5 June2014 Recovery

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets over 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Margaret Pawley – obituary

Margaret Pawley was a back-room girl with the SOE in Cairo and Italy who later made her mark as a writer on Church history

Margaret Pawley

Margaret Pawley

6:00PM BST 04 Jun 2014

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Margaret Pawley, who has died aged 91, was one of an elite group of young women who were recruited to work with the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War; she later became a historian and a leading member of the ecumenical movement.

She was born Margaret Grozier Herbertson on March 22 1922 in Koblenz, where her father was a senior civil servant in the post-war Control Commission. She spoke German and French by the time she arrived at Stratford House School in Kent. After attending secretarial college, she worked at the Royal New Zealand Air Force headquarters in London, but in 1943 she was recruited through her father’s contacts into the SOE. At her first interview she was told: “I hear you’ve volunteered for Cairo as a coder”; and after only two weeks’ training she and four other girls were sent by flying boat and bomber to Egypt.

Once in Cairo, Margaret Herbertson joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (the FANYs), which provided the back-room girls for the SOE — drivers, wireless operators, cipher clerks, intelligence officers, interpreters and housekeepers in safe houses. She was posted to Force 133, coding and decoding signals between headquarters and agents in the Balkans, and was soon drawn into operations, particularly the supply of wireless sets, crystals, spares, batteries and generators which were dropped by parachute over Yugoslavia.

After the Allied landings in Italy, the FANY girls working with SOE stayed close to the front, and after the liberation of Rome, Margaret Herbertson joined No 1 Special Force in Italy as an intelligence officer. From a secret base in the city she intercepted and interpreted German wireless messages, and prepared intelligence reports for daily pre-breakfast briefings. Next she moved to Siena, where she helped set up the SOE war-room and tracked the retreat of the German army. She was eventually demobilised in late 1945.

Margaret Pawley in uniform

Post-war she studied History at St Anne’s College, Oxford. In 1950 she worked as a national organiser for the Women’s Institute, a role that took her on a seven-month secondment to Malaya, where she helped set up a network of WI federations with some 200 branches.

In 1958 she married the Rev Bernard Pawley, who had served with distinction as an Army chaplain and would soon become Vice-Dean of Ely Cathedral. Two years later their tranquil family life in the Close was disturbed when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, appointed Pawley his representative to the Second Vatican Council in Rome.

Bernard and Margaret Pawley lived in a small flat in Rome, and during the next five years dispensed generous hospitality to the Roman Catholic bishops and others attending the Council.

During the long intervals between the sessions of the Council, they returned to Ely to continue what was very much a shared ministry there; and in 1970 Bernard Pawley was appointed a residentiary canon at St Paul’s Cathedral as part of his increasing responsibilities in the field of ecumenical relations. Two years later he combined this work with that of Archdeacon of Canterbury, where Margaret was a lively and hospitable member of the cathedral community.

In 1961 she had become a member of the Foclare Movement – an international movement founded in wartime Italy to promote unity and universal brotherhood. When the movement’s first ecumenical schools were being established in Britain, she became an adviser to the small study group that was preparing them.

With her husband, Margaret Pawley wrote Rome and Canterbury Through Four Centuries (1974, revised 1981), which became a standard work of post-Reformation Church history. Her other books included a biography of Archbishop Donald Coggan (1987); an anthology of prayers, Praying with the English Tradition (1990); and Faith and Family: The Life and Circle of Ambrose Phillips de Lisle (2012).

Her Watch on the Rhine: the Military Occupation of the Rhineland 1918-1930 (2007) addresses the resentment of Germany towards the Allied occupation between the wars, while Obedience to Instructions: FANY with the SOE in the Mediterranean (1999) is considered the definitive history of FANY operations in the region and its support of SOE operations in southern Europe.

Margaret Pawley was awarded the Cross of Canterbury in 1994.

Her husband died in 1981, and she is survived by their son and daughter.

Margaret Pawley, born March 22 1922, died February 28 2014


The Labour leadership has evidently learned nothing from the rise of Ukip. Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna rush to reassure white voters that they “understand their concerns” about immigration (Labour and Tory frontbenchers call for immigration reform, 31 May). But it should be obvious that the switch of allegiance by working people in Europe from social-democratic parties to the xenophobic right is powered in the long term by the utter failure of the former to provide a progressive alternative to austerity – France provides a particularly clear example. So Labour continues with its promises of austerity into the indefinite future (Labour cannot afford to reverse coalition’s cuts, says finance spokesman, 30 May). When will Labour realise that there is a feasible and popular alternative: ending tax evasion and avoidance, thus reaping £120bn a year and ending the deficit; reversing the privatisations and thus massively cutting costs and improving the quality of public services; and the Green New Deal to reflate the economy and further cut the deficit? That would also enable Labour to challenge Ukip on its ultra-right economic policies, which working-class voters have never even been informed of.
Jamie Gough

• Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, says Labour “won’t be able to undo the cuts” imposed by the coalition. Labour won’t cut spending on the military, won’t allocate resources to get in more from tax avoiders, won’t plug tax loopholes, won’t increase direct taxes. Why would anyone vote Labour?
Emma Tait

•  I was horrified but, sadly, not surprised, to read that Ed Miliband relies on his aides to provide him with news as to what is happening in the UK (‘I don’t read much UK news,’ says Miliband, 30 May), preferring to interest himself in an American online site, RealClearPolitics, which appears to be dedicated to US politics. As a Labour voter I have been concerned, since the Blair years, of the more and more apparent disconnect between our political leaders and the voters. The fact that Miliband chose to employ an American adviser, at great cost, to guide the party to a hoped-for election victory is more than explained by his choice of daily reading. Does he not realise what message this sends to Labour voters and the British public at large? This man, who wants to lead the nation as its next prime minister, exhibits no importance in knowing on a daily basis what its inhabitants are experiencing, thinking or enduring under this government apart from what his aides, presumably selectively, choose to bring to his attention. It makes one wonder if there is any point in voting for someone who displays such contempt for us, seems to be in thrall to the US and its political figures, and is apparently sufficiently uninterested in the daily life of the nation to bother to read some news himself on a reasonably regular basis. It is not surprising that his relationship with “ordinary people” appears to be somewhat distorted. Perhaps he is covering his back and envisages joining his brother in the US should the next election not go in his favour.
Mary Hardy

• John Harris expresses perfectly the reason for the current frustration of many people with Labour’s gobbledegook (Sounding strange is a sign of Labour’s terminal malaise, 3 June). Hearing senior Labour politicians respond to questions with prepared avoidance cliches, hoping no one will notice, is like watching a child putting its hands over its eyes in the belief that we won’t be able to see them. The closeted environment Labour has inhabited for the last 20 years or so is like an isolated country with its own language, so they won’t understand the article. The best we can hope for is that they do badly in the next election and that the shock forces radical change in the party.
Jefrey Pirie
Totnes, South Devon

• I agree with John Harris’s description of the latest Labour party survey for supporters as banal. I gave up attempting to fill it in partway through and instead sent an email describing it as patronising and silly. In return I received an email thanking me for filling the survey in. I’ve also received emails telling me how the Labour party is acting on what I said in the survey. None of this inspires confidence.
Dr Linda Campbell

• John Harris is worryingly correct about so many of Labour’s problems, particularly those related to “normal English”. He is absolutely correct, too, in his description of the Tories, who are “confident enough to voice their ideas with that bit more clarity and oomph”. Nowhere is that more clearly shown than in the reaction to the EU’s criticism of the government regarding the housing boom (Britain told to rein in property boom by EU, 3 June). With the EU’s executive body urging them to reform the council tax system, build more houses, change the Help to Buy scheme, and bring more people into paying tax, what was the response? “The European commission continues to support the UK’s government strategy”. No embarrassment, just extreme arrogance and disingenuity. Are you watching, Labour?
Bernie Evans

• Could there be any greater illustration in the paucity of Labour’s plans to tackle the causes of the crisis unleashed on Britain and Europe than contiguous articles by David Graeber (Savage capitalism is back – but tinkering will not tame it, 31 May) and Chuka Umunna (We’ll not pose with pints)? Graeber discusses the role of a 1% parasitical rentier class presiding over an ever-increasing unequal social order and pinpoints the disappearance of opposing political systems and decline of oppositional movements as crucial factors in that process. No mention is made by Umunna of this historical shift. He offers us “a high wage, high skill” economy with no indication of how the 1% will be persuaded to part with their loot – and especially says nothing about the need to reinvigorate a drastically weakened trade union movement as an essential means for reversing the decline of wages as a share in national income. Not posing maybe – but so far well off target.
Jake Jackson
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

• While I take Chuka Umunna’s point that Nigel Farage too often gives the impression that the saloon bar of a pub is his office, it is a pity that he feels the need to distance Labour from the idea of posing with pints. The British pub remains under threat from property developers and large pub companies. Moreover, at its best, the pub is a place where all sections of a community can meet and discuss life over a drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. That is the complete reverse of Ukip’s vision for the country.
Keith Flett

Oil and gas production platform in the North Sea with burning flames

The Beryl Bravo oil and gas production platform in the North Sea. Photograph: Alamy

Since the Industrial Revolution almost 250 years ago, Britain’s economic prosperity and national energy security have depended on having access to abundant supplies of domestic energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

In 2004 the UK became a net importer of natural gas for the first time. Over the last three years, according to industry experts, output in the North Sea has fallen by 38%.

After nearly 30 years of near-abundant supplies of natural gas from the North Sea, we have become more exposed and vulnerable because of our increased reliance on foreign imports of energy to meet our power-generation needs. In 2014 UK government ministers said they expect Britain to be importing nearly three-quarters of our gas needs by 2030. But it does not have to be this way for ever.

According to the independent British Geological Survey, the Bowland Basin, which covers significant parts of north-west England, currently sits on top of 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If we extract only 10% of this valuable resource, that is enough to boost our domestic supply to meet existing demand by at least a further 25 years, according to geoscientific experts.

Globally high prices for commodities and recent innovations mean this is now economically and technologically possible. As geoscientists and petroleum engineers from Britain’s leading academic institutions, we call on all politicians and decision-makers at all levels to put aside their political differences and focus on the undeniable economic, environmental and national security benefits on offer to the UK from the responsible development of natural gas from Lancashire’s shale.
Professor Richard Selley Emeritus professor of petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Dr Ruth Robinson Senior lecturer in earth sciences, University of St Andrews, Professor Ian Croudace Director of Geosciences Advisory Unit, University of Southampton, Dr Lateef Akanji Coordinator of petroleum and gas engineering programme, University of Salford, Dr Godpower Chimagwu Enyi Lecturer in petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor Ghasem Nasr Director of spray research group, petroleum technology research group and leader of petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor James Griffiths Professor of engineering geology and geomorphology, University of Plymouth, Associate Professor Graeme Taylor Senior lecturer in geophysics, University of Plymouth, Professor Ernest Rutter Professor of structural geology, University of Manchester, Professor Mike Bowman Chair in development and production geology, and president of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain, University of Manchester, Professor Stephen Flint University of Manchester, Professor Jonathan Redfern Chair of petroleum geoscience, University of Manchester, Dr Kate Brodie Senior lecturer, University of Manchester, Dr Rufus Brunt University of Manchester, Professor Kevin Taylor University of Manchester, Dr Tim Needham Needham Geoscience and visiting lecturer, University of Leeds, Professor Paul Glover Chair of petrophysics, University of Leeds, Professor Quentin Fisher Research director of School of earth and environment, University of Leeds, Dr Doug Angus Associate professor of applied and theoretical seismology, University of Leeds, Dr Roger Clark University of Leeds, Professor Wyn Williams Director of teaching: rock and mineral magnetism, University of Edinburgh, Dr Mark Allen University of Durham, Dr Howard Armstrong Senior lecturer in department of earth sciences, University of Durham, Dr Martin Whiteley Senior lecturer in petroleum geoscience, University of Derby, Professor Jon Blundy Professorial research fellow in petrology, university of Bristol, Dr James Verdon Research fellow, University of Bristol, Professor Adrian Hartley Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr David Iacopini Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, Dr Nick Schofield Lecturer, University of Aberdeen Professor David Macdonald Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr Andrew Kerr University Cardiff, Professor Andrew Hurst Professor of production geoscience, University Aberdeen, Dr Sina  Rezaei Gomari Senior lecturer in petroleum technology and engineering, Teesside University, Professor Agust Gudmundsson Chair of structural geology, Royal Holloway, Dr David Waltham Royal Holloway, Professor Joe Cartwright Shell professor of earth sciences, Oxford University, Professor Peter Styles Professor in applied and environmental geophysics, Keele University, Dr Steven Rogers Teaching fellow, Keele University, Dr Ian Stimpson Senior lecturer in geophysics, Keele University, Dr Jamie Pringle Senior lecturer in engineering and environmental geosciences, Keele University, Dr Gary Hampson Director of petroleum geoscience MSc course, Imperial College London, Professor John Cosgrove Professor of structural geology, Imperial College London, Professor Howard Johnson Shell chair in petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Professor Dorrik Stow Head of Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gillian Pickup Lecturer in reservoir simulation, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Zeyun Jiang Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Jingsheng Ma Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gerald Lucas Edge Hill University, Professor Charlie Bristow Professor of sedimentology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Dr Paul Grant Lecturer, Kingston University

Your report (£16m grant for urgent Southbank works, 30 May) suggests that Boris Johnson has “torpedoed” plans to move the skateboarders in order to repair the Southbank Centre; in fact thousands of us have been energetically campaigning to preserve skateboarding in the undercroft. It attracts skateboarders from all over the country to show off their amazing skills – and crowds to watch them. It is part of the rich diversity of the South Bank. It’s a place where youths can be physically active within a city. The proposal to tidy them away under Hungerford Bridge will destroy that visibility, and the ominous footnote that the new venue can be closed for “events” reveals the real intention: gradually to get rid of the skateboarders altogether.
Jean Cardy

• Can anyone in the government explain to me how costs of onshore wind generation is classed as a subsidy (Energy UK steps up anti-green rhetoric, 2 June), while money to prop up fossil fuels is classed as a tax incentive (FoE attacks tax breaks on North Sea oil, 2 June)?
Janet Roberts
Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire

• Shakespeare wrote Richard III in 1592. Queen Elizabeth had reigned for 59 years; in 1587 she had ensured the death of Mary Queen of Scots. He was unlikely to portray Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry VII, as a usurper. Far safer to make Richard a monster and enjoy royal patronage (Experts put crooked image of Richard III straight, 30 May). The Tower was only downriver from the playhouses.
Vicki Morley
Penzance, Cornwall

• The Church of England is right to kick out clergy who join the BNP (C of E clergy will be defrocked if they join BNP, 4 June). Those who want to espouse the grotesque views of the BNP should take responsibility instead of waiting to be thrown out. To paraphrase an old Sunday Pictorial headline, they should go unfrock themselves.
Tony Robinson

• Cedric Thornberry (Obituary, 4 June) was an “expert in conflict resolution”. He was married and divorced four times. Says it all, really.
Ann Clements
Surbiton, Surrey

The power of the argument of those campaigning against “the privatisation of child protection” is not enhanced by the inaccuracies in their letter (30 May). First, while more than 75% of children‘s homes are private- or voluntary-society- owned, only 19% are private-equity-backed. The children’s homes sector is one of solo and small providers, socially committed individuals or organisations.

Also, there are not “low standards of care” in these homes. The Department for Education’s children’s homes data pack shows that there is no link between ownership and quality of care.

Finally, a colleague and I conducted the most rigorous inquiry into the costs of children’s homes care by means of FOI requests to all local authorities. The most accurate figure of the cost of such care on average, across all needs including high levels that need multi-professional provision, is £2,841 per week. Not only does this, as an annual amount, not total the £200,000 figure used in the letter, but every pound spent is closely scrutinised by local authorities. Other government-funded research shows that these placements are made for reasons of safety, specialism and choice.
Jonathan Stanley
Chief executive officer, Independent Children’s Homes Association

Metal bar door inside a prison

‘G4S helps the Israeli Prison Service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory,’ campaigners say. Photograph: Anthony Brown/Alamy

As G4S management and shareholders prepare to participate in the G4S AGM on Thursday, we call on G4S management and shareholders to end the corporation’s participation in Israel‘s brutal occupation. G4S operates and maintains security systems at the Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for the Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention/interrogation facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners, held in solitary confinement.

G4S helps the Israeli prison service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory, despite the fourth Geneva convention prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier. Through its involvement in Israel’s prison system, G4S is complicit in violations of international law and participates in Israel’s use of mass incarceration as a means by which to dissuade Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s systematic human rights abuses.

G4S also provides equipment and services to the Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied and besieged territory of Gaza. G4S’s role in Israel’s brutal occupation and abhorrent prison system is unacceptable and must end. Join our call – add your name to this letter on the War on Want website.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ahmed Kathrada South African politician and former political prisoner, Alexei Sayle Comedian, Alice Walker Author, Angela Davis Author and activist, Breyten Breytenbach Poet and painter, John Berger Author, Ken Loach Director, Michael Mansfield QC Barrister, Mike Leigh Director, Miriam Margolyes Actor, Noam Chomsky Philosopher and author, Paul Laverty Screenwriter, Professor Richard Falk Professor of international law, Roger Waters Musician, Saleh Bakri Actor

•  More than 200 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli prisons. At least two of the jails where Palestinian children are detained – Ofer in the West Bank and Al Jalame in Israel – are supplied with security systems by G4S.

Several organisations, including Unicef in 2013, have documented the ill-treatment of the children inside these prisons. Unicef reported that the abuse of Palestinian youngsters trapped in the Israeli prison system is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”. At its AGM last year, a number of concerned shareholders questioned the G4S board about the company’s complicity in the detention and abuse of Palestinian children, eliciting the promise of a review of the current situation.

A year on, G4S appears to be as entrenched as ever in the Israeli prison system. This is an unacceptable position for the company, with its headquarters in the UK, to be in. We call on G4S to show it has a conscience and terminate its contracts with facilities where children suffer routine physical and verbal abuse, contrary to the norms of civilised society.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Grahame Morris MP, Richard Burden MP, Katy Clark MP, Chris Williamson MP, Alex Cunningham MP, John Denham MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Crispin Blunt MP, Joan Ruddock MP, Mark Durkan MP, Roger Godsiff MP, Hugh Lanning Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Geoffrey Bindman QC, Bruce Kent CND, Caryl Churchill Playwright, Victoria Brittain Journalist and author, Rev Canon Garth Hewitt Amos Trust, Professor Steven Rose, John Austin, Betty Hunter


Thank you for highlighting on your front page (30 May) the under-reported issue of tax credit debt collection tactics.

We are being pursued by HMRC for £2,500, which is solely due to my partner and I each starting jobs over a two-year period. Our changes in income immediately put us in “debt” because the Tax Credits system cannot adapt to significant financial changes occurring late on in the financial year.

We have been hounded by letters and phone calls from a debt-collection agency and so I wrote to our MP and contacted National Debtline for advice. After we wrote to HMRC to complain, as advised, the harassment has stopped – but will no doubt restart as I intend to fight this appalling treatment, and the basic principle of intimidating poor people who are victims of a well-meaning, but flawed, system.

Your report does not mention that “debts” are sold on to debt-collection agencies even before the first stage of the tax credits appeals procedure has been allowed to run its course.

I wrote to HMRC to appeal in October 2013 and received a response just over a week ago after calling several times to request a reply.

The appeals system appears to work on the basis that people will give up if they are ignored and threatened at the same time.

A fair system designed to help low-income families is now penalising and bullying them. The articulate and tenacious may manage to fight these disgraceful tactics but most people are likely to cave in under the pressure of nasty letters and  phone calls from agencies who are experts at harassment and intimidation which stays just within the law.

Lyn Poole, Mossley, , Greater Manchester


Europe: back to the Iron Curtain

Back in the days of Communist parties there was a system called democratic centralism. Ivan’s vote put Dmitri on to the local party committee; which elected a higher party committee; which elected an even higher party committee; which (behind closed doors) elected the Central Committee, where the real power was exercised. Of course, that happened in a place very far distant from Ivan, whose political opinions were ignored once he had voted for Dmitri.

“You don’t seem to like our leader’s policies, Ivan. But don’t you understand? It’s your own fault for electing Dmitri.”

For the Central Committee read the European Council, which may appoint Jean-Claude Juncker behind closed doors to lead the EU. And to think that we were told that the Cold War was all about defending true democracy in western Europe against the hollowed-out, sham version current in the east.

Michael McCarthy, London W13

Nigel Boddy (Letter, 3 June) wonders why those in favour of staying in the EU are so afraid of an immediate referendum. Today’s paper (4 June) provides a graphic example, in the form of a quote from a Ukip supporter talking about Polish immigrants: “You’re walking in the town and you hear them jabber-jabber in their own language then laughing, so you know they’re saying something derogatory.”

What chance is there that such a person will do anything other than vote to leave the EU, simply because he is a xenophobe?

Mike Perry, Ickenham, Middlesex

Taming the chaotic cyber world

There is nothing about the “right to be forgotten” to justify your editorial’s sub-heading: “a licence to rewrite history” (31 May). And if “balancing” is allowed against the well-established “right to know”, what justifies the claim “the latter has to take precedence”? Since it cannot be that it always has to, we are back to the starting point: asking who should decide what ought to be “forgotten” and when.

It is premature to despair at the difficulty of answering such questions and an evasion of responsibility to conclude that until, in some chimerical future, agreed rules operate “across every jurisdiction in the world”, nothing worthwhile is achievable. There’s a clear public interest here and now in protecting privacy, and much else threatened by the chaotic state of the cyber world by extending and improving data protection law.

As with tax law, it is possible to argue for changes even if their remit is restricted and in need of constant adjustment. The “uncomfortable truth” is less that the web is uncontrollable; more that the struggle to humanise it must be a never-ending quest.

But it is a quest no committed liberal democrat can disengage from; for, as J S Mill put it: “All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people” (On Liberty).

Richard Bryden, Llandudno, Gwynedd

Ugly side of the beautiful game

Keith O’Neill’s letter (4 June), praising women footballers for their sporting play, misses the point. Cheating, diving, play-acting, whingeing, berating officials and diving are surely why most people go to watch men’s football matches. What pleasure can there be in watching a game in which no one ever breaks a rule and everyone just plays the beautiful game as it is supposed to be played? Why else are the cloggers and spitters so popular?

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Uncounted costs of immigration

All the discussion about immigration seems to centre on whether your views are perceived to be racist. How about judging immigration purely from an economic standpoint?

If people from the EU relocate to the UK, having secured well-paid jobs on which they pay tax and National Insurance, I imagine the majority of UK-born citizens will have little issue with this.

What is a real concern is the number of people who enter the UK with few skills and enter low-paid, part-time employment. Someone on minimum wage can be working and still be entitled to housing benefit and council tax support. Those with children will also access child tax credits and child benefit. Then you need to factor in the costs of the household accessing the NHS and education.

EU immigration becomes an issue when households cost the UK economy more than they pay in. No mainstream political party has assessed immigration and its financial cost in terms of in-work benefits. Until they do, people will vote for parties who may have a more sinister edge to their anti-immigration stance.

K Barrett, Mossley, Greater Manchester

D-Day: Don’t forget the French sacrifices

How Anglo-centric is this country going to become? A month or so ago we were hearing noisy claims about the effects the immigrants have on England, and scarcely a word in the press or on TV about the suffering which causes anyone to leave home to cross seas and a continent.

Now we remember D-Day. Those of us who were on active service but not, alas, in Normandy had nothing but the highest regard for those who landed, and knew the slaughter of the first 10 weeks or so. That regard has remained with me all my life (I am now 96).

But where are the expressions of sympathy and admiration for the French people, woken in the early hours of D-Day by the explosions of naval shells from unseen and distant warships, and then all that followed? Homes, villages, churches, and, above all, human lives, cattle, means of living lost or damaged; railways and roads machine-gunned, bridges destroyed, towns such as Caen and Falaise ruined, and all this after four years of enemy occupation. Was it necessary? Of course it was, not just to liberate France but to change the balance of the war.

So, please can we remember too the heroism of the French? Recommendations of English books, films or DVDs on this subject would be a welcome surprise.

Bob Hope, Leicester

Bees from abroad

Tom Bawden’s account (4 June) of alleged dangers to our already declining “native” bumblebees from foreign “invaders” reassures readers by reporting that their “pollination services” could prove “hugely beneficial” (4 June). Should we permit xenophobic traditional bee-lovers to scapegoat a rapidly spreading immigrant species for government failures in “food chain” investment?

David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk

Greetings from Yorkshire

As a fellow Yorkshireman, like Bryan Jones (letter, 4 June), I occasionally use “Eh up”, but my preferred meaningless Yorkshire greeting is the magnificently all-encompassing “Now then”.

Mark Redhead, Oxford


A reference to National Trust volunteers as “little old ladies” did not go down very well

Sir, I am very pleased that Miranda Spatchurst (letter, June 3) raised the issue of the National Trust’s reliance on older volunteers, but I object to the term “little old ladies” (report, June 3). It is demeaning and ageist. None of the volunteers I have met is a “little old lady”. Many are men; all are active, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The 70 and 80-year-old volunteers today put younger people to shame. Many look no older than 60 because they are from the 1960s generation which fought for the women’s rights we take for granted today.

Valerie Howard

Beckenham, Kent

Sir, You ought to stop using the expression “little old ladies” with its patronising overtones. We may be shorter than in our youth but we are not part of an undifferentiated mass of dim, ineffectual if well-meaning bodies. You don’t refer to “little old men” (sounds creepy), do you?

Anne Waugh

King’s Heath, Birmingham

Sir, I am a regular volunteer for the National Trust. I am 5’ 2” tall, 70 and female. This qualifies me as a “little old lady”. I am not worn out — I recently walked 15 miles in one day on Offa’s Dyke and plan to
cross-country ski again next winter.

My fellow women volunteers and I prefer not to be described in these pejorative and out-of-date terms.

Joanna Walsh

Dyrham, Wilts

Sir, The shortage of volunteers will only increase as the pension age is raised. Your correspondent Miranda Spatchurst (“a relatively young 65”) is one of the last, fortunate women who have been lucky enough to receive a state pension at 60, giving them the opportunity (with an income, bus pass and other benefits) to volunteer, and it is to her credit that she has chosen to give some of her time to helping a good cause.

However, since she finds “a four-hour shift on a busy day” exhausting, it is as well that she was not born just five years later, as the government would expect her to work, full time, until she is 66 or older before being entitled to a pension.

I’m sure the thought of just a four-hour shift at 65 would seem very attractive to many. However, since most weekday visitors to National Trust properties are the over-60s, when we all have to work until we are 70 there will be fewer free to enjoy the visitor experience and keep the tearooms busy so reducing the need for volunteers. Problem solved?

Rosalind Taylor

Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Sir, Warnings of volunteer fatigue coupled with concern expressed by the chairman of English Heritage (“Hard-up Britons working too hard to be volunteers”, May 31) about the impact of inadequate pensions on volunteer availability suggest the burden needs to be shared.

Perhaps it is time for the government to harness the spirit of volunteering so evident at London 2012 by extending flexible working laws to encompass a right to time off to volunteer.

Michael Ryley

London EC4

The small print on food labels can be mystifying, especially if it is a French jam giving 110%

Sir, Howard Arnold (letter, June 3) should not worry unduly if he cannot read the small print on foodstuffs.

I have a jar of French strawberry jam which states that in every 100g of jam there is 50g of strawberries and the sugar content is 60g per 100g. Additionally, there is lemon juice and pectin.

Michael Fox

Twycross, Warks

One driver is not very happy about her car’s voice – she, the car, is altogether too peremptory and testy

Sir, Our Toyota Prius has a very snooty female voice (“Bossy, opinionated”, letter, June 3). On arrival at a destination, as the engine is turned off, she testily snaps, “Goodbye”, with the emphasis firmly on the second syllable. Her hostility is palpable.

Kay Bagon

Radlett, Herts


The small print on food labels can be mystifying, especially if it is a French jam giving 110%

Sir, Howard Arnold (letter, June 3) should not worry unduly if he cannot read the small print on foodstuffs.

I have a jar of French strawberry jam which states that in every 100g of jam there is 50g of strawberries and the sugar content is 60g per 100g. Additionally, there is lemon juice and pectin.

Michael Fox

Twycross, Warks

12g stickleback may be confirmed as the largest little fish ever caught

Sir, Your report of the angler landing the record 12g stickleback (“Angler lands big tiddler”, June 4) reminded us of the plant nursery we saw in California advertising the world’s largest bonsai trees.

Gerry & Austin Woods

London SW10

Lib Dem leadership jostling brings some of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes to mind

Sir, I fear that Lord Ashdown’s cryptic Shakespearean warning to Vince Cable — that politicians should “choose their Iagos carefully” — was (no doubt inadvertently) erroneous (May 2).

While visiting the former Nunthorpe Grammar School in York I happened upon a board extolling the virtues of selected alumni, among whom was one Vince Cable. His school successes included playing Macbeth — possibly an early indicator of of “vaulting ambition”.

Thomas Zugic

Wressle, N Yorks


SIR – Church of England opposition to HS2 because some graveyards will be disturbed takes no account of Britain’s proud record of moving human remains, not least in two world wars.

The recent enthusiasm for the reburial of the remains of King Richard III shows how well disposed the nation is to such moves.

This row reminds me of the old song that included the lines: “They are digging up father’s grave to build a sewer… / They’re moving his remains to lay down nine-inch drains.”

Some problems recur in each generation, and the same reactions arise every time.

John Roll Pickering
Epsom, Surrey

SIR – My great-great-grandfather Charles Goodall was buried in Old St Pancras Churchyard in 1851. Not long after, he was exhumed to make way for the new Midland Railway. Where he lies now, God knows.

At about the same time, his old home in Kentish Town was also swept away in the name of progress. Governments were even more ruthless then than they are today.

Mike Goodall
Woking, Surrey

Hard hat

SIR – Three years ago I came off my bike as I cornered on a wet road. My head was the first thing to hit the asphalt and I’m glad I was wearing a helmet (Letters, June 3). I’d make a helmet while cycling compulsory.

Roger Gentry
Sutton at Hone, Kent

SIR – I had stopped at roadworks near the junction of a lane when two cyclists came round a bend very fast and one crashed into my car. She was flung across the bonnet and smashed into my windscreen head first. The windscreen was cracked right across, and where her head hit, it caved in with a deep dent. Her bicycle was written off but she was unhurt.

Diana Smurthwaite
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – In my experience, cyclists wearing cycle helmets are more likely to take foolish risks or be too timid. This is an invaluable labelling system that aids motorists subjected daily to two-wheeled road-users’ erratic discipline.

Robin Dickson

King’s head

SIR – One consequence of the abdication of King Juan Carlos is that the new king of Spain will never be named on the obverse of a coin.

The European Central Bank permits some nationalist symbols, but has effectively condemned all eurozone monarchs to anonymity. King Felipe will probably appear as an unnamed effigy.

In the EU, loss of sovereignty leads eventually to a loss of the sovereign.

Tim Clarke
Calbourne, Isle of Wight

Losing contact

SIR – Last week on holiday I had my wallet stolen. I spotted the loss and cancelled the one debit card in it. A replacement duly arrived. It is of the “contactless” variety.

Have we gone mad?

I need no longer provide a Pin for purchases of less than £20. A thief could notch up hundreds of pounds of small purchases before I discovered the theft.

Are we really saying that £20 is an insignificant amount? Tell that to a hard-up pensioner or struggling family.

Christopher Pratt
Dorking, Surrey

Personal war memories

SIR – The Government is funding schemes to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. September is also the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War and this Friday is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the world’s greatest military operation, which resulted in freeing millions from the Third Reich.

Both wars are commemorated on Remembrance Sunday, but from the Second World War we still have people with us who took part and can recall their experiences. We also have many civilians who provided the tools for victory by growing food, digging coal, building aircraft and manufacturing ammunition.

I do not understand why the Government is focusing funding on exhibitions and events based on attic rummages for mainly unknown relatives from the First World War when we still have living Second World War participants.

Gary Victor
Porthcawl, Glamorgan

Slippery statistics

SIR – John Langridge of Sussex was singled out for his slip catching (Letters, May 31), though in another slip, you illustrated the letter with a picture of his brother Jim, also a Sussex (and England) cricketer.

Awesome as his tally of catches (784) may be, the table is headed by Frank Woolley of Kent and England, with 1,018 catches, nearly all at slip, in his 978 first-class matches between 1906 and 1938. Wally Hammond wasn’t bad, either: 819 catches, again almost all at slip. Phil Sharpe was their successor.

David Frith
Guildford, Surrey

Two’s company

SIR – I, too, growing up in a farmhouse in Suffolk, had a double-seat closet at the end of the garden (Letters, June 2). One seat was at a higher level than the other, for the children as far as I was aware. My greatest fear when I was little was falling in, never to be seen again.

Mum always accompanied me there, I think, for that very reason. I never take my en suite for granted.

Heather Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk

SIR – In Norwich Castle there are two double-seat closets facing one another.

Time for a rubber of bridge?

Ian Carter
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire

The church of St Andrew, Alfriston, on the bank of the river Cuckmere in East Sussex Photo: Derek Payne/Alamy

6:59AM BST 04 Jun 2014

Comments191 Comments

SIR – David Benwell (Letters, June 2) points out the undoubted beauty of West Sussex. But has it got the equal of East Sussex’s gorgeous Alfriston village, the charm of Lower Willingdon, the splendour of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, or the calm beauty of Exceat with its spread of salt marshes and wildlife?

They’re different aspects of the whole glorious county, I’d say, being diamond-wedded to a girl from Willingdon, East Sussex, and the brother-in-law to her sister, who has lived most of her life in West Sussex.

Roderick Taylor
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I fully second David Benwell in his eulogy of West Sussex. The other county reference point is, of course, Cowdray – the home of British polo. And this is the height of the polo season.

The Ambersham field is Cowdray’s best. There is highly placid countryside, a club house offering lovely home-made cakes, the thwack of the ball and charging of polo ponies.

And that is not even to mention the elegant leggy ladies at the legendary polo parties.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – The European Commission feels it is qualified to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer on British housing policy. That surely confirms that Brussels should be left to concentrate on the chaos of the eurozone.

Paddy Germain
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The Commission pronounces that Britain “continues to experience macroeconomic imbalances which require monitoring and policy action”.

Have its members no sense of irony?

Robert Langford
Coventry, Warwickshire

SIR – Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, must be rubbing his hands with glee at the many extra votes he will get after the news that the unelected European Commission is giving our elected Government advice on how to run British economic policy.

This from a Commission running an EU so mired in scandal that its own auditors regularly refuse to sign off its accounts.

This from a Commission whose own attempts to bring the EU out of the recent depression have been pitifully slow. Do these people still not realise how much more unpopular such advice makes them?

Stephen Reichwald
London NW8

SIR – If it were proposed that Britain’s next prime minister should be selected from unelected candidates, by unelected appointees that no one knows and whose power will not be controlled by Parliament, it would be overwhelmingly rejected.

So why do members of our elected Parliament disapprove so strongly of a growing political party that objects to power being put in the hands of the new president of the European Commission by such means? It seems democracy has become dangerously selective.

David Rammell
Everton, Hampshire

SIR – David Cameron’s jibe about no one ever having heard of the European Commission front-runner Jean-Claude Juncker echoes Nigel Farage’s “Who are you?” taunt to Herman van Rompuy when the latter became leader of the EU Council.

The never-heard-of-you charge could have been levelled before their appointment at virtually anyone in the present contingent of powerful, unaccountable and overpaid oddballs in Brussels – including the former Maoist, and ex-prime minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso (the current President of the European Commission), and the one-time treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Baroness Ashton of Upholland (the EU High Representative).

Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Jean-Claude Juncker must regret his parents’ not having sent him to Eton.

Norman Hart
Walton on the Naze, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Noel Whelan’s piece examining the background of the so-called Independent councillors elected at the local elections was quite revealing (“Independents can never be seen as a homogenous group”, Opinion & Analysis, May 31st).

If you do the maths from the information he provided, you can deduce that 194 candidates who were not members of registered political parties were elected to local authorities. Of these, 35 are former members of Fianna Fáil, and approximately half of which were still members of that party until weeks before the election. Some 17 others are former members of Fine Gael, and 10 are former members of the Labour Party. Some 22 others were backed by Independent members of Dáil Éireann.

So in other words, less than two-thirds of the “Independent” candidates were genuinely Independent, and together they won just 12 per cent of the total number of seats.

So how does this reality square with the notion, which seems to have been accepted universally, that Independent candidates swept the boards at the recent elections at the expense of the“established political parties”, when 58 per cent of the seats were won by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour with a further 17 per cent of the seats going to Sinn Féin?

Furthermore, how can any of the 22 members who were elected with the backing of current Oireachtas members possibly claim to be “Independent”?

For example, the group of councillors backed by Michael Lowry in North Tipperary describe themselves as “Team Lowry”, and vote together as a block in the county council. They share a website, used joint election posters and regular advertise jointly in the local media.

Prof Basil Chubb described a political party as “any group of persons organised to acquire and exercise political power”. So what is this Lowry group if not a political party by another name? And how can they possibly claim to be “Independent” when they clearly dance to Mr Lowry’s tune?

It would certainly seem that while many voters sought to reject the political party system in order to support Independent candidates, a large number of them were sold a pup by candidates who were anything but “Independent”. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – I dropped my son to St Mary’s Academy, CBS, Carlow, an hour before his first Leaving Certificate examination was due to start. It was a particularly wet morning. Standing at the gate, in the lashing rain, was his year teacher, Ms Laura Walshe, with a large, bright umbrella and an even larger, brighter smile of encouragement for her students as they arrived. I was impressed but not very surprised. So many of the teachers I have met over the years, at both primary and secondary level, have showed the same dedication, commitment and care towards my children. I’m grateful to them all. – Yours, etc,


Tullow Road,


Co Carlow.

Sir, – There are two sides to every coin. As a student I spectacularly failed the Intermediate Certificate exam, and even more spectacularly failed the Leaving Certificate. It seemed to all and sundry at the time that I was a hopeless case, so much emphasis had been placed on education. The perceived “failure” turned out to be the foundation of a truly remarkable life to date. A blessing in disguise. The best “education” in life has in my experience absolutely nothing to do with examinations. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The articles on June 3rd by Carl O’Brien (“Free pre-school year fails to narrow gap between children of different social classes”) and Joe Humphreys (“Parent mentoring scheme giving a new start to education”) confirm the view that preschool education and parenting support programmes in Ireland need more investment.

The articles refer to recent Irish research that affirms what we already know – parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life and their life chances are closely related to their socio-economic circumstances.

We need an early childhood education sector that not only provides high-quality care and education to children attending services but that reaches out and supports parents across the spectrum of class, and particularly those who struggle because of poverty, difficult lives or troubled childhoods. This requires high levels of investment, skilled and qualified staff, with national responsibility for the provision of the service. Early Childhood Ireland’s pre-budget submission calls for increased investment to bring us from 0.4 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP in line with good international practice.

We know quality early childhood education will repay at least seven-fold. We also know that only quality counts. As our politicians battle over revised budgets, they must think to our shared future, which is invested in the present experiences of our youngest citizens. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Early Childhood Ireland,

Hainault House,

Belgard Square South,

Sir, – I read with dismay reports of the recent High Court settlement between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Competition Authority (“Agreement reached on IMO representation in medical card talks”, Home News, May 28th).

For much of the last year, the IMO promised GPs that it would fight “tooth and nail” for their right to full representation and to act as a trade union. Members who were disillusioned by the shocking revelations surrounding a €9.6 million pay-off to a former chief executive were urged to remain loyal throughout this imminent legal battle.

However, in a gesture worthy of the Grand Old Duke of York, the IMO having marched its members up the steps of the High Court, proceeded to rapidly march back down again. The reported “settlement” effectively means the union representing general practitioners has given a legal undertaking that it will not undertake any form of withdrawal of labour.

This utter capitulation has been rewarded with a guaranteed ministerial “audience”, which is a far cry from the ability to engage in full negotiations.

In response to these developments, the National Association of General Practitioners issued a statement condemning this agreement and highlighting the multiple failures of the IMO. Regrettably, despite the fact that the NAGP has over 1,000 members, it remains excluded from all future contract talks.

Presumably the Government will be far happier to “negotiate” with an organisation willing to give legal assurances not to engage in any industrial action, no matter how badly its GP members are treated. – Yours, etc,


Bush Road,

Sir, – I welcome the fact that Lucinda Creighton and supporters are progressing plans to develop a new party (“New political party plans to recruit Independents”, Home News, June 3rd). Surely most of us would welcome a party that will respect freedom of conscience on moral issues, and time limits on ministerial appointments, but if it is pigeon-holed as a right-of-centre conservative party, it will not have the support of those of us that can be both left and right of centre on different issues, such as pro-enterprise policies, fair taxation and excellent and accountable public services. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Sir, – There is clearly a need for an alternative means of marking the end of a life; an alternative, that is, to the ceremonial of organised religion as we experience it in Ireland.

It may well be that ritual and religion are part of the human evolutionary condition so that ritual (as a form of drama) has a positive cathartic effect. While I found the piece by John Fleming quite fascinating (“A funeral with no cross, no icons, no priest”, Rite & Reason, June 3rd), I was confused by a reference to “secular prayers”. Prayers to whom and for what?

Mr Fleming claims that the deceased “lives forever” in the music. We live in a finite world and, I suggest, “forever” has no meaning in that context, however consoling the thought of music might be.

Together with the reference elsewhere to a “requiem”, the piece suggested to me that the there was still a clinging to the traditions of Christianity, particularly the Roman version. – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,

Marley Grange,

A chara,– Further to Andy Pollak’s recent letter (May 31st), the Belfast Agreement, endorsed by a large majority, North and South, expressly provides for a route to Irish unity by way of a border poll. It is clear, therefore, that the constitutional position of the North will change if and when a majority so determine.

Many people, North and South, myself included, believe that partition has failed economically, socially and politically; that it has maintained sectarianism; and that it has blighted relationships across this island and between Ireland and Britain. Citizens have a right, not only to express these views but to pursue the objective of Irish unity, peacefully and democratically.

That right is given clear endorsement in the Belfast Agreement.

In a similar vein, those who have a more positive view of partition are free to make their case and to put it to the people.

To arrive at a position that some issues are beyond discussion fundamentally undermines the democratic process. – Is mise,


Sir, – One get used to Ministers talking nonsense, and Minister of State for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon proves no exception (“Using computers should be an option in Leaving Cert exams, says Minister”, Front Page, June 3rd).

To describe the present examinations as a “handwriting marathon” that demands “three hours of constant writing” is nothing short of gross exaggeration. He does point out that “some will always like pen and paper”, as if such candidates were freakish in some way. People who agree with the Minister can expect “an environment” in which candidates “feel most comfortable”.

I imagine that, given a personal choice, many would opt for the comforts already to be found at home where they study.

This would stop them worrying about “cramped hands” and Mr Cannon could stop worrying about our “languishing” in the global education league table. – Yours, etc,


Killarney Heights,

Sir, – Among those who must question their role in the latest outbreak of seasonal incivility in Howth in Dublin are the public transport operators who carried the perpetrators to their destination (“Garda on alert at Dublin coastal spots”, Home News, June 1st.)

The attitude towards fare evasion and anti-social behaviour on Iarnród Éireann in particular might be best described as shooting fish in a barrel. Families travelling on quiet Sunday morning trains are highly likely to be targeted, while passengers are left to fend for themselves at times when such trouble might be expected.

Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus make good money from Fingal commuters. In return, they need to stand with the residents of this generally pleasant and quiet area and adopt a proactive approach to ensuring that fare-evaders and troublemakers are deterred and removed. – Yours, etc,


Turvey Walk,


A chara, – The title of Padraig O’Morain’s article “People without sleep can destroy our lives” (Health + Family, June 3rd) doesn’t pull any punches. Nor should it.

While Mr O’Morain focuses on the damage done to the global economy by gung-ho, sleep-deprived financial traders and subsequent all-night government debates, I would urge your readers not to forget the work practices of Ireland’s non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs). It has long been recognised that the rosters under which we work are unsafe for patients.

These rosters also have grave impacts on doctors’ quality of life, as indicated by growing rates of physician burnout, increased emigration of newly qualified doctors and – tragically – car crashes and even suicides by NCHDs who had been working unsustainable hours.

Thankfully, efforts are finally being made to improve this situation, and the Irish Medical Times recently reported that compliance with the European working time directive has increased over the past year. However, many hospitals have yet to fully implement the provisions of this directive for all medical staff.

Mr O’Morain’s article is a timely reminder that this issue must remain a priority for hospitals, the HSE and the Oireachtas, for the good of patients and doctors alike. – Is mise,


Sir, – I was having a nightmare. I was at lunch with a mixed age group of eight people. I and another woman were having a conversation across the table. At the other end of the table the host was arguing with another guest. The rest of the guests or family were involved in “conversations” or other communications with absent acquaintances through iPhones, e-phones or whatever other electronic devices they held at knee level under the edge of the table cloth.

Only it wasn’t a dream. It was reality. – Yours, etc,


Lower Kilmacud Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Albert Collins (June 4th) is quite right about our foreign policy stance during the second World War. Ireland was neutral on the Allied side.

It was neither the first nor the last time that we made use of creative ambiguity to hedge our bets and have it both ways. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Sir, – For the last few days workers have been busy installing water meters in my area. To date I am not aware of this work causing any protests, abuse of the work crews or sabotage of equipment.

I would have thought of this as newsworthy, but thus far I have not seen any journalists or camera crews in attendance. – Yours, etc,


Temple Villas,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I beg to differ with Larry Donnelly (June 4th). The sight of a head of government going to a foreign country to lobby on behalf of his compatriots who are illegal (no inverted commas) immigrants in that country is an embarrassment. – Yours, etc,


Dargle Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I fail to understand why men dressed in women’s clothing are allowed participate in the women’s mini-marathon. – Yours, etc,


Glenoughty Close,


Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

It was sad to learn of another dark chapter in our history regarding a cemetery holding the remains of 796 babies, toddlers, children and young adults who, it is believed, died of malnutrition or infectious diseases at a religious-run and state-funded home for unmarried mothers in Tuam, Co Galway, from 1925 to 1961. It closed in 1961 and a housing estate was built in its place.

A local historian and genealogist heard of the forgotten resting place and has set up a committee to raise funds for a commemorative plaque at the cemetery.

It will cost €7,000, and more than €4,000 has been raised. The local community and local politicians are very supportive. It is thought the children were buried without coffins in unmarked graves. It is proposed that an inquiry be held as to why so many died over 40 years.

There will be nice state speeches in 2016 for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, but little said of what a difficult country it was back then. It is still hard for those most in need to be listened to by the State.

Take, for example, the discretionary medical cards removed as an austerity measure from those with serious illnesses and conditions, who were over the threshold for a normal medical card.

Children and adults with serious illnesses had these cards removed with no taking into account of the costs of their medical treatments and supports. All healthy children under six, in comparison, get medical cards regardless of their parents’ wealth.

The Government steadily ignored all the pleas and now says it will respond to voters’ anger, shown at the recent local and European elections, and legislation may be passed to solve it – which shows the power of voting.

I appreciate being Irish, but not the way the country is run at times. Governments, and the public service which runs the country, can get it wrong and are slow to put it right.



The sadness surrounding reports on the Tuam, Co Galway, mother-and-baby home reminds us all of our not-too-distant past. The public must consider the tragedy in the context of the country’s economic and social profile of the time.

One wonders if the fathers of all these ‘unwanted’ children should have input into the proposed inquiry, given that they have more to answer for, rather than simply blaming the religious order of nuns who inherited the expectant mothers seeking shelter.

As a friend of many nuns, who dedicated their lives to serving Ireland’s education and healthcare development during the period, it would be wrong not to engage with all relevant parties.




No money for medical cards; no money for special needs assistants; no money to open much-needed hospital wards; no money for funding charity groups; and no money for the elderly or vulnerable. But mention an MEP losing their seat, or a councillor who failed to get re-elected, and the money for the golden handshakes and pensions magically appears. Is there a full wallet somewhere especially for the elite and chosen few?




Why should we even listen to the troika or European economists? They say deflation is undesirable and that they know all things economic so, all things being equal, we should not be in deflation.

The proof of the pudding, though, and the proof that these people haven’t a clue what they are talking about, is that austerity is causing deflation. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the less money that one pours into a system, the less money there will be to tax.

But let’s take a cynical view of what is happening. Is the centre of the EU experiencing austerity? The centre is getting increasingly wealthy as a result of austerity. The centre is also beginning to expand political power that is not respectful to member nations. The centre is assuming control, based on the centre’s version of how poor or rich the periphery is.

These are the actions of an empire. All empires collapse when the centre becomes ignorantly rich based on taxes it levies on the periphery.

The news from the European elections that €200bn worth of fish has been harvested from Irish waters by our “European friends”; that Ireland contributes €2bn in taxes; and all the hidden social welfare that leaves this country for non-national children who never lived here paints a very unfriendly picture of our friends at the centre. It is also beginning to paint a very poor picture of the parties who have negotiated with our European friends.




The global opprobrium resulting from the death sentence handed down to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim in Sudan, for refusing to repudiate her Christian faith, seemingly has had an impact. The Sudanese government is giving indications she will be released. However, the worry is that ‘leniency’ could be forgotten once her plight slips from the media spotlight.

I would urge the people of Ireland to keep the pressure on the Sudanese government by writing to their embassy in London at 3 Cleveland Row, St James’s, London SW1A 1DD, or emailing .uk to express their concerns. Alternatively, they may use the form letter to be found on the Christian Solidarity Worldwide website.



PURPLE HAZE COVERS E-CIG DEBATEIt seems some people are using e-cig devices to ingest liquid cannabis. If the HSE hears about this it will suffer an attack of the vapours.




On the Labour leadership question I have heard the view expressed that Arthur Spring lacks “relative experi-ence”. Surely that’s one thing the man has . . . the experience of a relative?




King Juan Carlos‘s abdication of the throne is commendable. Like Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands before, time has come for a renewal of the monarchy institution.

It is true that Queen Elizabeth II has been a source of strength, unity and cohesion in Britain. Her untrammelled grace, dedication and intuitive empathy has had far-reaching domestic and international clout beyond limitations.

Her nation is grateful for her sense of duty and sound judgment at times of turbulence and economic and political frustrations. However, it is time to inject young and fresh blood in the monarchy.




Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaks of the “dire need for priests in Ireland”. He should see where the problem is. Only celibate males may apply, women definitely not wanted.

It took the Catholic Church some 1,800 years to stop supporting slavery. Ordaining women as priests must wait much longer – unless Dr Martin and other bishops dare to suggest otherwise to Pope Francis?



Irish Independent


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