15 April2014Much better
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes have accidentally invented a new type of battleshipPriceless
Mary in hospital brief visit get beated at Scrabble
Scrabbletoday, Mary wins by thirty three points Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.
Molly Lamb Bobak – obituary
Molly Lamb Bobak was a Canadian war artist who captured the dignity of women both on the home-front and with the troops in Europe
Molly Lamb Bobak at work during the war
8:08PM BST 13 Apr 2014
Molly Lamb Bobak, who has died aged 94, was one of the last surviving official war artists to have served in the Allied forces during the Second World War.
A Canadian painter, sketcher and watercolourist, her eye for the dignity and determination displayed by women in the Army allowed her to capture both the uncertainties of life on the home front and the turmoil behind the front lines in Europe.
After the war her talents, and considerable empathy, led to teaching positions in many of Canada’s leading art institutions, while her personal work turned to verdant watercolours, eerie etchings and what would become a celebrated series of oils in which Lowry-like crowds surge ominously.
Molly Lamb (known professionally as Molly Lamb Bobak) was born on February 25 1920 on Lulu Island outside Vancouver, British Columbia, into an unconventional and resolutely artistic household. Her mother, Mary Williams, was housekeeper to Molly’s father, Harold Mortimer-Lamb, an art critic. Molly was brought up living in an extended, yet inclusive, family unit which included Mortimer-Lamb’s wife and their children. Growing up, she was introduced to some of Canada’s most prominent artists — her father was a friend and patron to members of the Group of Seven, a collective of landscape painters who grappled with Canada’s wild vistas, much as the Scottish Colourists and the St Ives set had in Britain.
Molly Lamb studied at the Vancouver School of Art (1938-41) and soon found that she was drawn to the bold tones favoured by Matisse and Cézanne. In 1942 she enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corp (CWAC) but it took three years of service before she was made an official Canadian war artist.
Initially she waited tables in the mess before being sent for basic training in Alberta. “That’s when I started doing my diary, an illustrated diary of what it was like to be in the Canadian Women’s Army Corp,” she recalled in 2012. “Being the first female war artist, there were nine men I think in all the services, I think that was a great thing to have happened to me. I know the Army didn’t want women in it in those days.”
Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Army Corps by Molly Lamb Bobak
One of her earliest works was a caricature in which she portrayed herself striding down a street with a box of Canadian beer jemmied under her army overcoat. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, she produced portraits of volunteers, such as Private Roy, a black woman in the ranks. Once overseas, however, she focused on the trials and tribulations of CWAC troops living and working on the move in Holland, giving a valuable visual account of an often forgotten wartime service.
In London, capturing the victory celebrations, she was placed into a military studio, where she was allotted a workspace with another Canadian war artist, Bruno Bobak.
“I didn’t like that much,” recalled Bruno years later, “so I built a barrier of crates down the middle and told her, ‘I’m painting on my side, you paint on your side’. Well, eventually the wall came down.” The couple married in 1945.
On the couple’s return to Canada, Molly Lamb Bobak would prove to be as comfortable teaching as she was painting. She taught at the Vancouver School of Art (1947-60), the Vancouver Art Gallery (1954-58) and the University of British Columbia (1958-60). In the early Sixties she moved with her family to Fredericton, New Brunswick, where her husband became artist-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick.
She was struck by the elemental charms of the “City of Stately Elms” and Canada’s north-eastern seaboard, particularly in the leaf-strewn autumn. “I moved here from out west, and my mother told me how beautiful it was. But it knocked me out when I first came here. It’s wonderful,” she recalled. New glacial qualities emerged in her compositions (“the clarity of the air and the shadows in winter – and no industry,” said one gallery owner).
The School Yard by Molly Lamb Bobak
The most striking theme to emerge from her post-war painting was a fascination for gatherings. “It’s about the movement of something, like crowds and colour,” she said. Fairgrounds, town hall meetings, ski races and sailing regattas all became stages for a horde of figures. In a vibrant palette of primary colours, they caught the mystery of people moving en masse.
She also painted the orange trees, maples and geraniums — with their intense, hot hues — which surrounded the couple’s yellow 1920s house, a home that one visitor described as “an eccentric haven of olde worlde gentility, a touch of the Brontës on the Rhine”.
Here, Molly and Bruno worked in separate studios at opposite ends of the house. “You invent your own colour over the years and you invent your own space and your own feelings and that’s what makes painters different,” she said of their disparate styles. Molly Lamb Bobak taught at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre (1960-77) and, for the rest of her life, sketched, etched and painted the region’s big skies, snowy streets, colonial residences and river shores.
All the while, she attempted to look beneath the city’s still waters. “It’s the undercover things in Fredericton that make it a very special place,” she noted. “There’s lots going on but it’s all hidden.”
Molly Lamb Bobak was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1973 and presented, along with husband, with the Order of Canada in 1995.
Her husband died in 2012, and she is survived by their son and daughter.
Molly Lamb Bobak, born February 25 1920, died March 2 2014
The current issue of the London Review of Books carries an important article by Seymour Hersh, based on extensive interviews with intelligence staff, in which he argues powerfully that the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, culminating in that of 21 August in which over 1,000 people died, were carried out not by the government but by the opposition. This is confirmed by analytical tests conducted by Porton Down which showed that the gas used in the attacks could not have come from Syrian government stocks.
Further, Hersh asserts, with evidence, that the gas attacks were carried out by Syrian opposition forces in concert with the Turkish government in order to throw blame on the Assad regime, thus crossing Obama’s “red line” and triggering massive strikes by the US and its allies on Syrian government forces and the country’s infrastructure. This is all the more concerning given the highly dubious nature of many of the opposition forces and their links to extremist factions – the danger, yet again, of our getting into bed with some very unpleasant “friends”.
These are very serious claims and it is surprising that you still make the unqualified statement that “the Assad regime … was suspected of being responsible” (Chemical weapons body not ready to investigate Syrian attack claims, 12 April). At the very least, you should be reporting the doubts about who perpetrated these attacks, given that we could have been very nearly dragged into yet another Middle Eastern war on the back of bogus WMD allegations.
Dr Richard Carter
• Last year you published my letter about how every national newspaper had ignored Seymour Hersh’s exposé of how the Obama administration had “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad” (Letters, 13 December). Confirming Marx’s dictum that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce”, Hersh’s new piece in the LRB has once again been blacked out by the press.
The suggestion that GCSE results in England will be pegged to the exam results of students in China is misleading (Report, 3 April). It is important that people understand how the new GCSE grading system will work and can have their say on where standards should be set. I urge everyone to take a look at our proposals and let us know their views. We propose matching the new grade 4 to current grade C – to provide a link between old and new – and to align grade 5 to the performance of students in other countries that perform well, where students perform better than our students in international tests. But we are not proposing to hardwire our standards to those in any particular country. Instead, we suggest that we take a broader view, and look at a range of countries that do well. Our research to date suggests this would mean setting the grade 5 boundary in 2017 at about a half to two-thirds of a grade higher than that required for a current grade C.
It seems right to us that our young people should know how their grades compare with those of young people in other countries that are doing well, near and far, but we want to hear what people think.
Chief regulator, Ofqual
Tim Jonze, writing about Dancing Queen in his article on Abba (Thank you for the music, G2, 11 April), refers to the song’s “piano trills (famously ripped off by Elvis Costello for Oliver’s Army)”. It’s unlikely that Mr Costello ripped off the trills in Dancing Queen, because there are no trills in Dancing Queen. There are no trills in Oliver’s Army either. In the Abba song, the piano player plays a downwards glissando in the intro and then has little fills, which are all played in dramatic, noble octaves, reminiscent of Liberace. Not a trill to be heard. Similar octaves do occur in the Costello song.
• In response to Bill Hawkes (Letters, 10 April) and Mike Hine (Letters, 11 April), here’s a brief analysis of The Winner Takes it All. The “predominant piano theme” is made up of four descents of a G flat major scale from different notes. The first two descents are of five notes and the following two of four notes. May I suggest an editorial, In praise of… the arpeggiated Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!?
Wrenthorpe, West Yorkshire
• The descending scale figures in Abba’s song are in both five- and four-note groups. But forget the “bean-counting”. The really affecting moment in the song for me is the little catch in Agnetha’s voice on the words “You’ve come to shake my hand”.
• Whether Abba used descending scales, arpeggios or glissandos, could I ask Mike Hine to read Tim Jonze’s G2 article, borrow a copy of Abba Gold, and then tell us if he really believes that Abba wrote only one memorable song?
Fiona Millar (School funding – kicked into the long grass again, 8 April) is right to highlight the unfairness of our current funding system for schools. Even allowing for higher area costs and deprivation in London, the gap between most London boroughs and much of the rest of country is far too high, reaching £1,000 per pupil in some cases.
This inequity dates back to the time when local councils set their own funding levels. The disparity only really started to matter 20 years ago when all schools began to be judged against the same national criteria (exam league tables, Ofsted, national curriculum).
Successive governments ducked this issue. John Major’s Conservatives rejected proposals from the Association of School and College Leaders (Secondary Heads Association at that time). In 2002 the Labour government turned down a thoroughly researched proposal for a national fair funding formula, largely because it would have meant being seen to favour the non-Labour parts of the country. This was a great opportunity missed as more money was being put into education at that time and the gap could have been narrowed without those at the top being unduly harmed.
David Laws’ recent announcement of a minor change for 2015-16 falls far short of the major overhaul that is needed, but it is at least the first serious attempt by government to acknowledge the issue and to do something about it. It is to be welcomed as a first step and a model to be refined when the issue is rescued from the long grass.
It is refreshing to hear somebody from a London context admit that resources make a difference. Far too often those of us working outside London are told that “if London can raise standards, so can you”. Of course we can and want to do so, but getting enough resources would help. How about London Challenge funding for all?
Vice-president, Liberal Democrat Education Association
• While I can only agree with Fiona Millar that more funding for schools is to be welcomed, as a governor of another inner London school I cannot go along so readily with the government’s notion of a “fair” funding formula.
The proposition on which the Department for Education is consulting involves a crude averaging-up which takes no account of the local circumstances on which a needs-based school funding formula should be based. Their proposal benefits rural areas, but not the inner cities. I have no wish to defend the extreme case cited by David Laws of a generously funded Birmingham school with just 3% of children on free school meals, but the multiple disadvantage being tackled by many inner-city schools does need full recognition. Such schools face disproportionate costs if they are to provide a good education for a large number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, or from homes where English is not spoken, and with a high level of family mobility. The multiplier effect of concentrated disadvantage needs to be reflected in any funding formula.
The DfE places undue reliance on postcode-based measures of deprivation. This works well in segregated communities where rich and poor are kept apart in separate postcodes, but in most parts of London we live together as neighbours and our postcode gives little indication of our (lack of) wealth, let alone the education needs of our children. Before they tinker any further with a national funding formula, I would urge the government to commission an independent evidence-based analysis of need and of the efficacy of the indicators on which they propose to rely.
In the midst of continued public hostility to banks in general, it’s worth noting that Lloyds/TSB has wholly funded our work as an independent foundation for 29 years (High time for banks to give something back, 9 April). In that time we have disbursed £330m to more than 42,000 small charitable organisations across England and Wales. This work is largely unheralded, unseen and unrecognised – but last year enabled us to support more than 800 small charities to help a third of a million disadvantaged people achieve positive change in their lives.
Chief executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation
• I too experienced months – years – of shock, despair and panic after being unexpectedly dumped at 60, but my experience of online dating was very different from Andrea Gillies’ (How I picked myself up after divorce, Family, 12 April), thanks to Guardian Soulmates. You still have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince, but at least they are leftwing, intellectual, feminist frogs. Find someone who makes you laugh and can complete the cryptic crossword at your pace – or perhaps just a little slower. Job done.
• ”For Richard Hoggart, humane reading and humane education and humane culture and society should be open to everyone” (Letters, 14 April). Some years ago in Liverpool Reach Out, a project using Open University materials, created a path for adults, mainly working-class women, to get to university. Asked what difference the course was making to their lives, one woman said: “I still read Mills and Boon. But I deconstruct it now.” I guess Hoggart would have been amused. I was.
• While former England footballer Danny Mills may be buying into an English Cornish pasty chain (Report, 12 April), the former Irish international Chris Morris actually makes them in Cornwall in his family firm, Morris Cornish Pasties.
• The Rough Common Women’s Institute near Canterbury presumably gets on well with the WI at Loose, near Maidstone (Letters, 14 April).
Ian Birrell claims the existence of a ministry of culture does not necessarily reflect the ‘”needs of the nation” (Does British culture really need a minister of fun?, 11 April). I would argue that our standing in the world depends on it.
Virtually every other developed and emerging economy on the planet has a culture ministry, and many governments, including China’s, now place the creative economy, as well as creative education, at the heart of national strategy.
This summer, culture ministers from around the world will meet in Edinburgh for the second time to explore the ways in which we can harness culture to change lives, transform societies, improve well-being and develop economies. The fact that they are coming to the UK to do this shows how this is a conversation that we currently lead.
Director of arts, British Council
• Ian Birrell reveals that Sajid Javid’s cultural “hinterland” consists largely of Star Trek movies. Leaving aside the inferior quality of the films to the original series, I would suggest that Javid is probably a fan of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine franchise’s Ferengi race: obsessive free market capitalists who despise culture and emotions other than greed. Coincidentally, they too are entirely bald.
Dr Aidan Byrne
University of Wolverhampton
• The idea that ministers of culture, health, law, etc should be experts in those areas sounds plausible but doesn’t bear much scrutiny, especially in the case of culture (Unthinkable? Ministers who know their stuff, 12 April). If you want to make a table it’s best to be a carpenter but to run a successful table-making business you need commercial not carpentry skills. Ditto with ministers. A culture secretary needs political and business acumen more than a passion for poetry or theatre and being “knowledgeable about culture” is less important than being a smart political operator. For this reason someone like Sajid Javid, precisely because of his background, is a better choice for culture secretary than, say, Michael Rosen or Mary Beard would be. His role is organisational not educational and if he creates the conditions for better ballet and theatre it doesn’t matter one bit that he personally can’t stand Swan Lake or Last Year in Marienbad.
• The record of Sajid Javid’s predecessors as listed (Writers have no great expectations of Javid, 12 April), in particular the contrast between Tory Jeremy Hunt’s slashing of the arts budget, and the personal, political and financial support for the arts under Labour’s Tessa Jowell and Chris Smith, marks out the fundamental social and political divide between the two parties: ignorance, arrogance, philistinism and hostility to widening participation on the one side; passion for and participation in the arts on the other, and commitment to arts as a human right.
• Library users, workers and campaigners across the country will have been amazed by Mark Lawson’s assessment of Ed Vaizey as “a very able minister” (Ejector seat strikes again, G2, 10 April). Under his guidance the aims and values of public library services have been redefined by the DCMS and the Arts Council in such a way that many local authorities are failing to meet the requirements of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. It is unclear how many of the present ad hoc volunteer arrangements will be sustained and if they are part of a statutory service. Many communities, often those with vulnerable populations, have lost highly valued professionally run services.
The person responsible for drafting the Act, Francis Bennion, has described Mr Vaizey as “disgracefully sloppy” and is of the opinion that severe reductions in public library facilities that were being provided by authorities two or three years ago are “likely to be unlawful”.
In addition, Cilip, the professional body for library and information professionals, has passed a vote of no confidence in the minister.
Emeritus professor, University of Sheffield
• It was right that you included many moving tributes to the late Sue Townsend in Saturday’s Guardian, but a shame that none of them mentioned her tireless campaigning for the public library service. I well remember her passionate speech in defence of libraries at a conference a few years ago. She was particularly incensed that small community libraries, like the one she visited as a child in Leicester, were the target of cuts. As a socialist she understood very well that the closure of libraries is part of a wider assault on the poor, who should learn to make do with bingo and mindless TV instead.
Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire
At last, some reality. A study from the University of East Anglia says that unruly behaviour in schools has been seriously underestimated by official reports. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we have such a lowly position in the global educational achievement league tables. No matter how inspirational a teacher may be, disruptive elements can create an extremely negative classroom. From my own experience, some people just do not have “it” and seemingly cannot create the correct atmosphere to facilitate learning.
A school must have the correct ethos to support its teachers; this depends in part on the “management team”. Parents also have their part to play in ensuring that the correct example and encouragement is given to their offspring. The size of the school is one of the factors that is often overlooked; a training officer in the Royal Marines once told me that too many of today’s youth could either hide or get lost when they attended schools which were too large.
It is vital that we address these problems to ensure that our youth can compete upon the world stage.
Dr David Bartlett, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
On the sunny horizon of Ofsted-led soaraway school improvement it is rare to find a blemish. So it is with some amazement that we learn from a major study that pupil behaviour may be “worse than thought”.
Whose thought this may be is not clear, but it surely could not be that of Ofsted by whom the fall of a sparrow in the remotest playground is immediately ticked in a box. I wonder could it be then that the health, mental or otherwise, of teachers is not considered significant?
Martin Murray, London SW23
Chris Blackhurst proposes to abolish public schools (“So if I were Prime Minister, here’s what I’d do”, 11 April). Allow me to paint him a picture.
This concerns a family of six, three sons, three daughters. The boys passed the 11-plus and were sent to the local state grammar school. None of the girls gained a place in selective education and were educated in three different private schools according to their particular gifts.
This family was not wealthy, being basic-rate taxpayers, but they were passionate about securing a happy education for all their children. There were no expensive foreign holidays and few meals out, and many of the children’s clothes were passed on by good friends and handed down. None of this was a hardship because it was a mutual decision to make education the priority and channel family resources completely to that end.
Chris Blackhurst must be aware of the many small private schools that are peopled by families similar to our own. He does all these families a great injustice by characterising them as over-privileged.
Children blossom when their teachers take the trouble to find their talents and celebrate them with genuine interest. Success is narrowly defined if only academic achievement is lauded.
Banning public schools is an easy political target but does little to address the many inequalities that exist in children’s lives. Far better to address both the size of state school classes and the issue of disruptive behaviour by a small but persistent minority.
If anyone asked me to be Prime Minister my suggestion would be to reduce all state school classes to 20 pupils as a maximum, provide much smaller separate classes for the pupils with behavioural problems and promote a curriculum which has enough flexibility to accommodate both academic and practical education.
A state education would become so attractive that you might find there would be no need to ban public schools.
Francesca Barrow, Rugby, Warwickshire
Kidney donor kept out of Britain
If a matter of life or death is not “sufficiently exceptional” to allow Keisha Rushton a visa for the UK from Jamaica to be a kidney donor for her brother (report, 12 April), perhaps the Case Referral Unit at the Home Office could give us an example of something that is.
It would seem that either the CRU members are totally brainless, or perhaps this is yet another example of the heartless Tory policy to bully and crush the weak and defenceless and those down on their luck.
Maureen Lewis, Ambleside, Cumbria
Witch-hunter allowed in
The notorious Nigerian witch-hunting pastor Helen Ukpabio recently arrived in London where she has been holding a number of church services to promote the belief in witchcraft and her ability to “deliver” people from this perceived evil.
Since various UN reports have linked her activities to wide-scale abuses of child rights in South-Eastern Nigeria, would it not be reasonable to ask that the Home Secretary considers deporting Mrs Ukpabio from the UK pursuant to section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971 on the basis that her presence here is not conducive to the public good?
Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director, Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network
Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Sir Tim Lankester
Professor Jean La Fontaine
Andrew Copson, International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU)
Pavan Dhaliwal, British Humanist Association, Lancaster
MPs guilty until proven innocent
Andrew Grice (12 April) repeats recent assertions by the Prime Minister that Parliament is honest. I suggest there is a mismatch between the criteria for honesty of those in the orbit of Parliament, like Mr Grice, and those of us outside that orbit.
The Legg report made clear that 52 per cent of MPs were over-claiming expenses, and I would add that the other 48 per cent were letting them do it. David Laws found a lack of frankness about his personal affairs no bar to his return to the Cabinet; Maria Miller, who breached a code of conduct, is to be welcomed back to the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity, and there are MPs whose behaviour has led to them to “stand down at the next election”, but in the meantime they continue to draw the pay and enjoy the perks of being an MP.
One of those perks is a share of the outrageous £7.3m annual subsidy of catering in Parliament. IPSA publishes claims by MPs for £15 to cover “working late” meals that mask a much higher cost to the public.
The lack of accountability colours my assessment of the honesty of the recent privatisation of Royal Mail: why would I accept that the huge undervaluation was anything other than a scheme to enrich those in the personal networks of some MPs? When it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck it is probably a duck. If Mr Grice thinks MPs are honest let’s see and hear the evidence.
Kevin Dobson, Groby, Leicestershire
Deprived of books in prison
I read with great interest Arifa Akbar’s piece (11 April) about writers’ protest postcards to Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, with the names of books they would most like to send to a prisoner if they could.
Having taught literacy in a prison, I know how much books are valued by prisoners, ranging from those who are learning to read to those studying on OU courses. Access to a library is often very limited, and inability to obtain books can be extremely frustrating.
May I suggest that your readers who feel as I do should follow the example of these writers.
Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire
Peers won’t listen to UKIP
It is worrying that their Lordships (letter, 11 April) apparently do not understand why the Ukip-affiliated peers did not partake in any debate or vote on the Immigration Bill.
Surely the reason is because they were aware that their contributions would be ignored and their votes would not influence the result of any division. So, quite sensibly, they kept their powder dry.
Surprising that their Lordships felt the need to attempt to make political capital out of such an obvious situation.
C R Atkinson, Honley, West Yorkshire
Holier than Harlow
So there are 632 potholes in Harlow (Andy McSmith’s diary, 11 April). All I can say is, lucky Harlow! My half kilometre long road, used as a rat-run during morning rush hours, has over 200. Forty-six of them are within 15 metres of my front drive.
H Kilborn, London SE12
Ending it all under bicycle wheels
Howard Jacobson has used his column on 12 April to express again his dislike of cyclists.
In reality, should he choose to seek his end on a pedestrian crossing, he is far more likely to be obliged by a motorist than a cyclist.
John Armstrong, Southampto
Sir, You argue (“Crown Prosecution Shambles”, Apr 11) that the CPS is more focused on improving its conviction tally than the “rigorous assessment” of the evidence when deciding whether to prosecute. Equally worrying, the CPS lacks the courage to exercise its discretion not to prosecute, preferring inappropriate cases to go to trial for fear of facing criticism for inertia. Your conclusion that the time for reform has arrived must be correct.
Lord Grabiner, QC
House of Lords
Sir, We are disturbed by calls for a review of CPS handling of sexual offences and for defendants in such cases to be granted anonymity. Such calls are based on the myth that allegations of sexual offences are often made up. In fact, there is strong evidence that only 1 in 10 rape victims report the incident to the police and that false allegations are rare. The Government has already considered, and rejected, a proposal to change the law to give defendants in rape cases anonymity. The current debate sends an extremely negative message to survivors of sexual violence, and tells potential perpetrators that they will not face criminal sanction.
Professor Liz Kelly
Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit
End Violence Against Women Coalition
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Sir, After several failed prosecutions for serious sex offences based on historical evidence it was a surprise to hear the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, speak on the radio without any regret or any intention of reviewing the CPS’s practice.
She stressed the need for the CPS to heed the rights of “victims”, but until a crime has been proved there is no one whom the CPS should regard as a victim, only a complainant, and no crime but only an alleged offence.
For the CPS to bring prosecutions for serious offences on inadequate evidence because of a misplaced zeal to protect “victims” is a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the CPS, a dereliction for which Ms Saunders is answerable. Her present use of the language of “victimhood” is not merely no answer but contains an important part of the explanation for the CPS’s present failures.
His Honour Alan Pardoe, QC
Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Apr 12) is spot on in criticising how the CPS (and the police) have assumed a “right” to justify their actions after a trial in which the accused has been acquitted.
This inevitably adds an unwarranted slur on the person or persons who have been acquitted. It is wrong for the parties who have made the case against an accused to have a second opportunity outside the courts to speak out after a trial, whatever the verdict.
Sir, Colonel Bob Stewart, MP, is concerned that his friend Nigel Evans faces financial ruin despite being acquitted (Apr 12). In 2011, Parliament passed legislation to remove the right of a defendant found not guilty at trial to recover his legal costs from the state.
Ken Clarke, MP, QC, championed the legislation, and Stewart voted in favour. Perhaps now that MPs have first-hand knowledge of how grossly unfair this provision is, they will reverse it.
Sir, Alex Salmond was probably right in his speech on Saturday at the
SNP conference that in the event of a Yes vote, talks with Westminster on the transition to independence would begin before the end of September, but this will most probably not produce the result that he is leading Scottish electors to expect.
I’m sure that the other electors of the once United Kingdom who don’t at present have a vote in the threatened divorce, would urge the UK political parties to try everything short of bribery to persuade Scotland to remain in the UK.
However, if this fails, and Scotland votes to leave the union, the same currently disenfranchised electors will surely urge that a strong pragmatic line be taken. Over the years the UK has based many job-creating government admin and call centres in Scotland together with various armed forces establishments; these would need to be quickly folded back to core UK locations which would greatly value the economic gain.
In addition, recent history with Icelandic and Irish financial institutions has shown that to ensure 100 per cent alignment with UK governance, banks and insurance companies need to be based in the same legislative and currency area as the markets they serve.
A rather large void to be filled by fading “Scottish” oil and gas.
Sir, Stuart Poole (letter, Apr 9) quite rightly raises the issue of the costs of Scottish independence. If one were to list all the agencies and institutions alluded to, the extent and the complexity of the reshaping would become very clear. Yet the costs have still to be evaluated.
Those of the Yes persuasion or who may consider voting Yes probably have no idea of what is involved and the time and effort required. It certainly will not happen by March 2016. All the reorganisation will have to be paid for and paid for by the Scottish taxpayer. There will be no Barnett formula and no Westminster subsidies. The reorganisation of each agency is a major project in itself. However, the track record of Scottish politicians, both at the local and national level, in managing major projects has been far from satisfactory. The Scottish Parliament building and the Edinburgh trams project come to mind as clear examples of mismanagement bordering on incompetence. The portents are far from encouraging.
Helensburgh, Argyll & Bute
Sir, Sylvia Cresswell (letter, Apr 12) mentions her early experience of sleeping in an orange box. When Prince Andrew of Greece was exiled in 1922 he, with his wife, their four daughters and baby son, was taken off in the light cruiser Calypso. The ship’s company made a cot from an orange box for the 18-month-old Philippos in which he lay during the ship’s passage down to Brindisi.
Orange boxes and light cruisers have much to recommend them.
Lt-Cdr Lawrie Phillips
Sir, When we lived in Zambia in the 1970s my wife often went to the local auction, since it was the only source of household items. She became intrigued by another customer who bought all the tea chests regardless of their content. Later we discovered that he was the undertaker and he used the plywood to make coffins.
His hearse was a familiar sight — his wife used it to go shopping.
Sir, While driving at a nifty speed on the autostrada outside Florence I was overtaken by a fully laden hearse racing like a bat out of hell.
Professor Dominic Regan
Sir, Your poster evoked memories of my brothers and sister before the Second World War, asking our father how many Germans he had killed. His answers were evasive. Like many of his contemporaries who had fought on the Somme, he was reluctant to talk of his wartime experiences.
Location, location: a teddy looks out on the estuary at Donegal Bay, north-west Ireland Photo: Alamy
6:58AM BST 14 Apr 2014
SIR – I thought that we were doing quite well when we snapped my daughter’s class teddy, Barnaby, on the Salcombe RNLI lifeboat. Barnaby’s photo album then came around again in perfect time for a skiing holiday in the Alps. There were plenty of great Barnaby “selfie” opportunities there: with the Matterhorn, cable cars, snowmen.
However, when we turned to our page in the album to put in the pictures, we noticed that, the week before, he had been on a research station in the Antarctic. I breathed a sigh of despair, until I learnt that one of the dads has contacts at Nasa.
SIR – A friend of mine had the good fortune to have his grandson over for the “class teddy” weekend. He took them both to work, and let his grandson help him out.
The following week the child told his playgroup teacher and classmates about the grave they had all dug together.
SIR – Sixty years ago, I was, I believe, the only soldier in the Army who was born with a club foot. That I was able to achieve this was due to a devoted mother, and a brilliant surgeon, but my experience highlights the importance of only aborting for serious medical and not cosmetic reasons.
Parents should not deny the opportunity of life to a child for trivial reasons.
South African justice
SIR – Howard Bentham QC laments that Gerrie Nel, prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius’s trial, lacks “skill and training” on how to conduct cross-examination politely, and the judge “the authority and experience to enforce it”. But I suspect that Mr Bentham’s experience is chiefly with trial by jury in British courts.
In the Pistorius case, being tried through the South African system, the judge alone will decide the verdict. Everything we have seen on television of Judge Thokozile Masipa’s conduct suggests that she is more than capable of rebuking Mr Nel on the rare occasions when he oversteps the mark; and doubtless also of forming her own authoritative interpretation of what has transpired in her court.
Waste not, want not
SIR – Food waste has spiralled since the Eighties, following the introduction of various sell-by, display-until and best-before dates which, daily at the stroke of midnight, deem hundreds of tons of edible food to be unfit for human consumption, which then cannot be sold, given away or donated to charity.
Sell-by dates rather than buy-one-get- one-free offers should be investigated, with a view to reducing excessive waste.
Barnstaple, North Devon
SIR – Dr Dee Dawson seems to argue that size 16 is normal, and not overweight, mentioning that Marilyn Monroe (right) was a size 16. If I were to creep up to a size 16, I would be considered overweight by my doctor – I am size 10, only 5ft 4in, with a small frame.
I don’t mind if Debenhams dress mannequins in a size 16 as long as they also show them in a size 10. I don’t want to see what something looks like on a big person, as it doesn’t relate to myself.
SIR – Of course size 16 women are overweight. I wear size 12, and I’m overweight. The size 12 clothes I wear now fit me, while size 12 from years ago don’t even fasten. As I’ve become older, I’ve started to eat too many biscuits and I don’t exercise enough, so I weigh more than I’d like to.
Clothes manufacturers have steadily adjusted their sizing over the years to pamper our vanity.
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland
SIR – Former Army captain Mike Martin’s experiences in Helmand have led him to have interesting proposals as to how the Armed Forces should react to insurgencies, and indeed whether we should regard the Helmand events as insurgencies at all.
My perspective dates from my experience in Army intelligence in Cyprus and Kuwait in the Sixties, and work in the defence industry since. Mr Martin says that we need less firepower, and more focus on intelligence gathering in order to maintain order. Maintaining order by police work requires many experienced, cheap non-commissioned officers who, by means of hours drinking local beverages in the intimate company of the people who live there, will acquire vernacular speech and local knowledge. They will report the facts on the ground to their officers, who may ignore them, perhaps realising that they will in their turn be ignored by the politicians.
At the same time, we must also have powerful and mobile forces to establish order, and we must have a “colonial” police force to maintain order thereafter. And we really do need the political spine to refuse any mission where we are not in control.
SIR – What Mike Martin advocates echoes one of Sun Tzu’s principles in The Art of War: “know your enemy”. This the SAS has practised with spectacular success since its inception. When will the generals ever learn?
Flt Lt Roger Small RAF (retd)
Cosy corners for a pint
SIR – A “proper pub” is one that still retains quiet corners, with separate lounge and public bars. Sadly, far too many fell victim to the inexplicable Eighties fad of knocking down internal walls so as to create a soulless beer barn.
It was this, more than anything else, that has precipitated the decline of the pub.
East Chinnock, Somerset
SIR – A proper pub is one that smells of beer, not chips.
SIR – At a lovely rural Cornish pub, I ordered a pint of local ale, and a gin and tonic for my wife. The barman replied: “We don’t normally do cocktails”.
It would be cruel to stop elderly people driving
SIR – Ian Carter describes an elderly, lame man who took a long time to get out of his car; he suggests introducing a test to check that the driver can exit a vehicle within 30 seconds. For elderly people, the car may be the only way in which they can get about. Whether or not they can get out of his car in 30 seconds, the vehicle is essential to their lifestyle.
I, too, am in the category of being an elderly driver. Does this mean that if I take, say, 32 seconds to get out of my car I would be forbidden to drive? My wife and I use the car to go to the shops, to church on Sunday and to visit the family. If I was unable to drive, life would be severely restricted for us, and many like us.
SIR – Government statistics show that older drivers are among the safest. Older people are less likely to take risks, break the speed limit or talk on their mobile phone while driving. Any deterioration of some older people’s physical condition is more than compensated for by their road experience, common sense and careful driving.
SIR – Surely the time is right for the introduction of mandatory driving tests for elderly people, say more than 75, to see whether they constitute an accident waiting to happen?
Only those who might fail the test would object to such a sensible idea.
SIR – Your leading article does not mention the fundamental reason why many people like me, a former activist and Conservative voter in every election since 1979, will be voting Ukip for the first time in May’s European elections, and then in the general election. The Conservative Party, under the leadership of David Cameron, is no longer conservative.
It is now a party of uncontrolled, mass immigration into Britain. It is anti-family, believing as it does, in penalising those who wish, by choice, to stay at home and bring up their children. It believes in borrowing money at excessive levels in order to fund a deliberately ballooning overseas aid budget. It no longer advocates the effective security and defence of the realm as it continues to undermine the effectiveness of our Armed Forces. And it seems perfectly happy to build over our beautiful countryside, where once it represented a philosophical position that “conserved what is good”.
The party also refuses to tackle the disgraceful level of tax imposed upon those who save or invest as well as those who wish to pass on their assets to their children and grandchildren. And, on top of all these things, it no longer stands up for British interests in what has become an increasingly corrupt, undemocratic and self-serving European gravy train.
Link these things with Mr Cameron’s inexplicable defence of Maria Miller and his failure to expect higher standards from his ministers, and is it any wonder that people like me are deserting what was once their natural political home?
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – I take exception to the Conservative Party slogan: “Vote Farage, get Miliband”. It is reminiscent of the slogan: “A liberal vote is a wasted vote”.
Most people who vote for either Ukip or the Liberals do so because they believe in their policies, and are voting from conviction and not for tactics.
The Conservative Party slogan should read: “Vote Conservative, get another five years of Coalition government”. This would mean no EU referendum, no reform of the European Court of Human Rights and no reform of parliamentary boundaries.
SIR – Given that Mr Cameron has chosen to describe Ukip as dishonest, perhaps he will let us have a full list of his many promises, since coming to power, that have now been fulfilled.
SIR – David Cameron asks: “Is there anyone you would trust less than a group of Ukip MEPs?” Yes. Any front-bench member of any political party.
Carshalton Beeches, Surrey
Sir, – In his review of my book Myth and the Irish State (April 6th), Prof Diarmuid Ferriter has the better of me when he says I am preoccupied with jargon. “Unhistoricity” – the lack or absence of historical truth – is jargon. Nevertheless, it is jargon indispensable to my analysis of what some Irish historians write.
Your reviewer accuses me of pursuing a “personal vendetta” against other historians and calls me a “conspiracy theorist”. He substantiates neither claim, nor the statement “Regan’s essays are marred by questionable sources”. Irish Historical Studies , Histor y, Journal of British Studies , and the Historical Journal , where many of my book chapters were first published, do not indulge “questionable sources”. A responsible newspaper would require a contributor to validate such a statement before reinforcing it in a subheading.
Prof Ferriter undermines himself with careless mistakes. According to him I accuse some historians “of a deliberately selective use of evidence in writing about the history of the revolutionary period [c 1912-25] as a response to the impact of the Northern Ireland Troubles from the late 1960s”. Introducing the book, I write: “It was partly in response to the IRA’s ‘border campaign’ [1956-62] that the new, embryonic foundation-myth began to emerge”. Continuing, the Troubles were “the occasion for a historiographical turn, not its motivating reason.”
Quoting me again, Ferriter writes that “Michael Collins briefly presided over what ‘closely resembled a military dictatorship’ in April 1922’.” Actually, my references to Collins’s dictatorship, a central theme in the book, date to between July and August 1922 during the civil war.
Ferriter states: “Regan also cites Winston Churchill’s portentous and threatening letters to Michael Collins in April 1922, warning that if Collins did not oust republicans from the Four Courts British force would.” Dated April 12th, 1922, only one such letter from Churchill to Collins is cited in the book. No mention is made in it of the Four Courts occupation, probably because this occupation happened afterwards.
Ferriter accurately reports my view that the late Peter Hart “ignored evidence about the Bandon Valley massacres in April 1922, the killing of 13 Protestant loyalists in west Cork”. However, contrary to Ferriter, I do not assert that Hart ignored a British archival source, the “Record of the Rebellion in Ireland 1920-1 … on the role of [British] army intelligence”. Hart referenced it extensively. Instead, I say Hart selectively quoted from the “Record”, ignoring those sentences contradicting his interpretation of a sectarian massacre.
“Regan sees a deliberate conspiracy,” Ferriter complains, “in the refusal of other historians to refer to a memoir deposited in the UCD archives in 1974 that suggests Collins planned for the IRB to remain active.”
In my discussion nowhere do I describe seeing a “deliberate conspiracy” or a conspiracy of any kind. What I identify is a consensual approach by some historians to specific issues, like Collins’s dictatorship, and the use of sources relating to these. Indeed, Ferriter sees something similar where he writes “numerous scholars felt it vital to define the IRA in 1922 as anti-democratic in order to undermine the Provisional IRA during the Troubles”.
In truth, Ferriter agrees with much of my book. Developed over many years in academic peer-reviewed journals, the force of my argument leaves him little choice. Unable to counter my interpretation, Ferriter therefore denounces me.
Historians are not obliged to submit their research to peer-reviewed journals. In these journals the publication process is arduous, because the evidential bar is set high and precision in using language, alongside evidence, is never optional. If the technical words I use jar on Ferriter partly it is because he has little or no experience of publishing research in journals. More concerned to write and broadcast history for the general public’s consumption, scholarly journals are irrelevant for Ferriter’s purposes.
Reading this letter alongside Ferriter’s review, I suspect your readers will have little difficulty grasping why we need a word like “unhistoricity”. It is indispensable when distinguishing historical research from history written for public consumption that is lacking in historical veracity. As Prof Ferriter partly concedes, not a few historians of the Irish State opted for this latter course. Once liberated from the burden of evidence historians are free to invent anything they wish. Yours, etc,
DR JOHN M REGAN,
First published: Tue, Apr 15, 2014, 01:55
Sir, I would like to make three points about the recent presidential visit to Britain.
First, it should be seen as part of a carefully thought out strategy, at work since the inception of the Good Friday agreement: the very visible coming together of “elites” in the hope that subalterns will do likewise. If Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, the queen et al can have dinner together without smashing the place up, then perhaps, when a denizen of East Belfast encounters a denizen of West Belfast, they may resist the urge to beat the lard out of one another.
The South’s part in all of this is pretty peripheral: most of us here haven’t had any serious sense of grievance for some time; the release of the Birminghahm Six and the Guildford Four went some way towards atoning for the treatment of the Irish in Britain, who had been targeted by the security services for special treatment.
The difference between Ireland and Britain needs to be addressed. When I came back to Ireland from London nearly 30 years ago, Britain was in industrial spasm as the miners and the Thatcher governemnt fought it out up and down the land; Brixton and Liverpool had been set alight and the Dixon of Dock Green image of the bobby on the beat had been replaced by something that recalled an occupying army. Class war was the defining feature of British public life.
The Ireland I came back to was equally convulsed: men had been starving themselves to death in the H Blocks, people were on the march, and everywhere was overtaken by a grim and desperate anger; nationalism overrode every other political consideration. Or so it seemed. Coming from the class war to this was to be intensely aware of the difference between Ireland and Britain.
The extent to which class war has abated in Britain and nationalism has abated in Ireland is perhaps some indicator of the way the two places have converged, but different they are, and it would be an unwise person who discounted either factor in the political make-up of the respective polities.
Finally, there is the one subject you are never supposed to mention: religion. Roy Foster manages to write a whole article on Anglo-Irish relations and never mention it once. The second half of the nineteenth century saw a massive revival of Protestant confessional bigotry across Britain: Catholics were never going to be given charge of their own affairs; the rising Catholic Irish middle class, who saw themselves as every bit as civilised as their British counterparts, had backed constitutional campaigns for home rule; as Conor Cruise O’Brien said, the war of independence was led by the politically frustrated children of Parnellites. Not to put too fine a point on it: the British had it coming. However, I am told the dessert at Windsor was a bombe suprise : a shared sense of humour goes a long way. Yours, etc,
Sir,- Declan Kiberd writes about the “narcissism of small differences” affecting the relationship between Britain and Ireland. However, observing the different reactions in either country to the events of last week one cannot but conclude that the aphorism, while a seductive line, has little basis in reality.
The Guardian newspaper gave only basic coverage to President Higgins’s visit, as it would have with the head of state of any country with whom Britain had an insignificant official relationship. RTÉ Radio 1’s World Report cited a local in Windsor who wondered if the tricolours flying in the area represented Mauritius. Conversely The Irish Times had a supplement covering the visit, devoted considerable editorial space to it and regarded the mooted presence of a British royal at the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising as important enough to warrant its main front page story.
It appears that – despite the official kind words – beneath the surface one country in this relationship remains at best witheringly aloof while the other betrays a classical post-colonial attitude in its desperation for acceptance as an equal. Unlike your editorial writer (“Sovereign and equal”, April 10th) some of us never needed acknowledgement from Britain that our state was their equal. Surely this is a given that Britain would readily concede without all the rí-rá? After all, is this not the same nation that a century ago went to the Great War to defend the rights of such small nations? Small differences indeed! Yours, etc,
Sir, – Prof Diarmaid Ferrriter, who is a member of the Expert Advisory Group on the centenary commemorations tells us (Apri 14th) that he would be concerned with matters that “might give succour to those who believe the Rising was unnecessary”. It is to be hoped that the other members of this committee have a more balanced view of history and of the diversity of Irish opinion in 1916 and today.
Centenary events always risk becoming celebrations of myth rather than commemorations of complex historical fact. The example of Scotland is interesting. In a different time and place a degree of autonomy there has led to an agreed referendum procedure in relation to independence without a single shot being fired. Yours, etc,
SEÁN Mc DONAGH
Sir, – I would remind John B Reid, who would have us be thankful for the “sacrifices” of the “patriots” of 1922 and 1916 (April 14th), which “made it possible for Ireland today to hold her head high on state visits to other nations” that Mohandas K Gandhi achieved more, for more people, and more quickly, through non-violence than was ever achieved by the violence of all the Irish patriots over many centuries.
Perhaps it was because he came from a non-Abrahamic tradition that Gandhi did not see the need for Padraig Pearse’s much vaunted “blood sacrifice”. I, for one – but I am sure I am not alone – will not be celebrating the 98th anniversary of the death and destruction of 1916. Yours, etc,
TONY McCOY O’GRADY,
Sir, – In his own words, it is indeed hard to know why Fintan O’Toole reckons that Martin Heidegger’s Nazism is “even up for discussion” (Culture Shock, April 5th). The evidence of Heidegger’s notebooks is only the culmination in a very long process of investigation, philosphical as well as historical, into his ugly political affiliations. In 1945, he was investigated by the Bundesrepublik’s Denazification Committee (here Hannah Arendt testified on his behalf and his former friend Karl Jaspers testified against him). In its report, it charged him with being a significant member of the Nazi Party, with introducing the “Fuhrer principle” into Freiburg University during his tenure as rector, engaging in Nazi propaganda, and inciting students against some of their professors.
Nevertheless Heidegger was reintegrated into the German academic system in 1951. The emerging laureate of German philosophy, Jürgen Habermas, responded in 1953, accusing Heidegger of wishing to exculpate himself for his wartime behaviour by arguing that the Nazi period figured as an element in the “history of Being”. In the 1980s, exposes of Heidegger’s Nazi past were published in France and in America. The revelation is old.
The question, surely, is not whether we read Heidegger, but how we read him. Wagner was an anti-Semite, but does this mean that we cease listening to his music? Conrad was an imperialist and perhaps a racist, but does this mean we don’t read Heart of Darkness ? Yeats and Pound had fascist sympathies: does this mean we don’t read these great artists and writers? No: it means that we seek to listen to them or to read them critically, carefully, looking precisely at how such repellent ideas could co-exist with great insight and great aesthetic gifts. Yours, etc,
De Vesci Court,
Sir, – Martin Heidegger thought that modern human beings had a fundamental problem with technology. Far from controlling it, they were themselves controlled: technology had them in its grip. A good example of human beings in the grip of technology is the Holocaust. Another good example is the atomic bomb. In 1933 Heidegger believed, or let hope convince him, that Nazism had the potential for a human counter-movement. Within a few years he realised he was wrong. By 1941, with the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, he knew (as his recently published diaries show) that his earlier opinion was the opposite of the truth. The Nazis were taking modern man deeper into the condition of subordination to technology, which in Heidegger’s opinion was most clearly promoted and affirmed in what he saw as contemporary Jewish thinking. If such opinions have to be tainted by association with subsequent projects of mass murder (Fintan O’Toole, April 5th), then we should all be very, very careful what we say on account of what someone in our own cultural sphere may possibly do next year. We might find it preferable to say nothing. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Paddy Agnew’s take on John Paul II’s view of liberation theology (“John Paul II: tainted saint?”, April 12th) substantially misrepresented the late pope’s position on this question.
According to Mr Agnew, John Paul regarded liberation theology “as a falsified Christianity that put more emphasis on Marx than on Christ”. This comment has the advantage of a certain simplicity, but it hardly stands up against John Paul’s own remark, made to the Brazilian bishops in 1986: “We are convinced, we and you, that liberation theology is not only timely, but useful and necessary.”
It is true that John Paul occasionally sought to correct aspects of liberation theology, but he did not espouse the simplistic and repressive views attributed to him in Mr Agnew’s article. Yours, etc,
REV CHRIS HAYDEN,
A chara, – I have been asked by a number of people to correct the account given in the article by Ann Marie Hourihane, (“Betty Purcell: war stories form the heart of RTÉ”, April 7th) concerning Charles Haughey and the wind generators on Cape Clear Island.
I recall the relevant events very clearly indeed since they occurred shortly after my arrival as the new manager of the co-op on the island in 1987.
It seems that the former taoiseach was highly impressed by the wind/diesel/battery system on Cape Clear island which had been installed by SMA Regelsystem Gmbh and which he launched, together with the German ambassador, in that year. So impressed indeed that he announced his intention of having a similar system installed in Inishvickillane, a project that was subsequently carried out.
Most certainly no wind turbines were removed from Cape Clear island and the integrated wind/diesel/battery system continued to provide an outstanding service for more than 10 years after that. Sadly, by the time the 33w wind turbines needed replacing due to normal wear and tear, the wind turbine industry had moved on and such small turbines were no longer available.
Similar systems were installed subsequently in various parts of the world and the Cape Clear system is credited with providing the first concrete evidence for the viability of wind energy in Ireland.
In deference to the good names of all concerned, including the ESB, who were responsible for operating the island electricity grid, I can confirm that at no time was the island left with a “a generator that gave only sporadic service”.
I am grateful for the opportunity to put the record straight on this matter. Is mise le meas,
SÉAMUS Ó DRISCEOIL
Sir, – Spurred by the recent letter bemoaning the meaningless tag “in terms of”, may I add another phrase to the list of examples of inflated speech? “In relation to” has now reached epidemic proportions. Why the seven syllables of “in relation to”, when the simple word “on” has just one syllable?
So, please, politicians, broadcasters and journalists, let’s hear no more about policy “in relation to” crime; just discuss the policy “on” crime – or whatever the related topic is. Yours, etc,
Though I find the services of Holy Week deeply inspiring, I wish we would speak of the death of Christ without the sometimes excessive talk of sacrifice – a kind of discourse that gives the impression that we are serving a very demanding God who wills the sacrifice of his own son as recompense for the sins of mankind.
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This is rooted in the literalist interpretation of original sin. Nobody sensibly believes that there was a historical moment when sin entered our world through an actual offence.
The concept of original sin is absurd if construed in a literal sense, a sense that would imply that God in creating mankind had deliberately created a defective species.
Whatever sin exists must then be the fault of God. As Christopher Hitchens, one of the most articulate atheists used to put it: “It looks as if God created us ill and commands us to get better”.
We are beings in the making, requiring ever-increasing awareness of where we stand in relation to the world and to one another.
Sin is not so much an act of rebellion against God but an indication of the evolutionary journey yet to be undertaken. We offend one another. God cannot be offended.
The most challenging aspect of Easter is the Resurrection. Christ’s overcoming death cannot or need not be construed as the resuscitation of a corpse but the expression of a life and a death that totally transformed the disciples. We are of course left with a thousand questions, not a set of definitive answers – the two key questions being: What do I mean? and How do I know?
A mystery, such as that of the Resurrection, is an invitation to explore not an invitation to darkness and bafflement.
We find its meaning in thoughtful reflection on our own life and death.
Our faith is not a destination reached but a journey we undertake with a confident rhythm animating our step.
Happy Easter to all.
33 Edith Road, Oxford, OX1 4 QB
BAD NIGHT AT THE LOCAL PUB
* I thought that concert from the Albert Hall sounded like a singsong at a bad night in the local pub. By omitting the traditional it failed so miserably to bring the grandeur, the glory and the soul of real Irish music to a much wider audience.
That ‘The Minstrel Boy’ was spoken, not sung, and that ‘The Auld Triangle’ went on forever, and was the highlight, says it all.
The rest was mid-atlantic, discordant and non-Irish.
Shielmartin Drive, Sutton, Dublin 13.
PROUD OF STARS IN ALBERT HALL
* Regarding President Higgins’ concert in the Royal Albert Hall, there were some excellent displays of Irish talent on show.
I thought Glen Hansard did an incredible job. It was brilliant to see John Sheehan and Imelda May, Elvis Costello and all the others.
Other Irish icons, like Christy Moore, Bono and the Edge may have had other things to do but it was all good craic. However, there was real quality and professionalism in display from the Irish stars.
We have lost so many stars to Britain but the concert reminded us that there is plenty to be proud of still, so take a bow one and all.
Stepaside, Co Dublin
CHARITY ENDS AT HOME
* The decision by the rank and file of Amnesty Ireland not to reduce their CEO’s annual salary to that of the average industrial wage, means that I can add yet another “charity” to my evermore growing blacklist of organisations to be shunned.
At this rate, I am going to be reduced to setting up my own charity.
San Pawl Il-Bahar, Malta
PAYNE OF RED CARD INJUSTICE
* Regarding your excellent article on the red card issued to (Ulster rugby player) Jared Payne in Saturday’s Irish Independent.
The rubber-stamping of a two-week ban compounded the original decision.
I do not have the exact wording of the law that allowed this ludicrous decision, but the authorities need to do a bit of “argumentum ad absurdum” before further miscarriages of justice are perpetrated on some innocent players.
Oldtown, Hospital, Co Limerick.
PISTORIUS TRIAL A LESSON IN LAW
* The Oscar Pistorius trial, despite becoming a gripping blockbuster for the news media, has highlighted the benefits of South Africa’s legal system.
Presiding Judge Masipa will ultimately decide the outcome of the trial and she will be assisted by two legal experts.
Before the Pistorius case, I was unaware that the last trial by jury in South Africa was held in 1969 when the country was a very different place.
I think that the modern-day online media climate makes it clear that with the prevalence of touch-of-a-button information, jury trials can be really unstable, and that the risk of trial-by-media is at a peak.
In Ireland, if a public figure like this was involved in a murder probe, and this type of coverage was bandied about, a potential juror would numbly consume this damning dynamic of assumed guilt, and carry it with them into the jury room.
In South Africa, the judge and her experts will adjudicate the merits of the prosecution and defence solely on their basis in law; they will not enter judgment in the grip of a modern media malignance.
Edenderry, Co Offaly
SINGING PRIEST TIP OF THE ICEBERG
* What a breath of fresh air for the country and for Catholics in Ireland at large to see the YouTube clip of Fr Ray Kelly singing a wedding service to the tune of Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah’. Eleven million hits during the course of a week.
We, in the parish here in Co Kildare are fortunate to have a few priests who take a practical approach to Mass and related religious ceremonies.
One young priest stood out recently when he brought a Sunday Mass forward in a local village so as to accommodate a very important sporting event.
Another parish priest is loved by all as he has cut through the red tape and doom and gloom of mundane homilies whilst at the same time, getting the required basic messages across.
He also involves children in events such as christenings by giving them little chores to attend to such as holding the towel, the oils, lighting candles etc.
Many of us who started our education at the age of four or five, were consistently exposed to the rules and regulations of a now obviously fading Catholic Church.
Yet, in many parishes, they persist in addressing us week in week out with the same old stories.
I’m no longer sure as to the reason why I attend church once a week but the Mass I attend is usually frequented by about 80 people with conservatively 95pc of the congregation being pensioners. However, making Mass more practical can only help the church.
Good on you Fr Ray, you lifted our spirits and we need more like you.