10June2014 Out

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park.Off to the bank and the Dietitian

No ScrabbleMary not very well perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Rik Mayall – obituary

Anarchic comedian who took on the British Establishment in The Young Ones and The New Statesman

Rik Mayall as Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman

Rik Mayall as Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman  Photo: Yorkshire Television

7:20PM BST 09 Jun 2014

Comments28 Comments

Rik Mayall, the comedian and actor, who has died aged 56, was a former enfant terrible of alternative comedy with an anarchic line in over-the-top scatology; he later broadened his appeal with his portrayal of the egregious politician Alan B’Stard.

His breakthrough came in 1982 when he co-wrote and co-starred in BBC Television’s The Young Ones, a situation comedy featuring a group of revolting students on the breadline, squeezing spots, baring bottoms and sharing a filthy flat.

Arms flailing and eyes bulging, Mayall’s character, the angst-ridden loud-mouthed student Rick, chimed with the programme’s unpredictable “alternative” quality. The show tore up the established rules of comedy; the resulting 35 minutes of rampaging, violent slapstick struck some as having more in common with Warner Bros cartoons than with traditional sitcoms.

Mayall in The Young Ones with Adrian Edmonson, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan (BBC)

Mayall wrote The Young Ones with his then girlfriend Lise Meyer and another emerging alternative comedy star Ben Elton. Although it found a cult audience straight away — mostly students, teenagers and twentysomethings — others were slow to catch on and it was only when the series was repeated that it began to build a sizeable audience.

In contrast to his outrageous, rebarbative characterisations, Mayall was quietly-spoken and shy, with a reputation as the chameleon comedian: “fluent, funny, polite, informed” noted one of the comparatively few interviewers he spoke to, but “also evasive, slippery, canny, cautious and a tad self-congratulatory”.

“There’s a quality about me,” Mayall himself once confessed, “that you don’t quite trust”.

Although he became a defining part of the television landscape of the 1980s — including a memorable turn as the rumbustiously randy Squadron Commander Flashheart in Blackadder Goes Forth (“Always treat your kite like you treat your woman … get inside her five times a day and take her to heaven and back!”) — Mayall always preferred working in the live theatre. His fellow comic actor Simon Fanshawe ascribed to Mayall “a kind of pure energy as a solo performer on stage that, if you are prepared for the ride, is irresistible”.

In April 1998, when he was 40, a near-fatal accident on a quad bike left Mayall in a coma for five days; severe head injuries caused impaired memory, shaky co-ordination and speech problems. “The accident was over Easter and as you know, Jesus our Lord was nailed to the cross on Good Friday,” recounted Mayall in an interview last year. “The day before that is Crap Thursday, and that’s the day Rik Mayall died. And then he was dead on Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday until Bank Holiday Monday.”

But he appeared to have made a complete recovery, and returned to work in blustering form as Richie Twat (pronounced Thwaite) in Guesthouse Paradiso (1999), a film he co-wrote with his friend and long-time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson.

Although his part as Peeves the poltergeist in the first Harry Potter film failed to make the final cut, Mayall remained philosophical. “I’ve looked over the edge,” he remarked, adding that his brush with death had taught him that ending up on the cutting room floor hardly seemed so bad.

Rik Mayall: ‘one of the funniest performers ever’ (JIMMY GASTON)

Richard Michael Mayall was born on March 7 1958 at Matching Tye, a village near Harlow, Essex, but brought up in Droitwich, Worcestershire. The third child of two Left-wing drama teachers, he made his stage debut when he was six in a crowd scene in his father’s production of The Good Woman of Setzuan.

Taking the name Rik from the comic strip character Erik the Viking, he passed the 11-plus aged nine as it was being phased out, winning a free place at the fee-paying King’s School, Worcester, the youngest boy there when he arrived a year early.

At Manchester University, studying drama in the late 1970s, his tutor noted that Mayall’s humour was “always pretty puerile”. Nevertheless Mayall undertook a student tour of America as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. Graduating in 1979, he arrived in London to work for a job agency on £29 a week.

With Edmondson, whom he met at university, he formed a comedy duo called Twentieth Century Coyote, and began making appearances at The Comedy Store. The pair went on to make their name at another club, The Comedy Strip, launch-pad for several so-called “alternative” comedians. Television work followed, with Mayall teamed with Alexei Sayle, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in the Comic Strip films.

Rick Mayall with Adrian Edmonson on Saturday Night Live, 1985 (REX)

Mayall also found work as a straight actor, making what The Daily Telegraph called “a brilliant debut” as the dashingly good-looking dandy Ivan in Gogol’s The Government Inspector at the Olivier Theatre in 1985. In 1988 he starred with Stephen Fry in Simon Gray’s The Common Pursuit at the Phoenix, and in 1991 was what one critic considered a “downright nerdish” Vladimir in Waiting for Godot at the Queen’s Theatre.

In Simon Gray’s ill-starred Cell Mates at the Albery in 1995 — Stephen Fry famously walked out of the production after three performances and vanished for several days — Mayall’s portrayal of the petty Irish criminal Sean Bourke was hailed as “brilliant” by The Sunday Telegraph’s John Gross: “At every stage he exerts a magnetic spell.”

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Covent Garden during the play’s six-week run, Mayall pulled a toy gun in the street and pointed it at two strangers. Police formally warned him but he was released without charge, Mayall himself conceding that he had been “a total prat”.

He came to national notice on television as the unemployable investigative reporter Kevin Turvey in A Kick Up The Eighties, a sketch show that he co-wrote. Mayall went on to co-write and star in The Young Ones with Elton, Edmondson and Nigel Planer. The show became a cult hit worldwide — including in America — and was his best-known project. The team’s feeble follow-up Filthy, Rich and Catflap was followed in turn by the critically-panned black comedy Bottom (1991), with Mayall starring as a sex-starved bachelor; a sell-out touring stage version of the programme was resurrected a few years later.

Rik Mayall with Adrian Edmonson in Bottom

In The New Statesman (1987), Mayall portrayed a ruthless and corrupt Tory MP called Alan B’Stard who would stop at nothing to gain power; as part of Mayall’s character research, the Conservative MP Michael Portillo gave him a tour of the Commons. The scriptwriters Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran explained that they had taken Mayall’s persona from The Young Ones and poured it into a Savile Row suit.

He continued to blossom as a comic actor in a series of hour-long showcases for ITV Rik Mayall Presents (1993), in which, noted the Telegraph’s critic, “Mayall achieves high comedy”.

In addition to his occasional role in the BBC’s Blackadder during the 1990s, Mayall also provided the voice of a malevolent baby in the mini-sitcom How To Be A Little Sod (1995). His other film credits included both a Hollywood flop, Drop Dead Fred (1991), and a British one, Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis (1997), in which he played a music industry manager plotting to kill his fading pop star client.

After his accident, Mayall’s output had been less prolific, but as well as Guesthouse Paradiso he starred in several video versions of Bottom, and as a camp DJ in Day of the Sirens (2002). He also starred in the ITV sitcom Believe Nothing (2002) as an egotistical Nobel Prize-winning Oxford professor named Adonis Cnut, a member of the Council for International Progress, an underground organisation that aspires to control the world. He reprised the role of Alan B’Stard in the stage play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B’Stard Project (Trafalgar Studios), in which B’Stard has left the Conservatives to become a Labour MP. In 2011, Mayall appeared on Let’s Dance For Comic Relief, attacking his old friend Edmondson with a frying pan as he attempted to perform The Dying Swan.

His autobiography Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ was published in 2005.

Rik Mayall married, in 1985, Barbara Robbin, a BBC Scotland make-up artist. She survives him with their son and two daughters.

Rik Mayall, born March 7 1958, died June 9 2014


The military coup d’état in Thailand that took place on 22 May is the 13th since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. We stand with those protesters who are calling for a return to constitutional rule by a civilian government (Thai police warn online critics, 7 June).

As academics and university staff and students, we also wish to express particular concern at the surveillance, harassment, and roundup of academics and students calling for democracy and the reinstatement of civilian rule. Academics and students who have been critics of the lèse-majesté law have been summonsed and we understand that some have gone into hiding as a result. We join with all others who have also called upon the commander in chief of the Thai army to immediately release politicians, activists, journalists, academics and others who have been harassed and imprisoned following the military summons to stop making any political criticism or comment. We condemn the move ordering universities to monitor the political activities of staff and students on campuses, and are also concerned that some universities have issued orders to their staff and students to refrain from making any political comment in the public sphere.

We support and admire the courage of university staff and students who continue to gather at Thammasat University and other protest sites. Intellectual freedom and freedom of speech are fundamental tenets of a democratic society and functioning university system alike and we urge their restoration.
Professor Gurminder K Bhambra University of Warwick, Professor John Holmwood University of Nottingham, Professor Les Back Goldsmiths, University of London, Dr Ipek Demir University of Leicester, Dr Kirsten Forkert Birmingham City University, Dr Robbie Shilliam Queen Mary, University of London, Dr Lee Jones Queen Mary, University of London, Mark Carrigan University of Warwick, Dr John Narayan University of Warwick, Dr Madhumita Lahiri University of Warwick, Dr Peo Hansen Linköping University, Dr Daniel Orrells University of Warwick, Professor Luke Martell University of Sussex, Professor Andrew Sayer Lancaster University, Dr Malcolm MacLean University of Gloucestershire, Emeritus Professor Gavin Edwards University of South Wales, Professor Raphael Salkie University of Brighton, Dr Nessa Cronin National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor Jonathan S Davies De Montfort University, Dr Jo Ingold University of Leeds, Professor William Outhwaite University of Newcastle, Lauren Tooker University of Warwick, Professor Larry Ray University of Kent, Dr Justin Cruickshank University of Birmingham, Professor Robert Fine University of Warwick, Dr Rosa Vasilaki University of Bristol, Dr Carole Jones University of Edinburgh, Bernard Sufrin Emeritus fellow, Worcester College, University of Oxford, Professor Nickie Charles University of Warwick, Dr Luke Yates University of Manchester, Claire Blencowe University of Warwick, Professor Patrick Ainley University of Greenwich, Dr Kevin McSorley University of Portsmouth, Gabriel Newfield Retired pro-director, University of Hertfordshire, Professor Mick Carpenter University of Warwick, Dr Andrea Hajek University of Glasgow, Lisa Tilley University of Warwick, Dr Nicola Pratt University of Warwick, Dr J Sanchez Taylor University of Leicester, Dr David Featherstone University of Glasgow, Dr Angela Last University of Glasgow, Dr Bryn Jones University of Bath, Simon Dawes Independent scholar, Prof Chris Jones Liverpool John Moores University, Dr Vivienne Jackson, Chrysi Papaioannou University of Leeds, Lee Mackinnon Goldsmiths, University of London, Dr Goldie Osuri University of Warwick

George Monbiot (Comment, 3 June) asks why Rinat Ahkmetov pays less council tax for his £136m flat in London than the owners of a £200,000 house in Blackburn. This forms part of his argument as to why he considers that the only way to fairness in housing is to tax property.

One answer, of course, is that council tax is computed to discharge the relevant local authority outgoings as between the residents of a particular borough; not to punish property owners for being wealthier than George Monbiot likes. Another point to observe is that while the stamp duty on a £200,000 property is £2,000, the stamp duty on a £136m property is hugely more at £9,520,000. Finally, it should be noted that figures from HMRC for 2012/13 show sales in Kensington & Chelsea together with Westminster brought in £708m in stamp duty, which exceeds, by £73m, the total stamp duty raised by the Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the north-east, the north-west, Yorkshire and Humberside put together.

So George Monbiot is mistaken in thinking that expensive London property is somehow under taxed.
Patrick Way QC

• Your two-page spread on Londoners who have “made” six-figure capital gains on property in London (Families leaving London with a real capital gain, 7 June) perfectly illustrates the need for a property tax. Though some of these people did improve their houses before selling them, most of the gains came from house price inflation. Some may regard this as a smart “investment”, but it’s actually just a windfall, for unlike real investment, it creates nothing that doesn’t already exist. Since money only has value if there are goods and services being made for sale that it can buy, their windfalls depend on those who do productive work producing more than they get back in earnings. Hence the windfalls are parasitic on the labour of others, including many people who would need to work for 10 years to earn as much.
Andrew Sayer

•  Your article about young, successful families cashing in on the obscene profits being made on homes in the capital makes me want to weep. We’re losing “real” people we need in London; they’re being replaced by the wealthy and foreign investors using the property market to make vast amounts of money.

I live in central London, and any property in this area is bought by absentee companies or landlords. New-builds which start at £600,000 for a two-bed are snapped up off plan by foreign investors, and left empty or tenanted by wealthy overseas students. I chatted to some students in the park the other day about the cost of living in London. One, a Chinese girl, said her parents are paying £1,000 a month for a tiny room in a four-room flat.

What chance do we as ordinary working people have to remain here when your paper is lauding the gains made on what should be homes for the working people of London? You report an estate agent saying his friend bought a flat for £60,000 that is now worth £400,000, 12 years later. So what? I don’t want to hear how well estate agents are doing out of the misery caused by this and previous governments’ failure to stop the loss of all affordable housing in London. Our communities are dwindling as young working people move out to the suburbs or abroad to find something that should be everyone’s right in a civilised society, a place to live. We must do something before it’s too late and London is left only for the wealthy or transient population.
Margaret King

• CPRE welcomes Sir Michael Lyons’ comments that councils should be allowed to build more houses (Let cities grow, Labour urged, June 6). This is an important step towards getting the right type of homes built in the right places.

We are concerned, however, about his suggestion that urban containment is no longer important. We believe that the housing crisis this country faces can be seen as an opportunity to rejuvenate our towns and cities. By focusing on brownfield sites and increasing urban densities we can secure more vibrant places to live while making better use of existing infrastructure. It isn’t just about protecting the countryside, but about ensuring we make the most of our urban spaces.

Lyons appears focused on adding urban extensions on to existing settlements. Where towns have insufficient capacity to accommodate development within existing boundaries this approach is likely to provide a more sustainable option for new development than free-standing new towns. In office, Labour showed great vision by promoting an urban renaissance. This has helped revitalise many towns and cities, but there is a great deal more to do to make our urban areas fit for the 21st century.
John Rowley
Campaign to Protect Rural England

President Obama has drawn swords with a hostile Congress over the release of Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban fighters held in Guantánamo (Report, 9 June), yet he still refuses to use his executive authority to free Shaker Aamer. This British resident, incarcerated for over 13 years, is physically and mentally broken from the tortures inflicted in that hellish US prison. Is this not the time for a stronger protest from the UK government to free Aamer, who – unlike the Taliban prisoners – has no evidence against him?
Margaret Owen

• The five freed from Guantánamo will be retelling their experience of beatings, waterboarding and noise torture. What will this mean for westerners held by the Taliban in future? It has been reported that Americans held in Iran for violating its borders who complained about their treatment were told: “Well, this is not as bad as Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.”
Gavin Lewis

Rather than urging Labour to woo Green voters, why not just vote Green? Photograph: Alamy

David Edgar might be less surprised that only the right is “defending immigration as a positive good” if he could see the issue as primarily about economic exploitation rather than “immigration” (Red goes well with green, 6 June).

Of course the exploitation of poor countries has always been a positive good – for the ruling class. And it has fringe benefits for the middle classes too, reducing as it does the price of their “help” and other services. The NHS has particularly benefited from having poor countries fund staff training.

But for the poor within the rich country – and in particular the “formerly migrant communities”– the exploitation of others inevitably exacerbates their own situation.

It should not be too difficult for the left to identify exploitation, not immigration, as the real enemy of working people. If we ignore that reality and conflate the two, we accept economic exploitation in the global labour market as a force of nature, providing the economic right wing with a cloak of respectability, and the social right wing with lethal ammunition.
Peter McKenna

•  Rather than urging Labour to woo Green voters by developing a more pro-migrant stance, wouldn’t it be simpler for David Edgar to shift his political allegiance over to the party that best represents his beliefs?

I am proud to be a member of a party that does not need to decide whether it will defend and support migrant families simply on the basis of whether it is politically astute to do so.

Our Green MEPs, MP and councillors are already working towards creating the kind of democratic politics that Edgar exhorts Labour to adopt.

Instead of asking Labour to copy Green policies, commentators should be encouraging the public to cast their vote for the party whose policies they actually support.
Matt Hawkins
London Green party

Anti-fracking protest near Chester by the Green party last month: there is no consensus in academia behind exploitation of shale gas. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

What a pity that Richard Selley and his fellow “geoscientists and petroleum engineers from Britain’s leading academic institutions” (Letters, 5 June) appear to be motivated more by a desire to return to the good old days of abundant fossil fuel energy than by the overwhelming case that it is emissions from fossil fuels that are responsible for changing the climate faster than since the end of the last ice age. When in a hole, don’t keep digging – but that is exactly what Selley is advocating. There may be short-term national security benefits “on offer” to the UK from Lancashire shale gas but the case is not “undeniable” that there will be environmental benefits. Selley has been trawling the email lists of university earth science departments for months now, sending repeated messages looking for support. It seems only 50 have signed up. Perhaps other geoscientists see things differently. I certainly do.
Tim Atkinson
Professor of environmental geoscience, University College London

• More pertinent than the possible “directorships and other commercial interests” (Letters, 6 June) of the 50 academics who signed the pro-fracking letter is the insidious influence of oil industry funding. Of the 21 university departments to which the academics belong, at least 15 are in receipt of research funds from the oil industry. Unfortunately, the days of academic independence are over.
David Smythe
Emeritus professor of geophysics, University of Glasgow

•  Democratic society is reliant on a variety of expert advice to make sense of complex issues. Academics are identified by the public as a trusted source of knowledge. It therefore risks undermining academic credibility as a whole when colleagues make categorical and public comment on highly contested issues, particularly when associated with business interests that have the most to gain.

The letter from a group of geoscientists and petroleum engineers, asserting that there are “undeniable economic, environmental and national security benefits” of substantial gas production from the Bowland shale, overlooks important and unresolved issues raised by other academics at the UK Energy Research Centre and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, among others. Professor David MacKay and Dr Tim Stone, the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s own scientific advisers, note in their recent review of shale gas: “If a country brings any additional fossil fuel reserve into production, then in the absence of strong climate policies, we believe it is likely that this production would increase cumulative emissions in the long run. This increase would work against global efforts on climate change.”

It is also clear that were it possible to produce 10% of the British Geological Survey central estimate of the Bowland basin’s gas resource, the combustion emissions would exceed the entirety of the UK government’s carbon budgets up to 2050.

That academics engage publicly on issues of the day certainly needs to be encouraged. However, when we do so it is incumbent on us to reflect uncertainties, provide clear reasoning and avoid drawing unqualified conclusions.
Kevin Anderson and John Broderick
University of Manchester

It’s a bit rich for a government spokesman to respond to a report on the increased dependence on food banks by saying “It’s simply not possible to draw conclusions from these unverified figures from disparate sources” (Food bank demand up 54% in 2013, 9 June). When I asked a written parliamentary question about food banks last October, the DWP minister, Lord Freud, replied that food banks are not a government responsibility so they didn’t collect statistics. It’s time they did, and it’s also time Iain Duncan Smith reconsidered his petulant refusal even to meet the Trussell Trust, which plays a leading part in helping to feed the growing number of children, and others, in poverty.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

• You report that Harriet Harman “seldom sees people from her south London constituency at the BBC Proms” (State-backed arts must reach out to public, 9 June). That implies that she would recognise one of her 80,000 or so constituents if she saw him or her in an audience of 5,000 in the Royal Albert Hall.
David Hoult

•  Harriet Harman may have been able to tell that most of the Royal Opera House audience was white. She could not be sure they were middle class just by looking. Perhaps next time we attend we should wear straw in our hair to indicate our non-metropolitan origins.
Christina Baron
Wells, Somerset

• The £6 of condoms, two boxes of Twix, £13 of beer and £123 of smoked salmon in your magistrates court article (Crimes and misdemeanours, 7 June) sound like the makings of an excellent night in.
Stuart Gallagher
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

•  When I was working with the restaurateur Alan Crompton-Batt in the 1980s, I remember him referring to a smarmy maître d’ of our acquaintance as “an oily prat” (Letters, 7 June).
Alan Budge
Buxton, Derbyshire

•  A Greek restaurant in Caledonian Road has a multitude of England flags and bunting. Not sure if Ukip should be reassured by this or not (Letters, 9 June).
Claire Poyner



Getty Images

Last updated at 12:02AM, June 9 2014

The Conservative party has pledged to eradicate illiteracy within a generation

Sir, You report that the eradication of illiteracy among young people is to feature significantly at the next election (“Every child to read and write”, June 7). If our situation is so bad by international standards, what have our politicians been doing about it since the Education Act of 1870?

There is no magic bullet for this problem. Synthetic phonics, the teaching method officially favoured, has some advantages over others; but it cannot overcome the problem that so many English words conform to no spelling rule, and have to be memorised. Most children do manage to memorise such irregularities eventually — but a significant minority cannot.

Genuine progress on English literacy requires accepting the possibility of at least some changes to our orthography (the principles underlying spelling). Other languages’ spelling has changed. English spelling is not so different as to be incapable of improvement.

Hence, the English Spelling Society is promoting an international congress, which with expert assistance and after consultation with the wider public will produce a standard revised orthography. We hope that this will eventually become the accepted norm, holding out enormous potential benefits for the English-speaking world.

Stephen Linstead

Chairman, English Spelling Society

Sir, As a teacher of many years’ experience I have a simple solution to the problems of teaching literacy: reduce class sizes. We all know that a class of 30 is too big, and that a class size of 20 is more manageable for effective teaching.

Perhaps the £10 million being given to the Education Endowment Foundation could be better used to employ more teachers.

Jane Dobell

Guildford, Surrey

Sir, Adequate standards of numeracy and literacy in school leavers might be achieved simply by imposing a school-leaving embargo until an individual has attained suitable standards. The motivation for students, parents and teachers is self-evident.

John Gisby

Milford, Wilts

Sir, I am astonished that neither the government nor your leading article (June 9) makes mention of the “reading buddy” scheme. In our local school there are 15 volunteer buddies who hear the children on a one-to-one basis. The scheme has been in operation for about six years and by now practically every child over nine, boys included, is an adequate reader; most are excellent readers. If all primary schools were to adopt this costless scheme I am sure the problem would be a long way towards being solved. In our case the headteacher started the scheme with an appeal to our local Church of England church.

Tony Tidmarsh

Areley Kings, Worcestershire

Sir, I bet that not one of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day was illiterate. We could read then, because there was no television or Skype, no mobiles and few telephones. We read newspapers to get the news, we read books for pleasure or to learn.

We wrote letters: love letters to our girlfriends, news letters to our families, letters to air our views. And here I go again, at 85, writing another letter to the editor.

John Lakeman

West Heath, Hants

It’s all very well having an idea for a Garden Bridge over the Thames, but what about east London?

Sir, Richard Morrison (June 6) welcomed the submission of Thomas Heatherwick’s imaginative Garden Bridge for planning consent. This would be the tenth Thames Bridge in central London (counting the similarly pedestrian Hungerford Bridge), while west London has a further 12 Thames bridges.

While the mayor of London and Transport for London are considering new bridges, perhaps they could turn their thoughts to east London, where there are no bridges crossing the river.

Joseph Finnegan

Greenhithe, Kent

Lady Rawlings’s list of economies is all very well, but 200 panama hats are hardly what I would call cheap

Sir, Lady Rawlings’s list of economies was no doubt tongue in cheek (June 6), but 200 panama hats at, say, £50 each, would be expensive.

Then there is her suggestion of self-service. Husbands have been known to arrive back home with silver forks still lodged in breast pockets, white napkins in another pocket; someone else’s umbrella brought along “just in case there is no marquee” — and the panama hats will still be on their heads as they drive away with shouts of “excellent party — many thanks”!

Janie Day

Ousden, Suffolk

Godrey Dann asks what the coarse expression ‘bob-on’ means. He asks a good question. The answer is ‘spot-on’

Sir, Godfrey Dann is fortunate to live in a world where he is not exposed to coarse expressions in common usage (letter, June 9). “Bob-on” means “spot-on”. In these parts there is also the term “Bob-all”, used in place of “nothing”, and in the northwest “bobbins” replaces “nonsense”.

Jeff Biggs


We lost our ‘deference and blind confidence’ in the government long before the Profumo affair

Sir, Most of us lost the “deference and blind confidence” in the government that we had in 1944 (Libby Purves, June 9) long before the Profumo affair. It was in October 1956, when Anthony Eden took us into a disastrous and unnecessary war over Suez, and lied to the Commons about it.

Sir Michael Howard

Eastbury, Berks

Should statues of errant city statesmen be removed or simply left for future generations to decide?

Sir, Further to the letter from Mike Gardner (June 7), demanding the destruction of Bristol’s statue of the slave trader, merchant and MP Edward Colston, if we really are to embark on a bout of iconoclasm directed at those whose standards do not meet modern sensibilities, our streets, parks and squares will be sadly empty. For example, Nelson was an adulterer (though that might now be permitted as self-fulfillment), and Thomas Jefferson a slaveowner (and father of a child born to one of his slaves).

It is a legitimate source of inquiry as to how apparently enlightened people, who were often very generous in their giving, can have had such double standards, but I am not sure that destroying their statues — which illustrate how they were regarded by their contemporaries — will help this process.

Let us not try to obscure important aspects of our history by destroying statues of those of whom we now disapprove.

Clive Fletcher-Wood


Sir, Edward Colston’s statue should not be removed from Bristol city centre. By all means change the inscription, to show all his works — but to remove the statue would not change the history of the city.

Better to keep the statue in the open so that future generations can see and ask questions without necessarily having to enter a museum to discover the unsavoury truth.

Colin Bengey

Hawarden, Flintshire

Sir, Edward Colston is not the only dubious character to be commemorated in his home city. Simon de Montfort, a notorious and rabid antisemite, was enthusiastically expelling Jews from Leicester decades before the national expulsion of 1290. Today he is remembered through De Montfort University.

Many Irish people might also cavil at the statue of Cromwell in front of Parliament, given the outrages perpetrated via his fiat in Ireland.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath, Herts


Get a grip: ‘Boy Writing with His Sister’, 1875 oil on canvas by Albert Anker (1831-1910)  Photo: Bridgeman Art Library

6:58AM BST 09 Jun 2014

Comments144 Comments

SIR – All my grandchildren – and most of their teachers, who are in their twenties or thirties – hold a pen or pencil as though they are afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. They then complain of aching wrists after taking exams.

Your picture of Judith Woods and her daughter shows Lily holding the pencilin the same way.

Is this some new teaching?

Howard Williams
Gilwern, Monmouthshire

The role of the bicycle in D-Day.

The Queen and veterans attended the commemoration of D-Day Photo: Getty Images/AFP/Eddie Mulholland/Reuters

6:59AM BST 09 Jun 2014

Comments317 Comments

SIR – June Green’s letter (June 6) reminded me of when I accompanied General Tommy Harris of the Ulster Rifles on a return trip to Normandy some 25 years ago.

Harris was commanding officer of an Ulster Rifles battalion in the second phase of the D-Day landings and they waded ashore carrying bicycles. The bicycles were used to move swiftly inland but there were unforeseen problems.

First, having waded ashore from landing craft at Lion-sur-Mer, the wet battle dress chafed the inside of everyone’s legs, so that they became very sore.

Later, when they had to attack the Germans, the bicycles were left in a culvert. When the Yorkshire Yeomanry tanks arrived to support the attack, they accidentally ran over the bicycles as they manoeuvred to avoid German fire.

After the attack, apparently the consensus was: “No loss”.

David W Carter
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

GCSE changes

SIR – As a chartered physiotherapist, I was disappointed to read that Ofqual is recommending the abolition of human biology as a school subject. If children understand how their bodies are put together and how they work, they might take better care of them – from avoiding smoking, alcohol and excessive weight gain, to cultivating better posture and physical fitness.

Mind you, I might then be out of a job.

Diana Hall
Newmarket, Suffolk

SIR – Home economics is a primary school topic, and should never have been a GCSE. Taken seriously, with explanation of the chemistry, maths and mechanics of it, cookery science could be up to GCSE standard – food preparation and packaging is one of this country’s biggest industries. Accounting and bookkeeping could be a GCSE, maybe combined with typing.

Home economics is little more than safely boiling a kettle, with no knowledge of where the power comes from or how it is regulated. I am happy to see it dumped.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Rhythm of the road

SIR – John Leach wonders why everything beeps. I feel his pain. Due to an unsolvable problem, our car’s seat belt warning dinged from north Norfolk to south of Beaune on a family trip this Easter.

I began to find it quite rhythmical by the time we got to Troyes.

Thomas Courtauld
Matlaske, Norfolk

SIR – My latest washing machine plays a whole stanza of Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” at the end of the cycle.

It took some time for me to work out why my children were shouting “trout” to alert me to when it had finished.

Winnie Choy Winter
Great Paxton, Huntingdonshire

SIR – I think I’ll put up with beeps. The alternative will be irritating ring tones.

Geoffrey White
Wellow, Somerset

Rock of ages

SIR – Do not tell Matron at The Laurels, but I shall be going awol and making my way by zimmer to Glastonbury.

Alan Sabatini
Bournemouth, Dorset

Nice and MS medicine

SIR – The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence’s recent appraisals of new medicines have been carried out in a transparent manner, with opportunities for patient groups and health-care professionals to contribute. However, the development of the new Nice clinical guideline for multiple sclerosis was drafted behind closed doors. The approach excluded patient groups and professional expertise.

As a result, Nice is proposing to block access to two potentially life-changing MS treatments that are licensed and proven to be effective at helping people walk more easily and control painful muscle spasms.

If this guideline remains unchanged, people will be forced to pay privately, or face the agonising daily frustration of living with painful and debilitating symptoms.

We urge Nice to conduct an open and transparent review, engaging patient and professional organisations in constructive dialogue.

Michelle Mitchell
Chief Executive, MS Society
Dr Jeremy Hobart
Professor of Clinical Neurology and Health Measurement, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry
Dr Belinda Weller
Consultant Neurologist, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh
Dr Willy Notcutt
Consultant in Pain Management, James Paget University Hospital, Great Yarmouth
Dr Raj Kapoor
Consultant Neurologist and Reader in Neurology, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London
Dr Matthew Craner
Honorary Consultant Neurologist, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford
Dr Stanley Hawkins
Consultant Neurologist, Belfast Health and Care Trust
Professor David Nutt
The Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College London

Baroness’s make-do-and-mend tips are a bit rich

SIR – I was warming to the article regarding Baroness Rawlings’s tips for the poor until I reached the last few paragraphs.

Does the baroness really believe that working-class families can afford bars of soap costing £8.50, or that a family man can afford half a dozen new pairs of socks for work, costing between £16 and £25 per pair? Beautifully thin or not, the initial outlay would be far too much in the bigger picture of monthly family bills.

Jackie Tuck
Jodrell Bank, Cheshire

SIR – I can’t thank Baroness Rawlings enough for those useful money-saving tips. However, if indeed I were to follow her advice, it would cost me a fortune. For example, should I throw away my paper napkins and buy a dozen damask dinner napkins? Must I buy Panama hats for all my friends at tomorrow night’s barbecue? I am definitely on the horns of dilemma.

Janet Turner
Frome, Somerset

SIR – I was amused to read Sir Richard FitzHerbert’s admission that he takes away the pens provided in hotel rooms.

A few years ago, I visited the tea room at his house, Tissington Hall, with my partner.

Before our sandwiches were brought to us, my partner left the table to collect some sachets of salad cream and mayonnaise. While she was away, I picked up a copy of Derbyshire Life magazine, which had been made available for customers.

When she returned, I was obliged to warn her that she should resist the temptation to take away any sachets that we did not use in the tea room as there was, by coincidence, an article in the magazine in which the writer complained about customers taking away the free sachets of sauces from his tea room. The writer: Sir Richard FitzHerbert.

Andrew Willott
Bury Bank, Staffordshire

SIR – Never mind giving your guests Panama hats instead of hiring a marquee. Can anyone suggest how I can get my

16-year-old son to turn off the lights, especially when he’s been watching late-night television?

Marian Callender
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Longleat exhibition

SIR – I was surprised to see the headline “How Lady Weymouth had her revenge” – my wife’s “revenge” apparently being that the Robes Corridor in Longleat House has been updated with an exhibition of our marriage.

The reality may disappoint, but family relations are at a relatively harmonious point and, in any case, my wife is not a vengeful individual.

The wedding exhibition at Longleat was devised by the house curator, with our marketing department.

The portrait of my wife was commissioned by my cousin more than a year ago and was painted by Paul Benny, whom the same cousin arranged to paint each immediate family member including both parents, my sister and myself.

Viscount Weymouth
Longleat, Wiltshire

A big step

SIR – I once took a dainty young lady walking in the Peak District hills. Due to diabolical weather, her shoes disintegrated completely. That evening I had to take her home wearing a pair of my shoes.

She was so comfortable, she married me.

Dr Hans L Eirew


SIR – From 1995 to 2000 I was principal of Edwardes College in Peshawar, a church foundation near the Pakistan-Afghan border. The college is a place of open liberal learning and inter-faith cooperation.

We initiated a programme of professional development involving visits to and from Birmingham schools, one of which was Golden Hillock school (one of the schools at the centre of the current Trojan horse controversy). Even then in the Nineties, Golden Hillock and other schools in that part of Birmingham had taken on an Islamic character, reflecting the increasingly

mono-cultural character of parts of multi-cultural Britain.

Most of my students, who were Christian and Muslim, were intelligent and open-minded, and disgusted by the ideology of al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, one or two expressed support for the jihadist ideology; we were surrounded by extremist madrassas where boys were indoctrinated into the teachings of jihad. When we introduced the first girls at the college in 1999, I was attacked in the press almost every week and received threats. A similar development of fatwas, closed minds and jihadist networks now exists in Britain.

In a small way our task in Peshawar was to “drain the swamp” by educating students in ways that opened minds and helped nurture young people who were tolerant, civilised and able to see through the ideology of extremism. The same is surely true of our education system here in Britain.

Dr Robin Brooke-Smith
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

SIR – Hear, hear, Charles Moore (“While we turn a blind eye to Islamists, our children suffer, Comment, June 7).

We expect and require our Government to root out this unacceptable threat to our society and deliver us from it.

John Penketh
Hayling Island, Hampshire

SIR – Charles Moore asks why there is a growing risk of Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom. Setting aside the significant own-goal scored by politicians who took us into unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby incensing much of the world’s Muslim population, there is a simple and mostly overlooked reason why the threat from Islam is growing on our own doorstep: the almost total silence from the moderate Muslim community when extremist outrages happen either in Britain or elsewhere.

It is difficult to believe that problems would continue if there was a chorus of disapproval and revulsion at things being done in the name of a religion that in essence is every bit as honourable as Christianity.

Muslims in a multi-faith community need to promote the enormous universal good that is preached in the Koran and publicly deal severely with extremists.

P J Mahaffey
Cardington, Bedfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Rosita Boland’s “The trouble with the septic tank story” (Weekend, June 7th) should be compulsory reading for everyone who has been concerned about the Tuam former mother-and-baby home. Her report underlines the appalling extent of lies, distortion and hysteria that has characterised the public uproar surrounding this tragic episode of mistreatment of women pregnant out of wedlock in the Ireland of the 1920s to 1960s.

Relating the painstaking research of local historian Catherine Corless, she points out that the 796 child deaths, mostly infants, over 36 years to 1961 represented an average of 22 deaths per year. The death certificates, meticulously researched by Ms Corless, recorded various causes of death, including tuberculosis, convulsions, measles, whooping cough, influenza, bronchitis and meningitis. At various times, the Tuam home housed more than 200 children and 100 mothers.

As for the widely circulated reports of “796 babies buried in a septic tank”, Ms Boland records that the local man who recalled removing a concrete slab from a hole (not a septic tank) back in 1975 says that there were “about 20” skeletons there.

While not minimising in the least the tragic human suffering this story from Tuam reveals about the mother-and-baby homes era, this was not the Herod-like massacre of the innocents which other media, various politicians and others have sought to depict. Indeed, it is clear that the mortality rate in similar homes elsewhere in Ireland was much higher. Instead of bilious rants against the Catholic Church and religious orders, and demands for criminal investigations, people should consider the informed and measured words of Ms Corless. Perhaps it is also time to infuse our decade of commemorations with some social history studies to accompany the focus on military and political events. There might not be so much to celebrate after all! – Yours, etc,


Morehampton Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (“Protestant or Catholic, the short lives of these children must be given some respect”, Opinion & Analysis, June 7th) manages the considerable feat of writing an entire column relating to the deeply disturbing case of St Mary’s mother-and-child home in Tuam without once mentioning the Catholic Church.

Apparently “we” are all to blame. “We Irish pride ourselves on doing death well,” she writes. She notes that in Ireland decades ago “we denied children the right to respect in death” and we “failed to be true to the Christian ideal that no child is unwanted in the eyes of God”.

Her article could function as a lesson on the use of the passive voice. “Mothers were denied an opportunity to mourn” and “children were denied the right to an identity”. Yet nowhere does she point out who did this. She refers to avoiding “mistakes that were made” in the past. Who is she suggesting might do so?

Apparently “not enough people questioned the obsession with sexual purity” that punished women. Who was obsessed with sexual purity? Or did this obsession exist independently of people, floating in the air and coursing through our water? It is true that “Irish society ostracised and neglected single mothers and their babies” but I suggest the “powerful cultural norms” she refers to did not exist in a vacuum and nor did they spring magically into existence. They were a direct consequence of the stultifying influence of the Catholic Church in Irish education, politics and society.

“We” are most definitely not all to blame. – Yours, etc,


Clancarthy Road,

Donnycarney, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Now is the time for the Government to allow all adopted people full access to their files. The whole sorry saga of the fate of “illegitimate” citizens of this country turns up more and more horrors every year. It seems to be a litany of secrets upon secrets and shame upon shame. It is mystifying how this “Christian” country could have had such an abhorrence of unmarried women who had children. – Yours, etc,


Watermill Road,

Raheny,Dublin 5.

Sir, – It was only in 1995 that stillbirths were registered in this country. Therefore the number arrived at in Tuam does not include stillborn babies who were never registered. – Yours, etc,


King’s Court,

King’s Channel,


A chara, – Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan has announced that there will be an inquiry into mother-and-baby homes. This is in response to the discovery of the remains of babies at St Mary’s, Tuam. It is right that these deaths should be investigated and these short precious lives acknowledged and honoured.

Now is the time also to acknowledge the living people who spent time in the mother-and-baby homes. Many of the birth mothers who passed through these institutions are still living with the scars of the stigma and shame imposed on them at that time. Tens of thousands of babies were adopted from these homes. Those of us born in the mother-and-baby homes are now adults and are still caught up in the legacy of shame and secrecy.

We adopted adults in Ireland are, by law, denied access to our birth records and adoption files.

Any investigation into mother-and-baby homes will be incomplete and insincere if it does not acknowledge those of us (mothers and babies) who survived these institutions.

Surely this is the time to open up the discussion on the rights of adopted children in Ireland, time to make available the records of adoption agencies and religious orders, time to acknowledge the damage done to the birth mothers and apologise to them, time to move on from secrecy and shame to acknowledgement and openness.

It is easier to express horror at events in the past than to implement changes in the present. I hope this opportunity will not be lost. – Yours, etc,



Ballymote, Co Sligo.

Sir, – As senior doctors in training and working in emergency departments, we welcome the most recent Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report that identifies unsafe and overcrowded conditions in a major regional emergency department (“Limerick hospital overcrowding ‘putting patients at risk’”, Home News, June 6th).

The conditions described in this report do not come as a surprise to us and are also not unique to the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick.

We had hoped that the 2012 Hiqa report into conditions in Tallaght Hospital would represent a watershed moment nationally in the unsafe and undignified conditions that our most vulnerable and critically ill patients have to endure. This has not been the case.

Solutions to overcrowding and unsafe conditions do exist, and other institutions and jurisdictions have successfully tackled this issue. Innovative and incentivised solutions are needed, along with serious regulatory consequences when action is not taken.

Until Hiqa possesses the power of closure (even temporary) against unsafe units, or meaningful ethical or professional sanctions exist against hospital management, we fear that this report will merely accompany the myriad other reports into this issue – gathering dust on a shelf.

We might also take this opportunity to signal a further threat to patient safety that has regrettably emerged. In the last few months we now have a situation where major emergency departments are left without in-house emergency medicine registrar cover at night.

We hope that we will not need yet another Hiqa investigation as a result of this significant patient safety issue. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – Donald Clarke’s latest column (“If you don’t approve of the church then don’t take part in its rituals”, Opinion & Analysis, June 7th), takes the guise of an appeal to his fellow unbelievers not to take part in the rituals of the Catholic Church if they don’t believe in them.

He does, however, manage to get in the usual sideswipes against the church, such as a passing mention of its “sex-hating doctrines”.

The Irish Times now has Fintan O’Toole, Donald Clarke and Eamon McCann serving up regular dollops of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian invective. All of this is “balanced” by the lone voice of Breda O’Brien.

Your newspaper has the right to take whatever editorial line it chooses, and your columnists have the right to express their opinions as they see fit.

However, if The Irish Times has any serious commitment to fairness, it must make more of an effort to represent the huge proportion of the Irish people who are not convinced by the rather hysterical polemics of Messrs O’Toole, Clarke and McCann. – Yours, etc,



Woodford Drive,


Dublin 22.

Sir, – Donald Clarke’s article on participation in church rituals claims that “people of faith” is “a self-definition that positively revels in rejection of logical thought”. This is, at best, misleading. For some people at least, faith is the only sensible option when mere logic proves inadequate. That is not to reject logic, but rather to accept that human reasoning has its limits. Is it possible to think outside of logic and yet not reject it? Isn’t that what we do when we appreciate a sunset, enjoy music or rejoice in a friendship? Thankfully, we have more than one way to perceive and understand ourselves and our surroundings. – Yours, etc,


Moanbane Park,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Councillors in Kerry who have insisted on placing a religious symbol in the revamped council chambers in Tralee are acting unwisely because they are inviting those who might reject such a move to explain their objections (“Crucifix erected in Kerry County Council meeting chamber”, June 6th).

This is likely to be interpreted by the supporters of the symbolism as yet another “attack on religion” when it will be, in fact, nothing more than fair comment.

A great many people who are happy to observe and practice their religious beliefs in private and with dignity will have them held up to ridicule, and will be once more confronted with the detail of how the same beliefs have been betrayed by those who set themselves up as leaders of religion in the past.

Whatever the councillors of Kerry might think, religion should be a personal matter. If they are acting out of pure conviction, one has to ask how sure can they be of their beliefs if they need to have them reinforced by such public display. If this is a populist measure, it is beneath contempt. – Yours, etc,


Farrenboley Park,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – It should have been a flat cap.



Sir, – On Saturday, I travelled from Dublin to Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, to see the Kilkenny vs Offaly hurling match, the first GAA match to be broadcast by Sky Sports. We are Dublin supporters but over the past two years have travelled to many provincial stadiums to watch some wonderful hurling matches, many not involving Dublin.

The bonus of small stadiums “down the country” is that children can go onto the pitch after the match, ask the players to sign their hurls, and puck a ball about on the same pitch their heroes were battling on just minutes before. It does more to generate a passion for hurling in my children than any amount of cajoling from their father.

However, at Nowlan Park on Saturday evening, we found that wire-fencing had been erected between the fans and the pitch. Gates onto the field were locked. Five minutes before the end of the game, the following announcement was made; “Fans are not to come onto the pitch at the end of the game as Sky Sports need to conduct post-match interviews”.

The GAA say that the participation of Sky Sports will enhance the GAA. If the demands of Sky and their armchair fans are to take precedence over the experience of fans who make their way to stadiums, come rain or shine, then I strongly disagree. – Yours, etc,


Ballymun Road,

Sir, – I read that driving tests may include visual exercises and simulations, ensuring that motorists can spot hazards on the roads (“Simulated driving tests may be down the road”, Home News, June 6th).

Will this involve simulation as to what it is like to be a cyclist? A kind of reverse-engineering type of scenario could be created – the driver as virtual cyclist.

I cycle every day, and inevitably, at least once a week, I get put in a position of hair-raising danger by car and lorry drivers. Perhaps if drivers had to experience some virtual cycling, amid chance-taking drivers, it might save a handful of cyclist lives?

Meanwhile I am purchasing a rear light that has an always-on digital video camera to witness and warn devil-may-care drivers. – Yours, etc,


Newtownpark Avenue,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – William Baxter’s letter (June 7th) reminds us that “we have to take personal responsibility for our actions” in respect of our carbon footprint.

Those of us who have, for many years, taken personal responsibility for our actions by living a low-carbon lifestyle are wondering now why we bothered. For every household with a recycling routine, there are dozens without one. For every modest home heated by a low-carbon heating system, there are dozens of oversized residences that require the consumption of large quantities of fossil fuel to heat. The same principle applies to those of us who took personal responsibility for our borrowing – why did we bother? – Yours, etc,




Co Wexford.

Sir, – On Saturday in Bucharest, Katie Taylor won her sixth European title. For Ireland. She holds all the major titles at European, world and Olympic level. For Ireland. Where was the State broadcaster on Saturday? In this household of licence payers, we had to watch the bout on a laptop, relying on a link sent via twitter by Katie herself. When the football World Cup kicks off, no doubt we’ll be treated to such gems as Honduras vs Switzerland or Greece vs Ivory Coast, and why not? But why could not just a tiny fraction of the budget have been allocated to an emerging sport where Ireland has a real, true and inspiring champion and role model?

We need not just to celebrate the successes of our athletes, but to support them on their long and arduous journeys. – Yours, etc,


Goldenbridge Walk,

Inchicore, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Dick Keane (June 9th) denounces the constant threat posed by a united Ireland to the unionist community and ponders why it is that the government in North Ireland requires a majority of both communities to agree before legislation can be passed, while a border poll only requires a simple majority of the electorate.

Mr Keane has missed the obvious flaw in his argument – voters cease to be unionist once they become supporters of a united Ireland and therefore a majority of unionists can never be in favour of it. – Yours, etc,


Priory Road, London.

Sir, – Two Ulster counties, Cavan and Armagh, a parade, a row over flags and neither side giving an inch (Sport, June 9th). Surely a matter for the Parades Commission, not the GAA Central Competitions Control Committee? – Yours, etc,


Windsor Terrace,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – This is a very difficult time for even the best students. May I ask those whose schooldays are long behind them not to begrudge us a public show of support from the media? – Yours, etc,


Annadale Drive,

Marino, Dublin 9.

Irish Independent:

Catherine Corless has done humanity a great service in the courage, determination and integrity she showed in bringing to light the extent of the desecration of the bodies of innocent children and the barbaric conditions in which they lived, died and were buried.

I remember well the whispered murmurings when a girl became pregnant outside of marriage. The euphemism that she had ‘jumped the fence’ seemed to imply that the man had remained in his assigned enclosure. The girl disappeared; her return after nine months rekindled the gossip that surrounded her and her family.

I remember one case where a young unmarried mother who, on returning from seeing her baby for the last time, had the courage to attend the local dance but was shunned by the men. The male dominance in church and State worked against the humane consideration of the place of women in Irish society.

Additionally, we have all been blinded by a narrow concept of respect for human life. The focusing of moral debate on contraception and abortion has inhibited a more refined sense of our moral responsibility for one another.

However, the treatment of unmarried mothers and their offspring cannot be purged by just condemning the past. The past can only be redeemed by addressing the equivalent realities of the present.

The existence of widespread food poverty in Ireland, particularly in our cities, ensures that there are many children who go to bed with an unfed stomach. Hundreds of our citizens have nowhere to rest at night. Inhumanity is not to be found just in distant lands or distant times, it is to be found in our own time and in our own land.

Love and care are not concepts that sit easily in the pragmatic world of free enterprise capitalism.

Sadly, what lies ahead of us is not an outbreak of repentance and humanity but a return to a new wave of unfettered acquisitiveness where enough is never enough.





Unfortunately it will take a lot more than Colette Browne’s excellent article on June 5 (‘Ireland didn’t cherish all its children equally. We still don’t’) to move our tearful politicians to actually stop “immiserating the living”.

I am particularly angered and saddened at the callousness and cruelty being meted out to the asylum seekers in our country. Men, women and children are being denied their human rights, incarcerated in “direct-provision centres”. Those of us shocked at what happened in mother and baby homes all those years ago must surely be equally moved by the plight of people seeking asylum here.

This Government has the chance now to truly show the whole world how Ireland cherishes its current children.





While following the Tuam babies story, there is one question which I cannot get out of my head.

Why is it that an issue which has been public knowledge since the 1970s suddenly dominates the news agenda for days on end as if it had come to light in recent weeks?

In all the recent coverage not one columnist or commentator has sought to address this question.





Fr Con McGillicuddy (Letters, June 9) shifts any blame for the mother and child home scandals from the Catholic Church by saying “Christian families would not bear the public shame of caring for a daughter who had a child born out of wedlock”.

He conveniently omits the fact that it was an authoritarian Catholic Church that created this stigma in the first place. I as a Christian will readily admit to that. So too should Fr McGillicuddy.





John Cuffe in his letter ‘Hatred of sexuality and women’, (June 9) describes the Irish State from its foundation as “sick and tortured, angst- and guilt-ridden”. The sad reality is that this disparaging description of Ireland in those days is quite accurate. I ask have we changed sufficiently?

Although regaining our independence from the British, we replaced them with a master which was just as punitive – the Catholic Church. Sex and the Catholic Church just did not mix.

The late Oliver J Flanagan claimed “there was no sex in Ireland before television”, which was indicative of people’s attitudes at the time.

Yet the reality was being dealt with in various Irish solutions to Irish problems.

Unmarried mothers were sent to Magdalene laundries or other mother and baby homes. Sexual abuse, while occurring in institutions and families, was never spoken about. Homosexuality was illegal.

Unless we in this present-day society realise that we are all inter-connected and that, as John Donne said, we are aware “for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee”, our children and grandchildren will be just as shocked as we are today,





It is with great disappointment that I learned recently that RTE has no plans to provide any live coverage of the forthcoming Special Olympics national finals. Next weekend’s finals will be the culmination of four years’ training by thousands of athletes, not to mention the priceless social, educational and mental health benefits for them.

The national finals will feature 1,500 athletes competing in 14 different sports, supported by 3,000 volunteers and thousands of family members who will travel to Limerick for this amazing event which occurs only once every four years.

Considering that this will be one of the biggest sporting events in our country this year, I feel it deserves live coverage.

As Limerick is the city of culture we are also missing out on promoting the city as a tourist destination. Following RTE’s response to me on the issue, I set up an online petition urging it to reconsider its decision and have been delighted with the ongoing support countrywide that the petition has received.

As a mother of an athlete who is fortunate to have qualified for the finals I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for the world.





Dear Taoiseach, your government has not fulfilled its election promise to address in a fair and equitable manner the financial debacle left by the previous administration.

In spite of that failure, your government preaches economy from the ivory tower of an enviable salary and pension plan regime, whilst bowing in abject servility to the international financiers and corporate interests who have turned the lives of so many into a living hell.

If you really want to serve Ireland and her people, please sacrifice your political identity and do what the country requires.

If you are unwilling or unable to accept such a responsibility – and assuming that you and your colleagues possess a modicum of genuine human empathy – you will resign en masse.



Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: