29May2014 Settling

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 Prime ministerial broadcast Priceless

Mary’s home and ettling

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, and get over 400 perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Maya Angelou – obituary

Maya Angelou was a black American author whose chronicle of her dirt-poor upbringing became a literary sensation

Maya Angelou speaking during a ceremony to honour Desmond Tutu in 2008

Maya Angelou speaking during a ceremony to honour Desmond Tutu in 2008 Photo: REUTERS

6:15PM BST 28 May 2014

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Maya Angelou, who has died aged 86, was a poet, playwright, film-maker, journalist, editor, lyricist, teacher, singer, dancer, black activist, professor and holder of some 50 honorary degrees; she was principally famous, however, for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a memoir of her dirt-poor upbringing in Arkansas.

When the book was published in 1969 it was a revelation. Narrated in the pulpit-influenced cadences of the black American South, it described a world completely alien to its mainly white, metropolitan readership.

It told how, after her parents divorced, Maya’s father sent her and her elder brother, Bailey, from their home in St Louis to live with their paternal grandmother in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. Aged three and four, the two children arrived at the station wearing wrist tags reading: “To Whom It May Concern”.

Maya Angelou in 2002

During a brief return to St Louis to live with their mother, at the age of seven Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Soon after she had identified him as the rapist in court, he was murdered — kicked to death — by some of her uncles. For the next five years the young Maya became a voluntary mute, believing that her voice had killed him and that if she spoke again she might kill someone else.

Coaxed out of silence by a teacher who encouraged her love of reading with Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe and the Brontes, as well as black writers such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, she eventually joined her mother in California, won a scholarship to study drama and dance, and at the age of 17 became an unmarried mother.

Freshly and vividly written, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became the first non-fiction work by a black woman to make the US national bestseller lists. Other volumes of autobiography followed, charting Maya Angelou’s career as a waitress, brothel madam, prostitute, singer, bus conductress, actress and black activist; as a dancer in Paris; an editor in Egypt; and a journalist and university administrator in Ghana.

As a woman and as a black American who had surmounted oppression to live the American Dream, Maya Angelou became a symbol for the post-segregation era, and a celebrity on the lecture circuit who drew huge crowds wherever she went. Her name appeared on everything from bookends to pillows and mugs, and her rhymes on Hallmark greetings cards. In 1993 she was chosen by President Clinton to recite her poem On the Pulse of the Morning at his inauguration.

Maya Angelou reading a poem at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration

Yet nothing ever equalled her first book. As she became more and more famous, her memoirs became increasingly self-congratulatory in tone; and critics noted that she had adopted all the clichés of her friend Oprah Winfrey’s aspirational narrative of “healing” and “empowerment”. The “diva”, one reviewer observed, had “come to believe her own hype”.

She was born Marguerite Ann Johnson (Maya was her brother Bailey’s diminutive) in St Louis, Missouri, on April 4 1928. Her father was a doorman and US Navy dietitian, her mother a nurse and card dealer.

After living with their grandmother in Arkansas, Maya and her brother returned to live, in Oakland, California, with their mother, a tiny, forthright woman with a colourful turn of phrase (“I’d rather be bitten on the rear by a snaggle-toothed mule than take that shit” was one of her sayings). During the Second World War, Maya attended George Washington High School in Oakland and studied dance and drama at the California Labor School. Before leaving school, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

Her son Guy, born in California when she was 17, was the result of her first sexual experiment, prompted by a desire to clarify her sexuality after she had convinced herself, from reading The Well of Loneliness, that she was becoming a lesbian. Her second book of memoirs, Gather Together in My Name (1974), described her life as an unemployed single mother in California, embarking on brief affairs and transient jobs, before she descended into poverty and the fringes of crime and prostitution.

In Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976) she described her brief marriage to “Tosh” (Enistasious Angelos), a jazz-loving white man of Greek descent. After the marriage ended in 1954 she continued to dance and sing calypso professionally, touring in Porgy and Bess and changing her stage name from Marguerite Johnson to Maya Angelou. In 1957 she recorded an album, Miss Calypso, and appeared in an off-Broadway revue that inspired the film Calypso Heat Wave (1957), in which she sang and performed her own compositions.

Maya Angelou in a 1957 portrait taken for the Caribbean Calypso Festival

In 1959 Maya Angelou met the novelist James Killens, who suggested she move to New York to concentrate on her writing career. In The Heart of a Woman (1981) she described her immersion in the Harlem world of black writers and artists, and her work with Martin Luther King (she and Killens organised the Cabaret for Freedom in aid of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference). She also described her relationship with the South African rights activist Vusumzi Make — a man, by her account, of unlimited sex appeal who tried, but failed, to possess her, body and soul, and with whom she moved to Cairo, where she became the associate editor of the English-language Arab Observer.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) charted her three-year stay in Accra, Ghana, after the break-up of her relationship with Make. She was an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community, becoming a features editor for The African Review and a freelance writer, broadcaster and actress.

In A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), the sixth episode of the Angelou saga, she recounted her return to America; her attempts to help Malcolm X build a new civil rights organisation, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity ; her devastation after his assassination; her return to life as a nightclub chanteuse in Hawaii; and her decision to write her first memoir.

Maya Angelou’s account of her time in Hawaii contains a passage which, to one reviewer, seemed to epitomise all that had gone wrong between the publication of her first and last books.

Worried about dwindling audiences at the nightclub, she decides, for her swansong performance, not to sing, but to dance: “I asked for the music, then invited it to enter my body and find the broken and sore places and restore them. That it would blow through my mind and dispel the fogs… I danced for the African I had loved and lost in Africa. I danced for bad judgments and good fortune. For moonlight lying like rich white silk on the sand before the great pyramids in Egypt and for the sound on ceremonial fontonfrom drums waking the morning air in Takoradi…. The dance was over, and the audience was standing and applauding.”

“With relief, perhaps?” suggested the reviewer.

But by this time Maya Angelou had become such an institution she could afford not to be bothered by jibes, often quoting a Ghanaian saying: “An elephant is rarely seriously bothered by a flea” .

She also wrote five books of essays and several collections of poetry, one of which — Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’Fore I Diiie — was nominated for a Pulitzer. Like her prose, her poetry ranged from the vivid and original to a sort of black American version of Pam Ayres .

Maya Angelou’s 1972 screenplay, Georgia, Georgia, was the first original script by a black woman to be produced, and she also published two cookery books. In 1977 she appeared in a supporting role as Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the television miniseries of Alex Haley’s Roots.

Maya Angelou embraced some unpredictable political standpoints over the years. There was surprise when, in 1995 she spoke at the “Million Man March”, supporting Louis Farrakhan, whom she had previously branded as “dangerous”. In 2008 she backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama — who in 2010 presented Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

From 1991 she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Until she was well into her eighties she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit. Mom & Me & Mom, an overview of her life, was published last year.

Maya Angelou never clarified the number of times she had been married, “for fear of sounding frivolous”, although it was at least twice. One of her essays told of the end of her marriage, in 1973, to Paul du Feu, “a builder from London, a graduate of the London School of Economics, the first near-nude centrefold for Cosmopolitan magazine, formerly husband of Germaine Greer”.

Maya Angelou is survived by her son.

Maya Angelou, born April 4 1928, died May 28 2014


As health professionals we are alarmed, dismayed and disappointed by the latest evidence, contained in a new report by Save the Children that 5 million children in the UK could be living in poverty by 2020 (Report, 28 May). The rising statistics and research bear out what we are seeing on a day to day basis: more children with symptoms which are clearly linked to lower standards of living, such as asthma, bronchitis and anxiety-related illnesses. Unfortunately, we are hearing from more parents describing their living conditions as damp and cold, which could be why we are seeing more children developing long-term respiratory problems. The research also shows more families forced to buy the cheapest food possible, regardless of its nutritional content, reinforcing the increased likelihood of diabetes and obesity in poorer children.

The impact of poverty on children’s health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Low income can lead to poor health, while coping with illness can result in a lower earning capacity – perpetuating a cycle of deprivation. And we know that many of the causes of child death – including perinatal deaths and suicides – disproportionally affect the most disadvantaged in society. We simply cannot ignore these warnings. We must act now and put children at the very heart of any strategy to tackle poverty and health inequalities.
Michael Marmot, Dr Hilary Cass President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Mark Porter Chair, British Medical Association

• In a breathless three-page article (Politics or technology, Review, 24 May) David Runciman asks rhetorically: When did a government last create anything as beneficial for the public welfare as Wikipedia? I would suggest 1948, and the NHS. Or, he wonders, when did a bureaucracy ever invent anything as life-enhancing as Google? How about a cradle-to-grave welfare state? Runciman’s frothiness regularly collapses under closer inspection. “We all would like laws made to suit us,” he says: no, some of us would like laws that deliver social justice. Perhaps the most ridiculous of all: “It is a sign of broad satisfaction with the political system that most people don’t want to have anything to do with politics”. And so Runciman perpetuates the delusional view of the existing elites. What a lot of pernicious tosh.
Professor Huw Davies
Newport on Tay, Fife

We are writing on behalf of parents, staff and the local community to protest against the proposed academisation of Cavell primary and nursery school in Norwich. The interim executive board which made the request for academy status has not properly consulted us and do not speak for us. Cavell is no longer in special measures and is already improving rapidly as a community school. The justification for academies and free schools has always been localism, freedom from political interference and parental choice. We choose to retain our school’s links with the local community and assert our democratic right to have a say in the way in which it is run. We therefore call on Michael Gove to withdraw the academy order for our school, remove the IEB, restore a proper governing body and allow the school leadership and staff to get on with teaching our children free from this unnecessary distraction.
Bishop Peter Fox Vicar, St John the Baptist, Old Lakenham
Mike Smith Norfolk NUT division secretary
Nick O’Brien Norfolk NUT, on behalf of members at Cavell
Chris Herries Labour and Co-operative city councillor for Lakenham
Clive Lewis Labour prospective parliamentary candidate
Lucy De Osma Parent of two children at Cavell
Tina Boulter Parent of two children at Cavell
David and Rachel Ward Parents of two children at Cavell
Nick Mellish
Angela Pearce


As a retired chief constable from the 1980s I can understand Martin Kettle’s comments about the Thatcher years (Theresa May has ripped up the Tory pact with the police, 22 May). This period should be judged, however, with an understanding of the criticism the police faced for failing to uphold the law at the Saltley Coke Works in Birmingham in the 70s. The then chief constable ordered the closure of the gates at Saltley in the face of concerted union action as he believed this was in the best interests of public order. He was roundly condemned for giving in to the miners and this left an indelible mark on police leadership at the time.

In common with other commentators Martin Kettle claims that successive home secretaries were in fear of the Police Federation, but the evidence for this is more apocryphal than real. The federation is fully entitled to protect the interests of its members and in my experience has usually done so responsibly. It has taken the initiative in dealing with current problems and should be given credit for this, not harangued and threatened.

The catalogue of failings referred to by the home secretary deserve much closer scrutiny. The final verdict on some has yet to be delivered, some are acts of misconduct that have been severely dealt with under the discipline procedures, and others are the result of individual errors of judgment. This is not to minimise the seriousness of the failures but to recognise that all individuals make mistakes, be they military personnel, doctors, lawyers, politicians or government ministers. This fact of human behaviour does not justify the condemnation of the whole organisation in the way the police service is currently being treated.

As with all enterprises reform is essential to progress, but a vengeful, vindictive lecture will be counterproductive and hinder reform. The sense of injustice only leads to the closing of ranks and this sadly is what will follow.
Bob Cozens
Hindhead, Surrey

• Can somebody please tell me what was so “brave” and “courageous” about Theresa May‘s speech at the Police Federation conference? What was the worst that could have happened to the “fearless” home secretary? Booing, heckling, slow handclapping – all of which should be meat and drink to any politician be they a local councillor, MP or cabinet minister. She was in no danger of being shot at, spat at, punched, kicked, stabbed, petrol bombed or of being terrified that the mob she was facing would literally kill her if they were given the chance, unlike those officers whom she took such a great delight in “handbagging”.

While criticism of the Police Federation may have been justified, she went on to humiliate the police service by listing every publicised transgression from Hillsborough to Plebgate, despite the fact that some are the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings or investigations. She omitted, however, the fact that out of 132,000 serving officers, and a similar number of those such as myself who have retired, the total number of errant officers may not even reach three figures.

How duplicitous is it of Theresa May when she refers in sections of her speech to the “fall in crime” to then, among the list of police transgressions, speak of “allegations of rigged crime statistics”. It is of course these “rigged” figures together with the hopelessly flawed England and Wales crime survey that provide her with those very same “improved” crime statistics of which she so frequently boasts.

Her criticism of the police deflects attention from other failings in the Home Office such as the chaos that still reigns at our borders. Her creation of the UK Border Force is a shambles, with class A drug seizures at airports down by a staggering 76%. Little wonder perhaps that UK drinking water is contaminated with traces of cocaine.

Border Force officials who are former customs officers are still complaining that the green and red channels are frequently deserted to cover passport controls, and even at these controls officers are being told to permit entry to passengers they are unhappy with due to the priority given by managers to avoiding queues.

Theresa May’s intimidatory warnings to the federation are clearly a concerted attempt to ensure that it will be compliant in future. This might be in response to a recent decision by the European committee of social rights. Its adjudication that the Irish equivalent of the federation has the right to strike is one that has been sought by the majority of UK police officers for many years but resisted by the Police Federation. Now, thanks to Theresa May, and confirmed by independent surveys, police morale is on the floor and the genie of police resentment might not remain in the bottle for long.
Chris Hobbs
(Retired ex-Met), London

Timothy Garton Ash is right to say (Comment, 27 May) these elections may well be dubbed “the wake-up call from which Europe failed to wake up”. The EU was founded to bind Europe together, to make future European wars unthinkable and to foster working together for our common benefit. Instead, the imposition of the euro has raised the threat of civil war both within and between states.

The first measure is to recognise that monetary union was a gross mistake. All states should be allowed to resurrect their national currencies, to allow them to float to a sustainable level. Secondly, we must recognise that the unregulated free-market economy is incompatible with democracy. The banks and international corporations have assumed the running of states worldwide, while demoting governments to the status of their well-rewarded lackeys. The full answer cannot lie within Europe alone, but with so many of the world’s leading thinkers, there is little hope for anyone, unless we set an example. Some leading economists are already advocating for these changes, for instance Larry Elliott (Report, 19 May), where he strongly supports abolishing austerity and the euro.
Dr John Mackrell

• Larry Elliott says politicians should devise measures which make capitalism meet the needs of the people rather than vice-versa. The coverage of collective bargaining and trade union numbers declined markedly in the two decades following the advent of Thatcher in 1979. Since then the extent of collective bargaining and union membership has stabilised but the UK Labour Force Survey shows that in 2012 only 29% of employees were covered by collective bargaining. This compares unfavourably with Germany, where figures from the government-backed research body IAB indicate that 59% of German workers are covered by trade union negotiations. UK research reveals those unionised enjoy better pay and conditions than the unorganised majority. A significant measure would be to effectively legislate to extend the reach of collective bargaining and encourage union membership.
Michael Somerton

• The usually percipient Martin Kettle (Britain joins anti-Europe tune played across the continent, 26 May) doesn’t seem to get it. This was not a battle about “more Europe” versus “reformed Europe”. Indeed, it wasn’t really about Europe as such at all. It was about an utter rejection of what Europe under the dead hand of Angela Merkel and her neoclassical economic model is now seen to stand for and be wholly identified with: unrelenting austerity. That explains why the same call is being made both from the radical left (Syriza in Greece) and the far right (FN in France) – both of which topped their country polls with 27% – that the deadweight of EU economic policy that has plunged large parts of Europe into near-destitution and spawned the eurozone crisis, which is far from over, must be abandoned.

It is staggering that the real cause of public frustration and anger received such little attention in these elections. The people who deserted to Ukip in their droves were older white working-class voters pig-sick of being told, by both main parties, that whoever wins the next election there will be another four to five years of austerity and continued cuts in their living standards. Growth and job creation are the manifestly obvious alternatives which cry out to be implemented, since four years of austerity have reduced the budget deficit by a miserly £10bn, still leaving a black hole in the national accounts of £108bn. Yet 2% growth would reduce it by £30bn in just one year. Of course, the Tories will talk up their own so-called “recovery”, but it has no legs when wages, productivity, business investment and net exports still remain dramatically negative – ie this current recovery is not sustainable.

David Cameron is likely to end up endorsing Jean-Claude Juncker (five more years of the same) to be the next EU commission president. Labour now has the perfect opportunity to break out of the austerity straitjacket and present a winning growth and jobs ticket for the general election.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

• On Tuesday’s Today programme, Ken Clarke made a passing reference to continuing discussions in Brussels about the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). Although this deal surfaces occasionally in the press, very little attention is paid to its restrictive, anti-democratic nature. Its underlying purpose appears to be the removal of as many restrictions as possible on global corporations by undermining the rights of national governments to manage their economic and social sectors as they think appropriate – control of banking, transport, health and other vital national interests will be dangerously undermined by this deal. Outcry is necessary.
Nigel Trow
Portskewett, Monmouthshire

SNCF regiolis regional express train

Left hand drive? The new Regiolis TER. Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

With apologists for Putin’s Russia keen to remind us of the Soviet sacrifice during the second world war (Letters, 27 May), it’s as well to remember that the Soviets made that war possible through their pact with Hitler, they too invaded Poland in 1939, they squandered soldiers by the thousand using tactics that would have horrified Haig, and they remained a murderous tyranny throughout. To seek to whitewash that record is “criminal idiocy” indeed.
John Pritchard

• I did try to share the enthusiasm for graphene (The black powder with a bright future, 26 May) but what is a “wonder material” now will be finished with one day. Is as much thought being put into what sort of waste it will make as what uses it can be put to? I seem to remember similar claims were made for asbestos back in the day.
Peter Clement
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire

• Graphene painted on to aircraft will not eliminate lighting strikes as you say. However, it may reduce the risk of damage to composite components by conducting the charge away as in all-metal aircraft.
Ron Davidson
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

• Surely, the main problem with David Gerrard’s idea for swapping with the too wide French trains (Letters, 24 May) is that they would all be left-hand drive, wouldn’t they?
Julian Boyce

• Assuming she hasn’t already done so, Marina O’Loughlin (Sweet dreams, G2, 26 May) should travel west from her Broadstairs home to that epitome of the English seaside town, Eastbourne. There she’ll find the ambiance she seeks in Fusciardis ice cream parlour (Marine Parade) or Favo’Loso (Carlisle Road).
Nigel Linford
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Am I alone, when the first few pages of reports of prejudice, abuse and depression get too much, in turning to your Country diary for the consolations of nature’s changing unchangeability that Paul Evans, Tony Greenbank et al so poignantly evoke?
Steve Till
Alton, Hampshire

David Cameron receiving the King Abdullah decoration one from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2012. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Princesses Sahar and Jawaher, daughters of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, have been denied access to food for more than 60 days and have limited access to water. The two sisters have been held under house arrest in Jeddah for more than 10 years by their father, as they are out of favour. No one is allowed in or out of their compound. Their sisters Maha and Hala are also imprisoned in separate complexes nearby.

Sahar and Jawaher’s conditions have become increasingly desperate since they spoke out about their imprisonment in the international media. Their mother lives in London and is asking for our help.

I have raised the case with the foreign secretary, William Hague, as well as with David Cameron at prime minister’s questions and in correspondence. While the prime minister expressed his concern about the princesses’ case and said he would look into it further, both he and the Foreign Office have subsequently indicated that they are not prepared make representations to the Saudi authorities.

This lack of action contrasts very sharply with human rights cases I have raised in Iran and elsewhere, suggesting that the UK government has a double standard when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has an appalling record on human rights and a legal guardianship system which severely discriminates against women and girls. The government has a strong relationship with the Saudi royal family and it is possible that a positive intervention on their part could lead to an improvement in the princesses’ conditions.

This is no time for the government to drag its feet, Sahar and Jawaher cannot survive without food indefinitely.
Katy Clark MP
Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran


I object to the Government’s stealth approach in forcing all citizens to communicate online with government departments, such as those dealing with tax and pensions. This is a de facto disenfranchisement.

The claims of cost savings are spurious because a government employee has to deal with the matter however it is received, and the cost of doing so has been loaded on to the citizen, whereas previously it was met from general taxation. The Government is also complicit in allowing banks and utilities to force their customers to go online.

Your article (27 May), regarding a report from the Policy Exchange think-tank, is extremely worrying. They are trying to justify this policy with a smokescreen of saving the over-65s from loneliness by giving them access to social websites.

I am not a Luddite, having been enthusiastically involved with computers for 35 years and online for 30 years, before the internet was available. I am fully aware of the benefits it can offer, and also the risks and the expense. The web has been deeply infiltrated by the criminal fraternity out to scam the unwary, and exposing the older generation to this danger is reckless.

This whole issue needs to be brought to the attention of the public in general and MPs in particular, so that we can make informed decisions about the appropriate use of technology. In the meantime, the written letter must remain the default method of communication, without prejudice or penalty.

Gavin O’Brien, Harrow, Middlesex

I couldn’t agree more with Robert Fisk’s article “Our addiction to the internet is as harmful as any drug” (26 May). When I look at other newspapers online, I am disgusted by the poison in some of the readers’ comments that bear no relationship to the article or are just venom directed at the writer. I no longer bother to look at them.

Fisk quotes a student asking for “good websites on the Middle East”. I keep on mentioning to students here in Oxford, look at the book, the journal. Browsing through a journal, one often finds something more important than going to the article online.

I use computers, but give me a book any time, or a journal. At least one doesn’t come across the sick people who feel the need to denigrate anything they can.

Theo Dunnet, Oxford


Why London shunned Ukip

Local government and European elections are seen as frivolous. People don’t see much need to vote at all and none to vote “responsibly”.

In urban areas, where there are lots of immigrants who obviously can’t be blamed for the problems they share with their indigenous neighbours, this takes the form of anti-racist protest voting. Here in our Labour-dominated London Borough of Hackney the Greens polled second highest. In suburban and rural areas where immigrants don’t feature, except as fantasy bogeymen, it takes the form of voting Ukip.

It is frivolous to base on these results projections about parliamentary elections that people take rather more seriously.

Mary Pimm , Nik Wood, London E9

It is claimed that London voters showed relatively little support for Ukip because they are better educated than the voters in areas where Ukip did well. The real reason Ukip did poorly in London is that, based on ethnic background and culture, London is already a foreign country.

It is only to be expected that almost all of the immigrants and descendants of recent immigrants that make up the majority of the population of London would shun a party whose principal appeal to the natives is based on anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire

When will Nigel Farage announce what must be a key element of Ukip’s immigration policy: British footballers for British teams? After all, immigrants must be the largest proportion of those employed in the Premiership and probably have more adverse impact on employment of British workers than in any other employment sector.

Of course, being anti-Europe as well as anti-immigration, Ukip will have to remove British teams from the Champions and Europa Leagues. Then we will be back in the 1950s, where Ukip and its supporters want us to be.

Michael Serginson, Milton Keynes

The books Gove doesn’t like

There is an important debate to be had about the literature chosen by exam boards for our young people to study for examinations (“Gove attacked over loss of American GCSE books”, 26 May). However I suggest there is another more important debate.

It is: should a politician have any say in the content of syllabuses in our schools? Michael Gove is an intelligent and passionate man but does he lack wisdom? He dislikes some literature and believes his choices to be those that young people should study. What would Mr Gove’s response be were the next secretary of state for education to suggest that all students should study literature of an entirely different kind?

For most of the lifetime of compulsory schooling in the UK, politicians deliberately kept the curriculum at arm’s length. This only began to change in the 1980s. We need to be concerned about political ideology creeping into our schooling system. How long before there is political control of the science and history curricula, as in some states of the US and in Japan?

Education and the school curriculum are far too important to be controlled by a powerful few.

Patrick Wood, Hong Kong

Having recently picked up this book and been transported by a tale which, despite taking place many decades ago, has captivated my inner bookworm, I feel somewhat angered by Michael Gove’s plans to get rid of To Kill a Mockingbird from the English GCSE syllabus.

If it wasn’t that To Kill a Mockingbird was written by an American – the critically acclaimed Alabamian Harper Lee – we wouldn’t be at risk of losing such a wonderful book which holds a deep meaning in my heart. Not only has the book opened our eyes to a time when racism was rife, but to read a tale from the eyes of a young child is endearing and is worthy of being taught at GCSE.

As said by one of the main characters in the book: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” I deeply hope that Mr Gove realises the severity of his plans, which should never have been proposed at all.

Chloe Brewster (aged 15), Caythorpe, Lincolnshire

If John Steinbeck’s most famous book is to be removed from the school syllabus, perhaps it could be replaced by the much lesser-known book describing the activities of pottery makers in the Dresden area, Of Meissen Men?

Nick Pritchard, Southampton

No wonder girls are put off sport

It comes as no surprise to learn that 36 per cent of girls believe exercise is socially unacceptable, when papers such as your own consistently fail to report women’s sport.

Just last week at school we analysed media coverage of sport in one broadsheet newspaper and found that of 228 articles over nine days only four covered women’s sport. The BBC sport webpage revealed a similar lack of role models – just 4 per cent of articles over the same period related to women’s sport.

Might I suggest that an antidote to girls’ lack of enthusiasm for exercise would be greater media coverage and a longer day in state schools so that there is more time available for a range of different sports.

Jane Gandee, Headmistress, St Swithun’s School, Winchester

Clegg has done a great job

Thank you for your editorial about Nick Clegg (28 May). In the face of adversity I am becoming more passionately Liberal Democrat.

When extremism raises its ugly head – right-wing at the moment but left-wing can be nearly as bad – the ability to co-operate and compromise in the search for a middle way becomes ever more precious. The Deputy Prime Minister has done a great job and shown that some politicians can act in a mature way.

Ruth Skrine, Bath

Nice country, shame about the regime

I am sure that Tam Dalyell (24 May) is right about the beauty of Iran and the friendliness of its people, but I am not tempted to book a holiday there just yet.

It now has the world’s highest rate of executions (113 hangings in the last month) and the “moderate” President has appointed as his minister for justice someone responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 political dissidents.

Carolyn Beckingham, Lewes, East Sussex


News Group Newspapers Ltd

Published at 12:01AM, May 29 2014

The main beneficiaries of immigration seem to be the immigrants themselves

Sir, The article by John Hutton and Alan Milburn (“Stop Kowtowing to Ukip — immigration works”, May 27) was striking for its exaggeration of the economic benefits of immigration.

In judging the pros and cons of immigration what matters is not as they argue GDP but GDP per head. Immigration may enlarge the economy by having more people but that does not benefit the existing population unless it increases living standards per head.

An inquiry held in 2008 by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee (of which I was a member) found no evidence for the contention that immigration generates significant economic benefit for the existing population. Studies in the US, Australia and the Netherlands have come to similar conclusions. In Britain the government’s Migration Advisory Committee has pointed out that most of any benefit goes to immigrants themselves.

As for the fiscal impact, the study Hutton and Milburn referred to actually found that all immigrants between 1995 and 2011 cost the Exchequer £95 billion.

Hutton and Milburn argue that migrants are a “bulwark against an ageing population”, but as our report pointed out immigrants also grow old and trying to deal with that phenomenon through yet further immigration would require ever escalating levels of immigration.

Of course some immigration brings benefits of skills, energy
and entrepreneurship but the dislocation to British workers caused by the arrival of very large numbers of migrant workers has been largely ignored.

Furthermore, the UK-born employment rate is lower than it was ten years ago while, over the same period, employment rates and levels for those born outside the UK have increased substantially.

What cannot be denied is the massive impact of immigration on the size of our population. If we allow it to continue at the average of the past ten years we will add ten million to the UK population in the next 20 years with at least 60 per cent of the increase due to immigration. Practically nobody wants to see this. Our economy may be larger because there is a larger population but how does the individual benefit from that?

I am entirely in favour of an open economy such as we have enjoyed for decades, but that does not require massive levels of immigration. Globalisation did not begin in 1998 but mass immigration did. Net migration shot up to five times its previous level. Vague generalities about the need for “managed” migration will hardly be convincing from those who stood by while net foreign migration reached nearly four million on their watch. “Managed migration” is, in any case, a meaningless term without any reference to scale.

To dismiss genuine and justified concerns as “myths and fears” is simply to play into the hands of extremists. It is not a more stringent immigration policy which would have “serious consequences for the wellbeing of our economy and society”, as they claim. On the contrary, it is failure to respond to the clear and consistent wishes of three quarters of our population that would indeed have such consequences.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

House of Lords

The British have individual pension pots. The Dutch have collective pots – and much bigger pensions.

Sir, Other European countries encourage private pension systems which are far more efficient than those in the UK. If a typical Briton and a typical Dutch person save the same amount, have the same life expectancy and retire on the same day; the Dutch saver will get up to a 50 per cent higher pension than the Briton.

The coming Queen’s speech is an opportunity to change this by legislating for “target pensions” (also known as “collective pension”s) in the UK, pensions which for many, can offer better outcomes through their design and structure.

Markets don’t work if regulation stops them from doing so. So, although collective pensions are at the heart of the best pension systems in the world, it is illegal to set up a collective pension in the UK unless it is backed by an employer promise. Since employers are unwilling to give such a promise, we have regulated one of the best forms of pension out of existence. We now call on the government to change this, and to provide pension savers in the UK with a choice to have access to collective defined contributions, within a safe regulatory framework, such as that which exists in the Netherlands.

Such a policy would have the support of various employer and employee bodies in the UK and has wide political support. It is time to stop the British pension saver being the “poor man” of Europe.

David Pitt-Watson (Royal Society of Arts), Sir John Banham (ex-Confederation of Business and Industry), Nigel Stanley (TUC),

Barry Parr (Association of Member Nominated Trustees), Lindsay Thomas (ex- FSA), Kevin Wesbroom (Aon Hewitt); Con Keating (Brighton Rock Group), Henry Tapper (Pension PlayPen), Derek Benstead (actuary), Imogen Parker (Institute for Public Policy Research), Dr Hari Mann (CASS Business School)

A bit of bishbosh about who invented ice hockey looks like it will end in favour of Canada

Sir, The latest claim that the English “invented” yet another winter sport really takes the cake (doubtless another English invention). Ice hockey originated in Nova Scotia decades before Charles Darwin and his mates could be seen on some pond near present-day Heathrow leaning on their sticks to keep them from falling over. In fact, as early as 1800 near Halifax, Nova Scotia, the field game of hurley was played on ice and became known as ice hurley. Full credit to Darwin, however, for correctly identifying the evolutionary link.

Sandy Shandro

London SW19

Commercial imperatives collide with the awkward fact that more planes means more noise torment for more people

Sir, Richard Hoyle (letter, May 27) makes a valid point about aircraft noise pollution from regional airports. At least he knows that the jets above his house contain more than a handful of passengers.

In the sleepy conservation area of Crondall in Hampshire we are awaiting the verdict of the CAA on Farnborough airport’s grab for “class D airspace”, which will mean that 80 per cent of departing aircraft will pass directly over our village.

It would not be as bad if the council allowed us all to install double glazing but in many cases this is forbidden due to the conservation area and the age of the houses.

Matt Roberts

Crondall, Hants

Sir, Over the past nine months I have tried to get answers about the increasing aircraft noise generated by Leeds Bradford airport.

The airport management has no interest in environmental impact and relies on the planning restrictions set by Leeds council in 1994. Any communication is met by the standard response that they comply with the regulations — but there was a lot less air traffic in 1994 and so regulations that were appropriate then may not be now.

The airport consultative committee equally appears little interested in noise.

The problem for an individual is that parliament has consistently allowed aircraft noise to be exempt as a statutory nuisance. It is possible to complain about noisy neighbours, dogs, music etc. UK airport locations are a historic accident. Boris Johnson has the vision to see that airports need to be as far away from high-density urban areas as possible.

Leeds Bradford is a good example of being in the wrong place with poor transport links and surrounded by housing.

John Lomas

Bingley, W Yorks

Sir, It would be very interesting to know how the 6 per cent cited by the chief executive of Heathrow made their disapproval of the expansion plans known (letter, May 26). We received a form inviting us to give our views but the questions were not designed to make this possible. There was no option to make any negative comments. So we, probably along with a majority of local residents, did not complete the survey.

Susan Sharkey

Isleworth, Middx

Be cautious about malaria – the drugs must be up to date, and the disease can incubate for up to a year

Sir, Many years ago I contracted malaria while in Kenya, despite taking the two recommended prophylactics. However, the symptoms manifested themselves only nine months later, after I had returned to England. I was surprised at the lengthy incubation, but the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London said incubation for malaria could last more than a year.

Dr Sir Christopher Lever

Winkfield, Berks


SIR – Your report describes the incidence of mental health problems affecting British service personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan as a “bomb waiting to explode”.

Our team at King’s College London has spent the past 10 years following up a large random sample of service personnel both during and after their military service. We find that the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been constant throughout this period – running at around 3 to 4 per cent in all military personnel, and around 6 to 7 per cent in reservists and those who have been in combat.

There is little doubt that there has been a recent increase in the numbers presenting to both the military mental health services and the service charities. The most likely explanation, backed up by evidence from the charity Combat Stress, is that personnel are now more willing to come forward, and are doing so far sooner than in the past.

If this is confirmed, it is a welcome development. It is not complacent to argue that the great majority of those who serve in the Armed Forces do well when they leave; rather it is right to challenge myths that presume the contrary, and to ensure that scarce resources are targeted at the minority of those who suffer ill health as a result of their service.

Professor Christopher Dandeker
Professor Neil Greenberg
Professor Sir Simon Wessely
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London

Wine investment should be left to the super-rich

SIR – Your May 20 report will no doubt prompt more people to consider wine as an investment.

As a country wine merchant, I am frequently asked about wine investment. Almost invariably I advise against it. First, it’s not a level playing field. Very wealthy people have access to the finest “investment grade” wines in top vintages, and will pay less than you do. Secondly, the costs of storage, insurance and selling commission can be considerable. Thirdly, the fine wine market has witnessed an arguably one-off upsurge in prices since 2000, in part based on the entry of Chinese buying, but also on account of the search for alternative investments since the financial crisis of 2008. Fourthly, the Bordeaux chateaux upped their prices dramatically for the 2009 and 2010 vintages, thereby hugely raising the bar for entry.

Finally, far too much fine wine over the past decade has been bought for investment alone.

Simon Taylor Stone
Stockbridge, Hampshire

SIR – Today is Tax Freedom Day – the first day of the year when Britons stop paying for the state and start working for themselves. It fell on May 30 last year, so the Chancellor should be congratulated for liberating taxpayers two days earlier in 2014. However, there is more to be done.

Britain’s 17,000-page tax code is incomprehensible to virtually everyone. The Government must make the tax system transparent and understandable by radically simplifying the tax code. It must reduce the tax burden on workers by cutting unnecessary spending and using the savings to reduce the size of the state.

It is high time ordinary people saw the rewards of hard work going into their pockets, not the taxman’s.

Dr Eamonn Butler
Director, The Adam Smith Institute
Jonathan Isaby
Chief Executive, The Taxpayers’ Alliance
London SW1

Empty promise

SIR – When asking my mother what was for dinner (Letters, May 26), she would reply: “Air pie with the crust off”.

Shelagh Parry
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Who said that pies had to use pastry? Everyone knows that mashed potato on top of mince is a cottage or shepherd’s pie.

Dave Alsop
Churchdown, Gloucestershire

GPs under pressure

SIR – My son is a GP in his mid-thirties. Normally he works non-stop from arriving at the surgery at 7.30am until he leaves, very tired, at about 7pm. His practice has increased its number of doctors, but demand from patients still exceeds the hours they can provide. He feels bad when patients complain that they have long waits to see him. He desperately wants a solution.

Cath Byrne
West Kirby, Cheshire

SIR – I must confess to being baffled by the tales of people having to wait for days or weeks to see their GP (Letters, May 24).

In recent weeks, I have twice had to arrange GP appointments for my mother, once with my surgery when she was visiting me, and once with her surgery. In both cases she was seen on the same day. Obviously there will be variations between practices, but which examples are typical?

David Muir
Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire

Pride in peacocks

SIR – We also live in White Colne but have not been “plagued” by “rogue” peacocks (Letters, May 24). The three that visit our garden and roost close to our bedroom window are very friendly. Admittedly, they do tend to chat among themselves in the early hours, but it is a small price to pay for the company of such beautiful creatures.

R S Skinner
White Colne, Essex

Taking to the polls in the European election: a voting booth in Bucharest, Romania  Photo: EPA

7:00AM BST 28 May 2014

Comments309 Comments

SIR – Comment on and analysis of the election results has concentrated on immigration and Europe. These are not the only areas where the Conservative Party is failing to listen and act. Over-development and building on greenfield sites are also major issues.

My village, like many others, is under threat. The three Conservative councillors for my ward stood for re-election. An independent, with no political experience, stood at the last minute on the platform “Putting our villages first”. He topped the poll with 15 per cent more votes than the next candidate.

David Lawrence
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, frequently asserts that the requirements of Coalition have diminished support for the Lib Dems.

The results of the European election show that the effect is reciprocal. Mr Clegg’s unequivocal support for the EU has undermined voters’ expectations of David Cameron’s ability to achieve meaningful revisions of the EU, with consequent reduced support for Tory MEPs.

J R Ball
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – David Cameron wonders why the electorate doesn’t trust him when he promises an in/out referendum. Here is one reason: he promised to reduce net immigration to a few tens of thousands, knowing full well that he didn’t have the power to do this under EU rules. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has now admitted as much.

We’ll trust him when he stops making promises he knows he can’t deliver.

Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire

SIR – I have so far only seen Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, with a great grin on his face and a pint of beer in hand (report, May 27). He has successfully picked the low-lying fruit – Europe and immigration – but there are many issues he has done nothing to address, such as Britain’s increasing debt, the ongoing reduction in our Armed Forces’ capability and the need to improve public sector education.

Does Mr Farage have any policies on these matters and, if so, what are they? And are all those in Ukip at one on these issues?

Martin Llowarch
Stamford, Lincolnshire

SIR – Iain Martin’s article on Ukip is not quite accurate. The Anti-Federalist League was not founded by any “group” in 1991, but by myself alone. I had, until then, been a leading member of the Bruges Group, which had been founded as non-party but has become identified with the Conservatives. I was then expelled from it for promising to run candidates against the Tories.

The main achievement of the AFL was Chris Patten’s defeat in Bath at the 1992 general election, when I forced him publicly to refuse to apologise for the poll tax. In 1993, I, along with leading members of the AFL, changed its name to Ukip. The new party’s membership form committed all party members to have no prejudices against foreigners or lawful minorities of any kind; and not to take up seats in the European Parliament. These commitments were dropped after I left.

The party only grew subsequently owing to two factors: in 1999, the EU changed the electoral system allowing parties with very small votes to enter the European Parliament. This enabled Ukip to board the gravy train, and get some political leverage. But until the Lib Dems entered coalition with the Conservatives, the party got nowhere in Britain after almost 20 years of de facto leadership under Mr Farage. I left in 1997, and it still has not won a by-election or a seat at a general election.

Ukip has no policies for Britain. Its last manifesto has been characterised as “drivel” by Mr Farage himself, although he wrote a foreword recommending it. It is now the protest party for all malcontents, and does contain racists and homophobes.

I still hope, however, that it will help bring us out of the EU by pressurising the Tories. But let’s not kid ourselves about how it is run, what it represents or the quality of its leadership.

Alan Sked
Professor of International History
London School of Economics

SIR – I run a successful small business that employs British citizens abroad in the EU.

Can someone from Ukip or the anti-EU wing of the Tory party explain why I will not go bankrupt, and my employees not be out of a job, if Britain leaves the EU?

Surely we cannot expect to be able to ban their workers, while they accept ours?

Paul Stebbings
Exeter, Devon

SIR – By stating that Nigel Farage is a “consummate politician” who is “supremely tactical”, is the Prime Minister confirming that he, and the other party leaders, have been outwitted?

Russ Hill
Radstock, Somerset

SIR – If Ukip continues with its electoral success, we shall be obliged to find another party for our protest votes.

Peter C Carey
London SW13

SIR – People complain that they do not know who their MEP is. But thanks to proportional representation, and the size of EU regions, we have several MEPs, none of whom we can actually vote for. We cast our votes for a party. No wonder the electorate cannot engage with a system that lands you with MEPs who can only debate and vote on motions put forward by unelected Commissioners.

Helen M Abbott
Billingshurst, West Sussex

SIR – When less than 50 per cent of the electorate vote, how can any election be a true reflection of public opinion? Is it not time compulsory voting was introduced?

Bob Millington
Market Harborough, Leicestershire

SIR – What is all this ballyhoo about the European elections? I thought the European Parliament was a rubber stamp organisation. The real power resides with the unelected Commission. Its members couldn’t care less what the people think.

Dr John Farren
Harwell, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The resignation of Eamon Gilmore from the leadership of the Labour Party must inevitably prompt the question – what is it about that party that draws venom from both political opponents and the media when it is a partner in government? Higher ideals and loftier expectations are held out and when not fully fulfilled the party takes a disproportionate amount of the blame.

Basil Chubb, in The Government and Politics of  Ireland  (1970), commenting on the lack of support for Labour in large swathes of the country, stated: “The party did not from the beginning quite fit into the dominant pattern of Irish politics or appeal to a mass of Irish opinion”.

This explains, perhaps, why so often up and down the country, so many  young, public-spirited people work their hearts out for their communities, yet are rejected at the polls under the Labour banner. A little more republicanism and a little less socialism might help!  – Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.

A chara, – So Matt Carthy has completed Sinn Féin’s remarkable quadruple – a seat in each of Ireland’s European constituencies. For the first time, every person in Ireland is represented by an elected member from the same party – every single one of us, from Antrim to Kerry, has a Sinn Féin MEP. I imagine this fact will cheer some more than others, but it should please the almost half a million voters who gave Sinn Féin their first preference – over 100,000 more than any other party. – Is mise,


Páirc na Cabraí,

Baile Phib,

Baile Átha Cliath 7.

Sir, – The people made the wrong decision. They should resign immediately! – Yours, etc,

Yours faithfully,




Co Clare.

Sir, – The fallout from the European Parliament elections across various EU member states (as felt also in domestic local elections here) requires a robust response from European governing institutions.

In the case of Ireland and other post-bailout member states, the particular ongoing budgetary constraints in operation need to be alleviated to a significant degree. Manoeuvering space should be afforded to allow such governments to reduce taxes and levies in typical household bills. As an example, the property tax rates applicable in Dublin should be considerably reduced to effectively offset the introduction of water rates.

Of course such manoeuvering space cannot be granted without a drastically alternative growth-based strategy. Primary importance is attached to rectifying the difficulties encountered by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with respect to bank lending, which is a strong factor influencing employment rates. The ECB should avail of the leverage afforded by a low inflation rate to initiate quantitative easing in the form of asset purchasing of securitised SME loans across recovering economies such as Ireland’s. Such a move would be likely to significantly help with respect to the growth-based recovery agenda and go some way to stem the apparent democratic disenchantment with Europe observed last weekend. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 14.

Sir, – Europeans seems to have taken a right turn at the crossroads. We, on the other hand, have taken a left turn. Will Ming lead us down an old bog road? – Yours, etc,


Ballydubh Upper,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – The jockeying for leadership of the Labour Party has begun. The backbenchers who wanted change are getting change. The senior figures, whose arrogance is being questioned, are smarting. And the thing is, none of this makes any difference.

Changing the captain of the Labour ship will have no effect unless the policies of the Labour Party are changed. I say this as someone who was a member of the party until it veered (yet again) towards coalition with Fine Gael, sacrificing policies and principles for a few seats at the Cabinet table and ministerial pensions for the head honchos.

When I hear Labour politicians bemoaning the fact that Independents and the smaller left groups can never find unity, I smile. These are the same people who, in the past decade, not only betrayed the people who voted for them and the party’s roots but also did untold damage to the possibility of a left-wing government in this country. The captain may change, but the ship remains rudderless. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak,

Co Carlow.

A chara, – Regarding the Labour leadership contest, is it a case of Snow White and the six dwarfs? – Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive,

Kiltipper Road, Dublin 24.

Sir, – I take no joy in the demise of the Labour Party nor do I feel pity, for it was complicit in singling out the most vulnerable in society, in particular children with special needs and children with disabilities.

Labour may consider its best option is a principled stand that would bring about an early election. If it decides to do so, it should recall what happened to the Greens. – Yours, etc,




Co Louth.

Sir, – Your coverage of the elections has been excellent. It is with sadness that I calculate a cumulative total of 69,356 spoiled votes (European election 45,424, local elections 22,045, and byelections 1,887).

While some may have spoiled their vote as a protest, it is more likely that many thousands of voters inadvertently erred and had their choices invalidated. Many candidates could have benefitted from even a few additional votes. – Yours, etc,


The Oaks,

Newbridge, Co Kildare.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole’s commentary is often insightful and sometimes challenging, especially in dealing with issues of inequality and the negative social impact of conservatism.

However in his recent column (“Labour Party’s long road from tragedy to farce”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th), Fintan displays a disturbing ambiguity when it comes to the scourge of sectarianism.

Describing as “irredentist” those who seek a peaceful, democratic, inclusive route to Irish unity, he fails to recognise that partition institutionalised sectarianism and sustained inequality for decades.

Sinn Féin makes no apologies for seeking to end partition, or for tackling sectarianism and inequality. For us, genuine national reconciliation is the cornerstone of building a new Republic that is pluralist, diverse and based on the equality of all citizens.

The Good Friday agreement provides a peaceful, democratic path to Irish unity through a referendum. Sinn Féin supports such a referendum and seeks an informed, inclusive and respectful debate on the merits of Irish unity as opposed to continued partition as part of such a process.

This is not about a sectarian headcount. It’s about building maximum consensus on the future options for this island and its people in all their diversity.

The future cannot be held hostage to threats of sectarian violence, which have no place in society and must be faced down by the primacy of politics and democracy. – Is mise,


Sinn Féin President,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – That was a good analysis by Fintan O’Toole on the mistakes made by the Labour Party in 2011 and 1918, even if it is difficult to see how the country could have had a stable government for the last three years without Labour going into a coalition.

After the disasters of the previous three years, Fianna Fáil was hardly going to find itself asked if it would like to participate, and the voters had spoken in the election.

In every election following a coalition, the smaller partners have suffered – and some have even vanished.

Labour was hardly unaware that this scenario was not going to change. Sailing off into the sunset on a ministerial pension may be attractive, but we should not disregard the notion that there was some sense of public duty involved in the decision to enter coalition three years ago, irrespective of the probable consequences.

1918 was a disaster for the left in Irish politics, and the decision to give Sinn Féin a free run then condemned Labour to the role of also-rans in a conservative State for decades.

Fintan could have gone back further, to 1916, when the decision of the left in the form of Connolly and the Citizen Army to take part in what was largely a nationalist rebellion meant that when the country was being fashioned with the politics of Griffith, Cosgrave and de Valera in years to come, the left was marginalised.

It is suggested that Connolly had told his small force of Citizen Army men, and women, to hold unto their weapons should the Rising be successful, as there could be need for further action either in defence or attack against the new leaders of Ireland. He had nothing in common with those prospective new leaders, except the desire to force Britain out of Ireland. Pearse may have yearned for a blood sacrifice. It didn’t do Connolly’s politics, or the Labour Party of which he was the founder, any good. – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive,


Sir, – Wow.  Fintan O’Toole quoting Fintan O’Toole.  Does it get more ex cathedra? – Yours, etc,


Maretimo Gardens,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (as might be expected) sums up Labour’s current unenviable, if eminently predictable, situation: “Eamon Gilmore and his senior colleagues . . . knew very well that they were destroying the Labour Party and with it the honourable social democratic tradition it represented. They decided to do it anyway.” I respectfully submit that they be beaten over the head with this succinct observation at every available opportunity! – Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – People who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children are Garda-vetted for the protection of those children and vulnerable persons under the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. The GAA has implemented Garda vetting in the association to promote best practice in the recruitment and selection of people to work with children in the GAA.   

Yet a man who was found guilty of an unprovoked assault in a pub causing his victim a fractured eye-socket was ordered by a District Court judge to attend an anger-management course and was further ordered to spend 80 hours teaching Gaelic football to children (“Judge orders GAA star to coach children”, Home News, May 8th).

Would the punishment have been different if the culprit was a teacher instead of a famous Dublin footballer? – Is mise,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Working with children should never be a “sentence”. Does the GAA have any say in the matter? – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Have Aer Lingus and the trade unions forgotten the customers while they trundle on in dispute after dispute? For the past number of years an uncertainty hangs over anybody foolish enough to book a flight with Aer Lingus of never knowing whether they will leave the ground or not because of continuous industrial unrest. Worse still is guessing if they will be flown home.

And here we are again as yet another one-day strike looms from the unions and the cabin crews of Aer Lingus as the beleaguered customer is left stranded in desperation.

Even if this particular crisis is resolved, management and trade unions can take no credit for letting issue after issue rumble on. Are the parties involved aware that because of their action they may not have an airline to operate if they continue with this ongoing conflict?

Why is one of the main shareholders, the Government, standing idly by? Does it care a flying fig for our tourist industry?

So we are left in the lurch once more as the customer receives the “two fingers” from the disputing parties, who babble on incessantly while the good record for reliability of Aer Lingus is in tatters. Any sensible customer might take their business elsewhere, if they have not already done so.– Yours, etc,




Sir, – Congratulations to Brian Mooney (“Removing counselling was a dangerous education cut”, May 27th) on highlighting the damage done to adolescent support services by the removal of every cent (all €32 million) from the guidance and counselling service in schools. The Minister’s decision has brought us back to the 1960s in terms of the level of support for troubled young people in schools.

Having been a guidance counsellor for 35 years in a boys’ school, I know how difficult it can be for a young man in particular to approach the door of the guidance counsellor through the dark fog of near-despair. A responsive service meant that the knock on the door was always answered in all those years. I dread to think of what happens now that the room is empty. – Yours, etc,


St Mary’s Villas,

Drogheda, Co Louth.

Sir, – Government policy is skewed towards using the development sector to create more houses.

This is code for generating more revenue for the State from VAT, development levies and other property taxes, getting builders and first-time buyers to fund social housing and using rising property values to repair the banks.

The second-hand market can provide many times more houses than the new homes market. Policy should encourage downsizing.

A proper property tax system would do this, as it does in most other countries.

If the Government were interested in fixing the problem in the long term, this is where it would look.

Such a policy would also free up equity tied up in our national housing stock.

However, I believe the Government is more focused on an election in two years than on actually solving the problem.– Yours, etc,


Fitzwilliam Street Lower,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Watching Ryan’s Daughter in Dingle where it was filmed 45 years ago, Frank McNally’s enjoyment is enhanced by knowing that the famous storm scene was real – no fakery or computer graphics then (“Look what the storm blew in”, An Irishman’s Diary, May 28th).

Next time he should watch it in South Africa, where David Lean had to take his crew, the Kerry weather having proved consistently awful, but unfilmable.

He will note a remarkable resemblance between Dingle Bay and Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

A chara, – While I’m sure that Eileen Gamble is sincere in her views, her article (“A gay teacher on coming out in the staffroom”, Education, May 27th), coming as it does after many others in The Irish Times attacking our system of denominational education, must be viewed in that light.

It is interesting that alleging discrimination in one area should be used to justify discrimination in another in the attempt to deny the parents of Ireland their right to educate their children in a manner that accords with their religious beliefs. –Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Various writers have suggested different reasons as to why the British royal family should be invited to commemorations of the 1916 Rising.

Surely a more appropriate occasion for inviting members of the British royal family and government would be the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on December 6th, 1921. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak Road,

Bagenalstown, Co Carlow

Sir, – Brian Flynn’s letter and its accompanying headline (May 28th) refer to a “directly elected major” for Dublin. Is a major election lower than a general election? – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,


Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy


German chancellor Angela Merkel

Letters to the Editor – Published 29 May 2014 02:30 AM

* The response of pro-EU officials to the massive rise of so-called Eurosceptic candidates across Europe is quite worrying. Angela Merkel reckons that the way for France to respond to its people voting for anti-EU representatives is to give them “jobs and growth”, while the head of the eurozone finance ministers group, Jereon Dijsselbloem, sees it as an “assignment” for the EU.

Also in this section

Letters: Labour now has a chance to share a new vision

The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

Labour needs a clean slate and a new strategy

Those sort of responses demonstrate perfectly the undemocratic nature of the EU and of those who fervently support it.

It seems that in their determination to centralise as much power and sovereignty as possible in EU institutions, pro-EU officials and politicians have completely dismissed the prospect that the people actually made a clear-headed and genuine decision to vote for the politicians that shared their view of an insidious and overbearing EU government.

Instead, the democratic vote of people all across Europe is something that the EU must “fight back against”.

Such an almost tyrannical mindset fits neatly the comment of Martin Schultz, the German MEP that is in line to become the next president of the EU Commission, that “we must not bow to populism” when referring to the Irish people’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Given such blatant disregard for the democratic voice of the people, is it any wonder that the citizens of many nations around Europe have chosen to elect people that are willing to question the legitimacy of the EU as a de facto European government, which it has surreptitiously become over the years.

It will certainly be interesting how the EU deals with this “democratic threat” to its omnipotence.

I suspect it won’t involve any form of referendum or consultation with with citizens, after all, we have demonstrated that we can’t be trusted to vote the way that EU headquarters wants us to vote.




* After Labour’s poor showing in the local and European elections at the weekend, and the subsequent resignation of Eamon Gilmore as party leader, it is folly to think a new leader can save their season as it were.

As soon as Eamon Gilmore strutted into Government with Fine Gael, they were never going to get to 2016 with the support they had in 2011.

Whoever is in line to be lumped with the poison chalice of Labour leader will not be in a strong enough position to lead the party into the next general election. Fine Gael will not bow to a fresh face with a bright new rose on their lapel.

The passage of this Government will continue with austerity, albeit on a lesser scale than recent budgets, but no matter what occurs in the meantime, Fine Gael and Labour will be remembered as an austerity Government.

The only thing that will change for Labour will be the ashen-faced leader walking out to the electorate in the next election as the face of the desecrated party that broke promises and played ‘excuse me’ politics for five years with their larger coalition partners.




* The news (Irish Independent, May 28) that former Taoiseach John Bruton is calling for a further 10-15 years of austerity in an effort to reduce our national debt is nauseating to say the least.

I find it objectionable that a man like Bruton, who was born into a wealthy family and who has led a privileged life, should pontificate to the hoi polloi on their need to endure more swingeing cuts.

Mr Bruton is so insulated from the hardship being endured by those around him that he feels no discomfiture while preaching from his ivory tower in the IFSC.




* When John Bruton was in power he came across as slightly shambolic and distracted by the burden on his shoulders. Famed for collapsing a government by proposing VAT on children’s shoes, Mr Bruton, no longer a public representative but obviously having the Government’s ear, asks us to face the austerity gale for another 10 years.



* Junior Minister Alex White should do the correct thing and resign having been junior minister through the scandal over medical card reviews.

Medical cards represent a story of a sick or vulnerable person and to subject people to stress at this time to save money by catching out those not “entitled” to them – and at the same time introduce a wave of concessions for those who can afford to have their child attend a doctor – is just beyond belief in the minds on many.

Resign please Mr White. The whole Government should resign but they shrug it off and play political games while the electorate watches in disbelief. Media focus is now on the new Labour leader, whoever that might be, but what about the people who suffered for months because their medical cards were being reviewed?

What about young people on €100 and no prospects? What about the elderly living in fear of the government cuts and taxes? What about people and families worried sick about becoming homeless? What about a Government determined to stay in long enough to celebrate 2016 when they have not got the courage in Labour or the disposition in FG to assert our right as a nation to house and feed our own people?




* There is no longer a single MEP within 75 miles of Kilkenny, before we hit Dublin. Rosslare, in terms of geographic location, could now be hypothetically better represented by Welshman Derek Vaughan than any of his Irish counterparts.

Still, though. At least Cork got three of them!




* Under a headline in the Irish Independent, ‘Vatican crisis conference to combat a surge in Satanism’, a Vatican spokesman stated: “Where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality”

Excuse me while I snigger.

I would have the thought that exactly the opposite is likely to be the case. The rise in secularism is linked to the development of rational thinking, and it is the Catholic Church that maintains its authority through superstition and irrationality.

It is African Pentecostal and charismatic pastors who are subjecting children to violent exorcisms. In Gambia in 2009, one thousand people accused of being witches were locked in detention centres. Children as young as two are being burned, poisoned and buried alive in Nigeria for being witches, where 15,000 children have been accused and end up abandoned on the streets. The Vatican’s latest contribution to this issue has been the six-day meeting in Rome to train about 200 Roman Catholic priests from more than 30 countries in how to cast evil out from people who believe themselves to be in thrall to the Devil. More people should read ‘The Crucible’.



Irish Independent


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