itself become part of the problem rather than the hoped for solution?
While a simple solution to a complex problem may seem attractive, a complex response, which may take time, is normally more effective. Regarding institutional change, it may also be worth considering that if we always do what we always did we will always get what we always got. – Yours, etc,
Clancy Road,

Sir, – An easy narrative for journalists to hang their opinions on for this dispute is: pesky teachers in secure jobs ask broke nation for money. It is more complex than that. Few teachers expect pay cuts to be reversed because of industrial action. Then why take action?
First, ASTI teachers don’t trust the Government. Croke Park was meant to run to the end of this year – not July. They trust even less this Government promising what the next government will do, in 2018.
Second, acceptance of Haddington Road means de facto acceptance of the new Junior Certificate, with its incumbent problems. Does anybody believe teachers can be fully objective in marking their own students? Will a Gonzaga school cert really be equal to that of a disadvantaged VEC?
Third, with the erosion of management posts in schools and a plethora of initiatives from Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, we want the pause button pressed so we can concentrate on teaching/discipline and not some poorly resourced initiative.
Lastly, we are tired of bully-boy deals: accept this or we will make things worse for you.
I look forward to a more truthful narrative but I won’t hold my breath. – Yours, etc,
Killarney Road,

Sir, – A minor win. . . a major loss. – Yours, etc,
Mill Street,
Co Mayo.
Sir, – Mayo minors win and Enda Kenny is all smiles as the Tom Markham cup is presented. Happy story!
Wherefore our leader when Sam Maguire is presented? Enda story! – Yours, etc,
Roncalli Road,
Sir, – The article by Una Mullally over-simplifies the terrible crime of rape (Opinion, September 23rd). She states that most violent crimes against women are committed by men: this is probably very true, but then it is also innocent other men who are most at risk of attack by violent men.
In saying other men have the power to stop violent crime, the article does not say how this is to achieved. It is as if she believes these crimes are discussed in advance with other men and that they somehow fail to intervene to save the victim. The men I know all abhor violence and would listen to any advice to be vigilant in certain areas of our cities, I don’t believe this is gender specific.
The very low conviction rate in rape cases is quoted, but it is a very hard crime to obtain a guilty verdict as it is usually one person’s word against another, without a witness. The juries are often comprised of at least 50 per cent females in rape cases, so unless the courts are expected to find everyone guilty, I am not sure how this is to be resolved. – Yours, etc,
Church Street,
Skerries, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Dan O’Brien’s commentary on President Higgins (September 20th) is something of a surprise. So, President Higgins has been a champion of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. What else did he expect?
President Higgins has been a prophetic voice and his message has been consistent throughout his public career. He has also been scrupulous in upholding his constitutional obligations while remaining faithful to his promises.
As far as Michael D Higgins is concerned we have never had to ask the question posed by Woodie Guthrie “Which Side are You On?”. For that, I for one am grateful. – Yours, etc,
Larkin Hedge School,
Spencer House, Dublin 1.
Sir, – I second Dr Aidan Regan’s comment that “President Higgins should be commended for his bravery to confront the intellectual hubris that accompanied this (. . reckless behaviour of private market actors).”, (Letters, September 21st). I look forward to the day when he will show the same critical courage in relation to his neoLaboural converts to the same unreformed and disastrous ideological conformity. The breath is not being held. – Yours, etc,
Castleview Estate,
Headford, Co Galway.
Sir, – Dan O’Brien (“Presidency ill-served by economic partisanship”, September 20th) displays an economist’s partisanship in his failure to address the central arguments of President Higgins’s recent speech.
This speech was given in a DCU series titled Ethics for All, and yet O’Brien mentions the ethical dimension only in passing. The speech explored the values and choices that underlie the dominant economic discourse.
The President offered a critique of the supposedly value-free character of economics, drawing on the observations of Emile Durkheim (not in O’Brien’s listing of dubious characters the President cited approvingly) on the social sciences of over a century ago. He drew attention to the quantification bias in current economics and made a “contentious assertion” that economics might be better considered a craft rather than a science.
The President observed, following Nobel prize-winner Amartya Sen (also not in O’Brien’s listing), that Adam Smith (ditto) has been misrepresented; his writings on morality have been neglected in consideration of his economic theory.
The President is a public intellectual and serves his office and the people well by offering a critique of ideas that shape our society. – Yours, etc,
Griffith Avenue,
Dublin 11.

Sir, – I see that the chimes at St Bartholomew’s church have been silenced because somebody thinks they are too loud (Front page, September 21st). I live about 100 yards from them and I really like them, night and day.
Even if I didn’t, surely the fact that they got here more than 130 years before me, gives them greater right to continue as they are. – Yours, etc,
Clyde Lane,

Sir, – Raise a glass to Arthur, eh? While the Protestant ascendant’s main contribution to society was to get them drunk, why not toast our real historic heroes, such as Charles Stewart Parnell or Daniel O’Connell, for instance? – Yours, etc,
Haddon Park,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – I am trying to put two and two together. We officially have among the highest suicide rates in Europe for young men. We have a serious binge drinking problem among young adults.
I thought the drug, alcohol was a depressant.
Ah sure, it’s only a bit of craic! Happy Arthur’s Day. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* The current news and economic headlines seem to be an urgent list of needs and quick-fix panaceas:
Also in this section
Violence part of history
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
1. ‘Payments to the poorer sections of society are to be revisited’ or ‘Coalition considers cap on welfare’.
2. ‘The banks dictate to Government what is right or wrong.’
3. ‘The newly created PIPs have different approaches to plebian and professional classes. A solicitor or doctor must have a physical locus in society in keeping with his/her perceived status.’
All of these opinions are aired as if such concepts are original.
However, 600 years ago, the first international banker and politician, Cosimo De Medici, clearly articulated these modern articles of faith in Florence, Italy.
Cosimo said: “Even if money could be made by waving a wand, I would still want to be a banker because banking involves manipulation, risk and power.”
In 1427, Florence proposed a law that implied that, for the future, the imposition of taxes would depend on the ability to pay. Until then only the plebs paid taxes.
The city had two currencies, one for the poor – a silver coin called the piccioli – and one for the rich – a gold coin called the florin.
The piccioli was used for paying plebs, weavers, workers and shopkeepers. The merchants and the bankers who controlled coin minting reduced the amount of silver in the piccioli so that, based on the intrinsic value of the silver, the relative value moved in 100 years from seven piccioli to 140 piccioli for a gold florin.
The government of Florence understood money will not stay still. If a worker managed to save money, the law must discourage him from frittering it away.
The laws prevented the workers having more than two courses in restaurants. No clothes could have more than one colour unless you were a knight or his lady, a lawyer or doctor. The lower orders were prevented from spending themselves into poverty. These are merely examples of consumer manipulation; nothing new in that. It did not work then either.
Finally, Florence had to introduce a wealth tax. Cosimo instructed the managers of his banks to create fake accounts to limit the damage of the tax. It worked. Cosimo’s bank lasted 100 years. It is no wonder Ruairi Quinn is trying to remove history from the school curriculum.
Hugh Duffy
Aughrusmore, Cleggan, Co Galway
* Pope Francis says: “See everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little.” He sounds like he worked in the Central Bank or the Financial Regulator’s Office pre-2008.
While everybody has their own style of doing things, one wonders would the Jesus Christ of the Gospels do likewise?
Liam Cooke
Coolock, Dublin 17
* We are told we are exiting the recession and Finance Minister Michael Noonan said we won’t be throwing the hats up in the air yet.
But many of us can’t even afford the hat so we don’t even have one to throw up, not with all the VAT we pay on our food, drink, shoes, clothes, fuel – and hats, of course – and to top it all, bills at 23pc VAT.
Now who could put up with all of that, only the common citizens of Ireland, of course, who the Government squeeze for every last cent for the VAT, VAT, VAT.
Can anybody lend me a hat just in case I miss the recession exit date?
Kathleen Ryan
* Enough of these woolly arguments, let’s focus on where our parliamentary problems, and the solution to them, lie.
Time for backbench TDs to realise what every schoolboy knows, that they are animals with a backbone and spine who should stand upright.
This is what needs to happen if they are to have a meaningful role in parliament.
I am not naive enough to think it will happen overnight but there are more “rebels” now than ever before and the number is growing.
To argue that the problems in the Dail can be solved by reforming the Seanad makes about as much sense as saying that you should respond to the low BER rating of your house by insulating the garden shed!
Brendan Casserly
Abbeybridge, Waterfall, Cork
* The Seanad has been called by many names – from being elitist to being a hibernation nest for failed TDs.
Many of the reasons for scrapping it are weak and negative ones and the implications of doing so, regardless of how desperate the public are to see savings delivered, could be serious.
According to Labour senator John Whelan’s analysis, scrapping the Seanad would save less than €5m a year.
The Government, however, is adamant it would save €20m, which many experts doubt.
I say save the Seanad, on the understanding that a drastic overhaul and complete reform are essential to deliver the required savings.
The Upper House, despite being a relic of the old ascendancy days, is, nevertheless, still a historic emblem of considerable prestige that helps sell Ireland and its produce internationally.
The number of Seanad seats could be reduced to 50, with at least one senator for each county.
Members, all of varied professional or proved business ability, must be directly elected by the public.
Apart from its general obligations and acting as watchdog on the Dail, one of the Seanad’s main portfolios should be job creation.
In the long term, to provide real savings, the Dail will need similar reform to conform with other countries by reducing the number of deputies from 160 to at least 100, for a start.
This would save around €15m annually on just salaries and expenses.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* In response to Dr A Rogers’s letter (Irish Independent, September 19) stating the irrefutable evidence of the existence of God, I would ask: exactly what evidence is that?
While we hear that the theory of evolution is completely ridiculous and isn’t backed up by any ‘philosophical and metaphysical’ proofs, I can’t help but notice a great lack of examples proving the existence of a higher power in Dr Rogers’s letter.
It’s almost as if he is unable to give us these foolproof pieces of evidence because they, like God, probably do not exist.
On the other hand, Dr Rogers must be blind to be able to ignore the mountains of evidence that back up evolution, the most obvious being the fossils of extinct creatures petrified in different geological layers of rock, but also in the differences in animals of the same species alive today, such as the finches and tortoises that Charles Darwin noticed on his trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Even the evolution of hundreds of breeds of dog from a single breed of wolf should be compelling proof of the merit of Darwin’s theory.
I’m not going to say that the theory of evolution is flawless.
We will never know with 100pc certainty what has happened over the billions of years in the life of our planet.
However, as far as proof goes, Dr Rogers, Darwin has much more merit than God.
Ross Walsh
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Irish Independent

Another quiet day

September 23, 2013

23 September 2013 Another Quiet day

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to take the Army to Belgium and Pertwee meet his army equivalent. Priceless.
Sweep the drive, read my Doctor Who
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets under over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Michael Crouch
Michael Crouch, who has died aged 78, joined the Aden Political Service in 1958 just as Britain’s control of the world’s second largest port was being shaken by a general strike and Arab nationalism.

Crouch (centre, wearing dark glasses) on patrol in the desert 
6:35PM BST 22 Sep 2013
Crouch began in the Eastern protectorate capital Mukalla, where boys were already shouting “Long live Nasser” in the streets and his clerk preferred being in the office to being at home with four pregnant wives. Having learned Arabic and how to eat a goat’s heart, Crouch set out to tour the Northern Deserts, a sparsely populated frontier area where every man had a rifle and borders were disputed. Accompanied by a cook, driver and orderly, plus a platoon of Hadhrami Bedouin soldiers with poor shooting skills, he had two major tasks: to call on local sultans to ensure that they did not deal in slaves or make war on each other; and to protect the oil exploration company Petroleum Concessions and, after it left, to keep the water wells working for the local population.
The job was not that dangerous, which suited a man who liked to regard himself as a professional coward. When a company convoy was fired on, Crouch summoned the miscreants, and when that failed and the roar of RAF Meteors overhead proved no more effective, he solved the problem by ordering three deserted forts to be blown up. He successfully dispatched a patrol which captured 17 camel raiders from Yemen, and later, when 30 others were cornered with their loot sheltering behind their camels, he had to shoot the wounded beasts after the skirmish.
On transferring to the Western protectorate’s capital at Al Ittihad, he found that the peace was being kept by keeni-meeni (jiggery pokery), which meant giving tribesmen rifles and ammunition. A welcome change came with his appointment as deputy leader of a six-week expedition to capture oryx, the antelope once familiar throughout the Arabian peninsula but which was in danger of extinction.
On leave in Britain, Crouch bought an MGA Mk2 sports coupe which reached 117mph on the newly opened M1 motorway. He also met his future wife, Lynette Waudby.
But growing hostility encouraged by anti-colonial pressure in the United Nations caused support for Britain to continue to ebb away. Desert patrols became increasingly large affairs with federal troops and Royal Marines (who could shoot straight). Crouch had to use his negotiating skills to remove some men who had been wounded when lost on the Yemen side of the border.
By 1967 Crouch was accompanied everywhere by an SAS bodyguard, and his residences were regularly subjected to rifle or machine-gun fire — though turning off the lights off and taking cover was usually sufficient. But he had one particularly narrow shave when an anti-tank missile destroyed the telephone he had just been using, catapulting him on to his wife and baby son; the boy (who had been given a Kalashnikov as a christening present by an Arab friend of the family) suffered only minor injuries. As soldiers helped to douse the flames, a BBC correspondent rang to say: “I hear there’s been a bit of a to-do over your way.”
By now Crouch was exasperated by the Labour government at home, and appalled at being asked to sit in on an interrogation where two staff sergeants systematically beat a suspect in the kidneys to get a confession. Saying he felt sick, Crouch left the room and refused to return.
In 1967 he was Resident Adviser (the senior civilian) in Mukalla when he received a telegram at 2am instructing him to evacuate all British personnel. Suspecting that any indication of a withdrawal would precipitate a general uprising, he carried on as usual, ordering dinner that night and sending two shirts to the laundry. The pretence was maintained until he and the others stepped into the helicopter.
But no provision had been made for local Arabs employed by the British. “Her Majesty’s Government and I had behaved with a mixture of incompetence and immorality,” he wrote bitterly in his autobiography, An Element of Luck (1993).
Michael Armstrong Crouch was born in London on May 5 1935. As the son of a doctor in the Sudan Civil Service and the grandson of an Indian Civil officer , he was brought up first in Sudan and went to Prince of Wales School, Nairobi. He did National Service with the Kenya Regiment in Southern Rhodesia. After Downing College, Cambridge, he was sent to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he failed his exams for the Colonial Service but had a valuable secondment to Horley rural district council in preparation for Aden.
On retiring from the service at 32, Crouch was determined to move as far away as possible from anyone trying to shoot him, and settled on Western Australia as a good place to bring up three children. Turning down approaches from both the British and Australian governments to work “on the security side of the house”, he became a personnel manager for a mining company and a teacher before managing a conservation foundation. After his marriage broke down he married Jenny Tyrwhitt, a friend he had not seen for 27 years.
As well as his memoir, Crouch wrote a novel called Terrorist (2003); A Literary Larrikin, a biography of the soldier and author Tom Hungerford (2005); and completed a PhD on feminist history at the University of Western Australia, based on his grandmother’s life as a colonial wife in India.
In the early 1990s he started returning to Arabia when the newly established Yemen Arab Republic invited him back with other former civil servants; the Yemenis were keen to mine the recollections of colonial officers on the exact location of the Saudi border. On one stop an elderly Bedouin with a Kalashnikov across his shoulders asked the party why the British had left. “You tried to shoot us,” he was told.
At an official reception in Mukalla, a Colonel Aburahim Atik admitted to having tried to assassinate Crouch by throwing a grenade over a hospital wall which narrowly failed to kill him and his colleague John Shipman, as well as the future Field Marshal Lord Guthrie. “Old enemies make good friends,” said the colonel, later adding that God had made his aim bad.
Michael Crouch, born May 5 1935, died July 13 2013


Contrary to your leader (The future not the past, 21 September) the first thing the Labour party should do is reinforce the economy against what Vince Cable called “an invasion of estate agents, property speculators and bankers” intent on helping George Osborne inflate another housing bubble. Cable has called for a feasibility study of the land value tax to prevent future property bubbles and Labour should do so too, not only to get the ducks in line for a possible coalition but to replace the present clapped-out consensus of “Peg wages; let house prices grow” with the saner “Peg house prices with LVT and let wages grow”, so getting the unions back onside, as well.
DBC Reed
Thorplands, Northampton
• While Labour’s intentions to repeal the bedroom tax and improve childcare provision are welcome, they are far too timid to deal with the widening rift between rich and poor in Britain, now including the “squeezed middle” earning up to £60,000 a year (Childcare at heart of Labour push for 2015, 21 September).
Three simple policies would begin to deal with the issues: building more affordable homes; uprating the minimum wage to a living wage as soon as possible; and revising council taxes to reflect today’s inflated property values.
These measures alone would cut the long-term cost of benefits. More homes would save billions paid to landlords. A living wage would give people enough money to live on without benefits, while uprating council tax would see those in high-value properties paying a fairer share and, perhaps, slow the ridiculous rises in house prices we are seeing in London.
David Reed
• Labour wants to guarantee primary age childcare from 8am to 6pm. A day spent thus leaves 14 hours between coming out of school, or whatever other care has been provided, and going back in the next morning. Children aged between six and 12 need 10-12 hours sleep. This leaves too little time for family life. A statement that is meant to be a positive pledge throws into sharp relief the negativity of present attitudes to children and their welfare and potential as human beings.
Louise Summers
• ”Labour’s bedroom tax pledge will cost as much as £470m a year” (Report, 21 September). How? The only additional money coming in from the bedroom tax is from the small number of people who will somehow manage to pay the cost of an extra room without falling into arrears.
Against this there has to be set the cost involved where tenants are forced to move, typically to more expensive smaller accommodation in the private sector, which will often mean higher housing benefit, paid to the landlords. And all the other costs involved as social networks of informal support within families are shattered.
It is inconceivable to me that there can be £470m financial benefit for taxpayers from this tax. If I’m missing something, please explain how that figures has been arrived at. A government press release?
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex
• So Labour is to call for Directly Operated Railways (DOR) to be able to bid for the east coast rail franchise (Report, 20 September). How timid.
This would mean that the hugely wasteful and expensive franchise bidding process would still take place and government would effectively be bidding against the private companies and foreign governments who own the current franchises.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has tabled a bill to take each franchise back into the public sector as it expires. There would be no cost to the taxpayer and any operating surpluses/profits would go to the Treasury. Publicly operated East Coast has contributed £640m to the Treasury over the past three years.
Labour should support Caroline Lucas’s railways bill in parliament next month, not tiptoe around the issue.
Alan Francis
Green party transport speaker
• Polly Toynbee quotes Andrew Hawkins of ComRes as saying “no leader in power ever increased their vote” (Comment, 20 September). Led by Harold Wilson, Labour won the 1964 general election with 12,205,808 votes. He won again in 1966, with 13,096,951 votes.
Keith Bilton

I am much more worried about the illegal activities of the NSA in general and NSA Menwith Hill in particular than the activities of GCHQ, although what they do is worrying enough (Comment, 21 September). There is a contingent of GCHQ at NSA Menwith Hill. I scanned Malcolm Rifkind’s article for any mention of NSA Menwith Hill but nothing. We asked a parliamentary question last year as to when the intelligence and security committee last visited Menwith Hill. We are not allowed to know, but they say they have access to every part of the operations area. If Malcolm Rifkind’s committee knew about the extent of the NSA surveillance and intelligence-gathering at Menwith Hill, which they should do if they say they know what goes on there (which is doubtful), where is this in their annual report? I am not convinced this committee has any influence or knows what this unaccountable and secretive base is doing.
Lindis Percy
Co-ordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases
• Simon Jenkins (Comment, 20 September) exposes the complacency here about extent of the domestic and international espionage carried out jointly by the US and UK intelligence agencies, as revealed by Edward Snowden. He also alludes to the NSA bugging Brazilian oil companies during licence talks. However, there has been almost no coverage about the likely application of the information to give British companies an edge when bidding for foreign contracts. A better use of the intelligence would be if HMRC were to access it to reveal the development of tax avoidance schemes.
George Roussopoulos
Hindhead, Surrey

Perhaps Martin Newnham (Letters, 21 September), anxious to dragoon his grandchildren into the right career pathways, should try allowing them to choose their own quilt covers. In my experience, infant girls go for pink and frilly, and boys pick gun and dinosaur patterns. Sorry, but that is generally how it appears to be. Maybe M&S know this.
Richard Wilson
• When my dad took me to buy a quilt cover back in the 70s he was asked: “Is it for a boy or a girl?” He answered: “No, it’s for a bed.” It seems that attitudes haven’t changed much.
Helen Fowweather
Thame, Oxfordshire
• Why didn’t Mr Newnham just buy a boy’s quilt and save himself 60p postage complaining to M&S? He should not worry so much, women are very capable in spite of M&S.
Hugh Scullion
• I couldn’t help making the connection between the grandfather finding pink quilts labelled for girls and space and dinosaur-themed quilts labelled for boys in Marks & Spencer, and a favourite aunt (A Letter to…, Family, 21 September) buying her nephew Lego, pens and books while her niece gets “pretty scarves, nail varnish and sweet necklaces”. Because boys need “food, love and exercise” while girls just want “pretty knick-knacks and girly chats”. And we wonder why more girls don’t aspire to be scientists and engineers.
Janet Hooper
Ivybridge, Devon

The naval phrase “copper-bottomed” (Letters, 21 September), recently revived by the government sarcastically to characterise Ed Miliband, has its origin in the copper sheathing used in 1761 to protect the frigate HMS Alarm’s hull from the deleterious effects of shipworm and marine weeds. Worked a treat, I’ve heard.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire
•  The police claim that Barclays Bank has fallen victim to a team of “significant players within a sophisticated and determined organised criminal network” (£1.3m Barclays heist – eight held, 21 September). Is this a definition of irony?
Nigel Gann
Chiselborough, Somerset
• So the Lib Dems have a shortage of female MPs (Report, 19 September). Let’s hope that following the general election that problem will be solved by them having a shortage of male MPs also.
Mick Jope
Maidstone, Kent
• Nick Clegg is concerned about the computer game Grand Theft Auto (Clegg warns of ‘corrosive’ games, 21 September). What about the effect of Grand Theft Royal Mail? And will it sell as well?
Roy Harrison
•  ”Progress in the corridors is slow, occasionally stationery” (Esther Addley’s sketch, 21 September). Perhaps delegates at the Ukip conference were trying to work out their next move on the back of an envelope.
John Batey
Bedlington, Northumberland


I am appalled by the constant bullying of Nigel Farage by what Ukip would no doubt call the “metropolitan liberal elite” – especially the licence-fee-funded Channel 4 and BBC.
I would make the same complaint against those who bully anyone because of their beliefs – which, in the case of Ukip, seem to be a mix of independent views: against EU membership but also against being a poodle of the USA, against irresponsible mass immigration, and in favour of integration for those already legally here. It may come as a surprise to the Westminster village, but many millions of British people, many of them Labour and Liberal voters, agree with all of those policies, none of which is in any way fascistic.
Choosing a photo of Nigel Farage for the front page of Saturday’s edition which attempts to catch him giving a Hitler salute as he waves to the conference crowd is not only puerile but falls well below the standards of fair play one would expect from The Independent. 
P J Vanston, Swansea
If I were a conspiracy theorist I would label the raised voices everywhere in the media  over the “slut” outburst by Godfrey Bloom MEP at the Ukip conference as the effective work of a political plant.
How better could the liberal left have smokescreened the popular propositions of the Ukip on the critical issues of the EU, immigration, energy, the NHS, agriculture and fisheries, education et al than behind hypocritical shock at the use of a foolish expletive about a certain kind of woman from an eccentric politician?
Godfrey Bloom was a casual godsend to the liberal left, whose conniving coalition, LibLabCon, has left this country on the brink of ruin.
Alastair Harper, Lathalmond by Dunfermline
In the wake of “Slutgate”, Godfrey Bloom’s political career may yet rise spectacularly from the ashes. There is a significant constituency badly in need of representation, one for which Bloom is uniquely qualified to lead as a new force in politics. 
A Grumpy Old Men Party led by Mr Bloom could enfranchise the male, over-40 and over-the-hill, a group so long neglected in a political landscape dominated by debates on childcare, gay rights, women’s issues and schools.
The only problem for such a party will be strong competition from members of the Conservative backbench and Ukip, who must surely vie for the votes of the silent but deadly majority that dare not speak its name: silly old farts.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
Why has no one asked Godfrey Bloom when he last cleaned behind his fridge?
Wendy Hartman, Hayle, Cornwall
Children’s homes in private sector
Tom Harper’s report on a recent DfE paper providing data on children’s care homes (“Private equity firms are making millions out of failing children’s care homes”, 14 September) failed to mention that the full DfE report found no difference in the quality of care provided by privately-run homes compared to those run by local authorities.
The article also failed to mention that many of the private equity providers for whom the report provided individual data were found to have a significantly higher level of homes rated good or outstanding than the local authority benchmark. For example, of the entire children’s services Advanced Childcare provide, 80 per cent of its homes are rated good or outstanding and no homes today are inadequate.
The DfE report showed that the vast majority of children’s care home provision – some 72 per cent of places – came from the private and voluntary sectors. These businesses are a vital source of provision for a system that would not otherwise have the necessary capacity. 
Tim Hames, Director General, British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, London WC2
The affliction that mimics a burka
I read Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article on Islamic veils and burkas (16 September) with great interest.
How many people know about prosopagnosia (face blindness)? To people with this affliction (estimated at one in 50 of us) everyone might just as well be wearing a veil or a burka, because we can’t remember people’s faces. 
It’s an affliction that destroys people’s social lives; there’s a total inability to maintain contact. How can I forget the poor lady at an office I worked in who stopped me in the corridor, with tears in her eyes, and said, her voice quivering with tension: “I don’t know what I’ve done to offend you, but whatever it was, I’m so sorry.”
This left me shattered. I know I’d had a nice talk with a nice person, but I’d no memory of what that person looked like. I’d no idea I was walking past a person I liked, should have remembered, and should have greeted.  She might have been walking round in a burka.
There’s a particular part of the brain, the fusiform gyrus, that deals with recognising faces. For people afflicted with prosopagnosia that part doesn’t function. Normal memory for faces comes in rather slowly, when we see people often. 
Not being able to recognise people is truly dreadful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And some Islamic people want it to be that way? It’s beyond understanding. 
Jean Elliott, Upminster, Essex
If the wearing of full-face veils is not about the oppression of women, why do we never see a man in one? Shouldn’t a man’s beauty be only for his wife? But will I ever, ever see a man walking down the street with his head effectively stuffed inside a sack? I don’t think so, do you?
Helen Clutton, Dorchester
Secrets of the sporting elite
John Claughton suggests (Education, 19 September) that independent schools can play a part in helping pupils from state schools achieve sporting success. But with only 7 per cent of British children at independent schools, even if every independent school in Britain shared its sporting facilities and coaching expertise with three state schools of the same size, this would still benefit less than a quarter of state school pupils.
The real block to sporting excellence in state schools is apathy. As John Claughton says, independent schools believe in sport as part of an education. State schools do not. In state schools, participation in sport is regarded as getting in the way of training for better exam results in order to improve the school’s position in academic league tables.
In most independent schools, sport is compulsory five days a week; in state schools, pupils may be grudgingly allowed to play sport in school hours on one afternoon a week. This means not only that independent school pupils are generally much fitter than their state counterparts, but also that they get to try many different sports such as hockey, rugby, squash and cross-country in winter, and cricket, swimming, tennis and athletics in summer.
The attitude to sport in state schools needs to turn around completely if pupils from state schools are ever to compete on level terms with those from independent schools.
David Hewitt, London N1
Another article listing sport stars from private schools and suggesting that their success is down to their education. The truth is rather simpler.
Children succeed in sport at an elite level if their family have the time and the money to help them. Once a youngster has started to go beyond county level in a sport, they need more expensive equipment, competition entry fees, transport and quality coaching. The reason that private school pupils do well is simply that their parents are richer and can afford all this.
But what about the great facilities at private schools? It is true that sports facilities at the most expensive private schools are better than those at state schools. This misses the point. In the state system, talented youngsters are fed in to their local clubs, to the county system and then to national training. The reason private schools must have good facilities is that they are often cut off from all these resources and forced to be self-sufficient. A fair comparison would be between the facilities at a boarding school and the facilities of a town with all its sports centres and clubs, not between the two schools.
Sheila Parker, Worthing, West Sussex
Politicians don’t deserve contempt
How depressing to read Penny Little’s views on politicians (letter, 18 September). I used to work for an MP and I know that many, on all sides, are hard-working, intelligent and fundamentally decent people trying to make a difference. If we continue to hold MPs in such contempt, we risk putting off all but the most shamelessly ambitious from putting themselves forward, and that doesn’t help anyone.
Absolutely condemn the idiots, the criminals and the shysters, but please let’s also give the rest the credit they deserve.
Ruth Gripper, London SE5
Uncontrolled cats
I agree with the last sentence of Ben Martin’s letter (20 September). However it is a pity he, and other cat owners, do not take responsibility for the behaviour of the only so-called domestic pet that is allowed to roam anywhere, go into neighbours’ property, including houses, kill wildlife and mess anywhere (flowerbeds, grass, even hard surfaces). Most cat owners seem to be “in denial”, not of course that they have any effective control over their cats’ anti-social actions.
Ken Lockwood, Saffron Walden, Essex
Different voice
Grace Dent in her column (19 September) mentions The Voice, which I believe is a popular contemporary television programme. But am I the only one left standing who immediately thinks of Elwyn Brook-Jones’s sinister villain in Garry Halliday, a derring-do series that lit up my childhood Saturday afternoons more than 50 years ago?
Ian Craine, London N15
How to swat a fly
At the risk of being prosaic and while full of admiration for the ingenuity of your correspondents, I think the answer is that well-established item of domestic blood sports activity, usable by young, aged and the not too infirm, the plastic fly swatter.
Ted Clark, Leamington Spa
Mountains moved
I was astonished to read (16 September) that Snowdon is now the second highest mountain in Britain. Most topographical tables place it at 57th. Is fracking in the desolate North responsible for this dramatic change in the landscape? 
Colin Duncan, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey


A business as usual approach to energy policy will result in further temperature increases
Sir, The findings of the UK Energy Research Council make grim reading for anyone who thinks that we live in a rational world (“Number of climate change sceptics soars as support for alternative energy wanes,” Sept 19). While climate change deniers have quadrupled, the scientific evidence is going in the opposite direction.
In their second report (1995), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that it was more than 50 per cent likely that man-made emissions were contributing to climate change. In their third report (2001) that figure had become 66 per cent, 90 per cent in their fourth report (2007) and now 95 per cent in their latest report. The fourth IPCC report had 152 lead authors, over 500 contributing authors, over 600 reviewers and received more than 30,000 comments; in other words this was the closest that the world community could get to a scientific consensus.
Sadly this consensus is not reflected in the columns of most newspapers in the UK. Newspapers may enjoy stirring controversy, but civilisation as we know it will not survive if the addition of 33 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. It is future generations who will pay the price for our denial of the obvious.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Bucks

Sir, A cursory glance at the headlines relating to the survey of the public’s perceptions of climate change would have given a false impression of levels of support.
“Number of climate change sceptics soars” and “Climate deniers up” (In the News, Sept 19) refer to a quadrupling since 2005, but at 19 per cent this is still very much a minority view.
As to “Support for alternative energy wanes” those in favour of wind power fell from 82 to 64 per cent, and solar power from 87 to 77 per cent, a substantial majority. The cursory glance can so easily misinform the memory and opinion.
Dr David Harding
Boningale, Shropshire

Sir, Professor C. Goodman (letters, Sept 21)  shows a lamentable ignorance of the processes of climate change. He implies that we should continue emitting carbon dioxide in a business as usual manner and concentrate on adaptation to a warmer climate.
The problem with this approach is that climate change is progressive and that temperature levels will not stabilise after a rise of say one to two degrees, unless we drastically reduce current CO2 production.
We, in the developed world could conceivably adapt to this sort of temperature rise if we invested heavily, but a business as usual approach to energy policy will result in further temperature increases.
In these circumstances many scientists consider a four degree rise by 2100 to be a best estimate, giving rise to a planet that could support about one billion human beings. Adaptation to this is of course out of the question, with the generalised warfare, famine and disease that would ensue. Preserving the
current climate in aspic is no longer in our gift, given the current atmospheric CO2 level, but rapid action to stabilise this may limit temperature rises to levels that we could adapt to.
Andrew Baker
Gilwern, Monmouthshire

Voters in Scotland who prefer to remain within the EU would be better served to vote Yes to independence next year
Sir, Martin Staniforth (letter, Sept 20) argues that many nations will veto an independent Scotland’s EU membership. All of us in Scotland are already citizens of the EU. There is no precedent nor any agreed means by which a place — and its 5 million inhabitants — can be jettisoned from such a position. Even anti-independence politicians and commentators agree that an independent Scotland will continue to be part of the EU if it so chooses, albeit with the detail to be ironed out in negotiations.
By far the bigger threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU is if we choose to remain a part of the UK. The EU referendum, planned by David Cameron before 2017, would then offer the very real prospect of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will.
Voters in Scotland who prefer to remain within the EU would therefore be better served to vote Yes to independence next year.
C. Hegarty
North Berwick, East Lothian

Sir, Martin Staniforth states that in the event of a “Yes” vote in next year’s Scottish referendum “Spain will undoubtedly impose” a veto on a newly independent Scotland’s application to join the EU. Yet Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo is on recorded as stating that “If the two parts of the United Kingdom are in agreement that [Scottish independence] is in accord with their constitutional arrangement, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say, we would simply maintain that it does not affect us.”
Michael Rossi
Southall, Middlesex

Mr Rowhani should open the doors of Iran’s heavy water and nuclear reactor plants to the UN nuclear weapons inspectors
Sir, The West should be circumspect about Iran’s apparent Damascene conversion when President Rowhani asserts that his country would not build nuclear weapons (World, Sept 20). In order to prove the probity of his pacifist overtures, Mr Rowhani should open the doors of Iran’s heavy water and nuclear reactor plants to the UN nuclear weapons inspectors.
Iran has previously used subterfuges such as peaceful use of nuclear energy as a source of power and medicinal purposes. If Iran wants to portray itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East, it should stop supplying arms to the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups and withdraw its militia in Syria. Mr Rowhani should acknowledge Israel’s existential rights as a sovereign state and extend an olive branch.
Sam Banik
London N10

Ties and long-sleeved coats have been banned by some NHS trusts – veils should also be banned to lower infection rates
Sir, Your article headlined “Muslim nurses who cover their faces are
being ‘more hygienic’ for patients” ( Sept 20 ) is misleading. Face masks used in medicine and surgery are specifically designed to prevent the spread of infection. Face veils and other normal articles of clothing are not.
MRSA are dispersed on desquamated skin and the friction between skin and clothing causes desquamation. Clothing also harbours desquamated skin scales and can act as a reservoir for dispersal. For this reason ties and long-sleeved coats have been banned by some NHS trusts. The same objections apply to normal veils. For use in a clinical setting veils should conform to the same standards as other face covers such as surgical masks.
Bohumil S. Drasar
Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology
London N12

It will be interesting to see just to what sort of “natural state” it will be restored to by the National Trust
Sir, Circa 1925, the Derbyshire historian Thomas L. Tudor, in The High Peak to Sherwood, wrote this about Kinder Scout: “Nobody has really seen that masterpiece of nature’s savagery who has not, once at least, crossed its barbaric expanse and paused amid its stillness and its solitude, where the elements have had their way, without let or hindrance, for countless æons of geological time.” He added: “No experience is better calculated to relieve the hectic strain of modern life than a burst into these open sanctuaries of nature, free from the bedlam of the roads and the eternal distraction of the town; grand and solitary and untamed since the beginning of years.” It will be interesting for those around in 2050 to see just to what sort of “natural state” (report, Sept 20) it has been restored to by the National Trust.
Eugene Suggett
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – I agree entirely with Joan Frazier (Letters, September 15) that the contribution of radar operators to the war effort has so far been underestimated.
My father, in his autobiography Return Trip to Woolwich, observes that, without radar operators forewarning our pilots of incoming enemy aircraft, the Battle of Britain may have turned out very differently.
Perhaps, as with many other post-war failures to recognise invaluable service, those who worked so hard at the technological cutting edge of the day could, even now, be honoured for the huge contribution they made in the draughty, exposed bases of Kent and the east coast.
Rev Tim Price
Tatworth, Somerset

SIR – I was delighted to read the letter from former WAAF Joan Frazier, who was a plotter at Bentley Priory during the war.
I served there for most of my National Service in the Fifties as a teleprinter operator. I well remember the long, lino-clad staircase leading down to the Air Defence Operations Centre.
There is a scene in the 1969 film Battle of Britain in which Sir Laurence Olivier, in the role of “Stuffy” Dowding, is seen descending what I have always imagined was the very same staircase. In my time, the walls were clad with Lamson tubes which conveyed message canisters by compressed air from the signals section to various destinations. A couple of years ago I wrote to the trustees to ask whether some kind of guided tour was possible, but was informed that the whole complex had been filled in.
What a shame. Presumably its historic value was not considered worth preserving.
Mick Cox
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – Ukip supporters could still switch back to the Tories if David Cameron acts swiftly (report, September 15). He could give a firm date for the EU referendum and set out measures to prevent the arrival of hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from Bulgaria and Romania.
On human rights, we need fair, commonsense rules. The judiciary must be given clear parliamentary guidance not to allow appeals for so-called “family” reasons or the defence that anyone sent back to their country might be in danger. The Armed Forces should be properly resourced once again.
Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset
SIR – Lord Ashcroft’s survey showing that Conservatives are changing to Ukip over Europe is a warning that David Cameron would be foolish to ignore. Since making his speech in January promising a referendum on the EU he has done nothing apart from passing a law confirming a referendum before 2017, which he was forced to do by his backbenchers.
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Putting Battle of Britain heroes back on the radar
22 Sep 2013
This law is worthless unless he wins the 2015 election, which looks doubtful at present. As a result, a lot of people think he is not sincere and will try to wriggle out of it when the time comes.
Christopher Carver
Yeovil, Devon
SIR – Your report on Ukip taking votes in key marginal seats from the Conservatives should be a warning to those who are considering to register a protest vote at the next general election.
Ukip’s support is spread across the whole country, not concentrated within seats, which would be necessary to gain representation in Parliament. Therefore it is pie-in-the-sky to think that Ukip will win enough seats at the election to be the “king-makers” in a potential hung Parliament.
The disgruntled Tory voters and anti-immigration, eurosceptic ex-Labour voters, who are intending to vote Ukip, will be indirectly helping Labour return to government.
Splitting the Right-wing vote will be akin to what happened to Michael Foot on the Left in 1983. This will allow Labour to finish the job that they have always been good at – bankrupting and ruining the country.
James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Current opinion polls suggest that it will be Ukip, not the Lib Dems, who could hold the balance of power between the two main parties at the next general election. Nigel Farage has said he will not contemplate a deal with the Conservatives as long as David Cameron is the Tory leader. So, what if Ukip enters a coalition with Labour and provides a curb on Labour policies? That would put the cat among the Westminster pigeons.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – All the main parties, the Conservatives in particular, make the arrogant assumption that only one of them has the divine right to form a government and that the electorate must return to their fold rather than see their traditional opponents elected.
If this were true, the Labour Party would never have arisen to replace the Liberals. On the contrary, when a political movement speaks for a previously ignored section of the people, it may very well replace the failed incumbents of old.
If people will only continue to vote for what they really believe in then there is no limit to the possibilities open to Ukip to transform the political landscape.
Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Lord Ashcroft has warned that by voting Ukip, the electorate will get Labour.
However, if they vote Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, they will get the EU, which rules Britain with the support of these three parties. If Ukip receives a very substantial vote, this will make it untenable for the other three parties to continue supporting the EU’s undemocratic control over Britain.
Derek Bennett
Walsall, Staffordshire
Backing marriage in the tax system
SIR – As representatives from some of Britain’s leading think tanks, political activists and faith leaders, we strongly welcome the proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system, via the introduction of a transferable tax allowance. This is long overdue.
We believe that marriage is the fundamental building block of human society and provides many tangible and non-tangible benefits to our communities and our children.
Family breakdown costs the taxpayer an estimated £46 billion a year. It is therefore clearly in the interests of government and the taxpayer to work to counter the devastating trend of family breakdown. Backing marriage in the tax system is a sensible first step.
This is why we urge all political parties not only to back the new transferable tax allowance, but also to ensure that it cannot be dismissed as an empty gesture, given that it has been set at the low level of £150.
To be meaningful it must be paid at a higher rate, even if this means a phased introduction or application of other conditions.
Rt Rev Peter Forster
Bishop of Chester
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
President of the Oxford centre for training,
research and dialogue
Lord Singh
Director of the network of Sikh organisations
Dr Majid Katme
Muslim member of the Alliance for the Family
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Founding secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain
Harry Benson
Marriage Foundation
Nola Leach
Chief executive of Christian Action, Research and Education
Laura Perrins
Mothers at Home Matter
Robert Woollard
Chairman of Conservative Grassroots
Phillip Blond
Director of ResPublica
Wearing the veil
SIR – In a liberal democracy, choice of headwear is a free choice for individuals. However, the principle of democracy rests on open and free dialogue between informed citizenry. To what extent can a choice truly be free and informed if it is based on cruel familial and cultural pressure, enacted often against will and with force?
But to ban any form of dress, let alone that which is deemed to be “religious attire”, would be deeply controversial, and probably counter-productive.
Nothing swells the massed ranks of support like a well-played victim card.
Gary McLelland
Chair, Edinburgh Secular Society
SIR – Advocates of the full veil often cite cultural integrity with reference to countries in Africa and Asia. But these people have elected to enter and live in a culture likewise entitled to its cultural integrity.
That is why that culture is entitled morally – if not legally – to require its removal.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – If we are a democratic country then this is not a decision to be made by politicians alone, but a decision on which the whole nation needs to be consulted. Most of us can understand the headscarf, but the veil is seen as almost offensive to our culture of openness. In any case, we need a government ruling, not absurd political correctness.
Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France
SIR – Communication and trust are engendered by being open, and are what makes for a healthy society. Concealing one’s face, whether by choice, by coercion or by dogma, is the antithesis of our precious freedom.
Stephen Gledhill
Chadbury, Worcestershire
That sinking feeling
SIR – Before the world rushes to save the “sinking” Republic of Kiribati (report, September 15), has anyone considered that it could be the land mass that is sinking and not the ocean level rising due to climate change?
The North Sea platforms of the Ekofisk Field were deemed to be subjected to rising storm wave levels caused by climate change, which forced the shutdown of oil/gas production on several occasions.
It was only after detailed satellite measurement, that the “sinking” was deemed to be due not to increased water levels, but the sea bed sinking.
The whole platform system was raised by five metres and the problem solved.
Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey
SIR – There are many islands in the Pacific a few feet above sea level. Yet we know that in the 10,000 years since the end of the last major glaciation, global sea level has risen several hundred metres. Either you postulate that 10,000 years ago, all these islands were those several hundred metres plus a few feet above sea level, which is surely stretching credulity; or you accept Charles Darwin’s theory that coral atolls actually grow with sea level rise, staying always a few feet above sea level.
Roger Helmer MEP (Ukip)
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
Producing Frost
SIR – I haven’t yet seen any mention of David Frost’s career as executive producer in the film industry, both on the successful comedy Futtocks End, starring Ronnie Barker and Michael Hordern, and the more serious film George Bernard Shaw. This was a one-hander starring Max Adrian, which appeared over three nights on BBC2 in September 1971, and which has apparently now been lost.
Annie Kellett
Chichester, West Sussex
Coalition government distorts democracy
SIR – Although the electoral arithmetic underlying the Coalition in 2012 ensured it did not “collapse in short order” (Matthew d’Ancona, “The Libs know their future lies in power sharing”, Opinion, September 15), that does not make this model of government any more acceptable.
Comparisons with British wartime coalitions have always been specious: in the Second World War, as in the First, all the main parties were included. This meant that small parties could not wield undue influence on government.
The current coalition has been far less representative, because the party that came second was excluded from government, while the party that came a poor third was allowed to take part. The Lib Dems could thus impose minority policies, such as postponing the renewal of our Trident submarines, which both main parties wished to confirm during this Parliament.
Coalitions are always a denial of democracy; but when they include small parties with limited support, while excluding main parties with considerable support, they distort democracy as well.
Julian Lewis MP (Con)
London SW1
SIR – Already proposing to tax owners of houses worth over £2 million, regardless of liquid cash resources, Vince Cable, the business secretary, now wishes to tax the land upon which homes are built. It can only be a matter of time before he works out how to tax the air we breathe.
Becky Goldsmith
London SW11
A thorough job
SIR – When we moved house in 1987 (Letters, September 15), we found we had no television reception, and on further inspection found that the vendors had cut the co-axial cable outside and removed the television aerial.
When the phone was “connected” by the telephone company, we found that the vendors had cut the wire and removed the telephone owned by the company as well.
Ingrid Ashcroft
Daws Heath, Essex
Radio Ga Ga
SIR – My shameful confession about Radio 2 (Letters, September 15) is that I listen regularly to the Jeremy Vine Programme. I do not know why, as I find it irritating beyond belief. Mr Vine, what exactly is the difference between the very latest news and the latest news?
P A Matthews
Colden Common, Hampshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – I believe Mr Bernard Neary, a former registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal, is seriously mistaken when he states (September 20th) that the backlog of appeals in the Supreme Court could be cleared without creating a new court of appeal with civil and criminal jurisdiction.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The current system of appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court has produced a bottleneck in the Supreme Court and an increasing backlog of appeals delaying access to that court. Although the techniques introduced in the 1990s to ease the backlog of appeals (which Mr Neary mentions) have since been refined and added to, the backlog continues to grow. In the 1990s, the average number of appeals filed per year in the Supreme Court was 383. In 2012, 605 appeals were lodged. Over 400 appeals have been lodged already this year.
The referendum on a new court of appeal is a key plank in a raft of measures to modernise the courts system and the field of legal services. It is about coherent institutional reform and not tinkering. The Courts Act 2013, which will come into force shortly, is the first step. This will change the monetary jurisdiction limits of the District and Circuit Courts in civil cases. The Bill will increase the monetary limit in the District Court from €6,384 to €15,000. It will raise the maximum award in the Circuit Court from €38,092 to €75,000
In relation to personal injury cases, the monetary jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court will be €60,000. The District Court and the Circuit Court will be able to deal with more civil cases.
The practical outcome for litigants will be a reduction in legal costs for cases that fall within the respective jurisdictions of those courts.
Mr Neary does not deal with the important question of how criminal appeals – which the Court of Criminal Appeal determines at present – should be dealt with. This is important because that court hears appeals from criminal trials in the High Court (called the Central Criminal Court) and the Special Criminal Court. The Court of Criminal Appeal, which does not sit on a daily basis, faces a backlog of appeals. There are 154 cases in the list awaiting a hearing comprising the following categories – 48 conviction appeals, 86 sentence appeals, 16 undue leniency applications by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Leaving aside cases that have been adjourned from previous lists on the appellant’s application, the current waiting time for conviction appeals is a minimum of 17 months, for sentence appeals a minimum of 12 months and for undue leniency applications a minimum of seven months. This backlog is increasing.
The Director of Public Prosecutions this week expressed concern about the increasing delay in hearing criminal appeals. The problem we can no longer ignore is that the present appeals structure is not fit to deal with the demands of litigation in a modern society. The volume and legal complexity of appeals has increased, again something Mr Neary ignores.
Of course, we should not require the Supreme Court on appeal “to consider and adjudicate as to whether the composite material in a toilet seat caused it to crack and result in some litigant suffering catastrophic injuries to a left index finger”. The real point is that there is a basic flaw in the institutional design of the appeals system. The fact that the Supreme Court faces a backlog of 664 appeals is attributable to this flaw. It will take over four years for these cases to get a hearing. There are 77 cases earmarked for “priority” hearing. But these appeals will take 12 months to be disposed of.

If a court of appeal is set up, the Supreme Court will not have to deal with appeals on matters like minor finger injuries. The lower courts will try such cases. We need to do what is practical and sensible. International best practice endorses the view that a Supreme Court should be charged with deciding legal issues of public or constitutional importance. And that a court of appeal below it should hear most appeals from the courts below it.
Comparable legal systems, like the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States, sensibly take this approach. The Supreme Court should be able to have a manageable list of appeals so that it can give major legal questions the attention they warrant. The United Kingdom Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court each deals with approximately 80-90 appeals a year. The United Kingdom Supreme Court has a reasonable target of dealing with appeals within a period of nine months. This approach allied to other reforms should reduce the cost of access to justice. It should be noted that there is legislation near enactment aiming at reform of the legal-services market in Ireland. There is also legislation to put access to alternative dispute resolution such as mediation on a statutory footing. Mr Neary ignores these important reforms.
Under the referendum proposal, the Supreme Court will hear appeals from the court of appeal if the issue raised concerns a matter of general public importance or it is in the interests of justice that the appeal be heard by the Supreme Court.
So, contrary to what Mr Neary implies, there is a crucial filtering device built into the process. In the ordinary course of events the decisions of the court of appeal will have decisive primacy. And in exceptional circumstances only, the Supreme Court will be able to hear appeals directly from the High Court. The proposed reform will serve the interests of the ordinary taxpayer and assure investors and business that we have an efficient and effective courts system operated by independent judges. It will give the judges a more coherent courts system in which they can improve case-management and case-hearing procedures. It will give the bite of reality to the core human-rights principle that every citizen who has to go to court will get a reasonably speedy judicial hearing and decision.
A Yes vote by a majority of the people in the referendum on October 4th will help to bring the courts system into the 21st century. – Yours, etc,
Minister for Justice,
94 St Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – With Syria relinquishing its chemical arsenal, should we cheer or weep that cruise missiles are keeping the world safe for conventional weapons? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There are brief fragile windows in most conflicts when peace becomes possible. The Russian initiative on Syrian chemical weapons opened up such an opportunity. The statement by the Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil (Breaking News, September 19th) that the Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and the Syrian government will call for a ceasefire at the forthcoming Geneva conference is an opportunity for peace that must be actively supported. If these initiatives fail disaster looms for the people of Syria.
Mr Jamil stated that a ceasefire would have to be kept under international observation, which could be provided by monitors or UN peacekeepers – “as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries”. Ireland could play a vital role in this peacekeeping process. We have had Irish UN observers based in Syria and the Syrian Golan heights in the past, as well as a long history of Irish troops and observers in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Egypt.
In cases such as this, the quick deployment of the initial phase of the peacekeeping forces becomes very important and can involve the transfer of existing UN troops from neighbouring missions. This happened in 1973 when four battalions of UN troops, including an Irish unit, with which I was serving, were transferred from Cyprus into the Sinai desert to form a successful buffer zone between the armies of Israel and Egypt.
If UN peacekeepers are required for Syria, Irish/UN troops in Lebanon and the soldiers on standby to go the Golan Heights could be quickly relocated to a new Syrian peacekeeping mission. Of course there would be dangers, but our brothers and sisters in Syria urgently deserve that their own military and militias and the international community shift from warmongering to peace-mongering. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – On December 15th, 1920, the British cabinet, chaired by Lloyd George, and attended by Sir James Craig and Sir Edward Carson, agreed to set up second chambers in Stormont and Dublin. The southern senate would have 64 members. It was to include 17 senators nominated by the lord lieutenant to represent “ commerce, labour and the scientific and learned professors”. The reason given was to give “some protection to a Protestant minority”. This was its sole purpose. The Seanad is a relic of that settlement. Why can the Northern Assembly can get by with one chamber but we must mirror the British and have two? – Yours, etc,
Glendalough Park, Cork.
Sir, – The Seanad is far from perfect and many of the arguments in favour are valid grievances. However, I would much rather see reform rather than abolition. It has the potential to be a powerful counterbalance to factious Dáils, with academics and specialists from agriculture, industry, culture, labour unions and the public service providing clarity and insight on the wide array of legislation that passes before it, an advantage that few other governmental systems can claim. Eliminating them from parliament would be to silence wisdom that comes only with experience. – Yours, etc,
Grosvenor Hill,

A chara, – Miriam Lord’s Dáil Sketch describes how I took the opportunity to wish Martin Ferris a happy birthday during Leaders’ Questions (September 19th). She writes, “Speaking in Irish, and at some length, he revealed that Martin had reached the fine age of 60.”
Not so. Mar eolas daoibh, I wished Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin a happy birthday. The Taoiseach joined me. Indeed he suggested “go mbeadh lá saoire náisiúnta ann le lá breithe an Teachta Ó Caoláin a cheiliúradh”. He may have been joking. He went on to say very graciously that he hoped “go mbeidh lá breá ag an Teachta agus go n-éireoidh leis féin agus lena chlann an lá a cheiliúradh”.
So my diction can’t be blamed. Not this time.
Martin Ferris wasn’t mentioned. In either language. For the record, his birthday is on February 10th. Maybe that could be the Lá Saoire Náisiúnta for Caoimhghín? – Is mise,
Leinster House,

Sir, – The continuing discussion around Ireland’s alleged status as a tax haven consistently misses a fundamental point.
Tax haven or not, the reality is that the various incentives offered by Ireland to attract foreign direct investment are undermining the tax take of developing countries around the world.
Christian Aid research shows that between 2005 and 2007, €268 million flowed into Ireland from the poorest countries in the world as a consequence of the tax dodging of some multinational companies.
More recent research from Action Aid showed that since 2007, Zambia has lost out on more than $9 million to a large multinational company, through in part, the use of a brass plate company in Dublin’s IFSC.
In the new Irish Aid policy paper, the Government recommitted to greater policy coherence across departments in support of development, including our tax policy.
Implementing this, the Government’s first step should be to act on the 2011 OECD/IMF recommendation that developed countries carry out spill-over analysis of their tax policy to ensure it is not undermining the development of some of the poorest countries in the world. – Yours, etc,
Christian Aid,

Sir, – How right Ian d’Alton is on the subject of Protestant fee-paying schools (September 17th). I can, I think, defend religious apartheid, but not social apartheid, which is what these schools are rapidly coming to exemplify. I believe that there are now well over 50 per cent Roman Catholics in Alexandra College, Dublin. In what sense therefore is it a Protestant school? – Yours, etc,
(formerly Dean
of St Patrick’s Cathedral),

Sir, – In this period of recognition of centenaries in Irish history, I have not seen any reference to the forthcoming millennial anniversary on the death of Brian Boru at Clontarf, Good Friday 1014. – Yours, etc,
Ashley Park,
Co Down.

Irish Independent:

Madam – John O’Connell (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013), argues that republicans are wrong in their apparent assertion that there is no answer in Christianity for dealing with the British. He points out that Jesus said that his disciples were ‘as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes’ (Mt 10: 16), before concluding that: ‘Only those who were innocent and shrewd were capable of dealing with the British.’ In support of his conclusion, Mr O’Connell cites Hume, Parnell and O’Connell who, he says, made significant progress by ruling out war in favour of using their innocence and their shrewdness.
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Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Memory lapse
However, I am afraid that that is rather a selective list. I could not, for example, help noting the conspicuous absence of any reference to Michael Collins in Mr O’Connell’s letter, despite the fact that Collins made a great deal of progress for this country and was, indeed, one of the lead negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that founded this State. Collins, of course, does not accord with Mr O’Connell’s conclusions: he was shrewd, but he was certainly no dove, and yet he proved himself quite capable of dealing successfully with the British.
It seems to me that the fact that physical force nationalism played such a significant part in the foundation of the present Republic, as exemplified by the likes of Michael Collins, is an uncomfortable reality for many in this country. Acknowledging this fact does not, however, mean that we condone or support terrorism in the present. Far from it. If I may paraphrase Queen Elizabeth, we should be able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.
The facts of our history cannot now be changed; and whether we like it or not, violence was a central part of our struggle for national independence. As we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising and the War of Independence, I think it is time we learnt to accept that legacy.
Mark Harten,
Lisduff, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan
Sunday Independent

Madam – I wish to correct inaccuracies in your review by Emer O’Kelly (Sunday Independent, September 1, 2013), of a collection of critical essays edited by Elke D’hoker on the work of my late mother, the writer Mary Lavin (1912-1996).
Also in this section
Violence part of history
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Following a year in which the centennial of Lavin’s birth was celebrated by extensive critical analysis at events in Ireland, continental Europe and North America, it is most untimely of Ms O’Kelly to choose this review to launch a gratuitously venomous attack on my mother’s work and character.
Your reviewer’s idiosyncratic views and perceptions are at variance with the respect shown by the dozen literary specialists and academics that contributed to the work under review. Ms O’Kelly gives scant credence to their opinions and chooses instead to question Lavin’s worth as a person and as a writer.
Oddly, Ms O’Kelly seems to suggest that Lavin’s work is devalued because she “never ran foul of Church or State” and by an “overweening failure to come to terms with genuine eroticism”, giving to her work a “joyless brutality”.
“That can only be understood”, O’Kelly argues, “by examining the strange reality of Lavin’s own emotional life.”
In support of this opinion, Ms O’Kelly draws misguided conclusions from aspects of my mother’s life, sometimes based on inaccurate detail.
Ms O’Kelly states that my mother was “in love from girlhood with a Jesuit priest who refused to give up his priesthood for her”.
This is both inaccurate and overstated. As a young adult Mary Lavin struck up a warm friendship with an Australian, Michael McDonald Scott, a Jesuit seminarian and a fellow student at UCD.
When the time came, he continued on his chosen path in the priesthood and after further years of study in Europe he returned to Australia, where he later had a distinguished career. He did not, as your reviewer incorrectly implies, “refuse” my mother by failing to meet her expectations as a boyfriend. He simply continued on the path to which he had already committed himself.
Lavin was widowed in 1954 by the death of her young husband (solicitor William Walsh).
When Fr Michael McDonald Scott SJ read of this sad event in an Australian newspaper, he remembered his friend from undergraduate years and wrote to her. From there a correspondence began that was to endure for the remainder of Lavin’s 15 years of widowhood. Throughout this period, he was living in Australia and she in Ireland. They were not therefore “more or less living together” as celibates, as your reviewer suggests.
On occasion in the Sixties and late Fifties, the pair saw one another in Europe when McDonald Scott travelled on Carnegie grants as a Church art specialist or when Lavin travelled as a writer on Guggenheim fellowships.
Lavin would meet up with McDonald Scott briefly as a friend, along with her three daughters. Even then, during these rare meetings, she and he did not live together as celibates.
In 1969, Michael McDonald Scott was laicised. While awaiting laicisation he lived in Belgium and it was there that he married Mary Lavin.
It would not be surprising if Lavin would say jocularly in conversation that she needed a double whiskey before going to bed with her new husband, after so many years of widowhood in the climate of the Fifties and Sixties. To deduce from this that she found physical intimacy difficult or abhorrent would be wrong. She was a very warm person, as all who knew her will aver.
Likewise, your reviewer is wrong to conclude that Lavin’s correspondence with my older sister in the Sixties accurately reflects my mother’s attitude to sex.
These out-of-character letters could be seen as the writings of a concerned parent desperately using any argument she could find, to dissuade her daughter from engaging in a relationship that she considered unwise. Lavin’s subsequent attitude to the relationships of all three daughters reveals the openness, warmth, tolerance, wit and vivacity that we all loved in her.
In Mary Lavin’s work, sex and sensuality are not absent. In her writing, much is hinted at or implied, leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination.
I find the book on Mary Lavin edited by Elke D’hoker and published by the Irish Academic Press, to be a valuable collection of essays offering new and sometimes profound insights into my mother’s work and its place in Irish and world literature. As a daughter of the author, I am very grateful for it.
Elizabeth Walsh Peavoy,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Madam – Fair dues to Brendan O’Connor for last week highlighting clearly how the reduction in VAT has helped improve competitiveness and growth in the economy, especially in the labour-intensive tourist section.
The underlying amount spent before VAT is what drives the economy and the VAT is divided between the Irish Revenue and the EU.
This brings me to the point that all VAT rates should be reduced to improve the competitiveness of the economy and the underlying spend and investment.
This underlying spend would also generate employment and generate in itself more income tax etc, and would create a more competitive cost basis in relation to our UK neighbours.
John Healy,
Madam – Was I the only reader to find it quite nauseating to read of Roz Flanagan’s 50th birthday celebrations (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013)?
Frankly, moving through the paper and reading about the suicide of an unfortunate mortgage holder in the Priory Hall development, the courage of Majella O’Donnell in shaving her head and the charity run for the Irish Kidney Association, it proves the point of how distasteful and vulgar it is to give rubbish like this headlines.
I have no problem with people having plenty of money. I have a major problem to have them boast about their over-the-top lifestyles.
Spare a thought for the readers this morning who have passed a sleepless night worrying about how to pay for school books, how to keep a roof over their heads and also for those who are being tormented by final demands from banks and building societies.
Mary Quinn,
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Madam – It was reassuring to learn from Mary Sullivan (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013), that trade union strikes can be resolved, as in the 1911 Lockout in Wexford. When both sides accept their mutual dependence, a workable compromise can be reached. The Ferenka strike in Limerick in 1977 ended in closure of the plant and the loss of 1,400 jobs and has parallels with the 1913 Lockout.
A general union, not experienced in dealing with a hi-tech industry that must guarantee constant supply to the motor industry and where shift working is unavoidable, went on a prolonged strike.
The interference of Republicans made it political and negative as they did not realise we live in an interdependent world. The Miraculous Maiden of 1913 was Constance Markievicz and of 1974 Rose Dugdale.
Kate Casey,
Barrington Street, Limerick
Madam – Congratulations to Joyce Fegan on her superb piece ‘No suicides in South Kerry for six months after Donal’s TV plea’, (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013),
Though feeling very sad for his parents and sister for their loss, I also felt great joy in reading that Donal’s words of hope are being heeded among our young people.
Long may this continue and the more emphasis that is put on Donal’s message, the more young people will listen and therefore will bid good riddance to this curse of our times.
Well done to Donal’s parents, Fionnbar and Alma in their fundraising and may their trip to America be successful as they feel their extraordinary, brave and sensational son is still helping them on their sad but wonderful journey through life.
Kathleen Blanchfield,
Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny
Sunday Independent


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