14 April2014Under the Weather
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes have to sort out a very tricky problem in putting up a statuePriceless
Mary in hospital brief visit Tidy house
Scrabbletoday, Mary wins by three points Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.
Jacques le Goff – obituary
Jacques le Goff was a French historian who believed the Middle Ages was a time of progress and purgatory
Jacques le Goff in 1999 Photo: CORBIS
8:17PM BST 13 Apr 2014
Jacques le Goff, who has died aged 90, was a veteran of the French Annales, or “New History”, school, and helped to define what was culturally distinctive about the period loosely described as the Middle Ages.
The Annalistes, a group of scholars associated with the journal Annales (other prominent members included Fernand Braudel and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie), broke away from the traditional historians’ fixation on political, constitutional and military history. Inspired, though not defined, by Marxist historicism, they used techniques of historical anthropology to investigate how ordinary men and women of the past experienced life and conceived their world.
Though he was once described in the press as “the Pope of the Middle Ages”, le Goff challenged the term as implying a transitional rather than a formative period before the “flowering” of the Renaissance and Reformation. For le Goff, the Middle Ages constituted a period of “creativity, innovations and extraordinary progress” which saw a series of “rebirths”, including the epoch of Charlemagne and the 12th-century “Renaissance”. Historians, he argued, had exaggerated the novelty of the 15th and 16th centuries, which did not bring about fundamental transformations to the essential economic, social and political structures — or the mindset — of earlier centuries.
Le Goff was probably best known for The Birth of Purgatory (1981), in which he argued that the idea of a “third place” in the afterlife, along with heaven and hell, came into full bloom as a formal Catholic belief and doctrine rather late — in the 12th century. Established as “an intermediary other world in which some of the dead were subjected to a trial that could be shortened by the prayers, by the spiritual aid of the living”, it took shape in a detailed theology of retribution, sacrifice, penalties, pardons, and spiritual exchange between the dead and the living.
It became the “key component” in the medieval system of ideas (as well as a useful revenue-raiser for the Church), turning people’s earthly existence into a day-to-day spiritual ledger and giving society its meaning.
Jacques le Goff in his study in 1981
Central to le Goff’s thesis was his attribution of the birth of purgatory to social-historical causes. The 12th century, he argued, was a time when the traditional binary feudal social structure — powerful nobles and clergy on the one hand, and the powerless peasantry on the other — was being challenged by a new significant intermediate social group, the mercantile bourgeoisie. While the bourgeoisie did not create purgatory, medieval men and women could think and imagine only in terms of their social and economic structures, and dramatic changes in these structures could not help but be reflected in their thinking about life after death.
But purgatory also chimed with the concerns of the nascent urban culture of the Middle Ages, and allowed the Church to accommodate it. In a later book — Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages (1988) — le Goff cast purgatory as the Church’s solution to the theological problem of usury.
Before the development of purgatory, a usurer could reach heaven only by making restitution of his sinful gains — something that rarely happened in real life. The advent of purgatory provided another route for men who were playing an increasingly vital role in the new mercantile economy: “The hope of escaping hell, thanks to purgatory, permitted the usurer to propel the economy and society of the 13th century ahead toward capitalism,’’ le Goff argued. Once usurers no longer expected to go straight to hell but to linger in this new place, moneylending acquired redemptive possibilities, and thus a larger measure of respectability.
Purgatory by Hieronymus Bosch
Le Goff’s thesis was controversial, but his approach influenced a new school of social historians, represented in Britain by the medievalist Miri Rubin among others, who, in the jargon, use a “multidisciplinary approach” to investigate how systems of belief interact with and animate social life and literary expression in medieval culture, bringing sources such as cultural imagery, popular writings and anthropological artefacts into new historical play.
Jacques le Goff was born on New Year’s Day 1924 in Toulon. His father, a teacher, was a resolute anti-papist, while his mother was a strict Roman Catholic. Lively family debates about religious doctrine, along with a youthful reading of Ivanhoe, convinced Jacques at an early age that he wanted to be a medievalist. His Leftist political views were shaped during the German occupation of France when, to avoid compulsory labour service, he fled to the Alps and served in what he described as a “pseudo-resistance”, helping to retrieve medicine and weapons dropped by the Allies. However, he was inoculated against more extreme forms of Left-wing doctrine after the war when he travelled to Prague and witnessed the communist takeover of 1948.
In 1950 he qualified as a history teacher and became a teaching assistant in Amiens, but soon gave up and embarked on a one-year’s research studentship at Lincoln College, Oxford. By the end of the decade he had written the first of more than 30 books and was becoming known as a leading member of the Annales School.
Le Goff joined the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris in the early Sixties, serving as the director of studies from 1962 and teaching there until the age of 70. In 1972 he succeeded Fernand Braudel as head of the school and editor-in-chief of Annales.
Throughout his life le Goff was a fervent pro-European, a commitment shown in his editorship of a multinational, multi-publisher series The Making of Europe. In his book The Birth of Europe (2005) he argued that Europe first became a self-conscious entity — both in reality and in representation — during the Middle Ages as a western, Christian zone defined against both Asia and the Eastern Church — with feudalism, transnational trading systems and the growth of towns and universities among the factors contributing to the process.
Le Goff rejected the fashionable promotion of Charlemagne as “the father of Europe”, however, pointing out that as Charlemagne fought for a Frankish empire, his true successors were Napoleon and Hitler, not the EU’s founding fathers.
Yet he found many parallels between the preoccupations of medieval Europeans and their modern counterparts — including debates about a single currency: “Despite the prestige and wide use of florins and ducats, the multiplicity of currencies remained one of the hindrances that held back the medieval economy,” he wrote.
In France, le Goff hosted a weekly history programme on France Culture public radio and often took part in topical political debates on television. He served as historical consultant to several films set in the Middle Ages, including the 1986 adaptation of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (starring Sean Connery) on which he advised on monastic tonsures and the methods used to heat refectories.
His later works included well-reviewed biographies of Louis IX, the only French king to be canonised, and St Francis of Assisi. The Annalistes tended to disapprove of biography as a genre, and le Goff (who preferred to use the term “anti-biography”) focused principally on what an individual’s life — and the myths that grew up around it — could tell us about the medieval mind.
Le Goff won numerous awards and his international standing was reflected in a conference held in his honour at Cambridge in 1994 and in a 2003 exhibition at the National Gallery in Parma entitled “The European Middle Ages of Jacques le Goff”.
He married, in 1962, Hanka Dunin, a Polish child psychiatrist, with whom he had a son and a daughter.
Jacques le Goff, born January 1 1924, died April 1 2014
Tomorrow, 14 April, the Metropolitan police and CPS will prosecute five anti-fascists arrested on 1 June 2013 while trying to stop the British National party from marching on the Cenotaph. Police decided the anti-fascist protest was a “threat to public safety” and imposed a dispersal order under section 12 of the Public Order Act 1986; 59 people were arrested. A few months later 286 protesters against the English Defence League, which had declared its intention to march on a park named after Altab Ali, who was murdered in a racist attack, were arrested in Tower Hamlets.
In both cases those arrested were put on bail conditions banning them from attending future anti-fascist protests. Yet of the 345 arrested overall, only seven have been charged. In both cases these tactics appear designed not to safeguard the public, but to gather information on protesters and deter people from joining protest movements. UN special rapporteur Maina Kiai, for example, recently reported that the threshold for using section 12 and 14 was “too low” and presented a threat to the right to protest.
The electoral gains of fascist parties in France and Hungary are a warning of the continuing threat of the far right across Europe. In Britain, protest has played a vital role isolating groups like the BNP and EDL. We are therefore deeply concerned at how the Public Order Act is being used to criminalise protest in general and anti-fascist protest in particular. We support the five anti-fascist protesters and call for a proper accounting of the police tactics, including mass arrests, that have been utilised on these two protests.
Daniel Trilling Author, Bloody Nasty People – The Rise of Britain’s Far Right, Dr Jim Wolfreys Co-author, The Politics of Racism in France, Hannah Dee Defend the Right to Protest, Darcus Howe Broadcaster, Glenroy Watson Black Solidarity Committee, RMT, Zita Holbourne PCS NEC and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Brian Richardson Assistant secretary, Unite Against Fascism, Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS, Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU, Caroline Lucas MP, John McDonnell MP, Nina Power Author, Laurie Penny Journalist, Nadine El-Enany Law lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London, Trenton Oldfield Boat race protester, Susan Matthews Mother of Alfie Meadows
For a generation of victims who were systematically and repeatedly discredited or ignored, the search for justice must begin with reassurance that allegations of sexual abuse – whether historic or current – will be taken seriously. In the aftermath of the Savile debacle, the Crown Prosecution Service cannot be risk-averse when it comes to prosecuting high-profile sex crimes, no matter how complex they are (Tories and CPS at war as Evans cleared of rape, 11 April).
However, the CPS needs to explain why it thinks the majority of these high-profile cases to date have failed to convince juries. What exactly is the CPS expecting juries to adjudicate on? At the same time, all sections of the news media are exploiting and amplifying the sensational details of these cases for commercial and ideological reasons. It is the sensationalised nature of the “trial by media” accompanying these cases that is shredding the reputations of innocent and guilty alike.
Professor Chris Greer and Professor Eugene McLaughlin
Department of sociology, City University London
• Following the acquittal of Nigel Evans on Thursday, numbers of Tory MPs raised concerns about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service. Yet not one had raised similar concerns about the acquittal of Nicholas Jacobs on a charge of murdering PC Keith Blakelock at Broadwater Farm the previous day (Report, 10 April). It may well be that there are issues with the way the CPS is operating. If so, it is not just the cases of well-known white men in suits that need to be looked at.
Ruth Wishart (The art of healing, 12 April) is right to point out the benefits to people’s wellbeing of art and music they see and hear. Even more potent is that which they make: Sound Sense members have demonstrably evidenced the value of, for example, singing for people with Parkinson’s, and music-making for those with dementia. The tragedy is that neither arts nor health funding systems make sustained funding available for such activities. How much better off the residents of even the best care home in Britain (Michele Hanson, 12 April) would be if they could also sing and paint through their days.
Director, Sound Sense, the UK association for community musicians
• As an Englishwoman in Northern Ireland, I have been working as a volunteer with the local credit union for 15 years. We celebrated 50 years of our branch of the Irish League of Credit Unions last year. Your article on credit unions (5 April) had the subtitle “half a century ago this month the UK’s first credit union opened its doors”. It later refers to “the first two credit unions being set up in Britain”. No comment!
Portstewart, Co Londonderry
• Michael Darvell (Letters, 12 April) forgets the 20-minute family serial At the Luscombes, which began in 1948. It was created by Denis Constanduros and heard every Saturday evening for 20 years on the BBC West of England Home Service.
• Now spring is here, meetings may be less chilly at the Bare Women’s Institute next to Morecambe (Letters, 11 April).
Your obituary of Richard Hoggart (10 April) remarked on his decision to become warden of Goldsmiths College that “As a close to a career, it was a diminuendo”. This is to misunderstand both the man and the place. Some people make a point of moving to the most prestigious institution that makes them an offer in the expectation its grandeur will rub off on them. Others improve and expand the place they are in to make it match their ambitions. This was more like Richard Hoggart’s role when I knew him as warden of Goldsmiths in the 1970s and 80s. He expanded the institution out of recognition with the application of his restless energy, intellectual rigour, exceptional contacts and many hours in committee work which is essential but all too often under-appreciated in public life.
I have had no further connection with Goldsmiths except that I spoke at a conference there last week, and I thought of Richard Hoggart: if you seek his monument, look around. Goldsmiths is now a world-class institution that has nurtured the talents of students such as Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen. It can feel proud of itself, and its former warden.
• Congratulations on the late John Ezard’s obituary of Richard Hoggart. Though far from a scholarship boy and privately educated, my life was changed by The Uses of Literacy in 1957. Who can forget some of its chapter mottoes, from Wordsworth, de Tocqueville, Arnold and “Schnozzle” Durante, and the chapter titles Unbending the Springs of Action and Invitations to a Candy-Floss World? For all his achievement and worth, I don’t think Perry Anderson quite fits in the pantheon the obituary suggests.
• As a new member of the Arts Council in 1978, I attended its annual budget meeting for the first time in 1979. Discussion was held about the amount of grants the council would give to the major national concert orchestras. In the course of the debate I asked if any grants had been given or would be offered to the numerous brass bands in the UK as they were not mentioned in the budget documents.
One member, in a very haughty voice, said, rather like Lady Bracknell’s “A handbag?” comment in The Importance of being Ernest, “we are only concerned with the high arts on this council, Mr Buckle”. I replied: “Brass bands are the high arts for many working people in coal mines, factories etc.” Speaking as a factory member I had remembered many brass band concerts we enjoyed during lunchtimes in the Oxford car factory where I worked for 14 years. Richard Hoggart strongly supported me and after the meeting congratulated me on my comments. We became very close friends after that, so I mourn his passing very deeply and salute his memory.
• I never met Richard Hoggart but his The Uses of Literacy had a profound effect on me. As a student in the late 1950s and early 60s, I felt adrift from family and student life. My parents had not seen the point of going to university and we could not converse about my studies. Yet I did not feel at ease at university. I was nicknamed “Bertie”, that is “Burlington Bertie from Bow”, because of what others regarded – wrongly – as my cockney accent. Hoggart showed me that my experience was not unusual and was common among a new generation able to enter university. He taught me not to abandon my background yet also to make the most of study.
• Martin Kettle (Report, 11 August) is right to stress the importance and influence of Richard Hoggart’s work, both in his written work and in the many posts he held, including vice-chairmanship of the Arts Council, from which he was sacked by Margaret Thatcher in 1982. For Hoggart, humane reading and humane education and humane culture and society should be open to everyone, and he deeply deplored those who saw themselves as privileged, not least the patrician William Rees-Mogg who, as chairman of the Arts Council, took it for granted that his journeys from London to his Somerset home and back should be provided by an Arts Council-funded chauffeur-driven car. Not something Richard Hoggart would ever have contemplated.
• In Richard Hoggart’s obituary, you recall that he wrote of seeing his widowed mother “standing frozen, while tears start slowly down her cheeks because a sixpence has been lost … you do not easily forget”. Reading Polly Toynbee’s article (Duncan Smith’s treatment of the disabled is monstrous, 11 April), it is apparent that IDS has forgotten the effects of poverty, if he ever knew. It seems very little may have changed since the 1920s.
What with the behaviour of MPs, the police, the military and the immigration officers, one wonders what the UK authorities get right. Now they push disgrace to a new level, and without shame.
You report on the sad failure of UK authorities to permit the Jamaican sister of UK citizen Oliver Cameron to enter the UK to give him an urgently needed kidney
To fail to record the correct details of donor and donation (liver instead of kidney) is bad enough but to refuse to allow this brave act of life-saving love is an act of cruelty and a complete disgrace to us all. I pray the Home Secretary will ensure she apologises and enables the donation to take place straight away.
Lest any believe this will be at net cost to the NHS, the expense to the NHS of keeping a patient on dialysis is around £30,000 a year, but only £5,000 a year after successful transplant.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
In a moment of honesty, Theresa May once admitted the Tories were the nasty party. In refusing Oliver Cameron’s sister, Keisha Rushton, entrance to the United Kingdom she has displayed not only her party’s cruel nastiness but also its crass stupidity.
If Ms Rushton is allowed to come and donate her kidney, it will cost the taxpayer for the operation probably about £25,000. The average lifetime cost of dialysis within the NHS is of the order of £240,000. In other words, while taking not a shred of thought about Mr Cameron’s actual well-being, the Government could still have made a saving of well over £200,000 simply by being intelligent.
It is also, incidentally, a compelling reason for those in sound health to think seriously about making this safe but life-changing gift, exchanging a month or two of inconvenience for a threatened life transformed.
David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey
Evans case smashes confidence in MPs
Nigel Evans’s sexual proclivities and with whom he practices them are of no interest to anybody, except the parties involved. What is however, of exceptional interest to the majority of “us” – the population of a democracy – is that a senior member of our political establishment, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, can fee-range at “the high water mark of over-friendly, inappropriate behaviour by a drunken man” – I quote from your newspaper (for which I have high regard).
So he’s not actually broken any laws. What he has broken, perhaps smashed, is any confidence we might have in our system of self-regulating the behaviour of our so-called governors.
All the dubious publicity that’s hit him over the past few days he could and should have seen light years in advance; intelligent foresight is clearly not his strong point. His “weeks of hell” are self-inflicted.
Dr Richard Wood, Staithes, North Yorkshire
As soon as the Crown Prosecution Service’s fanatical hounding of suspect celebrity sex offenders encroaches on the hallowed turf of Westminster there are piercing cries of “Foul!”, “Shame!” and “Something must be done!” from the green benches.
If Nigel Evans MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, had just been plain Nigel Evans, bank clerk, of Clapham, whose happiness, career and reputation had been annihilated by the CPS zealots, not one Honourable Member would have blinked an eyelid.
Adrian Marlowe, The Hague
Sometimes a news story seems to sum up the times we live in. For me, one such was the report that Conservatives held a sex party during a party conference in Manchester. Apparently the scandalous element was that the room where it took place may have been paid for in an irregular manner.
Gordon Elliot, Burford, Oxfordshire
Blair in frame for battle of Bootle
It was once said of solid working-class Labour communities that if you put a red rosette on a donkey they would vote for it. Yet the poor suffering people of Bootle may soon not even have such a luxury if the incumbent MP Joe Benton steps down. For you report that dark satanic forces are conspiring to foist on the constituency the son of Lucifer, Euan Blair.
Tony Blair dragged our country into five wars in six years and believes even now that we should bomb Syria and Iran. Euan Blair has never condemned his father’s wars, so we have no idea what he maybe capable of.
Joe Benton MP did at least vote against the Iraq war, so please, Joe, don’t step down.
Mark Holt, Liverpool
You report that unnamed sources wish to parachute in Euan Blair to the safe Labour seat of Bootle. Some activists apparently hope thus to put Bootle “on the map”. Have the good people of Bootle checked the body count for the last place that a Blair “put on the map”?
Amanda Baker, Morpeth, Northumberland
Pit town faces a future of despair
It was really good to see a decent report on the threatened closure of two of the three remaining deep-mine pits in the UK (“The Future of Coal”, 5 April).
I live a few minutes drive from Kellingley Colliery and know the neighbouring town, Knottingley, well. If the pit does close it will be a harsh blow to the local economy. Other mining communities provide the evidence. Frickley Colliery sustained the local economy of South Elmsall, but when it closed in the brutal round of pit closures in 1992-93, dereliction, drugs and despair followed.
The decent, hard-working miners employed at Kellingley are victims of a crazy globalised economy where electricity generating companies put profits and the bottom line first, people second.
The UK government could get emergency state aid from Europe, but ideology means they will be uncomfortable doing so. Poland and Spain have drawn on state aid to help as their mining industries contract – the UK government should too.
Forty per cent of electricity in the UK is generated from coal, yet only 4 per cent is from UK mines. It surely makes sense to ensure that this UK source of a secure supply is not only protected but developed alongside clean coal technology and carbon-capture schemes.
Granville Williams, Pontefract, West Yorkshire
The kindness of Richard Hoggart
Many thanks for the excellent obituary of Richard Hoggart (12 April). It must have been hard for this fine old man to be pre-deceased by his son. As a sometime librarian at Goldsmiths’ College may I add an anecdote about the man’s humanity?
As one of working-class origins myself, I arrived at Goldsmiths’ without a degree and always felt the lack. After 10 years’ service I applied for a year’s leave to do an MA but was refused it. Only a personal appeal to Dr Hoggart on the grounds of my original lack of opportunities finally achieved my object and I was granted the leave on half-pay.
Robert Senecal, London WC1
When Richard Hoggart was 90 years old I sent him a piece I had written on life on a council estate in the 1950s called “The Prefab Files”. There was no chance of anyone publishing it, but because of the encouragement Richard gave me I put it on a website.
In his hand-written reply, Richard said he “had found an hour or so” to read it, wished me luck, and gave the addresses of two magazines I could send it to. The card he sent from his home at Mortonsfield in Surrey is a memento to the enduring dedication and helpfulness he showed throughout his life.
Ivor Morgan, Lincoln
Farage’s secret: He’s not a media robot
Penny Little is right that Nigel Farage is refreshing because he talks English (letter, 11 April). His secret is doubtless that he has not had, or has ignored, media training.It is virtually impossible for any mainstream politician to speak without mentioning “hard-working families”. Resigning ministers always talk about “distraction from the business of government”. These stock phrases are frequently repeated several times, no matter what the question may be.
Don’t media trainers realise that the public become infuriated by these robotic responses?
Rod Auton, Sheffield
Poor creatures snubbed by the BBC
After complaints of sexism, Lord Hall, BBC Director General, acted to increase the number of images of women in the foyer of New Broadcasting House from three to seven. According to your report there are now “seven women alongside 11 men and a Dalek”. One can only conclude that the BBC is now alienist. I expect complaints to follow from Cybermen, Sontarans, Ice Warriors, Silurians etc, given their staggering lack of representation.
Martyn P Jackson, Cramlington, Northumberland
Sir, I’m saddened to read that Anna Wharton’s attempted home birth was a traumatic experience (Apr 8), but this turn of events should not justify scaremongering and generalisations about misguided yummy mummies and new-age hippies, with no distinction even being made between the risks for first-time mums and subsequent pregnancies.
While accepting that a first-time mother’s home birth is a real step into the unknown, this situation does not demonstrate that all home births are a risky business. For example, after a speedy complication-free first labour in hospital, I was encouraged to opt for a home birth in future, and I went on to have two home births, secure in the knowledge that I would have been blue-lighted to hospital at the first hint of a problem. Just as my experiences are not proof of home birth safety, Wharton’s experience has so many variables attached to it that it really shouldn’t be used as any sort of anti-home birth evidence.
Sir, Anna Wharton quoted a 2011 study from Oxford that has been debunked by the NHS: the risks to first-time mothers opting for home birth were still very small, and the study included “birth injuries” that are common and non-life threatening.
Wharton suggests that hospital is the only safe choice. The fact is, like all women opting for home birth, she was advised to transfer to hospital as soon as there was any whiff of complication. That’s why home birth is so safe in this country; that’s why her daughter is alive. Home birth saves the NHS money, and for low-risk women, who do not develop complications in labour, they are more likely to avoid unnecessary medical interventions.
Sir, Anna Wharton was monitored while at home by a fully trained midwife who moved her to hospital when it became clear that she needed medical help. Had she already been in hospital she would have received exactly the same care up to that point.
She obviously had an upsetting and difficult birth (as did I, and I was in one of the best maternity hospitals in the UK) but simply being at home for the initial stages of labour did not cause the problems with her birth.
Home birth is a wonderful option for many women, and I hope she has not discouraged anyone. As a regular Mumsnetter and NCT volunteer I can assure her that choice and knowledge are the mainstays of both organisations.
Sandhills Green, Worcs
Sir, Homebirths may sound most desirable but after my own experiences of giving birth to our three children — very long labour, baby stopped breathing during delivery, baby somersaulted all day resulting in caesarean section — I recommended hospital to my daughters. We now have four lovely grandchildren.
However, without medical intervention, involving three caesareans, for pre-eclampsia, placenta praevia, a baby born with Down’s syndrome and a very unpleasant pregnancy rash, the outcome could have been very, very different.
Loss of widow’s pension on remarriage means some women cannot enjoy the health benefits of companionship
Sir, Further to your letters about the despicable loss of pensions to war and NHS widows who re-marry (Apr 9, 10 & 12), there is a bigger issue here as spouses of all government employees (including teachers and lecturers) lose their pensions if they re-marry.
The teacher’s pension rules on re-marriage changed in 1998 and those who become widows after that date can re-marry and keep their pensions and financial independence.
There is an important health issue here: too many older people live alone and lonely when they could be living in a mutually beneficial relationship, without loss of income, caring for each other.
Demographics and working practices have changed and we can no longer expect or wish our working men and women to look after elderly parents. Care homes have had a bad press, so, Mr Cameron, be compassionate on widows (and widowers) and remove all pension clauses which withdraw government pensions on re-marriage. Surely we have a right not to be penalised for following our hearts?
Sir, I will not have a problem getting equality with my husband’s army pension. He served in Northern Ireland three times, Cyprus during the troubles, the Malay Peninsula and Borneo over 12 years. I will get half of what he gets — nothing.
Godshill, Isle of Wight
Sir, As an Englishman living in Scotland, I believe that the focus of the referendum campaign is now on fairness and social justice, rather than on whether or not it is affordable for Scotland to go it alone.
Scotland is a left-of-centre country with only one Tory MP, and measures to make poor and disabled people poorer, while simultaneously making rich people richer are not appreciated.
The so-called bedroom tax, for example, is anathema to most Scots. It is causing hardship because there are no one or two-bedroom properties for people to move to. Such an ill-thought through tax should now be rescinded. If not, David Cameron and George Osborne can expect a Yes vote in the referendum, and it will be largely their fault.
Sir, Since October 2012 large employers have enrolled more than three million people into pension saving, often for the first time. From April to July around 25,000 medium-sized employers will start automatic enrolment of their staff, and
hundreds of thousands of small businesses after that.
Finding a workplace pension, communicating the requirements to staff and ensuring the right workers are enrolled are complicated tasks, and may take longer than employers think.
We’ve campaigned to reduce the administrative burdens of automatic enrolment and will work to support our members as they prepare for this challenge. They will also require clear and simple guidance on how to comply from government and the pensions regulator.
Help is available, but the time for small and medium-sized employers to act is now.
Adam Marshall, BCC
Neil Carberry, CBI
Tim Thomas, EEF
Alex Jackman, FPB
Mike Cherry, FSB
Malcolm Small, IoD
Sir, I shall always be grateful to Maria Miller for steering the Single Sex Marriage Bill through the Commons. I hope her successor will be equally determined when putting in place the arrangements which will enable the tens of thousands of us in civil partnerships to convert to full marriages, should we so wish. A credible explanation for the delay would also be appreciated.
Everyone I have ever known was texting me to tell me that Nigel (the People’s Schnauzer) Farage had blamed me for single-handedly forcing the youth of Britain to waste their time at university.
I cannot, like the eponymous George of the town I was in, tell a lie. I spoke those words in an advertisement for a telephone company. I will die with those words engraved on my dialling digit. “Lipman cut off in her prime!” will headline my obituary.
Having spent so long in politics, Mr Farage finds himself unable to differentiate between fact and fantasy. It was the Blair government which preached “ologies” for every sixth former and, to that end, elevated every technical college to university status – then increased tuition fees. Jonathan Swift, where are you when we need you?
Mr Farage himself, like me, avoided university. It’s not too late for him to enroll in a soft media studies degree and change careers to become a fully-fledged comic.
Since he must be the first senior politician in the history of first world nations to regard education as a bad thing, he is well on the way to a place on Mock the Week.
SIR – I am staggered that Islington council is to investigate itself about the child abuse scandal 30 years ago.
I remember the campaign that the London Evening Standard ran, and the criticism it received from Islington council, led by Margaret Hodge. The Standard revealed that many of the council’s childrens’ homes were staffed by paedophiles, who were protected by Left-wing politicians.
It was bad enough that Mrs. Hodge was Minister for Children in Tony Blair’s government, but for her son-in-law to investigate events that happened during her leadership is beyond belief. It is hardly surprising that she wants the press to be regulated.
SIR – Elizabeth Simpson is undoubtedly right to infer that natural climate change alone was to blame for the melting of the ice from the last Ice Age.
However, that does not necessarily mean that man’s modern atmospheric pollution is not contributing to current global warming even though scientists cannot yet prove it beyond doubt. Absence of proof is not proof of absence.
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
SIR – If Christopher Booker had been with me in Northern India last autumn, he would have experienced the deep concern, expressed by many ordinary people, that climate change is indeed happening at an alarming rate, and is undeniably our fault.
The monsoon in India carried on for an additional month last year, for the first time. What happened this winter in the South-West of England is nothing compared to what other communities across the world are suffering.
SIR – Steve Willis misses the point of Dr Rowan Williams’ contention that “the rich West is ruining our planet”.
Criticising Dr Williams, he cites modern inventions that have benefited the human race. But the human race is not the planet. Regardless of all the discoveries, there are too many people and still not enough food.
Farage on the telly
SIR – The format for televised debates between party leaders before the next general election, will not be decided by David Cameron or Ed Miliband, or indeed the people, but by the broadcasters.
Where is the interest in predictable debates between the main party leaders whose policies don’t differ very much?
Articulate views from Nigel Farage against the political consensus are a “must-have” for broadcasters seeking a wide audience.
More than a mile
SIR – If John Barrell actually checked the distance that Roger Bannister ran by measuring six inches from the edge of the track, then it was wrong and not in compliance with the rules as they were in 1954. In order to avoid tripping over the raised inside curb, it was deemed that the athlete would run one foot from the curb and 8 inches from the line in all other lanes.
Thus, if the track measured the distance of one lap as 440 yards at six inches in, it would have measured more at 12 inches in, which meant that Bannister ran more than a mile.
SIR – Your article about Mick Mannock, the flying ace, is accompanied by a well-known photograph of Fokkers and SE5as mixed up in air combat.
This photo was supposedly produced with many others by Wesley Archer of New York, who had flown in the RAF in 1917-18.
The rights to the photographs (supposedly a sensational discovery) were sold in 1932 to the Illustrated London News for a very large sum, and published with an anonymous “war diary” as Death in the Air. But both the photos and the journal were not considered genuine by most wartime pilots.
In 1984 two American researchers from the American National Aerospace Museum investigated the photographs and uncovered a fascinating story, including snapshots of little wooden model aeroplanes being made and arranged for photography.
The photographs were concluded to be one of the great frauds of aviation history.
Charlton Marshall, Dorset
SIR – As plenipotentiary minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Venice, I have been charged with expressing fraternity and friendship to the Italian people and asking the Italian government, as an act of good will, to return the Palazzo Venezia, built five centuries ago in Rome as the Embassy of the Republic of Venice.
This act will be considered the beginning of a good relationship between our states, as they enjoyed in past centuries.
Giovanni dalla Valle
Martin McGuinness at the Windsor feast
SIR – It is wonderful news that the Irish president was able to make a state visit to this country, but what a shame for the families of victims of murder by terrorists during the Troubles that the banquet at Windsor Castle, which should have been a joyous occasion to celebrate the new-found friendship between our two countries, was blighted by a spectre at the feast.
If Martin McGuinness had any sense of shame he would have declined his invitation and stayed at home.
SIR – There is a long line of people regarded at one time as terrorists and subversives by the British government, and then subsequently accepted as legitimate leaders.
Mahatma Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Archbishop Makarios and Kenneth Kaunda come to mind. Perhaps the atrocities committed in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain are too recent and too close to home to allow us to be objective, but history will probably add Mr McGuinness to the list.
SIR – It was wonderful to see the West Country train service restored recently.
I think Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have been pleased to know that we still have some excellent civil and mechanical engineers today.
SIR – Further to Frankie Blend’s remarks on British Summer Time, it was only our lopsided nine to five working day (three hours of morning, five of afternoon) that created the demand for “daylight saving” in the first place.
If standard working hours were symmetrical around noon (ie. eight to four), GMT would automatically “save” daylight equally all the year round.
Year-round GMT would also have the advantage of contravening EU rules – a meritorious action in itself.
Good for nothing
SIR – When did it become acceptable to use the reply “I’m good, thank you” when asked if you would like another drink?
The first time I heard it I innocently said, “I didn’t ask about your morals, just if you wanted another drink”.
I received a blank look.
SIR – Is it any wonder that the average voter is so disillusioned with politics, when sleaze is obviously alive and thriving within the political arena, as the Maria Miller expenses scandal has proved?
As a lifelong Conservative voter, I find it even more sad that David Cameron is so far removed from everyday life and public opinion that he openly supported someone whose graceless and arrogant “apology” to Parliament rendered the word virtually meaningless.
We need a leader who can differentiate between soundbites and sincerity.
13 Apr 2014
SIR – Paying MPs a salary increase via expenses, in the hope that this could mitigate a public outcry, might have seemed a good idea when it was first introduced, but in the end it has been a failure for everyone – not least for the politicians themselves, who have suffered a huge loss of popularity and respect.
It is time to increase all MPs’ salaries adequately and eliminate the expenses system altogether. Give them Oyster cards and rail passes and let them pay their own way for all other expenses. Then they can indulge in as many duck houses as they please.
We need transparency once and for all.
Corina J Poore
SIR – Before becoming an MP, Maria Miller was a respectable married woman, with three children, holding down a responsible job, married to a City professional, leading a very comfortable life and representing the very essence of probity.
However, on being elected an MP, she appears to have cast all of this aside by declaring her marital home of some 10 years, where she, her husband, children, cat and even her parents lived, to be her second home for expenses purposes, and her rented Basingstoke cottage, where nobody lived, to be her primary residence.
It would appear that a cloud of venality sinks over the head of so many of our MPs when they are elected, causing them to lose all sense of right and wrong. Then they wonder why the voters are outraged at their actions and greed. Mrs Miller has lost her post and her reputation; Mr Cameron, the voters’ trust; and the Conservatives, possibly, the next election.
SIR – You report that the energy bill for one year at Maria Miller’s “second home” was £3,700. Had Mrs Miller had a smart meter installed, it would have been possible to determine her usage on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis, thus providing more concrete evidence of occupancy.
I am opposed in principle to the roll-out of smart meters because they are a massive cost to the consumer and of benefit to the energy companies alone.
They also now have an unfortunate “Big Brother” undertone. Despite this, they would undoubtedly be useful if installed in the homes (first and second) of all MPs.
J R Ball
SIR – I was most surprised, during the aftermath of the Maria Miller affair, that the following old parliamentary clichés were not trotted out: that lessons had been learnt from the episode, that we should now draw a line under it, that we should now move on and, in so doing, achieve “closure” on the whole matter. Have these phrases been binned? I pray so.
SIR – It is a shame that MPs don’t have an easily digestible code of conduct similar to the Army: “selfless commitment” and “integrity” come to mind.
Col S J Oxlade (retd)
Sutton Veny, Wiltshire
SIR – Why do we need a Department of Culture, Media and Sport anyway? Why can’t culture, media and sport just be left to get on with it?
Sir, – It was uplifting to see how well the heads of state of Ireland and the United Kingdom, respectively, embraced Ireland’s first state visit to the United Kingdom. President of Ireland Michael D Higgins fulfilled his role with statesmanlike aplomb, while Queen Elizabeth demonstrated a generosity of spirit, an emotional intelligence and a willingness to appreciate Irish history.
The visit was, as you pointed out in your editorial (“Sovereign and equal”, April 10th), “first and foremost a proper acknowledgement by the British state of our standing as equals in the community of nations”.
For this we need to be thankful, first and foremost, to the patriots whose vision made sovereign Ireland a reality in 1922, and whose sacrifices (including at Easter 1916, the 98th anniversary of which will be celebrated in a matter of days), lest we forget, made it possible for Ireland today to hold her head high on state visits to other nations.Yours, etc,
JOHN B REID,
Sir, – John Draper (Letters, April 12th) speaking of the “dubious narrative” of the Irish in Britain suffering discrimination in the 1960s, claimed the “No Blacks No Dogs No Irish” signs were mythical phrases coined only in the late 1980s. Mr Draper also claimed that anti-immigrant prejudice did not affect the Irish “because they had white skin”.
In 1959 I went to Britain to seek work, found it and remained in London for many happy years and never suffered discrimination in the workplace or socially for that matter. However, in terms of sourcing accommodation it was different. Contrary to Mr Draper’s view that racism against the Irish and blacks in the area of renting rooms was fictitious, I know that it was not, as I was a victim. I was refused accommodation despite having “white skin”. This refusal was on the basis of my accent.
It was not unusual to see signs in shop windows advertising rooms to let which read “No Blacks or Irish”. It may not have been a very widespread practice but it certainly was there. Conversely, some rooms to let ads specified a willingness to accept Irish. These were usually, but not always, from Irish landlords. Yours, etc ,
TOM COOPER ,
Sir, – Declan Kiberd beautifully sums up our relationship with England by the phrase “the narcissism of small differences”. My father was a raging nationalist. At the same time his parents made huge sacrifices in the early 1950s to get him an education to make him a part of the new independent Ireland. He eventually became a successful businessman in that new Ireland and as a result of that success ended up living in London, listed on the London stock exchange and rubbing shoulders with many a cool dude. He was delighted. He had met the Brits on their own turf, and lo and behold he realised he had more in common with them than he thought.
I reflect on this as I read this article and look at the picture of his first cousin (Garry Hynes) at the banquet in Windsor Castle. Michael Whelan (RIP) wouldn’t you be proud! Yours, etc,
Sir, – Manus O’Riordan (Letters, April 12th) refers to Myles Dungan as saying that the “Irish” Guards were formed shortly after the South African War. In fact they were formed on April 1st, 1900, to commemorate the Irishmen who were mauled by the Boers at Colenso on December 15th, 1899.
In that engagement MacBride’s Irish Brigade fought against them. Some of that brigade fought until the end of the war, on May 31st, 1902 ,and were honoured as “bitter-enders” by their Boer allies by being awarded the Dekoratie voor Troue Diens (Decoration for Faithful Service). Yours, etc.
BRIAN P O CINNEIDE,
Sir, – I note that Manus O’Riordan (Letters, April 12th), believes John MacBride to have fought on the “anti-imperialist“side in the Boer War. Is this how the Irish left characterises Oom (Uncle) Paul Kruger, his Bible, and the tenets of the Dutch Reformed Chuch ? Perhaps there are other points of confluence. It is well documented that Oom Paul believed the world to be flat. Yours, etc,
Sir, — I watched the Ceiliuradh concert at the Royal Albert Hall with great admiration, but find that I am left with a certain regret. I have noted that a whole cohort of Irish musicians were not represented at all – these are the exponents of classical music. Many of these brought great distinction to the British orchestras and opera companies in which they spent their careers, and many others brought back to Ireland their knowledge and expertise. There has been much emphasis during President Higgins’s visit on honouring and remembering those who have forged links between Ireland and Britain. I feel that the cultural links in the field of classical music have been ignored, and a golden opportunity to showcase some of our wonderful opera singers and instrumentalists has been lost. Yours, etc,
Upper Beechwood Avenue,
Sir, Would President Higgins look me in the eye and tell me he will be supporting England in the World Cup? If so, he will be ploughing a lonely furrow. I know of no Irishman (or Welshman or Scot for that matter) who will be doing the same. For goodness sake, even within England there are many who would fail the Tebbit cricket test and secretly want England to fail. They will not be disappointed. England have little chance of progressing to the later stages and absolutely no chance of winning. Many thanks for your support Mr President, but you’re on your own on this one. Yours, etc,
Sir, – In his response to Eamonn McCann’s column on US support of Israel, Dermot Meleady (April 12th) asserts that the term “occupied territories” is “tendentious” and that “disputed territories” is more appropriate. This again confirms his government’s contempt for the International Court of Justice and the UN, which have stated repeatedly that the West Bank is under illegal occupation.
He then goes on to refer to the previous failed attempts at peace talks, suggesting that the failure was down to Palestinian intransigence with regard to recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland. He conveniently forgets that one the main reasons for failure is the expanding sprawl of illegal settlements on the West Bank which make the prospect of a two-state solution increasingly untenable.
He tries to sell a fallacy that these talks are between two parties on an equal footing. Tell that to the Palestinian population, who continue to be subjected to evictions, harassment and humiliation. A bit more honesty from Israeli spokespersons could help form the basis for more constructive talks but doublespeak is more their strong point. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Mr Meleady’s reference to “disputed territories” is an unsubtle attempt to suggest some equivalence of claim, where none exists, to the occupied Palestinian lands – lands which are external to Israel’s legal 1967 borders, and which have been occupied by Israel’s military forces.
There is not a single other country in the world – not even the USA – which regards these occupied lands as “disputed”. The unmistakable reality is that these occupied parts of Palestine may only be regarded as “disputed” in the same manner that occupied parts of Czechoslovakia and Poland were “disputed” in 1938/9. Yours, etc.
Sir, – Dermot Meleady claims that Israel “has always regarded the term ‘disputed territories’ as more accurate than the tendentious ‘occupied territories’ when referring to the historic heartland of the Jewish nation, Judea and Samaria (also known inaccurately as ‘the West Bank’)”.
Given its source in the Israeli embassy, that need hardly surprise; but I hope the “paper of record” will not, just yet, accept that the geographical accuracy of appellations be trumped by atavistic tribal/folkloric labels, and resort to using the resurrected biblical propaganda of a partisan faction as its benchmark of what constitutes historical scholarship.
The romantic/sentimental use of “heartland” betrays the origins of this pernicious 19th century ideologising of abstracted ideals of manufactured nationhood, which typically is accompanied by its corrollary, militarism and dispossession of those relegated as extraneous to the imagined and idealised nation. Readers of history for its educational, rather than its selective propaganda functions, will recognise the familiar tragic pattern. The edifice of factoid tendentiousness, I’m afraid, which Mr Meleady erects upon this prefabricated tribal/sectarian ideological confection is worthy of its presumptuous foundations.
He might be better reading his biblical text for its literary wisdom rather than its historical expedience to his political masters’ agendas of hegemonic aggrandisement. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I couldn’t agree more with Tom O’Dowd (Letters, April 10th) on the NHS in Britain. Surely we can try to emulate its achievements. Most Irish health professionals who have worked outside Ireland have chosen to work in that system. Thousands of Irish emigrants and their families have benefited from it. I worked in Britain in the 1980s and I did not have to hesitate before consulting a doctor while there. I knew that no matter what my circumstances I would be seen and treated.
Perhaps we do not need to look to the Netherlands or Belgium or the USA for models of health insurance. Our nearest neighbours have a health service that British people can be justly proud of, despite its critics. Why not forget about making insurance companies rich? Let us fund our universal health care from our tax. Let everybody pay according to their means and let the only criteria for use be medical need. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was dismayed to read Garrett Ledwith’s letter (April 11th) and his comments regarding cyclists’ and car drivers’ behaviour in Dublin. Having seen cyclists merrily break red lights while holding just one hand on the handlebar, or cross lanes of traffic by going in between lines of cars while shouting cheerily to their friends, I can only say that Mr Ledwith’s experience does not coincide with mine.
During the above instances the watching motorists were holding their breath and praying nothing was going to happen to the fools. And yes, the motorists were obeying the lights.
Motorists are no saints. They break red lights too, but usually only when it is safe to do so. Motorists have more to lose than cyclists — they pay insurance, road tax and maintenance costs. The Garda usually ticket the motorist, not the cyclist. Cyclists don’t pay the first two and I often wonder when I am driving at night if some of them even buy lamps. Cyclists are of course more vulnerable than motorists to accident and injury but you wouldn’t think so to see some of their behaviour at junctions – or to listen to some of their defenders in the media. Cycling in the cities is a dangerous practice, cycle lanes are not always available — there is a financial crisis after all — and cyclists should keep that in mind.
As for bus lanes, it’s about time Dublin City Council had a proper review of the traffic volume each bus lane has. We have all seen bus lanes with no traffic on them while the adjoining lane was full. The placing of these lanes should also be reconsidered — if there’s a more wasteful bus lane than the one at the junction of George’s Street and Dame Street in Dublin I have yet to see it. Traffic other than buses and taxis are forced into a diversion which must cost them 10-15 minutes extra time at rush hour, thereby increasing pollution and expense for all concerned. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was surprised that Rev Patrick Burke (Letters, April 12th) interpreted my suggestion that all remarks that give offence to human beings be removed from the Bible (April 11th) as meaning that this would be likely to lead to my editing the Good Book to the point where nothing remained but “a set of elegant covers with a single blank page between them”.
Witty as this is on a superficial level, it is unworthy of a man of the cloth to suggest that a fellow Christian might want to completely destroy the Bible just because he believed that its many racist, sexist and homophobic remarks be edited out.
Our proposed changes to the Constitution, with a view to removing racism, sexism and homophobia from it, are not likely to leave us with a document of just one blank page between two elegant covers.
Why must religious people always go to extremes? I do not suggest that the baby be thrown out with the bathwater, but rather that the baby be given a good hot shower to remove the dirty fingerprints which some of his handlers have left upon him in their writings. Yours, etc,
Sir, – How odd that we swear on a book which contains the words, reputed to have been said by Jesus: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely …’ But I say to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. … Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37). Yours, etc,
Sir, – Declan Kelly (April 11th) is right in saying that “the Bible was made for man and not man for the Bible”. But that does not mean we should censor it or remove verses. It is there to help people in their relationships, not to help them to be more religious or to spot the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). James describes it as a mirror (James 1:23-25) which shows what is in a person’s own heart. If we are offended it is usually because there is something there we need to get rid of. Yours, etc,
Sir, – May I offer a reply to the question asked in the title of Paddy Agnew’s article (April 12th), “Tainted Saint?”. In his lifetime, Pope John Paul was a tireless disciple of Jesus Christ. For 27 years as pope, he inspired millions with the message of God’s love for humanity and the inherent dignity of the human person.
Every canonised saint was “tainted” by some (or numerous) mistakes, misjudgements or imperfections . The very first pope, Saint Peter, even denied Christ. Someone once described a true saint as “a sinner who never gives up”, not a kind of spiritual superman or superwoman. John Paul was not a perfect human being who never made a mistake. Yet his life of real discipleship shows him to be most worthy of the title saint. Perhaps what is really “tainted” is our limited human judgement. Your, etc,
Sir, – The blame game has started on the fallout from the Lissadel court case and the enormous legal costs involved, as evidenced by your article in Saturday’s Weekend Review . It needs to be asked if there is a better way of determining whether or not a traditional access route is a public right of way. Two similar court cases have been taken in Glencree, Co Wicklow: again with huge legal costs. Keep Ireland Open believes the only answer is legislation which would provide clear-cut criteria for designation of traditional walkways. A period of years – perhaps seven – of unhindered access should be the criterion. Alternatively, we could adopt the system of Freedom to Roam which obtains in Scotland and the Scandanavian countries.
Ireland is out of line with virtually all European countries in failing to provide certainty about where we can walk. This is major turnoff for our visitors and denies our own people the basic human right of reasonable access to our countryside. Yours, etc,
Keep Ireland Open,
Sir, – Your writer (“Good Week Bad Week”, April 12th) referred to UK culture secretary Maria Miller’s recent travails and suggested that in Britain wrongly utilised expenses were seen as “career Krypton” . Superman’s home planet was Krypton, yes, but it was the meteoric detritus therefrom, namely Kryptonite, that was the substance that rendered him powerless on planet Earth. As any reader of DC comics (not bought on expenses) knows. Yours, etc,
Letters to the Editor – Published 14 April 2014 02:30 AM
This year is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the rights and wrongs will again be debated. There are thousands of war cemeteries and those who have visited them to pay their respects testify to the humbling feeling on seeing thousands of small white crosses and simple headstones in row upon row. It leaves a strong impression.
Also in this section
There were a huge number of World War I memorials erected through the 1920s and 1930s, with about 176,000 in France. It shows the social and emotional impact of the Great War.
It has been said that one of the striking features of northern France is the number of small and large World War I cemeteries. One of these is dedicated to the Australian soldiers who died at the Battle of Fromelles, and the inscription reads: “In honour of the 410 unknown Australian soldiers here buried, who were among the 1,299 officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Australian Imperial Force, killed in the attack on Fromelles, July 19 and 20, 1916.”
Cork’s lord mayor, Cllr Catherine Clancy, visited one of the largest cemeteries, Tyne Cot, near Passendale in Belgium, where 11,954 are buried, of whom 8,367 are unknown. She saw a headstone erected by Cork parents to their 20-year-old son. A well-known inscription on another headstone there is to Second Lieutenant Arthur Conway Young and reads, “Sacrificed to the fallacy/That war can end war”.
It was said at its end, in 1918, that it was the war to end all wars. But World War II followed 21 years later, with millions to die once again.
War is never good news and rarely one of glory. I think that the dead soldiers, and civilians too, who lost their lives from many countries in World War I deserve to be remembered on this 100th anniversary, because of the horrors they endured.
They were shot, machine-gunned, bayoneted and gassed to death from poison gas wafting across the fields as well as killed by projectile shells and grenades. It was a sad and horrific waste of lives.
Mary Sullivan, College Road, Cork
VISIT OF THE RISING QUEEN
I still remember that old nursery rhyme about the feline royal visit:
“Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been.
I’ve been to London to look at the queen.”
Following last week’s presidential visit, perhaps an updated version could read:
“President, president, where have you been.
I’ve been to London to visit the queen.
Not by grubby old mailboat but by government jet.
Got there in jig-time, like a west Clare half-set.
We took amhrans, bodhrans, singers and bands.
Watched McG and HR smile and shake hands.
Tin whistles, banjos, fiddles and flutes.
With Sabina’s new dresses and my tailor-made suits.
So, President please, when will we see the queen.
She’ll be back for ‘The Rising’ in 2016.”
Sean Kelly, Tramore, Co Waterford
FINALE CONCERT PERFECTLY PITCHED
I refer to Patrick Cooney’s letter ‘Finale a wasted opportunity’ (Irish Independent, April 12). Mr Cooney expresses his disappointment in the concert at the Royal Albert Hall to mark the end of President Higgins’s visit to Britain, as he (Mr Cooney) was expecting a cavalcade of iconic stellar musical stars of Irish heritage that were born and raised in the UK. While it sounds very appealing, the event would then have been a concert of rock stars and not a celebration of Irish culture.
The point of the finale, it seemed, was not to celebrate individual stars or celebrities, but rather to exemplify, in a collaborative way, the uniqueness of our Irish culture – to show something of what it is that keeps the spirit of Ireland flowing in the veins of Irish people living outside of Ireland.
The artists who performed at the finale did a sterling job in epitomising our language, music and literature. I believe the tone of the overall concert was pitched perfectly for the occasion.
As they say, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time.
Rosemary Watters, Greystones, Co Wicklow
MCILROY’S OLYMPIAN BAD LUCK
The luck of the Irish seems to have deserted poor Rory McIlroy ever since he agonised over whether he should represent Ireland or Britain at the next Olympics.
Seamus McLoughlin, Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
POOLING OUR HOOP DREAMS
In a recent letter, K Nolan reacted to our President saying that he would support England in the World Cup, with an “out out out”. The fact is that thousands of people here support Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and so on with a passion, but don’t tend to transfer that support to the England side which, invariably, contains players from these and other teams.
Indeed, when Shamrock Rovers take on Liverpool in a forthcoming friendly there will doubtless be a ‘small pocket’ of circa 15,000 urging on the “Pool”, while our League of Ireland sides continue to go through the ‘Hoops’ in an effort to stay afloat.
Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin
EU’S LACK OF MORAL COURAGE
It was only a matter of time before Vladimir Putin turned his attention to Ukraine’s gas supply as the next step in his westward-focused ambitions. When he annexed Crimea the best response the West could come up with was to impose token sanctions on a few Russians.
Mr Putin must have been relieved and emboldened by this half-hearted response. Of course, the EU is playing a higher-stakes game than the US due to its overdependence on Russian gas.
In those circumstances some would suggest that the EU is being pragmatic. However, I believe it has betrayed a lack of moral courage within the EU. The West is currently sitting on its hands while unrest is being fermented in the east of Ukraine by an insidious influence and as Russia continues to up the ante with its threat to the gas supply. Time will judge us on how we responded to this developing crisis.
John Bellow, Dunleer, Co Louth
IT’S TIME TO CONSIDER FRACKING
Much has been written over the past weeks on the importance of competitiveness in Irish industry and the public service. Central to this are energy prices. Both domestic and industrial electricity prices in Ireland are among the highest in the EU. Denmark and Germany who have gone furthest in utilising renewables have the highest electricity prices.
The price of energy in the form of gas is three times higher in Europe than in the US today, while electricity is 50pc higher. Shale gas in the United States has transformed both its competitiveness and its confidence.
Europe has more and more green taxes and, apart from France with the lowest electricity prices, only a small amount of electricity is nuclear and there seems to be no great impetus to exploit shale gas. In order to increase competitiveness, it is clear that Europe must go either the nuclear or fracking routes, or ideally both. Time is not on our side.
Michael J Hynes, Knocknacarra, Co Galway