21 August 2013 Caroline
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with a new Captain and Troutbridge hitting Makepeace and an aircraft carrier Priceless
We are both tired its off to Carolines and I get my feet doe and Mary her hair Greta Garbo look
Scrabble today Mary wins but she gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Professor David Rees
Professor David Rees, who has died aged 95, was a pure mathematician who made significant contributions in fields known as semigroup theory and commutative algebra; during the Second World War he worked at Bletchley Park where, by some accounts, he made what was arguably the most important break into the German Enigma machine cipher.
Professor David Rees Photo: THE ROYAL SOCIETY
5:57PM BST 20 Aug 2013
One of the brightest mathematicians of his generation at Cambridge, Rees had begun postgraduate research in September 1939, when his undergraduate director of studies at Sidney Sussex College, Gordon Welchman, was recruited to work at Bletchley.
Welchman set up Hut 6, the section breaking German army and air force Enigma ciphers, and recruited a number of promising Cambridge mathematicians to work with him. They included Rees, who was immediately put to work in the Hut 6 Machine Room, the subsection where the Enigma ciphers were being broken.
Several ciphers had been broken at the beginning of 1940 as a result of information supplied by the Polish codebreakers. But by the spring of that year the Polish methods were no longer working, and Bletchley had been unable to make more than the occasional break into the German ciphers. The “Yellow” Enigma cipher used by the Germans in Norway had been relatively easy to crack, but the ciphers used elsewhere were proving difficult.
With the Germans expected to invade Belgium, the Netherlands and France, the race was on to break the “Red”, the most important Enigma cipher at the time. The Red was used by Luftwaffe officers liaising with the ground troops, so provided vital intelligence on German plans.
John Herivel, another of the young mathematics students recruited from Cambridge, had suggested that German operators using the Enigma machine might try to cut corners in a way that might help the codebreakers. The Enigma operators were told which rotors and settings to use each day; but once they had set up the machines they selected their own starting position for the rotors. They then sent that starting position as a three-letter indicator at the beginning of their first messages.
Herivel realised that a lazy operator would not move it much further away from where it had been the night before, and reasoned that if a number of operators behaved in the same way, the start positions would all cluster around the previous night’s finishing position, reducing the number of possible start positions to a much smaller number.
The Hut 6 codebreakers looked out for clusters (known as Herivel’s Tip), but none were found. Then, on May 10 1940, Germany invaded France. According to Herivel, Rees was working on his own on the night shift in the Machine Room, and noticed that among the many Enigma messages there were several that were very close together. So he tried out various possibilities, and as the day shift came in he finally managed to break into the Red.
Stuart Milner-Barry, the deputy head of Hut 6, later said: “I can remember most vividly the roars of excitement, the standing on chairs and the waving of order papers which greeted the first breaking of Red by hand in the middle of the Battle of France. This first break into the Red was the greatest event of all because it was not only, in effect, a new key, which is always exciting, but because we did not then know whether our number was up altogether or not.”
It was one of the most decisive moments in the breaking of the Enigma ciphers, certainly of the Army and Luftwaffe ciphers. The Red would be the main staple for Bletchley and would be broken from then on continuously until virtually the end of the war. However, Rees himself was not sure that he deserved the credit for the breakthrough. In a document reproduced in John Herivel’s book Herivelismus and the German Military Enigma (2008), he wrote: “I do not recollect being the person who was responsible for the first successful use of the Tip in breaking a day’s key. In fact, my recollection is of returning from leave to go onto night shift, and being told that it had happened.” But he also conceded: “Since this all happened 59 years ago, it is possible that my memory is at fault.”
In late 1941 Rees was also involved in the vital break into the Enigma used by the German secret service, the Abwehr. MI5 had captured most of the Abwehr agents sent to Britain and was using them to feed false information back to the Germans.
But the communications between the German agent runners and their bosses were enciphered using a highly complex Enigma machine, so it was not clear if the Germans had been fooled by the deception.
Rees was seconded to the Enigma Research section run by Dillwyn (“Dilly”) Knox in late 1941, and a few months later they succeeded in breaking the Abwehr Enigma.
The Double Cross committee, which ran the captured German agents, used them to persuade Hitler that the D-Day landings would be south of Calais rather than in Normandy. Brigadier Bill Williams, Montgomery’s chief intelligence officer, said that without the break into the Abwehr Enigma they could not have known the deception was working.
Rees subsequently moved to the Newmanry, where the Colossus computer was used to help to break the German high-level teleprinter ciphers. Max Newman, who had been Alan Turing’s tutor at Cambridge, had devised the idea of using a computer to break the second row of wheels on the German SZ40 teleprinter cipher machine.
Colossus, the world’s first working electronic computer, was built by Tommy Flowers, the chief engineer for the GPO, according to requirements laid down by Newman. The SZ40 ciphers, code-named “Tunny” by the codebreakers, provided the text of the conversations between Hitler and his generals in France, Italy and on the Eastern Front. They yielded a great deal of the intelligence that was needed to mount the D-Day landings and to defeat the Germans in Italy, France and Germany itself.
David Rees was born on May 29 1918 and educated at King Henry VIII Grammar School in Abergavenny and at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
His wartime work with Colossus led to his recruitment by Max Newman after the war to join the Mathematics department at Manchester University, which was then at the forefront of the British development of computers. In 1949 he returned to Cambridge as a lecturer in Mathematics and became a Fellow of Downing College. Ten years later he was appointed Professor of Pure Mathematics at Exeter, where he remained for the rest of his career, serving as head of the Mathematics and Mathematical Sciences department for many years.
Rees’s main mathematical interests lay in highly complex fields of algebra known as semigroup theory and commutative algebra — both of which have applications in computer science. Several algebraic concepts and theories in these fields are named after him.
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1968, Rees served as a member of its council from 1979 to 1981. In 1993 he won the Polya Prize of the London Mathematical Society.
In August 1998, to mark his 80th birthday, a conference on Commutative Algebra was held at Exeter.
In 1952 he married Joan Cushen, who, as Dr Joan Rees, would become a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at Exeter. They had four daughters, of whom two are Mathematics professors at British universities.
Professor David Rees, born May 29 1918, died August 16 2013
The costs of terrorism are conventionally measured in lives lost and maimed, in damage to property, in economic setbacks and in necessary security inconvenience at airport check-ins, but Alan Rusbridger’s piece (David Miranda’s detention made it public: the threat to journalism is real, 20 August) exposes the hitherto hidden costs to our liberties and to freedom of the press arising from the perceived threat of terrorism.
These are costs to the fabric of our culture, unimagined by Osama bin Laden but eagerly seized upon by our governments (not just the present one) and factions of our security apparatus. The cloak-and-dagger threat, even to one newspaper, is yet another item in the shameful list of government-sanctioned departures from the morality that the UK ostensibly stands for, on top of unregulated mass surveillance of our electronic media, collusion in extraordinary rendition, use of torture and non-judicial killings.
Rusbridger’s “shadowy Whitehall figures” must be reined in. Had it not been for the whistleblowing which the Guardian has honourably reported in depth, we would have only the haziest knowledge of this list of shame. Alongside a charter regulating press conduct, we need an explicit charter for press freedom that enshrines and protects our right to know what is being done in our name by our government and its agencies. The UK needs a security service, but it must be one in whose conduct we can have informed confidence.
I hope the opposition will press for an urgent parliamentary debate on the government’s interventions and seek amendments to schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to ensure that those detained in places like Heathrow transit lounges have the same rights as those detained within British borders.
• If Glenn Greenwald’s partner had been detained in the US, he would have been read his “Miranda” rights, including the statement: “You have the right to remain silent.” In the UK the statement would appear to be: “For the next nine hours you have no rights at all.”
• I am writing from Germany, from which I fled with my refugee parents in 1939, and where a free press had been the first victim. All the other freedoms followed. Britain, like the rest of what still likes to think of itself as the free world, has started down that road. The Guardian stands out as a beacon of the liberty that cries out to be protected by every citizen who cares for the kind of open society that David Cameron’s government is bit by bit destroying.
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Former chair, Amnesty International UK
• I think we need a new Magna Carta: the people’s establishment is high on power, and totally out of control.
• The government says of the treatment of David Miranda that “it is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers” and that it is an “operational matter for the police” (Report, 20 August). They may as well give the police a limitless stop-and-search power if that’s their attitude.
After reading Philip Clayton’s letter (Development woes of West Bromwich, 15 August), I feel obliged to set the record straight. Like many other towns (and yes, it is and always has been a town, not a city) in the industrial Midlands, West Bromwich has suffered in recent decades.
The “huge road round the centre, making this once busy hub a hole in a doughnut” was built by the former county borough of West Bromwich in the early 70s. I agree this inhibited growth and change. To combat this, council collaboration with the private sector has resulted in the £200m New Square shopping centre, offering a contemporary retail mall, multi-screen cinema, range of restaurants and public square. Since it opened last month, feedback from customers – many of whom, like Mr Clayton, had not visited the town in a long while – has been universally positive.
The town’s swimming pool was knocked down several years ago, having become obsolete. Recognising the need for a replacement, work is under way on a new pool and leisure centre which opens next year.
As for the park, £5.2m of heritage lottery funds is currently bringing about its restoration and renovation. It boasts a stunning new visitor centre, cafe, popular high ropes attraction and children’s playground.
West Bromwich is very much “open for business” and a town citizens can again be proud of. Perhaps it’s time Mr Clayton paid another visit?
Cllr Darren Cooper
Leader of Sandwell council
I would like to take issue with the recent statement made on behalf of the mission and public affairs group in the Church of England which suggests that opinions on fracking should remain open as cheap gas obtained through fracking will provide jobs, could help those in fuel poverty and would have less impact than more polluting fuels (As new protest looms, Church argues against total opposition to fracking, 17 August).
I find these comments baffling. Fuel bills have risen because of rising gas prices and inadequately insulated homes, not because of green energy measures, so it’s unclear why more gas would address fuel poverty. The government’s “dash for gas” strategy is a false solution to climate change. Evidence (such as that from the US Environmental Protection Agency) suggests that fracked gas may be just as bad for global warming as coal (largely because of methane escape), in addition to all the local environmental issues. Gas prices are only lower because of government subsidies in the form of tax breaks. If these subsidies were invested in renewables (as Germany is doing), it would guarantee future energy supplies at affordable prices as well as create jobs.
I don’t doubt that fracking might yield gas supplies in the short term, but with huge environmental consequences. Scientists tell us that to avoid devastating climate change we must not only stop exploring for new fossil fuels, but also leave the majority of current stocks in the ground.
Those who support fracking as a means of meeting our energy needs are looking for short-term financial gain for the UK irrespective of the longer-term impact on and costs to our global community. We should rather be aware of the ethical issues around our energy usage and do all we can to encourage energy conservation and renewable energy sources.
Chair of Operation Noah
• I have to agree with your editorial that we are nowhere near a practical energy policy fit for the future (How not to win an argument, 19 August).
However, current debate focuses on the supply side without looking at how we could easily, significantly and permanently reduce our consumption of energy. If energy companies (whose business plan must to be increase supply of energy) were forced to introduce tariffs that increase as we use more energy, there would be a real incentive for us all to reduce consumption in the many ways possible, while simultaneously creating a less unjust society.
Such tariffs could offer free energy for the most basic needs, and then progressively increase the more we use. It might mean that the cost of heating that swimming pool and other luxuries would increase massively, while hypothermia and death because of fuel poverty would disappear. Perhaps this is exactly what a sensible energy policy would ensure – reducing demand, reducing supply, generation by renewables, and social justice (which must include our near and distant descendants).
The opposite to a sensible energy policy is George Osborne handing out tax breaks and public subsidies to extract shale gas to burn as if, beyond that next shareholders’ meeting, there were no tomorrow.
Dr Colin Bannon
• As a former chair of the Green party and a lifelong environmental campaigner, I can only applaud Caroline Lucas’s brave stance against fracking at Balcombe (Green fingered: MP Lucas arrested at fracking protest, 20 August).
But it’s an inconvenient truth that shale gas is too good an opportunity to miss, as is the fact that there will be unpleasant consequences. The removal of the waste water will cause substantial local disruption and its disposal presents pollution and health hazards. In the future it will be for protesters and authorities alike to ensure that these are kept to a minimum and compensation for those affected at a maximum.
• All serious studies of fracking have shown the environmental damage it causes to be by no means nonexistent but less than any other major means of energy production. The well-meaning but misguided people of Balcombe should club together to hire a coach for the relatively short ride to Wych Farm in Dorset to see what fracking is really like.
• There is an argument that, as we move to a low-carbon energy policy in the UK, we need to adopt a “least worst” approach. Conventional gas may not be as low-carbon as renewables, but it is better than coal. Unfortunately, when shale gas is extracted using fracking, the extra methane leaked at the well head makes it a greenhouse gas emitter that is at least 20% worse than coal and could be twice as bad over a 20-year timespan (See the 2011 article “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations” by Robert W Howarth and others in the journal Climatic Change). Nuclear recycling is one possible solution: we have an abundant supply of radioactive waste in the UK that needs to be dealt with, and it is a low-carbon energy source. Fracking for shale gas has no redeeming features.
• Nice one, George Monbiot, for pointing out the testosterone-driven need for puny politicians to embrace the man’s world of big energy projects (What is behind this fracking mania? Unbridled machismo, 20 August). But I missed any mention of nuclear power. This too drains money from energy efficiency and renewables, has as yet insoluble waste problems, and is also part of a potential race to “mutually assured destruction” globally – through the spread of nuclear weapons made possible by nuclear power programmes.
Convenor, Green New Deal Group
We question your decision to publish a letter from Mr Marc Struik, a senior officer of BSG Resources (BSGR won Guinea mining rights on merit, 15 August), relating to your in-depth reporting of the controversies surrounding the award of the Simandou concession (The tycoon, the dictator’s wife, and the $2.5bn mining deal, 30 July).
This allows BSG Resources to secure space for its statements on an unfact-checked basis, which, particularly in highly contentious circumstances such as this, is simply inappropriate – and particularly inappropriate in the case of a company which responded to the Guardian’s legitimate questions with threats of libel action.
The fallout from BSGR’s securing of mineral rights in Guinea currently includes a licence review proceeding in Guinea, the criminal prosecution of a former associate in New York (with a trial set to commence on 2 December), and ongoing criminal investigations in Guinea and the United States.
Guinea will not comment on those pending proceedings for obvious reasons. However, we note that Mr Struik has falsely reported the position of the government of Guinea. He states that “Guinea chose to freeze all development”. This is totally untrue.
In fact, the decision to suspend development at Simandou was one taken unilaterally by BSG Resources in consultation with its business partner and not one that Guinea required or even welcomed.
Struik also claims that Guinea “claims the amount BSGR received” for the sale of half of its interest in Simandou was “too high”. This is equally baseless. The amount received by BSGR is not an issue of any sort.
The means by which BSGR received the rights in the first instance and secured consents to the transfer is, however, very much an issue in the pending proceedings.
Damantang Albert Camara
Minister and spokesman of the Government of Guinea
Ian Cobain explores the role of dual nationality in preparing young Muslims for martyrdom, as enjoined by the US “disposition matrix” and Obama’s “Terror Tuesday” (America’s seek and destroy list, 9 August). However, he does not go so deeply into corresponding dual loyalties at the heart of Anglo-American intelligence.
Unlike young Muslims – or our political representatives in London and Washington – the spooks of MI6 and CIA have been working together for most of their professional lives over several generations. Their matrix of pooled information, common interest and symbiotic mind-set runs deeper and denser than the transient alliances of militant Islam or party government.
While the White House and Downing Street must deny any intention to spy on, let alone target, ordinary citizens, can we believe that the transatlantic terminal at GCHQ would not dip into a database that can link keywords to identities and addresses, family and birthplace, place of worship or comprehensive school? Can we assume that whoever joins up the dots and targets the drones will be acting at our disposition or be well-disposed towards us?
• Once again the PR department of the CIA has cooked up another Orwellian euphemism for their drone “hit list”: the disposition matrix. As “the Company” once liquidated its adversaries in “wet affairs” or terminated them “with extreme prejudice”, it now predisposes itself as to who’s to be disposed of. The Latin matrix originally referred to the uterus or (by synecdoche) a breeding animal. Our concept of matrix has carried over from the Latin root’s essence of “spreading out, swelling” (the belly). Singularly so, a “disposition matrix” is a womb of death, ever-expanding. It has a respectable ring to it, though.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
New form of feudalism
Two articles in the 9 August issue complemented each other very well. Martin Kettle (Politicians and culture must not drift apart) makes a variation of the argument, first presented by Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation, that by setting up markets, everything, including workers, become commodified, and the economy loses touch with the culture. And to see just how far this process has come, we read: More than a million workers are now on zero-hours contracts.
Companies, following Milton Friedman’s edict about serving shareholders, have gone out of control, while workers and consumers mean nothing.
There are two obvious implications from these practices. One is that soon no one will be able to afford the products produced since no one will be working long enough or getting paid well enough to buy what they are producing.
The second point shows just how important unions and governments are to regulate the economy so that workers and consumers are properly protected. Otherwise, we will see our society descending into a new form of feudalism where we are literally owned by the company store.
London, Ontario, Canada
• A “rich cultural life” may benefit a politician’s personal life. It may not always benefit his or her politics. In attending the opening of the Bayreuth festival, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, follows in the footsteps of an infamous predecessor on whom the influence of the self-confessed antisemitic Wagner was anything but beneficial.
We deserve much better
The news that the Metropolitan Police have felt obliged to apologise for the appalling behaviour of PC Harman is something of a relief (Tomlinson family win police apology, 9 August). The relentless struggle of the family of Ian Tomlinson over the past four years has been a spectacle that speaks ill of our society. We saw how on this occasion (and many others) the first reaction of the police was denial and the spread of misinformation (lies, in other words). Had it not been for the emergence of the incriminating video and the persistence of Guardian journalist Paul Lewis, the police would have got away with their wilful misrepresentation and we would be back to a force infamous for its violence and brutality.
We deserve better than this: we pay for a police force to protect society and its lawful citizens. As it stands we are still in danger of permitting a situation where the police feel free to act with impunity and to use excessive force as a means of intimidation. It’s a slippery slope and there are plenty of examples around the world of what can happen when “security forces” are allowed to slide down it.
Political errors and crime
One of the editorials in your 2 August issue (Egypt: Time to back down) contained the following sentence: “Political mistakes are not crimes in a civilised country.” While there is much truth in this statement, especially in the context of events in Egypt at present, it is a dangerous generalisation to make, as such an understanding serves corrupt, negligent and immoral leaders far better than it does their subjects.
For instance, it should be possible for citizens of a state that has been deemed to have waged a war of aggression to label their leaders’ actions criminal, both semantically and in a court of law. And waging war in such a manner is merely the most serious of countless instances of criminal behaviour a country’s leaders could undertake while in power.
In this sense, it could be claimed that refusing to countenance political mistakes sometimes being of a criminal nature – ie choosing to pass these off as the unfortunate result of misplaced enthusiasm, naivety, a lack of information or simply regrettable decision-making – is an alternative gauge of a country’s level of civilisation.
Give Gibraltar back
After the Spanish government fully compensates ethnic-Anglo and British-national residents of Gibraltar for their property and monetary accumulation if they wish to relocate, Britain should completely relinquish its imperialist history and return lands thousands of kilometres away, nowhere even near the UK: specifically, Gibraltar, but also the Falkland Islands (World roundup, 16 August).
As for the referendums favouring British ownership (others would call it a derelict occupation), it’s all too easy to populate mostly desolate foreign lands, and then, over very many years of procreation, have the British nationalist descendents vote and vote again in favour of their ethnicity’s national origin.
How many bloody wars will have to be fought over British ownership of populated lands so very far from home?
Frank G Sterle Jr
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada
Protecting the gorillas
I was extremely worried to read the article stating that the Virunga National Park “home to rare mountain gorillas” is being targeted for oil exploration – of all things – by a British company, which insists its work would not affect the gorillas (World roundup, 9 August) .
On the contrary, I lived for 16 years in Tanzania. My husband and I visited the gorilla national park in 1957 during our honeymoon tour of east Africa and the Congo, so I am very aware of all that is going on among the animals there, and am very distressed by much of what I am hearing: the slaughter of elephants for ivory, rhino for horn, smuggling of infant animals, destruction of habitat and so on. We did all we could to leave Tanzania viable, and this is our reward.
The Virunga reserve is not large and it must surely be obvious that the infiltration of a horde of oil workers and their noisy equipment would hardly pass without notice. But will Soco International be sure that among their horde there will not be hidden poachers, agents for criminal animal resources firms? It would not be long before they found the reserve extinct.
We can only hope that the World Wildlife Fund can divert Soco from this disastrous plan by letting other concerned parties know if there is anything they can do to assist.
Healing power of writing
The healing power of journal writing has been known for quite a while, then more or less forgotten and now very happily rediscovered by “hard” science (Oliver Burkeman, 2 August).
Indeed, when writing a journal you cannot only attain a third-person perspective by externalising your thoughts, but you can also go further: for instance, by using the Progoff journaling method, you can lead a dialogue with the traumatising event that crippled your life, be it an accident, a handicap, an illness. In such a dialogue – preceded by a meticulous preparation – the event, situation or circumstance that burdens you will speak to you in its own voice and eventually turn out to be a teacher conveying to you important insights about your life and the life of all the others bearing the same burden.
This is a truly life-changing experience.
• Where does Oliver Burkeman get his arrogant self-esteem? None of his columns has changed my life one whit since they began appearing.
Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
• I fully endorse the initiative for women to be featured on banknotes (2 August). I also think Jane Austen a good choice. She had a clear-eyed perception of the power and limits of money.
Take (almost at random) this passage from Sense and Sensibility: “Their mother had nothing, and their father only £7,000 in his own disposal, for the remaining moiety of his first wife’s fortune was also secured to her child, and he had only a life interest in it.”
Precise enough for the governor of the Bank of England.
Corndale, NSW, Australia
The detention of David Miranda should surprise no one. It is the logical conclusion of the evolution of anti-terror law in the UK over the past four decades.
This legislation has never really been about stopping terrorism, but policing dissent. The Terrorism Act itself, extending detention under anti-terror law from seven to 14 days came in 2000, a time of peace in Northern Ireland and pre-9/11.
The boundaries of anti-terror law have been pushed and pushed since the introduction of the first Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in 1974, in the midst of the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings.
The whole process took on a new life with 9/11. Draconian legislation was passed allowing detention without trial, then the use of control orders. Now 60,000 people a year are being routinely stopped under anti-terror laws.
A police state has been building up in the shadows in this country for decades.
Paul Donovan, London E11
On Radio 4, David Blunkett said of David Miranda’s detainment: “I don’t think we should get hysterical one way or the other, we should get to the facts.”
No, Mr Blunkett, we should get hysterical – hysterical about the facts that we already know: that David Miranda was not a terror suspect even though he was detained under the Terrorism Act and hysterical about knowing that all our e-communications can be spied on by the US and UK secret services.
Ed Snowden was brave enough to expose the mass surveillance being carried on without our knowledge. Equally, if it wasn’t for Glenn Greenwald bringing this to our attention, this unsavoury fact would still be just conspiracy theorists’ rumour.
Journalistic champions for individual freedoms should not be intimidated in this way.
Henry Page, Newhaven, East Sussex
The detention of David Miranda is a direct consequence of the security services repeatedly being allowed to get away with abusing their powers under the Investigatory Powers and Terrorism Acts 2000 and other security legislation, supposedly designed to keep us “safe”
Such legislation is repeatedly used, often unlawfully, by the Home Office, police and security services to infringe civil liberties. What it actually does is fuel growing sympathy for terrorism in communities which feel unfairly targeted by the security services, whether young black men, or Muslims.
Julius Marstrand, Cheltenham
So we gave the Americans the “heads up” did we? I wish Britain would stop poodling the US. It’s embarrassing. It’s like watching your dad being bullied by a traffic warden.
From the moment Tony Blair started grinning at George Bush like a man looking for a job, Britain’s subservience to American wishes has turned us from an independent ally to a fawning lackey.
David Gibbs, London SW4
What did David Miranda expect? Surely he knew he was putting himself in danger by transiting through a police state. He ought to thank his lucky stars that the Occupying Power did not whisk him off to its interrogation centre at Gulag Guantanamo. Roll on Scottish independence! I long to live in a free country, rather than a vassal nation.
Peter Martin, Muir of Ord, Highland
A short history of Bongo Bongo Land
The reference to “Bongo Bongo Land” was first made by the late Alan Clark MP, who suggested, when he faced similar criticism to the ones now facing Ukip, that he was referring to the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo.
Bongo was a not too untypical African leader who ruled his country for 42 years, followed by his son, another Bongo, after the customary disputed election. The losers sought refuge abroad.
During the first Bongo term of office this oil-rich but people-poor country saw the President acquire 39 properties in France. The charity Transparency International cites massive corruption in former French colonies, of which Gabon is just one. The opulent life of African leaders and their families cannot be ignored; Mugabe’s wife returning from shopping trips abroad when the population was starving is not an isolated example.
It is excellent that our government has tightened the criteria for aid, but it has yet to apply a full torque wrench to the problem. Many of our European neighbours and the EU itself still send huge sums to the likes of Bongo and allow them to bank their loose change here. European states like Belgium are queuing up to resume business with Zimbabwe. How transparent is the EU aid when its accounts have never passed an audit?
Leslie Freitag, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Assisted dying with fair warning
I couldn’t agree more with Ruth Hair and Brian Crews (“My mother deserved a better death”, Letters 3 August). We “baby boomers” have campaigned for choice throughout out adult lives, and been fortunate enough to succeed in almost all areas, so why are our newspapers, politicians and doctors so scared of starting a proper debate about assisted dying for those that choose it?
One reason may be that a change in the law now would affect people possibly already too old and frail to make that decision, and start awkward discussions that most would prefer to avoid.
My answer is to set a date for the future now, say 2025, when assisted death will be legalised, with all necessary safeguards in place. That would give the NHS, medical schools, doctors, lawyers, and, most importantly, individuals and their families ample time to plan and express their preference while of sound mind and body.
As a healthy 60-year-old, I would feel far happier about moving into old age if I thought there was an easy exit strategy open to me when and if I ever chose to use it.
Jody Bain, Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Ways to save electricity
Alan Mitcham proposes a 12-volt circuit in every home to power “essential” services such as lighting (letter, 7 August). Such 12-volt circuits would necessitate very heavy wires, which would put enormous pressure on the mining industry to extract huge amounts of copper from any place they can. It would make the oil market and fracking look minuscule and create far more pollution.
He is right that we need a way to “split essential electricity from luxury uses” but it doesn’t require any fancy pseudo-technical footwork. Charge everyone a very low rate for the first few KWHs (enough for the lights and a kettle) after which it rises very steeply. Alas, try telling that to the power companies, who, as profit-making business, want to encourage electricity use.
John Day, Port Solent, Hampshire
Rowdy children, vicious adults
I agree with Hazel Burton that discipline is sadly lacking in some children (letter, 20 August). What I don’t understand is how adults think children are going to learn the rules of compromise and empathy for a civilised society.
The children don’t metamorphose at 18 into people who can take turns, tolerate frustration and treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. Maybe some parents think it is someone else’s responsibility. I can imagine how difficult it is to teach some children.
We do need discipline and control over children, or else we end up with adults who show road rage, are noisy neighbours, bully people and are generally obnoxious.
Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset
Musk’s train and Brunel’s rats
Your recent stories about Elon Musk’s “revolutionary” 800mph train powered by compressed air and vacuum tubes failed to point out that the idea is not all that novel.
Back in the 1840s Isambard Kingdom Brunel experimented with the conversion of part of the South Devon stretch of the Great Western Railway to the same principle. Trains were powered by vacuum-generating pumping stations between Exeter and Newton Abbott.
The trains picked this up by a piston fitted inside a 15-inch diameter leather pipe, which, to keep the piston motion freed up, was lubricated by applying tallow to the tube lining. Trouble was, the leather seasoned by tallow was irresistible to Devonian rats, and the results of their snacking was that the pipes become totally useless. I hope Mr Musk has checked out the eating habits of Californian rodents, so as to avoid this problem.
David Walsh, Skelton, Cleveland
On the subject of beards. When doing National Service in the Royal Navy in the late 1950s, you couldn’t just grow a beard, you had to have permission. I had to go before the Captain and request permission to stop shaving, and go back in two weeks’ time – when I was given the short answer, “It’s not good enough laddie – shave it off.” I suppose that put me in the bumfluff brigade. However 55 years later I now have what I consider to be a first-class long grey beard.
Chris Else, Maidenhead
So, scientists suggest copper is a causative effect of Alzheimer’s disease. I seem to recall that about 30 years ago, aluminium was deemed responsible. Indeed at the time I suggested to my mother that she change her aluminium saucepans to some of a less “hazardous” material. She didn’t take my advice and eventually succumbed to the disease. I wonder what will be the next metallic element to be mooted as a contributory factor.
John P Sheldon, Holbrook, Derbyshire
The alarming figures you quote on cancer death rates (19 August) don’t indicate to me “the stark reality of the north-south divide”: more like the stark reality of the divide between the posh parts of London and everywhere else in Britain.
John Williams, West Wittering, West Sussex
‘Large national charities cannot expect us to give sacrificially unless they are prepared to set an example of self-sacrifice themselves’
Sir, The practical support that charities provide, which Libby Purves praises (“Push too hard and we lose our faith in charities”, Aug 19) is, of course, the raison d’être of most.
Acute poverty in today’s world is political. Rather than being merely an unhappy fact of life, it is the result of human structures and systems, and of people being effectively excluded from decision making.
Applying a sticking plaster in times of need is one thing, but fighting to address poverty’s root causes — such as tax dodging — is vital if we are to make real headway.
At Christian Aid we have a long history of campaigning for justice. We don’t see this as undermining the “purity” of our charitable purpose. The Bible (which Purves quotes) is clear that charity and justice are inextricably linked.
The need to avoid charities lobbying either for or against a particular party is well understood. Any attempt, however, to limit the ability of charities, social movements and campaign groups to engage in the public debate on issues of charity and justice in the run-up to an election can only damage the quality of that debate.
Head of Advocacy, Christian Aid
Sir, It is outrageous that such high salaries are paid to workers in so many charities these days.
I have never earned those kind of salaries, and never will. My £5, £10 or £20 monthly donations are pitiful in comparison to the amount that the charities spend on salaries, and I refuse to contribute any longer.
I feel disappointed and let down by the way my donations have been spent. The salaries and admin costs are paid first, and it appears that it is only the “leftovers” that go to the good cause. Charity appears to begin at home — their homes.
Sir, Some of our national charities tend to justify these salaries in the same way as the banks, indicating that they cannot attract “quality people” into these positions without paying six-figure sums. When did charities start to behave like banks?
The root of charitable giving lies in self-sacrifice, and large national charities cannot expect us to give sacrificially unless they are prepared to set an example of self-sacrifice themselves. Otherwise some of us will direct all our charitable giving to small local initiatives staffed by volunteers.
The Right Rev John Flack
Sir, The decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Aug 17) not to accept an invitation from the RSPCA to become a vice-patron is one that he had the right to take, just as any other person would have had. This is not a “snub” — merely a matter of personal choice.
We all receive invitations to support numerous charities, and we all have the right to do so or to refrain from doing so — our decisions may be based on whether we can afford it, or whether we have any interest in the charity — but it is our own decision.
Rigorous student assessment of lecturers drives up standards and gives prospective students the information they need for an informed choice
Sir, I have studied at British and US universities. In my British university, annoyed by the poor teaching, we campaigned for student input into the assessment of lecturers. This was rejected brusquely on the ground that students would give high marks to those who gave them the least work.
At a prestigious US university a few years later, I was amazed to see the rigorous student assessment of lecturers. It was published in the student newspaper and, more importantly, it was believed that tenure was not given to those with poor ratings. Lecturers were also sometimes given poor marks for not giving enough work. Unsurprisingly, the teaching was outstanding.
Fees play a crucial role in this. Because they were paying large fees, the US students demanded value for money. When choosing a course, a prospective US student can assess whether it is worth paying high fees from substantial subjective and objective evidence. As a result, good universities can charge more than poor ones and pay better staff more, reinforcing their excellence.
I am sure that this is one reason why top US universities are so highly rated worldwide. There is a mechanism which positively reinforces excellence.
Other aspects of the funding of US universities, most notably the key role of alumni funding, are probably impossible to replicate in the UK.
Fees create obvious difficulties, but if prospective students have all the information needed to make an informed decision on their course, there will be incentives for our best universities to retain their place at the top of the world rankings.
Professor Jonathan Brown
Milford on Sea, Hants
Much as it made a wonderful picture, this reader points out an inconsistency with our picture of a penguin staring at a reflection
Sir, The penguin could not possibly see its own reflection from where it was standing (“Who’s a pretty penguin?”, World news in brief, Aug 20). Presumably it was fascinated by the photographer’s upside down image in the water.
Threshfield, N Yorks
Rather than being buried in Bath Abbey, Isaac Pitman left very specific instructions about how his body should be disposed of after death
Sir, It is not correct to say that Isaac Pitman’s body was interred at Bath Abbey (“Dead come back to haunt Bath Abbey,” Aug 16). In fact, his body was cremated at Woking crematorium, in accordance with his wishes. He stated: “I desire that on my departure to the spiritual world my body may be cremated, as a more wholesome and more pleasant manner of disposal than burial in the earth”.
Mark Pitman (great grandson)
It shuld be possible to monitor the travels of individuals suspected of drug dealing and to identify prospective drugs couriers at minimal cost
Sir, The arrest in Peru of the two British alleged drug couriers (report, Aug 14) may prompt the UK Government and law enforcement agencies to review their tactics in tackling what continues to be a major problem. Speaking as a former police officer who spent the last ten years of his service working at Heathrow, Gatwick and Jamaican airports alongside British customs officers, there is much more that could and should be done to disrupt the activities of those involved in drug trafficking.
We have known for some years that serious criminals organising large-scale drug trafficking migrate to the resorts of Faliraki, Ayia Napa, Ibiza, Majorca, Malia and so on for the summer. With the technology now available it would be possible to monitor those individuals’ travels and indeed identify prospective drugs couriers at minimal cost, yet we choose not to do so.
Significant resources are put into preventing football hooligans from travelling abroad, yet those involved in serious organised criminality that wrecks lives suffer little disruption travelling in Europe or beyond.
SIR – I was pleased to read the interesting article about the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno, Cornwall (Comment, August 16). I spent the summers of 1950 and 1951 helping Rowena Cade build her theatre. In all those weeks she never spoke to me directly – she was not unfriendly but always aloof, even shy.
I have acted at Minack and on several occasions fantastical things have happened, like the two bats that circled Prospero’s head as he delivered his epilogue. Or when the director had to halt a production because around 12 beautiful dolphins were arching and swooping from one end of the bay to another.
Another year, a black cat appeared at the start of each performance to sit centre stage each night, and always left in the interval. What an enchanted place!
SIR – Does the vociferous campaign for York to be the place of Richard III’s reburial have more to do with greed than sentiment (“Wars of the Roses Part II: battle of the King’s bones”, report, August 17)? There is every expectation that there will be a stream of pilgrims visiting his grave, bringing financial benefit by paying for accommodation, food, entertainment and mementos.
York is a wonderfully historical city, with more than enough attractions for the discerning tourist; does it need any more?
Not all English kings wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey and we don’t know what Richard’s wishes were. After all, he was Duke of Gloucester and perhaps he would have preferred to be buried there.
Richard was originally buried at Leicester and there is no logical reason why he should not be reburied there.
Foundations of the mysterious Minack Theatre
20 Aug 2013
SIR – The finding of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave in favour of a judicial review of the reburial of Richard III is to be welcomed.
The 27,000 people who signed the petition supporting York as the most suitable place were from all parts.
Throughout his life Richard had very strong links with the North, in particular Yorkshire and the city of York. He grew up at Middleham, was married and worshipped periodically in York Minster. His son was invested as Prince of Wales at the Minster. Richard endowed a large chantry there, begun before his untimely death. In correspondence with the city he referred to a return to Yorkshire as “coming home”.
In the judge’s very clear summing-up, he referred to anomalies in the granting of the exhumation licence, and the subsequent decisions taken (without wider consultation) in this unique case – the discovery of the remains of an English medieval king after more than 500 years.
Ottery St Mary, Devon
SIR –To stop all threats of a future War of the Roses, why not bury him with his wife Anne in Westminster Abbey?
Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset
SIR – I see that Vanessa Roe of the Plantagenet Alliance is descended from Richard III’s brother George through his daughter Lady Margaret Plantagenet.
Our Queen and her family are also descended from a brother of Richard III (Edward IV, through his daughter Elizabeth of York). It would be interesting to know the Queen’s views on the appropriate final resting place for her distant relative.
Kirk Ella, East Yorkshire
SIR – Since Richard of York gave battle in vain, wouldn’t it be appropriate for his reburial site to be determined by a coalition of historians and other interested parties?
SIR – Messrs Whitaker and Saponia (Letters, August 18) apparently see themselves as the unpaid police of the 70mph speed limit. That being the case, surely they should be driving in convoy in the fast lane, not the middle lane?
The fact that they don’t do so shows that they actually do respect others’ freedom and the sense of keeping lanes clear, but prefer not having to bother to change lanes from the middle. Personally I find it keeps my mind alert always to move to the left lane after overtaking, and to be aware of the oncoming traffic when pulling out again to overtake.
SIR – We read that policing the new driving regulations will be difficult (report, August 17). Why are councils not considering installing cameras on motorway bridges and on dual carriageways? The volume of fines levied for improper parking, prohibited turns on junctions, yellow box infringement and speeding, all caught on camera, is considerable.
This new offence could easily be proved by a photograph. Additionally, offenders would know that their dangerous behaviour was being policed.
SIR – There aren’t enough police officers fully to enforce any of our laws. The law defines what is actually “against the law” and, while not all law-breakers are apprehended, it acts as a deterrent and makes for order in society.
SIR – Inkberrow and its pub, The Old Bull, could not possibly have been the inspiration for Ambridge (report, August 19) – it wasn’t chosen by the BBC until well after The Archers began broadcasting in the early Fifties. The BBC needed a rural-reality base for publicity pictures, and Inkberrow was close to where the programme was recorded and where many of the cast and production team, including the editor, Godfrey Baseley, lived.
But the idea for The Archers was first proposed at a meeting of politicians, farming organisations and individuals and the BBC, in Birmingham Town Hall, on June 3 1948. The man who came up with the idea was Henry Burtt, a farmer from Rippingale in Lincolnshire. He’d met Baseley at Nottingham County Show in 1946 and invited him to Rippingale to make an edition of the Farm Visit programme, broadcast on August 16 1946.
Baseley returned to Rippingale shortly after the 1948 meeting, toured the village and probably had a pint at our pub, by strange coincidence called The Bull. He began designing and building the Archers family and Ambridge from that moment.
League of lavatories
SIR – Perhaps we need an “Off-loo” organisation to monitor local authorities’ provision of public lavatories (report, August 19) and perhaps even publish league tables?
We always head for our annual holiday to Suffolk as the Suffolk Coastal County Council public conveniences are first class.
SIR – The easiest way to find a lavatory is to nip into one of the many betting shops that every high street now has.
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
SIR – As a Conservative branch chairman, I read your report “Cameron plans for a second coalition” with interest. So is his rallying cry now, to us poor foot soldiers: “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for defeat”?
SIR – David Cameron’s planning for a second coalition (report, August 19) smacks of sensible politics. The early revelation of this planning, to party and electorate alike, does not.
SIR – Mr Cameron is planning for defeat at the coming election, which will herald even more social democratic policies.
Where are true Conservatives to go?
C M Williams
Beverley, East Yorkshire
SIR – As a young junior anaesthetist in the Sixties (Letters, August 18), I worked with a surgeon known as “Lucky Frank” – lucky because he was the only person in the world who could not be operated on by Frank.
He was notoriously slow and on one occasion we tried to speed him up by playing The Flight of the Bumblebee through our piped music system with, unfortunately, minimal effect.
Normally we played cool jazz through this system, and, as patient ventilation in those days was by manual bag-squeezing, some interesting chest movement rhythms could be seen in the anaesthetised patient.
Dr Sydney Berger
The new Vikings
SIR – Since the Road Equivalent Tariff reduced fares on ferries serving the Outer Hebrides, our small island has been overrun by camper vans, which clog our single-track roads and dominate our coastal beauty spots.
The drivers of these monstrous vehicles are not only greedy (in taking shameless advantage of a benefit intended to improve the lot of the islanders and then giving almost nothing back in terms of spending while on the island) and selfish (in blocking everyone else’s views) but also, curiously and almost without exception, bearded (Letters, August 16).
Bunabhainneadar, Isle of Harris
Egypt’s grounds for overthrowing its government
SIR – I take issue with the view that an elected government or leader is sacrosanct (“However good the intentions, all coups end in petty tyranny”, Comment, August 17). I suggest it is right to remove an elected body if one of two conditions arise:
First, if the elected body threatens your life. It would have been perfectly acceptable for the Jewish people to oppose Adolf Hitler by any means available. In the case of Egypt, the path being trodden by the Muslim Brotherhood threatened the lives of Christians and others who did not want to embrace an Islamic state.
Secondly, when the elected body breaks the compact with the people in a fundamental way. For example, if a British government decided to abolish all future elections so it could stay in power. In the case of Egypt, the Morsi government was governing only on behalf of its own supporters, and in effect establishing an elected dictatorship.
Democracy is not just about winning elections. It involves compromise and working for the whole population.
SIR – Daniel Hannan cites the English Civil War as an instance of an attempted military tyranny by King Charles I, but it was Cromwell’s army that conducted a coup to remove an unrepresentative ruler.
It took a long time after that to get rid of Cromwell, and the long march to parliamentary sovereignty took longer.
Egypt has been on the road barely a year. By Mr Hannan’s analysis, would it have been wrong for the German generals to depose of Hitler after he won power through the ballot box in 1934?
And what about the democratically elected governments that the EU ruling classes removed and replaced with unelected technocracies?
Dr Robin Brooke-Smith
Sir, – Is the writer of your Editorial (“A lucky generation”, August 19th) trying to be sarcastic or ironic? Probably not: he/she is probably guilty of the same failing as our politicians, economists and our other “strategic thinkers”, of selective analysis of the parts of the issue which suit their argument, aimed at softening us up for yet more cuts and service reductions in the forthcoming budget.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of any “golden circle”. I was, for more than 47 years a payer of PRSI (or “social insurance”, as it was called when it was first extracted from my then-meagre pay). That “social insurance” was the government-mandated and government-controlled “insurance pot” from which existing and future pensioners were paid. I have, therefore, already been paying for my social welfare and health benefits and those of others – the only benefits I was entitled to were occasional dental and optical “benefits” which in later years were reduced to farcical levels. Oh, I almost forgot the “health levies” – and the “insurance levies”, extracted to compensate AIB for its ICI fiasco.
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, we bought a house shortly before the mortgage rate went up to 18 per cent; repayments taking more than 60 per cent of my net salary. We are now paying property tax on a notional value eight times that which we paid for the house. As with many of our generation, we are therefore “asset rich” (supposedly, if we could ever realise the value of the house) and “income poor”.
I paid into a pension scheme (which has been called “deferred salary”!) over which I had no control. The insurance company managed to lose more than 37 per cent of that pot just three years before I needed to draw on it. With tax on the drawings from the depleted fund, and “management fees”, even despite the tax relief on the original income, I would have been better off putting aside the money and “investing” it in my local credit union or building society.
In spite of the extortions from our income, we managed to pay for our daughters to attend university – yes, we had to pay – forgoing holidays, foreign and otherwise, but, now we are living on “cushy” old-age pensions aggregating to a gross (for both of us) €21,500 per annum, out of which we have to pay €3,500 health insurance – at just the time when we cannot afford to cancel it. We also have to pay property tax and, soon, water charges. So, yes, I suppose we are “a lucky generation”. – Yours, etc,
JOHN P McENEANEY,
Sir, – Your Editorial, “A lucky generation” contained some glaring errors. All pensioners over 65 do not get bus passes: they have to wait until they are 66. Electricity allowances – amounting to less than €3 per week and telephone allowances – amounting to a fabulous €1 per week together with a free TV licence are all means tested – at least in Cork they are.
Contributory pensioners haven’t any increment pension payments nor have they had a pay rise in five years. Out of a meagre €230 many pensioners have to pay out €140 per month on medicine and €30 per week on health care. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your Editorial “A lucky generation?” claims that “Between 2004 and 2011 the average income of the elderly increased by 41 per cent or almost four times more than those (18-64) in the traditional working age groups.”
You fail to give actual figures, ie, 41 per cent of nothing is nothing. On the other hand I have some actual figures, from a letter in The Irish Times dated December 11th, 2007: “The Budget’s increase for old-age pensioners amounts to €728 a year for which they are expected to be most grateful, whereas the taoiseach’s recent increase of €730 a week moved him to declare himself to be poverty-stricken.” Prior to making any further comment on this topic you might usefully research some actual figures, rather than take the slipshod approach adopted in the above-mentioned leading article. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In his critique of your Economic Editor’s coverage of the Central Statistics Office Survey, Eamon Timmins (Letters, August 17th) spells out the practical impact of Government policy on elderly citizens.
Government commitment to maintain the basic social welfare rates demonstrates the importance of the welfare system in maintaining a social cohesion and has prevented a significant increase in the number of pensioners at risk of poverty (as defined by the criteria used in the CSO survey on income and living conditions). However, changes in non-income supports (eg the drug payment scheme and respite care) seriously impact on frail elderly, particularly those whose sole income is a social welfare pension. Property tax and the increasing cost of heating, particularly for housebound elderly, present serious challenges for those on fixed incomes.
Research across the European member states has repeatedly shown that intergenerational support in Ireland scores highly. Anecdotal evidence in this era of austerity indicates pensioner parents are likely to be supporting children struggling with unemployment, negative equity and personal debt. With commendable restraint, organisations working with and for senior citizens and older people themselves have refrained from public protest over their reduced circumstances.
If we are to avoid creating new poor, and if we are to preserve intergenerational solidarity and ensure that the generation that in earlier times coped with the highest ever dependency rates is guaranteed an adequate income, the first step as we recover from our years of austerity is to protect social welfare pensions. – Yours, etc,
Irish Association of
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole maintains it is “not ‘self-hatred’ to point out that our Constitution is not being respected” (Opinion, August 20th). This may be the case, but it does not go far enough.
To condemn the Constitution as a flawed anachronism, to lambast the failed institutions of State, and to excoriate the politicians who governed so ineptly for so long – none of this is “self-hatred”. Rather this sort of critical self-examination is the very lifeblood of a functioning democratic Republic.
The Constitution and the State exist merely to serve the interests of society. They deserve “respect” only insofar as they achieve this; where they fail to do so then they must be rewritten or reformed. Time to bung the Bunreacht in the recycling bin and start over. – Yours, etc,
Dr OWEN CORRIGAN,
Sir, – I refer to an article by Vincent Browne (Opinion, August 14th) headed “O’Brien should be confronted regularly by the Moriarty report”.
I am one of Mr Browne’s kick around subjects when he simply cannot be bothered to originate a new topic for readers. For the record, he has written six columns relating to me which are chronically repetitive.
He refers to his indebtedness to me as if to display just how objective and balanced he is. However, the truth is rather different.
There is one highly significant matter which Mr Browne has never made public in any of his columns for The Irish Times (or indeed elsewhere) and that is his eagerness to leave RTÉ and join Newstalk in 2007.
As always, with anything to do with Mr Browne, negotiations were fraught and certainly did not go according to his plan. His “offer” to join the station to go head to head with Pat Kenny was not accepted and I believe that since then he has persistently set out to settle a score.
He has very deliberately withheld this information on every occasion he has written about me and my media interests. Yet he repeats his indebtedness for “bringing me into broadcasting”. But the inconvenient truth is never mentioned.
Your newspaper owes it to its readers to be balanced, objective and fair. In this regard you should inform your readers of the main motivator that drives Mr Browne to such relentless repetition about matters relating to me.
I can only assume that Mr Browne has put The Irish Times in possession of all the facts relating to his failed courtship of Newstalk?
If not, he is practising very questionable journalism. – Yours, etc,
Grand Canal Quay,
Sir, – Ian d’Alton’s letter (August 19th) made me recall two Sunday mornings in June when I was on holiday in Co Cork.
On the first Sunday I attended a seaside Church of Ireland parish church which had a church-sponsored national school of some 80 pupils in which neither the principal nor the staff nor any of the pupils were members of the church. There was not a child in church.
On the second Sunday I attended church in another seaside Church of Ireland parish. It happened to be the end-of-term service for the parish’s national school and the service was led by all of the children of the school, ably helped by the dedicated principal and staff all of whom are involved with the life of the church. Indeed the children of the school form the church choir too and the worship was joyful and lively and it was a privilege to attend as a result. I managed to get the last seat in the building! The latter made me realise how important it is to protect such schools for the future and should be an example to the former and,indeed, to Mr d’Alton. – Yours, etc,
Admiralty Way, Teddington,
Sir, – Ciarán Connolly (August 20th) writes that the theme of the Parnell Summer School this year – “Parnell and Kennedy: Lost Leaders” – was, in his view, particularly silly. He is entitled to his opinion. Your readers should know, however, that he did not attend any session of the summer school.
Given this is the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s “homecoming” visit to this country and of his assassination, the Parnell Summer School wanted to mark these events which had such a huge impact upon us here in Ireland. The impact of Kennedy’s death invites comparison with the impact of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell. The shadow that Parnell’s death cast upon the Irish psyche has been memorably captured in the writings of James Joyce and WB Yeats – and Kennedy’s death had a similar effect, though on a wider, worldwide canvas. This is why we thought it appropriate to link these two remarkable men in the programme for the summer school this year.
The aim of the Parnell Society in organising its annual summer school is to explore the relevance of Parnell and the politics of his era to modern Ireland. I think the focus in this year’s summer school on the parallels between Parnell and Kennedy added an extra dimension to this quest for greater understanding of the past and present, and I am confident that those who attended fully appreciated that. – Yours, etc,
FELIX M LARKIN,
* The re-emergence of a contention that Princess Diana may have been murdered is certainly worthy of further investigation. This is a case of many tragic curiosities. Was Diana a very modern Alice in Wonderland?
Also in this section
Nurture the spirit as well as the mind
Evolution explains roles
Irish history clearly tells us of the powerful intrigues surrounding the British throne. My hometown, Carlow, celebrates Carlow 800 this year. The event, ironically, celebrates the construction of its castle by William de Marshall, another historical player in the intrigues of English royalty’s power games. Marshall also built castles at Ferns and Carrickfergus.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that Diana was murdered and I’m in no way a conspiracy theorist – but Edmund Burke, our famous political philosopher, tells us to learn the lessons of history and that for evil to exist all it takes is that good men do nothing.
‘White Queen’ on the BBC tells us about the Wars of the Roses and teaches us that the UK royal family has a colourful, tragic and sometimes vicious, violent history.
Power at any price would be a fitting historical motto, roughly translated to “autocrita procul quisilbet pretium”, perhaps – whatever it takes to preserve the family control on the crown.
History tells us that the victorious write the history of what happened.
So the facts are the facts – but the truth is an entirely different matter and often extremely difficult to find or accept.
To further the argument of the probably possible in the case of Princess Diana, the terms of her divorce from the British heir removed her HRH title, despite her being the mother of the heir and spare in the line of succession to the British throne. Hints of the Tudors and Henry VIII, perhaps – had the former Lady Diana Spencer lived in Tudor times, she may well have met the same fate as Ann Boleyn, perhaps, at the hands of an executioner.
The way that the remains of Richard III are being treated in the UK just now is proof positive of how public perception is far stronger than facts or truth. It is alleged that Richard murdered the Princes in the Tower in pursuit of the English throne.
So, therefore, history rightly asks us to question was Diana a very beautiful, international icon that had become a PR liability who needed to be liquidated? Was her death a truly modern execution of a queen-in-waiting?
Or was her death, as certain factions would have us all believe, just another thoroughly tragic accident?
Asst Professor, Trinity College Dublin
THE PAIN OF LOSS
* Everyone knows how to manage grief, but he who has it (Shakespeare).
I wake up every morning and stumble through another day; the pain I feel without my son never, ever goes away. I just lie there thinking of what I could have done to stop him taking his life, but I am just left thinking, sad and depressed.
Sometimes in the many dreams I have of us together, discussing as we often have, trying to find a way forward for him, but yet again I wake and find that it was just another dream, and that he is ‘gone’.
I know that it is not just me alone who feels the pain and loss, but all my family, his mother and sisters, we are all going through the same, and the only time it will all end for us is when hopefully we will all be re-united in the next life.
Name and address with editor
* Here’s an examination paper for the Department of Education.
a) Devise an examination paper that contains a fair and comprehensive set of questions covering matters specified in the subject’s syllabus.
b) Explain why you should then ask several ‘experienced professionals’ to complete the draft paper under exam conditions. (Hint: is this to ensure the questions contain enough information so that they may be answered?) (Hint: is this to ensure the paper can be answered within the allotted time?) (Hint: is this to ensure the paper is not examining matters outside the syllabus?)
c) If part b) above is not performed properly, what potentially may go wrong? (Note: you are allowed to ask people who have sat recent examinations.)
d) Devise a set of excuses should something indeed go wrong. (Note: you may refer to the bureaucrat’s standard manuals, namely the collected scripts of ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’, for guidance.) (Hint: it is often preferable to devise excuses blaming people who are no longer there.)
Pass mark = promotion, annual increment and bonus. Fail mark = resit, annual increment and bonus.
Abbey Hill, Naul, Co Dublin
* There has been much discussion recently, including in the pages of this newspaper, on the relative merits of honouring different historical figures in the naming of the new Liffey Bridge. This year, 2013, marks the centenary of the 1913 Lockout.
While we tend to concentrate on the two Jims, Larkin and Connolly, and their role in the struggle of the workers of Dublin, we should not forget the contribution of women in general, and two women in particular, on that turbulent period of Irish history.
Delia Larkin and Rosie Hackett, co-founding members of the Irish Women Workers’ Union (IWWU), did much to help and represent the workers of Dublin who went through extreme hardship from August 1913 to March 1914.
Larkin worked tirelessly to get better wages and working conditions while Hackett led 1,100 women in fighting the Lockout at Jacob’s biscuit factory in August 1913, and just 30 months later played a key role in printing the Proclamation of 1916.
At present, 13 out of the 16 bridges that span the Liffey are named after men. Perhaps our city fathers might finally reverse this trend and name the new bridge that stretches across Anna Livia Plurabella (appropriately enough in the shadow of Liberty Hall) after a woman.
An exhibition by the Liberties Heritage Association entitled ‘Bare Feet and Bowler Hats: Capturing the Dublin of 1913’ has just opened and remembers the leadership role that these women played in trying to change the Dickensian Dublin of that time
Liberties Heritage Association,
Carmans Hall, Dublin 8
* So Newgrange is our most popular heritage site?
Just as well they’re putting the Leinster Orbital route south of Navan and right beside it, rather than north of Navan away from the prime heritage site.
You can only wonder why we would place a major route where there should be no major development.
I await eagerly another Irish Independent exclusive, so the M3 Tara Tapes can illuminate the thought process that plans motorways through heritage areas when obviously better routes exist.
Wolli Creek, NSW 2205, Australia
EYE ON THE BALL
* Looks like HAWKEYE should have gone to Specsavers.
Dunleer, Co Louth
* We should spare a thought for the unfortunate atheist supporters (all three of them) of Manchester City. With Jesus (Navas) now lining out for the club, it must be like the veritable stake through the atheist heart. To whom shall they go? What with players now regularly crossing themselves for divine intervention, the Premier League is becoming atheist hell. You see, it does exist!
Navan, Co Meath