Still gardening

10 June 2013 Still in the Garden

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear. Lady Tod-Hunter Browns stops a ghost ship and Troutbridge is sent off to investigate, but its Nunky a rival smuggling gang hav painted his tug with luminous paint so customs can spot him. Priceless.
Another quiet day awfully tired get a little more gardening done sell a book hurrah!
We watch The Pallaisers The rise and rise of Mr Finn MP
Mary wins at scrabble but she gets under 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Iain Banks
Iain Banks, who has died aged 59, was a novelist who achieved popularity and critical success in two separate fields: literary fiction, for which he appeared on the first Granta list of young writers beside the likes of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and AN Wilson; and, as Iain M Banks, science fiction, much of it set in an interstellar anarcho-communist utopia called The Culture.

Iain Banks, born February 16 1954, died June 9 2013 Photo: Chris Watt
6:00PM BST 09 Jun 2013
Banks came rather to regret this demarcation of his novels, and in truth the distinction was not always straightforward. The grotesque and bizarre were often to the fore in his mainstream books, to the point that it was not always obvious into which category they fell. Indeed, 2009’s Transition was published in Britain as an Iain Banks novel, but under his science fiction byline — with its initial M — in America.
His best-known book probably remained the first he published. The Wasp Factory brought Banks immediate notoriety. Even before its appearance, one publisher claimed that the book had made him vomit into his waste paper basket. It had a similarly emetic effect on many reviewers: “a repulsive piece of work”; “silly, gloatingly sadistic”; “a work of unparalleled depravity” were among the judgments of the newspapers. Many, though, also conceded the hallucinatory brilliance of the author’s imagination, and there was widespread acknowledgement that Banks’ control of tone and language were more assured than that of many established novelists.
Iain Banks was born on February 16 1954 at Dunfermline in Fife and spent his early years in North Queensferry. His father Tom worked for the Admiralty “getting crashed jets out the water”, and his mother Effie, who had been a professional ice skater in a touring review, met her husband while teaching skating at Dunfermline’s ice rink. Though an only child, Iain had a close-knit and large extended family; their name had originally been Banks Menzies, but Iain’s paternal grandfather, a miner and trade union activist, had reversed the surnames after drawing the attention of the police during the General Strike of 1926.
Although registered at birth as plain Iain Banks, he used Menzies as his middle name from childhood. The decision to add “M” for his first science fiction book, Consider Phlebas (the fourth of his novels), was prompted by the disapproval of his uncles and cousins when the initial had been dropped from his previous books — after an editor raised the remarkably unlikely prospect of confusion with Rosie M Banks, the fictional author of slushy romantic novels in PG Wodehouse’s stories.
When Iain was nine, his father was posted to the west coast of Scotland, and the family moved from their home near the Forth Bridge. The boy’s principal childhood interests were television, reading science fiction, and producing homemade explosives from sugar and weedkiller. After Greenock High School, Iain went to the University of Stirling, where he took courses in English, Psychology and Philosophy.
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His father was, he recalled, fairly supportive of his resolve to become a novelist, though his mother hoped he might train as a teacher to have “something to fall back on”. Instead, after graduating, Banks hitch-hiked around Europe, and then took a series of jobs, working for almost a decade (some of it in the south of England) as a dustman, a hospital porter and a clerk, with stints at IBM and British Steel, while steadily devoting himself to his writing. Until his first book appeared, he plastered the walls of his room with rejection slips. His parents became more relaxed about the security of his career, he observed, only after he had bought them a house next door to his own.
After the success of The Wasp Factory in 1984, Banks produced a steady series of books, all of which found a sizeable audience and, for the most part, an appreciative critical response. The excesses of his début, which featured murder, mutilation of animals, insanity and sexual violence, were less evident in his later books, though the defining qualities of Banks’ novels, whether mainstream or genre, remained a macabre black humour and a taste for the bizarre and the Gothic.
Walking on Glass (1985) tied together three stories, one of them science fictional, another the galactic fantasies of a paranoic navvy; the following year’s The Bridge, which Banks described as the most satisfactory and intellectual of his own books, also wove together three separate strands, but with a more explicit emphasis on schizophrenia and delusion. Much of it was set against the background of the Forth Rail Bridge — Banks’ favourite structure, and near to which he chose to live close to after his return to Scotland in 1988.
In 1987 he published Consider Phlebas, the first of the Culture novels; thereafter there was, for a time at least, a clearer distinction between his science fiction output and his more conventional novels, which tended to appear in alternate years. His space operas, which combined political musings, scientific speculation, mordantly funny asides (the names of the artificially intelligent spaceships were a long-running joke), and violent, frequently gruesome action sequences, brought him a new, large and enthusiastic fan base.
Espedair Street (1987) told the story of a reclusive but successful rock musician. Its more discursive style and avoidance of the horrific made it one of Banks’ most accessible books; it was dramatised for radio a decade later. It was followed by The Player of Games, one of the most straightforward of the Culture novels, in which a professional gambler is recruited to destroy an intergalactic empire with a hierarchy built on a complicated (and politically oppressive) game, and, in 1989, by another mainstream novel, Canal Dreams, a thriller featuring a female Japanese musician trapped on a supertanker attacked by terrorists. Use of Weapons (1990) was the third Culture novel.
Banks’ usual practice was to produce a novel a year, taking six months off, letting the plot develop during two or three months of hill-walking, and then writing solidly for three months, keeping office hours. By the turn of the century, print runs for his books were regularly above 200,000, and it was not unusual for him to make £250,000 in a year. In one survey he was voted the fifth-greatest writer Britain had ever produced.
A collection of short stories, including three set in the Culture, appeared in 1991 as The State of the Art (one was later dramatised for radio); the following year he published a darkly comic family saga, The Crow Road, which in 1996 became a Bafta-nominated BBC drama series, starring Peter Capaldi and a young Dougray Scott. It was followed by another science fiction (but non-Culture) novel, Against a Dark Background.
Complicity, also published in 1993, was the tale of a dissolute Scottish journalist and a serial killer. In its exploration of guilt and violence, and the unreliable narration of the chapters dealing with the murderer (told in the second person) it had distinct echoes of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which also dwelt on the dualist aspects of Scottish notions of sin and redemption.
Banks often dealt with moral questions, and was particularly drawn to examinations of death and hell (notably in Look to Windward and Surface Detail). Though his mother was a churchgoer, he said that he had “escaped infection by Calvinism”, and was a committed supporter of the National Secular Society and the Humanist Society of Scotland.
Drugs, both real and imaginary — citizens of the Culture could generate mind altering substances spontaneously by “glanding” — featured prominently in many of his books, and Banks was for some years an enthusiastic consumer of marijuana, LSD and cocaine, though his preferred poison in later years was malt whisky, about which he became very well-informed. He wrote a non-fiction book, Raw Spirit (2003), about this passion, including an account of a tour of Scottish distilleries, and also won an episode of Celebrity Mastermind with whisky as his specialist subject. The same year, 2006, he captained a team of writers which won University Challenge against members of other professions.
He followed Complicity with his oddest book, Feersum Endjinn, which owed something to Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and was set on an Earth dominated by computer networks in the far-distant future. Much of it was written in phonetic Scots and textspeak. Whit, in 1995, imagined a Luddite cult in rural Scotland (sympathetically, given Banks’ antipathy to religion). Three more Culture novels, Excession, Inversions and Look to Windward appeared between 1996 and 2000. In between, Banks published two novels, A Song of Stone (1997) and The Business (1999) which, though not science fiction, had highly artificial settings. The first dealt with a civil war in a time and location which are never specified, and the second with a firm which has been attempting to control countries and shape global politics since the time of the Roman Empire.
Dead Air (2002) featured another dissolute journalist, this time on a radio station, and tackled, amongst other themes, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York in 2001. Many critics felt that Banks, who tore up his passport and posted it to Tony Blair in protest against the Iraq War, had let his political priorities rather distort the shape of the narrative, and found the rants of the central figure, Ken Nott (a name which, in Scottish dialect, could be read as “doesn’t know”) tedious.
Banks then had, by his own remarkably productive standards, rather a fallow spell. His next book, science fiction but not set in the Culture, was 2004’s The Algebraist which, though it had its moments, was unnecessarily long-winded and seemed at points to lose the thread, while his next straight novel, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, a saga about a Scottish family firm which manufactured a popular game attempting to fend off a takeover by an American conglomerate, did not appear until 2007.
During this period, Banks’ relationship with his wife Annie, whom he had met in London before he published The Wasp Factory and whom he had married in 1992, had come under considerable strain. He later admitted that, earlier in their relationship, he discovered that the world of publishing was filled with “young, smart, attractive women” and had a series of affairs.
In 2006 he began a more settled liaison with Adele Hartley, who ran a horror film festival, and with whom he lived after separating from his wife the following year. Annie Banks died in 2009, shortly after their divorce was finalised.
His next two Culture novels, Matter (2008) and Surface Detail (2010) were generally held to be a return to form, though many readers were less certain what to make of Transition (2009) which, though it imagined a group of secret agents who could travel between universes, was not presented as a science fiction novel.
In person Banks was remarkably good company, and an extremely entertaining conversationalist. For much of his life he closely resembled a polytechnic lecturer, with his beard, leather jacket, spectacles and socialist views; under the influence of his girlfriend, he later became a rather snappier dresser.
A hatred of Tony Blair’s foreign policy led him to vote for the Scottish National Party, though he also voiced his support for figures from the far-Left. Though he lived 100 yards from Gordon Brown, he maintained that he had never met the former Labour leader and that “having never had any illusions about him, I wasn’t disillusioned by him”. He did, however, reapply for the passport he had torn up on the day Brown replaced Blair at Number 10.
For many years, Banks had a large collection of powerful cars but, after becoming convinced by the arguments of climate change activists, he sold them, acquired a hybrid car and announced that he would in future avoid flying whenever possible. This enabled him to duck out of book tours, which he disliked, though he performed very well in front of an audience.
In April this year, Banks announced that he was suffering from terminal gall-bladder cancer, and had only months to live. “I am officially Very Poorly”, ran the message on his website. He proposed to Adele Hartley, asking her to “do me the honour of being my widow”, and declared his intention to spend his final days visiting friends and relations. His last novel, The Quarry, is due to be published later this month.
Iain Banks, born February 16 1954, died June 9 2013


After we’d fondly imagined that the free, open and accountable society was merely being gradually encroached on by military and commercial interests, the Guardian revelations in recent days about the actions of the US National Security Agency seem to have shocked us awake to find that we are already living within a mature, widely embedded Orwellian nightmare (Pressure on government over secret intelligence gathering, 8 June).
If GCHQ has used the Prism software to spy on us at the US’s behest, let’s not accept its weasel words about operating under a “legal and policy framework” – whose laws, whose policies? – but rather name it and deal with it for what it is: institutional treachery. Secondly, if internet companies are using the supply of their popular goods and services as a cover for spying on their customers, we should consider whether they should have a right to operate here. Thirdly, it should be a priority to investigate rigorously how far this mindset of US political paranoia has spread among UK national institutions – there are rumours, for example, that at least one of our research councils has had its research programme on security directly influenced by US security interests. Finally, the US must be challenged at a political level about the concept of extra-territoriality which supports all these deeply disturbing developments in the UK.
Peter Healey
•  GCHQ’s obtaining US-gathered information about UK communications raises two key legal issues. First, GCHQ has sidestepped the procedures and safeguards laid down by the UK Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa). Ripa was enacted to ensure that clandestine state access to private communications would be “in accordance with the law” and so compliant with article 8 of the European convention on human rights. UK citizens’ data has effectively been subjected to a form of extraordinary rendition. That cannot possibly be lawful. The UK government must make clear that the practice will stop immediately and that illegally obtained data will be deleted. Second, EU data protection legislation is undergoing reform, with a draft regulation now under scrutiny in the parliament. The sheer enormity of the US authorities’ collection of foreign data, including data of EU users held by US-based cloud and communications providers, reveals just how little protection we get from the EU’s current “safe harbour” approach to overseas data transfers. It also creates intolerable uncertainty for businesses operating comms and cloud services in the EU. The parliament and commission should urgently build into the new framework robust protection for the privacy of EU citizens’ data.
Gordon Nardell QC
• In the week that the Guardian revealed the global scale of US surveillance over private communications (‘We hack everyone everywhere. It’s what we do every day’, 8 June), economic and political leaders were meeting under the auspices of Bilderberg for “private” discussions from which the public are rigorously excluded (Tory MP criticises Cameron over Bilderberg meeting, 8 June).
So national “security” requires government to know what the people are saying to one another, but the latter must respect the “privacy” of the former? It is the fact that political leaders are meeting with private business interests that makes this a serious matter of public interest. It beggars belief that Cameron, Osborne, Balls and co believe this claim to their “privacy” can be taken seriously.
Mike Peters
•  Some people in the world want to kill other people and some people don’t. I’m really not bothered if the government knows how often I visit the B&Q or John Lewis websites. What I am bothered about are people who want to put bombs on planes or by the sides of roads during a marathon. In this modern age of communication we all have a price to pay.
Michael Burgess
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
•  My concern over data-trawling is with the possibility – strong probability even – of mission creep. President Obama says it is to protect America from terrorists, but how long before that (ill-defined) category widens to include people with dissident ideas and, eventually, ideas opposed to (or inconvenient for) whichever government is currently in power? In other words, how long to e-Watergate?
Tim Gossling
• Of all the comments on the US’s huge covert surveillance operation, the most egregious comes from Senator Saxby Chambliss: “This has been going on for seven years … we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys.” Eh? How on earth can he know? Do “bad guys” have a label that says “bad guy”? What utter nonsense!
Richard Carter
•  I wonder how many countries that have suffered from decades of US support for the dictatorial aims of such vile people as Pinochet in Chile and the Contras in Nicaragua – to name but two – would agree with Rand Paul (Our liberty is being taken, 8 June) when he says “the American tradition has long been to err on the side of liberty”.
Tony Hills
Morchard Bishop, Devon
•  Protecting national security and protecting the status quo are not the same thing, but those in power may be unable to make the distinction.
Khalil Martin
• Does this explain the apparent immunity to tax of Apple, Amazon and co?
Sue Atkins
Lewes, East Sussex
• The answer’s obvious. Let’s go back to writing letters and using the post.
Ruth Grimsley
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

In the late 60s, at the Piccadilly theatre, Bea Lillie was appearing in The Amorous Prawn. Well into her 70s, as soon as she appeared on stage the applause began, and only ceased when other cast members wanted to be heard by the audience. But every time Bea uttered her lines, the applause started again. Needless to say, at the end of the performance, what had been a constant ovation became a long standing ovation, during and after innumerable curtain calls (Letters, 7 June).
Chas Brewster
Boston, Lincolnshire
• Recently returned from two months in Nicaragua, I was saddened to read your article on new things to do in Nicaragua (Packing it all in, Travel, 8 June) which suggested trips to cock fights. Nicaragua has many more interesting cultural experiences to offer which are more typical of a peaceful and friendly country. Highlighting this cruel sport is disgraceful.
Hazel Lowther
Powfoot, Dumfries & Galloway
• Re pastures new (Letters, 8 June), has anyone seen a lawn being manicured?
Keith Baker
Pontefract, West Yorkshire
• Guardian correspondents have spotted a lot of thin veils recently: one on an attack by Sir David Nicholson (Departing NHS chief says coalition wasted two years, 7 June), one each on a plan and a fear on 4 June, another attack on 2 June and an excuse on 31 May. Could you spare someone to try the Simon Hoggart test and have a look for a thick veil or two? You haven’t reported one in ages.
Oliver Fulton

The Workers’ Education Association commemorated the 100th anniversary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death with a day school in Chesterfield (What would you fight for? 4 June). Emily was a volunteer with the WEA. We learned about her, her legacy and the issues of equality and democracy that remain. Katherine Connelly, co-ordinator of the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign, Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins – successor of Tony Benn, who put a plaque to Emily in the Commons – and other fine speakers illustrated the value of adult education, which the government applauds but starves.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
• The blue plaque outside 18 Brookside, where Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the veteran leader of Britain’s constitutional suffragists, and her daughter, Philippa Fawcett, the first woman to obtain the top score in the mathematical tripos, lived in Cambridge, reads: “Henry Fawcett … lived here with his wife and daughter, 1874-1884.” The cause for which Emily Davison gave her life still has far to go.
Professor Mary Joannou
• John Sutherland, in his piece about Mary Ward (A liberal lost to history, 4 June), notes that there is no blue plaque to her in London, though the Mary Ward Centre does her justice. There is, however, a blue plaque on the house in Bradmore Road, Oxford, where she lived when she was first married, and has been since 28 April 2012. It reads: “Mary Arnold Ward (Mrs Humphry Ward), 1851-1920, Social reformer, novelist.”
Susanna Hoe

Alongside his distinguished career as a medieval historian, Barrie Dobson made a great contribution to cinema in York. When he joined the university in 1964 he had already been secretary of the film society at St Andrews. At York he served in that capacity for three seasons, at a time when the British Film Institute was seeking to develop regional centres of exhibition.
Barrie initiated negotiations with the BFI, and the York film theatre opened in the university’s central hall in October 1968 with a screening of the Danish film The Red Mantle, with its director, Gabriel Axel, present. Barrie served as chair of YFT until 1973, and the organisation that he founded continued to bring high-quality cinema to York, both on campus and in the city, until a commercial arts cinema arrived in the 1990s.



It was appalling – but not unexpected – to read that by 2020 almost half of Britons will get cancer during their lifetime (7 June). It is often said that this rise is partly due to an ageing population, but cancer rates have risen more than life expectancy. Cancer incidence has also risen in children and young people.
There are over 70,000 chemicals in use now and plastic chemicals, such as bisphenol A, can disrupt hormones. Benzene is a proven cause of cancer yet is widely used by industry. The EU now admits that many chemicals were allowed into common use without proper safety testing to see if they cause cancer.
Professor Andreas Kortenkamp of the University of London has said the use of a range of commonly used chemicals which can interfere with the human immune system must be reduced. Calling on the EU to take action, he said: “We will not be able to reduce cancer without addressing preventable causes.”
A Wills Ruislip, Greater London
With half of the population destined to get cancer (report, 7 June), why are we not discussing the cancer-causing effects globally of the 2,000 nuclear weapons test explosions in the atmosphere, the radiation from such megadisasters as Chernobyl and Fukushima, the widespread use of radioactive depleted uranium in wars round the world including Iraq and Afghanistan, radiation leaks from nuclear power stations, and radiation leaks from nuclear waste dumps round the world?
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
Your report that nearly half of the population will develop cancer at some time once again highlights the need for prevention. The government TV warning that smoking causes mutations which cause cancers does not mention the fact that countless other environmental exposures also do so.
Mutations to DNA which are precursor conditions to cancers are caused by many environmental agents including prescribed drugs, chemicals and radiation. Only by identifying the causative agents and avoiding them as much as possible can there be any real cancer prevention.
The battle to reduce the 5 per cent benzene, a haemotoxin, genotoxin and carcinogen, added to unleaded petrol when it was introduced, to not over 1 per cent shows that prevention by controlling the level of causative agents is possible.
Edward Priestley, Brighouse, West Yorkshire
The ‘hassle-free’ route to legal aid reform
I was delighted to discover that the Ministry of Justice has decided to opt for the “hassle-free” method of reading the responses to its current consultation exercise into legal-aid cuts, by the employment of a company called Citizen Space to do it for them.
Not only does this ably demonstrate how public money can be spent paying private companies to do a job one might expect of public servants, it will of course mean that the Ministry won’t have to actually read them at all, no doubt making it so much easier to ignore the flood of well-reasoned and sensible arguments made by lawyers up and down the country (6 June) pointing out that these ridiculous proposals are unworkable, ill thought-out, and will actually destroy all that is good in our legal system.
Rebecca Herbert, East Langton, Leicestershire
Colin Burke (Letters, 3 June) eloquently exposes the absurd hypocrisy of government welfare policy and the rise of the foodbank society. But the single overwhelming force that propels this and every other aspect of government today is that of privatisation. The saying that the United States practices socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor is fast becoming the reality of modern-day Britain.
The cosy divvying up of publicly owned assets from rail, water and post office, failed banks funded entirely by public money, the unaccountable and unelected quangos, the health service pinched and pummelled towards the private sector, the insane cutting of legal aid and its farming out to cost-cutting private firms, and of course the relentless spread of the supermarket arachnids; the list is endless and all-encompassing, and apparently unstoppable.
And now, with their encouragement of food banks and charities, the government seeks to privatise poverty.
Christopher Dawes, London W11
Law is not on Erdogan’s side
You report that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the recent protests in Turkey bordered on illegality (7 June). One salient fact that may have been lost in the reporting of recent events is that the work on redeveloping the Gezi park had already begun months ago – a huge underground car park had been partly constructed – but was then stopped when the local branch of the main opposition party launched a legal objection. When the bulldozers arrived and started knocking a wall down, the case was still going through the courts and no decision had yet been made. Some people, knowing that the whole case was still in the courts, and noticing the bulldozers, organised a small occupation of the park and things went from there.
Erdogan has said that the park project will go ahead anyway, but in saying this he is openly disregarding the courts. This is one reason why lawyers are active participants in the Taksim protest. Erdogan may say that the protests are illegal, but in the case of the park redevelopment the law is not (yet) on his side.
Charles Turner, Department of Sociology University of Warwick, Coventry
Self-confessed middle-lane hog
How is hogging defined? (Letters, 7 June.) I am a professed middle-lane driver. I do this because it minimises the need to move from lane to lane at every merging junction or around every slow car or truck, given the risk that this manoeuvre entails. I drive at the speed limit so theory says I shouldn’t be holding anyone up or forcing them into this same risky move. Am I still considered a hogger? Surely if I am holding someone up it can only be if they are breaking another law – the speed limit – and at any rate they have the outside lane to pass on if required.
Perry Rowe, London SE4
There’s a big misconception about motorway middle-lane hogging. It is only a bad thing if you wish to drive at less than 70mph. If you want to travel at 70 (or even a tad faster), staying on the middle lane is good because it avoids constantly moving in and out of the slower-moving inside lane. And the road safety experts tell us that changing lanes is a hazardous manoeuvre and should be minimised.
Clamp down on middle-lane slowcoaches, yes, but leave the 70- drivers alone – they do not obstruct anyone driving legally, they are making the roads safer by reducing lane-changing, and the speed merchants still have the outside lane.
Ray Chandler Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Give us a reason to vote Labour
Your leading article (7 June), asking how Ed Miliband can identify a compelling reason to vote Labour rather than Tory or Liberal Democrat in 2015, says it all about present-day politics. The Labour heartlands of working classes, struggling to bring up decent families on poorly paid jobs have gone – along with the jobs – while the traditional Tory heartlands have survived and have been augmented by “escapees” from the working classes understandably enjoying their improving status.
I refuse to believe though that we have become so selfish and so disdainful of the real poor, that we could contemplate re-electing a government that shows no sign of understanding the devastating effects of the austerity measures on families the length and breadth of the country.
Change in the benefits system was necessary; a shake up of the NHS was necessary; saving on government spending was necessary. What isn’t necessary is that the real poor are worse off while those of us with plenty still have plenty.
The Labour Party may have lost its heartlands, but surely there must be a future for a Labour Party that still champions the less fortunate?
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow Cheshire
Why is this person making laws?
You quote Baroness Knight as saying, repeatedly, “I was only saying what I believe”. This is fine and many 90-year-olds would hold similar beliefs, hoping for a return to the good old days of locking people up for crimes of homosexuality and abortion. I can quite imagine my late parents, both wonderful people, saying much the same (one of the reasons I never came out to them, much though I wanted to). I suspect the Baroness is a feisty, warm-hearted person stuck in a 1950s mindset; why on earth are we paying her to draft the laws of England and Wales?
Allan Jones, London SE9
According to Baroness Knight marriage is “about a man and a woman, created to produce children, producing children” which not only excludes gays from marriage, but women who can’t have children and couples who choose not to.
Sue Simpson, Brighton, East Sussex
Microchipped moggies
The story about Freya the Treasury cat was very entertaining (8 June). But it has a serious point: Freya was reunited with the Osbornes because she has a microchip. So does Minnie, my lovely 15-year-old tortoiseshell, who went missing last November. Nearly five weeks later I got a call from the RSPCA to say she’d been found, in very poor shape, and taken to one of their animal hospitals. At that stage the prognosis was gloomy, but Minnie made a full recovery and has now been home for six months.
Brenda Griffith-Williams, London N8
Self-harm shame
What possible benefit can there be to anyone in a 15-year-old girl having her self-harm attempts reported in a national newspaper? (“Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris ‘fine’ in Los Angeles hospital after apparent suicide attempt”, 6 June). Shameful!
James Ward-Campbell Long, Whatton, Leicestershire
Pubs’ demise
Pubs are not closing because they are no longer commercially viable as we keep hearing (7 June) but because the breweries have found other more lucrative uses for the plots, such as conversion to housing. Many of the pubs that have been closed were popular and well run. Once again, community amenities are being sacrificed by, and for, big business.
Cherry Heywood-Jones, Cambridge


To claim that public authorities are cowed by legally-aided litigants into settlements because of financial constraints is risible
Sir, Chris Grayling will be grateful for James Blair’s comfortable words (letter, June 6) about his proposals in relation to legal aid for Judicial Review (JR) . The rhetoric of his consultation paper is misleading, however.
Few decisions of public authorities are challenged. Actual abuse of the system from an objective viewpoint is another matter. If there is abuse, legal aid cannot be blamed. The consultation response of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law compared the available statistics for legally-aided and non-legally-aided JR and found nothing to suggest legally aided judicial review claims are pursued in a reckless way that results in a relatively high number of “weak” cases. “On the contrary, there is everything to suggest that legally aided cases appear to be handled far more cautiously than those which are unfunded, and lawyers in legally-aided applications are far more likely only to pursue cases with merit.” You, of course, need to show merit even to qualify for legal aid.
Mr Blair is exercised about asylum and immigration cases, the only area in which JR has grown. It has grown not because of abuse but because, as Mrs May recognised when she announced the abolition of UKBA, it is one of the most dysfunctional parts of government. But this cannot justify the proposals: the Crime and Courts Act 2013 s.22 means that the burden of these cases will, for better or worse, be transferred from the High Court to the Upper Tribunal.
To claim that public authorities are cowed by legally-aided litigants and their devious lawyers into settlements because of financial constraints is risible. Compared to claimants, public authorities have very deep pockets; they can and do defend their decisions if they are defensible. Cases are compromised on terms favourable to claimants when public authorities know they are on to a losing battle. They rightly choose not to waste public money defending the indefensible. If only Mrs May, who has proved willing to hire ever more expensive silks to argue ever more tenuous points, practised the same frugality.
Andrew Rose
London WC2
Sir, As a solicitor of some 40 years I am surprised by the furore over the withdrawal of legal aid. I agree with your correspondent James Blair: JR was almost unknown 15 years ago and now is a hobbyhorse for all sorts of lost causes. Lawyers are supposed to make a judgment that a case has merit before they commit their client but these lawyers do nothing of the kind. It is also common practice at the Bar for obvious lost causes to settle before a judge sees them and awards costs orders against the lawyers for waste but never before the barrister has his brief; then he can be paid whether the case proceeds or not. Systemic abuse has been going on for years with the public purse and it is about time it stopped.
James Hueston
Cheltenham, Glos

This proposal, and attacks on legal aid, show that the Government has a dangerous lack of understanding of the social value of law
Sir, Placing the nation’s court system in private hands would undermine the rule of law, judicial independence and the separation of powers (report, May 28, letters May 31, June 1 & 4). The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 obliges the Lord Chancellor, Mr Grayling, to “ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts”. This requires court buildings, equipment and personnel to be provided and controlled by the State.
On September 4, 2008 your Law Editor said the Labour Government had continued the “outrageous” policy of the Conservatives who in 1988-89 brought in the idea that civil courts should become self-financing. Lord Scott of Foscote, the law lord, said this idea was unconstitutional, adding that a country may not regard itself as civilised unless it has a proper system for the administration and attainment of civil justice.
This proposal, and attacks on legal aid, show that the Government has a dangerous lack of understanding of the social value of law.
Francis Bennion
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Using information from A&E patients injured in violence to target locations and times of violence can cut violence-related A&E attendances
Sir, The “A&E emergency”, as Alice Thomson observes (June 5), would be far less serious if it were not for alcohol abuse, injury and downright delinquent demands. Working with local authority, police, public health and third sector partners, my team has developed two ways to ameliorate these problems.
Using information from A&E patients injured in violence to target locations and times of violence has cut violence-related A&E attendances in Cardiff significantly.
We also opened a late-night alcohol treatment centre in a city-centre chapel where intoxicated people can be taken by friends, street pastors and ambulance and cared for by nurse practitioners in a place of safety until they have sobered up. This reduces A&E attendances and waiting times significantly. It also frees up police officers, increases ambulance availability and reduces disturbing and frightening antisocial behaviour in A&E waiting areas.
The introduction of minimum alcohol prices as promised in the Government’s 2012 alcohol strategy certainly has the potential to reduce demands on A&E, but hospital specialists could do more to help.
Jonathan Shepherd
Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery,
Cardiff University

How can so many thousands of EU and non-EU medical migrants find work if there are too many graduates from our universities?
Sir, Anna Soubry, the health minister, is quoted (June 6) as saying, “the NHS needs to train more doctors in order to provide the same level of service”. She added, “the solution is that we need to increase the numbers of GPs and we are doing that”.
However, in a Hansard answer provided to Lord Laird, on June 3, another health minister, Earl Howe, says a “Centre for Workforce Intelligence analysis indicated a likely oversupply in the medical workforce in the future, with the possible consequence of unemployed doctors. The Health and Education National Strategic Exchange recommended a 2 per cent reduction in the numbers entering medical schools and also recommended that a further review be undertaken to inform 2015 intakes. These recommendations were accepted by ministers.”
A reduction in UK training places is hard to square with an earlier Lords answer on January 28 that 17,081 foreign doctors were recorded by the GMC as registering over the three years 2010-12 compared to 21,207 new medical graduates who were UK trained. How can so many thousands of EU and non-EU medical migrants find work if there are too many graduates from our universities?
Jeffrey Dudgeon

These concoctions were marketed widely in the second half of the 19th century and were endorsed by many well known figures at the time
Sir, You refer to “nerve tonics” to restore “weak nerves” of the type that afflicted Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (report, June 7). These were marketed widely in the second half of the 19th century. Around 1863 the chemist Angelo Mariani hit upon the notion of steeping coca leaves in cheap red wine. The concoction contained about 35mg of cocaine per wineglassful and was advertised as a restorative for “body, brain and nerves”. Mariani used a host of endorsements to sell his product and Popes Leo XIII and Pius X and Thomas Edison were happy to see their names appearing on the adverts, the last claiming that it enabled him “to stay awake for hours”. It was praised by athletes as it was believed to improve performance. By 1910 concerns about cocaine misuse were becoming commonplace and with the death of Mariani in 1914 the product seems to have ceased to be made.
Professor Alan Dronsfield
Royal Society of Chemistry


SIR – What a sad state the English choral tradition finds itself in. Thirty years on from the time when church divas up and down the country stripped off their cassocks and elbowed their way to the nearest microphone, we are now at the stage where very few people know anything about good vocal technique.
Those stoic choirs left dwindling on are suffering from an aging membership of rasping sopranos and an imbalance in vocal parts, with first tenors all but extinct. My poor mother complains that on a Sunday morning she is forced to doze on her deaf side to smother the sound of Sunday Worship on Radio 4, which my father insists upon.
Choir after choir, Sunday after Sunday – the sound is excruciating. What is to be done?
Rachel Musgrove
Surrey Hills Chamber Choir (currently desperate for two first tenors)
Cranleigh, Surrey

SIR – Iain Martin’s interesting article about Ed Miliband (“Is this the Tories’ secret weapon?” Opinion, June 2) missed the point that fundamentally Ed Miliband is a Marxist academic, and entirely unsuited to the business of government. He and Neil Kinnock belong to the same species of socialist dreamers that died out in most countries after the collapse of Soviet Russia in about 1990.
As Mr Martin pointed out, George Osborne thought that the Labour Party chose the wrong leader and should have appointed Ed’s brother David, while William Hague thought Ed was the right choice.
This suggests that George Osborne’s political antennae are a good deal sharper than William Hague’s. The Chancellor has come in for rather too much unjustified criticism in recent weeks. He holds this Government together, which is more than can be said for the Foreign Secretary and his persistent and unsuccessful attempts to re-organise the Middle East.
Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – You claim that Ed Miliband’s leadership is an electoral liability for the Labour Party. True enough, but David Cameron and Nick Clegg are also liabilities for their respective parties. This is why I will not vote for any of these so-called leaders at the next general election.
Related Articles
Our choirs aren’t what they used to be – lend them a tenor
09 Jun 2013
We should not have to vote for the best of a bad bunch.
David Andrews
Bacup, Lancashire
Muslim monitoring
SIR – It surely stands to reason that if the Government generously funds a movement designed to monitor racist attacks against Muslims, or any group, it is in the vested interests of that group to find plenty to complain about. If they fail to do so they will cease to exist.
The Tell Mama project is no exception. It is time to assess the value to society of this expenditure. Andrew Gilligan (Gilligan on Sunday, June 2) shows that the facts indicate very clearly that violence and aggression are largely coming from the Muslim community, not being perpetrated against it. Unless we have honesty these issues will never be resolved.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Andrew Gilligan’s article on Islamophobia is absolutely spot on; it rips apart the propaganda of Tell Mama and other subversive groups that seek to divide and destroy our tolerant society.
Most of us thought Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech was distasteful and extreme 40 years ago. Has our modern multi-ethnic society really progressed or just produced different victims and perpetrators of hate and extremism?
Robert Beadle
Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
Gay marriage Bill
SIR – The way the Gay marriage legislation was rushed through Parliament was an abuse of the democratic process.
The whole subject has been discussed in far too much unnecessary haste and although David Cameron hopes that his gerrymandering will soon be forgotten, it will undoubtedly prove to be a forlorn hope.
B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset
SIR – You say in your perceptive leading article (June 2) that “the monarch was wedded to her people”. Consequently, each of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects should defend the promises she made at her coronation.
In particular, no Bill that is not in accordance with our laws and customs and the doctrine of the Church of England should be presented to her for the Royal Assent.
John Strange
Worthing, East Sussex
Chemical dangers
SIR – John Lister-Kaye’s eye-opening article on the disturbing effects of chemicals on life forms (“Worried about more than weather”, News Review, June 2) should be compulsory reading for everyone. We all enjoy the benefits that chemicals bring to our lives but we give little consideration to the unintended consequences of their use.
Scientists now recognise warning signs that human reproductive ability may be threatened through use of chemicals employed for otherwise benign purposes. This alone is surely reason enough “to muster consumer power”, as Mr Lister-Kaye suggests, not to demonise chemicals per se but to question more closely their long-term everyday use.
We are a clever but, unfortunately, impatient species. Everyone embraces the development of new products but no one appears to have the time, resources or understanding to scrutinise the safety of the frightening cocktail of endocrine disruptors already unleashed upon the planet. Is there any organisation capable of grasping this nettle before it’s too late?
Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – Regarding John Lister-Kaye’s article, I am a retired nurse and have been trying to make the authorities fully aware of the damage to people’s bodies by the proliferation of toxins, drugs and chemicals. It is useless looking for cures when prevention would do the job, but as ever, money is more important to those who would lose out if these poisons were eliminated. Who is brave enough to do something about it?
Dorothy Watt
Worthing, East Sussex
High-speed farce
SIR – John S Moxham’s idea (Letters, June 2) that a high-speed train might be halted by lack of wind-generated power, made for a delightful vision.
But unless HS2 is to resemble a sailing ship becalmed in the doldrums, it might be wise to consider some alternative to asking its passengers to get out and push.
Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire
SIR – Two of your correspondents (Letters, June 2) comment on the distinct possibility of the HS2 trains only being able to run when the wind blows and wind turbines can produce electricity.
Could I suggest therefore that it would make more sense to do away with the electrical power generation “middle man” and to fit the trains with sails?
John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire
Regulating the banks
SIR – Finally there is some common sense coming out of America. Liam Halligan (Business Comment, June 2) states that draft legislation to restore the Glass-Steagall Act has been introduced in the Senate with a similar measure in the House of Representatives.
The interest in separating the retail from investment (casino) banks is growing and it doesn’t come a moment too soon.
Anyone who has followed the growth of the financial institutions and the power they now wield over our politicians, directly affecting the public they both serve, cannot help but link the banking hegemony to the repeal of the Act.
To ask the banking industry to regulate itself is akin to asking a child to avoid candy. Not a hope.One can only hope that Britain sees the light.
Diane Queen
Henllan, Denbighshire
A bad spell
SIR – I am appalled by your report of the views of David Crystal on the “inevitability” of deterioration in English spelling (“Rhubarb, rubarb”, June 2)
However, what particularly irks me is his implying that “judgment” without the middle ‘e’ is an instance of this “now acceptable in many publishing and newspaper style guides”.
He can hardly plead youth as an excuse for ignorance, and as a professor of linguistics he surely ought to know that judgment and acknowledgment were normally spelt without the middle ‘e’ before he was born.
My copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (3rd edition, 1934) allows both versions of each of these, but as a schoolboy I was taught very firmly that for both words the correct spelling was without the ‘e’.
Peter Milton
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
SIR – There is nothing silent about the ‘h’ in rhubarb. Try pronouncing “rhubarb” and “rubbish”. The ‘h’ in rhubarb alters the pronunciation of the ‘r’. There is a significant change in the position of the tongue.
The reason is that the ‘h’, as in ancient Greek, is an aspirate. The dropping of the “e” in judgement is simply Americanising. Do we want them to destroy English?
Dr Michael Ford
Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Food for thought?
SIR – Why don’t you publish an edible edition of the paper? It could be a small pamphlet encased in a hygienic film,containing views, advice, columns and advertising. There are such things as edible underpants and birthday cards –so why not an edible newspaper?
Rory Fyfe Smith
Conwy, Denbighshire
What is causing our songbirds to decline?
SIR – Ed Hutchings (Letters, June 2) is out of date when he claims that farming, habitat loss and climate change are solely responsible for songbird decline while dismissing the impact of predation.
Over the last 25 years, habitat has been improving with increased hedge planting and our tree cover has doubled since 1920. 70 per cent of our farmland is now in agri-environment schemes. None of this has delivered any overall increase in farmland or woodland birds.
Meanwhile, numbers of all their avian and mammalian predators have more than doubled, with cats alone killing about 100 million songbirds; half their annual total.
The real tragedy is that the small amount of science in this area has been largely discredited. No fully experimental study has ever been conducted and the University of Reading cast grave doubts on the prevailing correlative studies of surveys especially when they find no evidence of predation impact.
High-quality experimental research is desperately needed to provide solutions and prevent extinctions but it is difficult and expensive. The conservation establishment avoids this, fearing uncomfortable recommendations for the management of our wildlife.
Nick Forde
Trustee, SongBird Survival
London SW4
SIR – I fully support what Paul Sargeantson (Letters, May 26) says about the menace of red kites.
I live in Galloway where we have an estimated 380 red kites (RSPB figures) with the consequent decline of other species – curlews, lapwings, redshank and oystercatchers have all but disappeared from the hills. Larks, stonechats and wheatears, which used to be common, are all in decline and we are left with a proliferation of protected raptors.
I read that Scottish Natural Heritage is considering releasing lynx into the wild. God preserve us from the urban-based conservation bodies who are inflicting irreparable damage on the rural areas. They do not understand that a healthy countryside is dependent on balance and by introducing predator after predator, the balance has been destroyed.
Anne Sinclair
St John’s Town of Dalry
Dumfries and Galloway
SIR – I have never seen a red kite in Derbyshire, where I was born and raised, but I know that the biggest threat to our songbirds is the magpie. When I was a lad the only place you would see a magpie was over farmland.
There are magpies to be seen in every garden, which was once the domain of the songbirds. Shooting a magpie in the garden is no longer allowed.
It is country folk that know the countryside, not scientists. A magpie cull would soon return the songbirds to our gardens.
Trevor Henderson
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire
BBC’s holy weather
SIR – It is unfair to criticise the BBC for allowing a radical Islamist airtime.
They do such a good job suppressing scientists like David Bellamy and distinguished climatologist Prof Bob Carter for daring to question their holy doctrine of global warming.
Keith Rothwell
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Door to Ecuador
SIR – Julian Assange? As far as I am concerned, Ecuador is welcome to him!
Paul Mason
Long Sutton, Lincolnshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – Chief among the reasons given by Enda Kenny for the abolition of the Setnad was that it “did nothing to challenge the unattainable policies of the Celtic tiger” (Front page, June 6th). Surely Mr Kenny realises just how absurd, not to mention dangerous, this line of argument is?
Did the Dáil cry halt to the policies of the Ahern era? Did the President of the day do anything to stop them? And in the courts, did our learned judges attempt to intervene? The answer is a clear No in each case.
So what is to stop some future government, during some future economic or political crisis, from pointing the finger of blame at these remaining institutions of State and demanding their abolition in order to grab a quick headline and to get a boost in the polls?
The only constitutional office or institution which did challenge the policies which brought us to ruin was that of the Comptroller and Auditor General. If we were to follow Mr Kenny’s position to its absurd conclusion, then perhaps we ought to establish a dictatorship led by this office?
Those truly to blame for the policies of the Celtic tiger are the politicians who implemented them, and the people who continued to vote them back into office. And yet Mr Kenny’s insists that it was the institutions of democracy themselves which are to blame for the crisis, and not the incompetent and self-serving people who abused those institutions for their own political gain.
Such a stance is the very anathema of democracy, not its salvation as Mr Kenny seems to believe. – Yours, etc,
Mount Tallant Avenue,

Sir, – Just in case anyone was under the impression that Ireland was somehow immune to PRISM-type activities (“Online surveillance defended by US spy chief”, Business, June 7th), it is worth recalling the 2005 Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, introduced by Michael McDowell when he was minister for justice. Article 63 of the Act permits the Garda commissioner to request Irish fixed line and mobile phone operators to “retain, for a period of three years, traffic data or location data or both”.
One would imagine that the exercise of such powers would require pretty strong legitimation. Instead the commissioner may make a request on the basis of such broad criteria as the “prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of crime” or “the safeguarding of the security of the State”.
These are unusual powers by any standards and far in excess of the six months limit on data retention recommended by the EU Directorate with responsibility for data protection. – Yours, etc,
School of Communications,

Sir, – Leaving aside for a moment the squalid squabbling of the politicians, the greasy fumbling of the bankers and the excited chattering of the Leaving Cert classes, let us consider something really important.
It’s high June: the hedgerows are white with whitethorn blossom, the verges are cream with clover, the sycamore drips with nectar – yet no honeybee is seen or heard in the land; at least I, preoccupied such things, have yet to meet one.
An occasional, lone bumblebee haunts the red clover, and a very few hoverflies hover, but the lovely apis mellifera on her heroic, epic mission of not only stocking our shelves with the golden ambrosia but also making fruitful our orchards and vegetable farms – she is marked disastrously absent.
The decline, indeed decimation, of the honeybee and her close cousins is well documented among scientists and apiarists yet rarely makes front-page headlines much less the six o’clock news.
To encounter no honeybees in April could be deemed unfortunate, to observe none in May probably careless – but to search in vain by meadow, grove and garden through the warm, scented days of midsummer is truly nightmarish. Apocalyptic is not too strong a word. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – With reference to Barry Walsh’s magnificent contribution (June 3rd) to alleviate our national debt: our son can also claim to have recently made his own sacrifice.
The Bank of Ireland has advised him that his annual net interest of €0.01c included a payment to the national coffers of €0.02c Dirt. Needless to say he is overjoyed with this state of affairs! – Yours, etc,
Upper Kilmoney Road,

Sir, – Prof Martin Clynes (June 4th) writes about the need for legislation on stems cells and IVF to take account of scientific advances. What a good idea!
I’m neither a lawyer nor a scientist; just a woman who has undergone three cycles of IVF/ICSI that led to the creation of 20 embryos, seven of which were transferred to my uterus, and none of which ever got further than being about two dozen cells in total. None of them were humans, nor citizens, nor possessed of any rights. The fact is, most IVF embryos, and a high percentage of “natural embryos” too, are simply sets of flawed genetic operating instructions that decompile within days or hours.
IVF success rates hover at about 20 -25 per cent for women of over 38. A big factor is simply the age of our eggs. If a cycle creates on average, say, 10 embryos, that means about one in 40 of those created in this age group actually becomes a human. The other 39 are so genetically incomplete or flawed that they will never be more than a few dozen cells. They are not, nor ever will be citizens.
A recent scientific advance is a process to take images of developing embryos and measure their rate of development. A slowdown of just a few hours in the first couple of days indicates an embryo that will never grow into a human. Despite the headlines, this doesn’t mean more embryos will succeed, just that we can spot the failures earlier. This process may result in fewer but better surplus embryos being stored because we’ll be better able to identify the failures, but it won’t change the fact that most IVF embryos are still not viable.
Prof Clynes writes “now that cryopreservation of human ova has become routine, IVF can be practised without generating spare embryos at all”. This statement may unintentionally mislead people about the effectiveness of egg-freezing. The process was developed for women in their 20s facing fertility-destroying treatments such as chemotherapy. It gives them a chance of a pregnancy later on, but no guarantees. For women in their 30s who may mistakenly think they have time to freeze their eggs, the numbers of successful pregnancies resulting from egg-freezing are devastatingly low; less than 10 per cent. It doesn’t fit Prof Clynes’s argument, but now and for the foreseeable future, frozen eggs are far less likely than frozen embryos to result in the birth of an actual human being.
Any legislation will have to deal with the fact that surplus embryos will continue to be created, and in good faith, even if most of them are likely to fail.
Not only are embryos not humans, but the number of IVF embryos who go on to become humans is so, so small.
But lest I have discouraged anyone from trying, I should add that I’ll be starting a fourth and probably final round of IVF next week. If we are lucky enough to beat the odds this time, next April I hope to place an announcement in the births column of this newspaper, sharing with you all the news of the arrival of a human being, a citizen of this country or, as my husband and I like to think of it; a baby. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The new Environmental Protection Agency study researching the impact of the environmental and health factors of hydraulic fracking is a North-South initiative, yet the North and South are taking different approaches.
The South has put off all exploration licences till the report is completed, whereas in the North things are going ahead. We feel that the North and South should move in tandem, everything should be put on hold till the new report is completed.
We want to stress that the people in the North are entitled to the same level of protection as the people in the South. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s report (Home News, June 7th) on the clearing of the name of Fr Liam O’Brien from false allegations of abuse was welcome, as one can only imagine the stress involved to Fr O’Brien.
Hopefully the media and other groups who rightly highlighted the church’s past failings to deal with allegations of abuse, will also criticise those who make false claims, and acknowledge the church’s effective child protection policies today, where priests and religious in ministry present no more risk to children than any other health care professional . – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

Madam– A few years ago a man knocked on my door at two in the morning in a highly agitated state, imploring me to help him get an immediate emergency hearing with a judge, to prevent his wife going abroad the next morning to have an abortion.
For the next few hours, over numerous cups of tea, we talked as I empathised with his despairing helplessness in his situation, waiting until daylight, where he might, in his traumatised and potentially suicidal state, drive home safely.
To this day he holds a personal annual vigil in memory of this lost birth, with the haunting guilt that he did (and could do) nothing to prevent this abortion.
Both pro and anti-abortion sides should address how a husband should act responsibly, in one case when he wants a birth while his wife chooses to abort and in the other case if he wants a termination while his wife insists on a birth.
Why have heated arguments by political and religious men who then legislate, when in all practicality, they can have no input into the decision? This appears to be a case of men having a vote, without, in fact, having a say!
Liam O Gogain,
Dundalk, Co Louth
Irish Independent
Madam –Frank McGurk (Letters, Sunday Independent, June 2, 2013) says that it would not have mattered if Britain had capitulated to Hitler in 1940 because the Soviet Union alone would have defeated Hitler single-handed.
Also in this section
Labour lapdog to Fine Gael whims
Have vote, but no say
McCarthy wrong on manufacturing
This is an absurdity. Soviet power to a large extent was a mirage. In the first months of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the USSR lost half its economic base because of scorched-earth tactics and German occupation, as well as about a third of its population to German control. Realising his much diminished resources and that he could not prevail on his own, Stalin pestered Britain and the United States for years for aid and the opening of a Second Front in the West. Britain, and the United States in particular, gave the Soviets massive amounts of economic aid and logistical support; they eventually distracted most of the Luftwaffe from the Russian Front to Germany itself because of their bombing campaign; and they increasingly took on a large share of the German army – in Italy from 1943 and France from 1944. Despite this huge assistance, the Soviets were nearly bled white by the end of the war in 1945; therefore, it is nonsense that they could have won the war on their own. Even Marshal Zhukov in the Sixties freely admitted this.
If Britain had capitulated to Hitler in 1940, the United States would never have become involved even if it had wanted to because it would have needed Britain as a base to build up in before going into the continent. Because Britain held out in 1940-41 this bought time for the emergence of the Triple Alliance of the UK, US and USSR, an alliance which was essential to destroy Nazi Germany – the most awesome and terrible war machine of all time.
Dr Derek O’Flynn,
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Madam – With reference to Padraig McGinn’s letter last week (Sunday Independent, June 2, 2013), Marshal Petain may not have been cowardly but he had zero strategic military vision. He built the Maginot Line that cost France as much as German rearming with negative military strategic effect.
Article 8 of the surrender treaty that he signed compelled him to hand over the French navy to the Germans. The strategic effect of this was that it would enable the Germans to invade Ireland and Britain. Churchill took pre-emptive action requesting the French navy to join them at sea or go to a neutral port. Petain refused and the British navy sank the French navy.
Prior to this the Americans had a plan to rent the Irish Treaty ports and to bring the French navy here as well the 200,000 Free French troops then in Britain. This would have made invasion of Ireland by German air troops or naval-borne troops a difficult task, closing the back door to Britain. Both Petain and Dev lacked the strategic vision to co-operate to defend against the greatest evil the world ever faced.
Noel Flannery,
South Circular Road, Limerick
Irish Independent

Madam – Colm McCarthy’s article ‘Criticism of our tax policy the height of hypocrisy’ (Sunday Independent, May 26, 2013) contains numerous erroneous assertions.
Also in this section
Labour lapdog to Fine Gael whims
Have vote, but no say
Soviet power was a mirage
He says that most of the manufacturing jobs created in the Nineties were lost in the years after 2000 and attributes this to workers preferring to work in construction and related activities. In fact, most of the fall in manufacturing employment after 2000 was confined to just two sectors, electronics/electrical engineering and textiles/clothing. Medical devices grew by 60 per cent between 2000 and 2007, while chemicals/pharmaceuticals, metal, non-metallic and wood products also expanded.
In other words, the problem was sector-specific rather than a general malaise of the manufacturing sector. The idea that people would not take up manufacturing jobs when there was more money available in construction is based on the erroneous assumption that workers are interchangeable between those two sectors. In fact, a large proportion of the manufacturing jobs created in the Nineties were highly skilled jobs which are not open to unskilled workers. Only 400 of the 3,500 or so employees in the Apple plant in Cork are involved in making computers. The rest are involved in software, sales and support services for the firm’s other units across Europe.
McCarthy states that inward investment to Europe by US multinationals has been weak for many years. However, in both 2011 and 2012, the IDA attracted more new jobs to Ireland (mostly from the US) than in any year since 2001.
McCarthy’s statement that export services “have created few jobs for unemployed Irish workers” is misleading. Employment in this sector rose from less than 12,000 in 1990 to 120,000 last year. Where would these workers be if these jobs did not exist?
Dr Proinnsias Breathnach,
Department of Geography, NUI Maynooth
Irish Independent

Madam – I am writing to you to register my disgust at the fact that you allowed the piece ‘Let me shake hands with that brave fan’, written by Donal Lynch, to be published in your edition (Sunday Independent, June 2, 2013).
Also in this section
Have vote, but no say
Soviet power was a mirage
McCarthy wrong on manufacturing
The piece in question was a glib article about an incident at a Beyonce concert where an audience member appeared to slap the singer’s bottom. The woman is a singer, she was doing her job.
This article belittled the act by saying that the tickets to the concert were “about the price of a lap dance”, implying that the man deserved to do this because he had paid money.
As a young woman this makes me sick. This kind of opinion furthers the rape culture we find ourselves in. More so, publishing it gives it credibility and you have approved Lynch’s viewpoint by allowing it in your publication.
I understand this was meant to be a light-hearted piece, however I find this a much more dangerous way of packaging sexism. This kind of incident is not something to be laughed at.
I’m so disgusted I even had to write this letter.
Jeda de Bri,
Ashbourne, Co Meath
Madam – What a fantastic article by Pat Fitzpatrick last Sunday: ‘The decade that Ireland forgot.’ I laughed out loud while reading his story of the Eighties.
Food just wasn’t that important – the only conversation most of us heard about food was, “Dad: ‘Are these the new potatoes?’ Mum: ‘Yes. Aren’t they grand and floury?'” We didn’t eat to feel better about ourselves – fish was for Friday, broccoli was for posers and steak was for millionaires.
Cracking read. Well done.
Martina Hilliard,
Skerrries, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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