6June2014 Recovered

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

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


Hazel Heaton-Armstrong – obituary

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was a retailer whose family gave refuge to the von Trapps and who spent childhood holidays with the Kennedys

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong

5:32PM BST 05 Jun 2014

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Hazel Heaton-Armstrong, who has died aged 89, was a young girl of 14 when, in 1938, the musical von Trapps took refuge from the Nazis with her family; she later spent school holidays with the Kennedy clan.

The complex connections between Hazel’s family and the von Trapps had developed out of a web of relationships that had their origins in the days before the First World War when cultural and political links between Britain and the German-speaking world were strong. The story of the Heaton-Armstrong family in the 20th century was played out as those ties were broken by two devastating wars.

The youngest of four children, Helen Gabrielle Laura Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was born on July 14 1924 in Kensington, west London, to John (later Sir John) Dunamace Heaton-Armstrong (always known as Jack) and his French-born wife Suzanne (née Bechet de Balan). Although her father was a pillar of the British Establishment as a long-standing officer at the College of Arms (he became Clarenceux King of Arms, the second most senior herald, in 1956), the family had long-standing connections with the Continent.

Hazel’s grandfather, William Heaton-Armstrong (1853-1917), had been born in Austria and married the Baroness Bertha Maxmiliana Zois-Edelstein, oldest surviving daughter of the Austrian 4th Baron Zois-Edelstein. William later served as Liberal MP for Sudbury in Suffolk, from 1906 to 1910, before founding a bank.

Meanwhile, in January 1914 Hazel’s uncle, Captain Duncan Heaton-Armstrong, had taken up the post of private secretary to the newly-appointed King of Albania, the German Prince William of Weid. When the First World War engulfed the Balkans six months later, he escorted two royal infants back to Germany, where he promptly became the first prisoner-of-war of the conflict (he was released two years later in a prisoner exchange). He subsequently wrote an account of Albania’s short-lived pre-war monarchy, The Six Month Kingdom.

After the war Duncan briefly went into business with Capt George von Trapp, an Austrian naval hero who would become famous as the patriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. In 1911 von Trapp had married Agatha (“Agathe”) Whitehead, granddaughter of Robert Whitehead (1823-1905), the man who invented the modern torpedo. After the British government had rejected his invention, the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef had invited Whitehead to open a torpedo factory in Fiume, where his invention facilitated the development of the U-boat. Whitehead, however, had sold his firm to Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth at the time he retired, so at the outbreak of war in 1914 the company was British-owned.

The Trapp Family Singers (BBC/TELEVISION STILLS)

George and Agathe had seven children, and it was Agathe’s death in 1922 that precipitated the arrival of a novice nun, Maria, from an abbey in Salzburg – and the story of The Sound of Music.

Despite the connection on her father’s side, Hazel’s main connection with the von Trapps was through her mother, who had previously been married to Agathe’s brother, John Whitehead; he had served in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and been killed in action in 1916. They had a daughter, Hazel’s half-sister Mary.

According to the story told in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, following the Anschluss in March 1938 the von Trapp family fled from the Third Reich by hiking over the Alps to Switzerland. In reality, they travelled by train to Italy before making their way to London, where they stayed with George von Trapp’s sister-in-law and her second family, the Heaton-Armstrongs, while awaiting visas to enter the United States. Hazel recalled that the von Trapps sang for the family during their stay before finally leaving by ship for America in September.

Julie Andrews as Maria in a still from The Sound of Music (MOVIESTONE/REX)

Hazel was educated by a nanny and governesses until the age of 14, when she was dispatched to a Roman Catholic convent at which one of her fellow pupils was Patricia Kennedy, the daughter of Joseph Kennedy, the then American Ambassador to London, and his wife Rose. Patricia’s siblings included the future President John F Kennedy and his brothers Bobby and Edward.

At the outbreak of war Hazel’s father, despite having lost an eye in childhood and a leg in the First World War, took leave of absence from the College of Arms to enlist for active service. He was posted to Oxford as a squadron leader in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch of the RAF. With her parents away from London, Hazel spent her exeats and holidays with the Kennedy family, until the Kennedys returned to America at the end of 1940. She did not meet John or Bobby, who had remained in the United States, but she recalled Teddy Kennedy as a “sweet little boy” and kept up with Patricia for many years, naming her eldest daughter after her.

After leaving school, Hazel Heaton-Armstrong joined the Wrens in 1941 and was posted to Rosyth and OrkneyLater she was sent to Malta where, as she recalled, she “danced and danced”.

She was demobbed in 1945 and returned to London, training in photography and working in antique shops. In 1952 she married her cousin Michael (who, as Capt Thomas Michael Robert Heaton-Armstrong, had served as the acting governor of Trieste towards the end of the war). She had known him from early childhood, and at the time of their marriage he was working as a pig-breeder at Bosbury, Hereford.

In 1953 they moved to Scotland, first to a rented farm near Crieff, then, in 1955, to a farm at Couligartan, near Aberfoyle, where they brought up their six children.

They continued to farm pigs until 1964, when it was no longer financially viable. They then took a lease on a shop in Aberfoyle where they began selling Hazel’s creations — decoratively-covered boxes of cook’s matches, waste-paper bins and other items. Within a few years they had acquired several more shops, and by the mid-1980s Armstrong of Aberfoyle had become a sizeable retail concern, with a hairdresser, haberdasher, crystal shop, tweed shop and a Post Office.

A devout Roman Catholic, Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was, for 25 years, a director of St Ninian’s, Gartmore, a school run by the De La Salle religious order. She was a regular attendee at the Roman Catholic chapel in Aberfoyle, and when the owners could no longer lend the room, she and her husband arranged for the congregation to be accommodated at the local Episcopal church, an ecumenical arrangement whereby services were timed so that the Roman Catholics warmed the seats for the Anglicans.

After selling the shops and the family home, in 1987 the Heaton- Armstrongs retired to Portugal.

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong’s husband died in 2000, and she is survived by their three daughters and three sons.


sex education year 6

Seven out of 10 teachers felt they needed more training to deliver sex and relationships lessons properly. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have all stated publicly that sex and relationships education is important, yet Ofsted recently found that it remains unsatisfactory in a third of schools. This is hardly surprising when a survey of teachers showed that seven out of 10 felt they needed more training to deliver the subject properly and that regulations require only a handful of the more biological topics to be addressed. All children and young people need age-appropriate teaching. If pupils approaching puberty don’t learn the proper names of sexual parts of the body, and those in secondary school are taught little or nothing about consensual relationships or sexual health, we are failing in our duty to safeguard pupils.

As the education select committee opens its inquiry, we are calling for a commitment from political parties to make such teaching statutory. This would allow it to be treated the same as other subjects – with educators trained in the subject and sufficient timetable time to tackle real-life issues, including domestic violence, exploitation and pornography. Statutory sex and relationships must apply to all schools, including primary schools and academies, and pupils must be guaranteed to learn medically correct facts about their bodies. Teaching must be pro-active in promoting gender and LGBT equality, and relationships education should count for at least half of that teaching. There is overwhelming support from parents, young people, teachers and health professionals to improve such teaching, so we urge our leaders to give it the statutory status it so urgently needs.
Jane Lees Chair, Sex Education Forum
Dr Mary Bousted General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Dr Hilary Emery Chief executive, National Children’s Bureau
Peter Wanless Chief executive, NSPCC
Dr Rosemary Gillespie Chief executive officer, Terrence Higgins Trust
Julie Bentley Chief executive, Girlguiding
Joe Hayman Chief executive officer, PSHE Association
Simon Blake Chief executive, Brook
Dr Audrey Simpson Acting chief executive officer, Family Planning Association
Felicity Owen Director of public health, Cornwall council
Ruth Sutherland Chief executive officer, Relate
Andrew Copson Chief executive, British Humanist Association
Jeremy Todd Chief executive, Family Lives
Ann Furedi Chief executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
Ann Hartley Deputy leader, Shropshire council
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain Chair, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
Rod Thomson Director of public health for Shropshire
Alison Hadley Director, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, University of Bedfordshire
Luke Tryl Head of education, Stonewall
Gill Frances Life member, Sex Education Forum
Andrew Wallis Lead member for children and young people, Cornwall Council
Rhys Hart Member, UK Youth Parliament for Shropshire
Dr John Lloyd President, Institute of Health Promotion and Education
Susie Parsons Chief executive, National Aids Trust
Jennie Williams Director, Enhance the UK
Hilary Pannack Director, Straight Talking Peer Education
John Rees Chair, National PSE Association for advisers, inspectors and consultants
Dr David Regis Research manager, Schools Health Education Unit
Lizzie Boyle Director, Fruition
Ruth Lowbury Chief executive, Medical Foundation for Aids and sexual health
Alice Hoyle Coordinator, RSE Hub
Sue Allen Chair, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Trustees
Paula Power Director, CWP Resources
Yoan Reed Proprietor, Teaching Lifeskills
David Evans CEO, APAUSE
Chris Cowan Company director, Loudmouth Theatre
Rev Jane Fraser Director, Bodysense
Lesley Kerr-Edwards Chief executive Officer, Image in Action
Liz Griffiths National PSHE CPD programme lead
Hilary Dixon Life member, Sex Education Forum
Ellen Adams Coordinator, Sexpression: UK
Denis Cronin Associate director of public health, Cornwall council
Ruth Hilton Member. Sex Education Forum
Melody Dougan Life member, Sex Education Forum

We are calling on Theresa May to review urgently the asylum case of Afusat Saliu and her daughters. Afusat and her daughters, Bassy, four, and Rashidat, two, were deported three days ago to Nigeria (Report, 3 June). This is despite an ongoing judicial review. We urge the home secretary to consider the fresh and compelling evidence in her case. This includes the very real threat that her daughters will be subjected to female genital mutilation (as Afusat was as a child) and the threat to Afusat and her family as Christian converts now they have been forcibly returned to Nigeria.

Afusat and her girls are a valued and integrated part of the community in Leeds; not least for being part of a refugee women’s choir at West Yorkshire Playhouse. They are not just a case or a problem, but a young woman and her children who are in fear for their lives.

We believe Afusat and her daughters deserve at the very least a fair hearing. The government has rightly abhorred the abuse of human rights and violence against women and girls, just this week launching a campaign to end FGM. We believe that it is time to put those principles into practice: give Afusat and her girls a fair trial.
David Hare Playwright
Benjamin Zephaniah Poet and writer
Lemn Sissay Poet and writer
Tariq Ali Writer and filmmaker
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Journalist and writer
Kenan Malik Writer, lecturer and broadcaster 
Daniel Kitson Comedian
James Brining Artistic director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Sheena Wrigley Chief executive, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Alex Chisholm Associate director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
John McGrath Artistic director, National Theatre of Wales
Vicky Featherstone Artistic director, Royal Court Theatre
Simon Stephens Playwright
Guy Taylor Convenor, Movement Against Xenophobia
Chris Thorpe Playwright
Lolita Chakrabhati Playwright
Christopher Haydon Artistic director, Gate Theatre
Natalia Kaliada Co-artistic director, Belarus Free Theatre
Nikolai Khalezin Co-artistic director, Belarus Free Theatre
Boff Whalley Chumbawumba member and playwright
Rod Dixon Artistic director, Red Ladder Theatre Company
Dr Daniel Bye Lecturer and theatremaker
Lucy Ellinson Theatremaker
Alan Lane Artistic director, Slung Low
Jon Spooner Artistic director, Unlimited Theatre
Dr Hannah Nicklin Theatremaker and academic at UWE
Melanie Wilson Theatremaker
Kieran Hurley Playwright
Clare Duffy Playwright

• It is shocking to read your report (Deportees treated as commodities, 2 June) on how those being deported from the UK are being treated by private contractors. The recommendations of the National Independent Commission on Enforced Returns, by Citizens UK, including the use of pain-free restraint, independent oversight of enforced removals and a more robust system for licensing of the staff involved, should be implemented quickly. These contracts should be returned to the public sector to allow for great accountability. These operations are being done in our name and must be done by treating people with respect and dignity.
Suzanne Fletcher
Chair, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary

Why no mention of the Welsh National Eisteddfod in the Guardian’s music festivals guide? Photograph: Alamy

It would be interesting to know the directorships and other commercial interests of the 50 academics promoting the economic benefits of a Lancashire shale gas industry (Letters, 5 June). Beware the vested interest of “Frackademica”.
Pam Foster
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

• I have been fuming since I received your music festivals guide (31 May). No mention of the National Eisteddfod of Wales, an annual event over nine days with thousands of visitors, or of the Urdd National (children’s) Eisteddfod, lasting a week, the largest youth festival in Europe, nor even of the International Eisteddfod held annually at Llangollen. Yet you mention Iceland, Serbia, Croatia, the Netherlands etc.
Mair McGeever

Menai Bridge, Anglesey

• Your article on the pronunciation of foreign brands (G2, 4 June) omits the vermouth Noilly Prat. They tried advertising it with the slogan “Say ‘Noilly Prat’ and your French will be perfect”. The problem was that hardly anyone could say it, and the campaign was dropped.
Andrew Tucker

• Simon Jenkins (Comment, 4 June) talks of the World Cup’s extortion of billions of dollars from poor Brazil. Brazil isn’t poor. It’s just that the wealth is unevenly distributed among the general population.
Peter Seaton
Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Mondrian, What a man, Framed a chart, Called it art (G2, 5 June).
Louis Hellman

• John Crace on the Queen’s speech (5 June) was not only amusing, but also informative. I had not realised that the royal group was led by the Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary and the Rouge Croix Pursuivant. There’s something to drop into conversation down the pub.
Paul Bagshaw
Southport, Lancashire

• One question: why were those page boys not at school?
Alison Fryer

The debt deal reached between Argentina and the Paris Club group of western countries is not a “good deal” for the South American country (Argentina debt deal could help ease re-entry to international markets, 30 May), but it is fantastic for the UK and others. Argentina defaulted in 2001 when it ran out of money. Most private lenders accepted 33 cents for every dollar owed. That Paris Club countries are now to be repaid double the original debt represents a huge return, six times more than private lenders received. Western countries are breaking their own rules that lenders should be treated equally when debts need to be reduced.

Moreover, Vince Cable admits that 40% of what Argentina owes the UK is from loans to the military junta in the 1970s to buy British military equipment. The Liberal Democrats have a policy to cancel unjust debts from loans to dictatorships, another promise abandoned in government.
Tim Jones
Jubilee Debt Campaign

The debates on what the European project is about miss a salient point made 30 years ago by the historian Alan S Milward. Social democratic and Christian democratic architects of the project ensured its legitimacy by establishing governments that guaranteed political, economic and social rights from the vicissitudes of the market and capital. This contract has been hollowed out by these parties conniving at neoliberal and austerity programmes that would have the founders spinning in their graves.

David Graeber (Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself, 30 May) is correct to point out that the absence of a pole of opposition, in the shape of the Soviet bloc, has fostered the collapse of the regime created by Jean Monnet, Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman et al. No wonder ordinary workers and voters are now doubting the European idea and the big fact that those who waded ashore on D-day thought that they were guaranteeing an end to European civil wars for ever.
Clive Tempest
Westbury on Severn, Gloucestershire

•  Seventy years ago, my aunt Margery was working as a WAAF cypher officer in Hampshire. Her journal for D-day says: “At 0130 hours I climbed on the ops roof to see the most amazing sight I have ever seen. On the runway our fleet of tugs and gliders were taking off perfectly timed; above them at about 5,000 ft came a great formation of US Dakotas flying in V formation of three in a flight – the sky was full of twinkly green and red and amber lights, the air filled with the steady purposeful roar of their engines.

“Away in the distance came another fleet, and further off still a haze of lights betokened yet another. Our aircraft and tows circled below them before streaming off to the south. And as they went the first bombers came back…”
Chris Birch

• Adam Tooze (We’re further than ever from D-day vision, 3 June) makes the point about little Englanders’ view of the invasion, but slips into the same error himself when listing countries playing their part, as he puts it, in “winning the second world war”, omitting to mention that, had Overlord failed, the Soviet Union (where the Germans suffered 95% of their losses) was poised to win the war. The courage of British and American soldiers, the French Resistance and others should be warmly remembered, but we should not ignore that of our Russian allies.
Hamish MacGibbon

• John Pritchard’s claim that the second world war was made possible by the Soviet pact with Hitler (Letters, 29 May) is incorrect. From 1933 the Soviet Union worked for an alliance with Britain, France and Czechoslovakia to hold Hitler at bay. It failed, largely because of the Anglo-French commitment to appeasement. After the rejection of the offer of military support in defence of Czechoslovakia, the Soviets came to the view that the British and French were unwilling to fight. So they followed the lead of Britain and France, opted for appeasement and the non-aggression pact with Hitler. An Anglo-French-Soviet alliance would have saved Czechoslovakia and prevented world war two, with its millions of deaths and the Holocaust.
Bryan Sadler

•  On the 70th anniversary of D-Day your readers may be unaware of the existence of one of the British warships that supported the invasion fleet.  HMS Whimbrel escorted landing craft to the Utah and Omaha beach landings. A veteran of many Atlantic and Russian convoys, she later served in the Pacific and is the only surviving British vessel that was present for the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.

HMS Whimbrel was sold to Egypt in 1949 and is now at Alexandria awaiting disposal. The ship is remarkably unchanged from her second world war condition. The HMS Whimbrel (1942-1949) Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Trust aims to restore the ship and locate her in Liverpool in memory of the many thousands of all services who have no known grave.

An urgent appeal has been launched by the trust to raise the purchase price of £250,000. The ship is too fragile to be towed so a further £1m may be needed to carry the ship home. This is the last chance to rescue her from the breakers. Anyone wishing to make a donation please contact the trust secretary, Chris Pile, at
Rod Pudduck
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Your editorial (Extreme politics, 5 June) about alleged attempts to radicalise Birmingham schools states that Mr Gove’s only level of control of an academy is a critical Ofsted inspection. That is not so. An academy is contracted to Mr Gove. Under that contract, all documents relating to a governors’ meeting are sent to his office in advance and two officials of his department are entitled to attend and speak at any meeting of the governing body. Did any officials attend such a meeting at any academy now being inspected by Ofsted? If so, what failings did they detect in the management of the school and to whom did they report them? If they did not attend any such meeting, when Ofsted reports on that academy, presumably it will note the failure of the secretary of state to ensure the participation of his officials, the agents of control at his command, in the management of the school. It is not Ofsted’s job to see that a contract between a school and Mr Gove is properly managed; it is Mr Gove’s job to do that. Whether he did it well or even at all is what Ofsted needs to make clear in its report.
Peter Newsam
Pickering, North Yorkshire

• Let me present a number of points from five Ofsted inspections I have experienced. First, its creation and its growth are essentially politically driven. Its primary goal, with the support of the press, has been to denigrate state education. Second, the Ofsted agenda and inspection framework has continually changed since its inception and is unrelated and unhelpful to the long-term needs of all stakeholders in education.

Third, the process is data-driven. Inspectors arrive at schools with their minds made up and have left “outstanding” lessons early to avoid grading them as such if this has gone against their preconceived notions. Visits have often been a waste of time and energy for all concerned.

Fourth, schools in the same area have had different inspection teams with varying degrees of adherence to the framework. This has made it impossible for parents to judge the relative merits of local schools accurately.

The one consistency has been the make-up of Ofsted teams over the years. The lead inspector is usually a highly competent education professional but cognisant that he/she has quotas to fulfil in terms of gradings. The second inspector is usually a young turk seeking to develop a career and so keen to follow the Ofsted agenda to the letter. The rest are a ragbag of the retired, the willing and the incompetent. On four separate occasions I have had to correct and explain their misunderstandings and lack of knowledge on the very areas they are meant to be inspecting.
Lee Porter
Former assistant head, Bridport, Dorset

• It’s ironic that Michael Gove is taking a strongly anti-Islamic stance in relation to the “Trojan horse” schools while at the same time promoting a wider agenda centred on strong support for faith schools, for state-funded independent schools and for the right of schools and governing bodies to establish their own distinct ethos. This controversy raises wider issues. It provides a strong case for revisiting the 1944 education settlement which entrenched the role of religious groups in the running of schools and for replacing it with a thoroughly secularised system.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

• I was a member of the Ofsted team that put one of the first schools into special measures in the 1990s. We agonised long into the night before making the decision, not on whether our judgments were sound, but on the political consequences of such a decision. Subsequently, the head of the “failed” school got a knighthood. Ofsted has always been political and has only ever paid lip-service to improving educational opportunities for children.
Tony Bayliss

• The chair of governors of one of the schools involved in the Trojan horse controversy has held this position for 17 years. It is against the principles of good governance for one person to hold a role of such influence for such a long period of time. This is true whether the chair is a Muslim, white or middle-class.
Mike Lee
Rossendale, Lancashire

• Ofsted is deeply flawed. It has little to do with school improvement and much to do with passing judgment, often on the basis of unreliable data and expertise. Its reports are turgid, reflecting an obsession with controlling language and thought that bears comparison with newspeak. It employs the same dodgy subcontractors of state services as perform so well in other areas of public life.
Roy Boffy
Former Ofsted inspector, Walsall


I don’t recognise much in Grace Dent’s rant about the “baby boomer generation” (3 June), and am sorry to have to spoil it with a fact.

The “born in 1945 to 1965 bracket” baby boom she refers to, a common currency for the internet generation, describes what happened in the US. ONS data (Pension Trends, Ch.2, 2012) for the UK tell a quite different story.

Here the birth rate spiked in the late 1940s, but by the early-mid 1950s had fallen back close to that in the years before the Second World War. Then it slowly rose again to give a shallower peak around 1965/6. Thus there were two distinct “baby booms”, with greater numbers in the later one.

I belong to the first, postwar, group, for whom the notion that “we had free university education” is grotesque. It’s true that maybe one in 10 went to university, which the state paid for, but this gripe conveniently forgets the nine out of 10 who didn’t. Most of them never had a chance because they were consigned as “failures” to secondary modern schools at age 11, and entered the workplace at 16.

And as young adults starting families in the 1970s, oh how we enjoyed 8-12 per cent mortgage rates and annual price inflation some years of over 20 per cent. But so what – was it ever easy for the young, and is it really surprising that older people have got most of the money? When was it not so ?

This is another example of misidentification of a minority group based on lazy generalisations. The story seems to have wide currency in the media but it really is tosh.

Professor Guy Woolley, Nottingham

I must object to Graham Hudson’s description of us baby boomers as a “lucky” generation (letter, 4 June). We had good opportunities in our lives because our parents voted, as we did in our turn, for a decent and equitable society which levelled the playing fields in health, education and housing. Subsequent generations voted for greed and privilege under Thatcher, Blair and Cameron.

Not luck, Mr Hudson, but belief in social justice got us our good lives.

Jane Jakeman, Oxford

Londoners’ taxes subsidise the rest

I’m sure that, like me, most of your London-based readers did not take Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s suggestion of an independent London very seriously. One bunch of secessionists from the UK is quite enough to be going along with! However, my mind might be changed if there are more examples of the views expressed by your correspondents Peter English and Anthony Ingleton (letters, 3 June).

There aren’t any authoritative figures comparing public spending in the nations and regions of the UK with the taxes raised there, but the consultancy Oxford Economics has done some work in this area in the past. This indicated that, at the end of the long boom in 2006-7, Wales paid for two thirds of the public spending taking place there and Yorkshire around four-fifths. In 2006-7 London’s taxes generated a minimum surplus over spending on London’s needs of £12bn, which went towards public services in less well-off parts of the country, such as Wales and Yorkshire.

No London money, and Wales and Yorkshire (and some other parts of the UK) would have the invidious choice of higher taxes and/or more cuts in services.

Mr English suggests that an independent London ought to be treated in the same way as West Berlin was treated by the Communist regimes around it. Well, that certainly worked a treat for East Germany, didn’t it?

Mr Ingleton compares London unfavourably with Paris, Rome and Vienna. They are all lovely cities, but at the moment the flow of young people seeking opportunity and work is into London from much of Europe, including no doubt some from Paris or Rome or Vienna. The young immigrants can see that London is the most economically dynamic and culturally diverse and interesting city in Europe, if not the world.

Philip Hamshare, London SE27

The Queen mouths  a mixed-up slogan

The Queen in her speech at the opening of Parliament said it was her government’s aim to work towards a “stronger economy and a fairer society”.

I’ve a feeling the Government has got this slogan the wrong way round. Shouldn’t we be aiming for a stronger society and a fairer economy, where all citizens are empowered to contribute to the common good, no matter what their perceived status in society?

A stronger society means public servants being of equal worth to entrepreneurs, and the disadvantaged and vulnerable being treated with compassion. A fairer economy means enabling all working-age citizens to reach their full potential, employers paying all their staff a fair wage, and the Government pursuing far more vigorously all those in society who put their own interests before those of a wider society.

David Eggington, Sheffield

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are in the midst of civil war; Egypt and Thailand on the threshold. The NHS is in crisis. Food bank queues stretch round the block. House-building is at an almost all-time-low. Energy prices rocket. And Her Majesty’s Bag-Carriers bag our carriers.

Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

It’s May who looks like a leader

A Tale of Two Ministers surely explains the alleged spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May. Michael Gove’s record as Education Secretary has been one of meddle and muddle, with an increasing toll of failed free schools and faltering academies. Gove has spoken of giving power to parents, while micromanaging education policy and issuing more daily edicts than a North Korean dictator.

In contrast, Theresa May has led firmly and quietly from the centre while devolving power to local people. While Gove has fiddled about with the national curriculum, Mrs May has made our streets safer and overseen a consistent annual fall in crime figures. Gove has become an embarrassment while May has become a credible candidate to succeed David Cameron.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex

Better together on D-Day

It feels small-minded, and even disrespectful to the many brave Scots, English, Welsh and Irish who fought bravely and gave their lives, that on the anniversary of D-Day, Scotland is even considering breaking away from a union which has served well Scotland, its people and the world.

Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation ever, was a magnificent example of what the British can achieve together: it was planned by the British, commanded by a Scot (Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay), equipped by the British (who provided over 80 per cent of the vessels) and Americans (the rest). The combined co-ordination and manning by English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Americans, Canadians and other nations ensured success.

Scots and Scotland will continue to have influence and serve the world best as part of a G8 country.

William Ramsay, Coldstream, Berwickshire

Tangled narrative of Parthenon Marbles

Alas, I fear to suggest that Philip Stephenson’s marbles are not exactly where they belong (letter, 3 June).

Am I right to conclude, from his argument against returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, that if I espy some objects in my neighbour’s possession which I believe would “converse … to create a narrative” with objects currently in my possession I would be entitled on contextual grounds to remove them to the “free environment” of my house or garden? Surely not?

Matthew Hisbent, Oxford

Greetings from Yorkshire

Mark Redhead recommends the Yorkshire greeting “Now then” (letter, 5 June)? Shades of Jimmy Savile: “Now then…now then…”

Please, no! “Eh up” will do just fine for now, and, perhaps, then.

Lin Hawkins, Ashcott, Somerset

Mark Redhead might be interested to know that Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York in 306, and that there is today, in his capital, Istanbul/Constantinople, an area called Eyup.

Coincidence? I think not.

Roger Moorhouse, Todmorden,  West Yorkshire

Marshy wonder of the modern world

A marshy peninsula between two estuaries seems an odd choice, in today’s climate, for the site of a new garden city (“Garden city settles on marshy ground”, 5 June).

 Perhaps they will build it on stilts, and its gardens will become a new wonder, like the hanging gardens of ancient Babylon.

Sue Norton, York


Rex Features

Last updated at 9:17PM, June 5 2014

Surely fairytales stimulate a child’s imagination, so that it can be better scientist

Sir, Imagination is the springboard of science. It is also the stuff of fairy-tales. It is a driver of religion. It is an essential element of human being. Creativity and the betterment of our lot begins with the musing of what if? Empirical investigation arises out of inquisitive speculation.

To be sure, plenty of wacky ideas are born of flawed thinking and improbable metaphysics, but you don’t overcome that by abandoning time-proven sources of imaginative input and stimulus. Rather, the worldview naivety and unthinking gullibility so rightly bemoaned by Professor Dawkins (“He killed God … now he’s after Santa”, June 5) is better countered by the promotion of critical thinking and the imaginative openness of mind that eschews closed dogmatic certainties. A fertile imagination and applied critical thinking are both required for good science. They also happen to be needful for good religion. And both are about more than merely explaining our existence; they inform and enrich it.

Professor Douglas Pratt

University of Waikato, New Zealand

Sir, Will Thomas the Tank Engine and friends be next to be axed by Professor Dawkins, on the grounds that locomorphogenesis is statistically unlikely — and also because they were the construct of an Anglican clergyman?

Peter Arnold

Wellingborough, Northants

Sir, Even as an adult, I still receive presents every Christmas purporting to be from Father Christmas. It reminds me that giving is a joy, even (or especially) when the donor does so anonymously, and it inspires me to do the same. The mythical tradition surrounding St Nicholas teaches this more effectively than any scientific text book. In categorising anything that isn’t scientific as “second-rate”, Richard Dawkins misses out on a profound truth.

David Culley


Sir, Richard Dawkins is far too critical about our childhood fantasies. Childhood is about simple beliefs which broaden our imaginative mind. Rationality develops later with the acquisition of empirical knowledge.

My atheist father instilled his belief during my childhood but I also used to enjoy the mythological tales from the great Sanskrit epics narrated to me by mother. These created a mesmeric and magical world to me. I don’t think my developing mind was harmed in any way from such innocuous stories.

Dr Sam Banik, FRCPath

London N10

Sir, There was an interesting juxtaposition in your news pages (June 5).

On page two you reported that Archbishop Justin Welby spent his day in Nigeria working for the release of 200 abducted schoolgirls. On the facing page you reported that the scientist Richard Dawkins was chiding parents for reading fairy tales to their children. It is hard to imagine either of them doing what the other did.

The Rev David A Baker

East Dean, E Sussex

John Prescott is selling one of his Jaguars to reduce air pollution – sounds good but is it quite logical?

Sir, I read that John Prescott is selling one of his Jags to reduce air pollution (June 4). Surely he should be buying as many Jags as possible, as he can only drive one at a time. As the owner of four old V8-powered cars, I believe I am doing the right thing for the environment by preventing others from driving them.

Peter lloyd

Hatfield Peverel, Essex

Sir, So John Prescott is selling one of his two Jags to help reduce air pollution and now they can both be out on the roads at the same time.

Good thinking, that. Perhaps I can save time by selling one of my two watches.

Nick Campling

Peterborough, Cambs

Look to your membership cards – they can get you out of tricky situations without a passport

Sir, Some years ago a fellow member of my choir forgot his passport but was allowed to travel from Heathrow to Edinburgh on his only form of ID, his choir membership card. The airport official said “We don’t think a member of the London Gay Men’s Chorus would be a terrorist.”

John Moysen

London SE21

While socks continue to single up mysteriously, people with small feet are finding life harder and harder

Sir, Matthew Parris mentions his “fruitless sock-pairing frenzy” (June 4). Husband alive — bags of odd socks. Since he died — none. I do wear socks all the time. Spooky or what?

Jackie Williams

Shaftesbury Dorset

Sir, Increasingly women’s shoes are made in size 4 and up. I take a
size 2-2½. I used to be able to wear a size 3 with much padding and many socks but even 3s are getting bigger.

There are still many of us with small feet who would love to be able to buy a reasonably priced fashion shoes. There is a market — I know someone who takes 1-1½.

In one branch of a national chain the assistant told me that when the buyers come to do the re-ordering they never ask the assistants what they have been unable to supply but simply reorder more in the sizes that have sold. I was told that it is shoes in the smaller and larger sizes that are the most requested but of course they are never supplied.

Jane S. Haworth

Thames Ditton, Surrey

In this year of anniversaries, is it too late to suggest an addition to the Last Night of the Proms programme?

Sir, Sir Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, written in 1905 for the centenary of Trafalgar, was for decades a popular feature of the Last Night of the Proms. This jolly salute to Nelson drew on many sources, including the haunting melody Tom Bowling by Charles Dibdin, who died 200 years ago in July.

This is also the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, whose bands are renowned for the quality of their music and drill. With these two significant anniversaries this year, in addition to that of the Great War, it is surely time the BBC reintroduces Fantasia on British Sea Songs in September. Its medley and melody are made for the melodrama of the maestro, musicians and merry music makers alike.

Lester May
(Lieutenant Commander RN, retired)

London NW1

The Knowhow shed is big, but there are two in the US which would each swallow a dozen of them

Sir, Ann Treneman described the Knowhow Distribution Centre in Newark as the largest shed in the world (June 3). I am sorry but the Knowhow “shed” at 630,000 sq feet comes into the “large garden” category on a world scale. The Boeing Aircraft Company has two “sheds” in Everett and Renton, Washington, each of 4 million plus sq feet and each one would comfortably hold 12 Knowhow “sheds” but they would be stacked two deep.

Alan Duffield

Upper Breakish, Isle of Skye


SIR – Some years ago when in Normandy to see the remains of the wonderful and successful Mulberry Harbour, I bought a French book, printed in English, called “100 Dates of French History”.

Imagine my horror and disgust to find the entry for “American landings in Normandy” in 1944, without any mention of the troops of Britain and the Empire, which were in the majority. I wonder how many French children and their parents are misled by this anti-British history.

Michael Smedley
Radford Semele, Warwickshire

SIR – The majority of films covering the D-Day landings show a lot of footage of American troops storming the beaches of Normandy, but very little of the British and Canadian assaults.

Could it be that the American commanders thought it more important than the British to have lots of cameramen covering the attack?

As a result of this filming, the youngsters of today could be forgiven for thinking that we played a minor role in the D-Day landings.

Gordon Green
Porlock, Somerset

SIR – It distresses me that Gary Victor (Letters, June 4) should object to Government funding for “events based on attic rummages for mainly unknown relatives from the First World War”.

My father fought in the Salonika Campaign of September 1918, winning the Military Cross for rescuing five parties under fire. Despite being “blown up by a shell”, as the citation states, he recovered.

Not having children myself, I have recently reluctantly had to pass on his Military Cross, together with papers including the citation and the recommendation from the men under him, to the National Army Museum in Chelsea.

David Challen
Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire

SIR – My mother had just given birth to my younger brother and was relaxing in the maternity ward of Beckenham hospital when in burst Dr Shipsey. “We’re back in Europe” he shouted, “and the first man on the beaches was an Irishman.”

The mothers all cheered, but then had to cope with all the babies that had awoken and were adding their cheers to the news.

Bob Hill
Whitchurch, Herefordshire

The Queen’s Speech

SIR – How pleasing for Her Majesty’s subjects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear in the Queen’s Speech that more powers will be devolved to them.

However, this Coalition Government seems to have lost sight of the affront to democracy in England of the West Lothian question. The English are not asking for regional assemblies, nor another separate and costly parliament, just that MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom don’t vote on purely English legislation.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – All the Queen’s Speech really gave us was a charge for plastic bags. Is that all that the Coalition could knock together?

Max Harris
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – If only Matt’s cartoon of the Queen announcing that her Government would spend the next year lobbing paper balls at the bin and staring out the window would come to pass. We have more than enough legislation and taxes already.

Robert Warner
West Woodhay, Berkshire

Syria: they haven’t got it

SIR – After Britain’s destabilising interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and our support for anti-Western elements in Egypt, there is no appetite among the vast majority of the electorate for intervention in Syria (Letters, June 3), not even for “mentoring”, and certainly not for providing military training for anyone involved in that conflict. This is despite the often one-sided media reporting from Syria, which was a stable country before the Western-backed insurrection.

Should the Free Syrian Army and its allies succeed in toppling Assad, it is unlikely that any sort of election would take place there. The establishment of an anti-Western regime sympathetic to al-Qaeda would be much more probable.

British voters trust that the Government has learnt its lesson and will stay well clear of any further interference in the Middle East, where history proves that we just can’t win – those of us who served in Aden and faced rioters in Benghazi certainly found that out.

Lt Col Noel McCleery (retd)
Winchester, Hampshire

Finish your dinner

SIR – When asked what was for dinner, my grandmother would invariably reply “Bally-yan-yan”, the origin and meaning of which was totally obscure and probably part of a now-extinct Norfolk dialect that she reverted to when stressed.

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

SIR – In all of the letters concerning “What’s for dinner?”, it seems as if there is a common theme: providing interesting meals on a daily basis can become an absolute chore. Deflecting with silly answers is a ploy to stop the question.

My family members never ask. They are just grateful to avoid food poisoning.

Gill Pemberton
Medbourne, Leicestershire

Save the date

SIR – I recently received a letter from my GP’s surgery. The date, as postmarked, is May 20 2014. The letter invites me for a shingles vaccine: “The clinic is being held on Friday 28th February 2013”.

Should I contact Doctor Who and ask him to drop me off?

Tom McAlpin

SIR – Many disabled people strongly oppose legalising assisted suicide. We are deeply concerned that a change in the law will lead to disabled people – and other vulnerable people, including the elderly – feeling pressure to end their lives.

Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when a disabled person wants to do so, we focus on how we can make that possible?

The campaign to legalise assisted suicide reinforces deep-seated beliefs that the lives of terminally ill and disabled people are not worth as much as other people’s.

Dr Alice Maynard
Chairman, Scope
Dr Phil Friend
Chairman, Disability Rights UK
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton
Baroness Grey-Thompson
Ann Macfarlane
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Mik Scarlet
Liz Carr

Agony and Ecstasy

SIR – It is a pity there wasn’t enough space in Obituaries for all those who did not benefit from Alexander Shulgin’s introduction of Ecstasy to the drug market.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

A princely prospect

SIR – In the Sixties I lived in a flat which had a loo looking out over the rooftops of Kensington towards the Albert Memorial (Letters, June 3).

It gave one a wonderful sense of well-being to sit on the throne and look across at Albert seated on his.

John Ormsby
London W4

Earl Grey tea and the benefits of bergamot

SIR – As one of the doctors involved in the clinical research on the bergamot phenolic fraction, marketed worldwide as BergaMet, I do not believe that Earl Grey tea will have the same effect as statins in fighting heart disease (report, March 30).

Bergamot oil is taken from the peel of the bergamot orange, not the juice extract. The peel has not been shown to have any effect on cholesterol whatsoever. It is only the juice extract marketed as BergaMet that has the effect described in your article.

BergaMet itself is not a replacement for statins but we have published a paper recently in the International Journal of Cardiology demonstrating a clear synergism using BergaMet and statins together to help lower cholesterol. We have also published another paper in Advances in Biologic Chemistry showing that BergaMet improves the cholesterol profile and protects against fatty liver.

None of these benefits have been shown with the oil used to flavour Earl Grey tea.

Dr Ross Walker
Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia

SIR – Has it not occurred to Kirstie Allsopp and Allison Pearson that many young women choose to go to university to escape being trapped by their own fertility, or at least to have the opportunity of doing so? It may be the case that “one in four female graduates will never have children”, but that does not necessarily mean that they all wanted them in the first place. Graduates are intelligent people, trained to think independently and to draw their own conclusions.

Not very long ago women were a minority in higher education; now they are a significant majority. Possibly rather fewer than three quarters of them will become mothers for all sorts of considered reasons, not simply because of a time factor.

Michael Liversidge
Emeritus Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Bristol

SIR – As a 17-year-old girl sitting my A-levels and hoping to go to university, I find Kirstie Allsopp’s comments extremely disheartening. Many young women value academic aspirations over a traditional domestic role and this should not be discouraged.

Gemma Pimlot
Old Leake, Lincolnshire

SIR – A gynaecologist friend says that, physically, 18 is the optimal age at which to give birth. Another friend had a child at 19. By the time she was 37, her daughter was independent and she was free to devote 30 unbroken years to her vocation.

Is she happy? Well, happier than many women either side of 40 who are either childless or consulting fertility experts.

Michael Upton

SIR – As a working mother with children aged 26, 17 and two years old, I know it is perfectly possible to have a career and raise children. It just requires spending a large amount of your salary on child care.

Verena Cornwall
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – What Kirstie Allsopp advises is exactly how I came to be trapped in an abusive marriage with no means of escape. I had no qualifications and no chance of getting a job that would support me and two young children.

Financial independence is the only way in which a woman can be in an equal relationship with a man.

Margaret Blake
London SE11

SIR – Getting a degree is one step for women to take towards becoming self-sufficient. Women should go out into the world with the determination not to depend on a man. You may meet a nice man. You may not. You cannot rely on the courts to treat you fairly if a marriage ends.

June Bennett
Lytham, Lancashire

SIR – I dread to think how lonely I would be were it not for my large family, and nine great-grandchildren. They exist mainly because my granddaughters trained for their professions immediately after formal education, marrying and raising children soon after that and working part-time.

John Vaughan
Tadworth, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Would Catholic Church leaders care to tell us how many nuns died of malnutrition and associated illnesses while working in the Bons Secours children’s home and other similar institutions? Were they buried alongside their precious charges in a mass grave? – Yours, etc,


Tweed Street,


Victoria, Australia.

Sir, – There is some loss of perspective in the recent outcry about the sad infant deaths in mother-and-baby residential homes in the past.

Cohorting infants in institutions puts small infants at risk from cross-infection, particularly gastroenteritis. Early infection to the gastrointestinal tract can cause severe bowel damage. Without the availability of recent technology, many such infants would die from malabsorption resulting in marasmus [severe malnutrition]. The risks would have been much increased if the infants were not breast fed.

In foundling homes in the US in the early 20th century, mortality was sometimes reported as greater than 90 per cent among infants cared for in such institutions. Lack of understanding of nutrition, cross-infection associated with overcrowding by today’s standards, and the dangers of unpasteurised human milk substitutes were the main factors. – Yours, etc,



North Circular Road,


Sir, – The proposal to link public sector pensions to inflation in order to contain the growing unsustainability of the present system (Editorial, June 5th) is a distraction from the real problem – how to create a sustainable pension system for everyone.

Sooner rather than later the Government, any government, must grasp the nettle and create a universal pension scheme for everyone – public sector, private sector, those working for someone else, the self-employed, the unemployed, the very rich and the very poor. There should be no tax breaks and everyone should contribute according to their means.

That should be reflected, to a degree, by what they receive, with significant weighting towards those on low to middle incomes.

It would meet with massive opposition from the very rich, employer organisations, trade unions and above all the pensions industry; but the longer it is delayed the harder it will be to create such a system before the current one implodes.

Hopefully I will be too old to be around by the time that happens. The vast majority of your readers will still be around. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Sir, – I have been living and working in Ireland since 2007 when I was appointed to a permanent academic post at Trinity College Dublin. For me, living in Ireland is a dream come true. I was born and raised near Seattle in the US and always imagined a life in Ireland.

Perhaps unknown to many in the public is that any non-EU national is required to register with the Garda every year, with a fee of €300 each time. This includes highly skilled workers who have moved to Ireland permanently. Each year since 2007, I have spent the better half of a day waiting for my stamp at Burgh Quay. I am not writing about the past, but rather about a change at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), Burgh Quay, Dublin.

Only recently this office was made a centre for processing registration nationally, and the result is that people like me, and my wife and six-month-old daughter are required to queue into the alleyway with between 50 to 100 others for an hour or two before being allowed to queue inside for four or five hours more.

This new overcrowding, misdirection and general confusion mean that in order to get GNIB cards for my wife and me, I arrive at 7.30am, wait outside in the elements, just to begin an eight-hour day waiting for a stamp and card. The problems apply also to those who need re-entry visas from the same office, and who are turned away from the office by 8am, having travelled some distance, and often at real expense.

Surely guests to Ireland, who are here to serve and contribute, and who are doing so according to the laws of the land, should expect more dignity when doing so. Since non-EU students from abroad also must endure the same, and because Irish universities are keen to recruit these students, there is certainly a better foot to put forward than this.

In writing this I do so not to criticise the officers, but rather to encourage the Government to prioritise investing in a solution to an undignified problem. If there is any doubt, just imagine your cardiologist from India getting drenched with his wife and kids in an alley at the quay side each year to register with the Garda. – Yours, etc,


Department of Religions

and Theology,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – There is some truth to Vincent Browne’s account of the Labour Party, but it is not the entire story (“Labour has never really had ‘core vales’”, Opinion & Analysis, June 4th).

The older leadership was intensely conservative; they lacked the confidence and imagination to project an alternative to the status quo, even if they wanted to, which they didn’t.

But there were always rank-and-file members of the Labour Party who saw themselves – perhaps still do – as socialists. Theirs, however, was not the socialism of James Connolly. They were too respectable for that. People looking for revolutionary politics could always join the Communist Party or team up with left-wing republicans.

Their socialism was that of the British Labour Party and the postwar welfare state. Some had lived in Britain and brought their politics back with them; universal access to free healthcare and education seemed worth striving for.

The abandonment of anything remotely resembling Labour values by Tony Blair left this segment of the Labour Party here severely adrift. The section associated with Democratic Left had already lost all hope with the collapse of the Soviet Union; the move to an anodyne liberalism, silly red roses and all, was inevitable, as there was nowhere else to go.

Any chance of Labour reconnecting with its social democratic past is dependent on the some kind of revitalising of the broad European left in the search for solutions to the crisis. Right now, there is no sign of that happening. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Mount Brown,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“Just two Catholic priests in Dublin aged under 40, says Martin”, Home News, June 4th) refers to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s vision for the future of the Catholic Church in Dublin, with laypeople, deacons and religious led by fewer and fewer priests.

While the church still has a small number of mature men becoming seminarians, resolving the priest deficit crisis will require decisive action by church leaders sooner or later to allow suitable married men to be ordained. Whatever the merits and equality argument for women priests, there is no theological barrier to allowing married men to become priests. Cardinal Hume in England persuaded the Vatican to allow a number of married Anglican priests to become Catholic priests in the 1990s. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,

Templeogue, Dublin 16

Sir, – After listening and reading so much criticism by so many politicians and other individuals, as a former member I feel compelled to write in defence of the Garda Síochána. I would question many on whether they have vested interests in expressing their views.

Most make their criticism in the broadest manner, by making it against the Garda Síochána in general but then speak of individual members or groups within the force. When they are challenged on the matter, in most cases they will speak of the vast majority of hard-working members of the force carrying out their duties. However, they will already have sucked the morale from those very same members.

The force has been denuded of station accommodation, manpower, transport and finance over the past few years and could certainly do without sweeping criticism of its efforts in keeping law and order throughout the country.

Furthermore, regarding the insinuation that all of the senior ranks of the force are unfit to hold the position of commissioner and that, to add insult to injury, we should look towards a civilian or, worse still in my eyes, a British police officer for our next commissioner, that really is the last straw.

If people need to cast doubt on the abilities of others, they should be brave enough to identify those they wish to criticise and not tarnish the many by making ill-judged and sweeping statements. – Yours, etc,


Bellefield Road,

Sir, – As a GP, I was not surprised to read of the “mess”, as Paul Cullen describes it, surrounding the medical card scheme (“Confusion still reigns over medical card mess”, Home News, June 5th).

Would all politicians stop promising things they cannot give with regard to healthcare and free GP care? There are huge costs involved in terms of money and staff. Are people prepared to pay far higher taxes for all these “new” medical cards covering as yet unspecified conditions? I can already hear the calls to Joe Duffy from people with medical conditions not recommended for coverage by the “expert” group.

And would the Department of Health and HSE kindly stop making long-term medical policy “on the hoof”. – Yours, etc,


Main Street,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Irish Times has reported extensively on the king of Spain’s abdication. I refer in particular to your editorial (“Passing on the crown”, May 4th) and to an article regarding this event of historical significance for Spain, which also commented on the king’s role during the transition from dictatorship to democracy in my country (“Unfinished business for democracy in Spain”, Opinion & Analysis, June 4th).

Regrettably, your editorial affirms that the “transition to constitutional democracy [was] far more peaceful – though still bloody – than anyone had imagined possible”. Similarly, the Opinion & Analysis article states that the transition “happened in a relatively bloodless way”.

In my opinion, this is not a fair and accurate description of the transition. It is widely recognised that the Spanish political transition was a peaceful and bloodless process, based on a spirit of consensus among political and social forces, which made possible the adoption in 1978 of our constitution. The Spanish transition has been internationally praised as an example of successful national reconciliation.

Your editorial rightly states that “very few European political leaders of our times . . . measure up to [the king’s] stature” and that many Spaniards are deeply grateful for his role in “clearing the way from that dictatorship to four unprecedented decades of freedom and prosperity”.

The announcement of the king’s abdication opens a new political cycle in Spain. A new generation, represented by the future King Felipe VI, is now called to respond to the challenges of our times, building on the achievements of our successful transition. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of Spain

to Ireland,

Sir, – Barry Walsh in his letter (June 5th) assessing the relative independence of elected “Independent” councillors while an excellent summation, got one thing wrong. The fact that a group of genuinely independent national politicians lent support and guidance to a number of genuinely Independent candidates cannot in any way indicate that they would, if elected, jump to any diktat of Independent national politicians.

Team Lowry, as Mr Walsh suggests, is a political party by another name and is the kind of structure, together with the “Independents” with party political form, which prevents genuine Independents from achieving success in Seanad elections. – Yours, etc,



Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Sir, – I beg to differ with Jonathan Baum (June 5th). The sight of a head of government going to a foreign country to lobby on behalf of his compatriots who are “illegal immigrants” in that country is not an embarrassment.

What is embarrassing is that the head of our government, and many members of our parliament, make a virtue of such lobbying while devoting considerably less political capital to the plight of the 30,000 undocumented migrants estimated to reside here in Ireland. A plight, I might add, which they have within their gift to relieve. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – I was saddened when I read Sarah Waldron’s article “Smart clubbing, unholy nights” (Life Style, June 4th). She writes with enthusiasm about the Dublin club that uses for its theme different religious holidays, such as the Immaculate Conception. The accompanying photograph of two of the young men behind the “exciting” idea wielding crucifixes while standing in front of a statue of Christ added to the sacrilege. How fortunate this club was to have been given free publicity in your newspaper. – Yours, etc,




Co Tyrone.

Sir, – So Adrian Mulryan has found the solution to the housing crisis, with all defaulting “amateur” landlords to be forced to sell ( June 4th). Whether “professional” landlords must meet the same fate is less clear. No mention, of course, of the responsibilities of the banks and government which led to such an unprecedented property crash. It would appear that in Mr Mulryan’s world the investor should take the hit regardless of the consequences or the circumstances. If only it were so – banks and unsecured bond holders anyone? – Yours, etc,


Nutley Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – There have been some reports recently that the Reform Alliance may be on the way to forming a new political party (“Reform Alliance gears up”, Home News, June 4th). Not a good idea. The strong message at the local and European elections was that we have mostly had quite enough of political parties in all their various colours, shapes and sizes.

It seems to me that we want our elected representatives to be regularly accountable to those who do the electing and not to their party leaders under an antiquated whip system.

For the electorate to have to wait five years in the long grass is not really very democratic, is it? What about a “No More Political Parties” party instead? – Yours, etc,


Braemor Grove,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – John Bellew (May 26th) is critical of “Eamon de Valera’s decision to keep Ireland neutral” during the second World War. It is worth stressing that a national consensus and all-party agreement backed the popular policy. Two Oireachtas members only – James Dillon and Frank McDermott – dissented.

According to your correspondent, “Hitler flirted with the idea of invading Ireland”. If so, he was not alone. In a broadcast on May 14th, 1945, Winston Churchill stated “had it not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland, we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valera”. – Yours, etc,


St Patrick’s Road, Dublin 9.

A chara, – Gabrielle Hyland (June 5th) fails to understand why men dressed in women’s clothing are allowed to participate in the women’s mini-marathon. Has she never heard of drag racing? – Is mise,



Düsseldorf, Germany.

Sir, – Maybe the poor fellas are confused by the word “mini”. – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.

Irish Independent:

Letters: Love not power must be the dynamic of the church

Published 06/06/2014|02:30

Pope Francis: is facing history ofchurch abuses head-on. Photo: Reuters

* Fact of history; Christ founded the Christian church. He commissioned the apostles and their successors to guide his church, not by power but by love. For the first three centuries they obeyed him, for the most part.

Since then, with few exceptions, the church leaders have disobeyed him. They have blatantly ignored his command and have governed the church by naked power, in direct contradiction to his clear instructions.

No doubt, many church leaders were well-intentioned, but grossly wrong-headed, in failing to remember Christ’s basic principle, love not power.

All these terrible abuses have resulted from the hierarchy’s gross betrayal of Christ, and his adamant command. Francis is the first pope in 1,700 years to face this glaring fact of history head-on.

Anyone commenting today on the church should be professional enough to make this clear distinction. The church is one thing, the way it has been governed is something altogether different.

For example, would all these abuses have happened, if women had not been systematically excluded from any say in how his church was run?

For the believing Christian, the church is Christ at work in the world, in spite of the weaknesses of mere men.




* When a celebrity dies, the press shouts it from the rooftops, while an unmarked grave discovered in Tuam, Co Galway, hardly made the headlines.

The bones of 800 children were heaped together in an undignified manner. They all had one thing in common – they were born or brought into this world outside of the sacred sacrament of holy matrimony.

Oh, the disgrace. I’m sure these were the words used when the pregnancy was announced, followed by “what will the neighbours think?” Send them away before disgrace is brought on our doorstep.

We must remember this was the time when Ireland was ruled by the crozier and a long-nosed man who caused a civil war.

A child’s grave cannot speak.

Nor justice ever be done to those who caused the suffering and pain.

Be assured it will happen again and again.

Rest easy little ones. At least you are at peace.

The crozier now has little power, sacred vows become obsolete.

Someone once said: This must never happen again. I forget who that was. Do you remember, anyone?




* So, in many homes up and down this country, meal portions have been cut dramatically. Young children make their way to school on an empty stomach, and parents fret over how the mortgage will be paid because one of both are unemployed.

Then comes May, June and as the colleges and secondary schools close for the summer, the drastic decrease of young people in this country is plain for all to see. Most have gone on J1s, instead of sitting at home penniless for the summer. None can get jobs in this country. Why? Because of the absolute greed from businessmen and women. It disgusts me.

For those left at home, there is the constant nagging to get a job that pays good money, not to use it to go out and drink and smoke and other things young people are accused of, but in many cases to put two days’ food on the table. Yet, on a quick estimation, only 15-20pc of jobs pay that and for every one of those there are thousands of applications.

Were the powers that be to take a trip to the airport, they would see tears as parents say goodbye to their children, and vice versa for, in some cases, three months due to the lack of morality this government, who are the cause of all this and can’t give all of its people equal rights, nearly 77 years to the day since the constitution was agreed by the Irish people, let alone give its young people decent pay.




* The subject of trade unions has always been a contentious one in this country; the Lock-Out of 1913 being probably the most striking example of how trade unions can divide opinion. Members and supporters of trade unions point to the need for a representative body for workers, while those of a different mindset often accuse unions of disruption or ‘holding the country to ransom’.

If anything ever emphasised the need for trade unions, however, the situation at Bausch & Lomb in Waterford does just that. The prospect of 200 people losing their jobs and the remaining 900 workers having their wages cut by one-fifth would be bad enough if its Waterford facility was loss-making and the cuts were a necessity to ensure viability.

However, as far as I’m aware, there has been no statement from the company that indicates that the Waterford facility is not profitable. The justification being put forward is that the cost base at Waterford is 30pc higher than its facility in Rochester, New York.

God forbid that workers in two different cities, on two different continents would face two very different costs of living and two very different sets on taxes.




* Last night I had a dream that a thousand candles shone brightly from the windows of Aras an Uachtarain, welcoming all those homeless poor souls eking out a pitiful existence within earshot of Phoenix Park.

President Michael D Higgins, driven by a sense of deep and innate humanitarian philanthropy, had thrown open the doors of his expansive abode to offer succour and shelter to the most destitute.

Children played on the manicured lawns safe in the knowledge that they were, at last, well fed, cared for and human. For the first time in years their parents felt protected, away from the dehumanising ravages of austerity and poverty.

This extraordinary gesture and leadership sparked off a wave of kindness and demonstrated, even to this government, as well as to people of all hues, the compassionate and immediate way to deal with a scourge that has been allowed to explode beyond crisis point.

Alas, as with all dreams, I woke up to the reality of life in Ireland, a land skewed between those on the inside who have plenty and those outside the pale who have nothing, and, as ever, never the twain shall meet.




* I am one of the ‘bureaucratic overpaid public sector employees’ to which Betty Kiely refers (Letters, May 31) and wish to point out that from October 29, 2013 local authorities no longer issue drivers licences. From that date it was handed over to a private company called NDLS.

Ms Kiely was talking to employees of this company and not public sector employees.

No doubt, she was one of the general public who was baying for the blood of public sector employees and for changes to be made. This is the future for the general public as local authority services are eroded and privatised, so get used to it. Every service will be centralised and the public will have to deal with more ’employees with robotic functions’ on the minimum wage.



Irish Independent


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