Prep 2

15June2014 Prep 2

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Off to clean the spare bedroom for our guests

ScrabbleIwin a not very respectable score well under 400 perhaps Mary will win tomorrow

Obituary:

Ann Bonsor – obituary

Ann Bonsor was a member of a secret ‘FANY’ unit who sent messages to SOE agents in France

Ann Bonsor

Ann Bonsor

5:15PM BST 12 Jun 2014

Comments1 Comment

Ann Bonsor, who has died aged 90, served with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry’s secret “Bingham’s Unit” during the Second World War .

In 1938 the FANY (a voluntary female corps formed in 1907) was asked to establish the Women’s Transport Service — companies of motor drivers attached to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Bingham’s Unit was a small, highly secret part of the FANYs which worked for the Special Operations Executive. As well as their driving duties, the women of Bingham’s Unit gave technical and housekeeping support to trainee agents at the SOE’s special training schools, and some became highly skilled in wireless telegraphy, ciphering and deciphering.

Ann Bonsor was recruited into the FANY in October 1942 and sent to Special Training School No 52 at Thame Park in Oxfordshire, one of many similar houses requisitioned by the SOE – which gave rise to the idea that its initials stood for “Stately ’Omes of England”). The following July she and a team of FANYs sailed from Greenock in a troopship with no idea of their destination. After two weeks they arrived at Algiers, where they were told at their first briefing that it was unsafe to drink the water, but that there were unlimited amounts of wine; the girls drank so much that they had difficulty putting up their camp beds.

They were posted to Interservice Signals Unit No 6 at its secret base 15 miles west of Algiers, at a seaside village code-named “Massingham”. At first Ann Bonsor failed her Morse sending and was put on coding and decoding, but with practice she developed her touch at Morse and worked watches sending and receiving messages from agents in France. Though she also met several agents who were to be sent by small boat and by parachute into occupied Europe to conduct sabotage and reconnaissance, she never knew their names.

Ann Bonsor was aware that when agents contacted her base, there were only about 15 minutes to send and receive, and for her to transmit and record accurately, before enemy direction-finding teams located the source of the signals. On one occasion a message suddenly turned from code into plain language, reading “Boche Boche”. She feared this meant that the agent had been captured — a fear that was confirmed when his set came back on air: she knew from the change in the rhythm of the Morse that it was the Germans who were operating the set. When the Allies landed in the south of France, however, and another agent used plain language to send “Vive la France”, all the FANYs in the wireless room stood and sang the Marseillaise.

In October 1944 Ann Bonsor sailed to Bari on the Adriatic coast of Italy to join another SOE unit, Force 226. As the Allies advanced through Italy, she and a team of FANYs were sent north to Siena, where they ran the operations room of the Special Forces in southern Europe. In June 1945 she joined the Wireless Section (Mixed) ME61 — Mediterranean Ops, but this was soon disbanded; in December 1945 she was released from duty.

Ann Elizabeth Bonsor was born in London on September 22 1923. After the early death of her father, she and her brothers lived with an uncle, Sir Reginald Bonsor, 2nd Bt, and his wife at Liscombe Park, Bedfordshire. She did not embrace country life, and was considered peculiar as she preferred poetry to Horse and Hound. She was educated at Langford Grove, Essex, and on leaving school she worked for eight months for MI5 at its wartime headquarters in Blenheim Palace, where she found her duties “dreadfully boring”.

After the war Ann Bonsor read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and she remained at the university as a lecturer for two decades. She was unmarried.

Ann Bonsor, born September 22 1923, died April 25 2014

Guardian:

The question that lingers from reading Jay Rayner’s article (“Why a supermarket price war is bad news for Britain’s ability to feed itself”, News) is why supermarkets are not properly regulated to stop them manipulating food prices at producers’ expense. Instead production of, and access to, food are left to financial markets, where insatiable hunger for profit by supermarket and agribusiness giants destroys small-scale livelihoods.

Food self-sufficiency will never come from self-interested supermarket bosses. It requires people’s access to land, as well as natural and financial resources to produce and trade food within democratic structures. Nor does citizens paying more for food offer a solution.

It demands, instead, food and agricultural policies that ensure public spending on practices, such as agroecology, that reduce costs and ensure high productivity, without compromising the environment.
Graciela Romero
International programmes director
War on Want
London N1

Don’t patronise the elderly

Stephanie Merritt hit a nail on the head for me, commenting on a certain condescending attitude to older people made manifest in the reporting of the D-Day veteran going awol (“Why we love Bernard Jordan’s tale of D-Day defiance”, Comment). Among most media comment, her observation seemed to be a decidedly minority one as far as I could ascertain.

I found the whole coverage of Jordan’s jaunt quite patronising. Stop press: “90-year-old man actually managed to work out how to take a ferry across the Channel!” Perhaps because today we find so many column inches and much television coverage swamped by the problems of senility and Alzheimer’s, we are perhaps surprised to find not all in the “sunset” of their lives are merely living vegetables.

If a man or woman over 80 is still compos mentis and physically able, what difference is there between him or her and someone, say, 20 years younger? Just because they happen to be further down the road in what can be a continuing active life is no reason to believe they should be viewed as some performing animal.
Fizz Fieldgrass
Worthing,
Sussex

How to thwart Golden Dawn

The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece (“SS songs, antisemitism and homophobia: the week Golden Dawn turned openly Nazi“, World news) is frightening proof that economic inequity and unjust austerity provide fertile grounds for far-right groups to cultivate support. This is another wake-up call to European politicians, who need to remind their constituents about the positives of the EU. These benefits do not include regulations on the shape of cucumbers but do include prevention of war (and should include the pursuit of fairness).

With reminders of the horrors of war fresh in our minds following the recent commemoration of D-Day, this would seem a good time for supporters of Europe to fight back against far-right/populist parties to promote a progressive future.

To allow this argument to be heard against the din of the nationalists, the EU must focus all its energy on economic decency throughout the continent. Working towards this will give the people of Europe hope. Only then will they collectively reject the likes of Golden Dawn and their hateful politics as a thing of the past.
David Thomas

An insult to pupils and teachers

While I fully agree with the thrust of Barbara Ellen’s points in her article (“Yes, let’s reward true hunger for higher education”, Comment) that we should admire and rejoice in the greater success of comprehensive school pupils at university, compared with private or selective school entrants, and also agree that this may be in part due to a real lust for learning, rather than, as she puts it, a “culture of somewhat blase educational overentitlement”, I take real exception to her casual assumption that pupils in comprehensive schools are not “guided, supported, praised or encouraged … in the way their better-off peers may be” and that all that is offered at their schools is “love and good intentions”.

Given that the vast majority of children in this country attend such schools, she casually writes off both the work of most teachers and the motives of most parents. As both a parent and teacher of children educated in non-private, non-selective schools, who have succeeded at university and beyond, and others who succeeded without going to university at all, I take great exception to her lazy assumptions about such schools and parents, which is more the sort of prejudice I expect to read in a rightwing tabloid!
Jill Wallis
Aston Clinton
Buckinghamshire

Life, and art, outside London

The interview with Lily Cole (New Review) mentioned two London theatres, Hampstead and the Globe. Is this another example of a Londoncentric attitude? The piece forgot to say that Cole played in The Last Days of Troy at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, for several weeks.

Moira Sykes

Manchester

A Pavarotti mystery

Jane Kelsall’s letter last Sunday recounting a Clive James review of Otello is a lovely story but it can’t be true. Pavarotti never sang the role on stage – only in a couple of concert performances (which were also recorded) in Chicago and New York, but the Desdemona was Kiri Te Kanawa.

He did sing in a run of Un Ballo in Maschera with Caballé at Covent Garden in the 1980s, which was notorious because both he and the baritone (Renato Bruson) cancelled the first night.

John McMurray

Head of casting, English National Opera

Catherine Bennett hits the nail on the head (“Forget these ‘Trojan horses’ – the real issue is faith schools”). Michael Gove, the education secretary, appears incapable of appreciating that his creation of independent academies and support for faith schools may help foster the very “swamp” that he is so concerned about. After all, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arose out of the same pre-Enlightenment, misogynist “values-swamp” from within archaic pastoral cultures.

The logic of school secularisation also means replacing RE with cultural anthropology so that children are exposed to a more critical awareness of other cultures and world-views. As a retired social sciences teacher, I have latterly covered many RE classes in academies and, although most RE teachers (mainly practising Christians) are professional in approach, I have witnessed instances of proselytising masquerading as objective teaching. Additionally, many RE teachers are involved in PSHE (personal, social and health education) where their biases about sexuality, sex and relationships are potentially problematic. Religious belief is best left to individuals and families.
Philip Wood
Kidlington
Oxfordshire

I agree with Catherine Bennett’s view that the big issue underlying the concerns about the possible infiltration of schools is the extent to which any religious faith should be promoted in state schools It follows, though, that for all state schools to be secular there cannot be state-funded faith schools. Schools that seek to educate and indoctrinate children to be followers of a particular faith should be outwith the state system, funded by the religion and parents. State schools should only educate pupils about religion; schools whose aim is to educate for religion must not be part of the state system.
John Gaskin
York

Having spent a career in Roman Catholic education, I feel Ms Bennett has not fully embraced the issues of faith schools. Many parents sending children to faith schools have contributed twice to education – through their taxes and through funds raised within the faith community. My experience of providing Roman Catholic education was that, among other things, the Catholic school transmitted critically the culture of the state, and, far from being exclusive, the schools in which I served, seeing themselves as being a facility for the whole local community, taught significant numbers of non-Catholic pupils.

As for the curriculum, I can honestly say I never taught in a school where teaching was not aligned to scientific explanations of creation and, on moral issues, the schools followed the guidelines of the second Vatican council, attempting to develop the conscience of the individual, so meaningful, informed, mature choices could be embraced.

Yes, faith schools, like all schools, are open to the possibility of being the means to deliver unhelpful and unsuitable propaganda. They are essential as part of the framework ensuring cultural diversity, a means of enabling the less advantaged in society, and a maintenance of the tradition of free thought.
John McLorinan
Weston-super-Mare
Somerset

Catherine Bennett’s article showed a marked imbalance. Words such as “infidel”, “tainted” and, in particular, her view that religious teaching in a faith school leads to a near total misunderstanding of the real world. Speaking as a Roman Catholic, I can only say that my Catholic upbringing emphasised the direct connection to the present-day world. If Catherine Bennett would take time to peruse the theological and philosophical principles and particularly the social teaching of the church, her views might rebalance a little.
Thomas Baxter
Stratford-on-Avon
Warwickshire

Independent:

Joan Smith (8 June) describes state education as a “dog’s breakfast”, but it has also been a political football between a “left” that overlooks the need for sensitive and flexible selection according to unequal abilities, and a “right” that ignores the need for manageable groups, which enable teachers to give pupils and their written work closer attention.

If, instead of gimmicks and treble U-turns, from overpaid super-heads to exam chaos, incremental investment in both subject setting and smaller classes would have not proved too expensive, spread over the past four decades, and secondary education outcomes would today top the global league.

David Ashton

Sheringham, Norfolk

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, argues that universities “are not just for getting a job” (News, 8 June). He says his degree in electrical engineering is irrelevant to his current position and that a member of his finance team has a degree in classics. What he didn’t tell you is that neither of them came out of university with huge debts, having paid £9,000 a year in tuition fees.

If you are in the top 15 per cent with straight As or A*s at A-level and go to a top university, you will be able to get a well-paid job, regardless of whether your degree matches your chosen career. The problem came about when the polytechnics were converted to universities and a target was set that approximately 50 per cent of the population should go to university. This was politicians being disingenuous; they knew that degrees from lowly institutions were effectively worthless. It is now admitted that a high percentage of graduates will not earn sufficient money to repay their student loan. Learning for learning’s sake does not make sense if it results in you having a millstone round your neck for 15 years or more.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

Neither we nor the public can afford to wait until “parliamentary time allows” to see the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals Bill become law (“Labour: PM has abandoned promise to patients”, 8 June). This Bill would have enabled us to reduce the time it takes to hear and conclude cases against nurses and midwives who are no longer fit to remain on the register. The Government’s failure to commit to the Bill damages our efforts to improve patient safety and modernise the regulation of healthcare professionals. I urge all of the political parties to make a public commitment to include this Bill in the first session of the next parliament. The public and the professions deserve to see the commitment honoured.

Jackie Smith

Chief executive and registrar

Nursing and Midwifery Council

London W1

Far from urging people to see Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (“Movies not to be missed”, 8 June), I would say run a mile from this really scary movie. The famous silent long shot has haunted me for years, equalled only by Edith Piaf’s dream sequence in La Vie en Rose for the spine-chill factor. Blood and gore are laughable, whereas masterly handled film noir can stay with you for a lifetime.

Mary Hodgson

Coventry

While it is true that the author Fritz Leiber Jnr appeared in a few films (Invisible Ink, 8 June), it was his father Fritz Leiber Snr who appeared in The Sea Hawk.

Paul Dormer

Guildford, Surrey

Today’s pensioners were raised to have a stiff upper lip when times were tough. But too many are struggling unnecessarily and are unaware that, if they are RAF or WRAF veterans, there is a charity out there that can help them. This Father’s Day, I encourage sons and daughters of RAF veterans to make sure their parents know that help is available if they need it or to contact us on their behalf at 0800 169 2942. They served their country in its time of need, and the RAF Benevolent Fund is there for veterans in their time of need.

Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon

Director of welfare and policy

Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund

Times:

Snub World Cup 2022 to score a goal against Fifa

DESPITE your excellent investigation of the corrupt practices of Mohamed bin Hammam in securing the 2022 World Cup, there will never be a “proven” case on which to strip Qatar of this tournament (“Gas deal turns heat on World Cup” and “Pact with enemy sealed Bin Hammam victory”, News, last week). There is too much money at stake.

There is only one solution, which is for all the main footballing nations to state that they are not satisfied with the selection process and refuse to take part in qualification for the 2022 competition. This would take the matter out of the hands of Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, and company.
Dr Don Campbell-Thomson, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire

Football practice
As one leading sports executive put it to me when England lost the vote: “You just do not understand the bid process.” Using a “remote” third party such as Bin Hammam to distribute largesse and fix deals is standard practice. The cash payments so far identified are comparatively small given what was at stake. You have to dig deeper if there is to be a chance of a 2022 bid rerun.
Frederick Meredith, Maidenhead, Berkshire

Split formation
Any thinking football fan smelt a rat when Qatar was awarded the cup. Now, thanks to The Sunday Times, we have proof. From the outside the bidding and voting system seemed to be a front, giving the impression of due process when in reality either Fifa had already decided, or the event was up for sale to the highest bidder. The ramifications of these leaked documents do not affect only Qatar 2022, as the same delegates voted for Russia 2018. If all that happens now is a rerun of the 2022 vote, then Fifa has got away with it.

I propose a split from Fifa, though the FA wouldn’t be able to go it alone, of course. If the 2022 World Cup goes ahead in the winter, a space opens up for a tournament in the summer.
James McAndrew, Axbridge, Somerset

A league of their own
Once again The Sunday Times sweeps away the surface of the septic tank to see what floats beneath. The work done by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert in uncovering and reporting this scandal is worthy of the highest praise. The world’s football associations should come together and start again. It is their game.
Edward O’Brien, Coaley, Gloucestershire

Red card
Tom McKirdy (“First 11 fail to score”, Letters, last week) echoed my own lack of interest in this furore. Despite what the late Bill Shankly said, football is not more important than life and death.
Alan Hamilton, Weston-super-Mare

Dirty play
Where there is a huge amount of cash involved you will always have corruption. Fifa is no different from other big-money sporting organisations — just look at Formula One. Perhaps once Blatter goes it may be different.
Geoffrey Dunnett, Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion

UK faces long hard fight against Islamism

I AM a Canadian Muslim living in London who has attended various mosques across the city for prayers (“After all the tough talk we still fudge the fight against Islamist fire”, Camilla Cavendish, last week). I am often incredulous at the vitriol spewed out in the name of Islam. Some imams and mosque leaders promulgate their intolerant, misogynistic, anti-western philosophy to young, insecure and impressionable Muslims to fulfil their Wahhabi-Salafi agendas.

The sad truth seems to be that the UK government and the vast majority of moderate Muslims here face an uphill battle. Wahhabi-Salafi groups are well financed and have a well-oiled machine when it comes to the distribution of religious books and information.
Mahmoud Aziz, London W1

By the book
Islam, far more than Christianity, centres on its holy book, the Koran. In the absence of any theological hierarchy the book is non-negotiable and it is is packed with rules and exhortations, many of which are opposed to our Judaeo- Christian tenets. Anselm Kuhn, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Communication problems
The majority of Muslims in Britain are moderate and law-abiding and hold dear many of the same values as the average citizen. A large number of them with children approaching the vulnerable teenage years must be sensitive to rumours of creeping radicalism or to the presence of radical preachers. To whom can they speak of their fears (or even just suspicions) in total confidence? Are there truly safe channels set up that could bring such early warnings to the agencies capable of reacting?
Tino Rossi, by email

Writing on the wall
I was a teacher in a Birmingham school that now has mainly male Muslim pupils. About 30 years ago we were told that we were no longer allowed to sing hymns in assembly. I also recall pupils taking months off their studies to go back to Pakistan “so that they would not lose their culture”.
Norman Parker, Birmingham

Losing faith
In his correspondence the Reverend Jim Wellington (“Taking liberties”, Letters, last week) stated that unrepresentative secularist fundamentalism is the antithesis of true liberalism. Secularism is based on the search for truth through science, reason and logic, not on the supernatural, as are faith-based beliefs.

Wellington has a bit of a brass neck to describe secularism as unrepresentative when church membership in Britain has fallen to 10% of the adult population and attendance figures are even lower.
Paul Donovan, Barry, Glamorgan

Clarkson showed character in face of loss

WHAT a different Jeremy Clarkson we saw last week (“My mum’s final act of love was to throw all her stuff into a skip”, News Review). His column was very moving for those of us who’ve been there, and he also displayed a toughness in not reacting to all the stick he was getting at such a painful time.
Lesley Woodfield, York

Throwaway line
As trustees of the Paperweight Trust charity, which helps those living alone, we often encounter elderly people who have downsized, but few go so far as to discard a lifetime’s clutter. If in doubt, throw it out — even, perhaps, the Dralon chair.
Alan Perrin, London NW11

Treasured memories
When my mum died, her 12 grandchildren chose a ship in a bottle, pottery owls and a biscuit barrel, among other things, to remember her by. Had she had the time or inclination for a sort-out, these treasures might have been lost for ever.
Christine Whitehead, Cheadle, Greater Manchester

Border officers handicapped by cutbacks

IT IS not just the police who are suffering under the current Home Office. The Border Force is perhaps even in a worse place. New recruits replacing experienced officers foolishly discarded in cutbacks are leaving almost as fast as they are being hired. Former customs officers — now part of the Border Force — are in despair as they are being compelled to leave the green channels empty in order to sit on passport controls. Little wonder that cocaine and heroin seizures at airports are down.

At passport control, Border Force officers are being told to permit passengers to enter without further investigation in order to ensure that queues are kept to a minimum. Attempts to detect the thousands of foreign nationals holding fraudulent UK passports have virtually ceased.
Chris Hobbs (Former Metropolitan Police Border Control Officer) London W7


Basic instinct

As a retired teacher, do I stand alone in the support of Michael Gove’s basic skills initiative, so strongly vilified by some teachers’ unions (“Quick, nurse. What does 2 pills + 2 pills equal?”, News, last week)? Having been recently discharged from King’s College Hospital in London, I could not fault any of the skills of the fantastic nurses there — but then again, most of them were educated abroad.
Robert Nicks, Aylesford, Kent

Nursing times
Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on educating those who can’t care, read or count proficiently. After spending 30 years teaching nurses, I despair to read articles such as yours undermining a profession that practises at a level over and above that expected. It may not be time to bring back matron but it is time to put nurses in charge of their own education, without extraneous influences.
Dr Morag Campbell, Glasgow

Points

Creative thinking
I was sorry to see the comments by Clarissa Farr, high mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School, responding to speculation about the future of creative subjects at GCSE (“Folly of excluding creative arts at GCSE”, Letters, last week”). There appears to be a misplaced belief that Ofqual is looking to remove creative subjects such as art, music and drama from the GCSE roster. This is not and has never been the case. However, there are a couple of little-used GCSEs, one entitled performing arts and the other expressive arts — both of which overlap with more popular GCSEs in dance and drama — that may be withdrawn. Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator, Ofqual

Call for action
Thank you for highlighting the dangers of using mobile phones while driving (“This text message killed a 19-year- old cyclist”, Magazine, last week). It took years and the then hated breathalyser before drink driving was seen as socially unacceptable. It needs an automatic one-year ban to do the same with mobile phone use. I speak as a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist. I cycled for 50 years without accident until the past few years, when I have been knocked off my bike by drivers on mobiles. In summer my wife and I sit outside a pub near a junction. Every time we count at least 10 drivers on the phone within 30 minutes. It has to stop.
Barry Norman, Drighlington, West Yorkshire

Counting the pennies
George Pritt (“In pocket”, Letters, last week) and I must be much of an age, as in the late 1950s I had a similar pocket money arrangement of a penny a week per year of my age. Until I reached 10 this was fine — but from my 11th birthday my father gave me a “rise” to one shilling a week as it was too much of a nuisance to dig out the small change to give me elevenpence. Hilary Ives, Nicosia, Cyprus

Inhale and hearty
Having smoked for 40 years and suffered breathing problems, I switched to “vaping” 18 months ago (“This 30-a-day girl is free at last, thanks to the vape of good hope”, India Knight, Comment, last week). My cough and breathlessness are cured. If future legislation puts restrictions, apart from age, on vaping, it would be a retrograde step.
Cliff Nutley, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Vote of confidence
Your review of The Fourth Revolution (“Learning from the Chinese”, Books, May 25) claimed that Singapore is a “rigged democracy”. Elections are open and fair, with a secret ballot, and the process scrutinised by all parties. The ruling party has been returned at every election with a majority — 60% in the most recent general election. In British elections it is typically 40%.
T Jasudasen, High Commissioner, Republic of Singapore

Family duty of care
Where were the families of these pregnant girls in the mother-and-baby homes, or were they all orphans (“‘Mothers also buried’ in mass Irish baby grave”, News, last week)? How were these girls going to look after themselves and an infant? There would have been no need for such homes if the families of these pregnant girls had done their duty by their daughters, giving them the love and support they needed. All seem content to put the blame on the nuns.
Maureen O’Callaghan, Skerries, Co Dublin

Corrections and clarifications

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays

James Belushi, actor, 60; Simon Callow, actor, 65; Courteney Cox, actress, 50; Noddy Holder, singer and guitarist, 68; Helen Hunt, actress, 51; Ice Cube, rapper, 45; Chris Morris, satirist, 52; Xi Jinping, president of China, 61

Anniversaries

1215 King John puts his seal to Magna Carta; 1381 Peasants’ Revolt leader Wat Tyler killed; 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Brown complete first non-stop transatlantic flight; 1996 IRA bomb in Manchester injures more than 200 people

Send your letters to: The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST Email letters@sunday-times.co.uk Fax 020 7782 5454

Telegraph:

SIR – Millions of people continue to support the military action taken to depose Saddam Hussein (Letters, June 13). They include the vast majority of the populations of Iraq and its neighbouring states which had suffered brutality at the hands of this monstrous dictator.

He had flagrantly defied UN resolutions for 12 years with impunity, when, in the context of evidence suggesting continuing possession of weapons of mass destruction, Tony Blair took the courageous and wholly justifiable decision to support the American-led invasion which, according to opinion polls in early 2003, had the support of a majority of the British public.

We should not be surprised that militant jihadists opposed to democracy and human rights have taken advantage of the current American administration’s populist decision to withdraw troops prematurely. History will judge Barack Obama’s non-interventionist foreign policy, which includes the appeasement of President Assad over the use of chemical weapons, as hugely detrimental to the progress of peace and stability in the Middle East.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – Anyone with an ounce of sense could have foreseen the debacle in Iraq today and the one that will undoubtedly occur in Afghanistan next year.

God save us all from all politicians and the advice of the American military.

Terry Burke
Canterbury, Kent

SIR – David Cameron not only voted to attack Iraq, but more recently to attack Syria. That indicates how much he learnt from history.

Roger J Arthur
Pulborough, West Sussex

Darby marries Joan

SIR – The reported increase in numbers of older people marrying has little to do with an increasing popularity of marriage and much to do with the British tax system, which levies inheritance tax on a surviving long-term partner but not on a surviving spouse.

My partner and I have lived together very happily for over 30 years and have no interest in marriage. However next month we will add to these statistics to save one of us a potential fortune in inheritance tax.

The recent increase in house prices will make such “forced marriages” even more tax-effective in the future unless inheritance tax is scrapped or raised to the long-promised £1 million.

Peter McCulloch
Copthorne, West Sussex

Secularist intolerance

SIR – Allison Pearson is right to warn of those seeking to abolish all “faith schools”. Secularists love to pose as neutrals, but in reality they have a defined agenda – to eradicate all trace of religion from our national life.

Although secularism is not a religion, but a thought system like communism, it will brook no opposition to its views.

It seeks to quash any religious opposition and has no respect for tradition but seeks only a moral vacuum.

Ernest and Sylvia Adley
Didcot, Oxfordshire

Speed learning

SIR – My main recollection from a speed awareness course (Letters, June 13) is that I had to pay for my coffee at the half-time break.

Rob Dowlman
Heighington, Lincolnshire

Passport procedures

SIR – When applying for a passport, everyone is told that for adult applicants a minimum of six weeks for the processing is required, but that it might take longer during busy periods, particularly during the summer months.

Furthermore, it is stated that travel arrangements should not be booked until the passport is received.

From television interviews I conclude that ignorance or laziness have been the main causes of complaint. We have all become so used, through technology, to expecting matters to be dealt with without delay. It is important that time is taken these days to ensure that checks are made carefully, and not rushed through.

Tony Newport
Stowting, Kent

SIR – Using the Post Office’s excellent checking service, I applied to renew my passport on May 20. The new one arrived on Thursday, 23 days from start to finish. I cannot help wondering whether this controversy is being exaggerated by some.

Peter Brass
Moulsford, Oxfordshire

Why Brazil’s so good

SIR – Why is Brazil so good at football?

It’s the fifth most populous country in the world, so has a bigger pool to draw on.

Football is its national sport, to the point of fanaticism.

No matter how little wealth Brazilians may have, they play, even barefoot in the sand or with a makeshift ball, and hone their skills. (Pele could keep up an orange with his bare feet.)

The climate allows play all year round.

Because of poverty, there is a “hunger” to succeed. Many of the top-flight players are from poor backgrounds.

There’s a good national scouting system.

Black and white players have played together for decades, the first black player playing for Brazil 100 years ago.

I can’t think of any other country that matches all these characteristics.

John Murphy
London SE9

MacDonald speaking

SIR – Readers have noted the alphabet-soup of initials standing for various bodies (Letters, June 13). In the Sixties, an Engineering Information External Inquiries Officer at the BBC answered his phone with a cheery: “EIEIO.”

Michael Stanford
London SE23

How to dress the part for an exam in politics

SIR – Alice Roberts asks about appropriate attire for her politics exam (Letters, June 12). How about a cloak of deception?

Sandra Jones
Old Cleeve, Somerset

SIR – Might I suggest kitten-heeled shoes from Russell and Bromley?

Jill Ensom
Tenby Pembrokeshire

SIR – How about Joseph’s coat of many colours?

Pam Stark
Hadleigh, Essex

SIR – I suggest sheep’s clothing.

Peter Walton
Buckingham

SIR – A balaclava and a striped T-shirt?

John Harrington
Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire

SIR – The first item to spring to mind is a straitjacket.

Mark Roberts
Hostert, Luxembourg

SIR – Blinkers?

Nigel Hay
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

SIR – Whatever Miss Roberts wears, I would offer the unsolicited advice that she should eschew modern political practice and answer the questions.

Adam Griffin
Gaddesden Row, Hertfordshire

SIR – While Alice Roberts may be unsure of what to wear to her A-level politics exam, I look forward to going into my

A-level Latin exam on Monday dressed in a toga.

Henrietta Boyle
London W4

SIR – The big talking-point this week has been what we mean by British values. You were right that these “are rooted in the institutions and history that underpin the nation”. It’s not doing as you would be done by, which is common to people of many cultures.

One institution that has undergone change is the pub. The wartime handbook for GIs, Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, had this to say: “You are welcome in the British pubs as long as you remember one thing. The pub is ‘the poor man’s club’, the neighbourhood or village gathering place, where the men have come to see their friends, not strangers.”

With the decline of the pub (with the ban on smoking, cheap alcohol drunk at home, loud music, and, oddly enough, “24-hour drinking”) the number of neighbourhood friends has diminished and the number of strangers grown. The loss of an institution has meant a loss of virtue.

Elizabeth Johnson
Norwich

SIR – The current Prime Minister says that “British values” should be taught in schools. The BAE scandal of a few years ago centred on suggested bribery payments. The SFO anti-corruption investigation into this was essentially terminated in 2006 by the then prime minister and his government.

What praiseworthy British value was the government displaying by taking that action?

Dr Bob Turvey
Bristol

SIR – When listing their ideas of British values, neither David Cameron nor Nick Clegg suggested freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

Nicholas Oakden
Rockland St Mary, Norfolk

SIR – “The chief and governing purpose is to declare our belief and trust in the British way of life, not with any boastful self-confidence nor with any aggressive self-advertisement, but with sober and humble trust that by holding fast to that which is good and rejecting from our midst that which is evil we may continue to be a nation at unity with itself and of service to the world” – official book for the Festival of Britain, 1951.

Patricia Gilpin
Dulverton, Somerset

SIR– According to my television, the dominant British values are simple: 1) food; 2) football; 3) quiz games; 4) antiques.

This may also explain the demand for passports.

Gerard Hodkinson
Wetherby, West Yorkshire

SIR – I wonder whom Mr Cameron would least like to implement plans to teach British values in schools – Jean-Claude Juncker, or Sepp Blatter?

Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Irish Independent

Medical role overlookedMadam – I welcome Nicky Larkin’s article on the “compo culture” (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014) but I don’t know if he is implying that the lawyer is litigious while the client is just innocently going along with the litigation because the lawyer is reassuring him that being litigious is the way to go.

I would like to remind him that the lawyer and client will go precisely nowhere unless all the legal paperwork is accompanied by medical reports.

It might shock commentators like the writer to know that setting out the extent and the expected duration of a client’s injuries, physical and otherwise, is not a legal function or cost but a medical one. Regarding the inflation of this “compo culture”, the contribution of the medical profession is largely overlooked as commentators like the writer prefer to lazily malign the legal profession.

The writer does correctly refer to “genuine cases” but here omits to mention the legal profession altogether. However, as he refers to them in relation to the “compo culture”, I would presume that he would wish to acknowledge their legal guidance and creativity in pursuing these “genuine cases” on behalf of their clients.

Catherine Holmes,

Limerick

Sunday Independent

Madam – While finding the item about weather reports from Blacksod Bay interesting in the run-up to D-Day 1944, I do hope we aren’t going to be served up a diet of questionable tit-bits masquerading as bona-fides of Ireland’s gallant role in Europe‘s 20th-Century troubles in the next few years – fig leaves to cover our sense of awkwardness.

Ireland’s failure to step up to the mark in the 20th Century is a permanent embarrassment, and no amount of flimflam tangentials can change that fact.

On D-Day itself, Friday June 6, as the leaders of the free world, on the beaches of Normandy, marked the beginning of the end of Nazism, Ireland was engaged in introspectively dealing with a ‘local difficulty’ of its own, a crime against humanity in Tuam.

The people of Ireland may have thought they were only being led up the garden path by their ‘liberators’, but it turned out to be the road into a bog. And we’ve been trying to find our way out ever since.

Is there anyone to lead the way?

Paddy McEvoy,

Holywood, Co Down

EPIDEMICS WERE KILLERS OF BABIES

Madam – I would like to comment on the articles in relation to the Tuam Mother and Baby home (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014).

Throughout the various articles, the hypocrisy is breathtaking. The parents of the pregnant women, nuns, priests and bishops are excoriated.

Not one of the five articles mentions the fathers of these children.

Compare the events of those years with the current situation.

Gene Kerrigan’s headline “Merely human waste to be disposed of” begs the question: Does he know what happens to the aborted child?

One of the five articles says that if it were known that a wife had been unfaithful and had a child there would be marital discord, but what about the unfaithful men?

It is a very one-sided piece, that brings to mind the New Testament story of the woman who was caught in adultery. Jesus said let those who have not sinned cast the first stone. Let us try to understand and forgive.

My mother was a teacher in the 1930s in a poor part of Manchester. She recalled children who were in class in the morning but who died before evening. Epidemics of scarlet fever, measles and meningitis were the fast killers, tuberculosis and poliomyelitis slower.

Dr Olive Duddy MB ChB MRCGP, Manchester

PRESS MUST BE RESPONSIBLE

Madam – Gene Kerrigan (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014), rightly focused on the central role that distorted attitudes to sex had in giving power to the Church in Ireland in the past.

We have been slow to learn from the horrific outcomes of such fealty to the opinion makers of the day and remain in danger of allowing others to dictate what are acceptable standards in our consensual sexual appetites, even in the 21st Century.

After all, it’s not so long since a woman had to flee this country after a threesome with sports stars hit the news and the attendant commentary made her feel some of the ‘social shaming’ highlighted in Gene Kerrigan’s article.

Meanwhile, women continue to be compelled to leave the State to avail of an abortion and, if some campaigners have their way, men are to be hounded for engaging in consensual sex with a prostitute.

In a secular age the media are the new clergy in terms of their power to decide the boundaries of acceptability in Irish society.

If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, the fourth estate must take its responsibilities seriously and rigorously question those that seek to limit our freedoms, sexual or otherwise.

N Duggan,

Donabate, Co Dublin

SILENCE OF MEDIA FOR GENERATIONS

Madam – Gene Kerrigan’s analysis of the dreadful connivance across society in the shameful treatment of unmarried mothers (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014), was so accurate – except he somehow failed to mention the silence of the media throughout those generations of cruelty.

D O’Shea,

Cork

FACTS MISSING IN TUAM BABY CASES

Madam – Has the mortality rate in Tuam been placed in context? Evidentially, based on your articles (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014), it is not so.

The articles seem to have a poor grasp of history, and fails to understand the lessons and conditions of the past.

What is the historical context of the records? Ireland was a poor rural nation without access to then modern medicines during a time of economic collapse and global conflict.

Given the emigration rates prevalent in Ireland, how much financial support could have been available?

How does the rate compare with the UK at the time in similar institutions, or with continental Europe?

What proof is there that this rate was a result of a deliberate practice rather than poor practices (similar to modern NHS issues with baby care)?

Finally, has the historical paper on which these allegations have been made been peer reviewed and referenced?

This has stoked up more than the usual anti-Catholic sentiment. Would the same outrage be prevalent if this was not Church related, and run solely by the State, as per children in the care of the HSE?

Patrick Mullane,

Cork

GENE KERRIGAN QUOTABLE AS EVER

Madam – After hearing, through the British media, of the baby deaths at Tuam, one wasn’t surprised to see substantial coverage in the Sunday Independent of last week.

Niamh Horan gave an engaging account of Fr Good’s work and opinions, while ending somewhat pessimistically with what he termed ‘the age-old question’ of: “What is morality all about?”

One might have referred him to Oscar Wilde‘s observation: “There is no such thing as morality or immorality, but there is immoral emotion.”

Emer O’Kelly nullified the standard traditional Catholic arguments against abortion, and by implication, contraception, by positing the value of “a clump of cells smaller than a thumbnail” against that of a life already begun.

The piece de resistance for me, however, was that by Gene Kerrigan, analytic to a point, while replete with eminently quotable passages.

He might, however, have questioned the morality or legality of the systematic indoctrination of gullible and credulous children in Catholic/republicanism, in Irish schools and homes, and to what extent it still persists.

He might have pondered this as an appropriate preparation for those driven into exile in Britain, ignorant, uneducated, hate-filled and confident in the belief of their moral superiority, many burdened by the invisible scars of childhood trauma. Contraception and abortion could be outlawed so long as surplus population might be dumped on Britain and the rest of the world.

He might have called for the sequestration of all, or most, Church property in compensation, and as a necessary first step towards its ultimate demise. He might even have dared to look over the border and called for the integration of schooling in Northern Ireland.

More fundamentally he might have pondered whether, if the Irish people knew what was coming, they would have gone along so blithely with the blood sacrifice and the associated rhetoric in 1922?

To conclude, in the words of Conor Cruise O’Brien: “Our ideology, in relation to what we actually are and want, is a lie. It is a lie that clings to us and burns, like the shirt of Nessus.”

Many thanks for publishing past efforts. Your paper remains the best in Ireland.

William Barrett,

Surrey, UK

ALLEN PIECE DIDN’T ASK THE QUESTIONS

Madam – I refer to the article written by your reporter Niamh Horan about her visit to the Allen household to partake of a meal with that family. (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014). To say that I am disgusted by it would be an understatement.

This is the same Ms Horan who rightly door-stepped Tom McFeely in an effort to call him on his disgraceful treatment of the Priory Hall residents.

Where was her moral outrage when she sat down with Tim Allen, who your paper (Sunday Independent, Jan 19, 2003) calls “a disgraced paedophile” and “a convicted pervert”?

Why not ask this convicted paedophile if he had any regrets about downloading images of children being raped or if he could justify his actions to the Sunday Independent readership, when he received community service rather then a custodial sentence for his crime?

Why was his wife Darina let compare her situation to that of Nigella Lawson? Darina Allen’s husband downloaded child pornographic images which, to again quote your own paper, were at the extreme end of the scale for this type of abuse. She chose to stand by him and neither of them have ever attempted to either apologise or justify his actions.

Isn’t it wonderful that Mr Allen can break bread with his family as his grandchildren run around – but what about all the trafficked children who were raped and abused for his delectation? Are they enjoying quality family time? I think not.

This family needs to answer the hard questions – or disappear from public glare.

Donal O’Donovan,

Portmarnock

VICTIMS OF CHILD ABUSE CAN’T LAUGH

Madam – So Tim Allen sits relaxed surrounded by the laughter of his grandchildren!

I just wonder if the children who were exploited so that he could view child pornography can laugh and enjoy family life? Somehow, I doubt it.

Darina complains how hard it is to be in the glare of publicity when this came to light.

This family courts publicity to sell their wares – but they would like us to turn a blind eye to child abuse.

Margaret Hannon,

Dublin 18

CHESS HELPS TRAIN ALL YOUNG BRAINS

Madam – A recent ‘Quote of the Week’ (Sunday Independent, June 1, 2014) caught my eye. It was by photographer David Bailey who said: “The only thing I taught my children was chess, – I think if you know chess, you can get through life quite easily.”

Man is the only species capable of using discernment to judge right from wrong in all walks of life, from personal and business, to world governance. That is why a child trained to be a good chess player is well capable of mapping out his or her path in life.

James Gleeson,

Thurles, Co Tipperary

DEFENCE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC VALUES

Madam –Unlike many of my political persuasion, I admire Eoghan Harris, even if I do not always agree with him. He has brought a depth of innovation and fresh thinking to politics in Ireland, which is only to our collective good. Unlike Eoghan, however, I have only ever been a Social Democrat. So I take with grave offence his reference to the actions of the Labour Group on Dublin City Council on the mayoralty of Dublin (Sunday Independent, June 8, 2014) as being “servile and stupid”.

Following the local elections and a very confusing result, the Labour councillors considered how best we could deliver some degree of stability that would help grow our economy and jobs while protecting public services. In good faith we sought discussions with all the groups on the City Council. As late as the morning of the mayoral election these discussions included Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Green Party and several independents as well as Labour. On the Friday morning on spurious grounds not backed up by the facts, Fine Gael withdrew from these discussions. I don’t think we had any communication from Fianna Fail councillors; they just did not turn up to the next meeting.

The Labour Group recognise the democratic mandate of all elected councillors. We respect – even if we do not always like – the outcome of elections. We will work with all members of the council to help build a better Dublin for all. We will oppose the policies of Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the “Far Left” where we believe it appropriate. An agreement for mayoral stability is not an agreement on policy – it is an acceptance of democracy.

We have, however, reached agreement in relation to an approach on commercial rates and the local property tax – surely that is good for Dublin.

The next five years will be challenging for Dublin. We on the Labour Group on Dublin City Council will be robust in our defence of social democratic values. I look forward to the Sunday Independent reporting on those proceedings with the same enthusiasm as Eoghan Harris is quick to comment.

Councillor Dermot Lacey,

Leader, Labour Group,

Dublin City Council

UNFAIR SYSTEM

Madam – It is with immense anger that I put pen to paper. As an unemployed substitute teacher, I was very lucky to be appointed as an exam superintendent 20km from my home for six days. As I don’t receive a wage for holiday periods, this ‘casual employment’ is a great lift finance wise. I arrived to my appointed school last Tuesday and met with three – yes, three – retired teachers who had been appointed to do the same work; and they had been there last year as well. The only difference between them and me is that my appointment was for just six days, while their appointments were for the full exam term – 14 days for Leaving Cert and 13 days for Junior Cert.

It is with disappointment and anger that I join the dole queue on Wednesday morning to hopefully hear that I have enough credits built up over my ‘sporadic’ employment during the year to get Jobseeker’s Benefit for the summer, while these retired teachers get this lucrative employment on top of their pension.

I ask the minister and the State Exams Commission to change this unfair system and give this full-term employment to unemployed substitute teachers in future.

(Name and address with Editor)

THANK YOU FOR THE SURPRISE

Madam – You truly surprise. I arrive home from a week in England; no newspapers; no email; no news on radio or TV. I pick up my Sunday Independent – and there I am. The longest letter I ever remember seeing published, saying a lot of not very nice things about economic correspondents or the media in general and indeed your own publications.

Thank you; I congratulate you for publishing what no other newspaper, radio/TV station or economist/ politician/journalist will allow into public debate.

I don’t think I’ll bow out just yet.

Padraic Neary,

Sligo

Sunday Independent

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