Another quiet day

17 March 2014 Another Quiet day

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have to pick up some stranded admirals Priceless

Cold slightly better sort books and things

Scrabbletoday Marywins but getunder400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.




Malcolm Tierney, who has died aged 75, was a durable actor with the face of a villain. He was best known for his role in the BBC series Lovejoy as the smartly-dressed antique dealer Charlie Gimbert, who regularly runs rings around Ian McShane’s be-jeaned and leather-jacketed protagonist.

Between its first series in 1986 and his return in 1993 (by which time the programme had become a Sunday evening fixture), Tierney had appeared in Brookside as local gangster Tommy McArdle, and as a boorish rival of Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) in the original House Of Cards (BBC, 1990).

On stage, Tierney commanded a wider variety of parts . At the Royal Court, he was a youthful Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (1968); and in the same year he played Disraeli in Edward Bond’s allegory Early Morning, which had to be shown to critics in a private afternoon performance after its evening show was banned by the Lord Chamberlain. He claimed that while the play was in progress, there were 200 police officers around the Royal Court.

Tierney once shared a flat with the famously larger-than-life Tom Baker, and in real life he resembled his fellow thespian. He shared with the former Dr Who star a sonorous voice; distinctive (latterly white) curly hair; a wide, toothy smile; a wardrobe of long, baggy overcoats and scarves; and a fondness for wine, women and song. In Soho, he was a popular habitué of the Colony Room club and the French House pub, and last year held a private party at his Pimlico home at which all the 100 guests were female.

Malcolm Tierney was born on February 25 1938 in Manchester, the son of a mill girl and a boiler maker who had been awarded the George Medal in the Great War for saving two lives in No-man’s-land. As a boy, Malcolm met several eminent comedians while his father held various jobs at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. After attending St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Oldham, Tierney won a scholarship to Manchester School of Art, where he started appearing in plays; he later trained at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup .

He was last on the cast list in Red Roses For Me (Mermaid, 1962) by Sean O’Casey, then supported Trevor Howard in Strindberg’s The Father (Piccadilly, 1964), produced by the wayward writer William Donaldson. An early lead on television, and front cover of TV Times, came in Love On The Dole (Granada, 1967).

Cato Street (Young Vic, 1971), by the actor Robert Shaw, concerned a plot to assassinate the Cabinet in 1820, with Tierney, as an agent provocateur, and Bob Hoskins supporting Vanessa Redgrave. Tierney worked with her again in A Touch of the Poet in 1988, and was Agamemnon to her Hecuba for the RSC in 2005.

With Redgrave and her brother Corin, he was part of a failed challenge for Equity’s leadership at the union’s AGM in 1973. Continuing to argue in favour of the closed-shop system of membership, Tierney campaigned for Equity Left Alliance throughout the 1990s. He stood unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1999 and 2000.

Developing a penchant for playing real-life figures from the art world, he was Ford Madox Brown in The Love School (BBC, 1975); had the title role in LS Lowry – A Private View (Granada, 1981); and returned to the same part in Mr Lowry, a one-man play at the Bristol Young Vic, in 1993. He played George Melly in Home Death (Finborough Theatre, 2011), by Nell Dunn.

His films included roles in Star Wars (1977) and Braveheart (1995), in the latter disposing of William Wallace’s wife. Tierney’s final stage performance was as Sorin in The Seagull (Southwark Playhouse, 2012).

From 1979 to 1999 he was married to Andrea Schinko, and their two daughters survive him.

Malcolm Tierney, born February 25 1938, died February 19 2014






Your main coverage of the death of Tony Benn (Obituary, 15 March; Michael White, 15 March) was ungenerous, and did little justice to the man who was one of the most loved political figures in Britain today. Millions were inspired by his principles, his commitment and his unswerving support for many campaigns. He was president of the Stop the War Coalition right up to his death and helped initiate the People’s Assembly in opposition to government policies of austerity and inequality. Far from having little influence on politics and change, Tony was in the forefront of opposing wars, apartheid, racism and sexism. In this he was often in advance of establishment opinion, but equally often in agreement with public opinion. He was loved precisely because he did articulate views shared by many outside the corridors of power.

Your tendency to point-scoring about arguments dating back more than 30 years and refusal to seriously address his views perhaps demonstrates that they had more purchase than his opponents care to admit. Those who support trade unions, equality, peace and – dare we say it – socialism have little voice in the media or established politics. They have lost a great champion in Tony Benn. His political legacy will hopefully be measured by their future success.
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Katy Clark MP, Steve Turner Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union, Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, NUT, Paul Mackney Former general secretary, UCU, Sam Fairbairn National secretary, People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Romayne Phoenix Co-chair, People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Salma Yaqoob, John Rees Counterfire, John Pilger Journalist and film-maker, Francesca Martinez Comedian and campaigner, Zita Holborne National co-chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, PCS NEC, Kate Hudson General secretary, CND, Chris Nineham Vice-chair, STWC, Andrew Burgin Left Unity, Mark Barrett People’s Assemblies Network and Occupy, Clare Solomon People’s Assembly, Rachel Newton Secretary, Greece Solidarity Campaign, James Meadway Senior economist, NEF, Barbara Jacobson Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Richard Milner Coventry People’s Assembly, Roy Bailey Folk singer, Andrew Murray Deputy president, Stop the War Coalition

• I have never missed the late Simon Hoggart more than in the aftermath of Tony’s Benn’s death. It’s difficult to imagine anyone better to puncture of the bubble of hagiography filling much of Saturday’s coverage (the main obit and Michael White being honourable exceptions).

It’s hard to know whether Simon would have taken more delight pointing out how wrong Benn was on so many issues (nationalisation, the EU, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Mao, Labour‘s election loss in ’83, the miners’ strike and many others) or in reminiscing about how Benn’s extreme vanity blinded him to the damage he did to Labour in the 1980s. Perhaps it would simply have been enough to remember how much Benn hated those (like Simon himself) who saw through the cheap and easy platitudes that characterised his later career.
Dr John McGowan
Lewes, East Sussex

• I was disappointed by the mealy-mouthed obituary of Tony Benn by Professor Brian Brivati. I was surprised you chose him to write such an important political obituary, as he is a member of the misnamed “Progress group” and a friend of leading New Labour so-called liberal international interventionists.

Prof Brivati asserts that from the mid-1970s onwards, Benn had nothing new to say as a political thinker. This is certainly contestable. One example will suffice to demonstrate this inaccuracy.

Tony Benn, who once was responsible for the British nuclear power programme, first when he when he was technology minister in the late 1960s, and later after he was “demoted” (in Brivati’s interpretation), was asked a few years ago by the Times if he had made any political mistakes in his life. He responded: “Nuclear power. I was told, when I was in charge of it, that atomic energy was cheap, safe and peaceful. It isn’t.”

A serious problem for today’s politics is that both coalition ministers and their Labour opponents have not learned from Benn’s conversion on the road to energy sustainability, and support new nuclear.
Dr David Lowry
Environmental policy and research consultant

• Your online report on the death of Tony Benn (14 March) attributed his defeat in the 1981 Labour deputy leadership to a late voting shift by a key union. I presume that this is a reference to NUPE, which in fact followed the clear verdict of a ballot of its members. Had Labour’s largest union, the TGWU, showed similar respect for its members, Denis Healey would have won overwhelmingly.

Benn’s achievements and personality have attracted many tributes, but his campaign in 1981 was one of the most selfish and unprincipled in British political history. Its defeat saved Labour from extinction.
Richard Heller
Chief of staff to Denis Healey 1981-83

• Leaving a CND demo in the early 80s, a Telegraph-reading friend remarked to me: “You know, I used to be against everything Tony Benn stood for, until I heard him speak.”
John Launder
Skipton, North Yorkshire


Tony Benn was one of those rare politicians who genuinely did make history, when he renounced his peerage in 1963. His diaries are an important historical record, unparalleled in post-1945 British politics. His legacy, though in part, should be to inspire current and future politicians to have the same sense of the importance and context of history as he had. Too few do.
Dr Keith Flett
London Socialist Historians Group

•  The Speaker should set up an annual Tony Benn lecture in tribute to a great parliamentarian. Its purpose should be to promote the democratic process, accountability and participation, and inspire young and old to engage in their community and in national debates.
Paresh Motla
Thame, Oxfordshire

• Both Brian Brivati (Obituary, 15 March) and Michael White (Loved or loathed, 15 March) repeat the claim that Tony Benn supported the building of Concorde as this would provide jobs for his constituents. Concorde was built at Filton in north Bristol, miles from Benn’s Bristol South East constituency.
Lynda Hall

• The idea that you have to be a revolutionary radical to oppose the hydrogen bomb and war, implied in both your editorial (15 March) and obituary on Tony Benn, is depressing and, I hope, mistakes public opinion.
Harry Davis
Thames Ditton, Surrey

• When Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher encounter one another in some celestial corridor, one can only hope that Simon Hoggart is there to record it.
Paul Roper
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire“He encouraged us” is a pretty good epitaph for Tony Benn. He certainly encouraged me, and I only met him once, back in the 1980s. At the House of Commons, after a tedious meeting where I had asked a question, I found myself walking down the stairs beside him and he asked me “What do you do?” – as if I was the most important person in the world. I told him a little about our work on improving US-Soviet relations through youth exchanges and musicals – but how hard it was with Soviet and US bureaucracy. “Keep going!” he said, fixing me with his zealous smile: “Think how many young people believe in peace now that you have touched them…” I did keep going – and, a year later, we brought the first Soviet youth and rock stars to the US. Three years after that, the Berlin Wall came down. Thank you, Tony Benn!
David Woollcombe
Founder and president, Peace Child International

•  Tony Benn was an enthusiastic supporter of the co-operative movement because he believed that unregulated capitalism could never be the basis of a just society. In 1975, as chairman of the Industrial Common Ownership Movement, the national body at that time of employee-owned co-operative businesses, I invited him to be guest speaker at our AGM. He arrived with a bulky tape recorder which he placed prominently on the table. “I am often misquoted by the press,” he said, and I noticed two rather furtive-looking men in belted raincoats at the back of the hall. He gave a rousing speech, but I noticed that the tape was not running. “Oh,” he said, “I never turn it on. Too expensive in batteries. Putting it on the table does the trick.”

I do not think his support for co-operatives would waver because of the current troubles of just one large co-operative. Neither should the rest of us waver.
Roger Sawtell

•  None of the tributes to Tony Benn have given attention to his daughter Melissa. She did much of the caring of him during his long illness. Tony had promised a comment on my biography of Keir Hardie but, after an operation, was too ill to read it. So she read the manuscript to him. Melissa – he sent her to comprehensive school – has become a novelist, Guardian writer and opponent of academy schools. Thanks, Tony, for your political life, but also for Melissa.
Bob Holman



It’s a shame that in an article of over 1,600 words Owen Jones couldn’t bring himself to seriously discuss the political projects that Bob Crow was actually involved in (‘Don’t mourn. Organise’, 15 March). But perhaps that fits a narrative Owen wishes to promote, that there is no future for any electoral politics outside Labour. Bob, however, saw the creation of a new political voice for working people, rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class, as an essential aspect of the struggle against austerity.

For the past four years we had worked together building the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), in a project officially backed by the RMT itself. TUSC will stand hundreds of anti-austerity candidates in this May’s local elections in the biggest left-of-Labour challenge since the second world war.

Despite a number of approaches, Tony Benn didn’t agree with an electoral challenge to Labour (though he did appear in the 2009 electoral broadcast for No2EU).

I think he should have left the Labour party, which had so clearly left him, but unfortunately he disagreed. In his latter years Tony was more a prisoner in New Labour, reduced to smuggling out notes through the bars. The socialist policies he stood for were killed off by successive Labour leaders from Neil Kinnock onwards, but they still exist in new projects, like TUSC and No2EU, co-founded by Bob Crow.
Dave Nellist
National chair, TUSC

• I admire Owen Jones’s optimism about the state of the British left, but cannot share his positive prognosis. After a week that saw the demise of two giants of the labour movement, Bob Crow and Tony Benn, and the hefty clobbering of another, the Co-op, it is hard to see how the left can regroup and fight the seeping market forces and individualism overwhelming this so-called progressive liberal democracy.

All three were/are bastions of core labour principles – solidarity, working people’s rights and collective action. As the vultures descend on the Co-op, the attack on it by a senior Labour party figure (Co-op shambles exposed, 15 March) only underlines the schism within the movement.

For post-Thatcher generations, a skeletal welfare state, zero-hours contracts and dwindling trade union membership are becoming the norm. Where is the vision, the leadership, the passionate Benn-esque oratory promoting the values of social justice, fairness and respect for human rights? Let’s heed Benn’s chosen epitaph, “he encouraged us”, before the right twists it into another nail in the coffin of the left.
Clare Woodford







Congratulations to Amol Rajan for his warm and clearly heartfelt personal eulogy to Tony Benn. It was a shame that it was overshadowed by the mean-spirited editorial of the same day (15 March).

It has been crystal clear to the ovine minds of most commentators for three decades now that Benn “got it wrong”. After all, Thatcher won three elections and her dream of market greed and selfishness rules, now and for ever more.

Well, actually no. There has been a shift away from Benn’s vision of compassionate collectivism towards our present world order created to service the whimsical greed of the global plutocracy. However, anyone whose future horizons stretch further than the bridge of their nose will realise that the world continues to change.

The market model of exponential growth and unfettered licence to pillage the biosphere is tearing itself apart by its own excess. Climate change is just one aspect of environmental crisis. We will need environmentalism to survive and environmentalism will need redistributive socialism  in order to work.

In other words, Benn’s compassionate collectivism will become a necessity. Far from a relic of the past, he will be recognised as the prophet of the future and one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.

Steve Edwards, Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

I cringed as I heard Tony Benn telling the shop-floor workers at BAe Filton that he was about to return to France in an attempt to convince the French to carry on to the next stage of the Concorde project; knowing that it had already been agreed!  When I mentioned this to him later, he said it was good for morale that they knew he was on their side; after which he somehow avoided eye contact.

Brian Christley, Abergele, Conwy

I am sure that Tony Benn would regard as a compliment the malevolence hurled at his memory, because it emanates from those who stand for the greatest possible gap between rich and poor, life governed exclusively by market forces which have no ethics, and constant and interminable growth at the expense of the survival of our planet.

Tony Benn was actually advocating Christian values in politics. I am not talking about churches, though thank God the bishops have taken up the cause of those left hungry in this wealthy country while the rich are cossetted with tax cuts, but about the ethics of Christianity.

I’m sure he didn’t see himself in this light. He was simply talking about justice, equality, making a positive contribution to the world instead of grabbing from it the maximum you can.

Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon

Crimea takeover: the US can’t talk

As John Kerry berates the Russian intervention in Crimea, after an unelected government took control of Ukraine, he should be reminded of America’s Monroe Doctrine and the Clark Memorandum.

These policies sanctioned both covert and military US intervention anywhere in the Caribbean basin, where US interests were regarded as being eroded or threatened. The US participated in the overthrow of the Arbenz Regime in Guatemala in 1954, recruited the 1,500 Cuban refugees for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, trained and supplied the Salvadorean death squads from 1964-84 and in the 1980s supported the Contras in Nicaragua against the elected Sandinista government. In 1983, the US invaded Grenada to overthrow the pro-communist government and in 1989 invaded Panama.

In November 2013 John Kerry announced to the Organization of American States that the Monroe doctrine was now dead, which is, of course, correct because the US has seized upon 9/11 to undertake global intervention,  anywhere that it is in US interests so to do.

Patrick Lavender, Kilkhampton, Cornwall

Steve Kerensky (letter, 14March) is mistaken when he accepts Alexey Pishchulin’s assertion that Donetsk was founded by Alexander II in 1869.

In 1869 the Welsh entrepreneur and steel maker John Hughes chose the site to establish an steel-making complex and industrial settlement that became known as Yuzovka (Hughesovka). The original Welsh settlers left before 1917 but the city Hughes founded became the principal centre of steel-making in the region. The expanding city was renamed Stalino in 1924 and eventually Donetsk in 1961.

The transfer of industrial technology between countries was a well-established practice during the 19th century and resulted in the benefits of the Industrial Revolution being felt across Europe.

David Morgans, Colchester, Essex

Gender-selective abortion

While the case of “Samira” (“I had to terminate my pregnancies because I was carrying girls”, 15 March) is awful in its own right, even more concerning is that it highlights two further problems inherent in some communities all over the world.

The first is the injustice that the power to make such decisions in a marriage should be so greatly biased in the husband’s favour. The second is that “Samira” already has “children”, as opposed to an existing child.

The problem of the burgeoning global population is as great as, if not more so than, the threat to the wellbeing of our planet from the profligate use of fossil fuels.

The solution to all these problems is the global emancipation of women and the granting to them of control over their own fertility. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather  than later.

Liz Pearce, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Seabird research runs out of money

I would like to explain the position regarding the guillemot monitoring programme on Skomer Island (Nature Studies, 4 March).

We stepped in to pay for this research six years ago when the funding was under threat and signed a long-term agreement to secure that research. That agreement will come to an end in April.

We informed the University of Sheffield at least a year ago that, due to pressures on public sector budgets, it was highly unlikely that we would be in a position to extend this funding. We also took into consideration that the population of guillemots on the islands had been steadily increasing over  that time.

Since then we have worked with the University and the Wildlife Trust to try and identify another funding stream that would help them with this work.

We continue to fund monitoring of sea birds, including the guillemot, on Skomer and Skokholm, through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee as part of the UK-wide Seabird Monitoring Programme. We are also in the process of consulting on plans to extend the protection for seabirds at key places such as Skomer and Skokholm. This will mean that not only the islands themselves will be protected, but also the seas that surround them.

The storms which hit Wales this winter were the most devastating for decades. Alongside our work to repair the damage to defences, we are now assessing the impact on important wildlife habitats and species. One of our priorities is to make the natural environment more resilient to extreme weather events.

Emyr Roberts, Chief Executive, Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff

A lot of unhealthy policemen

You published on 11 January a letter from me under the heading, “Met’s history of sick leave” which made the serious allegation that the Metropolitan Police Service, during the 1980s and 1990s, deliberately adopted a lax approach to the management of sick leave in order to camouflage the significant number of flawed officers who were allowed to retire on medical grounds which entailed lengthy periods of sick leave prior to the retirement.

Despite its seriousness this letter was greeted with sullen silence by the Scotland Yard hierarchy.

It now transpires that the former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant John Davidson, who has been publicly accused of playing a corrupt role in the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence, retired on the grounds of ill-health to run a bar on the Spanish island of Menorca.

The number of officers who have featured in  several high-profile police scandals over the past 20-odd years and who have been pensioned off on medical grounds is beginning to constitute a statistical anomaly which surely merits an in-depth inquiry by the media in the public interest.

John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk

Decadence for all tastes

Commenting on your car reports from the Geneva Motor Show, Yvonne Ruge (letter, 15 March) observes that practicality is an also-ran to showing-off. Likewise the fancy-dress parades that constitute any fashion week, be it Paris, Milan or London. One is reminded of the Roman banquets where the chefs had to devise ever more bizarre concoctions to titillate over-indulged and jaded palates.

S Lawton, Kirklington, Oxfordshire






Sir, On March 13 there was a three-hour debate on the floor of the House of Commons on a motion calling for the ending of the badger cull. A division was called, and the motion was carried against the Government’s wishes by 219 votes to one. Obviously knowing that they would lose the vote, the
government whips had sent their MPs home. Nevertheless, despite the weight of parliamentary opinion clearly being in favour, the Government has made clear that it is ignoring the vote.

This raises a big constitutional issue about the workings of Parliament, especially on such a high-profile matter as the badger cull where the motion clearly reflected the strong and widespread public opposition to it. The Government has simply arbitrarily ruled that it will only be bound by votes lost on its own business, thus negating the whole purpose of motions put forward to give voice to public opinion.

The elected Back-Bench Business Committee (BBBC) was introduced three years ago precisely to allow this. The incoming Conservative Government then sought to marginalise these BBBC debates by allocating time for them on Thursdays, when most MPs have left Westminster (because there were no more government votes). Now, when there is a vote on a BBBC motion and the Government loses, it simply disregards it.

This has now happened about 20 times, including when my own motion calling for an inquiry into the impact of the welfare reforms on poverty was voted on two months ago and the Government lost by 125 votes to two. Again last year the Government lost the vote after a hard-fought Commons debate on a motion calling on it to demand a reduction in the EU budget in Brussels, but then ignored it.

Zac Goldsmith, MP, won a Commons vote on his Bill on the recall of MPs where, on the basis of prescribed criteria, a constituency vote had authorised recall, but again the Government ignored it.

And if the recommendation of a small annual sample of key select committee reports were debated and voted on on the floor of the house — a much-needed reform — that too should not be negated by the Government simply ignoring a positive vote. What is clearly needed now is a new constitutional convention that when the Government loses a Commons vote on non-governmental business, the motion should be referred to the Lords for ratification, and if ratified, the Government should then be required to return to the House within a reasonable period (say three months) with proposals to meet the will of the House — and the public opinion which that represents — as expressed in the vote.

Michael Meacher, MP

Former Minister of the Environment & chairman, parliamentary group on reform of procedure, House of Commons


Sir, It’s no surprise that heads are rolling at Russell Group universities (Mar 14). This self-congratulatory body has been resting on its laurels too long, having executed a successful PR campaign, claiming that its universities are better than the rest. In my son’s first year at a RG university, lecturers routinely fail to turn up to teach, to reschedule or even apologise to the students who pay their salaries. The department allows it and does precious little for its students. His friends at other RG universities report the same.

Connie Ball

Hampton, Middx


Sir, As business people concerned about the impact that Brussels regulation and red tape has on companies in the UK, we believe it is wrong to suggest that an EU referendum commitment produces “uncertainty” for business.

All the major business groupings, including Business for Britain, are in complete support of the plan to reform the EU to make it more competitive, deregulated, and open for global trade. However, we believe that, going by past efforts to achieve this goal, the Prime Minister’s decision to set a timetable for renegotiation, with an in/out referendum at the end, is the correct approach.

Ruling out the possibility of a referendum unless there is a transfer of powers, while simultaneously trying to avoid any power transfer from Brussels — as Ed Miliband has done — may in fact produce greater uncertainty for business.

With the high likelihood of further economic and political integration in the eurozone in the near future, we believe business would appreciate greater clarity from the Labour leader about the circumstances under which he would call a referendum and his priorities for Britain’s EU membership.

Alan Halsall, Silver Cross; John Mills, JML; Daniel Hodson, LIFFE; Matthew Elliott, TaxPayers’ Alliance; Neville Baxter, RH Development; Harriet Bridgeman, The Bridgeman Art Library; Dr Peter Cruddas, CMC Markets; Robert Hiscox, Hiscox; John Hoerner, Tesco Central European Clothing; Brian Kingham, Reliance Security Group; Jon Moynihan, Ipex Capital


Sir, How good it is to hear of a major supermarket correcting its grammar (“Grammar schoolboy gives Tesco a telling off”, Mar 14). However, it still does not correct “10 items or less”.

I must point out, albeit reluctantly, that there is august precedent for the double superlative. Coverdale’s translation of the Psalter in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer gives Ps xiii, 6: “Yea, I will praise the Name of the Lord most Highest.”

Michael Brooks


Sir, Slogans and the like would lose a lot in terms of impact if they slavishly obeyed strict grammar rules. And if Shakespeare uses the double superlative, in Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar when he refers to “the most unkindest cut of all” (Pedant, Mar 15), why shouldn’t a supermarket?

Nigel Patterson

Maidenhead, Berks

Sir, When Tesco introduced its “finest” brand some years ago, I was tempted by a gâteau filled with “delicious chocolate mouse” (printed on every side of the package). I observed thrilled grins on the faces of numerous employees, and also “you have made my day” as I rose through the chain of management with my discovery. My pure reward? The “mouse” delicacy disappeared instantly from all stores.

Sandra McCourt

Holme on Swale, N Yorks


Sir, It was April 1943, when at my school in Dartford we sang Glorious things of thee are spoken at morning assembly (letters, Mar 14). Shortly after, the headmaster had a visit from the local police sergeant. He was seriously concerned, having been told that the German national anthem had been heard coming from the school, on Hitler’s birthday.

Robert Seaney

Hawkhurst, Kent

Sir, I note with dismay your report (Mar 14) of a holiday company offering to pay the fine incurred by clients who take their children, without permission, out of school for a holiday. This is quite wrong. The charge has been imposed to discourage parents from disrupting their children’s education. Firms encouraging us to break the law should be avoided at all costs.

Sally Pearson

Kingston, Devon






SIR – From The Archive recalls that James Worrell, a witness to John F Kennedy’s assassination, definitely heard four shots, not three as the FBI claimed had been fired.

Three expended shells were found at Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper’s position. His second or third shot (it is unclear which), entered Kennedy’s neck, exited his throat, then passed through Senator Connally’s body and knee. The final shot, recalled by Worrell as the fourth, entered the back of Kennedy’s head and blew a piece the size of a hand out of the right hand side of his skull, ejecting some of his brain upwards. It could not have been fired from Oswald’s position because he was sited behind, to the right and very high up.

Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire

SIR – Last week’s From the Archive quotes one of my reports from Dallas in The Sunday Telegraph in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. I was there covering the trial of Jack Ruby, who had killed Oswald.

During the trial, Ruby, who had pleaded insanity, would pass notes to his defence counsel, Melvin Belli. I still have one of them, given to me by Belli during one of many chats over glasses of whisky in his hotel room. It reads: “Ask the nurse about the flowers.” Belli told me it made no sense and had no relevance to any evidence. He suggested it was a further illustration of Ruby’s mental instability. But the jury took less than three hours to determine that Ruby was sane when he shot Oswald and the sentence was death in the electric chair.

Ruby later won an appeal for a retrial (though not on the issue of insanity) but died in prison before it could be held.

Frank Taylor
London NW6


SIR – On June 29 2008, Tony Benn wrote in his diary: “The Sunday Telegraph had a whole page of ‘national treasures’ nominated by their readers. I was chosen as a national treasure for the Magna Carta Award. If I’m a national treasure in the Telegraph, something’s gone wrong.”

Being a modest man, he didn’t understand the huge respect he had from across the party divide. This is because he was not just a socialist; he was a democrat and a libertarian. That is why he opposed the EU and the erosion of civil liberties, working with the Tory MP David Davis to oppose detention without trial. He was appalled by war, having fought in the Second World War, and devoted his political career to the pursuit of peace.

Tony Benn was a conviction politician who argued his corner with honesty, clarity and unfailing courtesy. If he has taught us one thing it is that politicians need to have the courage of their convictions if they are ever to win public trust.

Richard Cotton
London NW1

Benefit of marriage

SIR – We are pleased that the Government has made clear that the 2014 Finance Bill will make provision for transferable allowances for some married couples and, crucially, that they will benefit financially from April 2015.

This comes not a moment too soon. Marriage is a public good with clear benefits both in terms of adult and child wellbeing. However, it is vital to understand that the proposed allowances will not provide, as some have suggested, a fiscal incentive for couples to marry. Instead they will erode the current fiscal incentive for them not to marry. Although the Prime Minister’s proposal falls a long way short of creating a level playing field for those wanting to marry, the partially transferable allowance does represent an important development.

We look forward to seeing delivery of this landmark reform in the Budget but we need to go further. There is an urgent need for the Government to move to a fully transferable allowance for married couples. The benefit of marriage to society does not depend on one’s tax code.

Rt Rev Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, Lord McColl of Dulwich, Jim Dobbin MP (Lab), John Glen MP (Con), Sir Gerald Howarth MP(Con), Stewart Jackson MP (Con), Jeremy Lefroy MP (Con), Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con), Tim Loughton MP (Con), Jim Shannon MP (Unionist), Fiona Bruce MP (Con), Nola Leach, Dr Samantha Callan, Kathy Gyngell, Harry Benson,Jill Kirby

Inspector Blight

SIR – Sir Michael Pitt’s defence of Paul Griffiths, or “Inspector Blight” was based on the inspector’s professional judgment, his interpretation of policies, and his taking into consideration local opinion. As quantitative evidence and comparisons with other inspectors’ reports show, it is precisely these three points on which Mr Griffiths’ approach to planning appeals is called into question.

Dr Philip Sullivan
Frolesworth, Leicestershire

SIR – In defending the work of planning inspectors, Sir Michael Pitt writes that “the local communities’ views were carefully considered and balanced against other planning considerations”.

In my experience as chairman of planning on Sunningdale Parish Council, this was seldom the case. In two-day hearings, local objectors were allowed five or 10 minutes’ speaking time and were ill-equipped to counter the legal big guns employed by developers eager to get their way.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Euro vision

SIR – Like Nick Clegg, I am Anglo-Dutch and love Europe – but like many moderate people I believe the EU is increasingly resembling an Orwellian superstate.

Politicians who support the expansion of the EU pretend to command a virtuous higher ground motivated by spreading peace, love and understanding. We should consider that some may be driven by self-interest and rewards within the organisation. The few historically powerful European countries are now outnumbered in the EU by globally insignificant nations possibly harbouring a sense of inferiority. The most aggressive expansionists (the Portuguese José Manuel Barroso, the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy and the Hungarian László Andor) seem determined to subsume their countries into something much grander.

Marc Versloot
London SW18

SIR – Christopher Booker refers to the EU as “an organisation set up to put an end to nationalism”.

Only a nation can have enough internal cohesion for democracy to be a possible form of government. Consequently, if the EU succeeds in abolishing nationalism, democracy goes too. Without democracy, there can be no freedom and without freedom, there will be war.

John Strange
Worthing, West Sussex

Casualty costs

SIR – I was shocked, though not really surprised, to read (report, March 9) that schemes have been tried to give paramedics financial inducements not to send patients to casualty departments.

I remember when the decision was taken by a fully trained doctor in general practice. We were able to make important professional decisions free from any financial consideration.

Dr Brian Wright
Gosport, Hampshire

Coles to Dorchester

SIR – I was pleased to see Cecil Coles remembered as one of the British composers whose life was so tragically cut short by the First World War.

Peter McKenzie mentions Coles’ orchestral work Behind the Lines. This is a very moving piece and it will in fact be performed on May 24 at Dorchester Abbey as part of the annual English Music Festival, in a concert which honours other British composers whose lives were affected by this terrible conflict.

Nick Walker
Chairman, English Music Festival
Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

Diet scaremongers

SIR – When will those who try to scare the living daylights out of us about our diets and lifestyles realise that the more they preach at people, the less notice anybody will take?

Dr Michael Barley
Hove, East Sussex

Immunity for Bloody Sunday soldiers

SIR – Professor Neil Mitchellwrites that “Peace requires an unpunished terrorist, not an unpunished soldier”. I profoundly disagree.

The state has an obligation, underpinned by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure that an effective legislative and administrative framework is in place to protect life. This includes an effective criminal justice system which brings those who commit crimes to justice, thus providing deterrence against threats to life.

If, as seems to have happened, this principle of the first order of importance has been sacrificed in relation to holding terrorists to account – terrorists who killed and maimed civilian and soldier alike – then I can see no reason why we should seek to maintain it against the small number of soldiers who are alleged to have overstepped the mark while deployed to protect society from those same terrorists. To proceed otherwise seems the antithesis of justice and equal treatment before the law.

Andrew Warnock QC
London WC2

SIR – Professor Mitchell states that “prison for old soldiers seems pointless” but claims that prosecuting them may ascertain the responsibility of their superior officers.

Is it realistic to expect clear evidence to come to light in time, given that it will be several more years before prosecutions can be brought against these men who in general are older than the soldiers directly involved? Can it be justifiable to put those soldiers through the trauma of court proceedings and of having their identities revealed?

How will such proceedings be funded and dealt with fairly while the Justice Secretary is decimating the legal aid system? Equivalence and immunity is the fair and sensible course.

Ian Horton
Allestree, Derbyshire

Best puns in Britain?

SIR – Leicestershire probably has the best punning business names of any county: The Codfather, a fish and chip shop; Plankety Plank, carpenters; The Tree Amigoes, tree surgeons; and Mr Bit, window cleaners.

Rutland has Wok This Way, a Chinese Takeaway, and Dentith & Dentith, a dental practice.

Ray C Noble

SIR – I recall a builder’s van in the York area displaying the name William Bonney. I am unsure if the tradesman knew that this was an alias of Billy the Kid, the notorious cowboy.

Nigel Mitchell
Strensall, North Yorkshire


SIR – You report that Norman Lamb, the care minister, “was now convinced that ‘the state should not stand in the way’ of people determined to end their life, as long as strict safeguards were in place”.

The state has not stood in the way of people wishing to end their own lives for many decades. What the Bill proposes is very different: that the state arbitrates, sanctions and assists in that suicide. The state, most likely via doctors, will act as judge, jury and (literally) executioner for those seeking an early death.

It is doubtful that strict safeguards can be found. In America, there is good evidence that the Death with Dignity Act in the state of Oregon may fail to protect some patients whose choices are influenced by depression, while Vermont has explicitly built diminishing safeguards into its laws. People do not oppose assisted suicide simply to be obstructive, but because it has very serious implications for social attitudes and, crucially, patient safety.

Edward Davies
London SW18

SIR – The theoretical horrors advanced by the lobbyists who argue against assisted suicide and for palliative care do not appear to have materialised in those civilised countries which permit assisted suicide. All we would need to do is adopt those countries’ criteria. Doctors in those countries do not actively get involved in killing patients, they simply ascertain that the criteria have been met. Others then provide the means.

In this country, by contrast, doctors have been actively involved in the deaths of patients: those on the Liverpool Care Pathway. This could involve depriving patients of water so that they die of thirst after much distress in about nine days.

Alex Woods

SIR – The advocates of Lord Falconer’s Bill insist that strict safeguards will apply: namely, two doctors’ signatures. This was the safeguard offered in 1967 regarding abortion. We now have doctors rubber-stamping abortion papers for women they have never seen, and offering abortion for any reason, including gender.

As a disabled person I feel safer under a law that protects my right to life than a law with safeguards that depend on the mood of the moment – which could be discarded once we got used to killing the vulnerable.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Terminally ill people who are suffering greatly should have the choice of an assisted death if they so wish. Many people would enjoy their lives more without the fear that in the future they might die a slow and undignified death. Some close relatives say they remain traumatised after seeing their terminally ill loved-ones suffer so much.

Doctors intervene in all stages of life – as with IVF and heart transplants – so why shouldn’t they bring about a peaceful death if that is what a patient requests and the necessary safeguards are in place? This would prevent some terminally ill people committing suicide at an earlier stage because they know they won’t be physically capable of doing it later on.

There are not enough hospices and some people don’t wish to go into one. Many hospitals do not have the expertise in pain relief and end-of-life care that hospices have.

Julie Robinson
London SW6

SIR – You report that “David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both voiced opposition to changing the law.” If such legislation were passed through the provision of government time, as opposed to being left to a Private Member’s Bill, then these two, and the two Coalition parties, would have to take the responsibility for its passage.

This would be particularly dangerous for the Conservative Party. If such a Bill were passed by the Commons on Labour and Lib Dem votes, with more Tory MPs voting against it than for it, then the Conservative Party and its leaders would find themselves in a very difficult position.

J Alan Smith
Epping, Essex




Irish Times:


Sir, – Ireland’s overseas aid is among the best in the world in terms of value for money and overall quality. More importantly, our aid is effective.

We have been long recognised as a small but critically important player internationally and our commitment to reaching the UN target of investing 0.7 per cent of national income in overseas development by 2015 had been evidence of that leadership.

The announcement, therefore, that Government has dropped the 2015 deadline was disappointing, although given the scale of cuts to the overseas aid budget since 2008, it was not entirely unexpected.

These are tough economic times and there are tough decisions to make.

However, to ensure the continued credibility of our hard-won reputation, we need now a new date for achieving the long-standing commitment and call on the Minister for Trade and Development to set out how and when Ireland is going to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent.

Irish overseas aid funding makes a crucial difference to the lives of millions of marginalised people. It is an issue of life and death for people living in extreme poverty across the developing world.

This is why Ireland’s continued commitment is so important. That is why we need a new deadline and a realistic timetable. And by Ireland producing that plan and sticking to it, we encourage others to do the same. We may be a small country but this is an important role that we can and should continue to play on the world stage. – Yours, etc,


Executive Director,



Chief Executive Officer,



Sir, – The concerns arising from the Garda Inspectorate penalty points report should be addressed vigorously and speedily by the Government.

Our unarmed gardaí are all that stand between the preservation of a reasonable level of safety and security and a breakdown in law and order and the unspeakable horrors that would entail. The misdeeds of a minority of gardaí should not detract in the slightest from the excellent service the force generally has provided over the decades. We hear of scandals affecting clergy, the legal profession, doctors, property developers, bankers . . . the list is a long one, but just as we can’t condemn all involved in these professions, neither should we taint all gardaí. Let us remember the men who gave their lives fighting crime in our name, and the many male and female gardaí injured in the line of duty.

The whistleblowers deserve great credit for exposing behaviour that must have no place within a force that includes the brave men and women who risk life and limb protecting us from those who would kill, rob, rape, defraud and terrorise other human beings.

Equally deserving of praise are the TDs who went out on a limb to highlight the penalty points issue, especially Clare Daly, who I think is one of the most principled politicians ever to enter Dáil Éireann. I believe she is helping to rescue Irish politics from the swamp of sleaze and cute hoorism it has languished in for far too long.

The Garda Síochána will be the better for extracting the bad apples from within its ranks and ending unacceptable practices that, unfairly, give the entire force a bad name. – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,


Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Am I the only Irish citizen who is bewildered by the indignation and outrage expressed by some of our legislators, supported by a media frenzy, about the abuse of the penalty points system, when surely every dog in the street knew about it and even benefited from such discretion? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – My grandfather, Dr Séamus Ó Ceallaigh, an obstetrician and early Irish historian, was a close friend of Eoin MacNeill. The meeting to countermand the Easter Rising was held at his house 53 Rathgar Road. His detailed account of that meeting is published in “Gleanings from Ulster History” by Séamus Ó Ceallaigh (Ballinascreen Historical Society, 1994, pp 141-152). This contains details which are not consistent with Michael Parsons’s report “Order cancelling 1916 Rising for auction” (Home News, March 3rd).

That article says that copies of the order were written at Eoin MacNeill’s house “Woodbrook”. In fact it is written on paper headed “Woodtown Park, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin”, which was the house of Eoin MacNeill’s brother, James. It was there, on the morning of Saturday, April 22nd, 1916 (the date of the copy of the order to be auctioned), that MacNeill asked my grandfather if he could “see a couple of people” in his house at 53 Rathgar Road.

It is unclear precisely where all copies of the order were written out. However, my grandfather describes how that evening Arthur Griffith and Eoin MacNeill signed orders in his front room, while a large number of people came and went, “most coming on bicycles, some in cabs, some in motorcars”. These included The O’Rahilly, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean T O’Kelly, as well as the many individuals who were to be the messengers to the counties later on in the night. “There never was a plot or conspiracy attended by more noise or less concealment.”

After midnight, by which time most of the messengers carrying copies of the countermanding orders had left, Eoin MacNeill went into town to get the announcement published in the Sunday Independent . It was then that “he learned that a ship or boat had landed in Kerry and someone on the boat had been captured by the police”.

In other words, contrary to the report, it was only then that the news of Casement’s arrest reached MacNeill, and thus in no way did this inform his decision to countermand the Rising. – Yours, etc,


Faroe Road,

London W14.


Sir, – The current drive to encourage customers to switch energy supplier to secure lower energy bills has its hidden costs.

Being a business user, I recently switched and did achieve lower prices, but in the process of contacting the various providers for a quotation, one worrying trend emerged – suppliers were asking me to “provide a monetary security deposit” in order to switch.

This deposit has nothing to do with your credit worthiness or credit history, as it an arbitrary cost imposed by the providers on the consumer, since that money sits in their bank accounts and not in yours, for the year.

The regulator, and the Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte, should look at this practice and ask the providers to desist from such an undemocratic and anti-business activity. – Yours, etc,


Liberty Square,



Sir, – Today, all over the world, people who are Irish, of Irish descent, or who just want to be Irish, are celebrating St Patrick’s Day. We are reminded daily of the more unsavoury elements of ourselves but these should be kept in perspective – there is a bigger picture. We may not enjoy the silly hats, polyester red beards or questionable versions of Danny Boy , but surely on the day that’s in it, we can take time to consider, embrace and enjoy the myriad talents of this blessed nation, past and present. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,

Bray, Co Wicklow.


Sir, – I understand that our rural county councils have as their remit the management and maintenance of our hedgerows and ditches for safety and other reasons.

As our visitors step onto this land for St Patrick’s Day, they will see a real mix of management and brutalising of our hedgerows.

As I walk each day in the hills of north Cork, the damage at the root-and-branch level is an eyesore, and it is obvious that whoever drives the large machine is not “preserving the delicate” in our environment.

I wonder if there is any sense of the richness and diverse life that is supported by the flowers, seeds, berries, leaves and branches that provide nourishment for insects, animals, birds and humans alike in these hedgerows and ditches.

How we treat our hedgerows is a good indication of how we value our environment and ourselves and it is obvious to all our visitors this weekend. – Yours, etc,


Church Street,


Sir, – The once magnificent Aldborough House on Portland Row, Dublin, was built by Edward Stafford, second Earl of Aldborough and Viscount Amiens. He spared no expense on its lavish interior but it is said he never spent a night within its hallowed walls. Instead it became the home of his estranged second wife. According to the writer Jonah Barrington, she had a tongue of steel “which often cut deeply” but “so keen and polished was the edge of her wit that the patient was never mangled”.

One would like to think that if the good lady were alive today she would have a few choice words for Dublin City Council. – Yours, etc,


Cedar Park,

The Donahies,




A chara, – Donal Flynn (March 10th) suggests that “The whole debate could disappear by the simple action of making Irish a subject of choice in the Leaving Certificate.” While it might satisfy those who dislike the idea of compulsory Irish, it would do nothing for those on the other side who dislike the idea of compulsory English.

It is often the case when people try to avail of State services through Irish that they are met with a patronising attitude, that it is one thing to speak it at home or in school, among friends or at cultural events, but that it is carrying things too far to be bothering those employed in areas such as medicine or the law, or even the Department of Education, with it. –Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin.


A chara, – One cannot but be struck by a recurring theme in recent letters to the editor, namely, many contributors feel that nobody is listening.

Teachers question the plans for the junior cycle, GPs have serious reservations regarding the practicalities of the introduction of free care for the under-sixes, medical educators doubt the value of the HPAT and, perhaps most depressingly of all, parents eager to adopt feel helpless.

A basic truism in mental health is, listen and you will know what the problem is. The examples mentioned prompt the questions, Who is being listened to? Why are relevant parties not being listened to? – Is mise,


Consultant Psychiatrist,

St Brigid’s Hospital,


Sir, – Perhaps the time has come for you to appoint a special Irish Times correspondent to report on the financial and business affairs of charities and not-for-profit organisations.

Plenty of financial statements to review and plenty of corporate governance practices to report, all of which might prove very helpful for the soon to be appointed charity regulator. – Yours, etc,


Waltham Terrace,




Sir, – Our newly found ability to produce everything in abundance with decreasing dependence on human labour could destroy us. We must generate more jobs from less work or capitalism and society will crumble; shorter hours, longer holidays, earlier retirement. Everybody’s dream is the only plausible solution for 21st-century economic problems. The choice is simple; more people working less or fewer people working more. Yet no politician will discuss it. – Yours, etc,



Co Sligo.


Irish Independent:

* Since the dawn of time countless people have walked upon this earth.

Also in this section

Wake up you ‘Moby Dicks’

Taxing issues for offshore oil firms

Bono in dreamland

Some have been termed great. Others have quietly and diligently served the human family with no recognition whatsoever.

Some have craved fame and fortune. Others preferred to be the power behind the throne.

However, there is one unmistakable fact. We all come in and we all go out the same way.

No one escapes the ferryman. We all must answer to a higher power, no matter what shape or form is implanted in our subconscious.

Economic currency is of no value in this dimension. People will be judged purely on their merits.

Now, atheists will argue this is all poppycock. Maybe so. No one knows for sure. Life is a gambler’s bet.

However, even if death means lights out, and emptiness thereafter, I would rather depart this vibration in time knowing that I did my best to shine a little ray of light into people’s hearts.

I would prefer to depart this life knowing this, rather than feeling that I tried to own the world for my own gain, and thus chanced losing my hypothetical soul.



* They rode the wave, withstood the storm,

The French ferocious, the Irish calm.

The clash was brutal, chaos reigned,

Each bone-crushing tackle, a face rearranged.

And when the smoke cleared,

And the hoarse crowd was spent

All our prayers were Heaven sent.

In BOD we hoped, and when needs must

The lads delivered on a sacred trust.

From the green fields of France, to Athenry,

There was a moistness in each Irish eye,

When to O’Driscoll we waved goodbye.

He battled giants to earn a crust,

Our dreams he salvaged from the dust.

Till hell freezes over, or gods be men,

We’ll scarcely see his like again.




* Today is St Patrick’s Day, and as with the last four St Patrick’s Days, it will be the same as any other in our home.

We could face the crowds in the city and experience the colourful jubilation, but then, because we’d get hungry or thirsty and we would be unable to follow the throngs into coffee shops, pubs, take-aways and restaurants, we would venture home feeling deflated.

We could take a trip to the cinema, by sacrificing a few proper meals in the following week. Anything we do to celebrate with others would result in another low point, of which there have been far too many over these years of recessionary living.

Our little family of two have become modern day outcasts and we are two of many, thrown on the scrap heap of despair, facing one austerity cut after another. We are the survivors, and there is not much laughter in our home. Our treat for Monday is a roast from SuperValu (discounted by 50pc, and the cost supplemented with a coupon) and a roast is a very rare treat in our home.

We are lucky to have this home, (for now) but even here is not a safe space as there is never a day that my hands don’t tremble slightly as I visit the post box, which regularly contains threatening letters. I often wonder if the drafters of these frightening letters care that there are people like me out here, now working out how little food a person can survive on.

This way of living is all relatively new to me. I grew up knowing “that money didn’t grow on trees”, but we never wanted for anything and poverty was only something I saw during my my teenage years when volunteering with St Vincent de Paul. I worked hard from a relatively young age and never for a moment thought that poverty would visit my home. Now, here I am bickering over the smallest thing, because in a poor home, there simply cannot be any waste or accidents.

Because I was 38 when this began, my hopes of meeting the right person and having more children have all but slipped away. Living an austerity induced hermit’s life has this effect. Not only has the recession stolen my time, but it has also made me ill. St Vincent’s public hospital became my second home for a few years.

And it is getting worse. There are many unaffected by this recession and it is my experience that not only are those people’s doors not open to those suffering, but their hearts and minds are not open either. We have had an invisible tsunami of debt-induced poverty, suffering and despair here in Ireland. Indeed, if there had been an actual tsunami, solidarity and compassion – vital characteristics needed for recovery – would have kicked in.

I know how to recover, and I am on that steady road. My health conditions have meant that I needed re-training in order to be qualified and ready for work again. I continually smile through it all, but my heart gets weary from the constant battles and Ireland’s apparently new found “survival of the fittest” mentality.

First and foremost, I have been trying to keep our home away from repossession vultures. A quick glance through the rental market is enough to tell me that repossession will mean homelessness. If, or when, the banks take our home, they intend to sell it at a price for which we could afford the repayments.

This is the repossession story across the country and it all makes no economic sense. Profit seems to be the new god. There is no solidarity in our now divided people. People who are naive enough to think that unemployment is a lifestyle choice also seem to think that they will not be the ones who foot the bill for all this social carnage.

Recovery was, and still is, possible, but we must get our priorities right. Inflicting more poverty on those already suffering, on the sick, the vulnerable, the disabled and the disheartened is not the answer. Morality must take its rightful place alongside economics and politics.

Perhaps we need a modern-day St Patrick to influence the hearts and minds of the Irish people – there still seem to be a few snakes around.



* March 17 should be a day of national pride. Shamrocks and green tinsel hang from every shop door as Ireland showcases our unique culture and heritage. However, this week, a darker element of Irish society also comes to light, one that should quickly wipe the smiles from our faces.

Ireland has many achievements of which we as a nation can be proud. Our drinking culture, though, should not be one of them. As people flock to Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, pubs everywhere have happily refilled pint after pint, of brands sadly too numerous to mention.

Advertisements on billboards, at bus stops and on cars link this “holy day” with alcohol. What have we become?

Clearly, we are a nation consumed by drink. Pub owners eagerly anticipate this festival as it significantly boosts their annual revenue. This day is used as an excuse, as people ignore the obvious side effects of alcohol.

Alcohol is the biggest killer of teenagers in Ireland. Alcohol affects the lives of over 100,000 children annually. Alcohol costs our Government €1.2bn, one tenth of the health budget, every year. This is money we don’t have. Is this a symbol of our pride? I sincerely hope not.

How quickly our society forgets the ‘neknominations’ and the problems that ensued. As a nation, we watched in horror as bright young individuals sadly lost their lives to alcohol. And yet we still continue to fuel the fire that has killed so many.

I may be just a teenager but in the later part of my 17 years I have become aware of many people sadly staggering during parts of the St Patrick’s Day parade, ruining the festivities and fun for others. Is it too much to ask to enjoy St Patrick’s Day without its alcohol associations?



Irish Independent




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