6 December 2013 Waiting

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.

Our heroes are in trouble they are suffering from rivalry Heather is making up Lt Murray. Just because Leslie did not write to her for a whole year when she was posted to Scotland. Priceless.

Waiting for Lllia Liisa who never got here so awful

ScrabbleI wins well over400 perhaps it will be Mary’s turn tomorrow.


Georgina Somerset, who has died aged 90, lived the first 34 years of her life as a man, having been wrongly registered at birth as a boy; a high-profile “intersexual” (a person born with both male and female characteristics), in 1962 she became the first known woman legally to marry in church after officially changing sex.

Her earliest recollections were of wanting to be a girl, although she had been brought up as George Turtle, the youngest son of a Surrey dentist. George grew up asexual, attended boys’ schools, went to college and joined the Navy in the dying days of the Second World War.

By the mid-1950s, practising as a dentist himself, Turtle had recognised himself as an intersexual and had started to develop breasts while being treated with oestrogen hormones. But in November 1957, while trying to live as a woman, he was dragged into a field and raped.

In 1960 Turtle’s birth certificate was finally corrected to show “him” as a girl named Georgina Carol Turtle. Two years later, she married Christopher Somerset, a design engineer, and settled at Hove, where she ran a busy dental practice until her retirement in 1985.

The youngest of three children, Georgina was born on March 23 1923 at Purley, Surrey, and christened George Edwin Turtle. Educated at Croydon High School for Boys and later Reigate Grammar School for Boys, he studied dentistry at King’s College Hospital in London, qualifying in 1944. After being called up as the war in Europe ended, he served as a pipe-smoking surgeon-lieutenant in the Royal Navy until 1948, at which point he established a dental practice in Croydon.

During the 1950s Turtle undertook a traumatic quest for medical and legal acceptance as a woman. As he put it in his book Over The Sex Border (1963), society’s attitude was that “one was either wholly male with a short back and sides, or wholly female”.

There were few aspects of his life that remained untouched by the rigid distinctions of the day: in 1945 his father, a prominent Freemason, had initiated both his sons into the Craft, but George felt compelled to resign from his Lodge in 1953 after being advanced to the rank of Worshipful Master.

Obstetricians of the 1920s worked mainly on the evidence of their own eyes, although Turtle believed that in his case there must have been some confusion, because his birth was registered outside the legal time limit. In the days before genetic tests and more rigorous development checks, what Turtle described as a “malformed penis” decided his sexual destiny.

His parents never referred to any possible confusion, and Turtle remembered longing to wear pink dresses and always regarded himself as a girl. He found ways to change for games out of sight of his schoolmates, and was accepted into the Navy after the most cursory of medical examinations.

Georgina and Christopher Somerset on their wedding day in 1962 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

After the war, however, while insisting that he had been neither homosexual nor effeminate, “I found it increasingly difficult to pretend to be the ‘man’ that my upbringing demanded of me”. A psychiatrist who believed Turtle’s problem to be psychological, suggested electric shock treatment, but when Turtle turned to the leading sexologist of the day, he was told that he was physically a hermaphrodite, unable to function as a man and with dominant female characteristics.

Turtle was told what he had known all along: that biologically he was female, his body possessed female receptors, and that he needed oestrogen “like a baby needs milk”.

As a boy, a tiny, non-functioning testicle on one side had been removed, but the sexologist detected signs of a second, failed gonad on the other which, he warned, would almost certainly turn out to be an ovary. Later, during an appendectomy, Turtle was also found to have a rudimentary womb. The answer, he was told, was a sex change. After taking one look at Turtle, fresh from his dental surgery clad in black morning coat and pinstripe trousers, the eminent plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies waved him away, explaining later: “I do not really think you look or could be made to look like a woman.”

In January 1957, after minor corrective surgery performed by another consultant, Georgina Turtle finally felt she had become herself, leaving the clinic in her first outfit of women’s clothes. She moved to a rented bungalow near Bognor Regis to let her hair grow and to establish herself as a female.

But her rape ordeal the following November confined her to bed for several weeks with pneumonia and, after contemplating suicide, Turtle cut off her long hair and went back to living like a man; other men mocked her in the street (“Cor, Davy Crockett!”), and it was only when she retreated to a rented cottage at Plumpton, near Brighton, that she felt able to revert to a female persona.

Her father’s funeral in July 1959 posed a problem, since the rest of the family were expecting George, the youngest son, to be present; Georgina had her hair shorn again, her manicured nails trimmed, and went to the funeral wearing a man’s dark suit . After this she lived as a man again for a further nine months while her father’s affairs were wound up.

Early in 1960 Turtle sold her dental practice, leaving Croydon as a man and arriving at her new home in Hove as a woman; this time the metamorphosis was final and irrevocable and, after sworn medical testimony from her doctors and surgeons, she was issued with a corrected birth certificate that registered her as Georgina Carol Turtle (Carol after Carol White, the heroine of a Daily Mail strip cartoon of the day).

The sex-change of Gina Turtle, as she preferred to be called, caused a Fleet Street frenzy, as did her engagement, announced on the Court and Social page of The Daily Telegraph in June 1962.

At her wedding to Christopher Somerset at St Margaret’s, Westminster, in October, Gina asked her brother to give her away, then two uncles and finally her family doctor: all declined. Her Plumpton landlord stepped in, and what The People newspaper billed as the “strangest fashionable wedding on record” went ahead without a hitch.

Although re-registered as a woman, Gina Somerset was nearly 40 when a genetic test revealed a rare mosaic of chromosomes: a Y male chromosome (accounting for her deep contralto voice) coupled with the female chromosomal make-up of Turner’s syndrome, a disorder which, without oestrogen treatment, can stunt growth and lead to infertility and retarded breast development.

Georgina Somerset’s birth registration mistake returned to haunt her at the age of 60 when, on applying for her state pension, she was told that she would have to work another five years. For 30 years the social security authorities had never changed her status, but agreed to do so when it was pointed out that the applicant was now, legally, a woman.

She published a memoir, A Girl Called Georgina, in 1992 when she was 68, having lived for 34 years as a man and 34 as a woman, reporting that she was in better health than ever, even though she had taken no oestrogen for some 20 years.

She declared herself to be a regular size 12, weighing 130lb, 5ft 8in tall, slim, with a 34in bust, long slender fingers, brown eyes, blonde hair and a very fair complexion — on account, perhaps, of the fact that she had never shaved in her life, even as a man.

Her husband, Christopher Somerset, a distant kinsman of the Dukes of Beaufort, survives her.

Georgina Somerset, born March 23 1923, died November 30 2013


Azelle Rodney died in July 2005 after being shot six times by a police officer known only as E7 and in July 2013 a judge-led inquiry found that he was unlawfully killed. Within days, an inquest recorded another verdict of unlawful killing on the death of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of three G4S guards in October 2010 on board a plane at Heathrow. The Rodney and Mubenga families are still waiting, as are many more families, for the Crown Prosecution Service to make decisions on whether the men involved in their deaths will face prosecution.

The families of Christopher Alder, Sean Rigg, Habib Ullah, Ricky Bishop and Anthony Grainger will on Friday gather outside the CPS headquarters in London to call for the CPS to be held accountable for its failure to make decisions in timely manner. We support the families’ call to end the agonisingly long time endured as they wait to hear whether anyone will charged in connection with the deaths of their loved ones. We also support the families’ call for the decision-making process to be transparent and for full reasons to be published. The public interest requires the CPS to ensure that no one is above the law.
Lee Bridges Warwick University, Victoria Brittain, Lousie Christian, Deborah Coles and Helen Shaw Inquest, David Edgar, Liz Fekete and Frances Webber Institute of Race Relations, Ken Fero Migrant Media, Emma Ginn Medical Justice, Penny Green International State Crime Initiative, Suresh Grover Monitoring Group, Jean Lambert MEP, Herman Ouseley, Professor Phil Scraton Queen’s University, Stafford Scott Tottenham Rights, Dr David Whyte Liverpool University, and Kirsten Heaven, Sean Horstead and Rajiv Menon QC Garden Court Chambers

Geoff Layer’s criticism of the Office for Fair Access’s response to the government’s decision to cut national scholarship funding (NSP) for 2014-15 (Letters, 3 December) is wholly unjustified.

Right from the start, our overriding concern has been to minimise the impact of these changes on students from poorer backgrounds. We’ve worked hard with Ucas and the Higher Education Funding Council for England to ensure that students receive clear information about what is happening and, if they wish, can change their choices before the Ucas deadline of 15 January. We also pressed for the removal of the £1,000 cash limit on NSP support, which could mean many students see more cash in their pockets. In our guidance to universities who now have to reopen their 2014-15 access agreements, we made it clear that they should minimise any potential unfairness to applicants.

Of course we don’t welcome a cut in the government budget supporting poorer students. We expressed our disappointment quite clearly in the statement we issued as soon as the government announced its decision. It’s worth pointing out that we, together with the NUS, were the only HE organisations to do so.
Professor Les Ebdon
Director of Fair Access to Higher Education

Ian Sansom’s comments on the work of Stefan Zweig (The epitome of bland?, Review, 30 November) are truly baffling. They seem to be based on reading a single literary potboiler. No one could possibly read Zweig’s biography of Balzac, an account of a driven and ultimately loveless life, or the novel Beware of Pity, with its inexorable and dreadful denouement in betrayal and death, let alone the short stories in the collection Amok, most of which, like Beware of Pity, end in suicide, and sum him up as an author whose “great virtue was that he sought to please”.
Anne Summers

• Front page: “Celeb took drugs” (Report, 5 December). Rest of the paper: well, everything else. How did we get to this? Why do you make me so angry at 8am? Think I need a joint…
Antony Scott

• I seem to recall Philip Hope-Wallace writing in the Guardian, many years ago, that he knew no one who hadn’t fallen asleep at some point in a Wagner opera (Letters, 4 December). I’ve succumbed on occasions but not at the WNO’s wonderful Lohengrin in Cardiff earlier this year.
Roger Pratt

• Here’s what we should say to Boris Johnson and his class (Letters, 5 December): “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Andrew Sayer
Lancaster, Lancashire

• We have some books of puzzles in a series called The Guardian Monkey Puzzles – all Araucaria crosswords published by Atlantic books in 2002 (Letters, 3 December). They have travelled to a variety of holiday destinations. There’s nothing better than sitting by a pool, wrestling with – and winning sometimes! – one of the great man’s best cryptics.
Janet Hunt

• Jackie Ashley (Comment, 2 December) suggests that an NHS “run differently in different parts of the country” will be hard for politicians “to sum up in crisp, headline-friendly terms”. How about making the case for a “postcode democracy” rather than railing against a “postcode lottery”?
Martin Willis
Malvern, Worcestershire

According to your report (Male and female brains wired differently, scans reveal, 2 December): “Maps of neural circuitry show women’s brains are designed for social skills and memory, men’s for perception and co-ordination.” Yet another deeply confused “hard-wired brain” story. It has received much comment, not least for the empirical mismatch between the data and the conclusion, given that the cited study apparently provides “strong evidence for behavioural similarities between the sexes”. But there is something even more basic at stake.

Will scientists, journalists and readers wake up to this truism: if the mind is the brain, any mental difference will be a brain difference. Suppose there are some actual mental differences between men and women, whatever their prior causes. (Hard to imagine training up half of humanity one way, half another, without creating some differences between them.) There will then be some neural differences. Suppose you have two televisions, whose images are different. You call in the technician, who trumpets the discovery that they differ in their pattern of pixels. That bit we knew already: no difference in the images without a difference in the pixels. Same for ourselves: no difference in states of mind without a difference in states of brain. That doesn’t mean it has to be that way, or is designed to be that way. Even if your mind is your brain, that doesn’t mean “your brain made you do it”, as if the “you” were a different being. Let’s not fall for this confusion, or we’ll take what happens to be the case and freeze it. We’ll take differences, however they may have come about, and make them seem inevitable and appropriate. We don’t need this deterministic fairy-tale. It’s bad for men and women, bad for science, bad for us all.
Rae Langton
Professor of philosophy, University of Cambridge
Professor John Dupré
Visiting professor of gender studies, University of Cambridge

• Obviously, then, men are better drivers, having superior “motor skills”.
Jim O’Shea

GMB has been hugely critical of the way the Sellafield contract has been managed by Nuclear Management Partners (Report, 5 December). The people at the sharp end of this mismanagement are the 10,000 ordinary working men and women on the site. Our members employed there work in some of the most hazardous known environments, dealing with what is, in large part, a cold war legacy. Seemingly against the odds, NMP was recently awarded a contract extension. Did ministers ignore the recommendations of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority? Was it for ideological reasons, because the only viable alternative to a contract extension was to bring the work back in-house? We must not lose sight of the fact that there is a huge stockpile of plutonium on the site. As a society we will have hard choices. The only sensible thing to do is to use it for something socially useful – producing electricity.
Gary Smith
GMB nNational secretary, GMB commercial services section

• You outline the extensive costs as a consequence of failure to produce a comprehensive cradle-to-grave plan when the original nuclear plants and the Sellafield site were built. As the UK begins a new generation of reactors, spent fuel and radioactive waste management must remain a priority. The UK’s stockpile of plutonium was planned to be reused as fuel in fast reactors, but we ended our fast-reactor research programme in the late 1990s and instead opted for indefinite storage of the stockpile. However, security and cost make this an unacceptable long-term option.

Other technically mature options, such as reusing the plutonium as new mixed oxide (mox) fuel in reactors, must be explored. Planning for the long-term, the government must keep open the full range of options for using the stockpile and managing future waste by reconsidering its participation in international fast-reactor research programmes.
Professor Roger Cashmore
Chair, Royal Society report Fuel Cycle Stewardship in a Nuclear Renaissance

• Your article says that I “leaked” the KPMG report on Sellafield mismanagement to the Commons’ public accounts committee. I did not leak the report, as I had legitimately obtained it via a freedom of information request from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority three days before the first hearing of the PAC on Sellafield mismanagement last month. When I learned of the hearing, on the morning it was due to take place, I decided that the parliamentary committee charged with overseeing the value-for-money of the expenditure of our taxes by public bodies should be aware of this report before it held its hearing with NDA and Department of Energy and Climate Change witnesses, so I emailed it to the chair, Margaret Hodge MP, and the clerk to the PAC. The distinction is a very important one.
Dr David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

• I’m pleased that, after parliament’s inadequate scrutiny of the exorbitantly expensive Hinkley Point nuclear reactor project, we are going to see proper consideration of UK nuclear new build by the European commission (Report, 2 December). Our organisation has joined with parliamentarians and other groups to sign a letter to the EU opposing the deal. It notes that “in terms of competition within the EU, state aid for nuclear power in the UK is entirely at odds with the coming single market for electricity in the EU and with the principle that there should be free movement of goods and services throughout the region. It is bad for the development, throughout Europe, of effective alternatives – renewables and energy conservation – which are ready to go, cheaper than nuclear power, and very much quicker to build.” . That is why Germany, Austria and other EU states oppose nuclear power and why the deal should be rejected by the European commission. Rather than cutting more than 10,000 jobs from the energy efficiency sector, we should be investing further in sustainable energy.
Councillor Mark Hackett
Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities

The prospect of later retirement ages for all, regardless of economic circumstances, is insidious (State pension? Not til you are 70 – Osborne, 5 December). Such a policy does not account for any life expectancy difference between the rich and the poor. As the UK enters Boris Johnson’s utopia of extreme income disparity we can look at the situation occurring right now in the US to see what we have in store. There are problems with pensions there, and it would appear that, in the US too, life expectancy is increasing. But if one mines the data just a bit deeper one finds this is only because the wealthy are living longer than the 50% below the median income, giving the false appearance of increased longevity. The bottom half are not living any longer today than they were 20 years ago.

For George Osborne to start talking about an increase in retirement age that would effect at least half of the population that are not living longer, and who are not in a position to end up with a large pension anyway, is simply a back-door way of condemning them (us?) to working until the day death takes us from this world. Given that the kinds of jobs these people hold are often physically demanding, it is clear that a blanket increase in pension age is brutally pernicious. Can a Tory government be counted on to act fairly and increase retirement age only for the wealthy, whose long lives are the root-cause of the problem? Not likely.
Dr Todd Huffman

• Your comment that pensioners are enjoying “private pensions more generous than their children will have” needs putting into perspective (Editorial, 5 December). An affluent retired minority (20% of retired households, according to the ONS, account for 57% of pensioner incomes) should not be considered typical. The average weekly state pension is about £145. Median occupational pensions are about £119 weekly for those who have one from previous jobs. 40% have no occupational pension and rely wholly on state benefits. The issue is about the highly unequal distribution of savings and financial assets across working lives and fair access to good quality pensions, whether state or private. Making it an issue of young versus old is deeply cynical and unscrupulous.
Ken MacIntyre
West Horsley, Surrey

• Hang on! How does this work? A pension is to be based on “expected period in retirement of a third of life expectancy”. This is currently around 79-80 years for a man, and 82-odd for a woman. By my calculation, taking, say, 81 years as average gives a pensionable age of 54. Doesn’t a pensionable age of 70 imply a life expectancy of 105?
George Pearce
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• Many people like me work harder at 70 than we ever did in our full-time employment. Apart from bits of part-time work so we can afford to do all the voluntary work supporting the community and our neighbours, we often have to support younger family members so they can work full time. And have you met many teachers approaching 60 recently? They are absolutely jiggered! They might not have worn out their knees like some manual workers, but they are so constantly bombarded with changes to the system and confused and unmotivated young people that their brains are worn out and their spirits flagging. And what happened to the policy of making people retire early so there would be jobs available for all the young people waiting for opportunities?
Moyra Jean
Matlock, Derbyshire

• We wonder if the true net cost of the chancellor’s proposal to increase the state pension age has really been assessed. As a recently retired couple, between us we: help struggling readers at a local secondary school; are on the board of the local CAB; change library books for housebound people with the RVS; help a local mum with three toddlers; do guided Cathedral tours; provide commentary for the visually impaired at the football club; record churches with NADFAS; act as secretary to the local branch of a political party.

As well as these activities, within our family we support four frail parents in their late 80s. We are not unusual. Who would do these things if we, and people like us, were still working and what would be the cost?

As ever, government policy is operating in a blinkered fashion and the unintended consequences of the increase in pension age will be significant. The “big society” has gone the way of the “green crap‘”.
Hazel Ball and Jeff Skinner
Exeter, Devon


While your editorial “Age Concern” (5 December) rightly takes the pragmatic view that because we live longer and healthier lives we should work for longer, it misses one important point.

Very many people who have retired at 60 are making a continuing vital contribution to the Big Society through voluntary action in our communities, whether as front-line activists or trustees of charitable organisations. And we can afford to do that as we have the time and the pension to go with it.

By raising the age of retirement to 70 we run the risk of reducing the pool of skilled and experienced volunteers and the contribution they make to the health and wealth of society. And presumably government will have to pick up the bill.

Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire

The Chancellor’s plans to further raise the state retirement age underline the two-Britain society the Government is intent in creating.

On the one hand there are those, the poor, who are increasingly expected to work until they drop. On the other hand we have those, like the current Cabinet, who are wealthy enough to retire whenever they please. Now would be a good time.

Keith Flett, London N17

The Autumn Statement by sneering millionaire George Osborne is another Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget. The brutal package of austerity is actually the impoverishment of millions of working people to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. His decision to raise the retirement age to 70 is particularly callous, as there are parts of Scotland and North England where life expectancy is going backwards.

Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee

So I am supposed to “throw a party” to celebrate George Osborne’s extending the retirement age to 70 (Editorial, 5 May)?

I can entirely understand the public policy reasons for this move, but object to the facile assumption that if they want to, people can just carry on working as long as they wish to. I work in local government, and like thousands of colleagues, have been made redundant from a job in which I would have remained if I could, until at least 65.

Instead I find myself back in the job market and encountering the routine ageism of recruitment agencies and employers. It’s illegal, but they all do it, and everybody knows it. I’m fit, healthy, experienced and willing and able, but “too old” at 59.

In the real world outside the London bubble, what chance have I got of working until my current retirement age of 66, let alone 70?

Derek Alcraft, Newcastle upon Tyne

Cameron, world statesman

Compare the Prime Minister’s approach to decision-making on various issues.

Though he appears to be at a loss when faced with  straightforward, much-discussed domestic matters such as plain cigarette packaging, the minimum price per unit of alcohol, the banning of wild animals in circuses and the provision of plastic bags at check-outs, when it has been a question of  involving the UK in civil wars in two Middle Eastern countries, he has no trouble at all in making prompt decisions. Then he appears to be “up for it”, almost “gung-ho”.

It would be reassuring if he would settle the above relatively minor issues without endless further consultations, because it is absolutely clear that he has a mind of his own. Let’s see him using it.

David Hindmarsh


When is the Prime Minister, the self-appointed courtesan of commerce, going to stop dining on chop suey deals in China and begin tucking into bread-and-butter issues in Britain?

Geoff Naylor


The disgrace of housing policy

It’s not surprising that the article on affordable housing (“ ‘Disaster for poor’ as building of affordable homes falls 26%”, 22 November) was muddled, given the complexity of the Government’s own definition of affordable housing in the Planning Policy Framework, and the way that statistics are presented.

Affordable housing includes three types. The subsidised rent levels for “social rented housing” are set by the national rent regime, while for “affordable rented housing” the level must not exceed 80 per cent of the local market rent. The third type of affordable housing is “intermediate housing”, defined as homes for sale and rent at below market levels.

This definition implies that neither homes rented from private landlords nor homes bought on the open market are “affordable”, understood to mean not exceeding 35 per cent of the household’s net income.

The under-supply of homes for sale is a well-known disgrace, fuelling rising house prices. Far less attention is paid to the rented housing sectors, even though the percentage of owner-occupied homes in the UK was only 70 per cent at the high point in 2002 and has decreased steadily since then to the current rate of about 65 per cent.

The one third of households who rent includes many who will never be home owners regardless of government schemes to ease their way into the mortgage market.

At a time when there are 1.85 million households on local authority waiting lists, the 2012-13 national housing statistics show that only 18,000 additional social rented homes were provided, a drop of 53 per cent over the previous 12 months. Intermediate housing also declined slightly. For renting, the picture continues to deteriorate: in the first six months of 2013-14 under 8,500 affordable homes were completed, a fall of 16 per cent, and of these only 1,144 were homes for social renting. The private rented sector is growing, but in 55 per cent of local authority areas rents for a two-bedroom home exceed 35 per cent of median net income for that area.

It is not only those with aspirations to own their own home who are being squeezed; fewer affordable homes year on year, combined with welfare benefit cuts, means that for a significant proportion of the population any kind of home of your own begins to look out of reach.

Sarah Blandy, Professor of Law, University of Sheffield

An exciting  vegan diet

Chris Maume painted rather an unfair picture of the vegan diet in his Friday column. A vegan myself  for nine years, I don’t  spend all day working  out how much protein I need, nor am I limited to eating lentils and nuts.

The quality and variety of vegan food has improved dramatically in recent years, as veganism’s popularity has grown. You can now buy vegan versions of everything from ice cream to fish-fingers. I’m sure Mr Maume could even make a vegan version of the spicy Thai chicken soup that tempted him back to meat.

A sufficiently varied vegan diet is extremely healthy, being low in saturated fat and high in fibre, and can provide all the protein and other essential nutrients we need, as well as being just as delicious and exciting as any other diet.

Ben Martin, Animal Aid, Tonbridge, Kent

Lawyers will never make you rich

Chris Blackhurst (Midweek View, 4 December) draws attention to the £850 per hour charged by partners in leading City law firms.

There is one underlying characteristic of all the newly developed leading economies such as China, India, South Korea and Brazil. They favour the training and higher rewards for scientists and engineers (the wealth creators) and not lawyers. It should be self-evident from history that no nation has ever achieved greatness or economic growth through being proficient in litigation.

Your report (4 December) on increasing hunger problems in the UK is an indicator of our steady decline as a leading economy. Perhaps these City fat cats could contribute more, on moral grounds, to assist the less privileged

David Algar, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Hard-wired for reckless greed?

I was interested to read that scientists have discovered that the typical male brain is wired differently to the typical female brain, and that this difference develops in adolescence.

Do you suppose that if these scientists could be persuaded to look at typical bankers’ brains they might be able to show that recent financial troubles were, in fact, just a wiring problem?

Goff Sargent, Loughborough, Leicestershire

Musicians who fled Hitler’s Germany

In 1939, Siegmund Nissel and Peter Schidlof came to Britain on the Kindertransport (“The day we left Hitler behind”, 5 December). Together with Norbert Brainin, who had arrived from Vienna with his uncles as his parents had died, we formed the Amadeus Quartet, of which I am now the only survivor.

I am grateful to their memory every day.

Martin Lovett, London NW3


Sir, Your call (leading article, Dec 5) for policymakers to act now to raise pensionable age so as to avert more extensive changes later makes some optimistic assumptions and overlooks some adverse consequences from that action.

The estimated £100 billion in financial savings from this “simple reform” is likely to prove illusory. It is unlikely that most of the men and women in those age groups 65 and 66 in future years will be economically active when it is already apparent that most men in the age range 60 to 65 today are not actively employed in paid work.

Those who are enabled to continue working in their sixties are often in higher-paid posts to which the graduates now emerging from university aspire. By following this glib prescription of the economists to raise pensionable age because we are living longer, we are impairing the prospects of young people who are finding it hard to get a job.

And surely we should recognise that young consumers with a family can be relied on to spend their incomes, while older people with high salaries provide less dynamism to the economy. More purchasing power in the hands of the elderly will no doubt be advantageous for the operators of cruise liners but we can expect little in the way of economic growth from reserving paid work for older people.

Patrick Carroll

Pension And Population Research Institute, London N1

Sir, You report (Dec 3) that “pensioners emerging from the recession in better shape than before” drawing on an ONS study. The quoted increase of 5.1 per cent refers to the median or typical pensioner household comparing a sample drawn in 2007/08 with a sample drawn in 2011/12.

These two samples are not the same people. The increase in the median pensioner income arose because, as the years passed, poorer older pensioners died and were replaced in the later sample by baby boomers with better pensions. The 5.1 per cent figure tells us nothing about the changing prosperity of any individual pensioner. Since pensions in payment have been increased at best by inflation and yields from most forms of savings have fallen it is certain that almost all individual pensioners have become worse off.

Sadly, the worst hit will be the poorest for whom the increase in the cost of fuel will be a disproportionate burden, but they are merely the worst hit during these four years. It is important in discussion of cuts in benefits to start from a position where it is accepted that existing pensioners are already becoming poorer. They are not fatted geese waiting to be plucked.

John Ball

Chair, Enfield Borough Over-50s Forum

Sir, As a recently retired baby boomer, I can vouch that my income is very substantially less than when I was working as I’m sure others in my position would also testify. For many of us, a large part of our “generous” occupational pension is not index linked, we may have had to take out annuities when rates are appallingly low, and our savings earn next to nothing and are eroded by inflation. We have also, through our working lives, paid taxes at rates much higher than are the norm today.

So enough of the baby boomer bashing.

Mark Franklin

Bromyard, Herefordshire

Recruitment should include open primaries and a requirement for selection committees to include a minimum percentage of female candidates

Sir, Conservative modernisers need to bite the bullet and adopt a radical approach if the party is serious about increasing the number of women MPs (report, Dec 4).

The party has been reluctant to adopt Labour’s pre-1997 politically correct all-female shortlists and there are other routes to achieving the goal of a fairer balance of Parliamentary representation. These should include open primaries and a requirement for selection committees to include a minimum percentage of female candidates at the final stage of the selection process; fifty per cent would seem an appropriate figure.

At the last election some of the Tories’ best results were achieved by female candidates; Nicola Blackwood, Anne Marie-Morris and Sarah Newton in Oxford, Newton Abbot and Truro respectively.

Adopting female candidates is not just fair, women are winners too.

Philip Duly

Haslemere, Surrey

There is no need to use fanciful names for sprouts — just tell kids one very important thing that they contain

Sir, Once children realise that sprouts (report Dec 4 & letter, Dec 5) are a valuable source of Kryptonite, there is no need to use a sobriquet.

Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor

Bridport, Dorset

Scientists and researchers need more funding for their research, and we need a global action plan to focus worldwide efforts

Sir, On December 11 London will host the first G8 summit dedicated to tackling the issue of dementia. Globally, more than 44 million people are dealing with this awful condition; a figure which will soar to 76 million by 2030. And as well as the human cost, dementia causes economic damage estimated at more than $604 billion a year worldwide.

Since my own grandmother, Nans, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I have experienced at first hand just how terribly painful and frightening dementia can be for both the person diagnosed and their family. Scientists and researchers are working hard to find ever better ways to treat, and perhaps one day cure, dementia but they need more funding for their research, and a global action plan to focus worldwide efforts. On behalf of all those who have dementia today, and the future generations who might still be spared, I would urge the G8 to deliver.

Carey Mulligan

Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador

The Government’s plan to make a profit from the legal system smacks of privatisation without all the associated costs

Sir, If the costs of persuing action through the civil courts is going to make a profit (report, Dec 4 & letter, Dec 5) then it must be time to privatise the civil courts. The premise that the State provides a justice system for its citizens to use appears to have been withdrawn.

Court staff and judges are civil servants with all the associated costs so if we are having a profit-making organisation it may, as with so many other organisations, be placed in private hands.

R. Gibbins

(Costs lawyer)

Pontefract, W Yorks


SIR – The Equality (Titles) Bill before the House of Lords seeks to remove one of the last areas of gender discrimination in our society and to bring hereditary titles in line with sex equality legislation from 1975.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 reflected society’s view that it is unacceptable for the throne to pass over a first-born girl, thereby treating her as inferior. It is no more acceptable that a girl be ineligible to inherit a hereditary title. The Crown is the apex of the system of hereditary titles; their rules of succession should be the same.

An amendment has been tabled to exclude baronets from this Bill. Such exclusion is extraordinary and has no place. The Bill, now the subject of proposed amendments, would prevent manifest injustice against women on the grounds of gender a full 39 years after the first sex equality legislation.

Sir Nicholas Stuart Taylor Bt
Sir David Roche Bt
Sir Roderic Llewellyn Bt
Lord Monson
London SW1

Related Articles

Christmas spirit

SIR – Each year, businesses spend millions of pounds on cards to send to clients, customers and contacts. Most of the money spent goes to the coffers of retailers; very little benefits charity. This is a great shame when the season is about giving.

This year, my company will not send cards. But we will be dedicating our time to a local charity, helping to clean and decorate their premises.

Andrew Holgate
Stockport, Cheshire

SIR – Our Christmas celebration is all about the children . Among the many cards I receive each year are those made by my grandchildren, and these are the ones I treasure most. Children take pride in their offerings and should be encouraged. Smart shop-bought cards are no substitute.

Helen Holmes
Cobham, Surrey

Tom, Dick and Harry

SIR – New parents looking beyond the Royal family for names for their children could do worse than seeking inspiration from the legal profession. Among those called to the bar published in your columns last Saturday were: Immanuel, Zara, Theopholus, Ovais, Panayiota, Oluwafunmilayo, Filza, Kadine Tisa, Tyasha Shontay, Richelle, Arion and Mercy. Not a George in sight.

Tony Crabb
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex

When I was 21…

SIR – The pair of hairbrushes I was given on my 21st birthday have done their morning job 22,280 times and their bristles are still in good condition. My hair, regrettably, has almost vanished.

Trevor Farrer
Witherslack, Cumbria

SIR – My father gave me a blue Qualcast lawnmower with two wheels for my 11th birthday. I mowed the lawn every week for 24 years, long after I was married, until I moved away. I gave it to my niece 13 years ago when she bought her first home.

I wonder what the reaction of an 11-year-old would be today to receive a mower and, indeed, how he or she could manage the task with a phone in one hand.

Joannie Grayell
Ascot, Berkshire

Ineffective jail terms

SIR – Short prison sentences do not serve victims well. While short sentences may punish, they are costly and can’t rehabilitate.

Many serving short sentences (often women and those with mental, drug and alcohol issues) have committed non-violent offences. A community sentence can prevent repeat offences by dealing with the offender’s behaviour at source: in their community. This is not about being soft on offenders, it’s about choosing appropriate punishment to prevent future crime.

Roma Hooper
London W1

Reading guide

SIR – Your reference to “the joys of reading” reminded me of the time John Betjeman was in the audience at a lecture given by Lord David Cecil on the pleasures of reading. After the lecture, Cecil expressed his surprise to Betjeman at seeing him there. Betjeman replied that he had been misled. He had expected the lecture to be about the pleasures of Reading.

Hugh McNearnie
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Chivalry for all

SIR – Good manners have not disappeared, but half a century of feminism has resulted in women no longer being the sole focus of “chivalrous acts”. I offer my seat to anyone who needs it more than I do, whether a pregnant woman or an infirm man, but not to a fit and healthy young woman. I am grateful when I am carrying a heavy load and a woman opens the door for me. I would do the same for her, if the situations were reversed.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

Foreign cigarette brands smoked as a last resort

SIR – Having been at sea for nine months during the Second World War, we had smoked the ship’s supply of cigarettes. The Players and Woodbines were the preferred brands but, as they ran out, we had to put up with the sickly Turkish variety and the Balkan Sobranie. A particularly offensive make called Ardath was the last resort. When we opened the cartons, we discovered that weevils had travelled through the contents and left tiny holes in every cigarette.

The only way to draw them was to inspect each one, find the holes, and place a finger on them, thus smoking them as if playing a flute. However, we were able to sell them for a fortune in Catania, in Sicily, and later in Taranto, in the heel of Italy, when it was freed.

Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire

SIR – In my youth, and in an attempt to impress girls, my friends and I would invest our hard-earned cash in the double-length, speciality cigarettes called Joystick. The only reaction we got was hysterical giggling. Later, when funds allowed, I switched to the more expensive Perfectos Finos. I invested in a box every Christmas and never handed them round to my less-appreciative smoking friends.

Bill Hollowell
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

SIR – The latest initiative from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is for secondary school teachers of mathematics to deliver lessons to primary school pupils in order to drive up standards. Inherent in this plan is the assumption that secondary teachers are better equipped to teach such lessons than their primary counterparts. A greater knowledge of the subject does not necessarily make for better teaching.

In my 36 years of teaching, I encountered many “highly qualified” teachers who were incapable of conveying their knowledge.

Steve Dorsett
Minster-on-Sea, Kent

SIR – My daughter, rated as outstanding by an Ofsted inspector, has left Britain to teach in Singapore, one of the leading countries in educational attainment. One reason she did so was because parents were often abusive towards her.

Successive governments have pursued policies of making teachers accountable to parents which, in this age of consumerism, have made them think they are the customer, and thus always right.

We need to reverse this trend, and start making parents accountable for supporting their children’s education.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Recently, the teaching unions criticised the private and free schools for having the temerity to employ people without Qualified Teacher status.

There is an irony in the fact that the slide in Britain’s ranking has occurred primarily in the state sector under the aegis of teachers so qualified.

Christopher Try
Englefield Green, Surrey

SIR – I understand that most homework is done by parents nowadays. Therefore, does the OECD report mean that our parents are lagging behind children in other countries?

Paul Constantinidi
Preston, Hertfordshire

SIR – News that China is pledging to invest in British infrastructure is to be welcomed (report, December 3).

Major developments to serve our society now, and in the future, such as HS2 and Crossrail 2, require significant foreign investment to get off the ground. With China expected to become the world’s largest economy in 2016, it is imperative that we strengthen links with this Asian powerhouse in order to create jobs and growth in both countries.

In pursuit of this goal, last year we launched the City of London renminbi initiative to develop the offshore Chinese currency market in London. We are working to increase dialogue between regulators and businesses from both Britain and China.

The City is building strong global partnerships in maritime services, legal services, infrastructure, and high-end manufacturing. The Prime Minister’s visit is an important marker in the programme of engagement, and will identify excellent opportunities for businesses of all sizes, from London to Beijing.

Fiona Woolf
Lord Mayor of London
London EC4

SIR – The prime minister used to take British businessmen overseas to give his endorsement to their businesses in the hope that the host country would buy more from them.

David Cameron’s idea seems to have been rather different: he went to China and seems pleased that they want to sell us railways and power stations.

Was he badly briefed?

Andrew Smith
Epping, Essex

SIR – The cost of the present trade mission to China is being borne by the British taxpayer, whose interests the Prime Minister was elected to represent. Despite this, he is trying to establish a free trade agreement not between China and Britain, but between China and the European Union. If Mr Cameron succeeds in this, he would make Britain yet more dependent on the EU and would later be able to give the loss of the benefit of the agreement as a reason for staying in the EU.

Martin Gray
Forgandenny, Perthshire

SIR – Mr Cameron has announced that he will not meet the Dali Lama soon, and seems unwilling to raise China’s appalling human rights record publicly during his visit. This is in contrast to his very public pronouncements regarding Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses last month.

He has consistently shown himself to be a man who is only too happy to be strong when dealing with the weak but very weak when dealing with the strong.

Michael Hinchliffe
Smeeth, Kent

SIR – You report that David Cameron, on a British government trip to China, gave the Chinese president an England football strip. Is it any wonder foreigners see England and Britain as the same entity?

Alistair Leitch
Morpeth, Northumberland

Irish Times:

Sir,   – Having been in Beaumont hospital’s casualty department on Tuesday night, I would like to declare my respect for the staff who work there.

I’m not sure I could face telling a patient that they would have to stay in a wheelchair until a chair hopefully becomes available.  I would struggle with the fact the facilities do not allow for the dignity and privacy people need when they are ill.   Could I accept using a plastic chair as my work area as I hunkered down beside a patient in a wheelchair to insert a cannula while someone squeezed past to enter the toilet? I’m not sure I could. Could I cope with the heart-rending pleas from patients to be allowed to go home as they feel the conditions are a greater threat to them than the illness or injury that landed them there in the first place?   I could go on.

The staff on the front line of our health services are holding things together despite the system, not because of it. I saw, first hand, better facilities in a primary hospital in a township on the edge of the Kalahari desert.

I look forward to the publication of the HSE Service Plan with trepidation. – Yours, etc,


Chieftains Close ,

Sir, – If the threatened ESB workers’ industrial action goes ahead, it is without doubt those who are poor or vulnerable will suffer extra hardship. As a result of the economic crisis this group of people are already suffering greatly. On a daily basis we see how this is affecting the lives of many people as they struggle to cope with limited resources. The very idea that there might be industrial action around Christmas time is already causing fear and anxiety.

Therefore, we plead that the trade unions and ESB representatives come together and solve their problems without causing hardship to others and that they do this in the coming days. A resolution to the issues will have to be found sooner or later; we ask that it be sooner. – Yours, etc,






Parish Team,

Cherry Orchard, Dublin 10.

Sir, – I see Senator Feargal Quinn is proposing legislation preventing workers of State utilities that supply electricity or water from going on strike.

Maybe he and his colleagues in the Seanad would be better using their time and energy quizzing ESB management as to why this present situation arose. Unions have their responsibilities, no doubt, but so do management and government. Pat Rabbitte, well known for his soundbites, has been conspicuous by his absence. And if he is working behind the scenes he could be doing more to reassure the public that the strike will not happen. – Yours, etc,


Solomons Manor,


Co Donegal.

A chara, – The fact that a trade union still has the power to endanger the lives, health and welfare, of every person in this country, is truly GUBU! Whether or not the threatened ESB strike takes place, our Government – ultimately responsible for the welfare and well-being of our nation, should act immediately to ensure that such a strike will not now, or ever, take place.

I sincerely hope that our church and other leaders of society will also speak out. – Is mise,


Gleann-na- Smól,

An Charraig Dhubh,

Átha Cliath.

A chara, – Duncan Smith of the Labour Party describes Fianna Fáil as a party with “a medieval tradition on social policy and neo-liberal capitalist perspective on economic policy” and describes Colm Keaveney as a “false prophet” (December 4th). This simple sloganeering is not backed up by the facts. On a range of social policy issues, whether it be provision for special needs assistants in schools, financial and other supports for the elderly, banning smoking in public places, or gay rights, Fianna Fáil in government showed the progressive nature of the party.

On economic policy, we make no apologies for being pro-business and pro-employment but tied to ensuring fairness in the distribution of wealth creation. The ESRI and Independent TD Stephen Donnelly have both stated their analysis shows that Fianna Fáil budgets were more equitable than those introduced by the current administration.

As a member of Fianna Fáil, I have never experienced the level of engagement with policy development and with renewal of the party’s values as has been happening over the past two years. As a party, we offer a progressive, centrist and constructive opposition which is learning from mistakes of the past. That is what has attracted Colm Keaveney and thousands of others to join or rejoin the party.

I challenge Mr Smith to examine the policies of Fianna Fáil, not simply to be dismissive in a rhetorical flourish. I believe there are, or were, many in Labour who share our values of equity and social justice. They were the people who at the 2011 election, set out clearly why they were needed in government to stop Fine Gael doing certain things; cutting child benefit, cutting disability supports, or increasing VAT. – Is mise,


Fianna Fáil,

The Chase,

Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – PJ McDermott (December 4th), in saying that Colm Keaveney and Fianna Fáil are eminently suited, jokes: “After all they each have their principles. And if you don’t like those principles then they have others”. While I totally agree with his sentiment, he could at least have credited Groucho Marx with this, when the latter said, “Those are my principles and if you don’t like them . . . well I have others.”

And perhaps the time will come when Mr Keaveney indeed will see that he should have studied Groucho a little more, and followed his good advice, in particular, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member”. – Yours, etc,


Hermitage Close,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Here are two more Latin phrases for Mr Keaveney. Fortuna est caeca (Fortune is blind) – Cicero; and Labor omnia vincit (Labour conquers all) – Virgil. – Yours, etc,


Rosan Glas, Gaillimh. .

Sir, – The greatest impact which Colm Keaveney’s sudden conversion to the greatness of Fianna Fáil and Micheál Martin will have is that public trust in politicians will be eroded even further. We have been conditioned to believe that all politicians are out to feather their own nests and look after themselves, and this is clearly the only motivation behind Mr Keaveney’s decision.

Lucinda Creighton or Róisín Shortall both sacrificed far more than Mr Keaveney for their principles, and it is impossible to imagine them performing anything remotely like the sellout which he has performed. Unfortunately, it is politics as a whole which loses out from this cynical manoeuvre. – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Harolds Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Your page 3 photograph (December 4th) of Micheál Martin with his new recruit, shows him wearing a red tie

Perhaps that’s what attracted Colm Keaveney

It was hardly his party’s policies! – Yours, etc,



New Ross, Co Wexford.

Sir, – The defection by Colm Keaveney raises very serious questions. Can we trust the politician we voted for? Or indeed can we trust any politician? The answer to me is quite simple, and is in the hands of the political system itself.

No politician should be able to change over to a different political party during the life of an elected government.

If a politician has a change in political ideology, let him or her go back to the people who made the decision to give the person their vote. – Yours, etc,


Clover Hill,



Sir, – It does not behove The Irish Times as a progressive and cultured newspaper to publish articles by Miriam Lord mocking Japanese pronunciations of English words in the context of our Prime Minister’s visit to the country on an official diplomatic mission (Miriam Lord, Home News, December 5th).

Many of us in Irish cultural, educational and business life are doing our best to enhance our reputation with countries such as China and Japan. Mocking the difficulty Asian speakers have in making L sounds is just one step above references to slit eyes and is totally inexcusable in a grown-up, responsible forum. I would hate to imagine how I or Miriam Lord would sound speaking Japanese.

The derivation of the English word nitwit derives from the English making fun of Dutch refugees replying “Neet weet” (don’t know) to questions in English and most of the British stereotypes of Irish stupidity are rooted in the inadequate grasp of English by 19th-century Gaelic-speaking immigrants. We should know better than the English on this subject and Irish Times correspondents should not be writing opinions better suited to red-topped tabloids. – Yours, etc,


Artistic Director,

The Munster Literature



A chara, – It is a cause of shame that the greatest threat to the Irish language is and always has been the ruling State of the day. As Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuireáin has made great strides in supporting our constitutional right to use Irish in public life despite the immense obstacles in our State bureaucracy. It is the same bureaucracy that has made the role of an Coimisinéir Teanga both vital and impossible (Breaking News, December 5th). – Is mise,


Páirc na Canálach Ríoga,

Baile an Ásaigh,

Baile Átha Cliath 15.

Sir, – “Retailers support call to bring back ‘Christmas bonus’ payment: NGOs and TDs say it would boost economy and alleviate poverty at Christmas”, (Kitty Holland, Social Affairs, December 5th). Bah, humbug! Let them away with that and the next thing they’ll think the economy is supposed to alleviate poverty all year round. – Yours, etc,


Castleview Estate,

Sir, – I was surprised that your recent A to Z Guide of Christmas had Virgin Birth not Vouchers at V (December 2nd) but the (December 5th) report that nearly half of vouchers go unused, yet 51 per cent of people plan to buy them, redresses the balance.

Everyone has their own horror stories regarding these things, so it beggars belief that so many persist in giving money to a complete stranger instead of a loved one.

What’s the logic? It is, “It felt too mercenary to give you cash so I gave it to somebody else. Here’s a bit of paper. If you show it to the person I gave it to, perhaps they’ll allow you to have their goods or avail of their services – but only if you do it within a time they specify and always at full cost.” Idiotic. – Yours, etc,


Sir, – The Lafayette building on the corner of Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street in Dublin (Commercial Property, November 20th), was always known as Purcell’s Corner. I know, because our father got his pipe tobacco there in the 1950s. Our family business was Kennedy & McSharry, Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street for many years.

By the way, the Ballast Office was on the corner of Westmoreland Street and Aston Quay. There was the clock with the blue face, McBirneys down the quay and Bewleys for morning coffee and cherry buns. Anyone else remember? – Yours, etc,


Owendoher Avenue,

Sir, – The Lafayette building on the corner of Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street in Dublin (Commercial Property, November 20th), was always known as Purcell’s Corner. I know, because our father got his pipe tobacco there in the 1950s. Our family business was Kennedy & McSharry, Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street for many years.

By the way, the Ballast Office was on the corner of Westmoreland Street and Aston Quay. There was the clock with the blue face, McBirneys down the quay and Bewleys for morning coffee and cherry buns. Anyone else remember? – Yours, etc,


Owendoher Avenue,

Sir, – Your lead article states Ireland is the number one country in the world for investment, according to Forbes magazine, giving a long list of reasons for this statement (Breaking News, December 5th).

Immediately below this article is “Facebook paid €1.9m in Irish tax on €1.7bn turnover”. I can’t help wondering are these articles in some way connected? – Yours, etc,


Kilmacanogue Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* A browse through the websites of the charities at the centre of the ‘executive salaries’ controversy shows that these organisations aspire to fairly lofty ideals.

Also in this section

Letters: We can’t allow history to be rewritten

Letters: An Irish Christmas remembered

Letters: Truth emerges in the strangest of places

There is little doubt that executives and boards of management at these charities need to engage in some reflection – what is their ethos? Are they fulfilling the work they set out to do? But, above all, why, during this unprecedented economic crisis do they continue to pay large salaries to their senior administrators while some of those they are supposed to serve, and indeed the frontline staff, are experiencing hardship and worry.

The Government cannot force managers at these organisations to take pay cuts, as we now have a ludicrous situation where the contractual arrangements of certain individuals are more important than the greater good of society. And there is no politician, regardless of their beliefs, willing to challenge this.

I am quite sure that when senior managers of charitable organisations applied for their well-paid jobs that they were asked if they had leadership qualities and I’m almost sure that most of them would have said yes.

Peter Drucker, the American management consultant, said: “Management is doing things right; but leadership is doing the right things”. We so badly need leadership in this country. Let’s see if it comes from the charity sector.

Caroline Collins

Clare Road, Ennis, Co Clare


* I always had a healthy respect for Colm Keaveney. Not because he was a Labour member (that party does not rank highly in my mind, at the moment), but because of his dedication to the members of that party; resigning the parliamentary party whip, but retaining his chairmanship of the national party, and refusing to let his principles (of the moment) or those of Labour be trampled by Gilmore, Rabbitte, Quinn, et al’s champagne socialism.

He has done himself irreparable damage by joining Fianna Fail, however.

Apart from the legion of his less-than-complimentary sound bites on Fianna Fail that have been spewed forth in the past few days, he has chosen to join an organisation that is almost the polar opposite of the party he used to chair, with a founder in arch-conservative De Valera who, outside of their mutual nationalism, was an ideological enemy of Labour’s socialist founder, James Connolly.

If Fianna Fail do now most closely represent his views, however, could that mean that, far from being too left-wing for an increasingly right-wing Labour, Keaveney was a closet conservative all along?

Killian Foley-Walsh



* I was interested to read ‘Wind farms could be a massive problem for horses’ (Irish Independent, December 3) in which Mr Ruby Walsh asserts: “The moving shadows on sunny days created by wind turbines is a massive problem for horses. The riding or even grazing of horses in such areas is simply not possible and extremely dangerous.”

Presumably Mr Walsh can back these claims with evidence or personal experience.

What I wonder at is: how is it that thoroughbred horses, who are apparently able to endure international air travel and the rigours of race day, can be so disturbed by noise that is barely audible to the human ear and shadows that are unlikely to manifest for more than a few hours per year even at very close proximity to wind turbines?

I have worked in the wind sector in Australia for over five years and my latest wind farm project is adjacent to the pre-eminent thoroughbred-breeding area of Scone in New South Wales.

No such concerns have been articulated by Australian horse breeders. Indeed, horses have been observed and photographed grazing and seeking shade directly beneath operating wind turbines.

Nick Valentine

Ryde Road, Hunters Hill, NSW, Australia


* I thought it astonishing that in this day and age one European country can still threaten another, insidiously or otherwise, as happened when Ukraine abandoned signing the EU integration pact.

There is little doubt that Russia’s control over Ukraine’s gas supply had a major influence on President Yanukovich’s last-minute decision.

But my memory was short. I thought back to autumn 2010 – had we not also been threatened, that time by a European institution, when the ECB insisted upon us paying unsecured bondholders?

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth


* I am becoming tired of the well-worn cliche: To get the top talent, we have to offer top salaries.

I would subscribe to the views of Ben Dunne, who, a couple of years ago, expressed the opinion: “Their salary should be what it costs to replace them: and we have plenty of very capable young people with the necessary financial skills and experience who would gladly work for a tenth of what these people are being paid.”

And now we hear of irregular “salary top-ups” for executives of institutions which depend on charitable donations.

If I decide to donate money, I like to choose my own charity. And executives who already earn more than 10 times what I earn would not be at the top of my list.

John McGeorge

Doonbeg, Co Clare


* Ireland needs to sharpen its act in relation to the EU.

Irish has been an official EU language since 2007. Because of fears that not enough qualified Irish translators and lawyer-linguists were available, Irish was given a derogation whereby only a portion of material available in other languages is translated into Irish.

In the meantime, sterling work has been done to train the relevant language experts and capacity is no longer an issue.

EPSO, the central recruitment agency for EU bodies, fills permanent posts. EPSO exams can be quite tricky and a thorough knowledge of a third language is necessary.

The Maltese overcame their derogation within three years by means of temporary contracts.

Such contract competitions are not as exacting as EPSO permanent post competitions and half the Maltese EU language experts are on temporary contracts to this day.

Most of the Croat language experts are also on temporary contracts.

Our derogation is due to lapse at the end of 2016 if not renewed.

Over 180 well paid jobs will be created at no expense to the Irish taxpayer if the derogation lapses. These positions would be filled in the first instance by the various Irish units running temporary contract competitions.

Once in situ, these Irish citizens will be in a position to move on to policy area positions, which will greatly benefit Ireland in the medium to long term.

There is no other way to dramatically increase the number of Irish people working with the EU.

The Irish Government needs to signal its intention not to seek a renewal of the derogation early in the New Year in order to allow for the necessary competition and recruitment process throughout 2014-2016.

Not for the first time the Irish language is our bridge to Europe.

Julian de Spáinn

Ard-Rúnaí Chonradh na Gaeilge

18 Eachlann Garville, Rath Garbh, Baile Átha Cliath 2

Irish Independent


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