Tumble dryer

9 January 2014 Tumble Dryer

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The crew of Troutbridge are being tested to see if they can detect a spy in their midst. Priceless.

Tunble dryer repaired and quote for windows and insulation decisions decisions

Scrabbletoday I winand gets just over300, Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.




Marina Ginestà, who has died aged 94, was believed to have been the last surviving French veteran of the Spanish Civil War. As a 17-year-old member of Spain’s Unified Socialist Youth she was immortalised in a photograph taken on the roof of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona in the first flames of the conflict; it was to become one of the most famous photographs of the war.

Widely considered a masterpiece of reportage, the picture was taken on July 21 1936 by the photojournalist Juan Guzmán. In it, the striking Ginestà looks sideways directly into the lens with a wry smile, belying the dramatic events playing out in the city beneath her. A rifle is casually slung over her shoulder, the sleeves of her uniform rolled up in the summer sun, while the wind whips strands of hair over her fine cheekbones.

Marina Ginestà was born on January 29 1919 in Toulouse, France. Her family moved in the early 1930s to Barcelona, where she joined the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia. In July 1936 she arrived at the Hotel Colón to carry out duties as translator and typist for Mikhail Koltsov, a correspondent for the Soviet newspaper Pravda. As a non-combatant this was the only time Ginestà carried a gun.

On being shown the picture late in life Marina Ginestà recognised the passion and pride she felt for the Republican cause. “It reflects the feeling we had at that moment. Socialism had arrived, the customers of the hotel had left. There was euphoria,” she said wistfully. “We temporarily set ourselves up at the Colón, we ate well, as if the bourgeois life were ours and we had moved up in category very quickly.”

Republican forces were in celebratory mood that day, relaxing in the wake of the failed coup d’etat against the Left-wing Popular Front government. The Colón itself had been the scene of bitter fighting, with Colonel Antonio Escobar Huertas leading his Civil Guard into the hotel and overcoming soldiers loyal to General Franco. Guzmán, a German-born photographer who later took Spanish citizenship, was in the city with the International Brigades, the anti-fascist military unit, and caught the joy of the masses.

The picture would later feature on the jacket of the book Trece Rosas Rojas (The Thirteen Roses, 2004) by Carlos Fonseca, a bestselling account of the execution of 13 young women by a Francoist firing squad during the post-war purges known as the “saca de agosto” – the August round-up.

Yet, even with the picture’s prominence, its subject remained unaware of its existence for most of her life. Nor, indeed, did the public know who the defiant girl on the roof was. It was only in 2006 that a researcher at Agencia Efe, who held Guzmán’s archive of wartime images, tracked her down in France. Guzmán had wrongly catalogued Ginestà under the name Jinesta. It was through the memoirs of Mikhail Koltsov, with whom she appears in another of the agency’s pictures, and investigations at the Spanish Civil War archives in Salamanca, that her identity finally came to light.


At the end of the war Marina Ginestà was wounded and, as Spain’s short-lived Second Republic collapsed, she was evacuated to Montpellier to recover. She later fled the city when the Germans invaded France, settling in the Dominican Republic. Further persecution, this time by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, caused her to leave in 1946, and in 1952 she returned to Barcelona. By the time she was discovered by Efe she was living in Paris as a translator for a Spanish psychoanalyst.

“They say that in the Colón photo I have a captivating look,” she acknowledged in an interview given in her late eighties. “It’s possible, because we were immersed both in the mysticism of the proletarian revolution and the images of Hollywood, of Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper.”

Marina Ginestà married twice, latterly in 1952 to a Belgian diplomat.

Marina Ginestà, born January 29 1919, died January 6 2014




County councils in the Tory heartlands are slashing subsidies to many bus services. Here in North Yorkshire, vital bus services for the elderly and infirm are under threat. Many passengers say if they lose this vital service they’ll vote Ukip at the election. If you want a real vote winner, Mr Cameron, reinstate half fares for those with passes. This would solve all the problems, no one would object. After all, what good is a bus pass without a bus
Paul Swain
Malton, North Yorkshire

• Strange that the Guardian photographer should demean the subject and Gloria de Piero herself should demean her important role by using such a passive, almost objectified pose (G2, 23 December). Sitting on the table? Turning provocatively towards the camera? Extraordinary, or perhaps not. We have far to go with women and equalities.
Marilyn Taylor

• Odd isn’t it that Owen Paterson is keen to use scientific evidence in relation to GM crops but not to badger culling (EU will become farm museum without GM, minister claims, 8 January). Nor presumably to global warming?
Michael Miller

• The unprecedented walkout of lawyers was not, apparently, a strike (Lawyers walk out in protest against legal aid budget cuts, 6 January). Weren’t they breaking the law? If any public sector workers did this without a proper ballot they’d have to face an injunction. One law for the lawyers…
David Prothero
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

• Eusébio wasn’t the only player “kicked off the park” during the 66 World Cup (Letters, 8 January). I well remember seeing his team mates giving Pelé the kicking of a lifetime during the first round match at Goodison Park, effectively ensuring Brazil’s elimination from the tournament.
M Hunt
Meols, Wirral

• As Quakers, Lonsdale, Franklin et al would have spent long periods sitting in silence (Letters, 8 January). Clearly this helped to crystallise their thoughts.
Dick Hughes
Craven Arms, Shropshire



HG Wells once said that “a newspaper is a device incapable of distinguishing between a bicycle accident and the end of civilisation”. I fear George Monbiot has proved him right. His article (Comment, 7 January) paints an apocalyptic picture of the antisocial behaviour bill as an evil measure to end our right to protest, our freedom of speech and our civil liberties. It is nonsense. If it was in any way true I would be the first to stand up and say so.

Although I have only been involved in the latter stages of the bill (I am not the architect, as George describes me), I’m confident these new powers won’t stop people being able to sing carols or whatever else the scare stories say. That notwithstanding, since I took over the bill I have introduced further safeguards for reassurance. It will help protect vulnerable people in society from antisocial behaviour, which, if allowed to grow out of control, can cause enormous harm to our communities. For too long there has been a broken system for dealing with such behaviour. Labour’s asbos failed, not only because they unnecessarily criminalise young people, but because they do not help address the causes behind the behaviour.

These reforms are the result of an extensive consultation process involving local authorities, social landlords, the judiciary and voluntary sector, and, most importantly, victims and members of the public who’ve told us they want a more measured and effective response. Our introduction of new injunctions to prevent nuisance or annoyance will not criminalise youngsters but address the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour, nipping such behaviour in the bud before it escalates. Use of these new powers will require a long-established test of proportionality, and courts will have to be persuaded of the need to grant these orders. Hardly the end of civilisation, is it?
Norman Baker MP
Crime prevention minister


It comes as no surprise that 12,000 cases of cancers in women could be prevented through being more physically active (UK women have high rate of inactivity-linked cancers, 6 January). For years it has been understood that remaining physically active is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. However, despite this, we continue to see widespread inactivity levels across the UK. Physical activity is arguably one of the most important factors in the prevention and recovery of cancer. Not only can it help to reduce the side-effects of treatment but it also reduces the risk of some cancers recurring and even dying from the disease. It is both a cost-effective and a clinically effective treatment intervention. So why do we continue to neglect what is one of the most simple solutions? We must stop paying lip service to the issue. It is time now for a shift in the way we look at physical activity – the underrated “wonder drug”. Physical activity needs to be completely ingrained in our day-to-day lives.
Jenny Ritchie-Campbell
Director of cancer services innovation, Macmillan Cancer Support


Five months after the last election, the coalition government announced its plans to transform higher education which, as Peter Scott points out (Can university courses in celebrity be far off?, 7 January), have corrupted the behaviour of universities. Just like during the build-up to the last election, higher education has been kicked into the long grass by all three main parties. But this time around there is a pressing need for a public debate, which acknowledges the failings of this government’s reforms and discusses ways to address them.

The Lib Dems may be nervous discussing anything to do with higher education ever again, particularly close to an election, and Labour’s brief forays into higher education have been exposed as policy-lite. However, if neither party is prepared to be brave then the Tories will get away with some of the most dangerous changes to our higher education system going unchallenged. As Scott points out, the self-funding higher-education myth has been busted: taxpayers will carry on shouldering a huge chunk of the cost of higher education, as 40% of students will never pay their loans back. The government’s recent decision to offer unlimited public subsidies to private providers, who do not face the same regulatory checks and balances as public institutions, is explosive.

In a stroke, ministers have effectively rigged their quasi-market in favour of those providers with access to the capital markets to fund aggressive expansion. This will place huge pressure on university and college managements to ape private-sector modes of delivery and company forms just to stay alive. The brutal fact is that the closer colleges and universities move to a for-profit model of service delivery, or the more dependent they become on private revenue streams, the greater will be the pressures on quality. Popularity and economy of scale will become the new key criteria for courses to meet. The system is broken and it needs fixing before the next election, not after. Robust regulation of private providers, putting them on a more equal footing with their public counterparts, needs to shoot up the political agenda, before Peter Scott’s feared degrees in celebrity become commonplace.
Sally Hunt
General secretary, University and College Union


Rather than being caused by the limitations of the education system, or the absence of role models, the large increase in youth joblessness highlighted by Christina Patterson (Comment, 4 January) is the product of major changes in the economy and occupational structure – changes that have been greatly accentuated by the recession. Just as serious is the situation where, rather than lacking skills, many more young people now find they are underemployed, having ended up in jobs for which they are overqualified, with around 40% of university leavers ending up in non-graduate jobs.

Although now a major international problem, countries such as Germany, for example, have at least been able to limit youth unemployment by continuing to operate national apprenticeship systems which ensure high levels of employability, and which both employers and trade unions are actively involved. This type of system may not be easily implemented here, but new types of economic policies are desperately required if young people are to be prevented from sliding further into despair. Central to this is a recognition that jobs for young people need to be created, rather than being left to market forces. But also that it’s almost as expensive to keep a young person out of work as it is to employ them. Of course, this would require a major redirection and redistribution of resources and the increases in public spending that Labour and the coalition now both reject.

Without a major change in policy direction, however, the excellent work of the Princes Trust will never be enough.
Dr Martin Allen

• Christina Patterson illustrates the extent to which the “work programme isn’t working”. But the problem is not so much the programme as the policy. With fewer than one vacancy for every four people unemployed, even if both were well-matched geographically a “success” rate of less than 25% would be possible. As they aren’t, the 10% figure she quotes may be quite a good performance. A policy change that would bring about an improvement is less deflation of economic activity and more reflation. This might seem unnecessary when economic growth seems to be picking up anyway, but if it is just a cyclic rebound it will not be sustained without a change in policy.
Roger Morton
Matlock, Derbyshire

• George Osborne’s proposed cuts of £12bn to the welfare budget should be of no surprise (Report, 7 January). For too long, commentators have accused this government of incompetence. This is only true about presentation and detail. In terms of overall ideology, it has been remarkably successful. It is a staggering achievement to convince people that the world economic crisis caused by the banking industry, hedge-fund expansion and corporate mismanagement at the most powerful financial institutions was the fault of the poor, the unemployed and the disabled.

The very fact that opinion polling shows a relatively narrow gap between Labour and Conservative parties, and the acceptance of the need for further welfare cuts, is proof of the coalition’s success. Postwar history shows that only one other government comes close to such success in implementing an ideological programme: the Attlee government of 1945-51. In that case, it was a benign ideology aimed at ending poverty, deprivation and gross inequality. This government’s ideology is the exact opposite.
Dr Chris Morris
Kidderminster, Worcestershire


Your report (Spend more to ease flood misery, says climate chief, 6 January)underestimates what has to be done. In 2013 there were 60 railway landslips a day in February, four times the previous rate of coastal cliff falls, a 5% degradation of agricultural output through unseasonable weather, thousands of homes inundated with sewage and left without electricity for days, damage to business running into millions, coastal and localised flooding, and a colliery spoil tip slid into a railway line, the first such significant failure since Aberfan.

Soon it simply won’t be possible to move engineers and resources around the country to deal rapidly with the level of damage, repair and replacement. Many years of engineering investment are needed just to keep the present infrastructure working, never mind HS2.

Public response to David King’s broadcast was frighteningly negative. No doubt these were the same people who complained that it took hours to get Gatwick operational, days to get the railways working, weeks to restore power everywhere, and castigated the authorities for too little flood defence.
Professor Peter Gardiner
Emeritus professor of civil engineering, University of Brighton

• It is not true to say that 300 flood defence schemes that were ready to go have been halted by spending cuts (Editorial, 8 January). No schemes that were given a commitment to funding have been stopped. In fact, every economically viable project that was put forward for 2013-14 was given the go-ahead.

It is also not true to say that many of the Pitt review recommendations are now on the back burner, or gone altogether. We reported back in January 2012 that the vast majority of the recommendations have been met or are being implemented. The government is on course to invest a record £2.3bn in capital improvement projects over a six-year period.
Dan Rogerson MP
Environment minister

• Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that, as the planet warms, each degree of warming will increase rainfall intensity by 5%-10%.

Any government with an ounce of sense would listen to these warnings and intensify action on flood defence and other adaptation measures.

Instead, this government has cut spending on flood defences, despite its claims to the contrary (Report, 7 January). It has removed a requirement for local authorities to develop adaptation plans and cut Defra’s adaptation team from 38 people to six. And its planning reforms make building on flood plains more likely, not less.
Andy Atkins
Executive director, Friends of the Earth

•  The answer to increased flooding may be to embrace it. According to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre, wetland plants can absorb up to 32% more CO2 than they do at the moment, which means that wetlands can work as a carbon sink, countering climate change.

They also make a physical difference. Here in Norfolk, last month’s tidal surge breached and swept away dunes and tidal defences, while salt marshes held firm, offering the best protection.

Large areas of wetland have over the centuries been drained for agricultural use, so the rainwater they would once have held like a sponge is sent downhill at high speed into towns and cities. With swathes of southern and western Britain lying underwater, isn’t it time to consider restoring our wetlands?
Vicky Warren
Hunstanton, Norfolk

•  The UK needs to accept that flooding is a recurring risk to our communities and make real, proactive change – even if it means tough decisions. We can no longer continue to defend at all costs, there is simply not enough money. However, due to population growth and housing demands, we cannot completely rule out building in the flood plain either. There are some excellent examples emerging of development taking place in areas of potential risk on the basis that investment is made in flood defences – not only for the development in question, but for the wider community as well – but this means that budget and staff cuts at the Environment Agency are of concern.
Ola Holmstrom
Head of water UK, WSP consultancy

•  A coupled Ocean-Atmosphere model is run at the Met Office to provide warnings of coastal floods from high tides and storm surges. In order to validate the model, it is crucial to compare sea level observations from the National Tide Gauge Network with the model predictions. The network’s Bournemouth tide gauge was damaged in an October storm but the Environment Agency has no money to repair it. Any cuts in the EA’s budget will make the situation worse.
Graham Alcock
Auckland, New Zealand

•  The coastline of Lincolnshire is constantly under threat from flooding and, with the county providing over a third of our country’s best arable land, extensive inundation from the sea could put this land out of action for many years, with all that would imply for our food supplies. Yet local taxpayers will have to foot most of the bill for our coastal defences. Surely, all taxpayers, if they really value their home grown fruit and veg, should be expected to contribute towards measures to ensure that we do not have to rely on costly food imports if severe coastal flooding does occur in the future.
Cllr John Marriott
Lincolnshire county council









There cannot, ever, have been such a clear illustration of the lack of understanding by a government of the environment in its care, as there is in the proposal to allow building on ancient woodland for those prepared to plant 100 trees for each ancient one cut down.

The idea demonstrates, with a clarity that a thousand protests could not, how they have no conception of what a woodland is – other than a collection of trees inconveniently positioned on prime building land. They have no understanding that it is home to billions of invertebrates, birds and animals, that it is a migratory stopover or destination, a pleasant place to walk, and frequently a source of managed timber.

The vacuous idea that a piece of ancient woodland could be replaced by a stand of conifers on some remote moorland – one supposes as part of a tax break – is despicable and motivated by moving money into the pockets of developers.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent

I would like to express how deeply unnecessary I find it that ancient woodlands, or other top conservation sites, should be seen as a constraint to our country’s need for new housing developments. There are ample development sites on land that is less environmentally sensitive.

You cannot “offset” an ancient woodland, the value of which lies primarily in its historical development, its store of genetic material and its ecologically complex systems which, most crucially, include the soil and soil organisms, as well as more visible species. Ancient woodlands cannot be bean-counted by the number of trees, which are not a measure of value.

Compulsory biodiversity offsetting, as trailed in the Government’s Green Paper last September, may be a good idea, but it explicitly should not be applied to our most valuable and irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodlands,  because that is to pretend that losses to development can be made good, which they cannot.

This country is very much able to deliver the required housing provision on land with lower environmental value, and which does not require the loss of a single tree or clod of soil in our vitally important ancient woodlands.

Professor Robert Tregay, Chairman, LDA Design, Peterborough

Is this the greenest government ever? Aside from fracking, which will destroy much of our countryside. Owen Patterson, the Environment Secretary, has announced that he is now minded to destroy our ancient woodlands for housing purposes. Patterson also fought to stop the recent EU ban on pesticides that were killing off our bees.

Ancient trees will be destroyed and wildlife habitats damaged, and the diversity of our forests will be lost for ever. Not to miss out on the action, David Cameron is getting rid of 1,100 flood defence jobs.

It’s all about efficiency savings with these Tories – not cuts. Cameron will simply label the destruction of our ancient forests as a “reform”, akin to the Orwellian Hunt/Lansley NHS reforms. He isn’t serving the crony corporate agenda, or the Tory greed and narrow self interests, he is simply “reforming” our ancient woodlands.

Julie Partridge, London SE15

Where desperate refugees are welcome

In October 2013, we watched 78 men, women and children, fleeing for their lives from Syria, land on a beach in Rhodes.   They were granted asylum, and the traffickers, who were paid $3,000 by each of these desperate people for the short journey from Syria, were arrested and jailed pending prosecution, and had their boat confiscated.

If a cash-strapped country like Greece can open its doors to these poor benighted people, we must all be thoroughly ashamed of our government if it fails to do likewise.

Tonyand Lorna Verso, Kingswood, South Gloucestershire

Given that our government has now shut its doors firmly on taking in any of Syria’s refugees, it is worth revisiting the build-up that almost led us into a war with Syria.

Do we remember the antics of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister baying for air-strikes against Syria?

William Hague announced: “One year ago, 230,000 Syrian refugees. Today two million, half of them children. If we don’t end the conflict, think  what the figure could be next year.”

Our newspapers were filled with horror stories of what was happening to the refugees, of the torture, of dead and dying babies; and we were about to launch a war that would have cost us hundreds of millions of pounds.

But we know now from our government’s actions that they are not in the least interested in Syria’s refugees. The whole endeavour was an utterly shameless smoke-and-mirrors exercise designed to bamboozle the British public into supporting another war. The Government wanted regime change in Syria and would stoop to anything to achieve it.

Mark Holt, Liverpool

What is the sense in war?

I congratulate Ronan Breslin on his superb denunciation (letter, 8 January) of Michael Gove’s nationalistic political posturing.

It was always a safe bet that the Tories would use the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in such a way, but it is still breathtaking that the first salvo was fired only two days into 2014. Gove seems to forget that he is part of a  generation blessed by never having had to fight a war.

I prefer the words of Harry Patch: “I went back to Ypres to shake the hand of Charles Kuentz, Germany’s only surviving veteran from the war. It was emotional. He is 107. We’ve had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it’s a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn’t speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?”

Alan Pearson, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire

If war is the pursuit of politics by other means, a war generally means some politician has blundered. Our mistake in 1914 was to let the French assume we would come in if Belgium was invaded and to let the Germans think we wouldn’t.

Robert Davies, London SE3

Stick to the drug we know

John Rentoul is right to question the decriminalisation of cannabis in Britain following Colorado’s decision to do so (8 January). Our failure to control its consumption does not mean it should be legalised.

Our national drug, alcohol, although harmful to some, is well understood and plays an important role in society: from the toasting of great events with champagne to the celebration of the Eucharist where red wine represents the blood of Christ. It is unlikely that Western civilisation could have evolved without it.

Cannabis on the other hand is an alien drug which is not fully understood and has no historical equivalents to the gods Dionysus and Bacchus. Better the drug you know.

Stan Labovitch, Windsor

Too few women, too much space

You are so, so right Penny Joseph (letter, 6 January). I too had been noting the lack of women correspondents during the period you mention. However, I have been doing my bit and writing in regularly, but I am usually moaning about the huge amount of blank spaces in the paper as a whole and, in particular, the blank column to the left in the letters page which could contain three or more letters every day!

I have come to accept that the editor doesn’t like letters of constructive criticism in any form so I guess you won’t see this letter either.

Jan Huntingdon, Cricklade, Wiltshire

Anomaly still not rectified

I am amazed that you should print as news on your front page (3 January) the fact that many vice-chancellors of universities take a larger percentage pay rise than their staff. I worked for 36 years in the university sector and recall marching on Parliament under the splendid banner “Rectify the Anomaly!” Some people even call this sort of pay differential “leadership”.

Robin Phillips, Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Mystery of Ferguson’s hat

Fashionistas among readers of your sports pages much appreciated your reporters’ detailed account (8 January) of Sir Alex Ferguson’s headgear at the Sunderland-Manchester United game on Tuesday night.

But when did he change from the black cap (Sam Wallace) to the maroon beret (Ian Herbert)? Or was it the other way round? I think we should be told,

John Hudson, Stroud,  Gloucestershire






It would be better to have memorial services in 2018 to mark the end of the First World War, not to commemorate its start

Sir, My father fought in the Great War, and there must be others like me who have had direct contact with those who survived the war. His view of the war was that it had been a necessary venture. However, each November, come the Earl Haig Fund Appeal as it was then known, his face suffused to the colour of the poppies. He would contribute but would never wear a poppy.

I worry that commemorating the anniversary of the Great War could degenerate into farce. Such commemorations can make light of fearful times when we were all potential targets. It would, I feel, be better to have memorial services in 2018 to mark the end of the Great War, not to commemorate its start.

C. H. Goodwin

Hebden, N Yorks

Sir, No one can doubt the courage and patriotism of those who fought in the First World War. Books such as Birdsong and All Quiet On the Western Front bring the horrors of war and the courage of officers and men into stark relief. Many of us must have wondered how we would have coped. Satire does not diminish the frightfulness of it all but brings contrast, to remind us of the ways in which wars would never be the same again.

I had always assumed that Alan Clark’s description of the generals as “donkeys” (Alice Thomson, Jan 7) referred to their not having realised that mechanisation (notably the machinegun) and power of explosives required new strategies. It does seem astonishing to us now that waves of men in their thousands could, time after time, be sent out of the trenches straight into machinegun fire, hails of high explosive and near certain death.

James Dawson

Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, Of course Blackadder should be shown in history lessons. It brought home to all of us the futility of the war, its horror and appalling loss of human life. Who would not be moved by the final episode of Captain Blackadder and his men going over the top to certain death? The raw emotion and frozen terror in their eyes cannot be replicated in any textbook.

Frank Greaney

Formby, Liverpool

Sir, The fog of war is with us still. In his The Donkeys (1961) Alan Clark quoted the alleged exchange between Ludendorff and Hoffmann about the English soldiers being “lions led by donkeys” — all very quotable except that the exchange never happened. Considerable doubt was cast on the story’s authenticity by a letter from J. C. Sharp which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on July 16, 1963. The story was finally scotched three days later by a follow-up letter from D. G. Libby tracing the true version to page 57 of Francisque Sarcey’s Le Siège de Paris (1871) where the author quoted The Times about the French soldiers who had been completely defeated by the Prussians in 1870: “Vous êtes des lions conduits par des ânes!”

Tony Lawton

Skelton, York

Sir, Something which everybody needs to grasp about the First World War is that it was fought by polities completely different from the ones that exist today, with the possible exception of the US. This country did not wage the war as today’s UK, but fought as the British Empire. Parts of that empire, notably India, had no choice in whether it, too, entered the conflict.

Alarms should have rung last year when President Hollande began to eulogise the victory of “The Republic” over autocratic, imperialist Germany. France was just as much of a colonialist empire as Britain at the time.

All governments and media “historians” should be particularly careful to avoid going on about “sacrifice”, exactly the quasi-religious nonsense that was used to justify the slaughter of conscript armies at the time. Today Britain, France and Germany are three important parliamentary democracies among others in the European Union. It took a lot of violence in the first half of the 20th century to get the political situation we all now enjoy.

Ralph Lloyd-Jones


Sir, Let us not forget that Indians referred to the First World War as the European civil war.

R. Mell

Embsay, N Yorks


Simon Hoggart wasn’t the first journalist to transform coverage of Parliament. That honour rests with Bernard Levin

Sir, Your statement that it was Simon Hoggart, Matthew Parris and Frank Johnson who “transformed the coverage of Parliament” (obituary, Jan 6) is unfair to the late Bernard Levin, who wrote a weekly parliamentary sketch in The Spectator under the byline Taper in the early/mid 1960s.

I remember his reference to a Tory backbencher as “Lt-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport, to name but a few”. When, many years later, in a piece in The Times he used the same phrasing to describe a lady with a multi-barrelled surname, I wrote to express sadness that the ageing Levin was plagiarising the youthful Taper. His reply, which I have framed, tells me that he had difficulty in deciding whether to be honoured that I had remembered or to murder me in my bed for the embarrassment that I had caused him.

Patrick Arbuthnot

Amersham, Bucks

Henry Ford did not say all history was “bunk”. He said much history was bad history and therefore more or less bunk

Sir, Alice Thomson (Jan 7) repeats the old chestnut that Henry Ford said that “history is bunk”. He said nothing of the sort. What he did say was that much history was bad history, and was therefore more or less bunk. He was not criticising history but the way it was interpreted and taught. He was so concerned that well-based history should be available that he endowed history faculties in a number of US universities. I suspect Ford would have a chuckle over the way history has recorded his comments. It illustrates what he said most wonderfully.

Professor Emeritus Garel Rhys

Cardiff University



If the Health Secretary has the power to cancel the pensions of doctors, should not doctors have the same power?

Sir, If the Health Secretary has the power to cancel the pensions of doctors whose actions lead to “loss of confidence in the public service” (report, Jan 8), should not doctors have the right to reciprocate?

Dr John Doherty

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks


The pictures of the seafront at Aberystwyth brought back bitter-sweet memories for me; it was there that I found love

Sir, Your pictures of the seafront at Aberystwyth (Jan 7) brought back many memories of chasing the waves along the prom. However, your picture of the shelter collapsing is a sad one for it was in there, 57 years ago, that I received my first kiss from the lady who became my wife.

Bryan Jones

Kingswood, Glos






SIR – Every film and television portrayal of Sherlock Holmes repeats the same mistake in having the number 221B on the front door of the detective’s house.

Residences in Baker Street like Sherlock Holmes’s were originally built as large family houses, but their functions were overtaken by social change in the late Victorian age, and many became economically viable only as sets of rooms let floor by floor. 221B would thus have been the first-floor lodging of Holmes and Watson, 221A the ground-floor set, with the housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, living in the basement. The number of the front door, however, would have been plain old no 221.

Norman White
Venice, Italy


SIR – Today the public learns of the deplorable practices that were instrumental in the Government’s decision to reverse its commitment to save thousands of lives through implementing a minimum unit price for alcohol. An investigation conducted by the British Medical Journal shows that ministers met drinks industry representatives to discuss alternative measures to minimum pricing at a time when the principle of this policy was not up for public debate.

This will fuel fears that big business is trumping public health concerns in Westminster. With deaths from liver disease rapidly rising, and teenagers now presenting with advanced liver failure, the Government has a duty to realise its commitment to introduce minimum pricing. This policy is supported by a growing evidence base and has shown remarkable real-life benefits in reducing health and social harms in Canada.

The Prime Minister said, when announcing his proposals to introduce minimum pricing, “the responsibility of being in Government isn’t always about doing the popular thing. It’s about doing the right thing.” We call on Government to stop dancing to the tune of the drinks industry and prioritise public health.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore
Special Adviser on Alcohol, Royal College of Physicians and Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance UK
Dr Nick Sheron
Head of Clinical Hepatology, University of Southampton
Professor Mark A Bellis
Alcohol Lead, UK Faculty of Public Health
Katherine Brown
Director, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Eric Appleby
Chief Executive, Alcohol Concern
Dr Peter Rice
Chairman, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP)
Professor Terence Stephenson
Nuffield Professor of Child Health, UCL, and Chair, UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
Dr Tom Smith
Chief Executive, British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr John Middleton
Vice President, UK Faculty of Public Health
Professor Linda Bauld
Director, Institute of Social Marketing, University of Stirling and Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Colin Shevills
Director, Balance, the North East Alcohol Office
Dr Evelyn Gillan
Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
Professor Jonathan Shepherd
Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Director, Violence Research Group, Cardiff University
Dr Kieran Moriarty
Alcohol Lead, British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Marsha Y Morgan
Principal Research Fellow & Honorary Consultant Physician, UCL Institute for Liver & Digestive Health, UCL London
Dr J-P van Besouw
President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
Professor Colin Drummond
Chairman, Medical Council on Alcohol
Hazel Parsons
Director, Drink Wise North West
Andrew Langford
Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Shirley Cramer
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Professor Gerard Hastings
Institute of Social Marketing, University of Stirling and The Open University

Flood aid

SIR – When there are disasters abroad, the Government rushes to send aid. Now that we have a similar situation here, we should pay compensation to householders and small businesses that have suffered from the floods. Because of the debt that we inherited from Labour, we cannot increase spending. I suggest we drop the name “overseas aid” and call it “disaster aid”.

The Government should immediately transfer £1 billion from the swollen aid budget, which is increasing by 40 per cent in this Parliament, and use it to pay compensation, and to have a crash programme of coastal and flood defences to protect our people in the future.

John Townend
MP for Bridlington and East Yorkshire (Con), 1979 – 2001

SIR – The recent effects of weather and tides on our coastal areas were exceptional but predictable.

There was a new moon, with the Moon in line with the Sun, which always results in higher than normal tides. The Moon was at “near perigee”, the closest point in its orbit to earth, reinforcing this effect.

These factors alone would have caused exceptionally high tides. The storm surges caused by the high winds were sufficient to wreak havoc along our coasts.

Had these phenomena been reported along with the weather forecasts, victims might have been better prepared.

Martin Mayer
Heskin, Lancashire

Sin-free baptism

SIR – You report that some clergy believe the Church of England should remove references to sin from baptism services because people associate the word with sex and cream cakes rather than religious transgressions.

This is like leaving the study of war out of a history curriculum because it might upset the students.

George Stebbing-Allen
Wigginton, Hertfordshire

Child care crisis

SIR – The toxic Dutch auction between the main political parties on who can make the “best” universal child care offer is catastrophic for our children’s well-being.

Forcing parents back into the workforce will compromise vital early attachment relationships essential for children. Far from attacking family life, we need policies that favour bringing down the cost of living (especially in housing), investing in parenting education and community-based initiatives, implementing family-friendly allowances and tax breaks, and helping employers offer more flexible working milieux.

Ed Miliband wishes to “deal with the cost-of-living crisis”. Driving the parents of young children into the workforce (when unemployment remains stubbornly high) is not in any way “dealing” with the crisis; it is merely reacting to its symptoms.

Dr Richard House
Early Childhood Department, University of Winchester


SIR – Fraser Nelson complains that the Government is infringing on our civil liberties by accessing emails and mobile phone conversations.

There is a war going on: the liberal West is opposed by an enemy, which finds our way of life so unacceptable that it will attack in any way that it can in an effort to destroy our society. The weak point in its strategy is that our enemy (at present) uses a great deal of electronic means of communication, which is simple and speedy.

However, examining these electronic means of communication is one of the reasonably sure ways that our security services can find out what these terrorists are up to and infiltrate their ranks. Through cyber-sleuthing, many attempted attacks have been prevented.

Tony Silverman
Edgware, Middlesex

Food pairing

SIR – In attempting to commit to Dry January, I am able to forsake my regular glass of wine when dining at home or out, but I am at a loss when it comes to finding a suitable substitute that is neither sweet nor fizzy to drink during the meal. Any suggestions?

Sandra Woods
Harrogate, West Yorkshire


SIR – Decreasing the motorway speed limit to 60mph in some areas will make long journeys even longer and more tiring. It is also harder to maintain alertness and concentration if driving at a lower speed than is necessary. These two factors will increase the likelihood of road accidents.

Melvyn Owen
Somersham, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Introducing 60mph limits will not only lead to more delays and accidents, but will increase the amount of exhaust pollution in the areas affected.

Those of us who learnt physics at school will be aware of Bernoulli’s equation, in which the density of a fluid is inversely proportional to its average speed.

As frequently demonstrated on sections of the M25 where variable limits are used, the amount of congestion increases when traffic is slowed.

Chas Bazeley
Colchester, Essex

SIR – This is a careful plan to extract yet more money from the motorist in speeding fines under the guise of health and safety.

Barry Purdon
Staines, Middlesex

SIR – If air quality improvement really were the justification for the proposed 60mph motorway speed limit, surely it would be smarter to have variable speed limits based on pollution output, easily monitored by the automatic number plate recognition system.

Gas-guzzling “Chelsea tractors” and dirty diesels could be limited to 50mph, while more environmentally friendly cars could still do the full 70mph.

Graham Hoyle
Baildon, West Yorkshire

SIR – Why does Edmund King, the AA’s president, consider that motorists will be “penalised” by a 60mph limit? Does the AA represent only those drivers who want to drive at high speeds?

Many drivers resent feeling as if they are joining a manic race, and they avoid using motorways whenever possible. Slowing down to reduce pollution will not be such a hardship.

Barbara Davy
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

SIR – Proposals to reduce the speed on British motorways are just another example of EU madness. The EU preaches to member states about environmental issues, but fails to look at its own conduct.

Recently, MEPs received an email from EU bureaucrats, informing them that they would now be turning televisions off in MEPs’ offices between visits to Strasbourg.

As the Strasbourg Parliament is only open one week a month, this meant televisions were being left on for three weeks at a time — and it had taken the EU this long to realise.

Nikki Sinclaire MEP (We Demand a Referendum Party)


Irish Times:


Sir, – Pat Rabbitte says that the pylon consultations need to improve. Of course he’s right. Now he and the rest of the Government need to do something about it. The Grid Link consultation process only allows “the public” and “stakeholders” to make submissions to EirGrid to help the company to “identify a least-constrained corridor option” that will be one kilometre wide for overhead cables and pylons. Let’s have proper consultations, not just meetings with gridline company consultants.

This “consultation” is just a means of getting soundings from the public about whether they want the gridline over our land, his land, her land or their land. Not in my back yard is the natural response. It’s the proposed method, not the means, that’s creating the problems. There is no consultation on the method. Why not put the cables underground? Why not consider this for at least some of the area? Will the existing electrical gridlines be eliminated and removed when the new ones are installed?

It is the responsibility of our democratically elected Government to take care of public health and to allay people’s fears about proposed national projects. Dismissive statements repeating the EirGrid comments about creating platforms for future jobs are not enough. A €500 million investment covering such a large area is not a very large amount of money. Anglo Irish Bank created much larger jobs platforms for much bigger investors in the Celtic Tiger days.

The people of Ireland are generally interested in “renewable energy” and won’t object to a “secure electricity supply” nor to any suppliers of “platforms for jobs” in the regions. They may even be interested in an electricity “link between either Britain or France”. The public – the people of Ireland – are interested in their health. They are also interested in their families, their future and their environment. These topics were not included for consultation. – Yours, etc,



Co Sligo.

A chara, – At a meeting, many years ago,  to discuss widening of the Dublin to Waterford road at Jerpoint Abbey, the difficulties were listed. With the river in front and the railway line behind, what was to be done? “Knock th’abbey”, suggested some wag. Proposals to criss-cross the country with electricity pylons sound very much like another “knock th’abbey” moment.   – Is mise,


Jerpoint West,

Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – The Taoiseach’s comments on the necessity of an extensive pylon construction programme are an insult to those who oppose this attempt to destroy the pristine beauty of rural Ireland. Implicitly labelling the said objectors as opponents of job creation is a cynical ploy.

These pylons are an affront to Ireland, a country which has always traded on its clean, green image. For every job the pylons bring, two more will be lost in the tourism and agriculture sector, both of which will be directly affected by their construction. Rural Ireland is not the German Ruhr. It is about time that the perpetrators of such idiotic schemes realised that. – Yours, etc,


The Swan,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – What utter fools we would be to rush to deface our exquisite landscape with pylons and wind turbines. When our world collapsed around us it was the beauty of our country which continued to attract income in the form of tourism and to sustain us as individuals with the eternal reassurance of nature. If we ruin it, we have nothing. Our unique and fragile landscape can yield a wholesome and sustainable prosperity; we must treasure and protect it above all. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Mobile phone masts, wind turbines, nuclear power, oil and gas exploration, incinerators, electricity pylons, etc, etc. Thank God the railways are already here! – Yours, etc,


Caldra House,


Co Leitrim.


Sir, – Does Alan Dukes take us all for amadáns? He tells us that people on the IBRC list of “politically exposed” or “high-profile” persons “were treated in the same way as any other bank customer” (“No special deals for listed Anglo borrowers, says Dukes”, Front Page, January 7th ).

We are asked to believe these people were treated differently in order to ensure they were not treated differently. Indeed “any suggestion to the contrary is without foundation”.

Your correspondent then reported, “The board of the IBRC was updated on politically exposed persons at every board meeting and the Minister was notified of any decision that had a public interest dimension”.

There was no mention of even a raised eyebrow. – Yours, etc,


Rathdown Park,


Sir, – Some additions to Jennifer O’Connell’s list of annoying phrases to be avoided in 2014 (“Ten phrases we could live without”, Life, January 8th): “Lessons will be learned”, “Optics”, “The Exit” and “The Gathering”. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – Allow me to augment Jennifer O’Connell’s list: “the spend” (beloved of Government Ministers); “A disconnect between” (beloved of talking heads); “a rebranding exercise” (beloved of PR people and perhaps some within the Limerick City of Culture board and committee). – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – “Look-back exercise” (a review); “learnings” (lessons or conclusions); “period of negative growth” (a recession); “significant challenge” (an unmitigated fiasco). – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Hey, Jennifer, “lighten up”. “Just saying”, like. – Yours, etc,


Cathal Brugha Street,

Dublin 1.


Sir, – If politicians and bureaucrats wish to use artists – people of creativity, originality and vision – as tools in some fatuous “rebranding” exercise, may I respectfully suggest that they stick to dead ones? – Yours, etc,


Rathgar Avenue,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s response to the Limerick City of Culture controversy is a good illustration of the type of ivory tower arrogance that often surrounds controversies in the arts world (“Artists insulted in Limerick debacle”, Opinion & Analysis, January 7th).

He says that linking art and culture to branding the place from which they originate is “deeply misconceived” and “an insult to artists”. He goes on to say that artists “question, transform, challenge, disturb, mock, make strange” but do not have “the slightest interest in taking part in a positive branding exercise”.

Pardon me, Mr O’Toole, but if €6 million of public money is to be spent on this project, then we have a right to expect that there is some dividend for the people of Limerick and not just the local arts “luvvies”. It is extraordinarily arrogant of him to suggest that the project should be organised and run by artists, solely for the benefit of these same artists.

If either Mr O’Toole or the artists of Limerick want to keep the world of arts and culture entirely to themselves, then I would respectfully suggest that they seek private sources of funding to do so. – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – We should resist the temptation of raining on other people’s parade. This is Limerick’s year and perhaps the parochial Irish media would serve us better by dispatching correspondents to the City of Culture for a year rather than viewing the present juicy spectacle from a distance and with rarefied disdain.

Perhaps Fintan O’Toole should come to Limerick and see what is going on at ground level.

I think his article requires a follow-up from the author, based not on preconceived attitudes and cynicism, but on experiencing the events themselves, rather than damning the project from a safe distance of 120 miles. – Yours, etc,



Tulla ,

Co Clare.


Sir, – Una Mullally’s article on the quality of modern buildings in Dublin (“Slamming the door on decent design”, Opinion & Analysis, January 6th) cannot go without some response from an architect. As one who has been involved in designing buildings for 50 years, particularly housing, I feel the need for a riposte.

Before the last two decades, architects had a limited role in designing housing in the capital, as speculative builders, with a few exceptions, did not employ architects. Liam Carroll of Zoe Developments did not employ one until the late-1990s.

The public sector did employ architects and this was reflected in the fact that the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s housing silver medal was for many years awarded to public housing projects, and from the 1970s Dublin City Council built many attractive schemes of terrace housing in the inner city, following the pattern of previous generations. It was only in the boom years that three private projects in the Dublin Docklands have been awarded successive medals.

It must be admitted that many architects until recent years had not been involved in large-scale housing, which is the most difficult design task for an architect.

This, combined with the lack of experience across the construction industry, resulted in a high percentage of poor design and construction during the boom.

However, there have been some benefits from the boom. Some good projects have been completed and statutory standards have been raised well above those in the UK.

Incidentally, the next phase at Clancy Barracks is all about the preservation and adaptation of the historic buildings.– Yours, etc,


O’Mahony Pike Architects,

Milltown, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Una Mullally spoke the beams and bolts of my own long-held views regarding the torrent of disastrous builds and deconstructions of the past 60 years in our cities and towns. She rightly pointed out the professional ire to which mere plebs find themselves subjected when daring to discuss building design. If the non-versed (architecturally speaking) can recognise the ugly, poorly crafted and cheap nature of nearly all current builds, then surely our design elite should too. I do not wish to plead for a return to Georgian or even Edwardian pomposity, merely that current public and commercial buildings not stand in sheer defiance of their neighbours’ and ancestors’ charms.

We may well lament the lost architecture and beautification projects, well documented on the excellent Archiseek website, or even the joined-up thinking that our cities’ leaders were once afforded, in an age where the only link between different schemes seems to be either “eclectic” or “incarceratory”, at best. I grant that the some excellent schemes have been initiated, Opera Lane in Cork being a personal favourite. The new quayside Courts of Justice in the capital also deserves an honourable mention. – Yours, etc,




Co Kerry.


A chara, – Contrary to your editorial (January 7th), teachers are subject to oversight of their work and face sanctions for non-performance of their duties or for professional misconduct. There is an established legislative basis for this in section 24 of the Education Act, which includes sanctions up to and including dismissal. In 2009 the publication of these revised procedures was reported in your newspaper.

Your editorial says the Department of Education’s chief inspector admitted that under current procedures only two cases had been taken to deal with underperforming teachers. The chief inspector’s most recent report states that disciplinary procedures provide for a staged process whereby boards dissatisfied with a teacher’s work or behaviour can require him or her to bring about improvement. Only if a board remains dissatisfied with the teacher’s work is a review of the teacher’s work by the inspectorate sought, as has happened on two occasions. The procedures are meant to resolve most cases at school level and it is clear this is what happens.

The Teaching Council will soon get from the Minister for Education full legal powers to conduct inquiries into the fitness to teach of any registered teacher and the power to remove teachers from the register and hence from eligibility for employment as a teacher in Ireland. What Ruairí Quinn did last week was simply agree to provide additional but proportionate sanctions to the Teaching Council, something the council itself had requested of him two years ago.

The question your editorial should have addressed is why it took two years to progress such a relatively straightforward request. – Is mise,


General Secretary,



Sir, – I welcome Sean O’Sullivan’s letter (January 7th) concerning fitness-to-practise inquiries for nurses and midwives.

I am appalled that disciplinary hearings in respect of nurses and doctors have, by law, to be held in public. The mere fact of such an inquiry in respect of a nurse or doctor puts that person in the role of an accused in the public mind and, irrespective of an inquiry’s findings, compromises their professional and personal reputation.

The law underpinning this state of affairs is, to my mind, constitutionally suspect, in that it reeks of unfairness and highlights a lack of natural justice. A nurse or doctor refusing to appear before a disciplinary hearing, unless it were conducted other than in public, might well have such a refusal upheld by the courts, and with unsavoury consequences for the disciplinary body.

The legislation needs to be amended accordingly, and with urgency. – Yours, etc,





Sir, — I refer to David Walsh’s letter (January 3rd) in which he asserts that the TEEU has some questions to answer in relation to our support for the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign and whether we consulted our members on the issue.

The TEEU delegates to the March 2010 Women’s Conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) held in Belfast put forward a motion “that the trade union movement should redouble its efforts in winning support for this important campaign, as the human trafficking and the exploitation of adults and children in the sex industry . . . is contrary to basic human rights and is in contravention of ILO [International Labour Organisation] conventions”. The motion was debated and adopted.

The TEEU policy conference held later that year adopted a similar motion, the text of which was circulated in advance to 200 delegates from all facets of Irish society. It was debated in workshops to maximise delegate input.

The TEEU then joined other unions and civil society organisations to seek new laws in Ireland to protect such vulnerable people.

There are currently 66 such organisations affiliated to the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Macra na Feirme and the Union of Students in Ireland. These can hardly be described as either radical feminist or religious fundamentalist organisations, as characterised by Mr Walsh. – Yours, etc,


General Secretary,


Gardiner Row,


Sir, – Joanne Doyle (January 8th) criticises the Irish trade mission to Saudi Arabia in a similar manner to previous correspondents critical of Irish connections with Bahrain.

The fact is that we live in a world where others have different values and ways of life.

We are faced with a choice when we don’t agree with others – negotiate with them and try to find common ground or cast them out and refuse to do business with them. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.




Irish Independent:


I wonder where your correspondent S O’Rourke has been for the last 30 years (Letters, January 6). He must have never spoken to any members of the farming community or had to drive from Dublin to Galway before the motorways were completed.

Also in this section

The case for eternal Christmas

Editorial: Pylon problem could be real headache for Kenny

Why Pope is the only hope to save church

This journey can now be completed in two hours –prior to the motorway it could take a half day. Surely he would have seen the signs all over the place stating that this project was being funded by the European Union.

Being members of the EU has made farming viable and sustainable for a large section of the population. It has also been a key factor in our foreign direct investment programme. Irish students can now benefit from the Erasmus programme which gives them a wonderful opportunity to acquire another language and cultural enrichment.

This latter point would obviously not be of much importance to S O’Rourke, given his assertion that he felt more British than European and that English was good enough for him.

Mainly because of this attitude, the possibilities for our unemployed are now largely limited to the Anglo sphere. Irish emigrants, because of our appalling foreign language deficit, must now seek work in Australia or America, thousands of kilometres away, whereas if they had even a modicum of another European language they could find work on the European mainland, which is on average just a two-hour flight away.

Given the almost weekly revelations of scandals in various bodies here, I believe what this country needs is more stringent oversight from Europe, not less.

The departure of the troika was treated with glee in some quarters which I believe to be premature. Already there is an attempt to create or talk up another property boom in some quarters.

This proves that nothing has been learnt.

Directing anger towards Jose Manuel Barroso, like S O’Rourke and other Irish people are doing, is a misplaced reaction to our self-inflicted woes. Nobody was forced by Europe to borrow any money, this borrowing was fuelled by greed.




* In his football days Jimmy Deenihan was a tight-marking corner back who won five All-Ireland senior medals with his native Kerry. He was also an astute reader of the game who could deliver an effective pass to a team-mate.

In his more recent career as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, it’s clear Jimmy has lost none of his renowned football skills. First we had news of the resignation of Coimisineir Teanga Sean O Cuirreain, and now we have the resignations of Karl Wallace and Patricia Ryan in the Limerick City of Culture debacle.

Junior minister Dinny McGinley has taken most of the flak for the coimisineir’s departure, while Pat Cox has been the man in the eye of the storm over the Limerick resignations.

The corner back from Kerry, meanwhile, has escaped pretty much unscathed — a lesson here perhaps for more high-profile outfielders on the cabinet team, like Phil Hogan and James O’Reilly?




* Of course it seems like a loaded question, but can a great ape be classed as a legal person? Considering that his closest cousin is the chimpanzee, and we are the closest cousins to them both, there are plans to do just that. In New York (I know, where else?) a group of activists have filed lawsuits to grant them the “right to bodily liberty”.

They also hope the judges will recognise that chimps have a basic legal right not to be imprisoned. Their beef is the imprisonment of four of them in cages across New York state.

The activists also claim that not too long ago slaves were not classed as people but as property, so why not a chimp?

Because they can’t argue for their rights like children, they need representation. This is a very strong point indeed. Spain saw it that way too and passed a resolution in 2008 that deemed the great ape to be considered a legal person.

Of course, there is a deeper issue going on and that is stopping the abuse of all animals. The activists want the chimps restored to a more natural habitat and what we would consider to be a more humane existence.

Animals everywhere have little or no rights, and the sentences handed out to those that abuse them only encourage the abusers.




* Infallibility? Officially, it is an article of Catholic faith that the pope is infallible. My personal faith tells me there are many problems with this.

Most of us do not know what the term ‘infallibility ‘ actually means. I cannot find, in either scripture or tradition, any real proof of it. Christ promised to be with His church till the end of time. Is that not enough for us?

Papal infallibility was forced through the first Vatican Council by a political faction in 1870 — the pope is infallible because Pius IX said so.

My reading of church history tells me that Roman ‘infallibility’ has caused untold dissension and faction-fighting among Christians. Our petty quarrels have scandalised the human race for nearly 2000 years. Surely Christ wants us all to be Christians of one mind and one heart, not just a chosen few self-righteous ‘know-it-alls’. What does Pope Francis think of papal infallibility?




* I refer to the ongoing discussion regarding the President’s omission of ‘Christ’ or ‘Christianity’ in his Christmas message, the resultant disapproval of the head chaplain of the Defence Forces and the subsequent apology to the President from the new Defence Forces Chief of Staff. We were then advised that the President’s spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to ask if he is an atheist, “even though he had to swear a religious oath upon taking office” (Irish Independent, January 6).

I completely understand that the President’s personal beliefs are a source of interest for people, but to pitch his omission of a reference to Christ from his Christmas message as some form of hypocrisy in light of the presidential oath he took back in 2011 is to miss the point.

The main point here is the retention of the incongruities that are the constitutional requirements for presidential, Council of State and judicial candidates to swear oaths “in the presence of Almighty God” in Bunreacht na hEireann.

We cannot in good conscience claim to live in a republic whilst maintaining such overtly religious, exclusionary references in our Constitution. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of (including from) religion are recognised fundamental rights under Bunreacht na hEireann and cornerstones of any true republic. Yet in order to become President, a member of the Council of State or a judge, candidates who do not have religious beliefs are constitutionally required to perjure themselves.

These requirements are systematic bugs in our constitutional operating system. These anachronisms not only create difficulties for atheists and agnostics, but also for citizens with non-Catholic religious beliefs as well.

If you think the Constitution should be left as is, don’t try to tell me we live in a real Republic.



Irish Independent



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