25June2014 Shona

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

ScrabbleIts a draw at 383 despite Mary getting a seven letter word on her first move! perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Stephanie Kwolek – obituary

Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist whose invention of Kevlar revolutionised the construction of bullet-proof vests and saved many lives

Stephanie Kwolek in  2007 wearing gloves made with Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek in 2007 wearing gloves made with Kevlar  Photo: AP

6:20PM BST 24 Jun 2014


Stephanie Kwolek, the American chemist and inventor who has died aged 90, created the first in a family of synthetic polymers that would later be spun together into Kevlar – a lightweight fibre with myriad applications, most famously in the construction of bullet-proof vests.

In the early 1960s the chemical company DuPont was searching for a way to reinforce car tyres without the use of heavy steel belts. At the time there were predictions of an oil shortage, and researchers hoped that a new lightweight-yet-strong breed of tyre would result in more fuel-efficient cars. With a team of chemists called the Pioneering Research Laboratory, Stephanie Kwolek began experimenting on a group of long-chain molecules with a rigid rod-like structure, known as aromatic polyimides.

She discovered that under certain conditions, these polyimides would form liquid crystals in solution. Whereas most polymer solutions are thick, this one was fluid and turbid, almost as though it had been contaminated. The colleague in charge of the spinneret initially refused to operate it on the grounds that it might clog up his equipment. When they persevered, however, the resulting fibre was stiffer and stronger than anything the team had seen before. “That’s when I said ‘aha’”, Stephanie Kwolek later recalled. “I knew then and there it was an important discovery.”

Subsequent testing showed that the polymer, dubbed “Fibre B”, was flame-resistant, about half as dense as fibreglass yet up to five times stronger by weight than steel. In 1971 DuPont patented Kevlar and began to search for possible applications. They came up with more than 200 uses, from reinforcing bicycles and hiking boots to creating spacecraft, bridges, army helmets – and body armour. The DuPont Kevlar Survivors Club, founded in 1987 by police officers who owe their lives to the Kevlar bullet-proof vest, currently has more than 3,100 members.

Stephanie Kwolek at the DuPont Laboratories in Delaware (AP)

Born at New Kensington, Pennsylvania, on July 31 1923, Stephanie Louise Kwolek showed an aptitude for science from a young age – though her early interests lay more in the sphere of biology. Her father, who died when Stephanie was 10, was a keen naturalist who took her on frequent expeditions into the neighbouring woods to collect plants and seeds. From her mother, a talented seamstress, she inherited a love of clothes and sewing, and for a time contemplated a career as a fashion designer.

Dissuaded from this latter ambition by her parents, and lacking the funds to study medicine, she enrolled instead at the women’s college of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 1946. That same year she applied for a temporary job in DuPont’s textiles research department, moving to the Pioneering Research Laboratory in Wilmington, Delaware, four years later.

There she worked on the development of various high-performance synthetic fibres, including Lycra spandex and Nomex (which is used in firefighters’ gloves). The “temporary” job would occupy the next four decades, though it was 15 years before the company recognised her achievements with a promotion. While she would receive 17 patents in all between 1961 and 1986, she made no money from Kevlar, signing over all royalties to DuPont.

Stephanie Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994. At that time she was the fourth woman out of 113 members. Two years later she was presented with the National Medal of Technology, and in 1997 she received the Perkin Medal from the Society of Chemical Industry. She remains the only female employee of DuPont to win the company’s Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement.

Though always quick to credit the team of scientists who developed Kevlar’s practical applications for its success, Stephanie Kwolek took great pride in her legacy at DuPont, where she continued to act as a consultant following retirement in 1986. The living room of her ranch home had a drawer filled with spools of Kevlar.

She was unmarried.

Stephanie Kwolek, born July 31 1923, died June 18 2014


World Cup behind us, the England manager now has the task of turning the latest crop of raw, but undoubtedly talented, young England players into a European force. Their club performances under the expert tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, Arsène Wenger, Roberto Martinez and Mauricio Pochettino have given us hope of another golden generation. These managers have received huge praise for the way they have taken the Premier League to new levels of excitement, technical ability and professionalism. They are all progressive, technical students of the game who preach a positive brand possession, pace and passing football.

That brings me to Roy Hodgson. In any other walk of life it would be insanity to hire a 67-year-old into a £3.5m-a-year job on the basis that he has potential to adapt to a new style of management. At this stage of Hodgson’s career we know what his style is, and that is not going to change. Hodgson has never played the brand of football that now dominates the Premier League, so why do we expect him to be able to replicate it on the international stage in the twilight of his career?

Neither has Hodgson ever demonstrated the man-management or tactical genius of a Jose Mourinho. The key ability of the Special One is that he can take a team of superstar individuals and get them to play “non-starring” roles for the team with complete discipline. Hodgson has had success in the Scandinavian leagues but managing average players is not the same proposition as getting 11 Premier League superstars with egos the size of planets to play the unglamorous roles when required for country.

England have recorded their worst performance in a World Cup since 1958, yet the FA have decided that the man who steered us on to these rocks should continue at the helm. The cynic in me suspects that the main reason is that they are too embarrassed to pay another manager off for dismal failure with a seven-figure sum.
Andrew Maxwell

• A glance at the squad lists in the World Cup shows that the majority of the participating teams have significant numbers of players who play in leagues outside of their home country.

Here they are exposed to different cultures, languages, coaches, playing styles, football grounds, tournaments, playing surfaces, crowds and climates as they travel the world plying their trade. In fact, everything they need to prepare for the cosmopolitan nature of the World Cup. By contrast, all England’s players, bar one, play in England. The exception is Fraser Forster, who plays for Celtic.
Tim Murray
Kendal, Cumbria

• Your front-page headline (We were counting on you. Thanks for nothing, Mario…, 21 June) is an ingenious attempt to make light of another England debacle, but it is also another example of the relentless press focus on individuals, with its implied assumption, however tongue-in-cheek, that Mario Balotelli is personally reponsible for Italy‘s defeat, just as Wayne Rooney has been repeatedly represented as holding the whole fate of England in his own hands. How can anyone survive these pressures?

Football is quintessentially a team game, and players need the freedom to relax into their roles within that framework. The demand of the press for individual stellar performances has altered the whole psychology of English football for the worse.

The events of 1966 support that conclusion: that was a contest where isolated moments of brilliance did indeed make the difference, but they were celebrated as the collective property of the team and the nation, not as immediate benchmarks against which individual players could be subsequently measured and pilloried. The consistent success of the Germans and the Dutch shows what can be done with a different team approach and a healthier press climate.
Philip Barber

• Does Costa Rica have any lessons for us? The whole country – men, women and the smallest child as well as government, civil service and business – is behind the team. During this World Cup, when the team play, all schools are closed, government offices are closed, no one goes to work and the roads are empty. The tiniest village has a football pitch, a changing room and a team.

In the village where I lived for several years (population 250), there was a football pitch (grass) and the owner of the one and only local bar also set up goalposts on the beach and floodlights so that the local children, boys and girls (starting at the age of two), and young people could play from first light (6am) until way past dusk. (I didn’t notice any coaching!)
Simon Stander
Worthing, West Sussex

• John Newsinger says there are no public schoolboys in the England team (Letter, 21 June).  In fact, there are two in the World Cup squad – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Frank Lampard.
Rod Harrington
Taunton, Somerset

• Dominic Fifield repeats the canard that England have just endured their “worst World Cup performance in 60 years” (21 June). Was it really worse than 1974, 1978 and 1994, all years in which England failed to even qualify for the World Cup finals?
John Perry
Chelmsford, Essex

• For many English football fans, their club’s fortunes are far more significant and meaningful than those of the national team. This feeling cannot but be transmitted to the players in the national squad. Many of us care little about the national team and, come mid-August and the new season, will care even less, if that is possible.
Richard Bryant

• What planet does Barney Ronay live on (We should apologise to the players, 23 June)? Sorry, but these guys are earning much more in a week than most of us earn in a year, and they certainly earn more in a year that most people earn in a lifetime. Add to that the fact that most have their incomes paid into offshore accounts so they pay little tax, and we clearly have a cause for mass tears and pity.
Rod White
Uley, Gloucestershire

• After reading Barney Ronay’s comment that “we left the World Cup looking like visitors from the fuddled prewar past”, I glanced at a cartoon from Punch onn 21 March 1945. Two spectators are watching some very mediocre play on the football field with the caption: “I shall be glad when my interest in football gets out of all proportion again.” They needn’t have worried. It did.
Geoff Knights
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Regarding the illicit leak of my conversation with foreign minister Radek Sikorski (Polish MPs ridicule Cameron’s ‘stupid propaganda’ aimed at Eurosceptics, 24 June) about the UK’s intention to renegotiate EU membership terms, two points need to be clarified. First, my reference to “Gypsy beggars” was accompanied by the sign for inverted commas, which I made with both hands. This is a common gesture in Poland, indicating that one is quoting an opinion one does not identify with. I was referring to the racist attitude of some people in a number of EU countries to Roma. Audio recordings inevitably do not capture gestures or mimicry. The second point is that we were discussing a possible attempt by the UK to renegotiate the EU principle of freedom of movement of labour, but not the possible limitation of social benefits in a way that would not discriminate between citizens of different EU countries. That, as I have said on a number of occasions, would be in conformity with EU treaties.
Jacek Rostowski
Former deputy prime minister and finance minister of Poland
Warsaw, Poland

• Some 50,000 of us marched through London last Saturday in protest at this government’s austerity measures. I and several members of my family joined that march from South Wales, where these measures have hit particularly hard. These are already poor communities, and we are now to lose children’s paddling pools, day centres for our older people, local museums, youth centres and more. The bedroom tax and other “welfare reforms” are a nightmare. I read Monday’s Guardian from cover to cover expecting at least one photograph on Saturday’s event, but between the press and the television – not a whisper. It’s as if it didn’t happen. Yet the Guardian on Monday managed to find space for a centre-spread photograph of some men all in red suits marching on the catwalk in Milan. I don’t know what they were marching for. I do know why I and my family were marching.
Mary Winter

• To convince teachers that phonics is only a part of the approach needed to teach reading (Letters, 24 June) I often used to quote Sean Bean.
Bill Bradbury
Bolton, Lancashire

• On sale in any German supermarket – tinned sausages called Knackers (Letters, 24 June).
Andrea Clarkson

Runcorn, Cheshire

• Surely perfect pitch involves the banjo landing on an accordion (Letters, 24 June)?
Will White

Antisemitism is an age-old phenomenon long preceding the emergence of Israel – with the role of churches playing a part – and Noreena Hertz is right to talk of individual responsibility in combatting it (Europe must face up to the new antisemites, 21 June). But it is odd that she is silent on Israel’s own responsibility in fomenting antisemitism and that she castigates leftists for “kneejerk anti-Zionism”.

Israeli policies have often fanned the flames of antisemitism with their obdurate denial of justice to the Palestinians and, indeed, a large part of the radicalisation of Muslims and “the increasingly violent cadres of Islamic extremists”, which she describes as one of the three prongs of antisemitism, can be attributed to Israeli government policies. It is the kneejerk responses of Israel towards the Palestinians that bear a heavy responsibility for antisemitism today. The Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has recently spoken of Israel sitting on a volcano; it behoves individual Jews, wherever they happen to be, to use their influence to change Israel’s policies.
Benedict Birnberg

• It is ironic that Noreena Hertz, in her article about antisemitism, argues that criticism of Israel should be “absent of racial overtones”. It is Israel itself that demands that the Palestinians recognise it as the Jewish state. Why then should one criticise the actions of the Jewish state without using the word “Jewish”? As for calling for criticism of Israel to be “evidence-based”, it’s perhaps unfortunate that her piece appears after a week in which Israel broke every rule of civilised nationhood by retaliating for the kidnapping of three Israeli youths by arresting hundreds of Palestinians against whom there was no evidence, and rearresting former prisoners who had been released under a binding agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History

• Noreena Hertz’s assertion that John Adams’s opera The Death of Klinghoffer “neither condemns nor condones” the killing of the American on board the Achille Lauro is on a par with suggesting that Tosca is ambivalent about the use of torture. Klinghoffer is controversial in the west because it does not use “terrorism” to blank out the tragic and complicated history of which it is the outcome. Hertz is also wrong to imply that, by insisting that we extend our sympathy to both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, Adams used the “prerogative” of the artist to sidestep the issue of antisemitism. The upsurge of xenophobia in Europe is deeply worrying, but cancelling the broadcast of Klinghoffer is to reduce access to a profound work that challenges racism of all kinds.
Dr Martin Kemp
Psychotherapist, UK-Palestine Mental Health Network

• Noreena Hertz declares: “The Death of Klinghoffer neither condemns nor condones the execution of the American Jew Leon Klinghoffer” – an opinion founded presumably upon having seen, or at least heard, the opera. If so, might she not extend the same privilege of making one’s own mind up to those of us deprived of the streaming of the New York Met’s production by the latter’s lamentable and bizarre capitulation to lobbying and censorship?
Stewart Maclennan

Stonehenge: has it been ruined by commercialism?

Stonehenge: has it been ruined by commercialism? Photograph: David Nunuk/All Canada Photos/Corbis

Three thousand cheers for Will Self (Has English Heritage ruined Stonehenge? 21 June). He has stated, in his usual pithy, articulate way, what so many of us are feeling.

When I was a child living on the south coast in the early 1950s we used to visit Stonehenge regularly for picnics. I remember the stones as awe-inspiring giants, but also familiar friends. When we were old enough to have read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, we three sisters would take it in turns to play Tess sleeping on the stones before she is arrested for murder. Did my father give the local farmer sixpence to allow us entry? I was not aware of any money changing hands, and it was a grand day out.

This summer we wanted to take our daughter and her family to Stonehenge as our eight-year-old grandson is obsessed with monolithic sites. They live abroad, and this visit to “ancient Britain” seemed an appropriately exciting treat for their trip home.

The cost would have been £72 for our visit, so we’ve decided not to go. I appreciate that the monument needs to be protected, and that a nominal sum could fairly be charged for the cost of a fence and a few guards, but £72 for a timed visit is clearly preposterous for those who are happy to walk from the perimeter, and simply want to wander round the stones, without buying a Henge in a Snowstorm (they don’t really sell that, do they?) in the shop.
Pamela Thomas

• Reading your editorial (In praise of… listening to Stonehenge, 20 June), I am struck that the resonance to which you refer may be as much a function of the acoustics of shape and scale as of the ringing of the rocks. It may be merely felicitous coincidence but the sarsen circle of Stonehenge shares a diameter of approximately 100ft with the dome of St Paul’s and the Globe theatre.

Or perhaps their builders shared an intuitive understanding about how to create a space that allows relatively large numbers to congregate within an area intimate enough for all to see and hear what’s going on.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Campaigners dressed as a mock clean-up crew called the ‘Greenwash Guerrillas’ hold a banner outside the National Portrait Gallery in London on 22 June 2010, in a protest against BP’s sponsorship of the NPG’s portrait award. Photograph: Akira Suemori/AP

This week sees the National Portrait Gallery celebrating 25 years of sponsorship of its prestigious portrait award by the controversial oil company BP. Twenty-five years ago, people were less clear about the extent of the threat we face in terms of climate change, and there was less understanding about the damaging role oil companies have played both in terms of historic carbon emissions and stymieing efforts to tackle the problem.

As arts practitioners and those working in arts institutions, we feel that the time is right for the cultural sector to be discussing alternatives to income gained from oil sponsorship in the same way that discussions about ending tobacco sponsorship took place more than two decades ago. Figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called for an apartheid-style boycott of fossil fuel companies, explicitly mentioning cultural institutions. Art shouldn’t be used to legitimise the companies that are profiting from the destruction of a safe and habitable climate.
Matthew Herbert (musician), Lucy Lippard (writer & activist), John Keane (artist), Ruth Padel (poet), Caryl Churchill (playwright), Adam Kossoff (artist), Adam Roberts, Aidan Jolly (artist), Alana Jelinek (artist), Alberto Manguel (writer), Alex Brew (artist), Ali Sparror (Cube Microplex), Alice Bell (independent writer), Alison Tickell (Julie’s Bicycle), Amber Hickey (curator), Amy Balkin (artist), Prof Ana Betancour (Urban Planning, Chalmers University of Technology), Andrea Gunther (Artsadmin), Andy Field (writer & theatre maker), Andy Best (media artist & sculptor), Angela Kingston (artist), Anna Best (artist), Anna Galkina (campaigner, Platform), Annie Lloyd (Compass Live Art), Art Not Oil Coalition, Barbara Blades (artist), Basak Ertur (Law Lecturer, Birkbeck College), Beka Econopoulos (artist, Not an Alternative), Ben Eastop (curator, Ideaal Art Projects), Ben Ponto (producer, Amino), Benjamin Mellor (writer & performer), Beth Carruthers (writer, researcher & instructor), Betsey Damon (artist), Beverley Dale (artist), Beverly Naidus (artist & author), Bob Wilson (events curator, Greenpeace), BP Out Of Opera, Brandon Ballengee (artist, McGill University, Montreal), Brett Bloom (Temporary Sevices & Jutland Academy of Art), Brian Holmes (cultural critic), Bridget Mackenzie (cultural consultant), Bruce Gilchrist (artist, London Fieldworks), Camilla Saunders (Footloose Arts), Carolyn Stubbs (artist), Caspar Henderson (writer), Cat Harrison (Artsadmin), Cat Phillips (artist), Dr Cecilia Wee (independent researcher & curator), Charles Thomson (co-founder, The Stuckists), Charlie Kronick (senior climate adviser, Greenpeace), Charlie Fox (Counterproductions), Cherry Smyth (writer & poet), Christian de Sousa (artist), CJ Mitchell (deputy director, Live Art Development Agency), Clare Patey (artist & curator), Clive Adams (co-director, Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World), Dan Harvey (artist), Dan Gretton (writer, Platform), Dr Danielle Child (lecturer, Manchester School of Art), Daro Montag (artist, co-director of Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World), David A Bailey (curator), David Cross (artist), David Hopkinson (Cube Microplex), David Roberts (Fugitive Images), Diana Morant (London Contemporary Art Group), Diane Wittner (artist-activist), Ellie Harrison (artist), Emily Johns (artist), Emma Byron (artist), Emma Hughes (campaigner, Platform), Emma Mahoney (lecturer, National College of Art and Design, Dublin), Farzana Khan (youth arts activist, Platform), Fern Schaffer (artist), Fran Crowe (artist), Francesca Martinez (comedian & artist), Gabriel Anderson (artist, Institute for the Art & Practice of Dissent at Home), Gareth Evans (curator & writer), Garth Cartwright, Gary Anderson (artist), Dr Gavin Grindon (curator), Gill Lloyd (director, Artsadmin), Gloria Dawson (writer), Professor Hans Abbing (University of Amsterdam), Hayley Newman (artist & lecturer), Heather McRobie (editor, Open Democracy), Heather Ackroyd (artist), Heide Fasnacht (independent artist), Helen Moore (ecopoet), Helen Sloan (Director, SCAN), Helen Mirra (artist), Helene Aylon (ecofeminist artist), Isa Suarez (artist), Isa Fremeaux (artist activist), Dr Ivor Davies (BECA), Jaime Gill (visual artist), James Anderson (artist), James Marriott (artist ecologist, Platform), Jane Trowell (art educator, Platform), Jane Lawson (artist), Jason Jones (artist, Not an Alternative), Jay Griffiths (writer), Jem Finer (artist), Jennet Thomas (artist), Jo Joelson (artist, London Fieldworks), John Volynchook (artist), John Hartley (artist & researcher), John Jordan (artist activist), Jon Sack (writer & artist), Jonathan Baxter (artist & curator), Judith Knight (director, Artsadmin), Dr Judy Price (film-maker), Julia Bryan-Wilson (art historian, UC Berkeley), Julia Lee Barclay-Morton (writer, director, artist), Karen Grant, Kate Rich (artist), Kathy Shaw (artist), Kevin Smith (campaigner, Platform), Kooj Chuhan (artist, Virtual Migrants), Lars Kwakkenbos (essayist & dramaturg), Laura McDermott (joint artistic director, Fierce Festival), Leah Borromeo (journalist, film-maker), Lee Callaghan (producer, Amino), Lena Simic (artist), Liberate Tate, Lilli Geissendorfer (theatre general manager), Lisa Fannen, Lisa Wesley (artist), Lise Autogena (artist), Liz Crow (artist), Lois Keidan (director, Live Art Development Agency), Lucy Neal (theatre maker & writer), Lucy Reeves (artist), Dr Loraine Leeson (artist, the cSPACE Trust), Luke Fowler (artist), Professor Malcolm Miles (cultural theory, University of Plymouth, Marc James Leger (cultural theorist), James Lucas (founding editor, Boneshaker Magazine), Marcus Cope (co-founder, Marmite prize for painting), Mark Godber (Artsadmin), Mark McGowan (aka the Artist Taxi Driver), Mark Vallen (painter), Marsha Bradfield (Precarious Workers Brigade), Martin Rowson (satirist), Mary Paterson (writer), Matthias von Hartz (artistic director, Berliner Festspiele, Dr Matt Lodder (University of Essex), Maya Chowdhry (artist, Virtual Migrants), Mazaher Mehrzad (artist), Mel Evans (theatre maker), Michael Curran (artist), Mika Minio-Paluello (campaigner, Platform), Milena Placentile (artist), Molly Conisbee (Bread, Print & Roses), Murial Louveau (singer, performer, composer), Neal Anderson (artist), Neil Callaghan (artist), Nicholas Mirzoeff (New York University), Nick Stewart (artist), Nick Robins (author), Nicola Hood (curator, Amino), Nikki Tomlinson (Artsadmin), Noel Douglas (artist, designer & lecturer), Orla Price (poet, artist), Omar Robert Hamilton (The Mosireen Collective), Peter Cusack (artist), Peter Webber (director), Peter Harrison (writer), Phil England (co-founder, Resonance FM), Phil Maxwell (photographer), Precarious Workers Brigade, Rachel Anderson (producer, Artangel), Rafael Santos (artist, Confluencia), Raoul Martinez (artist), Rick Burgess (WOW petition co-founder), Robert Herbst, Ruppe Koselleck (artist, Ruth Potts (Bread, Print & Roses), Sai Murray (writer, poet, facilitator), Sam Trotman (education producer, Artsadmin), Sarah Shoraka (campaigner, Platform), Science Unstained, Selina Nwulu (writer & poet), Sharon Salazar, Sheila Menon, Shelley Sacks (social sculpture practitioner), Shell Out Sounds, Sid Anderson (artist), Silvia Selitto, Space Hijackers, Sonia Hammond, Stanley Schtinter, Dr Stefan Szczelkun (artist), Prof Stefano Harney (Singapore Management University), Stephen Bottoms (University of Manchester), Stephen Duncombe (author and co-director, Center for Artistic Activism), Steven Eastwood (film-maker), Sue Palmer (artist), Susan Kelly (Goldsmiths College), Susanna Chisholm (operations director, Film & Video Umbrella), Suzanne Treister (artist), Tassos Stevens (Coney), Theodore Price (COBRA RES), Tim Jeeves (artist), TJ Demos (reader, art history, UCL), Tracey Zengeni (artist, Virtual Migrants), Wallace Heim (writer), William Claudius (artist)


Hamish McRae’s column of 18 June is another brilliant analysis by the Independent team. It summarises the major conflicts and most prominent trade deals of recent weeks and brings them into context with the world’s still increasing hunger for fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are at the centre of the conflicts in the Middle East and the Ukrainian-Russian dispute. BP just signed a big deal with China and the day after his column was printed the long-disputed Canadian pipeline pumping oil for China has been approved. According to his analysis we are still relying for more than 85 per cent of our energy on fossil fuels. Nuclear and renewables still play an insignificant part compared to fossil fuels. McRae’s analysis is brilliant but scary. It shows our dependency and our powerlessness to do anything about it.

However, I cannot quite follow his conclusions, that fracking should be seen as a relief. Surely, this will only prolong our dependency, or addiction, I prefer to say, and exacerbates global warming and the pollution of air and water.

Our growth-whatever-the-costs ethics seem to be so deeply enshrined in our thinking and actions that nothing seems to stop our addiction to fossil fuels and nobody dares to question it. The scary weather events in the UK over the last winter and in New York the autumn before all seem to be forgotten or largely ignored, like the protest camps against fracking and indigenous peoples’ demonstrations in Canada.

There is increasing scientific evidence that if we continue with business as usual – and it looks with fracking as if we are even accelerating – the weather events of the last winter will look small compared to what is in store.

It is high time to reconsider our economic growth paradigm. Whatever the cost might be. It might be unusual and at most uncomfortable but still by far better than being exposed to a planet out of balance.

Dr Christoph Zöckler, Senior Adviser and Fellow, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge


Slavery and philanthropy

As a Bristolian, I was saddened by the article on Edward Colston (“Statues of shame”, 23 June). Of course I deplore slavery, but what good is brought about by expunging Colston’s name from the city and taking down his statue?

Condemnation will not prevent the modern trafficking of people. It is better to celebrate the fact that, despite all, he did a great deal for the benefit of citizens. In this he is truly an example.

I wonder to what degree the money of modern philanthropists is utterly free of contamination.

Nick Stanley, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


In the late 1830s a barber named Sutherland rode the three miles from Elgin to Kintrae three times a week to a retired farmer, James Gilzean, who had grown too old to walk into the town to be shaved. The money to pay him came from an account held for Gilzean’s son, Sandy, by the retired Sheriff Substitute of Inverness, James Gilzean’s brother.

The money had been made in Jamaica, probably from the proceeds of a slave gang hired out for seasonal labour on the plantations of the Blue Mountains. The slave economy went as intimately as that into the lives of people all over Britain. It’s hard to hold the likes of Colston, personally or symbolically, uniquely responsible for that level of acceptance and exploitation. Or for that matter, the cities of Bristol or Liverpool.

The historian Richard Pares’s “anger and shame” needs to be felt too. By all of us.

Jim Brennan, West Bromwich, West Midlands


High-speed rail  for the North

One of the biggest benefits of high speed rail is the economic redevelopment opportunities. There is great potential through the connections to the east and west coast main lines for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2, but the challenges around realising these benefits need to be tackled now.

We need to think long and hard about the cities we include in the proposed HS3 linking Manchester and Leeds. Examples could include Liverpool via Warrington, and Preston via Bolton in the west, which will also allow high-speed services to run from London to Liverpool and London to Preston. In addition, from Leeds, the line could be extended to Darlington and Newcastle via York.

To increase the benefit to the North, further assistance would be needed to ensure that northern cities are well prepared for bringing forward infrastructure work. In particular, planning to fast-track the development of employment and local transport infrastructure will be required.

Including these additional cities will significantly improve the ability of the northern cities each side of the Pennines to compete with London as a regional powerhouse.

Jeremy Acklam, Institution of Engineering and Technology London WC2


Extensive effort has been made by our specialists to identify all archaeological features along the route of the North-South rail line. We continue to work with English Heritage, local authorities and others as we develop our programme of surveys and investigations.

We understand the importance of the deserted medieval village remains at Doddershall (“Village fate”, 20 June). Specialists working for HS2 Ltd, including myself, have met members of the Buckinghamshire Archeological Society over the past couple of years and we look forward to our continued dialogue. We have discussed options to limit the effect of the HS2 works around Doddershall with English Heritage, and are working with our engineers to reduce the extent of land required for construction and mitigation at this important site.

Archaeological sites, historic buildings and features have been avoided where possible and work will continue to reduce the impact of construction on our heritage.  Where we do affect archaeological remains, such as those at Doddershall, there will be an extensive programme of archaeological investigations.

HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in the UK. It will also be the biggest series of archaeological investigations ever undertaken in Britain. This is an unrivalled opportunity to advance our understanding of our ancestors and the land they inhabited.

Helen J Glass, Archaeology and Heritage Adviser, HS2 Ltd London SW1


Consider the lilies –and the cats

I note that in her recommendations for scented plants (21 June) Anna Pavord included regal lilies. Gardeners who have cats (their own or visiting) should be aware that all parts of lilies are toxic to cats, the biggest danger being from the pollen, and so ideally should not be grown if cats are around.

Many garden centres are now including warnings about lilies at the point of sale. Could I suggest that any future gardening recommendations involving lilies do the same?

Sandra Bishop, Chigwell, Essex

Right school,  wrong job

Alison Willott (letter, 23 June) is right: some private schools – not all – provide excellent facilities and opportunities. She is somewhat starry-eyed about their products: in 40 years in industry I encountered some good ones, but also a number of useless individuals whose only qualification was that they had been to A Certain School.

Can we take it that Ms Willott is ready to pay more taxes to afford the same excellent facilities and opportunities to state schools?

Peter Metcalfe, Stevenage, Hertfordshire


An unpleasant ‘community’

So Diane Coyle worries about EastEnders not being representative, on the basis that it is “too white” (report, 24 June)? That is the least of the problems with the programme. Quite how so many dysfunctional, aggressive, unpleasant, homicidal and moronic people are meant to form a “community” representative of Britain is truly beyond fantasy.

She should get out more and meet real people (dare I say, north of Watford?)

Nic Siddle, Chester


Attend carefully to what you say

For several years I have been grinding my teeth at the use of the loathsome aberration “attendee” (Errors & Omissions, 21 June). I can’t see what is wrong with “attender”. Someone who attends is an attender, surely.

Mary Richards, East Wellow, Hampshire


No more need for court dress

I note that Rebekah Brooks invested in a demure wardrobe for her trial. Now that it is over, can the charity shops of Chipping Norton expect a windfall?

Anne Thomas, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire


Sir, Elections are won and lost for various reasons, including perceptions of party leaders. Whether Stephen Pollard (Opinion, June 23) is correct in his assessment of the shadow cabinet is arguable, and perhaps the test of their mettle is their willingness to challenge orthodoxy.

The assumption that parties should not change leaders soon before elections is not always borne out by evidence. In 1955, Anthony Eden secured a better majority than might have been achieved by the rather moribund government of his predecessor; more recently John Major narrowly won an election that Margaret Thatcher would probably have lost in 1992, and Michael Howard in 2005 at least did better than his predecessor would have done. Conversely, if those who might have challenged Gordon Brown in 2009 had been bolder, Labour might well have avoided defeat in 2010.

Of course the pressures of spin doctors, media focus on leaders and calls for solidarity make this difficult; the opening of electoral rights to the whole party are a deterrent to urgent action. However it is the parliamentary party that has to work with — and is best able to assess — the leader. The Ukip factor makes 2015 even more unpredictable, but no party can hope to succeed unless the leader is seen, and believed by the electorate, to have the full confidence of his MPs. He who wields the sword has not inherited the crown — yet.

James Hickson

Bewdley, Worcs

Sir, Arrogance and populism should not be classed as virtues in a politician. David Blunkett has been impelled recently to express regret at the deep and irreparable injustices resulting from the indeterminate sentences for public protection which his Criminal Justice Act 2003 obliged judges to impose. He has yet to express regret for his condemnation of civil liberties or for the contempt for the rule of law shown by his repeated attacks on the judiciary.

When Harold Shipman killed himself, Blunkett wondered aloud whether it was too early “to break out a bottle”, and he defended this comment as “speaking the way that the people who elect you feel”. Some of those who, like me, voted for the government of which he was member would, on the contrary, feel ashamed to greet such an event with so crass and unreflective a reaction. A big beast he may be, but a civilised Labour party is surely better off without him.

Richard Oerton

Cannington, Somerset

Sir, Stephen Pollard says that, unlike the days when David Blunkett, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw went into the election alongside Tony Blair, the entire Labour leadership consists of lightweights. Just as when Messrs Blunkett, Brown and Straw went into that election, the Pollards of the day were saying that they were lightweights compared with Harold Wilson’s team of Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey and Tony Crosland.

Lord Lipsey

House of Lords

Sir, Your assertion that Glenda Jackson was a poor transport minister is unfair (leading article, June 21). She was the minister for transport who, together with Sir George Young MP, pushed the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 through parliament against fierce opposition from many vested interests who wanted to scupper it. The act licensed the 58,000 private hire vehicles in London for the first time, making travelling safer for millions of passengers each year.

Robin Hulf

London SE12

Sir, Doubts that the Corpus Christi portrait is Christopher Marlowe have been aired ever since its discovery 62 years ago, but Dr Roberts’s work does not settle the matter in the way your editorial suggests (June 23). Although the strict translation of Aetatis suae 21 is indeed “in his 21st year”, suggesting the sitter was 20, it was not always used in this strict sense in the period. The epitaph of Thomas Hobbes, for example, who died aged 91, bears the inscription Aetatis suae 91. Anne Bradstreet’s poem Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno 1632, Aetatis Suae, 19 makes it clear she was 19, beginning: “Twice ten years old not fully told/ since nature gave me breath”.

We have no way of knowing whether the portrait’s painter was adhering to a strict translation of the Latin phrase, or employing the usage of these examples. Given the levels of literacy in the period, it is very possible that his Latin was not on a par with his artistry.

dr rosalind barber

Goldsmiths, University of London

Sir, I am not surprised that Cartmel is so high up on the New York Times list of places to visit (June 23). Among its many attractions is the 12th-century Cartmel Priory, which is pictured but otherwise ignored in favour of sticky toffee pudding, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a racecourse.

Beauty and spiritual solace can be found in that place. It is well worth a visit.

terence crolley

Maghull, Mersyside

Sir, David Aaronovitch is right that smell is the most evocative of the senses (June 23). Some time ago I read that the purchase of a new eau de cologne on the flight out would make you remember your holiday better than any photo. Even many years later, a random sniff of Acqua di Parma on the Tube immediately brings back memories of Hong Kong; Chanel Egoiste is the aroma of Paris; and Gucci is the smell of Istanbul.

stephen knight

London N14

Sir, The “joke” told by Stephen Hawking (TMS, June 23) about the building of an intelligent computer which is asked the ultimate question “Is there a God?” (Answer: “There is now”) is, as I am sure he would acknowledge, derived from a short story by Fredric Brown, Answer (1954).

alan nisbett

Steyning, W Sussex

Sir, Contrary to your report (June 23), the NHS is awash with money. It is to be regretted that so much is misspent or wasted on ludicrous projects.

My own hospital wasted a six-figure sum on a disastrous IT project. Many surgeons use “once-only”, throwaway theatre equipment despite evidence of considerable cost savings by using reusable ones. Further, the cost is incalculable of “defensive” medical practice and over-investigation, which are the result of an attempt to reduce the medical litigation that costs the NHS Litigation Authority millions of pounds a year.

Finally, politicians must shoulder the responsibility for allowing such enormous sums of public money to be spent on, for example, converting primary care trusts to clinical commissioning groups with no prior evidence of improved efficiency.

No extra money needs to be given to the NHS — we just need to spend what is there wisely.

tcb dehn

(Retired consultant surgeon)

Stratfield Mortimer, Berks

Sir, Richard Bosdet (letter, June 24) makes the common assumption that if only doctors would work at the weekend, like the “nurses, porters, security, etc”, a full seven-day service could be provided, and capital assets could be used more efficiently.

Doctors do work at the weekend, but in reduced numbers, and the same is true of the other staff groups he mentions, in order to maintain an emergency service. In my experience the only staff group largely absent at the weekends was management.

To provide a full service 24/7 requires more staff. Doing it with the current staff base would lead to a reduction in the numbers available during the week. Far from sweating the assets, this would lead to under-utilisation on seven days rather than two, thereby reducing efficiency.

dr bob bury



A master thatcher carrying a new bundle of straw covers the roof of a cottage in Dorset  Photo: © Marc Hill / Alamy

6:58AM BST 24 Jun 2014

Comments55 Comments

SIR – It is common to find specialist builders who have no idea how to restore a property. Those who would be prepared to pass on their knowledge are discouraged by the red tape that requires them to learn how to “work at height”, “use a ladder” or “manually handle building materials”.

The fact that they have been doing the job all their lives cuts no ice.

Catherine Lewis
The Thatching & Building Company
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – Philip Johnston is quite right to praise the Health and Safety at Work Act for its part in reducing workplace deaths and injuries.

The problem lies in the way in which the Act has been implemented. Initially, health and safety officer was a part-time post that was taken on in addition to other duties. Since it became a profession in its own right, with practitioners seeking to justify their positions and salaries, more stringent (and ludicrous) interpretations of the Act have become commonplace.

Jonathan Marshall
Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset

SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is right to say that the United Kingdom needs a “Northern powerhouse” to rival London. Improving transport between northern cities – currently in a woeful state – is welcome.

However, HS3 should be built before HS2. London is already booming and we need to spread the recovery northwards.

The Government argues that HS2 will spread recovery north by bringing Birmingham and Manchester “closer” to London. This is nonsense. If this were true, towns such as Slough, Swindon and Leicester would be thriving, but they are not.

HS2 will simply make commuting into London more palatable from further away and thus widen the gap between North and South. HS3 first is a more sensible strategic option.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – HS2 needs to be taken further, namely into Scotland and into Northern Ireland via a Stranraer to Belfast tunnel under the North Channel.

A one-nation and Unionist agenda are both sides of the same coin.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

In pain but working

SIR – Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho has shown courage in highlighting the extreme levels of pain from which she has suffered in the past 10 years.

Although nowhere near the same scale, I have had chronic pain for 40 years. Chronic pain is something that we both share with about eight million people in Britain. We have had to draw mainly on the private sector to get the right range of multi-disciplinary treatment to help us cope with pain. The NHS is not yet adequately equipped to provide this service, and the pattern of support is very varied in each region.

There is an all-party parliamentary group campaigning for improvements in NHS services to equip those who suffer chronic pain to manage their lives more effectively and to enable them to work.

Lord Luce
London SW1

Sporting heroes

SIR – Britain’s sporting hopes do not rest solely on Andy Murray. Next week Chris Froome will be defending his title in the world’s most gruelling sporting event – the Tour de France.

Lewis Hamilton has demonstrated over and over again that he is the fastest driver in the fastest car in this season’s Formula 1, and but for car problems would be leading the world championship. As it is, he lies second, and represents a real possibility of bringing home the title again.

Then there is Tom Sykes, who looks to be on target to retain his world title in World Superbikes.

These sports may not enjoy the coverage of football and tennis, but let’s not forget these sportsmen, who do such a wonderful job representing our country.

Graham Earl
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Not all right Jack

SIR – Surely the tale of the Union flag being flown upside-down as a distress signal in an emergency is nonsense.

An inverted red or white ensign could be seen from a great distance, but before a potential rescuer could discern an upside-down Union flag, he would have to be so close that he could be hailed by voice.

Ray Cantrell
Colchester, Essex

Charging for GPs

SIR – Demand for GP appointments is rising inexorably. The service will burst at the seams unless some form of demand management is introduced (Letters, June 23). The Austrians have to produce an E111 card with a chip in, which rations their number of consultations. Why not something similar in Britain?

Incidentally, I was pleased to see that Susan Gibbs’s Australian visitors weren’t charged (Letters, June 23). My wife wasn’t charged for hospital treatment in Australia either – there is a reciprocal agreement with Britain.

Dr Stephen Thomas
Sandhurst, Berkshire

SIR – The central political problem with charging for GP appointments is that the largest users are the young, the old and the unemployed. If you charge these groups, then it will be seen as an attack on the least well off. If you don’t, it becomes yet another tax on those who go out to work.

If the latter course is chosen it will not raise a great deal nor free up many appointments. Therefore the only option to consider is the former, with all its political and practical difficulties.

Robert Courteney-Harris
Stone, Staffordshire

Admired shires

SIR – Delighted as I was to see from your pages that bright and colourful old county maps are available online, what is all this about counties “no longer in existence”?

Our ancient counties might not be marked on Ordnance Survey maps at present, but there is nothing in any local government Act suggesting they were ever changed or abolished. Just last year Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, announced the Government’s formal recognition of the existence of the traditional counties.

Rupert Barnes
Croxley Green, Hertfordshire

Child escapees

SIR – Ted Shorter (Letters, June 23) comments upon groups of children wearing high-vis jackets in the House of Commons. All children wear these jackets while on school outings or nursery visits because it enables them to be easily spotted by their handlers if they attempt to break ranks and run off.

Cllr Wendy Brice-Thompson
Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services & Health
Romford, Essex

School milk helps to combat iodine deficiency

SIR – The Government’s decision to offer milk to all pupils in state schools is commendable. As well as calcium, milk is an important source of iodine. There is evidence that mild iodine deficiency is present in some groups in the population. Iodine deficiency has been shown to affect the ability of children to learn and achieve their academic potential. The UK Iodine Group has been formed to ensure adequate iodine nutrition.

Although there is a seasonal variation in iodine concentration in milk (higher in winter than summer), offering milk in schools will go some way towards ensuring that the school population gets enough.

Prof John Lazarus
Chairman, UK Iodine Group
University of Cardiff

Dr Sarah Bath
University of Surrey

Dr Shiao Chan
University of Birmingham

Janis Hickey
British Thyroid Foundation

Prof Kate Jolly
University of Birmingham

Prof Margaret Rayman
University of Surrey

Dr Alex Stewart
Public Health England

Dr Mark Vanderpump
British Thyroid Association

Prof Graham Williams
Imperial College

SIR – As a food intolerance tester, I lost count of the children I tested who were intolerant of milk (not necessarily allergic to it). Many of them were able to improve or resolve digestive, constitutional and even behavioural problems by removing dairy products from their diet.

Balanced nutritional intake from foods such as leafy green vegetables, oranges, pulses, nuts and fish, along with sensible exposure to sunlight for Vitamin D production, should ensure a child has adequate levels of calcium.

Children should be encouraged to eat a wide variety of interesting, tasty food, in order to help them develop and function properly, and not give them stomach ache, asthma, eczema and fatigue.

Polly Thomas
Hadlow, Kent

Preventing Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming President of the European Commission isn’t worth the effort

David Cameron has been attempting to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker but is increasingly resigned to defeat

David Cameron has been attempting to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker but is increasingly resigned to defeat Photo: Bloomberg /PA

7:00AM BST 24 Jun 2014

Comments251 Comments

SIR – Why is David Cameron putting so much effort into trying to prevent Jean-Claude Juncker becoming President of the European Commission? It does not matter who gets the job, the job description will remain the same – more EU integration.

George Brown

SIR – We are extremely concerned at the prospect of Mr Juncker taking over the Commission. Therefore, it is crucial that we have an experienced politician as the United Kingdom’s Commissioner and that we can achieve the reforms we need.

We support Andrew Lansley as the next UK Commissioner to the EU. We need someone acceptable to the Commission, the Parliament and the Union as a whole.

Mr Lansley was also responsible for the 1999 European election campaign, which was the Conservatives’ most successful European election in recent history.

It is vital that, as this is the first time the European Parliament will be electing the Commission, our candidate is not a Eurosceptic. We need someone who shares David Cameron’s views of Europe.

Andrew Lansley is not “going native”. He is a pragmatist who understands the work of the Commission, can manage the issues we face and will be acceptable to most people in the European Union.

Robert Sturdy MEP (Con)
Giles Chichester MEP (Con)
Hardwick, Cambridgeshire

SIR – This dispute is largely the product of the wording of the Lisbon Treaty. One part states that the election of the Commission President is the joint responsibility of the European Parliament and the European Council; another that the European Council shall “propose” a candidate to the parliament for election.

David Cameron was entitled to take seriously the widespread support on the Continent for his speech last year in which he spelled out the need for EU reform. He was also entitled to assume that the selection process would be led by elected leaders of member states, rather than dictated by the largest “political group” in the European Parliament.

The absurd portrayal of Mr Juncker as the champion of pan-European democracy is a cloak for German indecision and the failure of nerve of several EU leaders in the face of the European Parliament’s ambition to replace national democracies with its own ersatz alternative.

Mr Juncker’s appointment would be a bitter blow to the pro-European cause in Britain, bolstering the Outists’ line that the EU is unreformable.

Lord Leach of Fairford
Chairman, Open Europe
London EC3

SIR – Mr Cameron now knows that renegotiation before 2017 is a pipe-dream. What alternative (to ever-closer union) does he now propose?

Roger J Arthur
Pulborough, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – EirGrid’s announcement (“EirGrid set to relaunch regional network upgrade”, Front Page, June 23rd) that it will unveil a potential underground route for their Grid West electricity transmission project between points in Roscommon and Mayo brings to mind Seamus Mallon’s sardonic comment about the Belfast Agreement and slow learners.

It has taken EirGrid more than six years to get to this point. In 2008, it announced a grid reinforcement and interconnector project to run from Meath to Tyrone. When challenged as to why it had not considered the option of putting the cables underground, its response was that it was not technically feasible. It dropped that claim and replaced it with another that said it might be feasible, but the underground option would cost 20 times more. Then they said 12 times more. Then 10 times, then eight, and the last time I checked they had come down to around two to three times more expensive.

Each change in policy at government level and by EirGrid has been linked to the imminence of an election. It took the 2011 general election for the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign to wrest a commitment from the incoming Fine Gael and Labour Government that an independent panel of international experts in electricity transmission would examine feasibility and cost.

The experts unequivocally stated that the underground option was feasible. They reckoned that a direct comparison of the capital cost of overhead to underground favoured overhead by a factor of three. However, they conceded that they had not considered the other indirect costs associated with overhead – such as devaluation of houses and farms – because this issue was beyond their technical competence.

This year’s local and European elections prompted the announcement by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte of an independent panel, chaired by Catherine McGuinness, to oversee a detailed examination by EirGrid of whether it was viable to put the cables underground. It is on foot of the establishment of this panel that EirGrid has made its announcement.

The announcement is, of course, to be welcomed. A similar study will now be carried out for the Grid Link project that is to run from Cork to Kildare. Yet Mr Rabbitte excluded the pylons project that could run across Meath, Monaghan and Cavan from the terms of reference on the basis that the project was “too far advanced”.

The real reason was that, unlike along the other proposed transmission corridors, the Coalition public representatives in the northeast were spineless in their failure to support the people affected by the proposals. Mr Rabbitte responded to where the most political pressure came from, but did no more than that.

The Minister’s exclusion of the northeast from the ambit of the McGuinness review panel is unfair. It means that only two out of the three proposed overhead pylon projects will be independently evaluated – even though all three are similar technically.

It would be supremely ironic if the only area of the country that ended up saddled with new pylons was the northeast, which pioneered and led the campaign to highlight the underground alternative. It is still not too late to amend the review panel’s terms of reference to remedy this injustice. But will it take yet another election – this time a general election sometime prior to March 2016 – to secure fair play for the people of the northeast? – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – Ireland’s position at the top of the “Good Country Index” (“Ireland is the best country in the world, new survey suggests”, June 24th) would be reinforced by including emigration in the measures of a country’s outward contribution to humanity, though whether exporting 87,000 well-educated young people a year should receive an accolade is debatable. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – I can’t help but suspect that there may be a link between something in the psyche of the Irish that is forever seeking external approbation – doing what pleases others rather than what is in their own selfish interests – and getting a high score in these kinds of indices. Frankly, as the bank bailout example shows rather starkly, the Irish need to be more like the Swiss or, indeed, the Danes, who allowed something like 10, albeit smaller, banks simply go to the wall, and thus entirely self-interested, when it counts. – Yours, etc,


Vernon Avenue,

Clontarf, Dublin 3.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole writes: “Most people, religious or non-religious, would now accept that the toxic intertwining of church and State deformed both” (“Church and State role in education intertwined”, Opinion & Analysis, June 24th).

On reading this, I ask myself, how can he know that? Was there an Irish Times survey? But then I remember that Mr O’Toole, a journalist, has only to look into his heart, and he knows what most people think.

On further consideration, what he says is obvious. What right-thinking person would approve of toxic intertwining? Does Mr O’Toole imply that any non-toxic intertwining is grand? Or does he believe that any intertwining is necessarily toxic? Is it just any instance where the church is a partner? There is the background of even stronger intertwining for several centuries, while the Church of Ireland was the established state church.

Consider public-private partnership. It can bring significant benefits as well as significant problems, and not just where the church is a partner. There must be critical assessment. But overall, has church-State partnership been more beneficial or more harmful? Would the people of Ireland have been better off without the input of religious bodies into education, health, welfare, social cohesion, pastoral care, over the past 100 years?

Mr O’Toole is astonished that the Minister for Education would say: “Teachers seeking to maximise their job prospects would be advised to study religious education.” But 94 per cent of people in the 2011 census reported religious affiliation. If most of those choose to have religious education in school, is not what the Minister said perfectly reasonable? Yes, there are problems. Yes, there could be other models. But teachers are there to serve the pupils and their families, not to impose. – Is mise,


Blackthorn Court,

Sandyford, Dublin 16.

Sir, – May I echo the very sensible opinion of former circuit judge Peter Langan (June 24th)? Having surveyed the landscape, I see little grave impropriety in Mr Collins’s act.

It seems the Courts Service in Ireland has not adopted written ethical codes, but our sister jurisdictions in common law have adopted codes which neatly summarise the bedrock principles here. The Code of Conduct for US federal judges states that “a judge shall accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding the right to be heard according to law”.

But the recently published Guide to Judicial Conduct for the UK judiciary states that “the primary responsibility for deciding whether a particular activity or course of conduct is appropriate rests with the individual judge”.

Under these standards, I doubt Mr Collins could be described as “legally interested” in the proceeding in which he intervened. His manoeuvre therefore may not have been totally sound. However, it seems harmless because we presume the judge in this case will know how to act.

Whatever the guiding principles may be, I think the reaction of some commentators is completely over the top given the fact that there is no suggestion that Mr Collins’s letter proceeded from anything but honourable intentions. To impeach a man for such a letter seems to me to wish to banish pleas for mercy – a virtue “twice bless’d” let’s remember – from our justice system. – Yours, etc,



Chao do Loureiro,


Sir, – Dermot Bolger, in his excellent review of David Dickson’s recently published history of Dublin, remarks that “the extraordinary fact is not that so much of Dublin’s heritage was destroyed but that so much survived” (“Cornucopia of Dublin: Dublin – The Making of a Capital City”, Arts & Books, June 21st). Credit for saving so much belongs to those who, from the 1960s onwards, battled to preserve our heritage from the depredations of developers and their friends in government, often against the thrust of public opinion. Dickson writes well about these battles in the concluding pages of his epic book.

One of the most prominent campaigners on behalf of Dublin’s heritage was the late Prof Kevin B Nowlan who, looking back afterwards on that philistine period, observed that “Dublin was being destroyed in the cause of a debased nationalism that saw its Georgian houses as the relics of British rule in Ireland”. As Dickson points out, Nowlan and his associates were once castigated by a particularly obscurantist government minister, Kevin Boland, as a “consortium of belted earls and their ladies and left-wing intellectuals”. For Nowlan, however, conservation was “the embodiment of patriotic effort” – his own words, written in 1986. – Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Reading between the lines, not least in his antipathy to the “new atheists”, it seems Robert Grant hasn’t quite thrown in the towel when it comes to God (“The ‘new atheists’ – shallow and dangerous”, Opinion & Analysis, June 24th). This God, however, would seem to have little to offer most of us, if, like Dr Grant, we do not believe in “heaven or hell, miracles, or the power of prayer”. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – Dr Robert Grant’s critique of “new atheism” smacks of religiocentrism, that is the attribution of characteristics of organised religion to atheism, not least tribalistic tendencies .

An uninformed reader might conclude that “new atheism” is a fully fledged organisation, with a supreme leader or leaders with a strict code of commandments and beliefs that adherents blindly follow. Such a conclusion would be wholly incorrect.

Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Dennett cannot be treated like popes, whose dictats their adherents are instructed to follow. The analogy simply does not hold. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – “Merger of Catholic and Protestant colleges of education may be finalised by 2016” (Home News, May 9th) will have alerted readers to the imminent destruction of the Anglican Christian ethos of Church of Ireland College of Education, Rathmines, and the Catholic Christian ethos of Mater Dei and St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. This is euphemistically called “incorporation”, whereby the three colleges will become a secular institute of education on a single DCU campus by 2016.

This is a takeover of the three denominational colleges by secular DCU. However, it is also an abject capitulation by the governing bodies of the respective colleges to the demands of the Higher Education Authority, the Department of Education and Skills and those who promote a secularist agenda. There has been no consultation, no negotiation and no agreement with those most immediately concerned.

It is stated that the core curriculum will be “denominationally neutral”. This is a blatant contradiction of the essence of Christian education, which requires that the denominational ethos permeates the whole teaching and learning experience. It shows utter contempt for members of staff who have conscientiously upheld the Christian ethos of their college. The employment prospects, in denominational schools, of graduates of “denominationally neutral” education will be seriously diminished. A real concern for diversity would see the maintenance of Christian colleges of education and the provision of secular colleges as required.

As well as the fundamental issue of ethos, other crucially important matters relating to industrial relations, permanence of employment, career prospects, burden of work, redeployment, relocation, forced redundancy and forced retirement have been ignored.

The Mater Dei campus has been described as “surplus to requirements”. No doubt the Church of Ireland campus is similarly viewed. Christians and all others of good will would be well advised to speak up. – Yours, etc,


Coláiste Phádraig,

Droim Conrach,

Duibhlinn 9.

Sir, – Further to Joe McGovern’s letter (June 20th), Dublin City University has had a long-standing relationship with All Hallows College. Since 2008, All Hallows has been a “linked college” of DCU and the university has accredited the college’s degree programmes and provided access to supports such as library and IT services. All Hallows is, however, an independent institution and DCU has no legal, governance or management function with respect to the college. We were very saddened to learn of the recent decision to wind down the college.

Arising from our long-term collegial relationship, we share the college’s concern about the welfare and education of the existing cohort of students. With that in mind, DCU and All Hallows College have established a formal process whereby academic matters relating to the proposed closure of the college will be explored and solutions sought where possible. DCU will seek to support All Hallows College in its endeavours to assist its students at this difficult time. – Yours, etc,


Chief Operations Office,

Dublin City University,

Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

Sir, – Further to Paul Cullen’s “Fresh light cast on our dysfunctional relationship with alcohol” (Home News, June 24th), it is difficult for young people not to drink when everywhere they turn there is the insidious advertising of alcohol. Then we have the mythology of the “hard man” and all the codology embedded in our culture. Isn’t it time for everyone to take a long, hard look at their drinking habits and make an effort to cut down or stop? It’s time to cop ourselves on. – Yours, etc,


Springhill Close,

Rosses Point, Co Sligo.

Sir, – It was sad and somewhat ironic to hear Sir Anthony O’Reilly described by AIB bank as “insolvent” (Front Page, June 24th). Was not this bank itself “insolvent” a few years ago? – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

Sir, – I have read reports of Tony O’Reilly’s current financial difficulties.

I haven’t met or spoken with him for over 20 years. However, I feel impelled to recall his great generosity in 1992 when he personally donated the money that enabled the construction of O’Reilly Hall in University College Dublin in honour of his parents.

This beautiful building still hosts many important academic events, including the graduation ceremonies of thousands of splendid UCD graduates. – Yours, etc,


Rue d’Espagne,



Sir, – I note in your Fine Art and Antiques section (June 21st) that a Wexford All-Ireland hurling medal is expected to raise €5,000 to €7,000 at auction. I can’t resist asking, “Is this a Rackard?” – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – Perhaps Euan MacPherson could explain why Scotland (or indeed the Republic of Ireland) would want to adopt Northern Ireland and its £11 billion (€13.7 billion) annual deficit? – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Irish Independent:

Gerry Conlon’s death brought back memories that were becoming slightly hazy.

When you think of the inhuman incarceration of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, the Maguire Seven, and describing their imprisonment as miscarriages of justice, those words do not seem strong enough to properly express the pain that could not be seen, the hurt that could not be felt, the day after day of mental anguish that culminated in countless lives of innocent prisoners and their wider families being destroyed.

A crime against humanity would be a more appropriate term, and the proper context within which to view these horrific events.

Justice was bent so far backwards that it barely featured in the courtrooms that handed multiple life sentences to innocent people, where being Irish was all the evidence needed for a conviction.

I attended many pickets outside No 10 Downing Street and took part in countless marches in Hyde Park, Kilburn and Holloway Road, calling for the release of innocent victims of so-called British justice and an end to terrorists in British army uniform prowling the six-county countryside.

Using Gerry Conlon as an example, imagine being imprisoned when you’re a happy-go-lucky 21-year-old, and the key being thrown away?

Fast forward 15 years before the truth finally comes out that the evidence against you had been concocted and fabricated by so-called officers of the law.

Now you’re a 35-year-old man, whose father Giuseppe has died in a British prison after being wrongly convicted by the same corrupt justice system.

RIP Gerry, an innocent man.





It ill behoves the press to manipulate the grief of the families of those bombed in Guildford, and the friends and family of Gerry Conlon (Victim’s family enraged over ‘injustice’ comments by Hill, Irish Independent, June 23).

What I do know as a professional working in the UK criminal justice system is that every institution has a mixed bag of abilities in the people it employs. The police put themselves on the line when they enter a house and prevent a woman being struck down by a rampant male, hell bent on serious injury to his partner, his children, the police and sometimes himself.

Different police picked on random Irish men and women rather than actually catching the real culprits in the Irish cases. I do not expect the families of those bombed to see beyond the huge loss they endured.

What I will say, as an impartial observer, is that the bombings were done by hoodlums, with no respect for life. I have no time for the IRA and never will. The Guildford Four were picked on by the state. That I do find difficult.

Different police acted like the discredited Stasi police and infiltrated campaigns such as that for Stephen Lawrence, the murdered black teenager, to discredit those campaigning for justice. I emailed the prosecutor who secured convictions in that racial crime in admiration of her focus. Have the same undercover cops spied on the Hillsborough campaigners in an effort to cover up ineptitude? One can see why justice is hard won.

Paul Hill is most likely railing at the ineptitude. Let the families of those killed in Guildford rail too. Personally, I would allow Paul Hill some slack. Everybody hurts, sometime.





I refer to the article ‘Don’t let ignorance of litter cloud these sunny days’ (Irish Independent, June 21).

I have been fortunate to travel, and every country has a bit of a litter problem. However, Ireland is something else. Advertising the necessity to clean up falls on deaf ears.

I have lived in Ireland for eight years, and every summer the same story about litter appears.

While most Irish find litter embarrassing, especially when tourists are around, they are hesitant to say anything to those who do litter out of fear. It seems people are afraid to say anything because they will likely start a fight. No litter warden or volunteer wants to be beaten up so it just gets ignored.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is how the rubbish is collected. After doing some of my own research, I asked the local council why bins are so few and far between with such a little hole to put rubbish. The response was so people won’t dump their household rubbish.

Those bin tags are useless. There must be a better way the household rubbish can be collected so there can be more bins on the streets to cater for large amounts of rubbish.

I commend Graham Clifford on teaching his son to pick up rubbish, and not walking by. It might not be his, but it shows he has pride in his country and countryside.





Has anyone noticed how the troika are great at looking over other people’s books and stress testing. Who is stress testing the troika’s books?





What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful World Cup, and just when one thought it couldn’t get any better, Ghana vs Germany happens. What a spectacle! And a lot more to come.





Your letter writer in search of a cold cure on Monday is in luck. I have invented a cold cure. One dose, wait 10 days and the cold goes.





While I welcome Dearbhail McDonald’s acknowledgment that women also sexually abuse children and agree with her that Judge Hunt’s sentencing of a female accused sends an important message that “perpetrators, regardless of their gender, will be held to account for their crimes” (Irish Independent, June 24), I query her perhaps unintended recourse to essentialism.

It may be “unconscionable to accept” that women commit such crimes, but surely it is just as unconscionable to accept that men do so particularly given their greater level of perpetration of such crimes.

The fact that men, unlike women, are not “society’s traditional care-givers and nurturers” should not alter that unconscionablity or render the latter more culpable than the former.





Deliberately or otherwise, the media persistently refuse to make the crucial distinction between the church and the church management.

The Christian church is either Christ at work in the world, or it is just one more benevolent association. Church management is made up at present of celibate men, whose job it is to implement Christ’s orders.

Why no women? The record shows this arrogant, lopsided management system is not fit for purpose, has consistently fallen down on the job, aloof, lagging behind the times.

The church should be managed by the best managers, the women.



Irish Independent


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