5 March 2014 Caroline

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.Pertwee buys a flee at auction, by accident Priceless

Cold slightly better Mary for treatment me to see Caroline, powee cut

Scrabbletoday Maryswins but get under400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.




Bernard Perlin, who has died aged 95, was an American artist whose wartime work morphed from propaganda to reportage as he confronted the stark realities of the conflicts in Europe and the Pacific. After the war he snubbed the rise of Abstract Expressionism in favour of the good life in Italy and New England.

As America entered the war Perlin joined the United States Office of War Information. Placed in the Graphics Division, he produced bold, block-coloured posters and lithographs to rally the nation’s morale. His Let ‘Em Have It sheets – in which a GI hurls a grenade while the public are called on to buy more war bonds – were to become ubiquitous across the stores and stations of the American home front. Another, from 1943, declared that “Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty” and pictured contemporary American soldiers set against a backdrop of Benjamin Franklin’s Independence troops.

This patriotic delivery was to be diffused by his experiences embedded in an American commando unit in the Mediterranean. Here he drew and painted works for Time and Fortune magazines.

His gouaches captured the struggle of Greek civilians – often Resistance fighters – caught behind German lines; blood-soaked operating theatres; and soldiers preparing for action picked out in the inky blue of moonlight. He explained that he would often relive a battle in his mind before committing paint to canvas. He also sketched out caricatures and portraits, including a deep-lined profile of General Douglas MacArthur. He later covered the war in the South Pacific and Asia, where he was on board the “Mighty Mo” (USS Missouri) for the formal Japanese surrender, and remained in the region to record the war’s aftermath.

His gouaches captured the struggle of Greek civilians – often Resistance fighters – caught behind German lines; blood-soaked operating theatres; and soldiers preparing for action picked out in the inky blue of moonlight. He explained that he would often relive a battle in his mind before committing paint to canvas. He also sketched out caricatures and portraits, including a deep-lined profile of General Douglas MacArthur. He later covered the war in the South Pacific and Asia, where he was on board the “Mighty Mo” (USS Missouri) for the formal Japanese surrender, and remained in the region to record the war’s aftermath.


Bernard Perlin was born in Richmond, Virginia, on November 21 1918 into a family of Jewish Russian-émigré tailors. In 1934, after his artistic promise had been spotted at high school, he enrolled at the New York School of Design. He then studied at the National Academy of Design Art School and the Art Students League before receiving a scholarship to develop his work in Poland.

On his return, Perlin was commissioned by the US Treasury to paint a vivid mural – depicting a late-1930s country scene – on a Post Office wall in the New Jersey village of South Orange (for which he was paid $2,000). It was a community project that would be a precursor to his Social Realist work during, and in the wake of, the war.

After his wartime experiences Perlin’s delivery turned towards Magical Realism, an informal school with an artistic lineage that can be traced from Frida Kahlo to Edward Hopper. His aim was to capture an “everyday magic” powered by both realism and surrealism.


Perhaps his most famous painting was executed in this period. Orthodox Boys (1948) pictured two boys in their skull caps pondering a Hebrew text on a platform at Manhattan’s Canal Street subway. Behind them a wall displays a thousand doodles – from lovers’ declarations to notes by Nazi sympathisers. It is a snapshot of a specific time and culture given an almost sinister air.

The painting, now in the Tate’s collection, was to inform the development of the young British Pop artist, Peter Blake. “It was one of the first Magic Realist pictures I saw,” Blake said in 2001. “The whole school of Magic Realism was a great influence on my painting.”

Perlin’s post-war career would be guided by an ever-shifting focus – both in terms of style and subject. In 1948, shortly after painting Orthodox Boys, he relocated to Italy, staying for six years, painting what he termed simply “beautiful pictures”. Social realism gave way to dreamlike images of Capri’s cliffs and the Spanish Steps in Rome and took on a new palette of deep reds and shocking greens.

Returning to New York, he was confronted by a transformed art scene. Punchy, beer-fuelled Abstract Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, lorded over the network of galleries and seduced – in all senses of the word – patrons such as Peggy Guggenheim. Perlin was repelled by this resolutely anti-figurative and incestuous hothouse environment. He moved to the haven of Ridgefield, Connecticut, “to escape the artificial, ego-pressured world of artists in New York, competing with each other to make the most money”. The leafy confines of New England forged an increasingly Impressionistic and contemplative approach – a 1968 portrait of Truman Capote depicts the author almost dissolving into the white sun-bleached haze of a drawing room.

In the 1970s Perlin stopped painting and, with his partner, later husband, Edward Newell, lived quietly, growing flowers in his small conservatory. It was a respite that would last for many years – he only returned to the easel late in life. “Every painting is like a book,” stated Perlin last year. “Every book is about something different, and has something different to say. That’s what painting is like. People always ask me why my paintings are so different they might have been done by several artists. Well, I’ve gone through many different phases of life — it’s been full of changes, so why would I stick to one technique?”

Perlin held teaching posts at the Brooklyn Museum Art School (1946-48) and Wooster School, Danbury, Connecticut (1967-69). His works are held in many of the world’s leading collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Edward Newell survives him.

Bernard Perlin, born November 21 1918, died January 14 2014






Now that most of the western press has finally dropped the use of the article when referring to Ukraine, I wonder how many revolutions the Ukrainians will need to have for the Guardian to drop the Russian spelling for Kiev (Letters, 25 February). Granted, there is a fast-moving situation on the ground, but the capital of Ukraine has been Kyiv since Ukrainians (east and west) united in a historic vote (possibly the freest and fairest in their history) to secede from the Soviet Union in 1991, causing its collapse. Keep up.
Susan Bailey
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire

•  The British government would appear to have been taken by surprise by the events in Ukraine. Was GCHQ too busy looking at sexually explicit webcam images to monitor the activity of the Russians (Revealed: GCHQ intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users, 28 February)?
Tony Mason

• Your summary of new flag options (Which new UK flag did you choose?, G2, 3 March) omitted one salient point in favour of the first choice, which has a black background: that the Cornish flag of St Piran is a white cross on a black background. Cornwall would then receive the recognition it deserves as a separate entity within the UK.
Roger Brake
Little Trevellion, Cornwall

• When I was a child we went to the loo to do Big Things. Could the Tories ever do that (Letters, 4 February)?
Marjory Lewis
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• If Ishak Ayiris (New Etonian, 1 March) sees “Labour and the Conservatives as two cheeks of the same backside”, where does he see the Lib Dems?
Roger Evans

• First day of spring (Letters, 1 March), and not a single sighting of a hot water bottle in my bed all winter. Has global warming finally reached South Yorkshire?
David Whitehead

• Frogspawn in my garden pond. Game ova.
James Hornsby


Following his resignation as chief executive of the RSPCA through ill health (Report, 25 February), I pay respect to Gavin Grant and I wish the RSPCA success in meeting its challenges. In a relentlessly driven commercial arena, one can feel for the leader of an organisation committed by its constitutional objectives to animal welfare in all forms. Buffeting of the Grant-led RSPCA has been unsparing and frequently contradictory: for having or spending too much money, or too little; for vigorously pursuing prosecution of those violating animals, or for soft-pedalling the issue; for over-asserting animal rights, or for neglecting them.

Too often indeed those traducing the society during Grant’s tenure pursue interests inimical to animal welfare, informed by the commercial imperative alone. In 2013 I was commissioned by Gavin Grant’s RSPCA to chair what became the McNair inquiry and report into Freedom Food, the leading animal welfare assurance scheme. This followed criticisms I had made of the scheme. I was permitted to act wholly independently of the RSPCA, to build my panel as I wished (former Defra secretary Caroline Spelman and veterinary academic Professor David Main) and to take evidence and deploy our findings. The report and its recommendations are no devotional exercise yet have been endorsed unanimously by the governance of the RSPCA.

The RSPCA has a long and distinguished record in alleviating wanton animal suffering. While continuing its work for domestic pets and wildlife, in an age of industrial and sometimes brutal factory farming, and where austerity has depleted regulatory disciplines, the RSPCA must also exert its influence for the wellbeing of those 95% of the nation’s animals in food production. Flaws acknowledged, the RSPCA deserves our support in setting its hand to issues which research shows will affect our own health and that of our planet increasingly over time. As a start it should implement the McNair recommendations without delay. And it should not be chastened by assaults from those far outside the tent of animal welfare.
Duncan McNair
Chairman, McNair inquiry and report



Shirley Williams raises a critical point about the importance of access for humanitarian organisations working inside Syria (Letters, 3 March). In spite of the huge challenge we face working in a war zone, the World Food Programme successfully delivered food assistance to 3.7 million people inside Syria last month. We would like to reach many more. WFP has just completed the last of 24 humanitarian airlifts from Erbil in Iraq to Qamishli in north-eastern Syria, where we are providing assistance to 60,000 people living in one of these areas that are hard to reach by road. But airlifts are costly and no substitute for regular access by truck convoys.

Baroness Williams raises the possibility of “food drops” as a last-ditch measure to reach those in besieged areas. While it would be rash to rule anything out, air drops are probably impractical. They require a team on the ground to secure a drop zone and people in place to collect and distribute the aid when it falls and ensure it gets to the weak and the vulnerable. Insecurity means that it is almost impossible for this kind of deployment under current circumstances.

WFP is grateful to donors who have already provided funds in 2014. However, at present, our operations in Syria are only 5% funded, and support to refugees in neighbouring countries stands at 7% of what is required for the year. $200m is urgently needed for WFP to continue its assistance until the end of April. We would like to scale up assistance further. Airlifts are an expensive option; sporadic and one-off convoys into besieged areas can provide temporary humanitarian relief. But WFP needs continuous and sustained access to provide life-saving food assistance.
Greg Barrow
Director, World Food Programme London Office



You invite readers (Editorial, 28 February) to compare Tory statements in 2006 and the article you published by Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne. The same exercise could be applied to the Guardian and its response to how best to combat poverty. You now write that money by itself is not enough, important as it is. It can put food on the table and lessen stress. But by itself it does not have life-changing qualities. I tried in 2010 in the Foundation Years report I compiled for the prime minister to answer what this other strategy had to be if we are, in the reports’ subtitle, to prevent poor children from becoming poor adults. Life chances of most children are determined early. Gaps in achievement and outcomes are already stark by age three and poorer children arrive at school already far behind their richer peers, less well prepared and less ready for education. These gaps remain, and indeed widen, during the school years. Schools improve the abilities of all children, while failing to reduce class differences. Any anti-poverty strategy worth its name must centre on radically changing life chances before children come into school. Otherwise you will be writing leaders on this very issue to the last day of recorded time.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead


The coalition recently lost a battle to close the thriving and solvent Lewisham hospital when an adjacent hospital was suffering financial problems due to government cuts and disastrous PFI debts. The coalition subsequently rushed through an amendment to the care bill (clause 119) which gives sweeping powers allowing Whitehall bureaucrats to close any English hospitals without full and proper local consultation (Report, 27 February). With this “hospital closure clause” in place, no English hospital will be safe from financially driven closures. Local patients, clinicians and commissioners will have little meaningful say in the closure process. Whatever happened to the mantra used by the coalition to sell the recent NHS reconfiguration to us all – “no decision about me without me”. In effect clause 119 brings about a fast-track hospital closure process. Clause 119 is pernicious and hugely damaging to the future of healthcare in England and we implore politicians to withdraw clause 119 or vote against it as it moves through parliament.
Dr David Wrigley GP, Carnforth, Lancashire
Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
Paul Kenny General secretay, GMB
Frances O’Grady General secretary, TUC
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Professor Cathy Warwick Chief executive, RCM
Phil Gray Chief executive, CSP
Dr Kailash Chand Deputy chair, BMA
Dr Clive Peedell Leader, National Health Action Party
Dr Jacky Davis Co-chair, NHS Consultants Association
Christina McAnea Head of health, Unison
Dr Ron Singer President, MPU
Profesor Ray Tallis
Professor Allyson Pollock
Clive Stafford-Smith
Dr Louise Irvine
Rachael Maskell Head of health, Unite
Dr Iona Heath
Dr David Nicholl
Prof Sue Richards Co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public
John Lipetz Co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public

• Notwithstanding the Home Office’s duty to manage Britain’s borders, everyone living here should have access to essential healthcare. This is critical for the sick, to help contain disease and, in the long run, for our economy. The immigration bill being scrutinised in the Lords proposes to substantially extend charging for NHS services, including to pregnant women, children, and trafficked people. Around 90% of pregnant women seen at Doctors of the World’s clinic for excluded migrants in east London have received no antenatal care, despite most having lived here for three years before seeking medical help. Home Office access to patients’ data will further exacerbate the problem, as more sick people will be too afraid to access care for fear their details will go to the UK Border Agency. The NHS constitution is clear that healthcare should be available to all regardless of status or ability to pay. Our health service should not be used as a tool of exclusion or immigration control.
Lord Richard Rogers
Trustee, Doctors of the World UK, part of the Médecins du Monde network

• If as Jackie Ashley (Comment, 27 February) indicates, NHS Change Day has empowered staff to speak out, then it will be a positive force in addressing the business management hegemony, introduced in the 1980s. However, it may just reinforce a sort of “Boxer syndrome” (Animal Farm), where staff believe that problems are their fault and they must work harder. The result will not be a better service in the long term, but one where staff, in identifying areas of change, create a rod for management to beat them with. In working better or harder, staff will find that this often results in staff cuts, time and motion studies, and an increase in staff dissatisfaction.

Many of those in senior positions act as administrators and not, as the service desperately needs, leaders. Change is often viewed negatively, or merely cost-related, and as attacks on the status quo. So to suggest that the clinicians at the sharp end of the NHS can create lasting change in a system that doesn’t normally value their views seems to me highly unlikely.
Dr Peter Wimpenny
Gairloch, Highlands



The proposal to link hospital and general practice records through the intended system has generated intense discussion ( is in chaos, 1 March). This has so far been confined to concerns over inappropriate commercial exploitation of the data and leakage of confidential information.

While these are important aspects, we also have concerns relating to what happens when data are not linked accurately. There is increasing international evidence that the inevitable errors occurring during data linkage can distort types of analyses that aims to support. Data such as NHS number and date of birth, which are used to link records, are never perfect and often it is particular kinds of people, for example ethnic minorities, who fail to get linked and thus fall outside the system. Failing to link records for the same person or wrongly linking different people can produce seriously misleading results, even when only a small minority are wrongly linked. More transparency about the nature and extent of linkage processes and linkage error would help medical researchers assess potential distortions and help service providers to improve data quality.

As for confidentiality, this is best preserved by proper monitoring of patient records, with strict security controls on access. Proposals to “scramble” patient identifiers before data leave the GP record systems are not the solution, and would actually make matters worse by increasing the numbers of wrongly matched records. In our view, the current debate needs to include a full discussion of all these linkage quality problems.
Professor Harvey Goldstein University College London & University of Bristol, Professor Ruth Gilbert University College London, Dr Katie Harron University College London, Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson University College London, Dr Mario Cortina University College London , Dr Nirupa Dattani City University

• There is a simple step which can be taken to address the controversy. The Health and Social Care Information Centre should give a public undertaking that it will provide only analysis of GP patient data to outside bodies. Patient data would never be disclosed to outside bodies. Ideally this should be formalised by statute and applied to all patient data gathered by NHS services. Any analysis requested could be subject to ethics committee review and, when complete, identified on the HSCIC website. These steps, quickly taken and appropriately publicised, might support public acceptance of the creation of a highly valuable national healthcare asset.
Malcolm Rogan
Nomansland, Wiltshire

• Your piece on use of patient record data (MPs’ anger at missing data on who has seen patient records, 26 February) quotes Dr Stephanie Bown as saying that GPs “worry that patients’ concerns about could prevent them from speaking openly to their doctor”. Such concerns already do so, whenever an individual is seeking life insurance. The insistence of the insurance industry on an applicant’s agreeing to their GP’s report often leads to reluctance on the part of patients to share symptoms they think might affect their premiums. Similar damaging reluctance to engage in healthcare may precede holidays when travel insurance cover depends on absence of pending hospital appointments.

The public benefit that will follow successful implementation of the care records system is likely to be enormous and the challenge to confidentiality nugatory. By contrast, there is no identifiable general public benefit in the long-established collusion between the insurance industry and the NHS. It should be banned.
Professor Robert Boyd
Adlington, Cheshire

• Improving health services, as far as the government is concerned, will also mean cutting costs by delaying treatment, reducing eligibility for expensive drugs or operations, increasing charges, and furthering privatisation. The computer system would enable it to monitor whether doctors and nurses carry out central instructions. Whether it would really be much use for evaluating treatment – given that so many factors influence outcomes, such as lifestyle and whether patients actually take all the drugs they are prescribed – is another question when it comes to justifying the cost of yet another huge computer system. The Office for National Statistics is trusted and has great experience in analysing the census and other large data sets. It would be much preferred to any private firm. Otherwise the money might be better spent by the Medical Research Council.
Dr Richard Turner






Steve Richards states (4 March), almost in passing, the fundamental truth of the situation in Ukraine, namely that an elected president has been deposed by a diverse (read “motley”) band. Why is the British Foreign Secretary posing, quite literally, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the apparent supporter of the mob rule which has taken hold of western Ukraine and which has provoked this crisis?

Of course the Russians, both in the Crimea and more widely, feel that their vital interests are under threat and have acted to safeguard them. It is to be hoped that they will continue to act with restraint in a highly inflammable and  dangerous situation, not  of their making.

Roger Blassberg, St Albans, Hertfordshire

That the West lacks the military resources or the will to launch an offensive against Russia’s invasion of Crimea is beyond doubt. It is also doubtful that Putin has much appetite for a full-blown occupation of Ukraine, on three major counts.

First, if he gets Ukraine, he gets back the notorious Chernobyl site whose far-reaching deadly effects are still with us nearly 30 years on. Lurking not far from Kiev, like a sleeping monster, Chernobyl is still there, entombed in concrete, surrounded by miles of radioactive countryside.

Russia would also be lumbered with what little remains of its once mighty Ukrainian-based Soviet military-industrial complex, which dates back to the days of the Tsars. Beyond producing wheat and exporting dodgy ex-Soviet cameras, Ukraine’s economy is less bread-basket than a basket case, hardly a glittering prize  for Moscow.

Third, post-Sochi, an impoverished Russia has Gazprom and Europe  needs Gazprom.

That is why, beyond an ego-trip and some post-Soviet posturing, Moscow will say “nyet” to a full re-appropriation of Ukraine and the West will say “no” to a fight for Crimea.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex

William Hague is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and as such he is not an anti-Semite; obvious enough, but then why is he backing the Svoboda Party, which has illegally taken power in Ukraine? A brief look at Svoboda’s political make up will make every Jewish person shudder, with their pro-Nazi views and anti-Semitism, but Mr Hague sees no problem.

Anti-Semitism is not something to condemn and then ignore when it is politically suitable to do so. It should always be condemned and Mr Hague’s membership of Conservative Friends of Israel needs revoking.

Dr Kevin Cordes, Derby

Suddenly British politicians have discovered some compassion for east Europeans.

Until Mr Putin’s intervention in Crimea, Ukrainians, like their neighbours in Romania and Bulgaria, would have been seen as a potential immigration threat by at the very least the Faragist wing of the Tory party.

Tsar Vlad the Great offers to take this problem off their hands – and they are all up in arms.

Keith B Watts, Wolverhampton


Dispute over the remains of Richard III

News that scientists at the University of Leicester are subjecting the mortal remains of Richard III to further destructive tests in order to sequence the king’s genome raises serious questions of propriety and ethics.

The university’s custodianship of the remains is currently subject to a legal challenge and therefore sub judice. Renewed testing amounts to what can only be described as a cavalier disregard of the legal process.

Moreover, there has been no independent verification that these tests are either ethical or necessary. Indeed, the university has, in effect, authorised itself to conduct tests that are far from essential and will add very little to our useful knowledge of England’s last Plantagenet king.

Essential initial testing to confirm the king’s identity was sanctioned by Philippa Langley of the Looking For Richard Project (who instigated and raised the funding for the archaeological search), in her contract with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).

However, this came with a proviso: Philippa Langley’s contract with ULAS stated that any remains positively identified as Richard III would be transferred to her as custodian to be placed in a prayerful environment to await reburial.

We feel that the university has exhibited contempt for the judicial review process. We also feel that it has refused to honour a contract with Philippa Langley, freely entered into before the archaeological search began.

These are not appropriate actions for an academic institution. They raise legitimate concerns as to what future actions the university may take without suitable authorisation.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Annette Carson, Dr David and Wendy Johnson, Philippa Langley, Looking For Richard Project, Lawford, Essex

It’s the future that matters in Ulster

Claire Dwyer Hogg (3 March) refers to the “on the run” letters given to Irish republicans, and the police investigations into Bloody Sunday, and asks: “How can justice be served if a terrorist and an employee of the state are given an equal level of accountability?”

But it is precisely this equality that was claimed by those employing the Armalite and the bomb in their cause of a united Ireland. They claimed, and continue to claim, that they acted as the agents of a future state, their actions sanctioned by a historical imperative that placed them on an equal footing with their British oppressors.

Like so many groups that resort to violence as a means of achieving their ends, they got their feet under the table when it was time to pull the crackers and put on the paper hats. The rest of us just have to live with it, and no amount of commissions or apologies, convictions or “on the run” letters will change what actually happened.

Whether or not any paratrooper is prosecuted over Bloody Sunday, Peter Hain is right to think that the future of us all matters a lot more than any one particular past.

Christopher Dawes, London W11

Reduce the demand for prostitution

I’m delighted that the UK Parliament’s all-party group on prostitution and the global sex trade is looking at solutions to prostitution which reduce demand (“Target punters, not prostitutes, say MPs”, 3 March). It’s high time Britain addressed the inequality that takes place when men buy women’s bodies for sex.

The notion that prostitution is the “oldest profession” leads some to believe we can do little more than regulate it better – that we should follow the example of Holland and decriminalise. But this leads to increased prostitution levels, normalising the inequalities which sustain the sex industry.

Rather than blanket legalisation we need the more nuanced approach already practised in Sweden. Recent changes in France and Ireland, as well as my report on the subject, which was accepted by the European Parliament last week, suggest the wind is blowing in this direction. Britain must be ambitious enough to follow suit.

Mary Honeyball, MEP, (Lab, London), London W9

Give us more light in spring

If the Coalition is serious about green issues it can make an immediate saving of UK energy consumption by bringing forward the move to British Summer Time (BST) by four weeks.

The annual move to GMT in late October is approximately five weeks after the autumn equinox, while the reversion to BST is more than a week after the spring equinox. Even if successive governments have resisted shifting to Central European Time because of concerns about Scottish crofters, they have the opportunity to demonstrate their green credentials by changing the clocks in late February to provide an extra hour of daylight for an additional month in spring.

David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Spokesperson won’t speak

A GCHQ spokeswoman responded to the latest creepy revelation about their work, that they hoovered up webcam images of millions of people: “We’re not commenting on anything.”

Given that the public debt is now over £1.2trn, would it be unreasonable to suggest that sacking such a spokesperson and saving whatever we pay her might provide modest fiscal relief?

Stuart Bonar, Plymouth

Selling off London

For decades villages have been devastated as wealthy people have purchased holiday homes, pricing locals out of the market and destroying the community spirit, culture and language (especially in Wales). It is ironic that the same is now happening in “lights out London” (report, 3 March) as mega-rich foreigners buy up property not as dwellings but for investment.

Mike Stroud, Swansea





Sir, Sir Christopher Meyer urges us (Mar 3) to see the Ukrainian crisis through Moscow’s prism and says we should not make a drama out of “Crimea’s crisis”. Unfortunately, thanks to most of the UK media, we have had little chance to do anything else for the past month. This is not Crimea’s crisis, it is Ukraine’s crisis, but unrelentingly we hear interviews with so-called representatives of the Russian minority in Ukraine, who talk of the threat from “fascists”, as supporters of the Ukrainian revolution are termed, and argue that Yanukovych was a legally elected president. The BBC makes little effort to challenge such views.

The core of the Ukrainian revolution is formed by ordinary citizens. Most are left wing or moderate, not right wing; many are Russian-speakers or ethnic Russians, tired of the authoritarian kleptocracy run by Yanukovych. Many Russian-speaking Ukrainians are just as outraged by such excesses as Ukrainians, yet one would not know from the British media that there were Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians among those shot on the Maidan. We should not simply accept, as Sir Christopher appears to accept, Russia’s view of its history. Ukrainians are Ukrainians because they have resisted for centuries the idea that they form “part of the Russian nation”. Their voice should be heard.

Professor Robert Frost


Sir, Christopher Meyer is right that we don’t have a dog in the Ukraine fight. Our government should cease its posturing about the gravest crisis of the century and talk of costs to Russia.

The US’s reaction would have been identical to Russia’s had the slightest threat arisen in an area where one of its fleets was based. After all, the US has been doing something not dissimilar in South America for decades.

George Healy

London N16

Sir, Ukraine’s agony highlights the incompetence of EU “diplomacy” and the way that the premature entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU raised unwise expectations.

Ignoring the corrupt failures of Ukraine’s leaders since the Orange Revolution, the special status of Crimea, the lessons of history and ethnicity, and the mind-sets of the ex-KGB rulers of Russia, not to mention the realpolitik of their holding all the geographic, economic, financial, military and energy supply cards, and to expect Ukraine to move near-seamlessly out of Russian influence and towards “Europe” overnight, displayed a worrying level of ignorance and naivety.

Sensible negotiations for gradually increasing ties with the EU should have kept Russian interests in the loop, including obvious points like a renewed pledge that Ukraine would not join Nato, as we promised Gorbachev. But the West’s strident rhetoric seems bent on exceeding even our Syrian own-goals; as long as we all depend on Russian oil and gas, Putin will reign supreme.

John Birkett

St Andrews, Fife

Sir, Whatever is decided in the short term, the proper strategic response for the UK to Russia’s actions in Ukraine is to get fracking. A long-term and sustainable energy policy based on UK gas, nuclear and tidal power is long overdue.

Andrew Lodge




The UK must do its utmost to extirpate sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war

Sir, In war zones sexual violence is as devastating as bullets and bombs. According to Unicef, those most at risk are women and their children, both girls and boys.

One of the starkest reminders is Syria, where an entire generation is at risk of being lost as a fourth year of conflict and unimaginable atrocities approaches.

Between February and May last year nearly three quarters of the Syrian refugees newly arrived in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq who spoke to child protection researchers said that sexual violence is on the rise inside their country.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, this coming Saturday, March 8, we stand together to call for change. In June the UK hosts a crucial global summit on sexual violence in conflict. International leaders must seize this opportunity to defend women and to commit to protect children in war zones from rape and sexual abuse.

UK ministers must do their utmost to ensure that the summit prioritises measures to help children to report sexual crimes and hold their abusers to account. The UK must also secure more funding for psychological and long-term support for child survivors.

Sexual violence in conflict is preventable, not inevitable. Together we can end this.

Jemima Khan; Baroness Lane Fox of Soho; J. K. Rowling; Victoria Beckham; Justine Roberts (Mumsnet); Amal Alamuddin (Barrister); Professor Geraldine Van Bueren; Baroness Stern; Megha Mittal; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Sophie Dahl; Lady Edwina Grosvenor; Kirsty Young; The Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin; Claudia Schiffer; Cat Deeley; Anita Tiessen (Unicef UK); Sigrid Rausing; Keeley Hawes; Cathy Turner; Ilse Howling; Baroness Grey-Thompson; Denise Lewis; Heather Kerzner


There will be a psychedelic bonfire tonight if an ancient roll of wartime chaff can be found in the loft

Sir, I always called chaff (Mar 3) window because that’s what my old dad called it, and like many aircraft men he “acquired” a supply at demob.

We used to make chains with it for Christmas, my job being to separate the silver paper from its backing which I took outside and set alight. For one short moment the burning waste produced a deep purple magenta-edged flame. I remember it well.

I managed to rescue two big rolls of window from my father’s loft when he died. If I can find them in my loft, there will be a small, short fire behind my shed this evening

Alf Menzies

Southport, Merseyside


The UK must do its utmost to extirpate sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war

Sir, In war zones sexual violence is as devastating as bullets and bombs. According to Unicef, those most at risk are women and their children, both girls and boys.

One of the starkest reminders is Syria, where an entire generation is at risk of being lost as a fourth year of conflict and unimaginable atrocities approaches.

Between February and May last year nearly three quarters of the Syrian refugees newly arrived in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq who spoke to child protection researchers said that sexual violence is on the rise inside their country.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, this coming Saturday, March 8, we stand together to call for change. In June the UK hosts a crucial global summit on sexual violence in conflict. International leaders must seize this opportunity to defend women and to commit to protect children in war zones from rape and sexual abuse.

UK ministers must do their utmost to ensure that the summit prioritises measures to help children to report sexual crimes and hold their abusers to account. The UK must also secure more funding for psychological and long-term support for child survivors.

Sexual violence in conflict is preventable, not inevitable. Together we can end this.

Jemima Khan; Baroness Lane Fox of Soho; J. K. Rowling; Victoria Beckham; Justine Roberts (Mumsnet); Amal Alamuddin (Barrister); Professor Geraldine Van Bueren; Baroness Stern; Megha Mittal; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Sophie Dahl; Lady Edwina Grosvenor; Kirsty Young; The Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin; Claudia Schiffer; Cat Deeley; Anita Tiessen (Unicef UK); Sigrid Rausing; Keeley Hawes; Cathy Turner; Ilse Howling; Baroness Grey-Thompson; Denise Lewis; Heather Kerzner


The exclusion of Rangers and Celtic from the riches and glamour of the English premiership is discriminatory

Sir, In response to the challenge of Matthew Parris to generate a positive reason to vote No (Mar 1), I suggest that Mr Cameron studies the makeup of the 1,200,000 people of the West of Scotland, most of whom love football.

If his real argument is genuinely “better together” then he should offer these people something truly positive; the most effective way of doing so is to guarantee that Celtic and Rangers will play in the English Premiership. For far too long these giant clubs have been excluded from England and a share of the richesse because they are Scottish. No other businesses are treated in such a discriminatory way, and it irks many Scots. If Cameron was smart enough, he could ensure that these clubs have a future in the UK and in so doing would increase the justification of their supporters to vote for the union. He might even get a Scottish seat at the next general election for his efforts.

Professor Richard Goldberg



The government must understand that nowadays broadband really is just as vital as all the other utilities

Sir, It must be impressed upon the government that broadband really is now a “vital fourth utility” after gas water and electricity (“How a slow internet can shrink your house value”, Mar 3).

We in Easton, near Wells, have been without broadband connection or landline for over four months. You quoted the property expert Henry Pryor as saying that without broadband, “you’ll struggle with a whole heap of stuff”. He is right. We and eight other households have struggled. Mobile signal is erratic so matters are even worse. Only this morning we were assured by BT that we would be connected. The engineer from BT Openreach had other ideas. There seems to be no communication between one branch of BT and another. This has been the case since last October. Can the country really afford such a shambles?

Anne N. Barnsley-Roberts

Easton, Somerset



Cornwall may have its own word for tomorrow but it has to share some of its linguistic treasures with other regions

Sir, Fossick, cack and fizzogg are Cornish words (Mar 3)? All three were in common parlance in the 1950s and 1960s in Hartlepool, and at least two of them are still used in these parts. Fizzogg is surely an abbreviation of physiognomy, and that isn’t Cornish either.

Arthur Pickering


Sir, It is not just Cornwall that has a regionally specific word for mañana. Here in West Berkshire tradesmen make full use of “somewhen” meaning “yes, they will be coming, but in their own good time”.

David Shamash

South Fawley, W Berks



SIR – John Bingham was one of our most remarkable Second World War spies. The M15 documents that have just been released (“Spy who turned Hitler’s British supporters into unwitting double agents”, report, February 28) show the scale of his achievement in neutralising the espionage of British fascists, who were more widespread than is supposed.

This modest hero, who was also the 7th Baron Clanmorris – an Ulster title without property – was not treated as respectfully as he deserved by his protégé, John le Carré, who immortalised him as George Smiley. He was hurt by the portrayal of his secret world in the novels.

The author, Bingham once said, “was my friend, but I deplore and hate everything he has done and said against the intelligence services”. No one cared more about his country and its institutions than John Bingham, to whom we owe so much.

Lord Lexden
London SW1



SIR – For poor children, getting ahead in life comes less from “acting posh”, as your report put it, and more from being better educated.

But there is no doubt that those working-class pupils who do study in the independent sector, thanks to a scholarship or bursary, gain some of the social skills referred to by Peter Brant, the head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, as well as benefiting from a well-rounded education.

The Society of Heads’ Futures Group, which I chair, has been discussing strategies for widening access to our schools, though we are painfully aware that there are political mountains to climb in order to achieve this. Very few independent school heads would not do more for deserving children from working-class backgrounds given the opportunity, though this does not seem to have been high up on the Adonis-Gove agenda.

Roland Martin
Headmaster, Rendcomb College
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

SIR – We are a socially and culturally diverse nation. For Peter Brant to suggest that the working classes don’t know how to hold a knife and fork, and are therefore not likely to succeed in life, is insulting.

Emma Isworth
Elmfield, Kent

SIR – One way to ensure social mobility would be for the Government to bring back assisted places in private schools.

Kate Graeme-Cook
Tarrant Launceston, Dorset

Spring is sprung

SIR – Spring arrived at 7.50am on March 1, when I heard my first skylark of the year singing joyfully high in the sky.

Roger Boyce
Dornoch, Sutherland

SIR – Last week I heard the familiar rasping call of the Crested Mountfield and, later from an adjoining garden, the persistent hum of the Lesser Strimmer.

Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

SIR – I know spring has arrived when I can see the star Arcturus, low in the east, for the first time each year.

If I want to feel as though spring has arrived a bit earlier, I simply look out for Arcturus a bit later in the evening.

Geoffrey White
Wellow, Somerset

Freemasons’ charity

SIR – I find the ruling that Freemasonry cannot be classed as a charitable institution to be puzzling.

Churches have charitable status and are classed as “exempt charities” in the Schedule 3 list of the Charities Act. This means that they do not have to register with the Charity Commission to enjoy all the tax benefits associated with this.

It is estimated that between 25 and 30 per cent of the United Grand Lodge of England’s charitable donations go to causes with no Masonic connections. Having been a churchwarden, I know that “wholly philanthropic” giving to outside causes by the Church of England falls far short of that practised by the Masons. So where is the even-handedness in the judge’s ruling?

Frazer Walker
Tern Hill, Shropshire

On-the-spot justice

SIR – When I was a police officer, some magistrates’ courts were connected by a tunnel to the police station. Any offender detained the afternoon or night before would be taken to court the following morning to be dealt with.

Very often, the magistrate would bind over an offender to ensure good behaviour. This was excellent because the offender knew he was being watched.

Magistrates were on call to turn out on Saturday and Sunday to deal with any arrests overnight. Now, because many police stations have been sold, justice has to be dispensed weeks afterwards, sometimes miles away.

Neville H Walker
Atherstone, Warwickshire

Honest taxes

SIR – Top of my list of renamed taxes would be VAT. Call it sales tax, as they do in America, and show it separately on every receipt, so that consumers know what they are actually paying for. I have just paid an outrageous sum to the Government for the privilege of moving house; maybe we could change stamp duty to “property purchase tax”.

Paula Bates
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Avoiding high parking costs at Wakehurst Place

SIR – Tony Saunders is mistaken in his belief that charging for car parking could backfire at Wakehurst Place in Sussex. At present, the National Trust pays little, if anything, towards the expense of maintaining the garden, so the absence of National Trust visitors would have very little effect.

However, with an annual pass, which costs little more than twice the entry fee, a car may be parked there every day for a year. Without the revenue from parking, the garden might have to close.

Bernard Breese
Lingfield, Surrey

SIR – My husband and I have been members of the National Trust for about 20 years. We were amazed to discover that from next month, Wakehurst Place is going to charge for car parking, making this a “no-go” day out for many people.

The extra parking charge, an unwelcome added expense for many families, ourselves included, will no doubt affect visitor numbers. People will race round so they only have to pay for one hour’s parking; this means they will not make use of the restaurant, a lucrative side to the business.

It will be a shame if visitors are not able to appreciate the wonderful array of flowers and plants that grow in profusion because of time constraints.

Gill Hill
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – May I suggest that Mr Saunders changes his loyalty to Polesden Lacey in Surrey, where I am a volunteer steward. There is a large shop, a wonderful restaurant and gardens, as well as a beautiful house.

Christopher Bishop
Fetcham, Surrey


SIR – Perhaps we might be in a better position to defend independent Ukraine from a bellicose Russia if the Coalition had not sent several of our aircraft carriers, along with the Harrier jump jets, to the scrapyard. Ark Royal could now be en route to the Black Sea rather than meeting her end in a Turkish scrapyard and being turned into razor blades.

As it stands, thanks to the cuts, Britain barely has the resources to maintain her existing military commitments, let alone launch a new adventure.

Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex

SIR – David Cameron said: “There can be no excuse for outside military intervention in Ukraine – a point I made to President Putin when we spoke yesterday”.

This reminds me of Peter Sellers saying he was “totally against the Second World War and wrote a letter saying so”. Sadly for Mr Cameron, Britain’s global influence has been diluted by the emasculation of our Armed Forces, while our international political strength has been transferred enthusiastically to Brussels.

Peter Ferguson

SIR – Our pompous Foreign Secretary goes to Kiev as though he were Lord Palmerston. We should keep out of this and leave it to the Continentals, especially the Germans, to make fools of themselves by making threats with no means of backing them up.

The situation is analogous to Turkey’s invasion of Northern Cyprus, and a similar partition is the likely (and perhaps not unreasonable) solution.

Dr Peter Greenhalgh
Southfleet, Kent

SIR – Requiring the Ukrainian people to choose between the EU and Russia rather than link with both has been partly to blame for the current situation.

Russia sending in troops has now raised the adversarial stakes. In the days before the EU, various treaty-linked countries would be mobilising armies and digging trenches. The shortcomings of the EU are always justified on the basis of its preventing wars in Europe. Let’s see.

Godfrey Cromwell
Director, British East-West Centre
London SW1

SIR – Russia’s underlying worry is about Ukraine joining Nato. Russia does not want missiles placed in its backyard, any more than America desired this in Cuba in 1962.

Why not reassure Russia that Ukraine will not be admitted to Nato, but that she will be left to work out her own destiny, with both Russia and the West standing as guarantors of her neutrality?

Andrew Norman
Poole, Dorset

SIR – Recent developments in Ukraine and the effective Russian invasion of Crimea are a direct consequence of President Barack Obama’s failure to maintain peace through strength and his taking a feeble attitude towards international crises. Russia should not have been allowed even to consider invading a free sovereign state.

It is lucky that Mr Obama was not the president during the Cold War or we would all be either ruled by Moscow by now or obliterated by nuclear holocaust. Britain must prevent international disaster and lead from the front, forcing Nato to protect Ukraine and maintain peace.

Kieran Bailey

SIR – Is the President Putin now violating the borders of Ukraine the same one who wouldn’t allow aid into Syria because it might violate national boundaries?

Ann Salmon
Chiltington, West Sussex

SIR – Did John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, really just criticise Russia for “invading another country on a phony pretext”?

Bharat Jashanmal
Fairford, Gloucestershire



Irish Times:



Sir, – Notwithstanding the goodwill of pro-European enthusiasts (among whom I would number myself), the reality is that the eastward expansion of the EU is accompanied by the onward march of Nato. The US has signed treaties with Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic to install land-based SM-3 missiles as part of its European defence strategy. Is Vladimir Putin being entirely unreasonable to expect similar treaties could follow Ukraine’s move into the western sphere of influence?

When any gang of street protesters drive a legitimately elected government from office they necessarily teach their fellow citizens the lesson that authority comes, not from the democratic will of the people, but from force majeure .

The people of Ukraine now face the prospect of a civil war even more savage than that in Syria, and all those who urged them into this chaotic position must share in the responsibility for the countless deaths and outrages against the innocent to which it may well lead.

Instead of reaching for familiar bogeymen to beat, well-intentioned leaders and commentators should urge the maintenance of civilised norms, the immediate resumption of meaningful negotiations and a genuine rapprochement with the elected president and all those millions of now disenfranchised citizens who voted for him.

The current provisional government in Kiev has no legal authority and it should not be regarded as the sole voice that speaks for Ukraine. All voices should be heard.

When western commentators poke the bear, it is innocent civilians in eastern Europe who will feels the claws on their back.

There is never a bad time to argue for peace. – Yours, etc,


Rock Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The big loser from the 1853-1856 Crimean War was uninvolved Austria.

Who will it be this time? – Yours, etc,




A chara, – Perhaps Dermot Mac Murchada was the inspiration for Viktor Yanukovych’s supposed invitation for a Russian invasion.

Stand by for an interesting 800 years. – Is mise,


Westcourt Heights,

Baile an Chollaigh,

Co Chorcaí.




A chara, – I believe the Coalition plan for universal health insurance (UHI) is a confidence trick. I feel that Irish people are slowly realising this too. The reality will be yet another bitter pill for hard-pressed Irish taxpayers.

The current cohort of privately insured individuals in Ireland has reduced in the last five years by about 40,000 per year to the current level of 44 per cent of the population.

This is purely because people can no longer afford to pay for their health insurance.

The other 56 per cent depends upon a dysfunctional and underfunded public system to supply the current “basket” of services.

The Government would have us believe that by donating €1,600 from our dwindling pay packets we will buy a fit for purpose, safe health system for all. This €1,600 will pay for access to a standard “basket “of services but if any extra services are needed then top-up payments to the basic charge will apply.

So, we will move from a two-tier system, where 44 per cent pay a large amount to circumvent the HSE-run public system, to a new two-tier system, where 44 per cent pay a similar amount to avail of what essentially is currently supplied by the HSE.

They will then have to pay even more to escape the inevitable chaos that will ensue.

Therefore with UHI (Irish -style) we will have the same two-tier system, except that the wallet of the tax-paying mortgage holder will be another €1,600 lighter. – Is mise,



National Association

of General Practitioners ,

Mayfield Family Practice,

Mayfield, Cork.



Sir, – The Government recently introduced the home renovation incentive (HRI) scheme with the twin aims of boosting the struggling construction sector and combating the black economy, by offering home owners a rebate on the VAT element of the costs of renovating. On both counts, this is a very positive proposal which will be welcomed by hard-pressed taxpayers.

However, the complicated implementation of the scheme may be its undoing.

In short, it works like this: I find a building contractor to carry out the works, and he provides me with various certificates to show that he is tax-compliant. When the job is complete and paid for, I provide him with my local property tax property ID. The contractor must go online and enter all the details of the job within 28 days of completion. However, I won’t get an immediate VAT refund, but I will receive an additional income tax credit over the following two years for the value of the VAT element of the costs.

Getting a detailed, written quote from a builder can be difficult, as can a final invoice or receipt, so I can see some problems persuading a contractor to go through this HRI process online. There is, of course, a far simpler way to save on VAT which has been with us for quite some time. Which one would you choose? – Yours, etc,



Ballinteer, Dublin 16.



Sir, – EF Fanning’s use of the Census 2011 language question (February 26th) illustrates a statistical anomaly with a self-selective question such as how often people speak Gaelic, which tends to favour romantic sentimentalism over scientific accuracy. It is highly likely that most of the 119,000 Polish speakers are actually fluent in that language. I sincerely doubt the same could be said of the 1.77 million people who claim to be able to speak Gaelic. But the 1.77 million includes schoolchildren.

In fact, only 77,185 people, or 1.7 per cent of the population, claimed to use Gaelic on a daily basis outside of school. It is probable that there are more daily users of Polish than Gaelic. Perhaps the question could be rephrased to ask if you are fluent in Gaelic, or maybe the question should be asked in Gaelic on the English form to see how many people are able to answer it.

Speaking of the English form, for Census 2011 people were offered the choice of the English or Gaelic form. A total of 1,654,447 English forms were collected, whereas only a measly 7,806 Gaelic forms were collected. Or, to put it another way, only 0.47 per cent of census forms were the Gaelic version!

Instead of lecturing English speakers, criticising Government for lack of services, or demanding more force-feeding, perhaps Gaelgoirí should start with themselves and actually use the Gaelic form for Census 2016. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – What a pleasure to read the inspiring letter by Diarmuid O’Flynn (February 28th) on the determined and dignified weekly protest by the people of Ballyhea. They continue to highlight how the Irish people were used to prop up an economic system which perpetuates inequality. We were sold a story that reforms would be implemented to mitigate future speculative financial-based bubbles. We were asked to accept that additional tax burdens could not be imposed on the rich as they needed the financial flexibility to invest and create jobs. Since 2008 there have been no reforms of note in the financial markets, inequality has increased, as revealed by the recent Oxfam report, and, as we have seen in the past week with the liquidation of IBRC, the needs of ordinary people are relegated as an inconvenience to expediency. How ironic then that this week the IMF issued a report stating that inequality was detrimental to growth and that wealth redistribution was economically more beneficial. The irony comes from the observation that the IMF was a key early facilitator of the global roll-out of Milton Friedman’s free market model, which has produced a system of repeated bubbles of increasing severity and resulted in massive inequity. The people of Ballyhea should stand proud each Sunday as they continue to remind us of the dysfunctional nature of this system and the impotence of our elected elite in confronting this reality. – Yours, etc,


Linden Avenue,

Blackrock, Cork.



A chara, – Some countries have wordless national anthems. Spain has La Marcha Real . I can think of one eminently suitable rousing air, which could serve as an anthem acceptable to both traditions on this island.

I refer to Marcaíocht na Bóinne , or to give it its English title, Boyne Water , an air beloved of Orange Order bands, as it originally commemorated the time “when King William came over the Boyne water, on July the first in Oldbridge town”, the self same air to which in 1745 Piaras Mac Gearailt wrote the ever popular Rosc Catha na Mumhan .

Not just rugby, but the whole country should adopt it, and have it replace the much less historical and, if I am allowed to say so, the much less traditional sounding Amhrán na bhFiann . – Is mise,


Gort Leitreach,


Co Liatroma.

Sir, – The Irish rugby team does not represent the “Republic of Ireland” only; it is an “all-island” entity, its membership drawn from two distinct (and mutually recognised, by the way) political jurisdictions. Logically, then, if anthems are to be played, both A Soldier’s Song and God Save the Queen should feature at Ireland matches.

This, of course, could give rise to problems from the flat-earthers who still await the “reintegration of the national territory”. The compromise (like all such, to no-one’s complete satisfaction) was the appalling ditty with which we are currently lumbered. But why do we need anthems at all? Playing for Ireland is now a professional activity, lucratively paid and every inch commercially sponsored.

The games are Roman entertainments, with fireworks, “celebrity” acts, and goodness knows what else. There is little dignity left. Do we actually want the concept and ownership of civic and national pride to be associated with such gladiatorial exhibition matches? – Yours, etc,


Rathasker Heights,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Amhrán na bhFiann has become the national anthem of Ireland? Was there another secret letter from Tony Blair? Surely not? – Yours, etc,


Avondale Road,




Sir, – Jonathan Hession (February 28th) writes, “So, Fáilte Ireland is planning to erect 4,000 road signs along our 2,500km western coastline, in an attempt to attract tourism”. I seem to recall another wing of the State removing one famous road sign in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, because it constituted a health and safety issue, despite having been photographed by visitors from all over the word and appearing in Fáilte Ireland tourism brochures. It’s a crazy little country we live in. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – The countryside and the urban environment are now cluttered with signs, bollards, galvanised poles and traffic lights. There seems to be no coordination between the councils and the National Roads Authority, and other agencies such as Fáilte Ireland.

It is not just rural councils that seem to have no sense of the landscape. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has covered every square inch of pavement with poles and signs.

Saving our towns and villages from the galvanised pole needs urgent attention. As so much attention is now been given to our beaches and the blue flags, let’s also give the rural and urban landscapes the attention they deserve. – Yours, etc,


Rock Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – There must have been a pot of money for signage on the Wild Atlantic Way. The Letterkenny to Buncrana section is littered with Wild Atlantic Way signage, some within yards of each other and adding nothing to one’s navigation of the route. In the days of maps, we suffered from a shortage of signage, but certainly not now. – Yours, etc,


Tara Court,



Sir, – The possibility of further post office closures, with devastating effects on rural communities, is a complete indictment of the management of An Post.

An organisation whose personnel are welcomed at every door, which has a prominent retail presence in every town and village, and which controls a massive national distribution network, has almost unlimited commercial potential. However, it continues to depend upon dwindling mail, State contracts and substantial Government support for its teetering existence.

The workforce and infrastructure of An Post have the capacity to be self-sufficient.

That will only be achieved when An Post’s management realises that they should heed their own slogan and “do more”. Much, much more! – Yours, etc,


Temple Manor,


Co Kildare.


Sir, – Philip O’Reilly (March 1st) is quite wrong in stating that election posters serve no useful purpose. After each election I collect about 20 or so at random (including ties!) and they often come in handy. Indeed, when the recent hurricane blew in the glass in my living-room window, I was immediately able to make it weather-tight with a poster of a prominent TD. My neighbour’s comment on seeing it summed it rather neatly: “It’s the most useful thing the man has ever done.”

Perhaps election posters of sitting TDs should by law remain permanently on posts – just to remind people every day exactly who is responsible for the mess the country is in? – Yours, etc,



Ballineen, Co Cork.


Sir, – I have just finished reading Kathy Sheridan’s article for the fourth time (Weekend, March 1st). I find something new every time I read it. I am impressed and humbled by her stoic yet so honest report on her illness. It should be read by all.

I have never encountered an article which so honestly projected the horror and sheer tedium of this unfair and random illness. I love her work and long may she thrive to provide it. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Place,

Clybaun Road,




A chara, – In his letter of March 3rd, Brendan Butler must be unaware that the Archbishop of Tuam has circulated feedback received from his archdiocese to the recent church survey in the spring edition of New Dawn , the esteemed Tuam archdiocesan publication. Apologies are in order at least to Dr Neary (and perhaps to other diocesan pastors) in light of the remarks in Mr Butler’s letter indicating that “Archbishop Martin is the only bishop . . . to publish the results”. Let us acknowledge that the Catholic Church is also proactive outside the archdiocese of Dublin. – Is mise,




Dublin 5.



Sir, – The spelling of piranha is not pirana, as given in Monday’s Simplex crossword. – Yours, etc,


The Folly,




Irish Independent:

Published 05 March 2014 02:30 AM

* The situation in Ukraine and Crimea is now fraught with danger. If violent conflict occurs the people in both countries could once again suffer catastrophically, having suffered more than any other European country under both Stalin and Hitler.

Also in this section

We can’t deny anyone the right to express love

Get us deal, Enda – and you’ll get second term

Letters: Reality is in rag order

For most Ukrainians, Crimea is part of Ukraine, but historically Russia has a substantial claim to it, and the Tartar people have always had ambitions for independence, but their population was decimated by Stalin’s deportation of vast numbers to central Asia.

Russians now make up 58pc of Crimea, with 24pc Ukrainians and only 12pc Tartars. The Crimean peninsula is of vital strategic importance to Russia, due to its vital access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

It is likely that Russia could have lived with a pro-western government in Kiev developing closer economic ties with the West, but it was the spectre of Ukraine joining NATO thereby sealing off Russian strategic access to the south that was always going to be unacceptable.

A total of 23 EU member states are also full NATO members and the others are members of NATO’s so-called Partnership for Peace, so Russia views the EU as being synonymous with NATO. A peaceful solution to the East/West divide in Ukraine should have been to declare Ukraine a constitutionally neutral state, as Austria and Finland are.

This would have allowed for economic co-operation with both Russia and the EU without threatening Russian strategic interests. This opportunity has now been lost. Nothing was learnt from the Georgian/Russian war in 2008.

On April 1, 2008, President Bush said in Kiev that both Ukraine and Georgia should be allowed to join NATO despite objections from Russia. In August 2008, Russia annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia, provinces of Georgia.

If the Russian de facto annexation of Crimea leads to violent conflict with Ukraine, Russia may also seek to annex a slice of eastern Ukraine from Kharkiv to the Crimea.

Eamon Gilmore described the situation as the most serious European crisis since the end of the Cold War. He is correct, but the EU has gone sleep-walking into it, and NATO indirectly provoked it.





* THE academics at UCC have decided, inexplicably, to bend the knee and touch the cap to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, at a lavish ceremony to be held in Cork.

Mr Barroso, of course, represents our so-called partners in Europe who used the jackboot in 2010 to insist that our hapless politicians accept the private losses and debts of Irish and European banks to be foisted on innocent Irish taxpayers and that all bondholders be paid in full.

As a result of Mr Barroso’s policies, in collusion with our inept government, Irish citizens have suffered the effects of appalling austerity for the past five years which have decimated Irish society and will do so for generations to come.

As a graduate of UCC, I am disgusted by this meaningless public funded knees-up and extravaganza which again highlights the total disconnect between the insiders and the ordinary Irish citizen.





* RTE Sport is in danger of putting Irish racing on the back burner, and concentrating only on soccer and rugby.

For example, we had two recent winners, namely Eastern Ruler and Elleval, on Thursday last in two prestigious races. Neither victory was mentioned on ‘Six One News’.

I subsequently telephoned RTE and complained, and asked might they be mentioned in the Nine o’clock bulletin? I was told there was no sport on that particular programme.

However, to my immense surprise, as it turned out it had sporting highlights which once more featured soccer and rugby, and racing lost out.





* When something is working well the politicians want to destroy it – the post office; when something fails the politicians want to preserve it – the banks.





* I am in a loving same-sex relationship for more than seven years. As Catholics we would seek to uphold and respect the teachings of the church.

However, we are particularly annoyed by the outburst by all concerned regarding homophobia, given that it is ultimately us – a private couple – who will suffer from this negativity towards our relationship and potential for future state marriage. We pray that our fellow Catholics may continue to show the Lord’s love to one and all.





* This is National Tree Week and time to reflect on and do something about the status of Ireland’s trees.

Our forestry policy has been mainly focused on growing monoculture exotic conifers for cheap construction timber, chipboard and wood pulp for paper.

At one time, the country was covered by native oak and pine woodlands but today we have less than 12pc tree cover, of which less than 2pc consists of native species.

This is surely an opportune time to plant trees and – in the interests of biodiversity and to establish a valuable hardwood industry – we should plant a lot of native trees.





* I am one of those Irish people that Enda Kenny spoke of during his speech at the FG Ard Fheis. I have no party affiliation. I simply vote for whoever I think is best equipped to run my country fairly.

I am sure – as lots of people seem to state from experience – that Mr Kenny is a nice man who does his best, but really Enda . . . “People who play politics with serious issues should hold their head in shame”.

Enda said this and the auditorium erupted in agreement like a crowd of football fans celebrating a goal against their bitterest rivals. I take it that Enda assumes this remark and the expected response was not ‘playing politics’? The way to beat unfairness, Enda, is with playing fair, not slinging bigger lumps of muck.





* Last week, the day after Amnesty International released its report ‘Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank’, another Palestinian, Moataz Washaha (25), was killed by the Israeli army.

The damning report outlines the Israeli military’s “callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children”, during the last three years in the occupied West Bank and calls on the EU and the US to suspend arms and munitions transfers to Israel while it continues to act with impunity.

It is time the Government took a principled stand in heeding the call from Amnesty International, and called for Israel’s special trading relations with the EU to be suspended until such time as it upholds international law.



Irish Independent




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