28 December 2013 Jill

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Heather and Judy feel they are being taken fro granted and are pressing them to get married. Priceless.

Potter around Jill comes for a visit.

Scrabbletoday Mary wins and gets well over 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, who has died of a heart attack aged 60, was the last scion of the Wadiyar dynasty that ruled the south Indian kingdom of Mysore between 1399 and Independence.

The Indian Constitution continued to recognise his father as the Maharaja of Mysore until 1971, when Indira Gandhi abolished the titles and allowances of more than 560 maharajas. But many people continued to use the honorific title, addressing Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar as maharaja after he succeeded in 1974.

While his ancestors reportedly buried troublesome subjects up to their necks in the public square and coaxed elephants to crush their heads, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar devoted his energies to more peaceful pastimes as an MP, hotelier, educationist and fashion designer, while striving to restore his family’s many palaces to their former glory.

As the last link with Mysore’s royal past, he continued to play a leading role in the city’s annual Dasara festival, now a major tourist attraction. A 10-day, 400-year-old celebration held in September or October, it culminates in a colourful procession, complete with caparisoned elephants, horses and camels, to commemorate the day the Hindu goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura.

Though the hereditary rulers of Mysore have lost their temporal powers, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar continued to observe the customary tradition whereby the maharaja, clad in rich silks and embroideries, ascends the golden throne in Mysore Palace and holds a durbar for subjects to pay their obeisance. During the final procession he travelled to a temple for prayers in a cart drawn by caparisoned bulls. Many Hindus in Mysore regarded him as a god.

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar was born in Mysore on February 20 1953, the only son of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, the 25th and last ruling Maharaja of Mysore, and his second wife, Maharani Tripura Sundari Ammani Avaru. Though Jayachamarajendra had lost his powers, he was a close ally of Nehru and retained a constitutional position as the head of Mysore State within the Republic of India and later as Governor of Mysore State (now Karnataka).

Srikantadatta was brought up amid the opulence of the family’s many palaces in south India and educated at Maharaja College, Mysore (now the University of Mysore), where he took a degree in Political Science and captained the university cricket team. He completed his education at Sharda Vilas Law College, Mysore. After his father’s death, he inherited many properties and palaces in Mysore, Bangalore, Srirangapatanam, Ooty and Kemmangundi.

In 1984, in the elections to the Indian lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi, he was chosen by her son Rajiv to contest the seat of Mysore for the Congress Party. He won and, except for a five-year period in the 1990s when he switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party and lost the seat to his Congress Party opponent, he served a total of four terms.

In the 1990s, with his wife Pramoda Devi, he developed a fashion business, promoting traditional Mysore silk saris under the own brand name Royal Silk of Mysore, which promised to re-create “the magic and glamour of a bygone era in a contemporary format”. Their fashion shows at the family’s Bangalore Palace, one of many royal palaces which he worked to restore, became a highlight of the city’s social calendar; but a project to launch the brand on the international market came to nothing.

Following the example of former princely families in Rajastan, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar also sought to convert many of his palaces into hotels. He succeeded with the Fernhills Palace in the hill station of Ooty, now a five-star “heritage” hotel; but plans to convert the Rajendra Vilas Palace in Mysore made painfully slow progress and the hotel has yet to be completed.

Similarly, plans to launch a new airline, Maharaja Airlines (branded the “Palace in the Sky”) never bore fruit, while his final years were overshadowed by a long-running dispute with state and national governments over the terms under which some of his family palaces had been nationalised in the 1990s.

A fervent believer in the power of the stars, the Maharaja refused to do anything without the consent of his astrologers and numerologists. The number 1953, his date of birth, had a great significance for him and featured in his mobile phone numbers and car registrations – quite a feat since at one point he had 20 cars and was known to carry a dozen mobile phones – separate devices for family, business, friends and so on.

The Maharaja was involved with many educational and cultural organisations and at one point lectured in Political Science at Mysore University. A lover of good food, crime fiction and music, from Indian classical to Western pop, he was also a passionate fan of cricket, golf and racing. At one time he bred racehorses and he was twice elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.

The Maharaja had no children (some cited a 400-year old family curse), telling an interviewer in 2009 that he would not think about a successor until he was 70 years old.

He is survived by his wife.

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, born February 20 1953, died December 10 2013





The church has to become truly local so that it “can get on with things locally”, as Andrew Brown puts it (The Church of England’s unglamorous local future, 26 December). But it is not organised to become this: it is top-heavy, with too many bishops, archdeacons and committees, too much bureaucracy and management. The local church – a cluster of local churches, or deaneries – must be the focal point. This means they have control of the budget and resources now residing within the top-heavy church. When the archbishop of Canterbury was bishop of Durham, he set out these ideas. The difficulty will be for the bishops to let go of their authority. Bishops should co-ordinate the efforts of deaneries, but the power will lie with local churches. I was a parish priest for 30 years, and even then the glaring gap in the middle of the church’s organisation was obvious.
The Rev Donald Reeves
Director, Soul of Europe

• Andrew Brown is right to question the continuing relevance of the established church, a multinational corporation losing significant market share against its key competitors. In a domestic and global marketplace for religion, a product like any other, they have global competitors in Islam, catholicism and the evangelical churches. Like any business leader, Justin Welby wants both to maintain Anglicanism‘s domestic market as well as develop market share in the growth markets of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The calculation may be that losing relevance in the UK by peddling a social conservative product is more than matched by the attractiveness of such a theological view in Africa and Asia, where there is a likelihood of market growth. This is a matter of business, pure and simple.
Jeremy Ross
Ashstead, Surrey

• Andrew Brown’s otherwise excellent argument for disestablishment overlooks one aspect which is of vital importance to the nation. It is that so long as the C of E is part of the fabric of state, there exists a body of volunteers who, however reluctantly, can be compelled to manage, largely at their own expense, a huge sector of our precious built heritage. If they were to become disestablished and, in Brown’s words, “go local”, the resulting rise in ecumenism would bring about a corresponding reduction in the need for church buildings.

When rationalising their resources in working out “the way that faith plays out in everyday life”, given a choice between a remote, high-maintenance monument which the state decrees may not be adapted to serve that purpose, or a Victorian (or later) chapel of no significance, it’s inevitably the latter which the unified faith group will choose as its base for mission. Who then will pick up the tab for maintaining our historic places of worship?
Roger Munday
Living Stones, The Church and Community Trust



The government’s net migration cap is hurting Britain’s economic recovery and long-term fiscal health (It’s not racist to be anxious over large-scale immigration, 23 December). It can take around three months for a business to apply for a visa for a prospective employee, a significant unseen cost of the cap, and international firms may prefer to base themselves in countries where they can bring in staff from abroad more easily than they can in the UK.

Entrepreneurship is being affected, too: more than a quarter of Silicon Roundabout startup founders are foreign-born, and more than half of tech startups in California’s Silicon Valley are founded by immigrants. The cap on immigration is a cap on the innovative industries Britain needs to thrive.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, without net immigration of at least 260,000 people per annum, public debt will approach 100% of GDP by 2060 as we struggle to pay for a ballooning pensions and healthcare bill. Countless studies have shown immigrants create jobs, raise natives’ real wages and even boost productivity.

Public concerns about benefits tourism are legitimate but are better addressed by reforms that restrict access to the welfare state. The migration cap does not discriminate between the small number of would-be welfare tourists and the many people who would like to work productively to create a better life for themselves and their families. The cap is hurting Britain and should be scrapped.
Sam Bowman Research director, Adam Smith Institute, Mark Littlewood Director general, Institute of Economic Affairs, Simon Walker Director general, Institute of Directors, Ryan Bourne Head of economic research, Centre for Policy Studies, Philip Salter Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

• A survey conducted last July by Ipsos Mori found that the British public significantly overestimated the UK’s immigrant population. Distorted and hysterical coverage of migration in the media meant that when asked what percentage of the UK’s population are immigrants (ie, not born in the UK), most of the people polled thought the figure was 31%; in fact, it is 13%. When asked how many of the UK’s immigrants were asylum-seekers, most people polled estimated the figure at 21%; it is, in fact, 4%.

When asked to account for the discrepancy between their high estimates and the actual figure, 56% insisted that their estimation was correct and argued the official figure failed to account for illegal immigrants. Of those questioned, 46% simply refused to accept that the UK’s migrant population was 13% of the total.

This poll marks a triumph for the rightwing press which have vilified and demonised immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers every day for decades. Their poison has had results. In 1997, 4% of those polled thought the UK had an immigration “problem”; in 2007, that had risen to 38%. Yet study after study has found that migrants put more back into society than they take out. In addition, immigrants are less likely to claim the benefits they are entitled to than the rest of society. But it is in this government’s interest that working people blame migrants for lack of housing and the destruction of the welfare state. That’s what’s behind the government’s current campaign against immigrants which has been rightly denounced by Vince Cable (Report, 23 December).

So when John Harris says “It’s not racist to be anxious over large-scale immigration”, he is being disingenuous. It is. Blaming migrants for social problems does nothing to help working people and lets the real culprits get away with it. The problem’s not Roma. The problem’s not Romanians. The problem’s not Bulgarians. The problem’s the Etonians.
Sasha Simic

• Younger voters are disenchanted with politics (Report, 27 December) partly because, despite the proliferation of “democratic” institutions in both the EU and UK, direct accountability has diminished. When workers (mostly young) move between EU states, in effect they become disenfranchised. This has an impact not only on their rights, but also on those of their co-workers. With a healthy supply of non-voting taxpayers, the government need not introduce policies aimed at helping younger workers, such as supporting a living wage or investing in the education of its own workforce. Unless this significant challenge to UK democracy is redressed, we would be better off outside the EU.
Dr Mark Ellis

• When will politicians (and Guardian editorial writers) understand that immigration, like all key areas of public policy, needs to be properly planned and managed? Managed immigration brings benefits to people wishing to come and live in the UK and benefits the population as a whole. The current open borders policy risks a massive population rise, something that will be detrimental to the quality of life of most people living in the UK. It is the first duty of any government to protect the public rather than pander to unsustainable EU ideology.
Stephen Lavan
Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk


John Philpott’s prediction (Report, 23 December) of earnings growth next year of 2.4% and inflation, as measured by the CPI, of 2.2%, meaning “2014 will thus see the end of the post-recession squeeze on real earnings”, appears to ignore the impact of tax, national insurance and the loss of earnings-related benefits.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

• Your letter writers (27 December) detail exactly why Chris Huhne was so wrong in his article (Someone needs to fight the selfish, short-sighted old, 23 December). Chris Scarlett’s assertion regarding tax rates needs qualification. Basic rate tax has gone down, but if you include national insurance the rate is similar at 32% (20% tax and 12% NI). For those on zero hours contracts, the rate of NI can be a lot higher as it is a weekly/monthly tax with no refund if you earn less or nothing in any week/month. The only people who have had a real reduction in income tax since the 70s are the very rich.
Karen Fletcher

• What a brilliant letters page on 27 December. If only the 17 contributors could form an emergency committee to run the country.
Diana Heeks
Llanrhystud, Ceredigion

• I see that Sir Nick Harvey, a former defence minister, describes the fox-hunting law as “an ass” because it is routinely ignored (Report, 26 December). Presumably he will be calling for the abolition of speed limits, too.
Ian Reissmann
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

• That families get together at Christmas may indeed partially explain the persistence of the festival (Editorial, 26 December). Families can remind themselves why they choose not to be together for the rest of the year. That way both institutions can endure.
Dr Alex May

• Christmas day. Devon pinks flowering in our Devon garden, and bees on the rosemary flowers. No berries on the holly, though.
Ruth Smith
Bishopsteignton, Devon




Today marks five years since the Israeli military launched missile and ground attacks on Gaza, which Israel named Operation Cast Lead. According to the UN, 1,383 Palestinians died as a result, including 333 children.

And what of the survivors? For the 1.7 million living in the tiny Gaza Strip, life has become increasingly desperate because of Israel’s continuing blockade, backed by Egypt and with no effective challenge from governments around the world. The blockade has brought electricity cuts of 16 hours a day, which means the only street lights visible at night have been those from Israel’s nearby towns. The electricity shortages have severely affected almost all essential services, including health, water, sanitation and schooling. With waste plants not operating, Palestinian children have been wading through freezing sewage to attend school. The terrible floods in Gaza brought the promise of increased electricity supplies for a few weeks, but the international community must demand that supply is constant and permanent.

This blockade has also resulted in unacceptable limits on personal freedom. Most Palestinians are prevented from travelling outside Gaza, an area of 139 sq miles: about the same size, but much more densely populated, as Newcastle. It is deplorable for us to allow this continuing collective punishment against Palestinians in Gaza. We urge the UK government to take immediate action to bring an end to the blockade on Gaza.
Baroness Blackstone, Peter Bottomley MP, Richard Burden MP, Martin Caton MP, Katy Clark MP, Michael Connarty MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alex Cunningham MP, Lord Dubs, Mark Durkan MP, Lord Dykes, John Hemming MP, Julian Huppert MP, Lord Hylton, Hugh Lanning, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Lord Judd, Caroline Lucas MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, George Mudie MP, Grahame Morris MP, Sandra Osborne MP, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Rt Hon Dame Joan Ruddock MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Baroness Tonge, Yasmin Qureshi MP, David Ward MP, Mike Weir MP





Boxing Day is the only day on which the hunting lobby welcomes cameras. On every other day of the year, there is no surer guarantee of being violently assaulted and having your camcorder smashed than to attempt to film a hunt.

Christopher Clayton

Waverton, Cheshire

Too bad Andy McSmith’s education (Diary, 20 December) missed out on the importance of Hawick as a centre for Harris tweed production, an essential fact in geography when I was at secondary school 50 years ago. It’s an example of the rigour that Mr Gove hankers after.

Professor Guy Woolley


At least Mary Dejevsky admits that her hostitility towards family-friendly opera is ill-informed (“Child-friendly opera? Is nothing sacred?”, 20 December). The idea that opera is the exclusive preserve of a few is ridiculously outdated. Opera is a richly diverse art-form for which there is demand from a diverse range of audiences.

The engagement of children with the arts is critical if we are to nurture a new generation of culturally literate and passionate audiences and artists. But the main driver is in fact not to catch ’em young as Mary suggests. Instead, we believe that young people have as much right to high-quality arts activity as everyone else. And all the evidence suggests that young audiences are often much less prejudiced than their elders who insist on compartmentalising our cultural landscape.

The Royal Opera House has been commissioning family-friendly work for many years and if Mary Dejevsky came to see How the Whale Became, or other productions such as The Firework Maker’s Daughter, which we presented earlier in the year, I suspect she would find the art-form is far from simplified and that an audience involving young people can be as avid and focused as any.

And there is no reason to fear that her own enjoyment of opera will be compromised. Last night, we completed a run of performances of Parsifal, a wonderful production of a great opera. I suspect there were few children in the audience for this five-hour experience, which is also fine.

John Fulljames

Associate Director, The Royal Opera

London WC2

Following Bernie Evans’s letter (17 December) – my old school not only had A and B streams but also league tables every half term and promotion and relegation at the end of the year. The whole place was run as if we were football clubs. Today perhaps it has play-offs between pupils as well.

Ian Craine

London N15

The Owen Jones attack on secondary modern schools (19 December) was just the kind of quality writing that inspired me to leave the secondary modern school where I was teaching unqualified in the 1960s, go to teacher training college and commit myself to work in comprehensive community education.

I cut it out to send to one of the unqualified teachers that Ukip and pals are hoping to employ in all these new secondary modern schools they plan to reinvent.

Peter Thomson

Hitchin, Hertfordshire

With due respect to those that suffered the grammar school a system in place  40 years ago we must  acknowledge that a significant number benefited from it and gained social mobility (letters, 17 December). It is no surprise that the current government is packed with products of the private schools, when ours was the generation that experienced the comprehensive system which denied opportunity to the very bright to get to the very top.

To consider the  return of selection, we should look at the evidence of Germany, France and Switzerland where formal schooling starts later. They operate a three-tier system successfully, with movement between tiers at 13 and 15 possible. Once this is in place across the country all social classes have the opportunity to benefit.

The selective school debate omits the reality that currently at least 7 per cent of children are selected out of schooling by accident of wealth. The only way to properly break down social barriers is to keep our fantastic private schools but make them available on a merit basis, reverting to a full state selective school system.

Jane Allison


Nigel Brody’s excellent suggestion (Letters, 16 December) to move Parliament and the Civil Service out of London touches on a much bigger issue: the total domination of the UK by London.

It is the political, financial, business, judicial, transport, media and cultural capital of the UK. The concentration in one city leads to an incestuous bubble where participants in each group know those from other groups intimately, and move between groups, trading power and influence as they go. They are insulated by wealth, geography and group-think from the lives of ordinary Britons, and for them life beyond the M25 exists only to provide holiday homes in quaint villages.

The effect of this full-spectrum domination of British economic and cultural life is the impoverishment of the other cities, towns and regions of the UK. This can be seen most starkly in the wild divergence of property values inside and outside of London (report 14 December), but can also be seen in the flow of human capital or arts funding towards London.

The contrasting fortunes of London and the rest of the UK make it difficult to pursue an economic policy that is suited to the whole country.

The US (New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco), Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt), Italy (Milan, Rome) and Australia (Sydney, Canberra) are just a few examples of countries with different cities acting as financial, political, business, media or cultural capitals. If our poles of activity were spread across, for example, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and London, the pressure on housing in the South-ast would ease, opportunity would be spread, and the lives of people across the whole of the UK would be enriched, culturally and financially.

Barry Richards


Like Homer, Guy Keleny very occasionally nods

If a serving Prime Minister either fails to seek, or fails to obtain, a vote of confidence in a parliament of a changed composition following a general election, he or she is not entitled to a dissolution without an opportunity being given to another party leader with a reasonable expectation of obtaining such a vote. This is not “overturning the verdict of the ballot box for party advantage”; such a verdict elects a parliament, not a government

Hence the “period for reflection” in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act in the event of a mid-term Vote of No Confidence, and similar provisions in relation to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey

No real power? What about Charles’s secret activities to influence government policies? How unconstitutional and anti-democratic is that?

Also this monarchy upholds the class system with all its snobbery and unearned privileges. The pageantry and parties exclude the people and reaffirm the anachronism of all this – out of step with a modern Britain.

Jenny Bushell

London SW19

Guy Keleny argues that the British monarchy is the “theatre” and not the reality of power; the ceremonial side that lends our system dignity (“Liberals can love the Royals too”, 26 December).

However it is the invisible tendrils of monarchy that are worrying: the monarch’s direct access to the Prime Minister, Prince Charles’s letter-writing to ministers, the armed forces and police officers swearing personal loyalty to the monarch and not a constitution, and the subtle influence of royal patronage and honours.

These  constitutional grey areas must be scrapped. Although our improvised constitution has never been seriously tested in the 20th century, we cannot assume all future monarchs will be benign and play by the rules.

Ian McKenzie


Steve Richards is right to highlight the role of the Royal Family in binding the nation together (“We love Christmas for the same reason we love the Royal Family. They give modern Britain a rare sense of community”, 24 December). This is not a political point, but more of a sociological one.

It was made eloquently by the celebrated academic Michael Young in his essay “The Meaning of the Coronation.” Young noted that the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, of which we marked the 60th anniversary this year, sparked a range of parties, fetes and gatherings. An estimated 17 million people in the UK took part in these. Inspired by the collective nature of the celebrations, he described them as a “great act of national communion.”

The Royal Family, both through one-off events and its day-to-day work with charities and visits, continues to provide a much needed sense of community and togetherness.

Zaki Cooper







Sir, Philip Collins (“Will Welby ever make the case for God?”, Opinion, Dec 27) rightly reminds the Church of England that the Christian faith has no monopoly on compassion, but he adopts a lofty, under-informed critique about the factual basis on which the faith is contingent.

Not only is the historical narrative more compelling than he allows, but so is the experience of those who have put the faith into practice. We live in an empirical age, and so we might have expected critics of Christianity to have tried it and then critiqued it. Those of us who approached it as a working hypothesis to be tested have grown ever more deeply committed as it delivers what it promises — even to intellectuals.

Perhaps G. K. Chesterton was right when he wrote that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.”

The Rev Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden

Chaplain to the Queen, and Canon Theologian, Chichester Cathedral

Sir, I agree with Philip Collins that the Church should do more to make the case for the Christian faith. However, to dismiss the Christian narrative as unable to withstand “the probing questioning of an inquisitive seven-year-old” is altogether too casual. Yes, the miraculous events described in the Bible may test our credulity but a God who is unable to do the miraculous would be no God at all.

Serious questions have been asked of the Christian faith by many intelligent people who have found answers that satisfied them. Mr Collins mentions some books but there are others that make the case better. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison are two of many. Strobel was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and an atheist when he began to investigate the evidence for Jesus. Frank Morison was a journalist who began his book with the intention of disproving the Christian narrative. Both men became convinced Christians.

I would encourage all who have questions about the Christian faith to look into it with an open mind. They will find a much stronger case for Christ than that generally presented in the media.

Mark Franklin

Bromyard, Herefordshire

Sir, Philip Collins cannot be correct when he asserts that the Church of England must find better arguments for the survival and continuance of its belief. Empirical analyses would invalidate the Immaculate Conception and transubstantiation as implausible, but what is wrong with such innocent and popular beliefs? I am a secular expatriate but I love the idea of Christianity as a unique expression of love and compassion, charity and a great source of moral support at times of anguish and hopelessness.

Sam Banik

London N10

Sir, I agree with Philip Collins that the Church of England “should concentrate on devising retorts that didn’t collapse under the weight of their own evasions”. However, when he tells us that the theological basis for the Church’s political involvement is found “notably in the Gospel of James” one begins to wonder if he has read the documents he does not believe in.

Marcus Paul

West Monkton, Somerset


Sir, Further to your report “Millions for wind farms to switch off” (News, Dec 27), it is true that wind farms are paid money not to produce electricity when the grid is stretched — but so are most other electricity generators. As your report indicates in the penultimate paragraph, “constraints payments” are used by the National Grid to regulate the system. Anyone not reading that far, however, would miss the key fact that puts the issue into context: wind accounts for only about 10 per cent of constraints payments, which means that 90 per cent of payments go to gas, coal and oil, etc.

Wind is more flexible than most generators and is therefore easier to take off the system at short notice when the grid is at capacity. Constraints payments are necessary due to the current inflexibility of the grid — the issue would exist even if there were no wind turbines. However, once a reliable interconnector with the Continent is in place there should no longer be a need for constraints payments, and we will be able to sell the excess electricity we produce to other countries.

John Mills

Partnerships for Renewables


Cromwell’s challenge to unjustified authoritarianism demonstrates his continuing relevance — including in Putin’s Russia

Sir, In the preface to the 2008 edition of her seminal biography of Oliver Cromwell, Antonia Fraser writes that the 18th-century Russian radical Alexander Radischev regarded Cromwell (letters, Dec 26 & 23, and leading article, Dec 20) and the Parliamentarians as a “standing challenge to political systems like the Russian autocracy of the Tsars”. This telling reference demonstrates not only the continuing relevance of Cromwell, but the need to ensure that his achievements (accepting that not all were positive) remain widely known and understood — including in Putin’s Russia.

Now it seems that the Cromwell Museum at Cromwell’s birthplace in Huntingdon is threatened with closure as a result of planned budget cuts by Cambridgeshire County Council, so it is to be hoped that all those who acknowledge Cromwell’s significance as a standing challenge to unjustified authoritarianism will add their voices and their resources to the campaign to keep the museum open.

Stephen Hockman, QC

London EC4

Sir, Lord Taverne is right to say the UK drug laws need reforming (letter, Dec 26). However, no one is jailed for simple drug possession on a first offence any longer. If someone is in prison for a drug offence it is because it formed part of other charges, or because he or she supplied drug. I would expect a QC and former Home Office minister to know that.

Certain drugs are illegal because of the harm they do to a person’s health, the community and ultimately the tax payer in treatment costs. Cannabis is arguably the first step to addiction; in the early 1970s the THC content of cannabis was about 3 per cent; today the average is about 16 per cent (according to Home Office studies).

The classification of drugs does not appear to be based on scientific evidence, so why not do away with it altogether, and make a drug illegal or not. If classification has to stay then base it on the harm a drug does.

I also think Lord Taverne is wrong to state that a confession of drug use by a witness could lead to prosecution. This is highly unlikely and I cannot find a single instance of it ever occurring.

Nigel Price

Lisvane, Cardiff



Sir, Peter Mooney (letter, Dec 24) asks why so many Germans have settled in the UK. I moved from Bad Brückenau in Bavaria to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1996, aged 19, for a three-month work experience placement. For me, coming from a small rural German town, Newcastle had everything a young person could ask for in terms of culture, sport, shopping and going out. Most importantly, the people were (and still are) incredibly friendly, polite, open and have a great sense of humour (yes, a German says this). Although I currently work most of the time in Germany, I still class the North East as “home”.

Monika Loveday

Whitley Bay, North Tyneside





SIR – If, as Lord Carey suggests, the Government is guilty of “washing its hands” of the problem of worldwide anti-Christian persecution, it may indeed have something to do with the fact that, in Britain, many Christians “feel cowed into silence”.

The rise of violent Islamism has given secularists the pretext of blaming religion in general, but silencing Christians in particular. While we are fighting for the right to be heard, and to preserve the Christian idea of marriage and the family, we are less able to support our Christian brothers and sisters across the world.

In the Middle East – with the exception of the much-demonised state of Israel, which, however, lies under the long shadow of a nuclear Iran – the signs are that, soon, the only visitors to the empty cradle of Christianity will be Islamism and aggressive atheism, two nihilist religions in unholy alliance. The gifts they bring will not include peace and goodwill to all men.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – The Thames Valley Housing Association is to be highly commended on the originality of its take on the commercialisation of Christmas by removing Christmas wreaths from its tenants’ front doors and then charging them £10 for their return.

Coincidentally, the headline on the front page of The Daily Telegraph on the same day was: “Christians ‘feel cowed into silence’.”

Christopher Sharp

Outdated digital

SIR – Those who bemoan the problems of DAB radio, with poor coverage and quality, should move with the times. DAB was outdated even before it was introduced.

We stream radio from the internet to speakers around the house. We can receive stations from anywhere in the world with great quality and no reception problems.

Simon Taylor
Farnborough, Hampshire

SIR – I changed my kitchen lights from halogen to LED. My kitchen DAB radio now instantly falls silent the moment the lights are switched on. That’s progress.

Peter Jordan
Pinner, Middlesex

Frank confession

SIR – At least 20 Christmas cards arrived at our house with unfranked stamps. So I can use them again.

Phillada Pym
Ashford, Kent

SIR – Of items that I have ordered recently, those delivered by Royal Mail were on time. Those to be delivered by carrier were not.

What for the future?

Chris Dooley
Swadlincote, Derbyshire

Dear Diary

SIR – Does anyone else share our enjoyment between Christmas and the New Year of reading one’s diary from years ago?

This year my husband and I will have known each other for 40 years and each day of the Christmas period we read, with considerable nostalgia, mirth and sometimes excruciating embarrassment, the entries for the relevant day those same 40 years ago.

Fiona Brown
Torquay, Devon

Labour policy on Syria

SIR – John Kerry recognises that the Syrian revolution has become a huge sectarian mess. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has helped create this tragic situation.

Groups affiliated to al-Qaeda opposed intervention, believing that they would be targeted along with Assad’s forces. After the Commons vote, the Free Syrian Army lost a great deal of support, enabling the sectarian militants to become dominant.

Mr Miliband promised that he would keep up the pressure on Assad after the vote. He has been silent for months. He is not a visionary peacemaker. By abdicating any responsibility for resolving Syria’s tragedy, he has merely become Assad’s useful idiot.

Brian Devlin
Galashiels, Selkirk

Britain: statin island

SIR – It is a bit rich of Professor Sir Roger Boyle to accuse doctors of using too many statins. He was the national director for cardiology at the time when the Government introduced incentive payments through the GP contract that were based on levels of cholesterol and levels of statin prescribing.

Dr Robert Walker
Workington, Cumberland

Thawed in translation

SIR – Listening to a recording of Christmas songs in Swedish (as you do), I realised that a version of White Christmas says: “I’m dreaming of a Christmas at home.” Presumably, the whiteness is taken for granted in Sweden.

I wonder how other countries amend the lyrics of popular songs to suit their own circumstances.

Chris Andrews
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Currency laundering

SIR – We are told (Letters, December 26) that plastic bank notes wash well. In my experience, our current bank notes wash very well indeed.

My mother did it quite often, and I seem to be carrying on this family tradition. As a family, however, we were quite relieved when the plastic driving licence was introduced, as the old red book-style licence did not fare so well, at least not in a twin tub.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

Pointless pardon for Alan Turing

SIR – A royal pardon does not affect the conviction to which it refers, it merely quashes any consequent penalties. What is the point of pardoning a man long dead, as is the case with Alan Turing?

Vic Bannister
Boston, Lincolnshire

SIR – Granting Alan Turing a pardon appears commendable, but leaves me feeling uneasy. Others convicted of crimes no longer on the statute book will surely demand similar treatment, if justice is to be seen to be equal for all.

Might it not be fairer to devise a posthumous honour to recognise outstanding service to the nation, such as Turing’s?

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Can we expect a similar initiative in the case of Lieutenant Colonel James Michael Calvert DSO? Calvert, the commander of a Chindit brigade in Burma, was also a genuine war hero.

Court-martialled, also in 1952, for, “gross indecency with male persons”, Calvert was convicted as a result of unreliable witness testimony.

Calvert is no longer alive, but this would appear an excellent opportunity to remove the stain from his reputation.

John Clapham
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

SIR – Would it not be a splendid idea for Parliament to pass a Bill declaring that Britain apologises for all wrongs it has committed?

The apology should cover known wrongs and wrongs not yet known or not yet recognised as wrongs. Let the apology apply to continuing and future wrongs.

The apology should extend to everything, including apologising, just in case we come to realise that we cannot apologise for things we have not, in fact, done.

Peter Cave
London W1



SIR – Nicholas Nelson (Letters, December 20) finds that his history students associate the word Germany with war, and he worries about the approaching anniversary of the First World War reinforcing such associations.

I spent more than 30 years in Germany and Austria as a soldier, civil servant and tourist. I grew to love these countries, their people, culture and cuisine.

I believe that in addition to Beethoven concerts, the introduction of British schoolchildren to the delights of Apfelstrudel, Kaffee und Torte mit Schlagobers and Sauerkraut mit Haxe might help change ideas associated with Germany. (On reflection, it might be better to leave out the sauerkraut.)

A F Judge
Deeping St James, Lincolnshire


SIR – Your editorial, “We must do more to protect against flooding”, calls for a renewed focus on prevention, and this makes total sense. I wonder where we have got to with the Pitt Review, following the floods in 2007.

The more extreme weather events arising from the effects of climate change are no doubt a factor, but have we also forgotten the basics?

For decades we have filled in ponds, filled or culverted watercourses, not maintained rivers and ditches, changed agricultural practices and then wonder why areas known by our ancestors to be flood plains are inundated.

We cannot expect surface-water sewers in urban areas to deal with the flows from inundation, which has never been their role.

Once we wake up to the idea that our land drainage system is defunct, we might be able to move forward.

Stuart Derwent
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – Having been experiencing a lack of power since Monday evening, I’m now even more keen on prolonging the life of the land line, as all our mobile phones have long-since died, because we cannot recharge the batteries.

We are relying on a relic of the Eighties: a twirly-cord telephone that works simply from the telephone socket. The teenagers jump every time it rings.

Belinda Hunt
Crowborough, East Sussex

SIR – On Christmas Day, while reading Leaves on the Line: Letters on Trains to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, a welcome present, I received a cheery email from East Coast telling me that “there is no disruption at this time affecting services between your selected stations London Kings Cross to Peterborough”.

I was pleased to hear this, but also a little surprised, as East Coast’s website confirmed that “as usual, we will not be running trains on Christmas Day”.

So now we know that the railways run best when there are 1) no passengers, and 2) no trains.

Jennifer Maclean
Bourne, Lincolnshire

SIR – In the last few days, BBC news has advised me of strong winds, measured in miles per hour; heavy rain, gauged in millimetres; and massive waves, in excess of 30 feet. Distances under a mile are given in metres. It’s small wonder schoolchildren struggle with simple daily arithmetic.

Peter Harrison
Northiam, East Sussex

SIR – On Radio 4’s Today yesterday, Justin Webb was interviewing a woman in the South of England, one of many unfortunates without electrical power. “People get their power from various companies,” he said. “Do you know neighbours who fared any better?”

Michael Rogers
Sevenoaks, Kent

“I do not usually air my grievances by writing letters to papers…” So starts one missive to the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser exactly 60 years ago. Sadly, 1954 marked the final year of publication for that doughty local newspaper.

But the Advertiser lives on in our memory thanks to a rather desperate editor. When correspondents started to dry up in the final days of the paper, Nigel Chapman told his staff to make up letters, and sign them, “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”.

The term is now shorthand for the most provincial, narrow-minded grouch, the sort, indeed, who pens angry letters to local newspapers. The BBC even gave the name to its new feedback programme in 1978.

And yet a round-up of the best letters sent by (real) residents of the Kent town, newly collected by the author Nigel Cawthorne, shows that they were a varied bunch.

The letters, dating from the beginning of the 20th century to the paper’s demise, reveal both strange local obsessions and national anxieties, some not so distant from our own.

So the fad for 3D cinema is decried, the punctuality of trains is endlessly fulminated upon, dangerous dogs are complained about, drunks are lectured. Women, meanwhile, appear to be a source of endless mystery and frustration to the “menfolk” of the town.

Cawthorne says he has a fondness for Tunbridge Wells that goes beyond childhood trips to visit his grandmother. “I think the letters reveal a group of people who are slightly boring, but very gentle. They are the sort of people you want around you.”

Even in 1915, the year the town was bombed by German Zeppelins, one correspondent can be found complaining about the nuisance of cock-crowing at dawn. “It is the world of PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie,” says Cawthorne. “The letter writers are terribly polite.”

Here is a selection, covering topics that still exercise many to this day, not least those who correspond with The Daily Telegraph.

As Cawthorne tells his own readers, “Long may there be outrage in Britain.”

Transport trouble

SIR – Can anyone beat the Southern Railway SE and CR Section for slackness? I am one of the army of those who get to and from work by rail. Twice during the last week the 9.45am from Wadhurst has been an hour late, while the number of times it has been anything up to half an hour behind is considerable. On eventually arriving, it usually has three carriages, and very often one is reserved.

FC Boorman

August 1 1924

SIR – On behalf of the menfolk who, either having their hour’s break for lunch, or, in many cases, having had sandwiches for the midday meal, wait for a bus to take them home to a well-earned hot meal, I protest that it is sickening to see the buses come in loaded chiefly with women returning from shopping during the lunch hour or between 5pm and 6pm.

I, myself, this week on one occasion had to let five buses go and not until the sixth was I able to get on.

No doubt if you publish this a good many women will want to pull my hair out, but I take that chance, knowing full well the menfolk will agree I am correct.

So come along, ladies, look after your husband. Shop early and help him get home in comfort and good time.

RT Corden

December 5 1947


SIR – The latest pronouncements of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, giving permission to women to attend God’s house without covering their heads, is directly opposed to God’s Word. This is simply pandering to the fashion of the day, and is utterly unworthy of the heads of the Church.

The Bible is an eternal book written for all time, and all talk about modern times and modern thought is worthless.

ME Welldon

November 13 1942

SIR – Will you allow me, through the medium of your columns, to warn your readers against receiving into their houses the leaflets “Rays of Living Light” that are now flooding the town.

They are being circulated by a sect calling themselves “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”, but who are in reality Mormons, some of them missionaries over from America.

Not only is their teaching erroneous, but seeking, as they do, to draw young girls over to Utah, they become a danger to women. And they may be seen and heard day after day in Tunbridge Wells, talking with maid-servants at the doors, seeking to ensnare them.


February 28 1908

Animal spirits

SIR – I have seen people come into parks with a dog on a lead and immediately let it off the lead to relieve itself, and then children run around and sit in some of this filth. A lady a few doors away from me slipped on some in Norman Road and broke her wrist and was attending the hospital for some weeks.

Make it an offence for any dog to be about the streets, and if it has no collar and nameplate, have it destroyed.

Angry and Disgusted

October 7 1954

SIR – May I beg the favour of a space in your columns to protest against the revival of the cruel fashion of trimming women’s hats with the plumage of ospreys and other beautiful birds, and at the same time make an appeal to all women and girls not to wear them.

I will merely point out that it is a crime of the meanest and most contemptible kind, and one against which every right-minded person should protest. Nothing can be said in its defence.

Amy Woodburn

May 2 1919

Youth offenders

SIR – As a southerner, I would normally have been among the first to fight against S Raymond’s allegation of “southern rudeness”, but now I have had an object lesson.

In a Midlands town last week, I passed three juvenile train-spotters on a railway footbridge… each smiled and said, “Good afternoon, sir.”

In Tunbridge Wells a few days earlier, I had to pass through a gate on which three lads of about the same age were sitting. They did not get off, but regaled me with the greeting, “Wotcher, shorty.” As I walked off, I was hit in the back by a stone.


September 16 1953


SIR – I notice in Tunbridge Wells the ever-growing forest of TV aerials and wonder how fast “TV-itis” is gaining a grip on the town.

This loathsome disease, if allowed to grow unchecked, will turn our youth into myopic, open-mouthed sheep, incapable of constructive thought and able only to soak up canned entertainment.

Educational value? I wonder!

Old Fashioned

March 3 1954

SIR – Your correspondent “Old Fashioned” is more than that – he is plain daft!

His fear that “TV-itis” will make the youth of today the myopic morons of tomorrow is just the unenlightened and unimaginative point of view through the ages of people who cannot tolerate the idea of progress or see the benefits of new inventions.

They said much the same of the coming of the gramophone, the cinema, and the radio, but is youth today any more myopic or incapable of constructive thought than the youth of 50 years ago?

Myself, I neither own a TV set nor am I still on the right side of 40 – but I do realise that I am living in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Old Young-un

March 10 1954

Hat stand

SIR – Being present at the unveiling of the plaque on Thursday last week on the Pantiles, I was surprised when the National Anthem was played to see that in a place like Tunbridge Wells, which is noted for its loyalty and calls itself “Royal”, there should be people who refused to remove their hats.

Are such people Communists? If they are, Tunbridge Wells should be no place for such as they. We can do without them.


June 14 1929




Irish Times:


A chara, – Class sizes in Irish primary school classrooms have been the second highest in the European Union every year for two decades. The UK tops the league of shame, but at least there they employ a second adult in every classroom. In our context, no matter what economic circumstances we experience, any increase in primary school class size is a retrograde step. Strategic investment in primary education has stimulated economic success across the globe from Scandinavia to southern Asia. It makes perfect sense.

When Sheila Nunan (INTO) pointed out earlier this month that the current Government had actually increased class size in our small schools for the third year in succession she was highlighting the scandalous targeting of these schools by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

Schools with 84 pupils had four mainstream teachers in 2012. Their average class size was 21 pupils, notably with at least two different class groups in each classroom. In 2013, due to Government cutbacks, these schools now have only three mainstream teachers. Consequently their average class size has increased to 28 pupils. This is a year on year increase of 33 per cent.

As a result of this Government’s unequal treatment of small schools, many of which lie at the centre of our rural communities, the quality of primary education in these schools is being compromised.

The reversal of the cuts in small schools must be prioritised in 2014. Children in rural schools deserve the same educational opportunities as those in city suburbs such as Swords.

The EU average class size is less than 20. Ireland now languishes close to an average of 25. Research shows that smaller class sizes, particularly when children are young, produce better educational outcomes, with average students moving from the 50th percentile to above the 60th percentile on achievement tests.

Despite the obstacle of overcrowded classes in most of our Irish primary schools, Ireland’s education system has been remarkably successful, as evidenced by recent Pisa scores.

Imagine how bright the future would look if we had the political will to reduce our average class sizes to 20 like our European neighbours, our economic competitors. We’ve done it in our most disadvantaged schools and are already reaping the rewards. My vision is class sizes of 20 for every primary school pupil by 2020. All it would take is a reduction of one pupil per teacher every September beginning in 2014. As a starting point, surely we will cherish all the nation’s children equally (in big schools and in small schools) by 2016. – Yours, etc,


Principal Teacher,

St Colmcille’s Junior

National School,




Sir, – “Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out the prospect of allowing all citizens to vote in Seanad elections, saying it was not what the framers of the Constitution envisaged” (Stephen Collins, December 19th). What a silly justification of an arrogant position. The framers of the Constitution were men of their time, they are long dead and their time has passed. And there must be very few left who simply voted for it either, those who did are all over 98.

To my mind two things are essential for a reformed Seanad: every citizen of voting age should have a vote in its election and every citizen of voting age should be entitled to stand for election.

After that, everything about its election, composition, functions, powers and duties should be up for discussion. By all accounts the present Constitutional Council of 100 has been a success and, although I would not agree with all the recommendations it has made so far, I feel it would be the proper forum for this discussion.

Senator Zappone says (Home News, December 6th) that a simple legislative amendment could provide for direct elections to all of the 43 panel seats; if that is the case I echo her, “What is the delay?” – Yours, etc,


Oaklands Drive,



Sir, – The news that the St Vincent’s hospital CEO, Nicholas Jermyn, is receiving a pay package of close to €300,000 per annum, including “top-ups” of €156,000 approximately (Home News, December 24th) only continues the already notorious trend of health executives of whatever stripe paying themselves excessive salaries. Even the director of finance/company secretary and the director of nursing in St Vincent’s have got in on the act, receiving “top ups” of various amounts.

It is clear that the Department of Health is in serious financial trouble.

It has the biggest budget shortfall of any government department and some poor sick people are going to suffer when medical items and services are cut because of this situation. Minister for Health James Reilly does not inspire anybody with confidence that this task will be carried out efficiently and with the least inconvenience to all concerned.

I hope the PAC gets to the bottom of this scandal and see appropriate action is taken to remedy the situation and, ideally, that steps are taken to ensure a repetition does not occur. People making a living from the health service is one thing, people milking it is a different thing altogether. – Yours, etc,


Greencastle Avenue,



Sir, – The Gathering generated €170 million in tourism revenue (Home News, December 23rd). Perhaps it is now time for Gabriel Byrne to eat that humble pie? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – David McConnell (Opinion, December 24th) argues, convincingly, the benefits of genetically modified (GM) food. He is less convincing when he asserts that it is safe. He points to a “consensus” that Europe has got it wrong, and “more than a decade of research” that, he says, has shown GM plants to be no less risky than others. But he offers no argument, no explanation.

Prof McConnell heaps scorn on “politicians and the media, one group as ill-informed as the other”. Of course, it isn’t easy to explain specialised scientific subjects to politicians, the media, or rest of us. But it has to be done. If science educators (of all people) merely rely on authority and don’t explain, we remain uninformed.

In a commencement address at Caltech in 2008, American journalist Robert Krulwich argued powerfully for the importance of science making its case well in the public arena. Like McConnell, Krulwich cited Galileo, who got into trouble precisely because he made his case so well, not only by dropping balls from Pisa’s famous tower, but also in writing that was gorgeous, poetic, combative . . . and ultimately persuasive. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,

Shankill, Co Dublin.




A chara, – The stormy weather that we endured over the Christmas period was significant, not only for the damage and disruption that it caused, but also for the manner in which it highlighted the hypocritical and often vicious nature of large sections of the Irish media and Irish public life.

Not so long ago, during the recent dispute over the diminution of their pension rights, ESB engineers were the subject of some nasty headlines and reporting, accusing them of “holding the country to ransom” and labelling them as “greedy” and “grinches” that were out to steal Christmas.

Yet on Christmas Eve, as the majority of the rest of us were relaxing, doing some last-minute shopping, wrapping presents or maybe starting Christmas celebrations, the “grinches” were out all over the country, trying to restore power to thousands of families so that they could enjoy Christmas.

The next time a group of workers has the temerity to stand up for their agreed pension rights and conditions, perhaps our media could retain a little perspective and not cheer-lead a self-serving and puerile attack. – Is mise,


Lismore Road,


Sir, – William Reville (Science, December 19th) extensively quoted Prof Mike Gibney’s assertion that many factors including genetics are key to tackling obesity and that focusing on socio-economic and food-chain factors are too simplistic.

Obesity is well acknowledged to be a complex problem with many factors influencing it. And while the role of genetics in weight gain is one important factor, in Ireland in the past 20 years, obesity has doubled in women and tripled in men. Worryingly, the National Pre-School Nutrition survey reported 6 per cent of three-year-olds are now obese, while one in four of our primary school children is overweight or obese. This is clearly not just a result of genetics.

Public health awareness campaigns have been developed with the aim of changing things we can actually change; the foods we eat and how active we are as families. We can’t change our genes. Our current Safefood campaign in partnership with Healthy Ireland was developed based on strong feedback from parents that they wanted a solutions-based approach and advice on how to make practical, sustainable changes to their everyday lifestyle habits.

Dr Reville expresses reservations about the socio-economic influences, yet current childhood obesity figures in Ireland clearly show gradients in levels of overweight and obesity by social class: boys and girls from professional households have the same probability of overweight or obesity (19 per cent boys/18 per cent girls) but for the unskilled group the comparable probabilities are 29 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls. This social class variation is also evident in adults where overweight and obesity is the norm and therefore levels are high in all social groups.

Dr Reville queries a focus on certain foods (“fast foods” and sugary drinks). However, the evidence base for an association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and overweight is robust. Similarly, health authorities including the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend very limited intake of foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Dr Reville does, however, usefully point out that overeating any food as well as the quality of foods is important.

Tackling an issue as complex as obesity requires a multi-pronged approach and halting or even slowing down overweight and obesity trends of the last 20 years won’t be easy. Food industry initiatives and Government policy form elements of the approach. Public awareness interventions focusing on our food choices and activity habits are also internationally recognised as an important step. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive Officer,

Sir, – William Reville (Science, December 19th) extensively quoted Prof Mike Gibney’s assertion that many factors including genetics are key to tackling obesity and that focusing on socio-economic and food-chain factors are too simplistic.

Obesity is well acknowledged to be a complex problem with many factors influencing it. And while the role of genetics in weight gain is one important factor, in Ireland in the past 20 years, obesity has doubled in women and tripled in men. Worryingly, the National Pre-School Nutrition survey reported 6 per cent of three-year-olds are now obese, while one in four of our primary school children is overweight or obese. This is clearly not just a result of genetics.

Public health awareness campaigns have been developed with the aim of changing things we can actually change; the foods we eat and how active we are as families. We can’t change our genes. Our current Safefood campaign in partnership with Healthy Ireland was developed based on strong feedback from parents that they wanted a solutions-based approach and advice on how to make practical, sustainable changes to their everyday lifestyle habits.

Dr Reville expresses reservations about the socio-economic influences, yet current childhood obesity figures in Ireland clearly show gradients in levels of overweight and obesity by social class: boys and girls from professional households have the same probability of overweight or obesity (19 per cent boys/18 per cent girls) but for the unskilled group the comparable probabilities are 29 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls. This social class variation is also evident in adults where overweight and obesity is the norm and therefore levels are high in all social groups.

Dr Reville queries a focus on certain foods (“fast foods” and sugary drinks). However, the evidence base for an association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and overweight is robust. Similarly, health authorities including the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend very limited intake of foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Dr Reville does, however, usefully point out that overeating any food as well as the quality of foods is important.

Tackling an issue as complex as obesity requires a multi-pronged approach and halting or even slowing down overweight and obesity trends of the last 20 years won’t be easy. Food industry initiatives and Government policy form elements of the approach. Public awareness interventions focusing on our food choices and activity habits are also internationally recognised as an important step. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive Officer,




Sir, – You re-published 40 of the year’s letters under the heading Letters 2013 (Opinion, December 27th), presumably to give a flavour of the year’s issues in brief. Of these some 80 per cent were from men. I think that it tells its own story, in brief. – Yours, etc,


Terenure Road West,

Dublin 6W.


Sir, – I have been reading, with avid interest, accounts of the ethnic tensions emerging in the newly-established state of South Sudan. As a member of a congregation which has Sisters in Rumbek, in the Lakes District, and because of my studies about the Holocaust, I am extremely concerned about adverse political developments affecting the people of South Sudan.

How many times do we have to hear such stories of ethnic cleansing, and pose as bystanders, observing but doing little to counteract it?

Throughout history, we have seen situations such as the fate of the Jews in Nazi occupied territories in Europe, the victims of the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia, the conflicts involving the Tutsi and Hutu tribes in Rwanda, the Kikuyu and Kalenjins in Kenya, Bosnians and Serbs in Srebenica.

What is happening to stop this relentless massacre in an age when we have every facility of communication, intervention, and dialogue available to us – more than in any other era?

I plead with whoever reads this to heed what is happening, to be informed about it, and to lobby where possible to effect peaceful solutions to this current conflict. In this season of peace and joy, can we hope that the voices of our 20,000 internally displaced people from Jonglei State to the Lakes State will be heard? – Yours, etc,


IBVM, Loreto,

Sundrive Road,



Sir, – December 2013: the stock market up 35 per cent, a housing boom, income tax coming down and the Government throwing money at public service unions to avoid a strike. Whoopee! It’s 2003 all over again . . . – Yours, etc,


Belton Terrace,


Co Wicklow.


Sir, – The Santa Splash at Portrush (Front page, December 23d) and the contrasting peacefulness of Bunnacurry Church, Achill (Front page, December 24th) December) are excellent examples of your newspaper’s flair in selecting eye-catching photographs.

I’m sure, like me, many readers have been impressed by the variety of topics and subjects published over the past year such as the crowded beach in summer, the view from the top of Sugarloaf, Seamus Heaney’s funeral or some of the 300-plus others. A picture does paint a thousand words. Please keep up the good work in 2014. – Yours, etc,


Cennick Grove,



Co Antrim.


Sir, – Now that The Gathering has been launched and we are once more asked to don the green shirt, I would encourage the Taoiseach to also extend a warm welcome to our tax exiles to return to Ireland and pay their taxes here. – Yours, etc,


Ballinteer Court,

Dublin 16.
Inside Irish beef burgers

Sir, – Fifty shades of neigh. – Yours, etc,


Kinsealy Court,

Kinsealy, Co Dublin.
Cry of the ‘Skibbereen Eagle’

Sir, – Are we beginning to regain our confidence ? Apparently so , to judge by your headline, “Kerry vows to keep pressure on Iran” (Breaking News, January 25th). Let Putin beware. – Yours, etc,


Strawberry Beds, Dublin 20.

Fast forward to
‘Irish Times’ in 2023

Sir, – The front page of the futuristic Irish Times is interesting. It suggests that in 2023 we will have reached Mars and be holidaying in Space. Looking at the banner photograph on the front page however shows one woman very much stuck in the past . . . smoking a cigarette in public . . . in 2023! – Yours, etc,


Bru na Ghruadan,

Castletroy, Co Limerick.
Breathalysing Deputy Daly

Sir, – So gardaí breathalysed Clare Daly, and got a breath of fresh air. Why are we not surprised? – Yours, etc,


Fremont Drive,

Melbourn Estate, Cork.
O’Brien defamation
and a ‘free press’

Sir, – Denis O’Brien awarded €150,000. Unfortunately, that is all I can say. – Yours, etc,


Mill Street, Westport,

Co Mayo.
Selling State assets

Sir, – As the troika is insisting that we sell State assets, why don’t we hold on to our trees and sell the State-owned banks? – Yours, etc,


Priory Grove,

Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
‘Provo’ car outrage

Sir, – Regarding the decision of Korean motor company Kia not to proceed with plans to name its new sports model “Provo” (Home News, March 6th): “Tiocfaidh ár carr”? – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill, Dalkey,

Co Dublin.
Property tax exemptions

Sir, – I note that houses in ghost estates are exempt from property tax (Politics, March 21st). A case of no taxation with visitation? – Yours, etc,


Wellington Street,


Ontario, Canada .
Awash with the weather

Sir, – I see from the Front page (March 23rd) that among the items washed onto the N11 by the heavy rain were “tree particles”. Twigs’ bosons, perhaps? – Yours, etc,


Rue des Epicéas, Brussels.
Trouble with threesomes

Sir, – Is today’s Ireland caught between the Trinity, the troika and the threesome? – Yours, etc,



Sillogue Gardens,

Ballymun, Dublin 11.
What of that?

Sir, – Does inserting an extra word in the Joyce coin (Home News, April 11th) constitute a form of “quantitative easing”, and so run foul of ECB rules? – Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.
What of ‘that’?

Sir, – It would appear to me that it is no longer the story of “Why”, but the story of “That”. – Yours, etc,


Ballynerrin Lr, Wicklow.

Name for new Liffey bridge

Sir, – The suspension is killing me.- Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,

Beaumont, Dublin 9.
Residence tax for emigrants

Sir, – Thanks to Ceire Sadlier and to The Irish Times for publishing her letter on May 13th, we too discovered that we were liable to pay the non principal private residence tax. It seems that The Irish Times Letters page is a more effective means of advertising this tax obligation than the local authorities’ choices so far. – Yours, etc,



Avenue Simon Bolivar,

Paris, France.
Shortage of humanist solemnisers

A chara, – Isn’t it ironic that humanist celebrants find themselves in limbo (Home News, May 27th) six years after the Vatican abolished it? – Is mise,


Ellipper Road, Dublin 24.

Cuts in special needs assistance

Sir, – I assume the decision on supports for special needs primary school children makes Enda Kenny a Taoiseach who cares but not a caring Taoiseach. – Yours, etc,




Hanging adverbs

Sir, – Paradoxically, while Frank McNally might sound like a hanging adverb, he is, in fact, a proper noun. – Yours, etc,


Bóthar an Chillín,

An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe.
The dropping of O’Driscoll

Sir, – What . . .NO’Driscoll? – Yours, etc,


Temple Villas,

Dublin 6.
Me Darwin, you Jane

Sir, – Would Charles Darwin regard the decision to replace him with Jane Austen on the £10 note (World News, July 25th) as evidence for or against the survival of the fittest? – Yours, etc,



Pembroke Lane, Dublin 4.

Oh boy, it’s a GAL

Sir, – Is George Alexander Louis a good idea for naming a boy, initially? – yours, etc,



Ladysbridge, Co Cork.
Worship in a warehouse

Sir, – Fingal County Council is annoyed at people using warehouses to pray in (Home News, August 24th). Health and safety have been called in: presumably they have advised the users to get hold of some straw, and a couple of donkeys to keep the place warm. – Yours, etc,


Ballydubh Upper,

Co Waterford.
No country for ‘cavemen’?

Sir, – I write as a newly outed caveman. I have not had a television for 10 years or so, and do not miss it in the slightest. With the utmost troglodytic respect, Minister, if I am a Cro-Magnon, you, sir, are a Neanderthal. – Yours, etc,


Ballymun Road,

Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Remembering Seamus Heaney

Sir, – Seamus Heaney: “His coffin as befits a Giant seventy-four foot long. A foot for every year”. – Yours, etc,


Pleasants Street,

Portobello, Dublin 8.
Responsibility issues

Sir, – Fianna Fáil, the hierarchy, the bankers, the property speculators – they all have no difficulty in washing their hands of their responsibilities. Why can the medical professionals not follow suit? – Yours, etc,




Co Mayo.
Something to tweet about

Sir, – The announcement that Twitter will employ an extra 100 individuals in Dublin is great (Business, September 25th). What a shame it did not stretch to 40 per cent more, as it could then have announced that its growth would lead to an extra 140 (real) characters here. – Yours, etc,





Dublin 24.

Aftermath of the
Seanad referendum

A chara, – Yes 19 per cent; No 20 per cent; Don’t care 61 per cent. – Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive,

Kiltipper Road, Dublin 24.

Sir, – Voting last Friday was like taking a Mensa test set by Éamon Ó Cuív. Did it have to be so hard? – Yours, etc,


Whitehall Road, Dublin 14.

Sir, – My commiserations to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on losing the Seanad referendum and the Senior All-Ireland football final. – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.
‘Love/Hate’ cat saga

Sir, – As an animal lover I am comforted by the fact that according to the laws of quantum physics the now famous cat could, like Schrödinger’s cat, be both alive and dead at the same time. This should provide satisfaction for those on both sides of the argument. – Yours, etc,



Ring, Co Waterford.
Cuts and taxes in Budget 2014

Sir, – My mother will be spinning in her grave at the news of the bereavement grant being buried with her. – Yours, etc,




Co Westmeath.
Polyester Protestants and sectarianism

Sir, – Enough of this divisive debate. Let us acknowledge our differences, celebrate our similarities and move forward together. As someone who worships in both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, I do not see myself as a polyester Protestant or a woolly Anglican – but more as a cotton-rich Christian. – Yours, etc,


Mulgrave Terrace,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.
Listening to calls of world leaders

Sir, – When President Obama came to Europe shortly after election, he promised his administration had come to Europe to listen and listen carefully. Nice to see a government keeping its word. – Yours, etc,


Dundela Park,

Sandycove, Co Dublin.
Water, water . . . where?

Sir, – An excess of raw material causing a shortage of product. Well done, Dublin City Council (Home News, October 30th). – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower,

O’Toole’s 25 years a-commenting

Sir, – I put your supplement of “25 years of Irish life through the columns of Fintan O’Toole” (November 20th) to good cheerful use, this cold and wintry morning. I made paper sticks to light the fire. – Yours, etc,




Co Leitrim.
The flight of the sparrows

Sir, – The appearance of a lone sparrow in Dublin Airport (Peter Pearson Evans, November 27th) answers the question about the disappearing flock. It is obvious they have taken flight and emigrated with the thousands of young Irish people who continue to leave the nest. – Yours, etc,




Troika turnoff

Sir, – When leaving the country, can the last member of the troika please switch out the lights? – Yours, etc,


Coast Road,


Co Meath.
Top-ups: the pantomime

Sir, – How heartening to hear that the CRC and HSE are getting into the spirit of pantomime season.

CRC: Oh yes you did!

HSE: Oh no we didn’t!

Repeat for comedic effect. – Yours, etc,


Knocknacarra Park,

Salthill, Galway.
A selfie, or not a selfie?

Sir, – Might I suggest that as there were three people in the controversial photo (Robin Harte, December 12th & Life, December 11th) it might more appropriately be described as a groupie? – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.
Pigeons and top-ups

Sir, – Recent top-up scandals provide reassuring evidence that, no matter how impoverished we become here in Ireland, we need never go hungry as, even after we’ve eaten all the pigeons (Home News, December 13th), there will still be plenty of fat cats. – Yours, etc,


Claude Road,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.




Irish Independent:


As a term, it became sullied by the deeds of a few.

The broad history of Irish republicanism started to become lost in a mist of pedantic revisionism. Marginal points became major. Core points were lost.

The political party most associated with Ireland’s recent demise and longest in power continuing to label itself the ‘The Republican Party‘ seems amiss.

On the eve of a new year, it would be grand if we could spare a moment for the Republic.

Not wearing the over-priced strip of one of the international teams, nor embarrassingly stumbling through the words of Amhran na bhFiann at a GAA match or plying oneself wet on Arthur’s Day.

Rather, asking what it means to be republican — and an Irish one at that.

This is, after all, what we are: citizens of an Irish republic with an Irish republican Constitution and part of a greater European project. Our elite let us down recently. We let ourselves down. What matters, though, is being able to learn from it, grow and strive to do better next time.

The Irish take on republicanism is unique. Although inspired by the French, our attempt seems closer to the real thing. As for the US version, tea parties aren’t us.

Our version of republicanism is generally about being equals.

We really don’t do snobbery well; hence the slaggin’.

We seriously do, do freedom; hence the disproportionate success.

And yet, on the whole we never lose sight of our core belief in caring — fraternity, you might say.

Never let anyone tell you or make you feel that caring is weak. That being equal isn’t reality. That success isn’t possible.

It’s fine to be an Irish republican. You’re not Sinn Fein/IRA; you’re not a bigot when it comes to the British and you’re not Bertie Ahern‘s mob.

Let’s reclaim Irish republicanism, embrace it and work together to make our republic and all our island of Ireland great in 2014.




* Christmas, 2013, and excited tourists are milling around Bethlehem’s Manger Square, stopping in restaurants and souvenir shops and enjoying the marching bands and scout troops performing next to the large tree in front of the Church of the Nativity.

Some 25,000 visitors are expected this year, up from recent years but way below the crowds that filled the area between 1967 and 2000.

In 1967, Christians made up 80pc of Bethlehem’s population.

During the period from the Six-Day War to Arafat’s intifada, there were no barriers to traffic between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. Muslims, Christians and Jews travelled back and forth to work, shop and play.

Everyone benefited.

The 1993-95 Oslo Accords marked the beginning of the end of Christian Bethlehem.

Bethlehem’s Christians were forced out and the PLO confiscated their properties. As conditions worsened, more families, who had lived there for centuries, fled. Today, Bethlehem is predominantly Muslim.

In 2000, following the Camp David talks between Clinton, Arafat and Barak, Arafat began the second Intifada.

This ended the peaceful commerce the region had enjoyed and Bethlehem became more isolated. Even the Church of the Nativity was later over-run and desecrated by PLO fighters.

Israel built the security barrier to thwart terror attacks, and it has been relatively effective.

The passage through the barrier near Bethlehem is lightly guarded and traffic flows through, slowing but rarely stopping.

At this time of year, we can all hope for success in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.




* As we get ready for a new year, it might be useful to reflect on some of the opportunities we will have to help shape our future.

In 2014, we have the opportunity to elect 950 local councillors and 11 Irish members of the European Parliament. Politicians are not universally popular at the moment, but we should remember the political choices we make do shape our future.

Our local councillors have an important say in local planning and environmental issues and the MEPs will play an important part in shaping international issues, such as trade and research policies.

During the coming year the Government will review Ireland’s foreign policy. This is important, as our foreign policy is an expression of who we want to be as a people. The global economy determines our economic prosperity and our foreign policy can help shape the global political framework we need to face the challenges of a rapidly changing international system.

Hopefully, in 2014, we will use our power as citizens of a democracy to benefit not just ourselves, but the planet and those without a say, too.




* I read with great interest Martina Devlin’s article about the Neanderthal and sexist men who run the various swimming clubs in this country and her call for state bodies to ensure they do all they can for equality. A great piece of journalism.

I wait eagerly for her next article on the organisations run by women which are equally as bad; I refer to the likes of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. No men allowed here. Why even our national broadcaster, RTE, has been caught up in this sexist organisation by giving it its own television show, ‘ICA Bootcamp’.

As a TV licence payer, I am disgusted to think my money is used to support an organisation that excludes men. I am sure Martina intends to give the same coverage to a sexist women’s organisation as she did to men’s ones.

PS. Anybody got an application form for CURVES?




* Jose Manuel Barosso was quite rightly apoplectic and inconsolable; Herman Achille Van Rompuy was incandescent with indignation; Olli Rehn was incensed and infuriated; Mario Draghi was extremely vexed; while Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble were exasperated to the point of rage.

No doubt all of this due to some pending nuclear attack by Iran, eruptions in the Middle East, problems with the ESM, the ESFM, the EFSF or the backstop, or maybe those Russians are again muscling in on EU territory?

No, simply our own great leader Enda Kenny omitted to invite them to Paddy’s bailout exit party.

Such a gaffe represents a major diplomatic faux pas in the galaxy inhabited by these pygmaean giants, who stride across the continents making all those nasty austerity decisions designed to screw unrepentant Paddy for screwing up Europe in the first place.

Not to worry, our Enda and Michael are in recovery mode and have it sorted; they will be flying out to Brussels at the first opportunity in the two government jets.

We can console ourselves as we are in good hands — compliant and submissive Paddy will meekly step back in his box and normal business will resume.

Meanwhile, back in the stable, Jesus wept, uncontrollably.





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