More leaves

25 October 2013 More Leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Captain Povey has found that the Navy has one frigate too many, yes it’s Troutbridge.. Priceless
Sort the books, tidy up sweep the leaves
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Sir Anthony Caro, OM
Sir Anthony Caro was Britain’s greatest sculptor, assuming the mantle of his teacher Henry Moore and winning the “battle” for abstractionism

Sir Anthony Caro in 1998 Photo: Camera Press
2:23PM BST 24 Oct 2013
Sir Anthony Caro, the British sculptor who has died aged 89, enjoyed an international reputation second only to that of Henry Moore.
Caro made his name during the 1960s with the invention of a new kind of abstract sculptural technique involving the use of steel parts, welded together then painted in bright colours. His use of colour enabled him to amplify mood in his work, and suggested a freedom and lightness not easily achievable with industrial steel. It also helped him to establish his own artistic persona against that of Moore, for whom Caro had worked as an assistant during the early 1950s and for whom the idea of “truth to materials” had been all-important.
Caro’s trademark pieces were reminiscent of the cubist collages of Picasso and were – in accordance with modernist abstract principles – free of figurative allusion. Working in painted steel from the garage of his home in Hampstead, he found that the process involved a certain amount of trial and error. Caro recalled: “I remember finishing Early one Morning [1962, subsequently bought by the Tate Gallery], which had become so long I’d ended up with the garage doors permanently open. I’d painted it green and we’d put it out on the lawn to get a better look. I woke up next morning and opened the curtains and there it was. But the colour was wrong. Sheila [his wife, the painter Sheila Girling] said ‘that’s definitely a red sculpture’. She was spot on, and that it is what it became.”

Early One Morning, 1962 – PA
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When these steel “open-planned” works were first shown in London during the early 1960s, the times seemed right for such iconoclasm. The Profumo affair was toppling the old men of politics from their pedestals and Harold Wilson was proclaiming the white heat of technological revolution. In theology, the Bishop of Woolwich was proclaiming that God was the “ground of our being”, not a bearded old man in the sky.
To many young sculptors it seemed that Caro had liberated their art from the weight of past association, and many took his pronouncement that “sculpture can be anything” rather too literally. But Caro himself never truly believed his own dictum; he clung tenaciously to a belief in the language of three-dimensional form — often comparing the process of sculpture to musical composition. All his sculptures depend on an intuitive sense of balance and placement, and on the harmonious relationship between one part and another.
He was astonishingly prolific. Over six decades as a sculptor he produced thousands of works, examples of which are now to be found in every major collection of contemporary art in the world. Though he worked in a variety of different media — experimenting with wood, paper, lead, silver, clay and bronze — steel remained his favourite material: “It enables me to do things that no other material allows,” he said.
Yet he was also often inspired by painting — Matisse’s The Moroccans, for example, inspired at least three Caro pieces over the years. Later in his career, he surprised those who had him marked down as an abstract sculptor by drawing more explicitly on paintings — for example by Monet, Manet, Rembrandt and Rubens — interpreting two-dimensional ideas in three-dimensional forms.
One of his most dramatic works, the 20-metre long After Olympia, was made following a trip to the temple of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, a tribute to the friezes that originally adorned the temple pediments. Breaking modernist conventions that sculptures should not be allusive inevitably led to accusations that Caro had betrayed his principles. But he brushed such criticism aside: “Rules exist to be broken, particularly artistic ones,” he claimed. “At the beginning of the Sixties we were trying to find ways to establish our grammar. Now we can write fuller sentences.”

Caro with one of his works, circa 1965 – Hulton Archive
Later he continued along this more figurative vein, with representations of characters from the Iliad in a sculptural re-enactment of the Trojan wars in steel and clay. “It’s not really as challenging to work with imagery as it is with abstract,” he said. “Abstract sculpture remains my main thing, but I’ve had a hell of a good time making the Trojan war series.”
One of his most audacious experiments was the development in the 1990s of what he called “sculptitecture” — large sculptures, reminiscent of sophisticated playground follies, that incorporated architectural elements such as ramps, steps or towers. Caro got the idea for this new genre at a summer workshop in America in 1987 where he and the architect Frank Gehry had discussed the idea of exploring the relationship between their two disciplines.
Among such pieces, in 1991, was the Tower of Discovery, a 13-metre steel tower containing a warren of spaces to explore — one of Caro’s most dramatic works. When first exhibited at the Tate, people flocked to see and climb through it. Its success brought Caro an immediate commission which led to Sea Music, a large linear sculpture incorporating a lookout platform on the quayside at Poole harbour. Soon afterwards he was invited to make a work to celebrate the opening of a new museum at Grenoble.

Caro with the Tower of Discovery at the Tate Gallery. The steel work weighs 15 tons and incorporates six stair cases within the structure – Richard Watt
He was then involved, with Norman Foster and Chris Wise, in the winning entry for a competition to design the first bridge to be built across the Thames for more than a century, linking the new Bankside gallery with St Paul’s. The design incorporated a minimalist steel blade spanning the river with a circular ziggurat at one end and a cascade of ramps and steps at the other. Despite being dubbed “wobbly” after its unveiling, and requiring a £5 million refit, it has gone on to become an affectionately regarded London landmark.

The Milennium bridge – REX
Among Caro’s major works — and one of his most monumental — was Goodwood Steps, unveiled at Goodwood Park in 1996. It was then the largest sculpture in Britain, a huge and hugely confident 120ft-long rusted steel sculpture made up of seven sections of two tons each, containing 14 flights of giant steps paired back to back or side-to-side. Caro conceived the work as a dialogue between the formality of architecture and the informality of the rounded contours of the surrounding chalk landscape; he went on to produce several other versions, including the Halifax Steps and the Millbank Steps.

Caro in 1996 with his “Goodwood steps” – John Robertson
But he was not simply a fine sculptor; he was also that rarest of breeds, the successful artist who could also teach superbly. From the 1950s to the 1970s, when he taught at St Martin’s School of Art, he inspired a new generation of contemporary artists and sculptors including Philip King, William Tucker, Richard Long, Barry Flanagan, Gilbert and George, Richard Deacon and many more.
Some followed his example and methods. Others reacted strongly, challenging his ideas head on. “It’s no good teaching what you know,” Caro said on one occasion. “You have to teach and encourage your students to do what you don’t know or feel comfortable with. If you teach properly then you discover things. Students ask the difficult questions and you have to think to find a proper answer to them.”
Constantly innovating and finding new inspiration, his aim, he declared, was to “expand the language of sculpture” by “pushing at the boundaries to see where it gives”. While others may have been content to consolidate past achievements, Caro, through constant reinvention of his style and working methods, kept surprising himself, maintaining a position at the cutting edge of modern sculpture. “Throughout my entire career I’ve always said, ‘What’s next?’, not ‘What’s just happened?’ When I began, being a sculptor might have meant producing statues of generals on horseback. But I always pushed forward, and have had a career that would have been unimaginable even to myself back then.”
Anthony Alfred Caro was born on March 8 1924 and educated at Charterhouse, where he showed early artistic inclinations and in the holidays worked in the studio of the sculptor Charles Wheeler. He had not at that point made up his mind to be an artist, so followed the advice of his father, a stockbroker, that he should “study something like architecture or engineering”. In 1942 he duly arrived at Christ’s College, Cambridge, to read Mechanical Sciences.
After graduation and National Service in the Fleet Air Arm, Caro, who by that time had discovered his true vocation (and had “battled and battled” with his father to be allowed to pursue it), enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools, winning a scholarship. While still a student, he “pretty much turned up” at Henry Moore’s studio at Much Hadham and asked for a job: “He didn’t say ‘yes’. But he did ask me in for a cup of tea and told me to come back in six months’ time. Six months to the day later I rang him, and he told me I could start the following Monday.”
“I had no knowledge of Surrealism, no knowledge of Cubism,” Caro later recalled. “I hadn’t seen any Negro art. And when I went to Much Hadham I not only worked on his pieces, I also had access to his library and went round the galleries of London with him. I really started to expand my knowledge and vocabulary of art.”
Caro first came to public attention as a sculptor from 1955 with figurative clay sculptures. These pieces, which, according to the artist, aimed to “describe what it’s like to be inside a human body”, owed much to Moore’s influence, though even then it was clear that they were the products of an original and radical talent.
His real break with Moore came in 1959, when he won a travel grant to America, where his visits to studios and museums and meetings with young artists pushing at the frontiers of design fuelled his own ambition and imagination. He was much impressed by the critic Clement Greenberg, who criticised him for his classicism and attachment to the past and advised: “If you want to change your art, change your methods.” Above all, he was entranced by the work of the American sculptor David Smith, who drove Caro on by treating him as a rival rather than as a talent to be nurtured. “Moore was like both a parent and teacher to me,” Caro said in an interview with The Guardian last year. “Smith was much more like a competitor.”

Having despaired of clay as a medium for abstract sculpture, Caro determined to find a new material. He got the idea of working with steel after a visit to the docks.
As he became more successful, Caro moved from the Hampstead garage to a vast studio in Camden where he employed a number of assistants. He also had a large workspace in upstate New York.
He remained something of an iconoclast. In 1990 he weighed into the debate about Canova’s The Three Graces (which the Victoria and Albert Museum was attempting – successfully as it turned out – to save from being exported to America). “In my view Canova is one of the first of those decorative sculptors whose sentimental ladies in white marble brought such discredit on the art of sculpture,” Caro observed. He steadfastly refused to join the Royal Academy (“too complacent, not enough good art… summer shows a disgrace”) and claimed to have accepted a knighthood only “so that Sheila could deservedly be called a Lady”.
Yet he accumulated accolades from the artistic Establishment, becoming in 1998 the first contemporary sculptor invited to hold a one-man show at the National Gallery; by the end of his life his work was held by more than 175 public collections.
He continued to work into old age, in 1999 beginning a nine-year project to restore and install new sculptures in a church in northern France destroyed during the Second World War. His spirituality seemed rooted more in his art than in his Jewish family upbringing. “Is art so different from religion?” he asked. “It feeds the spirit, and through it you also try to find this inner part of yourself.”

Caro in 2007 in his London studio with a maquette of the the Chapel of Light that he is designing at L’Eglise Saint-Jean-Babtiste in Bourbourg in the North of France – REX
Though Caro was never overtly political, he admitted to having “very strong views about something like Suez”. He insisted that such views “had nothing to do with the work I was making at the time”, but, as the years went on, he found that blanket television coverage of the wars in the Balkans as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan “does begin to seep in somehow”. Certainly some observers detected a political edge to The Barbarians (2002), a large piece featuring terracotta figures on wooden gymnastic horses.
Despite the obvious narrative element of such work, he insisted that “I am still an abstract sculptor”. The difference from the outset of his career was, as he noted last year, that “the battle was won”.
“It’s very difficult today to imagine what a battle there once was over these ideas and how much we upset people. Even over abstraction. Someone would always ask ‘What’s that sculpture for?’ If you said it’s not ‘for’ anything apart from looking at, there’d instantly be a big fight. The battle to make abstract art was so difficult in the past that if a work ended up looking like an insect then you’d think, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t want it to look like an insect.’ Now, if something looks like an insect, it looks like an insect. If there is a narrative, it doesn’t seem to matter half as much.”
Perhaps his most ambitious project, however, did not see the light of day. Having been asked to make a piece for Park Avenue, in New York, he set out to produce something so large that it could be appreciated by motorists speeding by, as well as by pedestrians. He travelled back and forth between London and New York, eventually proposing a work the entire length of three Manhattan city blocks. Owing to the project’s monumental cost, it was abandoned. Caro, not long downhearted, quickly divided up his maquette for the project into 12 large-scale individual sculptures. Some observers have already suggested that the Park Avenue series may come to be seen as among the major achievements of his career.

Caro with a piece from the Park Avenue Series at the Gagosian Gallery, London in June 2013 – REX
Anthony Caro was the subject of a host of awards and honorary positions. He was a member of the Council of the Royal College of Art from 1981 to 1983, and of the council of the Slade School of art from 1982. He was also a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1982 to 1989.
He was created CBE in 1969, knighted in 1987 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 2000 (the first sculptor to be so honoured since Henry Moore).
He and his wife had two sons.
Sir Anthony Caro, OM, born March 8 1924, died October 23 2013


If Simon Jenkins’ ill-informed diatribe against universities had been a student essay, I would have awarded it a clear fail (Universities should ditch the talk of investing in the future, 23 October).
He claims that because of £9,000 fees, universities are “awash” with cash. No, the fees hike (which most academics thoroughly opposed) merely offset the 90% cut in teaching budgets imposed by the government. Many universities are still struggling financially.
He complains that student contact time and feedback have not increased in the last 50 years. Well, the massive increase in student numbers in the last few decades has not been matched by a corresponding increase in staff. Perhaps more importantly, academics in the 1960s were not buried under administration and paperwork like their counterparts today. The Soviet-style managerialist regime imposed on universities by successive governments means that many academics spend up to 40% of their time on paperwork, form-filling, box-ticking, business plans, quality assurance frameworks, Whitehall initiatives and countless “strategy” meetings or reviews. That is, when they are not spending weeks or even months preparing for the next audit or inspection. Every activity is monitored and measured by accountants and middle managers in the name of accountability or value-added, and so has to have a lengthy paper trail.
Finally, Jenkins berates academics for prioritising research over teaching. This is not a selfish choice or voluntary decision. Academics are compelled to focus heavily on research because of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – formerly the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) introduced in 1986 by the Thatcher government. This has major funding implications for departments and jobs, and also determines league table rankings and international prestige. Academics are not appointed or promoted unless they produce lots of research “outputs”; career progression depends upon it.
So if you think this regime is insane, Simon Jenkins, most academics would agree with you. But don’t blame us; it has been imposed on us by successive governments and ministers since the 1980s. This is what happens when you start treating universities as businesses, rather than educational institutions, and you dismiss the genuine concerns expressed by academics on the grounds that they are a “vested interest” opposed to modernisation.
Professor Pete Dorey
• Simon Jenkins’ insistence that universities should “ditch the talk of investing in the future” seriously underplays the impact of university research on the economy and society.
The quality and impact of UK university research is a national success story. The UK is second only to the US in terms of the reach and impact of its research, despite spending just 1.8% GDP on research and development compared with an OECD average of 2.3%. Research transforms our lives, addresses global challenges and enriches students’ experience. Setting teaching against research is not helpful. The strength of our universities lies in their mission to do both to the highest standards.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief executive, Universities UK
• Simon Jenkins’ “brief” period as an academic must have been a long time ago, and quite possibly on another planet. I invite him to spend some days with me to check the following wild claims against actual experience: that we spend 60% of our time on research, that two-thirds of students get no feedback, and that students can’t study arts and science together. While he is here, we can take time out from our leisurely strolls round the library to discuss his notion that university education is only ever a private good. Finally, he could sit in on a first year seminar on the importance of backing up argument with evidence.
Professor Andrew Dobson
Spire, Keele University
• Simon Jenkins’ argument that universities should focus exclusively on teaching their students and avoid research is wrong. Academic research in this country is rightly acknowledged across the political spectrum as some of the best in the world. The real story is that, as a result of the policies of successive governments, academics are working ever harder both in their teaching and research and within ever more complex bureaucratic systems, while for students in England a university education has become the most expensive in Europe.
Jenkins seems to agree with universities minister David Willetts, whose policies tripled the cost of a degree, that students should be seen as passive-aggressive consumers of knowledge. The primary function of a university should be to produce well-rounded, engaged individuals able to reason and question. That capacity makes someone employable, but it also makes them a more engaged citizen too.
Students need to be exposed both to great teaching and to the latest research. Ensuring, and properly funding, both is the fastest and most effective way to secure the social and economic benefits that accrue from a genuine investment in all of our futures.
Sally Hunt
General secretary, University and College Union
• Simon Jenkins suggests that academics should “give students what they want for their money” and “tuck” their research into their “spare time”. This misses a central feature of a university education: students are taught by people who are active in research in the subjects they teach. This is what entitles universities to set their own syllabuses, to examine their own students, and to award their own degrees.
If there were not universities whose students were taught by active researchers, it is hard to see how syllabuses could be kept up to date or standards maintained – across all levels of education. Moreover, what many students want for their money is precisely to be taught by people who are active researchers. All this means that research must be part of an academic’s job, and not just a hobby for “spare time”.
But are academics perhaps devoting too much of their time to research? There is no obvious sign of this. That each student is having less work marked and being given less feedback than 50 years ago is merely a reflection of the decline in the unit of resource, and hence in staff-student ratios over that period. If academics are now spending a greater proportion of their time on research, this does not obviously mean they are giving less time to students: a natural explanation is just that they are working longer hours.
Professor Michael Morris
Department of philosophy, University of Sussex

Chris Huhne is right about the need for judicial review (Huhne: who gave green light to spying?, 21 October), but any civil liberties group that attempts to take the government to court is bounced into the investigatory powers tribunal – a court that sits mostly in secret and from which there is no right of appeal. Politicians should be ashamed that there is no effective domestic remedy nor open justice to address the blanket surveillance of every citizen’s communications by the intelligence services. That’s why English PEN, Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and internet campaigner Constanze Kurz have lodged an application at the European court of human rights, arguing that the government has breached our right to privacy with its unchecked and unprecedented surveillance.
Jo Glanville
Director, English PEN
• At the time of Barclays’ multiple scandals, I closed my accounts and wrote to the chairman in protest at Barclays’ transgressive banking methods. I chose the ethical alternative of the Co-op. Now what? John Crawley, Ian Healey and Richard Stainton (Letters, 23 October) all advocate leaving the Co-operative Bank, but I do not see a realistic alternative. The big bankers appear to have won.
Stacy Marking
Beaminster, Dorset
• Maybe Obama could make it up to Merkel by disclosing the important business Berlusconi was conducting on his mobile when he kept her waiting at the 2009 Nato summit (Report, 24 October)?
Jannet King
• Uruquay has the longest national anthem in the world (Shortcuts, 23 October)? Not so! It may have 11 verses but the Dutch anthem has 15. It is also the oldest in the world. Admittedly, life’s too short to sing all of them so we usually limit ourselves to verse 1 and 6.
Clea Cook
Bicknoller, Somerset
• The Vatican cricket team may wish to play against the council at Trent Bridge (Letters, 24 October).
Fr Alec Mitchell
• If the Vatican cricket team ever gets a fixture against Kent at Canterbury, let’s hope the Reformation-inspired sledging does not get out of hand.
Michael Cunningham

While we recognise that food banks are not a long-term answer to poverty, we must disagree with Tony Mitchell’s assertion (Letters, 23 October) that we are wrong to support them. Food banks are a crucial lifeline for the growing number of people who are struggling to put enough food on the table and we will continue to work with partners such as the Trussell Trust to provide them. We recognise, however, that we need to tackle the root causes just as much as the problems. Oxfam is putting pressure on the government to address unemployment, low wages, rising food and fuel prices, and the negative impacts of welfare reform.
Chris Johnes
UK poverty programme director, Oxfam
• Becoming a food bank volunteer does not stop those on the left continuing with political and trade union activities but means we can also help to provide immediate and practical support to those we hope will benefit from the political and social changes we seek. Working with food banks deepens our knowledge of the problems people face and allows us to criticise government policies with greater moral authority. While not pushing our own political views with clients, we should be aware that by standing aside we risk leaving the ground open to others, including fascists and fundamentalists, who are itching to do so. Let’s remember that it was through similar methods that Golden Dawn gained much of their support in Greece.
Peter Strong
Caldicot, Monmouthshire
• As our NHS and other essential services are cut to reduce costs to the government, it’s down to us as responsible citizens to support vulnerable people. Oxfam and other charities are right to fill the gap if the government can’t. Food banks offer more than just food, and work with other charities to help people in crisis so that they can better manage their finances and address the many issues that send them to food banks.
Olga Johnson
Co-chair, Nourish Community Food Bank 

On 25 October 2003, my friend and business colleague, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, CEO of Yukos oil company, was arrested at gunpoint in Novosibirsk, Russia. As many fight for his release, former Yukos management also fight for justice for the thousands of Yukos shareholders whose assets were stolen during a campaign of expropriation orchestrated by Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Your readers are well aware through articles in the press that Russia continues to intimidate its private sector, and not a lot has changed in the past 10 years. Any economic success Russia has had in the past 10 years has not been because of Putin, but despite of Putin. Yukos was passionate about the potential of Russia and understood that, despite many structural challenges, the country and its economy had huge promise. Sadly, Putin did not agree with the private sector taking a significant role in the Russian economy. Yet, as Prime Minister Medvedev said on 27 September, Russia risks falling into an abyss if it does not make serious reforms to boost long-term growth. A symbolic start to such a reform programme would be to settle with the 55,000 plus shareholders of Yukos who have been waiting a decade for compensation and justice. He might then also try annihilating corruption, installing a real rule of law, creating an independent judiciary and stopping expropriations by the state.
Bruce Misamore
Former chief financial officer, Yukos

The police service would have nothing to fear from a royal commission (Editorial, 24 October), particularly if comparisons are made with policing in other developed countries. The call seems ironic, however, given we have just been through a programme of fundamental reform which has included the introduction of locally elected police and crime commissioners. The Labour party’s review into policing is also due to report soon.
Chief officers of police have been clear that what is required is the establishment of policing on the same footing as other professions, working to evidence-based practice and recognised for its expertise. The newly formed College of Policing is a good start but needs to be allowed to build a long-term strategy rather than knee jerk. The Winsor report failed to deliver the degree of change in processes of reward and recognition seen in the health and teaching professions and this will need to be revisited. The strengthening of the Independent Police Complaints Commission needs in my view to be supported by a system of a local ombudsman to direct investigations into complaints and provide stronger local oversight.
In Greater Manchester we are already experimenting with the use of body-worn cameras to film the work of our officers but some citizens will have concerns at this form of surveillance. When I joined policing over 30 years ago, it was largely a law-enforcement role but has moved more to an agency of social change taking a far wider responsibility. This has enabled us to achieve fundamental improvements on issues such as the level of youth offending and gang activity, but some in this debate seem to want us to revert to a narrower role.
Many of us in the police admire the way the health professions encourage staff to admit mistakes and accept that in complex procedures there will be inevitable failings and human error which has to be learnt from. The constant thirst for holding officers to account and to find an individual to blame, while understandable, does not create a healthy organisational culture and ultimately works against the public good.
Peter Fahy
Chief constable, Greater Manchester police
• This country is very good at appointing insiders to examine its failings, and those insiders have helped to ensure we have a financial crisis and energy price-fixing. The insiders cost a lot of money – think of the money that goes on the IPCC or the cash Lord Hutton made out of his exculpation of Tony Blair. And they are getting more absurd – a chief constable is currently making slow progress inquiring into claims that police spies sought to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence. Why don’t you call for an international commission of inquiry, or at least a commission with international members?
Eddie Thomas
• Politicians have spent £237,000 of taxpayers’ money to depict Andrew Mitchell as the injured victim in a sordid little spat (Report, 24 October). This is the same Mr Mitchell who, during the MPs’ expenses scandal, as the Tory in charge of party policy on alleviating world poverty, claimed more than £21,000 for cleaning, redecorating and furnishing his constituency home. One of the leading lights censuring the police with similar self-righteous indignation is Keith Vaz, who claimed more than £75,500 in expenses for a flat in Westminster despite his £1.15m family home being 12 miles from parliament. This mindless storm in a tea cup calls to mind the expression “the kettle calling the teapot black”, with the taxpayer picking up the tab.
John Densem


Jane Merrick (“Let children learn about all the ‘one true Gods’”, 24 October) implies that we can all be classified into three groups; religious, atheist or agnostic. There is surely another way.
We all recognise that there are powerful forces, both physical and spiritual, that we have no understanding of but are sensible to be in awe of.
God is a good name to use, well understood throughout history. If we recognise “God” but not the power of religions to own “it”, what is our classification?
Jan Barker
East Dean, Hampshire
I wish the designers of a new programme in religious education good luck. It is almost impossible to find a definition of religion that encompasses the centuries-old rituals of a Benedictine abbey and the raucous processions that accompany statues believed to have miraculous powers.
We are dealing with a phenomenon, deeply rooted in all cultures, that takes myriad forms.
Nor is Christianity coherent. While we can applaud the Christian faith of William Wilberforce in his fight against slavery, he was opposed by many who believed, with textual backing, that the Bible enjoined slavery.
And how many teachers can give a coherent definition of the Trinity? It comes as a relief to know that five-year-olds are starting off with the easier questions such as “Where does the universe come from?” There are wonderful myths from across the world for them to play with before the scientists come along to tell them it is a little more complicated than that.
Charles Freeman.
Brandeston, Suffolk
Beside religious education, a place should be found for the ethical teaching of the ancient Greeks who (with the Roman Stoics) gave us much of what we consider today to be Christian morality.
Consider Socrates’ answer, in Plato’s Republic, to the question “Why should I do good and not bad?”  The answer is not easy. Socrates looks at the elements in the human mind and concludes that human wellbeing, full development and happiness are better assured by doing right and not wrong.
Some may consider that answer inadequate (I do not), but at least it provides a starting point for an important debate.
Christopher Walker
London W14
Ban anonymity  to stop the cyber-bullies
Campaigners are right that to boycott websites is not enough to tackle the growing problem of cyber-bullying (“Cyber-bullying now just a part of life, most children believe”, 21 October) but “better education” is no straightforward solution either.
Online abuse is a spiteful form of cowardice and the most effective and simple way to tackle it would be to remove all anonymity on social networking and blog sites. Tormentors hide behind pseudonyms and don’t think twice about sending threatening and demeaning messages, but they will if they must face the consequences. If many of their posts were said face to face, they could be arrested for stalking, harassment or aggression.
People join social networks to keep in contact with friends and make new ones. When so many of someone’s peers are on a forum, it’s natural to want to take part, and many young people subjected to cyber-bullying will stay on the web just wanting to fit in.
If it reaches a tragic point where someone can’t handle the emotional and mental anguish any more, that is not the victim’s fault or the family’s. It’s the fault of the bullies, and yet these people are being protected.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Why we banked on the Co-op
Sean O’Grady’s analysis of the meaning behind the Co-op Bank debacle (“Mutual – the magic word that doesn’t mean so much”, 23 October) misses the reason it has been such a cause of concern to many people.
He is right that the accountability of the Co-operative Group is shamefully complicated; reminiscent of the old-style trade unions in its clear intent to keep out all those not committed to “the right way of thinking”.
But the bank (and the few remaining mutuals, perhaps) was until recently a staid, unexciting bank not rushing into madcap get-rich-quick schemes – that was why so many of us kept our money there.
That senior executives should suddenly decide to play “me too” without properly counting the cost demonstrates why so many people feel something has been lost as the bank starts its inexorable progress towards being just like all the rest.
Clive Tiney
Haxby, York
Sean O’Grady’s article has the effect of tarring the whole of the mutual sector with the difficulties faced by one institution by suggesting that building societies’ approach to customers was “not markedly different from the supposedly wicked main high street clearers” and that mutuality was “a demonstrable irrelevance so far as building societies were concerned”. 
But independent research consistently shows customer views about the service they receive from their building society to be much more favourable than their views about the service they receive from their plc bank. 
For example, 62 per cent of consumers, in a survey that the Building Societies Association commissioned from YouGov in September, said that they trust their mutual provider to act in their best interests. The equivalent figure for banks is 42 per cent.
And 66 per cent of consumers said their mutual provider gives them value for money, compared with 45 per cent saying the same of their bank.  
The biggest financial scandal of the past decade has been the mis-selling of payment protection insurance – PPI.  The latest data released by the independent Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) shows that financial firms generally have a much higher “customer complaint uphold rate” at the Ombudsman than the building societies.
Typically, the FOS agreed with customers on 75 per cent of adjudicated PPI claims for all firms; the figure for building societies was well under 20 per cent.
Building societies exist to serve their customers – their owners. Banks exist to pay dividends to shareholders by making profits out of consumers. This major difference between the two types of organisations is fully reflected in the customer experience.
Adrian Coles
Director-General, Building Societies Association, London WC2
Think again, Archbishop
Archbishop Justin Welby used to be an oilman. As such, he must know the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels, and that as oil and gas become harder to find and complicated to extract, energy prices will inevitably go up, never mind any profiteering.
This has been understood for some time. It is one of the reasons governments across the world are shifting away from fossil fuels, the other reason being carbon emissions.
The interest in fracking is the proof that fossil fuels are getting harder to find. Instead of exploiting easy oil wells and gas fields far from public gaze, energy companies are bringing their operations closer and closer to people’s homes, bringing more risk and expense with each operation.
The Archbishop should focus his attack on energy efficiency and energy waste.
The UK is wasting billions of pounds a year heating the skies above our power stations, instead of creating district heating networks as they have across much of Europe.
And we waste a fortune  on winter fuel payments to pensioners, instead of spending the money transforming the  insulation of their homes so  that their fuel bills are permanently lowered.
Christian Vassie
Wheldrake, York
The other side of one-sidedness
I can only agree when Yiftah Curiel, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy, writes about one-sidedness in the Israel/Palestine conflict (letter, 24 October). The Israelis maintain their dominance by using the latest aircraft, tanks and weaponry – as against the primitive use of tractors by the Palestinians who have suffered decades of occupation.
Eddie Dougall
Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk
Ordinary William  – the big picture
I’m shocked if Grace Dent (“It’s extraordinary how ordinary these royals seem”, 24 October) believes a royal christening without the pomp means it’s a new era of British monarchy.
William’s career has been a masterclass in appearing ordinary – who could forget those fascinating pictures of him making tea between stints as a rescue pilot? Or cleaning a toilet on his gap year?
We are charmed by the careful snapshot and forget the bigger picture. He has led a life of privilege inaccessible to the majority of young people today.
Ian McKenzie
Congratulations on your near-perfect coverage of the royal christening: 19 words in the bottom corner of page 27 was exactly what it needed. (It would have been perfect but for Grace Dent’s column.)
Paul Harper
London E15
When is murder not murder?
Your report “Marines ‘murdered man live on camera’” (24 October) left me bemused.
The report stated that the killing of a wounded Taliban “fighter” followed a strafing attack by an Apache helicopter.
So, if the man had been killed by helicopter rounds, that would be acceptable? Yet, if he was shot after being injured – that is murder? And is the killing of non-combatants by drone attacks not murder?
David Toresen
Bletchley, Buckinghamshire
Fuel price folly
The Government proposes to help Britain’s “squeezed middle” by posting fuel prices along motorways. Motorists should have been aware for decades that fuel is cheaper in towns. Most cars carry enough fuel for several hundred miles, so only the unprepared need to stop for fuel on a motorway. The cost of erecting these unnecessary signs will have to be borne by the prudent motorists, resulting in a another “squeeze”.
Peter Erridge
East Grinstead
£500m question
It appears there are two ways to save £500m of hardworking taxpayers’ money: plugging a tax loophole for big business or stamping out health tourism by foreign people. Easy to see what this Government’s priority will be.
David Wallis


‘Police recruits join because they want to serve the public; it is the way that aim is nurtured (or not) that will produce respect’
Sir, If it is intended that the new code of ethics for police officers should encourage the acceptance of an “obligation on officers to report improper conduct and wrongdoing by colleagues”, it would surely make sense for chief constables to reassure the rank and file that they have nothing to fear by abiding by this requirement (report, Oct 24).
The best way to do this would be for each of them to give examples of how they themselves have bravely denounced the malpractice which they have encountered during their careers; it would be a statistical impossibility for them not to have witnessed unethical conduct of some kind. The history of policing is littered with cases of whistleblowers whose careers have been destroyed because they had the courage to speak out about the unprofessional conduct of fellow officers. Until this impasse is resolved it is likely that scandals such as Plebgate and Hillsborough will continue to occur.
John Kenny
(Metropolitan Police officer 1965-95)
Acle, Norfolk

Sir, Any number of ethics codes will only recite rather obvious expectations for a police service that will be trusted by its public. Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, has underlined what was obvious to many of us: lack of sound leadership and training. Police recruits join because they want to serve the public; it is the way that aim is nurtured (or not) that will produce respect. I served for nearly 30 years in a service run by corporals, in an atmosphere of open prejudice against intelligent professionalism, maddening waste of resources and much unethical compromise. How ironic that the Police Federation should again find itself a catalyst in a shake-up that will reverse the consequences of its support for the Labour Government’s dismantling of the police college after the last war.
Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor
(Former Inspector, Metropolitan Police) Norburton, Dorset

Sir, David Davis (Opinion, Oct 23) says that “the lessons about what behaviour is expected from a British police officer should be instilled from Day 1”.
This certainly reflected my experience on joining the Metropolitan Police. Recruits were taught that in the course of our dealings with the public we would be constantly insulted by professionals. In preparation for this, the head of the training school routinely insulted all of us, and was especially scathing when testing our knowledge of police matters, whether we answered his questions incorrectly (“stupid”) or correctly (“know-it-all”). I paraphrase his remarks, which were expressed in a coarser manner than I had experienced even during National Service. Women recruits were singled out for particularly harsh insults.
By the end of our initial training we were all equipped to cope with any kind of verbal abuse. The training came in useful in my initial posting to Cannon Row subdivision (Whitehall), where it was not unusual to encounter rudeness from both tourists and legislators.
David Wilson
Bridell, Pembrokeshire

Sir, Police officers who require a written code of ethics to tell them to “respect and obey the law” are in the wrong job — as are doctors who only put patients’ interests first because they once swore an oath to do so.
Dr Bob Bury

An explanation of why professional justice is cheaper than a lay bench; and occasions when children can be penalised more than adults
Sir, In my experience of sitting as clerk of the court with lay justices and professional district judges, some of the latter could get through the work of three lay benches (letter, Oct 23). This is how: they never needed to retire to consider a decision, nor to confer with colleagues to arrive at a consensus; they could extemporise judgments and the reasons for them instantly; they seldom required advice or recourse to legal authorities; they could bring an advocate’s address to an early close when persuaded by it or firmly against it; their presence discouraged advocates from unrealistic submissions which a lay bench would probably have sat through and, most importantly, they were confidently firm and decisive and seldom contradicted.
Now consider the savings of being able to cancel two additional court lists: the prosecutors, the court clerks, probation officers, cell staff and ushers, not to mention heating and lighting. This is why professional justice is cheaper even though a lay bench is unsalaried.
Anna Webster
Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs

Sir, I have a great deal of respect for John Fassenfelt (“Magistrates must be seen and heard if they are to retain public respect”, Law, Oct 24). For one group of defendents, however, magistrates already have powers to impose custodial sentences of up to two years. In the youth court children as young as 12 can be locked up, frequently for less serious offences. By all means consider raising the sentencing levels for adults in the magistrates court, but also consider whether the criminal justice system is for children. The current system appears to hold children more culpable for their behaviour and impose more punitive penalties than for adults.
Pam Hibbert
National Association for Youth Justice

Building Hinkley Point C is a good deal for Britain — including Britain’s billpayers. It will help to keep the lights on in the decades ahead
Sir, Your report “Energy bills top £1,500 after new price hikes” (Oct 22) gave the wrong impression about the effect of new nuclear power stations on energy bills, with the incorrect claim that Hinkley Point C will add £8 a year to bills for the next 35 years.
First, no one will see any effect on their bills from the construction of Hinkley Point C until 2023, when the plant starts generating electricity.
Second, our projections indicate that our new nuclear programme is likely to save people about £75 a year on their bills in 2030, compared with a future with no new nuclear.
Building Hinkley Point C is a good deal for Britain — including Britain’s billpayers. It will help to keep the lights on in the decades ahead and reduce our reliance on volatile foreign imports, at a price that’s competitive with the predictions for all other forms of generation, including gas.
Edward davey, MP
Secretary of State for Energy
and Climate Change

Sir, There is something that the Government can do immediately to reduce my energy costs. From tomorrow, my Economy 7 cheap rate will finish at 6.40am. This is most inconvenient and unreasonable. Also, Economy 7 times around the country vary enormously. They should all be harmonised to finish at 8am.
Ivor Wilde
Piddington, Northants

The middle classes are forgoing pensions and buying up second properties, with the expectation of a continued and regular income
Sir, Andrew Carter (letter, Oct 23) asks what happens when the middle classes stop bothering with pensions. It’s already happening: they’re buying up property to provide an income in retirement which rises with — or above — inflation rates. I have just filled in a “pension calculator” online. If I and my employer pay into my pension for another ten years, I can expect the fantastic sum of £157 per month. If I forego index-linking, I could raise that to £179 per month. Or I could buy a two-bed flat in Brixton and get £1,800 per month in rent which will go up every year.
Clare Heaton

‘Battlefield commanders’ carefully calculated risk-taking and decision-making should take account of the battlefield factors’
Sir, Jocelyn Cockburn (Oct 24) misunderstands the Policy Exchange’s concerns over the HRA’s effect on the warfighting ability of the British military. Soldiering is, of necessity, a risk-taking business, with success frequently going to the boldest adversary. Battlefield commanders’ carefully calculated risk-taking and decision-making should take account of the battlefield factors, fully respecting the military’s values and standards, and the law of armed conflict. It must not be hobbled by having to second-guess subsequent challenge by human rights lawyers.
Lt-Col Ian Tritton (ret’d)
Minety, Wilts


SIR – I was interested to read research finding that men benefit from coming together with their friends face to face at least twice a week.
Here in Sandwich a group of us retired gentlefolk get together at The Haven cafe for breakfast each morning. We call it “the breakfast club”. We solve the world’s problems and laugh a lot. It is a wonderful way to start the day.
Every town should have a breakfast club.
Ron Coleman
Sandwich, Kent

SIR – The majority of domestic and commercial energy consumers may agree with Sir John Major’s politically attractive call for a windfall tax on energy companies’ profits but that doesn’t make the proposal economically wise.
Energy companies’ medium-term profit margins of 5 per cent are broadly in line with other industrial sectors and below those of most food retailers. Moreover, they already pay vast amounts of corporation tax, employ tens of thousands and are investing heavily in generating the power required by the economy in the future and meeting global carbon emission targets.
The Chancellor must resist imposing additional financial or regulatory burdens on business. This would damage the Government’s hard-won economic credibility, demonstrated by the economic recovery, higher inward investment and growing business confidence in the Conservatives’ electoral prospects.
Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey
Related Articles
Gentlemen of Sandwich: breakfast is served
24 Oct 2013
SIR – Sir John Major’s intervention on energy prices is breathtaking in its hypocrisy. He has clearly forgotten that the deregulation of the energy sector occurred on his watch as prime minister.
The premature closure of the rump of our remaining coal industry, the “dash for gas” in pursuit of short-term profit and the subsequent loss of domestic energy security, which put us at the mercy of foreign gas suppliers, set the conditions for the energy chaos we face today.
Stephen Davies
Tunstall, North Yorkshire
SIR – Sir John Major’s suggestion is pointless. Any tax imposed on energy companies will simply result in us, the customers, paying even more. They are not going to pay it themselves – we will.
Alan Kibblewhite
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – The Government should not have privatised essential supply industries such as gas, electricity and water companies. In so doing, it lost control. It now wishes to exercise some control as well as trying to cash in.
What happened to the proceeds that the Government received from privatisation?
John P Kester
Ashtead, Surrey
SIR – Why did Sir John Major not suggest that the Government immediately reduce energy costs by scrapping all of the useless “green” taxes and subsidies, insisting, at the same time, that the energy generators and suppliers pass on the savings in reduced prices to consumers?
John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
SIR – The windfall tax should equate to the VAT we pay on energy, which could then be abolished. We would all benefit from a 5 per cent cut.
Terry Morrell
Willerby, East Yorkshire
Overseas pensioners
SIR – The Pensions Bill, introducing changes in the state pension scheme, will enter its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons next Monday.
Clause 20 of the Bill will freeze the pensions of British state pensioners living in a number of Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, at the rate they received when leaving Britain.
Thousands of pensioners will be denied the opportunity to move overseas, to return home to the Caribbean after a lifetime of work in Britain, or to live closer to their children and grandchildren who have moved abroad for work. Many seniors are destined to live apart from their relatives because they know they cannot afford to live on what is effectively a diminishing income.
These same pensioners, if they were to move overseas, would save the Exchequer more than £3,000 each year, by freeing up capacity in the NHS and by not receiving benefits applicable to pensioners living in Britain.
So far, the Government has ignored all arguments to rectify a policy that even Steve Webb, the pensions minister, calls “odd”. It cannot make sense that a British pension is frozen in Australia but not in the Philippines, in Canada but not in the United States. Britain is the only country in the OECD that selectively discriminates against its pensioners, based on where they live.
Clause 20 must be removed from the Bill to allow future pensioners the right to live in dignity with their full pension, wherever they choose to in retirement.
Sheila Telford
Chairman, International Consortium of British Pensioners
SIR – I live in Normandy, where temperatures are very similar to those of southern England. Last March I was unable to leave my property for three days due to snow obstructing my gateway. However, my winter fuel payments will be stopped in 2015 because the British Government deems French winter temperatures to be higher than those in Britain.
It arrived at this conclusion by including five of France’s overseas territories in its calculations: the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte, and French Guiana in South America. These territories have an average winter temperature of 79F.
This is extremely dishonest.
Adrian Bunting
Cahagnes, Basse-Normandie, France
Archaic admission
SIR – My interview at King’s, Cambridge consisted of one question from the admissions tutor: “Will you be playing cricket while you are with us?” I replied that I didn’t think that I would have time because my degree results would be too important. His response was, “Oh, I think that you will have time for both. Let’s go and have some lunch, and we will see you in September.”
This was not in the dim past, but in 1972.
Harry Galbraith
Peel, Isle of Man
An imperfect murder
SIR – The Crime Writers’ Association’s shortlist for the greatest work of crime fiction omits what is arguably the greatest detective novel: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
It also omits what many regard as the classic detective story, though not a novel: Sophocles’s play Oedipus Rex, in which the detective finds that he himself is the killer.
Chris James
Abergele, Denbighshire
Thorium-based power
SIR – It is positive that the Government is supporting the building of Britain’s first new nuclear power plant for a generation. However, it is difficult to understand why the use of thorium in place of uranium is not being proposed, as Baroness Worthington advocates.
Had it been used at Fukushima, the disaster would not have happened. Moreover, the problem of disposing of the plutonium stockpile would be reduced, as plutonium is consumed in the operation of a thorium-driven power station.
Noely Worthington
Alresford, Hampshire
Hare coursing
SIR – It seems that those against hare coursing have no real idea of how it used to be carried out, how the hares and dogs were matched together and how much less cruel it was compared with shooting.
Wild hares were never trapped and then released, the dogs were judged on their speed, not on their ability to catch hares, and coursing grounds were arranged in a natural landscape in such a way that healthy hares usually escaped.
The ban was primarily an anti-countryside measure, and has been of no benefit to the hare population.
Olaf Brun
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Home remedies
SIR – After months of various treatments, my chiropodist admitted failure in trying to cure my verruca. A few weeks later it had gone. The cure? Manuka honey applied twice a day.
Alan Mooge
Enfield, Middlesex
SIR – My mother always said that rubbing a sty on the eye with a gold ring was a sure cure.
Barbara Loryman
Weedon, Northamptonshire
SIR – Harry Wallop must be under 50 to describe chlorophyll as “a little-known breath deodoriser”. In the Fifties we were inundated with chlorophyll pills, toothpaste, chewing-gum etc., all claiming to eliminate bad breath.
Then one cartoonist published a drawing of a smelly goat with the caption: “The goat that stands on yonder hill feeds all day long on chlorophyll.”
Diana Awdry
Oundle, Northamptonshire
Don’t blame free schools for our failing system
SIR – The objection of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, to free schools is a classic case of politicians looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Free, state or grammar – it’s not where we teach that matters, it’s what.
Our national curriculum is antiquated and fails to prepare today’s schoolchildren for the modern job market. Without reform we will produce a generation of young people unable to enter the world of work, a process we are already witnessing.
Instead of picking his battles with David Cameron, Mr Clegg should focus on introducing more basic skills to school education, more vocational courses to higher education and improving state school standards. If successful, demand for free schools would disappear.
George Baggaley
London SW12
SIR – The failure of Al-Madinah free school is not due to the free school programme, but to the fact that those involved have created a school that is not good enough for the pupils who attend. As someone who is head of an Outstanding Academy, who has just opened a free school, as well as being an inspector for Ofsted, I am mystified as to why it is thought that this school failed because it was part of a programme somehow aimed at undermining education.
Outstanding education is a right and not a privilege. The free school programme aims to break up the divide between state and private education, ensuring that all parents have a choice of outstanding provision for their children. The question to be asked is not why this school failed; it is why all schools are not outstanding.
Steve Docking
Director, St Martin’s Academy
SIR – It is ironic that Nick Clegg is demanding that teachers in free schools are properly trained and qualified. No Member of Parliament receives any training, and Mr Clegg’s only qualification to be Deputy Prime Minister is that he was elected as leader of his party by its own members.
Major David Riddick (retd)
Cranbrook, Kent

Irish Times:
Sir, – The recent treatment of two Romany families by the Irish State has been outrageous, unjust, unfair and unworthy of a nation aspiring to be tolerant and pluralist. The questioning of the parenthood of their children, whom they loved, was done without evidence and is insulting, and a manifestation of both ethnic and racial prejudice. Even worse: the taking of children from their parents can have serious post-traumatic effects on both parents and child. The Irish Government has many serious questions to answer. A commission of inquiry is necessary.
These events are not surprising, because I note a degree of anti-Romany prejudice in Ireland and throughout Europe. In my recent research, I saw indirect evidence pointing to such prejudice. We should not forget that innocent Romany people shared Hitler’s gas chambers with Jews and others. The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act (1989) need to be enforced and applied more rigorously and even strengthened where necessary. The Romany minority in Ireland must be one of the most vulnerable and in need of real support and proper living conditions.
Irish media, both print and electronic, bear serious responsibilities in relation to vulnerable minorities. All breaches of the 1989 Act should be dealt with by the gardaí and by our courts. If not, the position of Romanies and other vulnerable minorities will deteriorate to a point where behaviour such as that displayed in Tallaght and Athlone will be accepted as normal. Racism and ethnic prejudices expressed in the media should be unconscionable in a tolerant and pluralist society.
As an Irish citizen, I feel ashamed. – Yours, etc.
(Author of Pluralism and
Diversity in Ireland),
Saint Xavier’s,
Gardiner Street, Dublin 1.
A chara, – To the Roma families who had children taken from them into care, and to the Roma people in general, I would like to say I am sorry. To the Irish authorities and Government I would like to say that it does not take these actions in my name.
Lest we forget, it is not long since the Irish were being racially profiled and vilified because of perceptions about the size of their skulls, their dirtiness and their laziness. I am horrified and appalled that this could happen in Ireland in 2013. – Is mise,
Ballyregan, Carrigtwohill,
Co Cork.
Sir, – Whether a child has blond hair or blue eyes depends on the genes they inherit for these particular features. For example, the gene that controls blond or red hair colour can be recessive whereas the gene for dark hair colour is generally dominant. Since a child will inherit one gene from each parent it is quite possible that two dark-haired parents can have a blond-haired child. This is because the mother or father who carries a hidden or recessive gene for blond or red hair will only see that gene expressed in his or her child when there are two identical copies inherited, one from each parent. If the child inherits a gene for dark hair and a gene for blond hair, the gene for dark hair doesn’t allow the blond hair gene to be expressed and the child has dark hair as a result. Simply Leaving Cert biology! This also explains why hair colour can often skip a generation.
I am not sure whom HSE/gardaí this week consulted on this issue, but whoever it was he/she mustn’t have done well in their Leaving Cert biology! – Yours, etc,
Professor of Biochemistry,
University College Cork.
A chara, – Many school principals will be relieved to know that the secret to getting action from the social services is in the colour of the hair! – Is mise,
Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa,
Huntstown, Dublin 15.
A chara, – I am a pale-skinned, red-haired, green-eyed woman with three children. Two have pale skin and red hair, but one has dark hair and big brown eyes. Should I submit him for a DNA test? Will the HSE and the Garda come and take him till I prove I gave birth to him? Unlikely: I am not Roma. – Yours, etc,
Clarkes Terrace,
Rialto, Dublin 8.
Sir, – The recent case of a child taken from a Roma family on the suspicion, of having been abducted, now shown false, understandably causes concern. I suggest the authorities may have committed an error of statistical reasoning. Given that the child was blond (and blue-eyed) they concluded that there was a reasonable chance that she had been abducted by this family. Most likely they were reasoning from the fact that if the child hadn’t been abducted by them then it was unlikely that she would be blond: she is not representative of their children. However the latter does not at all imply the former possibility.
The mathematics of this has been understood for centuries and is known as Bayes’ Theorem. In effect, the authorities seem to have neglected the fact that child abduction is very rare, while lots of kids are blond. This logically implies, in a precise way, that the probability that this child had been abducted was actually extremely low. In legal circles neglecting this is known as the “Prosecutors’ fallacy”. This fallacy has been implicated in the case of Lucia De Berk, a Dutch nurse convicted of seven murders and three attempted murders and subsequently exonerated. It is, in fact, a common error. For example, there is evidence that many doctors fall into the same trap when interpreting positive test results from routine screening for various illnesses. While hindsight is wonderful , how many of us can be certain that we would not have made the same mistake? A little statistics goes a long way. – Yours, etc,
School of Economics &
Geary Institute,
University College Dublin,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – I have four kids. Every one of them had blond hair up to the age of seven or eight. I have brown hair and their mother has very dark hair. I understand that this is not uncommon. Are the Garda Síochána now going to investigate every instance where a child’s hair colour differs from that of their parents, or will it only do so if the parents are from an ethnic minority? – Yours, etc,

Beechdale Grove,
Blessington, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – The removal of two children from Roma parents in the Republic because they happened to look “different” was probably and inevitably going to look bad for the Garda Síochána insofar as it smacked of racial profiling. In a sense though, I have sympathy for the police, since their reaction is but a symptom of the mass hysteria around human-trafficking that has taken root in Irish society and which has no parallel elsewhere in Europe, including north of the Border.
Trafficking is a complex phenomenon that has been devalued by overuse. It is linked to migration patterns and the movement of people (often voluntary) from a poor place to a rich place to find work. However, in the Republic an incredibly powerful constellation of lobbying and advocacy groups have managed to oversimplify and connect a whole range of issues that should not be connected. Specifically they have linked trafficking solely to the issue of sexual exploitation that flies in the face of international research evidence.
It is important to keep things in perspective, however. The recent international Global Slavery Index ( ranked 162 countries according to the prevalence of trafficking and other forms of exploitation on a scale of one (worst) to 160 (best).
Collectively the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Iceland achieved the best scores (160) and had the lowest levels of trafficking and other forms of exploitation of all the countries examined in the study. This is not of course to argue that there is no trafficking or exploitation in these jurisdictions, but it does suggest that the current hysteria in the Republic is misplaced. Indeed, I would argue that the current legislative arrangements in the Republic are working well and that the Garda and other agencies are doing their job effectively to deal with issues around trafficking. – Yours, etc,
Reader in Criminology,
School of Law,
Queen’s University,
Sir, – The lawyer for the Roma family whose child was held under protective custody by the State asked, “How would you feel if this happened to you?”
I would ask him: how would I feel if they didn’t act and something bad happened to a child? When it comes to the welfare of a child, the onus is on the State to protect that child: it’s better to be safe than sorry.  If some such an event happens in the future the parents or one of the parents should always be allowed to stay with the child until the matter is resolved. – Yours, etc,
Mill Street,
Co Mayo.

Sir, – As a practising Catholic who has been married to a member of the Church of Ireland for approximately 30 years, I have never encountered the fear of difference and a desire for segregation which Archbishop Jackson indicates is the mindset of the members of the Christian community which he leads.
Indeed, I have been welcomed by the clergy and laity through their inclusive attitudes and behaviours and there is a mutual respect between us as belonging to different Christian denominations, which I believe is how the message of the Gospel directs us to behave and act. Neither my wife or myself have ever been subject to the “continuing hurt” to which the archbishop refers. Moreover friends of mine who, for their own reasons, moved to the Church of Ireland were welcomed and are now comfortable and active members of the Church of Ireland.
The terms “Polyester Protestants “and “Cradle Protestants” and the pejorative remarks relating to the Roman Catholic stance on abortion are not used by anyone I know within the Church of Ireland and would not be tolerated by them. I am uncomfortable with the archbishop’s harsh, general criticism of his community which is not a true and accurate picture of what happens, as I know it and meet it. – Yours, etc,
Glenageary Road Lower,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Archbishop Jackson’s attempt to clarify his address (Opinion, October 22nd) to the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan synods (Home News, October 16th) remains puzzling and vague. If he is concerned about the way his indigenous members relate to newcomers, he is off the mark. He surely must know the Church of Ireland congregations are small and draw strength from getting to know new and existing members through a variety of social activities. Like Archbishop Clarke, I grew up in the Church of Ireland in the 1950s and encountered “apartheid by mutual consent” in rural Co Cork.
I was subjected to the ne temere decree when I married a Roman Catholic (which my wife and I chose to ignore). This decree was replaced by the Matrimonia Mixta 1970 which requires the Roman Catholic partner “to see to it the children be baptised and brought up” in the Roman Catholic faith. Dr Gladys Ganiel argues that the Church of Ireland displays “a systematic failure to see diversity as a gift”. Maybe there is an element of truth in this but the ne temere and today’s Matrimonia Mixta certainly insensitively fail to “see diversity as a gift”.
Their effect has been to substantially contribute to the decline in native Church of Ireland numbers from 164,000 in 1926 to 93,000 in 2011. Might not Archbishop Jackson concern himself with addressing this cruel form of sectarianism? – Yours, etc,
Military Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Further to the coverage of my address at the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synods (Home News, October 15th): My overall focus was and remains my concern for the ongoing work of inclusion of newcomers at parochial level in the dioceses. For this reason, I was surprised by the focus of your reporting exclusively on the issue of sectarianism. The speech expresses continuing practical and theological commitment to mission in the church of God and, within this framework, voices a sustained call to shared maturity in facing questions we may well still need to ask of ourselves in a changing society. This is where the issue of sectarianism “sits” in the overall address.

The direction in which the coverage has moved in The Irish Times makes me disheartened for the clergy I serve because the thrust of their good work in the many areas of celebration, which I outline and showcase, together with that of lay people, has been overlooked by the overemphasis on sectarianism per se by The Irish Times. My concern is to build afresh on work identified as urgent and begun as needed equally urgently by my predecessor in the report: Welcoming Angels: Report of the Archbishop’s Working Group on Combating Racism, 2005. This report holds members of the United Dioceses to account and it was a response to The Hard Gospel Report in the Church of Ireland. My genuine worry is to continue to facilitate the work of welcome and inclusion both of immigrants and of Anglicans by conviction into the parishes and structures of these dioceses.
Part of what such maturity asks of us is our facing the question whether the origin of resistance to change within some parishes on the part of particularly assertive lay people, a phenomenon shared with me by clergy, in fact is derived from sectarian mistrust which is still in evidence across our society.
I further express my sadness at the suspicion expressed within a prestigious Anglican institution by “cradle Anglicans” towards Anglicans by conviction and at the confidences shared with me by numerous people at the non-acceptance by members of the Church of Ireland of their marriage to those of other traditions.
These are but two alarming examples of unwholesome assumptions which are clearly seen by some still to be acceptable. Change requires maturity and maturity brings the acceptance of discomfort. For us in the Church of Ireland it requires the application of Anglican principles and practice. The new maturity on the other side of this process of attaining generous church, for which we in the Church of Ireland part of the community will need the help of our neighbours right across all traditions, is one for which I eagerly long.
Both the address to the Diocesan Synods and another paper which I have written in this area are to be found on the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan website: – Yours, etc,
Church of Ireland House,
Church Avenue, Dublin 6.

A chara, – On October 2nd, our Taoiseach stood on the floor of the Dáil and said;
“The fundamental issue of the Programme for Government here is that there would not be – and will not be – any income tax increases . .. So your assertion that people are going to be faced with that is simply not true, and will be vindicated and justified by the Minister for Finance,”
The Minister for Finance then proceeded to announce a change to the Single Parent Family Tax Credit that cost me and thousands of working separated fathers like me, €2,490 per year in increased income tax.
To date, he has not had the courtesy to tell me whether he was lying, has made a big mistake in costing or simply does not care about the further marginalisation of single fathers in Ireland.
Perhaps he might read this and reply. – Yours etc.
Maudlin Court,
Thomastown, Kilkenny.

Sir, – While canvassing for the retention of the Seanad in the recent referendum campaign with the Democracy Matters group, I was under the impression Senator David Norris agreed with the proposal in the Quinn/Zappone Bill that senators’ salaries should be reduced to half of a TD’s.  It is therefore disappointing to see that he now calls such a proposal “dangerous” (Letters, October 23rd).
While acknowledging the brave and inspiring leadership shown by David Norris in the successful campaign, those of us who went out and fought for the Seanad’s retention did so on the basis of the reforms promised under the Quinn/Zappone Bill, which we had hoped would be the start of a general reform of the entire political system in Ireland.
  Contrary to Senator Norris’s opinion, it is not “dangerous” but essential that the salaries of public representatives are halved.  Not just in the Seanad, but in the Dáil and local authorities too. – Yours, etc,
Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – Today is St Crispin’s Day:  it is also my birthday. I have always been grateful to my parents for not naming me after Crispin. – Yours, etc,
Blackheath Park,
London, England.

Sir, – When Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg ordered his €15,000 bath (World News, October 24th), did he realise how much hot water it would get him into? – Yours, etc,
Pine Valley Avenue,
Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:
* The actions by the gardai in the two cases of Roma families and fair-haired children are worth investigating. In both cases, the authorities claimed to be taking the children under the powers of the Welfare of Children Act 1991.
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Yet that act requires that if the gardai are to remove children from a family home without a warrant, they must have “reasonable suspicion” that the child is at immediate risk.
The fact that in the Athlone case the child was returned to the same family the next day raises a question as to the reasonableness of the behaviour of the gardai.
If gardai, on the other hand, seek a warrant for their actions in advance, they have to supply evidence that supports the claim of immediate risk.
In the case of the Tallaght child, the family were made aware of the garda interest in the child and if the only ‘risk’ was because of a doubt about the child’s origin – which DNA would establish fairly rapidly – it is hard to see how such a draconian action was required and justified under the act.
Other children in the same homes were left in the family environment, so the only justification seems to be that the children didn’t share their parents’ hair colour.
On these grounds, the constitutional and legal protection of the rights of citizens and residents, parents and children have been brushed needlessly to one side in an atmosphere with a whiff of the pogrom about it.
If wrongdoing is proved in one of these cases, it could still have been proved without acting ultra vires, as seems to have happened.
It is at times of apparent hysteria around ethnic issues that it behoves people to be extra vigilant about equal treatment and acting within the law.
The powers under the act are not vested in anyone, including gardai and judges, until the appropriate standards of proof are attained. It should concern us all to see such protection dismissed.
Dick Spicer
Bray, Co Wicklow
* The lawyer for the Roma family whose child was held under protective custody by the State asked: “How would you feel if this happened to you?” I would ask him how would I feel if they didn’t do that and something bad happened to the child.
When it comes to the welfare of a child, the onus is on the State to protect that child – it’s better to be safe than sorry. If this happens in the future, the parents should always be allowed to stay with the child until the matter is resolved.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
* As a Christian, I find it not only absolutely unbiblical but also grossly bizarre that St Anthony’s body parts, as well as those of St Therese of Lisieux, are brought into Ireland and followed around by their devotees in an act of seriously misguided idolatry and disrespect for God Himself.
David Bradley
Drogheda, Co Louth
* On October 2, the Taoiseach stood on the floor of the Dail and said: “The fundamental issue of the Programme for Government here is that there would not be – and will not be – any income tax increases. So your assertion that people are going to be faced with that is simply not true and will be vindicated and justified by the Minister for Finance.”
The Finance Minister then announced a change to the Single Parent Family Tax Credit that cost me, and thousands of working separated fathers like me, €2,490 per year in increased income tax.
To date, Mr Noonan has not had the courtesy to tell me whether he has made a big mistake in costing or simply does not care about the further marginalisation of single fathers in Ireland. Perhaps he might read this and reply.
Dara O’Brien
Thomastown, Kilkenny
* Alex Ferguson is very much like Enda Kenny, in that at every turn he seeks to put the boot in when he feels a Corkman is losing the run of himself. In Micheal Martin’s case, I’m not concerned, but when the grumpy Scot tries to do down Ireland’s most loved son of Cork, then he has me to deal with.
The sooner he realises he would never have got where he is without the genius of Keano, the main man at MU for over 12 years, the better.
Roy has proved greatness in his chosen field as footballer and continues to do so as a man of fine stature.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* I believe that Sir Alex Ferguson was the most successful manager in the world. He has more cups and medals than he knows what to do with. He has at least one statue, one grandstand and probably thousands of kids called after him.
He has at least two autobiographies, a stable full of racehorses and the biggest wine cellar in Manchester. But like so many other retirees, he mustn’t have told the wife that he has jacked.
So would somebody whisper in Mrs Ferguson’s ear that he has quit, so as she can do a list of jobs for him in the house in order that he can keep himself busy and not be causing trouble all over the place.
As it stands, poor David Moyes is afraid to go to work in the mornings because Fergie still hasn’t handed over the keys. And now he’s after upsetting poor Roy and God only knows what Mrs Keane (Snr) will do about that.
Maybe Sir Bobby might bring Alex down the pub and get him membership in the dominoes club. Or maybe Sir Bobby should bring David down the pub.
Sir Alex abu!!!
RJ Hanly
Screen, Co Wexford
* While canvassing for the retention of the Seanad in the recent referendum campaign with the Democracy Matters group, I was under the impression that Senator David Norris agreed with the proposal in the Quinn/Zappone Bill that senators’ salaries should be reduced to half that of a TD’s. It is therefore disappointing to see that he now calls such a proposal “dangerous” (Letters, October 23).
While acknowledging the brave and inspiring leadership shown by David Norris in the successful campaign, those of us who went out and fought for the Seanad’s retention did so on the basis of the reforms promised under the Quinn/Zappone Bill, which we had hoped would be the start of a general reform of the entire political system in Ireland.
Contrary to Senator Norris’s opinion, it is not “dangerous” but essential that the salaries of public representatives are halved – not just in the Seanad, but in the Dail and local authorities too.
Hugh Treacy
Creagh, Gorey, Co Wexford
* I refer to the article ‘I’ll quit priesthood if Vatican censures my book, vows D’Arcy’ (Irish Independent, October 23, 2013). I was very sad to learn of the pain that Fr D’Arcy was put through as a result of the Vatican issuing him a formal warning that he must cease being critical of the Vatican and stop questioning its rules on celibacy, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage or face excommunication.
I am looking forward to reading Father D’Arcy’s new book ‘Food for the Soul’. It would be an absolute disgrace if the Vatican tries to censor it. If it does, it will only hightlight that the Vatican is afraid of the truth.
Derry-Ann Morgan
Naul, Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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