8 June 2013 Garden

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear. Just for a change the destroyer Makepiece is stuck on the sandbank, and Troutbridge is sent out to tow her off. But she gets stuck too, and Nunky’s tug, gets stuck trying to pull them off. Priceless.
Another quiet day awfully tired get a little gardening done which this exhaustion would go away.
We watch The Pallaisers Glencora is pregnant and its a boy.
I win at scrabble but I get under 400 perhaps Mary can have her revenge tomorrow.


The Countess of Arran
The Countess of Arran, who has died aged 94, was reckoned the “fastest woman on water” and subsequently the “fastest granny on water” when, in 1980, she reached 103mph on Lake Windermere in a rocket-like craft called Skean-Dhu, an achievement that earned her the highest accolade in powerboating, the Segrave Trophy.

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Lady Arran 
6:08PM BST 07 Jun 2013
Although an unlikely champion powerboater, in October 1971, at the age of 53, Lady Arran followed in the wake of her hero Donald Campbell, racing her speedboat Highland Fling across Windermere in a hailstorm to lift the Class 1 record to 85.63mph. In her next 12 races, contending against all comers, she won three times and was never placed lower than third. In 1979, at the helm of her 26ft powerboat Skean-Dhu, she set a new Class II world record of 93mph.
Described by Harold Macmillan as the prettiest girl he had ever seen, she had married Sir Arthur (Kattendyke Strange David Archibald) “Boofy” Gore in 1937. In 1958 he succeeded his brother to become the 8th Earl of Arran and became an active member of the House of Lords. A passionate advocate of homosexual rights, he thrice introduced a Sexual Offences Bill, and also campaigned for the protection of badgers.
But “Boofy” Arran became best known in the 1960s for his weekly column in the London Evening News (where he was sometimes billed as “The Earl You Love To Hate”). This ran until 1978, when he suffered a stroke, a misfortune he blamed on his daily intake of a half-bottle of champagne before lunch.
While Fiona Arran pursued her powerboat interests, “Boofy” escaped in a car sent by the newspaper to write his column in peace, often musing about the wildlife in and around their remarkable home, Pimlico, near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.
For few would have guessed that Lady Arran, invariably arriving on any maritime scene in a Colquhoun tartan cap set at a jaunty angle, kept a sizeable menagerie there. Wallabies bounced around the pinewoods, while pot-bellied pigs, llamas and alpacas, caged birds (including a macaw which volunteered rude comments on proceedings, and others that uttered further expletives), horses, a fox and assorted dogs completed a bustling scene. The family wore gumboots in the house to fend off their cete (brood) of ankle-nipping badgers.
Lady Arran always called her current favourite badger Rosie. A succession of these creatures visited, and left a mark on, the smartest houses in England. “Nobody but Fiona would have carried this off,” remarked a friend.
Drawn as ever to the lochside, she kept a small house on the Isle of Inchconnachan on Loch Lomond. She boated the loch while her badgers lived beneath the veranda, chasing people hurrying to the jetty.
Meanwhile, Fiona Arran continued to win competitions, eventually completing the Round Britain offshore race, a demanding event even for the fit young men who made up the other contestants.
She often disembarked black and blue, after she and her navigator had been flung around like dice in a cup. One exclaimed: “The Lady only has two speeds — flat out, and stop!” Asked why she did it, she said simply: “For Scotland”.
Fiona Arran was also a painter. Her pictures were rich in atmosphere and feeling, and in due course there was an exhibition in St James’s. It was almost as if she could do anything she set her mind to: from the water she took to dry land and phaeton-racing. Prince Philip was said to be amazed by his latest hell-for-leather competitor, and Fiona Arran was described as driving like Boadicea.
She made a late comeback on water, helping to design and construct a revolutionary electrically-propelled 15ft hydroplane, An Stradag (The Spark). On November 22 1989 she piloted the tiny craft to another record, achieving a silent and environmentally-friendly 50.825mph. She was then 71.
Fiona Bryde Colquhoun was born on July 20 1918, the daughter of Sir Iain Colquhoun, 7th Bt of Luss, a war hero and explorer. Her mother, Dinah Tennant, was a champion golfer. Brought up on the banks of Loch Lomond, and educated locally, Fiona recalled her first thrill in a powerboat in 1932 when, aged 13, she rode in Miss England III, a hydroplane powered by Rolls-Royce aero-engines, during its trial run on the loch.
On a summer’s evening just before the war, she was aboard her husband’s supercharged Mercedes car when it achieved 100mph down Oxford Street (“That was rather fun!”). During the war she was a driver with the Wrens, and subsequently put her mettle to the test on the newly-built M1. When a policeman stopped her — yet again — she said: “Fast? Get in, officer, and I’ll show you what fast is.”
In 1965, having witnessed the Paris Six Hours circuit marathon on the Seine from the yacht of the British naval architect, Commander Peter du Cane, she bet a friend that the following year she would be one of the starters. True to her word, in 1966 she was the sole woman competitor and finished 14th out of 90, in a monohulled boat named Badger I.
The name was significant. With her husband, Lady Arran had campaigned for the protection of badgers, and eventually helped to pilot the Badger Protection Bill through both Houses of Parliament. They even had a badger motif attached to the radiator of their Rolls-Royce.
Bored by circuit racing, Lady Arran soon progressed offshore. In Badger II, a 20ft Don Shead design, she quickly set a new speed record of 55mph for Class III offshore powerboats. For the 1970 season she was at the helm of Badger III, a Cougar catamaran.
She then turned to a young naval architect, Lorne Campbell, who designed a series of three-point hydroplanes in which Lady Arran competed in offshore races. Having broken the Class I record on Windermere in 1971, she lifted the Class D championship in 1976 in the 26ft Skean-Dhu (Gaelic for “dagger”).
Campbell next came up with Cael-na-Mara (“Song of the Sea”), a 30ft reverse three-pointer with three Mercury outboard engines on the back. But the craft’s performance disappointed, and Lady Arran reverted to Skean-Dhu, in which, in 1979, she set a new Class II world record of 93mph. On August 11 the following year she piloted the vessel, with its twin 225hp Mercury outboards, to 102.45mph on Windermere. She announced her retirement in 1981.
Her husband died in 1983. The elder of their two sons, the 9th Earl of Arran, survives her.
The Countess of Arran, born July 20 1918, died May 16 2013


Today sees David Cameron host a “hunger summit” in London, the first in a series of events leading up to the G8 summit in 10 days’ time. The event will include a meeting of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a private investment initiative launched by the G8 in order to expand the reach of multinational companies into Africa. The UK government has pledged £395m of taxpayers’ money to the scheme.
African civil society groups have condemned the New Alliance as part of a “new wave of colonialism” that will hand over their farmland to foreign investors and destroy their livelihoods. Over 40 companies have signed up to the initiative, including agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta and Diageo, as well as Unilever, whose headquarters are the location of today’s hunger summit.
We stand in solidarity with African civil society in rejecting the New Alliance. We call on the prime minister to withhold the £395m in UK aid money that he has pledged to the initiative, and to invest it instead in support for ecological smallholder farming in Africa. Members of the public are invited to join our protest outside Unilever House at 10am today.
John Hilary War on Want, Kirtana Chandrasekaran Friends of the Earth, Deborah Doane World Development Movement, Martin Drewry Health Poverty Action, Teresa Anderson The Gaia Foundation, Kate Metcalf Women’s Environmental Network, Nick Dearden Jubilee Debt Campaign, Dan Taylor Find Your Feet, Pete Riley GM Freeze, Claire Robinson GMWatch
• Recent stories telling us to eat less meat to ease the food crisis in the developing world and that a vegetarian diet can help us to live longer confirm that there has never been a better time to ditch animal products. The United Nations has called the meat industry “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. And healthy vegetarians and vegans don’t just increase their own life expectancy – they also save up to 100 animals a year from immeasurable suffering on factory farms, in abattoirs and on the decks of fishing boats. So whether it’s for our health, world hunger, the environment or animals, there are so many reasons to drop animal products from our diets and not a single good reason not to. Come on, the sun is out – have a salad!
Ben Williamson
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Your reports on the Prism programme (Revealed: how US secretly collects private data from AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Paltalk, Skype, Yahoo and YouTube, 7 June) reinforce the evidence of whistleblowers over the last decade that the National Security Agency, despite official denials, has been massively extending its capacity to intercept all forms of electronic communications and is harvesting private data on a systematic basis. Extremely concerning from the UK perspective is the role of Menwith Hill, the NSA spy base in North Yorkshire that plays a key role for the US as part of a global electronic surveillance network.
Menwith Hill has undergone a multibillion-dollar investment programme to enhance exactly those same capabilities for the interception of domestic communications and in its role co-ordinating intelligence-led warfare for special operations forces and remote-control weaponry like drones. All this is done effectively beyond any form of parliamentary accountability and is shrouded under the convenient cover of national security.
The NSA is now enormously powerful and is operating as a de facto secret state in ways that flout democratic norms and international law, with serious implications for personal and political freedoms.
Steve Schofield
• Re your report on Verizon supplying the NSA with details of its customers (US orders phone firm to hand over data on millions of calls, 6 June), I’d recommend reading The Shadow Factory by James Bamford, which details the amount of illegal wiretapping carried out by US governments in recent years. What is particularly worrying is that our own politicians seem happy to emulate them without any public debate taking place.
Nick Ryan
Seaford, East Sussex

Reading Professor John Wallwork’s tribute to Benjamin Milstein (Obituary, 5 June) I was struck by his comment that Milstein, “having abandoned all Jewish beliefs … marched in support of Spanish anti-fascists and was committed to socialist ideals”. As a boy in wartime Britain, I was taught that equality and justice – ie the antithesis of fascism – were fundamental Jewish beliefs, whether or not religious belief persisted. After many more years, during which my religious beliefs have all but vanished, I still hold to this view.
Mark Goldberg
• I am saddened, and angered, to read John Carvel’s comment piece (The NHS still has a way to go on brain donation, 29 May). The Guardian published my letter back in 2009 (20 October) detailing the events – including poor communication between key players – surrounding the mismanaged removal of my husband’s brain for research. It would appear that little progress has been made in nearly four years.
Annie Feltham
• I was disappointed that John Crace’s article about long words (Do you know what our longest words mean?, G2, 5 June) didn’t include porkchopbeefsteakhamandegghamburgersteakorliverandbacon (in the OED under hamburger) or feeling-upset-physically-and-mentally-with-anticipatory-excitement-and/or-anxiety (in the OED explaining journey-proud).
Tony Augarde
Author, Wordplay
• “Film of the day” in your TV listings (G2, 7 June) is apparently Spielberg’s WWII epic, “Saving Private Lives”. Presumably in a double bill with “Brief Encounters of the Third Kind”?
Robin Nielsen
Wickham Market, Suffolk
• Why do people with cancer always “battle” it (Letters, 7 June)? I’ve had it, been treated, recovered. No battling involved.
Marilyn Ross
• Isn’t it time to stop this media frenzy and move on to pastures new?
Rowena Rowlands
Wigan, Lancashire

The decision to compensate the victims of torture and illegal detention during the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya (Britain has said sorry to the Mau Mau, 7 June) is heartening and must lend weight to claims for compensation by those whose civil and human rights were abused by British security forces in the first colonial counterinsurgency campaign of the postwar era, in Palestine.
Illustration: Gary Kempston
Will the government now apologise for the torture and murder of a 16-year-old boy, Alexander Rubowitz, who was seized by an undercover police squad led by Major Roy Farran in the Rehavia district of Jerusalem on 6 May 1947? Rubowitz was a member of LEHI, the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, a proscribed underground organisation responsible for numerous assassinations and bombings. But when he was apprehended he was doing nothing worse than distributing anti-British propaganda. He was taken to a deserted area outside Jerusalem, where Farran struck him repeatedly on the head with a rock, causing his death. Farran admitted this to his commanding officer, Colonel Bernard Fergusson, and said the policemen with him had stripped the boy’s body and mutilated it. The corpse was never recovered. Farran was subsequently investigated by the Palestine police force and arrested. He fled custody twice. In October 1947 a court martial acquitted him on the grounds that, if there was no body, no murder could be proved. Subsequent attempts by the Rubowitz family to bring Farran to justice using criminal and civil proceedings were all foiled.
Roy Farran died in Canada in 2006, having enjoyed a successful career as a newspaper publisher and politician. He is regarded as a heroic figure and his wartime exploits in the SAS are legendary. However, his activity in Palestine became a model for British counterinsurgency techniques in Malaya, Kenya, Aden and Northern Ireland, always with disastrous consequences. An apology to the Rubowitz family, who have not given up seeking justice, would acknowledge their cause and signify a repudiation of the covert, semi-legal techniques that have repeatedly dishonoured the British armed forces in operations against insurgents.
David Cesarani
Research professor in history, Royal Holloway, University of London
• The government’s near-admission of the use of torture against Mau Mau insurgents in the 1950s is welcome but raises wider points. Not only are similar issues of torture against those who sought independence in other former British colonies outstanding, but the question of British history itself is also raised.
Do we take it that even now Mr Gove is setting up arrangements to make sure that the now admitted actual history of British action against the Mau Mau is taught as part of “our island story”?
Keith Flett
• If it is true that the Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice have said any future claims for compensation for mistreatment during the colonial period “could be heard under the secret court system established by the Justice and Security Act” (UK faces more torture claims, 7 June), the government will have some explaining to do. The relevant provisions of the act relate to issues of national security. How can they possibly relate to events that allegedly occurred 50 and more years ago?
Jeremy Beecham
Shadow justice spokesman, House of Lords
• Last week the UN Committee against Torture released its concluding observations after a review of the UK’s record on preventing, punishing and remedying torture and ill-treatment (UN blasts Britain over human rights record since 9/11, 1 June).
Among the committee’s important recommendations is a call on the UK to establish without delay an inquiry into the alleged complicity of UK officials in the torture of detainees held overseas. It says the UK government must address the shortcomings of the previous, deeply flawed detainee inquiry.
Meanwhile, the UN has echoed a call made by numerous others that the UK government publish the detainee inquiry’s interim report, finished almost a year ago, to the fullest extent possible.
The establishment of a new inquiry offers a genuine opportunity for the UK to draw a line under these alleged violations, to restore public confidence and to set an example to other countries in how to respond to such serious allegations.
It is crucial that the UK take immediate and meaningful steps to implement the committee’s recommendations.The UK must take immediate steps to implement the recommendations.
Kate Allen Director, Amnesty International UK, Keith Best Chief executive, Freedom from Torture, Susan Bryant Director, Rights Watch (UK), Shami Chakrabarti Director, Liberty, Cori Crider Legal director, Reprieve, Dadimos Haile Interim director, Redress, David Mepham UK director, Human Rights Watch, Angela Patrick Director of human rights policy, Justice, Muhammad Rabbani Managing director, Cageprisoners
• It has been almost a decade since two children, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt and 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, died following the use of painful restraint. Gareth died from asphyxia after being restrained by staff in the G4S-run Rainsbrook secure training centre. Adam hanged himself in Serco-run Hassockfield secure training centre, after being subjected to a karate chop to the nose (termed a “nose distraction”). Adam’s nose bled for about an hour afterwards; he left a note asking what gave staff the right to hit a child. Although this technique was eventually banned, the deliberate infliction of pain continues to be authorised by ministers, including when children are being strip-searched. An inspection report published on Ashfield, another Serco-run child jail, revealed that two boys had suffered broken bones while staff forcibly restrained them (Ashfield youth jail condemned over unacceptable levels of violence, 4 June).
We urge the UK government to comply with the recommendations made by the UN Committee against Torture that restraint against children be used only as a last resort and exclusively to prevent harm to the child or others; that all methods of physical restraint for disciplinary purposes be abolished; and that the use of any technique designed to inflict pain on children be banned.
Deborah Coles Co-director, Inquest, Frances Crook Director, Howard League for Penal Reform, Juliet Lyon Director, Prison Reform Trust, Phillip Noyes Director of strategy and development, NSPCC, Paola Uccellari Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Carolyne Willow Children’s rights campaigner



Steve Connor’s uncritical regurgitation of GM propaganda (“If GM crops are bad, show us the evidence” 3 June) does little justice to a debate of fundamental significance to future human welfare and planetary impact: global agricultural policy.
Industry claims of reduced pesticide use have been challenged in peer-reviewed literature, which indicates the opposite. Lower carbon emissions (primarily through no-till agriculture) are misattributed, since adoption of the latter mostly pre-dates the introduction of GM in 1996. And, of the much-vaunted productivity gains, there is precious little evidence.
What is evident, however, is that the headline-capturing improvements secured in recent years have all been achieved through conventional plant breeding, and at a miniscule fraction of the cost of GM: the NIAB super-wheat (30 per cent potential gain in productivity); Nerica rice (four times as productive as traditional varieties, with higher protein levels, pest, disease and drought resistance); and flood-resistant Scuba Rice to quote just three examples. Non-GM breeding continues to be far more successful for all of the traits for which the GM industry claims indispensability in meeting future food demand.
The argument that no one has died or fallen ill as a result of GM food is misleading and premature. Epidemiology attests that it can take decades for negative health impacts to be recognised in morbidity and mortality statistics.
It is not necessary for GM activists to “put up or shut up”. Their arguments have been articulated over decades in a now comprehensive case against the corporatist industrialisation of agriculture which has proven so consummately detrimental to our landscapes, biodiversity, soil integrity, plant, livestock and human health, socio-economic welfare and food security; and for which GM represents the latest manifestation of long-discredited, ultimately unscientific, reductionist thinking.
Nigel Tuersley, Tisbury, Wiltshire
Steve Connor is quite right that it’s “put up or shut up” time for GM, but he’s got it the wrong way around. It’s high time that those who are so keen that we buy and become dependent on this expensive ‘“technology” put up proof that it’s safe, before we undertake yet another massive and unpredictable experiment with our one and only ecosphere, in addition to global warming.
The idea that something be considered “safe” just because no one has yet shown it otherwise would not wash with Airbus or Boeing; why should it with Monsanto or Bayer?  Thalidomide, Lindane and DDT were declared safe on this basis, as were many other similar products which later turned out to be anything but. If the benefit is great enough then perhaps we may take the risk, as with, for example, a polio vaccine, but not otherwise.
Then there’s the issue of choice: if Mr Connor is happy to eat these products then he is free to do so, but others must have the freedom not to, and to know when their food is tainted.
Dr Ian East, Islip, Oxfordshire
TB threat from badgers is real
Some of your correspondents have misunderstood my comments on the risk of bovine TB spreading to humans (“Badger cull has no basis in science”, 5 June). Bovine TB led to the slaughter of 28,000 cattle last year and cost farmers and taxpayers close to £100m. We want to eradicate this disease to protect the health of our cattle and welfare of our dairy and beef industries.
Bovine TB is a zoonosis. It now presents a very low risk to people in the UK because of our huge efforts to find and cull infected cattle, pasteurisation of milk and inspection of beef at slaughter. However transmission is possible and does occur to humans and other mammals in small numbers. Naturally, if bovine TB continues to spread, and the numbers of infected cattle and badgers increase still further, the risk of infection to other mammals and humans would inevitably increase.
It is wrong to suggest the Government’s policy of TB eradication is not based in science. The Randomised Badger Control Trials, a large-scale scientific study carried out over 10 years, has shown that culling badgers can make a difference in reducing incidents of TB in cattle when used alongside other cattle controls.
Nigel Gibbens, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra, London SW1
In response to Wendy Irvine (Letters, 30 May), it puzzles me that if I suggest monitoring hedgehog numbers in the badger-cull areas, I am shouted down by the supposedly pro-wildlife lobby. I’m not saying badgers are definitely responsible for the dramatic decline in hedgehog numbers, but they might be, and no one yet knows for sure.
Where I live hedgehogs are seen very rarely and badgers can be seen almost nightly when driving. There are few if any of the factors that are often quoted to explain the decline in hedgehog numbers. The hedge system is virtually the same as in medieval times. There is no mass use of slug pellets by farmers, and Defra Stewardship grants mean farming is less intense here than it used to be. Earthworms are very plentiful as evidenced by an explosion in the population of moles. There is very little additional housing development so traffic has hardly increased.
I don’t enjoy killing things and I think badgers are beautiful animals, but given that badger culls are likely to go ahead, I would like to see plans to monitor hedgehog numbers in those areas too.
Patrick Cosgrove, Chapel Lawn, Shropshire
Mosque attack is attack on peace
The burning of a London mosque (report, 6 June) is as abhorrent as the burning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1989 and the Nazi book-burnings in Berlin in 1933. Such incendiary acts are designed to fan the flames of hatred and should be condemned by all  peace-loving people.
Stan Labovitch , Windsor
Last thing Syria needs is more arms
Mounting concern from MPs about the Government’s stance on whether to arm opposition forces in Syria is completely understandable (“Cameron relents to give MPs vote on Syria”, 7 June). While William Hague talks of the “carefully controlled circumstances” under which weaponry might be dispatched, the Government has provided no adequate detail on this.
The urgent question that MPs must ask David Cameron and his colleagues is this: what credible safeguards can be put in place that will ensure UK-supplied weaponry is not used to commit human rights abuses in Syria? And what guarantees can the Government provide over such safeguards?
The difficulties are legion. How can the UK effectively monitor the use of its military equipment? How will officials, sitting in Whitehall or the Ministry of Defence, prevent weapons being transferred  from one opposition group to another? And how do they stop the theft or forcible seizure of arms by extremist groups, including ones allied to al-Qa’ida? MPs and the public will need convincing answers to these and other questions before they are ready to believe that sending weapons to Syria might actually relieve Syria’s suffering, not make it worse.
Kate Allen , Director, Amnesty International UK , London EC2
For Christ’s or Allah’s or Buddha’s or Ron Hubbard’s or David Icke’s sake, please, if you find you’ve backed the wrong side in the Syrian civil war, accept it. Please don’t do a Tony Blair and use the rumour of the use of WMDs (in this case chemical weapons) to justify arming the rebels.
Consider the possibility that Russia may be correct in believing that regime change imposed on an Arab state by the West would be another disaster. Also consider that a victory by Assad would be a major setback for al-Qa’ida and its militant Islamic fundamentalist allies.
Losing face over a bad decision hardly compares with the extra thousands of people losing their lives if this tragic civil war is extended by the West supplying more arms.
John Lewis
This issue needs to be settled through co-ordinated international backing for a meeting between Assad and the Syrian opposition forces. Those who oppose such a meeting can only do so because of their hidden vested interests.
Brian Woollard, London W5
Male doctors are the problem
Those quoted in your report on female doctors and the NHS miss the critical point (“Health minister Anna Soubry criticised for suggesting female doctors who work part-time after having children are a drain on NHS”  5 June). What about the male doctors? If all doctors who are parents were expected to invest some of their time in raising the next generation of employees, then the debate about women doctors in the NHS would end. The problem is how male doctors work, not how female doctors work.
Duncan Fisher, Crickhowell,  Powys
Soldiers in the classroom
Michael Gove has announced  his latest back-to-the-future initiative, harking back to the 1950s: soldiers without degrees can train to be teachers in two years, rather than three.
Is Gove’s motivation a response to: a) the need for more teachers; b) the need to have professionals who will blindly follow orders, however stupid; or c) both?
Gove’s dictatorial behaviour has made the profession unattractive for creative and hardworking qualified teachers.
Jane Eades, London SW11
Green dad
Following Dominic Lawson’s article (“There are green vested interests too… ” 3 June), I would like to declare a vested interest in a green economy: my one-year-old son. Had I but the means, I’d be lobbying hard on his behalf for a cleaner energy future. Lawson disingenuously says that climate change doesn’t threaten the planet, but it threatens every animal on it, including us. And none more so than our children, who will have to live with what comes next.
Dr Richard Milne, Edinburgh
Reading the correspondence on proposed new scoring systems which allow room for expansion at the top (Letters, 6 June) makes me think we should go back to having percentage scores as we were able to before grades were introduced. This can give unlimited flexibility. I clearly remember a mathematics teacher giving several of us a score of 105% in an end-of-term exam. The possibilities are endless.
Pat Johnston, Hexham, Northumberland


‘Is it not likely that the NHS would face even greater problems were it not for job-sharing women GPs?’
Sir, Anna Soubry, the health minister who suggested that women who work part time while looking after their children place a huge burden on the NHS (report, June 6), should know that many male GPs also work part time in the health service and use their NHS training for more lucrative employment in the private sector.
Janet Mercy
Codicote, Herts
Sir, My wife is a GP, job sharing with another woman, who has three children. I have little doubt that my wife, 61, would have given up working a long time ago had she had to continue full time, and that her job sharer would not have resumed work, at least for some years until her children had grown up, had they not been able to job share. I imagine that this example may not be rare. If, therefore, 70 per cent of medical students are women, as you report, is it not likely that the NHS would face even greater problems were it not for job-sharing women GPs?
Michael Stannard
Verbier, Switzerland
Sir, The number of female doctors, consultants and GPs has increased over the past 50 years in line with policy, patient choice and equal opportunities. Female doctors have fewer complaints made about them and have been shown to practise more “patient centred” medicine.
Many of my GP colleagues, both male and female, work part time as the pressure of full-time clinical work often results in burnout. Most spend their “free time” doing practice paperwork, attending NHS meetings, teaching and improving their skills with additional training.
Dr Sarah Purdy
Part-time GP and Reader in Primary Health Care, University of Bristol
Sir, If 70 per cent of medical students are female it will be increasingly difficult for male patients to see a male GP. Some men may be reluctant to see a female GP about a problem — and putting off that first GP appointment could have fatal consequences.
Caroline Tayler
Nutley, E Sussex
Sir, With 30 years’ experience as a mother and a part-time GP I believe there should be equal numbers of places at medical school entry for boys and girls. The present system discriminates against boys who are often less mature at 18 than their female colleagues, thus denying the NHS enough men to fill the specialties to which they are more suited.
Many women opt out of full-time work for family and other reasons. Part-time general practice has its place but should be supported by full-time GPs working within each practice. There are some serious drawbacks to working part time for both patient and doctor including the inevitable lack of continuity.
Part-time practitioners are much more likely to wish to leave the job behind while returning to their other domestic commitments. We should return to a 24-hour commitment by GPs to the care of their patients.
Dr E. Harford-Cross
Kirkby Malzeard, N Yorks
Sir, It is disturbing to hear such sexist language from a health minister. The evidence strongly suggests that two female (or male) doctors working a 50/50 job share due to family commitments are more productive than a single doctor. Failures in the NHS today come from decades of political mismanagement, and for a health minister to blame women GPs is neither fair nor constructive.
Dr Hannah Mitchell

‘If gardeners allow themselves to be seen as blissed-out then, however well trained, the profession will continue to be regarded as a cosy option’
Sir, Andrea Brunsendorf is not right to tell her trainee gardeners that they may as well settle for low pay because they, unlike other professionals, will at least love their work (letter, June 4).
When I was gardening for a living people often said “I wish I had your job” and “Do they pay you for this?” This exemplified the British confusion between gardening for fun at home and skilled professional gardening.
It is assumed, because so many people love visiting gardens and growing plants at home (and why not), that everyone could succeed as a professional if only they had time and application. It is not so.
If professional gardeners want better pay, they must fight the misconception that theirs is a badly paid lifestyle choice and make it clear that gardening is a serious profession like any other, with technology and deadlines, budgets and staff, practised by specialists.
That they work in attractive surroundings is irrelevant. If gardeners allow themselves to be seen as blissed-out then, however well trained, the profession will continue to be regarded as a cosy option; salaries will remain low and young people will continue to be reluctant to join the profession. All this jolliness is desperately counter-productive.
Stephen Anderton
The Times Garden Writer
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Catholic Christians might consider using “sacrament of matrimony” when applied to union between a woman and a man in a lifelong commitment
Sir, In an acrimonious and violent world, one debate which has caused some of that anger has been resolved. The House of Lords, in its wisdom, has decided on the issue of marriage between same-sex partners.
Freedom of choice is a precious gift; we are given this freedom out of love and nothing can change that; it cannot and must not be tampered with. It would be unrealistic and futile not to recognise the choices of others.
As a Catholic Christian I happen to choose to believe in freedom as God-given and I choose to live by certain guidelines in how I exercise this freedom. I am free to believe this at the present time in this country.
I suggest that it might be useful to re-examine our terminology re “marriage”. Catholic Christians (and others) might consider using “sacrament of matrimony” when applied to union between a woman and a man in a lifelong commitment of freely-chosen love open to the gift of children. This would avoid confusion when referring to partnerships of people of other beliefs (or none).
Sister Mary Stephen Astley, OSB
Minster, Kent

Renewables must not be used as a ‘political football’ and all aspects of green energy must be taken into consideration when decisions are made
Sir, Onshore wind is supported by 68 per cent of the British public, and actively opposed by only 11 per cent, according to Government research. This does not mean we should ignore local opposition, but it is important to remember that those who oppose developments are more likely to make a noise about their views than those who support or have no strong views either way. The same research found that 56 per cent of the public are “happy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in my area”.
Our concern is that renewables are increasingly being used as a political football (“New rules make it easier to block wind farms”, June 6). Renewable energy is a key driver of green jobs and economic growth and helps us reduce our dependence on volatile international fossil fuels markets.
Gaynor Hartnell
Renewable Energy Association
London SW1
Sir, Erica Wagner (Thunderer, June 7) is one of many who suffer from the existence of windfarms. My village and three surrounding villages have been threatened for over a year by the possibility of a windfarm in our midst. It will consist of 400ft-high turbines. The stark contrast in scale with the domestic character of the area seems to be of no interest to the developers. I hope that the new powers to block unsightly projects will elicit some awareness from the industry where it has hitherto been absent.
Professor Christopher Riley
(emeritus), architect, Newark, Notts

The government has set up The Future of Farming group to look at how new blood can be encouraged into the farming sector
Sir, As a chartered surveyor working in the “rural outpost” of Powys, I am all too aware of farmers’ falling numbers (“How British workers left the land to sow careers in services sector”, June 6).
The industry requires 60,000 new entrants over the next ten years and with the competing attractiveness of service sector careers, the government has set up The Future of Farming group to look at how new blood can be encouraged into the sector.
Agriculture is a primary industry that underpins society through a complex interrelationship of food production, provision of landscape, biodiversity habitat (or lack of) and recently identified public goods (ecosystem services) from the land.
The stakes are high, with increasing food prices, declining biodiversity and a real need to produce more from less while reducing the impact on the environment.
Farming is the new challenge for our next generation.
Rob Yorke
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire


SIR – This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the conquest of Everest, the record of both events being widely reported in the media.
It is also the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Korea (“the Forgotten War”), a three-year conflict that cost the lives of 33,000 American servicemen and more than four-and-a-half million Korean soldiers and civilians.
Though the British and Commonwealth contribution was comparatively small, British forces lost more than 1,000 killed in action, and a further 3,500 were wounded, missing or taken prisoner, a high proportion being national servicemen.
While rightly mourning the tragic losses we have suffered in Afghanistan, let us also remember the heavy price paid by our Armed Forces in Korea, and in the many subsequent conflicts in which they have so nobly fought.
Maj Gen Bryan Webster (retd)
Ewshot, Surrey

SIR – It was inadvisable for the new social mobility tsar, James Caan, who was hand-picked by the Government to promote opportunities for less advantaged young people, to tell parents not to help their children get jobs when he employs his own daughter in three roles (report, June 5).
Isn’t it time the Government reduced its reliance on celebrities, whose main objective seems to be self-promotion rather than the health of the nation?
This is another embarrassing episode for Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who claims to be striving to make a better Britain for the less fortunate. He himself has personally benefited from being given a leg up the ladder by who he knows, not what he knows.
Daniel Todaro
Newbury, Berkshire
SIR – To focus on whether or not James Caan employs his daughters is to miss the point. The children of well-connected parents often come to the world of work complete with the networks and the savoir faire that get them through the door. They can impress employers anywhere, any time. Children from less privileged backgrounds can’t. Their parents lack the business connections, their schools lack the careers advice and they themselves lack the confidence and presentation skills to propel them past the interview.
Related Articles
Remember our noble Armed Forces in Korea
07 Jun 2013
The objective of a social mobility tsar is to help level the playing field on which the privileged and the disadvantaged can compete. It is a good idea.
If Mr Caan can help to advance the life chances of those lower down the social scale in anything like the same way he advanced those of his daughters, we’ll be lucky to have him.
James McCreary
CEO, Career Academies UK
London E14
SIR – I believe that employers should apply more of a parental attitude to young people. If we would help our own children into a job, why not others? My answer is “corporate parenting”, whereby employers take on responsibility for giving young people a helping hand into jobs.
Employers on my Hand Picked jobs programme offer an unemployed young person a three-month paid job, references and ongoing support. By using their contacts and acting as a “corporate parent” this often leads to permanent employment.
Gerard Eadie
Dunfermline, Fife
SIR – Toby Young (Comment, June 5) suggests that an improved education will better serve social mobility, and endorses the pupil premium idea. Does he not read the Telegraph? Two recent reports indicated no correlation between outcomes and expenditure per head or per school. Gordon Brown’s theory of input being all that matters has seemingly entered the nation’s psyche.
G P Brown
Paying for elderly care
SIR – We write as senior advisers to the elderly care sector. Given that in 2020 more than a quarter of us will be 60 or over, we need to shift our mindset about how we pay for elderly care.
As Baroness Bakewell pointed out in her speech to the House of Lords on May 21 following the first debate of the Coalition’s new Care Bill, there is no money for the state to pay for all of our care.
The majority of us have large amounts of capital in our properties. But we are all dogged by the belief that we “owe” it to our children to leave them this property. Why are we prepared to compromise on quality care in order to give the younger generation a leg-up?
Either we can realise equity in our houses to access the capital that is available to pay for care, or we can sell our former family homes to downsize. This is the most sensible way for us to pay for our care, whether in our own homes or in residential or specialist care homes.
Simon Wainwright
Chris Cain
Grace Consulting
Simon Chalk
Age Partnership
Keith Gold
Reece Howe
Kirkwood Care
Derek Miller
Miller Consultants
Paul Ridout
Ridouts LLP
Gavin Ingham Brooke
Motorway driving
SIR – The problem with middle-lane hoggers (Letters, 6 June) would not exist if, as in America, overtaking was allowed on both sides. It simplifies traffic flow and is even more important where motorways are being extended to include four or even more lanes, as with the M25.
Derek Brumhead
New Mills, Derbyshire
SIR – Unlike David Whitaker (Letters, June 5), I have always had a good knowledge of the Highway Code, have observed its rules, and been considerate to other road users. I never drive in any lane when the one to the left is unoccupied for a safe and sensible distance. I suggest Mr Whitaker contacts the Institute of Advanced Motorists for retraining.
David Lowe
West Malvern, Worcestershire
Meddling in Syria
SIR – In 1916 Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France decided on the new frontiers to be drawn for Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The lines drawn in the sand took little account of tribal or religious differences. In doing that, we unintentionally created a boiling pot of cultural and religious divide. TE Lawrence, the Arabist, warned that it was a bad idea, but no one listened. David Cameron would be well advised to revisit the papers of that time.
We have no right or mandate to lecture Middle Eastern countries, nor side with any faction against another. What is happening in Syria is tragic in the extreme and we in all humility should understand the part we played in creating it. We need to find a passive solution to heal these wounds, not compound them by arming the opposition, as Mr Cameron proposes.
Philip Congdon
Gard, France
It’s in the jeans
SIR – Your feature “Donning denim? Check your birth certificate first” (June 5) perpetuates the myth that age is a barrier to wearing certain items of dress.
My boyfriend is well over 40 and I would challenge most men in their twenties and thirties to look as good in skinny-fit jeans.
Julia King
Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
Welfare untruths
SIR – April saw some of the most controversial and wide-ranging changes to the benefits system in a generation. Policies affecting the lives of millions of the most vulnerable people in our society were introduced. In a letter to the Prime Minister, we have highlighted three demonstrably untrue claims made by politicians in support of these reforms.
These are, that 900,000 disability claimants stopped claiming sickness benefit “rather than” face a medical assessment; that 8,000 people had got into employment as a result of the total benefits cap policy; and that there was a rush of claims for Disability Living Allowance before new rules introduced a tough medical assessment.
All three of these statements have drawn on high-quality Government statistical data which has then been misused and misinterpreted. All serve to undermine the credibility of benefit claimants.
The signatories of this letter hold no common view on welfare reform. However, we do hold the view that these misrepresentations deny people the respect and dignity that they are due.
We are calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that these untruths are corrected, and that similar statements are no longer allowed to pollute the public debate.
The Revd Stephen Keyworth
The Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Right Revd Nick Baines
Bishop of Bradford
Niall Cooper
National Coordinator, Church Action on Poverty
Alison Gelder
Chief Executive of Housing Justice
The Revd R. Kenneth Lindsay
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin
President of the Methodist Conference
The Revd Robert Hopcroft
Chairman of the Moravian Church in Great Britain and Ireland
Paul Parker
Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
The Revd Sally Foster-Fulton
Convener of the Church and Society Council, the Church of Scotland
The Very Revd Ian D Barcroft
Convener, Church in Society Committee, Scottish Episcopal Church
The Revd Roberta Rominger
General Secretary of the United Reformed Church
The Revd Carol Wardman
Bishops’ Adviser for Church and Society, the Church in Wales
Reading habits
SIR – I haven’t purchased from an actual bookshop in years (Letters, June 5). As an avid reader I buy a large number of books online, both printed and in e form.
Books are too expensive in a bookshop. Do I really want to drive through heavy traffic to my local town, pay a small fortune to park and struggle through the British weather, when I can have the books delivered, free, to my own front door?
Ian Gill
Great Ouseburn, Yorkshire
SIR – Since the sale of beer and wine became legal in supermarkets we have seen a marked rise in alcoholism and the increased incidence of under-age drinking.
Perhaps we will now see a similar improvement in reading habits and literacy standards.
Julian Firth
London NW5
Are peacocks misbehaving across the country?
SIR – Our village has also had a fly-in peacock, Charlie, for the last year (Letters, June 6). He is extremely decorative, but also very loud. His positive visual qualities, however, are negated by his effect on flower beds which he destroys, taking the early flowers as they appear.
Recently, things have been complicated further by a fly-in peahen, who is even noisier, and sounds like a rusty donkey.
Is this happening up and down the country?
Robert Kirby
Maer, Staffordshire
SIR – Here in East Horsley we, too, have a random peacock that turned up over a year ago. He settled in next door, where a new house was being built. The builders adopted him when they found his footprints in the cement one morning, and named him Nigel.
He wakes us up at 5am and pops into the gardens of several houses in our road, helping himself to bird food, scraps and flower heads, and showing off.
I gave up trying to find out who his owner is months ago, but if anybody knows of a peahen wanting a mate we may be able to get a lie-in on Sunday mornings.
Helen Taylorson
East Horsley, Surrey
SIR – In the late Nineties I worked at the Institute of Orthopaedics at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. Percy the peacock was an ever-present car park attendant, frequently blocking the entrance to the offices.
To divert his vigilant behaviour, two peahens were purchased in the hope that he would be distracted. Two weeks later he threw himself in front of an oncoming car and was killed.
Karen Pollak
Watford, Hertfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I graduated from the National University of Ireland in 1973, which entitled me to a vote in Seanad elections. I have never exercised that entitlement because I never believed senators should be elected by a privileged minority who were given votes because of schooling or political position.
How anyone can argue for the retention of an elitist, undemocratic institution is beyond me.
If the Seanad is to be retained – and I don’t believe it should be – let everyone who is on the electoral register have a vote and let Seanad elections be held on the same day as Dáil elections, thus putting an end to the practice of using it as a step up to or down from the Dáil. – Yours, etc,
Muine Bheag, Co Carlow.
Sir, – In opening his campaign to kill off An Seanad, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny demagogically proclaims that “Ireland simply has too many politicians for its size”, that we must “question the very relevance of a second chamber”, and that modern Ireland cannot be governed effectively by “a political system originally designed for 19th century Britain”.
Eighty years ago the Blueshirt duce Eoin O’Duffy called for “changes in the parliamentary system which will bring the constitution of the State into closer harmony with national needs” (July 20th, 1933). A year later, on July 4th, 1934, that same first president of Fine Gael demanded to know: “What country in the world today had stood by the parliamentary system? Not one country except John Bull. It is gone all over Europe. ”
Unlike his predecessor as Fine Gael Party Leader, Eoin O’Duffy, or his predecessor as taoiseach, John A Costello, we should take comfort in the fact that Enda Kenny has never been a fascist, that it is only one parliamentary chamber he proposes to kill off, and that when history tends to repeat itself, it is usually as farce. But, with all the deep-rooted problems facing Ireland at the moment, should not the electorate treat this Fine Gael circus of constitutional convulsion with the contempt it deserves – as a distracting, self-indulgent farce which we should not be asked to stomach? – Yours, etc,
Finglas Road, Dublin 11.
Sir, – Should the Seanad be abolished? No need. Much TV footage of the Dáil proceedings shows many empty seats – could they not all sit together? – Yours, etc,
Merrion Court,
Montenotte, Cork.
A chara , – The Seanad – like a wilting wallflower in the ballroom of democracy hears the strains of the last waltz and with more hope than conviction endeavours to convince us it still has the panache to sweep us off our feet. But, alas, I hear the fat lady sing . . . . – Is mise,
Ballinfull, Sligo.
A chara, – The Government is espousing an argument that populous countries need a bicameral legislature, while we small countries can make do with a unicameral system. Does the Government have a formula to equate population size to a state’s entitlement to democratic structures? Will you publish it if they do? – Is mise le meas,
Brookville Park,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The old Romans gave the subjects circuses. Are referendums the new distraction for the Irish people – keep their minds off the incompetence of the government and the ineffectiveness of the dáil? (Small case g & d intended!). – Is mise,
Closheen Lane,
Rosscarbery, Co Cork.
Sir, – Enda Kenny, Fine Gael leader, is insisting the other 75 TDs in the party follow the party whip by publicly supporting the abolition of the An Seanad.
This imposing of the party whip nicely demonstrates the complete lack of democracy which the current Dáil and party whip system impose. If ever a case for reform of the Dáil, rather than abolition of An Seanad, was presented, this is surely it.
Abolition of An Seanad seems to be the brainchild of one man, Enda Kenny, who completely surprised his fellow party members when he came out with it. Now he expects his fellow Fine Gael TDs to show him unquestioning loyalty and support his solo run.
It was unquestioning “loyalty” to the party and party leader which helped cause the Celtic bubble and subsequent disastrous recession. All TDs should remind themselves of that. While it might be embarrassing for Mr Kenny if his brainchild isn’t supported by fellow party members, the world won’t end.
Reform of An Seanad is a good idea: to restore it to its proper purpose, whereby specialists in a particular field can use their expertise to refine and improve the rough draft of law that arrives from the Dáil. The intelligent open debate, unhindered by party politics, allowed in An Seanad can often be a breath of fresh air and more productive than the vitriol spat out in the Dáil. – Yours, etc,
Royal Oak Road,
Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.
Sir, – To be fair we should all acknowledge that the Seanad has given us such people as Mary Robinson, Donie Cassidy, Christy Kirwan and David Norris. – Yours, etc,
Waterfall, Near Cork.
Sir, – The  high degree of enthusiasm among present and past senators for reform of the Seanad may not convince the electorate that it is an instution worth saving but it should certainly convince them  of the truth of Dr Johnson’s statement, “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows that he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Yours, etc,
Countess Grove,
Killarney, Co Kerry.

A chara, – Conall McDevitt MLA (June 6th) sought to morally exculpate the SDLP from his party’s calculated decision this week to rubber-stamp the passage of anti-Agreement unionist Jim Allister’s Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill through the North’s power-sharing Assembly.
The Irish Times Editorial (June 5th) was accurate in observing that the SDLP have done themselves, and the 1998 Belfast Agreement, significant damage.
Mr Allister’s Bill is an affront to the agreement, to its essence, its values, its terms, its conditions and, not least, its ground-breaking equality and human rights agenda under constitutional and public international law.
It is a matter of historical record that when the conflict erupted in August 1969, shortly before they founded the SDLP, senior nationalist politicians like Paddy O’Hanlon and Paddy Devlin came to Dublin pleading publicly and privately for weapons to defend their community against wholesale pogroms by unionist mobs and state forces.
By its actions this week, the SDLP has now hypocritically singled out for immediate redundancy a political ex-prisoner currently employed as special adviser to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who, as a teenager, had personally suffered those very pogroms on his own streets in west Belfast before becoming involved in the armed conflict raging around him.
It is also a matter of record that, throughout the past 15 years since the agreement, republicans and political ex-prisoners have repeatedly served as special advisers to executive ministers – including when Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan were respectively the deputy first minister.
Only now, at Mr Allister’s behest, has the SDLP leadership suddenly decided to support an exclusion agenda despite facing significant internal opposition in its own Assembly group.
The reality is that Mr McDevitt could have made a difference this week by taking a stand for human rights and the agreement, and voting for equality and inclusion through signing a Sinn Féin Petition of Concern. This petition would simply have ensured the agreement’s power-sharing voting mechanism was triggered, taking weighted account of cross-community opinion. That is the essence of power-sharing which the SDLP has now thrown on the scrap-heap.
Instead, on this occasion, the SDLP tried to cynically damage Sinn Féin by disgracefully abusing the rights and needs of selective victims, and by introducing a new “pecking order” of supposed deserving and less-deserving victims.
Yet, in so doing, the SDLP has merely ensured that political ex-prisoners will face even greater institutionalised exclusion and discrimination than at any stage since the agreement.
It is to the SDLP’s shame, and long-term detriment, that not one MLA had the courage to support the basic checks and balances of the agreement in order to protect its long-term values of inclusion and equality. – Is mise,
Sinn Féin North Antrim
Constituency Office,

Sir, – In the sunny Leaving Cert days it is heartwarming to see the benefits of the Irish educational system. Where once we had brain-dead, self-consumed graffiti vandals (whose best efforts might possibly rise to “Pozzer is a woz” on several flyovers), we now have individuals who can actually spell the words “supremacy”, “destruction” and “indigenous” and spray them on the walls of a derelict rogue-bank property (Home News, June 6th). They might even spell “xenophobia”, I imagine, before realising that “accommodation” is a better term.
Whatever these spoilers of morals and walls hope to achieve, I don’t think it will be a question of “Banksy, eat your heart out”. – Yours, etc,
South Hill,
Dartry, Dublin 6.
Sir, – Carol Coulter’s article (Opinion, June 7th), while rightly calling for the need for minimum standards for anyone providing care to children or older people, displays a serious misunderstanding of the regulatory issues affecting the private providers of health care by blaming the motivation of providers. Regulation is needed for all providers of care be it HSE, not-for-profit or for-profit providers.
Poor care is not caused by the profit motivation or otherwise of providers, but rather by poor management, training and lack of oversight. In the home care sector, this week Pamela Duncan highlighted in this paper (June 4th & 5th) the impact of the lack of inspections in 80 complaints made about the HSE’s home help service in 2012. Home help provision is provided entirely by the HSE, or HSE-funded non-for-profit organisations. The private sector is not eligible to tender for home help care provision.
An exposé by Prime Time in November 2010 found poor practices in the delivery of care. Half the programme was dedicated to a not-for-profit provider, based out of a HSE health centre. A follow-up Prime Time programme in April 2012, focused on two not-for-profit care providers. A recent Home and Community Care Ireland report highlighted that nearly one third of the HSE budget spent on not-for-profit providers is compromised by some form of investigation into the providers.
It is clear that in the Irish home care sector the profit motivation or otherwise of providers is not a determinant of whether issues exist with the provision of care.
Home and Community Care Ireland, an association of private providers, was the first to call for regulation of home care in 2006. Standards enshrined in legislation are needed, and the supervision of these standards should be done independently by a body such as Hiqa. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I note the recent statement from the bishops of 11 countries, including those of Ireland, urging the G8 leaders to clamp down on tax avoidance, stating in uncharacteristically clear terms that “It is a moral obligation for citizens to pay their fair share of taxes for the common good”.
As the second-richest asset-owner in the country after the state itself, a miraculous condition reached without the burden of the taxation that afflicts the rest of us, perhaps the church and the religious orders might like to practise the “moral obligation” they preach to others? – Yours, etc,
Westland Square,

Sir, – Bord Bia should be congratulated for its excellent work with the new “Origin Green” campaign, fronted by Saoirse Ronan, celebrating the fact that “we are known for the food and drink that we make in harmony with nature” and that “we are natural and we can prove it . . . come see us we are open for inspection”.
Bold claims and a fabulous vision, but somebody obviously forgot to send Teagasc the memo . . . as it implements its plan in the next two to three weeks to plant genetically modified potatoes in open ground.
There may be GM food in the chain here, but to openly plant GM crops seems to go against everything that could have made us different, unique and offered that premium which Bord Bia is celebrating as its platform for growth. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
It would also strengthen his hand if he were to finally do something about the political expenses gravy train – at local, national and EU level – to ensure that, firstly, no elected representative is able to retain ownership of an asset paid for by the taxpayer via expenses, be it a ministerial car, a second home or a local office. And, secondly, that every single cent claimed is based on a receipt that is published.
Also in this section
‘Prime Time’ pitting young against old
Best of luck to all Leaving Cert pupils
The enemy within
It would also strengthen his hand if he were to finally do something about the political expenses gravy train – at local, national and EU level – to ensure that, firstly, no elected representative is able to retain ownership of an asset paid for by the taxpayer via expenses, be it a ministerial car, a second home or a local office. And, secondly, that every single cent claimed is based on a receipt that is published.
He doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, he can just copy how it’s done in other countries like Sweden.
One tiny reform that would make a real difference, which Mr Kenny could do at the stroke of a pen, would be to remove the requirement for the public to obtain ‘permission’ from a TD or senator before they can visit the Dail.
You can walk in off the street to watch proceedings in parliaments in Westminster and Washington DC, and many others with far higher security risks than ours, so I don’t see what’s so special about our own Dail that the same access can’t be applied to Leinster House.
After all, when it was owned and lived in by the FitzGeralds, it was specifically designed to be open to anyone who called to visit.
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
* The proposed summary lynching of Seanad Eireann sums up in one higgledy-piggledy stroke package (and red herring) all that is wrong with this barely 20th (sic) Century Government. As an obsessive former candidate and twice successfully elected – if briefly, but not brief – member, I know what is questionable about the Seanad and its electoral system – and what could be done with it in our current crisis to make it very useful indeed.
Instead of wringing the poor old thing’s neck, if we had a Government that was serious about a new kind of politics and new style of governance, it would set about making the Seanad function as fully as it could. And, incidentally, impress us with the Cabinet’s pragmatism and fitness for purpose.
One small starter: the Government screams that the Seanad is elitist. They forget (or do not know, let alone care) that every person who has the right to elect senators is either a citizen or is an elected representative whose right or duty to participate in Seanad elections (or nominations) is enshrined in legislation.
For example, the number of those entitled to vote in each of the university ‘constituencies’ is the equivalent of the electorate of a Dail constituency. A three-seat Dail constituency in the case of TCD. A five-seater in the case of NUI. When we vote for county councillors, we depute them to vote for us in the Seanad elections. It’s in the legislation!
We citizens actually have it in our power to increase the practicality of the Seanad – and free the Dail to address serious matters seriously.
The Labour Parliamentary Party will not see this as its last possible chance to break with this Government. However, events and future historians will concur with that analysis. As will the grubby old voters and their stubby old pencil stumps.
Maurice O’Connell
(Seanad Eireann 1981-1982, 1982-1983)
Tralee, Co Kerry
* This letter is not about the merits or otherwise of Linda Martin’s version of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’. It’s about my increasing horror at the level of latent ageism in Irish society.
Some of the criticism of Linda for her appearance on RTE’s ‘Saturday Night Show’ has been deeply offensive and, frankly, neanderthal.
The message from some is that she should basically be hiding away because she is over 60 and daring to still look sexy and glamorous. I thought that type of stuff had been consigned to history, but clearly not.
Some of the world’s greatest artists and high-profile people are not just in their 60s but in their 70s and 80s, and if Linda wants to keep looking good and having fun, how dare others criticise her.
The ageist elements in our society are effectively saying she cannot sing what she chooses. Well, I say ‘no way’; this is a dangerous precedent to set in an increasingly ageing society where people will be working and living fuller lives well into their 80s.
Daniel Lindon
Dublin 11
* David McWilliams (Irish Independent, June 5) disparagingly says that our state exams are “a massive national exercise in short-term memory retention”.
Elementary insight into memory tells us that “retention” just happens. What demands massive exercise is retrieval from memory stores. State exams test retrieval.
Success demands massive retrieval across a wide range of knowledge, and only a small percentage self-train well enough to succeed. They go on to be top achievers in adulthood.
Far from it being at the expense of creative adult thinking, that success is its basis. Such thinking depends on accurate retrieval of information.
Efficient Junior and Leaving Cert study is brilliant preparation for adulthood. Wise parents prioritise it, knowing that activities in addition, such as intensive CoderDojo training, can equip young and older adults with IT expertise for work purposes.
Joe Foyle
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
* For some reason or other, the words of one of Aesop’s Fables from about 2,500 years ago have come to mind. “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”
Apparently it’s only the technology that ever changes.
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow
* The sure and certain lack of intellect in the Government would be laughable if it was not so serious. The sole vision of the so-called “inner Cabinet” is how to kick the financial can down the road.
Further proof of the inability of this Government to even consider the long-term effect of policies is the inane idea that reducing interest on post office savings accounts, attacking credit unions and reducing the prizes paid out on Prize Bonds will reverse a frightened economy by compelling people to spend their money.
In fact, these decisions will have the opposite effect, as people become even more afraid of what the future holds for them financially.
The motor trade has come to almost a full stop, while the retail trade, particularly in rural Ireland, is seriously endangered.
The biblical adage about the old order passing is obsolete in FG and Labour as they reside in an old, male, visionless mindset that stymies investment and creation of much-needed jobs.
And for all of you who consider selling state utilities, think again. Here in the state of Victoria in 1991, the incoming government sold off all utilities under the guise of reducing debt.
Today, the state government has less income and utility costs are higher than ever.
Declan Foley
Victoria, Australia
Irish Independent


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