July 9, 2014

8 July2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired rain today

ScrabbleIwin, but get under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Kathy Stobart – obituary

Kathy Stobart was a tenor saxophonist who partnered Humphrey Lyttelton and taught Judi Dench to mime

Kathy Stobart

Kathy Stobart

5:25PM BST 08 Jul 2014


Kathy Stobart, who has died aged 89, was a tenor saxophonist whose long career in British jazz included prominent roles in leading bands, most notably that of Humphrey Lyttelton; she was also a distinguished teacher and a popular director of student bands.

Kathy Stobart played with a broad, forthright tone and clear, unfussy phrasing, characteristics which often led critics to remark that she played “like a man”. Although well-meant, this accolade did not please her. “It’s supposed to be the ultimate compliment, but I wouldn’t apply it to myself,” she said. “I’ve got a good pair of lungs on me and I’ve got well matured emotions. I play like me.”

Florence Kathleen Stobart was born in South Shields on April 1 1925, into a musical family. Her mother was an accomplished pianist and two brothers played the saxophone, although “there was no jazz at all” in the house. She took up the saxophone aged 12 and, on leaving school at 14, joined Don Rico’s Ladies’ Band. As well as playing, she sang and did impressions. “My Gracie Fields was much admired,” she recalled.

A year later she joined Peter Fielding’s dance band in Newcastle. This band often played at local air force stations and at one of these she met Keith Bird, a leading London saxophonist then serving in the RAF. He introduced her to jazz, coaching her in the art of improvisation and giving her a set of jazz records as a present on her 17th birthday. On returning to London in 1942, he wrote, offering her a resident job at a ballroom in Ealing.

Once established in London, Kathy Stobart was soon accepted into the small inner circle of British jazz. After finishing work at 10.30pm, she would hurry to the Jamboree Club in Wardour Street, Soho, to sit in with trumpeter Denis Rose’s band. “I played jazz morning, noon and night. I used to stay up 24 hours, just playing and listening to music,” she recalled. Despite wandering around Soho in the wartime blackout, and encountering the gamy atmosphere of some of its establishments, she claimed never to have felt threatened. The other musicians protected her from harassment and even from bad language: “They’d say, ‘Not in front of Kath’, and that was that”.

In 1943, aged 18, she married the Canadian pianist Art Thompson and worked with his band at the Embassy Club. BBC Television was relaunched in 1946, and the husband-and-wife duo were featured several times during its first year. The following year they travelled to Canada, and from there toured the US, including a season in Palm Springs. After returning to England, Kathy joined the Vic Lewis Orchestra, a big band playing in the “progressive” style of Stan Kenton. She appeared with it at the 1949 Paris Jazz Fair, Europe’s first real jazz festival.

Kathy Stobart and her band in the early 1950s

Jazz was a fairly small element in early post-war British popular music, but Kathy Stobart was counted among its leading figures. She often played as a guest soloist in Ted Heath’s Sunday Night Swing Shop concerts at the London Palladium, and for a while led her own band, Kathy Stobart and her New Music. It was when trying to promote this that she claimed to have encountered the only serious example of anti-female prejudice in her career — from a BBC executive who turned her down.

Kathy Stobart and Art Thompson were divorced in 1951 and in October of that year she married the trumpeter Bert Courtley. Three sons were born in the early years of their marriage, which interrupted her career for a while, although she played until she was six months pregnant each time. “I never put the saxophone away with the idea of letting it stay in its case for long. I always knew I’d play it again.”

In 1957 she joined Humphrey Lyttelton’s band, filling in for Jimmy Skidmore, who was ill. She and Lyttelton also recorded an album together, entitled Kath Meets Humph. A strong mutual regard formed between them, and she was to return many times as either a guest or full-time band member. The association certainly helped keep her name before the jazz public while her family was growing up. Less conventionally, she appeared for a while as a member of the onstage ladies’ band in the first London production of Cabaret, at the Palace Theatre.

Bert Courtley died in 1969, and she was faced with the task of being the sole breadwinner for her growing family. She decided to add teaching to her musical activities and enrolled for a diploma course at the Guildhall School of Music, taking clarinet and flute as well as saxophone. When the journalist Les Tomkins came to interview her, there was a note pinned to the door: “When you come into the house, mind the dog, don’t fall over the kids and don’t let the cats into the kitchen. I’ll be practising the flute in the spare room.”

She proved to be a natural teacher and soon had a full diary of pupils. She also acted for some time as woodwind consultant at Bill Lewington’s, a large West End musical instrument dealer. All this was in addition to being a member of the Lyttelton band between 1969 and 1978.

After leaving Lyttelton, she took over direction of the student band at the City Literary Institute in London. Here she was especially successful in tackling the gap which she had identified, “between becoming fairly proficient on one’s instrument and knowing how to put it into practical use in a band”. She held the post for 19 years. She also led several bands of her own, as well as appearing as a guest soloist at jazz clubs and festivals.

In 1992 she rejoined Lyttelton for the third and last time, a stay which lasted for 12 years. Among her more unusual teaching jobs during this period was an engagement to impart the rudiments of the saxophone to Dame Judi Dench, for her part in the 2000 film, The Last of the Blonde Bombshells. The two were reported to get on like a house on fire.

Kathy Stobart retired in 2004. Her place in the Lyttelton band was taken by Karen Sharp.

She is survived by her three sons.

Kathleen Stobart, born April 1 1925, died April 6 2014


Gordon Maloney and others rightly deplore the failed experiment in fees and marketisation over the last four years of a Tory-led government (Letters, 3 July). They state that before the election they want to put free accessible public education back on to the political agenda, a sentiment I share with thousands of others who are committed to re-establishing the tradition of independent working-class education that existed for much of the 20th century.

To further facilitate this aim, there will be a conference held in Bridgwater on 2 August, Does Working-Class Education Have a Future?. This is one of a number of radical education projects springing up all over the country in the wake of the Tory’s educational vandalism. These include such projects as the Ragged University in Edinburgh and the Independent Working Class Education network. Education is a right we must defend against those who would deny working people a voice.
Robert Turnbull
Hexham, Northumberland

• I wish I could be as confident as Polly Toynbee (4 July) that Dennis Skinner and John Prescott would go to university these days. I have taught many children in south Wales who have told me that they could not afford to go to university. Even if they could take on the debt, they may well be turned off by the stultifying straitjacket of GCSEs, which offer a watered-down academic education that fails the non-academic and fails to stretch the academic.

The attempt to offer working-class children a more vocational way forward through technical colleges was usurped by Tony Blair turning them into academies; and now Michael Gove has decided that the exam system that suited him must be suitable for everybody, regardless of the fact that even graduates today may be coerced into stacking supermarket shelves.

If all would-be MPs did some teaching practice they would soon learn how we waste so much precious young talent.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Until Tuesday, little had been reported about the Israeli army’s brutal crackdown against Palestinians in the wake of the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers and of rockets fired into Southern Israel. We echo the words of the Israeli former combatants’ organisation, Breaking the Silence: “We all bow our heads in mourning for the victims from both sides in the past weeks, in hope for an end to this cycle of bloodshed and occupation.” Palestinian civilians, many of them children or teenagers, have borne the brunt of Israel’s actions. An entire population, living under illegal Israeli occupation, is being collectively punished. In the West Bank, during the week of 19-25 June alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 14 others, including four children and a journalist. Israeli forces carried out 127 incursions in the West Bank. Hundreds of houses were raided and ransacked. Israel has said it is set to double the number of Palestinians it imprisons without charge or trial.

Over the course of that week, Israeli warplanes also launched 18 air strikes on civilian locations and military training sites in Gaza. Eighteen Palestinian civilians, including seven women and four children, were wounded. The structural violence of occupation is at the root of this escalation. Until Israeli occupation is ended and Palestinians control their own destiny, this suffering will continue. Palestinians are entitled to the freedom and security that we take for granted. The UK government must step up its efforts to end the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and ensure there are clear economic and political consequences to Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonisation through settlements.
Tessa Blackstone
Richard Burden MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Alex Cunningham MP
Mark Durkan MP
Hugh Dykes
Raymond Joliffe
Gerald Kaufman MP
Andy Love MP
Molly Meacher
Grahame Morris MP
Sandra Osborne MP
Bob Russell MP
Andy Slaughter MP
Jenny Tonge
David Ward MP

Kathleen Ferris (Letters, 1 July) claims that my discovery of James Joyce‘s anti-syphilitic treatment, galyl, “rests on sources and facts” cited in her 1995 book, James Joyce and the Burden of Disease. My sources are two 1928 Joyce letters published in the 1950s and 60s. The fact that Ferris also cited these letters (as with Richard Ellmann before her) does not mean that my argument “rests” on hers.

On the contrary, the body of Ferris’s book has led scholars further from the truth, not toward it. She inaccurately describes Joyce’s “arsenic and phosphorus” injections as “injections of arsenic for three weeks”, a regimen that would have killed him. One must search Ferris’s appendix for a lone mention of phosphorus, galyl’s identifying component. Since Ferris believes my identification of galyl is baseless (despite my multiple sources) her claim for more credit is all the more baffling.
Kevin Birmingham
Author, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses

Barclays is to spend tens of millions on an academy to provide training in truthfulness and compliance (Report, 4 July). Should that not have been instilled on joining the bank? David Walker says that the work done so far in teaching about compliance “is not a sign of failure … but indicative that it takes time”. It provides another breathtaking example of the ethical mindset of an industry where profit outweighs any moral considerations and where insular arrogance definitely rules.
Tony Roberts
Preston, Lancashire

• Nick Pollard’s piece on news bulletins is fascinating (Media, 7 July), but it’s disappointing that he didn’t focus on another issue: the “clubby” approach to presenting news. During the BBC 10pm news, Huw Edwards and his cronies use their first names and address each other, rather than us, the viewers at home. Most of the time, I feel I’m eavesdropping on a private conversation, rather than watching a global news report.
Paul Foxall
Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire

• As well as considering donating one’s body for medical research (Letters, 1 July), one should consider donating it for medical students to practice on. Less glamorous perhaps, but my understanding is that there is a severe shortage of these. My executors will phone the university I have chosen, tell them what I have died of, and they will decide whether to accept my body or not. The Human Tissue Authority website will tell you more.
Alan Richardson
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

• I have no issue with Yorkshire being separate (Editorial, 8 July), provided the same autonomy can be granted to north London. We, mostly, didn’t vote for Boris in County Hall , and Alexandra Palace, with its views across the capital, would make an excellent seat of government.
Keith Flett

• Your music critic can hardly complain that Michael Nyman had chosen 96 names to be intoned in his Hillsborough Memorial Symphony (Reviews, 8 July). We all wish there had been fewer deaths that day, even none.
Richard Witts
Reader in music, Edge Hill University

• So Prince Charles is reassuring flooded Somerset residents (Report, 8 July). Apres le déluge, moi?
Tony Glister

I wish I could share Aditya Chakrabortty’s optimism that a stronger underclass will be necessary for capitalism to thrive in the future (Unions need more rights: capitalism depends on it, 8 July). Unfortunately, I can’t see why the top 1% of society should fear another financial collapse. Their experience of the last crash is that virtually nobody who caused the problems had to take any of the responsibility for it. Meanwhile, the top 1% of society thrived, exponentially while the bill for reckless lending was passed down to the poor. To survive another economic implosion the rich simply have to ensure that their battlements are built high and that those suffering have few resources to fight back.

We already have food banks in major cities, and thousands of disabled and unemployed benefits claimants have seen their payments drastically reduced, and often unfairly stopped altogether. This would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, so it should come as no surprise if next time around the welfare state is scrapped to bail out the wealthy. There desperately needs to be a political party formed that will speak for the dispossessed and campaign to improve their lot without blaming immigrants and other scapegoats.
Tim Matthews

• Owen Jones seems mistakenly to think that people have a right to be employed (Comment, 7 July). As someone who has tried to launch their own business, I resent the notion that I could be forced to hire people or pay them a certain amount (which indirectly means not hiring other people). I sometimes used oDesk.com to source cheaper foreign labour, often high quality, for specific tasks at a price both parties found acceptable. I see no moral imperative that holds a British person’s labour to be intrinsically more valuable than a Filipino’s labour. The rates I paid took account of the exchange rate and made good business for the people I paid.

What Jones calls for amounts to no more than meddlesome, nationalistic socialism. A lot of the negative impact he describes can be ascribed to higher inflation than the CPI would have us believe – a result of monetary policy. Ironic, that in a supposedly capitalist society the unit of exchange – money – is completely nationalised. That said, Labour has a strong history of ignoring protests (think 3 million marching against the invasion of Iraq in February 2003). I hope that Unite union boss Len McCluskey’s threat to stop backing Labour and form a new party if it loses the 2015 election becomes a reality.
Charles Groome

• Isn’t Francis Maude a teeny bit embarrassed to be advocating restrictions on trade unions‘ rights to strike (Report, 7 July) when he could only muster the support of 38% of his Horsham constituents at the last election? Talk of “weak mandates” rings hollow when coming from a member of this government in particular.
Roy Boffy

• So, the Tories are considering making trade union strike ballots valid only if more than 50% of those eligible to vote are in favour. Their assumption, that those who don’t vote are against a strike, is faulty. I could make the alternative case that abstainers, while not voting themselves, are content to go along with the result of the ballot as decided by those that do. It is disrespectful to abstainers to make assumptions as to their reasons for not voting. We don’t know why. Democratically, we can only count the votes, and accept the decision, of those who participated. It is vital to show our opposition to this Tory proposal because, as history shows us, a future Labour government, running scared of the Tory press, is unlikely to reverse it.
Martin Childs
Orpington, Kent

I was working with children who had suffered sexual abuse in the 1980s, running a therapeutic programme (Questions child abuse inquiry must answer, 8 July). While we helped in changing many lives, we were conscious how difficult it was to prosecute and convict offenders. It was often too difficult for the children to face disbelief at their testimony and the frightening prospect of appearing in court even behind screens. The perpetrators were often established members of the community.

We dedicated our work to helping children, though aware that we were tackling the tip of the iceberg. Our hope was that as well as normalising expectations for them they might feel more able to face their abusers as adults. We used to speak of it taking a generation, but had no inkling of the added impact of the digital age.
Anne Wallis
Frome, Somerset

• During her recent criticism of the “veil of secrecy” over 114 missing files relevant to child abuse, Margaret Hodge said: “Let’s learn from the historic abuse, let’s actually give victims the right to have their voice on that, but let’s actually also focus on the present.” Which sounds like drawing another veil – over the past. A voice for victims? Only two years ago, 13-year-old rape victims in Rochdale were labelled “council estate prostitutes” making a “lifestyle choice” by the agencies meant to protect them. The girls had voices, only with the wrong accent.

Focusing on the present? We live in a more divided society than ever, where by 2020, Save the Children predict, 5 million children will be living in poverty. We mourn the ugly tragedies of Baby P and Daniel Pelka – but if these children had survived they would have been labelled and demonised, along with social workers damned for struggling to keep families intact, and damned for putting children into care. But so bad is our care system that only the most toxic families lose their children.

If Ms Hodge is serious, Action for Children has an actual plan – a £620bn targeted investment for early intervention services. It will save billions in the long run.
Jane Purcell

• What did the security services know and what did they cover up? Any investigation into child abuse must include the role of special branch and MI5. If any official government body knew about the involvement of government ministers and MPs, the security services must have been aware.

If there is evidence of collusion and cover-up by the security services, justice demands that officers be named and shamed and where possible prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Stephen Frost
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

• There is currently an unprecedented level of public interest in the historical abuse of children in a wide variety of settings. There is clear and well documented evidence that early abuse, whether sexual, physical, emotional or through neglect, causes lasting damage, and in many cases leads to serious difficulties of personal development, which in turn may have seriously adverse consequences for the individual, his or her family, and society as a whole.

In spite of this, we are currently witnessing a reduction in overall provision of mental health and social services for children, families and young people. As well as this, victims of historical child abuse, who are today’s adults, when looking for suitable support or psychological help, also face limited availability of specialist services, which are under increasing pressure as budgets are reduced, in real terms, and demand increases as more survivors of abuse come forward. Inquiries, costly as they are, and due process of law are important, but these should be accompanied by meaningful measures to address the damage that has been done, both for the sake of the victims, and in the interests of the community.
Dr M Turcan and Dr T Lambert

• Alison Taylor, the social worker who tried to expose the paedophile ring in North Wales, has said she was ostracised by her colleagues at the time and ultimately it resulted in her losing her job. Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were given awards. How about an immediate peerage for Alison Taylor? It is perhaps too late to do much for most of the children who suffered appalling abuse but as a country we can recognise the effort she made in the face of establishment hostility, and we can let her know that the ordinary people in the UK respect her for what she tried to do.
Brenda Banks
Teignmouth, Devon

Although Arts Council England has allocated an additional 2% of funding to the regions, the Merlin Theatre, Frome, Somerset is one of many smaller venues to have had its preliminary application to become a national portfolio organisation rejected (Report, 2 July). This is not because its application was weak, indeed it was assessed as strong or very strong in response to ACE goals and being low risk in governance, management and financial terms. So this response from ACE is disappointing, especially for an organisation that in the last three years has addressed weaknesses identified in response to its previous application and managed to survive thanks to an unsustainable level of dedication from much-reduced and over-stretched staff and a large team of devoted volunteers. No reason for rejection was given but perhaps can be found in ACE chief executive Alan Davey’s statement that the investment announced on 4 July demonstrates a “vote of confidence” to local authorities that invest in culture. How does this help organisations in such local authorities as Somerset and Mendip which, three years ago, cut 100% of arts funding? If it is ACE’s aim to put pressure on these authorities, would it not be more effective for ACE to engage directly with them in order to influence their decision-making?
Hilary Gilmore
Chair, Merlin Theatre, Frome, Somerset

The greatest danger facing our democracy is the ability of the public relations community to distort debate by corrupting the meaning of words. When country A invades country B and its inhabitants fight back, as they have every right to do under any conceivable international law, they become “the resistance”. An “insurgent” is defined as one who surges in. Thus, when the US army surged into Iraq in 2003 they became insurgents and the Iraqis who fought back became resistance fighters. While the Guardian has not sunk to the level of idiocy inherent in PR phrases like “clean coal”, you persist in getting this the wrong way round (Iraqis once craved unity, 20 June). Would you favour rewriting the history of the second world war to discuss the French insurgency?
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US

Apply diplomatic pressure

Facing Shia-Sunni bloodletting in Syria and Iraq, US President Barack Obama has rightly rejected any military intervention and the majority of Americans are opposed to any intervention. Michael Cohen quotes Obama saying “some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences” (No mood in US for a fight, 20 June).

However, the world cannot sit by and let the Shias and the Sunnis slaughter each other. The US should use its leverage over Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to pressure him to extend moderate Sunnis a share in the Shia-led government, which Obama is already doing. He can also use the newfound negotiation with Iran to prod the Iranian leaders to pressure Bashar al-Assad to extend similar sharing of power with the Sunnis in Syria. Obama should also persuade Saudi Arabia to stop supplying arms and financial support to the Sunni extremists. It seems both Iran and Saudi Arabia are conducting a proxy war against each other through their surrogates in the Middle East.

Obama has rightly chosen not to intervene militarily in Iraq and Syria. But he cannot let the Shias and Sunnis slaughter each other in the name of religion.
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada

Dogma and incompetence

Will Hutton, in Obsessed with reform of the NHS (27 June), exposed the fallacious thinking behind the modern panacea of corporatisation for perceived inefficiencies in public institutions such as the NHS. These fallacies arise as a consequence of: 1) a preoccupation with party dogma based on half-baked economic theory and the vested interest of other influential sectors, coupled with 2) sheer incompetence. Everybody remembers Sir Humphrey, but we tend to forget that Westminster included Jim Hacker.

Economists from Adam Smith onwards have touted hypotheses dressed up as theories with general validity as if they were holy writ. Such treatment is inappropriate for highly complex social systems. These require a more pragmatic approach involving clearly defined objectives, thorough investigation of the means of achieving them, and continual review to improve their efficiency in the light of experience and new knowledge. To cure the ills of both our bodies and our institutions, we should only resort to amputation as a last resort but, in public life at least, the barber-surgeon appears to be making a comeback.
David Barker
Bunbury, Western Australia

Sport is expensive

Sir Michael Wilshaw misses the point when he thinks that the problem of few top British sportspeople coming from state schools lies with the schools (Playing field is hardly level, 27 June). To become a top athlete in most sports requires about 10,000 hours of training. We have to charge £4.50 ($7.70) minimum for a one-and-a-half hour recreational session. Those starting to show promise would need to do maybe six hours a week (£18). Those training at a higher level may need 15-20 hours a week – and so the costs rise. Add to this costs of equipment, competition entry, travel and accommodation at competitions and squads and you are left with only the children of rich parents. Grants that cover all this are only available once you have become a top athlete. Local grants to promising juniors maybe reach £100, which goes nowhere. We try to pay our coaches – and half the costs of their training, but this is becoming prohibitive as the cost of the lowest level of qualification is over £300, the second level over £500 and the third level over £1,000. Sport is rapidly becoming only for the rich. What is amazing is that anyone from state schools manages to become a top athlete.
Catherine Page
Birkenhead, UK

Cameron is wrong on EU

How can prime minister David Cameron claim there is a democratic deficit in the European Union (4 July)? How can he accuse the European parliament of having no legitimacy and being involved in a power grab when it votes on the head of the commission? Each one of the 700-odd MEPs has been elected by a citizen of the EU. What’s more, this has been done only very recently. Cameron, in fact, has never been elected as prime minister. Unlike France, for example, Britons do not elect their leader. He is prime minister because a coalition of Lib Dems and Conservatives, the biggest group in the British parliament, wants it to be so. In the EU parliament the biggest coalition is the centre right, which wishes Jean-Claude Juncker to be leader of the commission. How is that in any way different to the process that produced Cameron as British PM?
Mike Owen
Blandford, UK

Flesh-and-blood reality

Simon Jenkins’s piece on how technology has not replaced flesh-and-blood experiences (27 June) harks back to the old science-fiction scenario of robots obsessed with seeking the human qualities they lack, as in the theory that robotic aliens have come to earth and retrieved samples of our flesh in an attempt to replicate our “power of live”, as Jenkins quotes the latest California mot du jour. One simple non-scientific experiment to prove the “exhilaration” of “physical interaction” is to look up from your iPhone the next time you’re in public and cast your eyes on some new real flesh and blood faces again.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

A greener option

Zoe Williams’s article (4 July) neglects to mention the green(ish) option of long-distance container-ship travel. It’s hard to see any advantage in flying from Luxembourg to Amsterdam. Train would be faster and without the time-wasting airport and security procedures.

Container-ships are polluting – but less so than aircraft – and they are going to operate anyway.

I have, over 22 years, travelled nearly two dozen times by container ship. I have no guilty conscience about this, since for those with time to spare there is no greener option.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK


• Once again the Guardian refers to Narendra Modi’s landslide victory (27 June). This is deceiving and propagates a myth that politicians love. Modi got 31% of the vote: that is not a landslide, it is a minority. It is only because of the peculiar way that votes in the British electoral system are converted into parliamentary seats that it seems that he won. It is not democracy. Why do people put up with it?
David Huntley
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• Catherine Corless’s persistent research into what is hidden in the grounds of an abandoned nunnery might well inspire the same sort of digs in Canada (27 June). Similar sordid secrets are coming to light here.

What did James Joyce mean when he said, “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow”? Surely he could not have imagined the mysterious deaths of innocents in pious institutions – or could he?
William Emigh
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

• Michael Pritchard’s filtering water bottle is an excellent example of a technical innovation (13 June). There was one thing missing, though. Having filtered a large amount of water, one is left with a filter heavily contaminated with pathogens, and that requires safe disposal.

No mention was made of this. May I suggest burning, along with instructions in the safe handling of the used filter?
Derek Williams
Donvale, Victoria, Australia

• The latest action of footballer Luis Suárez strikes us Europeans as shocking but not, it seems, his countrymen (4 July). Perhaps in Uruguay they refer to football as The Bite-iful Game.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

• Peter Geoghegan’s report on oil booming and busting Aberdeen features in your international news pages (27 June). A subliminal pro-independence stance?
Ángel Diaz Mendez
Oviedo, Spain

• Following on from your story about Jimmy Savile’s abuse (4 July), isn’t now the time to stop our obsessive cult of celebrity status. In all walks of life?
Suzanne Fletcher
Stockton on Tees, UK


I guess I am as “English” as anyone in this country can be, my family having lived in the village where I reside for 250 years now. As far as I know, I do not have a single “Scottish” gene in my body. Yet some years ago I joined the Scottish National Party.

I did so because I grew tired of the continuous whining of Scottish politicians about how unfair the other countries in the union were to them. In the absence of a credible “English Nationalist Party” I decided the best way for me to be rid of Scotland would be to support its own drive to independence.

I will be happy to see the Scots pay for their own free university education, nursing-home places and prescriptions, rather than a large part of it coming, as currently it does, from the Barnett formula. I predict that after a brief period of euphoria the Scots will be taking their tartan begging bowl to the IMF and EU.

So, if ye gang awa’ Alex, from my point of view it will have been two pounds a month well spent.

John Glasspool

Timsbury, Hampshire

Around half of what the SNP claims is Scottish oil is in waters that would be lost to Scotland if Orkney and Shetland were allowed the same freedom to decide on nationhood as the SNP is demanding for Scotland.

While the financial arguments for Scottish independence are debatable, one thing is certain. If Orkney and Shetland, with their historical links to Norway, threw off the Scottish yoke, an independent Scotland would have a monumental financial crisis and a much impoverished future.

When is Alex Salmond going to tell us how his party intends to squash any attempt by the Northern Isles to gain independence since their retention is essential to a prosperous independent Scotland?

Roger Chapman

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Why on earth should anyone listen to Alistair Darling’s musings (report, 8 July) on the impact of a Yes vote on the economy of Scotland and the UK? This is the ex-chancellor who allowed the continuation of  the Thatcherite de-regulated regime in the financial industry, who presided over the run-up to the banking crisis and also supported the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the renewal of Trident. His campaign in support of the Union is motivated solely by his fear that the loss of the Scottish Labour MPs would put his party out of power for a very long time and possibly forever.

Colin Yardley

Chislehurst,  Greater London

People living in England and Wales will be unaware that HM Government has sent to all homes in Scotland a glossy, 16-page, full-colour brochure entitled What Staying in the UK Means for Scotland.

It contains nothing other than arguments supporting the Better Together campaign. The only nod to impartiality is a sentence on page 15 that states, in smaller type: “Alternatively, you can request information by writing to: Scotland Office…”

What is the London-based media doing to investigate this misuse of public funds for political purposes?

Peter Martin

Muir of Ord, Highland

If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision making, it will do much to swell the No vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa.

John Eoin Douglas



The role of celebrity status in sex abuse

It was obviously wrong of Rolf Harris to do what he did (report, 7 July). But if we put people on pedestals and insulate them from regular reality checks, we should expect this type of behaviour.

It is likely that we evolved from polygamous apes and much of our behaviour may still be based on this genetic history. Many apes use sex as one mechanism to create or reinforce social bonds. This can take the form of enforced sex as well, including the kind of assault Rolf was found guilty of. A male ape leader of a polygamous group would seek to reinforce the social bonds regularly to prove to the whole group, and himself, that he is in charge.

When our celebrities are surrounded by people who are always reinforcing how wonderful they are, it is unsurprising when the celebrities lose their moral compass and social perspective. These celebrities are repeatedly given the message that they are the dominant male in their social group. When females are introduced into the social group, does our biological background play a part in driving these “dominant males” to do the things they do?

Our sycophantic celebrity culture, and our biological hard wiring make this society’s problem. We may drive this behaviour underground by showing that people sometimes don’t get away with rapes and assault, but it won’t stop until we work out how we can destroy the cult of celebrity. These people  are skilled entertainers,  not heroes.

Andrew Roberts

Newbury, Berkshire

The child-abuse allegations are the most serious consequences to have arisen from a string of examples of institutional failures and mismanagement (“Independent inquiry to look into paedophile network claims”, 8 July).

At the root of these failures is a belief in the virtually sacrosanct nature of “management” and “leadership”. For too long, leadership positions have gone to those who can be trusted to toe the line, rather than to ask questions. This has resulted in management structures that may be suitable for the purposes of the establishment, but not for the many on the receiving end of their policies.

I Christie

King’s Lynn, Norfolk

One of the key roles of MI5 has been to monitor our senior establishment figures to identify any potential circumstances that facilitate blackmail by a foreign power. It is inconceivable that, in a period that began before the end of the Cold War, the activities of a Westminster-based paedophile ring would not have been closely monitored by our secret services. And even if they had failed to spot it, any files relating to such a blackmail risk would surely have been sent to them as soon as the Home Office received them in 1983. Has Theresa May asked them if they kept their copies?

Colin Burke


Why do we need to know that Theresa May made her statement “in a sombre all-black trouser suit”?

Margaret Lyons


A grandfather lost in the first world war

“A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Their identification tags were embedded in the putrid flesh” (5 July) was both horrifying and grisly. My grandfather was killed at the Somme in August 1916 and his body was never found. I always had a fond thought that some French farmer would turn up his identification tag while ploughing his fields.

Alas, when I attended the opening of the visitor centre at Thiepval I was informed that only officers had metal tags and the other ranks had tags made of cardboard. My grandmother never saw the memorial at Thiepval, never knew where exactly or how her husband died. All she knew was that she had six children to bring up on her own.

Rosalind Grey

Ely, Cambridgeshire

John Lichfield’s article on the First World War and presumption that it was a myth that the German army was never defeated is not correct. In spite of massive losses and the entry of America to the war, the German army remained a force that would have made it very difficult for the Allies to actually occupy Germany.

At sea, as in the Second World War, the German U-boats remained undefeated and could have continued to wage war against the Allies. At Kiel in the Second World War the U-boat crews showed their resolve and disgust by turning their backs on the Allies when the surrender was taking place.

Technically the Germans were not defeated in the First World War but sought an Armistice when they had almost run out of men and the army had to engage in fighting Communists in the homeland rather than at the front. Battle for battle the Germans came out of the war with far more victories than the Allies and would undoubtedly have won had it not been for the intervention of America with thousands of fresh troops and armaments.

D Cameron

Farnham, Hampshire


Struggles with sexuality

It is great that Grace Dent is so accepting of other people’s sexuality (8 July). But from my work as a counsellor, I know it isn’t always that easy. I have seen parents who have struggled with “the announcement”. They want to be supportive but find it a challenge accepting a person who feels different to the one they have lived with for 15 years.

And despite the numerous celebrities who either play gay TV characters or are gay themselves and proud to  be so, it is still challenging for most 16-year-olds to accept their sexuality  if it is different to that  of their peers.

Owen Redahan

London SW18


Times columnist Libby Purves hits a nerve with her concern about role models for young women

Sir, Thanks are due to Libby Purves for putting the whole “cool gang makes good” thing in perspective (“Not every wild child finds a happy ever after”, July 7) . Well done.

Libby’s message is music to the ears of this mother of girls, who struggled with the right balance of advice for over ten years. Should one be a “miserable old bat”, as Libby put it, or should one not try to point out the obvious perils of running with the “cool girls”? A lot depends on the character of the individual girl, but at least I feel vindicated that I did try to make the right noises about being sensible. I hope the latest research, plus endorsement from your top columnist, will encourage more mothers to feel it is worthwhile to at least state a case, even if it fails to influence their daughters’ choices.

Isolde Watson

Longthorpe, Peterborough

Sir, I would like to be included in Libby Purves’s colony of bats, as I too am disenchanted by the plethora of “wild child stories”. I find them self-obsessed and indulgent, and the happy ending to the over-indulgence and sensationalism sends out the wrong message to young women.

Binge drinking and getting “off your face” on drink and substances are seen a rite of passage, but it is actually disturbing to witness young women reeling round the centre of town, barely conscious of their behaviour and surroundings.

Probably we all over-indulged too much in our youth, but the majority of us did make it home to the right bed and parents who kept awake to ensure we were safely asleep, even though the bedroom might rotate in an alarming manner.

I agree with Libby Purves, the scenario does not always bode well and women can have their heads and bodies messed up for years and never escape this legacy of abuse.

I also would like to read about conventional back stories where education is deemed to have been a privilege and a life-affirming means to a well-rounded, confident person, but I suppose they would seem too normal and boring to a readership hungry for every lurid detail of a misspent youth.

Judith A. Daniels

Cobholm, Norfolk

Sir, My family and I (single mum with two teenagers aged 16,19) are avid readers of The Times. Sometimes it is a struggle to obtain the paper here in the West of Ireland but we persevere for the sake of the wonderful words and wisdom from some of your wonderful writers — Simon Barnes, Philip Collins, Matthew Syed, Janice Turner and in particular, the outstanding Libby Purves. Over the years Libby’s articles have helped me to tackle and handle many delicate topics with my teenagers (simply leave the paper on the dinner table with Libby’s name highlighted for their attention) and a good discussion inevitably follows. I shall be highlighting her article (July 7).

I think Libby should consider changing her name from miserable old bat to wise old owl.

Denise Armstrong

Castlebar, Co Mayo, Ireland

Sir, May we please have more common sense like that shown in Libby Purves’ article today? Drug taking among the wealthy and successful may be well known and even admired in some areas, but it’s still illegal and is directly connected with countless deaths. More of Ms Purves’ wisdom, please.

Rita Gulliver

Woodley, Berks

Charities working with disabled people are concerned about changes to the benefits regulations

Sir, The UK charities which represent millions of disabled people are very concerned about the life-shattering changes to disability benefits.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is intended to support people with the increased cost of having a disability, but changes to the eligibility criteria mean that if people can walk more than just 20 metres with a stick they will no longer receive the highest rate of the benefit. Many of those that need this benefit the most will no longer qualify for the support they desperately need.

Over half a million people are set to lose out — and even more in years to come. Thousands will have to give up their car or other mobility equipment, thus potentially missing work, education or medical appointments.

Michelle Mitchell, MS Society

Steve Ford, Parkinson’s UK

Richard Hawkes, Scope

Liz Sayce OBE, Disability Rights UK

Susie Parsons, National AIDS Trust

Sonya Chowdhury, Action for M.E.

Closing Yorkshire’s roads for the Tour de France was a dramatic reminder how quiet life can be without cars

Sir, One great joy of the Tour de France passing through the Yorkshire Dales was in the hours preceding the event when roads were closed to traffic. Although it is always quiet around here the silence without noise from cars was quite deafening.

It made me realise how intrusive car noise can be, and it was a delight to briefly enjoy such total tranquility.

WMA Sheard

Thornton Rust, N Yorks

The administration of the NHS alone costs as much as a new high-speed railway, every year

Sir, We do need a proper conversation on health policy (letter, July 7). It must include administrative costs, the largest item of NHS expenditure. In 2010 it was estimated that 14 per cent of the NHS budget, about £15.4 billion, went on administration. This was probably an underestimate. The exact costs are hard to calculate — how, for example, does one cost the admin activities by frontline clinical staff — but this should be included.

For 2014 an estimate of £20 billion would be credible. To put it another way, the cost of managing the NHS for a year is similar to the projected cost of building the HS2 rail link from London to Birmingham or more than half the total education budget. This just seems wrong.

Bohumil S Drasar

Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology

London N12

A reader from Hull enjoys learning the codes and complexities of conversing with niqab wearers

Sir, As a white, British, young mum with a daughter at a school that is approximately half Muslim, I have had no problems conversing with other mothers wearing the niqab while on the school run.

It is easily possible to assess someone’s emotions by their eyes and equally possible to have full and varied conversations despite not being able to see someone’s mouth. I am enjoying building relationships and have really enjoyed the challenge of telling the mums wearing the niqab apart.

Joanna Birnie


Closing Yorkshire’s roads for the Tour de France was a dramatic reminder how quiet life can be without cars

Sir, One great joy of the Tour de France passing through the Yorkshire Dales was in the hours preceding the event when roads were closed to traffic. Although it is always quiet around here the silence without noise from cars was quite deafening.

It made me realise how intrusive car noise can be, and it was a delight to briefly enjoy such total tranquility.

WMA Sheard

Thornton Rust, N Yorks


SIR – Even the Liberal Democrats, who endlessly promoted nuclear cruise missiles on Astute-class submarines as an alternative to Trident – a strategy mooted by Mark Campbell-Roddis (Letters, July 3) – have been forced to abandon this notion.

Such a system would be more expensive (because of the costs of designing new warheads and missiles) and less effective (because of the greater vulnerability of cruise). It would put the submarines at risk because the shorter range of cruise missiles would require the boats to patrol much closer inshore, and could even start World War Three by accident, should a conventionally armed cruise missile launch be mistaken for a nuclear attack.

Meanwhile Yugo Kovach (Letters, July 4) is torn between denouncing Trident as a “financial albatross” and praising the French for manufacturing their own missile system. Yet this could only increase our costs if we followed suit. The purpose of our strategic minimum deterrent is to show any future enemy that our retaliatory capability in the event of an attack would not only be unbearable, but inescapable. The fact that Trident missiles are manufactured and tested in close co-operation with our American ally in no way limits our ability to respond independently, if our survival is at stake.

Dr Julian Lewis MP (Con)
Cadnam, Hampshire

Public transport costs

SIR – Is there any chance of Adam Mugliston, who admirably took four days, 10 hours and 44 minutes to travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats by bus at a cost of £170 (1,167 miles at 15p/mile), being put in charge of public transport in Dorset? Yesterday my girlfriend and I travelled from Poole to Corfe Castle by bus/train at a cost of £29.60 (a 28-mile round trip at £1.05/mile).

We had a lovely time though.

Tim Palmer

Abominable blue bear

SIR – The Bhutanese belief in the yeti is so strong that a wildlife sanctuary was created to protect it. The 290-square-mile Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is in the north-eastern mountains bordering Tibet. Bhutan’s folklore abounds with stories of the yeti and there are many people who still claim to have seen it.

I believe that the Himalayan Blue Bear has been mistaken for the yeti. The bear is a sub-species of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and believed to be extinct but could still exist in Bhutan. Its natural habitat is the alpine regions of eastern Tibet, western China, and Nepal. In 2012 a ranger in Bhutan looking for the yeti, took this photograph of the footprint in the snow in remote mountains and he claims it to be that of a bear.

Tshering Tashi
Thimphu, Bhutan

Family blessings

SIR – My father always sneezed twice, making us cover our ears with their explosive nature. My mother’s sneezes are numerous and cat-like. I combine their characteristics and typically sneeze at least eight times very loudly and quickly.

Pam Norman

National Archives fees

SIR – I find it almost offensive that the National Archives, a government body, should charge for online searches of information held on servicemen and women who served in the First World War. Details of medals, service records, etc., are all available, but at an extortionate cost of £3.30 for each downloaded document. This would seem to go against the spirit of the principles behind the 2000 Freedom of Information Act. Children researching details of their grandparents’ war records for homework for example, are effectively barred by the costs involved.

This is big business for the National Archives, whose records on their website show that 145 million such documents were downloaded in 2012.

The online information should be freely available. As the centenary of the outbreak of war approaches, I suggest that all publicly held online records relating to the First World War be made available free of charge, if only for this anniversary year.

Andrew Campbell
Coombe Dingle, Gloucestershire

Can do better

SIR:- “Can do better” – a typically brief comment that teachers wrote on my annual school reports in the 1940s. Occasionally I received the “Progress well maintained” accolade and the headmaster always added a brief summary at the bottom, such as: “He is sliding down the hill, he can pull himself up!” The only other addition was a grading system of A to E for the various subjects.

My daughter-in-law teaches a class of 30 children and recently wrote no less than 33,000 words on her annual reports – 1,100 per child. All this had to be done in her own time, involving long hours at the computer for night after night. No wonder teachers have less time to devote to preparation of actual teaching. The old style reports were actually just as informative to a discerning parent.

Fred Crowhurst
Streetly, Staffordshire

Reciprocal worship

SIR – My wife and I are concerned that if we wanted to visit a mosque, we would not be welcomed, while we would welcome Muslims at our church to witness our faith.

I appreciate that our lack of Arabic would be a hindrance to visiting a mosque, as would my wife’s gender. However, we would still like to see for ourselves what goes on.

David Slater
Flimwell, East Sussex

Opera stagings need visuals worthy of the music

SIR – Mary Firth’s letter (June 3) about the trend for “ultra-modern, sexed-up, ridiculous productions” of traditional opera really struck a chord.

On June 29 I attended a production of Eugene Onegin at Glyndebourne, which was exactly how an opera should be. The singing was superb, the costumes delightful, and the scenery exactly as I am sure Tchaikovsky would have wanted it. We cheered ourselves hoarse at the end.

In total contrast was a performance of Manon Lescaut which I attended at Welsh National Opera last winter. The performers’ voices were wonderful but the scenery and the costumes were dismal, and the sex scenes unnecessarily explicit.

People attend operas for a pleasing visual experience as well as for the glorious music, and directors would do well to remember this. Otherwise one might as well stick to CDs.

Suzanne Hunter

SIR – Mary Firth’s suggestion that English National Opera should “put on more traditional productions” is a recipe for disaster. The musical standards at ENO are high and the productions at worst are always interesting. The audiences with whom I saw Benvenuto Cellini – on three separate occasions – were delighted with the lavish spectacle, approved of the excellent musical standards, and ignored the ridiculous plot.

Admittedly some opera regulars hanker for the years when the fat ladies sang and everyone wore period costume. Yet surely part of the joy of opera-going is discovering what directors and performers have done with a piece of work, and the opportunities to do that are provided in abundance by ENO.

The price of opera tickets is high, but the ENO does give value for money. It also has one of the best amphitheatres in London.

William Russell
London SE4

SIR – Recently I have had visited upon me a small Moroccan tortoise by a lovely granddaughter whose interest in animals has now turned to kittens.

However, we are struggling to find food it will accept: for Toastie (the tortoise) will eat nothing but anemone leaves.

I have read much about the tortoise diet, and have gone about gathering the most juicy of dandelions, from which he always retreats as if they were poison.

I have also tried nasturtiums, marigolds and other edible flower leaves, to no avail.

In desperation I obtained a “total holistic dietary food of dandelion flavour”, but when offered it he closed one eye before turning away as if to say, “You must be joking”. My once-proud anemones have been reduced to a row of bare stalks.

I would value any advice from readers.

Ray Smart
Bottesford, Leicestershire

SIR – A single event – the death in 2004 of a patient, Mary McClinton – was the necessary “rallying cry” for staff in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital to implement new methods to improve patient safety (“Can the Japanese car factory methods that transformed a Seattle hospital work on the NHS?”).

A similar case occurred in London when, during an operation in 2010, 10-year-old Maisha Najeeb had a syringe of glue injected into her brain accidentally instead of a harmless marker dye. The case was settled in January this year for £24 million, a record pay-out for the NHS. Surely this should be the “rallying cry” for similar changes in the NHS, including the independent investigation of very serious incidents.

Dr David Whitaker

SIR – The adoption of the Toyota Production System (TPS) – also known as lean manufacturing or lean enterprise – is not any form of magic, but a well-proven methodology that can totally transform the efficiency, cost, quality and service levels of organisations.

The article made much of the discipline of “stop the line”, linking it to “whistle-blowing”. But this is a small element of the TPS, the successful implementation of which entails a huge commitment and involvement from the top to the bottom of the organisation, culturally as well as managerially.

The results can be transformational. If Jeremy Hunt’s department were to select a small number of pilot schemes, then facilitate the necessary training, allow adequate time for implementation and (most importantly) not interfere or add bureaucracy to the process, then the potential results could go a long way to providing the NHS with an alternative to throwing money at its problems.

Phil Stamp
Chulmleigh, Devon

SIR – Last month, the NHS ranked number one for safe care out of 11 nations in a Commonwealth Fund study, ahead of Australia, Germany and the United States.

Our national incident reporting system is the most advanced of its kind and follows similar principles to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, receiving more than 140,000 reports each month, with 68 per cent of incidents having caused no harm to the patient and 26 per cent low harm. These reports ensure incidents are addressed nationally and solutions are developed. They also inform our patient-safety alerting system, which makes staff aware of risks. The new Sign up to Safety campaign supports staff in speaking up when things go wrong, allowing us to learn as a whole.

We are always looking to improve, but perhaps we should be proud of our own achievements and not look so far from home to find world-class patient safety.

Dr Mike Durkin
Director of Patient Safety, NHS England
London SE1

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole is right (“Trashing the concept of a public service”, Opinion & Analysis, July 8th). The locked-out Greyhound workers deserve the total support of everyone who believes that decent pay and conditions are worth upholding and that the race to the bottom should be stopped. They have my wholehearted support.

However, Fintan’s understanding of the history of this issue is somewhat flawed. The privatisation of the bin service, the abolition of the waiver for those on low incomes and the waste of €96 million on the Poolbeg incinerator all stem from the removal of all powers on waste matters from elected councillors.

That transfer of power was the one and only victory of the “anti-bin tax brigade”. Those who advocated a “don’t pay” policy left Dublin City Council with debts of nearly €20 million. That gave the city management the excuse to get rid of the service. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s column and Jack O’Connor’s interview on Morning Ireland highlight eloquently the dangers to workers’ conditions of the present cut-throat competitive mode in the disposal of public waste. But there is also a serious health hazard when the quality of waste disposal services is determined by the quantity of money to be made in providing an essential public good. Could I suggest this is not just a “race to the bottom” for workers but a “rat race to the bottom” for all of us? – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole correctly laments the loss of the publicly operated bin collection service in Dublin city but omits to fully explain how and why that council’s bin collection service was privatised in the first place.

Responsibility for the loss of this well-run council service can be traced right back to the populist far-left’s long-running and lamentable campaign to oppose the concept of a charge to fund a safe and sustainable domestic refuse collection and disposal service, operated by people represented by trade unions and who were paid a fair, living wage.

This campaign encouraged householders not to pay, thereby putting the viability of the public collection service at risk and precipitating the Fianna Fáil-PD government to remove important waste policy decision powers from the hands of democratically elected councillors.

As the Greyhound workers fight against the prospect of crippling pay cuts and as citizens like Mr O’Toole lament the loss of their public bin collection service, we should not forget who is responsible for creating the circumstances which have allowed this sorry situation to come to pass. – Yours, etc,


Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin writes that the “Freedom of Information Act is being restored” (“Labour must defend – not apologise for – its role in Government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th).

In removing section 16 of the current law and replacing it with a new section 8, the Minister is conferring legal authority on all public institutions across the State to decide what criteria will be published for the making of decisions, including decisions that affect citizens’ entitlements.

This is in stark contrast with the current law’s section 16, under which all public bodies must publish the criteria for making such decisions. The publication of such materials enables citizens to ensure that decisions are being made in a fair and consistent manner and that like cases are being treated in a similar fashion.

The proposed code of practice and guidelines are not legally binding and in any event, almost an entire year after the Bill’s publication, the much-vaunted code of practice and guidelines have still not been published for examination by our elected legislators.

The apparent removal of upfront fees is a welcome development but the removal of the protections enshrined in section 16 will be a grim piece of work for democracy and for those who have neither the financial resources nor the capacity to protect their rights in the courts.

Those with sufficient financial resources will continue to be able to vindicate their rights in the courts. Section 16 went some distance in expanding that potential to those not so financially enabled to protect those rights.

Let us hope Mr Howlin will retain section 16 and improve it, rather than the proposed disaster for law-based transparency and accountability that will ensue upon its abolition. – Is mise,


Ramillies Road,

Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

Sir, – If the “Garthering” is to be cancelled, perhaps the President should intervene and ensure that Brooks is made to feel welcome in Ireland in the future. I propose rescheduling the concerts to take place around Easter 2016. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Street,

Eganville, Ontario.

Sir, – The Labour Party won 122,000 first-preference votes in the recent local elections. Some 400,000 tickets have been sold for the Croke Park gigs. Maybe Joan Burton should spend two days talking to Garth Brooks, rather than Enda Kenny. She might find there’s more votes to be had in the “country and western” regions. – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower,


Sir, – While the cancellation of all five Garth Brooks concerts must come as an undeniable disappointment to hundreds of thousands of people, this debacle has had a silver lining – the refusal of the authorities to compromise on the procedures laid down to determine the granting or refusal of such licenses. A event that was “too big to fail” was created, and an assumption made that its holding would be facilitated by Official Ireland simply because the alternative was too disruptive, too damaging, to be contemplated. By standing by their decision, albeit that it had unfortunate consequences, the relevant officials have demonstrated that they will not be bullied by well-orchestrated PR campaigns into ratifying what should not have been ratified.

If our event-licensing system is somehow not fit for the purpose of holding such large events, then this matter should be dealt with by way of legislative reform and not presenting decision-makers with a ready-made disaster. – Yours, etc,


Kerrymount Rise,

Foxrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s no small wonder that Garth Brooks feels unwelcome in Ireland. Perhaps the iconic country star could tour the UK, where his significant fan base would guarantee him a warm reception. – Yours, etc,


Lonsdale Road,



Sir,– The injuring of four people during the annual Pamplona bull run (“Pamplona bull run leaves four hospitalised on first day”, July 7th) is another reminder of how cruel and irresponsible this barbaric ritual is, despite the romanticised image that attaches to it in the minds of the heartless, the deluded and the misinformed.

Apart from the risk to human participants, the bulls don’t deserve this vile mistreatment. They are goaded by “sportspeople” who prod them or administer electric shocks prior to the run. The animals are teased and aggravated to the point of frenzy, and the presence of so many people – standing, gesticulating, or running along the narrow cobbled streets – adds to their fear and distress.

Traumatic though the run is for them, the bulls are afterwards subjected a far worse ordeal. They are tortured to death in another so-called traditional event, the bullfight, in which they are hacked and stabbed with razor-sharp lances before being teased by a caped matador who dispatches him with a sword thrust. All for the edification of a blood-crazed mob that wouldn’t look out of place in an ancient Roman coliseum.

The biggest myth surrounding this twisted and sadistic form of entertainment is the notion that the matador, whatever one thinks of the “sport”, is a heroic fellow who puts his life on the line in the pursuance of a noble custom.

In fact, apart from the softening-up process in the ring with the repeated stabbing by the picadors, the bull is also weakened even before entering the ring. This is accomplished by beating the animal with great force over the kidneys and rubbing Vaseline into its eyes to impair vision.

I find it revolting that the Pamplona “festival” is still being covered by the media as an almost normal cultural activity. It doesn’t deserve any such standing. It belongs, not in the annals of culture or legitimate tourism but in the dustbin of history, along with bear baiting, hare coursing, and dog fighting. That there are people who organise and participate in such barbarism is a disgrace to humanity. – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,


Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Jacky Jones (“The Catholic Church still does not get child abuse issue”, Health + Family, July 8th) states that the National Board for Safeguarding Children received 164 allegations against priests and religious between April 1st, 2013, to the end of March 2014. What she does not clarify is that the vast bulk of theses are historical cases that related to the decades between the 1940s and 1990s, with the largest number from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. All were reported to the Garda or PSNI and relevant health authorities. – Yours, etc,


Ardlui Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Sean O’Cuinn (July 7th) asks what the consequences for Ireland of a UK exit from the EU would be. It would be an unfortunate and regrettable move on many levels for this island, but also an opportunity. As the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU and a timezone shift by one hour to the west, the city of Dublin would be well placed to reap the benefits from a marginalised City of London. – Yours, etc,


Killiney Hill Road,


Sir, – Further to Seamus Boland’s letter (July 7th), Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is on the record as pledging broadband speeds of not less than 30 Mbps throughout the country by 2015. Is Mr Boland suggesting that a Labour Minister would break an important promise? – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – Footpaths used to be safe for pedestrians. This is no longer the case. Footpaths have now, all too frequently, become “flight paths” for “kamikaze” cyclists, who whizz at speed from road to pathway, weaving without warning in and out between the walkers, young and old. Texters with heads bent are another hazard who pay no attention to where they are going. But worst of all are those cyclists who cycle with one hand on handlebar and the other using a mobile phone. Are cyclists above the law? – Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park South,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – On Saturday you printed a fitting tribute to “one of the greatest modern Irish architects”, Ronnie Tallon (Obituaries, July 5th).

As he was involved in designing the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, perhaps the OPW would think of a suitable refurbishment in this the 35th year since the papal visit? – Yours, etc,


Dale Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“In a Word”, July 7th) will be gratified to know of an increase in the number of copies of The Irish Times on sale in Portadown. There are now at least four news outlets in the town which sell the newspaper.

Even if only one copy is sold in each, this is an increase on the three copies sold in the town, as once perceived by Patsy McGarry’s contact.

As an Irish Times reader it has been my experience that the copies of the paper available in Portadown seldom survive past mid-morning. Does the marketing strategy lack rigour? – Yours, etc,


Kilmore, Armagh.

Sir, – The best arrangement of castors for manoeuvring heavily laden supermarket trolleys in confined spaces is fixed wheels on the front, pivoting wheels on the back. Ask any forklift driver. – Yours, etc,


Cuil Ghlas,


Co Meath.

Sir, – In recent days several correspondents have in turn championed the less familiar, responded with the orthodox, before finally introducing uncertainty and denial into the supermarket trolley debate. If I might summarise this debate so far, the supermarket trolley is designed to keep us to the straight and narrow literally, and allows us to pass one another up and down the aisle. Whether one steers oneself to the checkout, or one is guided by fixed castors, is irrelevant to someone who knows that the real world exists outside in the car park, and the pavement where the trolley rests is simply not fit for purpose.

Surely this has to be an extended religious metaphor arrived at by random accident, or could it be by intelligent design? – Yours, etc,


Old Kilmore Road,


Co Down.

Sir, – Why can’t men ask a woman what to do with supermarket trolleys, asks Jane Nyhan (July 8th)? That might be described as castor dispersions. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Never mind about pivoting castors or fixed castors, all I want is a trolley that goes in the direction I want it to go and does not have a mind of its own. – Yours, etc,


Upper Glenageary Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I had no idea until I read Arthur Henry’s letter (July 7th) as to how dangerous shopping really was, except of course for the credit card.

I have weighed up the different solutions offered by various contributors to this page and I have decided that my preferred option, and by far the safest, is from now on to shop online and just have it delivered. – Yours, etc,


Burgage Manor,


Co Wicklow.

Dear Sir, – I’m sure the Government’s Cabinet reshuffle will make an enormous difference to the running of the country. Is it really any different than reshuffling a deck of cards with 52 jokers in it? – Yours, etc,


College Point,

New York.

Sir, – The resurrection shuffle? – Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Further to Lucy Kellaway’s entertaining – as always – piece (“Sorry if you don’t like my column . . . eh, not really”, July 7th), can I contribute an example of apologetic insincerity proffered by Dublin Bus? This is the message frequently seen on the destination board of a bus: “Sorry. Not in Service”.

I confess that I find it disconcerting to have a bus apologise to me, especially in public. – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive, Dublin 16.

Sir, – If Una Mullally thinks Glastonbury is such a fine example of good crowd behaviour (“Croker debacle down to disrespect for outdoor spaces”, Opinion & Analysis, July 7th), how come it needs a force of 800 people working for six weeks to clean up after it (“What’s hot, what’s not”, Magazine, July 5th)? – Yours, etc,


Belgrave Road,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

‘Disappointing’ is a word utterly devalued and deflated by its over-zealous usage by our political elite. But it has to be given one last decrepit shambling waddle – to describe the reaction of this and many other long-term Burton political admirers as we watched the 6.01 television interview on the evening of her victory.

Apart from a rollicking game of musical cabinet chairs with Enda behind closed doors, all she wanted was a low pay commission and more social housing!

These are very worthy proposals if they could begin to be delivered during the limited life of this administration. But they are no more than what could be proposed by a smart liberal-conservative. Indeed, I could well imagine Disraeli and Bismarck, the fathers of modern pragmatic conservatism, heartily approving them!

This is not a party of serious, radical but pragmatic reform. There was not even the most carefully hidden, veiled hint of a critique of the deeply flawed global socio-economic system, which, crashing into our own amateurish consumer/capitalist Haughey/Ahern/Cowenism, brought us to where we are today.

Most of us understand the precarious situation in which Joan and Labour find themselves, as well as the complex situation in which the Labour collective leadership found itself when attempting to implement government in a war for national survival.

But these offer no excuse for not telegraphing the eventual quantum leap in mindset if Labour is to be true to itself. Sadly, Joan’s failure to telegraph the eventual necessity for this leap indicates how an introspective, redundant and irrelevant Labour sees itself.

Sadly, I cannot recommend our young, and young at heart, to support a Burtonian Labour Party which now appears to have settled for bread and circuses. For it’s a quiet, gentle, leafy-suburb tiptoeing from the pages of Irish history – a self-obsessed bourgeois Cheshire cat without even the genial courtesy of a jocular grin.





On Saturday, July 5, I attended a silent vigil at the Embassy of the United States in Dublin. The event, which was organised by the Justice For Smallhorne & Barrett campaign group, is principally made up of men who served with the 46th Battalion in the Lebanon. It is supported by all ex-Irish military veterans and indeed the event was attended by approximately 800-plus ex-soldiers, mainly Irish but included French, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, Americans and others.

The group is seeking justice for the murder in cold blood on April 18, 1980, of two Irish soldiers, Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett, and the attempted murder of a third, Private John O’Mahony. These men were kidnapped and tortured while serving as peacekeepers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

What has brought this story to the forefront is the fact that the perpetrator, Mahmoud Bazzi, who is living openly in Detroit, Michigan, is now applying for US citizenship. The campaigners are seeking that Mr Bazzi be extradited to Lebanon and tried for war crimes. Is an Irish soldier’s life worth less than others?





The Department of Agriculture’s plan to have 12,000 badgers killed over the next two years as part of an anti-bovine TB initiative is monstrous. An estimated 100,000 of these shy nocturnal creatures have already been snared and shot in Ireland in the course of successive department-sponsored culling programmes, and still the disease continues to afflict farms nationwide, with the badger killing to date failing to make even a dent in the incidence of bovine TB.

Instead of targeting the badger I suggest the department focuses its energies on the search for a badger vaccine.

Snaring is cruel to badgers. Each animal caught has to wait, struggling to break free from the stranglehold, for the arrival of one of the “animal lovers” contracted by the department to end its life with a rifle shot.





I’m sure Enda Kenny’s reshuffling of government ministers will make a huge difference. It’s like reshuffling a deck of cards with 52 jokers in it.





Highlighting exceptional total general practice incomes could mislead some readers of Brian McDonald and Eilish O’Regan’s article (Irish Independent, July 7) to believe that they represent true personal income for regular GPs.

However, the OECD recently published the average 2012 Irish GP income before personal pension deductions that used a more reliable methodology than had been previously utilised. It found that the average Irish GP income to be much closer then the average national wage than most of our western peers. And that was despite some other countries included part-time GPs and trainees in their figures or the GPs elsewhere had full state pension entitlements.

It should also be noted that 2012 GP income figures do not fully reflect the 2012 FEMPI reductions or any of the 2013 FEMPI cuts.

As the OECD information was only released last week, I find it a little odd that these facts were not included to give more balance to this article.





Our wonderful Dublin Bikes scheme, promoting exercise, health and mobility, is being co-opted by a multinational corporate sponsor promoting soft drinks, often linked to obesity. I object and refuse to collude. As a city cyclist I will never use Dublin Bikes again.





If we take a look at Ireland now – from the pressure to allow Croke Park its profits and freedom, to the stripping away of our welfare entitlements, to the imminent slaughter of our badgers – one thing becomes clear: Ireland is run now along the lines of a businessmen’s charter, what’s good for business takes precedence over all else.

Why has this system taken such deep roots in us, a people who have never been successful in business?

Why have we have abandoned so much of our culture and past to aid it?

And why we allow this model is a mystery.

Our low tax ethos pushes it deeper into Europe now and so soon it may be our real and permanent contribution to humanity.





I’m feeling ashamed of us Irish. I’ve just come back from Maastricht in the Netherlands where I attended one of eight concerts in the city centre by Andre Rieu over a period of two weeks. There is major disruption to traffic and even business but the local people have taken the whole thing to their hearts.

Are the people living near Croker so selfish as to try to spoil things for not just a city but the whole country? Cop on guys!



Irish Independent


July 8, 2014

8July2014 Squirrel

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired summer cold? A squirrel eats one of our roseheads.

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Eduard Shevardnadze – obituary

Eduard Shevardnadz was a reforming Soviet Foreign Minister under Gorbachev who bit off more than he could chew as President of Georgia

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze speaks at a news conference in Tbilisi in 2001

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze speaks at a news conference in Tbilisi in 2001 Photo: AP

2:40PM BST 07 Jul 2014


Eduard Shevardnadze, who has died aged 86, played a key role in precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union when he resigned as Minister of Foreign Affairs at a crucial moment during the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev; he later rose out of the communist ashes to become president of the newly-independent republic of Georgia.

Yet the fragmentation of the Union did not stop there, and Shevardnadze did not escape the troubles unleashed by its break-up. In September 1993 he failed to quell an Abkhazian separatist rebellion and, as Georgia’s internal troubles spread beyond its borders, it became caught up in the many small wars that broke out throughout the Caucasus. The republic’s economy, once the most buoyant in the Soviet Union, came close to collapse and Shevardnadze’s presidency was increasingly dogged by rampant corruption and accusations of nepotism.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze gestures during a news conference in 1998 (REUTERS)

Shevardnadze — known as the “White Fox”, as much for his smooth diplomat’s tongue as for his shock of silver hair — had emerged on to the international stage as one of the new breed of liberals who had flourished under Gorbachev’s reforms, helping to overturn communist ideology and build a new relationship with the West. It therefore caused an international sensation when, shortly before Christmas 1990, he suddenly turned his back on his beleaguered leader. The timing of his announcement was critical: the “countdown” to the United Nations deadline of January 15 for Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kuwait had less than a month to go, and Gorbachev was at the lowest ebb of his five-year rule.

“I’ll put it bluntly, comrade democrats,” Shevardnadze declared, in a dramatic and emotional speech. “You have scattered. The reformers have slunk into the bushes. Dictatorship is coming.”

The political turning-point for Shevardnadze had, he claimed, occurred in April 1989, long before his resignation, when Soviet troops used brute force to crush a nationalist uprising in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, killing about 16 people. “Any state needs order,” he lamented at the time, “and this is especially true of one plagued by a severe crisis like ours. But I am categorically against the use of the army in punitive operations.”

His outspoken remarks proved too much for the hardliners, who from then on, according to Shevardnadze, used every opportunity to pick on him. He was accused of undermining Soviet security through arms cuts, of being soft on America, of selling out on Eastern Europe, and finally — the last straw for the Red Army generals — of pitching the USSR against its former ally Iraq in the Gulf conflict.

In June 1991, six months after his resignation, Shevardnadze caused further dismay among the Politburo’s old guard with his announcement, on a visit to Vienna, that he was to set up a new movement for “democratically minded Communists”. A month later, he and a dozen prominent Soviet liberals — who included Alexander Yakovlev, the “father of perestroika”, and Stanislav Shatalin, one of Gorbachev’s foremost economic advisers — signed a statement calling for a new Democratic Reform Group to provide an alternative to the Communist Party. Shevardnadze cannot have been entirely surprised when he was forced out of the Party a week later.

In August that year, when the tanks rolled into Moscow during an attempted military coup against Gorbachev, Shevardnadze joined Boris Yeltsin on the barricades. The coup soon crumbled and in November, in a vain attempt to shore up his position, Gorbachev asked Shevardnadze to return as Foreign Minister. To widespread surprise he accepted — only to find his post abolished weeks later as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

But if the death of the Soviet Union signalled the end of Gorbachev’s career, it marked a new beginning for Shevardnadze, who, early in 1992, took advantage of the political turbulence in the republics, and returned to his native Georgia pledging to rescue it from chaos. At first his intention of winning the Georgian leadership seemed a near impossible task. The recently-toppled nationalist leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a famous scientist and writer, still held broad popular support, and had vowed to fight on against the “Mafia” that had ousted him in a bloody coup in January. Moreover, it seemed unlikely that a former communist would be able to convince the people of his democratic integrity.

Indeed, Shevardnadze had been known in Georgia not so much for his work as a diplomat as for having being a tough head of the KGB and then party leader in Tbilisi in the 1970s and early 1980s. In these roles he had proved as ruthless in crushing dissidents (including Gamsakhurdia) as he had been in purging corruption. Nevertheless, on the bleak platform of Soviet public relations Shevardnadze stood out as a man with at least some grasp of the importance of image-making. By promising to use his international contacts to repair the country’s poor reputation — and by organising the occasional public display of devotion to the Georgian Orthodox Church — he succeeded in gathering popular support .

While Gamsakhurdia touched the romantic streak in Georgians, Shevardnadze appealed to their pragmatic instincts, which told them that isolation from Russia and the West was too high a price to pay for independence. Ultimately — and unlike Gamsakhurdia, who rushed to denounce anyone who dissented from his nationalist line — he was regarded as a skilled unifier.

In March 1992 Shevardnadze was appointed head of an interim ruling council in Georgia, formed to hold the fort until the next elections scheduled for the autumn. A month later his opinion poll rating was 70 per cent. In October he stood unopposed in Georgia’s first free elections since gaining independence from Moscow — he claimed he was “embarrassed” that no one had stood against him — and won 96 per cent of the national vote. When the presidency was restored in November 1995, he was elected with 70 per cent of the vote.

By this time the conflict with Gamsakhurdia’s supporters had been ended by Russian intervention on Shevardnadze’s side and Gamsakhurdia’s death in December 1993. Yet bloody separatist battles continued to rage in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while the conflict in neighbouring Chechnya began to cause friction with Russia, which accused Shevardnadze of harbouring Chechen guerrillas and supported Georgian separatists in return.

Further friction with Georgia’s big neighbour was caused by Shevardnadze’s good relations with the United States, through which Georgia became a major recipient of US foreign and military aid and a strategic partner with Nato.

At the same time, Shevardnadze’s much-vaunted image as an anti-corruption campaigner became tarnished. Shevardnadze himself was never directly accused of graft, but as his family and cronies became visibly richer, people’s feelings turned. Shevardnadze survived assassination attempts in 1992, 1995 and 1998. He secured a second term as President in April 2000 in an election that was marred by widespread claims of vote-rigging, but the last straw came on November 2 2003, when voting for a new parliament was widely held to have been fiddled. Washington had warned Shevardnadze of the dangers of fraud, yet American and European monitors were united in their charges that the elections had been unfair.

Shevardnadze with cuts and bruises after an assassination attempt in 1995 (WTN PICTURES)

For days afterwards supporters of the opposition United National Movement, led by Mikhail Saakashvili, stood outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, demanding that the elections be annulled or that the President resign. Shevardnadze called for dialogue, yet gave no sign that he would make concessions.

On November 22 he narrowly escaped the storming of parliament and the president’s office, and on the night of November 23, after the intervention of Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, he was finally persuaded to go. He had decided to stand aside, he said, to avoid bloodshed. In reality he was unfit to rule.

Georgian protesters near the residence of President Shevardnadze, Tbilisi, 2003 (AFP)

Eduard Amvrosiyevich Shevardnadze was born on January 25 1928 at Mamati, in western Georgia, where his father ran the village school. His older brother, Ippokrat, who died in 1978, became a department chief in the central committee of the Georgian Communist Party.

Young Eduard studied history, before plunging himself into party youth work in the republic, long regarded as the most corrupt of the 15 in the Soviet Union. He joined the Communist Party in 1948, and rose to become head of Georgia’s Communist Youth League before being appointed Georgia’s Interior Minister in 1965.

Seven years later he assumed the leadership of the republic’s Communist Party, under dramatic circumstances: the party leader, Vasily Mzhavadze, had dismissed Shevardnadze from his post in charge of the KGB at the Interior Ministry for “excess of zeal” in cracking down on racketeers closely linked to the Georgian party.

Shevardnadze boarded the first train for Moscow, allegedly armed with a briefcase full of incriminating documents about the Georgian party secretary’s corrupt rule, and managed to turn the tables on Mzhavadze. He then embarked on a 15-year rule of Georgia that won him respect and hostility in equal measure .

“Is there anything here that is not for sale?” he thundered, shortly before his appointment. “If there is, I cannot think of it.” At an assembly in 1972, Shevardnadze reiterated his intentions to clean up the Georgia. “We Georgians,” he declared, “a people of farmers, heroes and poets, have become thieves, cheats and black marketeers.” In his first two years in power, his Moscow-backed crusade resulted in the arrest of some 25,000 people, including 9,500 party members and 70 police and KGB officials. He cracked down on every walk of society: peasants were prevented from sending the fruits of their private plots for sale on the black market in Moscow; officials were stripped of illegal possessions including Mercedes Benz motor-cars and luxury villas.

On one occasion “Mr Clean”, as he became known, saw a glittering collection of imported watches on the raised wrists of members taking a vote. In future, he suggested, perhaps his comrades could set an example by contenting themselves with the cruder home-made variety. He also had a notably liberalising influence on cultural life. Long before glasnost had even been thought of, Shevardnadze was approving the publication of books and plays that had previously been banned.

In 1973 the Georgians responded to the purges with a spate of violence, which culminated with an arson attack on Tbilisi’s opera house. A number of attempts were made on Shevardnadze’s life. But Shevardnadze would not be swayed and his efforts were finally recognised by the Kremlin in 1978, when he was appointed a non-voting member of the Politburo. None the less, he was virtually unknown outside the Soviet Union when Gorbachev appointed him Foreign Minister in July 1985 — not quite four months after his accession to the presidency.

Eduard Shevardnadze at home in Tbilisi, Georgia, 2003 (AP)

Initially world leaders were astonished by the promotion. And for a while, given Shevardnadze’s evident inexperience, there was speculation as to the president’s motives. When Shevardnadze made his international debut in August 1985, however, at the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Helsinki Declaration, his rough-hewn unstuffy personality won over his Western audience, while his friendly manner and natty suits could not have presented a more engaging contrast to his truculent predecessor, Andrei Gromyko. George Shultz, then US Secretary of State, lost no time in telling Mrs Shevardnadze that he “could do business” with her husband.

All over the world the “Shevvy smile” came to be welcomed as testimony to the profundity of the changes being effected in the USSR while, undaunted by his lack of experience, Shevardnadze rapidly familiarised himself with the immense spectrum of foreign policy and arms control issues, and began to steer Moscow’s Cold War politics on to a new course.

At Soviet-US summits he proposed international space peace agreements and cuts in strategic arms; in Beijing he met Deng Xiaoping and paved the way for the first Sino-Soviet summit in 30 years; in Phnom Penh he opened talks on Cambodia; in Afghanistan he acted as a troubleshooter, in preparation for the Soviet withdrawal; in the Middle East he strove for a settlement between Arabs and Jews, and revitalised Israeli-Soviet relations.

Shevardnadze’s most resounding success, though, was his key role in forging a new understanding between East and West. His American counterpart came to talk of him as a friend. They went on boating and fishing trips and relaxed together in the sunshine. In November 1989 he made an unprecedented visit to the Nato HQ in Brussels, where he announced “The Cold War is over” and, soon afterwards, signed Russia’s first major trade agreement with the EEC.

In the young democracies of eastern Europe, too, Shevardnadze was hailed as “Eduard the Peacemaker”. He encouraged perestroika; announced Moscow’s willingness to accept a Solidarity government in Poland in 1989 and, the same year, publicly sanctioned the “Sinatra Doctrine”, allowing east Europeans to go their own way. He described the dismantling of the Berlin Wall as “sensible” and, after initial misgivings, persuaded a vacillating Gorbachev to accept a united Germany as a member of Nato. With typical pragmatism, he out of the “two plus four” talks (between the two Germanies and the four wartime allies) with firm guarantees on borders and a sound friendship treaty with Germany, which agreed to provide aid to the Soviet Union.

Perhaps the most convincing display of the new order came in August 1990, when Moscow pledged its support for the anti-Iraq coalition.

The last year of his tenure of office was one of diminishing returns. As plans to convert the Soviet Union into a market economy came unstuck, he appeared tired, and resigned to the impotence of his position. None the less, by 1990 he could look back over the previous five years, with satisfaction. “It has become routine now to say that the Cold War is over,” he said in an interview in that year. “But just think what that really means: a new era, a new quality of life in the world. We have been able to do something good, and I have made my small contribution.”

His experience in Georgia subsequently provided less cause for satisfaction.

In 1951, Eduard Shevardnadze married Nanuli Tsagareishvili, a Georgian journalist, who died in 2004. He is survived by their son and daughter.

Eduard Shevardnadze, born January 25 1928, died July 7 2014


Labour must stand firm on rail renationalisation

A high-speed diesel train of the East Coast company seen crossing the viaduct at Durham, England, UK

A high-speed train on the east coast line. Photograph: Alamy

Your lead story (State to bid for rail franchises under Labour, 4 July) attributes to what it coyly refers to as “the rail industry” a series of arguments in favour of continued private ownership of our railways. But if we accept its own estimate that it costs over £5m to bid for a franchise (and hence over £35m during the next parliament), it is surely only logical to enquire why passengers and other taxpayers should be forced to shell out this kind of money in order to subsidise an unnecessary franchising procedure. What most people want for their money is improved services and more affordable fares, not extra work for accountants, lawyers, PR consultants and lobbyists.

Your story ends with a Labour party announcement that “we will set our policy at the appropriate time”. The Labour party’s existing policy, reaffirmed unanimously at last year’s party conference, is to take back into public ownership each railway franchise as and when it expires. The example of the east coast mainline shows that this policy is as economically advantageous as it is electorally popular. Its prompt and unambiguous confirmation by Labour’s forthcoming policy forum and the ensuing party conference may not be to the liking of the shareholders of private operating companies. But it would clearly be a major vote-winner with everybody else.
Francis Prideaux

• It is mystifying why Labour is apparently intending to require the state to bid for the railways that at the end of a franchise it already owns. Why the keenness to preserve a privatised, fragmented service which on every criterion has failed? Since 1997 the taxpayer subsidy to cover rail running costs has increased five-fold, to £5.2bn a year. Network Rail, which owns the track, gets a subsidy of £4bn a year, yet its debts have exploded to more than £20bn. The McNulty report said that UK fares were 30% higher than in France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, and UK operating costs were 40% higher because the UK industry, uniquely, is fragmented.

The Boston Consulting Group found that the annual public subsidy per passenger is £9 in Spain, £49 in Italy, £67 in France, £101 in Germany, but £136 in the UK. Yet, despite these enormous taxpayer subsidies the train companies have still siphoned off £6.2bn in profit and dividend payouts. Who wants to keep such a comprehensive failure? Certainly not the voters when polls record that 70%-80% of them, which must include a very large number of Tories, urgently want a return to public ownership, not least when East Coast has demonstrated it can operate more efficiently and at far less subsidy in public hands than when privatised.

It is being suggested that Labour support for public ownership of rail is somehow “ideological”. The truth is the opposite: the Tories rammed through the botched privatisation for purely ideological reasons. Labour, as with UK voters and every other country in Europe, supports public ownership for the pragmatic reasons that it is more efficient, less costly, and keeps fares down. Clinging to Tory ideology, however, is a big mistake, not only over rail but over energy, housing, pensions, banks, welfare, to name but some.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

• It is surprising that the Rail Delivery Group (RDG ) does not like the idea of a state-owned company bidding for rail franchises, because that is what is happening now, except that the franchisees concerned are not owned by the UK state but by other European countries. Segments of our railway system are being partly or wholly run by offshoots or wholly owned subsidiaries of French, German and Dutch state railways. The profits made are repatriated to their home countries. The government’s rail operator of last resort, Directly Operated Railways, is running the east coast service between London, Leeds and Edinburgh but is not being allowed to bid for the new franchise. Why not? A public sector comparator is what has been missing since the first rail franchise was let 20 years ago. Without one we can have little idea of whether we get true value for money from the private sector. How could the RDG, or anyone else, object to that? And, while Ed Balls may not want to return to the “nationalisation of the 70s”, he might want to consider the nationalisation of the 80s and early 90s when British Rail, overhauled and with a new management structure, was attracting more passengers and cutting costs, even in the teeth of the a recession. It did this for a taxpayer subsidy of under £1bn and falling. Today, as you report, the figure is £4bn despite a sharp increase in the number of passengers and the real cost of rail fares.
Alan Whitehouse
Thornton le Dale, North Yorkshire

• At last, a rational and popular response to the dissatisfaction with the way we run our rail services. Labour’s proposal to allow public-sector bidding for rail franchises tackles the obsession with privatisation head on. Since the publicly owned East Coast had to step in nearly four years ago and bail out a failed private-sector operation, it has provided a £600m profit to the exchequer, significantly improved passenger safety and recorded higher levels of passenger satisfaction than any other franchisee. The private rail industry operators have reacted with outrage but their suggestion that “any bidding competition between state and private train companies would be legally questionable” must be dismissed as scaremongering. There are numerous examples of public-sector contracting where a client-side team and an operations team work as ringfenced units within the same ultimate “ownership”. And what’s not to like about bringing a bit more competition to the market place?
John Rigby

• Labour’s announcement that it will dip its toe into reclaiming our railways is welcome but what a shame Ed Miliband bottled it and failed to support bringing all the franchises back into public hands as they expire. The Rebuilding Rail report, published by Transport for Quality of Life, offers a superb analysis of the mess Britain’s railways are in. It finds that the private sector has failed to live up to its grand promises of innovation and investment. The report conservatively estimates that £1.2bn is being lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation. Between 1997 and 2013, rail fares leapt by 22%, while the cost of motoring fell by 9%. Privatisation has been a comprehensive failure. By bringing our railways back into public hands, the country could save £1bn a year – money which could, and should, be used to improve services and reduce fares.

Neal Lawson, of the thinktank Compass, has an insightful, localised and sensible take on public ownership: “Stations and trains are one of the few places left where we come together, where we rub shoulders as equals … we want a dynamic and responsive ‘peoples’ railway’ where users and workers are at the heart of the decision-making.” Ed Miliband should show the courage of his convictions, and support my private member’s bill to bring the rail network back into public ownership.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

• For the 70% of the public who back the renationalisation of the railways, the two announcements made regarding the future of the railway network will have come as a blow. We heard from the Labour party that far from pledging to renationalise the network as many had hoped, it will instead allow public companies to join the bidding process – despite the fact that competitive bidding for rail franchises has been proven to lead to a race to a bottom and undercut services.

Then we heard from Sir David Higgins, the boss of HS2, that as many as 30 people in charge of delivering the high-speed rail network will be paid over £140,000 (HS2 salaries in excess of PM’s pay are justified, says transport secretary, 4 July). The Green party wants to restore the sense of pride and honour that comes with delivering a service run for the public good and we don’t believe that paying extortionate wages is the way to improve service provision.

With 70% backing our calls for renationalisation, Labour’s announcement is a disappointing one. We know that there is an alternative to the current system for managing the country’s railways – one that will put the interests of the public above the private purse. Together with the public and the other campaigns that back re-nationalisation, we can work together to deliver this change.
Caroline Russell
Green, spokeswoman for local transport

• The article on how living an hour from London (Report, 5 July) in much cheaper housing makes the commute to overheated London financially attractive, made me wonder how Manchester might fare when HS2 reduces the journey to central London to just over an hour? Unless the big northern cities and regions on the HS2 route develop their own significant magnetic pulling power, HS2 will only serve to bring millions of people within range of the massive and exponentially growing magnet of London. How, precisely, will that benefit the regions?
Dr Paul Kleiman

Seven years ago, the government ordered a review of the UK’s organ donation system. Figures showed that the rate of demand for organs was far outstripping supply, leading to hundreds of needless deaths every year. The Organ Donation Taskforce found that countries using a presumed consent, or “opt out”, system had far higher donation rates. The United Kingdom was not in the top 10. Tragically, nothing came of the review. Since then, 7,000 people – including children – have died. With recent advances in science have come increased potential, and demand, for transplantation. The gap is today greater than ever.

Despite laudable registration campaigns, the opt-in system can no longer be expected to fulfil its purpose. Organs are donated from just 1% of the numbers of deceased each year, while healthy organs from half a million people are cremated or buried. As a result, being on the transplant waiting list has become a game of Russian roulette. For example, if you’re waiting for a liver, there is a 20% chance that it won’t reach you in time. For heart patients, the figure is even higher. Children suffering kidney failure are having, in some instances, to wait for five perilous years.

In Wales, they are finally moving forwards. After a period of careful public consultation and debate, an awareness-raising programme is underway ahead of the implementation of a new “opt out” system next year. Those who object to organ donation can rest assured – as can their relatives – that their wishes will be respected under the new system.

For now, there are 7,000 people in the UK – many young children among them – waiting for a lifesaving transplant. While we wait for the rest of the country to catch up with the Welsh, we can at least ensure we are properly registered on the NHS’s donor database. For details, go to http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk.
Ed Goncalves
Director, KidneyKids UK

Polly Toynbee (Skinner is no model, yet he has a lesson for Labour, 4 July) claims that “Skinner, John Prescott and Alan Johnson – workers who came up through the unions, all clever men – would certainly go to university these days”. Dennis Skinner and I went to the Labour trade union’s Ruskin College in Oxford, where the entry qualifications were not O or A-levels but your involvement in strikes. Thanks to Ruskin, I then went on to get a degree in economics at the excellent Hull University. However, for Polly to blame Skinner and Tony Benn for “rendering Labour unelectable” in the 1980s is a bit much. The greater damage was the split to the Labour party caused by the SDP, of which Polly was a founding member and a parliamentary candidate in 1983.

It’s fair to say Polly and her fellow “social democrats” made a much larger contribution to keeping Labour in the wilderness for 18 years than Skinner and Benn ever did.
John Prescott
Hull, East Yorkshire

Your editorial on Radio 3 (Sound thinking, 5 July), while suitably praising Roger Wright for increasing the station’s range and variety of music, ignores the damaging impact he has also had on it. Wright’s long-term, though failed, intention has been to capture much higher listening figures by making daytime Radio 3 a far lower-brow service – emulating Classic FM’s style and coaxing over some of its listeners. There has been a tendency to pass over Radio 3’s mission to inform and illuminate. Instead, a superficial presentational tone, at worst characterised by Katie Derham’s patronising flippancies, prevails by daytime. The Wright approach may therefore leave Radio 3 vulnerable to the argument – of an economising board of management – that it should be closed down during the day, its listeners dispatched to Classic FM and the station reverting to its ancient format of evening service. If it happens, it will be Wright who achieved it.
Nicholas de Jongh

• It is hard to see what point of value is made by your leader in grudging praise of Radio 3, which rejoices in new media but ignores the numerous changes in message that have left many loyal listeners perplexed and disillusioned. It is most peculiar to go on about “digital transmission, sharing and community” unless the material transmitted, shared and offered to that community of listeners continues to be indisputably worthwhile. Sadly, more and more of it, and the way it is presented, falls short of Radio 3 traditions and expectations.

There may be nothing absolutely wrong with it – it just belongs on other channels and its presence here represents a dilution of the content of this one. A longer look at the website of Friends of Radio 3 would reveal that it exists to remind the BBC of the unparalleled standards of content and presentation – rightly described as “the envy of the world” – that the channel has been lowering in a ratings competition with Classic FM, which it is, all the same, losing (but why bother to compete?).
Alan Brownjohn

• While your editorial celebrates Roger Wright’s contributions to Radio 3, it fails to mention the less-favoured changes that Wright wrought. In 2007 he axed the much-loved Mixing It and rejigged the schedule to remove or truncate programmes offering more interesting music – in order to bolster the traditional classical music playlist. Since then, the dumbing down of the station continues apace, with presenters inviting listeners to tweet or send text messages in response to musical trivia questions. Hopefully, Wright’s replacement will slip free of the shackles of middle-brow conservatism and broaden listeners’ musical horizons with eclectic Late Junction-type programmes, rather than continue serving up the same old over-played classical fare.
Eddie Duggan

• Talk about patronising! After a Radio 3 concert or recital, the announcer often praises the performance we’ve just heard in an uncritically over-enthusiastic manner, as if the audience couldn’t judge it for itself.
John Trevitt

Mary Dejevsky is right, fear not ambition drives Putin’s Ukraine policy, but not in the way she imagines (Comment, 7 July). What Putin fears is liberal democracy – a strong liberal Ukraine may infect Russia, putting an end to his authoritarian regime. That is why the west should do what it can to support just that outcome.
Andy Hamilton
Durham University

• Ironic that in the same week Tata announces 400 job losses at its Port Talbot steelworks (Report, 2 July), that George Osborne, visiting India, is proud to announce a £20m investment in research facilities in Farnham and Donnington to support its Formula E racing team. As with all these deals it would be nice to know what is in it for the investors, as getting access to British technology can’t be the motive, can it?
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

• Martin Dowds is on the right lines in his proposal to deal with the status of national treasures (Letters, 5 July). But he doesn’t go far enough. To address the hyper-inflation that has devalued the term we need: 1) Strict entry criteria, perhaps a secular version of the Vatican’s two miracles requirement for canonisation; 2) A Leveson-style oversight body with effective penalties for media misuse of the term; 3) A one-out-one-in rule against a fixed quota – preferably Euro-wide (by my reckoning, recent legal judgments have created several vacancies). In all modesty, I can’t see how my suggestions can fail to unite the nation at a time when we need our national treasures more than ever.
John Kelly
Little Raveley, Cambridgeshire

• On a positive note, please give Mr Randolph the credit he truly deserves for playing exquisite backing on Elvis Presley’s music during a 12-hour recording session at RCA studio B in Nashville on 3 April 1960 (Letters, 4 July).
Gaynor John

• Jesus may have been a radical Jewish rabbi who wore a sandal in the wind (Letters, 3 July) but when he subsisted on wild greens for 40 days and nights in the desert, he was probably a rocket man.
Alan Pearson


I have been watching football for 60 years, but this World Cup has made football a joke. The refereeing has been ridiculous. Have they been instructed by Fifa to ensure that Brazil and Argentina get through to the final?

Cheating has been allowed to go on unpunished, and the red card must have been left in the changing rooms.

The winner of the World Cup will be the team with the best divers and actors. This was football, but not as we knew it. I bet Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews are turning in their graves.

M Finn

Cannock, Staffordshire


The beautiful game has become increasingly ugly for a long time now. A serious injury like Neymar’s was inevitable and not isolated. As individual skill and fitness of players has increased in recent years, so has their ill-discipline, contempt for, and deceitful exploitation of, the rules, and total lack of sportsmanship.

Football is the only profession where to call an act “professional” is an insult: intentional, cynical, often dangerous behaviour specifically designed to gain advantage through cheating. Cheating is now the dominant ethos in modern football. Every corner or near-goal free kick is accompanied by widespread, unpunished off-the-ball fouls – pushing, tripping, holding, shirt-tugging.

Unless most players can be brought to respect the rules, unless fouls and deception again become the exception rather than the rule; then football already contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Keith Farman

St Albans, Hertfordshire


Over the past few weeks on TV there have been scenes of violent behaviour by thuggish men apparently trying their best to injure, maim or even disable other men. A lot of this has been before the watershed, when impressionable children may be watching. I refer, of course, to professional football.

Can someone please explain how this sort of disgraceful behaviour by grossly overpaid men could possibly be called acceptable?

Sue Thomas

Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria


Bad battleground to fight a bad treaty

You report (5 July) that Liberty and Refuge opposed the extradition of Eileen Clark for allegedly kidnapping her children, on the general grounds that our current treaty with the US is unbalanced, and the particular grounds that the legal system in the UK, yet again, has failed to understand the needs of a victim of domestic violence.

They are correct that the extradition treaty is unbalanced, another legacy of Blair’s kowtowing to Bush. They are also right to highlight the ways in which the legal system, and not just in extradition, poses hurdles to victims, including those of gender-based violence.

But it would be helpful to learn about the extent to which they have considered the case from the perspective of children’s rights as well as domestic violence. Liberty in particular questions what possible interest the US courts might have in Ms Clark? But it seems reasonable enough that a court there might wish to assess the question, of potentially quite wide significance: is the removal of a child from the home without the authorisation of either the partner or the state in the child’s best interest?

Accepting that the US, shamefully, is one of only two states (along with Somalia) not to have adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, what evidence is there to think that the US courts are unable to adjudicate fairly on an alleged case of kidnapping or issues of child protection? Among other things, the court may wish to clarify why, if Ms Clark was a victim of violence, she didn’t seek a restraining order, divorce or some other, more traditional, remedy which might not have implicated family rights to the same extent.

Liberty and Refuge seem to have chosen a case with weak facts to make the general case, which is too bad for the reform of the extradition legislation.

Andrew Shacknove



Jihad and other holy wars

As a contribution to understanding the motivation of British jihadists, David Crawford (letter, 2 July) draws attention to passages in the Koran that encourage Holy War. It should not be forgotten that other religions also envisage  holy wars.

The early books of the Old Testament, regarded with varying degrees of authority by many Christians and Jews, present God as encouraging the Israelites to engage in merciless aggression, slaughter and enslavement in order to dominate and occupy much of Syria and all of what is now Israel and Palestine.

Many of those who fought for the Allies in the Second World War will have believed God must be on their side, while “Gott mit uns” was a phrase commonly used in the German military from the German Empire to the end of the Third Reich. Indeed it was inscribed on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht.

The problem for religious people is to determine how the will of God is to be understood in contemporary politics and warfare. This is not very different from the problem for non-religious people in deciding when it would be right to resort to force. That takes us back to the questions posed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (30 June): why do some Muslims, but not others, see particular military and political campaigns as sanctioned by their religion?

Sydney Norris

London SW14

Although jihadi fighters returning to this country do pose a security risk it is very important that this is kept in perspective.

The vast majority are likely to be young men who have become disillusioned by the destruction and cruelty of the war in Syria and only wish to come back and get on with their lives.  Locking them all up will only harden attitudes and play into the hands of the hard-liners: “I told you  so; they just want to  oppress us.”

The problem is to separate the majority from the hard-liners. This is something that the Muslim community must be deeply involved in, in the same way as they have already started to tackle radicalisation. Anything that seems to be imposed from the outside will play into the hands of the radicals. We should remember our involvement with the International Brigade in Spain.

G H Levy

Andover, Hampshire


Yet another slogan to save our schools

I was intrigued to hear the latest Big Idea from the shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, announcing “Master Teachers” and a “Royal College” of teaching as the key to moving to the sunlit uplands of Singaporean wonderfulness (a practice imported from somewhere other than the UK is bound to be better).

Whoever came up with this had to scratch their heads a bit. We’ve already had “Advanced Skills Teachers” and “Excellent Teachers” so this new superlative has been wheeled in, presumably, as an antidote for boring old mediocre qualified teachers (like me?).

As for the Royal College, I have no doubt that a well designed heraldic device and the imprimatur of our Sovereign Lady, Elizabeth, will help avoid a repeat of the late lamented General Teaching Council.

Yes it is easy to be cynical, as we are in an era of educational policy made on the hoof, designed to spin a good headline. I do hope when I fly off for my summer hols I have a Master Pilot as against just a boring old mediocre one. Crashing is rarely desirable whether at an aeronautical or policy level.

Simon Uttley

Headmaster, St John Bosco College, London SW19

GPs’ advice on antibiotics

As an organisation dedicated to the care of patients, the Royal College of GPs would never “blame” patients. Nor do we believe that GPs hand out antibiotics “like sweets” (Jane Merrick, 3 July).

Antibiotics have done a brilliant job of eliminating bacterial infections for nearly a century. But they are not a cure for all ills and the public’s heavy reliance on them is now very concerning. We need to do everything we can to prevent people building up a resistance.

With over 1.3 million consultations in general practice every day, GPs are well placed to advise patients of the risks associated with overuse and  to suggest alternatives.

Dr Maureen Baker CBE

Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

London NW1

You can’t always trust a ‘national treasure’

Not long ago, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris might well each have been called “a national treasure”. It seems high time to stop using that phrase about celebrities.

It implies that such figures are beyond reproach and should be universally loved. It has a patronising ring to it. To his great credit, Alan Bennett has refused to be so labelled. One can only hope that other prominent figures will reject the label too.

Paul Guest

London NW6


Sir, Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s bill will not, as your headline claims, “transform doctors into killers” (Melanie Phillips, Opinion, July 7).

A terminally ill patient, of sound mind and settled will, must be able to take a prescribed lethal drink themselves without assistance. They are not being pushed off the cliff, they are still voluntarily jumping. I do not regard that to help such patients in this way is doing them harm — quite the reverse. It is cruel for patients who find themselves in that situation to have to choose between a barbaric means for suicide or an expensive trip abroad. A majority of doctors would opt for an assisted death for themselves and having the means available.

As usual, the arguments mounted against assisted dying are for situations which would not be legalised by the bill soon to be debated in the House of Lords. In fact Melanie Phillips has sympathy with Lord Falconer’s intentions and agrees that those who break the current law should not be prosecuted. Surely this goes to the heart of why the Supreme Court has urged the legislators to look again at the current law.

Andrew Johns, FRCS

Bramley, Surrey

Sir, Melanie Phillips makes a misjudgment in expressing astonishment that a Church of England chaplain, Canon Rosie Harper, defends the Falconer bill. My experience as a congregational minister who spends much time in hospitals and hospices is that there is nothing sacred about the suffering that can be experienced by the terminally ill. Theologians may assert its heavenly merit, but clergy know its human cost. It also leads to considerable religious doubt, with questions by patients and relatives as to “how can a loving God allow this?”

We should give every protection to those who wish to carry on till their very last breath, but it is equally religious to allow those who are dying to choose when their life ends, if they prefer to avoid more weeks of agony or indignity. The Falconer bill is to be commended for offering both safeguards for the vulnerable and options for those who wish to have an assisted death. It is fully in keeping with religious principles that we heal when we can, comfort when we cannot, and help those who wish to gently give back to God the gift of life that has run its course and is no longer wanted.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

Maidenhead Synagogue, Berks

Sir, Melanie Phillips writes an informed view about assisted dying, albeit one with a stark headline. I do, however, agree with it.

Would doctors help patients to commit suicide if Lord Falconer’s bill does become law, though? You reported on June 16 that “a small majority of GPs would like this option for themselves”. That poll was misleading because 25 per cent of GPs were undecided.

I have met few doctors who would actually practise assisted dying. It is difficult — even impossible — to imagine a mindset that could be alongside the dying, really helping their symptoms and their coping with uncertainty, and then switching to offer a “date to die”. Would their patients trust them? This loss of trust would be part of Phillips’s “new dark age”.

Nigel Rawlinson

Dorothy House Hospice, Bradford on Avon, Wilts

Sir, We should bear in mind the possible international impact should the bill become law: as the world-leader in palliative care (thanks to the modern-day hospice movement started by Dame Cecily Saunders), where the UK leads, others are likely to follow.

Gail Featherstone

Sevenoaks, Kent

Sir, I’ve noticed a distinction between the two camps of people who either support or disapprove of assisted dying. Those who want measures to prevent it visualise it happening to other people. Those who want to allow it think of it happening to them. Although I’m firmly in the latter camp, I have no idea which is the more compelling moral argument.

Alan Bird

Kendal, Cumbria

Just what is the scientific answer to the riddle of mysteriously getting headphones in a tangle?

Sir, Never mind the Frisch-Wassermann-Delbrück conjecture (“Scientists solve the riddle of how not to get knotted”, July 7). In 1889 the celebrated philosopher Jerome K Jerome devoted three pages of T hree Men in a Boat to a quantitative approach to what is essentially the same problem. Using the example of a skiff’s tow rope laid out straight in the middle of a field, he computed 30 seconds as the time required by the rope to get itself into a tangle when you turn your back.

Dr David Brancher

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, I was fascinated to read the explanation for the knotting of headphone leads. Perhaps the same scientists could explain to me why, whenever I clean behind my desk, I find that the leads to my router, PC and monitor have become appallingly tangled despite being neither unplugged or touched.

Nick Winstone-Cooper

Bridgend, South Wales

Lads’ magazines are removing pictures of scantily clad women from their covers. Shouldn’t you?

Sir, On the same day (July 7) that you report on the removal of photographs of scantily clad women from the front covers of lads’ magazines, it is generous of you to redress the balance by offering just such a picture on the front cover of Times2.

Michael Davison

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Why the new uniform for Scots competitors to the Commonwealth Games could swell the ‘No’ vote…

Sir, If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games (photograph, July 7) is an example of Scottish decision-making, it will do much to swell the No vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa.

John Eoin Douglas


Edith Cavell, through her actions, converted Herbert Asquith to the cause of the suffragettes

Sir, The execution of Edith Cavell made a profound impression on the then prime minister, Herbert Asquith (“Wartime heroine Edith Cavell is honoured with £5 coin”, July 5). “She has taught the bravest man amongst us a supreme lesson of courage,” he said in 1915, “and in this United Kingdom and throughout the Dominions of the Crown there are thousands of such women, but a year ago we did not know it.”

Overnight this hitherto unyielding opponent of votes for women, who had been physically attacked by Mrs Pankhurst’s suffragettes, was converted to the cause.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords


SIR – Eight per cent of Britain’s daytime electricity came from solar power on June 21, and Germany now generates over half its electricity in this way. Why then is the Government ignoring the potential of mid- to large-scale solar farms in its current proposals on renewable subsidies?

Solar farms are quick to build, and the technology is available now. Solar energy is cheap and low-carbon and it helps Britain meet its renewable energy target. It is popular with the public, provides an alternative income stream for farmers, and is helping a growing number of schools to cut their energy bills.

Given the right support now, large-scale solar power could be free of subsidy by 2020. Yet a large number of longer-term investments will not go ahead under current proposals. The majority of the players in Britain’s solar market are innovative small and medium enterprises, procuring investment from alternative sources such as crowd-funding. So, as well as helping to solve our energy crisis, solar power is also promoting competition in the market.

Juliet Davenport
Founder and CEO, Good Energy
John Sauven
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Dave Timms
Executive Director, 10:10
Jonathan Selwyn
Managing Director, Lark Energy
Karl Harder
Co-founder and Director, Abundance Generation
Ed Gillespie
Co-founder, Futerra
Julia Groves
CEO, Trillion Fund
Reza Shaybani
Chairman, British Photovoltaic Association
Paul Barwell
CEO, Solar Trade Association
Jonathon Porritt
Founder Director, Forum for the Future
Sally Uren
CEO, Forum for the Future
Dr Nina Skorupska
Chief Executive, Renewable Energy Association

Bananas limit

SIR – The suggested daily limit of 35g of sugar a day (Letters, July 5) applies only to Non Milk Extrinsic Sugars (NMES), which means that milk sugar and sugars that are intrinsic to fruit and vegetables are not included. Thus, the limit applies to “added sugars” and does not conflict with the advice to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

However, I’m not surprised there is some confusion; dietary recommendations are always subject to change since they depend on the scientific evidence and methodologies available – and, like most human endeavours, on politics.

Dr Ruth Ash
London Metropolitan University
London N7

Whose ship?

SIR – Is there any good reason why the letters “HMS” have been painted on the new aircraft carrier? I understood that naval vessels did not need the letters HMS to show their country of origin.

Lord Parmoor
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Feeling like dying

SIR – Charles Moore’s article on assisted dying asks “once it becomes legal … how long before it becomes expected?”.

Lord Falconer’s Bill provides that the terminally ill individual has to initiate the process, and that two doctors must independently certify that the patient has made the decision while of sound mind, after discussing palliative care options.

In Oregon, where the Death with Dignity Act was passed in 1997, 700 began the eligibility process last year; of these 122 were given the prescription for life-ending medication, and 71 actually took it.

The three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy; decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities; and loss of dignity.

The decision seems therefore to be focused on personal feelings, rather than public expectations.

Lord Avebury
London SE5

SIR – Charles Moore regrets those opposed to assisted suicide using the term “slippery slope”. Yet the phrase is wholly accurate.

The assisted suicide legislation in the Netherlands and Belgium was originally intended for those at the end of their lives. Its scope has gradually widened to include the confused elderly, those with sight deterioration, and children.

William W Baird
Dunblane, Perthshire

Eyes on airport checks

SIR – Anthony Gould (Letters, July 4) says “security staff can hardly be expected to identify someone from their eyes alone”.

Though abandoned in Britain, iris recognition technology has been in use in Amsterdam since 2001.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Celebs’ celerity

SIR – As a resident of Chiltern Street, I’d like to assure the drivers of the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Aston Martins blasting off from the Chiltern Firehouse that we’re all really impressed with their super-cars, so there’s no need to demonstrate that they can accelerate from zero to 60mph before slamming on the brakes at Dorset Street.

Since any large primate can be trained to stomp down with its right foot, perhaps they should think of a less dangerous and more environmentally sound way to feel manly.

Dan Fleisch
London W1

ENO productions bring in a younger audience

SIR – As a relative newcomer to opera, I have to say I disagree wholeheartedly with Mary Firth (Letters, July 3).

Acting upon the good review from your own opera critic, we booked for Benvenuto Cellini. We loved it – fantastic staging, excellent singing, and a great orchestra.

Looking around at the audience in the bar during the interval I commented to my wife that there seemed to be many younger faces. The chatter afterwards would suggest they enjoyed it too.

Merrick Howse
London N12

SIR – The management of English National Opera is at last learning that if you treat your core audience with contempt they will vote with their feet and stay away.

I have now stopped attending the Coliseum because, time after time, a much-loved work has been traduced by an idiotic production that shows scant regard for the composer’s intentions, imposing a half-baked gloss on the meaning and accompanying it with an ugly stage picture.

It is all so unfair on the musicians, who sing and play their hearts out to little avail.

Roger White
London SW12

SIR – As ticket and programme prices soar, we also seem to be paying more for less for the interval ice-cream. Why?

Graham Aston
Weybridge, Surrey

SIR – I noted a recent report concerning the reduction in home-grown food consumed in this country. A crisis is now threatening to hit the rural economy.

The price paid to the farmer for fat cattle is down by 25 per cent, compared with the start of this year. Milk is once more below 30 pence per litre. Furthermore, the price of wheat is down from around £220 per ton, in December 2012, to £140 per ton, just before the peak time of harvest.

Supermarkets and their processors must bear some of the blame for this situation, since they are taking advantage of the rise in the value of the pound to import cheaper, foreign produce.

Many rural businesses, including my own, rely on the agricultural industry. The uncertainty in the markets is hitting us particularly hard.

Mick Moor
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – We are extremely disappointed that our colleagues from the Royal College of Pathologists (Letters, July 1) are welcoming proposals to “name and shame” GPs on cancer referral rates.

To suggest that GPs are causing delays in diagnosis by not efficiently using the right blood tests is simplistic and does a great disservice to our profession. It is an insult to hard-working and hard-pressed GPs.

When GPs are under huge pressures, with patient demand far outstripping capacity, we believe that a collaborative approach is more likely to improve the care we can give to our patients.

A “name and shame” strategy is likely to decrease the threshold for referral and result in other parts of the NHS being swamped. This will ultimately lead to delays in patients receiving treatment and worse outcomes.

Timely diagnosis of cancer is a priority for the Royal College of General Practitioners and we are working hard to support GPs so that they can identify signs of cancer as early as possible and refer the patients they suspect of having cancer for the most appropriate tests.

The average full-time GP will see approximately eight new cases of cancer in their average 8,000 patient consultations per year, and 75 per cent of patients found to have cancer are referred after only one or two GP consultations.

There are 40 million more consultations in general practice today than there were even five years ago, and GPs are routinely working 11-hour days and seeing between 40 and 60 patients in a day.

The crisis in general practice is so severe that at least 27 million patients will have to wait more than a week to see a GP this year and 84 per cent of GPs are worried that their workloads are so high that they might miss something serious in a patient.

We are calling on all four governments in the United Kingdom to increase funding for general practice to 11 per cent from 8.3 per cent of the NHS budget, so that we can provide more GPs, more appointments and longer appointments.

General practice keeps the rest of the NHS strong and stable. We should be supporting our GPs, not criticising them.

Dr Maureen Baker
Chairman, Royal College of General Practitioners
London NW1

SIR – If there is a perception of delay in cancer diagnosis, real or otherwise, it is devastating for patients and their families but also soul-destroying for their GPs.

Sinister causes (including cancer) could explain just about any symptom in the average GP consultation. The risk of not finding that needle in the haystack is why GPs must pay thousands of pounds a year for liability insurance.

The NHS performs better than any health care system in the Western world – at a fraction of the cost of other countries – because British GPs hold the dual responsibility of caring for the patient in front of them and keeping the NHS alive within its monetary constraints by avoiding unnecessary referrals. GPs also seek to avoid delays which might adversely affect patients’ health.

If a doctor is negligent (and this might be by causing a delay in diagnosis), there are due processes that determine whether any wrong has been done – via the General Medical Council or courts.

Naming and shaming GPs who miss cancer diagnoses is a bullying tactic which lacks evidence of effectiveness. GPs will pre-empt this by referring so many patients for tests that those who do have cancer will lose out and the NHS will be bankrupted.

This attack on British general practice is not based on fact. Only 10 per cent of cancer patients needed more than five appointments before being referred for a cancer diagnosis. No fewer than two thirds are diagnosed at the first GP consultation.

GPs are doing an excellent job and attacks on them should stop.

Dr Samir Dawlatly
Zahida Adam
Sheila Adams
Dr Bunmi Adeniji
Dr Kemi Adeyemi

Irish Times:

Sir, – I was touched and honoured to hear Joan Burton say again in recent days that I have had a role in the development of her political thinking and her commitment to social justice. I was especially pleased to hear her say that she plans to take on social housing as a priority in her new role, and I applaud her commitment to resolving this most distressing issue.

We are seeing homelessness increasing at the rate of a family a day in Dublin alone. Every day I encounter families with small children who are harassed, broken, their self-esteem trampled on, the parents distraught and the children traumatised. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years working with people who are homeless.

And the best that we as a society can offer such families is bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

This was initially intended as a stop-gap response, but it has become a way of life for some families, many of whom are confined to living in one room with no cooking facilities for periods as long as nine months or more, some for over two years or even longer. Now even this inadequate form of accommodation is in short supply. I have seen many families wait a whole day to see if a B&B can be found for them; within the past week I have seen families and sometimes pregnant women sleeping in their cars; I’ve seen parents trying to find someone to take their children for the night while they sleep rough themselves.

The Taoiseach has accepted that homelessness in this country is now at a crisis point. And yet we do not see any crisis response.

State-subsidised rents are set too low to be attractive to landlords, so people already in financial distress are having to top-up their rent allowance, and when they run into difficulties, they lose their homes. If Ms Burton raised the level of rent supplement in the next budget, there would be a direct and measurable effect – fewer people would lose their homes.

She also needs to regulate rents to provide better protection for tenants; this would also help to secure people in their homes. Regulations are needed to ensure that temporary accommodation for homeless families is adequate and appropriate. By committing sufficient resources now she could could end long-term homelessness by 2016.

But above all we urgently need major investment in a social housing building programme, in the order of 50,000 new homes within the next five years.

This would not only provide housing but would, as Ms Burton has pointed out, provide jobs, stimulate the economy and help to bring about conditions in which fewer people are in dire financial straits.

I believe Ms Burton has the leadership, political knowledge and ability to convince her Government colleagues to tackle homelessness and offer hope to families living in fear of letters from the bank or a knock on the door. – Yours, etc,




Focus Ireland,

9-10 High Street,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – The election of Joan Burton as leader of Labour is good, not just for that party, but for women across all political parties and in a general sense. Women are so poorly represented in both public life and business that it is important to have a strong woman like Ms Burton playing such a vital role in Irish politics. – Yours, etc,



Butterfield Avenue,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Joan Burton plans on reforming the tax system “to remove some of the obstacles and cliffs people face when taking up work” (“Kenny ‘looks forward’ to discussing economy with Burton”, July 5th). I feel compelled to point out that cliffs are generally only removed by erosion, which takes eons, or by sudden landslides, which are disastrous. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Street,



Sir, – I am appalled by the suggestion that Jacqueline Kennedy’s letters to Fr Joseph Leonard of All Hallows College might be burned (“Robert Kennedy’s widow tells priest Jackie letters could be ‘burned’”, Front Page, July 7th). It is in the interests of history that these letters should be preserved and that they should eventually be in the public domain.

Although there have been a few – very few – competent biographies of John F Kennedy, he remains an enigma. We can speculate about the reasons for this. One reason is the continuing impact of his terrible assassination and the sense of loss that it evokes. That still clouds our judgment. Another, however, is the assiduous efforts of the Kennedy family to “manage” the narrative of his presidency. Jacqueline herself began this process when, in an interview with the journalist Theodore White shortly after the assassination, she compared his period in office to Camelot. The existence of this cache of letters which, albeit in a small way, helps to get at the truth behind the enigma, is of inestimable value to historians.

President Kennedy and his wife were public figures of historic importance, and they are both deceased – and it seems to me in these circumstances that the public interest in setting the historical record straight outweighs any residual requirement of confidentiality in relation to the letters.

May I make a proposal which seems to me to balance the various interests at stake in this matter? It is that the Vincentian congregation, which apparently owns the letters, should donate them to the National Library of Ireland with the stipulation that they would not be made available to scholars during the lifetime of Jacqueline’s daughter, Caroline, without her permission. After her death, access to the letters would be unrestricted.

I write as someone who greatly admires John F Kennedy, but there is no need to enlarge him in history beyond what he was in life. Our heroes are ironically more attractive, and arguably more admirable, when we can see them as real human beings in all their complexity – and not as mere plaster saints. – Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – UCD’s new president Andrew Deeks has rightly highlighted the funding crisis in higher education (“Replace annual charge with student loans, says UCD president”, July 5th). He correctly identifies a significant access barrier in the form of growing up-front registration fees.

However, the alternative Prof Deeks proposes – full student responsibility for tuition in the guise of deferred loans – would undermine the ideal of public education in a different but equally serious way. The UK experience has shown that the purpose of student fees is not necessarily to save money for the state – which ends up absorbing a great deal of bad debt – but rather to create a consumer mentality in students; to instil new forms of market-based discipline in academic labour and consumption.

Indeed Prof Deeks suggests that if students build up debt based on the modules they study, they would feel “the need to get the benefit”. The theory is that market mechanisms of payment and exchange would lead students to work more, demand more, and thus to raise the standard of university education.

Yet a consumer philosophy distorts the core function of university education. Indeed there is little evidence to support the idea that market mechanisms improve the standard of university education.

In the US, the last three decades or so have seen an exponential growth in student tuition fees yet, correspondingly, an alarming increase in the proportion of adjunct and casualised teaching staff, as corporatised universities spend an ever greater proportion of their income on baubles and gimmicks with little educational value.

That is the experience we should contemplate before we consider endorsing student debt as a tool of market discipline. – Yours, etc,


School of Law,

NUI Galway,

University Road,


Sir, – The malaise at the heart of the Civil Service long predates the structural changes listed by Edel Foley (July 5th).

The reality in the private sector is that consistently poor performance cannot be afforded by the employer and will lead to dismissal. It is actually this ultimate sanction that makes performance appraisal systems work.

But in the Civil Service it seems underperformers have to be afforded because dismissal is not an option. So we end up with the kind of fudge described by Eddie Molloy (“Accountability needs brickbat of punishment”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th). – Yours, etc,


The Maples,


Sir, – Bishop Éamonn Walsh (July 5th), referring to the passion and death of Jesus Christ, points out that part of the way in which Catholics are asked to “share in that sacrifice” on Good Friday is through fast and abstinence.

One has to wonder how big a sacrifice is it to abstain from something which is not available? – Yours, etc,


Grangebrook Close,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Bishop Éamonn Walsh hits the nail on the head when he says that Christians can make up their own minds when it comes to alcohol and Good Friday (July 5th).

Surely those who wish to mark this important day in the Christian calendar can refrain from alcohol themselves without needing to impose a law banning it for both themselves and everyone else? – Yours, etc,


Coolgariff Road,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Ruairí Quinn’s 1997 budget did manage to record a surplus, something little less than miraculous in Irish national economic terms; it was also a deeply politically inept budget.

The prospects for growth were good. Mr Quinn could have yielded a bit, and clawed some of it back later. The coalition might have got re-elected.

Fianna Fáil had no such inhibitions, and showed no inhibitions at all for the next 14 years: the result, bankruptcy.

However, Mr Quinn can take a large measure of credit for getting the 1995 divorce referendum passed.

When the polls started going the anti-divorce way, he went out on the hustings and campaigned strongly for it when other colleagues showed no such enthusiasm.

Given the narrowness of the margin in favour, it is arguable that he, and the weather in the west, swung it. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Sir, – I hope that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste do not overlook talent in the Seanad when appointing new ministers in the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle. – Yours, etc,


Hillcourt Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Many of the direction signs along our roads are obscured by dense foliage after several weeks of strong growth and are unreadable.

Surely it would not be too much to ask the various councils or the National Roads Authority to ensure that these aids to safer and easier road use are readable at all times? – Yours, etc,


Knockmaroon Hill,


Dublin 20.

Sir, – Arthur Henry (July 7th) prefers fixed castors at the front of his supermarket trolleys – the arrangement used in the more vicious type of dodgem car, where the thrill of the carousel is added to the mayhem of the car crash. Well, to each his own. – Yours, etc,



Birr, Co Offaly.

Sir, – Really! Now men with trolley difficulties. All they have to do is either, a) stand in front of the trolley – full or otherwise – and pull it after them; or, b) walk beside the trolley and guide it along with one or both hands. No pushing or shoving, as it just glides alongside. Why can’t men ask a woman what to do? – Yours, etc,


Lower Churchtown Road,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – To allay Joe Sweeney’s concerns (July 4th) about the exposure of “the retail sector and Irish taxpayers to significant losses” by an alcohol levy on bottles of wine and cans of beer, may I propose instead the introduction of a drinking licence for the consumer?

Similar to a TV, driving or dog licence, the fee could be fixed to replace the €10 per day that each Irish taxpayer is being forced to pay in alcohol-related crime and health costs. – Yours, etc,


Bullock Park, Carlow.

Sir, – If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scottish competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision-making, it will do much to swell the No vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa! – Yours, etc,


Spey Terrace,


Irish Independent:

What is significantly absent in recent debates about the measures required to get the country back on its feet is the voice of the churches, having silenced themselves through fear of being accused of unwarranted interference in politics.

The relationship between church, particularly the Catholic Church, and state has never really recovered from the infamous involvement in the ill-fated Mother and Child Scheme, opposition to it arising from a neurotic fear of socialism. Since then, any hint of involvement by the churches in informing government policy is aggressively cut off at source.

The notion that church and state could ever be separable is absurd. It rests on the assumption that there are two domains, the sacred and the profane.

There is but one, the domain of the human search for a way of life that works to the advantage of all. The institutional church has been its own worst enemy in failing to project a real concern for people in their worldly circumstances – an issue close to the heart of Pope Francis. It is as if the life of the golf clubhouse was more important than the game.

Irish people, be they secularists, humanists or atheists, to varying degrees believe in the basic tenets of Christianity. By this I mean that they seek to live in accordance with the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.

The fact that the current programme for the recovery of the economy hits the poor hardest of all, amid the continuing shameless self-administering of exorbitant and unearned salaries, pensions and severance awards by members of government, raises key questions of justice that are central to Christian and secularist thinking.

Questions of justice should be at the heart of the ministrations of church and state. Differences between churches are irrelevant in the context of current human needs but differences in how seriously we take the plight of the poor are radically significant.



JobBridge is really working

In light of the recently publicised JobBridge scheme of a 30-hour week picking potatoes for €238, it should be pointed out that the frequent attacks on JobBridge represent nothing more than unfair, political point-scoring that often backfires.

Look at what the initiative actually entails. An unemployed person, whose official title is job seeker, is given reasonably paid, non-exploitative work that, in 60pc-plus cases, leads to follow-up permanent employment. Even if it doesn’t lead to permanent employment, the individual can put on their CV that they were willing to work.

All these things add up to a solid government initiative that is shrinking the dole queues, and in the right way, at minimal cost, and without the burden of extra taxes on the wider population.

We can take heart in the fact that high-profile people who blindly denied those realities, and based their entire platform on that denial, failed at the last elections – both local and European.

I’m sure, though, that in such people’s current unemployment, JobBridge could turn up an internship they’d enjoy, if only they’d swallow their pride.


Leo loses his roar in office

Speak up, Leo.

In recent weeks, Jimmy Deenihan, Phil Hogan and Pat Rabbitte have appointed several government cronies to state boards. These appointments have been defended by Enda Kenny, who said they brought a “wealth of experience”, and by Richard Bruton.

One person that has been quiet on the subject is Leo Varadkar. Perhaps this is because in early 2011, with Fine Gael in opposition, Mr Varadkar lambasted the Fianna Fail/Green government for doing exactly what his own colleagues are engaging in.

On his website, regarding appointments to state boards, Mr Varadkar stated that “these and other positions are hugely important positions which should be subjected to considerable public scrutiny. Unfortunately, based on past experience, outgoing government ministers will use their remaining time in office to pack these State bodies with political appointees.”

This is just another blatant example of the hypocrisy that has been the hallmark of this Government.

Both parties made numerous promises prior to the election, particularly with regard to ethics and the manner in which they would go about their politics. Since they have taken power, however, this Government has proved itself to be one of the most devious, cynical and untrustworthy in the history of the State, arrogantly standing over an extensive list of broken promises.


Residents should strike a deal

I remember some years back when Bertie almost got his way regarding building the ‘Bertie Bowl’ – I just thought how lucky we were that he didn’t get his way in the end.

We have something so unique in this wonderful city of ours – two fantastic stadiums located bang in the centre of the city.

How brilliant is that? It means that visitors can walk from their hotels to the event, be it sport or music. They can also arrange to meet friends easily before or after the event for drinks or food – it just works so well and creates business for numerous people.

The residents of Croke Park were right to object to five concerts in a row, it’s just too much. I know because I live close to Lansdowne Road.

I accept the consequences of living close to a stadium, but to be hemmed in for five nights in a row is not on.

What was even more right was that they were heard, which makes it great to know that people power still works. I hope that this a lesson for the two organisations.

But when you look at the economics of it all, it would be suicide for tourism in Ireland if the fourth and fifth concerts were not to go ahead at this stage – it just makes sense for the residents to allow them to go ahead, especially at this late stage.


The times they are a changin’

Tom Farrell’s daughter told his granddaughters to “go and play with your tablets” (Letters, July 7).

Yes, Tom, they are mini-computing devices. God be with the days when you were told “go outside and play” cowboys and Indians or whatever. No imagination needed nowadays. Technology takes over.

Progress? Not so sure.



Enda needs to sort out this mess

Dear Enda, there are times when you remind me in looks of the late JFK. So with that in mind I have this to say:

Garth Brooks is from the USA supposedly coming here to sing for a few days

Young and old fans all over the world look on in disbelief

Those that have paid their hard earned cash and so far what have they got?

You said, he said, she said, we said – and we still have not solved the problem

You know Enda, if it were JFK he’d find a way

Be the man and get it done you’ll be a hero to everyone.


Irish Independent


July 7, 2014

7July2014 listing

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired summer cold?

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Lt-Cdr Johnny Morton – obituary

Lt-Cdr Johnny Morton was a Naval fighter pilot who turned post-war to testing helicopters – from the very large to the very small

6:30PM BST 06 Jul 2014


Lt-Cdr Johnny Morton, who has died aged 88, was a wartime naval fighter pilot and pioneering helicopter test pilot.

Morton was a test pilot of the Fairey Rotodyne, a 1950s design for a large passenger-carrying helicopter which had a tip-jet-powered rotor for landing and take-off and turboprops on its stub wings for forward flight. The concept was decades ahead of its time and the trials were successful, but the programme was cancelled owing to a lack of commercial orders.

The Fairey Rotodyne

Morton and his colleague, Ron Gellatly, played a major part in the technical success of the Rotodyne. They made the first “tethered” flight at White Waltham on November 6 1957, and the Rotodyne proved so malleable that within a few days, instead of vertical flight, the prototype was taken on a circuit of the aerodrome . Until April 1958 all flights were made in the helicopter mode, but on April 10 Morton climbed to 5,000ft and made the first transition to forward flight, and over the next 70 test flights they cautiously raised the flight ceiling and built up the speed to 150mph; on January 5 1959, over Berkshire, Morton and Gellatly set a speed record which stood for several years.

In the late Fifties, Morton was also well-known at Farnborough air shows, where he would perform spectacular flights of the Fairey Ultra-light from the back of a lorry. He also took the Fairey Ultra-light out to sea, giving dramatic demonstrations of how the little helicopter could fly from the heaving deck of a cruiser.

The Fairey Ultralight

When Westland Helicopters took over Fairey Aviation and concentrated its test facilities at Yeovil, Morton became lead test pilot for the Westland Wasp, a small, first-generation shipborne helicopter, making his first flight on January 21 1963. In all the test flying of the Wasp he experienced only one incident, when the tail rotor shaft seized and he was forced down in a field in Somerset.

He was also the project officer for the naval version of the Westland Lynx, making the first test flight on May 25 1972. Morton continued to develop the aircraft for the next five years, despite an accident in November that year when a mechanical failure caused a loss of tail rotor control, and he made a heavy landing near Yeovil; the aircraft was written off, and he and his co-pilot suffered minor injuries. On another occasion he suffered a hydraulic failure over Lyme Bay, but skilfully landed his Lynx on Golden Cap, Dorset. Such was his confidence in the Lynx, however, that he was able to perform the first-ever roll in a helicopter and fly inverted.

In 1965 he was appointed OBE and awarded the Alan Marsh medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1969 he received the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air.

The son of a dentist, John George Peter Morton was born on May 10 1925 at Urmston, Lancashire, and educated at William Hulme’s Grammar School in Manchester. Aged 17 he volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm, and he learned to fly at Pensacola, Florida. At the end of the war he flew Corsair fighter-bombers of 1835 Naval Air Squadron from the carrier Colossus in the Far East.

Post-war, Morton was involved in testing modified Seafire XVs after they had been grounded by a series of engine failures, and in 1947 he embarked in the carrier Theseus flying the Seafire XVs of 804 squadron on a deployment to south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand . Later he flew Sea Furies and Sea Hawks from Centaur in the Mediterranean. In 1949 he began his long association with 705 Squadron, responsible for the evaluation of helicopters for use at sea and for the basic flying training of Royal Naval helicopter pilots.

In 1952 he attended the Central Flying School at Boscombe Down; in 1955 he was lent by the Navy to Faireys, and joined the company permanently as a test pilot soon afterwards.

After retiring as a helicopter test pilot, Morton taught others to fly the machines; among his pupils were the Prince of Wales and King Hussein of Jordan.

Johnny Morton married, in 1981, Noeline Sinnot, the widow of a wartime flying colleague, and they settled in New Zealand; she predeceased him, and he is survived by his stepchildren.

Lt-Cdr Johnny Morton, born May 10 1925, died May 4 2014


Doctor holding male patient  s hand in hospital room

‘The patients concerned are not “being killed”; they are dying, and wish to cut short the suffering they are enduring,’ writes Elizabeth Brown. Photograph: Blend Images/Alamy

While we fully agree that the ease of pain and suffering should be the priority when a patient is nearing the end of life, and keeping a patient alive at all costs is not consistent with compassionate care, we would like to counter some of Professor John Ashton’s assertions (Top doctor’s assisted dying call,  2 July).

First, his comments on the use of sedative medications at the end of life suggested that the administration of doses that would end life in a dying patient would not represent a major departure from current end-of-life prescribing of medications given to ease suffering. There is no evidence to show that medications used for relief of distress and symptom control at the end of life shorten life, and are not prescribed with this intention. To be confident of ending a person’s life with these drugs, prescribing practices would need to change radically. Second, Prof Ashton voices his support for assisted suicide for patients in the final days and weeks of life, but the clinical practice he describes appears to be more in line with voluntary euthanasia, which is excluded from the assisted dying bill. The experience in Oregon shows that the majority of people who the provisions of the Death with Dignity Act are the more “vigourous” terminally ill who are not typically days from death. educed consciousness levels are common in the final days of life, and decision-making as well as the ability to take and swallow medication may be impaired.

We strongly advocate for compassionate end-of-life care, but argue that assisted suicide is not merely an extension of current practice and should not be construed as such.
Prof Matthew Hotopf
Professor of general hospital psychiatry, King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry
Dr Ollie Minton
Locum consultant and honorary senior lecturer in palliative medicine, St Georges University of London
Dr Annabel Price
Consultant psychiatrist in liaison psychiatry for older people, Cambridge and Peterborough foundation mental health trust

• Prof Ashton suggests that the professional equivalent of midwives should help terminally ill patients and “if necessary shorten the end of their lives”.

A midwife, literally “one who is with the mother”, never ends a mother’s life no matter how painful or distressing the birth. Prof Ashton, like many people, seems to be unaware of the large numbers of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who have the privilege of being “with the patient” at the end of life, and so act as midwives to the dying  in helping to ease pain and suffering.

I am disappointed that there was virtually no media coverage of One Chance to Get it Right, the recent report of the Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People, in response to the Neuberger review More Care Less Pathway. The alliance report focuses on improving compassionate care at the end of life. It is this report that merits our attention rather than changing the law to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide.
David Jeffrey
Honorary lecturer in palliative medicine, University of Edinburgh

• I think the views of Andrea Williams of Christian Concern would not be supported by the majority of her fellow Christians, as most people, believers or not, do not want to see their nearest and dearest suffer a prolonged and painful death. This has been demonstrated in many pieces of research and surveys of public opinion.

While I don’t claim to understand her religious beliefs, I tolerate them and accept that she has a right to hold them. What I expect from her – and other religions – is a tolerance of my beliefs, without resorting to claims that doctors will be “killing” patients. The issue is about people who are dying and in great pain being given the legal right to ask for assistance to die as quickly as possible. That assistance could, in theory, be given by someone other than a doctor.

If Ms Williams and her supporters are happy for their lives to be prolonged when they are dying and in great pain, that is their choice. But please don’t impose your choice on people who have a different view at the end of their life.
Graham Ross

• It was misleading that your front page was headlined “Top doctor’s assisted dying call” when Dr Ashton’s full interview was a balanced account of the public health needs affecting this country. Assisted dying and the Falconer bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords later this month, are firmly resisted by the other medical royal colleges (Dr Ashton’s group is a faculty of the Royal College of Physicians), and by many doctors who work in direct patient care of terminally ill patients (unlike public health specialists).

There are serious risks that this policy would be uncontrollable, leading to “incremental extension” (to other classes of person), and to implicit pressure on vulnerable people to accede to voluntary assisted dying. There is evidence that excellent palliative care, in which the NHS is a world leader, strongly mitigates calls for assisted suicide, which are commonly withdrawn when such care is experienced.

The present law works well, combining a firm steer against exploitation and abuse with permitted judicial leniency in the rare hard cases.
Peter D Campion
Emeritus professor of primary Care Medicine, University of Hull

• Giles Fraser has given the same sermon twice (Loose canon, 5 July 2014 and 3 May 2013). He is playing God. He knows we have a right to life but rules that we should not have a right to death. He confuses choices forced on us by thoughtless care staff with personal choices that we want to make ourselves. We can already make personal choices, all carefully qualified and countersigned, to refuse treatment to prolong life. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides for such advance decisions. This legal refusal of treatment can already lead to earlier death.
Chris Coghill

• As a doctor I find the accusation of trying to “play God” offensive. Looking after people who are suffering, especially at the end of their lives, I see no God that is compassionate or just.
Dr Jacinta Derks
Rowlands Castle, Hampshire

• As a retired GP I was pleased to see Prof Ashton’s thoughtful support for assisted dying. I was unsure about this issue until it affected my family. Last year my mother, totally immobile, in end-stage heart failure and with severe and painful ulcers, decided she could not cope with her life any longer. he chose to starve herself to death. It took over two weeks and was horrendous for her and everyone caring for her. Surely a more humane approach would have been to support her choice and help her on her way.
Alex Booth

• The discussion around Lord Falconer’s bill on assisted dying has been made even more difficult by the careless use of words which may be etymologically correct but have widely differing connotations. It would be helpful to assign more specific meanings to the terms assisted dying, assisted suicide, killing and euthanasia, so that we can at least agree on what we are talking about.

The word “kill” has no place in this debate – killing is what Dr Harold Shipman did. “Suicide” often has overtones of personal tragedy but does not apply to a timely end to a terminal illness. “Assisted suicide” is the appropriate term for a mentally competent individual with unbearable but non-terminal physical disability who seeks help to die. “Euthanasia” should be reserved for situations where the individual has never been, or is not now, competent to request and consent to assisted dying. The term “assisted dying” in Lord Falconer’s bill refers only to adult individuals who know they are dying, and are competent to decide about and participate in active measures in ending their life. Neither “assisted suicide” nor “euthanasia” as defined here are envisaged in this bill.

Those opposing Lord Falconer’s bill cite the difficulty of protecting vulnerable individuals but there would be more protection for patients if the legality or otherwise of helping a particular individual to die were to be established before that help is given, rather than after the death. Health professionals, and palliative care specialists in particular, would be protected from complaints by the deceased’s relatives.

Lord Falconer’s bill will result in a robust legal framework to replace the guidelines set out in 2010 by Keir Starmer, the then director of public prosecutions.
Professor Sir David Hall

• Andrea Williams appears to be missing the point. The patients concerned are not “being killed”; they are dying, and wish to cut short the suffering they are enduring. To do this they need access to drugs that doctors have chosen to make available only on medical prescription. Assisted dying is what it says: the patient self-administers medication that a doctor makes available to him or her.
Elizabeth Brown

• Professor John Ashton sums up the feelings and wishes of so many people living with cancer. How reassuring it would be to know that a kind doctor would be prepared to end the patient’s suffering when close to death, without fear of prosecution. Having recently moved house, and been diagnosed with cancer, I hope to form such a relationship with my doctor. Even better would be change in the law.
Marguerite Christmas
Stamford, Lincolnshire

• It is about time medical leaders came off the fence and supported the view of the majority of doctors and the public (from polls) who feel the law on assisted dying should be made more humanitarian, and a right of the individual to determine.

It is really only since the Shipman case that doctors, particularly GPs, have been frightened to help their patients remain as comfortable as possible during their last weeks or days, whether or not this meant shortening their life. The result has been unnecessary suffering. If a patient’s mind is sound and he or she wants to end their suffering by dying, and safeguards such as two independent clinicians authenticate the request, then a doctor should be able to assist the patient.

If over the last few centuries we have won rights over how we may live our lives , it seems illogical to suddenly take those rights away at the end of life, because of someone else’s beliefs that we may not share.
Peter Brown
Newton Ferrers, Devon

• Professor Ashton’s suggestion that doctors should assist in ending the life of terminally ill sufferers would accord well with a market based economy. I would not suggest that such an idea entered the professor’s mind but it would assuredly enter that of others. Caring for the depressed and terminally ill is expensive both financially and emotionally and the easiest and cheapest response is to just dispose of such. That is not the mark of a civilised society.

We already have a government which has cut the NHS to, and sometimes beyond, the bone; and this in spite of evidence to show that it is by far the most cost-effective way to deliver health care. A civilised society should offer quality care to people in such need and not fob them off with cheap alternatives, even if it means, horror of horrors, that taxes need to be increased.

Beware also the law of unintended consequences, the elderly with low self-esteem who feel that they would be better “out of the way”.
Alan Pentecost
Maidstone, Kent

• I read with great interest John Ashton’s article. I agree with everything he has said. As a physiotherapist who has previously worked in a hospice, I recognised that a main function of healthcare professionals is to empower one’s patients. Sometimes, the only empowerment left on offer is the decision of the where and when of death and this must be afforded to our patients in their best interest.

My mother died after asking for assistance in dying which was denied to her. Her last request to me was to help to change “this ridiculous law”. From the change of law in Oregon, it is clear that adequate safeguards have ensured that no patient is coerced into assisted dying: quite the reverse. Patient opting for assisted dying are informed people who have also been causative in their own lives. Why deny them the option of being causative in their deaths? I hope that the House of Lords see fit to support Lord Falconer’s bill on 18 July.
Lindsay Flower
Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire

We are disappointed that the prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Augustin Matata Ponyo, refuses to acknowledge that rape is being used as  torture by his own state security services outside of the conflict region, including in the capital of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo keen to shed ‘rape capital’ tag, 2 July)

Our recent report, Rape as Torture in the DRC: Sexual violence beyond the conflict zone, highlights medical forensic evidence of rape and torture in prisons throughout the DRC, documented to the very highest standard recognised in international law.

Without acknowledging that there is a problem, the DRC government has little prospect of being able to tackle the issues that our report raises and of continuing to attract international support to help it do so.

By failing to engage with this disturbing evidence, the DRC government is turning a blind eye to a major problem both inside and outside the conflict zone; it urgently needs to recognise that rape and torture is now prevalent in the whole of the DRC.

We have been very careful in our report not to attribute responsibility for these violations to the DRC government; however, as the state has responsibility for assuring the security of its citizens, it now needs to take responsibility for preventing these horrific human rights violations in the future and ensuring that the judicial system will be effective in bringing the torturers to justice and providing redress for the survivors.
Jean-Benoit Louveaux
Policy and advocacy manager, Freedom from Torture

Phil Rhoden (Letters, 4 July) may be right in seeking to distance Boots Randolph’s evocative masterpiece from Benny Hill. I am sure Mr Randolph would be at least as unhappy to be remembered as playing the theme jingle for the Radio Luxembourg show sponsored by Boots the Chemist and hosted by Jimmy Savile in the early 60s.
Peter Hutchinson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

• Only in the western Anglo-Saxon world would sitting on a chair and thinking be seen as “doing nothing”, and as being an intolerable imposition (How sitting down and doing nothing proved shockingly difficult, 4 July). Says it all really.
Brian Smith
Berlin, Germany

• Of course it’s not right that women’s Wimbledon victories over the years should be treated as if they had never happened (Letters, 5 July). But please can someone explain to me why women get the same prize money for playing three-fifths of the tennis and delivering only half the excitement? Best of three rarely delivers the tension and thrills of best of five, and frankly, how many women’s Wimbledon finals have been memorable?
Liz Reason
Charlbury, Oxfordshire

• On the delightful topic of hogweed bonking beetles (Country diary, 2 July), I’m reminded of my husband’s accounts of his childhood in Saxony, where they called the soldier beetles Franzosen – Frenchmen – presumably since they were imagined to be in a similar state of happy perpetual promiscuity…
Marjorie Jelinek
Presteigne, Powys


I enjoyed Mary Dejevsky’s observations on the European Court of Human Rights’ support for the French ban on “face-covering” in public places (3 July) and tend to agree with them.

An intriguing question is where the motivation for this unconventional choice lies. I suspect it is not to do with religion and sexual modesty, though it would be hard to prove.

When I was a teacher and rode a motorbike in the 1970s and 1980s, after a day spent in the beehive that is a comprehensive school, I relished the anonymity of shopping with a full-face helmet on. It was quite acceptable then. After a thousand reactions and responses all day, I was able to cut off, hide and relax.

In my town, Halifax, with its sizeable Muslim population, I don’t recall any niqabs prior to the events of 9/11. It is still a minority choice, but to be seen daily. This recent trend suggests a clearly political move.

I have a friend who uses her house as her niqab. The world worries and intimidates her; she rarely ventures out. Some youngsters with their hoods, mostly males, hide their faces from a world which rejects them and  where they don’t feel they fit in.

Should it be illegal? That is a tough one. But it would be interesting for face-concealers to tell us of their true motivation.

Robin Barrett, Halifax

Activities should only be banned if they cause harm to others; Mary Dejevsky, however, proposes that the wearing of the niqab should be banned because it goes against social norms, or against “what it might mean to be European”.

But this is a recipe for intolerance, as well as being vague. Norms are not unchanging: for instance, gay relationships are now accepted but were not 40 years ago.

Two of the norms she cites – not throwing rubbish in the street and FGM – cause harm to others; wearing the niqab does not.

She also criticises as muddleheaded the British way of deciding piecemeal when the veil may or may not be worn. It is, in fact, a way of deciding matters, not dogmatically, but pragmatically, on a case-by-case basis. It is, I believe, the basis of Common Law.  I am glad to live in a country which decides things in this way.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire


Non-profit way to beat the superbugs

In recent days we have all become aware of the dangers posed by our over-use of antibiotics to control infection. This has allowed harmful organisms to evolve defence mechanisms against them. Consequently our antibiotics are fast becoming useless.

You would think it was the job of the phamaceutical industry to overcome this problem, but it has declined to proceed because it sees no profit there.

But there is a way around this dilemma; Cern was founded 60 years ago by 21 European nations as a non-profit scientific endeavour. We have all read of its amazing achievements, including the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.

Co-operation in this scientific field has been a wonderful success. Surely now is the time for a similar body of nations, scientist and medical specialists to pool their resources and begin the search for a solution to the huge problem of runaway infections.

Peter Milner, Shrewsbury


Is the only area of medical research where a new financial model is needed that of antibiotics?

If the problem is that the big money comes from the pharmaceutical companies, and they feel they won’t earn enough on their investments, wouldn’t  that be even more the case for long-term chronic diseases?

The median age for contracting type one diabetes is about 13. For the rest of their lives sufferers need to inject insulin a few times a day and to test their blood sugar levels several times a day. This is a market for insulin, insulin pens and needles, test strips and lancets. It would be financial madness for pharmaceutical companies to put money into finding a cure. Of course, by the same token it would save the NHS lots of money.

Perhaps the body looking at the funding of research into new antibiotics could cast its net wider.

Michael Godfrey, Osterley, Middlesex


Israel was once Arab land

Avi Lehrer takes Robert Fisk to task for implying that Israel was built on Arab land (letter, 3 July).

These are the words of the Zionist hero Moshe Dayan in 1969 (reported in Ha’aretz, 4 April 1969): “We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here.

“In considerable areas of the country we bought land from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages, and I do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either…

“There is not a place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

It has been very well documented that a majority of the pioneers and leaders of Zionism considered that most of the Biblical lands belonged to the future Jewish state, and that the only effective way to achieve this was the “transfer solution”, a euphemism for the organised removal of Palestinians to neighbouring lands.

In 1917, at the time of Balfour’s promise of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish population of Palestine was only  10 per cent.

David Simmonds, Woking, Surrey


Schools for the greedy?

It was interesting but unsurprising to learn of the huge earnings gap between private and state pupils (report, 3 July). Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, which conducted the research, declared that this is a waste of talent. Is it? This implies that earnings are seen as an indicator of capability. Might it not be that earnings are more an indicator of motivation?

Could it be that the children of wealthy parents, who can afford private schools, inherit their values, in particular their fixation with money? From my limited interaction with young state-educated adults I get the impression that they are far more interested in engaging, meaningful and ethical employment.

The Sutton Trust is pressing for greater public access to private schools. Why? Isn’t our society already plagued by obsession with money, as an indicator of status, an entrée to privilege and evidence of success? Vocational and professional commitment is slowly being stifled as we succumb to the delusion that wealth and worth are synonymous.

Gordon Watt, Reading


Childish gesture  by Ukip MEPs

I am extremely disappointed The Independent has continued to allow Nigel Farage a voice to express his anti-European views.

The Ukip MEPs have no intention of engaging with the work of the European Parliament. Their childish act of turning their backs at the playing of the EU anthem was disgraceful.

For five years, these MEPs will be pursuing their own agenda, so failing to contribute to the improvement of the European Union. Surely, they are failing to fully represent their constituents, and by accepting their salaries paid from public funds also taking money under false pretences.

Chloe Gover, Horton-cum-Studley, Oxfordshire

What does a Canadian know about cricket?

I was amused to learn that the new Canadian Governor of the Bank of England was favouring rounders over the traditional cricket match at the Bank’s summer staff party.

I have a letter, written in 1901, from Chas Fishwick to my grandfather, James Horrocks of Bolton, Lancashire. Chas was a friend who had recently emigrated to Canada and, like my grandfather, loved cricket, and was bemoaning the fact that there was no cricket at all in Canada, just a game he called Base Ball, and that that was worse than nothing.

He was an itinerant worker walking miles most nights by the light of the moon and stars and would also have walked many, many miles more to watch a cricket match.

So, Governor, please can you not have rounders again but have the lovely game of cricket? Bank of England and cricket: so very right for each other.

Joan Owen, Hinstock, Shropshire


Awaiting my tax rebate

Further to Sally Bundock’s letter of 1 July regarding her underpayment of tax of £1.81, I have had a letter from HMRC saying that I overpaid by 13p, and I assume this amount will be deducted from my next tax bill.

However, in the event that I am too poor to pay any tax next year (a distinct possibility), will HMRC then send me a cheque for 13p? I sincerely hope so.

Carley Brown, Exeter


Sir, We can all celebrate the success of rising life expectation. Yet because most of us are living longer, the next 50 years will see a growth of at least two and a half times as many people suffering from multiple problems. Unless action is taken, by 2020 maintaining the current level of service provision will require an additional £30 billion for just the NHS — which is as much as we spend each year on defence. There is an equivalent budget crisis in social care and housing. The status quo is not an option. We are already seeing the signs of the system creaking at the seams.

More must be done by us all to eliminate inefficiencies, wasteful variation in care and apply technology to transform care delivery. Resources and vigorous service reform must go hand-in-hand. Business as usual won’t do.

However, the longer-term response to this unprecedented financial challenge needs an honest, open dialogue between politicians and citizens. We need a new settlement; a fundamental, holistic agreement with the country on what health and social care should be, how and where it is delivered to maximise the quality of care, and how it should be paid for.

We believe the route is an all-party-mandated, independently conducted “national conversation” on the scope, provision and funding of health and social care. It needs to start now and be completed by the end of next year.

We call on political leaders to support and assist this proposal.

Sir John Oldham, Independent Commission on Whole Person Care

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society

Dr Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing

Dr Maureen Baker, Royal College of General Practitioners

Sir Richard Thompson, Royal College of Physicians

Dr Jean-Pierre van Besouw, Royal College of Anaesthetists

Ciarán Devane, Macmillan Cancer Support

Lord Adebowale, Turning Point

Chris Hopson, Foundation Trust Network

The chairman of the BMA council steps in to defend GPs from constant criticism from the government

Sir, The government’s plan to name and shame GPs (June 30) is another in a list of announcements that portray the NHS and its staff as underperforming, if not negligent.

Crude league tables, scare-mongering over patient safety and the talking down of the quality of patient care erode confidence in the NHS, call into question the professionalism of doctors and other staff and paint a picture of the NHS which does not match up to reality. In fact a recent international report found the NHS was the best healthcare service in the world when it comes to delivering safe, effective, patient-centred care, as well as value for money. This is despite unprecedented political interference, a reorganisation that has made it harder, not easier, for doctors to deliver the quality of care patients deserve and in the absence of any meaningful plan to put the NHS on sustainable long-term footing.

Rather than perpetuating a blame culture, ministers need to address the acute funding crisis threatening the future of the NHS and take heed of what those on the front-line identify as the true barriers to delivering the best possible patient care; under-funded and overstretched services, unmanageable workloads and a recruitment and retention crisis in general practice and emergency medicine.

Dr Mark Porter

Chairman, BMA Council

An editing slip moved Rockall – and its courageous temporary resident – from the Atlantic to the North Sea

Sir, In your report on Nick Hancock, who is occupying a yellow pod on Rockall (July 5) you state that his islet of residence is “east of the Outer Hebrides”.

I am reminded that similarly and contrary to the title of the 1969 disaster movie, Krakatoa is actually west of Java.

Nick Papps

Chandlers Ford, Hants

Taking children out during termtime can have surprisingly positive effects on their exam results

Sir, Apropos Ken Deacon’s letter (July 5), one my students, a Pakistani-British pupil, entered with a D grade in English at GCSE. She aimed to resit the exam. Not long after, however, and to my dismay, she told me that she was to spend six weeks in the second half of the first term in Pakistan to celebrate a sister’s wedding. I supplied her with various options for writing to count towards her (coursework-based) GCSE including a diary of her journey, a description of the wedding, and her impressions of the country, which she had not visited before. Six months later she achieved an A grade, my best “value-added” result.

Mary Brighouse


The BBC says that it is the most transparent broadcaster in the world, and intends to be even more transparent

Sir, Your headline “BBC is most secretive body in Britain, says spending watchdog” (July 3) gives the wrong impression. The BBC is the most transparent broadcaster in the world, and it is committed to becoming even more open. The National Audit Office’s comptroller and auditor general Sir Amyas Morse never used the word “secretive” and in fact said that access to the BBC had improved compared with the past. He also said that the NAO “encounter a cooperative attitude”; that “the BBC’s done a good job of addressing their cost structure,”; and that the BBC has set “targets and they’ve achieved them”.

James Purnell

BBC Director, Strategy and Digital


SIR – Christopher Booker rightly castigates the Met Office for its faulty climate modelling. They’ve clearly missed out the vital factor of solar energy change, simply because there isn’t any accurate way of predicting it.

That and the greenhouse blanket effect – which depends entirely upon the thermo-dynamic response of the atmosphere’s constituent molecules towards incoming solar radiation and the Earth’s re-radiation back out into space – are the only two significant factors governing the Earth’s temperature and climate. All the rest is largely mumbo-jumbo.

Roderick Taylor
Abbotsbrook, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The accuracy of core public weather service forecasts up to five days ahead continues to improve each year.

The success of the D-Day landings was dependent on the skills of Group Captain Stagg’s team, who were Met Office forecasters on temporary RAF commissions. In more recent wars, an on-site mobile Met unit has been set up within days of an operational RAF base being established at captured airfields like Basra, Kandahar, Kuwait and Port Stanley.

The benefits of increasingly accurate weather forecasting are evident to all who work in weather-dependent activities.

Peter J Taylor
Welton le Wold, Lincolnshire

The costs of Iraq

SIR – Colin Freeman reports on the desperately unhappy situation in Iraq. This has cost many American and British lives and much American and British money.

There is little positive that Britain can now do, but we can try to avoid wasting our resources on fruitless foreign policies. The “ethical foreign policy” of the late Robin Cook was a disaster, as was the neocon-inspired invasion of Iraq. Maybe some in Whitehall admit that, but not enough of them.

Michael Gorman
Guildford, Surrey

A taxing concept

SIR – In his criticism of inheritance tax, Sir James Pickthorn says that, “The only tax should be on consumer spending.” (Letters, June 29)

He justified this idea on the ostensibly reasonable grounds that, “This way wealth is taxed just once; it is transparent and the electorate can understand it.” Three good reasons why it would be anathema to politicians.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

On the EU we’re better off with Dave than Ed

SIR – Regarding the recent election of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, Ed Miliband had the gall to whine in Parliament that David Cameron had failed in “relationship building, winning support and delivering for Britain”.

If he is suggesting that to “win support”, we should have followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, by acceding to every one of Brussels’ wishes, then Britain is far better off with David opposing Goliath.

Ed Miliband needs to learn that buying favouritism is not the way to negotiate. David Cameron has nailed Britain’s colours to the mast in no uncertain terms and now it is the European leaders turn to wake up and smell the coffee.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – With regard to the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, surely the most obvious response is for Mr Cameron to fall back on established EU practice and demand that the vote be repeated until the “right” result is reached. Those who learn nothing from history may be condemned to repeat it.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – For years I have suspected that the concept of the EU was dreamed up and championed by a chain-smoking, boozing, bad-tempered loner who hates paperwork and who would eventually go on to run the whole shebang.

I am grateful to Christopher Booker for confirming my suspicions.

Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Waste not, want not

SIR – It is indeed appalling that a third of all rubbish from British households consists of food waste (Letters, June 22).

Our household takes regular advantage of offers such as “three for two”, but the amount of food we waste is negligible. Anything not needed immediately is put into the freezer. Leftovers are eaten within a day or two, perhaps by amalgamation with other bits. Vegetables going limp are made into soup, often with stock from chicken bones. Potato peelings, orange peel, etc. go on the compost heap.

John Piggott
Ringmer, East Sussex

SIR – I don’t understand why any household needs a shredder (report, June 29). I soak my discarded financial documents and add them to the compost heap. They quickly turn to mush.

Rhoda Lewis
London N14

Thatcherite food

SIR – “Thatcher saved Britain’s food, says Roux”: Britain’s restaurants, perhaps, but not its food.

The government during Mrs Thatcher’s tenure made decisions that adversely affected the food of the nation.

In 1979, school milk was abolished; in 1980, minimum nutritional standards in school meals were done away with and competitive tendering put in place, resulting in cafeteria-style service where children were allowed to make choices, mostly of the unhealthy variety.

The 1986 Social Security Act resulted in thousands of children losing entitlement to free school meals, and at the end of the Eighties, home economics was removed from the National Curriculum. All this has contributed to the increased consumption of ready meals and a generation who can’t cook.

Freda Schaffer
Highcliffe, Dorset

SIR – As a fanatical cook who has been visiting France for many years, I agree with Michel Roux’s comments on the demise of French cooking standards and the quality of those now found in Britain.

Here in East Anglia, I enjoy local game and line-caught fish, and an unrivalled variety of local vegetables. Even rural British supermarkets stock an array of drinks and foods from across the world. In France, the equivalent, even in large towns, appear to have only French produce.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Hundon, Suffolk

No comment

SIR – Are the Wimbledon commentators being paid by the word? There is surely no other explanation for the incessant chatter of Martina Navratilova during the Bouchard/Cornet singles match – unless, perhaps, she thought she was on the radio. On several occasions she was still talking as the rally started. A particular irony was that this was one of the enjoyable ladies’ singles matches that was unaccompanied by grunts and squeals from either player.

Colin Sweeney
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – Is it not time for the foundation of a School for Commentators to improve the standard of commentary? The BBC could take a lead in this.

Andrew C McWilliam

SIR – I have just watched some film of the Wimbledon championships of 1951.

There were no grunts and screeches, no fist-shaking, no towelling after each point, no evil glares and no sitting down with myriad bottles and packets. Totally uncommercialised and civilised.

What has happened?

James Munro
Anères, Hautes-Pyrénées, France

Baby Winston

SIR – Prince Harry isn’t alone in thinking Prince George “looks like a young Winston Churchill” (report, June 29).

To me, most babies look like him. The rest resemble pickled prunes, so George is lucky.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

A life on the river: rowers from Abingdon College applaud on the towpath at the Henley Royal Regatta  Photo: Getty

6:59AM BST 06 Jul 2014


SIR – With superb dresses and hats, brilliantly coloured blazers, boaters and panamas, the band playing, the grass green and flowers in abundance, the Stewards’ Enclosure at the Henley Royal Regatta is the perfect English setting (“Tis the season for Pimm’s and Wimbledon”, Alan Titchmarsh). One late bishop of London described it as “Just like an Edwardian tea party”.

There is also the marvellous international rowing to watch.

Hillier B A Wise
Wembley Park, Middlesex

SIR – Leander Club (no “The”) is certainly the oldest and most prestigious club at Henley.

“Posh” is an unfair description, as members are from all walks of life. The club does not have a pink blazer – the club colours are cerise (cap, tie and socks) and the blazer is navy blue with gold club buttons. The lawns, flowers and shrubs in the Stewards’ Enclosure are an attraction that members and their guests appreciate – I was surprised that Mr Titchmarsh didn’t comment on them.

Angus Robertson
Durness by Lairg, Sutherland

SIR – The reason that the NHS employs managers at high cost to the taxpayer is the belief generally held among politicians that if you get the bureaucracy right then the service to the public will naturally follow (“Hospital dangerously short of nurses pays out six-figure sums to dozens of managers). This belief is misguided because human beings are at best unpredictable.

Paperwork only tells the management what the staff choose to tell them – rarely what is actually happening on the “shop floor”. Thus the manager provides the government with what the staff have reported to him or her and not what is happening to the patients.

Those managers that are dismissed because the patients in their hospital received bad treatment are quickly re-employed elsewhere in the NHS because they are good at providing the government with what it wants.

The NHS, like all our other public services, needs a management system that delivers a service to the public as well as keeping the government informed. If private companies concentrated all their energy on keeping the shareholders happy and ignored the customer then they would soon be in trouble. A balance needs to be struck in our public services.

Peter Amey
Hoveton, Norwich

SIR – A system that rewards those who can justify ever higher budgets and ever greater staff numbers inevitably encourages unnecessary spending and unnecessarily high staffing levels. It also encourages putting the blame on inadequate funding and staffing levels for the failure to provide appropriate health care.

In short, it is a vicious circle that inevitably costs the taxpayer.

John Evans
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – Can anybody enlighten me as to when the astronomical salaries paid to NHS administrators first became the acceptable standard. No doubt they receive attractive pension packages, too. Who authorised these outrageous levels of compensation?

Peter T Bell
Coventry, Warwickshire

SIR – You report that Monitor, which regulates foundation trusts, justified the interim chairman of Medway Trust’s salary by saying the Trust “needed the right people in place to make urgent improvements”. I understood that when the original Trust managers were appointed, their high salaries were justified in order to attract the “right” people. So the original “right” people were not “right” enough, after all.

This is the same old chestnut that has been brought out time after time to justify ridiculous salaries in enterprises that have later failed, including banking.

John Huelin
Woodstock, Oxfordshire

SIR – Having worked in the NHS for 32 years, when I read discouraging reports about the level of care, I feel I have spent my life getting it wrong.

Human error happens whether we like it or not, even in our health service, though we work hard to avoid it. Thank you, John Goymer (Letters, June 29), for reminding me why I get out of bed and take part in this enterprise.

Tim Bradbury
Winnington, Cheshire

SIR – According to John Goymer, the NHS is the envy of the world. He cites a report from the obscure Commonwealth Fund in support of his view that “the NHS is more cost-effective, less bureaucratic, more efficient and delivers better care” than any other health-care system.

For cost-effectiveness, the rather less obscure OECD ranks the NHS 23rd out of 29 OECD countries surveyed. A mountain of evidence shows that the NHS does not deliver the best possible care. Clinical outcomes are consistently among the worst in the developed world. And as for the NHS not being bureaucratic, who is Mr Goymer kidding?

Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Brendan Howlin writes that Labour in Government has acted as a brake on Fine Gael’s desire for more cuts to health spending and social welfare (“Labour role in restoring State worthy of respect”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th). This is a rather strange statement from Mr Howlin, given his own recent role in the medical cards fiasco, where it was widely reported that he demanded huge additional cuts from the Department of Health from the medical card budget. Fine Gael, and Dr James Reilly in particular, seemed to get all the blame for that controversy.

How convenient for Mr Howlin that he has a bogeyman in Fine Gael to blame for the cuts which he himself has overseen. – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Harolds Cross, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Brendan Howlin is correct to say that if the Labour Party is to recover it must defend, and not apologise for, its role in Government. However, it seems strange for him to kick off this strategy with a series of broadsides against his Coalition partners. He deliberately mentions that budget cuts have been “far less than Fine Gael advocated”, that Fine Gael “came looking for cuts in core social welfare rates”, and that one of the reasons Labour entered Government was to temper Fine Gael’s “conservative instincts”.

Defending your role in Government by attacking your colleagues in Government is certainly a curious political strategy. However his article is certainly a fitting prelude to the ascent of Joan Burton to the leadership of his party, since this each-way bet of supporting the Government programme in private and implicitly attacking it in public has been a hallmark of Ms Burton’s time in office.

A chorus of Labour TDs have danced to this tune in recent months by calling for the cuts in the budget to be reduced from the target, with Ms Burton’s erstwhile rival for the leadership, Alex White, even escalating this to the point where he suggested the Government should consider missing the deficit target which has been at the bedrock of the Government’s fiscal plan since it came to office.

How do any of them think that Labour can recover support among the electorate by continuing to imply that the difficult decisions which they have made over the last three years were somehow wrong?

The Labour narrative in recent months, of which Mr Howlin’s article is the latest evidence, has been to portray themselves as the caring, social democratic face of the Coalition, with Fine Gael painted as uncaring quasi-Thatcherites who are hostile to the unemployed and to ordinary workers. There has been virtually no attempt by Fine Gael Ministers to counter these falsehoods.

The current Government can only hope to serve a second term if the new Cabinet to be appointed this week stands unapologetically behind the programme that it has adopted, and relentlessly communicates the achievements of both parties in Government (not just one wing of it) to the electorate. Mr Howlin has given precious little indication that he grasps the scale of this challenge. – Yours, etc,



Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Sir, – This week I have been observing a metering crew in action edging ever closer to my property. Talking to them they said they aimed to install 10 meters daily but the reality is that the results are closer to half that number.

The sheer enormity of this country-wide exercise and its cost strikes me as incredible. Experience would suggest that it is something that could only be agreed and implemented in a country where cost estimation and delivery of projects in the past does not inspire any confidence. Any engineer could have told the Minister responsible that retrofitting is by far the most expensive option.

The introduction of the property tax has largely been successful and helped significantly by the ability of the Revenue Commissioners to extract charges from any unwilling inhabitants. Why could the same approach not have been taken with a set of standardised water charges and in so doing eliminate both the costs of metering and the behemoth Irish Water? Additionally, who will be responsible for recalibrating meters which should be undertaken on a regular basis?

Questions on the affordability of taking a bath, washing the car or watering the garden to name but a few will, I predict, replace the usual discussion on the state of the weather. A neighbour of mine has told me (in all seriousness) that he plans to place a bucket of water by the toilet filled from a garden butt. In a country seemingly awash with water, are the Dark Ages set for a return? – Yours, etc,


Kilmoney Road,

Carrigaline, Co Cork.

Sir, – Dr Gareth Byrne (“Religious education helps create a cohesive society”, Opinion & Analysis, July 3rd) makes a case for religious education in schools, both primary and secondary, saying that “some recent commentary appears to indicate a lack of knowledge of, or perhaps interest in, the transformation of religious education (RE) after the renewal of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and since. It has changed from a wholly content-focused subject to a student-focused one; from learning off questions and answers to discussion of personal experience and response”.

Does Dr Byrne, himself a Catholic priest and chairman of the Council of Priests of the Dublin Diocese, really expect parents of children who have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender orientation, to believe that their children will feel free to share their “personal experience” with RE teachers or chaplains who have been trained to promote Catholic ethos in that school?

Even if the RE teacher is enlightened, as many are, they would not keep their jobs long if they supported, say, marriage equality, including church marriage equality, for same-sex couples.

It is disingenuous of Dr Byrne to imply that RE teachers might be free to say what they truly feel on every subject.

He also speaks of a “response” which the student will receive after expressing his/her “personal experience”. What kind of authentic “response” might a LGBT student receive from an RE teacher who fears losing his or her job if they speak what they believe to be the truth?

Dr Byrne speaks of a need for a “holistic” approach to education and suggests that RE provides this.

I respectfully suggest that in its present form it cannot do so for young LGBT people. It can only impart psychological and spiritual damage. – Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Frank McNally’s reference to Margaret Naylor, the first female casualty of Easter Week 1916 (An Irishman’s Diary, July 3rd) is a reminder of a memory which haunted British army lieutenant John Lowe all his life. Lowe, as aide-de-camp, was by his father’s side all that week right up to the point when Maj Gen William Henry Muir Lowe took the surrender of Patrick Pearse.

Lieut Lowe was on a few days of leave from France and returned there to survive several key battles of the first World War, including the Battle of the Somme, before being captured by the Germans near the end of the war. Yet, for all he saw in the trenches, his only memory of the horrors of war in his autobiography Hollywood Hussar was the sight of a woman shot dead in Dublin – her “skirts bunched up around her waist . . . a truly horrible and unforgettable sight. The worst I ever saw in all of the war”.

Whether or not it was Margaret Naylor he saw is a matter of speculation, but he seems to suggest that the British army was responsible for the majority of the female deaths with this: “Although my father issued strict orders that no women were to be fired at under any circumstances whatsoever, many were killed”.

Lowe went on to become a Hollywood film star and stage actor. After changing his name to John Loder he married Hedy Lamarr, who was billed as the “world’s most beautiful woman”, and starred as a British officer in love with the sister of an IRA man in Ourselves Alone, a 1936 film set during the Anglo-Irish War. – Yours, etc,


The Thatched Cottage,

Tirnascobe Road,

Sir, – The announcement of more broadband for the regions, courtesy of ESB and Vodafone is welcome (“ESB and Vodafone to invest €450 million in broadband”, July 2nd). The unique proposal seeks to carry the necessary fibre, using existing electricity lines from supplier to customer, reaching around 500,000 premises. However, we are also aware that this same market is also targeted by Eircom, who with a different system also plan to reach these regions.

Presumably, such plans are regarded as commercially viable; otherwise these companies would have no interest. Except that there are another 500,000 customers outside these areas, who no one seems interested in. These are premises in the smaller towns, villages and scattered town lands, where commerciality is a problem. Of course, if the commercial criteria to providing broadband were applied to electricity supply, then most of rural Ireland would be in the dark.

The overall uncritical welcome of the announcement avoids the ultimate question – is sustainable broadband to all of Ireland achievable? Perhaps the current drive by all companies concerned may reach some of the last 500,000 premises. However, the realistic assumption that the achievement of this goal will only occur with State assistance must now be accepted as a fact. The sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we can adopt a policy which establishes the cost of such a subsidy, how we can afford it and when we will organise the tendering process to deliver broadband to all areas, the better. – Yours, etc,


Irish Rural Link,

Moate, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – In July 3rd’s Business section, six out of seven articles, on one page alone, were good news stories, full of optimism and hope. What’s the betting that tax receipts ahead of projections, unemployment now in line with the euro zone average, our national debt reduced by €1.56 billion, to name but a few such stories, will rarely be topics for general conversation?

One can only take so much positivity at a time. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – Regarding the new cycle path plans for Dublin’s North Quays, BA Keogh writes (July 3rd) that “the cost of the road works and signage that the planned move would entail could surely be better spent, when it is considered that our health service is in crisis”.

He overlooks the fact that a better cycling infrastructure directly improves the general health of the nation.

He also argues that businesses will lose revenue due to the planned restriction of one lane of traffic, but doesn’t factor in that it makes for a more attractive, quieter and safer city in which these businesses exist.

One needs only to look at Dublin’s southside pedestrianised streets to see how much retail revenue is collected there. – Yours, etc,


Synge Street,

Dublin 8.

A chara, – In your Editorial (“Scotland’s decision”, July 4th) you write, “These are uncertain times in our neighbour’s politics”. You might have added “and also for Ireland’s”.

If the UK leaves the EU, which now seems quite likely, what are the consequences for us ? Have we a plan B ? – Is mise,


Gleann na Smál,

An Charraig Dhubh,

Átha Cliath.

Sir, – Michael Dervan declares that he prefers the early stuff in his review of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival (“I prefer the early stuff: West Cork Chamber Music Festival goes back in time”, July 2nd). This is wonderful news to the Galway Early Music Festival, which is very much alive and celebrating its 20th consecutive year in 2015 (May 15th to 17th).

And, yes, the music and music-making are novel, exciting, beautiful, exotic, and well worth exploring too. – Yours, etc,


Programme Director,

Galway Early Music Festival,



Irish Independent:

Here we go again, with Ireland now proving we cannot even organise ‘a gig’ without controversy and disorganisation unequalled anywhere on Earth.

This is a potential disaster for tourism. A group of protesters plus Owen Keegan and Dublin City Council have made future Dublin gigs unlikely.

Our complicated planning laws, protesters, and a pedantic council are three obstacles impossible to overcome.

Croke Park used to be a GAA stadium and locals disliked the ‘big games’. They were a negative factor in living on Patrick’s Road where my family home still exists, but the benefits of ‘location, location, location’ more than counterbalanced this negativity.

No one forced protester Aidan Fitzsimons to buy in Drumcondra in 1987 when Croke Park was evolving into a world famous national stadium which would necessitate vast running costs and certainly be much more than just a stadium for hurling and football. He bought because of location and should simply put up with the inconvenience of ‘gigs’ and matches.

Of course, the inconvenience nowadays is off the Richter Scale compared to the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and of course in 2014 there must be compensation for this inconvenience. But the negatives of the crass stupidity of this 11th-hour intervention are beyond belief… except not quite: the same scenario, at the last-minute, stopped the Mater Children’s Hospital Project, which is still in embryonic form at a site in James’s Street probably almost as bad as that rejected. As always in disputation, the issue needs to be resolved and resolved now.

Government intervention is now necessary. Let Taoiseach Enda Kenny recall the Dail for a day and with all-party approval provide new legislation.



More power to the Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny diminishes his role when he states that he is powerless on the Brooks’ concerts issue. There is nothing to stop the Oireachtas from passing an ‘Exceptional Licence (Garth Brooks Concerts) Bill 2014′. It could be done overnight. That was how long it took to save the (licensed) banks at taxpayers’ expense. The legislation could include a marker for the promoters and the GAA, plus a sweetener for the affected residents.

How to make friends, influence people and, most important of all, garner 400,000 votes without really trying.



Media versus the residents

Is there some kind of attempt by the media to browbeat the Croke Park residents? Saturday’s Irish Independent headline referred to Ireland’s reputation being in tatters.

Have we not been trying to rehabilitate our good name after years of bending rules whenever a wad of cash is produced?

This was supplemented by three pieces inside, detailing selected ticket-holders’ bereavement at their situation. Their grief was only matched by those lamenting the loss of between €50m and €2bn (as reported on one national radio station, I kid you not) to the economy. The general incredulity shown by self-interested groups at the residents’ stupidity for living where they do and for their intransigence is contemptible given the fact that they are well used to disruption and had acquiesced to further concerts being staged beyond the original agreement with the GAA.

Aitken cannot have been unaware of this, and he is also culpable. Well done to Dublin City Council for taking a principled stand, though clearly the present licensing procedures need to be reviewed.



No show like a Garth no-show

As Joe Dolan might say, there’s no show like a Garth no-show.



Time for a new plan that suits all

Is it not time that the GAA, Dublin Corporation, CIE/Dublin Bus/Iarnrod Eireann got together to devise plans to maximise the use of Croke Park for the benefit of all parties and the national and Dublin economies while alleviating the disruption to local residents?

Step 1: Put in place park and ride facilities to bus patrons to and from the venue using parking facilities in the south of the city and the perimeters.

Step 2: Develop the canalside railway line by temporarily covering the track furthest from the canal to form a platform for a temporary station using pre-booked tickets. Using the entire line between Ballybough Road bridge and Drumcondra Road bridge would allow thousands of people to be moved in a short time.

Step 3: Integrate ticketing for the event itself and transport to encourage use of public transport.

Step 4: Develop systems to allow residents of the locality to enjoy a normal life during events, for example, enabling them to reserve parking spaces in the vicinity of their homes.

Step 5: Develop a system of wardens/stewards with legal powers to police the locality and reduce incidents of unsocial behaviour. (This is an idea that could be introduced countrywide to police traffic at funerals and other events given the lack of gardai and the fact that gardai can be better employed than doing this work.)



An unearthly quandary?

To the residents of the Croke Park area, Aiken Promotions and Garth Brooks.

To quote Mr Spock from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”



An amicable arrangement

One understands readily the concerns of those people who live in the close confines of Croke Park, but I fail to understand why it has taken so long for Dublin City Council to give its decision regarding the licence/s, bearing in mind that these concerts were announced and planned for a considerable time.

Although long-since retired, the day job was in movies, where I spent more than 40 years in ‘production’. On a location scout, many were the times that a director screamed ‘this is it… this is the street, I must shoot here!’.

To build a set was too expensive (“it lacks the feeling, the resonance of the real thing… the grittiness of life!”). So we made a proposition to the residents of the street in which we wished to shoot, to avoid our filming exercise clashing with their daily lives. We moved people out of a street into at least a three-star hotel for the duration, all expenses paid by the movie company, and of course, security provided to the street while filming was not actually taking place.

Can’t the Dublin City Council and the GAA arrive at a similar compromise? It ain’t rocket science…



New lingo hard to swallow

Last night I was surprised to hear my daughter tell my two little granddaughters to “go and play with your tablets”.

I have never understood the mysterious world of women and girls, so I thought that this was some new feminine rite to prepare girls for discussing tablets and medication in later life.

Later, my wife explained that the “tablets” were mini-computing devices.

Living and learning comes to mind.


Irish Independent

Le Grand Depart

July 6, 2014

6July2014 Le Grand Depart

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired but we see bits of the Grand Depart on tv

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Stephen Gaskin – obituary

Stephen Gaskin was a teacher who led a caravan of hippies across America to found a commune built on tradition

Stephen Gaskin in 1969

Stephen Gaskin in 1969 Photo: ALAMY

6:28PM BST 04 Jul 2014


Stephen Gaskin, was a self-confessed “professional hippy” who became an unlikely presidential candidate.

As a proponent of love, peace and harmony, he co-founded “The Farm” — a spiritual community of like-minded tie-die clad, vegetarian, pot-smoking pacifists — in Summertown, Tennessee, in 1971. It became the largest hippy community in the world and an example of an effective self-sufficient subculture.

As a potential leader of the free world — campaigning in the primary elections of 2000 — Gaskin was a Green Party hopeful with a mission to introduce universal health care, reform financial institutions and legalise marijuana.

Although he failed to win the Green Party ticket for the presidential poll he fought a frank and funny campaign. “Did you inhale?” he was asked about his personal experience of marijuana. “I didn’t exhale,” he answered.

Stephen Gaskin was born on February 16 1935 in Denver, Colorado, and had a peripatetic, eclectic upbringing that, while atheist, was inclusive of various cultures. His father was variously a cowboy, builder, mail clerk and commercial fisherman and Stephen was raised throughout the south west of America, with periods in Santa Fe, Phoenix, and San Bernardino. “I’d been to so many different places I had to learn how to make friends on purpose,” he recalled. He maintained that his freethinking was hereditary, noting that his grandmother was a suffragette and his great uncle helped the longshoreman’s union in San Francisco.

Gaskin served in the US Marine Corps between 1952 and 1955, during which time he fought in Korea. During the Sixties he lived in San Francisco, where he taught English, semantics and creative writing at San Francisco State University, working under the celebrated linguist and semanticist SI Hayakawa.

Gaskin with one of his Monday Night Classes

Gaskin’s formal teaching grew into a more personal and philosophical pursuit through his experimental “Monday Night Class” — an open discussion group involving up to 1,500 students and held in 1969 and 1970 at a huge auditorium in the city’s Bay Area. His classes ranged from “Group Experiments in Unified Field Theory” to “Magic, Einstein, and God”. In these gatherings he discussed “consciousness, the spiritual plane, religion, politics, sex, drugs and current events” — all viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of the Sixties counterculture movement (and its psychedelic pharmaceutical refreshments). Unified by the hippy sensibility, the classes formed the genesis of the group that settled at The Farm.

In 1970 Gaskin led 250 people in a caravan of “20 or 30 old buses” from San Francisco to Tennessee on a four-month lecture tour of churches and colleges. “The farther we went, the more people there were who joined the caravan,” he said. “Pretty soon there were three or four hundred of us and the police were meeting us every time we crossed a state line.”

Gaskin’s caravan of hippies crossing America to Tennessee in 1971

As a location for a commune their pocket of Tennessee countryside, with its blackjack oaks and Amish communities, held mixed blessings. Though the thousand acres of farmland they bought was cheap, it was closer to the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan than it was to a main road or a hospital.

The community that Gaskin built was not based on free-love — its core values included the sanctity of marriage, importance of hard work and respect for the Tennessee locals: “You can’t jive anybody who’s teaching you how to run a tractor. It’s something to watch a cat who was once with the Hell’s Angels being taught to run a tractor by an old man – and being respectful to that old farmer.”

Eventually, applicants to join The Farm required sponsorship by a resident, a plan for their livelihood, and an explanation of what they might bring to the community. They then had to pass a probationary period.

Gaskin’s attitude to drugs also followed a – relatively – conservative line. “Don’t lose your head to a fad,” he said. “The idea is that you want to get open so you can experience other folks, not all closed up and off on your own trip. So you shouldn’t take speed or smack or coke. You shouldn’t take barbiturates or tranquillisers. All that kind of dope really dumbs you out. Don’t take anything that makes you dumb. It’s hard enough to get smart.”

In 1974, however, Gaskin went to prison for possession of marijuana. “After we’d been here for a while, we got busted for growing a hundred pounds of grass in the back,” he said. “And we weren’t sure whether the neighbours were more uptight with us for doing that or for being so dumb that we planted it in the deer trails where every hunter who came through could see it.”

He served one year of a three-year sentence. On his release he discovered that his voting rights had been rescinded. He sued the government and after a series of lower court victories won his case, in 1981, at the Tennessee Supreme Court .

Under Gaskin’s guidance The Farm’s ethos extended well beyond its geographical boundaries. The community supported aid efforts in Guatemala, Chernobyl, Belize and the Bronx in New York.

Meanwhile, his wife, Ina May, developed a respected free midwifery service for residents and “outsiders” alike — she turned down an offer to be privately flown to Hollywood when Demi Moore went into labour. Other on-site ventures have also flourished, from book publishing to a soy dairy.

Gaskin was a prolific writer. His books on hippy spirituality include The Caravan (1971); Hey Beatnik! This is the Farm Book (1974); and Amazing Dope Tales and Haight Ashbury Flashbacks (1980).

In 2004 Gaskin was inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and his own wife, Ina May.

While The Farm was home to thousands in its heyday, there are presently just 200 residents — the majority of whom are over 50. It is, however, one of the longest running communes in America. When asked in old age why the community survived, Gaskin emphasised its practical approach. “We were hippies wanting to live together and we accepted the discipline it took to do that,” he said. “Utopia means nowhere. The Farm has a zip code.”

Stephen Gaskin was married and divorced three times before he married Ina May Middleton. She survives him with their two sons and a daughter, along with a daughter from his second marriage and a son from a “non-marital relationship”. Another son predeceased him.

Stephen Gaskin, born February 16 1935, July 1 2014


We come from all walks of British life to say that the experiment to run the railways in private hands has failed. We at All on Board, which includes companies, environmentalists, council leaders, rail workers and experts, disability and social justice campaigners, know that the sensible thing is to run our railways under public ownership.

This is now very easy to do. As each private rail franchise expires, it can become ours. That way, all our investment, our taxes and fares stay in the railways and we get lower fares and a better service. Most investment in the railways already comes from taxpayers. More people will get off the roads and on to rail and we will have cleaner air. A fragmented system, which never benefited from competition because competition is impossible on a railway track, can become whole.

The policy comes at no additional costs to taxpayers. And it is not only green, but it’s popular and it works. Polls regularly show more than 70% of us believe it’s the best thing to do and every time a franchise fails and goes back, albeit temporarily, into public hands, performance improves.

This is about much more than money or efficiency. Trains and stations should be places that we all share.

Tasmin Omond, Lush; Jon Sauven, Greenpeace UK; Len McLuskey, Unite the Union; Paul Nowak, TUC; Rosie Rogers, Compass; and many others online

Christian Wolmar – rail expert

David Robinson – Change London

Frances Northrop – Transition Totnes

Prateek Butch – Social Liberal Forum

Jon Collins – Leader Nottingham City Council

Simon Letts – Leader Southampton City Council

Andrew Burns – Leader Edinburgh City Council

Prof Danny Dorling – Dept Geography, Oxford

Prof Paul Salveson – Dept of Transport, University of Huddersfield

Prof Robin Murray – economist

Prof Ian Miles – Technological Innovation and Social Change, Manchester University

Diane Elson- Women’s Budget Group

Ian Taylor – Transport for Quality of Life

Cat Hobbes – We Own It

Kat Baird – Share Action

Mick Whelan – Aslef

Manuel Cortes –TSSA

Colin Hines – Green New Deal

Andrew Harrop – Fabian Society

Nadia Idle – War on Want

Andy Greene – Disabled people Against the Cuts

Peter Robinson – Campaign Against Climate Change

Blame people, not monarchy

Catherine Bennett’s ad hominem attack on the royal family’s expenses (“Value for money? Our royals aren’t worth tuppence“, Comment) may or may not be justified. But it was almost entirely beside the point. A monarch as head of state in the 21st century, especially one that also assumes leadership of a state religion, would still be an absurdity at a tenth of the cost.

The heir to the throne has almost no choice in the matter: you are brought up from birth, surrounded by an army of courtiers telling you that you have a sacred destiny to fulfil (and whose own income and status depend on it) and only insanity or death will get you out of it. Add an industry of royal service and supply, combined with a gossip-hungry press, and the resulting malign circle of interlocking interests makes the institution virtually immovable. A society that requires such an institution is clearly suffering from infantilism; it is also, quite probably, breaking the law. The European Human Rights Act 1998 demands “respect for private and family life” and guarantees “freedom of expression” – with no exceptions. Is there a lawyer out there who will take on the brief and put the British people in the dock?

Bill Angus



Implacable blue plaque cuts

As two long-serving members of the English Heritage blue plaques panel who resigned in protest at what was being done to the blue plaques scheme, we are entirely in sympathy with the views expressed by our colleagues David Edgerton and Gillian Darley, who have also resigned (“English Heritage under fire as ‘white men off the telly’ dominate blue plaques panel”, News). However, it is not the case that we resigned in protest at the need to make efficiency savings. We were in the process of making careful changes in order to meet the demand for cuts, when we were abruptly overtaken by drastic measures.

These involved cuts out of all proportion to what was required. Of the vital research and support team, five full-time equivalents were reduced to two. Panel members were asked to support these policies. Our view was that this extremely popular, long-established and cost-effective scheme was in real terms being dismantled and its previous achievements discredited.

Dr Celina Fox London

Dr Margaret Pelling Oxford

Walking back to happiness

What an interesting article by Tracy McVeigh on the life of TA Leonard (“150 years on from his birth, Britain salutes the man who got us walking“, In Focus). His legacy to the “open air movement” is remarkable, but one important aspect was missing. The working-class young men enjoyed their holidays in the countryside so much that they decided to continue their rambles when they got home. Local groups of ramblers were formed – CHA and HF Clubs. They flourish to this day. My club, Bolton CHA Rambling Club, with almost 300 members, organises six graded rambles each week, two walking holidays yearly, together with social events. At the age of 109 we are still going strong – a true legacy of TA Leonard’s work!

Kathleen Jackson


See off the payday lenders

One reason for the UK credit union movement failing to grow more quickly is that legislation in the UK has been probably the most repressive in the world. (“Credit unions aim to step into the breach as curbs close payday lenders“, Business). One other reason is that not all employers are prepared to allow a deduction from payroll for credit union savers.

All the most successful credit unions are based around employment where the key factor is employees having payroll deduction for payments to their credit union. For example, Plane Saver Credit Union, which we started 21 years ago at British Airways, has 10,000 members with assets of £36m.

Payroll deductions cost virtually nothing and balanced against the value they provide offer an amazing employment benefit. With political support and the endorsement of religious leaders we can see off payday lenders, doorstep lenders and loan sharks.

Graham Tomlin

Treasurer, Plane Saver Credit Union

Geography lesson overdue

An advertisement on page 11 invites me to “discover Europe”. Please inform the Observer holiday department that I have already discovered Europe as I already live in Europe – in sunny Devon, as it happens!

Michael Tong


In every rich (OECD) country, the share of national income devoted to health services is now higher than it was 10 years ago. Despite the recession, even over the last five years, there is only one OECD country where the share has fallen: Greece (“Cameron warned: NHS is in danger of collapse within next five years“, News).

Looking ahead five years, the question for the political parties is not whether health expenditure will rise in real terms as national income recovers, but who will pay for the higher expenditure? The only alternative is to give up our aspirations for a “world class” or even “high class” health service and return to the benchmark of the 1950s to the mid 1990s: an “adequate service”.

Professor Clive Smee

Chief economic adviser to the Department of Health 1983-2002

East Horsley


You lead with the story that the NHS needs more money to avoid collapse within the next five years. While that is most likely true, one suspects there is still room for savings that will not impinge on patient care.

I recently accompanied my wife to the A&E department of a specialist local infirmary, rated by many the best in Europe. The care she received was exemplary, to the extent that the receptionist took time and care to explain how to complete a questionnaire from which I quote verbatim: “You need to fill in this section. How likely are you to recommend this A&E department to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?”

Professor David C Sanders


The problems of the NHS are far more to do with failure at the centre than in individual hospitals and clinics (“The coming crisis in the NHS“, In Focus).

There have been endless reorganisations and central initiatives that have completely failed in their objectives and that are then swept under the carpet while ministers and their advisers rapidly move on, leaving the service increasingly impoverished.

At the same time, privatisation and competition are being steadily increased, which can only increase fragmentation, secrecy, confusion and the siphoning off of profits. What the service really needs is openness, collaboration and using any efficiency savings to fund new developments in the public service.

Frank Field is right: we need a new national mutual, independent of government but not of voters, to receive all the funds and drive through reform.

Dr Richard Turner


It is quite extraordinary that the King’s Fund analyses the pressure on NHS finances without even mentioning the costs of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, both “startup” and recurring, and the ongoing costs of running the NHS “market” in England. These are more than the Better Care Fund, which is removing £2bn from frontline NHS spending. Clearly the costs of redundant “reform” would not close the NHS’s black hole. But every not-so-little helps

Calum Paton

Professor of public policy (health policy)

Keele University

I scoured the Observer‘s extensive coverage of the NHS’s financial crisis for any reference to the disastrous impact that successive governments’ addiction to the smoke and mirrors of PFI funding has had, as predicted in some quarters, on the NHS’s long-term viability. If, according to Monitor, the funding shortfall for 2015-16 will be £1.6bn while the PFI payments due for the same period will be £2bn, then the figures speak for themselves. Since they are the direct result of government policy, perhaps PFI payments should be met by the Treasury instead of by the NHS, thus solving the problem?

Stephen Butcher



I have seldom encountered a newspaper that manages to face in both directions simultaneously. In the Comment section you publish a perceptive article on the blind disregard of Republicans in the United States towards climate change (“If King Canute had a roads policy”, 29 June), and in the New Review you devote five pages to the political longevity of Nigel Lawson much of which is taken up with his absurd views on global warming.

Not only is he disputing the results of more than 200 years of scientific observation, he refuses to accept the conclusions of every major scientific body in the world including the US National Academy of Sciences and our own Royal Society. It is simply untrue to claim that global warming has stopped. Since 1998 there has been a slight slow-down in the rate of warming, but if you compare mean temperature increase by decade then there has been a steady increase since the 1970s. In addition, sea levels are continuing to rise and the ice-caps are melting faster than had been predicted. Lawson’s views are scientifically unsustainable, but since he has no scientific qualifications this does not bother him.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

In response to Kelly-Marie Blundell (Letters, 29 June) it is a shame that public services are not treated more like factory production lines. If they were, they would be customer focused and effective, rather than target focused and random.

Last year, my mother-in-law was in hospital for three weeks. As someone who does process improvement for a living, watching the nurses was fascinating. The ward layout meant they spent about 40 per cent of their time walking. In no factory would that be OK.

A friend has been going to a small hospital for daily injections for four weeks. He has been given the injection directly, which staff said was quick and easy, and through a drip, which staff said was standard protocol. In no factory production line, would this lack of standardisation be accepted, as it would lead to a high number of quality problems. The most worrying thing is that there is a standard protocol which some nurses feel it is OK to ignore.

Helen Jackson

Belper, Derbyshire

The Trident Commission’s headline finding “Britain ‘should keep its nuclear deterrent'” is mistaken (29 June). Modernising and proliferating nuclear weapons is out of step with international law and Britain’s security needs. In one of its few relevant passages, the Trident Commission concluded that the UK needs to needs to prepare a “glide-path” for reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons. With the Vienna Conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons scheduled for 8-9 December, the Commissioners need to work to ensure that Britain takes part in multilateral steps aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons, rather than sticking the UK’s head in the sand and pretending that the world has not changed in 30 years.

Councillor Mark Hackett

Chair, UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, and 10 others

For Joan Smith the roots of Jimmy Savile’s crimes can be traced back to Radio Caroline and Radio London, even though he never worked for a pirate radio station (29 June) .

The culture she describes was already covertly present in many mainstream institutions, such as the BBC, as well as manifest in the hit musical Hair, and underground magazines. Pirate stations may have been a symptom of the age, but were certainly not the sole cause of the behaviour she describes.

Dr Alan Bullion

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

DJ Taylor (29 June) is correct in his analysis of middle-class festival culture, but he failed to raise what seems to me to be the more significant question: what does the BBC think it is doing giving blanket coverage and free advertising to Glastonbury and the Hay Festival? There are many festivals, large and small. Glastonbury and Hay may merit a mention in a news item, why do they get so much more than that?

Neil P Confrey

Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire


David Cameron’s opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Commission presidency may have won him friends at home David Cameron’s opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Commission presidency may have won him friends at home

Applaud Cameron for fighting UK’s corner over federalist EU

CONGRATULATIONS to David Cameron (“Tory threat to leave EU”, News, “One step nearer the exit”, Focus, and “Odds mount against the UK in Europe”, Editorial, last week). Had he gone along with federalist Europe and voted for Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission, the Tories could have lost all hope of winning the next election.

The Juncker presidency flies in the face of recent European election results and the democratic wishes of many EU voters for reform. British views have been brushed aside for too long. We did not vote for federalism, and I believe a large percentage of the public is quietly applauding Cameron for sticking to his beliefs.
William Turner, Llanfyllin, Powys

Can it be that Cameron has had a “road to Damascus” moment and is now serious about leaving the EU? Or is he just playing the win-win game of Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond: if he attacks the EU and we end up leaving, he will be the big hero; if he attacks and nothing much happens, he will still pick up a lot of those votes, and be a heroic failure.

The prime minister has nothing to lose by going hammer and tongs at the EU before the general election.
John Broom, Headley, Hampshire

Cameron has exhibited a lack of strategic judgment over Juncker. Should the Tories be re-elected there can now be no credible possibility of them delivering the changes they seek, since this requires the building of support among our European partners.
Ramsay Ross, Uppingham, Rutland

Insulting people with whom you work is seldom a sensible way of getting what you want. Even if the UK does leave the EU, the terms of that withdrawal still have to be agreed.
Guy Liddel, Halifax

Dominic Lawson (“You’ve had a drubbing in round one, PM. Best of British for the final”, last week) is correct in stating that what Cameron wants will not be offered. When our politicians accept that this is the case — a situation that Nigel Farage of Ukip understands quite clearly — then Britain can decide where to go from there.
GR Harradence, Fern Tree, Tasmania

Lawson stated that the European Commission president has the sole right to promulgate EU-wide legislation. In fact the commission only proposes laws — it is the elected ministers and MEPs who decide — and the president needs the majority backing of commissioners.
Mark English, European Commission, London

School holiday disputes send wrong message

SOME years ago my daughter was reprimanded at school for doing homework in her lunch hour — alone — rather than bringing it home, according to the school, “so that you can see what she is doing” (“Court test for Gove’s ban on holidays”, News, and “I’ll see you in court, Miss”, Focus, last week).

The ludicrousness of this imperative in a school aiming to promote independent learning seemed inexplicable, and I said as much to her. But I also said the staff were quite right to chastise her: she knew the rules and was breaking them.

Those parents who protest loudly about the ruling on unauthorised absences from school — a policy I deplore — should think about the impact of this on their offspring. How will they raise a generation that can accept the strictures of a democratic society alongside its more beneficial aspects (education being but one).
Jill Holden, Radlett, Hertfordshire

This fiasco over law-abiding parents being prosecuted for their children’s brief absences has come about because we have replaced a sensible welfare-based approach with a blunt statistical one. Only a small number of parents seek to avoid their responsibilities. This crackdown has nothing to do with them.

Absence in general has now become a measurement of school performance, and some head teachers and local authorities seem to have lost sight entirely of what is best for the child in all this and become the agents of a bureaucratic system based only on the crude collecting of data.
Ben Whitney, Wolverhampton

I suspect James Haymore, who is mounting a legal challenge against the crackdown on parents taking children on holiday during term time, would not be very pleased if his son Toby came home and reported cancelled lessons because his teacher had gone on a cheap term-time break.
Anthony Roberts, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

In this debate the position of the school staff has been forgotten. My wife is retiring this month, which means for the first time since she qualified 39 years ago we will be able to take a holiday in term time.
Dr Derek Ford, Cambridge

In the light of Michael Gove’s crackdown, will the parents of the ball girls and ball boys at Wimbledon now be prosecuted? Or will duties at a high-profile televised event always count as “exceptional circumstances” compared with weddings, funeralsand travel experiences?
Stephen Howard, Bristol

Demolishing myths of Liverpool housing

CHARLES CLOVER has an inaccurate view of Liverpool city council’s reason for demolishing the Welsh streets (“A corrupt clique of rulers keeps the north grotty to stay in power”, Comment, June 22). In other parts of the city we have pioneered new ways of breathing life into terraced properties, such as converting two homes into one to make them bigger and more appealing to families, and 80% of the houses in the wider area have been retained.

Sadly the Welsh streets’ terraces are simply not economically viable. They were built in the 1880s, quickly and cheaply, without foundations. They are riddled with damp. You can see with the naked eye roofs sagging and joists coming loose — buildings falling apart. It is ludicrous to suggest that one day I woke up and decided to turn down £40m and destroy a community in the process.

Decades of decline have been caused by residents voting with their feet and moving to areas with a wider choice of better-quality homes. Our proposals are backed by 70% of the local community.
Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Social media and eating disorders

SOCIAL media messages regarding fitness and healthy diets may or may not relate to the increasing prevalence of eating disorders (“Working up a cold sweat about getting thin”, News Review, last week), which have complex causation that includes genetic, biological, psychological and social

They are serious mental illnesses with a high mortality rate, but often they are reported as “weaknesses” in people who take exercise or dieting too far.

Today 96% of 13 to 15-year-olds have access to the internet at home but a very small proportion develop eating disorders. A meta-analysis from last year studied more than 200 research articles and concluded that the media portrayal of thinness and fitness has virtually no effect on males developing eating disorders, and a minimal effect on a vulnerable proportion of females who have pre-existing body dissatisfaction.

As you reported, over the past year there has been an 8% rise for inpatient admissions relating to eating disorders, but it is unclear if this is due to improved awareness or a true increase in prevalence of the disorder.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Woodbourne Priory Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham


Having served on a jury, I am not surprised by the reported findings of the judicial experiment (“On trial: how juries reach their verdicts”, News, last week). Not being allowed to take notes, we spent much of the deliberation time disagreeing about what we thought the judge had said in his summing-up (which had been split between Friday and Monday). I can’t say I was impressed by the experience.
Vic Brown, Morpeth, Northumberland

Justice would be well served by doing away with juries and letting judges preside. Did those jurors at the phone-hacking trial really have the ability to assimilate months of evidence? I doubt it. Leave it to the professionals.
Joe Cowley, Belvedere, London

I savoured every sentence of “AA Gill on life at 60”, (News Review, last week) — laughing a lot, even crying a little and loving his honesty. It has prompted me to nurture friendships more, to travel more and not to be so “anxious” about my children’s education. I wish him a very happy birthday and compliment him on a very inspiring article.
Evelyn Coughlan, Cork

AA Gill is so right about the greatest gift of our generation being the opportunity to travel. I would go so far as to say that we are the luckiest generation yet — luckier than those that will follow.
John Harrison, Via email

What a great article by Gill. Until the advent of the modern media the public were kept totally in the dark about the actions and beliefs of their “betters”. This is why, for example, the Profumo affair was so notorious: people weren’t allowed to know about the personal and political failings of those entrusted with running the country. We now live in a world that provides perhaps too much information — which is why we are so cynical nowadays about politicians.
Trevor Barre, Via email

I am not surprised that Gill telling people he is 60 elicits little response from his acquaintances. Far from “60 is the new 40”, today it is more like “80 is the new 60”, particularly when you consider the number of septuagenarians actively pursuing their chosen careers — John Humphrys, Melvyn Bragg and David Dimbleby, to name but three. And as for the broadcaster Nicholas Parsons, at 90 he is in a league of his own. If it is recognition Gill is after for clocking up 60 years, then the best he can hope for is a free bus pass.
Amir Shivji, Kingston upon Thames, London

The First World War witnessed agony, futility, the killing and wounding of young innocents and the stupidity of certain heads of state (“War poets edited out of memorial”, News, last week). The poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon wrote about it as it happened and suffered the consequences, as did my father, who was badly wounded twice. If these poets are edited out of the artistic programme to commemorate the conflict, it just makes a mockery of their writing and insults the sacrifice.
Jack Collings, Broadstone, Dorset

Owen’s Strange Meeting is the great poem of reconciliation. Like Owen, Sassoon was critical not of the “enemy”, but of those with a vested interest in continuing a futile war.
Andrew Hoellering, Thorverton, Devon


Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


50 Cent, rapper, 39; Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist, 77; George W Bush, former US president, 68; the Dalai Lama, 79; Dame Hilary Mantel, author, 62; Makhaya Ntini, cricketer, 37; Dame Mary Peters, athlete, 75; Geoffrey Rush, actor, 63; Jennifer Saunders, actress, 56; Sylvester Stallone, actor, 68


1189 Richard I accedes to English throne; 1535 Sir Thomas More executed for treason; 1885 Louis Pasteur successfully tests rabies vaccine; 1942 Anne Frank and family go into hiding; 1957 John Lennon and Paul McCartney meet; 1988 explosions destroy North Sea drilling platform Piper Alpha, killing 167


The new sugar guidelines are hard to swallow

Fruit and vegetables are rich in the sugar that scientifc advisers are encouraging us to avoid

Cherries in a London Farmers' market

Forbidden fruits: one ripe banana and one apple contain around 35g of sugar in total  Photo: GETTY

6:58AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments183 Comments

SIR – I read with interest the latest recommendation on daily sugar consumption. When these limits are considered in the light of the recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption – seven or more servings a day – we are faced with a dilemma.

The total sugar intake from eating one ripe banana and one apple is approximately 35g – the maximum daily intake recommended for a man. As all fruit and vegetables contain sugars to some extent then, under the latest suggested sugar limits, no more fruit or vegetables should be eaten that day.

This is clearly nonsense and illustrates the increasingly unrealistic directives from the Government’s scientific advisers. With such confusion in the recommendations, it is no wonder people ignore them.

John Waterhouse

Surprise charges for renewing car tax online

Using unofficial websites can lead to extra costs of £40 or more

Motorists face a rise of up to £20 in the cost of their tax disc as the Government looks to plug a black hole in their finances as drivers turn to greener cars.

The DVLA charges for new tax discs, but others can add an extra ‘service’ fee Photo: REX

6:59AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments217 Comments

SIR – I was interested to read Captain Derek Hopkins’s letter yesterday about being charged an extra £40 for an online renewal of a car tax disc.

In May I renewed the tax for my car by paying (according to the renewal notice) £145. However, my credit card statement shows a debit for £185 had been applied under “directgov.uk.net Alresford”. I too would like to know: “What is going on?”

John Cetti
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

SIR – Captain Hopkins has fallen foul of one of the commercial websites charging for government services. These are free via the gov.uk website. He has been charged a £40 “administration fee”.

Tim Banks
Knutsford, Cheshire

SIR – I nearly got charged £25 for applying for a free Australian visa until I realised that I was not on the Australian government website.

Similarly, I managed to stop my daughter paying £150 for the privilege of submitting her tax return online to HMRC through a private company.

Readers should always ensure that they are on the government website and not a private fee-paying simulacrum.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – If Captain Hopkins complains to the website strongly enough, they might refund £32 of the £40 they charged him, keeping £8 as an administration fee.

However, it really ought not to be beyond the wit of the DVLA to stop dealing with such websites.

Richard Owsley

Airport scrutiny

SIR – I used to travel frequently between England and Ireland during the “Troubles”.

In view of my age and background, I was subjected to regular and extended security scrutiny. I admit to having found this quite annoying, but at least I understood the need for such action.

The threat has now changed, but in order not to cause offence to racial minorities, everyone is inconvenienced, whatever their age and background. This is nonsense. Terrorist profiling is not racism, it is logic.

Vincent Hearne
Nabinaud, Charente, France

Ships of the Line

SIR – The Queen named the Royal Navy’s new and only aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth yesterday.

Her sister ship HMS Prince Charles, with an estimated build cost of £3 billion, may simply be mothballed, placed in reserve, possibly never to see active service.

Is there a subliminal message here?

Geoff Pringle
Long Sutton, Somerset

Sick of chic

SIR – I am heartily sick and tired of reading about how wonderful the French are. Supposedly they have better table manners; they are slimmer; their women are more chic; their food is tastier. Is there nothing they are not good at?

Well, their public lavatories leave a lot to be desired – a hole in the floor, no thank you! And who were all those fat French women at the hypermarket in Calais? Specially drafted-in French-speaking English folk, I presume.

Give us a break, please, from the wonderful French.

Cherry Tugby
Warminster, Wiltshire

Free school crash

SIR – A political car crash is the only way to describe Tuesday’s notification by the Department for Education to pull the funding for a new free school, Fulham Boys’ School in the London borough of Hammersmith, only weeks before it was due to open.

As one of the parents whose sons had a place there, the unthinkable has happened. Some 100 families in the borough must now scramble to find a school with space left just before the summer holidays.

I am not seeking to apportion blame either to Michael Gove’s Department for Education or Hammersmith & Fulham council, but the question arises as to how parents can have faith in the free schools project when last-minute political interference can so easily compromise a good new school. Education is vital to a strong society, and related government policy should be about substance, not political mood swings.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse
London W6

A study in stage fright

SIR – Musicians can have the same problem as the one Michael Simkins describes when it comes to “drying” mid-performance.

In the Seventies, Emil Gilels performed at our local town hall and obviously forgot the middle section of one of the Chopin études.

He improvised so brilliantly that I suspect I was the only one who noticed. I am sure Chopin would have forgiven him.

Lucille Nemeth
London W2

Last words

SIR – Isabel Hardman writes about death in your centre pages.

I am reminded of Woody Allen’s remark: “I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Adrian Holloway
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire

SIR – My dear mother died on Tuesday afternoon, aged 93. She told me that she had woken at two-thirty that morning, and so she read the Daily Telegraph Business section.

Leaving aside the Sport section, the rest of the paper was devoured every day. Many evenings when I thought it was time to help her to bed she would say: “I’ll be a few minutes, I’m just reading the Letters page.”

Alan Judd
Bramcote, Nottinghamshire

Wimbledon fans look forward to a quieter final

SIR – I am really looking forward to the women’s final at Wimbledon: no horrid screaming and no posturing when serving.

I shall be supporting Eugenie Bouchard. She might not be British, but she is from the Commonwealth, which is the next best thing.

Jan Chapman
Fulwood, Lancashire

SIR – I was glad Angelique Kerber beat Maria Sharapova on Tuesday. I was able to turn the volume on for the rest of the tournament.

Steve Hamilton
Easterton, Wiltshire

SIR – The weather forecasters cannot win (Letters, July 2). I live in Wimbledon and while I watched the rain come down upon the BBC commentator, it wasn’t raining at all a few hundred yards away.

In order to have the micro weather forecasting required for large sporting events, there would need to be a dedicated weather channel.

Diane Barnett

London SW19

SIR – Why does the BBC insist on changing channels midway through a match? This makes it impossible to record and watch the whole match later.

G C Lang
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – My suitcase for a recent 12-day cruise was smaller than any of the bags carried on to court by the Wimbledon players for a four-hour match.

I cannot imagine that much is contained in these pieces of luggage, but it does provide their sponsor with a large area for advertising. I will readily make the sides of my suitcase available to any organisation willing to sponsor my holidays.

David Miller
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

It is no longer economically viable for healthcare to be free at the point of delivery

From 2016, people with assets of more than £118,000, including their homes, will have to pay for their care in old age

The Labour MP Frank Field has suggested that pensioners pay ‘their fair whack’ in National Insurance contributions Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM BST 05 Jul 2014

Comments143 Comments

SIR – I have been an admirer of Frank Field in the past, but his proposal that pensioner income be subject to National Insurance contributions (Letters, July 4) is outrageous. Most pensioners today have contributed more than their fair share into the NI “pot” during their working life.

The sooner Mr Field and his Labour colleagues realise that the NHS in its present form is no longer economically viable, the better. Britain cannot offer a health service where every treatment to everybody is free at the point of delivery.

Mal Fairhurst

SIR – Frank Field, one of the more respected and level-headed politicians, suggests that higher-income pensioners should make National Insurance contributions to help offset the National Health Service’s increasing costs that come with an ageing population.

However, would he consider a reduction in such contributions, where the pensioner paid for private medical insurance, and was less likely to use the full NHS services?

As things are, of course, higher-income pensioners do not enjoy the full age-related income tax allowances.

Brian Mahony
Pimperne, Dorset

SIR – To suggest that pensioners pay National Insurance to save the NHS is a bit rich. Many people paid NI contributions for more than 40 years, rarely visit a doctor and have never been in hospital. We consider we have already more than “paid our fair whack”, as he puts it.

Throwing money at the NHS will not help. It is a management-riddled monster. A major cull of management is needed to create a lean, fit machine.

Will Mr Field’s next suggestion be that we continue to make pension contributions until we die, to help fill the hole in state pension provision?

Patrick Tracey

SIR – By the time I retired in 2010 I had made continuous NI contributions for 48 years. However, in order to qualify for my basic state pension of just over £100 a week I only needed 30 years’ contributions.

Could Mr Field arrange reimbursement of the 18 years’ overpayment?

Paul Hayward
Stowmarket, Suffolk

SIR – Frank Field is totally wrong to want to levy National Insurance payments on grey voters. One of the founding reasons for creating the National Health Service was to eliminate the fear of illness in old age for the citizens of the United Kingdom.

Instead, he should look at non-essential cosmetic surgery, or overseas tourists who come here to have NHS treatment and then flee without paying. The latter should pay up-front, and if entitled to free NHS treatment should then be refunded, minus a standing charge for administration.

John Millar
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – I wish to refer to 
Carol Hunt (Sunday Independent, June 22, 2014) and her concern for the approx. 10,000 families who are struggling with anxiety and hopelessness and the fear of banks taking over their homes – also her reference to the two Irelands, one for the wealthy and one for the poor.

Quite recently the 
Minister for Arts, Culture and The Gaelteacht Jimmy Deenihan told the Dail he is very pleased with the €22m 
allocation of funding in preparation for the Centenary of Celebrations for the 1916 rising.

We all cherish the memory of these great men, we will honour and remember them in our own special way. However, the activity of our government is an insult to them – Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and all the great men who gave their lives for freedom.

Betterment and equality for every man, woman and child on this island was their aim, but they would turn in their graves today at the wastage of money, mismanagement and total disregard for our citizens in the Ireland of today.

I will finish my letter with an excerpt from the late Donal Walsh’s book – Donal’s Mountain – the following are the words of wisdom from this 16 year old boy.

“It really does make me ashamed of my Government when they can get wages of hundreds of thousands of euro and yet one of the most important children’s wards in Ireland in Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin, Dublin had to rely on charitable donations to buy a bucket of paint and a brush.”

Philomena Fitzgerald,

Tralee, Co Kerry

O’Reilly plight a real eye-opener

Madam — In the course of my working life I had the good luck of meeting Tony O’Reilly once in the 1960’s. It was after he hit the headlines in the ‘Kerry Gold’ launch and before he took up a top sales position with Heinz USA. In stature, attire and general demeanour he projected burning ambition. He was a man for the ‘high road’ whose progress I followed with zest down through the years as if he were an icon. I even gambled a few ‘bob’ on shares in his companies.

Yes, Sir Anthony O’Reilly was a powerful man and a successful one in every sense of the word — in sport, business and entrepreneurship. In fact he was well up in the Forbes magazine list of top business people in the world, having headed the giant Heinz food conglomerate in America and multiplied its profits many times over — becoming one of Ireland’s elite fistful of billionaires in the process.

His success in expanding INM newspaper-empire — the golden cow that yielded him millions, his interest in Providence Oil, and the development of his ‘pet home’ 750 acre — Castlemartin Estate —were phenomenal achievements. Not to mention his desperate efforts for Waterford Wedgwood, unfortunately, pouring in hundreds of millions of good money after bad, while ignoring the red light.

Despite the stories we read of Sir Anthony’s wealth, the pressures put on him by nine top banks to sell off the treasured assets he yearned and worked for so hard, was indeed very sad and stressful. Great credit for the dignified manner in which he is dealing with this dark hour; unlike other wealthy developers and bankers who fled the scene leaving creditors to lick the dust.  O’Reilly’s prospect of a soft landing, with heiress — Lady Chryss —better than most. Nevertheless, his rapid turn in fortunes is an eye-opener to all.

James Gleeson,

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Experts should consult patients

Madam — There is much talk on suicide prevention today. This is indeed a very serious and pertinent topic. I believe there is a resource that is not being tapped into. I’m talking about “experts by experience.” Let me elaborate.

Many years ago I availed of the psychiatric services because of severe depression with suicidal thoughts. I was given a diagnosis of manic depression and told I would have to take lithium for the rest of my life, otherwise I would be at the mercy of my violent mood swings.

Around three years ago I began to speak publicly on how I overcame this diagnosis and live a fulfilling life,  medication free.

You would think that psychiatrists and experts in the field of suicide prevention would have been beating down my door wanting to know the secret of my recovery or at least wish to consult with me. Not one so called “expert” has contacted me in the last few years.

Unfortunately with people who take their lives, we will

never know the mental anguish that drove them to take this tragic step. However there is a wealth of people like myself who have been driven to the edge, “experts by experience” that isn’t being tapped into.

I challenge anyone in the field of suicide prevention to consult with real people; people who either attempted suicide or who were driven to the edge as opposed to consulting with “experts” who may be highly qualified with many letters after their names. Otherwise they are just extolling platitudes in my view, a means of exorcising their own wafer thin beliefs.

On Friday I celebrated 21 years medication free. On July 17 I celebrate half a century on the planet. No small achievement considering that when in my late teens I never thought I would make age 21.

Surely I have a voice that is worth listening to.

Tommy Roddy

Salthill, Galway

O’Carroll expert at being female

Madam — Eilis O Hanlon (Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014) suggests the Joe Duffy’s question, to Brendan O Carroll, Do they know it’s a woman?, was


Given ‘ Carroll’s genius for playing the part of a woman, it was a very sensible question.

Mattie Lennon,

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Kathleen bites Suarez!

Madam — Do you know I was sure the day of ‘Man eats Man’ and ‘Dog eats Dog’ had arrived, but I’m glad to read that Luis

Suarez didn’t mean to bite

Giorgio Chilleini and has apologised!! World’s gone mad enough, God knows, but it’s not just the day of ‘Malachi

prophecy’ yet. In the Winter of Life, I still learn.

I was 90-years-old on June 30 and for 14 years never missed a week without writing to Sindo letters page! You are my ‘life’ and when I’m in your letters page it makes my day! You’ll never know the light you put in ‘My reason for going on’!

Kathleen Corrigan,

Cootehill, Co Cavan

Letters Editor: Happy birthday Kathleen

Rejoice at access to Lissadell

Madam — It was good to read a story with a happy ending. An interview by Ciara Dwyer (Living Section Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014), entitled Constance The Great. Lissadell House had been closed for five years. Because of a legal battle over a right of way. With Sligo County Council. It’s great Lissadell House is now open to the public. Constance Cassidy her husband Edward Walsh, and a family of seven, said the future began last week when Lissadell re-opened.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny did the honours. One sad note: Sligo County Council faces a massive legal bill.

Many people came to the re-opening wishing them well. And rejoicing in their return. Welcome back to Lissadell. Constance said “the past is the past”. Lets look to the future. So say all of us.

Bernard Rafter,

Berkshire, England

How was World Cup for you?

Madam — What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful World Cup, what a spectacle! And a lot more to come. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The beautiful game at its best. Bill and the boys doing their best. What will we do when it’s over?  Have wonderful memories I suppose. Wonderful.

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Advertise for public job posts

Madam — I feel it is outrageous that the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte appointed two former political public representatives to the board of Bord Na Mona. In fact it is outrageous in my opinion to know that these individuals would have received severance pay following their rejection by Joe public.

Moreover, it proved beyond all doubt that cronyism is also alive and kicking within the realms of this government.

Isn’t it time the country rid

itself of this nod and wink brigade and the way they do business? I believe the answer is yes and I would make no apology for saying so either.

Of course, one of the problems is there isn’t any advertisements for these positions and without competition from the members of the public.

Personally I feel radical changes are urgently needed so that members of the public have an opportunity in applying for any vacancy positions on semi-state boards.

I would like to see such  appointments challenged and a rigorous enforcement of the Equal Opportunities Act being applied. Because up until now, political appointments are at the centre of a lot of controversy, just look at the recent scandals in our charity organisations.

We live in a country where political accountability for their actions is non-existent. Therefore, the ordinary working people of this country will never have a proper opportunity on an equal basis.

Mattie Greville,


Co Westmeath

Plenty to look forward to

Madam — Let us all look to the future and see what we have to look forward to.

There’s the upcoming re-shuffle, lots of fun and games to be had there in Leinster House. Meanwhile rumours are rife that the free water for children will no longer be free. Funding is also to be removed  from the following, Irish Deaf Association, Alzheimer’s  Association and the Carers  Association.

Also announced is that three vital ex-members of CRC are unable to appear before the PAC. The economy, that’s all we’ve been hearing about. Well at last there is light at the end of the tunnel, haven’t you heard the news, it’s fantastic?

The Banking Inquiry is soon to begin, where the truth will be told by everyone and by so doing, will we (the unfortunates who for the past number of years have

bailed out Europe, the banks and others best left un-named) be assured that when this enquiry is over we will all be refunded every penny that we were levied?

Yes we’ll get back every single penny — and if you believe that why not start writing your letter to Santa today?

Ah yes my friends, lots to look forward to, so don’t be too down hearted.

Fred Molloy,

Clonsilla, Dublin 15

Honest debate on finances needed

Madam — As someone who represents one of the wealthiest parts of our country, along with the poorest, I understand the fears about uncontrolled Local Property Taxes. I also however, understand the critical need to raise taxes in order to counter that co-existing poverty. It has been extraordinary therefore, that we have had a debate on the Local Property Tax in the absence of virtually any contribution from those who actually work within the local government sector and try to make a dysfunctional system work.

Instead there have been myriad opinion pieces from academics, ill-informed commentators, vested interests and frequently the oppositionists from the Far Left who have opposed every single suggestion as to how we should finance our system fairly and with democratic accountability. Stephen Donnelly (Sunday Independent, June 29, 2014) simply continued that trend.

Too often the voice of the Constructive Left has been sidelined and the platform left to the opportunists. Across the world Socialists and Social Democrats advocate payment into a collective fund, toward the provision of collective services. All across the world, that is, except for the Trendy Left and Nationalist Left in Ireland.

Here they simply oppose, campaign and seek to instil fear and selfish individualism. I oppose their agenda just as much as I oppose those who broke this country and brought Ireland to its knees.

No Public representative particularly wants to advocate more tax. However, surely this country has had enough of those who promise without cost and who offer public services without any reference to payment or appropriate taxation.

The truth is that since the populist and cowardly abolition of Domestic Rates, Local Government has been starved of funding. The promise to reimburse councils for the rates foregone has never been honoured by Government. Since that decision, approximately €4bn has been withheld from Dublin City Council alone. That cannot be sustained.

In addition Dublin City Council effectively subsidises Ireland by a subsequent decision by a Garret FitzGerald led Government to withhold commercial rates payment on Government properties – last year alone that cost Dublin City Council approximately €30m.

We have just had Local Elections without any meaningful reform can we at least now have an honest debate on Local Government Financing? I have proposed before that a Forum on the Financing of Local Government be established. It would be comprised of the main Political Parties, the Social Partners and the Association of Irish Local Government. There would be an opportunity to contribute for the wider public and it would be given six months to report. The Forum could consider either a national and common approach to the funding issue or, as I would prefer, a range of options that could be determined, as appropriate by local elected Councils.

Dermot Lacey

Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Motor rally fears have disappeared

Madam — I don’t think Motor Rallying is helpful for road rafety. It is very disrespectful of the countryside and tears up the verges, once the abode of daisies, primroses and Wordsworth’s Daffodils. The cars are very similar to the models in the showroom, only that they look like they have been pimped in hell. It’s a template for every Turbo-charged crack head on the road, whose Fiesta only reaches its max in a vertical descent. Rallying is very dangerous for the participants, the plus side of this is, the fewer there are of them, the safer it is for the rest of us.

I have to admit being over sensitised to road safety. The carefree attitude I once had has disappeared. I got entangled with an American company that overcooked the danger bit so much that I was almost afraid to open my front door. A relative, Boomerang Bill, helped me deal with my problem; we named him Boomerang because he returned from Australia.

I have lost all fear now, and would even chance parking the car in Dun Laoghaire, despite the dangers of the parking ticket blight.

John Arthur,

Balally Close, Dublin 16

Cyclists should be insured

Madam – Today it would seem that we are having more and more bicycles on our roads. People are using bicycles for recreation and as a means of getting fit which, of course, is a very good thing.

Cycling clubs are out in strength, they travel in packs for considerable distances in all weathers. All of this, of course, is very good indeed except for one thing; the roads have never been a more dangerous place.

Many roads are too narrow for cyclists to travel in safety. Something must be done to make this much safer. Either the roads must be widened or cyclists confined to wider roads where they can travel in safety.

As a road user, the cyclist should pay a road tax like the rest of us for using the roads and should definitely have insurance. A cycling test should be organised for cyclists so that they can learn to travel in safety.

Road should be made much safer, it is ridiculous to think that speed detection vehicles should be confined to limited roads and even more so that there positions can be found on computers and other devices.

Until much more is done to improve Road Safety the number of deaths and injuries on our roads will continue to 

Michael O’Meara,

Killarney, Co Kerry

Sunday Independent


July 5, 2014

5July2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired but a little better I get 9 books and its off to the bank

ScrabbleIwin, but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Phil Hollom – obituary

Phil Hollom was an adventurous wartime aviator who helped transform birdwatching into a national passion

Phil Hollom

Phil Hollom

6:40PM BST 04 Jul 2014


Phil Hollom, who has died aged 102, was one of the last of the circle of British bird enthusiasts which established ornithology as a proper scientific discipline.

Hollom helped to establish the modern approach to studying bird populations in the 1930s by organising a national inquiry into the status of the great crested grebe in Britain. He also wrote or co-wrote several handbooks, including the Collins Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (1954), which helped to transform British birdwatching from a hobby pursued by a dedicated minority into one of the country’s most popular leisure pursuits.

Hollom’s contributions to ornithology began shortly he left school in 1930, when the noted ornithologist Harry Witherby introduced him to Max Nicholson, whose How Birds Live (1927), following on from Julian Huxley’s The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe (1914), helped to establish the discipline.

With Nicholson’s encouragement, Hollom teamed up with the future “Barefoot Anthropologist” Tom Harrison, then a student at Cambridge, and in 1931 the two young men agreed to collaborate on a national survey of the great crested grebe. It was a daunting task, not least because they had no funding, even for postage, but also because the post-First World War construction boom had created many gravel pits which, filled with water, were an ideal environment for the birds. As a consequence they found there were more than 1,000 “lakes” to be examined, many of which did not appear on any maps.

They set about writing to well-known naturalists, ornithologists, taxidermists, landowners and the like, and appealing through the letter columns of newspapers for information on nesting haunts. In this way they recruited some 1,500 volunteer surveyors, and had to deal with some 5,000 pieces of correspondence.

The Great Crested Grebe Enquiry was one of the earliest national censuses of a single species, and certainly the most ambitious at that time. The results, published in British Birds in 1932, concluded that the breeding population in England, Scotland and Wales was around 1,200 pairs – up from an estimated 50 pairs in 1860. “We can recommend this sort of hobby for those people who find life dull,” Harrison informed the journal’s readers in his introduction to the completed survey.

Great crested Grebe (ALAMY)

The inquiry demonstrated the potential of cooperative birdwatching and helped to inspire the establishment, in 1932, of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), whose long-term monitoring data on the status of British birds (currently maintained with the aid of some 40,000 volunteers) sets the international standard for studying the effects of environmental change on wildlife.

The second of five sons (his brother Jasper would serve in the 1960s as Chief Cashier of the Bank of England) Philip Arthur Dominic Hollom was born on June 9 1912 at Bickley, Kent.

He clearly remembered, as a four year-old, being lifted up to peer into the nest of a song thrush and being captivated by the bright blue of the eggs. “As a boy I was fascinated by birds and I used to catch them using a garden sieve held up by a twig and a piece of string,” he recalled in a recent interview. “Of course, that would be unthinkable today, but in the 1920s it was the only way that I was able to handle birds.”

Hollom was educated at the King’s School in Bruton, Somerset, where he excelled at athletics, read Nicholson’s How Birds Live under the sheets in his dormitory and decided to embark on his own study of nesting house martins and swallows in the vicinity. It was in this way that he got to know Harry Witherby, who was in charge of the national bird ringing scheme. In the summer of 1929 Hollom ringed more than 250 swallows. He continued to survey the birds every year until well into his 90s.

Phil Hollom as a young man

By the time he teamed up with Tom Harrison, Hollom was working for an export merchants and living in Surrey, where he spent many happy hours watching birds at a sewage farm near Weybridge; he was excited in June 1932 when he spotted an avocet, which had supposedly become extinct in Britain in 1840 and would not recolonise successfully until after the Second World War.

After the outbreak of war in 1939 and a period in the Auxiliary Fire Service, Hollom joined the RAF and did his pilot training in America, where he recalled flying close to a flock of vultures on his first solo flight in December 1941.

On May 20 1943, while serving with Coastal Command off the Isle of Arran, flying a Wellington Mk VIII torpedo bomber on flare dropping and night attack duties, meteorologists failed to inform his squadron that a sea mist was making the horizon look higher than it was, with the result that he and two other pilots misjudged their height and flew into the sea. Hollom managed to bale out but his three crew members lost their lives, as did the crew of one of the other planes.

Later posted to No 271 Squadron (Transport Command), Hollom took part in operations Overlord, Market Garden and Varsity, towing gliders and dropping paratroopers and supplies for the campaign in Europe. On one occasion he was tasked with getting hold of champagne for an officers’ mess party and flew to Rheims where Jean Pol Roger presented him with 11 cases for the mess and a dozen half bottles for himself.

After the end of the war in Europe, in July 1945 he flew more than 20 flights, taking a Ministry of Aircraft Production mission round German aeronautical facilities, including V-2 rocket facility, slave labour camps at Nordhausen, and the secret German aviation research and development plant at Volkenrode.

In August 1945 he was posted to No 24 Squadron, then a VIP transport squadron, and the following year was appointed pilot to the Anglo American Commission on Palestine, flying its members on a six-week tour of the capitals of Europe and the Middle East — 31 flights in all. On this expedition he met Prince Lichtenstein (“very good on birds”, he recorded in his diary); joined the Commission’s audience with the King of Saudi Arabia; and had lunch with Kim Philby’s father St John, a noted Arabist and ornithologist, after whom Philby’s partridge (Alectoris philbyi) is named.

In 1946 Hollom returned to the export company he had joined before the war, working in its South American department. In the early Sixties he joined the finance house Bowmaker, where he remained until his retirement as company secretary aged 65.

Beginning with a trip to Germany in 1933, Hollom undertook birdwatching expeditions to more than 50 different countries and also participated in three famous expeditions organised by Guy Mountfort, founder of the World Wildlife Fund – to the Coto Doñana in Spain in 1957; Bulgaria in 1960; and Jordan in 1963.

Hollom, back row on far right, on an expedition to Coto Doñana, Spain, in 1957

Hollom took on the task of condensing the five volumes of Witherby’s A Handbook of British Birds into a single book. Published in 1952, The Popular Handbook of British Birds was concise, readable and affordable to a new generation of bird watchers and went into five editions. Frustrated by the lack of good field guides for the countries he visited, he went on to team up with Guy Mountfort and the illustrator Roger Tory Peterson on A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, first published by Collins in 1954, which is now in its fifth edition and has never been out of print. The book was dedicated to “our long-suffering wives”, followed by a quote from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor: “She laments, sir… her husband goes this morning a-birding.”

Hollom went on to publish The Popular Handbook of Rarer British Birds (1960) and, from the early 1970s, was part of the team assembled by Max Nicholson to work on the texts for Birds of the Western Palearctic, a tour de force published in nine volumes between 1977 and 1994. He joined forces with Richard Porter and Steen Christensen to publish Birds of the Middle East and North Africa in 1988 and was as a council member and vice-president of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East.

Hollom was the longest-serving member of both the BTO and the British Ornithologists’ Union, serving in various roles on both bodies (he wrote the BTO’s first field guide Trapping Methods for Bird Ringers) and winning medals. In 1951 he became a member of the editorial board of British Birds magazine under Nicholson, whom he succeeded in 1960. He also served as founder chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee, established in 1959 to assess claimed sightings of rare bird species.

In 1947 he married Jenefer Bell, who died in 2011. Their daughter and two sons survive him.

Phil Hollom, born June 9 1912, died June 20 2014


Our fellows, the doctors who diagnose and treat cancer, have registered major concerns with us about the planned model for commissioning cancer services in Staffordshire (NHS cancer care faces privatisation, 2 July). We applaud the ambition of joining up care for a population larger than that usually served by a single NHS organisation and the desire to focus services on the needs of patients. However, we fear that there may be unintended consequences.

Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston; GKIMAGES.COM

These changes could destabilise vital cancer diagnosis and treatment services, and are already leading to planning blight with regard to service improvements. This could lead – in the short-term – to worse services for patients. This is a brave initiative but one that must be considered a gamble in a health economy still feeling the effects of the Mid-Staffordshire disaster. Long-term planning has proved an elusive goal in UK public services. The leaders of this initiative are in no position to predict, let alone control, what might happen over the period of the 10-year contract – politically or financially. It seems unlikely that the architects of these changes will be able to see through their vision or to be held accountable for its consequences. What we may see is contracts that cannot be dismantled without severe penalties. Greater clarity is required with respect to the role of the “prime provider” who will not in fact be providing services but managing services provided by others.

It is clear that those on the ground who will be relied on to make this happen have yet to be meaningfully engaged, and we have made their concerns known to Macmillan Cancer Support and NHS England who are leading this initiative. Clinicians share the ambition for an integrated approach to cancer care and must be more closely involved if this gamble is not to fail.
Giles Maskell
President, Royal College of Radiologists

The Transforming Cancer and End of Life care programme in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is an innovative and brave example of the voluntary and public sectors working alongside patients, carers and health and social care professionals to deliver the best possible outcomes for people affected by cancer.

Inspired by the experiences of people with cancer or those who have cared for someone at the end of their life in the area, this programme will test an integrated approach to the commissioning and management of care. By appointing one organisation to take responsibility for managing the whole cancer care journey, we can demand truly seamless care, and ensure no patient or carer gets lost in a complex system.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS England will appoint organisations with expertise in managing contracts, ensuring that all the service partners work collaboratively around each patient and will not change the organisations who directly deliver cancer care services. Whoever is appointed will be subject to rigorous oversight and scrutiny for quality, patient safety and outcomes, whether they are from the NHS, the voluntary sector, or from the private sector.

At the heart of this programme is the desire to truly reach and improve the lives of people affected by cancer. That’s why Macmillan and our partners have made sure people affected by cancer, alongside clinicians, have been and will continue to be involved in the programme at every stage.
Ciarán Devane
Chief executive, Macmillan Cancer Support

• Last night I attended and spoke at a book launch of Mike Marqusee‘s book The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer, where he spoke movingly about his treatment at Barts and his fears that the attacks on the NHS will mean patients in the future will not have the excellent care he has received.

Surely the combined CCGs in Staffordshire should have been talking to their existing NHS hospitals and asking them to collaborate to provide a more responsive and streamlined service before embarking on this huge experiment with taxpayers’ money? In the previous decade, the NHS (under Labour) made great strides in improving cancer services through networks such as that in east London, yet in 2011 Andrew Lansley withdrew funding for these despite their proven successes.

Now we have groups of GPs, with no training in epidemiology, oncology or commissioning, making plans to spend millions on an untried system with private companies, who have no experience in cancer care, eagerly waiting to make profits from these sick patients. Similarly, the Cambridgeshire CCG, which wants to try a radically different system of care for the elderly, is planning to spend over a billion pounds of our money. This is madness, and the dishonesty of the current government (“there is no privatisation“; “there will be no top-down reorganisation”) is matched by the Department of Health’s spokesperson who said: “NHS competition rules have not changed under this government.” What about the Health and Social Care Act 2012, or the section 75 regulation that was passed this year? It is time for the public to wake up, stand up and fight for our NHS by lobbying their MPs.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public

• The finger of responsibility for the exponential privatisation of the NHS points ineluctably at the Liberal Democrats, in particular Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams. Given that this did not feature in the coalition agreement, it should have been Clegg’s job to scrutinise Andrew Lansley’s white paper. Had he done so he could have halted the whole scheme. Then Williams promised to have section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act amended in the Lords to reduce, if not abolish, the requirement to tender for services. This didn’t happen. But it’s not good enough for Andy Burnham to say that the public has not given the government permission to “put the NHS up for sale”. What is now needed is a clear Labour election pledge to reverse all NHS privatisation since 2010.
Robin Wendt
Chester, Cheshire

• Surely we should be concerned if cancer services are to be detached from the NHS and provided at the whim of private companies? Health minister Jane Ellison admits that the government has lost control of the NHS so presumably big companies are chasing the NHS dollar with little public control. As a GP for nearly 30 years, I know that patients are at their most vulnerable when they have a potentially fatal illness, and are not able to make choices easily or monitor their care. Such patients especially need to feel that the single purpose of their carers is get them as well as possible for as long as possible, and not to have at the back of their mind that companies are making choices for profit rather than for them.
Dr Ron Singer
Chair, doctors’ section of Unite

• Will private contractors be paid on a fee-per-case basis, and thus make more profits if their patients don’t live for long?
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, Yorkshire

In America, “40 million go to bed hungry every night” (Kennedy). In Britain, 2.5 million pensioners live below the poverty line. One person’s wealth exceeds the combined wealth of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens. Even throughout the developed world there is widespread poverty and wretched living conditions. But Jeremy Paxman (Newsnight is made by idealistic 13-year-olds, 28 June) believes that a determination to work towards a saner system is “a fool’s errand”. At the height of his ancient 64 years, he scorns such teenage “dreams”. I have news for him. At 97 I am not alone in believing that such dreams are not only vital but also perfectly realisable. I am still politically fighting fit, realistically optimistic and prepared, despite all that has happened, to go on fighting, pace pessimistic Paxo.
Len Goldman
Brighton, East Sussex

What a fine profile of Fred Jarvis (7 July). Not mentioned however is his role in the birth of Liverpool’s Merseysippi Jazz Band. He took a keen interest in jazz, reporting on it in the local press. On 14 February 1949 his Progressive Youth Movement co-promoted a jazz concert at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Wallasey, for the first public performance of what is now the Merseysippi Jazz Band. Wonderful to know that they are both still thriving, although Fred Jarvis has outlived the original band members.
Bob Lamb

• Not forgetting the redoubtable Dorothea Lambert Chambers, seven times winner of the Wimbledon singles title between 1903 and 1914 (Letters, 4 July). At the age of 46 she won the singles title in the 1925 Wightman Cup.
John Jenkins
Bow Street, Ceredigion

• Never mind those Trident discussions. I am really tempted to splash out on a new vehicle after seeing the full-page ads in Friday’s Guardian (4 July). Not the Fiat 500 or the Volvo V40, but that fab-looking Lockheed F-35  fighter jet. Where can I get a test drive? And what are the carbon dioxide emissions so I can calculate the benefit in kind for my tax return?
Patrick Cartwright

• Never mind when they were worn or by whom (Letters, 4 July), may we dispense with the “anklet” which sounds like a piece of personal jewellery. The correct term is “gaiter”, as in “boots and gaiters”, familiar to all former national servicemen.
John Hunter

• The piece by Jonathan Jones about the paintings of Rolf Harris (G2, 3 July) prompts me to ask what now is the status of the 20th-century master Balthus, who specialised in highly erotic images of pubescent girls. Has he become proscribed art?
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

• A proposal. Let’s stop calling any person a “national treasure” until, say, 10 years after his or her death. In the meantime, let’s call them “notional treasures”.
Martin Dowds

As writers for children, our job includes inspiring our readers and encouraging them to understand the potency of imagination and thought, in the hope that when they grow up they can use them to help improve the real world. As taxpayers and adults committed to the welfare of children, we are saddened by the lack of political imagination which has led to millions of children in this country who are abused, neglected or suffering from mental health difficulties being denied appropriate care.

We find it unacceptable that Ofsted has declared that one in seven councils in England fail vulnerable children with “unacceptably poor” standards, within a structure described as “manifestly and palpably weak”. In a survey of social workers by Community Care, 73% of social workers questioned said they can’t do their job properly, leaving children at risk because demand outweighs resources; 78% said they spend less than a third of their time in direct contact with children. Both the NSPCC and Young Minds have raised alarms about child protection and child mental health systems being unable to cope with the scale of the problem, and about the negative impact both on children and on workers who want to do their best.

Kids Company’s taskforce – See the Child. Change the System – plans to bring together leading thinkers and clinicians to initiate a fundamental redesign of child mental health and social services systems, so that vulnerable children can be given the care they need with dignity and warmth. We want all political parties to unite behind it.

Impoverished political imagination has sustained a depleted system that betrays vulnerable children and the practitioners dedicated to helping them. As a society, we have to put a stop to this waste and cruelty, and step up to the challenge of creating the best possible child protection and mental health system. Our children deserve it.

Philip Pullman
Francesca Simon
Anthony McGowan
Julia Jones
Louisa Young
Mary Hoffman
Patrick Ness
NM Browne
Kevin Brooks
Pippa Goodhart
Lucy Coates
Sally Nicholls
Michele Lovric
Terence Blacker
Matt Haig
Philip Ardagh
Catherine Johnson
Kate Lord Brown
Carol Drinkwater
Gwen Grant
Zizou Corder
Janie Hampton
Debi Gliori
Meg Rossof
Jill Dawson
Lydia Syson
Janie Hampton
Debi Gliori
Harriet Castor
Georgia Byng
Lynn Huggins-Cooper
Jill Dawson
Lauren Child
Sue Purkiss
Kate Saunders
Rachel Bradby
Melvyn Burgess
Beverley Naidoo
Samira Osman
Kath Langrish
Anne Rooney
Eleanor Updale
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Jamila Gavin
Graham Gardner
Prodeepta Das
Lynn Reid Banks
Annemarie Young
Anthony Robinson
Alan Chatsworth


May I expand on Angela Elliott’s comment (letter, 3 July)? Football is a wonderful game but a horrible business.

And may I congratulate The Independent  for its excellent daily World Cup supplement, the best of any British newspaper? However, I do hope your letters page doesn’t reflect widespread indifference, lack of appreciation and outright negativity among your readership. Your football writers would deserve better.

As someone who does “get” the World Cup (I have been to five) I can assure those who only see negatives in this most entertaining and exciting of tournaments, particularly after the Luis Suarez biting incident (letters, 26, 27 June), that there are role models for our children. Tim Howard and his team-mates would be a good place to start looking. And what about the charming, commanding and articulate Vincent Kompany, who has done more to reconcile Flemings and Walloons than any politician could?

Football is a great metaphor for our world: a great example of man’s artistry and ingenuity but also an arena where a few miscreants often get ahead of the many who play fair. Given the game’s infiltration of all cultures and communities around the world I think it’s unrealistic to expect it to reflect only the best of British sporting values, whatever they may be!

Peter Clarke

London NW6


A message from British Muslims

That over a hundred imams have written an open letter urging British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria is a step in the right direction, but surely it is time for tens of thousands of Muslims to march through the streets of London under the banner “Not In Our Name”. The supporters of Isis must receive this message loud and clear.

Anthony Hentschel

Nailsworth, Gloucestershire


BBC acquires a Northern accent

So yet another London-based journalist has a problem with BBC5 Live moving to Salford – “a risk that their programmes might lose their national edge and acquire a non-metropolitan, possibly northern accent” (Mary Dejevsky, 4 July). How awful – as opposed to losing their Home Counties accent?

I applaud the BBC for moving 5 Live north, creating jobs outside the capital, where the so-called recovery barely registers. I am sure those who are asked to appear on TV or radio and have to travel from north of Birmingham will be glad of a more nationally central location.

How awful for those London media types to have to travel to the grim northern outposts of greater Manchester!

John Mitchell

Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

On 2 July you published an excellent article on the fight for racial justice. You also showed a “grim up North” cartoon with all the usual cliches – clogs, black pudding and so on. Can someone explain why regional stereotypes are all right while racial stereotypes are all wrong? And please stop using the word “Northern” if what you actually mean is “working class”.

Pippa Lewer

Morpeth, Northumberland

Just enforce the law on the West Bank

In his anxiety to argue the toss with Robert Fisk, whether Palestine-Israel is Jewish or Arab, Avi Lehrer (letter, 3 July) seems unacquainted with the law.

We need not argue over which ethnic group has rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. International law is clear on this point: it is occupied territory, and the rights and interests of the indigenous population (regardless of ethnic identity), as of the moment it became militarily occupied (1967), are strictly to be protected by rules laid down in 1949 following the experience of those under German and Japanese occupation, 1939-45.

The current killings committed by Palestinian youths or by Israelis are the direct consequence of Jewish civilians settling on occupied land in defiance of the law. Every Western state supports the applicability of international humanitarian law regarding these occupied territories. They all promised to uphold it. Yet not one of them has so far had the courage to tell Israel it must obey the law unconditionally.

Instead they are silent accomplices to the killings and the progressive diminishing of the lives of those under occupation, allowing the import of goods illegally produced in occupied territory, and allowing Israeli visitors living illegally on occupied land into the EU.

If Britain and its allies really want peace, they must go through the unpleasantness necessary to enforce the law. Currently, they are simply complicit in the anguish of Jews and Arabs who have been bereaved by the killings.

David McDowall

Richmond, Surrey

Lost opportunity to rescue A-level science

I made a late career change into secondary physics teaching. I was shocked at the drop in A-level standards in the many years since I had taken the examination. Approximately 25 per cent of subject content has been dropped in 40 years, and there is much less scientific and mathematical rigour.

I was pleased when I read that A-level sciences were to be reviewed, with greater focus on content and rigour. I have spent the past week studying the new physics A-level changes as proposed by several boards, and am very disappointed at the missed opportunity. Boards appear to have chosen to make no significant change to content, and to introduce more mathematical questions, rather than questions that are more mathematical.

Most schools will continue to enter all students for AS and, as at present, some students will continue to A-level. The significant changes are that AS will not contribute to the final grade, and practical work will no longer be a significant, examinable part of the course. This is a worsening of A-level, not an improvement.

Did Michael Gove intend to make the electorate believe that A-levels would be improved, without intending actual improvement, or have the examination boards outmanoeuvred him in order to maintain their competitive edge?

A A Chabot


Is this art or just trash?

A report on Wednesday was enough to convince me that I am sharing this planet with a seriously disturbed population. Tracey Emin’s Turner Prize-listed, soiled, rumpled bed, littered with personal toiletries, was sold for £2.2m at Christie’s.

If this is the way the seriously rich spend their hard-earned cash, no wonder the world is in such a mess. That money could buy about 20 affordable homes for the less well-off or provide overnight accommodation for 200,000 homeless people.

I only hope that the new owner’s cleaner doesn’t find it when she turns up to work and make the assumption that it was just the result of a night’s drunken revelry, strip and launder the sheets and dispose of the trash.

Mike Joslin



Cameron won’t reform the EU Like this

The Prime Minister has made a dog’s dinner of trying to gain influence with our nearest trading partners.

This is ridiculous, given that we are the third largest state, by head count, within the EU. We would be in a very strong place to negotiate and reform the European Union, if it were done properly and with respect for others. David Cameron’s problem is his own party. He is now trapped into having a referendum, or stepping down as leader of the Conservatives.

I say to all centre-ground Conservatives and Labour Party supporters who believe that our membership of the Eeropean Union is vital: join the Liberal Democrats.

Richard Grant

Ringwood, Hampshire

Tennis without the noises, please

I was interested to read the letter about “strange noises at Wimbledon” (3 July). Rather than spend time analysing the noises, the powers that be should totally ban the whole silly practice.

In conversation with many tennis-loving friends, I have discovered that they, like me, rarely bother to watch the matches any more and certainly turn the sound off when the nonsense begins.

The authorities should realise that their faithful watching public could well be deserting them – so please ban the silly, aggressive noises at Wimbledon in 2015.

The Rev Margaret Roylance

Tenterden,  Kent

The criterion  of accuracy

A little more attention to detail needed I think from Guy Keleny (Errors & Omissions, 28 June) when giving Greek lessons. In the context it should surely be “either ‘criteria … have’ or ‘criterion … has’ ”.

Charles Ashmore

Farthingstone, Northamptonshire


The French ban of the burka in public encourages some to call for the UK to follow suit

Sir, Britain should also ban the burka as France has done (report, July 2; “Veiled women suffer hostility on streets”, July 3; letter July 4). As a female I consider the growing number of black burkas (or MBOs, moving black objects, as the Americans called them in the Gulf War) a breach of my human rights.

It is terrible to think that women living in the UK are forced by men to wear these garments, an insult to women in this modern world. If people come here to get away from some dreadful country, they should assimilate here.

Josephine Drost

London E14

Sir, Women who wear the veil create a distance between themselves and others. The veil is antisocial. Being deaf I rely on being able to read lips. I have ignored women in the veil who have spoken to me essentially because I cannot hear what they say.

A friend who is a shop worker in the East End of London says she always has a slight panic whenever someone enters wearing a veil. She doesn’t know if it is a woman or a male robber who is using it as a disguise.

Andrew Hayward

London SE19

Sir, I am a middle-aged, middle class, well-educated white woman happy to live alongside anyone who behaves like a decent citizen no matter what their creed or colour. However, I would never attempt to communicate with a woman wearing a niqab because the mouth is covered. This prevents any dialogue. I would not know if she were talking to me; I could not lip-read and would have no idea if my approach was welcomed or rejected as the smile (or grimace) is covered. Is this a failing in me or a barrier created by the wearer of the niqab?

Vivienne Lloyd


Sir, Dr Irene Zempi’s experience on wearing a veil in Leicester would be as nothing to a western woman’s when wearing a summer dress or a cross in a Muslim state.

Richard English

South Petherton, Somerset

Sir, UK law regarding the covering of the face in public is dangerously contradictory and discriminatory. On the one hand, it fails to protect Muslim women by turning a blind eye to the unlawful tyranny of male relatives who often violently enforce the wearing of the veil. On the other, it discriminates against all men and all non-Muslim women who (merely because they are not Muslims) can be legally prevented from covering their faces in public. This practice makes a mockery of our laws relating to the identity of the individual, as well as the principle of equality before the law.

Stephen Porter

London NW6

Sir, In Europe we are used to seeing nuns wearing similar dress to the niqab with the important exception that we could always see their face. Does it occur to women who wear

a veil that we might feel uncomfortable in their presence? It is important in western culture to see the whole face.

Personally I do not mind what men or women wear as long as the whole face is visible. Those who choose to live here should be aware of the effect the niqab has. If I visited a Muslim country, I would expect to wear a scarf and a long skirt and be modestly dressed.

New antibiotics are no use without a global campaign to fight drug resistance

Sir, David Cameron is right to identify the threat posed by antibiotic resistance as a critical one, and to promote work to seek new antibiotics. However, that work will have only short-term impact unless there’s a coordinated, global campaign to prevent the development of further resistance to existing and new antibiotics. That means careful management of human treatment, but also an end to factory farming, which by its nature relies on heavy and often continuous antibiotic use to maintain stressed animals in crowded conditions, and ideal conditions for the development of new strains of pathogens that threaten both animal and human health.

Natalie Bennett

Leader, Green Party

Sir, Fifty years ago I was working in a laboratory in East Africa. I found that my young African assistant had set himself up as a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease in the local village, offering penicillin injections to his patients for the price of one shilling. He admitted that one ampoule and one needle served ten patients. Ironically, the local European-run clinic offered proper treatment free. I confiscated his stock of long out-of-date penicillin and bought my assistant a camera so that he could set himself up in the less dangerous profession of portrait photographer at one shilling a shot.

There is little doubt that similarly inadequate practices in antibiotic treatment have contributed to the problems we are now facing.

Walter Wolff

London W11

Sir, About 30 years ago a comprehensive article in The Times warned about the future dangers to health due to over-prescription of antibiotics. A pity the government of the day did not pay more attention.

Gerald Hooper

Poynton, Stockport

Sir, I was intrigued to see that patients are to blame for the antibody crisis (Thunderer, July 2) and yet the doctor (Theodore Dalrymple, a retired prison
doctor) writing the article admits to doing the same thing himself — ie, “I have never finished a course of antibiotics in my life” thereby contributing to the problem. If doctors really do know best (and they do), then it is a shame as a doctor, that he does not follow the specialist advice himself.

John Berry

Countesthorpe, Leics

Sir, Throughout the 1990s we ‘hosted’ teenage students from east Asia (the majority from China) who were here to learn English. It was usual for their parents to send them with plentiful supplies of antibiotics. They would take the tablets at the first sign of a cough or sniffle and put them away as soon as the symptoms departed.

I am told that in many countries no prescription is needed for even the most powerful antibiotics. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to learn that antibiotic-resistant diseases are increasingly encountered by medical professionals.

However, it seems disingenuous to assume that by restricting UK patients’ access to antibiotics, or even that of patients across Europe, the development of resistant bacteria will be slowed. A superbug can easily develop in people and in places where restricted access to antibiotics simply does not apply.

Heather Matthews


Some greenbelt sites are appropriate for homebuilding so the rules against it should be relaxed

Sir, As usual the RIBA has gone off at half-cock (“Build on green belt, top architects urge”, July 2). Lord Rogers has supported brownfield development; architects have produced exciting housing for difficult urban sites; and industrially scarred tracts (eg, Greenwich peninsula) are being developed for housing. So the RIBA should be supporting architects in creating architecturally and environmentally satisfying homes, and not urging future governments to go for the soft option of unprotecting green belts just to give pattern-book house builders access to more profitable sites.

Patrick Hogan, RIBA

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Sir, I own a site in the green belt, a former scrapyard now used for lorry storage; my neighbour runs a haulage company. Our vehicles have to pass a school in our village and cause problems for mothers and cars dropping off their kids, and vice versa. HGVs and children do not mix; the danger is obvious and both businesses would like to sell out for housing (the only realistic way to have the sites decontaminated and have enough money left over to relocate to a modern industrial estate). The local people are broadly in favour, but the local authority is not interested.

What a sad state the planning system has come to when a scrap yard is protected green belt, the school and village have heavy truck traffic with drivers at their wits’ end avoiding kids on bikes and the planners prefer to build on fields a few miles away.

Philip Justice

Underwood, Notts

There is no single explanation for the wide variation in the use of different cancer diagnostic tests

Sir, Cancer is not rare (Dr Mark Porter, July 1) with over 300,000 new cases and more than 150,000 deaths each year in the UK and rising. Its diagnosis is difficult and depends on clinical judgment and timely use of the right test. GPs have never had better access to such lab tests across the NHS. Yet there is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. There is no single explanation for such variations. Appropriate use of these tests is more likely to improve the care of individual patients and the use of shrinking NHS resources than to harm or waste them (Dr Sarah Murray, letter, July 1).

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs requires the development of a National Laboratory Medicine Catalogue (a library of tests used by the NHS), whose NHS funding is at risk. It is vital to protect this project.

Dr Archie Prentice

Royal College of Pathologists

The Attorney General clarifies his views about prosecutions for rape and conviction rates

Sir, Contrary to your headline (July 3), I categorically did not say that more rape trials would be futile. In mentioning the conviction rate, I was merely highlighting that it is unwise to simply rely on one statistic in isolation to show progress, because we have to look at the full breadth of the work being done by the police, prosecutors and others. It is that work which will give victims of this terrible crime the confidence to come forward and know that justice will be done — that is what is most important.

I am wholly supportive of the work being done to ensure that victims feel they can come forward, and the work by the CPS to see whether there is anything that would improve the conviction rate. I am very pleased by the great efforts being made to bring more cases to court.

Dominic Grieve, QC, MP

Attorney General

Flytipping is partly encouraged by councils’ failure to operate legal rubbish removal services

Sir, I am concerned about the difficulty of disposing of rubbish connected to home improvements. I had 20 small bags of brick rubble last year. My recycling centre allowed me to take only two bags per week. I offered to pay for collection but there is no collection service for such waste. The rules at recycling depots are often draconian. No wonder homeowners are increasingly paying illegal flytippers to get rid of household items, at £100 a time.

Linda Miller

Dereham, Norfolk


More trained sniffer dogs at departure gates would help prevent terror attacks in the air

An armed police officer at Heathrow Airport

Security is to be stepped up at airports from where planes fly to America Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 04 Jul 2014

Comments527 Comments

SIR – The heart sinks at the thought of yet more security checks at airports. While we all recognise the need to do everything in our power to prevent terror attacks, it is difficult to appreciate why explosives-trained sniffer dogs are not used more frequently among passengers at departure gates. Surely this would be both quick and effective.

Ginny Martin
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – Now that the European Court has ruled that it is not an infringement of human or religious rights to ban the burka in France, can we have the same ruling here? America has asked us to tighten security at airports, and police and security staff can hardly be expected to identify someone from their eyes alone.

Anthony Gould
London W1

City states

SIR – We welcome the recent speech from the Chancellor, George Osborne and the conclusions of Lord Adonis’s Growth Report recognising how crucial the devolution of power to English cities is to the growth of our economy. However, politicians need to be bolder in order to achieve this growth and deliver much-needed jobs in all of England’s cities.

We are already campaigning for greater local control of taxes raised in cities to enable them to invest and drive the national economy, specifically through the devolution of property taxes. This reform would provide cities with the means and incentives to expand their economies, and crucially would be cost-neutral to the Treasury, at least in the first year.

The era of bold civic leadership associated with the 19th and early 20th century was defined by even greater autonomy than that outlined in our proposals. We therefore urge politicians to grant to our cities the fiscal autonomy that we believe is appropriate for the 21st century.

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Sir Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council and
Chairman, Core Cities Group
Jules Pipe
Chairman, London Councils

An unfortunate day

SIR – Your obituary of Vernon “Ginger” Coles mentions the sinking of the German cargo vessel Bärenfels in Bergen harbour. She was unloading coal there on April 14 1944, lying next to the floating dock, which was the target. Amid the murky waters, the crew of Coles’s X-24 (commanded by Lieutenant Max Shean) had to guess which was the floating dock and which Bärenfels. These were of virtually the same size, and they guessed wrongly.

On April 14 1940, four years earlier to the day, Bärenfels was sunk in Bergen harbour by Blackburn Skua dive-bombers. She was later lifted and repaired. So one and the same ship was sunk twice in the same harbour.

Tore Fauske
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Disc world

SIR – Earlier this year I renewed my tax disc online, expecting to be charged £265.

When I received my disc a few days later, the cost was listed as such. However, my bank statement showed that “taxdisc direct Alresford” had charged me £305.

What is going on?

Captain Derek Hopkins (retd)
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Control over Trident

SIR – The financial albatross called Trident is neither independent nor credible. Control was handed to Washington when the decision was made to use a missile delivery system designed, manufactured and overhauled in America. Even submarine-launched test firings are conducted in American waters near Cape Canaveral, under US Navy supervision. It is inconceivable that No 10 would fire Trident in anger without prior approval from the White House.

Persisting with Trident and its proposed replacement in order to retain our permanent Security Council seat is to reject British pragmatism in favour of la gloire. At least the French, to their credit, went to the trouble of developing their own submarine-launched missile-delivery system. They own it, hence control it.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Laughing in class

SIR – Michael Morpurgo has encouraged teachers to cry when reading emotional stories to their young pupils. Perhaps they should also break into hysterical laughter when discussing with their older pupils our parliamentarians’ policies and behaviour.

Dick Laurence
Wells, Somerset

Storm-proof phones

SIR – Harry Wallop (Features, July 1) is clearly a townie if he finds the landline dispensable. In the countryside, it is essential in those areas where there is no mobile signal. And an analogue telephone will keep going through power-cuts.

Julie Juniper
Eype, Dorset

Responsible drinking

SIR – In order to drink non-alcoholic beer responsibly (Letters, July 2), you first have to buy it. When buying Bavaria 0 per cent at a self-service till, I always have to wait for an assistant to confirm I am of age.

David Fisher

SIR – Steve Frampton asks how it is possible to drink non-alcoholic beer irresponsibly. It’s quite easy really. Simply remove your shirt and walk through the town centre with the can in your hand.

Mark Allen
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Where have all the bananas gone at Wimbledon?

SIR – A couple of years ago it was de rigueur for Wimbledon players to eat bananas during a match. To date, I have noticed only a couple being consumed.

What does the tennis fraternity know about bananas that we don’t?

Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – I was disappointed to note that most members of the crowd interviewed after Andy Murray’s defeat kept their sunglasses on. I was taught that, if spoken to in a formal situation, you remove sunglasses so that people can see your eyes.

Mike Lawrie
Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire

SIR – Andy Murray’s cousins (Letters, July 2) are on a well-earned summer break from school and are not flouting attendance rules.

Scottish schools break up at least a month ahead of English schools and lessons resume in mid-August.

L G Baines
Ide Hill, Kent

SIR – “Oh, I say!” Bring back Dan Maskell.

Roderick Taylor
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – It is interesting that among the Wimbledon commentators, Mark Petchey is familiarly referred to as Petch.

Had his actual name been Petch he would probably have been called Petchy.

Peter Hamilton
London SE3

Eli Wallach (centre) leading a bandit raid as Calvera in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960)  Photo: RONALD GRANT ARCHIVE

6:59AM BST 04 Jul 2014

Comments40 Comments

SIR – With the demise of the great Eli Wallach we have lost an actor who personified villainy at its best on the cinema screen.

As Calvera, the bandit leader in The Magnificent Seven, he held his own against the king of cool, Steve McQueen – not to mention Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Yul Brynner.

And yet in the middle of filming this classic Western, Wallach discovered he did not get on well with horses. While filming the horseback scenes he always had two minders galloping close by him to ensure he stayed in the saddle.

Rather self-deprecatingly, when he heard Elmer Bernstein’s theme music for the film, he said “Elmer, if I’d known the music was going to be so exciting, I’d have ridden my horse better.”

William McBride
Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh

SIR – I’d be surprised if Labour’s health spokesmen are against the proposals I am putting to Labour’s National Policy Review on refinancing the NHS and social care. The objection you report them making is squared in the report.

As the gainers from social care will be overwhelmingly older people, it would, of course, be unfair if yet another burden was placed on non-grey voters. That’s why I propose that all pensioner income should be brought within the National Insurance contributory system so that pensioners, who will most benefit from social care being combined with the NHS, and from the NHS service itself, should pay their fair whack once their income is high enough.

On the financing crisis described by Mary Riddell (Comment, July 2), there is no alternative to my proposal, except to accept that within a Parliament the NHS we know will not exist – no happy prospect for voters looking to Labour to protect them.

Frank Field MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – You report that “almost” no patients over 75 are receiving some kinds of surgical operations. I am 78 and six weeks ago I had a total knee replacement operation. In my ward were four other patients who were well into their eighties.

In the past three months two of my friends have been treated for breast cancer. We have all received wonderful treatment in Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals.

Hazel Leigh
London N12

SIR – Professor John Ashton (Let doctors use drugs to help terminally ill patients die”) may be an expert in his field but he seems to know little about palliative care, the branch of medicine that specialises in care of the dying.

We work to relieve distress and to support those dying, not to hasten – or postpone – their death. We do not force or cajole anyone to stay alive against their wishes. But there is a world of difference between that and what Professor Ashton is proposing – to give our patients lethal drugs for suicide.

We see patients at their most vulnerable, whose families sometimes wish their death to be hastened but who themselves wish to live a little longer and who can be made to feel they are a burden on others and the NHS.

There are sound clinical and social reasons why the vast majority of doctors do not want to see physician-assisted suicide licensed. In today’s financial environment it is hard enough to provide adequate care without utilitarian pressures, dressed up as compassion, to end our patients’ lives.

Professor Baroness Finlay

SIR – If, as reported, the NHS is “defying” the law by denying pensioners vital surgery, why is no one being prosecuted and, on conviction, sent to jail?

Joe Smith
Tingewick, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I see that Garth Brooks has insisted that “for us it’s five shows or none at all” (Front Page, July 4th). What a load of codology! On January 21st, The Irish Times reported that two Garth Brooks concerts were to be held in Croke Park during the summer and the speed at which these tickets were sold must have delighted the promoters, as well as Brooks. They decided to milk the system by adding concert dates one by one for a total of five concerts, and this prior to a licence being granted.

If Brooks is now refusing to play the three concerts for which a licence has now been granted, he is showing complete disdain for his fans. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I have great sympathy for both residents and disappointed fans of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park. Could the GAA offer to pay the local property tax of residents within an agreed radius of the stadium as part of a deal to allow all five concerts to proceed? – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Would it not make sense to allow all five Garth Brooks concerts to go ahead but preclude the GAA from hosting any concerts next year? – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Co Louth.

Sir, – GAA scoring needs revising – three’s a goal but five’s an own goal. – Yours, etc,


Durham Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – A showdown about a hoedown? – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – I once bought a house whose garden backed on to a railway line. I would have preferred that the line wasn’t there, but it was, and no doubt the price I paid for the house duly reflected the fact. I was annoyed when the frequency of trains using the line subsequently increased, but again, I had known about the line when I’d purchased the house so I didn’t consider I had grounds for complaint. And living near to a railway at least meant I had the potential benefit of an easier commute into work.

There has been a stadium at Croke Park for over a hundred years, and all local residents must have known about it when they moved into its vicinity.

As such, whilst I may sympathise with disruption caused to them by use of the stadium, what did they expect when they moved there?

At least they are receiving some compensation for their inconvenience from concert promoters, which is more than I got from the railway company. And no, I’m not going to any of the concerts. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Kieran Mulvey thinks the handling of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park is a “debacle ” and brings the country into disrepute (July 4th). You would have thought that any country whose media treated such an event as the second coming has no reputation to lose. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – The Croke Park Disagreement? – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The residents would prefer there to be no concerts, but they are prepared to accept three, while the promoters, who originally planned for two, then increased the number to five, without the relevant licence, are now saying that if Brooks cannot have five then he will not do any.

And the general consensus seems to be that the residents are being unreasonable. Go figure! – Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would ask Garth to play the three shows as approved by Dublin City Council and come back to Dublin early next year to play the remaining two shows. – Yours, etc,


Sion Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Chinese walls now needed in major legal and accountancy firms must be a hardship for staff. Who knows what tensions arise between colleagues now working in possibly adversarial roles cleaning up the messes of the banking crisis?

Take KPMG’s involvement with INBS. KPMG is quoted as saying, “The special liquidators of IBRC will not comment on matters that pertain to KPMG’s role as auditors to INBS” (“KPMG wanted Fingleton back on INBS board in 2008”, Front Page, July 3rd).

The special liquidators would of course be KPMG and the fact they find it necessary to refer to themselves in the third party indicates their own concerns with getting in a tangle. In the interests of clarity perhaps we should refer to the firm that audited INBS as Provisional KPMG, the special liquidators as Continuity KPMG and those who produced a special report in 2008 (after the bank guarantee) supporting Michael Fingleton’s business model as Real KPMG. – Yours, etc,


Kenilworth Park,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I refer to the article “Call for end of Good Friday pub closing” (July 3rd).

Good Friday is a day when Christians of all denominations throughout the world take time to reflect on the Passion and death of Christ. On Good Friday, Catholics are asked to share in that sacrifice through the traditional practises of prayer, the veneration of the Cross, and through fast and abstinence. Many people in Ireland still join in these religious practices and enter into the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, which is the most important feast of the Christian calendar.

It is a matter for the civil authorities to decide on the context and content of legislation, and this should serve the common good. The sale of alcohol on Good Friday is an issue on which Christians can make up their own minds based on an informed conscience and on the content of proposed legislation. It is also true to say that we can enjoy Christmas Day each year without pubs being open.

The reality of Ireland’s relationship with alcohol was highlighted only one week ago by the Health Research Board study of Irish people’s alcohol consumption. The publication revealed that one-in-three of the population is a harmful drinker, and that 177,000 people are dependent on alcohol. The HRB’s findings concerning our young people were even more disturbing: three-quarters of alcohol is consumed as binge-drinking and two thirds of our people in the 18-24 age bracket binge drink. Whilst stark, these trends are not new.

In response, since 1997, the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative has sought to mobilise parish communities throughout the country, together with other service providers, to make appropriate pastoral responses to prevent alcohol and drug misuse, and to respond to issues arising from the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.

The above findings indicate that Ireland’s behaviour to alcohol is fast becoming a national emergency. It is incumbent on politicians, and on all of us, to propose solutions to address the human suffering arising from alcohol misuse, and to challenge directly the agenda of the drinks industry. – Yours, etc,


Irish Bishops’

Drugs Initiative,

Columba Centre,


Co Kildare

Sir, – Eddie Molloy (“Accountability needs brickbat of punishment”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th) suggests that we need sanctions to address poor performance in the Civil Service. I would suggest that we do not have a properly structured or functioning Civil Service in this country any more.

The moratorium on recruitment has meant that experienced and trained staff are not being replaced. Instead, there are temporary staff on short-term contracts, with no prospect of a career and minimal wages. There is little recruitment of graduates, opening up critical gaps in expertise and experience. Serial pay cuts have increased staff turnover. Many aspects of public service work have been outsourced to the private sector, using call centres and document processing businesses.

At the top, Government is increasingly parachuting in “experts” to run departments, supported by a network of advisers and public relations consultants.

I fully support the need for evaluation of performance in any aspect of public life. However, if the structure of the Civil Service has been fatally damaged, we cannot be surprised if it is not fit for purpose. – Yours, etc,


Faculty of Business,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Aungier Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Your report on Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore’s last question time in the Dáil as leader of the Labour Party highlighted his concern for the plight of the Irish undocumented in the US (“US perceives need for immigration reform, says Tánaiste”, July 3rd).

While it is vital that the Government advocates for the rights of the undocumented in the United States, it is astounding to do so while ignoring the many undocumented migrants, including families and children, living and working right here in Ireland.

For three years, this Government has sat on proposals for the introduction of a straightforward and pragmatic earned regularisation scheme in Ireland. Such a scheme would give undocumented people the opportunity to come forward and earn their way to permanent residency through working, paying taxes and contributing to the community. It is almost identical to the US proposals which have received such strong support from the Irish Government.

Surely the Government cannot expect their efforts in the US to be taken seriously if they do not act to address the same situation at home? – Yours, etc,



Migrant Rights

Centre Ireland,

Sir – Sheila Greene and Noirín Hayes (“Where are the pledged changes in creche care? Opinion & Analysis, July 3rd) rightly point out the totally inadequate “snail’s pace” of Government reform in the childcare sector.

One would think given our past history and the revelations in the RTÉ Prime Time documentary “Breach of Trust” 12 months ago that vital steps to ensure high-quality childcare would be in place by now.

What is the point of bemoaning past mistakes in relation to children when we continue to ignore vital warnings now? – Yours, etc,


Westfield Road,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence on women and the priesthood in the Catholic Church, that all-male celibate power structure is hardly going to act against its self-interest and the laity has no decision-making role. However, for secular society, anti-gender discrimination is enshrined in law, a basic principle which underlies a fair, moral and decent society. Of course the State has to allow religions to discriminate against women in their own structures, as this is a matter for their clerical power-structures and theological beliefs. They have and should have freedom of religious belief.

It does not follow, however, that the State should have to subsidise as well as tolerate discriminatory beliefs.

Perhaps all religions that exercise their right of exemption from anti-discrimination laws should be disqualified from receiving state subsidies by way of the enormous tax advantages that they get? In European Union partner states, such as Germany, these tax subsidies run to billions. Furthermore in Ireland and Britain, the Catholic Church’s all-male power structure controls a substantial proportion of state-funded education. – Yours, etc,


Birkdale Gardens,

Croydon, Londo

Sir, – Should Peter McVerry’s powerful column (“Treat drug misuse by doing U-turn on policy”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th) on illegal drug policy and the billions spent on the long-lost “war on drugs” not prompt the Government to commission a multidisciplinary study of the case for legalising some illegal drugs and bringing their trade not just notionally but actually into our GDP calculations? – Yours, etc,


Aughrim Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Peter McVerry’s argument that “trying to eradicate illegal drugs” is a “lost war” is unacceptable. His recommendation that “we treat drug misuse as a health and social problem” rather than a criminal justice problem is a recipe for social disintegration on a massive scale.

What the level of drug use would be if drugs were not illegal can only be imagined.

The cost in damage to health and the level of drug treatment that would be needed if we were to follow Fr McVerry’s advice would bankrupt the country, not to mention wreck the lives of countless more families. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

A chara, – In the Irish Embassy in London on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the third Home Rule Bill, John Bruton said that the Easter Rising had damaged the Irish psyche (“Padraig Pearse rejoiced in violence, says Bruton”, July 2nd).

It can be said with certainty, however, that the Easter Rising didn’t damage Mr Bruton’s political career.

It would appear that he is under the impression that the position of taoiseach that he was privileged to hold fell out of the sky and had nothing whatsoever to do with the event in our history that led to our and his independence. – Is mise,


Mc Dowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort


Dublin 8.

A chara, – Referring to the proposed cycleway on the North Quays, Jonivar Skullerud (July 4th) claims that an increase in cycling in the city centre would benefit retailers because motorists cannot window-shop at 50 kp/h.

First, the speed limit in Dublin city centre is 30 kp/h, not 50 kp/h.

Second, the prospect of cyclists “window-shopping” as they tear through the city is a terrifying one. From what I see on a daily basis, cyclists already show enough disdain for the red lights that they actually see. God help us all if they start cycling through the streets looking sideways! – Is mise,


Lismore Road,


Irish Independent:

* Con Coughlin is right to allude to the insidious threat posed by the rise of radical groups in Iraq and Syria, bent on mayhem and destruction.

However, Western governments have been complicit in the creation of such groups in the first place. At one time, it was the West with its clients in the gulf region who financed al-Qa’ida‘s terror network to fight the Russians at the height of the Cold War era. Even now, the UK intends to train a hundred thousand so-called moderate rebels to defeat Bashar al-Assad‘s regime in Syria. This is bound to stoke the embers of hatred and enmity and perpetuate the suffering of the Syrian people. In the absence of a coherent opposition, the political, military and administrative vacuum will probably be filled by Isis and its affiliates.

The West needs to change its strategies. It is lamentable that the chasm of misunderstanding between the Muslim and Western worlds is widening at a time when both need each other in the battle against global threats ranging from antibiotics resistant superbugs, climate change, to the eradication of hunger, poverty and emerging threats such as the Ebola virus.

What binds both worlds together is much more powerful than what divides them. Islamic societies are not as backward as they are usually portrayed in Western media. Islamic traditions nurture the compassion towards the underprivileged and the poor, and preserve the intellectual inquisitiveness for equity, knowledge and sciences since the dawn of human civilisation.

Women are not second-class citizens in Islam. In the words of the tradition ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr’. We cannot take the practices of some radical groups or Islamic states as representatives for over one billion Muslims across the globe.

We shall need to work harder to understand each other, to drain any poison between us, and to lay the ghost of suspicion and fear.



Holy day for prayer, not drink

* I refer to the article ‘Publican senator calls for end to Good Friday drinking ban’ (Irish Independent, July 3.

Good Friday is a day when Christians of all denominations throughout the world take time to reflect on the Passion and death of Christ. On Good Friday, Catholics are asked to share in that sacrifice through the traditional practices of prayer, the veneration of the Cross, and through fast and abstinence. Many people in Ireland still join in these religious practices and enter into the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, which is the most important feast of the Christian calendar.

It is a matter for the civil authorities to decide on the context and content of legislation, and this should serve the common good.

The sale of alcohol on Good Friday is an issue on which Christians can make up their own minds based on an informed conscience and on the content of proposed legislation.

The reality of Ireland’s relationship with alcohol was highlighted only one week ago by the Health Research Board study of Irish people’s alcohol consumption. The publication revealed that one-in-three of the population is a harmful drinker, and that 177,000 people are dependent on alcohol.

The HRB’s findings concerning our young people were even more disturbing: three-quarters of alcohol is consumed as binge-drinking and two-thirds of our people in the 18-24 age bracket binge drink.

Whilst stark, these trends are not new. In response, since 1997, the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative has sought to mobilise parish communities, together with other service providers, to make appropriate pastoral responses to prevent alcohol and drug misuse, and to respond to issues arising from the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.

It is incumbent on politicians, and on all of us, to propose solutions to address the human suffering arising from alcohol misuse, and to directly challenge the agenda of the drinks industry.





Residents on the right track

* I once bought a house whose garden backed on to a railway line. I was annoyed when the frequency of trains using the line subsequently increased, but again, I had known about the line when I’d purchased the house so I didn’t consider I had grounds for complaint.

There has been a stadium at Croke Park for over 100 years, and all local residents must have known about it when they moved into its vicinity. At least they are receiving some compensation for their inconvenience. (And no, I’m not going to any of the concerts).



Running the the party gauntlet

* Weekend in and weekend out, and often nights in between, marauding gangs of carousing revellers from Dublin town mainly blight places such Kilkenny and Carrick-on-Shannon. Men and women, not to mention the children, residents of these beautiful, elegant places are forced to run the gauntlet of ultra-binge drinking, kerbside urinating, scantily-clad people toppling over, not to mention the drink and drug-fuelled fighting and brawling.

Please don’t talk to me of people being discommoded around Croker.



Garth’s got friends in Limerick

* It appears that the onus of solving the GB problem has fallen to Limerick in this its year as City of Culture. In the time-honoured way of western gambling, now that Garth has gone all in with his “five or nothing”, we should counter with a “10 or else . . .” The Gaelic Grounds sits waiting with it’s 50,000 capacity plus the pitch area.



Choose your words wisely

* Killian Foley-Walsh (Irish Independent, July 3) seems quite pleased with himself that he has managed to describe next spring’s referendum on marriage equality as “the same-sex marriage referendum” – therefore avoiding any accusation of “inaccuracy, offensiveness or selective wording”.

If Mr Foley-Walsh wishes not to be accused of “selective wording”, can we also expect him to use the term “opposite-sex marriage” in any further communication on the matter of marriage in Ireland? It would certainly be more accurate.



Rising didn’t damage Bruton

* I refer to the article ‘John Bruton: Easter Rising damaged Irish psyche’ (Irish Independent, July 1). It can be said with certainty that the Easter Rising didn’t damage Mr Bruton’s political career.

It would appear that he is under the impression that the position of Taoiseach that he was privileged to hold fell out of the sky . . . and had nothing whatsoever to do with the event in our history that led to our and his independence.

I am reminded of course that the highlight of his career, according to himself, was his infamous evening spent in the company of none other than Prince Charles – titular commander-in- chief of the Parachute Regiment.



Irish Independent

Still tired

July 4, 2014

4 July2014 Tired

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired but a littl;e better

ScrabbleMary wins, but gets under 400. well done Mary,perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Phuntsog Wangyal – obituary

Phuntsog Wangyal was the co-founder of the Tibetan Communist Party who fell in with China only to fall foul of Mao’s mandarins

Phuntsok Wangyal

Phuntsok Wangyal

6:56PM BST 02 Jul 2014

Comments2 Comments

Phuntsog Wangyal, who has died aged 92, co-founded the Tibetan Communist Party in the 1940s; but despite giving up on an independent Tibet and unifying his party with that in China, he was jailed in Beijing and kept in solitary confinement for almost two decades.

Phunwang — as he was commonly known — might have appeared the ideal Chinese stooge in Tibet. But though he considered the country’s independence less important than the success of socialism, he was eventually unable to turn a blind eye to the corruption of Chinese officials.

Phuntsog Wangyal (far left) with the Dalai Lama, Chen Yi, and the Panchen Lama in Lhasa,1956

“Phunwang showed that you could be a true Communist while at the same time proud of your Tibetan heritage,” stated the Dalai Lama. Phunwang’s stance, however, made him persona non grata in China. He was purged, finding himself locked up in Qincheng Prison, a maximum-security facility near Beijing notorious for its harsh conditions and detention of political prisoners.

Phuntsog Wangyal Goranangpa was born in 1922 in Batang , in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet (now part of western Sichuan Province). The area was terrorised by the Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui, an ally of the Chinese nationalist Kuomintang. As a young boy out collecting walnuts, Phunwang witnessed Wenhui’s troops carry out a brutal reprisal attack following a local uprising.

In his youth he was involved with the Tibetan Democratic Youth League, out of which he formed, in 1942, with Ngawang Kesang, the Tibetan Communist Party. Initially the party concerned itself with opposing the Kuomintang. But as a committed Marxist, Phunwang later proposed socialist reforms and the dismantling of Tibet’s feudal structures.

Phuntsog Wangyal (left) with Ngawang Kesang, in Kalimpong,1944

Shortly before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, Phunwang announced a merger of his party with the Communist Party in China. As a result many Tibetans called him a traitor.

After the invasion, Phunwang become integral to the Chinese administration in Tibet, having been assigned to accompany Zhang Guohua, commander of the Chinese Eighteenth Army, to Lhasa. He was also the official translator for the young Dalai Lama during his meetings with Mao Tse-tung in 1954-55.

By the end of the Fifties, however, the tide had turned. Mao’s Leftist movement targeted Phunwang as a potential agitator due to his criticism of ethnic Han officials. In 1958 he was placed under house arrest and obliged to undergo “self-criticism”. He was jailed two years later, along with most of his family.

During his incarceration he was subjected to beatings, sound torture, poisonings and repetitive and intensive interrogation that was Kafkaesque in its obscurity. “They said they wanted me to confess my crimes,” he recalled, “but spoke of them only in general, so I never knew exactly what they were accusing me of.” Of all the horrors, “the total isolation was the hardest”.

He was released from Qincheng Prison in 1978, after which he went through a process of official rehabilitation before settling into life in Beijing, cut-off from the outside world. In a placatory move the Chinese authorities later offered him the position of Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, which he declined. He kept away from the political stage for many years, instead choosing to immerse himself in academia. His books included New Exploration of Dialectics (1990) and Liquid Water Does Exist on the Moon (1994) in which he explored the science of philosophical dialectics.

In later life Phunwang worked to promote better relations between Tibet and China, campaigning for the return of the Dalai Lama to Lhasa, which he claimed would be “good for stabilising Tibet”.

Then, in 2006, he returned to the political limelight with a series of letters to Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Chinese Communist party. In them Phunwang warned that if a permanent agreement was not found to solve “the Tibet Problem”, it would become increasingly dangerous. “Comrade Jintao,” he noted in one letter, “a single matchstick is enough for the arsonist but putting out the fire would take a great effort.” The language turned out to appallingly apt: since then a wave of young monks and nuns in Tibet have protested against persecution under Chinese rule by setting themselves on fire.

In 2004 he provided an epilogue to a book on his life, entitled A Tibetan Revolutionary. “I worked hard for the liberation of the Tibetan nation and for national unity in the new China,” Phunwang concluded. “That work that brought unendurable difficulties, but as Beethoven said: ‘I will seize fate by the throat. It won’t lay me low.’ That is what I believe I did. I did not let my suffering lay me low. I did not disgrace my dear parents, countrymen, and the Tibetans of the Land of Snow.”

Phunwang married, firstly, Tsilila. She died in prison in 1969. He is survived by his second wife, Tseten Yangdron, and by four children of his first marriage.

Phuntsog Wangyal, born 1922, died March 30 2014


Nuclear submarines

A Trident missile is fired from a British submarine. Photograph: Lockheed Martin/MoD/PA

The Trident commission’s conclusions that the UK does not need nuclear weapons to maintain international status or as an “insurance policy” against a global crisis are to be welcomed. Unfortunately the report’s headline finding that Trident should be replaced is mistaken (Report, 1 July).  Modernising and proliferating nuclear weapons, even with reduced numbers, is out of step with international law and Britain’s security needs. Public opinion continues to move away from wanting nuclear weapons, with senior military, trade unions and public figures arguing that the billions of pounds should be redirected towards our real security needs.

When the UK failed to participate in multilateral discussions on nuclear disarmament at talks mandated by the UN general assembly in Geneva last year, as well as boycotting the Oslo conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, the government was widely condemned. The vast majority of UN members, who feel no need to develop nuclear arsenals and see the nuclear-armed states as a threat to global security, are frustrated with growing proliferation and the irresponsibility of the nine nuclear-armed states. The UK is increasingly ridiculed for clinging on to these expensive cold-war white elephants.

Britain’s national security is inseparable from international security, which the commission fails to recognise. Its backing for Trident’s replacement is outdated. This hugely expensive project is already being overtaken as other nations become willing to ban nuclear weapons.

In one of its few relevant passages, the Trident commission correctly concluded that the UK needs to do more to show it is serious about disarmament, and needs to prepare a “glide path” for reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons. With the Vienna conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons scheduled for 8-9 December, the commissioners need to work with their respective institutions to ensure that Britain takes part in good faith in multilateral steps aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons, rather than sticking the UK’s head in the sand and pretending that the world has not changed in 30 years.

Mark Hackett Chair, UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Bill Butler Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland Forum, John Sauven Greenpeace, Dr Kate Hudson CND Dr Rebecca Johnson FRSA, Rebecca Sharkey International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Thomas Nash Article 36, Peter Wilkinson Nuclear Information Service, Dr Stuart Parkinson Scientists for Global Responsibility, Frank Boulton Medact Nuclear Issues Group, Dr David Lowry Former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre

• I spent most days in April touring the country on a scrap Trident programme. In all those meetings I don’t think I came across anyone who wanted to spend £100bn on nuclear weapons rather than on the NHS and education. People know the threats today are no longer those we were told we faced in the cold war. Nuclear weapons are not a rational response to any of them. A draft nuclear abolition convention has been with the UN for years. At its core is an  “inspection on demand” proviso by an international UN agency.

Why doesn’t Labour break ranks with this country’s leading nuclear-weapon-obsessed partners? They refuse to begin abolition negotiations. Labour could call for a major international nuclear weapons abolition conference in London to take place within two years. That would get three cheers from most of the world and from most of this country.
Bruce Kent
Vice-president, CND

• I recall a government minister in the 1980s being asked: “What is the purpose of our nuclear weapons?” His response: “To prevent any tin-pot dictator invading our territory.” Within months a tin-pot dictator, General Galtieri, had invaded the Falklands. This tells us all we need to know about the worth of spending up to £100bn on a useless defence system when we are being told that the NHS is collapsing due to lack of investment.
Rik Evans
Truro, Cornwall

• If the answer is “Trident is worth renewing”, then the question was wrong. It should have been: “Why shouldn’t all the other UN member nations have one?”
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

• The review of the Trident system was undertaken by people who had been involved in the past operation of the system. Where were the new voices, the reflections of a different Britain? Are we destined to refight the battles of the past? This should be a source of national debate, not for discussions between old establishment figures behind closed doors.
Ted Heath

• What a splendid precedent was set by the Ukrainian government in using crowdfunding to pay for its drone (Report, 29 June). Perhaps the UK government should use a similar method to finance Trident. Then only those who think it necessary or desirable need pay for it.
Rowland Ware


Whether or not Tony Blair stands to gain personally from working for the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Editorial, 3 July), there can be absolutely no doubt over Egypt‘s truly atrocious human rights record. Since the military’s unseating of Mohamed Morsi a year ago, there has been a surge in arbitrary arrests and detentions. Harrowing cases of torture in police and military detention are piling up, and the last 12 months have seen a reported 80 deaths in custody – one every four or five days. Most notoriously, the courts in Egypt have handed down 1,247 death sentences so far this year, with 247 of these confirmed notwithstanding the rank unfairness of the proceedings. Blair apparently sees President Sisi as the saviour of Egypt. With saviours like this, the Egyptian people have every reason to fear for their future.
Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK

• For the past year, General (now President) Sisi has been engaged in rehabilitating the police state challenged by Egypt’s uprising of 2011. Now he is bringing back Tony Blair, who enthusiastically backed Sisi’s alter ego, Hosni Mubarak. In 2011, even as millions of Egyptians rose in opposition to the dictator, Blair insisted that the president was “immensely courageous and a force for good”. He certainly had a good time at Mubarak’s expense, spending family holidays in a luxury villa in Sinai provided by the president. He returned safely to London. Not so lucky were those seized and flown to Egypt under the policy of “extraordinary rendition” designed by the CIA and, says Richard Dearlove – head of MI6 during the Blair years – endorsed by the British government.
Professor Philip Marfleet
University of East London

• Seumas Milne’s bilious attack on Blair would carry more weight if there were a semblance of a democratic regime in the Arab world. Just to be elected doesn’t make a government democratic, as the Egyptian experience under Morsi showed. Which corrupt, autocratic, dictatorial, secular, religious, authoritarian, malign, tyrannical governments are we supposed to avoid? Where are the democratic movements we are supposed to support? Anti-government movements seem often as poisonous as the regimes they seek to replace. Do we just wash our hands of the lot of them? Western support for Arab tyrannies may have been a factor in the rise of al-Qaida but support for the Muslim Brotherhood is no substitute. It is no less inimical to democracy than it is to Arab autocracies. Sometimes dislike of Tony Blair substitutes for reason.
Roy Boffy
Walsall, West Midlands

• You report that Tony Blair is advising Egypt’s president on “accessing support in the international community”. Not imprisoning journalists for what Egypt quaintly calls “spreading false news” would be a useful starting point for Blair.
Alex Kirby
Former BBC Cairo correspondent

• Seumas Milne notes parallels between the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile and the Sisi coup. The same tired rhetoric about “saving the nation” while murder, torture, state terrorism, not to mention the plunder and self-enrichment, continue apace. Had he been around, Blair would have applauded Pinochet too, no doubt. What an appalling, base individual he is.
James Hamill

We welcome any new political focus on the problem of female genital mutilation – and the media coverage that comes with it (Failure to protect girls from FGM is ‘ongoing national scandal’, MPs say, July 3).

But while it is of course important to get our own house in order and ensure that everything possible is being done to stop FGM in Britain, the simple fact is that we will not end the practice here until it is ended around the world.

FGM is very much a global problem; it doesn’t exist in a vacuum in the UK. The beliefs and customs that lead to it, as well as the girls who are subjected to it, cross borders.

So, as we heard in our recent roundtable discussion at the Guardian, to focus efforts exclusively on British legislation and British policy is to virtually admit defeat in ending a practice that worldwide has affected an estimated 125 million women and girls.

It’s through grassroots work with communities in the countries across Africa and the Middle East in which FGM is prevalent that, over years, not overnight, we can end this practice.
Tanya Barron
Chief executive, Plan UK

• The police are proud of the fact quite rightly, that they have been able to prosecute celebrities for past crimes involving sexual abuse. Some of these have gone back almost 40 years and the police have emphasised that they are willing to investigate historical crimes whatever the circumstances or the longevity.

If these principles are now to be applied to the prosecution of perpetrators of FGM, we can expect a veritable flood of cases involving thousands of women of all ages. This will inevitably be seen as the persecution of a cultural minority and possibly disturb race relations for a generation or more. Whither then the goal of multiculturalism, with the state and the police seen to be coming down heavily on a widely accepted cultural practice, however horrific that practice is considered to be by the great majority?
Ted Wilson

Our PM has announced that we need new antibiotics (Report, 2 July), since resistance to existing stock poses a major global health threat. Well done, though this is not news since the medical profession has been warning of the coming crisis for quite a time. However, he seems unaware of the irony of his position. The pharmaceutical industry has been slow to pursue research, because it is difficult and expensive and the financial returns on any new development may fail to satisfy their pockets. Antibiotics are short-term treatments, unlike drugs developed for chronic illnesses, and new antibiotics will be used sparingly for critical conditions or post-operative care, since broader availability may create the problem it’s trying to solve – that of drug resistance. The lesson for Cameron may be that in an area where society needs sustained investment, marketised medicine is failing. Yet he leads a government hell-bent on marketising large swaths of socially provided services, including healthcare. The evidence suggests that markets cannot always provide what society needs, and with antibiotics the nightmare is already beginning.
Tony Tucker
Frodsham, Cheshire

Sheryl Sandberg fails to realise that what she simply considers Facebook’s “poor communication” about its psychological experiments (Facebook apologises for experiments on users, 2 July) was an ethical violation of the principle of informed consent for 700,000 users. What makes this experiment more grievous is the lack of a briefing or debriefing, as well as a callous disregard for the principle to avoid harm to subjects. By manipulating the emotions of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users, and not telling them their emotions were impacted by an experiment rather than their own failings or temperament, Facebook has probably caused some real psychological harm to some of its users.
Carter Brace
Egham, Surrey

• My husband and I own a small restaurant in Sheffield. It has been our life’s work (so far). We worked hard to set up our small but thankfully busy and (we think) good South American steak house. It is our livelihood and the only source of income we have to support ourselves and our young son. In terms of what we have created it’s on a small scale but nevertheless helpful to society – we employ 15 full-time and three part-time staff, and we pay rates, VAT and taxes.

Yet I am totally demoralised every time a keyboard warrior with no professional accreditation takes to the likes of TripAdvisor and now Facebook and Twitter to rubbish our whole business. And there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t opt out of TripAdvisor.

Can you imagine an international forum where you can review how awful your co-worker was on one particularly bad day they were having, or even just in one encounter with you, for their potential future employers to be able to check? Our future employers are our potential customers – and they’re checking us out on TripAdvisor and Facebook. If only more people understood the other side of those reviews.
Gloria Clarke

One of the arguments used to persuade Scots to vote no to independence is that they are better off as part of the larger nation than they would be as a small separate unit (Report, 3 July). Many making that argument are now saying that the UK would be better off out of the EU for many of the reasons the Scots say they would be better off independent. Are not the reasons for Scotland staying in the UK the same as those for the UK staying in the EU?
Jeffrey Butcher
Morecambe, Lancashire

• I cannot help wondering whether Marcel Duchamp will be turning in his grave or quietly chuckling to himself at the price fetched by Tracey Emin’s pastiche of his brilliant and iconoclastic practical joke, “Fountain”, first exhibited in 1917 (Tracey Emin’s Bed is sold at auction for over £2.5m, 1 July). Whatever he is doing, I have no doubt that Charles Saatchi will have a big smile on his face as he trousers the £2.5m.
Alfred Litten

• I do wish people wouldn’t associate Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax with Benny Hill (Report, 29 June). As an early 60s instrumental it has its own identity without being lumped together with Hill’s pantomime antics. Incidentally, Chet Atkins does a nice guitar version as Yakety Axe.
Phil Rhoden
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

• Not to mention Angela Mortimer and Ann Haydon Jones, and way back still, Dorothy Round Little and Kitty McKane Godfree (Letters, 3 July). But then the women’s title doesn’t count, does it?
Kathy Arundale

• Michael Barber is mistaken about puttees being “replaced by anklets before the second world war” (Letters, 2 July). I was in the army CCF between 1979 and 1981, and puttees were a standard part of the kit. Mind you, we were stationed in Durham, so pre-war developments elsewhere might have been slow to get up north.
Jon Webster
Whitby, North Yorkshire

• Puttees were certainly still in use for some CCF members at Highgate School in the 1940s, including my brother John. I’ve got a photo to prove it.
June Mack


Unite is absolutely right to highlight the risk to the NHS posed by the trade deal currently being negotiated with the US (“PM must exclude NHS from EU-US trade deal or it could be sued, union warns”, 3 July). Many other aspects of life in the UK are also threatened.

The deal seeks to “harmonise” European and American food, safety and environmental regulation, which in reality would mean slashing our hard-won standards to match much lower US levels. So products such as hormone-treated beef and pork, and chicken washed in chlorine, sold by US companies but currently banned here, could appear on supermarket shelves in the UK.

Education would also be affected, as American companies are being offered the chance to get involved in public education, from primary level right through to university.

David Cameron claims to be fighting for national sovereignty in his dealings with the EU, but in pushing for this deal, he is ceding our sovereignty to multinational companies. The deal is a corporate power-grab, and should be abandoned.

Nick Dearden

Director, World Development Movement, London SW9

Reading about punitive US sanctions on European banks made me realise that there was a historical parallel.

Britain fought for more than 20 years against revolutionary and Napoleonic France, and during those wars imposed trade sanctions against neutral powers which were exporting contraband goods to France.

The Royal Navy enforced that policy by stopping and searching neutral merchantmen and impounding goods and ships that were breaking our embargo. This policy annoyed the US merchants concerned and resulted in the largely naval war of 1812. Though we had the satisfaction of burning the White House, they had the last laugh by soundly defeating us at the Battle of New Orleans – after the war had already ended in a draw. Should we conclude anything from this?

Peter Milner


Can anyone tell me why we allow the USA to dictate who we trade with? I can accept that we should not trade with terrorist organisations, but why cannot we trade with Cuba? This is a peaceful country whose only “misdemeanour” is that its leaders will not kneel down and grovel to the world’s leading litigious society.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey


Overdose of blame for GPs

Jane Merrick (3 July) blames GPs for the loss of effectiveness of antibiotics. As a retired GP I remember spending an inordinate amount of time explaining to patients why the use of antibiotics needed to be restricted, and that the course ought to be completed in order to avoid resistance building up. Considerable airtime has been given to this topic on television and radio.

There has, however, been a deafening silence on the role of antibiotic use by vets and farmers, particularly in rearing poultry, where I understand antibiotics are used regularly in the prevention of infection.

We all have a responsibility in this matter, not just one group.

Dr Christine Wood

Penistone, South Yorkshire

How the state could fix pensions

You are right to call for National Insurance to be abolished (editorial, 30 June); it has many anomalies. Most of the benefits should always have been financed out of general taxation, but the provision for pensions is different. Pension provision should have been funded.

The cash that my employers and I paid for the pensions element of the scheme should have been held in trust and invested to provide the funds needed to finance my pension. The cost should not fall upon my children and grandchildren. In my case the cost of an annuity to fund my pension would be about £78,000; a hidden debt. As the average age increases we are now creating ever higher levels of hidden debt.

There is little incentive for taxpayers to contribute to the private pension and annuity schemes which have proved to be so unsatisfactory in the past. The state could operate a guaranteed pension scheme which would encourage taxpayers to make proper provision for their retirement. It is essential that they do so to limit the social security benefits which future governments would need to fund.

The state could run a funded pension scheme with a guaranteed return of say inflation plus 2 per cent coupled with guaranteed annuity rates. This would enable contributors to know what their retirement income would be.

The state could invest the fund in for example residential mortgages, new rented housing and small businesses. It should make a profit, but even if it didn’t the saving in social security cost would make the scheme worthwhile.

The greatest benefit from such a scheme is that it could be used to replace the final salary schemes provided for public employees, thus eliminating the great difference between public and private employment.

Clive Georgeson

Dronfield, Derbyshire

What won’t happen on the West Bank

As is well known it is anti-Semitic to suggest that either Zionism or the Israeli state is racist. I would therefore expect, in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian child, for the Israeli state to behave in exactly the same way as it did when three Israeli children were kidnapped and murdered.

I am confident that the army will search the homes of thousands of settlers. That prominent settler leaders will be detained and that the source of this and similar attacks, the terrorist nests of settlements such as Kiryat Arba, will be subject to bombing from the air.

Of course none of the above is conceivable. This is the real problem in Israel and no amount of “peace” negotiations that permit the war process to continue will make any difference. Until Israel becomes a state of its own people, Jewish and non-Jewish, and not a supremacist Jewish state, the situation will continue indefinitely.

Tony Greenstein


Has all humanity left the Middle East? It sickens me that four teenagers have been murdered. They are teenagers; it doesn’t matter that three are Jewish and one Muslim. Each has parents, friends and until recently a future.

The inevitable reprisals have started. It would be refreshing to hear that both sides are dealing with these murders in the way most societies would and working together to investigate them, find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. That would reassure many of us who look on dismayed at the constant violence in the Middle East.

Marcus Stanton

Kingston, Surrey

A grievous blow to jazz

The news that the Arts Council has chosen to axe its funding to Jazz Services Ltd – our national organisation for debate, information and financial support – is the most grievous blow to our music since the organisation opened its doors in 1967.

For those in the profession who have watched with dismay jazz’s submergence amid the rock culture – as well as its incomprehensible but triumphant survival nonetheless – the news may not come as a shock. But we have a society which is once again open to the sounds of jazz, major colleges offering degrees in the music, and new generations of young jazz musicians enriching our artistic heritage year after year. In view of all that, the Arts Council’s decision-makers can be seen only as fools who fail to recognise that art does not, by definition, need to starve in a garret.

As a professional jazz musician of 40 years, I say: shame on them.

Digby Fairweather

Westcliff on Sea, Essex

Investment in wind power

You report (“Green power”, 27 June) that experts in the renewable energy business “are concerned that Conservative Party opposition to renewable energy could [deter] investors”.

On the contrary, it has encouraged me to invest in an onshore wind turbine development, supported by the local community, to demonstrate that I am rather more farsighted than the “spoils the view” brigade, who probably use as much, or more, power than the rest of us.

Or are they relying on a short-term “dash for gas” for our future power needs? I bet they don’t believe in climate change either.

John Davis

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Why did the press miss the big story?

It remains a mystery why for so many years some tabloid journalists were prepared to break the criminal law to provide their readers with a circulation-boosting diet of celebrity infidelity, yet they completely failed to help to bring to public attention Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuses, which had been going on for decades.

It would surely have served their argument for an unrestrained press far better had they been able to provide a genuine public service.

Mark Albrow

Hampton,  Middlesex


Sir, David Cameron is right to identify the threat posed by antibiotic resistance as a critical one, and to promote work to seek new antibiotics. However, that work will have only short-term impact unless there’s a coordinated, global campaign to prevent the development of further resistance to existing and new antibiotics. That means careful management of human treatment, but also an end to factory farming, which by its nature relies on heavy and often continuous antibiotic use to maintain stressed animals in crowded conditions, and ideal conditions for the development of new strains of pathogens that threaten both animal and human health.

Natalie Bennett

Leader, Green Party

Sir, Fifty years ago I was working in a laboratory in East Africa. I found that my young African assistant had set himself up as a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease in the local village, offering penicillin injections to his patients for the price of one shilling. He admitted that one ampoule and one needle served ten patients. Ironically, the local European-run clinic offered proper treatment free. I confiscated his stock of long out-of-date penicillin and bought my assistant a camera so that he could set himself up in the less dangerous profession of portrait photographer at one shilling a shot.

There is little doubt that similarly inadequate practices in antibiotic treatment have contributed to the problems we are now facing.

Walter Wolff

London W11

Sir, About 30 years ago a comprehensive article in The Times warned about the future dangers to health due to over-prescription of antibiotics. A pity the government of the day did not pay more attention.

Gerald Hooper

Poynton, Stockport

Sir, I was intrigued to see that patients are to blame for the antibody crisis (Thunderer, July 2) and yet the doctor (Theodore Dalrymple, a retired prison
doctor) writing the article admits to doing the same thing himself — ie, “I have never finished a course of antibiotics in my life” thereby contributing to the problem. If doctors really do know best (and they do), then it is a shame as a doctor, that he does not follow the specialist advice himself.

John Berry

Countesthorpe, Leics

Sir, Throughout the 1990s we ‘hosted’ teenage students from east Asia (the majority from China) who were here to learn English. It was usual for their parents to send them with plentiful supplies of antibiotics. They would take the tablets at the first sign of a cough or sniffle and put them away as soon as the symptoms departed.

I am told that in many countries no prescription is needed for even the most powerful antibiotics. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to learn that antibiotic-resistant diseases are increasingly encountered by medical professionals.

However, it seems disingenuous to assume that by restricting UK patients’ access to antibiotics, or even that of patients across Europe, the development of resistant bacteria will be slowed. A superbug can easily develop in people and in places where restricted access to antibiotics simply does not apply.

Heather Matthews


Some greenbelt sites are appropriate for homebuilding so the rules against it should be relaxed

Sir, As usual the RIBA has gone off at half-cock (“Build on green belt, top architects urge”, July 2). Lord Rogers has supported brownfield development; architects have produced exciting housing for difficult urban sites; and industrially scarred tracts (eg, Greenwich peninsula) are being developed for housing. So the RIBA should be supporting architects in creating architecturally and environmentally satisfying homes, and not urging future governments to go for the soft option of unprotecting green belts just to give pattern-book house builders access to more profitable sites.

Patrick Hogan, RIBA

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Sir, I own a site in the green belt, a former scrapyard now used for lorry storage; my neighbour runs a haulage company. Our vehicles have to pass a school in our village and cause problems for mothers and cars dropping off their kids, and vice versa. HGVs and children do not mix; the danger is obvious and both businesses would like to sell out for housing (the only realistic way to have the sites decontaminated and have enough money left over to relocate to a modern industrial estate). The local people are broadly in favour, but the local authority is not interested.

What a sad state the planning system has come to when a scrap yard is protected green belt, the school and village have heavy truck traffic with drivers at their wits’ end avoiding kids on bikes and the planners prefer to build on fields a few miles away.

Philip Justice

Underwood, Notts

There is no single explanation for the wide variation in the use of different cancer diagnostic tests

Sir, Cancer is not rare (Dr Mark Porter, July 1) with over 300,000 new cases and more than 150,000 deaths each year in the UK and rising. Its diagnosis is difficult and depends on clinical judgment and timely use of the right test. GPs have never had better access to such lab tests across the NHS. Yet there is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. There is no single explanation for such variations. Appropriate use of these tests is more likely to improve the care of individual patients and the use of shrinking NHS resources than to harm or waste them (Dr Sarah Murray, letter, July 1).

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs requires the development of a National Laboratory Medicine Catalogue (a library of tests used by the NHS), whose NHS funding is at risk. It is vital to protect this project.

Dr Archie Prentice

Royal College of Pathologists

The Attorney General clarifies his views about prosecutions for rape and conviction rates

Sir, Contrary to your headline (July 3), I categorically did not say that more rape trials would be futile. In mentioning the conviction rate, I was merely highlighting that it is unwise to simply rely on one statistic in isolation to show progress, because we have to look at the full breadth of the work being done by the police, prosecutors and others. It is that work which will give victims of this terrible crime the confidence to come forward and know that justice will be done — that is what is most important.

I am wholly supportive of the work being done to ensure that victims feel they can come forward, and the work by the CPS to see whether there is anything that would improve the conviction rate. I am very pleased by the great efforts being made to bring more cases to court.

Dominic Grieve, QC, MP

Attorney General

Flytipping is partly encouraged by councils’ failure to operate legal rubbish removal services

Sir, I am concerned about the difficulty of disposing of rubbish connected to home improvements. I had 20 small bags of brick rubble last year. My recycling centre allowed me to take only two bags per week. I offered to pay for collection but there is no collection service for such waste. The rules at recycling depots are often draconian. No wonder homeowners are increasingly paying illegal flytippers to get rid of household items, at £100 a time.

Linda Miller

Dereham, Norfolk

There is no single explanation for the wide variation in the use of different cancer diagnostic tests

Sir, Cancer is not rare (Dr Mark Porter, July 1) with over 300,000 new cases and more than 150,000 deaths each year in the UK and rising. Its diagnosis is difficult and depends on clinical judgment and timely use of the right test. GPs have never had better access to such lab tests across the NHS. Yet there is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. There is no single explanation for such variations. Appropriate use of these tests is more likely to improve the care of individual patients and the use of shrinking NHS resources than to harm or waste them (Dr Sarah Murray, letter, July 1).

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs requires the development of a National Laboratory Medicine Catalogue (a library of tests used by the NHS), whose NHS funding is at risk. It is vital to protect this project.

Dr Archie Prentice

Royal College of Pathologists


SIR – Surely the answer to the problem of “revenge pornography” is to prosecute under the laws that exist and await the outcomes.

Prosecutors should consider Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. Subsection 1 makes it an offence for any person to send “by means of a public electronic communications network…matter that is indecent”. Subsection 2 makes it an offence to do so in order to cause “annoyance…[or] needless anxiety to another”.

These offences carry terms of six months’ imprisonment. And then there are the Obscene Publication Acts, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Enough to get on with, I suggest.

Tim Lawson-Cruttenden
London WC1

Shale gas ownership

SIR – In his article “Time to give Numbies a stake in their own shale-rich land”, Boris Johnson proposes that individual landowners should own all mineral rights beneath their property, in order to stimulate shale gas development. This is ill-conceived.

He explains correctly that oil and gas have been in national ownership since 1919. What he perhaps does not know is that coal, which previously had been included in the mineral rights of landowners, was taken into national ownership before the Second World War. When the coal industry was nationalised in 1946, it was only the pits that remained to be taken over, because the coal was already owned by the nation.

When the coal industry was privatised in 1994, consideration was given to privatising ownership of the coal in the ground, and this was rejected. It is right that fossil fuels should be held as unfragmented resources by the nation. The criticism should be that the licensing arrangements for oil and gas are separate from those for coal.

Kenneth Fergusson
Chief Executive, the Coal Authority, 1997-2001
London SW11

SIR – Yet again, Boris Johnson hits the nail squarely on the head with the proposal to return those mineral rights to landowners that were hijacked by governments during times of national crisis.

When the entire country benefited from the economic rewards of mining during nationalisation, there was an arguable case for the present system. Though it is proper that government licences are required for exploration and exploitation, it is not their right to override the landowners’ wishes.

Geoff Snape
Blackburn, Lancashire

French table manners

SIR – There is much written about the benefits of sitting down to proper meals at a table (Letters, June 27).

The hypermarket near our home in France has a large self-service restaurant. At midday it fills up with business people, workers, families and schoolchildren. They eat two or three courses from proper plates with metal knives and forks and drink water or wine from real glasses. I honestly don’t remember seeing anyone obese.

Bruce Cochrane
Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire

Setting the place alight

SIR – Patricia Nice was told to “detrain” (Letters, July 2). A headline in our local newspaper ran: “Fire on bus, passengers alight.”

D B Davies
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

Trident renewal

SIR – The disproportionate cuts inflicted on Britain’s conventional forces since 2010 have skewed the bias of Britain’s defences too far towards nuclear deterrence, leaving us badly exposed (“Trident given a vote of confidence – for now”).

MPs need to start questioning the findings of the July 2013 Trident Alternatives Review, which played down the likely costs of commissioning a class of Trident submarine and inflated the cost of developing an alternative cruise missile warhead. A like-for-like Trident replacement, which the review endorsed, will be a financial millstone around the neck of the defence budget for decades, causing Britain to cease being capable of acting as a force for good in the world.

The most affordable and appropriate solution remains a “token” nuclear deterrent based on a small number of (torpedo-tube-launched) cruise missiles deployed at random across our general purpose Astute-class submarine fleet. A gold-plated Trident deterrent requires its own bespoke fleet of submarines and is much more vulnerable to compromise than anyone will ever care to admit.

Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire

Female radio voices

SIR – Your report suggests that BBC Radio 5 Live is reducing the prominence of female voices. Three of our seven daytime presenters from autumn onwards will be female: 5 Live Breakfast’s Rachel Burden, Sarah Brett, who joins us from BBC Northern Ireland, and Anna Foster, our Drive presenter. Eleanor Oldroyd will present a new Friday lunchtime show and Georgie Thompson will be one of the new presenters of Fighting Talk.

Other current female presenters include Kelly Cates on 606 and Clare Balding, along with Caroline Barker, Sam Walker, Alison Mitchell, Claire McDonnell and Jennie Gow. At 5 Live we have always been champions of strong female voices and will continue to be so.

Jonathan Wall
Controller, BBC Radio 5 Live
London W12

Handy landline

SIR – So Harry Wallop isn’t going to miss his landline. How else will he find his misplaced mobile phone?

Tim Matthews
London NW1

Weighing the cost of warfarin to the patient

SIR – The cost of warfarin treatment for atrial fibrillation is more than £1 a month (Letters, June 25). The weekly blood tests bring the overall cost up to the same sort of level as the £50 to £60 cost of the new generation of anticoagulant drugs, which require no special monitoring. On top of that, there is the cost to the patient in time, travel and inconvenience, not to mention the dietary restrictions imposed by warfarin. Having been on one of the new drugs for nearly two years, I can vouch for its many advantages over my previous warfarin regime.

Alan MacColl
Hermitage, Berkshire

SIR – Dr Malcolm Clarke questions recent guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) on the management of the heart condition atrial fibrillation (AF).

We recommend anticoagulation in preference to aspirin, which should not be used for treating AF. Patients should be assessed for risk of stroke. Those at increased risk should be considered for anticoagulation. Doctors and patients can work out the benefits and risks of anticoagulation. If the decision is to begin anticoagulation, the guidance recommends that warfarin and Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs) should both be considered. In one specific situation NOACs are recommended over warfarin: for patients already taking warfarin whose anticoagulant control is poor. NOACs offer clear benefits for this group.

AF is a major cause of stroke and, most importantly, of preventable strokes.

Dr Campbell Cowan
Chairman, Nice Atrial Fibrillation Guideline Development Group
London SW1

SIR – If English National Opera and the Arts Council are concerned about poor box-office returns, might it not be a good idea to put on more traditional productions?

Regular, long-term opera-goers like me are constantly put off by the ultra-modern, sexed-up, ridiculous productions that ruin the music and the story with irrelevant and weird settings and costumes.

Let us have more of the traditional productions that many of us love. This is how we want to introduce our children and grandchildren to opera. Is it really true that young people will be attracted only by new types of production? I doubt it.

The recent Benvenuto Cellini and Castor and Pollux will not have made many new opera-goers feel like spending such a lot of money again. I am now wary of booking ahead for opening nights because of what strange ideas may have been thought up by the director and his or her associates.

Mary Firth
London NW11

SIR – Allison Pearson is right: we should bring back grammar schools, not least to increase social mobility for bright, working-class children. But we also need a network of well-funded, high-quality technical schools offering an alternative route to success.

The idea that there is only one kind of intelligence that is admirable has been damaging to our society and our economy.

John Williams
Penywaun, Glamorgan

SIR – The current debate on education is hopelessly polarised between the “failure” of the comprehensive school and the “success” of the grammar school. The “success” of the grammar school is only made possible by the consignment of the vast majority of pupils, especially those from working-class and under-privileged backgrounds, to a second-rate education from which it can take years to recover.

03 Jul 2014

The debate should be about how to improve education for all, not how to engineer it for the benefit of a small elite group of children who just happen to be able to pass tests at the age of 11.

Dr Michael Millington
Mapperley, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Allison Pearson asks me how, in terms of educational attainment, changing the backgrounds of youngsters from deprived areas has worked out.

The statistics demonstrate a transformation over the past 20 years both in attainment levels and opportunity, affording youngsters higher education, apprenticeships and the life chances that many of us take for granted.

The recently published Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission research demonstrated that the literacy and numeracy programme, introduced from 1998, had transformed achievement levels of children (particularly those from inner London). The changes at primary level had been complemented by the London Challenge, which carried through to secondary level the partnership approach of spreading best practice.

David Blunkett MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – Allison Pearson’s suggestion that fair access to higher education leads to a dilution of academic excellence could not be further from the truth. The notion that universities are not allocating places on merit is as absurd as it is insulting to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have worked hard to get into higher education. Universities are seeking out the brightest applicants, whatever their background. Those with the ability to excel are present in all of our communities and all of our schools. Universities recognise that fact, and I welcome the steps they are taking to ensure that applicants will be judged by their talent and potential, not where they come from.

Professor Les Ebdon
Director, Fair Access to Higher Education

Irish Times:

Sir, – Speaking at the Irish Embassy in London on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the third Home Rule Bill, former taoiseach John Bruton denounced the Easter Rising in Dublin, saying it legitimised violence and that he was against violence (“Padraig Pearse rejoiced in violence”, says Bruton, July 2nd).

Mr Bruton stated that he was a Redmonite and always had been. Mr Bruton’s endorsement of Redmond is at odds with his rejection of violence. John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1914, was a zealous admirer of the British House of Commons and sought only limited Irish self-government, considering it undesirable that Britain and Ireland be separated as he had no wish to see the dismemberment of the British Empire.

Despite the fact that Redmond opposed physical force, he nonetheless enthusiastically encouraged young Irishmen to enlist in the British army in 1914 in return for the promise of home rule.

Mr Bruton is an ardent admirer of Redmond and the version of Home Rule which was on offer in 1914. Home rule, the old reliable weapon used to attack those of 1916 who secured our independence, was aptly described by Roger Casement as “a promissory note payable only after death”, or more accurately, after the deaths of 35,000 Irishmen fighting for freedoms that were being denied to their own land.

Mr Bruton apparently finds no contradiction between his support for Irishmen being part of the mass-murder of millions of people in the Great War, and his trenchant opposition to Irishmen using force to rid this country of an imperial power.

Mr Bruton ignores the widespread opposition, not just in nationalist Ireland, to home rule. Half a million Ulster unionists signed a covenant to use “all means necessary, including civil war” to resist an act of parliament giving home rule to Ireland.

Furthermore, the leader of the Conservative party during this period, Bonar Law, in undeniably seditious language, showed his utter contempt for the democratic institutions he was elected to uphold by stating “there are things stronger than parliamentary majorities”.

When faced with this opposition to home rule, British prime minister Asquith failed to uphold and defend an act of his own parliament. In the general election of 1918, John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party was swept from power by an electorate that espoused separatism and emphatically rejected home rule.

John Bruton ignores this wholly constitutional and parliamentary decision of the Irish people. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Nice to see that John Bruton has taken time out of his busy job of promoting the interests of the Irish Financial Services Centre to lecture us, from London, about nationalism and violence. But I couldn’t help feeling that there was one element missing that would have made his speech truly unforgettable – the inimitable Twink. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, –In the course of a distinguished career, Ruairí Quinn finally give the lie to the notion that a member of the Labour Party was unsuited to be minister for finance. In the most difficult of circumstances, he reversed the effects of the disastrous economics policies of the late 1970s and 1980s, and in 1997 brought in the first budget surplus.

Unfortunately a change of government was to see this good work squandered, and Mr Quinn was to see his last period in Dáil Éireann absorbed with, once again, rectifying the situation.

When the legacy of Ruairí Quinn comes to be evaluated, his period in the Department of Finance will rank among his greatest achievements. – Yours, etc,


Windsor Terrace,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – In 2011, the wall of the Ringsend bridge collapsed and consequently Fitzwilliam Quay was made a one-way road, which was bad news for our family business (motor body repairs) as we were losing trade.

We received very little information from the company repairing the wall and footpath as to how long it would take to finish the project

Months later, I met Ruairí Quinn on the street in Dublin 4, while he was canvassing with Cllr Kevin Humphreys. I told him of our predicament and asked him to please find out how long it would take to finish the bridge repair as it was in his constituency.

He said he would get back to me, although I hadn’t given him my name, just the name of our garage.

A week later, my brother and I received a handwritten letter with full details of the engineering rebuild and the time span for completion, with his email address and phone number.

I was quite impressed! – Yours, etc,


Fitzwilliam Quay,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Labour Party has long espoused equality as one of its core values. Yet the recent electoral contest included a subtext of rhetoric about the need for “a new generation”.

The clear inference is that the issue of age is a relevant criterion when considering high political office.

Yet our Minister of Finance is 72 years of age, and there is general agreement that he is doing an excellent job.

So it seems that another core value is being sacrificed at the altar of short-term expediency. If true, those of us over 60 will take note. And we do vote! – Yours, etc,


Connaught Street,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Emma Tobin’s words resonated with me, “It seems the only things people are passionate about any more are the things they hate” (“It’s hard to dream of better days when only hate seems to inspire passion”, Rite & Reason, July 2nd).

To my mind, this is a diluted hate, not an active one, a passive-aggressive passion flowing out in words, not deeds. If we hated injustice, we would not just duck and dodge, but stand up to it and confront it. – Yours, etc,


Behan Square,

Russell Street,

Sir, – Contrary to what BA Keogh (July 3rd) claims, the proposed cycleway on the North Quays in Dublin is particularly timely in a situation with a faltering economy and pressures on the health system.

First, experience shows that retailers in fact increase their revenues when car space is converted to space for cyclists and pedestrians. The reason for this is simple, you cannot window-shop at 50 km/h!

Second, for the economy as a whole, investing in cycling and walking is one of the smartest things you can do, with the economic benefits outweighing the costs by a factor of between five and 20.

According to a Danish study, each kilometre cycled brings a benefit of 20 cents to the economy (mainly in health benefits), while each kilometre driven in a car costs the economy five cents.

Which brings us to the third point, the health system, which is buckling under the strains of obesity-related and mental health problems. These in large part are caused by physical inactivity, and cycling has been proven to help against them.

In short, in the current situation, we simply cannot afford not to invest in cycling! – Yours, etc,


Wilfield Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – BA Keogh claims it is “inevitable” that retailers will lose revenue, in defiance of a recent study from the Dublin Institute of Technology, which found that while car users spend more per trip, cyclists and Dublin Bike users visit the city centre more frequently, and are responsible for more than twice the spend of car users per month.

When we also include bus, Luas, Dart and other rail users, as well as those who walk, the economic importance of the car user in the city centre is severely diminished.

Let’s make Dublin better for everyone, not just the few. – Yours, etc,


St Alphonsus Road Upper,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The last sentence in Kate Shanahan’s article of June 30th (“Journalism must regain its role in bringing power to account”, June 30th), published as part of your “Future of Journalism” series, sums up the problem of journalism losing a sense of its own importance.

Her message is that journalism needs to bring those in power to account and should not give them comfort.

If the media had practiced during the boom what Kate Shanahan is now preaching – “the core values of truth, accuracy and fairness” – the reckless decisions of the powerful would have been challenged then and we would not have had the subsequent collapse in our economy and the consequent austerity. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – The residents of Dublin 3 who are objecting to the Garth Brooks concerts have said the local economy does not benefit from such events (“Two Garth Brooks gigs refused over anti-social behaviour concerns”, July 3rd).

Will they explain that to the staff in the hotels and restaurants of Dublin 1,2,4 and 8 who would have benefited from the 160,000 concert goers who are not now going to travel to Dublin? Then there are all the security workers and stewards who thought they were going to get work for five nights and who are now only going to get work for three nights. The same goes for the concession stand employees inside Croke Park. Its the workers in these areas who are going to lose out from these concerts being cancelled. – Yours, etc,


Glenvara Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I predict that Garth Brooks’s final song on Sunday, July 27th, at Croke Park will be If Tomorrow Never Comes. – Yours, etc,


Mill Street,


Co Mayo.

Sir, – If people still need to be affiliated to a religion, then the possibility of women becoming priests should not just arise because there is a dearth of willing, able and suitable men. If willing, suitable and able women ever get to be ordained, it might very well turn out to be that the best wine was saved until last. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – I refer to a recent decision by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan to cease providing funding for the National Advocacy Service for deaf people under the aegis of the Irish Deaf Society.

The decision defies logic. Indeed, as one of the original creators of this service, I am baffled by it.

The decision was apparently based on a criterion that obliged voluntary organisations to compete with each other for vital funding, rendering any uniqueness that a service may have irrelevant.

This particular service is run by peer advocates and is a space where deaf people can receive various services through their first language – Irish Sign Language – and is unique in this country.

Investment in this service saved a considerable amount of money on the interpreting fees that would be required if the service users had to avail of mainstream services.

Last January, the Government rejected the Irish Sign Language Bill that came before Seanad Éireann. Minister of State for Disability Kathleen Lynch delivered a statement on behalf of the Government that said it could not support the Bill as “We need to put the service in place before we put the legislation in place”.

Given this most recent decision, the statement seems hollow and an empty promise to many of us in the deaf community, although perhaps it reflects a lack of interdepartmental coordination.

I hope that the Minister will heed this appeal and act in a favourable manner. – Yours, etc,


Ely Green,

Oldcourt Road,

Sir, – In the western world people are constantly encouraged to stand up for their rights but rarely take notice of their obligations. This has given us the compensation culture and the notion of evildoers as victims. As we face into a future of greater demands on the health services, those who choose to smoke, drink or eat to excess should be made aware that they will be placed at the bottom of the lists for medical treatment.

This would be a fairer solution than selective taxation, which has singularly failed thus far. – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,


Co Donegal.

A chara, – Frank Browne’s reminiscences (July 3rd) regarding Fr Michael Cleary are more positive than mine. In 1990, as a fifth-year student in the co-ed Coláiste Íognáid, Galway, we heard him sermonise during a school Mass. His central message was that it was up to us girls to maintain boys’ morality in matters of sexuality – the boys couldn’t be trusted. I was repulsed then by his sexism and his denying my male classmates any moral agency. I am repulsed now by the apologias that flow in the national media.

Michael Cleary was “human – all too human”, yet whatever about a “passion for being a priest” – and one struggles to understand exactly what that means – he chose to enjoy the best of both worlds while teaching a shame-based morality to impressionable teenagers. More of the “Do as I say, not as I do”. – Is mise,


Leinster Park,

Harold’s Cross ,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Senator Marc MacSharry is proposing a new levy at the point of sale of 90 cents on a bottle of wine and 25 cents on a can of beer to raise funds for suicide prevention (“Mental health services an ‘easy target’, says Fianna Fáil”, June 30th).

Irish retailers should not be used as guinea pigs for untried and untested policies that could expose the retail sector and Irish taxpayers to significant losses at a time of ongoing economic difficulty. – Yours, etc,



Unit 69,


Shopping Centre,

Sir, – Is Vincent Devlin (July 2nd) for real? Asking the Minister for Health to “[reduce] the price of cigarettes to reflect the price on the Continent” would be like asking a GP to prescribe 60 fags a day to a chronic smoker to help him curb his deadly addiction. Utter balderdash! – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s good to be updated as to the whereabouts of the Molly Malone statue in Dublin and its restoration (“Molly gets welded and waxed”, July 2nd). However, you never seem to mention the name of the immense talent who crafted the piece, Jeanne Rynhart. She is responsible for other major works, such as the Annie Moore statue in Cobh, and deserves to be recognised for her contribution to the Irish art scene. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* John Bruton states that “damage has been done to the Irish psyche” by the violence of the 1916 Rising. That may be true but some points should be made to place it in context.

Firstly, much more damage had been done to the psyche of the Irish people by being colonised, subjugated and denied freedom for centuries, by a quarter of the population disappearing in the space of five years during the Famine of the 1840s, and by English becoming the main language in Ireland.

All of these traumatic events caused much more damage than a week of violence in Dublin.

Secondly, the 1916 Rising took place when mainland Europe was tearing itself apart during a four-year war. Ireland was, aside from the Rising, in the main, peaceful during the same period. The psychological damage done to other nations was much more.

The Ottoman Empire suffered more than five million deaths during the four-year period. France’s manpower losses were enormous; in proportion to population and to the number of men under arms, they exceeded those of any other warring nation. The dead totalled 1,357,800 and the wounded 4,266,000.

There probably would have been less political violence a century ago in Ireland had the British government resisted the threat of violence from the Ulster unionists. Once unionists had shown that the threat of violence was effective in changing political matters, nationalists did not hesitate to use the same methods for their own cause.

Two of the key factors that lead to the Easter Rising were the proof of using violence coupled with a war that meant Britain was distracted elsewhere with less military capability to deal with matters in Ireland. The effect of violence was not lost on the minds of the Irish men and women who went out to fight in Dublin.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that many people did not support the rebels in 1916. Sympathies soon changed, however, when the British army executed the leaders of the rebellion. Very quickly, Irish people began to side with the republicans.

Again, World War I cannot be ignored to understand why events happened the way they did. The British military responded in the same way as they did on mainland Europe. It was standard procedure to execute enemy officers.

It would, I believe, be more accurate to say that the Irish people had suffered huge trauma over the centuries due to being ruled by Britain. This national trauma allowed men to countenance using violence to achieve freedom. This was spurred on by the resistance to home rule and the deaths and violence of World War I.




* A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A newly reported UK social survey on the Great War found that one in five Britons thought they were fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War I.

Respondents, however, knew more about the 1914 Christmas truce; 85pc were aware that British and German troops played football together during the truce. However, 8pc believed they got together for a screening of ‘The Great Escape’.

You could not make it up.




* May God help us. They didn’t want oil or gas supplied, now they don’t want electricity powerlines either, whether they go under or overground.

It is a good job Fr Horan built his airport so the youth of the country could emigrate.

He knew his people well.




* I recently read an article about a solicitor who stole €2.8m from clients and in mitigation the court was told that he was a “devout Christian” with numerous good deeds to his name. Any chance the same courtesy will be given to the practicing atheists?




* I write in response to your editorial (July 1) and the letter from Jim Cosgrave (July 2), from which we glean a picture of many ungrateful Irish doctors departing our shores with their ill-gotten degrees in search of foreign riches.

To suggest that “the majority” of Irish medics have a “filthy lucre motivation” is baseless, insulting and unsubstantiated.

Since when did the virtues of hard work, intelligence and dedication to your goal become synonymous with money grubbing?

Mr Cosgrave makes broad brushstroke judgments on the nation’s doctors whose reward for their Leaving Cert endeavours is a further 10 to 20 years of working excessively long hours in a dysfunctional system with little or no training, massive personal responsibility and more often than not a chaotic personal life.

I invite Mr Cosgrave to walk a mile of hospital corridors and stairs in the shoes of a non-consultant hospital doctor. His bleep incessantly bleeping, being pulled between sick patients on the wards and emergency department at 4am, having started the shift 16 hours previously and no prospect of sleep or rest for another 16 hours or more.

Then to repeat this process several times a month on top of one of the most demanding day jobs in the country for the next 10 to 20 years. Does this sound like a good way to get your hands on some easy “moolah”?

If these young doctors are as lacking in caring as Mr Cosgrave suggests, then why are they being headhunted the world over?




* Many of us will have come across bright young people with hopes and aspirations toward higher-level education. A significant number of them never made it, simply because their parents (in the PAYE sector mostly and with fairly modest incomes) were deemed to be earning too much for grant assistance. At the same time, classmates from well-off families received the grants.

Ruairi Quinn was the first minister with the courage to tackle this issue.

Good luck to you, sir, in your retirement – you have given significant service to the young people of this country.




* Recent match-fixing rumours reminded me of the goalkeeper ‘on the take’. The less he saved, the more interest he earned.




* Democracy does still matter in Ireland in spite of its imperfections and the serious damage done to Irish people by recent cohorts of Irish politicians. In our most recent democratic election, the people clearly rejected Labour Party policies, leading to the resignation of party leader Eamon Gilmore.

Over the past half century I have voted for Labour more often than not, and may do so again, given the dearth of better alternatives. However, I am deeply concerned at the arrogance of Mr Gilmore and other senior Labour politicians in seeking to have Mr Gilmore nominated as Ireland’s EU commissioner.

Ruairi Quinn had the common sense to bow out gracefully. Mr Gilmore should do likewise rather than claim “entitlement” to such an important position as EU commissioner. Public service is a privilege, not an entitlement.



Irish Independent


July 3, 2014

3July2014 Tired

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired barely get the chores done

ScrabbleI win, by three points, and gets under 400. well done Mary,perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


David Gardner-Medwin – obituary

David Gardner-Medwin was a neurologist who radically improved life expectancy for boys suffering from muscular dystrophy

David Gardner-Medwin

David Gardner-Medwin

6:58PM BST 02 Jul 2014

Comments1 Comment

David Gardner-Medwin, who has died age 77, was a naturalist; an expert on Thomas Bewick, the 18th century Tyneside engraver; and a paediatric neurologist who specialised in muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic condition which usually affects young boys and for which until recently there has been no effective treatment. In the 1970s progressive muscle wasting often resulted in death before teenage years and in some parts of the country a fatalistic approach was taken to the disease with little attempt to treat the symptoms.

Gardner-Medwin came to Newcastle in 1965 to work as a research fellow with Professor John, now Lord, Walton. There he set out to determine whether it was possible to detect which mothers carried the gene for muscular dystrophy by measuring electrical impulses from the muscles. As a result he spent long hours sitting with the mothers of disabled boys and was told of the many practical problems which affected their sons and how uncoordinated their care was. Such discussion spurred him to set up a multidisciplinary service with the child and the family at its centre.

The resultant clinic became an exemplar of how to manage muscular dystrophy, and in 2009 the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign produced the “Walton Report” which highlighted dramatic improvements in life expectancy for those patients treated in the way that Gardner-Medwin had set out. The report showed that the average age of death for muscular dystrophy sufferers in the north east of England had risen to 30 years. By contrast for those in the south west, for example, it was only 19. These figures led to Newcastle becoming a WHO reference centre for the muscular dystrophies.

David Gardner-Medwin was born in London on November 13 1936, the eldest son of the architect Robert Gardner-Medwin. His Canadian grandmother was the sister of John McCrae (who wrote In Flanders Fields) and Thomas McCrae, who was a colleague of the great physician Sir William Osler. David was, in fact, distantly related to Osler by marriage, and Osler (of whom he kept a signed photograph in his study) was to prove a great influence in his life.

He was brought up in Canada, Barbados and Edinburgh, becoming an avid bird watcher during his time at Edinburgh Academy. His first scientific paper, written while he was at King’s College, Cambridge, was a study of bird migration across the Pyrenees. His English grandmother gave him a copy of Bewick’s Birds for his 21st birthday – the start of a serious interest in book collecting and in Bewick.

After Cambridge, Gardner-Medwin trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Osler had insisted that doctors should not practise clinical medicine without understanding pathology, so Gardner-Medwin spent a year in this discipline. Yet it was neurology that fascinated him, and his ambition was to work in Newcastle under Walton and Henry Miller. After several years doing just that, he learned that Newcastle was looking for a paediatric neurologist. He duly trained in paediatrics with Donald Court, and then went to Boston on a Harkness Fellowship. On his return he was appointed as a consultant, for 20 years single-handedly serving a population of more than three million.

He did important research and wrote a paper noting that because muscular dystrophy is only diagnosed when boys are about four, two or three more boys might be born with the condition before the eldest was identified as a sufferer. This led Gardner-Medwin to suggest that a simple screening test should be added to the routine heelprick test that all babies have. This was not implemented as it was considered that, as there was nothing that could be done therapeutically to prevent the disease developing, it was not worthwhile. Now, with real therapeutic advances on the horizon, screening is once again being considered.

Gardner-Medwin, who worked in both paediatric and adult departments, was a superb clinician with great compassion who was always available for his patients and their families. But he avoided hospital administration wherever possible and retired at 60 to pursue his interests in the natural world. Almost immediately he immersed himself in a major public inquiry into the expansion of activities at the Otterburn military range in Northumberland, representing the Natural History Society, the RSPB and others. His meticulous attention to detail brought important concessions to the benefit of wildlife. Simply by suggesting that a massive gun was moved a few yards, he helped to prevent the efflux of acid into a small stream.

His love of Bewick occupied him throughout his life and he became the scholarly mainspring of the Bewick Society, editing the Society’s Bewick Studies of 2004 and writing an excellent account of Bewick’s personal library as well as many contributions to Cherryburn Times (Cherryburn being Bewick’s home close to the Tyne). He also undertook research into Bewick’s antecedents – based on forensically examined local source material – which was recognised by Bewick scholars as a major achievement. Recently some Bewick woodblocks came on the market, and Gardner-Medwin helped to ensure that they returned to the north east and to the archives of the Natural History Society.

He was a founder member and secretary of the British Paediatric Neurology Association.

David Gardner-Medwin is survived by his wife, Alisoun, and by a son and a daughter who is also a paediatrician.

David Gardner-Medwin, born November 13 1936, died 14th June 2014


In your front-page story, once again the business community is demanding more favours and accusing Labour of a swing to the left (Labour offers olive branch to business, 30 June). Since Mrs Thatcher, the top rate of tax has halved, corporation tax has come down to several points below the much more successful German economy and our union laws are now among the weakest in western Europe. But how have the businessmen of Britain responded? Well, GDP growth per year, averaged out at the end of each decade, comes out at about the same rate as for the last 50 years, our balance of payments went massively into deficit after a few years of Mrs Thatcher and gets worse by the year, unemployment has tripled since 1980 according to the ONS and the inequality index has gone off the radar.

We’re constantly told we must attract inward investment. We’re the seventh richest country in the world – don’t we have our own investment? Is the model useless, or the businessmen, or a mixture of the two? This problem is plainly bigger than the CBI’s predictable whingeing about even more supply-side measures.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent

•  It’s sadly predictable that some leading Labour figures should be caught up in a discussion of who is blocking the road to reform, while it’s left to unions to be raising concerns about central government waste and private contractor failure (page 2), and the developing crisis in the NHS (page 4). Meanwhile, former Labour ministers attract attention to Prince Charles’s past penchant for lobbying them on his pet projects, and Ed Balls wastes time berating Cameron on EU matters (page 4). The clock is ticking towards the general election and it looks like many of the shadow cabinet have taken an early summer holiday, to avoid the crowds.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• Listening to Ed Balls declaring his intention to run the railways on non-ideological lines (Beware the dead hand, 30 June), it became clear he is not simply guilty of “parking” good ideas but that he does not have any of his own. He seems to think public ownership would mean only a return to the centralised management systems of former British Rail and that the only alternative therefore is a continuation of competitive franchising “with a level playing field”. He should read Paul Salveson’s excellent Railpolitik: Bringing Railways Back to the Community (2013), which demonstrates with expertise and imagination how various forms of social ownership could be combined. It was rightly acclaimed by Maria Eagle, formerly shadow transport secretary, as setting out “an alternative vision for the future” to be read by any serious politician; but she was moved to environment, while Ed Balls’s “dead hand” could not have been more clearly displayed.
David Parker
Meltham, West Yorkshire

• I was astounded to read your editorial (30 June), in which you refer to John Armitt, Mike Wright, Michael Lyons and Richard Leese as “having done something or other a long way from Westminster”. This quite extraordinarily dismissive manner of referring to men who, whatever your opinion as to their individual careers, have manifestly made long and honourable contributions to civic governance and public service over many years (and largely outside the Westminster bubble, which you elsewhere profess to deplore) deserves an apology and explanation.
Sue Dalley
Malvern, Worcestershire

• Rafael Behr (Comment, 2 July) says the Labour party doesn’t know what radicalism is. It does know but, like the government, it rejects radicalism. Any party which wants to keep public sector pay frozen and retain the caps on benefits is against the interests of the working class. I am voting for independence in Scotland not just to be free from Cameron and Osborne but also from Miliband and Balls.
Bob Holman

• “Labour offers olive branch to business.” That’s the first thing that greets me in the Guardian. Reading on, I find that this is gleefully greeted by a crowing director of the CBI. After years as a union activist in “business”, I spent the last few years of my working life as a lecturer in a “business school”. I never had any doubt that the vast majority of people engaged in “business” are not the exploiters but the exploited. I would hope that a Labour party led by Ralph Miliband’s son would recognise that, and be committed to ending the capitalist racket once and for all.
Alan Harrison
Walsall, West Midlands

• “Labour offers olive branch to business.” What’s new? “Business offers olive branch to labour.” Now that would have been worth the ink.
Terry McGinn
Barrowford, Lancashire


Mr al-Baghdadi has proclaimed himself Caliph of Islam. So what? The title just means “successor” to the Prophet Muhammad: not an individual anointed like a king, or one blessed by divine sanction, as Catholics regard the Pope. The exalted sense of the title of Caliph developed in the Middle Ages, with Western Christians erroneously comparing Caliph to Pope: a notion which was eventually fed back to Islam.

The real caliphate was extinguished in 1258, when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. More recent attempts to claim the title were largely political manoeuvres, designed (as in Ottoman Turkey in the 1870s) to enhance the political lustre of the ruler.

Today people should not be taken in by fanciful movie-type images of the Caliph of Baghdad. Anyone who glances at Sir Thomas Arnold’s The Caliphate (1924, reprinted 1965) will be gratifyingly disillusioned.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Dr Stephen Malnik sees the emergence of Isis as part of “a global struggle between the forces of darkness and the forces of good” (letter, 2 July). That time-dishonoured piece of dualism has dominated human thinking for centuries.

And where has it got us? War after war, always with the promise that this will be the final battle that will sort out the “bad guys” once and for all. We need to get beyond this futile belief system to discover the unity in which our hope lies.

The first step is to see ourselves first and foremost as humans: sometimes we do wonderful things, sometimes terrible things, but we are still human beings anyway.

Simenon Honoré

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Prime Minister Netanyahu was quoted following the Israeli teenager funerals thus: “They sanctify death and we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty and we sanctify mercy.”

Thus far the Israeli response has been to kill several Palestinians (including children), detain hundreds, and unleash terror upon innocent civilians. Not a whimper from Western leaders who fall over themselves to condemn the murders of the Israelis but ignore the collective punishments now being meted out to the Palestinians.

Dr Shazad Amin

Sale, Greater Manchester

Robert Fisk (2 July) implies that all of Israel was built on Arab land. How does land become “Arab”? Does land have a voice of its own? Or is it because Arabs have lived on a certain piece of land for a certain amount of time. Watch out, Spain.

I live in Jerusalem, which has been conquered time after time over a period of 3,000 years. Jews were certainly here during those last 3,000 years and in all parts of present-day Israel, the West Bank and in Gaza as well. But then Christians and Muslims have also been here, together with the Greeks and Romans. Whose land is it? Fisk calling it Arab land is as legitimate as the right wing in Israel calling it Jewish land.

Avi Lehrer


Robert Fisk (30 June) is disgusted at the use by Bnei Brith Canada of terms such as “disease”, “contamination”, and “infection”, to describe the worrying phenomenon of anti-Semitism. He bemoans the fact that these terms were used by the Nazis against Jews.

Interestingly, Fisk has used the same terminology himself, referring to his wish “not to be contaminated by the war crimes of Israel’s pilots” (Voices, 20 November 2012), and when referring to Israel’s “cancerous threat of war” against Iran (24 November 2013).

The logic is as follows:  a Jewish organisation is wrong to use terms used by the Nazis, while he, Fisk, is at liberty to use these very “Nazi” terms when discussing Israel.

Yiftah Curiel

Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel, London W8


What would Scottish independence mean?

Alex Orr (letter, 2 July) wrote in favour of Scottish independence: “The choices before us are simple: we take charge of our own affairs in the EU…”

The choice is not as simple as he seems to think. Alex Salmond hopes to keep the pound, which means interest rates and monetary policy will be set by the Bank of England. He also hopes to join the EU, but all new members must adopt the euro, which means handing control to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

Whichever of the two currencies the Scots adopt, they will certainly not be taking charge of their own affairs; they will be surrendering one of their most vital interests either to a foreign country with 10 times their population or to a bloc of countries with 100 times their population. Good luck with that!

John Naylor

Ascot, Berkshire


The “No” campaign keeps saying that a Yes vote is a vote for Alex Salmond. It isn’t. A Yes vote is a vote which will enable the people of Scotland to decide how they wish Scotland to be run. After independence there will be fresh elections, for each of us to decide which political party we want to run Scotland.

The big difference is that we will no longer be forced by Westminster to accept policies we don’t agree with. In an independent Scotland, every decision will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland; that is, by those of us who live in Scotland. It really is that simple.

Carole Inglis

Harlosh, Isle of Skye


Scientist with a social conscience

It was Nigel Calder’s astonishingly extensive knowledge of the whole range of science, combined with an active social conscience, that made him such a successful science writer (obituary, 28 June). True, he enjoyed the role of maverick from time to time, as in the global warming debate, but underneath it was a deep concern for social issues. He was very much concerned with social aspects of science, with social justice, and the general direction that the world was taking.

This enabled him to operate as the press officer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and to articulate Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” policies. Latterly he described himself as a “romantic anarchist in the tradition of Kropotkin” (a distinguished scientist in his day). In a letter to me he dated his disillusion with politics to the mid 1960s, when he saw Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” policies come to nothing, and when CND “took its eye off the ball to agitate about Vietnam”.

In the 1990s, as the editor of a radical journal, The Raven, I was unexpectedly asked to edit an edition concerned with  the mounting rejection of scientific thinking by some sections of the left. I was in some difficulty. At the suggestion of his brother Angus I asked Nigel for help and was sent a sparkling 30-page essay covering the strength and weaknesses of science, the fate of some pet ideas and science as a motor of social change. Slightly tongue-in-cheek here and there perhaps, but much of that piece remains relevant today.

John Pilgrim

Yoxford, Suffolk


Voice of the  lost Cotswolds

Writing as one of the few natives left on the reservation who remembers  the Cotswolds “before banker and politician came”, may I thank Adam Sherwin for his honest reflection on how life is for the majority here (“Is the party over in Chipping Norton?” 28 June).

Few of us see any benefits from the financial parasites, politicos and wheeler-dealers colonising our homelands. As for seeing any of the Chippy Set mixing with us peasants, the only “celebrity” I have ever seen in Chipping Norton was Jeremy Clarkson, and sadly I was not quick enough to tell him how much I appreciated his social commentaries  and wit. Someone seeing Sam Cam shopping in Sainsbury’s? It must have been either something in the water or a decoy.

Marc Buffery

Upper Rissington, Gloucestershire

Strange noises at Wimbledon

Listening to BBC television commentators struggling to describe the noise made by Maria Sharapova as she plays (Is it a grunt? Is it a scream?), I recognised the sound as the bark of a fox. For my amusement, I entertain the illusion that the fox I hear in the fields of Norfolk is actually Maria herself; hunting for lost form, perhaps.

Robin Slatter

Hickling, Norfolk


Scholarly language?

Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost of University College London, certainly knows all the vice-cancellarial jargon (Letters, 1 July):  four occurrences of the word “deliver(s)”, two of “world-class”, and the use of “grow” as a transitive verb to mean “develop” or “enlarge”.  But I wonder if he has any idea what university education is for.

Nick Chadwick


The World Cup explained

Like Richard Pring (letter, 2 July) I too was puzzled by the rationale of the World Cup until a friend pointed out that “football is not a sport, it is a business”.

Angela Elliott

Hundleby,  Lincolnshire


Sir, That one extra case which Dr Mark Porter claims could turn his practice from excellent to worst performance (“The NHS has a problem with cancer survival rates but naming and shaming GPs won’t help”, July 1) could have been my daughter’s.

Had her general practitioner been more aware of the “suspicious symptoms” which she presented to him four or five times and had she been referred for testing, she might have had a chance of survival.

Had the out-of-hours hospital doctor had more imagination than to say “I can feel a lump, you’re constipated”, her chances might have been greater.

The statistics of which Dr Porter is so wary represent lives, and surely a life saved is worth many unnecessary tests.

GPs should be accountable, and the public should be aware of how well they are performing. Earlier diagnosis, using the tools available over the weekend and for longer weekday hours, would in the long run avoid costly last-ditch attempts at care. The “unnecessary tests” reassure far more effectively and quickly than repeated visits to a GP.

The survival rate for pancreatic cancer, from which my daughter died, has hardly changed for 40 years, with only 4 per cent of the 8,000 people diagnosed each year surviving more than five years.

When are things going to change? We do not need the complacency of GPs worried about statistics, but concern by GPs to save and protect the lives in their care.

Celia Goodman


Sir, Mark Porter’s defence of GPs in the face of yet another secretary of state for health who seeks to blame others for “mistakes” and shortcomings without taking responsibility, will be applauded by his peers but misses the point.

In the case of pancreatic cancer — which suffers from almost universally late diagnosis, few treatment options and has an exceptionally high mortality rate — GPs tell us they need help understanding the disease.

In this sense, a number of groups are at fault. The GPs for not coming forward and seeking a better understanding, secondary-care surgical and medical oncologists for not making more opportunities available for GPs to learn, the NHS bureaucracy for not being able to think outside the box, and politicians for, well, getting in the way.

Although pancreatic cancer in the UK is only the tenth most common cancer it is the fifth (soon to be the fourth) biggest killer. The average survival time post diagnosis is six months, and fewer than 4 per cent of those diagnosed survive for five years, and those two statistics have hardly changed in 40 years, unlike the (fantastic) improvements in the statistics for breast cancer, leukaemia and some other

Pancreatic cancer is a prime example of where GPs need help, not shaming, but health professionals continue to stay in their bunkers.

For pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones the issue is rarely about any meaningful period of survival, but earlier diagnosis will give families more time together in a situation where days and weeks are like gold dust.

More leadership is required.

Gerald Coteman

The Elizabeth Coteman Fund (Pancreatic Cancer Support & Research), Cambridge

There is much important and detailed work to be done before any referendum on the UK’s EU membership

Sir, Any referendum about UK membership of the EU must be preceded by a rational discussion of what will need to be negotiated between the UK and the EU in the event of a vote to secede.

Many of the matters for negotiation will be technical. For example, what is the UK’s liability to contribute to EU employees’ pensions (a number of formulae are possible)? What would be the status of “UK fisheries” (would non-British licensed vessels be excluded)? More importantly, what about UK suppliers’ access to the EU market? There would need to be controls of factors such as state aid otherwise EU producers might face unfair competition from unduly state-aided UK producers.

The critical question is what concessions would be exacted from the UK to achieve a level playing field?

For example, the UK, even if no longer a member of the EU, might have to comply with EU regulations if British producers were not to be lumped with producers in “third countries” generally. Or would it be better to bite that bullet rather than to remain bound by the excessive regulation that had, hypothetically, prompted UK exit. Nor would the UK be able to influence the drafting of future regulations from within the EU.

The sooner this preparation work in advance of a referendum on EU membership is set in hand, the better.

Sir Jeremy Lever

All Souls College, Oxford

Which historical event inspired the composition of the American national anthem?

Sir, Of the programme O Say Can You See about the US national anthem you say (radio preview, June 28) it was written about “a bungled British attempt on the White House”. I believe that it was actually written about the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The British attempt on the White House in the same war was far from bungled.

Nigel Jones


Opinions differ on who may be described as the first truly Asian member of the Westminster parliament

Sir, David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre (1808-51) was not the “first Asian MP” (June 30). He had German, Scottish and Indian blood and an English great-grandfather. The first Indian MP was Dadabhai Naoroji elected in 1892 for Finsbury Central.

Dr Kusoom Vadgama

Michael Blacker

Indo-British Heritage Trust

Should housebuilding be allowed on greenbelt land, or should developers use up brownfield sites first?

Sir, Apropos the leading architects’ request to build on the green belt (report, July 2), housebuilding on brownfield sites is difficult, time consuming and costly, and is not all about profit.

It is hard to justify the contention of Paul Miner, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, that building in the green belt is unnecessary when the built environment is only about 11 per cent of the whole.

Rather than upholding the green belt more strongly as he suggests, which is creating economic strife and strangling first-time buyers’ ability to set up home, consideration should be given to a measured release of green-belt land.

Robert Wolton

Bransgore, Dorset


SIR – It is hard to meet anyone who knows why Jean-Claude Juncker has got the European Union’s “top job”.

The unelected European Commission has a monopoly on proposing all EU law, which it does in secret. Its proposals go for still-secret negotiation in the Council of Permanent Representatives, composed of more bureaucrats from member states, and then for rubber-stamping to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

Mr Juncker’s Commission can also issue “regulations” that are automatically binding in all EU countries. It is thus the originator of all EU law, subject only to that engine of “ever closer union”, the Court of Justice at Luxembourg. National parliaments are irrelevant in the whole of this process. Of course: they caused all those nasty wars.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (Ukip)
London SW1

SIR – As Ukip’s success in the European elections showed, Mr Juncker’s federalist agenda is unacceptable to the British electorate.

Yet David Cameron is now saying that “Britain’s drive for European reform remains on track”. It is high time he realised that there is no more appetite for such posturing. His most honourable course of action would be to call an in/out referendum without delay, and certainly before the next general election.

Max Ingram
Cénac-et-Saint-Julien, Aquitaine, France

SIR – Listening to Mr Cameron reminds me of a proverb recorded by Jonathan Swift: “Promises and pie-crusts are made to be broken.”

Keith Moore
Yoxford, Suffolk

Productivity in the pub

SIR – Employers are not making adequate provision for their ever-more-flexible workforce (report, June 30), who are spending hours each week “working” in pubs and coffee shops.

The local coffee shop might provide an occasional alternative for home workers, but it is ludicrous to think that such environments are conducive to being productive or professional. Also, employers are still responsible for the health and safety of their staff, wherever they are.

We are being approached by a variety of partners – from motorway service area operators to retailers and banks – to help them set up a new breed of drop-in work hub that offers flexible workers a proper alternative to noisy cafés.

John Spencer
UK CEO, Regus
London W2

Postless office

SIR – I arrived at Oakham post office to send my letters last week to discover that it doesn’t have a post box (the nearest is 100 yards down the road).

Can the Post Office really have started to reduce costs by removing post from its business plan?

Katy Byron
Braunston, Rutland

Alight, going out

SIR – Recently, when our train was held up at Clapham Junction, the guard advised us to “detrain” (Letters, June 30). When were railway passengers last invited to “alight”?

Patricia Nice
Tilford, Surrey

SIR – It is futile to rubbish the American habit of verbing everything.

Bob Dick
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Risks of online banking

SIR – I feel that Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has oversimplified the Government’s plans to place key public services online.

Many of us are sceptical about conducting our banking and financial transactions online, and it is no wonder: if hackers can hack into 10 Downing Street and the US Capitol, what chance do ordinary members of the public have in protecting their own computers?

My own computer was hacked into recently. Had I been using it for internet banking and other such transactions I dread to think how much it would have cost me. This incident alone has convinced me that it would be foolhardy for me to bank online or accept any financial services offered by the Government until security protection can be guaranteed.

Beryl Ferrers-Guy
Southwick, West Sussex

English without tears

SIR – You report that Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author, has encouraged teachers to cry when reading emotional stories to their young pupils. This seems a poor idea.

When at school, children want security. They want to know that their teachers are in control of their feelings, not indulging them. A teacher who appears to be giving way to their emotions disturbs very young children. It also, I am afraid to say, invites older ones to manipulate situations in order to make their teachers cry.

I have found that young people, unless very damaged, do not need to be told how to feel.

Jane Gamble
Halifax, West Yorkshire

Sober contemplation

SIR – I have just purchased a six-pack of Beck’s Blue non-alcoholic beer. The beer comes with a warning label: “Please enjoy Beck’s Blue responsibly”.

Can anyone explain how it is possible to drink non-alcoholic beer irresponsibly?

Steve Frampton
Waterlooville, Hampshire

Having a blast

SIR – Never mind scrapping Boris Johnson’s water cannons (Letters, July 1): I’d ask the mayoral candidates if I could play with one.

Nigel Griffiths
London NW4

Only a poor sport would pump his fist in tennis

SIR – It seems a pity that some Wimbledon players feel the need to celebrate almost every point with a distinctly aggressive clenched-fist gesture (Letters, July 1).

In the Tsonga/Djokovic match on Monday I was disappointed to see Djokovic claiming such victories, even when the point was won on an unforced error. Tsonga, however, was modest throughout.

Tony Wardle
Combe Down, Somerset

SIR – One of the most annoying aspects of Wimbledon is the crowd’s slow handclap each time a review is called to see whether the ball was in or out. What is the point?

John Gray
Tarporley, Cheshire

SIR – BBC One’s lunchtime weather forecast last Monday stated that there was a small chance of showers at Wimbledon that afternoon but any disruption to play would be minimal. Meanwhile, my wife was watching the tennis on BBC Two as the courts were being covered against torrential rain.

Rick Emerson
Bagshot, Surrey

SIR – Centre Court spectators would do well to heed Polonius’s advice in Hamlet.

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,/But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy:/For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Alan Peacock-Johns
London SW14

SIR – I wonder how many parents of the children in the crowds at Wimbledon will be fined for their failure to attend school during term time. Andy Murray’s cousins will be there all week. Or are the rules applied differently in Scottish schools?

Patricia Abbott
Wattisfield, Suffolk

No longer a close fit: French advertisement for a slimming treatment, c. 1895  Photo: Bridgeman Images

6:59AM BST 02 Jul 2014

Comments102 Comments

SIR – I wonder if the fact that many people do not recognise when they are overweight is due, in part, to the clothes we wear.

In the years before Lycra and Spandex were used in just about every fabric, clothes had to be tailored to fit. It became very apparent when a person put on weight because their clothes felt restrictive. Many people did not have the money to buy a larger size and they did not have the disposable attitude towards clothing that prevails today.

A friend of mine, who has for many years worn casual stretchy clothes thinking she was a size 12, was horrified upon trying on a formal outfit for a wedding to discover that in fact she was nearer a size 20.

With two thirds of the population classed as overweight, people have fewer and fewer opportunities to make visual comparisons with their own shape. No wonder so many people are in denial about their size.

Susan Walker
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – Tony Narula (Letters, June 10) draws attention to the early retirement of doctors from the NHS. I also retired early, aged 59, as did the majority of my GP contemporaries in this part of Lancashire.

Nobody from any NHS body asked me why and I suspect the same to be true of my colleagues. I believe that the loss of considerable numbers of experienced doctors has been brought about by political meddling, endless reorganisation and attempts to reinvent the wheel. Experience counts for so much as a GP – far more than any protocol or guideline.

Dr Iain M Hall
Whittle-le-Woods, Lancashire

SIR – I recently received an email with a 39-page attachment for me to complete demanding my “urgent action” so that I can be reapproved to continue as a GP trainer, a job that I have been doing for several years. It will take me the best part of a day to assemble the evidence requested, which includes, among other things, a copy of my equal opportunities training course certificate as well as our anti-bullying policy. More bureaucracy, more paperwork, less time spent training GPs and less time with patients.

If intelligent, independent-minded professionals are continually exposed to this meaningless form-filling, the result is cynicism and demotivation. I know of at least one experienced GP trainer who will cease training because of this.

Dr Jackie Lodge
Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire

SIR – You describe how the acute shortage of GPs affects A&E departments and patients. In spite of this shortage, the Government continues with its policy of moving treatment from hospitals into the community. This will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, should step in and stop the NHS moving treatment out of hospitals, where it works reasonably well, before the system collapses completely. His priority should be to fix the GP problem before adding to their workload.

Tony Ellis
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – Dr Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing (Letters, June 30) argues for the NHS to be “free at the point of use”. But would not charging for the many missed appointments be consistent with this principle? Charging at the point of non-use would be a deterrent against the wasting of scarce resources.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – The NHS’s out-of-hours service could be improved if more funding was devoted to it. General practice accounts for 8.4 per cent of the NHS budget while providing 90 per cent of all patient contact: it is as cheap as chips.

Tim Crouch
Eastcombe, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The deaths of three Israeli teenagers (murders we condemn) received front-page coverage in your paper (July 1st). Such human suffering and loss of life is always deplorable and deserves front-page coverage.

What we fail to understand is why the regular abductions and murders of young Palestinians by the Israeli army are denied the same attention.

Many questions come to mind as we read the article by Mark Weiss. His account gives the impression that these events took place in a sovereign territory and not in an occupied territory under full Israeli army control.

Moreover, and throughout his article, Mr Weiss omits to mention the words “occupied” and “settlers”, nor does he make reference to the two weeks of harsh collective punishment imposed on the entire Palestinian population as the Israeli army searched for the three teenagers. In those two weeks, nine Palestinians were killed, two died of heart attack when the army raided their houses, tens were injured, many were orphaned, 640 were arrested, and families saw their homes demolished by the Israeli army.

Surely a prestigious newspaper such as The Irish Times should endeavour to be as impartial and objective as possible. This could be achieved by having journalists actually venture into the occupied West Bank, thus relaying the two sides of the story and its consequences for people on both sides of the Separation Wall (built by Israel within the occupied West Bank and declared illegal by the International Court of Justice exactly 10 years ago).

Security and peace cannot be achieved by force and violence. It is only by ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and implementing a two-state solution that we will have a fair chance for peace.

We hope that the subsequent abduction and murder, this morning, by Israeli settlers of Mohammad Hussein Abukhdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Jerusalem whom they tortured before burning his body, will receive the same attention. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of the

State of Palestine

to Ireland,

Mount Merrion Avenue,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It was with some surprise, and not a little disbelief, that I read in your editorial (“A cycle of violence”, July 2nd) “the Israeli government’s narrative on Hamas as irredentist, anti-Jewish terrorists”.

Alas, it is not the Israeli government’s narrative; Hamas is internationally recognised as a terrorist organisation, including by the European Union, of which Ireland is a member. Even Hamas itself would freely admit to being Islamist in its ideology, motivated by extreme anti-Semitism, devoted to violence so as to achieve its aims, and aspiring to annihilate the state of Israel.

Your editorial implies that there is some mysterious means of bringing Hamas in from the cold, into joining the peace process, and here again one detects the Northern Ireland analogy of “you must talk to your enemies”.

Alas, the model is inapplicable. Hamas is not a secular, rational actor as was the republican movement in the Northern Ireland conflict; it is a religious militant cult with a radical agenda, and its leadership, even recently, constantly reiterates war to the death against Israel and Jews everywhere. You cannot talk to people who want to kill you and try to do so on a daily basis.

Hamas eschews the central theme of the Northern Ireland peace process – parity of esteem – because it denies the right of Jews to even exist.

You also refer to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “hawkish” in his approach to the Palestinian question. Has one already forgotten that it was under Mr Netanyahu that Israel released from jail over a thousand terrorists in recent years, so as to secure the release of Gilad Shalit and as a goodwill gesture in the most recent peace initiative?

Since 2009 Mr Netanyahu has been speaking about two states for two peoples living in peace with each other. When have you ever heard President Abbas speaking about peace between Israel and the future Palestinian state? I think Mr Abbas is now beginning to realise what a dreadful mistake he made in joining hands with Hamas, however tentatively.

When Mr Abbas realises that peace with Israel is not a zero-sum game and that the only way to achieve peace is by dialogue rather than by grandstanding at the UN and constantly criticising Israel, maybe there will be grounds for optimism. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of Israel,

Pembroke Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – A report on how to advance pluralism in Irish education has said that “Crucifixes in schools should be joined by other religious artefacts” as a way of “celebrating diversity” (“Call for school crucifixes to be joined by artefacts from other religions”, July 2nd). Is now not a good time to just remove religious iconography from schools? That way everyone is included because nobody is left out. Specific religious indoctrination belongs at home and in churches, not in schools.

Apart from that, where does the list of “other artefacts” end? The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarians, worship His Noodliness. Can they now rightfully expect to see their artefact, the colander, to appear on school walls too? – Yours, etc,


Coppinger Glade,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The proposal to include other religious symbols in schools is a fudge. While there is nothing wrong with learning about other religions and cultures, tokenism is not the solution. There should no be religious symbols in schools, other than those that individuals choose to wear themselves.

The Catholic Church just cannot let go of the symbolic power of a crucifix in every school, or indeed every classroom. Although, during my time at St Kevin’s CBS (1980s) in Ballygall Road, the statue of Mary did little to impress church values on me. The class used to play games with it, throwing the duster at it to knock if off its perch and then running to catch it before it hit the ground. Not exactly what the Brothers had in mind.

The Catholic Church should just remove its symbols from our schools and not give students extra symbols for target practice. – Yours, etc,


Calle 12,



Sir, – The 40 pages of the progress report on the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector missed a key point. Jesus of Nazareth left his followers a sign for all to “know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35) and it wasn’t an artefact. It was that they “love one another”. – Yours, etc,


National Team Leader,


Clarinda Park North,

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fr Joe McVeigh, in his letter on women priests (July 2nd), gives the same opinion, in almost exactly the same words, that brought the heavy hand of the Vatican down on me.

Joe can expect a letter from Cardinal Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, any day now.

Except, of course, it won’t come directly to him and there will be no signature! – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – I have noticed in recent days that the issue of women priests in the Catholic Church has returned to this page.

The present position espoused by church authorities arose out of a mixture of fundamentalist interpretations of scripture, structures of society that were based on the superiority of the male, and attitudes that sexual needs were signs of human weakness. These positions are no longer acceptable to society and adherence to them amounts to blatant discrimination rather than theological insight.

However, I also believe that the use of scripture to oppose the present position regarding both women priests and married priests is an exercise in futility because the church authorities are not for changing and all the arguments in the world will not change that.

I should like to propose that insofar as church authorities continue to exclude women and married persons from the priesthood, they owe it to us to explain what their plans are for when they run short of priests to serve us.

Will our children who wish to have their marriages take place within the context of Mass be obliged, as in some countries, to marry in communal marital ceremonies at times allocated to suit the priests’ availability?

Do the church authorities plan that funerals will no longer be blessed during Mass but coffins brought to church will be given a simple blessing by a lay person or deacon appointed to do so?

I choose these two examples because I believe that the majority of Catholics in Ireland still take it for granted their marriages and funerals will take place within the context of Mass.

Let the bishops direct the priests to explain what they have planned for the faithful when they run short of unmarried male priests. Are Pope Francis and the bishops thinking ahead or are they just saying “so be it” to whatever happens? – Yours, etc,


Orchardville Gardens,


Sir, – It has been a Government staple during this administration to repeat the words “reform” and “change” as if their mere repetition imbues them with some concrete meaning that precludes further discussion and justification.

Few Cabinet members embraced this tactic as much as Ruairí Quinn did during his stewardship of the Department of Education, when he persistently sought to stymie meaningful and specific debate by resorting to his specious mantra about others “fearing change”.

In light of that recurring theme in his utterances, the irony of the Minister’s decision to announce his own departure rather than accept the outcome of the imminent changes in Cabinet will not be lost on many.

It brings to mind the old Woody Allen quip, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. – Yours, etc,


Springlawn Close,


Dublin 15 .

Sir, – I note that the Revenue Commissioners have perfected the collection of the local property tax by attaching the salaries and wages of defaulters (“Wage deductions kick in for property tax defaulters”, July 2nd).

Revenue also has powers of attachment of bank accounts and the ability to send warrants to the sheriff to seize goods of defaulters without the necessity of a judgment.

According to the Irish Penal Reform Trust in 2012, there were 8,304 committals for non-payment of fines, including 242 imprisonments for non-payment of fines imposed for not having a TV licence. The average cost in 2012 of imprisonment for each prisoner was €182 per day.

If the collection of fines were delegated to the Revenue these expensive and ineffective incarcerations would significantly decrease. – Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,

Sir, – The Irish Times is to be thanked for its extensive, detailed and sensitive coverage of the death of Dermot Healy (Patsy McGarry and Eileen Battersby, July 1st).

He was an original and daring writer whose work deserves to be more widely known.

I first met Dermot when I was associate director of the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo in the late 1980s.

At some stage in the second week of the summer school, Dermot would appear, declare “you and I need to go for a walk” and lead me away into the magnificent Sligo landscape, where we would walk and talk for hours, before returning me restored to the school.

On one such foray, he brought me to the outermost edge of the Atlantic Ocean to show me the house he had just bought, the outpost where the memoir, novels and poems of the past 25 years would be written.

His death is a great loss. I will console myself this summer by going for a long walk and rereading the great works Dermot has left us. – Yours, etc,


School of English,

Drama and Film,

University College Dublin,


Sir, – Car-owners currently provide a substantial revenue source to the Government, and public transport or cycling are not viable options for many. Retailers and other businesses in the city centre of Dublin will inevitably lose revenue as a result of the move to reduce traffic on the North Quays to one lane to make room for two cycle lanes.

It may be admirable to pursue policies that improve air quality and the environment, but perhaps such policies should be postponed until our retail sector and the economy in general has recovered sufficiently from the recession. The cost of the road works and signage that the planned move would entail could surely be better spent, when it is considered that our health service is in crisis and other essential services have been cut. – Yours, etc,


Stonepark Abbey,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to Fintan O’Toole’s “Fr Michael Cleary story not up for revisionism” (Opinion & Analysis, July 1st), as a young student I had the opportunity to hear Fr Cleary preach on a number of occasions. He was funny, but also inspirational both in terms of having a real sense of social justice, particularly for the less well off, and a passion for being a priest.

It is a shame that unlike others who left the priesthood because of the confines of celibacy, Fr Cleary lived a double life, no doubt because of his love of ministering as a priest. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Gerry Adams bemoans the fact that yesterday was Sinn Féin’s first official opportunity since the 2010 election to raise with the British prime minister the party’s concerns about the lack of recent progress in the peace process (“Adams says lack of formal meeting with Cameron ‘deplorable’”, July 2nd).

However, if Sinn Féin chose to provide proper democratic representation for all its constituents in Northern Ireland, by taking its seats in Westminster, the party would have ample opportunity, on a weekly basis, to make its concerns known directly to David Cameron. – Yours, etc,


Haddington Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I suspect a serious case of spellcheck malfunction during the editing of the report on the hurling championship (“Guiney and Wexford happy to take on the best”, July 2nd). We met Wexford’s Liam Dune and Jack Guinea, Kilkenny’s Ceiling Buckley, Galway’s Early Tannin, Dublin’s Alan Microbe and Clare’s Dodge Collins.

Keep it going! This is more fun than the real thing! Looking forward to Heavy Shovellin, Anthony Gnash, et al. – Yours, etc,


Stradbally North,


Co Galway.

Sir, – If Eamon Gilmore were to become the next European commissioner from Ireland, presumably it would be Brussels’ way instead of Frankfurt’s way? – Yours, etc,




Dublin 14.

Sir, – If Phil Hogan and Eamon Gilmore both want to be European commissioner, why not appoint the two of them and let them share the job? – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Vincent Devlin (July 2nd) is concerned that Minister of Health James Reilly’s suggested price of €20 for 20 cigarettes will lead to an exodus to Northern Ireland for supplies and a drop in tax revenue.

What he forgets is the tax on the fuel used in getting there. Not a loss, just a different source of revenue.

A better way would be to make cigarettes only available in packs of 100, as a €50 or €100 note for a pack would concentrate the minds of even the most diehard of smokers. – Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

After prolonged deliberation, the thrust of the interim recommendations from the Oireachtas Justice Committee on garda oversight seem absurd.

They suggest inter alia that the Garda Commissioner should be accountable to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission; that appointments to and membership of the proposed Garda Siochana Authority be the exclusive responsibility of the Public Appointments Service, without government or ministerial involvement, and that all senior roles in An Garda Siochana should be the responsibility of the proposed authority.

They further suggest that this authority could adequately discharge a duty of public accountability and transparency through an annual report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The ancient Latin expression ‘quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ means ‘who guards the guards themselves’. This ought to mean in a sovereign democratic republic that citizens are thoroughly safeguarded against abuse from those placed in positions of power or trust.

The moral authority of a Garda Ombudsman rests in the integrity of that office based on its independence. How could integrity and independence be sustained if the Garda Commissioner were to report to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman, without the disgusting charge being levied loudly that the guards are investigating complaints against themselves?

The suggestion that the Public Appointments Service become responsible for recruiting and appointing the membership of a Garda Authority is nonsense.

If the Oireachtas Justice Committee considers that public accountability of this new quango could be achieved through the medium of an annual report delivered many months after a year-end to the Houses of the Oireachtas, what will they propose next? An account of Ladies’ Day at the Galway Races delivered the following Easter?

The commissioner should be appointed by the President, accountable to the public and report to the Justice Minister.

Finally, if it is the avowed intention of minister Fitzgerald to advertise the position of Garda Commissioner internationally, would she consider it appropriate to invite applications only from Irish citizens, for the sake of recognising that this sovereign independent nation does have unique security considerations and it is not a minor backwater of some mightier jurisdiction?





The restatement of the obvious is the first duty of an intelligent person. This quote by Orwell is key in the battle to defend marriage, as the Government has announced plans to redefine it.

This is the same Government whose own Justice Minster resigned, so perhaps it is hardly the best group to alter one of the core concepts of society.

No doubt instead a rainbow range of groups will seek to rely on hand-waving and emotive cliches: failing that, given the form displayed by their fellow travellers in other countries, they will seek to demonise their opponents by an avalanche of accusations of phobic comments as well as seeking to deny employment to anyone openly defending traditional marriage, as has happened in the United States.

However, this is now an opportunity for the people of Ireland to roll back the tirade of progressive and re-emphasise support for the family, the teleological crux marriage, which has been declining across all Europe.

Hence a vote against this government proposal will be a vote to send a message to support actual marriage.





In response to Brendan Lynch’s letter (Letters, June 28), which claims that Uber taxis are ‘not regulated’, I would like to point out that, to the contrary, we operate legally in Ireland under a Dispatch Licence. Uber abides fully by all regulations in all of the markets in which it operates, and has done since its launch. Meanwhile, the amazing reception we have had from Dubliners shows the great local support for the service across the city.





Unfortunately, various elements on both sides of the public discourse on next spring’s same sex marriage referendum have turned from arguing the merits of amending the Constitution yet again to discussing what exactly they should call it to have the best, most propagandising effect on voters.

From the potentially offensive ‘Gay Marriage’ (and worse) on one side, to the complete misnomers of ‘Marriage Equality’ and just ‘Marriage’ on the other, we can see the debate taking a turn for the worst before our eyes.

Let’s just call it what it is: a referendum on whether or not to allow people of the same sex to marry, or the same sex marriage referendum.

In describing it like that, I don’t think I can be accused of inaccuracy, offensiveness or selective wording.





I refer to a recent decision by the Environment Minister to cease providing funding for the National Advocacy Service for Deaf people under the aegis of the Irish Deaf Society. The decision is short-sighted and defies logic. Indeed, as one of the original creators of this service, I am baffled and horrified.

The decision was apparently based on a criteria that obliged voluntary organisations to compete with each other for vital funding, rendering any uniqueness that a service may have irrelevant.

This particular service is run by peer advocates and is a space where deaf people can receive various services through their first language – Irish Sign Language.

The decision will result in a greater sense of helplessness and dependence upon the State among deaf people, despite the Government professing that this is something it wishes to decrease. In addition, last January, the Government rejected the Irish Sign Language Bill that came before Seanad Eireann. Minister for State with responsibility for Disability, Kathleen Lynch, delivered a statement on behalf of the Government explaining that it could not support the bill as “we need to put the service in place before we put the legislation in place”.

Given this most recent decision, the statement seems hollow and an empty promise to many of us in the Deaf community. I hope that the minister will heed this appeal and act in a favourable manner.





Eamon Delaney’s article (Irish Independent, July 1) gets to the core of everything that is wrong with modern Ireland.

We have created a society where being honest and working hard is punished – in order to pay for those who are overpaid and unaccountable, or those who choose not to work.

Meantime, who should I, as a working taxpayer, vote for? None of the big three parties cares about us, and SF will never get my vote.





President Higgins, in the course of a recent speech, remarked that “you’ll know if you’re notable”. So take note folks, some of us are clearly more equal (sorry, notable) than others.



Irish Independent


July 2, 2014

2July2014 Ears

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I go to the clinic to have my ears syringed

ScrabbleMary winsand gets over 400. well done Mary,perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Christian Führer – obituary

Christian Führer was an East German pastor whose weekly ‘prayers for peace’ blossomed into huge demonstrations that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall

Christian Fuehrer standing in front of St Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany

Christian Fuehrer standing in front of St Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany  Photo: AP

6:33PM BST 01 Jul 2014


Christian Führer, who has died aged 71, was pastor of the St Nicholas Church in Leipzig which, in 1989, became the focus of the demonstrations that brought down the communist regime in East Germany (GDR).

Führer became the pastor at the city’s 16th-century Lutheran church in 1980 at the height of the Cold War. In the GDR, although atheism was the official ideology, churches were spied upon but allowed to stay open, providing a modicum of “free space” where people could discuss things they could not discuss in public.

In 1982 Führer began holding weekly prayers for peace on Monday evenings, which were tolerated by the authorities because, at a time of intense controversy in western Europe over the deployment of US Pershing missiles, it was thought to be helpful for church-based peace groups to make connections with their counterparts in the west. Few came at first, but attendance grew as the Soviet Union began the process of reform under Mikhail Gorbachev.

In February 1988, however, Führer invited 50 people who were part of a movement that advocated the right to leave East Germany to a discussion at the church. In the event about 600 turned up and many began attending his regular prayer sessions. Over the following year the prayers and the open-air vigils that followed attracted more and more people.

In May 1989 police attempted to cut off the church by barricading the surrounding streets, an effort which backfired when even more people turned up. As word spread, people in other East German cities began repeating the Leipzig demonstrations, meeting at city squares on Monday evenings.

Pastor Christian Fuehrer as he speaks a prayer for peace in the Nikolai Church in Leipzig

On October 7, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, St Nicholas was closed, but some 4,000 people gathered outside and tried to march on the city’s ring road. The demonstration was broken up violently by police using batons, water cannon and dogs. There were many injuries and arrests.

In preparation for the weekly vigil scheduled to take place two days later, police warned that protests would be put down “with whatever means necessary”. In anticipation of violence, paratroopers were flown in and hospitals cleared for an expected influx of patients, specifically ones with gunshot wounds.

On the evening of October 9, what began as a few hundred gatherers at the church swelled to more than 70,000 in the streets outside. At the urging of Führer and other speakers, however, the protest remained nonviolent and the crowd, clutching candles and flowers, marched through the city in a peaceful demonstration, chanting the slogan Wir sind das Volk! (“We are the people!”) as armed soldiers looked on.

Although there were some arrests, without precise orders from East Berlin and surprised by the size of the demonstration, local police and political leaders shied away from causing a massacre. “We were ready for anything, except for candles and prayer,” an East German official was quoted as saying.

The following week, 120,000 people turned up for the vigil and the week after that, 320,000. On November 9 the Berlin Wall tumbled down.

Rally in Leipzig in 1989

“What I saw that evening still gives me the shivers today,” Führer said in an interview in 2009. “And if anything deserves the word ‘miracle’ at all, then this was a miracle of Biblical proportions. We succeeded in bringing about a revolution which achieved Germany’s unity… It was a peaceful revolution after so much violence and so many wars that we, the Germans, so often started. I will never forget that day.”

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Christian Führer was born in Leipzig on March 5 1943 and, from a young age, knew he wanted to follow his father into the ministry. He studied Theology at what was then Karl Marx University (now the University of Leipzig), working during his vacations in a car factory, as a telegram delivery boy and as a waiter on a train.

He worked as Pastor in Lastau and Colditz until his appointment to St Nicholas in 1980.

After German reunification, Führer threw his energies into helping to mitigate the worst effects of the economic crisis that followed the conversion of the Ostmark to the Deutschmark at a rate that forced many old East German industries to the wall. He travelled to the former West Germany to learn how churches could help the unemployed, and in 1991 started the St Nicholas Church’s initiative for the jobless, helping people to find work, even just volunteer work, dealing with debt and advising on benefits.

Like many other former East Germans he regretted some of what unification had brought: “People here feel a real schizophrenia,” he explained in 1994. “No one wants to go back to the days of dictatorship, but at the same time we’re not really happy with the new system… Even those who have jobs and have cars and take nice vacations are worried about what is happening to our society. Brutal competition and the lust for money are destroying our sense of community. Almost everyone feels a level of fear or depression or insecurity.”

In 2004 he again organised Monday demonstrations against the cuts in welfare benefits introduced under German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The following year he shared the Augsburg Peace Prize with the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He stood down as pastor of St Nicholas in 2008.

With the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaching, last week Führer was awarded Germany’s National Prize. Prevented by illness from appearing in person, his daughter accepted on his behalf.

Christian Führer’s wife Monika died last year. He is survived by their four children.

Christian Führer, born March 5 1943, died June 30 2014


The British Psychological Society’s ethics committee and research ethics reference group have serious misgivings about the recent “experiment” by Facebook (Report, 29 June). Facebook sought to modify peoples’ emotional states by selectively withholding postings with emotional content. This appears to contravene all four principles of research ethics as set out in the Society’s code of human research ethics and a recent set of principles agreed by most British learned societies involved in social science research.

It infringed the autonomy and dignity of individuals by interfering with the personal decision-making as to the posts that people wished to make to their chosen groups and, most importantly, by failing to gain valid informed consent from the participants. The scientific value of this study would seem to be low, since there is already a strong body of literature which confirms emotional contagion as a social process. The intervention was socially irresponsible, in that it clandestinely meddled in people’s social lives with consequences that are very likely to have had significant negative effects on individuals and groups.

There has undoubtedly been some degree of harm caused, with many individuals affected by increased levels of negative emotion, with consequent potential economic costs, increase in possible mental health problems and burden on health services. The so-called “positive” manipulation is also potentially harmful. The BPS promotes the highest level of ethics and standards in both research and practice in its guidelines for researchers, teachers and practitioners. The Society’s Ethics Guidelines for Internet Mediated Research is available online.
Professor Kate Bullen Chair, ethics committee, Professor John Oates Chair, research ethics reference group
British Psychological Society

Drastic changes: it is uneconomic for lawyers to take on new staff. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

In your article Law graduates hit by stiff competition, legal aid cuts and falling crime, (29 June) you report that an excess of university law courses has contributed to a glut of graduates and paralegals. There is no doubt that inadequate information is being provided to parents and students of budding law graduates. We estimate that up to 3,000 people a year are emerging from those courses with no immediate prospect of a training contract with a law firm. Many students do not understand the risks they face in trying to become a trainee solicitor. After a first degree, students are spending £10,000 on postgraduate law courses and we believe some people who are being sold these courses have no reasonable prospects of being hired to become a solicitor.

However, a focus on the oversupply of graduates disguises the chilling attack on access to justice in England and Wales resulting from the Jackson reforms and government cuts to legal aid. These drastic changes make it uneconomic for lawyers to take on new staff. It is becoming apparent in courts around the country that without lawyers to resolve disputes less contentiously, more parties end up fighting in court, to their own detriment and that of third parties, such as children. Far from stirring up unnecessary litigation between the parties, as was frequently falsely alleged as a justification for legal aid cuts, lawyers are very effective at steering people away from courts and saving the taxpayer money.
Nicholas Fluck
President, Law Society

• The police, under pressure from the Law Society, will launch a criminal investigation of Wonga as it seems offences under the Solicitors Act may have been committed over fake legal letters (Report, 27 June). To the outrage of its members, the Church of England continues to hold Wonga shares after its ethical investment advisory group classed them as a “moral” investment. The advisory group chairman, James Featherby, claimed the row “highlighted misconceptions about ethical investment” – which is an understatement of truly sublime dimensions. The 18th-century Quakers started ethical investing by prohibiting investment in “any business which harms our neighbours” – that surely includes lenders charging 4,000% interest.
Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

No doubting that Aditya Chakraborrty hits the soft underbelly of clothing retailers with the “Swansea stitcher” (Why we need a Truth on the Clothes Label Act,1 July). What would also be useful would be to stop clothing manufacturers using the term “Designed in UK” printed four and five times larger than the “made in” part of the label. This technique is also used widely in the household goods area along with a union flag. Most people want to know where a product is made rather where it was designed. I confess to having a nice winter warmer saying “Knitted in Denmark – Made in Latvia” all on one label!

The Guardian could make a start and set an example for others to follow. In same edition of the Guardian, on p9 of G2, there was a page of menswear offers with no information as to where the products are made (clearly not in UK given the prices). Many people buy by post or online and it is too late to read the label.

So, transparency editor, why not start with the paper’s own offers?
Jeff Rooker
House of Lords

Civil partnerships should not only be available to opposite-sex couples (Letters, 1 July) but made the mandatory first step for all couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, who wish to commit publicly to a permanent relationship. Thereafter those couples seeking God’s blessing can pop along to their local church for a spiritual top-up, no questions asked. The church could get down to the business of blessing partnerships that are already recognised by the state and the community at large.
Very Rev Richard Giles

• I was pleased to read in your editorial that the Guardian considers itself to be a republican newspaper (30 June). Does this mean that you will no longer inflict us with photographs of royal celebrities going about their tedious business?
Barbara Forbes

• One thing all papers could do in the wake of the phone-hacking trial (Report, 1 July) is to publish a step-by-step guide on how to change your mobile phone Pin from the default setting to a personal code known only to you?
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

• We continually hear from Ukip and others about the bad rules and regulations imposed by Brussels. I wish someone would compile a list of the many good ones, the latest being a charge cap on mobile usage abroad (Report, 30 June).
Alan Grieve
Ferndown, Dorset

• As a pensioner, I pay income tax but no national insurance – a 20% tax rate on my income above the personal allowance threshold. If both were merged as proposed by George Osborne (Report, 30 June), it would mean a 30% rate. There would have to be a large increase in the personal allowance to counteract a sudden drop in my income. Not a vote-winner.
Paul Sewell

• Charlotte Higgins misses one crucial point (Report, 1 July). The BBC is so precious because you can watch a football match plus all the build up without once being coerced into putting a bet on it.
Robert Newton
Oldham, Lancashire

Michael Gove‘s partisan characterisation of Labour local education authorities in his piece (My hero: Lord Harris, the Conservative millionaire who is saving schools, 29 June) is baloney. Ten years ago, I was the leader of Merton council when we had two schools in Mitcham that were underperforming. Because of the changes introduced by the Thatcher government, the council lacked both the financial resources and the legal powers to turn the schools around. We knew they needed a fresh start and turned to the academy programme to achieve it.

Far from being afraid to challenge underperformance and champion children, we initiated the changes. As a Labour council we sought out Lord Harris because he is an outstanding individual with probably the best record nationally as a CTC and academy sponsor.

Far from disdaining his approach to education and discipline, we approved it. It came close to the approach we would have taken if we had had the powers and money to make a difference. It is misleading of Michael Gove to continue to advance his political objectives through false attacks on local councils: they are closer to the issues than he is, more democratically accountable to those affected and potentially more competent and expert at leading local educational improvement.

Conservative attacks on local education authorities are nothing new: consider the way that the former Inner London Education Authority’s record was routinely traduced. However, it behoves an education secretary who wishes to dictate the way history is taught to be more careful with the facts.
Cllr Andrew Judge

• Michael Gove tells us that Lord Harris of Peckham is “a saviour of schools” because he has turned around failing schools through traditional discipline and an academic curriculum. It would seem that the secretary of state knows little about what actually goes on in the schools he is so enthusiastic about.

Does he not know that, far from offering an academic curriculum to all, Harris schools are among the greatest users of the vocational qualifications that in other circumstances he is the first to sneer at? Is he not aware that six Harris schools were among the 50 schools that saw the biggest decline in pupil numbers between year 7 and year 11, with a decline of at least 10%? Getting rid of under-achieving pupils is one way of making your results look good. He should also know that exclusion rates in some Harris schools are well above local and national averages.

Gove makes no attempt to compare the performance of Harris schools with any other. It is now accepted as a statistical fact that the improvement of results in sponsored academies is no greater than that in similar local authority schools. Recent research has made it clear that the massive improvement in London schools had little or nothing to do with academies and their sponsors. Instead of recognising that improvement can be found in schools of every kind and that there is no one recipe for success, he chooses to score cheap party political points at the expense of our children and their future. By doing so he continues to stoke up conflict rather than to build the collaborative system that we really need and shows himself unfit for office.
John Bolt

• I was the principal of Bacon’s college in Rotherhithe, a city technology college, between 1995 and 2001. This CTC was sponsored by the Philip and Pauline Harris Trust, the Church of England and the London Docklands Development Corporation. I am pleased to join Michael Gove in celebrating Lord Harris as an enlightened influence in education. Nevertheless, I have had to reflect on what it is that I find so distasteful in Gove’s writing. In part, it is the absence of respect for precise language and evidence.

Upon what evidence does Gove base his assertion that Harris “has done more to help working-class children than any Labour politician since Atlee and Bevan”? What is the meaning of “He [Lord Harris] also ensured his schools were led by traditionalist teachers…”? As a wise and sophisticated sponsor-supporter Harris quite properly never engaged me in that kind of inquiry. He was only interested in coming to understand how things would be made to work. Is it possible that I detect slogansing in Mr Gove’s style of discourse, which is anathema to proper debate?

I can remember times – for example, under Edward Boyle and Tony Crosland, and David Blunkett and Ken Baker – when education was not a slanging match for puerile party political point-scoring. That was never the game I saw Lord Harris play.
Clive Grimwood
Bitteswell, Leicestershire

• Michael Gove is right to celebrate the contribution Lord Harris has made to education, but it is a gross exaggeration to claim that “he has done more for working-class children than any Labour politician since Attlee and Bevan”. The last Labour government lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, hugely improved school buildings, reduced class sizes and created Sure Start, achievements which the present government has seriously undermined.

Philanthropy is welcome, in this and other fields, but it should complement, not replace, public provision.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

Giles Fraser inveighs against “the Trojan horse of militarisation of our schools” (Loose Canon, 28 June). He is being hypocritical: he needs to address simultaneously the fact that hundreds of parish churches display regimental army colours referencing past wars, “great” military encounters and possibly “the glorious dead”. Unless the church displays leadership in condemning war and conflict – and gets rid of this paraphernalia – it cannot assume the moral high ground.
Chloe Baveystock

• When communist-ruled East Germany introduced pre-military instruction in its high schools on the principle “indoctrinate them young, and you have them for life”, a brave group called Women for Peace was prepared to go to prison in protest against the militarisation of society. In the west, their courage was applauded.

Given the tragedy of child soldiers in many parts of our violent world, and given the obscene commercialisation of war games for children, is not the promotion of military cadet forces in our schools more than reason enough for parents in David Cameron’s increasingly militarised Britain to say no to the preparation of our young generation for tomorrow’s killing fields?
Barbara Einhorn and Paul Oestreicher

• Giles Fraser queries the increasing militarisation of our schools and asks if anyone has been speaking up about this. I would like to reassure him that the Quakers have produced a very readable report, The New Tide of Militarisation, which encourages us all to think about this issue. Forces Watch is another organisation that is specifically trying to raise awareness about this. It is not just in our schools, but in wider society as well that we can see this militarisation. I echo Giles Fraser when he asks whether this is really the best way to mark the centenary of the beginning of the first world war.
Barbara Childs
Okehampton, Devon

• Giles Fraser writes about the expansion of cadet programmes in schools and remarks “how little fuss has been made about this”. Fuss is being made in some quarters. Here in Wrexham, we have previously challenged military activity days for schoolchildren, also the practice of bringing weaponry into the town centre for children to play on. This year, we protested on Armed Forces Day after the council failed to take seriously our concerns about recruiters targeting children – including soldiers showing small children how to fire guns.

For the past two years we have marked International Peace Day with children from several local schools who come together to discuss some of the issues around militarism and to explore the practice of peace.

If we really want to build a better world, the government should invest in peace education, not use schools to boost military recruitment.
Genny Bove
Wrexham Peace and Justice Forum

• Giles Fraser must be much older than he looks if he had to wrap puttees in the CCF. They were replaced by anklets before world war two.
Michael Barber

We are gravely concerned about the continuing detention of Alexander Sodiqov in Tajikistan. His arrest demonstrates the deteriorating environment for academic researchers across much of the world. A young researcher working on the academic project on Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia, he was detained on 16 June and accused of espionage and high treason. He remains in custody despite no evidence being found to justify the ridiculous accusations.

His research with colleagues at the universities of Exeter and Newcastle explores the politics of conflict management in Badakhshon, Tajikistan, since violence there in 2012. This study was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council as part of over £4m investment into projects looking at how states such as Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa are changing the world. Like all research on the ESRC Rising Powers programme, the study to which Sodiqov is contributing is independent, is peer-reviewed and confirms to the strictest norms of academic ethics and academic excellence.

With the visit of Tajikistan foreign minister to the UK this week, we ask the foreign secretary, William Hague, to call for fair treatment for Sodiqov and for his release. His arrest is unwarranted and an attack on academic freedoms. It undermines the reputation of the government of Tajikistan in the international community and in the community of international scholars of which Sodiqov is a part.
Dr Khalid Nadvi University of Manchester, ESRC Rising Powers programme co-ordinator, Professor Simon Deakin University of Cambridge, Dr Rilka Dragneyva-Lewers University of Birmingham, Dr John Heathershaw University of Exeter, Professor Caroline Humphrey University of Cambridge, Professor Peter Knorringa Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Professor James Manor University of London, Professor Giles Mohan Open University, Dr Neil Munro University of Glasgow, Professor Marcus Power University of Durham, Dr Frauke Urban SOAS, University of London, Professor Ian Scoones IDS, University of Sussex, Professor Philip Shapira University of Manchester, Professor Brian Salter King’s College London, Professor Rudolf Sinkovics University of Manchester, Professor Stephen White University of Glasgow, Dr Kataryna Wolczuk University of Birmingham

In a piece about Pascal Husting of Greenpeace International (To target Greenpeace’s flying director is to miss the point, 25 July), Zoe Williams writes: “Greenpeace was behaving like a corporation which campaigns … rather than a charity with values.”

I found the essence of this piece problematic because Greenpeace International (Pascal Husting’s employer) is not actually a charity; it is an organisation which campaigns. I worry that Zoe Williams had not properly understood this important distinction before she set out to write a piece about Greenpeace’s status.

While she is perfectly entitled to her opinions on Greenpeace, I do think it is beholden on the newspaper to report any opinion fairly and accurately.
Monica Ayliffe
Richmond, Surrey

A disturbing global pattern

Once again the Guardian Weekly supplies the threads that together weave a disturbing fabric: specifically, China may give Britain the India treatment (27 June). Ian Jack warns that Britain risks becoming a third-world supplier of goods and services to its Chinese masters. The same applies even more to Australia, where the last vestiges of semi-independent manufacturing, in the shape of the motor-vehicle industry, are scheduled to vanish within a few years. This will leave us totally dependent on China and other growing economies continuing to pay artificially inflated prices for our coal, iron ore and agricultural produce.

In the feature by Peter Geoghegan: Aberdeen, the oil city (27 June) we see a clear example of how a resource-dependent economy promotes economic inequality and social disharmony, while providing the illusion of overall prosperity. This is the current situation in Australia with the mining boom. As Jack points out, the age of colonialism is by no means over. While the present manifestation may be more subtle, the cult of globalisation as a panacea is nonetheless one that at its heart carries sinister connotations.

Declining global powers, in which I include the US and the UK, continue to engage in ultimately futile wars in a vain attempt to defend what they perceive as their national interests. Meanwhile, ascendant powers, including China, expand their economic interests on every continent to facilitate their own unsustainable expansion.

Is there a solution? Certainly none that does not begin with wider awareness of the real problems at the heart of our current economic, social and environmental crises.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

Who are the real interlopers?

Peter Beaumont’s article on Iraq (20 June) appears to miss the point. He speaks of the bloodshed of the “sectarian war” in 2007-08, of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian government, about Iraq’s fragile state and describes Isis and al-Qaida in Iraq’s leaders as “opportunistic interlopers whose vision is shared by the smallest minorities”.

In 2007-08 Iraq was occupied by a US-led invasion force, the “opportunistic interlopers” whose primary aim was to gain control over the Middle East for economic and strategic ends. After their invasion they imposed a “non-inclusive” regime over the country. And one reason given for the illegal invasion was not that Iraq was weak and fragile, but because it was potentially powerful and thus constituted a threat.

The cause of Iraq’s current circumstances was the illegal invasion and occupation of the country. This injustice was compounded by US propaganda.

Iraq is as it is today primarily because of brutality inflicted in the recent past. Why is the west still trying to imply that the fault lies with the Iraqis themselves?
Lavinia Moore
Aldgate, South Australia

• We are witnessing in Iraq the beginning of the third act of the drama, originally produced by American fantasists, that opened in 2003 with only the first line having been written and the rest to be improvised.

In the first act, the Iraqi state was dismantled, the emerging Iraqi nation destroyed and the regional power balance altered in favour of America’s arch-enemy Iran.

The muddled second act – in two scenes, one written in Washington the other in Baghdad – was about putting the pieces of shattered Iraq together again, but demonstrated instead that a broken country is like a broken egg.

There wasn’t supposed to be a third act; the unsustainable second act, however, made a third inevitable: the drama demanded to be brought to a conclusion. The conclusion won’t be scripted by America. It will, however, enliven the American preoccupation with politics.
JM Haas
Pullman, Washington, US

Australia’s refugee problem

The letter of Frederika E Steen (Reply, 27 June) is the first on the topic of Australia’s treatment of refugees in an overseas news outlet that I have come across. Australians are outraged by the treatment of refugees, but our newly established rightwing government, and their supportive media and rightwing religious followers, have made it very difficult to get sufficient press publicity to counteract that of Tony Abbott’s Liberal government.

The letter sets out the inhumanity in the current government activities, which “demonise refugees” and which are, in fact, being very dishonest about the refugees’ motivations for leaving their countries.

The damage done to refugees by Australia’s stance is terrible, and I hope that the tide will change. With exposure from such publications as the Guardian, Australia will again go back to welcoming refugees.
Paula Kelly
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Iran photos were political

Having recently spent a few weeks in Iran, I was struck by the fact that two editions of the Guardian Weekly in a row (16 and 23 May) featured articles on Iran illustrated with photos of women, the choice clearly made to convey opposite messages but neither directly connected to the content of the articles.

In the first case the story was about a book fair in Tehran, accompanied by a photo of two younger women in the more “modern” style of clothing commonly seen on streets everywhere in Iran.

In the second case, it was a front-page story about the impact of sanctions, illustrated with a photo of three women covered in black, also commonly seen on the streets, totally unrelated to the content of the article but clearly intended to convey a political message.

This tabloid-like manipulation of what women wear is not what I would have expected of the Guardian.
Wendy Flannery
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

The real cure for hiccups

Contrary to what Meeri Kim writes about the suppression of hiccups, prolonged breath-holding is the most effective self-administered treatment (13 June). But it does mean prolonged. With elbows on a flat surface, take a deep breath and clamp the nostrils shut with the heels of your hands. You have to keep breath held to a point of near asphyxiation, bringing up at least three suppressed hiccups. On the point of passing out, let the breath out slowly and under control. The buildup of carbon dioxide will have suppressed the hic reflex.

It’s very unpleasant and should only be used when all other attempts have failed. But it works.
David Bye
Kosd, Hungary

Howard was omitted

Your cartoon captioned George Bush and Tony Blair’s legacy in the Middle East is a powerful summary (20 June). However, the absence of the former Australian prime minister, John Howard, on the shoulders of the grim reaper makes many Australians feel let down. Howard was in the US at the time of the 9/11 attack. He was the first leader of a country to sign up with George Bush to unleash the War on Terror, which has caused so much bloodshed and misery. In a just world not only Bush and Blair but also Howard will be facing the international criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bill Mathew
Melbourne, Australia

Sick as a Fifa parrot

Thanks for the brilliant Hadley Freeman article Inside a Fifa World Cup Stadium (20 June). Those of us who have little or no interest in football have known for years that this is the truth about Fifa and these massive global jamborees. The line “someone later swore they saw Sepp Blatter running out of the stadium, clutching various wallets to his chest” perfectly describes everything to do with Fifa.

As long as these huge, self-important, wealthy global organisations, and the companies that support them, continue to control so many areas of our lives, ordinary people will, in increasing numbers, say “no – we don’t agree with this” and continue to protest.
Eric Beckmann
Shrewsbury, UK


• In your sports story All Blacks frustrate England (13 June), the former must have been desperate for manpower if they truly recruited “Conrad Black”, Lord Black of Crossharbour, to play and score a “try two minutes from time”. His performance of the haka must have been a sight to behold.

You meant to say Conrad Smith.
Anthony Walter
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

• By the time Lawrence Darani’s messages cease to be posted, ie in 999 years, each of his descendants will have a few million ancestors of Darani’s generation (20 June). If we also take account of the intermediate generations, let us hope that Darani remains the exception in his wish to attain immortality.
Amy Gibson
London, UK

• Your front-page article Iraq stares into the abyss (20 June) refers to Nouri al-Maliki as ‘”president” of Iraq. However, Ian Black’s piece later in the same issue calls him “prime minister”, which is correct.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK


Your editorial on Isis (1 July) is wonderfully vague. To state that the aim of the West should be to stop terrorism without a single suggestion on how to do it is insulting. It’s like saying that income tax should be 5 per cent and government spending increased by 45 per cent. So what? The devil is in the details.

Shouldn’t the fact that thousands of people are being slaughtered and war crimes being committed  on a huge scale have been mentioned? Or is it OK if the unspeakables kill the unpronounceables, as long as it doesn’t spill over into the West?

This is a global struggle between the forces of darkness and the forces of good. It is time for the “good guys” to do the right thing. This includes the enlightened nations and the good and moderate Arabs of all persuasions (and they are the majority of Arabs).

Dr Stephen Malnick
Ashkelon, Israel

It is impossible to conceive a more toxic mix than that which exists in the so-called Islamic State – heat, many young males without employment, and plentiful supplies of the true “weapon of mass destruction”, the AK47. Neutralising these three challenges is beyond the power of any government, so the chaos in the Middle East has no foreseeable resolution.

David Bracey
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s pile of possible factors behind young Muslims becoming jihadis (30 June) omits such excerpts from the Koran as: “Fighting is obligatory for you” (chapter 2, verse 216); “Fight for the cause of God”, (2:244);  and “God loves those who fight in his cause” (61:04).

These are a few of over 160 Koranic references to “holy” war.

David Crawford
Bromley, Kent


Tell us the costs  of NHS treatments

The key policy issue is how to make NHS spending more transparent so voters know how well any extra money would be used (“Raise our tax bills to save the NHS, voters say”, 1 July). A recent visit to Cuba leads me to one suggestion.

In the pharmacies there, wall posters state boldly that the country’s health service is “free” at the point of use. But they also list the actual costs of many of its treatments, ranging from visits to a nurse or GP through measures such as mending fractures to major surgical procedures such as a heart by-pass or kidney dialysis. Reading such posters in pharmacies and GPs’ clinics in the UK could educate us all into an awareness of the real costs of the NHS – most of us are already aware of its benefits.

Additional revenue for the NHS should not come from higher National Insurance contributions – retired pensioners like me, heavy users of the NHS, do not pay NI. It would be fairer for it to come from higher income tax, payable by the retired as well as by the employed.

Dr Alan Baker
Emmanuel College, Cambridge

A great career wiped out by sex scandal

Although I abhor the activities of Rolf Harris, it is with a certain sadness that I realise that a great career over many decades has been virtually wiped from the pages of theatrical history as a result of the guilty verdicts at his trial.

In future, any time Harris is remembered it will be for his sexual activities and not for his ability to entertain. Over the years Harris has entertained us on television, in theatres and with “Jake the Peg”, “Two Little Boys”, and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, to name just a few of his popular songs. His ability to paint a picture before your very eyes was an act of great talent.

In the weeks and months to come, will he regret those moments of madness that have taken him in the blink of an eye from the top of the bill to the bottom of the trough? Fame is fleeting – never quicker than when found guilty in a court of law.

Colin Bower


Jimmy Savile was not always as coy about his sexual propensities as he was in his 1990 interview with Lynn Barber, reprinted on 30 June.

I have a cutting from The Observer of 4 July 1976 in which, in response to the question “What is your pet hate?”, he replied: “Cold water and getting up early. Habit. I am the clockless man – one who is more animal than man, who does what he likes when he likes, eats when he likes, sleeps when he likes, goes where he likes when he likes, savages young ladies when he fancies.”

In retrospect, this seems like a confession of guilt, but clearly no one took him seriously.

Peter Graves

Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were loaded with honours. Surely the honours system should be changed to prevent further embarrassing mistakes, the private lives of public figures being as thoroughly and systematically investigated as the Vatican does those of prospective saints, and the names of television celebrities only put up for gongs if it can be proved that praying to them has performed miracles.

Peter Forster
London N4

Why keep printing pictures of Jimmy Savile and his like; it must be shocking for the victims, and I certainly don’t need reminding.

Jacqueline Neville

The World Cup: I  still don’t get it

I am indebted to many correspondents and colleagues who have tried to educate me on the rationale of the World Cup, but I still admit to puzzlement.

I was always told that “the taking part, not the winning” is the important thing about sport. The World Cup will only produce one winner, not even a league table, so it can’t be a dishonour not to win. So why is it apparently humiliating for England to lose out in what is after all, only a game?

I am all in favour of international get-togethers, such as Scout jamborees, music festivals and scientific meetings, where participants of many nationalities mix and celebrate, and I thought the World Cup was similar. However, England have gone home having been knocked out.

Why? Shouldn’t the team congratulate those who beat them and stay on for the rest of the event, cheering on those who are left, and have an international party at the end. Meanwhile play a few informal games with amateur sides, visit schools, youth clubs and hospitals etc, and generally raise their profile and give enjoyment to many. They must all have had clear diaries for the period in case they proceeded further in the tournament.

I’m lost.

Richard Pring
Clevedon, Somerset

Fight back for Britain in Europe

“Smell the coffee,” Alexander Stubb, the Finnish Prime Minister, has urged British electors on Europe; and he is right, because it’s British voter euroscepticism, fed by right-wing tabloid misinformation, that spurs on the Tory Party’s eurosceptic right and the blatant negativity of Ukip.

Cameron’s failed intervention against the election of Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the European Commission has left Britain dangerously isolated.

John Cridland as Director General of the CBI has outlined the risk to this country’s jobs and future prosperity if we exit the European Union: but our isolation is additionally a direct threat to the long-term peace and geopolitical stability of Europe. Leaving the EU would also undermine the ability of employees to challenge the exploitative practices of unscrupulous employers in this country.

It’s now vital for pro-European politicians, businesses, journalists, individual citizens and organisations to speak out loud and clear against the madness of leaving the European Union. Setting up a high-profile and well-funded umbrella organisation to fight the eurosceptics should be the first step of the fightback.

Richard Denton-White
Portland, Dorset

David Cameron’s failure in trying to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European Commission was a total humiliation.

Dealing with EU leaders and institutions requires a diplomacy and skill that the UK simply does not have and it is well and truly in the EU departure lounge. Any thoughts of a fundamental renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU are off the agenda.

We in Scotland are shackled to a corpse, part of a UK which is a pariah when it comes to the EU, friendless, toxic and with no influence. The choices before us are simple: we take charge of our own affairs in the EU, building strong relations with other member states, freed from the ill will there is towards the UK – or we remain in a failed UK which will see us forced out of the EU against our will.

The choice is simple and it is in our own hands come this September.

Alex Orr

Take a stand for the English language

Perhaps a “standee” (letter, 28 June) is a passenger whose feet are stood on.

Carolyn Beckingham
Lewes, East Sussex


Combining income tax and National Insurance should bring a welcome transparency

Sir, It’s brave of the Chancellor to even think about merging income tax and National Insurance (“Osborne’s grand plan to join up tax systems”, June 30). Universal Credit, combining six benefits into one, also seemed an admirable reform but on current progress it will take over 1,000 years to roll out.

Voters don’t like taxes but accept paying NI contributions. It would be better to build on this distinction by, say, hiving off the NHS to be paid for from a reformed NI base, rather than confronting people with a combined system.

Frank Field, MP

House of Commons

Sir, Most people would be surprised that the total of NI and tax rates on earnings over £10k is 40 per cent (including employers’ contributions). However, the Chancellor should win plaudits for improved transparency. PwC recently held a discussion about tax reform. One clear finding was that people are likely to support a simpler tax system that they understand.

Kevin Nicholson

Head of Tax, PwC, London

Sir, This “grand plan” to merge income tax and NI has been coming for many years but no party dared introduce it, because people will never accept that it is anything other than a cynical way of taxing pensions on top of the income tax the elderly already pay.

You effectively acknowledge this in your report but disregard it in your leader where you give the plan your enthusiastic support.

However, stating that tax rates would automatically be reduced for pensioners will not convince pensioners that this is not merely a blatant way of making us pay even more for healthcare and welfare in old age because we are all daring to live too long.

Do not forget that such schemes as this will apply to all generations to come, not just the elderly today. If successive governments had planned properly for the increase in longevity due to better health care etc, such kneejerk schemes would not be necessary.

Melvyn Elliott

Sheepwash, Devon

Sir, You are right to support any plan to integrate income tax and NI. The reduction in the number of tax advisers and duplicate systems this will bring about makes clear sense. The income tax system knows an individual’s age so it ought to be easy enough to avoid charging a pensioner extra. Reduced collection costs, preservation of existing allowances and benefits for businesses are achievable and ought to be widely accepted. Why, however, stop with this merger? Combined they raise about £261 billion and yet we have a separate system to collect the BBC licence fee that costs around 1 per cent of that, a proportion that must be within the margin of error inherent in any budget. Surely it is easy enough to collect the required sum for the BBC through a combined income tax and NI regime.

Equally, as council tax funds only about 25 per cent of council expenditure why not add this to the combined regime and avoid having a tax based on out-of-date property values and where the services used by individuals have no relationship to property values anyway.

Improvements in our taxation system will never come about by tinkering at the edges; radical reform is needed.

Tim Bentley

Blean, Kent

It is time to remove the obstacles to licensing old drugs for new purposes when they are effective

Sir, There is a real barrier to licensing old drugs for new purposes, even when they are effective, so some beneficial, even life-saving, treatments with minimal costs, are not available.

A private member’s bill introduced by Jonathan Evans, MP, today is an opportunity to address this anomaly. We fully support the bill and hope it will lead to a change in access to treatments. These include breast cancer treatments that could prevent some people at high risk of the condition from developing it and prevent some people with primary breast cancer from developing secondary breast cancer and ultimately dying from the disease.

It is vital to ensure that potentially life-saving drugs that have been shown to be clinically effective in a new way can be made available to patients who need them.

Professor Robert Coleman

Yorkshire Cancer Research Professor of Medical Oncology, Sheffield Cancer Research Centre

Dr Ellen Copson

Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology/ Honorary Medical Oncology Consultant, University Hospital Southampton Foundation NHS Trust

Professor Jack Cuzick

John Snow Professor of Epidemiology; Head, Centre for Cancer Prevention; Director, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Gareth Evans

Professor of Genomic Medicine and Cancer Epidemiology/ Honorary Consultant Clinical Geneticist, Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, University of Manchester

Professor Anthony Howell

Professor of Medical Oncology/ Research Director of the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Sacha Howell

Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology, University of Manchester; Department of Medical Oncology, Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Stephen Johnston

Professor of Breast Cancer Medicine, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Ian Kunkler

Consultant and Honorary Professor in Clinical Oncology, Edinburgh Cancer Centre, Western General Hospital

Dr Andreas Makris

Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre

Professor Carlo Palmieri

Professor of Translational Oncology, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, University of Liverpool

Professor Trevor Powles

Medical Director, Cancer Centre London

The world’s nations face huge challenges and it is crucial to plan our responses ahead of time

Sir, In the week that official figures showed the UK on course to have the largest population in Europe we also published our response to how we might better plan for the huge demographic and climate challenges facing our nation (“Population surge in Britain is fastest in EU”, June 27).

One hundred years after the establishment of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and planning as a professional discipline, not only are the challenges we face today of a scale and complexity significantly greater than in 1914, the cost of failing to respond to them will also be much greater. They now represent major threats to the security and stability of this and other nations.

In our report Future-Proofing Society we argue that there are still reasons for optimism — if countries adopt and plan for a much broader resilience in economic, environment and social infrastructures. We must also recognise that, while vital, emergency planning alone is insufficient to prevent the looming challenges of demographic and climate change becoming critical. We need urgent planning and collaboration across institutional and administrative boundaries.

Planning is needed more than ever.

Trudi Elliott

Royal Town Planning Institute

Britain must face up to its much diminished importance on the international stage

Sir, Like Matthew Parris (Opinion, June 28), I can see no case for the UK to arm itself to play the role of global policeman. But Parris’s article is dangerously open to the charge of moral desertion if he leaves it there without proposing a fresh channel for Britain’s international energies. The “responsibility to protect”, endorsed by the UN in 2005, obliges all nations to defend vulnerable civilians from mass atrocities. As a Security Council member, Britain would carry greater weight than some of the traditional neutral countries by spearheading a drive at the UN to give substance to this resolution — a 21st-century role of which it could be proud.

Clive Robinson

Garstang, Lancs

Sir, Matthew Parris failed to mention the country’s national interests, such as the security of our sea-borne trade.

David Yates

Weymouth, Dorset

Sir, Matthew Parris has revealed the truth which Britain has for so long been unwilling to acknowledge: Britain is a minor player in the world scene. We did not seem to realise that for every one of us in Britain there are 99 other people in the world who might see things differently from us. China is different: there are more than 18 people in China for every 82 elsewhere in the world. Moreover, China will soon have the greatest gross domestic product of any country in the world.

Ewart Parkinson


University lecturers feel that teaching students is undervalued compared with research

Sir, It was interesting but not surprising to read “Universities view teaching students as low-status work” (June 30). I lectured at a respected university for 43 years and always thought that to get on one had to be constantly seeking research funding and writing papers. Lecturing brought very little credit at all.

I spent 14 worthwhile years as director of an undergraduate course, my door always open to students. A lot of time was spent listening to students from other courses, their supervisors being too concerned with research and paper writing to be bothered with them.

This does not augur well for a continuing output of well-educated graduates to enter commerce and industry, especially now that fees for undergraduates are at an all-time high, and students are regarded as “customers” not students.

NP Fletcher

Loughborough, Leics

Some bats have rabies, others ruin churches – maybe we should try to encourage them to roost elsewhere

Sir, Julia Harmer (“Don’t blame bats”, June 30) claims that UK bats do not pose a risk to public health.

In April this year I visited Stokesay Castle in Shropshire. Towards the end of my guided tour I came to a notice announcing that one of the bat colonies in the North Tower was carrying the rabies virus. Any visitor who touches or is bitten by a bat is advised to contact a member of the staff so that the appropriate treatment can be given.

Michael Jordan

Buckholt, Monmouth

Sir, If there is a shortage of roosts for rare bats, appropriate structures should be erected by conservation bodies, rather than churches being compelled to serve as bat sanctuaries. Conservationists such as the Bat Conservation Trust (letters, June 24 and 30) have no moral basis for upholding the imposition of damage, disfigurement and dirt on churches, which were erected and are maintained, at considerable expense, for human use.

Edmund Gray

Iffley, Oxford


A reader recalls his encounter with Cvjetko Popović, whose bomb never reached the Archduke’s car

Guns used to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand

The guns used by the assassins of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, on display at a military history museum in Vienna

6:58AM BST 01 Jul 2014

Comments179 Comments

SIR – In his article, “The lie that started the First World War”, Tim Butcher mentions the Sarajevo assassin who lost his nerve. He is referring, I believe, to Cvjetko Popović.

In 1964, at the Mlada Bosna museum in Sarajevo, I had a long and fascinating conversation with Popović, who said the real reason he did not throw his bomb was that his poor eyesight meant he could not identify the occupants, and he did not want to harm the wrong people. He told the court he had lost his nerve “because I knew that was what they wanted to hear”.

At the age of 68, he had recently retired from his post with the local museum, and, through an interpreter, answered many questions about that day in 1914.

When asked if he felt any remorse, he said he did not because (I paraphrase): “It was a war that was bound to come. If the assassination had not happened, something else would have started it. Very powerful people wanted war.”

At the time I simply considered this an old man’s pathetic attempt to justify a wicked action, but having had many years to study the matter I think he was right.

John Carter
Bromley, Kent

SIR – John Shrive (Letters, June 28) asks whether the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, now on display in a museum in Vienna, had its number plate, AIII 118, matching the date of the armistice, added after the event.

One of the photographs taken on that fateful day in Sarajevo a century ago clearly shows the car bearing that very registration number. So it would indeed appear that it was an amazing coincidence.

A C J Young
Bolton, Lancashire

GPs detecting cancer

SIR – The Royal College of Pathologists welcomes proposals by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to publicise persistently poor detection of new cancers by GPs.

The timely diagnosis of cancer depends on clinical suspicion backed up by efficient use of the right test.

The marked discrepancies in the use of blood tests by GPs for some cancers are described starkly in the recently published NHS Diagnostic Atlas of Variation. There is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer.

These tests are available across the NHS. There is no single satisfactory explanation for such variable performance, but it is not because of differences in the demographics of GPs’ patients.

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs to all users, especially GPs, requires the development of a national laboratory medicine catalogue, a list of pathology tests that have been validated for use within the NHS. The NHS funding of this is at risk.

The College has urged the Secretary of State to protect this project and its funding.

Dr Archie Prentice
The Royal College of Pathologists
London SW1

SIR – My husband, a GP for more than 20 years, went to our local A&E with symptoms of advanced cancer late last year and died in January. He had put his tiredness and lack of energy the previous summer down to the long hours and stress of his job.

How sad to think that, under Jeremy Hunt’s proposal to name and shame GPs who fail to spot cancer, he might have been chastised for not recognising his own symptoms.

Barbara Seddon
Bolton, Lancashire

National Insurance

SIR – Proposals to merge income tax and National Insurance are apparently considered impractical because of the difficulty of IT changes. The answer is simple: abolish National Insurance and adjust income tax. The IT changes could be restricted to setting the NI rate to zero for both employer and employee.

Simpler, more honest taxation would improve productivity and improve tax revenue.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

Nothing in confidence

SIR – Why do former cabinet ministers feel the need to blab about private conversations with the Prince of Wales?

Such behaviour in most professions would be intolerable.

M O Thomas
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Shot across the bows

SIR – We should ask all London mayoral candidates this question: “If elected, will you scrap Boris Johnson’s water cannon?”

Barry Tighe
Woodford Green, Essex

Apple to the core

SIR – Recently I bought some apples from the Asda store in Ashford, Kent, each apple being identified with an oval sticker as “100 per cent pure apples from New Zealand”.

Do they also grow “non-pure” apples in New Zealand?

Karel Diblicek
St Mary in the Marsh, Kent

Coy meter man

SIR – I recently had my old-fashioned electricity meter replaced. I was perfectly able to read the old one, which had a mechanical digital display, and submit my readings online.

With the new one, in order to press buttons I would have had to stand in my kitchen sink, which was not designed to take my weight. So I told my energy providers.

They responded that they would take a reading and asked me to provide a date within 14 working days. I replied that any time was fine, as long as I was told what date and time it would be.

They replied that they needed a certain time and date from me. I provided one. They replied that they couldn’t read my meter at that time and date.

Could a mathematician work out how many combinations of emails, on this basis, will result in an amicable meter reading? I am still working on it.

Michael Smitten
Shifnal, Shropshire

Television nodders

SIR – Doing nodding cutaways or “noddies” to edit into an interview item (Letters, June 26) is standard practice for television interviewers.

Some years ago, when I had just finished interviewing someone about their garden, the cameraman asked the inexperienced young director if she wanted noddies. “No thanks,” she answered, “I had a sleep on the train.”

Professor Stefan Buczacki
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – When I was a BBC television newsreader, to the surprise of cameramen, I categorically refused to do the customary nods after recording an interview, on the grounds that it was a despicable piece of ham acting.

Instead, I spent 30 seconds looking by turns interested, curious, amused or incredulous. Much more fun.

John Edmunds
London W2

Weakening fast

SIR – The onset of the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar at this time of year means that Muslims are not eating or drinking for about 20 hours a day.

For those carrying on normal activities such as driving or even practising medicine, this cannot be safe.

Geoffrey Wyartt
Newent, Gloucestershire

Heads up: two spectators in thematic headgear at this year’s Wimbledon championships  Photo: AFP/GETTY

6:59AM BST 01 Jul 2014

Comments87 Comments

SIR – The dress code for spectators at Wimbledon is going downhill.

Wimbledon was once unique both for players and spectators with style and panache, but alas no more.

Allan J Eyre
Brookfield, North Yorkshire

SIR – Vivien Coombs (Letters, June 28) would not need to reach for the mute button to avoid the wittering of tennis commentators if the BBC provided viewers with a simple technical answer. The choice on the red button of a clean feed (with only the sound of play) would be very welcome.

Edward Rayner
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – For me, the most irritating part of Wimbledon is the hand slapping after every point in the doubles matches – even when it’s a double fault.

Kate Ludwick
Easton-in-Gordano, Somerset

A referendum on EU membership would require an Act of Parliament Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 01 Jul 2014

Comments261 Comments

SIR – The authors of several letters on this page have urged, and continue to urge, that David Cameron call a national referendum without further delay. But a referendum requires an Act of Parliament to set it up.

Nick Clegg would certainly use his blocking vote in the Commons to prevent that. The phalanx of Lib-Dem and Labour peers in the Lords, some of them on the Brussels payroll and disgracefully refusing to acknowledge a conflict of interest, would seek to do the same there.

That is why Mr Cameron must await the outcome of the next general election and hope he returns with a working majority.

There is no point in baying for the moon.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – It is widely reported that the 26-2 vote for Jean-Claude Juncker was a humiliating defeat for David Cameron – it was far from it. Not only was this a victory for principle over last-minute political manoeuvring and expediency but, more importantly, history may well show this to have been a turning-point for Europe.

Since that vote a number of European leaders have emphasised the importance to the EU of Britain’s continuing membership, indeed Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has now stated this to be “a priority”.

The Prime Minister’s stance has therefore at least opened the possibility of a future “two-tier” EU, containing those moving towards ever-closer union alongside those with greater national autonomy.

Sir Charles Masefield
Markyate, Hertfordshire

SIR – The post-Juncker European discussion leaves one wondering if history will judge the role of Mr Cameron as that of a catalyst rather than a loser.

J A Whitmore

SIR – Praise should now go to Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, in supporting Britain at Ypres. Back in 1932 it was Winston Churchill who said in his speech on November 23: “These are not the days when you can order the British nation or the British Empire about as if it were a pawn on the chessboard of Europe.”

Today, the European Union pretends that Britain is no more than a pawn on its board in a game that it only sees ending in checkmate for us. But the EU’s own principal pieces are castles in the air.

Lord Ironside
Colchester, Essex

SIR – No one doubts Mr Cameron’s willingness to take on the EU. What is in doubt is his, and our, ability to get anything changed.

The appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker is just another manifestation of this reality.

Ian Johnson
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I refer to Una Mullally’s article “Time for action on our booze epidemic” (Opinion & Analysis, June 30th).

While it is entirely reasonable to criticise the slow pace of change in this contentious area of public policy, it is quite wrong to say, in relation to the Government’s response, that “nothing happens”.

Last October I secured Government approval for a package of measures including provision for minimum pricing (to deal with alcohol that is cheap relative to its strength), restrictions on marketing and advertising, regulations on labelling and health warnings, and a host of other instruments which will be contained in the forthcoming Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

This will be the first ever legislation in this country dealing with alcohol from a public health perspective. The heads of Bill are currently being finalised for Cabinet approval.

Far from inaction (or “guff”) this Government is delivering the kind of effective measures that will have a real impact on reducing our excessive consumption of alcohol.

Tackling our alcohol misuse requires more than a periodic outcry. It calls for the implementation of policy choices that some will find difficult, even objectionable, but which are essential if we are to have a real impact on the problem.

That is what we are determined to do. – Yours, etc,


Minister of State,

Department of Health,

Hawkins House, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Congratulations to Una Mullally on a meaningful, factual and honest article. Yes, a very good start would be to close the Dáil bar. Why it was ever put there in the first place amazes me. I feel sure the ladies and gentlemen of the Dáil can consume alcohol with their meals at the Dáil restaurant when needs arise. Having a bar to pop in and out of during their working day seems outrageous. – Yours, etc,



Donnybrook Castle,

Dublin 4.

A chara, – According to the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, women were indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and played a key role in the formation of the early Christian community and in witnessing to the Risen Christ ever since and especially in the world today.

The exclusion of women from priesthood can no longer be justified by using the scriptures and by selective quotations from the Gospels, which were put together long after Jesus. The only basis for excluding women today is the tradition of the Catholic Church. That argument is now beginning to look threadbare, given that the modern world has begun to recognise the equality of women and also given the decline in male vocations.

The claim that Jesus ordained only males to the priesthood has no biblical basis. The fact is that Jesus never ordained anyone to the priesthood. That men only were ordained was a later development and a gradual development mainly in keeping with the Roman culture of the time. Nowhere in the Gospels does it state that men were the only ones to be ordained as priests. Presumably those disciples of Jesus who were present at the Last Supper were exclusively Jews and that could hardly be used as an argument that only Jews should be ordained.

Jesus went out of his way to include everyone in his new community.

A fundamentalist interpretation of scripture has done neither the church nor Jesus any service in creating a new and inclusive world or in building up the reign of God in the world. Outdated superficial interpretations of scripture are a real hindrance in furthering the message of Jesus of peace, love, forgiveness, truth and inclusion.

The Holy Spirit is calling on us to think again about this issue and to open up the discussion about ending the marginalisation of women in our world and in our church. – Is mise,




Co Fermanagh.

Sir, – If the issue of women and the priesthood is primarily about fairness and equality, then surely men should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to become nuns? It could be win-win all round, with women keen to be priests, and men nuns, as sadly both ranks are greatly depleted.

In the happy circumstance of this happening, I can foresee a time when a keen and ambitious young man rises through the ranks and eventually becomes mother superior of his order. Wouldn’t we have something to talk about then? – Yours, etc,


The Ninch,


Co Meath.

Sir, – Barry Walsh’s letter (June 28th) saying that Jesus apparently only chose male apostles is fine and reasonable as far as it goes, but why stop at the Twelve? In Luke, another “72” are appointed with no indication of either name or sex. In Romans, mention is made of one “Junia”, a female name. Not alone that but she is described as “outstanding among the apostles”! – Yours, etc,


Shamrock Avenue.



Sir, – Given the recent OECD report findings (“Hospital consultants among best-paid in world”, Front Page, July 1st) that the average annual reimbursement for public work paid to consultants is €171,000, why is the Government surprised that newly qualified consultant posts remain empty with a “new entrant” salary of less than 60 per cent of this figure?

Does it honestly expect them to work longer hours, more weekends, on totally different terms and conditions, trying to rearrange trolleys on the ship of gargantuan dysfunctionality that is the HSE, while their so-called senior colleagues may add private income to their already much greater salaries? – Yours, etc,


Castleknock Manor,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann (“Most Irish media failed Gerry Conlon with silence”, Opinion & Analysis, June 26th) criticised the response of Irish journalists generally to the scandals of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, and quoted Ed Moloney, a previous Northern Editor of The Irish Times, as saying, “If the story had been left to the Irish media to cover, Gerry Conlon would have died in a prison cell.”

When challenged about this comment on his blog by the former editor of the Irish News, Nick Garbutt, Mr Moloney later clarified his position, and said that he had only been referring to Dublin-based outlets.

Our files are readily available and confirm that the Irish News consistently campaigned for the release of victims of miscarriages of justice throughout that difficult era and maintained close links with their families.

As a result of this relationship, we were specifically asked by the late Mr Conlon to organise a petition asking the British government to apologise formally to those involved in the Guildford Four/Maguire Seven case. His request, made in 2005 on the 25th anniversary of the death in jail of his father, Giuseppe, reached a successful conclusion through a public statement by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, in Downing Street three weeks later.

Mr McCann cited five respected figures from other news organisations as emerging with credit from the case of Mr Conlon, and wrote, “There may be other Irish journalists who should be mentioned, but names don’t spring to mind.”

As someone who did not work for the Irish News during the imprisonment of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, I feel that a number of members of staff from that paper could reasonably have been added to Mr McCann’s list. – Yours, etc,



Irish News,

Donegall Street,


A chara, – Sheila Barrett (July 1st) asks a very good question – when will Irish emigrants be given the vote? It should be noted that some emigrants already have the vote, which makes the current situation all the more unjust, unequal and even comical. Members of the diplomatic corps and Defence Forces can vote in Oireachtas elections when abroad. All Irish university graduates have the postal vote for Seanad elections from wherever they are in the world. And of course Irish emigrants from Northern Ireland can continue to vote in Northern Irish elections when they leave the island. The Republic has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the European Union that disenfranchises its emigrant citizens. And now for the truly comical – all Irish emigrants living abroad can in fact stand for and be elected to the Dáil, but cannot vote themselves. – Is mise,


Rue Gaston Paymal,

Clichy, France.

Sir, – In response to Chris Johns (“Why saving and investment are the keys to our future”, Business Opinion, June 27th) , I would argue that there are two legs holding up modern developed economies – cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels and almost unlimited credit created out of thin air by banks.

As energy gets scarce and more expensive to extract and the huge mountains of sovereign, corporate and personal debt that exist worldwide become impossible to repay, there is only one way for developed economies to go, and let’s just say that the next 20 years will not be the same as the last 20 years. Economic growth on a scale seen in the last 250 years is over and capitalism – or any other “ism” – is not going to save it. – Yours, etc,


Market Square,


Co Westmeath.

Sir, – Peter McVerry (“Apartheid Irish-style created by housing policy”, Opinion & Analysis, June 27th) raises a very important question relating to the evolution of housing policy in Ireland since the foundation of the State.

Irish government policy in the 1930s and 1940s was such that social housing estates amounted to 60 per cent and 70 per cent respectively of all new housing construction in those decades. This represented an effort to get rid of the infamous tenement housing in urban areas, particularly in Dublin.

Unintentionally, however, this policy sowed the seeds of how Irish housing developed thereafter. From the 1950s on, a proliferation of private housing estates resulted in what Fr McVerry correctly describes as apartheid-style housing in Ireland.

He points out that the Planning and Development Act 2000 required builders to allocate 20 per cent of housing output to social and affordable housing. However, resistance from builders and private owners quickly buried that requirement. It was simply abandoned.

Can such a policy be enacted and succeed? The answer is yes. This very policy has been in place and successfully implemented in New Zealand for over 50 years. Political will is all that is needed. – Yours, etc,


Bishopscourt Road,


Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly’s proposal to increase the price of tobacco products by 100 per cent makes very bad economic and health sense (“Reilly calls for packet of 20 cigarettes to cost €20”, Front Page, June 27th).

If this measure is agreed and put through in the budget, the vast majority of smokers will travel to Northern Ireland and purchase their cigarettes there (and do the weekly shopping too while they’re at it), resulting in lost tax revenue to the State.

Would the Minister not consider reducing the price of cigarettes to reflect the price on the Continent, and in one swoop stop the illegal trade in contraband tobacco products overnight? – Yours, etc,


Oakview Avenue,

Dublin 15.

A chara, – I read with considerable interest Michael Parsons’ article on Seán Ó Cuirrín’s translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula into Irish, a book first published in 1933 (“Irish translation of Dracula funded by minister who slashed the old-age pension”, June 30th).

I have in my possession an updated version of the same book, published by An Gúm in 1997. It is an enthralling translation, containing a very rich lexicon, marvellous turns of phrase and cora cainte, which are gradually being lost to the native language today. Priced at only €10, it is a must-read for any serious student of Irish who wishes to develop his or her linguistic or translation skills to an advanced level. It is also a fabulous read in its own right. – Is mise,


Colpe Avenue,



Co Louth.

Sir, – A mere five runners went to post in last Saturday’s Irish Derby at the Curragh. Alas, what was once the jewel in the crown of the Irish flat-racing season has lost a lot of its prestige and allure. The first three home in the Group One race (total prize money €1.25 million) were trained by the maestro of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien. While not wishing in any way to devalue a stupendous achievement, it’s surely high time Horse Racing Ireland reappraised its scheduling of the classic. It’s now generally accepted it’s staged too soon after Royal Ascot.

If the event is to regain its international status and not develop into a quasi-benevolent fund for the all-powerful, all-conquering Coolmore syndicate, a radical review of the present set-up will have to be undertaken in the very near future. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – Ned Monaghan (June 30th), who wants fixed wheels on the nearer pair of supermarket trolleys and casters confined to the front pair, should go to America, where (except for use in Ikea stores) they are all built to his preferred pattern. He would soon discover how unwieldy it is in actual supermarket conditions – specifically, how much more room it takes to change direction. This is because you and the casters have to pivot around the fixed pair (think of a compass needle). By contrast, you can move a four-caster trolley with yourself as the pivot (think of a windscreen wiper, or, to tighten the analogy, half a compass needle).

I pointed this out last year to a supermarket manager in New Jersey, adding that he could narrow the isles by eight inches and fit another entire sales gondola into his store. His amused and tolerant smile was replaced by a more thoughtful expression. I like to think he was mentally planning the route to Ikea in nearby Newark. – Yours, etc,




A chara, – Further to your news report “Humanists to take legal action to overturn outdoor weddings ban” (June 30th), will outdoor smoking areas be allowed at indoor humanist weddings ? – Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive,

Kiltipper Road,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – What a magnificent photograph by Brenda Fitzsimons of something being propelled by hot air – greatly enhanced by virtue of the fact that, for once, it did not involve any incumbents of Leinster House (“Balloon over Meath”, Front Page, June 30th). – Yours, etc,


Cormac Terrace,


Dublin 6W.

Irish Independent:

As I am witnessing the installation of water meters in my area, I am once again reminded of the folly and futility of this operation. The cost of Irish Water, the labour force involved, meters and other materials would probably provide for gold replacement water pipes in the system. At a time when we are allegedly broke and committed to gifting Europe with further billions, it seems daft to indulge in this money-eating project.

The anticipated huge cost to each household must worry every citizen in the country. I am open to correction on this, but I seem to remember Irish Water intimating that in the event of a shortfall in revenue received, it would increase the water charge to make up the deficit – a licence to print money. And all the time consumer cash is drained from an ailing economic system.

Will anxiety and uncertainty over the amount of the charge lead to health and hygiene problems? Will toilets only be flushed once a day? Will showers become a luxury? Will outdoor flower beds be left barren? Will it in numerous ways adversely affect the quality of our lives?

Add to this the enormous cost of servicing the system, a new layer of bureaucracy, meter readers by the hundreds, huge administration costs and maintenance bills, and the length of time it will take to recover the initial outlay.

If a water charge has to be imposed, wouldn’t it be much simpler and far less costly to do so in the same manner as the property tax with the appropriate exemptions, or to join the two together under some local charges heading? The water meter fiasco is a sure sign of a government and administration having lost the plot.

Statistics in the media today point out that children and adults in one out of every five households are living on or below the poverty line while we continue to throw countless millions literally down the drain on an unnecessary and ill-thought-out project.





Your wistful and wishful commentary on the exodus of Irish-trained doctors to foreign shores, flags a deeper malaise. (Editorial, July 1).

The dysfunctional relationship between the Leaving Cert ‘points-race’ and wannabe medics betrays a ‘filthy-lucre’ motivation for a majority (though not all) of prospective clinicians. High-points ‘intelligence’ tallies seem to be the overriding criterion in the competing academic gallop for assertive (usually middle-class) professional alignment. Money, social status and professional aggrandisement usually trump any inherent compatibility with the eventual coalface work, dealing with real people who are health-distressed.

Altruism, empathic orientation, or natural inclination towards authentic, egalitarian care are all in shortish supply for some aspiring medical students. For them money-money-money careerism feeds the surge towards medicine as a career .

So few candidates are hewn from the pure Hippocratic disposition of innate sensitivity and dedicated delicacy of respectful engagement. If only the balance of enthusiasms relating to financial reward and caring philosophy could be recalibrated, swopping primacies and priorities for the communal sharing of ability – for, of course, an appropriately decent reward.

However, the primitive call of the ‘moolah’ wins out for some at least.

Thus, it’s inevitable that when the system here punches below the financial reward scale of overseas’ remuneration templates, the cash-crop will surely lure some abroad. For some but obviously not all, there’s no hint of gratitude or commitment to the Irish citizen who funded them through college, just a flighty exodus along the yellow-brick road of ‘dosh-posh’. The sad thing is that so many prospective medical students who could precisely fit the salient empathy/sensitivity aptitude bill for suitability towards a selfless healthcare ethos, just fall short of the stringent points sluice-gate, and are inevitably lost to the profession.

There are, of course, many statutory/adminstrative labyrinths abounding in the system delivery, which are inefficient, impractical and unproductive. But surely, more young and able, newly-qualified clinicians could choose to stay around to work towards transformation of these, rather than jump ship.





The headlines of the Irish Independent (July 1) highlight the amount of pay-off to Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and the contempt this Government shows to the working people of Ireland, who have yet to see any of the green shoots the Coalition keep bragging about, not to mention the health service which is even more shambolic than during the Cowen era.

If Michael Noonan thinks we can be sweetened up for voting this crowd back in by reducing his trademark austerity in the Budget, he is grossly mistaken and would be better focussed in remembering the wipeout of Fianna Fail and the Greens in 2011. The election is drawing closer than many realise and the electorate need to see their money back in their pockets, and quickly – not in the pockets of the likes of Geoghegan-Quinn.





You know the way it is. You meet for a few drinks every now and then and enjoy the evening. Now, there is considerable concern about over-indulging in the country, and rightly so. The publicans, through their organisations, complain that they are not making a cent and business is bad. The latest from the medical profession is that three pints equates to binge drinking. It seems we, as a drinking nation, are in a bit of a quandary.

Well, we have a few jars and I decide to finish the night on a non-alcoholic lager. And so the prices of the drinks – pint of Guinness €4.70; pint of Heineken €5.20; 500ml bottle of non-alcohol Erdinger Lager €5.20. So why is alcoholic beer cheaper than non-alcoholic beer in pubs?

Publicans are constantly blaming supermarkets for cheap drink being sold and decimating their businesses and causing alcohol-related problems. But publicans charge more for non-alcoholic drinks than for alcoholic drinks. Surely it should be the other way around. Erdinger in off-licences retails for generally about €2, and I am sure there is a profit for the retailer in that.

So may I make a suggestion to the Finance Minister, a kind of pre-Budget submission so to speak from an ordinary Joe Soap? Scrap any duty on non-alcoholic beers and introduce a lower duty on low-alcohol beers and lagers so the likes of Guinness, which is mid-strength, and lagers with low alcohol levels might possibly get a hold in the market. And is it time to think about the cafe-bar idea again?

Maybe too it’s time for the Brits to take over again. But this time with pub chains and give us some real competition in the pub business.

And to the publicans of Ireland – what about a bit of competitive pricing and a drink, be they alcoholic or non-alcoholic, at a fair and reasonable price.





I read with interest the letter from Joe Breen regarding profits of €65m in VHI. Very High Indeed.



Irish Independent


July 1, 2014

1July2014 Funeral

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. We go to the funeralof Shelia

Verity an old collegue of Mary’s

ScrabbleMary winsand gets over 400. well done Mary,perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Bobby Womack – obituary

Bobby Womack was the ‘Soul survivor’ of an astonishingly lurid lifestyle who fused passionate gospel and dulcet crooning

Bobby Womack in concert in Stockholm in early 2013

Bobby Womack in concert in Stockholm in early 2013 Photo: REX FEATURES

5:56PM BST 29 Jun 2014

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Bobby Womack, who has died aged 70, was a rhythm and blues guitarist and songwriter and, despite a life that was luridly eventful even by the grand guignol standards of the milieu, the last great surviving exponent of the “testifying” style of soul singing.

“Testifying”, rooted in gospel music, came to the fore in the 1960s through the impassioned performances of such singers as Otis Redding, James Brown and Wilson Pickett. Womack’s own voice ran the gamut from a smooth, beseeching baritone to an urgent, gravelly growl, often rising to a piercing, full-throated scream that vividly suggested a man in the grip of powerful emotions beyond his control.

His songs, punctuated by moralising soliloquies on the subject of love and betrayal, saw him cast in the figure of “The “Preacher” – a role which had been his childhood ambition when performing on the gospel circuit, “because all the preachers had everything in the neighbourhood, they had all the money and the Cadillacs and they got the best part of the chicken”.

But Womack was not a preacher. Instead his life was laced with drug addiction, gunplay, financial exploitation and chaotic personal relationships. Nonetheless, he managed to outlive all his contemporaries, and as a result billed himself “the Soul Survivor”. As one song, Only Survivor, put it: “They call me a living legend/But I’m just a soldier who’s been left behind.”

Bobby Womack was born on born March 4 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio, the third of five sons of a steelworker, Friendly, and his wife Naomi. Friendly was also a sometime gospel singer, but channelled his musical ambitions into his sons, organising Bobby and his four brothers, Harry, Cecil, Friendly Jnr and Curtis, into a group, The Womack Brothers, which performed on the local gospel circuit.

It was there that Womack met the two men to whom he would later attribute his singing style: Sam Cooke, then the lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, and Archie Brownlee, from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. From the former, Womack took a dulcet, seductive crooning; from the latter the “testifying” screeches and yelps. A child musical prodigy, Bobby got first hand experience of Brownlee’s style at the age of 13, playing guitar for him.

An early publicity photo for Bobby Womack

“I modelled my screams on Archie,” he once recalled, “but I never could get them as clear as he did, because he’d mellow it in gin. He’d lie down on stage to sing because the drink had eaten the lining of his stomach so much. They’d kneel down there and put a microphone up close. He always said he wanted to die right there, wailing his head off, and he did, singing Leave Me In The Hands Of The Lord.”

Womack would look back on his short period with the Blind Boys with great affection. “I would take them to their hotel rooms, dress them, take their clothes and get ’em cleaned, and they’d let me get a little nooky on the side when their girlfriends would go for it.”

At the same time The Womack Brothers were also spotted by Sam Cooke, who was shortly to abandon gospel for the more lucrative pastures of secular Rhythm and Blues. In 1962 he sent for the Womacks from Los Angeles and, encouraging them to follow his example, signed them to his SAR label, renaming them The Valentinos.

“The Valentinos” circa 1962 (Top, left to right) Bobby Womack, Friendly Jr. and Curtis. (Bottom, left to right) Cecil and Harry

The group’s first single, Lookin’ For A Love (1963), sold a million copies, and provided an early lesson in music business practice. “We didn’t know that we were supposed to get paid,” Womack would later recall. “We was just honoured to be with Sam Cooke’s company, an’ we didn’t get no royalties. He said, ‘Well, that car you bought was your royalties. You stayed in a hotel; you know what that cost me? We took care of you guys, paid for the session. You may be gettin’ screwed, but I’ll screw you with grease. James Brown, he’d screw you with sand.’”

Cooke provided a further lesson with the release of the group’s fourth single, a Womack composition entitled It’s All Over Now. Cooke – who had a piece of the song’s publishing – gave the song to The Rolling Stones, whose version went to the top of the British charts. “I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty cheque from the song,” Womack recalled. “Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up.”

Bobby Womack with (back, left to right) Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman and (front, left to right) Ronnie Wood and Keith Richard of the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s

Cooke took Womack under his wing, employing him as a guitarist in his touring group and treating him as his protégé. It was a relationship that would come to a violent end with Cooke’s untimely death in 1964, shot dead by the manageress of a motel where he had been enjoying a tryst with a prostitute.

Womack’s efforts at comforting Cooke’s widow, Barbara, resulted in them marrying three months after the singer’s death, angering Cooke’s friends who felt that Womack was exploiting a grieving widow. Womack insisted that the match had started at her instigation, and it was Barbara who put up the money to pay for Womack’s first solo recordings for the Chess label. But the marriage was to end catastrophically when she discovered he was having an affair with her teenage daughter, Linda, obliging Womack to beat a hasty retreat from the family home at the end of the barrel of a gun. Linda, in turn, would go on to marry Womack’s younger brother, Cecil, thus leaving Womack in the possibly unique position of having been the same woman’s stepfather, lover, and brother-in-law in short order. Cecil and Linda would later enjoy success as Womack and Womack with the singles Love Wars and Teardrops.

Bobby and Regina Womack at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1989

With his early solo recordings having passed without notice, Bobby Womack concentrated on songwriting and session work. As a member of the house band at the famed American Sound Studio in Memphis he played on recordings by a host of artists including Joe Tex, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, who recorded no fewer than 17 Womack songs in three years.

In 1968 he resurrected his singing career with the R&B hit What Is This. More hits followed with judicious covers of such songs as Fly Me To The Moon, Sweet Caroline and California Dreaming, and Womack’s own, rootsier compositions. The albums Communication, Understanding, Facts of Life and Lookin’ For A Love Again, established him in the vanguard of soul music and provided a run of hit singles including A Woman’s Gotta Have It, Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out and the million-selling Harry Hippie, a song written by Jim Ford but which Womack adapted as a tribute to his younger brother.

Across 110th Street was a highly-lauded soundtrack album for one of the classic “blaxploitation” movies of the time (and later for the Quentin Tarantino movie, Jackie Brown). And Womack also recorded a country album, BW Goes C&W. (His record company balked at his original suggestion for the title, “Step Aside Charlie Pride And Give Another N—-r A Chance”. Womack was also obliged to withdraw his interpretation of Gene Autrey’s song I’m Back In The Saddle Again, which he had retitled “I’m Black In The Saddle Again”, after Autrey threatened a lawsuit.)

But by the mid-70s Womack’s albums were showing signs of creative fatigue from his increasingly erratic lifestyle. He had become close friends with Sly Stone, playing on Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On, and proving an enthusiastic participant in Stone’s infamous drug-binges. And he was further undermined by a series of family tragedies.

Bobby Womack Partying at the Parrot Club in New York with Sly of Sly and the Family Stone

In 1974 his younger brother Harry was murdered by a jealous girlfriend while he was staying at Bobby Womack’s house. The girl, happening upon some women’s clothes in the closet of the room where Harry was sleeping, assumed he was carrying on an affair and stabbed him in the neck with a steak knife. The clothes belonged to a girlfriend of Bobby.

Four years later Womack’s first child by his second marriage, Truth, died at the age of four months after suffocating in bed. Another son, Vincent, by Barbara Cooke, committed suicide at the age of 21.

Enveloped in what he would later describe as “the paranoia years”, Womack himself had taken to carrying a gun. Lying in bed one day he saw the handle on the bedroom door slowly turn. He reached for his gun and emptied it into the door. The door swung open to reveal his son Bobby Truth, “not yet in long trousers” standing there. The bullets had gone over his head. But the boy did not escape such an upbringing entirely without cost. Following his father’s troubled path, Bobby Truth would later be sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for second-degree murder.

In 1981 Womack returned triumphantly to form with the album The Poet, which couched the titanic passion of his voice in elegant arrangements. The album restored Womack to the R&B charts, but he saw none of the royalties, leading to a protracted, and fruitless, court case. “I owed money to everybody,” he would later recall. “The only reason they couldn’t sell my house is because I wouldn’t move; and the only reason I wouldn’t move is because I didn’t have a Master Charge to pay the truck. Things were bad.” He would later admit that it was only the timely intervention of his wife that prevented him from shooting firstly the record-company boss who owed him money, and then himself.

However, a follow-up album in 1984, The Poet II, featuring a guest appearance by Patti LaBelle, restored his fortunes.

Over the next 20 years Womack continued to record and tour, but with diminishing returns, until yet another surprising resurrection in 2010, when he was invited to perform with Damon Albarn’s loose aggregate of musicians, Gorillaz, singing live with the band and on two albums, Plastic Beach and The Fall. In 2012, Albarn produced Womack’s album The Bravest Man in the Universe. A 28th album, entitled The Best is Yet to Come, is to be released posthumously.

Bobby Womack married twice and leaves four children.

Bobby Womack, born March 4 1944 died June 27 2014


I don’t agree with Peter Luff (Letters, 30 June). David Cameron’s principled stand makes it more likely he will be listened to and properly understood as he negotiates the reforms of the EU the British people want to see and which Europe so urgently needs. The other member states now know that when he says no, he means no. But I still look forward to campaigning alongside my namesake for continued British membership of the EU in the referendum after that negotiation concludes successfully.
Sir Peter Luff MP
Con, Mid Worcestershire

• I was surprised that in your article on funerals (How to die for less than £1,000, 28 June) there was no mention of donating your body for medical research. My mother died last year at 98 and had decided she would prefer this option to burial or cremation. I notified the London Anatomy Office at King’s College which arranged for her body to be collected from the hospital. There was no cost involved apart from a voluntary contribution. Last month we were invited to their annual service of a thanksgiving at Southwark cathedral for the friends and relations of all donors from the past year.
Dick Hill
Surbiton, Surrey

• There are several versions of the “fax it up” story (Letters, 28 June), which suggests it’s probably an urban myth. My favourite concerns a visit to Scarborough by Prince Charles, who arrived wearing a fox-fur hat. He explained that when he’d told his mother that he was going to Scarborough, she had responded “Wear the fox hat?” – so he did.
Steven Burkeman (@stevenburkeman)

• Prince Charles’s secret lobbying of ministers (Report, 30 June) begs the question: who is lobbying him? And how?
Dr Alex May

• Caroline Aherne’s nurse asking her if she wanted to wash her own “fairy” (Letters, 30 October) reminded me of my great-grandmother’s instructions for a strip wash: you wash down as far as possible, you wash up as far as possible, then you wash possible.
Linda Seal

• Ally Fogg (25 June) suggests that the stereotype of older men preferring younger women is a thing of the past. Has he checked the Guardian Soulmates page recently?
Jill Wallis
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

Yet again, the choice of a civil partnership will not be extended to opposite-sex couples (Civil partnerships can be converted into marriages, 27 June). During the debate on gay marriage you published a letter from my partner and myself calling for parliament to make this option available. We explained we had felt reluctantly obliged to marry after a long-standing cohabitation because of discriminatory pension rules, subsequently changed. Sadly, opposite-sex civil partnerships became the victim of disgraceful parliamentary manoeuvring, put forward as a delaying tactic by MPs opposed to gay marriage. There are no well-funded campaigning organisations agitating for this change. It is not a central issue for LGBT groups and it is opposed by the socially conservative and largely religious pro-marriage lobby. We wrote to our (Labour) MP, who failed to respond, even when reminded. Had he done so, we might have been aware of – and responded to – the consultation which has now resulted in a three-to-one majority against opposite-sex civil partnerships. However, the tenor of the consultation can be inferred from the fact that over a third of the self-selecting respondents were over 65, two-thirds were or had been married, and only a relatively slim majority were in favour of retaining civil partnerships in any form. What should have been the last step in equalising choices in personal relationships has ended up perpetuating another form of discrimination.
Iain Forbes

I don’t recall ever having a sex offender tell me that they abuse their victims because they have “uncomfortable feelings (they) want to get rid of”, as Oliver James claims for Jimmy Savile (Comment, 28 June), but I do recall innumerable times being told “I find control over another human being pleasurable”. As evidence for his claim regarding uncomfortable feelings, James cites the unpredictability of the assaults. I think a simpler explanation might be that a predator is more successful when they catch their prey unawares; it is a deliberate and tactical move to insure success.

Savile did not show affection for his victims, but that’s quite simply because the gratification came from his domination. The only form of sustained love Savile knew and cared about was the adoration of his besotted public. He had no time for understanding emotion as most of us understand it. Unfortunately, pseudo-medicalised jargon which blames mothers and society creates an aura of expertise that at best ridicules us as mental health professionals, but more worryingly diminishes the responsibility which the Saviles of this world should fully bear for their actions in the eyes of naive juries. The moment that message of responsibility is clearly and unequivocally communicated to privileged sociopaths like Savile, there is a chance that they’ll think twice before touching the genitalia of an underaged teenager or anybody incapable of voicing their objection. Whether Oliver James likes it or not evil does exist in this world and it is naive to assume otherwise.
Dr Stephane Duckett

• Here we go again, “I blame his mother”. Oliver James claims childhood abuse causes schizophrenia. Four of my friends have sons suffering from schizophrenia and my friends are very good parents and their children have not suffered any of the four types of abuse as defined by the NSPCC. Mr James says Jimmy Saville was “disturbing”. Not to his victims; they were severely traumatised. I believe we should be teaching children to cope with bullies such as Jimmy Saville, and also not to admire so-called celebrities or accept without question the views of “experts” such as Oliver James. I’m off now to enmesh with one of my sons and his family.
Name and address supplied

I welcome the news that Nestlé has become the first leading manufacturer to commit to paying all employees, including contract and agency workers, a living wage (Nestlé agrees to pay all employees living wage, 30 June). Business secretary Vince Cable greeted the announcement with warm words, saying that he encouraged “all businesses to pay their staff above the minimum wage when it is affordable and not at the expense of jobs”. But while any news of employers paying a living wage is welcome – especially in London – the government must do more.

At the current rate of take-up by employers in London, it will take hundreds of years for all Londoners to receive a living wage. Those people who continue to argue for a voluntary approach to introducing the living wage are in denial. Both nationally and in London, the number of people paid less than the living wage is rising. There is a strong business case for introducing the living wage – and the moral case that people should be able to live on what they earn is unequivocal. And while welcome examples like this from Nestlé are still the exception to the norm, expect no let-up in campaigns for a living wage to be made statutory.
Fiona Twycross
Labour group economy spokesperson, London assembly

• Good to see Ed Balls currying favour with the business community (Labour offers olive branch to business, 30 June). Now how about restricting these pledges to businesses that pay a living wage to every one of their employees, do not use zero-hours contracts, and pay their full share of taxation? That should narrow the numbers down a bit. Or have he and Ed Miliband forgotten whose side they are supposed to be on?
David Reed

While it represents progress that the recommended daily allowance for sugar is to be lowered (Guideline on sugar “should be cut by half”, 27 June), it nonetheless defies logic. Sugar is tasty, mildly addictive and a slow-acting metabolic poison. The more we eat, the greater its effects. While it may have a limited role in cooking and preserving food, the logical recommendation from government should be to have no added sugar at all. – that would give a clear instruction with none of the mixed messages so beloved by our pretty diabolical food processing industry.

As a GP dealing daily with diet-related problems, I have been advising patients to stop adding sugar to hot drinks or other foods, to stop soft drinks altogether and to have biscuits or confectionary only on special occasions. As a result they have lost an average of 7% of their body weight without any special diet being involved. This weight reduction will result in a significant reduction in morbidity, misery and expense for the NHS. Such reductions in sugar intake, applied nationally, would significantly reduce the incidence of and complications from diabetes.

Added sugar has as much of a place in our diet as smoke does in the air we breathe. It should be taxed heavily enough to at least pay for some budgetary problems is it causing the NHS. This would cut consumption and the misery causes for people whose excess consumption leads to them becoming patients.
Dr Colin Bannon

• As a signatory to the Action on Sugar campaign, the British Dental Association supports a tax on sugar to curb childhood obesity, and we would add, tooth decay. Sugar is the leading cause of obesity and tooth decay, both of which are preventable. It is the main reason why unacceptably high numbers of children are admitted to hospital every year to have a general anaesthetic: last year alone over 25,000 young people in England had a general anaesthetic in order to remove rotten teeth.

While other healthcare professionals may find diet a sensitive subject to raise with patients, dental professionals are uniquely placed to broach this subject via conversations about risk factors for developing oral disease. That’s not the only way that dentists contribute to the fight against obesity. The BDA, via its long-running Make a Meal of It campaign, has also been engaging the dental profession and public in the fight against sugar consumption. The impact of sugar on tooth decay must not be lost in this important debate about childhood obesity.
Dr Graham Stokes
Chair, health and science committee, British Dental Association

• The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition draft report on carbohydrates and health is a comprehensive and thorough review. As the report recognises, obesity is a complex issue. The overwhelming scientific evidence points to the over-consumption of total calories across all food groups, rather than a single ingredient, together with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles as the primary causes of obesity. Given the importance of total calories we are surprised to see that the committee has come to a draft recommendation to halve the consumption of free sugars on a population-wide level to around 5%. At the same time the committee has also made a draft recommendation for individuals that free sugars should be no more than 10% of total calorie intake. This runs the risk of confusing consumers even further and sets a level that will be very difficult for most people to meet. For example, this would be the equivalent of consuming the sugars found in a small glass of orange juice and a 125 gram yoghurt.

We believe the job to be done is to help consumers understand the importance of balancing energy in and energy out and to help people to make their own informed and healthy choices. We all need to work together to help tackle the obesity epidemic and we are committed to playing our part.
Richard Pike
Managing director, British Sugar

• Simon Capewell’s certainty that the problem of obesity lies solely with “big food” and sugar does not accord with the evidence (End this sugar rush, 26 June). It is a gross oversimplification to suggest one product or ingredient is to blame. It creates a dangerous illusion that simply by reducing sugar intake, one can eradicate obesity. What is needed from government, industry, campaigners, academics and the general public is a commitment to tackle the problem from all sides – sugar yes, but also fat, balanced diets and exercise.

For our part, we have led the way in reformulation and product innovation. This has provided a dramatically increased range of low- and no-calorie options, empowering consumers to make their own choices about what is right for them. Major companies in the industry are also increasing advertising spend on low- and no-calorie drinks by 49% this year, and sales of these products have increased by 5% over the last two years.

Obesity is an urgent problem caused by many factors, and will need many solutions to solve it. Over-simplification may satisfy Simon Capewell’s agenda but it jeopardises the likelihood of collective action to address the problem.
Gavin Partington
Director general, British Soft Drinks Association

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani: no sectarian?

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani: ‘no sectarian.’ Photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images

Philippe Sands QC is right to describe the delay in publication of the Chilcot report on the Iraq war as disgraceful (Report, 27 June). But while he may be right that it is futile to speculate as to the “exact” connection between the situation today and decisions taken in 2003, the broad consequences of the refusal to plan for the peace are clear.

Clare Short and her permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, Suma Chakrabarti, explained in evidence to the inquiry the ban imposed by No 10 on advance planning with NGOs and the UN. Short said we went in “on a wing and a prayer”. Detailed plans were prepared in both Washington and London, but binned on orders from Washington because the authors of the war believed that the invaders would simply be greeted as liberators. Follies such as the failure to prevent looting and the decision to send the Iraqi army home without removing its weapons are well known.

The ban on communication continued. I was told in 2004 by an officer on leave from Iraq that he had had to take decisions on matters completely outside his competence, such as pay rates for newly recruited Iraqi policemen. I asked why he had not consulted DfID; he answered that the military were not allowed to consult a civil authority. It is a reasonable assumption that the men and munitions that went missing after the invasion are part of the explanation for the appearance earlier this month of the competent and well-equipped fighting force which astonished us all by capturing Iraq’s second city of Mosul and claiming to establish an Islamic republic in western Iraq and eastern Syria.
Oliver Miles

• I would like to respond to Mona Mahmood and Mark Tran (Isis onslaught in Iraq claims terrible toll of victims on both sides of divide, 27 June). First, while the killing of any Sunnis is abhorrent, the authors describe the Shia militias in ways that suggest an equivalence with Isis insurgents – and this is neither right in scope nor content. Isis fighters are a threat to all Iraqis of all faiths. Their recent attacks against Christian civilians, the men murdered in Tikrit and their continual threats to Shias and moderate Sunnis attest to this. Framing this as tit-for-tat sectarianism is wrong. These are not equivalent forces and they most certainly do not have equivalent motives in Iraq.

Second, it is a gross misrepresentation of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s recent statement to claim he has “summoned” these Shia militias. He called for all Iraqi citizens, regardless of their sectarian affiliation, to fight the Isis forces, but he has emphasised his wish for all those who wish to fight to do so through the Iraqi army. Iraq does not need unsubstantiated claims that may stoke further sectarian tensions.
Yousif Al-Khoei
Centre for Academic Shia Studies, London

• Laurie Lee and his Spanish civil war comrades would be turning in their graves to see themselves compared to Isis (Letters, 27 June). Either Carole Satyamurti knows nothing of Isis’s massacres, beheadings and crucifixions, or she dishonours the memory of the brigadistas by implying that they too did such things and sought to imprison women and impose theocratic tyranny. Does she not understand that the Spanish civil war volunteers fought against the far right and a religious state? And that the immediate threat posed by a handful of British Isis volunteers (and their apologists) is to the people of Syria and Iraq?
Peter McKenna


The deluge of reporting over the results of the phone-hacking trial has reintroduced us to the terrible behaviour and lack of respect for privacy which characterised much of Fleet Street.

However, there is one group of people who must bear some responsibility for what happened but who appear to have been airbrushed out of the debate. I am of course talking about the millions of people who read the vacuous drivel that passes for news in the tabloids and gossip magazines.

Some weeks ago, I stood in a shop at a motorway service station and counted the number of celebrity gossip magazines which filled the shelves in the prime position, just beside the entrance.

I got to 20 and stopped in a kind of despair. These magazines and their companions, the tabloid newspapers, must be filled somehow to keep up with the apparently insatiable desire for more and more news about people in the public eye.

It is only natural, then, that the limits of what is and is not permissible in the search for this news are likely to be expanded.

If the demand for this nonsense was not there, there would be no gap to fill and there would have been no phone-hacking. So, perhaps one way of stopping these terrible events being repeated is to become a less cruel and a more caring society, and the first step in that is to stop buying these magazines and newspapers; in other words, to let people in the public eye have a private life.

John Dowling, Newcastle Upon Tyne


Irrespective of the verdict, the length of the hacking trial indicates serious failings in the judicial system. For the trial to take over six months is an unreasonable use of public facilities.

Perhaps there should be a body independent of the legal system which puts limits on the time cases may take.

David Warrick, Cranbrook, Kent


Market success for university research

The recent success of Imperial College in realising £10m cash in exchange for a 10 per cent share holding in Imperial Innovations shows the continued market interest in the commercialisation of university research (report, 24 June).

However, the availability of investment funds for promising university spin-outs will not on its own deliver the economic impact that the UK might expect from its world-class research base.

For commercialisation to thrive it is vital that the UK invests appropriately in the entire pipeline of development, from early-phase frontier research through to technology development and thereafter commercialisation.

However, there is evidence that the UK is failing to do so. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2012 Britain invested 1.7 per cent of gross domestic product in research and development, the lowest percentage in Europe, and some way from the 3 per cent achieved in the US in the 1950s.

There is plenty of evidence that commercialisation of university research can deliver returns, but only if it is approached as a long-term investment. But the good news is that investment in university research not only fuels innovation but also sustains and underpins our world-class higher education sector, which in turn delivers a more immediate economic return.

According to a recent report from Universities UK, the higher education sector delivers some £73bn to GDP, £10bn in exports and more than 750,000 jobs.

Although funding and investment are essential ingredients for continued academic and economic success from UK higher education, money alone will not suffice. We must imbue a much greater sense of ambition in our university communities, so that we can not only create the successful companies of the future, but we have the confidence to grow them so that they can provide employment and tax revenues for future generations of UK citizens.

Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice Provost, University College London

Under arrest in Tajikistan

Today (1 July) William Hague will meet the visiting Tajikistani Foreign Minister, Sirojiddin Aslov, who has come to Britain to request economic and political support to bolster his country’s security forces and develop some ambitious hydroelectricity generation and export programmes.

At the same time, a University of Exeter-employed researcher, Alexander Sodiqov, has been arrested on baseless charges of espionage and treason while conducting scholarly research as part of a UK research consortium. His family and supporters have been denied access to him since his detention a fortnight ago, and there is growing concern for his safety in a country with dismal human rights records. Amnesty International has recognised him as a prisoner of conscience.

It would be unconscionable for the UK to be bolstering Tajik security services whilst they deny basic freedoms of speech and association to their citizens in this way. When William Hague meets Mr Aslov today he must insist that Alexander Sodiqov be freed.

Dr Nick Megoran, Lecturer in Political Geography, Newcastle University


Cameron enigma over Europe

I am puzzled by David Cameron’s stance on Europe. What, in detail, does he think? Is his present behaviour just a smokescreen? Why couldn’t he avoid blundering into the dismal isolation he finds himself in?

If Tony Blair were Prime Minister at this time we would be given a fully contextualised account of what he thought Europe was or should be. Even if he was hiding his true view, at least the rhetoric might have been engaging.

Cameron wants to “reform” the EU. How? What does he want? He is, I suppose, against a “federal” Europe. Why?

There seems to be little that is articulate and intelligent in politics these days, or that gives the electorate any credit for being capable of informed, critical judgements.

Eric Harber, St Albans, Hertfordshire


Where are the politicians of today’s generation who would speak up for our membership of the EU, apart from in the Liberal Democrats, who might be regarded as a busted flush?

The only people I have heard setting out the case in a fluent and convincing way recently are Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Ken Clarke, all of whom are yesterday’s men. The Labour Party’s silence on this issue is as unforgivable as it is deafening.

David Cameron’s ham-fisted attempts to stop Jean-Claude Juncker’s appointment were frankly embarrassing, and underline that he is not the man to bring about reform of the EU.

Were Labour to seize upon this own goal and set out a coherent pro-European strategy, rather than running scared of the right-wing press, they might be able to garner some support and prevent the impending disaster of our leaving the EU from unfolding. Without this, and the intervention of some credible heavy-weights, we are heading straight for the cloud-cuckoo land so beloved of Nigel Farage.

Ian Richards, Birmingham


You report (27 June) an EU diplomat as saying that Jean-Claude Juncker’s alcohol consumption “has been raised by a number of EU leaders”. If I’d been in his position dealing with Mr Cameron over the past month, mine would have been too.

Philip Goldenberg, Woking, Surrey

An alarming letter from the revenue

I expect many people were dismayed to read that 3.5 million people were undercharged by HMRC for tax and could expect letters in the post. Like many we thought ,“Oh dear, we hope we are not one of them”.

Luck however was not with us, and this morning my husband received four pages from HMRC to tell him he owed the huge amount of £1.81. The temptation to write to them to ask how much it cost to produce the letter was, with some difficulty, overcome.

Sally Bundock, Eastcote, Middlesex


Standing up for ‘standee’

Like Max Double (letter, 28 June), I was puzzled by “standee”, but discovered that it has been in use since at least the middle of the 19th century. Jenny Macmillan’s account (letter, 27 June), entirely logical though it is, does not match usage. Consider that a bargee is someone who operates a barge, not someone who is barged.

Martin Smith, Oxford

International comedy

I was sorry to see the absence from Tom Vallance’s excellent obituary of Eli Wallach (26 June) of any mention of Le Cerveau, Gerard Oury’s 1969 multilingual comic epic. Wallach acquits himself wonderfully alongside David Niven, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourvil.

Conrad Cork, Leicester


Children, families and teachers all suffer from the inflexibility of our institutions

Sir, Our daughter’s primary school was happy for her to have two days off school at the beginning of term one year so we could enjoy a family holiday in the US. The head teacher thought the trip would offer as much educational value as two days at school (“Father goes to court over fine”, June 30). She also encouraged us to accept an offer from a casting director for our daughter, then aged 5, to appear in a West End musical, saying it was the chance of a lifetime. We have much to thank her for — our daughter is now an actress with her sights on Hollywood.

Linda Zeff

London N20

Sir, Hauling before the court a caring committed parent who had the temerity to challenge the decision of a head teacher and opted instead to take his children on an extra six days’ holiday to attend a family function exposes the legal process up to ridicule. Was the holiday detrimental to the educational needs of the children, and was their social development compromised? I suspect that the experience actually enhanced their character.

I wish the parents well in this principled stand.

Frank Greaney


Sir, You report that an executive is refusing to pay a £120 fine issued by the local council after he took his family to California for a memorial service. His children — aged 11, 8 and 5 — attend a primary school in Chelmsford, Essex.

How many local authorities in south-west London will be imposing fines on parents for allowing their children time off to act as ball boys and ball girls during Wimbledon fortnight? It’s a great opportunity for those councils to earn some extra money in these cash-strapped times.

Simon Walters

London NW7

Sir, Independent schools regularly let parents withdraw their children from school to take family holidays. They also have shorter terms than the state sector but this does not seem to have a negative impact on pupils’ results — suggesting that attainment depends on other things.

State schools are under extreme pressure to produce Ofsted-friendly data and while this way of thinking persists, children and families and what is best for them will not enter the equation. My daughter’s state school allowed one single parent two weeks’ term-time holiday the year after the death of the other parent so the family could spend some time together. Judging from your report, we need a definition of what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”.

With regards to flexible working and family-friendly policies, schools are noted for their rigidity. Often it is the children of teachers that suffer the most (many teachers struggle to gain permission to attend their own child’s assembly/sports day/ Christmas concert, etc.) Should a family holiday, when parents are used to working flexibly, be dictated by state school’s rigid, inflexible way of working? It should be accepted that weddings, funerals and family events do not always fit neatly into term time. What rights do staff, pupils and parents have and can the government ride roughshod over these? I am pleased that this case is going to court. I await the outcome to see if the nanny state will be reined in.

Francine Garnier

Brighouse, W Yorks

One child in every 56 has been injured in a road accident in the past 3 years — something must be done

Sir, Too many children are being killed or injured on our streets — in 2013 32 children were killed and 1,608 seriously injured while walking or cycling on our roads. In addition, the Department for Transport estimates that three times as many children are injured as are reported by police. Nearly half of all child deaths in 2011 were road deaths, and one in 56 children has been injured in a road incident in the past three years.

We believe that every child has the right to walk, cycle or scoot to school safely. To make this possible the government must pay for walking and cycling initiatives; introduce a 20mph speed limit for all urban areas, and transform walking and cycling routes.

Saving young lives should be sufficient, but there is also a huge economic benefit. Child casualties cost £515 million per year, £200 million on the school journey alone. Not only that, creating a safer outdoor travel environment can help to tackle our physical inactivity crisis.

Julie Townsend, Deputy Chief Executive, Brake, the road safety charity

Dr Simon Festing, Chief Executive, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers

Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director, RoadPeace

Dr Hilary Cass, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health

Sallie Barker, Interim Chief Executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance

Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive, Sustrans

Philip Darnton OBE, Chair, The Association of Bikeability Schemes

Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive, The Ramblers

Tom Mullarkey MBE, Chief Executive, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Professor John R Ashton CBE, President, Faculty of Public Health

The Assisted Dying Bill is going through all the ethical, legal and parliamentary hoops

Sir, The Assisted Dying Bill, which has its second reading in the Lords on July 18, reflects the majority view of the Supreme Court that Parliament should address this issue (letter, June 30). It also meets the requirement of the president of the Supreme Court that people choosing an assisted death will be better protected by upfront safeguards to establish that they are making an informed and settled decision. This is preferable to an investigation after someone has died, which is the case now. When an Assisted Dying Bill was last debated in 2006 it was cut short, against the convention of the House, by a wrecking amendment at second reading. Of course, the House of Lords can’t compel the Commons to act. But, it can at least ensure that the Upper Chamber has played its part in proper Parliamentary consideration of this important issue. That’s what the Supreme Court expects. That’s what the public expects. That’s what Parliament is for.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

House of Lords

GPs may see 50 potential cancer victims in one day, and they have to rely on their skill to make the best diagnoses

Sir, GPs do not miss cancer through wilful negligence or incompetence (June 30). Each GP sees about 50 presentations of potential cancer symptoms every day. The only way to be certain of never missing a diagnosis would be to refer every one of these for a consultant opinion or further investigation. A CT scan for every headache. A colonoscopy for every tummy ache. A chest X-ray for every cough. A biopsy for every mole or swollen lymph node. This would not be a measure of a “good” GP. The NHS would collapse within days and patients would be harmed by over investigation (radiation-induced cancers, unnecessary surgery etc). GPs use their clinical acumen, time and simple investigations to make a judgment about appropriate referral. Inevitably a few early cancer presentations will be missed — it is tragic, of course, for individual patients when this happens, and we feel dreadful too — but these are a tiny percentage of the decisions made every day. It is a reflection of the real problem that cancer is not a single disease with a simple diagnostic presentation, and not a reflection of poor GP quality. It is impossible to have an accurate cancer diagnosis in every single case within the current system and bounds of knowledge.

Dr Sarah Murray

Yelverton, Devon

Soft fruit growers says there is no health problem with this summer’s UK harvest

Sir, The UK fresh fruit crop does not pose a public health risk as your headline “Dirty water threatens summer strawberry crop” (June 30) implies. The report you cite was based on out-of-date references relating to a specific issue with frozen berries from developing countries, imported into other parts of Europe in 2012. The issues are not in the UK. The UK soft fruit industry has scrupulous food safety and hygiene systems; and as pointed out by The Food Standards Agency, there have been no such outbreaks in Britain.

Laurence Olins

British Summer Fruits


Members of the Royal College of Nursing voted to reject the motion that would introduce charging for NHS services Photo: Alamy

6:58AM BST 30 Jun 2014

Comments114 Comments

SIR – Margaret Robinson is right to highlight the serious consequences of introducing charging for NHS services, such as GP appointments.

When the Royal College of Nursing debated the issue at our annual congress this month, an overwhelming 92 per cent of our members voted to reject the motion, and reaffirmed the college’s commitment to maintaining an NHS free at the point of use. During the debate, members raised their concerns about the effects that such a proposal would have on vulnerable people and access to timely and appropriate healthcare.

Nursing is a large and varied profession, with more than 400,000 RCN members working for the NHS and the independent sector. Nurses felt that it was important to discuss this issue, at a time when the NHS is faced with making significant savings and with growing demand. We will continue to raise these important issues as health funding is shrouded in uncertainty. In the run-up to the general election, the public need to know where the parties stand. We need clear direction from our politicians so that the NHS can plan for the future.

Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
London W1

Boost for savers

SIR – Professor Michael White points out that “even an increase of 0.25 per cent makes a difference to those on the margins”.

All savers, and especially those living on their savings, will agree wholeheartedly with this statement. The increase in disposable income for us, when savings rates are at all-time lows, will be considerable, and very welcome.

John Palmer
Wellington, Herefordshire

Fish on wheels

SIR – As a railway fireman in the Fifties, I worked on trains between Manchester Central and Wigan Central. It was usual to take on water for the return trip, and we got the water from a nearby canal.

Consequently, every engine had its colony of sticklebacks which went to and fro quite happily for weeks. I didn’t see any crocodiles, though.

Eric Wallworth
Llandudno, Caernarfonshire

Big in Brussels

SIR – Famous Belgians (Letters, June 28) include: Eddy Merckx (the cyclist); Audrey Hepburn; Georges Simenon (the writer); Jean-Claude Van Damme; René Magritte (the surrealist artist); Gerardus Mercator (the father of modern map-making); Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone); King Leopold II (infamous for exploiting the Congo Free State); and, of course, Hercule Poirot and Tintin.

Barry Lane
Coulsdon, Surrey

SIR – Richard Hardman asks if anyone can name three famous Luxembourgeois. I can manage one: Josy Bartel, the 1952 Olympic 1500 metres champion, who did not get through to the final of the following Games.

Does that presage the fate of Juncker?

Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire

SIR – Asking someone to recall three famous Luxembourgeois is a bit of a stretch. For such a country, two will be more than sufficient.

Jonathan Baldwin
Church Minshull, Cheshire

History of law

SIR – In his article “Unfinished Business” Charles Moore says that Wafic Said “had to struggle against the Oxford idea that business was not a fit subject for academic study – although for centuries the university had taken quite a different attitude to occupations such as law and medicine”.

Faculties of civil law and canon law were established in the medieval university (Henry VIII prohibited the teaching of canon law). But despite the fact that judges developed English common law from medieval times, not until 1758 was the Vinerian Chair in English Law established. William Blackstone, its first holder, was the first professor at the university to teach common law.

Only in 1870 did Oxford offer a degree in English law, the BA in jurisprudence, which continues today. The fact that the honour school was named jurisprudence suggests that the course was seen as comprising academic rather than practitioners’ law.

From medieval times, aspiring lawyers trained for practice with established practitioners. Whatever type of law was taught at Oxford, the syllabus comprised, then as now, “topics chosen primarily for their intellectual interest, rather than for the frequency with which they arise in practice” (Oxford Law Faculty).

The university has never provided courses in law specifically to train legal practitioners – professional training has always been considered “not a fit subject for academic study”.

Angela Ellis-Jones
Sutton, Surrey

Baby an Bord

SIR – I remember “Baby on Board” signs in Germany (as “Baby an Bord”) back in the late Sixties, as will many servicemen of my generation. The yellow lozenges were suspended from a small plastic suction sticker. The disciplined Germans only displayed them when a small child was actually in the car.

Glyn Jones
Haxton, Wiltshire

There’s a snail in my…

SIR – I was dining alfresco in Bavaria recently when a large snail fell on my head from an overhanging tree branch. The snail narrowly missed my glass of beer and appeared unfazed by the accident. It then slithered off, apparently unhurt.

Donald Bradshaw
Adderbury, Oxfordshire

The dangers of relying on technology in schools

SIR – Elizabeth Truss, the minister for education and childcare, says teachers are spending inordinate amounts of time preparing lessons. Let’s not forget the ways in which technology takes time from teachers.

To promote the use of mobile devices in classrooms up and down the country, we now have “directors of e-learning”, and “blended learning” to encourage us to think that technology is not taking over our lives.

I was momentarily beguiled by a presentation on iBooks Author at my school last week until I realised just how long it would take me to prepare lessons, how much it would be lining the pockets of the IT moguls, and just how little anyone in education seems to care about the amount of time our children spend in front of a screen these days.

Susan Wigmore
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – Elizabeth Truss is right: teaching is and must remain an attractive occupation.

However, when our research reveals that two-thirds of teachers feel undervalued, it is unclear how the minister intends to keep teaching attractive for talented and committed professionals.

It is not just a question of pay: value runs much deeper in the teaching profession. Our research shows, and teachers who ring our helpline confirm, that they are anxious over workload, job security and the pace of change in the education sector.

We need to transform the public attitude towards teachers and build a positive school culture where teachers can be both safe and ambitious.

Otherwise, Mrs Truss’s assertion that there has “never been a better time to be a teacher” will remain wishful thinking.

Julian Stanley
Teacher Support Network
London N5

SIR – I sympathise with Ron Kirby, who is concerned about yet another new word entering our language, but our language is constantly changing and will continue to do so. For example, no one leaves any more; they exit. Equally, no one talks about things “in the future”; it is all about going forward.

Cyril Burton
Abbots Morton, Worcestershire

SIR – We are often told by Europhiles that the reason Britain must stay in the European Union is that, if we left, we would have no influence; the naming of Jean-Claude Junckeras President of the European Commission shows we have none anyway. We might just as well leave at the earliest opportunity and pocket the £50 million-plus-per-day it costs us to be ignored.

Ian Goddard
Wickham, Hampshire

SIR – The EU operates in the same way as Fifa. Everyone knows both organisations are mismanaged by second-rate people, but the members don’t want to rock the boat in case they miss out on the perks.

Laurence Heath
Wokingham, Berkshire

SIR – Britain needs independence from the EU if it is to become a major partner with China. The EU’s aggressive confrontations with Russia are hardly the road along which Britain should be travelling.

The EU resulted from a Cold War situation that has now ended. It has become a bureaucracy increasingly devoid of purpose. A new global Briatin is our future. The EU belongs to the past.

Geoffrey Collier
Aldwick, West Sussex

SIR – Be bold, Mr Cameron, and call an immediate In/Out referendum. Let the people of Britain choose – not politicians.

Patricia Bateson
Bressingham, Norfolk

SIR – Fraser Nelson praises the Prime Minister for his “courage” in “taking on Europe”. That may be how it looks to a Westminster insider. However, to many of us in the real world, David Cameron looks like a man who has been forced into confrontation with an institution whose shortcomings are, in his view, outweighed vastly by the benefits of membership. In other words, it looks less like an act of courage and more like naked political posturing.

Mr Cameron knows that the prospects of meaningful reform of the EU are remote, and that it mattered not which of the federalist candidates became President of the Commission. Mr Juncker was merely a useful hate figure to present to people back home.

The Prime Minister’s strategy is to try to bamboozle enough voters to win the 2015 election, after which he will “negotiate” with his EU partners, obtain a few meaningless concessions which he (and his spin doctors) will present as a victory, and campaign for a vote to stay in. That’s not courage – it’s cynical politics.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

SIR – With the Hungarians failing to qualify for the World Cup and England knocked out, who should we now support?

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I doubt that anyone in Britain knew that Jean-Claude Juncker was the wrong man for the job of European Commission president until British prime minister David Cameron started his one-man crusade against him. Now Mr Cameron is looking for the EU’s help in stopping the British public voting to leave the EU. Is this the diplomatic way of asking for assistance in picking up his toys and putting them back in the pram? – Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,

Booterstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would have thought that the appointment of the arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker should give Ireland pause for thought over its role within an increasingly German-dominated EU. Without espousing the “in or out” hysteria that is daily spewed out in the British press, isn’t it time for a considered examination of where the German-driven EU train is leading us? – Yours, etc,



Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – European voters have the power via the ballot box to choose their European Commission president. The process of having lead candidates, who are selected by their parties and campaign across Europe before the elections, has deepened the debate about European issues. This has meant the EU has become closer to its citizens, more transparent and more democratic. – Yours, etc,


Avenue de l’Armée,


 A chara, – Using  Barry Walsh’s “entirely reasonable interpretation of the recorded words and actions of Jesus” (June 28th), it would not be just women who should be excluded from ordination, but any man who was not a circumcised Jew. There was no gentile among the 12. Too painful to contemplate?  – Is mise,


Ascaill Abhoca,

An Charraig Dhubh,

Co Bhaile Átha Cliath.

Sir, – When we remember that it took the thick end of some 1,800 years to unpack the concept of human slavery, the retaining of that concept bitterly fought under the banners of tradition and scripture, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that many Christians are still trying to work out the full implications of accepting that both female and male were made “in God’s image”.

There are thousands upon thousands of us women priests exercising ministry worldwide in different Christian denominations, our vocations having been discerned and accepted by other (male) priests and male and female laity.

Can we please just be left to get on with our work of God’s kingdom without having to constantly put up with what, from our perspective, is noisy splashing in the shallow end of the theological paddling pool? – Yours, etc,




St Mary’s Rectory,

Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Sir, – In the First Epistle to the Corinthians (14:34-35) Saint Paul teaches that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”.

Some may argue against female priests, based on the incongruity of a woman preaching such passages of the New Testament from the pulpit.

These and many other misogynist New Testament scriptures suggest to me that the problem does not relate to women in the Christian priesthood, but rather Christianity’s understanding of womanhood. – Yours, etc,


Church Heath,


Co Monaghan.

Sir, – I agree with Una Mullally that it’s time for some action on excessive drinking in Ireland (“Time for action on our booze epidemic”, Opinion & Analysis, June 30th).

However, buy-in from the community at large is the essential starting place. There will be no chance of achieving broad consensus by using statistics that torpedo credibility. No young person in Ireland, and few older people, will accept binge drinking as anything over three pints of beer (six units) in a session and the resultant absurd statistical extrapolations.

The answer, as always, will lie in a broad spectrum of measures in education, sporting facilities and social justice – all requiring investment and sacrifice by the community at large. And trusted and credible data as a foundation. – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – Carl O’Brien writes that that, “When companion passes are taken into account, there are more than 1.1 million customers with free travel eligibility” (“Transport firms issue threat over free travel scheme”, Front Page, June 30th).

That’s a lot of votes. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I believe the free travel scheme to be of enormous social, psychological and economic benefit to citizens. It should, however, be administered effectively. A photo-ID card should be used to eliminate fraud. On clients reaching 66, social welfare services should send out application forms only. At present, non-photo cards are sent out automatically. I know many people who have never used their free travel passes. Make application forms and renewal payments available online. Charge for the card annually – a modest figure to cover administration costs, say €30. If transport providers are having financial problems, then restrict travel to non-peak times. End the issuing of companion passes, unless the card-holder is disabled.

I think these simple steps would eliminate the unbalanced elements of the scheme. Meanwhile, I am trying to improve my cycling.– Yours, etc,


George’s Street Upper,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – The recent dispute at a certain waste collection company brings into sharp focus the dangers of privatising services that are essential to citizens of the State (“Taoiseach to contact employment rights body about row at Greyhound”, June 26th). It is certainly fair to say that since waste collection services have been privatised, the quality of service has plummeted in some areas, the cost to the consumer has increased everywhere and now it appears that the wages of staff are being slashed, yet I suspect shareholders are still reaping profits.

In that light, this Government’s apparent crusade to privatise the transport network of this country is extremely worrying. I wonder if it is a case of putting ideology ahead of reality and pragmatism?

There are certain sectors of a society that simply cannot be left to the whims of the market, that should not be expected to yield profit, that the State simply has to provide for its citizens. Foremost among these are healthcare, public sanitation and transport.

The Government’s intention to put the bus service for the entirety of Waterford out to tender can only lead to disaster for that service. Should private transport operators be granted these routes it will simply go one way. We have seen already what has happened to waste collection.

To put it bluntly, private companies exist for one reason and one reason only – to create a profit. There is nothing inherently wrong in businesses striving for profit; however, there are simply some parts of our society that should not be left to their tender mercies.

A privately operated transport service will lead to diminished services, increased fares and lower wages for staff, because the shareholders of these companies will simply not forego their profit margin in the name of public transport. Nor should the State simply abdicate its responsibility to provide a functioning transport system nationwide. – Is mise,


Lismore Road,

Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Sir, – I agree absolutely with the sentiments expressed by your correspondent EF Fanning (June 28th). Having been born in Dublin in the 1940s, I know exactly what it’s like to be “isolated in a sectarian statelet”. – Yours, etc,


Barnhill Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – When EF Fanning wrote of a sectarian state and about a large number of people being selfishly abandoned, I thought perhaps he had in mind the millions failed by the Irish State, the so-called “surplus population” whose remittances kept thousands of families afloat in the dark decades. Or perhaps he was going to go on to mention the thousands subjected to cold internal exile in our austere institutions?

It is long past time that we decided on a national jigsaw whose pieces, even approximately, accorded with reality.

Scotland eschewed violence. What a pity Ireland didn’t. – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,


Co Down.

Sir, – I am writing to respond to your editorial “Big Four, big fees from Central Bank” (June 24th). The editorial included the following two assertions: “the banking crisis – to which the Big Four accounting firms have, in particular, made a significant contribution”, and “the role of the Big Four in the banking collapse has yet to be adequately investigated, and properly explained”. The former statement appears to be based on a misconception of what is involved in a financial statements audit, while the latter ignores the work undertaken by Prof Peter Nyberg and the House of Lords select committee.

Audits of company financial statements are carried out in compliance with legal requirements specified in the Companies Acts. Their purpose is to enable the auditor to express an opinion on the financial statements prepared by the company, notably on the truth and fairness of the financial position reported. This opinion must be formed on the basis of the best evidence available at the time. The audit is not intended to provide assurance on the business model being operated by the company, nor on future strategies or risk appetites. So the audit is not some form of “catch-all assurance” on an entity’s operational health or viability. The role of auditors has been investigated here, and in the UK, by Prof Nyberg and the House of Lords Select committee respectively. Prof Nyberg concluded that auditors had, by and large, complied with their legal responsibilities, though he challenged current orthodoxy on the role and scope of audit and whether it remains fit for purpose.

This is the challenge that the auditing profession must now meet head on, and Chartered Accountants Ireland is playing an active and constructive role in responding to this challenge. – Yours, etc,



Chartered Accountants


Pearse Street,

Sir, – Rory O’Callaghan (June 28th) seems to resent the fact that Edward Carson (born and bred in Dublin) appears alongside John Redmond on a recently released An Post commemorative stamp. He now awaits “with bated breath” the day the Royal Mail issues a stamp depicting James Connolly (born and bred in Edinburgh). Yet the concluding paragraph of Mr O’Callaghan’s missive begins with the sentence: “In Ireland we appear to have some difficulty honouring and commemorating our own heroes and martyrs”. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – Rory O’Callaghan mentions that “in Ireland we appear to have some difficulty honouring and commemorating our own heroes and martyrs”. Almost 170 years ago Gavan Duffy included in his elegy in the Nation on the death in September 1845 of Thomas Davis: “The warriors of England have statues and triumphal pillars erected to their honour in our public places; but our heroes have no trophies, no monumental piles, no marble records of their worth. It would seem as if we had no valour, no genius, no patriotism to offer, or that we had too many wrongs to remember to be reminded of benefits to the nation by one of our own countrymen”.

Mr O’Callaghan won’t be alone as he waits with bated breath for the Royal Mail stamp featuring James Connolly. – Is mise,


Sugarloaf Terrace,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I really enjoyed Áine Ryan’s piece about our beautiful Atlantic coastline (An Irishwoman’s Diary, June 19th). As a young archaeologist working then for the Office of Public Works, I excavated the majestic Iron Age promontory fort at Dunbeg for three months in the summer of 1977. Incredibly, we only lost one day’s work to weather in all that time. These promontory forts are still somewhat of an enigma.

Back then, I was also worried about coastal erosion and how it would impact on the site, but even if the State had invested large sums to protect it, the ever-mighty sea would still have eventually eroded the land around the edges of the fort. The sad fact now is that the most recent erosion has almost completely destroyed much of the northern dry-stone side wall of the complex entrance-way into its interior. But at least we have plans and archaeological data relating to this fine site. – Yours, etc,


Department of History,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – If AIB had been as assiduous in its pursuit of CJ Haughey as it was in its pursuit of Sir Anthony O’Reilly, how different our history would be. – Yours, etc,


Seafield Avenue,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – Further to “Ignominious end to career of Ireland’s first business superstar” (Business, June 27th), there is no ignominy whatsoever in O’Reilly’s current situation and there is no reason to believe that his career has ended.

Let us not forget that Tony O’Reilly has been the most generous of Irish benefactors in a vast number of deserving areas, every one of which was directed to contribute to the development of our country. Many of these were in the higher education domain where he provided extensive funding, not only for buildings on our university campuses but more importantly, for a great number of our most brilliant but needy scholars, giving them funding to pursue higher degrees open to all university disciplines, which they otherwise would not have been able to do, with the mission that they would return to Ireland and contribute to the development of our country, which indeed they have done. No one, yes no one, has been more generous, or innovative in their generosity for the greater good of our small island than Tony O’Reilly. – Yours, etc,

Professor Emeritus


University College Dublin,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – In 1986 the Richmond Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery applied to the Ireland Foundation for a research grant to study malignant brain tumours at the Richmond Hospital. The application was unsuccessful. The following year Tony O’Reilly, a patron of the Ireland Foundation, invited me and the chairman of the institute to meet him in his private office in Fitzwilton in Dublin. He expressed admiration for our research, noting our disappointment regarding the grant application. As we left his office he reached for his cheque book and wrote a personal cheque for $10,000 for our research. I have not met Sir Anthony since but I will forever remember his gesture on that day. – Yours, etc,



Beaumont Private Clinic,

Beaumont Hospital,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – Clare Herbert (“We’re separated by an ocean, but emotionally we’re right alongside each other”, Generation Emigration, June 28th), describing her ongoing engagement with Ireland while living abroad, writes, “Spending time way from home has allowed me to see [Ireland] more clearly, both our national strengths – the capacity to work hard and build relationships – and our weaknesses . . . The longer I spend outside Ireland, the more convinced I become that our global connections will be the foundation for the country’s success in the future.”

When will we give our emigrants the vote? – Yours, etc,


Saval Park Gardens,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Recent comments on the stress generated by the demands to succeed at the Leaving Certificate raise significant questions about the point and purpose of schooling.

Our education system is fuelled by the unchallenged assertion that at the heart of human thinking is a single faculty called ‘intelligence’, which is variably distributed across the population; the function of education is to identify those who have it and discard those who don’t. Thus, failure is manufactured in order to highlight success.

An extensive industry has been built around the myth of intelligence as an inherited faculty. It has been deemed to make good economic sense to direct education resources to the detection, selection and nurturing at an early age of those revealed to be in possession of this competence.

It is still assumed that the presence of intelligence could be detected through conducting certain kinds of test. The notorious 11+ examination in England purports to identify those who would profit from a thoroughly academic education provided by grammar schools.

Despite the discrediting of intelligence tests that test only the ability to do the test, the education system still rests on test-based selection.

For instance, the international comparison of schools’ performance is mainly based on so-called Higher Order Thinking Skills, known as HOTS.

On a recent visit to Malaysia, I found anxiety expressed that the school examinations were not embracing HOTS, with the result that the country was falling behind in the international league tables.

The provision of a liberal education is undermined by schools being burdened by the latest government wheeze, bypassing the professional judgment of teachers, overloading the curriculum and getting in the way of releasing the creativity of the students.

Sadly, success in the Leaving Certificate examination amounts to the capacity to go through certain, more or less arbitrary hoops under stress.





According to the report on civil service accountability and performance, a position of Head of the Civil Service is to be created by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to act as guardian of the ethos and values of the system.

The Head would report to a board of experts, including the now obligatory member recruited from outside the State, who would be expected to provide the civil service with ‘an outside perspective’.

Yes minister, but is this a tacit admission that the existing regimes within the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform do not have the credibility and legitimacy to lead and deliver fundamental change?

This report does not describe a single concrete example of reform successfully accomplished by either the civil service or a major semi-state agency in the history of the State, yet root-and-branch modernising change has been on the programme of every government since 1994.

The last major reform initiative, the decentralisation of the public sector outside Dublin, conjured alongside the now abandoned national spatial strategy, cost well over €300m, not the €20m promised.

The civil service operates on the basis of constructive ambiguity. How could it be otherwise if a cabinet minister never issues a letter of direction to the secretary-general of a government department and both are surrounded by political advisers and ministers-of-state who have ambiguous roles, who behave like the rarified potentates of a utopian mythical realm and are not subject to any real scrutiny?

To an outsider, government departments are well-fortified, impregnable baronies that brook no interference in their internal affairs, or entertain suggestions to modernise or change that are imposed externally.





Where have I been that I didn’t hear that unemployment has finally reached zero? Why am I missing out on all this second-job stuff?

If the employment situation is such that someone who is (a) already on a damned good screw (and fair play to him) and certainly not in need of an extra income; (b) not a current affairs expert – as I am sure even he would admit; (c) not at all the best choice as replacement for the admittedly hard to replace Marian Finucane, isn’t putting Brendan O’Carroll in her chair giving out a pretty pathetic message on the part of RTE?

There is surely a wide enough choice of very able broadcasters and journalists who can be called upon to present a show of this kind with humour, insight, perceptive vision (and not quite the mega income) in the absence of Marian.





Gerry Conlon was one of four people arrested, tortured and falsely imprisoned for carrying out bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in England in 1974. His father Giuseppe was also arrested while visiting his son in prison and wrongly convicted of involvement in bomb making. He died in prison.

The Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, the Birmingham Six and others were all victims of miscarriages of justice, which saw the British police service, judiciary and political establishment conniving in imprisoning citizens they knew to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Carole Richardson and Paddy Armstrong spent 15 years in English prisons under horrendous conditions.

A public campaign in support of their release eventually succeeded in achieving that in 1989.

Contrary to Eamon Delaney’s claim (Irish Independent, June 24) that the IRA members known as the Balcombe Street unit “half claimed that they were also responsible for the Guildford bombings”, the facts are as follows.

In December 1975, four IRA volunteers who became known as the Balcombe Street unit were arrested. Within 24 hours they had told senior British police officers that they, not the four people recently convicted – later known as the Guildford Four – were involved in the bombings.

At the Guildford Four’s appeal hearing in October 1977, IRA volunteers Eddie Butler, Harry Duggan, Joe O’Connell – members of the Balcombe Street unit – and Brendan Dowd, who had been arrested separately, testified in court.

Butler, Duggan, O’Connell and Dowd testified that they were responsible for the Woolwich bombing. Dowd also accepted responsibility for the Guildford bomb attack. All said that the four persons convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings had played no part in the attacks.

Respected British Labour MP Chris Mullen, who campaigned for the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, said of the men’s testimony: “All said that the four persons convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings had played no part. So detailed was the Balcombe Street unit’s account that it was not possible to pretend that they had not been involved.”

Despite this, the Appeal Court upheld the convictions of the Guildford Four.

Mr Delaney ignores these facts in his efforts to use the tragic death of Mr Conlon to try and score cheap political points against Sinn Fein.




Irish Independent


June 30, 2014

30 June2014 Reading

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. We potter around its raining, and cold so much for Flaming June!

ScrabbleIwinone of those dull game, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Peter Lee was a wartime flying-boat navigator who became the first counter-forgery scientist at the Bank of England

Peter Lee

Peter Lee

5:54PM BST 29 Jun 2014


Peter Lee, who has died aged 90, spent his wartime years aloft in the African skies and his post-war career buried away in the vaults of the Bank of England.

In 1944 he was the navigator in a Sunderland Mark III flying-boat which ran into trouble en route to a base in a mangrove swamp in Sierra Leone. When the engine failed the pilot was forced to land on the sea, forcing the crew to endure a perilous three days adrift off the coast of North Africa and a seven-week journey back to their squadron.

The crew of Lee’s Sunderland Flying Boat

A little over a decade later Lee was countering a rise in fake banknotes as the Bank of England’s first counter-forgery scientist. He joined a small team of technicians at the Bank of England Printing Works in Debden, Essex, which worked alongside the artist Harry Ecclestone (the Bank’s first full-time designer). Their aim was to produce banknotes that celebrated great British figures while confounding attempts at forgery; while Ecclestone focused on the composition, Lee manipulated the materials.

Counterfeit banknotes have been the bane of the Bank ever since it first issued paper money in 1694. When photographic and printing technologies developed apace after the Second World War, the problem was only exacerbated. Small-scale printers opened up in backstreets and industrial premises and, simultaneously, there were developments in black-and-white copying and colour reproduction (incorporating techniques such as four-colour printing using half-tone screens). Such technologies threatened the security of banknotes and the Bank of England needed to take action.

Lee played a pivotal part in the development of the Bank’s Series C notes (which featured the Queen in an oval frame) and later, through the Seventies, the well-known Series D — featuring representations of Isaac Newton (£1), the Duke of Wellington (£5), Florence Nightingale (£10), William Shakespeare (£20) and Christopher Wren (£50). Working in conjunction with the Bank’s paper suppliers (Portals), Lee masterminded the use of special colours and lines — including the Non Uniformed Security Thread (a wide thread with a wavy edge) and the Windowed Thread (a woven-through yet visible silvery line) — to flummox forgers.

Peter Denis Lee was born on November 1 1923 in Finsbury Park, London, and educated at Dame Alice Owen’s School in Islington. At the outbreak of war he was evacuated to Bedford. He joined the RAF in August 1941 as an airman and later trained as a navigator in Canada before joining Coastal Command.

During a night navigation training flight on May 12 1944 his Catalina flying boat crashed in the Western Isles and three of the 10-man crew were killed. After a period recovering in hospital, Lee joined No 490 (NZ) Squadron, equipped with the Sunderland flying boats.

In July that year, he was the navigator on a flight from Oban in Scotland to Jui, 15 miles upriver from Freetown in Sierra Leone. “It was a delightful summer evening as we taxied up the Sound of Kerrara,” he recalled. After refuelling in Gibraltar, the aircraft headed down the coasts of French and Spanish Morocco. Seven hours into the flight an engine failed and the pilot landed on the sea to allow repairs, which involved clearing out the oil filter. Shortly after taking off, the other three engines were similarly affected and the pilot was forced to alight again. It was thought that the aircraft might have been sabotaged in Gibraltar.

One engine became unusable, preventing the aircraft from taking off. Throughout the night the aircraft was taxied towards the coast and at dawn they were informed that a second Sunderland had suffered the same fate and had been forced to alight on the sea some 30 miles away. The two aircraft rendezvoused and at dusk a Free French gunboat intercepted the drifting Sunderlands. A tow was established but the rope broke and the aircrews were forced to spend a second night on the sea.

A larger American gunboat re-established a tow but, after 150 miles, with the sea becoming increasingly rough, one of the floats on Lee’s aircraft was damaged. Despite a valiant attempt by the flight engineer to make repairs whilst balanced precariously on the wing tip, the situation worsened – he was awarded the BEM for gallantry. The flying boat was in danger of sinking and the crew had to take to the dinghy and were picked up by the French boat, which then sank the Sunderland by gunfire. “After some confusion and several misses the Sunderland was finally hit, caught fire and gracefully sank beneath the waves,” recalled Lee.

Lee’s crew spent another night at sea before reaching Agadir from where they continued to Gibraltar. They finally reached Jui, after a seven-week journey, where they rejoined No 490 Squadron to carry out anti-U-boat patrols off the West African coast. After completing his flying tour, Lee remained on the staff of Air HQ West Africa.

He left the RAF with the rank of flying officer in November 1946. He subsequently studied Physics at Imperial College London and on graduating joined Gestetner, the company which developed duplicating machines.

He joined the Bank of England in 1956. Although some of his team’s ideas turned out to be incompatible with banknote use and production, Lee’s post-war career at the forefront of banknote security, developing the C, D and E series, helped bring about many innovations that continue in some form today. In the process, Lee represented the Bank as an expert witness in forger trials and became well known at central banks across Europe, Australia and America — he claimed that the US dollar was the easiest banknote in the world to forge.

He retired from the Bank of England in 1983, having been co-credited as inventor on patents for the Bank’s security devices. He then worked for some years as a private consultant; he also wrote a technical journal, Paper Currency in Circulation. He was a member of the Printers and Stationers Guild and made a Freeman of the City of London in 1986. He was also a proud member of the Goldfish Club, the international association for people who have jumped by parachute into the water or whose aircraft crashed in the water.

Peter Lee married Morfydd Howells in 1952. The couple separated and in later life Lee lived with his longtime companion Penny (who predeceased him). He is survived by his wife and four children.

Peter Lee, born November 1 1923, died May 6 2014


So Mr Cameron is taking Britain closer to the exit door of the European Union (Report, 28 June) and he faces an uphill struggle to convince the British people to remain inside. Now why is that exactly? Could it be because he forgot the provision in the Lisbon treaty for the European council to recommend their chosen candidate for the presidency; that this provision was based on the principle that the European elections should be seen as an expression of broad political support, represented by parties of right, left and centre; that the centre-right European People’s party, having won most seats, believed, quite reasonably, this gave them the right to nominate the candidate for the presidency – a view shared by the other largest elected parties; that leaving the EPP meant that Mr Cameron no longer had a say in choosing the centre-right nomination; that much of the British media built up Mr Juncker into a bogeyman seeking to drive all Europe into a super-state; that the same media decided that the best way to increase British influence was to personally denigrate Mr Juncker and naively accepted Mr Cameron’s fantasy that his views were shared by other leaders to the point they would support his opposition to Mr Juncker; that the media also reported the fact that just 10% of European voters turned to nationalist parties as if it represented a tidal wave against the European project when the vast majority of voters continued to vote for parties broadly committed to working for change within Europe; that, in fact, the European council had a perfect right to suggest and appoint a different candidate, but didn’t? To make one serious misjudgement may be regarded as a misfortune. To make a dozen or more is surely worse than carelessness.

And now, Jeremy Hunt, in a pathetic attempt to boost his leader’s dismal performance, accuses other European leaders of cowardice and suggests it is up to them to convince British voters to stay in the EU. Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first drive mad – and they are doing an excellent job with this government.
Peter Luff
Former chair, European Movement UK

• Cameron does not deserve the bad press he’s had recently over his opposition to Mr. Juncker’s appointment. Too much bureaucratic European legislation is issued from Brussels with little or no debate at Westminster. It affects business, the environment, even charities and every one of us as individuals. Ukip is entirely wrong: the UK must remain part of the EU; and Cameron is right to warn that national parliaments must have more influence.
David Owen
Bovingdon, Hertfordshire

• I don’t believe Cameron was defeated in trying to avoid an unelected leader being chosen to rule over 480 million Europeans. I believe it’s all a charade by him to pretend to renegotiate membership, despite knowing the rules and despite frequent put-downs by other EU leaders. I believe it is his master plan to pretend in order to gain votes. First, he has never made any ministerial appointments of anybody remotely anti-EU. Second, in Kazakhstan last year, he made a speech saying he wanted the EU to extend to the Urals (a mountain range 600 miles into Russia). Now he is reported to be supporting desperately poor crime-ridden Albania’s accession to the EU.
Reginald Smith
Hadleigh, Suffolk

David Cameron is right that the Euro elections showed people wanted a different direction for Europe, but wrong to conflate this with the kinds of reform he is seeking as recompense for his junk Juncker debacle. The parties that gained the most new seats in the European parliament were those opposing the free flow of people within Europe and those rejecting the disastrous austerity programmes. Both of these sources of voter concern were made possible by the treaty of Rome abolishing controls over the free movement of people, goods, money and services. It was the unfettered flow of money and goods which largely stoked up the continent’s debt bubble and resulting credit crunch. To pay for the state bailouts that followed, the mainstream parties then demanded austerity measures which sacrificed the living standards and social infrastructure of those least responsible for 2008’s free market economic disaster. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in even more migration from southern and eastern Europe, adding to social tensions across the continent.

The reforms needed are not the rightwing agenda of more labour flexibility and evermore ruthless competition. This is just code for the usual neoliberal priorities of less workers rights and a roll back of social and environmental regulations. It’s time that Labour countered this by taking seriously the majority’s concerns about uncontrollable European immigration and rising economic insecurity and so start a debate with its allies in Europe to turn the treaty of Rome into a “treaty of home”. This would allow countries to cooperate to take back control of their borders for progressive goals, such as reducing inequality and rebuilding flourishing local economies, and which could result in increased political support for a reformed Europe which actually addresses the majority’s fears for the future, rather than making them worse.
Colin Hines
East Twickenham, Middlesex

• In the midst of the petulant threats to leave the EU from (mainly) rightwing English Tories, it takes an American with some historical perspective to remind us what lies at stake should the Union fracture. Here is Adam Gopnik writing in the New Yorker in May 2012:

“The truth needs restating: social democracy in Europe, embodied by its union, has been one of the greatest successes in history. Like all successes, it can seem exasperatingly commonplace. There is something uninspiring about the compromises and the dailiness of a happy marriage, and something compelling about one that is coming apart: it looks more like the due fate of all things. Yet the truth ought to remain central. A continent torn by the two most horrible wars in history achieved a remarkable half century of peace and prosperity, based on a marriage of liberalism properly so called (individual freedoms, including the entrepreneurial kind) and socialism rightly so ordered (as an equitable care for the common good).”
Robert Meikle

• Cameron’s failings may be grist to the internecine struggle in the Tory party but viewed from a national perspective they constitute a looming disaster. The country is on course to leave the EU, to watch while Scotland secedes from the union and to experience the collapse of foreign policy as swaths of the Middle East are trashed in jihadist chaos. If he succeeds in his little England mission we will then have the significance and political clout of, let’s say, Luxembourg.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

• David Cameron is tactically confused. Faced with a choice of being on the outside of the tent and pissing in, or on the inside pissing out, he seems to have chosen to be on the inside pissing in. No wonder he’s isolated.
Blaine Stothard

Archduke Franz Ferdinand leaves the town hall in Sarajevo moments before he was assasinated by Gavri

Archduke Franz Ferdinand leaves the town hall in Sarajevo moments before he was assasinated by Gavrilo Princip 100 years ago. Photograph: ENA

It is no great surprise that Gavrilo Princip (Report, 27 June) is viewed very differently by Serbs, Muslims and Croats.

To Serbs he was fighting to free our people from state-orchestrated persecution in our own country. Mass sackings, show trials, persecution of the Serbian Orthodox church and attempts to curtail the use of cyrillic alphabet were all daily occurrences for the Serbs of Bosnia. Muslims and Croats were very much the beneficiaries of this policy.

By ending this domination, Princip is widely considered by Muslims and Croats as a fanatic and radical. To understand 1914 it is vital to understand why he pulled the trigger. Dismissing him as a Serb nationalist, a fanatic or an unhinged maniac is shamefully ignorant.
Anthony Shelmerdine Boskovic
Saddleworth, Yorkshire

• The illegal occupation of Bosnia and Hercegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire before the first world war was not quite as rosy as you would have it. There were repeated insurrections in the occupied territory that were brutally repressed and gave more than sufficient impetus to drive out the occupiers.

It’s sad that Bosnia has now come full-circle in its history and is as split as ever. I’ve been to the country four times since the end of the war and personally observed the divided towns, destroyed homes, racist graffiti and destroyed churches and mosques – which, together, still provide testament to the fact that nothing is yet resolved there, and that the region may yet become a flashpoint of the kind that ignited the first world war 100 years ago.
Dr Michael Pravica
Henderson, Nevada

Jonathan Jones (28 June) is not correct to say Tracey Emin’s “won’t get a penny” when her Bed sells at auction. Depending on the hammer price, she could receive up to €12,500 as her artist’s resale royalty, introduced into English law in 2010 as a result of an EU directive to make sure that (unlike Van Gogh and many artists after him) artists do benefit from the prices their work fetches on the art market once they sell it.
Nicholas Sharp
Art lawyer, Swan Turton LLP

• Young kids practising football abroad might be a threat to England’s chances (Letters, 25 June), but it isn’t only football. I regularly pass a Berlin sports training centre where large numbers of boys – and girls – aged about five to 10 are learning and playing…rugby. Watch out.
Brian Smith

• I really chuckled at Caroline Aherne’s nurse asking if she wished to wash her own “fairy” (28 June). A lovely nurse in a hospital in Austria helping me shower while I was recovering from a skiing accident suggested I might like to “do the kitchen area”.
Kate Roome
Staplehurst, Kent

• Phonics lost its magic for me when I saw a headline in a local paper that read: “Local man accused of mans- laughter” (Letters, 27 June).
Andrew Palmer

• Yorkshiremen using the escalators on Stockholm’s Tunnelbanen smile when directed to Ej Upp (Letters, 28 June).
Peter Fellows



Sir, A commission led by someone with a vision towards greater integration is welcome (“Europe will regret this moment, defiant Cameron tells European leaders,” June 28). Beyond Europe, there is an aggressive Russia, an unstable Middle East, a resurgent China and a vacillating US. To survive against threats to its economy, culture and values, Europe needs to be more integrated. Together, the EU’s 28 member states comprise the largest trading bloc in the world, with an educated and skilled population and advanced infrastructure. A centralised European government is the only viable long-term solution.

The fact that Juncker was chosen by the largest party group in the European Parliament is a welcome recognition that the directly elected assembly of the European nations is able to appoint key political leaders. With a stronger European Parliament expressing its representation in the appointment of EU political posts, a great step towards a European government has been taken. European nations will be the stronger after the election of Juncker.

Philip Ruttley
London SW19

Sir, David Cameron was right to adhere to his conviction against the appointment of an arch-federalist, anti-reformist and economically statist Jean-Claude Juncker as the president of the European Commission (“Splendid Isolation”, leading article, June 28). Angela Merkel’s volte-face, first assuring Cameron of her support and later turning against him, was unbecoming as a political leader. Using the leverage of an exit threat, Cameron might yet wrench power from Brussels. Edmund Burke said: “A project which ultimately seeks to abolish national identities and allegiances is likely to fail.”

Sam Banik
London N10

Sir, All but one of the other member countries put aside their private reservations and capitulated to Merkel. Why does the German chancellor want an arch European federalist in the top job? The only reasonable answer seems to be that in a federal Europe Germany would rule. History seems to be replaying itself at a political level: Germany wants to dominate, Europeans give in and Britain resists, almost alone.

Douglas Kedge
Oxon, Oxfordshire

Sir, Cameron has played a blinder. At a stroke he’s positioned himself as a vigorous defender of Britain’s interests. By presenting himself as a latter-day Churchill he slows — and quite possibly, reverses — the dangerous drift towards Ukip, he brings to a head the creeping realisation among members of the EU that, without the UK, theirs would be an even more largely feckless coalition. All he need do now is sit back and wait for the concessions that will surely come.

R R othschild
Lancaster, Lancs

Sir, Cameron has made the most of his defeat. For the first time, the issue of the UK’s future membership is taken seriously. Despite their irritation, our European friends will eventually wish to find a solution which enables us to remain a member without subscribing to closer union. That will lead to some return of powers to Westminster, including greater control of immigration.

Michael Maslinski
London SW1

Sir, From today all employees, not just parents and carers, will have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ employment.

We believe the government deserves much credit for this initiative. But for this new right to be realised, more needs to be done to inform both employees and employers of what has changed and how it will work in practice.

We would like to see the government run an information campaign to ensure all employees know their rights, enabling them to balance work and family responsibilities, and enabling employers to retain skilled workers who contribute to economic productivity.

Belinda Phipps, NCT; Anand Shukla, Family and Childcare Trust; Caroline Abrahams, Age UK; Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group; Sam Smethers, Grandparents Plus; Rosalind Bragg, Maternity Action

Sir, While everyone who works for the NHS within modern A&E departments has the best of intentions, there is no doubt that the chaos and misery experienced by many patients would make Hogarth’s depiction of destitution in Gin Lane pale into insignificance.

We need a modern Hogarth and his cartoons to shock us into realising how badly our society manages the vulnerable and how vocationally committed clinicians are burnt-out.

George Lewith, Professor of Health Research, University of Southampton; Alastair Dobbin, Honorary Fellow, School of Clinical Sciences, Edinburgh University; Chris Manning, Convenor, Action for NHS Wellbeing; Professor David Peters, Director, Westminster Centre for Resilience, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Westminster; Sheila Ross, Director, Foundation for Positive Mental Health

Sir, Your editorial “Moral Law” (June 26) makes much of the checks and secure safeguards which Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill would embody. It is salutary to consider another permissive law, the Abortion Act, which was brought in promising similarly robust safeguards.

We have recently had the scandal of pre-signed abortion permission forms and sex-selective abortions. Also, the definition of “serious physical handicap” has been broadened to include such conditions as cleft palate. As a lawyer, Lord Falconer will know that words can be redefined until they are meaningless.

I am afraid a so-called “safeguarded law” on assisted dying would afford no protection at all to the vulnerable, who have no one to speak up for them.

Joan Herbert
London NW10

Sir, Early clocks in the northern hemisphere were based on conventional flat sundials, on which the shadow of the gnomon moves from left to right throughout the day.

If sundials and clocks had first been made in the southern hemisphere, the shadow, and therefore the hands of clocks, would have moved the opposite way. The Bolivians (report, June 26, and letter, June 28) are trying to correct an historic injustice: putting the clock back, so to speak.

Michael Bird
London SW13


SIR – As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard indicates, Jean-Claude Juncker dislikes Britain with an abiding passion. As an arch-federalist, he will ignore the cries of European electors, just as he did the French and Dutch when they voted against the EU Constitution. With Germany’s Bild Zeitung now stating that Britain should leave the EU if we cannot accept this fait accompli, perhaps now is the time to consider obliging.

With a £22 billion trading deficit with the EU we would be doing ourselves an immense favour, and with Britain’s £8 billion net contribution no longer pouring into EU coffers, we would also be doing the voters of Europe a favour by hastening the EU’s demise.

As the unelected elites of Europe were prepared to foist whomever they pleased on us and ignore logical argument, it is time for David Cameron to bring on the referendum tomorrow.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – The selection of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU Commission could prove the best outcome for this country, if it hastens our departure from the European Union.

Christopher Arthur

China’s human rights

SIR – Martin Jacques is too quick to praise “the huge progress that China has made” in combating human-rights abuses.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is now serving an 11-year sentence, and many more activists are also detained. The very mention of Tiananmen, Tibet, Taiwan, democracy, or the Dalai Lama on the internet brings state retribution. The millions who died in the famine of 1959-61 may not be discussed, nor can the millions accumulated by Party leaders.

Jonathan Mirsky
London W11

Admirable Phillip

SIR – I was delighted to see your article on the forthcoming memorials to Admiral Arthur Phillip, the founder of modern Australia.

The Britain-Australia Society Education Trust, of which I am chairman, has established scholarships in his name for British and Australian master’s students. These celebrate the values and disciplines of the rule of law, humanity, scientific inquiry, maritime studies, languages and foreign relations, which were the defining characteristics of Admiral Phillip.

Admiral Phillip ensured that the Australian settlement was administered as a civil society. The convicts were not chained, and were free to build their own huts, wear their own clothes, grow their own vegetables, and have families. Phillip did not countenance slavery and treated convicts, marines and seamen equally.

Sir Christopher Benson
London WC2

NHS out-of-hours

SIR – The out-of-hours system in this country has failed again because there are too many steps before the right decision is taken.

The only way that I can see these problems not becoming frequent is to go back to the days when GPs covered their own practice out of hours. This gave them quick and easy access to the patient’s notes and to the nearest Accident and Emergency department, and on most occasions they knew the individual concerned.

In Sherborne we worked with this system for years before the introduction of Dorset Doctors On Call. This method should be considered again, even if GPs have to work longer hours.

Dr John Tuke
Leigh, Dorset

SIR – Earlier this month an international report from the Commonwealth Fund (based in Washington) found that the NHS is the best health care system in the world, while the American system is the worst.

The NHS is more cost-effective, less bureaucratic, more efficient and delivers better care.

Any health care system will have individual instances where provision falls short and mistakes are made. The NHS saves, improves and repairs lives every single day in this country.

John Goymer
Houghton le Spring, Co Durham

Three-for-two offers

SIR – Ardon Lyon (Letters, June 22) makes a point about three-for-two offers that I have tried to make to the big supermarkets, but with little result.

Quite apart from food that is wasted because it is “free” in a three-for-two offer, pity the elderly who have to carry more than they need in order to benefit from this supposed largesse and the poor who cannot afford the price but might be able to pay two thirds of it.

Marion Farrell
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

SIR – Geoff Dees (Letters, June 22) tells us that he recycles nearly everything and then lists bottle banks, collection points, clothing banks and charity shops. How exactly does he get to these places? On foot? Or is it by motor vehicle? And if the latter, what does the vehicle run on? Fresh air? Liquid phlogiston? Or is it petrol?

Some of us do not have such conveyances and rely on Shanks’s pony. So we can only recycle stuff we can carry and as far as we can carry it.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

Heroes of 1966

SIR – So Wayne Rooney thinks that his team is too nice to win the World Cup, does he?

This is nothing less than an insult to Bobby Moore and his splendid teammates.

Richard Nash
Yelland, Devon

SIR – Given the dominance of privately educated individuals in English sport (report, June 15) perhaps private schools should be encouraged to play association football too, so that we can stand a better chance of winning the World Cup in future.

Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent

Labour will abandon manifesto arithmetic

SIR – How can Ed Balls expect the Office for Budget Responsibility to be tasked with assessing whether his party’s manifesto sums add up, when past experience suggests that such manifesto “promises” can be so readily abandoned once in office?

As a professional economist focusing on these issues at the time, I was satisfied that the public finance sums implicit in Labour’s 2001 manifesto did indeed “add up”. I was also prepared to accept that the party would, despite its previous history, at least try to stick with that arithmetic in broad terms, as it fitted with its wider narrative of “caring about the future as well as the present”.

The sums were, of course, abandoned shortly afterwards in the 2002 Budget. And, as British residents from all backgrounds have since learned to their cost, the principle of “caring about the future” was jettisoned.

Douglas Godden
London SE16

Inheritance tax

SIR – Sue Doughty (Letters, June 22) suggests how to avoid inheritance tax.

My mother, aged 97 in October, has implemented an excellent tax-planning scheme. She has been a resident in a home for the elderly for over 10 years. To meet the fees of the home she has had to sell the family house and use up virtually all of her savings.

Her family will inherit almost nothing and the Chancellor won’t collect any inheritance tax.

Moira Brodie
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – All families desire to pass chattels from one generation to another. What is the difference between a Velázquez painting owned by a duke, under which the child has played, and a medal for valour owned by a humble soldier whose children are proud of the sacrifice made? The children of the deceased duke are unfairly penalised because their particular chattel is worth millions.

The only tax should be on consumer spending. This is the best way of making the rich pay more fairly, as they spend more.

This way wealth is taxed just once; it is transparent and the electorate can understand it.

Sir James Pickthorn Bt
London SW6

Anti-grunting fund

SIR – I will happily contribute to Christopher Downs’s Centre Court ticket (Letters, June 22) for him to protest, if it stops Miss Sharapova’s grunts and shrieks.

Why are the women players worse than the men?

John Ecklin
Great Bookham, Surrey

SIR – I agree totally with Nicholas Farrell’s view regarding the sad demise of culinary standards in most restaurants in France (“French food has gone off the boil”).

It saddens me but I feel the article offers a true reflection of what France is offering in most bistros, cafes, and mid-range restaurants today.

In contrast, the food in Britain is much improved and the standard is largely excellent. It is the reverse of what has occurred in France.

I am concerned that France is in danger of losing its proud food culture and traditions, not to mention its gastronomic supremacy.

Michel Roux
The Waterside Inn
Bray, Berkshire

SIR – Every day I read articles suggesting that British jihadists in Syria or Iraq could come home and commit atrocities here.

Where people are clearly identifiable in videos promoting the cause of jihad, why wouldn’t we stop them from coming back into Britain when they attempt to do so? Is holding a British passport so inviolable an asset that we can do nothing until the mayhem begins at home? Perhaps our border control is too weak to carry out these checks.

Neville Seabridge
Thoroton, Nottinghamshire

SIR – You report that Nasser Muthana was given £100 by his father to attend an Islamic seminar last November. His father may bemoan the events that unfolded, but he should have made closer inquiries before parting with the money.

Unless elder Muslims take responsibility and report the unacceptable behaviour of younger, radicalised ones, fanatical Islam will be an increasing threat to Britain.

John Mayne
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

SIR – I wonder if a large number of these young British jihadists will return to Britain disgusted by the fanaticism of their brothers in arms and the detrimental impact their war has on the ordinary citizens of Iraq, and realise the advantages of living in Britain.

Just a small hope.

Alan Keegan
London SE2

SIR – The saddest thing about the two jihadist brothers, Nasser Muthana (20) and his brother Aseel (17) is that Nasser was thinking of becoming a medic, someone who cares for and heals people, especially those unable to help themselves. Now he is doing the opposite: inciting others to kill, maim and cause pain.

Aseel had ambitions to become a teacher. He could have given children the gift of knowledge and taught them the value of giving and sharing – but now he is taking and destroying.

Samantha Jones


SIR – Your leading article set out an eloquent exposition of British values and the need for all citizens to respect those mores.

These values originated in the Enlightenment, which began in Britain in the mid-17th century, and which clearly has some way to go before we can enjoy all its fruits.

It is also clear that it has not yet occurred at all in a number of countries. It is the clash between the two states of mind which will continue to generate much civic bother and bloodshed.

John Hopkins
Goostrey, Cheshire

SIR – Isn’t it time that we brought back capital punishment for those people who are convicted of carrying out, or plotting to carry out, jihadist crimes on British soil?

Gone are the days when we could bask in the virtuous glow of civilisation, when a slap on the wrist was deemed sufficient.

Instead of the tortuous and ineffective process of trying to stem the flow of these brainwashed criminals, we need the power of the ultimate sanction in order to protect our nation from such brutal, alien activity.

After all, this is war, and those jihadists in our midst ought to be treated in the same way as spies in wartime.

Joseph Kennedy
Newcastle upon Tyne

SIR – Michael Willis denigrates British values (Letters, June 15).

But when we hear of a thousand men who have surrendered in war being marched into the desert and murdered, the question becomes not what are British values, but what are the Islamists’ values.

Dr John Nandris
Merton College, Oxford

SIR – Ironic, isn’t it, that, had we supported the Syrian opposition, we would have been supporting, among others, Isis, which has now invaded Iraq.

There’s a lesson there for enthusiastic interventionists.

Cdr Malcolm Williams
Southsea, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – When the legitimately elected president of Egypt was ousted in a coup, commentators in the West welcomed the restraining of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. When that party was banned, and all its voters disenfranchised at a stroke, there was little demur. When 529 members of the Brotherhood were sentenced to death for one crime, there was some gentle tut-tutting. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was globally accepted as the new president, when his so-called election was only achieved by the banning of the opposition.

Now one western journalist has been put in jail and suddenly there is an outcry. If Peter Greste is freed from prison, will that prevent Egypt from its inevitable slide into greater repression and the inevitable terrorist response?

If the Muslim Brotherhood has no legitimate outlet for its views, what else can you expect? Justice is justice and democracy is democracy. There will be no peace in the Middle East until legitimately elected leaders are respected and supported internationally. – Yours, etc,


Rock Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Alan Howard’s letter (June 21st) on the disrespect shown to our national flag by many of our public institutions is timely as we approach the climax of the marching season in the North.

Every July, as part of the annual Orange Order marching season, many Northern Catholics feel the necessity to leave their homes to escape the global cultural phenomenon known as the “11th Night”. Across many towns and cities in the North, hundreds of “towering infernos” are built, most surmounted with the national flag of the Republic. These “bonfires of bigotry” are tolerated by the police. As a further insult, since 2010 Belfast City Council has financed a scheme whereby those associated with Orange Order bonfires can claim £100 if no Tricolours are incinerated.

Offering financial inducements to cease burning the Irish national flag is an appalling affront to the citizens of the Republic of Ireland.

Nowhere else in Europe would the annual ceremonial burning of many hundreds of the national flag of a peaceful neighbouring state go virtually uncommented upon.– Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – In better business circles there is a move towards lean business instead of cost reduction. Cost reduction tends to cut both value and waste, thereby reducing competitiveness. Lean business only reduces or eliminates waste, thereby increasing value, competitiveness and customer service.

The decision to cut obesity surgery at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin is an example of cost reduction at its worst because it eliminates that value proposition that many customers need without considering waste at all (“Decision to halt obesity surgery in St Vincent’s Hospital should be reversed”, Opinion & Analysis, June 25th). If this is the way our health service is run I can’t see any future for it. If it continually eliminates value, all that will be left is waste; and I think we have enough of that in the public service.

Minister for Health James Reilly should consider some of the principles of lean business in his strategy for the health service so that the customer is better served. – Yours, etc,


Ministers Road,

Lusk, Co Dublin.

Sir, – There has been much talk about the upcoming leadership election for the Labour Party to the effect that the party needs to “rediscover its values” and a “sense of direction” to bring some “reforming zeal” to the debate and the like.

What Labour needs more than anything else is clarity.

Ask someone down at the dole office what they feel about the difference between democratic socialism and social democracy and you’ll get a shrug (at best). These issues don’t matter to ordinary people. What matters are jobs, affordable housing, healthcare and schooling.

What Labour needs to do is to set clear goals and a pathway to these goals that goes beyond the usual five-year electoral cycle. Nobody expects that in five years joblessness will have disappeared, but what about in 10 years?

Let’s leave the waffle at the door and set some clear goals that everyone can understand. Free healthcare for all. Affordable housing for all. No child having to be schooled in a leaky prefab. There are many more, but let’s be clear in our language.

Let’s have, for example, free childcare for all within 10 years.

First step: increase the affordability of childcare under the current system through greater tax relief and/or subsidies.

Second step: establish a State body with a mandate to provide free childcare to all who require it.

Third step: build the required number of creches to provide childcare for our population. It should not be difficult; after all the State already provides free childcare for those over-four in our schools. Adding a few more years to this is easily achievable.

Do the same with employment, with schooling and so fourth. Clear medium-term goals and a clear path to these goals. This then can be the benchmark by which the party judges whether or not coalition is worthwhile. It is also the only way the party will regain the trust of voters. – Yours, etc,


Ballymakenny Road,


Sir, – Further to “Betrayal of Arabs after first World War set stage for turbulent century” (Weekend, June 21st), the impression is often given that the Sykes-Picot line was an arbitrary imperial carve-up of the Middle East, rather like the lines drawn on the map of Africa by European imperialists.

However, if you were to overlay the current map of the Middle East with the Ottoman Vilayat map – a map showing the governates or districts of its empire – you would see that there is a remarkable confluence.

The problems of the Middle East are those of competing nationalisms and ideologies and not necessarily caused by imperialism, real or imagined. – Yours, etc,


Dundanion Road,



Sir, – Ciaran Ó Raghallaigh (June 24th) repeats the myth of the “broadcasts” that it is claimed were made by Arab leaders ordering the Palestinian population to leave their homes in 1948 “on the expectation that they could return once the fledgling Jewish state had been erased from the map”.

This myth was exposed as far back as 1961 by Dr Erskine B Childers, who examined all the radio transcripts of the British and American monitoring units of the time. He concluded that, “there was not a single order … there is repeated monitored record of Arab appeals, even flat orders, to the civilians of Palestine to stay put”. The Palestinian people attempted to stay put but tragically failed, and roughly 800,000 of them were expelled. – Yours, etc,


Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.

Sir, – In the past, puritancial clerics were forever lecturing us about sex. Now secular puritans are forever lecturing us about food and drink.

Remember the definition of a puritan – a person who is horribly afraid that someone, somewhere might be happy. – Yours, etc,


Moyola Park,


A chara, – In addition to the museums and heritage centres mentioned in Ronan McGreevy’s comprehensive article (“In Flanders Fields”, Magazine, June 21st), there is another interpretative centre which opened last November in the village of Ploegsteert. It is the “Plugstreet 14-18 Experience”, close to Ploegsteert Wood, which was the site of some fierce fighting throughout the Great War.

There are 13 military cemeteries in the surrounding area, and several craters which resulted from the chain of subterranean mine explosions which took place on June 7th, 1917. One of the football matches at Christmas 1914 between the German and British forces took place close by at St Yvon.

As well as explaining the movement of the Western Front in this region, the interpretative centre highlights the relationship between occupying forces and the local population, which makes it different to most other museums dealing with this period. It is a 20-minute drive south of Ypres, and about five minutes from the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Mesen, also well worth a visit. – Is mise,


Maryfield Drive,


Sir, – Hugo Kiernan’s reflections on the fate of Louis Suarez (June 27th) and his observation that if a youngster had done the same on O’Connell Street in Dublin in full view of CCTV and passers-by he “would have the book thrown at him” is sadly not the likely outcome.

My son was hospitalised after a serious assault off O’Connell Street three weeks ago in full view of CCTV and passers-by.

To date no-one has been arrested, charged, or indeed had “the book thrown at them”. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – Last Monday’s Irish Times carried an appreciation of Dominican priest Malachy O’Dwyer.

On the day of its appearance it was brought to my attention that Malachy, who had written his doctoral thesis in Latin in canon law, never completed secondary school. On the early death of his father he left school at a young age to support the family.

He worked in a builders’ providers and did his Leaving Cert at night in a one-classroom school, all grades together with one teacher. Malachy often recalled to friends how excellent the teacher was.

A man in Paraná in Argentina, talking about Malachy, 30 years after first encountering him, remembers how well he preached: “Short, full of content and obviously well prepared”.

My late father always sat up in the seat when he saw Malachy come out to celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Priory, Tallaght, in the 1970s. He knew he was in for some wise words, well crafted.

When Malachy was asked to go to India he was somewhat reluctant as he would much prefer to have gone back to Argentina. He went to India, helped reestablish the Dominicans in the country and made it his new home. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Gardens,

Sir, – Have you ever noticed how difficult it is in Ireland to change direction when pushing a load of groceries in the supermarket or a stack of bags at the airport?

It is a lot like trying to steer a sailboat with a missing keel. The cart and the boat just want to continue going in the same direction, regardless of the pusher’s directional plans.

The reason for this is that in Ireland all four wheels are on casters, while in the rest of the world the back wheels are fixed and only the fronts can pivot. Thus to change direction, you just pivot the cart and away you go. Not true in Ireland, where you must walk around to the side of the cart and turn it in the desired direction, then return to the back to push in the new direction.

So could someone, better connected than me, contact the cart makers and tell them to fix the carts? – Yours, etc,


Siwanoy Lane,

New Canaan,

Sir, – We all have heard the quip, “ready, fire, aim”. In fact those words were not just a joke. For centuries after infantry soldiers were given the rifle, they were ordered not to take the time to aim; rather, they were instructed just to point in the general direction of the enemy and fire. Their commanders believed that it was the mass impact, the “broadside,” that won the day.

Our leaders still believe it. They think that our “shock and awe”, our marvellous technology measured in stealth bombers, drones, all-knowing intelligence, our massed and highly mobile troops and our money constitute a devastating broadside.

All we have to do is to point in the right direction and shoot.

So we shoot and then shoot again and again. We win each battle, but the battles keep happening.

And to our chagrin, we don’t seem to be winning the wars. – Yours, etc,


Springate Road,




Sir, – Recently I received a letter from my bank relating to my credit card account. The missive made absolutely no sense and was “bonkers” – to use the McAleese phrase. On phoning their office, the man I spoke to was both apologetic and honest. “A computer sent the letter,” he said! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Praise where praise is due. Yesterday I received my new passport exactly 14 days after posting my application to the embassy in Vienna. Many thanks to the embassy and the Passport Office for processing it so quickly at such a busy time of year. I had hung onto the old one in case I needed it for the European election; and the first use I am planning for the new one is a trip to Switzerland, to introduce my 4-year-old daughter to my 87-year-old aunt, who has been living there since the 1950s. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – I am researching the life of Fr Alexander McCabe (1900-88), who was rector of the Irish College in Salamanca from 1935 to 1950. Upon his return to his native Kilmore diocese, he served as a curate in Maghera and Corlough, parish priest in Rossinver and chaplain to St Joseph’s nursing home in Virginia. Any information about Fr McCabe from your readers would be much appreciated. Replies to timfanning76@gmail.com. – Yours, etc,


Northumberland Court,

Northumberland Road,


Sir, – I would like to add the Holocaust Museum to Jennifer Steinhauer’s list of places to visit on a weekend in Washington DC (Magazine, June 21st). This museum is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. It is a moving experience and a “must see” when visiting the city. – Yours, etc,


Kincora Park,


Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

* I am writing this letter to you with a heavy heart. Picture 507 young adults in a room. All fighting fit, with so much to live for. Now imagine something coming along, opening the door to that room, and killing all 507 of those people. Imagine the families of these people, thousands of mourners, funeral after funeral.

Ordinarily this would make the news headlines, be in every paper and on every news channel across the country and world, but it’s not. It’s not talked about, and is swept under the carpet, as if it never happened.

This is exactly what is happening in this country every day with the suicide of our young people. This weekend, I learnt again of yet another young man, a mere 22 years old, in our local community who took his own life. Why?

This is a subject that I feel very passionate about. In the past I suffered from the debilitating disease of depression. I struggled each day with the haunting feeling of hating myself, the feeling that the world would be a better place without me.

I had many attempts on my life, which earned me a stay in a mental hospital for eight weeks. Here we were locked up, fed tablets; saw a doctor once a week, only for them to give more medication. There was no help.

But I was one of the lucky ones. I eventually found a doctor who was willing to see me, free of charge, because he believed in me.

Years later and I have finally got my life back. I have a whole new appreciation for life, and all because somebody listened to me.

Why do we as a society simply sit back and accept that suicide is now “the norm”?

Where is our Government, the elected leaders? I challenge them to explain to those who have lost their loved ones why they will not help. Why they are closing mental health hospitals. Why there is insufficient after-care facilities available.

Isn’t it time now to call upon our Government to step up? To educate our children on the importance of talking. If we educate our young children that “the norm” is talking through our problems, we may break the vicious cycle of “the norm” being suicide.



* This month sees the 100th-year commemorations of the start of World War I. We know of its major battles, but less of the hardships on civilians.

American Herbert Hoover was a businessman and a natural administrator, and at the start of the war he lived in London.

He was asked to evacuate 120,000 American civilians from Europe, which he duly did. He then led the Commission for Relief in Belgium to provide food to the eight million people who were in danger of dying from starvation. Their factories had closed, farms were ruined and most of the food stores taken by the German army.

In response to this monumental challenge, Herbert Hoover distributed $1.8m worth of food weekly for two-and-a-half years with the help of the New York office of the Commission.

He saved millions of lives, but not without reported human flaws. He rarely visited a food station and there were allegations of profiteering.

Whether true or not, he saved millions of people and helped them survive, and for this he was known as ‘the Great Humanitarian’.

It was the biggest relief effort the world had seen. He negotiated with the German authorities to allow the distribution of food in Belgium.

There was Myron T Herrick, an American ambassador to France during his first term to 1914, and during the war he helped the French people.

He was awarded the French Legion of Honour and was the first American ambassador to have a Paris street named after him.

When the US entered WWI in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson requested Hoover to head the US Food Administration to ready the country for war-time food production. Their slogan was ‘Food will win the war’.

At war’s end, he headed the American Relief Administration, which saved millions more lives in Europe, including Germany. They set up 35,000 food stations in Germany, which provided 300 million meals.

He certainly was effective and founded the Hoover War Collection library in 1919 on his immense food aid effort in WWI.

This is now known as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, USA, and also has archives from WWII and other wars.

It should not surprise that he was elected 31st President of the United States in 1929. He came from a family of devout Quakers.




* Now that gay is the new straight, when can we expect, nay, demand, hetero pride parades through the streets of Dublin?




* The cost of replacing Marian Finucane with a Mensa comedian?





* Jim Cosgrove (Letters, June 27) has demanded to know how I arrived at the term ‘schizophrenic’ to describe the response to the Tuam babies story.

In a nutshell, while there remains considerable antipathy towards single mothers in today’s society, it is schizophrenic to castigate past generations for similar attitudes, albeit for different reasons.

That today’s society seems unaware of the irony of its position lends itself to the label ‘schizophrenic’.

He asks: “No doubt the nuns, priests, bishops … . were fully immersed in and dedicated to Victorian bourgeois values?” Yes, that is exactly what I was saying. Nuns, priests, bishops, and the rest of society as well.

Mr Cosgrove then goes on to ask ” … but from where did the obsessive oppression relating to sexuality, reproduction and equal rights for women emanate?”

From Victorian middle-class bourgeois attitudes, Mr Cosgrove, out of which a particular form of society emerged to which other areas of human activity (such as religion) were subsumed.

Perhaps Mr Cosgrove is unaware that Ireland was once a colony of the UK and heavily influenced by Victorian social engineering programs of the 18th and 19th Centuries, though I thought I had made this point clear previously also.

We are still living in such a paradigm, though ‘religion’ has been largely dropped in favour of more secular explanations of ‘respectability’.




* The recent media reports of the huge profits of €65m at VHI is quite unbelievable. This profit is despite the thousands who were forced to cancel their insurance premiums this year because of the unending increases imposed on them, year in, year out.

I had to cancel my insurance this same year as the huge profits, having been a member for over 30 years without any cost to VHI regarding a claim.

Part of the increase in profits is reported to have come from a closer examination by VHI of the costs of the claims from the hospitals, consultants, etc, in regard to possible overcharging. Does this mean we as customers have been paying these additional costs for years?



Irish Independent


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