Appointment

18 February 2014 Appointment
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Troutbridge has to pick up the Admirals barge, can she do it?
Better day Mary much improved. Consultant appointment, bank M&S tip, Peter
Scrabble today  Mary wins by one point  but gets just under 400, perhaps I will win tomorrow

Obituary:

Pamela Vandyke Price, who has died aged 90, was described in Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine as the “first woman to write seriously about wine in Britain and who did more than most to popularise wines after World War Two”.
In her time, Pamela Vandyke Price swirled, sniffed, sipped and spat thousands of bottles of wines, from Vin du table to grand cru. It left her with discoloured teeth and an encyclopedic knowledge of her subject. As well as writing some 30 books she was one of the first wine writers to recognise the high quality of wines coming from the New World, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; though her insistence on singing the praises of South African wine during the apartheid era did not go down well in politically correct circles.
Pamela Vandyke Price denied she had ever found it difficult being a woman in the male-dominated world of wine, but that was probably because her reputation for being prickly meant that few cared to stand in her way. In her autobiography Woman of Taste (1990) she admitted that “if I met myself I am certain I would find a number of dislikable traits, both in the way I look and how I behave”. She had never, she claimed, thought of herself as a woman, and only put on femininity “like a garment” when it seemed appropriate.

When she did encounter prejudice, however, she was more than capable of dealing with it. When an elderly wine connoisseur complained that he would be unable to taste anything due to all her “scents and smells”, her response was withering: “I can smell the preparation you use on your hair, the cleaning fluid that has been used on your suit, your boot polish – and you have a pipe in your pocket.”
In fact she seemed to thrive on confrontation, admitting in her autobiography that she kept going on “tannin and acidity”. Although a loyal friend to those she liked, she had a famously short fuse, and admitted being self-opinionated, with strong dislikes. These included shop-bought sandwiches, “nappy talk” (“Children bore me”), perfume in the tasting room, words like “togetherness”, stupid questions, people who pretend to know about wine but don’t and (surprisingly) bad manners. She enjoyed nurturing feuds: After she was “let go” as a Christie’s lecturer by Michael Broadbent, the head of the auctioneer’s wine department (one of several such debacles), she refused to sit at any table where Broadbent was seated. “I’m an all or nothing person,” she explained.
At The Times, where she was wine correspondent for 12 years before being summarily sacked, she blazed a trail for other women wine writers, but she never felt any sisterly solidarity. Her instructions for her own funeral featured a list of people not invited.
Pamela Vandyke Price had an extraordinarily good head for wine, yet she was well acquainted with the perils of over-indulgence, observing that: “The amount you can drink without crossing the crystalline edge between amiability and aggressiveness is both highly individual and a matter of habit. The red light may flicker when your elbow joints throb, your voice rises a tone or you are struck by your own wit and charm. That’s the moment to take some food, a glass of water, an aspirin, or all three, and possibly to leave the room.”
An only child, she was born Pamela Walford in Coventry on March 21 1923, the daughter of a clockmaker and his difficult, unstable Irish-French wife. Of her parents she observed that “they should never have married… they were quite unsuited”. Her mother was “very musical and to see her dance was wonderful. Yet she married a man who’d got no sense of music or timing.”
The family moved to London in the 1930s and Pamela was sent to and then removed from several boarding schools: “I was always in trouble and I never knew why. I was talking to a headmistress once about this and she said, ‘you’d have been a challenge’. But I just couldn’t accept people telling me to do something without telling me why I had to do it.”
Yet she won a place to read English at Somerville College, Oxford, where she was taught by CS Lewis (“no sense of humour, a maimed person”) and JRR Tolkien. She entertained the idea of a stage career and after graduation took a two-year course at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
In 1950 she married Alan Vandyke Price, a student doctor. Needing to earn money, she abandoned thoughts of the stage and landed a job as household editor with House & Garden — part of the Condé Nast magazine empire. “Now, let me see,” she mused later, “did they sack me three times or only twice?” Yet on the whole she seems to have been treated with indulgence. As well as editing food and drink features, she was encouraged to start writing about wine by Condé Nast’s chairman Harry Yoxall.
In 1955, however, after only five years of marriage, her husband died from hepatitis caught from a patient and not long afterwards she was sacked from her job. For the next few years she worked as a press officer for various food concerns, including the Potato Marketing Board, where she was known as “Pam de Terre”.
While still struggling to get over the shock of her husband’s death, she began attending tastings given by the Wine and Spirits Association. At one of these she was introduced to Allan Sichel, head of the Bordeaux shippers, a legendary figure in the business. He invited her to lunch, during which he told her he was going to Burgundy in three weeks’ time and would she like to go too? “I was a pretty piece in those days and thanks to Mummy I always had nice things to wear. So I said to him:, ‘Why do you want me to go with you?’
“And he said: ‘Not, my dear child, for the reason you obviously think. I’m an old man now, my wife doesn’t like long drives and I think you’d amuse me,’”
Some felt that had circumstances been different, she and Sichel would probably have married, despite a 23-year age gap. He took Pamela on trips to France, where she gradually developed her knowledge of wine, and encouraged her to study for wine exams, which led to her becoming a freelance wine writer. In 1966, a year after Sichel’s death, she published her first book on wine, France, a Food and Wine Guide (1966).
In the late 1960s she spent three years as editor of Wine & Food before being taken on by The Times. She also wrote for the Sunday Times and the Observer and worked as a freelance broadcaster and lecturer.
Pamela Vandyke Price was the first winner of the Glenfiddich Award for her wine writing in 1971 and won a further Glenfiddich Medal in 1973. In 1981 she was appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French government. In the early 1960s she played a leading role in the formation of the Circle of Wine Writers, serving as programme secretary, chairman, president and trustee “in perpetuity”.
Pamela Vandyke Price, born March 21 1923, died January 12 2014

Guardian:

It is now only two weeks before patient medical records start to be uploaded to the government’s latest wheeze, the care.data database, ready to be sold off to all comers, and I still have not had the promised leaflet through my door (Report, 13 February). In spite of (or maybe because of) this, I have already told my GP practice that I wish to opt out, as my confidence in the government’s ability to (a) deliver this IT project and (b) ensure my privacy is non-existent.
Laurie Canham
London
• How life affirming it was to hear Helen Mirren’s generous tribute at the Baftas to the inspirational teacher who first fostered in her a love of poetry and drama. Ofsted might like to note that this was unlikely to have been the result of Miss Wheldon’s ability to raise her pupils so many APS points in a term or achieve meaningless paper targets, but rather this teacher’s passion for her subject and how it enthused the pupils in her care. On behalf of teachers up and down the land, a sincere thank you, Dame Helen.
Pauline Daniels
Salford
• Hurray for Chris Smith (G2, 17 Februaery). A boss who sticks up for his staff. When can teachers have one of those? Or social workers? Perhaps Lord Smith will be awarded the order of the Golden Hatpin for puncturing Pickles.
Diana Lord
Cranfield, Bedfordshire
• Excellent idea (Why not send the Lords to Lancaster?, G2 17 February). The site identified is currently occupied by a cattle market and abattoir so conversion costs should be minimal. Alternatively, consideration might be given to Lancaster’s redundant castle, recently vacated by HM Prison Service. Unique accommodation opportunities: many single rooms with integral sanitation. Apply to the owner – HM the Queen.
Hugh Roberts
Lancaster
• Sorry, but the good folk of Haltwhistle in Northumberland have already claimed “centre of Britain”.
John Huntley
Manchester
• With regard to calls for floods disaster relief (Report, 12 February), can I suggest a one-off tax on bankers’ bonuses? More a “galeforce tax” than a “windfall tax”.
David Collins
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

Your editorial compares the era of the admirable and magnificent Tom Finney with what you obviously regard as the evils of the modern game (In praise of…, 17 February). However, your sports writers, along with others in the media, seem to delight in reporting the idiotic soap opera of managerial mind games. Your review of Tom Finney’s career (15 February) revealed his attempt to earn the rewards his talent deserved by moving to Italy. He was prevented from doing so because, like all his fellow working-class professionals at the time, he was the victim of the retain and transfer system which made him in effect “14 years a slave”.
Do I detect in your editorial comment a hankering for a bygone age when working-class sportsmen knew their place? Interesting also to note that you continue to quote footballers’ salaries as a weekly sum. I cannot think of any other sport where this applies. I don’t suppose that Wayne Rooney queues up on a Friday afternoon to collect his money in a brown envelope as Tom Finney probably did, but I am pretty sure what Tom would have preferred.
David Cronin
Stockport
• You quite correctly refer to today’s “charmless cacophony” in your praise of a saner age in football. Can I suggest that in tribute to that era you hold your own brief period of silence by not reporting some of the mega-ego statements that so often fill your own sports pages?
Lee Porter
Bridport, Dorset
• In addition to his comment about him being a great footballer, even if wearing an overcoat, Bill Shankly made another astute observation about his beloved Tom Finney. After a Sheffield United v Liverpool match in which Tony Currie played a blinder, Shankly was asked if he thought Currie was now as good as Finney. “Aye, maybe,” he replied. “But dinnae forget, Tommy’s nearly 60 now.”
Peter Lock
Liverpool

Your report (The Church of England’s fight to fill its vacancies in the north, 15 February) omits one important dimension – the issue of female clergy. Over 20 years have passed since the church’s governing synod voted overwhelmingly to welcome women as priests, and now over 20% of Durham priests are women. Short of clergy as we are, female clergy play a vital part in keeping the parish structure alive. St Oswald’s Church is a focus of reaction to these most welcome reinforcements. By insisting on male priests, by demanding “flying” Bishops, special ordinations and separate confirmations, it threatens the unity of the church and makes essential reorganisation impossible. As an Essex born, Cambridge-trained priest, I transferred from my home county to Durham in 1991 because of the need for clergy. The people I came to work with are wonderful and for that reason I have never regretted the move. However, I find the squabbling about gender in the diocese most unwelcome and wonder if it may be this, rather than the cold weather, that is discouraging priests from moving north.
Bill Broad
Bishop Auckland, County Durham
• Fr North is quite right about the challenge to our being truly the “Church of England” here in the north. Two hundred years ago, the church failed to respond quickly enough to the population explosion in the north and the Methodist church in particular stepped into the breach. Now Anglicans are still striving to minister in areas where other denominations have pulled out – some of these clergy being the heirs of the Anglo-Catholic “slum priests” of the later 19th century. We are falling over ourselves to rationalise resources, but still dioceses hang on to their own endowments, and the south is far wealthier than the north.
Beyond that there is a problem of fairness within the nation itself. Over the past 40 years, governments have pursued policies which have wrecked northern industries and blighted our communities. The churches respond with food banks and drop-in centres, but we can’t heal the wounds and many of us are struggling to continue as worshipping Christian communities within buildings which, in any other part of the EU, would be publicly funded as part of our common heritage. Now is probably not a good time to complain “it’s grim up north”: we’re not flooded out of our homes. But thought and resources need to be put into developing the long-term futures of our communities too; and the Church of England, with our ecumenical partners, will be here to help it happen.
Fr Geoffrey White
Rector of Norton, Sheffield
• The articles by Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 15 February) and Joanna Moorhead should be read together. Moorhead gives an account of the north-south divide in church appointments which mirrors the government’s ideological agenda of transferring wealth, power and influence from the poor to the rich, from north to south. Durham county council will have lost 40% of its grant by 2015-16. The spending power of Durham will be reduced by 6% whereas that of Surrey (+3.%) and Buckinghamshire (+2.5) will actually increase. Hopefully there are people in the south, who have a conscience, especially in the church, who will fight for equality, justice and fairness for the whole country.
Rev Councillor Mike Dixon
Aycliffe North and Middridge

We write in relation to your article “British firm accused of supplying poor-quality drugs to Kyrgyzstan” (4 March 2013) relating to Rotapharm and the medicine Repretin. Both Rotapharm Limited (registered no. 05596694) and World Medicien Limited (registered no. 5285227) were incorporated in the UK under the Companies Act 1985 (Rotapharm in 2005, World Medicine in 2004). Both companies are registered taxpayers in the UK. They meet their tax liabilities in full and are audited on a regular basis. Mr Raushan Tahiyeu is also a UK taxpayer. Repretin is manufactured in Eygpt and was registered in Kyrgyz Republic in 2009. In addition, it has been registered in other territories of other CIS countries. Rotapharm is the exclusive supplier of Repretin to the CIS countries but has no representative office in Kyrgyz Republic, contracting with local distributors. Marketing is conducted in Kyrgyz Republic by the distributing companies that import the medicines. In February 2013 questions were raised over Repretin. However, all the distributing companies which have imported and sold Repretin in Kyrgyz Republic have been audited by the relevant Kyrgyz authorities pursuant to parliamentary commission request. They had not revealed any violations. After the allegations against Repretin came to light, samples were sent to the Kyrgyz ministry of health to an independent laboratory for analysis. That laboratory has confirmed the quality and safety of Repretin. The Kyrgyz ministry of health has now set the record straight.
Rotapharm Limited and Raushan Tahiyeu

The English Civil War course taken by Georgina Henry was part of the London University BA history degree in the 1980s. This special paper was a final-year, document-based class and, although it was not Georgina’s first choice, her interest in new, even revolutionary, thinking, radical politics and religion, allied to her concern for the lives and ideas of people “below the line”, gave her an opportunity to shine. Another member of the class, who went on to complete a doctoral thesis in the same subject, was her future husband, Ronan Bennett.
An intercollegiate course, it was taught by Barry Coward at Birkbeck in the evening, and myself at King’s College in the Strand during the day. Both Georgina and Ronan were mature students and she combined her day job with the demands of the course. Only someone with her energy, drive and effectiveness could have managed it.
She was always smiling broadly: her attitude was invariably friendly, democratic and egalitarian. My wife and I got to know her well and later explored the attractions and restaurants of our home territory of Blackheath with her. We were delighted to hear of her pioneering work in open-access publishing: her success came as no surprise.

Independent:

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is spot on that conservative climate-change deniers are in trouble (17 February). However they won’t go away. She omits the politics of denial.
I am sure many people have wondered why most or all of the prominent deniers are right-wing and rich. There are several reasons.
Most rich people get their wealth from the mass consumer market, of which oil and gas are major parts. If environmentalists say that this mass consumption is leading to catastrophe, then short-sighted, profit-driven politics will deny it.
All businessmen want freedom to make their money how they want. They want no restrictions – or constraints on business as they call them. Environmental concerns or indeed health-and-safety issues can be seen as a constraint on business, and so must be rubbished.
Ideology is vital for the rich. They have to justify a world where they have what they want but most people don’t. In Britain today  5 per cent of the population own over half the wealth. Arguments that place human need (or animal need) over their wish to make as much money as they want are poison  to them.
Of course many deniers are not rich and may not vote for right-wing parties. However no one who wants to have their place in the mass consumer market wants to be told that it’s fool’s gold, that we all lose out in the end. In addition, many environmentalists or left-wingers are seen as weird or trouble-makers. You can then add in the effect of the right-wing media.
The only way that deniers like Lord Lawson will change is when the world ends.
Mark Dougal, Manchester
The climate change debate grinds on. Those with heads in the sand (probably wet by now) might consider this: the reason given for the current spate of floods and heavy snow is that the Arctic is melting quite fast, thus altering the flow of the jetstream, and more moisture is being sucked up from the Atlantic.
We were told today that the Antarctic is not melting anything like as fast. We in the southern hemisphere are yet to suffer the same climate changes. It is a fact that 90 per cent of the population of the planet live in the northern hemisphere and hand in hand with that goes pollution and greenhouse gasses.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Barbara Ingram-Monk, Nelson,  New Zealand
The revelation of a right-wing bias at the BBC (15 February) possibly explains the decision by David Jordan, the BBC director of editorial policy and standards, to treat climate science as not settled. Refusal to accept the evidence for man-made climate change is, for whatever reason, a disease of the political right.
The sad outcome of this false balance is that ill-informed “sceptics” like Lord Lawson and their political campaign for inaction continue to be given undeserved airtime on BBC shows such as the Today programme.
Dr Richard Milne, Edinburgh

Flood defences better value than HS2
The Government proposes to spend £42.6bn on HS2, the high-speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and seeks to justify this on a cost-benefit ratio of 2.3:1, that is that the projected benefit is £2.30 for every £1 spent.
This controversial project will involve cutting a swathe through our countryside and the demolition of many properties, including listed buildings. However, for flood defence – protecting our existing land and properties – the Treasury has imposed an 8:1 cost-benefit ratio: there must be £8 of benefit for every £1 spent.
How can this difference be justified and does the Prime Minister’s recent “money no object” announcement mean that the 8:1 benefit requirement has been abandoned?
Rather than reducing our overseas aid expenditure and diverting the money to flood relief, as some are now urging (have we already forgotten the Philippines typhoon disaster?), I suggest we should cancel HS2 and spend the £42bn on maintaining our existing infrastructure, including flood defences, protecting and strengthening the present rail network, and repairing all the many potholes in our roads.
David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk
It was only a matter of time before someone in a city wrote to remind us that people living on floodplains were “gambling” and decrying the amount the urbanites had to spend to support these profligates (letter, 17 February).
As a country-dweller who lived within five miles of Muchelney and now lives close to Tewkesbury and Upton-on-Severn, can I point out to your correspondent, who apparently lives in the E15 postal area, that we could make yet further tax savings, for instance by switching off the power to the Thames Barrier?
Jo Mumford, Willersey, Gloucestershire

Finney shames today’s football
The tributes paid to Tom Finney before the football matches on Saturday were thoroughly deserved. I had the pleasure of watching this great footballer and gentleman on several occasions and I doubt that he was ever booked.
I then watched the game between Manchester City and Chelsea, which totally devalued all that had gone before. The petty and dangerous fouls never abated and the officials played their part in not controlling the mayhem.
I am sick and tired of seeing the attacking players at corner kicks either being hugged or actually wrestled to the ground by defenders who more often than not go unpunished by (in my opinion) the least competent officials since the Second World War.
A single sporting gesture in a game draws applause from, mainly, the older spectators. In professional football the Corinthian spirit is stone dead.
Mike Wells, London SW19

State school teachers can actually teach
Tom Holland comments on the teaching standards in private and state schools (The Big Questions, 8 February). Having attended a boarding school courtesy of the taxpayer, as my father was in the Royal Navy, I decided after my GCSE to switch to my local state comprehensive for A-levels.
I noticed two big differences, the more obvious being the discipline, what with state schools unable to compel students to stay behind for detention out of classroom hours, let alone for an entire Saturday afternoon!
However the biggest difference was the quality of the teaching. At boarding school the teachers all had BScs and similar degrees and were masters of their subjects, but most couldn’t teach for toffee. Pupils who didn’t immediately grasp a topic were simply marked down as a bit thick and sent down a stream. I spent many of my free hours teaching friends in lower streams the things they couldn’t understand after being “taught” in class.
The BEds at state school, whose in-depth subject knowledge was not as far-reaching, could explain any topic in myriad ways until every student able to understand it did so in an at least rudimentary fashion. These teachers did not need degree-level knowledge of their subjects because GCSE and A-level syllabuses do not include such material.
Dave Goodwin, Okehampton, Devon

Londoners priced out of London
The boom in the London housing market has been happening for 40 years or more to my knowledge, giving successive governments plenty of time to have come up with an answer (“Foreign buyers put housing out of Bank’s control”, 17 February).
When my partner and I first purchased a property together in the late 1970s we were “forced” to look outside central London, and found a seven-room mansion flat overlooking Battersea Park. My partner was mortified at living south of the river. Nowadays any ordinary buyer affording such a property would think they had died and gone to heaven.
It’s about time ministers and bank governors stopped making platitudinous statements and actually did something. Central London is now a no-go area for Brits, and those of us already here are having to live among short-term renters or the largely non-resident foreign rich. All this has a deleterious effect on neighbourhoods, making many formerly charming areas such as Chelsea “chi-chi” deserts, devoid of “Londoners”.
Mark Carney is keeping interest rates artificially low indefinitely because any hike in the rate is going to blow this ridiculous housing bubble apart.
Robert Senecal, London WC1

The elephant’s biggest enemy
Although I applaud your appreciation of the elephant and your attempt to save it from its marauding exploiters, there has of course always been a very large elephant in the room. Namely, China. “Global leaders” may well gather to “declare that enough is enough”, but until the main actor in this ongoing saga is brought to book, elephants will continue to die, and so will tigers.
Ray J Howes
Weymouth, Dorset

Times:

What sort of society imposes parking charges on those on whom we rely to treat the sick, or on those who come to visit?
Sir, As a lawyer at the Department of Health I was involved a case of a man whose car was clamped while he urgently took his sick wife to A&E. His credit card was refused when he tried to pay the release fee, and in a full waiting room he was told he was not creditworthy. He sued the Department for slander.
We concluded that the parking charge was ultra vires, and that such behaviour by an agency of the State was outrageous. Since then, however, hospitals have been given the power to charge for car parking.
I am currently in Charing Cross hospital (the private wing). Parking charges apply 24/7. My husband had to pay to visit me on Valentine’s evening. We’re lucky that we can afford it, but what sort of society imposes parking charges on those on whom we rely to treat the sick (letter, Feb 15)? Or charges its citizens to ferry the sick and to visit them? The Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, should end this shoddy practice now.
Patricia Langley
London W4
Sir, I had a bad experience at a hospital in Nottingham, where my mother had weekly chemotherapy. It is a 90-mile round trip from home. Then we waited hours for her appointments, never being seen on time, and once in the treatment room she could be there for another couple of hours. Often, due to lengthy waits, the ticket would expire and I would have to leave my mother while I got a new ticket. Pay parking spaces near by were rare and later in her treatment, when she was very weak and emotional, I would often have to leave her at the entrance and go to a distant overflow car park.
I complained to the parking manager and was told that the NHS is only free at the point of delivery; everything else has to be paid for, including parking. Eventually, I got my mother a Blue Badge, but the disabled spaces near the entrances were often used by contractors.
Linda Ellis
Barrow, Rutland
Sir, What may not be appreciated is that HM Revenue & Customs do not allow tax relief, when consultants are claiming the necessary expenses of the parking and clamping fines.
There can be no greater justification for claiming an expense than saving a life, and it is time the medical profession were allowed to claim such costs. After all it could be the patient is a civil servant.
Hugh Cartwright
London W2
Sir, My colleague Michael Carter hasn’t told the full story of hospital parking shenanigans in Bristol. For the privilege of competing for limited spaces and facing the heavy handed treatment he describes, our NHS trust charges its employees over 1 per cent of their salary — effectively imposing a tax for an amenity which is essential for frontline staff.
Dr James Rogers
Consultant Anaesthetist
Bristol
Sir, Mr Carter’s most telling comment was that he was clamped for parking, in an emergency, on a union rep’s dedicated parking space. Surely giving a neurosurgeon a parking space is a necessity while one for a union rep is an unnecessary luxury. However, no doubt the union has far more clout with the powers-that-be than a mere consultant neurosurgeon.
Chris Platford
Crudwell, Wilts

Governments have never been slow to acknowledge the suffering generated by the bombing of Dresden, but none has apologised
Sir, The comments of the Bishop of Coventry (letter, Feb 14) concerning Dresden and the 70th commemoration of the raid next year are timely. The huge destruction of human life and heritage which took place there (and in other cities) still needs to be better understood and more regularly remembered.
For over 20 years Britain’s Dresden Trust (with at its peak 2,500 members) has stood shoulder to shoulder with its friends in Coventry to promote British-German reconciliation, and politicians and members of the Royal Family have offered words of kindness and regret. In 1994 the Queen gave generously to the trust’s appeal and, in 1995 in Dresden itself, the Duke of Kent (the trust’s royal patron) expressed regret for the suffering of all peoples in the war, including self-evidently Dresdeners. Early on the Foreign Office donated £50,000, and over time the trust raised between £1 and £1.5 million. The orb and cross for the Frauenkirche that it crafted and donated was dubbed in 1998 (in a Times leader) on the occasion of Federal President Herzog’s state visit here — “The Cross of peace”.
Dr Alan Russell
President of Dresden Trust
Sir, The Bishop of Coventry says the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden would be an appropriate time for the government to acknowledge the suffering of the city and to express sympathy for those who still bear the scars. To my knowledge, successive governments have never been slow to acknowledge the suffering generated by the bombing, but what they have not been prepared to do was to apologise for the actions of Bomber Command. It should be remembered that at this stage of the war, Germany was far from being a defeated state, and that Allied Servicemen were still dying.
Ian Graham
Port Carlisle, Cumbria
Sir, The Bishop of Coventry’s call for a “word of kindness” is predicated on the assumption that the bombing of Dresden in itself was wrong. Those charged with the conduct of war did not have the luxury of contemplation and many did not live to see Nazi Germany defeated. They had to make decisions which we cannot even begin comprehend. Maybe the Bishop should be asking us to think about sacrifice?
Alan Collins
Petersfield, Hants

Is it worth putting hundreds of thousands of girls through an embarrassing procedure when they are not actually at risk?
Sir, Terrible though female genital mutilation is, I am horrified that Ruth Rendell (Feb 15) supports intimate examinations of all primary school girls to prevent it. Even after more than 60 years I can remember my fear of school medicals because I had to appear in my underwear. I am not projecting an adult “apprehension about genitals being touched”; I would probably have run away rather than submit to such an examination.
Hundreds of thousands of girls in this county are in no danger whatsoever of being mutilated in that way. Is it really the case that all of them would have to go through what is an embarrassing procedure because to select those known to be at risk would be seen as racist?
Clare Abbott
Horspath, Oxon

It is proposed to create a private company to deliver the operational side of the Land Registry, with only a small central office retained
Sir, I am concerned about the public consultation relating to the Land Registry. Registration of any property confers title on the registered proprietors. This record, and thus title, is held electronically by the Registry, so paper title deeds are no longer necessary. This change affects all houseowners and potential houseowners. It is proposed to create a private company to deliver the operational side of the Registry, with only a small central office retained.
Land Registry staff would become employees of a private, profit-making company, with one option being that this be part-owned by private investor(s), who might be any commercial organisation. The public service role of the staff would disappear and their responsibilities would be towards the company — not the government. The consultation has not been widely advertised, and the (very short) consultation period ends in March.
One could envisage a situation, as has risen with our power providers, whereby the registered title to all properties would be in the hands of an overseas company, or one with its own commercial interests in the property market. This concerns me.
Hilary Mobbs
Leeds

While the trade in illegal ivory is appalling, destroying works of art because they are made of it is just as indefensible
Sir, Although I understand why the Duke of Cambridge is planning to destroy all the ivory held by the Royal Family (Feb 17), it is likely to have a reverse effect as it would cut the supply and increase the demand, thereby enhancing the commercial gamble of continuing to poach.
It would make more sense to flood the market and sell the collection, as your cartoon suggests, and give the funds to an appropriate charity.
Hugh Cartwright
London W2
Sir, Destruction of fine art items worked in ivory is as indefensible as the burning of books.
J. R. Mckee
Beckenham, Kent
Sir, We could start with pianos.
Richard Wiseman
London NW11
Sir, I am of course appalled by the illegal trade in ivory, but where is the sense in destroying seized illegal tusks? This daft policy will not bring elephants back to life. Conservation projects need to be funded, and ivory has value.
Tim Hughes
Peterborough, Cambs

It is proposed to create a private company to deliver the operational side of the Land Registry, with only a small central office retained
Sir, I am concerned about the public consultation relating to the Land Registry. Registration of any property confers title on the registered proprietors. This record, and thus title, is held electronically by the Registry, so paper title deeds are no longer necessary. This change affects all houseowners and potential houseowners. It is proposed to create a private company to deliver the operational side of the Registry, with only a small central office retained.
Land Registry staff would become employees of a private, profit-making company, with one option being that this be part-owned by private investor(s), who might be any commercial organisation. The public service role of the staff would disappear and their responsibilities would be towards the company — not the government. The consultation has not been widely advertised, and the (very short) consultation period ends in March.
One could envisage a situation, as has risen with our power providers, whereby the registered title to all properties would be in the hands of an overseas company, or one with its own commercial interests in the property market. This concerns me.
Hilary Mobbs
Leeds

Telegraph:

SIR – The Zambian government has granted mining licences to Zambezi Resources – an Australian mining company – to mine copper in the Lower Zambezi Valley. This part of Zambia is not only an exceptional area of beauty but home to a number of species of wildlife including the elephant, lion and buffalo.
If this mining goes ahead, not only will it be detrimental to the wildlife, but it will also ruin a beautiful piece of Africa. It will bring little or no economic benefit to the local community.
Should this be allowed to continue, Australia will join China in the destructive rape of Africa for the benefit of themselves.
Mark Donkin
South Normanton, Derbyshire

SIR – John Richmond asks how Alex Salmond can expect the Scots to vote for independence without answers to significant questions relating to their currency and the EU.
In voting in the referendum, all eligible residents of Scotland will, in effect, only be voicing an opinion in response to a simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Should the referendum result in a Yes vote, on what legal grounds is the Scottish National Party (SNP) alone empowered to negotiate and settle a treaty of partition without a further mandate from the population of Scotland?
As it is clear that negotiations about the terms and conditions of separation will not begin prior to the referendum, the people of Scotland should not be expected to entrust their future, and that of future generations, without the electorate being able to ratify the separation agreement.
Ray Godfree
Kirknewton, Midlothian
SIR – Much political capital is being made by both sides regarding the future of the Scottish pound.
Apart from a number of overseas jurisdictions – the British pound is used in Gibraltar, the Channel islands and the Isle of Man – one foreign country used its own pound, linked to sterling, from its formation as an independent state in the Twenties until it entered the European Monetary System in the late Seventies.
If it worked for Ireland, why can it not work for Scotland?
Andrew Marshall
Medstead, Hampshire
SIR – Notwithstanding the Chancellor’s dismissal of the SNP’s currency union proposal, it would be good to have confirmation from all the leading parties that the United Kingdom will never join an independent Scotland (or any other foreign entity) in a currency union without first having put this to the British electorate via pre-election manifestos or as the subject of a referendum.
Robert Wilkin
Stanstead, Suffolk
Pension providers
SIR – With the help of my financial adviser, I found a better annuity by combining my three funds into one with a fourth provider. However, the charges that would have been made for withdrawing my money from the existing companies more than negated the benefit.
This is an issue that the Financial Conduct Authority should also be investigating.
Peter Halsted
Meeth, Devon
Racing to work
SIR – Your report makes no mention of the only commute that’s guaranteed to wake you up, prepare you for the day ahead and one that is fun: a motorcycle ride.
First thing, every morning, you need balance, control and judgment. You may get wet from time to time, but at least you will arrive at work alert. And have the journey home to look forward to.
Jonathan Lovett
Richmond, Surrey
Loos blues
SIR – Why is it impossible now to buy blue lavatory rolls? Unless we find some soon, I will be forced to redecorate my bathroom.
Michael Draper
Nether Wallop, Hampshire
Managing the NHS
SIR – David Nunn asserts that the NHS needs to be run by those who understand health care, not shopping. Management is just as much a skill as, for example, surgery. It, too, requires training and experience.
The NHS needs to be run by those who know how to manage, a quality Sir Stuart Rose has clearly demonstrated. Too often it is assumed that a good practitioner will make a good manager without any further training. One would never allow an outstanding hospital manager to practise medicine, so why look only to medical practitioners to manage the NHS?
Mike Perridge
Lincoln
SIR – Jeremy Hunt asking the former M&S chief to advise him on the NHS is only the latest, highly visible intervention by the Health Secretary in the day-to-day running of the health service.
The separation in responsibilities between the Department of Health and NHS England is increasingly unclear, despite this Government creating the latter organisation to “de-politicise” the NHS.
Dr Alex May
Manchester
Ticket frustrations
SIR – Last weekend, we travelled from Birmingham New Street to London Euston in one hour, 15 minutes. It then took a further hour to purchase return London Underground tickets to Covent Garden.
There were long queues for the ticket offices because several of the ticket machines were not in use, and many of the people unfamiliar with the machines struggled to use them, then gave up and joined the queue for the ticket offices.
For our part, we wanted to select five adult tickets, the machine offered a maximum of four. I confess we added a child ticket rather than give up.
Clive Witcomb
Birmingham
Stopping a bullet
SIR – My grandfather was also saved from death by his pocketbook. He was in Gallipoli, when a bullet was stopped by its presence in his breast pocket. As children, we were never allowed to touch this revered object, with its ragged hole. When my grandmother died, I donated it to his regiment, the Royal Scots, and it may still be seen on display today.
Susan Hughes
Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland
From China with love: a long-lasting bridal gown
SIR – My grandmother was married in a cream silk wedding dress in 1895. My mother was going to use it in 1937 when she married my father in Shanghai. However, the Sino-Japanese war was raging, so it was a toned-down wedding in Singapore without the dress.
In 1938, my mother, by now back in Shanghai, had it cut down to make a christening robe for me and my sister. Come the Japanese invasion of China in 1941, my father had 30 minutes to pack a small suitcase before being incarcerated until the end of the war. One of the few possessions he took was this christening robe. He, and it, survived.
Both my sisters, and my children and grandchildren, have all been christened wearing it. We have it stored for our great- grandchildren’s use.
Denis Kenyon
Hallaton, Leicestershire
SIR – When I was married in 1948, clothes were on ration, but, fortunately, I had a relation in New Zealand who was a dressmaker. She offered to make my wedding dress as a present. Two weeks before my wedding, the dress had not arrived and I made contingency plans to wear a borrowed dress from a friend.
The day of the wedding arrived, and I was about to put on the borrowed dress, when the postman brought a parcel from New Zealand containing a very creased dress. My neighbours helped me to iron the dress, together with a long train, which I had not requested and had not planned a train-bearer to carry it. Apart from that, it fitted beautifully, and I wore it for the ceremony, where it was much admired.
Connie Dyke
Gravesend, Kent
SIR – When I married in 1969, I borrowed my father’s tailcoat in which he had been married many years before. The trousers didn’t fit, so I hired a pair. I was so pleased with them that I bought them for £2. They still fit, and are occasionally worn.
Kevin Grover
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire

SIR – EU subsidies, I suspect, have encouraged farmers to extract the maximum from their land, resulting in ditches being ploughed to gain the most out of the acreage. Ploughing against the contours has ensured that in heavy rain much of the topsoil is washed away. Water that used to flow into the ditches now flows along the roads, resulting in flooding.
Shouldn’t the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), together with the National Farmers’ Union, take some of the blame for the vulnerable state of our farmland? As I understand it, Defra is responsible for establishing and co-ordinating farming policy and cannot stand back while the Environment Agency and the Government take all the blame.
Anthea Watson
Hereford
SIR – After the 2007 floods, my professional body, the Institution of Agricultural Engineers, published various articles on improvements to farming practices that would significantly reduce the causes of flooding at source.
It has been known for years that regular soil/water management techniques can significantly reduce rapid run-off, the major cause of flooding. Are we not guilty of neglecting available wisdom and failing to give it financial support?
Richard Osborne
Alcester, Warwickshire
SIR – It has been said that the recent rain fall is the greatest for 250 years. But is that statement actually true? No month so far this winter has approached the 218mm of rain that fell in October 1903, and the total rainfall of November 1929, December 1929 and January 1920 was 812mm. At the present rate, the rainfall in December, January and, by extrapolation, February, will be in the order of 650mm: such levels are not unprecedented or exceptional.
Paul Oliver-Smith
Brenchley, Kent
SIR – It is depressing that whenever a catastrophe occurs, we want to blame someone, preferably the Government.
Of course, there will be lessons to be learnt, that will always be the case, but is it reasonable to suggest that the acute severity of the storms and their duration ought to have been anticipated?
I am impressed at how professional the official response has been to the floods. I suggest that we stop complaining, and get on with clearing up the mess.
Tom Benyon
Oxford
SIR – Having seen Prince William throwing a sandbag to Prince Harry while helping the residents of Datchet, Berkshire, can I please ask that they come and help me ward off the flooded river Anton.
I can hardly lift a sandbag, let alone throw one so effortlessly into my wheelbarrow.
Chris Mathew
Andover, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Quis custodiet veritas ? – Yours, etc,
FRANK GOLDEN,
Thor Place, Dublin 7.
Sir, – The past week’s controversy over the apparent bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission highlights one of the reasons it was a mistake to appoint the same person as both Minister of Justice and Defence in 2011.
Historically when security or intelligence matters were discussed at Cabinet two ministers spoke with authority, having received distinct briefings from the agencies they oversaw, namely An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, bringing different interpretations and sources to government deliberations. Now the dual minister gets both those briefings and only his unified assessment reaches Cabinet, stifling debate.
In the past, justice and defence ministers regularly differed on security and intelligence assessments, which facilitated informed discussions at Cabinet. This was existentially important during the Troubles, but even now when dealing with dissidents, jihadists or matters such as bugging, this separation of power and diversity of opinion would be a prudent check on a vital function of state.
By combining these key roles, the current Government has denied itself the possibility of such robust and informed debate and oversight. Until this mistake is rectified we must just hope it doesn’t overly damage the Cabinet’s ability to deal with the security matters before it. – Yours, etc,
Dr KEVIN BYRNE,
Schoolhouse Lane,
Dublin 2.
Sir, So the Garda Commissioner’s pigeon has come home to roost (Home News, February 15th)? Whatever happened to the chickens? Or are they just smoke and daggers? – Yours, etc,
FRANK CHEATLE,
Westtown,
Tramore,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – If Conor Cruise O’Brien were alive today, might the GSOC bugging allegations inspire him to coin the neologism, “BUGU” (bizarre, unbelievable, grotesque, unprecedented)? – Yours, etc,
PAUL DELANEY,
Beacon Hill,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – An appropriate response from a mature State would be to elevate the head of GSOC to the same status as the Comptroller and Auditor General by way of an amendment to the Constitution. – Yours, etc,
EWAN DUFFY,
Castletown,
Celbridge,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – May I refer to the discussion of judicial appointments launched by the Minister for Justice and Equality? I was a little disappointed to read that, in their submissions, the Law Society and the judges (Home News, January 31st and February 3rd) had each proposed the retention of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, though with a reduction to three, in the number of candidates, from whom the Government would make its selection.
The Advisory Board has failed. Why not start afresh and, as in the UK or a dozen other countries, vest this most vital and politically delicate task in an independent body, made up of members, some nominated by the government, but others by additional, interested groups?
The response to such a suggestion made in the judges’ recommendation is that it would require a constitutional amendment. I agree, but surely an amendment of the Constitution is very apt in the present context?
First, apart from appointment, an amendment is probably necessary to safeguard the proposed establishment of a judicial standards and discipline board, which has been hanging fire, these many years. More important, it would be good to mark the significance of the judiciary by a suitable constitutional pedestal, designed for the 21st century; rather than the present provisions, which were inspired by the politics of the late 17th century. The attitude of “Yerra, ‘twill do” has not served us well in the past and will not do so in the future. – Yours, etc,
(Emeritus Professor),
DAVID GWYNN MORGAN,
Law Department, University College, Cork .

Sir, – Joe Humphreys’s article (“Colleges in crisis”, Weekend Review, February 15th) raises some valid concerns regarding the challenges facing the higher education sector in Ireland. However, it unfairly singles out the perceived lack of student engagement and activity at UCD for particular criticism.
Mr Humphreys and his interviewee might enjoy taking the short walk from the Newman Building, north along the concourse past the new exchequer-funded state-of-the-art science centre, to the new purpose-built, student-levy funded student centre, which boasts a debating chamber, Olympic-size swimming pool, theatre and recreational and work spaces, as well as the infamous “Trap” pool hall and arcade, incorrectly reported in this article as having closed.
The student centre provides a space for the creativity, enthusiasm and talent of Irish students and educators to flourish, and sees countless hours of commitment, toil and energy invested in student-led charitable, social, sporting and cultural activities, following the migration of student life to this end of campus away from the quaint but cramped “library tunnel” referred to in the article in the early 2000s.
UCD and Irish educators, like many parts of Irish society, have learnt to do more with less in recent years. Irish higher education institutions are among the best in the world, and remain among the most popular destinations for Erasmus, exchange and foreign students and researchers. Bright and talented students and dedicated staff continue to make an enormously positive social and cultural contribution to the wider community, which is something to celebrate, and not denigrate. – Yours, etc,
BARRY COLFER,
Pembroke College,
University of Cambridge,

Sir, – The news that the Paris Bakery in Moore Street, Dublin, is to be forcibly closed (Home News, February 13th) is the latest twist in the bizarre planning history of the Carlton Site.
At a time when most small businesses are going to the wall the most successful business in the heart of historic Dublin is to be closed with devastating consequences for its management and 70 employees. The Paris Bakery building is also linked to the 1916 Rising located as it is in the terrace of houses secured and defended as the last stand of the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.
That its proposed demolition will be financed by Nama through public funding to make way for a “Celtic Tiger” shopping mall beggars belief. Is this what is meant by planning in the public interest? – Yours, etc,
JAMES CONNOLLY HERON,
Minute Secretary,
The Save 16 Moore Street Committee,
Pearse Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – When John B Keane was writing most of his plays in the 1960s they were rejected by the Abbey. If was not for James N Healy producing them in his Southern Theatre Group, Keane might never have been heard of as a playwright.
In their current production of Sive at the Abbey Theatre their advertisement describes it as one of the greatest Irish plays of the 20th century.
The full circle. – Yours, etc,
TOM GREALY,
Threadneedle Road, Galway.

Sir, – Your Editorial on possible gay participation in New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade (February 15th) was on point save for one pretty major oversight. The law in this realm is quite settled. In 1995, the US Supreme Court ruled on an _analogous controversy (Hurley V Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston), involving a challenge to the ban on gay participation in Boston’s St Patrick’s Day Parade.
In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice David Souter (he by no means a bluenosed conservative), the court repeated that because “all speech inherently involves choices of what to say and what to leave unsaid . . . one important manifestation of the principle of free speech is that one who chooses to speak may also decide what not to say.”
In answer to the concerns similarly expressed in your recent Editorial over the “potentially harmful” message advanced by the (private) parade organisers, the court announced that “when dissemination of a view contrary to one’s own is forced upon a speaker intimately connected with the communication advanced, the speaker’s right to autonomy over the message is compromised.”
Food for thought in our own highly-charged debate over speech autonomy and gender rights. – Yours, etc,
Dr SEAN ALEXANDER
SMITH,
Aiken Village,

Sir, – A new report just published in The Lancet Neurology lists fluoride as a toxin that contributes to neurodevelopmental disabilities in children. The authors of this study state that a growing body of research is finding links between higher levels of these toxins in expectant mothers’ blood and urine and brain disorders in their children. The developing brain in particular, they say, is vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals, and in many cases, the changes they trigger are permanent. These findings are particularly relevant to the Republic, being the only EU country with a mandatory legislative policy of mass fluoridation of its citizens. In addition to higher levels of fluoride exposure in the Republic compared to other EU countries, the Republic has the lowest prevalence of breast feeding among EU countries and alarmingly the European Food Safety Authority have reported that infants fed formula milk constituted with fluoridated tap water significantly exceed the tolerable upper safe limit of fluoride exposure that has been established for a healthy adult.
The authors of this current study note, that exposure to toxins such as fluorides can result in brain damage and impaired central nervous system function that lasts a lifetime and might result in reduced intelligence, as expressed in terms of lost IQ points, or behavioural abnormalities that limits future development and is damaging to society. Given the alarming rise in recent decades of neurodevelopmental disabilities among children in Ireland, which has occurred in parallel with the increased prevalence of dental fluorosis, a condition that demonstrates a chronic overexposure of infants to this toxin; urgent action must now be taken to reduce the current unsafe levels of exposure of infants and expectant mothers to this toxin. This can only be achieved by ending artificial fluoridation of drinking water. – Yours, etc,
DECLAN WAUGH,
Scientist and
Fluoride Researcher,

Sir, – Like many people I have been donating modest sums to various charitable causes over the years. In the light of the recent disturbing revelations, I shall not make any more contributions until the various institutions publish the salaries of all their managerial staff on their websites. I shall have to assume our excellent investigative journalists will be able to expose any clandestine top-ups. – Yours, etc,
JOHN McGEORGE,
Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Sir, – I needed cash and went to my local shopping centre, only to find that the two ATMs were being serviced by individual G4 units.
When the ATMs were up and running I tried to withdraw €60 but both machines would only dispense cash in multiples of €50. Obviously neither machine had been loaded with €10 nor €20 notes. Who decides that the multiple should be a factor of €50 and why? – Yours, etc,
LIAM CLARKE,
Woodpark,
Ballinteer,
Dublin 16.

Sir, – Your correspondent, Pádraic Harvey (“Papal multitasking”, February 15th), should, I believe consider the problems of the ordinary man. My multitasking is more modest, consisting of reading the paper, watching television and dozing, all at the same time. When our household collie performs the latter activity, she is greeted with gurgling cries and is awakened to have her ears and tummy caressed. When I do it, it’s sin number 5,456. – Yours etc,
GERALD MURPHY,
Marley Avenue,
Marley Grange,
Dublin 16.

A chara, – To paraphrase Orwell, “all letter-writers are not created equal” as evidenced by Derek Henry Carr having letters published on “Fallout from GSOC bugging allegations” as well as “ ‘Homophobia’ and same-sex marriage” on the same day (Letters, February 15th). Even the prolific Paul Delaney, who has managed many times to have letters published on consecutive days, has not managed two letters in a single day (as far as I can see). Is this a record? – Is mise,
GREG SCANLON,
Ballycasey Manor,
Shannon, Co Clare.

Sir, – I have received a letter from my bank concerning a forthcoming routine credit transfer. The letter included six code numbers with a total of 103 characters. Is this a record? – Yours, etc,
JOHN CRONIN,
Mucksna,
Kenmare, Co Kerry.

Irish Independent:

* It is seldom I ever put pen to paper. However, I want to share my story with your readers, to show that, in the face of the greatest difficulties, there are some wonderful, extraordinary people on this island of ours.
Also in this section
We must take debate out of the closet
Lyric’s meagre Irish playlist
Sexes have same heart
Our oldest boy is profoundly mentally and physically handicapped, and all he has in his little life are his comforts – the comforts we try to provide for him, in his own home.
With the recent winds and storms, those comforts came to be interrupted when our power went.
All of the equipment we rely on to keep him comfortable and, indeed, to even keep him alive is powered by electricity, and that was lost to him.
We spent two days in darkness, running to neighbours to change and wash and do simple things that we so take for granted, but all of the time, Tommy’s comfort was compromised.
On day three, we knew we had to do something, so we phoned ESB to try to establish when our power would return. From the moment we mentioned Tommy and his disability, they could not have been more helpful.
From the girl in the office who promised to ring me back (and did, numerous times), and I’m sorry I forgot your name but you know who you are; to Willie who called to try to establish where we had seen the pole down; or to Jim or Tim who called to our house, and finally to the crew, including a couple of NI electricity workers, who spent an entire day trying to repair the damage, just to try to make Tommy more comfortable in his home.
You have no idea how much your efforts meant to us and him. He can’t talk but if he could, I know he would thank you from the bottom of his heart.
You have all done, and continue to do, your company proud, and our gratitude is heartfelt and sincere. You have phoned more times to make sure we continue to have electricity, and I see your crews still working locally.
Tommy is back from his aunt’s house, safe in his bed again, in his own little world, thanks to the guys and girls that work for ESB.
JOHN O’CONNELL
OOLA, CO LIMERICK
MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
* A Leavy (Letters, February 17) lays full responsibility for Ireland’s current financial woes with “this country’s most powerful decision-makers”.
No doubt the government of the day had a central role in the demise of our economy but to lay full blame at its doorstep is over-simplistic.
To stay in power the government appeased its citizens by cutting income taxes and pandered to the whims of public sector unions.
All of this was done with full approval from the opposition parties, who saw supporting giveaway Budgets as their ticket to power come the following election.
There was nobody shouting stop.
In fact, the opposite was the case. Mr Leavy makes no mention of the avaricious banks in Ireland, Europe, and the US who connived together in their pursuit of huge sums of wealth.
Though he was correct when he said that “most members of the EU did not go broke”, he should also realise that our economic collapse can largely be attributed to us financially supporting (under duress from the ECB) private companies (banks) to prevent them from going broke.
The vital question is: who has the moral responsibility to pick up the tab for the mistakes of these private companies, some of which were of no systemic importance to our country?
JOHN BELLEW
DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
MARRIAGE EQUALITY
* Eric Conway opines on the very topical subject of marriage equality: “One of the major weapons in this regard is to throw around the ‘homophobic’ mantra at opponents, rather than engage in debate” (Letters, February 17).
On the contrary, it is when both sides engage in debate on same-sex marriage do we see such heated debate, simply because opponents of marriage equality have no rational arguments against it.
Tradition, definition, procreation. All are invalid arguments against marriage equality.
With the procreation one probably the most ineffective as it also applies to heterosexuals who are (I) infertile, (II) too old, or (III) simply choose not to have children, and can still marry.
And yet, this simple fact seems to elude opponents of marriage equality, who routinely – and unsurprisingly – revert to the gay aspect of the person as their primary opposition.
GARY J BYRNE
IFSC, DUBLIN 1
WE WANT SOME PEACE
* It’s that time again . . . no not springtime, at least not yet . . . election-time, of course.
How do we know? Because leaflets are starting to come through letterboxes and the electorate are being disturbed from their TV viewing by premature knocking on doors and outstretched hands to be shaken.
The assumption being that the electorate will decide well in advance of polling day who they will give their vote to. I think that, like Christmas, there should be a three-week lead-up to any election and outside that period the voters are left in peace!
What the voter must consider is whether the person who looks after issues which they could address themselves, is in fact the correct person to bestow their vote on or if they choose candidates with wider perspectives and a bigger picture outlook.
Change can only happen if the electorate truly wants it. In two recent votes, we saw the election of Michael D Higgins as President and the defeat of a proposal to abolish the Seanad.
This proves that many of the public were animated enough to get out and cast their vote. Perhaps the voters can change the old adage of ‘If you can’t beat them, then join them’ to ‘if they don’t listen, replace them’.
MIKE GERAGHTY
NEWCASTLE, GALWAY
ACTION NEEDED IN NORTH
* When the Haass talks on contentious issues in Northern Ireland ended, it was said that while flags and parades did not respond to treatment, there was progress on the past.
Someone should explain to victims and survivors exactly what constitutes ‘progress’ because they have seen very few signs of it.
It is true that there is a comprehensive and much needed review of the Victims and Survivors Service but that was under way well before the talks ended.
What was new in the Haass document was a recommendation that the Victims’ Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, should look at special measures to help severely injured victims who have been unable to work.
The idea of a pension for the severely injured was first proposed by the Injured Group of the WAVE Trauma Centre and was taken up by the Victims’ Commissioner.
It was good to see that it found its way into the draft agreement document. But what’s happening with it now? Similarly it is not clear what the status is of other aspects of the draft agreement.
No one is suggesting that everything that victims and survivors need or want was covered in the Haass proposals.
But as long as nothing moves, as long as all we have are proposals, victims and survivors will be condemned to continue to do what they have had to learn to do best: get on with it, support each other and live with the past.
PROFESSOR JEAN ORR
CHAIR, WAVE TRAUMA CENTRE, BELFAST
Irish Independent

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