14 March  2014 Sharland
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They have to recover a spy from France  Priceless
Cold slightly better Sharland arrives give her prune.
Scrabble today  I wins  but get  under 400, Perhaps Mary  will win tomorrow.


Norman Scarfe, who has died aged 90, was a noted historian of East Anglia, and particularly of his native Suffolk.
Born at Felixstowe on May 1 1923, Norman Scarfe was educated at the town’s grammar school and at King’s School, Canterbury, in 1942 going up to Magdalen College, Oxford. Although his subject was PPE, he was encouraged by the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane to read RH Hodgkin’s History of the Anglo-Saxons; it proved to be a turning-point in his life.
This, initial, spell at Oxford was brief, as Scarfe enlisted as a subaltern in the Royal Artillery, landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on June 6 1944 with the Suffolk Regiment; he was promoted captain during the advance through France and into Germany. His experience of war led to his first success as a writer, with the publication in 1947 of Assault Division, an arresting account of the 3rd Division’s role in the campaign .
Returning to Magdalen after being demobbed, he graduated in Medieval History, then became a lecturer at the University of Leicester, where WG Hoskins was pioneering the study of local and regional history and of the English landscape.
Inspired by what Nikolaus Pevsner was doing for the buildings of England, and what Hoskins was doing for their setting, Norman reinterpreted his native county in Suffolk: A Shell Guide (1960) and The Suffolk Landscape (1972). The Shell Guides to the counties of Britain, aimed at the touring motorist, had been launched in 1934 under the aegis of John Betjeman , and Scarfe went on to publish guides to Essex (1968) and Cam­bridgeshire (1983); his illustrators included John and Edward Piper, Angus McBean and Edwin Smith.
In 1963 Scarfe and his partner, Paul Fincham, moved to Shingle Street, on the Suffolk coast, from where Scarfe worked tirelessly for the conservation and preservation of all that is best in East Anglia. He also continued to write and carry out research until he was well into his eighties.
In 1958, alongside Geoffrey Martin, he founded the Suffolk Records Society — among the many projects he oversaw were eight volumes of the letters of the artist John Constable — and in the 1960s he helped to establish the Museum of East Anglian Rural Life. He led more than 100 excursions for the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, and was involved from their earliest days with the Suffolk Preservation Society and the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust .
From 1988 to 2001 Scarfe immersed himself in translating and editing the accounts of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, who with his brother Alexandre and their tutor Lazowski had travelled in Britain on the eve of the French Revolution. Scarfe’s A Frenchman’s Year in Suffolk was followed by Innocent Espionage, and the trilogy was completed with To the Highlands in 1786.
Scarfe’s 70th and 80th birthdays were both marked by Festschrifts. For the second of these 18 historians and archaeologists contributed essays to East Anglia’s History: Studies in Honour of Norman Scarfe (Boydell, 2003).
Scarfe was appointed MBE in 1994 for services to the history and culture of Suffolk. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
An inspiring and generous teacher, he supported a wide circle of East Anglian historians and archaeologists, and served as chairman of the committee of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia.
Scarfe’s interests outside his work were broad, taking in art, architecture, music, opera, drama and natural history. With Paul Fincham, who survives him, he was a generous host at their cottage at Woodbridge, where they had lived since 1981.
Norman Scarfe, born May 1 1923, died March 2 2014


Andrew Dickson’s fears (The Norseman cometh, 13 March) that Jon Fosse’s works face an uphill struggle for recognition in this country are well-founded. I can, however, assure him that awareness of this gifted Norwegian dramatist has at least percolated down to the community theatre level. In 2006 Synergy Theatre Company, based in East Sussex, performed Suzannah, his play about Ibsen’s wife – the driving force behind Ibsen’s later dramas that addressed social and gender issues and earned him George Bernard Shaw’s sobriquet of “the father of modern drama”. We reprised the play two years ago, largely in response to reactions that essentially deserved to be called “popular demand”. The reaction the second time was, in anything, even more positive from an audience possibly used to a more traditional community theatre repertoire. We hope to perform Eg er Vinden (I am the Wind) this autumn and are confident of a similar enthusiastic reception.
David Parton
Seaford, East Sussex

It is difficult to believe the level of chaos and dysfunctionality at the Co-op (Co-op chief executive tenders resignation, 12 March). The old adage that “you don’t know what you have got till it’s gone” looks all too likely to be true. The Euan Sutherland’s tantrum – in resigning and possibly destroying the Co-op in the process – demonstrates the all too predictable clash of cultures between his plc origins and the mutual structure of the Co-op. At no time in his brief period of leadership had he expressed unqualified support for the principle of mutualism.
The moribund democratic structures of the Co-op local, regional and national boards are equally deserving of censure. The lack of transparency in their activities means that I (as a member) am not even allowed to know the contact details of individual members, let alone lobby them. In such circumstances it is difficult to know how Paul Myners – who is conducting a review of the governance of the Co-op – intends to consult the members on his proposals. That is, assuming the Co-op is not in the hands of the banks by the time his report emerges.
It will be a tragic loss to our national fabric if the Co-op disappears as a mutual to become a second-rate Asda owned by hedge funds. The Co-op needs a chief executive who believes in the mutualist principle and a board chair who has the experience and skills to guide the organisation through its present difficulties andinto the modern world.
Ian Healey
• It should be noted that elected Co-op Group regional representatives, as distinct from main board members, have yet to see Myners’s proposed plan. It is these representatives, alongside main board members and independent co-operative society representatives who collectively have the power to agree necessary constitutional amendments to bring about overdue changes in governance arrangements. To remain registered as a co-operative, members must control the society. The devil will be in the detail. As practical people, co-operators will find a good, timely solution to balancing efficiency and democracy, but we need to avoid being stampeded into arrangements that the society may subsequently regret.
David Smith
• On the day Co-op Group chief executive Euan Sutherland resigned and Bob Crow sadly died, I was reminded of the bad old days when unions were blamed for all the ills of British industry, when the problem was in fact weak management. As the person who took nine years to find an acceptable political, business and employee solution to the privatisation of public transport in South Yorkshire in the 1980s and 90s, I can’t help but feel the Co-op has done the right thing to say goodbye to Mr Sutherland. Of course it isn’t easy to find solutions in complex organisations where democracy rules, but that’s what management is paid for. If my management team and our union colleagues could find a middle road between socialist South Yorkshire and a Thatcherite Tory government, it is disappointing that Mr Sutherland could not do something similar for the Coop. Is that an indication of the inability of some managers to tackle big challenges, rather than an indictment of the Coop?
Peter Sephton
• When I applied to become a member of the Co-op I ticked a box that affirmed: “I support co-operative values and principles.” Did those people now running the organisation do the same? I certainly don’t remember ticking a box that said: “I support the aims and objectives of unfettered greed.”
Bill Packford
Penzance, Cornwall

In your eulogy to Hull (In praise of… 11 March) you could have mentioned the annual eight-day October fair. Originating in a charter of 1598 as a replacement for a fair granted three centuries earlier, this event is now one of the four or five greatest pleasure fairs in the whole of the United Kingdom. Since 1888 it has been held on a 14-acre site off Walton Streetnext to Hull’s successful football club.
Graham Downie
Chairman, Fairground Association of Great Britain, Studley, Warwickshire
• I don’t understand how showing programmes on BBC iPlayer instead of on BBC3 can save money (BBC’s plans to go extraterrestrial, 11 March). Surely the vast majority of the money is spent on actually making the programmes?.
Akiva Solemani
• Bob Crow (Letters, 12 March) worked hard for his members, such as cleaning-staff, who suffer the lowest pay and the worst conditions. These workers, containing disproportionate numbers of women and members of ethnic minorities, may not themselves possess the greatest industrial muscle. But they could always rely on the support of Bob Crow against the private contractors who exploit them.
Francis Prideaux
• There may be no station for “heaven” (Letters, 13 March) but there is a waiting room for paradise – by Godmanchester.
Fr Alec Mitchell
• Was glad to see Emma Tristram (Letters, 12 March) complaining about the position of the cryptic crossword. I agree with her that it is distracting to see photographs of people staring at you while trying to think about the clues. Please put it back on the weather page.
Diana Brown
• Thank you for pursuing the publication of Charles’s “black spider” letters through the courts and getting the attorney-general’s decision overturned (Block on release of prince’s ‘black spider’ memos unlawful, 13 March). Let’s hope when they are finally published, they’re not redacted to the point where the spiders become long, straight black adders.
David Prothero
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

The government must listen to David Nicholson’s stark warnings that the NHS cannot survive if it is denied “extra cash”, but another top-down reorganisation is not the answer (NHS told to spend billions on reform or face oblivion, 13 March). It cannot sustain services given the combined pressure of rising patient demand and falling resources. Change that puts doctors and patients at the heart of decision making is needed, but centralising hospital services would be an unnecessary restructure that would damage the flexibility to respond to the needs of local communities.
The government must ensure that clinical needs come first, NHS services reflect the local requirements of patients and, as Nicholson says, our health service must have the resources to deliver these services. Patients must receive the best possible care – which centralisation and budget cuts will not provide.
Dr Mark Porter
Chair, British Medical Association
• David Nicholson and others who keep banging the drum for a massive reduction in the number of hospitals to provide funds for care closer to patients’ homes are being disingenuous. It’s not just a question of bricks and mortar, as Nicholson asserts; hospital closures usually mean huge bed reductions, yet even now we have far fewer hospital beds in proportion to population than the OECD average – half as many as France, for example. How can cutting them further be a safe and sustainable strategy with a growing and ageing population?
It cannot be a question of one or the other. As Dr Saleyha Ahsan said in her riveting piece based on direct experience (On the NHS front line there is no quick cure for the crisis, 5 March), improved care in the community is essential “but if more acute beds close, the A&E waits will get longer for sick patients requiring admission”.
Professor Ron Glatter
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
• It’s a little late for the outgoing chief executive to say the NHS requires a multi-billion pound change fund to rationalise hospital services. But his fundamental point, that we need to invest in community services and resources before dismantling hospitals, is sound. Otherwise the public will never believe it is anything other than cost cutting. And it’s why there isn’t much to show yet for shifting care out of hospitals; it just isn’t possible to close services at the same time as opening new ones.
It is interesting that he is using the same language of the mental hospital closures 30 years ago. Thirty years on we will be looking back in astonishment at the way we used to care for the frail and elderly in the last months of their lives, in institutions that are designed for medical treatment rather than the care and compassion we mostly need. This is important. We have done it before in even less promising circumstances – with the additional stigma of mental illness – by developing a massive programme of change and institutional closures. Nicholson’s message aligns entirely with our manifesto for primary care, which launched exactly one year ago. Our message to the incoming NHS chief executive is simple. Please just do it: launch the change fund.
Rick Stern
Chief executive, NHS Alliance
• The interview illustrates Nicholson’s isolation from reality. To instance the provision of care in the community following the closure of long stay psychiatric hospitals in the 1980s as a success is remarkable. He should read Care in the Community Myth or Reality, a study that documents the experiences of 750 former patients of Friern Barnet hospital. Briefly, many showed some progress in their first year, followed by a continuing decline in subsequent years, because of the lack of proper investment in community mental health services. This situation continues and accelerates today, with the closure of psychiatric beds, closure of rehabilitation services and under-provision of suitable supported housing. Support is frequently provided by low-paid, unqualified staff.
The confusing announcements by government of equality of provision for mental health with physical health at the same time as announcing cuts to an already inadequate mental health budget is deeply troubling. We need to be profoundly concerned.
John Holmes
• The National Health Action Party has put forward plans to improve value for money in the NHS based on disregarded work done during the last parliament:
Ensure that all treatment is based on evidence of effectiveness and best value. Abolish the expensive market in healthcare and the purchaser/provider split. GPs and hospitals could then work closely together to ensure that only those who cannot be cared for by enhanced community services need admission to hospital. Patients with minor and long-term illnesses should be taught to care for themselves more independently. Tackle obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol intake more effectively.
Of course Sir David Nicholson is correct: money would have to be spent on improving community care before these savings could be made. The result could save the NHS as a publicly provided and funded service for future generations.
Richard Taylor
Co-leader, National Health Action Party
• Yes, we need to be sure that acute services are available in sensible locations. However, the sole criterion must not be based purely on population. It is too easy for a Londoncentric NHS to design services this way; using minimum population as one of the main criteria is taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut. Take vascular surgery. Rurality, transport and road access, age demographics and deprivation should all be calculated when we decide where we provide our acute centres. Without this we will simply be condemning those who are elderly and living in rural areas to a further dimunution of services.
Rik Evans
Truro, Cornwall

I continue to note with disapproval the way news about corruption in Nigeria and other parts of the developing world receives liberal and voyeuristic coverage in the western press (“On a mission to clean up Nigeria”, 13 March). What appears to be grossly underreported is the proven presence of Nigeria’s missing billions in the banking and financial institutions of western countries and a few notorious tax havens.
The erstwhile Nigerian President Sani Abacha single-handedly stole up to $5bn and the bulk of these monies are officially acknowledged to still remain in the UK, France, US and Switzerland. Progress in freezing the stolen funds is grindingly slow, and more importantly only about $500m has been returned by Switzerland alone.
Lots more coverage of the harbouring of noxious funds by western banking institutions in our daily newspapers in the UK will go a long way in reducing corruption abroad.
May I offer my thoughts as to where the allegedly missing £12bn in Nigeria reported by Nigeria’s central bank governor may be? I would suggest a thorough look at the records of banks in London, Paris and New York, and of course Switzerland’s notorious secret banks.
Dr Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer, International Commercial Law, University of Kent, Canterbury
I am sure there will be widespread support for the Caribbean leaders who are collectively demanding compensation from Europe for the ravages of the transportation and enslavement of their forebears. But before the poor old British taxpayer is forced to cough up the billions involved, we can easily identify the people who benefited from slavery, and their descendants to whom those financial benefits have passed down.
In February 2013, excellent work by Dr Nick Draper of University College London revealed that up to 3000 families were compensated from the public purse to the tune of the equivalent of £20bn when the slaves they “owned” were freed in 1833. Thanks to the meticulous records of the 19th-century bureaucrats, we know where that money went – including the families of David Cameron, the Hoggs and Bazalgettes and the Earl of Harewood. We can thus easily get it back and pass it on to the claimants in the West Indies.
Colin Burke, Manchester
Putin speaks for the Russian people
I have a Facebook message from one of Russia’s leading documentary makers, Alexey Pishchulin, who filmed me in 2012 for a biography of my grandfather A F Kerensky, much-abused leader of the Russian Provisional  Government.
He sent me a list of “Ukrainian” cities: Kharkov, founded by Russia, 1630; Dnipropetrovsk, founded by Catherine II, 1776; Kherson, founded 1788 by Catherine II to build the  Russian Navy; Donetesk, founded 1869 by Alexander II; Odessa, founded 1794 by Catherine the Great; Simferopol, founded by Catherine the Great  in 1794; Sevastopol,  founded by Catherine the Great in 1783.
“And so,” he asks, “This is Ukraine?”
Whatever we may think of Vladimir Putin, and in my case the answer is “not very much”, at the moment he is speaking for the Russian people.
Britain has for many years gloried in ignorance of Russia, traditionally referred to as a “barbarous, Asiatic despotism”. Lloyd George sought to play on this insult in conspiring to bring down the Provisional Government in 1917 at the cost of tens of millions of Russian lives.
But now might be a good time to put prejudice to one side and finally show some respect, if only briefly, for the deeply held feeling of the Russian people that they have a legitimate right to show concern for fellow Russians. This new regime in Kiev is by no means showing a smiling democratic face to those Russians who now live in what some people call Ukraine.
If we wish to have good relations with Russia, and encourage Putin to join the fellowship of European nations, then taking an uncomprehending and aggressive stance is not the way to go about it.
Steve Kerensky, Morecambe, Lancashire
A mere billion or two? Let the bankers pay
How disappointing to see Hamish McRae (12 March) fall into the old trap of likening public expenditure to household spending.
Mr McRae is right that £1.9bn – the figure the Labour Party’s innovative job guarantee policy would cost – is a drop in the ocean when the Government spends about £700bn a year. However, he is wrong to argue that Ed Balls’s linking of the spending pledge with the reinstatement of the Bankers’ Bonus Tax is “absurd”.
When the next government (of whatever party) takes office, Britain will be smarting from massive public spending cuts. The idea that ministers should be “bright enough to figure out the ways to save” £1.9bn, as Mr McRae suggests, is what is really absurd. I should think that there is no few billion pounds of unnecessary public spending (except on the Trident weapons system, but that is another matter) left to cut, after half a decade of austerity. There is no fat left to shed.
So I’d rather the Government took a modest contribution from well-off banking executives than remove yet another essential service from those who’ve already paid dearly for regressive austerity measures. Anybody who has witnessed the consequences of spending cuts on our poor, our young and our future should feel the same.
Jack Darrant, London SW2
Farmed salmon pose threat to wild fish
The Scottish salmon-farming industry simply doesn’t add up. You quote Scott Landsburgh of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) as saying: “The survival rate of farmed salmon in the wild is virtually zero.” (“Sterilise farmed salmon to save wild species, critics say”, 10 March.) So how come a scientific study published last year showed that 25 per cent of wild salmon in Scotland were now contaminated with genes from Norwegian-origin farmed salmon?
So-called “Scottish” salmon farming owes its origins more to Norway than Scotland. Norwegian salmon eggs are imported by the farms operating off the west coast of Scotland and 66 per cent of the Scottish salmon-farming industry is now Norwegian owned.
SSPO also claims that the industry has made “huge efforts” to improve containment. So how come over 2.5 million salmon have escaped from Scotland’s salmon farms in more than 130 separate incidents since 2002, including the escape of 154,569 fish off Shetland in January?
The simple answer is to stop farming salmon in the sea; the risk to native wild salmon stock is clearly too great.
Jenny Scobie, Director, Protect Wild Scotland, Ullapool, Wester Ross
English not just for North Koreans
Further to Ian Burrell’s report on the BBC’s role in teaching English (“News the North Koreans can trust”, 10 March), why restrict this programme of teaching English to North Korea?  Millions of people throughout the world acquired a good working knowledge of our language through the regular broadcasts of “English by Radio”. Then the BBC dropped it.
As the article points out, “American propaganda” through the Voice of America is distrusted, and people prefer to listen to the BBC, as shown by the latter’s superior listening figures. At no extra cost, the World Service should get out the old tapes and get on with it.
William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury
Perils of a walk in the sunshine
Spotted enjoying the unaccustomed sunshine: a tiny girl, coasting at walking pace on a three-wheeled scooter, dutifully holding Mum’s hand. Her small head is dwarfed by a large crash helmet.
Fast forward 20 years: what would I see? Perhaps an anguished agoraphobic, imprisoned by an irrational conviction that danger starts at the front door?
When we surround our children with ever more protection for their physical safety, I feel that their long-term mental wellbeing is not taken into account. Somehow we need to strike a balance between reasonable safety precautions and instilling the idea that a walk in the sunshine is fraught with peril.
Julie Hynds, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Abusing the public trust
Steve Richards (11 March) does an excellent job of laying out the pointlessness of “shaming” in the various public scandals we’ve witnessed recently, and the need for a “sledgehammer” solution, but he stops short of suggesting what such a solution might look like.
Maybe a good start would be to create a new crime of “abusing the public trust”, framed broadly enough to include legislature, judiciary, utilities, transport and finance sectors inter alia, and carrying a mandatory prison term for anyone found guilty.
Gerard Bell, Ascot


Sir, Christopher Ash argues that policing’s working-class roots are contributing to corruption (letter, Mar 12). I agree that structures in policing need reform, but I would challenge some of his contentions. Serving in two police forces, from the 1970s until recently, I have seen a huge shift in the background and educational standards of those being recruited. It would now not be uncommon to find a bobby on the beat with a good degree, and many will have been educated to A level standard, a point highlighted by Tom Winsor in his recent review, but one which appears to have been largely ignored by most of the media, and some within government.
The perception of a poorly educated, working class workforce persists, and is exacerbated by a structure that fails to identify and promote those suitable for the higher ranks. In England and Wales we retain an antiquated system of policing, with two forces for London — one of which, the Met, has suffered such a bruising of its reputation that I cannot see how it can continue in its present form — and the remainder covered by a creaking county constabulary system. Perhaps the time has come to emulate Scotland and incorporate policing into one national force, which would provide a much more efficient, cost effective and cohesive structure. It would have the added benefit of providing a better platform to effectively select the future leaders of the service.
Corruption is not necessarily linked to the demographic of the recruits, but much more to complacent leadership, both within the police and those other organisations charged with holding the police to account, namely the Home Office, HMIC and the IPCC. A good starting point would be a Royal Commission, and soon.
Dave Cousins
Sir, Mr Ash’s letter invites a couple of easy ripostes, both with equal chance of being as accurate, or not, as his assertions, viz. corruption is not the prerogative of the working class, and the working class is more in need of being kept in order and prosecuting than are the higher echelons of society, so why no class loyalty.
An article published in The British Journal of Criminology in 1999 casts doubt on the effect of a “police canteen sub-culture” concluding, in effect, that the portrayal relies more on the condemnatory potential of the concept than on its explanatory power.
Keith Robinson
Littlewick Green, Berks
Sir, There will be many ex-coppers who will have rolled their eyes to the ceiling as yet more headlines effectively put the Service back another decade. There seems to be one fiasco after another. And at the root of it still lies the inheritance from misconceptions that middle management and above can be drawn from the wily products of street policing. Although Winsor’s recommendations for police management and training will, in due course, produce more than the present trickle of those fit for high office, it will still be some time before the system is cleansed. What a pity that there was so much resistance to the idea of bringing in Bill Bratton (the New York police chief): he would have brought with him the clout to make some rapid changes in style and personnel.
Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor
(former Met Police Officer)
Bridport, Dorset

The country’s chief railway bosses say enough talking — it is time to start realising the benefits of the new network
Sir, It is time to move the debate on from whether HS2 is needed, to maximising its benefits to the country.
Britain’s railway plays a crucial role in keeping the nation competitive in a global economy, and are generating phenomenal growth in passengers and goods moved by rail. The new line is a generational opportunity to deliver the extra services and better connections needed to meet this booming demand, alongside sustained investment in the existing network.
To make the most of HS2, the focus should be to ensure that people and goods can travel seamlessly across the new and existing railway, with extra capacity where needed and spreading the benefits to towns and cities not directly served by the new line.
Good planning will also make the most of the capacity created by HS2. This includes new passenger and freight services for existing lines, new rolling stock and a fares and retail strategy to encourage travel on HS2 and across the network.
With expertise in running the safest and fastest growing major railway in Europe, our industry will play its part in helping to ensure the successful launch of this significant and necessary addition to the national network.
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group; Mark Carne, Network Rail; Alain Thauvette, DB Schenker; Dominic Booth, Abellio UK; David Brown, Go-Ahead Group; Dean Finch, National Express Group; Alistair Gordon, Keolis UK; David Martin, Arriva; Peter Maybury, Freightliner Group; David Stretch, Serco; Doug Sutherland, Directly Operated Railways; Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup;
Michael Roberts, RDG; Paul Plummer, Network Rail — the members of Rail Delivery Group

If Russia has a legitimate claim to Ukraine, based on historical circumstances, then so does Poland …
Sir, While the West’s condemnation of Russia’s aggression to Ukraine, and Crimea in particular, is justified, it is undeniable that Ukraine is a recent, artificial construct. It was integral to the Soviet Union until the 1990s, and a significant area of it, including Lwow (Lviv), belonged to Poland until 1945.
Only as a consequence of the Yalta Conference of February 1945, at which Poland was not represented, were the Eastern Borderlands (Kresy) of the Polish Second Republic incorporated into the Ukrainian Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union — a shameful betrayal of Poland by her wartime allies, Britain and the US. So, if Russia’s historic claim to Crimea is legitimate, as President Putin contends, should not the Polish government re-assert Poland’s historic right to her former Eastern Borderlands? After all, the London-based Polish government-in-exile 1940-90 consistently repudiated the validity of the Yalta decision regarding that region.
Professor Peter Stachura
Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire

Does the cultural divide over methods of slaughter preclude any involvement at all by veterinary scientists?
Sir, Many vets study animal welfare without any anti-Semitic or Islamophobic bias.
The Farm Animal Welfare Council concluded in its 2003 report that “such a massive injury (throat cutting) would result in very serious pain and distress before insensitivity supervenes”, and felt that the practice was “unacceptable”. The more recent EU-funded Dialrel project aiming at encouraging dialogue on issues of religious slaughter, involved partners from 11 countries, surveying over 200 references, and reported that: “It can be stated with the utmost probability that animals feel pain during and after the throat cut without prior stunning . . . because substantial tissue damage is inflicted to areas well supplied with nocioceptors (pain receptors) and subsequent perception of pain is not exclusively related to the quality of the cut . . . pain, suffering and distress during the cut and bleeding are highly likely.”
Is there absolutely no possibility of latitude or compromise over this understandable cultural divide?
Craig Sharp

Some telephone numbers have a sinister ring, especially when you are dealing with complaints against your colleagues
Sir, The Merseyside Police’s Camera Enforcement Unit’s number is apt (March 10). A few years ago I worked for the Bar Council, dealing with complaints against barristers. My phone number was 1348. Naturally, I answered it “Black Death”.
Michael Scott
London W11


SIR – We have written to George Osborne, the Chancellor, to propose that, in the forthcoming Budget, he extends the pupil premium to help disadvantaged children under five develop their skills.
There is currently funding to help disadvantaged primary and secondary school pupils narrow the attainment gap between themselves and their peers. There is no such help available for children throughout their early years education. This means that disadvantaged children begin school lagging behind others. Extending this premium would help prepare children for school and increase social mobility. It would provide opportunities to increase support for young children being looked after in children’s centres, nurseries and with childminders, with particular focus on vulnerable children.
We urge the Chancellor to consider its inclusion in the 2014 Budget. Many within the Government, including Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, are already publicly backing its inclusion.
Anne Longfield
CEO, 4Children
Jacob Tas
Acting CEO, Action for Children
Peter Brook
Acting CEO, Barnardo’s
Tracking aircraft
SIR – Michael Staples asks why there is not a system in place whereby data are streamed from an airline’s black box to a ground station. Such a system does exist. It is called Acars: Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. This is a digital datalink system for transmission of short, simple messages between aircraft and ground stations via radio or satellite. It provided a lot of data about the Air France crash in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009.
The system would only stop operating if there was a complete electrical failure, or the aeroplane blew up.
Cedric Flood
Upton, Wirral
Totting up tots
SIR – One reason half of adults cannot do simple sums is the use of electronic devices for adding up. When I was a student working in a pub, I had to add up non-decimal sums in my head, while carrying out a conversation with the customer, and pouring the pint. Now, bar staff can’t tell you the price of a round without recourse to the electronic till.
Diggory Seacome
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Milky way
SIR – Charles Janz’s letter about the problems of using correct Italian when ordering a panino reminded me of a party of English schoolchildren, on a trip to Italy, ordering eight lattes; they were astonished to be presented with eight glasses of milk.
Clare Johnson
Glossop, Derbyshire
SIR – Has Charles Janz considered that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, might be more concerned about improving English grammar rather than Italian?
Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex
SIR – Telling restaurateurs H W Fowler’s statement: “that Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right; and Welsh Rarebit stupid and wrong” does not result in the better seats, larger portions or ad lib wine that one would think was the appropriate response to such generosity with one’s knowledge.
Lt Cdr Kevin Stagg (retd)
Waterlooville, Hampshire
Broadband in the City
SIR – I was not surprised by your headline: “Cameron stung by Merkel’s broadband jibe”.
The connectivity problems in our rural areas are well known. But here in the City, our 13,000 small and medium enterprises and 8,000 residents have similar problems, despite high-speed fibre optic cables under our streets serving the large companies based here. Astonishingly, none of the main providers has any plans to address this.
If we are unable to roll out high-speed broadband in the City of London quickly, the chances of this happening in the rest of the country by 2017 are bleak.
Graham Packham
Common Councilman, City of London
London EC2
EU referendum fudge
SIR – The Labour Party’s proposal concerning a possible referendum on European Union membership is based on the unlikely event of further powers being ceded to Brussels.
However, what the majority of politicians refuse to recognise is that the British people resent what has already been yielded to Brussels. To recover our right to rule ourselves requires that we leave the EU. This proposal is yet another fudge by those desperate to remain within it.
Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent
Bob Crow’s example
SIR – If this nation had a prime minister half as committed to its people as Bob Crow, the leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, was to the interests of his members, we would all be in a better place. Although I disagreed with his politics, even his critics would have to concede that Mr Crow represented his colleagues quite brilliantly.
P A Feltham
Epsom, Surrey
Miranda’s moment
SIR – Anyone who thinks that Miranda Hart is only a charming buffoon is wrong.
In Sunday’s episode of Call the Midwife, she gave a performance of heart-rending and well judged sensitivity, demonstrating that she is a very fine actor.
Likewise, those who think the series is lightweight have missed the many subtle and profound messages in the writing.
Penelope Escombe
Brigstock, Northamptonshire
Tony Crosland showed no signs of homosexuality
SIR – I was not only fascinated by Philip Johnston’s article about Tony Crosland and Roy Jenkins, but also very surprised.
Tony was my tutor at Oxford from 1946 to 1948, and we became good friends. He was charming and very good company, but I did not have the slightest idea that he was homosexual – he certainly was not “openly” so in those years; he had a girlfriend called Hilary Sarson. She found him difficult and asked me once to have coffee with her in the Cadena. She wanted advice on how to handle Tony. I told her, bluntly, to drop him. He was always going to put himself first and she would have a terrible time if she married him. Not surprisingly, perhaps, she ignored my advice and married him. She was unhappy and they divorced after a very few years.
Tony tried to get me interested in politics, indeed he strongly urged me to join the Labour Party. F A Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom had already made a great impression on me and turned me against socialism. But Tony insisted that the Labour Party was not going to be like that. He foresaw a kind of “socialism with a human face”; had he been alive 10 years or so ago, he would surely have been all for the Third Way. He tried to persuade me to go to see his friend Roy Jenkins and talk things over. But I knew it just wasn’t me.
Looking back, it seems a pity that I did not at least go to see Jenkins. But he had already gone down, and it would have meant a visit to London. And I could not bring myself to join the Conservatives, associating them with Hooray Henrys; another missed opportunity as I would have met Margaret Thatcher, whom I admired so much later on.
Guy de Moubray
Knodishall, Suffolk

SIR – Geoff Norman is wrong to suggest that BBC local radio is only heard at the hairdressers. It is, in fact, a valuable resource much appreciated by many, especially those in rural areas.
I worked at BBC Radio Shropshire for many years and know how much the service is enjoyed. During emergencies, such as flooding and heavy snow, BBC local radio provides a lifeline for people who would otherwise be isolated and worried. When there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001, which devastated the farming community and the local tourism industry, BBC Radio Shropshire set up a special helpdesk and broadcast regular bulletins keeping farmers who were confined to their own land informed of the latest developments.
Other local radio stations do a similar job.
Jo Garvin
Oswestry, Shropshire
SIR – I adore my local station, BBC Cambridgeshire, and listen to it most days because I work from home.
The presenters have become like friends – they regularly read out my emails, I’ve been interviewed on several occasions, and I have also been a guest on their shows.
It’s local in every sense, and is a wonderful way of debating subjects that interest the people who live in the county.
Gareth Salter
Thorney, Cambridgeshire
SIR – How typical that a BBC spokesman should threaten, if income from the licence free is reduced, to close the children’s channels and BBC Four. These are the only mainstream public service channels that the corporation runs. Why not sell off “commercial” BBC One and Two instead, and raise some money in doing so?
If reducing the licence fee can be used to force the BBC back to its actual remit, the sooner it is cut the better.
Michael Tyce
Waterstock, Oxfordshire
SIR – I was dismayed that BBC Four is being considered for the chop. It shows many exceptional programmes. If this comes to pass there will be little reason to continue watching BBC.
H R Johnson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The reason that British television is a world leader is that the BBC has a guaranteed income. This means it can provide programmes to all sectors of the community without fear that its income might fall. Of course viewing figures are important, but programme-makers should never be solely reliant on raising money from sponsors, advertisers and subscribers.
Indeed, it surprises me that many people do not see that a publically-funded enterprise in a competitive market has great merit. Perhaps banking and utilities would be a good start.
John Lee

Irish Times:

Sir, – Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s explanation (“Cabinet agrees to overhaul penalty points regime”, front Page, March 13th) for his use of the term “disgusting” to describe the actions of those he described as “so-called whistleblowers” in his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee is bordering on risible.
Let us recall the commissioner’s actual words, ie it was “quite disgusting” that two people out of a force of 13,000 people were making “extraordinary serious allegations” and there was not “a whisper” from elsewhere in the force of corruption or malpractice.
Mr Callinan now wants us to believe that this use of the term “disgusting” related to a possible technical breach of data protection rules.
As for the commissioner describing the whistle blowers’ allegations as “extraordinary”, the Garda Inspectorate report confirms that those allegations were (a) largely factual and (b) indeed extraordinary, but perhaps not “extraordinary” in the way that the commissioner envisaged.
As for the commissioner claiming that there was “not a whisper” from elsewhere in the force of corruption or malpractice, that arrogant and self-serving statement can now only be treated with the contempt it deserves.
Mr Callinan’s position is untenable and I suspect he knows it. He demonstrated barely concealed anger and contempt for a colleague and a former colleague who did the whole nation a service in bringing to light malpractice that was clearly rife in Garda districts throughout Ireland and that led to quite serious anomalies in the administration of justice, perhaps over a long period of years.
Sgt McCabe and retired garda John Wilson acted selflessly and they deserve a nation’s grateful thanks, something that Enda Kenny should put on the Dáil record without any further delay. – Yours, etc,
Eton Place,
Sir, – The report of the Garda Inspectorate on the penalty points controversy comes across as most incisive and unambiguous in its findings. Whatever the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner may say, it is clear that this report vindicates Sgt McCabe and former garda John Wilson, whose honour and integrity have been so grievously impugned by Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan. Not alone should these whistleblowers, who have suffered so much as a result of their patriotic actions, be given public apologies by their detractors, but they should receive some type of reparation from the State for the hurt and distress which they and their families have undoubtedly suffered in doing a great service to their country. The outrageous manner in which they were treated by the Minister and the commissioner was surely “disgusting”. – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park South,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – According to the commissioner, only two gardaí complained about malpractice. Thousands did not. Disgusting? – Yours, etc,
Hillside Drive,

Sir, – I was distressed to read of the outcome of a court case concerning a “hit and run” by an uninsured driver which caused the death of a boy of just 14 years (“Addict who fatally injured teenager is sentenced”, Home News, March 13th).
The driver was eventually traced and charged, but the case before the court was on a charge of “careless driving”. Witnesses testified that the speed was excessive, presumably well above 50km/h in the built-up area. Furthermore the driver admitted to not realising he had hit someone, which beggars belief, and that he was hurrying to a drug pick-up.
How, in God’s name, could he be charged only with “careless driving” instead of “dangerous driving”? Leaving all other considerations aside, it must surely be, of itself, dangerous driving merely to drive without insurance. It is poor justice for the young lad’s family that the offender got just 20 months for excessive speed resulting in a death, failing to stop at the scene and driving uninsured.
And what difference is a driving ban of 20 years going to make to someone who admits to a drug habit and driving uninsured?
My sincere sympathy goes to the poor lad’s grieving family in their desolation. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 9.

Sir, – The anonymous writer of the “To Be Honest” column (“It’s time to discriminate in favour of non-Catholics”, Education, March 11th) makes a heartfelt and understandable plea for Educate Together to change its enrolment policies to discriminate in favour of non-religious families. The situation that the writer has found himself (herself?) in is one well known to Educate Together schools throughout the country. He has put his child’s name down to attend the school of his choice in what should be good time but has found himself too far down the list to gain entry. As the writer says about his child, “He deserves a place in an Educate Together school”.
The suggested solution, however, is not one that we can consider. To introduce a form of discrimination in our enrolment policies would be to go against everything that Educate Together stands for. Our schools are not only for the children of non-religious parents, they are for all children. The solution to this issue is not for our schools to start to discriminate, the solution is for the State to provide enough Educate Together schools to meet the ever-growing demand from Irish parents. – Yours, etc,
Educate Together,
Hogan Place, Dublin 2.
Sir, – The “To Be Honest” writer and Eimear Lynch (March 13) highlight, once again, the absurdity that is the archaic system we in Ireland continue to foist on our children in the name of education.
National school teacher salaries are paid by the State, school buildings are provided by the State and the school inspectorate is under the auspices of the State, as is curriculum development and all other related matters.
The European Court of Human Rights has determined that teachers here are ultimately the responsibility of the State. A solution to the problems of discrimination is thus plain to be seen – we should abolish the patronage system altogether and bring all national schools under the direct management of the Department of Education. A fair and balanced system for school place allocation would follow as a matter of course.
There are other benefits to be gained. For one, the so-called “voluntary” contribution that is demanded of many parents in order for them to secure the right of their children to have a primary education would no longer be an issue.
Of course, whatever shortfall that currently gives rise to this would have to be paid, instead, from the exchequer.
It is not too much to claim, however, that any country that cannot properly fund the education of its young does not deserve to consider itself among the developed nations of the world. – Yours, etc,
Farrenboley Park,
Windy Arbour,
Dublin 14.

Sir, – Colm Keena’s report (“Forum recommended funding for group that recruited Flannery”, Front Page, March 13th) quotes the chief executive of Philanthropy Ireland as claiming that the consultancy work undertaken by Frank Flannery was not paid from any public money received by that organisation.
This explanation will seem implausible to many because the private income of Philanthropy Ireland was not sufficient to cover the salary overhead of the lobby group’s own staff in 2012, according to its audited accounts.
While there has been an intense focus on the potential contribution by Mr Flannery to the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee, he is merely a service provider in this context, not the principal accounting officer for public funds.
The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government has already committed €2.49 million and has also agreed to fund 50 per cent of the cost of the implementation of the strategy devised by Mr Flannery and intended to increase the annual level of private charitable giving from €500 million in 2011 to €800 million in 2016.
Surely, in the interest of public trust, credibility and transparency, the Public Accounts Committee should demand that the department explain what has been accomplished with this taxpayers’ money at the half-way point of the five-year initiative. – Yours, etc,
Bellevue Avenue,

Sir, – For all the talk about whether Bono’s speech to the European People’s Party (EPP) delegate conference in Dublin last week was patronising or inspiring, or why a group of people who are meant to be serious political activists couldn’t stop themselves wilting in the presence of a singer, as usual the Irish media got distracted by something shiny and missed the real purpose of the conference and its outcome.
The purpose of the conference was to choose the EPP candidate for president of the new European Commission that will take office later this year and set the agenda for the EU for the next five years or more. An agenda that should involve tackling chronic EU youth unemployment, falling health standards and the gaping lack of democratic legitimacy, transparency and accountability at every level of the EU decision-making process.
So did the EPP pick a dynamic, youngish person, perhaps a woman, with real-life experience outside the political bubble who offers new policies and a new mentality to that of those who have been at the heart of EU decision-making over the last decade?
No, of course not. The EPP picked Jean-Claude Juncker, a 60-year-old man, who was prime minister of Luxembourg for 20 years until forced to resign in December 2013 after losing a general election caused by his failure to deal with corruption within the country’s spy service. He was also the president of the Eurogroup, the gathering of euro zone finance ministers that meets in secret, or “in camera” as it likes to say, before the formal meeting the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) meetings of the EU, which includes all the other finance ministers of the EU, from 2005 to 2013.
In other words, he is the man who headed the group of politicians that oversaw the application of the policy of “light touch” regulation all across the euro zone’s financial sector, and which was involved in agreeing the policy that saw the ECB force an Irish government to choose between accepting all private sector banking debt in return for access to funding when we were excluded from the markets, or no access to lending and having to balance our budget at the stroke of pen.
How can the personification of the out-of-touch, elitist EU insider possibly be able to implement the scale of reform needed by the EU so it can tackle the issues it will face in the coming decade? – Yours, etc,
Canary Wharf,

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (“Why the Taoiseach should not join the St Patrick’s Day parade”, Opinion & Analysis, March 11th) quotes from my letter to The Irish Times (“Who won’t march in NY parade?”, February 20th), in which I assert that the Catholic character of the New York St Patrick’s Day parade as the grounds for excluding a distinctly gay group from participation. He uses the religious character of the march as grounds why the Taoiseach of a pluralist, non-sectarian, democratic Ireland, should not march.
However, in 2012 Mr O’Toole expressed no objection to the attendance at the closing Mass of the Eucharistic Congress in Croke Park by President Higgins, the Taoiseach, and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Contemporary Irish liberals in their zest to overcome an unhealthy, but informal, fraternisation between the Irish State and the church, which did harm to both, seem to want to go beyond pluralism toward a confinement of religion as a purely personal matter having no place in the public square.
That is a far cry from the American principle of separation of church and state and seems more akin to the totalitarian exclusion of religion characteristic of former eastern European regimes.
I must acknowledge Mr O’Toole makes a valid note, often unappreciated in Ireland, about the substantial portion of the Irish American population, including many of the presidents, who were Protestant. – Yours, etc,
Professor Emeritus
of History,
Fordham University,

A chara, – I had the pleasure of attending the Ireland-Italy double-header at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last Saturday.
Both games featured stunning performances from ruthlessly efficient Irish male and female international teams.
However, while acknowledging the IRFU’s generous act in allowing the stadium to be used for the ladies’ match, I find it baffling that no arrangements were made for the ladies to use the dressing rooms in the stadium. Instead, they had to make the five-minute journey from Lansdowne FC before the match, at half-time and at the game’s close.
Secondly, why was President Michael D Higgins not in situ for the start of the ladies’ match?
Surely having attended the men’s game, it was incumbent upon him to do the same for the ladies? – Is mise,
Oileán Chliara,
Sir, – John Bellew’s choice of the US-led Nato campaign in Yugoslavia in his comments on criticism of the US stance on Ukraine (March 13th) is unfortunate.
He fails to notice how, in that campaign, the US and its allies actively encouraged and assisted those regions of Yugoslavia which sought to break away, whereas in the current Ukrainian crisis, that very same alliance has stated that it will not recognise any breakaway elements, even if supported by a plebiscite.
Double standards . . . again? – Yours, etc,
Maynooth Park,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – I agree with Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who is quoted as saying “that the ship has left the harbour” in relation to the new Junior Cycle plans (“27,000 teachers protest over reform”, Home News, March 12th). The only problem is that the teachers are not on board; the ship is without a crew. Bon voyage, Minister. – Yours, etc,
Teachers’ Union of Ireland,
Cork Institute
of Technology.

Sir, – I note that Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen is “fed up” with the Government’s criticism of his party’s time in office (Oireachtas Report, Home News, March 13th). I’m sure he is!
However, as long as the results of that dark period in our history continue to affect us, criticism of that administration seems reasonable and fair. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange,
Co Wicklow.

Sir, – May I draw your readers’ attention to the plight of Aldborough House at Dublin’s Five Lamps, completed in 1799 and now in a state of dereliction, stripped bare, its windows open to the elements? I have raised the issue with various bodies, all to no avail, and at this stage I have to ask, does anybody care?– Yours, etc,
Fitzroy Avenue,
Dublin 3.

Sir, – Regarding the decision by the Sandycove Bathers’ Association to finally admit ladies (“Forty Foot club stops trying to hold back tide and takes women”, Front Page, March 13th), I assume it is only a matter of time until they can no longer be referred to as “members”. – Yours, etc,
Gran Canaria,

Irish Independent:
* The national day is almost upon us. Some time ago I was overseas for March 17 and through the fog of green beer and tinsel shamrocks, I began to wonder about what would make Ireland a better place.
Also in this section
Age shall not wither them in eternal spring
Kenny at centre of green storm over NY parade
Learning when to exercise our voice
As a little fella, I was taught to say hello to everyone; I was told not to look on people as a means to an end, not stepping stones to be jumped on for advancement, but as brothers and sisters in a bigger family.
Naive, wimpish twaddle, many will agree… especially in a world where self-esteem is measured by bank balances, the car you drive or where you live.
But surely when Saint Patrick plucked the shamrock from the ground, and introduced the concept of salvation, love and fellowship, he was laying down the foundations for a spiritual strength that would survive for millennia.
He did so without the trappings of Rome, or institutional dogma. Treating each other with respect and dignity is too big a deal to be entrusted to any one institution.
Many would argue that our values have been banished like the snakes, as we worship the gombeen-beloved golden calf of casino capitalism.
This is a seductive fallacy.
I look around and I see our incredible young people doing the most amazing things, and I see our elderly enduring unjust things with magnificent fortitude.
I lament that we lose so many of our best and brightest to foreign shores but wherever they go they bring their rich heritage with them. They will shine.
This year I am at home and happy to be. There will be no green beer but there will be gratitude for all the kindness and decency that can still be found in an Irish nation that stoically accepted and suffered so much for the sins of the few, yet still finds cause to celebrate.
So stand up Ireland, the cynics and the “fumblers in the greasy till” have not stolen your soul.
Your spirit is still strong, and that is from where the real green shoots of recovery will surely spring.
* Having just read the article in the Irish Independent about TDs consuming 12,000 pints in the Dail last year, I feel it is my civic duty to protest about deputies paying for drinks out of their own pockets! What is Ireland coming to?
Why are these pints not being paid for by the taxpayer? Having lavished millions on the disabled, the elderly, the underprivileged, and the ill, sparing no consideration to their own pockets and pensions, surely they must be entitled to a liquid sensation or two, as guests of the Republic?
* Dermot Ryan (Letters, March 13) questions why RTE devotes editorials to the “relative non-event that is the Ukraine” while lamenting that “serious protests in Spain, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and elsewhere in the EU … barely got a fraction of the coverage”.
Ukraine, though not a member of the EU is of course a European country which has a common border with four EU members. Perhaps Mr Ryan cannot differentiate between domestic street protests in the EU countries he referred to and the real prospect of a sovereign European country being torn apart with the assistance of insidious outside influence.
The “non-event” he refers to is the greatest threat of a war on European soil since the Balkans war in the 1990s and, previous to that, World War II.
* I wish to respond to your columnist Colette Browne (Irish Independent, March 12).
The data for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs) is from a published document from the Institute of Public Health, using official statistics from the Department of Health in both jurisdictions along with data from the Central Statistics office and Northern Ireland Statistics.
The report covers the period 1989-1998 and was published in 2001. This is the only all-Ireland report examining the variation in mortality.
In this comprehensive report, on page 29 and 33, the official figures for SIDs are provided for both geographic regions and a figure of a 310pc increased incidence based on annual standardised rates is provided for the Republic of Ireland compared to Northern Ireland.
Ms Browne claims she has figures to show that the incidence of SIDs in Northern Ireland are higher than the Republic of Ireland. I would like to see this evidence. It would represent a four-fold increase in SIDs in Northern Ireland in recent years, a situation which I would find very difficult to believe without credible scientific facts.
With regard to my interview on RTE radio, I was contacted 30 minutes before the programme and asked to participate without any opportunity to prepare. The literature on fluoridation is vast, I cannot be expected to remember every publication or the name of source material especially for something that was a relatively minor part of my report.
* In relation to an article in the Irish Independent (‘Finance Minister calls on credit unions to lend more’, March 4). Over the past number of years the vast majority of the country’s credit unions have been subject to excessive restrictions on lending, as imposed by the Central Bank. The minister is well aware that these restrictions are in operation so I wonder why he has made such a statement now?
Restrictions on a credit unions ability to lend is further isolating vulnerable groups of people who, having being refused credit by banks and building societies, have nowhere else to go. Credit unions have money to lend and certainly want to lend to their members but they are being restricted from doing so. Why is the minister not talking to the Central Bank about this?
* I thank Joe Dowling for his admiring letter but I think he may be misguided in recommending Dr Eben Alexander’s ‘Proof Of Heaven’ as a tonic for the reluctant atheist. I’m not sure if the near-death experience of a neurosurgeon will do much to ease my malaise – but I will read it nonetheless.
Besides that, my understanding of religious faith is that there is no requirement for external proof; that human reason and the miracle of existence are enough to underpin a firm belief in God.
I could perhaps save myself a lot of head scratching and subscribe to Mark Twain’s definition of faith: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
* Having just watched Leader’s Questions, I am disgusted by the manner in which Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to concede that the garda whistleblowers deserved an apology for their treatment at the hands of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Indeed he refused to even acknowledge that the whistleblowers had been slighted at all. We’ve heard a lot of talk from the Government about reform, accountability and new politics.
Surely central to any new politics, should be integrity.

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