Joan, June and Sandy

18 June 2013 Joan, June and Sandy

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Lt Murray and Leslie and Pertwee returning a little the worse for wear board thw wrong ship and are carted off in chains to Forbodia. Priceless.
Another quiet day We go and see Joan, fast asleep, June upset about nothing and get a call from Sandy who will take Joan to her appointment in August.
We watch The Pallaisers Cleggie is murdered by Mr Finn?
Mary wins at scrabble and she get over 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Franca Rame
Franca Rame, the actress, who has died aged 83, was the wife, muse and collaborator of the Nobel-prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo and a formidable campaigner for feminist and radical Left-wing causes.

Franca Rame Photo: Alinari / Topfoto / ArenaPAL
5:29PM BST 17 Jun 2013
When Fo won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1997, many felt that Franca Rame deserved a share. Not only did she help with the writing of many of his irreverent, fantastical political satires, but she was also the leading lady in the various theatre companies they ran together.
An accomplished playwright in her own right, she wrote a series of feminist monologues, including All Home, Bed and Church (1977) — the title was a reference to the inferior status of Italian women, and it is now a favourite text of feminist theatre groups.
Franca Rame helped Fo write his most famous play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1970), a work, based on a real incident, which challenged Italy’s post-war establishment by accusing the police of throwing an anarchist called Giuseppe Pinelli out of the fourth floor window of a police station and then claiming it was suicide.
When another play, Mistero Buffo (1969), a critique of Church and state and the abuses of power, was shown on television, it earned Franca Rame and Fo a reprimand from the Vatican which described it as “the most blasphemous programme ever broadcast in the history of world television”.
Fo and Franca Rame paid a heavy price for their irreverence. Banned from entering America until 1984 as political undesirables, in Italy they were, variously, assaulted, denounced, censored, arrested, jailed, banned from television and subjected to death threats. In the 1970s theatres daring to show them routinely had their licences withdrawn, while the couple could not find a landlord in Milan willing to rent them an apartment.
Most horrific of all, in March 1973 Franca Rame was kidnapped off a Milan street by far-Right militants, bundled into a military truck, then slashed with razor blades, burned with cigarette butts and brutally gang-raped, before being dumped, bleeding, in a public park.
Only two months after the assault she was back on the stage with a performance called Basta con i Fascisti (“Enough now with the Fascists”). But she was so traumatised that she did not speak to anyone about the attack for several years. In 1975 she managed to tell her husband, but only in writing. Then, in Lucca in 1978, she wrote and performed The Rape, a one-woman show in which she recounted her ordeal in harrowing detail. It was so powerful that several members of the audience fainted and Franca Rame herself was taken ill.
Many years later, in 1998, an investigating magistrate working on the terrorist outrages of the early 1970s revealed what the Fos had suspected all along: that the attack had been carried out on the orders of senior police officers infuriated by, among other things, Franca Rame’s involvement in organising a volunteer group which sent packages and provided defence lawyers to Left-wingers in custody.
There were also suggestions that the local police commander in Milan had been taking orders from his political masters, the idea being to deliver a blow against a Left-wing movement that was organising protests against the ruling Christian Democrats.
Demands for a public apology and full inquiry fell on deaf ears, however, and the instigators and perpetrators of the rape have never been punished.
Franca Rame was born at Parabiago, near Milan, on July 18 1929 into a family with a long stage tradition — they owned a theatre company called Family Drama. She made her theatrical debut at eight days old when she was carried on stage in her mother’s arms.
She never studied acting, but by the age of 18 had made her name in revue. Within a few years she found herself in the same company as Dario Fo, a young cabaret artiste known for his satirical skits. She recalled that on their first date Fo took her on a tour of Milanese churches. Fearing that he might be more interested in architecture than romance, she decided to take the initiative, pushed him up against a wall and “covered him in kisses”.
They married in 1954, and four years later they founded the Dario Fo and Franca Rame Company, with Fo as director and playwright and Rame as actress and administrator.
Their early plays together were gentle, absurdist satires such as Corpse for Sale (1958); The Virtuous Burglar (1958); Archangels Don’t Play Pinball (1960); and Anyone Who Robs a Foot Is Lucky in Love (1961). But their work became more political in response to the revolutionary turmoil of the late 1960s.
Rejecting conventional theatre as bourgeois, in 1968, with support from the Italian Communist Party (which Franca, though not Fo, had joined in 1967), they founded the cooperative theatre Nuova Scena and began producing more politically radical works. However, the party rapidly withdrew its support after the staging of Grand Pantomime with Flags and Small and Medium-sized Puppets, a satire on Italy’s post-war history, which featured Capitalism, portrayed as a beautiful woman, seducing Communism.
In 1970 they co-founded their own militant theatre group, La Comune, in Milan and subsequently moved into the Palazzina Liberty, a disused fruit and vegetable market that became a favourite meeting place for the Milanese Left. In 1974 Franca Rame starred in Fo’s Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! as a housewife who leads other women on a supermarket shoplifting spree. It was Fo’s first feminist play, and it inspired Franca Rame to begin to write her own sketches.
Feminism was central to much of their subsequent work together. In Medea (1977), a feminist take on the Euripides tragedy, the heroine makes a conscious choice to kill her children to throw off the yoke of a male-dominated society. An Open Couple (1982) was a reflection on the ups and downs of their own “open” marriage, exposing male double-standards about fidelity.
When Fo won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1997, he dedicated it to his wife and together they gave most of the prize money to charities working with the disabled.
In 2006 Franca Rame surprised all her friends by standing for parliament and was elected to the Italian Senate for the Italy of Values anti-corruption party. But she resigned two years later, expressing frustration with the inertia of Italy’s political system.
Franca Rame is survived by her husband and by their son, the writer Jacopo Fo.
Franca Rame, born July 18 1928, died May 29 2013


Let us not get too distracted by Rupert Murdoch’s marital issues (From serenade to separation, 14 June) so as to ignore the reports that, following the reorganisation of News Corp into two divisions, he is once again contemplating a takeover of BSkyB. In that context, Harriet Harman’s announcement that she is committed to tackling the stranglehold of a handful of giant media corporations on public life is especially welcome, as is her support for ownership caps, so that no single voice is able to dominate our media landscape.
For far too long, three or four media houses with pro-austerity and anti-EU agendas have been allowed to accrue power and influence because no politician has dared to stand in their way. Turkey provides a salutary lesson for what happens when media power works hand in hand with government. In the last few weeks, a few private media corporations with close connections to the government simply chose not to broadcast the anti-government protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities and instead showed cooking programmes and documentaries on penguins.
Our attention in the UK has rightly been focused in the last years on the best way to secure an ethical and accountable news media. Now we need to expand that focus to make sure that we also tackle the root of the problem: a system of ownership that undermines democracy and excludes millions of ordinary people who never see their lives or opinions reflected in the mainstream media. We need an open discussion about media ownership that is not suffocated by the self-interest of the media corporations at the heart of the problem.
Des Freedman
Chair, Media Reform Coalition

Last September, the government made it a criminal offence to squat unoccupied in residential buildings. This move came at a time of a major housing crisis: there are around 1 million unoccupied or empty homes in the UK and homelessness is growing. Squatting is one of Britain’s oldest forms of tenancies and communities and political movements have grown up around it. There are now signs that the government is seeking to extend this criminalisation beyond the residential sector (Report, 6 June). We are alarmed by the prospect of such legislation, which we believe may criminalise legitimate forms of direct action. Campus and workplace occupations have played a pivotal role in the union and student movements, and at a time of austerity and massive assaults on education and the welfare state, this government is trying to criminalise resistance by the back door. We urge the government to drop these plans, and we will support workers and students in fighting them.
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS
Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Linda Riordan MP
John McDonnell MP
Toni Pearce NUS president-elect
Dannielle Grufferty NUS vice-president
Michael Chessum University of London Union President
Gordon Maloney NUS Scotland president-elect
Patrick Murphy NUT national executive
Rachel Wenstone NUS vice-president
Pete Mercer NUS vice-president

Carers like Debra Claridge are not alone in fighting for decent carers’ wages (Tagged, harassed, underpaid: the uncared-for carers, 14 June). On International Workers Day, we launched a petition demanding a living wage for mothers and other carers. People spoke of the millions facing neglect as the welfare state is dismantled. Privatisation, hospital closures, workfare and the pernicious targeting of mothers and sick, disabled or elderly people as a problem because we are “workless” or “live longer” have devalued care and all who need it. 
Benefits cuts have two sharp edges: they ensure slave wages because people made destitute can’t afford to refuse them. Carers are poorer and care companies richer. Mothers thrown off income support are worried about earning enough to cover childcare, provided by another low-paid mother. A “good” mother goes out to work, regardless of pay, working conditions or the effect on the children. Stacking shelves is real work, more important than raising human beings. Some impoverished mothers lose everything, their children fostered (£489 a week) or put into care homes (£2,428 a week). A grandmother in our network is distraught that, even before her grandchild was born, social services favoured fostering and adoption over helping the young mother to cope. 
Six million people in the UK (one in 10) care for a sick, disabled or older person. Some kinship carers get an insulting £59.75 a week; most get nothing. 
We agree that “care staff do a vital job of work, so should be rewarded accordingly” (Letters, 15 June). And so should mothers and kinship carers. We carers are all in this together.
Selma James and Nina Lopez
Global Women’s Strike, London
• While I was pleased to have been featured in your article on care, the point which I really wanted to highlight was that the government needs to take action against these rogue employers which do not pay community care workers for travel as required by the national minimum wage law. These private care companies are fully aware that they are breaking the law and are lining their own pockets by stealing from their employees’ already meagre wages. By continuing to turn a blind eye, this government and previous governments are complicit in this crime.
Decisive action needs to be taken to implement a rigorous system or legislation that ensures that these corrupt companies can no longer underpay their workers or deprive the government of tax revenue either. After all, why should the onus be on the individual care worker to put their head above the parapet and challenge their employer. Surely it would not be difficult for this government and Norman Lamb, the minister for care, to ensure that councils that give out contracts to private care companies ensure that these companies adhere to the national miniumum wage law.
Debra Claridge
Kingswinford, West Midlands
• I can’t believe I’ve just read a long article about low-paid carers without the real cause of the problem being mentioned: it is, of course, privatisation. Before home care services were contracted out, almost all care staff worked for local councils and enjoyed the benefits of unionisation and negotiated pay and conditions. None were paid below the minimum wage, and it really was a public service. It is the efforts of successive governments in insisting on more work at less cost that continues to wreck the lives of both carers and clients.
Mike Scott
• We are a 100% employee-owned care company and so any profits that are made remain within the company in order that we can maintain our standards and reward our 300 partners. Nevertheless, we struggle to pay the bulk of our workforce the living wage because of the contract under which we have to work: we are paid only for what we provide, so nothing when a hospital admission occurs, nothing for travel time and a contracted rate that is half what it costs the statutory sector to provide the service themselves. At a time when public services are under huge financial pressure, it is vital that the lives of older people are protected and that the quality of care at home is strengthened, but the system has to be reviewed so that some of the worst excesses can be addressed.
Stephen Pennington
Highland Home Carers, Inverness 

We are writing because we are concerned that the government has backtracked on previous commitments to cap the interest rates on payday loans (Loosen rules for credit unions, says thinktank, 17 June). In November last year we, along with the then Bishop of Durham, moved an amendment in the House of Lords to the financial services bill, designed to curb the costs of payday lending. At the government’s strong urging, we withdrew that amendment, based on its assurances that it shared our concerns and that it would replace our amendment with one that was more comprehensive and more effective. This it did.
Since then, payday lending activities have run rampant, as the House of Commons public accounts committee has recently demonstrated. The combination of a tightening economic environment and the recent cut in benefits has meant that many more people are being caught in the credit net and driven into the willing hands of these companies, which no matter how hard they try to upgrade their image, are still legalised loan sharks.
What distresses us is the almost indifferent approach of the government to this crisis. Earlier this year an oral question was asked in the House of Lords (by Lord Mitchell) as to what the government was doing to curb excessive lending rates charged by payday lenders. The response was that a capping of interest rates for payday lenders would not be the best way of solving the problems that consumers are facing in the market at present.
We are staggered by the government’s seeming indifference to this issue, and by the reversal of its position – doing nothing is not an option. We call again for action to be taken now to cap payday loan interest rates, ban advertising and enforce even the limited powers which the Office of Fair Trading has at its disposal.
Lord Mitchell Shadow business minister
Baroness Grey-Thompson
Baroness Howe of Idlicote
House of Lords

A Médecins Sans Frontières doctor says she sees people every day prescribed inappropriate drugs (Letters, 14 June). Most buy their antibiotics over the counter. They don’t need prescriptions to get the drugs. I visit family in Spain and friends in Cyprus regularly. I buy the antibiotics I need in pharmacies and cheap they are too.
Roger Evans
• Brian Haw died two years ago today – just a few months after he was forced by ill health to leave his 10-year peace camp in Parliament Square. In Whitstable, where Brian lived as a teenager, a campaign has been launched to put a memorial peace bench on the beach. Peace vouchers are now on sale throughout the town to fund this. A plaque was considered (Letters, 13 June). However, the bench, with its view out to sea and towards the town’s beautiful sunsets, will more effectively encourage peaceful reflection and promote “jaw not war” as Brian Haw would have wanted.
Richard Stainton
Whitstable, Kent
• Sadly, some cliches are under-utilised these days (Letters, 17 June). I really preferred the truth when it was unvarnished.
Christopher Osborne
West Bridgford, Nottingham
• I was sorry to read about Adele’s “groaning awards cabinet” (Caption story, 15 June); I hope it recovers soon.
Juliette Eyre
• We don’t have any “plain or ordinary” murders any more. Most are “brutal” or “callous”. I don’t suppose its possible to have a “sensitive” one.
Joe Kelly
• We’re blissfully unaware of cliché issues out here in the leafy suburbs.
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames
• Last year we were warned of the invasion of the super-slug. Is it me or has anyone else noticed their scarcity this year? I have yet to see even one, and snails are evident only from empty shells left by thrushes.
Terri Green
Langley, Warwickshire

I know I’m expected to be shocked and horrified at the revelation that the UK spied on its allies at the two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 (Reports, 17 June) – and in many ways of course I am. But I have to admit to a more complex reaction as well. I found it strangely, almost childishly pleasing that our intelligence services have been able to mount such a sophisticated operation, evidently at the cutting edge of such things. It was even more gratifying to see that, for once, when we discover what is “really” going on behind the scenes, we find the spooks have been piling enthusiastically behind an entirely democratic and progressive project.
The Spycatcher revelations in the 1980s showed the intelligence services set on undermining Harold Wilson’s Labour governments. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to see GCHQ getting so strongly behind Gordon Brown’s key G20 aims of co-ordinating global economic recovery and reforming international financial institutions. Brown’s role in promoting the $1tn stimulus package was critical in staving off global economic catastrophe and it seems that some of the credit for that success should go to the intelligence community, cast in the surprising role as secret promoters of Keynesian economics. Of course none of this should detract from the importance of the Guardian’s revelations or the need for a full debate about how intelligence gathering can be held accountable in a democratic society.
Giles Oakley
• Congratulations on continuing the spy disclosures, with your latest issue illustrated with some of Menwith’s radomes. So at last that name is mentioned. We congratulate the courageous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, but why is it that the courageous campaigning by women who cut their way into the base and came out with proof of what this base was doing did not get this kind of coverage? How can we call ourselves a democracy when the efforts by our own citizens for decades – women who camped through all seasons outside this US base on British soil – did not rattle the House of Commons? This base monitors the whole of the northern hemisphere and therefore has always had access to US citizens. We still need campaigners who put their feet on the ground in addition to using the internet.
Anna Cheetham and Caroline Moles
Leicester CND
• Why did I feel afraid for the Guardian staff who provided this information – also for the Guardian itself for publishing it? The UK is supposed to be a free democracy, isn’t it? I also feel afraid for Edward Snowden and the other whistleblowers in the US. What is going to happen to them? Once we were told that the UK was a land of the free, but it is no longer true, is it?
Joyce Morgan
• I’m very amused by your front-page story. I always work on the assumption that if I am doing my dissenter’s job properly, there’s a possibility that someone could be monitoring me. It’s good to imagine the apoplexy induced in those who thought they were the ones doing the spying. Maybe they’ll now have to resort to carrier pigeons.
Caroline Westgate
Hexham, Northumberland



The British and French governments should concentrate their efforts on supporting international efforts to bring the different sides in Syria together. Instead, they seem bent on a similar intervention to that which, masquerading as protecting civilians, bombed Gaddafi from power.
We would be naive if we supposed that we could impose instant democracy on Syria. Free elections would see political parties formed on communal lines and the rising to the surface of tensions that have been until the present largely quiescent. The ruling Ba’athist, secular Syrian government is authoritarian, but has worked well – save for the 1982 uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood – in maintaining a reasonable harmony among Syria’s mosaic of peoples and religions.
Nor is it fair to vilify the Assads to the degree that British media have been doing. Unlike Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and his father Hafez before him, have not conspicuously enriched themselves, and have worked hard in the service of their country; and not only of their country – any foreign leaders from the West visiting Hafez al-Assad were sure to be at the receiving end of a long lecture on the right of Arabs generally, including Palestinians, to resist Israel.
As with any authoritarian government, unhappily, the present Syrian government’s power is maintained by a pampered security apparatus who are, as much as the Assad inner circle, now fighting for their existence. But the answer lies through negotiating an end to the civil war and in the establishment of a government of national unity, not in stoking up the fighting or, worse, intervening to overthrow the government and parade our military hardware as we did in Libya. 
John Roderick Walters
How refreshing to receive a lecture on human rights from Vladimir Putin. Without weapons and support from his government the Syrian regime might never have sunk to the depths where it became feasible for the rebels to “eat the guts of their enemies on camera”.
And how galling that the conclusion of his argument is probably undeniable: that for the West now to supply military aid to the rebels would be tantamount to pouring petrol on the conflagration.
Ian Bartlett
East Molesey, Surrey
Labour opts  out of state education
So now the Labour Party, according to Stephen Twigg, is abdicating responsibility for state education. Freeing all schools to behave like academies looks like another Goveian step towards privatising state education.
It is all very well for private schools to set out their aims and objectives in a prospectus – however eccentric those aims and objectives may be – and for the parents to pay to have those aims and objectives visited upon their children. It is an entirely different matter for taxpayers to fund aims and objectives which are not moderate or well founded and which do not embrace material suitable for the entire ability range.
Formulating a curriculum for state education is an onerous task, yet the future prosperity of Britain depends upon it. Academies and free schools are a cowardly cop-out which absolves ministers from thinking hard about what education is really about.
Stephen Twigg’s statement is, I fear, all about politics and not about education.
David McKaigue
Question: Under Stephen Twigg’s new proposals, when is a national curriculum not a national curriculum? Answer: when it’s a national curriculum.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Honours prop  up the elite
Every year the Queen’s Birthday honours list throws up its usual crop of socialist hypocrites and capitalist scoundrels, with a smattering of the genuinely deserving in the lower ranks to give it credibility. And this year is no different.
Among Labour Party supporters whose socialist principles have been compromised are Tony Robinson (Baldrick) and TUC leader Brendan Barber. Moral corruption and “cunning plans” are not confined to Blackadder.
Among the unholy alliance of the Labour Party with the Establishment are bankers and tax-avoiding chief executives who have brought this country to its knees, increased inequality and damaged social justice.  Anyone with a scrap of social conscience would not wish to be associated with them. Certainly not sincere socialists,
The honours system is an anachronism whose purpose is not to recognise outstanding achievement but to sustain an undemocratic, monarchist Establishment. Once admitted to this elitist club, its members are given a disproportionate influence over society, making “one man, one vote” democracy a joke. The House of Lords is already overflowing with unelected capitalists and each year the honours list adds more to swell the ranks of the Establishment.
If anything needs reform this is it. It would eliminate one reason used by the monarchy to justify its undemocratic privileges, and prevent political hypocrites and Establishment sycophants from gaining social elevation and status they don’t deserve.
Malcolm Naylor
Otley,  West Yorkshire
The honours system has been so devalued in recent years that I no longer refer to any knight as “Sir”.
Brian Rushton
Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire
A disastrous  decision in 1914
Andreas Whittam Smith (15 June) neatly summarises Sir Edward Grey’s justification for going to war in 1914 – “he had no alternative but to honour the terms of the alliance with France” – but thereby perpetuates the myth, and Grey’s mistaken belief, that Britain had to fight Germany on France’s behalf. We did not.
First, the “alliance with France” was no such thing. Traditionally, British policy had, unless directly attacked, been one of non-intervention in Europe. The 1904 “entente cordiale” was originally a loose military agreement between France and Britain, but under Grey it was allowed, secretly, to grow into what he held to be an alliance. Many in the Cabinet in 1914 were unaware of just how entrenched Anglo-French relations had become.
Second, Grey’s explicit reason for going to war in 1914 was to uphold the neutrality of Belgium, which Britain had guaranteed in 1839. It was that treaty which Grey felt bound to “honour” in 1914, although previous governments had been prepared to ignore such obligations.
The question then turns to why exactly we had to fight to uphold the chivalric notion of “honour”, a word which Grey used repeatedly in July and August 1914. After all, France and Germany had gone to war in 1870, and we hadn’t intervened then. The Germans even won, and there was little sign that another German victory in 1914 would, in the long-term, directly threaten Britain’s interests. Kaiser Bill was no Hitler.
Did Britain really have to suffer 2.3 million casualties, bankrupt herself and hasten the loss of her empire, simply to preserve her honour? The fact that the answer is no, and that Grey’s decision to enter the war was the single most disastrous foreign policy decision in British history, should be reflected in any “celebrations” this August. 
Dr Bendor Grosvenor
London W1
Ethical clash in the middle lane
This claptrap about driving in the middle lane has nothing to do with road safety or congestion. It is about doing as you are told, something that we Brits are particularly sensitive about. I imagine that Tony Woods’ friend Bubs (letter, 17 June) puts the fear of God into drivers as he “gets them to move into the correct lane” – they probably fear an attack by a Hells Angel if they don’t.
Charlie Coultas
(middle lane driver)
Tony Woods’ friend Bubs exhibits the arrogance typical of many motorcyclists who believe they have a God-given right to “punish” other road users. It is not amusing; it is simply bad and dangerous behaviour.
Colin Waugh
Teignmouth, Devon
Why we don’t  pay more tax
James Moore (“Consumer the loser as investors hold whip hand”, 11 June) says Thames Water sees paying corporation tax as “entirely optional” and as “a voluntary levy.” This is simply not the case.
The Government’s capital allowances, which have existed since 1878, provide tax relief on investment. Their aim is to encourage firms to invest, and to boost the economy as a whole.
As Thames Water spends £1bn a year upgrading its old networks, these allowances have deferred the payment of corporation tax to future years. The Government says it expects companies to use these allowances, which are applied automatically when they file their tax returns.
Stuart Siddall
Chief Finance Officer
Thames Water
Zany dandies  are back
John Walsh misjudges the Chaps when he calls their style Edwardian (“Is the Great British dandy an endangered species?” 17 June). Their zanily eclectic  style is culled from four decades from the early 1920s on, not the Edwardian period.
But he may have a point in saying that true dandies seldom follow any magazine’s dictates, no matter how witty. And he is spot-on in suggesting that the revival in the sales of cravats and waistcoats shows a resurgence in the dandy spirit.
Nigel Rodgers
Berwick St James, Wiltshire
Charity fatigue
This month so far, I have been asked to save Lifeboats, Great Ormond Street children, Progressio, Ethiopiaid, donkeys, Air Ambulance, Macmillan Nurses (more than once) and to get a Barclaycard. Cancer Research sent me a sheet of nametags and a book of raffle tickets with my surname mis-spelt, which I returned.
I can’t help feeling, in my confused 82-year-old way, that an incredible amount of money must be spent doing this.
Yvette Sfakianos
Bodily harm
Regarding the subject of female genital mutilation (letter, 17 June), stop calling it FMG and give it the correct title of GBH, which is exactly what it is.
Sue Thomas
Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


‘Equality of opportunity is achieved by giving the brightest students from all backgrounds a helping hand, not by levelling them down’
Sir, You report (June 13) that comprehensive schools are failing their brightest pupils. From my experience of going through the comprehensive system, schools are fixated on achieving arbitrary targets. Resources are directed to students who are on the borders of C and D grades, meaning those who are going to achieve government targets do not receive the attention that they deserve. Talent then is not fully nurtured and students are not motivated to achieve their true potential.
If a student has innate motivation or is pushed by their parents, they can and do achieve the best grades in a comprehensive school. I ended up at the University of York and the system did not hold me and many others back, but it does for those who do need a good push in the right direction.
Equality of opportunity is achieved by giving the brightest students from all backgrounds a helping hand, not by levelling them down in a mixed ability system.
James A. Paton
Billericay, Essex
Sir, I was dismayed to see that the evidence supplied for the fact that some comprehensive schools are failing brighter pupils was the number of level 5 pupils not getting the top two grades.
Having taught maths in a secondary school, I am not convinced that all the level 5 pupils are actually level 5 when they arrive at secondary school. Often after we test them in the first week these level 5 pupils come out level 4 or in some cases level 3. These level 5s are either based on SATS in year 6, which pupils are very well prepared for, or by teacher assessment. Perhaps an exam at the beginning of secondary school would give a more accurate level for each pupil?
Brett Prevost
Swindon, Wilts
Sir, Surely after 50 years of comprehensive schools there should be a debate about the effectiveness of this 1960s experiment in “togetherness”. There must by now be evidence as to whether the able well-behaved pupil is the whisky in the water, improving the whole drink, or whether the unable and/or disruptive pupil is the rotten apple corrupting the whole barrel.
T. H. C. Noon
Cadeleigh, Devon
Sir, All children have a right to the best possible education. Comprehensive schools deny this right to bright children. They leave bright children bored and undereducated. Because bright children stand out educationally, they are bullied, mocked and pressured to underachieve in order to fit in. Furthermore, bright children are more likely to share similar out of school interests, so with a smaller number of bright children in each school they are less likely to find friends.
Thus comprehensive schools cause bright children to have less good lives and contribute less to the country than they otherwise would. I cannot understand why Tory MPs praise Mr Gove for tinkering with a failed system when with a single bold stroke he could do so much good — free schools to select their pupils.
Dan Dennis
Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford

If the arguments here are ‘exactly the same’ as the ones over Iraq, then the details of the Chilcot inquiry should be published first
Sir, It is a matter of deep concern that Tony Blair has thrown his weight behind Western intervention in Syria (report and interview, June 15). He even admits that the issues in Syria are “exactly the arguments we went through over Iraq”. One suspects that successful intervention in Sierra Leone and Kosovo seduced him into thinking that the same thing would work in Afghanistan and Iraq. Has David Cameron been similarly blinded by Libya, and now thinks that the Middle East will respond to the same medicine?
Chris Todhunter
Stowmarket, Suffolk
Sir, It is of the utmost importance and relevance that the details of the Chilcot inquiry should be concluded and published before Mr Cameron and Parliament consider President Obama’s call for our engagement in Syria. Furthermore, to suggest that this country’s hesitation and bungling in Bosnia is in any way similar to the tragic situation in Syria today is disingenuous and dangerously misleading.
Amy Wade
Benenden, Kent

There were advantages to being one of the ‘baby boomer’ generation, but there were disadvantages too, as these readers explain
Sir, Matthew Parris (Opinion, June 15) should know better. As a pensioner I object to being likened to a “mugger”. I did get a grant to go to university — I was “awarded” it and then I did work hard to get a good degree.
My partner and I sold our ancient car to help to buy a small terraced house with no bathroom — we didn’t have aspirations, we had lino on the floor and second-hand furniture. The expectations of today’s young are a far cry from this. We worked our way up the property ladder and “made do” and we saved along the way. So we may be reaping the benefits but our children will eventually reap these too. We had no such help from our parents.
Today’s young should stop bleating, toughen up and get on with it.
Islay Jamieson
Chelmsford, Essex
Sir, Matthew Parris forgets that an important group are over 80 and many of them were participants in a world war which saved the nation from invasion. They then loyally paid their taxes for more than 40 years.
They deserve, and are grateful for, all that the State awards them. Many are not in the best of health and perhaps deserve more from the NHS. None should be called “muggers”.
John Carder
Anstruther, Fife
Sir, Were the teenage woman who accused members of the Millbank Club as having had unfair university education advantage to be transported back to the early 1950s, she would most likely have not been offered a university place at all (only 5 per cent of school leavers went on to university). But if she were so lucky, she would find the grant aid less generous than envisaged. Although there were no course fees, the grant for all other expenses for those whose family income was even only modestly above average fell away rapidly. My annual grant was £27, equal to two weeks’ wages on graduation, and barely enough for textbooks.
Brian Parker
Dartmouth, Devon
Sir, The biggest faultline in our politics will increasingly be generational and not class. In answer to Matthew Parris’s question about why the young are not revolting, it is because they are not yet aware to the extent to which they have been “mugged”.
Only when this generation move into their 40s and start to cast an anxious eye on their likely retirement income and compare this enviously with their parents’ income will the penny drop. It will be a pivotal moment.
Henry Edward-Bancroft
Grayshott, Hants
Sir, Although I agree with much of what he writes, my recollection of the time during which Mr Parris and I grew up differs. I recall that many 10-year-olds were written off as unsuited to an academic education, many left school at 15 with the barest qualifications, and few went to university. I was lucky to share the privileges to which he refers, but I have not forgotten how much luckier I was than most of my contemporaries.
Tim Andrew
Macclesfield, Cheshire

The spread of TB between species via inhalation is only one part of a complex epidemiology — simple comparisons do not work
Sir, Matt Ridley’s article on badger culling (Opinion, June 13) was welcome and balanced. Even if, as John Batten points out (letter, June 14), high densities of cattle and badgers risk more bovine cases, there is no point in maintaining an infected wildlife reservoir population of badgers while reducing cattle numbers by tuberculin or blood testing and culling reactors. Moreover Mr Batten’s observation that TB is spread between the species via inhalation is only a part of the complex epidemiology.
Bovine tubercle bacilli are excreted in various body fluids, especially badger urine, and while badgers use latrines to defaecate they urinate on the move and the bacilli can survive for at least two years in pasture and even silage. The principal route of infection in cattle is via ingestion to involve lymph nodes in the pharynx and then spread further via the lymphatic chain to other parts of the body, including the udder and thereby infecting milk. We cannot make simple comparisons between the spread of bovine TB and human TB.
Tim Udall
Retired veterinary surgeon
Crewkerne, Somerset

It may be the case that a painting with a ‘happy’ model might be worth more financially, but that is rarely the artist’s main interest
Sir, Mr Philip Hook of Sotheby’s considers that had a woman Matisse painted been smiling rather than “frowning”, the painting would probably have “quadrupled” in price (“First choose a beautiful sitter: rules that can send the value of a painting sky high”, June 15). He adds : “Sometimes the negligence of painters in these matters strikes one as staggering.”
What strikes me as “staggering” is that Mr Hook appears to believe that artists are always motivated by monetary gain. Auctioneers may be, but not painters.
Giles Swannell


SIR – I heartily endorse Patrick Maddams’s comments on wonderful Romania (Letters, June 14).
Several of us have spent a week in each of the last three years helping an enthusiastic group of Romanian railway restoration volunteers in the stunningly beautiful region of Transylvania.
First-class accommodation in the small town of Agnita, near Sibiu, costs a mere £18 bed and breakfast. The food is fantastic and the people welcoming and cheerful.
It is just a pity that the Romanian Government doesn’t do more to encourage the initiative shown by our Romanian colleagues in their efforts to restore a narrow-gauge railway in a region crying out for tourism.
David Allan
Eastham, Wirral

SIR – Once more, the Prime Minister and the American President’s motivation to enter the Syrian fray is “regime change”. The costly disaster of Iraq, where the same factional fighting continues, is ignored. In Libya, the same is sadly true, and in Afghanistan we prop up a corrupt factional state.
It is said that sarin (nerve gas) has been used by both sides. As a former chemical warfare “expert”, I’d point out that the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning can be easily reproduced with any organophosphate (such as fly spray) in concentration. The most common way of spreading sarin is by aerosol spray from aircraft or specialised artillery shell. Let’s see the evidence,
No country has any right to force regime change on another. The problems in Syria have become wholly religious-tribal. To side with one against another where we will always be seen as the “infidel” will never enhance the West’s standing. On the contrary it will heighten hatred.
The best that we can do is offer passive help to all the surrounding states. If David Cameron were to coordinate this, it would be his opportunity to be a statesman.
Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France
Related Articles
Railway enthusiasts take the Transylvania train
17 Jun 2013
SIR – Rebecca Goldsmith (Letters, 15 June) describes the Syrian civil war as “none of our business”. I fail to see how the killing of women and children by the Syrian Government is not any of our business.
In this globalised world, regardless of any neo-colonial rhetoric, the West must have a moral obligation to undertake humanitarian intervention. If we do not intervene in preventing chemical attacks on the people of Syria, then who will?
Edward Bunn
Newcastle University
Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne
SIR – With regard to the Iraq war, we are still in the dark as to the motivation of Tony Blair in supporting President George Bush in the invasion. The extraordinary delay in the Chilcot inquiry reporting its findings has contributed to this obfuscation.
Can we be certain about the motivation of any of the world leaders in deciding whether or not to lend aid to the opposition forces in Syria?
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – US arms created the Taliban as a force to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the Eighties. Now US arms will create a guerrilla force to fight in Syria.
Dr Michael Paraskos
London SE27
SIR – I am 63 years old. I have never been involved in a street protest about anything, but if the British Government decides to get involved in the war in Syria, I will take to the streets and throw a stone at somebody.
Neil Turner
Farnborough, Hampshire
The joy of tax
SIR – David Cameron plans a show of competitiveness by cutting corporate-tax rates, to attract companies to Britain through perfectly legal tax planning that these same companies have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to implement, but for which he simultaneously condemns all other countries.
Jeremy Mallin
Knowle, Warwickshire
SIR – Many tax havens have few other serious sources of revenue beyond providing financial services. These small countries absolutely depend on such business. They have no reason to join any international agreement which threatened to destroy their primary source of income.
The cynical attitude to tax in highly taxed countries like Britain would moderate if governments weren’t seen to be wastrels. According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, more than £120 billion was wasted by the British Government last year alone – almost enough to wipe out the deficit altogether.
Tax havens act as a discipline on profligate governments, and quite right too.
Ashley Mote
Binsted, Hampshire
Misleading surgical outcomes
SIR – In Britain, doctors, and surgeons in particular, have an enviable record of transparency (Letters, June 15). Look at any college or specialist association website.
The lack of transparency lies not with surgeons but rather with our political masters. The furore over outcomes distracts from much that is wrong with the NHS, and conveniently ignores our guiding principle: always to act in the patients’ best interests. It is not in the patients’ best interest to publish misleading data.
John MacFie FRCS
Past President, Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Too few tanks
SIR – Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, calls for more defence cuts because, in his words, there are more horses than tanks in the Army.
He should not need reminding that British service personnel are serving and dying for this country as he speaks and he should choose his words more carefully. If there are fewer tanks than horses, it is because the cuts have gone too far, not because they have not gone far enough.
Rev David Ackerman
London W10
Beware of Britain
SIR – It has come to something when, rather than close the door on unrestricted EU migration, the Government instead advises those who might arrive without a job (report, June 15) that, should they resort to sleeping rough on the streets, they risk serious assault.
Colin Laverick
London WC2
Clarrie’s new looks
SIR – There is no doubt in my mind that since her recent “voice change” Clarrie can only be a slightly cross Pam Ayres.
Peter Burroughs
Felpham, West Sussex
SIR – Discussion of Archers characters (Letters, June 15) makes me wonder what would happen if the BBC decided to remove them permanently from the air. Can your readers enlighten me?
Dr Andrew Crawshaw
Mevagissey, Cornwall
Young driver casualties
SIR – In 2011, 2,485 people aged 16-25 were killed or seriously injured while driving a car or as a passenger of another young car-driver. Yet successive governments have failed to take decisive action to stop this tragic loss of young lives.
Deaths and injuries involving young drivers can be prevented by reforming the way they learn to drive and establish themselves as safe drivers. International evidence demonstrates that pre-test and post-test restrictions, along with a minimum learning period, dramatically reduce casualties.
We welcome the Government’s interest in improving young driver safety and call on it to seize the opportunity of its forthcoming Green Paper. We need a public debate about the combination of changes to the testing and training system that has the best chance of making roads safer for young people and everyone else.
Otto Thoresen
Director General
Association of British Insurers
Chief Constable Suzette Davenport
Roads Policing Lead
Association of Chief Police Officers
Julie Townsend
Deputy Chief Executive
Brake, The Road Safety Charity
Dr Sarah J Jones
Environmental Health Protection Department
Cardiff University
James Evans
Founder, FirstCar magazine
Milly Wastie
Chairman, National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs
David Davies
Executive Director, Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety
Richard Owen
Director, Road Safety Analysis
London EC2
Drink problem
SIR – Your correspondent from the Natural Hydration Council (Letters, June 15) was correct in stating that plastic bottles used for bottled water in Britain do not contain Bisphenol A. But she confirmed my concern, as somebody who avoids foodstuffs packaged in plastic, that the plastic contains phthalates. I shall happily keep drinking tap water.
Simon Mallett
Lenham, Kent
SIR – I had never realised there was such a thing as the Natural Hydration Council. Are we now so ill-informed as to require a council to tell how us to drink water?
John Sutherland
Uxbridge Middlesex
Profumo scandal’s Stephen Ward was working for MI5
SIR – It is unlikely that Christine Keeler ever had an affair with Yevgeny Ivanov and extremely unlikely that she ever delivered anything for the Foreign Office (Letters, June 14).
Stephen Ward (my uncle) never had any dealings with the Foreign Office. His were confined to MI5, advising one of its case officers of Ivanov’s conduct. MI5’s silence at his trial is perhaps not surprising as it is essentially a secret service.
It has always been clear that my uncle never lived off Miss Keeler’s or anyone else’s immoral earnings. Witnesses in his trial were put under appalling pressure to lie by the police, at the instigation of Conservative politicians, primarily the Home Secretary. The police told Ward’s friends that if they gave evidence in his favour, life would be made difficult.
Most disgracefully, this stitch-up of my uncle was completed by the highest judiciary in the land. At the time of Stephen Ward’s trial, the Lucky Gordon appeal was being heard. The kernel of his case was that Miss Keeler had given false evidence and had never been assaulted by him. (The appeal was allowed and Miss Keeler later went to prison for perjury.)
The jury in Ward’s trial should have been told of this. Instead the judge, Mr Justice Marshall, dishonestly asserted that Miss Keeler’s evidence could still be relied on. It was a sad and bad business, followed up by the Denning Report that did little credit to that great jurist, an essentially unworldly but prurient old man.
Michael Ward
Silton, Dorset
SIR – Stephen Ward was an osteopath of talent, as my father, one of his patients, would readily have testified. Dr Ward was also an accomplished artist, whose work found favour in the top echelons of society. His tragedy may be that he was no match for the Machiavellian manoeuvrings of the high society in which he aspired to move.
Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – I attended the new primary school official opening in Enfield, Co Meath on Friday. A joyous occasion for everyone who had worked tirelessly for many years to achieve this.
A joyous occasion also for all the pupils who had written comments such as awesome, spacious, light, and happy in the ceremony booklet about their new school.
The school was officially opened by Bishop Michael Smith, and by Enda Kenny.
The ceremony was to take place at the going-home time for the junior and senior infants (four to six years old) and the rest of the school pupils were assembled to witness the event.
A handful of pro-life protesters with banners had congregated at the entrance to the school, capitalising on the visit by An Taoiseach and two other TDs.
I absolutely support anyone’s right to protest – thankfully we live in a democracy.
I do however feel it is utterly inappropriate for anyone to have graphic images of terminated foetuses on display at the entrance to a primary school as such young pupils were leaving.
Such actions will not progress anyone’s cause, and may indeed have the opposite effect on adults who may have had sympathy for the position of the protesters prior to that.
We regulate and protect our children from graphic and inappropriate video, game, and sexual content. In the worst days of the Troubles protesters against the men of violence did not show graphic images of knee-cappings or torture.
On Friday, as the children were hurried away from their wonderful new school on a day of celebration, I was reminded of the awful scenes in Belfast years ago of school children having to run the gauntlet against sectarianism.
I suggest that the pro-life movement needs to consider the impact of such actions at any rally in the future, or that legislation is brought in to do so in such situations. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Having watched the RTÉ News, covering the attendance of An Taoiseach at the unveiling of a memorial to the late Gen Sean McEoin, (June 16th), and observed An Taoiseach’s “security people”, pushing “pro-life” protesters away from him, the media presence and, more importantly, the RTÉ cameras, it would appear to me that An Taoiseach and his “people” show much more respect to the dead than to those protecting the rights of the living. This exercise characterises the continuing bullying approach of this Government. If this happened in any other country, the people would be on the streets. Wake up Ireland! – Yours, etc,
Main Street,
Bundoran, Co Donegal.
Sir, – The undignified behaviour of members of the Pro-life Movement in Ballinalee, Co Longford, on Sunday last, did neither themselves nor their cause any credit.
As citizens of a democratic state they undoubtedly have the right to peaceful and free expression of their views. But likewise the people of Ballinalee had the right to celebrate in a dignified manner their most famous son, Gen Sean MacEoin, a local and national hero. This right was denied them by the heckling and jeers of 200 protesters against government policy on abortion.
Whatever my own views on that issue, I find it very hard to have sympathy with a group which seems to think that its cause overrides all other considerations and allows it to ride roughshod over the results of a community’s hard work and the feelings of the MacEoin family members. – Yours, etc,
JANET M CATTERALL (Reverend Canon),
Church of Ireland Rector of Ballinalee,
The Belfry, Longford.

Sir, – After just spending the best part of an hour stuck on a bus because of traffic disruption in Dublin, I discover it was all because Michelle Obama and her two daughters are staying in the Shelbourne Hotel on Monday night.
While I welcome all private citizens of foreign countries taking their holidays in Ireland, I do think that our hospitality could at the least be reciprocated by such guests having the consideration to stay somewhere outside of the city centre. That way their, some would say, excessive security demands could be met while allowing the rest of us get on with our lives.
Closing streets for a visitor with no formal official function, and her teenagers, is totally over the top. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I look forward to seeingThe Irish Times special commemorative magazine on Wednesday, June 19th.
In 1963, after carefully considering what gift he would bring to Ireland, JFK presented the flag of the Fighting 69th (Irish) Brigade of New York State to the joint houses of the Oireachtas.
This was “in recognition of what gallant Irishmen” had done for his country. Today, the flag remains hiding behind a curtain at the bottom of a staircase in Dáil Éireann. One has to stand half way up the stair to view it and the detail is distorted by the reflection of a chandelier in the glass.
In this year of The Gathering, wouldn’t it be appropriately displayed by the National Museum in Collins Barracks where Irish, Americans, etc, could view it? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In Olivia Kelly’s article on cycling (“On your bike”, Weekend Review, June 15th), there are photographs of 11 cyclists, only four of whom are wearing helmets and, to compound the problem, one noodle is sporting earphones!
I have lost count of the number of cyclists I have observed who are helmetless, wearing earphones or making phone calls. If cyclists (of whom I am one) want to be taken seriously when they talk about safety and the inconsiderate behaviour of motorists (of whom I am also one), wouldn’t their case carry far more weight if they were to observe basic safety precautions themselves?
Thanks to Olivia Kelly for having inadvertently highlighted these problems in her article. – Yours, etc,
Merrion Road,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – Recent commentators have urged the powers-that-be to target cyclists by setting up road blocks and applying spot fines, etc, for minor infringements of the rules of the road, such as turning left at a red light or approaching pedestrian crossings in the same way as zebra crossings.
Such minor infringements by cyclists, executed with due care and attention, have for generations been ignored by gardaí, with cyclists generally accepted as quasi-pedestrians rather than vehicles.
With responsibilities come rights and if cyclists were forced to always obey exactly the same rules as fully fledged motor vehicles, then they could claim the same rights too by “riding to rule”. For example, instead of considerately relegating themselves to cycling single-file in the gutter to allow larger, faster vehicles to pass on the outside, cyclists have every right to travel in the main lane. With a normal cruising speed of 10-20 kmph and helmet-cams mounted front and rear to record all those who drive too close, shout abuse, change lanes without indicating, speed through red lights or attempt dangerous overtaking manoeuvres, a concerted “war of the rules” campaign undertaken by even a few dozen individuals on their daily commute might quickly change the character of the current debate.
Zealously enforcing inappropriate and unrealistic laws only proves that the law is an ass. The pragmatic solution is to change the rules of the road to recognise that it is generally safe for cyclists to do many things that are unsafe for cars, and to define reasonable limits and caveats for safe road use by cyclists that are transparent to all. – Yours, etc,
Shamrock Street,

Sir, – I’m not sure why Marc MacSharry is on the receiving end of such opprobrium. Every time I see a picture of the Taoiseach in the paper I have the same thought and it makes me cringe. It’s about time somebody stood up and said as much in public. – Yours, etc,
Slí Ultain, Laytown, Co Meath.

Sir, – If quibble-shouting were an Olympic sport, Vincent Jennings of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (June 17th) would be in the frame for gold in the Under 450-word category at the games in Rio.
His letter has it all: raised eyebrows about supposedly less-than-accurate quoting of a press release, strategic doubt-inducing inverted commas, invocation of the spectre of criminal gangs and worse – in an Irish context – the scare-mongering of a possible field day for m’learned friends.
Mr Jennings will know very well that the Australian tobacco quibbling team – leaders in their field – have been over all this ground before. They have raised exactly the same baseless objections to any and all regulation of their immensely profitable and injurious trade in cigarettes and more specifically, to the plain-packaging initiative.
The Australian government, I am glad to say, stared them down and put an end to all their huffing and bluffing. We now have suitably unattractive packaging for a truly disgusting product. Of course, it is not the total solution to the exploitation of millions of addicted consumers by the tobacco industry, nor does it pretend to be. It is an incremental step that seeks to take the false shine off a very dirty product and so help to make tobacco abuse a thing of the past.
Ireland is to be saluted for its efforts to come to grips with the public health disaster that is smoking. Let’s leave the quibbles to one side and enforce a policy that puts the nation’s health before the grubby tobacco profits of convenience stores. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
We seem to have a soft spot for bad boys. Can you imagine a visitor to Israel coming across such place names as Himmler’s Way, or maybe Eichmann’s Cove?
Also in this section
An Irish sort of logic
We are not a caring society
Points of dispute
It’s shameful that a country that calls itself independent should still have places named after those pack of robbers who lived in luxury on the blood, sweat and tears of the peasants that they exploited and dominated in those dark, distant days.
Paddy O’Brien
Balbriggan, Co Dublin
* Our poor, beleaguered Taoiseach is under pressure from the church and the Seanad, with one elected representative accusing him of “urinating” on the upper chamber (pot). Yes indeed, senators. Some days you are top-dog and some days you are the lamp-post!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Co Waterford
* The supplement with Saturday’s Irish Independent, besides being a fantastic read and pleasing to look at, took me back 50 years.
On that Wednesday evening as my brother and I made our way down the NCR on a Honda 50cc, reaching the junction of Dorset Street, we were stopped by the traffic policeman on duty. Within a minute or so came the cavalcade: first there was the press followed by the large black shiny American car. Standing in it was JFK.
He was dressed in a dark blue mohair suit, and with his tanned face, copper-coloured hair and magic smile he had all who stood to wave in the palm of his hands.
He made everyone feel that the world was a good place to be in; and it matters not a whit, to me anyhow, what has been written about him since his tragic death.
Congratulations on a wonderful supplement, it made a 70-year-old feel young again.
Fred Molloy
Clonsilla, Dublin 15
* Thanks to the Irish Independent for the JFK magazine included in the paper on Saturday. It brought me back to very happy sunshine days when life meant so much. I remember as a schoolgirl from Dominican College Eccles Street waving my flag as this very handsome American president passed by me in Dublin.
Although only a child, I could feel the aura of the man, the friendliness and the massive personality. I’ll never forget his petrol blue suit — as in those days Irish men only wore dark suits — his beautiful tanned face and flashing, winning smile. He seemed to have it all. When he said “I’ll be back in the spring”, our Irish hearts were dancing and all aglow. Happy days!
Terry Healy
Kill, Co Kildare
* “I am not a Catholic (candidate for) president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.” — John F Kennedy.
“(I am) a Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach.” — Enda Kenny.
Just what I suspected, you could never trust Jack Kennedy, caught copying Enda’s speeches, again.
Frank McGurk
Co Donegal
* If a vote of conscience is not permitted in a matter of the life and death of children, then how can the Taoiseach or Tanaiste argue that they respect conscience per se?
If not now, when?
Kevin Caulfield
Ballina, Co Mayo
* We are repeatedly told that the so-called Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill does nothing more than protect women’s lives. But that is simply false.
It authorises medical experts to permit abortions based on speculative judgments wholly unmoored from medical evidence.
In 1992, the Supreme Court decided, in the absence of any relevant psychiatric evidence, that in some cases abortion could constitute necessary treatment for suicidal ideation.
In recent months, expert Oireachtas hearings have not produced a shred of evidence that abortion could reliably treat suicidality.
Yet Fine Gael and Labour, led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, have seen fit to “look the other way”, ignoring the findings of their own expert hearings and pressing ahead with legislation based on a medical fiction.
The bill as it stands is nothing less than a licence for abortion to be granted on the say-so of medical experts, based on suppositions that are wholly unsupported by medical evidence.
Dr David Thunder
Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra, Pamplona
* Irish rugby union players should stop deluding themselves. The British and Irish Lions is, in hard reality, the British Lions, as in British Empire, mother lion and all that.
The Lions were created to go off and show the colonial chaps the glory and superiority of Mother England’s games.
Rugby union is simply a typical elite, English public school game, and in fact a sporting version of Waterloo and Trafalgar.
Do wake up, chaps.
EL Firth
Wilsden, West Yorkshire
* As I exited Connolly Station in Dublin this morning I noticed that the DART had achieved 100pc for reliability in the most recent performance review.
Well done to all concerned. You should be choo . . . choo . . . chuffed with yourselves.
Pat O’Gorman
Dublin 13
* There are very few words that can console the families of the three Wexford fishermen killed last week and they all have my sympathies.
However, there are words to be said to avoid other tragedies like this.
The men all wore life jackets and their boat had an Epirb, a self-activating satellite beacon that sends a distress call and position to the Coast Guard when a boat is submerged.
Unfortunately, it appears that the beacon did not activate as the boat did not fully sink.
There is an equivalent personal satellite beacon that is worn by sailors and is activated manually when someone is in the water and it sends a distress call to the Coast Guard along with the person’s position.
One of these devices saved the entire crew of 22 on the Rambler 100 yacht when it went down in the Fastnet race.
Why can’t the Government insist that at least one person on a fishing vessel have one of these on their person at all times at sea?
The saddest part is that they only cost about €150 and would save many lives at sea in the future.
We have so much regulation now, this small cost per fishing boat would prevent future tragedies and heartache.
Dr Jonathon Roth
Clancy’s Strand, Limerick


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