15 August 2013 Debbie

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Troutbridge is ent off with the flad capped ambassador to Batawanaland where there is a volcano about to blow, and Troutbridge’s props are fouled but they are rescued in the end Priceless
We are both tired but I take Debbie around the garden to do the hanging basket and pots she will start in September
We watch Yes Prime Minister quite good
Scrabble today Mary win but she gets under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Yoram Kaniuk
Yoram Kaniuk, who has died aged 83, was one of Israel’s most respected but controversial novelists; in his youth he fought in the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel, but he did not like what the Jewish state became.

Yoram Kaniuk Photo: WRITER PICTURES
7:22PM BST 14 Aug 2013
He wrote some 30 books, several of which were translated into English, and was probably best known for his darkly comic Adam Resurrected (1969), which was made into a 2008 film directed by Paul Schrader and starring Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and Derek Jacobi. The book, regarded as a central work of Holocaust literature, tells the story of a Jewish-German clown in a Nazi concentration camp whose life is spared because he plays his violin for the prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and provides entertainment for the camp commandant by pretending to be a dog. He ends up in an asylum for Holocaust survivors in Israel’s Negev desert, an institution whose identity shifts to and fro from desert paradise, to prison and to the state of Israel itself.
Kaniuk’s ambivalence about the state of Israel was also apparent in his autobiographical novel 1948 (2010), which won Israel’s top literary award, the Sapir Prize. In the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Kaniuk, then 17, had served in the Palmach, an elite division of the Haganah, but the bewildered young protagonist of 1948 is unsure whether the Jews are entitled to a state of their own. The new state’s heirs, he reflects, “are idiots, fools, robbers, wicked people who’ve forgotten where they came from”, but shortly afterwards he recalls: “After I got back home half dead and the country was filled with Holocaust survivors who were a thousand times stronger than us, I realised that it had been worthwhile.”
The main cause of Kaniuk’s disillusionment with the state he had helped to create was the power in secular affairs of a religious establishment that he felt represented neither the views and values of the vast majority of Israelis, nor those of the global Jewish community. Kaniuk’s wife, Miranda, was a Christian, and because Orthodox rabbinical law identifies only those born to a Jewish mother as Jews, the couple’s daughters were officially classified as being “without religion”. As a result his infant grandson, though born in Israel, had fewer rights than his “Jewish” compatriots, including no legal right to be married in Israel.
In 2011 Kaniuk went to court to challenge a ruling by Israel’s Interior Ministry that he could not change his status on the state population register from “Jewish” to “no religion”. When the court ruled in his favour, he hailed the verdict as a step along the road to a “true separation of religion and state with a pluralistic society”. But, last year, Israel’s High Court of Justice turned down his petition to give Israeli citizens a general right to be recorded as having “no religion” in the population register.
Yoram Kaniuk was born on May 2 1930 in Tel Aviv, in what was then British Mandate Palestine. His father, originally from Galicia, would become the first curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His mother was from Odessa.
After joining the Palmach aged 17, Kaniuk took part in battles around Jerusalem in 1948 and was injured while fighting on Mount Zion. Later he worked as a sailor on a ship that brought Holocaust survivors from Europe to Israel.
After the establishment of Israel, he studied painting at the Bezalel art academy and in 1951 continued his studies for a year in Paris. For the next 10 years he lived in America, becoming involved in jazz and Hollywood circles, while trying to establish a reputation as a writer and poet.
An early marriage, to the dancer and choreographer Lee Becker, ended after five years, and in 1958 he married Miranda Baker, with whom he returned to live in Israel.
His first novel, The Acrophile (1960), concerned an Israeli living in New York. Other titles included Hemo, King of Jerusalem (1968), about a wounded soldier in a Jerusalem hospital, and Confessions of a Good Arab (1984), recounting the life of Yosef, an Israeli who on account of his mixed Arab-Israeli parentage is regarded as a nobody, shunned and ridiculed by his compatriots. “My nation is at war with my state, and vice versa,’’ he laments, longing to be “free of the accursed blood of the Jews who in the name of their absolute justice forced me to be my own enemy’’.
Kaniuk’s last novel, An Old Man, was published a few weeks before his death.
Yoram Kaniuk is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Yoram Kaniuk, born May 2 1930, died June 8 2013


Ian Flintoff (Letters, 12 August) is not the first to suggest that people should only be allowed to post on social media using their legal names and information. The problem is that this might damp down some trolling and abuse, but would also make sure that the most vulnerable people would be effectively barred from using the platforms.
Talking publicly about issues such as domestic violence and life on the run from an abusive ex, sexual abuse, racism, homophobia and misogyny, poverty, life as a transgendered person, life with disabilities, or homelessness, would be impossible for most. Their online support networks would fall apart (and for many, this is all the support they have). They’d lose the chance to make their voices heard, and we’d lose valuable insights into the lives of people who are already pushed to the margins. For many vulnerable people, pseudonyms are the only protection they have from harassment, abuse, discrimination in the workplace or in accessing public services, and more.
There seems to be growing evidence that very few people actually troll or become abusive online, and that those people tend to bad behaviour offline. They appear more numerous online than off simply because we only encounter a limited number of people face-to-face on a daily basis, and because they’re distributed across the world. Both anonymity and transparency are double-edged swords, and the big question for me is: which is most helpful to those in the most vulnerable positions?
Karen Abbott
Macclesfield, Cheshire
• It seems relatively simple to reduce the extent of trolling etc given that all devices have a unique IP address which is known to the service provider. If a report of abuse led to immediate suspension of an IP address, pending appeal, trolls would be unable to continue with that device. The thought of losing the use of an expensive device, perhaps permanently, would, I think, cause most to think twice before they type. Obviously they could borrow a phone or use an internet cafe, but in this eventuality most would police the use of their devices. It would need social media sites to get on board – but recent events have suggested that advertisers have the power to ensure this.
Nick Woolverton

I grew up in West Bromwich in the 1960s and, while it was not a rich town, it had a city centre with the longest high street in Europe, with thriving shops, a beautiful Victorian and Edwardian architectural heritage – not least the beautiful swimming baths, where I spent half a day at a time with my friends – the cinema and the gorgeous Dartmouth park (Report, 13 August). At the centre of the park was a beautiful boating lake and we spent hours fishing pop bottles out of waste bins and reclaiming the threepence returns until we had enough for half an hour on the water.
I recently returned for a school reunion to find the entire city centre impoverished beyond all recognition. I walked the entire length of the high street hoping to find a nice family-run Indian restaurant. All that could be seen was endless dilapidated junk-food shops, charity shops and nail bars, the most uninviting pubs I have seen and the tattiest market I have encountered anywhere in the UK.
How did this happen? The council decided, as they always do, to have a grand redevelopment, a large part of which involved building a huge road round the centre, making this once busy hub a hole in a doughnut. This ripped the guts out of the local economy. Now if anyone wants a swim or to see a film, they have to travel to Dudley or Wolverhampton. The boating lake has long been filled in and the park has become a hangout for tramps and addicts. Did councillors ever consider a new cinema, or baths, or renovating the park? No, they spent over £100m on an arts centre. I love art galleries and what they can do for communities, but a great deal more pleasure and more users would have been created by a park, a pool and a cinema.
Philip Clayton

The obvious way to improve quality in hospitals, both at the weekend and during the week (Comment, 12 August), was to implement the European working time directive by training and employing sufficient doctors. After all, it was passed in 1993. Why wasn’t it implemented? Not due to lack of resources, as this period saw a massive increase in finances for the NHS. No, it was because it challenges the working practices of hospital consultants. Britain has fewer doctors, particularly working in acute care, and spends less overall on healthcare, than comparable countries. Not coincidentally, our doctors are among the best-paid once private earnings are taken into account. If the answer is for there to be more consolidation, reducing access to care, cutting the number of trainee doctors and increasing the power of the established consultants in the large centres then the question is the wrong one.
Roger Steer
Healthcare Audit Consultants
• After reading a notice in the waiting room at my dentist’s, informing me that 62 hours of clinical time was unused in July due to “no-shows” and late cancellations, at a cost of £53,518 – equating to an hourly rate of more than £863 – I felt sure that I had found the answer to health service financial pressures.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

John Grisham details the abuses suffered by one of the prisoners in Guantánamo, Nabil Hadjarab (‘The US was dead wrong, but no one can admit it’, G2, 13 August). Such abuses have been on record for several years now, yet the British government refuses to take effective action. William Hague claims to have “made representations” about the British resident Shaker Aamer, who, like Nabil Hadjarab, has been cleared for release – yet he too remains in prison. Britain’s failure to exert any pressure on the US government is a further instance of our shameful complicity in the US record of illegal imprisonment, rendition and torture. This is reinforced by ex-MI6 officer Harry Ferguson’s reference in the Observer (11 August) to a covert campaign by British intelligence officers against Aamer’s repatriation.
Peter Coltman
• This Bongo-Bongo Land (Letters, 13 August) where there is enough money for swanky lifestyles for the rulers but not enough for healthcare for the people: where would that be then?
Barbara Jane
• (B! TRWFHTUGOA. CWHAADSWAP?) Translation: Brilliant! Thanks Roland White for highlighting this unacceptable growth of abbreviations. Could we have an abbreviation dictionary supplied with articles, please? (Letters, 13 August).
Jack Redfern
Congresbury, Somerset
• Pogorophobia (Front page, bottom right corner, 14 August)? I think not. Ingenious new word, but my beard phobia is quite “gon”! Mine originated on holiday in the 1960s and I’m quite at ease with it.
John Bigglestone
New Malden, Surrey
• Following normal procedure, please publish the letter you’ll receive on Jeremy Paxman’s beard from Keith Flett (Paxman’s hairy moment sets Twitter alight, 14 August).
David Prothero
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
• While you report Jeremy Paxman’s claims of pogonophobia at the BBC, one wonders how levels of hirsuteness look among senior editorial staff at the Guardian itself?
Keith Flett

Perhaps, when thinking about how best to proceed about homophobia in Russia, we should listen to gay people in Russia (Report, 8 August). The Russian LGBT Network has said: “We believe that calls for spectators to boycott Sochi, for the Olympians to retreat from competition, and for governments, companies and national Olympic committees to withdraw from the event, risk transforming the powerful potential of the Games into a less powerful gesture that would prevent the rest of the world from joining LGBT people, their families and allies in Russia in solidarity and taking a firm stance against the disgraceful human rights record in this country. Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia.”
Russia’s leading gay rights campaigner, Nikolay Alexeyev, also does not support a ban or boycott. Perhaps these people have a better idea about what to do than patronising neocolonialist posturing from the likes of Stephen Fry?
Richard Smith
Brighton, East Sussex

Your recent article identifies correctly that it is the ordinary people of Guinea who have lost most from the decades of mismanagement in the Guinean mining industry (The tycoon, the dictator’s wife and the $2.5bn mining deal, 30 July). BSGR shares the Guardian’s view that it is only through the successful development of its untapped mineral reserves that Guinea will be able to start lifting its citizens out of poverty. BSGR has made more progress against this aim than any other company. When we started exploration in Guinea in 2006, the international mining community had developed nothing. In a little over three years, BSGR had concluded the existence of a commercially operational iron-ore deposit at Zogota, and submitted the country’s first iron-ore feasibility study. It was this commercial success, not the payment of bribes, which resulted in BSGR being awarded its rights to develop half of the Simandou prospect.
Rather than embrace the significant progress being made towards producing iron ore for the first time in its history, and seek to maximise its share of future revenues, the government of Guinea chose to freeze all development. It claims the amount BSGR received for successfully developing its licences was too high. Your reporter failed to recognise that the $2.5bn valuation of Simandou is contingent on reaching very challenging development milestones, which will require huge investment from BSGR, together with its partner Vale, in addition to the $600m that has already been spent.
In the context of a long article that focuses on the country’s chronic poverty and the sufferings of its people, you did not mention that two of our local employees have been held for several months, in appalling conditions, and without charge. This contravenes Guinea’s criminal procedure code as well as international human rights conventions. The international community is right to be concerned about the people of Guinea, but it must insist on the consistent enforcement of legal standards to all.
Marc Struik
CEO, mining and metals, BSG Resources

I can’t disagree with much of the letter signed by Michael Rosen, Ken Loach and others (13 August). But I can’t agree that the solution to Labour’s unsatisfactory policies is the formation of a new party (laughably called the Left Unity project). There are already several other parties to the left of Labour: there’s the TUSC, the project of Bob Crow and others; Respect; and others too. Apart from George Galloway’s election to parliament, these parties have achieved nothing in terms of gaining popular support, and if the signatories of the letter seriously suppose that they can do any better, they are suffering from delusions.
The solution to the serious problems with Labour is, instead, to campaign for better policies and leadership within the party, which, despite everything, still remains the only party of organised workers in this country – and still will be, despite Ed Miliband’s recent decision on union links. No doubt the signatories of the letter will claim that having Labour in power would be no different from the Tories, but that doesn’t bear serious scrutiny. Parties are not defined purely by their leadership – unless they are essentially a one-man band like Respect. Labour may be the party of Ed Miliband, Douglas Alexander and indeed Tony Blair, but it is also the party of John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and many other fine socialists.
The only way to achieve any meaningful social progress remains to back, be involved in, and campaign within, the Labour party; nothing can be achieved with Cameron and Clegg in power. I urge those who regard themselves as socialists to remember this and not to create more unwanted splits on the left.
Barnaby Marder
Richmond, Surrey
• Labour should recognise that the world has changed fundamentally in the last 20 years, and rebuild itself. Labour should set up its old “big tent” and remember its utopian roots. Like the Occupy movement, it should throw open the debate for discussing, planning and imagining our future. Then and only then will it engage with younger generations. How about a massive Labour party membership publicity campaign? With slogans that actually open up policies through questioning: “Where do you want the country to be in 50 years’ time? Join the Labour party.” “How should we tackle the housing crisis? Join the Labour party.” Huge billboards may be the only way to get past the Tory press – along with Twitter for the gliterati. Better start sending in donations immediately.
Ginnie Cumming
• How refreshing to read John Walton’s letter (14 August), with his suggestions for a Labour manifesto. I agree with him that all of his proposals are modest and should form part of a manifesto of any party that wants to do the right thing. I would like the Guardian to put these proposals to Ed Miliband and to print his response to them. I am appalled by what has happened to the party since it was hijacked by Tony Blair. For Miliband and his shadow cabinet of professional politicians to stand by saying nothing about the brutal rightwing agenda being pursued by the Tories and their Liberal lackeys is an abandonment of decades of Labour principles. What we need is a political party that will pursue an agenda that favours the majority of people in this country and not the rich minority.
Paul Simmonds
• Further to John Walton’s admirably comprehensive list of policies, the Conservatives’ reaction to them is likely to be predictable. But what about the Liberal Democrats – which of these policies would be unacceptable to them?
Les Farris
South Petherton, Somerset
• We’d like to propose John Walton as immediate new Labour leader as we agree with every word of his suggested manifesto. Like thousands of others we feel angry, frustrated and disenfranchised because no party is speaking for those who want a return to decent commonsense policies aimed at a fairer society.
Hugh and Brenda Edwards
Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria
• John Walton expounds a Labour party I want to vote for. I’d like the Labour party to know this.
Judy Marsh


Trevor Pateman writes (letter, 14 August) that the people of Gibraltar want to be what your headline calls “semi-British” and would never choose to be British if subject to mainland UK laws and tax. He should get his facts straight: our democratically elected government supported exactly that until Roy Hattersley vetoed the idea in 1976.
We are British, have been for 300 years and are determined to remain so. This determination has persisted not only through the good times, but also the bad: the evacuation of our population during the Second World War to facilitate the war effort (some weren’t allowed to return until 1951), and the blockade of 1969 to 1985, which wasn’t just economically destructive, it separated families and cut us off from the outside world.
There is a lot of history to our 309-year-old link with the UK. Please don’t pretend it’s just a matter of convenience.
Matthew Pallas, Gibraltar
Are Mr Cameron and Mr Hague aware that King Juan Carlos of Spain has no beard?
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Blow away the Israeli smoke screen
I must disagree with Robert Fisk, who criticises John Kerry for telling the Palestinians an inconvenient truth, that they must strive for a rapid peace settlement before Israel steals more land (14 August).
The desperation of the Israeli administration to scupper these talks is surely a sign that Mr Abbas should be seen to strive to remove all obstacles to an agreement. A good tactic would be to offer the settlers Palestinian citizenship if they wish to stay on their hilltops.
At the very worst some of the smoke screen behind which Israel operates will be dispelled when it becomes apparent that Netanyahu cannot sign a treaty which leaves the Palestinians with any part of East Jerusalem or the West Bank.
F B Dickens, Birmingham
Thanks to Nigel Kennedy, and his recent performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at the Proms, the public misconception that all Palestinians are terrorists, carefully nurtured by the Israel lobby over several decades, has been squarely knocked on the head.
Thank you Mr Kennedy for bringing these talented young musicians to London.
Jane Jewell, San Rafael, California, USA
House price bubble
The conclusion in your leading article of 14 August that putting money into lending rather than into building more houses will simply lead to another price bubble is obviously correct and must be apparent to all, so one must ask: why would the Government risk this and why are Labour not fighting it tooth and nail?
Apart from the obvious possibility of buying votes with a feelgood factor based on the myth that house price increases must be for the good of all, including the homeless, one has to ask whether there is a longer-term objective, say in 2017-18, that both parties have identified.
Given the static or shrinking tax base in the UK and the obsession with maintaining low income-tax rates, could it be that both parties see the possibility of applying capital gains tax on sale of all houses including a family’s principal residence as a way to increase revenue while leaving income tax rates unchanged? If this is the case then large increases in prices – and 17 per cent over the next three years has been predicted – could provide the Government with a useful income. 
Before you dismiss this as not possible, I believe that in Canada, the home of the current Governor of the Bank of England, this already happens.
John Simpson, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
The article “It’s only rock’n’roll – but £300 is still ‘too cheap’ for a Stones ticket” (14 August) raised some interesting issues. However, one thing struck me about the new “oak tree” stage that was mentioned.
It said that the Stones managed to play at a record volume after the new stage was pointed away from Mayfair’s luxury apartments because of noise complaints in the past. Perhaps the stage should actually be pointed at Mayfair, and then as property prices tumble the revolution can begin.
Martin Sandaver, Hay-On-Wye, Herefordshire
Religions of ‘peace’
Christianity may have been founded by a “peace-loving anti-authoritarian ascetic” (letter, 14 August), but that ascetic carried with him the punitive personal legal code allegedly created by Moses, and was bolstered by the warlike Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles, which would be used by his successors to justify slaughter and murder. 
Christ may have been pacific, but the Emperor Theodosius (379-395) was memorable for persecuting the pagans and imposing one form of faith on all citizens (thereby creating the notion of “heresy”), and Justinian (527-565) fought extensive wars to crush and silence these “heretics”. Christianity had proved itself to be a sufficiently violent model by the time that Mohamed appeared. He needed to learn little.
When European Christian successors, still semi-barbarian, assaulted the Middle East in the crusades, and when they launched themselves crushingly on the pagan and harmless Lithuanians, they again showed that the followers of the pale martyr of Palestine could be as violent and greedy for control and territory as any conquering army in world history.
Christ may have been a man of peace, but the religion he founded became (and remained) a faith steeped in blood.
Christopher Walker, London W14
Cooking at the embassy
Does Oliver Wright (Inside Whitehall, 30 July) really think that an embassy chef cooks exclusively for the ambassador, family and residence staff? Or is he being snide just for the sake of it? 
Who does he suppose cooks for the official guests (ministers, MPs, military top brass, business leaders, artists, journalists, maybe even Mr Cleversticks Wright, you name it) whom embassies are expected to entertain in pursuit of the whole wide range of British interests? The ambassador perhaps? Or his wife?
I used once to be an ambassador, and one year (admittedly the worst, but others ran it close) we entertained over 5,000 people in our medium-sized embassy. I know my wife, who was pretty busy starting a programme to do something about the plight of post-communist disabled “orphans”, didn’t really have the time to do the cooking, or the inclination, come to that. And I dare say Mrs Wright wouldn’t either, if she was the wife of the ambassador in Santiago, who he seems to think is so grossly over-cosseted.
If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is really going to get a chef in Santiago for £12,000 a year, they will be doing pretty well. You can bet your bottom dollar that the French, German and American embassies will be paying double that.
Richard Thomas, Winchelsea, East Sussex
The Prince and the ministers
While not wholly disagreeing with Matthew Norman’s column (14 August), I feel obliged to point out that the Prince’s Trust has probably done more good for disaffected youngsters than any number of ministerial pronouncements. Prince Charles’s concern about issues like climate change started long before it became the received wisdom of the age, and his views on architecture are probably more in tune with public opinion than those of his critics.
I suspect the real nincompoop in the room in most of these meetings with ministers is not the thoughtful upper-crust chap in the carefully mended suit … and I’d certainly sooner find myself sitting next to the him on the bus than any number of political or journalistic reptiles of the current generation.
R S Foster, Sheffiel



One of the root causes of high rail fares has to be the selling of the franchises to run trains to the highest bidders with no ticket price restrictions
Sir, Supply and demand are as much in operation on the railways as elsewhere (“South cheated in fares hike”, Aug 14). At peak times there is no incentive to reduce fares because of the demand which for some years has been at breaking point. What needs looking at is staggering work starting and finishing times — which could ease road congestion too.
David Stuart
Gateshead, Tyne & Wear
Sir, Another iniquitous anomaly (“Cost of single rail fares may halve”, Aug 12) is where a passenger who misses a pre-booked train has to pay the full single walk-on fare, with no credit given for the fare actually paid.
On August 12, on a train from London to Leeds, a woman missed her train to Wakefield by four minutes owing to a malfunction on the Tube and so took the next one. She was hounded by the train manager for a fare of £97 (55p per mile). When she refused he summoned the Transport Police, who threatened to arrest her.
There is no place for such predatory treatment.
Robert H. Foster
Winterburn, N Yorks
Sir, More train journeys are being taken than at any point since the 1920s. This is contributing to operators returning an extra £1.3 billion to Government compared with 15 years earlier. Part of this success is due to train companies offering a range of fares to suit different needs. The increased revenue is allowing the Government to reduce subsidy to operators, from £1.4 billion to £81 million in a decade, and maintain investment in the network, which in turn attracts more passengers. This is why rail franchising is delivering for passengers and taxpayers.
Michael Roberts
Association of Train Operating Companies
Sir, Ross Clark (Aug 13) argues that the railways should be run as a public service. He castigates the train companies for operating a system of “pirate pricing”. I think that almost everyone would agree with him. A system where somebody can be charged more than £100, because the £10 ticket bought a month earlier has been left at home (no opportunity to take it to a station later and obtain a refund), is tantamount to larceny.
One of the root causes of high rail fares, however, must be the selling of the franchises to run trains to the highest bidders — without at that time placing a limit on the prices of certain types of ticket.
A cynical administration, trying to maximise the takings from the sale of the rights to operate on a particular route, simply allows train companies to calculate what they can charge on unregulated fares. The bidders then pitch their bids against the maximum sums they think achievable.
The sale of the rights to run trains on our railways is a revenue-raising exercise — an indirect, front-end form of taxation — and Government is therefore complicit in high ticket prices. It could easily have regulated the cost of travel when selling the franchises, but would have suffered revenue shortfalls in consequence.
Ian Parkin

Our futures depend on the next generation and society owes it to them to ensure that they can enjoy and take part in sufficient physical exercise
Sir, During my career in education I met many young teachers who have little interest or knowledge about the outdoor environment and willingly cancel games or PE sessions for yet more revision SATS lessons (“Obesity will send today’s children to early grave”, Aug 12). They fail to understand that a good mind is developed by not just pencil and paper tasks but also by a healthy body.
Imagine my dismay at your article “How to find the next Zuckerberg?” (Aug 12), about the 1,000 children at the Festival of Code in Birmingham. Here were some of our most IT-able children, some of whom will no doubt go on to make discoveries that will benefit all of humanity. Do they have to be tempted by pizza, ice cream, gaming and table tennis? I suspect that these are highly motivated and focused children who need no enticements, but do need to be gently persuaded along a path of healthy living. Could the sponsors not have come up with more appropriate offers such as wholesome food, a trip to the swimming pool, tree climbing, off-road cycling or outdoor team games?
Society appears incapable of treating our children and young people with respect and consideration and teachers seem unable to encourage children and young people to enjoy and take part in sufficient exercise. All our futures depend on the next generation and we all share some responsibility.
Beverly Anne Reay
Keighley, W Yorks
Sir, Rather than spending money on closing streets for children’s play, it would be better to spend it on keeping our country’s playing fields going. Over the past 30 years one third of our playing fields have been sold, and the remaining 20,000 are struggling to survive as local authorities are forced to reduce or cut off their funding.
If we want to get more young people taking outside exercise and playing sport, we should concentrate on helping the playing fields and sports clubs — after all, the Government did promise us a legacy for grass-roots sport from the Olympics. Money spent here will greatly improve the health of the whole nation.
Angus Irvine
Hook Norton, Oxon

There are risks involved in setting aside an inflation target, even temporarily, but this targeting has led us astray in the past
Sir, Dr Steve Davies (“Focus on inflation Mr Carney, nothing else,” Aug 9) is right to warn of the risks involved in even temporarily setting aside an inflation target, but simplistic inflation targeting has also led us astray in the past. Had the Bank of England, in the run-up to the credit crunch, taken more note of booming asset prices or the ballooning trade deficit — classic signs of an overheating economy — and not just looked at the low inflation figures (partly the result of the flood of cheap goods from China), it might well have dampened the credit boom before it crashed so disastrously of its own accord.
Monetary policy will always be a difficult balancing act, and particularly so given the UK’s slow growth and high unemployment, combined with rising house prices and a big trade deficit. There is, however, little arguing with Dr Davies’s prescription of side measures to improve housing, energy and labour supply and to ease other burdens on business, but those are the Government’s responsibility, and not Mr Carney’s.
Adrian Cosker
Economics Department, The Knights Templar School, Herts

Far from being ignored, the events to commemorate Shackleton’s endeavours have already begun and will continue for another three years
Sir, George Storey says (letter, Aug 10) that we laud Scott’s exploits and forget about Shackleton’s endeavours. He need not worry. Events to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton’s famous Endurance expedition (1914–16) have already begun and will continue until 2016, co-ordinated by the James Caird Society, London.
David McLean
London SW2

Graduate employment continues to outstrip employment of non-graduates, and the lifetime earnings of a graduate are higher than a non-graduate
Sir, Young people getting A-Level results should not accept Jenni Russell’s pessimism (Opinion, Aug 13). It is not true that the reward for being a graduate “has dropped away”.
Most studies of the graduate earnings premium suggest it is holding up at well over £100,000 extra lifetime earnings after tax. New independent research that I am releasing today indicates the lifetime net earnings benefit of higher education is £165,000 for men and £250,000 for women. It looks as if demand for graduates continues to rise as the supply of graduates rises too. That may be one reason why graduate employment continues to outstrip employment of non-graduates. And of course the benefits of university are not only financial.
Our student loans are nothing like commercial debt and much closer to the graduate income tax Jenni Russell says she wants. You pay back via PAYE at a rate of 9 per cent on earnings above £21,000. This is a fair and progressive way of financing higher education. Incidentally, that combined rate of 29 per cent compares favourably with when I left university.
David Willetts
Universities and Science Minister
Sir, If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
Professor Edward M. Winter


SIR – Allan Massie is right to say that the Bible is at the heart of so much that is valuable in British culture (“We can’t cast away our Bible”, Comment, August 12).
It is not, however, simply the beauty of the King James translation that is important. The Bible has formed our worldview which, among other things, has made science possible.
As the National Gallery’s Seeing Salvation exhibition proved, it has had a deep and enduring effect on art as well.
Yes, the Bible has formed our notions of right and wrong. But these will not survive if we abandon the vision of the Bible concerning ourselves, the world and God.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1

SIR – How narrow-minded of the National Secular Society to object to a Bible being “given” on Desert Island Discs (report, August 12), with its president, Terry Sanderson, dismissing “this idea that everyone wants to learn about Jesus”.
The New Testament comprises only about one fifth of the Bible. Whatever one’s beliefs, the language of the writing in the Bible is mind-enhancing in style and vocabulary.
So many words and phrases in the English language have their derivation in the Bible. Perhaps Mr Sanderson would like to suggest a better book, with all of the same qualities offered.
Rosemary Heaversedge
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

SIR – Philip Johnston is absolutely right in his criticism of Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, and Labour’s hypocrisy on the subject of immigrant workers (Comment, August 13). However, what is most worrying is that the Government is doing nothing to prevent the situation from becoming worse.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, trumpets statistics showing that net immigration is falling, while maintaining that nothing can be done about the majority of economic immigration because we are bound by EU rules.
She also claims that predictions about the scale of the influx of Bulgarians and Romanians from 2014 onwards were grossly exaggerated.
Unfortunately, official predictions of the likely impact of opening our borders to the eight eastern European nations which joined the EU in 2004 were exceeded by at least 640 per cent; so why should we assume that 2014 will be different?
What we need is a pragmatic and practical solution: tell Brussels that we simply cannot afford to allow unrestricted access by EU states.
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John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
SIR – In 2007 the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) could only report that there was growing anecdotal evidence that EU migrants were taking local jobs as there was “no statistical research” documenting these phenomena.
Before the next deluge, could someone please sponsor the IPPR to carry out research into the likely effects on the employment prospects of young British workers in the parts of the country most likely to be affected by Romanian and Bulgarian migration? It is time to conduct a proper economic study.
Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent
SIR – Chris Bryant seems to have forgotten that New Labour’s policy was to use mass immigration to administer a short-term boost to the economy by importing cheap labour, with anyone who objected regarded as a socially conservative xenophobe. One Labour supporter who expressed legitimate concerns over immigration was famously dismissed by Gordon Brown as a “bigot”.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – Would Chris Bryant rather see these immigrant workers “on the dole” than signed on by Tesco, Next and others?
A small haulage firm I know employs mainly eastern European drivers, not to save money, but because they don’t take Sunday “sickies”, are willing to work “unsocial” hours and are generally more reliable.
Alan Ashton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
SIR – This is incredible – a Labour shadow minister so incompetent that even the BBC was embarrassed.
Brian Foster
Shrivenham, Oxfordshire
Unreasonable rail fares
SIR – There is one small group who will not be affected by the proposed increase in rail fares because we, the taxpayers, fund their travel to work (“Rail fares to rise by up to 9.1 per cent”,, August 13). I am talking, of course, about MPs, a small minority whose proposed salary increase of £10,000 is well above the inflation rate.
Yet another example of us all being in it together.
Roy Deal
Locks Heath, Hampshire
SIR – Rail travel is on track to be the sole preserve of bankers, MPs and CEOs in the charity sector.
Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey
Water metering
SIR – I have had a water meter since 1993. There seems to be an incorrect assumption among those who do not have one that the water charge is based solely on usage. Only a third of my water bill is for the water that we actually use from the taps while 20 per cent is a charge for sewage water. However, 45 per cent of the total is a fixed charge for the infrastructure of the water main and drainage pipes. If I reduce my water consumption by 10 per cent, my bill only comes down by about 5 per cent.
Alan Cox
Belper, Derbyshire
SIR – Tony Newport (Letters, August 13) argues for a pipeline to be installed “to transfer the abundance of water in the North to the water-starved reservoirs in the South.” We in the North would happily let the South have some of our water if the South would pass their abundance of sunshine on to us.
Could an engineer invent a system involving huge mirrors and lenses, perhaps following the lines of the M1 and M6 or East and West Coast railway lines, to achieve this?
Dr Malcolm Greenhalgh
Lowton, Lancashire
MPs for Gibraltar
SIR – We should take a leaf out of Spain’s book. Gibraltar, the Falklands and other British lands overseas should be allowed to send MPs to Westminster just as Ceuta and Melilla send MPs to Madrid.
Such a move will not only spike the guns of any claims of “colonialism”, but will also benefit the British mainland by expanding trade and influence with all corners of the globe.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – It is ironic that the Government is considering legal action against Spain over the imposition of border checks in Gibraltar (report, August 13), when it is saying that those same controls would be imposed on Scotland upon independence.
Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, is part of the EU. In essence, border checks are permitted, because neither Britain nor Gibraltar are part of the Schengen group of countries that have ended such checks.
Yet again the Government has been caught resorting to blatant hypocrisy and scaremongering.
Alex Orr
Surgical agonies
SIR – My patients prefer to be under general anaesthesia during surgery (Letters, August 13). I like to sing along with opera, and need to spare them the agony.
David Nunn FRCS
London SE3
The fracking myth
SIR – By repeating the myth that fracking will mean lower energy bills, David Cameron (Comment, August 12) disregards the opinion of Deutsche Bank, Chatham House and Ofgem, who all say that British shale gas won’t bring down prices. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that natural gas prices will rise by 40 per cent by 2020, even with an influx of cheap shale gas. The CBI also predicts that the only way for gas prices is up.
The use of shale gas would be completely incompatible with our international commitments on climate change. An analysis by Carbon Tracker warned that up to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must stay underground if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Mr Cameron also plays down the local impact of drilling for shale. But the IEA has stated that fracking can have major implications for local communities, including the possible contamination of groundwater.
And if the Prime Minister really believes that there will only be a “very minor change to the landscape”, he might want to look again at the figures. According to some estimates, exploiting 10 per cent of Britain’s shale gas resources would require 110,000 wells, or an average of 160-170 per parliamentary constituency.
Caroline Lucas MP (Green)
House of Commons
London SW1
Arts degrees
SIR – You report that students appear to be shunning arts degrees because they fear for job prospects (report, August 13).
In my experience, universities outside Oxbridge have reduced the amount of teaching and supervision in arts degrees to such a minimal level that the degrees have little value. This is a great shame. A well-taught arts course is very relevant to jobs requiring graduates who are literate, articulate, logical, analytical and who can argue a case verbally or on paper. That includes management of any business.
Tim Hart
Market Overton, Rutland
Chicken and egg
SIR – A word of warning: when storing your eggs (Letters, August 10), be careful not to keep them in too warm a temperature, or after 21 days, you might have chicks hatching out of them.
John Snook
Urchfont, Wiltshire
Charities tongue-tied by government contracts
SIR – “Managerial charities” (Letters, August 12) working in Britain do have a major conflict of interest. They increasingly rely on contracts from central or local government, making it very difficult for them to act as advocates on behalf of local people (for example, the elderly or disabled) which is what they were originally set up to do.
Instead they need to be quiet or stand up for the services that they have been commissioned to deliver, no matter what quality these are.
Michael Skinner
Wem, Shropshire
SIR – The businessman Sir Christopher Bland coined his own law for charities: the amount of backbiting, in-fighting and general skulduggery in an organisation is in direct proportion to the nobility of its goals. The worst behaviour he found was “in a home for handicapped children in north London, closely followed by a large teaching hospital. Compared with that, Shell, ICI and British American Tobacco were relatively well-behaved.”
Charles Moore questions whether people who run charities should be highly paid (Comment, August 10). If you take into account Bland’s Law, they probably deserve more than their private sector counterparts.
Brian Jenner
Bournemouth, Dorset

Irish Times:
Sir, – The only cloud on the horizon for Project Maths is the charge that it is a dumbing down of higher level maths at second level, according to Brian Mooney (Home News, August 14th). However, in the effort to make maths more accessible to a greater number of students, an unintended consequence of the new essay type questions has been to disadvantage some highly competent young mathematicians.
Students for whom maths is their place to shine, but who have specific language difficulties because, for example, they are dyslexic or on the autistic spectrum or where English is not their mother tongue, now find that they are struggling even at Ordinary Level, where previously they would have been looking at top grades in Higher Maths. – Yours, etc,
St Aidan’s Drive,

Sir , – As a practising obstetrician, I strongly support the woman’s right to choose her birth place ( “Hospital or home; the politics of birth”, Health + Family, August 13th). However, this needs to be done by an appropriate caregiver. If low-risk, this caregiver should be the woman’s midwife.
As you correctly identified, there are many benefits to homebirth. There is less intervention, the caesarean section rate and instrumental rate is lower and maternal satisfaction is higher. This in turn has a positive effect on cash-strapped hospitals. (However, the Dutch study quoted superseded a large UK study, which suggested that babies born at home to first-time mothers were three times more likely to require resuscitation or medical support than those born in hospital, although this figure is still below 1 per cent).
The list of contraindications to homebirth that the HSE has published, exists for a reason. Women with medical conditions need joint midwifery-obstetric support in labour. Those first-time mothers who are over 40 have only a 25 per cent chance of delivering without medical intervention, so it would be advisable to deliver in a hospital where such intervention can be offered.
Although the medical community is in favour of the right women having a trial of vaginal delivery after caesarean (VBAC), it must be stressed that these births can go terribly wrong with the risk of uterine rupture quoted as high as one in 200 births. If a woman chooses to birth outside medical/midwifery guidance then the woman needs to accept responsibility for all potential outcomes – including the adverse ones. This can only occur with appropriate multi-disciplinary counselling.
We need to stop this “us and them” mentality between the homebirth and hospital birth camps. If we support those low-risk women to birth where they want to, and give those women at higher risk of complications a better hospital birth experience (including offering psychological support to deal with previous bad experiences) then can we ensure childbirth is as safe as it possibly can be. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – So John Dundon listened to his favourite music on earphones while his murder trial took place (Home News, August 14th).
Amazing? Not really. What was amazing was that three senior judges let him indulge himself and get away with such behaviour.
Many years ago, in the District Court, I saw an elderly man walk in wearing a tweed cap. “Remove that cap or I’ll have you removed from this court,” the judge bellowed at the unfortunate individual who had never been in a court before. He quickly removed the offending cap as a burly garda approached him.
A few years later I saw something similar happen in the same court with the same judge in charge. This time an absent-minded man wandered in smoking a pipe. I spotted him early and I knew what was going to happen. The judge turned beetroot and his eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets at such an atrocity. “Get him out, get him out,” he ordered the court garda. The terrified citizen stuck the lighting pipe into his pocket and bolted out of the building.
I have also seen a reporter thrown out of court. His sin was that he was using a tape recorder (he had no shorthand), and in the old days tape recorders were not allowed.
In all of the above three cases the judge said the offenders were in contempt of court and were treating his court with disrespect. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry reports that controversial priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan now regrets his 2006 concelebrated Easter Sunday Mass with Church of Ireland rector of Drogheda the Rev Michael Graham (Home News, August 14th).
Fr O’Donovan speaks of the “genuine hurt it caused”, and says that if he had “consulted more widely it would probably never have happened”.
Could it be that if he had consulted more widely he would have found that most lay members of both his church and the Church of Ireland would have supported his ecumenical move. It’s more of what he did, not less, which is called for.
The “hurt” I believe was experienced primarily by his own church authorities who were embarrassed by his taking a lead in this way without their permission.
What is sad now is that Fr O’Donovan feels the need to assure us of his continued good relationships with church authorities, and he says that while in Drogheda his relationship with the cardinal archbishops of Armagh have “always been amicable”.
Is there a danger that a need to remain “amicable” with church authorities may result in a self-imposed silence on issues that matter? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The issue of the alleged supply of alcoholic beverages to gardaí in Belmullet is reported (Breaking News, August 13th) under the heading “Environment”.
Surely “Business” or “Crime and Law” would be more appropriate, unless the major issue of concern is the recycling of the containers? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Conor Pope (“All over the shop: an A to Z of supermarkets”, August 12th) stated that the National Consumer Agency had ceased conducting its grocery price surveys after “retailers with deep pockets and accomplished legal teams complained the methodology was flawed.”
This is not the case.
The National Consumer Agency first began conducting grocery price surveys in 2007. The surveys had two objectives, first, to highlight price levels and differences, where they occurred, for everyday products across major retailers in Ireland. Second, to empower consumers with information which would enable them to get better value for money. The last survey was published in July, 2011.
Further grocery surveys have not been undertaken to date as it became clear that surveys of this type were no longer necessary – Irish consumers are increasingly aware of the alternatives available to them across different retailers and market segments (branded and own brand). Research published by the National Consumer Agency last week confirmed that 89 per cent of shoppers describe themselves as shopping more wisely. The majority of consumers now state that they shop in less expensive stores and across a number of different stores. Consumers have changed their habits to make the most of their budgets.
The National Consumer Agency is committed to allocating its resources to where there is most need and where we can have the biggest impact for consumers. As a result, in recent years, we have concentrated on improving price transparency for consumers in sectors where access to pricing information is an issue, for example dentists, GPs, pharmacies and solicitors. Results of these price surveys are on our website (, as is practical information for consumers who need help to get better value in the grocery market. – Yours, etc,
Director of Research and

Sir, – Given the increasingly lax approach taken by so many dog-owners in Dublin city and county regarding hygiene and leash control, the case for stricter enforcement of dog control laws is self-evident.
As the author of the first estimate of the serological prevalence of toxocariasis (an illness caused by roundworms commonly found in dog faeces) in Ireland I can confirm that the levels of infection, ie the ingestion of dog faeces, are unacceptably high.
While studies have consistently found prevalence rates of between 2 and 3 per cent among adult populations in Europe and the US, the rates among children are much higher and my own studies in 1983 found rates of 18 per cent among children aged two to five years. Holland et al found a rate of 31 per cent in a larger survey of Irish children in 1994 and there is no reason to believe that these rates are any different today.
What these infection rates demonstrate is that children have ingested dog faeces, presumably as a result of indiscriminate fouling of the environment. Dog owners should be held responsible. While Dr Daniel Collins is correct, as stated in his letter (August 5th), that cases of actual blindness are less common, nevertheless there are a range of associated clinical symptoms and reactions with infection with toxocariasis which are more common and remain largely undiagnosed and unassessed.
The extraordinary prevalence of dog fouling around Dublin’s inner city and its suburbs demonstrates that Irish people are either ignorant of the dangers of dog faeces or couldn’t care less.
While infection is usually associated with children playing in sand pits, infection can equally occur from parks and centrally-heated homes when dogs are allowed the run of the house. Given that previous Irish surveys found that 82 per cent of dogs were infected, the need for stricter enforcement of the law is required. The authorities need to act. – Yours, etc,

First published: Thu, Aug 15, 2013, 01:05

Sir, – I wish to express my disappointment that Simon Treanor’s letter (August 6th) was published without any contact being made with Q-Park Ireland, given that certain information contained in it was erroneous.
Q-Park Stephen’s Green parking facility offers patrons a very competitive “pay-on-arrival” rate each day which provides parking any time after 5pm that evening until 10am the next day for only €7. This was introduced to cater for patrons of the Gaiety Theatre in order to alleviate queues in the car park post-show. In order to avail of this “pay-on-arrival” product, it must be paid either at any of the paystations or at the customer service desk within 15 minutes of arrival at the parking facility.
The issue for Mr Treanor arose when he placed his ticket in one of our paystations within this 15 minute period and the system assumed he was a “pay-on-arrival” customer. As opposed to pressing for “Help” or going to the customer service desk, Mr Treanor proceeded to pay the €7 which would have entitled him to stay until 10am the next day if he so wished. The €7 was not a charge for his stay-period, rather he paid for a product that he did not require as opposed to seeking assistance from us while at the car park.
We hope this clarifies that he indeed was not over-charged for his short stay, which is the implication of his letter. It is also stated he stayed from 6.28pm until 6.51pm, a period of 23 minutes. This is not accurate as the “pay-on-arrival” rate is only available within 15 minutes, after which period the paystations do not offer this rate, therefore making it impossible to pay the sum of €7. – Yours, etc,
Sales & Marketing Manager
Sir, – Whatever about Oliver Cromwell’s connection with the introduction to Ireland of the wholesome cabbage, unloved by so many (Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary, August 8th), Charles Kickham wrote in Knocknagow in praise of the delicacy “a pig’s head on a bolster of cabbage” as the pièce de résistance of dinner.
Perhaps the memory of watery-yellow, overcooked offering of the much malingered brassica in country hotels of the past, still rankles! – Yours, etc,
Co Westmeath.
Sir, – Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary (August 8th) alludes to the fact that it was Cromwell’s troops who first introduced the vegetable cabbage to the Irish.
That the Gaels took the delicacy, augmented it with potatoes and bacon and made it a national dish, is surely the strangest of ironies. At least Cromwell can be credited with enhancing our culinary universe. Unlike some of our native politicians who treat us like mushrooms and feed us with . . . – Yours, etc,
Ormond Keep,
Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

A chara, – About 25,000 amateur musicians will attend the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann this weekend in Derry and the event will be attended by up to possibly 300,000 people over the weekend (maybe more over the week) and where most of the entertainment is free. It is, simply, the biggest traditional music event in the world. Meanwhile, an extremely highly paid professional musician or group will entertain about 75,000 people who have purchased expensive tickets to be at Slane Castle. Which event will be deemed to be more important and favoured by coverage in the media and why? – Is mise,

Sir, – Dr John Doherty’s plea for an “ironics” typeface (August 14th) might result in some unforeseen problems, as the entire contributions from Miriam Lord, Frank McNally, Lucy Kellaway and many of your readers’ letters would have to be printed in this fashion, not to mention the whole page on political debates, budget deliberations and troika austerity proposals.
This in turn would lead to an unwanted increase in A & E attendances for the new condition of left-facing crick in the neck. – Yours, etc,
Coundon Court,

Irish Independent:

* I watched the young fella from the beginning of fifth year. He put the hours in, but the glazed look on his face and the constant glances at his phone, were a dead giveaway.
Also in this section
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Reflections on an eternal summer
Censure the deserving
A bright lad, no question; the relevance of the Leaving Cert was as remote to him in our city suburb as might be the third secret of Fatima.
Fifth year became sixth, and after Christmas there was a noticeable change. He now needed the laptop and phone to keep up! Well, there were exam notes, and sundry websites to visit, all vital to his success.
Like I say: no fool, but there were also parties to go to; the heady excitement of girls; and then there was this dull ritual called the Leaving Cert, the El Dorado of our education system – fool’s gold he thought.
I too walked and wobbled on that same tight-rope three decades ago. We left “the system” pumped up with pride like spring lambs on the way to a picnic with a pack of wolves. But the hell of it was, most of us did just fine. The repeaters, the dossers, the swots and the also-rans, found their own way under and over the points system.
There are even more academic rat-runs today, with courses in everything for high-achievers and low-brows like myself. In the end it is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game that matters.
Today’s results will not define you, whoever you are.
They may give you a good start, but unless you have the guts to stay the course, with a keen eye out for the hurdles, no certificate in the world will take you past the finish line. Courage and character are always a safe bet.
When I left school, third-level was three floors up in Liberty Hall where we got our union cards stamped, but that’s another story.
To all you bright shining stars that are getting ready to dazzle the world today, may I wish you the very best. But it won’t be the parchment in your hand that is your map for life whatever is written on it; it will be the dreams and hopes that are in your hearts.
Shine on.
Eamon C O’Brien
Blackrock, Co Dublin
* I understand perfectly well why Pat Kenny made the big jump in the autumn of his years. It is not a money consideration. He is financially comfortable, his talent established nationally and his family reared.
What we fail to remember is that the presenter worked a lifetime in the same environment, under the same guidelines, disciplines and people. Now that he is free from these shackles he can afford to gamble on his abilities and hopefully exploit his unexplored potential.
Pat Kenny’s playing field is now going to be a new and adventurous one. However it turns out, so be it.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* Why are we so selfish that we cannot agree to give our organs when we die? From death on, they are not ours so why not have legislation that helps to bring down the waiting lists for people who are waiting for an organ to help them while they are alive?
Having big debates about such a straightforward solution to help those who suffer is a waste of time and we should be generous and look at organ donation as giving a gift that once we are dead we can now afford to give.
S Mary Guckian
Dublin 4
* I can’t imagine that a single public representative, either senator or TD, would not welcome improvements in organ donation in this country, bearing in mind that 650 people, and their families, are living in hope.
However, the cynical party political system may intervene to prevent an opportunity to do the right thing.
A small minority of our people are affected by this and with all the calls on public representatives’ time, it is easy to see how this group may not have had the good fortune to have time allocated to debate the provision of services that would mean so much to them.
Therefore, I would like to suggest that generosity of spirit might be allowed to prevail and that all TDs and senators put their minds to finding an improved way forward while listening to those most affected.
Caitriona McClean
Lucan, Co Dublin
* I refer to Paul Melia’s article on the DART Underground (Irish Independent, August 7).
Neither the DART Underground or Airport DART proposals take into account the fact that the section of the Dublin/Belfast line between Connolly and Howth Junction is already the busiest part of the Irish Rail system. It is heavily congested with express trains routinely averaging less than 20mph in either direction and not much faster onwards to Malahide.
DART to the airport only makes sense if trains can run to both a frequent and fast schedule. Unless additional tracks are provided north of Connolly this will not be possible without curtailing other DART services, severely degrading the existing Dublin/Belfast service and making longer distance commuter trains even slower than at present.
Anthony Gray
Drogheda, Co Louth
* Speculation, now rife, of a Fine Gael coalition with Fianna Fail may be nearer reality than it seems. In fact, if Micheal Martin continues refurbishing his party and re-inventing its policies, it could be well
capable of heading the poll.
Government and the troika tell us our suffering is all because of Fianna Fail mis-management over the years. Admittedly, they lost the plot for a bit in the hectic euphoria of the Celtic Tiger era; as also did banks, developers and ordinary citizens.
Nobody said stop.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* Three times this summer, a major hurling game has been effectively terminated as a contest by the dismissal of a player.
The referee was simply enforcing the relevant rule. Without diminishing the ultimate authority of the referee, should a lesser penalty such as the ‘sin bin’ be an option in preference to sending off?
Tom Woulfe
Victoria Road, Dublin
* With the continuing unrest in the Arab world in their struggle for democracy as well as considerable apathy in existing democracies, perhaps we should take the time to inform the democracy activists about a few simple facts.
First off, democracy takes time. It can take decades, even centuries. It took Britain centuries to evolve from the absolute feudal monarchy of William the Conqueror to a powerful representative body, of any kind.
Secondly, democracy has its flaws. It has been described as inefficient, illusory, mob rule, unstable and crippled by short-termism and the ‘irrational voter’.
I do not say that democracy should be abandoned. Democracy allows people some measure of control over their lives and countries, far more than dictatorships would. I only wish to help those just being introduced to democracy to avoid disillusionment.
There is nothing more fatal for new democracy in a country than the people losing faith in it because it is not the political ‘miracle machine’.
Colin Smith
Clara, Co Off aly
Irish Independent

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