2 December 2013 Drainage Plants
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to collect the Ambassador and deliver him saafly can the do that? safely? Priceless.
1 books sold sweep leaves replant plants
Scrabble Mary wins just over 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.


Jean Kent, who has died aged 92, was the “bad girl” of British films in the 1940s, specialising in trollops, minxes and brazen hussies opposite such leading men as Michael Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Dirk Bogarde and Stewart Granger.
It was all an act, for in real life she enjoyed a long and happy marriage. Yet she was loved as one of that stable of beauties, including Margaret Lockwood, Patricia Roc and Phylis Calvert, who made post-war British movies less drab than they might have been.
She was marked out, however, by a certain abrasiveness on screen that none of her rivals possessed, which meant she could take on tougher roles than they could play. With her red hair and hazel eyes, she also looked particularly fine in Technicolor, as The Man Within (1947) and Trottie True (1949) demonstrated. Sadly, many of her films were in black and white.
Born Joan Mildred Field on June 29 1921 in Brixton, South London, she adopted a variety of stage names before settling on Jean Kent. At different times she was Peggy Summers and Jean Carr, finally adopting the name Jean Kent in 1943 in It’s That Man Again, a film version of the popular radio show ITMA, starring Tommy Handley.
Her parents were steeped in showbusiness. Her mother, the former Nina Norre, was a ballet dancer, and her father performed as Norman Field, a music-hall harpist. His real name was Summerfield, but Jean was not given his name as he and Nina Norre married only when their daughter was four.
The baby made her debut in 1923, on stage in Glasgow as an 18-month old waving a flag in Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly. The following year she appeared at a children’s matinee in Cork with a spirited rendering of the song, In Pasadena. In July 1932, aged just 11, Jean stood in for her mother, who had injured a toe, at the Theatre Royal, Bath, ultimately completing the tour as her understudy.
She was educated at Bedford College of Dancing and subsequently at a convent school, where “we were allowed to dance, too — as long as we didn’t show too much of our knickers”. She never attended drama school, picking up the art of acting on the wing from her parents and colleagues.
From 1935 to 1938, still a teenager, she was employed as a chorus girl and soubrette at the Windmill Theatre. There she paraded the stage in a pair of net knickers embroidered with a telephone number that was, happily, not her own. Though her dancing technique was flawless, the producer Vivian Van Damm (known to the Windmill Girls as “VD”) felt she lacked personality and eventually fired her. To make good the deficiency, she toured the provinces and played for two years in repertory.
Back in London, she was a precocious Principal Boy in Sleeping Beauty at Hammersmith and auditioned for 18-year-old Clive Dunn, future star of Dad’s Army, for the revue Everybody Cheer. He confessed: “She was engaged immediately, and I fell in love with her almost as quickly.”
Her big break came when she was hired as a dancer and understudy in the Max Miller show Apple Sauce (1941) at the Palladium. During rehearsals one of the leading ladies was sacked and Jean was asked to replace her at short notice. She was then spotted by Weston Drury, casting director at Shepherd’s Bush studios, and signed to a contract with Gainsborough Pictures.
Her screen debut had come in The Rocks of Valpre (1935) but the following eight years had seen her take only small parts in B-pictures, many of which are now lost. Initially at Gainsborough it seemed she would also be restricted in her roles. After It’s That Man Again (1942), she appeared with Arthur Askey in Miss London Ltd and Bees in Paradise. Of these early films, she noted: “I always said that if they opened a script and read, ‘A girl appears in cami-knickers’, they would send for me.”
Set in a female prisoner of war camp, 2,000 Women (1944) seemed more of the same. Yet the role of Bridie Johnson, a stripper who shares her favours with the Germans and is suspected of being a camp fifth-columnist, offered Jean Kent a first real chance to act. She followed it with Fanny by Gaslight and Waterloo Road. Her role in the latter, as a brassy, South London scold, was small but conspicuous enough to mark her out as a rising star.
It was two years, however, before she landed her first leading role, in Caravan (1946). In the interim, she had played supporting parts in such pictures as Champagne Charlie (1944), a Tommy Trinder musical about the heyday of music hall, Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and The Wicked Lady (1945).
Caravan, set in Spain in the 1840s and based on a novel by Lady Eleanor Smith, was the quintessential Gainsborough bodice ripper, with Stewart Granger, the subject of a murder attempt, nursed back to health by a sensuous gipsy girl (Jean Kent). The presence of a rival, the fair Orianna, required Jean Kent to play a heroine — but no lady.
Off screen there were few fireworks between Kent and Granger; instead she fell in love with his Austrian-born stand-in and horse-riding double, Jusuf Ramart. It had been love at first sight. Even before she met him she was smitten by his photograph and exclaimed: “Oh, Mummy, buy me that!” They married in 1946, with Granger as best man.
On screen, however, the Kent-Granger double act was so potent that Gainsborough rushed them into another costume picture — a fanciful biography of the violinist Paganini, with Kent and Phyllis Calvert enraptured by his double stopping. It failed to repeat the success of Caravan.
Other films of the late Forties included The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947), in which she was Googie Withers’s spiteful sister, the thriller Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948), and the portmanteau picture Bond Street (1948) — four stories written around a bride’s wedding attire: the dress, the pearls, the veil and the bouquet. Jean Kent featured in the pearls episode as the slinky temptress for whom burglar Derek Farr is prepared to commit murder.
Only Trottie True (1948) partly broke the mould — a light Edwardian comedy, in which she played a Gaiety Girl, whose upward mobility lands her in a lord’s bed. She was still naughty, but this time also nice.
Jean Kent’s biggest personal triumph was another film of 1948, Good Time Girl, then almost as notorious as No Orchids for Miss Blandish. She played a thoroughly bad lot — a young girl sent to a remand home after becoming involved in West End sleaze. Escaping in the confusion of an all-girl dormitory brawl, she becomes a gangster’s moll and ends up as a prostitute. Lurid and melodramatic, it had to be toned down at the censor’s insistence but, predictably, became a box-office hit and the film Jean Kent never entirely lived down.

Her Favourite Husband (1950) gave her a more sympathetic role in another controversial picture. Thieves at the production company’s Wardour Street premises made off with a copy of the first reel, mistaking it for reel six, which was a collectors’ piece. Banned by the censor, it showed Robert Beatty spanking Jean Kent over his knee.
More wickedness followed. In The Woman in Question (1950), she was a murder victim seen in different lights by the five men with whom she was involved — as a drunk, a snob, a vixen, a nymphomaniac and (the sole concession to virtue) a nice girl looking for love. It was a striking performance, though largely in one key. As Michael Redgrave’s faithless wife in The Browning Version (1951), she made audiences wonder why he had borne her viper’s tongue so long.
It was a character part several years older than her actual age, encouraging casting directors to see her in a more mature light – a mixed blessing for an actress. She was understandably touchy on the subject. In 1951, after successfully appealing against a £2 fine for drinking after hours at a Sheffield party, she waxed indignant because her age had been given in court as 35, whereas “I was 30 on June 29.”
Through much of the Fifties, Jean Kent concentrated on the theatre, appearing in plays and pantomimes (notably a Prince Charming in Cinderella) for which she had hitherto had little time. On balance, she proved a poor judge of scripts and several of the productions in which she appeared closed after a few performances. The 1952 play The Moonraker, about cavaliers and Roundheads and written by the censor ATL Watkyn, lasted five nights; the 1956 musical play She Smiled at Me only four.
Onscreen she appeared opposite Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957, only for her musical number to be cut from the final print. Though the following year she took a cameo role in Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse, worthwhile parts increasingly proved hard to come by. She was in the Boris Karloff horror picture Grip of the Strangler (1958) and in Please Turn Over (1959), the film version of a West End farce about a girl who writes a saucy bestseller based on her family and friends. The director and many of the cast were regulars from the Carry On team.
Her last films were Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons (1960), in which she played one of the mass murderer’s Landru’s victims, and Shout at the Devil (1976), a Lee Marvin/Roger Moore action picture in which she had eighth billing after René Kolldehoff and Karl Michael Vogler.
In later years she was seen more frequently in television. She played Good Queen Bess in a 1962 series based on the life of Sir Francis Drake and subsequently appeared in such long-running series as Emergency Ward 10, Up Pompeii, Crossroads, Lovejoy and Shrinks.
After his own acting career, Jean Kent’s husband, who anglicised his name to Hurst, became a property tycoon in Malta. They spent much of their later years in Valletta before he died in 1989.
She made her last public appearance in June 2011 at the National Film Theatre, at a screening of Caravan during which she was given a standing ovation.
Jean Kent, born June 29 1921, died November 30 2013


Luke Martell et al complain that the University of Sussex spent £81,812 in legal fees to end an occupation last spring (Letters, 29 November). The occupation was costing the university nearly £40,000 a week and lasted over six weeks. The cost of cleaning up and repairing damage was nearly £90,000. The money spent to end the occupation – and the eviction followed a demonstration that culminated in violence and theft – was fully justified.
John Duffy
Registrar and secretary, University of Sussex
• Your report (26 November) of the Progress event Campaign for a Labour Majority suggested it was a hustings for London mayor. If it had been, I should have been invited as I am the only person to have declared my candidacy for the Labour nomination. Progress told a colleague who complained that it was not a hustings, merely a meeting to discuss winning London in 2015. So I was not given the chance to set out the vision I have already presented to 25 Labour meetings around the capital.
Christian Wolmar
• Upheavals in the financial sector (Report, 29 November) suggests a variation on an old joke. Q: what’s the difference between a crisis in a capitalist bank and a crisis in a co-operative bank? A: the capitalist bank gets more capital, but the capitalists get the co-operative bank.
Bryn Jones
• David Gibson’s numbering on the cruciform cartoon with the letters on Araucaria (30 November) missed a final tribute. Like anyone else, crossword compilers are buried 6 down and 4 across.
Dr Ceri Brown
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

Theresa May is believed to have authorised up to £110,000 in a failed bid to deport to Nigeria an asylum-seeker who has been on hunger strike for 100 days (Report, 30 November). Ifa Muaza chose to starve himself rather than face Boko Haram, who slaughter schoolchildren and churchgoers. Mr Muaza says he grew up with men who joined Boko Haram. He knows them. They know him. His refusal to join sounds both credible and brave.
Having joined the hunger strike of white women detainees in Pretoria central prison in 1964, I know that it is not done lightly. The asylum-seeking Nigerian journalist-cum-father in my novel The Other Side of Truth begins a hunger strike in detention in Britain. Had I dreamed up a plot of such cruel folly and heartlessness as May has provided, it would have been dismissed as too far-fetched, even propagandist. Has our home secretary prepared her statement if and when Mr Muaza dies in detention? I am reminded of apartheid police minister Jimmy Kruger’s words on Steve Biko’s death: Dit laat my koud. “It leaves me cold.” What has happened to Britain’s moral climate that our home secretary feels her actions are acceptable?
Beverley Naidoo
• You report a “sustained broadside” against the European court of human rights by Lord Sumption (29 November). A closely argued case for why we need the ECHR was presented by Nicolas Bratza on 26 November in the annual Rothschild Foster lecture. Publishing that lecture would be an excellent Guardian contribution to balanced debate.
Iain Orr

In his Margaret Thatcher lecture, Boris Johnson has exposed himself as a subscriber to the odious philosophy of the “undeserving poor” – and (by alluding to Gordon Gekko) the deserving rich (Report, 29 November). Johnson fancies himself to be clever, and has soundbite opinions for every occasion; but they are attention-seeking rather than considered, and tell us more about his personal ambition than anything else.
Millions are on the breadline as a result of Tory welfare cuts; food banks are struggling to meet demand; loan sharks wax fat; hospitals are treating cases of malnourishment and rickets. These things, in Johnson’s clever-clogs world-view, affect only the despised 16% of our species, so they can be disregarded.
And in response to tabloid-inflated hysteria about an influx of Romanian and Bulgarian welfare-hounds, Johnson cracks a cheap jibe about Transylvanians and tents – an undisguised slur on the Roma. A man who insults the underprivileged (whether foreign or home-grown) from a platform of privilege and conceit is neither wise nor trustworthy.
Giles Swayne
•  ”Intelligent” Boris Johnson commits the age-old folly of mistaking good fortune, selfishness, narcissism and aggression for intelligence, but unwittingly demonstrates the wrongness of his position. The ability not to think too much is a boon to making money; an intelligent person might see there’s more to life than greed.
Even if his statistics are right and meaningful – which is doubtful – what proportion of this 2% with IQs above 130 are actually “the rich”? I imagine most of these are educators, academics, healthcare professionals etc, on public sector pay, while his putatively intelligent rich are either born into indolent wealth or spend their time money-grubbing because that represents both the zenith of their skills and the full extent of their one-dimensional personalities.
What is clear now, for those for whom it was ever in doubt, is the reality of Tory values: the disdain with which they view the less fortunate and the reason why the annual cull of the impoverished through malnutrition and hypothermia is not a problem to them.
Dr Stephen Riley
Stalybridge, Cheshire
•  IQs don’t explain. They reflect what you have and what you have been given. Over the past century they were used not only to “explain” this piffle about cornflakes but, more insidiously, to explain differences in achievement between black and white schoolchildren in the US. Until it was discovered that blacks raised in the north of the US had higher IQ scores than whites from the south.
IQ was hatched as an idea just after the Victorian era. It melded nicely with “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate” – the motto of the Bullingdon club, perhaps. Sadly, some people still believe this – and, presumably, that the 40% of children who leave school with precious little do so because they’re thick.
Professor Gary Thomas
School of Education, University of Birmingham
•  Linking IQ and wealth is an insult to all those intelligent people in professions such as teaching and nursing, who generally do what they do because they find it enjoyable and rewarding while knowing they are not going to become rich. In his book IQ, Stephen Murdoch describes how Alfred Binet developed intelligence tests to identify children that need extra help with school learning. Murdoch concludes however that while Binet gave us a test that roughly gauged mental abilities, more than a century later we are still waiting for the next jump forward.
Hungry children are not good learners or even good school attenders and so the rampant capitalism that Johnson preaches leads directly to impaired intelligence.
Joseph Cocker
•  I was challenged years ago to try to join a society that only recruited people with high IQs. I passed the test, and may even have felt an infantile cockiness when I started going to meetings. There, however, I discovered that IQ tests indicate nothing other than the ability to pass IQ tests. Some of the members were rather dull, narcissistic and even, by any standards, somewhat stupid. Researching further I discovered that intelligence is unspecific. Different intelligences are manifested by plumbers, mathematicians, brain surgeons, taxi-drivers, Indigenous Australians and London mayors. One might perhaps even argue that financiers, plutocrats, economists, bankers and the very wealthy are in some sense downright stupid for the destruction of social cohesion and harmony that their myopia brings to the lives of others – often more intelligent and well-adjusted perhaps than they are themselves.
Ian Flintoff
•  A study of the relevance of IQ levels carried out at Canada’s Brock University concluded that low IQ levels in childhood contributed towards rightwing leanings later in life. It would appear that the very people Boris Johnson demeans may be his most enthusiastic supporters.
Geoff Clegg
Carshalton, Surrey
• I never shake my packet but there are always cornflakes at the top.
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex
• Well done Suzanne Moore on coming up with “Borisconi” (29 November). I shudder when opponents call maniacal rightwing politicians by their first names. Consider the damage caused by even sensible people using “Maggie”.
Keith Richards
• Central to the IQ debate is the idea of average. Can I point out that on average, an adult has one testicle and one breast.
Barry Lewis
Ex-president, Mathematical Association


We read Mary Dejevsky’s column on 29 November with delight, so pleased she is not toeing the paper’s editorial line on Scottish independence.
We moved with our children from Lincolnshire to Aberdeen in 1984 for a career move in the oil industry. Initially, we considered it as just another expat job, but now wouldn’t dream of moving south of the border. We will be voting for independence.
The Labour party doesn’t want an independent Scotland because they rely on the Scottish vote in Westminster. The Conservative elite own land in Scotland and worry about taxes which may be imposed by an independent Scotland. The print media is almost exclusively right-wing and puts out scare stories to frighten the Scottish electorate.
Income tax is the fairest tax, but successive UK governments have reduced it in favour of indirect taxation, which only helps to widen the gap between haves and have-nots. Mary Dejevsky is right that the Scots may well wish to emulate their Scandinavian cousins in deciding to accept higher direct taxation in return for a fairer society.
The question which does not receive any attention from politicians or the media is “How will the rest of the UK fare without Scotland?” The UK has much to lose and maybe should have a say.
Alan Lammin
Susan Lammin
It is good to see some discussion at last of what will happen to the UK if Scotland chooses independence. The use of the term “rest of the UK” shows the lack of thought by government on the future of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Why should only 10 per cent of the UK population have a say in the destruction of the Union.
Allan J Jones
If Scotland votes for independence and England votes to leave the EU, we shall be left with a Conservative-dominated country, where everything is to be privatised and hedge funds control most things.
The Conservative Party wants our prosperity to be based on the City of London, and never mind the rest of us who rarely go inside the M25. This would not be a country to which I should feel any loyalty.
Peter Giles
Whitchurch, Shropshire
Observing Cameron’s muted response to the mendacious twaddle of Salmond’s 670-page prospectus, a dreadful thought occurs. What if the Tories secretly want Scotland to secede, whatever the consequences of their betrayal of the Scots and the Union, if it results in extinguishing the 41 Labour and six SNP MPs now sitting in Westminster for Scottish constituencies?  
Once this treachery is achieved, Cameron can then blame Alistair Darling and his honest but low-key campaign, shed some crocodile tears and go on to enjoy Tory dominance for ages to come without needing the Lib Dems.
Tim Brook
Your letters page today (29 November) is headed “Scots have had enough of London Rule”. Haven’t we all?
Stephen Gilbert
London W3
The Politics of a helicopter crash
I read on the Independent website at 1am on 30 November of the police helicopter crash in Glasgow that had happened a couple of hours before. A sorry event, and one that would test the emergency services in Glasgow, and cause great concern to those involved and their relatives.
Even though the event was very recent, I saw the usual sombre responses from our most prominent politicians. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, tweeted his “thoughts”; the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, commented on the “awful news”. David Cameron got in on the act, saying “his thoughts are with everyone”; and Ed Miliband said it was “awful news”.
But just why do politicians feel the need to express their thoughts, concern, shock, horror, sympathy and myriad other emotions at every tragic event that does not really concern them? Do politicians really care that much about an event that has no personal relevance? Or is it just politics? 
I can easily imagine Alex or David or Ed or Nicola hurriedly agreeing a suitable statement with their advisers, issuing the statement and then calling their focus group gurus to check how their tweets or statements affected their ratings. Or maybe I am just too cynical.
S Garrett
East Lydford, Somerset
‘Sledging’ sets  a bad example
Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, has rightly been fined for his on-field remark to England No 11 batsman James Anderson to “get ready for a broken f***ing arm,” but his comment that he has “heard a lot worse on a cricket field than what the Australia and England players said throughout this Test match” is disturbing.
 While good-natured banter is acceptable, and, as Kathy Marks says (26 November), some witty exchanges are legendary, the Preamble to the Laws of Cricket states clearly that “to direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire” is against the spirit of the game.
For Test cricketers to indulge in language in breach of the spirit of the game must be firmly stamped on. If Test cricketers are heard using foul language, recreational cricketers will think it acceptable and there is anecdotal evidence that its use in local league cricket is putting some young people off playing the game. 
Captains “are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the Spirit of the Game as well as within the Laws”. Test captains have a particular responsibility to ensure that they and their teams set a good example. 
David Laming
Chairman, North Essex Cricket League
Boxford, Suffolk
The idea that “what happens on the field, stays on the field” is nonsense. International cricket is not an activity conducted in private by consenting adults, but one in the open air, and broadcast to millions on television and radio. Everything that happens on the field of play has been paid for by the spectators, sponsors, and by TV and radio broadcast rights. The spectators have a right to know what is happening and how their “heroes” conduct themselves during the game. 
Microphones in the stumps would provide the solution. And, frankly, if what is said is too rude for broadcast at the time, it should not be said at all. What is referred to as “sledging” is nothing more than bullying and insulting behaviour by people who are supposed to be ambassadors for their countries, and which, if conducted elsewhere, could well earn a police caution or arrest for threatening behaviour.
Peter Slessenger
Forgotten exiles  from Iran
The recent negotiations between a number of world powers and the present Iranian regime are, if only because they might prevent a further war between the West and the Middle East, to be welcomed.
It is important to remember, however, that the human rights record of the Iranian regime is, according to a number of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, one of the worst in the world.
It is also important to remind the world of a forgotten group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, which has  been campaigning for 49 years against this human rights record and for a democratic Iran.
The members of this group have – about 700 of them altogether –  been on hunger strike for 85 days. They are on hunger strike simply because, like the remaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, but for radically different reasons, no state will take them. Five people have been on hunger strike for 85 days outside the US Embassy in London.
Whatever one makes of the politics of this group, this is a human rights disaster – each one of the members of the PMOI who remains in Iraq is a protected citizen under the Geneva convention, and yet 52 of their members were shot in Iraq on 1 September.
It is clearly unsafe for the group members to return to Iran. Unless someone does something soon we could have a few deaths on the steps of the US Embassy here in London.
Professor Alison Assiter
University of the West of England
It is worth remembering that the “tentative deal with Iran” (editorial, 25 November), would not have been possible without the UK Parliament voting not to bomb Syria back in August.
David Pollard
Salen, Isle of Mull
Final ambition: to vote Cameron out
Children with rickets, malnutrition on the increase, the needs of the disabled trivialised – all this brings back powerful memories of the Thirties, a decade I remember only too well.
At the age of 86 I have been given a strong incentive to live until 2015 so that I can help to oust this arrogant and utterly heartless government from office.
Joan Allen
Stockport,  Cheshire


Does the best way forward lie in redrawing constituency boundaries, changing the voting system or simply creating a federal UK?
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Opinion, Nov 28) sets out very clearly some of the obstacles to effective democracy for English voters, but he largely overlooks the blocking by the Lib-Dems of the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. It is surprising how the media have tended to let Nick Clegg off the hook for this disgraceful piece of gerrymandering, which will be a significant factor in preventing a level playing field at the next election. Coming from a party which so often takes a sanctimonious posture towards its rivals, it is all the more to be condemned.
John Govett
Richmond, Surrey
Sir, Tim Montgomerie’s analysis of the relationship between the home nations is to be commended but his solution is not radical enough.
Mr Montgomerie as a Eurosceptic calls for a British “subsidiarity” yet offers a very European solution. In this case Strasbourg is replaced by Manchester, Sheffield or Leeds as the seat of an English parliament.
In order to achieve his objective, I would recommend a bolder solution. With its population of over 50 million, an English parliament would swamp the other national assemblies. There is an alternative.
As a small state Conservative, I offer a solution that would halve the size of the House of Commons, democratise the House of Lords and bring greater English representation.
Rather than a single English parliament give the UK regions, regional assemblies with the same powers as the Scottish Assembly. A series of 50 member assemblies with, First Ministers and regional governments (a Mayor in London’s case) would re-balance the UK constitutional arrangement unbalanced by devolution.
At the same time, the House of Commons could be reduced to a 300 seat assembly with equally sized constituencies, dealing with national and international matters. In order to retain precedence, an upper house could be based on the UK’s historic counties with approximately 300 members.
This British subsidiarity would allow voters to decide their political allegiance for domestic and international matters simply and efficiently. It would increase the media and political focus on the poorer regions of England and dissipate any perceived London bias from the political classes.
John Armah
London W11
Sir, I have an alternative suggestion to put to Tim Montgomerie. Abolish “first-past-the-post” voting and bring in alternative voting. That would give England its majority party, ie, the Conservative Party who, ironically, were dead against it when it was put to the vote. So the Tories get what they wanted — a minority for them in the UK Parliament and no chance of winning in either Scotland or Wales.
Alan Watt
Pontyclun, Vale of Glamorgan
Sir, Tim Montgomerie’s call for an English parliament will find widespread support in Scotland. I am one of many who would like to vote for a federal solution in the forthcoming referendum. Instead, the Westminster government compels us to choose between the SNP and the so-called “Better Together” campaign, which, like the witches in Macbeth, offers doom, gloom and deliberate ambiguity.
John Coutts

The UK Government must ensure that victims of abuse perpetrated overseas are able to access justice in the UK
Sir, As delegates gather in Geneva for the Second Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, we urge the UK Government to live up to its commitment to ensure that victims of corporate human rights abuses perpetrated overseas are able to access justice in the UK courts.
Despite widespread allegations of corporate misconduct, it remains extremely difficult for court cases against multinationals to proceed in many of the countries where the alleged abuses occurred. It is therefore essential that such cases can be brought in the home states of the companies concerned. In 2011, governments unanimously agreed to address this problem when they endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which recognise the state duty to provide access to remedy in cases of corporate human rights abuse.
As home to some of the world’s largest multinationals, the UK ought to have led the way in delivering on this obligation. Instead, the Government went ahead with changes to the court costs regime, which means it is now far more difficult to bring such cases in this country. In its Business and Human Rights Action Plan, released in September, the FCO made a commitment “to keep the UK provision of remedy under review”. It should now proceed with this review as a matter of urgency.
Lord Dholakia
Lord Phillips of Sudbury
Sir Nigel Rodley
Courtenay Barklem, Associate, McCue & Partners
Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chairwoman, Bar Human Rights Committee
Sara Chandler, Chair, Law Society Human Rights Committee
Mark Cunningham QC, Maitland Chambers
Nick Fluck, President of the Law Society
Dr Silvia Borelli, Director of Research, School of Law, University of Bedfordshire
Martyn Day, Senior Partner, Leigh Day
Carla Ferstman, Director, REDRESS
Ingrid Gubbay, European Head of Human Rights and Environmental Law, Hausfeld & Co.
Ole Hansen, Partner, Hansen Palomares
Richard Hermer QC, Matrix Chambers
Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar
Sapna Malik, Partner, Leigh Day
Michael Mansfield QC, Tooks Chambers
Richard Meeran, Partner, Leigh Day
Sue Willman, Partner, Deighton Pierce Glynn
Bindmans LLP, Solicitors

One reader has fond memories of a particularly fiendish April Fool’s Day crossword compiled by the late Rev John Graham
Sir, My favourite “monkey puzzle” by Araucaria (obituary, Nov 27) was published on an April 1. We were given the grid, clues with word lengths and nothing else. As I solved some of the clues the penny dropped. Every time an Across and a Down answer intersected, the common letter was an “A”. It did not matter where you put your answer. Brilliant, quirky and fun.
His Honour Julian Hall

Those who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s did not have everything easy, as younger generations need to understand
Sir, I must challenge Dr Ben Goldacre’s assessment of the apparent social injustices reaped on the young (letter, Nov 29). My wife and I bought our first house in 1975. The cost of the house was four times our joint pay — less than now, I agree — but interest rates were 14 per cent, so the burden of home ownership was actually greater than today. University education was means tested. The number of university places was far lower and so many of my friends went on to learn through apprenticeships rather than the “vocational” learning many of our youngsters are duped into taking.
I have also invested some of my savings into two properties, which I let. I get on well with both sets of tenants. They are provided with good housing at a price they can afford; have independence and know that any problems will be dealt with promptly. Why isn’t this seen as a perfect example of a mutual social benefit?
A more holistic view of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s compared with today might include living with high birth mortality, polio, diphtheria, poor sanitation and the odd psychopathic teacher. But let’s leave it there.
James Finney
Alderley Edge, Cheshire

A decent period of sleep is just as important as the role of hydration and nutrition as far as patient care and recovery is concerned
Sir, The discussion of patient care and recovery and the role of hydration and nutrition has not mentioned the vital role of sleep (letters, Nov 26, 27 & 28). During recent stays in different hospitals, a decent period of sleep was something I craved. Complaints about intrusive chatter from the nurses’ station and unanswered warning beepers were always rejected, and on the last occasion I was told that quiet was impossible and that this should be achieved when I returned home.
P. B. Sharman
Devizes, Wilts


SIR – Ted Finch (Letters, November 24) is right to point out that 1900 was the final year of the 19th century. It therefore follows that the life of the late Queen Mother (1900-2002) spanned three centuries – surely worthy of entry in the Guinness Book of Records, even if Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (1901-2004), lived longer than she.
Prof Edward Garden
SIR – If it is the case that 1900 was in the 19th century, what happened when BC changed to AD? Did the calendar start at 1/1/0001?
What became of the first 12 months? I remember this question cropping up at the millennium, and I still don’t know the answer.

SIR – Lord Stevens’s championing of neighbourhood policing is as relevant today as it was when my father was a policeman in Liverpool during the Thirties. He always believed that a constable on the beat, who had an intimate knowledge of his patch, helped deter criminal acts as well as being a reassuring presence for law-abiding citizens.
Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire
SIR – The spiralling cost of servicing the country’s debts will drive down the amount available for policing. In the future the police are likely to have to confine themselves to responding to emergency calls and investigating serious crime.
Responsibility for community safety and the conduct of neighbourhood patrols will increasingly have to be delegated to the citizen. The task of delivering a uniformed presence on the street will fall to a combination of volunteer special constables, neighbourhood wardens and private security companies. It will be simple economics that decides the future of policing in Britain.
Related Articles
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01 Dec 2013
Dr Tim Parsons
Bisley, Surrey
SIR – Many of today’s problems are due to changes made in the past. Closure of police stations and Magistrates’ courts to enable centralisation has not helped, and setting up the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with all prosecutions has been an unmitigated disaster as far as the Metropolitan Police is concerned.
Neil Gillies
Orpington, Kent
Consultants’ pay rises
SIR – Your report “Stealth pay rises for NHS staff” mentions consultants, among other NHS workers, as receiving “automatic pay rises”.
In fact, for consultants this was removed when the 2003 consultant contract was introduced. Consultants must satisfactorily complete an annual job plan, which sets a number of objectives for their next year’s work. This must be met before any increment can be paid.
Failure to meet the criteria gives employers an absolute right to withhold any increment that might be available.
Dr Paul Flynn
Chair of Consultants Committee, British Medical Association
London WC1
Marine A murder
SIR – As Betsy Everett points out, the Armed Forces are subject to rigorous and disciplined training.
However, battlefield stress is a natural human reaction to a very unnatural set of circumstances. It is surely better that our Forces retain their humanity than be dehumanised in training.
Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire
Pay-day loan hubris
SIR – The Government’s proposed cap on pay-day loans will not reduce household debt or the need of the hard-pressed for credit. The restrictions will likely drive those most in need into the clutches of illegal loan sharks. Pay-day loans may be distasteful to stern moralists but many need them in a crisis and they are an arrangement between willing parties.
Edward Heath discovered with his prices and incomes policy in the Seventies that trying to manipulate the free market comes before a fall. Those who lead the Conservative Party today are closer to adopting corporatist solutions to tackle the cost of living than adhering to the party’s traditional belief in free enterprise and individual choice.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
Law and justice
SIR – I have become increasingly disillusioned by the widening gap between the law and justice. Nowhere is this more evident than in recent cases whereby the Human Rights Act has been used to prevent the deportation of foreign criminals.
The law is simply a clever game played by lawyers. Justice is doing what is right for British society using logic and common-sense. When will we have a Home Secretary strong enough to take appropriate action?
David Jones
Tidal energy
SIR – Britain has some of the biggest tides in the world. This is the only sensible green energy solution for an island like ours.
Tides are totally reliable and, if harnessed, would solve our energy crisis for ever. Unlike wind power, tides are constant and the machinery need not be visible. Since no individual or company owns the sea, the bonus would be to the entire nation and not just to those fortunate enough to own land or deposits which they can exploit.
The production of the machinery would provide many jobs. Research into tidal energy should be a top priority.
Philip Mercer
London W8
Pension scheme
SIR – I was horrified to read of the recommendation that state pensions should be means tested.
The old-age pension is not a social benefit, it is a contributory scheme. Having paid into it all of my working life there can be no justification for withholding what I was promised.
Robert Morgan
Hinckley, Leicestershire
Waking up Bermuda
SIR – The BBC’s insensitivity following the assassination of President Kennedy (From the Archive, November 24) reminds me of a similar faux pas committed by Bermuda’s radio station ZBM.
The appropriately solemn announcement of the death of King George VI was followed immediately by Howard Keel’s singing “Oh, what a beautiful morning” in an advertisement for a breakfast cereal.
Reg Cooley
Fulford, East Yorkshire
Pigs might fly above EU agricultural policy
SIR – You refer to one of the objectives of the Fresh Start group as being the limitation of EU farming subsidies to efficient and productive businesses (leading article, November 24).
To achieve this it will have to reverse the whole purpose of the Common Agricultural Policy, which was set up to enable the inefficient French farmer to make a living. This will be very difficult, but you never know – maybe the French are developing a breed of flying pigs.
Peter Kirby
Croydon, Surrey
SIR – If David Cameron wants to win the next general election he must prevent Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants claiming benefits for a year after arrival in the UK. He should use his power of incumbency and hold referendums on immigration and EU membership without delay.
Dominic Shelmerdine
London W8
Divorced fathers
SIR – It is possible for divorced fathers to represent themselves in the family court, thus avoiding any legal fees and gaining the freedom to fight one’s case with a passion that will never be displayed by a solicitor (“Dads are not always the bad guys in break-ups”, News Review, November 24)
A presumption in favour of equal rights for divorced fathers would correct the feeling of impotence suffered by most men in the family courts and may even reverse the rampant rate of divorce that is so damaging to children and society as a whole.
It is unjust that a wife should be allowed to walk out of a marriage for no reason and deprive her husband of the children to whom he is devoted.
Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire
Stir-up Sunday
SIR – I am glad that there is an upsurge in baking and that the tradition of mixing the Christmas cake on “Stir-up Sunday” is being continued (report, November 24).
The custom takes its name from the prayer book, in which the collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity begins “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”
Ian Ventham
Shitterton, Dorset
A dog’s treat
SIR – Gerald Fisher (Letters, November 24) is unaware of the best way to avoid rinsing before loading the dishwasher.
We have a programme called “puppy prewash”.
Sarah Pape
Longwitton, Northumberland
SIR – Surely the issue of Scottish secession from the Union is by definition a matter for the whole Union? The effects of the break-up of the United Kingdom spread far wider and deeper than just the 5 million people living in Scotland. Can it be right for this question to be determined on the votes of just 51 per cent of those who bother to vote from a population of less than 10 per cent of the UK?
The Spanish Prime Minister, albeit primarily for domestic reasons, is quite correct to point out that Catalonia cannot leave Spain of its own accord and further that any region leaving a sovereign entity cannot be regarded as an entity remaining in the EU (Scotland is not a sovereign member of the EU, like the UK, and would have to be regarded as a new applicant, whatever the Scottish National Party argues).
In light of this, how can the SNP expect to retain sterling, the Bank of England and EU membership as an automatic right? It is simply not their decision to make.
Paul Duncanson
Aynho, Northamptonshire
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SIR – There are some Tories in England who would be happy for Scotland to vote for independence and for 400 years of history to go out of the window. As they see it, it will mean no more Labour governments.
The irony is that it could backfire by forcing Labour and the Lib Dems to go into a long-term alliance.
While this would not have the support of all existing Labour and Lib Dem voters, such an alliance could win elections.
William Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – Scotland is already a very independent nation. It has its own domestic government, established religion, education system, police force, legal system, press and media. It has a strong, internationally recognised cultural identity.
What is to be gained by further independence? Only separation from the world’s most successful and historic political, economic, and military union between friendly and mutually supportive neighbours.
Why on earth would anyone vote for that?
Peter Ferguson
SIR – One of the issues most pertinent to the Scottish independence debate is the future income generated by North Sea oil revenues, assumed by the Scottish National Party to be solely for Scotland.
The other nations of the present United Kingdom might well question the proportion of cash, expertise and manpower that has been, and is still being employed in the discovery, extraction and processing of this valuable resource thanks to their finances and endeavours.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
SIR – If Scotland were to vote for independence, the main danger would be the likelihood of having a soft government in the remaining United Kingdom, which would grant Scotland favoured status rather than treating it like any other foreign country, which it will have elected to become.
Raymond Whittle
Marlborough, Wiltshire
SIR – The 670-page white paper published by the Scottish government is not for an independent Scotland.
If Scotland keeps the pound sterling and the Bank of England sets interest rates, Scotland will not be any more independent than it would be if it adopted the euro and let the European Central Bank set interest rates.
If the Scots vote for independence it must be full independence.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, should realise that it isn’t the nation that makes the people, it is the people that make the nation. Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have all been made by the different nationalities that contribute to them every day.
Craig Neilson
Torquay, Devon

Irish Times:
Sir, – The recent decision by the Minster for Education to replace the Junior Cert with a system based on continuous assessment (CA) is rushed in my view. There are a number of issues that the Minister needed to consider before embarking on what is essentially an educational experiment.
These are: 1. The use of continuous assessment substantially increases the workload on teachers – I know this from my own experience at third level where CA is used routinely. 2. The use of continuous assessment can add to student stress – students have little respite from the evaluation process. 3.Designing continuous assessment that rewards work ethic, basic skill and logical reasoning is not necessarily any easier than designing end-of-year exams that aim to meet the same objectives. 4. The use of continuous assessment can lead to students learning in “bite-size”, “easily-digested” chunks, avoiding the need to acquire an integrated understanding of a subject. 5. The marking of continuous assessment, especially project work, is often much more subjective than end-of-year exams and this has obvious implications for the credibility of the new approach. 5. Continuous assessment tends to lead to a bunching of marks, thus reducing the value of the assessment as a way of evaluating students’ true ability and potential. 6. End-of-year exams serve the very useful purpose of incentivising students to revise – continuous assessment can suffer badly from the “once-completed, instantly-forgotten” effect.
Having taught for over 20 years at third level, my advice to the Minister would be to ensure our assessment methods are characterised by an emphasis on diversity. Each mode of assessment has its merits, but an over-reliance on any one method, coupled with the need for any system to be credible and transparent, often has unintended and negative consequences. We have seen that with the State examination system. – Yours, etc,
School of Biotechnology,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – Gráinne Faller’s article (Opinion, November 26th) on the positive lessons to be learned from UK school performance tables made very interesting reading.
As a parent I recently attended a National Parents Council meeting on the subject of Ruairí Quinn’s New Framework for Junior Cycle, where I learned that from 2014 Second Year secondary students are to take standardised tests in English reading and mathematics and in 2016 these will be extended to science.
Amazingly, under Mr Quinn’s plans students and parents will not be told their results and school statistics will not be published. All of this is in total contrast with what happens in Northern Ireland and England where students are given their national scores and where students outperform Irish students.
Surely it is time for the TUI and others arguing for contextual analysis of third level entry statistics to back parents in calling for more openness with new Junior Cert data. – Yours, etc,
Beaufort, Co Kerry.
Sir, – Recent CSO figures show that house prices in Dublin have increased by 12 per cent in the past year and questions have been raised as to whether this is the start of another property boom. House prices had decreased by some 51 per cent since the peak in 2007. There is danger that we will compare the 12 per cent with the 51 per cent, but these percentages relate to different bases.
For example, a €400,000 house in 2007 has reduced in value to say €195,000, from peak to trough, a reduction of €205,000 or 51 per cent on the €400,000. The house is now worth say €218,400, an increase of 12 per cent on the €195,000. However, this increase in value of €23,400 represents only 6 per cent of the peak value of €400,000.
In fact, house values will have to increase by some 105 per cent in value from the trough values, to reach the previous peak values! So beware the percentages. – Yours, etc,
Haddington Lawn,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – We concur with the conclusion of our colleagues in obstetrics in the National Maternity Hospital (Dr Ryan et al, November 26th) that the media vilification of Dr Rhona Mahony was unfair, unwarranted and quite possibly gender-driven. We also contest many of the assertions made by Michael Anderson (November 28th).
Newly-appointed medical consultants have suffered a disproportionate attack on their terms and conditions of employment. No other group, including civil servants, have suffered a more than 55 per cent reduction in their salary as a result of austerity. If there is to be austerity, let the burden be applied proportionately across the board. Other groups such as nurses and teachers have also been subject to new-entrant type cuts. What many of these junior public-sector groups have in common is the female majority within their ranks. We note that new-entrant type cuts have not been applied elsewhere.
It is certainly indisputable that there is an exodus of both senior consultants and junior medical doctors from the country. Many of the destination countries offer significant flexibility for those who wish to devote more time to family and other commitments. This flexibility is not practically available in the Irish hospital system. These destination countries also do not have unequal terms and conditions of employment for those doing the same work.
What is certain is that these countries truly value medical professionals for the excellence and expertise that they bring to patient care. It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult to persuade our talented (more often than not female) colleagues to stay in Ireland and contribute to a system that seems inherently biased against them.
It is, however, Mr Anderson’s reference to JFKs famous words of “ask what you can do for your country” that we find most troubling. We and many of our NCHD colleagues have spent upwards of one decade working illegally long hours of 60-100 per week in a dysfunctional health system, for a rogue employer. We do this in the service of our patients and find the suggestion to the contrary insulting in the extreme. It is, we fear, yet another manifestation of the ongoing vilification of the medical profession in Ireland.
We look forward to a future where our best and brightest (and perhaps not so “privileged”) young doctors, who have contributed long years and hard graft, will achieve some level of esteem and an even playing field in Ireland. Until then we will continue to provide frontline medical care for our patients. – Yours, etc,
Co-chairs of the Trainee

Sir, – Michael Hess had been chief counsel of the US Republican party under the Reagan-Bush administrations, and was not someone whose politics I would have shared. Last May, however, I journeyed to his graveside in order to place a bouquet of flowers on behalf of my recently deceased wife Annette. That expression of solidarity related to their common search for family identity. Annette had died from cancer 60 years and a day after her birth in Sean Ross Abbey, where Hess, “The lost child of Philomena Lee”, had himself been born 10 months prior to Annette.
It is, however, necessary to correct your report on Sean Ross Abbey (Home News, November 25th) which seriously, if inadvertently, misquotes me, no doubt due to mishearing “essential” for “sense” in what I had said on the Liveline programme on November 4th. I never stated, to quote your report, that I had found a “sense of evil” about Sean Ross’s Sr Hildegarde. “Evil” is such a definitive term, implying a condition well-nigh irredeemable, that I would hold back from ever using it lightly, and I am certainly not psychic enough to sense it in people. Whenever I have come to conclusions about evil, they have been based on an accumulation of hard facts. When Annette and I first visited the late Sr Hildegarde in 1985 we certainly found her to be a consummate liar, sadistic enough to attempt sending Annette on a wild goose chase by claiming her mother was from Limerick, when both she and we already knew she hailed from New Ross. And yet when Annette, through her own supreme efforts, eventually traced her late mother’s family and immediately bonded with them, she returned to Sean Ross Abbey in 1991 and told Sr Hildegarde, who professed to be overjoyed at the good news. Annette took that with a grain of salt, but nonetheless hoped her story might at least have softened Hildegarde’s heart sufficiently to refrain from ever again placing similar obstacles in the way of adoptees seeking their families.
When Martin Sixsmith’s book was published in 2009, we were horrified to learn that, two years after Annette’s last encounter with her, Hildegarde would be lying to both Philomena and her lost child, in the full knowledge that each was looking for the other. What I stated on Liveline was that it was this specific act which was “the essential element of the evil” that Annette now concluded was present in Hildegarde, and which had to be “something totally vindictive and vicious”.
A fortnight before Annette’s passing, we travelled with all three of our children and all three of our grandchildren for her to spend a final day with her mother’s family. Notwithstanding the knowledge of approaching death, nothing could take from the sheer joy of that Sunday, like snatching a moment from Paradise. For Sr Hildegarde to have wilfully denied to both Philomena Lee and a dying Michael Hess the opportunity for any such joyful family reunion was indeed an act of unforgivable evil. – Yours, etc,
Finglas Road, Dublin 11.

Sir, – Regarding the current proposal for a costly universal health care system, would it not make sense instead to offer a free annual GP medical with a full range of blood tests to all adults, and to provide some lifestyle, nutrition and fitness advice at that time?
This simple initiative would prevent much chronic disease later with massive savings that could be used to improve public health provision. – Yours, etc,
Seabourne View,

Sir, – Whatever views people might hold on Bobby Sands, a section of the Celtic support have a very valid point (“Celtic chief calls for an end to Parkhead political banners”, Sport, November 27th).
UEFA’s ban on “messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature” might sound good in theory. However, as pointed out by the Celtic supporters, UEFA has no objection to the Scottish national anthem, which glorifies William Wallace’s armed struggle against English colonialism. Indeed, Amhrán na bhFiann is played before Republic of Ireland matches – even at Windsor Park or Wembley! – yet apparently it is a problem when Celtic fans sing the same song, or songs with similar themes.
Meanwhile, British football authorities have required clubs to display the poppy on their shirts in early November in recent years. This is clearly a political and ideological message, which is deemed highly provocative by many Celtic fans.
I can only assume that UEFA is intent only on suppressing certain political messages in certain circumstances, as opposed to keeping politics out of football altogether. Consequently, UEFA itself is open to accusations of endorsing certain political views. Perhaps it might be more sensible to simply allow football supporters to have freedom of expression? – Yours, etc,
Mahogany Drive,
Marcus Beach,

Sir, – I wonder if the Flann O’Brien argument could be used in defence of the poor cyclists prosecuted for breaking red lights (Ciaran Sudway, November 25th): namely, that since enough particles are exchanged between cycle and cyclist it should be the cycle that is taken to court. This could assist the debate about philosophy raised in another letter (“Big questions about philosophy”). As for the Catholic/Anglican business (Sé d’Alton), it was my understanding that Catholics were increasingly Anglican. – Yours, etc,
Rector of Portlaoise,

Irish Independent:

* In response to I D Shorts (Letters, November 30), I wish to express my deepest regret that he feels Ireland is no country for old men and a nation afflicted with droves of foul-mouthed ‘youths’.
Also in this section
No understanding of credit unions
Letters to the Editor: Charities do HSE work
Letters to the Editor: Youths letting themselves down by cursing
I am unhappy that the young people of Ireland are, yet again, being tarred with the same brush. I feel a duty to myself and my peers to speak up against this constant barrage of negative press.
I desire to prove Mr Shorts and the rest of the country wrong, that we mere youths can be heard without the need of profanities.
As a Leaving Certificate student, I have endured years of stereotyping by the national press. According to Irish media, we are a generation of Celtic cubs with no respect for others.
The annual hype surrounding the points race is the solitary promoter of the ordinary, hardworking teenager.
Furthermore, the many hours of community work carried out by young people, particularly transition year students, remains largely ignored. There is a great need for our young people to be shown in a positive light on a more frequent basis.
I was bemused by his suggestion to “our Government to do something really constructive” to cure us of our affliction.
As I have never been exposed to any beneficial programme run by the Government for young people, I do not expect to be in the foreseeable future.
With ineffective anti-bullying policies and no provision of adequate sexual education, the Government demonstrates a clear lack of interest for this lost generation. I feel that my peers and I are viewed as impolite, technology-addicted and self-absorbed. However, we are capable, intelligent and have our own well-formed opinions.
This fact would be well understood if we were spoken to as equals, not as incompetent children. I shame those who shame us. But I am only a youth of this doomed country, so why would my opinion effing matter?
B Berkely
* I am amazed that our brave Government does not immediately demand that all of those persons who received unsanctioned top-up payments and their paymasters be hauled in and made to stop all these payments immediately.
They should also repay all money that exceeds the sanctioned pay limits, pay back interest that would have accrued, and be fined accordingly.
Michael Higgins
Oranmore, Galway
* The suggestion of a blanket amnesty in Northern Ireland is a brave one but reality checks must be carried out when one considers the difficulties experienced with post-war amnesties.
In El Salvador, the amnesty law created a climate of impunity and had the effect of blocking investigations into the whereabouts of the remains of thousands of Salvadorans who were “disappeared” during the 1980-1992 armed conflict.
In Sierra Leone, the blanket amnesty under the Lome Agreement to rebel aggressors caused untold difficulties, resulting in the government sharing power with criminals and violence continuing afterwards regardless.
It is now recognised that blanket war amnesties are not suitable for post-war conflicts, particularly where very serious crimes have not yet been investigated and where victims are still awaiting justice.
In 2009, the UN developed formal guidelines stating that amnesties must not include those responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights. The guidelines do, however, discuss how amnesties could be established in conjunction with peace and reconciliation initiatives. Timing and sensitives must also be given very careful consideration before an amnesty is considered.
Richard Coffey
Terenure, Dublin 6W
* There is quite a distinct resonance akin with St Francis in what Pope Francis has been doing and saying since he was appointed.
No pomp, but humility in action on every front, starting from the modest Ford Focus he has chosen to travel in.
Quite a saving grace, considering the news that in recent times has been coming out of Italy.
Besides, the notion of a Pope like Francis rescues Italians living abroad like myself from the wilderness of legitimate criticism about Italian flamboyant political figures – top of the list Silvio Berlusconi – who have created a less than edifying image of our country.
In his recent lengthy document ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, Pope Francis, in line with the true spirit of the Gospel, stresses a few points that should make us think, the most relevant being that the church is to go out to the people, get bruised and dirty if necessary and not cling to its own security, and, above all, that capitalism has embarked on a path of economic exclusion and inequality based on idolatry of money, stressing the fact that this is a problem that only governments can address.
May Pope Francis live long and continue making a contribution to change the mindset of those in power in order to change the world for the better.
Concetto La Malfa
Dublin 4
* The decision by Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Office to ban 15 trawlers from Kilmore Quay and order them to stop fishing because of their protest against the EU’s shameful discard policy beggars belief.
It is at moments like this that we should all stand tall together on behalf of this great nation and say, unequivocally ‘no’ to rule from Brussels. Whatever the pain, whatever the cost, our sovereignty has a greater value than the mean measure adopted by our self-serving politicians.
Millions of tonnes of fish have been destroyed because of the EU discard policy – one of the most incomprehensible man-made conservation disasters anywhere in the world.
With the operation of such a wasteful and unfair quota system, our fishermen are now faced with further swingeing cutbacks. Never mind that France and Spain are still taking an 88pc share of the catch from Ireland’s territorial waters.
Neutrality be damned – let us declare war on the waste of the EU discard policy. All in favour say ‘aye, aye!’
Joe Neal
Castlebridge, Wexford
* The best of the northern hemisphere could not hold out. A brilliant scramble defence and great defensive lines added to sublime handling skills by the best attacking backline in the world showed off this wonderful game of rugby.
What a marvellous spectacle was the Australia versus Wales match. The best game in the world when played like this. Australia’s ball retention and tactical nuances were at another level.
All the southern-hemisphere teams have mastered to great effect the art of finding long-kick touches outside and inside of their own 22 line.
Having so many players on your team who can execute this skill is a definite advantage. Teams from this jurisdiction should look and learn from the masters.
Quade Cooper, what can you say? His ball play was simply a revelation. What a difference he would have made to this team if he had played against the Lions.
Barry Mulligan
Irish Independent


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