27 February 2014 Boxes

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to ipick up the Admirals barge again, without turning it into firewood Priceless

Boxes arrive sort some of the books in the garage

Scrabbletoday Mary wins but gets under400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.




Robert Winser , who has died aged 91, was the senior district commissioner responsible for trying to persuade the Somalis living in northern Kenya to support the independent government of Jomo Kenyatta when Britain handed over control in 1964.

The Somalis roamed the 36,000 square miles of the colony’s Northern Frontier District while regarding Kenyatta’s Kikuyu as a slave people. Even today many dream that their rightful place should be in an expanded Somalia .

Winser had a pleasant manner and enjoyed the advantage of having earlier served in the district during the Second World War. With opposition to Kenyatta so pronounced that some district officers thought that wide areas should be ceded to a Greater Somalia, Kenyatta asked for Winser to be posted back there.

Tensions ran high. Two commissioners were murdered. Winser was told that he was on a “death list”, and had to be attended by a large armed escort of red-turbaned Somali police. On arriving at a baraza of chiefs sitting in a circle under a tree with their women ululating from the back, he would first receive the traditional greeting: “Is it peace?” before being offered tea. He would then assure his hostile audience that he was not going to hand them over to the Kikuyu, and that there was a place for them in the new Kenya. But the Somalis never really agreed, and violence continued for a further 10 years.

The son of a clergyman, Robert Stephen Winser was born on Boxing Day 1921 and educated at Bradfield, where he won the long dormant fly-fishing cup on the river Pang, which runs through school grounds. He then read PPE at Corpus Christi, Oxford. Two of his brothers were killed in action in the Second World War, while Bobby won the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst.

He joined the Colonial Service on the understanding that he would be called to serve with the King’s African Rifles. The voyage to join his regiment took six months, during which Winser was in a vessel that was sunk. Afterwards he found that, because he had paid his bar bills in cash, he was worse off than fellow survivors, whose chits had been lost with ship.

On arriving in Kenya in 1943 he was soon appointed district officer at Garissa, 250 miles from his nearest superior. Much of his time was spent in tribal peacekeeping and persuading Somali chiefs to encourage their men to dig waterholes, which they considered beneath their dignity. As independence drew near he appointed the African chairman of Bungoma County Council.

After staying on for a year following Independence, Winser returned home with his wife, Anne Carrick, a nurse he had met at a Nairobi cricket match, with their son and daughter. He was first offered the post of public relations officer for the British Standards Institute but turned it down, saying that his only experience was of promoting unpopular standards under a mango tree. Instead he became its consumer ombudsman, helping to introduce the kite mark as an international standard for manufactured goods. He later became deputy mayor of Hungerford and did consultancy work in Fiji, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

After his wife died in 2004 he was looked after by two nieces, then by a Zulu lady who filled the house with Xhosa clicks, prayers and laughter.

Robert Winser, born Boxing Day 1921, died December 20 2013






The early success of Fahma Mohamed’s Guardian-backed campaign to end FGM is hugely exciting for two reasons (Gove to write to all schools as he backs anti-FGM fight, 26 February). First, we are now surely on the right path to ending this practice at home and abroad. Fahma’s belief in the power of education is particularly inspiring; only when young girls know their rights will FGM be consigned to history, be that in Britain or Burkina Faso. Second, Fahma has shown that a campaign driven by young people can have twice the impact, with twice the speed. Like Malala Yousafzai before her, Fahma has secured quick action from those in charge. Are we entering an era when change is delivered more quickly by the children whose rights are denied than by the adults charged with protecting those rights? I think so – and Fahma, we’re right behind you.
Tanya Barron
Chief executive, Plan UK

•  Many congratulations to Fahma Mohamed, the women’s organisations involved, Ban Ki-moon and yourselves for supporting this remarkable campaign. NAWO’s voice here is enriched by the members present who called for this letter of support at an open meeting last Friday of the UK NGO CSW Alliance of some 100 women’s and development organisations. However, Michael Gove has been recalcitrant and slow to respond to the voices of many expert women’s organisations which have sought for the action he is now taking. Fahma does not fail to mention that she knew nothing about FGM until her organisation told her. It must not end here: schools must be directed and enabled from the top to become knowledgable about and to act to protect girls not only from FGM but also from forced marriages in which boys – especially those with learning disabilities – may also be at risk. It is one thing to put guidance up on a website (which I, personally, could not even find) and quite another to write to every school in the way Mr Gove is finally prepared to do for FGM. The hands-off, anti-red-tape attitude does not protect children.
Annette Lawson, June Jacobs and Zarin Hainsworth Chair & co-vice-chairs, NAWO


We all know Simon Jenkins’s views on the subject (How much is it costing to scare us into paying for HS2?, 21 February), as he has been given so many opportunities to restate them. Could we please occasionally hear from at least some of the many supporters of the proposed line who live north of the river Trent – or is the prospect of travelling by train to Manchester, Leeds or Sheffield to interview them simply too daunting?
Chris Haslam
Skipton, North Yorkshire

• Grant Shapps’s rebranding of the Conservatives as the Workers’ party (Report, 25 February) is copied directly from Sweden’s rightwing Moderaten, who a few years ago branded themselves as the “real” workers’ party – ie of workers rather than shirkers. Free schools are another Swedish crib (they’re failing there, too). It’s interesting – Orwellian? – how the “Swedish model” has been turned on its head.
Bernard Porter

• Either Harry Watson’s or his Polish landlady’s memory is at fault when he suggests that the city’s name reverted to Lemberg when “the Nazis marched in in 1940” (Letters, 25 February). Lvov was within the area of Poland invaded by the Soviets in 1939, and the Germans did not march in until 1941.
Robert Cairns

• Laurie Penny’s open letter to the swimmer Rebecca Adlington (Comment, 25 February) was commendable. Shakespeare says it all: “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind. None can be called deformed but the unkind.”
Tony Tucker
Frodsham, Cheshire

• “We have absolutely no intention of doing anything about this” is invariably “Make no mistake, lessons will be learned from this” (Letters, 24 February).
Adrian Brodkin

• Unlike Gilbert O’Sullivan (Letters, 26 February), I can understand the broadcasting of the Brits and the Folk awards on the same evening, ooh wakka doo, what a day!
John Petrie


Macleod for the Guardian

Ewen MacAskill’s return from the US is timely. His account (Glasgow’s East End, frontline in the battle for Scotland, 24 February) of the current state of play in Scotland‘s independence referendum is the clearest I have seen, in particular his succinct summing up of the danger areas which Better Together “campaigners” seem unable to grasp. Two key vote-drivers are temporarily united in the SNP and in the Better Together collaboration. State protection from market forces (“social welfare”) and freedom from current state control (“wealth creation”) have been successfully yoked by the SNP in stirring terms that we Scots would like to believe in.

The uneasy coexistence of the same conflicting policy goals within Better Together appears to have stymied their appeal to supporters of both, and driven them into barren and defensive negativity, afraid to offer any vision of improvement on present and recent dire times, only warnings of worse if we separate – and those often delivered in exasperated tones that any savvy parent could see would drive their children into independent behaviour.

As one of the disenchanted Labour voters described by MacAskill, I have had many polemics put my way: the most persuasive have been George Galloway’s “Just Say Naw” and a speech on the implications of Scottish independence for business by Rupert Soames, CEO of the Scottish firm Aggreko. Probably, like many, I am hoping that a new way of synthesising realism and vision will start to emerge before September, when the temporary partnerships of the SNP and of Better Together are likely to fracture, with or without a much reduced tax base.
Jane Griffiths

•  For someone with a long perspective on history, I’m amused to see David Cameron and Alex Salmond fighting over the future of North Sea oil (Oil on troubled waters: Cameron jets in to turn up the heat in independence debate, 25 February). A century ago, the south Wales coalfield was the equivalent of North Sea oil, providing energy that powered the development of the British economy. Of course, all the money, and profit, went to London, leaving us as an economic basket case, because the profits weren’t invested here. Mrs Thatcher wasted the wealth from the North Sea in the 1970s, and Cameron wants to do the same now. I hope the Scots keep the profit from the oil and turn Scotland into another Norway.
John Owen
Caerphilly, Gwent

• Larry Elliott logically looks at a variety of financial issues regarding an independent Scotland and that is fine (Why real freedom is not on offer to Scotland, 24 February). We may dispute one or two of his conclusions but that is what debate and examination of the facts is all about. Then up pops the puzzling end quote: “The decisions that matter are made in London … it is the independence of the granny flat.” A reminder of the song, familiar to all Scots, “ye cannae shove your granny off the bus”. But note to the Better Together pro-unionist camp, the second verse goes on “ye can shove your other granny off the bus”. Many Scots believe we have moved on into the second verse with independence ahead.
Stuart Campbell
Hightae, Dumfriesshire

• Neal Ascherson (Letters, 25 February) says that José Manuel Barroso’s “clownish blurt seems to have no support from embarrassed European commission colleagues”. On Saturday, EU commissioner Viviane Reding was in Barcelona saying that the EU “only deals with member states”, so that if there is a division in one of them, that new state would have to apply afresh to join the European community. “And that is nothing new, it is very old.” Ascherson should get out of Scotland more.
Peter Harvey
Barcelona, Spain

• Re Gerard Cavalier (Letters, 25 February), when the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland were established, Irish people had an unrestricted right to live and work in Great Britain, reflecting the historic ties between Ireland and Britain. This would almost certainly be the precedent in the event of Scottish independence and it would not matter, therefore, whether or not Scotland was in the EU.
Michael Cunningham


Simon Jenkins earns his corn through provocation but does not need to encourage young people to follow his example by studying subjects which do not require mathematics (Comment, 19 February). Most people would assume that we have more than enough lawyers, now that they are pestering the public to take out vexatious prosecutions on terms of “no win no fee”. As for salespeople, I do not wish to denigrate the importance of the arts and fashion industries to our economy, but buyers of manufactures are probably more prevalent in the UK than sellers of the same. They require scientific literacy and preferably an ability to speak a foreign language (too much like hard work!).

Since the UK is in the business of buying nuclear power stations, fast trains and flood controls, as well as updating IT systems without wasting more billions, the shortage of scientific/technical expertise in the government, the civil service and the opinion-forming media is a gross disadvantage. Far from castigating mathematics, we should reform pre-university education along the lines of the international baccalaureate, in which all major subjects are compulsory.
CN Dack

• The problems that Simon Jenkins points out are widely recognised in the mathematics education community, here and around the world. It is scandalous that most adults cannot use the mathematics they are taught in secondary school in their later lives, and that pupils actively dislike the subject (even more in the high-performing countries, for reasons that Jenkins outlines).

The potential of a different mathematics curriculum for empowering and enriching lives is well-established. We know how to enable teachers to teach like this, but it involves a profound change in the balance of their practice from pupils’ learning procedures to their thinking through problems that seem worthwhile to them. The reasons these changes have not happened are systemic – a mixture of self-inflicted wounds in policy and bad “engineering” of the design and implementation.

There has been a government decision to broaden the kinds of task in maths exams to include substantial problems; given the inevitable pushback, we shall see what actually emerges.
Professor Hugh Burkhardt


Zoe Williams obscures the context in which army education takes place (Meet the graduates of the mud-crawl challenge, 22 February). Army recruitment materials actively target young teenagers. A child can begin the enlistment process at the age of 15 years and seven months – before they sit their GCSEs. As there is no minimum entrance qualification for many army roles, there is no incentive for would-be recruits to work towards their exams.

Those who enlist at 16 are offered the lowest level of qualifications which can form an “apprenticeship”. This is despite the fact that educationists and industry bodies agree that GCSEs in English and maths are the essential minimum attainment required by all young people to succeed in employment today. The MoD claims that these qualifications are “available” to soldiers who choose to study “in their free time”, but last year just 20 soldiers in an army of over 78,000 enlisted personnel had obtained a GCSE in English or maths within four years of joining.

Ms Williams ignores the fact that the Department for Education has a legal obligation to provide accessible, good-quality education free of charge to all young people. Where it is failing to do so this must be remedied, but not by forcing minors to join the army simply to access their basic right to education.

Raising the enlistment age to 18 would save the MoD over £94m annually. That sum would pay for every recruit now at Harrogate – plus 24,000 of their friends – to do a highly sought-after civilian vocational apprenticeship, every year. Now that really would be hard not to admire.
Richard Clarke
Director, Child Soldiers International

•  Zoe Williams, on her visit to the army college in Harrogate, seems to have been charmed by the pomp and ceremony. But why does the UK have the lowest recruiting age in Europe, and why is it the only permanent member of the UN security council that recruits 16-year-olds into its army? The UN defines a child soldier as any member of an armed group under 18 years old, and the UK has blocked changes to the protocols seeking to make 18 years the minimum age of recruitment. As we enter the centenary of the first world war, let us remember that they had to be 18 years old to join up and 19 years old to fight overseas. Today they can join at 16 and fight overseas aged 18. What progress have we made? A study last year found those recruited at 16 were twice as likely to die as a consequence of deployment to Afghanistan than those who enlisted as adults. Is it not time to be mature, protect our young and raise the recruitment age to 18 years old?
Dr Rupert Gude
Tavistock, Devon

•  I joined the Royal Navy at 15 years old in the 1960s, and a letter was sent home to my parents from the training establishment I was sent to saying: “Our aim here is to build up a boy’s character and at the same time continue his general education.” What my time in training entailed was actually to have my individuality beaten out of me, to suffer endless petty punishments and to watch a bullying culture encouraged by the people put in my charge. A couple of hours in a classroom each day is not an education, and to live in a society where children are trained for war, and to have this dressed this up as an education that is “hard not to admire”, leaves me feeling depressed.
Stephen Mann


At last, a less one-sided view of the problems confronting migrant construction workers in Qatar (Comment, 21 February). Qatar may need to clean up its act, but it is India that has a far greater challenge. As a former construction specialist at the International Labour Office I’m convinced construction workers in India are among the most exploited in the world. They are mostly in precarious, low-paid jobs with minimal standards of health and safety or other protections. Nobody knows how many die each year because nobody keeps count. They are routinely denied the minimal wages owing to them by employers who hold them back to keep the workers in bondage. It is hardly surprising they pay large sums for the chance of regular, well-paid work in Qatar, because it is better than the alternative in India – and they have a better chance of surviving. What Jayati Ghosh doesn’t mention is that the worst exploitation in Qatar is in the small firms managed by the same Indian employers who exploit the workers back home.It is not Qataris exploiting poor Indian workers but other Indians.
Dr Jill Wells
Engineers Against Poverty






A persuasive defence of the planned NHS scheme (Oliver Wright, 26 February) failed to notice our nation’s proven incompetence, however well-intentioned, in the centralised management of data. Surprise, surprise, the NHS has now left more than half of us, by its own initial deadline, still uninformed about its data-sharing proposal.

Being risk-averse, I have already completed an opt-out form. Perhaps Angela Merkel, while she is over here, could give us some tips on management?

Yvonne Ruge, London N20


I find the following statement in the government literature the most troubling.

“NHS organisations share information about the care you receive with those who plan health and social care services, as well as with approved researchers and organisations outside the NHS, if this will benefit patient care.”

This appears to leave the NHS a clear route to the position: “If we allow the sale of parts of this national asset, including patient details, then we will be able to protect 10,000 nurses’ jobs/ 15 A&E departments/ 3,000 midwives (delete as desired).”

The Government has already agreed to sell my DVLA information to supermarkets so that I can be fined if my shopping trip exceeds two hours.

Ray Noy, Wigan


The project has been bedevilled by misinformation from both NHS England and those opposed to it.

Your report of 26 February does not help by stating that is required to enable the NHS to “identify which GPs are over-prescribing antibiotics [and] which are using expensive branded drugs rather than cheaper alternatives”. Every Clinical Commissioning Group in England has been able to access this sort of data and answer precisely those questions for several years using the NHS’s Epact database.

Why has there been no fuss about this database? Probably because the public are unaware of it and it is completely anonymised, with no patients’ identifiable details stored.

Christopher Anton, Administrator, Drug and  Therapeutics Committee, Pharmacy Department, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals  NHS Trust


When a child should be allowed to die

Assisted dying has been having quite a lot of coverage lately. The Belgians are being fair to children, offering them an escape from a horrible death.

At a recent meeting in the Cotswolds, a Liberal Democrat MP and a prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate both stated their approval of assisted dying legislation in this country. We were informed, however, that it was unlikely that the issue would be a part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Why not, one wonders.

In my first marriage I had two sons who were born, arguably, into a permanent vegetative state. Neither had any senses or was ever able to hold the weight of his head, the first sign of development.

Before modern medicine they would not have suffered long. My gut feeling at the time was that they should be allowed to die, despite their total inability to make the decision for themselves.

My eldest son John’s tortured existence lasted for 23 years at huge financial cost to the country. He has been dead for around 10 years now and a long time before his death I was informed that his round-the-clock care was costing over £100,000 per annum.

Under such circumstances, in the interests of humanity, would it not be wise to allow assisted dying when parents, medics and a judge agree that, in the interests of the child, this is the correct course of action?

There are many humane causes where the money could be better spent.

Peter John Sipthorp, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire


Pupils under acute pressure to succeed

I am concerned about the impact that monitoring and relentless assessment are having on the well-being of children.

The pressure on them to “reach their potential” academically is so acute, not least due to the constant reminders to parents in the press, that many are suffering as a result.

I am a year 10 tutor; that is to say children, and they are still children, of 14 and 15. Every two weeks I meet with the students individually or in groups and talk to them about their schooling.

This year all I have dealt with is academic (grade) related stress including regular insomnia and feeling sick all the time. I have been a teacher for 16 years in three schools (including a grammar), been a head of year and a pastoral manager for 10 of these, and have not seen this before.

I am very concerned we look after our young people and educate them to successfully and confidently take their place in the world. Education is about building self-esteem, and stressed students are lowering their self-esteem.

Even just to look at this from an entirely cold economic point of view the country may well be storing up a massive future healthcare and lost-work-day costs as people suffering from stress in teenage years are more likely to continue to do so into adulthood.

Matthew Reece, Head of Design and Technology, The Marlborough Church  of England School,  Woodstock, Oxfordshire


The Conservative future is green

To my mind responses to climate change (however it is caused) through renewable energy should fit perfectly with Conservatives (editorial, 26 February).

Renewable energy sources can give individuals the opportunity to control their own energy production, thus keeping it out of the hands of the state; it is by its very nature a form of national self-reliance and thus takes our energy security needs away from foreign production and engagement with murky governments abroad.

In addition, radical innovation in engineering, science and industry is exactly what helped bring Britain to eminence in the first place, giving us a great heritage and reputation at home and abroad. The pioneers of the past would surely be rubbing their hands with glee at the possibilities that modern technology has to offer.

So, come on Conservatives, be true to your whole selves and the past and stop hindering the talents and enterprising spirit of Britain!

John Laird, Rome


If, as your correspondent the Rev Dr John Cameron alleges (letter, 25 February), global warming has stopped and is yet to restart, why is it that Alpine glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet continue to diminish and the Arctic ice sheet is at a record low?

The Rev Graeme Jackson, Gloucester


Expect low interest rates to go on

Anthony Hilton’s account of the City debate (22 February) was both short and misleading.

I have no wish to see a collapse of small businesses and the creation of large mortgage arrears in the UK, and said no such thing. My case was based around Mr Hilton’s point that the new normal level of interest rates was going to be much lower than the 5 per cent average of the previous decade.

I have published charts of past interest rate levels, so people interested can visit my website, and see for themselves. These show that there is no past normal level and that there are long periods of very low rates from time to time.

During the debate, I also pointed out that outside central London, which is buoyed by foreign cash buying, the UK housing market is showing no signs of excessive bubble-like behaviour through too much credit being extended.

John Redwood MP, Wokingham, House of Commons


‘Mail’ rakes up  ancient history

I can think of no politician with greater integrity than Harriet Harman; she is an excellent role model. I am therefore bemused by the Daily Mail’s raking over events of 40 years ago concerning the Paedophile Information Exchange and the National Council for Civil Liberties (“Harman’s row with Mail rages on”, 26 February).

I note that the Mail’s riposte to Harman about the publication of pictures of 12-year-old girls in bikinis is one of aggressive bemusement; but doesn’t the Mail know that no one, especially a male adult, is allowed to get away with taking photographs of children on beaches or playgrounds without raising considerable suspicion?

The Mail should look to itself before accusing others.

Elizabeth Chell, Lyndhurst,  Hampshire


Not sufficiently incentivised?

Perhaps the poor performance of Manchester United in Greece on Tuesday night is indicative that Wayne Rooney is not being paid enough.

Derek J Carr, Bristol





Sir, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the Director-General of the BBC, is to fight to keep the corporation’s licence fee (report, Feb 24). In the late Eighties, in New Zealand, the government took away the licence fee that had been given to the state broadcaster, Television New Zealand, and set up an “agency” to distribute it to any bidding broadcasters or programme makers. In response to this loss of revenue, and growing competition, as Director-General of TVNZ, I oversaw the outsourcing of much of our production and a sizeable reduction of staff.

The agency, “NZOnAir”, chose to spend the money, in part, on what I considered to be “pure public service” programming (that which could not necessarily be commercially funded). However, it also spent it on what I considered to be “commercial” programming (that which would be easily funded by advertising or sponsorship).

As a result it became much more difficult for us to make sufficient “non-commercial” programmes, which I believed were an essential ingredient for any national broadcaster to provide.

TVNZ was part-funded by advertising at the time. I do not consider mixed funding to be a bad thing. Indeed, if the BBC is to be forced to share its funding, it is essential that it, too, should be allowed to compete for commercial advertising and sponsorship revenue. But at the same time, the body that distributes the money so released should be required to fund the sort of programmes that commercial broadcasters spurn.

To ensure there is not a drop in the production of non-commercial programmes, the distributing body must have the goal of serving minorities and minority tastes written into its constitution. Unless it is, British television — and the BBC in particular — will lose much of which it can be immensely proud.

Changing the BBC’s funding will be a highly dangerous step. Before taking such a decision policymakers should study the experience of New Zealand carefully. Some think the change has worked well. I think it is a flawed system, unless it is very carefully controlled.

Julian Mounter

Former Director-General and Group Managing Director, Television New Zealand

Sir, Lord Hall’s supplication will be viewed with a sense of irony by the BBC’s commercial competitors. The corporation’s existence relies not on creative output but on legally enforced licence-fee payers’ contributions. Moreover, a significant proportion of the BBC’s £3.6 billion budget is channelled into its generous pension fund.

He also makes the absurd assertion that top-slicing means “less and less funding for content that we know people love”. This does not reflect the reality of endless old repeats and quiz shows.

The BBC should return to the core values of its founder, Lord Reith, as a disinterested, public-service broadcaster, informing and educating rather than chasing meaningless ratings in competing with its commercial rivals.

This calls for a fundamental restructuring of the corporation, reducing the global reach of its output, shrinking its bureaucracy and putting more of its licence fee into making balanced, high-quality news and documentary programmes.

John Barker

Prestbury, Cheshire


The tax tribunal decision not to classify bridge as a mind sport is a serious blow

Sir, The tax tribunal decision not to classify bridge as a mind sport has put English Bridge at a disadvantage (report, Feb 25). Had it ruled in our favour it would have enabled us not to levy VAT on our competition entry fees, like other sports.

Bridge is a game that is proven to help in the fight against dementia by keeping minds active, and one in which England is a leading nation. It seems counter-productive that our tax authorities do not follow the European lead on bridge.

I expect we will just have to take the case further to seek to ensure an level playing field. It is just a pity that this of itself will take up necessary taxpayers’ money to defend a case in which the UK takes a perversely opposite view to others in the European Union and elsewhere.

Jeremy Dhondy

Chairman, English Bridge Union


Scientists make a breakthrough — but it’s nothing our mothers didn’t know already

Sir, You report a scientific study finding that vinegar can kill superbugs (“Cheap superbug killer”, Feb 25). Haven’t we all learnt at our mother’s knee about the effectiveness of vinegar and brown paper?

Jennifer Fowler

London SW15


The inimitable voice and style of John Arlott still resonates down the decades

Sir, Reading Mike Brearley’s tribute to John Arlott (Sport, Feb 25) and his poetic use of language, a favourite example came to mind: a batsman frozen in a forward defensive stroke, completely beaten by the bowler, was described in that inimitable voice as “standing there like a Henry Moore statue, with the ball passing through one of the holes in his body”.

Richard Hall

Belper, Derbyshire


Don’t make the mistake of assuming all Russian-speaking Ukrainians are pro-Yanukovych

Sir, It is a myth that, if Russian is your mother tongue in Ukraine, you are automatically pro-Yanukovych, Putin and the Kremlin. Ukrainians retain the bitterest memories of the famine (Holodomor — “starvation-death”) imposed by Stalin in the 1930s, and which was a factor in the country’s vote for independence at the break-up of the Soviet Union. President Yeltsin wrongly believed that the large percentage of ethnic Russians in Latvia would undermine the independence of the Baltic States, but these people soon realised how much they would benefit by cutting their ties to Russia and are now loyal Latvian citizens. The attraction of closer ties to Western Europe and the EU will not be lost on Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Canon Dr Michael Bourdeaux

Iffley, Oxford






SIR – The closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games was beautiful and tasteful. It was far superior to the opening and closing ceremonies of London 2012, with their incomprehensible themes that the rest of the world did not understand, and their endless pop music.

The Sochi organisers showed respect for the Olympic Hymn, which was rushed through in London, as if we were embarrassed that it might sound too jingoistic. Ceremonies should be classic, tasteful and, above all, comprehensible.

Helen Cunningham
Thorpe, Surrey

SIR – Having listened to coverage of both the Summer and the Winter Olympics, I think the term “athlete” is somewhat overused. While greatly admiring the skill, determination and success of our curling teams, I hardly think they should be described, or would normally describe themselves, as “athletes”. The same applies for those participating in the Summer Games in sports such as the 10-metre air rifle shooting.

What has happened to that once popular and accurate description “competitors”?

SIR – The House of Bishops of the Church of England has recently issued pastoral guidance which states that nobody in a same-sex marriage will be accepted for ordination and that existing clergy will be disciplined if they enter a same-sex marriage. In justifying these announcements, it says: “There will, for the first time, be a divergence between the… definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England.”

They have forgotten their history. The Church of England enforced a view of marriage as indissoluble long after civil law allowed remarriage of divorcees. During this period a king was forced to abdicate because he wanted to marry a divorcee, and Princess Margaret could not marry the man of her choice because he was a divorcee. It was not until 2002 that the Church formally accommodated remarriage of a divorced person.

The bishops believe that the challenge that gay marriage presents to the Church is unprecedented. They will not be able to reason their way to truthful guidance for the present by starting from false premises about the past.

Professor Iain McLean
Nuffield College, University of Oxford
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch
St Cross College, University of Oxford
Professor Linda Woodhead
Lancaster University

NHS data

SIR – Those responsible for the release of confidential patient information should be named. If data protection law has been breached, they should be prosecuted. All data obtained in this way must be destroyed so that patients can, again, seek advice knowing that their medical history is not available to a person in a call centre, or others seeking to profit from their misfortune.

G B Hopkinson
Ashley, Shropshire

The right fanfare

SIR – The best version of the national anthem is the one used by the BBC before the 7am news on the birthdays of the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. It is a military band with suggestions of an orchestra, and includes a fanfare. I have recorded it in case I ever need to use it.

Michael Reading
Ash, Surrey

Taxing the nation

SIR – Although still in full-time employment, I have not paid a penny in National Insurance since I reached pensionable age several years ago. Renaming NI as Earnings Tax suggests that this may no longer hold true.

I hope that the Chancellor will bear in mind the power of the grey vote in his deliberations on what could become a very contentious issue.

Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire

SIR – The renaming of National Insurance is welcome. However, Earnings Tax is still not right. National Insurance is paid by employers as well as employees. NI is not paid on earnings from savings or investments. Its title should be “Job Tax”.

Martin Collier
St Ives, Huntingdonshire

Unfair fares

SIR – The structure of the academic year is ridiculous because it is based on the Victorian need for children to be out of school for harvest (report, February 25). Everybody is trapped in this pattern, which has led to intense week-long half-term breaks and expensive holidays.

We should move towards a four-term year and more evenly spread holidays. Many of our schools would like to split the Easter holidays from the religious festival for the reason that Easter can be such a movable feast, but the status quo is so deeply ingrained in this country.

If there was less of an expectation to follow the rigid format of term-time and holidays we are all used to, the peak times for high-price holidays would be far less concentrated.

David Hanson
Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

SIR – While we debate whether travel companies should charge more for holidays taken during half-term, can we also discuss the “single room” supplements charged to travellers who, through no fault of their own, travel alone? I recently paid more than £100 to stay in a room on my own, while couples on the same holiday paid £89.99 between them.

Penny Colman
Melksham, Wiltshire

Revolving devolution

SIR – Derrick Hedley is wrong to think that the West Lothian Question will be settled by Scottish independence. MPs of Welsh and Northern Irish constituencies will still be able to vote in Westminster on devolved issues that only affect inhabitants of England. Perhaps it could be rebranded as the West Glamorgan Question?

Patrick Strong
Heaton, Lancashire

Put the flags out

SIR – London will shortly boast its own .lon domain name, and I think we should have a flag. My front garden flagpole on Saturday flew the Cross of St George for England rugby. On Sunday, I raised the Olympic flag. I fly the appropriate flag for the 4th of July, on Bastille Day and whenever my Argentine mother-in law wafts in for Sunday lunch.

The branding opportunities are endless for proud Londoners: T-shirts, bumper stickers, tea trays, etc. Perhaps the adoption of a flag would even spawn an independence movement, which is all the rage at the moment.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

Pupils benefit intellectually from studying RE

SIR – The lack of support for religious education is astounding given the subject’s merits. No other subject creates as many possibilities for cross-curricular study. Teachers can help students broaden their intellectual horizons by linking RE to history, geography, English, drama, poetry, music, maths – the list is endless.

What a shame that politicised educational dogma, compartmentalised subject teaching and exam targeting so often rob children of opportunities for intellectual growth.

Rev R C Paget
Brenchley, Kent
SIR – In an increasingly uncertain, even fragile world, our children need to be able to think for themselves about the political, moral and personal issues that affect us all.

This requires them to be literate in the forms of thought – both religious and otherwise – that apply to anything from the international affairs of the Middle East to East-West relations in the Ukraine to the ethics of medical research. Children need an understanding of diverse beliefs and philosophies, and this requires a well-rounded education.

Students want to learn how to cope with a future that they will help to shape. To enable them to develop their thoughts impartially, religious education teachers need proper training, as well as sensitivity and expertise.

Esmond Lee
Head of Religious Studies, Trinity School
Croydon, Surrey


SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor, has no political mandate for offering a “cheque book” to Ukraine, a country outside the EU and with no discernable links to the United Kingdom, without a parliamentary vote.

Russia, which shares a border and close history with Ukraine, has offered £16 billion to assist its financial deficit, so why should we need to do likewise? It is ludicrous that this Government should attempt to revive the anti-Russian stance of the Cold War era and increase our own borrowing, merely to strut upon the world stage for no good reason.

Christopher Devine
Farley, Wiltshire

SIR – The recent support from Western countries for opposition uprisings has largely failed. In Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria, destabilisation, war or greater unrest has followed.

Barry Bond
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

SIR – While the West is warning Russia not to use force, the EU is trying to bring Ukraine closer to Europe. This is a tug-of-war. The Russian-speaking east of Ukraine will not want to be European and Russia will not want to lose its strategic ally.

If we are to avoid conflict and secure a peaceful transition, we must ensure that Russia is given the respect it deserves. Failure to build bridges with such a powerful country will lead to more problems here and in the Middle East.

Jeremy Scott
Middlewich, Cheshire

SIR – The people of Ukraine face a dreadful dilemma. Should they submit to the black hand of Moscow or subjugate themselves to the nightmare of Brussels?

Perhaps the best solution is to retain their independence by teaming up with the only two free countries in Europe – Norway and Switzerland.

John Cuthbert
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – The warning from William Hague and the Americans that Russia should not intervene in Ukraine is a bit rich coming from people who are doing just that.

There is no way Russia will give up its Black Sea ports in Ukraine.

Terri Jackson
Bangor, Co Down

SIR – Should Kiev’s young be encouraged to believe that the accord on the free movement of peoples will remain a bedrock principle of the EU? Was it wise of the EU to think it could entice Ukrainians into abandoning their economic dependence on Russia without offering transitional aid? Now that we have a basket case on our hands, our austerity Chancellor is instantly ready with taxpayers’ money.

Since when has it been in the West’s interest to encourage the violent overthrow of a far-from-perfect but democratically elected government?

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset




Irish Times:

Sir, – On February 1st, Limerick city experienced the worst flooding in living history when the Shannon and the Abbey Rivers burst their banks with a surge that devastated homes in many parts of the city.

This Saturday, March 1st, it will be exactly four weeks since I have been able to sleep in my bed, since I could lock my own door and feel secure in my own home. I am a home-owner with a mortgage and home loan to pay on a house that is no longer habitable, and I am depending on the kindness of an aunt to keep a roof over my head.

I am one of the unfortunate ones who could not get flood insurance.

The truly sickening twist in this story is that one month down the road the Government has kept its back turned on the private home-owners who cannot get flood cover. This was an unprecedented event that required an unprecedented reaction. To date the only thing that has been unprecedented is the lack of leadership, from Government, and especially our Taoiseach, in putting the minds of its now critically vulnerable citizens at ease.

To see the British prime minister appear on news channels and declare money wasn’t going to be a problem, left me disillusioned with the country that I love. I felt sick to think that a government I voted for, in the hope of seeing a new Ireland, has left the private homeowners to fight for themselves. What kind of a country have we become, when balancing the books has outweighed the need to repair the homes of its citizens after a natural disaster?

Many Ministers have come down to look at the destruction, always when the cameras are running or snapping. They have looked forlorn and nodded at the sad stories they have heard from us mere mortals that lived in these little working class shells we used to call our homes and when the cameras left, they did too.

The damage to my home has been priced at €40-50,000, I have access to about €10,000, again thanks to the kindness of family and friends. Last week I received a cheque for €2,883 from our Government as its contribution to getting my life back in order, chiefly to be used to buy furniture and appliances. Does it think by this token gesture it has washed its hands of the problem? If so, Government members should be ashamed of themselves.

What good are appliances and furniture in a house with no internal walls, serious structural damage and without power or heat? I am 33 year old, a young professional.

I always wanted to be part of this country and help it regain its status as a great nation. However, after this fiasco I have lost hope. If this is how my country wants to treat those who have been subjected to a natural disaster I no longer want to be here and be part of it.

I have urged our Government not to let its citizens down. My neighbours and I have not asked for help before, and we do not like having to ask now, but we have no choice. We will not beg. We should not have to. It’s sad to say that after getting such a soaking, our Government has left us high and dry. – Yours, etc,


Athlunkard Street,



Sir, – Hearing about allegations of Garda corruption on the news, I must draw attention to one example of excellent work done this week in the course of his ordinary duty by an intelligent caring young guard on his beat.

My son owns a terraced house in a cul-de-sac in Dublin. He travelled to London last Friday, accidentally leaving his front door open.

Soon a young guard on his beat, became aware of the problem, succeeded in tracing the owner’s name from his car licence, contacted him in London and had the house guarded until a friend secured the front door.

That is an example of the brilliant, caring work done by our guards in this country. That young guard serves in Pearse Street station and is one example of the help that I, an old woman, have long experienced, from our hard-working, caring Garda. – Yours, etc,


Hyde Park Avenue,



A chara, – I strongly believe in marriage. My marriage is the greatest comfort in my life.

I am so positive about the institution that I wish to extend its benefits to my gay and lesbian fellow citizens.

Twelve years ago this issue wasn’t on my radar in any way. One lives and learns. Nations also live and learn. Why delay? I can see no reason not to pop the question on the same day as the EU and local election. – Is mise,



An Leabharlann Dlí,

Baile Átha Cliath 7.

A chara, – Rónán Mullen (Opinion, February 19th) and Noel Bolger (Letters, February 13th) conflate two debates, marriage equality and the right of children to be raised by genetic parents. It is possible to be in favour of both.

On the other hand, it is not long since the view of most who are now against marriage equality was that a children would be better raised by an unrelated married couple than by their own single mothers. It is also the case that most of those who adopt or use more modern methods of acquiring non genetic children, are not same-sex couples. – Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,

Bré, Co Chill Mhantáin.



Sir, – You’ve got to hand it to Minister for Health James Reilly. His proposed universal health insurance scheme will neatly take care of his two biggest headaches: how to extract more money from the punters, and how to get rid of our system of “community-rating” which has become increasingly irksome for the insurance companies.

This is how it will work. Everyone who isn’t on welfare will be forced to buy a “basic” healthcare package for €1,600 under threat of levy by the Revenue Commissioners (in other words, it’s a “tax”). This basic package will entitle everyone to exactly the same substandard service currently “enjoyed” by those dependent on medical cards – queuing included. “Extras” (ie the benefits people currently buy health insurance for) will now be “risk-rated”, with huge consequential premium-hikes for the old and sick. – Yours, etc,



Carrigaline, Co Cork.

Sir, – Having left the US to be rid of “Obamacare”, I am now to be subjected to “Reillycare”. – Yours, etc,


The Green,




Sir, – While most of Albert Collins’s letter (February 26th) seems to fit the facts filtering through the thickening fogs of covert warfare, his summation of the violently deposed president Morsi, on generalising grounds that “. . . his policies were certainly of an Islamist nature . . .”, seems to feed directly into the increasingly current sectarian bigotries justifying the ever-expanding Bush-war crusaders he rightly decries.

As for Yanukovich and Tymoshenko being “..oligarch(s) with a sickeningly opulent lifestyle . . .”, there are no shortage of such sickeners among what might equally be termed politicians of a “Christian” nature. There is no need to step off this island to locate exemplars. – Yours, etc,


Castleview Estate,


Co Galway.


Sir, – I sat reading “Time to break the silence on noise pollution” (Opinion, February 19th) in a coffee shop where unwanted music was intruding on my peace. This location is another for Ruraidih Conlon O’ Reilly to include in his review of places where we have to bear unwanted noise.

I would take my business elsewhere in the locality except I abhor even more listening to the inane chatter on certain radio stations while I drink my coffee. – Yours, etc,


Grove Avenue,




Sir, – KT Walsh (February 25th) encourages your readers to ask would-be city councillors what they intend to do for the homeless. It is a fair question on a very serious issue.

As leader of the Labour Group on Dublin City Council I am proud that we rejected the manager’s proposals to reduce the sum available for homeless services in the budget this year. Instead, through careful analysis of the budget and political pressure we increased the funding available by €6 million. In contrast the far Left and Fianna Fáil sat idly by and indeed voted against the revised budget.

In my own electoral area I am proud to say that within the next three months we will see the fourth social and affordable housing scheme that I have proposed in recent years go for planning. Together with a earlier initiative I am happy to report that nearly 4,000 units have been provided arising from proposals I made. Sadly, given the abandonment of a social housing provision by the previous Government, this is not nearly enough. There is a long way to go and those with a track record of delivery are those best placed to deliver again. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,


A chara, – While there may be some merit in the views expressed by Eanna Coffey (February 25th) regarding the Irish language, I would have to take issue with some of his remarks.

How can a language be described as “functionally useless” when it is still the first language of many citizens born in this State, be they located in Iarthar Ciarraí, Conamara or Gaobh Dobhair or elsewhere on this island? Presumably these citizens can still communicate with each other in their language of birth?

I agree with his assertion that the policy of compulsory Irish has failed. It is a beautiful, sophisticated language and is wasted on those who do not appreciate it. Set the Irish language free and teach it to the willing. – Is mise,


Sandyford View,


Sandyford, Dublin 18.

A chara, – Eanna Coffey’s letter (February 25th) contains the writer’s derogatory comment on a literature written in a language which he deems to be “detested by students, who are force-fed second-rate poetry and literature out of some absurd national pride”.

Then he urges us to see Gaelic games, Irish dancing , traditional Irish music as being worthy substitutes for language – the prime signifier of the Other. As a prose-writer who has written 10 works of fiction in my native language, ie, Irish, I find this attitude hard to take.

Mr Coffey dares to speak for others while he detests the Other that my native language has become in my native country. Furthermore, Mr Coffey, I presume, is aware of the fact that there is an Irish speaking enclave 40 miles from his own doorstep in west Kerry, where I come from. The fact that I received my secondary education in Killarney where I was force-fed English and its oftentimes second-rate poetry and literature, deemed worthy and first-rate, out of some absurd cultural-imperialist pride, is probably of little or no significance to him. – Is mise,


Bóthar na Ceapaí,

Bearna, Co na Gaillimhe.



Sir, – Inspired by Dr Vincent Kenny’s letter (February 25th) concerning the appearance of pesky political posters, I would like to offer a possible solution to a closely related problem: the proliferation of cable ties plaguing lampposts long after polling day.

I suspect that were each party and grouping restricted to a specific colour, the prevalence of cable-tie residue weeks after an election would fall off as most of the offenders could be traced and sanctioned. – Yours, etc,


St Mary’s Terrace,




Sir, – Further to the article “Some drugs are more equal than others” (Health + Family, February 25th), in fact, the CF drug Kalydeco is one of the most fast- tracked drugs of all time, worldwide, because of its effectiveness for those with the so-called “Celtic CF gene alteration”, which amounts to one in nine of the CF population in Ireland and one in 50 in many other countries. Forbes named Kalydeco “the most important new drug of 2012” .

We in Cystic Fibrosis Ireland have seen the dramatic impact of this drug first- hand. As with most drugs for those with rarer diseases the cost is very high because research costs are extraordinarily high and because there are very few patients from which the pharmaceutical company can make a return from their huge investment and risk.

In some CF medical and scientific conferences discussion is on the potential of decades being added to the survival age for many as a result of this drug. For others the benefits will likely be less because they have already suffered considerable lung damage.

Are we supposed to ask our patients to wait 20 years until we are absolutely certain about the increase in survivability, or should we accept the general consensus from clinicians, scientists (and many journalists) that this is a crucial breakthrough in CF healthcare, especially as it has more impact in Ireland that anywhere else in the world. In short, any debate on the funding of healthcare and priorities should be informed by a patient and clinical perspective as well as that of the economist. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive Officer,

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland,


Sir, – Among the many disturbing current questions about GSOC, etc, one of the most worrying seems not yet to have been properly aired: is it compatible with the spirit – perhaps, even the letter – of the Constitution for any one person to be minister both for Defence and for Justice – effectively, Minister for State Security? – Yours, etc,


Carysfort Park,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.



Sir, – I have just become aware that Dublin City Council is about to construct, across the street from my house, a Dublinbikes scheme depot on Mount Brown. This will result in the elimination of four on-street parking spaces there. With the planned expansion of the scheme, particularly as it affects my part of Dublin 8, a good number of other on-street parking spaces are set to go.

As a cyclist for more than 50 years, before giving up cycling about a decade ago mainly because of safety concerns, I am very much in favour of the bikes scheme. But it has been introduced, and is now to be expanded, with the unfortunate side-effect of reducing the number of on-street parking spaces. As it is, there is an insufficiency of spaces in this area; the planned expansion will worsen it. Why was it felt that this should/would be acceptable?

By purchasing biennial permits from the council, I, as well as two immediate neighbours, regularly park on that particular part of Mount Brown. We will now be forced to compete with others for the 15 or so remaining spaces further along. If none are available it will mean having to find a space some distance away and paying the resultant parking charge there.

For me, that game may not be worth the candle and I will then most likely decide to call it a day as a motorist and suffer the resultant social isolation. As it is, following a threatening incident, I no longer use the Luas Red Line at night. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort, Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.


Sir, – As described in your issue of February 24th, the proposed new health system would seem to involve an increase in bureaucracy, invasiveness, discrimination and expense (BIDE). Let us BIDE our time until the next election. – Yours, etc,


Lamb Alley, Dublin 8.


Sir, – Chairwoman of Revenue Josephine Feehily predicts “there will be a lot of letters landing in the second half of April” (Home News, February 20th). Presumably she means the letters T, A, and X. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Street,

Eganville, Ontario, Canada.



Irish Independent:


* Well done to Miriam Donohoe on the article she wrote about parental involvement with underage GAA teams (Irish Independent, February 17).

Also in this section

Ballyhea still says ‘No’ to this gross injustice

Keane’s courageous stance on human rights

Back in the shadow of the ‘nearly men’

As a primary school teacher, the best schools to work in are those where a boundary exists with regard to parental involvement, i.e., parents make an appointment to meet with teachers, and are not allowed to keep a teacher from teaching the children during school hours because he/she has something to discuss with the teacher about their child.

What Bernard Brogan clearly does not realise, with his recent comment about parents using GAA training as “a babysitting service”, is that should 30 parents show up at every training session for their children it would be impossible for underage managers and coaches to nurture the sporting skills and attitudes in the children – the next generation of GAA players.

Brogan’s vision would cause headaches for underage GAA coaches and managers because parents attending each training session with their children would result in them questioning and criticising managerial decisions if and when their son or daughter were not chosen to play on the team on match day.

This scenario would result in havoc and tension between parents and those involved with coaching the children, and the purpose of underage training would not be carried out if this were the case. Needless to say, the children would not benefit from the quarrelling of their sporting role models and they would not enjoy playing their sports.

The Brogan brothers’ experience of parental involvement at underage level is the stuff which dreams are made of; luckily, for both Alan and Bernard, their passion for playing GAA sports matched that of their father’s.

However, I do agree with Ms Donohoe that “many parents’ own battles are fought by their children on the GAA pitch”.

Advice to parents: if your children are passionate about playing GAA sports, then encourage and support them to do so. But please, allow them to develop their love of national sports naturally and allow them the space at training to do so.

Maria O’Sullivan



* Uganda‘s president has signed into law legislation that criminalises homosexuality. It provides for a 14-year jail term for a first offence and life imprisonment for the offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

The only apparent intervention by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was a statement in which he indicated that he was “deeply concerned” by the prospect of the legislation and that enactment “would affect our valued relationship with Uganda”.

That was a weak response on his part, given Ireland’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council and Uganda’s membership of this body until last year.

This relationship between Ireland and Uganda has cost taxpayers €156m in bilateral development aid between 2009 and 2012. There were 1.5 million people living with HIV in Uganda in 2012 and 140,000 new incidents of HIV infection. This legislation will clearly obstruct effective responses to HIV/AIDS and encourage harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and effectively undermine the objectives of Irish Aid.

What impact will this law now have on the ‘valued relationship’ between Ireland and Uganda, which Mr Gilmore cherishes? Will it result in the imminent and permanent closure of the Irish embassy in Kampala?

Will Irish Aid withdraw from all of the 37 African countries that ban homosexuality on the grounds that each human being is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights worldwide and live a life with dignity and without the menace of intolerable discrimination and the threat of a long prison sentence?




* Colette Brown’s assertion that television viewers take particular note of a female presenter’s dress and looks surely is an insult to the intelligence of most viewers of the news. The prime job of a presenter, male or female, is to present the news in a cogent and comprehensive manner. His or her looks should be a matter of indifference.

When you watch Aine Lawlor or Ursula Halligan, do you take note of what mascara they’re using, or the colour of their hair or dress?

Surely if a female presenter is overwrought with the colour and shade of her dress – as we know has happened in the past – then surely the presenter in question should consider another career and leave the experts to take their seat.




* I once met a man with whom I had a most interesting conversation about deserts. We discussed the notion of the mirage. Mirage now, not marriage.

For those of you who don’t know what a mirage is, it is a false image that appears in one’s vision if you have been out in the austere conditions of a dry desert under a scorching sun without water. He told me that if you ever find yourself in such a position you should blow a whistle. Apparently the shrill and true sound of the whistle awakens the senses to what is really going on.

While I don’t know if he was right or wrong it does make sense, if for no other reason that I once read or heard of a saying: the truth will set you free.

So, remember boys and girls, if you ever see a mirage; that which you desire but isn’t really the case, blow a whistle. Please don’t do it near a pitch where there is a game going on, though, because the players involved might think the game is over, and no-body wants to see all the little boys and girls being disappointed.

They might start fighting or, worse still, if they are immature enough, they might throw their toys out of their prams as they munch on cake or whatever else it is that the youth are gorging themselves on nowadays.




* I recently wrote to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to express my view that the practice of him and his ministers being off the island over the St Patrick’s Day Festival is not only misguided but very wrong.

On our national day, the leader of the 26 counties should be here with us, as should the majority of his Cabinet. St Patrick, you will remember, brought the Gospel to Ireland and for our leaders to be absent on the day that honours him is a disrespect to Christ himself.

In fact, it would be far more appropriate for ministers to visit Belfast and Derry than Washington or Beijing for they are – despite the continuing and by now almost ridiculous British presence – part of the territory of the Irish nation whose existence is witnessed before God by his Son Jesus Christ.

To be frank, the Government is out of touch with Ireland’s pretty harsh reality, a defect that could be easily cured by simply reading the ‘Irish News’ or ‘Belfast Telegraph’ on a daily basis.

A major and historic first step in the healing of Ireland’s ills could be taken on St Patrick’s weekend. The politicians – north and south – could gather at City Hall, Belfast, to declare the new republic of 32 counties on March 15, perhaps?

We could then enjoy a mature, responsible but joyful celebration over the following two days. It is time for all of us on this island to take matters into our own hands and grasp the future. Now is the time to act. All that we need is the courage and political will to seize the historic moment of opportunity.



Irish Independent



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