15 August 2013 Blustery
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark Lt Murray is to be discharged as he is too old for the Navy at 26. He appeals and Leslie is there as the ‘Prisoners friend’ but he is let off thank goodness. Priceless
We are both tired but I potter around and get some things done, the little tomato plant dies
We watch Yes Prime Minister quite good
Scrabble today I win but I get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
Professor Tony Pawson
Professor Tony Pawson, the biologist, who has died aged 60, carried out pioneering research into the behaviour of cells, giving new insights into diseases such as cancer and diabetes; he partly attributed his success in the laboratory to his family background in fly-fishing.
6:15PM BST 15 Aug 2013
Pawson devoted his career to understanding how cells communicate with each other, and in 1985 identified the SH2 domain, a component of many proteins, which turned out to play a crucial role in such cellular interaction.
Cells, Pawson explained, were like a jigsaw puzzle. Cell molecules, meanwhile, were like pieces of the puzzle that constantly change shape; his discovery of the SH2 domain was equivalent to finding out how the puzzle pieces communicate in order to slot together again in their new shapes. It also revealed how cells signal these changes to one another, and how errors in this process trigger diseases such as cancer.
Pawson’s discovery was a result of his instinct for the unusual, combined with a bit of luck. He had been looking at a protein fundamental to regulation of the immune system, cellular Src, and trying to understand how it worked. As he did so he decided to pay attention to a previously ignored part of the cell structure, and began to guess at what it might be doing.
Before 1985 scientists had known that cells had conversations with one another, but nobody had identified the common part, or subunit, of the molecule that was activating the signals – nor understood what Pawson called the “balancing act” that keeps them working properly. The implications of his discovery were profound, and it took four years for scientists to appreciate fully what it meant for treatment research.
Cancer is the classic example of cells responding to a wayward signal, which causes them to grow in an uncontrolled manner. Pawson’s research was indirectly responsible for the creation of breakthrough target drugs and treatments such as the “magic bullet”, Gleevec, that blocks cellular signals which prompt the development of cancers.
Later research enabled Pawson to recognise the importance of tyrosine kinases, which are responsible for transmitting the commands to hormones that regulate cellular reproduction and metabolism. Today laboratories around the world are following up this work, with breakthroughs in many areas of medicine, including in diabetes treatment and immunology.
Anthony James Pawson was born at Maidstone on October 18 1952. His father was a cricketer, Olympic footballer and England’s first world fly-fishing champion, while his brother, John, also went on to earn the world fly-fishing title. From boyhood the future biologist was devoted to fishing too. He would later claim that fly-fishing had instilled in him patience and an eye for detail that had been key to his research success.
“There is a lot of similarity between fishing and doing science in the sense that a lot of it is just keeping going,” he said. “But it is also being alert to subtle things. Often, in science, the most important things can reveal themselves in the littlest ways.”
After Winchester, Pawson studied at Clare College, Cambridge, and completed a PhD at King’s College London.
He began his research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, now Cancer Research UK, in London, and then at the University of California, Berkeley. But he soon moved to Vancouver with his Canadian wife, Maggie, where he took a post as assistant professor with the University of British Columbia. It was while there that, alongside a graduate student, Ivan Sedowski, he made his SH2 domain discovery. “It was a transformative idea at the time, almost revolutionary,” said Pawson’s colleague, Dr Alan Bernstein. “That discovery really opened up a whole universe of mechanisms of investigation into how our cells react with each other.”
In 1985 he and his wife moved to Toronto, when he was asked to join the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital as Senior Scientist. In the same year he also joined the University of Toronto as a professor in the department of Molecular Genetics. At Mount Sinai he established his own lab for further investigations into how cell signals are conveyed, and in 2000 was named director of research.
Pawson’s specialism, called signal transduction, is considered an increasingly important field in cancer research, and his lab attracts students from all over the world. His funny, passionate lecturing style also made him a popular speaker, admired for making complex theories sound simple.
He was awarded a host of major prizes for his discoveries, including the Gairdner Award in 1994 and the Wolf Prize in 2005. In 2008 he became the first Canadian scientist to receive the so-called “Japanese Nobel”, the Kyoto Prize.
Pawson’s death came a month after he and his team of researchers at Mount Sinai announced a new discovery which they hoped might lead to safer drug testing in cancer patients. He described the breakthrough as providing “exquisite detail” on how certain proteins interact with one another.
Tony Pawson’s wife died in 2011. He is survived by a daughter, a son and a stepson.
Professor Tony Pawson, born October 18 1952, died August 7 2013
Your editorial (In praise of… no latecomers, 14 August) was muddle about music, to misquote Stalin’s famous phrase about Shostakovich. You criticise people being allowed into the recent Usher Hall performance of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony after it had started, yet suggest you are “liberal” about people having applauded and cheered in between movements. But the latter, being much louder, is far more disruptive of the continuity of a listener’s concentration. Many pieces of music are conceived as, and best experienced as, a whole.
One of the most overwhelming moments in all of Tchaikovsky’s music is the normally brief pause between the explosion of seeming ebullience and pseudofinality at the end of the third movement of the Pathétique, and the sweeping chords that take us into the last movement and drag our thoughts inexorably away towards doom and misery. Music exists as something that carries us across time, as visual art takes our mind around space. My appreciation of a great musical work is as destroyed by an outburst in the middle of it as would be an art-lover’s appreciation of an old master that was cut down the middle and displayed in two halves.
If I’d been at that performance, I’d have got up and left and demanded my money back. If enough music lovers did so, perhaps concert organisers would be more proactive about discouraging people from wrecking performances.
• Latecomers interrupting Tchaikovsky at the Usher Hall? A couple of years ago, a man in the row in front of us was taken ill, subjected to multiple resuscitation attempts and eventually died, without any interruption to the symphony, and to the great distress of his companion, the whole of the rear stalls and the orchestra, who could see it all from the platform.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
It was sad to read of a decline in Welsh speaking (Welsh voices grow lonelier, 12 August). Sad because of the enormous progress made in the use of the language in the last century, a language many had written off. In 1847, the infamous royal commission stated: “The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people.” This attitude reached its apogee in Victorian Wales when children were physically punished for speaking Welsh and some had to wear a wooden plaque inscribed “WN” for “Welsh Not”.
Welsh is easily the most used of all the Celtic languages and even an English invasion is not all bad – many who have moved have sought to learn Welsh in adult education classes. There are exclusively Welsh language schools with some pupils from English-speaking homes where the parents want the children to become fluent in Welsh. It is still, of course, a minority language among ethnic Welsh people but more now realise what would be lost and I have met older people who regret not being able to speak it more fluently. In a recent documentary there was a Cardiff Somali fluent Welsh speaker!
Most of my Welsh results from train delays at Newport station, which limits social intercourse. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the Basque book – the signage in the Bilbao metro, for example, is entirely in Basque although you are in Spain. The bus to Vitoria will only say “Gasteiz” on the front, the one to San Sebastián “Donostia”.
• Anyone who has taken groups of children to France will recognise the problems of the Welsh language speakers, as they try to stem the tide of English, and its undoubted appeal to the young. Reading the article about the ongoing decline in the use of Welsh, I was struck by the compliant attitude of Welsh speakers, who greet a newcomer in Welsh, but do not persist in that language if the other person replies in English.
Several times in France I had to go into a shop or cafe to ask the proprietors not to speak English to the children, but to force them to make themselves understood in French. Is this the way forward for Welsh? The postmistress could insist on speaking, and being spoken to, in Welsh, as could Rhian Hudson in the Caffi Cynnes. It may seem kinder and more accommodating to use the preferred language of the customer, but I am afraid that a little more militant insistence is required if the Anglophone pressures are to be resisted.
• Cathryn Ings, of the Welsh language initiative Menter Cwm Gwendraeth, has it in a nutshell when she says: “We’ve got to make the language more welcoming, more inclusive.” Welsh to my bones, but not a Welsh speaker, I have always felt excluded and unwelcome by the Welsh language brigade. If their initiative to attract more people to speak Welsh through inclusivity and friendliness is sincere, I am confident it will succeed.
• What the Welsh language needs is rebranding. Why not give it its old title back and call it the British language? This would create a huge resurgence in interest for a language that has played such an integral role in the history of these islands for the last two-and-a-half-thousand years.
Dafydd Wyn Roberts
I am astounded at Thames Water, a multi-million pound profit company, attempting to pass on costs for the Thames Tideway Tunnel to members of the public already feeling the squeeze (Report, 13 August). Even before this tunnel tax we had strong reservations regarding the project. In particular the use of Chambers Wharf – a residential area with a primary school nearby – for such a disruptive piece of construction. There are better alternative solutions for the construction of the tunnel that would have significantly less impact than these proposals and cost the company and water ratepayers less.
Cllr Peter John
Leader of Southwark Council
• As unemployment figures are published at constituency level, why does the government not publish GDP growth/contraction at least at regional level? It would be interesting to know if all regions are experiencing growth, how much of the 0.6% growth was accounted for by London and the south-east and whether some regions are in recession.
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
• Maybe Joan LB Edwards would have had a seat in the Lords if she had donated during her lifetime, instead of making a bequest (Report, 14 August).
David J Shannon
• So those who get drunk first and then get naked are worried about the behaviour of those who get naked first and then get drunk (Gin and bare it: naturist hotel gets drinks licence, 15 August)?
Pól Ó Dochartaigh
Aldergrove, Co Antrim
• Roy Hattersley’s reminder that RH Tawney was a joker (Comment, 15 August) is also a reminder that this principled man refused the peerage offered to him by Ramsay MacDonald, reputedly with the words “What harm have I ever done the Labour party?”
• We are certainly experiencing a plague of cabbage whites (Letters, 14 August), but what’s happened to the ladybirds this year? I’ve only seen one adult. Mind, there are virtually no greenfly either – their staple food. Chicken and egg?
Andrew J Blaza
Newspapers regularly preserve the anonymity of correspondents with the formula “name and address withheld” (Letters, 15 August); the Guardian, at least, makes a serious effort to confirm the identity of correspondents before publication. Online publishers (and, whatever the CEOs of Facebook et al claim, that’s what they are) should be compelled to do likewise. Banks won’t open accounts without serious ID checks. All this (especially establishing the IDs of existing users) would cost, hitting the online publishers’ bottom line, but where’s the harm in that?
• Nick Woolverton’s suggestion of blocking access to trolls on the basis of their IP addresses wouldn’t work. While every device does indeed have a unique IP address, those addresses are mostly assigned dynamically. So each time a troll logs on to the internet, he/she will probably have a different IP address. So, block an IP address because a troll’s been using it and you’ll cut somebody else off.
Richard Norton-Taylor is too kind to David Cameron and his acolytes when saying that the “government seems to be frightened by the prospect of people asking questions” (First world war abridged, 13 August). Bluntly, the government’s programme of acts to remind us of 1914 is designed as a con trick to blind us to the reality, as Christopher Clark has pointed out, of a “world drifting back towards 1914”. That is to say, a world where governments can make war as they please, comforting themselves in the knowledge that when drones do the dirty work they are seemingly free from the liability that “our boys” will be killed. The ploy is to make 2014 a year of carefully measured militaristic glorification, bolstered by the gullibility of those local and family historians who provide the stories of heroism and “band of brothers” nostalgia that neatly camouflages the fact that the 887,000 British dead did not sacrifice themselves, but were sacrificed. This distinction is what Cameron wants to conceal.
• To suggest, as Andrew Murrison does, that the public would be less engaged with the big questions of causation and consequences of the first world war and prefer instead a focus on the local and “intimate level” is patronising and disingenuous. Healthy public debate and introspection over the monumental folly of the war to end all wars ought to be an integral component of next year’s centenary commemorations.
Why not encourage the public to engage in “historiographical” debates too important to be left to professional historians and politicians more concerned with the xenophobic propaganda of the belligerent nations? What about the “refuseniks” and the stories of protest as well as patriotism? Bertrand Russell was a lover of truth who renounced the war but was also a man tortured by patriotism and love of England to desire the defeat of Germany “as ardently as any retired colonel”. Russell and many protesters courageously pointed out how there was “no great principle” at stake, “no great human purpose … involved on either side … The English and French say they are fighting in defence of democracy but … do not wish their words to be heard in Petrograd or Calcutta”. Precisely.
• How did Richard Norton-Taylor manage to write 800 words on the topic without mentioning either the kaiser or the invasion of neutral Belgium? What compelling evidence does he or Christopher Clark offer that the kaiser and imperial Germany’s leaders never “actually wanted war”? Why does he describe Sir Edward Grey as “incoherent and hesitant”? There are extensive published diplomatic and military documents about the lead-up to the war that tend to show that Grey behaved honourably and consistently, and tried to prevent war. Several European countries had deranged and dishonest leaders willing to play games with people’s lives. At every step, Grey had to persuade cabinet colleagues about courses of action rather than make the decisions himself.
West Wickham, Kent
• There are two other key issues that deserve to be raised as we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. For too long the awful treatment of soldiers who could no longer face the slaughter and refused to go back to the lines or deserted has been ignored. Many were executed as cowards and as a warning to their comrades who might also have thought they could no longer fight. Many had served valiantly following the orders of the “donkeys”. Let us not forget also those conscientious objectors who were subjected at home to the “white feather” treatment. After 100 years we should be able to debate these issues openly.
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
• The world did not “sleepwalk” into the first world war. Europe had been torn apart by wars for centuries. The existence of huge opposing military pacts had guaranteed a world war: if the spark had not come from an assassination, it would have come from something else.
At the end of four years of slaughter the countries did come together to found a League of Nations dedicated to preventing war, and the struggle to achieve an international body capable of preventing war has continued ever since, so far unsuccessfully. Military pacts remain the preferred option.
Thames Ditton, Surrey
It is no surprise that the Egyptian revolution has turned into a farce (Editorial, 15 August). Liberal democracy cannot be implanted into religious societies. Look what such attempts have produced in Iran, Pakistan, Gaza, Tunisia, Turkey and now Egypt. The inconvenient truth is that the flower of liberal democracy does not blossom in a religious soil. India is an exception, but Hinduism is quite compatible with secularism. Since the success of liberal democracy appears to be positively correlated with the decline or absence of religion, is it not time the west got its priority right by exporting secularism rather than democracy around the world?
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
• Mohamed El Baradei has resigned from his vice-presidency; he should never have accepted it. Barack Obama gave a guarded welcome to the coup which was not a coup. Tony Blair, still quite influential as a Middle East envoy, gave support to the ousting of Morsi. All these people should have known better from the start. That the elected Muslim Brotherhood had disappointed, and I believe it had, was no reason for illegality. As a rule, unpopular governments can be voted out of office; supporters of the military seem to have made the facile assumption that once ensconced, the MB would have made it difficult to dislodge. Under no circumstances can the ousting of a legitimately elected government be welcome. Nobody seems to have learnt the lesson of Algeria, when the military cancelled an election they did not like the result of, which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
• The events in Egypt are the inevitable consequence of the US giving the Egyptian military $1.3bn every year. The US response to the slaughter? According to the New York Times: “Mr Kerry announced no punitive measures, while President Obama, vacationing … had no public reaction.” The report goes on to note Obama “appeared determined not to allow events in Egypt to interrupt a day that, besides golf, included cocktails at the home of a major political donor”.
As said by Julie Stanbridge at Ernst & Young, university isn’t the default any more; young people have to think carefully and consider all options (“The age of apprenticeships”, 15 August). I see it as extremely positive that our youth are thinking about the best routes into their chosen professions and spending time considering all pathways.
A study we commissioned last month revealed that 81 per cent of parents are unaware that a Higher Apprenticeship is a university-level qualification. We need to break the myth that apprenticeships are a second-rate option.
Jane Scott Paul, Chief Executive, Association of Accounting Technicians, London EC1
Having just read your report “The age of apprenticeships”, as a retired lecturer I can offer some advice to potential undergraduates. This is: if you get exceptional grades that will get you to a top university (Oxbridge or Warwick for example) then take the loan out and go. Otherwise, opt for an apprenticeship or a job at the bottom of the ladder.
Successive governments have put pressure on universities to award better grades, but this has resulted in things being dumbed down year after year. After all the debt, students with relatively poor degrees are at a distinct disadvantage as against those who left school and can now offer experience.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Keep mental patients out of hospital
That compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act is now being used as the only way to secure a hospital bed (report, 14 August) is one of the most alarming consequences to date of NHS cuts.
Hopefully, however, we have learned from past knee-jerk reactions to previous crises in our mental health services and will not go down the superficially attractive but disastrous route of “more beds!”
The traditional approach of “detain, label and medicate” has dominated our often ineffective, and sometimes damaging, services for decades, partly because of the colonisation of psychiatry by the pharmaceutical industry. Trusts that are genuinely listening to service users and their families are developing, to the extent their limited resources allow, humane and effective alternatives to the stigmatising and often frightening hospital ward.
These alternatives focus on real social and psychological needs rather than trying to suppress human distress with ever increasing prescriptions of drugs, most of which are little better than placebo.
Admission to psychiatric hospital, compulsory or voluntary, should be an absolute last resort. The gathering together of large numbers of highly distressed people in one building has never been very good for anyone’s mental health – patients or staff.
Professor John Read, Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool
Israel’s perilous path to peace
Israeli intransigence over settlement expansion could stymie not only the current effort at a peace deal, but, of concern globally, threaten the very viability of international jurisprudence and diplomacy (“Israel to seize Arab property with new legislation”, 15 August).
The UN declared Israeli settlements illegal under 1979’s Resolution 446. The EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, has boldly and unequivocally stated this week that Israel is violating international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory. Israel should be alarmed as its reputation slips internationally. The US response over Israel’s behaviour has been repeatedly and frustratingly tepid. Without a peace deal soon the Palestinians should rightly win backing at the UN to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, a move the US would no doubt vigorously oppose.
We need a world where the powers that be do not allow Israel to make a mockery of international agreements: this would incite tension and cynicism within and beyond the Middle East.
Catherine Thick, Founder, Equity & Peace, Newcastle upon Tyne
Both Katherine Butler and Robert Fisk (14 August) are keen to emphasise the weakness of the “Palestinians” compared with the “Israelis”. Both obscure the point.
The logic of the peace process is “land for peace” – the Israelis give land and the Palestinians receive land. The only winners to come out of the process are the Palestinians, for they are the only ones to gain anything.
Mr Fisk (though he is to be applauded for recognising that not all Israelis are against the two-state solution) mischaracterises the situation when he asserts that the Palestinians don’t “trust” the process and the Israelis don’t “want” it. Since the Palestinians are the only ones who stand to gain anything concrete, and since no one seriously believes that Hamas and states like Iran, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are suddenly going to fall in love with Israel in response to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel has just as much right to distrust the process as the Palestinians have.
Stephen Glasse, Kingsbridge, Devon
Paxman takes it on the chin
Terence Blacker (15 August) suggests that Jeremy Paxman’s beard is a “cry for help”. Being a hard-hearted soul, I have no time for men or women sporting facial hair, whatever the reason.
As we have had vans touring parts of London telling illegal immigrants to go home, how about a similar operation with the billboards declaring that only beardless citizens (especially celebrities) are welcome?
Ivor Yeloff, Norwich
Terence Blacker asks why men grow beards. Having had a beard myself for over 40 years, my wonder is that men shave.
I grew a beard at university and, yes, it might have been something about looking young for my age and wanting to look older, but it was mainly just to see what it looked like.
It was then that I realised what a chore shaving was. When I shaved the beard off as an experiment about 30 years ago, I realised how much I disliked shaving and, what was worse, a couple of hours after shaving my chin itched from the stubble for the rest of the day.
And my confused friends, who had never seen my chin before, asked me to grow it back. I’ve not shaved since.
A friend of mine, a keen reader, once told me that when he grew a beard he realised it meant an extra five minutes each day in which he could read a book. When I reminded him of this more recently, he told me that nowadays it meant an extra five minutes in bed.
Paul Dormer, Guildford
I’m sorry, it just wasn’t cricket
On 26 July you published a letter of mine recommending the garden release of the African field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. It is widely available in the UK as a reptile food, has a pleasant song, and I thought it would add exoticism to my garden. This idea was also the subject of a light-hearted article published in The Independent on 3 August.
Last Thursday I received a phone call from the police informing me that by introducing into my garden a species of cricket not native to the UK, I’d broken the law (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, section 14(1)), and later I was interviewed by a policeman. He was very friendly and pleasant (he wanted to educate more than anything else), but I did receive an Adult Restorative Disposal (ARD).
Through your columns may I now warn the public against releasing any non-native animal species into our environment, and apologise for any confusion I may have caused? British ecosystems are ancient, precious, and fragile, and the consequences of such actions can be potentially devastating.
Daniel Emlyn-Jones, Oxford
Payday loan to buy drugs
On the eve of her admission to a drug treatment clinic, my daughter took out a loan with a payday loan company to buy drugs. She lied on the application form, saying she was on benefits, and there were no checks to see if she would be able to repay the money. In fact, she has no income and I support her.
Thankfully she is drug-free at the moment, but for parents and friends of drug addicts the advent of online loans is a horrifying prospect. I am certainly glad the Archbishop of Canterbury is challenging irresponsible lending.
Name and address supplied
The city that likes bikes
Bella Bathurst asks if bikes will ever truly belong on Britain’s roads (Voices, 13 August). Bikes certainly seem to belong on Bristol’s roads. In Bristol, unlike most towns where I’ve cycled, there seems to be more mutual toleration between cyclists and drivers, and between cyclists and pedestrians.
I’m not sure why this should be. Perhaps it’s because bikes are allowed on so many pavements. Cyclists don’t feel such a need to take stupid risks in traffic. They also seem more considerate towards pedestrians. Not quite Holland, but Bristol is getting something right.
George Meikle, Glasgow
Lesson from St Paul
Christina Jones (letter, 14 August) rightly notes that “pay is not all” with respect to recruitment and retention of key professionals, such as teachers. A child and adolescent psychiatrist myself, I would only like to echo her words and maybe add from St Paul: “Faith, hope and love … and the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13). I am sure that most other faiths have similar quotations and I would love to hear them.
Susanne Griffin, London NW1
Seen him before
I know it’s the silly season, but did you have to subject us to yet another photograph of spin-crazy David Cameron, providing yet another “photo opportunity” (14 August)? It was neither a good photograph nor an illustration of “news”. And as for the caption: shock, horror! A dog squirmed out of its handler’s arms, while being stroked by Cameron. Well, I never.
Norman Evans, East Horsley, Surre
Some degrees will always be worth more than others in financial terms, but university is not only about money — it is much more
Sir, In speaking about the decline of the graduate “premium” since 1993, Jenni Russell (Opinion, Aug 13) tries to put a purely financial value on a degree. Apart from courses such asmedicine and dentistry, the objective of university study is to allow students to develop an academic interest in their discipline, so it is not surprising that many degree subjects do not easily translate into earning potential. This has always been so, but economic growth and graduate job creation in the late 1990s and 2000s boom obscured it.
With tuition fees rising and students questioning the value of having a degree, it is time we had an honest, and open, debate about the role and purpose of higher education.
Sir, As a student about to start my second year at the University of Southampton, and paying the £9,000 tuition fee, I find Jenni Russell’s article confusing. Many of the arguments she uses against fees are those I use to support them.
That the fees are written off after 30 years is certainly a positive. The 9 per cent above the cap figure shows how little effect fees will have on most graduates’ finances each year. To use Russell’s example, a graduate earning £22,000 will pay £90 extra in tax each year. This is £7.50 a month, the price of one takeaway pizza.
Tuition fees have no impact on credit rating. The impact of the fees will indeed hit disposable income, but not as hard as Russell fears. I do agree with her proposal that over-45s should share some of the burden, but this does not mean that tuition fees can be slashed as a result. We are all in this together, after all.
Sir, It is not true that baby-boomers got free university education (letters, Aug 14). My minimum grant (£50) covered less than a tenth of the cost of my accommodation and fees. Yes, full grants did cover everything, but only about a third of us had them.
If a woman’s father did not hold with education for women and so would neither attest nor pay up, then she was stuck. Many girls had to wait years until they could sign up as mature students in their own right.
Dr Allan Prys-Williams
Sir, Jenni Russell did not mention one serious situation that has developed over the past 20 years or so. With the proliferation of graduates most professional bodies now admit only graduates. The excellent “work plus night school” route that many very good engineers took has gone.
I came from a poor background, and have had a terror of debt all my life. I would never consider starting a university education now. I believe that this “£45K debt on graduation” will deprive us of some of our best talent and encourage the class divide.
Past President, Institution of Structural Engineers
Sir, Even when the economy improves, how will a graduate with debt of perhaps £43,500 obtain a mortgage or finance for a business or a car? Every prospective lender takes existing liabilities into account.
Those unable to repay or who miss payments will be stigmatised for more than the 30-year write-off period and so may never own their own homes. This should be a great disincentive to go to university, particularly as the graduate premium is falling.
There have been bequests of money to the State before, from senior naval officers to a former Master of the Rolls, earmarked for the national debt
Sir, Miss Joan Edwards (“Politicians forgo £½m bequest to save a minute’s worth of debt”, Aug 15) is not the first person to bequeath a sum of money to the State.
Admiral Peter Rainier was the senior naval officer in the Far East from 1794 to 1805, during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. During this unprecedented period he acquired, primarily through prize money, a fortune of approximately £250,000. In his will of 1808 he referred to his career in the Royal Navy “in which I have acquired the principal part of my fortune I now have, which has exceeded my merit and pretensions”. He therefore bequeathed 10 per cent of his estate to help to reduce the national debt.
Perhaps we can see the green shoots of a new trend on the part of our senior public officials who could humbly acknowledge the source of their wealth and pensions?
Dr Peter A. Ward
Sir, At least Joan Edwards’s will has not suffered the fate of the will of Sir Joseph Jekyll, a former Master of the Rolls (as recounted by Sir Robert Megarry in his Miscellany-at-Law). Sir Joseph left his fortune to pay the national debt, a bequest which Lord Mansfield unsympathetically called “a very foolish one. He might as well have attempted to stop the middle arch of Blackfriars Bridge with his full-bottomed wig”. Sir Joseph’s relations in fact had the will set aside “on the ground of imbecility”.
Sir, You say that the £520,000 bequest from Joan Edwards will cover only one minute’s interest on the national debt.
Our finances are bad but not that bad. Given that there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 365 days in a year, £520,000 per minute amounts to £750 million a day and £270 billion a year — compared with the actual interest of £45 billion a year. The bequest would therefore cover six minutes. Please correct your figures before we all run for the exit.
While the commuters of the South East may be facing price rises, they do have the luxury of relatively modern trains, unlike parts of the North
Sir, I think that the Conservative MPs who are grumbling about an increase in train fares near London are selfish. They forget that the system into Waterloo was electrified from 1915 onwards.
I spent my first 31 years in the lush suburbs of Surrey and since 1975 have lived near Leeds. I have travelled frequently in the past two years on trains in southwest London and apart from some rush hour trains, which are crowded, they are bliss compared with the ancient, short rattletraps, mostly non-electric, which commuters have to use in the North.
The Government is quite right in wishing to modernise rail transport in other densely populated parts of the country outside London.
Dr Michael Waugh
There are other sports being played, both in this country and around the world, other than football and cricket. Sailing and yachting, for example
Sir, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s criticism of the BBC for excessive coverage of football and cricket and lack of attention to minority sports such as sailing (“Yachtsman fires broadside at ‘football-mad’ BBC”, Aug 14) applies equally to The Times. We have pages of football and cricket every day and hardly a mention of Cowes Week, probably the world’s premier sailing regatta, or the Fastnet, the largest offshore yachting race.
The system that is in place now for training nurses is much more expensive than the previous one of learning while working on the wards
Sir, I’m sure Gaby Hinsliff (Opinion, Aug 14) is right that the health service may soon run out of funds. That it now costs £20,000 to train a graduate nurse (student nurses once worked their passage as paid members of the ward team) and some hospitals employ agency nurses at up to £1,600 per day, may have something to do with it?
Frances Stott, SRN
SIR – I always fall for the first early Jersey Royals and the new season’s Cornish but haven’t found a really flavoursome new potato in any supermarket for many years (“Supermarket new potatoes are really just old spuds”, report, August 10).
I grow my own in potato bags and in my handkerchief-sized veggie patch, just to get the genuine flavour and texture. These are always later than the shop ones but worth the effort. The finest example, in my opinion, is a variety called Isle of Jura. I don’t know what name they are marketed under in supermarkets, but when I dig a root, I put what I don’t immediately need in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge salad compartment. The potatoes retain their newness for at least a week. These are proper new potatoes.
Nether Westcote, Gloucestershire
SIR – Yesterday, in my local Tesco, a whole section of pre-packed potatoes were labelled “freshly dug”.
I wonder, is there any other kind?
SIR – The Prime Minister foresees cheaper energy bills thanks to fracking (“We cannot afford to miss out on shale gas”, Comment, August 12). What measures will he put in place to force the energy companies to achieve that? They have a bad record on lowering prices. I don’t recall paying less at the pumps due to the North Sea oil bonanza.
East Preston, West Sussex
SIR – Caroline Lucas MP said that shale gas is incompatible with our commitments on climate change (Letters, August 14).
But shale gas has dramatically reduced America’s carbon dioxide emissions because it has replaced coal in power stations.
Hartlepool, Co Durham
For a genuine flavour, grow your own potatoes
15 Aug 2013
SIR – Professor Richard Davies (report, August 10) warns that shale gas developments could cause the “industrialisation” of the countryside. But Britain has already developed, and continually adds to, an extensive utilities infrastructure of power, telecommunications, water and gas systems throughout the countryside.
I can see no substantial difference between these and construction activities for shale gas.
SIR – What is all the fuss about fracking and earth tremors? Long before fracking was started I was warned, in a house survey in Kent in 1983, that the area was subject to earthquakes. Britain is subject to natural earth tremors which are not noticed by the population.
B F Dutton
SIR – As David Cameron “would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery”, perhaps he should guarantee that wind farms will not be foisted on communities as well.
At least fracking has the potential to lower our bills significantly, whereas we all know that turbines have exactly the opposite effect.
SIR – By comparing the area of a shale drilling pad with that of a “cricket pitch” the Prime Minister shows that he knows as little about the subject as Lord Howell.
On a typical drilling pad in North Dakota or south Texas, from which we would drill between 20 and 30 well trajectories, we normally have around 40 container units, each around the size of a cricket pitch. Then there is the space taken up by the drilling derrick and other ancillary equipment. A better comparison would be with just over half of a football pitch.
SIR – The West intervened in Iraq and Libya at the drop of hat on the pretence of humanitarian concerns. We now stand by passively, largely without comment from politicians, while the conflicts in Syria and Egypt claim dozens more lives on a daily basis. What seemed a brave stance against Colonel Gaddafi’s threat to hunt down his citizens “like rats” now rings hollow.
The Egyptian old guard’s putsch against its fledgling democracy has been condoned by Western leaders while calls for democracy in Syria have been all but silenced. Can it be pure coincidence that Iraq and Libya are rich in oil while Syria and Egypt are best known for dates and cotton?
SIR – The National Farmers Union has exposed a dangerous policy flaw (“British-produced food would run out today”, report, August 14).
Relying on cheap imports to make up for the growing shortfall in British-produced food puts us in a very vulnerable position while widening our trade gap. Our farmers produce food to the highest safety, welfare and environmental standards in the world and yet they cannot make a decent profit. No wonder we lose so many every year.
Meanwhile, the development of agricultural land is curtailing our ability to produce more food, as are the green lobby’s continual calls to reduce livestock grazing numbers in the uplands.
Desert island reading
SIR – Rosemary Heaversedge (Letters, August 12) asks what “better book” than the Bible I would have people take to their fictional desert island. I would not presume to tell people what they would find interesting or inspiring and would leave the choice of reading matter entirely to them.
No one can deny the influence that the Bible has had on our culture, but that influence has not always been benign. It should be a free choice as to whether a person feels the Bible is particularly interesting or relevant to them, not a choice mandated by others as it has been so often in the past.
President National Secular Society
SIR – I share Ron Ward’s dismay about avant-garde opera productions (Letters, August 12). I saw a production of Fidelio which featured row upon row of shirts laid out on what appeared to be the top of a garage roof. What it meant worried me for the rest of the performance, and does still.
I have also seen Siegfried forging Nothung with a toffee hammer alongside the airframe of an Fw190, and Rusalka singing her touching song to the moon while seated on a swing with her legs tied together. I knew the soprano in question and later asked her what this meant. She confessed that she had no idea.
SIR – Ron Ward should spare a thought for me. Last summer, in Berlin, I sat through a performance of la Traviata set entirely on the central lane of an autobahn, the only excitement being when a set of giant windscreen wipers inexplicably swept across the proscenium arch.
Brighton, West Sussex
State of the arts degree
SIR – I was disappointed to read that students are turning away from arts degrees because of job prospects (report, August 13). It is possible for students to make themselves employable and still complete an arts degree.
At the University of Northampton, we have focused our attention on ensuring that all students have the opportunity to get involved in social enterprise and learn core business skills for their future careers.
One example of this is a theatre company of recent graduates called Tap the Table, who set themselves up and trade successfully as a social enterprise.
These and other initiatives have helped us to become a leading university for employability in Britain.
University of Northampton
SIR – The intellectual rigour of a liberal arts course (in my case modern languages) provides an important introduction to decision-making under time pressures. In my long experience of business this is much more important – and rewarding – than the vocational repetition of received wisdom (in my case chartered accountancy). I strongly recommend that undecided students plump for arts courses but, critically, follow up with some form of vocational training. Do not treat the undergraduate degree as an end in itself.
Donald R Clarke
SIR – I am deeply ashamed at the way the British have abandoned the Afghan interpreters and left them and their families to be murdered by the Taliban (“Churchill knew loyalty should be rewarded”, Comment, August 14).
The Government should grant asylum to all interpreters (and their immediate family) who helped the British forces.
Just leaving them to die is immoral, disgraceful, and indefensible.
Watching sails dry
SIR – Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s criticism of the BBC’s lack of coverage of sailing is totally unfounded. Sailing is definitely not a spectator sport and watching paint dry is more exciting, hence the BBC’s numerous programmes on house renovations.
Peter de Snoo
Why do the clean-shaven fear the bearded?
SIR – The little research into why men grow beards (“It’s pogonophobia: Paxman bristles over bosses’ bias against beards”, report, August 14) is hardly surprising. Almost every male over the age of puberty has a beard, unless he actively removes it.
Much better subjects for research would be why, in this day and age, so many men feel a compulsion to perform the daily act of self-mutilation known as shaving – or why so many of them feel threatened by people like Jeremy Paxman.
SIR – The first piece of advice my old boss gave me was never to employ anyone with a beard. If they were clean shaven but wore inappropriate shoes then they fell at the second hurdle. Ghastly socks tended to go along with inappropriate shoes.
He ran a very successful company and this advice has stood me in good stead.
Sadly, he had no advice about women.
SIR – Jeremy Paxman must have amazing hair growth since he was clean-shaven on University Challenge at 8pm and had a full beard on Newsnight by 10.30pm. Perhaps he should have become the new Doctor Who.
Lower Froyle, Hampshire
SIR – A beard can be dangerous: I had one for 30 years. When wearing a suit and bow tie, I was often mistaken for an intellectual, so eventually shaved to avoid being invited to any more arts events and galleries.
Sir, – Telling Leaving Certificate students, who achieve less than 40 per cent in an examination, that their performance cannot be recognised is hard to justify.
Academic results are like athletic or racing results; beginning with first place they continue right the way down to last place to form a continuum of achievement. In athletics, however, there is no “pass mark” or time above which an athlete’s performance is declared unacceptable. No athlete is declared a failure. No athlete is formally disowned by a governing body. Qualification in athletics is simple. Top finishers advance. Importantly, no athlete, not even the slowest, is said to have failed athletics. – Yours, etc,
Sir – Congratulations to every student who received their Leaving Cert results this week and managed to complete such a Herculean labour. As a post primary teacher, I welcome the long overdue reforms of the current education system. However, I am concerned that awarding an extra 25 points for passing higher level maths is unfair and exclusive.
We are trying to make education inclusive for our students. While it is a great advantage to the 96 per cent of the 13,014 who took higher level maths and were awarded the extra points this year, it acts as a disadvantage for the 32,165 students who took ordinary level and the 5,677 who took the foundation level papers. The possibility of attempting higher level maths is not a reality for a large proportion of students, leaving these students with an added hurdle to overcome in the points race. – Yours, etc,
Kimmage Road Lower,
Sir, – The 58 per cent increase in the number of students taking maths at higher level in the Leaving Certificate, over the past two years, is to be welcomed. However, it should not be taken as an endorsement for Project Maths, as the Minister for Education seems to imply (Home News, August 15th). The 58 per cent increase is mainly due to the attractive incentive of 25 extra bonus points awarded to those students who do the higher level paper.
The Project Maths syllabus needs to be revised for it to succeed in making maths more accessible, understandable and relevant to the needs of students who will progress to third level. It is incredible that the NCCA designed the new Leaving Cert maths course and excluded vectors and matrices from the syllabus. Both topics are not particularly difficult to master, but are essential for most science and engineering students in the first weeks of their third-level courses. Their exclusion makes a mockery of the claim that Project Maths is more relevant to the needs of students pursuing third level courses in either the physical sciences or engineering.
The NCCA should be asked to justify their exclusion. – Yours, etc,
Retired Maths Teacher
Co na Gaillimhe.
Sir, – You carry a remarkably confused leading article about the impact of Project Maths on Leaving Cert results (Front page, August 14th).
The aim of Project Maths and bonus points was to encourage more students to attempt the higher level paper and, in this, they have clearly succeeded. It should come as no surprise that if students who previously opted for the ordinary level decided, in large numbers, to take the higher level course then there would be less high grades in the ordinary course and more lower grades at the higher level. From the students’ point of view what mattered most was whether they were rewarded with bonus points for taking the higher option and, by and large, they were.
The authors shy away from this obvious conclusion and instead embark on some embarrassingly ill-informed statistics. To take just one example, it is an invalid use of the data to state that “the number (stet) of students achieving an honour . . . has fallen by more than 10 per cent – from 83.3 to 72.9 per cent”. It would be correct to say that the proportion of students achieving an honour had dropped, but what would you expect if a large cohort who previously opted for the ordinary exam decided to take the higher one? – Yours, etc,
Dr KEVIN T RYAN,
Sir, – What a huge achievement by Rob Heffernan in winning a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, after the heartache of finishing fourth on three previous occasions (including twice at one tournament!). I hope he is enjoying his time in the sun.
Fewer plaudits to RTÉ, which sadly didn’t show the event live. It was clear in advance that this was our best if not only chance of winning a medal at these games. In fact, checking the RTÉ website during the race, there wasn’t even reference to the fact that our man was in the leading group all the way through.
What a pity so few Irish people were given the opportunity to witness this historic event, only the third ever Irish gold medal at these championships. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Stirring congratulations to Rob Heffernan on his outstanding gold medal winning performance in the 50km walk at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow. But absolutely no such tributes to RTÉ for its failure to cover the event. Truly the walk of shame for our national broadcaster to whom we, as licence payers, can only say, “We wuz robbed”. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK M WALSH,
Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
Sir, – Well done to Rob Heffernan. Let’s hope he doesn’t successfully defend the title next time or he’ll be disqualified for winning a walking race two times running. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Whatever about the ongoing furore over Leaving Cert “Project Maths”, judging by the table of grades in The Irish Times, it is now clearly time for “Project Art”.
The percentage of students achieving an A1 grade in higher level Art was a shocking 1 per cent in both 2012 and 2013. This is by far the lowest result of all subjects available and compares unfavourably with an average rate for A1s of around 7 per cent across those other subjects.
The results in Leaving Cert art are not a fair reflection on the ability of art students but rather a damning indictment on how art is taught and examined in Ireland. Time for a change. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I note your article (Business + Technology, August 15th) states Aer Arann pilots will “down tools” in a row over their pay.
Which tools would those be? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Until I read Lydia Gillen’s letter on water metering (August 1st) I was concerned that there would be no reaction from the Irish taxpayer to this further assault.
There are many reasons why water meters should not be installed, a major factor being the 95,554, or 12. 5 per cent of residential mortgages which are in arrears. Add to that the grossly unfair property tax burden imposed upon us by the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition, the phenomenally high cost of education in Ireland, the 2 per cent insurance levy, the 23 per cent VAT rate on items such as the humble toothbrush, and the Universal Social Charge (to name but a few). All of these taxes have been introduced recently and now we have to endure a drip feed of information from Minister for Environment Phil Hogan and Irish Water as to future charges. It is particularly galling that some nameless bureaucrat glibly suggested that standing charges could be imposed to pay for proposed metering.
It has been reported that the salary of Irish Water’s managing director, Dr John Tierney (who presided over a water leakage rate of 28 per cent in Dublin City Council) will be within government guidelines at €200,000 per annum. Why not €100,000 – after all, this is a new company with no previous incumbent?
We hear that 1,600 people will be needed to install over one million meters – why, if it has to be done, could we not have manufactured these meters ourselves?
I envisage huge public health issues arising out of the grasping nature of elected representatives. Every woman knows how hard it is to teach young children about personal hygiene, hand-washing, toilet flushing, clothes washing and cleaning to prevent cross-contamination, infection and disease. Every woman in this country knows about food preparation and the need for clean water in the kitchen. No one I know wastes water – we all pay by our taxes for the provision of this fundamental resource.
Our representatives should have the guts to stand up to our European neighbours and say “No. Enough is enough.” – Yours, etc,
Sir, – On Sunday afternoon and evening we witnessed one of the greatest matches in the history of hurling in Croke Park, marred not by defeat for the magnificent Dubs (since one of the two magnificent teams had to lose) but by the sending-off of Ryan O’Dwyer with the score in a fluctuating match 1-16 : 0-18 in favour of the Dubs. Unusually, Hill 16 was not covered in blue, but (more appropriately in my opinion, since this is the GAA way) in the blue of Dublin and the red of the rebels. What a match, and what a brilliant match-winner Cork have in Patrick Horgan.
In An Irishman’s Diary of exceptional interest by Denis Fahey (August 12th) I learnt that up until 1929 at least it was Hill 60 not Hill 16, a tribute to the magnificent assault of the 5th Bn Connaught Rangers, 29th Brigade, Tenth (Irish) Division on Hill 60 (Kaiajik Aghyl) with Australians (13th and 14th Bns, 4th Brigade) and New Zealanders (Otago and Canterbury Mounted Rifles) under Maj-Gen Charles Cox. The Connaught Rangers (heroes of Bussaco on September 27th, 1810 under Col Alexander Wallace in the Peninsular War under Wellington) “dashing forward with a yell like hounds breaking cover” (Bryan Cooper) in their attack on the well at Kabak Kuyu. Consequently I am not surprised that Hill 16 was once Hill 60.
Let us not forget in this context the Dublin Pals, D Company, 7th Bn, Royal Dublin Fusiliers of the 30th Brigade, Tenth (Irish) Division at Kirec Tepe Sirti on the night of August 15th and 16th, 1915 when no fewer than 26 of them were killed in action. See The Dublin Pals War Dead: Suvla Bay 1915, in Sarah Alyn Stacey (ed), Essays on Heroism in Sport in Ireland and France (Lewiston, Queenston and Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press). Hill 16 is indeed “sacred ground”. – Yours, etc,
Dr GERALD MORGAN,
The Chaucer Hub,
Sir, – The University College Cork student body takes great offence at the comments in the “What’s not?” section of the article “Your city by city guide to student life”, Results 2013, August 14th) regarding Cork people being “smug, arrogant and insular”. The comments are unfair and unjust considering that Cork was voted one of the friendliest cities in the world (Home News, August 6th).
Every other college in the article got an average of four to five lines in the “What’s not?” sections, while UCC received 12 lines. We find this to be an unfair bias against our college. We feel the article concentrated too much on the negatives in Cork and UCC, considering that UCC was awarded the first five-star university rating in Ireland.We feel that quoting from an unnamed Twitter account describing Cork people is poor journalism, especially from one of the senior broadsheets in the country.
If anyone doubts the welcome of Cork people, I would extend to them an invitation to our Fáilte Fest on September 14th, or to our R&G week in February, at which, last year we raised the most money for charity in the history of Irish colleges (€42,000). – Yours, etc,
University College Cork
* I am responding to the article “Young men are dying in our streets – this is not normal” (Irish Independent, August 8), about the deaths of Darren McBrearty of Omagh and Jason McGovern of Monaghan, which had been previously reported in the media.
Also in this section
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University panels ideal model for Seanad
Reflections on an eternal summer
The article alludes to the fact that two young lives had been lost in haphazard circumstances through gratuitous acts of violence that had left other broken young men and grieving families in their wake.
Many will recall the pantomime-like platitudes of five years ago, as well as blatant denials by the Government up to the last minute before the economic crash and the bailout. The absence of transparency at that time had left the most vulnerable members of the public – those who were in the midst of property transfers – poleaxed and ill-prepared for the impact of the crash when it finally came in 2008.
Before the bailout, there had been few experts and little open debate in evidence, in stark contrast with the plethora of commentators and specialists in financial and economic matters and on issues of governance after the crash. There is perhaps a fear of recurrence of something similar, because there is now a similar scarcity of open debate.
Yet, as Martina Devlin’s article points out, such events cry out for public discourse and engagement.
The untimely deaths are also a reminder of another grave development, namely, the prevalence of suicides, of which men are mainly the victims up to now, though the female count is rising, with the advent of social media.
Is there any one causal factor connecting these two sets of phenomena? Nobel laureate Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907-88) developed an epoch-making theory of behaviour, which emerged from his painstaking exploration of instances of incongruous behaviour among stickle-back fish in situations where there are conflicting instinctual drives, or a perceived attack, or of stress during periods of fertility.
Mr Tinbergen gave his observations the name displacement behaviour. His explanatory model has been found to be relevant to mammals.
Returning to the two deaths mentioned above, Ms Devlin wrote: “Loss of life in these circumstances can never be accepted as normal . . . It is not normal”.
She is right. It may be that instances of male-on-male violence require to be addressed by those who have the knowledge to dig a little deeper and go further than the ready-to-hand stereotypes I’ve mentioned and to open up an inquiry that may suggest an adequate explanation.
A GREAT LOSS
* The passing of Professor Sean Freyne recently is a very great loss to his family, the academic world, his wide circle of friends, the GAA community and Irish society as a whole.
A giant of a man in every respect. A great, great friend, a mentor, a trusted colleague and a teacher who always wanted to drag you up from the low road to the high road.
A missionary, a priest, a preacher, a rabbi, a maitreya who transcended religious divides, a teacher in the true traditional sense who did not limit his world view to matters theological, but extended it to moral, social, political and cultural compasses.
Indeed, he could teach almost anything. I remember once asking him after he translated a chapter in the Latin Vulgate Bible into both Hebrew and Greek, pointing up as he often did the similarities in these languages with our own Irish language, ‘how many languages can you actually speak, Sean?’ To which he replied, ‘I’m badly fluent in 10 of them!’
The world or matrix of the texts behind the stories in the Bible were his ongoing challenge and when embarking on the four-year Hebrew, Biblical and Theological studies in TCD, he instructed us to always carry a newspaper in one hand, the Bible in the other; demonstrating that we shape not our world around the Bible, but our task was could we fashion the Bible into our world at all?
That vast expanse of knowledge, that wonderful wisdom, the absolute integrity, alas now no more, all gone, buried on a hilltop overlooking a tree-lined valley in the same grave as his dear father and mother in his native Kilkelly, in his beloved Co Mayo.
A knowledge, though, that will continue to weave its way in this world, as he disseminated it with such joy to all of those lucky enough to cross his path.
* It has been noted that there is a disproportionate risk of fatal injury for motorcyclists. One simple step the Government could take immediately is to allow motorbikes access to bus lanes. As a motorcyclist, I have requested that this be allowed on the grounds of safety. The request was bluntly refused because this was not done in the UK!
Booterstown, Co Dublin
* It’s great to see the Fleadh in Derry for the first time. It reminds us of the beauty of our ancient Irish culture and the reason why it evolved.
The dominant reason ultimately comes down to the political situation in Ireland over the past eight centuries and involves a rebellion from the ways of empires, which focus on the accumulation of wealth and money, usually through violence and repression.
That rebellion pushed the Irish people into the hands of our faith in God with its emphasis on happiness rather than wealth and power.
This happened, too, with the descendants of black slaves in the United States, where this month marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. According to official figures, black people are still not equal in the USA. However, we need to ask whether income or happiness is the more accurate measure of equality.
I would suggest that many of the descendants of slaves – or of the repressed Irish – will not see income as defining anything good in their communities, especially not their happiness.
Is it not, therefore, a perversion of the truth to suggest that the blacks of America – or the oppressed Irish – are not equal to the whites – or unionists – because they have less income?
Does having less income make them unequal or inferior? Or does it simply reflect their superior happiness that undermines the drive less happy people have to make themselves financially better off?
It can surely only be the case that monetary income is the measure of those who serve money while happiness reflects the measure of those who serve God.
Of course, Jesus predicted the ultimate victory of the happy and their happiness over wealth and unhappiness: “there will be those who are first who will be last and those who are last who will be first” (Mt 19: 30).
* Anthony Gray’s concerns (Letters, August 14) about the capacity of the rail network to accommodate the DART expansion projects, including the DART Airport link, do not take into account the resignalling of the DART, which is under way.
This will see the number of trains that can be accommodated through the city centre increase from 12 each way at present to 20 trains each way.
This would ensure that DART Airport services, as well as any growth on the Northern and Maynooth commuter lines, could be accommodated. Furthermore, DART Underground would eliminate many of the conflicts in the city centre that restrict service frequency.
This would benefit the scheduling of Dublin/Belfast trains also.
Communications Manager, Iarnrod Eireann, Dublin 1