Cooler

11 July 2013 Cooler

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Pertwee is suddenly wealthy while they are visiting France, He take the officers of Troutbridge out to dinner. But it turns out he has sld a non-existant yacht to Mad Pierre, and Mad Pierre wants his money back or he will convert Pertwee and Pertwee’s frineds into twins. Priceless.
Cooler today but we are still recoveing from yesterday’s heat
We watch St Trinians Train Robbery its not bad, magic
Scrabble I win but I get over 400 Mary might get her revenge tomorrow.

Obituary:
Nadezhda Popova
Nadezhda Popova, who has died aged 91, was a member of an elite corps of Soviet women — known as the “Night Witches” — who fought as bomber pilots in the air war against Germany, and the only one to win three Orders of the Patriotic War for bravery.

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Nadezhda Popova (standing) with some of her fellow ‘Night Witches’ Photo: NOVOSTI/TOPFOTO
5:21PM BST 10 Jul 2013
Unlike Soviet men, women were not formally conscripted into the armed forces. They were volunteers. But the haemorrhaging of the Red Army after the routs of 1941 saw mass campaigns to induct women into the military. They were to play an essential role. More than 8,000 women fought in the charnel house of Stalingrad.
In late 1941 Stalin signed an order to establish three all-women Air Force units to be grouped into separate fighter, dive bomber and night bomber regiments. Over the next four years these regiments flew a combined total of more than 30,000 combat sorties and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. Nadezhda Popova, then aged 19, was one of the first to join the best-known of the three units, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment (later renamed the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment).
The 588th was not well equipped. Wearing hand-me-down uniforms from male pilots, the women flew 1920s-vintage Polikarpov PO-2 two-seater biplanes, which consisted of fabric strung over a plywood frame, and lacked all but the most rudimentary instruments.
There was no radio; navigation was done with a stopwatch and a map. The planes carried no guns, no parachutes and had only enough weight allowance to take two bombs, forcing the pilots to make multiple sorties (Nadezhda Popova once flew 18 in a single night), returning to base each time to collect more bombs, which were released with a wire cable jury-rigged to the wings.
Because they were so vulnerable, the 588th flew only at night, and was mainly involved in harassment bombing of German military encampments, rear area bases and supply depots. The strategic importance of the targets was seldom high, but the psychological effect of the raids was considerable.
Because the PO-2s were flimsy and flew near the ground, they could often pass undetected by radar. The pilots’ tactic was to fly to within a certain distance of the target, and cut their engines. They would then glide in silently, release their bombs, then restart their engines and fly home. The Germans called them the “Nachthexen” (the Night Witches) due to the whooshing sound they made — “like a witch’s broomstick in the night’’ — as they flew past. There was, supposedly, a promise to award an Iron Cross to any Luftwaffe pilot who actually managed to bring down a Night Witch.
To escape the German ground defences, the 588th flew in formations of three. Two would go in as decoys to attract the attention of the searchlights, then separate in opposite directions and twist and turn wildly to avoid the flak guns. As the searchlights scrambled to follow them, the third bomber would sneak in along the darkened path made by her two comrades and hit the target unopposed. She would then get out and rejoin the other two; they would then switch places until all three had delivered their payloads. It took nerves of steel to be a decoy, but as Nadezhda Popova recalled: “It worked.”
It was the cold that she recalled more than anything else: “When the wind was strong it would toss the plane. In winter when you’d look out to see your target better, you got frostbite, our feet froze in our boots, but we carried on flying.” There was no time for fear: “You had to focus on the target and think how you could hit it. There was no time to give way to emotions… Those who gave in were gunned down and they were burned alive in their craft as they had no parachutes.”
She recalled one particularly gruelling mission when, after bombing an ammunition dump, she found herself caught in the searchlights: “I manoeuvred and suddenly I saw them switch to another plane that flew after me. Enemy planes took off and shot it down, it caught fire and fell. That was one. Then I turned my head and saw a second plane go down in flames and then a third one lit up the sky like a falling torch. By the time I got back, four of our planes had perished with eight girls in them burned alive … What a nightmare, poor girls, my friends, only yesterday we had slept in the bunks together.”
Nadezhda Popova, who was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, was one of the best of the 588th pilots — and one of the luckiest. She flew 852 missions, serving in Ukraine, Rostov-on-Don, the North Caucasus near Grozny, Novorossiysk, Sevastopol, Minsk, Warsaw and Berlin. Though shot down or forced to land several times, she always emerged unharmed — and on one occasion she found romance too.
Shot down in July 1942 in the North Caucasus, she joined a retreating infantry column and, on the way back to her unit, met another pilot, Semyon Kharlamov, who had also been shot down. Only his eyes were visible through his bandages, but he charmed her with his jokes. They met a number of times again during the war and became Heroes of the Soviet Union by the same decree in February 1945. When they reached Berlin at the end of the war, they scribbled their names together on the walls of the Reichstag.
Shortly afterwards they married and remained together until Semyon’s death in 1990.
The daughter of a railwayman, Nadezhda Popova was born in Shabanovka (now Dolgoye) on December 17 1921 and brought up in Donetsk in Ukraine.
She decided to train as a pilot as a young girl when a small plane landed near her house and the pilot got out: “I thought, ‘Oh my God! He’s just an ordinary man!’ We touched the wings of the plane and his leather jacket… and I had thought that they were some Hercules. And then I thought it would be great if I could fly like a bird.”
When she was 15 she joined a flying club, and in 1937, aged 16, made her first parachute jump and her first solo flight. She went on to train at the aviation school at Kherson, Ukraine, and became a flying instructor.
She decided to volunteer as a bomber pilot after her home was taken over by the invading Germans and her brother, Leonid, was killed at the front: “He was 20 and had never even kissed a girl,” she recalled. “My mother sobbed, ‘That damn Hitler.’ I saw the German aircraft flying along our roads filled with people who were leaving their homes, firing at them with their machine guns… they blasted our school.”
After the war she returned to her work as a flying instructor.
In addition to her other decorations, she was awarded the Soviet Medal of Honour; the Order of Friendship; the Order of Lenin; and the Order of the Red Banner (three times).
She is survived by her son, now a general in the Belarussian Air Force.
Nadezhda Popova, born December 17 1921, died July 8 2013

Guardian:

Reducing numeracy by dropping times-tables over 10 is a seriously backward step (Letters, 10 July). The 16 times table is of considerable use in computer technology, and there is wonderful numerical poetry in the tables from 13 to 16. We know from the steady rise in examination results over the past 30 years that teachers are better and children are cleverer than they were, so it’s time the times tables were extended to 16.
Christopher Dawkins
Archivist, Felsted School, Essex
• Twelve times table out of date? With new expertise in fractions, future students will have no problems increasing each answer by one third, thus instantly being able to manipulate lbs and oz.
George Tripp
Northampton
• I assume John Mullan (Anarchy In Peterloo, G2, 9 July) omitted Shelley’s final stanza of The Masque of Anarchy because his purpose was to “decipher its verses for modern readers”. Fair enough. Shelley’s last lines are neither coded nor archaic. They have as much direct impact today – from Wall Street to Taksim Square – as they did then and will have in a century’s time: Rise like lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number – Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep had fallen on you – Ye are many – they are few.
Alasdair Buchan
Brighton, East Sussex
• Instead of reflexively suggesting a knighthood for the glorious achievement of Andy Murray (Sport, 9 July), how about David Cameron’s government setting up an Andy Murray Cup for under 15s; something practical, with an incentive for future players.
Emma Fisher
Bath, Somerset
• It might clarify matters if MPs, like the successful sports people David Cameron seems so eager to associate with, wore labels on their clothing showing who was sponsoring them or paying to have them represent them in parliament?
Michael Miller
Sheffield
• I see that the cordless trimming shears advertised on page 24 of G2 (9 July) have an extension handel. Is this to prevent possible bach problems?
David Moore
Somerton, Somerset

The current troubles in Egypt (Letters, 8 July) are the result of the mistaken belief that presidential rule by a first-by-the-post electoral system is a democratic system. In fact it is likely to be an elected tyranny over as much as half the electorate. A truer democratic system would be by a parliament elected by proportional representation and with laws requiring two-thirds majority voting for their enactment.
In addition, the prime minister must be just that – a prime minister among a cabinet of ministers so that, for example, it would be the foreign minister who would travel to other countries in order to negotiate foreign affairs and not the prime minister. Furthermore, a prime minister does not (or should not) release to the news media laws that he/she is about to enact without having first presented the proposals to the cabinet and to parliament for discussion and possible approval (please take note, Mr Cameron).
Professor Eric Salzen
Edinburgh
• The last fortnight in Egypt and the continuing struggle in Syria demonstrate exactly what many regional experts and Arabists have warned would happen. But there is something really rather sinister about an interfering west determined to impose, one way or another, its version of democracy on a region that is historically, culturally and spiritually unready, not to mention largely unwilling, to accept it.
History testifies overwhelmingly to our having made the wrong calls on too many occasions and as a result we have much blood on our hands.
Rev R C Paget
Brenchley, Kent

You only have to compare the food and clothing elements of Marks & Spencer to see how the retailer can turn its fortunes around (M&S chairman pleads for time as clothing sales fall further, 9 July). Currently, they are two totally different shopping experiences.
M&S food markets are modern, clean, big on fresh fruit and veg, and often equipped with plenty of staff and tills to reduce queue times. Walking into an M&S clothing store is like stepping back in time – tired-looking buildings, inefficient use of space making staff numbers feel thinly spread. The high-street chain needs a revamp to bring its clothing outlets in line with its food stores – creating a seamless M&S experience.
However, before M&S chief Marc Bolland throws a reported £2.3bn at store refurbishments, the company must reconnect with shoppers to find out what they truly want from a 21st century M&S shopping experience. Otherwise it’ll be money wasted.
Jeremy Michael
Managing director, SMG

Messrs Gilbert and Blundell, prepare to eat dirt (Letters, 6 July). I saw the Stones at the Ken Colyer Jazz Club in Leicester Square in June 1963. Come On was slowly climbing the charts. It was the first date I ever went on. I was 16. The cellar venue was stifling with condensation and we drew CND signs in it on the low ceiling. The Stones looked like cavemen and sang every great rock number, including Poison Ivy, Johnny B Goode and Route 66. My date and I caught the last train back – the 12:42 from Victoria to Bromley South. When we arrived at Shortlands Station, my father was on the platform to meet us. “Just checking,” he said and walked off. My boyfriend lasted less than 50 days, but the Stones – well, you all know the rest.
Susan Castles
Wem, Shropshire
• How about 1962 in the small cellar Studio 51, Great Newport Street, W1? Chatting with all of them every Sunday at the bar during the break. Two sessions, 4pm and 6pm. Signed pre-first record release photo to prove it, with a note from Bill on the back apologising for no news of first “disc”. Anybody else who was there?
Gerry Montague
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
• The first residency of the Stones was in a hall at the rear of the Railway Hotel in Richmond, Surrey. Their first gig was in February 63 and I had the extreme pleasure of being there with about two dozen others, including Mick’s mum who stood right at the front obviously enjoying the raw R&B. The audience increased exponentially each week until, after only a month, it greatly exceeded the hall’s licensing quota  and the band moved to the Richmond Athletic Ground.
Les Farris
South Petherton, Somerset
• We saw the Stones at Leeds University Union in 64. Because they were booked in 63, they only cost £500 I understand, but still honoured the contract at the 63 price. They were darned good then.
Robert Bracegirdle
Leicester

Ha-Joon Chang (The new fat cats, 10 July) notes the negative aspects of outsourcing in what he calls the age of irresponsibility. An additional issue is that there is a marginal cost to the economy that is not factored in when outsourcing public services, namely the diversion of finance and human effort from the more difficult but necessary business of developing products and services to sell overseas. It is easy money for the corporate businesses, with no competition and long contracts. The real competition, the public servants, are removed from “the market”, ensuring a never-ending cash flow for services that do not need to be in the private sector. A Labour government should ensure that the private sector has to make its money in the real world of international trade.
Bob Nicholson
Frodsham, Cheshire
• Why on earth is our government so timid about its central conviction? Why stop at the NHS and Royal Mail? The market is, according to current creed, the best provider of services and can even make a profit out of them. Why not the armed forces? The number of botched contracts mismanaged by the MoD are too numerous to mention. Selling off the army, navy and RAF might raise a few eyebrows, but look at the benefits. Instead of sitting around bored and doing nothing most of the time, they could be hired out for profit. It could be made mandatory for the new company to properly compensate members of their workforce when they do get injured while employed. There are now about 20 armed conflicts in progress in various parts of the world. Why not a Union Jack (Ltd) flying over all the front lines?
Bruce Kent
London
• 10 July will go down as another day to bury bad news: the details of the sell-off of Royal Mail (Report, 10 July), amid the furore over Labour’s links to the unions. And the next trap for Ed Miliband is will Labour support the CWU if they take industrial action? Postal workers are being offered shares which they can’t sell for three years, by which time they may be worth nothing. And to further sweeten the workforce they have been offered a substantial pay rise, again over three years. How many jobs will have been lost by then?
Dr Graham Ullathorne
Chesterfield, Derbyshire
• Aided and abetted by the Lib Dems, the Tories continue their destruction of our national institutions. This time the City sharks await the sale of the Royal Mail, while the taxpayer picks up the tab for the pension deficit and the workers are bribed by the windfall of £2,000. After privatisation, will the Queen’s head remain on the stamps?
Jake Fagg
Bristol
• Post workers pay, conditions and pensions will be targeted and who will benefit? Just a few of the elite at the top. Services to rural areas will be curtailed. In the longer term, this will increase the need for benefits as more people are paid minimum wage levels, needing to be topped up by the taxpayers – who currently own the post office that is creating a profit. This is purely ideological and not in the best interests of the country.
Mark Sharkey
Tarporley, Cheshire

The Guardian is right to maintain that it is in the public interest to publish a series of “particularly frank” letters from Prince Charles to British ministers seeking to influence government policy (Prince’s ‘black spider memos’ to be kept from public view, judges rule, 10 July). Regardless of whether it succeeds in securing their release, however, the key point is already clear. As the attorney general himself admits, the heir to the throne has acted in a way that would be likely to undermine confidence in his political neutrality were he to become king. The only way Clarence House can now draw a line under the issue is to announce that the lobbying activities apparently revealed by the letters have ceased and will not be resumed. This would at least suggest the existence of a learning curve in the prince’s preparations for the role of constitutional monarch.
Professor Philip Murphy
Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
• It becomes clearer and clearer that our country is ruled as much by back-door influence as by the democratic process. In our view, the veto used by Dominic Grieve as a minister is actual confirmation that Prince Charles has indeed influenced the government to alter policy and/or policy decisions to his benefit. We just don’t know which ones, but we can be sure there are plenty to cover up. By dint of heredity alone, he owns huge estates throughout the country, and has power over the lives of countless people whose labour maintains him in the lap of luxury. In our opinion he is the best and most conclusive argument we have for a republic.
Charles is not the only wealthy pretender who influences this government, just the sorry public face of a sanctimonious, hypocritical and unelected old boys’ network who believe they have the right to influence and dictate national policy without any accountability to ordinary people. We should be immensely grateful to those brave whistleblowers who uncover such anti-democratic practices. Long live Edward Snowdon and his ilk. We desperately need many more like them.
Kay and Barrie Thornton
Ellesmere, Shropshire
• The attorney general’s flawed argument that publishing the Prince of Wales’s letters to ministers would run the risk of the prince’s being seen not to be politically neutral is precisely the reason why they should be published. His views and beliefs (described by cabinet ministers as “deeply personal”) expressed to government while the prince is heir to the throne are material to his behaviour when he becomes king. Our constitution rests on the key principle of monarchical neutrality, a position, it appears, he would find hard to maintain. The people – the other partner in the constitutional relationship – have the right to know this. The attorney general therefore surely has a duty not to block publication of the letters.
Gillian Dalley
London
• Does this mean that the judges have decided that it is the controversial nature of the policy content of the letters which, if known to the public, would be damaging to the future king, rather than the apparent fact that he writes interfering letters to government ministers? As a correction, a “Henry VIII clause” does not give ministers the power to override statute. It gives them limited power to amend specific statutes by an order which is subject to scrutiny by parliament and can be debated and overturned by parliament.
David O’Carroll
Gower, West Glamorgan
• I buy the Guardian every day as one of my contributions to funding free speech, democracy and an open society. Thank you for the article on your eight-year battle to force the publication of Prince Charles’s private letters to ministers. It is appalling Dominic Grieve vetoed a tribunal’s decision that the letters should be published. Where is democracy when royalty has the ear of power? Publish all his letters and I guarantee they will cease – as they should do. The Guardian’s legal challenges are I suspect expensive, so it is reassuring to know that my money is well spent. Keep it up.
Erik Wilkinson
Stroud, Gloucestershire
• Poor Prince Charles: not to have the pleasure of having his letters published in the Guardian.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Independent:
The opening paragraph of Chris Blackhurst’s article stating that HS2 is a “waste of billions” (5 July) shows that he doesn’t understand what the project is about.
He assumes it’s about getting from London to points north quicker. No, it’s really about getting more capacity on the railway, and making room for more freight trains. He’s forgotten that the railway carries an increasing amount of freight.
He says he is in favour of getting some more investment “up North”. I agree, but HS2 will actually do something about that. If Blackhurst wants to scrap a project to save billions, why not yet another expensive London project – “Crossrail 2”, even before “Crossrail 1” is finished?
The real question is why HS2 is so expensive. The high-speed line in Germany from Cologne to Frankfurt, with its dozens of viaducts and tunnels, took only seven years to build and was opened in 2002 at a cost of €6bn.
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
 
Anthony Hilton (6 July) says it is a mistake that HS2 will not go to the centre of Birmingham. It will however go to Birmingham airport, which is far more significant in developing the regions outside London. When HS2 is complete there will be millions of people within one hour of Birmingham airport who now take three  hours to reach the London airports.
He need not worry about the remote siting of the new stations. There will be plenty of time for cities to make the necessary transport connections. In Nottingham work is already under way to build a tram line to within one stop of the proposed Toton station.
Outside London people are used to making indirect journeys. I am reminded of the poster proclaiming “Christ is coming to Middlesbrough” on which was scrawled “but first he must change at Darlington like everyone else.”
Vaughan Clarke, Colchester, Essex
 
This is the end of the Labour Party
Any trade unionist watching Ed Miliband declare that “working people belong at the heart of the Labour Party” might be tempted to add “but not at the heart of the parliamentary Party”. Unions must realise the party they nurtured no longer exists: it’s now part of the establishment; the most elite parliament of modern times.
Only 7 per cent of the population attend private schools, yet 60 per cent of the Coalition cabinet did so. Even the “people’s party” is not immune to elitism: 20 per cent of its present MPs went to Oxford or Cambridge.
Worse yet, the country is in the grasp of professional politicians, most of whom rose up through the ranks of councillors (now salaried), political researchers and the like. Labour participates fully in this inversion of democracy: only 30 or so years ago, 40 per cent of its MPs had a background in manual and clerical work; now it’s a miserly 9 per cent.
I’m at a loss to understand unions indulging in dodgy tactics to increase the membership of a party which has turned its back on them. Miliband has already said they won’t undo the savage measures inflicted by the Tories.
To counter this imbalance, we need more butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in Parliament – in other words typical trade unionists! They should form their own party and contest every constituency; they can afford it better than Labour. I’ve no affection for unions, but I’d be willing to vote for them.
Robert Dow, Tranent, East Lothian
 
The real problem facing the Labour Party, not yet faced, is that there are fewer Labour MPs now than at any time in the history of the Labour Party. What so many so-called Labour members actually are is difficult to pin down. One answer might be that they are followers of the Vicar of Bray.
Very few seem to have the courage to speak the language which real Labour supporters want to hear, and their eyes seem to be on the House of Lords and a comfortable retirement. Socialism has apparently been banished from their vocabulary.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
 
I assume that the furore the Tories are having regarding trades union funding of the Labour Party will result in a rapid change in company law as regards shareholder opt-in to donations to the Tory party.
Adam Holmes, London SE13
 
Formal learning starts too early
The new research on the “schoolification” of early childhood merely confirms what professionals and academics have been telling the DfE for many years (“Under-fives need more time to play, say carers”, 9 July).
A mountain of research evidence and professional opinion favours a later start to quasi-formal learning and the privileging of play at the heart of early childhood. Yet hyperactive education ministers intent on slithering up the greasy pole commonly treat education as a staging-post where they can demonstrate their machismo and “strong leadership” by adopting quasi-authoritarian procedures for “driving up” standards. They fail to understand that more is almost invariably less in the subtle realm of early childhood.
The DfE spokeswoman states that “A third of children start school without basic language and communication skills. In poorer areas, this rises to more than a half.” But this is to miss the point. The problem is England’s absurdly early school starting age. Nine out of 10 of the world’s countries have a starting age of six or seven.
Until this issue is addressed, the DfE’s and Ofsted’s blunderings into the early childhood realm to “make children ready for school” (at four) are destined to do more harm than good, and will inevitably compromise our hapless children’s well-being still further.
Dr Richard House, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood, University of Winchester
 
Michael Gove’s wish to allow schools to be run for profit invokes in me a sense of horror rarely felt before. The present Government seems intent on destroying the social fabric by selling off everything that is not nailed down, including parts of the NHS (prior to complete privatisation), the prison service, the Post Office and now the schools.
Your rather wishy-washy editorial (2 July) on the matter (maybe yes, maybe no, but don’t rush) doesn’t help matters.
The fact is that our most cherished values – education of a reasonable standard for all, access to health provision – are being taken from us in the name of obedience to market forces.
A hundred years ago, a movement known as municipal socialism (oh, horrid word!) came into existence: utilities were made public, urban transport was run publicly, letters were delivered several times a day, more schools were opened and classes made available to people who could never have dreamt of having access to them previously.
Fifty years later, a Labour government continued in the same direction, adding nationalisations and public planning.
Now, a hundred years on, we are witnessing the most thoroughgoing overthrow of what should by now have become sacred. The latest initiative of the new Thatcherite model in regard to schools is to create a  technically proficient citizenry, but one that is unthinking, uncritical and incapable of defending its own interests.
It is a criminal project which needs to be resisted to the utmost.
Jeffry Kaplow, London SE3
 
Nation celebrates without me
Is there something wrong with me? Although I’m basically a positive and cheerful person, I find myself completely unable to get excited about someone winning a game of tennis. In fact, I had to suspend my newspaper purchase for the past few days, feeling somehow excluded from the celebrating nation. I suppose I can be thankful I am not a celebrity, or then, apparently, I would have to feign interest in order to be seen at Wimbledon on TV.
I believe the “nation” is going to be celebrating a woman having a baby shortly, and for that I think I shall have to go on holiday to some remote place which, I hope, is media free.
Keith Barlow, Eastbourne
 
James Lawton (9 July) writing of the 77 years between Fred Perry’s third Wimbledon victory and Andy Murray’s first, says there was “not a sniff of a Brit until Murray came thrashing into view”. This is a travesty of the facts and dismisses the achievements of both Roger Taylor, who reached three Wimbledon semi-finals, and Tim Henman, who reached four.
Charles Becker, Plymouth
 
European justice
In your leading article (10 June), commenting on the European court judgment on life sentences, you write: “It is surely right that no prisoner is seen as beyond rehabilitation.” Perhaps, but that should be for Parliament to decide.
I cannot see that whole-life sentences constitute inhuman and degrading punishment; that cannot be what the drafters of the European Convention had in mind; after all, the UK still had the death penalty at that time. I have always supported the ECHR, but it now seems to be a threat to sovereignty.
John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire
 
State sell-off
Even Margaret Thatcher drew the line at selling off the Post Office. It was , she observed, the “Royal Mail”. In his statement Vince Cable seemed ignorant of the monarchy’s close connection with the organisation, above all in its creation. Given that RBS too is soon to be sold, the question has to be asked:  are we on a return route to the night-watchman state, where government is concerned only with defence and all else is left to the tender mercies of the market?
Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Middlesex
 
A polite ‘Hello’
Isaac Atwal complains (Letters, 10 July) about supermarket customers who don’t respond to a “Hello, how are you?” from the checkout operator. I could easily be one of the guilty ones. This is not because I think I am “too important to reply”, but because being asked how I am by someone I’ve never met feels like an intrusion. Just stick to “Hello.”
Dr Robin Orton, London SE26
 
No-brainer
You report (10 July) on the plan to give MPs with English seats a veto on legislation affecting only England. On the front page you quote the Labour Party as calling it a “hare-brained” scheme. On page four it’s “hair-brained”. Only one of these spellings is right, but witch is neither hear nor their.
Martin Kyrle, Eastleigh, Hampshire
 
Cost of school
Aviva says state schooling costs parents £1,600 a year. This includes breakfast clubs, transport, uniform and shoes. So if school were not compulsory, parents could economise by keeping their children indoors, naked and starving?
Bernard O’Sullivan, London SW8

Times:

The lost revenue from destroying the property market and businesses in wealthy areas will be far greater than this ‘tax of envy’ will generate
Sir,Your report “Treasury figures ‘reveal cost of mansion tax as £36,000 a year’ ” (July 8) reminds us of the stubborn persistence of the spectre of this unfair and malicious proposal. To those who argue that the rich should pay more, there may be some sense in opposing the reduction of the top rate of income tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent; but there can be no justice in a measure that would instead arbitrarily (and without affecting many who have benefited from the reduction) impose an effective tax rate of more than 100 per cent on some families who have lived for many years in neighbourhoods where prices are inflated by foreign wealth of dubious origin. They will be obliged to lose their homes. You quote the Lib Dems’ Treasury spokesman as saying “For the 95 per cent of people that do not live in mansions, this is a popular policy.” The blatant cynicism of that approach needs no further comment.
Neil Jeffares
London W11
Sir, Your figures are off the mark. There are roughly 255,000 properties in the UK worth more than £2 million, and even with this number the tax take is estimated to be only £1.2 billion. For a “red line” policy you would expect a political party to have done some real work in defining the scope of the tax and how much will be generated.
Currently that estimate is a tiny 0.2 per cent of tax revenue, and that is before appeals to be excluded from the tax from stately and historic homes, farms, pensioners and offices are considered. To even achieve this tiny revenue, the mansion tax will soon be applied to less expensive properties or be extended to include other areas of wealth.
Although Vince Cable has dismissed taxing art and jewellery as wacky, it is no wackier than the mansion tax. Some 70 per cent of homes worth more than £2 million are in Kensington and Chelsea; the lost revenue from destroying the property market and businesses in this area will be far greater than this thinly disguised tax of envy will generate.
It is about time Labour and the Liberal Democrats came up with some policies that would actually stimulate growth rather than strangle it.
Catherine Faulks
London W11
Sir, Far better than a mansion tax would be to scrap Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on property as both affect the liquidity of what is by far our biggest national store of wealth, which of course also affects where people live and work. Instead, calculate the average tax receipts from both taxes and then have one graduated property tax on all properties calculated to produce the same tax revenue. The roll-out would have to be phased but it would not be that big a job to start with individual valuations of homes worth more than, say, £5 million and then work with council tax bandings and valuations.
The present tax regime adds to the cost of transactions relating to property; it must be harmful to the general economic health of the country to have a property transactions tax (SDLT) that adds to the cost of someone wanting to move house to move job or a sales tax (CGT) that prevents an investor selling a property to someone who wants to develop it because he would suffer a large CGT bill.
Alban Gordon
London W1

The modesty of Burma’s reforms is increasingly apparent — ending impunity for rapists in Burma should be a very basic demand
Sir, This week Thein Sein, President of Burma, makes his first visit to the UK. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, facing the criticism that the visit is too great a reward for the limited reforms so far, has argued that it is an opportunity to exert further pressure for improving human rights in Burma.
If so, Mr Hague will need to secure substantial action by President Thein Sein. Despite visits by a succession of UK ministers, including the Prime Minister, the modesty of Burma’s reforms is increasingly apparent.
Hundreds of political prisoners are still in prison; there are substantiated allegations of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and a worrying increase in reports of rape by the Burmese Army since Thein Sein became President, even against children, the elderly and disabled.
Mr Hague stated that “shattering the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war is the next great global challenge of our generation”. Inexplicably, however, he has excluded Burma from the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PVSI) initiated by the Foreign Office.
Ending impunity for rapists in Burma should be a very basic demand by our Government during the President’s visit. And if this encounter is to result in any advance in human rights in Burma, Mr Hague must surely include that country in the PSVI and secure agreement from Thein Sein that he will fully and rapidly co-operate in its implementation.
Baroness Kinnock, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma; Baroness Cox; Jo Brand; Maureen Lipman; Anna Roberts, Burma Campaign UK; Sappho Dias, Burma Justice Committee

The recent decision on whole-life jail terms is the mark of a civilised society and is directly connected to the postwar discussions in Nuremberg
Sir, Further to your report “Britain could quit human rights court after its attack on whole-life jail terms” (July 10), as I read it the argument is simply that a review at 25 years respects the dignity of the person involved. Critical to that dignity is space to hear the prisoner’s voice and for the prisoner to hear the voice of society.
Far from challenging the right to sentence for life, such reviews will remind us that the Government on our behalf has sentenced a small number of people to full life, and that there are good reasons for that, based in core values and principles. It is healthy to test those principles after 25 years — a careful example of transparency.
Given the dreadful crimes of the prisoners involved it is highly unlikely that this will lead to their release, unless some significant change is discovered. Once again, however, this respects the dignity of the prisoner by allowing them to argue that such a change has occurred.
This is the mark of a civilised society, which directly connects to the postwar discussions in Nuremberg on human rights, dignity and justice. Far from the founders of the European Convention on Human Rights turning in their graves, as Mr Grayling suggests, I think I can hear a confident post mortem cheer from thinkers who believed that the core task of ethical leadership is to ensure respect for the dignity of all, even those who justice determined should be held for life.
Professor Simon Robinson
Professor of Applied and Professional Ethics, Leeds Met University

The UN’s recently published report on ‘a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty’ by 2030 has been ignored by the media
Sir, Does it say more about the UN or Britain’s attitude towards the Millennium Development Goals that the media all but ignored the UN’s recently published report, which set out “a universal agenda to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development”?
Dr John Hayward
Sustainable Ecological & Economic Development project, Cambridge

‘There is no academic research that suggests that where possible suicidal thoughts are discussed with young people this increases ideation or planning’
Sir, Further to your report “College is criticised for failing boy, 16, who died after taking drug” (News, July 6), we were alarmed by the reported comment by Karen Davies, deputy head of pastoral care: “One of the problems that independent schools face is there is some evidence to suggest that talking and overtly addressing the issue of suicide in young people may contribute to their problems.”
There is no academic research that suggests that where possible suicidal thoughts are discussed with young people this increases ideation or planning. Indeed, there is evidence that the contrary is true. Therefore supporting and encouraging young people to talk and be open about feelings has to be the best strategy.
Madeleine Moon, MP; Professor David Gunnell, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Bristol; Professor Keith Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, Oxford

Telegraph:
SIR – While reports of tourists’ injuries and deaths during the horrific running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain (July 8) garner attention, what is commonly omitted in these stories is that every involuntary participant dies – and painfully.
Every one of the bulls who start the run will be tortured to death in the bullring after the stampede. The same magnificent animals who slip and slide on the cobbled streets during the run are later attacked by as many as eight men, and repeatedly stabbed with a variety of spears, spikes and daggers, causing tremendous pain.
As long as the city continues to make money from the running of the bulls, these animals will needlessly suffer and die.
Ben Williamson
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
London N1
SIR – Boris Johnson’s article, “As Britain dithers, the rest of the world is getting things done” (Comment, July 7), makes valid points on the importance of infrastructure projects, such as High Speed 2, but these contracts will not benefit the building industry for a number of years.
What we really need is investment in “shovel-ready” projects that can make a difference to growth in the short term. Many of these projects have the ability to provide much-needed employment and jobs now. In fact, according to Construction Industry Training Board research, for every £100 million invested in repair and maintenance projects, 3,200 construction workers will be taken off the dole.
Funds are tight, but the Government should invest in growth now, rather than spending £8.1 billion a year on these same people who are out of work.
William Burton
Interim Chief Executive, Construction Industry Training Board
London EC1
SIR – For several years, the cost of high-speed rail has been stated as £33 billion, even though the extent of tunnelling has increased as a result of better engineering and consideration to the environment.
Related Articles
Stop the needless torture of bulls in Pamplona
10 Jul 2013
HS2 has finally increased this figure to £43 billion, but this still makes no consideration of the escalation of costs by the time the project has been completed.
The final true “out-turn” cost will be nearer to £70 billion, as honestly stated by Boris Johnson, rather than the £43 billion reluctantly declared by HS2.
Derek Godfrey
Hughenden Valley, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Boris Johnson slates the slug-like pace of British infrastructure projects, and compares it with the Hong Kong Airport announced in 1989, which opened nine years later. He overlooks Mount Pleasant Airport in the Falkland Islands, whose need was identified when the Argentines were expelled in June 1982.
The Royal Engineers found the site, the Property Services Agency undertook the design in September of the same year, and it was built by the British consortium of Laing, Mowlem ARC. The first aircraft landed in 1985, less than three years from conception.
This shows what British industry can do when left to get on with the work without interference from meddling politicians. When will our bureaucrats stop stifling British creativity?
J T Fulton
Poole, Dorset
SIR – I agree with Boris Johnson’s tirade against building cost overheads.
I live in a ground floor flat, and recently requested leave to have double doors into the communal gardens and a small patio – a very minor building project. The building cost was £5,300. Overheads – architect’s drawings, supervision of works, licences, inspections, approvals – came to £3,650.
John Mash
Cobham, Surrey
Curriculum changes
SIR – I wish Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, well regarding the changes he is making to the national curriculum (report, July 9); but politicians have been tinkering with what children study for years, and have done nothing but harm.
Teachers are hampered by constant change, menaced by Ofsted and battling against poor behaviour and lack of parental support. That is not to mention class sizes, English as a second language, which is now commonplace, and pupils’ attitudes.
Rising standards depend on a number of factors, not just changing the content of the curriculum. Inner motivation is probably the greatest driving force to success. Too few children are blessed with that quality these days, and too many teachers are drained by factors outside their control.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – I wholeheartedly welcome Michael Gove’s reforms. It is more than 70 years since I learnt my tables by rote, and to this day I know, without thinking, that 6 x 9 = 54.
In a remote part of North Wales, where Welsh was my first language and with little need for English, I learnt English at school. It was not difficult at that age, when the mind is receptive to all manner of new experiences. We also started learning French in the first year at grammar school, plus Latin from the second year.
A thorough knowledge of grammar, spelling and punctuation in all four languages was considered a necessity.
Joyce Chadwick
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Polite police
SIR – Well done Damian Green, the policing minister, for having the courage to say what many people think (“Be polite to the public, police told”, report, July 9). This problem is not confined to the police force, as shocking NHS revelations have shown.
Public sector workers should take pride in providing the best service they can to their fellow citizens, rather than treating them with indifference or contempt. The public sector, through its behaviour, has the ability to bind the country together, or to make itself a divisive wedge. Mutual trust and respect take time to build, and only an instant to shatter.
In the private sector, failure to listen to criticism results in lost business and lost jobs. Public sector workers should count their blessings, and bobbies on the beat should greet their fellow citizens with respect, as they pass them in the street.
James Anderson
Geneva, Switzerland
SIR – What about the public being told to be polite to the police?
Viv Payne
Edwalton, Nottinghamshire
Phone interview
SIR – Some time ago, I was in the middle of an interview for a part-time post when the prospective employer answered a phone call (Letters, July 9). For about 10 minutes, I sat quietly while he had a discussion about his badminton match.
When he concluded the conversation, I stood up and politely told him I no longer wished to be considered for the vacancy.
H A Kemmett
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire
Please use plates
SIR – Am I alone in objecting to being served food on roofing slates and wooden chopping boards? I dare not think about the hygiene issues.
Diane Davies
Blackburn, Lancashire
Regulating the press
SIR – In your leading article (July 8) on my resignation from the Privy Council, you stated that my voice was “unlikely to be missed”. Luckily, my voice can still point out that your assertion that the Privy Council numbers about 300 people is actually out by about 319 counsellors.
The Press Standards Board of Finance’s (Pressbof) proposed regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), will fool no one. The body will be controlled and financed by parts of the newspaper industry, in a direct challenge to Leveson’s recommendation for a regulator that is independent of both the press and politicians.
The Pressbof Royal Charter and IPSO are not even fully supported by the national newspaper industry. Trinity Mirror, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Independent Newspapers and Express Newspapers have all failed to sign up to it.
So a new press watchdog with no support from Parliament, victims of the press or indeed the whole of the industry, will be pushed through by press barons at the expense of consensus, and as Paul Vickers, chairman of the Industry Implementation Group has admitted, with or without a Royal Charter.
Lord Prescott
London SW1
Employing TA soldiers
SIR – Dr John Black describes difficulties with his employers regarding his service in the Territorial Army (Letters, July 8).
I shared this experience with many of my fellow territorials while serving with the Green Howard Company of Yorkshire Volunteers in Middlesbrough. With a few notable exceptions, obtaining leave for training was always difficult. The threat of loss of employment was not uncommon.
What now surprises me is that the TA centre in Middlesbrough is to be vacated, and that company will be lost. TA soldiers cannot easily be redeployed to other units.
Is this being repeated in other parts of the country? How does this enhance the TA’s ability to support the regular Army?
Adrian Frais
Aylsham, Norfolk
Maiden name quandary
SIR – In keeping her maiden name, a woman keeps her father’s name in preference to her husband’s (report, July 8). Since they are both men, this surely cannot be feminism.
Andrew Wauchope
London SE11
Andy Murray is not the only talented sportsman
SIR – While congratulating Andy Murray on his victory at Wimbledon, I was surprised to see you refer to the achievements of others as being “pale in comparison” (Leading article, July 8).
To win the Tour de France, for example, requires a rider to cycle in excess of 2,000 miles over 21 days in all sorts of weather –from thunderstorms to blistering heat.
The cyclists generally spend four to five hours, often longer, in the saddle each day and have to negotiate high mountain passes with dangerous descents and other difficult road conditions, all at high speed.
Well done, Andy, but let’s not downplay the hard-won successes of other athletes.
Brian Magowan
Lisburn, Co Antrim
SIR – Why does Andy Murray deserve a knighthood for doing his job? In the past, the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and David Lean had to wait decades and prove they weren’t flashes in the pan. As did sporting greats such as Roger Bannister and Bobby Charlton.
Now it seems that all you have to do is win a single sporting event.
John Boylan
Hatfield, Hertfordshire
SIR – If Andy Murray should be honoured with a knighthood for winning the Wimbledon title, surely Fred Perry should be awarded a posthumous knighthood for having won Wimbledon three times, not to mention three US Championships and one French and one Australian title?
John Cottrell
Addlestone, Surrey
SIR – Amid the Murray euphoria, has everyone forgotten the last Briton to win Wimbledon? It was Virginia Wade in 1977.
Not only did she win the coveted Venus Rosewater dish, but it was in front of the Queen in her Jubilee year, on one of Her Majesty’s rare appearances at Wimbledon.
Hilary Beck-Burridge
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I wish to thank very sincerely the TDs who have spoken out courageously, at great personal cost, against using abortion as a treatment for suicide. They reflect and articulate the view of very many experts and well-informed citizens who feel disenfranchised and voiceless as a result of the leadership line adopted by our governing parties. In the absence of any sound defence of this provision, and we know that no evidence has been presented supporting it, the Fine Gael leadership has ultimately dealt with those within its “family” who are audacious enough to act in line with their conscientious reservations with authoritarian, iron-rod methods.
I respectfully remind Enda Kenny that it is the people who choose their representatives and there are many of us who rate courage, integrity and independent thought above membership of Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,
CATRIONA FLAHERTY,
Marshallstown,
Kilmessan,
Co Meath.
Sir, – Methinks Lucinda Creighton will top the polls, either in or out of her ministry or Fine Gael. What a breath of fresh air – somebody with a conscience in an atheistic Government. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL O’MARA,
Ballygeale,
Patrickswell,
Co Limerick.
Sir, – It appears that “matters of conscience” for legislators apply only to topics of sex and reproduction.  Perhaps, finally, we have the root cause of our financial crisis. – Yours, etc,
MICK LYNCH,
Connaught Street,
Phibsborough,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Vincent Browne (“Restrictions in abortion Bill demeaning to women”, Opinion & Analysis, July 10th) refers to “medicos, almost certainly a majority of whom will be vastly overpaid, upper middle-class males, a category not renowned for its feminist ardour”. Personally, I have no objections to a lack of feminist ardour. But before Browne goes too far in currying favour with the sisterhood, may I remind him that a bunch of upper middle-class males decided the X case in favour of abortion for the under-age female. Of course, if you think that was the wrong decision, you will probably agree that they were and perhaps still are overpaid. – Yours, etc,
GERALD MURPHY
Marley Grange,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – Vincent Browne makes some interesting arguments. He might be taken seriously by some but for that little bit in parenthesis. Vincent is “astonished” at the “effrontery” of bishops in engaging in any debate on morals. Why is he “astonished” at anyone doing their bounden duty? Perhaps unlike David Robert Grimes on the same page, Vincent does, in fact, believe in absurdities. – Yours, etc,
DAVID WALSH
Convent Court,
Delgany,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, Alan Hynes’s article (“Abortion Bill debate shows dead hand of party whip”, Opinion & Analysis, July 10th) should be required reading for those who want to see Dáil reform. Many members of the Seanad have been arguing of late that the Dáil is in need of reform, which is true, and that the solution lies in a reformed Seanad, which is self-serving rubbish! What is needed is for TDs to realise that the human is an animal with a backbone – and that includes backbenchers.
Several  backbenchers have refused to follow like sheep on the question of abortion. I don’t share their views but if this leads to more backbenchers and holders of lesser ministries going  on to refuse to behave like sheep, then we will have seen the first step to Dáil reform. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – The Government’s plan to hold a vote on reducing the voting age to 16 is welcome (Front Page, July 10th).
Young people have a strong interest in the issues that affect them, if not in the political structures that are supposed to address those issues, and the evidence shows that if one votes early in one’s life, one is likely to continue to do so (voting early leads to voting often).
Reducing the voting age for Dáil and presidential elections, as well as referendums, would require constitutional change.
In the case of local elections, the voting age could be reduced simply by legislative change, from 18 to 16. This would at least permit the change to be trialled.
Rather than having a referendum immediately on this issue, use the legislation being introduced this autumn on local government reform and let us permit more young people to vote in the local elections next May and then make an informed judgment on the change in a referendum soon after. – Yours, etc,
Cllr MALCOLM BYRNE,

Sir, – Seanad abolition would render our Constitution devoid of democracy, and arguments for Seanad abolition are completely short-sighted, reactionary and selfishly populist. A reformed Seanad has huge participative, representative, expert and oversight potential.
While it is true there has been justifiable public dissatisfaction with the effects of party political dominance in the Seanad, and while it is also true that reform of the Seanad has been more spoken about than acted on, we believe that a serious reform of the Seanad done in time to take effect from the next general election would be greatly preferable to simple abolition entailing, as that would, 75 separate amendments to the Constitution, including the deletion of entire articles.
This referendum can very easily be classed as farcical – the choice we get is abolition or nothing, neither the Seanad or the Dáil gets reformed, everything just stays in its present form. Why can we not have a reformed Seanad and reformed Dáil?
I, along with my colleagues in Lawyers for Seanad Reform, do not disagree that the Seanad requires reform – everything needs modernisation and updating after 90 years. This Seanad reform could easily be achieved through legislative enactment, and our proposed Seanad Reform Bill demonstrates this. If our proposed Bill for Seanad Reform were introduced, the Seanad could claim a greater democratic mandate to go about its business. For the first time in Irish politics there would be gender equality, as the Seanad Reform Bill includes a gender quota. At present Ireland’s rate of female representation is 15.67 per cent, a record high, but lagging behind the world and our EU member state counterparts.
In advance of the referendum, we welcome, and indeed urge, a considered, inclusive and informed public debate on the Seanad, its functions and its reform, to ensure Irish citizens, North and South alike, consider the full implications of this anti-democratic constitutional proposal for Seanad abolition. – Yours, etc,
CAROLINE
BERGIN-CROSS, BL,
Treasurer of Lawyers for
Seanad Reform,
Law Library,

Sir, – Your report on Chief Justice Susan Denham’s comments (Home News, July 9th) on business ethics provokes some thoughts. The strategy of regulation, and regulators, has failed the citizens of Ireland miserably. At best, it merely creates a culture of compliance, where the philosophy is one of “so long as I obey the regulations, I do not have to be ethical”. So, if something is not specifically proscribed, it is permitted. The Roman historian Tacitus observed that in a state where corruption abounds, the laws must be very numerous.
Is it possible to envisage a day when our politicians have the wit and moral courage to pass just one simple law that makes it an offence for company directors to behave unethically in their business deliberations? A definition of “ethical” is not very difficult. If one is charged with unethical behaviour, a jury would decide if the behaviour was unethical or not. I believe that the existence of such a law would give pause for thought to many company directors in their dealings. It certainly would for me! – Yours, etc,
DAVID MacDONALD

Sir, – In relation to the piece by David Robert Grimes (“Better grasp of science would be a social boon”, Opinion & Analysis, July 10th), it is clear to those that pay attention that, despite the current recession, the single biggest problem facing us over the next few decades is climate change.
The question must be therefore asked as to what damage the removal of geography from the Junior Certificate curriculum will do to attempts to inform and educate the public on this issue.
At present climate change is taught as part of the section on weather and climate in the Junior Cert geography curriculum. Given the growing urgency of this issue, surely what needs to be done is for the topic and possible solutions to be given a much bigger emphasis in our schools — not for a subject that deals with this threat to be downgraded. – Yours, etc,
NOEL HOGAN,

Sir, – Dundalk Chamber of Commerce has learned with shock and huge disappointment of the news of the postponement of the Narrow Water bridge (Breaking News, July 10th). What is needed now is a plan to put the project back on track again.
At public meetings in the past there was an acceptance that if the bridge had to be tolled, then this would be a reasonable price to pay.
The chamber has built up a strong relationship with the chambers in Newry and Mourne and we are convinced of the huge latent tourist potential of the area. We would hope that a combination of the two governments and EU can still keep this unique venture on track. We need to see a combination of innovative thinking, goodwill and cost control.
We would ask that the project not have VAT charged on it and the possibility of a public-private partnership be examined as a matter of urgency.
This bridge was to be a symbol of peace, reconciliation and a new future for the tourist area of Mournes, Gullion and Cooley. It is too important to fail at this time and with goodwill we believe that we can succeed.
The question of how the cost was so badly estimated needs to be addressed at a later time. – Yours, etc,
PADDY MALONE,

Sir, – Watching Tuesday night’s The Luas: A Tale of Two Trams on RTÉ television, I was wondering what Charles Dickens would have made of it all. It was clearly the best of times on the Green Line, the worst of times on the Red Line. So while the Luas sped cheerfully through the leafy glades of Leopardstown and Balally and deposited affluent teenagers at the Mecca of Dundrum shopping centre, a crusade against fare dodgers, substance abusers and general ne’er-do-wells was in full swing from Abbey Street to Tallaght.
While commuters found time to read their Kindles and leaf through The Irish Times on the south side, us inner- and outer-city west-siders (I’m surprised the voiceover didn’t label us Westies) clearly were too busy making counterfeit travel passes and robbing mobile phones to be able to engage in more intellectual pursuits.
I’m a regular user of the Red Line (and also use the Green Line occasionally – without prejudice) and it has contributed significantly to the lives of young and old, native and tourist in our capital city.
The recent Luas scheme of allowing children to travel free on the trams at weekends has been a superb and generous gesture in this time of continuing austerity.
I’m not saying there aren’t problems on the Luas at times but I’d just like to say one thing to our national broadcaster – “I’m Red and I’m proud!” – Yours, etc,
MARK LAWLER,

Irish Independent:
I am a qualified nurse and midwife, having worked most of my life in England and recently returned to work in an Irish hospital.
Also in this section
Time for some blue-sky thinking
Seasonal invasion of second-home owners
Quantum leap required
Many an Irish woman/girl I have met in my working life in England had to go to the UK for an abortion; all of them troubled, stressed and saddened that they had to travel for this procedure and would have to keep quiet about it on their return.
Their UK counterparts would be getting support and counselling after such a procedure for as long as needed. But there was no support for these Irish ladies on their return to Catholic Ireland. Cruel, barbaric or what?
I cannot believe that this debate is still going on in Ireland, so many men talking on every TV and radio station, yet so few women – why is that?
Back in the 1940s, when the UK was bringing in a free health service for everyone, the Catholic Church spoke out against this for Ireland on the grounds that Irish women would go to their doctors without their husband’s permission “for all sorts of things”.
Imagine that, and we are now left with this crazy system of medical cards, with the workers having to pay for all medical treatments, etc (but that’s another story.)
So, the church has not learnt from the past. I am sick of listening to the priest every Sunday at Mass giving out about abortions and encouraging people to go on marches against it. Abortion won’t go away, it’s no good sweeping it under the carpet, pretending it is not happening. It will continue, so open your minds to it.
The law should be there to protect the women and girls today, not some possible baby of the future. It is the woman’s choice; not an easy decision at any time. The law should be there for her, to help and support her decision. There are enough doctors and nurses who will help her, who can decide for themselves once the law is there.
Good luck, Mr Kenny, with this law. I hope you have the courage and support to get it through.
The carpet in Ireland is very lumpy, let’s help flatten it out, and help our families in Ireland – not send them overseas. Is that our only solution?
Sonia Jay
Dublin
Priests must stand up
While admiring the courageous and forthright declaration of the Irish bishops on the most fundamental moral imperative, the right to life, I must admit to disappointment at the seeming lack of concern about this vital issue by the Association of Catholic Priests.
J Anthony Gaughan,
Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Picture the scene. I am walking along with a woman and her 16-year-old child in a secluded area when the woman stops, pulls out a gun and points it at the child. She then says that if I do not permit her to kill her 16-year-old child, she will kill herself. I persuade her that all three of us should remain alive.
Next scene, I am walking with a woman and her 12-month-old baby when the same thing happens. If I do not permit her to kill her baby she will kill herself. Again, I try to dissuade her and remind her that most women would sacrifice themselves rather than have anything happen to their babies.
Next scene, I’m walking along with a woman who produces an implement as well as a gun and states that if I do not kill the infant in her womb with this instrument, she will kill herself. Again, I try and persuade her that all three of us should remain alive.
There is only one difference between these scenarios. When the baby is not seen, is it okay to kill it?
Enda Kenny showed a lot of emotion in the Dail when describing sexual abuse of children. Is this the same Mr Kenny who now is introducing legislation that will facilitate abortion?
The Taoiseach has a duty to protect all the people of this State, even those who are less than nine months old from conception.
Why does the Taoiseach use the brutal tactic of a dictator to deny a vote of conscience on this most crucial of issues – a choice of life or death?
Joe Drew
Bangor, Co Down
Not content with rejecting the evidence of medical experts and lawyers, Mr Kenny now seems to think that he knows more about the constitutional implications of the X Case than members of the Supreme Court who wrote that decision.
“We’re very clear here, that the question of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision. We, as a government, and I, as Taoiseach, am not able to unpick that Supreme Court decision and therefore to attempt to do so would first of all render the bill unconstitutional,” he said (Irish Independent, July 8).
Not so, according to Mr Justice Hugh O’Flaherty, one of the four majority judges in the X Case.
“They’re all talking about the X Case, but in effect, the X Case is moot because the girl didn’t have an abortion. She had a miscarriage,” he was reported as saying last Saturday.
“If the Supreme Court struck down an act as unconstitutional, that would be the end of that debate. There would be no two ways about it. But when it gives an opinion on a case, (and) that doesn’t work out as submitted to it, then it’s really an obiter dictum.” This means an incidental but not binding remark or opinion by a judge in deciding a case.
Asked if he thought the Government was obliged to include the suicide clause, he is reported to have replied that this was not necessarily the case “for the reason that the case wasn’t as binding as a different type of case would have been”.
The X Case is not binding on the Oireachtas (as to the inclusion, or otherwise, in legislation of suicide as an instance of a “real and substantial threat” to the life of the mother), because that issue has not yet been argued before it in those terms.
Mr Kenny can no longer hide behind the decisions of others and claim that he is merely obeying orders. He is free “to unpick that Supreme Court decision”. Let him inform and follow his own conscience in this grave matter and allow others to follow theirs.
Seamus O’Concubhair
Churchtown, Dublin 14
Monumental decision
Based on recent news reports, I understand that a decision on the future of the National Monument on Moore Street will be made soon. I sincerely hope that you will choose preservation so that future generations may be able to view the historical treasure. Yes, it is derelict right now, but it offers Ireland a unique opportunity to tell the story of the brave men and women whose courage and determination lit the spark of nationalism that ultimately led to independence and nationhood.
I have written to you before to offer an American visitor’s perspective, and I hope that you will not be offended by my persistence.
However, as an American Civil War re-enactor and supporter of historic preservation in the US, I have seen too much development in and around important historic sites. Too often, when I go on tours, the guide will point to a shopping complex, and try to explain troop movements that are impossible to visualise because the mall, convenience stores or gas stations mar the view.
And, unfortunately, in many cases people only recognise what they’ve lost after the area has been bulldozed and overdeveloped. I hope this does not happen on Moore Street.
Robin Mary Heaney
Attorney at Law, Rockville Centre, New York
Jokes as old as the hills
It was excruciating to watch ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ last night. The jokes and the furniture of the set have one thing in common: they’re second-hand and as old as the hills. The acting was that diabolical they wouldn’t make it as extras on a silent movie!
Barry Mahady
Mill Lane, Leixlip
Irish Independent

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