13 March 2014 Boxes

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have to recover from a wardroom party. Priceless

Cold slightly better Boxes arrive all books now in boxes wonderful

Scrabbletoday Marywins but getsunder400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Nigel Groom, who has died aged 89, was an Arabist, historian, author, soldier, spy-catcher and perfume connoisseur. These pursuits saw him fend off a tribal assassination attempt in Aden, uncover a KGB spy embedded in the RAF and explain the association between frankincense and Christ’s divinity.

As a young Political Officer for the Colonial Service, Groom arrived in the British Protectorate of Aden in 1948. He was responsible for the north-eastern area, based in Bayhan, a remote emirate bordering the central Arabian Desert, and accessible only by small RAF aircraft. Two years later he took over the northern area, based in Al Dhali’, regarded at the time as a difficult, ungoverned tribal part of the Protectorate, riven by unrest fuelled by the Imam of Yemen in pursuance of his claims over the whole country.

At Christmas in 1950 the British agent for the western area of the Protectorate, Basil Seager, and his wife arrived to spend the holiday in Al Dhali’, unaware that a plot was afoot to assassinate both Seager and Groom (and their escort of Arab soldiers) at a Christmas Day lunch in a nearby village. However, while out for a walk with armed guards on Christmas Eve, Seager and his wife by chance met the chief assassin, a religious fanatic high on khat, and his party on their way to their assignment. The assassin stabbed Seager with his dagger, causing serious injury, and in the subsequent gunfight several of the escort and several assailants were killed. Groom signalled to Aden for a doctor, who arrived after a five-hour night-time journey over rough tracks, and for a substantial force of Aden Protectorate Levies, to leave early on Christmas morning to help counter a planned tribal uprising.

Nigel Groom commenced his second career in the early Sixties, as an officer in MI5. Posted to D (later K) Branch in 1964, he was to spend his working life in counter-espionage work. In 1965 he was the case officer for an elaborate investigation which uncovered RAF Warrant Officer Douglas Britten as a KGB spy. The evidence unearthed included one-time code pads, short-wave radio schedules, RV instructions, sketch-maps for dead letter boxes and, in a detail worthy of Ian Fleming’s imagination, a document copier disguised as a cigarette case.

Groom combined the drama of his working life with a quiet, inquisitive fascination for all things Arabic, not least its various heady scents. He published three specialist studies in the field of perfume, in which he explained that “incense has had a continuous religious significance throughout the entire expanse of history”.

Nigel St John Groom was born on September 3 1924, and grew up in Devon, where his father, the Reverend RW Groom, was a country rector. Educated at Haileybury and Magdalene College, Cambridge, Nigel joined the Indian Army in 1943 and served with the 3 Gurkha Rifles and, in Burma, with 2 Karen Rifles. Joining the Colonial Service after the war, he was posted to the Western Aden Protectorate.

His first duty was to oversee an operation, using RAF Lincoln bombers flown from Britain for the mission, against a Bedouin desert tribe which had rebelled against the rule of the Sharif of Bayhan . Political influence over heavily-armed tribesmen — racked by blood-feuds — was limited to messages to their leaders sent by runners. There were no roads or vehicles and travel was on horseback or camel or on foot. The area was unmapped and virtually unexplored, and wherever Groom went he would take bearings with a pocket compass for a sketch map of the country. In his account of this period, Sheba Revealed (2002), he described the terrain as “perhaps the roughest land to administer anywhere in the British Empire”.

In 1952 Groom married Lorna Littlewood, the daughter of a British official in the Burma government who had died on the trek to India out of Burma after the wartime Japanese invasion. After their spell in Al Dhali’ the couple moved to the Aden Secretariat handling Protectorate affairs, where Groom worked latterly as Assistant Chief Secretary. In 1958 they left for Nairobi (“like being on leave all the time after Aden”) where he worked first in the Kenya Cabinet Office and later as Defence Secretary in the East Africa High Commission. His secretariat responsibilities included the Royal East African Navy, based in Mombasa, and the running of the East African Intelligence Committee. The job came to an end with the granting of independence to the East African territories.

Groom was recruited by MI5 in 1962. After the Britten case, he joined a small team examining allegations being sponsored by the counterintelligence officer and scientist Peter Wright, and later given publicity by the journalist Chapman Pincher, that Sir Roger Hollis, the service’s former Director-General, had been a Soviet mole. Groom’s investigations showed that, in every one of the leads put to him by the so-called Fluency Committee investigating Hollis, that the evidence was inconclusive.

Subsequently he was ordered to plan and supervise all K Branch surveillance operations against the “legal” Soviet Bloc intelligence community in London; this included the elaborate operations surrounding the defection of the Russian agent Oleg Lyalin and the expulsion, in 1971, of 107 KGB and GRU officers masquerading as Soviet diplomats. Thereafter he returned to investigating espionage leads and was to become head successively of two of the investigating sections. With a record length of continuous service in K Branch, he ended up as one of M15’s most senior and experienced counter-espionage officers, with an unrivalled knowledge of the sophisticated espionage techniques employed by the USSR. Many of the major spy cases of the time passed through his hands.

He was appointed OBE in 1974 .

Nigel Groom never lost his keen interest in the Arab world and especially in its pre-Islamic history, on which he became a noted expert. This was kindled during his early days in Bayhan, where he supported the American archaeologist Wendell Phillips in excavation projects. In 1976 he compiled an archaeological map of south-western Arabia, which was published by the Royal Geographical Society. With A Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames (1983) he provided English definitions of several thousand Arabic words of topographical significance. He contributed regularly to the Bulletin of the Society for Arabian Studies and other academic journals, one special interest being the interpretation of Ptolemy’s map of Arabia.

His time in Bayhan had also introduced him to the incense trade, a fascination for which infused his study Frankincense and Myrrh (1981). The volume explored the nature and location of incense trees, the harvesting and bartering of crops, and how trade routes opened up to Europe. The book attracted the interest of an Omani company preparing to launch a new perfume; Groom agreed to advise them on the historical background of the natural ingredients they wanted to use. This research led to a dictionary-style reference book, The Perfume Handbook (1992) — revised as The New Perfume Handbook (1997). He was later commissioned to write The Perfume Companion (1999), designed for a wider readership.

Nigel Groom’s wife died in 2009, and he is survived by a son and a daughter.

Nigel Groom, born September 3 1924, died March 5 2014




Your letter (12 March) about the risks associated with the deep cuts in mental health funding highlighted an issue of increasing concern to me. I am regularly contacted by constituents struggling with mental health issues and it’s become clear that the services they access locally are under acute pressure. Therapies have long waiting lists; crisis teams cannot respond quickly enough; dedicated mental health workers are buckling under increased workloads and either going on long-term sick or seeking other careers. It is heartbreaking to see the pain many of my constituents go through, often because of past traumatic experiences or debilitating illnesses. Their cry for help can come after months or years of suppressed suffering; so when they finally access the services they so desperately need, it is extremely frustrating that they then cannot get the level of help and speed of response they require. I believe our mental health and our emotional wellbeing are key to functioning as decent human beings. When these elements of our being aren’t functioning healthily the impact is on individuals, families, communities, businesses and society as a whole. I see this everyday in my work with victims and on youth justice. It’s time that we, as a society, got our priorities right on mental health.
Dan Jarvis MP
Labour, Barnsley Central

• As nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers, we share the concerns of England’s six leading mental health organisations that a new NHS funding cut will put lives at risk. This represents yet another blow to mental health services, which are already in a critical state. The health and social work professionals our organisations represent are providing incredible support and expert interventions to people with severe and enduring mental health problems in what are difficult times. The government has made a promise to treat mental and physical healthcare equally, but further cuts to mental health services call this commitment into question. Following the Francis report, professionals have a duty to raise concerns to serve and protect their patients. We urge NHS England and the NHS financial regulator, Monitor, to reconsider their decision as a matter of urgency. Failure to is a breach of the principle of parity of esteem for mental and physical health.
Dr Peter Carter Chief executive & General Secretary, , Royal College of Nursing, Jo Cleary Chair, College of Social Work, Faye Wilson Chair, British Association of Social Workers’ mental health forum, Richard Pemberton Chair, British Psychological Society division of clinical psychology, Julia Scott Chief Executive, College of Occupational Therapists

• While I’m glad attention has been drawn to the lack of funding for adult mental health services, it is crucial to note that funding for child and adolescent mental health services is also being cut. Unless children’s mental health services are properly financed the NHS will never be able to intervene early enough in the development of mental disorders to decrease adult psychomorbidity. The costs to individuals and to society of this service shortfall have been shown time and again to be very significant. When will the government refer to the evidence base and introduce some real cost saving measures?
Dr Dinah Morley

• There are currently 10 million people in the UK over 65 and this is set to increase substantially. One in five are likely to need mental health services. The funding cuts to mental health services highlighted in the letter by Sean Duggan et al are a disgrace. Older people will be subject to a triple whammy: services for this group are already comparatively underfunded, demand for services is rising and they have more complex needs. Mental health services for older people are likely to collapse if the current situation continues. We urge that parity of esteem is observed not only between physical and mental health outlined in the Health and Social Care Act but also for older people as outlined in the Equality Act.
Dr James Warner (chair)
Dr Nori Graham
Dr Katheryn Milward
Dr Rafi Arif
Dr Deirdre Shields
Dr Rory O’Shea
Dr Ann Boyle
Professor Rob Stewart
Dr Suzanne Joels
Dr Deirdre Bonner
Dr Anand Ramakrishnan
Dr Debbie Brown
Dr Gianetta Rands
Dr Sandra Evans
Dr Mani Krishnan
Dr Amanda Thompsell
Dr Sheena MacKenzie
Dr Wendy Neil
Dr Claire Hilton
Professor Steve Iliffe
Prof George Tadros
Dr Brid Kerrigan
Dr Martin Brown
Executive, Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Full list:



For years, clinicians and managers in the NHS have been pleading with politicians not to defend every brick of their local hospital because to do that prevents or delays sensible reorganisation and can seriously damage local healthcare. Yet when the government brings in an amendment to the care bill to help this process along, Polly Toynbee pens an article (11 March) threatening Conservative MPs that supporting this bill “will come back to bite” them. As usual, the left is against any kind of rational progress.
John Horam
Conservative, House of Lords

• Refreshing to see Charlie Mayfield, the John Lewis chairman, taking the same 17% bonus as his staff (Report, 7 March), and note the never knowingly underpaid Marc Bolland’s 85% bonus last year at M&S on top of his £3.9m golden hello in 2010. Seems to me that not only has John Lewis won the battle for the high street, but also the moral high ground.
Malcolm Stewart

• I am very happy to support your editorial (10 March), which concludes “Leave income tax alone”. I’d have been even happier had you uttered the same sentiment when Gordon Brown, for cheap political and electoral reasons, abolished the 10% rate and simultaneously cut the standard rate from 22% to 20%.
Eric Ogden
Cheadle, Cheshire

• I still blush when I think of the sudden burst of grown-up laughter when, as a child of eight, I arrived late for lunch. “I’m so sorry,” I said confidently, “I was misled about the time.” Except I pronounced it mizzled (G2, 12 March).
Antonia Fraser

• It’s surprising that your praise of Hull (11 March) did not mention the poet Andrew Marvell, who was raised in Hull and became its MP. The coalition might care to ponder two of his memorable lines: “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace.”
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

• Indeed there is no “heaven” in National Rail’s station menu (Letters, 12 March), but Norway has a station called Hell.
Les Summers


I was horrified when the Women’s section of G2 decided to alienate a significant portion of the female population (and your readership) by declaring teenage girls apolitical and only interested in social media (Malala, Page 3 and Top Gear, 11 March) – and declaring that, as Malala Yousafzai is not any of those things, she is some freakish exception. This, from the paper that backed Fahma Mohamed’s anti-FGM campaign! I know that at the WoW conference Yousafzai spoke at there were some very political teenage girls present and that there are many, many politicised teenage girls in this country (I am one of them), but that is not the point. The point is that many adult feminists patronise and silence teenage girls for being political, and then call politically ignorant young women stupid in the very next breath. It is not something Malala would appreciate; twisting her words so you can attack teenage girls. I think I can speak for Yousafzai by saying that encouraging solidarity between feminists of all ages is one of the most important things you can do, unless you want to have to win the suffrage back every 50 years.

Then again, all this is not terribly surprising, as the liberal media has exalted Yousafzai purely as an anti-fundamentalist, feminist campaigner, ignoring her actual politics (which is far closer to Marxism than the media wants to admit), which is a essential part of her campaigning. When you aren’t a political teenage girl (which every teenager has a right to be), you are patronised; when you are a political teenage girl, your politics are ignored so the western liberal media can hold you aloft as a figurehead and an exception.
Laura Cooper (16)


As a Guardian reader, I was surprised to read about myself – one of three girls studying history of art (Not just for posh girls, Education, 4 March). I did not recognise myself as the girl shyly “knocking on the door” of my neighbouring private school. I think of myself as an independent young woman who is happy to take up any opportunity offered to me. Every Thursday I go from one good, well-respected school to another equally good, well-respected school to study a subject not offered at the first. The fact that one of these schools is fee-paying does not make me feel “overawed”. A Van Gogh painting makes me feel overawed. Yes, Godolphin and Latymer is a brilliant school, but I don’t go there every Thursday to stand in the car park in “awe” of it, I’m there to learn. I do not feel that my comprehensive school is second best. Comprehensive schools are the choice of the majority of children. Not because they are free, but because they give a first-rate education.
Aphra Joly de Lotbinière


As engineers, health professionals, educationists and others who believe in the power of science and engineering as a force for good, we are writing to condemn the continued sponsorship of today’s Big Bang Fair by BAE Systems and other arms companies such as Thales, Selex ES, Doosan, Rolls-Royce and Airbus. It might seem like a joke: the UK’s largest youth science and engineering education event, named the Big Bang Fair, is sponsored by companies who make very big bangs indeed. Except the arms trade isn’t funny. All of these companies have a track record of supplying countries with appalling human rights records. Doosan is involved in cluster bomb manufacture.

The casual and unquestioned way these companies are allowed public relations space at educational events reflects a serious problem at the heart of modern British science. We need programmes which offer young people unbiased spaces to learn about science and engineering as it is currently constituted – including environmental and human rights concerns – and what it could look like.

If the government is serious in its support of science and engineering – not just a few choice companies associated with them – it must invest more fully in education so the Big Bang Fair 2015 need not be reliant on sponsorship which so narrows its scope. We were pleased to learn that several (though not all) of the fossil fuel companies associated with previous fairs have disappeared from the list of sponsors.

Big Bang 2014 is a slightly less dystopian vision of engineering than it has been in the past. Let’s drop the arms trade and do something truly inspirational in the future.
Professor David Colquhoun FRS University College London
Professor Robin A Weiss FRS University College London
Professor David Webb CND
Professor Abbas Edalat Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics, Imperial College
Professor Jonathan Oppenheim Professor of Quantum Theory, University College London
Professor Andy Stirling University of Sussex
Professor Brian Wynne Lancaster University
Professor Gail Davies Professor of Human Geography, Exeter
Professor Richard Ashcroft Queen Mary University of London
Professor Jon Agar Professor of Science and Technology Studies, University College London
Professor Malcolm JW Povey University of Leeds
Professor Mark Blaxter University of Edinburgh
Professor Christopher Norris Cardiff University, Wales
Professor John S Yudkin University College London
Professor Imti Choonara University of Nottingham
Professor Anna Gilmore Bath
Robin Ince Comedian
Andrew Feinstein Former ANC MP, Author, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade
Rev Andrew Willson Imperial College Chaplain
Dr David McCoy Medact
Lucas Wirl International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility
Dr Simon Lewis
Dr Sarah Bell
Dr Felicity Mellor
Dr Charlotte Sleigh
Dr Lucy Gilliam
Dr Alice Bell
Dr Emma Hughes
Dr Hamza Hamouchene
Dr Emily Dawson
Dr Rebekah Higgit
Dr Vanessa Heggie
Dr Paul Levy Mathematics & Statistics, Lancaster University
Dr Tristram Wyatt Emeritus fellow, Kellogg College, Oxford
Dr Charalampos Tsoumpas University of Leeds
Dr Tim Oxley
Dr Ian Cook University of Exeter
Dr Lorenzo Di Lucia Imperial
Dr Marion Hersh University of Glasgow
Dr Victoria Johnson Cardiff University
Dr Alan Cottey University of East Anglia
Dr Youcef Mehellou
Dr David Harper Reader in clinical psychology, University of East London
David Wearing
Dr Gary Fooks
Dr Keith Baker
Dr RJ Tacon
Dr Tim Dowson
Reiner Braun International association of lawyers against nuclear arms
Emma Sangster Coordinator, ForcesWatch
Stephen Skett
Dr Sunil Bhopal Academic clinical fellow in paediatrics, Newcastle upon Tyne
Dr Charmian Goldwyn Independent Medical Practitioner
Dr Kate Rawles Senior lecturer in outdoor studies
Dr Mandy Meikle Researcher on climate justice
Dr Westley Ingram
Dr Emily Heath Senior teaching associate, Lancaster Environment Centre
Dr Tomasz Pierscionek
Anne Chapman Green House
Gwen Harrison Climate change consultant, Cumbria
Sarah Lou Bailey Clinical research fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Rachel Cottam GP partner, Brighton
Dr Trevor Trueman Retired GP
Brian Beveridge Consultant ophthalmologist (retd)
Dr Rachel Lindley GP lecturer
Ruth Jarman Christian Ecology Link
Maria Olenina Imperial
Dr Phil Kingston Retired lecturer, Bristol University
Dr.Chris Burns-Cox Emeritus consultant physician
Dr Mark Ruddell Consultant liaison sychiatrist
Helen Everett Teacher and trustee, Home-Start Leicester
Dr Rupert Gude Retired GP
Rev Dr Chris Walton Editor, Green Christian Magazine
Dr Sunil Bhopal Academic clinical fellow in Paediatrics, Newcastle upon Tyne
John Furness
Ursula Stubbings
Dr H Grant-Peterkin MRCPsych
Dr Harald Molgaard D Phil (Physics)
Dr Elizabeth Waterston Retired GP
Dr Guinevere Tufnell Consultant child & adolescent psychiatrist, Fellow, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Taavi Tillmann Specialty registrar in public health medicine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Ian Fairlie
Dr Leo Garcia Trainee clinical scientist, Velindre Cancer Centre
Justin Pickard Sussex
Laura Perry Nuclear medicine physicist, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
Geraldine Brennan IC
Dr Eszter Nagy KCL
Dr Judith Burchardt GP
Dr Jeni McAughey GP, Belfast
Dr Christine Range Consultant, ABMU Health Board
Cllr Jillian Creasy Sheffield city council, and GP locum in Sheffield
Dr David Kirby Retired GP
Dr Eva Novotny Cambridge
Lindley Owen Retired consultant in public health
Dr Paul Redgrave Consultant in public health
David Halpin MB BS FRCS
David Polden London region CND
Name Ann King Registered intermediary, Criminal Justice Service
Dr Dominick Jenkins Author, campaigner and philosopher
Brenda Heard Friends of Lebanon
Julie Lloyd Clinical psychologist, NHS
Anna E Livingstone GP, Tower Hamlets
Alison Payne GP
Corinne Moore Retired health care worker
Richard Le Mare Radiographer, NHS
Judith Anderson Consultant psychiatrist
Tony Waterston Retired consultant paediatrician, Newcastle upon Tyne
Joady Brennan Child & adolescent mental health specialist, NHS
Maggie Eisner Retired GP and GP training programme director, Bradford
Penny Walker Workers Education Association, community activist
Dr Lesley Morrison GP
Andrew Manasse Retired GP
Stewart Britten Retired consultant child psychiatrist
Jill Vogler Retired consultant psychiatrist
Sarah Lazenby
Angie Zelter
Noel Hamel Chair, Kingston Peace Council/CND
Dr Jude Towers Statistician
Herbert Eppel Translator
Melanie Strickland
Dr Chloe Baker
Megan Quinlan Research fellow, CEP, Imperial College
Dr Michael Parkinson Former research scientist in neurobiology
Dr Mae-Wan Ho Director, Institute of Science in Society
Jenny Gibson Retired missionary
Jo Abbess





Bob Crow was an intelligent, principled and highly effective union leader who believed that all workers should be paid a fair wage and pension for their labours, and be accorded safe and comfortable working conditions. He also believed in the right of workers to withdraw their labour when any of these conditions were lacking.

He therefore quite often threatened (but rarely followed through) strike action, and for this he was hated by right-wing media and politicians alike. Yet what is the bleating excuse of those same right-wing voices for the scandal of multi-million pound bonuses in the City? “We must not interfere with the sacred rituals of the market or these people will just go somewhere else.”

In other words, withdraw their labour. Couple this with the “tax strike” in which the rich have indulged for ages and one realises exactly who are the forces holding the country to ransom.

Steve Edwards, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

Though I am no apologist for trades unions, I really must say how moved I was by today’s cartoon (12 March) by Dave Brown on the sudden death of Bob Crow. It was superb – witty, affectionate and wry – and  I’m sure the man himself would have  loved it.

Jenny Adams, Cardiff 

The adulation of Bob Crow seems to have missed the obvious point. Yes, he achieved a lot for his members, especially those working on the London Underground. However, how many of his demands were met because the management had little choice when the alternative was the paralysis of London?

He kept his finger on the industrial equivalent of a nuclear trigger and made sure that everyone knew that he was prepared to use it. He backed this up by showing scant consideration of the consequences to other workers and their employers.

How successful would he have been had his members been employed in an industry where management could resist, or even “walk away”? Could he have delivered so much in a car plant? He picked his battles well, like many generals; perhaps that’s why he won.

Tim Brook, Bristol

Who would you want defending your corner, Bob Crow or Ed Miliband?

Steven Calrow, Liverpool

Lockerbie theory vindicated

The theory put forward in your article “New Lockerbie report says Libyan framed to conceal the real bombers” (12 March) has long been considered the most probable explanation for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, on which my brother Bill Cadman and his girlfriend lost their lives.

You report that there may have been was political interference from Washington and London to protect Syria and Iran. The cover-up, however, grew out of control with the very expensive Camp Zeist trial, and what has always puzzled us is why such a cover-up was necessary. In the vacuum created by false information and manipulation of facts dark fears emerge, and our worst-case scenario remains that the bombing was allowed to happen, and that my brother and the other 278 people on board were offered up as sacrificial victims to appease Iran.

We felt right from the beginning that something was being kept from us: the CIA were out in force on Scottish soil before the work of identifying bodies had been properly undertaken, and the brave Dr David Fieldhouse who worked tirelessly on the night of 21 December finding and labelling bodies, and who gave evidence in the Scottish fatal accident inquiry, was discredited publicly, although he later received an apology.

One theory was that Flight 103 was regularly used in the drugs-for-arms circuit connecting Nicaragua  to Iran, and that the message instructing carriers to  “put suspect packages in the hold” was in some way connected to this. It would have been relatively easy to slip a bomb on to a plane in this context.

My father, Martin Cadman, was haunted by the memory of being told by a member of the American Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism that our government knew what had happened but that the truth would not come out. He has now lost his memory and it is very bitter to me that now truths that he shouted from the rooftops against the prevailing wind are commonly reported as facts.

Marion Irvine, L’Aquila, Italy

Manipulating the market

The Bank of England’s attempt to clarify any alleged involvement in manipulating the foreign exchange market has to be applauded. However, this issue goes way back before 2006, or even the deregulation of the City in 1986 which many cite as the start of the decline in governance in the financial services sector.

I worked as a junior employee in the foreign exchange dealing room of a major high street bank during the 1976 sterling crisis, which saw the pound under pressure on the foreign exchange markets. I vividly recall the chief officer running into the dealing room and shouting to traders that they were to start big purchases of sterling, in concert with the other British high street banks at the behest of the Bank of England, in order to influence the pound exchange rate.

Steven Walker, Walton on Naze, Essex

Inexcusable cull of senior nurses

Your article “Cull of the matrons: thousands of senior nursing posts axed” (11 March) highlights some very serious problems facing the NHS.

In addition to the loss of experience and skills that senior nurses bring to the wards, there is a knock-on effect on clinical supervision. Senior nurses and matrons play a valuable role in helping to support and guide less-experienced staff. This includes junior doctors, who rely on nurses with experience as they start their new jobs in the summer each year.

A number of the senior nurses the NHS is in danger of “culling” have specialist clinical skills in, for example, cancer and coronary diseases. To “cull” this experience is inexcusable .

This government should make a realistic assessment of the impact of its cuts on the NHS – especially on the staff who are at the sharp end of so much criticism.

Christina McAnea, Head of Health,  UNISON,  London NW1

Birds of prey in the grouse estates’ sights

Your article on grouse shooting (7 March) did not mention the persecution of birds of prey on upland moors in Scotland and North England, where  hen harriers now no  longer breed.

I recently spent a week in the North Pennines in Northumberland, where any bird or mammal that may interfere with the interests of red grouse shooting is classed as vermin and ruthlessly trapped or shot, for the benefit of “rich enthusiasts from around the world” who will climb up the social ladder after bagging a brace of grouse.

Despite a spokesman for the Moorland Association, which represents grouse shooters, saying that “it fuels the local economy in remote areas”, the few people I spoke to in the area did not agree with this view, some in fact detesting the activities of the shooting fraternity.

Although the scarce black grouse are now protected, people seemed to think they are also sometimes shot as they would have an even better price tag on their heads.

Peter Brown, Brighton

Political evolution in the Gulf states 

The article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, “A reminder that the Gulf states are evil empires” (10 March) is thoroughly wrong-headed. The current Arabian Gulf monarchies are not perfect but are evolving in the direction of more representative government, some more rapidly  than others.

Between 1999 and 2009 I had the privilege of working for long periods in Kuwait on technical training programmes. Women and men, young Kuwaiti graduates, were educated together on challenging and complex assignments.

In Kuwait, adult women and men have the vote, are elected to Parliament and are not oppressed. In Kuwait there have been women ministers.

We have seen other monarchies in the Arab world and the Gulf disastrously replaced by very nasty dictatorships (Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Iran).

Instead let us support the evolutionary not revolutionary politics so well displayed by our natural friends in the kingdoms of the Gulf and in north Africa.

Michael A G Bunter, Conwy

Reporting sex crime allegations

On Tuesday, The Independent carried stories referring to allegations of “gay sex assault” made against Nigel Evans MP, yet somehow neglected to characterise allegations made against Max Clifford as “heterosexual assault”. Would you care to account for the inconsistency?

Iain Barbour, Edinburgh





Sir, Libby Purves offers a balanced appraisal of the explanation given by Sarah Vine, wife of the Education Minister, Michael Gove, as to why she chose to send her child to a state school. I have to confess my surprise at Vine’s logic which Purves has exposed most eruditely (“The minister should stop his missus sneering”, Mar 10).

I was a head teacher of two state comprehensive schools (Tottenham, London and Bristol) and I sent my children to a state comprehensive. For my wife and I the most important thing was to decide what was the right school for each of our children given all the circumstances at the time. As a believer in choice in a free market I exercised mine and, yes, got brownie points not only from parents of the two schools I led but also from staff, of whom many were readers of The Guardian .

I now have grandchildren living in North London and Bristol. The London contingent attend primary and secondary state schools (one is a state grammar with an academic selection process). Two of the Bristol contingent attend independent schools while a third attends a Church of England primary school. My wife and I have supported strongly the decisions of their parents as they have addressed the question “What is the right school for my child?” and reached a family consensus.

To infer that my Bristol family are snobs “paying for their children to mix with the right kind of kids” is a travesty and I am offended by it.

David Pert


Sir, Further to Libby Purves, some might say that the wealthy have a moral obligation to pay for their education, rather than take the places of more deserving families in high-quality state schools.

David Hanson

Independent Association of Prep Schools

Sir, Libby Purves’ response to Sarah Vine’s attack on the evils of private education is welcome.

It is interesting that the primary state school the Goves’ daughter attends has been the school of choice for the offspring of both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education, just as that other state school, the Brompton Oratory, was the choice of both the former Prime Minister and the present Deputy Prime Minister.

As a parent (state educated and a teacher in the state system) who opted for a private school education for her children, I have never been unaware of the importance of parental standards and aspirations in schools. Sarah Vine may not have been influenced by such factors in seeking out both the primary and secondary schools for her daughter but her instincts seem to have served her well.

Jacqueline Downey

London SW1

Sir, Thank you to Libby Purves who highlights the lottery involved in getting ones child into the state school of your choice and the unreasonable gloating exhibited by Sarah Vine; I rather think it is Ms Vine who is still set in the “playground” mentality of showing off their luck which is after all largely good fortune and location and which, I would suggest, is hardly in keeping with the Christian values promoted at Grey Coat Hospital. Hopefully the Goves’ daughter will benefit from the ethics of the school she will be lucky enough to attend.

Atalanta Beaumont

Oxted, Surrey



The police service is ‘classless’ and ‘meritocratic’, and most senior officers have at least one good degree

Sir, The letter from Christopher Ash (Mar 12) is frankly insulting to both the police service and the working class. If, as it appears, some of his views are based upon his experience of the police in the late 1960s/early 1970s, they are ill informed and do not reflect the modern police service. One only has to look at Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick and her top female team (report, Mar 10) to realise the service is far from Life on Mars.

No, the police is not perfect, and there is a need to continually strive to improve standards in leadership, integrity and service to the public. However, (unlike many large organisations) it is “classless” and meritocratic. Promotion is based solely upon objective qualities and standards. These include intelligence, aptitude, integrity, commitment and proven leadership skills. Senior leadership and promotion in the police is not influenced or governed by an upper-middle-class network based on social background, contacts and favours. Most senior officers and all chief officers will hold at least one good degree. It is one of the few organisations which offers a level playing field for all new recruits in terms of potential advancement to the highest ranks. This position helps to ensure the service has the pick of some of the best and brightest to serve the public in that most important rank: police constable.

Michael Free, QPM

(Metropolitan Police Service

London W11


In a report on the Staffordshire Hoard we confused our geography and our 7th-century warrior tribes

Sir, The Mercians would not have been attacking Saxons in East Anglia and Northumbria (Mar 12). They would have been attacking Angles — Saxons were confined to the southern counties of England.

Jason Dickson

Bretforton, Worcs


One reader is concerned to reassure older people with cancer that they will be looked after perfectly well

Sir, I would hate it if your headline “Elderly get raw deal in relation to cancer” (Mar 11) were to worry people unnecessarily. My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a year ago, aged 86. She saw the three appropriate consultants in five days; there was no suggestion of ageism; and she chatted to each on an equal basis about courses of action. The decisions about treatments were entirely hers. Over the next ten months her allocated case nurse was always there organising appointments and answering queries, all under the auspices of the NHS

Sadly, she passed away in January, but that was because the symptoms had not been obvious enough for an earlier diagnosis.

Geoff Longlands

Bognor Regis



There was some confusion over exactly which bit of South London would be home to the new US embassy

Sir, Americans may be more savvy than Justin Webb (Mar 11) says. Their new embassy is in fact in Wandsworth.

Councillor Stuart Thom

London SW11

One UKIP supporter feels that Conservative disdain for his party’s views is reminiscent of the Lady Chatterly trial

Sir, A Cabinet minister says it should become as embarrassing to admit support for UKIP at a dinner party as it would to admit support for the BNP (“They call them fruitcakes in public but Tories still fear the UKIP threat”, Mar 12).

I wonder just how many UKIP supporters give or attend dinner parties? I, for one, do not. It rather reminds me of prosecution counsel’s comment during the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial, when the jury was asked whether it was the sort of book they would want their servants to read. This latest comment shows just how out of touch senior politicians remain, more than 50 years on.

Alec Gallagher

Potton, Beds






SIR – You report that the latest piece of madness to emanate from Brussels is the possibility that several of our beloved garden plants, such as the rhododendron, will be banned under new European laws. The reasons are that they are “invasive” and “of Union concern”, whatever that means.

Are the likes of Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden in Wisley, Surrey, the Savill Garden, and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, as well as other glorious tourist attractions, expected to undergo a campaign of slash and burn?

Prospective European Union inspectors should be reminded that we gardeners possess a multitude of useful implements such as forks, scythes and sickles with which to defend our personal green spaces.

Rick Emerson
Bagshot, Surrey

SIR – Gordon Brown proposes giving Scotland “devo max”, balancing relations between the countries of the United Kingdom and sharing resources and risks between them.

I would be very much in favour of the sharing part of his proposal if there were to be an equal per capita distribution of government expenditure between the countries, so that the people of Newcastle benefited to the same extent as those in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.

William Harris
Stockton, Warwickshire

SIR – The former prime minister enters the Scottish independence debate to argue for more devolution and a new constitutional arrangement. England should undergo devolution in the same way as Scotland, as should Wales and Northern Ireland.

English taxpayers have had enough of subsidising Mr Brown’s country.

Steve Bodger
Mayfield, East Sussex

SIR – In Mr Brown’s plan for a fair Union, he proposes Scotland raises 40 per cent of its own spending. I assume he expects England to subsidise Scotland for the remaining 60 per cent. The United Kingdom is still suffering from Mr Brown’s views of fair economics.

Simon Davison

SIR – Mr Brown’s intervention in the Scottish independence debate is unhelpful. He supports the Union for partisan reasons, aware that independence would mean the Labour Party losing its Scottish MPs in Westminster, giving it virtually no chance of governing again.

Steve Willis
Olney, Buckinghamshire

SIR – If Mr Brown is so determined to save the Union by giving further powers to the Scottish Parliament, I would suggest that a fair exchange for England would be the removal of Scottish MPs from the House of Commons. They will surely be too busy running their own country.

David J Dodd
Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire

SIR – What makes Mr Brown think he has any right to pontificate on the future of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after he and his government were instrumental in bringing the country to its knees?

While in government he did nothing to resolve the West Lothian question. He was too busy ruining the economy. Please, no more public announcements from Mr Brown.

John Mason
Southsea, Hampshire

SIR – As a Scot living abroad, I am not entitled to vote in the referendum.

However, the one thing that would make me vote for independence is if Mr Brown were against it.

K A Campbell




Irish Times:


A chara, – I think it is necessary to remind the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, regarding his plans for the Junior Cycle Student Award programme, that the substantial changes and improvements that have taken place in Irish education over the past 20 years were all implemented and delivered by teachers – the introduction of transition year, the Leaving Certificate vocational programme and the Leaving Certificate applied programme (the last of which is probably the reason that Ireland has the highest student retention rate in Europe).

We have welcomed greater integration of children with special educational needs and learning difficulties into mainstream education, adapting our educational provision and methodologies to their needs. Social, personal and health education (SPHE) and civic, social and political education (CSPE) have come on stream at Junior Cert level. Practical examinations and project work form part of the assessment of almost all practical subjects, and many schools have also introduced the oral Irish exam at Junior Certificate level. All schools have embraced technology in the classroom, and numerous changes to syllabuses, the latest being Project Maths.

All these changes have been embraced by teachers in an effort to improve the suitability and quality of the education we provide on a daily basis to students all over this country.

Teachers are not opposed to change. We welcome it. We are at the coal face of education, seeing the changing needs of our students every day, and yet Mr Quinn refuses to listen to us.

Not a very good example for the children of the country, and nor would their teachers be if we sat back and were bullied into introducing a flawed educational programme rather than standing up to protect the rights of the students in our care. – Is mise,



Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – This is a plea to Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to speak to the Welsh minister for education Huw Lewis before he changes the Junior Cert. On Newsnight recently he was asked why Wales had plummeted in international school rankings. The reply – they had changed from state exams to individual school assessments. We need to up our game here, not drop it. – Yours, etc,


Mount Albany,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.



Sir, – Jim Lawless, who sadly lost his wife to a brain haemorrhage in 2005, deserves our thanks in highlighting a serious issue regarding the treatment of patients who suffer a brain haemorrhage in the community (March 10th).

At present anyone suffering a stroke or brain injury in the community must first be assessed in the nearest hospital (as a brain scan is necessary to differentiate a brain haemorrhage from the more common brain infarction or non-haemorrhagic stroke).

However, even after a diagnosis of brain haemorrhage, patients do not automatically transfer to the neurosurgical “centre of excellence” in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, as one would quite properly expect. The reasons for this are unclear.

Mr Lawless rightly seeks evidence that this management (or lack of) does not adversely affect patient outcomes (that is, has the HSE compared morbidity and mortality rates between the patients who were transferred to Beaumont Hospital and those who were not?). One would think this would be a basic audit target of any new protocol in the management of patients with brain haemorrhage.

However, Mr Lawless indicates that the HSE has not even collated the numbers of patients involved and appears to have no intention of doing so due to a lack of resources. This is simply shocking.

The Phillips report on traumatic brain injury, commissioned by the Department of Health in 2008, specifically recommends a national trauma registry to help structure the provision of services.

The HSE is on record as saying this is not a bed issue. How is the HSE able to say with any certainty that there is an adequate number of beds in Beaumont Hospital if they do not know the number of patients who could possibly need treatment? How does it know it is following what is best for patients if it does not measure outcomes?

Supermarkets do better audits of new products than the HSE appears to be doing for patients with brain haemorrhage (up to 1,290 people per year, we have been informed by Mr Lawless).

I would like to see the HSE take this matter very seriously and move to audit its past and current activity as a matter of urgency and show us the numbers and some clinical evidence. Then and only then can we be assured of what is best practice for patients with brain haemorrhage. – Yours, etc,


Ashbourne Family Practice,


Co Meath.



Sir, – I sympathise with the anonymous writer of the “To Be Honest” column on school admissions policy (“It’s time to discriminate in favour of non-Catholics”, Education, March 11th), but the answer to discrimination cannot be more of the same.

The writer states “Catholic schools can and do prioritise Catholics; Protestant schools do the same for Protestants and I actually think that’s fair enough.” It is the very opposite of fair enough.

Imagine Dublin Bus allowing Catholics to board first. Imagine HSE hospitals putting Protestants to the top of their waiting lists. Imagine public libraries reserving their most popular books for atheists. We would not accept this, so why do we allow State-funded national schools to discriminate?

The solution is not separate schools for children of different religions or none. This only creates division, and in any case is totally impractical outside of large urban areas.

If schools are oversubscribed, prioritise children by age or distance from the school. Almost anything would be fairer than segregating them on the basis of their parents’ religion. – Yours, etc,


Meadow Vale,

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 01:09

First published: Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 01:09


Sir, – In the recent and current controversies touching on some of our police and aspects of their policing, the Garda Síochána has been referred to variously as “the Force”, “a force” and even, most memorably, as “my Force”. Words matter, not least in their subliminal effects but also in what they reveal about those who use them.

In 2001 it was significant to many on this island that the Royal Ulster Constabulary was reconstituted as a police service for Northern Ireland – policing as a public service seems to have had both symbolic and practical effects.

However, many commentators in the Republic of Ireland, including ministers and commissioners, seem to overlook section 6 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005: “The police force called the Garda Síochána continues in being under this Act as a police service.”

Perhaps they are forgetful, or perhaps it is a force of habit. – Yours, etc,







Sir, – Iarnód Éireann announced that it is to ban electronic cigarettes in all its stations and trains because, they claim, they have had feedback from customers. Apparently these complainers object to inhaling somebody else’s vapour.

Do these people also complain about inhaling diesel fumes from the train itself? Diesel fumes are a designated carcinogen, ie cancer-causing to humans. Do the complainers object to inhaling everything that fellow passengers exhale also? Do they have a problem inhaling the flatulence of other travellers? How do they feel about the germs of others that they inevitably come in contact with? The perfumes and aftershaves of others must surely drive them wild. Perhaps they should demand a carriage all to themselves.

This ban is based on ignorance and intolerance and an unhealthy phobia around tobacco consumption or anything that might look like it. Electronic cigarettes are the single best aid to quitting smoking and it is official policy to “encourage” smokers to quit by whatever means they can. Is Iarnód Éireann attempting to discourage quitters?

Smokers are taxpayers too and help fund the train service. As a dual user of both electronic cigarettes and tobacco, currently on the road to quitting smoking completely, I object strongly to this intrusive move by Iarnód Éireann. It might be instructive for all of us if the complaints were published with names and addresses included, or would that be too intrusive for the intolerant moaners? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I hear Iarnród Éireann is banning “vaping” because it makes some people “feel uncomfortable”. Will they also ban groin/armpit scratching, sneezing, arguments, unsightly bare thighs, smelly feet, inappropriate cleavage, bad breath, because these things make some people “feel uncomfortable”? I’m sure your readers can think of many other things that could also be banned, now that they’ve started the ball rolling. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,

Swords, Co Dublin.


Sir, – Since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, The Irish Times has published several letters questioning the moral authority of the United States being involved in seeking a resolution. American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is usually cited as the reason for their objections.

However, I have yet to read any mention of US participation in the last war that took place on European soil. I am of course referring to the 1990s Balkans war that followed the breakup of Tito’s Yugoslavia.

During the entirety of that conflict, Europe sat on its hands while its Serbian neighbours carried out horrific acts of ethnic cleansing.

After years of bloodshed, it took a US-led Nato bombing campaign of Serbian military positions to bring an abrupt end to the war.

It should be pointed out that the United States had neither strategic nor economic interests in the Balkans. Afterwards Bill Clinton said his only regret was that the US did not intervene earlier.

The perceived rights or wrongs of US participation in previous conflicts should not preclude them from doing what is morally right in the present situation. – Yours, etc,




Co Louth.


Sir, – As both a parent and a foster parent I see the distress and frustration being expressed by prospective adoptive parents in respect of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (“Changes to adoption law shattered my hopes of becoming a parent”, Weekend Review, March 8th).

As an adopted person, also, I am not surprised that this is the current situation, because Ireland still does not regard or respect, nor has she vindicated, the full human rights of 40,000-plus Irish citizens adopted domestically and 4,000-plus by overseas families, and the many, many thousands who were in State care prior to the Adoption Act of 1952.

Many thousands have waited whole lifetimes to “be let know” their real names.

Many have died without finding their true identity, not to mention having some steps taken to being acknowledged as an equally valid family member parted, sometimes by circumstances not of their own doing, and sometimes by force. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.


Sir, – As both a parent and a foster parent I see the distress and frustration being expressed by prospective adoptive parents in respect of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (“Changes to adoption law shattered my hopes of becoming a parent”, Weekend Review, March 8th).

As an adopted person, also, I am not surprised that this is the current situation, because Ireland still does not regard or respect, nor has she vindicated, the full human rights of 40,000-plus Irish citizens adopted domestically and 4,000-plus by overseas families, and the many, many thousands who were in State care prior to the Adoption Act of 1952.

Many thousands have waited whole lifetimes to “be let know” their real names.

Many have died without finding their true identity, not to mention having some steps taken to being acknowledged as an equally valid family member parted, sometimes by circumstances not of their own doing, and sometimes by force. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.


Sir, – I note that Bono, addressing the European People’s Party congress in Dublin, has said that he loves Europe (“Ireland bailed out by Irish people, not troika”, Home News, March 8th). Why wouldn’t he? Doesn’t he have an elaborate corporate structure based in the Netherlands to reduce tax? – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.

Sir, – By all accounts the U2 frontman is a very nice man; but I think his grasp of basic economics leaves a lot to be desired. His “The Irish people bailed out the Irish people” remarks at the European People’s Party conference were naive in the extreme and bordered on the condescending. For his information, “the Irish people” were forced to bail out the banks, the bondholders and the financial power elite.

Of course, our European masters will insist that the imposition of such an intolerable financial burden on the State was pro bono publico (ie, for the good of European fiscal stability). – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.


Sir, – Even if an Irishman demonstrates inventive genius, even if that man is from Castlebar, why would he be “honoured” by the Taoiseach (“Taoiseach pays graveside tribute to torpedo inventor from Castlebar”, Home News, March 12th) for having developed weapons for the defence of the British Empire ? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

A chara, – I was intrigued by your report of the Taoiseach’s attendance at the unveiling of a new gravestone to Louis Brennan, inventor of a venerable weapon of mass destruction, the torpedo. This could set an interesting precedent. I am sure with an appropriate application of the Taoiseach’s “why, what and if” formula, we could unearth  an Irish connection somewhere in the development of napalm, germ warfare, phosphorous bombs and depleted uranium shells. It is unfortunate that the “brilliance and resilience” of such entrepreneurial ingenuity is unlikely to be appreciated in the “cold, small and anonymous” places where the myriad victims of such inventions lie. – Is mise,


Canal Street,



Co Down.



Sir, – I watched as Minister for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan introduced the Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill 2014, which will extend Seanad voting rights to graduates of over 80 higher-level institutions.

The Bill reflects a decision made by the people in 1979, a time when Jack Lynch was taoiseach and over a million people assembled in the Phoenix Park to see Pope John Paul II.

After 35 years, the Government is legislating for a decision that only acts to institutionalise the much-criticised elitism of the Seanad.

As a result of the Bill, 800,000 graduates will elect six Senators, 753 county councillors will still elect 43 Senators, with the Taoiseach maintaining the power to nominate 11 Senators without any criteria for selection.

This is a throwback to an era where a citizen needed to own property to have a vote and does not reflect a democracy fit for 1979, let alone 2014. – Yours, etc,


The Grove,

Dunboyne Castle, Co Meath.


Sir, – The report (“Scientists prove link between climate change and malaria”, World News, March 6th) that global warming will allow malaria to “creep up the mountains and spread to new high-altitude areas” in Africa should be put in context.

The World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report 2013 shows that between 2000 and 2012, malaria deaths fell by half in Africa, where 90 per cent of such deaths occur. This translates into saving three million lives, mostly those of children. While it is of concern that the disease might one day spread to the less than 2 per cent of Africa too high for malarial mosquitoes, millions of lives could be saved now by adequate funding of malaria control in the 100 countries where it is endemic. – Yours, etc,






Sir, – Ian Kavanagh of Suir Road arrived home to find his water brown and black with sediment (March 12th). A solution might be to get the road renamed Clearwater Road. A road by another name might smell sweeter. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.




Irish Independent:

* Please may I share, once again, the following, beautifully written letter by Anthony Woods of Ennis, with Michael Dryhurst (Letters, March 11, “No country for old men”) and with all in their golden years, who may, at this stage of their lives, feel a little unwanted.

Also in this section

Kenny at centre of green storm over NY parade

Learning when to exercise our voice

Letters: Outsiders must stop meddling in Ukraine

If reading this doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, nothing will!

“As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon, before they understood the great freedom that comes with ageing.

“Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4am or sleep until noon?

“I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the ’50s,’60s and ’70s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

“I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body and I will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They too will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

“Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength, understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

“I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning grey and to have my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face.

“So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it). I am I!

I am free!”




* We broke the silence, we learned to embrace the inner child within ourselves in which we were taught to hate

We learned to stop the self-harm, blaming ourselves

We are stars in the sky shining

Christine, your eyes your smile, your tears your laughter.




* With most people hitting saturation point with the relative non-event that is the Ukraine – in relation to Ireland, that is, seeing as it is not even part of the EU – is it not time to ask serious questions about the editorial decisions of RTE?

There were serious protests in Spain, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and elsewhere in the EU and they barely got a fraction of the coverage that the Ukraine is getting.

Furthermore, there is a serious chance that Scotland may be forced out of the EU for establishing its independence and yet it barely gets a mention.




* I am convinced that very many people who no longer go to Mass regularly have not lost their faith, as some people seem to think. Is it not much more likely, that they have become disillusioned, at the shennanigans and the skulduggery, and two-faced hypocrisy, that has gone on in high places?

This Pope, thank God, has the common touch; like Christ Himself, he goes out to where the sheep are. What a monumental change almost overnight. And it’s only starting.




* I am writing in response to Mary Kenny’s column ‘Why do women with freedom and opportunity choose violent partners?’ (Irish Independent, March 10).

Is this a serious question?

It seems to me that Ms Kenny’s piece is of the “teach girls not to get hit” rather than the “teach boys not to hit” school of thought.

This column is an example of victim-blaming at its worst.




* Charity begins at the boardroom.




* I heard that Iarnrod Eireann is banning vaping because it makes some people “feel uncomfortable”.

Will they also ban armpit scratching, sneezing, arguments, unsightly bare thighs, smelly feet, inappropriate cleavage, bad breath, because these things make some people “feel uncomfortable”?

I assume that some alcoholics would have felt uncomfortable hurtling along in a confined space with drink sloshing around them before it was banned.

I’m sure your readers can think of many other things that could also be banned, now that they’ve started the ball rolling.




* Our national holiday is upon us. Should the shamrock take on a further symbolism with our modern day trinity of Bono, Bob and BOD?




* On a recent drive to Westport, Co Mayo, I passed through Strokestown in Co Roscommon and was aware that it’s home to the Irish National Famine Museum.

Half-tempted to stop off en route and pay a visit, I approached Strokestown from the Dublin side and kept an eye out for signage.

I shouldn’t have bothered as I got to the Mayo side of the town, on to Westport and then back to Meath, still unaware of where the centre is.

What is the point in having an historic centre of such significance when nobody knows where it is due to the chronic Irish disease of poor signposting?

If an Irish person can’t find it at his leisure, how is the proverbial tourist from Tennessee expected to locate the building and get a grasp of what drove their ancestors out of the country in the first place?

Is it any wonder the most consistent gripe of visitors to this country is poor signage?

What a waste.

How can we make the tourist experience a pleasant one when we don’t see Irish life from their perspective, instead of assuming that everyone in this country knows instinctively where to go?




* Liam Power wrote dismissivelyfrom Malta (Letters, March 11) that Irish politicians were unable “to converse in anything other than a laughable version of pidgin English”. Clearly, Mr Power is unaware that the President of Ireland is trilingual and has forgotten that when Brian Lenihan famously rang the then French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, he conversed in fluent French.

Most top Irish politicians are bilingual and every one of them is fluent in a foreign language called English. Thus, evidentially, if there is such a thing as a “brain drain” it is not flowing in the direction of Malta.



Irish Independent




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