Hospital

8 April2014 yet another hospital visit

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: our heroes have to negotiate a treaty for part of the planet Venus Priceless

Mary in hospital visit her play Scrabble I win just for once

Scrabbletoday, I wins

Perhaps Iwill win again tomorrow.

Obituary:

Mickey Rooney – obituary

Mickey Rooney was an icon of American youth and energy who was as prolific in his marriages as he was on screen

Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney Photo: REX FEATURES

5:58PM BST 07 Apr 2014

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Mickey Rooney, the actor, who has died aged 93, was in the Thirties and for much of the Forties the very image of how Americans liked to think of themselves — brash, energetic and eternally young.

As a child star and later a teenager, he epitomised American get-up-and-go, with a cheeky, cocksure arrogance that won him a wide following, especially in the United States. Though he never got an Oscar for his work, in 1938 he shared a special award with Deanna Durbin “for their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement”. In keeping with their stature, the awards were pint-size Oscars.

GALLERY: Mickey Rooney’s life in pictures

Mickey Rooney in a film still for Not to be Trusted (REX FEATURES)

Diminutive but pugnacious, Rooney managed to look like an adolescent until well into maturity. He was still playing Andy Hardy, the chirpy judge’s son which was his most famous role, until the late Forties, when he was nearly 30.

Like many young players renowned in their teens, however, Rooney found difficulty in landing suitable adult roles. He continued to work and was prolific into, and beyond, his seventies – at the age of 90 he filmed a cameo for The Muppets (2011). But the parts were seldom challenging and many of his films barely received a cinema release even in America.

He became better known for his private life than for his work. A prodigious earner at the peak of his popularity, he amassed some $12 million but kept none of it. Most of it went in back taxes and to pay alimony to his many wives (he had eight, of whom the first, Ava Gardner, was the best known). By 1962, he was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney after their marriage in 1942 (REX FEATURES)

Drink was also a problem, but one to which the solution appeared in remarkable circumstances. As he recounted it, he was dining in a Los Angeles restaurant when up stepped a heavenly messenger with bright golden hair. “God loves you,” the angel said. From that moment Mickey Rooney was a born-again Christian and mended his ways. None of his fellow diners saw the angel.

Mickey Rooney’s real name was Joe Yule Jr. He was born in Brooklyn on September 23 1920, the son of vaudeville performers Joe Yule and Nell Carter, who divorced when he was seven. He joined the act almost from the cradle and, at the age of only 15 months, appeared on stage as a midget, dressed in a tuxedo and sporting a huge rubber cigar. At six, he was a movie actor, making his screen debut (again as a midget) in Not to Be Trusted (1926).

His real screen career began when his mother saw an advertisement placed by the cartoonist Fontaine Fox, who was looking for a child to impersonate his comic strip character Mickey McGuire. Fox took a shine to the boy and he got the job, appearing in some 80 episodes between 1926 and 1932, when the series was wound up. In fact, he was so closely identified with the part that his mother wanted him to adopt the name Mickey McGuire professionally. Fox refused so he became Mickey Rooney instead.

In his early years Rooney worked for a number of studios and was eventually placed under contract by MGM because David O Selznick thought he would be ideal to play Clark Gable as a boy in the film Manhattan Melodrama (1934). MGM guaranteed him 40 weeks’ work a year but reserved the right to loan him out to other studios.

One such arrangement, with Warner Bros, resulted in the best performance of Rooney’s career, as the mischievous Puck in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Barely 15 at the time, he was perfect casting — impish and with a gurgling laugh that might be construed as innocent or knowing; it was hard to tell.

At MGM, his career took off in 1937 when he first played Andy Hardy, son of Lionel Barrymore’s Judge Hardy in A Family Affair. Planned only as a programme filler, based on a minor Broadway play, it became an unexpected hit and exhibitors begged MGM for a sequel. In the end, the series ran to 15 episodes over the next 10 years, with one ill-judged afterthought in 1958, Andy Hardy Comes Home. Lewis Stone replaced Barrymore as the judge after the first film.

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Strike up the Band (REX FEATURES)

Rooney appeared in much else besides, often opposite the equally youthful Judy Garland. In such films as Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937); Babes in Arms (1939); Strike Up the Band (1940); Babes on Broadway (1942); and several of the Andy Hardy series, they became the most popular team in movies. He also played a juvenile delinquent opposite Spencer Tracy’s priest in Boys’ Town (1938), and its 1941 sequel Men of Boys’ Town and took the title role in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939).

The success of these films and especially of the Andy Hardy pictures was good for Rooney’s image but bad for his ego. Increasingly bumptious and swollen-headed, he was the only actor on record to have come to blows with MGM’s feared studio boss Louis B Mayer. Rooney wanted the rights to do the Andy Hardy series on radio as well and lost his temper when Mayer said no. Rooney got a hike in salary out of the fracas, but Andy Hardy was never broadcast.

During the war, Rooney served in the Jeep Theatre, entertaining more than two millin troops, but was unable to recover his popularity in peacetime. Summer Holiday (1948), a musical version of Ah Wilderness!, proved a dismal failure, while nobody had anything good to say of Words and Music (also 1948), in which he played lyricist Lorenz Hart to Tom Drake’s Richard Rodgers. What attracted particular criticism was that the script ignored Hart’s homosexuality, portraying him as a red-blooded American male.

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms (REX FEATURES)

Rooney’s subsequent film career was mostly a catalogue of further disappointments. Especially regrettable was his bucktoothed Japanese photographer in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and his contribution to Stanley Kramer’s leaden comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

Against these and many equally as bad, can be set only occasional high points, such as Baby Face Nelson (1957), in which he was cast against type as a Tommy gun-wielding gangster; Pulp (1972), again as a gangster, this time inviting Michael Caine to write his memoirs, and The Black Stallion (1979), for which he received an Academy Award nomination (but did not win) in his supporting role as a horse trainer.

In 1983 he was presented with a second Oscar honouring his lifetime’s work. By the end of his career he had appeared in several hundred films.

He enjoyed a big stage hit in 1979 with a nostalgic tribute to vaudeville called Sugar Babies opposite the dancer Ann Miller. It ran for five years on and off Broadway but failed to translate successfully to London.

In 2003 Rooney and his eighth wife Jan Chamberlin began an association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing voices for some of the company’s films. Four years later, in 2007, Rooney made a debut in British pantomime as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire, a role he reprised in the subsequent two years at Bristol and Milton Keynes.

In 2011, as well as his role in The Muppets, he appeared in an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories, recalling how his dead father had appeared to him one night at a low point in his career telling him not to give up.

Rooney published two volumes of autobiography, of which the second, Life Is Too Short (1992), was conspicuously ungallant about such former movie queens as Norma Shearer and Betty Grable.

Mickey Rooney married, first, Ava Gardner; secondly Betty Jane Rase; thirdly Martha Vickers; fourthly Elaine Mahnken (all the marriages were dissolved). He married, fifthly, Barbara Thomason (who was shot dead by her lover in what may have been a double suicide pact); sixthly Margie Lang; seventhly Carolyn Hockett (both dissolved); and eighthly Jan Chamberlin, who survives him. He had seven children.

Mickey Rooney, born September 23 1920, died April 6 2014

Guardian:

y Devlin/PA

The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, gave an odd speech at the Conservative conference at the weekend (Report, 7 April). We were told that Britain is a Christian nation, which is true, and “militant atheists” should all “get over it”. Yet he failed to understand what it is that secularists are actually campaigning for. We don’t mind that most people are Christian. We definitely don’t mind Christianity being a part of public discourse. What we object to is Christianity, as a majority opinion, being imposed on everyone else. We believe that everyone should be on a level playing field, regardless of their beliefs, and that the state shouldn’t favour one particular religion.

On the specific example he cites, prayer in council meetings, he completely misses the point. The problem is that it shouldn’t be part of the formal meeting. People have a right to pray wherever and whenever they like, but they don’t have a right to force it on to other people or force it onto the official minutes. If, for example, the majority of people became atheists, we would still have no right to begin any council meeting with an ode to Richard Dawkins.
Christopher Curtis
Milton Keynes

• Giles Fraser (Comment, 7 April) rightly takes Eric Pickles to task for crass Christian flag-waving at the Conservative conference, but then refers to “a handful of middle-class atheists who think that reading half a chapter of The Selfish Gene at university has turned them into zeitgeist-surfing cultural radicals”. Most of the many atheists I know have considered their position very deeply, and have read widely in forming their view. Not all people who call themselves Christian have thought as conscientiously about the belief they hold.
Paul Surman
Oxford

•  If this is a Christian country (which I would like to think it is), why does the current government seem so much to enjoy humiliating the poor, the sick and the unemployed, and driving them into destitution; a very unchristian course of action. No, Eric Pickles, it is not a Christian country.
David Santamaria
Bushey, Hertfordshire

Thank goodness for the perceptively eloquent Ian Jack alerting us to the virtual extinction of our once broad industrial base (Britain’s manufacturing workforce may soon be gone. Will no one act? 5 April). The biggest cause of this is the increasingly open borders which have decimated our domestic manufacturing. In response, the “globalisation is unstoppable” brigade can only babble about “rebalancing” and indulge in delusional ravings about the “march of the makers” pluckily triumphing in export markets. Let’s get real here: this hasn’t, isn’t and can’t happen. The only way to rediversify UK manufacturing is to protect it with a “site-here-to-sell-here” approach. At this point the unimaginative will splutter: “But we are part of a single market of open borders?”

Haven’t they noticed that the socially and politically corrosive free movement of people is being rejected by the majority of Europeans? The result is increasing talk of stopping it by renegotiating the EU treaty. To be logically consistent, we also need to introduce a continent-wide reduction in the flow of money and goods as well. The young struggling to get on the housing ladder are waking up to the disastrous effect of the uncontrolled influx of foreign capital purchasing an estimated 85% of prime London property.

Yet it appears that only the extreme right is willing to make the case that globalisation has to be halted by taking back control of national borders. As a result, the right is expected to romp home in next month’s Euro elections. Isn’t it time that Europe’s left, greens and small-c conservatives, all desirous of sustainable and democratically controlled local economies, united to consider working towards a co-operative grouping of nation states that can at last legislate for a more protected, secure and hopeful future for their citizens.
Colin Hines
Author, Progressive Protectionism

• I was pleased to read UK unemployment was around 1% in the 1950s (What does ‘full employment’ actually mean?, G2, 2 April). But I doubt Beveridge defined it as 3%, when he wanted more jobs than workers because lack of work was more distressing for a worker than lack of an employee was for a business.

And not everyone who wants a job can get one under Nairu [the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment]. Its pool of people who must live on benefits frightens those in employment enough to curb their pay. Full employment cannot be sustained if businessmen raise prices and depress wages to optimise their company’s profits.
George CA Talbot
Watford, Hertfordshire

• You praise a company that replaced 4,000 workers with 100 and achieved great productivity success (Hints from an old textile town on how to solve Britain’s ‘productivity puzzle’, 1 April). Another word for this is efficiency. But will you next claim the resultant unemployment is the fault of lazy, shiftless benefits cheats? It’s time for all of us to rethink what we mean by productivity and efficiency and take a hard, cold look at who gains from their pursuit. I suggest that inefficiency is more democratic and better for the society as a whole. If it takes more people to produce something, there will be less profit for the wealthy and more work for everyone.
Proctor Taylor
Rushlake Green, East Sussex

I was sad to see Sam Wollaston (TV review, 4 April) considers that “good entertaining television” justifies the showing of yet another programme that reinforces the false view that all our jobless teenagers are workshy, ill-mannered and undeserving, but asserts that “recent arrivals from Eastern Europe are nice and hardworking”. All the teenagers I know fit into the category nice and hardworking, jobless or not. Sam should get out more.
Margaret Hermon
Clitheroe, Lancashire

• The death of an outstanding politician, committed to social welfare, human rights and personal responsibility, should have made the front of every national newspaper. By displacing Margo MacDonald‘s passing to page 12 in favour of Sir Bruce’s “provisional retirement” (Didn’t he do well? Brucie bows out, 5 April), was the Guardian making a bigger political point?
Dr Phil Barker and Poppy Buchanan-Barker
Fife

• It was interesting to read that millionaire wind farm owner Juliet Davenport considers Cornish villagers battered by her company’s PR machine to be “a privileged vocal minority”(Report, 5 April ).
Stuart Mealing
Holsworthy, Devon

• “We want to deliver the wind that’s been built already,” says a government source (Tories plan 2020 ban on onshore windfarms, 5 April). Let’s hope it doesn’t get lost in the post now that the Royal Mail has been privatised.
Peter Bendall
Cambridge

• Your reporter (Dorries goes on Mersey mission as a novelist, 5 April) writes of the “much maligned” saga genre. Maligned by who, I wonder? Guardian journos? Or the thousands of people who enjoy reading them? (And, yes, I am a saga writer).
Annie Murray
Purley on Thames, Berkshire

• This endless cataloguing of town names (Letters, 7 April) in the attempt to raise a laugh has become rather Dull (Perthshire, twinned with Boring, Oregon) and should end forthwith.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews

Congratulations to Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians, on his frank diagnosis of the NHS and for telling it as it is (Report, 5 April). His description of overworked clinicians “running around like scalded cats” vividly sums up the sense of pressure doctors are facing in the NHS. And he rightly highlights the fact that the NHS is under-doctored, under-nursed, under-bedded and under-funded.

Like physicians, psychiatrists are under pressure to deliver quality care with a minimum of resources. They witness the distress of patients and carers who are sent long distances to receive care because they are unable to access local services. Children as young as 12 are being left on adult psychiatric wards – which is completely unacceptable. And the decline in old age psychiatry as a result of “ageless services” means older people with mental health issues are not receiving the specialist care they need.

The real risk in all this is finance becoming a bigger driver than care and compassion, which brings us back to what none of us want – a recurrence of what happened at Mid Staffordshire.
Professor Sue Bailey
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Independent:

It is time that the issue of MPs’ expenses was resolved. The current situation brings the whole House of Commons into disrepute.

A constituency, probably in outer London, should be selected and a commission established to determine a reasonable level of expenses for the work of the MP of that constituency. A figure should be determined for each other constituency using the first as a baseline. MPs would receive the amount determined for their constituency with no deductions or additions for any reason. The savings in administration would be substantial.

Constituents would decide, ultimately via the ballot box, whether they were receiving value for money. As long as an MP provided a service that satisfied their constituents then how the money was spent would be irrelevant. They could employ anyone, member of their family or not. Erroneous claims could not happen, because there would be no claims.

Phil Smith, Maidenhead, Berkshire

There is a lot of coverage about an individual politician’s expenses. This suits a lot of people who believe politicians are generally corrupt, and distracts attention from our political system itself. People want to scapegoat individuals and focus on personalities. However, our whole political system needs substantial reform.

Our electoral system distorts the outcome of a vote; there is no recall of MPs; we don’t elect our House of Lords and they are unaccountable; we don’t elect our head of state; little has changed since universal suffrage in 1928, and just having the vote isn’t enough. They had the vote in the Soviet Union. Above all, we only have a meaningful vote for our legislature every five years.

Martin Peters, Taunton, Somerset

Andrew Mitchell was jettisoned by the Prime Minister and forced to resign as Chief Whip for allegedly calling a jobsworth policeman at the gates to Downing Street a pleb – an allegation Mr Mitchell has consistently denied. Yet Maria Miller retains Mr Cameron’s “warm support” despite a serious finding of non-cooperation with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the perfunctory apology that she gave to the House of Commons on 3 April. And this is to leave aside the fact that Mrs Miller was required to repay £5,800 admittedly over-claimed by her in respect of mortgage interest on her London home.

Once again the Prime Minister’s judgment is called into question.

David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk

It is my experience that anyone caught fiddling their state benefits is not only made to repay their ill-gotten gains in full but can be lumbered with a substantial fine to boot.

Mrs Miller, on the other hand, is asked (asked, mind you) to repay £45,000 of our money, only to have it later reduced to a paltry £5,800. But never mind, she has Mr Cameron’s full support, which speaks volumes about his judgement and the character of this government.

David Hooley, Newmarket, Suffolk

You are right to call for an end to MPs policing colleagues’ expenses (editorial, 7 April). But MPs’ expenses are only the latest example of self-regulation failing. Is there any sector where self-regulation is actually effective?

Dr Alex May, Manchester

Visitor let down by British police

I recently graduated from the University of London, and travelled from Hong Kong to attend the ceremony. I was an LLB student, paying more than £20,000 into the UK economy for my course. Happily, they taught me much about the law.  Unfortunately, my visit to London taught me some unwelcome lessons about the English justice system.

I was celebrating my success with a small group of overseas friends in a smart restaurant in Bayswater when my handbag was surreptitiously stolen by two nearby diners. The culprits left behind a mobile phone and there was CCTV operating.

If this had happened in Hong Kong, a posse of policemen would have taken action within minutes of my reporting a crime, in an effort to apprehend the culprit, either on the premises or in the vicinity. But this is London.

In response to my 999 call, I was told that there was no death or injury, so no policemen would be sent. I was shocked to be told that the nearby police stations had all closed for the day, so I would have to make my way to West End Central station to make a report. After a long wait in line, I made my report to one of only two officers on duty there.

They gamely attempted to show interest, but were clearly overworked and dispirited. When I requested a printout of my report for insurance and passport purposes, I was informed that all I could have was a crime reference number.

Some days later, I received an email from the case management unit, claiming they were investigating but effectively closing the case. Without a trace of irony, the email incorporated a mission statement from the Metropolitan Police Service: “Total Policing is the Met’s commitment to be on the streets and in your communities to catch offenders, prevent crime and support victims.”

We have learned that an abiding strength of Hong Kong society is our rule of law, perhaps the greatest legacy bestowed by Great Britain. But now I fear that the rule of law will quickly evaporate if the enforcement agency is abolished.

Becky Kwan, Kowloon, Hong Kong

The revelation by the Metropoliitan Police Federation that there is a “climate of fear” within the Met will come as no surprise to rank-and-file officers.

There has always been a culture of bullying and manipulation of crime figures within the police service. This has been exacerbated in the Met since 2011 and is now endemic. Grillings reminiscent of The Wire and sackings of borough commanders by senior Scotland Yard officers have become common knowledge throughout the force and this target culture works its way down the ranks.

Chris Hobbs, London W7

English tradition of multiculturalism

I was surprised by Edward Thomas’s reminiscences of monocultural Cockney Hackney in the 1950s (letter, 4 April). When I arrived at university in London at that time, one of my first excitements was meeting the very clever, articulate Jewish students from Hackney Grammar School, alma mater of Harold Pinter among others.

A few years later I lived and taught in Hackney and “monocultural” is the last adjective I should have used. Many of my pupils had East European or German surnames, their parents and grandparents having fled Nazi Germany or the earlier generation of Russo-Polish pogroms. My neighbours were Hasidic Jews from Czechoslovakia who spoke Yiddish at home.

I don’t suppose the residents of Hackney “asked for diversity” but they had welcomed the immigrants with generosity and in return got bread and bagels from Grodzinskis even on Christmas Day and wonderful smoked salmon and pickled herrings in the market.

I like to think of this multiculturalism as a part of the “English way of life” recalled by your correspondent.

Jenny Bryer, Birmingham

BBC guidelines on climate science

I disagree with the view that the BBC needs clearer editorial guidelines on the reporting of climate change (“The BBC must not confuse climate change with politics”, editorial, 2 April). The BBC already has editorial guidelines, which are approved by the BBC Trust, alongside a robust complaints process which ensures that concerns about content are dealt with without fear or favour.

In our 2011 impartiality review of the BBC’s coverage of science, the Trust directed the BBC to ensure that equal weight should not be given to well established fact as opposed to personal opinion on this topic. We note that the BBC has said that it seeks to avoid this happening.

Alison Hastings, BBC Trustee, London W1

Cross-channel smog goes both ways

In reports about the pollution cloud which affected parts of the UK last week, and to which continental Europe contributed, why was it never mentioned that, since the prevailing wind here is from the west, usually the reverse happens?

The Low Countries and northern France have no choice but to suffer, sometimes for weeks on end, pollution exported from Britain. I am myself from Lille, in northern France.

Paul Watremez, Bournemouth

Addicted to e-cigarettes?

Does Janet Street-Porter (5 April) have any evidence that e-cigarettes are causing addiction? I understood that such research as is available suggested that, overwhelmingly, they were being used by smokers trying to give up. If so, her remedies would be wholly counterproductive.

Michael Dempsey, London E1

Times:

Sir, The Prime Minister’s wish to retain Maria Miller in his Cabinet and “move on” (Apr 7) demonstrates arrogance and how out of touch he is with the world beyond Westminster. Instead of trying to defend the indefensible he should concentrate on working with Unionists in energising the lacklustre No campaign in the Scotland referendum because unless this referendum is made a political imperative the breakup of the UK and consequential decline in our global standing are at hand.

Professor Cedric D. Bell

Liphook, Hants

Sir, As an expat Scot, living in England, I share your readers’ abhorrence of Miller’s expense claims, of her cronies in Parliament overruling the independent watchdog’s findings and the Prime Minister seeing nothing wrong in it.

I also share the frustration at the lack of a credible alternatives to the three main parties which are alike in their greed and disdain for voters. I am worried about the impact this will have on the Scottish referendum in September. People resident in Scotland do have an alternative (I purposely do not use the word credible) and can show their opprobrium of MPs in Westminster by voting Yes to independence.

I believe that Cameron has just handed a trump card to the SNP.

Bob Raeburn

Froggatt, Derbyshire

Sir, You report that the chairman of the Conservative Party has suggested that it is time to draw a line under the matter of Maria Miller’s expense claims. No, it is time for Maria Miller to go, and if Grant Shapps cannot see that then he too should go. We cannot afford to have people who behave in this dishonest way involved in our Government.

Professor Colin Davidson,

Ardfern, Argyll

Sir, May I ask how many of your readers would be able to claim reimbursement for their parents’ accommodation?

The scrutiny arrangements for MPs’ expenses seem to me badly flawed if MPs can simply ignore the findings at will, and have the Prime Minister endorse their behaviour.

Of course, to retain Ms Miller in charge of arrangements for policing the press does show that Mr Cameron still has a sense of humour.

John Harris

Winchester

Sir, You say (leader, Apr 5) that the Maria Miller saga is not over yet because despite the recent reforms of the allowances system, it is not close to working well.

The Maria Miller saga could not have happened under the new system because we have banned MPs from claiming for mortgage interest payments. The idea of the taxpayer supporting an MP in building a property portfolio was one of the practices from the past most strongly objected to.

You suggest giving MPs a sum of money with no receipts or questions, and so no transparency, as a way of avoiding future scandals.

I would argue that such a solution based on removing transparency doesn’t remove the likelihood of a future scandal, rather it guarantees one.

The reformed system has stopped the egregious practices of the past and saved the taxpayer a huge sum of money — £35m and counting.

The 80 per cent fall in claims at Employment Tribunals masks a vast human tragedy. It is time for a thorough review

Sir, I support Caspar Glyn QC’s call (letter Apr 3) on the Government to urgently review the effect of the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal claims, which are now down to just a fifth of previous levels.

Employment Tribunals were a practical and cost-effective means of redress for workers denied basic employment rights such as the right to wages due, the minimum wage, minimum holiday and the right not to be dismissed or ill-treated arbitrarily or for discriminatory reasons.

Those most in need of employment protection are often the lowest paid. It is always hard for such workers to get justice, especially in non-unionised workplaces. Now it is even harder for the low paid to bring claims to enforce the law. Within this 4/5 drop in claims there will be a huge number of meritorious claims. Even if the claimant can raise the fee, small claims will not justify that cost given the risk that it will not be recovered.

When pressed on this at a recent Westminster Forum, Jenny Willott, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, did not rule out a review of Employment Tribunal fees but gave no indication of when or how this would take place. If the Government’s stated support for working people is to have any credibility this barrier to justice in the workplace must be removed.

Joy Drummond

Employment Partner

Simpson Millar LLP

London EC1

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities clarifies its relationship with the Mayor of Rome

Sir, The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has not agreed to fund the restoration of neglected Roman monuments, contrary to your report (Apr 2).

Last year we celebrated 80 years of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Italy. As part of that an archeology exhibition was held in Rome, and last month the Mayor Rome visited Riyadh at the invitation of the Governor of Riyadh.

SCTA was set up in 2001 with responsibility for the preservation and exploration of the archeology and history of Saudi Arabia — Islamic, pre-Islamic and ancient. It is not within its mandate to fund restoration work in other countries.

Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz

Students from private schools are not all ill-mannered – though perhaps behaviour is influenced by geography

Sir, Here in Dulwich, south of the river, we have three independent schools, and my children attend or attended one of them. When meeting their friends, fellow pupils and friends’ siblings and, of course, parents, I have found them to be invariably well mannered, well spoken and well behaved. There are two state schools and, by and large, their pupils, with some exceptions, are also similarly disposed. Perhaps it is the North London air that caused the issues for Mr Steven (letter, Apr 5)?

Neil Jones

London SE24

By what strange accounting is it more cost-effective to throw away perfectly usable, as-new disabled equipment?

Sir, Last week I tried to arrange for some disabled equipment to be collected, ranging from sticks to wheeled walking frames and chairs, all in perfect order and some entirely unused. I was told that the NHS no longer collected such items because they bought them for “buttons”, and cost analysis had shown that it was uneconomic to collect, clean and reallocate them, and I should just take them to the tip. I protested at the waste and was told that at the tip the items would be collected and sent to the third world. Not quite so terrible then. However, at the tip, I was told that no such system was in place, and the whole lot was tossed into skips.

What accounting system could possibly justify such a shocking waste of resources?

Lesley Byers

Bournemouth, Dorset

Telegraph:

SIR – My favourite country pub, The Cock Inn, in Ide Hill, Kent, has a sign outside: “Warm beer, rude staff, grumpy regulars, PROPER PUB.”

I agree with the last statement, but what makes a “proper pub”?

Gordon Hughes
Beckenham, Kent

SIR – The Clegg-Farage debates have proved useful in persuading the vast majority of voters that the sensible strategy is not to follow Nick Clegg’s subordination of British interests to the undemocratic European Union, nor support Nigel Farage in his unsubstantiated view that it is impossible to reform the European vision to everyone’s satisfaction.

Most people would like to stay in the EU providing substantial reform is achieved. The problem with voting Ukip in a general election is that it is unlikely to return one Ukip MP but very likely to attract enough votes to damage severely the prospects of a Conservative majority.

There is growing evidence that David Cameron can achieve significant support from other European leaders in his determination to improve the relationship and return certain powers to the British Parliament that it should never have lost. Only by voting Conservative can we be certain that he will have the opportunity to carry out those negotiations and then be able to present the results to the British electorate in a referendum. If he succeeds, then we will vote Yes. If he fails, we will vote No. The British public will make the decision, but not if Ed Miliband is prime minister.

John Sharp
Great Glen, Leicestershire

Telephone gatekeeper

SIR – Like James Shone, we enjoyed our BT blocking telephone until my husband was in hospital and we found that he could not ring me as the telephone would not accept the withheld number.

We have solved this with a little machine called trueCall. It allows you to register all family and friends on it, and they automatically get through. Anyone else has to say their name, and we press 1 to accept the call or 3 not to. This works perfectly and our evenings are now peaceful.

Helen Penney
Longborough, Gloucestershire

Unimaginable

SIR – I have a friend with no television and no computer. Will he have to pay for a television licence? He is being hounded by the licensing authorities already – they don’t believe that anyone could live without a television. The only fair way to pay is by subscription.

Joan Freeland
Colyton, Devon

The right receptacle

SIR – Prudence Seddon asks what to use now that toothbrush handles have become so bulbous that they no longer fit into the receptacles designed for them. The best toothbrush holder I have had (and still have now, after 30 years) is a stone, James Keiller, Dundee marmalade jar. It is timeless, spacious and easily cleanable.

Sarah E Critchard
Stamford, Lincolnshire

SIR – My electric toothbrush will only stand up on the slight slope on the side of the basin when I display more patience than I can normally summon up in the morning. It’s very annoying. Industrial designers really should take note.

Tony Parrack
London SW20

SIR – I suggest putting fresh flowers in the toothbrush holder and toothbrushes in a small vase.

Alan S Skyrme
Mexico City

Afghan Vietnam

SIR – The admirable Christina Schmid calls Afghanistan “our Vietnam”. In many ways she is right.

Like the Americans, we went in to prevent the expansion of an aggressive totalitarian foe. Like them, we found ourselves fighting an enemy that did not abide by the rules of war, and which hid within the local population. Like them, we found ourselves fighting on behalf of an often ungrateful and corrupt local elite. Like them, we paid a price every time we hurt the innocent, while our opponents killed and intimidated their own people as a matter of policy.

History has unmasked communism for the inhumane evil it is; it will do the same for fundamentalist Islam. Vietnam and Afghanistan were both just causes.

We differ from the American experience in one regard: it has not taken the British people decades to re-learn how to respect their fighting men and women, and their sacrifice, even if they disagree with the politicians who sent our Forces to fight.

I hope that our “Vietnam” experience does not make us forget that we were fighting for a good cause, or make us unprepared or unwilling to do it again.

Victor Launert
Matlock, Derbyshire

‘Dillan and Cathleen’

SIR – Last week, while discussing this year’s centenary of the birth of the writer Laurie Lee with his widow, Kathy, in the Woolpack Inn, Slad, conversation turned to that other poet, Dylan Thomas, and his wife Caitlin.

Kathy and Laurie knew them very well as “Dillan and Cathleen”, and had many interesting drinks with them at the Chelsea Arts Club, the Man in the Moon, the World’s End and other places. Mrs Lee maintains this tradition with a small glass of beer with a tiny bit of gin in the top.

Chas Wright
Uley, Gloucestershire

SIR – In Dylan Thomas: The Collected Letters, Paul Ferris, the volume’s editor, writes “Caitlin – the first syllable is Cat, not Kate”, and Thomas refers to “Darling Caitlin my dear dear Cat” in one letter from 1943.

Dinah Parry
West Hill, Devon

Enjoying life

SIR – Only in Great Britain could the suggestion that we enjoy our food be met with hostility.

Eddie Lewisohn
London N6

Learning through play is best for young children

SIR – The organisers and signatories to the letter headlined “Gradgrind for tiny tots” have abused their academic positions by inventing a position attributed to Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, and attacking this without waiting to read what he said.

The video posted on your website, and any fair reading of the report itself, show that Sir Michael is advocating precisely the combination of learning and social skills that characterise the best nursery practice. The website of one of the signatories, Victoria Sadler, rated outstanding by Ofsted, is an excellent example of such practice, and Ofsted’s concern is that work of this quality is less often available in poor areas.

Deliberately constructing a view that is at variance with the truth – indeed constructing it before the truth could be known – is an exercise in media manipulation, not a contribution to debate.

I urge readers to read the report on the Ofsted website and judge it on its merits.

John Bald
Independent educational consultant
Linton, Cambridgeshire

SIR – It can take up to seven years for some children to develop the eye movements needed to support reading. Some evidence suggests that children forced into near-point activities too soon develop myopia to accommodate the visual stress.

Research carried out in schools has indicated that up to a third of children may not have all the physical skills in place to support academic learning at the time of school entry, and there is a correlation between immature physical skills and lower educational performance.

The early years are for developing the physical, language and social skills needed for life, not through formal instruction, but by exploration through play.

Sally Goddard Blythe
Director, The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology
Chester

SIR – If two-year olds from poor homes are to be put into nurseries, then mums or dads must be there too. How else can good parenting skills be learnt?

Susan Day
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

SIR – Air Commodore Michael Allisstone laments the lack of leadership exhibited by our political class.

Perhaps the example of the Armed Forces could solve the expensive accommodation problem for MPs who do not live a commutable distance from London. (I’m not including Basingstoke in that, by the way: it’s only 50 minutes plus a 10-minute stroll from Waterloo.)

Why don’t we have officers’ mess-style arrangements for MPs, where they can stay in London at short notice for a fair price?

It could be in a renovated military unit: secure, a short ride from Westminster, and funded by all the current second-home claimants. Any spare capacity could be taken up by parliamentary staff.

Harry Roberts
Crondall, Hampshire

SIR – Swedish MPs living more than 31 miles (50 km) from the centre of Stockholm are given a basic, 600 sq ft flat owned by the parliament, which is responsible for repairs and updates. Nearly all Swedish MPs live full-time in their constituencies, and treat the weekly journey to Stockholm as a commute.

James Vaux
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

SIR – Your front-page report on the Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s abuse of expenses and David Cameron’s support for her, demonstrates yet again politicians’ contempt for voters.

Is this really the same man who was “appalled” and “understood public anger” at the abuse of the parliamentary expenses system exposed by the Telegraph in 2009?

I am starting to wonder whether Mr Cameron really wants to win the next election, as he may find the electorate’s memory is better than his.

Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex

SIR – As an NHS worker, I am fully aware of how taxpayers’ contributions could be spent more judiciously than on Mrs Miller and her ilk. But this is about more than money.

MPs should lead by example. The ethos of personal gain and get-what-you-can permeates our society. Compensation culture (increasingly prevalent and costly to the NHS) and tax evasion are but two examples. Who can blame the residents of James Turner Street (featured on Benefits Street) for adopting such a policy?

We recently heard of the mutual respect between Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher: polar in their political views but both principled, committed and honest. If we are to restore public confidence in politics, we urgently need to bring back such a fundamental ideology.

Dr John Trounce
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – Now we know what David Cameron meant by: “We are all in this together.”

Peter Leatherbarrow
Wortwell, Norfolk

Irish Times:

Sir, – Frank McDonald’s article (Opinion & Analysis, April 4th) and your editorial of April 1st are welcome responses to the urgency of the latest report from the IPCC. But the fact remains that the issue of climate change has failed to engage public discourse in the way that it surely ought to have by now.

Arguably the factor that more than any other contributes to this failure is a general misunderstanding of how risk is assessed. For example, the persistent misuse of the term “sceptic” in this context only serves to obscure the reality of the risk inherent in climate change.

Two components come into play with risk assessment: a) the probability of an event occurring and b) the consequences of such an event occurring. An event with a 98 per cent chance of occurring but with minimal consequences would not generally warrant much in the way of preventive measures being adopted. On the other hand a potentially catastrophic outcome with a 2 per cent probability of realisation would warrant more diligent attention. To be clear, risk assessment cannot predict the future: what it does well is identify and model probable outcomes, derived from currently identified trends.

The overwhelming, peer-reviewed, scientific consensus about climate change is a) that it is happening and its temperature-raising component is currently largely driven by human activity and b) that left unchecked, the consequences of this will be catastrophic. “Overwhelming” here is conservatively estimated at 98 per cent on both counts – ie the aggregate level of risk is huge.

So-called sceptics are entitled to disagree with this consensus, but if they are to be true to the sceptical tradition they must surely acknowledge the reality of the identified risk. By flatly denying the validity of current models of future climate – saying, in effect, that the probability of catastrophic outcomes has a 0 per cent chance of occurring – without offering any credible alternative models of future climate, they are in denial and not in any way engaging with the evidence in a way that the term “sceptic” would imply.

A straw increasingly clutched at by denialists as weather events become more unpredictable – as current climate models predict they will – is to seize on cold weather events as evidence against climate change predictions. This would equate to attempting to construct tide tables based on a one-minute study of wave motion: another example of a complex, chaotic phenomenon masking a far simpler underlying trend.

Also the apparent pause in atmospheric heating observed in recent years as the oceans absorb for the time being unexpectedly high levels of energy – incidentally accompanied by growing acidification as more carbon dioxide is absorbed with devastating impacts on marine ecology – has “sceptics” champing at the bit to shout down the overwhelming scientific consensus of the urgent reality of human-driven (aka anthropogenic) climate change. In truth, the risk to the planet is both real and unaffordable, this being the only home we have.

PETER WALSH

Heathervue,

Greystones,

Co Wicklow

Sir, — I have recently immigrated to Ireland, in part to escape from Obamacare, the health system in the United States.

Now I see that Irish Ministers are proposing Universal Health Insurance (UHI) for Ireland. This suffers from the same deficiencies as Obamacare in the US. Indeed the two plans are identical in their core essentials, which require that everyone will be a private patient, everyone will be required to buy health insurance and the government will promise to subsidise insurance for the poor.

This is not the same as single-payer, universal health care. Like Obamacare, the UHI scheme is a gift to private, for-profit insurance companies, providing them with a captive market of customers who will pay to enrich those at the top. And those at the top of insurance companies are not even in the public sector; this is the private sector.

Both America’s Obamacare and Ireland’s proposed UHI are policies to enrich insurance CEOs, by herding the population like sheep into buying from the private sector even when they are unwilling to do so voluntarily. That is the opposite of freedom.

France, Germany and Canada are among the states which have shown that a single-payer model can be a viable solution. Ireland should consider that model, and Irish people should fight for it.

At the end of day, insurance from the private sector is a sociopathic business model, driven by the profit motive, and only two roads lead to increased profits: charge more, and pay out less. That is Ireland’s future if UHI goes ahead. I have seen this movie before, and I can already tell you that in the next act the system deteriorates.

To fight against this loss of freedom and choice, Irish people should fight for single-payer health care.  Yours, etc,

JOHN PATRICK KUSUMI ,

High Street ,

Tuam ,

Co Galway

Sir, – The primary failing of largely empty bus lanes at rush hour is that they force two lanes of cars into one lane where motorists intending to turn left further along must wait an unnecessarily long time to reach the filter, meanwhile clogging up the single lane now allowed to them. This is very evident on the Con Colbert Road on the approach to the junction leading to Conyngham Road and on Wolfe Tone Quay on the approach to the junction leading to Blackhall Place and on the Merrion Road approaching various left turns.

The arbitrary priority given to the – often absent – bus passengers is difficult to justify given that individual motorists going to and coming from work are contributing y more to the national economy through buying cars, paying exorbitant motor tax and insurance, regularly buying petrol or diesel, paying for NCTs and for a range of other motor-related repairs and parts, while bus passenger may contribute nothing toward road use.

With regard to the safety of pedal cyclists in Dublin, it is some years since I have seen any cyclist stop for a red light at any junction, while many of them refuse to sport lights or high visibility vests at night, even during the winter months.

If, as is argued, opening up bus lanes at rush hour is a folly, then let it be proved by a measured study. Yours, etc,

SHANE O’DOHERTY,

Hollybrook Road,

Sir, – The many GPs who have written in to the letters page (in response to Brian Devitt’s letter of April 2nd on their pay) are, to my mind, extremely coy about what they do actually earn. They tell us about their overheads and how hard they work, but that’s all. Why is their remuneration such a secret? Aren’t they virtually public sector workers in that a large proportion of their earnings comes from the public purse? I suggest that the GPs’ own representative organisation tell us straight out what is the average GP’s take home pay and we can judge the fairness or otherwise for ourselves? If it really is as bad as implied, they will earn the sympathy they deserve.

As it is, the rush of Leaving Cert students to enter medical degree courses, all of which are heavily subsidised by me, the taxpayer,would suggest that the returns must be worthwhile.

And could I just mention that everyone in business has to pay rent/mortgage, heat, lighting, general and water rates, staff costs etc, not just GPs? Yours, etc,

ELLEN MacCAFFERTY,

Lansdowne Crescent,

Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4

Sir, – With reference to your front-page article “ ‘Basics of language’ need more attention”, I would like, as a teacher of English over many years, to point out the following. The Junior and Leaving Cert exams, with their attendant pressures, influence teaching heavily, as we know. There has been no requirement in the English exams for students to show understanding of how language actually works and is put together through parsing and analysis. As a result, many students actively resist attempts by teachers of English to tackle sentence structure and word function, knowing these will never be an exam requirement. What understanding they have of the main parts of speech they gain through foreign language learning.

To give parsing and analysis exam status, even for a small percentage of marks, would encourage students to study the structure of language, and, one would hope, write it more correctly. In addition it would give teachers more support in teaching these skills. Yours, etc,

HILDA GERAGHTY,

Corbawn Lane,

Shankill,

Dublin 18

Sir, – I was surprised to see the photograph on your front page (April 5th) of the new Garda Reserve recruits holding aloft the Holy Bible. Is this really the image we wish to portray of the guardians of peace in this country? We are a multicultural society now and not a religious state. Our police force should be upholders of the law of the land and protectors of all members of society. This display is sending out the wrong message.

On the same subject, I am regularly puzzled by the presence of the Christian Bible on the tables at our polling stations during elections. Why not the Koran? The Old Testament? Any other document one can swear on if one is not affiliated to a religion? These trappings convey exclusion rather than inclusion and should no longer have a place in the secular functions of the State. Yours, etc,

HEATHER

ABRAHAMSON,

Roebuck Lawn,

Clonskeagh,

Sir, – I was under the impression that legislation introduced, wisely, by a previous government prevented the littering of our streets with posters tied to lampposts and other street furniture to a short period prior to an election.

It now appears that many candidates for the forthcoming local and European elections are getting around the prohibition by announcing “public meetings”. There is a proliferation of such posters appearing on street furniture over the last month throughout the Dublin area and possibly further afield. They all have one thing in common – the name of the person calling these meetings in large letters, generally with their party affiliation as well. The subject of the meeting is generally in much smaller lettering.

This is quite simply a way of getting names before the public. What are our local authorities doing about this? And will these “poster-pests” be prosecuted? Will the councils take down the posters or compel those breaking the law to do so? I will wait and see. I hope I won’t have to wait until after May 23rd.

ANTHONY KEANE,

Meadow Vale,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Walking through our capital city today one becomes aware of what seems to me a great anomaly for a republic.

In a week when our President is in some ways closing a circle in our relationship with Britain with his State visit, Dublin’s streets are still teeming with signs of ascendancy and empire. On leaving Leinster House, for instance, a TD will walk down Molesworth Street, a thoroughfare that bears the name of Viscount Richard, whose allegiance was firmly to the kingdom of Great Britain.

Is Little Britain Street, in the north inner city, still a fitting title in a city that has been firmly Irish since 1922? Westmoreland Street? John Fane, once lord lieutenant, was a 10th Earl and a British Tory politician. Grafton, Henry Fitzroy, was the illegitimate son of Charles II and a deputy of William of Orange. His name, because of the street named after him, has lived on through centuries of Anglo-Irish turbulence.

Jervis, Marlborough and Leeson are others whose legacy is set in stone. Are these names essential to our identity, or is it time to take our streets back? Davitt, Stephens and Kickham Street might be more vital to a nation that, population-wise at least, has still not recovered fully from the Famine. Collins has an avenue, but surely he is more important to us than Westmoreland. And who better to kick Grafton into touch than Brian Boru? Yours, etc,

JODY MOYLAN,

The Paddocks,

Clontarf,

Sir, – Today’s (April 7th) tragedy on the Luas Red Line demonstrates the dangers inherent in having so many unguarded junctions on busy city streets between motor vehicles and the massive steel-wheeled trams.

I work in Smithfield, and my colleagues and I regularly witness collisions at the blind junction with Lincoln Lane, where motorists cannot see the tram until they are on top of it. Until the entire street layout can be reorganised and the Luas line properly bridged, there is one cost effective measure that could help to reduce the numbers of injuries and deaths suffered at these junctions.

As a motorist, I hate driving over ramps but I do recognise that they slow cars down, especially those with sharp brick edges. Such ramps should be laid on streets leading to Luas intersections as a matter of urgency. I would also recommend the installation of angled mirrors on the corners of buildings as a further protection for Luas and other drivers, as well as the pedestrians who of course are the most vulnerable of all. Finally, the Jervis intersection must be recognised as too busy with pedestrians and cars, and too narrow, to permit an unguarded crossing.

If retailers oppose the closing of this street to vehicles, they should be required to pay for a full-time crossing guard to police the junction. If these simple measures are not taken soon then more people will die. The authorities need to act now. Yours, etc,

ARTHUR DEENY,

Rock Road,

Sir, – I have been amused by the suggestion that the Government parties’ drop in support in the polls was because the electorate is disappointed with the management of the Department of Justice. Could it be that the electorate is weary of this tedious drama? What was said and when it was said is petty in comparison to real world concerns and given the choice of listening to nothing or hearing more about the gardaí, I’d choose silence. Perhaps if the Government could steer the media to topics we wanted to hear about they would fare better.

S LYDON,

Eagle Valley,

Wilton,

Cork

Sir, – With reference to Fintan O’Toole’s worry (“The Nazi past that causes a cultural problem”, April 5th) that the surreally overrated insights contained in Heidegger’s philosophical work “can’t be dumped”, let me reassure him: they can.

For Heidegger was not only a Nazi in his private views, he was also an inveterate purveyor of empty pretention in his intellectual life. In the opinion of many philosophers (and others), 21st century philosophy would be far better off if it abandoned the very worst of the anti-Enlightenment, nostalgicist pretension that hobbled the discipline during the 20th century, primarily due to the influence of Martin Heidegger. Yours, etc,

JAIME HYLAND,

Kuckhoffstraße,

Berlin

Sir, – I was an academic member of staff in Trinity College Dublin for 33 years before my retirement. The logo and name of the college is a very trivial issue and more substantial matters determine its international reputation.

In fact the argument as outlined in your columns is reminiscent of the debate over how many angels would fit on top of a pinhead.

Not only the logo, but other issues in the antiquated traditions of the college need to addressed. These include the giving of scholarships without a means test and the subsidy of a free meal each evening to fellows and scholars. Yours, etc,

PROF GREGORY J

ATKINS,

Shielbaggan,

New Ross,

Co Wexford

Sir, — Culturally, modern Ireland differs from England about as much as English-speaking Canada from the US: hardly at all. As past differences fade, nostalgic delusions to the contrary seem only to thrive. Yours, etc.

DENIS O’CONNOR,

Front Street East,

Toronto, Ontario

Canada

Irish Independent:

We persist in shutting out the thought that current economic imperatives do not necessarily support social and political conditions conducive to human flourishing.

Also in this section

Let’s remember who of us went to Britain first

Garda cadetship vital

We must move from organ donor cards to a list

Our President’s intention of focusing our minds on the relationship between ethics and the economy could do much to confront the bewildering assumption that the current ordering of the creation and distribution of wealth is self-justifying and does not have to render an account of its workings and their consequences.

This assumption of moral neutrality has created a world where the distribution of wealth is justified only by the efficiency of the systems that create it.

Moral sensitivity does not sit easily with unfettered capitalism, it tends to subvert it. We have colluded in allowing economic activity to develop a life of its own, accountable only to itself.

The Celtic Tiger years in Ireland were an eloquent testament to the absurdity of this position.

The economic life of the country was colonised by dodgy builders and bankers.

The attempt to perpetrate the myth that the economy is the business of politics and therefore does not have to render an account to anybody is beginning to be seen for what it is – an earnest march to nowhere, where politics and big business feed on one another in the thoughtless exploitation of the country’s resources.

Mr Cowen declared, with plausible innocence, that he did not see the financial crash coming. Of course he didn’t, as he took the attitude we all took – we didn’t feel it was our job to look.

Besides, if we are experiencing the bounty of a broken gambling machine, we don’t seek to have it fixed.

We become convinced that the laws of economics are not man-made but part of the nature of the world. Our minds become atrophied and fail to notice the naked structural injustice at the heart of our way of life.

PHILIP O’NEILL, EDITH ROAD, OXFORD

 

THE IRISH UNIFORM

One of the multitude of failures, albeit peripheral, since the foundation of the State is the inability to show any form of national dress/ costume. The wearing of the kilt was tried, but failed.

Irish men, a notoriously disastrous species when it comes to sartorial matters, have not taken up the challenge, unless of course we count the baggy, grey tracksuit that Irish men between the ages of 11 and 55 cling to.

The female Irish dancing costume was the nearest we had till the emergence of rococo curls, spray tans and day-glo/hi-viz dresses.

But there is hope. In recent years, as Ireland has gone from being a country to an economy and our nationality a sellable brand, a national costume of sorts has emerged. It consists of a green rugby shirt, a leprechaun hat with ginger beard attached and a stick-on plastic arse bearing the motto ‘pog mo thoin’.

It started its popular rise during domestic national events but I’ve noticed it has now travelled to Irish events all over the globe, most particularly the St Patrick’s Day parades throughout the world.

Despite initial misgivings, I have to accept that it is now our national dress. I hope that our President dons a full leprechaun outfit during his jolly-up with the British oligarch Elizabeth.

PATRICK COONEY, BEAUMONT, DUBLIN 9

 

TIME FOR REFLECTION

As a student of Irish history, I believe that the visit of President Michael D Higgins will provide a great opportunity to reflect on our history, something that I believe we desperately need.

Napoleon Bonaparte said that “history is a lie agreed upon” and he could well have been describing the history of this country. For far too long now, the view of Ireland’s history has been dominated by the old, and false, mantra that it was 800 years of oppression by Britain. There are so many lies to this that it is hard to know where to start.

The original invaders who came to our shores were not “British”. Britain, as such, did not exist until 1707. Nor were they English-speaking or Protestant. They were French-speaking, Catholic Normans led by the Plantagenets, who were a French dynasty. These people’s primary concern was with maintaining their lands in France. Lands they were able to maintain due in no small part to their invasion and subjugation of England to provide them with valuable resources.

The atrocities committed during this subjugation are well known, particularly the infamous “Harrying of the North”, which devastated the north of England. Let us also remember the fact that the Normans were invited into Ireland by the King of Leinster and supported by local nobles and chiefs.

Next up, the foreign invasions of Ireland. For 700 years, England has been demonised and criticised for invading Ireland and damaging the country. But they were not the only ones to do so. The Scottish did it in the 1300s led by Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce, to support the war for Scottish independence, not Irish freedom, and numerous atrocities were committed by the Scots. The French, Spanish and Germans followed in their footsteps. Yet we forget these countries’ transgressions against us and continue to solely blame Britain for all our ills.

If ever there was a time for reflection, it is now.

COLIN SMITH, CLARA, CO OFFALY

 

HOLDING HIS HEAD HIGH

This month marks the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the mass murder of as many as 800,000 ethnic Tutsis by the Hutu majority.

We should constantly remind the UN of its fecklessness in dealing with this preventable atrocity. The charismatic Canadian General Romeo Dallaire had been given the unenviable task of commanding the small UN peacekeeping force that had been in situ in Rwanda since 1993.

Early in 1994, he was aware of arms being massed by the Hutus and warned the UN that murder was being planned on a large scale. His warnings went unheeded. He was given 2,600 ill-equipped soldiers and provided with a UN mandate that did not grant authority to disarm the militias. He argued that if given 5,000 well-equipped soldiers and a mandate that would allow him direct intervention, he could prevent the tragedy that was about to unfold. This fell on deaf ears. When the killing started, he once again pleaded for more troops but instead the UN reduced his forces to a token level.

Against almost insurmountable odds, he managed to save tens of thousands of lives. In the aftermath of the Rwandan carnage, very few in western civilisation could hold their heads high but General Dallaire is one who certainly can.

JOHN BELLEW, PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH

 

FEELING SHATTERED

I am shattered reading about Shatter, day in, day out, in your paper, and nothing really changes.

It really is time to move on.

BRIAN MCDEVITT, GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL

 

REMEMBERING ROONEY

The passing of Mickey Rooney brings to mind a quote (along the following lines) attributed to him on the subject of marriage. “If you must get married do so very early in the morning . . . that way, if it doesn’t work out, you may not have wasted a full day.”

TOM GILSENAN, BEAUMONT, D9

 

Write to Letters to the Editor, Irish Independent, 27/32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1, or e-mail them to independent.letters@independent.ie. Name and address must be supplied for verification. Lengthy contributions may be edited.

Irish Independent

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