Still Under the Weather

10 March 2014 Still Under the Weather

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.Fatso chucks a Lifeboat collecting box in the sea and the Navy think its a minePriceless

Cold slightly better Both of us very tired.

Scrabbletoday Marywins but gets under400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




James Ellis, who has died aged 82, was an actor who emerged from the theatres of Northern Ireland to became a household name in the early 1960s playing the hot-headed PC Bert Lynch in the BBC Television police series Z Cars. His was to be the only character to appear in every episode of the groundbreaking show.

Set in fictional Newtown (based on Kirkby outside Liverpool), Z Cars was the first television police drama to depict officers warts-and-all. When it launched in 1962, every episode was live, “like a first night in the theatre,” as Ellis recalled.

He played Bert Lynch for 16 years, seeing his character start as an eager, fresh-faced car patrolman and, over the course of some 650 episodes, advance to a detective constable, a cynical, stolid sergeant and finally to a worldly-wise inspector.

Ellis had been a stage actor in his native Belfast since the early 1950s, and by 1960 was running theatre companies there (he was to give a local plasterer called Frank Carson his comedy break in pantomime).

He came to the BBC’s notice a year later when he played a Belfast ship-worker who refused to strike, in the TV drama The Randy Dandy. At the Z Cars audition, he was told his character would be called PC McGinty, but when Ellis pointed out that villains would find the name risible on account of the comic song Paddy McGinty’s Goat, the name was changed to Lynch.

His tenure in Z Cars was not without real-life incident. In 1964 he was cleared of drunken driving, but was back in court 10 years later to admit personal bankruptcy, despite earning £10,000 a year as (by then) Inspector Lynch. He was discharged from bankruptcy in 1980.

Although Z Cars ended in 1978, Ellis continued to be cast in television dramas. In the early 1980s he played the brutal father, Norman Martin, in the acclaimed Billy trilogy by Graham Reid (1982-1984). The Play For Today productions (Too Late to Talk to Billy, A Matter of Choice for Billy and A Coming to Terms for Billy) made a star out of a young Kenneth Branagh as the titular troubled son to Ellis’s bitter Ulster patriarch. The Irish News called Ellis’s achievement “a series of towering performances”.


James Ellis was born in Belfast on March 15 1931, the son of a sheet-metal worker at the Harland and Woolff shipyard (who as an apprentice helped build the Titanic). One of 25 Ulster boys to win a scholarship to the Methodist College, Belfast — where he first acted, in The Barretts of Wimpole Street — James Ellis went on a second scholarship to Queen’s University to study English, French and Philosophy, but left at the end of his second year.

After training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he returned to Belfast in 1952 to act with the Ulster Group Theatre, making appearances as the company’s young male lead in April in Assagh, Is the Priest at Home? (both 1954), The Diary of Anne Frank (as Peter van Daan) and JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (both 1957).

As well as working as an actor in the main company, Ellis also ran the group’s summer theatre in the seaside town of Larne, north of Belfast. In 1959, when the group’s governing body ruled that Sam Thompson’s Over the Bridge — portraying sectarianism in a Belfast shipyard — was too inflammatory, he resigned as director of productions to direct the controversial play the following year.

Leaving Northern Ireland for London, Ellis received his first television break in 1961 when he was cast as Dandy Jordan in a production of Stewart Love’s The Randy Dandy, which was deemed so controversial and sexually charged that the BBC gave a warning before transmission that it was “unsuitable for people of a nervous disposition”.

More parts followed, including a role in the BBC production of Stewart Love’s The Sugar Cube (also 1961), before he was cast as Bert Lynch in Z Cars the following year.

His other television credits included parts in Doctor Who, In Sickness and in Health and Nightingales. In the late 1980s he had another success, playing the zookeeper Paddy Reilly in One By One, and later became a regular in Playing The Field and Ballykissangel (as the eccentric Uncle Minto). He also appeared in the films No Surrender and Re-Animator (both 1985).

Ellis was also an industrious writer of poems and prose, and a translator. The BBC broadcast a selection of short stories he adapted from the original French, in 2007. The following year he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen’s University Belfast as part of its centenary celebrations.

James Ellis was twice married. Firstly, in 1956, to Beth (an actress in the 1960s BBC soap Compact), with whom he had two sons and a daughter; and secondly, in 1976, to Robina, with whom he had another son.

His family life, however, was riven by tragedy. In 1988, his eldest son, Adam, was murdered while fishing from a west London towpath. “I went berserk,” stated Ellis later, “I wasn’t in possession of my senses. I kicked open the doors of every pub in the street shouting: ‘Who knows who murdered my son?’” His second son, Luke, committed suicide in 2011, after a long struggle with depression following his brother’s death.

Last year he returned to Belfast to see Billy, Love, a new stage chapter in Graham Reid’s Billy series. “Theatregoers in the city where it is set were anxious to find out what happens next,” said Ellis, “I’m looking forward to finding out, too.”

James Ellis is survived by his wife along with their son and a daughter from his first marriage.

James Ellis, born March 15 1932, died March 8 2014





The final report today from the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, points out the solution to global hunger and poverty is not one that merely focuses on technical fixes, or how to produce more food. It stresses fundamental issues of governance and democracy. Tackling the imbalances of power between small-scale food producers, and corporates and political elites is at the heart of the eradication of hunger and poverty. The role of the state in establishing policy and legislative frameworks, with binding powers, is vital to set public interest before private gain. Now decision-makers must heed the recommendations in the report that contest the pro-corporate agenda, championed by governments and international bodies, and take positive steps to build democratic and sustainable food systems.
Graciela Romero
War on Want

• Despite Sarah Vine’s ignorance over the whereabouts of Cumbria and her state school angst, and Ian Jack’s reassurance that butchers and fishmongers are thriving in Islington (Saturday Guardian, 8 March), I can soften their metropolitan woes by the comforting information that up here both Cockermouth school and Nelson Thomlinson in Wigton are excellent schools loved by their communities and that both towns sport three butchers, a fishmonger and a traditional ironmonger. We don’t need bankers or oligarchs to keep them here.
Janet Mansfield
Aspatria, Cumbria

• In 2004 we had a holiday in Libya. In 2005 and 2008, it was Syria. In 2012, Ukraine, including Kiev and Crimea. Look out, New Zealand.
Peter Day

• Re Mike Parker (Letters, 7 March): some character. Font of all knowledge.
Bob Corkey


The US secretary of state, John Kerry, is about to make what may be the biggest decision on global climate policy of his term. The verdict on whether to approve or reject the Keystone XL pipeline, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, could, at one stroke, confirm or condemn US prospects for climate leadership. This is a policy decision that will have truly global significance. Keystone has been called the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet”. According to experts, it would end any hope of the US meeting existing international commitments to cutting emissions by 17% by 2020, let alone forge new action.

We call on Mr Kerry to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and open up a pathway to a clean and sustainable energy future. We are not alone. As of today, more than 1.5 million people from the US and across the world have submitted formal comments and are standing with us, responding to Kerry’s call made in Jakarta for individuals and governments to turn up and fight climate change. Keystone XL is his chance to set a correction course on US energy policy and open up a new clean energy future. We hope he does.
Desmond Tutu Archbishop emeritus
Dr James Hansen Former head, Nasa
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Yeb Saño Climate leader, Philippines
Daryl Hannah Actress
Fernando Meirelles Director
Teresa Ribera Former secretary of state for climate, Spain (current MP)
Rebecca Harms Co-chair, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance
Christine Milne Leader, Australian Greens
Caroline Lucas MP Green party, UK
Kristin Bauer Actress
Peter Robinson CEO, David Suzuki Foundation




It is becoming clear that the family of Stephen Lawrence were let down badly by police after the murder of their son. More than that – it seems likely that corruption and spying by undercover officers played a part in the failure to support that family and investigate that crime. If this is true, it is a serious breach of trust and a matter for the courts.

However – as a serving Met officer at the time of the murder and investigation – I have to point out that the vast majority of officers in the Met at that time did not fail the Lawrence family. They did not spy on them nor did they act in a corrupt way, because all these things were done by a minority of officers out of the many thousands in the force at that time.

The headline on your editorial The shaming of the Met (7 March) suggests everyone was to blame. It may be satisfying for the media and others to lump us all together but it is also simplistic and misleading and ultimately damaging to society to blame tens of thousands of people for the behaviour of the few.
Bob Morgan
Thatcham, West Berkshire

•  Having first-hand knowledge of the hard work and sensitivity by officers of all ranks into policing the diverse problems of our capital city, I am sad that the “disclosures” have not been dealt with by the press and politicians in a more even-handed manner. Of course all suggestions of improper behaviour by police have to be rigorously investigated but the current froth of comment impinges upon the integrity of most police officers, regardless of rank, which is unfair and unjustified. It may be that the police service does not communicate with the public it serves enough to explain the dilemmas that have to be faced by a modern police force before problems emerge, but the danger in the present atmosphere is that the service may become defensive and isolated.
Ron Austin
(Former Met chief superintendent) Hadleigh, Suffolk

•  ”The spying was going on literally under the judge’s nose,” your editorial said. It most certainly was, via bugs hidden in the Macpherson commission office at the Elephant and Castle just as the report was being prepared. Your then investigative journalists Laurie Flynn and Michael Sean Gillard were the ones to discover this (Report, 4 March 2000), and later published an account in their book Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard.
Nick Jeffrey

• In view of recent disclosures (May orders inquiry into police spies, 7 March), readers might be interested to know that, way back in 1817-18, in his Berlin lectures on the philosophy of right, the great German Idealist philosopher GWF Hegel denounced the characteristically British use of “police spies” to control crime. Such practice, he argued, opens the way to “the greatest abyss of corruption”.
Professor Peter Dews
School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex

•  In all the announcements of inquiries into police spies and undercover activities that broke the law there is one notable absence. As we mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1984-05 miners’ strike, there still appears to be no plan to investigate state interference and involvement in that epic dispute. There should be.
Keith Flett

•  As one who was married to a policeman for more than 20 years and whose formal education ended at 17, I have often wondered what would be the effect of confining entry to the police service to graduates, including those who have studied the increasingly popular academic field of crime and policing in context. While nothing is certain in life, experience of university today must surely involve students socialising with those of different national, ethnic, class, religious, political, age, physical ability, sexual and sexual orientation backgrounds. Would that experience not better equip the police to be trustworthy and efficient in interacting with the public? Is it not the case that in the armed forces most officer trainees are now expected to be graduates?
Brenda Rubin
Canterbury, Kent

• I thought that the BBC’s excellent Line of Duty was getting a bit far-fetched (Lucy Mangan, 6 March). Until Mark Ellison’s findings proved me wrong.
Stuart Waterworth
Tavistock, Devon


Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, hails the record rise in jobs as the “most encouraging of all” (Report, 6 March), alongside the plunging fall in the unemployment rate. But it pays to look behind the figures and the hype. It has long been recognised that falling household incomes, 6% down in real terms since the crash and still falling, are forcing a great many older workers to come out of retirement and forcing many young workers to take any job going on minimum pay and usually zero-hours contracts; and 90% of these very low pay and insecure jobs are only available around London. This is certainly not a sign of strong economic growth, especially when business investment still remains 20% below 2008 levels.

But there is another factor which suggests caution about the continual puff about the recovery. There has been widespread puzzlement about the dramatic fall in the unemployment figures in recent months from 7.8% to 7.1%, which even forced Mark Carney to revise his “forward guidance”. This enigma can now be explained. The government has been excluding from the claimant count all those who have been sanctioned, that is those who have had their JSA removed, even for the most petty infringement like being five minutes late for a job interview. More than 1 million people have been sanctioned, and the total is accelerating monthly. That is 3% or more of the workforce and if they were all included, as they should be as they clearly are seeking work, the unemployment rate would be nearer 8% than 7%. Mrs Thatcher sought to conceal how high unemployment had climbed in the 1980s by reclassifying hundreds of thousands as disabled, from which ironically Atos has been used to declare they are nearly all fit for work to cut expenditure. It now seems today’s government has hit upon another dishonest wheeze to massage the unemployment figures out of all connection with reality.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham










If the Care Bill is to successfully reform elderly care, then the issue of underfunding by local authorities when purchasing care places must be addressed.

The Care Bill is being debated in the Commons on 10 March and is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve care – introducing greater equality, affordability and transparency. These principles are supported by professionals from across the care sector.

However, as is well known but seldom discussed, councils frequently pay rates to providers which do not meet the true cost of providing care. This creates a shortfall within the system which limits investment in staff and facilities.

The Care Bill risks exacerbating this problem. Councils will be arranging care for more people, meaning even more care places will be under-funded. Without a system which requires local authorities to pay fair rates for care, care homes will struggle to provide secure, sustainable and quality care. The central tenets of this Bill – transparency, fairness, and quality – are in jeopardy if the local authority funding question goes unanswered.

We hope that MPs will have the fortitude to tackle this issue in the House.

Professor Martin Green, CEO, Care England, London E1

The worrying concerns around service gaps that face Britain’s older people are rightly highlighted by Age UK in its Care in Crisis report. The funding shortfalls underlined in the report are disturbing, given that the need for services will continue to grow alongside our ageing population.

Age UK’s report follows a recent study from Anchor and the International Longevity Centre-UK which revealed that we are not only confronted by a funding shortfall, there is also a workforce deficit that we need to tackle.

One million more care workers will be required by 2025 – a gap which needs to be bridged and funded correctly. Government, care providers and the NHS need to work together to ensure the crisis in social care is averted.

Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive, Anchor

David Sinclair, International Longevity Centre-UK, London WC2

One of the most unpleasant features of  the old workhouse system was the separation of married couples into male and female sections.

 Recent government legislation for newly built care homes appears to repeating this cruelty by insisting that only single rooms can be installed.

Obviously, towards the end of life, it is better for couples to be together for mutual comfort. My wife (17 years of MS) and I, aged 74, are looking to move from our house into a home, preferably modern rather than some rambling converted vicarage. For medical reasons we have to sleep in separate rooms.

The best we have been offered is two single rooms, sometimes adjacent but with no connecting door. Any call (by intercom?) from my wife at night means leaving my room, going along a corridor and entering her room.

Who dreams up these rules, and why?

Dr Eric V Evans, Dorchester, Dorset

Police response  over Lawrence

We read (8 March) that, following evidence that the family of Stephen Lawrence was spied on, “Commander Richard Walton, head of the Metropolitan counter-terrorism command, has been temporarily transferred to a ‘non-operational role’ ”’

Why hasn’t he been suspended from work? A teacher facing any suspicion of professional misconduct would immediately  be suspended. As would  a doctor.

The police fail to recognise just how seriously damaging all this is to the public’s trust in them.

John Boaler

Calne, Wiltshire

What we need is successful prosecutions of rogue police officers, not inquiries, reports, Royal Commissions and the like (Letter,  8 March).

We have endless shock, hand-wringing and promises to get rid of the bad apples by Home Secretaries and Chief Constables, but who  ends up being found  guilty in court?

There have been over 1400 deaths in police custody since 1990, but  no successful prosecutions of police.

Why should any police officer be deterred from corruption when there is apparently no chance of being found guilty?

Rod Auton, Sheffield

After failed badger cull, a way forward

An independent review of the badger cull has declared that it failed in terms of effectiveness, and humaneness. For those of us following every detail of the culls, this is sadly no surprise. The basic story is that they didn’t kill enough badgers to meet the scientific requirement that would give the cull even a small chance of reducing bovine TB in cattle. And those they did kill, they did badly – with up to 18 per cent of the badgers taking over five minutes to die.

But it’s not the time to dwell on what has been a disastrous policy. We need to look to the future – a future in which farmers need an answer to bTB, which is devastating cattle herds. And a future in which badgers are not scapegoated or slaughtered. There is such a future – in Wales, they chose to vaccinate badgers and bring in tighter farming practices, and in the past year have seen a massive 33 per cent fall  in the number of cattle slaughtered.

Their way is the right way. I have just been appointed CEO of the Badger Trust, in addition to my role at Care for the Wild, and a new President of the National Farmers Union has also been elected. For the sake of all the farmers who desperately need a solution, I will be reaching out to the new NFU President to say “Let’s work together’, as together, farmers and wildlife supporters can beat this disease, without having to beat each other.

Dominic Dyer, Care for the Wild International,  Horsham West Sussex

What Russia fears  in Ukraine

The events in Ukraine have their origin in the final days of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. Then the Americans gave a promise to the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that Nato would not expand east to Russia’s borders.

This promise was not honoured and Nato drew in 12 former Soviet and Warsaw pact countries. Further, America carried on the Star Wars programme, which the Russians always felt was directed at them. In effect the West carried on the Cold War against Russia, and America financed and backed the 2004 Orange revolution in order to secure an anti-Russia, pro-Nato government in Ukraine.

The Crimea belonged to Russia until 1954 and  60 per cent of its population is Russian. Russia doesn’t want Nato nuclear weapons on its borders any more than Kennedy wanted nukes in Cuba, and this in part explains Putin’s motives.

What Russia has done may be illegal in international law but as yet not a single Ukrainian soldier or civilian has died.

Mark Holt



More light in the evening

Paul Dormer (letter, 6 March) is right that nothing involving clocks can make any difference to the length of daylight anywhere, but he should remember that starting his first school lesson in the dark allowed him to kick a ball around in daylight after school ended.

The length of daylight of a place is determined by the time of year and its latitude; its longitude determines the start and end times of daylight, which get later by westward progression. Much of France and almost the whole of mainland Spain lie to the west of the Greenwich meridian. They are on Central European Time (CET), an hour ahead of us. In winter, Britain’s Western European Time (WET) deprives those whose schedule is dictated by the clock of an hour’s daylight in which to play or walk a dog after school or work. Only Ireland and Portugal are sufficiently far west for Western European Time to be appropriate.

To go on to CET in line with the rest of Europe would gain Britain more daylight for outdoor activity after school or work.

Peter Kellett, Kinlochewe, Ross-shire

A slur on  bankers

D J Walker (letter, 7 March) points out that the suggestion  of “whinge” as a collective noun for bankers gives rise to a “most vulgar but appropriate” spoonerism. Vulgar certainly, but is it really appropriate? After all, bankers generally abuse everybody but themselves.

Professor Guy Woolley, Nottingham

Playground in the Great War trenches

It’s good to know that someone has found the trenches from a First World War training camp in Gosport, my home town. If anybody had asked me 60 years ago, I could have given them a guided tour, because it was where I used to play soldiers with my friends. It was pretty good for showing off your skills as a stunt rider on your bike as well.

John Williams, West Wittering, West Sussex





Sir, I asked the Commissioner of the Met Police to conduct an audit to see if police spies lied in court back in October 2011 at the a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

The public inquiry announced by the Home Secretary is long overdue — undercover policing seems to have been out of control for decades and the amount of possible illegal activities could be extensive.

If this public inquiry is to restore trust in the police, it must give a voice to all the victims of police spies, because this goes beyond the Lawrence family. It must include the women who were deceived into relationships with undercover police and give them the answers they deserve. If the inquiry finds wrongdoing by officers and their superiors, heads must roll. The police must not be allowed to hide behind their policy of “neither confirming nor denying” the identities of officers — the public must see the police held to account for their actions.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Green Party Group, London Assembly

Sir, All police? Institutionally corrupt? Probably not. But what is deeply troubling is that every time something is investigated, the police’s reaction is obfuscation, alteration of evidence or a bending of the truth. No wonder so many people report a widespread lack of trust or respect in the police.

Jonathan Walsh

Tincleton, Dorset

Sir, The Commons may well be shocked by these latest Stephen Lawrence revelations, as it should be by its own failures in policing Macpherson’s recommendations which arose in the first place? Independent advisory groups, instigated by Macpherson, received ACPO leadership and guidance. Genuinely participative national conferences hosted by former police authorities, brought together disabled, black and LGBTs, among others, with serving officers. Members used to be asked their opinions by visiting inspectors of constabulary, regaining lost community confidence, often in impossible circumstances.

Not now. Someone, inexplicably, dropped these conferences. HMIC inspectors, much reduced, now construct statistics only they understand, not converse with the local communities they don’t.

David Millar

Independent Advisory Group for Lincolnshire Police

Folkingham, Lincs

Sir, The euphemism of institutional racism and the emerging evidence that the Metropolitan Police Service is thoroughly corrupt belie a more insidious cultural deficiency. An organisation whose existence is predicated on the maintenance of the rule of the law depends upon both public confidence and self-regulation beyond reproach.

The killing of Jean Charles de Menezes covered up by the decoy of health and safety legislation, the killing of Mark Duggan shrouded by the effects of the London riots and the brazen political grubbiness of Plebgate pale into insignificance in comparison with the utter sordidness of the Lawrence affair. Historically and nationally, there are many other injustices, the

Birmingham Six, for example. Now is the time to recognise that the Metropolitan Police is not fit for purpose. It should be disbanded in favour of a wider reform of our police nationally.

Paul Fisher

Durban-Corbières, France



Britons drink 12 per cent of the beer in the EU but pay 43 per cent of all beer taxes – how can this possibly fair?

Sir, Last year George Osborne was the first Chancellor to cut beer duty since the 1950s. It was a great decision in a difficult economic climate, after the industry argued that a duty freeze, after years of eye-watering tax rises, would help brewers and pubs.

We have seen renewed confidence in this great industry, with almost £400 million invested by brewing and pub companies last year. With 10,000 jobs also secured, all this has been achieved at no loss to the Exchequer. However, UK beer duty remains at extraordinary levels. It will take years to undo the damage caused by the 42 per cent rise under the previous government’s tax escalator policy, during which 7,000 pubs closed and 58,000 jobs were lost.

Britons drink 12 per cent of the beer in the EU but pay 43 per cent of all beer taxes. British duty is still an astonishing 12 times higher than
that in our largest neighbour, Germany.

A return to tax rises this year would rapidly undo the benefits achieved through last year’s historic duty cut. These benefits spread beyond beer and pubs, boosting our largely British supply chain, such as our barley farmers, hop growers and maltsters.

The Chancellor should cut beer duty again in the Budget, or at a minimum he should freeze it. With continued pressure on the cost of living, he should ensure that pubgoers can afford a hard-earned pint.

Jonathan Neame, Chief Executive, Shepherd Neame Ltd & Chairman, British Beer & Pub Association

Brigid Simmonds OBE, Chief Executive, British Beer & Pub Association

Charles Bartholomew, Chairman, Wadworth & Co

Jaclyn Bateman, Marketing Director, George Bateman & Son

Tim Batham, Production Director, Daniel Batham & Son Ltd

Richard Bailey, Chief Executive Officer

Daniel Thwaites PLC

Keith Bott, Managing Director, Titanic Brewery

James Clarke, Managing Director (Brewing), Hook Norton Brewery Co Ltd

Simon Cox, Managing Director, Molson Coors UK & Ireland

Charles Dent, Managing Director, Timothy Taylor & Co Ltd

Hamish Elder and Miles Jenner, Joint Managing Directors, Harvey & Son (Lewes) Ltd

Simon Emeny, Chief Executive; Fuller Smith & Turner plc

David Forde, Managing Director, Heineken UK

Peter Furness-Smith, Managing Director, McMullen & Sons Ltd

Stephen Goodyear, Chief Executive, Young & Co’s Brewery plc

Stephen Gould, Managing Director, Everards Brewery Ltd

Gary Haigh, Managing Director, Miller Brands UK

Chris Hopkins, Managing Director, Hydes Brewery

Lesley Humphrys, Managing Director, Weston Castle Ltd


Honeyball’s proposals are founded on ideology not evidence and, if enacted in the UK, would seriously harm sex workers

Sir, Contrary to Mary Honeyball’s claim (letter, Mar 6), the Swedish legislative approach to sex work is anything but nuanced. It attempts to impose moral judgment through legislation, is opposed by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and UNAids and has further marginalised and stigmatised sex workers.

Ms Honeyball’s attempts to ignore and silence the voices of the sex workers, human rights advocates and experts who opposed her proposals reached a new low when she emailed her colleagues in the European Parliament on the eve of the debate claiming that the more than 500 organisations were mostly comprised of pimps. Ms Honeyball’s proposals are founded on ideology not evidence and, if enacted in the UK, would seriously harm sex workers.

Alex Bryce

National Ugly Mugs Scheme


Compulsory bike tests followed by six months on a scooter for all future car drivers may help increase cyclists’ safety

Sir, I am a cyclist and a motorcyclist and, I believe, a much better car driver for it. Nothing teaches a driver better than experience of the vulnerability one feels on two wheels (“Cyclists take us by surprise, say drivers”,Mar 7).

I am off work with a fractured pelvis — a car did not “see” me approaching and pulled in front of me. My speed at the time was 23mph.

A solution may be a compulsory bike test followed by six months on a scooter for all future car drivers. Our roads would then have more two-wheeled traffic, and the drivers would be more alert to the vulnerable.

Joanne Davis

Clitheroe, Lancs


The desire to own property is as strong as ever, but Britons are still being forced to live in rented accommodation

Sir, Your report on Generation Rent (“Buy-to-let boom creates Generation Rent”, Mar 3) was a timely reminder of how out of control and hopelessly unsustainable the housing market has become. As you say, the desire to own property is as strong as ever, but Britons are increasingly being forced to live in rented accommodation.

It’s no surprise fewer and fewer can achieve home ownership when the average first-time buyer now needs a £27,519 deposit to secure a home, and the average deposit represents 75.1 per cent of a first-time buyer’s income. Getting on the housing ladder has never been so difficult.

The problem is particularly bad in London where Mayor Boris Johnson seems hell-bent on building assets for investors rather than homes for ordinary Londoners. The result? House prices now average £441,000 — or 16 times the average local individual income.

The Green Party is calling on the current and future governments to put the need for a home before the desire of investors for profits by building more genuinely affordable housing and introducing greater security of tenure and “smart” rent controls for tenants in private rentals.

Ultimately, we have to go back to regarding houses and homes not as investments, and look to restore investment in productive activities such as manufacturing, the creative industries and food production.

Natalie Bennett

Green Party of England and Wales



‘The address for Merseyside Police’s Camera Enforcement Unit is “Liverpool, PO Box 1984”. Most apt’

Sir, The address for Merseyside Police’s Camera Enforcement Unit is “Liverpool, PO Box 1984”. Most apt.

Frank Greaney

Formby, Liverpool




SIR – The piece on composers in Part Seven of your First World War supplement (March 2) left out two significant personalities.

Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), Master of the Queen’s Music from 1953, served as an officer in the 13th Royal Fusiliers and then in the Grenadier Guards. He saw action on the Somme, was wounded twice, and gassed. He was mentioned in despatches. One of his brothers was killed in action. These experiences had a lasting influence on his work.

The lesser-known Cecil Coles, a Scottish friend of Gustav Holst, (whose Ode to Death was dedicated to Coles) died of wounds in 1918, aged 29. He left a small body of work which, like George Butterworth’s, suggests what might have followed had he lived. Holst added a dedication to the manuscript of Coles’ suite Behind the Lines which bears blood and mud stains from the trenches. Only the first two movements survive, the rest having been destroyed by shellfire.

Peter McKenzie
Morpeth, Northumberland

SIR – Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, seems willing to support both Victor Yanukovych, the ex-president of Ukraine who amassed a fortune at the expense of his country’s people, and President Assad of Syria, who is content to bomb his own people. What message is he trying to send to the world?

B J Colby

SIR – By mobilising his troops, most of whom are in Crimea under agreed terms, President Putin is protecting the Russian-speaking majority in that region, and also his defence investments.

Let us hope that he stands up to Western politicians and keeps his forces in position until the situation calms down and proper elections can take place to install a democratic government that treats all its citizens as equals.

The alternative will be civil war and the division of Ukraine along ethnic lines.

Jeremy Cecil-Wright
Totland, Isle Of Wight
St John Ambulance

SIR – Your report that high salaries are being paid to staff in the St John Ambulance organisation, with four people being paid greater than £100,00 a year and two earning more than £140,000 excluding bonuses, was revealing.

Staff in charities earning these kinds of salaries are on another planet. Their remuneration is far removed from the earnings of ordinary mortals. The losers are those people and communities that such charities are supposed to be helping.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – This weekend, as every weekend, thousands of St John Ambulance first-aiders will be out in support of their local communities. The need to do more to achieve the charity’s vision – that no one should suffer from the lack of first aid – has been behind the trustees’ thinking over the last few years.

Our reforms are already seeing more people trained in first aid (40 per cent more young people last year), and we intend to support our front line even more in future. Budgeted income this year is 20 per cent higher than before our reforms.

Around 80 per cent of volunteers and staff recently surveyed now feel proud of their work. They far outnumber the small number of vocal dissidents given centre stage in your article.

By contrast, tens of thousands of St John volunteers are demonstrating outstanding leadership and commitment across the country. We can be truly proud of their skills and positive energy which are now focused on increasing the provision of life-saving services to our communities, and reducing unnecessary deaths when first aid could have been the difference.

Rodney Green
Chair of Trustees
St John Ambulance
London EC1

Planning official

SIR – Your report made comments about an individual public servant who is not in a position to respond.

It is wrong to generalise and suggest that Paul Griffiths makes unreasonable judgments about historic assets. Each case turns on its particular circumstances. Indeed, another of his decisions concerning the approach to the setting of a listed building (also affected by a wind farm) was challenged in the High Court and was found to be lawful.

Inspectors are required to exercise professional judgment and interpret conflicting policies and evidence. The Court of Appeal has now clarified the approach to be taken when considering development which would affect the setting of a listed building. The case follows other complex High Court cases on the same legal point.

Your report also refers to allegations that the inspector has ignored local opinion – this is not so. The local communities’ views were carefully considered and balanced against other planning considerations. The inspector’s decision was not criticised by the Court in that regard.

Sir Michael Pitt
Chief Executive, The Planning Inspectorate

Coalition politics

SIR – Janet Daley complains about the lack of conviction in David Cameron’s Government.

It is important to remember that our economy remains on life support. Maintaining close-to-zero interest rates has allowed the Government some time to reform public services and patch up its finances, while business has begun again to invest. A failure of the Coalition, with the looming spectre of an Ed Balls economic policy, would be the fastest way to panic the markets, bringing on a currency crisis and a spike in interest rates, ruining our recovery and plunging the public finances into chaos.

The absence of speculation about such things is the reason why we must forgive David Cameron everything. By drinking a little cup of Lib Dem poison every day he has saved the country from a dreadful fate.

David Williams
Dormansland, Surrey

The business of puns

SIR – On punning business names, what about the Liverpudlian white-goods retailer, Sellfridges?

Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire

SIR – There is a cement-delivery company in Hastings called “William the Concreter”.

Sandy Pratt
Lingfield, Surrey

SIR – I once spotted a cesspit-emptying lorry called Suck-cess.

Margaret Pegler

SIR – In the Thirties, when window blinds were the fashion, I often saw a van with the slogan “A blind man drives this van”.

I was puzzled for years.

William Eckhardt
Haxey, Lincolnshire

Immunity for Bloody Sunday is not right

SIR – Peter Hain says a deal with terrorists is the price of peace, that even-handedness requires the same deal for Bloody Sunday soldiers, and that forward-looking leaders ought not to waste time on past crime. He is probably right about the price of peace, but otherwise wrong.

It sounds plausible that if some get off for killing innocents, all get off. But it is not an even bargaining table. Peace requires an unpunished terrorist, not an unpunished soldier. We should minimise the price of allowing further wrongs, and the probity of our country’s institutions requires that we do not use terrorists as our benchmark. In dealing with ill-disciplined soldiers, would the Army want equivalence with the IRA in procedures and personnel? And does Mr Hain’s doctrine of even-handedness stop in Derry or Basra?

If we like utilitarian bargains, it is the greater good of truth that the soldiers should serve. Prison for old soldiers seems pointless, yet in that threat lies hope of ascertaining the responsibility of the officers who put them in this difficult situation, and of the ministers for a policy disaster.

Sadly, the Saville Inquiry’s inquisitiveness drained away as it rose up the hierarchy. Despite Mr Hain’s desire to move on, democratic leaders are accountable, and accountability is inherently backward-looking.

Prof Neil Mitchell
School of Public Policy, UCL
London WC1

SIR – Peter Hain says that he tried to have it agreed during the original negotiations that British troops should not be subject to criminal investigation, but that this was rejected by Sinn Fein.

Why did he and his puppet-master, Tony Blair, allow one side of the negotiations to decide on such an important aspect of them?

Ken Shuttleworth
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Thank you too much

SIR – I concur with Terry Wogan regarding the “extreme effusion” that has taken hold in the media.

A prime example is the weekday BBC 5 Live breakfast programme. The lead presenter is incapable of saying “thank you” without adding “very much indeed”.

G F Kendall
Southwick, West Sussex

Flagging it up

SIR – My local branch of Sainsbury’s is selling off its stock of Union Jack doormats. Mixed message, eh?

Chris Dooley
Woodville, Derbyshire

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona is clutching at straws. The idea that David Cameron has, in the German Chancellor, an ally in his bid to renegotiate Britain’s European Union membership, not least in the key area of immigration, is simply fanciful.

Angela Merkel made it perfectly clear on her recent visit that the free movement of EU citizens is non-negotiable. Most of us know this. No possible eurozone treaty will allow the clawing back of powers embedded by earlier treaties.

On top of this, we are looking at the increased likelihood of Ukrainian accession to the EU, assuming we don’t first end up embroiled in a war with Russia. I certainly don’t recall a Conservative Party manifesto pledging support for this.

Many Conservative voters have a lot more sympathy for Ukip’s unambiguous position than Mr Cameron’s euro-pragmatism.

Richard Elsy
Carlisle, Cumberland

SIR – If David Cameron is really serious about winning concessions from the EU rather than merely hoping to benefit from the political spin associated with his rhetoric, should he not start by initiating the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972? This Act gives legal effect to the rights and responsibilities of EU treaties, and gives primacy to the European Court of Justice in matters relating to EU law.

We have seen how intransigent the European Commission is when the suggestion of change or reform is brought up. Does Mr Cameron really think it will be influenced by his powers of persuasion?

Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex

SIR – Liam Fox is right both to warn the Prime Minister of “dangerous complacency” in dismissing the threat to the Conservatives from Ukip and to call for an end to “name calling” and accusations of Ukip activists as being “cranks” and “crackpots”.

The British people need to decide between UK sovereignty and EU subordination. Tory MPs should persuade David Cameron to apologise for insulting Ukip or step down, enabling early negotiations for an electoral constituency pact with Ukip, so that a Conservative majority government can be elected and tested on its promise of an EU referendum.

Brian Sturman

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona should acknowledge that it was only pressure from Nigel Farage that forced David Cameron reluctantly to address the issue of EU membership and immigration and to offer a referendum.

EU immigration takes jobs from young Britons and will, if unchecked, change the cultural landscape of this country. Angela Merkel made it clear that free movement was not negotiable. Ukip has raised a fundamental issue that other political parties have failed to address. That may not be courageous but it is essential for the health of a democracy.

Malcolm Williams
Southsea, Hampshire

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona implies (though he does not state it explicitly) that Nigel Farage is motivated by racism when he speaks out against unrestricted immigration.

On the contrary, Mr Farage articulates the feelings of many ordinary people. We are not racists, nor do we oppose immigration per se. However, we feel deeply uncomfortable that our elected governments do not have control of Britain’s borders.

We want to welcome immigrants who have something positive to offer our society; we want to offer shelter to those who seek asylum from oppressive regimes and war zones; but we want our Parliament to be able to specify the criteria for admission.

That is how things are organised in other countries outside the EU, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Why should we not enjoy the same privilege? Britain is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. We have more need to control immigration than most.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire





Irish Times:




Sir, – There is ambiguity as to who is responsible for the safety of critically ill patients who suffer a brain haemorrhage and are denied emergency neurosurgical or endovascular treatment. Beaumont and Cork University Hospitals are the only centres which provide emergency neurosurgical treatment.

Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) is an immediate life-threatening emergency. An estimated 460 to 1,290 people suffer a brain haemorrhage each year. Ten to 15 percent of casualties die before reaching hospital and about half of all patients die within the first six months. In 2012, 238 SAH patients were diagnosed. 138 were treated but 100 were denied treatment.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) claims that it is not responsible and that the Health Service Executive (HSE) is accountable as the statutory agency for managing and monitoring the performance of Beaumont Hospital.

The HSE claims that Beaumont is not responsible because the hospital did not take over the care of the unadmitted SAH patients and therefore would not have information on the outcome for those patients.

The Minister for Health, in response to written parliamentary questions, advised: “as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply”.

So who is responsible?

When my wife, Nuala, suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage she was denied access to emergency neurosurgical treatment which would have prevented the catastrophic rebleed which caused her death in 2005.

In response to my criticism in The Irish Times on September 29th, 2009, that there were no guidelines, protocols or standards in place to monitor the safety of SAH patients unable to access emergency treatment, Beaumont Hospital said it was “satisfied that appropriate protocols were in place . . . contrary to Mr Lawless’s assertion, bed availability was not a relevant factor”.

In the same article, HIQA said its priority was to “develop generic standards to drive improvement across the whole health system” but confirmed that “a specific standard covering the transfer of cranial haemorrhage patients is not in our immediate plans.”

Later in response to my request to HIQA for a copy of the “appropriate protocols” which Beaumont Hospital claimed were in place, HIQA wrote to the hospital in 2010 seeking assurances that guidelines and protocols were in place. HIQA confirmed: “When it was established that there was not a single consistent guideline in place, the Authority ensured that National guidelines for patients with head injuries and subarachnoid haemorrhages with attendant algorithms were developed and disseminated to every HSE hospital”. These guidelines have not improved access to treatment.

Beaumont has just 10 neurosurgical intensive treatment beds. My assessment of a significant shortage of neurosurgical intensive treatment beds was confirmed by an expert group which reviewed critical care services in Ireland. Towards Excellence in Critical Care assessed the need for 52 intensive treatment and 8 high-dependency beds in 2014.

In a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health, I wanted to know the outcome for SAH patients admitted to various acute hospitals but denied emergency treatment in Beaumont Hospital in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The response through the HSE advised that the information is stored on the hospital’s hard drive system, but the neurosurgical research and development unit does not have the resources to retrospectively review.

The significant shortage of neurosurgical intensive treatment beds is obvious, corporate and clinical governance is poor, as is the assessment of patient safety risks. The lives of several hundred SAH patients in Ireland continue to be put at risk. The level of mortality is unknown because there is no measure of performance to monitor the outcome for untreated SAH patients. In contrast, the National Neurology and Neurosurgery Hospital, London, accepts poor grade SAH patients for treatment and 53 per cent can expect a good recovery.

We need to review the outcome for untreated SAH patients in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and address patient safety risks in the Neurosurgical Centre. HIQA needs to be more proactive by putting in place a robust system to identify potential risks, and not just to react after tragedies have occurred. – Yours, etc,


Cypress Downs,


Dublin 6w.



Sir, – How true is the old Irish saying “eaten bread is soon forgotten” in relation to a most dedicated group of Irish women and Irish men who served the Irish people with great self-sacrifice and dedication for nearly 200 years.

I refer to the thousands of Irish religious sisters and religious brothers, living and dead. These were the people who provided practically free primary and secondary education for generations of young people in this country and also in the third world countries.

They worked 24/7, as the saying goes, and being fully qualified as teachers their salaries were ploughed into the building and maintenance of excellent schools.

Other categories of sisters built and staffed hospitals and caring centres for young and old throughout Ireland, which again were provided through their salaries.

To the shame of our national media, the focus has in recent times being completely on the failures of a minority of religious working in orphanages and Magdalene homes.

Fair and just analysis of the scenario confronting religious in these far-off days would have taken account of the fact that the State authorities leaned on the goodwill of religious while abrogating their own responsibility to provide social services and then shamefully provided very frugal financial support compared to the generous assistance available in other jurisdictions.

We should also recall that there was a lack of statutory specialised training in bygone years for child care and that today there is intensive and adequate training of child care workers.

We await the day when print and broadcast media outlets will focus on the outstanding work of Irish religious, unprecedented in other countries, which has brought recognition and credit to Ireland internationally. –Yours, etc,


Sacred Heart Residence,

Sybil Hill Road,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – Allow me to clarify some matters of importance raised by Una Mullally in her otherwise excellent article on Chartered Land’s planned demolition of the Moore Street Paris Bakery (“Development takes Moore Street site from baking dough to making dough”, Opinion & Analysis, February 17th).

While it is correct to say that Dublin City Council did approve demolition in 1989, its policy now is that national monument protection should be extended to all of the buildings along the 1916 terrace of houses in Moore Street (numbers 10 to 25).

Nama’s remit is not confined to numbers 14 to 17.

The entire Dublin Central site is now under the financial control of Nama.

Approval has not been granted by Dublin City Council or An Bord Pleanála for the demolition of numbers 18 & 19 (The Paris Bakery). Approval for their demolition is only now being sought by way of ministerial consent as buildings “in proximity to the national monument” – a requirement of national monument legislation.

While James Connolly did, of course, surrender in Moore Street he did so in agreement with fellow members of the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic. – Yours, etc,



The Save16

Moore Street Committee,

The Pearse Family Home,

Pearse Street, Dublin 2.


Sir, – As happens every year or so, the proxy debate over the Irish language rages between those who are “for” it and those “against” it. I say proxy, because the debate is ostensibly between different theories or value judgments about culture or about one sentiment or another in the letter writers.

But only ostensibly. The real issue is not about those different judgments or sentiments of one person or another.

It is about the degree to which the judgments and sentiments of one group in society is imposed on another group through the exercise of State power in the education system.

The whole debate could disappear by the simple action of making Irish a subject of choice in the Leaving Certificate. Then each contesting group could follow their own judgment and sentiment without having to persuade any other group of their infallibility and without having to take exceptional measures to impose their will on others. – Yours, etc,


Breffni Terrace,

Sandycove, Co Dublin.

A chara, – While Jason Fitzharris (March 5th) may be correct as to the proportion of census forms filled out in Irish, we must ask why the figure is so low. One valid reason is that the choice is not presented to the participant on the spot, suggesting that they are not available. I had to specially request my form. More hassle to me and to the collectors. If, as in Canada, we had an “active offer” of either language giving citizens a real choice, there would be higher uptake. – Is mise,


Páirc na Canálach Ríoga,

Baile an Ásaigh,

Baile Átha Cliath 15.


Sir, – Hats off to the Irish Dancing Commission for making a move to ban wigs, false tans, make-up and false eyelashes for children under 10 (“Minister says child beauty pageants steal childhood”, Oireachtas Report, March 6th). Also, tiaras off to the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Independent Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Mary Louise O’Donnell for taking a strong stand against child beauty pageants in Ireland. The child beauty pageants we see televised today are part of a multimillion dollar industry and are a long way from the “dressing up” games that we played as little girls. Our society is rife with competition, pressure and stress as it is.

Childhood is short, so please let children be children. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – On April 2nd, at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin, a service will take place in honour of 222 babies and young children who died in the Bethany Home Orwell Road Dublin, during 1922-1949.

The service will begin at 4pm, and we are delighted that representatives from four of the main Christian denominations will be participating. In addition, we are pleased to be able to announce that following the service, a memorial headstone will be unveiled at the cemetery. We wish to acknowledge that the considerable cost of the headstone has been met by the Department for Justice and sanctioned by Alan Shatter.

For too long, the short lives of these children have been unacknowledged, unnamed and their remains unmarked. It is highly appropriate that at last we can now rectify this situation, and that all of us have the opportunity to pay our respects, and to jointly remember a very sad time in our history.

I extend an invitation to all to join us on a very special day. – Yours, etc,




Survivors Group,

Southey Road,

Rugby, England




A chara, – Hilary Carr (March 7th) questions the possibility of surfing a wave more than once. This is possible because in surfing parlance the word wave describes both a single physical wave as well as the location at which the wave breaks and there is no record of the wave that breaks at Prowlers having been surfed before 2010. – Is mise,


Ballycasey Manor,


Co Clare.



Sir, – Price controls on legal services would quickly make a judicial career financially attractive. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – It is not for society to judge the motives of former Magdalene sisters; but is a right and a duty of society to judge their actual deeds. Like many in Ireland, Catherine McCann misses the point (“Sisters who ran Magdalene laundries are being treated unjustly”, Opinion & Analysis, March 3rd). Anyone who ever maltreated a child or an unmarried mother has done evil. Anyone who looked on when a child was unreasonably beaten, or an unmarried mother humiliated, has done evil.

To be misled or misguided is no excuse – nuns or not, they were all responsible adults. And the blame doesn’t stop at the gates of the convent – any parent who surrendered an unmarried daughter into such a place was doing evil, as were neighbours who “condemned” unmarried mothers. – Yours, etc,






Sir, – Recent correspondence reflects a desire to scapegoat at all costs, which seems unfortunately to be part of our Irish make-up. It demonstrates an all too common rejection of the low-key and factual McAleese report, which mentioned the short stays of many girls in the laundries, frequently used as remand hostels or as merciful alternatives to prison, as well as a longer-term refuge for young women with a variety of difficulties, including physical and intellectual disabilities. We should bear in mind that even today, Irish legislation for the rights of disabled people lags decades behind that in the UK.

Creative workers in residential care require not only high motivation but suitable temperament, and a variety of skills. No training was available then to teach these things , nor was it thought necessary.

The easy assumption was made that “caring” was a simple matter and something all women did naturally. That comfortable belief is still with us today.

Regarding institutions, whatever form any highly structured living takes, there will always be people who love it for its security, a good many who will tolerate it, and a few who hate it utterly and say it caused all their troubles. The latter group is the most likely to be interviewed.

There was a period when the majority of people in Ireland had narrow horizons and limited education, and little official attempt seems to have been made until very recently to remedy this.

There was then almost no attempt at practical welfare, except by individuals and voluntary organisations, mainly the churches. No royal patronage, no generous Irish millionaires! Only the extended family, to which a child with a “blemish” or a “difference” was somebody to hide away lest their presence affect the marriage or career prospects of their siblings !

Don’t let us forget the past. We are no better now, just more forgetful. – Yours, etc,



Church Street,


Co Cork.


Sir, – Michael Finan (March 7th) writes of the recently published revised regulations which have come about as a result of the Priory Hall fiasco, in which a firewall, which, by law, should have been capable of withstanding fire for a certain amount of time in order to give residents a chance to evacuate the building, was not, according to media reports, actually a firewall.

Mr Finan complains of numerous flaws with the legislation. It is a pity, if he is correct, that these regulations do not achieve the purpose which they should have been intended to achieve. Namely, that any individual who participates in the construction of a building, from the architect who designed the building right through to the plasterer who finishes it, and all engineers and tradesmen between, are all personally liable for the portion of the work which they carried out.

Obviously, the architect who designed the building can’t be responsible for the actual hands-on construction of that building, nor a bricklayer for the under-specification by the architect of, for example, a structural column.

Rather, if every individual has personally to sign for the work that they have carried out, certifying that the work is built to, at least, the minimum standard as laid down in law, and they understand that they are personally liable with personal sanctions for their portion of the work, it is highly likely that shoddy construction work would disappear overnight, when people realise that they could end up in jail and drummed out of the industry.

The aviation industry uses a similar system. Every job, no matter how small, is signed off by the technician and their supervisor and the records are retained for the lifetime of the aircraft. So the system would be workable. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak Road,


Co Carlow.





Irish Independent:


Gerard O’Regan has once again missed the point by stating that ‘(John) Kerry has seen the horrors of war up close (which) should uniquely qualify him for his role’.

Also in this section

Letters: Adams could be IRA whistleblower

Letters: A true centre of excellence

Letters: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The post of secretary of state in the US has become designated to those who fail presidential elections, not those who would use their wit and wisdom to avert wars.

The US has gone to war more than any other country on the planet in recent times.

It has dragged itself into two immoral and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no tangible successes on the horizon.

Both nations are still saddled with desolation and mayhem; their infrastructures are ruined and their people are far from reaching their promised democratic destinations.

On the other hand, as the unfolding crisis in Crimea has demonstrated, not a single shot was fired while Russians tightened their grip on this strategic peninsula on the Black Sea.

The overwhelming populace in Crimea are in favour of joining Mother Russia.

Their cultural, familial and historic ties are bound to soothe this historic transfer.

And while the spectre of financial meltdown is still lurking underneath global financial systems, Russia controls the gas supply to the whole of Europe and is in an influential position to use it as a diplomatic tool to assert its will.

Many commentators see the forthcoming referendum on the future of Crimea on March 16 as an act of desperation.

I view such sentiments as nothing less than a moral turpitude and a blatant departure from the truth.

What Ukrainians and Crimeans need at this juncture is for outsiders to stop meddling in their internal affairs, and to help them rebuild their institutions and be better prepared for future challenges.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London Nw2


* Sean Smith wrote an interesting letter on March 8 in which he states as “a reluctant atheist” he envies Sean McElgunn’s ability to accept the duality of not knowing, yet naming God as the first cause, and knowing that God exists and is love.

The problem innumerable people have with religious dogma is the emphasis that one must believe in God, allied to the threat of a terrible existence, after earthly life, in a place called Hell – something one of the great Irish ninth century philosophers Eriugena, (John Scotus Eriugena) claimed does not exist, “as the universe is one”. Eriugena also disputed predestination, another of the anomalies taught by some religions as being fact, for which he earned a badge of honour with a place on The Index Librorum Prohibitorum – a list of prohibited books banned by the church – for a number of centuries.

Finally Mr Smith states: “I envy the comfort and solace this knowledge must bring. I am, however, cursed with a rational mind that will not settle on a solution to a mystery simply because it is the best it can manage. The mystery rolls on.”

Indeed the “mystery” does roll on, and will continue to do so, as long as humans inherit, and inhabit this most wonderful Earth we now reside on. Eastern philosophy states: “That which we envy in others; we actually possess. It is just we fail to recognise it in ourselves.”

My considered opinion is, we should live with faith, hope and charity. Refrain from deliberately harming any life on Earth: that is love.

Declan Foley

Berwick, Australia


* A shortage of biros in a particular garda station (Irish Independent, March 7) means surely that the officers there have difficulty drawing a thin blue line?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9


* Normally, visiting dignitaries are photographed with a pint of the black stuff or flexing a hurley with eyes on a ball. A few have uttered a cupla focail like “Is Feidir Linn”, thus endearing themselves to T-shirt manufacturers .

A new phenomenon, however, has crept into our national lack of confidence. In addition to the above, we now wheel out Bono for many state gigs. Why?

At the recent Conference Centre shindig involving the European People’s Party, Bono waxed lyrical about Ireland, austerity recovery and finance.

Never saw the chancellor of the UK Exchequer wheel out Mick Jagger to drive a point home.

John Cuffe

Co Meath


* Your report that grandparents who mind their grandchildren are to be forced to fill out tax returns (Irish Independent, March 8) demonstrates the stark discrimination that now exists in our tax code.

On the business pages of the same edition you quote a report from the ‘Australian Financial Review’ newspaper which claims that computer giant Apple had shifted almost $9bn (€6.5bn) in untaxed profits in 10 years from Australia to a “tax haven structure in Ireland”. Unbelievable stuff.

Jim O’Sullivan

Rathedmond, Sligo


* I empathise with John Fitzgerald (Irish Independent, March 6) on his conservation efforts and certainly on his concern for the most timid of all small animals, the hare.

An incident in my early life involving that little creature is something I’ll never forget.

It happened on a bright Sunday afternoon as my mother sat reading her ‘favourite newspaper’. The back door was wide open and lo and behold – like a flash of lightning – in shot this desperate animal, landing straight into my nature-loving mother’s lap. The ears were pricked, heart thumping, eyes of fear popping from the head. This was a hunted hare.

Within seconds the bloodthirsty pack of hounds were howling in the driveway and across the yard. On hearing them my father shot from his chair getting the door shut in the nick of time. I can assure you that frightened hare was nursed like a baby until it was fit to be safely released.

Although that experience was implanted in my mind, we had some greyhounds of our own and the picture gradually faded. Hopefully, not to my shame, I enjoyed many good hare coursing days after that.

Age is possibly the greatest tamer of mankind – now, I would frown on a cat killing a mouse.

James Gleeson,

Thurles, Co Tipperary


* Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry compared the draconian anti-gay legislation passed in the Republic of Uganda in February with oppressive government crackdowns on German Jews in the 1930s and black South Africans during apartheid.

But the secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Public Accounts Committee last week that it would not be appropriate to cut Irish aid to Uganda.

It would appear that Irish taxpayers’ money is allocated unconditionally and that Ireland has little, or no, diplomatic clout with respect to human rights in Uganda.

This contrasts with the position of Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, each of whom promptly cut their aid allocation to Uganda in protest against the outrageous oppression of human rights conferred by the legislation.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

Irish Independent



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