26June2014 Wendy and Susan
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
ScrabbleI win despite Mary getting a good leadperhaps she will win tomorrow.
Maurice Roe – obituary
Maurice Roe was an SOE agent who found himself billeted in a chateau alongside a German officer
6:45PM BST 25 Jun 2014
Maurice Roe, who has died aged 96, served variously as a Commando, and as an SOE and “Jedburgh” agent; he was awarded a Military Medal in 1945.
On the night of July 8 1944, wearing ill-fitting civilian clothes, Roe was parachuted into France near Pel-et-Der, in the Aube, attached to an SOE French Section Mission which aimed to revive the “Pedlar” circuit in the Marne.
Roe and his team were driven away as soon as they landed, but the Germans reacted quickly and two members of the Resistance were killed. After he had moved to a camp in the woods near Montier-en-Der, there were several skirmishes with the Germans; but Roe, as one of the two wireless operators in the team, was considered too valuable to risk on patrolling.
The local Resistance group lacked leaders and weapons. As a former Commando, Roe instructed the Maquis in guerrilla operations, selected landing strips for the delivery or dispatch of SOE agents and called down air drops.
At Wassy, he was given a billet in the chateau of a prominent local family. There he found that the family, uncertain which side was going to win the war, was hedging its bets by also playing host to a German colonel in charge of guarding the aerodrome at Saint-Dizier. Roe, who spoke good French, was able to pass himself off without problem, and enjoyed having his shoes polished by the colonel’s batman and receiving a salute from the sentry on the gate. Even better, the garden proved large enough for him to make his wireless transmissions without danger of interference.
His cover story, had he been captured, was to claim that he had taken part in the St Nazaire raid but had escaped and gone to ground. In October 1944 he returned to England. He was subsequently awarded an MM.
Herbert Maurice Roe, the son of a shopkeeper, was born on June 4 1917 at Ealing, west London, and educated at Ealing Grammar School. He had ambitions to become a missionary and, after leaving school, studied Philosophy in Belgium and Algeria.
At the outbreak of war he had a clerical job with Cerebos Salt. He had joined the Queen’s Westminsters TA in 1938 and he enlisted with their parent regiment, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
In August 1940 he volunteered for the Special Forces and, after joining 2 Commando, underwent rigorous training in Scotland. In March 1942 he was called to the War Office for an interview and missed the St Nazaire raid. Every man in his section was killed on the operation.
After being posted to the Small Scale Raiding Force, he took part in raids on the coast of France and on the Channel Island of Herm. He then moved to Fawley Court, near Henley-on-Thames, where he trained to become a wireless operator. Only five feet tall, he was known as “Knee-high”. The work was very tedious and, in classes, he use to bawl: “I’m not mad! Lemme out!”
This was followed by a posting to Milton Hall, near Peterborough, where he joined the “Jedburghs”, a band of men prepared to drop into Occupied zones in three-man sabotage teams.
After his return from France in October 1944, Roe was informed that SOE agents were needed in the Far East, and he volunteered to join their Force 136. The voyage to India proved tedious and he used to bellow at regular intervals: “Asia for the Asiatics! Turn the boat round!”
In March 1945 he was dropped into southern Burma. The object of his mission was to recruit Karen tribesmen and train them to harass the retreating Japanese. A post-operations report stated that “he was resourceful, never defeated, popular with the Karens and a continual source of merriment and fun”. He was mentioned in despatches .
Roe was demobilised early in 1946 in the rank of colour sergeant and joined Customs and Excise. He retired to live at Poole in Dorset.
Maurice Roe married, in 1953, Winifred (Wyn) Heyes. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two daughters and three sons.
Maurice Roe, born June 4 1917, died May 6 2014
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (No wonder we whinge: Cutting benefits for young jobless people shows the political class doesn’t care about our votes, 20 June) provided a powerful explanation of why so many young people are disenchanted with parliamentary politics and politicians. But the analysis needs to inform action. The chief reason why older people (like me!) get lots of attention and material benefits from politicians is because we vote. Young people, in large part, don’t vote and don’t even register to vote, so is it any wonder they’re largely ignored? How about changing this in the runup to next year’s general election? A mass voter registration campaign among young people, organised around key issues, could transform the electoral landscape. The Workers’ Educational Association has been making a start on this recently, but it really needs a high-profile coalition of organisations to make a step change. Is anyone up for this?
Worker’s Educational Association ambassador, North East Region
A field of opium poppies. Reuters/Kamran Wazir
I was born over 60 years ago with the congenital disability spina bifida. For the last 56 years I have depended on one daily 5ml dose of an ancient medicine containing tincture of opium to alleviate one of the more distressing effects of this disability and as a result been able to play a very full part in ordinary life. In March, I took my prescription to my usual pharmacist only to be told that it could no longer supply this mixture as a result of a worldwide shortage of opium. This I understood to be a consequence of the failure of the poppy harvest some years ago. Despite extensive inquiries, my husband and I have failed to identify any pharmaceutical company able to supply tincture of opium.
So it’s surprising to read in William Patey’s article (The war on drugs is lost, 25 June) that the Afghans are growing “more opium than ever before”. So what’s really going on? Am I being penalised by costcutting as older remedies are removed from the prescribable drugs list? Since March I have become virtually a prisoner in my home because of this supposed shortage of opium. This necessarily has its effect upon what I can contribute to the economy. So, if cost-cutting is at the root of my difficulty, it is surely yet one more example of a false economy. I would greatly appreciate some clarity about the availability of tincture of opium in this country.
Name and address supplied
• William Patey is right to say, with reference to the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, that politicians must take responsibility for the failure of the prohibition-based drug laws. Our 40-year-old drug laws are outdated, ineffective and enormously costly. That’s why I’ve been speaking out in favour of drug policy reform and why 130,000 people signed my petition demanding a debate and vote in parliament on an evidence-based approach. That evidence shows that prohibition is wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and ruining lives. Today, the global advocacy campaign Support. Don’t Punish is calling on the prime minister to treat drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal one. That’s a first step towards significantly reducing the social and individual harms associated with criminalisation.
The next step must be, as Patey argues, to look at whether regulation would serve us all better than the failed war on drugs waged through prohibition. When this is debated in parliament later this year I hope MPs will follow the evidence: to do otherwise would be a massive disservice to all those lives ruined by current drugs policy, both in Afghanistan and much closer to home.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
The death of Gerry Conlon justifiably motivated Owen Jones to issue a cautionary reminder of how cultural prejudices can blind institutions to the principles of justice and provoke a mood of intolerance (Who will the Gerry Conlons of the future count on?, 23 June). However, he fails to acknowledge that Islam is not only an uncompromisingly proselytising religion it is also a massive political force throughout the world, and evidentially one with a violently extremist wing. While he is correct therefore to cite British military action, foreign policy and civil liberty restrictions as factors in radicalisation, he should also recognise the impact that Islamism itself has on generating a mood of apprehension and insecurity in British society.
• As someone who lived in London at the height of the IRA bombings of the 1970s, I simply don’t recall the “anti-Irish hysteria” of which Owen Jones writes. What I remember is a stoical acceptance that we faced a tragic situation to which an answer must in time be found as indeed, hopefully, it now has. There was certainly no blanket bigotry against the mass of the Irish people. Similarly, I have yet to meet an anti-Muslim hysteric, but once again we face a difficult situation which we must get together to try to resolve. Let’s stop slinging mud at each other and find hope in the Northern Ireland example that a way forward can always be found. Wouldn’t that be a fitting tribute to the likes of Gerry Conlon?
• Owen Jones has made a choice to have any racism trump “sexism” as a cause for concern. The elderly couple I see every morning walking to the park are not dangerous, but he is always 10 paces ahead of her. I doubt the headscarf-wearing girls I see on their way to university are carrying bombs, but their headscarves are saying: “Sharia law dictates I cover my hair,” – and they do. The girls who return to our school strangely changed from their long “summer holidays” in Pakistan, who had been victims of arranged marriages, or FGM had lovely parents in at parents evening. Take away the issue of racism, parity, history etc and ask yourself if we want as a society to accept a form of sexism, of oppression that is virulently subtle and operating under the guise of religious commitment or religious necessity. It’s always amazing to me how issues affecting women are swept under the carpet in any discussion by the left. Despite my agreement with Owen Jones about Conlon and scaremongering, wanting Islam to be good just won’t make it so. To rephrase his title, Who will Owen Jones’s daughters/wife/mother/sisters count on in the future?
Name and address supplied
• Born in London, I was brought up in the 1940s and 50s, so Owen Jones’s article brought me back to my early days when in polite company I might have been: “Brian Fitzpatrick, not Irish!”. It took me until my early 20s to acknowledge my ancestors. A Catholic school education, where to be of Irish descent was normal, had cushioned the blow. We were also taught “correct values”. In the real world you have to make your own way. I did, and the post-second world war “consensus” helped, but we are over two generations on.
• The Guardian has been around for longer than the daguerreotype. Perhaps from its extensive photographic records it can supply a picture of one of those “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs so frequently referred to.
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
A pity that Pamela Thomas did not consider wider responsibilities in her criticism of English Heritage’s treatment of visitors to Stonehenge (Letters, 25 June). The “preposterous” entry fee to pay for “the cost of a fence and a few guards” ensures that English Heritage can pay for the upkeep of numerous other monuments that she and her family could visit free of charge. And while she may hark back to the 1950s when she enjoyed numerous picnics under the stones, she should remember that the damage of trampling feet caused by her generation has meant that access to the site is now denied to the rest of us.
• Your article reminds me of the saying “a prophet is not without honour save in his own country” (Blair’s boys, Weekend, 21 June). The ex-PM is also honoured in Sierra Leone, Ireland and many Middle Eastern countries, and probably others. Only in the UK is he known as Bliar.
Incidentally, I don’t believe George W Bush is similarly vilified in the US despite being the dominant partner in the invasion and being responsible for the mistakes in the aftermath.
• A whole-page article about the failing fortunes of Amazon that doesn’t mention the widespread anger against this mega-corporation over its distasteful history of tax evasion (Is the tide turning against Amazon? 21 June). You can be sure that lots of your readers are already avoiding Amazon like the plague. If you print this letter, many more might be minded to follow suit. It’s called “consumer power”.
• David Cameron must be losing his touch. I have yet to hear him attempt to blame the appointment of Andy Coulson on “the mess we inherited” (Report, 25 June).
W Stephen Gilbert
• A glance at the Guardian’s own data regarding which leagues World Cup footballers play in suggests the opposite to Tim Murray’s conclusion (Letters, 25 June): For instance, the vast bulk of the Germany, Italy, and Spain squads play in their domestic top-flights (France is the only comparable European nation with more than half their squad playing abroad). Further, the huge number of foreign footballers and coaches in the Premier League make it hard to argue England players are not being prepared “for the cosmopolitan nature of the World Cup”.
• Illustrating a piece about Leeds and Manchester with the Angel of the North, about 100 miles away, is like having an article about Coventry accompanied by a picture of the London Eye (How the north could fly, 25 June).
Your editorial about the hacking trial (25 June) claims “there has been precious little discussion about issues of media concentration, ownership and power”. That may be true for mainstream media outlets who have no wish to reflect on the political economy of a media system to which they are intimately tied. However, it is certainly not true for the many campaign groups that have lobbied hard inside and outside parliament to widen the debate about press standards from one focusing on regulation to one that seeks to tackle the concentrated power of whole sections of the British media. Our new report on media ownership, The Elephant in the Room, shows that just three companies control nearly 70% of national daily newspaper circulation, while only five companies dominate some 70% of regional daily circulation. We have a single news provider, Sky, that provides news bulletin for virtually all national and regional radio stations.
One clear lesson of the phone-hacking trial is that there is both an ethical and a structural problem inside our news media. Criminal behaviour inside News International was not the work of “one bad apple”, but the result of a deep-seated conviction inside some of the UK’s top-selling titles that anything goes in order to see off their competitors. They have been relying on their market power and political influence to pre-empt any challenges to this way of doing business. The hacking trial did not simply result in the conviction of one former editor, but demonstrated patterns of corruption and collusion at the highest levels of the British elite. One way to deal with these problems is to introduce ownership limits that will break up some of our largest media organisations. But what politician will be brave enough to argue for this kind of decisive (and popular) action?
Chair, Media Reform Coalition
We are forming the Putting Birmingham School Kids First campaign (Comment, 24 June). It aims to, firstly, ensure any issues of governance within Birmingham schools are fixed, and fixed fast. Secondly, to challenge the false and divisive allegation that this is a problem of systematic radicalisation, extremism or terrorism. The central allegation, that there was an organised plot to radicalise schoolchildren in a handful of Birmingham schools, remains unproven. What the Ofsted reports show is some governance issues in some schools. Communities across Birmingham now believe that their children’s educational potential and wellbeing is being threatened by politicians, who wish to be seen as “tough” on Muslims. The sensationalist references to extremism and national security have been deeply hurtful and damaging. Most importantly, they could prevent us finding the solutions we need to help schoolchildren in Birmingham. We will work with anyone who is willing to put the interests of our children first.
The Muslim community is no different to any other faith community in having a spectrum of opinions, from liberal to conservative, on what is the correct balance between secular and religious values in the provision of education. Instead of debating these issues openly, the government has taken the completely inappropriate approach of linking this with the prevention of terrorism. Workable solutions will not appear overnight. Trust needs to be rebuilt between those who should be working together. Our role in the journey is to provide parents, staff, pupils and governors with a strong forum within which to voice their opinions and explore solutions in a safe and transparent space. We are proud that Birmingham is among the youngest and most multicultural cities in the world and stand by its people in all their diversity.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Tim Brighouse (former education commissioner), Father Oliver Cross, Rev Andi Smith, Salma Yaqoob, Christine Blower, General secretary, NUT, Shabina Bano Oldknow Academy Parents Association, Joy Warmington Brap, Dr Chris Allen Lecturer in social policy, University of Birmingham, Professor Richard Hatcher School of Education, Birmingham City University, Imran Awan Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University, Janet Hoskyns Professor emerita, Former head of school education, Birmingham City University
• We wish to express our opposition to current attempts to use LGBT equality and rights as a tool with which to condemn and make generalisations about Muslims, as well as further perpetuate Islamophobia. We are very concerned that Operation Trojan Horse in Birmingham appears to be targeting Muslim children with insensitive questioning that is not being applied to other children.
We are also deeply concerned that politicians and the media are manipulating equalities legislation for their own purposes by maintaining “a hierarchy of inequality” and attempting to create conflict between the LGBT community and the Muslim community, who are incidentally not mutually exclusive.
We are in favour of Ofsted inspectors using their brief to ensure that schools are carrying out their responsibilities under the Equality Act, but this must be applied fairly, equally and sensitively to children of all faiths and none. Schools need to develop inclusive curricula that celebrate diversity in ways that involve their local communities. This vital work is set back if one part of the community is unfairly typecast as being more homophobic than another. It would seem disingenuous of the Conservative party to assume it now has some moral high ground on the question of LGBT equality and freedom in schools, considering that they were the ones that instigated a generational failure of government towards teenagers, both LGBT and not, through the introduction of section 28.
Many of us work in schools with a high number of Muslim pupils and parents, and have successfully implemented policies to make our schools LGBT friendly. We are also aware that homophobia and transphobia still exist in our schools, colleges and universities, most of which are not overwhelmingly Muslim, and we commit ourselves to work with anyone regardless of their religious persuasion, to educate our young people about the importance of challenging prejudice and celebrating diversity in all walks of life.
Sue Caldwell LGBT teacher, Hackney NUT and statement co-ordinator, Annette Pryce NUT LGBT executive member, Laura Miles LGBT (Further education) UCU national executive, Tony Fenwick CEO LGBT History Month, Alex Kenny Chair of education and equalities NUT executive, Sam Kirk Holder of 2014 Blair Peach equalities award for LGBT work in her school in Bradford, Nick O’Brien Campaigns officer, Norfolk NUT, Chair Norfolk Pride, Pura Aziza UCU north-west regional secretary, Dave Brinson NUT LGBT advisory committee chair 2008-14, Trish Clinton Former NUS LGBT committee, womens place and bi rep, Debs Gwynn Equalities officer NUT St Helens, Richard Barrie Researcher, Carol Buxton Treasurer, Hackney NUT, Nic Nugent Joint equalities officer, Hackney NUT, Juno Roche NUT LGBT advisory committee, Nick Jones NUT LGBT advisory committee, Helen McGuinness Secretary, Norwich and District NUT, Scott Lyons Divisional secretary, Norfolk NUT, Chrissie Smith Joint divisional secretary, Norfolk NUT, Emma Ballard-East Divisional secretary, Halton NUT, Matthew Evans Secondary school science teacher, Joanne Bradley Secondary school behaviour specialist
• In the light of recent issues in Birmingham and elsewhere, I am surprised that more attention has not been paid to plans by Michael Gove to sack thousands of experienced school governors. Maintained schools must reconstitute their governing bodies by next year in line with the new school governance regulations 2014. Thereafter, local authorities will only be able to nominate one governor to each governing body – most now have three or four. Governors will be punished for being LEA nominees and schools deprived of dedicated volunteers. Further evidence that Michael Gove is pursuing his mad scheme to run the whole of the country’s education service from Whitehall.
The grossly expensive phone-hacking trial made one thing abundantly clear: there was no justification for setting up the disturbingly unsatisfactory Leveson inquiry.
This exercise in curbing press freedom was driven by a claim in The Guardian that the News of the World deleted Milly Dowler’s messages, raising false hopes she might be alive. The claim was shown to be groundless, and, as the conviction of Andy Coulson confirms, existing laws against phone hacking are entirely adequate to deal with rogue journalists.
After the imprisonment of three journalists in Egypt, David Cameron had fine words to say about the vital importance of a free press to democracy. Yet to save face after the unwise appointment of Coulson as his director of communications he was prepared to jeopardise 300 years of press freedom from state interference.
Dr John Cameron, St Andrews
You, as an editor, might be able to tell us what the editor of a national newspaper is paid to do.
Is it to know nothing about what your paper prints? Is it never to enquire about the source of a story?
Is it never to ask a reporter: “How on earth did you find this out?”
Is it never to wonder how something personal and private all of a sudden becomes public in print?
Is it to open the newspaper you are in charge of and be as surprised by what you read as are your readers?
Peter Forster, London N4
Long wait for a living wage
I agree with Hamish McRae (25 June) that social media campaigns and voluntary action can have a positive impact on low pay, but he overstates the success.
High-profile cases such as Starbucks’ tax avoidance are a small step forward, as is the Living Wage campaign, which has signed up over 700 forward-thinking companies to date.
But in London there are now more people earning less than a living wage than in 2008, when Boris Johnson became Mayor, promising to promote the voluntary campaign. Only 3 per cent of our big businesses have signed up. I have joined citizens’ groups, a trade union and tweeters in lobbying for John Lewis cleaners to be paid a living wage, but the company has held out for two years now.
We need a mandatory living wage, so everybody can build a life on their income. This should be a legal baseline, leaving us to campaign for other improvements such as more equal pay and jobs that bring more meaning to workers’ lives.
Jenny Jones, Green Party Member of the London Assembly
Fighting both Assad and the Jihadis
Patrick Cockburn is an experienced observer of the Middle East, so it is disappointing that his article of 23 June oversimplifies a complex situation.
When he writes, for example, about the “revolt of the Sunni in Syria” he represents the uprising in Syria as entirely religious or sectarian in nature. This is untrue. Members of all religions joined in the protests against Assad’s government, and all religions are represented today in the Syrian Opposition Coalition. His statement that “the Syrian opposition is dominated by Isis and al-Qa’ida groups” is, again, the opposite of the truth. Our own affiliates the Free Syrian Army – defined by the UN as “Syrian moderate nationalists” – are fighting with some success on two fronts against both the Assad regime and Isis. Their successes would be greater if they had more help from the West.
On 3 June, on this letters page I warned that insufficient support for moderate nationalist rebels in Syria would result in the strengthening of religious extremists, and that the spillover from Syria would soon affect other countries in the region, and maybe Europe. Six days later, Isis took control of Mosul and now Western jihadis are paraded in propaganda videos or on social media urging their former compatriots to join them or, worse, return home with malicious intent.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our fight with Isis is part of a wider struggle and deserves greater support.
Monzer Akbik, Chief of Staff, Office of the President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Istanbul
Football in the gutter again
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer, but why didn’t the referee red card him immediately after his latest stupidity?
When is Fifa going to sort football out? We have seen dives that an Olympic diver would be proud of, more shirt pulling, pushing, grabbing and holding than you will see in any rugby or wrestling match, and Suarez tops it all by biting an opponent again.
Unless the authorities take very strong action the game will get dragged further into the gutter. Stop turning a blind eye to the actions of people who are supposed to be role models for our children.
Dave Croucher, Doncaster
Will Fifa show it has real teeth when dealing with Luis Suarez?
John Payne, Gisleham, Suffolk
Finnish lesson for our schools
Alan Bennett highlights in his article the effects of discrimination in the UK’s education system (19 June). I was surprised that he made no reference to the alternative model as practised in Finland.
Finnish schools continue to outperform schools in the UK and governments have on occasion had to acknowledge this, but they never seem ready to grasp what may be the reasons.
There are no private schools in Finland. This means that the movers and shakers in society put their efforts into ensuring that the state education system is good enough for their children, and therefore for everyone else.
The state regards it as important that there should be a role for education in developing equality in the country. School meals are free to all students and care, guidance and health provisions are school-centred for the relevant age group.
Finnish students do not face testing until their teens. Students pursue their studies without the threat of failure. The state regards co-operation as preferable to competition.
Teachers are very highly regarded. They are all qualified and require five years’ training with a master’s degree. Many of the best students aspire to become teachers. Teachers are trusted to choose the teaching methods and materials best suited to them and their pupils, and not to fit in with the whims of a politician.
A far more fundamental change in our perception of what schools should be is required than any government seems prepared to present.
David Battye, Sheffield
The ‘balance’ shifts to the right
The recent furore over the threat to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is deeply disturbing, and not simply because a Conservative MP has expressed the desire to do her harm and received no more than a mild admonishment from his party leader.
The whole episode has cheapened the issue of violence against women by turning it into a personalised and media-confected cartoon.
The chief problem is the virtual disappearance from public discourse of any sane, leftist account of the world. The major parties are indistinguishably right-wing and news organisations in search of “balance” now look further right for their discussants.
This means, among other things, regular work for a growing cadre of far-right provocateurs, one of whose favourite tricks is to play off the dreary myth of “political correctness”.
Stephen Wagg, Leicester
Less management and more doctors, please
I have just received a letter from my local GP practice informing me that as I am over 75 a named GP has been appointed to have overall responsibility for my care and support. But it adds that this will not stop me seeing my usual GP, in whom I have great confidence. What on earth is the point of this?
This seems to me to be an inept example of micro-managing by Whitehall bureaucrats in adding another layer of administration at a time of a serious financial shortfall, particularly when we need more medical staff, not managers.
T G Harris, Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Consider the lilies as a weapon
Having previously made fruitless attempts to track down plants recommended by gardening experts, I have often wondered whether they bother to check availability beforehand.
In the light of Sandra Bishop’s well-meant warning that lilies are toxic to cats (letter, 25 June), I wonder whether a lily shortage might be anticipated, given the many letters in gardening magazines seeking a means of “discouraging” cats from using gardens? Take heed, garden centres, it may well be a busy weekend.
Rob Hallows, Llanddulas, Conwy
Sir, It is hard to disagree with Radoslaw’s Sikorski’s assessment of our prime minister’s negotiating skills as incompetent (report, June 24). As well as being outmanoeuvred on Europe he was outflanked, out-thought and out-played by Alex Salmond in the negotiations for the Scottish independence referendum. He agreed to the matter being decided by a simple majority when around the world two thirds is usually required for major constitutional change; to votes being granted to 16-year-olds for the first time in UK history; and to the ballot being restricted to people living in Scotland when the matter is of intense interest not only to Scots living south of the Tweed but to all British people.
Mr Cameron could well go down in history as the prime minister who presided over the break-up of the United Kingdom and the isolation of the remaining pieces from Europe. Does he not care? Or, as Mr Sikorski suggests, does he just not get it?
Sir, It is surely unsurprising that Mr Cameron’s position in EU negotiations is not viewed as strong by his EU counterparts. He is less than 11 months from an election. He is also less than three months from the Scottish independence vote, and has promised the home electorate a referendum on the EU after 2015.
All of these elements add up to political uncertainty, and no doubt Mr Cameron’s counterparts in the EU are more than aware of the instability of his negotiating position.
To achieve strong reform measures within the EU, Mr Cameron, or any prime minister in his position, would need a political powerbase founded on a degree of certainty about what the British electorate feel about its own political leader as well as whether it wants to be in the EU.
To try to negotiate long-term reform at present is extraordinarily difficult due less to personality issues at EU level than to electoral powerbases back home.
Sir, Radoslaw Sikorski has missed the point. David Cameron’s stance is not about “playing the system”, subtle negotiations, or not-so-subtle horse-trading. It is specifically to do with saying to the EU “enough is enough”. That no-one understands this, or understands it but is not prepared to acknowledge it, is why Mr Cameron has had to be so aggressive. If he fails, all the more reason to prepare for a proper change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.
Saffron Walden, Essex
Sir, Bravo to Radolaw Sikorski for exposing so incisively the weaknesses of British policy towards the European Union. It seems ultimately self-defeating to press peremptorily for special concessions while at the same time blatantly refusing to accept the EU’s long-term objectives. Patience with Britain among the other members will eventually run out. With Mr Sikorski it seems already to have done so.
If secession is seen as a retreat into limbo, then the only way forward is to demonstrate a genuine commitment to the European Union’s long-term objectives, and to seek temporary assistance in meeting problems that emerge in the process of working towards those objectives. That way Britain might at least enlist some understanding.
Sir, I fear that I may be one of the underused and expensive assets plaguing the NHS (letter, June 24). Perhaps I could be sweated a little more to generate savings. However, along with most of my colleagues I work the maximum number of hours specified by the European working time directive, and many of these hours already cover evenings and weekends. Regardless of rotation, there is a limit to the total number of hours available without an increase in staffing. Most admissions to hospital warrant a period of recuperation. This would negate the economic incentive to perform planned procedures on a weekend when there is inadequate staffing to do so. For the sake of patients, and staff, rest overnight should be the norm unless dealing with acutely unwell people where the benefits outweigh the risks.
Frontline NHS staff are human.
Dr Alexandra Nelson
Sir, DrAndrew Bamji (June 24) raises the crucial point in questioning the degree to which we can check the validity and reliability of much of the research on statins. When I taught research methods, my first question was: “What is the most significant aspect of any piece of research?” The answer I looked for, cynical though it may be, was “Who paid for it?”
Professor John Murrell
Homerton College, Cambridge
Sir, I sympathise with David Cameron losing the signal on his mobile phone as he descends on the road into Polzeath (report, June 24, and letter, June 25). I remember having to wade out into the sea on that stretch of the Cornish coast to take a call from my daughter reporting her A-level results. That was 14 years ago. The network operators could do better.
Sir, Stephen Knight’s letter (June 25) reminds me that when taking A levels in 1970 the rumour that we should wear perfume when revising and then wear the same again when sitting the exam did the rounds. Allegedly the familiar scent would help recall the necessary facts and figures.
Did it work? Well I passed the exams after a fashion, but a whiff of Helena Rubinstein’s “Apple Blossom” transports me straight back to the delights of being a teenager in beautiful, bucolic Warwickshire.
Sir, I couldn’t agree more with Alice Thomson (June 25) that we should stop knocking the young. What a relief that after five years of the “lost” generation we’ve “found” that they’re actually caring, responsible and altruistic. As the head of a charity built on the belief that young people can change the world, I’ve known that all along. In particular, full time volunteer service years, a well-known concept in the United States that is gaining traction here, could both bridge the gap between education and employment and leverage Generation Citizen’s talent and enthusiasm to drive social change. It’s high time we recast our young people as a solution rather than as part of the problem.
Chief executive, City Year UK
Sir, Alice Thomson is right in saying that we are the sandwiched generation — but for most of us the sandwich consists of working and paying taxes for an increasingly thin “filling” of pension (so we don’t have to depend on the state). We have to provide care for our frail elders (badly let down by the state) and a start in life for our youngsters for whom education, jobs and a home of their own are hard-won if not a dream (with negligible help from the state).
Like many sandwiches, it is too big to bite elegantly and often falls apart. The indigestion it causes robs us of time and opportunity for volunteering. Materialistic and self-centred we may be, but we mostly pay our own way. When our volunteering days do arrive I’m sure we will rekindle our teenage idealism, which spurred the social revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s for women and minorities.
SIR – Few countries give greater freedom to manifest religion than this one, and the National Secular Society applauds that (leading article, June 21).
But Lillian Ladele’s case related to her unwillingness to officiate at civil partnerships as a registrar, where she was performing the most public of functions.
We argued in our intervention at the European Court of Human Rights in her case that “an individual’s dignity, sense of worth and full membership of the community is significantly affected by acts of discrimination even if he or she can obtain access to the relevant service elsewhere. One would not say that Rosa Parks would have suffered no significant harm if there had been available to her an alternative bus service in Montgomery, Alabama, which did not impose discriminatory seating arrangements.”
Discrimination should remain unlawful in employment and commercial services.
Keith Porteous Wood
Executive Director, National Secular Society
Cash in the classroom
SIR – Last week, Lord Young, David Cameron’s enterprise adviser, released a report supporting enterprise education in schools through schemes such as the Fiver Challenge, which encourages five to 11-year-olds to make a profit from £5 in a month. The current curriculum fails to challenge pupils to learn by doing in ways that prepare them for the real world. Doing things is a great contrast to traditional passive learning; it helps children realise why they need good English and maths skills.
Chief Executive, Young Enterprise
SIR – Although the majority of people would support some measures to discourage the making of frivolous GP appointments that are not honoured, the proposal to impose a blanket charge of £10 per surgery visit is ridiculous (Letters, June 24). Surgeries demand that patients on long-term treatment have regular check-ups or risk being refused their medication. Are they to be charged for every check-up?
Instead, people who book themselves appointments and then do not turn up should be penalised.
Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire
SIR – Some 45 years ago, my south London junior school class was taken for a day trip to France. We’d all been kitted out with granny-knitted red bobble hats to aid identification (Letters, June 23). Kids being kids, one of the hats was seen floating as the ferry was docking in Boulogne. You can imagine how panicked our teachers were, and later how cross, despite their relief that no pupil had fallen in.
SIR – During a recent rail journey, I read an article about the Virgin space programme. This ambitious project deserves every success and will be a feat of significant engineering achievement.
My faith in the project suffered a setback, however, when none of the toilets in my part of the Virgin train actually worked.
Value of Warfarin
SIR – The announcement by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) that aspirin is ineffective in preventing thrombotic complications of atrial fibrillation is welcome, confirming the widely held views of the medical community. However, the endorsement of the novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs) as medications of first choice in place of warfarin should be questioned.
Published trials demonstrate that there are minimal advantages of the NOACs over warfarin, which has been the mainstay of treatment for more than 70 years. There is little difference in efficacy and side-effects. The main disadvantage of warfarin is the need for blood tests to monitor treatment. However, warfarin has the advantage that the anticoagulant effect can be reversed by the administration of Vitamin K1; there is no antidote yet available for the NOACs.
One further point: the cost of warfarin is £1 per month, whereas dabigatran costs £65.50, and rivaroxaban £52.80.
Despite intensive advertising campaigns promoting the newer medications, a recent debate at the Heart Rhythm Society in America voted in favour of maintaining warfarin as the first line treatment in atrial fibrillation.
It is surely premature at present to recommend, as first-line medication, drugs that have been licensed for three years.
Dr Malcolm Clarke
SIR – I fear that calls for a tax on sugar to combat the “obesity problem” are opening the door to VAT on food. Increased taxation in the past on petrol, alcohol and tobacco did not diminish the related ecological and personal problems associated with these products.
The best form of control is self-control or, for children, parental control.
K L Green
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
SIR – How should I behave when driving behind a car displaying a “Baby on board” sticker? Should I hoot the horn in a congratulatory manner, or drive very close behind in hope of catching a glimpse of the little prince or princess? Should I turn down the radio and drive especially quietly, so as not to disturb the little darling’s rest?
It is time to devise a symmetrical Union flag
SIR – Adair Anderson’s suggestion to make the Union flag symmetrical (Letters, June 23) is very sensible.
Several of the ships in which I sailed during my years as a navigating officer were under the flag of Panama, and we would occasionally have to consult the codebook to confirm that the ensign was the right way up, having been castigated for flying it upside down.
SIR – Surely the simplest way of solving the problem of the Union flag inversion is to remove the counter-changed red cross.
This so-called Saint Patrick’s saltire is a mere heraldic expediency, having been based upon the cross featured in the arms of the FitzGerald family, and I doubt that the Irish would be troubled by its removal.
T M Trelawny Gower
SIR – If Scotland secedes, then the problem of which way up the Union flag should be flown may be solved by the removal of the Saint Andrew’s cross.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – A new design for the Union flag would be an excellent idea. The present dismal splosh of three flags on top of each other is hideous.
Why not quarter the flag we have to incorporate the Welsh dragon? I never understood why Wales should be excluded.
SIR – The Union flag does not need redesigning. Respect and conscientiousness are all that is needed to ensure that it is flown correctly.
The Liturgical Comission is mistaken in its decision to remove references to the Devil from baptism vows
The Devil in a detail from ‘The Last Judgment’ (1431) by Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico) Photo: Bridgeman art library
6:59AM BST 25 Jun 2014
SIR – Why does the Liturgical Commission think that by changing things it will make church services more attractive to people (report, June 21 )?
First it was the Prayer Book, then hymns. Now it seems that Satan is off the agenda.
Is there not enough evil in the world to convince people of Satan’s existence? After all, Jesus believed in Satan. Who knows, perhaps Jesus will be next for the chop.
Rev Michael Wishart
St Athan, Glamorgan
Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct, part of the proposed route for the HS2 high speed rail scheme Photo: PA
7:00AM BST 25 Jun 2014
SIR – At the moment, many trains that run between Leeds and Manchester are made up of just two or three carriages, while the M62 is one of the busiest motorways in Britain. The Chancellor’s proposed HS3 would generate huge numbers of votes for the Tories.
Golcar, West Yorkshire
SIR – The Centre for Cities welcomes the Chancellor’s ambition to reinvigorate the economies of Britain’s big northern cities, which are currently underperforming.
Better infrastructure, innovation and connectivity are critical in order for northern cities to reach their potential. Improved transport will be vital to achieving this. Cities with robust, quick internal and external transport connections are more attractive places to do business, and are better positioned to attract the skilled workers and investment required for growth.
Faster east-west connections would deliver enormous benefits to the North, capitalising on HS2 and unlocking the economic potential of city-regions such as Manchester and Leeds, but would also help to support the national economic recovery.
In the lead-up to the election, it’s great to see the major political parties vying to have the best policies for cities. Now ambition must be matched by sustained action and investment to fulfil the promise of change – not only for the North, but for Britain as a whole.
Chief Executive, Centre for Cities
SIR – There is great potential for cities other than Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to benefit from HS2 via connections to the east and west coast main lines.
In the proposed HS3 linking Manchester and Leeds, we could include Liverpool (via Warrington) and Preston (via Bolton). This would also allow high-speed services to run from London to Liverpool and London to Preston. From Leeds, the line could be extended to Darlington and Newcastle via York.
To increase the project’s benefit to the North, further assistance will be needed to ensure that northern cities are well prepared for bringing forward infrastructure work. Planning will be required in order to accelerate the development of employment and local transport infrastructure.
Including these additional cities will significantly improve the ability of the northern cities on either side of the Pennines to compete with London.
Institution of Engineering and Technology
SIR – HS2 and HS3 sound like chemical formulae. Instead, how about the Midlands and North Railway for HS2 and the Cross-Pennines Railway for HS3?
Rev Robert Weissman
A chara, – The recent impasse between British prime minister David Cameron and EU leaders highlights yet again the diluted democracy that now permeates European politics (“UK to force vote on Juncker appointment”, June 23rd).
Mr Cameron has been attacked by many “pro-EU” politicians for his objection to the coronation of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. They point to the Spitzenkandidaten process and claim that as a result of the European elections, Mr Juncker has been elected.
I did not see Mr Juncker’s face on a single election poster in Ireland, nor did I see his name on the ballot paper, and there was very little discussion during the campaign about the policies of Mr Juncker and of the other candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. While this new “process” was known before the European elections, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of the electorate did not vote for MEPs based on who their party supported for commission president.
Yet a vote for any Fine Gael candidate was deemed to be a vote for Mr Junker. This is the the usual “inferred mandate” politics that the EU engages in.
Mr Cameron’s refusal to bow to Europe over this issue is undoubtedly a result of the increasing anti-EU sentiment in the UK and his domestic political needs, but isn’t that what true democracy is supposed to be – politicians responding to the wishes and sentiments of the citizens that vote for them?
I suppose that an organisation that does not take no for an answer from the people is unlikely to care about true democracy. – Is mise,
Sir, – The jailing of three al-Jazeera journalists and the sentencing in absentia of their colleagues by an Egyptian court represents an attack on the right to freedom of expression that has rightly been universally condemned.
Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy have been sentenced to seven years in jail, while Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional three years for possession of ammunition. Mohamed was in possession of a spent bullet he found on the ground during a protest.
Their journalistic colleagues – Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, Rena Netjes and Sue Turton – have been sentenced to 10 years in absentia.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, Rena Netjes and Sue Turton are journalists. They are not terrorists. They are not criminals.
They are journalists who have been jailed for doing their jobs, convicted without a single shred of evidence by a court which displayed no respect for the principles of justice or fair procedure.
This is a violation of human rights that must be condemned by the international community.
We call on the Egyptian government to have these convictions overturned and to stop locking up journalists.
We also call on the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to help make this case a priority at EU level and at the United Nations.
Journalists and media organisations must be free to pursue their professional duties without intimidation or fear. The imprisonment of these journalists represents an attack on all who demand a free, independent global media. – Yours, etc,
and Current Affairs;
Sir, – It is extraordinary that the decision by Brian Crowley (“Crowley no longer member of FF parliamentary party”, June 24th) to move from one remote grouping in the European Parliament to another should provoke such focus on the precise political credo of these groupings. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, we remain all over the shop with regard to our relationship with politics, political parties and politicians. What on earth must the Europeans make of us as a result? Historically we have had right-wing parties that appeal to poor people, left-wing parties that serve the interests of the rich, and now a whole range of “Independents”. One thing we can be sure about in mainland Europe is that politics is defined in left and right terms. Here, we still talk of “personal” votes, whatever the hell they are. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I have been amused to hear Fianna Fáil members clamouring to the media to reassure us that their party has nothing in common with the far-right populists of the European Conservatives and Reformists group (“Brian Crowley’s MEP group ‘xenophobic’, says FF leader”, June 24th).
Fianna Fáil only joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in 2009, before which it was one of the two leading parties of the now defunct Union for Europe of Nations (UEN). Many of the constituent parties of the latter group were as right wing as they come. Indeed after the implosion of UEN, some of its adherents switched their allegiances to ECR, others to the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, now the furthest-right organised force in the European Parliament.
Up until five years ago Fianna Fáil didn’t seem to have a problem bedding down with the likes of the Danish People’s Party or Italy’s Lega Nord, nor indeed the charmingly named For Fatherland and Freedom, whose members march in Riga every year to commemorate Latvian Waffen-SS veterans. – Yours, etc,
Chapelizod, Dublin 20.
Sir, – Perhaps it would be wise of the Colombian team to emphasise to Señor Suarez before the upcoming game that their midfielder’s name is Carbonero, not Carbonara. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Once bitten, twice shy! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is wonderful to see the genius of professional footballers being celebrated each quadrennial and to give us such indelible memories – from the “Hand of God” to the “Teeth of Jaws”. The beautiful game? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Has Luis Suarez bitten his name into history? – Yours, etc,
Terenure Road East,
Dublin 6 .
Sir, – Little did the subeditor who wrote the headline on the Ken Early piece “Suarez takes another nibble at the English media” (Tuesday, June 24th) know that the footballer would be sinking his teeth into someone so soon and may have bitten off more than he could chew this time! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I heard one radio commentator state that he had a certain level of sympathy for Louis Suarez, after his alleged biting incident. The last thing the game needs at the moment is for TV and radio commentators to offer any level of tacit approval for unsporting behaviour. – Yours, etc,
Grange Park Road,
Sir, – It is brilliant that one of the so-called “PIGS” of Europe is doing so well at the World Cup. Congratulations to Greece on qualification for the knock-out stage. It was great to see the excitement on the faces of the many Greek fans in Brazil. Does Angela Merkel know they’re there? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The recent reports of the Health Research Board (“177,000 dependent drinkers in Ireland”, June 24th) and of the World Health Organisation demonstrate what many of your readers know – we have a genuine health crisis in Ireland due to our excessive and dangerous alcohol consumption. The health services see the dreadful health and human toll of alcohol daily.
Over three-quarters of alcohol in the HRB study was reported consumed in binge drinking sessions, and 20 per cent reported binge drinking in the previous week.
Ireland has been shown to be a world leader in binge drinking of cheap alcohol. In Ireland, we drink too much alcohol, in patterns that are unhealthy and with little regard to consequence.
Increasingly we drink cheap, high-potency alcohol in locations other than the pub.
A huge proportion of our resource-strapped health, social welfare, Garda and justice services are taken up managing the consequences of this excessive alcohol consumption.
There is a need for urgent, focused, and effective action, despite any pleading by the alcohol industry and supermarkets.
The solutions are well recognised. There is substantial international evidence that increasing the cost and reducing the availability of alcohol are effective in reducing dangerous alcohol consumption and the harms associated with alcohol.
Let us as a country take this action and introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol and restrict the off-sales outlets selling alcohol.
It is worth remembering the resistance that was presented in the face of the smoking ban. No doubt the alcohol industry will try to resist change, but I suggest that we need to act urgently nonetheless.
While we debate other strategies to reduce harm from alcohol, let us urgently as a nation turn off the tap of cheap alcohol, which these recent studies have demonstrated is damaging some of the most vulnerable in our society. – Yours, etc,
Prof FRANK MURRAY,
Alcohol Policy Group,
of Physicians of Ireland,
South Frederick Street,
Sir, – Pádraig McCarthy (June 25th) asks “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?”
In a word, yes.
The “education” provided by religious institutes was mired in abuse – physical, emotional and sexual. Children were beaten for having the audacity to write with their left hands, for being “slow”, for anything at all really.
“Social cohesion” meant locking up unmarried mothers. “Welfare” included burying hundreds of innocent babies in unmarked graves. “Pastoral care” included shaming people who were gay, women for having abortions, and couples who divorced. (The Catholic Church really does need to look at its obsession with sex.)
Would Ireland have been a better place without all of this?
Yes, I quite think it would. – Yours, etc,
Sheikh Rashid Road,
Sir, – Pádraig McCarthy runs the risk of taking both himself and Fintan O’Toole far too seriously (“Church and State role in education intertwined”, Opinion & Analysis, June 24th). Fintan, of course, always takes himself too seriously. Although I must admit I do look forward to reading Fintan, if only to discover what I am or ought to be thinking. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Edward Burke (June 24th) states that “he is amazed that the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has decided to extend the search for a new Garda commissioner to foreign nationals”.
We often hear members of the Cabinet talking about Ireland’s world-class this and world-class that, so surely the Minister for Justice has a clear mandate to try and attract the best possible candidates, and, who knows, the successful applicant might be of Irish descent.
The point here is that this person must be capable of not only changing the present culture in the Garda, but also of introducing initiatives and restoring morale. This is a huge task, and might just be too difficult for a home-grown candidate – although not impossible.
I am reminded of the reaction of a certain TD, who upon hearing an “outsider” had been appointed the new regulator at the Central Bank, snorted “we don’t need foreigners telling us how to run our businesses”!
It is that embedded parochial attitude which the Minister of Justice will have to resist. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was surprised to read Euan MacPherson (June 24th) suggesting that a newly independent Scotland (population 5,500,000) might take over running Northern Ireland (population 1,820,000).
The standard of living in Northern Ireland depends absolutely upon the subvention remitted to it by the treasury in London.
Taxes gathered and spent in Northern Ireland are insufficient and it is estimated that a further £5 billion is paid annually by the taxpayers in the rest of the United Kingdom to maintain Northern Ireland. The British government does not publish this kind of detail.
I do not imagine any canny and independently minded Scot would want to have such an expensive piece of real-estate – without any prospect of a payback – in a “United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland”! – Yours, etc.
Sir, – Your Letters Page oozes positivity these days (June 25th). We have the ever-effervescent Dr Sean Alexander Smith advocating from Portugal “twice bless’d” mercy for our justice system and Patrick Masterson from France recalling “thousands of splendid UCD graduates”.
But then both of these letters were dispatched from sunnier climes. Maybe absence – and sunshine – does make the heart grow fonder. – Yours, etc,
‘Lions led by donkeys’; nearly a century on, that’s how the British infantry (including tens of thousands of Irish) and its officer corps are remembered from World War I. I wonder, a century from now, how will we and the current Irish political leadership be remembered?
Cast your mind back two years to June 28, 2012 and yet another eurozone summit meeting and the short statement issued on the separation of bank debt from sovereign debt, which included: “The Eurogroup will examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme.”
Remember Enda Kenny‘s ‘seismic shift’ boast? – “I’m a hard grafter and, as some of them found out, they shouldn’t tangle with me too often.” Remember Eamon Gilmore‘s ‘game-changer’ bombast? Two years on, what has shifted, what has changed?
For starters, we’ve had Michael Noonan‘s acclaimed promissory notes deal. Notes Michael himself described in an RTE interview as “illegal, totally” but which now sees that €25bn of disputed debt transformed to sovereign bonds.
The first of those bonds is sold this year, €0.5bn. That money is then destroyed by the Irish Central Bank; €0.5bn a year for the next five years, borrowed and burned, then €1bn a year for the following five years, €2bn a year for eight years and finally, in 2032, the last bond, €1.5bn.
A total of €25bn that had been used at the behest of the EC/ECB to bail out two bust banks, now borrowed by this broke and broken country and burned at the behest of that same EC/ECB, all set up by a compliant, obeisant Kenny/Gilmore Government without even a murmur of protest. They didn’t even ask, nevermind confront.
Then there’s the vaunted ESM from which we were to receive the billions refund of the ‘legacy’ bank debt arising from the June 2012 statement. The fund has been established and Ireland has already contributed a €1bn share to that, which, of course, we also had to borrow and on which we are now paying interest. What have we received? How much ‘legacy’ debt relief? Not a cent.
The actual legacy of this Government, the legacy this generation leaves, is debt piled on debt, 40 years of debt-slavery to our new European masters, all uncontested.
DIARMUID O’FLYNN, BALLYHEA, CO CORK
A GAME TO GET YOUR TEETH INTO
Brian McDevitt is bowled over with the World Cup; “The Beautiful Game,” (Irish Independent, June 25). So am I. Yes indeed, it is a brilliant tournament. Greece looked dead and buried until a penalty in the dying seconds. Striker Georgios Samaras did the business.
Leaving aside the fact that a particular player in a game on at the same time obviously had an empty stomach, this is truly a memorable tournament.
TOMMY RODDY, SALTHILL, GALWAY
URUGUAY ARE LEAVING THEIR MARK
Italian footballers have a reputation for being soft, for making a meal out of tackles. Perhaps that legacy can be passed on to Uruguay. The Azzurris are starting to look like a hard-bitten side.
T G GAVIN, DUBLIN 4
LET’S STOP BEATING OURSELVES UP
With the halcyon boom times behind us, grim obsessing over our ‘shameful’ past seems to be the perfect new zeitgeist.
Swapping private confession with a priest for secular public confession in print and radio, our feelings of guilt don’t seem to change. We combine this with an insular tendency to assume that everything good or bad that happens here is unique, even if we should know rationally it is not.
One recent letter writer claims “we have no excuse as a society” for the scandals of the past. Actually, we have two – we are not that past society and we did not live in those circumstances.
Another correspondent made the usual stock-in-trade denunciations of our “violent roots” – 1916 etc – while engaging in anguished hand-wringing about the need for “a national debate on where Ireland is heading”.
Those ‘violent roots’ stretch back to Tudor conquest, the Normans and beyond and similar can be found in any country one cares to name. How ironic, to complain about the ‘rudderless’ state of our nation while castigating the time when young men and women, facing down threats, took the destiny of this country in their very hands.
On one point I agree – as long as we have to put up with listening to endless lectures on our ‘shamefulness’ or ‘worthlessness’ as a people, it is unlikely we will see much progress.
NICK FOLLEY, CARRIGALINE, CO CORK
SUPPORT EGYPT’S JOURNALISTS
It is indeed a sad day when journalism is considered a crime. But this is little consolation for the three Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have been jailed for seven years on terror-related charges.
The Obama administration has pleaded with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release the journalists but he said he would not interfere with the judicial ruling.
This means that the only option left for the journalists is a lengthy appeal process which may not begin until October.
The verdict has resulted in international condemnation of the Egyptian government’s policy of imprisoning opposing voices.
DAIRE BURKE-CARROLL, KILTIMAGH, CO MAYO
GAA MUST MOVE ON TIMING
Dermot Ryan (Irish Independent, June 24) rightly extols the outcome of the Kilkenny v Galway game on Sunday.
However, the conclusion of the game on RTE witnessed calls by some who should know better for the GAA rules to be effectively set aside in the interest of setting up a replay.
After Galway had equalised the commentator called for the ref to “blow it up”.
Then one of the studio analysts stated that the referee was right to “blow it up” as “neither side deserved to lose”.
It is really about time that the GAA moves to arrange that time-keeping in inter-county games is taken out of the hands of the referee and managed off the field, as has been shown to work in ladies’ football.
PAUL HARRINGTON, NAVAN, CO MEATH
TEACHERS EDUCATED TOGETHER
In your edition of Saturday, June 21, the Irish Independent ran an article celebrated the new structure of teacher training with the following opening paragraph: “Trainee primary teachers from the Catholic and Protestant traditions are to be educated together for the first time.”
In the interests of historical accuracy, that statement is untrue.
Your correspondent may, understandably, be unfamiliar with education developments in the 1970s, but I wish to put on the record that Trinity College School of Education provided a degree course, the BEd, for three external colleges of education – the Church of Ireland College of Education, Colaiste Mhuire Marino and the Froebel College Blackrock – and it did this from 1974 onwards.
I may add that Trinity also provided from the mid-60s teacher training for post-primary teachers on an admissions policy devoid of any criteria based on denominational allegiance. Long may such policies persist in Irish education.
SEAMAS O BUACHALLA, KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN