Quiet day

17April2014Quiet day

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate Lennox Brown is A1 in healthPriceless

Mary in hospital brief visit get beat at Scrabble

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Lorna Casselton – obituary

Lorna Casselton was Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society and an expert on the reproduction of fungi

Lorna Casselton

Lorna Casselton

6:10PM BST 15 Apr 2014


Lorna Casselton, who has died aged 75, was one of Britain’s foremost fungal biologists , and well-known throughout the international scientific community in her role as vice-president and Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society from 2006 to 2011.

Her major scientific contribution was to establish how mushroom fungi determine “self from non-self” in order to mate; in particular, she studied Coprinus cinereus. Unlike in animals and plants — where only two sexes (male and female) exist — there can be 10 or even hundreds of different “sexes” of a species of fungi in nature. It posed a problem that had long perplexed scientists: faced with so many choices, how did fungi recognise potential mating partners?

Over a period of more than two decades, Lorna Casselton set about identifying the genes involved in sex determination in the fungi, through painstaking genetic analysis and molecular biology . She was then able to show how their products interact with each other, allowing recognition between sexes and mating to occur.

In recognition of this key discovery she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. She was also honoured by the British Mycological Society, and by similar bodies across the globe.

She was born Lorna Ann Smith on July 18 1938 and educated at Southend High School for Girls before gaining a BSc and a PhD from University College, London. Her lecturing and research career began at Royal Holloway College in London, and she was Professor of Genetics at Queen Mary College, London University, from 1989 to 1991. She was later awarded fellowships by UK Research Councils to allow her to focus on her science.

She relished her role as Foreign Secretary at the Royal Society, visiting 27 countries during her time in post. Colleagues remember fondly her gentle teasing as in 2009 she explained to the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and a room full of conference delegates, that her ancient role had been created in 1723, nearly 60 years before the British government appointed its first Foreign Secretary. She also often shared her amusement at the description of her role in the Society’s Charter of 1663: “to enjoy mutual intelligence and affairs with all manner of strangers and foreigners”.

Early in her career, Casselton had spent time as a visiting lecturer in Nigeria, an experience which led to a lifelong love of Africa. As Foreign Secretary, she led a programme helping academies of science in Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia to become more effective in giving science policy advice to their governments, and she is still warmly remembered in all three countries. In 2013 she was elected an honorary fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. Late in her life Lorna Casselton trained to be a glider pilot. Most people go solo after perhaps 30 launches; she eventually did so after 169, a tribute to her determination if not to her skills in the sky.

She was a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, from 1993 to 2003, and Professor of Fungal Genetics at Oxford from 1997 to 2003.

She was appointed CBE in 2012.

She married first, in 1961 (dissolved 1978), Peter Casselton, and is survived by her second husband, William Tollett, a former consultant in the chemical manufacturing industry.

Lorna Casselton, born July 18 1938, died February 14 2014


In responding to our report on the charges paid by Africa‘s diaspora sending money home (Report, 16 April), MoneyGram calls into question our data. The data used in our report is drawn entirely from MoneyGram’s own remittance website. On the day MoneyGram told the Guardian it was charging 5% for remittances to Africa, the actual charge for sending £120 to the region averaged around 12%. The company’s spokesperson apparently forgot to factor in foreign currency conversion charges.

The fees for a group of seven countries that we looked at ranged from a low of 10% for Ethiopia to a high for 14% for Malawi. Contrary to the claims made by the money-transfer industry there is no evidence to support the claim that remittance charges to Africa are falling. As the most recent World Bank remittance survey shows, charges for Africa have risen since 2009 and remain stubbornly locked at twice average levels. This is indefensible.

MoneyGram is, of course, entitled to put its case. But this should not be allowed to hide the costs associated with the lack of competition, restrictive business practices and deeply flawed financial regulation in Africa that we highlight in the report. Back in 2008, the G8 pledged to drive remittance transfer costs down to no more than 5% a year. Progress towards that goal would put another $1.8bn earned by Africa’s diaspora in the hands of family members. This is hard-earned money that could be used for investment in education, health, agriculture and small enterprises. Yet the G8 and G20 have failed to act on the cost-cutting commitment. Surely it’s time for the money-transfer industry and governments to work together to produce a fairer deal for Africa’s diaspora.
Kevin Watkins
Executive director, Overseas Development Institute

How sad Malcolm Pittock feels the need to praise the life and work of Raymond Williams by bringing down Richard Hoggart (Letters, 16 April). Both, albeit in different ways, demonstrated what can be achieved, irrespective of a person’s class and background. I for one am grateful for the inspiration both provided.
Mike Storey

• Tuesday’s Guardian: a celebration of Matisse’s fabulous use of colour described as “rich, marvellous, alive”, complete with lovely front-page example. G2, Wednesday: “Grey matters – why it’s the colour of the decade” and a cover reminiscent of a gravestone. I know which brightened my day.
Ceri Smith

• I started reading Grey matters with excitement, thinking at last a reply to the Generation yoof issue and some older folk been given a voice. A grey panther issue of G2 is long overdue. I live in hope.
Fiona Watson

• I have noticed another sign of spring (Letters, 14 April): groups of teenagers in the hills with packs, walking their Duke of Edinburgh practice expeditions. I met seven silver and three gold this morning on the edges of Kinder and the Edale valley. Perhaps like Larkin’s Whitsun wedding couples they are “free at last, and loaded with the sum of all they saw”?
Chris Jeffries

• You record six centuries in the cricket scores (Sport, 15 April). Three are for 144 and two are for 139. What are the odds on that? I am trying to get out more.
Richard Grover
Caernarfon, Gwynedd

• The town of Diss (Letters, passim) on the border of Suffolk and Norfolk lends its name to many enterprises. If singing is your thing, you might consider joining the local choir, Disschord.
Sarah Guthrie
Diss, Norfolk

• I stood po-faced to have my picture taken next to the road sign for Pissy-Poville just north-west of Rouen. I didn’t do the other thing.
Baz Juniper
Combwich, Somerset

I am just one 17-year-old. I cannot make a huge difference to our country alone. But my generation collectively could. However, a report by the Electoral Reform Society after the last election showed that only 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted. It is the education system that is letting us down. There is hardly any political education in secondary schools; many of my peers can’t name the three main party leaders or give an outline of the ideologies of each party. In time, the young and disaffected of today will become the middle-aged and disaffected of tomorrow. We need to stop this trend before it becomes a crisis spanning across multiple generations. I did a bit of my own research and found that the reason many young adults aren’t voting is because they do not know who to vote for. In an attempt to help my peers, I set up a website, outlining the basic beliefs of each party. votingcounts.org.uk is getting good feedback. My local council have been supportive, helping me organise interviews with councillors and providing me with information to share. Ultimately though, it is the responsibility of our government to make it easier for young adults to get involved. If we want to see more young people voting we need to see an easier registration process and most importantly more political education.
Rachael Farrington

John Harris reckons there’s “fat chance” of moving the British “machinery of government” outside London (When even the bohemians have gone, it’s time to worry, 15 April). But could the coincidence in 2014 of Ukip’s rise and the campaign for Scottish independence suggest that devolution‘s hour has finally come? While new federal solutions to the problems of governing the nation state are being proposed from Donetsk to Dundee, “glocalisation” – the fruitful combination of the local and the global – has never seemed so appealing to those of us living outside the walls of the national capital. A single example from the east Midlands: the forthcoming closure of the country’s last deep coal mine at Thoresby, and the loss of at least 500 jobs, would almost certainly have been better handled had the people of north Nottinghamshire been governed from Brussels instead of London.
Peter Lyth
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

To counter the gravitational pull of London, John Harris floats the possibility of moving the machinery of government elsewhere, only to dismiss it as infeasible. He should think again. As part of a programme for instituting “home rule all round” within a federal UK, the idea makes perfect sense. If England had its own devolved organs of government to match those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the House of Lords could be replaced by an elected and geographically constituted federal parliament meeting at Westminster, while the new English parliament had its seat in Manchester or York.
David Purdy

• John Harris contends that London’s increasing isolation from the rest of Britain will lead to interesting political consequences. The buy-up of central London properties by foreign nationals must be having an effect on electoral registers. The number of voters in the wealthiest wards will diminish. Eventually the allocation of council seats will have to be adjusted, giving more representation to the wards with larger amounts of social housing, the occupants of which are likely to be on the electoral role. Thus we may yet see Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Labour-controlled. Interesting indeed.
Michael Sargent
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

• We need to hear more voices from within London questioning the damage our blinkered capital city does to its citizens as well as its malign effects on the rest of us. Perhaps the time has come for a remake of the 1949 film Passport to Pimlico, with the rebels opting for independence within the EU rather than reverting to Burgundy.
Geoff Reid

•  It was with wry amusement that I read about the disparity in per capita transport funding for London compared to the rest of the UK. In Knutsford we are served by an hourly train service to either Manchester or Chester and bus services are few and far between, making the rest of Cheshire mostly inaccessible. Hearts do not exactly race at the idea that billions will be spent on HS2 passing through Cheshire for quicker journeys from Manchester to London.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

The Centre for Policy Studies’ claims for the benefits of on-rail competition (Letters, 10 April) are selective and ignore many downsides. To establish that it was competition that increased business, one would have to show there were no other factors in play. Fares increasing less at stations with competition only proves that the incumbent operator responded to competition (and may well have recouped its losses from elsewhere). The downsides include income extracted from the franchisee, not by competition but as a result of an obsolete revenue-sharing system; the fact that open-access operators do not pay a due share of track costs; the confusing fragmentation of ticketing; and the damage to the coherence and integration of timetables.

All this will be greatly multiplied if open-access operators are allowed to expand their services before we have a transparent and participatory debate about how to best use limited capacity in the public interest (ideally based on the kind of timetable that makes the Swiss Railways so successful – without competition). As for Mr Lodge’s remark that Grand Central receives no money from the government, that may be true of the British government, but at the time it became a subsidiary of the state-owned German Railway, it had debts of £44m.
Jonathan Tyler
Passenger Transport Networks

• The money paid to train operators is not a subsidy but the price of train services bought by the government (Rail shareholders £200m windfall raises questions over sell-off plan, 16 April) and it is quite legitimate for the operators to make a profit on their sales and use it to pay dividend to shareholders. The beneficiaries of public subsidy are not the train operators but passengers, who are able to travel by train for less than they would pay if the government did not pay part of the price on their behalf. There are many questions about funding, but the most fundamental is why passengers should be subsidised by the taxpayer., and that will not receive a satisfactory answer by pretending that buying services is automatically a subsidy to the supplier As your article hints, another important question is how much of the cost of train travel results from Network Rail’s acknowledged inefficiency – comparative studies suggest that it costs twice as much as its continental equivalents.

Neither will understanding of railway finance be helped by repeated claims that the state-owned directly operated railway’s payments to the Treasury are evidence of superior virtue, this sounds like going to the opposite extreme and taxing passengers rather than subsidising them.
John Hall

One thing emerges clearly from the fog surrounding the alleged plot to take over Birmingham schools: the lack of accountability of academies (City steps up ‘Islamist plot’ inquiry in schools, 14 April). In fact, the problem goes deeper than that. The truth is that when things go wrong it is next to impossible to hold anybody to account in any kind of school, whether academies, free schools or community schools. That is why there is a good case for establishing democratic accountability for local education as a whole.

Schools (and colleges, for that matter) – it is worth recalling – are not private property; they are funded by the taxpayer. It is only right that they and other local education institutions should be subject to oversight by democratically elected councillors and the representatives of those who have a legitimate stake in education: parents, students, trade unions, employers, as well as those who work in our schools and colleges. That is why Compass is proposing the creation of local education boards within local councils. These would be analogous to planning committees, able to take an objective view of services and proposals, including those of the local authority itself. The boards would oversee and review the implementation of local education plans and priorities and be able to intervene when there was local concern about the quality of education on offer. Compass fully supports local management of schools and colleges but that needs to be tempered with effective community oversight and an entitlement to redress for parents and students.
Martin Yarnit

• Zoe Williams attempts to trace the source of the current situation surrounding schools in Birmingham to the government’s academies programme (Why Birmingham needs bog-standard comps too, 16 April). Ms Williams confidently claims “we already know there are children whose education has been criminally disrupted … all of it traceable to the free school/academisation agenda”. What she leaves out is the fact that issues of alleged extremism have touched many sorts of schools in Birmingham. The city council’s action in halting the appointment of all new governors in the dozens of schools it controls is just one piece of evidence confirming that local authority control is far from the panacea that Ms Williams suggests.

It is clear from her article that Ms Williams does not support schools which strive to differentiate themselves. In fact she goes so far as to state that we should embrace the term “bog-standard”. This government rejects this call to maintain the status quo. It is this attitude that saw our country’s education system stagnate, failing a generation of children. Through our reforms, and thanks to the work of teachers and heads striving to offer children the excellence Ms Williams derides, there are a quarter of a million fewer children being taught in failing secondary schools, compared to 2010. And in the academy schools Ms Williams blames, the improvement is most apparent. The results of pupils in sponsored academies are improving faster than in council-run schools and converter academies outperform those still under local authority control.

The allegations surrounding schools in Birmingham are concerning and require careful investigation. This attempt to use the situation to tarnish the work of academies and free schools is simply wrong.
Elizabeth Truss MP
Education minister

• If anyone doubts the logic of Zoe Williams’ timely defence of bog-standard community schools, which share practice and try to ensure there aren’t huge variations between them, they’d do well to read Margaret Heffernan’s new book, A Bigger Prize, on the advantages of collaboration. She demonstrates convincingly that in all spheres of life, even sport, business, politics, science as well as education, “cheating, corruption, subversion, silence, disenchantment and the unwinding of the social fabric are not perverse but inevitable outcomes of societies captive to the competitive mindset and the ephemeral pleasures of winning”. But try telling that to Michael Gove.
John Airs

• Since 2010, when Michael Gove took office, he has continually denigrated and belitttled the work of local education authorities, as part of the Blob, and sought at every opportunity to reduce their control over local schools. Mr Gove believes that he has the intellect, knowledge and ability to do everything by himself and the result of this vacuum of control and accountability has allowed the situation in Birmingham to develop. I am aware that, as yet, there is no confirmation of this plot but, if it is the case, then Mr Gove has only himself to blame.

In the meantime, he has acted far too late and with a draconian hand to cover his own back. The truth is these schools were left to their own devices and the stabilising influence of the LEA was diminished by the megalomaniac Michael Gove. Let’s hope that salutary lessons are learnt from this sorry saga.
Simon Gosden
Vice principal (retired), Rayleigh, Essex


On 10 April you reported David Cameron telling his disciples that “Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago – I just want to see more of it”. A week later, you record the huge rise in people needing help feeding themselves due, in part, to benefit cuts ( “The food poverty scandal that shames Britain”, 16 April).

Mr Cameron and his class want a return to the pre-welfare state wherein the lower orders were only provided for through the exhortation of Christ to follow the seven corporal works of mercy. The rich would feel obliged to charitably donate enough to ensure their entry into the kingdom of heaven, and thus the hungry would be fed, the sick cared for, and the homeless housed through charity alone.

The Prime Minister has stated in the past that the growth of food banks is a sign that the Big Society is working, so we cannot be surprised that the Coalition continues its attack on benefits as it aspires to the days when all that kept the poor from the gutter was the benevolence of Lady Bountiful.

Colin Burke, Manchester

Round-the-clock childcare

Poor Rosie Millard (16 April) was obviously stung by the observations of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Me too! I am astounded by parents (men and women) who wish to abdicate responsibility for bringing up their children to teachers. How long will it be before teachers are obliged to give birth for time-poor, child-indifferent, would-be parents?

Perhaps, rather than constantly scrounging for scarce resources to provide ever more extra-school child care, the Government would be better off devising a child time-share scheme so that wannabe part-time parents, beset by concerns about their career, self-image and lifestyle expectations, could share ownership with others at their convenience.

Gordon Watt, Reading

Other players in the Ukrainian crisis

The Russian leadership seems to have forgotten both history and logic in their statements about the Ukraine. Russia claims that any Ukrainian use of force against internal separatists would be illegal. Are they now admitting their internal war in Chechnya a few years ago was criminal?

Russia talks about the $2bn allegedly owed to Gazprom for gas supplied through the Ukraine, but the vast majority of this debt was accrued under the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who is now their guest. They should ask him about that, not the current interim leadership.

Despite stating categorically that Russia has no agents there, they claim that eastern Ukraine is on the brink of civil war – something they could only know with certainty if they are actively engaged.

Peter Slessenger, Reading

The 28 European Union foreign ministers who met in Luxembourg condemned unreservedly the protesters in eastern Ukraine for attacking government buildings and believe Moscow is behind these events (report, 15 April).

It’s a shame that when the Euromaidan protests were doing similar things they kept quiet. It’s also a shame that they say nothing about US State Department official Victoria Nuland’s comments that America had spent $5bn in the Ukraine supposedly supporting democracy?

Who is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs?

Mark Holt, Liverpool

One lesson from the Ukraine troubles is the ineffectiveness of the EU as a force in global politics. Any semblance of a united approach by the EU is shattered by Germany`s gas requirements, French arms exports and Britain`s financial sector, to highlight only three vested interests militating against effective action.

A major argument in favour of Britain’s continuing membership of the EU is that if we left we would lose our status on the world stage. The Ukraine situation indicates this is a chimera.

David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

if the NHS needs money, then find it

Free healthcare at the point of use is a principle which any political party worth its salt should be determined to maintain, even if there is a projected budget deficit of £30bn by 2020 (“NHS faces financial crisis in 2015”, 15 April). If more money for the NHS has to be found, so be it, and for any party leader with principle and bottle, it should be imperative to say so. What would the electorate say in answer to this question? “Which of the following is essential: HS2? Trident renewal? A well-funded NHS?”

The King’s Fund director of policy might think there is a problem with more funding because of the “deficit-reduction debate”, but he is correct only if politicians have the wrong priorities.

Bernie Evans, Liverpool

Another rule for the rich?

What more proof is needed that money talks than the concession of anonymity to the train-fare-dodging hedge-fund manager? (James Moore, 15 April.) The ease with which he was able to come up with the £42,550 defrauded from the railway stands in stark contrast to your 14 April report that there are 15 million working-age adults in the UK with no savings whatsoever. I wonder how many of them would have been afforded such latitude, had they been caught.

Jeremy Redman, London SE6

Scottish vote: don’t divorce for a fantasy

Independence movements are usually driven by racial, ethnic or religious persecution and/or feelings of impotence based on a lack of political power. Yet none of the above applies to Scotland and we have produced a steady stream of prime ministers, lord chancellors and movers-and-shakers in every field.

Far from being crushed into uniformity we have our own legal system, our own church and even our own sports teams in many international competitions.

The decision to divorce our partner of 300 years and bin a legacy of shared values, mutual respect, common responsibilities and family ties is cataclysmic. There is gross uncertainty in every aspect of “independence” and to set at risk our children’s future for a Brigadoon fantasy seems to me  entirely wrong.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Philip Hammond’s claim that independence will put Scottish defence jobs at risk is more than a little hypocritical given the damage done by defence cuts already inflicted by Westminster.

Decisions at Westminster have seen Scotland stripped of military assets and serving personnel handed redundancy notices, with more than 11,000 defence jobs lost in Scotland in the last decade. Yet while these deeply damaging cuts have been imposed, every one of the Westminster parties remains committed to wasting £100bn on replacing Trident.

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens, but the reality is that, under the Union, Scotland has already been stripped bare of conventional naval capability by cuts.

There are no ocean-going surface vessels based in Scotland and no maritime reconnaissance aircraft – that is an extraordinary and unacceptable gap, which has seen ships dispatched from the south of England to the Moray Firth in response to Russian naval activity.

That gap also means the UK is having to rely on Nato allies to help cover routine maritime patrol duties – a responsibility an independent Scotland will take more seriously.

The only way Scotland will be able adequately to defend itself is through independence, with stronger armed forces north of the border. These forces, co-operating with those from the rest of the UK in areas of mutual interest, will collectively strengthen, not weaken, our impact.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Given Matthew Norman’s visceral hatred of all things English, I am surprised he even condescends to live here. But grovelling to Alex Salmond is not the answer to the Scottish independence campaign  (16 April).

If Scotland truly wants independence then bon voyage; an unhappy marriage is a worse solution than a divorce and a clean break. But, like any scheming partner seeking to end a marriage, Salmon wants to cherry-pick what he likes – the pound, an open border, BBC (Scotland), membership of Nato and the EU, defence contracts, the English language (and of course the oil revenues) – and dump what he dislikes – nuclear, the national debt and the English.

As a representative of the injured party in this divorce I see no reason why we should actually assist an independent Scotland with any of Salmond’s likes, and if he won’t take Scotland’s fair share of his dislikes then I see no reason why Westminster should allow the divorce to be made absolute, let alone allow Scotland into Nato or  the EU.

It is a sad fact that, for the moment, England is indisputably Conservative territory, but that will  soon pass if the nasty party is given a free hand to comfort the rich and squeeze the poor.

Roger Chapman, Keighley,  West Yorkshire


As the politics of the independence referendum heat up, voters are hungry for hard facts

Sir, Alex Salmond describes the No campaign as boring, depressing and laughable. There is nothing laughable about the possibility of losing my British nationality — and purely to fuel the vanity of regional politicians looking for a world role. I don’t know about the Salmonds, but the Grahams have been in Scotland at least for 800 years and British for 300. London is as much ours as any Englishman’s. The empire was ours (my grandparents were married in Bombay in 1872). Fighting to the death in two world wars was ours (we lost four and won one VC). We are the same people, one nation, but in an international world.

Nationalism is so yesterday, Mr Salmond. One of my sons is a farmer in Wales, one works in London. Am I to be alienated from them, for no reason? I have faith in the millions of British Scots who will see that it doesn’t happen.

Antony Graham

Haddington, East Lothian

Sir, As a MacDonald grandson I’m appalled as Alex Salmond reveals his true colours, which are depressing and miserable, of seeking independence based on small-minded bitterness of the past, as opposed to the magnanimous, big picture of working together for the future. Friendships between Scotland and the rest of the UK are being poisoned.

Thomas Peek

London SW11

Sir, Your Scottish edition often carries a headline on the perils of voting for independence. Until recently I thought this was just part of the British media’s campaign against independence but now I wonder why the media continue on the same course despite the barrage of warnings about the thrawn nature of us Scots: and how we so hate being told what’s not good for us, particularly by nosy neighbours?

Do the English want rid of us and are they antagonising us by being even more typically pompous and supercilious?

William Lundy

Ardrossan, Ayrshire

Sir, The Institute of Economic Affairs recently ran a competition that produced an independent, thoughtful and detailed view of the pros, cons, negotiation possibilities and likely outcomes of an EU exit by the UK. It is a pity that voters in Scotland do not have the benefit of a similar document. The most detailed information available is the SNP’s referendum blueprint which has a significant proportion of negotiation positions and politicians’ puff.

Richard Tweed

Croydon, Surrey

Sir, The Yes campaign increasingly seeks to capitalise on perhaps its most legitimate objection to the status quo — the prospect of a Conservative-led government winning the next general election with few if any seats in Scotland.

Why then is Labour not pushing harder to win the hearts and minds of the Scottish people? Senior figures of the Shadow Cabinet should consider vastly increasing their level of visibility and support for Scotland to stay in the union over the coming months.

In doing so Labour could both save the union and increase its chances in next year’s general election. Failing to do so, particularly in light of the Yes campaign’s recent momentum, may see Scotland go independent — and Labour struggle to find any sort of foothold in the UK.

Jamie Barclay

Huntley, Aberdeenshire

Readers are keeping a tally of motherly and grandmotherly services rendered — one day it will pay-back time

Sir, Like Hilary Rafter (letter, Apr 15) I gave my children a chance to pay me back in my decrepitude. My system involved giving them the opportunity of paying me back each “small” loan. Every transaction was on the understanding that in return they would upgrade me from basic old folks home, to luxury ditto and quickly up through the ranks to a suite in their own homes.

Now I am 70 I wonder if they recall our contract.The distant past is catching up with them, and I look forward to a very comfortable old age.

Elizabeth Hawkins

St Lawrence, Isle of Wight

Sir, Every time my three daughters-in-law thank me for stepping into the breach (babysitting, outings for children, turning up hems) I remind them of their future duties (granny sitting, outings, lifts to outpatients).

By the time the youngest grandchild leaves school I shall have attended more than 60 years of school concerts, as parent and grandparent of string players: a tally truly deserving of a substantial reward for endurance.

Sylvia Crookes

Bainbridge, N Yorks

The head of the Highways Agency reckons the introduction of “all-lane running” on the M25 went pretty smoothly

Sir, I wonder if Paul Watters, of the AA, and I were looking at the same M25 on Monday morning (“Hard-shoulder driving begins with ‘an almighty jam’”, Apr 15). I was at our regional control centre at junction 23 of the M25 on Monday morning to see the opening of the upgraded motorway. I watched, with pride, my traffic officers aiding a driver with car trouble.

During this process traffic was stopped for less than a minute and there was no jam of any sort.

If we had widened the motorway in the usual way drivers would be faced with several years of roadworks. Instead drivers already enjoy the benefits of the upgraded M25 between junctions 23 and 25 and the next section of all-lane running opens in Kent and Surrey next month.

Graham Dalton

Highways Agency

Readers are keeping a tally of motherly and grandmotherly services rendered — one day it will pay-back time

Sir, Like Hilary Rafter (letter, Apr 15) I gave my children a chance to pay me back in my decrepitude. My system involved giving them the opportunity of paying me back each “small” loan. Every transaction was on the understanding that in return they would upgrade me from basic old folks home, to luxury ditto and quickly up through the ranks to a suite in their own homes.

Now I am 70 I wonder if they recall our contract.The distant past is catching up with them, and I look forward to a very comfortable old age.

Elizabeth Hawkins

St Lawrence, Isle of Wight

Sir, Every time my three daughters-in-law thank me for stepping into the breach (babysitting, outings for children, turning up hems) I remind them of their future duties (granny sitting, outings, lifts to outpatients).

By the time the youngest grandchild leaves school I shall have attended more than 60 years of school concerts, as parent and grandparent of string players: a tally truly deserving of a substantial reward for endurance.

Sylvia Crookes

Bainbridge, N Yorks

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Farage affair, surely the EU should keep its accounts more rigorously

Sir, While it would be nice to have some clarity from Nigel Farage about how his annual hand-out of £15,500 from Brussels is spent (Apr 15), shouldn’t we be concentrating on the source of the problem and not the end product?

The allowance multiplied by the number of MEPs comes to a tidy sum but there are no stipulations about how it is to be spent or receipted. The EU has failed or refuses to publish its balance sheets, and we are pouring our contributions into a black hole.

Bob MacDougall

Kippen, Stirlingshire

Those acquitted of offences should have their expenses paid but only commensurately with barristers’ charges

Sir, I support those campaigning for Nigel Evans’s costs to be paid by the Crown. All those acquitted of offences should have their legal costs paid — but only to the extent that publicly funded criminal barristers would have been paid for the work. The best measure would be to award costs equal to those incurred by the Crown in prosecuting the case.

Public funds should not be used to pay extra for Rolls-Royce defence teams. Justice is for all — not only those who can pay for it.

Dr Michael J Powers, QC

London WC2


Street light maintenance: dimming schemes are one way of decreasing light pollution  Photo: Alamy

SIR – We do not need to undo “one more certainty of urbanised life” by switching off street lights to save money and cut light pollution.

Councils up and down the country are introducing dimming schemes, in consultation with local communities and police, which still save money and energy and cut light pollution.

We simply need appropriate lighting at the right times in the right places.

Emma Marrington
Campaign to Protect Rural England
London SE1

SIR – I applaud the reduction in unnecessary street lighting, and wonder why should it be blamed for increasing motoring accidents by the AA.

Street lighting has become ubiquitous since I began driving more than 40 years ago, and while the volume of traffic has increased, vehicle lights along with brakes, tyres, etc, have improved.

Inattentive and inconsiderate driving causes accidents, not a lack of street lighting during the hours of darkness.

Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire

SIR – You are right to warn of another EU threat to national sovereignty arising from European Court of Justice judgments on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. During the passage of the Lisbon Treaty Act 2008, I put down an amendment that: “Notwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in the Charter of Fundamental Rights shall be binding in any legal proceedings in the United Kingdom and shall not form part of the law applicable in any part of the United Kingdom”, because I was not satisfied with the wording of Protocol 30 attached to the Lisbon Treaty. I introduced a provision in a Bill to the same effect in November.

As chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I instituted a report last year on this issue, which was published on

April 2 2014, having taken evidence from distinguished jurists, the Secretary of State for Justice and the former attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, who negotiated the unsatisfactory protocol.

On this evidence, we concluded that there is no opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, contrary to the assertions of Tony Blair in the House of Commons in June 2007. Furthermore, under the European Communities Act 1972, the European Court judgments that have already been made apply the Charter in the UK within the scope of EU law. As we state in our report, there is “the certainty that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will range across an even wider field with increasingly unintended consequences”.

Under sections two and three of the 1972 Act, the charter binds the Supreme Court without further appeal and has precedence over UK national law and can be used to disapply national legislation. The committee concluded that the only effective answer would be for “primary legislation to be introduced by way of an amendment to the European Communities Act 1972 to disapply the Charter from the UK”, in exercise of parliamentary sovereignty to put matters right.

This is not just a threat, as you state it to be; this is already a clear and present fact.

Bill Cash MP (Con)
London SW1

Road to reconciliation

SIR – David Cameron has told his MPs to make Scotland feel wanted. But actions speak louder than words. Successive governments, both Tory and Labour, have refused to connect Scotland to England by a modern road system.

There are no motorway connections to Scotland via the east coast. The Trans-Pennine A66 has yet to be completed as double carriageway.

T C Bell
Penrith, Cumberland

Waste of metal

SIR – The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture at the Olympic site in London is a heap of twisted metal that symbolises nothing. The £20 million cost could have been spent on improving local sports amenities.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

MPs’ open brief

SIR – On the news, I see MPs walk up to Downing Street with a wad of papers under their arms. When I was working, I always carried important matters in a briefcase; it worries me that MPs are not carrying state documents in a secure fashion.

Peter Knight
Sompting, West Sussex

Misinterpreting Islam

SIR – I was horrified at the certainty with which Lord Pearson of Rannoch offered his mistaken musings on Islam. Had he carried out a basic Google search, he would have realised the excessive simplicity of calling Islam “a single political, religious and legal system”.

Far from being monolithic, Islam has 1.6 billion followers, a diversity of political, religious, and legal thought, which underpins myriad cultures from Morocco to Malaysia. The Prophet himself reputedly said: “Difference of opinion in my community is a sign of divine mercy”, accounting for the various Muslim scholarly reactions to events like 9/11, which he discounts out of hand. Even Christianity has only managed two unchallenged “world councils” in its 2000-year history.

Religious fundamentalism in the Middle East stems far more from unemployment, post-colonial tensions, and despotic regimes. Solving these would be a more effective way of fighting extremism.

Tyrone Steele
Pembroke College, Oxford

Charlie Chaplin’s influence

SIR – Robin Ince is right to draw attention to the genius of Charlie Chaplin. At a recent screening of Chaplin’s Modern Times, during the Bradford International Film Festival, I sat next to two girls who laughed a lot. I asked them what it made them think of? “Wallace and Gromit,” they said. And Federico Fellini, I thought, and the Marx Brothers, and Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, and of course, that Oscar-winning tribute, The Artist.

Chaplin’s films are so embedded in the memory of every film-maker, that their work always stirs memories of the master of screen comedy. What a pity the BBC has not yet honoured the centenary of Chaplin’s film making. Happily, Bradford’s National Media Museum has.

Gillian Reynolds
London W2

Swinging to the bin

SIR – Rod Sanders uses his nose rather than the sell-by-dates to decide whether food is off. I inherited from my mother the ability to test food with a gold ring on the end of a piece of string.

If it goes round it is fine, if it hovers it is undecided and if it swings backwards and forwards it is discarded; the speed of the swing determines the state of the food.

Chris Platford
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Followers of fashion: how to wear your waistcoat

SIR – Sean Lang is to be applauded for wearing his waistcoat with pride, though he objects to the custom of leaving the bottom button undone.

The received wisdom, as I understand, is that Edward VII began the practice; some claim it was due to his girth, others that it was left undone by accident. Nevertheless, the custom persists to this day.

It is, of course, the personal choice of the wearer how he buttons his waistcoat, though many garments are cut with the intention of the lowest button being left undone. A complaint was also raised that unless this button was fastened, one’s “midriff” was exposed upon sitting. A three‑piece suit should be worn with high‑waisted trousers and braces, thus ensuring this embarrassment never occurs.

Jeremy Goldsmith
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Changing the etiquette to allow the bottom button on waistcoats to be done up will lead to sartorial anarchy. Next we will see the same happening to the lower button on two-button jackets, which, when some people do it today, lacks any style.

When I was young, I was told that the only bottom button that should be done up was the one on gentlemen’s trouser flies – until zips changed that necessity.

Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex

SIR – While I can still get into suits made for me over 50 years ago, tailored as they then were specifically to leave one button on the waistcoat undone, I now, alas, have to leave two.

I doubt that I am alone.

David Whitaker
Alton, Hampshire

SIR – The National Trust again warns that many English councils must accept building on protected countryside. This often arises because the National Planning Policy Framework requires local planning authorities to plan for unattainable 20-year housing targets, based on population growth projections from the Office of National Statistics.

Nationally, despite a record 28 per cent rise in new home registrations last year to 133,670, developers only built 56 per cent of the 240,000 dwellings needed to match population growth.

Local planning authorities have been set up to fail so that, when they don’t meet their targets, unelected planning inspectors have an excuse to permit speculative building on greenfield and flood-prone sites, while allowing developers to avoid brownfield sites.

This could be rectified if Nick Boles, the planning minister, instructed the Planning Inspectorate to allow targets to be adjusted, based on economic growth.

For the moment, local authorities have little influence on where and when houses are built, because they cannot meet the impossible housing targets required by the Planning Inspectorate.

Cllr Roger J Arthur
Horsham, Surrey

SIR – Dame Helen Ghosh of the National Trust is absolutely right about building on greenfield land. Councils have been rushed into producing local plans, many of which have been rejected. This leaves villages open to extensive greenfield development before the plan can be resubmitted. Other poorly prepared plans that have been passed will leave residents suffering their shortcomings for years.

It is time for the Government to call a temporary halt to the process to enable everybody to get their act together.

David Lawrence
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Planners are incentivised to allow applications, and to disallow appeals. The more approvals they allow, the higher the council tax receipts to sustain their salaries and pensions, holiday entitlement, sickness leave and job security.

Colin Laverick
London WC2

SIR – My heart sank when I read Coulton Booth’s letter outlining his vision for an East-West metropolis straddling the Pennines, stretching all the way from Liverpool to Hull and connected by an eight-lane super highway.

Such a monstrosity would attract development along its length as planning restrictions gave way to market forces. The separate identities that distinguish the communities along the route would disappear under concrete, along with whatever remains of the countryside. What a depressing thought.

David Stewart
London N2

Irish Times:

Sir, – I can’t claim to know whether “occupied” or “disputed” is the right word to describe certain pieces of dusty land in a Middle East desert. To read some of the letters from Palestinian apologists about Israel, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there used to be a state called Palestine, then Israel just decided to invade and has been periodically occupying more and more of it.

Yet isn’t it a fact that the Palestinians already have a state and that it’s called Jordan and it’s interesting there is no pressure from the apologists to make Jordan and Egypt, where most Palestinians live, provide full citizenship to those people and allow them to avail of the rights and responsibility that entails, even if they ultimately wish to live somewhere else?

Is it not also a fact that the reason Israel occupies disputed territory is because each time it has been invaded by Arab armies, it has, to the disappointment of so many on the left, decisively beaten those armies and in those defeats it has left a presence in certain pieces of land to create a buffer zone again further attacks on Israel?

Or have I missed the part where having invaded and occupied Israel, the same Arab countries, who call for death to the Jews, would then live in peace with them? Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – I assume that Dermot Meleady (Letters, April 12th) speaks not just on behalf of the Embassy of Israel, Dublin but for the Israeli government. If so, then Irish citizens should be concerned – not just for a peaceful future in the Middle East – but for the continuation of Israel as a functioning democracy.

I have recently read two books which have given me a much wider and deeper insight into the emergence of present-day Israel and its political relationship with the wider world – with the USA in particular. Both are written by committed Jews and are, in the best sense, pro-Israel. One is by an Israeli-born citizen and journalist, Ari Shavit. My Promised Land , published in 2013, is as its jacket states “an authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the state of Israel”.

The other is The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart, a US journalist and writer. This book details the recent history of the Jewish community in the USA and investigates the close Israel-US political and diplomatic relationship, particularly over the period of office of recent presidents.

On my reading, neither author nor book could be remotely called anti-Israel; however, neither shirks from calling Israel’s presence on and control of the West Bank “an occupation”.

So, could I appeal to Mr Meleady to add to his reading list and, in addition to rereading the biblical texts referred to by Damien Flinter in his letter (April 14th) that he take the time to closely read both books mentioned above. They may change his mind. In any event, both are very well written and engaging as each has a strong personal story to tell.

Le gach dea-mhéin,


Kingsland Parade,

South Circular Road,

Dublin 8

Sir, – I am amazed how much interest Irish people, and in particular the Irish media, have in the conflict between Palestinians and Israel.

After all, this is a chronic dispute involving a land that is 30 per cent of Ireland’s size and has a total population of 11 million. According to Amnesty International, 27 Palestinians and seven Israelis were killed in 2013 due to violence. This is nothing to compared to the civil war in Syria, where 150.000 people have been killed. Or Iraq, where multiple bombings claimed the lives of 8,000 people in 2013.

Nor does the media seem to be very interested in executions in Iran, where at least 357 people were put to death last year, mostly dissidents. Though a Christian country, Ireland does not seem to be interested either n the plight of Christians in Muslim countries and Christian refugees from Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza.

But perhaps the interest of Ireland in the Palestinian conflict with Israel serves as a mirror for Ireland itself. Three hundred and fifty years of violence between Catholics and Protestants, 150 years between Arabs and Jews.

The barrier which in Belfast separates Catholic and Protestant areas is similar to the barrier which separates Palestinians from Israel following suicide bombings in which Israeli civilians were victims.

An anti-Semitic rant is published in The Irish Times and the Irish Jewish community accepts the abuse in the same way that it did during the Limerick boycott in 1904. Nothing has changed. Yours, etc,


Dakota Circle,



Sir, – Those outraged by the Israeli presence in the districts of Hebron and Nablus, alias “the West Bank” of the Jordan, would do well to remember that the conflict would never have existed had the Arab parties accepted UN policy that both Jewish and Arab states succeed British (Western) Palestine; if the Arab parties had not junked UN Resolution 181; if the Arab parties had cut their losses with a peace treaty before 1967; if the Arab parties had accepted the 1967 Israeli offer to return to the green line for a peace treaty turning it into a legal frontier and ending the conflict and its claims.

The Palestine lobby should remember that the first Arab reaction to the Oslo attempt to build a peace two decades ago was to default on the commitment to amend their charters to recognise Israel’s right to exist as self-determined, that is to be “as Jewish as England is English” in the words of Chaim Weizmann to the Pell Commission – which allows a lot of civil equality for minorities. Then there were the Hamas bus bombs, now the rockets. They gave the green light to the build-now nationalists. Yours, etc,


Hartley Avenue,

Prestwich M25 0AT

Greater Manchester

Sir, – Great satire from Damien Flinter (“American support for Israel”, Letters, April 14th) More please. Yours, etc,


Dundanion Road,

Ballintemple, Cork

Sir, – Some of your correspondents have taken issue with Prof Diarmaid Ferriter’s statement that there is “no evidence that Britain was prepared to settle its Irish question until it was forced to do so”. His view, however, concurs with that of Charles Stewart Parnell, the great champion of Irish constitutional agitation for home rule. He is quoted as saying, in relation to the attitude of English politicians towards Ireland, that “they will do what we can make them do”.

Two indecisive general elections in 1910 gave Parnell’s heirs – the Irish Party at Westminster – the balance of power in parliament, and thus enabled them to get home rule for Ireland back on the political agenda for the first time since Gladstone’s fall from power in 1894. The Liberal government in 1910 took up the cause of home rule out of political necessity – and not with any Gladstonian moral purpose. In short, they were forced to do so by parliamentary arithmetic.

However, the threat of armed resistance from Ulster unionists, aided and abetted by the grandees of the Tory party in London, immediately queered the pitch for home rule – and this threat ultimately proved a far greater force in British politics than parliamentary arithmetic. The government was unwilling to coerce Ulster unionists out of the United Kingdom, and in any event the so-called Curragh “mutiny” in March 1914 showed that the army would not obey an order to move against the unionists.

The stalemate which resulted was broken by the start of the Great War in July 1914, and home rule was shelved for the duration of that war. Eventually, the formation of a coalition government comprising both Liberals and Tories – first under Asquith, then under Lloyd George – deprived the Irish Party leaders of their parliamentary leverage and left them without a coherent political strategy to counter the rise of Sinn Féin after the 1916 Rising.

Nationalist Ireland learned from the Ulster unionists that violence would force the British government to respond to its demands, and it acted accordingly. Not for nothing was Eoin Mac Neill’s famous article that led to the creation of the Irish Volunteers entitled “ The North Began ”. The contagion of violence spread from its roots in unionist Ulster to the whole island of Ireland.

Those of us who abhor political violence in all its manifestations should not lose sight of the reasons why nationalist Ireland resorted to it in the years 1916–22 too. Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,


Dublin 18

Sir, – Your columnist Stephen Collins (April 12th), commenting on the news that a member of the British royal family might be in attendance at the commemorations marking the centenary of the 1916 Rising, displays a deference towards British royalty not seen since former taoiseach John Bruton referred to his meeting with Prince Charles in 1995 as “the happiest day of my life”.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Collins was acting as Ireland’s indigenous public relations officer for the British royal family and not a columnist for the leading national Irish newspaper.

His claim that Queen Elizabeth’s announcement that her family will stand alongside the President at the centenary commemorations of the anniversaries of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State will ensure that Sinn Féin will not hijack the event, implicitly implies that British royalty will.

This commemoration, however, has already been hijacked by the State’s decision to invite members of the royal family to the Easter commemorations in advance of consulting with the Government’s own expert advisory group on the centenary. Historian Prof Diarmaid Ferriter (April 14th) said “the State doesn’t own the legacy of 1916. Nobody does except the people.” Such a view, I believe, has almost universal support.

On the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1991, the Irish Government bowed to pressure from unrepresentative groups who were ideologically opposed to Irish separatism and shamefully ignored the anniversary of the Rising.

If the centenary commemoration is going to be embroiled in controversy over the presence of British royalty, there are those of us who will take it upon themselves to honour those brave women and men of 1916, just as we did for the 75th anniversary. Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W

Sir, – Every year the State sends representatives to the USA, on St Patrick’s Day, in recognition of that country and the Irish contribution to its founding.

The history of the native Americans and their decimation and impoverishment at the hands of the European occupiers, including the Irish, is ignored, along with our involvement in the slave trade, the past screened by tickertape and convenient amnesia. Are we not capable of a similar pretence in Ireland in 2016? Yours, etc,


Monalea Park ,


Dublin 24

Sir, – My heart leaped with joy at the prospect of David Clinch’s proposal to move the O’Connell street awfulness known as the Spire.

On a recent visit to our lovely capital I passed through the garden which fronts the national museum near Heuston station. There is all its lonely ugliness I spotted the “Floozie in the jacuzzi”. It was a letter campaign to your newpaper, as I recollect, which initiated the popular movement to remove it from general public gaze. It now takes effort to view her tormented countenance.

May I suggest that the Spire be moved to similiar obscurity. Actually a positive outcome would be for it to be used to house some of the underground tunnelling which is proposed for the high tension electric cables. Yours, etc,




A chara – As the Spire is not political, religious or military we were spared the usual whining by self-appointed experts telling us who should or shouldn’t be commemorated so as to confirm their own prejudices. Leave it where it is. Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive

Kiltipper Road

Dublin 24

Sir, – The spire absolutely must stay as a fitting monument to the hubris of the “happy time”. We need a constant and necessarily obtrusive reminder of our recent national lapse into blind greed and idiocy. Yours, etc,


Two Mile House ,


Sir, – Vladimir Putin has made remarks on several occasions to the effect that local populations in Ukraine should be allowed to hold a referendum to determine their political future.

He has not, however, made any such offer to people within the Russian Federation. The federation is comprised of 85 federal constituent units ; 22 of these units are referred to as “republics”.

According the the federation’s own 2010 census 10 of the 22 republics have majority non-ethnic Russian populations. One other republic has a non-ethnic Russian plurality of 49.9 per cent.

If Mr Putin would have the people of Ukraine decide on greater local autonomy or possible affiliation with a neighbouring country, should he not first provide such an opportunity to the non-Russian people of the federation? Yours, etc,


Shandon Street,


Sir, – I wish to object, in the strongest terms possible, to your publication of Martyn Turner’s bigoted, nasty and downright disgraceful cartoon (April 16th, 2014). Since the child abuse scandals, the church has put in place child protection guidelines that are far more stringent than in any other organisation in this country. For you to use the sins of the past as a stick to continue to beat the church of the present not only betrays your paper’s anti-Catholic bigotry but is a very cheap shot at an already demoralised clergy. Yours, etc,


Ballymun Road,

Dublin 9

Sir, – I am registering my absolute disgust and abhorrence at the cartoon which appears in your paper today . It is offensive in the extreme to every priest in the country and in my view requires an apology at editorial level. Or is there a mentality in the paper that allows open season on priests? Yours, etc,




Dublin 24

Sir, – As the engineer in ESB headquarters responsible for offshore island electricity installations in the 1980s, I’d like to endorse Séamus Ó Drisceoil’s comments on the wind generators on Oileán Chléire (Letters, April 15th).

This was a unique demonstration project which was supported by our government through the National Board for Science and Technology (NBST) and the German government through its wind energy research specialists, SMA Regelsystem Gmbh, Kassel. I was delighed to read that the wind generators on the island gave over 10 years of excellent service.

The project was facilitated by the ESB through connection to the existing electricity distribution network on the island and, indeed, its importance at the time was emphasised in a visit there by the then ESB chief executive, Dr Paddy Moriarty. Things have moved on since, with the laying of undersea cables to virtually all of our inhabited offshore islands, incorporating them into the national electricity network. Yours, etc,


Brook Court,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Perhaps an article on Bill Gates’s dress style might be a good follow-up to that on Sheryl Sandberg (April 16th)? I am not sure I have seen one on that subject in your newspaper, but perhaps I have just missed it. Maybe there is a reason “outspoken” Ms Sandberg has never discussed this topic. Probably too busy fighting the battle over the use of certain adjectives for describing women with opinions. Yours, etc,


Meadow Grove,


Dublin 16

Sir, – Why do we not put the windmills and pylons on the ghost estates? Then we will have managed to co-locate most of our 21st century follies. Yours, etc,




Co Carlow

Irish Independent:

* Nothing beats spelling it out – especially when the ramifications are all-pervasive, and the potential counter-benefits patently ubiquitous.

Also in this section

‘What would we do here, if we were a real country?’

Letters: Bible is a collection of metaphors, not a book of evidence

World War I and the tragic historic waste of lives

Philip O’Neil (Letters, April 8) sustains his relentless ‘missive-mission’ with another ‘tonic-tablet’ of weathered wisdom.

Hitting the societal nail squarely on the head with a firm evocation of some key home truths permeating in and around the modern penchant for free-market materialism, he lays it clearly on the line.

“Moral sensitivity does not sit easily with unfettered capitalism; it tends to subvert it.” Ne’er a truer sentiment uttered.

Chalk it down, boom it from the mountain-tops, and have it tattooed on every new-born child in the nation.

In many ways, it’s screamingly obvious. How could addiction to profiteering, usury, entrepreneurial overkill and bottom-line corporatism ever offer a template of empathic decency or ethical morality for an egalitarian society. A ‘greed-is-good’ mentality is the only logical outcome for dedication to the false icons of the filthy lucre.

“We have colluded in allowing economic activity to develop a life of its own, accountable only to itself,” Philip O’Neil adroitly states.

We are left, thus, with a ‘pig-in-a-poke’ fallacy of pseudo-aggrandisement debilitating a nation. By omission and/or commission, we all have allowed this to take root, flourish and fester.

It implicates us all. We seem to tolerate the status-quo as something of an inevitability and demur to the gods of a monstrous global failure, ie free-market libertarianism with its in-built survival-of-the-fittest motto.

The planet has only a finite amount of wealth potential, be that energy, food, water or other precious natural resources. Skewed consumption/comfort quotients coupled with a steady ‘diet’ of famines, wars and pestilence ensure that an uneasy, unstable and grossly unfair ‘balance’ prevails.

However, we seem to persist with a corrupted/distorted democratic dynamic, electing inept folk of questionable ability or generosity of spirit who perpetuate a flawed concept on a sadly under-motivated, uninitiated and/or unsuspecting populace.

Jim Cosgrove Lismore, Co Waterford


* The current mindless rage for killing trees in our public spaces is heartbreaking. No prior gesture towards consultancy is given by the nameless folk who authorise such wanton felling.

Trees that graced the city for decades are being cut – witness the recent destruction in Dun Laoghaire’s Peoples’ Park and last week’s uprooting of the flowering magnolias at the entrance to the National Gallery. In this time of austerity, surely the joy and spirit-lift gained from the free enjoyment of natural beauty should be augmented, not lessened.

Jackie O’Brien, Glasthule, Co Dublin


* In the Royal Gallery at the Palace of Westminster on April 8, President Higgins said, in his address, that independence for Ireland cast its long shadow across our relations with Britain, causing us, in the words of Irish MP Stephen Gwynn, to “look at each other with doubtful eyes”.

Stephen Gwynn, a grandson of William Smith O’Brien, also said in 1926, that 10 years had been added to the waiting period for Irish political unity and that Ireland would wait forever if it remained chained to the ideal of 1916. The waiting seems now to be over. A champion of Home Rule, Gwynn once described it as a post-dated cheque.

Patrick O’Brien, Phisborough, Dublin 7


* An old proverb crushed by modernity . “You can’t get water from a stone” they said, but what they didn’t say was water could get cash from the populace.

If I buy petrol, I don’t expect to pay a standing fixed charge equivalent to a third of the purchase. If I buy a pint, I expect to pay for what I get when I buy it. Naturally, those burdened with income tax, LPT, UHC, unemployed children etc, will carry the latest burden in addition to the daily diet of austerity soup.

Once upon a time, governments purportedly represented their populace. This one of ours represents itself, its pals and its backers, and we pick up the tab. Anyone out there with the balls to turn off the tap on this disgusting shower?

John Cuffe, Meath


* The Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples took place on Passover, a holiday of redemption set in place by God, Jesus, or Yeshua – as He would have been called in His lifetime, who instructed His followers to remember His death (not His resurrection) until He come.

Strangely, the church ignores Passover altogether, as most of the early church fathers were extremely anti-Semitic and deemed the feast as ‘too Jewish.’ Instead, the majority of Yeshua’s followers today commemo-rate the event on ‘Maundy Thursday’, although no specific day of the week is mentioned in any of the Gospels for the Last Supper or the Crucifixion.

A Biblical day, however, according to the Book of Genesis and the calendar that Yeshua Himself would have kept, begins in the evening at sunset, the second daylight portion then follows. A day divided at midnight is the invention of man.

This year, Passover fell on April 14, which in the biblical calendar is Nisan 14, and as it begins at sunset, the second daylight part follows the next morning which allowed for the Last Supper and the Crucifixion to both occur on the same day, according to the Genesis ruling. In the Gentile/Christian calendar, this takes two days to commemorate, ie Maundy Thursday and Good Friday due to the midnight time division.

If Yeshua were to come back today, the natural day for commemorating these events would be on the date of Passover itself, not Maundy Thursday. The symbolism of the slaughter of the Passover lamb, the redemptive qualities of the shed blood. Maybe it’s time the church re-examined the status of Passover, also demonstrating that the hierarchy is no longer anti-Jewish and that the holiday has benefits and significance for both Jews and Christians.

Colin Nevin, Bangor, Co Down


* One of the most invidious acts, regrettably among many others, needlessly perpetrated by this Government on Irish citizens, must be the recent sale of the 13,000 mortgages of Irish Nationwide to two American distressed fund companies. These companies bought the mortgages from the special liquidators KPMG at a huge discount of several billion euro, again courtesy of a lazy and uncaring government and, ultimately, the Irish taxpayer.

The most appalling and callous aspect of this deal was that the owners of these mortgages, Irish people in the main, were not afforded an equal opportunity by their government to buy their own loans to ease their distressed financial state; it is almost certain that many of these unfortunates will lose their homes as a result.

The modus operandi of the new owners will be to relentlessly chase the unfortunate mortgagees for the full amount, pocketing huge profits in the process. There will be little or no sympathy from the Government for the dire personal, familial and societal consequences.

What is also disturbing is the almost complete failure of the media to report on the injustice of the matter. Not a peep as usual from the top brass of the trade unions. God be with the days when the Catholic Church would raise its voice.

John Leahy, Wilton Road, Cork


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