Another hospital visit

7April2014 another hospital visit

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: rhurbard farmer revolts Priceless

Mary back in hospital visit her play Scrabble she wins but I get closer to winning

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Alan Davie – obituary

Alan Davie was an artist who won the admiration of Rothko and Pollock, and later embraced ‘magic symbolism’

Alan Davie, Scottish artist

Alan Davie in his studio at his home near Hertford Photo: CAMERA PRESS/EAMONN MCCABE

6:39PM BST 06 Apr 2014


Alan Davie , who has died aged 93, was arguably Scotland’s most respected painter of the post-war era, winning international acclaim from both critics and fellow artists, among them Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Hockney.

Davie was probably the first British painter to appreciate the significance of American Abstract Expressionism, having seen Pollock’s work in Peggy Guggenheim’s collection in Venice in 1948, an experience that inspired him to paint with more improvisation and on a much larger scale.

But Davie was soon to distance himself from the Abstract Expressionists and develop his own style: “We were just all saying the same thing, that art is spontaneous, so let’s just let the subconscious flow,” he later observed. “I thought if I want to make a big painting without thinking consciously about it, all I have to do is walk around the floor with liquid paint. But there was a problem. I realised that being that free was itself too restricting. You can make lovely messes — like Pollock. But the art’s not saying anything.”

By the early 1960s Davie was drawing increasingly on myth and “magic symbolism”, viewing himself less as an artist than as a medium, or shaman, borrowing signs and symbols from cultures as diverse as the Navajo Indians, the Caribbean islands, Aboriginal Australians, and the Ancient Egyptians, Celts and Picts. “Symbolism,” he once said, “is quite an apparent theme in a lot of my work. I use it to kind of suggest narratives that I have in my head.”

Alan Davie was born at Grangemouth, in the Forth Valley, on September 28 1920, the son of a schoolmaster and amateur artist who encouraged the boy to draw from childhood. Alan was also a talented pianist, and when he saw the jazzman Coleman Hawkins playing in an Edinburgh record shop he took up the saxophone.

From 1938 to 1940 he trained as a painter at Edinburgh College of Art, where his tutor condemned him as arrogant when, in his first life class, he painted the velvet backdrop behind the model yellow instead of its actual brown: “He wanted to boot me out of the college.”

Alan Davie’s ‘Entrance for a Red Temple No 1’, 1960 (TATE GALLERY)

Following wartime service with the Royal Artillery, Davie became a professional saxophonist with an Edinburgh-based swing band which also toured Europe. In addition he wrote poetry, made pots, designed textiles and worked as a jeweller .

In 1947 he married Janet (“Bili”) Gaul, an art student, and the couple travelled across Europe together, arriving in Venice in time for the 1948 Biennale, the first since the war. Davie later recalled: “There were huge exhibitions of Picasso and Paul Klee, and for the first time I saw the work of my American contemporaries – Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning. I started painting again, working on big rolls of paper on the floor in cheap hotel rooms.” Peggy Guggenheim was impressed by what she saw, bought two of his works, and recommended him to the leading London gallery Gimpel Fils.

For the first seven years Davie failed to sell a single painting at the gallery. In the early Fifties he was offered a job teaching jewellery design at the Central School of Art by its principal, William Johnstone, who recorded: “Alan and his wife were living on Poor Relief at William Oley’s artists’ settlement at the Abbey, New Barnet. Nowhere could Alan find work, and he had to walk all the way to Holborn to see me.”

But Davie was making a name for himself abroad, and in 1956 he paid his first visit to New York. This proved to be his making: encouraged by Rothko and Pollock, de Kooning and Franz Kline, in the same year he had his first New York exhibition; it was a sell-out, most of the paintings being bought by major institutions, MoMA among them.

Yet his memories of the visit were not entirely happy: “They were very enthusiastic about my work, which was very strange to me, having come from London where my work was considered rubbish by the critics at that time. Jackson Pollock was very excited about my work. He was a lovely guy, and we stayed the weekend at his house.

Alan Davie’s ‘Birth of Venus’, 1955 (TATE GALLERY)

“But we realised quite quickly he was virtually being killed by his art. He was feted as being the greatest artist alive and there was a lot of jealousy around. We went to several parties and it was pretty horrific. They knew that when he was drunk he would do crazy things, so they would all try to make him drunk to see what happened.” Pollock died in a car crash only few months after he and Davie met.

Davie returned to Britain to take up a fellowship at Leeds University , and an exhibition at the Wakefield Art Gallery transferred to the Whitechapel in London in 1958, launching him as a significant figure in the British avant-garde, a position he shared with William Gear, who was associated with the European COBRA group. David Hockney was among the many young British artists influenced by Davie, whose exotic cloaks and long beard made him something of a shamanic figure .

In the early Sixties, Davie bought a house near Land’s End bringing him into contact with the St Ives group of artists. Some of his paintings featured in Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), one of the most successful films of the counterculture era; and in a 1967 monograph, Alan Bowness, future Director of the Tate, described Davie as being “among the major figures in the art of our times”.

Alan Davie with his poodle, Belinda

Davie was appointed CBE in 1972, but although he continued to paint and exhibit, his work — increasingly focused on the mystical and transcendental (he was a follower of Zen Buddhism) — enjoyed less public recognition; he became something of an outsider. There were, however, many retrospectives, including Barbican, New York and Ireland (1993); Chicago (1994); and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh in 2000. His works are held in public collections worldwide, among them the Tate Gallery, the Gulbenkian Foundation and MoMA in New York.

He was elected a Senior Royal Academician in 2012, and a major exhibition of his work opens on April 7 at Tate Britain.

A man of seemingly limitless energy, Davie was an enthusiastic glider pilot and had a passion for driving E-type Jaguars. From the mid-Fifties he and his wife (who died in 2007) lived near Hertford; in 1974 he bought a house on St Lucia in the Caribbean, where he took up underwater swimming and set up the Alan Davie Music Workshop — “There’s a connection,” he once said, “between jazz and what I do with a brush, in that it seems improvised and random.”

In old age, his views on the contemporary art world were trenchant: Damien Hirst was dismissed as “a brilliant businessman”, and Tracey Emin “isn’t an artist either”.

As for his own work, he observed: “I don’t practise painting or drawing as an art, in the sense of artifice, of making an imitation of something. It’s something I do from an inner compulsion, that has to come out.”

Alan Davie, born September 28 1920, died April 5 2014


We welcome the amendment being debated in the House of Lords on Monday that will provide guardians for trafficked children. These vulnerable children have already been subjected to the worst kinds of abuse imaginable, including forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Specialist independent guardians are an essential part of ensuring they receive the highest protection possible to prevent further abuse.

A report last year by the Refugee Council and the Children’s Society, commissioned by the Home Office, found that an inadequate level of protection for trafficked children was being offered by professionals and agencies who were meant to be supporting them. This cannot continue.

Without anyone to speak up for them and their best interests, these child victims are at great risk of going missing from care, and of further abuse and exploitation. These are children alone and scared in a foreign country where they often don’t speak the language and have no understanding of the processes and systems that they must go through. They urgently need a dedicated person who is legally responsible for supporting them in all aspects of their life.

A wide range of international and domestic bodies recommend the introduction of guardians, including the UN committee on the rights of the child and the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta).
We commend Baroness Butler-Sloss, Lord McColl of Dulwich, Lord Carlile of Berriew and Baroness Royall of Blaisdon for bringing forward this amendment and for raising this important issue on many previous occasions.

Members of the House of Lords have an opportunity to make a real difference to trafficked children. By supporting this amendment they will help to ensure guardians are provided to give trafficked children a voice in decisions made about them, help keep them safe and support them to recover from the trauma they have suffered.

Wayne Myslik Chief executive, Asylum Aid, Celia Clarke Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees, Puja Darbari UK director of strategy, Barnardos, Bridget Robb Chief executive, British Association of Social Workers, Nola Leach Chief executive, CARE, Paola Uccellari Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Professor Carolyn Hamilton Director of International Programmes and Research, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Andrew Radford Director, Coram Voice, Dr Helena Kaliniecka Service manager, Dost Centre for Young Refugees & Migrants, Bharti Patel Chief executive, ECPAT UK, Dr Edie Friedman Executive director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Baljeet Sandhu Director, Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit, Vaughan Jones Chief executive, Praxis Community Projects, Heather Knight UK co-ordinator, Stop the Traffik, Matthew Reed Chief executive, The Children’s Society

What a shame that the plug was pulled on accreditation of the heterodox economics course organised by the Manchester University students (Editorial, 3 April). As you point out, insights and breakthroughs in the emergence of an economics fit for the 21st century are coming from many disciplines – anthropology, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, etc – but all too rarely from within economics faculties themselves.

Despite this most recent setback in Manchester, however, the citadels of economics orthodoxy have been breached and a wave of innovative new academic programmes is emerging. These include a postgraduate programme here at Schumacher College that would be recognised not just by the 18th and 19th century moral philosophers that you cite, but also by more recent thinkers following in the footsteps of Rachel Carson and Fritz Schumacher who recognise the economy as being embedded not just within social and political structures but, also and more broadly, within the web of life in which human society is but one thread.
Jonathan Dawson
Head of economics, Schumacher College

• Behind the shield of mathematical formalism, economics has given remarkably little attention to its hidden moral assumptions. Only very recently has the American Economic Association agreed to implement even a very modest ethical code for people submitting papers to its journals. Yet economists have more influence over people’s life chances than all other social scientists. Doctors and engineers have similar influence, and both professions devote attention to morals and ethics. Let us hope that the disruption you predict will lead economists to engage with the ethical duties appropriate for such a discipline.
Professor Robert H. Wade
London School of Economics

Surely the solution to the “Shmita” question (Loose canon, 5 April) would be to do it by rotation farm by farm. Thus the whole country would lie fallow once every seven years as per Biblical injunction; just not all at the same time.
Jeremy Muldowney
Heworth, York

• I am not a member of any political party, but I found the Ed Miliband picture and comment distasteful (Can you make this guy less weird?, G2, 3 April). More Daily Mail/playground bully than what I would expect from a paper I have been reading for over 55 years.
Ann Jones
Market Rasen, Lincolnshire

• Readers setting out to follow your correspondent’s advice (Letters, 4 April) may find that they go hungry both because Chipshop is in Devon, not Cornwall, and because its name has nothing to do with the humble spud, fried or otherwise. It is derived from the tokens with which miners of Devon Great Consols were paid. These could only be redeemed at the mine owner’s (chip) shop.
Angus Doulton
Bere Ferrers, Devon

• When the government eventually legislates that cigarettes should be sold in unbranded packets (Report, 4 April), can we hope that all their policies which have clearly been thrown together on the back of a fag packet will have the space to be better thought through?
Andrew Gosling
Colchester, Essex

• Actually, it was Liquid Paper that Bette Nesmith Graham invented (Letters, 5 April).
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

It is time for MPs’ expenses to be totally overhauled (It would transform politics if MPs actually had to come from their constituencies, Deborah Orr, 5 April). I propose that expenses be tied to the constituency, travel and accommodation costs, and allocated according to the distance of the constituency from parliament, there would be an allowance for office space and staff, again linked to the constituency, as these costs differ around the country. MPs whose constituency is over, say, one and a half hour’s travel time (by public transport) would be allocated sufficient expenses to rent modest accommodation in London. If they choose to have somewhere more comfortable (with a duck house, etc), then that would be funded from their private resources, not the public purse.

Similarly, travel expenses would be second class, with an allowance for a fixed number of journeys to and from the constituency. Should they choose to have a chauffeur-driven limo, the extra cost of that is met from their own pocket; should they choose to travel less often than the allocation, they may pocket some expenses, but they may lose their seat next time round if the constituents feel underrepresented.

If an MP chooses to employ family members, rather than qualified administrators, it will be their business not ours. Once the allowances have been worked out for each constituency, they can be reviewed annually but the time spent doing this would be far less than the time currently spent checking every single item claimed for. Another advantage is that MPs will also be able to keep their spending habits private. Simple but fair.
Liz Taylor

•  Deborah Orr and others have commented on possible solutions to our MPs’ regrettable tendency to overclaim expenses. My solution is simple. Every year every MP should be required to make information about the expenses they have claimed to their constituents. Then a public meeting should be called at which any constitution can ask their MP any question they wish regarding their expenses. Any MP who fails to comply without reasonable excuse, to be decided by their constituents, should be required to refund all expenses. Any MP who is found to have given false or misleading information, to be decided by a court of law, should be automatically recalled and a byelection held within three months.
Andrew Tampion
Hinckley, Leicestershire

• How can Iain Duncan Smith justify the bedroom tax where the poor are forced, through lack of appropriate housing, to live in a house with bedrooms they do not need, when government ministers are allowed to use taxpayers’ money to buy houses in the capital which also have an excess of bedrooms they have no need for? The difference here is that the poor do not have a choice and cannot afford to buy a house, whereas the MPs can sell the house bought with the aid of the taxpayer and pocket all the profits accrued.

How simple it is for MPs to get richer in this way, and still be so arrogant when dealing with the needy. It is time they were forced to hand back any profit made to the taxpayer when their second homes in London are sold.
Donald Swarbrick
Patna, Ayrshire

• Actually, Maria Miller saved a lot more than half an hour a day by living in Wimbledon rather than Basingstoke. It’s only 16 minutes from London Waterloo on South West Trains, not the 45 minutes Ms Orr suggests, so that’s a time saving of about an hour and a half a day.
Martin Platt

•  Sorry to disagree but I think that Maria Miller is an ideal secretary representing the culture of those who think of themselves as our leaders – the culture of greed, arrogance and complete indifference towards us plebeians (Letters, 5 April).
Stephen Davies
Sandbach, Cheshire

•  Centuries ago all flour had, by law, to be bought from the local mill. It was measured out using a standard container. If the person dispensing the flour held their thumb inside the container, this displaced a small amount which would eventually add up to an unearned profit. The extra portion was known as “the miller’s thumb”.
Roy Harrison


Your editorial (4 April) on house building is welcome, but I think there is a core problem which is tragic and insoluble. Any party which succeeded in getting enough new housing built, in the right places, to dent prices would be committing political suicide.

Those who vote already own houses and would not take kindly to negative equity. Buy-to-let owners, looking for capital gains, would not like lower prices either.

There are those desperate for lower house prices. But they more often than not do not vote. The moment they become home owners and voters, they too will want house prices propped up.

Britain will never enjoy good-quality housing, affordable by nearly everyone.

Trevor Pateman, Brighton

I agree that “Britain’s building rate is pathetic”, but not that “a solution seems very far off”. Your leader and the speeches of the politicians omit the word “productivity”.

Office blocks use components made off-site on an industrial scale, assembled by crane. Houses are still being constructed brick-upon-brick, using methods unchanged from Roman times. These methods are very labour-intensive, and labour is costly. They are also very slow.

“Prefab” was a derogatory word after the Second World War, but variety can be introduced by using different colours and materials. Town houses using these methods in the early 1960s were built by Wates in Dulwich and Span in Blackheath, south London, usually grouped around a cul-de-sac where children could play.

Someone, such as the Prince of Wales, should offer a prize for the design of a good house, affordable and a pleasure to look at.

William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury

Your suggestion that more homes should be built may seem the obvious answer to the current shortage.

However we need to consider that Britain is a small island which can’t keep expanding to suit demand. There comes a time when we have to say no to more development of green spaces, no to more airports and infrastructure.

The problem is the population. It needs to be limited so that everyone can enjoy living here.

Martyn Pattie, Ongar, Essex

Your leading article of 4 April gives welcome emphasis to the gap between housing supply and demand.

Could someone in the construction industry please give an explanation of why this gap exists when we have capacity to build, healthy customer demand, ample unemployed people, low inflation and a government desperate to get the economy moving. What is the missing piece in the jigsaw? I would love to know.

Oh, and by the way, we are about to demolish four tower blocks in Glasgow which could accommodate four thousand people.

Rodney Freeman, Harkstead,  Suffolk

Why degrees don’t impress employers

In her letter of 2 April, Dr Maria Gee, senior lecturer in accounting at the University of Winchester, berates employers for only employing Russell Group graduates or those with 300+ Ucas points. As a retired lecturer in accounting, I can explain why this is the case.

The reality is that no more than 25 per cent of the population has academic ability, so with more than 40 per cent of the population going to university it should be obvious that many should not be there. What they should be doing is taking advantage of the many talents they have which are just as good as being able to cope with academic theory.

Now universities are under pressure to publish research and award good grades, and the only way they can do this is to dumb everything down. The result is that, outside top universities, a 2:1 degree is a worthless piece of paper. The real problem is that the difference between a top 2:1 (69 per cent but not rounded up to a first) and the bottom 2:1 (59 per cent rounded up) is vast. One student is intelligent, hard-working and highly employable, while the other has probably not learnt how to get out if bed in the morning. Yet they both have the same piece of paper

When universities go back to setting proper standards, then employers will again believe their degrees.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

Leveson charter for a free press

The events in Croydon described by Andy McSmith (“Long arm of the law leaves another journalist hacked off”, 2 April) have nothing to do with Hacked Off, Leveson or the Royal Charter.

In fact the Leveson/Charter system will increase the freedom of journalists to do their job. It reduces the scope for political meddling in self-regulation and frees the press from the “chilling” effect of bullying litigation by the wealthy. The only freedom it seeks to curb is the freedom of papers to mistreat the public without being accountable for it.

Sadly, the big newspaper companies are still  resisting this.

Brian Cathcart, Director, Hacked Off, London SW1

It is obvious that the Maria Miller furore is being stoked by the print media because she is involved in implementing Leveson. It is a blatant attempt by them to sabotage the process. Most worrying is that politicians know this but are still so intimidated by the press that they dare not say so.

Keith Brawn, Portchester, Hampshire

Israel’s right to east Jerusalem

Gordon Broadbent asks (letter, 1 April) why we are applying sanctions against Russia over Crimea but not against Israel for annexing East Jerusalem. The answer is simple: Jerusalem did not previously belong to any sovereign state.

Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish state of Judea for over 1,000 years until conquered by the Romans, who spitefully renamed their new colony Palestine. It stayed a colony under all successive conquerors until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The San Remo Conference of 1920 resolved to give the whole of Palestine back to the Jews and this was ratified by the League of Nations two years later. Britain was awarded the mandate over Palestine, specifically charged to make it into a Jewish homeland with close settlement.

Instead, Britain sheared off 83 per cent of the territory to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, and did everything possible to retain control of the remainder. When, in 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the remainder of Palestine, with Jerusalem “internationalised”, the Jews reluctantly accepted the small consolation of less than 10 per cent of the original Palestine, but the Arabs rejected the plan and five Arab states waged war on the one-day-old Jewish state. Transjordan illegally seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem, throwing out thousands of Jews who had lived there for generations. For the next 19 years, Jordan did not even allow Jews to visit their Holy Sites in Jerusalem  and Hebron.

In annexing East Jerusalem from a regime that had no legal claim over it, Israel was simply regaining its historic rights, in accordance with the League of Nations resolutions. Incidentally, many Arabs who live in East Jerusalem are very happy to be part of a democratic country with full civil rights, rather than being subjected to the tyranny and cronyism of surrounding Middle Eastern countries, or their own Fatah or Hamas.

Alan Halibard, Bet Shemesh, Israel

Gladys, a big name in Bolivia

Linda Grant (“Ask Horace, Cecil, Gertrude or Gladys if there is such a thing as a timeless name”, 5 April) might be reassured to know that linda is in constant use in Latin American Spanish and Portuguese as an adjective agreeing with a feminine noun meaning  “pleasant”, “lovely”.

She would also be interested to know that Gladys is a popular name in Bolivia. There is even a restaurant called Tía Gladys (Aunty Gladys) in one of the main thoroughfares of La Paz.

I would also like to remind Ms Grant that Prince Harry is officially Prince Henry of Wales, but it was announced soon after he was born that he would be known as  Prince Harry.

Rosemary Morlin, Oxford

The name Gertrude “effectively extinct”? (Report, 4 April) Not in this household. Number three dog is called Gertie, or by her full name of Gertrude when she has hidden my shoes again.

Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey

Eat up your nice spinach curry

I was very disappointed in Rosie Millard’s column (2 April), in which she supports all the prejudices encouraged by the food companies to sell junk food to our children. In particular, her jibe about spinach curry was out of place. A curry of chick-peas and spinach (chana saag) is very tasty, readily available in most Indian restaurants and one of my favourites – and I’m anything but vegetarian. There is a recipe that adds tomatoes and that’s three of your daily portions of vegetables, or you could try aloo saag (spinach and potatoes).

John Day, Lyon


“If Scots vote for independence, it is unthinkable that any Scottish MP should be allowed to vote in the Westminster Parliament”

Sir, You are right (leader, Apr 3) to reject the argument that Scotland should be disenfranchised from the 2015 general election in the event of a vote for independence this year.

However, there is the question of how the subsequent negotiations are dealt with in the UK parliament running up to Mr Salmond’s target date for independence of March 2016 (chosen for his convenience to fit in with the Scottish parliament elections in May 2016).

March 2016 is unrealistic: between this September and then there is a UK general election in May 2015 and it is unlikely that meaningful negotiations can begin until the new government is in power.

Thereafter, negotiations will be complex. The legislation will be necessary at Westminster, which may well be controversial in both Houses, and in the Scottish Parliament. There will also be negotiations with the EU and other international bodies. All this cannot be achieved in an orderly fashion between May 2015 and March 2016.

Surely the sensible answer is to accept that the whole process will take much longer and that Scottish independence day, when Scottish MPs leave Westminster, will coincide with a general election in the rest of the UK. Or an even better answer would be for Scotland to vote No in September.

Peter Mackay

Kincraig by Kingussie, Highland

Sir, For some years English voters have seen Scottish MPs voting at Westminster on issues of purely English interest, while Scotland has its own parliament in which only Scottish MPs may vote. This undemocratic situation was tolerated because English voters believed that Scots favoured the Union with England — a union which has given the Scots such a disproportionate grip on the political, commercial, financial and cultural life of Britain. If Scots vote for independence before the next general election, it is unthinkable that any Scottish MP should be allowed (even in the interregnum) to vote in the Westminster Parliament.

Stephen Porter

London NW6

Sir, With due respect to Alex Massie (Thunderer, Apr 4), there is no reason why the English should try to persuade the Scots to remain in the Union. The onus is on Scotland, which asked for the referendum.

David Harris

London SW13

Sir, You say that “Scottish voters will choose whether they wish to remain part of the UK”. The truth is that voters, irrespective of nationality, ancestry or birth, who reside in Scotland will be casting ballots, whereas Scots who reside in the rest of the UK are denied any say whatsoever. The SNP has long claimed that sovereignty in Scotland lies with the people of Scotland, but the de facto truth is that this plebiscite will be decided only by people in Scotland.

David McKirdy

Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts

Sir, John Stevenson cannot seriously propose denying the voters of Scotland participation in their sovereign parliament in 2015, even if they are going to have a new sovereign parliament of their own in 2016. And as a fellow Scot he should know that patronising advice from south of the border is never welcome and is invariably counter productive.

Mike Gibbons

Cartmel, Cumbria

The unrestricted spread of pornography online is harmful to both young and old. ISPs must act to prevent further damage

Sir, We are all under 30 and we share a deep concern about our generation’s consumption of pornography. There is an online epidemic of hardcore pornography, and even children are largely unprotected from it.

Research and our experience show that pornography is taking a real toll on the mental, emotional and physical health of many of our peers and poses a serious challenge to public health in the UK.

It is very far from the harmless, victimless activity portrayed by the powerful industry. It is warping young people’s views of sex and body image and impeding the formation of healthy relationships.

We urge the government to ensure the main internet service providers (ISPs) complete the introduction of network-level filtering by the end of this year and encourage all remaining ISPs to do the same. If self-regulation does not work, the government must introduce legislation; it must make effective age verification a priority; it should highlight the harmful and potentially addictive nature of pornography; and it should help parents with internet filters and talking to their children about the dangers of online porn.

Jonny Adams; Bethany Becconsall; Kate Massey-Chase; Sarah Percival; Aston Stockdale; Maktuno Suit

The Right Honourable Kim Howells, a former Foreign Minister, responds to Matthew Parris’s accusations levelled at Blair’s government

Sir, I didn’t move in the lofty circles that allowed Matthew Parris access to Tony Blair’s innermost visions of his own destiny (“Afghanistan was a crime. Here are the guilty”, Apr 5). I was but a humble Foreign Minister when British forces were moved from Mazar-i-Sharif in north Afghanistan to Helmand in the south. Matthew is right, though, to question the role of big shots in determining that crucial shift. I remember the horror and irritation on the faces of senior FCO Afghan Desk officials filing into my office when they learnt that, without consulting them, I’d given Defence Secretary John Reid a list of questions that I believed needed answering before our troops marched south.

I’d just returned from Helmand where I’d met some brave US soldiers who, with a small number of recently arrived British forces were (literally) holding the fort at Lashkar Gah. They told me that they were never sure, when out on patrol, who was shooting at them. Bring a good fitter with you, they warned, you don’t want to be trapped out there in the dark. We sent plenty of good fitters but, from the beginning, they and their comrades were forced to fight in Helmand in a campaign that had been planned on the basis of inadequate intelligence-gathering, absurdly optimistic military assumptions and political decisions taken on the advice of generals and career diplomats who were certainly fighting a war, but not necessarily the one we thought we were fighting.

Rt Hon Kim Howells


The present market forces and tax regime will cause many to be excluded from the housing market for their whole lifetime

Sir, Your reports on surging house prices and Conservative demands for tax breaks (Apr 4) crystallise a worry that is increasingly at the heart of many ageing households.

If house prices continue to rise, and the surge in housebuilding seems unlikely to slow or reverse matters, the present market forces and tax regime will concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands as many become excluded from the housing market, forcing more and more into rented accommodation for their lifetime. Where possible, good taxation should be a tolerable incentive for work and investment. Reducing the ability of generations to pass on wealth as housing or business investment is probably one of the biggest disincentives any government can lay on its citizens.

John Garstang

Rampton, Cambridge

“While approximately 7 per cent of primary legislation is enacted in Brussels, the total that comes directly on to the UK statute book is 70 per cent”

Sir, The selective use of statistics in the Clegg-Farage debate did nothing to advance the case for the UK’s continued EU membership. While

approximately 7 per cent of primary legislation is enacted in Brussels, the total that comes directly on to the UK statute book, often by qualified majority, is 70 per cent. What also demeaned the debate was the Deputy Prime Minister’s support for a referendum in the event of further significant transfers of power from Britain to the EU. This would, of course, be unlikely to happen, since any changes could be incorporated in the existing Lisbon Treaty, without the need for a referendum.

John Barker

Prestbury, Cheshire

Les hommes et les femmes de Royal Tunbridge Wells take a more continental approach to culture than their commoner neighbours

Sir, More than 50 years ago, the cinema in Tunbridge Wells advertised the Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle. The following week, the film moved to Tonbridge, where it was advertised as My Uncle. Voilà la différence.

George Welham

Wadhurst, E Sussex


SIR – I read Sir Roger Bannister’s article on his epic race with great interest as it brought back memories for me. In May 1954 I was a young engineering assistant with the City of Oxford.

On the morning following the race, my colleague and I were summoned to the office of the City Engineer. There he instructed us to leave whatever we were doing, to draw a surveyor’s measuring chain from the store, check its accuracy and then proceed to the Iffley Road running ground. Our task was to measure the track’s inside lane, six inches in from the edge, to check that Sir Roger had run one mile, no more and no less.

I have often wondered what would have happened had we reported it to be a yard short, or whether we would have had the courage to have reported it thus.

Fortunately we were able to confirm the track’s accuracy and report to the City Engineer that Sir Roger had indeed run 1,760 yards in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

John Barrell
Andover, Hampshire

SIR – Fining Network Rail £70 million seems an odd way for a government to improve the punctuality of the country’s rail network.

Perhaps finding it extra money to cope with increased passenger numbers would have been a better solution. Another alternative might to renationalise of the whole network. Then the Government would only be able to blame itself.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – Your leading article indicates that Network Rail is looking for more money for its future plans.

Based on my observation of Network Rail’s work on our local railway, I suggest that close scrutiny of its project management should be undertaken first. I have seen contractors sitting in vans at all times of day, reading papers or fast asleep, while expensively hired equipment lies idle. No private organisation could afford such a poor use of resources.

Ken Himsworth
Saxilby, Lincolnshire

Killing, not helping

SIR – Regarding Lord Falconer’s Bill on assisted dying, Richard Mountford insists that a change in the law is necessary because “assisted dying already takes place” although “the legal system is (rightly) reluctant to prosecute those who help a terminally ill loved one who wishes to end their own life”.

Mr Mountford does not reveal how he knows this, since “people do it secretly”, but even if he is correct, how does he know that such deaths are voluntary? And even if they are, why insist that the answer is killing rather than helping?

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Leaving the EU

SIR – Far from being the only means of leaving the EU, the use of Article 50 would scupper our chances of doing so since we would still be in it, but subject to (supposed) renegotiation. This would allow David Cameron to bamboozle the public for years with fake hopes of a new deal.

The only way out is for Britain to break the relevant treaties and leave. This act would explode the fallacy at the heart of the europhiles’ position, that our departure would leave the EU unchanged. In fact, our leaving would trigger the EU’s collapse.

Neither France nor Germany has the nerve to call an end to the farce but both would be secretly delighted if we took on the job. It is time to show yet again that when Europe needs saving there is only one nation it can look to.

John Sheridan Smith

SIR – With regard to Janet Daley’s article on the European Union, public opinion is like the water in a boiler, with the various political parties acting as escape valves to prevent a dangerous build-up of pressure.

The way some europhiles would have it, all of the valves would be permanently shut, all the main parties being unfailingly pro-EU, no matter how high the pressure goes.

The appearance of Ukip might be considered an attempt to bleed off some of the pressure through a new valve. Those who dislike Nigel Farage and Ukip should consider whether the Front National, or Golden Dawn, are more to their taste.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

Competitive power

SIR – The Government still insists that we have a competitive electricity market and yet wind farms were paid a record £8.7 million last month not to generate. The total figure last year for not generating was £32 million which of course, we customers have to bear.

Compare the situation before privatisation. The Central Electricity Generating Board would have just instructed a plant not to run, without making any payments. Lower-cost generation was given priority so power stations competed to get their operating cost down.

John Spiller
Long Ashton, Somerset

Pots and kettles

SIR – John Avlon should not fetishise liberal capitalist democracy. All too often, Western democracies have resorted to rendition, torture, cyber-warfare, assassination, terrorism and war.

They keep the strangest company, from the kleptocratic Saudi regime, which is playing the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shi’ites, to Egypt’s military regime, which is issuing death sentences en masse. We’ve got to start practising what we preach. Then we can criticise Vladimir Putin.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Summer Time blues

SIR – British Summer Time was introduced during the First World War to save energy. But this is a fallacy because any energy saved in the light evening will be used in the dark morning.

Any mother can tell you how difficult it is to get a baby to sleep in broad daylight and how impossible it is to get an adolescent up in the dark.

Now we learn (report, March 30) that it also causes a spike in heart attacks. How many more examples of BST’s insidious nature are needed before we return to having GMT all year round?

Frankie Blend
Mere, Wiltshire

Planning inspectors’ subjective decisions

SIR – Monty Taylor appears happy that unelected civil servants – the planning departments of local councils and the Planning Inspectorate – have power to overrule the decisions of local planning committees, when the latter represent the local population likely to be affected by a development.

My understanding is that it is also in the power of the planners to overturn the planning committee’s decisions on points of planning law. This system seems highly undemocratic.

The autocratic power of the planners was brought home to me recently. My planning application received strong support from local residents, local parish council and borough councillors. But the planners did not like our house design. Why should the subjective opinions of planners regarding the aesthetics of a design be given so much more weight than those of local residents, especially when planning departments have pushed through some of the ugliest developments ever built in the past 100 years?

Peter Rusby
Stockbridge, Hampshire

Legal investigation

SIR – Having seen that there is now a call for the rail regulator to be investigated along with the energy regulator, I am wondering whether the outrageous idea that Islamic law should be adopted in this country, shouldn’t result in an investigation being made into the Law Society.

Peter Smith
Middleton, Suffolk

The Scottish play

SIR – Am I the only person other than the “mystery minister” to have listened to the afternoon play on Radio 4 recently which dramatised the meeting between David Cameron and Alex Salmond after a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum?

They eventually agreed that the Scots could keep the pound in return for the UK keeping the Faslane naval base. Will fiction become fact?

Pamela Gibson
Seaford, East Sussex

Call me a nuisance

SIR – I read that the Government intends to implement a Nuisance Calls Action Plan in order to tackle nuisance calls. So many people will ring up the Nuisance Calls Action Plan Centre to complain about nuisance calls that before long they will be the ones getting fined for wasting valuable government time.

Ivor Morgan

SIR – Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, contends that “The rich West is ruining our planet” (Opinion, March 30).

I suppose the elimination of smallpox, the virtual elimination of polio, the discovery of penicillin, day-patient cataract surgery, mobile phone and web technology which brings instant communication to millions in the developing world (bypassing inefficient infrastructure), and farming techniques which feed billions more than Thomas Malthus envisaged, are all examples of how the rich West is heaping misery upon the poor.

Dr Williams should have a little more faith in human ingenuity.

Steve Willis
Olney, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I was glad to read Dr Williams’s warnings about our responsibility for climate change in your headline last week.

Climate change has an overwhelming scientific consensus behind it, and will threaten the most impoverished citizens of our world in particular in the next century.

Unfortunately, it is still largely business of usual with regard to fossil fuel emissions. Action is drastically and urgently needed.

Graeme Elder
London SW19

SIR – Whose lifestyle does Dr Rowan Williams blame for the climate change that melted the ice from the last Ice Age?

Elizabeth Simpson
Fordington, Dorset

SIR – Water vapour is a greenhouse gas. It drives the natural cycle of evaporation from the oceans and precipitation on land that is essential to our primary food sources. No one should be surprised that an increase in surface temperature will result in greater evaporation, higher volumes of water vapour in the atmosphere and thereby more precipitation and flooding.

Climate change will happen from a variety of natural causes. We should focus our efforts on coping with the consequences rather than futile attempts to stave off the inevitable.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

SIR – In writing about the devastating consequences of climate change, Rowan Williams is taking up the scriptural warning that failing to adhere to God’s commandments results in Judgment. The increase in greed, selfishness, debauchery, moral laxity and idol worship has been fuelled by permissive legislation. The Church has largely fallen in step and revised its teaching to become politically correct.

Yes, the burning of fossil fuels may contribute to the global warming crisis, but is it not possible that it is but a symptom of a deeper malady?

John Capel
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – We know that mathematical analysis of unstable processes has no predictive value, and it is folly to base political decisions on computer models valid only for a few days. Keeping the lights on is a first priority, and closing coal and gas power stations is reckless.

If 0.045 per cent of CO2 in the atmosphere is critical, and 0.035 per cent is not, then this will be easily solved by engines running on hydrogen rather than petrol. To do this over two to three decades is manageable, leading to the “hydrogen economy” which could solve energy problems for all time. Let’s get started.

John Evans

SIR – Any report that requires more than 2,000 pages to make its case, deals with matters that are beyond its brief and recommends that substantially more jobs for academics are required is not worth the paper it is written on.

Rather than joining the cacophony of debate on climate change, Dr Williams would do better to focus his efforts and preachings on the solution to many of the world’s problems, including man-made climate change, if it is indeed man-made: slowing the rate of population growth.

James Mattinson
Pathhead, Midlothian

Irish Times:

Sir, – In response to Frank McDonald’s call (Opinion & Analysis, April 4th) may I make the following suggestions, directed at the probem of how to reduce our greenhouse gas production to a level consistent with globally stabilising it.

First, identify the sources of methane and carbon dioxide production in agriculture and research how to reduce them. I suspect these may be artificial fertiliser production, animal feed mix composition, and fossil fuel use in product production and transport, especially bulky intermediate products. This suggests a need to revive mixed farming, with livestock of all kinds, tillage of food and fodder crops, and horticulture, in a large-scale managed system, owned co-operatively. Also to recycle all urban biomass waste back to the soil as fertiliser.

Second, on’t drive to work; live near workplace and all basic retail services. This implies a serious look at urban planning and public transport policies: a city should be seen as an interconnected mesh of local townships. It also implies amending taxation policy: car tax should be totally based on fuel and insurance on mileage; car design should be supportive of long life with occasional use. Note that with current internet technology, a network of rural towns could be equivalent to a city, and probably less energy-intensive.

Third, to facilitate residential mobility the rental market needs to be developed and seen as normal. Current finance policy dealing with the mortgage problem needs to encourage the bank to accept ownership of the house by the bank as cancelling the mortgage, with option to stay on as a tenant, or relocate, without negative equity burden. In this context if would be better if banking were a State-owned public service and owning a managed rental and maintenance service with local government participation.

Fourth, we need to address the problem of how to stabilise the human population on our finite planet, so far a taboo topic it seems. Perhaps via some sort of opt-in licensed skilled professional motherhood, with well-managed large families, with many childless aunts and uncles? All possible alternatives to wars and starvation need to be considered.

I look forward to some of these options emerging as topics for socioeconomic and political analysis in the media and in government. No doubt many others will emerge. Yours, etc,


Techne Associates,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Frank McDonald’s excellent article reflecting on the findings of the latest IPCC report on climate change raises the issue of how to increase food production to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. The idea of matching the demand by increasing beef and dairy output is alarming, given the proven contribution that livestock makes to carbon emissions.

As a non-vegetarian who enjoys eating meat in moderation, I do not necessarily advocate a meatless diet but I am very aware of the consequences, both health and environmental, of our addiction to animal protein. With so much focus at present on obesity and unhealthy eating, perhaps we should look at increasing awareness also of the environmental consequences of our food choices.

It takes about 10kg of feed to produce 1kg of beef and the resultant carbon emissions are the equivalent of driving a family car 170km. This kind of awareness might make people rethink a meat-every-day diet and introduce a greater proportion of non-meat and -dairy dishes into their menu planning. The rise of obesity and heart disease in countries such as Japan, which hitherto has had a low meat and almost zero dairy intake but is now adopting a more westernised diet, also highlights the wisdom of revising our eating habits. Yours, etc,



Co Waterford

Sir, – Shane O’Doherty (Letters, April 4th) asks “would it be possible to measure the impact of suspending scarcely used bus lanes for a few months and allowing rush hour traffic the full road space to flow more quickly“? This is a misunderstanding of the purpose of bus lanes and the workings of traffic flow.

Traffic jams are all ultimately caused by conflicts in traffic flows – for instance, at junctions and roundabouts (and occasionally by accidents along roads). Tailbacks are caused by a traffic conflict ahead, and a lack of capacity at the point of conflict. The purpose of bus lanes is to change the priority of vehicles in reaching the points of conflict – giving a peak bus with 80 passengers priority over a car with an average of perhaps two occupants.

Suspending the operation of bus lanes would do nothing to improve overall traffic flows, as these are governed by the flows across and around junctions and roundabouts. The justification for the provision of bus lanes is that it minimises the average journey time for road users as a whole. Yours, etc,


Watson Park,


Co Dublin

Sir, – I have to point out the folly of Shane O’Doherty’s suggestion (Letters, April 4th ) that bus lanes be opened up to cars at rush hour. The choke points on Dublin’s traffic system are not on the “empty” lengths of bus lane but at the many junctions on its radial routes and the bridges across the rivers and canals, where there is often no bus lane.

All Mr O’Doherty’s suggestion would do is move the queue nearer the junction – it would in no way hasten deliveries, workers or shoppers through the junction. However, it would have a devastating effect on the service speed of bus journeys and the safety of pedal cycle journeys and send many of those users to their own cars, which would in turn further congest the choke points and in the process delay Mr O’Doherty and everyone else even more. Based on Dublin City Council’s annual cordon counts, we must note that cars are 80 per cent of the traffic but carry less than 40 per cent of the passengers. However, I will commend the car for one thing: it is the most efficient system in the world for moving empty seats, as cars are typically 75 per cent empty. Yours, etc,


Kenilworth Square,

Dublin 6

Sir, — George Orwell, in “Politics and the English Language”, identifies “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness” as three elements of insincere political language.

This rich tradition lives on in labels such as “family values”. Just as forbidding people full closure of unsalvageable relationships in the form of divorce cannot credibly be aligned with “family values”, neither is it very pro-life to uphold restrictive abortion laws which, according to the World Health Organisation, have no effect on abortion rates but do increase maternal mortality rates.

Fact is another much-abused word. Mr Stack speaks of “the simple fact that up to half of the State’s voters are being ignored”. Does he honestly believe that up to half of Ireland would oppose divorce in 2014? Furthermore, the most recent poll in this paper (June 12th, 2013) showed overwhelming support for less restrictive abortion laws.

If “family values voters” wish to see their views validated, they will need to abandon the mainstream media: the consensus Mr Stack identifies therein merely reflects a consensus in the population at large. Yours, etc,


Main Street,


Dublin 20

Sir, – Jim Stack is of course perfectly entitled to express his views and his belief that they are underrepresented in the media and political life. What is objectionable is the hijacking of the term “family values” for a brand of social conservatism, ie anti-marriage equality, anti-divorce and anti-choice.

Are these views “pro-family“? I would suggest in the case of a loving gay couple or even a heterosexual couple wishing to remarry; or the case of a growing family that has to deal with the terrible dilemma of whether or not to carry a foetus with “a condition not compatible with life” to term, government enforcement of such “family values” would be most definitely “anti-family”. Yours, etc,




United Kingdom

Sir, – Brian Devitt (Letters, April 2nd) suggests that the average GP earns €250,000 per annum. This is not true. I do not know whether it is the average GMS payment to doctors or not but it is certainly not earnings, which can be defined as wages or profit. Mr Devitt confuses turnover with earnings. A doctor’s expenses include basic costs like rent/mortgage of premises, heat, lighting, general and water rates, insurance – of personnel and premises, computer systems, medical indemnity, as well as the employment of receptionist(s) and nurse(s). The heaviest expenses, particularly for those in single-handed practices, are locum ones.

Every day I go to work I take the complaints and cares of others on my shoulders. I carry oxygen and a defibrillator, morphine and adrenalin. I am prepared to deal with minor headaches and major brain tumours, to try to differentiate between indigestion and heart attacks, to listen to hypochondriacs and the terminally ill, to vaccinate babies and suture lacerations. I drive alone to strange houses in the dark and try to help people in distress. My default setting is being at the service of the public 24/7/365 .

I would like to know exactly how much Mr Devitt thinks I should earn for this work, and these working conditions. Yours, etc,


Market Street,


Sir, – I respectfully disagree with the recent correspondence criticising that traditional bastion of the male wardrobe, the suit. So many of these critics have closed their minds to the garment’s possibilities and have, very probably, never experienced the joy of a handmade suit created just for them.

Unlike both Harry McGee (Fashion, April 2nd) and John Thompson (Letters, April 3rd) I love to wear a well-cut suit and have done so for many years. Indeed, if I may say so, MrMcGee looked far more commanding a presence in the Canali suit he was being persuaded to buy in Brown Thomas than in his uninspiring, if practical, comfortwear.

And surely if one must commute by bicycle (a commendable, even brave, decision!) isn’t it normal practice to travel in one’s cycling gear and change into the suit when one reaches one’s workplace? I have managed for years to travel in complete comfort on public transport and to arrive at work with the degree of sartorial elegance I desire.

A bespoke, hand-tailored suit is something to appreciate and can be described as the creation of a skilled craftsman. Nor need a suit be a symbol of “dull uniformity” as Mr Thompson asserts. Indeed it is a garment which boasts a vast array of possibilities, both in terms of style, material, shade and weight. Materials range from the heavier, such as flannel or serge for the cooler Irish climate, to more breathable varieties such as a cool, lightweight wool or light gabardine which, unlike the linen look Mr McGee complains of, won’t crumple so much.

Pinstripes, rope stripes, subtle plaids and houndstooth make for interesting patterns and a gentleman need not limit himself to the boring palette of navy, dark grey and black. What of light grey in spring or summer or the vast varieties of which blue offers in addition to simple navy? Shades of brown, olive, and tan were also once popular choices, though not so much in recent years, yet these too would be less formal and provide variety and contrast.

Finally, I note that the “suit” which so many Irish men have, inexplicably, adopted as regular daywear in the last decade or so is the last refuge of the sartorially bankrupt: the track suit. Yours, etc,



Sir, Your supplement (April 4th) on Anglo-Irish relations carries the headline “Normal Relations Finally Restored”, implying that relations between the two countries have been “normal” at some time in the past.

When would you suggest that that was? 1168 perhaps? Yours, etc,


Cuil Ghlas,


Co Meath

Irish Independent:

Letters to the Editor – Published 07 April 2014 02:30 AM

* AFTER nearly a thousand years with an axe to grind with perfidious Albion, Michael D has been dispatched to bury the hatchet with Queen Elizabeth. About time, too. The new relationship between our two islands deserves to be defined and the spectacle of a state visit is the appropriate window dressing. When the queen came to call on us, she showed real statecraft, but it was her own quiet dignity and respect for the pain of our shared past that resonated.

Also in this section

Garda cadetship vital

We must move from organ donor cards to a list

Put lead in your pencil and use your vote

She set the bar very high for Michael D, but in his own unique way Michael is also a force to be reckoned with. I, for one, hope that this time he will step away from the academic lectern and speak not in the language of lofty metaphor with allusions to Greek and Roman mythologies, but instead that he will ground his message in the legacies of the ghosts of all the navvies whose hobnailed boots were worn to the heel on the Kilburn Road.

The Irish and English working man have always had a respect for each other.

Let’s not get misty-eyed – there was racism and discrimination – but that is the nature of tuppence ha’penny looking down on tuppence.

The politicians and royalty will set their seal on our new era, but these ties were first made by working men. These days, the Irish in London are more likely to be graduates, and more luck to them.

What matters most of all is that the focus of the future must be on what we have in common rather than the tragedies of the past.




* As one of the Eircom customers to be notified by post, last Wednesday, that “due to a systems error” the direct debit had not been taken from my bank account, I was not too sure if the error was mine or the bank’s – but there was no indication that it was the fault of Eircom, and there was no hint of an apology.

I then spent over an hour trying to contact the special unit which had been set up to deal with the problem – and upon reaching person number seven, he was the first to understand what I was talking about.

The best that he could do was suggest I should come to some arrangement with my bank.

When I pointed out that subsequent bills from Eircom carried the usual receipt acknowledgement and, therefore, there was no question of my account having any arrears – his response was that that didn’t matter.

I suggested that Judge Judy would have a different view and that Joe Duffy would probably get about a week out of this. He told me that I still had to pay my bill.

But by going down the direct debit route, isn’t that what I was trying to do in the first place?

Oh, I almost forgot. Eircom did let me know that they would delete the €11.50 fine for nonpayment of the direct debit.

So everything is OK now. . . ?!




* The recent decision by the GAA to enter into a contract agreement with Sky Broadcasting is a wrong call. There were several options open to the GAA to bring our games to a greater audience. In fact, most Irish people abroad have a number of options available to them to view our games.

This is going to deny many genuine fans here at home the opportunity to see up to 14 matches this season and obviously this is only the beginning.

It also leaves many questions for the future of the national broadcaster, which has a long tradition with the association.

The GAA authorities are losing focus. Too much interest in commercialism!




* I am an old man, like Simeon was when he held the child Jesus in his arms. Now that hurling will begin to be shown to the outside world via a major international broadcasting company, I, too, can die happy, but hopefully not for some time yet.




* I was never much of a GAA player – in fact you could call me useless – but when I lived in Boston and then Riyadh, it didn’t really matter, because just taking part in training and organising was enough. The fun and bonding was a great experience, and knowing an Irish community was there in the GAA was a great comfort.

There’s very little left in Ireland that I can say is brilliant, but the rise of the GAA in the last few decades has been one of those fantastic success stories. It has managed to bring the sport into the modern era, make it cool and fashionable, and bring it into the larger towns and cities while still hanging on to its country base, allowing both societies to blend into one. It’s been a remarkable feat – and even more remarkable is that it has been done by local communities run by volunteers.

For some reason, the GAA have now decided that money is their prime objective – not sport, and not the communities that make up this organisation. We have probably one of the most unique voluntary sports organisations in the world and now they have decided to take the first step in destroying this icon.

So they have decided to sell out to Sky. Can they not see and appreciate what we have? If they go ahead with this, it will be the beginning of the end of a wonderful organisation. The people’s organisation – the GAA.




* So, ‘Disgusting-gate’ is not over yet. It looks like this phone-a-friend story is ‘Shatter-proof’. Now that the commissioner has retired/resigned/ been pushed, it shows that behind each good man is a good woman. The new Interim Commissioner has bravely announced that her force “will embrace whistleblowers”. Ah, sure there’s nothing like a good old hug to put things right.




* Sitting a collection of Irish provincial film and TV industry egos at round tables and allowing them access to booze before an awards ceremony for their peers, with a crowd constantly and rudely chattering throughout the live presentations, made for truly cringeworthy television. A better name for this embarrassing mediocrity would be ‘the IFFYs’!




* Given the ongoing controversy about garda phone bugging, Liam Power says that it “begs the question as to how many others were also surreptitiously eavesdropped on” (Letters, April 5).

When the technology is there to allow people who have an interest in such things to know what you had for your breakfast, why are we surprised?

In the competitive world of crime prevention, the principle is that the technology is there and it would be incompetent not to use it.

The implication of that fact is that all of us should conduct our affairs in such a way that we could sell the family parrot to the town gossip.

Nowadays the family parrot is everywhere. And even worse, the town gossip is also everywhere.

What Liam Power calls the “GUBU-esque” furore about access to data is, therefore, so 1980s – and ignores the surveillance realities of the 21st Century.




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