Sharland en fam

31 December 2013 Sharland en fam

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The have been sent off to Batawanaland to pick up an old frigate that the Batawanalanders no longer wish to rent from the Royal Navy, but is it safe to sail h9me? Priceless.

Bank, supermarket. Sharland en fam plus Molly.

Scrabbletoday Mary wins and get justover 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Maxine Powell, who has died aged 98, was an etiquette and deportment guru recruited by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, to help package his black stars for the white pop music market.

Before moving to Motown, Maxine ran her own “Finishing and Modelling School” in Detroit where, in the 1950s, she broke new ground by persuading Detroit’s major automobile companies to use black models at their trade shows and by placing her girls with advertisers that bought space in local newspapers. “In the 1950s, there was no market for black models and blacks didn’t make the papers unless they committed a crime or did something naughty,” she recalled.

Berry Gordy’s sisters — Loucye, Esther and Gwen — attended Maxine Powell’s school and Gwen became one of her top models. She brought Maxine Powell to Motown in 1964 and introduced her to her brother, a fledgling songwriter who had founded his small record label five years earlier.

Berry Gordy had become convinced that something had to be done to improve the image of his singers, many of them Detroit street kids with attitude who lacked discipline and finesse. In 1962, the Motown roster’s first “Motor Town” touring revue had been characterised by the copious consumption of whisky and marijuana offstage, and nervousness and lack of professionalism onstage. What was required, he felt, was an in-house “grooming school”.

It was decided that Motown’s chief talent scout, Harvey Fuqua, would run the operation, with Maxine Powell coming aboard as a consultant to make Motown’s performers fit “for kings and queens”. It was her idea to call the new division “Artistic Development”.

Her department soon became known as “Motown University”, and recording artists were required to attend Maxine Powell’s classes for two hours every day. “They were all from humble backgrounds, from the streets and the projects,” she recalled. “Some of them were crude and rude and some of them were speaking street language. All they wanted was a hit record. I’m the woman who gave them class.”

Maxine Powell worked with all of Motown’s stars, including Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. She taught them basic table manners and how to stand, walk, speak and shake hands, emphasising the importance of body language, public speaking, appropriate clothing and etiquette. “Everybody walks,” she explained, “but I teach how to glide.”

Among other things she taught them how not to alienate their fans by losing their cool or giving negative answers in interviews; for promotional photographs, stars were instructed to pose with one foot forward. Female singers were exhorted to “remember your gloves, walk with class — and never, ever protrude the buttocks”, even when bending down to pick something up, because it was like telling audiences to “kiss my ass”. If any of her protégés objected to such injunctions, she would say: “Do not confuse me with your parents — they’re stuck with you. I’m not.”

One of her more challenging pupils was Diana Ross who, Maxine Powell recalled, “came in a bit snooty. And I worked with her to show that there was a vast difference between being snooty, and being gracious and classy, because snooty people are insecure… I taught her not to bend in all directions and act as if she was going to swallow the microphone while making ugly faces… I also wanted her to get rid of her eye-popping routine, and she did.”

Though the singer was never cured of her overweening ego, Diana Ross did call up Maxine Powell on to a Broadway stage many years later (by which time Ross had become an international superstar), and introduced her to the audience as the woman who had taught her everything she knew.

Maxine Powell’s training helped to establish the ladylike glamour of Motown’s female singers and girl groups and the refinement and polish of the men that set the Detroit label apart from its scruffier competition and made it so successful. As one commentator observed: “All of Miss Powell’s ladies remembered their training. Their wigs were always impeccable. They exited cars like Princess Grace. The men — Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs, Marvin Gaye — exuded a kind of suave, reined-in sexuality that appealed to black audiences and didn’t frighten white ones.”

She was born Maxine Blair at Texarkana, Texas, on May 30 1915 and brought up by an aunt in Chicago. After studying dance at the Sammy Dyer School of Theatre, and modelling at a John Robert Powers School, she began her career as an actress, becoming a member of the first black theatre group to perform at the Chicago Theatre. “I always got in places where blacks were not supposed to get,” she recalled. “I never saw prejudice, I just saw human beings. I knew if you had class, style and refinement that it would make you outstanding around the world.”

In 1948 she moved to Detroit where, in 1951, she opened the Maxine Powell Finishing and Modeling School, the city’s first black school of its type. As well as running her school she became the chief negotiator for a civic group devoted to desegregating the city.

In 1969 Motown began moving its operations to Los Angeles, and Maxine Powell left the company; but she continued to teach at various institutions around Detroit until recently.

Maxine Powell’s commitment to her protégés continued long after she left Motown, and she had a keen eye for backsliders. Many years after transforming Marvin Gaye (who, she recalled, had slouched grumpily into his first class wearing some sort of white rag on his head) from rough diamond into suave crooner, she attended a Gaye concert in Detroit where she noted with dismay that the singer had gained weight. “Marvin was fat!” she exclaimed. “Much too fat to be dancing!” After the concert she told him to let his two skinny male dancers do the moving around until he had lost the flab.

The only star who never needed her advice was Stevie Wonder who, as she recalled, “was always beautiful”.

Maxine Powell’s marriage to James Powell was dissolved.

Maxine Powell, born May 30 1915, died October 14 2013






I am 76, I have voted in every general election since I reached voting age, and yet I have never had a vote. I have always been in a constituency where the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Only a tiny minority, floating voters in marginal constituencies, decide the outcome of elections. The rest of us go through a mere ritual. There is widespread disgust with politicians, but hardly any with our voting system that reduces most of us to voting zombies. A sensible system of PR, which gave us two votes, one for a party, the other for our local MP, would do more to revitalise our politics than any other single measure.
Nicholas Maxwell
Emeritus reader, University College London

• Although it is worrying that so few young people voted in the last general election, it is encouraging that 47% of the electorate are angry rather than bored (25%) with politicians. Anger is better than apathy. Hopefully some of these angry young men and women will be motivated to direct their youthful vigour into improving the system by getting involved.
Stan Labovitch

• One way to deal with voters’ anger that “MPs are just on the take” would be a new self-denying ordinance to ensure that everyone entering parliament gives up all business interests to concentrate full time on the job of being an MP. A minimum entry age of 35 would ensure that they all had experience of the world outside the Westminster bubble.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• One simple reason for fury must be paramount: the recession was caused solely by bankers and all their rich beneficiaries, but those who struggle to feed, clothe, house and warm themselves are paying for it. No failure on the part of politicians could be more damning.
Betty Rosen

• Surely one of the main reasons for the decline in voting is the steady growth of identity politics. If we stopped celebrating diversity and celebrated instead what we have in common, then we might see more political engagement.
David Halliday


Your recent poll (Report, 27 December) emphasises the shocking disconnect between the public and politics, and should dispel any Christmas cheer for MPs. It was a stark reminder that people are uninspired and angered by politicians and modern political parties. We have to sit up and listen – and change the way we do politics.

By the time of the next election Labour will have a platform with clearly costed promises, offering only what we can then deliver. That is why Ed Balls has asked the Office for Budget Responsibility to audit every tax and spending pledge in our manifesto.

We recognise the need to look at how we can change as a party. Ed Miliband has called a special conference on party reform in March, with the aim of building a mass membership political party fit and relevant for the 21st century.

We also need to achieve a greater diversity in the people who become politicians. In 2010, nearly one in four of the new MPs had already worked in politics. My colleague Jon Trickett is leading work on practical solutions to allow people from all different backgrounds and careers to enter Westminster and serve.

Your poll confirms the importance of youth engagement. That is why we support votes at 16 and strengthened citizenship education, which, if implemented correctly, could help create a new generation of politically active citizens.
Stephen Twigg
Shadow minister for political and constitutional reform

• I am surprised that only half of Britons say they are angry with politics and politicians. Prior to the 2010 election the Tories promised to defend the NHS not only from budget cuts but from continuous re-/dis-organisation. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 laid the foundation for a privatisation of the NHS for which there has been no political mandate. But public opinion stopped Cameron joining the proposed bombing of Syria, and public opinion can stop this  privatisation. Read NHS SOS edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, especially the last chapter “What you can do to save the NHS”. Join Keep Our NHS Public.
Margaret Ridley
Ely, Cambridgeshire


There’s a more prosaic issue that alienates politicians from the rest of us: the way they dress. Nearly all male MPs wear expensive suits of a similar cut and hue, offset with plain ties that follow a childishly tribal colour code (ie, Tories can’t be seen in red ones, centre-leftists in blue and so on). Female MPs, even the younger ones, dress like newsreaders. The result? Our parliamentarians have the aura of bankers or privately educated salespeople. Their clothes set them apart from, and create the impression that they’re superior to, 95% of the population they’re supposed to represent. At the same time – worryingly – these uniforms signal a willingness to conform to peer pressure, apparently born of collective insecurity and lack of integrity.

How refreshing instead it would be for them to dress down and make their own outfit and accessory choices the way most of us do, including while we’re at work. A degree of mismatched hippy scruff or retro irony might even make us feel they’ve something in common with us after all; even better, consider the debunking effect of the image of two men shouting at each other in parliament wearing street sportswear and trainers.
Archie Lauchlan

• The “political baby talk” politicians engage in reveals contempt for their electors. When they speak the inner psephologist takes over: their speech must be nuanced so as not to offend any significant group of voters, yet also evoke warm feelings towards the speaker so as to win over uncommitted voters and retain the support of the core voters. In attempting to reconcile these demands, political speech-making becomes vacuous and confused; as all speeches and policy pronouncements are a muddle of different elements designed to appeal to three very different audiences.
Derrick Joad


The problem you outline is not new (Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting, 27 December). Since universal suffrage came in, there has been a substantial minority not turning out. This dropped away in the 1950s and 60s, but since 1974 the year of two elections, voters started turning away from the two principal parties of government and opposition, and then increasingly towards not voting at all. Even the Blair “landslide” of 1997 actually masked a substantial jump in the proportion of non-voters, who (as it were) came a fairly close second. In this century, governments have been elected with the support of fewer registered voters than did not vote at all.

For all her youth, energy and commitment, Chloe Smith‘s comments (Report, 27 December) unwittingly indicate another aspect of the problem: they’re all directed towards how politicians should talk, rather than listen, to people. She seems to take it for granted that politics is something that is done to, or at best for, rather than with (and God forbid that it should be by), the people. Is it not time for some sort of national constitutional consultation/convention, initially outwith the existing processes and frameworks of parties, central government and parliament, to go out and ask people what would make the system more comprehensible and responsive to them?
Patrick Wallace

• The establishment parties have certainly given voters plenty to be angry about. It’s not just the expenses scandal or the sense that none of the three main parties can ever be trusted again after Labour‘s lies on Iraq, Nick Clegg’s duplicity over tuition fees and David Cameron’s broken promises on the NHS. It’s the fact that the Westminster pantomime seems completely remote from and irrelevant to the real challenges we face – climate catastrophe, social inequality and unemployment. People need to feel that there is a reason to vote, that it might result in actual change. That’s why the Green party is championing major reform of our political system. Proportional representation would be a start, alongside a robust recall procedure, ensuring that “safe seats” were a thing of the past and that MPs were genuinely accountable. And the whole of parliamentary procedure should be dragged into the 21st century, with an end to corporate influence and far greater transparency.

Sadly, the government is not only opposing progressive democratic reforms, but actively seeking to muzzle some of the voices that hold politicians to account. It’s ill-conceived lobbying Bill, currently before parliament, would render it far harder for charities and other campaigners to speak out and influence policy. It should be scrapped, before the anger that people feel against their elected representatives is redoubled by finding that the means to express it through democratic channels have been blocked as well.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

• May I add a crucial, and usually overlooked, dimension to the malaise from my perspective as an active legislator? This is the dispiriting volume and baffling complexity of legislation, now beyond the ability of most parliamentarians to really shape and control. The causes of this continuing tsunami of law (more of it than any comparable democracy I have discovered) are complex. They have to do with such cultural shifts as the breakdown of community life, with its concomitant self-regulation, relationships and loyalties, and the related metropolitanisation of everything, particularly politics. Modern communications, too, have added to these trends, even while theoretically increasing accessibility. Until we grapple with this hydra-headed set of problems, politics and politicians will continue to disappoint and the citizenry will grow ever-more resentful of what, often unconsciously, they feel as their practical exclusion from a democracy they no longer own.
Andrew Phillips
House of Lords

• Heather Brooke (Comment, 27 December) puts it succinctly: “The act of voting has been rendered decorative rather than functional.” Paul Mason adds, equally succinctly, that the dominant global political culture “is more unequal than it’s ever been; its core economic model is destroyed; the consent of its citizens to be governed is eroded” (The next Occupy?, 27 December). In other words, economic destruction is responsible for the destruction of democracy.

So if (in Raymond Williams’s terms) the dominant is teetering towards the residual is there an emergent culture that can lead us out of this wasteland? Gar Alperovitz thinks there is. In America Beyond Capitalism he explores how a new economy in the US, emerging from both left and right, is creating different institutional structures, replacing the traditional corporate forms; structures which “democratise wealth and empower communities not corporations”. As he quotes in its support Henry C Simons, founder of the Chicago free market school and Milton Freidman’s revered teacher, perhaps even the neoliberals should consider it.
John Airs

• Politicians have always been scapegoats and in some cases deserve it, but the public are as much to blame. Voters allow their expectations to rise and when circumstances change and some “promises” can’t be delivered, they fail to consider what is possible. Most of my friends show only contempt for politicians but wouldn’t dream of standing for office. In this they are encouraged by many political commentators who are in a position to know that most politicians, at all levels, are at least sincere and hardworking, and should be given credit for taking on an essential but incredibly difficult job.
Anthony Garrett
Falkland, Fife


Polls that begin by asking why people don’t vote (Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting, 27 December) are bound to miss the point, especially when the possible survey responses are so similar (is it because politicians are corrupt, because they lie or because they are untrustworthy?). The analysis appears to be based on an understanding of democracy as an elite-led process, in which the privileged participants must be careful to keep voter turnout above a certain level to maintain legitimacy.

Instead of asking the public why they refuse to play along, flip the question on its head. What can be done to better support the public in exercising their democratic rights, and ensure each vote has maximum influence? Once we have rid Britain of its safe parliamentary seats, unelected peers, arbitrary restrictions on the franchise and obscure voting procedures, polls such as this would get very different results.
Richard Berry
Democratic Audit UK

• Your editorial Democracy v the demos (27 December) expresses alarm at the seeming near total disconnect of the young with electoral politics as revealed in a Guardian/ICM poll, and urges them “to get off the sofa and down to the ballot box”. This schoolmasterly advice ignores the extent to which the young are already actively engaged in extra-parliamentary politics – an engagement the press plays down – and the influence such engagement can bring to bear on parliamentary perspectives.

It also ignores the extent to which the mainstream press itself contributes, by consistently skewed reporting, to the political “quietism” the editorial professes to find alarming. For example, there was little coverage of the recent all-day opposition-sponsored debate on food banks, where opposition MP after opposition MP described the desperation of poverty-stricken constituents driven to reliance on food banks to be met with jeers, laughter and embarrassed silence from the coalition benches.

Fortunately the young and the electorate at large are increasingly less reliant on the mainstream media for the formation of their political views.
Michael French







I am writing in support of power engineers, technicians and electricians, together with their support workers, labourers, drivers etc from all over the country for the work they have done in recent weeks during the inclement weather. And to say thank you to all those who have sacrificed their holiday with families for the benefit of the rest of us.

I am prompted by the incessant sniping and often combative attitude of the media. Topping the list are BBC News 24, Radio 4’s PM and The World at One and practically every phone-in on 5 Live. When you know nothing of the subject, don’t be so critical.

The most corrosive vitriol came from a contributor on PM who appeared to be saying that she actually had a right to a power supply on a continuous basis without interruption, ever. What astonishing naivety.

I fully understand that most of the complaint was about restoration times, but the work involved in these circumstances is complex and usually hazardous. It is not a simple question of just flicking a switch.

There are not vast pools of spare staff waiting for a call; they have to be transferred from other projects. This involves travel: not easy when roads are closed. The circuits affected are then assessed and must be made safe before work begins.

Next, locating the fault means travelling over challenging terrain, as routes are often across open country. Equipment and materials have to be positioned, while all the time working in extreme weather. Damaged items have to be dismantled and removed before any reinstatement can start.

The repair zone may extend over large distances, the work is arduous, and heavy equipment is required. How many of you reading this would be able to climb poles or towers in high winds and operate complex tools in cold, driving rain?

And the job is not finished. Equipment and broken fittings have to be removed to a safe location, maybe hauled through flooded fields. All the repaired circuits must then be tested – time-consuming when things are perfect, never mind in adverse conditions. The restoration procedures then begin.

I hope this helps alleviate the frustrations of consumers – who want uninterrupted service yet still demand lower prices. Please be more realistic.

J D Woodcock

Annan, Dumfriesshire


A common response to the disruption following the recent storms has been to say: “This should not be happening in the 21st century.” The reality is that this is happening precisely because it is the 21st century.

The assumption that “progress” should enable us to solve our problems instantly ignores the fact that it is progress that is the cause of our problems. Sophisticated technologies enable ever more complex societies to push survival strategies to the limit while their environmental impact ensures our climate will become ever more precarious and extreme.

As global civilisation teeters on the brink of sustainability, we need to temper our expectations to the realisation that, as we blunder our way to oblivion, all this is happening because it is the 21st century.

Dominic Kirkham


With storms raging across the UK, trains delayed and ferries not sailing, it does not seem an appropriate time to make 400 members of the Environment Agency redundant. Unless we accept climate change is happening, I cannot see much of a future for our grandchildren.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, London


Muslim Demands no longer surprise

The case of a Marks & Spencer Muslim sales assistant refusing to serve alcohol is yet another instance of Muslims seeking special privileges. We have recently had demands for segregated seating at universities organised by Islamic societies, and for students at the LSE to remove Jesus and Mo T-shirts on the grounds that they constituted “harassment” of Muslim students.

The problem is that “separate rights” and the importance of cultural and religious differences in our supposedly multi-faith and multicultural society have become so embedded that such separatist demands are no longer surprising.

The law is not helpful as it allows religious people to sue employers for “indirect discrimination” if their religious beliefs are not accommodated. This is what happened in a case in 2008 when a hijab-wearing Muslim woman took the owner of a hair salon to an employment tribunal when she was refused a job. The tribunal awarded her £4,000 for “injury to feelings”.

Now if employers do not hire or remove Hindus who refuse to handle beef, or Jews and Muslims who refuse to handle pork, there is every likelihood of the prospect of legal action on the grounds of “injury to religious feelings”.

The alienation felt by the majority – by and large, irreligious – society cannot be underestimated.

Dr Rumy Hasan

Senior Lecturer, SPRU – Science & Technology Policy Research,

University of Sussex

The decision by Marks & Spencer to, in effect, exempt Muslim employees from having to handle alcohol is counter-productive. What next?

Will agnostics working in bookshops be allowed to refuse to sell Bibles?

There is no reason (other than fear of them) why Muslims should be treated as a privileged group – immune to the rules that apply to the rest of us.

Robert Readman



Sally Bland (letter, 27 December) claims that halal and kosher meat providers “are allowed to only employ people of their own faith”.

As far as the kosher trade is concerned, this is simply not true. Many non-Jews are employed in all aspects of the trade, with the exception of the actual slaughtering and other religiously mandated activities.

Martin D Stern

Salford, Greater Manchester


Britain’s complete U-turn on Bulgaria

I was once privileged to serve as British ambassador to Bulgaria. While I was there, the communist system collapsed.

Political parties sprang up, eager for contact with the West. And my instructions changed. Where only a few weeks earlier I had been tasked with criticising the regime’s abuse of human and civil rights, now I was a proselytiser for all things Western (British especially), for pluralist democracy and civil society, for freedoms of markets, movement, association, religion – for almost everything the Bulgarians had been denied.

Through the Know How Fund, a marvellously adaptable British aid mechanism, we were able to help Bulgaria start rejoining the civilised world. Implicit in all this activity, and growing in strength, was our encouragement of Bulgarian ambitions to reach out and become part of a new and wider Europe. And right from the beginning, we made it plain that Britain was Bulgaria’s new firm friend. So it surprises and saddens me that only a few years later it has become British Government policy to demonise Bulgaria, as though it was some evil, hostile power intent on overwhelming our fragile state.

Where has this ludicrous xenophobia sprung from? Where is the strength of leadership that can say boo to the Daily Mail and Ukip geese, instead of passing “emergency” legislation only days before the New Year’s Day Armageddon when, apparently, we shall all be flattened by a tidal wave of Bulgarian benefit scroungers?

Richard Thomas

Winchelsea, East Sussex


There were many thousands of turings

The Queen’s announcement of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing is to be greatly welcomed. However, the British state seems prepared to forgive historical homosexual acts providing they were performed by a national hero or academic giant. This is the opposite of the correct message.

Turing should be forgiven not because he was a modern legend, but because he did nothing wrong. The law was wrong when it was used against an estimated 75,000 other men, whether they were famous scientists or office clerks. To single out Turing is to say that these men are less deserving of justice because they were somehow less exceptional.

The 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act allows those convicted of homosexuality offences to apply to have their criminal records removed if the facts of the case would no longer count as a crime

There is no reason why this provision could not be extended to cover all those convicted, living or dead, without the requirement for a personal application – to be called Turing’s Law perhaps? That really would be a fitting tribute to a national hero.

Alex Orr



After pressure from the Lords, Alan Turing, whose nephew is a baronet, is (rightly) pardoned for being guilty of being in a private homosexual relationship with a working-class Mancunian, Arnold Murray. Does the royal prerogative stretch to Mr Murray, or does the Establishment only look after its own ?

Colin Burke





Sir, Philip Collins (“Will Welby ever make the case for God?”, Opinion, Dec 27) misses the point. Of the 1,200 words in the Archbishop’s Christmas exposition, only 300 were on social issues. Mr Collins, acknowledging a social message in the Letter of James (which he calls “the Gospel of James”), ignores the central concern with poverty in the Old Testament prophets and in the life and teaching of Jesus himself.

One of the reasons the Early Church spread, even under persecution, was that it stood up for the poor. As for the idea that the Church of England has “not spoken yet” in response to atheist attacks: has Mr Collins not read Alister McGrath or John Polkinghorne? The great apologists of the last century, G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, re-created worlds of beauty and imagination within which the Christian faith made sense — the point made by the Bishop of Oxford on Christmas Eve. Only when the Church works for justice and celebrates beauty will its well-argued message about Jesus carry its full meaning.

The Rt Rev Professor N. T. Wright

(former Bishop of Durham)

St Mary’s College, St Andrews

Sir, Philip Collins made an eloquent appeal for the Church of England to present the Gospel with fine and learned words. I fear he misunderstands both our culture and the Church. A world in which the text message is the main medium of written communication is not going to be impressed by any number of fine intellectual treatises.

And when I read that “the Church used to be place where you went to for great writing” I was puzzled. I thought our calling as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to holy living and spiritual preaching not fine writing. The Christian faith can be defended intellectually but the most effective evangelism is surely that practised by the Early Church. They didn’t so much think better or write better than their pagan contemporaries: through their faith in Jesus they lived and died better.

The Rev Canon J. John

Chorleywood, Herts

Sir, Canon Ashenden (letters, Dec 28) says of non-believers that in an empirical age “we might have expected critics of Christianity to have tried it and critiqued it”. I was a regular churchgoer in my forties when I discovered that I was a Humanist. It was a liberating experience to shed the baggage of belief and be true to my rationalist self. We have become accustomed to believers asserting a monopoly on morality and the spiritual life, but in claiming pragmatism as his own, the Canon risks the accusation of arrogance.

Bob Bury


Sir, Like Sam Banik (letter, Dec 28), I am a secularist and, like him, I love the idea of Christianity. It has for 2,000 years been at the heart of the tradition and culture and the great works of art of Western civilisation that explore and define the human condition are the result of it. This thought struck me forcefully when I was lucky enough to see two of the most sublime: Caravaggio’s Beheading of John the Baptist and Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. I was conscious that they were inspired by one of the greatest stories ever told, the appeal of which is universal and eternal.

Tony Phillips

Chalfont St Giles, Bucks



‘Jack Straw refuses to countenance the possibility that anyone other than Israel might have a part to play in the plight of the Palestinians’

Sir, Jack Straw (Opinion, Dec 26) asserts that Palestinian shacks in the South Hebron hills are being gratuitously demolished by Israel while their residents are charged exorbitant sums for water.

In fact, although these structures were built without regard to planning permission, the Israeli authorities, which under the Israeli-Palestinian agreements are charged with responsibility for planning regulations in the area, invited the residents to submit a master plan to regularise the situation.

The proposed master plan which was submitted was rejected. Not, as Straw suggests, because of gratuitous harassment, but because the planning committee found that it did not provide adequately for welfare services for the residents, and in particular would deprive Palestinian women of access to educational and professional opportunities. The committee has invited the residents to make an amended application.

The price of water is determined by the Palestinian Water Authority, not by Israel. Jack Straw refuses to countenance the possibility that anyone other than Israel might have a part to play in the plight of the Palestinians. Far more damaging than the castigation of Israel, however, is the effect of such condescension and low expectations on the Palestinian side.

Ultimately, the most effective way of dealing with the issue of the South Hebron hills is for the two sides to reach a final status agreement. But ignoring the fact that the Palestinians too have responsibilities will not help bring that agreement closer.

Daniel Taub

Ambassador of Israel to the Court of St James’s


We should be given practical ways to help nature by perhaps changing our consumption habits and our diet

Sir, The National Trust’s review of nature in 2013 (report, Dec 27) shows how different conservation organisations view the same subject. The positive view of the Trust contrasts vividly with press releases from the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts earlier in the year emphasising the parlous state of our wildlife.

The conclusion that nature is in trouble — based on only 5 per cent of the species on which we have data — often leads to a link to join the conservation NGO so that you can help to reverse the decline in wildlife.

The financial requirements of conservation are not disputed but how refreshing it would be if we were given practical ways to help nature by perhaps changing our consumption habits and our diet, thus directly highlighting our connection with food and wildlife at the same time.

Rob Yorke

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire



‘A war between Austria and Russia would end either with the overthrow of the Romanovs or the overthrow of the Hapsburgs’

Sir, The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was almost alone among Austrian leaders in believing that his ramshackle empire must never in any circumstances fight Russia. “A war between Austria and Russia”, he wrote presciently, “would end either with the overthrow of the Romanovs or the overthrow of the Hapsburgs — or perhaps the overthrow of both.” His death precipitated the conflict that he had been determined to prevent. “Weedy, callow” Princip perhaps influenced the course of events to a greater extent than Ben Macintyre (article, Dec 27) allows. He removed the only serious opponent of the warmongers in Vienna.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

Sir, I can only assume that Roger Lewis (letter, Dec 28) is under 6ft. I agree that the National Theatre resembles a concrete bunker but not every new theatre needs to look like that. Inside, the seats are comfortable if you are 6ft 4in. They are also well spaced and the sight-lines are uncluttered.

Comfort contributes hugely to enjoyment (and to a snooze if the play is boring).

James Cane

London SW13






SIR – The switch to digital television seems to have been reasonably successful, largely because most televisions have an outside aerial. But having an outside aerial for a portable digital radio is not practical. While it is possible to listen to an FM radio with a weak signal, a weak one on a digital radio creates all sorts of pops and it soon becomes impossible to listen to.

The additional circuitry in a DAB radio also requires more current and therefore battery life.

Modern homes tend to be built with foil-backed plasterboard for insulation, which affects reception. Although I live 600ft up in the Chilterns, where the outside signal strength is very good, DAB reception can still be a problem in the house.

Michael York
Holmer Green, Buckinghamshire

Related Articles

SIR – As a classical music lover I now listen to Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Classic FM via the internet. The sound quality is as good as FM and the station is a delight to listen to compared with the two UK equivalents.

I retuned to a Chicago blues station in readiness for the arrival of the grandchildren on Boxing Day.

John Auber
London SW13

Elastic danger

SIR – I wish the Royal Mail would stop postmen from dropping rubber bands all over the place.

Dogs have a tendency to swallow them, which can cause a painful and distressing obstruction in their innards that requires surgery to clear.

Fiona Wild
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – Phillada Pym should be aware that it is illegal to reuse stamps even if they are not franked.

John G Prescott
Coulsdon, Surrey

Winter warmer

SIR – In the English language version of “Winter Wonderland”, the couple build a snowman and pretend he is Parson Brown, who can marry them when he’s next in town. They then go inside to dream by the fire.

In the French version, the couple dispense with the middleman and go directly inside to enjoy fireside intimacy.

Geoff Holmes
Sinderhope, Northumberland

Hunting cruelty

SIR – Sir Barney White-Spunner shows once again how out of touch he and his colleagues at the Countryside Alliance are with public opinion in this country.

He is clearly unhappy that the RSPCA continues to represent the views of the majority of British people, who do not want to see the return of fox hunting, and to speak for animals that have no choice and no voice. This has been reinforced this week by a new opinion poll showing that more than 80 per cent of both rural and urban dwellers oppose any repeal of the Hunting Act.

Sir Barney criticises the RSPCA for bringing a prosecution against a hunt, but fails to mention that the hunt pleaded guilty and the judge in the case was criticised for making unhelpful and inappropriate comments.

He also criticises the RSPCA’s inspectors, who work every day of the year to ensure animals are protected from cruelty. Most of their visits involve giving support and advice to pet owners to help them improve care for their animals. In some cases, however, the only option is the legal route.

The RSPCA has more than a million supporters – a number that is growing, contrary to Sir Barney’s assertion.

The RSPCA does not apologise for doing what the charity was formed to do more than 100 years ago – stopping animal abuse and, without fear or favour, bringing those who harm animals to justice.

Gavin Grant|
Chief Executive, RSPCA
London SW15

Keep quiet at the pump

SIR – In reply to Jon Furness-Gibbon, when filling a car with petrol, vapour is displaced from the car’s fuel tank. This is collected by the petrol pump’s vapour-return system, which directs it to the filling station’s underground storage tanks.

Any vapour not collected by the system will (petrol vapour being heavier than air) accumulate on the ground around the pump area until it is dispersed by the air.

A person using a mobile phone while filling a car with petrol could drop it. If dropped, it is extremely likely to come apart upon impact with the ground. Its battery is likely to become detached, emitting a spark in so doing. A spark can ignite the potentially explosive mixture of petrol vapour and air.

David Bond
Stanstead, Suffolk

Musical oversight

SIR – Next year, Radio 3 is to broadcast every opera by Richard Strauss to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth. This year I was looking forward to hearing some, if not all, of the amazing piano music written by a composer who was born 200 years ago and who died 125 years ago. But it would appear that Charles-Valentin Alkan’s genius is not recognised by Radio 3.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who was born 150 years ago in 2010, received similar short shrift.

Richard Holroyd

Joint effort

SIR – I was interested to read of the children (report, December 21) who are getting headaches due to excessive use of chewing-gum, and the subsequent effects on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

I have chronic TMJ pain due to teeth-grinding, but my daughter insists it is due to Too Much Jabbering.

Julie Bond
Wroughton, Wiltshire

A New Year’s resolution to plug a missing link

SIR – Around a third of your readers are likely to have a bath or sink plug that has become detached from its chain. Instead of replacing it, my suggestion is to go as early as possible in 2014 to a hardware store and invest a few pence in a suitably sized key ring. These are made of stronger metal than the original ring, and they go round one and a half times. They are virtually impossible to break. It’s one small way to improve the lot of humankind.

Richard Fordham
Upton Grey, Hampshire

SIR – My New Year’s resolution is to try not to let my blood pressure rise when I read or hear the phrases “to die for” and “ticks all the right boxes”, and when the BBC report distances in the UK in kilometres.

Jonathan L Kelly
Yatton, Somerest

SIR – New Year’s resolution: not to get up until The Daily Telegraph has been read from cover to cover. Winter blues sorted.

Gillian Lambert
Amersham, Buckinghamshire


SIR – It is not only the Chinese and South Koreans who believe that the Yasukuni Shrine honours convicted war criminals. Survivors of the Japanese prisoner of war and civilian camps of the Second World War and their families do, too.

That the British Government has remained silent about the recent provocative visit by Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, to the shrine is an insult to the memory of dead PoWs and civilian prisoners. Even America felt obliged to issue a (rather meek) statement expressing concern, given the tensions between Japan and its neighbours, at Mr Abe’s shrine visits.

Pieter Tesch
Addiscombe, Surrey

SIR – The Yasukuni Shrine was established to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died for Japan, not to praise their actions.

In 1874 the Emperor Meiji came to the new shrine (built in 1869) and declared in a poem: “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine.” Since then it has been the practice to record the names of the war dead with no comment as to the worth of their service.

It is roughly analogous to the Cenotaph ritual in Britain. We commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who died for the sake of the nation, irrespective of the merits of their deeds.

Jeremy Goldsmith
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex


SIR – After the floods in Gloucestershire in 2012, all parish councils in the county were encouraged to make an emergency plan to alleviate the chaos caused by flooding until the emergency services could reach them.

Being cut off would be a big problem in our small village, which is 10 miles from any major centre. So we identified owners of generators, rigid inflatable boats, tractors and large chainsaws, and trained First Aiders who were prepared to help should the need arise. There would be hot drinks and information available at the village hall. We have not had to put the plan into action yet, but we have updated it yearly and more volunteers have come forward with expertise.

Surely if a place has been flooded or cut off before, the community should plan for it happening again and making it bearable, rather than waiting for help. That is part of living in a community: knowing whom to turn to in the hour of need.

Penny Wride
Stone, Gloucestershire

SIR – A contributory cause of the increased frequency of flooding is the failure of farmers and local authorities to maintain ditches.

The result is that during periods of even moderate rainfall, water no longer drains away and fields become close to saturation.

When there is heavy rain, no absorptive capacity remains, and water runs straight into the waterways, causing flooding.

Not only do modern farming methods neglect ditch maintenance, but flail-cutting makes matters worse, as hedgerow debris falls into ditches and is never removed.

Michael Cole
Broadway, Somerset

SIR – When I was a small boy in the Thirties, I liked to watch the “hedgeman” keep roads tidy by clearing the verges and picking up autumn leaves.

Now all this detritus seems to go down the nearest drain and into a river.

Bob Rundle
St Austell, Cornwall

SIR – Have we produced a generation that thinks there should be a vast array of people permanently on standby lest any misfortune befall us?

Stephen Coles
Wavendon, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Are we incapable of suffering inconvenience and shortages for a few days? In the aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987, parts of west Surrey and Sussex lost electricity for many weeks, and this in an area where few houses had a gas supply. I cannot recall anyone complaining.

Chris Rome
Thruxton, Hampshire

SIR – I would never rely on just one source of power. At present I have electricity, gas, a multifuel stove, diesel-powered central heating and a 6.5kw generator.

My home rises and falls with the water levels. I live in a boat.

B N Bosworth
Blakedown, Worcestershire



Irish Times:



Sir – I read with disbelief Fionola Meredith’s article about the sex industry in Ireland (Opinion, December 28th). This article seeks to slam, as “radical feminists and religious conservatives”, those behind the Turn off the Red Light Campaign who lobbied for the introduction of the recently enacted Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013. This article is predicated entirely on a statement that “the second most important and hard won freedom is the right of Sex Workers to say Yes”, while entirely ignoring the first fundamental human right of a person, whether this be a man, woman or child, to say No when being trafficked, held against their will and repeatedly raped for the profit of those unscrupulous gangs engaged in human trafficking for the gratification of others.

There are clearly a number of significant facts not considered by the article’s author: According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) persons involved in the sex industry fall outside the definition of decent work – which is described as productive work under conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity, in which rights are protected and adequate remuneration and provision for their social welfare is provided. An international study that investigated the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, entitled, The Wrong Way to Equality, recommended states should be encouraged to enact civil and criminal sanctions to hold customers accountable for their behaviour. Before the Irish Government enacted the recent legislation it was the “prostitute” who was deemed to be breaking the law while pimps, criminals and customers got off scot-free.

The groups behind the Turn off the Red Light Campaign were concerned with the increasing number of men, women and children being trafficked into this country by the illicit sex industry to satisfy a growing demand from clients. These groups included many civil society organisations including trade unions.

My own union, the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) was the first trade union to be so involved, not for the narrow and conservative reasons put forward by the article’s author, but in defence of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. If, by our actions we manage to save even one child from the horrendous exploitation of the sex industry we may have achieved something for real people in the real world, and not the world as seen by some through rose-tinted glasses. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Not since a news item on August 29th, 2011 announced the posthumous publication of Kader Asmal’s memoir, Politics in my Blood, has there been any Irish Times mention of that book until Conor Brady’s article (Opinion, December 28th). Editor at the time of Mandela’s July 1990 visit to Dublin, when Mandela’s “negotiate with the IRA” remarks were described as “dangerous” and “not well informed”, Conor Brady now writes that “revelations since would tend to suggest that he knew precisely what he was saying”. Asmal had related how the spectacular Sasol bombing carried out in 1980 by MK, the ANC’s military wing, was as a result of IRA reconnaissance, secured through the indirect mediation of my late father, Michael O’Riordan, and Gerry Adams.

Fintan O’Toole’s uncritical hagiography of Mandela (December 6th) sits illogically alongside his column’s vituperative denunciation of Adams (December 10th). Conor Brady’s critique of Mandela at least restores some consistency in having a double target for his hostility. He, however, harps back to the argument that there was no Irish comparison with Mandela’s example of Britain not insisting on a ceasefire before engaging in talks with Mugabe and Nkomo, on the grounds that the white racist regime in Rhodesia was illegal under international law. He misses the point that, if Mandela knew what he was saying, he also knew what he could not say at that juncture about his own South Africa, whose apartheid regime, however odious, was not illegal.

Mandela had been freed in February 1990, without abandoning the armed struggle, and political violence in the first half of 1990 had already led to 1.500 deaths, or more than in the whole of the previous year. ANC talks with the South African regime nonetheless continued. It was only a month after his Dublin visit that Mandela acceded, at first reluctantly, to the proposal by the MK chief-of-staff, the South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, that the armed struggle should be suspended. Mandela and Slovo are to be applauded for the successful transition from war to peace in South Africa.

As one who had always been opposed to war in Northern Ireland, I also recognise that Adams and McGuinness are as essential to the successful maintenance of its peace as to the achievement of that Belfast Agreement welcomed by Mandela. Conor Brady is at least consistent in his opening comments, if only to the extent of finding nothing incongruous in Adams being in the guard of honour at Mandela’s funeral, when an ANC debt owed was appropriately repaid. – Yours, etc,


Finglas Road,

Dublin 11.

Sir, – The former editor of this paper Conor Brady has done a service in recalling the episode in 1990 when Nelson Mandela, receiving the freedom of the city in Dublin and seated next to the then taoiseach, Charles Haughey, in the Mansion House, endorsed the idea of talks without a ceasefire between the IRA and the British government (“Mandela remarks on ceasefire reflected close links with Irish republicans”, Opinion, December 28th).

What actually happened that day is that early in the press conference Eamonn Mallie asked Mandela a question along those lines and was given the positive, if initially general, answer which Conor Brady cited. Other journalists present failed to appreciate the seismic significance of what Mandela had said and a series of unrelated questions followed. I (then editor of Fortnight magazine) eventually lobbed in something of a tennis ball of a question, inviting Mandela to clarify his remarks – only for the ANC leader specifically to introduce the comparison with Rhodesia, which carried the implication of talks similar to those at Lancaster House in 1979 with Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, which had led to an end to white rule there.

When I returned to Belfast it was no surprise to find on my fax machine a press release from Gerry Adams endorsing Mandela’s comments.

This was, of course, hugely important to the IRA. No reasonable person can doubt that the ancien regime at Stormont was oppressive towards the Catholic community and represented an illegitimate denial of democratic pluralism and human rights. But the campaign by the IRA never met the twin criteria of a “just war”: ius ad bellum (the right to wage war, based on the absence of any democratic alternative, which the achievements of the civil-rights movement showed to be false) and ius in bello (maximum restraint within war, which the ruthlessness of the IRA towards civilians, such as Jean McConville, completely traduced).

The ANC’s case in these regards, however blemished by the torture camps it established for “collaborators” in the neighbouring “frontline” states, was much more positive and it is no surprise that the IRA grabbed at its coat-tails. The Provisional IRA campaign was so prolonged, we now know from Rogelio Alonso’s interviews with members, not just because of iron discipline on the part of the Adams/McGuinness leadership but also because of the misplaced idealism which formed the enduring “groupthink” of many who joined.

It was evident at the press conference that Mandela had gone into a long, dark, 27-year tunnel on Robben Island and had emerged from it, however heroically, still caught in the cold-war, “anti-imperialist” simplicities of the 1960s. History will rightly be very kind to him but no one should recast him as a bronze icon without blemish. – Yours, etc,


South Studios,

Tates Avenue,


Sir, – Conor Brady (Opinion, December 28th) insinuates that Nelson Mandela may have delayed the peace process in Northern Ireland because of remarks made at a press conference in Dublin in 1990. There is a massive leap of the imagination involved in this assessment backed by a highly selective and self-serving version of the event.

I was at that press conference and saw a world figure, suffering from pneumonia, being dragged into the provincial mire of Irish politics by those who wanted, for various reasons, to associate him with the IRA. It became clear quite quickly that he knew little about the situation in Ireland and that he had never even heard of the Birmingham Six, whose case was very prominent at the time.

Brady’s attempt to associate Mandela with IRA assistance to Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in the 1980s is a specious and self-serving attempt at guilt by association. At that time the entire mature leadership of the ANC, Mandela included, was in prison and MK had fallen into the hands of a younger more violent group.

By the time Mandela had been released from prison in 1990 the MK’s armed struggle had become a policy rather than a practice. Archbishop Desmond Tutu made this clear to me at the time saying: “I think their stance is really rhetorical, I mean almost an academic issue and many in the South African government are aware that hardly anything has happened which could say these people are violent.” (The Irish Times, March 2nd, 1990).

It is regrettable that a veteran journalist such as Conor Brady should descend into the contrarianism that infects so much of today’s editorial commentary. – Yours, etc,


Raymond Street,

Dublin 8.


Sir, – Considering Karen O’Leary’s position as head of the National Consumer Agency, her views seem remarkable and surprisingly poorly informed (National Consumer Agency chief welcomes grocery price war”, Home News, December 28th). “It’s great,” she says, adding “And I don’t think anyone has proved that there has been a downside”.

There is sufficient competition case law to inform her otherwise where such practices in the long term may well become predatory.

Selling vegetables below the cost required to produce vegetables is likely to foreclose competitors who do not have the same financial resources as supermarkets. Once weaker competitors are driven out, supermarkets can raise prices above competitive pricing levels. In the long run, the predator supermarket regain losses.

Worse still, the remaining market trends from being diversified to becoming oligopoly – once one of the few raises their prices, the rest follow. Furthermore, market entry for new competitors become more difficult. – Yours, etc,


Woodfield Crescent,




Sir, – The column written by John McManus (Business, December 23rd) makes for both curious and disturbing reading.

In it he states: “The suggestions that newspapers over which O’Brien has influence are taking part in an orchestrated campaign to undermine the national finances and advance the interests of his friend is not one he would be happy to let go unchallenged. The notion that he (O’Brien) would use his control of the country’s largest media organisation in such a fashion is in no doubt abhorrent to him.”

For the record, Denis O’Brien has had not hand act, or part in the coverage of Nama anywhere at any time. Nor indeed has he been “one of the beneficiaries of . . . largesse from the taxpayer” (Letters, December 18th).

On the issue of who in Nama’s thinking is trying to undermine the State, I recall Mary Lou McDonald TD questioning Frank Daly and Brendan McDonagh, chairman and CEO of Nama respectively, on this particular matter recently. In particular she asked if they thought Paddy McKillen was involved. Mr Daly emphatically denied the suggestion.

To introduce Denis O’Brien’s name into the Nama story has all the hallmarks of someone scurrying around on the Sunday before Christmas looking for a topic, any topic, to write about. It is obviously much easier to speculate, hint and infer that you might have stumbled on a smoking gun. There is no smoke and no gun. The probity of such journalism is questionable.

The professional approach for John McManus to adopt would have been to ask The Sunday Independent directly why it allocated “five pages” to the Nama story. But maybe he would have received a response that would have rubbished the column he was writing? It is possible that the editor of the Sunday Independent decided that the coverage was in the public interest? – Yours, etc,


Communications adviser to

Denis O’Brien,


Sir, – Time for some New Year resolutions? 1. Would commercial outlets please avoid “up to” before the percentage sale prices in their adverts? For example, “up to 50 per cent off”. This is confusing.

2. Would all those responsible for printing sell-by dates on food commodities, such as tinned or bottled items, please make them legible?

3. Could large organisations (insurance companies, banks and service industries please employ more telephone staff? Hearing a litany of more than three digits to press for assistance is, quite frankly, disrespectful to customers.

4. When the shop phone rings while staff are speaking to a customer, remember it does not have to be answered immediately. After all, first come, first served.

5. And to everyone who provides a service, do use our names if possible. This is good practice and business-like. We keep them in a job after all! – Yours, etc,


Asgard Park,


A chara, – Quoting the State Papers 1983 (Home News, December 27th) you report Garret FitzGerald telling Mrs Thatcher what the SDLP told him. Namely, that in one polling booth in the North the SDLP agent, a woman, had “turned away 240 people who were attempting personation – out of a total of about 900 who were supposed to vote at the booth. She had been threatened by Sinn Féin and, finally, driven away from the booth in a Saracen armoured car.”

Lest this myth go down as historical fact, let me state that the alleged incident never took place. I was Sinn Féin’s national director of publicity at the time. No such complaint was made by the SDLP or appeared in the media or was reported to the electoral office. In fact, the only political party to be “found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices by an election court” was Joe Hendron MP of the SDLP and his election agent, as late as February 1993. And the only person to be driven away in an (RUC) armoured car was a member of Sinn Féin from Howard Primary School polling station in Dungannon on June 9th, 1983, when it came under attack from unionist supporters.

Long before Sinn Féin entered electoral politics in the North the unofficial election slogan of unionist and nationalist politicians was “Vote early and vote often”. Personation, which did happen, was a waste of energy as the efforts of one side only cancelled out the efforts of the other.

The truth is that the two governments’ refusal to recognise the republican electoral mandate prolonged the deadlock.

Today, in the North, under the tightest election regulations in Europe, Sinn Féin in the last Assembly elections won 29 seats to the SDLP’s 14 – and there wasn’t an armoured car, real or imagined, in sight. – Yours, etc,


Glen Road,



Sir, – Perhaps someone could explain to us exactly how was calculated the figure of €170 million in tourist revenue alleged to have been generated by The Gathering? I’m not at all cynical . . . – Yours, etc,





Sir, – Louis Hogan (December 30th) has a problem, it seems, with cars (generally with children in the back seat) still adorned with “silly” red noses and antlers.

Deer, oh deer. If such joyous decorations offend him, perhaps he should stay in more. – Yours, etc,


Casimir Avenue,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.




Irish Independent:


* Bearing in mind the historical hostility of many media outlets to Fianna Fail in general and to the late Charles Haughey in particular, it was very gratifying to read Eamon Delaney’s fair and balanced article on the late Taoiseach’s record and reputation (Irish Independent, Saturday, December 28).

Also in this section

Haughey did not invent ‘cute hoorism’

Letter of the week: Dole out soup, Enda

Letters: Light of Marie’s flame will shine

A good journalist does not depend on diatribes to make points; an excellent one prefers verifiable facts and honest and honourable evaluation. The reality that the dead cannot sue is never relevant to such a journalist.

The annual release of the state papers around this time, of course, is a catalyst for some persons to indulge in a recrudescent attack on, inter alia, the late Taoiseach’s perceived incompetence, lack of foresight, courage, imagination, etc.

A brief stroll back in time, editor, with your permission. Any person familiar with Butt Bridge in the 1980s will recall that a glance down river revealed a devastated area, not unlike a World War II bomb site. The same area today is a workplace for thousands of young men and women from all over Ireland working in a renowned financial services industry. The area is alive and vibrant. Many more work in the same relatively new industry throughout the State.

The political driving force for the establishment of that industry was Mr Haughey and his cabinet. After years of dithering and delay by others, the industry was on its way to being set up in Ireland immediately following Mr Haughey’s return to power in 1987.

Problems in Brussels and opposition in certain European capitals were overcome. Today, hundreds of millions in income and corporation tax flow into our State’s coffers from that new industry.

Some lack of ability, foresight, determination and courage by the late Mr Haughey!

Well may Eamon Delaney opine that Mr Haughey would have secured a better deal from the troika. That assumes, incorrectly of course, that they would ever have had to set foot inside the door at any time with CJ in charge of the shop.




* My new year resolution is to encourage support for the Irish wine industry. Ireland has taken to wine in a big way to the delight of the Government which taxes it with unrivalled enthusiasm.

What I fail to understand, however, is why we tend to ignore our native wines, some of the finest in Europe. Why not give your introduction to the new year an Irish touch and celebrate fionta na hEireann. The following is just a small selection which I have tasted.

Using the traditional method, Bubbly Bertie is a vintage sparkling wine from the vineyards of the south-facing slippery slopes of Drumcondra. The delicacy that greets you on the nose is counteracted by a hint of noble rot.

Cote de Cowen is not the most refined red available. However, it is unusually full bodied and should provide a suitable accompaniment to porridge or black pudding.

The sparkling sauvignons from Phoenix Park are An Uachtarain’s favourite as they provide just a suggestion of irreverent bubbly busyness.

My own favourite comes from the house of Leinster. The Chateau Enda is the best of the bunch. It exudes promise. However, some may find it too light on the palate, not delivering all that one might reasonably expect. It is currently on offer in the Dail gift shop.

The current Pinot Fianna Fail is a somewhat down at heel vintage, lacking character, having seen better days.

Gerry’s Sherry is well worth a try, though it is indistinguishable from Provisional Port.

Happy New Year to all.




* EirGrid’s plans to locate power pylons above ground across north-east Ireland is a mistake and must be curtailed or modified to ensure the preservation of the cherished countryside.

As frequent visitors to Cavan and nearby locations, my wife and I were dismayed and angered upon learning of EirGrid’s plans to place pylons across the many beautiful hilltops that dot this region. Recently we climbed a hilltop from where we could see five counties! To think that this region would soon become littered and scarred by steel towers is heartbreaking.

Residents will lose much more than they may gain. While a few landholders and farmers will benefit financially from the pylon project, a far larger majority of residents will be victimised.

The potential harmful effects from electric lines have been called into question. While the science may be debatable, the long-term effects of these pylons is clear: scenic vistas destroyed, historic sites jeopardised, tourists driven away, the country’s reputation tarnished.

The Irish Government holds the power to influence EirGrid to take the longer view for the betterment of Ireland, its people and its future. Power lines are necessary, to be sure, but the investment to locate these power lines underground will serve the people of Ireland and secure the future of tourism and farmers alike.

Once erected, the pylons will become an eyesore for decades. Now is the time to take the right decision that will preserve the interests of the people of Cavan and Ireland.





* Like many other commentators, John Bellew is missing the point about the reason why this country became bankrupt and had to call in outside help and on the consequences of default (Letters, December 28).

He berates Jose Manuel Barroso for saying that “it was our entire fault” and accuses him of “rewriting history”.

While Mr Barroso was a bit over the top, I am afraid Mr Bellew is in fact doing a bit of revision of the history books himself.

We cannot deny that it was the domestic policies of the Celtic Tiger era which caused the crash in this country and the policies of austerity that ensued.

Nobody compelled our most powerful citizens to borrow from what Mr Bellew calls “the reckless banks on the Continent and in the US” or anywhere else for that matter.

When he says that “we have very few friends in the EU” he is ignoring the fact that it was the EU/ECB/IMF that have been keeping the holes in the wall open and the public services/social welfare etc paid for the past number of years.

Like many others, he implies that if bondholders were not paid and banks which were “not of systemic importance” were allowed to fail, all in the garden would be rosy. That is, to put it mildly, a very questionable assumption.

He is right when he says that “Ireland are the losers”, but whether we like it or not it could have been worse but for our friends in Europe and the IMF.




* I read with interest George Hook’s reference to Connacht in his column. What I would say to George is, you seem to know all there is to know about rugby in Ireland and what’s good for the game. We in Connacht are proud of our team and will not let our team be downgraded.

Finally, I would say to you George, no more nonsense. Hands off Connacht.



Irish Independent




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