I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate an efficiency expert and a baby Priceless
Mary both of us very tired my feet very sorehair done Sharland
Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly350Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.
Doris Pilkington Garimara – obituary
Doris Pilkington Garimara was an Aboriginal author whose story of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation’ inspired a film starring Kenneth Branagh
Doris Pilkington Garimara with Everlyn Sampi who played the character of her mother Molly in the film Rabbit Proof Fence Photo: REX/TOM KIDD
5:35PM BST 01 May 2014
Doris Pilkington Garimara, who has died aged 76, was an author whose account of her mother and aunt’s forced removal from their Aboriginal family and their subsequent 1,200-mile trek home was among the most powerful testimonies to Australia’s Stolen Generation; translated into 11 languages, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996) inspired Phillip Noyce’s award-winning film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), starring Everlyn Sampi and Kenneth Branagh.
In the six decades after the Australian government passed the 1905 Aborigines Act, ostensibly drawn up “for the better protection and care of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia”, some 100,000 children were removed from their families and tribal lands under state policies of assimilation.
Most were sent to special-purpose institutions to train as domestic servants for middle-class households; children of mixed-race heritage were often placed with non-indigenous families, where it was hoped that a process of “racial outbreeding” would absorb them into the white community.
Directing the policy was AO Neville, designated Western Australia’s Chief Protector of Aborigines, from 1914 to 1940, and later Commissioner of Native Affairs. Portrayed in the film by Kenneth Branagh, Neville brought zeal and organisational power to his solution for the “Aboriginal problem”. According to Western Australian law, he was authorised to seize native Australians under the age of 21 and place them in the care of the state. At the time, the grief of the Aboriginal family over such a loss was regarded as scarcely more than animal instinct.
Because the aim was to prevent the birth of further children to the native tribes, girls tended to be a more urgent priority for removal than boys. Doris Pilkington Garimara’s mother, Molly, was therefore around 14 years old when, in 1931, she, her younger sister Daisy and 10-year-old cousin Gracie were taken from their settlement in the remote Pilbara community of Jigalong and transported to the Moore River Native Settlement 80 miles north of Perth.
Left to right, Daisy, Gracie and Molly, as depicted in Rabbit-Proof Fence by Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan and Evelyn Sampi (FILM STILLS)
The girls escaped the next day and began the walk home, navigating the last 800 kilometres by the rabbit-proof fence that stretched north along the Australian desert. They slept in burrows and scavenged for birds’ eggs and lizards to supplement their meagre diet of wild bananas and potatoes. Though Gracie was recaptured en route and sent back to Moore River, Molly and Daisy pressed on, returning to Jigalong after a nine-week journey.
To evade the authorities the family moved further out into the desert, and official attempts to reclaim Molly were abandoned when she turned 16. By the mid-1930s she was married to a stockman, Toby Kelly, and working for the owners of Balfour Downs cattle station in the East Pilbara, where her first daughter was born prematurely. Molly cut the umbilical cord herself with a butcher’s knife and named the baby Nugi Garimara. At her employers’ insistence, however, the child was known as Doris. Since the birth was unregistered, the Department of Native Affairs later assigned her the birth date of July 1 1937.
When Doris was about three, Molly suffered an attack of appendicitis, and the new Commissioner for Native Affairs, FI Bray, saw an opportunity to act. Molly, Doris and Doris’s infant sister Annabelle were to board a train for a hospital in Perth. All three were then committed to Moore River, with Doris in the kindergarten section, separated from her mother and sister by a steel interlock fence.
Yet in 1941 Molly escaped a second time, tracing the now-familiar route of the rabbit-proof fence. Unable to take both her children, she left Doris in the care of Gracie, now a long-standing Moore River inmate.
Transferred to the Roelands Mission Farm near Bunbury at the age of 12, Doris grew up imbibing the philosophy of its Anglican missionaries. “We were told that our culture was evil and those that practised it were devil worshippers,” she wrote. “The blacker your skin was, the worse individual you were.”
Too young at the time of her removal to retain clear memories of Pilbara, she relied largely on accounts from Gracie for an idea of her origins. Aged 18 she became the first person from the mission to qualify for Royal Perth Hospital’s nursing aide training program, before settling at Geraldton with her husband, Gerry Pilkington, and their young children.
Another still from Rabbit-Proof Fence (FILM STILLS)
As a man of one-eighth Aboriginal descent (or “octoroon”), Gerry was exempt from the restrictions imposed by the 1936 Native Administration Act, and his family regarded his choice of wife with hostility. The marriage suffered under the pressure and Gerry turned increasingly to alcohol; meanwhile, Doris yearned to reestablish contact with her mother, but a subsequent reunion at an outback camp in 1962 proved fraught. “It was a godforsaken place,” she recalled. “I was shocked by the poverty and the brutality of the culture.”
In 1981 Doris Pilkington Garimara left her husband and travelled back to Perth to complete her education, studying journalism at Curtin University. Still eager to reclaim her heritage, she moved to Jigalong two years later. It was there, for the first time, that the truth of her mother’s experiences began to emerge, through conversation with her aunt Daisy.
Having verified the facts using official records, Doris began to translate the notes from their evening storytelling sessions into a narrative, and to coax further information from her mother. Meanwhile, she tried her hand at fiction.
Her first novella was Caprice: A Stockman’s Daughter, published in 1991 after it won the 1990 David Unaipon National Award for aspiring Aboriginal writers. Centring around one woman’s attempt to trace her family’s Aboriginal roots, its themes of prescribed identity and the oppression of the Christian value system over the indigenous people were given further emphasis in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, five years later.
The sequel, Under the Wintamarra Tree (2002), described Doris Pilkington Garimara’s experiences at Moore River and subsequently at the Roelands Mission Farm. Her final book was Home to Mother (2006), an adapted version of her bestselling 1996 novel aimed at younger readers.
Molly Kelly died in 2004, aged about 86. Three weeks before her own death, Doris Pilkington Garimara travelled with relatives to the Pilbara region, so that she could say goodbye to the land of her birth.
She is survived by four children, 31 grandchildren and 80 great-grandchildren. Two other daughters predeceased her.
Doris Pilkington Garimara, born July 1 1937, died April 10 2014
Chris Huhne describes Thomas Piketty’s figures as “breathtaking” (Comment, 28 April), but in reality evidence of the devastating social and economic consequences of inequality has been growing for years. What we now need is for those within the corridors of power to take the issue of inequality much more seriously. As such the Equality Trust is calling on all political parties to adopt our inequality test – an explicit commitment in their manifestos that the net impact of their policies will be to reduce the gap between the richest and the rest. Inequality is an issue of increasing concern to the electorate; it must become an increasing concern to politicians too.
Chair, Equality Trust
• Chris Huhne might be right in claiming “The tide is at last turning against low tax for the rich”, but he should recall the lessons from Labour’s efforts in the mid to late 1970s to tax the rich “until the pips squeaked”. Income tax rose to 98p in the pound but the percentage of income paid in tax by the richest fell, according to research published by David Piachaud of the LSE. At the time, the TUC complained of the steepest rise in taxation in peacetime. The steep rise in taxation hit those on middle incomes hardest, especially those unable to benefit from tax avoidance schemes and similar devices; it was a great boost to the untaxable company car benefit enjoyed by many in the private sector.
Any return to a more progressive tax system should be designed to eliminate as far as possible opportunities for evasion and it should be graduated so that the burden rises gradually throughout the income scale and not as at present where people on far from the highest incomes are hit by top tax rates. It does not mean grandstanding on dramatic tax proposals that are easily avoided by those with the necessary skills or access to such skills.
The problem of rising inequality and declining social mobility is not simply one of weak redistribution via the fiscal system, it also reflects the rising inequality of pre-tax/benefit income; the pre-tax distribution of income derives from matters of social mores, the wage bargaining system, corporate governance of executive pay, the distribution of skills of all kinds and of educational opportunities, the opportunities for offshore investment and income location, and so on. When the Heath government contemplated introducing VAT, a crucial criterion was that it should not be regressive (I did the official analysis that demonstrated it would not be, with zero rating of essentials): how times have changed! They are all amenable only to slow amelioration but there is little evidence that any major political party is prepared to address them, rhetoric apart, in practical terms any time soon.
• Ha-Joon Chang is surely right that economics involves ethical assumptions (Economics is too big a deal to leave to the experts, 1 May). But economic ideas are also profoundly psychological expressions of differing beliefs about what constitutes human nature. Hence the fundamental political questions also imply asking what the economic psyche is like. Are people ruthless and self-interested? Or are they cooperative and collaborative? Or are they – and here the psychotherapist contributes – capable of being both of these?
What has happened in the human nature wars that characterise economic dispute is that theorists and politicians line up behind one or the other of the two main psychological models on offer. Before economic ambivalence is dismissed as unpropitious from the point of view of moves towards greater equality and social justice, we should note that the more benevolent version of human nature really does exist, can be demonstrated empirically and experienced psychologically in life. This is the version that seems at this particular moment of political time in the west to be demanding greater recognition. In particular – and one repeatedly hears this from clients in therapy – the phenomenon of inherited wealth is once again being challenged and dissected from an emotional standpoint.
It seems that the huge discrepancies in both wealth and income that we are experiencing these days are damaging to everyone, including the very well off – another insight stemming from what is heard in the consulting room.
Professor Andrew Samuels
University of Essex
• Reading the account of Thomas Piketty’s work (Not read it yet?, G2, 29 April) encourages me to draw attention to “donkeynomics”, as the basis of the coalition government’s financial strategy. Donkeynomics involves beating a significant section of the population harder and harder with a big stick, despite the fact that many of those beaten are incapable of running, others already running as hard as they can and, in any case, have no place to run to. At the other end are the tiny minority who have vast numbers of additional carrots given them despite the fact that their basic carrot allowance is more than enough for them to be running at maximum speed already.
• Chris Huhne’s assertion that progressive economics is winning the argument may possibly be true in intellectual academic circles but is so not the case among the populous as a whole. Progressive economics is not winning any arguments in the real world. Ask any Barclays shareholder or almost any CEO in the UK. Greed and the pursuit of more money for its own sake is what is driving Britain today and that philosophy seeps down throughout the population, whether rich or poor. It’s been the doctrine that has ruled this country since 1979 and shows no sign of shifting.
Horsham, West Sussex
• Equality is not the “natural” state of man; inequality is the persistent state of man. The current crisis of capitalism does not arise from inequality; it arises from a political and corporate failure to allow capitalism to function as its proponents argue that it should function. Simply stated, failing enterprises must be allowed to die, so that capital can be directed to entrepreneurs who can make the best use if it. The oversized banks should have been allowed to go bust, to clear space for more effective entrepreneurs. The banks were not allowed to go bust, because everyone had an interest in maintaining the status quo. Consequently, the rich continue to grow rich, the poor remain poor and the middle gets squeezed more tightly. Things don’t change, because no one has yet identified a sustainable form of equality.
We condemn the explicitly racist comments by Ukip member Andre Lampitt, a symptom of a wider issue regarding racism and Ukip which is being challenged by a cross-party campaign (G2, 30 April). Although Ukip has suspended Lampitt pending a full disciplinary process, it has chosen not to describe these comments as racist and instead calls such views “repellent”. This follows the election adverts produced by Ukip attacking immigrants. For centuries, lies have been spread about immigrants taking the jobs of established British communities, from Jewish people in the 19th century, Irish people in the early 20th century, Africans, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani communities in the post-war era through to Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian and east European migrants in the past decade.
This is a cynical attempt to score points prior to the European elections by wrongly blaming immigrants for the cost-of-living crisis for the majority of the population, instead of blaming those responsible for the economy and the welfare of British people. This is whipping up racism and is the sort of climate that breeds hatred and violent racist attacks on Britain’s streets. In the run-up to the European elections we say yes to diversity, decent jobs, housing and living standards for all and no to racism, hatred, Islamophobia, antisemitism and scapegoating immigrants.
Diane Abbott MP, Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison, Mohammad Taj President, TUC, Sabby Dhalu and Weyman Bennett Joint secretaries, Unite Against Fascism, Ava Vidal Comedian
• Nigel Farage likes to present the public facade of a man of the people, full of bonhomie, but behind this image that’s fooled and hooked the sheep who follow him and his cronies, is a megalomaniac who is a hypocrite. He wants to take us out of Europe while he’s earning a fortune on the European gravy train. He’s like a snake oil salesman, only he’s not selling me anything. I’m not Loony enough to believe a word he says. Anyone who believes the words of a dangerous Loony extremist and votes Ukip is a bigger Loony than I am.
Lord Toby Jug
The moving tributes to Ann Maguire (Caring inspiring – and a cornerstone of the school, 30 April) illustrate the massive contribution a classroom teacher can make to a school and its community. In an age where young teachers understandably seek rapid promotion from the chalkface, it’s worth remembering that a unique contribution can still be made by someone like Ann Maguire, who taught in the same school for 40 years.
• Sorry, David Bogle, (Letters, 30 April) but ae in dialect Scots isn’t the same as yes. We have aye for that. Ae functions as a question stuck at the end of a sentence to either elicit agreement or to establish if the listener has understood what’s just been said. Ye ken whit ah mean, ae? Canadians also use ae a lot, as do Maine residents. No idea why, the Scottish diaspora perhaps?
• In response to David Bogle’s question “How will the village of Ae be voting on 18 September?” may I suggest in the words of Burns: “Ae fond kiss, and then we sever.”
• Never mind how the Scottish village of Ae will be voting, how will Moscow be voting?
• Richard Dawkins (Letters, 1 May) should have criticised Andy Coulson, not your sub-editors, for being ignorant of the difference between may and might. The career journalist and former editor of the News of the World said of his behaviour before being employed in Downing Street: “It may well have meant I didn’t get the job.”
Dr John Doherty
• It’s been said that a gentleman uses a butter knife even when dining alone (Letters, 29 April).
Most young people would have read the news that the economy was approaching pre-crash levels of growth with a sense of bewilderment (Report, 30 April). For many, times are hard, money is tight and former social norms – such as home ownership or starting a family – seem far off. The chancellor talked up the new growth figures as vindication of his policies. While rising GDP shouldn’t be belittled, in reality the fruits of growth are enjoyed by a narrow, baby-boomer-dominated sector of society. For the rest, particularly those on zero-hours contracts (Report, 1 May), sufficient work is scarce and the cost of living too high. This isn’t a true recovery. More radical measures are needed to solve the issues threatening the long-term health of the UK. Build more homes to lower prices (and rent), thus reducing personal debt of the young. Add engineering, IT and management disciplines to school curriculums and higher education, to equip young Brits with the necessary skills for tomorrow’s labour market. And give businesses financial incentives, such as corporation tax breaks, for hiring under-25s and taking on apprentices.
• The misuse of zero-hours contracts is a scandal the Labour party should address but government action can only be part of the answer as unscrupulous employers and desperate workers will collude to subvert regulation. A big question is why exploited workers feel so desperate and isolated that they do not take an obvious step to improving their conditions, which would be to join a union. If everyone did that it would change the balance of power between employers and employees. Moreover, stronger unions are key to ensuring that regulation is not flouted. No doubt the legal restrictions on unions are only a part of the reason for low membership, but any party serious about improving conditions for low-paid workers should consider alongside regulation, changes to trade union law that could encourage workers to help themselves through collective action.
• The news that 1.4 million people are exploited in zero-hour contracts is sobering news. Sadly, promises these workers had of help from Miliband-Labour have been broken. Miliband announced last September that a future Labour government would enforce full contractual protection and regularised hours for those employed for 12 straight weeks. After consulting with Norman Pickavance in April, Miliband extended the qualifying period to a full year. Once again, when faced with a choice of listening to the people they’re paid to represent or pandering to the corporate lobby, the Labour leadership does the latter.
• Suzanne Moore is spot on in her analysis of the government and its Help to Work scheme for the unemployed: ministers are shameless and this scheme is nothing more than punishment for people who, for the most part, have no control over their situation. Being 60 years of age, I’ve experienced some obnoxious governments proudly implementing damaging policies in my time but this lot strike me as the most callous of the lot. To borrow a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales, they think they can get away with pissing down your back and telling you it’s raining.
Zoe Williams’s article (Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?, 27 April ) brought much disappointment and dismay. The author misrepresents the current state of knowledge of how experience impacts the developing brain. First, it depended heavily on popular press accounts of brain development rather than the scientific literature. Second, contrary to the author’s assertion, there is abundant research from both animals and humans that many aspects of postnatal brain development are heavily dependent on experience, and in many cases, these experiences must occur during a critical period in order for normal development to occur.
For example, infants born with cataracts or who are born deaf must be treated within the first 1-2 years of life if they are ever to develop normal vision or hearing. Moreover, normal language development depends on exposure to language during the first years of life.
Finally, my colleagues and I have clearly shown that infants experiencing profound neglect in the first months of life show dramatic changes in their brain development. Only infants removed from such neglect and placed into families within the first two years of life appear to show adequate recovery. You do a disservice to your readers by presenting such a glib perspective on how experience impacts brain development.
Professor Charles A Nelson III
Professor of pediatrics and neuroscience, Harvard Medical School
The Woolf report was not a landmark penal reform (The rise of the jumbo jail, 30 April). It was a liberal report that raised some issues in the wake of the Strangeways disturbance. However, the report was undermined on the day it was published when the then home secretary announced a raft of policies that were intended to strengthen the system of discipline and control inside, rather than recognise the brutal conditions and violence that led to the disturbance.
Nearly 25 years after Strangeways, it is no surprise that the present government, and its Labour predecessor, is following a path that, despite the emphasis on the so-called rehabilitation revolution, is likely to intensify the desperate circumstances in many prisons faced by prisoners and staff trying to do a good job. Woolf failed to deal with a range of issues at the time, and it is that failure, as well as the naive but politically expedient policies pursued by successive home secretaries, that has led to the current dire situation. It is a situation that requires a radical transformation in the use of prisons in this country in order to avoid the possibility of further disturbances in the future.
Professor Joe Sim
School of humanities and social science, Liverpool John Moores University
• I was interested to read Billy Bragg’s sensitive and insightful comments, along with his colleagues (Letters, 29 April). I have worked as a mental health professional for many years and practise as a psychotherapist. I recall working with a young man who attempted to hang himself with a metal guitar string. We set on a plan whereby he would teach me to play the guitar. I was never competent – even as a young man. However, it did allow us to bond through my incompetency and I believe we both benefited – perhaps because of my failure to learn a skill which came easily to him.
In recent years, I have worked with people who have experienced hardship because of life events and government policies. While low motivation is a barrier to change and well-being, I have found those with music backgrounds benefit significantly from a renewed sense of meaning and purpose permitted by an absorption in creative discussions about their chosen interest.
We need to have something other than contesting with life’s difficulties to feel alive, well and productive. This may be achieved through art, poetry and music, in fact, whatever allows a person to feel purpose and a sense of personal value. I hope this contributes to the debate and thank Bragg and others once again.
Dr Alun Charles Jones
Visiting professor in psychotherapy, Chester University
• So Chris Grayling aims to cut the cost of prisons, ignoring the adverse reports of the G4S prison (Report, 30 April). There is a way of reducing the cost of prison and reducing reoffending rates: stop short-term sentences. Many prisoners have no education, little home life, and no job. They come and go to prison through swinging doors. Prison staff cannot provide education in short-term situations. Individuals leave prison no more likely to succeed than they were. Community service teaches them something and gives them an opportunity to avoid another prison term.
• The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, describes the ban on books being sent to prisoners as a vital security measure (Former political prisoners fight book ban, 23 April). The apartheid government, an extremely security-conscious regime, allowed me (and others) to receive books while serving a term in the 1960s for opposition to its policies. As a result I obtained a degree by correspondence, which led to my being allowed to study for a second degree at St Catherine’s College, Oxford – a step on the way to a happy and useful career as a university lecturer in Liverpool.
Apart from that, the worlds created by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, DH Lawrence, Henry James and many others made five years endurable. I know others benefitted too. Some books were refused us by security, but that was rare. Is the coalition aiming to make the UK prison system more reactionary than apartheid’s or contemporary Russia’s? Or is it that Grayling fears prison monitors will be unable to spot a hacksaw, syringe or cannabis leaf slipped into a copy of a innocent-seeming novel?
I think I’ve finally rumbled Ukip’s cunning plan. I’ve been puzzled by all those seemingly stupid and bigoted pronouncements we’ve been hearing from Ukip activists. Surely anyone with any common sense would keep quiet about such views.
But now the strategy seems obvious. These so-called “renegades” are picking up votes from the BNP, and from those for whom the overt racism of that party was unappealing but who are happy to have someone who promises to curb the flow of alien invaders who are driving down wages and stealing their jobs.
At the same time, Nigel Farage works overtime to cultivate the beer-tippling, fag-smoking man-of-the-people image while also taking care to retain his no-nonsense, anti-regulation, anti-EU city-slicker credentials that appeal to the ultra-Conservative, Thatcherite fringe among Tory voters. It’s a winning combination.
And there was me thinking that these Ukippers were just a load of mean-spirited bigots pining for the days when Britain was a proud nation not afraid to stand alone and take on all comers. How wrong can you be?
Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon
Every second day brings fresh evidence of the racist ugliness at the heart of Ukip. Yet, confronted with the outrage over the remarks of William Henwood, Andre Lampitt and others, Nigel Farage briskly dismisses “a few bad apples” and “Walter Mittys” before bleating about establishment-led witchhunts, with not an apology to be heard to the many offended by the rancid, simple-minded opinions of his associates.
How is such inquisition so unacceptable? As a warrior righteously fighting the cynicism of the political classes, surely Mr Farage will agree it’s only proper to hold up to scrutiny all who aspire to public office. In the case of Ukip, such examination is doubly important, since the party’s vetting procedures clearly can’t distinguish outspoken, arguably misguided yet essentially decent individuals from the objectionable bigots who appear more and more to comprise the party’s rump.
It is worrying that national support for the party is rising, despite – or, even more depressingly, because of – the obnoxious views of so many of its advocates.
Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall
The claim repeatedly made by Ukip that most of our laws are made by the EU treats legislation such as the Financial Services Act or the Same-Sex Marriage Act as equivalent to a regulation on the sale of cabbages. If legislation is assessed in this way, why not throw in every local authority bylaw?
The significance of laws does not depend on the quantity of words used, but on what the words say. To pretend otherwise is nonsense.
John Eekelaar, Oxford
The attempt to brand Ukip as racist has not decreased support for the party. The probable reason for this is that most people who agree with Ukip know that they are not themselves racist and therefore see through the smears.
Robert Edwards, Hornchurch, Essex
Don’t blame churches for ‘archaic’ blight
I read with dismay your article (26 April) on chancel repair liability (CRL). This was variously described as “parishes enforcing archaic laws”, “an evil and unfair liability” and “a blight on housing”.
CRL is a side-effect of Henry VIII asset-stripping the monasteries. The monasteries had previously had responsibility for ensuring that certain church chancels were kept wind- and water-tight. The King cannily ensured that those who received the stolen monastic land also took on the CRL.
Almost 500 years on, some of those lands are still in the hands of the original families. CRL has been a known fact of life for generations. However where fields have been subdivided, and houses built, then the CRL passes on to the new owners. Purchasers’ solicitors are supposed to be able to identify such liabilities. If a purchaser does not trust the solicitor to get it right, it is possible to purchase insurance against an unsuspected liability being discovered.
CRL is not new; nothing has changed since Henry VIII’s day. The only new factor is that parishes have been required to register CRL or lose it when the land is next sold.
In law, CRL is a charity asset. A church council which fails to register CRL has in effect given this asset away. In the worst case, church council members could be held personally liable for the loss which the church has suffered.
If you want to blame someone for the present situation, then I would suggest a list that includes a rapacious monarch, incompetent solicitors, and a government which wants national heritage preserved but is unwilling to pay for it. But don’t blame church councils; they are doing an outstanding job in the teeth of unjustified vituperation.
The Venerable Paddy Benson, Archdeacon of Hereford
Gove’s botched free-school crusade
The dismissal by Elizabeth Truss, the schools minister, of your article about the scandal of free-school places (letter, 29 April) smacks of desperation, as it seems to rely on the assertion that free schools are “wildly popular” with parents.
They aren’t wildly popular with Ofsted though. The failure rate of new free schools is running at three times the national average. In addition, some 79 per cent of state schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet only 68 per cent of free schools reach that standard.
Free schools are a very expensive ideological experiment introduced by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, based on the Swedish model. It is obvious that the Swedish model is failing badly and children’s education is being put at risk both in Sweden and in the UK.
I fear that the writing is on the wall for this botched crusade and after the May elections Mr Gove will be moved on. He will leave behind a disjointed and largely unaccountable system.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Elizabeth Truss’s abuse of statistics is a cause for regret, at the least.
She says: “24,000 are attending free schools”. This from a school population of over 6 million represents less than 0.4 per cent. She then states that the DfE is devoting 28 per cent of the department’s capital expenditure to the schools educating 99.6 per cent of children and 8 per cent to schools educating less than 0.4 per cent. Extraordinarily, she states that as if it was a positive.
From my experience of working in the Department for Education, I would assume that the figures have not come from its professional statisticians, or, if they have, Elizabeth Truss has been very selective in the statistics provided to her that she has chosen to use.
It is more likely that her “special advisers” have provided the figures and obvious slant – if this is the case then she needs to get rid of them if she wants to do her job properly.
Roy Hicks, Bristol
Was this ever a truly Christian country?
So now, according to Lord (Rowan) Williams, this is a post-Christian country. But there is still that attempt to lead us back to Christianity, as we are told that we are still affected by the legacy of Christian influence.
Any study of our history makes it hard to claim that this was ever a truly Christian country. It may, for some time, have been a church-attending country, in the days when one man owned one or more villages, and the peasants had to go to church or risk losing their cottages and livelihood. Even in my lifetime I knew someone who was forced to make this choice.
The Industrial Revolution began the decline of this system, but it was a very long time dying. The result is what we see today. As science and technology progress, the country can only move further away from religion.
Whether that is good or bad will long be debated.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Helen Clutton (letter, 29 April) asks what is the “Cornish way of life”.
Some years ago, a regular pub customer of mine was bemoaning the dire economic state of his home county, and he firmly believed that the Cornish should revert to their traditional industry, for which they were well known.
When I asked what it was he replied: “Smuggling.”
Pete Henderson, Worthing, West Sussex
Three generations, one wedding dress
Reading your fashion article on bridal dresses (28 April) I was once more amazed at what women will pay for a one-day outfit.
My mother was married in 1945 in a dress costing £9 and 10 shillings. I wore it for my wedding in 1988 and my niece looked very fashionably retro in it for hers in 2009.
Mary Evans, Reading
Sir, Last week my husband was at a packed barber’s in Gainsborough, a small town which has lost its main industries and is surrounded by farmland. Whichever party is in government, none seems to know what it is like to live in this sort of community. All the other men in the barber’s were planning to vote Ukip for precisely the reasons which Tim Montgomerie outlined (“Ukip voters aren’t racists. They’re in despair”, May 1).
The Rev Pam Rose
Willingham by Stow, Lincs
Sir, So far we have had two leaflets about the European election candidates in the Eastern Region — both from Ukip. No wonder they are winning support.
Sir, Some are surprised that Ukip’s support keeps up despite racist remarks by party members. Perhaps this is because there are many people to whom such thoughts sometimes, if only in their less considered moments, occur and they are mildly amused rather than repelled when they are told that someone has expressed them.
East Molesey, Surrey
Sir, Tim Montgomerie overlooks the fact that there are racist elements within Ukip along with a large number of misfits climbing onto a media-sponsored bandwagon. Would they be more or less honest than existing MPs or is their selection process foolproof? We may not understand globalisation but it is an unstoppable fact with or without our influence. Likewise, the western migration of peoples will continue regardless of borders. Ukip has nothing to offer, and to send MEPs who don’t vote or participate in debates is surely stupid.
Mr K Wollaston
Sir, It seems illogical to me that Ukip, a political party which detests the EU, is so eager to join the European Parliament.
Richard A McLellan
Sir, It is most amusing to hear politicians from the main parties tying themselves in knots when trying to answer the question “is Ukip racist?” This is why politicians are so distrusted — they cannot give straight answers to straight questions. Mr Farage, on the other hand, has little difficulty in doing so, hence his popularity with ordinary people. He speaks like we do.
Sir, It is ironic that Ukip sees Patrick Mercer’s resignation over cash for questions as an electoral gift, when its own deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton, left both the Commons and the Conservative Party for the same reason.
Sir, I will vote Ukip because Nigel Farage says it as he sees it, and what he says rings true with ordinary people. The press judges everything by the current PC, health and safety, human rights liberal standards that make me and the majority of people who are turning to Ukip despair.
If you want to dissuade us from voting Ukip stop twisting the facts to make headlines, stop putting the human rights of others before ours, and return the EU to a trading relationship.
While the drugs’ effects are debatable in mild cases, they are more effective as severity increases
Sir, Depression can be a debilitating and lethal illness. Medication is a vital part of the treatment of the severest cases. Successful treatment with antidepressants definitely does not do “more harm than good” as you report (Apr 30).
We do not dispute that these drugs are of potentially less value for mild depression, but their effectiveness is maintained as the severity of the depression increases. Is that true of psychological treatment or exercise?
Depression is serious: 6,500 people commit suicide each year in the UK. Many of them are never offered antidepressants, and the blanket condemnation of antidepressants by Professor Peter Gøtzsche and colleagues will increase that proportion.
Professor David Nutt
Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, ICL
Professor Stephen Lawrie
Division of Psychiatry, Edinburgh
Professor Sir Simon Wessely
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Seena Fazel
Legislation for intellectual property rights must adapt itself to the challenges of the digital era
Sir, In its lobbying on behalf of the creative industries, the Alliance for Intellectual Property (letter, Apr 28) neglects two considerations.
Intellectual property rights are a form of monopoly, and in assessing their appropriate extent government must balance the need to secure a fair return for creativity, innovation and risk-taking against the desirability that the largest number of people should enjoy the fruits of that creativity as soon and as cheaply as possible.
The benefits to creativity and the economy from a restrictive approach to IP may be outweighed by the benefits of enabling new ideas to be relatively freely disseminated.
Second, in the digital age it may no longer be sensible even to try to sustain the historic enforcement of intellectual property rights. Existing legal and policing systems cannot cope with a world of file-sharing, 3D printing and the Internet of Things, in which replication is easy at low or zero marginal cost.
It is time to consider a different system for rewarding innovation. Perhaps governments, on behalf of consumers, rather than consumers themselves, should pay royalties to innovators. Intellectual property rights are a necessary evil which should be kept to a minimum.
Lord Howarth of Newport
House of Lords
Sir, Surely it is time to phase out notes rather than coppers (“Cash was king, but debit cards rule now”, Apr 30). Apart from the need for loose change what is the point of cash now we are so used to plastic?
Apart from the cost of producing the notes there is the need to guard and insure them. The black economy would be almost destroyed, saving a fortune in lost income tax and VAT. Mugging would be reduced, saving police and court time and costs as well as making the streets safer.
Dr Gerald Michael
Sir, The 18 billion 1p and 2p coins account for 62 per cent of all coins in circulation. They weigh 97,000 tons, equivalent to an aircraft carrier. The high commercial and environmental costs of manufacturing, bagging and continuously transporting them easily outweigh their total face value of just £245m. The time has come to remove all copper coinage from circulation, which has become a burden to private and public purses alike.
Sir, With a purse full of coins I tried to pay my usual £4 at Totteridge and Whetstone station NCP car park, before noticing the charge had gone up to £4.10. Signs on the machine said it would not accept 10p, 5p, 2p or 1p coins, so it is almost impossible to pay the correct amount using cash. A sneaky new way to get people to pay by card?
Sir, With the papacy and the First World War in the news, perhaps it is time to remember Pope Benedict XV. Elected in 1914, he died in 1922. In his Apostolic Exhortation of July 1915 he urges the leaders of the nations to stop the horrible slaughter of the war. The French called him the German Pope and the Germans called him the French Pope. The British bishops disowned him. Would that today’s Muslims had a leader this brave.
Sir, You report that Alfie Price was given 30 shillings by the future Kaiser’s attendants in 1878 (“Devon boy starts WW1”, Apr 30).
Yes, that sum would be expressed as £1.50 in our decimal system, but its value in 1900 would be nearer £160. Not bad for two weeks as a beach attendant. My first pay, in 1961, was
£7 a week.
In my 50 years of experience in dealing under Anglo-Soviet, and now Anglo-Russian cultural agreements, there has never been any cancellation by either side of any major cultural event, even during the worst period of the Cold War. One exception was the visit of the Red Army Ensemble to the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. But even then, the visit by the Russian State Orchestra went ahead.
The public is disinterested in the nationalities of great artists; it is only concerned with the artists’ performances. At least both governments realise this.
SIR – So Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, declines to stand for Patrick Mercer’s seat. Of course, there is the danger that he might have won and then he would have had to take politics seriously.
SIR – There may be many Conservatives who are disappointed that Nigel Farage will not stand in the Newark by-election, although I was left undecided as to whether I would have voted for him.
However, he has attracted a lot of support because he has the guts to speak out on certain matters of Government policy that are troubling the electorate, such as immigration and the European Union’s interference in many aspects of our day-to-day life. By doing this, he highlights the ineffectiveness of the Coalition.
I hope David Cameron takes note.
SIR – Despite his misdemeanour, may I congratulate Patrick Mercer for the dignified manner of his departure from the Commons. What a contrast with some of his colleagues, such as Maria Miller.
Sqd Ldr G A Walsh (retd)
South Rauceby, Lincolnshire
On the money
SIR – I read that the 0.8 per cent rise in GDP is disappointing.
On the contrary, I find it very encouraging. It is the ability of the financial forecasters that I find disappointing.
SIR – The answer to the Stonehenge dilemma is obvious. Build the tunnel, put the eastbound traffic in it, and use the whole surface road for the westbound: double the capacity, and you still have the view one way.
SIR – I was delighted that Tom Chivers gave the credit for developing penicillin to Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, and not to Alexander Fleming.
I was lucky enough to work in Prof Chain’s office at the Biochemistry Department, Imperial College, in the mid-to-late Sixties. It was during this time that he was knighted in recognition of the part he played in the research of penicillin. He had also, of course, won the Nobel Prize with Florey and Fleming, and this meant a huge amount to him as it was more personal and unexpected.
What a fascinating and clever man. It was a huge privilege to work for him (typing up his lectures and making his endless travel arrangements) and for his lovely wife, Dr Anne Beloff-Chain.
Square leg meal
SIR – I have recently bought a new pair of cricket whites. The trousers have a label attached which reads: “Mould prevention germ proofing. Do not eat”.
I have endured some pretty indifferent teas over many years of provincial cricket, but even I would draw the line at eating my own trousers.
SIR – I agree with Lord Kenyon about returning churches to their former place at the centre of rural communities. But this is equally true of those in towns and cities.
I am the incumbent of one of the most historic churches in Britain: St John the Baptist, Chester. On May 10 and 11 we are holding the annual Living History Fayre and on June 28 the Minstrels Court, which includes a ceremony dating back to 1203, when I will once again license the Cheshire Minstrels to ply their trade without being arrested as rogues and vagabonds. And all this is taking place alongside weekly recitals and four major orchestral concerts by our own orchestra.
On June 21, like Lord Kenyon, I will make a PowerPoint presentation about the importance of St John’s in the history of England and Wales. We would do more if he had the funds and the volunteers.
Rev David Chesters
Digging for the Allies
SIR – I was interested to read your “Britain at war” for April 25 1944 – “US and Canada better fed than Britain”.
During the war, the Ontario government formed the Farm Service Force for high school students to work over the summer. Camps were set up in southern Ontario from Toronto south-west through the Niagara peninsula. Our school exams were at the end of June, but if you worked on a farm for the whole summer and had the recommendation of your teacher you could pass your year without taking your exams.
We started by picking asparagus in April and ended with apples in September. We worked 8am till 5pm six days a week for 27 and a half cents an hour. I didn’t know the results of our hoeing, weeding and picking before now. I was therefore delighted to see that the Combined Food Board emphasised the “importance of the increased shipments from Canada and the US compared with pre-war”.
SIR – Christopher Lucy wants to use the residue of “small powdery charcoal pieces” from his barbecue. May I suggest he incorporates them into potting compost, especially when it is used for house plants. They absorb the toxic salts that build up in the compost.
Technology and fair tax for entrepreneurs
SIR – The environment for setting up, running and selling businesses in Britain has never been better.
Technology is having a huge impact in disrupting traditional businesses and providing a wealth of opportunity for the agile, entrepreneurially minded business to run rings around larger competitors.
There are plenty of attractive tax initiatives for businesses and entrepreneurs, and red tape is insignificant compared with other developed countries.
SIR – I suspect that the apparent rise in self-employment has a lot to do with people taking commission-only sales jobs, for which they have to register as self-employed. The person turning up on your doorstep to sell home improvements is being paid nothing, let alone the minimum wage. They incur all the expenses, from petrol to paperclips, while the company they represent takes no risk.
Not only is this unfair, it is also responsible for dubious practices used to gain business on the doorstep.
J J Hawkins
SIR – A business run by an entrepreneur incurs many taxes, not just income tax and capital gains tax. Firstly, the entrepreneur has risked his or her own money to start the business. Further to that, should the business grow to a size where it has a £10 million turnover and £5 million wage bill, it will have contributed £2 million in VAT and at least £1 million in PAYE and NI. That is before any further tax is paid on the profits.
Entrepreneurs are wealth creators, not just for themselves but for the Treasury and employees. To receive a small reduction on the personal tax burden is not an unreasonable request.
SIR – You report that the 15-year-old boy accused of killing the teacher Ann Maguire was a fan of the video game Dark Souls 2. It’s tempting to believe this explains everything, but we must avoid making snap judgments when it comes to murder.
Video games such as Dark Souls 2 are now played so widely among young men that it is statistically very likely that any young male killer will have a connection with violent video games.
Asking if he plays a violent video game is like asking if he wears clothes. The connection is statistically meaningless.
SIR – The key issue here is how many times we miss the red flags. We don’t need metal detectors or increased powers to search pupils. We need to increase understanding and use the knowledge that we have to prevent such tragedies occurring before teenagers reach their tipping point.
Dr Rosemary Taylor
Green Hammerton, North Yorkshire
SIR – The revelation that the boy who allegedly stabbed to death his teacher had struggled to come to terms with the break-up of his parents’ marriage raises the issue of whether there can be a link between broken homes and juvenile crime. The Government should pass legislation to encourage the creation of more stable families as a practical way of reducing juvenile crime, which often leads to adult crime.
When I was a serving Metropolitan Police inspector during the Eighties, one of my responsibilities was to mete out official cautions to juvenile delinquents whose crimes did not merit a court appearance.
These cautions took place in the police station charge room in the presence of a parent or guardian. Almost invariably, these pathetic youngsters were from one-parent families, and it was usually the tearful mother who turned up to stand alongside her child.
I suggested to my superiors that statistics be recorded on whether or not juvenile criminals came from broken homes so that a database could be compiled for use by sociologists. The idea was rejected on the grounds of political correctness.
SIR – Every time there is a death in tragic circumstances, countless bunches of flowers are propped up against a fence only to die and leave a mess for someone to clear up.
Would it not make more sense if the thousands of pounds spent on flowers were donated to the bereaved families?
Sir, – It is difficult to argue with the logic employed by Judge Martin in reaching his conclusion regarding the non-appropriateness of a custodial sentence for the Anglo Irish bankers Whelan and McAteer.
However the age-old debate about justice not just being done but being seen to be done continues. I recall, not so long ago, a man getting six years for a garlic-for-apples scam. This was reduced to two years on appeal. I believe the public would perceive the Whelan and McAteer convictions to be more serious than the garlic-for-apples case and they will therefore see a serious sentencing imbalance.
Justice not being seen to be done inevitably leads the public to believe there are different standards in sentencing. Whether this is true or not will be the subject of continuing debate until the perception is dealt with head on. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The people blame the banks, the banks blame the regulators and the regulators blame the Government. I am not suggesting that the Government should blame the people to complete this circle of culpability, but behind closed doors they might well do. We must all accept some responsibility for what happened in Ireland in the 1990s. Everyone, from taxi drivers to judges, bought into the bubble and gambled on rising property values. Most people bet and most people lost. We should stop looking for scapegoats and move on. Yours, etc,
Sir, – If we apply the criterion of the prevailing culture of the time to the non-jailing of the two Anglo-Irish executives, as suggested by Jane Kinsella (Letters, May 1st) then Judge Nolan’s decision was really not a surprise.
But just because events reflect the culture of a particular time that does not make them right. There’s a lovely saying from an old classic court case movie called The Winslow Boy, in which Robert Donat, as the solicitor acting for the boy, who has been accused of stealing in school, says “Let right be done.” Was right done here? I don’t think so. Yours, etc,
BRIAN Mc DEVITT,
Sir, I’ve no doubt that Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (Letters, May 1st) didn’t get away with misdemeanours during his youth on the grounds that “he made me do it” or “I didn’t know it was his”. Nor of course would he have deserved to as it is likely that he would have been aware of his wrongdoing. He would not have been advised on the matter by his parents or led into sin by an infirm aunt gently reassuring him on the matter.
Mr Ó Loingsigh also looks forward to Judge Nolan absolving “petty criminals” on the grounds that their motives were not based on greed. Such a notion entirely misses the point of the judgement, which was that the accused not only understood that their actions were entirely legal but also had at least tacit approval from the regulatory authorities. There is no doubt that the Anglo debacle is a less than glorious period in our history but Judge Nolan in his judgment demonstrated the wisdom of Solomon in this politically charged spectacle. Yours, etc,
Sir, Regarding the outcry at the lack of a prison sentence for the Anglo-Irish bank duo, I think it would be wrongheaded to see this country as perverse, preposterous and dysfunctional. Rather we need to look at what we excel at and capitalise on it. We offer blue chip premium impunity, and with the right marketing, Ireland could be a world class white collar crime haven.
We could attract Russian oligarchs, African despots, a swathe of the European business class and a raft of top drawer international bankers. Within a short timespan, Ireland could overtake New York and London as a major financial centre. In addition to impunity we can offer top drawer golf courses, first rate country clubs and seven star hotels and restaurants.
Getting the right tone is key; obviously we are not, in any way, shape or form, condoning or accepting blue collar criminals. They will be dealt with in the usual manner: crisply, expeditiously and harshly. Let’s all put our shoulders to the wheel and make this happen. Yours, etc,
Sir, – An old English verse quoted by GK Chesterton would seem to fit the bill: “The law locks up the man or woman / Who steals the goose from off the common / But leaves the greater villain loose / Who steals the common from the goose.” Yours, etc,
Sir, – If legal precedents are anything to go by, then Judge Nolan has set a very unhealthy precedent at the trial of the former Anglo Irish bankers. A pair of defendants were found guilty by a court of law, yet they receive no punishment of note. An arm of the state was severely negligent in its supervisory role and yet all of those culpable are either still in plum jobs or are retired on large pensions. It would be easy to infer from Judge Nolan’s decision that in the case of a crime that involves too many people, to the extent that to punish those in involved would damage the State, the best outcome is to let sleeping dogs lie. Yours, etc,
A Chara – It would appear that in Ireland only the most naive and unambitious of thieves gets sent to prision. So, a word of advice to the petty criminal: aim higher, dream bigger and walk tall! Is mise,
BILLY Ó HANLUAIN,
Sir, – It is politically extraordinary and certainly disgraceful that the ambassador of Israel to ireland, Boaz Modai (Letters, April 30th), refers to the government of a neighbouring state as “the squalidly corrupt Palestinian Authority”.
This language clearly reflects the political situation now that Israel has decided to withdraw from the so-called peace talks. Everyone knew that those talks never had any chance of success after Binyamin Netanyahu said at their outset that he agreed with the concept of a two-state arrangement, but only one where the Palestinian state had no controls over its borders, no military, no air space or foreign relations, and where no Palestinian would be allowed to return to the property he once owned.
It is indeed difficult to understand why the Israelis are so arrogant and treat the Palestinians as dirt, keep moving into their territory contrary to international law, and taking over their property which Mr Netanyahu readily admits they once owned.
The Jewish race has made enormous contributions to cultural, scientific and artistic activities in the world since time immemorial despite terrible persecutions, but in Israel, their record of human rights persecution of the Palestinians is simply appalling.
It is a great pity that the Israeli government did not listen to the world-renowned Jewish violinist, Yehudi Menuhin when, on being awarded the Wolf Prize some years ago by the Israeli government, he said in his acceptance speech in the Knesset: “The wasteful governing by fear by this government, by its contempt for the basic needs of life, the steady asphyxiation of a dependent people, should be the very last means to be adopted by those who know only too well the awful significance, the unforgivable suffering of such an existence. It is unworthy of my great people, the Jews, who have striven to abide by a code of moral rectitude for some 500 years.” Yours, etc,
PROF JOHN KELLY,
The Friends of Bethlehem
University in Ireland,
Mount Eden Road,
Sir, – You have simply got to hand it to Mr Boaz Modai for his sheer brass neck. The right of return of Palestinians to their lands, with which they have direct, family and recent ownership connections, is “absurd”; while the immigration of Jewish people from the remotest corners of the world into Israel and the occupied territories is not only acceptable but actively encouraged.
And where are all these new Jewish immigrants to be accommodated? Why, on the occupied lands from which Palestinians have been removed of course. You may call Mr Netanyahu many things, but stupid isn’t one of them – he could give lessons to Cromwell himself on the subject of land occupation.
Mr Modai refers to certain Arabs within the Israeli state. During our centuries of occupation by our now friendly neighbour, we had in Ireland a category of people known as “Castle Catholics”. Perhaps Mr Modai could ask one of his Irish acquaintances to explain the meaning of the term. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Due to a lack of context Simon Carswell’s report on the breakdown of the Middle East peace talks (“Israeli talks deadline expires with no deal”, April 30th) misses an important point.
In the penultimate paragraph he asserts: “The latest talks stalled after Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu suspended negotiations last week following the pact agreed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas, the Islamic militant group with which Israel refuses to negotiate.”
While most of what he says is factually accurate, Mr Carswell omits making any reference to the reason behind Israel’s decision to withdraw from the talks – the Hamas Covenant [aka Hamas Charter] which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel. Yours, etc,
DAVID M ABRAHAMSON,
Sir, – Recent reports from the Fine Gael parliamentary party have TDs announcing that the Minister for Health is now looking at the option of a third tier within universal health care to cover those who would traditionally have received discretionary cards.
I believe the Minister when he says he wants to see an end to a two-tier health care system. I just didn’t realise this would be achieved by adding another layer to an increasingly complex system. Top-down planning without the involvement of family doctors is not going to benefit anyone (certainly not the patients).
If the Minister would engage with family doctors, as happens in the UK, we have the solutions to many of the problems UHI is encountering. We share many of the same aspirations as the Minister, namely that healthcare should be on the basis of medical need rather than ability to pay. Personally I find it immensely saddening that the Minister and his department don’t see the wisdom of involving us in their planning.
The list of reasons not to sign the flawed draft under-six contract grows by the day, the latest being that medical insurance companies have expressed concerns that certain clauses within the document are not insurable against. I have not met a single doctor who intends to sign this document and worry about the patients who will automatically be removed from my list when this legislation is enacted.
Unless there is a silent cohort of my colleagues who intend to sign it, they may have to travel far to access medical treatment or indeed may have to present to A and E. They will certainly lose their ability to chose their doctor. All of this could be addressed if the Minister would engage properly with primary care. Yours, etc,
Dr SEAMUS McMENAMIN,
Baile Atha Luimnigh,
Co na Mhí
Sir, – Now that An Post has issued a stamp to commemorate Brendan Behan is it not time to remember another Irish literary personage, Francis Ledwidge, through the issue of a stamp or perhaps in some other way?
The timing for such a commemoration would now be very apt. This was a man who brought together in his life and in his writings all the strands of the celebrations and commemorations of events of 100 years ago that we are now marking.
His life and work encompasses the fiirst World War, the place of an ordinary Irishman in the British army, nationalism (he was a member of the Irish Volunteers), his trade unionism, his patriotism, his work with the Gaelic League and his love of the environment. In these diverse activities he was associated with all shades of political opinion in Ireland.
His support for Irish independence and his horror at the execution of the leaders of the 1916 rebellion can be seen in his poems “The Blackbirds “ (an allegorical elegy for the poets of 1916) and “Lament for Thomas McDonagh”.
The Garden of Rememberance at Islandbridge carries lines from the English poet Rupert Brooke . Would it not be fitting that lines from our own war poet could also be carried there?
In his poem “In Memoriam Francis Ledwidge” another great Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, covered some of the elements of the emotions and characteristics of Ledwidge in the lines “In you, our dead enigma, all the strains / Criss-cross in useless equilibrium”. The poem concludes: “You were not keyed or pitched like those true-blue ones / Though all of you consort now underground.”
Francis Ledwidge was killed in action in 1917 aged 30. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I presume that too much exposure to American news agency copy accounts for the following headline atrocity on yesterday’s (May 1st) Science page: “Each of us likely has a Neanderthal ancestor”. Or perhaps the headline writer has never come across the word “probably”. A likely story. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The changes to laws concerning mobile phones and driving are welcome, but lives have been saved thanks to mobile phones being in cars that happened upon accidents. I recently witnessed a truck driver reading a book he had on his steering wheel. Perhaps the law could be extended. Yours, etc,
IriJuly 28 will be the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914. It’s through the stories of individuals that we can see the war’s impact.
Also in this section
One recent article I read was on John Joseph Kennedy from Dingle, Co Kerry, who became a priest around 1905 after studying at All Hallows College in Dublin. By 1908 he was working in Australian parishes with great sounding names like Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. In December 1915, at the age of 32, he enlisted as chaplain with the Australian army.
His unit went to Egypt for training and was sent to its first battle at Frommells in northern France in 1916. Some 2,000 men in his division were killed, and there were 5,300 casualties. Fr Kennedy’s sight and hearing were damaged from heavy cannon blasts as he sought to rescue wounded men who had gone over the top. For his bravery he received the Distinguished Order Medal.
I have read of how the young Irish priest had to walk over corpses trodden down in a sea of blood 5hand mud and that the thunder of the machine gun fire barely drowned out the anguished cries of the wounded all around him. An Australian soldier with him said he was a legend in how he raised the morale of the men.
He returned to Australia after the war where he wrote and staged a play, ‘Advance Australia’, which did not delight those who saw Australia as being part of the British empire.
He supported Ireland’s War of Independence. He became Rector of Myrtleford and stayed in Australia until ill-health saw him return to Ireland.
In 1929 he accepted a diocesan position in Georgia in the US and stayed there until his death in 1957 aged around 74.
Around 200,000 Irish men from North and South enlisted, with about 60,000 killed and many others wounded.
It was a war that everyone hoped by its end in November 1918 would never reoccur in Europe in any way.
A new book entitled ‘Blackpool to the Front’ by Mike Cronin (€11.99, Collins Press) looks at how the war affected the Cork suburb of Blackpool from where over 300 men enlisted.
MARY SULLIVAN, COLLEGE ROAD, CORK
IT’S PAYBACK TIME FOR NEARY
Judge Martin Nolan had some very critical things to say about the regulator and the regulator’s office. The judge seemed to think that the regulator was to blame for not warning off the Anglo Irish directors from loaning money to buy Anglo Irish shares. Yet no action is contemplated against the then regulator, Patrick Neary, whose known performance during this activity was so inadequate.
Any doubter of that statement should play back Mr Neary’s television statement in which he said the Irish banks’ financial situation was solid some three weeks before Anglo Irish collapsed. Mr Neary received a pay-off of €630,000 and is receiving a pension of around €120,000 per year.
Should we allow Mr Neary to keep his pay-off money and large pension after the collapse of the country’s financial stability?
I hope the proposed banking inquiry will look at bringing in laws to ensure people in future are not rewarded for performing so poorly.
Certainly, pension law should be reviewed to ensure this happens. I also suggest testimonies given on the basis of faulty memories should only be accepted on medical certification. If these two points were enshrined in law maybe the country might get something worthwhile from the billions burned in this fiasco.
LIAM COOKE, COOLOCK, DUBLIN 17
POLITICAL POLE DANCING
It must be election time again.
Every unsuspecting lamppost and pole in the country seems to receive the unsolicited attention of sitting, incoming and outgoing MEPs and local councillors as they engage in the quinquennial pole/poll dancing competitions.
It seems that the primary objective of the dancing festival is to grab voters’ attention with well airbrushed performances and portraits in the hope of gaining precious first-preference votes in the local and European elections every five years.
Surely the need for such an activity of poster poll dancing has seen its day in the blogging, Facebook and Twitter age.
Maybe it would be all the more interesting and environmentally friendly if election candidates blogged, tweeted and twittered, recited and maybe occasionally sang their best lines for the right to receive the number one spot on our ballot papers.
PAUL FRANCIS HORAN, ASST PROFESSOR, TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN
MEDICAL CARD RIGHTS
I wish to respond to your report on April 28 last entitled ‘White defends free under-six GP care as sick lose medical cards’.
Your correspondent, Eilis O’Regan, begins by stating that I had “defended (my) decision to allow medical cards be taken from young people with Down syndrome while giving free GP care to the children of doctors”.
Neither I nor the HSE nor anyone else has ever made a decision to allow medical cards to be taken from any specific patient group or category.
A decision to centralise applications for medical cards was taken in 2009 and put in place across the whole system in July, 2011. In accordance with the legislation, decisions on eligibility to a medical card (including those awarded on a discretionary basis) are based on the overall financial situation of the applicant and not on whether he or she has a particular illness or medical condition.
The medical card scheme has been means-tested ever since the 1970 Health Act. The medical condition of an individual applicant is taken into account by the HSE only insofar as the condition has an impact on their financial means.
The means test applies to all applicants with or without a medical condition. The consequence of this is that only some children with a condition such as Down syndrome are entitled to a medical card, ie, those whose means are below the income limits set out in the HSE’s income guidelines.
I want to change this. My goal is to ensure that no child should have to pay a fee in order to see a doctor.
The Government intends to replace the means-based system with a universal system whereby everyone has access to their GP without fees at the point of use.
For as long as we have the current flawed system in place there will always be deserving people, including children, who find themselves outside the income guidelines.
With regard to medical cards awarded on a discretionary basis, it is true that some people have had their cards removed because they are above the income limits.
It would be much better if no one ever lost their card. Until such time as we can implement the new system, we have to apply the existing law, under which almost two million people qualify.
ALEX WHITE TD, MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, HAWKINS HOUSE, DUBLIN 1.
EVIDENCE FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE
Paddy O’Brien (Letters, April 30) writes with the typical self-assuredness of the atheist when he declares that ‘God only exists in our minds’. Where is the “scintilla of evidence”, which he accuses believers of not having, to support his viewpoint?
He then goes on to compare humans and animals as being the same. Actually, humans do differ in one important way – our ability to think rationally.
There is plenty of evidence to support the existence of God; just no proof.
If Mr O’Brien would like to research this evidence, offered by some of the greatest scientists, philosophers and theologians, then he should consult the works of John Blanchard, John Polkinghorne, Alistair McGrath, John Collins, Keith Ward, Anthony Flew and many others.
P McDONAGH, BLACKROCK, CO DUBLIN.