Sore Throat

21May2014 Sore Throat

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Scrabbletoday, Mary wins, perhaps I’ll win tomorrow


Brian Roper – obituary

Brian Roper was a businessman who made his fortune in bathroom furniture and donated more than £6 million to charities

Brian Roper

Brian Roper Photo: KIRSTIE TRUEMAN

6:45PM BST 20 May 2014

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Brian Roper, who has died aged 76, was a self-made businessman and philanthropist who was passionate in his support for events that involved children, the arts or preferably both; over the past two decades he had donated more than £6 million, often to small groups and charities.

Roper made his fortune from Roper Rhodes, designing, developing and supplying bathroom furniture. He founded the company in 1979, and from the early days decreed that three per cent of the profits should go to good causes, largely in Bath, where the firm is based. This was not just an accounting procedure. Roper kept a genial eye on how the cash was being used, and would often supplement the company’s contributions from his own pocket. The organisations he supported ranged from the Liberal Democrats, both locally and nationally, to the Bath International Music Festival; primary schools and theatre groups; and causes such as the Royal United Hospital in Bath and Water Aid.

Roper had no time for extensive form filling, evaluation or other monitoring. His philosophy was straightforward: “We do what we do because I believe that businesses should contribute to their communities,” he said. “It’s not enough for them just to pay their taxes. ”

Brian Anthony Roper was born in Coventry on March 7 1938. He was educated at Rochester Technical College in Kent, then took A-levels at Kingswood School, Bath, before reading Economics and Accountancy at the London School of Economics.

From there he went into manufacturing, soon becoming managing director of Smiths Clocks and Watches in East Kilbride. He was running the South Australian Brush Company’s Scottish outpost at Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, when he was made redundant in 1979. At that point he and Terry Rhodes, the company’s best sales rep, set up Roper Rhodes, purveyors of upmarket lavatories; they opened in Bath because the directors liked the look of the city.

The company’s products are designed in-house and manufactured in China, Taiwan and Spain. Soon Roper Rhodes was supplying bathroom furniture to more than 2,000 retailers around Britain, and eventually Roper bought out Rhodes.

During the 1980s he served as a Liberal councillor in Bath, but found that political life was not to his taste. Thereafter he supported the Liberal Democrats with financial, practical and moral support .

He delighted at visiting primary schools to see how his contributions — a new swimming pool or a set of laptops — were being used, and he had a genuine passion for classical music, sponsoring the Mid-Somerset Competitive Festival and the Bath Philharmonia.

He was appointed MBE in 2008.

Brian Roper married, in 1962, Margaret Symons, whom he had met at the LSE. Meanwhile, his brother, Jeff, married Margaret’s sister, Pauline. Margaret survives him, as do their two sons, who run the family business.

Brian Roper, born March 7 1938, died May 3 2014


The appalling treatment Ryan Gilbey received from his schoolteacher (When I told the kids I’m gay, Family, 17 May) could have been as a result of section 28, which from 1988 to 2003 (2000 in Scotland) prohibited any action in schools that might “promote homosexuality”. That pernicious piece of legislation, passed by the Tory government in a fury of irrational gay-bashing, could have been responsible for thousands of young gay students being positively discouraged from coming out. Now the powers that be have gone to the other extreme, with Ofsted inspectors asking 10-year-olds what gay means, in order, it seems, to elicit an answer that will condemn their previously outstanding Muslim primary school (Parents’ anger over questions on sexuality halts inspection, 16 May).
Jenny Moir
Chelmsford, Essex

• If, when a child, I had been asked if I knew what “gay” means, I would have replied with total confidence: “Yes. It means happy or jolly.” Were I a similarly articulate child today, I would first have to ask the schools inspector exactly what he meant by the question.
Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

ph: Steve Phillips/Alamy

Neil Basu, commander of Metropolitan police firearms units, warns that officers may refuse to cooperate in Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiries into shooting incidents if the commission implements its plan to ban the practice of officers conferring before making statements for the purpose of such inquiries (Police may refuse to be armed after IPCC row, 19 May). Mr Basu and the QC who apparently advised him have probably misconstrued the position of firearms officers involved in a shooting. If they are questioned under caution because they are suspected on reasonable grounds of having committed an offence, they would not be entitled under any rules known to law to confer beforehand. Indeed, the risk that they might confer could be a basis for promptly arresting them in order to keep them incommunicado.

If, on the other hand, they are not suspected of an offence and are questioned as witnesses by police investigators attached to the IPCC, any refusal to answer could well amount to the offence of obstructing a constable in the execution of duty, for which they could be arrested and indeed charged.

Quite apart from the legal niceties, there is absolutely no empirical justification for permitting conferring in the formulation of their accounts. In a study by the psychology department of the University of Portsmouth – commissioned and funded by none other than the Metropolitan police and the Metropolitan Police Federation – it was found, much to the surprise and perhaps dismay of those two commissioning bodies, that conferring produced no greater degree of accuracy in the recollection of an incident than did independent recall. The authors of the study (Individual and Collaborative Recall in Police Contexts: Assessing the Impact of Post Incident Conferring, release authorised 1.8.11 and published by Hope, Gabbert and Fraser as “Post incident conferring by law enforcement officers: Do discussion affect beliefs and accuracy?” 37 Law and Human Behavour, 117-127), Professor Lorraine Hope and Dr Fiona Gabbert, subsequently joined us in highlighting the results in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly (“Conferring Beyond the Crossroads,” 175 JPN pp.557-559, 575-578 and 593-595 (2011)).

Since conferring provides an opportunity for officers to produce an account which has less to do with an intention to impart the true facts than to offer a self-serving gloss, the absence of any objective evidential benefit from the practice denies Mr Basu and firearms officers any grounds for opposing the IPCC plan.
David Wolchover
Head of chambers emeritus, Church Court Chambers

Human dignity at stake: ethnic Albanian refugees flee their homes near Kacanik, in Kosovo, in 1999. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/EPA

We have a global crisis with refugees and internally displaced people. Every day in 2012, over 23,000 people were forced out of their homes; 45 million people were forcibly displaced. The situation has got worse, with Syria worst hit: 40% of its population, 9 million people, half of them children, have fled their homes.

We collaborate on an EU-funded COST Action (a research network centred on nationally funded projects) on ethics and disasters. We have witnessed, worked in, and studied disasters worldwide. Refugees flee for their lives. Neighbouring countries are overwhelmed. Refugee camps are often inhumane. The Treaty on European Union declares: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Some EU countries accept a few thousand refugees; many accept none.

Barbed wire is being erected around our borders. Our “respect for human dignity” seems to apply only inside the fence.

We are citizens from 15 EU countries: doctors, humanitarian workers, and professors. Colleagues from another nine countries support us. Our countries have a history of poverty and conflict. Only circumstances make one a refugee and another a comfortable EU citizen. Our ancestors had to leave home, and foreign shores accepted them. Will we welcome the stranger?

We urge EU voters to elect those who uphold our founding principle: “respect for human dignity”. This applies to refugees, our fellow brothers and sisters. We want to honestly sing the EU anthem, “Alle menschen werden Brüder” (All men will become brothers).
Dónal O’Mathúna Senior lecturer, ethics (Ireland); chair of COST Action IS1201: Disaster Bioethics, Ayesha Ahmad Tutor, medical ethics (UK), Ana Borovecki Assistant professor, bioethics & public health (Croatia), Roger Bromley Emeritus professor, cultural studies (UK), Ernesto d’Aloja Professor, legal medicine and bioethics (Italy), Francesco Della Corte Hon. fellow, EuSEM, disaster medicine (Italy), Federica Demuru Researcher, bioethics (Italy), Ignaas Devisch Professor, philosophy of medicine and ethics (Belgium), Heather Draper Professor, biomedical ethics (UK), Vasil Gluchman Professor, philosophy and ethics (Slovakia), Ghaiath Hussein Doctoral researcher, bioethics (UK), Niklas Juth Associate professor, medical ethics (Sweden), Péter Kakuk Assistant professor, bioethics (Hungary), Eleni Kalokairinou Associate professor, moral philosophy (Greece), Pierre Mallia Professor, bioethics (Malta), Signe Mezinska Lecturer, bioethics (Latvia), Goran Mijaljica Lecturer, medical ethics and psychiatry (Croatia), Emilomo Ogbe Researcher, Sexual & Reproductive Health(Belgium), Salvatore Pisu MD, emergency medicine (Italy), Paulina Pospieszna Assistant professor, political science (Poland), Aivita Putnina Director, social anthropology (Latvia), Joanna Rozynska Assistant professor, bioethics (Poland), Jackie Leach Scully Professor, social ethics and bioethics (UK), Kadri Simm Associate professor, practical philosophy (Estonia), Peter Sýkora Professor, philosophy and biology (Slovakia), Emanuele Valenti Lecturer, bioethics (Spain), Johan von Schreeb Disaster medicine specialist (Sweden), Behnam Taebi Assistant professor, ethics (The Netherlands), Marcin Waligóra Assistant professor, Bioethics (Poland)
Supported by colleagues outside the EU:
Y Michael Barilan Associate professor, medical education (Israel), M Murat Civaner Associate professor, medical ethics (Turkey), Alma Dzubur Kulenovic Assistant professor, psychiatry (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow Professor, translation studies (Switzerland), Nir Eyal Associate professor, global health, medical ethics (US), Dusanka Krajnović Assistant professor, biomedical legislation and ethics (Serbia), Jay Marlowe Senior lecturer, refugee settlement (New Zealand), Veselin Mitrović Research associate, sociology and bioethics (Serbia), Elysée Nouvet Postdoctoral fellow, humanitarian healthcare (Canada), Deogratias M Rwezaura Social Ethics & Forced Migration (Kenya), Vojin Rakić Professor, political philosophy & bioethics (Serbia).

• One hundred years after the beginning of the first world war and 40 years after the end of the second world war, Europe is at a crossroads. If neoliberal austerity and authoritarian policies are not reversed, catastrophe awaits Europe and the world: further decline of democracy, increase in poverty and inequality, destruction of the environment, the inexorable rise of extreme rightwing and fascist forces which grow in the soil of despair created by unemployment and deprivation. Europe needs and deserves a new deal that re-founds the ideas of liberty, equality and solidarity recently betrayed by liberals and social democrats.

The candidacy of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, the Greek radical left party, for the presidency of the European commission carries a strong symbolism. Greece was chosen as the guinea pig in a huge neoliberal experiment which has led to a well-documented humanitarian crisis. Tsipras’s nomination as the candidate of the European Left party offers a ray of hope that neoliberalism and authoritarianism can be stopped and reversed.
Etienne Balibar, Costas Douzinas, Wendy Brown, Tariq Ali, Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Chantal Mouffe, Lynne Segal, Joanna Bourke, Sandro Mezzadra, Drucilla Cornell, Hilary Wainwright, Athena Athanasiou, Engin Isin, Bruce Robbins, Leo Panitch, Adolphe Reed, Doug Henwood, Johann Kresnik, Martijn Konings, Frances Fox Piven

• Hats off to your picture editor. The shot through the tattered European flag to the writing on the wall for politicians beyond really was worth a thousand words (Special report: European elections, 20 May).
Roger Woodhouse
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Gerard Depardieu in Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York. Photograph: Nicole Rivelli

Having a leisurely lunch while reading Monday’s Guardian, I nearly choked on my rocket when I fell on the photograph of Gérard Depardieu, on his back, surrounded by three young women. I believe that any photograph of Depardieu should carry a health warning. Quelle horreur! A giant tub of lard would have been a pleasant alternative. Depardieu feels sorry for sex addicts, an expression which seems to relate only to males; is the feminine equivalent sluts?
Christiane Goaziou
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

• Your profile of Sir Alan Moses (16 May) stated that he has only ever belonged to one club: the Union Socialista La Serra. In fact, in the early 1980s he belonged to St Helens football club in west London. He was an uncompromising right back whose timing was not always perfect. He gloried in the sobriquet of Alan “Bitesyerlegs” Moses.
George Cunningham
Lessingham, Norfolk

•  Dear Gary Younge, you wouldn’t think of becoming a politician, would you? We could keep you on the straight and narrow by running a loop of all the sensitive, perceptive and imaginative pieces you’ve written (eg Racism is far more than old white men using the N-word, 19 May).
Barbara Crowther

• In your editorial (19 May) you say the SNP “played the man rather than the ball”. With reference to the ball, I see no coverage whatsoever of Scottish football and the cup final. Is this in light of a possible yes vote of a reduced readership of the Guardian in Scotland?
Iain Patterson
East Linton

• Matter will be created from light within a year, claim scientists (Report, 19 May). When will they be able to extract sunbeams from cucumbers?
Peter Bendall

• Alternative nearby locations for the base at Croughton, pronounced “ow” (Letters, 20 May), are Broughton (“or”) and Woughton (“woof”). For myself, I’d prefer it a little further away, say Coughton (“cough”).
Jim Golcher
Greens Norton, Northamptonshire

Capital punishment remains a contentious issue as well as a disturbing dilemma. Two recent cases, one in the US (Botched US execution was ‘inhumane’, 9 May) and one in Iran (A slap, and then forgiveness, 2 May), made me do a double-take: the first happened in the so-called civilised world, the second in a country named by former US president George W Bush as part of “the axis of evil”.

What struck me was how in the US case the criminal on death row was watched by a “group of 12 selected media witnesses, including the Guardian”, whereas in the Iranian case it was the mother of the murdered victim who effectively presided over the proceedings. Instead of pushing the chair from under the feet of her son’s murderer, she gave him a redemptive slap across the face. At peace with herself and claiming that vengeance had left her heart, the case is over.

But not so in the American ordeal. Here the state, the pharmaceutical companies who make the lethal drug cocktail, those who will lead the investigation into this appalling case and even the witnesses are all presumably left with an ambivalent attitude. This anonymous and clinical execution sits very uncomfortably with my conscience, whereas the humanity of the Iranian mother’s gesture filled me with admiration.

This woman has given him a second chance, a second life. He would be foolish to throw it away.
Cleo Cantone
London, UK

• In Botched execution was ‘inhumane’, the authors describe the horrific progress of a judicial killing, using an untested (“in house”) combination of chemicals. Meanwhile, people with terminal illnesses go to Switzerland where, in comfort, and not strapped down on a bunk, they take an overdose of barbiturates. They say goodbye to their loved ones, go to sleep and die.

Why on earth, if the Americans want to keep on killing people, don’t they adopt this method? The prisoner can decline and opt for the current system, but most would not. The ghouls can still watch, though it would be slower, wasting more of their time. In the unlikely event that the prisoner, though deeply unconscious, fails to die, it should not bother anyone if they used any standard technique to finish the job.

The American methods of execution have always been barbaric, and the problem is so easily corrected.
Richard A Evans
Exeter, NSW, Australia

Blair’s doctrine of conquest

Greg Wilkinson’s criticism of Tony Blair is spot on (Reply, 16 May). The west – and particularly the US government – has gone round the Middle East targeting leftists, liberals and Arab Nationalists that made up local anti-colonial movements. It is hardly surprising that subsequent “anti-imperialist” sentiments could only be expressed via Islamist extremism.

If anyone were to swap the word Jewish for Islamic in Blair’s ravings about global Islamic conspiracies, then undoubtedly arrests would follow this ethnic slur. Yet somehow scapegoating Muslim diasporas has become permissible. Blair’s doctrine of military conquest is an old-fashioned ideology of western primacy. It deserves to be condemned.
Gavin Lewis
Manchester, UK

Cold war still rages

Martin Kettle’s lengthy commentary on Russia (2 May) contends that our present difficulties with Moscow do not amount to a new cold war because communism is no longer an issue as it was in the old one. The problem this time around, in Kettle’s view, is Russian nationalism, with which the west has few shared strategic interests or values.

Kettle’s arguments, widely accepted nowadays, can still be challenged. One can argue that we’re not fighting a new cold war because the old one has in fact never ended, and that the driving force for Russia was never communism to begin with, but rather a Russian nationalism ironically having then and now much in common with its British and American rivals. Thus, the elements of untrustworthiness, zero-sum thinking and opportunistic aggressiveness that Kettle attributes to his Russian model have also been well represented in many western policies, an example of which is the covert efforts to encircle Russia itself by drawing states like Ukraine into Nato, policies that have helped fuel the present crisis there.
Gordon M Sites
Fujisawa City, Japan

Technology’s discontents

Jane Martinson writes a good article (2 May) supporting those who have doubts about the unalloyed benefit of technological progress.

Unfortunately, despite her nods to class, she seems to fall into the disparaging of earlier questioners of technology’s benefits, namely, the luddites, whom she refers to as “poor working-class men” opposed to “labour-saving innovation”. She seems to suggest that it is today’s women who have an “interest in society”. Were the luddites selfishly interested in their jobs, or was society being wrenched apart by the break-up of domestic craft work and the establishment of factory work?

I take issue with the phrase “labour-saving”. Judging by Martinson’s photo, she wasn’t around in the 70s, when I read about the end of work and the impending leisure society. What? Where? We might find some jobs made easier by technology, but that doesn’t mean that capitalism is going to free us to actually enjoy our lives.

The luddites weren’t freed from labour; they were forced into low-wage factory exploitation. Capitalism in the 70s didn’t stop and give us all free time; it went on to find new ways of making money, and new ways of exploiting us, even making us work longer and harder.

Questioning new technology, who benefits, whose interests and how? Damned right!
K Stannard
Figline Valdarno, Italy

Is good grammar sexy?

Hadley Freeman’s suggestion that good grammar can help one to “get laid” (9 May) may apply to American girls moving to Germany, but it is in no way helpful for Swedish men moving in the same direction.

The irrational requirements of German prepositions had been taught to me at age 13. So when I had to settle in south-west Germany 40 years later, I was fully equipped to show the natives that they had got it all wrong when they told me about their experiences während dem Kriege [during the war]. I made clear to them that, war or no war, the preposition während takes a genitive in all situations, not a dative. In my closer association with the opposite sex, this talent was of no help at all.

I also have vague memories of my experience of Essex girls during my brief career as a strawberry picker many years earlier. We got along very neatly without the subjunctive.
Lars O Berglund
Weil im Schönbuch, Germany

• If it’s true, as Hadley Freeman argues in her essay, that “most importantly of all, good grammar will help you get laid”, then she’s likely to be lonely for a while. In her sentence, the adverb “importantly” has nothing to modify, unless she expects to be laid importantly. To excite an educated speaker of English, she should have written “what is most important of all, good grammar will”. Her error is a famous barbarism that has leapt the Atlantic, along with “-based”, the latest and worst Anglo-Saxon epithet.
Kenneth Rower
Newbury, Vermont, US

• In emphasising the importance of good grammar, Hadley Freeman shoots herself in the foot by referring to the subjunctive as a tense. Rather, it is a mood, more widely used in Latin languages, to express mostly hypothetical states like desire, emotion, doubt, opinion or, in this cheeky English example, some possible advice – I suggest that Hadley be more careful in future.
Denis Walls
Cairns, Queensland, Australia

• Hadley Freeman may be right about the importance of good grammar, but objecting to Tesco’s use of “most tastiest”? That was the most unkindest cut of all. The Bard must be turning in his grave!
Mike Kearney
La Mouche, France

The money is there

At a time when Britain should encourage investment and contain spending, your 2 May issue makes depressing reading. Royal Bank of Scotland, bailed out by the then government and despite continuing losses, wants to pay its bankers three times their salaries. At the same time, world-class scientific research at Kew Gardens is to be cut for want of £5m ($8m), or 1% of the money paid last year to 481 of their bankers by Barclays.

Sound right-of-centre policies are to promote investment and, when in need of money, to look to those who have some. No need to look very far.
Adrian Betham
London, UK


Referring to James Mitchell, a CIA apologist for torture, Jim Burns (Reply, 16 May) invokes Samuel Johnson’s aphorism that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. According to the late Christopher Hitchens, the phrase is not a general denunciation of devotion to one’s country but rather a particular attack on a radical political faction led by John Wilkes, called the Patriots.
Geoff Mullen
Sydney, Australia


Despite clearly being a single-issue party (so long held to be the Achilles’ heel of the Greens), Ukip stands to do well at the forthcoming Euro elections. Whilst this state of affairs is no doubt a sad reflection on our so-called democracy, I incline to look for culprits beyond the electorate and among the tabloid press.

Leveson aside, as I am not here concerned about bad-mouthing individuals, there is a price to pay for this non-stop foaming-at-the-mouth outrage at all things foreign. It is time for real consideration of serious press regulations to somehow stop this constant drip-drip of mostly spurious horror stories.

Whereas organs like this one often bemoan efforts to curtail the liberty of the media, too little attention is paid to the toxic effects of not curbing press freedom, especially upon our politics.

Howard Pilott, Lewes

“I do not think Nigel Farage is racist, but…” This seems to be the accepted form of reproach from the establishment voices, with very few people in the Westminster village willing to call him out in a clear, unambiguous (I hesitate to use the term “black and white”) fashion. The time has come to a grasp the nettle, just as Mr Farage likes to think of himself as doing.

Mr Farage insists he and his party are not racist yet continues to come out with comments which any rational person would consider to be racist. His only defence of the notorious Romanian neighbour furore, besides the half-hearted apology, is simply that it was an issue which he did not mean to bring up. Why? One can only infer that he does at least realise racism tends to be frowned upon these days.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s reasonable to think that yes, indeed, it’s a duck. For heaven’s sake, Farage, just stop quacking.

Gareth Hopkins, Norwich

I cannot but echo Sandra Semple’s sentiment regarding gay people (letter, 19 May). I am a 74-year-old heterosexual but have never felt repelled or uncomfortable with gays.

As a teenager in the 1950s in London, any gay people I came in contact with had to be very circumspect as to their sexuality due to the barbaric laws in force at the time, but were always polite and amusing. The term “gay” was not generally used then except to mean lighthearted, but the people whose gayness couldn’t be disguised did seem very gay in the original meaning of the word. As for Nigel Farage, words fail me.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon


Torture: hold MI5 officers to account

Reports that British security services continue to be complicit in the torture of British residents abroad should not be brushed under the carpet (“MI5 stands accused of complicity in torture this year”, 20 May).

Despite the Government making several multi-million pound payouts to the victims of rendition and torture stretching back for over a decade, and the damning findings of the Gibson inquiry last year, to date not a single individual has been taken to task for those crimes.

This lack of accountability has helped to create a climate of impunity in which the security services continue to operate as they wish, with full confidence that their actions are above the law.

If the Government is serious about preserving its international image, it should begin to hold those complicit in torture to account and not expect the taxpayer to bail them out every time.

Or is that the price that we all pay for our security?

Fahad Ansari, Birmingham

HMRC fails to close tax loopholes

Your editorial “The tax factor: is it time to boycott Gary Barlow?” (13 May) misses a fundamental point, namely that the avoidance methods used should have been highlighted by HMRC long ago, and legislated against by the Government. If this had happened, there would be no hand-wringing dilemmas.

HMRC appear to be their own worst enemy. To my personal knowledge, they write endless letters from various differing and confusing addresses to tiny research companies not yet making any turnover. With their attention diverted, major companies are free to make off with their lunch.

Months ago, I wrote to them with a two-page potential solution to this scenario which has yet to be acknowledged, let alone responded to. The problem isn’t Gary Barlow; it is the revenue themselves.

Peter Rutherford, London NW6

Alan Gregory (letter, 15 May) is of course right that government should close loopholes and render aggressive tax avoidance schemes illegal. But he hardly strengthens his argument by arguing that Isas are somehow relevant to this discussion.

Isas are overwhelmingly used by people of relatively modest wealth to save unspent income on which tax has already been fully paid. The Government’s rules simply allow the Isa saver to avoid further taxation on the very modest interest which is gained.

Aggressive tax avoidance schemes are used by the very rich and by corporations to protect extremely large sums of untaxed earnings from being taxed at all, or, at worst, at anything above a very low rate. I am sure Mr Gregory can spot a difference.

Brian Mitchell, Cambridge

If the Conservative Party manifesto at the next general election promises to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m, and one barges into the polling booth and votes for that party, is that aggressive tax avoidance?

Nigel Fox, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Pioneering help for great war wounded

It is good to see the orthopaedic rehabilitation work carried out in the Great War at the Royal Pavilion commemorated (17 May). We should also celebrate the achievements at the Shepherds Bush Military Hospital set up in the requisitioned Hammersmith Infirmary in west London.

There, under the Army’s consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Sir Robert Jones, not only was pioneering surgery carried out but everything possible was done through prosthetics and training to make the limbless man productive and enable him to hold his head high as a full member of society.

This aim was supported by the exiled King Manoel of Portugal, who ran the hospital and raised funds for rehabilitation.

Such a holistic approach is just as valuable today. Our modern servicemen deserve no less.

Kevin Brown, London W3

Sorry, shale gas isn’t green

Dr James Verdon (letter, 13 May) misrepresents the position of the IPCC.

Natural gas is less polluting than coal but this does not apply to shale gas because of the large amounts of methane released by fracking. Shale gas could only be part of a future energy mix if three important conditions are met. First that shale gas replaces coal and doesn’t just displace it to other countries. Second that methane releases are 10 times lower than current practices. And third that gas-fired power stations are fitted with an effective method of carbon capture (as stated in the IPCC press conference).

Since none of these conditions currently apply, shale gas is inconsistent with a low carbon future.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Unpleasantness at the theatre

Do we really need to know (19 May) that an “arts editor for a broadsheet” froze out Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s efforts to engage her in  conversation at the RSC production of Bring up the Bodies?

While I don’t doubt the socially flawed editor in question caused our intrepid correspondent and her husband much angst, are the columns of a national newspaper really the place to unleash the vicious (but admittedly enjoyable) little epithet  “Ms Ice Block mag hack”? Rise above it Yasmin, rise above it .

Christopher Dawes, London W11

Get it off your chest

Your obituary for the Swiss artist HR Giger (14 May) stated that the creature he designed for the film Alien hatched “via John Hurt’s stomach”.

Giger’s wonderfully designed alien in this famous scene was called the “chestburster”, as it breaks through John Hurt’s thorax, rather than his abdomen.

Martyn P Jackson, Cramlington, Northumberland

Sanity from a mad king

Reflecting on a screening of the National Theatre’s stunning production of King Lear, I‘d like to record that the loudest laugh of rueful recognition came when the mad king remarked to the blinded Gloucester:

Get thee glass eyes;

And, like a scurvy politician, seem

To see the things thou dost not.”

Sue Norton, York


Fleetwood golf course — an ideal space for building thousands of new homes? PA Archive

Published at 12:01AM, May 21 2014

The Bank of England should note that the house price bubble is concentrated in small areas

Sir, I hope the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, is not falling into the trap of reacting only to what happens in the capital.

The property market is seriously overheated in London and much of the southeast but this is not the case elsewhere. Here in the southwest there is no boom and the rise in prices is limited. I would urge Mr Carney to experience life beyond
the City — he will find that the
feel-good factor is distinctly muted.

Julian Bunkall

Buckland Newton, Dorset

Sir, Why target the Help to Buy scheme as the cause of problems in the housing market when it is the only policy which seems to have helped young people to buy their own home? Why not target overseas investors and buy-to-let investors?

Let’s have policies designed to help young people starting out to become homeowners and build communities where people care about where they live. An annual levy on second homes could help others to decide whether they really need that Cotswolds holiday home.

Joan Carter

London NW5

Sir, In your leading article on housing (May 19) you estimated that 300,000 new houses a year were required to meet the demand and bring prices down. This would be more than double the present number. In 1951 there was a similar situation and Churchill appointed Harold Macmillan to meet the government’s pledge of 300,000 new homes a year. This he achieved. Now, could the Prime Minister not appoint another Macmillan to do the same and give him full support?

Lord Ezra

House of Lords

Sir, The governor of the Bank of England points out that Canada builds twice as many homes per year as the UK although it has only half the UK’s population. It would have been more useful to point out that Canada is the second largest country in the world; these are tight little islands.

If the green belt is to be preserved and our priceless farmland retained for its proper purpose, and the housing need is as great as Mr Carney says, perhaps the sensible thing would be to build on the golf courses that litter the country.

I flew over scores of them recently, going from Surrey to Manchester by helicopter, and on a sunny Tuesday morning, signs of human activity on all were scant.

Each course takes up at least 120 acres, most of which was in agricultural use until recent decades.

If there is a housing price bubble, and Mr Carney declines to deflate it by raising interest rates, and all the “brown field” sites have been redeveloped, perhaps the only solution is to drive straight down the middle to a rash of new towns where golfers once hacked away. In the process, countless tempers might be saved and innumerable heart attacks prevented.

Michael Cole

Laxfield, Suffolk

Sir, The UK is yet to realise the enormous potential of co-operative and mutual housing. It accounts for just 0.6 per cent of our housing supply, compared with 18 per cent in Sweden, 15 per cent in Norway and 8 per cent in Austria. But already, entrepreneurial communities across the UK are using other approaches to lower the cost of housing and give previously excluded people access to shelter.

Peter Holbrook

Social Enterprise UK, London SE1

Much has been achieved but even more is still to be done to make treatment uniformly excellent and effective

Sir, Professor Waxman (letter, May 19) is right to point to the successes of Prostate Cancer UK in raising awareness of the cancer and the excellent campaigning which has attracted much needed funds for research. This research, which will partly focus on finding better diagnostic tests, is welcome but there are still wide disparities in the use of the PSA test, a marker used in the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with prostate cancer.

The NHS Diagnostic Atlas of Variation shows worrying inconsistencies in the use of diagnostic tests for some cancers across primary care trusts in England. Despite guidance, variations in requests for the PSA test were nearly five-fold. While the PSA test is not perfect, this data suggests significant under- and over-requesting. This could lead to under- and over-diagnosing and waste resources.

Pathology is the vital first step in the care, treatment and management of disease by ensuring the right test for the right person at the right time. My college, with other pathology societies, is developing new systems to support all clinicians who order tests to help ensure this happens.

Dr Bernie Croal

Vice-president, Royal College of Pathologists

Sir, The National Institute for Clinical Excellence and Health (NICE) has a difficult task comparing the cost and benefits of expensive drugs before they are made available to the NHS.

It is unfortunate that Professor Waxman, president of Prostate Cancer UK, is again highly critical of their decisions, stating that these are based on “absurd, subjective evaluations of efficacy and cost”.

Very expensive drugs for prostate cancer, extending life by perhaps 3 to 6 months, have to be weighed against expenditure on a huge number of other treatments available under the NHS, and most would agree that NICE does this difficult job well.

Sir Terence English


The descendants of Robert the Bruce are numerous as the waves of the sea, and they include the Queen

Sir, You call the Earl of Elgin “the most prominent living descendant of Robert the Bruce” (May 16). With no disrespect to the earl, we are blessed to have Her Majesty on the throne, precisely because she is a descendant. In fact, a daughter of King Robert II married Sir John Lyon of Glamis, so the Queen is probably a descendant on both sides of her family.

Humphrey Passmore


The union of England and Scotland was up to its neck in financial factors, ditto the independence campaign

Sir, In my family there is a belief that our Scottish ancestors include William Paterson, leader of the Darien adventure, the ill-fated Scottish colonisation of part of what is now Panama. Many died, including Paterson’s wife and children, but he went on to play a role in founding the Bank of England and in the Union of Scotland and England in 1707.

Like so many of Scottish descent my family now finds itself in England. If I am William’s descendant I feel proud of the part he played in bringing our countries together and would be most loth to see his efforts (and those of thousands of other Scots and English) torn asunder.

James Paterson

Walmer, Kent

Sir, After the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 it was claimed that Scotland was “bought and sold for English gold”.

With one couple providing 80 per cent of the funding for the SNP’s campaign to take Scotland out of the UK (report, May 16) will we find this time that we have been “bought and sold for lottery gold”?

Aline Templeton


If the UK were to leave the EU it would not necessarily be a disaster for scientific research and its funding

Sir, A clutch of UK university vice-chancellors (letter, May 19) argue that withdrawal from the EU would be a disaster for the funding of scientific research. However, European Economic Area states outside the EU, such as Switzerland, participate fully in EU research programmes at their own cost; many other states, such as the US and Israel, participate fully, sometimes at their own cost and sometimes with EU funds. After withdrawal the UK government would have ample funds to support some such arrangement that allowed UK researchers to continue their dominant role in Europe. Even in the worst and highly unlikely case, where europique might prevent future UK participation at huge scientific cost to Europe, as well as ourselves, the UK government would then have funds available to continue the current level of scientific support.

I am certain most researchers here would agree that UK research support is better targeted, more effective, and far freer of political shenanigans that what comes to us now from the European Commission.

Professor Yorick Wilks


A feature about about divorce infects some social groups discussed everything except its effect on the children

Sir, Your report “How I became part of a ‘divorce cluster’” (May 19) was dismaying. There was no concerned mention of the children of the marriages cast aside so lightly in favour of “radically different lives”, involving “early get-out” clauses, “clubbing” and “spontaneous trips to Paris”, during which, presumably, the kids are shipped back and forth with their Trunkis.

Lynne Barrett-Lee



SIR – Charles Moore thinks that I am an appeaser, lacking an understanding of dictators like Vladimir Putin. Let there be no doubt: I detest Mr Putin, but he was created by a failure to understand Russia’s history.

Russians remember that in 1610 Stanisław Żółkiewski led the Poles to occupy Moscow. In 1812 Napoleon’s attempt to take Moscow was defeated by the Russian winter, in the 1850s, Crimeans and Turks burned the outer suburbs of Moscow, and there was the Crimean War too, before Hitler’s assault on Russia in 1941. I am not surprised that Russia became uneasy when, with American support, the European Union moved to grant membership (or annex) Ukraine. Russians feel the need of a not unfriendly buffer state between themselves and an expansionary Western European state.

It is not cringing appeasement to understand the immediate cause of Russian concern. That has empowered an unattractive KGB man to strike a pose as Russia’s champion in a hostile world.

The West should have done more as the Soviet Union collapsed to make common cause with Russia against our common enemies and help that country to build a modern, open economy to enrich not the oligarchs, but the Russian people.

Had it done this, it might have been easier to engage in a constructive dialogue now.

Sadly, this affair is yet another failure of British foreign policy from Suez to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, relieved only by success in the Falklands.

Lord Tebbit
London SW1

Side-effects of statins

SIR – Last week, statins became good again, and fruit juice became bad. For some people, statins are essential. What I do not understand is the logic that, if a drug is essential for some, it must be good for all.

Statins do have worrying side-effects, and most GPs are aware of them. As a result of taking statins, I suffered from joint and muscle pains, and had horrific problems with muscle cramps. I know of another person who suffered life-altering depression and impotence. In the latter case, the GP immediately suggested that he stop taking statins.

Encouraging GPs to prescribe statins to anyone for whom they are not essential is ridiculous. A pill isn’t always the solution; why not encourage people to modify their diet and get more exercise?

Gerry Woods
Havant, Hampshire

Refunding all officers

SIR – The Police Federation is holding £70 million, far more than its operating costs, and some £29.5 million should be returned to police officers.

I retired in 2006, and before that I had been paying federation dues for 27 years. If the money is going to be redistributed, then any scheme must include retired officers, as well as serving officers, on a pro-rata basis.

It will never happen, of course.

Alan Kibblewhite
Blandford Forum, Dorset

Cooking techniques

SIR – My pet hate on a menu is “pan fried”, as I cannot imagine frying anything without a pan.

Geoffrey Hodgson
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – We were disappointed to read about the apparent decision to refuse a request for a public memorial to Fusilier Lee Rigby (Comment, May 17), and hope this can be reconsidered. Lee Rigby’s murder shocked our country. In its wake, we saw Britons from every faith and none come together, both locally and nationally, to mourn his death, to commemorate his service, and to reject the hatred of his killers.

Extreme groups such as the BNP and EDL did try to exploit the tragedy, but found very little public support, being widely seen as part of the problem too. The Rigby family, in their grief, were consistently strong voices in challenging the tiny, unrepresentative minority who sought to use his name to stir up hatred.

If the family’s desire is to have a memorial, neither they, nor the British public as a whole, should be denied the chance to commemorate Lee Rigby’s service and sacrifice in a proper way.

Sughra Ahmed
President, Islamic Society of Britain

Mohammed Amin
Deputy Chairman, Conservative Muslim Forum

Sunny Hundal

Dilwar Hussein
New Horizons in British Islam

Sunder Katwala
British Future

Nick Lowles
Hope Not Hate

Imam Ajmal Masoor

Stephen Pollard
Editor, Jewish Chronicle

Stephen Shashoua
Director, Three Faiths Forum

Julie Siddiqi
The Big Iftar

Romanian statistics

SIR – Nigel Farage has attempted to defend his deeply dubious comments on Romania and its citizens, stating that countries and their people can be defined by their different levels of criminality.

Recent statistics on prison populations, which is surely one measure of criminality, show Romania ranked 92nd highest in the world, with 156 of every 100,000 citizens in jail. But 170 of every 100,000 of Guernsey’s population are behind bars, making this Channel island 83rd-worst in the world. Would the Ukip leader get into a sweat about having someone hailing from St Peter Port as a neighbour?

Top of the pile is the United States, with 716 per 100,000 citizens in prison. My wife and I are about to host an American friend’s wedding party in our garden. I would welcome Mr Farage’s advice.

Andy Stuart
Rye, East Sussex

SIR – We have Romanian tenants renting the house next door to us in Southgate.

We are impressed at how polite and respectful they are, as well as hard-working and ambitious.

Henry Carlton
London N14

Roads investment

SIR – Robert Goodwill, the roads minister, is “determined to… create the road network our economy needs”. How does he explain the main artery of the A1 remaining a single carriageway in Northumberland?

Presumably the economy of the North East is of no interest to this Government.

Lilian Crombie
Bishop Auckland, Co Durham

SIR – Mr Goodwill might usefully transfer some of this investment to the upkeep of the current roads, many of which are a disgrace to a developed country.

J A Bright
Faversham, Kent

School uniform

SIR – Perhaps your readers, while considering what to wear to the supermarket, could give some thought to that most treacherous of sartorial minefields – the school gate.

Fiona Phillips

Pest removal: gardeners versus slugs and snails

SIR – A M S Hutton–Wilson describes getting rid of slugs and snails by luring them with cat food.

I duly followed his instructions but the fiends had a marvellous midnight feast, ate the cat food then slunk off into the night. Should I have put the cat food into the brown paper bag rather than on it?

Diana Feld
East Stour, Dorset

SIR – My slug count has now exceeded 1,000. Rather than attracting them with cat food, I use beer – which initially did the trick, but now, by torchlight, I see them curled over the rim, drinking the beer but not falling in.

Dorothy Foreman
Burton-upon-Stather, Lincolnshire

SIR – Mr Hutton-Wilson suggests a spoonful of cat food placed on a paper bag as a gathering point for snails and slugs. I suspect, however, that in the competition for this tasty morsel, foxes, cats, and even hedgehogs would have the edge.

David Brown
Lavenham, Suffolk

SIR – Following your report on getting rid of snails, I have employed the fast bowler of our local cricket team to instruct my wife in the art of the “full toss”. My neighbours, though, are using the same ploy, so it’s more like tennis than cricket.

David J Hartshorn
Daventry, Northamptonshire

SIR – As an organiser of unusual contests such as seed spitting, vegetable bowling and snail racing, I could, perhaps, organise a Snail Throwing Championship.

James Bamber
Tiverton, Devon

Overheated: the average house price in London has risen by nearly £80,000 this year  Photo: Getty

7:00AM BST 20 May 2014

Comments71 Comments

SIR – The Government should be careful about how it handles the future of the Help to Buy scheme.

The average price of a house in London is sailing upwards, but in the rest of the country, such as in Wales and the North East, prices remain fairly static.

Rather than scrapping Help to Buy altogether, the Government and the Bank of England should consider a regional framework. This could be introduced at various levels across Britain to help first-time buyers on to the property ladder. It would also stimulate regional economic growth rather than seeing experienced buyers move to over-populated areas which, as we know by looking at London, pushes house prices way out of reach.

Alistair Bingle
Managing Director, Bishop’s
Chessington, Surrey

SIR – It would be helpful if Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, did not refer to a “national rise in house prices” and an “overheated market”.

There are parts of the country that still await a market. I suggest he moves to Middlesbrough for six months to gain a better understanding of the variation.

C M J Allen

SIR – As housing minister, Harold Macmillan was ridiculed for promising to build 300,000 new homes. The target was achieved. Why can’t we emulate this now?

Dr John B Leane
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Since when was the Governor of the Bank of England selected for his expertise on the housing market, and when did anyone appoint him as a commentator on demography? Most people in Britain would recognise that a market has two sides, and ours is distorted by an excess of demand.

There are simply too many people here, and many more by the day.

Andrew Smith
Epping, Essex

SIR – I despair of the Bank of England. Incipient signs of overheating, a housing bubble, a whacking balance of payments deficit and unemployment below 7 per cent. If that doesn’t call for a rise in interest rates, I don’t know what would.

In the summer of 1963, when I was head of the economic section of the Bank, we faced much the same economic conditions. I tried in vain to persuade my colleagues that we should raise Bank Rate. The Bank was then, as now, institutionally “dove-ish”. The only time it was truly brave was when it raised Bank Rate to 7 per cent in 1957. There is only one prescription for a healthy economy: sound money. No inflation and plenty of domestic saving stimulated by normal interest rates.

Guy de Moubray
Knodishall, Suffolk

SIR – We must see homes not as investments but as places to live in.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

SIR – Bring back the prefab.

Richard Statham
Langport, Somerset

Irish Times:

A chara, – Ed Moloney’s opinion piece (“Boston challenges Sinn Féin’s version of history, Opinion & Analysis, May 20th) on the discredited Boston history project which he managed, says nothing new but repeats allegations about myself, Gerry Adams and the 1981 hunger strikes made by former prisoner Richard O’Rawe.

Mr O’Rawe claims that on the afternoon of July 5th, 1981, I brought a British offer to the hunger strikers in the H-Block prison hospital which conceded the majority of their demands. That on the afternoon of July 6th, Mr Adams then ordered them not to accept the offer. And that the reason he did so was to prolong the strike so that Owen Carron would win the Fermanagh/South Tyrone byelection.

These fictional claims were never even thought up by the British, who used many foul means to undermine the electoral rise of Sinn Féin. The claims hinge around Mr O’Rawe, who never left his cell, met the governor, visited the prison hospital or was involved in the mediation.

Nor were these claims made in the original text of Mr O’Rawe’s book, the manuscript of which he brought to me at my home around 1999 and asked me for help in getting him published.

Fortunately, there are contemporaneous records, released under the 30-year rule, including those phone calls marked “Secret” between intermediary Brendan Duddy (codenamed SOON) and the British which formed a cabinet briefing paper.

While I am meeting the hunger strikers on July 5th, Martin McGuinness visited Mr Duddy’s home and is reported as asking Mr Duddy, “what the current HMG position was”. The paper says: “We explained that it was important before drafting any document for consideration by Ministers that we should possess the Provisionals’ view. SOON then undertook to seek clear views on their position, which would be relayed to us later after discussion in the light of Morrison’s visit.” Note: “before drafting any document for consideration by Ministers”.

So, there falls the claim that I brought in an offer. It hadn’t even been drafted.

Mr Duddy’s handwritten notebooks, published three years ago, log the offer from the British as being phoned to him at “11.30pm July 6”. So, there falls the claim that earlier in the day Mr Adams ordered the prisoners not to accept the offer. They also record us in the hunger strike committee as desperately beseeching the British to respond before Joe McDonnell’s death and for a representative to clarify to the prisoners exactly what was on offer. They refused.

The claim that on July 5th/6th, the hunger strike was prolonged to get Owen Carron elected is easily demolished by another inconvenient fact for Ed Moloney. The writ for the byelection, over which we had no control and of which we had no knowledge, was not moved in the House of Commons until July 28th.

Who is it who has been rewriting history? – Yours, etc,


Glen Road,



First published: Wed, May 21, 2014, 01:08

Sir, – While still a student at Boston College, the future speaker of the US house of representatives, the late Tip O’Neill, narrowly lost an electoral bid for Cambridge City Council. Afterwards it was evident that some people in his own neighbourhood that he had expected to vote for him, did not, in fact, because he did not ask for their vote.

I have had a mere three requests for a vote in the local elections – two from Fianna Fáil and one from Sinn Féin. I have had no requests for a vote in the European elections. Discussing this with friends and associates, it would seem that my experience is not unique. Surely candidates should, at least, canvass if they expect to have any chance of being elected.

Tip O’Neill learned and never forgot the lesson that has become a maxim for all successful politicians: “All politics is local”. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – With a bit of luck Sinn Féin will get into power after the next general election. At this stage it’s the only thing I can think of that will stop their tiresome, catch-all rhetoric. – Yours, etc,


Meadow Copse,


Dublin 15.

Sir, – I was driving across the country yesterday and the constant onslaught of posters was a serious distraction to my driving. I’m glad I wasn’t a tourist trying to find signposts obscured by the faces of our political wannabes. God forbid I wasn’t a non-English speaking tourist trying to decipher our placenames, instead to be accosted by this face and that glaring down from a height at every turn. Where is our lovely green country that we tried so hard to promote to the world at great expense with the Gathering? Covered in posters.

When I go to vote on Friday, I think I’ll vote for the face I haven’t seen littering the roads of our country – if indeed one exists. And I thought the country was supposed to be broke. Will the race to take posters down be as competitive as the one to put them up? – Yours, etc,




Co Galway.

A chara, – Labour seems surprised it is down in the polls. It shouldn’t be. Smaller parties generally suffer after their time in coalition with larger ones. Sometimes they even fade away all together. It is the price they pay for the opportunity to have an influence on policy that far exceeds the proportion of the vote they receive. Labour shouldn’t grieve that it appears its day is nearly done; instead it should glory in the time it had. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Many of us have had the experience of giving someone a mandate to represent us in the European Parliament only to find that, for reasons that suit themselves or their party, they jump ship halfway through and land us with the first person on their substitute list for whom none of us voted and, in some cases, for whom we would not have voted in a fit! – Yours, etc,





Sir, – Regarding Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s next Cabinet post, could the concept of a “rotating Taoiseach” be revisited? If so, might Enda relish a stint in Iveagh House? – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Of course posters and leaflets make absolutely no difference to a voter’s intentions. However, spare a thought for the printers who depend on these events for a living! – Yours, etc,


Woodley Park,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – It seems to me that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality report into sex work should, more appropriately, result in a tribunal of public inquiry than any form of legislation. Sex workers are adults deemed mentally competent under law who are committing no crime and yet every possible obstacle has been placed in the way of them making any contribution to this consultation which is, after all, about their lives and their futures, and in a manner I feel certain is contrary to all parliamentary precedents, and in denial of their civil and constitutional rights.

That is not hard to do as the stigma against sex workers is so great that to risk exposure is to risk losing everything, and that is a risk no mother (and most sex workers are mothers) has the right to take.

The Oireachtas committee visited Sweden twice without speaking to a single one of the many Swedish sex workers and former sex workers whose lives have been devastated because of Sweden’s bizarre ideological legislation.

I also wish to suggest that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality make amends for the travesty of their report into sex work by conducting the hearings they should have conducted in the first place with bona fide sex workers on a live audio feed only (to protect their identities). – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – The call by 14 academics for laws targeting the buyers of sex (May 20th) is a timely reminder of Ireland’s inadequate response to the multibillion euro crime of human trafficking. The 12-month delay in implementing the unanimous recommendations of the Oireachtas Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for such laws not only allows this crime to flourish but is also a betrayal of the women and girls who are being sexually exploited.

As a frontline agency that has supported more than 50 women, we are all too familiar with the reality of sex trafficking. The stories of survivors are all depressingly similar; sold as teenagers often by family members for about €3,000, tricked into coming to Ireland only for reality to dawn at Dublin Airport where passports are seized by a pimp and hours later starting life in a brothel to be raped many times a day.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald must not only introduce laws targeting demand for prostitution but should also use a new national action plan on human trafficking being prepared in her department to deliver real change.

In the past year Ireland has been criticised by the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the US state department for failing to identify and protect victims of trafficking. It is unacceptable that as a result of our failings vulnerable women and girls are being placed in the direct provision system with no supports to help them recover.

We now have an opportunity to bring in substantive measures that will put pimps and traffickers out of business while at the same time protecting the vulnerable and exploited. – Yours, etc,




Immigrant Council

of Ireland,

Andrew Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – “They [gulls] happily eat the bread intended for the poor ducklings”, writes John Lombard (May 20th). Might I suggest that therein lies the problem.

Bread is not a suitable food for nestlings. It fills their crops (craws) without providing adequate nourishment, which is best met by being fed on high-protein seeds and insects.

Too much bread in their diet and they starve to death. – Yours, etc,



Impasse Chopin,



Sir, – I arrived home from a trip to the supermarket recently to find a handsome drake from a nearby stream waddling around our garden.

So keen were my delighted young children to feed the duck that within moments – to my dismay – two freshly bought sliced pans had been scattered with enthusiasm and abandon in his general direction.

The duck was disinterested, but every gull, magpie, and pigeon within a two-mile radius arrived within moments. – Yours, etc,


Grey’s Lane,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I too have noticed the absence of not only ducklings and moorhen chicks but their parents over the past two years on the pond in St Stephen’s Green. The swans have also disappeared and all replaced by dozens of noisy gulls.

Their loud squawking and screeching as they fight amongst themselves for the bread is deafening compared with the gentle quacking of the ducks.

Is there a resolution? The ducks seem to be perfectly safe in Herbert Park. – Yours, etc,



Donnybrook Castle,

Sir, – The vast majority of emigrants were forced to leave home because of political decisions – higher taxes, cuts to benefits and fewer jobs to name a few. Yet, when it comes to holding these same politicians to account, they have no vote and consequently no voice. At the moment, politicians are busy canvassing from door to door trying to win over the public’s ear but there’s been no mention of the emigrants who had to leave. They are the forgotten political group; they can’t vote at home or abroad. But there’s a simple way to ensure their democratic right is observed.

In Germany, for instance, they operate a simple postal voting system that allows all Germans who are abroad the chance to cast their vote. A few weeks before a German election is due to take place, anyone who is away simply has to register for a postal vote. Then, a few days before the election, they’ll get their voting card in the post, which they’ll fill out and return. It’s efficient and simple. Surely we can adopt something similar in Ireland without too much cost or hassle.

The naysayer will argue that those who left should have no vote; they don’t pay taxes any more and it was their own their decision to leave. But was it really their decision to leave? And didn’t they pay taxes before they took flight? Many children have one parent in Ireland and another working in North America. Surely, the parent should be allowed to decide what kind of Ireland they want for their children. – Yours, etc,



Ramelton, Co Donegal.

Sir, – Anthony Leavy (May 15th) asks: “How many super-rich do we have?” By definition, we do not need many super-rich to comprise a vast amount of money – the Forbes “rich list” reveals that the fortunes of just 250 Irish people equal a third of Ireland’s GDP. As is paralleled throughout the developed world, their wealth is increasing as more and more ordinary people fall into homelessness, poverty and despair.

Anger and helplessness are growing as unsustainable taxes and charges mount, no longer going to fund public services and welfare as traditionally was the case, but funnelled directly into the pockets of the bankers and corporate shareholders who appear to have co-opted the entire political process for private gain.

A recent Oxfam report found that the super-rich successfully exert political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. The European project has not failed, it has been hijacked. Anyone who assumes we can restore economic viability and social justice without confronting the anti-democratic power of the mega-banks and corporations is living in fairyland. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Frank McNally’s mention of the Irish Wild Geese fighting for France against Britain at the Battle of Fontenoy recalls an early skirmish in the fight for female emancipation (An Irishman’s Diary, May 15th).

The War of the Austrian Succession was fought to prevent Maria Theresa succeeding to the Habsburg thrones because, as a woman, she was precluded from royal inheritance.

Though the French, led by Graf Hermann Moritz von Sachsen, one of the 362 illegitimate children of the German-born king of Poland, won the Battle of Fontenoy, the war was lost – or at least drawn. The death of half a million Europeans had made little difference to the status quo ante bellum.

Empress Maria Theresa was recognised as queen of Hungary and archduchess of Austria, with her daughter, Marie Antoinette, later becoming queen of France.

To celebrate his “victory” George ll of Great Britain commissioned Handel to compose the Music for the Royal Fireworks. – Yours, etc,



Vienna, Austria.

Sir, – Since the US government has accused five Chinese military officials of cyberspying (World News, May 20th), perhaps the European authorities will now instigate proceedings against the US for similar activities in Europe! – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.

Sir, – How we propose to commemorate the 1916 rising and the Irish involvement in the Great War is now under active discussion.

With regard to the Great War, the sacrifice of those who fought and died in British regiments is now rightly understood and acknowledged.

I have seen no discussion, however, about the many thousands of Irishmen who fought under other flags, principally that of the United States, who seem to have been largely forgotten.

I have in my possession campaign medals awarded to a grand-uncle who was severely wounded in France serving with the 69th New York Regiment, “The Fighting 69th”, in 1917.

His contribution and those of his many comrades who also fought and died in that terrible conflict deserve equal recognition with their counterparts who served in the army of our nearest neighbour. – Yours, etc,




Co Waterford.

Irish Independent:

Letters: Government repeating same old property mistakes


Plans put forward by Coalition toboost house prices make no sense. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Published 21 May 2014 02:30 AM

In a week in which the Bank of England warned that booming house prices in Britain could seriously threaten that country’s economic recovery, it really is beyond belief that the Irish Government should put forward a proposal to subsidise mortgages for first-time buyers of new houses.

Also in this section

Letters: Let’s see what MEPs are really fighting for

The European Parliament had our back when others didn’t

Hope: a thing of magic

Considering the damage reckless bank lending and 100pc mortgages did a few short years ago, it is incomprehensible that the Department of Finance, Central Bank and Financial Regulator could condone this blatant attempt at vote buying by this morally bankrupt Government.

The effect of this initiative, if implemented, would be to have a lot more buyers in a market in which there is an acute lack of houses for sale in Dublin. This would obviously cause upward pressure on prices and panic to get on the housing ladder (does this sound familiar?).

Over the weekend several noted economists and academics were scathing in their criticism of this scheme – which, to make matters worse, will do nothing to address the present problem.

If the current lack of supply problem is being caused by developers sitting on zoned land or not having access to finance to build houses, then these are the problems that need to be addressed.

A half-baked scheme which will cause runaway house prices is not the solution.





A house, like anything else, has a definite value. With a house, however, location is the real determining factor. All houses advertised should have a fixed selling price – complying with their location, simply their true value. For example: Price €280,000. The first viewer that decides to buy and pays the necessary deposit is the owner. No messing!

Buying a house by auction or tender is an unpredictable price that fluctuates, not its true value, and is a gamble best left to the rich. A government-appointed professional valuer and surveyor should stipulate a maximum house price guideline for each area, updated yearly. Potential buyers would then have some idea of the cash required and the mortgage to have in place well in advance.

It would certainly stabilise prices. At present, a couple could be in the process of arranging a mortgage or cash for a specific house and be told when they got back to the agent there had been a further bid of €20,000, or maybe more. A horrible way of treating a young couple making the biggest deal of their lives.





The ongoing crisis in the local and national housing sector is a terrible indictment of all previous and present government policies fuelled by speculative economics and pushed by an EU agenda around privatisation.

This State has a moral responsibility to provide housing which is not only functional and meets daily human needs, but is also aesthetically appealing.

People have gone from paying just 20pc of their income on private mortgages 30 years ago to paying 60pc today. It is time for change and a social housing programme for all, enabling families to live decently.





Since the US government has charged five Chinese military officials with cyber-spying, perhaps the European Court of Justice will now instigate proceedings against the Americans for similar activities in Europe?





I’m delighted that Tara the cat’s heroic act in saving a Californian toddler from an attacking dog was caught on camera and has been viewed by millions worldwide. What a well-deserved and long-overdue PR boost for cats.

Throughout history cats have been maligned, misunderstood and persecuted by people who just didn’t understand these unique creatures and their place in the scheme of things.

During the witch craze in Europe countless thousands of them were burned for being “familiars” of the alleged female dabblers in black or white magic.

In ancient Rome they were punished in accordance with a different but equally silly superstition. Unfortunately they are still suffering as a result of man’s ignorance and inhumanity.

Today there are more than 200,000 feral cats in Ireland, thanks in large part to a failure on the part of some cat owners to spay or neuter them. They have little protection under anti-cruelty legislation, with trapping and killing of non-domestic cats an increasing source of concern to animal welfare groups.

Domestic and feral cats alike are forced to serve as bait in training sessions organised by dog fighting and hare coursing gangs, the animals’ tougher skin deemed an advantage in teasing and blooding the dogs.

Cats deserve a break. Tara’s high profile act of heroism may have grabbed the world headlines, but cats are beneficial to humans in other ways too.

They keep mice and rats at bay and, apart from being the most lovable companions, they bring comfort especially to people living alone.

They can literally help to preserve one’s sanity.

While I’m sure all good doggies go to heaven, it wouldn’t be much of a place if Tara and the other cats of this world didn’t get in there too!





Behind the posing Fianna Fail election team in Tullamore, Co Offaly, I spotted an ‘EAT AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE’ sign. It would appear that at least one of the group had availed of the offer.





From tomorrow until Sunday over 380 million citizens from across the 28 member states of the EU will go to the polls to elect the European Parliament‘s 751 members.

This Friday over three million people in Ireland will have an opportunity to elect our 11 MEPs.

In recent years, as this country has experienced seismic economic shifts, Europe has been at the forefront of the Irish national media and the forefront of the minds of the citizens living and working here.

What happens in Europe has a knock-on effect on Ireland – the EU’s successes are our successes, its challenges are our challenges and, regardless of the difficulties we both may face, our futures are inextricably linked.

We in European Movement Ireland do not endorse any political party or any candidate, whether party-affiliated or independent. However, what we do endorse is the democratic process.

We are fortunate in modern-day Ireland that we have the right to vote. However, with that right comes a responsibility to exercise that right.

Very important issues face the next European Parliament. It has never been more vital that Irish people participate in our democratic process and provide whoever we elect with the strongest mandate possible.

Have your say about what type of Europe you want for the next five years. Make sure your vote counts this Friday.




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