Solar charger

20 December 2013 Solar

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge has to take the Todd Hunter Browns to Isle of Wight, naturally they end up in Shanghai not Shanklin. Priceless.

Potter around, undser the weather, solar charger arrives I hope it works

Scrabbletoday Mary wins and gets over 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.






Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma – obituary

Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was an Indian royal and custodian of a temple whose ‘cursed’ vaults are filled with treasure worth tens of billions



Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma , who has died aged 91, was head of the family that once ruled the south Indian kingdom of Travancore and remained largely unknown to the wider world until 2011, when it was revealed that a temple of which he was hereditary custodian contained untold treasures.

Marthanda Varma was generally referred to by the title of Maharaja, even though the maharajas of Travancore have been commoners ever since they acceded to the Indian Union in 1949. He was greatly revered for his asceticism; it was said that he would carefully cut out the blank sides of envelopes to provide himself with notepaper, and that when staying in Delhi he preferred to lodge at an ashram rather than a hotel.

Such frugality was in stark contrast to the fabulous wealth that was revealed when the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the vaults of the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, in Trivandrum, which had been sealed for 140 years, should be opened.

It had always been known that there was treasure in the temple, although no one knew how much. According to locals Travancore maharajas who oversaw the building of the temple more than four centuries ago had secreted immense riches within its underground stone vaults.

After Independence, all the major temples under the control and management of the erstwhile princely states came under the control of local boards but, under a special covenant, the custodianship of the Padmanabhaswamy temple continued to rest with the last ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma’s brother Maharaja Chitra Thirunal Rama Varma.

After his death in 1991, however, a constitutional court ruled that any treaties or covenants entered into by the former rulers of the princely states and the government of India were void.

Although Marthanda Varma assumed his role as custodian, some questioned his family’s status and reliability as the controlling trustees of the temple. A lawsuit filed in 2007 by a group of devotees demanded that a new custodian be appointed as, they claimed, treasure was going missing from vaults beneath the temple. A former chief minister of Kerala even claimed that the Maharaja had been stealing gold coins from the temple during his morning prayers. The petitioners also called for the vaults to be opened for examination.

In January 2011 the Kerala High Court ordered that management of the temple be transferred to the state government. However, the Travancore royal family challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, which commissioned an independent report into the temple’s management, and directed that “the existing practices, procedures and rituals” of the temple should be followed. But, to the chagrin of the Maharaja, it appointed a seven-member panel to draw up an inventory of the contents of the vaults.

On June 27 2011 the first of six vaults was opened, revealing a staggering hoard of antique gold ornaments, crowns, weapons, statues of Hindu deities, vessels made of gold, coins minted when the East India Company dominated trade with the subcontinent, as well as bagfuls of diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. To date five of the six vaults have been explored, revealing treasures worth an estimated £26 billion.

But the inventory-taking ran into difficulty when, within a week of the opening of the first vault, the original petitioner whose court action led to the Supreme Court ruling was found dead. There were dark mutterings about a temple curse, and Hindu priests warned that the families of those who tried to open one particular vault — known as “Vault B” — would face the “fatal ire of snakes”. A decision on the vault was deferred after the royal family consulted astrologers and warned that opening it would cause Divine displeasure and lead to calamities. Although a committee appointed by the Supreme Court approved its opening earlier this year, Vault B guards its secrets to this day.

Meanwhile the custodianship of the temple remains unresolved, though in November 2012 the independent report commissioned by the court found no evidence of theft by the Maharaja or members of his family and warned against allowing the government a role, observing that “Increasingly in this country, political parties and certain members of the political class look for priceless treasures in temples.”

Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was born on March 22 1922, the younger son of Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi of Travancore and Ravi Varma, Koil Thamapuran of Kilimanoor. The royal house of Travancore is unusual in that succession is by matrilineal descent, whereby wealth and title pass from the incumbent Maharaja to the first-born male child of one of his sisters. His mother was not the then Maharaja’s sister, but was distantly related to the house of Travancore in the direct female line. In 1900, due to an absence of heirs, she had been adopted by her maternal great-aunt, the mother of the ruling Maharaja. Two years after Marthanda Varma’s birth, in 1924, on the death of his adoptive maternal uncle, his brother Rama Varma succeeded to the throne of Travancore under the regency of his maternal aunt.

After private education by tutors, Marthanda Varma read Economics, Politics and History at Travancore University, where he won a medal for Classical Sanskrit. He then joined the Plymouth Motoring Company in Bangalore for work-experience and later ran a spice-trading company.

A keen sportsman in his youth, Marthanda Varma played polo, tennis, hockey and golf and won trophies for horse racing. Like many Indian royals he loved cars and, as a result of driving more than 4,000,000 miles in his Mercedes Benz 180 D through the crowded roads of India, won several medals from the manufacturers. A keen photographer, he treasured the 1934 Roliflex camera given to him as a present by his brother. He had a collection of some 5,000 negatives and, last year, opened a gallery of his photographs in the Rangavilasom Palace, Trivandrum.

Many of these photographs featured guests who had visited Travancore over the years as well as world leaders and heads of state he had met on his travels. These included the seven-year-old Princess Elizabeth, whom he met in England in 1933 and then again as Queen in 1954 when she visited Bangalore. Other guests included the French President Georges Pompidou, the American First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy, and the novelists Somerset Maugham and Dame Agatha Christie. Marthanda Varma succeeded as head of his family on his brother’s death in 1991.

While he steered clear of politics, the Maharaja served as patron of numerous charities and continued to carry out a range of public and religious duties. In November 2013 he paid a visit to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at their hotel in Cochin, during their four-day visit to the state of Kerala.

In recent years the Maharaja had published a book of memoirs and a translation of The Thousand Names of Vishnu, a sacred Sanskrit text. Until his final illness, he continued to perform a daily act of worship at the Padmanabhaswamy temple: “It is a great, elating feeling,” he told an interviewer. “My hair stands on end with joy, each and every time.”

The Maharaja’s wife, Radha Devi, a jewellery and furniture designer, died in 1993. He is survived by their son and daughter.

Under the Travancore rules of succession, his nephew, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, succeeds as head of the Travancore royal family.

Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, born March 22 1922, died December 16 2013





Congratulations to James Arbuthnot (Trident replacement a ‘booby trap’ says influential Tory MP, 16 December). How much better it would be to say to the Iranians “We don’t want nuclear weapons either”, than our current position of “they are necessary for our defence, but you can’t have them”.
Jenny Maxwell
Craven Arms, Shropshire

• Slavoj Žižek (Comment, 17 December) posits the idea: “… are sign language translators for the deaf really meant for us … it makes us (who can hear) feel good to see the interpreter, giving us a satisfaction that we are doing the right thing, taking care of the underprivileged and hindered.” No, sign language interpreters are there to enable those unable to use sign language (a majority of non-deaf people) to be understood by those who do use sign language, many of whom are bilingual, trilingual or quadrilingual in both sign and other languages. From this perspective, who is truly “hindered”?
Sarah Playforth
Seaford, East Sussex

• Your report from Kiev (Report, 16 December) refers to “aggressive policing” against the demonstrators. On page 22 (US energy boss defends fracking) you show three policemen in West Sussex holding the heads of two demonstrators and pressing their knuckles against their faces. How would you describe this policing?
Philip Simpson
Richmond, Surrey

• The Great Train Robbers got 30 years for stealing £2.6m from the Royal Mail (Report, 19 December). Bankers steal billions from every one of us and continue to get their bonuses. Funny old world.
Jeff Wells
Sudbury, Suffolk

• John Wilson (Letters, 18 December) seems to think it worthy of note that shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt should not have experienced a state school. Clement Attlee didn’t either. He seemed to do alright, despite being educated at Haileybury.
Audrey Butler
Cheadle, Cheshire

• Our latest grandchild was born at 13.12 on 11.12.13, a nicely palindromic date (Letters, 17 December).
Richard Carter

Your report (Councils preparing to allocate greenbelt land for development, 19 December) is a reminder of the mismatch between ministerial rhetoric and practice. In Bath, two parcels of land which are in the greenbelt and areas of outstanding natural beauty, and form part of the world heritage site setting, are being put forward for development. This is not because Bath and North East Somerset council cannot find land for their housing requirement, but because developers will not build the proportion of affordable homes needed to meet the target. So North East Somerset is having to accept more than 3,000 extra market houses than the objectively assessed need. For this they are proposing to release land in the greenbelt rather than incentivising brownfield sites with higher affordable percentages. Perverse financial incentives exist for release of greenbelt land which can only be solved by national and local government finding ways to meet the need for affordable homes – a need which organisations like the Bath Preservation Trust fully recognise.
Caroline Kay
Chief executive, Bath Preservation Trust


My children attended a Steiner school (Zoe Williams, 14 December). It was our choice as parents, having researched the benefits, and along with thousands of other parents worldwide, over the last 80 years, we are fully supportive of the underlying educational philosophy. To clarify, racism is not a part of Steiner’s philosophy. In fact the Steiner movement was outlawed by the Nazis and many members were sent to concentration camps or escaped as refugees to the UK and the US. On the question of immunisation, it is up to parents to decide the best course of action for their children and not school policy.

True, children are not formally taught to read and write until they are six to seven years old, but this gives many important benefits to the child’s development, as well as allowing an unpressured freedom to exist within the pre-school kindergarten.

As for Steiner schools being anti-intellectual and anti-science, in my younger son’s class there were four students who went on to medical school and are now doctors, and he is now a marine engineer working in Hong Kong.
David Tasker

• Zoe Williams draws attention to the growth in Steiner free schools, based on the pseudo-scientific and racist theories of Rudolf Steiner. Here in Stroud we are fighting plans to launch a new Steiner school for up to 600, despite a surplus of 600 school places in the area. The likely consequence were this bid to succeed would be the closure of existing primary schools and a secondary school. This bid is not about meeting local needs. It is an attempt by a cult to hijack state funding for its own purposes. Stroud already has some 30-plus Steiner institutions, including a fee-paying school only a few miles away. Such is their growing influence that some are nervous of speaking out too openly. It is surely inconceivable that such a damaging project should be allowed to proceed.
Jim Watson
Stroud, Gloucestershire


It is with consternation that we have learnt of the government’s decision to block EU funds for food banks and homeless shelters (Report, 18 December), based on the principle of subsidiarity. As churches which are at the forefront of delivering food aid to growing numbers of people across the UK, we believe it is inconsistent for the government to point to our work as a prime example of the “big society” at work, while opposing EU funding to support this vital service. In our view, subsidiarity must always be balanced with the Gospel value of solidarity.

At this Christmas time, as we once more reflect on God’s loving solidarity with suffering humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, we are reminded that as members of the one human family, we have mutual obligations to promote the rights and development of peoples across communities and nations. Solidarity is the fundamental bond of unity with our fellow human beings and the resulting interdependence. All are responsible for all; and in particular the rich have responsibilities towards the poor. National and international structures must reflect this!’1We therefore call upon the government to rethink its decision to reject funding, to ensure that not only are people helped into sustainable work (which we agree is the best long-term solution for human flourishing), but that as a caring society we are able to continue providing food aid and other essential services to those who find themselves in extremity in the midst of abundance this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
Rev Michael Heaney Moderator, Free Churches Group and general secretary, Congregational Federation, Rev Lynn Green General secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain, Rev Peter Thomas General secretary, Baptist Union of Wales, Rev Trevor Howard General secretary, Churches in Community International, Rev Christopher Whiteley General secretary, Old Baptist Union, Rev Dr Geraint Tudur General secretary, Union of Welsh Independents

• This news comes in the same week we found out the government has sought to block EU regulations aimed at ending food speculation by the banking sector – a practice that prices food beyond the reach of many low-income households. In London alone, 42,000 people relied on a food bank to feed themselves during the last financial year (2012-13), compared with 408 in 2009-10. This should be an embarrassment for the government of one of the world’s wealthiest countries, yet instead they have remained wilfully ignorant of the crisis of food poverty. The prime minister and his Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have both refused to visit food banks.

There is a serious danger that without immediate action to address poverty in the UK, we could sleepwalk into a system similar to the US, where food banks are seen as a formal part of the welfare state. This would represent a catastrophic failure of government policy.
Fiona Twycross AM
Labour, London assembly; author, A Zero Hunger City: Tackling food poverty in London

• Richard Howitt MEP suggests the government has wilfully rejected EU money. This is simply untrue. What both the government and Conservative MEPs have opposed is an attempt by Mr Howitt and his Labour colleagues to let the EU dictate to Britain how we spend £22m of our own money. Any EU cash handed over for this scheme would have been deducted from other so-called structural funds already earmarked for the UK. We rejected this because we believe Britain should decide how it spends its own money – not Brussels.
Anthea McIntyre MEP
Conservative, West Midlands



In view of the information provided in Simon Jenkins’s article, it’s clear the whole idea of spending billions of taxpayers’ money on a new runway in London is ludicrous (Airport expansion is just a glamorous project for the rich, 18 December). The Heathrow lobby, as he says, “has played a blinder”; who knew that “80% of London’s air passengers” are non-business? Who knew that, while Heathrow is heavily committed to “the UK and European short-haul market”, Stansted “is standing half empty”? The solution must be to divert the short-haul traffic to Gatwick, and free up space for Heathrow to concentrate on expanding business flights to Asian and South American destinations – although why businessmen cannot use technology like the rest of us is beyond me. Have they not tried Skyping their counterparts in Brazil, or video conferencing potential customers in India?

The only thing going for that new north-west runway at Heathrow is that it would “render Eton almost uninhabitable”. But sadly, for that very reason, it has no chance of ever being built.
Bernie Evans

• The Davies commission’s interim report has put the Isle of Grain and the wider north Kent community in the position of having a further year of blight placed upon them (Report, 18 December). The creation of the status of “not on the shortlist today but potentially on the shortlist on another day” is a direct result of Boris Johnson’s lobbying with his dual viewpoint of creating a legacy as mayor and a line of copy on any future Conservative leadership campaign material.

Meanwhile residents of the Medway community are still left with no clear direction on what their future holds. Another year without clarity will hinder the council, businesses and residents from planning ahead. I will continue to argue that any estuary airport option is bad for the environment, bad for Medway and bad for UK PLC.
Vince Maple
Leader, Labour Group, Medway Council

• Can we decide not on where to build more airport runways but on how to stop feeding the monster that demands them. As we hear that the need for expansion is being largely driven by so called “low cost” short-haul airlines, should we not curtail travel demand to fit the available airport capacity. If the government is genuinely committed to reducing carbon emissions, why does it need policies which supply the infrastructure to feed the current frenzy of totally unnecessary air travel. Does anyone’s human right to travel 600 miles for £9.99 for a drunken stag party in Prague really outweigh the rights of those whose homes, peace and environment will be destroyed by further unwarranted airport expansion?
Roger Norwich
Sark, Channel Islands

• So, to expand airport capacity the government has been advised to go for the relatively cheap but environmentally very unfriendly solution of expansion of either Heathrow or Gatwick. Given the general recognition that the explosive growth of London and the south-east is causing an increasing and damaging economic and social imbalance (mitigation of which, incidentally, is invoked as the main justification for HS2), a better solution would be to build a new airport in the Midlands.

Just such a scheme was considered by a government inquiry only 10 years ago (Department for Transport, 2002, The Future of Air Transport in the UK). It suggested a new airport could be built near Rugby which would not only ease congestion at Heathrow and Gatwick but would avoid the need for expansion of Birmingham and Coventry airports in the future.

For the benefit of southerners who are hazy as to what lies north of Watford, Rugby is exactly one hour from Marble Arch by public transport. It is a major rail junction with excellent links to the north. It is also close to both the M1 and M6. An airport here would be a major practical and psychological contribution to rebalancing the economy and society.
Geoffrey Renshaw
University of Warwick

• The expansion necessary for a second runway at Gatwick would close the strategic gap between the airport and Crawley (the runway would be built on it). The gap currently mitigates the impacts on residents of aircraft noise, particularly ground noise from reverse thrust and take off. In addition to the direct effects of the runway, the necessary increased workforce would either have to commute in or require local housing. With Crawley struggling to accommodate its existing population, the result would be unacceptable urban sprawl, which to some extent has so far been curtailed. Crawley, one of the original New Towns, designed with the aim of having a self-contained and balanced community, would become instead a large noisy conurbation whose residents would be isolated from the countryside by additional transport routes and housing in neighbouring authorities.

Moreover, Ifield Village conservation area, with its old houses, ancient church, pub and green, would have aircraft taking off within 300 metres of its boundary.
Jenny Frost
Secretary, Ifield Village Association, Crawley, West Sussex

• Apart from those around London having numerous alternative airports – City, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Southend – inter-airport rail connections could easily be improved to make these a combined super-hub. Also, Heathrow could easily be expanded with minimum disruption to homeowners – by building over (piggybacking) the M25 or M4 or A3044, around which there are numerous reservoirs.

There is also the question of whether we actually want all this extra traffic – so much for Cameron’s environmental concerns. The demand is kept artificially high by minimal taxation on air traffic; a spurious argument by the chancellor for not increasing air passenger duty (effectively a wealth tax) was that it would undercut the UK’s competitiveness. An extra £20 is not going to make much difference to those coming to the UK for business trips or a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
Mark Bill

• Why not make Heathrow/Gatwick one airport? Build the second runway at Gatwick (easiest of the options) then install a magnetic levitation train between the two (after all, we did invent this technology). The transit time could be 15 to 20 minutes. Not much difference to getting to most outlying terminals at either airport. The only difficulty would be choosing between Gatrow or Heathwick?
David Williams
Tunbridge Wells, Kent







The Government wants half of inhabited Britain opened up to possible fracking. The cash registers at the Treasury are deafening. Protesters are to be bought off. The visual and environmental impact of fracking wells and their essential ancillary installations and access roads will be far greater than that of onshore wind turbines which so upset many local communities.

What we are not being told is that fugitive methane gas, 86 times more dangerous a greenhouse gas than CO2, leaks from fracking wells. The Pennsylvania Department for Environmental Protection found that, of the 3,391 fracking wells drilled in the state as recently as 2010-2011, 6.2 per cent have already failed methane migration rules. Failure rates increase as wells age. Seven eastern US States are so concerned at this development that they are initiating court action to require the US Environmental Protection Agency to remedy its failure under the Clean Air Act.

We are repeatedly reminded by MPs that the UK is the only nation to enshrine in law its obligations in the Climate Change Act.

Canon Christopher Hall, Banbury, Oxfordshire


I am writing to ensure the correct facts are known following recent coverage of research by the University of Missouri into fluids used in fracking in the United States. There has been some criticism in the US of the methodology used by the study’s author. However, I would like to highlight how companies in the UK using hydraulic fracturing will act to prevent any problems arising from chemical usage and flowback water.

In the UK, any fracturing fluid composition has to be reviewed and approved by the Environment Agency, and the shale gas exploration companies will publish details of fluids used and their composition. For instance, mains water and sand make up 99.95 per cent of the fracturing fluid for Cuadrilla’s proposed tests in the Bowland Basin. Around 0.04 per cent is a friction reducer called polyacrylamide, commonly used in facial cream and contact lenses. This fluid is non-hazardous to groundwater.

Between 20 and 40 per cent of the water used during fracking flows back to the surface within the first few weeks of production. All the water recovered following hydraulic fracturing will be stored in fully enclosed steel tanks until disposal, when an Environment Agency-approved disposal company will remove all water for testing and treatment at a licensed waste water plant. Flowback water is classified as a non-hazardous waste.

The UK onshore oil and gas industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the world; our operators have to comply with 14 European Union directives and require up to nine permits to operate. What happens in other countries is not always applicable in the UK, and we have to be exceptionally careful when trying to make those comparisons.

Ken Cronin, CEO, UK Onshore Operators Group,  London EC2


As I read your report on possible fracking in Britain (18 December), I remembered the comments made at a recent reading by the Canadian poet Karen Solie, a farmer’s daughter. She remarked that fracking had ensured a guaranteed income for some Canadian farmers. It had also guaranteed that they could no longer drink their local water.

Alison Brackenbury, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


Not too generous with information

I want to congratulate Chris Atkins (“How I turned into the comedy establishment’s most hated man”, 14 December). But I’m not in the least surprised that he hit a brick wall.

I wrote several letters to Comic Relief in an attempt to dig out the facts about the distribution of the funds that the public donate – but more importantly, how much of this cash is actually given out. My main points were never answered.

Just as celebrities are happy to use the BBC as a conduit for no-cost advertising – underwritten by the licence-fee payers – they are also happy to use any charity for exactly the same purpose.

Ray J Howes, Weymouth, Dorset


All credit to film-maker Chris Atkins in exposing the questionable investment decisions of Children in Need. Members of the public who donate to this and other charities have a right to know where their money is being invested.

Children in Need has not shown itself in a good light in the way it has over-reacted to these revelations or its non-cooperation with Panorama prior to the making of the programme about their investments.

Charities should not be above criticism and scrutiny if they are to maintain the public’s trust and support.

Liam McParland, Huddersfield


Victims of the  season of excess

This year the Government vetoed raising the cost of alcohol by either imposing a minimum price or by increasing the tax. In the 18th century, when gin was tuppence a pint, thousands of people drank themselves to oblivion, causing great harm to themselves and others. The problem almost disappeared when the price of gin was raised.

Last December I was admitted with pneumonia, as an emergency, to a central London hospital. Christmas day was on a Tuesday, and most people’s last working day was Friday 21 December.

I was in the women’s acute medical admissions ward. On that Friday the entire ward was cleared by moving patients elsewhere, to make space for the people who had drunk themselves seriously ill. I was to be sent to a gynaecology ward. I didn’t want to be moved and said so. The nurses told me I could stay if I wanted, but advised me that I wouldn’t like it. I took their advice.

Many of the drunks probably thought, afterwards, that it was a bit of a lark. It wasn’t. It cost the NHS a huge amount of money. It meant that doctors in accident and emergency departments had precious little time to devote to seriously ill people with unavoidable conditions. It also meant that people with acute illnesses had long waits where they were deprived of the attention they should have had.

Caroline Richmond, London N12


No, Jenny Sykes (letter, 19 December), you are not the only one who really enjoys receiving Christmas newsletters. If someone has taken the time to send you a card, why not read their letter too and see what is going on in their life? Happy Christmas, everyone.

Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset


Sainsbury’s Christmas gift guide includes, “For Her”, a pudding bowl. Any husband tempted to follow their suggestion should be warned that coroners can still return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Martin Stallion, Braintree, Essex


A policy to keep families apart

Once again the Government wishes families to spend as little time together as possible. Liz Truss, the minister for education and childcare, announced her desire for schools to open 8am-6pm for the convenience of both working parents.

The modern living arrangements that she speaks of do not take into account the never-changing requirement of children for consistent loving care during their early years. Nor does it consider the desire for some families to work less or for one parent not to work at all for a short time while their children are young.

Mrs Truss expects children to have a longer working day than their parents, and as little opportunity for interaction with them as possible. Children are expected to cope with a reduced chance of chatting about their day’s joys and achievements or for parents to notice and nip in the bud a worry the child is developing.

The childcare required has not only a financial cost but also a social cost to the next generation. Reform taxation to reflect dependants, and let people make their own choices regarding work, home life and childcare with their own money. Family life is too precious to meddle with in this way.

Imogen Thompson, Stockport


Unscripted drama at the National Theatre

I read your article on mishaps at the National Theatre (12 December) hoping to find mention of an aborted performance of Pinter’s No Man’s Land in February 1977 at the Lyttelton.

It was my last evening in London before heading off to a new job abroad. The first half of the play had me intrigued if slightly baffled, though in awe of the presence on stage of Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud.

After the interval the lights went down and the safety curtain started to open. It rapidly became apparent that there was a problem with the curtain. It stuck firmly, only slightly open. All we could see were Sir Ralph’s slippers as he sat waiting to resume.

After a few jerky curtain movements over several minutes the lights went up and a red-faced manager appeared. He announced that despite spending many millions on the new theatre there was no way to open the jammed curtain.

We had to go home, but were promised tickets for another performance. As I was off to start my new role overseas I never got to see the rest of this famous production.

Andrew Jackson, Hertford





For too long the Nimbys have jealously sat in their suburban sprawls, calling the shots. We should allow the next generation to breathe

Sir, Sir Simon Jenkins should get down out of his ivory tower and sample the real world (“Thousands of homes to be built on the green belt”, report, Dec 19).

I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the freedom of open air and easy access to the countryside — not be condemned to some urban scrum where houses are squashed together in some decaying part of town, with cars parked up on the pavements, no green spaces or freedom to roam safely. For too long the Nimbys have jealously sat in their suburban sprawls, calling the shots, forgetting that their castles are built on what was once the equivalent of green belt land.

Is it not time to let the green belt out a few notches, and allow the next generation to breath a bit?

Richard M. Bosworth

Harrogate, N Yorks

Sir, It was inevitable that the green belt would come under fresh attack given the urgent need for more homes. We cannot, however, simply cannot allow our protected green spaces to be built upon, and it is a lazy analysis that supports this. Planning authorities must look to brownfield sites and revisit the many applications granted but not built.

Our countryside faces a pincer movement of ill-judged housebuilding and windfarms that should be resisted by national and local governments.

We hold our green spaces in trust for future generations. Once gone, they are gone for ever.

Steve O’Connell

GLA member for Croydon and Sutton

Sir, It is impossible to strike a perfect balance between the preservation of the natural beauty of our countryside and development needed to accommodate the expanding population (“Future Building”, leading article, Dec 19).

One of the worst aspects of human civilisation has been the widespread destruction of nature, which still continues on a large scale in developing countries. In a small island such as ours the problem is compounded by the increasing longevity of the population and the influx of people across our national borders. It would be far better to build houses at the periphery of existing cities and towns, rather than satellite townships in our beautiful countryside.

Sam Banik

London N10

Sir, Your leading article repeats the mantra that “only 10 per cent of the land is developed”. For hundreds of thousands of years, no more than a tiny fraction of 1 per cent of the landscape was affected by human development. All the rest has happened in just a few generations.

At what percentage do we stop? When “only 10 per cent” has become “only 15 per cent”? Or “only 25 per cent”?

Anthony Jennings

London WC1

Sir, I have on my office wall a large Ordnance Survey map of the metropolitan area which shows a huge sprawl of urban development from Milton Keynes to Crawley, and from Reading to Southend. It is not obvious where the green belt is.

A controlled expansion around the edge of London, filling in bits of land particularly around railway and Tube stations, would be barely noticeable and might deliver the additional housing needed to check rocketing house prices.

john t. pounder

London SE5



There are still 300 cases of babies and toddlers dying suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the UK. This equates to five babies a week

Sir, The stillbirth rate in this country is shockingly high (“Many midwives ‘miss stillbirth risk signs’ ”, and leading article, Dec 18). More research and better support to pregnant women is needed. You point that cot death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is now at an all-time low, thanks largely to successful public health campaigning.

However, SIDS has not gone away. There are still 300 cases of babies and toddlers dying suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the UK. This equates to five babies a week. Although we have a much better understanding of the risks, it is still not possible to explain why some babies stop breathing and never wake up. We work closely with our colleagues in the baby care sector to highlight the tragedy of infant death at whatever stage in their short lives — stillbirth is one aspect of this, as is neonatal death.

The real scandal is that, taking the numbers of infant deaths together, we have the worst rates of infant mortality in Western Europe.

Francine Bates

Chief executive, The Lullaby Trust


Many pupils who attended grammar schools could only afford to do so until they were 16. The better-off ones went to university

Sir, Kenneth Sanders (letter, Dec 19) was fortunate that in the Fifties his parents could afford to keep him at grammar school until he was 18. With no grants available until 18, like most of my classmates I had no choice but to get a job at 16 after our O-level exams to contribute to the family finances. Only our classmates from better-off families made it to university. Then, as now, money and class did count.

Margaret Moor


It is not the be-all-and-end-all having time off at the weekend — time off during the week can be just as, if not more, beneficial

Sir, If NHS consultants need a weekend break so that they remain stress-free and healthy (letter, Dec 18), why don’t they agree upon an alternate roster that will give them midweek two-day breaks? A work schedule along these lines would ensure seven-day coverage for all patients, especially those arriving at A&E who at present, are more likely to die if admitted at weekends. Also, to the consultants’ benefit, midweek breaks can be shown to contribute to an enhanced lifestyle.

Roy Selwyn

Selborne, Hants


Expressing firm views about the law should not be a quality that we discourage in our judges — quite the opposite

Sir, Sir Paul Coleridge has been disciplined for having the temerity to express firm views in public about marriage (report, Dec 18). What a shame that a public figure with so much relevant information to provide should be gagged in this way. I do not agree with all his views, but I believe that his right to express them must be defended. Judges should not be forced to remain silent when they can make a contribution to public interest debates.

Roger Mccarthy, QC

London WC1







SIR – The findings of the Airports Commission are compelling, in particular that all of London’s main airports will be full by the end of the next decade unless action is taken soon after the next election.

It is now essential that Britain’s political parties back Sir Howard Davies’s analysis. As an important first step, we urge the three main party leaders publicly to acknowledge the need to build new runways and commit in principle to allowing the modernisation of our airports infrastructure on a cross-party basis.

Any party that is serious about governing Britain must go into the 2015 election expressing a clear commitment to airport expansion and must agree to be guided by the Airports Commission’s final report.

As the Airports Commission has acknowledged clearly in its interim report, doing nothing is no longer an option.

Sir Adrian Montague
Chairman, 3i Group

Sir Martin Gilbert
Chief Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management

Chris Grigg
Chief Executive, British Land

Kevin Murphy
Chairman, ExCeL London

Tamara Ingram
Group CEO, Grey Group

Michael Ward
Managing Director, Harrods

Nicola Shaw
Chief Executive Officer, HS1 Ltd

Sir Winfried Bischoff
Chairman, Lloyds Banking Group

Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise
Chief Executive, Next

David Sleath
Chief Executive, Segro

Paul Kelly
Managing Director, Selfridges Group

Sir Martin Sorrell
Chief Executive, WPP

Surinder Arora
Founder & CEO, Arora Holdings Ltd

Harold Paisner
Senior Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP

Bob Rothenberg
Senior Partner, Blick Rothenberg LLP

Ian Durant
Chairman, Capital & Counties Properties

Iain Anderson
Director and Chief Corporate Counsel, Cicero Group

Inderneel Singh
Group Corporate Development Manager, Edwardian Group London

Mike Turner
Chairman, GKN & Babcock International Group

Gordon Clark
Country Manager, Global Blue

Jonathan Scott
Senior Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Calum Forsyth
Chief Executive Officer, IAC Acoustics

John Lehal
Managing Director, Insight Public Affairs

Andrew Murphy
Retail Director, John Lewis Partnership

George Kessler
Group Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International

Mark Reynolds
Chief Executive, Mace

James Fennell
Managing Director, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners

Richard Dickinson
Chief Executive, New West End Company

James Rook
Managing Director, Nimlok

Sir Andrew Cahn
Former CEO of UK Trade and Investment, Nomura International

Ray Auvray
Executive Chairman, Prospects

Ian Reeves
Senior Partner, Synaps Partners LLP

Michael Tobin
Chief Executive, TelecityGroup

Bill Moore
Chief Executive, The Portman Estate

Gary Forster
Executive Director, Turley Associates

Andrew Ridley-Barker
Managing Director, VINCI Construction UK

SIR – I regret that the Davies Commission has not taken the opportunity to rule out any expansion of Heathrow. My hope is that the further investigation carried out by the commission will recognise that expansion cannot happen at Heathrow.

In order to become the hub airport that London needs, Heathrow would require two additional runways and the capacity to expand further. Expansion would involve moving sections of the M25 and the M4, destroying many homes, and building the public transport infrastructure to carry millions more passengers to and from the airport. Heathrow is not an option.

The silver lining of the report is that the commission will continue to look at the case for building a new airport on the Isle of Grain. This airport could operate 24 hours a day, could start with four runways with room for expansion, and would affect a relatively small number of people.

Richard Tracey
Transport spokesman, GLA Conservatives
London SE1

SIR – If you want to grow a business, you ask the customers what they want, not the suppliers.

The airlines, the customers of the airports, want to fly to a hub, not to a small airport. They want to fly to the centre of business and tourism, and they want easy access for their passengers. Only Heathrow or an estuary airport can be such a hub. Gatwick needs to cut tunnels through hills to have four runways, and the runways would be miles apart.

Why is it that when government gets involved in anything, logic and common sense seem to fly out of the window?

A T Brookes
Charlwood, Surrey


SIR – Benji Wilson admits that he is not the target audience for The Great British Sewing Bee. But he calls it “hideously twee” and bemoans the fact that, in his opinion, it was not a patch on The Great British Bake Off.

I would like to assure him that, as a sewer, I found it refreshing, creative and took encouragement that I, too, could make something that would be treasured.

Judith Manners
Bridport, Dorset


SIR – People born in the Sixties and Seventies may well find it harder to save money for a flat or house than their parents; they may – but I have my doubts – be worse off than their parents’ generation.

However, as a member of the baby boom generation, which seems to get so much flak from those younger than us, I would like to point out that we rarely took family holidays; buying a television was a major investment; few ate out at anything grander than fish and chip shops; clubbing wasn’t really invented yet; most households restricted phone calls because of their cost; and credit – including mortgages – was hard to come by, especially if you were a woman. Does the younger generation still think it’s hard done by?

Marcia MacLeod
London NW6

SIR – The future is bleak for all age groups due to the parlous state of the nation’s finances. The last government started the rot, with its overspending, destruction of private pensions, green taxes and mass immigration.

The Coalition has carried on with these flawed policies. David Cameron could put an end to the rot by saying “no” to Nick Clegg and the EU bureaucrats.

Stefan Reszczynski
Margate, Kent

Luring foreign students

SIR – Unlike Britain, most countries do not include student numbers within their immigration targets, so it’s easy to see why Australia, America and mainland Europe (where courses are often offered in English) are now becoming preferred study destinations for international students.

At both further education and school level, the loss of income to the British economy is almost incalculable.

Neil Roskilly
CEO, Independent Schools Association
Saffron Walden, Essex

O’Toole’s cohort

SIR – The media seem agreed that Peter O’Toole was the last of a quartet of actors and “honorary British” hellraisers, along with Richard Burton, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris.

Nowhere has the great Trevor Howard been mentioned. It is said that, though 20 years older, Howard always drank Oliver Reed under the table. The long-suffering Mrs Trevor Howard, Helen Cherry, described her husband as “a carouser of Olympian fortitude”.

Alasdair Ogilvy
Stedham, West Sussex

Now you’re stalking

SIR – Ken Anderson complains about the increasing ratio of broccoli stalk to crown. But this can provide him with a delicacy: if the tough outer part of the stalk is removed, he will find a white interior that is the equal to asparagus.

Anne Peck
Newick, East Sussex

SIR – The broccoli stalk, peeled and sliced into bite-sized rings and popped into the pan is, to my palate, every bit as tasty as its admittedly more elegant florets.

Richard Tomblin
Loughborough, Leicestershire

SIR – Peeled and sliced, like a cucumber, a broccoli stalk makes a very pleasant addition to a salad.

Jean Brailey
Petersfield, Hampshire

Immigration laws

SIR – The Immigration Act 1971 (as amended) sets out powers for British immigration officers to control the arrival of all passengers seeking leave to enter Britain (“ ’15,000 migrants a year’ sneak over from Calais).

The IA 1971 sets out the immigration officer’s authority to refuse entry to anyone whose presence in Britain is considered non-conducive to the public good. The rules specifically state that the immigration officer must be satisfied that the arriving passenger is not likely to become a charge on public funds. The problem is that border officers are instructed at present only to swipe passports. If the passport is not a forgery and the bearer’s name does not appear on a warning list, an EU national is waved through without further question.

We need to return to a robust interpretation of the provisions already set out in the Immigration Act 1971.

Robert M Smith
Bere Ferrers, Devon

Stephen Ward’s death

SIR – Was Stephen Ward “bumped off” by the Secret Service? No. I worked in both MI5 and MI6 years ago and, though of junior rank, I knew roughly what was going on – neither service had a “licence to kill”. Often many of us wished there was; I would not have shed a tear to watch the feet of the arch-traitor Kim Philby, who caused the deaths of many, sticking out of a stretcher.

I got to know Jack Profumo well, and respected him. The claim that he lied because of security fears seems quite spurious. It is improbable that he had any nuclear secrets of value to Ivanov that the Russian couldn’t read in The Daily Telegraph. Could Profumo’s lying not have been a case of a man anxious not to be embarrassed in his marriage, which was then going through a difficult period?

Maybe Ward’s story is better left to the music hall than to conspiracy fantasists?

Sir Alistair Horne
Turville, Oxfordshire

White Christmas lie

SIR – Tom Chivers’s article (“Lie and lie again: a parent’s guide to a child’s happiness at Christmas”) brought to mind my daughter’s anger on overhearing my wife and me discussing the placement of £1 from the tooth fairy.

“You lied to me,” she hissed. “Next you’ll be telling me there’s no Father Christmas.”

Ian Walker
Addingham, West Yorkshire

Right-to-die campaigners are exceptional cases

SIR – Right-to-die campaigners such as Tony Nicklinson or Paul Lamb face quite extraordinary physical incapacity as a result of serious illness and accident respectively. This is not ordinary dying, for example from cancer, heart or lung disease. People dying of these illnesses seldom have the energy, time, or even the foreknowledge of their prognosis to front any campaign.

Campaigning duties are thus passed to certain severely disabled individuals who have sufficient time left, but whose cases are exceptional. While appealing to people’s sympathies, their image distorts public understanding about the ordinary dying people who might make use of any euthanasia law. As the Dutch statistics reveal, the majority of people (78 per cent in 2012) who die through some form of euthanasia have cancer, and most are likely to be very close to their “natural” death.

The extraordinary “right-to-die” cases which come before our courts are, therefore, not representative of the type of dying that might be hastened should any law be enacted by Parliament.

Dr Naomi Richards
University of Sheffield

SIR – Lord Davies of Stamford, the former Labour minister (“Doctors accused of ‘helping patients on way’ with lethal drug doses”, report, December 13), claims that some doctors are routinely helping patients to die by giving them lethal drugs, and that killing by dehydration amounts to much the same thing.

If such doctors, while publicly professing the highest standards of honesty, were thieves in private, would Lord Davies support the legalisation of theft?

Of course, the 1993 Bland judgment, by allowing doctors, through acts of omission, to kill patients to whom they owe a duty of care, has left the law “morally and intellectually misshapen” and patients at risk. The issue is not the means by which doctors should kill patients, but whether they ought do so at all.

The recent Liverpool Care Pathway scandal, involving the premature deaths of many patients through combinations of dehydration and drugs, should give pause to even the most ardent supporters of health professionals killing patients because it is in their “best interests”.

Dr R J Clearkin
Market Harborough, Leicestershire



Irish Times:

Sir, – Dr Eddie O’Connor makes a strong case for urgent and radical rethinking of Ireland’s current reckless drive for economic growth at all costs (Opinion, December 19th).

Unthinking growth in material consumption is now directly causing many serious problems, but Dr O’Connor rightly highlights climate change as the single most potentially catastrophic.

In order to limit global average surface temperature rise to no more than +2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels (the current internationally agreed target) he advocates acting now to create “. . . a low carbon economy by 2050, matched by a low carbon lifestyle”. I absolutely share his concerns and his sense that radical action is now urgent.

Unfortunately there are two serious difficulties with his analysis. First, there is clear scientific advice that, because of inaction to date, to have even a passable chance of limiting temperature rise to +2 degrees C (on a basis of global justice and equity) high emitting countries such as Ireland would need to achieve virtually the full transition to a “low carbon” economy and lifestyle by no later than 2030 rather than 2050 (ie, within only about the next 16 years).

Second, there is growing scientific concern than the politically negotiated target of +2 degrees C is physically far too high – that it already presents very real risks of devastating impacts on human life and welfare (not to mention the rest of the biosphere) on a global basis.

Despite all this, I do absolutely agree with Dr O’Connor that meaningful action to mitigate and manage these risks is possible: but the vision needs to be probably twice as ambitious and twice as urgent. We face an extraordinary challenge, literally unprecedented in human history; but the only thing lacking is political honesty, will, and leadership. Even at this late stage, it would be a noble ambition for Ireland to model such leadership for the world. – Yours, etc,


Executive Dean,

Faculty of Engineering and


Dublin City University,



Sir, – I read with interest the HSE’s new “National Service Plan” for 2014. In the area of primary care, our noble administrators have effectively decided to take full medical cards from tens of thousands of older citizens. Many of these patients will be on multiple medications and as a consequence will suffer significant financial hardship. Others will be unable to afford their prescriptions and thus will be more likely to develop serious illness with consequent hospital admission. This will result in a far greater cost to the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, perfectly healthy and wealthy five-year-old children are to be given an automatic medical card as part of an elaborate strategy to win votes from middle-class parents and save Labour Party seats in south county Dublin.

Worse still, in a move worthy of a banana republic, the Government continues to squander millions of euro on unnecessary, unwanted and unviable “primary care centres” across the land. These political vanity projects, which most GPs are wisely avoiding, are nothing more than a mini-bailout for the construction industry and a photo opportunity for county councillors.

To deploy scarce resources in such a cynical, wasteful fashion is nothing short of contemptible. Shame on those responsible. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – The estimated Government debt at the end of 2013 is €206,000,000,000 (Business, December 13th). The population of the Republic is 4,800,000. If my arithmetic is right that amounts to €42,917 for each citizen.

Would somebody please explain to me who is exiting the bailout? – Yours, etc,


Gainsborough Crescent,

Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Your Editorial (December 19th) on the reform of legal services appears to confuse two distinct concepts, namely legal partnerships, and multi-disciplinary practices.

The former involves solicitors and barristers adopting new business structures such as chambers or solicitor/barrister partnerships; the latter involves the introduction of other professionals, such as accountants. Both would necessitate the removal of the current rule that barristers may only operate as sole traders.

Your Editorial appears to suggest there is universal disapproval of both legal partnerships and multi-disciplinary practices, and, by implication, that there is universal support for the “sole trader” requirement. This is not so. The Irish model, with its strict demarcation between barristers and solicitors and its insistence on the “sole trader” requirement, is very much at odds with the English system and with civil law jurisdictions.

Whatever the pros and cons of multi-disciplinary practices, the proposal that barristers be allowed form chambers is a very modest one, and was recommended by the Competition Authority as long ago as December 2006. It would be a shame if possible concerns about multi-disciplinary practices were to delay further the implementation of the Competition Authority’s report, as endorsed by the troika’s Memorandum of Understanding. – Yours, etc,


Law Library Buildings,



Sir, – At last a chapter is over. Those who died in the first World War are being honoured (Home News, December 19th).

We should reassess where we see morality in Irish people. There has been huge immorality and betrayal of Irish by Irish in the financial and child abuse scandals. Henceforth we can honour all who died for freedom in whatever uniform. The poppy should be worn alongside the Tricolour from 2014. – Yours, etc,


The Maltings,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – As part of the ongoing consolidation of the nascent, and sometimes volatile, peace process and the furthering of good relations between Ireland and Britain, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron are together visiting first World War graves, including a visit the Irish Peace Park at Messines, the memorial to the 50,000 Irish dead of the Great War (Home News, December 19th).

May I suggest that if Mr Cameron is sincere about the furtherance of good relationships on these islands, this can best be served by his government releasing the files and documentation withheld from the Baron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,



Sir, – University of Ulster lecturers from the University and Colleges Union (UCU) want to voice our full support for our students in their occupation of the Coleraine university Senior Common Room, which is threatened with closure.

We are a learning community, not a business community. The SCR is the perfect illustration of that, and its closure is yet another landmark on the journey of university management’s cuts. The SCR is a shared space where every member of our learning community has the opportunity to meet, relax and work, sharing ideas and knowledge. University management plans to convert it from a shared space into an exclusive executive dining room.

Students are saying “enough is enough” after class sizes have increased, student support services have decreased, and the university canteens have been privatised.

We lecturers welcomed that the student occupation was started in solidarity with our strike on December 3rd, when all groups of staff, technical, support and academic, across higher education in the UK, took action in an ongoing call for fair pay. We have been offered a pay “rise” of just 1 per cent in the context of pay having fallen 13 per cent in real terms over the past four years.

Far from the stereotypical images we often see represented of students criticising their lecturers for going on strike and seeing it as detrimental to their studies, the students’ union’s support of our strike, the large numbers of students joining us on picket lines, and the SCR occupation tell us clearly that what students see as detrimental to their studies is not staff striking, but staff and students suffering cut after cut to pay and services. That is why on December 11th UCU held a rally to support the student occupation: staff standing in solidarity with the students who have stood in solidarity with us.

The SCR occupation is peaceful and is vibrantly reclaiming the space for its rightful purpose. Students are asking for meaningful dialogue with university management, but thus far it is not forthcoming. This is a great shame, because meaningful dialogue is what a learning community is all about. – Yours, etc,


Ulster President) and


(UCU Ulster Vice President)

on behalf of UCU


University of Ulster,

Cromore Road,


Sir, – You have quite correctly highlighted the concern about sport-related concussion and particularly the steps taken in rugby in its prevention and management both by medics and lay persons (Sport, December 18th).

The medical community within the IRB has fully embraced the recommendations as propounded by an expert group of scientists and clinicians who met for two days in Zurich, resulting in the Concussion in Sport Consensus Statement (2013).

Of particular importance, this document again confirms that the clinical presentation and assessment of concussions are multifactorial, and that signs and symptoms evolve and resolve over very variable periods of time and thus require constant and repeated expert assessments. Furthermore, children and young adults require a much more conservative approach in managing suspected concussion.

The decision to allow a rugby player to return to play is best made by doctors who are themselves familiar with this consensus protocol.

Concern has been expressed about rugby’s introduction of the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) whereby a player can be taken off the field for five minutes, allowing doctors to make a call as to whether he/she has indeed suffered a suspected concussion and if so, be removed permanently.

It is important to understand that the PSCA is only a supporting tool in our concussion management strategy and was only designed to be used by doctors working at the elite level of the game to assist with the assessment of a player with a head injury, and only where the diagnosis is not immediately obvious.

Medicine is not an exact science and no more so in concussion management. Nor is the PSCA an exact or perfect tool; but no perfect tool exists at present.

As with other sports, it is not the protocols that are at fault, perhaps, but their implementation; and doctors with an understanding of the available knowledge of concussion must continue to be guided by one of the principal precepts in medicine, Primum non nocere (first do no harm). – Yours, etc,


Sir, – The news in Michael Dervan’s column (Arts, December 11th) is very disturbing. It is extremely inadvisable for any organisation, especially a representative body such as the Association of Irish Composers (AIC), to talk of establishing a “canon” of work.

By exercising a prescribed standard of judgment, a canon excludes more than it includes. This should not be the purpose of such an association. As an initiative to create an identity for the spectrum of Irish composition this is so misguided as to beggar belief. Or could it be that the AIC doesn’t understand what it is doing in using the term “canon”?

As there is no existing “canon”, it is difficult to see how the AIC can, in its own words, establish “a new canon of Irish works”. Since the concerts presenting Irish works under this rubric are chamber works, the “new canon” by definition excludes orchestral music. What is the rationale in that?  To speak of making Irish compositions “repertoire standard” is unrealistic. Apart from prioritising specific works (according to the performers’ own preferences) it seems to turn its back on orchestral music.

Admittedly, the opportunities for getting such work performed, either by the RTÉ orchestras or by other groups, are slim, but it should be noted that, in the decade 1979-88, the RTÉ orchestras gave 133 performances of 96 works by 31 Irish composers; in the decade 1989-98 (the latest for which I have information to hand), 134 performances of 101 works by 42 Irish composers. Are these works not to be included in an “Irish canon”?

On what grounds will specific works by Irish composers be included, or excluded? And which Irish composers will not figure at all?

Ireland, and in particular Irish music, has struggled to establish and understand its identity and to articulate its presence on the world stage. This project can only be a retrograde step. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – With the nomination of Eddie Downey to the IFA presidency (Home News, December 18th), Slane can now boast a lord, a president and a bishop.

Perhaps it’s now time for it also to be able to boast a bypass. – Yours , etc,


Sundrive Road,

Crumlin, Dublin 12.



Sir, – Brian McSharry reminisces (December 6th) about the Lafayette building, on the corner of Westmoreland Street/D’Olier Street, otherwise known as Purcell’s Corner, in the 1950s.

He mentions the nearby Ballast Office, McBirney’s, Bewleys, the blue clock, Purcell’s tobacco shop, and Kennedy McSharrys.

He asks “Does anyone else remember ?”

Well, let’s see now. On the Lafayette building, the magnificent Donnelly Sausage sign with its flying neon sausages, the flowing multi-coloured neon Gold Flake sign, and the very attractive Tayto sign, illuminated the dreary Dublin evening sky of the 1950s.

An afternoon treat in the Metropole, Capital, or Regent cinemas, an ice-cream cone in Caffola’s, the 12 bus home past Pims and Cassidy’s, and the great De-Luxe Cinema with its posters of Burt Lancaster and Kim Novak. What a life!

And then the homework. – Yours, etc,



Monkstown, Co Dublin.




Irish Independent:


* Colette Browne’s piece, ‘Urging gays to ‘pray it away’ is silly — and dangerous’ (Irish Independent, Wednesday, December 18), is a very thought-provoking one.

Also in this section

Letters: The reality of being alone at Christmas

Letters: Twerkers of the world — get lost

Letters: Pope’s criticisms emphasise church’s value

Articles/columns such as these in mainstream newspapers signal the great change that has occurred in Irish society since the late 20th Century. It is a change from one form of fundamentalism (Catholicism in Ireland) to another; of a liberal kind. Freedom of speech is the injured party when up against either ideology.

Ms Browne congratulates the suspension of the Legion of Mary society in NUI Galway. NUI has a “pluralist ethos” and so it is right to suspend funding to the society in question, implies Ms Browne.

She does not see the inherent contradiction that lies in the belief that a pluralist ethos somehow means banning the views of some in favour of others.

Pluralism implies diverse, multifarious opinions and views be tolerated. Apparently for Ms Browne and the NUI, however, this means a diverse range of opinion within an overarching liberal context. In other words: “Say what you like as long as it conforms to our ideology.”

The idea that censoring the views of the Legion of Mary somehow curtails free speech is “unfounded” according to Ms Browne. This is simply incorrect. If you cease funding for one particular body of opinion, not only are you delegitimising it but you halt its ability to get its message disseminated — effectively censoring it.

The end of the column decrees “the right to practise one’s religion does not confer a right to force its orthodoxies on others”. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Let us now ask who it is that seeks to confer their orthodoxies on others? Is it the Legion of Mary who produce heterodox literature, which attempts to change one’s mind on a certain topic through the use of persuasion? Or is it the people who feel any deviation from their ideology — liberalism, the one true religion — is “dangerous”, and so should be censored?




* As we exit the bailout, it can possibly be an opportunity rather than a conclusion. But, I also believe there is far too much backslapping for our top politicians as to the part they played in the exit.

The troika wouldn’t even have been needed here had politicians been disciplined enough to face reality, ignore the mythical Celtic Tiger and act accordingly towards the banks, the developers and the public. Prudent leadership at that time would have been accepted nationwide. Yes, it seems the last government may have to carry the buck. Being honest, however, parties, politicians and governments differ little when in power — other than faulting the previous ones.

This Government acted as tabby cats to the troika over the past three years, genuflecting to their every whim. In its recent secret meeting with the troika, what concessions were the Government promised before their departure — apart from the reminder, “We’ll be back”?

What a buffer for the future welfare of our banks if the troika had offered some practical help in sorting out their tracker mortgage burden. This advice might ward off the possibility of another bailout, get the banks lending more freely and let the economy move on.




* This season of giving reminds me of a line from the late, great Tommy Cooper: “I got a BMW for my wife last Christmas — good swop.”




* In reference to a column by James Downey (Irish Independent, December 14) where he writes about prostitution and sex-trafficking, I take issue with his comments that proposals put to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter by the Oireachtas Justice Committee to criminalise the user are just gesture politics.

A vast amount of work has gone into consulting with women in prostitution and organisations who provide vital support services to these women, to determine how we can tackle the serious issue of prostitution and sex trafficking in this country. The Oireachtas Justice Committee heard that criminalising the user, as the Swedish have done, is a critical first step we must take to tackle this problem. This approach has resulted in the number of street prostitutes working in Sweden falling by two-thirds since the law was introduced in 1998. Norway has followed suit, as has France.

Some of the evidence we heard at the Oireachtas hearings was truly shocking, with one woman’s account of how she was more in demand at 16 than at 21. We need to have a mature conversation about why there is such a demand for young girls and boys.

For Mr Downey to describe this as “gesture politics” and say that “anyone who thinks they can eradicate prostitution is like looking for a pie in the sky” is not only insulting to the thousands of women who are trapped in this horrific situation, but it is typical of someone who refuses to recognise that selling one’s body is not a career choice, but born out of necessity and is usually rooted in poverty and addiction.

Prostitution and sex-trafficking in this country are at an all-time high. There are women from at least 32 countries working in prostitution here, most of who have been trafficked here and live in appalling conditions. A record 258 women contacted Ruhama’s support services last year, as well as receiving 13,000 phone calls and 5,200 text messages by women in prostitution who needed support.

For Mr Downey to dismiss the proposal to criminalise the user and say that it is impossible for prostitution to be eradicated because it has been around for centuries, but instead we should regulate “the industry”, shows his ignorance and unwillingness to step up and tackle this matter head-on.

The facts are that the Swedish model works. By taking the first step towards tackling this serious issue, we will be in a position to prosecute the purchaser of sex which is an illegal activity and hold these people to account.

There is no equality in the transaction, as the person who holds the money holds the power.




* There was at least one chink of light in an otherwise fairly dispiriting HSE Service Plan for 2014.

The allocation of almost €3m by the Health Minister for 19 additional posts to support the heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas programmes is to be commended.

While we await details, these posts will include the appointment of donor co-ordinators in major hospitals. These will be specially trained medical staff who can guide next of kin through the process of organ donation by their loved ones, at what is clearly a very traumatic time.

Such co-ordinators have proven very effective in high-performing transplant countries such as Spain and Croatia. Thanks must be given to the surgeons and their teams in the Beaumont and St Vincent’s Hospital transplant centres and this year we particularly wish to highlight the outstanding success of the lung transplant centre in the Mater Hospital. The rate of lung transplantation more than doubled in 2013 compared with 2012 in Ireland. There were 34 lung transplants in total for 2013, compared with 14 in 2012 .







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