Russian vine

21June2014 Russian vine

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. We tackle the Russian vine.

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


Josephine Pullein-Thompson – obituary

Josephine Pullein-Thompson was an author whose ‘pony club’ novels thrilled a generation of girls with the jolly adventures of the gymkhana set

Josephine Pullein-Thompson (on far left) at 18, with her sisters Christine and Diana

Josephine Pullein-Thompson (on far left) at 18, with her sisters Christine and Diana

6:25PM BST 20 Jun 2014

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Josephine Pullein-Thompson, who has died aged 90, was a horsewoman and author – pursuits which she blended into an extraordinarily successful career entertaining a generation of preadolescent British girls with ripping tales of gymkhanas, hunt balls, riding club mishaps and “dud” ponies-turned-champion rides.

Her ability to transform mucking-out and saddle soap into literary gold — she wrote dozens of pony novels over the course of half a century, beginning with Six Ponies in 1946 — was in fact a family trait. Her mother, Joanna Cannan, had been credited with single-handedly inventing the “pony club” novel during the 1930s; and her sisters Diana and Christine — with whom Josephine initially co-authored — were also virtuosos of the genre, each publishing numerous equestrian adventures.

Cover of Plenty of Ponies (1949) by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s prose style — in books such as One Day Event (1954), The Trick Jumpers (1958) and The No-Good Pony (1981) — was firmly fixed in the school of Enid Blyton. There were lashings of leftovers at dinner and smashing saddles strapped on to noble horses. There were even “supersonic” tea parties.

Her heroine in a series of five books in the 1940s and 1950s was Noel Kettering, a dreamy girl who gains confidence at the West Barsetshire Pony Club. “Gosh, I’ve got the most frightful needle,” Noel would say as she anguished over her attempts to win a long-desired red rosette. Noel’s country circle included Henry Thornton (dashing and daring) and Susan Barrington-Brown (from new money). They all tended to resolve their issues and enjoy a bun and a brew as the sun set over the lawn.

Josephine Mary Wedderburn Pullein-Thompson was born April 3 1924 to Harold J Pullein-Thompson, MC, and the novelist Joanna Cannan. Twin girls followed her 18 months later. Josephine’s parents had met at Oxford at the height of the First World War and brought up their four children (their first-born was a son, Denis) in bohemian style — with peeling wall paper and financial problems — at the Grove, a sprawling house in the Oxfordshire village of Peppard near Henley-on-Thames. “They had ideas above their station,” recalled Josephine.

The Pullein-Thompson girls were raised as hardy, practical tomboys. While their brother attended Eton (he went on to become a playwright who collaborated with Christopher Fry), his sisters were largely home-schooled, for a while tutored by “a mad old woman in a hut”. They sniffed at dolls but did like their rocking horse, Dobbin. Real ponies soon followed — Countess (a downtrodden polo pony) and Rum (who would open gates with her mouth). The three sisters excelled on horseback, and were soon winning local shows.

Badly injured on the Western Front, their father was present but distant; he had been reduced to selling refrigerators. With the family finances left in her hands, Joanna Cannan turned to writing, eventually completing 48 books. Scottish ancestry (her forefathers had participated in the Jacobite rising and the Battle of Culloden) meant her books were often set in Scotland. Like A Pony for Jean (1936) or Hamish: The Story of a Shetland Pony (1944) they also frequently had an equestrian theme. But not always – she also wrote the Inspector Guy Northeast murder mysteries (such as Death at the Dog, 1941), which were prototype Foyles War-style dramas of wartime sleuthing.

Josephine Pullein-Thompson and her sisters grew up immersed in equestrian life at a point when the lives of horses changed. “It was only after the First World War, when girls took over the jobs as grooms, that horses had a better time of it,” she said. “Male grooms were very hard. We always wondered why our horses would never lie down in their stables, or would scramble to their feet when they heard us. This was because the men would never let the horses lie down, because then they would get stable stains on their quarters, which meant more work. So the horses always stood, terrified of a ‘Gerrup, you bugger’. With us girls, the horses lolled about, you had to shake them awake. We had one horse who was a very idle gentleman. He used to lie down in the field and shut his eyes if he heard us coming.”

Cover of One Day Event (1954) by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

The Pullein-Thompson sisters began writing during the Second World War. It Began With Picotee, their first collectively-produced book, was written in 1941 and delivered a narrative from the rider’s perspective rather than horse’s (as had been the Victorian tradition with equestrian fiction). It was published in 1946, the same year Josephine wrote Six Ponies on her own (having given up her initial ambition to become a vet).

From early titles, such as Plenty of Ponies (1949) and Show Jumping Secret (1955), to later books such as Pony Club Challenge (1984) and A Job With Horses (1994), the gentle narratives of stately homes, plucky children and riding cups rarely veered from a tried and tested course.

Her timeless fictional world, however, sometimes left her champing at the editorial bit. With All Change (1972), Josephine Pullein-Thompson touched on subjects such as recession and the demise of the agricultural way of life. “I wanted more of that in my books but it wasn’t allowed,” she acknowledged. “Publishers were very strict in those days. I was told I wasn’t allowed to give the children any grown-up emotions. In All Change, I had the 12-year-old boy say ‘bloody’ at one point. Uproar!”

Josephine wrote several non-fiction books on riding and three mystery novels for adults: Gin and Murder (1959); Murder Strikes Pink (1963); and They Died In The Spring (1960). She also wrote A Place With Two Faces (1972) under the pseudonym Josephine Mann — a gothic horror story, it posed the sinister question: “Was the house on the moors a haven … or the Devil’s accursed retreat?”. The Pullein-Thompson sisters collectively wrote an affectionate memoir, Fair Girls and Grey Ponies (1996), in which they recalled their eccentric upbringing.

In addition to pursuing her own writing career, she was a champion of many other writers’ ambitions — most prominently by working with PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists), the organisation which looks after authors’ affairs and promotes freedom of expression.

As the general secretary (1976-93) and then president of PEN International, she blended pragmatism with strident opinion. For example, she warned of the dangers of a writer’s prose being lost in translation. “It’s happened to my own work,” she said. “Well-known writers like Iris Murdoch simply refuse to have their work touched. But with lesser-known authors, particularly in the past, alterations do occur.”

In 1987 she pulled up in a taxi outside the Bond Street offices of Sotheby’s with a mound of manuscripts by authors, including Tom Sharpe, John Mortimer and Roald Dahl, for a special PEN auction (to fund writers who have fallen foul of authoritarian regimes around the world). When she explained this to the taxi driver, he waived the fare.

Two years later, in response to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa on the novelist Salman Rushdie, she stated: “We support Rushdie to the hilt, but there’s no point in shouting about it. It’s the madmen you’re going to stir, not the ordinary Muslims. In a way, cooling it is a good thing.”

Left to right: Diana, Josephine and Christine Pullein-Thompson in later life

Josephine Pullein-Thompson listed her recreations as gardening, theatre and travel. As for housekeeping, she was reputed to have stated: “I’m too busy reading to do the ironing.”

She never married, but for many years enjoyed the companionship of the circuit judge and writer Anthony Babington, whom she cared for in his final years.

In later life Josephine Pullein-Thompson lived quietly in a small terraced house in Fulham where one interviewer found that she had befriended the blackbirds in the garden. “They are very consoling,” she said.

Josephine Pullein-Thompson was appointed MBE in 1984.

Josephine Pullein-Thompson, born April 3 1924, died June 19 2014

To hear Neil McCormick discuss the life and work of Gerry Goffin and jazz writer and broadcaster Dave Gelly on the pianist and composer Horace Silver, listen to The Deadline – our weekly obits podcast. The podcast also rounds up the week’s obits and your letters to the paper too. With Harry de Quetteville and Christopher Howse. Never miss an episode by subscribing here.


This year sees the 400th anniversary of the invention of logarithm tables by John Napier in Edinburgh. It is now June, halfway through the year, and so far I haven’t seen any mention of this historical development in the Guardian. It revolutionised heavy calculations in such vital areas as navigation, tide predictions, actuarial analysis and astronomy, leading on to the industrial revolution in Great Britain. Other anniversaries such as that for Charles Dickens receive almost saturation coverage in the media and the BBC.
Philip Arundel
Malvern, Worcestershire

• Congratulations on the juxtaposition of two items on page 4, 19 June, where a photo of an expensively dressed young woman at Royal Ascot appeared immediately above an article entitled Poverty doubled in 30 years, study shows. Those two pieces say it all.
Anne Anderton
Newcastle, Staffordshire

• I once visited a branding agency, which had a “cabinet of horrors”: products whose developers had failed to check the names and their international connotations (Letters, 20 June). There were the obvious, such as “Pschiddt” chocolate bars, and “Ploppies” chocolate sweets. But I was more taken by those that were somehow just wrong. “Kevin” aftershave anyone? Or would you light up a “Keith” cigarette?
Paul Moss

• Drummers can sometimes rise to the occasion (Letters, 20 June), as did the legendary Phil Seamen when, having inadvertently smashed an intrusively resounding cymbal in the middle of a West Side Story aria, he stood up in the pit and announced with aplomb: “Dinner is served!”
Geoffrey Bull
Milborne St Andrew, Dorset

• It’s well known that the jokes about drummers have to be kept very simple so that the bass players can understand them.
Steven Thomson

• To see drummers panned must be a relief to viola players.
Howard Layfield
Newcastle upon Tyne

The tragedy of the Labour party is not so much the deficiencies of Ed Miliband‘s leadership (Labour must confront the ‘Ed problem’, 20 June), but the absence of any meaningful dialogue with the people it claims to represent. Rather than engaging in discussion with its traditional supporters, listening to them and taking their problems seriously, the party revolves around Westminster gossip, is in thrall to the media, and rewards the bright young things from Oxbridge who regard a seat in parliament as a career rather than a commitment to serve others. Week after week the Labour leadership boasts of how it will be tougher than the Tories – on immigrants, on welfare benefits, on public spending: in a word, the poor. What we never get are thought-out policies and political principles on social housing, higher taxes on the rich, rolling back the privatisation of the NHS, the abolition of nuclear weapons and returning the railways to public ownership. The list is almost endless. What does the Labour party stand for? Unless the answer is something better than a vacuous belief in “fairness”, why should anyone vote for it?
Jacob Ecclestone
Diss, Norfolk

• We’ve have heard a lot this week about the condition of Britain. The widespread insecurity reflected in the Poverty and Social Exclusion project (Poverty doubled in 30 years, 19 June) illustrates starkly the structural nature of the problem. In contrast, the IPPR report (A blueprint for renewal, 19 June) seems to amount to no more than tinkering in an effort to manage a broken social policy and to shade the differences between the coalition and Labour in the run-up to the election. It seems the only people unwilling to use the word inequality are politicians and their advisers.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

Reading your article (An anger is developing and the desire the express that, 18 June), the realisation struck me that, although the performers and playwrights featured in the article may not realise it, theatre is coming full circle, back to the pre-Arts Council days, in the first half of the 20th century, when there was a thriving workers’ theatre movement. That started with street theatre involving such outfits as Red Radio and the Rebel Players, and grew into a movement which resulted in the formation of Unity Theatre in north London and Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at Stratford East. It was Unity, the “theatre by the people for the people”, which pioneered “living newspapers”, and performed its own contemperary political pieces, (such as their legendary Babes In The Wood panto and numerous revues). While many of the people involved, such as Alfie Bass, Una Brandon-Jones, Joan Littlewood, Bill Owen, Gerry Raffles etc, are no longer around, it is clear that their spirit lives on, as new people rediscover their DIY form of politcal theatre.
Emma Shane

Your observation that “the way the allies fought increased pressure for more democratic and egalitarian societies” (Editorial, 6 June) tells only part of the story. In 1942, the military faced problems of morale and efficiency stemming from a mass conscript army, outmoded conceptions of the fighting man and cynical expectations of the war’s aftermath, following the last war’s empty promises. Progressives in the military hierarchy knew modern warfare depended on the soldier’s commitment. The upshot was the two pronged Forces’ Education Programme in citizenship.

Two army discussion pamphlets by leading liberal thinkers – Current Affairs, from the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, and The British Way and Purpose – were used in compulsory, weekly sessions in duty hours, replacing voluntarism to counter the resistance of the rank and file. To reduce social barriers, regimental officers led discussions.

ABCA aimed to educate men in why the war was being fought; BWP centred on citizenship and a British society worth fighting for. It included both summaries of wartime white papers and the minutiae of daily life to fill out nebulous notions of democracy. They emphasised active citizenship, responsibilities as well as rights, and striving for that better post-war world where families like the Smiths would be a memory (Harry Leslie Smith, What happened to the world my generation built?, 5 June). The programme’s effectiveness was never formally assessed, but the outcome and Labour’s 1945 victory might be testimony enough.
Emeritus professor Pat Allatt
Teesside University

• In the wake of the wonderful coverage of D-Day, another important 70th anniversary has been overlooked. On 13 June 1944, the first German flying bomb exploded at Bethnal Green, heralding months of raids that caused over 9,000 deaths and 25,000 serious injuries, and left a trail of destruction across south-east England. By the time the V1 doodlebugs and, from September, the V2 rockets were deployed, the allies had established a secure position on the continent and, for all the terror the weapons caused, the campaign was of no strategic value. Things might have been very different.

Hitler’s ambition to launch the world’s first WMDs in October 1943 and to destroy London and the southern ports before Christmas was frustrated by the bombing of Peenemunde, on the Baltic, in August. Seven hundred people, including the propulsion expert, Thiel, and chief engineer, Walther, were killed and many of the plans and drawings were destroyed. The Bomber Command raid was guided in by H2S, the radar system created by Bernard Lovell, later to become famous as the founder of the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. Hitler’s plans were set back by many months. The accurate bombing provided by Lovell’s device foiled the German attacks until after D-day. As Eisenhower said, if the weapons had been perfected six months earlier: “Our invasion of Europe would have proved exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible. ‘Overlord’ might been written off.”
John Bromley-Davenport

Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston

The audacity of Michael Wilshaw and Ofsted beggars belief (Level playing field? Private school pupils still have head start, 20 June). It is utterly unsurprising that private schools perpetuate inequality in sport as well as everywhere else. However, the biggest problem with this report is that it dissembles shamelessly. Ofsted claims a positive relationship between competitive sport and academic success but omits to even mention its own commissioned review of the academic research (Top Foundation, 2014). This shows that the link, which is weak at best, is about physical activity and academic attainment, not competitive sport.

Nevertheless, Ofsted’s report, based on one “study” with results that may not even be statistically significant, states: “Disappointingly, 20 of the maintained schools and academies we visited did not provide students with regular opportunities to excel in competitive sport.” Also: “In many of these schools, PE staff focus time and commitment on engaging as many students as possible in PE. Consequently, participation rates are high

Excuse me? So Ofsted considers it poor practice to engage all pupils in PE, with its evidence-based benefits, definitely for health and possibly for academic performance, at the expense of the few, who may excel in competitive sport? And on the back of this it makes expansive recommendations for competitive sport? Policy-free evidence and evidence-free policy. Ideology, through and through, Mr Wilshaw.
Cathy Devine
Senior lecturer, sport and physical activity, University of Cumbria

• The recent report by Ofsted is an outrageous piece of rightwing propaganda. Everyone knows that government policies and interference have damaged sports in state schools despite the best efforts of the schools and their staff. I hope some of our top athletes will make their opinions known. I regularly visit schools in the private sector as an external provider and see the wonderful facilities available. In one small boys’ preparatory school on the edge of Oxford, I discovered that the 300 boys had the use of four cricket pitches (all with their own covers, rollers, nets and pavilion) as well as a nine-hole golf course. In one large well-known private school in Somerset, my colleague wandered into a sports hall to see a couple of students fencing. When he asked our host what else normally went on in the hall, he was told “this is our fencing hall…”.
Lee Porter
Bridport, Dorset

• My school in east London in the 50s had three football and two cricket pitches, athletics track, and two tennis courts and we had a thriving inter-school competition. Most of these grounds were sold off during the Thatcher regime to a supermarket. Does Ofsted propose approaching the supermarket to buy back the grounds?
Norman Gowar

• The cause of the sorry state of the England football team suddenly became clear: there are no public schoolboys in the team. How can they be expected to win anything with a team of nouveau riche plebs? What they need is an injection of public school stiff upper lip, a bit of class, a dose of privilege. That’s the way to put Johnny Foreigner in his place.
John Newsinger

• There has to be a fundamental review of the home game as a consequence of what has happened in Brazil – one that sweeps aside the vested interests in football, particularly the Premier League and the TV companies. The review must come to grips with the way money has distorted the domestic game to an extent unrecognisable even five years ago. There is wholesale reliance on foreign players who have very little interest in the cities they represent or in the country they play in. Home-grown players take a bit part in the proceedings with so little opportunities. Many will say who cares if an English team wins the Champions League if England is destined to play in the sixth tier of world football.
John Akker
Colchester, Essex

• No real soccer fan should lament the England team’s losses in Brazil. A squad drawn from a few elitist and wealthy clubs does not truly represent England. It stands only for the alleged power of money and the market. Its defeat is a matter for rejoicing.
Rob Lowe
Colwyn Bay, Conwy

• I was disgusted that in the sports section on 19 June there was no recognition of Heather Watson’s best ever and superb gutsy win at Eastbourne. Sixteen pages about men. I thought the Guardian supported gender equality. Not everyone wants to read 11 pages about football.
Maureen Sibley
Poynton, Cheshire


Hamish McRae discusses developments in world energy markets (Voices, 18 June). He notes that fossil fuels continue to dominate; indeed coal consumption is on the rise. Renewables only account for 5.3 per cent of world generation.

Bizarrely, he concludes that we should be relieved that more fossil fuels are being found, and he welcomes “fracking”. Staggeringly, he makes no mention of issues such as carbon outputs, greenhouse gases or climate change.

This is the sort of blinkered thinking that has got us into our environmental mess. If scientists are correct in their global temperature-rise projections, then the conclusion we can actually draw from McRae’s evidence is that future generations are likely to face massive, possibly insurmountable, problems.

Keith O’Neill



I assume that the Nato chief who claims Russia has secretly infiltrated green groups fighting fracking  got his information from undercover police officers within those groups. What with foreign agents and incognito coppers, it’s a wonder there’s room in there for any genuine protesters.

Colin Burke



Money wasted on English football

At the risk of being lynched, may I point out that it is nearly 50 years since England won the World Cup and, in the interim, they have often put up some pretty mediocre performances against teams from quite small nations.

However, it is not for the want of money. Billions of pounds have been lavished on football both by those who attend the games and in TV broadcast rights.

Yet, many lesser-supported sports such as rowing, cycling and track events exist on a far lesser income and produce many  international triumphs. In my opinion, therefore, football has become a waste of money.

Vernon J Yarker

Maldon, Essex


If I were an England footballer taking home an average £44,000 a week after tax – in Wayne Rooney’s case £165,000 – I would find it well nigh impossible to motivate myself, however fond I was of the game. After the England team’s dismal performances in the World Cup, is it not now time to rethink the obscene levels of pay these often mediocre players receive?

Instead, I believe they should receive a relatively low basic wage, but be paid handsomely on performance. Players would then be motivated to train hard and play to the best of their abilities.

Nathan Hunt

Datchet, Berkshire


Go for a registered therapist

A form of regulation for the psychotherapy and counselling professions does exist (“Stopping therapy: We have ways of making you talk”, 17 June ). People looking for therapy now have the option of seeking practitioners on a register that has been vetted and approved by a government scheme operated by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).

Organisations including the UK Council for Psychotherapy and BACP, which have PSA-approved registers, have demonstrated that they meet the authority’s standards in areas including education and training, managing their register, and complaints.

Anyone seeking psychotherapy should check that their therapist is on a PSA-accredited register. That way they can be sure that the therapist has committed to high professional standards, abides by a robust ethical code and is subject to a rigorous complaints system.

Anyone feeling that they are being pressurised into remaining in therapy should contact the therapist’s professional body.

David Pink

Chief Executive, UK Council for Psychotherapy, London EC1

Market creates housing ‘shortage’

There is no shortage of housing but we have a dysfunctional housing market. Overcrowding and homelessness exist alongside under-occupied or even empty properties.

Twenty per cent of all households have a single occupant, but owners will never downsize while the house remains a privileged and profitable investment. This withholding of assets from the market causes a supply shortage, which in turn raises prices. Transaction costs are loaded by stamp duty.

Without policy change, building more houses cannot solve this problem of supply but will reduce average occupancy even further. Property taxes are easy to collect and would enforce more efficient utilisation, but are unpopular.

As homeowners are a majority of the electorate, a resolution is unlikely.

Peter Saundby

Llangynidr, Powys


Magna Carta? Nothing to do with us

Is whoever persuaded  David Cameron to emphasise the “Britishness” of Magna Carta (Michael Gove?) unwittingly  part of a subtle plot by the “Yes” campaign to infuriate Scots, who after all have their Declaration of Arbroath as the epitome of their nationality?

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

How private schools damage the country

To Alan Bennett’s elegantly phrased critique of private schools (19 June) one might add that they are so inherently unpatriotic as to be detrimental to the country as a whole.

Separating the offspring of the wealthy from everyone else and according them often undeserved privilege means that positions of influence and power are often occupied by those unfit to hold them. A glance at the current Cabinet bears this out.

In the meantime there has to be a chance that the beleaguered state schools, under the cosh from government and Ofsted, might fail to identify and nurture those who might become distinguished scientists, diplomats, lawyers, creatives: the very people the nation needs if it is to flourish.

The private schools are central to maintaining the class system that for too long has crippled this country.

Professor Michael Rosenthal

Brailes, Warwickshire


As a public school boy living next door to your correspondent Lin Hawkins, formerly of a Cardiff council estate (letter, 20 June), I also read Alan Bennett’s comments. Mr Bennett was right that if we, who received private education, couldn’t realise it was wrong it wasn’t much of an education.

I enjoyed every minute of my schooling at Charterhouse in the early 1970s, and was blessed with many wonderful teachers who adored their subjects. However, it irks me that the school I went to continues to enjoy charitable status, as I cannot, for the life of me, see the common good (unless educating the sons and daughters of Chinese or Russian oligarchs counts).

I believe the standard that schools like Charterhouse need to meet in order to maintain charitable status is too low and that they should be required to demonstrate much more clearly in what way charitable status is justified. If we are talking about unfairness, charitable status enshrines it most wonderfully.

Anthony Lipmann

Ashcott, Somerset


Your correspondent Lin Hawkins seems to share the strange solipsistic idea of another recent correspondent who didn’t mind paying tax spent on education even though he had no children of his own – as though he had never used, directly or indirectly, the services of a doctor, a teacher, a food scientist, a care worker, an electrician, a plumber, or any other valuable professional who needed to be educated.

Education isn’t primarily for the benefit of individual children, it’s for the benefit of all of us – society as a whole. This is both practically and in terms of simply making the country culturally a better place to live. That’s why it’s not just misguided to try to eliminate the best bits of our education system, because we all need and deserve the best; it’s positively wicked: level up, not down.

Dr S R Hills

Milton Keynes


Alan Bennett’s “sermon” expressed my own feelings, not just on private education but on the creeping privatisation of everything in public life.

While no one wants our public institutions to be inefficient and wasteful, their effectiveness should not only be measured in terms of profit and loss. This is to ignore their symbolic significance to the national psyche.

At a time when politicians are finding it difficult to articulate British values they should look no further than the NHS, which embodies the essence of our values.

Remember the swell of pride and recognition felt by most of the population when the NHS was represented in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the Olympic Games? Most of our government just didn’t get it, but the rest of us did.

So reform and refresh our public services, but reject the politicians’ drive to reduce us to consumers. Let us fight back and demand to be treated again as citizens and stakeholders.

Chris Elshaw

Headley Down, Hampshire


The presence of bats can cause significant delays to church restoration projects PA Archive

Last updated at 12:01AM, June 21 2014

Sir, Our Grade I listed parish church was unlucky enough to have a colony of “Grade I listed” lesser horseshoe bats located in the roof void, just before we began one of the most important repair and conservation projects of 2011 (Thunderer, June 17, and letters, June 18, 19 & 20). We were supported by the largest English Heritage grant under the repairs to churches scheme to any church that year and by £84,000 from the World Monuments Fund, and it was sad that the bats then threatened to hold up works and cost us vital funding.

Our English Nature licence required us to install a sound-deadening barrier between the bats’ roost and the main work area. Un- fortunately this barrier was put up a few feet away from its approved position. It had to be moved. Shortly after this time-consuming and costly re-arrangement, the ecologist employed by us to ensure compliance with the licence conditions made a routine visit and discovered that the bats had made an executive decision to relocate to a position where they could watch and hear the builders at work.

The work has since been completed but the bats are still there and breeding happily, while our coffers have been emptied. Surely that money could have been used more constructively. Does Natural England ever have constructive discussions with English Heritage?

Andrew Gilliat

Shobdon, Herefordshire

Sir, Your correspondence reminded me of my time as a country parson with responsibility for several medieval churches. When I was applying to restore one church, one of the bat preservation groups wrote to tell me that I could recognise the presence of bats by “dry deposits on the pews”. I replied that sadly I sometimes recognised my congregation in a similar way. I also learnt that the extra costs that bat preservation leads to can be excessive — but that no financial contribution was forthcoming from those who preferred to keep the messy little mammals in the church rather than preserving the medieval building.

I also recall being rung up by an irate builder working on another medieval church, who exclaimed “God preserve me from bats and archdeacons!” I agreed with him rather too wholeheartedly.

The Rev Christopher Kevill-Davies

London SW4

Sir, Margaret Angus might well be right to suggest that burning incense could deter bats (letter, June 19). Perhaps, however, the real deterrent is the human input needed to light the incense regularly. As regular congregations decline, to be boosted, intermittently, only by seekers of a picturesque wedding and/or a place in a church school for their offspring, the bats might be justified in thinking they have accrued more rights to the building than the people have.

Joanne Aston

Churchwarden (1996-2013), St Mary’s, Over Silton, N Yorks

Sir, There is another way to combat bats in churches. A stuffed owl should do the trick: preferably the eagle owl (Bubo bubo), which has fearsome ear tufts and flashing yellow eyes, and which is called hibou grand duc in French, and uhu in German, on account of its eerie call.

Edward Towne

Rochester, Kent

Sir, Rural Devon can record the provision of school meals some 30 years before the date Professor Ashton suggests (letter, June 19). The design for the village school at Rousdon, near Lyme Regis, built in 1876 by the squire, Sir Henry Peek, incorporated a kitchen, and from the first provided “penny dinners”. A government inspection reported that “the experiment has turned out a great success . . . what strikes one at once . . . is the healthy vigorous look of the children . . . There is a marked contrast between their appearance and those of the children in many of the neighbouring schools”.

Richard Giles

Lympstone, Devon

Sir, Janice Turner (June 19) refers to Hillary Clinton as old at 66. I’m 66 and look after a dozen gardens belonging to people who are in their late eighties and early nineties. That’s old.

Sarah Dixon

Maidenhead, Berks

Sir, I dislike the proposed 5p charge on plastic carrier bags (June 18), but I object more to the wasteful packing that supermarkets make. Should it not be incumbent upon supermarkets to reduce their waste and overpackaging first, to set an example. Then they could be fined more heavily if they did not comply. Many of us do what we can already, but if supermarkets are always getting away with it, then the public’s charge on usage of carrier bags has no meaning.

Polly Rhodes

Lindford, Hants

Sir, Jeremy Rosen may be correct that Carmel College, a Jewish school, had an excellent reputation (letter, June 19); but despite living near enough to send my Jewish children there, I enrolled them instead in a community school, so that they could sit next to an Anglican, play football in the break with a Muslim, do homework with a Hindu and walk home with an atheist.

It benefited them enormously, and meant those other children got to know Jewish ones, and enhanced the social cohesion of all concerned, which should be an important part of the educational system.

Conversely, what sort of message are we giving young minds about an “us-and-them” society if we separate children according to their faith at the school gate?

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

Maidenhead Synagogue, Berks


SIR – The evidence that safe use of bone cement confers clinical advantage for the outcome of surgery after fracture of the hip is overwhelming (“Toxic NHS hip implants blamed for more than 40 deaths”).

After the publication in 2009 of a report by the National Patient Safety Agency, raising concerns about the use of cement in this frail population, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) reviewed the evidence. In 2013, Nice guidance recommended use of cement, owing to improved clinical outcomes and reduced mortality at 30 days.

Britain has the largest national hip-fracture database in the world and publishes results annually on the web, including mortality figures. In a publication this year, it was noted that 30-day mortality was higher in patients receiving uncemented prostheses compared with cemented prostheses.

This study of 65,000 British patients is significantly larger than the surveillance study by Imperial College quoted in your report.

Sir Liam Donaldson, who was Chief Medical Officer from 1990 to 2010, is quoted in your article as stating: “The orthopaedic surgery community seems to have concluded that the benefits of cement outweigh the risks.”

Nationwide data is reviewed through the national hip-fracture database and the results continue to support the Nice recommendations.

Patients undergoing surgery following fracture are often ill and frail, and the profession continues to teach about the details of safe surgery. Patients can be reassured that the NHS does not use toxic implants, and initiatives started by the profession have led to year-on-year reduction in mortality after fractured neck of femur.

Professor Tim Briggs FRCS
President, British Orthopaedic Association

John Skinner FRCS
President, British Hip Society

Tim Chesser FRCS
Chairman, BOA Trauma Group

London WC2

Thatcher’s Oxford

SIR – Charles Moore expresses a very widespread sense of disappointment at the University of Oxford’s snub to Margaret Thatcher when, in 1985, she was denied the honorary degree for which she had been nominated.

Yet that is not the whole story. Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Somerville College was warm and close throughout her adult life. She herself opened the college’s Margaret Thatcher Centre in 1991 and her portrait hangs on its walls.

She kept a portrait of her college tutor, the great Nobel Prize-winner Dorothy Hodgkin (whose politics could not have been much further from Lady Thatcher’s) in her study at 10 Downing Street.

In 1980 she wrote to Somerville from Downing Street that “it was such a privilege to be there. Without that, I should never have been here.” She added: “One last thought – or is it a feeling – I loved those years, I really did.”

We welcome the Said Business School’s decision to honour her, and are proud to have been doing so ourselves for many years.

Dr Alice Prochaska
Principal, Somerville College

NHS false economy

SIR – The NHS needs to look for long-term solutions not short-term fixes if it is to balance its books (“NHS England faces £2 billion funding gap”).

All too often the long-term effects of medical interventions – such as quality and length of life; patients’ speedier return to work; and savings from fewer hospital admissions – are not taken into account.

A Work Foundation report in 2011 found that “a focus on short-term priorities” coupled with “cultural conservatism” had an impact on the uptake of valuable medical technologies. Sometimes delaying intervention proves to cost more to patients, the health system and society.

Barbara Harpham
Medical Technology Group
London SW8

SIR – It might help the NHS to work within its budget if there were fewer top managers paid more than £250,000 each – more than £1 million for four.

Ginny Martin
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

Football-free kicks

SIR – I note that one now has to go to a very upmarket pub to avoid exposure to the World Cup. Perhaps the landlords should capitalise by putting up boards advertising football-free zones.

John Chapman
Skenfrith, Monmouthshire


SIR – Way back in the Fifties, dead insects piled up on the windscreen of our family car (Letters, June 19). So it was fitted with a small plastic shield on the bonnet which either did, or did not, deflect the things. It was marketed as the “Little Bugger”.

Alastair Drew
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Unwelcome ear worm

SIR – On the subject of music played at inappropriate moments (Letters, June 19), I was offered the option of listening to a tape during a brain scan following surgery to remove a tumour. I lay there and listened to “I just can’t get you out of my head”. Luckily, the scan was clear.

Sue Pickard
Epsom Downs, Surrey

British troubles abroad

SIR – The chaos at the Passport Office seems directly related to the decision to end the issuing of UK passports at diplomatic missions overseas without making appropriate arrangements in Britain to deal with the additional demand.

The difference between the backlog this time last year and today is 346,350 – close to the 350,000 applications quoted as being processed from overseas.

Abolishing the helpful overseas passport-issuing centres has left British nationals here in Zimbabwe struggling to find someone with a credit or debit card that can be used for payment in Britain (since Zimbabwean debit cards do not work outside the country and there are no local credit cards), and sending off applications using an expensive courier service.

The processing time for this new system leaves applicants for eight weeks – or much longer at the moment – without the identification needed to deal with law enforcement and government offices.

I am not aware of any consultation before these changes, even though most British nationals are easy to contact through their registration at the embassy or high commission. Those responsible should give serious thought to whether these new arrangements should continue.

Peter Morison
Harare, Zimbabwe

Alex’s social trends

SIR – Nigel and Philip’s wedding took place in a church (Alex, Business, June 19). The Government’s much-vaunted “quadruple lock” was meant to preclude this.

Andrew Nainby
Beccles, Suffolk

End-of-row grumblers

SIR – The discerning sit in the middle theatre seats to share the experience the director gets at rehearsals.

They sit in their seats for as little time as possible because they know that, in many theatres, they’ll be numbed and squashed.

Grumblers, critics and those unsure of their continence sit on the outside, within easy reach of the exit.

Christopher Richardson
London N7

SIR – We always arrive at the theatre and take our central seats early. But we have to keep standing up to allow those from the right to reach seats on the left and those from the left to reach seats on the right.

Jennie Ling
Addlestone, Surrey

I wanted to use my electric screwdriver and realised it needed to be recharged. The next thing I knew was an enormous gush of flames on my workbench, which is in an upstairs room. The heat and conflagration were amazing.

The recharging lead may have been live and touched the wire wool, which had recently been opened.

I managed to stamp out the flames, but even then observed that some of the wire wool was still glowing.

This is a hazard that I think should be better known.

Charles Metcalfe
Oxton, Wirral

Shia militiamen parade through Baghdad Photo: AP Photo/Karim Kadim

7:00AM BST 20 Jun 2014

Comments89 Comments

SIR – Requests to America (supported by Britain) to use air power against Isis should be treated with circumspection, since it would mean taking sides, supporting a Shia regime led by Nouri al-Maliki, the autocratic prime minister, against a Sunni minority.

Many Sunnis in Iraq will be content to side with Isis out of desperation, following their protracted marginalisation by Mr al-Maliki. The Kurdish regional government has received no favours from him either, with Baghdad continuing to obstruct sale of Kurdish oil on the international market.

Nouri al-Maliki is an unreformed sectarian tyrant, who no longer deserves our support. If the West does use air power in support of him, then we will be stuck with him. David Cameron’s assertion that Isis will visit terror on Britain will then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Iraq construct is broken. The West should not waste energy in trying to prevent this. As a preamble to what comes next, the Kurds should be allowed to extricate themselves from the chaos of present-day Iraq, by forming an independent state. The rest of Iraq will doubtless descend into inter-sectarian conflict whether we like it or not.

Peter Williams
Bourton, Dorset

SIR – How can William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, think that now is the time for Iran to help in Iraq, when not so long ago it was not the time for Iran to help in Syria?

Brendan O’Brien
London N21

SIR – With the threat hanging over Britain of British fighters returning from Iraq, the country needs to protect itself by refusing re-entry for these potential killers. Those who seek to harm this nation should forfeit their right to live in our society.

Yet somehow, I feel that the spectre of human-rights law will appear once again to uphold their safe return to Britain.

Barry Wheeler
Hadlow, Kent

SIR – Those of us who have experience training Arab forces will not be surprised at the collapse of the Iraqi army.

What do we say about our political and military leaders who assured us that all was in hand? Will it be Afghanistan next?

Clive Dytor
Woodcote, Oxfordshire

SIR – I am surprised your letters columns are not crammed with expressions of support for Sir Peter Tapsell’s proposal at Prime Minister’s Questions for the commencement of impeachment proceedings against Tony Blair, the former prime minister.

Peter Howard
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – Exactly who is sitting on the Chilcot report, and why can the Prime Minister not give a date for its publication?

Roy Deal
Locks Heath, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The underlying and wholly inequitable principle governing access to healthcare is that the money in your pocket determines what, when, and how you will access care, not the severity of your clinical condition or the urgency of your required treatment or diagnostic tests. Until this principle is changed, poorer people will continue to languish (and die) on waiting lists and trolleys, and others will access treatment and diagnostic tests that they may not even need, with no external scrutiny in private medicine. The Government has demonstrated recently its reluctance to amend legislation in this area as to treat someone based on how sick she is would surely open the floodgates and upset the strange dynamic of a mixed public-private system which favours those with money.

A caring society should start with the principle of free healthcare, paid for through direct taxation, delivered on the basis of clinical need. We pay significant taxes, levies and insurance – far greater that in many other European countries – so why is healthcare so expensive here? The numbers paying health insurance premiums will presumably continue to decrease and insurance companies may decide the market is no longer profitable for their shareholders. So why not start again with a publicly funded system for all paid for by direct taxation; this would mean no more middle men and associated bureaucracy, such as insurance companies, HSE administration for medical cards, administration for patient accounts and debt collection in every hospital, and a host of other “layers”. The well-off could continue to use private hospitals. A vision for healthcare with equity for all, translated into policy and action. Why not? – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon.

Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly’s announcement that those who had their discretionary medical cards cancelled in the probity review were victims of “unintended consequences” is an attempt to trivialise the injustice perpetrated on them and is another example of HSE spin.

Dr Reilly seemed surprised at the extent of the collateral damage of these unintended consequences which induced mental, physical, medical and economic distress on these patients and their families. The fundamental reason for this disgraceful fiasco is that James Reilly, Minister of State Alex White and their officials refused to listen the many voices of patients, doctors and political colleagues who had flagged over the past several months the very obvious consequences of this desperate probity review process.

The probity process went into overdrive since the last budget when the HSE was instructed to save as much money as possible by culling medical card numbers in a desperate attempt to balance the HSE fantasy budget.

Mr White explained the cull by stating “it’s the law”. Dr Reilly explained that there was no change in eligibility criteria and that the culling was legitimate and above board.

It is a sad commentary on our Government that it is the loss of votes in the recent elections rather than health needs of our people which has brought about this reversal in policy. So much for proper health planning.

Dr Reilly and Mr White should reflect on their arrogant inability to listen to sound advice in the short time that they remain in office.

Meanwhile the rest of the health service creaks and groans like a doomed ship. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Niall Collins has shown poor judgment in writing to a judge on behalf of a convicted drug dealer and his statement in defence of his actions doesn’t measure up.

It is the job of the defence solicitor to highlight any and all exceptional circumstances surrounding criminal cases and not members of the Oireachtas.– Yours, etc,


Beverton Rise,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – In pleading to a judge not to impose a custodial sentence on a man convicted of possessing commercial quantities of drugs for sale or supply, Niall Collins TD has compromised his position as justice spokesman for Fianna Fáil.

Mr Collins said he was acting out of “compassion and concern” for the four children of the convicted drug dealer.

Where is Mr Collins’s “compassion and concern” for the victims of drug abuse? Did Mr Collins consider the victims of handbag-snatchers, burglars, counter-jumpers, muggers and a raft of other violent criminals funding the purchase of drugs? – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The headline “What works for women at work” (Magazine, June 14th) amazed and annoyed me. It reminded me of television in the 1970s when mothers of 10 children got a round of applause and then the presenter would ask “And do you work?”

I suppose they were painting their nails like all the women who are rearing families nowadays, instead of caring for relatives, running meals-on-wheels and countless other organisations. Any chance the word “paid” could be inserted before the word “work” next time? – Yours, etc,


Margaret Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I couldn’t help but observe that the 25 powerful women photographed and profiled were photogenic.

Is it the case that as well as grey matter and creativity, good looks can serve a woman well on her way to the top of the ladder? Just wondering. – Yours, etc,


Berwick House,

Whitehall Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Congratulations and good wishes to the women who featured in last Saturday’s Magazine. But, really, how many of us don’t work?

It’s high time that that the powers that be gave the nation the opportunity either to delete article 41.2 of the Constitution or to make a small change to the wording to read as follows – “In particular, the State recognises that by her work within and without the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” If “within and without” is considered archaic, what would be wrong with “inside and outside”? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Tax is the most important, sustainable and predictable source of public finance for almost all countries. If countries are to eradicate poverty and hunger, then they will need to do so by increasing their own public finances – principally through tax revenues. This should be possible.

It is a credit to Ireland’s commitment to its development partners that it is undertaking a review of the way Ireland’s tax system affects developing countries.

Last year’s Sweet Nothings report by ActionAid found that since 2007 a single company’s exploitation of Ireland’s tax treaty with Zambia ensured that it paid “virtually no corporate tax” in Zambia, even though it had generated $123 million in profits from its activity there. In Zambia 45 per cent of children are malnourished and two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day.

Tax-funded education, health and nutrition services are suffering from a crippling lack of revenue in Zambia, even though, like Ireland, ordinary people pay their taxes. The losses from this single company could put an extra 48,000 Zambian children in school every year.

We hope that the outcome of the review of the Irish tax system will inform the ongoing review of Ireland’s outdated tax treaty with Zambia – signed in 1971. – Yours, etc,


ActionAid Zambia,

c/o ActionAid Ireland,

Ivy Exchange,

172 Granby Place,

Parnell Square,

A chara, – Eoin O’Loughlin (June 14th) writes that “most atheists are not overly concerned with the belief (or non-belief) of others in deities”.

A quick look at some atheist websites seems to contradict that statement. Atheist Ireland says it promotes “atheism and reason over superstition and supernaturalism”.

One of the aims of American Atheists Inc is “to develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity”.

Atheist UK says its “ultimate goal is the end of religious faith – the false and irrational belief that God exists – and of religion, the social manifestation of faith”.

An expressed desire to promote and propagate their own beliefs while eradicating opposing ones doesn’t strike me as not being overly concerned with what others believe.

To be fair, I suppose it could be argued that such groups only have a mandate from their membership, and what they have to say is representative of the thinking of those people only.

But if that is the case, I am left wondering as to how Mr O’Loughlin determined what “most atheists” are concerned with? – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Fifa experienced a small reprieve after an endless stream of blunders in recent months through its invention of the “magical vanishing foam” that is being used by referees to control set pieces.

What initially seemed like a comical and ridiculous addition to the official’s arsenal has transpired to work excellently, helping to define the boundary of the wall a set distance from the player.

Surely, given all the controversy surrounding Anthony Nash and the discrepancies in the penalty rule, the GAA could make use of Fifa’s little invention. The foam would allow referees to draw boundaries before which a free or penalty must be struck.

Its use would be even more applicable to Gaelic football, in which players routinely steal yards while taking a free from the hands. – Yours, etc,




Co Tipperary.

Sir, – The colourful flags displayed in many pubs and restaurants for the World Cup are in stark contrast to the disrespectful manner in which our national flag (sadly missing in Brazil) is treated by many public institutions.

Perhaps the tattiest and dirtiest Tricolour on a public building is the one flying over the Dublin City Council offices at Wood Quay. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – As a practicing Catholic, I do not share the shame that Fr Gerard Moloney writes of (“Latest scandal a further blow to reeling institution”, Rite & Reason, June 17th), but I do experience a frustration, which I think other Catholics and faithful hard-working religious and priests experience, at the past ineffective governance and leadership of those in positions of authority in the church who missed the importance of making decisions in a transparent way and based completely on Christian values. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Dublin 16.

A chara, – Stephen Collins (“A week in Irish politics that is best forgotten”, Opinion & Analysis, June 14th) accuses Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald of “trying to make political capital from one of the dark episodes of our past”, after her severe criticism of a system that permitted the Tuam baby deaths.

I would suggest that your columnist reviews Ms McDonald’s work in relation to the Magdalene laundries and the Bethany homes. If he did so, he could never come out with such absolute bunkum concerning her Tuam comments. – Is mise,


Whitehall Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Like Pat O’Brien (June 20th), I have also abandoned any pretensions to be a male model for the same physical reasons for which I withdrew my applications as a possible successor to Daniel Craig and as an entrant to the Red Bull cliff-diving event.

Apart from the above, I have also recently seen instances of inaccurate ratios and percentages being applied in various articles, in this case the piece that mentions male models earning 148 per cent less than female models (“Being a male model is ‘not a glamorous life. It’s super lonely’”, Life and Style, June 18th). If a female model earns €1,000 and a male model earns €100, that is 90 per cent less; using the same base of €1,000, 148 per cent less would mean earnings of minus €480, which is a trifle unlikely. – Yours, etc,


Coundon Court,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – A fit cyclist can comfortably maintain an average speed of 17 to 20 miles per hour. The urban speed limit is 30 miles per hour. A fit pedestrian would average four miles per hour. Cycle tracks have their place for slow and inexperienced cyclists but are not a panacea.

The solution in cases where cyclists, pedestrians and motorists have to mix is not to be found in blunt regulation or a rote espousal of segregation, but rather in the exercise of discretion, personal responsibility and mutual respect by and for all.

Regrettably, these qualities seem to be in short supply on our roads. – Yours, etc,


Kimmage Road West,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – If there is an “unseemly scramble” for ownership of 1916 (“That GPO moment”, Editorial, June 10th), it is being led by Fine Gael Ministers, while the relatives of the 1916 combatants are being ignored and frustrated in efforts to secure guarantees of invitations to various centenary events.

I felt compelled to gate-crash the official commemoration to mark the centenary of the foundation of Cumann na mBan at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin on April 2nd last, as my great-aunt, Jennie Wyse Power, was a founder member and its first president.

A subsequent letter to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht remains unacknowledged and unanswered. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Hugh Oram’s survey of the life and achievements of “the Irish literary superstar” Helen Waddell was informative (An Irishman’s Diary, June 17th).

While The Wandering Scholars and Peter Abelard may seldom be read, in Magherally, where she spent her later years and is buried, she is not forgotten. Her wonderful poem The Mournes continues to inspire and is enjoyed by her many local admirers.   – Yours, etc,


Waringsford Road,



Co Down.

Irish Independent:

Richard Dowling (Irish Independent, June 20) implies that the reparations imposed on Germany after World War I were a cause of the rise of Nazism. While it may be true that Hitler lied about reparations to attract a disillusioned public, the fact is that the reparations themselves did not cause the hyperinflation that affected the Weimar Republic and its eventual replacement by Nazi Germany.

Even if there had been no reparations, Germany still faced major issues as it needed to pay its war debts. Because during the war, taxes were not increased to cover the costs, and after the war there would be even more demand for social services.

Germany also had a trade deficit and poor exchange rate after the war into the 1920s and as the value of the mark rose again, that increased inflation.

In fact, the German economy performed well up to the point that foreign investment dried up following the 1929 Wall Street crash. Even then the Dawes Plan reduced payments through a range of international loans.

Furthermore, focusing on the reparations and inflation doesn’t address the fact that by having its army restricted to 115,000 men the burden on the taxpayer was vastly reduced. While reparations were a burden, they were not such a burden as to jeopardise the economy. It was because the politicians of the Weimar Republic failed to make better use of these opportunities that economic collapse occurred.

Also, if reparations caused hyperinflation, why is it that the inflation predated reparations and that up to 1922 Germany paid hardly any reparations and after 1930 Germany was claiming that reparations were causing deflation? It must also be recalled that the German government paid huge subsidies to the population of the Ruhr for their passive resistance under French occupation and was using increasingly valueless marks to repay foreign debts.

While it’s very tempting for people in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and elsewhere to blame the euro or the IMF or Germany, which has an element of truth, the other side of that argument is that even if there had been no financial crisis these countries’ economies were already too far down a cul de sac that pain was inevitable.

Greece and Italy need to face the reality that the reason their economies are such a mess is in large part because of the internal corruption in which Greeks and Italians partake.

Irish, Spanish and Portuguese people need to face the hard truth that they allowed themselves to be bribed by politicians using unsustainable cheap credit and the Germans, Dutch and Finns, before they patronise others about prudence, might like to reflect why they were quite happy for everyone else to be buying their exports and didn’t seem to care too much about the impact of a credit boom on the rest of the EU.

Certainly, the EU needs to face the reality that in a single currency the burden of debt needs to be centralised, just like the burden is spread evenly across 50 US states, and not placed on each state according to its portion of the national dollar debt. But the above countries also need to come to terms with their own internal failings.





I fully agree with the article ‘Support for e-cigarettes’ (‘Health and Living’) where academics and public health experts called on the World Health Organisation to refrain from “reducing the use” of e-cigarettes ahead of important international negotiations on their regulation later this year.

These 50 experts said e-cigarettes play a significant role in driving down smoking. I couldn’t agree more.

After smoking for nearly 40 years and many failed attempts at trying to give up through patches, chewing gum and cold turkey, nothing worked, I went on e-cigarettes four months ago and so far great success – these are the best thing since sliced bread and they “work”.

My sister is nine months on them, families of five are months on them, nearly everyone I know is on them and the result is we are feeling much healthier.

My breathing has improved already, I have less sinus infections and am much fitter than normal.

It also benefits the community, with a cleaner environment with no passive smoke, and it will crack down on the amount of illegal cigarettes being sold because they won’t be in demand.

However, the governments internationally will lose out from the high taxes paid on cigarettes and tobacco. So will the tobacco industry, as the money now saved by smokers will instead be spent in the local economy on food, clothes,

drink, holidays – all keeping local people in local jobs.

E-cigarettes have been the cure we smokers have been looking for and no ugly health package that Minister for Health James Reilly is proposing

was ever going to work. Instead the e-cigarette should be hailed as a great success.





Having read the letter from David Bradley (Irish Independent, June 19) regarding the Bob Dylan concert in the O2 on Tuesday night, I feel I must put forward an alternative view.

Over the past decade I have been lucky enough to see Dylan play live on several occasions and I must say his performance this time around was as good or better than anything I have previously witnessed.

I accept a working knowledge of his most recent recordings was probably essential as they made up about half the set, but when the classics like ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ were rolled out they were performed with a clarity of voice and subtlety of arrangement that has rarely been present in recent times.

As for his failure to interact with the audience I can only assume Mr Bradley is unfamiliar with seeing Dylan live as I doubt any regular attendees at these concerts would have been expecting a big ‘Hello, Dublin’ or any any type of pat on the back for coming along.





There are four positives that justify a member of the royal family to be present at the 1916 commemoration.

The first is that the king signed the Home Rule Bill in September 1914, which is more or less what we got in the Treaty of 1921.

Second is the king’s speech on the opening of Northern Ireland parliament in June 1921. I quote: “The future lies in the hands of the Irish people themselves. May this historic gathering be the prelude of a day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one parliament or two, as those parliaments may decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.”

This speech was the catalyst for the truce and the treaty debates.

The third reason is the statute of Westminster signed by the king in 1931 and this is the real date of our independence.

The product of a commonwealth conference was the Statute of Westminster; this act confirms the legislative independence of the self-governing dominions of the Commonwealth.

Thanks to the Statute of Westminster, De Valera got rid of the governor, the oath and the voters passed the 1937 Constitution. It was a change of the love of power under the Empire to the power of love in the Commonwealth.

The fourth reason is that Britain and the US protected us from Hitler’s hordes in World War II.



Irish Independent


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