24 August 2013 Dentist
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with them after a Russian fishing boat who fire fish at them. . Priceless
We are both tired its off to the dentist x-rays! Mary is all right but I will get a phone call!
Scrabble today Mary wins and she gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
The Duchess of Medinaceli
The 18th Duchess of Medinaceli, who has died aged 96, was nine times a duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 19 times a countess, four times a viscountess and 14 times a grandee of Spain — as well as head of a family whose members included three saints and two Popes.
The Duchess of Medinaceli Photo: PARIS MATCH/GETTY
5:16PM BST 23 Aug 2013
She inherited her titles in her own right on her father’s death in 1956, and could not remember how many castles she owned in her native Spain; her best guess was between 90 and 100.
On one occasion she was browsing through the pages of a magazine when a picture of camellias growing in the grounds of a beautiful castle in north-west Spain caught her eye. On reading the caption she discovered to her surprise that the Palace of Oca, in Galicia, and the camellias, belonged to her.
She did not, however, neglect her heritage, and in 1980 established the Ducal House of Medinaceli Foundation to manage and conserve the family’s property and historic assets scattered across nearly all the Spanish regions.
The Duchess should, perhaps, have earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most titled human being on earth, but instead the accolade went to her colourful cousin, Cayetana, Duchess of Alba — a woman known for her valiant efforts to hold back the depredations of time with cosmetic surgery. It is said that when the publicity-shy Duchess of Medinaceli discovered that she was to be listed in the popular reference work, alongside assorted freaks and daredevils, she petitioned the king to be allowed to pass on 17 of her titles to her sons.
She felt that the Duchess of Alba, “with her English blood” (the Albas are directly descended from the Duke of Berwick, the illegitimate son of James II by Arabella Churchill, sister of the Duke of Marlborough), would enjoy the publicity.
Victoria Eugenia Fernández de Córdoba y Fernández de Henestrosa was born in Madrid on April 16 1917, the eldest daughter of Don Luis Jesús Fernández de Córdoba y Salabert, 17th Duke of Medinaceli, and Doña Ana María Fernández de Henestrosa y Gayoso de los Cobos. The Dukedom of Medinaceli, one of the oldest in Spain, had been created in 1479 by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella for Luis de la Cerda y de la Vega, Count of Medinaceli.
In keeping with her illustrious ancestry, Doña Victoria was baptised at the Royal Palace, with King Alfonso XIII and his wife Queen Victoria Eugenia (after whom she was named) as godparents. Before she succeeded to the Medinaceli titles, Doña Victoria was known as the 16th Duchess of Alcalá de los Gazules, a courtesy title granted by her father.
On her 14th birthday, following the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, she and her mother, grandmother and sister left Spain on the same train that carried Queen Victoria Eugenia and her children into exile. Her father left with the King.
In 1937, however, the family returned to Spain, to the beautiful Casa de Pilatos, the family’s main residence in Seville, which had fallen to Francoist forces in the first months of the Civil War the previous year. In 1938 she married Don Rafael de Medina y Vilallonga, son of the second son of the 4th Marquis of Esquivel.
The Duchess and her husband had four children, and as well as working to protect the family heritage she devoted herself to cultural, social and educational projects.
After her husband’s death in 1992, the Duchess’s later years were overshadowed by a scandal involving the second of her three sons, Rafael Medina y Fernandez de Cordoba, Duke of Feria, who in 1994 was sentenced to 18 years in prison for kidnapping a five-year-old girl and bathing and photographing her in the nude, as well as for drug trafficking and corruption of minors.
The trial, which received widespread coverage in the Spanish media, highlighted the Duke’s sexual perversions, his cocaine addiction, his life in the Seville underworld, his failed marriage to a model, and his childhood, allegedly devoid of maternal love.
The sentence was subsequently reduced on appeal, and in 1998 the Duke was released on parole. In 2001 he was reported to have died of natural causes, aged 58.
The Duchess’s eldest son, Don Luis de Medina y Fernández de Córdoba, 9th Duke of Santisteban del Puerto, predeceased her in 2011, as did her daughter and eldest child, Ana, who died last year.
She is survived by her youngest son, Don Ignacio de Medina y Fernández de Córdoba, 19th Duke of Segorbe, second husband of Princess Maria da Gloria d’Orléans-Braganza. Marco von Hohenlohe y Medina (Prince Marco of Hohenlohe-Langenburg), the son of her daughter Ana, born in 1962, succeeds as the 19th Duke of Medinaceli.
The 18th Duchess of Medinaceli, born April 16 1917, died August 18 2013
I was struck by the G2 article by Kevin Toolis about his play The Confessions of Gordon Brown (A Modern Macbeth, 21 August), because in the last few years I have travelled up to Scotland (usually Edinburgh) from London to see plays that I know will never come to England. I saw this play in Edinburgh two weeks ago and was very impressed by Ian Grieve. But why do so few Scottish successes travel south? John Byrne’s Tutti Frutti was a huge TV success in the 80s, giving a boost to the careers of Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane, yet the stage version was unknown south of the border. The only lauded production to move south, with a lot of publicity for the National Theatre of Scotland (well-deserved), was Black Watch, a site-specific piece that took some organising before appearing at the Barbican. With much less publicity, we recently saw, with great enjoyment, a David Greig “play”, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, under the auspices of the Royal Court theatre. Again, site specific, we saw it in a bar on the Gray’s Inn Road. It had been a huge success in 2011 at the Edinburgh festival, but only arrived here two years later, and after heaven knows how much wheeler-dealing. Other Greig plays have appeared at the Tricycle in Kilburn (Midsummer, for example), but we appear to be blind to the excellent theatre that tours around Scotland. Similarly, we have seen some excellent work by the National Theatre of Wales – not least The Dark Philosophers, again seen at the festival three years ago – but it has never been produced (to my knowledge) in England. It is our loss!
The UCL research published this week (Doctors sound alarm on child fitness and health, 21 August) is a timely reminder that we must get school sport and PE right if we’re to achieve a legacy of health and fitness for girls in the UK. In 2012 we published research which showed that half of all girls (51%) are put off physical activity by their experiences of school sport and PE, despite three-quarters (74%) of girls saying they’d like to be more active. The UCL finding that just 38% of girls are getting the recommended amount of exercise has worrying implications for the future health of girls and women in the UK, and raises disturbing questions about the impact of the Olympic legacy.
Physical inactivity among girls is associated with a range of outcomes from obesity and low self-esteem to poor educational attainment. With school sport playing a key role in shaping attitudes to health and fitness, it’s crucial that we get this right. The biggest challenge is to ensure that every child is fit and active, and we call on the government to make sure that girls (and boys) have the opportunity to try as many different sports and ways to be active as possible.
Chief executive, Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation
• The news that half of all seven-year-olds exercise less than the recommended hour per day confirms that children spend too long at screens and not long enough outdoors. I agree with Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, who last week recommended a return to an “outdoors childhood” as a way to combat rising childhood obesity and poor general health. Kids who spend time playing outdoors are happier and healthier.
Having interviewed over 100 families over the past three years making Project Wild Thing, a documentary about children’s failing connection to nature, I believe the big question is what we can do to ensure children spend more time outside. The evidence is now overwhelming that an indoor existence damages children and society. Are we prepared to limit traffic, tone down shrill news about stranger danger, relax health and safety regulations, and open up the countryside to families? If not, we should expect to produce more sickly, unhappy children.
• There is no doubt that physical activity has the potential to bring a wide range of health benefits. Liam Donaldson the former chief medical officer, went so far as to say if there was such a medication it would be regarded as a wonder drug. However, your subheadline makes a misleading link to obesity, which is far less clear. The key determinant in obesity is diet, and it would have been more powerful to make the connection with Gove’s antipathy to improving school meals and the government’s pathological fear of regulating the food industry. Taken together, diet and physical activity have the potential to save many lives and billions of pounds.
Little Easton, Essex
In his review of What Maisie Knew (G2, 23 August), Peter Bradshaw refers to one of the characters as a “veritable Judy Garland of self-pity and rage”. How bizarre! How ungallant! What did Judy Garland ever do to him? It’s not easy being a huge star of international reknown, a single mother of three with a full-time job, and a drug addict. Most of us could only manage one of those things on a good day. Bradshaw should pick on someone his own size. Can he even hold a tune?
• While I have the greatest respect for Elmore Leonard, I feel that his 10 rules for successful writing (Report, 22 August) must appertain to his own genre, because at least one was broken by the not wholly unsuccessful PG Wodehouse who, more often than not, opened with the weather. As a feature of the Blandings Castle stories in particular, it transported the reader immediately from the humdrum woes of everyday life to a place where the sun shone, bees buzzed, insects droned and love and laughter ruled.
• I’m delighted the Guardian supports New York’s attempt to reduce the use of “ugly” and “annoying” plastic bags by charging a 6p levy on them (In praise of… a plastic bag levy, 23 August). As a regular subscriber I’d happily pay an additional 6p per issue if it encouraged you to find a plastic-free way of packaging the magazine and TV guide.
Hastings, East Sussex
• Today’s byline photo of Larry Elliott (20 August) shows him smiling, possibly even laughing. Is this a record? Does he know something about the economy that we don’t and if so what is it?
• “And if truth were a woman, what then?” (Nietzsche). Congratulations to Chelsea Manning on yet another exemplary and brave revelation (Report, 23 August).
• Tony Wren’s promotion of Eden as a contender for our greatest failure as PM in 200 years has merit (Letters, 23 August). But was Wren not around in 1938?
Thursday will have brought mixed emotions for many parents and young people (Fall in GCSE grades blamed on school ‘exam’ factories, 23 August). Those without five A*-C grades may be (wrongly) believing that life is over and those with great results may be (wrongly) believing that life will now be wonderful. The belief, fostered by the educational establishment, that those with at least five passes have a magic entree to a meaningful and fulfilling life, and that others are somehow doomed, is nonsense. A couple of examples of an opposite picture might help.
Illustration: John Holcroft
Tim came to our alternative education college at age 14 after two years out of school. He showed a talent at drawing and two years later he took four GCSEs, gaining one C, two Ds and an E. He took his portfolio to the local further education college and they commented at interview that, as he had learned to manage his own learning, he was likely to be successful in college. This proved correct as he gained the prize for the best student and went on to university. After he graduated, his work for a hospital won an award for the best use of visual art in healthcare. He now has a very successful self-employed career and a growing reputation.
John came to us having been out of school for some years and he took just two GCSEs but managed to persuade the local sixth-form college to take him to study AS-levels. He is now at university having passed his three A-levels. And we have more examples like this.
The problem is that most schools are really bad at helping their students to explore options beyond 16. They often fail to work with each individual to help them to make good choices about how to progress and hence this country has the problem of young people not continuing their education. In 13 years, all our 16-year-old students have gone on to FE or sixth-form colleges. Some have impeccable GCSE passes but many don’t. We believe that an educational institution should be judged more on its ability to prepare young people for life and not on exam passes.
The supposedly successful can also find problems. Many are shunted into the wrong courses just because they have good GCSE passes and then end up on the wrong degrees. This again occurs because there is an obsession with exam-passing to the detriment of real support for young people to help them to navigate a complex world and make good choices about the kind of life they want to lead.
Dr Ian Cunningham
Self Managed Learning College, Brighton
• The pressures and contradictions young people now face when they take their examinations have indeed become “irreconcilable” and “unsustainable” (Report, 21 August). The education system is now increasingly like trying to run up a downwards escalator where you have to work harder and harder simply to stand still. Also, facing an uncertain future, those youngsters that can will want to focus on qualifications identified as “high-status” by governments and top universities – while schools, worried about the next Ofsted visit, will always encourage them to do so, including entering them early, or for more than one exam board.
As a result, “tougher” GCSEs (and “tougher” A-levels for that matter) can only be made “tougher still” – regardless of whether the standard of work by students continues to rise – so as to ensure high-status qualifications remain just that. Rather than looking for “stability” by entering students for “international” tests, the qualification system can only be reformed by stopping the escalator itself. Why put youngsters through the current GCSE ordeal, when most will remain in full-time education anyway? Why not a general diploma at 18, which all can aspire to and which provides both a mandatory entitlement while allowing specialisation as students get older? With the examination system in danger of being in permanent crisis, there couldn’t be a better time.
Dr Martin Allen
• I’d like to propose three further reasons (Editorial, 23 August) why this year’s GCSE results are disappointing: 1) Local education authority advisory teams, whose main role was to support heads of department and classroom teachers in their work, have been virtually destroyed by the coalition; 2) Universities are being stripped of their teacher-training departments, whose traditional role was to educate students in the complexities of the learning process and prepare them to deal effectively with the challenges of life in the classroom; 3) More and more school governing bodies are now allowed, even encouraged, to employ people as “teachers” who have had no formal training.
Does an untrained person have any idea how to challenge at the appropriate level, pose the appropriate question at the right time, offer timely support, set the next learning objective, stimulate the struggling or uninterested learner, co-ordinate effort, allow the class time and space to learn through discovery, maintain class morale, set worthwhile homework and get it in from every pupil, mark it so that homework is a learning process, etc?
Solihull, West Midlands
• As an ex-head of English and LEA English consultant may I congratulate you on your editorial. Once again the government will criticise teachers for “playing the system”, and Mr Gove will inevitably have something to say at the Tory conference once his standing ovation has subsided; but surely the fault lies squarely with those league tables that have become the sine qua non of successive ministers for education? We experienced similar criticism when Ofsted accused schools of narrowing the curriculum as we worked to improve students’ Sats results, doubly burdened by incidences of inaccurate marking and clerical errors. Teachers are articulate, intelligent and innovative professionals who expend a huge amount of time and energy making DfE policies workable in the real world of the classroom. No doubt there will be more hoops – and sticks – to cope with as the system is reorganised once again. I therefore wish them well at the start of the new academic year. And remember – bring that ladder!
Irrespective of one’s position on military intervention, the passionate words of Khaled Erksoussi, head of operations for the Syrian Red Crescent, speaking on BBC radio on Thursday, remind us whose interests should be paramount:
“You see all those pictures and you see all the suffering in those areas, then you hear people talking about decisions in the Security Council and investigation committees, and you scratch your head: did they see the same picture I saw? Because what I saw in those pictures is people need help.”
It should not be controversial to say that the needs and interests of innocent civilians should in extreme cases such as this take precedence over the principle of non-interference in the sovereignty of states even when they are illegitimate and criminal.
John Slinger, Rugby
Although many have assumed that the Syrian Government has been behind the latest atrocity in Damascus, it is not as unrealistic as your editorial (23 August) suggests to suppose it might have been perpetrated by a faction on the other side.
Jihadist elements of the opposition have shown many times over the past two years the extent to which they are prepared to go and the carnage they are prepared to inflict to further their cause. As we have seen in the past they are also very adept at posting the gory results of their efforts on YouTube.
Despite their unhelpful stance the Assad Government has nothing to gain and everything to lose by launching any kind of chemical weapons attack but to the twisted mind of the fanatic there is everything to gain if such an outrage, irrespective of the numbers of “martyrs” it creates, entices external intervention.
Peter Coghlan. Broadstone, Dorset
The massive influx of Syrian refugees to northern Iraq shows just how vulnerable the entire region is to the fallout of the spiralling crisis inside Syria.
The number of Syrian refugees in Iraq has nearly tripled since the beginning of the year and is expected to double again by the end of December. With summer temperatures reaching 45 degrees, UNICEF staff at the border say new refugees are arriving exhausted and in desperate need of clean water and shelter. Most are children and women who have lost everything in Syria and are now facing a gruelling life as refugees.
We are working with the government and partner organisations to get tens of thousands of litres of safe drinking water to the border point and to help children who have been separated from their families. With the fresh surge of arrivals expected to continue over the coming days, and our existing emergency response work in Iraq seriously under-funded, our resources are being driven to breaking point.
Global leaders must sharpen their focus on the humanitarian impact of this conflict.
David Bull, Executive Director, UNICEF UK, London EC1
Women paid less, even in a new industry
The Chartered Management Institute research revealing that the gender gap in salaries is widening comes as a great concern (report, 20 August). Working in the search marketing industry, which is a fairly new concept for UK businesses-owners, it is hard to ignore that the salary patterns we find are exactly the same as mentioned in this report.
The search marketing industry is progressive. However, our own recent survey conducted among attendees at the last Brighton SEO Conference – which welcomed over 1,000 delegates – discovered that the overall average salary for men was in excess of £39,000 while women earned more than £10,000 less, with an average of £28,000.
One thing is for sure: there are some exceptional female digital agency leaders out there. The good news is that these sorts of inequalities are becoming more publicised, so I hope it means my female colleagues are able to get the pay they deserve for the great work they deliver.
Kelvin Newman, Director of Strategy, SiteVisibility , Brighton
Ben Chu writes (21 August) that “thoughtful people” will not suppose an “unequal distribution of talent between the genders”. But that is not quite the right question.
The issue, particularly in the financial sector, is whether there are as many women as men with a specific skill, proved in practice to be valuable in a fiercely competitive international market.
You report women’s leaders as commenting that men are better than women at selling themselves within their organisations. It is surely not impossible that the same skill also results in better sales to customers and clients. These are intriguing and important issues, but the debate is not advanced by the knee-jerk reaction reported to date.
Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex
Why Brunel’s air railway failed
David Walsh is correct in identifying I K Brunel with “atmospheric” railway propulsion in the 1840s (letter, 21 August), but he is mistaken in his reference to the use of a “leather pipe” on the track Brunel laid on the South Devon Railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot.
The tube was made up of cast-iron sections, with a slit along the top through which passed the rod connecting the piston in the tube to the carriages on the railway. Leather was used only in the flap which closed the slit before and after the passage of a train.
It was this flap which proved to be very vulnerable to Devonian rain and rats, and caused the project to fail after a few months in use.
Brunel, who was an outstanding structural engineer but a poor steam engineer, had observed small-scale railways operating on the atmospheric principle and was convinced of its theoretical elegance. But it was a disaster in practice for the South Devon Railway.
Angus Buchanan, Emeritus Professor of the History of Technology at the University of Bath.
Don’t rely on the expat vote
About 18 months before every general election, parties announce they are going to get out the vote from the 5.5 million voting-age citizens known to be living abroad (report, 23 August). Labour sent Glenda Jackson to patrol the beaches of Spain ahead of the 1997 election and the Electoral Commission always announces a drive to encourage expat votes.
But over the past 20 years there have never been more than 30,000 voters at any time still on electoral registers with the right to vote – fewer than 200 voters per constituency.
Britain strips its citizens of voting rights after 15 years’ residence abroad. Other countries, notably the US but also most EU member states, make major efforts to keep their citizens connected to democracy back home. We treat any Brit who lives outside the UK as a second-class citizen who, like prisoners or peers, should not be allowed to vote.
Good luck to those trying to get more expats to vote, but the idea it has an impact on an election is silly.
Denis MacShane, London SW1
BBC fights bullying
Further to your article “BBC facing ‘140 allegations of bullying’ by staff” (21 August), I can confirm that the actual number of cases currently being investigated is fewer than 30.
Since publishing the Respect at Work Review in May we have implemented, or will soon be implementing, all of the recommendations made by Dinah Rose QC.
The Director General has made clear that bullying will not be tolerated at the BBC and we continue to work closely with the National Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union on this. We are regularly collating the numbers of formal complaints on bullying and harassment, so we can closely monitor how long it takes to resolve disputes, and have committed to publishing this information and will be doing so in due course.
Huw Jones, Employee Relations Manager, BBC, London W1
Adults and children across the country, and indeed in occupied Europe, crouched over their radio sets in order to hear every word
Sir, Churchill’s oratory may be denigrated by Professor Toye (“Churchill’s famous war oratory failed to inspire a sceptical nation, historian says”, Aug 21) but the truth for this schoolboy in London in 1940 is unforgettable. As I listened to his words of defiance on our wireless, the distinctive throb of an approaching bomber’s engines was to be heard. My instinctive response was cold fear, and it was Churchill’s words that enabled me mentally to defy the enemy above and, aided by the example of my parents, to face up to the experiences to come.
Dr W. T. W. Morgan
Sir, My wife and I were evacuated four times as children during the war. We, along with millions in this country, crouched over our radio sets, hanging on Churchill’s every word, together with the thousands throughout occupied Europe who risked their lives to do the same.
Sir, In June 1940 one of Churchill’s great supporters, Harold Nicolson, held a junior post at the Ministry of Information which was responsible for arranging broadcasts of the Prime Ministerial speeches and also sponsored Mass Observation. He would not have been greatly surprised that Churchill’s speeches were “met with scepticism”.
Writing to his wife on June 19 after the “finest hour” speech, he said, “How I wish Winston would not talk on the wireless unless he is feeling in good form. He hates the microphone and when we bullied him into speaking last night he just sulked and read his House of Commons speech over again. Now as delivered in the H. of C., that speech was magnificent, especially the concluding sentences. But it sounded ghastly on the wireless. All the great vigour he put into it seemed to evaporate.”
Sir, As an 11-year-old in 1940 I found listening to Churchill’s broadcasts an excruciating experience. His style was embarrassing and his speech impediment made him sound tiddly. One was tempted to shout at the radio, “Shut up Winnie. Just tell us what you want us to do and let us get on with it.” But his ham acting did not diminish our faith in him. Nor was it shaken by our belief that after detailing all the places we would fight, under his breath he ended — rightly — with the words “but God knows what with”.
Ernest Bevin’s very poor English was even more embarrassing and disguised his great ability. Attlee looked like a wax model and Herbert Morrison inspired no confidence at all. The charismatic leaders were in the House of Lords — Woolton, Beaverbrook and, to a lesser extent, Keynes.
But the person who has gained stature in the history of the war is Neville Chamberlain. His policies from 1932 onwards, especially as Chancellor of the Exchequer, ensured we still had the industry to fight a war. A study for Manchester Statistical Society has shown that the protective tariff he introduced created 80,000 manufacturing jobs in Lancashire alone. Later came the building of the “shadow factories” in preparation for war.
Geoffrey W. Gardiner
It is right that the nation remembers all seamen, aviators, marines and soldier who were awarded the nation’s highest military decoration
Sir, We naval aviators were pleased to be reminded of the heroism of Sub-Lieutenant Rex Warneford, VC, the first Royal Navy aviator to be awarded the Victoria Cross (“Airship destroyer excluded from VC commemoration”, Aug 16).
He was serving with the Royal Naval Air Service and, as your photograph showed, his VC is one of the few with a dark-blue ribbon.
Several heroes in the annals of the Armed Forces were born overseas and even today many serving personnel were not born in the British Isles. We trust that the guidelines for the commemorative paving stones will be reviewed so as to salute Warneford, who was born in India, recognising also other recipients of the VC born elsewhere in the British Empire.
In Sub-Lieutenant Warneford’s case, Exmouth may well be the right place; alternatively, the pavement by Victoria Embankment Gardens, location of the Fleet Air Arm memorial in London, should be considered.
It is right the nation remembers all holders of the Victoria Cross including, for example, the Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel Will Barker, VC, DSO*, MC**, RAF, thrice mentioned in dispatches, perhaps the most decorated war hero in the history of Canada and the British Empire. Indeed, the names of all seamen, aviators, marines and soldiers awarded the nation’s highest military decoration must not be forgotten and none should be excluded from this excellent initiative.
Admiral Of The Fleet Sir Ben Bathurst; Admiral Sir Ian Garnett, Chairman, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham; Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns, President, FAA Officers’ Association & Fleet Air Arm Association; Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold; Rear Admiral Terry Loughran, Chairman, Fleet Air Arm Museum; Rear Admiral Alastair Ross Commodore Barry Bryant RN, Director-General, Seafarers UK; Brigadier Mike Ellis RM, Chief Executive, Royal Marines Association; Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, DSC, AFC, RN; Captain Michael Clapp, RN; Captain Mike Nixon, RN, Chief Executive, Fly Navy Heritage Trust; Captain Tim Stockings, RN; Captain Stewart Thompson, RN; Colonel Paul Bancroft, RM; Colonel Michael Reece, RM; Lieutenant Colonel Peter Cameron, MC, RM; Commander David Baston, AFC, RN; Commander Ed Featherstone, RN; Commander Tim Gedge, AFC, RN; Commander Sharkey McCartan-Ward, DSC, AFC, RN; Andrew Newcombe, QC
Singling out German militarism as the main reason for the Great War seems to be too simplistic for this reader, as he explains
Sir, You say (leading article, Aug 19) that it is fair “to argue that without the militarism of Wilhelmine Germany there would have been no global war”.
A skeleton account of how the First World War came about might run: Slav nationalists from Serbia assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne; Austria delivered an ultimatum to Serbia; Russia mobilised; France supported Russia; Germany mobilised; England supported France.
Is it not “as threadbare now as it was in 1914” to single out German militarism from this sequence?
Although some supporters may not like the practice, the sending out of gifts by charities is an effective way of increasing the donations given
Sir, I was sorry to learn of the disappointment of Christine A. West (“Alms trade”, letter, Aug 22).
On occasion, the Red Cross includes inexpensive gifts in letters to regular supporters. The reason for this is twofold: first, these items are generally appreciated by our supporters and used, so increase our visibility. Second, they are proven to increase the donations we receive. The amount of additional donations raised far outweighs the cost of the gift, which means that we are able to help many more people in crisis. Calling our current supporters is one of the most cost-effective ways to raise funds.
Director of Fundraising British Red Cross
Where were the views from head teachers of state schools? After all, it is only a tiny minority of children who are educated in private schools
Sir, In your various articles about education in the wake of the various exam results you reported the views of the Master of Magdalen College School and the Headmaster of Eton (Aug 21). Two fine schools, but private schools educate about 7 per cent of our children. Is there an alternative view representing those schools, often with league table-topping results, that educate the 93 per cent?
SIR – Is it a coincidence or is the new White House pooch intended to upstage Lupo and his family? The attempt would be in vain, because she will never be part of a Royal family. Lupo’s position is unassailable from a republican (or a Democratic) rival.
Rev C M Robert
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
SIR – If removed from his family unit and placed outside in a kennel (Features, August 21), Lupo might become jealous of the young Prince George, with dire results.
I agree it isn’t very hygienic for dogs to lick their owners’ faces but I grew up with a German shepherd who was always licking me while standing guard duty outside my pram. It never harmed me.
SIR – For generations our family has been brought up surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. We all have a robust immune system. I hope Lupo will be allowed to share his life with Prince George and that they become lifelong friends.
Luckwell Bridge, Somerset
SIR – I cannot be the only one who has had more than enough of artists hijacking events to make political points. It is sheer bad manners to abuse a captive audience in this way.
Nigel Kennedy, the latest offender (Letters, August 22), is now known more for his relentless self-promotion and funny clothes than he is for his undoubted musical talent.
The BBC is absolutely right to cut his pro-Palestinian posturing from the television broadcast and, furthermore, should now consider whether he can ever be asked back. After all, party guests who misbehave soon find their invitations drying up.
The President’s dog can’t upstage the Prince’s
23 Aug 2013
SIR – If I purchase a seat at the BBC Proms I expect to hear Nigel Kennedy performing the music, not to be treated to his political views.
There are a myriad of political forums in this country at which he can hold forth. The BBC is in order to redact his comments from its broadcast.
When I next purchase a ticket for the Proms I will request an assurance that I will not be treated to the performer’s political views. No assurance, no purchase.
Nigel Kennedy would be well advised to appreciate that there are many world-class violinists who would be delighted to perform at the Proms. He is not that unique.
SIR – I am confused as to what Nigel Kennedy and the other misguided luvvies consider “apartheid” in Israel.
Surely apartheid is the building of a state which bans any group of people from taking part in that state – for example, the Palestinians’ stated aim of having their own state with no Jews in it.
The state of Israel does not fit that description, regardless of how many times the lie is repeated. Israel has Arab members of its Knesset – some of whom are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. (Just imagine that in any Arab country.)
African refugees risk their lives to travel across Muslim countries just to get to Israel. Syrian children are being treated in Israeli hospitals – how much media coverage did that get? There is an Arab on the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice.
The situation is not ideal, but the fault is not Israel’s alone.
Westcliff on Sea, Essex
SIR – In urging a cultural boycott of Israel for not upholding human rights (report, August 21), has Roger Waters of Pink Floyd also urged a cultural boycott of Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen?
Vicarage BBC blackout
SIR – I note with dismay that more than one in 10 prosecutions last year were for non-payment of the BBC licence fee (report, August 22).
We live next door to a huge church tower and consequently receive no terrestrial reception whatever. In order to watch any channel we have to fork out a small fortune to Mr Murdoch for Sky. Once I came to terms with that I was appalled to learn that I still had to pay a full fee to the BBC.
I have toyed with a non-payment protest but can ill afford a criminal record or, for that matter, the large fine.
It is absurd to waste public money and court time on subsidising a broadcasting organisation in this day and age.
Rev Jamie Taylor
SIR – Most people think the BBC licence fee is a regressive tax. The Government expects all households to have access to television for its many public-education campaigns.
Much of the licence fee is squandered in the cost of collection and beating up people who cannot afford to pay.
The solution lies in the BBC licence fee being collected by local authorities through the community charge. It would be a much more effective, compassionate and cost-effective method of tax collection and clear the courts of pointless and cruel prosecutions.
SIR – It is not true that “Jeremy Hunt plans sale of confidential medical data to private firms” (report, August 22). Not only is it illegal to sell or distribute identifiable patient data, it is in breach of one of our core values as a society: that patient confidentiality is a basic human right.
The truth is that NHS England is to make more widely available safe, anonymous data from general practice so that clinicians and their commissioners can target improvements in care, and so that the quality of local services has more transparency for patients.
This new data service – care.data – which is to be launched later this year, will also be available free of charge to all citizens. No third party will have access to identifiable data (other than under specific legal exemptions approved by Parliament, such as a national public health emergency).
Every patient will have the right to object to data held by their GP being used for this purpose and for that objection to be upheld.
National Director for Patients and Information, NHS England
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Impact of wind farms
SIR – My department is not blocking a Defra report on the impact of wind farms (Leading article, August 21).
The Government is committed to moving to a secure, affordable, low-carbon energy system, without excessively relying on any single technology.
So this cross-government study will look at maximising benefits and minimising negative impacts of all technologies, including shale gas and nuclear.
Edward Davey MP (Lib Dem)
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
SIR – To placate, pacify, or equally annoy both sides in the now hysterical fracking debate, why not add a wind turbine to the top of each well-head?
Dr Ken Harvey
Value of juries
SIR – It was disappointing to read Christopher Thompson’s letter on jury service (Letters, August 21), but I fear many will agree with him. While trial by jury is not the most efficient way of ascertaining the truth of an allegation, its value – as evidence that we live in a free society and that the state cannot imprison those it accuses of crime without formal sanction after due consideration by 12 members of the public – is surely beyond question.
Thus doing jury service is not as Mr Thompson suggests “largely pointless” – it is a duty which must be done if we are to continue the life we lead in this country.
It is arguable that too many cases that do not merit the attention of judge and jury find their way to the Crown Court. Jurors often wonder why they have been asked to sit in judgment with regard to sometimes obviously trivial cases.
It may also be that too many are summoned for service, which results in long periods of inactivity and frustration.
These are matters that can be put right by Parliament and the administrators of our Crown Courts. That done, I hope, on reflection, that Mr Thompson and his supporters will change their minds.
His Honour Judge Philip Shorrock
Woolwich Crown Court
Spending 100 pennies
SIR – Before using the facilities at a betting shop (Letters, August 22), place a £1 bet on any horse in the next race. When you return you could be in profit. But win or lose it will have been a pound well spent if you are desperate.
SIR – In France this year my wife and I found that the McDonald’s we visited had a keypad lock on the door leading to the lavatory. A table-cleaner, noticing our uncertainty, showed us the key code on our receipt. Apparently it is changed each hour.
Tracey Emin as model
SIR – If Marks and Spencer puts the right clothes in the shops, they will fly off the shelves. The wrong clothes will stick, whether Tracey Emin (report, August 19) is paid to wear them or not.
What a strange choice she is as a model. Do we have to get very drunk to shop?
Tudors wanted Richard forgotten – in Leicester
SIR – Richard II’s remains were moved from King’s Langley to Westminster Abbey. Richard III himself had the corpse of Henry VI moved from Chertsey Abbey to St George’s, Windsor. The Tudors never moved Richard III. They wanted him forgotten – in Leicester.
With the possible exception of Edward V, every king of England has been buried in one of our great cathedrals or abbeys – such as Worcester, Gloucester, Canterbury, Westminster – or at Windsor.
York Minster is fit for a king, especially one with strong northern connections. Leicester Cathedral is not comparable in status.
Jillian Ann Cole
SIR – I too am a descendant of Edward IV, via his daughter Elizabeth of York and her marriage to Henry Tudor.
Would the Queen consider allowing Richard III’s remains to be interred in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where his brother, Edward, lies?
SIR – Might I suggest Eastwell churchyard near Ashford, Kent?
Richard would then be reunited with his son, Richard Plantagenet, in peaceful surroundings without hundreds of tourists trampling over him.
Sir , – As more shocking images of scores of dead and bereaved children in Syria fill our newspapers (August 22nd) it is surely relevant to highlight Irish policy on Syria.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore faced strong questioning on his policy on Syria from Maureen O Sullivan TD, Brendan Smith TD and Senator Michael Mullins at the last Oireachtas Joint Foreign Affairs committee prior to the summer recess, July 17th, but this important meeting was not covered by the media.
Senator Michael Mullins questioned the Tánaiste on his claim that any military solution to the Syrian conflict was to be avoided as it would result in an escalation of the killing: “It was roughly this time last year when we spoke about the potential peace process in Syria . . . I asked the Tánaiste whether there was a plan B and referred to the possibility of military intervention. The Tánaiste replied at the time that military intervention would lead to an escalation of militarisation and thereby make the situation worse and that our national position is that if we put more arms into the situation, we will increase militarisation and move away from trying to find a political solution and the number of casualties will increase. At that time, approximately 19,000 people had been killed. Today, that figure is close to 100,000. Does the Tánaiste have a different view today?”
The Tánaiste, however, still appeared to hold the same view as a year ago. His view on what is best for Syrians is at a far remove from that of Yassin al Haj Saleh, the highly respected Syrian writer and winner of the Prince Claus award, who is currently internally displaced in one of the regions under attack in Syria. In a recent urgent appeal to leaders of public opinion in the west: “Help Syria now. Tomorrow it may be too late,” he explained their desperate plight: “People fight here with absolute defiance because they realise that a big massacre awaits them if the regime succeeds in regaining control over the area. Those who are not killed immediately will be arrested and tortured savagely. The options of the people are to either die resisting the aggression of a fascist regime or to be killed by this same regime in the worst way possible. People shudder with fear, and I myself shudder, at the thought that this regime might rule us again”. It is high time that such urgent cries for help were heard here. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Next month marks the anniversary of WB Yeats’s poem September 1913. We may have cause in recent times to “fumble in a greasy till” but what would the great poet make of our emergence from the so-called Celtic tiger years when so many of our young people have “gone about the world like wind”?
He might well conclude “romantic Ireland” while not quite “dead and gone” has some fightback to accomplish in order to live up to the ideals of the founders of our nation as we begin to celebrate several significant centenaries marking the birth of the Republic. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Eamon Maher’s evocation of Walter Macken’s Connemara (An Irishman’s Diary, August 20th), transported me immediately to another time.
I encountered Macken’s books as an Ulster Presbyterian teenager in the late 1960s. I was entranced. My love affair with his words and his captivating atmospheres was intense and overwhelming. I just couldn’t get enough. I smelt the porter. I felt the icy waters of the loughs. I heard the screaming seagulls. The lashing rain soaked me. The rocks of the mountains pierced my shoes. I tasted the passions. Above all, was the forbidding attractiveness of the main character – Connemara itself.
I have since holidayed often and enjoyably in the west. And each time I remember Macken fondly. Eamon Maher is right. Macken gets too little attention.
I must seek out from the box in which I know they are slumbering – Quench the Moon, The Bogman, Brown Lord of the Mountain. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I loved reading Michael Harding’s “Going Coastal: Youthful dreams in Donegal” (Summer Living, August 22nd). It was a happy reminder of my own times in the lovely Donegal Gaeltacht of Ranafast.
To this day a warm breeze reminds of walks from Ranafast to Anagry and the Point, and the smell of burning turf. My bean an tí was Siobhan Pheadai Bhig whose daughter, Kitty, later took on the running of the house. Could it ever be the same Kitty? We convent-educated girls didn’t look at the boys, of course, but we enjoyed the céilithe in Coláiste Bhríde.
My other great delight, like Michael Harding, was to “slip away from the others and stand alone on the rocks”. It was an almost spiritual experience of marvelling at the beauty and the power of the ocean and the elements. Thank you for the memories, Michael. – Yours, etc,
Terenure Road West,
Sir, – I was so proud of us as a nation that we honoured Malala Yousafzai with the Tipperary International Peace Award (Home News, August 21st). Nobody deserves this more than the 16-year-old from the Swat Valley. What an example she is to our young population.
Under threat of death she still spoke out for the rights of girls in Pakistan to have education. Many in our own country have been similarly threatened lately and they were strong also. Maith an cailín, Malala. – Yours, etc,
PAT BURKE WALSH,
Sir, – Recently, I was angling for salmon on Glanmore Lake in Co Kerry and was joined by a white-tailed eagle. We fished together for a half hour. It circled about 50 feet above me and a 150 yards distant. It had a raven acolyte who looked more like a sparrow. What a thrill for an angler; and thanks to the wild life service for making it happen. – Yours, etc,
* Gordon Deegan (Irish Independent, August 22) reports the intensive lobbying of the Finance Minister last May by the boss of the NTMA, John Corrigan, to protect the salaries of his highly paid staff and Corrigan’s particular anxiety that these employees could not avail of the proposed salary restoration contained in the Haddington Road Agreement because they are not members of a trade union.
Also in this section
Recall illustrates impotence of the Seanad
Victims’ trial trauma favours the offenders
Mystery and intrigue in the royal family
The 1990 legislation establishing the NTMA positioned it outside of the wider public service pay structures, giving it freedom to negotiate market-competitive salaries.
Mr Deegan’s report indicates that Mr Corrigan’s salary will be reduced from €416,500 to €374,850 as a consequence of the legislation connected to Haddington Road.
The 2012 annual report of the NTMA indicates that its total pay bill last year was in excess of €51m and that 153 of the 500 staff earned in excess of €100,000.
The British equivalent of the NTMA is the Debt Management Agency, which met its target to raise €194bn from the public market last year.
Its chief executive was paid €170,000, a sum comparable to the pay of the boss of FAS. The median pay of DMA staff, who are based in London, was €59,117 and the total pay bill of the DMA was €11.22m, 22pc of the total NTMA pay bill.
Why does it cost taxpayers so much to remunerate NTMA staff when it has the unique and powerful mandate to negotiate market-competitive salaries?
Michael Noonan has already confirmed that NTMA employees earning equivalent salaries to those in the unionised public sector will be treated in a comparable manner with respect to pay restoration. But should NTMA staff not consider joining a trade union so as to ensure their earnings are not constrained by reference to much reduced market-competitive salaries?
A trade union could defend the interests of NTMA staff from misconceived perceptions which might be unduly coloured by the scale of senior public sector pay in London, Frankfurt or Brussels.
Glenageary, Co Dublin
* It was wonderful to see the truly courageous Malala Yousafzai accepting the Tipperary Peace Prize in person and to hear her making an inspirational speech. One can only give thanks that the Taliban’s bullets failed to silence her. One also hopes that the people who think that the Taliban and other crackpot Islamists are a much maligned and misunderstood grouping were listening to this remarkable young woman as well.
Ms Yousafzai is a credit to her country and her fellow women and is an example to us all.
KENNEDY AND PARNELL
* I regret that Ciaran Connolly sees fit to dismiss the theme of this year’s Parnell Summer School – ‘Parnell and Kennedy: Lost Leaders’ – as particularly silly (Letters, August 21). He is entitled to his opinion, but he did not attend any session of the summer school and I would suggest that he is not therefore in a position to express an informed opinion.
Those who did attend heard a series of excellent and thought-provoking papers, which explored from various perspectives the intersections between US and Irish history and their relevance to contemporary public affairs.
The parallels between Parnell and Kennedy are not as forced as Mr Connolly implies. Most obviously, the impact of Kennedy’s death in 1963 invites comparison with the impact of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell.
The shadow which Parnell’s death cast on the Irish psyche was memorably captured in the writings of Joyce and Yeats – and Kennedy’s death had a similar effect, though on a wider, worldwide canvas. That is why we thought it appropriate to link these two remarkable men as the basis of the summer school’s wide-ranging programme.
Felix M Larkin
Academic director, Parnell Summer School 2013,
Cabinteely, Dublin 18
RAINING GOLD MEDALS
* Sometimes people wonder what must be in the water supply in New Zealand which makes the Kiwis so good at rugby? Thanks to Paddy Doyle (Letters, August 21), we now know: it’s pure rainwater.
I support Mr Doyle’s proposed solution that Irish people, en masse, install our own water tanks to catch and store rainwater for our own household uses. This would be both economical and (who knows?) athletically productive!
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
FIANNA FAIL, JUST SHUT UP
* I am simply amazed that every time I tune into an RTE current affairs or news programme and there is a political topic that needs addressing, our national broadcaster has deemed it necessary to seek the opinion of the opposition, ie, Fianna Fail.
The analogy I would use is that of a poacher turned gamekeeper being asked how he would manage to conserve a species which he had previously hunted to near-extinction.
Can I remind our glorious band of televisual betters that other opposition exists and opinion should be sought from same?
All that is required of Fianna Fail is that it sits in the corner and keeps quiet, lest it does any more damage.
NO WAY TO TREAT GIRLS
* It is distressing to hear and read that the two girls at the centre of the Peru drug-smuggling story are being kept in conditions that can only be described as inhumane. The solicitor representing one of the girls has reported that they were left in a cell without food or adequate bedding.
These girls have been charged and are innocent until they have their day in court. Surely our Minister for Foreign Affairs must insist that the Peruvian government and prison authorities treat these girls with respect and provide the basic needs of adequate food and shelter?
MCDOWELL’S AN ACHIEVER
* Liz O’Donnell writes that the former Tanaiste and Justice Minister Michael McDowell does not possess the likeability X factor (Irish Independent, August 20).
As someone who has also worked in the past with Mr McDowell, I am sure Ms O’Donnell would agree with me that Michael is engaging company, sharp-minded and a great conversationalist.
The question to ask is why the real Michael McDowell is not perceived that way by the public?
Mr McDowell created the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). He withstood huge opposition from the legal profession. This initiative has helped reduce the gravy train of expensive and unnecessary personal injuries court cases.
In 2007 he introduced a Criminal Justice Bill, which increased detention time to question suspects, restricted the right to bail and introduced crime-prevention orders. All of these measures were fully welcomed by the Irish people in the battle against criminal gangs.
Who needs the X factor of likeability when Mr McDowell has the X factor of success in delivering results for the Irish people?
Monkstown Valley, Co Dublin
EYES TAKEN OFF EU BALL
* Regardless of the side taken on organ donation, the fact that such little debate took place here in Ireland before the passing of the organ donation directive shows how little attention is being paid to law-making in the EU in general.
The question is raised of what other directives have been passed that few have cared about and are much less known about and debated.
Martin James Melvin
Cloverhill, Carromore, Co Sligo