Classics June 22th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge has returned from a antarctic voyage towing a Newfoundland fishing vessel,a Brazilian steamer, a Nigerian ferry and a Chinese Junk all tangled together Priceless.
A quiet day off I post my Bookmooch books and get some classics in return
The Fosdyke saga: Fleur and Soames on round the world trip Johnand wife back in England the General Strike
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Leading Seaman Bill Crosby
Leading Seaman Bill Crosby, who has died aged 93, survived having one ship blown in two by a mine and being lost overboard from a second, recovering to live a long and active civilian life in Liverpool.

Leading Seaman Bill Crosby 
5:36PM BST 21 May 2013
Crosby’s first escape came on November 21 1939, as the minesweeper Gipsy left Harwich to join the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla for North Sea convoy and patrol duties. She had put in for repairs after colliding in fog with the destroyer Greyhound.
Hastening with Griffin, Keith and Boadicea to catch up with the flotilla, Gipsy (motto: “Trust your luck”) struck a mine amidships and broke in two.
Thirty of her crew, including the captain, were killed; Crosby — on deck when the mine exploded — was blown into the chilly North Sea. He was one of 115 survivors rescued by the accompanying ships.
Crosby was reassigned to the destroyer Whitehall, and with her made eight runs to Dunkirk as the ship brought home 2,762 British and Allied servicemen.
Patrolling in the Skagerrak in the autumn of 1940, Whitehall encountered a large vessel which her captain assumed to be the recently-commissioned Bismarck. Though she would have been heavily outgunned, Whitehall prepared to engage, only receiving in the nick of time a signal that the huge ship was a French liner. Whitehall’s captain ordered the liner to follow him to a British port, and Crosby was detailed to lead a boarding party.
But as Crosby jumped from Whitehall to the deck of the liner, a wave pushed the two ships apart and he fell into the sea below, sustaining a serious head wound.
A search was mounted but eventually called off, the Admiralty informing his family that he had been lost at sea.
Crosby, a strong swimmer, later said he drifted in and out of consciousness for 48 hours in near-freezing water. Then the lookout on a Norwegian whaler spotted the faint light from his lifejacket, and he was picked up more dead than alive.
A motor torpedo boat was sent to bring him to Dover, from where he was taken to the naval hospital at Saltash. When he had recovered from his wound and from pleurisy, Crosby was posted ashore to inspect ordnance produced at a factory in Liverpool – where he met his wife.
Post-war Crosby worked as a commercial traveller in menswear and as a shop manager. In the evenings he took a degree at Liverpool Polytechnic (now John Moores University); on graduating he was offered a place on the academic staff. Crosby taught Business Studies and Economics, and when obliged to retire, continued to advise students as a college librarian.
After a second forced retirement, Crosby joined a Liverpool shipping firm, working there until he was 88. He swam 50 lengths a day well into his 80s, and put in three sessions a week at the gym until the age of 91, when heart valve problems brought doctors’ orders to slow down.
Crosby was active in the Labour Party, turning down approaches to stand for Liverpool council as a moderate in the 1980s as it came under the control of Militant Tendency.
William Patrick Crosby was born in Liverpool on September 6 1919, the eldest of four children of Timothy Crosby, an able seaman, and his Irish wife Katherine. Brought up in South Shields, he was sent to a school in Dublin run by his grandfather, but at 14 was told by his father to leave and get a job.
He joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman, and by the outbreak of war was studying for a commission. Crosby served in Gipsy as she patrolled the eastern Mediterranean with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, based at Alexandria. In October 1939 she was ordered to home waters, briefly on anti-submarine duty in the South-Western approaches before sailing for the North Sea.
Bill Crosby married Violet Shaw in 1942; she died in 1986, and he is survived by their son and two daughters.
Bill Crosby, born September 6 1919, died April 26 2013


Deborah Orr’s analysis of the Tories’ obsession with devolving powers from Brussels while at the same time resisting the release of powers from Westminster (18 May) highlights the many ways in which the Tory party’s Europe obsession seems to eclipse all logic. But she was wrong about the role of the European parliament and the democratic deficit in the EU. It’s true that EU legislation needs to have the support of both MEPs and national governments, but to accuse the parliament of simply rubber-stamping what heads of state have agreed does a disservice to our scrutiny of legislation.
Despite the centre-left being in opposition in all three main EU institutions, we have led the way in improving EU legislation – often making draft laws better for consumers and tougher on irresponsible financial activities in an effort to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 economic crisis. The European parliament is far from perfect, but it is still the body that is most effective in standing up for the interests of citizens in a centre-right-dominated EU.
We do our best to hold the council of ministers to account, but a major part of the democratic deficit can be found in the way that national parliaments hold their ministers to account for their actions in Brussels. In Westminster we allow governments to get away too often with the cliched arguments of “we won the good stuff, but Brussels is imposing the bits we don’t like” – something of which all parties, including my own, have been guilty when in government. It may be a narrative that suits EU-obsessed backbenchers and media, but surely the mother of parliaments can do better than that?
Glenis Willmott MEP
Labour leader, European parliament

As any old folkie knows, the trio of chaps performing in Aran sweaters in the Coen brothers’ latest offering are reminiscent not of Peter, Paul and Mary, but of the Clancy Brothers (Coen brothers’ offering is music to critics’ ears, 20 May). While trying to break into acting in New York, the three would spend convivial hours in the late-night bars in Greenwich Village, which were also frequented by now legendary folk singer/songwriters such as Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan. Echoes of their Irish traditional songs can be detected in some of Dylan’s compositions. The tune of their traditional song The Parting Glass is particularly recognisable in one of Dylan’s early songs. When the three brothers became professional and very popular folk singers – along with their countryman, the great Tommy Makem – their mother, worrying about her boys’ health in the freezing New York winters, sent them the thick Aran sweaters which became their trademark. (I really should get out more.)
Robin Horsfall

The prime minister has rejected the call for a public inquiry into the Oxford sex abuse ring. I disagree; there is an absolute requirement for an inquiry (Letters, 17 May). Nobody, from schools, the NHS, the social services, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service or the criminal justice system did their jobs well enough. The problem is not only did people look the other way, but that the rules under which they operate can make safeguarding extremely difficult – that is what an inquiry needs to look into.
How can a pre-teenage girl in social care go missing 126 times? The answer is that her right to go to town and be groomed, then abused and raped, seems to have been regarded as more important than her being safeguarded. Until this is sorted out it is difficult for social services to do their job properly. Social care for pre-age-of-consent children must be looked into and proper rules established that makes their safeguarding easier. Some progress has been made in this area, but not enough. Kindness and firmness are not incompatible. The inquiry needs to look at how all the public services can stop this happening again; it should be established as soon as possible.
Anthony Stansfeld
Police and crime commissioner for the Thames Valley
• Women and children who complain of abuse are regularly regarded with suspicion by statutory agencies and routinely labelled as “difficult” and “challenging”, euphemisms for saying they brought the abuse on themselves (Report, 21 May). The myth that women and children habitually lie about abuse permeates the statutory agencies and the courts, and informs the decision-making about women and children that can have devastating consequences on their lives. It is a matter of urgency that these ingrained prejudices about women and children are challenged. Two women a week die and many more women and children live lives in misery and fear. It is not acceptable and this must be changed.
Sarah Haworth
Colyton, Devon

Why is the government time-wasting over extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples (Report, 21 May)? Why this obsession with marriage at the expense of – to some of us – the much more enlightened civil partnership? With successive governments promoting legally formalised relationships – and shamefully continuing to discriminate against cohabiting couples and their children in areas such as pensions, inheritance tax and separation rights – surely this is a golden opportunity to attract new recruits? My partner and I are appalled that, to fully protect our and, most important, our children’s future financial security, we may have no option other than to proceed with a ceremony (marriage) which contradicts our strongly held beliefs. While marriage isn’t for me, I welcome its long overdue extension to same-sex couples. However, to continue to exclude opposite-sex couples from civil partnerships, or to do away with this option altogether, would be indefensible.
Name and address supplied
• There is surely a simple solution to the gay marriage-civil partnership issue. It is to legalise gay marriage and abolish civil partnerships, which are only marriages by another name. That way all people who wish to be coupled, whether by religious marriage in a church or civil marriage in a registry office, will be treated equally.
Peter Lawrence
Keele, Staffordshire
• At the time of the Commons debate on equal marriage and as the bill passes to the House of Lords, we, as faith groups, wish to reiterate our commitment to same-sex marriage. For us, the Movement for Reform Judaism, Quakers in Britain and the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, marriage is not a mere civil contract, but a religious act. While we don’t seek to impose this on anyone, for us this is a matter of religious freedom. We ask that any legislation will ensure we are free to conduct same-sex marriage in our places of worship.
Mark Goldsmith Movement for Reform Judaism, Paul Parker Quakers in Britain, Derek McAuley General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
• Michael Ashcroft feels that the David Cameron’s aspirations are being constrained in coalition and hopes the Conservatives will be “elected in two years’ time in rather greater numbers to implement a Tory manifesto in full”. He cites opposition to the same-sex marriage bill as “distracting ourselves from what matters”. True conservatives believe that redefining the ancient, benign institution of marriage between complementary opposites is indeed an unfortunate distraction from urgent priorities. They also realise that it would irreparably destabilise the main foundation of society.
Chris Scott
Coulsdon, Surrey
• The gay marriage debate is surely getting to rival the Schleswig-Holstein question in opacity. Is there a legal expert on hand to distinguish between the effects of a civil marriage and a civil partnership? Will mosques be legally obliged to conduct religious ceremonies for gays? Or is the real purpose of all this to distract from the failure of the government’s economic policy?
Jenny Tillyard
Seaford, East Sussex

Your article (21 May) adds to the almost overwhelming evidence that the Work Programme was misconceived and is ineffective. The irrational idea behind it is that if people become enthusiastic work-seekers, they will get jobs, even if there aren’t any. The government seems to be applying the same failed supply-side actions to unemployment that it has to the economy – make money for investment available, so people will develop business for which there is no demand.
John Linfoot
Bournemouth, Dorset
• Now that Ed Miliband has saved Cameron’s bacon on gay marriages (Report, 21 May), is it time for Cameron to cashier the Lib Dems and have a grand coalition with Labour? Think of it: no Clegg, no Farage!
Meghnad Desai
Labour, House of Lords
• Is Lord Feldman related to Marty Feldman (Feldman to face challenge over ‘swivel-eyed’ slur, 20 May)?
Paul Thompson
Countesthorpe, Leicestershire
• You report (21 May) that the rediscovered 1950s robot Gygan could flash its “car headlamp-like eyes”. Puzzlingly, its creator insisted it looked like a “proud Englishman”. Did the eyes also swivel?
John Lydon
• In relation to journalistic cliches (Letters, 20 May), I’ve always been worried by the use of the word “own”, when it is reported that a dead celebrity “choked on his own vomit”. Under what circumstances would it ever be anyone else’s?
Anne Galloway
•  Roman Catholics and homosexuals are always “practising”. I am no longer any good at the first but after more than 30 years with my same-sex partner I hope I am getting better at the second.
Gerard McMullan
• Why are welfare cuts always “savage”?
Rosemary Brian
Croyde, North Devon
• Isn’t it time for your correspondents to stop making sweeping generalisations about journalistic cliches?
Isabella Stone
Matlock, Derbyshire

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war. Far from being a “war to end all wars” or a “victory for democracy”, this was a military disaster and a human catastrophe.
We are disturbed, therefore, that David Cameron plans to spend £55m on a “truly national commemoration” to mark this anniversary. Mr Cameron quite inappropriately compared these events to the “diamond jubilee celebrations” and stated that their aim will be to stress our “national spirit”. That they will be run at least in part by former generals and ex-defence secretaries reveals just how misconceived these plans are.
Instead we believe it is important to remember that this was a war that was driven by big powers’ competition for influence around the globe, and caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16 million people dead and 20 million wounded.
In 2014, we and others across the world will be organising cultural, political and educational activities to mark the courage of many involved in the war but also to remember the almost unimaginable devastation caused. In a time of international tension, we call on all those who agree with us to join us – by adding their names to ours at – to ensure that this anniversary is used to promote peace and international co-operation.
Jude Law, Michael Morpurgo, Antony Gormley, Patrick Stewart, Carol Ann Duffy, Vanessa Redgrave, Simon Callow, Brian Eno, Lindsey German, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Tony Benn, Timothy West, Dominic Cooke, AL Kennedy, Janie Dee, Neil Faulkner, Heathcote Williams, Dame Harriet Walter, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Lloyd Pack, Alan Rickman, Ken Loach, Ralph Steadman, Ken Livingstone, Rob Montgomery, Duncan Heining, Chris Nineham, Kate Hudson, Jan Woolf, Peter Kennard, Andy de la Tour, Evan Parker, Robert Wyatt, Colin Towns, Chris Searle, Neil Yates, Steve Berry, Leo Aylen, Danny Thompson, Terry Jones, Kika Markham, Susan Wooldridge, Tony Haynes, Mike Dibb, Nic France, Leon Rosselson, Barry Miles, Liane Aukin, Alistair Beaton
• ”When should these commemorations end?” you ask (Unthinkable? Putting the second world war to rest, 18 May). Should Remembrance Day’s services and parades be axed? After all, you advocate that we should “move on”. What is so obnoxious about second world war (or first world war) commemorations? Is our “deep official collective need to remember” really such a bad thing? Does it do any harm to the country, the economy, the lives of ordinary people? Why shouldn’t we remember and honour those millions who gave their lives – or, more accurately, had their lives taken away – in the service of their country? And as for memorials, plaques and statues, we happily erect these for politicians, sportsmen and other worthies. Are these decided on “maturely and respectfully”? Continuing to commemorate doesn’t prevent us from “moving on”.
Dr John Fenney
Chichester, West Sussex
•  Britain’s achievements during the second world war were remarkable. A sustained and brave effort by the whole nation helped defeat a terrible tyranny. There were incredible acts of bravery that helped ensure that this and other nations were not enslaved. Many will see the second world war as the country’s greatest moment in history, and very many others will know of relatives who fought in the war. So no – it isn’t time to stop remembering these events. It’s time for pride, fond remembrance and reflection.
Martin Adams
Much Hadham, Hertfordshire
•  Your third leader makes a good point badly. Of course the heroics, as well as the hostilities of old wars, are best laid to rest, and the sooner the better. But the debts of war have to be paid, and this country owes a debt of honour to the Bevin boys which will not be repaid (and ought not to be written off) until they are held in equal esteem with airmen and sailors.
Simon Weller
Cupar, Fife
•  Your editorial would like to put the endless commemorations of the war to rest. Spare a thought, then, for those of us who live on the island of Ireland, where we have embarked on a decade of centenaries, starting last year with the Ulster Covenant; last month it was the foundation of the UVF (the flags still hang from our lamp-posts while various public agencies pass the buck on who should take them down), the 1916 Easter Rising lies ahead, and so on. And come 12 July the annual celebration of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne will once again raise tensions and use up huge police resources in Northern Ireland. It would be wonderful if we too could “move on”.
Professor Emeritus Bob Osborne
University of Ulster

The Rana catastrophe in Bangladesh provides another occasion for the opponents of the garment industry in poorer countries to air their well-known but mistaken views (Fashion still doesn’t give a damn, 10 May). Obviously governments should have safety laws and buyers should insist that these laws are respected, if only to ensure that there will be no delay in their deliveries. Even in normal times, working conditions in these factories are appalling by western standards. I know because I visited some, but if western standards were to be applied, even partly, there would be no factories in these countries.
Comparing these sweatshops with the situation in rich countries is not useful; the comparison should be with the options available locally. Young women in rural areas have few choices: they can get married early or become a slave-like domestic servant, beg in the street or become a prostitute. Getting married is not always that satisfying because in many countries in Asia, marriages are still arranged and are a real trauma for young women who have to leave their family for something unknown. Working in the garment industry, when available, is often preferable, even if conditions are hard and salaries low.
Yet, contrary to what the Observer’s ethical columnist suggests, the garment industry is very beneficial and brings great social progress. The meagre salaries earned by these women mitigate poverty in rural areas but even more importantly the industry empowers women to be more independent, more mobile and to have the basic freedom to do what they want. These workers also get a different experience and some education. As a result they can reject the tradition that kept them in an inferior status, as was seen in South Korea, China and some other countries. This is good.
The garment industry is very far from perfect but it often provides the first step to an economic take-off. In addition, the garment industry is doing more than any other industry in improving the status and conditions of the poorest women in the poorest countries. As a Chinese woman who worked in that industry told me: “Unlike my mother, I will not cry when I get married because I am independent and I am choosing my own husband.”
Fashionable women and men in the rich countries may not care, but their shopping is improving the situation of millions and millions of women in the poorest countries.
François P Jeanjean
Ottawa, Canada
• In view of the outrage over extortionate clothing manufacturing in developing countries, why do not ordinary clothes shops like run Fairtrade lines? I am happy to pay a bit extra but don’t want to waste time shopping around.
Keith Hitchcock
Sutton Coldfield, UK
World needs a UN force
I read with interest A moral maze of intervention (10 May). Currently the UN relies on the armed forces of member states when it considers Responsibility to Protect (R2P) action. These troops may not be trained properly, and have an allegiance not to the UN, but to the state from which they come. These states have political considerations, and having their citizens die defending foreign people is usually not good politics.
The UN should form its own independent armed force. It could recruit volunteers from around the world, train them and deploy them on R2P interventions with its own mandate: protecting all non-combatants. Supporting neither warring party, this force could protect civilians with guidance only from the UN. If combatants use the safe areas as havens, they could be expelled, by force if necessary.
I see this as the next step in the evolution of a world body responsible for the safety of people caught in the middle of a conflict. Relying on member states to provide the necessary force will not work.
Ian Toal
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Abenomics not the answer
Simon Jenkins is right that “austerity in recession is the nadir of economic illiteracy” (3 May). But he draws the wrong conclusions from Japan.
The interesting question is how Japan has managed to remain prosperous for so long without growth. Japan’s “lost decade” was a loss only for economists and politicians obsessed with GDP. But unlike Britain or southern Europe, after a decade of zero growth in Japan unemployment is low and wellbeing indicators still thrive.
Japan never applied austerity policies; it just found a way to manage without growth. If ecological economist Herman Daly is right and growth in rich nations has become “uneconomic”, then Japan held the secret for a sustainable future. It is a sad testament to the power of the growth fetish that Japan no longer contemplates a graceful downsizing.
Giorgos Kallis
Barcelona, Spain
• I read with interest Simon Jenkins’s article, but I was left unconvinced. There is an important difference between the UK and Japan that Jenkins does not appear to be taking into account – which links to your story Why G8 must tackle inequality.
Whereas Japan is one of the countries with the least inequality of income and wealth, unfortunately the UK is way off and getting worse. Until inequality is tackled, it’s unlikely that money injected would benefit those that really need it.
Arthur Williams
Nottingham, UK
Galileo’s difficulty
Rory Allen correctly observes (Reply, 10 May) that Galileo’s dispute with the church was over the motion of the Earth. More precisely, however, it was over the evidence for such a motion. The church denied the Earth moved, because that was the traditional interpretation of a handful of biblical passages, and a mass of Catholic doctrine hinged on the reliability of tradition. Like Luther a century earlier, Galileo urged a new interpretation of scripture, and was invited to provide evidence for his novel readings. Galileo was unable to do this and his failure to provide anything resembling a “scientific” defence of Copernicanism is patent.
The first decent argument to confront this question was provided by Newton, whose dynamics seemed to require both Earth and sun to be in orbit, about their common centre of gravity (and that is located within the body of the sun). But the logic of this dynamics is a very tangled web – which modern physics does not attempt to penetrate. For nowadays we prefer the opinion of Newton’s arch-rival, Leibniz, who insisted that motion was a purely relative concept. So the assertion that Galileo hoped to defend is deemed meaningless. Only the relative motions of Earth and sun are real.
Keith Hutchison
Melbourne, Australia
Chomsky’s life of analysis
Noam Chomsky, a life of protest? (3 May). That gets it wrong from the start. A life of analysis, or morality, would be nearer the mark. Of course he has helped protest movements, or rather activist movements. I remember Chomsky coming to Australia in the 90s to help the East Timor solidarity groups here. That might be better; a life of solidarity.
Chomsky, an alpha male? I thought alpha males were meant to be into hierarchies. That is not Chomsky, as anyone who knows him will tell you.
Chomsky is not impressed by strings of letters after one’s name. He is a true egalitarian.
Chomsky has done a great deal of what we could all do to some extent. He has spoken up for those who are under our bombs, decoded the “national interest” and a host of other Orwellian terms. When much so-called news is framed in terms of what corporations and vested interests want, or neglected completely, Chomsky tells the truth with evidence to back it up.
I was disappointed the other day when I went to a second-hand bookshop here in Sydney – there were no used books by Chomsky. I asked the owner why not, and he told me that “people hang on to them”. They are of lasting value and I advise readers to go to his books for inspiration, if left uninspired by this uninspiring article.
Stephen Langford
Sydney, Australia
Close Guantánamo now
Resolving the controversy about the torture camp at Guantánamo Bay should be a matter of principle rather than practicability (Pressure mounts to close Guantánamo, 10 May). The immediate closure of this prison is clearly one of the most pressing issues for anyone who cares about human rights.
However, closure alone will certainly not be sufficient. Apart from the practical issues arising from releasing, resettling or putting the remaining inmates on trial, there is also the question of compensation for those who had been imprisoned here for years without being guilty of any crime.
On top of that, the sheer enormity of the injustice that has been done to those who had been innocently detained here requires some sort of prosecution of those who are responsible for setting up and running the camp. Putting the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W Bush before the international criminal court to face charges of crimes against humanity would be an encouraging first step.
Egbert von Steuber
Lingen, Germany
• The Obama administration prefers “lethal drone strikes” because they are less problematic than imprisoning in Guantánamo. Why these are not called “targeted assassinations”? It is interesting how the great and the good can get away with murder even in language.
Lucila Makin
Cambridge, UK
• Rather surprising is the emphasis given by Kory Stampers (26 April) on the influence of Spanish on the English language (two paragraphs!). Certainly Spanish is the closest modern language to Latin and so many of our words have Latin roots, but surely the majority entered our language via French, which was not “dipped into” but imposed for two centuries.
Alexandra Tavernier
Marcq-en-Baroeul, France
• Does a fake bomb detector detect fake bombs? It is fitting – though tragic – that the war that began with fake claims of nuclear bombs has devolved into charges of fake bomb detectors (10 May): they’re not so far apart, if you think about it. Of course, only the small fry are convicted.
Jeffry Larson
Hamden, Connecticut, US
• It’s no small beer to air-freight and refrigerate craft brewskies all the way from Cali to Germany – of all places (10 May). I would brand it “T-Rex lager” for its gargantuan carbon footprint. Jaded German consumers [may be] “intrigued by unfamiliar flavours”, but isn’t beer just beer?
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US



Your report “Top A&E doctors warn: We cannot guarantee safe care” (21 May) is very concerning. An examination of the causes should be completed.
For those of us who have campaigned against the loss of A&E units from district hospitals, the situation is even worse. Patients may travel over an hour, in a critical condition, to receive a below-expected level of care.
How many of us now live or work outside the “golden hour”? How much of our road and rail network is now a substantial distance from the nearest fully operational A&E unit?
The centralisation of our A&E services is putting us at risk. The restoration of our fabulous publicly funded A&E safety net must be a priority. Cameron cannot tell us funds are not there when he is happy to let the chief executive of Google walk away.
Charmaine Morgan, Chair, SoS Grantham Hospital, Grantham, Lincolnshire
It is clear that we need to address the problems facing emergency care, but it is completely wrong to blame GPs and suggest they are sending more patients to hospital because it is cheaper to do so (“No wonder A&E can’t cope when GP surgeries have lost faith in their users”, 16 May).
There is no evidence that GPs’ referral habits are being influenced by the hospital tariff. In fact GP referrals to emergency care only account for a small proportion of those patients who attend emergency departments, and are not significantly rising. The reality is that attendances in A&E have increased at 1.7 per cent per year over the nine-year period to 2011-12, as against 1.5 per cent per year over the preceding nine years. This does not suggest that there has been a dramatic distortion caused by the GP contract changes.
The article also fails to mention many other factors placing strain on emergency care, such as increasing levels of activity across the NHS, declining resources, the recent disastrous launch of NHS111, and staff shortages. Out-of-hours care has been historically underfunded, with its budget remaining static in recent years despite a steady rise in the number of patients who need access to this service.
The only way we are going to address the problems facing the NHS is to find a holistic solution that draws on the experience of healthcare professionals and patients. We will not make any progress by attacking NHS staff who are increasingly undertaking more work on fewer resources.
Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the GP committee, British Medical Association, London WC1
Jeremy Laurance is right to point out that we are in danger of reversing the improvements we’ve seen in health care (16 May). However, he misses a crucial point – if you look at the data, our A&Es are not swamped by out-of-hours patients from GPs. The apparent large increase in A&E volume is an artefact of another change that happened at the same time: we started opening minor injury units and walk-in centres and counting the numbers attending those. Neither of these are open 24 hours, so they can’t be dealing with out-of-hours patients from GPs.
We are identifying problems and proposing solutions neither of which are consistent with the evidence.
Dr Stephen Black, London SW1
Admit it: this could be global warming
While one cannot know whether the tornado that hit Oklahoma would have happened without climate change, what we do know is that extreme weather events such as storms and hurricanes will become more frequent and more severe as the oceans warm and the amount of energy in the atmosphere increases. Events that previously happened once in a lifetime will occur every decade, while once-in-a-decade events will occur annually.
Yet the media seems all but oblivious to these phenomena. No one has mentioned climate change in the aftermath of Oklahoma. Hurricane Katrina and Sandy were treated by the US media as acts of God.  The modern media resemble medieval soothsayers before microbes were discovered. Infectious diseases were regarded as divine punishments for human transgression; the standard response to outbreaks of the plague was more prayer and fasting.
And like the medieval pundits, do not expect the media to change their perspective soon. It took the Catholic Church 359 years to admit that Galileo was right. I don’t expect Ukip or the swivel-eyed loons in the Tory party to respond any quicker.
Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Shall we quit Chiantishire?
Have those who advocate leaving the European Union considered that this might mean all those people who have retired to warmer parts of Europe losing their right of abode; and have they done the sums? 
House prices in places like south-west France are attractively low by comparison with the UK, and would drop even further if all the Brits retired there had to sell up, so many returnees would need housing at public expense. And then there is the bill for all the medical and social care that the elderly so notoriously need.
Not to mention how it would affect our future holidays. Without all those retired people keeping the economies of Chiantishire and Angleterre-sur-Dordogne going in the off-season, those wonderful markets and little places to eat would struggle, and either close or become much more expensive.
Julia Cresswell, Oxford
Perhaps the EU actually wants the UK to leave. I wouldn’t blame them – we have become a political pain. However, it would be a big mistake to opt out, despite obviously stupid bans such as this latest olive-oil nonsense. The greater picture is what counts – the UK needs Europe.
Jules Palliser, Walmer, Kent
D Stewart (letter, 20 May) condemns the EU’s democratic deficit. His dedication to democracy is laudable. I wonder if he might explain to me how I can go about voting for my constituency representative in the House of Lords.
Michele Pacitti, London W6
Mega-farms and the price of milk
I was surprised to see Terence Blacker’s criticism of animal-welfare groups for failing to campaign against mega-farms (14 May) since the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ (WSPA) campaign against factory dairy farms has been well documented over the past three years.
Mr Blacker is right to be worried. Our campaign has shown how intensive dairy farms damage the environment, pose a risk to human health and subject dairy cows to a greater risk of laminitis, mastitis and a considerably reduced lifespan – all a consequence of attempts to exploit economies of scale and in the pursuit of ever-increasing volumes of cheap milk.    
That is why we have been leading the fight to keep British cows on grass, and out of factory dairy farms, by successfully opposing plans to build a factory dairy farm in Nocton in Lincolnshire housing thousands of dairy cows, and more recently, aiding local campaigners in their fight against an application to build a 1,000-cow intensive unit in rural Wales.
WSPA understands the enormous challenges faced by many struggling dairy farmers. However, the outcome of the impending decision in Wales will ultimately affect more than just one farmer’s future: it could set a precedent for a wholesale change that would for ever alter the rural landscape of Britain.
WSPA is urging the Welsh and UK governments to choose a future that is economically, environmentally and ethically responsible and sustainable for British cows, consumers and the countryside.
Simon Pope, UK Director of Campaigns and Communications, WSPA, London WC1
While it may seem self-evident that larger farms are more of a disease risk and have a worse environmental and welfare record, the truth is that this is a lazy assumption with no basis in fact.
There is any amount of evidence that it is the quality of management which is the decisive factor, and larger farms commonly have the resources and ability to do a first-class job.
The NFU does not envisage a future where there are only large farms – there is room for all scales – but if we are to increase production in this country, as we must, we will need some larger farms in the mix.
Martin Haworth, Director of Policy, National Farmers’ Union, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire
Gay and straight marriages
The gay marriage Bill and your coverage of it (“Couple in homophobic attack tell MPs: you are legitimising the bigots”, 21 May) confuse equality and sameness. True equality will only emerge when the fundamental differences between homosexual and heterosexual relationships are openly celebrated and respected. Redefining marriage denies these differences and undermines rather than advances the dignity of same-sex couples and society as a whole.
David Culley, Bristol
As a happily married couple, we can see no way in which the introduction of same-sex marriage would diminish our own union. Opponents of same-sex marriage insist that they are not motivated by homophobia, but it is difficult to understand what else lies behind their opposition.
Jonathan Wallace, Kyra Wallace, Newcastle upon Tyne
Curbing Google
It is not quite as easy to use consumer power to alter the immoral behaviour over taxation of a company like Google as it is Starbucks, but it is possible. Whenever an advert pops up on a Google site I now contact the advertiser to let them know that I won’t be buying any of their products unless they care to deal with ethical companies. We have the power, let’s use it.
Christopher Anton, Birmingham
We carry on
Further to your article of 14 May, I confirm that Canterbury Cathedral is not closing its doors. Your headline “Canterbury Cathedral faces closure unless it can find £10m for repair bill” created a drama where none exists. Although disappointed that we were not awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund recently, all at Canterbury Cathedral will continue to welcome pilgrims and visitors each day, and we will carry on holding our regular daily services.
John Meardon, Receiver General, Canterbury Cathedral
Right split
If defecting to, and voting for Ukip, is the answer, then the question has to be, “Do you really want another Labour government in 2015?” If all those committed, long-serving Tories who are quitting the ranks really think their party has been filched from them, surely the best thing to do is fight to get it back.
Alan Carcas, Liversedge, West Yorkshire


‘Setting the bar ever higher quite often means that some children fail to make the grade, and this is a profound disincentive’
Sir, I am dismayed to read Michael Gove’s criticism of primary school head teachers (Opinion, May 20). He seems to suggest that the principle of setting higher expectations can be achieved by tests which set higher standards. Higher expectations are what all teachers try to instil in all their students. In primary schools, where children start with a very wide range of abilities in reading, writing and arithmetic, it requires special skills to try and get all the children up to the standard by the time they are tested. Setting the bar ever higher quite often means that some children fail to make the grade, and this is a profound disincentive.
Teachers know how best to inspire and encourage their students. By all means let us recruit more top graduates, but other government policies on salaries and pensions are likely to have the opposite effect. Recruitment is not helped, either, when the Education Secretary is seen twisting the very real concerns of those members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) who are being subject to “reform after reform”.
Everyone wants to raise standards and expectations. It is how you achieve that aim that is in question. Michael Gove’s criticism is misguided — he should encourage and support teachers, not berate them.
Christopher Case
Scarborough, N Yorks
Sir, Mr Gove takes a refreshing view of the challenges facing our schools. The UK is trapped in a conversation with itself over education standards. Were it not for Mr Gove’s candour, we would fail to see the coming storm in the world beyond our continent. Taunton School is currently hosting pupils and staff from our exchange school in Shenzhen, the fastest growing city in China. These children begin the school day two hours before ours and finish later. It has been observed that even then they are unwilling to leave their desks. This is a sobering thought for my pupils. We should have no illusions about the rate of change in the world, and embark on a programme that will ensure coming generations do not feel short-changed.
Dr John Newton
Headmaster, Taunton School
Sir, Clearly, even to disagree with Mr Gove warrants a personal attack, as the leader of the NAHT discovered. I disagree with Mr Gove on his view of standards. I disagree with him on his methods of measuring progress and using Ofsted as a stick to impose metrics as a motivating force to improve teaching and learning. I have no doubt that Mr Gove is an intelligent man. Intelligent people welcome debate, listen and are prepared to reflect and adjust their thinking. Isn’t this time for such reflection before this abuse brings not just Mr Gove but the national education system into disrepute?
Professor Bill Boyle
School of Education, University of Manchester
Sir, Michael Gove’s piece resonated with me. I gave up my teaching career (1971-74), when my head told me I would never be a success because my standards were too high.
Jonathan Evans
Sir, While I do not question the right of members of the NAHT to disagree with Mr Gove, as an octogenarian with a large family I do feel that to express their disagreement accompanied by “shouts and jeers” sets a poor example to their pupils.
Angela Weldon
Cranleigh, Surrey

A large proportion of all voluntary sector, welfare-focused projects in the community are organised by the Church and other faiths
Sir, Whether or not Britain is losing its faith in the Church (report, May 17), the Church is clearly not losing its faith in Britain. The London Churches Group for Social Action has just published a report of a pilot to identify what proportion of all voluntary sector, welfare-focused projects in the community are organised by the Church and other faiths. The figure is 40 per cent, the great majority by the Church. If other surveys confirm this result it will be a powerful demonstration of the role of the Church in providing welfare and of what might be lost if, as Mr Copson of the British Humanist Association would have it, “the future for the UK is a non-religious one”.
Elizabeth Simon
London Church Leaders
London SW1

‘There is already strong and mounting evidence of changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events around the world’
Sir, While new research suggests that the short-term rate of global warming may be less than previously thought, Lord Ridley’s rather complacent assertion that “climate change will be slow and harmless” is based on turning a blind eye to uncertainties in the science (Opinion, May 20).
By referring only to the median value of 1.3C from the study’s estimate of the warming that would occur within a couple of decades after a doubling of carbon dioxide levels, he ignored the range of 0.9 to 2.0C that was published by the researchers. Furthermore, he did not cite the range of 1.2 to 3.9C that the same study indicated was the most likely range for long-term warming from the same increase in carbon dioxide. The researchers also pointed out that their results may be underestimates because of the difficulty in assessing the cooling effect of sulphate aerosols from volcanoes and human sources such as coal-fired power stations.
It would be reckless to believe, as Lord Ridley apparently does, that climate change now poses no risks. Despite his claims, there is already strong and mounting evidence of changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events around the world, as well as melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and rising sea levels. In the UK annual average temperature has risen by about 1C since 1970, heavy rainfall is increasing, and wildlife is being affected.
With atmospheric carbon dioxide now more than 40 per cent higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution, and annual emissions of greenhouse gases rising at an unprecedented rate, we cannot be confident that “business as usual” would not lead to global warming of more than 2C by the end of this century. Sensible climate policy must be based on an assessment of the full range of uncertainties and risks, not on cherry-picked figures.
Bob Ward
Policy and Communications Director Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
London WC2

The circumstances of the incident concerning the death of a 12-year-old Gazan boy are still disputed and unclear
Sir, Your report, “Israel damns film of Gazan boy’s death” (May 21), described a “father whose 12-year-old son was filmed being shot by the Israeli Defence Force”. The fact that there is no footage showing the boy being shot by the Israeli Defence Force is at the heart of the wider issue. The circumstances of the incident are disputed and unclear. If the events had unfolded as you described, there would be no place for the ongoing public and courtroom discussions that have been taking place for 13 years.
Amir Ofek
Press Attaché, Embassy of Israel

Although the Order of Merit is indeed an exclusive club, there is another that is even more limited in numbers
Sir, Though the Order of Merit is indeed an exclusive club (24 members excluding honorary members), it is not the most exclusive (Register, May 18).
That honour surely belongs to the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle whose number is limited to 16 knights and ladies, excluding royal knights and ladies and extremely rare honorary appointments.
Brian Turvey
New Houghton, Derbyshire


SIR – I was delighted by the pictures online ( of the Telegraph garden taking shape for the Chelsea Flower Show. With its blocks of yew and box and its loggia of oak, the gardener Christopher Bradley-Hole means to reflect the English countryside.
Where then are the obtrusive great wind turbines whirring away? Where are the ash trees dying of disease imported from Europe? Where is the infilling of unwelcome housing development that local people voted against?
Everything in the Telegraph garden’s lovely, but England’s land is not so green and pleasant.
Sarah Johnson
London NW11

SIR – Tim Bale (Comment, May 20) has hit the nail on the head in his article. I am a life-long Tory, and would be happy to wear a badge “Proud to be a Swivel-Eyed Loon”.
I remember Aneurin Bevan calling the Tories vermin; many Tories started wearing the badge “Vermin”. Bevan was, of course, a socialist, but when the Tory hierarchy starts denigrating its supporters, the time has come to say enough is enough; let’s get back to basic Conservatism.
Tony Porter
SIR – Rather than swivel-eyed and fringe, I believe that my stance, along with many other former Tory voters over gay marriage and Europe, is more main-line than the Cameron-cocooned club might imagine.
June Mundell
Castle Cary, Somerset
Related Articles
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21 May 2013
SIR – I take exception to the Tory adviser’s remarks, which will further alienate older, loyal Conservative supporters.
I am in my mid-seventies, and am chairman of my local Conservative Party branch. David Cameron, while trying to attract the younger generations to vote for the party, should take notice of us oldies. We have survived recessions by working hard and sticking to our beliefs, and still possess a good deal of common sense.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
SIR – In two years’ time, I am due to deliver 3,000 leaflets across my rural area in support of the re-election of my well-regarded local MP, John Glen.
Perhaps Mr Cameron could persuade one of his smart young metropolitan friends to come down to the shires to deliver on my behalf? They will require a pair of stout shoes and an umbrella.
Christopher Devine
Farley, Wiltshire
SIR – Could it be that many grass-root Tories find it hard to accept that our world is changing, and that actually, Mr Cameron is bravely trying to reform the party into one which relates to the modern world and to the country at large.
The grass roots seem hell-bent on destroying the party and its leader, and thus its chances of re-election.
Helen M Stevens
Minehead, Somerset
SIR – Are our MPs and party activists prepared to sacrifice all of the work that has been achieved by this Government in turning around our economy and tackling welfare reform by focusing on two issues – gay marriage and Europe?
Are we edging towards a Ukip government that doesn’t have any policies?
Ian MacGregor
London N7
SIR – A Tory adviser using the phrase “swivel-eyed loons” emphasises the disconnect between the leadership and ordinary party members.
One way to help reconnect the leadership with the rank-and-file would be to have an annual election for party chairman, where every paid-up member could vote. This would give ordinary members a voice at the top table.
Tony Green
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
SIR – If referring to grass-roots members as “swivel-eyed loons” is the latest attempt by the Tory leadership to stop the move to Ukip, they need to be advised that it won’t work. When the main political parties refuse to represent the will of voters, how could they expect any response other than a rise in support for the party that does support voters’ views?
Andy Bebbington
Stone, Staffordshire
SIR – The Tory party should realise that all swivel-eyed loons have already decamped to the fruitcake, loony and closet racist party. It shouldn’t worry, as it will have the support of euro-fanatics, gay married couples and old Etonians.
A J Rogers
Epsom, Surrey
Avoiding cow attacks
SIR – I, too, have been the victim of a cow attack (“Walker killed by stampeding cows was retired lecturer”, report, May 16). In 2002, I had the misfortune to stumble upon a cow that had given birth minutes earlier. In wanting to protect her calf she head-butted me to the ground, then went for the kill by rolling over my body.
At that point, still conscious, I played dead and the cow, assuming she had killed me, returned to her calf. I was lucky to escape with broken ribs and bruising.
Over the years I have seen reports of very similar attacks by cows. In order to avoid serious injury, it is advisable to lie completely still until the cow is well clear.
Trying to escape is most dangerous.
Barry Hubbard
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – The article about cows with calves attacking people with dogs made sad reading, as such tragedies could so easily be avoided. The Countryside Code specifically states that dogs should be on a fixed lead at all times near livestock. If cows with calves cannot be avoided then walking round the edges of their field would seem an obvious precaution.
It is common knowledge that most creatures will protect their young.
Alan Nelson
Stone, Staffordshire
Church’s bright future
SIR – You report (May 10) that Christians could be a minority in 10 years.
However the recent Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall was filled to capacity, with young men and women of all denominations. The proceedings were relayed to an overflow location, and beamed around the world.
It was inspiring, and brings huge optimism for the future of the Christian Church in this country.
Sally Scutt
Hook, Hampshire
School greats
SIR – I’m not sure that the Old Harrovian one-hit-wonder James Blunt (Letters, May 20) counts as someone who has excelled at what they do.
My own school, Hulme Grammar in Oldham, has produced the broadcaster John Stapleton, actresses Sarah Lancashire and Shobna Gulati, footballer Nedum Onuoha, and Professor Brian Cox.
Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire
Combating child abuse
SIR – The recent and appalling case in Oxford (report, May 15) involving the repeated abuse of children who were in local authority care, strongly echoes similar events in Leicestershire over 25 years ago.
After the conviction in 1991 of Frank Beck, who received five life sentences for serious physical and sexual assaults on more than 100 children in care over 13 years, I set up a special complaints system in which any child could contact our children’s rights officer – the first such appointment in the country.
As the director of social services at Leicestershire County Council, I went on record to guarantee that no child in Leicestershire’s care would ever be systematically abused again. To the best of my knowledge no such incidents have taken place in the county since then.
I see no reason why such arrangements could not be set up by every local authority.
Brian Waller
Success of Debenhams
SIR – Belinda Earl, Marks & Spencer’s new style director, was not the originator of Designers at Debenhams (Features, May 15). It is true that while Miss Earl was manager of the accessories department (I was the chief executive officer at the time), the buying team bought some items from Philip Treacy and Timothy Fowler.
The concept of designer “diffusion” ranges, however, was a new idea. I saw an opportunity to deliver volume fashion with designer credentials at affordable prices.
I began to work with Jasper Conran and we introduced “J-line by Jasper Conran”. This was followed by more than 20 designers across the whole business.
When I handed over the business to Miss Earl in 2000, Debenhams had just won the accolade Retailer of the Year (1999) from Retail Week magazine.
The profits had risen steadily under my tenure, from under £30 million to over £130 million – a record of which I, and my management team, are very proud.
Terry Green
Upton, Somerset
Austerity music
SIR – While browsing in a struggling local shop, I was amused to hear that the background music was Simply Red’s Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) – hardly conducive to encouraging purchases.
Rupert Godfrey
Devizes, Wiltshire
New EU olive oil directive is a slippery slope
SIR – The EU has decreed that all restaurants must serve olive oil in factory-labelled and sealed containers (report, May 18). It shall now be illegal for those restaurants to fill bowls and reusable containers from jugs or bottles of whatever olive oil they choose, often a small and/or local producer.
This is under the belief that customers need to be able to ensure quality and hygiene in what they consume. Under that logic we must expect the next directive to ban restaurants from sourcing their own ingredients, or indeed cooking the food themselves.
Lord James Russell
London W2
SIR – The new EU regulation, which defines the different grades of olive oils, is to protect the customer from cheap alternatives, the problem that caused the horse meat fiasco. The rules are there to protect both the producers and the customers. No rational person can complain about that.
Think what it would be like if we did not have some common standards, and each member state had different colours for its traffic lights.
Bob Salmon
Greetham, Rutland
SIR – EU commissioners have banned olive oil in stoppered bottles from restaurant tables on two grounds, one of which is hygiene. Why then are ring-pull cans still allowed? Pulling the ring dunks part of the outside of the can into the contents. This unhygienic practice is exacerbated by drinking from the can.
Peter Owen
Claygate, Surrey
SIR – You report (May 20) that a Defra spokesman said of the olive oil directive: “We will continue to work with the catering industry to help them adapt to these changes.” Does that sentence actually mean anything?
John Elliott

Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to the recent letter signed by seven retired paediatricians about the new children’s hospital (May 20th): the last thing the sick children of Ireland need is any further debate on the siting of the new hospital.
The New Crumlin Hospital Group is a group of parents of sick children, which has been lobbying for a decent facility since 2002. Eleven years later and we are dismayed that there are still parts of the medical establishment trying to re-open a debate about where it should be located. Each time there has been a decision about the location of the new hospital there have been some paediatricians who objected to the site and proposed a better one.
As parents of seriously sick children we have heard all the arguments from interest groups within the medical community for years over who has the best site and it is this debate and the consequent delay that has failed our children and the seriously ill children of Ireland. We have had review after review of every painfully slow decision made on the various proposed sites. The time for action came and went a long time ago.
There is still no sign of decent facilities more than a decade later. What the children need is an end to the debate and for the completion of their new hospital in the shortest timeframe. As international medical best practice states that there should only be one facility for every five million people, we are going against this best practice every day that we dilute the services across three sites. Some of which are not even fit for purpose.
Seriously sick kids are not interested in hearing the political wrangling over the site. Some of them have moved on to adult facilities and shamefully it is already too late for them. Some have died experiencing the awful facilities in the process. The lack of speed in moving this project forward is the single biggest issue and for paediatricians retired or otherwise to muddy the waters is regrettable.
Likewise, for a Minister to appear willing to approach the building of this hospital with the speed we have come to expect of government is unforgivable. It appears that yet again it is left to the parents to champion the cause for their children against the establishment.
We call on the Minister to drive this project forward to completion but not at the current pace. How long must the most vulnerable children in our society have to wait? Our children are out of time. – Yours, etc,
New Crumlin Hospital

Sir, – If it is now to be the case that a Government minister may at any time disclose to the public personal details of a fellow politician as obtained from another arm of the state, be it Garda or other security service, Revenue or government department, then it seems only the most virtuous of our politicians will be free from the threat of this form revelation in the future.
Indeed, it may end up that only those without sin or transgression of any sort should consider themselves for election at all come next general election. This could well leave us with mostly new faces in the next Dáil. That might not be a bad thing!
One of the main aims of the Fine Gael five-point manifesto at the last election was to “overhaul the way our political system works to stamp out cronyism and low standards”. Maybe it is simply the case that the Minister has now found a new way to reach such aim. Should he therefore be cheered for it and not chided? – Yours, etc,
Cloghroe, Co Cork.
Sir, – What is the point of the law if its enforcement is at the discretion of individual gardaí?
What is the point of the gardaí exercising discretion if they are to be overruled by district superintendents?
What is the point of a judiciary if the gardaí make the decisions for them?
What is the point of a legislature if the laws it enacts can be disregarded in such a cavalier manner?
What is the point of a Minister for Justice who thinks everything is Hunky Dory? – Yours, etc,
Rathdown Park,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – It’s hardly earth-shattering. More like a storm in a pink T-shirt. – Yours, etc,
Meadow Copse,
Clonsilla, Dublin 15.
A chara, – I wonder is there some particular reason why Dáil members will not use mobile phone docks in their cars – they can surely claim them on their expenses. Bewildering (both notions). – Is mise,
Bothar Ghort an Bhile,
Baile Atha Cliath 4.

Sir, – There are so many good reasons to keep the Seanad, but looking closely at the Seanad Reform Bill published last week there are even better reasons to keep it and reform it. Gender quotas as a concept aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but as a feminist I welcome the idea of well-balanced gender representation. I didn’t graduate in an Irish university so I don’t have a Seanad vote and therefore strongly welcome the proposal to open the vote to all, island-wide.
Last, but not least, I have Irish family and friends abroad who hope some day to return home when work is here for them; in the meantime, however, a vote from wherever they are allows them to keep connected in the shaping of our value-rich democracy. “Open it don’t, close it” is right. – Yours, etc,
Park Avenue,
Co Louth.

Sir, – Letters from Alf MacLochlainn (May 10th) and James Connolly Heron (May 11th) bring to mind the most serious defect in the commemoration of the men of 1916: the hijacking of such memorials by the Department of Defence and the use of military show. The legacy of these men and women belongs to all of us, the Irish public, and certainly not to the select few engaged in military activities. Furthermore, the Army of today is not a continuation of the organisations of that era, by any stretch of the imagination.
I have asked before, and am asking now again, that the responsibility for all such commemorations be moved to the Office of an Taoiseach, who represents the people as a whole; with delegation of civil ceremonies to local councils as desired. – Yours, etc,
Marlborough Road,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – May I keep the family ties going? Alf MacLochlainn (May 10th) and I share first cousins.
While 1916 was the beginning of the destructive phase of the “fight for Irish freedom”, the constructive phase began in 1893 – a centenary virtually ignored. The Bureau of Military History printed one item: a chronology of the movement for independence, Roneo-ed. In almost 50 years of secondhand bookselling, I have come across only one copy, that from the library of Ernest Blythe (I presented it to the Kilmainham Restoration Committee via my link with Alf MacLochlainn, his uncle, my uncle-in-law). That document started with the foundation of the Gaelic League. Not too long afterwards is listed the next practical step, foundation of Arthur Griffith’s first newspaper and, a few years later, his foundation of Sinn Féin. I believe that a retrospective recognition is well due these events.
I also believe any commemoration of 1916 is hypocritical and nonsensical as long as we remain in thrall to Brussels – 1916 was fought for Ireland’s freedom . – Is mise,
Closheen Lane,

Sir, – Your Front page photograph (Bryan O’Brien, May 21st) shows a lonely-looking Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter centre stage, with his back to the Army band. Are you implying that he should turn around and face the music? – Yours , etc,
Acorn Road,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – Keith Duggan’s article on the great writer Colum McCann (Arts & Ideas, May 20th) was brilliant. I felt I had jet lag after reading it, and I didn’t even leave Ranelagh. – Yours, etc,
Northbrook Avenue,

Irish Independent:
* I was thrilled to discover that the Department of Jobs For The Boys has being carrying out its remit in an exemplary manner.
Also in this section
Let’s carry Donal’s message in our hearts
Government too weak with banks
High praise for Mr Kealy’s work
The carping that followed the news that the son of one member of the department received his just reward for overtime is simply beyond my comprehension.
Jobs For The Boys was formed in order to dispense child benefit to families of members of the Dail. Its motto is “McGuinness is good for you”.
Many TDs have been forced to drive the cheaper end of the sports car market, and drink champagne from less reputable sources. I know quite a number of them who can barely afford their second homes or their regular trips to Florida.
I am reminded of a story told about a saintly member of the ruling class who was blessed by God with the rare gift of bilocation. He could be in the Dail and in Morocco simultaneously.
We should all pray to St Ming for the courage to clock-in while at the same time being abroad.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
* Ray Dunne (Letters, May 20) highlights the distinction between medical termination and abortion. If any facet of the pro-choice argument can be reduced to such semantics as arguing the dehumanising term “medical termination” versus what is the “abortion” of a human life, then surely that’s reason enough to be pro-life?
Killian Foley-Walsh
Kilkenny City
* I am writing this letter in the house I bought a few years ago in the Castlerea area of Co Roscommon. I grew up in Co Antrim and all my life I took things like turning on the water tap and having a drink of water for granted.
But if you were to drink the so-called drinking water here you would be risking serious illness – as was the case for at least 10 people in Roscommon last week.
For more than two years now there have been warnings on the local radio not to drink the water without boiling it first. This, in my opinion, is a total disgrace. If this were the case in the county were I grew up, the minister in charge of the department would have been sacked.
Henry Hughes
Castlerea, Co Roscommon
* I refer to the article by Miriam Donohoe, May 14, on Donal Walsh. It prompted me to submit this poem on suicide.
Smiles betray sorrow in their
They try so hard to keep normality
A stranger in their midst, want to
Tragedy of a young man’s suicide
Family’s eyes in pain try to screen
Broken smiles, faint cries of glee
As they raise a glass, feel inside
Grief of a son’s suicide
Each family gathering is a witness
To who is missing presence not
A ghost appears when they try to
Reminder of a brother’s suicide
Days and nights turn to months
and years
Still there’s not a day they do not
Normality is something from the
When they were once a happy
Destroyed, bury their lives, turn the
Consequences of a suicide.
James Mullen
Address with Editor
* While I find the recent comments made by Alan Shatter on national television regarding Mick Wallace to be extremely disturbing, they pale in comparison to the condescending dismissal of the issue by several Fine Gael TDs and ministers.
For a government minister to put private information about a political opponent into the public domain is questionable at best.
A more serious matter, however, is how the minister came to have such knowledge. That is an issue worth looking at, particularly in the light of the heavily criticised report into the penalty points issue.
The fact that the Taoiseach has no compunction in supporting the actions of Mr Shatter, given the potential Standards in Public Office and data protections issues that have been raised by such actions, I believe demonstrates how little importance Fine Gael attaches to these issues, in comparison to party loyalty.
Simon O’Connor
Crumlin, Dublin 12
* Most reports on the recent breakthrough in human embryonic stem cell research neglect to point out one very important fact. The research produced a technical breakthrough, not an ethical breakthrough. It does not remove the need to deliberately kill human embryos and therefore does not address the ethical objection that many people have to human embryonic stem cell research.
William Reville
Emeritus professor of biochemistry,
University College Cork
* Congratulations to Paddy O’Brien, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, on his letter entitled ‘School of Terror’. I and my siblings attended such a chamber of horrors in a small sleepy village in Ireland during the 1950s and 1960s.
Sadistic punishments were administered on a daily basis. This included the cane, punching and also being hit with the duster and scissors.
It was a three-teacher school and two of those teachers in my mind were not fit to slop out pigs let alone teach children. I don’t blame the parents as back then the parish priests and the teachers were placed on a pedestal.
I would love to name and shame the teachers and school involved but once again I tremble with fear at the horrific memories they invoke.
Name and address with editor
* I have been following with interest the abortion debate and I find the Catholic Church’s interfering in state issues tyrannical. Yet again the church fails to take into account the non-Catholic population. Let them legislate for the Catholics if they so wish, but count the rest of us out!
Thus, I propose a piece of legislation: no abortion under any circumstances for Catholics – the rest of us may avail of the service if the mother’s life is in danger.
Cinthia Cruz
Address with editor
You are running an ad in your newspaper at the moment, “we are defined by the choices we make”. Very true and very relevant. We, and you, are making very wrong choices at the moment. We are choosing to ignore a reality that stares us in the face and by so doing we allow a cancer to develop in society that could prove disastrous.
I refer to employment, or rather unemployment, which is the greatest threat the world faces. Your recent editorial (May 17) was upbeat about the influx of 800 additional jobs, and so it should be. Your editorial, however, is cautious and restates the eternal conundrum: “we need better job creation, but how?” And it is that “how” which presents the greatest challenge of the 21st Century.
It is wonderful news that we can produce practically everything in abundance and don’t have to work so hard any more, but it could be the catalyst to destroy society if we allow the mass, or even a substantial and growing section of society, to be excluded from the dignity, security, well-being and feeling of inclusion secure employment brings.
There must be a major rethink of the work/jobs relationship and what role jobs play in the technological world of the 21st Century.
Padraic Neary
Tubercurry, Co Sligo
Irish Independent

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