30 June2014 Reading

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. We potter around its raining, and cold so much for Flaming June!

ScrabbleIwinone of those dull game, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Peter Lee was a wartime flying-boat navigator who became the first counter-forgery scientist at the Bank of England

Peter Lee

Peter Lee

5:54PM BST 29 Jun 2014


Peter Lee, who has died aged 90, spent his wartime years aloft in the African skies and his post-war career buried away in the vaults of the Bank of England.

In 1944 he was the navigator in a Sunderland Mark III flying-boat which ran into trouble en route to a base in a mangrove swamp in Sierra Leone. When the engine failed the pilot was forced to land on the sea, forcing the crew to endure a perilous three days adrift off the coast of North Africa and a seven-week journey back to their squadron.

The crew of Lee’s Sunderland Flying Boat

A little over a decade later Lee was countering a rise in fake banknotes as the Bank of England’s first counter-forgery scientist. He joined a small team of technicians at the Bank of England Printing Works in Debden, Essex, which worked alongside the artist Harry Ecclestone (the Bank’s first full-time designer). Their aim was to produce banknotes that celebrated great British figures while confounding attempts at forgery; while Ecclestone focused on the composition, Lee manipulated the materials.

Counterfeit banknotes have been the bane of the Bank ever since it first issued paper money in 1694. When photographic and printing technologies developed apace after the Second World War, the problem was only exacerbated. Small-scale printers opened up in backstreets and industrial premises and, simultaneously, there were developments in black-and-white copying and colour reproduction (incorporating techniques such as four-colour printing using half-tone screens). Such technologies threatened the security of banknotes and the Bank of England needed to take action.

Lee played a pivotal part in the development of the Bank’s Series C notes (which featured the Queen in an oval frame) and later, through the Seventies, the well-known Series D — featuring representations of Isaac Newton (£1), the Duke of Wellington (£5), Florence Nightingale (£10), William Shakespeare (£20) and Christopher Wren (£50). Working in conjunction with the Bank’s paper suppliers (Portals), Lee masterminded the use of special colours and lines — including the Non Uniformed Security Thread (a wide thread with a wavy edge) and the Windowed Thread (a woven-through yet visible silvery line) — to flummox forgers.

Peter Denis Lee was born on November 1 1923 in Finsbury Park, London, and educated at Dame Alice Owen’s School in Islington. At the outbreak of war he was evacuated to Bedford. He joined the RAF in August 1941 as an airman and later trained as a navigator in Canada before joining Coastal Command.

During a night navigation training flight on May 12 1944 his Catalina flying boat crashed in the Western Isles and three of the 10-man crew were killed. After a period recovering in hospital, Lee joined No 490 (NZ) Squadron, equipped with the Sunderland flying boats.

In July that year, he was the navigator on a flight from Oban in Scotland to Jui, 15 miles upriver from Freetown in Sierra Leone. “It was a delightful summer evening as we taxied up the Sound of Kerrara,” he recalled. After refuelling in Gibraltar, the aircraft headed down the coasts of French and Spanish Morocco. Seven hours into the flight an engine failed and the pilot landed on the sea to allow repairs, which involved clearing out the oil filter. Shortly after taking off, the other three engines were similarly affected and the pilot was forced to alight again. It was thought that the aircraft might have been sabotaged in Gibraltar.

One engine became unusable, preventing the aircraft from taking off. Throughout the night the aircraft was taxied towards the coast and at dawn they were informed that a second Sunderland had suffered the same fate and had been forced to alight on the sea some 30 miles away. The two aircraft rendezvoused and at dusk a Free French gunboat intercepted the drifting Sunderlands. A tow was established but the rope broke and the aircrews were forced to spend a second night on the sea.

A larger American gunboat re-established a tow but, after 150 miles, with the sea becoming increasingly rough, one of the floats on Lee’s aircraft was damaged. Despite a valiant attempt by the flight engineer to make repairs whilst balanced precariously on the wing tip, the situation worsened – he was awarded the BEM for gallantry. The flying boat was in danger of sinking and the crew had to take to the dinghy and were picked up by the French boat, which then sank the Sunderland by gunfire. “After some confusion and several misses the Sunderland was finally hit, caught fire and gracefully sank beneath the waves,” recalled Lee.

Lee’s crew spent another night at sea before reaching Agadir from where they continued to Gibraltar. They finally reached Jui, after a seven-week journey, where they rejoined No 490 Squadron to carry out anti-U-boat patrols off the West African coast. After completing his flying tour, Lee remained on the staff of Air HQ West Africa.

He left the RAF with the rank of flying officer in November 1946. He subsequently studied Physics at Imperial College London and on graduating joined Gestetner, the company which developed duplicating machines.

He joined the Bank of England in 1956. Although some of his team’s ideas turned out to be incompatible with banknote use and production, Lee’s post-war career at the forefront of banknote security, developing the C, D and E series, helped bring about many innovations that continue in some form today. In the process, Lee represented the Bank as an expert witness in forger trials and became well known at central banks across Europe, Australia and America — he claimed that the US dollar was the easiest banknote in the world to forge.

He retired from the Bank of England in 1983, having been co-credited as inventor on patents for the Bank’s security devices. He then worked for some years as a private consultant; he also wrote a technical journal, Paper Currency in Circulation. He was a member of the Printers and Stationers Guild and made a Freeman of the City of London in 1986. He was also a proud member of the Goldfish Club, the international association for people who have jumped by parachute into the water or whose aircraft crashed in the water.

Peter Lee married Morfydd Howells in 1952. The couple separated and in later life Lee lived with his longtime companion Penny (who predeceased him). He is survived by his wife and four children.

Peter Lee, born November 1 1923, died May 6 2014


So Mr Cameron is taking Britain closer to the exit door of the European Union (Report, 28 June) and he faces an uphill struggle to convince the British people to remain inside. Now why is that exactly? Could it be because he forgot the provision in the Lisbon treaty for the European council to recommend their chosen candidate for the presidency; that this provision was based on the principle that the European elections should be seen as an expression of broad political support, represented by parties of right, left and centre; that the centre-right European People’s party, having won most seats, believed, quite reasonably, this gave them the right to nominate the candidate for the presidency – a view shared by the other largest elected parties; that leaving the EPP meant that Mr Cameron no longer had a say in choosing the centre-right nomination; that much of the British media built up Mr Juncker into a bogeyman seeking to drive all Europe into a super-state; that the same media decided that the best way to increase British influence was to personally denigrate Mr Juncker and naively accepted Mr Cameron’s fantasy that his views were shared by other leaders to the point they would support his opposition to Mr Juncker; that the media also reported the fact that just 10% of European voters turned to nationalist parties as if it represented a tidal wave against the European project when the vast majority of voters continued to vote for parties broadly committed to working for change within Europe; that, in fact, the European council had a perfect right to suggest and appoint a different candidate, but didn’t? To make one serious misjudgement may be regarded as a misfortune. To make a dozen or more is surely worse than carelessness.

And now, Jeremy Hunt, in a pathetic attempt to boost his leader’s dismal performance, accuses other European leaders of cowardice and suggests it is up to them to convince British voters to stay in the EU. Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first drive mad – and they are doing an excellent job with this government.
Peter Luff
Former chair, European Movement UK

• Cameron does not deserve the bad press he’s had recently over his opposition to Mr. Juncker’s appointment. Too much bureaucratic European legislation is issued from Brussels with little or no debate at Westminster. It affects business, the environment, even charities and every one of us as individuals. Ukip is entirely wrong: the UK must remain part of the EU; and Cameron is right to warn that national parliaments must have more influence.
David Owen
Bovingdon, Hertfordshire

• I don’t believe Cameron was defeated in trying to avoid an unelected leader being chosen to rule over 480 million Europeans. I believe it’s all a charade by him to pretend to renegotiate membership, despite knowing the rules and despite frequent put-downs by other EU leaders. I believe it is his master plan to pretend in order to gain votes. First, he has never made any ministerial appointments of anybody remotely anti-EU. Second, in Kazakhstan last year, he made a speech saying he wanted the EU to extend to the Urals (a mountain range 600 miles into Russia). Now he is reported to be supporting desperately poor crime-ridden Albania’s accession to the EU.
Reginald Smith
Hadleigh, Suffolk

David Cameron is right that the Euro elections showed people wanted a different direction for Europe, but wrong to conflate this with the kinds of reform he is seeking as recompense for his junk Juncker debacle. The parties that gained the most new seats in the European parliament were those opposing the free flow of people within Europe and those rejecting the disastrous austerity programmes. Both of these sources of voter concern were made possible by the treaty of Rome abolishing controls over the free movement of people, goods, money and services. It was the unfettered flow of money and goods which largely stoked up the continent’s debt bubble and resulting credit crunch. To pay for the state bailouts that followed, the mainstream parties then demanded austerity measures which sacrificed the living standards and social infrastructure of those least responsible for 2008’s free market economic disaster. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in even more migration from southern and eastern Europe, adding to social tensions across the continent.

The reforms needed are not the rightwing agenda of more labour flexibility and evermore ruthless competition. This is just code for the usual neoliberal priorities of less workers rights and a roll back of social and environmental regulations. It’s time that Labour countered this by taking seriously the majority’s concerns about uncontrollable European immigration and rising economic insecurity and so start a debate with its allies in Europe to turn the treaty of Rome into a “treaty of home”. This would allow countries to cooperate to take back control of their borders for progressive goals, such as reducing inequality and rebuilding flourishing local economies, and which could result in increased political support for a reformed Europe which actually addresses the majority’s fears for the future, rather than making them worse.
Colin Hines
East Twickenham, Middlesex

• In the midst of the petulant threats to leave the EU from (mainly) rightwing English Tories, it takes an American with some historical perspective to remind us what lies at stake should the Union fracture. Here is Adam Gopnik writing in the New Yorker in May 2012:

“The truth needs restating: social democracy in Europe, embodied by its union, has been one of the greatest successes in history. Like all successes, it can seem exasperatingly commonplace. There is something uninspiring about the compromises and the dailiness of a happy marriage, and something compelling about one that is coming apart: it looks more like the due fate of all things. Yet the truth ought to remain central. A continent torn by the two most horrible wars in history achieved a remarkable half century of peace and prosperity, based on a marriage of liberalism properly so called (individual freedoms, including the entrepreneurial kind) and socialism rightly so ordered (as an equitable care for the common good).”
Robert Meikle

• Cameron’s failings may be grist to the internecine struggle in the Tory party but viewed from a national perspective they constitute a looming disaster. The country is on course to leave the EU, to watch while Scotland secedes from the union and to experience the collapse of foreign policy as swaths of the Middle East are trashed in jihadist chaos. If he succeeds in his little England mission we will then have the significance and political clout of, let’s say, Luxembourg.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

• David Cameron is tactically confused. Faced with a choice of being on the outside of the tent and pissing in, or on the inside pissing out, he seems to have chosen to be on the inside pissing in. No wonder he’s isolated.
Blaine Stothard

Archduke Franz Ferdinand leaves the town hall in Sarajevo moments before he was assasinated by Gavri

Archduke Franz Ferdinand leaves the town hall in Sarajevo moments before he was assasinated by Gavrilo Princip 100 years ago. Photograph: ENA

It is no great surprise that Gavrilo Princip (Report, 27 June) is viewed very differently by Serbs, Muslims and Croats.

To Serbs he was fighting to free our people from state-orchestrated persecution in our own country. Mass sackings, show trials, persecution of the Serbian Orthodox church and attempts to curtail the use of cyrillic alphabet were all daily occurrences for the Serbs of Bosnia. Muslims and Croats were very much the beneficiaries of this policy.

By ending this domination, Princip is widely considered by Muslims and Croats as a fanatic and radical. To understand 1914 it is vital to understand why he pulled the trigger. Dismissing him as a Serb nationalist, a fanatic or an unhinged maniac is shamefully ignorant.
Anthony Shelmerdine Boskovic
Saddleworth, Yorkshire

• The illegal occupation of Bosnia and Hercegovina by the Austro-Hungarian empire before the first world war was not quite as rosy as you would have it. There were repeated insurrections in the occupied territory that were brutally repressed and gave more than sufficient impetus to drive out the occupiers.

It’s sad that Bosnia has now come full-circle in its history and is as split as ever. I’ve been to the country four times since the end of the war and personally observed the divided towns, destroyed homes, racist graffiti and destroyed churches and mosques – which, together, still provide testament to the fact that nothing is yet resolved there, and that the region may yet become a flashpoint of the kind that ignited the first world war 100 years ago.
Dr Michael Pravica
Henderson, Nevada

Jonathan Jones (28 June) is not correct to say Tracey Emin’s “won’t get a penny” when her Bed sells at auction. Depending on the hammer price, she could receive up to €12,500 as her artist’s resale royalty, introduced into English law in 2010 as a result of an EU directive to make sure that (unlike Van Gogh and many artists after him) artists do benefit from the prices their work fetches on the art market once they sell it.
Nicholas Sharp
Art lawyer, Swan Turton LLP

• Young kids practising football abroad might be a threat to England’s chances (Letters, 25 June), but it isn’t only football. I regularly pass a Berlin sports training centre where large numbers of boys – and girls – aged about five to 10 are learning and playing…rugby. Watch out.
Brian Smith

• I really chuckled at Caroline Aherne’s nurse asking if she wished to wash her own “fairy” (28 June). A lovely nurse in a hospital in Austria helping me shower while I was recovering from a skiing accident suggested I might like to “do the kitchen area”.
Kate Roome
Staplehurst, Kent

• Phonics lost its magic for me when I saw a headline in a local paper that read: “Local man accused of mans- laughter” (Letters, 27 June).
Andrew Palmer

• Yorkshiremen using the escalators on Stockholm’s Tunnelbanen smile when directed to Ej Upp (Letters, 28 June).
Peter Fellows



Sir, A commission led by someone with a vision towards greater integration is welcome (“Europe will regret this moment, defiant Cameron tells European leaders,” June 28). Beyond Europe, there is an aggressive Russia, an unstable Middle East, a resurgent China and a vacillating US. To survive against threats to its economy, culture and values, Europe needs to be more integrated. Together, the EU’s 28 member states comprise the largest trading bloc in the world, with an educated and skilled population and advanced infrastructure. A centralised European government is the only viable long-term solution.

The fact that Juncker was chosen by the largest party group in the European Parliament is a welcome recognition that the directly elected assembly of the European nations is able to appoint key political leaders. With a stronger European Parliament expressing its representation in the appointment of EU political posts, a great step towards a European government has been taken. European nations will be the stronger after the election of Juncker.

Philip Ruttley
London SW19

Sir, David Cameron was right to adhere to his conviction against the appointment of an arch-federalist, anti-reformist and economically statist Jean-Claude Juncker as the president of the European Commission (“Splendid Isolation”, leading article, June 28). Angela Merkel’s volte-face, first assuring Cameron of her support and later turning against him, was unbecoming as a political leader. Using the leverage of an exit threat, Cameron might yet wrench power from Brussels. Edmund Burke said: “A project which ultimately seeks to abolish national identities and allegiances is likely to fail.”

Sam Banik
London N10

Sir, All but one of the other member countries put aside their private reservations and capitulated to Merkel. Why does the German chancellor want an arch European federalist in the top job? The only reasonable answer seems to be that in a federal Europe Germany would rule. History seems to be replaying itself at a political level: Germany wants to dominate, Europeans give in and Britain resists, almost alone.

Douglas Kedge
Oxon, Oxfordshire

Sir, Cameron has played a blinder. At a stroke he’s positioned himself as a vigorous defender of Britain’s interests. By presenting himself as a latter-day Churchill he slows — and quite possibly, reverses — the dangerous drift towards Ukip, he brings to a head the creeping realisation among members of the EU that, without the UK, theirs would be an even more largely feckless coalition. All he need do now is sit back and wait for the concessions that will surely come.

R R othschild
Lancaster, Lancs

Sir, Cameron has made the most of his defeat. For the first time, the issue of the UK’s future membership is taken seriously. Despite their irritation, our European friends will eventually wish to find a solution which enables us to remain a member without subscribing to closer union. That will lead to some return of powers to Westminster, including greater control of immigration.

Michael Maslinski
London SW1

Sir, From today all employees, not just parents and carers, will have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ employment.

We believe the government deserves much credit for this initiative. But for this new right to be realised, more needs to be done to inform both employees and employers of what has changed and how it will work in practice.

We would like to see the government run an information campaign to ensure all employees know their rights, enabling them to balance work and family responsibilities, and enabling employers to retain skilled workers who contribute to economic productivity.

Belinda Phipps, NCT; Anand Shukla, Family and Childcare Trust; Caroline Abrahams, Age UK; Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group; Sam Smethers, Grandparents Plus; Rosalind Bragg, Maternity Action

Sir, While everyone who works for the NHS within modern A&E departments has the best of intentions, there is no doubt that the chaos and misery experienced by many patients would make Hogarth’s depiction of destitution in Gin Lane pale into insignificance.

We need a modern Hogarth and his cartoons to shock us into realising how badly our society manages the vulnerable and how vocationally committed clinicians are burnt-out.

George Lewith, Professor of Health Research, University of Southampton; Alastair Dobbin, Honorary Fellow, School of Clinical Sciences, Edinburgh University; Chris Manning, Convenor, Action for NHS Wellbeing; Professor David Peters, Director, Westminster Centre for Resilience, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Westminster; Sheila Ross, Director, Foundation for Positive Mental Health

Sir, Your editorial “Moral Law” (June 26) makes much of the checks and secure safeguards which Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill would embody. It is salutary to consider another permissive law, the Abortion Act, which was brought in promising similarly robust safeguards.

We have recently had the scandal of pre-signed abortion permission forms and sex-selective abortions. Also, the definition of “serious physical handicap” has been broadened to include such conditions as cleft palate. As a lawyer, Lord Falconer will know that words can be redefined until they are meaningless.

I am afraid a so-called “safeguarded law” on assisted dying would afford no protection at all to the vulnerable, who have no one to speak up for them.

Joan Herbert
London NW10

Sir, Early clocks in the northern hemisphere were based on conventional flat sundials, on which the shadow of the gnomon moves from left to right throughout the day.

If sundials and clocks had first been made in the southern hemisphere, the shadow, and therefore the hands of clocks, would have moved the opposite way. The Bolivians (report, June 26, and letter, June 28) are trying to correct an historic injustice: putting the clock back, so to speak.

Michael Bird
London SW13


SIR – As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard indicates, Jean-Claude Juncker dislikes Britain with an abiding passion. As an arch-federalist, he will ignore the cries of European electors, just as he did the French and Dutch when they voted against the EU Constitution. With Germany’s Bild Zeitung now stating that Britain should leave the EU if we cannot accept this fait accompli, perhaps now is the time to consider obliging.

With a £22 billion trading deficit with the EU we would be doing ourselves an immense favour, and with Britain’s £8 billion net contribution no longer pouring into EU coffers, we would also be doing the voters of Europe a favour by hastening the EU’s demise.

As the unelected elites of Europe were prepared to foist whomever they pleased on us and ignore logical argument, it is time for David Cameron to bring on the referendum tomorrow.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – The selection of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU Commission could prove the best outcome for this country, if it hastens our departure from the European Union.

Christopher Arthur

China’s human rights

SIR – Martin Jacques is too quick to praise “the huge progress that China has made” in combating human-rights abuses.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is now serving an 11-year sentence, and many more activists are also detained. The very mention of Tiananmen, Tibet, Taiwan, democracy, or the Dalai Lama on the internet brings state retribution. The millions who died in the famine of 1959-61 may not be discussed, nor can the millions accumulated by Party leaders.

Jonathan Mirsky
London W11

Admirable Phillip

SIR – I was delighted to see your article on the forthcoming memorials to Admiral Arthur Phillip, the founder of modern Australia.

The Britain-Australia Society Education Trust, of which I am chairman, has established scholarships in his name for British and Australian master’s students. These celebrate the values and disciplines of the rule of law, humanity, scientific inquiry, maritime studies, languages and foreign relations, which were the defining characteristics of Admiral Phillip.

Admiral Phillip ensured that the Australian settlement was administered as a civil society. The convicts were not chained, and were free to build their own huts, wear their own clothes, grow their own vegetables, and have families. Phillip did not countenance slavery and treated convicts, marines and seamen equally.

Sir Christopher Benson
London WC2

NHS out-of-hours

SIR – The out-of-hours system in this country has failed again because there are too many steps before the right decision is taken.

The only way that I can see these problems not becoming frequent is to go back to the days when GPs covered their own practice out of hours. This gave them quick and easy access to the patient’s notes and to the nearest Accident and Emergency department, and on most occasions they knew the individual concerned.

In Sherborne we worked with this system for years before the introduction of Dorset Doctors On Call. This method should be considered again, even if GPs have to work longer hours.

Dr John Tuke
Leigh, Dorset

SIR – Earlier this month an international report from the Commonwealth Fund (based in Washington) found that the NHS is the best health care system in the world, while the American system is the worst.

The NHS is more cost-effective, less bureaucratic, more efficient and delivers better care.

Any health care system will have individual instances where provision falls short and mistakes are made. The NHS saves, improves and repairs lives every single day in this country.

John Goymer
Houghton le Spring, Co Durham

Three-for-two offers

SIR – Ardon Lyon (Letters, June 22) makes a point about three-for-two offers that I have tried to make to the big supermarkets, but with little result.

Quite apart from food that is wasted because it is “free” in a three-for-two offer, pity the elderly who have to carry more than they need in order to benefit from this supposed largesse and the poor who cannot afford the price but might be able to pay two thirds of it.

Marion Farrell
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

SIR – Geoff Dees (Letters, June 22) tells us that he recycles nearly everything and then lists bottle banks, collection points, clothing banks and charity shops. How exactly does he get to these places? On foot? Or is it by motor vehicle? And if the latter, what does the vehicle run on? Fresh air? Liquid phlogiston? Or is it petrol?

Some of us do not have such conveyances and rely on Shanks’s pony. So we can only recycle stuff we can carry and as far as we can carry it.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

Heroes of 1966

SIR – So Wayne Rooney thinks that his team is too nice to win the World Cup, does he?

This is nothing less than an insult to Bobby Moore and his splendid teammates.

Richard Nash
Yelland, Devon

SIR – Given the dominance of privately educated individuals in English sport (report, June 15) perhaps private schools should be encouraged to play association football too, so that we can stand a better chance of winning the World Cup in future.

Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent

Labour will abandon manifesto arithmetic

SIR – How can Ed Balls expect the Office for Budget Responsibility to be tasked with assessing whether his party’s manifesto sums add up, when past experience suggests that such manifesto “promises” can be so readily abandoned once in office?

As a professional economist focusing on these issues at the time, I was satisfied that the public finance sums implicit in Labour’s 2001 manifesto did indeed “add up”. I was also prepared to accept that the party would, despite its previous history, at least try to stick with that arithmetic in broad terms, as it fitted with its wider narrative of “caring about the future as well as the present”.

The sums were, of course, abandoned shortly afterwards in the 2002 Budget. And, as British residents from all backgrounds have since learned to their cost, the principle of “caring about the future” was jettisoned.

Douglas Godden
London SE16

Inheritance tax

SIR – Sue Doughty (Letters, June 22) suggests how to avoid inheritance tax.

My mother, aged 97 in October, has implemented an excellent tax-planning scheme. She has been a resident in a home for the elderly for over 10 years. To meet the fees of the home she has had to sell the family house and use up virtually all of her savings.

Her family will inherit almost nothing and the Chancellor won’t collect any inheritance tax.

Moira Brodie
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – All families desire to pass chattels from one generation to another. What is the difference between a Velázquez painting owned by a duke, under which the child has played, and a medal for valour owned by a humble soldier whose children are proud of the sacrifice made? The children of the deceased duke are unfairly penalised because their particular chattel is worth millions.

The only tax should be on consumer spending. This is the best way of making the rich pay more fairly, as they spend more.

This way wealth is taxed just once; it is transparent and the electorate can understand it.

Sir James Pickthorn Bt
London SW6

Anti-grunting fund

SIR – I will happily contribute to Christopher Downs’s Centre Court ticket (Letters, June 22) for him to protest, if it stops Miss Sharapova’s grunts and shrieks.

Why are the women players worse than the men?

John Ecklin
Great Bookham, Surrey

SIR – I agree totally with Nicholas Farrell’s view regarding the sad demise of culinary standards in most restaurants in France (“French food has gone off the boil”).

It saddens me but I feel the article offers a true reflection of what France is offering in most bistros, cafes, and mid-range restaurants today.

In contrast, the food in Britain is much improved and the standard is largely excellent. It is the reverse of what has occurred in France.

I am concerned that France is in danger of losing its proud food culture and traditions, not to mention its gastronomic supremacy.

Michel Roux
The Waterside Inn
Bray, Berkshire

SIR – Every day I read articles suggesting that British jihadists in Syria or Iraq could come home and commit atrocities here.

Where people are clearly identifiable in videos promoting the cause of jihad, why wouldn’t we stop them from coming back into Britain when they attempt to do so? Is holding a British passport so inviolable an asset that we can do nothing until the mayhem begins at home? Perhaps our border control is too weak to carry out these checks.

Neville Seabridge
Thoroton, Nottinghamshire

SIR – You report that Nasser Muthana was given £100 by his father to attend an Islamic seminar last November. His father may bemoan the events that unfolded, but he should have made closer inquiries before parting with the money.

Unless elder Muslims take responsibility and report the unacceptable behaviour of younger, radicalised ones, fanatical Islam will be an increasing threat to Britain.

John Mayne
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

SIR – I wonder if a large number of these young British jihadists will return to Britain disgusted by the fanaticism of their brothers in arms and the detrimental impact their war has on the ordinary citizens of Iraq, and realise the advantages of living in Britain.

Just a small hope.

Alan Keegan
London SE2

SIR – The saddest thing about the two jihadist brothers, Nasser Muthana (20) and his brother Aseel (17) is that Nasser was thinking of becoming a medic, someone who cares for and heals people, especially those unable to help themselves. Now he is doing the opposite: inciting others to kill, maim and cause pain.

Aseel had ambitions to become a teacher. He could have given children the gift of knowledge and taught them the value of giving and sharing – but now he is taking and destroying.

Samantha Jones


SIR – Your leading article set out an eloquent exposition of British values and the need for all citizens to respect those mores.

These values originated in the Enlightenment, which began in Britain in the mid-17th century, and which clearly has some way to go before we can enjoy all its fruits.

It is also clear that it has not yet occurred at all in a number of countries. It is the clash between the two states of mind which will continue to generate much civic bother and bloodshed.

John Hopkins
Goostrey, Cheshire

SIR – Isn’t it time that we brought back capital punishment for those people who are convicted of carrying out, or plotting to carry out, jihadist crimes on British soil?

Gone are the days when we could bask in the virtuous glow of civilisation, when a slap on the wrist was deemed sufficient.

Instead of the tortuous and ineffective process of trying to stem the flow of these brainwashed criminals, we need the power of the ultimate sanction in order to protect our nation from such brutal, alien activity.

After all, this is war, and those jihadists in our midst ought to be treated in the same way as spies in wartime.

Joseph Kennedy
Newcastle upon Tyne

SIR – Michael Willis denigrates British values (Letters, June 15).

But when we hear of a thousand men who have surrendered in war being marched into the desert and murdered, the question becomes not what are British values, but what are the Islamists’ values.

Dr John Nandris
Merton College, Oxford

SIR – Ironic, isn’t it, that, had we supported the Syrian opposition, we would have been supporting, among others, Isis, which has now invaded Iraq.

There’s a lesson there for enthusiastic interventionists.

Cdr Malcolm Williams
Southsea, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – When the legitimately elected president of Egypt was ousted in a coup, commentators in the West welcomed the restraining of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. When that party was banned, and all its voters disenfranchised at a stroke, there was little demur. When 529 members of the Brotherhood were sentenced to death for one crime, there was some gentle tut-tutting. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was globally accepted as the new president, when his so-called election was only achieved by the banning of the opposition.

Now one western journalist has been put in jail and suddenly there is an outcry. If Peter Greste is freed from prison, will that prevent Egypt from its inevitable slide into greater repression and the inevitable terrorist response?

If the Muslim Brotherhood has no legitimate outlet for its views, what else can you expect? Justice is justice and democracy is democracy. There will be no peace in the Middle East until legitimately elected leaders are respected and supported internationally. – Yours, etc,


Rock Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Alan Howard’s letter (June 21st) on the disrespect shown to our national flag by many of our public institutions is timely as we approach the climax of the marching season in the North.

Every July, as part of the annual Orange Order marching season, many Northern Catholics feel the necessity to leave their homes to escape the global cultural phenomenon known as the “11th Night”. Across many towns and cities in the North, hundreds of “towering infernos” are built, most surmounted with the national flag of the Republic. These “bonfires of bigotry” are tolerated by the police. As a further insult, since 2010 Belfast City Council has financed a scheme whereby those associated with Orange Order bonfires can claim £100 if no Tricolours are incinerated.

Offering financial inducements to cease burning the Irish national flag is an appalling affront to the citizens of the Republic of Ireland.

Nowhere else in Europe would the annual ceremonial burning of many hundreds of the national flag of a peaceful neighbouring state go virtually uncommented upon.– Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – In better business circles there is a move towards lean business instead of cost reduction. Cost reduction tends to cut both value and waste, thereby reducing competitiveness. Lean business only reduces or eliminates waste, thereby increasing value, competitiveness and customer service.

The decision to cut obesity surgery at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin is an example of cost reduction at its worst because it eliminates that value proposition that many customers need without considering waste at all (“Decision to halt obesity surgery in St Vincent’s Hospital should be reversed”, Opinion & Analysis, June 25th). If this is the way our health service is run I can’t see any future for it. If it continually eliminates value, all that will be left is waste; and I think we have enough of that in the public service.

Minister for Health James Reilly should consider some of the principles of lean business in his strategy for the health service so that the customer is better served. – Yours, etc,


Ministers Road,

Lusk, Co Dublin.

Sir, – There has been much talk about the upcoming leadership election for the Labour Party to the effect that the party needs to “rediscover its values” and a “sense of direction” to bring some “reforming zeal” to the debate and the like.

What Labour needs more than anything else is clarity.

Ask someone down at the dole office what they feel about the difference between democratic socialism and social democracy and you’ll get a shrug (at best). These issues don’t matter to ordinary people. What matters are jobs, affordable housing, healthcare and schooling.

What Labour needs to do is to set clear goals and a pathway to these goals that goes beyond the usual five-year electoral cycle. Nobody expects that in five years joblessness will have disappeared, but what about in 10 years?

Let’s leave the waffle at the door and set some clear goals that everyone can understand. Free healthcare for all. Affordable housing for all. No child having to be schooled in a leaky prefab. There are many more, but let’s be clear in our language.

Let’s have, for example, free childcare for all within 10 years.

First step: increase the affordability of childcare under the current system through greater tax relief and/or subsidies.

Second step: establish a State body with a mandate to provide free childcare to all who require it.

Third step: build the required number of creches to provide childcare for our population. It should not be difficult; after all the State already provides free childcare for those over-four in our schools. Adding a few more years to this is easily achievable.

Do the same with employment, with schooling and so fourth. Clear medium-term goals and a clear path to these goals. This then can be the benchmark by which the party judges whether or not coalition is worthwhile. It is also the only way the party will regain the trust of voters. – Yours, etc,


Ballymakenny Road,


Sir, – Further to “Betrayal of Arabs after first World War set stage for turbulent century” (Weekend, June 21st), the impression is often given that the Sykes-Picot line was an arbitrary imperial carve-up of the Middle East, rather like the lines drawn on the map of Africa by European imperialists.

However, if you were to overlay the current map of the Middle East with the Ottoman Vilayat map – a map showing the governates or districts of its empire – you would see that there is a remarkable confluence.

The problems of the Middle East are those of competing nationalisms and ideologies and not necessarily caused by imperialism, real or imagined. – Yours, etc,


Dundanion Road,



Sir, – Ciaran Ó Raghallaigh (June 24th) repeats the myth of the “broadcasts” that it is claimed were made by Arab leaders ordering the Palestinian population to leave their homes in 1948 “on the expectation that they could return once the fledgling Jewish state had been erased from the map”.

This myth was exposed as far back as 1961 by Dr Erskine B Childers, who examined all the radio transcripts of the British and American monitoring units of the time. He concluded that, “there was not a single order … there is repeated monitored record of Arab appeals, even flat orders, to the civilians of Palestine to stay put”. The Palestinian people attempted to stay put but tragically failed, and roughly 800,000 of them were expelled. – Yours, etc,


Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.

Sir, – In the past, puritancial clerics were forever lecturing us about sex. Now secular puritans are forever lecturing us about food and drink.

Remember the definition of a puritan – a person who is horribly afraid that someone, somewhere might be happy. – Yours, etc,


Moyola Park,


A chara, – In addition to the museums and heritage centres mentioned in Ronan McGreevy’s comprehensive article (“In Flanders Fields”, Magazine, June 21st), there is another interpretative centre which opened last November in the village of Ploegsteert. It is the “Plugstreet 14-18 Experience”, close to Ploegsteert Wood, which was the site of some fierce fighting throughout the Great War.

There are 13 military cemeteries in the surrounding area, and several craters which resulted from the chain of subterranean mine explosions which took place on June 7th, 1917. One of the football matches at Christmas 1914 between the German and British forces took place close by at St Yvon.

As well as explaining the movement of the Western Front in this region, the interpretative centre highlights the relationship between occupying forces and the local population, which makes it different to most other museums dealing with this period. It is a 20-minute drive south of Ypres, and about five minutes from the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Mesen, also well worth a visit. – Is mise,


Maryfield Drive,


Sir, – Hugo Kiernan’s reflections on the fate of Louis Suarez (June 27th) and his observation that if a youngster had done the same on O’Connell Street in Dublin in full view of CCTV and passers-by he “would have the book thrown at him” is sadly not the likely outcome.

My son was hospitalised after a serious assault off O’Connell Street three weeks ago in full view of CCTV and passers-by.

To date no-one has been arrested, charged, or indeed had “the book thrown at them”. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – Last Monday’s Irish Times carried an appreciation of Dominican priest Malachy O’Dwyer.

On the day of its appearance it was brought to my attention that Malachy, who had written his doctoral thesis in Latin in canon law, never completed secondary school. On the early death of his father he left school at a young age to support the family.

He worked in a builders’ providers and did his Leaving Cert at night in a one-classroom school, all grades together with one teacher. Malachy often recalled to friends how excellent the teacher was.

A man in Paraná in Argentina, talking about Malachy, 30 years after first encountering him, remembers how well he preached: “Short, full of content and obviously well prepared”.

My late father always sat up in the seat when he saw Malachy come out to celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Priory, Tallaght, in the 1970s. He knew he was in for some wise words, well crafted.

When Malachy was asked to go to India he was somewhat reluctant as he would much prefer to have gone back to Argentina. He went to India, helped reestablish the Dominicans in the country and made it his new home. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Gardens,

Sir, – Have you ever noticed how difficult it is in Ireland to change direction when pushing a load of groceries in the supermarket or a stack of bags at the airport?

It is a lot like trying to steer a sailboat with a missing keel. The cart and the boat just want to continue going in the same direction, regardless of the pusher’s directional plans.

The reason for this is that in Ireland all four wheels are on casters, while in the rest of the world the back wheels are fixed and only the fronts can pivot. Thus to change direction, you just pivot the cart and away you go. Not true in Ireland, where you must walk around to the side of the cart and turn it in the desired direction, then return to the back to push in the new direction.

So could someone, better connected than me, contact the cart makers and tell them to fix the carts? – Yours, etc,


Siwanoy Lane,

New Canaan,

Sir, – We all have heard the quip, “ready, fire, aim”. In fact those words were not just a joke. For centuries after infantry soldiers were given the rifle, they were ordered not to take the time to aim; rather, they were instructed just to point in the general direction of the enemy and fire. Their commanders believed that it was the mass impact, the “broadside,” that won the day.

Our leaders still believe it. They think that our “shock and awe”, our marvellous technology measured in stealth bombers, drones, all-knowing intelligence, our massed and highly mobile troops and our money constitute a devastating broadside.

All we have to do is to point in the right direction and shoot.

So we shoot and then shoot again and again. We win each battle, but the battles keep happening.

And to our chagrin, we don’t seem to be winning the wars. – Yours, etc,


Springate Road,




Sir, – Recently I received a letter from my bank relating to my credit card account. The missive made absolutely no sense and was “bonkers” – to use the McAleese phrase. On phoning their office, the man I spoke to was both apologetic and honest. “A computer sent the letter,” he said! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Praise where praise is due. Yesterday I received my new passport exactly 14 days after posting my application to the embassy in Vienna. Many thanks to the embassy and the Passport Office for processing it so quickly at such a busy time of year. I had hung onto the old one in case I needed it for the European election; and the first use I am planning for the new one is a trip to Switzerland, to introduce my 4-year-old daughter to my 87-year-old aunt, who has been living there since the 1950s. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – I am researching the life of Fr Alexander McCabe (1900-88), who was rector of the Irish College in Salamanca from 1935 to 1950. Upon his return to his native Kilmore diocese, he served as a curate in Maghera and Corlough, parish priest in Rossinver and chaplain to St Joseph’s nursing home in Virginia. Any information about Fr McCabe from your readers would be much appreciated. Replies to – Yours, etc,


Northumberland Court,

Northumberland Road,


Sir, – I would like to add the Holocaust Museum to Jennifer Steinhauer’s list of places to visit on a weekend in Washington DC (Magazine, June 21st). This museum is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. It is a moving experience and a “must see” when visiting the city. – Yours, etc,


Kincora Park,


Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

* I am writing this letter to you with a heavy heart. Picture 507 young adults in a room. All fighting fit, with so much to live for. Now imagine something coming along, opening the door to that room, and killing all 507 of those people. Imagine the families of these people, thousands of mourners, funeral after funeral.

Ordinarily this would make the news headlines, be in every paper and on every news channel across the country and world, but it’s not. It’s not talked about, and is swept under the carpet, as if it never happened.

This is exactly what is happening in this country every day with the suicide of our young people. This weekend, I learnt again of yet another young man, a mere 22 years old, in our local community who took his own life. Why?

This is a subject that I feel very passionate about. In the past I suffered from the debilitating disease of depression. I struggled each day with the haunting feeling of hating myself, the feeling that the world would be a better place without me.

I had many attempts on my life, which earned me a stay in a mental hospital for eight weeks. Here we were locked up, fed tablets; saw a doctor once a week, only for them to give more medication. There was no help.

But I was one of the lucky ones. I eventually found a doctor who was willing to see me, free of charge, because he believed in me.

Years later and I have finally got my life back. I have a whole new appreciation for life, and all because somebody listened to me.

Why do we as a society simply sit back and accept that suicide is now “the norm”?

Where is our Government, the elected leaders? I challenge them to explain to those who have lost their loved ones why they will not help. Why they are closing mental health hospitals. Why there is insufficient after-care facilities available.

Isn’t it time now to call upon our Government to step up? To educate our children on the importance of talking. If we educate our young children that “the norm” is talking through our problems, we may break the vicious cycle of “the norm” being suicide.



* This month sees the 100th-year commemorations of the start of World War I. We know of its major battles, but less of the hardships on civilians.

American Herbert Hoover was a businessman and a natural administrator, and at the start of the war he lived in London.

He was asked to evacuate 120,000 American civilians from Europe, which he duly did. He then led the Commission for Relief in Belgium to provide food to the eight million people who were in danger of dying from starvation. Their factories had closed, farms were ruined and most of the food stores taken by the German army.

In response to this monumental challenge, Herbert Hoover distributed $1.8m worth of food weekly for two-and-a-half years with the help of the New York office of the Commission.

He saved millions of lives, but not without reported human flaws. He rarely visited a food station and there were allegations of profiteering.

Whether true or not, he saved millions of people and helped them survive, and for this he was known as ‘the Great Humanitarian’.

It was the biggest relief effort the world had seen. He negotiated with the German authorities to allow the distribution of food in Belgium.

There was Myron T Herrick, an American ambassador to France during his first term to 1914, and during the war he helped the French people.

He was awarded the French Legion of Honour and was the first American ambassador to have a Paris street named after him.

When the US entered WWI in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson requested Hoover to head the US Food Administration to ready the country for war-time food production. Their slogan was ‘Food will win the war’.

At war’s end, he headed the American Relief Administration, which saved millions more lives in Europe, including Germany. They set up 35,000 food stations in Germany, which provided 300 million meals.

He certainly was effective and founded the Hoover War Collection library in 1919 on his immense food aid effort in WWI.

This is now known as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, USA, and also has archives from WWII and other wars.

It should not surprise that he was elected 31st President of the United States in 1929. He came from a family of devout Quakers.




* Now that gay is the new straight, when can we expect, nay, demand, hetero pride parades through the streets of Dublin?




* The cost of replacing Marian Finucane with a Mensa comedian?





* Jim Cosgrove (Letters, June 27) has demanded to know how I arrived at the term ‘schizophrenic’ to describe the response to the Tuam babies story.

In a nutshell, while there remains considerable antipathy towards single mothers in today’s society, it is schizophrenic to castigate past generations for similar attitudes, albeit for different reasons.

That today’s society seems unaware of the irony of its position lends itself to the label ‘schizophrenic’.

He asks: “No doubt the nuns, priests, bishops … . were fully immersed in and dedicated to Victorian bourgeois values?” Yes, that is exactly what I was saying. Nuns, priests, bishops, and the rest of society as well.

Mr Cosgrove then goes on to ask ” … but from where did the obsessive oppression relating to sexuality, reproduction and equal rights for women emanate?”

From Victorian middle-class bourgeois attitudes, Mr Cosgrove, out of which a particular form of society emerged to which other areas of human activity (such as religion) were subsumed.

Perhaps Mr Cosgrove is unaware that Ireland was once a colony of the UK and heavily influenced by Victorian social engineering programs of the 18th and 19th Centuries, though I thought I had made this point clear previously also.

We are still living in such a paradigm, though ‘religion’ has been largely dropped in favour of more secular explanations of ‘respectability’.




* The recent media reports of the huge profits of €65m at VHI is quite unbelievable. This profit is despite the thousands who were forced to cancel their insurance premiums this year because of the unending increases imposed on them, year in, year out.

I had to cancel my insurance this same year as the huge profits, having been a member for over 30 years without any cost to VHI regarding a claim.

Part of the increase in profits is reported to have come from a closer examination by VHI of the costs of the claims from the hospitals, consultants, etc, in regard to possible overcharging. Does this mean we as customers have been paying these additional costs for years?



Irish Independent


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