18 November 2013 Leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have an inspection by the Inspection Officer can Pertwee replaces all the ‘missing’ stuff in time. Priceless.
Quiet sweep leaves
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.


Doris Lessing – Obituary
Doris Lessing was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist and feminist flag-bearer whose controversial bestsellers stretched the boundaries of realist fiction

Doris Lessing Photo: JUSTIN SUTCLIFFE
5:17PM GMT 17 Nov 2013
Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, who has died aged 94, was one of the towering figures of modern literature; in the course of a writing career that spanned the latter half of the 20th century, she commented on its grand sweeps and shed light on its many absurdities.
She was a prolific writer, producing approximately a book a year for nearly 60 years. They included plays, poems and short stories but her novels, in particular The Golden Notebook, remained her best known, best loved and most controversial work.

A generous, open minded character, she was, at various stages of her life, a communist, socialist, feminist, atheist, Laingian and finally a Sufi. To each of these beliefs, she brought a tireless enthusiasm that sometimes obscured judgment. She fell for ideas, digested then, outgrew them and then moved on. While she still believed, she wrote novels out of the experience. Her interests were varied but her ability to make fascinating fiction out of life was constant.
If she had written nothing else, The Golden Notebook (1962) would have secured Doris Lessing a place in the hall of fame. With it, she wrote about “new women” in a new kind of novel, one that stretched the boundaries of realist fiction.
Through the story of the novelist Anna Wulf, working her way through writer’s block, Doris Lessing commented on the form of the conventional novel. By dividing the narrative between four notebooks, she mirrored her portrayal of breakdown and mental disintegration. At least that was what she thought she was doing. Much to her surprise, The Golden Notebook was hailed as a trumpet blast for women’s liberation and Doris Lessing found many of her female friends avoiding her in case they were thought man-hating.
She was simply unable to understand it. After all, she argued, she had only written in public the sort of things women were always saying to each other in private. In 1989, 27 years after its publication, Doris Lessing was amused to receive letters praising The Golden Notebook from a genteel North London girls’ school. The “ball breaker” had become a bestseller.
In 1950 she caused a sensation in the literary world with her first published novel, The Grass Is Singing. It told the story of Mary, the wife of a poor white farmer in Southern Rhodesia who, driven mad by loneliness and poverty, begins an obsessive — and eventually fatal — relationship with her black houseboy. It was immediately popular, reprinted seven times within five months. From then on, Doris Lessing was established and the other books came swiftly.
The Children of Violence series, published between 1952 and 1969, followed the adventures of one Martha Quest through adolescence, marriage, motherhood, divorce, communism and finally to the apocalypse of a Third World War. Doris Lessing always sternly denied any autobiographical basis for this series, but her own experiences were too similar to those of Martha’s for anyone to be convinced. She even borrowed her second husband’s middle name, Anton, for her heroine’s second spouse.
In The Four-Gated City (1969), the last in the Children of Violence series, Doris Lessing moved her writing away from the sturdy realism of her earlier novels into the realms of the fantastic and the paranormal. She made telepathy a common occurrence and brought the shadowy world of mysticism and madness into focus. At the same time, she was discovering science fiction.
It was a new genre of literature for her and she found its possibilities exciting. The Four- Gated City was the springboard for her own launch into space fiction. Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971) traced the internal journey of a madman and The Memoirs of a Survivor (1975) the external travels of a woman in a post-holocaust London. The Canopus in Argos: Archives series, published between 1979 and 1983, represented Doris Lessing’s most determined attempt to chart new territories.
But there were many who wished she had stuck with the old map. Some readers loyally followed her on her galactic mission; others grumbled and waited for her to return to her senses and realism. This she did, but in a wholly unexpected way.
In 1984 Jane Somers, a new writer with only two books and a few tepid reviews to her credit, turned out to be the famous and highly regarded Doris Lessing. Jane Somers’ novels The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) and If the Old Could (1984) had initially suffered a series of rejections including one from Doris Lessing’s own publishers. It was an elaborate hoax and one that gave her a great deal of pleasure.
She considered herself thoroughly successful in proving the literary world’s uncourageous response to new writing. The rejection slips proved something else, the sagacity of publishers. A bad Doris Lessing was odd enough to be desirable, a bad novel by an unknown was just a bad novel.
The Jane Somers books were Doris Lessing’s back door return to realism. The Good Terrorist followed in 1985. Inspired by the Harrods’ bombing, it described the posturing politics of demonstrations and riots and the unhappy Alice Mellings, who becomes caught up in that world. With The Fifth Child (1988) she resurrected the myth of the changeling to paint a merciless picture of ruined family life.
As well as being a formidable novelist, Lessing was also a talented short story writer, publishing collections alongside her other works. The success of her novels tended to overshadow her other achievements but she remained stubbornly loyal to the short story genre. “Some writers I know have stopped writing short stories,” she once said, “because, as they say, ‘there is no market for them’. Others like myself, the addicts, go on, and I suspect would go on even if there really wasn’t any home for them but a private drawer.”
The best among her short story collections, for example, The Habit of Loving (1957) and To Room Nineteen (1978), are tantalising glimpses into the hearts and lives of many different kinds of people, described with a vision accentuated by the demands of brevity.
Her novels were not uniformly good. Some critics have called her style “plodding” and “flat-footed” and her space fiction was often dismissed out of hand. She continued to defend it and claimed: “I’ll be damned if I can see any difference between some parts of The Grass Is Singing, my first novel, and some parts of Shikasta” (her worst novel). As a literary critic, she was inadequate; as a writer, she stood alone.
She was born Doris May Tayler on October 22 1919 in Kermanshah, Persia, to British parents. Her father, Captain Alfred Cook Tayler, a First World War veteran, had married his nurse, Emily McVeagh, “which, as they both said often enough (though in different tones of voice), was just as well”.
In the mid-1920s, the Taylers moved to Southern Rhodesia where home was a 3,000-acre maize farm on the veld. There they settled down to a life of quiet but persistent economic failure. In later life, Doris Lessing was to recall the beauty of the land. While growing up, she was depressed by its loneliness. To annoy her mother, she left school at 14. To the end of her life, she remained immensely pleased with her lack of education.
By her own admission, she was the archetypally tiresome adolescent, irritating her parents with her outspoken dislike of Rhodesia’s “colour bar”. Towards the end of her life, she spoke admiringly of her tough teenage years, describing her younger self as a girl “who bulldozed her way through pieties”. In Martha Quest (1952), she drew a fascinating picture of a similar girl, restless, dissatisfied, bored, “tired of the future before it comes”.
At the age of 22, she left her father’s farm for the small town of Salisbury, where she earned her living as a telephone operator and clerical worker. In 1939 she married Frank Charles Wisdom. The marriage lasted five years and produced a son and a daughter. A year after the divorce, she married Gottfried Anton Nicholas Lessing. That marriage also lasted five years and she bore another son, Peter.
She was less than enthusiastic about marriage, once remarking: “I do not think marriage is one of my talents. I’ve been much happier unmarried than married.”
During the early 1940s, Doris Lessing was active in organising a Communist group. Later she was to dismiss youthful politics as a way of creating a social life, but for many years, a great deal of her considerable energy was devoted to meetings, delivering pamphlets and drumming up supporters.
In 1949 Doris Lessing left Rhodesia for England. She had her son, Peter, in her arms, £20 in her handbag and the manuscript of The Grass Is Singing in her suitcase. While waiting for it to be accepted and published, she lived a somewhat precarious existence in some of the seedier parts of London.
These down-and-out-in-London experiences became the subject of In Pursuits of the English. With her wryly funny take on post-war London and its working class inhabitants, Doris Lessing, in the tradition of the outsider, held up a mirror to England and English values. Among the galaxy of oddballs and misfits was the dim-witted landlady who thought Lessing might be black because she came from Africa. “Do I look like one?” replied an astonished Doris Lessing. “I’ve known people before calling it suntan” came the confused and confusing answer.
Nevertheless, this grim and gloomy London was to be Doris Lessing’s home for the rest of her life. Fortunately, the dingy 1950s gave way to the much brighter 1960s and she came to regard the capital as “a lovely place to live”.
Shortly after arriving in England, Doris Lessing formally joined the Communist Party, a decision she subsequently dismissed as “crazy”. Her outspoken views on apartheid led to her being declared a banned person from South Africa and Rhodesia. The ban was lifted 30 years later and she was able to return “home”. It was a visit which revealed how much she had changed and how much she owed the African continent. “Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature among other creatures in a large landscape,” she observed.
During the 1960s, she became more and more disenchanted with formal politics and more interested in psychology and the metaphysical. In her books as well as in life, she explored the possibilities of psychoanalysis, telepathy, meditation, déjà vu and dreams. Like many enthusiasts, she displayed a canny ability to adopt selectively any new theories or beliefs. Thus she could find spiritual satisfaction in Sufism, an aspect of Islam, while at the same time calling Islam itself one of “these bloody, bloody religions”.
In 1986, her love-hate relationship with Islam was reinforced by a visit to Afghanistan as a guest of Afghan Aid. She supported the cause of the Mujahadeen, embarked on a flurry of fundraising activities on their behalf while at the same time loathing and deploring the treatment accorded Muslim women.
Doris Lessing’s greatest strength lay in her apparently inexhaustible facility for chronicling what one critic called the “inner experiences of unhappy women”. Martha Quest (1952) was an exceptionally fine description of the wilfulness and vanity of an adolescent; Summer Before The Dark (1973), sadly less well, examined the middle years of a family woman, subject to her children’s tyranny and in mourning for her lost good looks; and The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) looked at old age with a rather distressing emphasis on defecation.
She continued to produce novels until her 90th year, and wrote two volumes of autobiography, Under My Skin (1994), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize the following year, and Walking in the Shade (1997). She was made a Companion of Honour in 2000 and a Companion of Literature the following year.
Informed by a reporter in 2007 that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, she replied: “Oh, Christ”. She devoted her acceptance speech to a denunciation of the Internet, in what amounted to an elegy to the lost art of reading.
Doris Lessing’s achievements and versatility as a novelist won her many loyal readers whose devotion was tested but unshaken by her eccentricity, perversity and fickleness. Sometimes she wrote in styles that did not suit her, about ideas that did no credit to her intelligence, she even on occasion wrote badly. Yet she remained a writer whose exuberant spill of ideas overcame these lapses and whose energy and perception kept her admirers enthralled until the last page.
Doris Lessing’s first marriage, to Frank Charles Wisdom, was dissolved in 1943. Her second marriage, to Gottfried Anton Nicholas Lessing, ended in divorce in 1949.
Doris Lessing, born October 22 1919, died November 17 2013


David Cameron’s pathetic attempt to criticise the government of Sri Lanka deserves to be seen for what it really is – colonial, paternalistic and playing to an ill-informed home audience (Editorial, 16 November). There can be no condoning of the Sri Lankan regime. It’s clear they are criminal. It’s also clear that our prime minister would not dare to criticise Russia, China, India or the US for their human rights records. There is too much money at stake. If he is to be a champion of the human cause, let him stand against abuse, torture, imprisonment and death wherever it occurs. Britian can no longer allow itself to be seen as a colonial power and only raise its voice where there is little risk to British business interest.
Anish Kapoor
• My memories of Savormix go back further than Ian Jack’s (16 November). I recall my mother cooking with it in the 1930s. The trademark, I believe, was invented by my grandfather JH Goring, who for many years handled the advertising for Mapleton’s Nut Food Co.
Jeremy Goring
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
• May I add to Judith Martin’s suggested speakers for John McDonnell’s “People’s Parliament” (Letters, 16 November): Bob Holman (welfare), Ha-Joon Chang (economic policy), Richard Murphy (taxation) and Laurie Penny (gender equality)?
Michael Somerton
• Anyone dealing in paper ephemera finds the Guardian plastic wrappers invaluable (Letters, 16 November).
Sheila Coe
Skipton, West Yorkshire

Today is the first day of Global Entrepreneurship Week – the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship. To mark the occasion, we have come together to create the Entrepreneurs’ Alliance: a pressure group to stand up for Britain’s wealth creators. Together we represent more than 2.5m small and micro businesses. We are pooling our power and understanding of the small business community to remove the obstacles constructed by an economy too focused on the demands of big business. Entrepreneurs have proved to be the lifeblood of this recovery: the number of VAT-registered businesses is already back to pre-2008 levels, startup rates are at an all-time high and bankruptcies at a six-year low. Big businesses can’t yet boast such an impressive comeback.
To date, there has been no pressure from a single body to rival the lobbying power of big business. Whenever policy-makers are gearing their efforts towards the richest and the loudest, we will combine to point out the unintended consequences to the wider economy. Through this union of entrepreneurial expertise, we want to see an environment in which self-starters are free to challenge established business models, without being bound by the regulation and red tape that reinforces traditional monopolies. Our first action will be to pressure government to ensure proper statistics on the contribution of small businesses. At present, the data are divided and contradictory. This is just the first of many interventions in the public policy debate. We welcome ideas from small business owners the length and breadth of Britain on other ways that we can work to make Britain more entrepreneurial.
Emma Jones Founder, Enterprise Nation
Clive Lewis Head of enterprise, ICAEW
Megan Downey Manager, School for StartUps
Alex Jackman Head of policy, Forum of Private Business
Dawn Whiteley Chief executive, National Enterprise Network
Matt Smith Director, Centre for Entrepreneurs
Dan Martin Editor, BusinessZone.co.uk and UKBusinessForums.co.uk
Graeme Fisher Head of policy, Federation of Small Businesses
Philip Salter Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

I work in a care home in Cambridge, where I live with my British husband. I came over two years ago from Tacloban City, Philippines, which was severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Reports, 16 November). My whole community of the Fisherman’s Village, where my mother is chairman, has been decimated. My family, neighbours and school friends lost their homes and many their lives. Those who have survived the typhoon need food, water and medicine. They desperately need shelter too. I would ask the good readers of the Guardian if they might help with donations to the British Red Cross (www.redcross.org.uk). Even £1 would help.
Jennelyn Carter-Woodrow
• Four years in the Philippines has convinced me that the horrific casualty rate of the regular typhoons owes as much to human as natural causes. Mainly, the unequal distribution of wealth and the influence of the Catholic church. Almost 90% of the country’s wealth is controlled by 9% of its population. In their concrete houses, they are safe from the storms which devastate the flimsy shelters of the less fortunate. The Catholic church’s resistance to birth control has ensured a massive population explosion, further poverty and more typhoon victims.
Brendan Lynch
• In a Philippines without food, clean water, shelter or transport links, how are the world’s reporters and cameramen finding all these things?
Godfrey Holmes
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

As researchers in the final stages of a project on the criminal law and healthcare practice, we have argued since 2011 that there is a need for legislation that will make wilful neglect or mistreatment of all patients a criminal offence (NHS staff face jail for neglect, 16 November).
In no way do we wish to burden professionals who seek to do their best with the threat of jail if they make a mistake, even a serious mistake. The offence should be limited to those rare but alas real cases where a health professional deliberately acts without regard for the welfare of their patients. The offence of wilful neglect is currently limited to patients who are mentally ill or mentally incapacitated. It should protect us all. We are all vulnerable when sick.
The challenge will be to draft legislation that applies to managers as much as to professionals on the frontline and protects all patients in the public and private sector.
Professor Margaret Brazier
Neil Allen
Sarah Devaney
Danielle Griffiths
Hannah Quirk
School of law, University of Manchester
Amel Alghrani
University of Liverpool
• From internal and independent NHS research, it appears that about 20,000 reasonably preventable premature deaths could be avoided each year by complying with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This applies to patient health and safety while undergoing treatment – although not even the Francis report seemed to properly understand the point. The act has not been promoted, complied with nor regulated. By law preventative actions must be reasonable, so as well as preventing harm this would be cost-effective and address the source of medical negligence claims.
I am a former regulator in this field, and have been pursuing these issues, particularly in Scotland, where there is no independent healthcare regulation, only Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which is part of the NHS. It “scrutinises and provides assurance”; it does not regulate NHS Scotland.
Roger Livermore
Linlithgow, West Lothian
•  The outrage expressed in respect of the abuse of people who are frail or vulnerable is something we can all agree. But it is equally morally outrageous to pass the blame for structural deficiencies and government choices that have engendered the conditions for such abuses to take place to overstretched and pressured individuals. Time for Jeremy Hunt to take a moral lead rather than tinkering with the fabric of our great NHS cloth.
Professor Jonathan Parker
Bournemouth University
It is sad to see the latest guff from the coalition regarding the NHS – now we are told that we should be jailing doctors and nurses if they don’t cure our ills. It is not surprising that the idea came from an American.
• I write as an American lawyer and one who suffered from the US medical system, such as it is, for 26 years before returning to the NHS. Here is what the proposed law will achieve. First, virtually nobody will actually be prosecuted. Despite this, doctors will contract an American paranoia of litigation (a New Orleans surgeon videotaped my knee operation – necessitated, I am ashamed to say, by an injury at French cricket – and the experience was more like being deposed than treated). Finally, there will be a huge increase in insurance for everyone in the medical professions, diverting money that should be spent on health.
When will politicians recognise that there are already more than enough laws to deal with the NHS’s relatively infrequent blunders?
Clive A Stafford Smith
Bridport, Dorset
• As Tristram Hunt points out (‘Zealot’ Gove’s model for schools has lost its way says Hunt, 16 November), the education secretary has made thousands of schools directly accountable to him through a contractual system. By contrast, the health secretary has been shuffling off responsibility for the NHS to the point where he is no more than its nominal head. The NHS is not run by the department of health but through a plethora of quangos, with the process set to continue through extensive privatisation. Jeremy Hunt’s proposal to criminalise wilful neglect by health professionals should be seen as simply a further way of evading his responsibility. And it is a fair bet that the GP contracts being announced this week (Report, 16 November) will not be with his department.
Robin Wendt
•  Will the proposed crime of wilful neglect apply to a minister who with smug evasiveness presides over the wrecking of the NHS through unnecessary expensive reorganisation, enforced competition and financial austerity?
David Webb


You quote the Director of Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards that produced the fracking report (1 November), saying: “The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.”  The minister responsible for fracking in England states: “The UK has the most robust regulatory regime in the world for shale gas and companies will only be granted permission to frack for shale if their operations are safe.” Low risk is of course not the same as safe.
There are major questions too about how a government committed to a deregulatory and reduced regulatory agenda, along with chopping budgets – and the resulting major job losses in agencies that have oversight of environmental pollution – will be capable of guaranteeing that fracking companies operate safely.
Also extraordinary is the minister’s unsubstantiated statement that the UK has the most robust regulatory regime for fracking. In other countries the exact chemicals used in fracking have been covered by commercial confidentiality and are not disclosed fully. So how can their risks be fully assessed and cleared for UK use?
The draft review itself does not provide information indicating it is a systematic review and provides minimal information about its method, rigour and results. Public health practitioners look for high-quality systematic reviews before accepting any conclusion about a lack of public health risk.
The review also notes many gaps and specifically excludes consideration of occupational health and safety and climate change. This is a very odd way of assessing public health threats and could for example lead to the impression that climate change does not impact on public health: something strongly refuted by those working in the field.
All in all, the report raises as many questions as it attempts to answer and most certainly does not show that fracking is safe, as the UK Government tries to assert.
Professor Andrew Watterson
Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research
University of Stirling
Impact of criminal law on the NHS
Wilful neglect of patients under NHS care must be prosecuted (report, 16 November), but what about care failings when the system is at complete overstretch? When does fewer nurses on a ward become a criminal act? Reactionary politics on healthcare or welfare may grab the headlines, but services can’t be threatened beyond their capacity into working even harder as a fix for funding or staffing gaps.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Why should everyone be allowed to vote?
You have mis-represented what I said regarding universal suffrage (News in brief, 14 November). I said more electoral power should be given to “wealth creators”, not simply “the wealthy”. As I wrote in the original piece:
“Is the system fair when a shopkeeper pays rates on his house and his business, not to mention a heavy VAT and income tax bill, and gets one vote? Some of his neighbours have contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all, and maybe never will, and they get one vote too”.
Godfrey Bloom MEP, (Yorkshire and the Humber)
Here’s a good idea. When MEP Godfrey Bloom (who wants to strip the vote from the unemployed) stands for re-election, all his constituents, employed or not, can vote against him. Thus he would join the ranks of those he seems to despise. This would not stop him spouting drivel, but at least he would no longer be doing it at our expense.
William Roberts, Bristol
Nothing wrong with eating horsemeat
I see that Princess Anne is urging Britons to consider eating horsemeat (report, 15 November).
Well, during the Second World War, we ate whatever we could get – horsemeat, whalemeat, etc – and a couple of times we may have suspected that a meal described as, say, “rabbit meat” could have been something else. However, as long as it was tasty (and horsemeat was) we enjoyed it!
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
The idea that slaughtering horses for the UK dining table would somehow reduce the suffering of these animals is fanciful. What would happen is that horses would become a commercial product – just like pigs, cattle, poultry and sheep. Yet another livestock animal to be bred, fattened and slaughtered for the pot.
Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent
Icebergs and archimedes
Your caption accompanying the picture of an iceberg separating from Pine Island Glacier in the Antarctic on  16 November claims:  “If it melts, it would increase global sea levels.”
Archimedes would weep! The ancient Greek philosopher recognised that a floating body displaces its own weight of water.
Thus once floating, an iceberg is already causing a sea level rise proportionate to its weight. The same notion applies to that portion of a glacier or ice-shelf which is wholly supported by the sea.
To minimise sea-level rise, we need to take steps to slow down movement or melting of ice still supported on land – Greenland and the Antarctic continent being of chief importance here.
Roger Knight, Swansea


Times readers consider whether holding the Commonwealth summit in a country accused of war crimes will be bode good or ill for democracy
Sir, Last week I would have agreed with Philip Collins (Opinion, Nov 15) about the Prime Minister attending the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka but I have changed my mind.
Thanks to the courage of the British media, unmistakeably supported by the British delegation, we are witnessing a compromised Sri Lankan President and his government being hounded and cajoled by journalists who are free to report to the rest of the world, and being visibly hindered and intimidated as they attempt to do so. There is no “cloak of respectability” on view here: quite the opposite.
It is useful that some Commonwealth countries have boycotted the summit, but a total boycott would have been a blunt instrument at this stage.
The Prince of Wales was right to say that the Commonwealth represents an opportunity for healing. This is a more constructive position than a total boycott, and, though Philip Collins may be ultimately correct that “there is no prospect that Mr Rajapaksa can be cajoled into democratic decency”, we probably stand more chance by making him squirm in the glare of world publicity than by staying away.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent
Sir, The least the Commonwealth could have done was to suspend Sri Lanka for its war crimes against women and children. Why do we suspend countries such as Fiji, which strives to meet its democratic obligations in a racially divided society, for constitutional infractions.
Another cogent reason why Britain chooses to tread lightly on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the human rights issues which dog the Commonwealth is that it is for the Commonwealth countries to choose a successor to the Queen as head. It is not necessarily limited to the Prince of Wales who by all accounts has been placed in a most appalling defensive position as he represents Her Majesty at the summit. Agreeing to hold such a summit in Colombo against the backdrop of its recent civil war has been an own goal.
Vernon Scarborough
Copthorne, W Sussex
Sir, The alleged war crimes perpetrated by members of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in the closing stages of a war against one of the most ruthless terrorist groups the world has seen should be viewed in proper perspective.
Violations of human rights, wherever they occur, call for proper inquiry, but the situation is blurred when both sides of a conflict are involved in such transgressions. The visitor to Sri Lanka in the four years since the war ended will easily see the enormous progress the country has made in this time. There is security as there was never before, and the Sinhalese and Tamils go about their business everywhere with no visible sign of tension or conflict.
These changes are surely to be welcomed, and rather than dwell on failures of the past it is preferable to build on a hard-won victory. In the words of the Buddha, “Hatreds do not cease by hatred but by love”. There are signs that the Sri Lankan Government is making every effort to make this come true and to rebuild the nation where the two ethnic groups live in peace and harmony.
Give them the chance.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe

Lord Waverley, who held an impressive variety of posts, had a knack of turning up everywhere, according to one reader
Sir, A popular story in political circles in the 1950s (“perhaps only ben trovato”, according to his biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett) paid tribute to the prestige and ubiquity of Lord Waverley who held an impressive variety of posts (Opinion, Nov 7, letters, Nov 11,13 & 16).
A high-level delegation from a totalitarian country was greeted on arrival at the Westminster Stairs by the Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Lord Waverley. Later in the day they had a meeting with the Chairman of the UK Advisory Council on Atomic Energy, Lord Waverley. Later still, at a Buckingham Palace party, they encountered Lord Waverley prominent among the Sovereign’s guests. The following day, issues of coastal defence against flooding were on the agenda and, to their amazement, they found themselves again in consultation with Lord Waverley, who was conducting an inquiry into the problem. Finally, to their absolute confusion, when they arrived at a gala performance in their honour at Covent Garden, they were received by the Chairman of the Board, none other than Lord Waverley. In his report the leader of the delegation was said to have expressed total bewilderment: “This is not, as we thought, a democracy: it is an autocracy run by a man named Waverley.”
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

The distinction between hills and mountains has always been a matter of degree and not of mathematical calculation
Sir, The distinction between hills and mountains (report, Nov 14 & letters, Nov 15, 16) can be misleading. In the first edition of his tables of Scottish mountains of 3,000 feet and over, published in 1891, Sir Hugh T. Munro distinguished between “separate mountains” and “tops”, describing the former as those which might fairly be reckoned distinct mountains. The distinction has always been a matter of degree and not of mathematical calculation.
Tom Drysdale
Dirleton, East Lothian

Don Bradman, who wore a cloth cap to face England, admitted that he would have upgraded to a helmet had he been facing the West Indies
Sir, John Stone (letter, November 16) is right to point out that when Don Bradman faced Harold Larwood, notably in the infamous “BodyLine” tour to Australia in 1932-33, his head protection amounted to no more than his treasured Australian baggy green cap.
However, when asked, some 50 years later, if he would have worn a helmet against the might of West Indies and its bowling attack of Roberts, Marshall, Holding, Garner, Croft et al, the Don’s answer was a categorical “Yes”.Michael ClaughtonWisden Ashford, Kent

The Gjallarhorn, blown by the Norse god Heimdall to signal the onset of Ragnarök, had an alternative use as a drinking horn
Sir, How pleasing to see a Bronze Age-type lur being sounded in York (Photograph, Nov 15). However, the reference to Ragnarök, the “Viking apocalypse”, suggests that a drinking horn would have been a more apt type of trumpet. According to Norse mythology, the god Heimdall would blow the Gjallarhorn to signal the onset of Ragnarök, this instrument being described as having an alternative use as a drinking horn.
Clare Gibson
London W4

Children should be taught to walk, ride, then drive in one road safety continuum, so they will have greater awareness of the dangers of each
Sir, You correctly diagnose road user behaviour as a principal cause of cycle collisions (“Think Bike”, leading article, Nov 15).
One approach would be to train youngsters to walk, ride, then drive in one road safety continuum. This would create a generation of new drivers more accepting of their two-wheeled brethren. Collisions, so prevalent in that age group, would be reduced and more would find the confidence to saddle up.
Encouraging people to share the road may be less politically seductive than paint and concrete, but would have greater effect and at far less cost.
David Love
London SW15


SIR – I don’t think many of us can imagine the horrors experienced by our forces in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Our Forces do a job that most of us could not stomach. To do this day after day while witnessing comrades suffering horrific injuries or being killed would unnerve the strongest of us. Wars brutalise those involved and, although I do not condone the killing of the Taliban insurgent, I would hope a degree of leniency would be applied during the sentencing of the marine, given the circumstances.
Norman Hill
SIR – Marine A is guilty, but, allowing for what he had seen and endured, it is not entirely surprising that his judgment warped and he snapped. The Helmand campaign was a dirty, barbaric affair and certainly, the Taliban did not always stick to the letter of the Geneva Convention. This is no excuse, but could you predict how you would react to finding body parts of comrades hung on trees?
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SIR – Contrary to the assertion of David Smith, reopening the Great Central for freight trains would not release useful capacity for extra passenger trains on the existing network.
Precisely because of capacity constraints, very few freight trains now run at the times of peak passenger demand. For instance, the first freight train of the morning towards London on the West Coast Main Line does not pass Watford until 08:35, well after most commuters are on their way to work.
If anything new is to be built, it should be for high-speed inter-city trains, to reap the benefits of speed and avoid the loss of capacity that results from mixing trains of different speeds on the same tracks. The existing lines could then serve local travellers and freight very well indeed.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – If reopening the Great Central Railway is such a good idea, why hasn’t a private syndicate undertaken a feasibility study?
I’m sure it could easily get Government approval for a privately funded, profit-making, freight-only railway. I don’t see any reason why taxpayers’ money should be involved.
Tim Bochenski
Bramhall, Cheshire
SIR – Stephenson and Brunel succeeded because their railways were financed by private capital; not by increasing the public debt, as with HS2.
Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire
Conservative policy
SIR – If the Tories are to have a chance of winning the next election, they need to offer some concrete, popular policies in their next manifesto. May I suggest that they 1) Abolish, or drastically cut, the BBC licence fee; 2) Put an end to all further subsidies for wind and solar energy, together with the removal of all other green levies; 3) Repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights; and 4) Halve the budget for overseas aid.
Matthew d’Ancona will doubtlessly label these proposals extreme and Right-wing. They are not. They would attract widespread public support across the political spectrum.
Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire
Grammar of success
SIR – Most British children are subject to the “one size fits all” egalitarian project of comprehensive education – social engineering on a grand scale.
The academically talented ought to be encouraged in the best interests of the country. A post-Cameron Tory party must pledge to restore grammar schools to give children from any background the freedom to fulfil their potential.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – I was born illegitimate, adopted by a working-class couple and was on my fourth mother figure by the age of seven. I took the 11-plus and was in the top academic grammar school stream during my secondary education. I worked up to becoming a senior lecturer in electronic engineering at an institute of higher education.
My career hinged entirely upon passing the 11-plus and attending an excellent grammar school. I am concerned that such opportunities are increasingly restricted for young people with academic potential.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
Television advertising
SIR – Julian Mounter is not correct to suggest that commercial television interests would love to see the BBC lose the licence fee. They wish to preserve the status quo to ensure that the BBC has no case for muscling in on television advertising.
Those of us who would happily survive with just commercial and subscription television accept the mostly bearable, often useful and sometimes even entertaining adverts as the means by which the programmes are provided. They are preferable to the “plugs” one is subjected to on the BBC, which mostly take the form of smug own-trumpet-blowing.
Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey
Paxman’s voting facts
SIR – Martin Bell was a fine reporter in his day. But he seems to have lost the habit of checking his facts.
I have never said that I did not bother to vote at the last election. I did once not vote – and, as I said in the piece which he imagines he’s referring to, I felt very uncomfortable about it later.
As I pointed out in the same piece – and to Russell Brand – those who cannot be bothered to vote (if only to write “none of the above” on their ballot paper) disqualify themselves from passing comment on the state of the country. People died for the right to vote, and it ought to be respected.
Jeremy Paxman
London W1
Flying chalk
SIR – Jack Elliot pointed out that former members of the Forces who were emergency-trained after the Second World War were excellent teachers. Indeed they were. They brought with them strong discipline and an expectation that pupils would want to learn.
Their task may have been made easier by their being free to exercise control via a range of methods that educationalists would not accept today: well-aimed chalk and board rubbers and cutting sarcasm were among their armoury.
Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
SIR – I was taught by Royal Army Education Corps sergeants in Benghazi in 1948-49. They were brilliant teachers. Our school consisted of a number of rooms above an Arab warehouse. Because there were so few British children there to make up teams, we girls had to learn how to play football and cricket, and the boys had to learn how to play netball and rounders. These were played on a dirt “playground”.
Beverley Battey
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
Bring home the Bacon
SIR – I read with amazement that a Francis Bacon painting was sold this week for £89 million. How someone could watch the news of the typhoon destruction in the Philippines, with its thousands of starving and homeless people, and then go and spend £89 million on a picture, is beyond me.
Neil Ross
Kirkton of Maryculter, Kincardineshire
Secret of fresh carrots
SIR – Where is John Mills buying and storing his carrots? Buy them loose and store in a dark place. They will last for weeks.
David Edwards
White Roding, Essex
SIR – I always put carrots into a brown paper bag to keep them fresh, and to prevent them from going limp. However, I ensure that they are not bought already polywrapped.
Penelope Heeley
Keyworth, Nottinghamshire
SIR – Simply wrap them tightly in aluminium cooking foil, place in the salad drawer of the fridge and voila, they will remain fresh for at least two weeks.
June E Powell
Greasby, Cheshire
SIR – I put them all in green bags and store them in the fridge’s salad box. These bags are available at supermarkets and can be used many times.
Patricia Carter
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
SIR – Do as my wife has done: make a double-layer fabric bag, lined with bubble wrap and secured at the top with string or Velcro. Store in the fridge and, hey presto, perfect carrots for a considerable period.
Frank Sanders
Allestree, Derbyshire

SIR – If the Prime Minister accedes to the demand of Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, that any reductions in green subsidies be offset by funding inefficient renewable energy from general taxation, the resulting pledge would be just as much of a con trick as the price freeze proposed by Ed Miliband.
This latest disagreement in the senior ranks of government emphasises the futility of the Coalition. While it made some progress during its first couple of years, in reducing the massive deficit left by Labour and slowly moving the economy in the right direction again, the past year has seen more and more conflict that has prevented the Government from making progress in a number of vital areas.
It is time for the Conservatives to make it clear to Nick Clegg and his colleagues that there can be no further concessions to Lib Dem sensibilities at the expense of what is right for Britain.
John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire
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SIR – Where are the performance figures to tell us how wind farms will affect global temperature, and when? What effect did Kyoto have?
In the present economic environment, attempts to control the climate need to be not only effective but also cost-effective if they’re going to continue to be funded by green taxes. Shooting in the dark to convince people that “something is being done” is too facile a ploy.
David Tong
SIR – The wholesale price of electricity is presently some 5p per kwh. Standby output would normally fetch more and unpredictable output less.
Thanks to the Green lobby, the unpredictable electricity generated by photovoltaic panels is accorded not just a premium price but an extravagantly subsidised one of 14.3 per kwh.
Needless to say, the tab is picked up by electricity consumers, many of whom are poor, live in flats, lack south-facing roofs or are too far north.
Much the same can be said of “free” but erratic wind power. In addition to needing standby power facilities, it will require a considerable investment in the national grid. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
SIR – This Government must dictate a national strategy for energy production from all resources before the lights go out. Mr Cameron must replace Ed Davey with an energy secretary who can think clearly and act sensibly. His strategy must override devolved parliaments and prevent Alex Salmond’s ridiculous ideas for energy production in Scotland.
Peter J Fitch
Elgin, Morayshire
SIR – Ed Davey calls for improved energy efficiency. In economic terms, efficiency means achieving the most cost-effective solutions – doing more with less. Mr Davey’s pursuit of renewables is the exact opposite – doing less with more.
Doug Landau
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – Your leading article claims that “Wind farms receive at least £100 per megawatt-hour in subsidies, twice the market price for electricity”. This is not correct.
Onshore wind farms receive a subsidy in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates; 0.9 of a ROC per MWh generated. Each ROC is worth roughly £46, equating to a subsidy of roughly £42 per MWh, which is significantly less than your claim of £100.
Jeffrey Corrigan
Broadview Energy
London W1
SIR – Ed Davey insists that we must pay an extra 5 per cent tax on our fuel bills to invest in greener technology for the future. However, the Government to which he belongs puts out tenders and takes the best ship-building deals it can get for the Royal Navy. Does it take into account the energy policies of the countries where these will be built?
If the environment is so important that every one of us has to pay more tax, then it should also figure in decisions on procurement, both to create a level playing field commercially and to save the planet.
Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – The recent calls that Berlin should “face up to its historic responsibility” and speed up the return of the recently uncovered stolen treasures, can give the impression that the looting of art and cultural artefacts was a uniquely Nazi phenomenon. Fintan O’Toole’s excellent article (Culture Shock, November 9th) on the looted treasures in Ireland, stemming from our time of active participation in the British empire, puts paid to that notion.
The long-held Chinese view of the West as “barbarian” was reinforced by the frenzy of looting and destruction of some of that civilisation’s oldest shrines as, for example, in the burning of the Old Summer Palace and Garden (the “Yuanmingyuan”) by the British-led Anglo French expedition of 1860. They estimate that 1.6 million looted objects from this event alone are still extant abroad and are calling for their restoration.
The Egyptians, perhaps, have been the most vociferous of all in seeking the return from the former colonial powers, of their priceless heritage. Their calls, too, are being ignored.
Ireland’s relatively high standing in the UN and in the “non-aligned” world derives in part from its perceived tradition of resistance to colonialism over a long period of time. It might be a fitting gesture, therefore, to the men and women of 1916 if an Irish government were to direct its museums and galleries to begin the process of repatriation of all identifiably stolen treasures, as and from that centenary date. More importantly, such a gesture would put pressure on London, Paris, Berlin and other former imperial capitals and help bring to a close one of the more visible and shameful reminders of Europe’s colonial past. – Is mise,
Ashfield Park,

Sir, – One would imagine that in the wake of the many recent scandals concerning the leaking of sensitive personal information that have broken this year (WikiLeaks, NSA surveillance, financial, etc) there would now, more than ever, be a massive clamour for more openness and transparency.
It is, at the very least, surprising that the Freedom of Information Bill 2013, Schedule 1, Part 1 (pp 72 -75) lists 23 “partially included agencies”, and Schedule 1, Part 2 (pp 75 -76) lists no fewer than 38 “exempt agencies” – mainly State and semi-State bodies (including An Post, Bord Gais, CIÉ, Coillte, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, ESB, Irish Aviation Authority, National Oil Reserves Agency, Irish Water, Waterways Ireland, VHI, the various airport authorities and port companies).
These bodies receive substantial State funding, which derives from taxpayers’ money, and provide services to the public. Why are we, thus, not privy to freedom of information from these bodies?
Can this be something for this Government, which has championed a return to transparency, to be proud of? – Yours, etc,
Sunday’s Well Road,
Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones (Health + Family supplement, November 13th) claims “no one needs vitamin D supplements unless they stay indoors all day or wear clothes that completely cover every inch of skin”. This dangerous advice contradicts the reality of vitamin D sources for populations of northern regions, including Ireland, where during winter months 55 per cent of the adult population are deficient or at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is critical for the healthy functioning of the human beyond just bone health (ie osteoporosis, as discussed in Dr Jones’s article, and rickets). In recent years, studies have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and cancer, and autoimmune (eg multiple sclerosis), infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with poorer prognosis and survival in some cancer patients.
The main source of vitamin D is the production in skin following exposure to UVB from sunlight. However, in northern regions (including Ireland) the intensity of UVB is insufficient to induce skin synthesis from October to April, a period referred to as “vitamin D winter”. During this time very little (if any) vitamin D can be synthesised – even if one were to sunbathe for the whole day.
In Ireland, users of vitamin supplements have significantly higher Vitamin D levels compared to non-users. Dietary sources of vitamin D are scarce and insufficient to maintain healthy vitamin D levels; therefore, vitamin D supplements are by far the most important source for populations living at high latitudes – particularly in winter months. I, for one, took my supplement this morning. – Yours, etc,
Associate Professor of Epidemiology,
Trinity College Dublin,

Sir, – Robert Gerwarth writes a mostly excellent review of Richard Overy’s book The Bombing War (Weekend Review, November 9th) whose thesis is that allied bombing was useless, ineffectual and brutal particularly in the use of incendiary bombs.
However, Gerwarth states the British were the first to “systematically bomb civilians”. He is wrong. Much worse than the initial bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam, was the unprovoked bombing of Belgrade for three days, ordered in a fit of pique by Hitler after the overthrow of Paul’s government that signed a pact allowing German troops to transit Yugoslavia to attack Greece. The bombardment against a defenceless city without a declaration of war lasted 72 hours without a break (April 6th-9th, 1941) until Belgrade was wiped out.
The Maltese nation endured such relentless bombing (1941-43) that the country was awarded a collective George Cross and the aerial bombing was systematically undertaken by the Germans to terrorise the highly strategic island into surrender.
The destruction of Guernica in 1936 by German bombers was the very first test of the effects of systematic bombing on innocent civilians and the RAF barely existed on paper that year. With one year to go before the end of the second World War, Germany was systematically bombing the UK with V1 and V2 rockets and more lethal weaponry was in the offing including rockets that could be fired from E-boats.
The debate is worthwhile, but as moral inferences will be drawn all the facts need to be aired systematically. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Peter Craven (November 14th) states he has managed to reduce his monthly bill for prescription medicine from €144 per month to €90 per month. Well done Mr Craven, but I can go one better.
For the past few months I have been getting my medicines in Newry. I have reduced my cost from €144 per month to €20 per month. I do have to make the drive to Newry but this is only about one hour each way and costs around €30 for petrol and toll charges. The pharmacy in Newry will supply six months’ worth of drugs at a time as long as I can provide the appropriate prescription so I only have to make the trip twice a year. I calculate my annual saving at €1,428. – Yours, etc,  
Maywood Avenue, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Wouldn’t you think that to celebrate our exit from the bailout, we could manage to send a bit more than a paltry million and a half euros to the Philippines? The United Nations is seeking at least €300 million in aid for that devastated country. Someone paid half that amount for three pictures of a fellow sitting on a chair . . . It costs a family €9,000 a month to live in south Dublin. Meanwhile, in downtown Tacloban . . . – Yours ,etc,
Stradbally North,

Sir, – Dr Elva Johnston (October 31st) categorically dismisses any alternative theory concerning St Patrick’s origins and holds fast to the traditional view that he came from Roman Britain.
In the book Rediscovering Saint Patrick – A New Theory of Origins” (Columba Press, 2013) to which Dr Johnston indirectly refers, I have argued that St Patrick’s “Britanniis” which is the name given for his homeland in the oldest surviving copy of Patrick’s Confessio, preserved in the Book of Armagh, is a reference to the region we now call Brittany and not to the island of Britain, exclusively.
I have taken this view on the basis that the name “Britannia” or “Britanniis” may have been applied to Brittany at the time of the rebellion of Magnus Maximus (who ruled as emperor of the west from 385-389 AD) as a result of a strategic settlement of the ancient Britons in that region, which was known to the Romans as Armorica.
This gives an historical context to St Patrick’s early life and captivity and perhaps sheds light on the true meaning of this key geographical reference since if he had been born in Brittany or settled in that region as a child, he would have grown up understanding “Britanniis” to be his homeland. All this pre-dates by several hundred years Dr Johnston’s so called “Cult of St Patrick” which I understand was never as significant or widespread an influence in Brittany as she claims it to be.
Contrary to what Dr Johnston claims in her letter, none of the key geographical references mentioned in the Confessio have ever been securely identified. She is right that many scholars (like herself) consider St Patrick’s origins in Britain to be an indisputable historical fact, while the evidence, in my view, suggests that it is not.
Several of the early “Lives” of St Patrick published by Fr John Colgan in 1647, contain references to a region on the continent known to the ancient Irish writers as Armoric Letha or Lethania Brittania, which they identify as the place where St Patrick was taken captive. This is clearly a reference to the coastal region which surrounded the ancient Roman port at Aleth (now St Malo) where the Legio Martenensis or Legion of Mars was stationed at the close of the fourth century.
The notion that St Patrick was taken captive from Brittany is a view shared by the majority of early Breton historians and recorded by several Irish and continental writers, ancient and modern.
I must, therefore, share with you my sense of dismay and disappointment at the tone of Dr Johnston’s letter. In my view, the extremist position she takes in refusing to countenance any alternative theory reflects a certain academic arrogance and authoritarianism which does not do justice to the complexity of the subject. M Charles de Gerville, a Breton antiquarian writing in the 1840s regarded the established theory of Britain, to be “a gross historical error” and I agree with him. Contrary to what Dr Johnston says, there is much about St Patrick that remains a mystery and it is incumbent upon her as an academic historian not to close the doors to further inquiry.
The Confessio website, hosted by the Royal Irish Academy, to which she refers, is indeed a magnificent resource for the study of Patrick although it is interesting to note that the academy has obviously given its full and unqualified support to the traditional theory of origins in its most recent publication of St Patrick’s Confessio (Pádraig McCarthy (transl.), My Name is Patrick . . . Dublin: RIA, 2011) where the name for St Patrick’s homeland “Britanniis” is again translated as Britain, removing the plural form of the original and still referring to the island of Britain, exclusively.
Dan Brown once said, “sometimes the translation or mistranslation of one single word can re-write history”. Could the experts in Dublin have possibly got it wrong? – Yours, etc,
Holy Cross Church,

Sir, – On Friday, in a short walk up Grafton Street, in Dublin, I saw separate cases of gardaí booking beggars at ATMs. If the gardaí had shown, or showed, such diligence as to our bankers, lawyers, clerics, oil companies, accountants and politicians, there would be fewer poor for them to harass.
The curriculum at Templemore needs an urgent overhaul, as do the criteria we apply to select our guardians of the peace. – Yours, etc,
Newmarket Square,

Sir, – I have been waiting for someone in the media to comment on the lovely photograph of Michael O’Leary on the front page of your Business and Innovation supplement (November 11th). There he is in a beautiful suit, double-cuffed shirt with links and well-matched tie. He looked wonderful, surely an augury of the future image of the airline? Long may he look so well. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I understand that the peoples of Sweden and Switzerland were the only Europeans to suffer less from violence than the people of Ireland these past 100 years; and Ireland’s good fortune stems from the actions of Pearse, Connolly and their comrades.
Had those comrades not fought in 1916 polite ladies would have offered them white feathers. It should be recalled that the first shots fired in anger in Western Europe in 1914 were fired at unarmed civilians in Dublin’s Westland Row by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and that before Tom Clarke, Patrick Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh faced a British firing squad in 1916, Ireland’s best known pacifist, Francis Sheehy Skeffington had met the same fate before a British firing squad.,
Paddy McEvoy (November 14th) does violence to the historical record, apparently deliberately. He may, however, have been made a sucker for the historical poppycock peddled by unscrupulous merchants. There are some of them still about but a stone’s throw from Bachelor’s Walk, and as ill-willed as ever towards the people of Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Palmers Green,

Sir, – We have been informed that there is to be a referendum to allow marriage equality in 2015. This will only affect civil marriage as defined in this Republic. Can I suggest that you stop including theological discussions ( Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh, November 14th and others) in this debate.
I do not expect to find sports reporting in the business pages, so I would expect that you should at least set the tone for church/State separation and afford theological debates their own space away from debates on our Constitution. – Yours, etc,
Highland Avenue,

Sir, – It has been suggested that Sligo County Council will be required to pay in excess of €7 million in legal costs in the Lissadell case.
It might be deemed unfortunate that with some foresight, for this sum, it could have bought and restored the house and estate itself, on behalf of the people of Sligo, and thus allowed public access to remain? – Yours, etc,
Orwell Road,

Sir, – What has happened to our little sparrows? I haven’t seen any in the past 18 months. I used to take great delight in watching those birds eat from my bird feeders as I enjoyed my breakfast. I also had robins. I would like to hear the views of the readers who seem to be more interested in TDs and banks. Money did not make this world. – Yours, etc,
Dromore Road,

Irish Independent:

Madam – Just finished reading a very topical and sobering article by Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). Quite an appropriate date.
Also in this section
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Commercial rates cut year on year
Anyone for a debate?
The quotes from Brendan Smith, TD, were quite poignant and Mr Harris’s thoughts were very complementary and worth reading a few more times – which prompted me to think that it might be about time that we convened a forum for reconciliation and forgiveness, to include the full lifetime of the country.
None of the horrors of our history touched me or my family, but we were greatly touched by the horrors inflicted by all sides, on all other sides. And it continues to be painful to see the Civil War being played out every other day in Dail Eireann.
In another Sunday newspaper, the Junior Minister for Finance, Brian Hayes, is quoted as saying something like “let’s leave the past behind” (not verbatim) while his boss, on his first day in office, took the time to climb up a ladder and take down Dev’s portrait and replace it with Mick’s. (By the way, that routine repeats with every change of government.)
If there was a settlement of reconciliation and forgiveness, all the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael stuff could be confined to the archives and we could get on with the business of getting women into the priesthood and running the country.
RJ Hanly,
Madam – I wish the leader of Sinn Fein would just disappear. End of.
Paul O’Sullivan,
Madam – When will the Sunday Independent stop attacking Irish republicans? The ranting from Eoghan Harris and Eilis O’Hanlon (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) would make Murdoch blush. O’Hanlon says that Sinn Fein is toxic, that political parties in Dublin will find it difficult to deal with the party after the next election and she dreads the thought of Sinn Fein in government. Yet she ignores the fact that political parties in the British establishment have been dealing with Sinn Fein for decades, and loyalists have been in government with Sinn Fein since the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement. The British Queen formally met Martin McGuinness, yet according to O’Hanlon, political parties in the south are so precious that they would be unable to work with Sinn Fein. Is this serious journalism?
It is time to look forward, move on and seek ways to bring communities together and address the challenges we now face, including the crisis in the health service, the growing inability of people to pay their mortgages, failing businesses and the crisis facing the elderly.
Joe Feeney,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Madam – Your editorial about Sinn Fein (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013) stated it was time for Adams to go before he tainted “a new generation of politicians such as Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald with the inglorious odours that continue to emanate from the nether regions of Sinn Fein’s even more inglorious history”.
However, it will take far more than Adams or McGuinness retiring to draw a line under their past actions.
The ‘new’ generation of Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald, by their own admissions, have been involved with Sinn Fein since they were teenagers, which is well over 20 years ago during its terrorism campaign. It begs the question of why, out of all the political options available, did Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald choose to join an organisation with murderous links. They gladly signed up to the ethos of that organisation and have never expressed any qualms about the people they were involved with then, or their actions, and who they continue to be involved with, such as people like Mr Ferris.
If the price of peace is that people who committed sickening terrorist atrocities against innocent people never see the inside of a cell that is a bitter price to pay, but perhaps a necessary one. However, such people should never receive clemency without admitting to their past.
Mr Doherty and Ms McDonald cannot pretend they too are not already stained by their silence on the actions of their colleagues, who they defended so robustly and continue to defend. If people in Sinn Fein want to make a genuine claim to be part of a new generation, they must make a clear break in their links to the people who do not.
If Sinn Fein genuinely wants to be accepted as part of the parliamentary democratic process then it needs to abide by the same rules as every other party in that process. Obviously this requires all past participants in its campaign of terror to admit their role.
Desmond FitzGerald,
Canary Wharf, London
Madam – I’m writing regarding Niamh Horan’s review/opinion piece on Alex Ferguson’s interview (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013).
I would like to express my delight that it was brought to the attention of the public how lame Friday’s ‘Q&A’ was. No matter how loyal to the ‘Boss’ – as Eamonn Holmes continuously put it – there’s no hiding from the fact that this book tour is a complete money racket. Mr Holmes fell way below expectancy level, even little things like apologising for coughing into his mic on a number of occasions and also not making eye contact with his interviewee after asking a question, instead scrolling down his list of questions. For all that Ferguson has done for Manchester United, I personally felt this was most unlike the man who will be remembered as one of the greatest managers to ever live.
Mark Colgan,
Celbridge, Co Kildare
Madam – I feel a Christy Moore song about Newbridge Credit Union will enter the charts any day now.
Robert Sullivan,
Bantry, Co Cork
Madam – According to recent reports we are about to exit the bailout. But I for one am questioning if this is so. Some years ago, Pope Francis, as the then archbishop of Buenos Aires, stated: “The economic and social crisis and the consequent increase in poverty, has its causes in policies inspired by those forms of neo-liberalism that consider profits and the laws of the market as absolute parameters to the detriment of the dignity of people and nations.”
Unfortunately this kind of analysis has not been mentioned in recent times in Ireland. We would benefit if this were taken seriously. Let us not be deceived by the illusion that everything will be OK when it is business as usual.
Padre Liam Hayes, SVD
Madam – Louise McBride stated that funeral costs in Ireland are out of control (Sunday Independent, November 10, 2013). It’s no wonder, if the funeral businesses are unregulated. Its about time the Irish Association of Funeral Directors examined this issue.
The price of a typical funeral varies from €4,000 to €6,000, and a grave with a headstone could come to €10,000. Cremations could set you back more than €2,000. I am sure this will come as a surprise to many people. We have no choice but to pay.
Bernard Rafter,
Berkshire, England
Sunday Independent


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