Solar heating men

7 December 2013 Solar men

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

Our heroes are in trouble Ritakins is after LT Murray but does he know it? Priceless.

Potter about Solar water men come and fix solar water heater

No Scrabbletoday.


Peter Graf, who has died aged 75, was the tempestuous father – and former coach, manager and chaperone – of the German world tennis champion Steffi Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles , including seven at Wimbledon.

So closely did Graf control his daughter that he earned the nickname “Papa Merciless” for driving her relentlessly from a young age. But after he had been a constant presence during her climb to the sport’s heights, the pair fell out when he was sentenced to nearly four years in prison in 1997, having being convicted of tax evasion on nearly £5 million of her earnings. He was released after serving almost half his sentence.

Peter Graf was one of a small band of tennis fathers to join what some commentators call the “ugly parent” syndrome. Others included “Mad Mike” Agassi, whose infamous home-made machine (known as “the dragon”) served tennis balls at 110mph at his seven-year-old son, Andre (no doubt instilling in the boy both the skills to become one of the greats of tennis and his avowed hatred of the game).

Dubbed “the German Mike Agassi”, Graf controlled with an iron fist Steffi’s tournament and practice schedule, as well as her finances, and even her sleeping and waking hours.

Yet he reportedly had problems with alcohol, gambling and sleeping pills. There was also the question of his thunderflash temper, which he regularly unleashed on match officials, sometimes from his seat in the stands where he would also (illegally) signal coaching advice to his daughter on court.

Disappointed and angry if she played badly or failed to try hard enough in training, he more than once slapped her face in frustration as he delivered a public dressing down. For years, Peter Graf also rejected financial advice. Players and coaches recalled seeing him with paper carrier bags into which he stuffed thousands of dollars in tournament money.

Nor did he appear to be chastened by his spell in prison: when his daughter announced that she was going to marry Andre Agassi, Peter Graf confronted Mike Agassi, eventually stripping off his shirt and squaring up to him until Andre separated the two men.

The son of a German sports official, Peter Graf was born in Mannheim on June 18 1938 and educated at the Karl Friedrich Gymnasium, from which he dropped out to become a talented amateur footballer. His mother’s suicide had blighted his teenage years, and when his dreams of becoming a professional sportsman evaporated, he channelled his ambitions into turning Stefanie into the world’s best tennis player.

By the late 1960s he was working as a second-hand car and insurance salesman as well as a part-time tennis coach, teaching his three-year-old daughter, who had shown amazing co-ordination, how to swing a cut-down wooden racket in the family’s living room and spending hours hitting a ball with her. When she made a successful return she would often be rewarded with ice cream and strawberries.

Steffi began practising on a court at the age of four; played in her first tournament at five; and a year later won her first title. When she was eight, Graf gave up his job to devote himself full-time to her career. He signed her first professional contract when she was 13, the year she won the German under-18 championship.

Other high-profile German sporting figures sought to minimise their tax liabilities by moving to other countries, but as his daughter’s earnings rose Peter Graf stayed put, telling a magazine: “I think we can afford the taxes.”

In fact, he set up offshore corporations, took huge payments in cash and for several years signed double contracts to conceal large sums of Steffi’s income and avoid paying tax on his daughter’s multi-million-dollar income. For four years, between 1989 and 1993, she filed no returns at all, failed to declare £16 million in income and did not pay £8 million she owed in German taxes alone.

She always denied she knew anything about her finances, her failure to file tax returns and declare the millions of dollars in guarantees she allegedly received, against World Tennis Association rules. One German tournament director recalled how “Papa” Graf came to his office and said: “I did not know the finals were on a Sunday. You know we’re on our way to LA and Steffi can’t possibly play in the finals,” before adding: “She might be able to play if you make it worth our while.”

According to reports, Graf insisted on receiving Steffi’s fees in cash from the German Tennis Federation and other tournament organisers. After two events in Hamburg and Berlin in the early 1990s, he was said to have driven off with £155,555 in plastic bags in the back of his car.

But even as criticism of her father’s authoritarian style grew, Steffi herself remained loyal. “I don’t understand why he is not getting the respect he deserves,” she said.

After his arrest, Graf was criticised for failing to take professional advice about his daughter’s financial affairs. Rumours that he was being treated for alcoholism in prison were officially denied, but his drinking problem was no secret to the German media and he was known to have liver and circulatory problems.

Steffi Graf refused to testify at her father’s trial on the grounds that it might incriminate her. At the end, when the German judge sentenced her father to three years and nine months in prison, less 15 months already served, he refrained from imposing a fine because he said Steffi would have ended up paying, rather than Graf himself.

A more salacious scandal had engulfed Graf in 1990 when a 22-year-old former Playboy topless model, Nicole Meissner, filed a paternity suit against him, claiming that he had paid her and a boxing promoter $424,000 to drop the action. Meissner was eventually jailed for two years for blackmail, and blood tests proved that Graf was not the father.

Latterly Graf, who had been coaching foreign tennis players, had apparently repaired his relationship with his daughter.

Peter Graf and his wife, Heidi, divorced in 1999. In August of that year he married Britta, an optician from Mannheim 20 years his junior, and Steffi’s one-time babysitter .

He is survived by Steffi and by his son, Michael.

Peter Graf, born June 18 1938, died December 1 2013


In July 1990, following his release from prison, Nelson Mandela had flown into Britain to begin vital negotiations with the Thatcher government about South Africa‘s future. The Foreign Office imposed a ban on him speaking publicly on any political matter so as not to prejudice those talks. However, he was allowed to make his first public appearance in Britain at a birthday celebration at Wembley stadium organised to honour him by the Anti-Apartheid Movement. After an ecstatic 20-minute standing and stamping ovation he quietened the 30,000 crowd with that big smile and those long outstretched arms and said: “Thank you. You chose to care.”
Chris Trude

• I was one of many who never bought any South African goods from the time Mandela was imprisoned when I was a teenager, to the time he walked free. During those long bitter years when he was called a terrorist, I’m so glad we kept the faith.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire

• Mention should be made of the South African embassy picket line that City of London Anti-Apartheid maintained for 49 months, 24 hours a day, until Mandela was released. The only day missed was that of the poll tax riot, when we were prevented by the police.
Ken Baldry

• In 1981, Glasgow was the first in the world to award Mandela the Freedom of the City, while Thatcher’s people in London were calling him a terrorist. So how should we vote in 2014? It doesn’t help that the most moving tribute to Mandela I have heard was by Gordon Brown.
Douglas Richardson

At the news of Nelson Mandela‘s death there must be many who feel the need to express a sense of shame for the part our country played in sustaining the apartheid regime in South Africa. From the 1960s onwards the messages that the anti-apartheid movement was bringing us – about our huge investments in the apartheid system, about our sale of weapons to South Africa that were being used to suppress and kill its citizens – were met with indifference or scorn by the Tory establishment and its allies in the press. By the 1980s apartheid was reviled throughout the world, but it was Tory Britain, along with the US, that continued to sustain the white minority regime and repeatedly vetoed UN resolutions that called for economic sanctions on South Africa. Had it not done so there would have been an earlier end to apartheid and Mandela’s incarceration.

What lessons have been learned? We still invest in, and sell arms to, countries that trample on human rights. Many die-hard Tories still believe that the presence of an impoverished, easily exploited underclass is good for business. Is our present government ready to learn anything from history and from a man who dedicated his life to peace, justice and equality?
Dr Trevor Hyde
Matlock, Derbyshire

• Apartheid was politically and socially despicable, but its leaders had the moral strength and conviction to keep Nelson Mandela alive in jail, deliberately leaving open the option for him to come out and lead his country one day.

In his interview on al-Jazeera in November 2011, the last apartheid prime minister and co-Nobel prize recipient FW de Klerk said: “sanctions played a part; it kept us on our toes … but the most important driving force which forced us to do what we did was conscience and ethical conviction … Once we said to ourselves, that separate development, as we preferred to call apartheid, has failed to bring justice to the overwhelming majority of South Africans, we abandoned the concept of separateness and substituted the concept of togetherness in a new vision for South Africa. And the main concept was that it was good to do justice for all.”

Had Mandela been an opposition leader elsewhere in Africa, there would have been no justice and he would have almost certainly been disappeared or murdered like Tom Mboya and Robert Ouku of Kenya; former African Union secretary general Dialo Telli of Guinea; emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; chief Moshood Abiola of Nigeria; and former chief justice Ben Kiwanuka and former president Freddie Mutesa of my native Uganda to mention but a few. Many African leaders who will be flocking to South Africa for Mandela’s funeral are presiding over virtual apartheid systems in their countries where there is one law that protects the thieving president and his family and cronies; and another that victimises those who do not agree with the government.
Sam Akaki

• It is shameful that as we are honouring the death of Nelson Mandela we still struggle to get the true story of the defeat of apartheid heard. There is no mention of the defeat of racist South Africa by the combined forces of Angola and Cuba at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. It was this milestone event that finally brought the apartheid regime to the negotiating table and led to Mandela’s release, yet it has been so wiped from history that I would not be surprised if your journalists were unaware of it, let alone schoolchildren. Without wanting to belittle the contributions of people in Britain, we are led to believe that pressure from a pop concert was the reason the apartheid regime surrendered.

A quote from Mandela himself: “Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent – and of my people – from the scourge of apartheid.”

Truth and reconciliation means telling the truth as well as reconciling with former enemies. So let us forgive Thatcher and Reagan, but let us honour those who died so that South Africans can be free.
George Lazou

• Let us not allow Mandela to be co-opted by the establishment. Today, the same wielders of power act in ways anathema to Mandela’s principles and support for the oppressed of the world, whether in Palestine or in South Africa itself. The only true way to remember this remarkable man is to carry on his fight for peace with justice.
Roshan Pedder
West Molesey, Surrey

• I remember and salute the thousands of men and women who also fought alongside Mandela and died in the struggle when they were in their 20s. Don’t forget them. They never saw justice, or reconciliation, just a shallow grave. They didn’t get a chance to forgive like Mandela and Tutu did.
Marco Ciglia

Nelson Mandela has always had a special place in my heart. As a white teenager growing up in 1960s apartheid South Africa, I remember my sense of guilt whenever I was on the beach at Seapoint, Cape Town, knowing Mandela was locked away in harsh conditions on Robben Island only a few miles away. I grew up believing South Africa would never be free – at least not in my lifetime. I returned in 1993-94 in the run-up to the first democratic elections, as the only British member of an ecumenical monitoring team drawn from all over the world. Mandela had been released and I and others were there to play a small part in the extraordinary peaceful revolution that he made possible – it was the stuff of dreams.
Vivienne Barton

• On his state visit to London in July 1996, Mandela came to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. My wife and I and other members of the abbey family had been invited by the dean, Michael Mayne, to meet him. The Abbey had been warned that Mandela was running late and could only spend a few minutes there. Not so. The choir sang for him, and he shook hands with all 22 of them and with everyone else including Betty and me. The dean took him on a tour, and he wanted to see everything and know about everything. Eleven years later, I watched from the abbey’s north door as his 9ft bronze statue, sculpted by Ian Walters, was unveiled in Parliament Square by Gordon Brown, as a frail Mandela, supported by his wife and a walking stick, looked on.
Chris Birch

• My friend is a retired Methodist missionary who served in South Africa. She answered her phone one evening to find Nelson Mandela on the line. He was calling from Buckingham Palace, during a state visit, to thank her for visiting him in prison on Robben Island. Your readers may be moved, as I was, by his gratitude and humility.
Rev Canon John Young

• In all the coverage of Mandela’s passing, it is worth mentioning that FW de Klerk’s announcement on 2 February 1990 of the unbanning of the ANC, and the release of Mandela, came almost exactly 30 years after Harold Macmillan‘s “wind of change” speech in Cape Town on 3 February 1960. The irony of the coincidence of course was that while Macmillan was outlining his radical vision of a rapid decolonisation of British possessions further up the African continent, the moral of his message was lost on his hosts and did not reach Pretoria from Cape Town until three decades later.
Ramnik Shah
Epsom, Surrey

I have never heard a more poignant announcement on a train than the one which the clearly moved guard made somewhere between Totnes and Newton Abbot last night, informing passengers that Nelson Mandela had died. A moment I shall never forget.
Peter Kaan
Exeter, Devon

• Is it not now time to honour Mandela with a statue on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, opposite South Africa House and the scene of so many anti-apartheid demonstrations?
Chris McDonnell
Little Haywood, Staffordshire

• No one seems to have realised that when President Obama said of Nelson Mandela, “Now he belongs to the ages”, he was echoing the words attributed to the US secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, on the death of Abraham Lincoln? He could have paid no higher tribute.
Robert Meikle 

• Obama paid handsome tribute to Mandela. Perhaps now he will free his own political prisoners? The steel cells of Guantánamo look very similar to Mandela’s sparse prison cell at Robben Island.
Joy Hurcombe
Worthing, West Sussex

• Some words from King Lear spring to mind: “We that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long.”
Chris Coates
Colchester, Essex

• In the run-up to the Iraq war, Nelson Mandela described Tony Blair as behaving like the US secretary of state. Has there been a better summation of Blair?
Michael Wharton
Darsham, Suffolk

• I’m sure David Cameron’s statement on the death of Nelson Mandela was sincere. So why does it make me so angry?
Barry Wrankmore
Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

• As prominent Conservative MPs queue up to sing Mandela’s praises, could you publish the names of all those who, in their days in the Young Conservatives or the Monday Club, called for his execution as a terrorist?
Tony Clarke


Nelson Mandela was uncompromising in his belief in and pursuit of freedom, equality and justice, and followed this pursuit with dignity, grace, strength and humility.

He did more than bring about the end of apartheid; he became a paragon for the whole world; to all peoples who are involved in political or religious rivalry, to all individuals who are in the midst of personal tragedy – depression, grief, poverty, oppression – he is or should be a beacon for the ages.

What he taught is to see beyond paltriness and shadiness and always do the thing that we know is right. Mandela realised this. He always saw the bigger picture and embodied the  most difficult of Christian precepts; he extended the hand of friendship and love to his erstwhile enemies.

The world is a poorer place.

Stuart Russell


As we remember the great Nelson Mandela, it’s important for us Brits to remember what things were like in this country while he was still a political prisoner in South Africa. I remember my 20s as an anti-apartheid campaigner; and I remember vividly that Thatcher, then Conservative prime minister, labelled Mandela’s ANC a “typical terrorist organisation”.

 While we all now celebrate Mandela, at the time he and his brilliant freedom organisation were consistently attacked and undermined by the party which now, once again, is ruling this country: the Conservatives.

Rupert Read


If only the Palestinians had a Mandela, if only the Israelis had a De Klerk, and both peoples believed in ubuntu, the understanding that a person is a person through other people.

Martin Wright

London SW2

As the world hails Nelson Mandela for his humanity and forgiveness, I think it’s time for Barack Obama to pick up Mandela’s mantle.

In the spirit of the man he admired so much, Obama should dismantle the Guantanamo facility in Cuba and release the 162 prisoners there, who have been badly mistreated and not been tried in any court of law.

Guantanamo remains a blot on how the USA is viewed from here, and that spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness would be a first major step in ridding the US of its worldwide reputation for being an uncivilised country.

Dave Johnstone

Eridge Green, East Sussex

“The whole earth is the tomb of famous men.”

 – Pericles.

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey

Business rate reform must go farther

As announced at the Autumn Statement, the rates discount for small retailers will be welcome news, although it should have gone a step further (James Moore, 6 December). Small retailers will not, on their own, regenerate the high streets.

The Government needs to recognise that retail space in most high streets is not as valuable as it once was and will never recover, except within major shopping centres. We need a significant reduction in business rates for all town centres if they are to revive.

Otherwise there needs to be a concerted effort to change the use of some retail areas, perhaps to residential, or our town centres are to be condemned to having more charity shops and empty buildings – neither of which pay business rates anyway.

By regenerating our town centres and secondary shopping areas, the Government will be able collect more rates, not less.

Peter Burgess

Managing Director, Retail Human Resources plc

London W9


Digital autopsies can’t match the knife

Your article (27 November) reports that the new digital autopsy centre in Sheffield will revolutionise the investigation of unnatural deaths and will minimise delays in releasing the body of the deceased for burial or cremation, and improve the accuracy of results.

I am afraid the current published data fails to support these assertions. In 2012 the largest study of post-mortem imaging yet undertaken was published in The Lancet (Roberts et al., vol. 379, p136-142). This found that the discrepancy rate between the “gold standard” of a conventional open autopsy and an imaging autopsy was as high as 30 per cent, even when both MRI and CT scanning were performed.

In cases where the consultant radiologists involved were certain of the cause of death following imaging, they were still incorrect in 16 per cent of cases. The most frequent imaging errors involved the most common causes of death; namely ischaemic heart disease, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and intra-abdominal lesions.

With regard to speed of the result, it is my experience that most conventional autopsy examinations provide the family with a cause of death the same day as the autopsy is undertaken.

I seek to highlight these points not because of any personal opposition to autopsy imaging but to provide evidence that such autopsies currently are not as accurate as the conventional form of examination, and families whose loved ones have such an examination must be prepared for a high proportion to be unable to provide an accurate cause of death.

I would also be interested to know if the imaging centre in Sheffield can provide their service for the £96.80 autopsy pathologists current receive per case.

Dr Mark R Howard

Consultant Histopathologist and Autopsy Pathologist for Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for the City of Brighton and Hove

Segregation on campus

When is a woman in Britain no longer accepted as an equal citizen, able to take part in public life on the same terms as a man?

The answer is: when she is viewed through the eyes of someone whose mindset is steeped in a religious tradition that abhors the idea; and whenever that person is given the privilege to wield an “it’s my religion – get out of the way” card to impose this sentiment on the rest of society.

The cowardly and mindless decision by Universities UK to accommodate some religious speakers’ preference for gender-segregated seating for audiences is a clear example of why we need a secular society that can balance and protect the rights of all citizens, religious or not, fairly and equally.

As long as freedom of religion is valued higher than our freedom from it, we can expect to see more attempts at eroding our democratic values.

Let’s hope Scottish universities will not become afflicted with the same memory loss regarding the definition of gender equality and its universal application in public life.

Veronica Wikman



Worrying staff levels at free schools

After much endeavour I have finally managed to track down the figures the DfE hold on free school staff. Even though they initially told me that they did not hold this data, as free schools were “autonomous public bodies”, it seems now that they do.

The figures do reveal some worrying facts about free schools. Firstly of the 88 that are on the DfE records 12 have provided no data whatsoever. Of the remainder, 36 have 100 per cent QTS trained staff. Of the rest the figures vary widely, with one school recording just 47 per cent QTS.

What is even more worrying is the huge disparity in pupil/teacher ratios, given that public money is being thrown at these schools at the expense of local authority schools in the same area. One school reports a PTR of just five pupils per member of staff, 10 of them are in single figures and yet one is reporting a PTR of 48.

The figures show standards of provision varying widely from school to school, with no overarching intellectual framework apart from “free means good”.

Simon G Gosden

Rayleigh, Essex

Caesarean baby should go home

I fear that the media reporting on the Essex baby case is focusing too much attention on the caesarean section and not enough on the future of the child.

A child born in the UK to a mother who is here and ill temporarily, and is normally resident in a different EU country should be repatriated to that country so that local social services can work with the family for the benefit of all concerned. Our family courts appear to think that we should kidnap the child just because it happened to be born here.

Nigel Scott

London N22

Fear that dare not speak its name

Hats off to Tom Daley for not concealing his homosexuality. But, as Owen Jones says (3 December), it really shouldn’t be news. Another person’s sexual orientation need be of no particular interest unless you’re contemplating bedding them. Perhaps it’s a subliminal fear of their own nature that causes some homophobes to be so vocal?

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire


Sir, Where were you when you heard of Nelson Mandela’s death? The question millions of us asked ourselves about President Kennedy will also apply to Mandela. Such is the status of the former South African President and anti-apartheid crusader in the eyes of millions around the world.

If anything, by virtue of longevity and potency, the Mandela legacy is substantially more important than that of JFK. The manner of their deaths was of course very different but the sense of loss is no less palpable. It is also reasonable to wonder whether medical science was employed to keep an ailing Mandela alive longer than normal because of a combination of the reverence in which he was held and fears that the political and social cohesion he inspired in his homeland might not survive his passing.

Once the outpouring of grief and a state funeral watched by the world is over, preserving the Mandela legacy will be the long-term challenge faced by the lesser mortals who make up South Africa’s present leadership.

Paul Connew

St Albans, Herts

Sir, As anti-apartheid activists, my parents knew Nelson Mandela in the 1950s. I’ll always remember the story he told them about the time he saw a white woman standing next to her broken-down car by the road in Johannesburg. He walked up to her and offered to look at the problem. After he raised the bonnet and fixed the car, she thanked him and offered him sixpence. “Oh no, that’s not necessary,” he said, “I am only too happy to help.”

Puzzled, she asked, “Why else would you, a black man, have done that if you did not want money?”

“Because you were stranded at the side of the road,” he replied.

With a simple act of charity, he cut through the barriers of the time and made the motorist aware of her own racism.

Steve Bloom

Ashford, Kent

Sir, It may, possibly, be worth noting, as a measure of the immense influence Nelson Mandela had on people in every land and the great esteem in which he was universally held, that I, a white Englishman in his 65th year with no connections to South Africa or the African people, consider him, without a shadow of a doubt, the finest example of a life to which my children and grandchildren could aspire.

In terms of his struggle for justice, his human decency and dignity, his love and respect for all his fellow beings and his capacity for forgiveness, he has no equals in our era, but it was his success in uniting huge numbers of people of different races, religions and ideologies in the cause of reconciliation and peace that will be his great legacy.

Stephen Porter

London, NW6

Sir, In an obvious concern of one minority for another, Lazar Skidelsky, a Jewish lawyer, defied custom of the time and employed the young Mandela as a law clerk. Mandela said later: “In my experience I have found Jews to be more broad-minded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.”

Notwithstanding the ANC’s support for Palestinian rights, Mandela remained a friend of the Jewish community. When he visited the UK a few years back to address the Board of Deputies of British Jews he received a tumultuous welcome.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath, Herts

Sir, I was lucky to attend the opening of the 2003 cricket World Cup in South Africa.

At the evening ceremony, the president of South African cricket was enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd; the South African sports minister was less than enthusiastically greeted, and then Nelson Mandela was introduced and the crowd, still predominantly white in those days, went wild. As David Rattray, the historian, said to me during that trip to South Africa, “We were staring into the abyss and he saved us.” The huge crowd at Newlands that day certainly agreed with him.

A sad, sad day — looking around the world today, I don’t see “the like of him”.

Guy Treharne

Pershore, Worcs

Sir, A great light has gone out in the world with the passing of Nelson Mandela. As well as being an inspirational leader he was a fine wordsmith. One of my favourite Mandela sayings is: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

George Givens

Durban, South Africa

The construction of a learning centre to interpret the ‘special qualities’ of Holkham beach destroys the very thing which makes it so special

Sir, The proposal to build a visitor centre on one of this country’s magical places, Holkham in Norfolk (report & letter, Nov 30), is a desecration of the solitude and wildness there. The absence of structures and any commercial enterprises is part of the essential character and beauty of this place.

The construction of a learning centre to interpret the “special qualities” of this beach destroys the very thing which makes it so special. Anyone with eyes and ears can appreciate the special qualities which are there all around. The wide Norfolk sky, the sound of the sea, wind and birds are what those who love the place enjoy. If anyone wants the more traditional seaside amusements of tea rooms, small shops and information centres, these can be found in Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney and Cley next the Sea.

We need to be vigilant in our care of the wild places that are left to us. Even Sites of Special Scientific Interest status is not an assured protection, as the people of Aberdeenshire found when dunes on the Menie estate were bulldozed for a golf course.

Leave this wonderful place to its wildlife and solitude without encroachments that generations to come will still be able to enjoy.

J. R. Knox

London SE3

Sir, How times have changed. I remember not long after the war when we used to drive to Holkham on a Bank Holiday. Having crossed over the “Muddle And Go Nowhere” line by the level crossing we drove up to the line of pine trees where there was a space to leave the car and walked through the trees to the beach, which would be completely deserted. We let off the two terriers and shared the beach with them for at least an hour without seeing anyone else.

I can also recall the first time we arrived at the turning off the road to find the gate was shut and a sign saying “Lady Anne’s Drive entrance 2/6d”. That year there were a couple of other cars and the year after about 20. The other visitors never seemed to leave the edge of the trees so we still had the beach to ourselves. Now I read there are half a million visitors a year. I hope it won’t be spoilt.

simon batt

Halstead, Essex

Catholic schools do not have pupil intakes that match their immediate local area because they have larger catchment areas than other schools

Sir, We read with interest Ruth Gledhill’s article (“Poorer pupils rejected by faith schools”, Dec 3) in which the British Humanist Association and others claim that Catholic secondary schools educate fewer children from deprived backgrounds than other schools. The research goes on to claim that Catholic secondary schools admit 24 per cent fewer pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) than would be expected given their local areas.

Figures from the Department for Education Schools Census paint a different picture. They point to only minor variations in FSM uptake between Catholic secondary schools and other state schools (13.1 per cent to 15.1 per cent). Interestingly, it also shows that Catholic secondary schools educate more children from ethnic minorities (28.7 per cent to 23.2 per cent) and from the most deprived areas (17.3 per cent to 12.2 per cent) than other State schools.

Catholic schools do not have pupil intakes that match their immediate local area because they have larger catchment areas than other schools. These larger catchment areas produce a comprehensive intake from a range of social backgrounds and promote greater community cohesion across a wider area. The Catholic Church is the largest provider of secondary education in England and can be justifiably proud of its high-performing and socially diverse schools.

Lord Alton of Liverpool


Rob Flello, MP

Labour, Stoke on Trent South

Paul Maynard, MP

Conservative, Blackpool North & Cleveleys

The Asian model of education is a ‘pressure cooker’ with intolerably long hours in classes, a model wholly inappropriate to the UK

Sir, In the frenzy to compare Britain’s teenagers’ average marks (report and leading article, Dec 2 & letters, Dec 3, 4 and 5) with peers in Asia, journalists miss the much more relevant comparison, Finland. In her recent book, T he Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley describes the Asian model of education as a “pressure cooker” with intolerably long hours in classes, a model wholly inappropriate to the UK. The Finnish model she describes as “utopian” because it achieves similarly high results with British-style hours and classes.

The key difference is that Finland closed its teacher training colleges decades ago and introduced teacher training in the elite universities, thereby raising both the standard of teachers and their status.

Judie Lannon

London SW7


SIR – Our village community halls host many events: sports, gardening, fashion, cookery, theatre and pantomime all do well. But the biggest turnout seems to be for the pre-Christmas flower arranging demonstration. Watching enormous elaborate floral sculptures and small table decorations being constructed is what men and women of all ages pay to see.

The BBC is really missing a trick with its dated obsession with cookery programmes.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

SIR – From the perspective of British benefit, a study I completed early this year showed that £12 billion to £14 billion had already been spent on 20 offshore wind projects, comprising some 120 major contracts (for turbines, fabrication, substations, foundations, cabling and array) of which possibly three had been awarded to UK-owned companies.

The Government’s Green Investment Bank has also recently refinanced (bailed out) with taxpayers’ money some of the non-British investors in such schemes.

British offshore wind has become an international charity.

Martin Blaiklock
Teddington, Middlesex

SIR – Your leading article questions the contribution of wind power to Britain’s energy security.

Unfortunately, while wind power does contribute to national generating capacity over time, its security effectiveness can only be measured when the “threat” exists – at times of peak demand.

Based on publicly available data from the national grid, over the past three years during periods when demand was between 95 per cent and 100 per cent of that peak, wind power was able to satisfy just 1.5 per cent of the demand, less than the margin of accuracy with which demand can be predicted.

This is no doubt related to the coldest weather in winter often being associated with areas of high pressure and low wind speeds.

While the contribution of wind power averaged over a year is about 5-7 per cent of demand, it unfortunately fails the energy security test, since it cannot be relied upon at times of peak demand.

Jonathan Paget
Swindon, Wiltshire

Phantom pedestrians

SIR – We have instilled in generations of children the practice of not crossing the road in towns except at crossings with pedestrian lights. Now, all too often, adult pedestrians approach a crossing and immediately press the button, then look up and realise there is no approaching traffic, so cross in perfect safety.

Approaching motorists are then frustrated by being made to stop at red lights when crossings are devoid of pedestrians.

With electronic sensors available, why don’t pedestrian lights stay red only when a person remains there to cross?

C M Laughton
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Baronets’ rights

SIR – Oh, the irony of a bunch of baronets and hereditary peers complaining about discrimination.

Michael Powell
Tealby, Lincolnshire

Birthday with bite

SIR – For my mother’s 21st birthdayin 1929 her parents offered to pay for her to have all her teeth removed and false ones fitted. They thought this would be a wonderful present as “teeth are nothing but trouble”.

Thankfully, she declined their kind offer.

Lynda Palin

SIR – When I turned 21 in the middle of the swinging Sixties, my father’s gift to me was a Jimmy Young LP, but I didn’t hold it against him.

Min Flowers
Chilgrove, West Sussex

Childbirth interruption

SIR – Why was the Italian mother whose baby was forcibly removed by caesarean section and put into care in Britain not transferred to a mother-and-baby psychiatric unit, where she could have safely remained under expert supervision with her baby after birth?

I recall a case in which the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services, of which I am president, found a bed in such a unit for a suicidal mother with severe postnatal mental illness whose baby was in foster care and wanted for adoption. The social worker opposed the admission and the mother got the placement only by order of the judge. The mother continued as a successful parent to her older children, as well as their new brother.

The present case will strike terror into the hearts of the many families where a woman has bipolar disorder. As a number of research papers have pointed out, women are now commonly concealing post-natal mental illness for fear of being reported to social services. Adoption policies of two successive governments, in which babies have become prize trophies, have had adverse effects on maternity care. Rates of postnatal mental illness can no longer be accurately measured because women routinely lie.

At a time when suicide is one of the main causes of childbirth-related death, and social services involvement is associated with many of these tragedies, it is time to question not just the decisions made in this case, but the whole policy of child “safeguarding” and its effect on public health.

Jean Robinson

SIR – This week on a visit to buy a few items from our recently improved Waitrose, we found on going through the “Quick Pay” check-out that an assistant had to be called to verify my age in order to purchase two rum baba puddings, for the alcohol content, and Christmas crackers, which supposedly contain gunpowder. I am 81.

Priscilla Lobley
Sonning, Berkshire

Mark Twain treatment

SIR – On Monday I received a letter from an insurance company, addressed to the executors of my estate, which said I had died in late November.

How should I react?

Peter Hallam
Cold Christmas, Hertfordshire

The death at the heart of the Profumo scandal

SIR – Neil Tweedie considers the notion that Stephen Ward, the osteopath at the centre of the Profumo affair, was murdered by MI5.

The facts are that Stephen Ward was staying in Noel Howard-Jones’s flat on the night he died. No one, other than Stephen Ward, Ward’s then-girlfriend Julie Gulliver, and Howard-Jones were in that tiny flat that evening.

Because of the publicity surrounding the new musical Stephen Ward, the conspiracy theorists have once again emerged from the woodwork. Suddenly, everyone was in that flat on Ward’s last night. As Howard-Jones recently wrote, in exasperation, after reading yet another claim that someone was in his flat when Ward died: “Stephen’s suicide seems to have been playing, retroactively, to a full house (my small flat), with a photographer, a journalist, a spy, and Polish murderer – in fact everybody but the Royal Marines massed bands…” all suddenly claiming they were present and all, obviously, suffering from the same reconstructed memory syndrome.

Noel Howard-Jones is the only person I know who has not tried to capitalise on this story. In fact, as a law student at the time, he was so appalled by British “justice” towards his friend Stephen Ward, that he gave up a career in law and left Britain for good after Ward’s death. He never spoke publicly about his role in the tragic story. But I interviewed him for the first time in 1987 with my co-author, Phillip Knightley, for our book, An Affair of State, and he has remained a friend ever since. As he said to me this week: “I will help in any way I can anybody who, for whatever motive, is pushing in the direction of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Noel Howard-Jones maintains that allegations that Ward was murdered by MI5 are pure fabrication.

Caroline Kennedy
Culver City, California, USA

SIR – If the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast is anything to go by, day-to-day government spending on public services and administration will, by 2018/19, be at its smallest share of national income since 1948.

That suggests that George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he is allowed to finish the job, will do more than even Margaret Thatcher managed to roll back the tentacles of the state. We should all say amen to that.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – One sentence jumped out of the Chancellor’s statement and gave many pensioners a nasty surprise: that the Government will “keep interest rates lower for longer”.

The increase in the state pension is £2 or so a week, which hardly buys a Costa coffee.

At the same time, pensioners are expected to face further years of historically low interest, which robs them of spending power and erodes their capital.

Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – The Government is raising the age at which we receive our state pension in line with increasing life expectancy. This is a sensible proposal and should help to keep the cost of state pensions (currently £100 billion a year) down to affordable levels.

However, the Government fails to address the logical corollary: that the age at which public-sector employees are allowed to retire should also rise.

Even though the nominal age at which state employees may retire is 60-65, in many Whitehall departments the actual age at which they retire is between 53 and 57 years. In other words, if they live to 100 (as a growing number of them will) they can look forward to receiving generous index-linked pensions for half their lifetime.

Roger Baker
Felixstowe, Suffolk

SIR – Investment in infrastructure was understandably a cornerstone of the Chancellor’s speech, but I would have liked to have seen a little more on technology infrastructure, and particularly 4G connectivity outside of London.

The United Kingdom prides itself on being a place where technology businesses can flourish, yet it lags behind other countries such as the United States when it comes to investment in the 4G network.

Much of my business offering is now being carried out through cloud computing technology. A fast, strong mobile data connection around the clock is a must.

Jamie Turner

SIR – I am delighted to see that there will be billions invested in infrastructure but I have a question: when will the potholes in my road be filled?

David Thorne
Knighton, Radnorshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – The man who made it to uncomfortable for us all to turn a “blind eye” to the happenings in his world. – Is mise,


Highland Avenue,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – In light of his legacy to human rights and peace, shouldn’t one of Dublin’s streets be renamed Nelson Mandela Street?

Perhaps the members of Dublin City Council might examine this proposal and make a fitting tribute to one of the greatest champions of justice? – Yours, etc,


Haddington Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – If the Government is serious about honouring Nelson Mandela’s memory, perhaps the former Dunnes Stores workers could be sent to represent the Irish people at his funeral. – Yours, etc,


Balkill Park,

Howth, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Enda steals Obama’s words. Obama steals Edwin M Stanton’s. Where’s all this plagiarism going to end? – Yours, etc,


Clonyhague, Co Westmeath.

A chara, – “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela, RIP.

If every person could aspire to live a life as inspiringly impactful as the colossal, prisoner-to-president, leader Madiba achieved, what a wonderful world we would live in. – Is mise,


Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – It is difficult to listen to the garbage coming out of the world leaders on the death of Nelson Mandela. When that great man spoke of the nobility of the human spirit, the world leaders listened. When he spoke of the injustices against the third world, the illegal military interventions and the Palestinians, they were deaf.

Perhaps they might honour his memory now by simply remaining silent. – Yours, etc,


Charleston Road,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – He was a credit to his race, the human race. – Yours, etc,



Naas, Co Kildare.

A chara, – A great man has died. Mandela stood up to an oppressive and tyrannical government in search of equal rights and liberties for his people, and succeeded.

The fact that, over three decades ago, he used the gun and the bomb to pursue these goals should not besmirch the man who was a beacon of hope for so many.

I look forward to a similar level of national and international outpouring of grief when Martin McGuinness passes into the abyss. – Is mise,


Church Street,

Killaloe, Co Clare.

Sir, – The sad passing on Thursday evening of Madiba is all part of life; and he will be remembered by everyone who seeks justice and fair play. Nelson Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary, despised for a long time by many – especially our close neighbour, the British government.

I think of two things in relation to Nelson Mandela. One is a young lady called Mary Manning who stood outside her comfort zone and refused with others to take South African products during the horrible apartheid era; and the other is a young boy of 16 who got his first letter published in a newspaper in Belfast. I wrote about the apartheid regime and waited for my father to come home from work to show him the fruits of my labour. I have not stopped writing since.

We salute you Madiba. – Yours, etc,


Monastery Walk,

Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Sir, – Mandela was inspirational and eternal; he insisted on the sovereignty of his land, pride in his race, culture and heritage. He resisted invasion, sell-outs, dissolution and disaster. It is a pity these traits, lionised today by all, no longer seems to apply to us, white Irish. – Yours, etc,


Achaill Road,

Dromcondra, Dublin 9.

A chara, – It is with great sadness that I read of the death of one of the 20th century’s great statesmen. Given the problems in Northern Ireland, not entirely unlike the issues facing the black South Africans, one wonders how unfortunate we were not to have a leader like Mandela. It is relevant to note that both Thatcher and Reagan considered him a terrorist and were against sanctions. All good people will mourn his passing. – Is mise,


Windgate Road,

Howth, Co Dublin.

Sir, – At the precise moment I heard of the death of the great Nelson Mandela, I was transported back to my school days and reminded of my former English teacher, Gerry Murtagh, of St Laurence College, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin.

I can recall vividly a fundraising event organised by him on behalf of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement at our school in 1988, long before it was fashionable to do so.

I wish to acknowledge Mr Murtagh’s contribution in enlightening my class to the injustices that prevailed in South Africa at that time and for decades before, and to the sacrifices made by the remarkable Nelson Mandela, who had, after years of isolation, effected a sea-change in South Africa. It enabled my fellow students and I to appreciate the difference one man can make in a society that treats people differently mainly because of the colour of their skin. – Yours, etc,


Claregate Street, Kildare.

Sir, – Nelson Mandela stood for what he believed in. He was faced with many obstacles which seemed impossible to overcome, and made many sacrifices. But he continued to tell himself that “it always seems impossible until it’s done”. – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – A charismatic advocate for the rights of man, Mandela proved to be a towering influence over a very long period, whether in or out of office and, indeed, whether in or out of jail.

When a major political figure is assassinated we tend to think of the loss in relation to the short-term politics of the time or we subsequently hark back to the event of the death itself (JFK is an obvious example). While President Kennedy is now seen as a figure from history, he was born only a year before Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were several years younger than Mandela.

On leaving South Africa in 1966 (after a visit which was much resisted by the apartheid government) the then Senator Robert Kennedy’s plane flew over Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated. Kennedy is reported to have asked the pilot to tip the wing in a gesture to Mandela and the other political prisoners whom he had not been allowed to visit. The pilot was stripped of his licence and did not fly again for years.

Imagine the impact Mandela, the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King might together have had on human rights across the globe if the three assassination victims had been spared the gunmen’s bullets. – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,

Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

A chara, – I am thinking of Mandela and listening to the queen of South African singing, Miriam Makeba. I remember the day the Irish football team returned from Italia 90. I was 18 and came in to town. It was packed, sunny, euphoric and hundreds of thousands were there to cheer the team.

But on Dawson Street a much smaller crowd was there to greet Mandela. Olé Olé Olé was sung and chanted on every corner of town and when Mandela eventually addressed the crowd, some of his first words were to congratulate the Irish team and he too, the Prince of Robben Island, chanted Olé, Olé, Olé.Tears, as history and the beautiful game collided for a moment. It was a legendary summer, with Nessun Dorma, Chianti and pizza on special offer in every supermarket, Packie Bonner and Schillaci sending us home from Palermo, and Nelson Mandela walking tall on Dawson Street. Watching and listening to Mandela, my skin tingled and my eyes were stinging. He had grace in spades. RIP. – Is mise,


Cashel Road,

Kimmage, Dublin 12.

Sir, – I’m sure President Obama used the phrase “he belongs to the ages” about Mandela in the full knowledge that he was quoting Edwin Stanton on Lincoln, but your report of his remarks (Front page, December 6th) does not pick up his very apt allusion. No other press, radio or television report seems to have done so either. Stanton was US secretary of war under Lincoln, one of the so-called “team of rivals” which is the subject of the book of that name by Doris Kearns Goodwin which was much admired by Obama. – Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – Nelson Mandela embodied humankind’s ability to struggle and overcome oppression. In remembering him and paying tribute, it is difficult to conceive that at the outset of his struggle, and throughout his incarceration, he was but one man, with one man’s resources and abilities to instigate change. In his own words, he was “an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances”.

The discrimination that he and fellow black South Africans experienced was institutionalised, recognised and legitimised by the acceptance of the apartheid regime, both internationally and within South Africa’s own borders for so long. Powerful economic and political forces engendered a culture that said to blacks “this is the way things are”.

But Mandela chose to challenge those underlying assumptions and query how it could be that society created, tolerated and fostered something as “unnatural” as apartheid. One man, yet he dared to try to change the way things were.

His struggle attracted support across the world and even here, in the recessionary times of Ireland in the 1980s , ordinary supermarket workers sacrificed their livelihoods to recognise and support him, ordinary women and men daring to change “the way things are”.

As we eulogise Mandela, he can inspire each of us individually to challenge injustice, poverty, inequality where we experience it, in the extraordinary circumstances in which we live. May he rest in peace and enjoy his sleep for eternity. – Yours, etc,


Leinster Lawn,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Understandably, the media is replete with articles detailing the travails, courage, and heroics, of beloved Nelson Mandela, now sadly passed. One element of his personality which I think deserves particular attention is his sense of humour. In his infancy, Nelson was given a Xhosa tribal name, “Rohlihlahla”, the colloquial meaning of which is “troublemaker”.

The little troublemaker grew into a flamboyant lawyer. In one case he defended a domestic worker accused of stealing clothes belonging to her “madam” (employer). The said clothing was displayed on a table in court. As Mandela began his cross-examination of the employer, he approached the table of evidence, and with the tip of his pencil, picked up an item of ladies’ underwear. He slowly turned to the witness box, exhibited the underpants, and asked “Madam, are these. . . yours?”

The employer quickly replied no, too embarrassed to admit that they were. Because of her response and other inconsistencies in her evidence, the case was dismissed. – Yours etc.,


Nutley Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – To borrow the late Kenneth Tynan’s phrase: a voice “echoing across the valleys of the centuries”! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Deirdre McDonagh (December 6th) asks why the “top-up” audit was released to press when it was, in a way most damaging to charities in the run up to the most benevolent time of year, especially when the HSE has known of it for some time.

On November 5th, there was published an (open) letter, written by the chief executives of four of the largest hospitals in the State, to the HSE warning that the quality and safety of patient services in those hospitals was seriously threatened by HSE cuts. Then, on November 18th, the HSE releases a report into the personal finances of these (and other) CEOs. It seems that the HSE released this report to punish these CEOs for whistleblowing. – Yours, etc,


St James Hospital,

Sir, – Eamonn McCann (Opinion, December 3rd) writes “there are no Bedouin in the ministry [of tourism]’s account.” This is strange because the ministry lists the many tribes that have lived in the Negev, which includes Israelis. The Bedouin are Israelis. They serve in the Israeli Defence Force.

Whatever romantic notions one might have about nomadic peoples, the reality is such that clean water, electricity, education and other public services are practically impossible to deliver to them.

The Begin-Prawer Plan is a five-year economic development plan that aims to do just that by creating viable communities in areas in the Negev where that is possible. €1.46 billion has been allocated to settle land claims and an additional NIS €250,000 for education, employment, transport and for youth and women projects. This will enable more young people to go on to further education. Sounds good to me.

McCann talks of the “erasure” of villages and the “displacement” of 70,000 people. What he fails to mention is that the relocation of some Bedouin even comes at their own request, for instance those living near the toxic chemical site in Ramat Hovav. Some communities will be asked to merge, like the 11 villages that merged in 2003 to form the Abu Basma Regional Council where 30,000 Bedouin live. Once the legislation has been passed a government agency will work with each community on the issues of settlement and compensation claims.

The Bedouin will continue to live in the Negev with access to all the services they are entitled to as Israeli citizens. – Yours, etc,


Gledswood Park,

Sir, – Under the headline “World News”  (December 5th)  you feature a picture over six columns of a glamorous celebrity chef admitting in court to her use of cocaine. That sort of trivialising of so-called “World News” really gets up my nose. – Yours, etc,


Pine Valley Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

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

A good head and a good heartMandela’s statue in Washington

Letters: We can’t allow history to be rewritten

Letters: An Irish Christmas remembered

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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