17 June 2013 Sharland

Off around the park listening to the Kenneth Williams show. Kenneth is investigating the theft of some secret documents at a health farm. They hypnotize rich clients and send them off to get secret documents and hand them over. ‘to friendly foreign hostile powers’. Priceless.
Another quiet day Shaland comes around to visit nothing from Sandy nor joan June rings as well.
We watch The Pallaisers Bye bye Mr Finn MP Hello again Mr Finn, Pallisair is the new duke and Finn wants to be chancellor.
I win at scrabble but I get under 400 perhaps she can have her revenge tomorrow.


Paul Soros
Paul Soros, who has died aged 87, was a Hungarian-born engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and the elder brother of the billionaire investor George Soros.

Paul Soros Photo: AP
5:46PM BST 16 Jun 2013
Paul Soros’s company, Soros Associates, founded in 1956, was involved in the design and engineering of ports and offshore terminals handling bulk raw materials such as iron ore in more than 90 countries. After selling the business in 1989, he invested his fortune, alongside a portion of his brother’s, in industrial and mining ventures.
In 1997, in gratitude for the life America had given them, he and his wife Daisy — also a Hungarian émigré — established a foundation to support the graduate education of “new Americans” — first-generation immigrants or their children. The Soros family provided endowments of $75 million, and more than 400 students have benefited to date.
George Soros described his brother as “a big-picture man” who “goes to the core of the matter and dispenses with the established conventions”; both brothers had learned from their father “to go against the rules when they are wrong”.
Four years older than George, Paul was born into a prosperous Jewish home in Budapest in 1926; the family had a summer house on an island in the Danube, and Paul would become one of Hungary’s leading junior skiers and tennis players. Their father, Tividar Schwartz, was a lawyer who was also a promoter and author of Esperanto, the artificial language designed to bridge differences between nations and cultures. His cosmopolitan world view and powerful survival instinct were formed by his experience of the First World War, in which, as a Hungarian officer, he had been captured by the Russians and consigned to a Siberian camp in appalling conditions, unable to find a way home until 1921.
In 1936, as the Nazi threat to the Jews became more ominous, Tividar changed the family surname to Soros, which means ‘will soar’ in Esperanto; they continued to live a relatively normal life until 1944 when the Germans entered Budapest. Tividar then dispersed the family to hiding places around the city with false identity papers, but when the Russians arrived the following year, Paul was rounded up with thousands of other Hungarian men to be marched towards Russia.
He escaped, returned to the ruined city, and in due course began to study engineering. He also skied in the Hungarian national team, and while passing through Austria en route to the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland — although an injury which he had concealed would have prevented him from competing — he defected. His brother had already left for England, and the family would not be reunited until 1956.
Paul made his way to America with ‘$17 and a Leica camera’ and found work as a tennis pro after a crash on the ski slopes cost him a kidney and ended his racing career. He won a scholarship to St Lawrence University in northern New York State to continue his studies in exchange for coaching the college ski team, and in due course transferred to the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, now Polytechnic University.
After graduating he found work as a sales engineer for a manufacturer of materials handling equipment, Hewitt-Robins. But in 1956, on a sales trip to South America, he grasped the opportunity to branch out on his own by designing a low-cost iron-ore loading system for a port in Chile. He realised that the key was to be able to load ships moored to buoys, rather than having to build piers long enough to accommodate them — and went on to devise systems based on keeping the ships out at sea, where the cost of days lost to rough weather while loading proved much lower than the cost of building and operating conventional dock facilities.
This lateral thinking led to assignments in Tasmania, Venezuela, Brazil, and other parts of the globe. Soros’s approach reduced costs and greatly increased capacity for the bulk handling of ore, coal, bauxite and aluminium — and won many awards for engineering excellence. He held patents in materials handling technology, and was the author of many technical papers.
Soros Associates was sold in 1989 to an Italian state company. Thereafter Paul Soros ran his own investment company, sat on the board of his brother’s Quantum Industrial Holdings, and devoted himself to his philanthropic interests. He was a patron of the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, and a trustee and benefactor of Polytechnic University, which he praised for “giving the sons of janitors who possess a work ethic a chance to move into the middle class”.
He also served as a special UN ambassador to Morocco and Jordan, supported causes related to civil liberties and self-help for the poor, and received a Fulbright Award for contributions to international understanding.
Despite a series of injuries, including losing an eye in a golfing accident, Paul Soros remained an active sportsman in later life. He was described as elegant, gentle, astute and very widely read, particularly in history. “My story is riches to rags to riches again,” he said of himself. “I was lucky to survive. The rest was easy.”
He married, in 1951, Daisy Schlenger, a fellow student in New York; they made their homes in Manhattan, Connecticut, Nantucket and Jamaica. She survives him with their sons Peter (who was married to Flora Fraser, daughter of the historian Lady Antonia Fraser and stepdaughter of the playwright Harold Pinter) and Jeffrey; a third son died in infancy, and a daughter died in a car accident.
Paul Soros, born 1926, died June 15 2013


Among your commentators on the moral matters facing the assorted rogues gathered in Enniskillen was Bono of the Irish band U2 (What they want from Fermanagh, June 15). Bono’s remarks on transparency were most moving, in much the same way as his tax affairs moved from Ireland to the (even cheaper) Netherlands. Bono is part of the problem and seeing him presented as part of the solution will have surprised many more than just me.
David Beake
Wymondham, Norfolk
• If my son fails to honour his student loan contract he will be in trouble. If the government fails on its part, surely it must be in trouble too (Make graduates pay for loans again, 14 June).
Kenneth Moss
• I’m disappointed that education secretary Michael Gove (No coursework, more Shakespeare, 12 June) has not yet taken inspiration from Spinal Tap and increased the grades for the new GCSE exams all the way to 11.
Nick Knibb
• Garry Trudeau has gone on sabbatical (Corrections and clarifications, 11 June) at an awkward moment for Alex Doonesbury, who will be experiencing the longest labour in recorded history.
Anne Liddon
North Shields, Tyne and Wear
• We are instantly alerted of a double whammy. Why do we never hear about single whammies (Letters, passim)?
Paul Neary
Dorking, Surrey

It’s right that the international medical community should be outraged by the unethical activities reportedly taking place at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre (Report, 12 June). Force-feeding of competent adults who are involved in a voluntary hunger strike violates international standards of medical ethics, as set out in the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta. The BMA is deeply concerned by the reported involvement of doctors in these practices. Doctors and other medical staff should be restricted to providing consensual care to inmates in accordance with internationally recognised ethical codes. The primary obligation of doctors is to the wellbeing of patients, and medical staff must not become punitive agents of the state. The US Defence Department should immediately suspend any medical involvement in force-feeding practices it has sanctioned and institute an urgent inquiry into how this situation was allowed to develop in the first place.
Professor Vivienne Nathanson
Head of science and ethics, BMA
• Every day while parliament is in session, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign maintains a vigil to demand action by the government to bring Shaker home. We are there in solidarity with the hunger strike in Guantánamo and to demand that President Obama fulfils his pledge to close this evil prison. With amazing dignity, Shaker Aamer has stated that it is wrong to keep him isolated, when he was cleared for release from Guantánamo six years ago (Comment, 15 June). Shaker is determined to stay on hunger strike until he gets justice. So, what better chance of action than the G8 summit.Next week, when David Cameron and Barack Obama take time-out for a cosy chat away from the eyes of the world, it would be easy for them to make injustice history for at least this one man.
Joy Hurcombe
Chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

While I acknowledge that Oxbridge can and should do more to admit students from non-selective schools, working-class backgrounds and areas other than south-east England (Oxbridge in thrall to applicants from the south-east, 10 June), it would be better if the spotlight was shone on the entire Russell Group. Oxford frequently attracts fewer applicants per place in my subject, history, than universities like Bristol, Warwick and UCL.
Part of the problem we struggle with is the perception that Oxford is “not for” certain students – a problem that owes something to media reports. Unlike many Russell Group universities, we do not sponsor academies – many of which are unofficially selective – or offer academic GCSEs and A-levels to a highly selective proportion of their intake, according to research by Dr Katherine Burn.
An endemic problem in Russell Group universities is managers’ increasing demands that academics focus on recruiting wealthy students from outside Europe. While these students should be admitted on merit, focusing recruitment energies on this group will lead to British (or indeed any) students from non-traditional backgrounds being squeezed out.
Liverpool University, for example, has recently sponsored a failing private school to become an academy with a boarding wing. Non-EU students who attend this school are to be guaranteed a place at Liverpool on a degree course of their choice.
Oxford University has no plans to follow suit.
Dr Selina Todd
Fellow and lecturer in modern British history, St Hilda’s College, Oxford

Zoe Williams is right when she says that the minimum wage is not enough to live on – but many employers even avoid the small amount of £6.19 per hour (What’s holding Britain down isn’t benefits. It’s low pay, 13 June). Anecdotal evidence of this criminal offence started to become available following the influx of young people from eastern Europe. Many of them started working in restaurants, bars and shops and found their wages were far short of the legal minimum. The issue became a topic of regular conversation and complaint, although not directly to their employers, as they were worried about being sacked.
It was clear that the regulatory authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, was ineffective. I submitted a freedom of information request to HMRC, focusing on Hackney, where I live. The results were not surprising.
During the period 2008-12 there was an average of only 38 investigations per year in Hackney, an area of hundreds of places of employment. There are only eight HMRC compliance officers for the whole of greater London, and 93 nationally. Six prosecutions have been brought in the whole of the UK and only 5,021 instances of non-compliance were identified. It is not surprising that bad employers believe they are immune from this law.
Hackney council will be organising a widespread campaign later this year aimed at persuading employers to comply with the minimum wage legislation and, further, to implement the London living wage of £8.55 per hour. Another logical step would be for the Labour party leadership to adopt a policy of removing the responsibility from HMRC and passing it to local authorities. They should have the same powers as they possess for environmental health, including the ability to carry out spot checks on establishments’ pay rolls and to interview staff.
Tim Webb
• Your editorial (13 June) summarised the Institute for Fiscal Studies report on the declining state of wages for most workers in Britain. Zoe William’s reinforced this message with her excellent comment piece. It’s understandable for readers to despair, shrug their shoulders, blame greedy employers and move on. The problem with this reaction is that it does not change the situation and, by blaming others, probably makes things worse.
Citizens cannot, should not and do not wait on the state or the market to react – it has always been the role of civil society to lead and seek out creative solutions to those injustices, such as low wages, that impact most dramatically on our families and communities.
More than 200 major employers in both the public and private sector are now accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as “living wage employers”. They have shown, by example and leadership, that it need not be a race to the bottom but compete to do better in the race to give workers dignity, a family wage and the respect that leads to higher morale and productivity.
Neil Jameson
Lead organiser, London Citizens  
• The squeeze on low wages in the UK, contrary to Zoe Williams’s excellent article, started earlier. Along with the increase in wealth at the top and drive for profit at any cost, it represented a significant shift of wealth from poor to rich from the 1980s. When Labour returned to power in 1997 it faced a low-wage economy. Its response was to introduce the national minimum wage in 1998, but finding that inadequate to the task, introduced tax credits in 2003. Both steps, in effect, subsidised the failure of companies to pay proper wages. Low-paid workers pay less tax which, with tax credits and the minimum wage, costs the exchequer.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey
• The lot of our unskilled citizenry will only improve once we curtail immigration from within, as well as, without the EU. The market’s response will be to raise unskilled wages. There will, admittedly, be a transfer of purchasing power from the “haves” to the “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced abroad become more costly. This is a small price to pay for anyone concerned about national cohesiveness.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset 



Is there any truth in the rumour that the United States is changing its motto to Nunquam discimus – “We never learn”? 
Having created al-Qa’ida by arming and training Bin Laden and his Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, the US now seems keen to further support their protege by arming Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
The Afghan adventure was an opportunistic attempt to drive out the Russians – although, from what we read, life in Afghanistan was better under the Russians, especially for women, than it had been before or has been since. I suggest that the current interference in Syria is largely an attempt to deprive the Russians of the port of Tartus, their only naval facility on the Mediterranean.
Claims that the Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons are flimsy, and bear an alarming similarity to spurious justifications employed by the Bush/Blair axis. They are a bit rich coming from a country which stands accused of using so much depleted uranium in Iraq that tens of thousands of Iraqis were born with deformities.
Some months ago I received a furious email from a non-Muslim Iranian friend: will the West not be satisfied until every secular country in the Middle East has been turned into a fundamentalist Islamic state? How do you think we should answer him?
Robert Curtis
The great error of the US in supplying arms to one side in the Syrian civil war is that it will reinforce the perception among many Muslims of the US as a religious aggressor in the homelands of Islam. It therefore serves to escalate the perceived conflict between “the West” and “Islam”. It will also of course (as Robert Fisk points out) merely exacerbate an already perhaps irreconcilable conflict in Syria itself.
Behind this error of judgement lies a tendency in the West to see war as a judicial process, a way of righting wrongs (in this case, the use of chemical weapons) rather than a means of achieving a desirable outcome, namely peace. This legalism or moralism seems to skew western thinking, especially but not solely in the media, on the subject of war in the Middle East, and elsewhere.
Antony Black
Emeritus professor in the history of political thought,  University of Dundee
Gove’s ‘island story’ is a good place to start
The trouble with history, as any fule kno, is that there is so much of it. It thus makes sense to start with a bit of it which is highly significant, not so huge as to be overwhelming, and sufficiently close to home to be naturally interesting. The history of one of the most remarkable countries in the world’s history – Great Britain – is therefore, as it happens, an excellent place to start. 
Whatever one thinks of Michael Gove’s politics, I see nothing remotely objectionable in teaching our children “our island story in all its glory”. Any decent teacher will hopefully inspire children to grasp the forces that propelled us from huts to houses and from religion to reason, and then to think beyond this island starting point, and to understand the relative importance of other times and places. 
Sorry Professor Evans and colleagues (letter, 13 June) but you fail to convince.
Jim Bowman
South Harrow, Middlesex
When I went as an exchange teacher to teach social studies in New York City in 1966, I was astonished to find that the teachers’ instruction book for the city included this: “The aim of the Social Studies programme is to indoctrinate the students with the merits of American democracy.”
I objected to that and raised it with my Jewish liberal colleagues, who were embarrassed by it and explained that it was written 10 years before in the era of the McCarthy witch-hunts.
Will we, in 10 years’ time, be equally embarrassed by a history diktat written in the era of Govian anti-liberal political bias?
Anthony D Wood
Liskeard, Cornwall
The Department for Education’s response to the letter from over 100 historians and history teachers (13 June) outlining legal concerns with the government’s approach to history teaching is yet further evidence of its failure seriously to address the charge of political bias. 
Few would disagree with the DfE’s comment: “It is absolutely absurd to claim that teaching the history of Britain is illegal or politically biased”. But if the DfE spokesmen seriously believe that reforming the teaching of history in order to “celebrate” Britain’s role in the world does not constitute political bias, then I suggest they consult a dictionary.
For the sake of clarity, the letter was not referring to the “GCSE revamp” as claimed in the headline. This had not been unveiled when the letter was written. It was referring to the Government’s approach to the teaching of history, as outlined in statements made by the Education Secretary and the Prime Minister, and in the draft National Curriculum for History released last February.
Katherine Edwards
History teacher, Ashtead Surrey
Reasons to stay in the middle lane
I have no quarrel with the comments by Jackie Hawkins (letter, 15 June) regarding fast-lane hoggers, who like tailgaters are clearly a dangerous menace.
On the question of middle-lane hogging, surely the whole point of safe driving on any roads is the ability and willingness to adjust to the prevailing conditions and immediate situation. When on a motorway I frequently drive at around 70mph, leaving the outside lane free for the speed merchants.
Thus I may spend a considerable time in the middle lane, passing slower vehicles, and when a gap appears in the slow lane ahead I make a judgement based on the length of that gap and the likely speed of the more distant car (or lorry) in sight. In addition, if I am aware a junction is coming up I would tend to stay in the middle to allow new traffic on to the road.
Experienced drivers factor in all these variables and more when driving alertly and flexibly. However, from your correspondence pages it would seem that others prefer a more rigid, fundamentalist approach, with eyeballs bulging and steam hissing from their ears as they hop round one slow-lane vehicle at a time, driving on the moral highroad from illusion to pomposity.
Steve Edwards
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
My friend Bubs (beard, Harley-Davidson, etc) has an amusing way of dealing with middle-lane hoggers. He overtakes, moves across to the left-hand lane, slows, pulls into the outside lane and overtakes again. He reckons two circuits like this gets them to move into the correct lane.
Tony Wood
Farnborough, Hampshire
Things we are not allowed to know
Steve Richards argues (13 June) that government workings are transparent and that it is our fault if we don’t know what they are doing. I couldn’t disagree more.
Here are three major counterexamples. First, Blair deliberately hid from us the weakness of the case on which the Iraq war was fought. Second, tens of billions of pounds of our money have been spent on private finance initiatives the true costs of which are too “commercially sensitive” for us to be told anything about. Third, major companies have apparently not been obliged to pay huge tax bills but again we are not told how this could possibly have happened.
Bring on true transparency, but don’t hold your breath!
Michael W Eysenck
London SW20
Share out the royal riches
Ostensibly our culture prohibits personal gain in public office. As a local government employee, I had to “declare” small gifts of biscuits at Christmas destined for the communal tea room, and on the grander scale we are aware of the MPs’ expenses issues.
I find it incongruous that royals seemingly take advantage of their positions to accrue wealth, whilst maintaining popularity through spin doctors and PR experts (“Revealed; Prince Charles’s secret life as a multimillion-pound property dealer”, 15 June).
Perhaps now is the time to thank them kindly, assign them pensions, redistribute their wealth, and consign them and all feudal anachronism to fairy tales and pantomimes – the right places for kings, queens and princes.
John McLorinan
Weston super Mare, North Somerset
Two families in unequal Britain
There was an exquisite depiction of the vile but accepted inequalities in our society in the juxtaposition of two stories on page 9 of your 13 June issue. The ex-wife of an oil tycoon is awarded £17.5m in a court settlement. An 11-year-old boy is refused a school dinner because his parents owe £1.75.
The ex-wife apparently claimed that “justice had prevailed”. The school governors evidently have the brass neck to hold that justice was also served in the case of the hungry young boy. Perhaps so – depending on one’s definition of justice – but where is the moral equivalence? 
David Hodgen
Newbold Verdon, Leicestershire
Don’t try to save these coins
It looks to me as if at least two of the pound coins shown in the stack illustrating your article “Regular saver accounts ideal for those trying to get started” (15 June) are counterfeit. The lettering on the edge is too crude to be genuine.
I believe that about 3 per cent of the coins in circulation are counterfeit, so you seem to have been unlucky if you photographed a random selection. If you wish to save you would be well advised to ensure that you avoid presenting false coinage to your bank.
Antony Barber
‘Culture’ doesn’t excuse mutilation
The authorities are failing to prosecute those guilty of carrying out female genital mutilation in the UK. If this is because of “multiculturalism”, it’s a misunderstanding: all cultures change all the time.
Those, like me, supporting the right of peoples to choose their own ways of life should not excuse extreme violence, irrespective of whether it’s perpetrated in the name of “culture”. There are individuals and organisations within the cultures in question opposing FGM. They should be supported and those who practise FGM should be prosecuted.
Stephen Corry
Director, Survival International
London EC1
Warm work
Your leader (15 June) concludes that the outcome of a conference of meteorologists assembling on Tuesday to discuss recent cold summers will be more hot air. I hope so; summer starts on Wednesday.
David Weston


Perhaps we would better mark the First World War’s end than its beginning — 1914 Europe was a hive of hyper-nationalism
Sir, Ben Macintyre (Opinion, June 14) imagines a Germany apparently free from anti-Semitism as the Great War approached, citing both Jewish support for war and the German employment of Jewish soldiers. Certainly Jews were sufficiently emancipated in Germany after 1848 that surprising photos survive of German-Jewish societies wherein all members sport Wilhelm II-style moustaches.
Nonetheless, there was a distinct strand of German anti-Semitic thought which was more constant in the 19th century than Macintyre implies. Fichte, in 1793, described Jews as a “state within a state” that would “undermine” the German Volk. In 1879 Treitschke described the Jews as “Germany’s misfortune”. Wilhelm Marr — the “father of anti-Semitism” — founded the influential Anti-Semitic League in 1879, and in the hysterical anti-Semitic nationalism of the Pan-German League (founded 1891) much of Nazism’s most repellant ideology is found. Against this context, the anti-Semitism of 1919 is less surprising.
Although he is perhaps more influenced by Edward Thomas than Siegfried Sassoon, Macintyre’s view of pre-First World War Europe seems as sentimentally poetic as much that he critiques. Perhaps we would better mark the war’s end than its beginning — 1914 Europe was a hive of hyper-nationalism far above any “chivalric ideal” of “king, God [and] country”.
Anthony Lazarus
London SW15
Sir, No one wants to encourage “an anti-German festival” out of the commemoration of the First World War, but Ben Macintyre’s piece based on the number of Jews who fought for the Kaiser is historically naive. It obscures the official discrimination against Jews in Germany before 1914 in the judiciary, senior civil service, schools and universities. Again, between 1885 and 1914 no Jew was promoted to reserve officer status in Prussia and those states subordinate to her in military affairs.
It was only logical therefore that after war broke out the German government instituted a “Jew Count” in 1916 to determine whether Jews were doing their proper share of fighting and not just profiteering. After all, the intellectual justification for war in Germany was that she was fighting for duty, honour and ideals (“Geist”) against Allied materialism. So, while it is wrong to read German history backwards from the Nazis, it is also wrong to sanitise it.
Alan Sked
Professor of International History, LSE
Sir, Ben Macintyre’s description of the Second World War as “a Manichean conflict between good and evil, tyranny and freedom” and thus fundamentally different to the First World War is a myth of national identity owing more to Hollywood than to history.
The British and Americans cynically allied with Stalin, a tyrant whose armies, like Hitler’s, invaded Poland in September 1939. Bombing of German and Japanese cities, the wilful abandonment of the Jews and recruitment and sheltering of Nazi scientists after the war all belie claims that we were somehow fighting for good against evil.
Rather, all were struggling for the same goal of domination or survival. The world wars were part of the same ugly clash of imperial rivalries that continues to marr our world.
Dr Nick Megoran
Lecturer, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology,
Newcastle University

Since legislation on this subject was passed in 2000 there have been far-reaching changes both in the technology and in the threats
Sir, Communications data are indeed a vital tool in the armoury of counter-terrorism and of the prevention and detection of serious crime (letters, June 14). A balance has to be struck between those requirements and the protection of individual privacy. Where the balance is to be struck is a matter which should be considered and decided by Parliament. Since the most recent legislation on this subject was passed in 2000 there have been far-reaching changes both in the technology and in the threats. It is high time for Parliament to review the matter.
The Government’s first draft of a new Bill was scrutinised by a Joint Committee of members of both Houses, of which I was a member. That Committee took a great deal of evidence. We concluded that the Bill as it stood was in some respects too far-reaching, but we were able to satisfy ourselves that there are systems in place to ensure that requests for communication data are made and granted only where a good case has been established. We made recommendations designed to restore what we thought would be the right balance for our times. The Government has now made a revised draft, which (we are told) substantially incorporates the recommendations made unanimously by the Committee.
That Bill was not included in The Queen’s Speech last month, apparently because its inclusion was vetoed by the Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Party because he considered the Bill to constitute too great an erosion of individual privacy. There appears to be powerful support for the Bill from influential members in the Conservative and Labour Parties, and indeed from some Liberal Democrats. The issues are too important and urgent to be shuffled away. If the revised Bill were introduced, Parliament might decide to amend, or even to reject it; but we owe it to those to whom we entrust our safety and security to give Parliament — without further delay — the opportunity to decide.
Lord Armstrong
House of Lords

This low-intensity system maximises the feed value of grass, encourages quick regrowth and minimises expensive concentrate
Sir, John Batten has drawn exactly the wrong conclusions from seeing a lot of Friesians crowded into a small field (letter, June 14) . Almost certainly, what he has observed was “paddock grazing”, a low-intensity system developed initially in New Zealand to maximise the feed value of grass, encourage quick regrowth and minimise both expensive concentrate consumption and the time spent housed during the winter.
Norman Parry
Lotmead Farm, Swindon
Sir, Matt Ridley (June 13) makes a powerful point when he says that we need to get better at interfering in rural ecosystems if we want to improve the state of much British wildlife. Not just any old interference, either, but that which succeeds in boosting food production as well as habitat and species.
To quote the ecologist Aldo Leopold: “The hope for the future lies not in curbing the influence of human occupancy — it is already too late for that — but in creating a better understanding of the extent of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.” Leopold was writing in the first half of the 20th century: his insight is ever more vital as we move through the 21st.
Teresa Dent
Chief Executive, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

We are certain to revert to a primarily maritime strategy where our duty will lie in preserving good order around the world
Sir, Our withdrawals from Germany and Afghanistan leave the UK with fewer forces based overseas than ever before. There is no threat to the UK base nor public appetite for future interventions. Not for the first time in our island history, we are certain to revert to a primarily maritime strategy where, in conjunction with like-minded nations, our duty will lie in preserving good order around the world to the benefit of trade and prosperity. There are plenty of threats out there. For this, we need a capable “footprint”.
Rear-Admiral Guy Liardet
Meonstoke, Hants

Good coursework gives children the space to formulate their own ideas — and through this approach our future economy will reap rewards
Sir, Michael Gove must combine his admirable plans for academic rigour in GCSEs (Opinion, June 11; letters, June 12 & 13) with room for creative problem solving. We need to develop children who can think with their hands and their brains to plug the 60,000-strong deficit of engineers in Britain.
The curriculum review for primary and early secondary has made inroads. But ditching GCSE coursework is dangerous; it will encourage a culture of exam cramming rather than problem solving. Mr Gove aspires to match Shanghai schools, which have the best maths results in the world, but with little time given for inquisitive thinking. Students are too busy memorising facts to ask questions and challenge their teachers.
Learning by rote and cramming for exams is no reflection of life after education. When Dyson design engineers launch a machine, they have spent years testing, mulling over results and perfecting it. Inventing something worthwhile takes time spent persevering in labs and workshops not under exam conditions in a smelly gymnasium.
Good coursework gives children the space to formulate their own ideas and arguments. We should trust them to become problem solvers and give them the space to do so. Our future economy will reap the rewards of student cohorts bold enough to challenge convention.
Sir James Dyson
Founder of technology company Dyson,
Malmesbury, Wilts


SIR – The governments in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Colombia and Brazil must be made up of people with a strange sense of humour. As you have reported in recent weeks, they have all sought advice from Tony Blair and his henchmen.
This despite Mr Blair’s dismal record in government: he took us to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, then retired before either was resolved. He also employed a chancellor who left us with millstones of debt.
If Tony Blair had an iota of conscience he would take his so-called skills to the aforementioned countries and assist their governments in day-to-day operation. He would then apologise to Britain for the vast number of enemies we now have, along with the concomitant terrorism that will never go away.
Mervyn Jackson
Belper, Derbyshire

SIR – Peter Oborne (Opinion, June 9) hits the nail firmly on the head when he writes that the Prime Minister ought to stand up for “Conservative values” and spell out the importance of modernisers letting sleeping dogs lie.
Surely, though, the problem is that David Cameron is the moderniser-in-chief of his party. What sleeping dog deserved to be let lie more than gay marriage? There was no ground-swell of public opinion demanding it. Anyone with the slightest understanding of grass-roots Tories knew that it would cause significant dismay.
Yet, despite neither manifesto commitment nor inclusion in the Coalition Agreement, Mr Cameron steamrollered it through parliament with indecent haste, enlisting Labour support in order to offset the opposition within his own party. I fear that any hope of Mr Cameron embracing traditional Conservative values and abandoning “modernisation” is, to say the least, remote.
John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
SIR – I agree that Conservative radicalism can go too far. But even voters grateful for Michael Gove’s mission to improve our children’s schooling are unlikely to digest the force-feeding of them and us all with the paradox of gay marriage.
Related Articles
Why are governments still seeking Blair’s advice?
16 Jun 2013
Anna Rist
SIR – Iain Martin (Opinion, June 9) asks why top Tories spend so much time placating Nick Clegg. The answer is obvious: David Cameron is a closet liberal. He is happy to promote gay marriage, wants to re-introduce price controls – starting with minimum prices for alcohol – is an enthusiastic hider away of tobacco, and is an interventionist between our GPs and ourselves in the matter of food and our chosen lifestyle. When will he want to enter our bedrooms?
Mr Clegg can make as big a fool of himself as he likes, but not aided by a man who claims to be a Conservative.
Dick Lawrie
March, Cambridgeshire
SIR – Coalition governments in Britain do not, except during a major war, appear to produce a stable or positive regime. In order to eliminate the possibility of a hung-parliament would it not be preferable, if there proved to be no single overall winning party, to hold subsequent further general elections until a winning party emerged?
Given that the electorate would then be aware of the previous voting patterns, it is highly probable that a second poll would be more successful.
John Hannaford
New Milton
SIR – Many years ago I was told: “The essence of management is the ability to make decisions.” As long as Nick Clegg is allowed to continue to drag him down, David Cameron will never be able to demonstrate his true ability as a decision-maker. Conservative voters did not elect Mr Clegg and most would be pleased to see him and his fellow nonentities removed from their positions of power.
George Wilkie
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire
SIR – In 2010 the Lib Dems were given a golden opportunity to demonstrate that they are fit to govern. Instead of seizing that opportunity they soon relapsed into opposition mode.
Their behaviour is causing a growing paralysis in government decision-making reminiscent of the Italian coalition governments of the post-war era. As long as the Coalition lasts, government will remain in limbo.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Could it be that Timothy Stroud (Letters, June 9) is the one who has been dreaming? Perhaps he’s dreaming of a Conservative Party in which it is the Prime Minister rather than George Osborne who holds this Government together. Perhaps he’s dreaming that he can feel good about being a Tory again.
Maybe the David most missed by Mr Stroud is not Miliband but a certain Mr Davis?
Ewan Benfield
London SE1
Power rationing would be disastrous
SIR – Christopher Booker reports on a disturbing issue concerning future power rationing within 10 years (“MPs want to turn your lights off, but why weren’t we told?”, Opinion, June 9).
I recall the attempts to break the strikes by introducing enforced power cuts and forcing industry and business to operate a three-day week. Then, the computers and chips that drive so much today were uncommon, so it was relatively easy to adapt. If such a policy is introduced to make demand fit production now, our economic recovery will be hit further.
Public services, local councils and civil servants would be protected by on-site generation, but many individuals and companies without an uninterruptible power supply would suffer disastrous consequences.
Keith Taylor
Peterchurch, Herefordshire
SIR – May I suggest that Parliament sets us a good example of how to reduce our electricity consumption by immediately arranging to have all power supply to the Houses of Parliament cut off for one working day per week, to be followed in due course by all other government offices?
I doubt many people outside Westminster would initially notice, but have our bright MPs any other practical scheme to achieve their daydream?
Roderick Taylor
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
SIR – I have been considering how I might reduce my electricity consumption and can only come up with using my camping stove to cook and to stock up on candles for lighting. No use of refrigerator or washing machine. I will have to dress warmer in the winter with no central heating.
This is how my maternal grandmother used to live so it can be done. Tomorrow I look into investing in candle-makers.
Stephen Cogswell
Ashburton, Devon
SIR – Christopher Booker says that provisions in the new Energy Bill will mean that householders will have to reduce their use of electricity. Can you just imagine it – whole regiments of uniformed busy-bodies, all cast in the role of Warden Hodges of Dad’s Army fame, armed with clipboards and torches, patrolling the streets at night exhorting people to “put that light out”.
Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent
Choirs can thrive
SIR – I fear Rachel Musgrove (Letters, June 9) is right to lament how poor most church choirs are, but the exception can still be found. On a quite ordinary Sunday in June my wife and I visited a red-brick parish church in Oxford to join a congregation of some thirty to forty people of all ages enjoying full choral matins with sung canticles, Jubilate in D by Arthur Sullivan, and an anthem by Tchaikovsky. A small, superbly musical and well-balanced choir (with a strong tenor line) led proceedings.
I suggest that Radio 4’s Sunday Worship calls the Vicar of All Saints’ in Headington, Oxford, to ask just how well it can be done, week after week.
Andrew Boggis
Hooke, Dorset
SIR – I agree that choirs are all short of tenors, but this has been the situation for many years. You have to go to Wales for tenors, where they can be found in their thousands.
Furthermore, I never miss that wonderful, under-rated programme Songs of Praise on Sunday afternoons, and I thought the Salisbury Cathedral choir a couple of weeks ago was absolutely superb. It was a joy to hear boy sopranos in particular, and I did not detect a shortage in the tenor section.
Roy Fairbourn
Crawley, East Sussex
Wind farm seascapes
SIR – If public consultation on future “on-shore” wind-farm applications can actually be seen to work it is a welcome step in the right direction. At present, there are two categories which broadly define the location of wind farms: “on-shore” and “off-shore”. However, most “off-shore” turbines are visually dominant as they are erected in our coastal waters.
Those of us who live in coastal regions of the Wirral peninsula and Sefton on Merseyside and of north Wales, value our seascapes as much as our local landscapes.
These seascapes, which currently contain about 100 turbines sited in the near and middle distance, are expected to more than double in number in the next few years. This will have the effect of almost completely industrialising our views out to sea.
May I then suggest that a new locational category of “in-shore” be accepted and recognised as part of the improved public consultation process?
Rod Tann
West Kirby, Wirral
State surveillance
SIR – I am prepared to accept that the security services read my emails and listen to my voicemails if it means that my family are safer and that others can go about their lives with less fear and risk (“Hague backs US spies in row over web snooping”, report, June 9).
So please stop the hysteria about GCHQ intercepting electronic communications; after all, that is what the agency was created to do.
Paul Foster
London SW1
Slippery supper
SIR – Ben Fogle’s article on elvers (“Country travels, June 9) reminded me of an elver supper many years ago at a pub in the Severn Valley. Live elvers were dropped into a large bowl of beaten egg to swim around and coat themselves for deep frying.
The sight of them trying to make their escape by climbing out of the bowl and sliding away across the bar leaving trails of raw egg has stayed with me. The taste was non-existent and the texture rather like chewing rubber bands.
Mamie Sharman
Felixstowe, Suffolk
Reasons to celebrate Father’s Day
SIR – A judge recently pointed out to me that there is virtually nothing about fathers and the importance of good fathering in the literature given to pregnant women or new mothers.
In schools nobody tells boys that fathering is the most important and responsible thing they will ever do, nor that, when done well, fatherhood bestows upon you the deepest, most satisfying and fun relationships of your life.
The only explanation for this neglect is terror of the political incorrectness of offending single mothers, and the general mythologising of fathers as irrelevant and feckless abusers.
In recent times the family courts have treated fathers heartlessly as mere sperm donors and bankers. This is gradually changing in the light of academic research showing that children have better outcomes if they have a meaningful relationship with their father.
For too many men, Fathers’ Day is a day of sorrow, frustration, and anger, and for too many children it passes unnoticed. We want to be included in education about parenthood, and the importance of our role in our children’s lives to be properly respected.
Louis de Bernières
London W11
Gas-powered trains
SIR – A fundamental re-think of motive power on the railways is called for (Letters, June 9). As things stand, where mains electricity is the source, there are transmission losses from the generating station, expensive fixed equipment to install and maintain and also the looming threat of power cuts bringing everything to a grinding halt.
What could be more logical than to generate the electricity on board with the small, powerful gas turbines now widely available? Since the final drive is electric the train sets could still run off the overhead wires if necessary.
Alan Duncalf
Bampton, Devon
Edible papers
SIR – I think Rory Fyfe Smith (Letters, June 9) may be onto something. While awaiting her turn for our Sunday Telegraph my wife often complains that I am making a meal of reading it. If it were edible I could digest it at my leisure.
Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
SIR – Should you publish an edible edition of the paper, will you ever feel persuaded to eat your words?
Philip Hodgkins
Grosmont, Monmouthshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I was dismayed to read of the proposal to drop history as a core subject for Junior Certificate but was heartened to hear Prof Diarmaid Ferriter’s impassioned plea, in the Oireachtas education committee, for its retention (Breaking News, June 12th).
I teach at primary level, where all children rightly get the opportunity to begin the study of history. I feel very strongly this needs to be continued at second level for all young people. The study of history gives young people a context from which they can begin to understand themselves and others. It helps them to understand the society in which they function. It broadens their world view and provides an integrative lens for viewing humanity.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter McDougall wrote, “History is the grandest vehicle for vicarious experience: it truly educates . . . young minds and obliges them to reason, wonder, and brood about the vastness, richness, and tragedy of the human condition.”
So crucially the teaching of history promotes analytical, critical thinking and intellectual growth. The health of a democracy can be measured by its citizens understanding of history. Shame on this Government for contemplating this downgrading of history at second level. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – One of the ironies of a democracy is that unelected upper houses with a limited blocking function tend to have a more balanced / long-term view of life than an elected lower house. This is the real reason agenda-driven lower houses dislike them – they tend to get in the way of government agendas.
While the Seanad needs some reform, a reformed Seanad could act as a useful check and balance on the actions/antics of the Dáil. It’s depressing, but hardly surprising, that Fine Gael is pushing to abolish the Seanad instead of focusing on something far more important, namely modernising the system of ministerial appointments.
The current Irish political system ensures that experienced politicians with limited experience of the substance of their ministerial responsibilities rise to the top. We do not need Ministers to be drawn from the ranks of elected TDs. Provided their actions are subject to parliamentary scrutiny, it’s better that Ministers are not themselves elected. That way, Ireland could benefit directly from people with real-world experience in each ministerial area (not yet more lawyers and teachers); and they would be under less pressure to make populist and self-serving decisions. – Yours, etc,
Trillick, Co Tyrone.
Sir, – I would like to take issue with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, on the matter of the origins of our upper house.
In his speech this week he described the Seanad as an anachronistic model reminiscent of 19th-century Britain, clearly referring to the House of Lords (Front page, June 6th). I find this comparison inaccurate, and feel that it fails to do justice to the character of our upper house.
Yes, it is true to say, that many of our legal, political and administrative institutions were modelled on those of the Anglo Normans, and later the British establishment, indeed, if I am not mistaken, we continue to mimic and emulate some of the legislative reforms of our neighbours. However, when it comes to the Seanad I believe that it is worth mentioning that prior to the arrival of the Anglo Normans there was in place a system of Early Irish Law, to which poets contributed to the drafting and administration of the law.
I feel this model to which our current Seanad bears more resemblance. The insights of artists that extend beyond the more restrictive positivist legal traditions, I believe, have the potential to add a more human aspect to our public administration. If anything we need more of this not less. Significant Senators such as WB Yeats, Robert Ballagh and David Norris are counted in their number.
I am in favour of reform of the Seanad, and would like to see a greater diversity represented, in particular an allocation for a representative for members of the Traveller community. Law should be about fairness; diminishing the role of diverse members of society will quieten the more radical voices and reduce the quality of our parliament, a place where all voices should be heard. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Dr Ewen Mullins of Teagasc reportedly states, “While it was being claimed the study was putting Ireland’s GM-free status in jeopardy, the State was not GM-free and was already importing almost one million tonnes of GM animal feed every year” (“GM study will see planting of 5,000 potato plants”, Home News, June 10th).
By the same logic, one should not complain about the negative effects of an increased level of air or water pollution, once some pollution has already occurred. The answer, of course, is to halt the use of GM foodstuffs in Ireland, rather than to build on what has already been allowed through.
There are many scientific and other arguments against GM “food” (for example those made by Vandana Shiva). But in this case, the issue is one of perception: to the extent that the (largely anti-GM) European public will lose their view of Ireland as a “clean, green” source of food, this will be economically catastrophic for Ireland’s food producers. 
The article states, “Dr Mullins said it would be highly irresponsible of Teagasc to do something that would put Ireland’s food industry at risk as it was the organisation’s role to underpin the agri-food industry.” While this is undoubtedly true, it is surely an argument against  the GM project rather than in favour of it. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – While your Editorial about “The price of being poor” (June 12th) is very welcome, I suspect the idea that all money-lenders are subject to Central Bank, or any, regulation is a pipe dream. In my experience of people who have had to have recourse to this source of money, interest rates are far, far higher than your editorial suggests. Such loans definitely need to be more tightly controlled but in a manner that makes exorbitant interest a criminal offence with a significant penalty. Money lending and pimping are often bedfellows! – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I’m intrigued by Joe Cunnane’s letter (June 14th )
Has he forgotten how our Government has promoted “The Gathering ” as a method of getting anyone with a remote Irish connection to visit us in 2013? Surely Michelle and her daughters with such strong Irish connections should be feted in our “green and misty island”?
It might even be that her entourage would buy enough souvenirs of their visit to fill a spare Air Force 1. On a more practical note, it would ensure that next St Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach would receive an even warmer welcome on Washington. We need all the members of the diaspora we can find to visit us and enjoy the experience. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – According to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll (June 14th), Fianna Fáil (on 26 per cent) is now the “best supported party in the State” and the Green Party has increased its support by a whopping 100 per cent (up from one to two per cent). Could we be in for another FF/Green coalition? Indeed, one is tempted to pose the question: Did the now defunct PDs throw in the towel too soon? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Your Editorial “Taxation and the property market” (June 10th) gave a very good account of the causes of the boom and bust with one glaring exception: 100 per cent mortgages.
Had people been forced to put up 20 per cent of the cost to qualify for a mortgage, housing costs wouldn’t have gone skywards, the banks wouldn’t have shovelled mortgages out the door and the ghost estates wouldn’t have been built.
We’d have been spared the moaners and whingers on “debt forgiveness” and “negative equity”. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
Madam – Forgive what on the surface might appear to be boring pedantry, but I must tell you that your report referring to the “new landscape of possibilities” claimed by former President McAleese to have emerged from the “peace process” left one feeling distinctly uneasy as to the implications (Sunday Independent, June 9, 2013).
Also in this section
We are not a caring society
Points of dispute
O’Connor misses point on Bono
It would seem to imply that the so-called peace process, which in my view is overworked to the point of farce, was a good that emerged from a 30-year campaign of horror, euphemistically dubbed ‘The Troubles’, and that the latter was a necessary first step towards the former.
What one might describe as this Irish proclivity for tendentious logic-chopping, I suggest, is not only inherently flawed but lethally dangerous.
If I may cite another classic example which appeared in a recent letter by Senator Mark Daly (Sunday Independent, May 5, 2012).
While justifying the erection of an exact replica of the Proclamation at Kenmare he assured readers that the organising committee “had at its core principle that the Proclamation, Easter Week and the War of Independence can best be defined by what they were fighting for – not what they were fighting against”.
Now I confess that I can’t follow his logic but as a victim of the consequences of what followed I feel morally justified in referring to Professor JJ Lee’s graphic account: “… a political and professional elite, spiritual collaborators in the mass eviction process that drove more than half a million out between 1945 and 1960”.
In short, a morally and politically bankrupt regime that depended entirely on emigration (and still does) for the protection of its own privileges.
Therein lies the logic of your present shambles.
William Barrett
Surrey, UK
Irish Independent
Madam – I would have been worried if Brendan O’Connor (Sunday Independent, June 9, 2013) had liked my book, The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Of the many audiences I had to consider while writing this book for an international publisher, well connected Dublin journalists were at the bottom of the list.
Also in this section
An Irish sort of logic
We are not a caring society
Points of dispute
So it’s predictable that O’Connor would cherrypick a few asides and explanations for non-Irish readers and pretend they were my core “accusations” against Bono, all the while ignoring my main argument. (Hint: it’s in the title.) It’s more than predictable that he would attack my failure to hew to the Sunday Independent line on the Troubles. And it’s to be expected, I guess, that he would misrepresent me: he says, for example, I infer “from one interview with one guy that Bono doesn’t give any money to charity”, when, in fact, I do more or less exactly the opposite. (Seriously, see page 146.)
But I am sorry he felt the need to descend to ad hominem, red-baiting me and asking “what the f*** has Browne ever done?”. Rather than describe my CV of unpaid activism – which he might object has achieved nothing, and he might be right – I’ll answer that question another way: I’ve written a book (one with lots of shortcomings, Lord knows) that might just persuade some people that the brand of philanthropy carried out by Bono and those for whom he fronts is worse than “imperfect”; that, in fact, it distorts the realities of global poverty, advocates bad “solutions”, and burnishes the image of those who profit from exploitation and inequality. Who knows, some readers may even be moved to act to create a more just world, and to act with a vision that isn’t limited by the horizons of the powerful.
Harry Browne,
Kimmage, Dublin
Irish Independent

Madam – In last week’s Sunday Independent, Colm McCarthy took issue with one of the conclusions of our recently published book, The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland and the Euro Debt Crisis. We suggested that even if the Irish authorities had suddenly become aware on September 29, 2008, of the impending insolvency of the banking system, it would have been “difficult to see how the granting of some sort of comprehensive guarantee … could have been avoided”.
Also in this section
An Irish sort of logic
We are not a caring society
Points of dispute
Somewhat surprisingly, McCarthy, while stating his own opinion on the matter, did not refer at all to the argument underlying the authors’ view contained in a lengthy chapter that examined thoroughly all aspects of the guarantee. At the time of the guarantee decision, the authorities believed that the banks were suffering from liquidity, rather than solvency problems. The authorities’ principal preoccupation was to prevent the collapse of any Irish bank. This position, while shared throughout Europe (as evidenced by the Northern Rock affair), was not the result of an ECB imposed diktat. Rather, experiences of major bank failures elsewhere led them to believe that there would otherwise be incalculable economic and financial damage, including to Ireland’s international reputation. In particular, there was a well-grounded fear that all the other banks would quickly have faced insurmountable pressures if Anglo was permitted to fail.
The book concluded that none of the other options available at the time of the guarantee, could have provided assurances for solving this immediate looming problem. Nor is there convincing evidence for the assertions that the government was “rolled” by the banks or that Merrill Lynch, adviser to the government, disagreed with the action taken.
But what if the true insolvency of the banks had become known by then? Allowing only banks that were believed to be “bad” to fail would not have been a solution. In reality the banks were all facing huge losses and, assuming any cost to the taxpayer was to be avoided, none of them would have deserved a rescue. Yet, it is barely conceivable that, on the morning of September 30, all the Irish banks would have been allowed to close their doors.
One can ask whether Europe, under this scenario, would have been willing to provide short-term financial support to Dublin to keep the banks open, without requiring that the losses eventually be borne by the Irish State? Conceivably, this might have been a possibility if it was thought at the time that many other banks in Europe were facing similar problems. But it took several years – from 2008 to 2012 – before the true picture and a consequent policy rethink began to emerge at European level. A more likely outcome – McCarthy is correct on this – would have been that the eventual bailout, involving longer-term troika funding partly to repay bank creditors, would simply have been brought forward by two years. But this would not have affected the burden on the taxpayer.
In the end, the ultimate cost to taxpayers would only have been lessened if the Irish government had imposed losses on senior bank creditors. But the reality is that in the following four-and-a-half years, they did not. This reflected concerns about reputational costs for Ireland, as well as pressures from the ECB owing to contagion fears and the creation of what were thought to be, rightly or wrongly, unacceptable precedents.
The guarantee was not the “big mistake” that caused Ireland’s financial crisis. The big mistakes (and here we agree fully with Colm McCarthy) were the extreme misjudgements and policy errors made long before the events of September 2008.
McCarthy’s statement that there has been no comprehensive official inquiry into the banking crisis is incorrect. There have been two such inquiries – the Honohan inquiry and the Nyberg commission, both of which had access to all relevant official documents. Their reports have not found favour with all, partly because the proceedings were not held in public and partly, perhaps, because some of the conclusions, including their broad support for the guarantee as an unavoidable step at the time, do not fit well with the views of some commentators. But those are different issues.
Donal Donovan and Antoin E Murphy, Dublin
Senators should do job for free
Madam – The Seanad is a vital part of our Constitution and has always been an inherent foundation for democracy in this State. OK, so it costs a bit to run and we can’t really afford another quango.
However, if all senators agree to do it for free, out of the goodness of their heart, I can’t see a problem keeping it. All interested raise your hand.
Vincent O’Connell,
New Ross, Co Wexford
What has Senate ever done for us?
Madam – In your editorial (Sunday Independent, June 9, 2013) you say that the attempt of the Government to abolish the Seanad is an act of constitutional vandalism. Maybe you’re right.
Yet your piece in its entirety gives but one aged example in support of retaining the upper house. You describe how, in the Seventies, the very able David Norris argued the case of human rights for gay people.
Leaving aside Mr Norris’s admirable representations of 40 years ago, I beg to ask, what practical good has the Senate done in its 90 years of existence? Show me the benefits brought about by this forum.
Good and decent people that most members are, they are what they are, an impotent group of wanton wasters: a liability on the taxpayer.
John McCormack,
Drogheda, Co Louth
O Bradaigh and his many parties
Madam – The question about Ruairi O Bradaigh, for me anyway, was whether he created the Judean People’s Front.
Back in the early Seventies, RTE news used to read out statements by both “Sinn Fein (Kevin Street)” and “Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place)”
(and I had to remember which was the O Bradaigh’s Provos).
And later he formed Republican Sinn Fein, just in case anybody confused him with Monarchical Sinn Fein.
The only reason Monty Python may not have used this as the basis for jokes about one-man ‘movements’ is that it would have needed a knowledge of the minutiae of Irish politics usually beyond Englishmen (fortunately for them).
Frank Desmond,
Cork city
Wedding scene far from reality
Madam – I read with interest Alison O’Riordan’s report (Sunday Independent, June 9, 2013) on Rhona Healy’s wedding to Andrew McNamara in Mullingar, Co Westmeath. I was attracted to the picture. It was downhill after that.
The wedding took place in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, which is the main church in the diocese of Meath. The description of the cathedral as a country church in a vibrant village is a bit far-fetched, especially as Mullingar is the county town of Westmeath.
I live in Ballynacargy, about 10 miles from Mullingar, and it would fit the description very well of a vibrant village in Westmeath. Maybe you could come and see the difference for yourself.
Doreen Moughty,
Ballinacargey, Co Westmeath
Catholic Kenny a real gambler
Madam – Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was a Catholic but he was not a Catholic Taoiseach. However, being a leader, he has to go against the Catholic doctrine in the case of the new Bill.
The Taoiseach should dwell on Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (power & wealth).”
You are a real gambler, Enda Kenny, and if you pull this one off I will not congratulate you.
James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary
Irish Independent

Madam – I would like to congratulate Carol Hunt (Sunday Independent, June 9, 2013) on her article regarding the shameful treatment of our less fortunate fellow citizens and the consequences of the Government’s actions which have created a hugely divided society on this small island of ours.
Also in this section
An Irish sort of logic
Points of dispute
O’Connor misses point on Bono
We sell ourselves as a caring society and yet the evidence suggests otherwise, as Ms Hunt outlined. It has been my opinion, having worked and lived abroad, that we are not deserving of our self-assessment that we are a caring nation. The salaries of politicians and bankers are frankly obscene. We must be the only country in the world where these people are paid for failure.
The actions of our leaders in continuing this austerity policy which affects the most vulnerable people is not acceptable. We are all God’s children, we all breathe the same air and we are all mortal.
We need more people like Ms Hunt to highlight the ongoing divisions in our society and therefore create a fairer and less violent society.
Barry Doyle,
Finglas Road, Dublin 11
Madam – Regarding your lead letter last Sunday, the major problem with the ancient institute of marriage is that it was set up for reasons that don’t really apply in today’s world. Unfortunately our hopelessly bureaucratic system of education only really exists to make sure that we support the current governmental system.
Such useful things as how to look after ourselves in an increasingly hostile environment – physically, financially, mentally, legally and maritally – are rarely even thought about let alone taught.
The fact that the couple mentioned had decided to get married without discussing the most fundamental parts of their future life together is tragic proof of that.
However, the system keeps the accountants, bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers and politicians well paid, so who cares about us?
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow


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