19June2014 Gone

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Our Japanese friends are off to Ipswich!

ScrabbleMary wins, under 400, I barely scrape past 300, perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Daniel Keyes – obituary

Daniel Keyes was a novelist who explored the byways of the brain, notably in the bestselling Flowers For Algernon

Daniel Keyes

Daniel Keyes Photo: WRITER PICTURES

6:26PM BST 18 Jun 2014


Daniel Keyes, who has died aged 86, was an American author of science fiction and non-fiction, best-known for his 1958 short story and subsequent novel Flowers For Algernon.

Written as a series of first-person “Progress Reports”, Flowers For Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon, a 32-year-old man with severe learning difficulties and low IQ who undergoes an experimental operation transforming him into a genius.

The reader follows him from the preliminary psychiatric tests, described in clumsy, ungrammatical sentences — “I think I faled it and I think mabye now they wont use me [sic]” — to his attempts to re-enter the outside world. Before long, Algernon – a mouse, and Charlie’s forerunner in the experimental process – begins to show ill effects, and Charlie must confront the dawning realisation that the gift bestowed upon him by the scientific community may be neither wholly beneficial, nor permanent.

First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the short story won a Hugo Award in 1960, and a retrospective Nebula Award in 1964 — two of the highest accolades in science fiction and fantasy writing.

The expanded novel won a Nebula Award in 1966, and has never been out of print. It has since been adapted as a television drama, feature film, stage play and contemporary dance work. The film adaptation, Charly (1968), won an Oscar for Cliff Robertson’s lead performance; a 1979 musical production ran in the West End and starred Michael Crawford; and there have been stage and screen versions in Australia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Japan.

Cliff Roberston in Charly, the 1968 film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon

Over the next five decades Keyes published another five novels, a volume of collected short stories and several works of non-fiction. But none of them matched the early and sustained success of Algernon. “Charlie is haunting me,” Keyes wrote in his partial autobiography, Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey (1999). “I try to put him out of my mind, but he won’t let me.”

Daniel Keyes was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on August 9 1927. His father, Willie, ran a junk shop selling books, scrap metal and old clothing; his mother, Betty, was a self-trained beautician. From an early age he was extremely nearsighted, and a pervading fear that he would one day go blind drove him to read voraciously. His vision did not deteriorate, however, and after serving in the Sea Scouts at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn he was able to pass the medical examinations for the US Maritime Service, becoming a ship’s purser.

Stationed on board a T-2 tanker to Aruba and Caracas, he was appointed ship’s doctor after an administrative error left the crew without a qualified medic, and attended to a man who had imbibed a quarter-pint of stolen lemon extract. Despite Keyes administering artificial respiration for an hour and a half, the man died, and Keyes signed off the tanker after her second voyage, eventually ending his naval career in December 1946 after 18 months of sea duty.

He read Psychology at Brooklyn College and, after a stint selling encyclopedias door-to-door, became associate editor for Marvel Science Stories, part of a chain of pulp fiction magazines. His first published short story, Robot Unwanted, appeared in Other Worlds in 1952.

But the pulp fiction industry was already in decline, and Marvel Science Stories ceased publication that same year. Keyes switched track into comic books, writing synopses for the horror, fantasy, suspense, and science fiction genres. One of the ideas he drafted for his editor, but never submitted, gave an early hint of the thought process behind Flowers for Algernon: “The first guy in the test to raise the IQ from a low normal 90 to genius level… goes through the experience and then is thrown back to what was.”

The final inspiration for Charlie Gordon, however, was to come four years later. Keyes was married and living in a one-bedroom house at Seagate, a community at the far western end of Coney Island, where he taught two classes of Special Modified English — a course for students struggling with basic literacy. There he was confronted by a boy unhappy with his place in “the dummy class for stupid people”, who pleaded with Keyes: “I want to be smart.”

After the novelised version of Flowers For Algernon was finally released (five publishers rejected it in the space of a year ), Keyes continued to write and teach, becoming an English and creative writing professor at Ohio University in 1966. His next novel, The Touch (1968), dealt with the aftermath of a radiation leak, while The Fifth Sally (1980) drew on Keyes’s grounding in psychology, centring on a protagonist with multiple-personality disorder.

Keyes developed his interest further the following year, in The Minds of Billy Milligan (1981), his most successful non-fiction work. A biography of William Stanley Milligan, the first man in US legal history to use multiple-personality disorder in his insanity plea against charges of rape and felony, the book was based on a series of interviews that Keyes conducted with Milligan from 1979.

After extensive treatment at the Athens Mental Health Centre in Ohio, Milligan’s 24 distinct personalities appeared to have fused into one, named “The Teacher”, who was able to give an account of himself. Keyes judged the “fused” Billy “one of the most brilliant, most talented, most caring people I ever met”; and his biography gave voice to each personality in turn, detailing Milligan’s abusive upbringing at the hands of his stepfather and his subsequent descent into a cycle of criminal behaviour and psychiatric hospitalisation, which culminated in 1977 in the sexual assault of three women in the Ohio State University area. Though the book made the bestseller list, Keyes’s handling of the material also attracted criticism, particularly from those who considered Milligan’s recovery too miraculous to be true, and his personalities evidence of exceptional acting talent rather than deep-rooted mental illness.

The story continued long after publication, and Keyes followed developments closely, adding numerous revisions to his book and gathering material for a sequel, The Milligan Wars. After being transferred to Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Milligan’s condition deteriorated. He considered the hospital, in Keyes’s words, to be “a chamber of horrors”, and spent the next few years being shuttled between numerous institutions.

In 1986 he escaped from Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital and telephoned Keyes long-distance, telling him that he felt it unsafe to remain in the institution. Keyes advised him to turn himself in to the authorities; in the event, he was detained by police after four and a half months on the run, and eventually released from all supervision in 1991. The Milligan Wars was published in Japan (where all Keyes’s work has been in print continuously) in 1994 .

In addition to his 1999 memoir, Keyes wrote Unveiling Claudia (1984), billed as “a true crime story with a fascinating psychic twist”, and two further novels, Until Death (1998) and The Asylum Prophecies (2009). Unveiling Claudia was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best True Crime category.

Daniel Keyes was a professor emeritus at Ohio university from 2000.

He married, in 1952, Aurea Vazquez.

Daniel Keyes, born August 9 1927, died June 15 2014


My friend Alastair MacInnes was one of the people treated by Charles Farthing in the early 1980s, in what was rightly described as a climate of fear about this mysterious disease that was killing previously healthy, predominately gay young men.

Alastair was originally treated at a hospital where food on paper plates was pushed through a slot into his isolation room. No one knew what was wrong with him and few people came near him. This contrasted with his next experience as an inpatient at St Stephen’s hospital. Alastair and his partner had absolute faith in Dr Farthing and his team. On one memorable evening several of the inpatients held a Bet Lynch earrings party on their ward. Against a backdrop of media hysteria about the “gay plague”, people with Aids were treated as human beings there, not lepers. I believe that this was down to Charles Farthing.

Alastair eventually succumbed to the opportunistic HIV virus but in his last months he was able to become involved with the campaign to raise funds for research into the disease. He was particularly enthused about being a VIP guest at a fundraising musical gala. Huge credit goes to Charles Farthing for bringing Aids out of the shadows and enriching the lives of so many young men, their partners, family and friends.

While you were right to be wary of biodiversity offsetting in your editorial (Natural values, 16 June), you missed the fact that it could be used to privatise English forests. When David Cameron tried to carve up the forests among his cronies in 2010, he was forced into a humiliating U-turn. An independent panel under the Bishop of Liverpool was set up and the subsequent report was crystal clear – the English forest estate must be preserved for the people, in perpetuity and expanded. Three years later and the government is still prevaricating and looking for ways to sell off our woodlands. One method would be to use biodiversity offsetting, as very little of our publicly owned forests are ancient woodlands. Another and even more dangerous method would be to use the recently proposed infrastructure bill. This allows the secretary of state to override all planning considerations if he or she deems it necessary, and would enable any part of England (including public forests, SSSIs, etc) to be sold to developers with absolutely no right of appeal.It’s clear that this government will never stop until it has privatised every last inch of our country.
John French
Brockweir, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

• You rightly highlight the threat that biodiversity offsetting poses. In Australia, deforestation has increased since offsetting was introduced and environmental lawyers warn that it allows mining companies to legitimise activities that contradict existing laws to protect the environment. Of course, there is a need for more affordable housing, and occasionally this will have an impact on our natural environment. There’s already a requirement to compensate for unavoidable damage to biodiversity built into European regulations and English planning policy, but these rules are not rigorously enforced by the government. If ministers can’t be trusted to uphold existing wildlife protection regulations, it’s highly doubtful that a new system, which allows our most precious natural sites to be traded like a commodity, will improve the situation. Ministers should be doing far more to protect our natural environment. Biodiversity offsetting is a developers’ charter that poses a significant threat to our green and pleasant land.
Sandra Bell
Nature campaigner, Friends of the Earth

Enslavement did not only affect Bristol (Letters, 16 June). The legacy of the enslavement of African people is a topic that was well discussed by the late Bernie Grant, myself and others, not only as a matter of money, but of long-term impact. African people were transported to the Caribbean, Brazil and other parts of the Americas and yet so little of that past is acknowledged. And when it is, it seems only to evoke guilt. What is needed is surely an acknowledgment of the consequences of the enslavement and transportation of possibly 10 million African men, women and children. Britain played a major role in this trade, even if some people like to dwell only on the abolition of the trade. If reparations cannot be quantified in purely financial terms, then at least let us all set the records straight and begin to repair the long-term consequences for West Africa and the Caribbean. As I often remind my English friends, we did not come to the UK because of the weather.
Linda Bellos
Founder, Black History Month, former treasurer, Arica Reparations Movement, Bixley, Norfolk

Simon Jenkins (Further intervention in Iraq? The very idea beggars belief, 18 June) refers to the idea that “Syria‘s Bashar al-Assad was a vicious war criminal, though perhaps for the time being he is a force for stability and order”. This is emerging as a widespread theme among western foreign policy pundits. It is, however, based on a complete inversion of the facts. From 2003 to 2005 the Syrian regime facilitated the cross-border movement of jihadists – Syrian and foreign – to join al-Qaida in Iraq (the forerunner of Isis). Assad could thus legitimately be described as a godfather of Isis. And he hasn’t forgotten his paternal obligations: the Syrian regime has funded Isis by buying oil from its fields in northern Syria; and the Syrian military have refrained from attacking Isis, allowing it to consolidate control of the regional capital of Raqqa and turn it into a “safe haven” from which to launch recent operations.

For the past nine months it has not been the Syrian regime but the Syrian opposition that has been fighting Isis. Its armed forces, in alliance with Kurdish fighters, had managed to defeat Isis in several areas by February, and in April the courageous people of Manbij called a general strike to demand the withdrawal of Isis from their city. If western governments want real allies in a fight against Isis this is where they should be looking for them.
Brian Slocock

• The invasion by Islamic rebels of Syria benefitted from the porous frontiers with both Iraq and Turkey, our Nato ally. The CIA is allegedly training rebels in Jordan and Turkey to try to bring down the Assad regime. The Syrian army and its militias are therefore constrained from confronting Isis, which has used Syria as a base to capture major cities in Iraq. The US and Iran are now looking at collaboration to support the Baghdad government. Would it not be helpful if the CIA was to take the pressure off the Syrian government so they could join these new allies in restoring order to Iraq, as they did in the 1991 invasion?

As long as Syria suffers economically from the punitive sanctions regime imposed by Congress in 2006 and has to face CIA and Nato assaults from its northern and southern frontiers it will be unable to confront the Isis forces who have captured Syria’s oil and are now well-armed and well-funded as a result of their Iraq invasion. If the CIA, Nato, the US and the UK could co-ordinate their strategic goals then the radical Islamist militants might find their task more difficult.
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

• Sami Ramadani (The sectarian myth of Iraq, 17 June) blames “Zionists” for the 1950-51 synagogue bombings in Baghdad, further claiming that this was carried out in order to prompt immigration to Israel by Jews “following their refusal to do so”. This allegation is baseless. There are theories and counter-theories regarding who carried out the bombings, and this is an open matter of ongoing historical debate. It is wrong for Ramadani to simply assert Zionists carried out the bombing, when no proof of this allegation exists. Ramadani also highlights the 1941 “violent lootings” of Jewish neighborhoods; a description that underplays the scope of the farhud tragedy. The 1941 farhud saw thousands brandish weapons and slaughter hundreds of Jews, thus these were not simply violent lootings but murderous riots.
Yiftah Curiel
Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel

• If the US forms an alliance with Iran (US and Iran hold talks over Iraq crisis but rule out military alliance, 17 June) we will have witnessed not just perpetual war, as anticipated by George Orwell in 1984, but the operating of the doublethink required to say “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”. Who is looking forward to hate week?
Jonny Cheetham
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Lord Macartney was not the only British envoy to ruin a trade mission to China by refusing to kowtow to the Chinese emperor (Comment, 17 June). Lord Amherst failed similarly a few years later. When he called on Napoleon on St Helena in July 1817 en route back to England and told him his story, the captive emperor strongly rebuked him for not conforming to the customs of the country to which he had been accredited. By refusing to kowtow he had lost all the benefits he might have gained from his mission for his government. Napoleon was not prone to kowtow to anyone himself, but the flags and audience with the Queen arranged for the Chinese prime minister currently visiting London (whether or not it involves kowtowing) suggest that we have learned Napoleon’s more pragmatic approach.
Brian Unwin
Dorking, Surrey

• It is worth remembering that the origins of 7:84 Theatre Company (Obituary, David MacLennan, 18 June) lay in the calculation in 1971 that 84% of the wealth of the nation was owned by 7% of the people. And now?
Rick Hall

• Frank Gordon may or may not be the only Guardian reader who’s never heard of Modern Family (Letters, 18 June). But he’s surely the only reader to complain about learning something new. What is reading for?
Russell T Davies

• Your correspondent Phil O’Neill (Letters, 18 June) reminded me of a favourite poem by Adrian Henri – Song for a Beautiful Girl Petrolpump Attendant on the Motorway: I wanted your soft verges But you gave me the hard shoulder.
Mike Carver

• Not as much as we laughed at a sign beside the A30: “Newly seeded verges.”
David Collins
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

• I was met with some shock and amusement when I told my hosts in France that I came from Salop – the alternative name for my home county.
Rob Davies
Pontesbury, Shropshire

The government response to news of failing white working-class pupils is both telling and puzzling (Top teachers needed to help poor white pupils, 18 June). Given the range of factors that this group has in common with other disadvantaged and deprived groups, it ought to raise eyebrows if not blood pressure that the first response of the Commons committee is to engage “accomplished teachers”, and not least because such a proposal has never been aimed at the decades-long failure of other ethnic groups.

Such teachers are a boon to any school, but the call for their deployment diverts attention from a failure to analyse problems that are likely to be systemic rather than owed to a presumed lack of expertise among current teachers. Is there compelling evidence of a strong correlation between white working-class children and the inadequacy of their teachers? Are other pupils in the same schools hermetically sealed from the deleterious effects of such teachers? As with so many problems whose origins are structural, the preferred response of government is to engage in the magical thinking that solutions can simply be bought.
Paul McGilchrist
London Metropolitan university

• White working-class girls need urgent help to boost results, MPs warn! We try to address underachievement in one group of pupils, then others slip – this push and pull has been going on for too long. What we really need is an inclusive education to benefit all groups of pupils by teaching a curriculum that matches their ability and interest as well as an effective support structure to help those who need it most.
Husain Akhtar
Retired inspector of schools

• You rightly report Alan Bennett‘s stirring attack on our educational apartheid (Bennett’s anger over ‘unfair’ private education, 18 June). Will you, please, now do what you never do and devote an editorial to the issue? Specifically, does the freedom for the 7% justify the detriment to the welfare of the 93%?
David Kynaston
New Malden, Surrey

• Thanks, Alan Bennett, for nailing this core fault in our political and social system. Put it together with Nick Duffell’s psychological analysis (G2, 10 June) of the damage done to rich children separated early from their families, and you get the emotional and economic ignorance overlaid with the gloss of confidence which currently rules over us.
Alison Leonard

• Though Zoe Williams is, no doubt, right that fines are unlikely to be a positive way forward for most hard-pressed parents (Comment, 18 June), she’s unfair to lump Michael Wilshaw with Michael Gove. Gove, the cosseted, adopted child of middle-class parents, attended a private school in Aberdeen. Wilshaw spent his entire pre-Ofsted working life transforming standards in London’s most deprived boroughs. From the Isle of Dogs, where he started out in the days when it was definitely not the home to bankers, to Newham, where he took the local comp from sink to stellar, then on to Mossbourne, where he created one of the UK’s most outstanding comprehensives with a catchment of one of its poorest estates, he has driven success after success. Not everyone likes Wilshaw’s methods, but you can’t deny he knows what he’s talking about.
Lisa Freedman
Managing director, At The School Gates

• Zoe Williams has good reason to fear the effects of Michael Wilshaw’s threat to fine those he sees as “bad parents” and his unwillingness to acknowledge the corrosive effects of “deprivation” on scores of families in today’s UK: Wilshaw’s simplistic autocratic self-righteousness is shameful in a chief education officer, and his constant self-praising references to his own background and educational achievements (Mossbourne etc) boastful and unhelpful – for example, his proclamation that, when compared with his father’s experiences, teachers don’t know what stress means.

As for families who find it difficult to interact with school, who, in some cases, find school threatening, imposing fines would be madness and badness. Many schools have developed outreach policies to reel in parents who find school difficult, by setting up informal networks that can and do attract families who are in difficulty. Community links, for example, are real and enduring.

Some schools have also established links for young carers, to make them realise they are not alone. If young carers miss school from time to time, would Wilshaw fine chronically unwell parents who are dependent on their children for day-to-day care? Would he punish and punish again in the manner of a totalitarian thug? Let’s hope not.
Bruce Ross-Smith

We are writing to express our profound concern about recent developments at the Open University. The vice-chancellor’s executive has decided to close the south-east regional centre in East Grinstead, and plans to review the status of the other English regional offices. Overall, some 700 jobs could be at risk, almost a fifth of the OU’s full-time workforce.

The East Grinstead closure is being pushed through against the wishes of the university’s highest academic body, the senate, without a clear business plan and in defiance of previous assurances to staff. Cheaper alternatives to the current building (the lease of which has come up for renewal) have not been properly explored. The university says it will try to relocate the 64 staff to London, but even if posts become available this will not be an affordable option for many colleagues in the south-east.

Meanwhile, a review of a further eight English regional centres is under way with a report due early next year. In the light of the way the East Grinstead decision is being handled, we are concerned that this poses a threat to the OU’s presence in some of England’s main cities. We believe the loss of these regional offices would mark the end of the Open University’s historic mission to be open to people and places everywhere in the UK. More, it would threaten the OU’s model of “blended learning” where, particularly on first-level courses, online delivery is combined with local tutoring and student support. It is this blend that makes the OU the world leader as a distance learning university.

As central and regional staff with a strong loyalty to the OU, we call for the decision on East Grinstead to be rescinded to allow an inclusive discussion about how the OU can continue to be a truly open university for the UK.
Professor emeritus Ian Donnachie
Professor Steve Edwards
Professor emeritus Chris Emlyn-Jones
Professor Ole Grell
Professor Suman Gupta
Professor emerita Lorna Hardwick
Professor emerita Catherine King
Professor emeritus Paul Lewis
Professor Gill Perry
Professor Elizabeth Silva
Professor Steve Tombs
Professor Sophie Watson
Professor John Wolffe
Professor Kath Woodward
Caitlin Adams
Daniel Allington
Geoff Andrews
Elton Barker
Leonor Barroca
Georgina Blakeley
Rory Bowe
Dorothy Calderwood
Leah Clark
Neil Clarke
Sean Cordell
Byron Dueck
Martina Gibbons
David Hann
Graham Harvey
Ieman Hassan
Lotte Hughes
Jonathan Hughes
Paula James
MA Katritzk
Maria Leedham
Angeliki Lymberopoulou
Jo Mack
Hugh Mackay
Wendy Maples
Roisin McPhilemy
Frank Monaghan
Karim Murji
Philip O’Sullivan
Alison Penn
Brendan Quinn
Peter Redman
Mary Rowland
Robert Samuels
Alan Shadforth
Dave Sutton
Stephanie Taylor
Jason Toynbee
Paul-Francois Tremlett
Jackie Tuck
Astrid Voight
Leon Wainwright
Ben Winters
Irene Wong-Gormley
Open University


As Fellows of the Royal Anthropological Institute, we share a professional interest in identifying the attitudes and values of the many peoples around the world – including Britain – with whom we work (Letters, 17 June).

We are also well placed, because of our collective experience of a wide range of diversity, to support the principles of inclusivity that are essential for the success of a multicultural society such as Britain. We are particularly concerned, then, to read recent media reports that would appear to associate expressions of xenophobia with the advocated promotion of “British values” in our schools.

On the contrary, our professional experience working abroad – where we are likely to encounter competent British people in many walks of life – suggests that as a nation we have a rather strong facility for fostering a sense of global citizenship.

We would like to recognise the positive way in which our schools encourage the longstanding British propensity to value diversity at home and abroad, and appeal to them to hold firm in producing the next generation of global citizens. One recent demonstration of this “British value” has been the enthusiastic take-up of the A-level in anthropology, which opens up our field to young people at a crucial age. It marks a clear way in which our young people, immigrants and otherwise, can work together to build a future of respect and value for each other’s historical origins. Taught together with the history of our nation, future British adults can hardly fail to notice that it is a very British value indeed to absorb a highly diverse range of cultural influences.

Clive Gamble, President

David Shankland, Director

Hilary Callan, Former Director Paul Basu, Chair, and Barry Dufour, Peggy Froerer, Joy Hendry, and Brian Street, members of the Education Committee,

Royal Anthropological Institute, London W1

Like Francis Kirkham (letter, 17 June) I am dismayed by the tub-thumping about “British values”, a term which, if we are not careful, will soon join “hard-working families” and “benefit scroungers” as meaningless political soundbites. “British values” have been infiltrated into the Teachers’ Standards, by which all teachers will now be judged for their pay progression.

Teachers are required to “not [undermine] fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”

Why British? Surely also Dutch or Norwegian or Belgian or a host of other nations? And how are we British to demonstrate that we uphold these values? By singing the appalling lyrics of “I vow to thee my country”? By reciting lists of kings and queens?

Or, more chillingly, from another of your headlines (17 June): “Gunmen kill Kenyans who cannot pass Islamic test?” What is to be the “British test”?

Susan Jackson

Skipton, North Yorkshire

If the Education Secretary wants to see British values being taught at British schools, why do the GCSEs that my son and thousands of other students are currently taking being taught in US English?

AQA and others insist that sulphur is spelt with an f, that kilogrammes are spelt kilograms and that the history taught is American (such as the civil rights movement) rather than the much more important English civil war.

Leslie Rowe

Richmond, North Yorkshire

I am an anthropology teacher in a west London comprehensive school. My year 13 class is made up of students whose parents are from Morocco, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Mauritius. I am Croatian; I came here in 1992 as a refugee from the Balkans wars.

All my students are second- or third-generation immigrants or refugees. But they are proper British kids who listen to popular music, follow fashion, and have the same issues as any other British teenager. But this is what makes it beautiful for me. This is for me what British values are: freedom to express this multiculturalism.

All of us in my anthropology class have hybrid identities. Perhaps we eat food at home with spices from our original countries, or watch satellite soap programs from our native countries, but when in my classroom we have something in common that allows us to communicate. Is this a British value? Why does it have to be labelled British? Very soon we realise that there are simple values that apply, wherever you are and whatever cultural background you come from. They are love, respect and compassion.

Tomislav Maric

Heston Community School, Hounslow, Greater London


Feed the world – but not with chemicals

On the strength of the story “GM banana could transform life expectancy in Africa” (17 June) your editorial once again urges us all to embrace GM foodstuffs. The banana story is indeed a promising one and the fact that the crop has been developed through a benevolent grant suggests that it may eventually be shared with small farmers rather than exploited for profit, but I suspect that – just as with the long-running Golden Rice project – child malnutrition would be better tackled by improving access to an adequate balanced diet based on sustainable local agriculture.

At least the banana and rice projects are aimed primarily at improving human health. Most of the GM crops currently cultivated in the Americas (and exported to Europe as animal feed) have been developed specifically to benefit a small number of large agro-chemical companies by increasing plants’ tolerance of highly toxic herbicides and pesticides. The crop types were introduced to reduce chemical use but in practice they have – just as predicted – produced increasing tolerance in the pests being controlled and therefore to ever-increasing use of chemicals in agriculture.

I don’t think we improve our chances of feeding the growing human population by dousing the land in weedkiller, or by allowing large corporations to control agriculture for profit.

Sarah Thursfield

Highmoor, Llanymynech

Keep drunks out of A&E departments

During my long career as a clergyman I often attended the local infirmary’s A&E department when a parishioner was involved in a serious road accident or some other emergency. Forty years ago Friday and Saturdays evenings were a nightmare as Scotland’s infamous legion of violent, noisy drunks clogged up the wards and frightened patients and staff.

Today, with 24-hour drinking and the pervasive availability of narcotics, paramedics can be seen struggling with some intoxicated hooligan at any hour of the day or night.

So I fully support the senior nurses calling for “drunk tanks” – special units in town centres or hospitals where people can sober up – to be piloted across the country (report, 17 June).

Rev Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Education: Earlier is not always better

The positive tone of your report on the research finding that children taught to read early via phonics “achieve” reading ages several years “ahead” of the norm (“Phonics pushes up reading age”, 16 June) must be challenged. If, say, it was shown that sex education led to children engaging in full sexual relationships two years “ahead” of the norm (eg at 13 rather than 15), would this “outcome” be celebrated as some kind of educational success? Yet such is the kind of absurd logic that this crassly uncritical way of thinking exemplifies.

The only really meaningful research questions should be: what are the long-run learning and developmental consequences of early literacy; and what is the opportunity cost, in terms of curtailed early childhood, that ideologically imposed cognitively biased early learning entails?

On this, the research is clear and unequivocal: children introduced to literacy later, after the age of six, have caught up, if not surpassed, the literacy abilities of early readers by the age of 10 or 11 – but with their love of reading intact.

Dr Richard House

Educational Campaigner, Save Childhood Movement,

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Are youse talking to me?

Like John E Orton (letter, 17 June), I can remember natives of the Forest of Dean, in the 1950s, using “Ow bist?” as a form of greeting. We Welsh-speakers differentiate between the second person singular ti and the plural chi, just like many other European languages. Does this usage still exist in English and if so (apart from the Lord’s Prayer, the King James Bible and some hymns), where?

Dr Meic Stephens


Call time on these calls for change

Ruth Coomber (Letters, 18 June) will have to wait for Welsh and Cornish independence before she gets her time-zone change. Going west also affects at what time you see the sun. The current time zone suits most of the country except, it appears, the south east.

Maybe she should start campaigning for independence for East Anglia?

Martin Oakes




Sir, Your leading article (June 18) is right in saying that patients need to take more responsibility for their health and healthcare. However, international evidence shows that charging people to see a doctor deters those with real problems from seeking help in equal numbers to those without a problem. These charges raise very little money if exemptions are given to chronically ill, poor and older people — who comprise the majority of such patients.

Even more importantly, the suggestion is itself a distraction. The sum of £1.2 billion will not solve the NHS’s financial problems. The real issue is that the NHS needs to move from being a high-cost and primarily hospital and illness-based service to a community and health-based one with different staffing, different infrastructure and a lower and more sustainable cost base. Advances in science and technology will increasingly make the expertise and advice of specialist centres available locally throughout the country.

Local authorities, communities and private groups all have a part to play. Patients won’t need to travel so often to overcrowded hospitals and will have a bigger responsibility and role in looking after their own health. This is a long-term change which will take years and require interim funding. Governments should be far-sighted enough to set out the direction of travel, build political support for it and create a temporary transition fund that will make the change possible and lead to a higher quality, person-centred and sustainable service.

Lord Crisp

(NHS chief executive and permanent secretary of the department of health, 2000-06), The House of Lords

Sir, Your leader raises the spectre of NHS charges. Sadly you did not report on the Commonwealth Institute survey of healthcare in 11 countries, including the three mentioned in your piece. The UK came out as the best health system for the second lowest expenditure per capita. This is less than half the expenditure per head of the United States. All other funding mechanisms increase administrative costs.

Gill Morgan and Chris Hopson

Foundation Trust Network

Sir, Patients have long been used to paying NHS dental, optical and prescription charges. Not only should the idea of paying for appointments be introduced immediately, but GPs and dentists should be allowed to charge for failed appointments, which are a huge waste of resources.

Dentists will testify to the huge increase in broken appointments since the right to charge for these was removed in 2006.

John Grossman

(Retired general dental practitioner) Northwood, Middx

Sir, The NHS pledge to make healthcare free at the point of delivery lasted only until 1951, when Nye Bevan and Harold Wilson resigned from the government because their cabinet colleagues forced through prescription charges and fees for dental and optical care.

Dr John Doherty

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks

Sir, You report that charging patients to see their GP would “deter people from troubling the NHS with minor ailments”. However, a doctor is often needed to pronounce whether an ailment is serious, especially with children. Meningitis springs to mind.

Mike Harwood

Kirkstall, Leeds

Magna Carta had a forgotten sibling: the Charter of the Forest 1217. Together they protected the right to food

Sir, Magna Carta (letter, June 17) had a forgotten sister: the Charter of the Forest 1217. Together both protected (albeit in feudal terms) social rights — including the right to food.

The right to food requires the same legal protection as Magna Carta’s right to fair trial. No child or adult should need a food bank in 21st-century Britain. To mark the beginning of the year-long celebration of the Magna Carta, a practical celebration would be for the coalition and opposition to agree to reinstate what was once British: the basic human right to food.

Geraldine van Bueren, QC

Professor of international human rights law, Queen Mary, University of London

A proper education policy would mean children could reap all the benefits that music can bring

Sir, The most important point Richard Morrison made (Times2, June 13, & letters, June 16) was the lack of music and arts education. When I went away to school in 1954, aged 14, I had little interest in music. The flame was lit by an inspirational director of music, the late JL Crosthwaite, and my love of music has given me enormous pleasure and sustained my spirits in difficult times ever since. With a proper education policy many children could reap similar benefits. Who knows, one of them might even sit next to Harriet Harman.

Brian Pickering


The torrent of abuse directed at the BBC World Cup commentator was completely misguided

Sir, Those people bombarding Twitter about Phil Neville’s commentary (report, June 17) should think again. I thought Neville was insightful, discerning, prescient and delightfully understated, with a firm grasp of the geometry of the football pitch. Some so-called BBC pundits could learn a lot from the former Manchester United player, and I only hope his confidence hasn’t evaporated overnight.

Paul Thomas

Economics department, Stowe School

Is early closing in Gladstone’s constituency the real reason why we vote on Thursdays?

Sir, With reference to voting (letter, June 17), I believe that Thursday was chosen because it was early closing day in Gladstone’s constituency. (This was in the days when many shops were open until 10pm.) He felt that there would be more chance of people voting if they were not occupied by shopwork or shopping.

Anna Knowles

Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys


SIR – Despite moving 90 per cent of world trade, shipping emits just 2.7 per cent of global CO2. Greener ships are being built to reduce that figure further. Rightly, the UN’s International Maritime Organisation has agreed measures to reduce sulphur emissions from ships. The EU, with our support, is implementing a directive to enshrine sulphur reduction in law. However, this legislation allows for no flexibility during the transition.

When European shipping shifts to low-sulphur fuel, costs will rise by up to 30 per cent for passengers and freight. The only alternative is to reduce sulphur by use of technology that is only just ready, and which could take two years to fit to all our ships. The EU’s new regulations come into force in January 2015. Reports by many bodies, including the Government, state that switching to low-sulphur fuel could lead to the loss of 2,000 British jobs, thousands more lorries clogging our roads, 12 million tonnes of additional CO2 emitted each year and about £300 million a year in additional costs for shipping operators and customers. One route closure has already been announced.

We urge the Government to take action to prevent these damaging consequences by insisting that the EU allow pragmatic transitional arrangements, and support measures designed to lessen the economic impact on customers and operators.

Marcus Bowman
President, UK Chamber of Shipping
David Dingle
CEO, Carnival UK
Michael Parker,
Jean Marc Roue,
Chairman, Brittany Ferries
Helen Deeble
CEO, P&O Ferries
Ken MacLeod
Chairman, Stena Line UK
Chris Welsh
Director, Global and European Policy, Freight Transport Association
Johan Roos
Executive Director, Interferry
James Cooper
CEO, Associated British Ports
Charles Hammond
CEO, Forth Ports
Robin Mortimer
CEO, Port of London Authority
David Robinson
CEO, PD Ports
Mark Whitworth

CEO, Peel Ports Group
Clemence Cheng
CEO, Hutchison Ports UK
Bob Bishop
Executive Director, V Ships
Simon Bird
CEO, The Bristol Port Company
Roy Adair
CEO, Belfast Harbour Commissioners
Jeffrey Evans
Chairman, Maritime UK
Mark Fox
CEO, Business Services Association

Two rival male turtle doves (streptopelia turtur) in display flight over Norfolk Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 18 Jun 2014

Comments88 Comments

SIR – Robin Page posed some valid questions over the demise of the turtle dove versus the expansion of the collared dove.

Dr Carl Jones – whose work on captive breeding has helped save the pink pigeon from extinction – is the expert on breeding this type of dove by using fostering methods well understood by aviculturists.

It is not complicated and I am sure that the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and Gardens, one of the parties in the article most concerned with the decline of the turtle dove, is capable of bolstering the population in this way. Turtle doves are good at finding artificial sources of food and during my time as proprietor of Pensthorpe they happily fed with both stock doves and pigeons on our lawn – though they kept their distance from collared doves.

Bill Makins
Dereham, Norfolk

Queen Victoria seeking George Eliot’s autograph in an illustration by Wesley Merritt Photo: Illustration by Wesley Merritt

7:00AM BST 18 Jun 2014

Comments175 Comments

SIR – The British are moralists with a particular bent – we know we only know anything provisionally. Consequently, we cannot have the certainty of fundamentalists. This recognition that we may be wrong inculcates tolerance and a preparedness to listen to counter-arguments. It also makes us democratic and Protestant in a particularly gentle way.

The best way of teaching this sort of Britishness is through English literature. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and George Eliot would be a good starting point.

Nicholas Bielby
Bradford, West Yorkshire

SIR – Elizabeth Johnson (Letters, June 14) mentions Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain (1942) – a brilliant snapshot of wartime Britain designed to help GIs understand this country.

I doubt if David Cameron and Michael Gove, who want British values to be taught in schools, have read it. It reveals what was seen to be the nature of this country, its stoical determination, sense of fair play and tolerance. Suitably updated, it could be part of an induction programme for immigrants, as well as for schoolchildren.

Cdr Alan York RN (retd)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – I teach anthropology in a west London comprehensive school. My Year 13 class is made up of students whose parents are from Morocco, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Mauritius. All of them are second or third generation immigrants or refugees. As for myself, I came to Britain in 1992 as a Croatian refugee from the Balkan wars.

My students listen to the same music, follow the same fashions and have the same struggles as other British teenagers. At home, they might eat food or watch television from their native countries. The freedom to express such hybrid identities is what sums up British values for me.

Tomislav Maric
Heston, Middlesex

SIR – When I was a headmistress, I introduced a school ethos of “respect and service”. I believe that this neatly sums up British values too.

In a school, this had the additional advantage that any behaviour that you did not like, but which was not covered by the school rules, could always be qualified as either “not respect” or “not service” and punitive action taken as appropriate.

Dr Jennifer Longhurst
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – In this year of two world war commemorations it is sad to see so many Union flags being flown upside down. If flying the flag correctly is one indication of Britishness, it is rapidly disappearing.

David Gooch
Cheam, Surrey

SIR – Surely an essential British value is not to bang on about British values?

David Ashford
Almondsbury, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Joe Higgins’s promise to hold the Taoiseach “to account” for implementing his democratic mandate of deficit reduction is a blatant announcement of his intention to showboat for political gain rather than seek answers as to how a nation became gripped by a property psychosis and marched into a financial quagmire.

Unfortunately we can expect bored journalists to chortle at Mr Higgins’s “bon mots” and snicker at his skewering of “Enda”. – Yours, etc,


Long Meadows Apartments,    Conyngham Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – With respect to your editorial “Donnelly’s exit” (June 18th), although principles are obviously desirable in a politician, the reality is that in this case, Mr Donnelly’s decision to resign has been rash and misplaced. TDs are elected to make as strong a contribution to the Oireachtas as is feasible. For Opposition TDs, there is a special onus to “take whatever role you can get”, as the availability of central, influential roles would be limited for such TDs given the nature of our democratic system. Mr Donnelly may feel he is justified by bringing to attention concerns he held, but essentially any national journalist can write critically about any matter that arises in the Oireachtas and fundamentally achieve the same objective.

The better action would have been to quietly stay on the committee and diligently make a contribution to the work of that body, in the national interest. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 14.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole needs to get a grip (“Ireland’s portrayal of itself as the purest, holiest or richest country has brought us lies and exclusion”, Opinion & Analysis, June 17th).

I’m older than he is. Neither at home nor at school with the Christian Brothers nor in public debate did I get the impression that Ireland was or is the best place in the world.

There was and is much that was wrong, and much for which to be thankful. There were and are individuals with highly exaggerated opinions in both directions. There were and are many scoundrels and an even greater number of decent, hardworking people who saw what needed to be done, and some who managed to embody both.

But despite the great difficulties in the decades following independence, we did not fall into the trap of dictatorship, as did some other European countries. We did not resort to legislating for compulsory sterilisation of those who were elsewhere considered unfit to improve the national gene pool, as was done in other European countries and in much of the United States.

We have had many failures, and sadly many people were deeply hurt. It would be a further injustice to fail to appreciate the work and dedication and idealism of the great numbers of people of various faiths and none, whose contribution can more than balance Mr O’Toole’s perspective. – Is mise,


Blackthorn Court,

Sandyford, Dublin 16.

Sir, – It is such a relief to encounter the views of Fintan O’Toole, a person of such superior insight and intelligence, such scholarly historical and social knowledge and analysis, shining brightly in the midst of his benighted and severely deluded countrymen and women. Perhaps, no better words could be crafted to describe such assurance than his own second sentence of the column. “People who are uncertain about themselves sometimes deal with their anxiety by creating an exaggerated image of superiority.” – Yours, etc,


Northbrook Road,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Carl O’Brien (“Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals: the last gap in our history of ‘coercive confinement’?” June 16th) provides a succinct description of how Ireland “led the world in locking people up in institutions” and how these institutions were integrated into the economic fabric of the community. On the same page, Sally Mulready, a survivor of a mother-and-baby home, asserts that “Comfortable Ireland, for me, should be quite ashamed about never asking questions” (“Mulready welcomes inquiry”, June 16th).

It would seem to me that questions were asked but that what was lacking was compassion in response to the answers. Inspections were carried out, there were records of reasons for incarceration and causes of death were noted. These were read by State officials and professionals but “Comfortable Ireland” at the time was incapable of challenging its own norms, or the structures that provided gainful employment.

Have we moved on? Our methods of inquiry and fact-finding have become more sophisticated but how prevalent is compassion in the responses of State organisations to current social problems? The findings of commissions of inquiry into the past must also raise debate about the role of feelings as well as facts in the way we manage our services today. – Yours, etc,


Northbrook Avenue,


Sir, – The Government decision to return medical cards to many people who had them removed from them in recent years must be a relief for countless families affected by this decision. We were reassured by Government some months ago that it was not possible to give people medical cards on the basis of illness. This was based on legal opinion obtained from the Attorney General and deemed so precious that it was not to be shared with mere mortals. It put an abrupt end to plans to give medical cards to all diabetics and those with other life-long medical conditions. So has this opinion now disappeared?

Many people with a chronic medical condition will (deservedly) get their medical cards back, despite the existence of a legal opinion that it is not legal to do so. – Yours, etc,


Plás Grosvenor,

Baile Átha Cliath 6.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 01:06

First published: Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 01:06

Sir, – Fr Gerard Moloney speaks of the “shame of being an official representative of an institution caught up in yet another storm” (“Latest scandal a further blow to reeling institution”, Rite & Reason, June 17th). He writes: “The scandals of the last two decades had nothing to do with me. The abuse and cover-up were not my fault. The culture of moral rectitude and dark secrets that facilitates such behaviour cannot be blamed on anything I did or said.”

Of course not. But does Fr Moloney really believe that the only scandals in the Catholic Church are its most recent scandals?

Has not its attitude to women and to gay people over the centuries not been scandalous? Does Fr Moloney feel no shame about such attitudes?

He expresses a wish that the investigations into the mother-and-baby homes “proceed quickly”, as if justice were his only concern, but his article suggests that his primary wish is to see his church “begin the process of recovery”; in other words, he longs for a time when he will no longer have to feel “shame” at his church’s behaviour. Cleaning up the latest mess “quickly” will not remove the shame of being an “official representative” of this organisation.

Fr Moloney is mistaken if he believes that actions alone can be shameful. Teachings can be shameful too. – Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,


Sir, – Jim Mulkerrins (June 18th) states that reductions in special needs assistant posts are not contemplated by the Department of Education.

Yet with one week to go before the primary school summer break, many parents have yet to hear if they will be allocated the same level of care that their children received last year.

There are also many special needs assistants who have yet to hear if they will have a job in August. Many have been told that the situation is looking grim and they might have to go on a panel for one year, unpaid, when a post might pop up, before they are entitled to redundancy, thus kicking the “job losses” factor down the road, while maintaining a facade of having the same amount of posts in the system.

The delay in informing parents and employees of their futures is unfair. – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower,


A chara, – My €20 annual subscription for Dublin Bikes is, without question, the best value for money in the city.

I would pay three times as much if they would extend it outside the current boundary rather than increasing the number of stations in areas already served by the scheme. I wait, in hope, with €60 cash. – Yours, etc,


Heytesbury Lane,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – I agree with the sentiments expressed by Simon O’Connor (June 13th) about cyclists on footpaths and their arrogance when confronted by pedestrians about breaking the law. In Cork it is dangerous to walk on a footpath while pedal fanatics are about. Recently I observed a cyclist riding at speed on a footpath alongside a designated cycle lane: put there at great expense by the city council.

I could go on about the danger presented to old people and children by these reckless people, who give cycling a bad name, but instead I appeal to the Garda to uphold the law. – Yours, etc,


Ard Bhaile,

Old Youghal Road,


Sir, – As a cyclist, may I commend Dublin Bus drivers, specifically the double-deck drivers? When letting people off the bus they hold the doors if a cyclist is coming. They are patient when cyclists do silly things (no horn-blowing) and know how important it is to use indicators. May they continue to be a role model for other road users. – Yours, etc,


Weirview Drive,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Speaking as someone who both drives and cycles in Dublin, I believe there has to be a better way. I have just returned from a visit to the university town of Leiden in Holland, where I witnessed a vision of a world where the bicycle is king, and it was balm to the soul.

Virtually everyone cycles there. No-one wears a helmet, because they do not have to share the cycle lanes with buses, motorbikes or other mechanical monsters. People were out celebrating the Dutch win in the World Cup until the wee hours, as sensible cyclists pedalled past, no danger to themselves or others, looking fit and healthy.

No high-vis jackets, no bulging lycra. The motion of the tall Dutch cyclists, in normal clothes, looked like what it was – progress. The only way we could approximate to this exalted state would be to make more room for more bicycles and put the cars in their place. – Yours, etc,


Sion Hill,

Rock Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Like Denis O’Donoghue (June 19th) I had a parent whose “favoured brand” of cigarettes was Sweet Afton. In my case it was my mother, but what I find interesting in retrospect is not that most adults smoked back then, but that when my mother sent me to the local shop, even as a small schoolboy, I could ask for “Ten Afton, please” and be sold them without question.

The good news for me is that I never smoked in my life and my mother did give up cigarettes, for Lent, in 1977.

Actually I had then been reading Maeve Binchy’s column in this newspaper describing her own successful but difficult attempt to quit smoking. Although I told my mother about Maeve’s difficulty, she herself found quitting relatively easy and has still survived, thank goodness. – Yours, etc,


Evergreen Road,


Sir, – I’m pretty sure that the trophy awarded by the GAA to the Munster intermediate hurling champions is still known as the Sweet Afton Cup, a perpetual trophy first awarded in 1951.

In any event, I doubt if anyone under the age of 40 has smoked that particular brand of unfiltered cigarettes. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

A chara, – Tom Kelly (June 17th) wonders “On what or whose authority” German MPs from the Bundestag finance committee will ask questions here. On the authority of the German electorate and taxpayers. Significant funding as part of the bailout came from the German taxpayer; as a consequence they gained a right of oversight, and the German constitutional court confirmed parliament’s duty to exercise that right against the German government. In addition any future funding mechanism exposes European taxpayers, including German ones, to further risk. Parliaments have a duty to avoid or minimise that.

If our own parliament exercised such careful oversight we might not be relying on German taxpayers and others to pay our bills. – Is mise,


Páirc na Seilbhe,

Baile an Chinnéidigh,

Co Chill Mhantáin.

Sir, – The remarks of Mary McAleese regarding the qualifications of Catholic bishops to speak on family life struck me as terribly unfair (“Asking bishops for advice on family life ‘bonkers’, says McAleese”, June 17th) .

While bishops may not be fathers in the biological sense (we hope!), they are sons, and many are brothers and uncles. All have grown up in families. In their pastoral life, I think it is fair to say they (as priests firstly) accompany people in their family life more than any other profession, walking members of their flock through the defining moments of many families’ lives – baptism, confirmation, matrimony and death.

If failure to procreate necessarily excludes someone from commenting on the family, then a great deal of Jesus Christ’s teachings in the New Testament are also “bonkers”. – Yours, etc,



Chao de Loureiro,


A chara, – Samantha Long (June 18th) weeps for what Dublin children will lose if the traditional summer water fight dies out as a result of the looming metering system.

What of the rest of the nation’s children? My four boys have lived with their peripatetic father in Dublin, Cork, and Kilkenny; they have holidayed in Donegal, Kerry, Wicklow, and Sligo; and they have visited and played with the children of friends and relatives in Waterford, Galway, Longford, Clare, Laois, Waterford, and more.

A feature common to all was the water fight. If it perishes on the altar of conservation its loss will not merely be a cause of sorrow in Dublin, but to children everywhere in the land. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Irish Independent:

The story of the babies’ cemetery in Tuam has revealed a rather schizophrenic streak within Irish society. There has been considerable outrage and cries of ‘shame!’ and perhaps not without reason. It seems a little unfair, however, that today’s public can heap such opprobrium on nuns who were asked by Irish society to take on this task when it was Irish society – families and courts – who sent these girls to mother and baby homes in the first place because they did not want them around.

It seems equally unfair to specifically blame the Catholic Church, considering such homes operated under similar, or worse, conditions in the Protestant UK. It would be more honest to acknowledge these homes, along with workhouses and Magdalene laundries, came into existence precisely because of a new middle-class that emerged in Victorian times and craved ‘respectability’ above all else. The Free State continued to operate what it had inherited from the Empire after 1922.

Insofar as ‘religion’ had any role, it was because it came to be another expression of the brand of ‘respectability’ so beloved of the Victorian bourgeois. So much for history, what about today? Whereas Victorian middle-class ‘religious’ morality may have played a role in the past, today’s antipathy is rooted in baser motives – sheer economic miserliness.

Underlying these economic arguments are also thinly veiled secular moral ones: single mothers tend to be portrayed as work-shy, fraudulent, lazy and unhealthy.

If one is not willing to contribute to the welfare of such mothers and one thinks their condition somehow reprehensible, how can one decry past behaviour towards them, or claim to be so very different to past generations?




I know the banking inquiry, whenever it goes ahead, will without doubt be very complex for most of us ordinary mortals.

Here is a simple story about one visit I had during the boom years to my bank.

I wanted foolishly to top up my already too high existing loan with a few more grand to change my car. My expectation was entirely negative with regard to the outcome, as also was the bank manager’s, but in any case, he went ahead and clicked all my details into the system. Then suddenly I heard him say “this is madness, it’s telling me to go ahead”.

He was more surprised than me. Need I say more. Madness indeed.




Margaret Grealish is so right in saying that not a single father seems to have existed in this whole and deplorable saga. This, however, is not because they are hiding behind bushes but rather because if unmarried they are treated as sub-citizens when it comes to their child.

From the moment of conception the unmarried father is a victim of sexual inequality as all rights governing the child are with the mother. She can abort the child, refuse him access to the child or give the child away with it being none of his business.

Our Constitution does not recognise unmarried fathers, they have no rights to custody of their child, they are not the child’s family. The mother on the other hand has custody and all the rights to her child. The unmarried father has only the right to apply for joint guardianship with the mother at her discretion or he may not get to see his child.

Our courts are full of cases of unmarried and separated fathers wanting to be heard but you don’t hear of the plight of these desperate men because all these cards are “in camera”. I believe that we would be a leader and more informed society if these cases could be in the “light of day”.

Take a trip to any family court where these fathers do exist and ask their stories, find out why they are there and then see if you still call them spineless, irresponsible. Have you any idea as to the number of suicides among unmarried fathers after years of trying to “exist”? We never look at the other side of the coin and it’s about time we asked what life is like as an unmarried father in Ireland.

It is so good of you at least to recognise that these are their children and perhaps you will raise your voice for them too, to have the right of custody for their child. Surely it is in the best interest and welfare of the child that he is in joint custody of parents with both his/her parents right acknowledged?

How many women do you hear on the radio who have moved the father out and within days have moved another man in? How many of these women have children for different fathers, or how many don’t know who the father even is?




Entertainment-wise, the Bob Dylan concert in Dublin was one of the worst musical experiences of my life – extremely disappointing. Dylan’s expressionless interaction with the audience practically zero; just one ‘thank-you’ at the interval followed by a few incoherent words. This one fraction of conversation appeared to be so unexpected that it resulted in a roar of applause from an audience who appeared to be happy to continue elevating this man to god status.

One could forgive Bob Dylan for delivering a poor performance if he just had the graciousness to acknowledge in some small way his loyal audience who had paid hard-earned money for tickets as well as many who had travelled long distances to attend this show.




You’d have thought that a guy with such an ostentatious combover as “The Trumpster” would have learned by now that in a fight against nature, there is always going to be only one winner . . .




The increasingly vocal Mary McAleese has commented, with all the authority of an ex-president, that bishops advising the Pope on family matters is “bonkers,” due to their celibacy.

If one of those same bishops, or a cardinal, or even the Pope, were to question the capability of, for instance, our Government or Council of State to perform its duties, we can only imagine the fury and cries of “theocracy” that would follow.

Such outrage works both ways, though.




Have you noticed the time off that RTE people enjoy, when you consider the salaries and the short weeks they work? They must be the envy of many professional and business people, and the rest of us Joe and Mary Soaps who fall under the working time act.

It is ironic to hear those same individuals asking the question, “how many people in your organisation earn more than €200,000?”

There must be a handsome budget at RTE which enables these excesses.


Irish Independent


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