26May2014 Tuesday?

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have deliver a present for Miss Bentwater. Priceless

I go and visit Mary in hospital may be home Tuesday

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins one game, I win another nearly gets 400, perhaps I will win tomorrow


Professor David Denison – obituary

Professor David Denison wasa fearless physiologist who improved flight safety by running hair-raising experiments on himself

Denison (right) explaining his results to a senior foreign naval officer

Denison (right) explaining his results to a senior foreign naval officer

5:53PM BST 25 May 2014


Professor David Denison, who has died aged 80, was one of the outstanding aviation physiologists of his generation, and made important contributions to flight safety after conducting many of his hair-raising experiments on himself.

Denison’s research helped to explain the causes of the Apollo 1 disaster of 1967, and why diving mammals do not get the bends. Later in life he came to national attention as an expert witness in the Billie-Jo Jenkins murder case, his evidence providing sufficient doubt to overturn the original conviction of her stepfather, Siôn Jenkins.

Having qualified as a doctor in 1960 and working in junior hospital posts, in 1962 Denison was appointed a medical officer in the RAF to undertake research at the High Altitude Section of the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough.

His appointment came at the height of the “space race”, when interest in high-altitude physiology — and the will to fund research — was high. Farnborough was thus able to acquire a new high-performance decompression chamber, and the first respiratory mass spectrometer in Britain. Denison embarked on a remarkable series of experiments with oxygen in pressure chambers, and published papers which anticipated the fire which engulfed the Apollo 1 spacecraft, killing all three crew members in January 1967.

Denison had learnt that the atmospheric pressure in the spacecraft was equivalent to an altitude of 25,000ft, enriched with oxygen. Recalling a chemistry demonstration at school in which a burning ember placed in an oxygen filled tube burst into flames, he undertook a series of flammability tests in this atmosphere.

Using a bronze mannequin coated in a thermo-sensitive polymer of equivalent thermo-conductivity to human flesh, and clothed in flying overalls, he demonstrated that ignition, via a length of nickel chromium fuse, provoked a flash fire which rapidly consumed the clothing and the surface of the mannequin. Although his warnings were not heeded at the time, his work – like that of Richard Feynman following the 1986 Challenger disaster – had important implications for the future safety of space flight.

In the tradition of many of his distinguished predecessors, Denison undertook many of his experiments on himself before involving other people, strongly believing that it was unethical to do otherwise. On many occasions he lost consciousness, and once he inadvertently injected mercury into an artery in his arm (amputation was avoided, but he had subsequent kidney failure and excreted mercury in his urine for more than five years).

One of the problems he addressed was the frequent failure of pilots to attempt to escape from their aircraft after ditching in the sea when they had failed to land or take off from aircraft carriers. The pilots appeared to be conscious, but Denison thought it likely that they had been concussed by the shock of hitting the water at speed — a theory he confirmed when he experimented on himself in an acceleration chamber .

After leaving the RAF in 1968, Denison worked for two years at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School (RPMS) at Hammersmith Hospital with Moran Campbell, renowned for his work on lung mechanics, the respiratory muscles and respiratory failure. Denison developed an indirect method of measuring cardiac output by re-breathing low oxygen mixtures, and in testing this on himself the level of oxygen in his blood became so low as to induce convulsions. Even Campbell (himself an inveterate self-experimenter) found this disturbing.

As part of his research programme into ditching aircraft, Denison had persuaded the RAF to train him as a diver , and in 1969 he went as a research fellow to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). There he worked with David Warrell on the physiology of diving mammals, using freshly excised lungs from sea lions and cetaceans that had died at the San Diego Zoo or Sea World.

In a series of elegant experiments with mammals diving in aquariums, he also examined the histopathological appearances of the alveoli (air sacs) and airways, to discover why diving mammals are not subject to two major problems experienced by human divers: decompression sickness (the bends) on rapid resurfacing, and inert gas narcosis while spending prolonged periods at depth on the ocean floor.

During the voyage of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s research vessel Alpha Helix to the Guadalupe Islands off the coast of Baja, California, Denison studied elephant seals. Using a compression chamber filled with water, he found that at simulated depths of 100ft the seals’ lungs collapsed completely , preventing the uptake from the lungs into the bloodstream of nitrogen, whose effervescence from the blood during rapid ascent in humans is the cause of the bends.

With Warrell, Denison compared the lungs of terrestrial and marine mammals, and without exception the distal airways of terrestrial animals were found to be without cartilage and therefore compressible at depth, leaving a large residual volume of air in contact with blood allowing the uptake of nitrogen into the circulation.

By contrast, the airways of sea lions were reinforced by cartilage down to the alveoli, allowing the alveoli to collapse before the airways expelled residual alveolar air up through the rigid airways, thus separating the blood in the lungs from alveolar air, and preventing the uptake of nitrogen into the circulation during diving .

In 1971 Denison was invited to lead the High Altitude Laboratory at Farnborough, where he remained until 1976, when he was recruited by the Brompton Hospital to direct its lung function service. Understanding the function of the lungs and heart in health and disease was a new challenge . Denison obtained a respiratory mass spectrometer to measure (initially on himself) the ventilation and perfusion of different regions of the lung . The development of this technique enabled new investigation of very sick patients, including infants.

He applied the principle of stripy light, used at Farnborough to map the contours of the face to develop sealed face masks for pilots, to study patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital with paralysis of their respiratory muscles, by analysing the contours of the chest wall and abdomen during the breathing cycle. With the advent of the CT scanner, he developed methods to measure the volume of the lung in disease, initially using (as model lungs) two bread loaves wrapped in cling film and sunk in a washing bowl full of water . He was awarded a personal Chair in Clinical Physiology by University of London in 1982.

One of identical twins, David Maurice Denison was born in London on March 7 1933 . By his own admission his school career was not a success. He left with no A-levels (having in one report been declared “unfit” for higher education) and started work as a junior analyst in Hounslow for Parke Davis, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, before working as a laboratory technician at Ashford Hospital in Middlesex. His National Service was spent with the Royal Artillery and the RAMC.

While a lab technician, Denison had studied biological sciences and chemistry at night school, and after leaving the Army he was accepted by Westminster Hospital Medical School, where he graduated in Physiology and won the Inauguration Cup for best student of the year. He then travelled from London across the Sahara to the Belgian Congo as the physiologist on an expedition studying how the human body adapted to tropical heat when moving from a temperate climate.

Denison retired from the Brompton Hospital in 1992 . His inquisitive and versatile mind became known to the legal profession, and he was invited to be principal expert witness at the appeal by Siôn Jenkins against his conviction for the murder in 1997 of his stepdaughter Billie-Jo.

Jenkins had been convicted on the basis of blood stains on his clothing . In more than 400 experiments, Denison investigated the dispersal of a spray of blood under different conditions of expiration. Initially, his evidence was considered by the Appeal Court as admissible and relevant, but insufficient to overturn Jenkins’s conviction. Denison then embarked, with Bob Schroter at Imperial College, on a further five years of experimental work . After two retrials in which the juries failed to reach a verdict, Jenkins was formally acquitted in 2006.

Denison’s series of experiments changed the forensic interpretation of blood spots, and has led to the overturning on appeal of a number of previous convictions.

Denison chaired Brompton Hospital’s ethics committee for five years, and was a long-standing member of the MoD’s Research Ethics Committee. In his late 70s he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society .

David Denison was three times married, and had a son and two daughters with his first wife, Monique. His wives and children survive him.

Professor David Denison, born March 7 1933, died February 8 2014


birdwatchers gather to watch the murmuration of more than 50,000 starlings at Middleton Moor

‘Birds such as robins and starlings are protected by law’ … birdwatchers gather to watch the murmuration of more than 50,000 starlings at Middleton Moor, Derbyshire. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

The Guardian Diary (20 May) and Lucy Mangan (Weekend, 24 May) referred to misleading claims concerning Natural England’s consultation on the operation of licences for a variety of protected bird species. Birds such as robins and starlings are protected by law, but occasionally nesting birds cause public health or safety problems: for example, nests in food preparation facilities, hospital ventilation shafts and railway signalling equipment have been problems in the past, and the licensing system has enabled these cases to be dealt with legally.

There has been a suggestion that our consultation is deliberately designed to promote the interests of the development and housebuilding sectors, enabling them to sidestep species protection legislation and build on brownfield sites. This is groundless and a wilful misrepresentation: the narrow set of health and safety circumstances where disturbance would be legal are unchanged, and our proposals give no wider permission to the development or any other sector to disturb nests and eggs than existed previously.
Rob Cooke
Director, Natural England

• In response to Tim Dowling’s column about his terminally ill snake (Weekend, 24 May), the RSPCA urges pet owners to make sure they take sick animals to a vet and do not attempt to treat or euthanise them themselves. While the article is supposed to be humorous, we are concerned that it may encourage the mistreatment of animals. It’s an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal or to leave it to suffer, whether from injury or illness, without seeking veterinary treatment.
Sophie Wilkinson
Regional media manager, RSPCA

Jonathan Freedland’s article (London is Ukip’s worst nightmare, 23 May) is a welcome start to what will be an important debate for all parties in the run up to the general election in 2015. His point concerning London’s “difference” is interesting but partial. A review of council seats gained, lost and held across much of England reveals a much more complex, less London-centric, picture.

In the major cities and large towns across England, it is clear that with only one major exception Ukip failed. Not one of the following councils returned a single Ukip candidate: Birmingham, Coventry, Exeter, Ipswich, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Norwich, Preston, Southampton, Stockport, Sunderland. Ukip holds one seat in each of Bradford, Bristol and Wolverhampton, three in Plymouth and Sheffield and, here’s the major exception, six out of 42 in Portsmouth.

Of course, the failure to capture seats on these councils does not mean that Ukip is absent; the party clearly has support. However, it begs the question of why Ukip is so strong in other areas such as Adur, Basildon, Cannock Chase, Dudley, Great Yarmouth, Kirklees, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North East Lincolnshire, Rotherham, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock and the Wyre Forest. Taken together, Ukip has 89 seats in these councils. That is more than half of its entire holding.

At first glance these places do not have a lot in common. First glances, however, are not enough. My guess is that poverty and unemployment will be found to be two major underlying reasons why people have abandoned the three established parties. It will be interesting and important to see how these reasons and others are refracted through the prism of national identity and individualism set in place by Mrs Thatcher 35 years ago.
Derek Mckiernan

• Despite Zoe Williams’ excellent article (Support for the Greens is surging – haven’t you heard?, 21 May) pointing up the Green party’s invisibility in the media commentary leading up to the election, the Guardian and the rest of the media have continued to ignore the Greens and to present an extraordinary counterfactual account of the local election results. Ukip’s share of the poll actually fell from 23% last year to 17% this year and it is the Conservative seats that have suffered most at their hands. The aggregation of voting into London and the rest ignores major variations throughout the country: Havering elected their seven existing Ukip councillors while Liverpool, Manchester and Preston elected none. The north-east similarly ignored Ukip.

It would be hard to discover in the coverage that Labour took over half the council seats up for election and gained control of five councils while Ukip gained none and its 160 seats are so scattered they will have very little power, especially as they are mainly complete political newcomers with no knowledge of how to be most effective as the only Ukip representative. Will we see a Ukip member joining the non-aligned group and working with a Green? It was very difficult to discover that the Green party had 20 seats before the election, of those seats being contested this year. We won 23 more seats with almost no press coverage. The Greens now have 162 councillors on 56 councils, including six in Bristol, six in Oxford, 15 in Norwich and 10 in Solihull. Is none of that even worthy of a brief footnote.
Ruth Funnell
Great Torrington, Devon

• Your editorial (24 May) states Ukip support is strong in the east of England. The BBC’s Nick Robinson has also invented a myth that “Essex man has gone Ukip”. Following the local election results you published on the same day, this is hard to justify. In Colchester, not a single Ukip councillor was elected. In other cities in the east, in Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich, the latter having long been as cosmopolitan as London, again Mr Farage has failed. I suggest Ukip flourishes only on the fringes of the region. This is often in declining seaside resorts where retired people have been persuaded Bulgarians are out to snatch their pensions.
Michael Munt
Bredfield, Suffolk

• Another local election staggers past the finishing post. Thanks to voter apathy and demographic chance, the winning party in my borough has a dictatorial majority of 59 out of 63 seats, based on the votes of less than one in six of the electorate. Ukip’s share of the vote has gone down from 23% to 17% nationally, and yet they have gained 128 more council seats. Will this finally persuade the major parties to accept a fairer voting system (The British electoral system is corrupt – let’s change it, 23 May)? If we don’t find a better way soon of making elections mean something to more people, we may as well outsource all the decisions to Serco.
Pauline Gaunt

• I was appalled to read (Miliband told: raise your game, 24 May) that there is anger in the Labour party “that Miliband focused too much on policy rather than projecting an empathy with voters’ sense of alienation from the political class”. To my mind, one of the major reasons that the public feels alienated from politicians is that we are treated by the likes of David Cameron and Nigel Farage as mindless idiots who can only absorb one idea at a time, and at that one designed to appeal to unnecessary xenophobia stirred up by the media. I would like our politicians to explain more about their policies on all subjects, not less.
Wendy Churchman

• In 1956, Pierre Poujade, a French demagogue whose declared aim was to defend the “common man” against the French establishment and fight any foreign influences that might alter the French traditional way of life, got elected to the Assemblée Nationale together with the leader of his party’s youth branch, a jeune-homme called Jean-Marie Le Pen. Two years later, Poujade’s party, the Union de Défense de Commerçants et Artisans, faded into oblivion. I wonder why I suddenly remembered all this.
Eduardo de Benito
Cley next the Sea, Norfolk

• Marina Hyde is right (Come my revolution, the apathetic will get their say, 24 May). People who don’t support any of the candidates on their ballot forms need a “none of the above” option. That is why I started NOTA – None of the Above, a campaign registered with the Electoral Commission to encourage voters to write those words on the ballot. She is right, too, to say people are resistant to spoiling their ballot in this way. That was the feedback we received when we leafleted the People’s Assembly in March, which is why we are supporting the online petition to include this option in all future elections.

Signatures may be placed at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51127. Readers need to do this quickly, since the petition closes on 4 June. More information about the Nota campaign can be obtained from BM Nota, London, WC1N 3XX.
Karl Dallas
Bradford, West Yorkshire

Your article (Women dominate shortlist to succeed Patten at the BBC, 24 May) names the male applicant first, and only then goes on to list three women, saying their inclusion is “reflecting what is thought to be David Cameron’s preference for a woman to lead the national broadcaster”. No chance that they might just be the best candidates for the role?
Jill Wallis
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

• ”All these people would think of themselves as quintessentially middle class,” writes Zoe Williams from the Hay festival (Saturday sketch, 24 May). My arse. Me and my working-class Mancunian builder husband have been going to Hay for 18 years. We’re off there again today in the company vehicle (white van).
Carole Mooney

• ”Une [sic] système” (Pass notes, 22 May) has been followed by “son [sic] gare” (Letters, 23 May). Prenez le mickey si vous voulez but prenez it correctly. There’s no excuse for careless Franglais.
Richard Thomson
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

• Every Saturday I notice how The Guide’s “Watch with…” feature only seeks the views of someone young. Is this because only young people watch television these days, or because only young people’s views count?
Sylvia Rose
Diptford, Devon

• Can we have the Gogglebox folks watching Gogglebox. Please (The populist, The Guide, 24 May).
Shelagh Scott


Around this time last year you were kind enough to publish a letter from me pointing out that nine out of every 10 people who had had the opportunity to vote Ukip in local elections hadn’t taken it. A similar calculation (share of vote times turnout) this year shows the proportion of Ukip rejecters to have risen to about 11 out of 12.

Yet much of the Great British media is implying that the party is on an inexorable rise. Equally oddly, the analysis of Labour’s winning more than 300 extra seats has generally been presented as a disaster for Mr Miliband and his party. Given that the last time most of Thursday’s seats were contested was on a general election day when the much higher turnout would have favoured Labour, to have won so many with only this year’s depressingly low turnout doesn’t look like failure to me.

Brian Hughes, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Now that Ukip is evidently a powerful force in British domestic politics, I wonder if you could prevail upon Nigel Farage to use his weekly column to do two things? While we know Ukip’s policies towards Europe and immigration, we remain ignorant of what they are on such crucial issues as health, education, defence, the economy. Perhaps Mr Farage would be gracious enough to enlighten us in detail?

Second, we are not unreasonable in expecting senior politicians to be people of high intellect, general capacity; people of bottom if you like. I’m sure your readers would be interested to know what authors Mr Farage admires, which are his favourite artists and composers, which historians have influenced his thinking; indeed to learn more generally about the culture that underpins his politics.

Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire

I was amused to hear Nigel Farage’s boast that “the Ukip fox is in the Westminster hen-house”. Unlike the great majority of the British public – 80 per cent in one recent poll – Mr Farage is strongly in favour of fox-hunting. Besides which, although many of us have a liking for the fox as a clever and handsome fellow, we also all know that hens are productive and foxes are destructive and the only course of action when a fox gets into your hen-house is to do everything you can to expel it.

Or, if you think like  Mr Farage, just shoot it.

Huw Spanner, Harrow, Middlesex

Now that the local elections are over can we please end the blanket coverage of all things Ukip. In a two/ three horse race they finished fourth and control diddly squat. Please grant them the irrelevance  they duly deserve.

Paul Armstrong, Workington, Cumbria

Unsafe discharges from hospital

The British Red Cross shares the concerns over the practice of discharging patients from hospital at night (report, 22 May). We know from experience that, for older people with frailty in particular, being discharged without any support network can lead not only to readmission but also to a long-term decline in independence.

The other side of the story is that many older patients remain in their hospital beds past the stage of needing significant clinical assistance. Many NHS staff are fully aware of the vulnerability of an older person living alone after a period in hospital and will therefore sometimes delay discharge. All too often it comes down to a choice between unsafe discharge and keeping patients in hospital unnecessarily.

This is frustrating for patients, costly for the NHS and completely avoidable. In many hospitals, voluntary organisations like the British Red Cross are already helping patients to return safely home, including follow-up visits from volunteers. We have evidence that this basic support can go a long way towards building confidence and well-being, thus reducing the likelihood of another crisis.

We second the Patients Association’s assertion that “patients need to be treated with care, compassion and dignity”. We hope investigations of this sort will eventually lead to better-supported discharge and recognition of the crucial role of the voluntary sector in providing this care – and that ultimately hospitals will be less relied on as a substitute for support at home.

Mike Adamson, Managing director, British Red Cross, London EC2

Once again you report on the dire straits facing the National Health Service (“Hospitals plead for emergency loans”, 22 May). Always, it is due to a lack of funding, in spite of Coalition promises, and a Coalition agreement, to support the NHS and maintain expenditure, and impose no top-down changes. And yet now a “health tax” is being suggested.

And yet there is one area of government expenditure where money is no object, namely the Trident nuclear missile project. Its costs are estimated to be £50bn to £100bn, and it is untouchable. Ask yourself, what is the point of the NHS; is it of value to you? What is the point of Trident; is it of value to you?

Allan Williams, London E8

Stop these assaults on Baha’i faith in Iran

We were deeply troubled to learn in recent reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is destroying a historically important Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz. Nearly a thousand Baha’is are buried in this cemetery – including 10 women whose 1983 hanging came to symbolise Iran’s barbaric persecution of the community. More than 200 Baha’is have been executed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The violation of this site is illegal under Iran’s own laws. Desecrations of Baha’i cemeteries are just one morally repugnant part of a state-sponsored campaign to eliminate Iran’s Baha’is as a viable entity.

The Baha’is number some 300,000 people, the country’s largest religious minority, but they enjoy no rights under the constitution. Baha’is are denied jobs and education, they are vilified in the media, and they are harassed in their daily lives. More than 100 Baha’is  are in prison on trumped-up charges.

President Rouhani has promised to respect the rights of all Iranian citizens. But the human-rights situation for Baha’is has only become worse, while Christians and other minorities also continue to suffer. We hope that our voice, as a group of British parliamentarians, will remind others to hold the President to account. Deeds, Mr Rouhani; not words.

Baroness Berridge, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom, Louise Ellman MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Baha’í Faith, Sir Tony Baldry MP, The Lord Bishop  of Coventry, Lord Alton, Mary Glindon MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Baroness Hussain-Ece, Naomi Long MP, Neil Parish MP, Adrian Sanders MP, Andrew Selous MP, Stephen Twigg MP, London SW1

Privatised probation will risk public safety

The concern expressed by a correspondent over the proposal to privatise the Land Registry service (Letters, 19 May), with the loyalty of the staff who control the property of the country transferred to a private company, is justified. However, the splitting of the Probation Service between a private company and the vestiges of the public service – which would already be in place if the changeover had not gone pear-shaped – should be frightening.

Public safety in this area depends absolutely on the ability of the service to share information seamlessly across different regions, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. Yet the very nature of the plan will mean there is going to be reluctance to share information even between the private profit-making and the public-service parts which are being established within individual regional offices. The temptation to pass the buck between the different parts of the new “service” will be increased by the increased ease with which that will be possible.

Tony Pointon, Portsmouth

A haven of safety for irregular verbs

I am delighted to be able to relieve, however slightly, Jean Elliott’s gloom (“Have we losed our irregular verbs?”, Letters, 24 May). Every Sunday evening, thousands of us church choristers sing the Magnificat which contains the words: “He, remembering his mercy, hath holpen his servant Israel.” Given the Anglican propensity for thoughtful change, this wording should survive for some centuries – and with it “holpen”.

Ted Clark, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

It’s not Charles who’s the problem

Normally the comments of foolish old men are by definition disregarded (Letters, 22 May). The problem, however, lies with the media, which regularly report at length Charles Windsor’s private opinions and often uninformed utterances.

Peter Lack, London N10

How dare David Wheeler (Letters, 23 May) describe Prince Charles as old? He is the same age as me, which is late middle-aged.

Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


All too familiar scenes after an air raid on a town in Raqqa province, Syria Nour Fourat/Reuters

Last updated at 7:50PM, May 25 2014

Sir, The war in Syria is by no means a local issue. Terrorism is not out of fashion; Syria has become its leading production factory. I, as chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), propose a simple and effective solution: the British government should support the FSA in helping to defeat the terrorists who pose a threat to British interests at home and overseas. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is predominantly foreign: British, French, German . . . a melting pot of Western and non-Western nationals. If ISIL is allowed to expand, these terrorists, having put their skills to the test in my country, will return to their homelands, perhaps to the UK, and continue on their pernicious path of destruction.

In the FSA’s fight against the Assad regime it finds itself on the frontline combating international terror. We, not the Assad regime, are the only credible and effective force in defeating ISIL, thus ending its expansion. We are at a critical juncture in our fight against violent extremism and hope that the UK and US can shrug off their fear of supporting us. A failure to actively support the FSA now will lead to ISIL’s successes internationally. We have seen this in Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and, most recently, Yemen, where al-Qaeda affiliates have developed their capabilities in one country and then exported their terrorist acts globally.

More than 60 per cent of foreign fighters in Syria have joined ISIL, and the majority are from the UK. On Tuesday, a British national was convicted of terrorism charges for his attendance at a training camp in Syria. He is one of many. They are not freedom fighters. They are terrorists. Moreover, ISIL is a mechanism of the Assad regime to further destroy our country. ISIL does not fight Assad forces, but other opposition forces such as the FSA. The current situation in Al-Raqqa (in eastern Syria), where ISIL kidnaps FSA fighters and targets civilian homes instead of the regime-controlled airbase, highlights this partnership.

Conspicuous ISIL headquarters, for example those in Jarablus, were never bombed by the regime. Assad’s facilitation of ISIL encourages more and more foreign fighters to come to Syria.

Providing urgent aid to the FSA is the only means of preventing ISIL’s atrocities being exported back to Europe. The FSA has proved that it is the only effective force in defeating ISIL in Syria. From mid-January into February the FSA expunged ISIL from the north, forcing it to retreat to Al-Raqqa. And now the terrorist organisation is pushing back. The FSA’s recent use of TOW missiles, provided by the Friends of Syria group, proves that we use weapons responsibly and effectively. Providing us with such weaponry will not escalate the conflict, but reduce its lifespan. With these weapons we can save countless lives and reduce the risk of violent extremism to your country.

We, the Syrian people now experience beheadings, crucifixions, beatings, murders, outdated methods of treating women, an obsolete approach to governing society. Many who participate in these activities are British. The FSA can only go so far with the little we have. The UK and US governments must support us to defeat terrorism in Syria and prevent it from being exported to Europe and the US. Brigadier General Abdulellah al Basheer Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council

Sir, I am sorry for the inhabitants of Merville who are disappointed that their preparations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day will not be graced by the royal presence.

At the 60th anniversary celebration in Normandy my late father, who had served with the 6th Airborne at Ranville, was invited, at short notice, to be presented to the Prince of Wales, who was nearby. He chose, rather, to stay with his fellow veterans and local people to watch the mass parachute drop — which he described as “a much better idea”.

No doubt the veterans will hugely appreciate the warm welcome provided by the people of Normandy — in 2004 that was the highlight of my Dad’s visit (sadly, his last).

Denise Line

Dorchester on Thames, Oxon

Sir, Lord Astor denies that his great-aunt used the words “D-Day dodger” (May 20) but I think he is wrong. I was in Italy in June and July 1944 when this remark reached the 8th Army and it is unlikely that this could have been falsely attributed or even made up. Lady Astor was hardly known among the soldiers, and the song mentioned was specifically addressed to her. It is quite likely that she did not seriously mean it and that she may have made it in jest (rather tastelessly) in a private conversation which was repeated outside and speedily found its way to Italy. In typically British Army style, nobody I met took it to heart, and it was treated as a joke which we all enjoyed.

Charles Cameron

Auchterarder, Perthshire

Sir, Sergeant Reg Tallentire, an extraordinary D-Day Dodger who arrived in Salerno in January 1944, recalls that the song was written by Lance Sergeant Harry Pimm of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade. Reg, his comrades and those who stayed, were in many of the places mentioned — exactly where he was based. This song could have been written for Reg.

Eric Jordan

Evenwood, Co Durham

Sir, D-Day Dodger lyrics were not the only ones to the tune of Lily Marlene. In Bomber Command the song went: “Walk across the tarmac, climb into the kite, / Open up the throttles and roar into the night. / Leaving the runway far behind / We don’t mind, we never mind. / We’re pressing on regardless . . . for the wingco’s DSO.”

John Smith

Uckfield, E Sussex

Sir, I was amused to read that to land a helicopter in Trafalgar Square, with Tom Cruise on board, the film director Doug Liman had to contact 8,000 businesses and divert 70 bus routes (Times2, May 23).

In the mid-1990s the RAF landed a Wessex search-and-rescue helicopter in Trafalgar Square to support the RAF Association flag day. A few months later we did it again, with the larger Sea King to support the RNLI flag day. On the second occasion the pilot, a young lady, took the opportunity to meet her mum before departing.

As far as planning our flights, the only concern was for the numerous pigeons that sensibly stayed out of the way when the helicopters arrived.

James A Cowan

Squadron Leader (ret’d)


Sir, The reason people don’t vote or they vote for non-mainstream parties such as Ukip is because columnists such as Matthew Parris (Opinion, May 23) write pieces with headlines that read: “The voters are angry. But they’re also wrong”. After every election some politicians will say that the voters were wrong, but they miss the point; elections are about votes, not some abstract concept of right or wrong.

The sooner the political class realises that democracy means giving the electorate the representatives they want rather than the “right” representatives, the sooner we’ll see voter participation increase and, hopefully, a more representative democracy.

Imre Lake

London NW1

Sir, Matthew Parris deserves congratulations for his article highlighting the craven performance of both the Conservative and Labour leaderships in confronting the populist politics of Ukip. Let’s have some real policy initiatives to engage our young people, and to address the important issues of housing, transport and jobs and move our country forward together. And let’s show the indignant and intolerant how a country progresses.

Philip Hidson

Maulden, Beds

Sir, Matthew Parris writes, “Yes, Mr Farage speaks for millions. But no, he speaks nonsense; and millions speak nonsense; and nonsense should not be indulged”. In writing this, Mr Parris shows the contempt of the political class for the concerns of the common man. Contempt that has, in no small part, facilitated Mr Farage’s rise in the polls.

David Ward

Moreton, Wirral

Sir, Although of a different political persuasion, I find myself once again strongly in agreement with Matthew Parris’s analysis of current politics. Ukip’s message is engagingly simple — but socially dangerous and economically illiterate.

David Cameron and/or Ed Miliband really must have the courage of their convictions and say so, emphasising the historical and continuing benefits to the UK of young, tax-paying immigrant workers. It is a strange irony that, as Matthew Parris points out, concerns about immigrants from Eastern Europe are much stronger in rural Derbyshire, where a Bulgarian is a rare sight, than in multicultural London.

Ken Pounds

Oadby, Leicester

Sir, As a prime example of why so many of us are so very angry with the political class, Matthew Parris’s article must take first prize. He is 100 per cent sure that he is right and that all the rest of us voters are wrong.

Rear-Admiral Conrad Jenkin

West Meon, Hants


SIR – You report that Britain is without specialist maritime patrol aircraft due to Coalition cuts (“RAF forced to rely on ‘Mk 1 eyeball’ in search for yacht”, May 22).

But what your report does not mention is Labour’s decision in 2009 to scrap the MR2 Nimrod the following year, leaving us with no capability at all. Labour ministers left us with a successor project that was not only a decade late and nearly £800 million over budget, but aircraft beset with technical problems.

The only aircraft to fly had to be grounded, as it failed its airworthiness tests and the fleet required hundreds of millions of pounds extra to put the aircraft right. So the reality is that there is no maritime patrol capability because Labour retired it earlier than planned and the replacement was in a complete mess.

Philip Hammond MP
Defence Secretary
London, SW1

Jus, foam … Bingo!

SIR – My wife and I now play Menu Bingo when we eat out. Points are scored for ordering an item containing “offending” words, with extra points if the waiter mentions them when delivering our food.

Last night we scored seven for foam (three times), trio, medley, jus and micro greens.

Incidentally, the meal was excellent and we left with a smile on our faces.

John Smith
Great Moulton, Norfolk

SIR – Up here, we can dine out on roast beef “escorted by” Yorkshire puddings.

Barbara Pettit
Grange-Over-Sands, Cumbria

SIR – Why can we not be informed by restaurants when something has been microwaved?

Philip Barry
Dover, Kent

SIR – When is a pie not a pie? When it’s a dish of stew with a pastry cover.

A pie has a pastry base, pastry sides and a pastry lid. Anything else isn’t.

Dave Featherstone
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – Spotted today on the menu of a well-known restaurant: “Hedgerow offerings”. Surely it cannot get much more pretentious than that, though no doubt other readers will prove me wrong.

Laura Steele
Heald Green, Cheshire

Pills on prescription

SIR – Many visits to GPs are related to requests for “over-the-counter” medicines by those entitled to free prescriptions.

Ibuprofen and other painkillers can be prescribed by doctors free of charge to many patients, so there is an incentive to make an appointment, thus wasting the time of busy GPs.

There is no shortage of money in the NHS. Much of it is wasted in overlapping administration and unnecessary management which actually hinders the treatment of patients. Returning to the NHS as it was before the 1990 changes would increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Peter Hayes
Chairman, East Cheshire NHS Trust 1998-2000
Siddington, Cheshire

SIR – Just called my GP to book an appointment for the first time in about five years. The earliest available appointment was in 20 days’ time. I can see why A&E departments are so overworked.

Ralph Morris

Leaking lightning

SIR – On behalf of beleaguered physics teachers everywhere, I ask all journalists to note that the function of a lightning conductor (or “lightning rod” as the Americans call it) is not to attract lightning, but to prevent it by leaking away the electrical charge from earth to cloud bank slowly and steadily rather than all at once.

For a political or business situation to be called “a lightning rod for adverse comments” would means literally that it prevented them occurring.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

Bulls 3; Matadors 0

SIR – As the bulls obviously won their battles with the matadors in Madrid on Tuesday, why were the matadors’ ears not cut off and paraded round the ring?

Dr John Gladstone
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

Life imitates Ambridge

SIR – First Tom Archer walks away just before the ceremony is due to start, then Rory Mcllroy does. Whatever next?

Mike Morris
Old Swinford, Worcestershire

Should the Prince apologise for Hitler comment

SIR – The Prince of Wales allegedly said that “Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler”, which was deeply hurtful to Hitler’s millions of victims, and to many Russians, and historically wrong. Hitler’s atrocities are unparalleled. We all make mistakes. Prince Charles would be prudent to acknowledge this one publicly.

Andrew M Rosemarine
Salford, Lancashire

SIR – There he goes again, telling the truth.

Bill Thompson
Birkenhead, Cheshire

SIR – The British people are well served by a Prince of Wales who speaks out about the dangers of dictatorships. His predecessor, later Edward VIII, adopted a different tone.

In 1935 he spoke of the need “to stretch forth the hand of friendship” to Nazi Germany. He took the view that dictatorships were “very popular and that we might want one in England before long”. Prince Charles, by contrast, expresses views that reflect a widespread mood in the country.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – I’m still not sure if David Cameron “gets it”, but it certainly looks like he’s got it coming.

Martyn Pitt
Hardwicke, Gloucestershire

SIR – The major achievement of the EU has been the establishment of the single market, where the regulatory framework of the individual member states has been harmonised. This has facilitated trade, benefiting every one of us. With the exception of Nigel Farage, the politicians agree thus far.

The voting public are more concerned with the EU’s major faults. We can all list half a dozen issues that illustrate what is wrong with the European Union. By and large, the politicians seem unable to respond to our complaints, preferring instead to repeat claims that quitting the EU would damage the country.

To give him his due, David Cameron has made an effort to address our concerns. However his solution is, frankly, laughable. He must know that he cannot possibly expect any meaningful reforms.

Ed Miliband clearly recognises and accepts our impotence, so he has kept his head down. Nick Clegg – does anybody listen to Nick Clegg?

What we need is a single market, indeed just what we voted for in 1975, without the bells and whistles. How do we get there?

This big issue should be occupying our politicians’ minds. Repeatedly not hearing us has not worked.

Peter Edwards
Coleford, Gloucestershire

SIR – I and thousands of others voted for Ukip on Thursday because the Coalition and the Labour government before it refused to listen to public concern on a series of ongoing national issues.

Carpeting the UK with expensive wind turbines is one example. This was started by Ed Miliband when he was secretary of state under Gordon Brown and continues today with Cameron and Clegg.

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband need to wake up and review at least a dozen national issues, on all of which they are at odds with the electorate.

Dr Philip Sullivan
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

SIR – Savvy shoppers using Aldi and Lidl forced change on the major supermarkets. Now those who voted Ukip have sent a message to the ruling elite.

Howard Boothroyd
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

SIR – The Ukip vote is not a wake-up call, but the fire alarm going off.

Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – What price fruitcake now?

Gordon Galletly
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – Max Wannacott writes: “Most people cannot even name their MEP, let alone assess what he or she has accomplished in Brussels.” Whose fault is it if MEPs achieved so little that no one has heard of them? There is no evidence that voting for MEPs achieves a jot.

Crispin Edwards
Stockport, Cheshire

SIR – We need proportional representation more than ever now. Many people do not vote for the candidate they would like, for fear of splitting the vote and allowing to be elected the party they do not want.

Fay Davies
Barnet, Hertfordshire

SIR – With only one third of the population voting on Thursday, it is time that the silent two thirds were given an incentive to vote.

A doubling of their council tax should be sufficient. The extra funds from those still wishing not to support our democratic society would be most welcome.

Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – Songbirds work tirelessly to feed and rear their young, only to be killed by the large cat population.

When is the RSPB going to start campaigning on this issue?

June Lane
Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire

SIR – The RSPB has prevented the shooting of songbird predators such as sparrowhawks, crows and magpies, resulting in a large increase in their numbers and thus a decline in songbirds.

Norman A Thompson
Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

SIR – Songbirds are one of many forms of wildlife slaughtered by domestic cats. The army of cat owners is huge and spread over all sections of society. No government would dare risk alienating such a force.

Even the charities founded to protect wildlife seem to fear bad publicity and loss of donations. The answer must lie with cat owners themselves.

Phil Davis
Long Buckby, Northamptonshire

SIR – Cats, corvids, magpies, protected birds of prey, badgers, mink, rats and conservation policy all combine to destroy birds’ eggs and fledglings.

I no longer have any turtle doves on my farm. Conservation organisations should combine their resources to try to find a balanced policy for all species.

David Heys
Edleston, Derbyshire

SIR – I have kept cats for over 50 years, and only two have caught small creatures. One only caught frogs, most of which survived. The other caught and killed two birds, eight mice and two rats.

As for controlling where cats go, they are free spirits, and go where they please.

Elisabeth Chaston
Enfield, Middlesex

SIR – By late evening, our two Abyssinians are ready for their final feed of the day and the cat flap is shut behind them. They are not let out again until 7.30 the next morning, by which time the local birds have cleared the lawn. We haven’t been presented with a dead bird for years.

John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

SIR – A few months ago we moved house. Our new garden was host to a number of cats, slinking about. There was a deserted bird feeder. Thanks to our dog, the cats have now gone, and the birds are at the feeder, splashing about in the birdbath.

Anthony Weale
Frome, Somerset

SIR – How dare Nick Clegg use the phrase “grown-up politics”?

It was not grown-up to veto boundary changes or to make promises to students that he had no hope of fulfilling. He says he wants to continue to be Deputy Prime Minister, but he will be lucky if he is re-elected in Sheffield Hallam.

Patricia Bancroft
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Housing shortage

SIR – Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, says that the rising cost of housing is a risk to the economy.

The shortage of houses due to to supply and demand is pushing up the prices. While increased life expectancy and increased numbers of people living single lives account for some of the increase in demand, by far the main contributing factor is excessive immigration.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

Birmingham council

SIR – I found the letter from Mark Rogers and Peter Hay (Letters, May 18) an interesting response to Andrew Gilligan’s report the week before (May 11).

The authors are the same council officers who charge Council Tax payers for collection of green waste but then don’t organise the collections. If they can’t sort out waste collections even with extra revenue, how on earth are they going to tackle the radicalisation of schools?

Clive Rostill
Monkspath, Warwickshire

Surface tension

SIR – Tim Price (Letters, May 11) marvelled at the quality of the roads during his Spanish travels. I wonder if he is quite so thrilled that, through his taxes paid in pot-holed Surrey, he has contributed to the excellent, extensive, and smooth, road network of Spain?

Colin Sweeney
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – Donald Clarke (Letters, May 11) bemoans nine changes of speed limit in six miles.

In a 5.5-mile trip from home I encounter 10 changes. Is this a record? Little wonder we have a proliferation of speed signs. How else can one keep track of the applicable limit?

Chris Warriner
Spurstow, Cheshire

Hanover cure

SIR – The article on the links between the United Kingdom and Hanover raises an interesting “What if?”

What if Hanover had not had a Salic law – or had set it aside –and Queen Victoria had become its sovereign, like her predecessors?

Presumably Bismarck would not have annexed Hanover to Prussia in 1866, so in 1914 it would have been an independent country under King George V.

That would surely have been a consideration in the thinking in both Berlin and London.

Derek James
London E16

Unwonted stop

SIR – For Adlestrop station (Letters, May 18), Bradshaw’s timetable for 1955 shows one up train to Paddington, three locals to Oxford, three down trains from Paddington and two locals to Chipping Campden or Moreton-in-Marsh.

The line, before it was taken over by the Great Western, was officially known as the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton, and unofficially as the “Old Worse and Worse”, possibly because too many of its express trains drew up unwontedly at Adlestrop, and the passengers did not fully appreciate the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Valentine Ramsey
Sherborne, Dorset

Apparitions explained

SIR – So Santa Montefore sees ghosts?

It is far more likely that she is experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations. These may occur between sleep and waking and may be visual and/or auditory. I have had them since childhood; it was unnerving at first, but once I discovered what was happening I no longer worried about it.

I should have written a book about it and advertised my services as a psychic. The trouble is that I would have been unable to keep a straight face.

Gillian Turner
Christchurch, Dorset

Can’t bear it

SIR – For the umpteenth time I have heard Alex Salmond crack the stale joke about there being more pandas in Scotland than there are Tories. I wonder, could there be more Scots in England than there are in Scotland?

E G Smith
Kingston Upon Hull, East Yorkshire

Black boxes in cars and insurance costs

SIR –­ Black box technology in cars could play an important role in persuading motorists to stick to the speed limits. If the insurance companies increased the cost of the next year’s premiums for a motorist depending on how much he or she had driven above the speed limit and for how long, speeding would be severely curtailed, saving lives and also saving costs in the police and health services. Insurers could refuse to renew insurance of people who went on speeding regardless of the cost.

The extra income to insurance companies would be used to reduce premiums for those who did not break the law.

John Makin
Oxshott, Surrey

SIR – I am beginning to wonder if our democracy is what it’s cracked up to be. We are constantly surveyed by cameras on motorways, in town centres, and shops, our credit card uses and computer actvities are monitored, our telephones are open to surveillance, the taxation authorities can plunder our bank accounts. And now we might have to have a “spy in the car”.

David Laker
Hixon, Staffordshire

Wines and spirits

SIR – The beneficial properties of wine are unquantifiable in scientific terms, and certainly not susceptible to proof as an alleged effect on longevity.

A glass of wine lifts the spirits, brightens the outlook and adds vastly to the enjoyment of a simple meal. None of this is evident in the chemical analysis of the stuff.

David Thomas
Llandybie, Carmarthenshire

Short story long

SIR – Your correspondents (Letters, May 18) have criticised some common ways of condensing words and phrases but they ignore the equally common tendency to use several words where one would suffice.

To be fair, I hear what they’re saying and I can see where they are coming from, but with all due respect they are on a hiding to nothing at this moment in time. At the end of the day our language has always been changing to be perfectly honest – if you know what I mean.

Dick Bartlett
Aberlour, Morayshire

SIR – If the letter t does not disappear from speech, it slips on to the next word. Weather forecasters regularly talk about Sarthee Stingland or Ee Stanglia, all the regions being part of the Shyles – the Britty Shyles.

John Sworder
Fordcombe, Kent

SIR – As a Conservative MP who fought the original referendum, I told my constituents of the benefits of a Continental market.

I went on to say that if the country was to be joined in federal Europe, a further referendum had to be held.

I voted Ukip this time because I believe the country should be given the choice of being ruled by Westminster or Brussels.

A referendum explicitly on this point can be understood by the electorate and provides the opportunity for a real debate as opposed to the pathetic half-truths to which we have been subjected by politicians. If Labour now accepts the need for a referendum, Nigel Farage will have done the country a service.

Esmond Bulmer
Bruton, Somerset

SIR – David Cameron must step up to the mark if he is to win the next general election for the Conservatives. The Prime Minister has already won the AV vote, given Scots the chance to decide on independence, and is delivering the right (albeit painful) economic medicine.

Our nation’s fate must not be entrusted to that duo of failed comedians, the two Eds.

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3

SIR – The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems have for years ignored the threat of Ukip – and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

People have been asking for firm Coalition action on Europe, immigration, human rights and foreign aid; action there was none. Thus, the rise of a party which has listened to their pleas and which talks their language.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – A lot of post-election comment includes the assumption that Ukip has no worthwhile principles and that the other parties can win voters back by improving their policies or expressing them better.

Ukip in its very title has the policy of independence from the EU. That is enough for most of its supporters and it is not on offer elsewhere.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlexsex

SIR – The resignation of Sanya-Jeet Thandi, chair of Ukip’s youth wing, from the party, which she accuses of “racist populism”, is highly significant.

On March 30 Nigel Farage boasted that Ukip had “probably taken a third of the BNP vote directly from them”. It is hardly surprising that he has gained many undesirable recruits.

Other reasons to reject Ukip include its MEPs’ failure to take part in crucial votes in the European Parliament (while taking their full salaries, allowances and expenses), its lack of serious policies (Mr Farage himself described Ukip’s 2010 manifesto as “drivel”) and its catalogue of lies, myths and distortions about the EU which it presents as facts on its posters.

David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – The only way to stop Labour winning the next general election is for the Conservative Party to join with Ukip.

Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire

SIR – If by some miracle, votes for Ukip at the general election don’t lead to a Labour government, then David Cameron will be able to point to Ukip’s current surge in popularity to argue for a harder bargain for Britain in negotiations in Europe.

Ardon Lyon
Horsington, Somerset

SIR – Having exercised my right to vote in the European and council elections, I was struck by the ridiculous lack of authentication and security.

Voters turn up, state their address and are asked for their name. They are then handed a piece of paper, which they’re expected to mark with a pencil.

The nearest approximation I can think of is arrival at a breakfast buffet in a hotel, where guests announce their room number and someone takes a cursory glance at a list.

Is it any wonder that young people view the archaic electoral process with bewilderment?

Phil Woodford
Twickenham, Middlesex

Irish Times:

Sir, – I suggest that we tabulate our politicians’ excuses for their sub-electoral performance. 1) People are hurting. 2) We have heard what people are saying. 3) I have every confidence in the leader. 4) I have always opposed the party’s policy of imposing a second candidate. 5) The junior party in a coalition always suffers in a mid-term election.

Any advance on five? – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – There appears to be a definite increase in short-term memory loss. I only hope a cure can be found before the next general election. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – People complain that our politicians lie prior to elections. As someone who has canvassed vigorously during the past four weeks, I can say that the electorate is also economical with the truth at election time.

I know of one household where at least three different candidates were promised all the number ones in the family. So, enough of the moral high ground. Our politicians genuinely represent us! – Yours, etc,


Newport, Co Tipperary.

Sir, – The response to recent electoral reversals by Labour Party grandees has been enlightening. Their singular concentration on the impact of austerity policies on the electorate in areas such as health, taxation, etc, as the reason for the party’s poor performance, reveals an understandable focus on the economic issues facing the nation. However, it also reveals a strange myopia on the part of the party as it seems unwilling to acknowledging the far more insidious and damaging role it has played in the inscription of neo-liberal policies into the fabric of Irish life.

In effect, the party appears to be suffering from the political equivalent of Stockholm syndrome where hostages develop positive feelings towards their captors. Immediate remedial action is needed to undo the current rush towards managerialism as the panacea for the provision of public services (most notably in the areas of health and education).

It has been a depressing experience watching Labour Ministers act as cheerleaders for these developments. The Government must immediately start treating people as people once again, not simply economic units who fit these managerial “co-efficients” and “metrics”. – Yours, etc,


Church Gate,

Wicklow Town.

Sir,  – Despite an avalanche of evidence to the contrary, Danny Morrison (May 21st) continues to argue that he did not bring in a British offer when he visited Long Kesh on Sunday, July 5th, 1981.  Here’s what Brendan Duddy (the trusted intermediary between the British government and the Adams/Morrison committee) had to say about the events of July 5th, 1981, in an interview with journalist Brian Rowan at a conference in west Belfast in 2009:   Rowan:  “So you scribbled the offer down?”  Duddy:  “Yes.”   Rowan:  “You then communicated it to the republican leadership?”   Duddy:  “Yes.”   Rowan:  “I think your . . . your sort of test, which was to get someone into the prison on the Sunday?”   Duddy (pointing to Danny Morrison in audience): “Him.”  

Speaking directly to Mr Morrison, Mr Duddy went on to say: “And I am totally happy that you were well aware of what was being said and what was on offer and so forth.”

A video-recording exists of this conference and what Mr Duddy said about these seminal events.  But could he have made it any plainer?  Demonstrably, Mr Morrison was well aware of what was on offer before he went into the prison on July 5th, 1981.  Is he now admitting that he did not relate the offer to the prison leadership and the hunger strikers? If not, why not?  Considering that it was their lives on the line, were the hunger strikers not entitled to know what Mr Duddy had relayed to Mr Morrison and his IRA committee?

Mr Morrison also says: “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”.  Again, Mr Morrison is factually incorrect.  I brought a manuscript entitled Boyos to him in 1999, but this was a biography of my childhood in the Falls Road area of Belfast and the narrative ended on August 15th, 1969.  In fact, I did not begin writing Blanketmen until late 2001.  Why Mr Morrison should remember something that did not happen is a matter of conjecture. – Yours, etc,


Glen Road,


Sir, – Both parties have been forcing people in the private housing market with all the debt that entrails, leaving people unable to live without the threat of losing their homes.

People are now paying over 60 per cent of their income into paying for private mortgages, as opposed to just under 20 per cent less than 30 years ago.

It is time for change and a social housing programme for all, enabling families to live decently. – Yours, etc,


Monastery Walk,


Dublin 22.

Sir, – While accepting that having a roof over our heads is a basic human right, it is something entirely different to ask private landlords to subsidise this right, as is the case with recent demands for rent controls.

Years ago when rents collapsed by over 20 to 30 per cent, I didn’t see anybody calling for rent controls then. Instead many landlords went bust. Many landlords who survived had their ability to borrow seriously curtailed because of the rent falls. Many landlords cant get a car loan or move house because of this curtailment. Despite increases in property prices most landlords with apartments are drowning in negative equity and will be for at least a decade or more.

You could argue that the State subsidies landlords through the provision of rent allowance. However this situation only exists because the State has failed to provide enough social housing. The state has the power to lower or raise this allowance. If the State wants to impose rent controls, then the only fair solution is for a rent floor and ceiling. This would be fair to all parties involved. The State alone should not have the power to raise or lower its rent subsidy and then deny price variance to others.

The last time the State interfered in the rental/investment market, around the turn of the century, it made a mess of it. It removed investment tax breaks and this resulted in a shortage of rental accommodation. This was done to aid first-time buyers but those who were renting paid the price. Those calling for rent controls want landlords to pay the price but with most landlords in arrears (with the State-owned banks), it will be the taxpayer who will pick up the tab. – Yours, etc,


Long Mile Road,


A chara, – As spending on the behemoth that is the HSE seems to spiral ever more out of control and the number of nurses and doctors actually providing care to patients continues to fall, the one growth area that appears to continue unabated is the appointment of “managers”.

The plethora of common or garden local, regional and national managers is easier to spot, but increasingly posts assigned ever more creative titles such as “principals”, “transformation officers”, “co-ordinators”, etc, are appearing, the names of which may generally belie their true purpose. This is that their holders rarely if ever see patients, rather “managing” and “co-ordinating” (whatever those terms mean) the ever-decreasing number of clinicians that actually do. The tragedy is that at least some of these “managers” are currently or formerly clinicians themselves and their skills are lost to those people who should matter most – patients.

The solution? Yes, more money would be nice. New clinical staff members are a must in many areas. However, we must audit, clearly define, evidence-base and make a proper business case for every management post that exists in the HSE (ie, ask the question, how is this post improving the assessment and treatment of patients? If it isn’t it should be axed.) Second, immediately reassign any clinical staff member who has been “lost” to management back to seeing patients again. After all, this is his or her expertise.

Finally, establish a national “Management Council” along the lines of the Medical Council, An Bord Altranais, etc, with the requirement that those governed by the council engage in continuous professional development, without which (similar to clinical staff) they should not be allowed to practice. – Is mise,


Tigh na Reanna,

Ros Mhic Triúin,

Co Cill Chainnigh.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann treats us to an entertaining account of his encounters with spiritual forces operating in the Derry/Donegal nexus of his youth (“Why do we rarely give the Devil his due?”, Opinion & Analysis, May 22nd).

Satan’s role in Christian history has its origins in the distant past of the Judaic experience in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE.

Confusion and uncertainty took place when monotheistic believers became aware that some of those who disobeyed, or worse still, ignored the iron rules of God, thrived despite their serious breaches of divine law, without any sanctions being imposed by their just and righteous God who had their unquestioned loyalty.

It was obvious that the belief in one God was being seriously challenged and manifestly God had no answers to assure His faithful followers that promises to protect and reward the righteous and restrain and punish the perpetrators of evil had come to nothing. In short, why did an omnipotent God permit such wrongdoing, or why didn’t He put a stop to it?

The Persian two-god theory called Zoroastrianism was considered. It was an answer to their problem because this theory had two gods to cater for the coexistence of good and evil.

However, commitment to the monotheism of Judaism was strong and thus the Persian two-god answer was not acceptable. A compromise was agreed by the introduction of a quasi-god intent on evil-doing. He would have auxiliary support from his demon angels to confront the forces of good angels led by that trusty soldier of truth, Michael the Archangel. The scene was set for a continuous battle for supremacy of good versus evil and which was taught down the centuries to an unquestioning faithful.

A memory for those of us now over a certain age is going to bed each night terrified by the flames of an eternal Hell of fire and brimstone, and fortified with our rosary beads clasped tightly until a modicum of relief arrived with daylight streaming through our bedroom windows. Thanks to Eamon McCann for his enlightened and tongue-in cheek analysis. – Yours, etc,


Ailesbury Grove,

Dundrum, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Donal MacErlaine’s observation ( May 17th) that when bottled water arrived “we took to it like ducks” overstates the reality – “we” had a choice in that matter. The water charge is a tax that the Government is imposing on everyone, including those who clearly will not be able to afford to meet their basic needs, thus forcing them to ration both it and other vital utilities. It is a dangerous ploy to attempt to downplay the very serious consequences that this charge will have for many vulnerable people in our community given the Government’s failure to provide necessary income-based waivers. – Yours, etc,




Sir,– Michael Anderson praises Éamon de Valera’s decision to keep Ireland neutral during the second World War (May 20th). I fail to see how there can be any justification for Ireland remaining neutral while a German-led war machine was systematically sending millions of innocent civilians to their deaths. What if the Axis powers had won the war? Would Ireland’s neutrality have guaranteed its safety? I doubt it. An island as fertile as ours would have been a tempting acquisition.

We know from details in Operation Green that Hitler flirted with the idea of invading Ireland. This was to take place alongside Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of Britain that never materialised. We also know that de Valera’s government met their British counterparts to devise a joint contingency plan to counter such an event. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – You report (Business, May 24th) that Lorraine Drumm, wife of the former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, was “totally freaked out” by the crisis at the bank.

She wasn’t the only one. – Yours, etc,



Clontarf Road,

Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

Published 26 May 2014 02:30 AM

* Time for Labour to decide whether it wants to survive – or disappear. The Cheshire cat. Not with a grin, nor a bang, but with a whimper and an apologetic grimace, pathetically shovelling blame elsewhere.

Also in this section

Letters to the Editor: Sharing memories of Lourdes

Letters: An omission of facts in blind defence of austerity policies

Letters: Too many broken ‘promises’ as homeless crisis worsens

We have the electoral figures. No more speculation nor wishful thinking. A three-party political landscape and Labour deleted from most of it. A de facto irrelevance in the struggle for the socio-economic future of our country and people.

A battle badly lost but a long, hard war still winnable.

Not just Eamon Gilmore but the entire front bench of Labour should offer its resignation to the parliamentary party at its next meeting. To clear the top of the desk. To facilitate a new leadership in reconstructing the party’s strategy.

Hysteria? Panic? On the contrary. What is done should be done with the coolest of heads and from a position of realistic strategic vision. But with absolute transparency.

Politics (like all forms of serious contest) can be very harsh – and grossly ‘unfair’. But this is a war of life or death.

This is not about the future of one transient political organisation, nor the individual political careers of two-thirds of the parliamentary party.

What is at stake is the future of constitutional Irish social democracy, the ideals and aspirations of the Irish national movement through not just hundreds but thousands of years. A healthy and viable socio-economic recovery. Social justice and true democracy for all citizens.

Labour has been caught supporting a Government, the sheer practical ability of whose leading figures ranges from the adequately competent to the lethally and ludicrously incompetent. Whose commitment to social inequity and the denial of solidarity is beyond doubt. Our masters, the voters, (not Kenny as he promised) have handed out the report cards and Labour is in the sin-bin.

Clearly Labour should not lose totally the long experience of all of its leading figures. However, retirement, voluntary or otherwise, will take many of them at the next general election. Time to hand over the baton to new hands.

In real-life contemporary politics, the ‘message’ sent (and securely received) is crucial.

As the detail of Sinn Fein‘s successes show, it has skipped the hurdle of ‘record’ and ‘personality’ and can rely in many cases simply on ‘brand’. Loyalty to principle is essential and a ‘brand’ is meaningless without it, but Labour’s ‘brand’ has disappeared. Or is too obviously borrowed from an alien party.




* On the dawn of the new millennium, the Anglo Irish Agreement was made among the people from both sides of this island. In essence, it sought to put aside its past sorrowful history.

For the most part, the agreement has held together and grown naturally with the new generation.

Sinn Fein is today part of that new generation that is also not going to go away, as all of the mainstream political parties would otherwise wish, along with more than a few Independents.

What brought it all together in the end was and is the new-generation electorate. It is also symptomatic of healthy outrage seeded in political awareness that has been lacking.




* Readers who bypass the Irish Independent’s Saturday ‘Weekend Review’ section are missing out on one of Ireland’s most informative and astute columnists.

I am referring to Liam Fay, whose back-page column is my first read on a Saturday morning.

This past weekend (May 24), he rightly castigated Joe Brolly for his ill-judged remarks about Sky presenter Rachel Wyse.

Regrettably, though, he dismissed sport as being “grotesquely romanticised”. That remark may have some grain of truth, but on the other hand it is also true that sport offers young people an outlet where they learn discipline, structure, and, perhaps more importantly, they learn how to win and lose with dignity.




* What breathtaking arrogance displayed by Labour’s Pat Rabbitte. Commenting on the obliteration of his party and its candidates, Mr Rabbitte opined that as a private citizen he was happy. Apparently, in Mr Rabbitte’s mind, we are lucky that this didn’t happen at the last general election. “What kind of country would we have now?” he whined.

I would assume an infinitely better nation. The electorate is to be commended for sweeping out Ireland’s supposed answer to working-class concerns and values.

The people have spoken, Mr Rabbitte. Don’t worry about the last general election, look at the next one coming down the line like a wrecking train for Labour.




* The courts in Sudan have confirmed the death sentence of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim after she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Mrs Ibrahim, a medical doctor, is pregnant and is in jail under poor conditions with her young son.

The people of Ireland can help bring pressure on the Sudanese government to reverse this decision by writing to their embassy in London at 3 Cleveland Row, St James’s, London SW1A 1DD, or emailing info@Sudanembassy.org.uk.

Alternatively, they may use the form letter on the Christian Solidarity Worldwide website at: http://www.csw.org.uk/savemeriam.






* Regarding Aonghus McAnally on Saturday night speaking about his late father, the actor Ray, it brought back memories when he mentioned his father’s part in the film ‘Shake Hands With The Devil’, which was filmed at Ardmore Studios in Bray.

Aonghus spoke of his father bringing legendary actor James Cagney to their house in Artane.

It brings back memories because, during the making of the film, I was employed as a messenger boy at Creation House on Grafton Street. Cagney was invited to appear at a fashion show being held there. I was detailed to go home and get cleaned up and to come back in a suit, to serve drinks and clean up.

I was so excited telling my mother about who I was going to meet and I dashed up the stairs to get dressed. My mother very quietly said, ‘you can take your time, because your one and only suit is in the pawn, and so are all your brothers’ as well’.

Gone was my one chance to meet the greatest gangster actor in the world. I sat there on the stairs feeling like I was in prison, just like my suit was in Brereton’s Pawn Office prison on Capel Street.

Her last few words to stop me from crying were, ‘don’t get so upset, remember disappointments are sometimes lucky’.

Arriving into work next morning and meeting the other messenger, he said Cagney never turned up, and the lousy crowd that did never gave him a bob. I silently said a sincere ‘thank you, mam’.

That’s as far as I came to meeting Cagney – anyhow, they tell me Hollywood is not all it’s cracked up to be!



Irish Independent


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