Another quiet day

23 September 2013 Another Quiet day

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to take the Army to Belgium and Pertwee meet his army equivalent. Priceless.
Sweep the drive, read my Doctor Who
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets under over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Michael Crouch
Michael Crouch, who has died aged 78, joined the Aden Political Service in 1958 just as Britain’s control of the world’s second largest port was being shaken by a general strike and Arab nationalism.

Crouch (centre, wearing dark glasses) on patrol in the desert 
6:35PM BST 22 Sep 2013
Crouch began in the Eastern protectorate capital Mukalla, where boys were already shouting “Long live Nasser” in the streets and his clerk preferred being in the office to being at home with four pregnant wives. Having learned Arabic and how to eat a goat’s heart, Crouch set out to tour the Northern Deserts, a sparsely populated frontier area where every man had a rifle and borders were disputed. Accompanied by a cook, driver and orderly, plus a platoon of Hadhrami Bedouin soldiers with poor shooting skills, he had two major tasks: to call on local sultans to ensure that they did not deal in slaves or make war on each other; and to protect the oil exploration company Petroleum Concessions and, after it left, to keep the water wells working for the local population.
The job was not that dangerous, which suited a man who liked to regard himself as a professional coward. When a company convoy was fired on, Crouch summoned the miscreants, and when that failed and the roar of RAF Meteors overhead proved no more effective, he solved the problem by ordering three deserted forts to be blown up. He successfully dispatched a patrol which captured 17 camel raiders from Yemen, and later, when 30 others were cornered with their loot sheltering behind their camels, he had to shoot the wounded beasts after the skirmish.
On transferring to the Western protectorate’s capital at Al Ittihad, he found that the peace was being kept by keeni-meeni (jiggery pokery), which meant giving tribesmen rifles and ammunition. A welcome change came with his appointment as deputy leader of a six-week expedition to capture oryx, the antelope once familiar throughout the Arabian peninsula but which was in danger of extinction.
On leave in Britain, Crouch bought an MGA Mk2 sports coupe which reached 117mph on the newly opened M1 motorway. He also met his future wife, Lynette Waudby.
But growing hostility encouraged by anti-colonial pressure in the United Nations caused support for Britain to continue to ebb away. Desert patrols became increasingly large affairs with federal troops and Royal Marines (who could shoot straight). Crouch had to use his negotiating skills to remove some men who had been wounded when lost on the Yemen side of the border.
By 1967 Crouch was accompanied everywhere by an SAS bodyguard, and his residences were regularly subjected to rifle or machine-gun fire — though turning off the lights off and taking cover was usually sufficient. But he had one particularly narrow shave when an anti-tank missile destroyed the telephone he had just been using, catapulting him on to his wife and baby son; the boy (who had been given a Kalashnikov as a christening present by an Arab friend of the family) suffered only minor injuries. As soldiers helped to douse the flames, a BBC correspondent rang to say: “I hear there’s been a bit of a to-do over your way.”
By now Crouch was exasperated by the Labour government at home, and appalled at being asked to sit in on an interrogation where two staff sergeants systematically beat a suspect in the kidneys to get a confession. Saying he felt sick, Crouch left the room and refused to return.
In 1967 he was Resident Adviser (the senior civilian) in Mukalla when he received a telegram at 2am instructing him to evacuate all British personnel. Suspecting that any indication of a withdrawal would precipitate a general uprising, he carried on as usual, ordering dinner that night and sending two shirts to the laundry. The pretence was maintained until he and the others stepped into the helicopter.
But no provision had been made for local Arabs employed by the British. “Her Majesty’s Government and I had behaved with a mixture of incompetence and immorality,” he wrote bitterly in his autobiography, An Element of Luck (1993).
Michael Armstrong Crouch was born in London on May 5 1935. As the son of a doctor in the Sudan Civil Service and the grandson of an Indian Civil officer , he was brought up first in Sudan and went to Prince of Wales School, Nairobi. He did National Service with the Kenya Regiment in Southern Rhodesia. After Downing College, Cambridge, he was sent to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he failed his exams for the Colonial Service but had a valuable secondment to Horley rural district council in preparation for Aden.
On retiring from the service at 32, Crouch was determined to move as far away as possible from anyone trying to shoot him, and settled on Western Australia as a good place to bring up three children. Turning down approaches from both the British and Australian governments to work “on the security side of the house”, he became a personnel manager for a mining company and a teacher before managing a conservation foundation. After his marriage broke down he married Jenny Tyrwhitt, a friend he had not seen for 27 years.
As well as his memoir, Crouch wrote a novel called Terrorist (2003); A Literary Larrikin, a biography of the soldier and author Tom Hungerford (2005); and completed a PhD on feminist history at the University of Western Australia, based on his grandmother’s life as a colonial wife in India.
In the early 1990s he started returning to Arabia when the newly established Yemen Arab Republic invited him back with other former civil servants; the Yemenis were keen to mine the recollections of colonial officers on the exact location of the Saudi border. On one stop an elderly Bedouin with a Kalashnikov across his shoulders asked the party why the British had left. “You tried to shoot us,” he was told.
At an official reception in Mukalla, a Colonel Aburahim Atik admitted to having tried to assassinate Crouch by throwing a grenade over a hospital wall which narrowly failed to kill him and his colleague John Shipman, as well as the future Field Marshal Lord Guthrie. “Old enemies make good friends,” said the colonel, later adding that God had made his aim bad.
Michael Crouch, born May 5 1935, died July 13 2013


Contrary to your leader (The future not the past, 21 September) the first thing the Labour party should do is reinforce the economy against what Vince Cable called “an invasion of estate agents, property speculators and bankers” intent on helping George Osborne inflate another housing bubble. Cable has called for a feasibility study of the land value tax to prevent future property bubbles and Labour should do so too, not only to get the ducks in line for a possible coalition but to replace the present clapped-out consensus of “Peg wages; let house prices grow” with the saner “Peg house prices with LVT and let wages grow”, so getting the unions back onside, as well.
DBC Reed
Thorplands, Northampton
• While Labour’s intentions to repeal the bedroom tax and improve childcare provision are welcome, they are far too timid to deal with the widening rift between rich and poor in Britain, now including the “squeezed middle” earning up to £60,000 a year (Childcare at heart of Labour push for 2015, 21 September).
Three simple policies would begin to deal with the issues: building more affordable homes; uprating the minimum wage to a living wage as soon as possible; and revising council taxes to reflect today’s inflated property values.
These measures alone would cut the long-term cost of benefits. More homes would save billions paid to landlords. A living wage would give people enough money to live on without benefits, while uprating council tax would see those in high-value properties paying a fairer share and, perhaps, slow the ridiculous rises in house prices we are seeing in London.
David Reed
• Labour wants to guarantee primary age childcare from 8am to 6pm. A day spent thus leaves 14 hours between coming out of school, or whatever other care has been provided, and going back in the next morning. Children aged between six and 12 need 10-12 hours sleep. This leaves too little time for family life. A statement that is meant to be a positive pledge throws into sharp relief the negativity of present attitudes to children and their welfare and potential as human beings.
Louise Summers
• ”Labour’s bedroom tax pledge will cost as much as £470m a year” (Report, 21 September). How? The only additional money coming in from the bedroom tax is from the small number of people who will somehow manage to pay the cost of an extra room without falling into arrears.
Against this there has to be set the cost involved where tenants are forced to move, typically to more expensive smaller accommodation in the private sector, which will often mean higher housing benefit, paid to the landlords. And all the other costs involved as social networks of informal support within families are shattered.
It is inconceivable to me that there can be £470m financial benefit for taxpayers from this tax. If I’m missing something, please explain how that figures has been arrived at. A government press release?
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex
• So Labour is to call for Directly Operated Railways (DOR) to be able to bid for the east coast rail franchise (Report, 20 September). How timid.
This would mean that the hugely wasteful and expensive franchise bidding process would still take place and government would effectively be bidding against the private companies and foreign governments who own the current franchises.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has tabled a bill to take each franchise back into the public sector as it expires. There would be no cost to the taxpayer and any operating surpluses/profits would go to the Treasury. Publicly operated East Coast has contributed £640m to the Treasury over the past three years.
Labour should support Caroline Lucas’s railways bill in parliament next month, not tiptoe around the issue.
Alan Francis
Green party transport speaker
• Polly Toynbee quotes Andrew Hawkins of ComRes as saying “no leader in power ever increased their vote” (Comment, 20 September). Led by Harold Wilson, Labour won the 1964 general election with 12,205,808 votes. He won again in 1966, with 13,096,951 votes.
Keith Bilton

I am much more worried about the illegal activities of the NSA in general and NSA Menwith Hill in particular than the activities of GCHQ, although what they do is worrying enough (Comment, 21 September). There is a contingent of GCHQ at NSA Menwith Hill. I scanned Malcolm Rifkind’s article for any mention of NSA Menwith Hill but nothing. We asked a parliamentary question last year as to when the intelligence and security committee last visited Menwith Hill. We are not allowed to know, but they say they have access to every part of the operations area. If Malcolm Rifkind’s committee knew about the extent of the NSA surveillance and intelligence-gathering at Menwith Hill, which they should do if they say they know what goes on there (which is doubtful), where is this in their annual report? I am not convinced this committee has any influence or knows what this unaccountable and secretive base is doing.
Lindis Percy
Co-ordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases
• Simon Jenkins (Comment, 20 September) exposes the complacency here about extent of the domestic and international espionage carried out jointly by the US and UK intelligence agencies, as revealed by Edward Snowden. He also alludes to the NSA bugging Brazilian oil companies during licence talks. However, there has been almost no coverage about the likely application of the information to give British companies an edge when bidding for foreign contracts. A better use of the intelligence would be if HMRC were to access it to reveal the development of tax avoidance schemes.
George Roussopoulos
Hindhead, Surrey

Perhaps Martin Newnham (Letters, 21 September), anxious to dragoon his grandchildren into the right career pathways, should try allowing them to choose their own quilt covers. In my experience, infant girls go for pink and frilly, and boys pick gun and dinosaur patterns. Sorry, but that is generally how it appears to be. Maybe M&S know this.
Richard Wilson
• When my dad took me to buy a quilt cover back in the 70s he was asked: “Is it for a boy or a girl?” He answered: “No, it’s for a bed.” It seems that attitudes haven’t changed much.
Helen Fowweather
Thame, Oxfordshire
• Why didn’t Mr Newnham just buy a boy’s quilt and save himself 60p postage complaining to M&S? He should not worry so much, women are very capable in spite of M&S.
Hugh Scullion
• I couldn’t help making the connection between the grandfather finding pink quilts labelled for girls and space and dinosaur-themed quilts labelled for boys in Marks & Spencer, and a favourite aunt (A Letter to…, Family, 21 September) buying her nephew Lego, pens and books while her niece gets “pretty scarves, nail varnish and sweet necklaces”. Because boys need “food, love and exercise” while girls just want “pretty knick-knacks and girly chats”. And we wonder why more girls don’t aspire to be scientists and engineers.
Janet Hooper
Ivybridge, Devon

The naval phrase “copper-bottomed” (Letters, 21 September), recently revived by the government sarcastically to characterise Ed Miliband, has its origin in the copper sheathing used in 1761 to protect the frigate HMS Alarm’s hull from the deleterious effects of shipworm and marine weeds. Worked a treat, I’ve heard.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire
•  The police claim that Barclays Bank has fallen victim to a team of “significant players within a sophisticated and determined organised criminal network” (£1.3m Barclays heist – eight held, 21 September). Is this a definition of irony?
Nigel Gann
Chiselborough, Somerset
• So the Lib Dems have a shortage of female MPs (Report, 19 September). Let’s hope that following the general election that problem will be solved by them having a shortage of male MPs also.
Mick Jope
Maidstone, Kent
• Nick Clegg is concerned about the computer game Grand Theft Auto (Clegg warns of ‘corrosive’ games, 21 September). What about the effect of Grand Theft Royal Mail? And will it sell as well?
Roy Harrison
•  ”Progress in the corridors is slow, occasionally stationery” (Esther Addley’s sketch, 21 September). Perhaps delegates at the Ukip conference were trying to work out their next move on the back of an envelope.
John Batey
Bedlington, Northumberland


I am appalled by the constant bullying of Nigel Farage by what Ukip would no doubt call the “metropolitan liberal elite” – especially the licence-fee-funded Channel 4 and BBC.
I would make the same complaint against those who bully anyone because of their beliefs – which, in the case of Ukip, seem to be a mix of independent views: against EU membership but also against being a poodle of the USA, against irresponsible mass immigration, and in favour of integration for those already legally here. It may come as a surprise to the Westminster village, but many millions of British people, many of them Labour and Liberal voters, agree with all of those policies, none of which is in any way fascistic.
Choosing a photo of Nigel Farage for the front page of Saturday’s edition which attempts to catch him giving a Hitler salute as he waves to the conference crowd is not only puerile but falls well below the standards of fair play one would expect from The Independent. 
P J Vanston, Swansea
If I were a conspiracy theorist I would label the raised voices everywhere in the media  over the “slut” outburst by Godfrey Bloom MEP at the Ukip conference as the effective work of a political plant.
How better could the liberal left have smokescreened the popular propositions of the Ukip on the critical issues of the EU, immigration, energy, the NHS, agriculture and fisheries, education et al than behind hypocritical shock at the use of a foolish expletive about a certain kind of woman from an eccentric politician?
Godfrey Bloom was a casual godsend to the liberal left, whose conniving coalition, LibLabCon, has left this country on the brink of ruin.
Alastair Harper, Lathalmond by Dunfermline
In the wake of “Slutgate”, Godfrey Bloom’s political career may yet rise spectacularly from the ashes. There is a significant constituency badly in need of representation, one for which Bloom is uniquely qualified to lead as a new force in politics. 
A Grumpy Old Men Party led by Mr Bloom could enfranchise the male, over-40 and over-the-hill, a group so long neglected in a political landscape dominated by debates on childcare, gay rights, women’s issues and schools.
The only problem for such a party will be strong competition from members of the Conservative backbench and Ukip, who must surely vie for the votes of the silent but deadly majority that dare not speak its name: silly old farts.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
Why has no one asked Godfrey Bloom when he last cleaned behind his fridge?
Wendy Hartman, Hayle, Cornwall
Children’s homes in private sector
Tom Harper’s report on a recent DfE paper providing data on children’s care homes (“Private equity firms are making millions out of failing children’s care homes”, 14 September) failed to mention that the full DfE report found no difference in the quality of care provided by privately-run homes compared to those run by local authorities.
The article also failed to mention that many of the private equity providers for whom the report provided individual data were found to have a significantly higher level of homes rated good or outstanding than the local authority benchmark. For example, of the entire children’s services Advanced Childcare provide, 80 per cent of its homes are rated good or outstanding and no homes today are inadequate.
The DfE report showed that the vast majority of children’s care home provision – some 72 per cent of places – came from the private and voluntary sectors. These businesses are a vital source of provision for a system that would not otherwise have the necessary capacity. 
Tim Hames, Director General, British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, London WC2
The affliction that mimics a burka
I read Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article on Islamic veils and burkas (16 September) with great interest.
How many people know about prosopagnosia (face blindness)? To people with this affliction (estimated at one in 50 of us) everyone might just as well be wearing a veil or a burka, because we can’t remember people’s faces. 
It’s an affliction that destroys people’s social lives; there’s a total inability to maintain contact. How can I forget the poor lady at an office I worked in who stopped me in the corridor, with tears in her eyes, and said, her voice quivering with tension: “I don’t know what I’ve done to offend you, but whatever it was, I’m so sorry.”
This left me shattered. I know I’d had a nice talk with a nice person, but I’d no memory of what that person looked like. I’d no idea I was walking past a person I liked, should have remembered, and should have greeted.  She might have been walking round in a burka.
There’s a particular part of the brain, the fusiform gyrus, that deals with recognising faces. For people afflicted with prosopagnosia that part doesn’t function. Normal memory for faces comes in rather slowly, when we see people often. 
Not being able to recognise people is truly dreadful. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And some Islamic people want it to be that way? It’s beyond understanding. 
Jean Elliott, Upminster, Essex
If the wearing of full-face veils is not about the oppression of women, why do we never see a man in one? Shouldn’t a man’s beauty be only for his wife? But will I ever, ever see a man walking down the street with his head effectively stuffed inside a sack? I don’t think so, do you?
Helen Clutton, Dorchester
Secrets of the sporting elite
John Claughton suggests (Education, 19 September) that independent schools can play a part in helping pupils from state schools achieve sporting success. But with only 7 per cent of British children at independent schools, even if every independent school in Britain shared its sporting facilities and coaching expertise with three state schools of the same size, this would still benefit less than a quarter of state school pupils.
The real block to sporting excellence in state schools is apathy. As John Claughton says, independent schools believe in sport as part of an education. State schools do not. In state schools, participation in sport is regarded as getting in the way of training for better exam results in order to improve the school’s position in academic league tables.
In most independent schools, sport is compulsory five days a week; in state schools, pupils may be grudgingly allowed to play sport in school hours on one afternoon a week. This means not only that independent school pupils are generally much fitter than their state counterparts, but also that they get to try many different sports such as hockey, rugby, squash and cross-country in winter, and cricket, swimming, tennis and athletics in summer.
The attitude to sport in state schools needs to turn around completely if pupils from state schools are ever to compete on level terms with those from independent schools.
David Hewitt, London N1
Another article listing sport stars from private schools and suggesting that their success is down to their education. The truth is rather simpler.
Children succeed in sport at an elite level if their family have the time and the money to help them. Once a youngster has started to go beyond county level in a sport, they need more expensive equipment, competition entry fees, transport and quality coaching. The reason that private school pupils do well is simply that their parents are richer and can afford all this.
But what about the great facilities at private schools? It is true that sports facilities at the most expensive private schools are better than those at state schools. This misses the point. In the state system, talented youngsters are fed in to their local clubs, to the county system and then to national training. The reason private schools must have good facilities is that they are often cut off from all these resources and forced to be self-sufficient. A fair comparison would be between the facilities at a boarding school and the facilities of a town with all its sports centres and clubs, not between the two schools.
Sheila Parker, Worthing, West Sussex
Politicians don’t deserve contempt
How depressing to read Penny Little’s views on politicians (letter, 18 September). I used to work for an MP and I know that many, on all sides, are hard-working, intelligent and fundamentally decent people trying to make a difference. If we continue to hold MPs in such contempt, we risk putting off all but the most shamelessly ambitious from putting themselves forward, and that doesn’t help anyone.
Absolutely condemn the idiots, the criminals and the shysters, but please let’s also give the rest the credit they deserve.
Ruth Gripper, London SE5
Uncontrolled cats
I agree with the last sentence of Ben Martin’s letter (20 September). However it is a pity he, and other cat owners, do not take responsibility for the behaviour of the only so-called domestic pet that is allowed to roam anywhere, go into neighbours’ property, including houses, kill wildlife and mess anywhere (flowerbeds, grass, even hard surfaces). Most cat owners seem to be “in denial”, not of course that they have any effective control over their cats’ anti-social actions.
Ken Lockwood, Saffron Walden, Essex
Different voice
Grace Dent in her column (19 September) mentions The Voice, which I believe is a popular contemporary television programme. But am I the only one left standing who immediately thinks of Elwyn Brook-Jones’s sinister villain in Garry Halliday, a derring-do series that lit up my childhood Saturday afternoons more than 50 years ago?
Ian Craine, London N15
How to swat a fly
At the risk of being prosaic and while full of admiration for the ingenuity of your correspondents, I think the answer is that well-established item of domestic blood sports activity, usable by young, aged and the not too infirm, the plastic fly swatter.
Ted Clark, Leamington Spa
Mountains moved
I was astonished to read (16 September) that Snowdon is now the second highest mountain in Britain. Most topographical tables place it at 57th. Is fracking in the desolate North responsible for this dramatic change in the landscape? 
Colin Duncan, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey


A business as usual approach to energy policy will result in further temperature increases
Sir, The findings of the UK Energy Research Council make grim reading for anyone who thinks that we live in a rational world (“Number of climate change sceptics soars as support for alternative energy wanes,” Sept 19). While climate change deniers have quadrupled, the scientific evidence is going in the opposite direction.
In their second report (1995), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that it was more than 50 per cent likely that man-made emissions were contributing to climate change. In their third report (2001) that figure had become 66 per cent, 90 per cent in their fourth report (2007) and now 95 per cent in their latest report. The fourth IPCC report had 152 lead authors, over 500 contributing authors, over 600 reviewers and received more than 30,000 comments; in other words this was the closest that the world community could get to a scientific consensus.
Sadly this consensus is not reflected in the columns of most newspapers in the UK. Newspapers may enjoy stirring controversy, but civilisation as we know it will not survive if the addition of 33 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere every year. It is future generations who will pay the price for our denial of the obvious.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Bucks

Sir, A cursory glance at the headlines relating to the survey of the public’s perceptions of climate change would have given a false impression of levels of support.
“Number of climate change sceptics soars” and “Climate deniers up” (In the News, Sept 19) refer to a quadrupling since 2005, but at 19 per cent this is still very much a minority view.
As to “Support for alternative energy wanes” those in favour of wind power fell from 82 to 64 per cent, and solar power from 87 to 77 per cent, a substantial majority. The cursory glance can so easily misinform the memory and opinion.
Dr David Harding
Boningale, Shropshire

Sir, Professor C. Goodman (letters, Sept 21)  shows a lamentable ignorance of the processes of climate change. He implies that we should continue emitting carbon dioxide in a business as usual manner and concentrate on adaptation to a warmer climate.
The problem with this approach is that climate change is progressive and that temperature levels will not stabilise after a rise of say one to two degrees, unless we drastically reduce current CO2 production.
We, in the developed world could conceivably adapt to this sort of temperature rise if we invested heavily, but a business as usual approach to energy policy will result in further temperature increases.
In these circumstances many scientists consider a four degree rise by 2100 to be a best estimate, giving rise to a planet that could support about one billion human beings. Adaptation to this is of course out of the question, with the generalised warfare, famine and disease that would ensue. Preserving the
current climate in aspic is no longer in our gift, given the current atmospheric CO2 level, but rapid action to stabilise this may limit temperature rises to levels that we could adapt to.
Andrew Baker
Gilwern, Monmouthshire

Voters in Scotland who prefer to remain within the EU would be better served to vote Yes to independence next year
Sir, Martin Staniforth (letter, Sept 20) argues that many nations will veto an independent Scotland’s EU membership. All of us in Scotland are already citizens of the EU. There is no precedent nor any agreed means by which a place — and its 5 million inhabitants — can be jettisoned from such a position. Even anti-independence politicians and commentators agree that an independent Scotland will continue to be part of the EU if it so chooses, albeit with the detail to be ironed out in negotiations.
By far the bigger threat to Scotland’s membership of the EU is if we choose to remain a part of the UK. The EU referendum, planned by David Cameron before 2017, would then offer the very real prospect of Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will.
Voters in Scotland who prefer to remain within the EU would therefore be better served to vote Yes to independence next year.
C. Hegarty
North Berwick, East Lothian

Sir, Martin Staniforth states that in the event of a “Yes” vote in next year’s Scottish referendum “Spain will undoubtedly impose” a veto on a newly independent Scotland’s application to join the EU. Yet Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo is on recorded as stating that “If the two parts of the United Kingdom are in agreement that [Scottish independence] is in accord with their constitutional arrangement, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say, we would simply maintain that it does not affect us.”
Michael Rossi
Southall, Middlesex

Mr Rowhani should open the doors of Iran’s heavy water and nuclear reactor plants to the UN nuclear weapons inspectors
Sir, The West should be circumspect about Iran’s apparent Damascene conversion when President Rowhani asserts that his country would not build nuclear weapons (World, Sept 20). In order to prove the probity of his pacifist overtures, Mr Rowhani should open the doors of Iran’s heavy water and nuclear reactor plants to the UN nuclear weapons inspectors.
Iran has previously used subterfuges such as peaceful use of nuclear energy as a source of power and medicinal purposes. If Iran wants to portray itself as a peacemaker in the Middle East, it should stop supplying arms to the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups and withdraw its militia in Syria. Mr Rowhani should acknowledge Israel’s existential rights as a sovereign state and extend an olive branch.
Sam Banik
London N10

Ties and long-sleeved coats have been banned by some NHS trusts – veils should also be banned to lower infection rates
Sir, Your article headlined “Muslim nurses who cover their faces are
being ‘more hygienic’ for patients” ( Sept 20 ) is misleading. Face masks used in medicine and surgery are specifically designed to prevent the spread of infection. Face veils and other normal articles of clothing are not.
MRSA are dispersed on desquamated skin and the friction between skin and clothing causes desquamation. Clothing also harbours desquamated skin scales and can act as a reservoir for dispersal. For this reason ties and long-sleeved coats have been banned by some NHS trusts. The same objections apply to normal veils. For use in a clinical setting veils should conform to the same standards as other face covers such as surgical masks.
Bohumil S. Drasar
Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology
London N12

It will be interesting to see just to what sort of “natural state” it will be restored to by the National Trust
Sir, Circa 1925, the Derbyshire historian Thomas L. Tudor, in The High Peak to Sherwood, wrote this about Kinder Scout: “Nobody has really seen that masterpiece of nature’s savagery who has not, once at least, crossed its barbaric expanse and paused amid its stillness and its solitude, where the elements have had their way, without let or hindrance, for countless æons of geological time.” He added: “No experience is better calculated to relieve the hectic strain of modern life than a burst into these open sanctuaries of nature, free from the bedlam of the roads and the eternal distraction of the town; grand and solitary and untamed since the beginning of years.” It will be interesting for those around in 2050 to see just to what sort of “natural state” (report, Sept 20) it has been restored to by the National Trust.
Eugene Suggett
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – I agree entirely with Joan Frazier (Letters, September 15) that the contribution of radar operators to the war effort has so far been underestimated.
My father, in his autobiography Return Trip to Woolwich, observes that, without radar operators forewarning our pilots of incoming enemy aircraft, the Battle of Britain may have turned out very differently.
Perhaps, as with many other post-war failures to recognise invaluable service, those who worked so hard at the technological cutting edge of the day could, even now, be honoured for the huge contribution they made in the draughty, exposed bases of Kent and the east coast.
Rev Tim Price
Tatworth, Somerset

SIR – I was delighted to read the letter from former WAAF Joan Frazier, who was a plotter at Bentley Priory during the war.
I served there for most of my National Service in the Fifties as a teleprinter operator. I well remember the long, lino-clad staircase leading down to the Air Defence Operations Centre.
There is a scene in the 1969 film Battle of Britain in which Sir Laurence Olivier, in the role of “Stuffy” Dowding, is seen descending what I have always imagined was the very same staircase. In my time, the walls were clad with Lamson tubes which conveyed message canisters by compressed air from the signals section to various destinations. A couple of years ago I wrote to the trustees to ask whether some kind of guided tour was possible, but was informed that the whole complex had been filled in.
What a shame. Presumably its historic value was not considered worth preserving.
Mick Cox
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – Ukip supporters could still switch back to the Tories if David Cameron acts swiftly (report, September 15). He could give a firm date for the EU referendum and set out measures to prevent the arrival of hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from Bulgaria and Romania.
On human rights, we need fair, commonsense rules. The judiciary must be given clear parliamentary guidance not to allow appeals for so-called “family” reasons or the defence that anyone sent back to their country might be in danger. The Armed Forces should be properly resourced once again.
Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset
SIR – Lord Ashcroft’s survey showing that Conservatives are changing to Ukip over Europe is a warning that David Cameron would be foolish to ignore. Since making his speech in January promising a referendum on the EU he has done nothing apart from passing a law confirming a referendum before 2017, which he was forced to do by his backbenchers.
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This law is worthless unless he wins the 2015 election, which looks doubtful at present. As a result, a lot of people think he is not sincere and will try to wriggle out of it when the time comes.
Christopher Carver
Yeovil, Devon
SIR – Your report on Ukip taking votes in key marginal seats from the Conservatives should be a warning to those who are considering to register a protest vote at the next general election.
Ukip’s support is spread across the whole country, not concentrated within seats, which would be necessary to gain representation in Parliament. Therefore it is pie-in-the-sky to think that Ukip will win enough seats at the election to be the “king-makers” in a potential hung Parliament.
The disgruntled Tory voters and anti-immigration, eurosceptic ex-Labour voters, who are intending to vote Ukip, will be indirectly helping Labour return to government.
Splitting the Right-wing vote will be akin to what happened to Michael Foot on the Left in 1983. This will allow Labour to finish the job that they have always been good at – bankrupting and ruining the country.
James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Current opinion polls suggest that it will be Ukip, not the Lib Dems, who could hold the balance of power between the two main parties at the next general election. Nigel Farage has said he will not contemplate a deal with the Conservatives as long as David Cameron is the Tory leader. So, what if Ukip enters a coalition with Labour and provides a curb on Labour policies? That would put the cat among the Westminster pigeons.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – All the main parties, the Conservatives in particular, make the arrogant assumption that only one of them has the divine right to form a government and that the electorate must return to their fold rather than see their traditional opponents elected.
If this were true, the Labour Party would never have arisen to replace the Liberals. On the contrary, when a political movement speaks for a previously ignored section of the people, it may very well replace the failed incumbents of old.
If people will only continue to vote for what they really believe in then there is no limit to the possibilities open to Ukip to transform the political landscape.
Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Lord Ashcroft has warned that by voting Ukip, the electorate will get Labour.
However, if they vote Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, they will get the EU, which rules Britain with the support of these three parties. If Ukip receives a very substantial vote, this will make it untenable for the other three parties to continue supporting the EU’s undemocratic control over Britain.
Derek Bennett
Walsall, Staffordshire
Backing marriage in the tax system
SIR – As representatives from some of Britain’s leading think tanks, political activists and faith leaders, we strongly welcome the proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system, via the introduction of a transferable tax allowance. This is long overdue.
We believe that marriage is the fundamental building block of human society and provides many tangible and non-tangible benefits to our communities and our children.
Family breakdown costs the taxpayer an estimated £46 billion a year. It is therefore clearly in the interests of government and the taxpayer to work to counter the devastating trend of family breakdown. Backing marriage in the tax system is a sensible first step.
This is why we urge all political parties not only to back the new transferable tax allowance, but also to ensure that it cannot be dismissed as an empty gesture, given that it has been set at the low level of £150.
To be meaningful it must be paid at a higher rate, even if this means a phased introduction or application of other conditions.
Rt Rev Peter Forster
Bishop of Chester
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
President of the Oxford centre for training,
research and dialogue
Lord Singh
Director of the network of Sikh organisations
Dr Majid Katme
Muslim member of the Alliance for the Family
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Founding secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain
Harry Benson
Marriage Foundation
Nola Leach
Chief executive of Christian Action, Research and Education
Laura Perrins
Mothers at Home Matter
Robert Woollard
Chairman of Conservative Grassroots
Phillip Blond
Director of ResPublica
Wearing the veil
SIR – In a liberal democracy, choice of headwear is a free choice for individuals. However, the principle of democracy rests on open and free dialogue between informed citizenry. To what extent can a choice truly be free and informed if it is based on cruel familial and cultural pressure, enacted often against will and with force?
But to ban any form of dress, let alone that which is deemed to be “religious attire”, would be deeply controversial, and probably counter-productive.
Nothing swells the massed ranks of support like a well-played victim card.
Gary McLelland
Chair, Edinburgh Secular Society
SIR – Advocates of the full veil often cite cultural integrity with reference to countries in Africa and Asia. But these people have elected to enter and live in a culture likewise entitled to its cultural integrity.
That is why that culture is entitled morally – if not legally – to require its removal.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – If we are a democratic country then this is not a decision to be made by politicians alone, but a decision on which the whole nation needs to be consulted. Most of us can understand the headscarf, but the veil is seen as almost offensive to our culture of openness. In any case, we need a government ruling, not absurd political correctness.
Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France
SIR – Communication and trust are engendered by being open, and are what makes for a healthy society. Concealing one’s face, whether by choice, by coercion or by dogma, is the antithesis of our precious freedom.
Stephen Gledhill
Chadbury, Worcestershire
That sinking feeling
SIR – Before the world rushes to save the “sinking” Republic of Kiribati (report, September 15), has anyone considered that it could be the land mass that is sinking and not the ocean level rising due to climate change?
The North Sea platforms of the Ekofisk Field were deemed to be subjected to rising storm wave levels caused by climate change, which forced the shutdown of oil/gas production on several occasions.
It was only after detailed satellite measurement, that the “sinking” was deemed to be due not to increased water levels, but the sea bed sinking.
The whole platform system was raised by five metres and the problem solved.
Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey
SIR – There are many islands in the Pacific a few feet above sea level. Yet we know that in the 10,000 years since the end of the last major glaciation, global sea level has risen several hundred metres. Either you postulate that 10,000 years ago, all these islands were those several hundred metres plus a few feet above sea level, which is surely stretching credulity; or you accept Charles Darwin’s theory that coral atolls actually grow with sea level rise, staying always a few feet above sea level.
Roger Helmer MEP (Ukip)
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
Producing Frost
SIR – I haven’t yet seen any mention of David Frost’s career as executive producer in the film industry, both on the successful comedy Futtocks End, starring Ronnie Barker and Michael Hordern, and the more serious film George Bernard Shaw. This was a one-hander starring Max Adrian, which appeared over three nights on BBC2 in September 1971, and which has apparently now been lost.
Annie Kellett
Chichester, West Sussex
Coalition government distorts democracy
SIR – Although the electoral arithmetic underlying the Coalition in 2012 ensured it did not “collapse in short order” (Matthew d’Ancona, “The Libs know their future lies in power sharing”, Opinion, September 15), that does not make this model of government any more acceptable.
Comparisons with British wartime coalitions have always been specious: in the Second World War, as in the First, all the main parties were included. This meant that small parties could not wield undue influence on government.
The current coalition has been far less representative, because the party that came second was excluded from government, while the party that came a poor third was allowed to take part. The Lib Dems could thus impose minority policies, such as postponing the renewal of our Trident submarines, which both main parties wished to confirm during this Parliament.
Coalitions are always a denial of democracy; but when they include small parties with limited support, while excluding main parties with considerable support, they distort democracy as well.
Julian Lewis MP (Con)
London SW1
SIR – Already proposing to tax owners of houses worth over £2 million, regardless of liquid cash resources, Vince Cable, the business secretary, now wishes to tax the land upon which homes are built. It can only be a matter of time before he works out how to tax the air we breathe.
Becky Goldsmith
London SW11
A thorough job
SIR – When we moved house in 1987 (Letters, September 15), we found we had no television reception, and on further inspection found that the vendors had cut the co-axial cable outside and removed the television aerial.
When the phone was “connected” by the telephone company, we found that the vendors had cut the wire and removed the telephone owned by the company as well.
Ingrid Ashcroft
Daws Heath, Essex
Radio Ga Ga
SIR – My shameful confession about Radio 2 (Letters, September 15) is that I listen regularly to the Jeremy Vine Programme. I do not know why, as I find it irritating beyond belief. Mr Vine, what exactly is the difference between the very latest news and the latest news?
P A Matthews
Colden Common, Hampshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – I believe Mr Bernard Neary, a former registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal, is seriously mistaken when he states (September 20th) that the backlog of appeals in the Supreme Court could be cleared without creating a new court of appeal with civil and criminal jurisdiction.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The current system of appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court has produced a bottleneck in the Supreme Court and an increasing backlog of appeals delaying access to that court. Although the techniques introduced in the 1990s to ease the backlog of appeals (which Mr Neary mentions) have since been refined and added to, the backlog continues to grow. In the 1990s, the average number of appeals filed per year in the Supreme Court was 383. In 2012, 605 appeals were lodged. Over 400 appeals have been lodged already this year.
The referendum on a new court of appeal is a key plank in a raft of measures to modernise the courts system and the field of legal services. It is about coherent institutional reform and not tinkering. The Courts Act 2013, which will come into force shortly, is the first step. This will change the monetary jurisdiction limits of the District and Circuit Courts in civil cases. The Bill will increase the monetary limit in the District Court from €6,384 to €15,000. It will raise the maximum award in the Circuit Court from €38,092 to €75,000
In relation to personal injury cases, the monetary jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court will be €60,000. The District Court and the Circuit Court will be able to deal with more civil cases.
The practical outcome for litigants will be a reduction in legal costs for cases that fall within the respective jurisdictions of those courts.
Mr Neary does not deal with the important question of how criminal appeals – which the Court of Criminal Appeal determines at present – should be dealt with. This is important because that court hears appeals from criminal trials in the High Court (called the Central Criminal Court) and the Special Criminal Court. The Court of Criminal Appeal, which does not sit on a daily basis, faces a backlog of appeals. There are 154 cases in the list awaiting a hearing comprising the following categories – 48 conviction appeals, 86 sentence appeals, 16 undue leniency applications by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Leaving aside cases that have been adjourned from previous lists on the appellant’s application, the current waiting time for conviction appeals is a minimum of 17 months, for sentence appeals a minimum of 12 months and for undue leniency applications a minimum of seven months. This backlog is increasing.
The Director of Public Prosecutions this week expressed concern about the increasing delay in hearing criminal appeals. The problem we can no longer ignore is that the present appeals structure is not fit to deal with the demands of litigation in a modern society. The volume and legal complexity of appeals has increased, again something Mr Neary ignores.
Of course, we should not require the Supreme Court on appeal “to consider and adjudicate as to whether the composite material in a toilet seat caused it to crack and result in some litigant suffering catastrophic injuries to a left index finger”. The real point is that there is a basic flaw in the institutional design of the appeals system. The fact that the Supreme Court faces a backlog of 664 appeals is attributable to this flaw. It will take over four years for these cases to get a hearing. There are 77 cases earmarked for “priority” hearing. But these appeals will take 12 months to be disposed of.

If a court of appeal is set up, the Supreme Court will not have to deal with appeals on matters like minor finger injuries. The lower courts will try such cases. We need to do what is practical and sensible. International best practice endorses the view that a Supreme Court should be charged with deciding legal issues of public or constitutional importance. And that a court of appeal below it should hear most appeals from the courts below it.
Comparable legal systems, like the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States, sensibly take this approach. The Supreme Court should be able to have a manageable list of appeals so that it can give major legal questions the attention they warrant. The United Kingdom Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court each deals with approximately 80-90 appeals a year. The United Kingdom Supreme Court has a reasonable target of dealing with appeals within a period of nine months. This approach allied to other reforms should reduce the cost of access to justice. It should be noted that there is legislation near enactment aiming at reform of the legal-services market in Ireland. There is also legislation to put access to alternative dispute resolution such as mediation on a statutory footing. Mr Neary ignores these important reforms.
Under the referendum proposal, the Supreme Court will hear appeals from the court of appeal if the issue raised concerns a matter of general public importance or it is in the interests of justice that the appeal be heard by the Supreme Court.
So, contrary to what Mr Neary implies, there is a crucial filtering device built into the process. In the ordinary course of events the decisions of the court of appeal will have decisive primacy. And in exceptional circumstances only, the Supreme Court will be able to hear appeals directly from the High Court. The proposed reform will serve the interests of the ordinary taxpayer and assure investors and business that we have an efficient and effective courts system operated by independent judges. It will give the judges a more coherent courts system in which they can improve case-management and case-hearing procedures. It will give the bite of reality to the core human-rights principle that every citizen who has to go to court will get a reasonably speedy judicial hearing and decision.
A Yes vote by a majority of the people in the referendum on October 4th will help to bring the courts system into the 21st century. – Yours, etc,
Minister for Justice,
94 St Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – With Syria relinquishing its chemical arsenal, should we cheer or weep that cruise missiles are keeping the world safe for conventional weapons? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There are brief fragile windows in most conflicts when peace becomes possible. The Russian initiative on Syrian chemical weapons opened up such an opportunity. The statement by the Syrian deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil (Breaking News, September 19th) that the Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and the Syrian government will call for a ceasefire at the forthcoming Geneva conference is an opportunity for peace that must be actively supported. If these initiatives fail disaster looms for the people of Syria.
Mr Jamil stated that a ceasefire would have to be kept under international observation, which could be provided by monitors or UN peacekeepers – “as long as they came from neutral or friendly countries”. Ireland could play a vital role in this peacekeeping process. We have had Irish UN observers based in Syria and the Syrian Golan heights in the past, as well as a long history of Irish troops and observers in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Egypt.
In cases such as this, the quick deployment of the initial phase of the peacekeeping forces becomes very important and can involve the transfer of existing UN troops from neighbouring missions. This happened in 1973 when four battalions of UN troops, including an Irish unit, with which I was serving, were transferred from Cyprus into the Sinai desert to form a successful buffer zone between the armies of Israel and Egypt.
If UN peacekeepers are required for Syria, Irish/UN troops in Lebanon and the soldiers on standby to go the Golan Heights could be quickly relocated to a new Syrian peacekeeping mission. Of course there would be dangers, but our brothers and sisters in Syria urgently deserve that their own military and militias and the international community shift from warmongering to peace-mongering. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – On December 15th, 1920, the British cabinet, chaired by Lloyd George, and attended by Sir James Craig and Sir Edward Carson, agreed to set up second chambers in Stormont and Dublin. The southern senate would have 64 members. It was to include 17 senators nominated by the lord lieutenant to represent “ commerce, labour and the scientific and learned professors”. The reason given was to give “some protection to a Protestant minority”. This was its sole purpose. The Seanad is a relic of that settlement. Why can the Northern Assembly can get by with one chamber but we must mirror the British and have two? – Yours, etc,
Glendalough Park, Cork.
Sir, – The Seanad is far from perfect and many of the arguments in favour are valid grievances. However, I would much rather see reform rather than abolition. It has the potential to be a powerful counterbalance to factious Dáils, with academics and specialists from agriculture, industry, culture, labour unions and the public service providing clarity and insight on the wide array of legislation that passes before it, an advantage that few other governmental systems can claim. Eliminating them from parliament would be to silence wisdom that comes only with experience. – Yours, etc,
Grosvenor Hill,

A chara, – Miriam Lord’s Dáil Sketch describes how I took the opportunity to wish Martin Ferris a happy birthday during Leaders’ Questions (September 19th). She writes, “Speaking in Irish, and at some length, he revealed that Martin had reached the fine age of 60.”
Not so. Mar eolas daoibh, I wished Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin a happy birthday. The Taoiseach joined me. Indeed he suggested “go mbeadh lá saoire náisiúnta ann le lá breithe an Teachta Ó Caoláin a cheiliúradh”. He may have been joking. He went on to say very graciously that he hoped “go mbeidh lá breá ag an Teachta agus go n-éireoidh leis féin agus lena chlann an lá a cheiliúradh”.
So my diction can’t be blamed. Not this time.
Martin Ferris wasn’t mentioned. In either language. For the record, his birthday is on February 10th. Maybe that could be the Lá Saoire Náisiúnta for Caoimhghín? – Is mise,
Leinster House,

Sir, – The continuing discussion around Ireland’s alleged status as a tax haven consistently misses a fundamental point.
Tax haven or not, the reality is that the various incentives offered by Ireland to attract foreign direct investment are undermining the tax take of developing countries around the world.
Christian Aid research shows that between 2005 and 2007, €268 million flowed into Ireland from the poorest countries in the world as a consequence of the tax dodging of some multinational companies.
More recent research from Action Aid showed that since 2007, Zambia has lost out on more than $9 million to a large multinational company, through in part, the use of a brass plate company in Dublin’s IFSC.
In the new Irish Aid policy paper, the Government recommitted to greater policy coherence across departments in support of development, including our tax policy.
Implementing this, the Government’s first step should be to act on the 2011 OECD/IMF recommendation that developed countries carry out spill-over analysis of their tax policy to ensure it is not undermining the development of some of the poorest countries in the world. – Yours, etc,
Christian Aid,

Sir, – How right Ian d’Alton is on the subject of Protestant fee-paying schools (September 17th). I can, I think, defend religious apartheid, but not social apartheid, which is what these schools are rapidly coming to exemplify. I believe that there are now well over 50 per cent Roman Catholics in Alexandra College, Dublin. In what sense therefore is it a Protestant school? – Yours, etc,
(formerly Dean
of St Patrick’s Cathedral),

Sir, – In this period of recognition of centenaries in Irish history, I have not seen any reference to the forthcoming millennial anniversary on the death of Brian Boru at Clontarf, Good Friday 1014. – Yours, etc,
Ashley Park,
Co Down.

Irish Independent:

Madam – John O’Connell (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013), argues that republicans are wrong in their apparent assertion that there is no answer in Christianity for dealing with the British. He points out that Jesus said that his disciples were ‘as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes’ (Mt 10: 16), before concluding that: ‘Only those who were innocent and shrewd were capable of dealing with the British.’ In support of his conclusion, Mr O’Connell cites Hume, Parnell and O’Connell who, he says, made significant progress by ruling out war in favour of using their innocence and their shrewdness.
Also in this section
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Memory lapse
However, I am afraid that that is rather a selective list. I could not, for example, help noting the conspicuous absence of any reference to Michael Collins in Mr O’Connell’s letter, despite the fact that Collins made a great deal of progress for this country and was, indeed, one of the lead negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that founded this State. Collins, of course, does not accord with Mr O’Connell’s conclusions: he was shrewd, but he was certainly no dove, and yet he proved himself quite capable of dealing successfully with the British.
It seems to me that the fact that physical force nationalism played such a significant part in the foundation of the present Republic, as exemplified by the likes of Michael Collins, is an uncomfortable reality for many in this country. Acknowledging this fact does not, however, mean that we condone or support terrorism in the present. Far from it. If I may paraphrase Queen Elizabeth, we should be able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.
The facts of our history cannot now be changed; and whether we like it or not, violence was a central part of our struggle for national independence. As we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising and the War of Independence, I think it is time we learnt to accept that legacy.
Mark Harten,
Lisduff, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan
Sunday Independent

Madam – I wish to correct inaccuracies in your review by Emer O’Kelly (Sunday Independent, September 1, 2013), of a collection of critical essays edited by Elke D’hoker on the work of my late mother, the writer Mary Lavin (1912-1996).
Also in this section
Violence part of history
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Following a year in which the centennial of Lavin’s birth was celebrated by extensive critical analysis at events in Ireland, continental Europe and North America, it is most untimely of Ms O’Kelly to choose this review to launch a gratuitously venomous attack on my mother’s work and character.
Your reviewer’s idiosyncratic views and perceptions are at variance with the respect shown by the dozen literary specialists and academics that contributed to the work under review. Ms O’Kelly gives scant credence to their opinions and chooses instead to question Lavin’s worth as a person and as a writer.
Oddly, Ms O’Kelly seems to suggest that Lavin’s work is devalued because she “never ran foul of Church or State” and by an “overweening failure to come to terms with genuine eroticism”, giving to her work a “joyless brutality”.
“That can only be understood”, O’Kelly argues, “by examining the strange reality of Lavin’s own emotional life.”
In support of this opinion, Ms O’Kelly draws misguided conclusions from aspects of my mother’s life, sometimes based on inaccurate detail.
Ms O’Kelly states that my mother was “in love from girlhood with a Jesuit priest who refused to give up his priesthood for her”.
This is both inaccurate and overstated. As a young adult Mary Lavin struck up a warm friendship with an Australian, Michael McDonald Scott, a Jesuit seminarian and a fellow student at UCD.
When the time came, he continued on his chosen path in the priesthood and after further years of study in Europe he returned to Australia, where he later had a distinguished career. He did not, as your reviewer incorrectly implies, “refuse” my mother by failing to meet her expectations as a boyfriend. He simply continued on the path to which he had already committed himself.
Lavin was widowed in 1954 by the death of her young husband (solicitor William Walsh).
When Fr Michael McDonald Scott SJ read of this sad event in an Australian newspaper, he remembered his friend from undergraduate years and wrote to her. From there a correspondence began that was to endure for the remainder of Lavin’s 15 years of widowhood. Throughout this period, he was living in Australia and she in Ireland. They were not therefore “more or less living together” as celibates, as your reviewer suggests.
On occasion in the Sixties and late Fifties, the pair saw one another in Europe when McDonald Scott travelled on Carnegie grants as a Church art specialist or when Lavin travelled as a writer on Guggenheim fellowships.
Lavin would meet up with McDonald Scott briefly as a friend, along with her three daughters. Even then, during these rare meetings, she and he did not live together as celibates.
In 1969, Michael McDonald Scott was laicised. While awaiting laicisation he lived in Belgium and it was there that he married Mary Lavin.
It would not be surprising if Lavin would say jocularly in conversation that she needed a double whiskey before going to bed with her new husband, after so many years of widowhood in the climate of the Fifties and Sixties. To deduce from this that she found physical intimacy difficult or abhorrent would be wrong. She was a very warm person, as all who knew her will aver.
Likewise, your reviewer is wrong to conclude that Lavin’s correspondence with my older sister in the Sixties accurately reflects my mother’s attitude to sex.
These out-of-character letters could be seen as the writings of a concerned parent desperately using any argument she could find, to dissuade her daughter from engaging in a relationship that she considered unwise. Lavin’s subsequent attitude to the relationships of all three daughters reveals the openness, warmth, tolerance, wit and vivacity that we all loved in her.
In Mary Lavin’s work, sex and sensuality are not absent. In her writing, much is hinted at or implied, leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination.
I find the book on Mary Lavin edited by Elke D’hoker and published by the Irish Academic Press, to be a valuable collection of essays offering new and sometimes profound insights into my mother’s work and its place in Irish and world literature. As a daughter of the author, I am very grateful for it.
Elizabeth Walsh Peavoy,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Madam – Fair dues to Brendan O’Connor for last week highlighting clearly how the reduction in VAT has helped improve competitiveness and growth in the economy, especially in the labour-intensive tourist section.
The underlying amount spent before VAT is what drives the economy and the VAT is divided between the Irish Revenue and the EU.
This brings me to the point that all VAT rates should be reduced to improve the competitiveness of the economy and the underlying spend and investment.
This underlying spend would also generate employment and generate in itself more income tax etc, and would create a more competitive cost basis in relation to our UK neighbours.
John Healy,
Madam – Was I the only reader to find it quite nauseating to read of Roz Flanagan’s 50th birthday celebrations (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013)?
Frankly, moving through the paper and reading about the suicide of an unfortunate mortgage holder in the Priory Hall development, the courage of Majella O’Donnell in shaving her head and the charity run for the Irish Kidney Association, it proves the point of how distasteful and vulgar it is to give rubbish like this headlines.
I have no problem with people having plenty of money. I have a major problem to have them boast about their over-the-top lifestyles.
Spare a thought for the readers this morning who have passed a sleepless night worrying about how to pay for school books, how to keep a roof over their heads and also for those who are being tormented by final demands from banks and building societies.
Mary Quinn,
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Madam – It was reassuring to learn from Mary Sullivan (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013), that trade union strikes can be resolved, as in the 1911 Lockout in Wexford. When both sides accept their mutual dependence, a workable compromise can be reached. The Ferenka strike in Limerick in 1977 ended in closure of the plant and the loss of 1,400 jobs and has parallels with the 1913 Lockout.
A general union, not experienced in dealing with a hi-tech industry that must guarantee constant supply to the motor industry and where shift working is unavoidable, went on a prolonged strike.
The interference of Republicans made it political and negative as they did not realise we live in an interdependent world. The Miraculous Maiden of 1913 was Constance Markievicz and of 1974 Rose Dugdale.
Kate Casey,
Barrington Street, Limerick
Madam – Congratulations to Joyce Fegan on her superb piece ‘No suicides in South Kerry for six months after Donal’s TV plea’, (Sunday Independent, September 15, 2013),
Though feeling very sad for his parents and sister for their loss, I also felt great joy in reading that Donal’s words of hope are being heeded among our young people.
Long may this continue and the more emphasis that is put on Donal’s message, the more young people will listen and therefore will bid good riddance to this curse of our times.
Well done to Donal’s parents, Fionnbar and Alma in their fundraising and may their trip to America be successful as they feel their extraordinary, brave and sensational son is still helping them on their sad but wonderful journey through life.
Kathleen Blanchfield,
Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny
Sunday Independent


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