28March 2014 Mary still in hospital
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have a row over Heather. Priceless
Cold slightly better Mary very under the weather visit her
Scrabbletoday Mary winds gets just under 400Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.
Jerry Roberts – obituary
Jerry Roberts was a Bletchley Park codebreaker who cracked Hitler’s secret messages and warned of an attack on Kursk
Captain Jerry Roberts Photo: Bletchley Park Trust/PA Wire
7:01PM GMT 27 Mar 2014
Jerry Roberts, who has died aged 93, was one of a small group of Bletchley Park codebreakers who read Hitler’s messages to his generals, providing unprecedented details of the German preparations for the D-Day landings.
The German High Command’s teleprinter messages, which were broken in part with the help of Colossus, the world’s first large-scale electronic digital computer, also provided the German plans for the Battle of Kursk, now seen as the turning point of the war.
“I can remember myself breaking messages about Kursk,” Roberts recalled. “We were able to warn the Russians that the attack was going to be launched and the fact that it was going to be a pincer movement. We had to wrap it all up and say it was from spies, that we had wonderful teams of spies, and other sources of information. We were able to warn them what army groups were going to be used, and most important, what tank units were going to be used.”
Provided with the information by the British, the Red Army was able to rebuff the German attack, before launching an all-out assault that destroyed the German forces aligned against them in what led to a Soviet advance that did not stop until it reached Berlin.
Raymond Clarke Roberts (always known as Jerry) was born in Wembley on November 18 1920. His father was a pharmacist, his mother the organist in the local chapel. He was educated at Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith, before studying German and French at University College, London.
His ambition was to join the Foreign Office, but his German professor, Leonard Willoughby, who had been a leading member of the Admiralty’s First World War code-breaking unit Room 40, put him forward for “work of a secret kind” which could not be discussed in advance.
Roberts found himself facing an enigmatic recruitment process at a War Office building just off Trafalgar Square during which he was asked by an anonymous major if he played chess. When he responded in the affirmative, the major asked if he could also “tackle crosswords”.
Another nod of the head was sufficient to see him sent to the codebreakers’ “War Station” at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where John Tiltman, the chief cryptographer, recruited him into his research section, warning him that “absolute silence must be preserved” about what happened there.
Queen Elizabeth II speaks with code breaker Captain Jerry Roberts during a visit to Bletchley Park in 2011
Roberts was initially put to work breaking the Double Playfair hand cipher used by German police troops operating on the Eastern Front. The deciphered messages revealed the early stages of what would become known as the Holocaust, with German generals seemingly vying with each other to tell Berlin about the tens of thousands of Jews their men were killing.
Churchill requested a special series of reports on the atrocities and, despite the danger that it might lead to improved German cipher security and hinder Bletchley’s successes, publicly denounced the killings as “a crime without a name”.
The team working on the police messages was headed by Ralph Tester; and in July 1942 Tester and his team were put to work on a new problem — the enciphered teleprinter messages being sent between Hitler and his generals. German teleprinter messages had first been intercepted in the second half of 1940, but little had been done with them until it became clear, in late 1941, that they were being used more frequently. The messages were enciphered with the Lorenz SZ40 system, which had two sets of five cipher wheels, making it even more complex than the most difficult of the Enigma ciphers, which had one set of four.
Tiltman looked at the early messages, trying to find a way into them, initially without success. In August 1941, however, a German operator sent the same message twice on the same settings, shortening some of the text in the second message to save time.
This allowed Tiltman a way in; and in an extraordinary piece of code breaking he worked out the texts of the messages, giving a stream of 4,000 plain text letters and their cipher equivalents which might help to reconstruct the operation of the Lorenz machine. For two months the research section tried without success to use Tiltman’s decrypt to break the enciphered teleprinter messages, which were code-named Fish by the codebreakers. Then, in October, it was given to the young chemistry graduate Bill Tutte.
Jerry Roberts in later life
“He used to sit staring into the middle distance, twirling a pencil about in his fingers,” Roberts recalled. “I used to wonder whether he was getting anything done. My goodness, he was.”
In a stroke of genius, Tutte managed to find a way in, allowing the research section to reconstruct the Lorenz machine. The combined efforts of Tiltman and Tutte were described in an internal GCHQ history as “one of the outstanding successes of the war”, not least because of the high standard of intelligence the Fish messages produced.
The teleprinter links ran between all the major German front line headquarters and Hitler’s command posts in Berlin or at the Wolf’s Lair, his forward command post for the Eastern Front at Rastenburg in East Prussia.
Tester and his team, including Roberts, by now commissioned into the Intelligence Corps, were put to work on breaking the Fish messages on a regular basis in July 1942. “The people the messages were going to and coming from would be given at the beginning of the message,” Roberts recalled. “So you would have General so-and-so sending to Army HQ in Berlin.”
The Testery, as it was known, began with Roberts and five others actually breaking the messages, but grew to be 118-strong, including among its numbers Peter Benenson, who later founded Amnesty International, and Roy Jenkins, who went on as a Labour politician to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and was subsequently Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Jerry Roberts receiving his MBE from the Queen in 2013
One of its early members was Max Newman, who had been Turing’s tutor at Cambridge. Newman realised that one part of the code-breaking process for the Fish ciphers could be done by the kind of machine Turing had described in their discussions.
That belief led to the creation, by the GPO telecommunications engineer Tommy Flowers, of Colossus, which greatly speeded up the breaking of the Fish ciphers ahead of the D-Day landings, when the codebreakers were able to read details of Hitler’s conversations with Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, the German commander in France.
“Some were signed by Hitler,” Roberts said. “I can remember myself deciphering at least one message − he called himself: ‘Adolf Hitler, Führer’. I suppose I should have been unhappy that I wasn’t fighting the true fight. But this never bothered me. One knew that this was immensely more important than any other single contribution that you could make as a soldier, or as an officer.”
After the war Roberts spent two years in Germany with the War Crimes Investigation Unit before being demobilised in 1947 and beginning a career in market research which would take him all over the world.
In 1970 he set up his own companies, working for a number of high-profile clients including British Gas, Reebok, DuPont, American Airlines, Chrysler and Holiday Inn. Roberts sold his companies in 1993 and retired. Two years later, he married Mei Li, an artist and book illustrator.
He spent his later years campaigning for greater recognition for Flowers and Tutte, which led to a BBC documentary on the latter’s work breaking the Fish ciphers, and for the preservation of Bletchley Park.
He was appointed MBE in the 2013 New Years Honours “for services to the work of Bletchley Park and to code breaking”.
He is survived by Mei and their daughter, and by a son and two daughters of two previous marriages.
Jerry Roberts, born November 18 1920, died March 25 2014
Robert Shore (Let’s hear it for the Midlands, G2, 27 March) is right. The Midlands are brilliant and blissful. Roy Fisher, one of the UK’s greatest living poets, and one of its most modest, once wrote “Birmingham’s what I think with”. Perhaps that should be added to the signposts of all roads leading to the West Midlands from north and south alike.
• Shame on Robert Shore from Mansfield for preferring the fictional character Mr Darcy to represent Midland aristocracy when Lord Byron from nearby Newstead Abbey would have been a far more interesting “Midland sex symbol”. No mention either for DH Lawrence who, like Byron, was a great poet and, moreover, a prolific author whose work was also turned into a Ken Russell masterpiece.
• There is an alternative to garden fences (There’s a great fence shortage? That’s awkward, G2, 26 March): natural hedging (but please, avoid leylandii). A well-maintained beech hedge will look good, diffuse rather than resist the gales, present an impenetrable barrier to next-door’s dog and, best of all, offer shelter for a wide variety of wildlife. Oh, and you can also eat the new, springtime green leaves.
• Reading of Veronese’s appearance before the Inquisition (which nobody ever expects) reminded me of the Monty Python sketch of Michelangelo explaining to the pope why he had included 28 apostles, three Christs and a kangaroo in his painting of the same scene (Review, 22 March). He, too, claimed artistic licence: “You don’t want an artist, mate, you want a bloody photographer.” It’s on YouTube – enjoy.
• Pentre Cythraul in Flintshire is the Devil’s Village (Letters, 27 March).
• Valhalla, Chaos and Useless Loop sound interesting, but there’s no place like No Place, County Durham.
Philip Pullman is right to use the word “barbaric” in commenting on Chris Grayling‘s ban on families and friends sending books to prisoners (Report, 25 March). Grayling’s title as “justice minister” is surely ironic. I am reminded how the apartheid “minister of justice” John Vorster (later South Africa’s prime minister) denied all reading matter to “90-days” detainees, except for the Bible. I was grateful when a friend tested the system by sending me a Bible with line drawings, including little route maps and with a foreword describing it as “a great travel book”. In my solitary cell in 1964, I knew she had specially chosen it for me. That mattered.
Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom contains a photograph captioned “The books I kept in my cell”. Political prisoners struggled for the right to books, supported by the indefatigable opposition MP Helen Suzman. Books connected them to “outside” – to the world of ideas, relationships and human emotions beyond the brutalising reality of prison. In the 1980s, the security police hated the concessions on books made by their superiors under pressure from the campaigning Detainee Parents’ Support Committee. Neil Aggett, the idealist doctor-cum-unpaid trade unionist who died in detention in Johannesburg in 1982, effectively ran a small lending library among detainees with books sent in by family and friends. The security police confiscated books as punishment.
Grayling’s notion of books as Brownie points for good behaviour is ludicrous. He should go down in history as the book snatcher, alongside his heroine the milk snatcher. The quality of decision-making in the country that gave me a home in exile in the late 1960s – and to which I hope I have contributed – is increasingly impoverished. It’s frightening.
• As Thomas Cromwell’s current reputation manager, I should gently caution Bernard Naylor (Letters, 26 March) that there are more precise sources of information than A Man for All Seasons. Thomas More was sent to the Tower in April 1534. His papers were taken away in June 1535, after he was discovered to be writing to his fellow prisoner Bishop Fisher. His books went too, and no doubt this move was designed to put psychological pressure on him; it may have been nasty but it wasn’t pointless. Thomas More was a great burner: of books, of writers, of readers. If we need a patron of free access to the written word, his name is not the name to invoke. Mr Grayling’s common sense should tell him to allow prisoners good access to books. He should need no instructions from history.
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
• I would very much like to thank Guardian readers for their overwhelming response to my son Jake (Letters, 21 January), asking people to send cards, letters of support and books. Having recently been released from jail (I was a prisoner of conscience) in the Republic of Ireland, I was shocked to read that the UK minister for justice is banning friends and families from bringing books into jail. So now not only are they locking up the body, they are locking up the mind also. Is this a new form of torture?
• We are crime writers. At the end of our novels the prison door closes on the perpetrator of the crime. But it is only in fiction that this is a satisfactory ending. Which is why we are writing to the lord chancellor and the secretary of state for justice to voice our deep concern at the exclusion of books from prison parcels. The spartan regime in prisons that Chris Grayling claims the public wants should, surely, allow for rehabilitation too, and books are essential in that process. In the face of a declining library service and ill-stocked prison shops, parcels from relatives are often the only way that prisoners can have access to reading and study materials. The figures on reoffending, and on substance abuse in prisons, speak volumes about the importance for prisoners of being able to imagine a life beyond crime. We call on Mr Grayling to address the reality of prison life rather than a fictional version.
Chair, Crime Writers’ Association
• Not long after the Good Friday agreement, I was visiting a barracks near Armagh at a friend’s invitation. Among other guests was a member of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland. He told me he’d transferred from the prison service, having served at, among other prisons, Long Kesh. I asked what he’d experienced there and he said that the main difference he noticed was that, while the majority of loyalist inmates spent their time in the gym, the nationalists were in the library, “educating themselves and getting degrees”. He predicted that this difference would probably come to the fore in future. Chris Grayling, please note.
Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire
• Great to see the literati wading in to highlight yet another faux pas from Chris Grayling. But where were they when Grayling was seeking to dismantle the probation service – a somewhat more significant factor in the rehabilitation of offenders? Napo – the probation officers’ trade union is still at the forefront of the campaign to save probation. On 1 April, from 7.30am there will be pickets outside each probation office as Napo is on strike as part of that campaign. Perhaps authors, wordsmiths, poets, lyricists and readers would like to attend their local Napo picket line to show support. Losing the probation service and access to books. Whatever next? Custody in the community!
Retired senior probation officer, Stoke on Trent
Paul Brown is correct when he writes that “This should be a bumper year for the common frog” (Specieswatch, Common frog, 24 March) because of the mild wet winter.
Unfortunately, however, in some areas the longlasting and freezing conditions of the previous winter had a disastrous effect on frog numbers. Our four garden ponds were frozen until the end of March 2013, and in April a maximum of 20 frogs gathered, with little spawn laid. In previous years, I had got used to peak numbers exceeding 100. This year, the maximum has again been a meagre 20 frogs, although with a lot of spawn, giving hope for long-term recovery.
It should be noted that neither of the last two winters has been typical. Amphibian populations in many parts of the world are in crisis, with rapid climate change thought to be a significant factor. One more extremely hard winter could certainly wipe out my garden frog population.
Otley, West Yorkshire
We, as leaders of eight major northern cities that are crucial to the economic prosperity of the north, call on the leaders of the main political parties to commit to support the high-speed rail link through to completion (Fast-track plan for HS2 wins George Osborne’s support, 18 March). HS2 is a once-in-a-century chance for our cities to realise their enormous potential and to make an ever greater contribution to the wider prosperity of the UK. As such, we ask the main party leaders to show their commitment to high-speed rail by ensuring the parliamentary process for HS2 is expedited.
Within our own cities we have already started to detail how we will use HS2 to drive growth, create jobs, generate prosperity and deliver a step change in productivity for the UK economy. We must reap these benefits at the earliest opportunity if our country is to remain a global leader.
We now seek a strong and active partnership across all the political parties and between national and local government in order to focus on the delivery of HS2. Working together we can secure a thriving north and Midlands as a strong contributor to a fully diverse and resilient national economy.
We therefore urge all party leaders to not only back, but vocally champion HS2 so that this essential scheme is delivered at the earliest opportunity for the benefit of our great cities and our country as a whole.
Cllr James Alexander Leader, York city council, Joe Anderson Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Paul Bayliss Leader, Derby, Cllr Jon Collins Leader, Nottingham, Cllr Julie Dore Leader, Sheffield, Cllr Nick Forbes Leader, Newcastle, Richard Leese Leader, Manchester, Cllr Keith Wakefield Leader, Leeds
• I trust that failure to buy a railway ticket will also cease to be a criminal offence and that private railway companies will be placed in the same position as the BBC over the licence fee.
South Warnborough, Hampshire
We are all consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists who look after, or have looked after, women who have suffered female genital mutilation. We wish to express our serious anxiety about the decision to prosecute a doctor for alleged mutilation after a delivery (Medical experts criticise prosecutions over FGM, 26 March). In this case, it is clear that the woman had undergone the practice before her pregnancy.
Female genital mutilation is a horrendous practice; the most severe form involves cutting off a girl’s clitoris and labia and suturing the remaining tissue together, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. The practice is carried out in many countries, and probably affects more than a 100 million women.
When women who have suffered FGM are pregnant, they may need to have the vaginal opening widened to allow the baby out. If this is not done before labour, it will need to be done at the time of delivery. This may leave a bleeding area that needs to be repaired.
There is the world of difference between FGM and repairing cuts that are necessary to allow a baby’s delivery. Prosecuting professionals for so-called FGM under these circumstances distracts us from the real issues – namely, ensuring that girls are not sent abroad for FGM, that such operations are not performed in the UK, and that we help people in countries where this is endemic to change cultural attitudes.
Naaila Aslam, Chris Barnick, Mark Broadbent, Melanie Davies, Edgar Dorman, James Drife, Katrina Erskine, Abha Govind, Matt Hogg, Penelope Law, Nick Nicholas, Louise Page, Maryam Parisaei, Avanti Patel, Catharine Roberts, Audrey Ryan, Ali Sajjad, Robert Sawdy, Amit Shah, Anthony Silverstone, Geeta Suri
Consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists, London and Leeds
We are writers from around the world who love, live and breathe words. We are united in our belief that freedom of expression is a universal and fundamental human right. We are gravely concerned about “the freedom of words” in Turkey. We connect both within and across borders through words, written and spoken. A free exchange of ideas is essential for democracy, as well as for creativity, empathy and tolerance. As revealed in a Pen report on last year’s protests,Turkey has many freedom of expression issues, from criminal defamation to self-censorship within the mainstream media, to police violence against journalists and a narrowing of freedom of expression on the internet.
Turkey ranks 154th among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. Translators, editors, publishers, poets and writers face criminal proceedings and even imprisonment for legitimate expression, under a variety of legal fetters, including the country’s draconian anti-terror law, the law on meetings and demonstrations and the Turkish penal code’s articles on defamation (article 125), religious defamation (article 216), obscenity (article 226), insulting the Turkish people, state or its organs, and promoting conscientious objection to military service (article 318).
The blanket ban on Twitter and YouTube (Report, 27 March) comes in the aftermath of a regressive new internet law and is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of speech. With over 36 million internet users, Turkey should be proud to be home to Europe’s youngest internet audience, placing it among the most globally connected countries in the Muslim world. By connecting people from a range of backgrounds and making it possible for them to express their thoughts, the internet is a valuable network that supports and strengthens democracy. Twitter and YouTube are vehicles of expression that give a voice to each and every user, regardless of class, religion, ethnicity or political stature. There are more than 12 million Twitter users in Turkey, which shows the vibrancy of civil society. Turkey is a state party to the European convention on human rights and the international covenant on civil and political rights, both of which protect the right to legitimate freedom of expression.
We welcome the administrative court in Ankara’s decision to suspend the ban ahead of a full judgment and urge the telecommunications authority to restore access to Twitter immediately.
We are writers from Turkey and across the world. We care about one another’s problems and we know that we are all interconnected. Turkey is a country where western democratic values, secularism and Islamic culture come together. It is not surrounded by enemies. It is not an isolated or inward-looking country. It is part of an international community. Our plea to Turkey’s leaders is not to retreat from democracy and its keystone, freedom of speech; but rather to recognise their obligations under international treaties and to lift the block on Twitter and YouTube with immediate effect. We urge them to remember that this beautiful country will be stronger and happier when, and if, it appreciates pluralism, diversity and the freedom of words.
Héctor Abad Faciolince
Marian Botsford Fraser Pen International’s writers in prison committee
Peter Englund Permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy
Maureen Freely President of English Pen
Günter Grass Nobel laureate
Tarık Günersel President of Turkish Pen
Josef Haslinger President of German Pen
Elfriede Jelinek Nobel laureate
Karl Ove Knausgård
Orhan Pamuk Nobel laureate
John Ralston Saul President of Pen International
Sjón President, Icelandic Pen
Hori Takeaki International secretary, Pen International
Jarkko Tontti International treasurer, Pen International
Per Wästberg President of the Nobel committee for literature
Hyam Yared President of Pen Lebanon
There is considerable frustration within the police service regarding the inspectorate report on the police handling of domestic abuse (27 March). The College of Policing, which represents all professionals in policing, asked for this to be a multi-agency inspection with a far wider remit, but this was ignored.
Our experience is that cases of domestic abuse invariably include a far wider range of social issues, shown by the fact that only about 30% of cases result in a recorded crime. It is understandable that many victims refuse to make a complaint against their abuser, or later withdraw the allegation, because they don’t see that the criminal justice system can actually make their lives better.
There is a significant overlap between domestic abuse and complex dependency issues, and with those involved in gangs and organised crime. Even if police can remove an abuser from a victim’s life, victims may well live in a community where they will face pressure from their families or criminal networks.
We can only truly serve the needs of victims by approaching this in an integrated, multi-agency way, which links up all the issues of complex dependency, as we are doing in Greater Manchester. We cannot have a system that relies so much on the victim in an abusive relationship having the courage to go to court when it is in the very nature of an abusive relationship that their self-confidence is destroyed. My officers deal with an average 170 domestic abuse incidents every day and become weary that the wider system is not dealing with the underlying issues or that society is not taking this more seriously.
To that end, I would like to see the creation of full-item specialist magistrates able to impose a range of conditions for the protection of victims and the control of offenders, where the police could take all high-risk cases within 24 hours, whether or not the victim wishes to make a complaint. This would create the space for the full range of agencies to put in a comprehensive solution.
The police can always do better and comply more closely with the processes, but it has to be acknowledged that there are fundamental flaws in the way the wider system safeguards very vulnerable victims, which is why so many are reluctant to come forward.
Sir Peter Fahy
Chief constable, Greater Manchester police
The Government has announced an investigation into the energy supply industry, with the promise of increasing competitiveness to drive down prices. Is this a real fix for the energy industry or just a big election fix?
It sounds wonderful to have lower prices, until you look at the real business economics in such a move.
If you forcibly drive down prices by diktat, will energy companies really cut their profits or will they cut their costs? As Britain suffers a lack of new power-generating capacity, will this increase in competitiveness cause more or less investment in new capacity?
When you cut prices, you reduce income. That usually means a big business will slash its long-term investment first, not the short-term profits to shareholders. It also means a large company is far more tempted to engage in vicious, competitive sales practices verging on the criminal.
Deception and mis-selling can be expected as sales forces are driven to increase the number of customers, while the suppliers’ customer service and maintenance departments are slashed due to falling income. This is made worse if that sales force is on aggressive commission schemes, taking more money from the limited income.
Neither a competition inquiry nor the diktats to be expected from the Government to reshape the market for ideological purposes will solve the quality of service. Nor will they solve the quality and quantity of investment. But this inquiry is perfectly timed for local elections in a few weeks and the general election next year.
We need real power for the people, not another round of competitiveness ruining the economy, people’s lives and our environment. We need investment in new, efficient power generation that is owned locally, not by greedy remote overseas corporations. Breaking up the existing suppliers, as suggested, will not create new innovative businesses; they will be smaller, weaker, under constant demand to reduce prices – thus income, thus costs and services to the customer.
Michael Bond, Stockport, Cheshire
The announcement by Siemens that 1,000 wind farm production jobs are to be created in the North of England (“Wind of change”, 26 March) shows businesses are leading the charge to develop the green jobs of the future.
The number of green jobs is predicted to increase from 1m today to 1.4m by 2020. Leading businesses argue that these jobs will not be confined to the green-energy sector, and many roles, even in service industries, will feature a green component.
However, a greater understanding of the skills needed for these jobs is urgently needed, with clear direction and guidance to teachers. Recent YouGov polling of teachers, commissioned by Global Action Plan, shows that 63 per cent think their school is not doing anything to develop green skills.
The Government needs to improve this situation by helping to improve careers advice to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the future.
Trewin Restorick, Senior Partner, Global Action Plan, London WC2
I congratulate fellow Nuclear Free Local Authorities member Hull City Council and Siemens for deciding to develop a major green energy hub in the city. My own city of Manchester has strong connections with Siemens and I am sure this will be a fantastic economic, sustainable and energy-rich part of the solution to the UK’s future energy needs.
However, SSE has decided to ditch several offshore wind projects, our Prime Minister advocates a shale gas revolution and a new nuclear revolution, and the Met Office tells us that cold, wet winters and blisteringly hot summers could be the norm in 20 years’ time.
I urge the Government to stop messing about with shale and new nuclear and embrace a renewable local energy revolution that councils across the UK and Ireland are keen to play a full part in.
Councillor Mark Hackett, Chair of UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Manchester
The curse of Kardashian
Is Grace Dent the Julie Burchill de nos jours? Her veneration of Kim Kardashian (25 March) misses an important point about the danger of this type of celebrity culture.
Her “footballer’s girlfriend” comment disregards the worrying trend in manufactured super-ordinariness that is so prevalent in much media-constructed celebrity. Kim Kardashian is no rags-to-riches heroine, and I suspect that even her sex tape was a sophisticated marketing tool.
I know that it must be hard for clever readers of The Independent to understand this, but the young, ethnically diverse, mainly working-class girls, whom I used to teach in an East London further education college, really believe that they can become Kim or Katie Price or any other of these women who appear to have little actual skill yet are able to attain wealth and popularity.
So they underachieve chronically in their studies because – in their minds – the dream will come true. It does not. Role models such as Kim Kardashian are responsible for more female teenagers’ lack of aspiration than all the supposedly poor teachers in our schools and colleges put together. These kids then have to live the rest of their lives with disappointment and poor prospects of gainful employment.
Teachers should revolt – not strike
From my own assorted work experiences, I found that, compared with other professions, teaching in state schools was comparatively easy to move into at any age.
But it entailed putting up with far more day-to-day hassle than I was used to, a great deal of which was the direct result of endless streams of daft organisational and curriculum ideas emanating from distant academics and politicians who couldn’t organise the proverbial activity in a brewery – and who generally approved of our Great British educational apartheid and made quite sure that their own offspring went to a nice private school.
But what really finished me off was the docile acceptance of all this rubbish by the classroom teachers. And that still seems to be the case (forget about all those in the myriad peculiar promoted posts who would sell their grannies for yet another move further way from the dangerously demanding electronic chalkface).
A meek little strike without upsetting the parents is no good at all. What should have been done years ago, and cries out to be done now, is point-blank refusal by the front-line troops to have anything at all to do with any more new organisational or curricular wheezes.
Alison Sutherland, Kirkwall, Orkney
As a teacher, I feel supported by colleagues in my secondary school. However, I went on strike in protest at the unsustainable average working week of 55 hours for secondary teachers and 60 for primary. The amount of bureaucracy required by Government and Ofsted not only reduces time to design challenging activities, but leaves us physically shattered and unable to give the energy required to facilitate the best educational experience for students.
Teachers went on strike to work to create a better learning environment, and not over petty details, as the Government and some media seem to make out.
Dr Isabelle Humphries, Cambridge
My schoolteacher wife supported the national NUT strike. This allowed her to spend the day on lesson preparation and pupil attainment records – roughly doubling her weekly quota of unpaid work.
David Mitchell, Cromford, Derbyshire
Coupling and uncoupling
In The Dream of Gerontius, where the death of Gerontius and the soul’s ascent to heaven is related, Edward Elgar sets the words of Cardinal Newman. When Gerontius meets the Angel who has accompanied him thither, he addresses her: “I wish to hold with thee conscious communion.” So “conscious uncoupling” seems an appropriate way to part from an angel.
Anthony Bramley-Harker, Watford
Ian Turnbull (letter, 26 March) informs us that “homage” has Latin origins and doesn’t rhyme with French cheese. Perhaps he could enlighten us on the origin of Farage – French or Latin?
Dave Keeley, Hornchurch
Just one wrong word
According to your report (“Revealed: secret second police corruption probe”, 27 March), information on police corruption was “inexplicably shredded”. The only thing wrong with that phrase is the word “inexplicably”.
Pete Barrett, Colchester
Sir, You suggest (leader, Mar 24) that a core purpose of the green belt — to restrict urban sprawl — is no longer a priority given the great need for new housing. There is no doubt we need to build many more homes than have been built in recent years — and there will be appropriate locations in the countryside to do so — but the maintenance of strict green belt controls is essential.
Strong, long-term boundaries are essential to enable a focus on reusing suitable previously developed land and buildings — which could accommodate more than 1.5m new homes — so that we can improve the quality of life of urban communities and provide decent housing where people want to live and work.
Green belts have an important role to play to help use land wisely, including for food production and flood management. Just because the policy is more than 60 years old doesn’t mean it is no longer relevant.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Sir, In a world of increasing food insecurity it is important to retain as much agricultural land as possible.
The UK’s population is projected to rise by almost 10 million over the next 25 years. At present the UK can only feed around 60 per cent of its present population, let alone another 10 million. Yet in your discussion of the loss of green belt land to housing you did not ask whether in future our country will be able to afford or even gain access to the imported food it is so dependent on.
Pressures on the UK’s food security are here to stay. Increasing global population and changing consumption patterns are increasing demand for foodstuffs and contributing to rising prices.
However, the threat to UK food security could be more serious if increased global demand were to be combined with other potential problems such as climate change. The government’s official climate change advisers recently warned that droughts could devastate food production in the England by the 2020s.
East Twickenham, Middx
Sir, At least 48,000 hectares of brownfield England is derelict, vacant or in use but with potential for redevelopment. I propose that we create a national database of potential brownfield housing sites. The database would allow councils, housing associations, developers, agents, architects, consultants and builders to identify opportunities to unlock the potential of these sites. Where this differs from other databases is that it is based on landowner participation and their early engagement is crucial to putting spades in the ground.
Whether or not sites are suitable for housing would still be determined by the planning system, the aim of the database would be to stimulate discussion and act as a catalyst for housing delivery.
There is no doubt we need to build more new homes, but we need to be sure they are in the right place. This database, for the first time, will help to identify more brownfield sites in private ownership across the country and encourage parties in the development process to bring them forward for housing delivery. Only once this brownfield supply has been exhausted should we focus on garden cities.
Dylan Thomas came to regret that his parents had not passed on to him their own first language, Welsh
Sir, The view of the Welsh language expressed by Roger Lewis (letter, Mar 27) may be a reflection of his own opinion but is far from the truth as far as Dylan Thomas is concerned.
Along with so many others of his generation Dylan came to regret his parents’ decision not to pass on their own first language to their son — which, to borrow a phrase, could be described as a “conscious uncoupling” from his own heritage. He was prone to change his opinion on any subject in line with his audience, but his poems, prose works and letters reveal a man who was inspired by the Welsh language, not scornful towards it.
Sir, National planning guidance policy is not influenced by particular cases of local planners weighing up the demands of communities with a need to protect biodiversity as set out within their adopted plan (Simon Barnes, Wild Notebook, Mar 22)
The urge to continue building on Olympic successes may not be directly felt here in South Wales but a large swathe of moorland, adjacent to the Brecon Beacons National Park, has been earmarked for a motor racetrack as part of the economic regeneration of nearby severely deprived Merthyr Tydfil (News, Mar 22).
The area has plenty of skylarks singing on it and perhaps now is the time to be braver in exploring how biodiversity offsetting might enable progress of much needed development without trashing
Sir, I contradict the claim that it is generally accepted that a large majority of the population want a change in the law with regard to assisted dying (Sir Gordon Downey, letter, Mar 26).
In my 38 years as an MP the number who have written in that cause is below 38. Fewer than ten have raised it in conversation.
In my public and private life more often than most I meet people with bad conditions, people who are dying slowly and I listen to their carers. If many wanted a change in the law they would have told me.
Additionally, I have known people who assured me in advance that they would in certain circumstances deliberately bring their life to its conclusion. Up to now not one has.
Turn to what I describe as death on request. Rare cases only? See the figures in the Netherlands and compare them with the totals for suicides. Consider also the move to death decisions taken for those judged not mentally competent.
There is little reason to be frightened of our deaths or to be put off discussing them. There is every reason to reject sloppy argument and unjustified assertions. Let us limit the law to its present state which to me and to an unknown proportion of the population seems to cover most situations.
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP
House of Commons
Sir, A recent ComRes opinion survey helped to undermine the myth that people with disabilities are eager for premature death (letters, Mar 24). In Britain they are more likely than the general public to support a change in the law to prevent doctors from allowing patients to die through dehydration, if they had asked in advance to be kept alive (61 per cent).
At present, people may only refuse sustenance by an advance directive. This may explain why the Liverpool Care Pathway lasted so long.
Sir, Contrary to your leading article “Clegg v Farage” (Mar 26), it would be a mistake to repeat televised leaders’ debates in 2015.
They convey the impression that a general election is about electing a single person not a party to form a government, and that performing well in such a debate is a good indicator of the qualities needed by a prime minister. They distort campaigning, as the media focus on the debates, and diminish attention to the team likely to compose the next Cabinet.
Conservative and Labour leaders should not be bullied by the media into agreeing to participate but should be thinking of how to present to the electorate their parties’ programmes and their leading colleagues, and not just themselves.
(Emeritus Professor of Government, LSE), London N19
Churches must be welcoming if their communities are to grow
6:58AM GMT 27 Mar 2014
SIR – Over the past decade, funding by the National Churches Trust, an independent charity that receives no financial support from the Government, has enabled more than 2,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses to repair roofs and stonework and to install modern facilities, such as cafes, lavatories and heating.
Making churches attractive and welcoming enables them to attract new visitors, some of whom may go on to become part of the church community.
The National Churches Trust welcomes the announcement of £20 million in funding for cathedrals in the Budget. However, many of Britain’s 47,000 Christian places of worship are also in need of significant support to pay for repairs and modernisation.
Chief Executive, National Churches Trust
SIR – Sadikur Rahman expresses concern at the Law Society’s choice to issue a practice note to solicitors for drawing up “sharia-compliant” wills that conform to Islamic law. If we are serious about having the same law for all, then parallel legal systems must be prohibited, including all religious courts and tribunals.
Sharia laws are inherently discriminatory. This was recognised by Britain’s highest court in 2008, when the government attempted to remove a woman and child to Lebanon. In a 5—0 ruling, the Law Lords argued that there was no place in sharia for the equal treatment of the sexes and it would be a “flagrant breach” of the European Convention on Human Rights for the government to remove a woman to Lebanon, where she would lose custody of her son because of sharia-inspired family law.
Unfortunately, in the same year, Lord Chief Justice Phillips, who later became President of the British Supreme Court, mistakenly argued the opposite during a speech, “Equality before the law”, at the East London Muslim Centre: “There is no reason why principles of sharia law, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.” This doubtless encouraged advocates of sharia-compliant laws and the Law Society.
The Law Society must withdraw its discriminatory and divisive guidance.
Dr Rumy Hasan
Senior lecturer, University of Sussex
SIR – The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the NHS campaign Medicine Waste urged GPs to minimise over-prescribing to reduce an estimated £300 million wastage. With inflation and ever-expanding Nice-approved pharmaceuticals, that must be an underestimate. Many prescriptions are for chronic conditions. Recovery, remission, or death invariably render quantities of costly medicines or other items still intact, unopened and uncontaminated, but they are none the less destroyed.
In the interests of financial sustainability, might it not be prudent to update the research into this hidden cost and consider a risk assessment of less wasteful disposal, including perhaps some means of recycling, rather than destruction?
I was dismayed to discover that NHS trusts decline to take back walking aids, including crutches, on the grounds of hygiene. My Freedom of Information request to the Department of Health for an estimated annual cost of such items yielded no data, and a reply that policy is determined by local trusts. Surely such items are easily sterilised?
Paul A Newman
SIR – A 90-year-old priest? Next month the owners of the Red Lion, in Wendover, will throw a 100th birthday party for a loyal member of staff. She still does three shifts a week.
Language of love lost
SIR – In this era of jargon, I was not terribly surprised to hear that the unfortunate act of separation may now be referred to as “conscious uncoupling”.
We can only hope that this phrase doesn’t catch on, going forward.
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – In the effort to reduce teenage pregnancy, it is madness to encourage teenage sexual intercourse by providing such easy access to all methods of contraception, including the morning-after pill.
Were the directors of Nice never teenagers themselves, and subject to peer pressure to appear “cool”? Of course young girls and boys are going to experiment if contraception is so readily available. Their future happiness in satisfied sexual relations will be damaged by this attitude that everything is fine as long as you use contraception.
Anne F Bloor
Burton Overy, Leicestershire
SIR – Regarding the lady who was apparently multi-tasking, texting was the only task needing any application; jogging, having a dog on a lead and listening to music do not.
When I was learning to fly an aircraft, the instructor would pull the throttle back and announce “Engine failure!” I had to run checks, see if it would be possible to restart the engine, look for a suitable field to land in and then begin a landing pattern, all the while calling mayday and explaining what was happening and where I was likely to land. Now that was multi-tasking.
SIR – For more than 50 years I have worn my watch with the face on the inside of my wrist. This was based upon the advice of my grandfather, who said that if I had a cup in my hand and somebody asked the time, I would spill it over them, and not myself. I remain dry to this day.
Get your priorities right
SIR – Andy Smith notes that the Prime Minister has repeatedly asserted that the Government’s “first duty” is national security. But Mr Cameron recently said that the economy was his top priority. I have little doubt that on other occasions he has variously stated health, education, welfare, Europe and immigration to be his main concern. Does he have a problem with priorities?
R P Gullett
Bledlow Ridge, Buckinghamshire
The monarch should play a role in law-making
SIR – The monarch should not be removed from the law-making procedure. The monarchy, together with the military and judiciary, is the only protection society has from a renegade parliament.
SIR – The Commons’ political and reform committee tell us that Royal Consent is arcane and complex. Although Royal Consent does exist, it applies only to Bills affecting the monarch directly. What the committee has to say on the matter suggests that it is talking about Royal Assent, which is arcane only if the legal foundation of the government of the country in 1689 can be called arcane.
Royal Assent says that the monarch shall agree to a Bill becoming law only if it is just, merciful and constitutional. It is part of a necessarily complex system to prevent Parliament making law for its own benefit.
In 1911, Herbert Asquith persuaded the king that Royal Assent no longer need be anything other than an automatic agreement. The fact that it had not been denied since the reign of Queen Anne did not indicate that it was of no use, but that Parliament had been careful to create only Bills that would pass the monarch’s veto.
Since 1911 we have had unconstitutional legislation passed, which the proper use of Royal Assent would have blocked.
SIR – Is our “speculation fuelled” by the suggestion that “the monarchy has an undue influence in law-making”? No. Our speculation is fuelled by the agenda to dismantle our constitution and Church, manipulate our culture, compromise the Fourth Estate and bring on the federalisation of Europe.
David J Addington
SIR – The NHS should be extremely grateful to the large number of women who work as GPs. However, many women doctors – with good reason – work part-time. As the number of women GPs increases, so, too, does the risk of the end of the traditional family doctor – a familiar and trusted face.
East Preston, West Sussex
SIR – There is a danger among my colleagues that, if propaganda is repeated often enough, it is believed. I have the greatest respect for Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners. But before we leap to conclusions about the workload of GPs, we need to look at hidden problems that have led to this feeling of being under siege.
I have just retired as a GP appraiser. My conversations with GPs have revealed how many of the aspects of the 2003 GP contract have put pressure on the system.
27 Mar 2014
27 Mar 2014
First, there has been a significant change in what is now deemed to be a “full-time” GP. Peruse the advertisements in the British Medical Journal and you will find that nearly all practice vacancies define a full-time commitment as eight sessions (four-hour time blocks) a week.
Secondly, many GPs spend at least one of these sessions glued to a computer screen. GPs are also being increasingly sucked into managing the NHS, commissioning group meetings, referral reviews and prescribing meetings.
Thirdly, this generation of GPs-in-training is increasingly looking for “portfolio careers”, and intends to spend only part of its time in practice. A recent report from Health Care Information Systems confirms an increasing part-time work force.
As well as removing the obligation to provide out-of-hours cover, the 2003 contract also removed a requirement for GPs to provide a minimum number of hours a week in face-to-face contact with patients. Before we rush to clamour for more money, there needs to be a radical review of the whole organisation and management of general practice.
Perhaps the model of the independent contractor is now not fit for purpose.
Dr Robert Walker
Great Clifton, Cumberland
SIR – Prof Clare Gerada, former chairman of the Royal College of GPs, neglects to point out that part-time doctors are more expensive to train. Part-time work may be the prerogative of all people but, at the moment, patients cannot access their surgery easily and, in many cases, have to wait days for an appointment.
In the “good old days”, same-day appointments were possible even when GPs were working alone. I realise that times have changed and that medicine is now more technical, but it is a shame to move away from that ideal.
Sherborne St John, Hampshire
Sir, – Brendan Cafferty (Letters, March 27th) purports to speak with authority in relation to the current situation regarding Garda resources and personnel numbers. He argues that in his day (the 1970s, it seems) there was only one car per district, similar numbers of serving members, and fewer women who could take maternity leave. Is this for real? He only stopped short of saying he had to walk around in his bare feet and carry a lump of coal for the station fire.
A look at population statistics would have shown him that there are well over a million more people in the county than there were in 1979, requiring a proportionate increase in garda numbers. Cars are vastly more prevalent, requiring more Garda cars to respond to the very mobile modern criminal. This is also part of the reason for specialist units. Gone are the days when drugs were to be found only in Dublin, there were only a handful of largely domestic murders per year to investigate and computer crime etc wasn’t even a consideration.
With regard to his attitude to female gardaí and career breaks it is clear that he sees both as an unnecessary luxury, which is baffling in a time of supposed understanding of family and personal needs. He also suggests that it’s a problem that gardaí don’t live in their areas of work anymore. Did he consider that the reason for this might be because most could not afford to buy in these areas? They didn’t buy houses miles from their workplace because they enjoy driving huge distances daily to work.
The gardaí of the 1970s did great service fighting threats to the State, but I think nostalgia may have clouded Mr Cafferty’s capacity for rational thought. The modern garda has just as much reason – and more – to be fearful when he goes to work given the proliferation of drug-related gun crime and violence. Perhaps Mr Cafferty should spend less time dancing at the crossroads and more time reading crime and demographic statistics. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am very much amused by the many people who deny knowledge of phone tapping in Garda stations. If you consider the practicalities of the initiative, someone had to assess the various bugging products available, choose one, buy it, install it, run it and then change the tapes almost daily back in the 1980s when cassette tapes were used. As technology changed, newer equipment had to be bought, invoices approved, rubber-stamped by officials and paid out. Over the decades there must have been hundreds of gardaí involved all around the country running the system. It is not remotely conceivable that at least some gardaí at every rank in every station did not know exactly what was happening. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Given that the taping of Garda phones started in Border-area stations in the 1980s in order to combat IRA threats (Arthur Beesley, March 27th), could these tapes be examined for Dundalk station for the days around the murder of the two RUC officers to check for Garda informants’ calls? Some good could possibly result from this sorry situation. Yours, etc,
Sir, – One of the assumptions surrounding the penalty points controversy seems to be that gardaí can lawfully exercise discretion to cancel penalty points at different levels of the force. But a review of case law and the Constitution suggests this could be queried. In the case of the issuance of gun licences the courts held that a higher-ranked garda could not interfere (by imposing an additional condition) in the statutorily appointed garda’s exercise of discretion. This suggests that only the original issuing garda (in the case of a fixed penalty notice) possesses discretion, after which only the courts should set aside notices. The “courts only” system seems to work in Britain without any of the purported problems that some claim are inevitable. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The current Dáil inter-party bluster and fury on matters relating to Garda whistleblower/penalty point issues is about as relevant to the general public as a dispute in a local golf club. Its very irrelevance, however, makes it an ideal subject for debate in the Seanad. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Minister Brendan Howlin’s statement to the effect that “Alan Shatter has the full confidence of every member of the Government” is very worrying indeed. Only a matter of a few days ago how many members of that same Government, including the Taoiseach. were expressing their confidence in the Garda commissioner?
Enough said. Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park South,
Sir, – Question: When is an apology not an apology? Answer: “I believe it is appropriate that I apologise to both (the House and the whistleblowers).” Question: When is an apology an apology? Answer: I apologise to Sgt Maurice McCabe and former garda Wilson. I apologise to members of this House. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The recent debacle concerning the Garda and Minister Alan Shatter could well be summed by quoting Samuel Johnson, who observed that “the Irish are a very fair-minded people; they never speak well of one another.” Yours, etc,
DEREK HENRY CARR,
Sir, – “He’s never been afraid to deal with what’s been lying under a lot of carpets for many years” (the Taoiseach to Deputy Donnelly). Has Bertie been coaching Enda? Yours, etc,
Sir, – Reports of a possible name change at Trinity College Dublin are alarming, and reminiscent of the absurd and half-baked recent attempts at similar rebranding at University College Dublin. Rebranding shouldn’t add to the list of confusing Irish university names (University College Dublin, Dublin anyone?), but should simplify them.
While the UCD moniker is forever destined for confusion internationally, and should long since have become a unique and simple “Joyce University”, the powers that be at TCD can surely figure out a way to distill the name to a simple “Trinity”. And if such purity cannot be achieved, a plain old “Hamilton” would do. Yours, etc,
Center for Neural Science,
New York University,
A Chara, — Why should Ireland have “much to fear” (Editorial, March 26th) from the OECD’s laudable proposals to introduce more equitable corporate taxation on a global scale?
Given that the organisation’s aim is to thwart the spurious (that is, borderline-legal) tax avoidance tactics of multinational companies, how can any country fear the call for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, which in any case serve to secure the conditions of the possibility of engaging in economic action in the first place?
The worldwide sovereign debt crisis had many and varied roots, but not the least was the fact that corporations’ contributions to tax revenue have fallen dramatically in absolute and relative terms over the last three decades.
Ireland’s ranking as the second-highest exporter of information and communications technology is an unashamed deception, perpetrated by its corporate tax legislation. The Government is evidently living a lie in the hope of winning the favour of tax-dodging multinationals through its parasitic trickery, doing so at the expense of the public coffers of fellow EU member-states as well as of US, Australian, and other market economies. Ireland, that is, is effectively hindering jurisdictions across the world from earning tax revenue, revenue which is absolutely essential to them if they wish to operate as stable democratic nation-states and efficient open market economies.
Thanks to the sly trick of tax-dumping, Ireland is cooking the books; but it is not pulling the wool over its citizens’ eyes, those who are bearing the burden of dysfunctional tax structures and misguided austerity policies.
Earning a pittance (with dubious job creation benefits) at the expense of the world’s economies and remaining nonetheless in a condition of economic subservience and thus underdevelopment will not secure sustainable growth.
Sir, – I am writing in response to the article by Frank McDonald (March 24th) concerning the proposed Central Access Scheme for Kilkenny City. At a time when virtually every city in Europe is devising schemes to remove traffic from city centres through enhanced public transport, Kilkenny is proposing to bring more traffic through its medieval centre. Cities in France and Germany have implemented imaginative, sustainable city centre road schemes which satisfied pedestrians, motorists and traders in an environmentally friendly way. In contrast Kilkenny is proposing to follow the destructive approach of the Celtic Tiger era when development proceeded without consideration for people or the environment.
The construction of a grotesquely ugly bridge to facilitate the Central Access Scheme will create an appalling vista which will alter the essential character of Kilkenny forever and split its medieval core in two. The additional traffic flow will make the city unattractive for living or leisure.
The protest in the city last Saturday demonstrated the high level of opposition to the scheme and how out of touch the local councillors are with the people they claim to represent.
Sir, – Paul Kelly (March 27th) wonders whether women’s political interests differ from those of men. The world of paid employment has been designed by men for men. It is based on the assumption that someone else will take on the role of unpaid carer for paid workers, children and the infirm. Indeed, the entire economic model of this country is built on this same assumption.
In the main, women are prevented from playing a full part in this world of paid employment because of their care duties. So, yes, women in general have a different set of interests from men. Further, in countries where women have a real ability to influence the legislative process it is clear that legislative priorities have changed to reflect their concerns. This has only happened when a critical mass of women public representatives has been achieved through the use of gender quotas. Yours, etc,
St Aidan’s Drive,
Sir, – David Beatty (Letters, March 26th) mentions “oppressive gender roles” as one reason why women seem to avoid politics. Frankly this is a cliche. One reason many people, men as well as women, avoid politics is because of the unsocial hours and weekend working that it entails and the apparent lack of a private life. Parliaments everywhere sit into the night when legislation is being debated or when urgent issues require debate. Quotas alone are not likely to ensure that otherwise suitable persons, unhappy with these demands, may be induced to stand. One problem with quotas indeed is that they tend to generate demands for more. A good example of this was the call made a few weeks ago by the National Women’s Council for a 40 per cent representation for women at Cabinet. No mention of merit or experience. This arrogant demand apparently went unremarked by journalists. Yours, etc,
Sir , – A language lives by being spoken. There was a time when Latin was a common school and university subject. In its study, grammar and literature were emphasised, but at the end of the process few, if indeed any, could communicate in a functional way in the language. Too much of this method was transferred to the learning of Irish, and it produced similar results.
In my mid-50s,while working in Vienna, I attended German language courses for a mere two hours a week over a four-year period. German literature was not touched on and from the start, with students of various linguistic backgrounds, German was the only language spoken in class. Tests included comprehension questions on oral recorded passages, usually spoken in strong local accents. At the end of this short period of study I was functional in communicating in normal situations such as shopping, in restaurants, and staying in B&Bs throughout Austria and Germany where, in many cases, the owners spoke no English.
Incidentally I was also able to read with pleasure several German novels and English-language novels in translation. Illiterates can and have throughout the centuries kept languages alive. Study of literature is important but if we are to use Irish as a spoken language the ability to communicate comfortably has to take precedence. Yours, etc,
A Chara, – While it is apparent that there are diverse opinions on the Irish language, it is clear that Irish-speakers are demanding parity of esteem, and what is wrong with that? What is striking is the negative attitude of some letter-writers towards the language. Daniel Stanford (March 27th) proclaims to all and sundry that he could not read a letter by another reader because “it was in Irish” and that if this practice became widespread he would have to stop reading The Irish Times .
Why would someone bother to take the time to write to a newspaper to announce his ignorance of another language? It would also seem unlikely that The Irish Times has any plans to launch as an Irish language newspaper. I think Mr Stanford and any other anxious readers can rest assured that their preferred monolingual world of journalism is unlikely to be disturbed. Is mise le meas,
ROB MAC GIOLLARNÁTH,
Sir, – I laughed heartily reading Michael Harding’s description of the conversation that took place in a car as a couple in their 60s gave him a lift to the train ( March 25th). The man is a tonic to read and makes a Tuesday copy of The Irish Times a must. Yours, etc,
Sir, — Could Vladimir Putin’s arrogance in the face of accusations by Western powers of illegal annexation of territory and flagrant violations of international law be at least partially explained by the absolute impunity with which Israel has been treated by said Western powers in the light of its contempt for international law? Yours, etc,
HASSAN OULD MOCTAR,
Sir, — Christopher Sands (Letters, March 27th) provides some interesting additional information about the late Michael Talbot’s design of the Cork Dry Gin square bottle. Doesn’t it just prove the old adage about squaring the circle? Even Myles na Gopaleen would have known that the sticking-out corners of the square bottle would contain that extra measure or half glass of gin. Or perhaps it had to do with the dispersal of the alcohol molecules round the glass. Perhaps Science Editor Dick Ahlstrom might care to comment? — Yours, etc,
Sir, – Jason Clarke’s photograph of the four ladies chatting happily above the heading “A welcome change – bathers enjoy new unisex shelter in Sandycove” (March 27th) helped brighten up a grey day. But where were the male bathers? Being party-poopers round the corner at the Forty Foot? Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change, the more they remain the same.) Yours, etc,
Published 28 March 2014 02:30 AM
* Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was the wrong man to resign this week; it should have been Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Also in this section
Mr Callinan, as commissioner of An Garda Siochana, was a decent public servant who came down hard on dissident (self-described) republicans and organised criminals.
Mr Callinan, throughout the current controversy, stuck by a principle and was made a fall guy for Mr Shatter as a result.
Mr Callinan, as commissioner, was well-respected by rank-and-file gardai. It is a great shame that Irish law enforcement has lost a good man this week in the form of the former commissioner.
For justice (for all concerned) to be done, Mr Shatter, of whom there are now serious questions as to his competency in overseeing the administration of justice in Ireland, must be made to resign.
JOHN B REID
MONKSTOWN, CO DUBLIN
THE PRICE OF DEMOCRACY
* It has taken three years for some to realise this “controlled and cohesive Government” is anything but.
A debt of gratitude is owed to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar for his timely, very important public outrage about the arrogant manner of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
An insult not alone to the whistleblowers, but the Public Accounts Committee and, by extension, the citizens.
Each and every TD is a representative of the people in the Dail, therefore each one of them has the right to introduce a bill to the House. That some have not the ability is of no consequence in a democratic Republic, whereas subservience to “eminent people” is fraught with danger for any democracy as we have witnessed.
Mr Shatter would do well to employ a ministerial adviser akin to the slaves Roman senators had, to tell him throughout each day, “Remember man you are mortal”. I fear this would go over the heads of some of his cabinet colleagues.
If Taoiseach Enda Kenny had nous, he would be chastened by these events and bring the major changes he promised prior to the election to fruition.
Alas, winning seats for Fine Gael at the forthcoming local and EU elections takes priority over the goodwill of the citizens of Ireland.
CLEAN AS A WHISTLE
* I wish to nominate Maurice McCabe for the vacant post of Garda Commissioner and John Wilson for Deputy Commissioner.
If courage, integrity, endurance in the face of adversity and competence are requirements for the job, there are not two finer candidates.
DR MARK HARROLD
MALAHIDE, CO DUBLIN
FOOD WAR IS HEATING UP
* May I refer to Eilish O’Regan’s article “Study links birth defects to austerity” (Irish Independent, March 19). May I suggest that austerity is only part of the problem.
Today, home cooking of fresh food is being replaced by quick foods, processed foods and pre-cooked meals.
Most processed foods are super-heated to kill off all bacteria (a must) but in doing so it kills the natural vitamins, enzymes and renders amino acids unavailable to the body.
The result? – an unbalanced diet creating the natural bodily reaction to eat more (looking for missing nutrients).
This only increases the carbohydrates and mineral intake (what is left after over-heating) leading to deficiencies and obesity.
The lack of folic acid (the brain food) is the result of not eating fresh vegetables, whole grain, lentils, meat, milk and cheese that has not been over-heated.
Folic acid is most important in regulating embryonic and foetal nerve-cell formation for normal development and in hardening of the arteries. It should be taken before conception and is more efficient with vitamins B12 and C.
If we as a nation wish to improve our heath, we must revert to consuming fresh, basic foods that are home-cooked.
This should be encouraged by the HSE, Government and supermarkets. After all, Ireland produces the best food in the world and we should live on it.
CASTLEGARDE, CAPPAMORE, CO LIMERICK
GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE
* I just finished reading about Deirdre Roche Doherty’s story (Irish Independent, March 27). An amazing young woman, who, against all odds, is alive and living a normal life, as normal can be, after what she has been through.
A victim of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and a triple transplant recipient (heart, lung and kidney), she became the first ever woman who has undergone a triple transplant to have a child, let alone two.
I think the least we can do, in her honour, is sign an Organ Donor Card as soon as possible so more people like Deirdre can live.
You can actually help someone, you may never meet, with the ultimate act of kindness. Just imagine that after you’re gone, your donated organs will help keep others alive. It is at no cost to you and you can save a life or two. It’s a real no-brainer.
WESTPORT, CO MAYO
STORY DOESN’T HAVE LEGS
* Writing in this newspaper yesterday, Paul McNeive criticised An Taisce for seeking greater levels of public transport, cycling and walking in commuting to work at the former Dell plant in Limerick.
The plant is due to be refurbished and enhanced by Regeneron, a US bio-pharmaceutical company.
After Regeneron applied for planning permission, An Taisce wrote to Limerick County Council asking the council to request Regeneron to develop a mobility plan to guide the company, over time, to achieve higher levels of public transport, walking and cycling for travel to work.
The benefits of having such a plan include reduced congestion, better air quality, improved employee health and, as recent studies have shown, improved employee well-being and retention.
However, Limerick County Council granted planning permission without requesting any definite plan to boost public transport, cycling and walking.
To say this jars with Limerick as Ireland’s Smarter Travel Demonstration city is an understatement. Limerick has been granted €9.3m of public funds to increase public transport, cycling and walking.
An Taisce then appealed the transport condition of the permission to An Bord Pleanala. Only the transport condition was appealed, something very clear from the document itself.
Regrettably, a local election candidate issued a press release that neglected to make this clear, and a small number of news outlets covered the release without checking the story – or without making any contact with An Taisce for balance and fairness.
Mr McNeive was unfortunately wrong-footed by the misreporting described above.
Also, the story has moved on. An Taisce and Regeneron have since worked together on a revised mobility plan and the appeal on the transport condition is no longer before An Bord Pleanala. Regeneron and An Taisce followed this up with a joint press release.
POLICY DIRECTOR, AN TAISCE