27June2014 Pottering

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.


Leo Bretholz, who has died aged 93, was a Holocaust survivor who made a daring escape en route to Auschwitz; having settled in America in later life, he became a prominent campaigner in demanding reparations from the French rail company SNCF for its role in the transportation of some 76,000 European Jews and other prisoners to the French-German border, and thence to concentration camps.

Having fled his native Vienna aged 17, by the autumn of 1942 Bretholz found himself in the Drancy internment camp in a suburb of Paris. All his belongings were taken and he was placed on a cattle car alongside some 50 fellow prisoners, in a 20-car convoy bound for Auschwitz.

In his 1998 memoir, Leap into Darkness, Bretholz recounted the ordeal that followed. For the entire duration of the journey, each passenger received a triangle of cheese and a single piece of bread. There was no water, no room to lie down, and one bucket for human waste, which swiftly overflowed.

As the journey entered its second day, Bretholz and a friend began to plot their escape. Soaking their jumpers in excrement for better traction, they were able to prise the window bars far enough apart for them to slip through. The pair made their way to a nearby village, having first torn the yellow stars from their jackets to minimise the risk of detection. The local priest gave them shelter, and two days later they arrived back in Paris, where Bretholz’s aunt provided them with false identity cards.

The book went on to describe how Bretholz’s papers were confiscated by the local police in unoccupied France, and he was sentenced to a year in jail for leaving his assigned residence. On his release he joined the Resistance in Limoges, under the nom de guerre of Henri Lefevre. After D-Day he worked with fellow refugees on the Jewish Committee for Social Assistance and Reconstruction, before receiving his immigration papers and settling with another aunt in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bretholz did not learn of his mother’s and sisters’ deaths until 1962. Later he discovered that his own name was on the record of those who had died on the train convoy. “I am listed as one of the ghosts of Auschwitz,” he wrote, and as the years passed he became a vociferous spokesman for the rights of fellow Holocaust survivors. Increasingly he directed his anger towards SNCF.

The company had argued that its ownership by a foreign government ensured immunity from American legal action, but in 2011 Bretholz successfully testified on behalf of the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice in its campaign to prevent the French rail company from securing a lucrative contract with the American commuter rail network MARC train cars until it admitted its role in wartime atrocities.

In his final weeks he had started an online petition demanding that SNCF be required to compensate surviving Holocaust victims before its subsidiary Keolis could land a $6 billion expansion contract . “All I want is a declaration — a forceful declaration — of: ‘We did something very wrong, something inhumane,’” he said. “I want justice to be done.”

The eldest child and only son of Polish immigrants, Leo Bretholz was born in Vienna on March 6 1921. His father, a tailor, died when Leo was nine.

The Austrian Anschluss in March 1938 marked the beginning of seven years on the run, and Bretholz took the train to Trier in Germany before crossing into Luxembourg. Relatives in Baltimore prepared affidavits in the hope of securing him an exit visa, but the attack on Pearl Harbor stalled all official immigration processes. Returned to a refugee camp in France, he was subsequently transferred to Drancy.

Despite the atrocities that he recounted from his years of extended flight, Bretholz also held vivid memories of small human kindnesses and acts of bravery. One of the most moving passages in his memoir describes an elderly fellow passenger on the train to Auschwitz who urged on the pair in their escape attempt despite the fear of discovery and mass retribution, saying: “Who else will tell the story?”

On another occasion, Bretholz said, he was admitted to a Limoges Catholic hospital while living as Henri Lefevre. He was in agony, suffering from a strangulated hernia. Certain that the staff would discover his Jewish identity, he was promised by the ward sister that he would be safe. Bretholz eventually traced her to southern France, and wrote to her in 1997 to express his thanks.

Arriving in Maryland in 1947, Bretholz worked as a salesman for a textile firm and later took over the management of two book stores.

He married, in 1952, Florine Cohen. She predeceased him in 2009, and he is survived by three children.

Leo Bretholz, born March 6 1921, died March 8 2014


While Andy Coulson has rightly been condemned for his appalling behaviour, surely the real culprit is Rupert Murdoch and the pressure he puts on his empire to generate results, giving him yet more money (Coulson: the criminal who had Cameron’s confidence, 25 June)?

The pressure on these individuals came from Murdoch and the relentless demands for yet more revelations and probing into the tiny crevices of people’s lives, all to generate yet more lurid headlines and sell more newspapers. It can only have generated an atmosphere where anything went as long as it makes money. Yet Murdoch walks free, still running his appalling media empire, from the foulness of Fox TV in the US, to the continuing nastiness of the Sun and the Sun on Sunday, nicely coining in the money which the NoW used to get.

Media ownership, as in all areas of capitalist life, tends to get concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. We haven’t progressed much since the days of William Randolph Hearst. The lies of his press empire caused a war between the US and Spain in 1898, and who knows how much of the gung-ho attitudes of Britain’s rightwing press lay behind the decision to invade Iraq and recent pressure to “do something” about Syria? The new press rules, still being largely ignored, do not deal with the real problem: the dominance of one or two companies in this most vital area of public life.

Multiple media ownership by Rupert Murdoch must go, along with Lord Rothermere and all the others, including the Russian oligarchs who have bought their way into influencing public opinion to the detriment of real debate about the key issues in our world: the need for fairness and decent treatment for all people in our society, not just the rich and powerful.
David Reed

• Thank you, Nick Davies (Trial over – but a toxic cocktail of power remains, 26 June). At last we have some degree of clarity as to what really went on at the Old Bailey over those tortuous months. But the picture with which we are left at the end of this forensic account of human frailty goes far beyond the walls of that court. And there are few, if any, of us who do not in some way share the responsibility for it. It is, above all, a picture of a society which has lost its way, and which today recognises only the fruits of materialism as a purpose to which we can aspire.

Those who lied in the course of the trial will have to live with their consciences. But what they did would not have happened without a public whose appetite for this sort of journalism created the market by which they were seduced. Add a political system which has allowed itself to become dependent on the purveyors of that journalism and you have a recipe for disaster which is almost complete. But the rest of us must also take our share of responsibility – all those of us who have failed to promote the alternative. And here we must include the church, whose lethargy has enabled secularism to take over where once, despite its doctrinal shortcomings, it at least kept us with a stake in the moral high ground.
Mike Purton
Carleton Rode, Norfolk

• Joan Smith (Comment, 25 June) says that the “jury decided that Brooks did not know anything about all of this” (ie the allegations against her made at her trial). Surely all that can be inferred from the jury’s verdict is that they did not believe that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that she knew – for the reasons convincingly set out in Nick Davies’s analysis.
David Lipsey
House of Lords

• Whenever I am asked why I read the Guardian I shall now refer my inquisitor to the article in your paper by Nick Davies about the hacking trial. The excellence of this summary says it all.
Peter Bloomfield
Moulsoe, Buckinghamshire

• Perhaps David Blunkett is not the most compelling advocate for the rights of the victims of phone hacking (Did we have to sacrifice our privacy again to get justice?, 26 June). Blunkett, after all, moved in 2003 to extend the surveillance powers granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, such that the number of government agencies granted surveillance powers rose from nine to 792. Privacy, it seems, is a luxury available only to those the state deems fit to have it, and surveillance and intrusion are well and good so long as the snoopers are in the pay of that state. Perhaps Blunkett’s umbrage with the tabloid press arises, in fact, from its exposure of his affair with Kimberly Quinn, and the fast-tracking of the visa application for her nanny, all while ranting about family values, “airy fairy” civil liberties and “bogus asylum seekers”? Let us not forget that Blunkett also happily pocketed £49,500 as an adviser on “social responsibility” to News International, even after settling his civil claim against them.
Nick Moss

World War I centenary - EU leaders commemorate outbreak of WW I

‘As a Tory voter I simply cannot support and vote for the Conservatives with David Cameron at the helm,’ says Dominic Shelmerdine. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

During the last 25 years, my constituency Labour party, Bury St Edmunds, sent a resolution to annual conference on more than one occasion, proposing the restriction of newspaper ownership by an individual or company, to one national daily, one Sunday and one local newspaper (Politicians gave Murdoch his power, now we must challenge it, Tom Watson, 26 June). Those resolutions fell on stony ground. I wish Tom Watson better luck in his efforts to press for this vital change.
Eddie Dougall
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

• This shows that David Cameron thought nothing about the criminal judicial process, but simply about his own survival. That he sought the legal opinion of attorney general Dominic Grieve shows the difficulty of mixing the crucial independence of the criminal law with politics.
Mike Loveland
Chief operating officer, Forensic Science Service Limited, 2000-06

• As a Tory voter and one-time canvasser I simply cannot support and vote for the Conservatives with David Cameron at the helm. His poor judgment, foresight, and lack of basic common sense in employing Andy Coulson is a major embarrassment and a clear resignation issue. Cameron must bite the bullet here and go with honour, but go he must.
Dominic Shelmerdine

• I sense in the criticism of David Cameron (Eton) by the judge in the phone-hacking case (Uppingham) some settling of old ruling class scores. Could it be the 1973 cricket match when Eton beat Uppingham by 55 runs I wonder?
Keith Flett

It is not just the conviction on politically motivated charges by Egypt of four al-Jazeera journalists, including the British Sue Turton (Al-Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years in Egypt, 23 June) which brings back the memories of Africa‘s bad habits of the past. Within the past year alone, the military-led authorities in Egypt have violently overthrown the first democratically elected government since independence from Britain in 1922, shot and killed over 1,000 unarmed demonstrators, forcibly “tested” young women for virginity, declared a registered political party a terrorist organisation, sentenced over 600 opposition supporters to death, and they have now sentenced four international journalists to long prison sentences.

The African Union should distance itself from the political madhouse, which is Egypt, by withdrawing its recent readmission of that country. Above all, it should make it clear that member states will not arrest and hand over Sue Turton, who has been given a 10-year prison sentence in absentia, should al-Jazeera send her to report from their capitals. Meanwhile, Egypt has threatened to use any means to stop the construction of Ethiopia‘s Renaissance dam, repeatedly refusing to sign the draft co-operative framework agreement meant to replace the 1959 colonial agreement, which gave Egypt the absolute control over the river Nile. An attack by Egypt on the Ethiopian dam will be an attack on all the Nile basin countries including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Rwanda and South Sudan; thus, tipping Africa into the abyss of the bad old days of self-destructive wars.
Sam Akaki
Director, Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa

• Since his “election”, General Sisi has presided over a judiciary which sentenced more than 100 people to death, without any of those convicted having the right to a fair trial. It comes after the sentences on al-Jazeera journalists, despite the prosecution offering no evidence. The Guardian has also revealed the horror of a secret army torture centre, Azouli, in the middle of a vast army camp (Hundreds of ‘disappeared’ in Egypt’s secret torture centre, 23 June) which is beyond even token judicial oversight and reminiscent of Chile under Pinochet and the Argentinian junta. By coincidence Egypt has also been the subject of a visit by US secretary of state John Kerry, in which the US promised to resume aid, ie military aid, to the dictatorship. Let’s hear no more hypocritical talk from the US administration about human rights in other countries.
Tony Greenstein

In common with many of my generation • I spent my national service in a “vast military camp” outside Ismailia and was amazed to hear what is now going on there. Somewhere under the sand are our concrete cricket pitches and perhaps the remains of the 1945 library. This contained the entire Left Book Club and the novels of Virginia Woolf, the only novels available, which I almost learned by heart. These things symbolised the “British values” we believed in: I’m glad that Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are trying to help the prisoners.
John Purkis

• Isn’t Guantánamo Bay rather like Azouli? We know the names of those in Guantánamo and the torture is more indirect and psychological through prolonged isolation, but it shares the lack of judicial oversight, the lack of evidence produced, the lack of charges and the indeterminacy of their incarceration.
Michael Miller

As supporters of the Syrian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy, we are concerned by the British government’s decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran in response to the crisis in Iraq (Shortcuts, G2, Iran, 18 June).

There is a grave danger that the Iranian government will see this as a licence to extend its already substantial intervention in Syria in support of its client – the Assad regime – which could not have survived this long without Iranian support.

Thousands of troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia are actively fighting in Syria on the regime’s side, as are Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia militias. To ally with Iran in order to combat Isis is deeply ironic, since there is considerable evidence that the Syrian regime has been colluding with Isis: Assad’s air force bombs civilians, schools, markets and hospitals without mercy but declined to attack Isis’s massive headquarters in Raqqa until the Iraq crisis erupted.

The Syrian regime has been playing a game of shadows in which this covert collusion with the growth of Isis has been used to undermine the democratic opposition and strengthen its own claim to be a bulwark against “terrorism”. To accept Iran – and by implication Bashar al-Assad – as allies in the fight against Isis is to fall for this deception.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, Haytham Alhmawi, director of Rethink Rebuild Society, Reem Al-Assil, activist, Adam Barnett, journalist, James Bloodworth, editor of Left Foot Forward, Mark Boothroyd, International Socialist Network, Sasha Crow, founder of Collateral Repair Project for Iraqi and Syrian Refugees, Naomi Foyle, writer and coordinator of British Writers in Support of Palestine, Christine Gilmore, Leeds Friends of Syria, Bronwen Griffiths, writer and activist, Juliette Harkin, associate tutor, University of East Anglia, Robin Yassin Kassab, author and co-editor of Critical Muslim, Tehmina Kazi, human rights activist, Maryam Namazie, Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation and Equal Rights Now – organisation against women’s discrimination in Iran, Fariborz Pooya, Worker-communist party of Iran UK, Mary Rizzo, activist, translator and blogger, Christopher Roche, Bath Solidarity, Naame Shaam campaign group http://www.naameshaam.org, Brian Slocock, political scientist and blogger on Syria, David St Vincent, contributing writer and editor, National Geographic Books, Luke Staunton, Merseyside Syria Solidarity Movement – UK

• Both Laurie Lee and his Spanish civil war comrades should be remembered with admiration this year. At the time no one thought that they would be returning home to undermine the British state. They were fighting the forces of evil as they saw it – and as, largely, we see it now. What a contrast with the way that young Muslims who go to fight in Syria or Iraq are viewed in the British media and by politicians – as future threats to national security. Yet there is no evidence, as far as I know, that they are hostile to Britain. However ill-informed some of them may be, aren’t they fighting for a cause – as people, and particularly young men, have done throughout history?
Carole Satyamurti

I work for the children’s services department of a local authority in north-west England. Our annual budget is £37.5m and falling. With this money we provide services for 49,000 children, young people and their families.

The royals’ annual budget from the public purse is £35.7m and rising (Planes, trains and a redecoration – the Queen sets out accounts, 26 June). This money funds the activities, travel and home improvements of a single, already super-wealthy, family.

The public’s ongoing tolerance of such inequality in the way in which our taxes are spent suggests that Michael Gove was right to leave “fairness” out of his list of British values.
David Hagan

• If it’s true that the royal family costs us all 56p per week each, then I’d rather my 56p a week went to something useful, such as the NHS.
Keith Luckey
Sleaford, Lincolnshire

There is a simple reason why Tony Blair should not be permitted to continue as quartet Middle East envoy (Report, 24 June). Anyone who accepts a multilateral mandate must cease to express personal views that can affect perceptions of the impartiality of their role. It has long been obvious that this is not a restriction that Tony Blair is willing to respect. As a former United Nations representative, I feel particularly strongly that he should not be permitted to carry what is in part a UN mandate.
Ian Martin
Former special representative of the secretary-general in East Timor, Nepal and Libya

• I am reminded of the limitations of phonics (Letters, 25 June) every time I drive down the M40 and see the sign for Historic Warwick.
John Sheard

• Regarding world brand names (Letters, 21 June), yesterday I was introduced by a friend to Salticrax (South African crackers) but the accompanying Shito (Ghanaian hot pepper sauce) was a step too far for my taste.
Tim Walker

• What about the speed restrictions in Sweden and Denmark? I give you: fartkontroll and farthinder.
James Kellar
Pewsey, Wiltshire

• The only fair and just punishment for Luis Suárez (Sport, 25 June) is that he be banned from the entire tournament retrospectively, and any goals scored be expunged from the records (which, coincidentally, would mean that England would, fairly, proceed to the next round).
R Neil Davies
Warninglid, West Sussex

• Surely it is obvious that Luis Suárez prefers his Italian al dente?
Rob Williamson

• Anyone fancy a bite of Italian?
Peter Russell
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

• They think it’s all over. It is now.
Geoff Booth
Knebworth, Hertfordshire


It appears that the Prime Minister’s European reform agenda has stalled (“In four-letter words, what senior EU politicians think of David Cameron”, 24 June). If Britain cannot carry with it a known Anglophile like Radoslaw Sikorski then the Government’s attempt to get Europe to embrace the reform agenda is in deep trouble.

In a remarkable show of unity, all three party leaders have opposed the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker and stressed the importance of reform. We need to extend that consensus to an agreement on a clear agenda for change. This is a big opportunity to work together to ensure that reform takes place, and we can start this process with the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party matching the Conservatives’ offer of an in-out referendum.

Keith Vaz MP (Leicester East, Lab), House of Commons

Why should David Cameron take umbrage at the prospect of Jean-Claude Juncker being appointed President of the European Commission? Mr Juncker is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, one of Europe’s most prosperous, yet smallest, countries.

Could this issue be  giving Mr Cameron pause as to what could happen if Scotland votes Yes to independence? Scotland one day holding the EU presidency? Now, that may be the way to entice Scots to vote Yes.

This could give them the chance of a resounding voice in Europe as an independent nation, along with other European countries, rather than the muffled representation for Scotland that Westminster would continue to provide.

Bob Harper, Anstruther, Fife


Cuts loom for leading  psychiatry school

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), a School of King’s College London, is facing a potentially devastating round of compulsory redundancies, with 50 of its academic staff “at risk”. The IoPPN has been at the forefront of research and teaching in psychiatry and mental health for over 50 years and has a superb reputation across the world.

These cuts, to be decided today (27 June), are not driven by any decline in productivity or excellence, but by changes in funding following the introduction of “full” tuition fees, which disadvantage medical schools; the withdrawal of access to central capital funds; and deficiencies in financial projections. As a result, the King’s College Council has decided to ring-fence a capital fund of 6 per cent of its income, requiring, it says, a 15 per cent cut in salaries to staff of its health schools.

The IoPPN and its NHS partner, the Maudsley, carry out clinical research in psychiatric disorders from autism to Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of disability and healthcare costs in the developed world. While there are many areas of strength in UK psychiatry, IoPPN and the Maudsley have played a leading role in the battle to combat stigma against mental disorders and to train future generations of psychiatrists, psychologists and other clinical scientists to translate scientific advances into new therapies.

Mental health has long been a poor relation within UK research funding and staffing. It is not just the IoPPN or Maudsley that will suffer if these job losses materialise, it will also have a devastating impact on UK psychiatry as a whole.

Professors Richard Brown, Noel Buckley, Anthony David, Patrick Doherty, Sir David Goldberg, Francesca Happé, Matthew Hotopf, Corinne Houart, Robert Howard, Philip McGuire, Declan Murphy, Sir Robin Murray, Andrew Pickles, Martin Prince, Mark Richardson, Sir Michael Rutter, Emily Simonoff, John Strang, Sir Simon Wessely, Steven Williams,

Til Wykes, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5


Suarez’s only victim: himself

Thank goodness for Glenn Moore and the perspective he brings to the Luis Suarez affair. Viewed rationally, Suarez did no harm to anyone but himself.

In a moment when a flaw in his psyche took control, he almost certainly ended his World Cup participation and did great damage to his future career. No one else was affected: not the pundits who have been so vociferous in their condemnation (Ian Wright was an honourable exception), not the Italian team who were already down to 10 men, and not Chiellini, who hadn’t been knocked out by a head butt or had his leg broken by a vicious tackle. Suarez could have hoped to gain no conceivable advantage to his team by his action. The victim of the “outrage” was Suarez himself.

Suarez is a supremely gifted footballer who brings far more to the table than he takes away. Off the field he is recognised as a genuine “good guy”, as committed to the life and community spirit in Liverpool as he is committed to the welfare of their team on the pitch.

And far more sickening than Suarez’s bite is the hypocrisy of it all. We’re not talking about tennis, or snooker, or golf, three sports whose participants play by the rules and show full respect to their opponents. We’re talking about a “sport” where shirt-pulling, diving, “professional” fouls, and career-threatening tackles are so rife that they now often go unpunished and often unnoticed. I’m not a Christian but the commandment “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” seems apposite.

Stuart Russell, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Uruguayan man bites Italian man in Brazil. Surely this is the most boring story since the legendary Times headline, “Small Earthquake in Chile. Not Many Dead.”

John Naylor, Ascot, Berkshire


Academy quango open to claims of abuse

With the Government making so many major changes in education, it is easy for announcements of significant changes to slip out with barely any attention. One such was last week’s announcement that over 160 headteachers have applied to help run new regional schools commissions, which are intended to oversee academy schools.

This matters. The Department for Education cannot properly oversee 4,000 academies to make sure they are run properly and their funding is not misappropriated. The National Audit Office has said so, as has the Public Accounts Committee, and now even Michael Gove has realised this, which is why he is setting up regional schools commissioners in England.

But this is one more nail in the coffin of democracy. Another government quango of unelected people. Academy heads, either elected by other headteachers or appointed by the regional schools commissioners, will advise on the performance of the other academies in their area run by the heads who elected them. Nothing about this is open or transparent, and it is wide open to accusations of cronyism and abuse.

I fail to see how this will improve the governance of academies, or more importantly, children’s education. And it is hard to see how this will improve academies’ accountability to parents. Yet you can be sure it will not be cheap to run.

Dr Mary Bousted, General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, London WC2

Where is the ‘race bias’ at the BBC?

Unless Lenny Henry has evidence of bias in the BBC’s recruitment or promotion practices (“BBC’s ‘race problem’ gets worse as ethnic-minority staff quit”, 26 June), I am not interested. Equality has nothing to do with equality of representation and everything to do with equality of opportunity.

If only a small number of minority people are applying for jobs there, then only a small number will be represented. To be calling for an artificially inflated minority representation, probably at the cost of quality, is blatant discrimination and should be opposed at every level.

Paul Harper, London E15

The science of spelling

Thank goodness the AQA is not as confused as Leslie Rowe seems to be (letter, 19 June). Neither sulfur nor kilogram are Americanisms but the correct English spellings of these words as determined by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1992 and the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in 1960.

Christopher Anton, Birmingham

Nonsensical NHS titles

I could not agree more with Dr Anthony Ingleton’s view (letter, 24 June) that we should trim the NHS budget by doing away with jobs with nonsensical titles, such as “Director of the Patient Experience”. So here are two more for the list: “Homoeopath” and “Hospital Chaplain”.

Stan Broadwell, Bristol


Pay close attention

If an employer is one who employs, and an employee is one who is employed, then surely an attender is one who attends, while an attendee (letter, 25 June) is one who is attended, that is to say accompanied or waited upon.

Jenny Macmillan, Cambridge


Archduke Ferdinand believed in the creation of a multinational state Getty Images

Published at 12:01AM, June 27 2014

Sir, David Aaronovitch is paying tribute to the myth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire rather than to its reality (“Archduke Ferdinand — father of today’s EU”, June 25) . The “Dual Monarchy” was actually a conspiracy by its two leading peoples, the Germans and the Hungarians, to hold down the rest. In 1867 the Austrian prime minister remarked to his Hungarian counterpart: “You manage your hordes and we’ll manage ours”, giving free rein to an appalling denial of the cultural identity of millions which inevitably destabilised the empire it was intended to support.

As for Archduke Ferdinand, he may have sensibly feared war with Russia, but nothing suggests he had any respect for the peoples over whom he was destined to rule. Vienna was a city rent by racial hatred, and while it produced a remarkable cultural life in the years before 1914 it also produced Adolf Hitler, and that perhaps says more about the Austro-Hungarian monarchy than anything else.

Professor Emeritus John France

Swansea University

Sir, David Aaronovitch is right in one respect: the EU, like Austria-Hungary, does have the characteristics of empire, albeit in postmodern form. Instead of having been created by old-fashioned military conquest, the political elites of the member countries have come together to concentrate powers in Brussels and in so doing bypass their own national parliaments and electorates. As the current president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, has said, “we have the dimension of empire”.

Empires are by definition unstable, as the Austro-Hungarian, British, French and other empires proved to be, because they are not founded on the conscious consent of those they govern over and are inherently undemocratic. They are the product of a bygone age, just like the EU. The future lies with self-governing, politically organic communities of people interacting voluntarily with each other through voluntary, ad hoc networks of co-operation such as the World Trade Organisation, Interpol, the IMF and a myriad of other international bodies.

Marc-Henri Glendening

London NW8

Sir, David Aaronovitch’s paean to the Austro-Hungarian empire fails to explain away why it was so dysfunctional and failed to heal the divisions between its many ethnic groups. These were the ultimate cause of its disintegration. The parallels with today’s EU are indeed striking, although not in the way that he would like, which is why the aspirations of Mr Juncker and others who wish for a federal United States of Europe are likely to be disappointed. The reality is that, for all its faults, the nation state remains the basis of a stable political and economic system, with individual nations hopefully pursuing the Jeffersonian ideal of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

Michael Nevin


Sir, For the benefit of David Aaronovitch, and the late AJP Taylor it would seem, I am Serb and our neighbours are Croats. We have never been “Serbo Croats”— much in the same way there haven’t been Iraqi Iranians, Israeli Syrians or Armenian Azerbaijanis. We are distinct ethnic groups.

Anthony Shelmerdine Boskovic

Saddleworth, Greater Manchester

Sir, The Royal Society urges that science lessons should “ignite” the curiosity of primary school children (June 26). Two factors inhibit this goal. First, only a very small percentage of primary school teachers have a scientific background themselves and thus they feel ill-equipped to deal with content outside their experience. Second, our risk-averse society fears the consequences of any more spectacular experiments “going wrong”. Indeed, in some of our primary school children are forbidden to handle anything, including basic scientific equipment, made from glass.

However, fortunate children, either with their parents or in school groups, can visit local science discovery centres and take part in hands-on workshops that attempt to show the mysteries and marvels of science. These centres aim to enthuse children. They can provide that spark necessary to ignite a curiosity which in turn will provoke a lifelong enjoyment and appreciation of science and, for some, a satisfying career.

Professor Alan Dronsfield

Swanwick, Derbyshire

Sir, Eugene Suggett (letter, June 23) asks if the Binsey owl succeeded in scaring away bats. The answer is that success was not total as the owl kept being stolen, and although it was frequently replaced I think the bats became accustomed to it. There was always the odd bat dropping about, but not as thick a layer as before.

When the vicar originally appealed for a stuffed owl for the church, he was deluged with the things: the vicarage kitchen became like a precursor of Hogwarts, with a replacement owl to hand for years.

Josephine De Goris

Cumnor, Oxon

Sir, Philip Duly is, of course, right that Harold Wilson maintained contact with his office by landline when in the Isles of Scilly (letter, June 25). But I recall a problem once when Wilson was visiting his beloved Yorkshire. We in the office had to ensure that either he, his driver or his detective had enough cash to enable the prime minister, if necessary, to telephone us from any telephone box we passed.

Lord Wright of Richmond

(Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, 1974-77) House of Lords

Sir, According to my father, who played golf with Harold Wilson a number of times on St Mary’s, a large radio antenna was erected on the golf course so that Wilson could “keep in touch with the Americans”. Wilson’s bodyguard kept a receiver in his haversack. The irritable Wilson would complain when it went off, only to be told: “Don’t worry Sir, it’s only the cricket score.”

Barnaby Benson

London, SE24

Sir, Hilary Rose’s entertaining article (Times2, June 26) misses an important point: tapas are Spanish snacks, not Spanish cuisine. The British have been led to believe that Spaniards go out to restaurants to dine on tapas. They do not. It is a snack you have at a bar while waiting to meet friends for dinner.

Jules Stewart

London W11

Sir, I cannot understand the recent trend of criticising the police every time a defendant in a high-profile trial is acquitted (“Trial and error”, leading article, June 26). It seems that every not guilty verdict is met with claims that the police were wrong to prosecute in the first place and that there was never sufficient evidence.

First, every investigation will be supervised by the Crown Prosecution Service, and their lawyers would have to decide that the evidence is strong enough. Second, if the judge had thought there was insufficient evidence he or she would not let the trial reach the stage where a jury has to make a decision.

The police are the investigators, they put the evidence to the CPS and the court, and the jury decides. That is how British justice works. I can imagine the furore if the police decided to discontinue cases without even referring them to the CPS.

Andrew Hayward

Chelmsford, Essex

Sir, David Cameron says he employed Andy Coulson “on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking”. The phrase that comes irresistibly to mind is: “He would, wouldn’t he?” If I had acted on this basis when I was working, my boss would (quite rightly) have decided that I’d taken leave of my senses.

Tony Phillips

Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Sir, When John Profumo resigned his seat in March 1963, having admitted lying to parliament, Iain Macleod, then leader of the Commons said: “Jack Profumo was a friend of mine, is a friend of mine and will continue to be a friend of mine.”

I have always thought standing by friends no matter what, is rare — especially in politics. David Cameron rises in my estimation for standing by Andy Coulson. He has now apologised for hiring him. Let the matter rest.

Tom Benyon

Bladon, Oxon


SIR – If the Bank of England keeps changing its plans about when it is going to increase interest rates, its warnings risk losing credibility. Initially, the forward guidance was that rates would not rise until unemployment fell below 7 per cent. When this happened, the Bank pointed to a rise in 2015, before saying that it could be this year. Now the prospect of an imminent rise has receded.

Interest-rate rises are a macroeconomic policy tool. It’s important that there are no knee-jerk reactions to the current discussions about house-price increases. Since the financial crisis, rates have been incredibly low, but people still have a lot of pressure on their disposable incomes.

Putting interest rates up now risks damaging the recovery. Even an increase of 0.25 per cent makes a difference to those on the margins.

Professor Michael White
Nottingham Trent University

Juncker’s presidency

SIR – The significance of the choice of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission cannot be overestimated. Mr Juncker himself has said that Eurozone policy should be discussed in “secret, dark debates” and that “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”

Of Britain he has said, “Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?”

Max Gammon
London SE16

Boasters on board

SIR – Jane Cullinan (Letters, June 25) should exercise extreme caution when driving behind a car displaying a “Baby on board” sign.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen drivers swerve or brake suddenly as they respond to the demands of their child.

David Lane

SIR – “Baby on board” signs displayed in the rear window of a car originally were designed to alert emergency services to the fact that a child was on board, and that in the event of an accident the child would not be missed should the vehicle need to be evacuated.

These days, with the advent of “Grandchild on board” signs, the message has changed a simple boast.

Michael Cattell
Mollington, Cheshire

SIR – Jane Cullinan is uncertain as to how to behave when driving behind a “Baby on board” sticker.

I faced the same dilemma recently when following a “Ferrets on board” sign on a car near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

Dr Ann Chippindale

Open wide, Luis

SIR – I once appeared as an expert witness in a biting assault case. If prompt action is taken with accurate impressions of the indentations and the alleged biter’s teeth, it is easy to establish guilt or innocence.

Dr John Gladstone
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Paul Hayward calls for Fifa to enforce a six-month ban on Luis Suárez, the footballer, following yet another biting incident.

Might dental extractions be more effective?

Kirsty Blunt
Sedgeford, Norfolk

HS3 alternative

SIR – The Chancellor, in his desire to see a new £7 billion HS3 rail link between Leeds and Manchester, fails to realise that so much more can be done to improve the existing infrastructure on this important trans-Pennine route (Letters, June 25).

Electrification of the line, with new high-speed Pendolino trains, would cut journey times between Manchester and Leeds and provide a huge boost to those large former textile towns on the route, which have been so poorly served by existing rail services in the past.

Faster and better trains that offer the passenger healthy competition in fares and service choice should be the main priority.

Tony Lodge
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies
London SW1

Local iodine

SIR – While Northern Irish and Scottish organic milk and conventional milk provide sufficient iodine (Letters, June 24), West Country milk provides only half the amount and Welsh only one third.

Peter Symonds
Seaford, East Sussex

Clergy wages

SIR – I support the Archbishop of York’s call for a living wage. So why are there many Church of England clergymen looking after two or three parishes and receiving no wage – other than the use of a house?

Margaret Garlick
Southminster, Essex

Land of nod

SIR – I too have noticed the tendency of BBC reporters to keep nodding (Letters, June 23), but it is also prevalent in the House of Commons to signify agreement with the MP who is speaking. What purpose it serves I can’t imagine, as the member speaking usually has his back to the nodders and the other MPs will not wish to know.

Geoffrey Richards
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

SIR – When I was in television many years ago, we used to make the interviewer nod at the end of the interview for about 30 seconds. These nods were then dropped into the edited version as punctuation where cuts were made, to help the flow.

Liz Beaumont
London SW1

The lives and loves of the Bletchley codebreakers

SIR – My sister, Pamela Lidstone, worked at Bletchley Park as a cryptanalyst from 1941 to 1945 (“Bletchley Park: the secret is out at last).

Her boss was Angus Wilson, who later became a novelist and was knighted. Throughout the war he lived openly with his male lover, Bentley Bridgewater, yet was never charged or tried for what was then illegal.

By contrast the brilliant Alan Turing, also a homosexual, was persecuted, charged, imprisoned and eventually took his own life. No one has ever explained why.

As my sister was bound by the Official Secrets Act, we never knew that she worked at Bletchley Park until we attended her funeral in 2003, when a tribute was paid to her work by a senior member of the Foreign Office.

When she was called up by the FCO, she had to undertake a series of tests, one of which was to complete the Daily Telegraph crossword. After finishing it in seven minutes, one of the examiners was heard to say to a colleague, “She is for Bletchley”.

John Lidstone
Sutton Scotney, Hampshire

Snail trails

SIR – Why do snails climb the walls?

Yesterday one was discovered in our dining room almost at ceiling height, having scaled the outside wall to enter through an open window.

Jackie Bryant
Northwich, Cheshire

SIR – Surely it is time to abolish the concession which allows smoking on stage in theatres.

I attended a recent production of Pressure at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester. The setting was in the days leading up to

D-Day in 1944, and smoking was rife among the characters. The use of real cigarettes caused observable distress among members of the audience.

This is carrying realism too far. We do not expect to see real bullets used in shooting scenes, so why should we endure real smoke? After all, the latter causes more deaths than the former, albeit more slowly. With modern electronic cigarettes emitting pseudo-smoke, the use of real cigarettes is totally unjustified.

Dr Brian Pike
Fareham, Hampshire

SIR – One of the most depressing things about the Coulson affair is that senior politicians seem desperate to appoint so-called spin doctors to explain their actions to the electorate. One cannot imagine Attlee or Churchill requiring such people around them.

The concept of just telling the truth is clearly beyond the understanding of the modern political class.

Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – Following the acquittal of Rebekah Brooks on all the criminal charges brought against her, many of which related to her time as editor of the News of the World, the British public and Hollywood will have to re-assess their stereotypical image of the national newspaper editor.

Over the last century, in books and films, the perception of the newspaper editor has been of an all-knowing individual with complete control over every journalist and every story related to his or her newspaper, including the journalistic methods employed.

However, we now know that, in the case of Mrs Brooks, she appeared to display such hands-off leadership that one must wonder why she was employed in such a role. I can only assume she had hidden talents.

Christopher Devine
Farley, Wiltshire

SIR – Can a man whose judgment is so demonstrably poor be trusted to run the country?

Andrew McLuskey
Stanwell, Surrey

SIR – Despite, or in spite of, the red flags, David Cameron anointed Andy Coulson to his role in the inner sanctum.

In the private sector, an apology would not have sufficed; only resignation would be accepted.

Frank Sloan
Rochester, Kent

SIR – David Cameron is being vilified for trusting someone who turned out to be untrustworthy.

Is there is an adult on the planet who has not made the same mistake?

Nicholas Cook
London W12

SIR – David Cameron showed a surprising lack of common sense in employing Andy Coulson.

However, the Labour Party shows an equal lack of foresight in retaining Ed Miliband as its leader.

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3

SIR – Having your voicemail hacked cannot be a nice thing to experience, but with the exception of Milly Dowler, nearly all of the victims were people who have in some way courted publicity, and many were happy to use the media to their advantage.

John Blanning
Keynsham, Somerset

A new law to allow patients to try untested medicines will protect them and nurture medical innovation, a coalition of some of the UK’s most senior health experts say.

More than 40 medical professionals, including Prof Michael Rawlins – President of the Royal Society of Medicine and formerly a head of National Institute for Clinical Excellent, back the Medical Innovation Bill in a letter to The Telegraph.

The Bill, which is debated by peers on Friday, will make it easier for doctors to try out new treatments on patients without the fear of being sued.

Patients will also be able to look up new medicines tried out on other ill people on a new database run by Oxford University and ask their doctors for the same treatments.

The Bill is being promoted by Lord Saatchi, the advertising magnate who started to campaign on the issue after his wife Josephine Hart died from ovarian cancer.

Leading experts who have signed the letter including David Walker, Professor of Paediatric Oncology at Nottingham University, and Riccardo Audisio, President of the Association for Cancer Surgery.

Several cancer patients signed the letter, along with Charlie Chan, a consultant general surgeon and Michael Ellis, Conservative MP for Northampton North.

In the letter – published today to coincide with the second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords – the group said the Bill “legally protects doctors who try out innovative new techniques or drugs on patients when all else has failed.

“This Bill will protect the patient and nurture the innovator. It will encourage safe medical advancement, while at the same time deterring the maverick, thereby recalibrating the culture of defensive medicine.

“Finally, it will work with evidence-based medicine and provide new data that will inspire and support new research.”

The Bill was designed to give the hope to the dying but has since been amended so that untried drugs can be given to those who might benefit.

Oxford University has also agreed to set up and run a database containing anonymised information about those who agree to the treatments.

Stephen Kennedy, a professor of reproductive medicine at Oxford University, told The Telegraph the database will be “publicly accessible to patients and healthcare professionals alike”.

Patients would be able to go onto the website, find an innovative treatment that had been tested on other people and then ask for it to be tested on them.

Prof Kennedy said: “There would be a facility within the database to enable people to search on the basis of conditions and treatments.” Patients’ details on the site “would be completely anonymous,” he added.

The new law has been criticised by patients’ groups and lawyers. The Patients’ Association said it was concerned that drugs which have only been tried on a few hundred people could put patients at risk.

It was also worried about the issue of patients giving informed consent – especially if very ill patients are desperate for any chance of hope.

Katherine Murphy, the association’s chief executive, said it was possible “some gung-ho doctors will want to use dying patients as guinea pigs”.

She said: “The Bill is a huge threat to patient safety. It is aimed at solving a problem that doesn’t exist. We applaud and encourage medical innovation, but giving untested drugs to critically ill people is not the way forward.”

Jonathan Wheeler, vice-president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, added: “This Bill allows a doctor to ‘play God’ with no consequences”

He said the Bill “would only require doctors to ‘consult’ colleagues about an innovative treatment. There is no obligation to gain the consent of those colleagues before going ahead”.

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is clear that our healthcare system is not serving the people. Your correspondent Turlough O’Donnell (June 24th) rightly says that health insurance is paid largely by people of modest means because they have no faith in the public health system. However, there are a lot of people in Ireland who have little or no means. Are they to be denied good healthcare because of this?

Perhaps it is time that we improved the public health system and tried to restore confidence in it. All political parties should commit themselves to the principle of publicly funded universal healthcare, free at the point of access, where the only criterion for use is medical need. – Yours, etc,


Shanowen Avenue,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – I note Turlough O’Donnell’s defence of the private healthcare sector (June 22nd). He states that “without the independent sector, the public health system would implode” and “the public sector needs to fix itself, with the resources that are currently at its disposal, and stop looking at others as the cause of its illness”.

I would certainly acknowledge that the “private healthcare is bad” narrative is both incorrect and does a disservice to the broader healthcare debate. But the perpetuation of a taxation-funded public healthcare system paralleled with the promotion of a private healthcare system is undoubtedly damaging to patients, population health and society at large.

It is wrong that some patients receive elective surgery within weeks, whilst others wait years; that some patients wait one day for a scan, when others never get one. To believe that this is wrong is to believe in equity, fairness and social solidarity; it is to believe in universal health care (UHC) where financial means should not affect ability to access services.

The Association of Independent Medical and Surgical Specialists’ belief that the public system, which is chronically underfunded, must “fix itself” first is incongruent with a belief in UHC. Primary and secondary care should be planned and delivered in a co-ordinated, integrated manner – not by permitting one part of the system to deliver care at the behest of the market. Yes, the private sector delivers care which is often excellent, by wonderful staff, in pleasant surroundings. But it undoubtedly cherry-picks more lucrative, lower-risk, elective care and procedures – dictated by market forces and not by social or health need.

Despite attacking Clare Conlon’s assertion (June 21st) that private patients may receive care that they do not require, there is in fact compelling evidence that a fee-per-item system promotes over-investigation and over-treatment. Listen to the national radio; the Mater and Beacon private hospitals are busy advertising health screening (which lacks an evidence base), but I don’t hear them advertise (or deliver) 24-hour emergency care services, stroke services or the extent of chronic or critical illness care that the public service provides. And why should they? The private sector is not bad – it is doing precisely what it is allowed to do.

If only we could debate the type of UHC our society should choose. Alas, the biggest ruse of all, which suits the Government and the private sector alike, is the conflation of UHC and universal health insurance (UHI) as equal concepts. – Yours, etc,


Elmwood Avenue,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – This week the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform advertised “clerical positions in the Civil and Public Service”. The starting salary for these positions is “in the region of €21,000 per annum”.

Let’s assume a husband and wife are both employed in such positions, earning a combined total of €42,000 per annum. After tax (including the pension levy), their net weekly income is €699.65.

If the same couple have three or more children, they will qualify for FIS (Family Income Supplement). So, by definition of the Department of Social Welfare, the wages paid by the State to this couple, who work a combined total of 86 hours a week, are so impoverishing as to render them incapable of adequately supporting their three children.

To quote Joan Burton (Dáil Questions, April 16th) “FIS is designed to prevent child and family poverty”. Perhaps civil servants’ wages should be designed to prevent child and family poverty. – Yours, etc,





Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 01:07

First published: Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 01:07

Sir, – Kathy Sheridan (“Cycle of despair for commuters to Dublin”, Opinion & Analysis, June 25th) has injected some much-needed perspective into a debate that is endlessly framed as greener-than-green cyclists versus thoughtless, car-driving road hogs.

Dublin is our capital and transport “solutions” that milk motorists are bad for the city and bad for the country. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8 .

Sir, – A friend of mine recently travelled from Bruges to Ghent, which are roughly 49 kilometres apart, by train. The return fare was €6! A few years ago I met friends of a friend in Tokyo. The idea of needing a car to get around seemed silly to them.

Why would they need a car when they had good public transport? Provide good subsidised transport and cars will disappear from our city streets. – Yours, etc,


Arlington Heights,


Co Kerry.

Sir, – In response to Kathy Sheridan, it must be pointed out that there is simply a finite amount of road-space available in Dublin.

Provision of safe cycling corridors is a more equitable sharing out of this limited urban road-space and such corridors would facilitate more efficient movement of people. – Yours, etc,



Vancouver Island,


Sir, – Kathy Sheridan writes that people do not choose to drive in Dublin, rather they do so for “pressing practical or health reasons”.

The National Transport Authority recently found that half of daily trips are less than three kilometres and that half of these short trips are made by car.

If we could switch just these short trips to cycling or walking, then congestion and many of our health problems would be solved. – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Place,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Out for nine matches and a four-month ban for Luis Suarez? If some Dublin youngster bit a tourist on O’Connell Street in full view of CCTV and passersby, he would be arrested, charged, and the book would be thrown at him — “to send a message”. Fifa could have sorted out this undisciplined player two bites ago. – Yours, etc,


Mulgrave Terrace,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – A case perhaps for the compulsory use of gumshields? – Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The fact that the World Cup trophy is made from gold undoubtedly puts undue pressure on the players. Perhaps Fifa should consider enamel as an alternative. – Yours, etc,


Rochestown Avenue,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Neil Burke-Kennedy (June 24th) wonders who the various teams rely on for divine intervention during this lengthy tournament. One possibility might be Our Lady of Perpetual Soccer. – Yours, etc,


Dornden Park,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – RTÉ had not yet been conceived and television had not rolled out to our rural area until late 1962. As a result, my first World Cup exposure occurred in 1966. This was going to be England’s year and the mouth-watering prospect of an England vs Germany final, a little over 20 years after the second World War, was almost unthinkable. By kick-off, I knew what every English player was having for breakfast.

These players transcended nationality, creed and any other perceived difference. The subsequent victory and post-tournament newsreels captured the hearts and minds of a large swathe of Irish youths. I parked my hurley, sampled the beautiful game, and was part of a group that, a few years later, met in a pub in Newport, Co Tipperary, to set up a soccer club in the town.

In our wildest dreams, we could not have imagined that one of our heroes, Jack Charlton, would go on to manage the Irish team, plot the defeat of England in “Euro 88”, take us to our first World Cup Finals in “Italia 90” and become a household name and an honorary Irishman. – Yours, etc,


Newcastle West,

Co Limerick.

Sir, – An opportunity has been lost in the report by the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group (“Cabinet to tackle issue of children’s internet safety”, June 24th) to deal effectively with the growing problem of the widespread availability of online pornography to children. Irish society never asked for simple, quick access to online pornography for everyone, yet this is what we have.

The answer is simple – force the internet service providers to filter out online pornography until users request it and can prove they are over 18.

The advisory group talks about greater use of parental controls as an answer to the problem.

We would not accept television stations broadcasting pornography 24 hours a day and telling us that it is up to parents to control access to the TV. Why do we accept this approach from internet service providers? – Yours, etc





Sir, – Paul Cullen’s coverage of the Health Research Board’s study of alcohol consumption by Irish people (“177,000 dependent drinkers in Ireland”, June 24th) points to the fact that three-quarters of all alcohol is consumed in the context of binge-drinking and that two-thirds of young people in the 18-24 age group report that they engage in binge drinking.

In line with the findings of other studies carried out in recent years, these latest figures point to the fact that alcohol misuse constitutes a “ticking time-bomb” in Irish society, posing the single greatest threat to the physical and mental health of very large numbers of people across the age spectrum.

The toll that alcohol is taking is well recognised at official level. Despite the fact that it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that alcohol marketing, including sports sponsorship, encourages young people to drink at an earlier age and in greater quantities than they otherwise would, our Government continues to adopt a largely hands-off approach in terms of how alcohol is promoted in this country.

Recent revelations suggest that as a society, we can now safely condemn the way in which young, vulnerable Irish women and their children were treated in the past. While our lawmakers are currently falling over themselves to be seen to right these wrongs, they seem to be indifferent to the exploitation of the young of our own time by powerful vested interests that use the most sophisticated and insidious forms of marketing and promotion for the sole purpose of making vast profits. – Yours, etc,


Deel Medical Centre,


Co Mayo.

Sir, – I have no doubt that as a general rule Prof Frank Murray of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (June 26th) is right about alcohol consumption – if the price is increased, the overall amount consumed will fall.

But I wait to be convinced that that fall will be spread evenly across the population – the well-off will continue to drink as much as they want; the badly-off will cut down. Even then somebody whose first priority is alcohol may well cut down in other areas, such as food, but continue to drink, the harm done by alcohol thus being compounded.

At a time when the Government is looking for any excuse to increase taxes, a chance to engage in a self-indulgent rhetoric of “it’s for your own good” as they hike prices will be welcomed. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.

A chara, – Declan Moriarty (June 26th) says I run the risk of taking both myself and Fintan O’Toole too seriously. Rather, I take truth-telling seriously. If I may quote the same Fintan O’Toole again (“Corrupt journalism is as pernicious as oppression”, Opinion & Analysis, June 26th): “a fundamental duty to do their best to tell as much of the truth as they can muster – regardless of whose interest may be damaged”.

Katie Harrington (June 26th) falls into the same error as Mr O’Toole – mistaking the part for the whole. She writes yes, the people of Ireland would have been better off without the input of religious bodies into education, health, welfare, social cohesion and pastoral care.

Indeed, there was the most deplorable wrong done. This is neither deniable nor excusable. But to say, as she does, that the education provided by religious institutes was “mired in abuse” paints everyone with the same brush. True, the abuse makes better headlines, and any abuse is abhorrent.

But there are many who, like myself, benefitted greatly from the work of the Irish Christian Brothers. If I recall correctly, the cost per term in Synge Street Secondary School in the 1950s was £6. It made an education possible for many who would otherwise have been deprived of it.

Without that, and without the St Vincent de Paul Society and many other religious bodies, the people of Ireland would have been far worse off, when the government did not have the resources, nor sometimes perhaps the will, to provide.

Perhaps Mr O’Toole would write about this sometime. – Is mise,


Blackthorn Court,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – As as resident of Northern Ireland, who hailed originally from the Republic, I am following the independence debate in Scotland with interest. I am in my late sixties and have spent roughly two-thirds of my life in the Republic, in England and in Northern Ireland.

As an obvious secessionist ally, I find the Scottish silence on Ireland somewhat puzzling, (not to mention Ireland’s seeming ambivalence on Scotland’s impending experiment). Surely the trail blazed by its neighbour should be a clarion-cry for Scottish nationalists? Well, it isn’t, and the reason why it isn’t should be serving as a sobering warning to the Scottish people.

Ireland took a leap in the dark after 1916, a leap from which it never quite recovered. The precipitate sundering of the country has proven to be both divisive and debilitating. The gratuitous strains which Alex Salmond and his cohorts are and shall continue to inflict on the people of Scotland are wholly self-imposed.

The contribution of the Scots to a wide range of spheres has banked great resources of good will, both locally and internationally. Why jeopardise these valuable relationships in an orgy of flag-waving? If you want to see flag-waving, you only need to come here. – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,


Co Down.

Sir, – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has excommunicated one of its dedicated members, Kate Kelly, for daring to advocate opening the male-only priesthood to women (“Head of Mormon feminists is excommunicated”, June 25th). The Catholic Church also claims, through Pope Francis, that the door is shut to women priests .

These churches believe that Jesus of Nazareth has given them a mandate to exclude women from their priesthoods, but nowhere in his recorded actions or words did Jesus ever exclude anybody, especially women. – Yours, etc,


The Moorings,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – When plugging in a DVD player imported from America, users should always ensure that the device is plugged into a proper voltage transformer. Alternatively users should accept a considerably shorter shelf-life for the device, alongside a loud explosion and a living room full of smoke. – Yours, etc,


Claremont Road,

Howth, Dublin 13.

Irish Independent:

Nick Folley (Letters, June 19) employs something of an inverted polemic to cushion the inevitable impact of the Tuam ‘mother-and-baby’ revelations on religious orders and the church authorities of the time.

He ups-the-ante from the off, by claiming that “the story of the babies’ cemetery in Tuam has revealed a rather schizophrenic streak within Irish society”.

One wonders what supreme sociological, quasi-medicalised qualification of judgement he can proffer to make such a sweeping and damning diagnosis of a whole society.

His framing of the natural human (and Christian) response to such revelations as being of a ‘schizoid’ nature is blatantly bombastic and overbearing.

His contorted perspectives continue apace, with the distorted camouflage of a narrative soaked in the “Victorian bourgeois” penchant for “respectability”. Apparently, according to him, this was the key backdrop influence for all the extremely un-Christian deprivation and cruelty prevailing in such institutions.

No doubt the nuns, priests and bishops, who were at the coalface complicity of these regimes were fully immersed in and dedicated to Victorian bourgeois values?

Therein lies the nub of the travesty in this tragic quandary of appraisal. What fundamental Christian tenets of love, empathy, forgiveness and supportive care were practised by those who were dedicated to purely Christian values?

Would Jesus have propagated such grim systems of care, and brutal marginalisation? Wasn’t his message all about forgiveness, support, love and empathic understanding?

For sure, families, communities, State, and society blithely colluded with the decrepit debilitation of the needy and misguided. But from where did the obsessive oppression relating to sexuality, reproduction and the equal rights of women emanate? It behoves the church and State to ‘fess up’ to gross inadequacies of care, but especially a church which purports to espouse the Gospel tenets of love, love and more love.



Post-game snack for Chewy Luis

Is it true Luis Suarez would have some fava beans and a nice Chianti after each meal … I mean game?



Courthous must not close

I fully support the views of the Dublin Solicitors’ Bar Association (Irish Independent, June 25). I am most alarmed at the proposed closure by the Courts Services of Dun Laoghaire Courthouse.

As the only solicitor out of 40 councillors on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, I am inundated with queries from constituents in relation to this very concerning development.

It should be noted that Dun Laoghaire Courthouse operates five days per week and covers a population in excess of 400,000. It deals with all criminal prosecutions (juvenile and adult); civil matters (save family law); and small claims. Dun Laoghaire is also unique as a suburban courthouse in that it has its own office which processes warrants, fines, penalties, stamp duties and maintenance payments.



Real cause of our legacy debt

Diarmuid O’Flynn is right to draw attention to the failure of the Government to get the EU to deliver on the undertaking to “improve the sustainability of (Ireland’s) adjustment programme” at the June 2012 eurozone summit (Letters, June 26). He is, however, missing out the causes of the ‘legacy’ of debt.

The decisions which led to the bankrupting of the country, and necessitated the subsequent help of the troika, were made by a small number of our most powerful citizens in government, financial institutions etc during the years of the boom.

Those decisions were made subsequent to the decision of the then government to enter the eurozone. That decision failed to take into account the fact that, by joining, we lost our ability to devalue our currency.



We have ethics bred into us

I take great affront to the words of our President who thinks we need to bring ethics out of the pulpit and the ivory towers and bring them into daily life.

I have lived by a code of ethics most of my life: ethics given to me by my parents who taught me love thy neighbour and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I would expect more from the President than sweeping generalisations. Darren Williams




Unregulated tech business

Pol O Conghaile’s feature on the Airbnb rentals shows how the pitch is getting very uneven in Ireland, and overseas, for established businesses vs new tech businesses.

Where are all the ‘laws and rules’ that established businesses have to abide by in this new age. If I own a taxi or a B&B, I have to abide by all these laws, but it seems that I can now be run out of business by Airbnb accommodation or Uber taxis who are not regulated. The State should apply the law across the board.



Where does FF stand on EU?

In recent statements Fianna Fail has stated that Brian Crowley’s move from the ALDE, an EU federalist political grouping, to the ECR EU grouping is against what Fianna Fail stands for.

Can the party now confirm in clear language that it is also in favour of EU federation. Such clarity is long overdue in relation to all Irish political parties’.



Commentators’ curse on cheats

The World Cup has provided some scintillating football, with barrel loads of excitement and controversy. On the negative side, the cheating has become so frequent and blatant that it threatens to ruin the sport.

I have noticed that commentators are expressing a new level of ambivalence towards cheating. Suggestions that diving and cheating are “all part of the modern game” is part of the problem.



On same page as columnist

I feel a certain elation today; David McWilliams, the crown prince of Irish economists, has come round to my way of thinking.

For many years I have bombarded newspapers, politicians, economists, academics, broadcasters, heads of think tanks, departmental public servants and anyone I thought appropriate with the suggestion that technology is diminishing work at an alarming rate. The Irish Independent has published my letters on the subject.

Since Mr McWilliams has indicated the first crack in the censorship dam which prevents consideration of the impact of technology and automation on work and jobs, I hereby challenge politicians, economists, newspapers, the broadcasters – and all who organise serious economic debate – to end the silence on consideration of how we might generate employment by adapting to the elimination of an enormous amount of work by technology. Our futures depend on it.


Irish Independent


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