Still tired

4 July2014 Tired

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired but a littl;e better

ScrabbleMary wins, but gets under 400. well done Mary,perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Phuntsog Wangyal – obituary

Phuntsog Wangyal was the co-founder of the Tibetan Communist Party who fell in with China only to fall foul of Mao’s mandarins

Phuntsok Wangyal

Phuntsok Wangyal

6:56PM BST 02 Jul 2014

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Phuntsog Wangyal, who has died aged 92, co-founded the Tibetan Communist Party in the 1940s; but despite giving up on an independent Tibet and unifying his party with that in China, he was jailed in Beijing and kept in solitary confinement for almost two decades.

Phunwang — as he was commonly known — might have appeared the ideal Chinese stooge in Tibet. But though he considered the country’s independence less important than the success of socialism, he was eventually unable to turn a blind eye to the corruption of Chinese officials.

Phuntsog Wangyal (far left) with the Dalai Lama, Chen Yi, and the Panchen Lama in Lhasa,1956

“Phunwang showed that you could be a true Communist while at the same time proud of your Tibetan heritage,” stated the Dalai Lama. Phunwang’s stance, however, made him persona non grata in China. He was purged, finding himself locked up in Qincheng Prison, a maximum-security facility near Beijing notorious for its harsh conditions and detention of political prisoners.

Phuntsog Wangyal Goranangpa was born in 1922 in Batang , in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet (now part of western Sichuan Province). The area was terrorised by the Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui, an ally of the Chinese nationalist Kuomintang. As a young boy out collecting walnuts, Phunwang witnessed Wenhui’s troops carry out a brutal reprisal attack following a local uprising.

In his youth he was involved with the Tibetan Democratic Youth League, out of which he formed, in 1942, with Ngawang Kesang, the Tibetan Communist Party. Initially the party concerned itself with opposing the Kuomintang. But as a committed Marxist, Phunwang later proposed socialist reforms and the dismantling of Tibet’s feudal structures.

Phuntsog Wangyal (left) with Ngawang Kesang, in Kalimpong,1944

Shortly before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, Phunwang announced a merger of his party with the Communist Party in China. As a result many Tibetans called him a traitor.

After the invasion, Phunwang become integral to the Chinese administration in Tibet, having been assigned to accompany Zhang Guohua, commander of the Chinese Eighteenth Army, to Lhasa. He was also the official translator for the young Dalai Lama during his meetings with Mao Tse-tung in 1954-55.

By the end of the Fifties, however, the tide had turned. Mao’s Leftist movement targeted Phunwang as a potential agitator due to his criticism of ethnic Han officials. In 1958 he was placed under house arrest and obliged to undergo “self-criticism”. He was jailed two years later, along with most of his family.

During his incarceration he was subjected to beatings, sound torture, poisonings and repetitive and intensive interrogation that was Kafkaesque in its obscurity. “They said they wanted me to confess my crimes,” he recalled, “but spoke of them only in general, so I never knew exactly what they were accusing me of.” Of all the horrors, “the total isolation was the hardest”.

He was released from Qincheng Prison in 1978, after which he went through a process of official rehabilitation before settling into life in Beijing, cut-off from the outside world. In a placatory move the Chinese authorities later offered him the position of Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, which he declined. He kept away from the political stage for many years, instead choosing to immerse himself in academia. His books included New Exploration of Dialectics (1990) and Liquid Water Does Exist on the Moon (1994) in which he explored the science of philosophical dialectics.

In later life Phunwang worked to promote better relations between Tibet and China, campaigning for the return of the Dalai Lama to Lhasa, which he claimed would be “good for stabilising Tibet”.

Then, in 2006, he returned to the political limelight with a series of letters to Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Chinese Communist party. In them Phunwang warned that if a permanent agreement was not found to solve “the Tibet Problem”, it would become increasingly dangerous. “Comrade Jintao,” he noted in one letter, “a single matchstick is enough for the arsonist but putting out the fire would take a great effort.” The language turned out to appallingly apt: since then a wave of young monks and nuns in Tibet have protested against persecution under Chinese rule by setting themselves on fire.

In 2004 he provided an epilogue to a book on his life, entitled A Tibetan Revolutionary. “I worked hard for the liberation of the Tibetan nation and for national unity in the new China,” Phunwang concluded. “That work that brought unendurable difficulties, but as Beethoven said: ‘I will seize fate by the throat. It won’t lay me low.’ That is what I believe I did. I did not let my suffering lay me low. I did not disgrace my dear parents, countrymen, and the Tibetans of the Land of Snow.”

Phunwang married, firstly, Tsilila. She died in prison in 1969. He is survived by his second wife, Tseten Yangdron, and by four children of his first marriage.

Phuntsog Wangyal, born 1922, died March 30 2014


Nuclear submarines

A Trident missile is fired from a British submarine. Photograph: Lockheed Martin/MoD/PA

The Trident commission’s conclusions that the UK does not need nuclear weapons to maintain international status or as an “insurance policy” against a global crisis are to be welcomed. Unfortunately the report’s headline finding that Trident should be replaced is mistaken (Report, 1 July).  Modernising and proliferating nuclear weapons, even with reduced numbers, is out of step with international law and Britain’s security needs. Public opinion continues to move away from wanting nuclear weapons, with senior military, trade unions and public figures arguing that the billions of pounds should be redirected towards our real security needs.

When the UK failed to participate in multilateral discussions on nuclear disarmament at talks mandated by the UN general assembly in Geneva last year, as well as boycotting the Oslo conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, the government was widely condemned. The vast majority of UN members, who feel no need to develop nuclear arsenals and see the nuclear-armed states as a threat to global security, are frustrated with growing proliferation and the irresponsibility of the nine nuclear-armed states. The UK is increasingly ridiculed for clinging on to these expensive cold-war white elephants.

Britain’s national security is inseparable from international security, which the commission fails to recognise. Its backing for Trident’s replacement is outdated. This hugely expensive project is already being overtaken as other nations become willing to ban nuclear weapons.

In one of its few relevant passages, the Trident commission correctly concluded that the UK needs to do more to show it is serious about disarmament, and needs to prepare a “glide path” for reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons. With the Vienna conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons scheduled for 8-9 December, the commissioners need to work with their respective institutions to ensure that Britain takes part in good faith in multilateral steps aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons, rather than sticking the UK’s head in the sand and pretending that the world has not changed in 30 years.

Mark Hackett Chair, UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Bill Butler Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland Forum, John Sauven Greenpeace, Dr Kate Hudson CND Dr Rebecca Johnson FRSA, Rebecca Sharkey International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Thomas Nash Article 36, Peter Wilkinson Nuclear Information Service, Dr Stuart Parkinson Scientists for Global Responsibility, Frank Boulton Medact Nuclear Issues Group, Dr David Lowry Former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre

• I spent most days in April touring the country on a scrap Trident programme. In all those meetings I don’t think I came across anyone who wanted to spend £100bn on nuclear weapons rather than on the NHS and education. People know the threats today are no longer those we were told we faced in the cold war. Nuclear weapons are not a rational response to any of them. A draft nuclear abolition convention has been with the UN for years. At its core is an  “inspection on demand” proviso by an international UN agency.

Why doesn’t Labour break ranks with this country’s leading nuclear-weapon-obsessed partners? They refuse to begin abolition negotiations. Labour could call for a major international nuclear weapons abolition conference in London to take place within two years. That would get three cheers from most of the world and from most of this country.
Bruce Kent
Vice-president, CND

• I recall a government minister in the 1980s being asked: “What is the purpose of our nuclear weapons?” His response: “To prevent any tin-pot dictator invading our territory.” Within months a tin-pot dictator, General Galtieri, had invaded the Falklands. This tells us all we need to know about the worth of spending up to £100bn on a useless defence system when we are being told that the NHS is collapsing due to lack of investment.
Rik Evans
Truro, Cornwall

• If the answer is “Trident is worth renewing”, then the question was wrong. It should have been: “Why shouldn’t all the other UN member nations have one?”
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

• The review of the Trident system was undertaken by people who had been involved in the past operation of the system. Where were the new voices, the reflections of a different Britain? Are we destined to refight the battles of the past? This should be a source of national debate, not for discussions between old establishment figures behind closed doors.
Ted Heath

• What a splendid precedent was set by the Ukrainian government in using crowdfunding to pay for its drone (Report, 29 June). Perhaps the UK government should use a similar method to finance Trident. Then only those who think it necessary or desirable need pay for it.
Rowland Ware


Whether or not Tony Blair stands to gain personally from working for the Egyptian government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Editorial, 3 July), there can be absolutely no doubt over Egypt‘s truly atrocious human rights record. Since the military’s unseating of Mohamed Morsi a year ago, there has been a surge in arbitrary arrests and detentions. Harrowing cases of torture in police and military detention are piling up, and the last 12 months have seen a reported 80 deaths in custody – one every four or five days. Most notoriously, the courts in Egypt have handed down 1,247 death sentences so far this year, with 247 of these confirmed notwithstanding the rank unfairness of the proceedings. Blair apparently sees President Sisi as the saviour of Egypt. With saviours like this, the Egyptian people have every reason to fear for their future.
Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK

• For the past year, General (now President) Sisi has been engaged in rehabilitating the police state challenged by Egypt’s uprising of 2011. Now he is bringing back Tony Blair, who enthusiastically backed Sisi’s alter ego, Hosni Mubarak. In 2011, even as millions of Egyptians rose in opposition to the dictator, Blair insisted that the president was “immensely courageous and a force for good”. He certainly had a good time at Mubarak’s expense, spending family holidays in a luxury villa in Sinai provided by the president. He returned safely to London. Not so lucky were those seized and flown to Egypt under the policy of “extraordinary rendition” designed by the CIA and, says Richard Dearlove – head of MI6 during the Blair years – endorsed by the British government.
Professor Philip Marfleet
University of East London

• Seumas Milne’s bilious attack on Blair would carry more weight if there were a semblance of a democratic regime in the Arab world. Just to be elected doesn’t make a government democratic, as the Egyptian experience under Morsi showed. Which corrupt, autocratic, dictatorial, secular, religious, authoritarian, malign, tyrannical governments are we supposed to avoid? Where are the democratic movements we are supposed to support? Anti-government movements seem often as poisonous as the regimes they seek to replace. Do we just wash our hands of the lot of them? Western support for Arab tyrannies may have been a factor in the rise of al-Qaida but support for the Muslim Brotherhood is no substitute. It is no less inimical to democracy than it is to Arab autocracies. Sometimes dislike of Tony Blair substitutes for reason.
Roy Boffy
Walsall, West Midlands

• You report that Tony Blair is advising Egypt’s president on “accessing support in the international community”. Not imprisoning journalists for what Egypt quaintly calls “spreading false news” would be a useful starting point for Blair.
Alex Kirby
Former BBC Cairo correspondent

• Seumas Milne notes parallels between the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile and the Sisi coup. The same tired rhetoric about “saving the nation” while murder, torture, state terrorism, not to mention the plunder and self-enrichment, continue apace. Had he been around, Blair would have applauded Pinochet too, no doubt. What an appalling, base individual he is.
James Hamill

We welcome any new political focus on the problem of female genital mutilation – and the media coverage that comes with it (Failure to protect girls from FGM is ‘ongoing national scandal’, MPs say, July 3).

But while it is of course important to get our own house in order and ensure that everything possible is being done to stop FGM in Britain, the simple fact is that we will not end the practice here until it is ended around the world.

FGM is very much a global problem; it doesn’t exist in a vacuum in the UK. The beliefs and customs that lead to it, as well as the girls who are subjected to it, cross borders.

So, as we heard in our recent roundtable discussion at the Guardian, to focus efforts exclusively on British legislation and British policy is to virtually admit defeat in ending a practice that worldwide has affected an estimated 125 million women and girls.

It’s through grassroots work with communities in the countries across Africa and the Middle East in which FGM is prevalent that, over years, not overnight, we can end this practice.
Tanya Barron
Chief executive, Plan UK

• The police are proud of the fact quite rightly, that they have been able to prosecute celebrities for past crimes involving sexual abuse. Some of these have gone back almost 40 years and the police have emphasised that they are willing to investigate historical crimes whatever the circumstances or the longevity.

If these principles are now to be applied to the prosecution of perpetrators of FGM, we can expect a veritable flood of cases involving thousands of women of all ages. This will inevitably be seen as the persecution of a cultural minority and possibly disturb race relations for a generation or more. Whither then the goal of multiculturalism, with the state and the police seen to be coming down heavily on a widely accepted cultural practice, however horrific that practice is considered to be by the great majority?
Ted Wilson

Our PM has announced that we need new antibiotics (Report, 2 July), since resistance to existing stock poses a major global health threat. Well done, though this is not news since the medical profession has been warning of the coming crisis for quite a time. However, he seems unaware of the irony of his position. The pharmaceutical industry has been slow to pursue research, because it is difficult and expensive and the financial returns on any new development may fail to satisfy their pockets. Antibiotics are short-term treatments, unlike drugs developed for chronic illnesses, and new antibiotics will be used sparingly for critical conditions or post-operative care, since broader availability may create the problem it’s trying to solve – that of drug resistance. The lesson for Cameron may be that in an area where society needs sustained investment, marketised medicine is failing. Yet he leads a government hell-bent on marketising large swaths of socially provided services, including healthcare. The evidence suggests that markets cannot always provide what society needs, and with antibiotics the nightmare is already beginning.
Tony Tucker
Frodsham, Cheshire

Sheryl Sandberg fails to realise that what she simply considers Facebook’s “poor communication” about its psychological experiments (Facebook apologises for experiments on users, 2 July) was an ethical violation of the principle of informed consent for 700,000 users. What makes this experiment more grievous is the lack of a briefing or debriefing, as well as a callous disregard for the principle to avoid harm to subjects. By manipulating the emotions of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users, and not telling them their emotions were impacted by an experiment rather than their own failings or temperament, Facebook has probably caused some real psychological harm to some of its users.
Carter Brace
Egham, Surrey

• My husband and I own a small restaurant in Sheffield. It has been our life’s work (so far). We worked hard to set up our small but thankfully busy and (we think) good South American steak house. It is our livelihood and the only source of income we have to support ourselves and our young son. In terms of what we have created it’s on a small scale but nevertheless helpful to society – we employ 15 full-time and three part-time staff, and we pay rates, VAT and taxes.

Yet I am totally demoralised every time a keyboard warrior with no professional accreditation takes to the likes of TripAdvisor and now Facebook and Twitter to rubbish our whole business. And there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t opt out of TripAdvisor.

Can you imagine an international forum where you can review how awful your co-worker was on one particularly bad day they were having, or even just in one encounter with you, for their potential future employers to be able to check? Our future employers are our potential customers – and they’re checking us out on TripAdvisor and Facebook. If only more people understood the other side of those reviews.
Gloria Clarke

One of the arguments used to persuade Scots to vote no to independence is that they are better off as part of the larger nation than they would be as a small separate unit (Report, 3 July). Many making that argument are now saying that the UK would be better off out of the EU for many of the reasons the Scots say they would be better off independent. Are not the reasons for Scotland staying in the UK the same as those for the UK staying in the EU?
Jeffrey Butcher
Morecambe, Lancashire

• I cannot help wondering whether Marcel Duchamp will be turning in his grave or quietly chuckling to himself at the price fetched by Tracey Emin’s pastiche of his brilliant and iconoclastic practical joke, “Fountain”, first exhibited in 1917 (Tracey Emin’s Bed is sold at auction for over £2.5m, 1 July). Whatever he is doing, I have no doubt that Charles Saatchi will have a big smile on his face as he trousers the £2.5m.
Alfred Litten

• I do wish people wouldn’t associate Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax with Benny Hill (Report, 29 June). As an early 60s instrumental it has its own identity without being lumped together with Hill’s pantomime antics. Incidentally, Chet Atkins does a nice guitar version as Yakety Axe.
Phil Rhoden
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

• Not to mention Angela Mortimer and Ann Haydon Jones, and way back still, Dorothy Round Little and Kitty McKane Godfree (Letters, 3 July). But then the women’s title doesn’t count, does it?
Kathy Arundale

• Michael Barber is mistaken about puttees being “replaced by anklets before the second world war” (Letters, 2 July). I was in the army CCF between 1979 and 1981, and puttees were a standard part of the kit. Mind you, we were stationed in Durham, so pre-war developments elsewhere might have been slow to get up north.
Jon Webster
Whitby, North Yorkshire

• Puttees were certainly still in use for some CCF members at Highgate School in the 1940s, including my brother John. I’ve got a photo to prove it.
June Mack


Unite is absolutely right to highlight the risk to the NHS posed by the trade deal currently being negotiated with the US (“PM must exclude NHS from EU-US trade deal or it could be sued, union warns”, 3 July). Many other aspects of life in the UK are also threatened.

The deal seeks to “harmonise” European and American food, safety and environmental regulation, which in reality would mean slashing our hard-won standards to match much lower US levels. So products such as hormone-treated beef and pork, and chicken washed in chlorine, sold by US companies but currently banned here, could appear on supermarket shelves in the UK.

Education would also be affected, as American companies are being offered the chance to get involved in public education, from primary level right through to university.

David Cameron claims to be fighting for national sovereignty in his dealings with the EU, but in pushing for this deal, he is ceding our sovereignty to multinational companies. The deal is a corporate power-grab, and should be abandoned.

Nick Dearden

Director, World Development Movement, London SW9

Reading about punitive US sanctions on European banks made me realise that there was a historical parallel.

Britain fought for more than 20 years against revolutionary and Napoleonic France, and during those wars imposed trade sanctions against neutral powers which were exporting contraband goods to France.

The Royal Navy enforced that policy by stopping and searching neutral merchantmen and impounding goods and ships that were breaking our embargo. This policy annoyed the US merchants concerned and resulted in the largely naval war of 1812. Though we had the satisfaction of burning the White House, they had the last laugh by soundly defeating us at the Battle of New Orleans – after the war had already ended in a draw. Should we conclude anything from this?

Peter Milner


Can anyone tell me why we allow the USA to dictate who we trade with? I can accept that we should not trade with terrorist organisations, but why cannot we trade with Cuba? This is a peaceful country whose only “misdemeanour” is that its leaders will not kneel down and grovel to the world’s leading litigious society.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey


Overdose of blame for GPs

Jane Merrick (3 July) blames GPs for the loss of effectiveness of antibiotics. As a retired GP I remember spending an inordinate amount of time explaining to patients why the use of antibiotics needed to be restricted, and that the course ought to be completed in order to avoid resistance building up. Considerable airtime has been given to this topic on television and radio.

There has, however, been a deafening silence on the role of antibiotic use by vets and farmers, particularly in rearing poultry, where I understand antibiotics are used regularly in the prevention of infection.

We all have a responsibility in this matter, not just one group.

Dr Christine Wood

Penistone, South Yorkshire

How the state could fix pensions

You are right to call for National Insurance to be abolished (editorial, 30 June); it has many anomalies. Most of the benefits should always have been financed out of general taxation, but the provision for pensions is different. Pension provision should have been funded.

The cash that my employers and I paid for the pensions element of the scheme should have been held in trust and invested to provide the funds needed to finance my pension. The cost should not fall upon my children and grandchildren. In my case the cost of an annuity to fund my pension would be about £78,000; a hidden debt. As the average age increases we are now creating ever higher levels of hidden debt.

There is little incentive for taxpayers to contribute to the private pension and annuity schemes which have proved to be so unsatisfactory in the past. The state could operate a guaranteed pension scheme which would encourage taxpayers to make proper provision for their retirement. It is essential that they do so to limit the social security benefits which future governments would need to fund.

The state could run a funded pension scheme with a guaranteed return of say inflation plus 2 per cent coupled with guaranteed annuity rates. This would enable contributors to know what their retirement income would be.

The state could invest the fund in for example residential mortgages, new rented housing and small businesses. It should make a profit, but even if it didn’t the saving in social security cost would make the scheme worthwhile.

The greatest benefit from such a scheme is that it could be used to replace the final salary schemes provided for public employees, thus eliminating the great difference between public and private employment.

Clive Georgeson

Dronfield, Derbyshire

What won’t happen on the West Bank

As is well known it is anti-Semitic to suggest that either Zionism or the Israeli state is racist. I would therefore expect, in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian child, for the Israeli state to behave in exactly the same way as it did when three Israeli children were kidnapped and murdered.

I am confident that the army will search the homes of thousands of settlers. That prominent settler leaders will be detained and that the source of this and similar attacks, the terrorist nests of settlements such as Kiryat Arba, will be subject to bombing from the air.

Of course none of the above is conceivable. This is the real problem in Israel and no amount of “peace” negotiations that permit the war process to continue will make any difference. Until Israel becomes a state of its own people, Jewish and non-Jewish, and not a supremacist Jewish state, the situation will continue indefinitely.

Tony Greenstein


Has all humanity left the Middle East? It sickens me that four teenagers have been murdered. They are teenagers; it doesn’t matter that three are Jewish and one Muslim. Each has parents, friends and until recently a future.

The inevitable reprisals have started. It would be refreshing to hear that both sides are dealing with these murders in the way most societies would and working together to investigate them, find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. That would reassure many of us who look on dismayed at the constant violence in the Middle East.

Marcus Stanton

Kingston, Surrey

A grievous blow to jazz

The news that the Arts Council has chosen to axe its funding to Jazz Services Ltd – our national organisation for debate, information and financial support – is the most grievous blow to our music since the organisation opened its doors in 1967.

For those in the profession who have watched with dismay jazz’s submergence amid the rock culture – as well as its incomprehensible but triumphant survival nonetheless – the news may not come as a shock. But we have a society which is once again open to the sounds of jazz, major colleges offering degrees in the music, and new generations of young jazz musicians enriching our artistic heritage year after year. In view of all that, the Arts Council’s decision-makers can be seen only as fools who fail to recognise that art does not, by definition, need to starve in a garret.

As a professional jazz musician of 40 years, I say: shame on them.

Digby Fairweather

Westcliff on Sea, Essex

Investment in wind power

You report (“Green power”, 27 June) that experts in the renewable energy business “are concerned that Conservative Party opposition to renewable energy could [deter] investors”.

On the contrary, it has encouraged me to invest in an onshore wind turbine development, supported by the local community, to demonstrate that I am rather more farsighted than the “spoils the view” brigade, who probably use as much, or more, power than the rest of us.

Or are they relying on a short-term “dash for gas” for our future power needs? I bet they don’t believe in climate change either.

John Davis

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Why did the press miss the big story?

It remains a mystery why for so many years some tabloid journalists were prepared to break the criminal law to provide their readers with a circulation-boosting diet of celebrity infidelity, yet they completely failed to help to bring to public attention Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuses, which had been going on for decades.

It would surely have served their argument for an unrestrained press far better had they been able to provide a genuine public service.

Mark Albrow

Hampton,  Middlesex


Sir, David Cameron is right to identify the threat posed by antibiotic resistance as a critical one, and to promote work to seek new antibiotics. However, that work will have only short-term impact unless there’s a coordinated, global campaign to prevent the development of further resistance to existing and new antibiotics. That means careful management of human treatment, but also an end to factory farming, which by its nature relies on heavy and often continuous antibiotic use to maintain stressed animals in crowded conditions, and ideal conditions for the development of new strains of pathogens that threaten both animal and human health.

Natalie Bennett

Leader, Green Party

Sir, Fifty years ago I was working in a laboratory in East Africa. I found that my young African assistant had set himself up as a specialist in the treatment of venereal disease in the local village, offering penicillin injections to his patients for the price of one shilling. He admitted that one ampoule and one needle served ten patients. Ironically, the local European-run clinic offered proper treatment free. I confiscated his stock of long out-of-date penicillin and bought my assistant a camera so that he could set himself up in the less dangerous profession of portrait photographer at one shilling a shot.

There is little doubt that similarly inadequate practices in antibiotic treatment have contributed to the problems we are now facing.

Walter Wolff

London W11

Sir, About 30 years ago a comprehensive article in The Times warned about the future dangers to health due to over-prescription of antibiotics. A pity the government of the day did not pay more attention.

Gerald Hooper

Poynton, Stockport

Sir, I was intrigued to see that patients are to blame for the antibody crisis (Thunderer, July 2) and yet the doctor (Theodore Dalrymple, a retired prison
doctor) writing the article admits to doing the same thing himself — ie, “I have never finished a course of antibiotics in my life” thereby contributing to the problem. If doctors really do know best (and they do), then it is a shame as a doctor, that he does not follow the specialist advice himself.

John Berry

Countesthorpe, Leics

Sir, Throughout the 1990s we ‘hosted’ teenage students from east Asia (the majority from China) who were here to learn English. It was usual for their parents to send them with plentiful supplies of antibiotics. They would take the tablets at the first sign of a cough or sniffle and put them away as soon as the symptoms departed.

I am told that in many countries no prescription is needed for even the most powerful antibiotics. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to learn that antibiotic-resistant diseases are increasingly encountered by medical professionals.

However, it seems disingenuous to assume that by restricting UK patients’ access to antibiotics, or even that of patients across Europe, the development of resistant bacteria will be slowed. A superbug can easily develop in people and in places where restricted access to antibiotics simply does not apply.

Heather Matthews


Some greenbelt sites are appropriate for homebuilding so the rules against it should be relaxed

Sir, As usual the RIBA has gone off at half-cock (“Build on green belt, top architects urge”, July 2). Lord Rogers has supported brownfield development; architects have produced exciting housing for difficult urban sites; and industrially scarred tracts (eg, Greenwich peninsula) are being developed for housing. So the RIBA should be supporting architects in creating architecturally and environmentally satisfying homes, and not urging future governments to go for the soft option of unprotecting green belts just to give pattern-book house builders access to more profitable sites.

Patrick Hogan, RIBA

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Sir, I own a site in the green belt, a former scrapyard now used for lorry storage; my neighbour runs a haulage company. Our vehicles have to pass a school in our village and cause problems for mothers and cars dropping off their kids, and vice versa. HGVs and children do not mix; the danger is obvious and both businesses would like to sell out for housing (the only realistic way to have the sites decontaminated and have enough money left over to relocate to a modern industrial estate). The local people are broadly in favour, but the local authority is not interested.

What a sad state the planning system has come to when a scrap yard is protected green belt, the school and village have heavy truck traffic with drivers at their wits’ end avoiding kids on bikes and the planners prefer to build on fields a few miles away.

Philip Justice

Underwood, Notts

There is no single explanation for the wide variation in the use of different cancer diagnostic tests

Sir, Cancer is not rare (Dr Mark Porter, July 1) with over 300,000 new cases and more than 150,000 deaths each year in the UK and rising. Its diagnosis is difficult and depends on clinical judgment and timely use of the right test. GPs have never had better access to such lab tests across the NHS. Yet there is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. There is no single explanation for such variations. Appropriate use of these tests is more likely to improve the care of individual patients and the use of shrinking NHS resources than to harm or waste them (Dr Sarah Murray, letter, July 1).

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs requires the development of a National Laboratory Medicine Catalogue (a library of tests used by the NHS), whose NHS funding is at risk. It is vital to protect this project.

Dr Archie Prentice

Royal College of Pathologists

The Attorney General clarifies his views about prosecutions for rape and conviction rates

Sir, Contrary to your headline (July 3), I categorically did not say that more rape trials would be futile. In mentioning the conviction rate, I was merely highlighting that it is unwise to simply rely on one statistic in isolation to show progress, because we have to look at the full breadth of the work being done by the police, prosecutors and others. It is that work which will give victims of this terrible crime the confidence to come forward and know that justice will be done — that is what is most important.

I am wholly supportive of the work being done to ensure that victims feel they can come forward, and the work by the CPS to see whether there is anything that would improve the conviction rate. I am very pleased by the great efforts being made to bring more cases to court.

Dominic Grieve, QC, MP

Attorney General

Flytipping is partly encouraged by councils’ failure to operate legal rubbish removal services

Sir, I am concerned about the difficulty of disposing of rubbish connected to home improvements. I had 20 small bags of brick rubble last year. My recycling centre allowed me to take only two bags per week. I offered to pay for collection but there is no collection service for such waste. The rules at recycling depots are often draconian. No wonder homeowners are increasingly paying illegal flytippers to get rid of household items, at £100 a time.

Linda Miller

Dereham, Norfolk

There is no single explanation for the wide variation in the use of different cancer diagnostic tests

Sir, Cancer is not rare (Dr Mark Porter, July 1) with over 300,000 new cases and more than 150,000 deaths each year in the UK and rising. Its diagnosis is difficult and depends on clinical judgment and timely use of the right test. GPs have never had better access to such lab tests across the NHS. Yet there is a five-fold variation in the use of the PSA test for prostate cancer and a nine-fold variation in the use of CA125 for ovarian cancer. There is no single explanation for such variations. Appropriate use of these tests is more likely to improve the care of individual patients and the use of shrinking NHS resources than to harm or waste them (Dr Sarah Murray, letter, July 1).

Uniform and rapid communication of results of all tests from pathology labs requires the development of a National Laboratory Medicine Catalogue (a library of tests used by the NHS), whose NHS funding is at risk. It is vital to protect this project.

Dr Archie Prentice

Royal College of Pathologists


SIR – Surely the answer to the problem of “revenge pornography” is to prosecute under the laws that exist and await the outcomes.

Prosecutors should consider Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. Subsection 1 makes it an offence for any person to send “by means of a public electronic communications network…matter that is indecent”. Subsection 2 makes it an offence to do so in order to cause “annoyance…[or] needless anxiety to another”.

These offences carry terms of six months’ imprisonment. And then there are the Obscene Publication Acts, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Enough to get on with, I suggest.

Tim Lawson-Cruttenden
London WC1

Shale gas ownership

SIR – In his article “Time to give Numbies a stake in their own shale-rich land”, Boris Johnson proposes that individual landowners should own all mineral rights beneath their property, in order to stimulate shale gas development. This is ill-conceived.

He explains correctly that oil and gas have been in national ownership since 1919. What he perhaps does not know is that coal, which previously had been included in the mineral rights of landowners, was taken into national ownership before the Second World War. When the coal industry was nationalised in 1946, it was only the pits that remained to be taken over, because the coal was already owned by the nation.

When the coal industry was privatised in 1994, consideration was given to privatising ownership of the coal in the ground, and this was rejected. It is right that fossil fuels should be held as unfragmented resources by the nation. The criticism should be that the licensing arrangements for oil and gas are separate from those for coal.

Kenneth Fergusson
Chief Executive, the Coal Authority, 1997-2001
London SW11

SIR – Yet again, Boris Johnson hits the nail squarely on the head with the proposal to return those mineral rights to landowners that were hijacked by governments during times of national crisis.

When the entire country benefited from the economic rewards of mining during nationalisation, there was an arguable case for the present system. Though it is proper that government licences are required for exploration and exploitation, it is not their right to override the landowners’ wishes.

Geoff Snape
Blackburn, Lancashire

French table manners

SIR – There is much written about the benefits of sitting down to proper meals at a table (Letters, June 27).

The hypermarket near our home in France has a large self-service restaurant. At midday it fills up with business people, workers, families and schoolchildren. They eat two or three courses from proper plates with metal knives and forks and drink water or wine from real glasses. I honestly don’t remember seeing anyone obese.

Bruce Cochrane
Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire

Setting the place alight

SIR – Patricia Nice was told to “detrain” (Letters, July 2). A headline in our local newspaper ran: “Fire on bus, passengers alight.”

D B Davies
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

Trident renewal

SIR – The disproportionate cuts inflicted on Britain’s conventional forces since 2010 have skewed the bias of Britain’s defences too far towards nuclear deterrence, leaving us badly exposed (“Trident given a vote of confidence – for now”).

MPs need to start questioning the findings of the July 2013 Trident Alternatives Review, which played down the likely costs of commissioning a class of Trident submarine and inflated the cost of developing an alternative cruise missile warhead. A like-for-like Trident replacement, which the review endorsed, will be a financial millstone around the neck of the defence budget for decades, causing Britain to cease being capable of acting as a force for good in the world.

The most affordable and appropriate solution remains a “token” nuclear deterrent based on a small number of (torpedo-tube-launched) cruise missiles deployed at random across our general purpose Astute-class submarine fleet. A gold-plated Trident deterrent requires its own bespoke fleet of submarines and is much more vulnerable to compromise than anyone will ever care to admit.

Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire

Female radio voices

SIR – Your report suggests that BBC Radio 5 Live is reducing the prominence of female voices. Three of our seven daytime presenters from autumn onwards will be female: 5 Live Breakfast’s Rachel Burden, Sarah Brett, who joins us from BBC Northern Ireland, and Anna Foster, our Drive presenter. Eleanor Oldroyd will present a new Friday lunchtime show and Georgie Thompson will be one of the new presenters of Fighting Talk.

Other current female presenters include Kelly Cates on 606 and Clare Balding, along with Caroline Barker, Sam Walker, Alison Mitchell, Claire McDonnell and Jennie Gow. At 5 Live we have always been champions of strong female voices and will continue to be so.

Jonathan Wall
Controller, BBC Radio 5 Live
London W12

Handy landline

SIR – So Harry Wallop isn’t going to miss his landline. How else will he find his misplaced mobile phone?

Tim Matthews
London NW1

Weighing the cost of warfarin to the patient

SIR – The cost of warfarin treatment for atrial fibrillation is more than £1 a month (Letters, June 25). The weekly blood tests bring the overall cost up to the same sort of level as the £50 to £60 cost of the new generation of anticoagulant drugs, which require no special monitoring. On top of that, there is the cost to the patient in time, travel and inconvenience, not to mention the dietary restrictions imposed by warfarin. Having been on one of the new drugs for nearly two years, I can vouch for its many advantages over my previous warfarin regime.

Alan MacColl
Hermitage, Berkshire

SIR – Dr Malcolm Clarke questions recent guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) on the management of the heart condition atrial fibrillation (AF).

We recommend anticoagulation in preference to aspirin, which should not be used for treating AF. Patients should be assessed for risk of stroke. Those at increased risk should be considered for anticoagulation. Doctors and patients can work out the benefits and risks of anticoagulation. If the decision is to begin anticoagulation, the guidance recommends that warfarin and Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs) should both be considered. In one specific situation NOACs are recommended over warfarin: for patients already taking warfarin whose anticoagulant control is poor. NOACs offer clear benefits for this group.

AF is a major cause of stroke and, most importantly, of preventable strokes.

Dr Campbell Cowan
Chairman, Nice Atrial Fibrillation Guideline Development Group
London SW1

SIR – If English National Opera and the Arts Council are concerned about poor box-office returns, might it not be a good idea to put on more traditional productions?

Regular, long-term opera-goers like me are constantly put off by the ultra-modern, sexed-up, ridiculous productions that ruin the music and the story with irrelevant and weird settings and costumes.

Let us have more of the traditional productions that many of us love. This is how we want to introduce our children and grandchildren to opera. Is it really true that young people will be attracted only by new types of production? I doubt it.

The recent Benvenuto Cellini and Castor and Pollux will not have made many new opera-goers feel like spending such a lot of money again. I am now wary of booking ahead for opening nights because of what strange ideas may have been thought up by the director and his or her associates.

Mary Firth
London NW11

SIR – Allison Pearson is right: we should bring back grammar schools, not least to increase social mobility for bright, working-class children. But we also need a network of well-funded, high-quality technical schools offering an alternative route to success.

The idea that there is only one kind of intelligence that is admirable has been damaging to our society and our economy.

John Williams
Penywaun, Glamorgan

SIR – The current debate on education is hopelessly polarised between the “failure” of the comprehensive school and the “success” of the grammar school. The “success” of the grammar school is only made possible by the consignment of the vast majority of pupils, especially those from working-class and under-privileged backgrounds, to a second-rate education from which it can take years to recover.

03 Jul 2014

The debate should be about how to improve education for all, not how to engineer it for the benefit of a small elite group of children who just happen to be able to pass tests at the age of 11.

Dr Michael Millington
Mapperley, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Allison Pearson asks me how, in terms of educational attainment, changing the backgrounds of youngsters from deprived areas has worked out.

The statistics demonstrate a transformation over the past 20 years both in attainment levels and opportunity, affording youngsters higher education, apprenticeships and the life chances that many of us take for granted.

The recently published Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission research demonstrated that the literacy and numeracy programme, introduced from 1998, had transformed achievement levels of children (particularly those from inner London). The changes at primary level had been complemented by the London Challenge, which carried through to secondary level the partnership approach of spreading best practice.

David Blunkett MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – Allison Pearson’s suggestion that fair access to higher education leads to a dilution of academic excellence could not be further from the truth. The notion that universities are not allocating places on merit is as absurd as it is insulting to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have worked hard to get into higher education. Universities are seeking out the brightest applicants, whatever their background. Those with the ability to excel are present in all of our communities and all of our schools. Universities recognise that fact, and I welcome the steps they are taking to ensure that applicants will be judged by their talent and potential, not where they come from.

Professor Les Ebdon
Director, Fair Access to Higher Education

Irish Times:

Sir, – Speaking at the Irish Embassy in London on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the third Home Rule Bill, former taoiseach John Bruton denounced the Easter Rising in Dublin, saying it legitimised violence and that he was against violence (“Padraig Pearse rejoiced in violence”, says Bruton, July 2nd).

Mr Bruton stated that he was a Redmonite and always had been. Mr Bruton’s endorsement of Redmond is at odds with his rejection of violence. John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1914, was a zealous admirer of the British House of Commons and sought only limited Irish self-government, considering it undesirable that Britain and Ireland be separated as he had no wish to see the dismemberment of the British Empire.

Despite the fact that Redmond opposed physical force, he nonetheless enthusiastically encouraged young Irishmen to enlist in the British army in 1914 in return for the promise of home rule.

Mr Bruton is an ardent admirer of Redmond and the version of Home Rule which was on offer in 1914. Home rule, the old reliable weapon used to attack those of 1916 who secured our independence, was aptly described by Roger Casement as “a promissory note payable only after death”, or more accurately, after the deaths of 35,000 Irishmen fighting for freedoms that were being denied to their own land.

Mr Bruton apparently finds no contradiction between his support for Irishmen being part of the mass-murder of millions of people in the Great War, and his trenchant opposition to Irishmen using force to rid this country of an imperial power.

Mr Bruton ignores the widespread opposition, not just in nationalist Ireland, to home rule. Half a million Ulster unionists signed a covenant to use “all means necessary, including civil war” to resist an act of parliament giving home rule to Ireland.

Furthermore, the leader of the Conservative party during this period, Bonar Law, in undeniably seditious language, showed his utter contempt for the democratic institutions he was elected to uphold by stating “there are things stronger than parliamentary majorities”.

When faced with this opposition to home rule, British prime minister Asquith failed to uphold and defend an act of his own parliament. In the general election of 1918, John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party was swept from power by an electorate that espoused separatism and emphatically rejected home rule.

John Bruton ignores this wholly constitutional and parliamentary decision of the Irish people. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Nice to see that John Bruton has taken time out of his busy job of promoting the interests of the Irish Financial Services Centre to lecture us, from London, about nationalism and violence. But I couldn’t help feeling that there was one element missing that would have made his speech truly unforgettable – the inimitable Twink. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, –In the course of a distinguished career, Ruairí Quinn finally give the lie to the notion that a member of the Labour Party was unsuited to be minister for finance. In the most difficult of circumstances, he reversed the effects of the disastrous economics policies of the late 1970s and 1980s, and in 1997 brought in the first budget surplus.

Unfortunately a change of government was to see this good work squandered, and Mr Quinn was to see his last period in Dáil Éireann absorbed with, once again, rectifying the situation.

When the legacy of Ruairí Quinn comes to be evaluated, his period in the Department of Finance will rank among his greatest achievements. – Yours, etc,


Windsor Terrace,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – In 2011, the wall of the Ringsend bridge collapsed and consequently Fitzwilliam Quay was made a one-way road, which was bad news for our family business (motor body repairs) as we were losing trade.

We received very little information from the company repairing the wall and footpath as to how long it would take to finish the project

Months later, I met Ruairí Quinn on the street in Dublin 4, while he was canvassing with Cllr Kevin Humphreys. I told him of our predicament and asked him to please find out how long it would take to finish the bridge repair as it was in his constituency.

He said he would get back to me, although I hadn’t given him my name, just the name of our garage.

A week later, my brother and I received a handwritten letter with full details of the engineering rebuild and the time span for completion, with his email address and phone number.

I was quite impressed! – Yours, etc,


Fitzwilliam Quay,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Labour Party has long espoused equality as one of its core values. Yet the recent electoral contest included a subtext of rhetoric about the need for “a new generation”.

The clear inference is that the issue of age is a relevant criterion when considering high political office.

Yet our Minister of Finance is 72 years of age, and there is general agreement that he is doing an excellent job.

So it seems that another core value is being sacrificed at the altar of short-term expediency. If true, those of us over 60 will take note. And we do vote! – Yours, etc,


Connaught Street,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Emma Tobin’s words resonated with me, “It seems the only things people are passionate about any more are the things they hate” (“It’s hard to dream of better days when only hate seems to inspire passion”, Rite & Reason, July 2nd).

To my mind, this is a diluted hate, not an active one, a passive-aggressive passion flowing out in words, not deeds. If we hated injustice, we would not just duck and dodge, but stand up to it and confront it. – Yours, etc,


Behan Square,

Russell Street,

Sir, – Contrary to what BA Keogh (July 3rd) claims, the proposed cycleway on the North Quays in Dublin is particularly timely in a situation with a faltering economy and pressures on the health system.

First, experience shows that retailers in fact increase their revenues when car space is converted to space for cyclists and pedestrians. The reason for this is simple, you cannot window-shop at 50 km/h!

Second, for the economy as a whole, investing in cycling and walking is one of the smartest things you can do, with the economic benefits outweighing the costs by a factor of between five and 20.

According to a Danish study, each kilometre cycled brings a benefit of 20 cents to the economy (mainly in health benefits), while each kilometre driven in a car costs the economy five cents.

Which brings us to the third point, the health system, which is buckling under the strains of obesity-related and mental health problems. These in large part are caused by physical inactivity, and cycling has been proven to help against them.

In short, in the current situation, we simply cannot afford not to invest in cycling! – Yours, etc,


Wilfield Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – BA Keogh claims it is “inevitable” that retailers will lose revenue, in defiance of a recent study from the Dublin Institute of Technology, which found that while car users spend more per trip, cyclists and Dublin Bike users visit the city centre more frequently, and are responsible for more than twice the spend of car users per month.

When we also include bus, Luas, Dart and other rail users, as well as those who walk, the economic importance of the car user in the city centre is severely diminished.

Let’s make Dublin better for everyone, not just the few. – Yours, etc,


St Alphonsus Road Upper,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – The last sentence in Kate Shanahan’s article of June 30th (“Journalism must regain its role in bringing power to account”, June 30th), published as part of your “Future of Journalism” series, sums up the problem of journalism losing a sense of its own importance.

Her message is that journalism needs to bring those in power to account and should not give them comfort.

If the media had practiced during the boom what Kate Shanahan is now preaching – “the core values of truth, accuracy and fairness” – the reckless decisions of the powerful would have been challenged then and we would not have had the subsequent collapse in our economy and the consequent austerity. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – The residents of Dublin 3 who are objecting to the Garth Brooks concerts have said the local economy does not benefit from such events (“Two Garth Brooks gigs refused over anti-social behaviour concerns”, July 3rd).

Will they explain that to the staff in the hotels and restaurants of Dublin 1,2,4 and 8 who would have benefited from the 160,000 concert goers who are not now going to travel to Dublin? Then there are all the security workers and stewards who thought they were going to get work for five nights and who are now only going to get work for three nights. The same goes for the concession stand employees inside Croke Park. Its the workers in these areas who are going to lose out from these concerts being cancelled. – Yours, etc,


Glenvara Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I predict that Garth Brooks’s final song on Sunday, July 27th, at Croke Park will be If Tomorrow Never Comes. – Yours, etc,


Mill Street,


Co Mayo.

Sir, – If people still need to be affiliated to a religion, then the possibility of women becoming priests should not just arise because there is a dearth of willing, able and suitable men. If willing, suitable and able women ever get to be ordained, it might very well turn out to be that the best wine was saved until last. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – I refer to a recent decision by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan to cease providing funding for the National Advocacy Service for deaf people under the aegis of the Irish Deaf Society.

The decision defies logic. Indeed, as one of the original creators of this service, I am baffled by it.

The decision was apparently based on a criterion that obliged voluntary organisations to compete with each other for vital funding, rendering any uniqueness that a service may have irrelevant.

This particular service is run by peer advocates and is a space where deaf people can receive various services through their first language – Irish Sign Language – and is unique in this country.

Investment in this service saved a considerable amount of money on the interpreting fees that would be required if the service users had to avail of mainstream services.

Last January, the Government rejected the Irish Sign Language Bill that came before Seanad Éireann. Minister of State for Disability Kathleen Lynch delivered a statement on behalf of the Government that said it could not support the Bill as “We need to put the service in place before we put the legislation in place”.

Given this most recent decision, the statement seems hollow and an empty promise to many of us in the deaf community, although perhaps it reflects a lack of interdepartmental coordination.

I hope that the Minister will heed this appeal and act in a favourable manner. – Yours, etc,


Ely Green,

Oldcourt Road,

Sir, – In the western world people are constantly encouraged to stand up for their rights but rarely take notice of their obligations. This has given us the compensation culture and the notion of evildoers as victims. As we face into a future of greater demands on the health services, those who choose to smoke, drink or eat to excess should be made aware that they will be placed at the bottom of the lists for medical treatment.

This would be a fairer solution than selective taxation, which has singularly failed thus far. – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,


Co Donegal.

A chara, – Frank Browne’s reminiscences (July 3rd) regarding Fr Michael Cleary are more positive than mine. In 1990, as a fifth-year student in the co-ed Coláiste Íognáid, Galway, we heard him sermonise during a school Mass. His central message was that it was up to us girls to maintain boys’ morality in matters of sexuality – the boys couldn’t be trusted. I was repulsed then by his sexism and his denying my male classmates any moral agency. I am repulsed now by the apologias that flow in the national media.

Michael Cleary was “human – all too human”, yet whatever about a “passion for being a priest” – and one struggles to understand exactly what that means – he chose to enjoy the best of both worlds while teaching a shame-based morality to impressionable teenagers. More of the “Do as I say, not as I do”. – Is mise,


Leinster Park,

Harold’s Cross ,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Senator Marc MacSharry is proposing a new levy at the point of sale of 90 cents on a bottle of wine and 25 cents on a can of beer to raise funds for suicide prevention (“Mental health services an ‘easy target’, says Fianna Fáil”, June 30th).

Irish retailers should not be used as guinea pigs for untried and untested policies that could expose the retail sector and Irish taxpayers to significant losses at a time of ongoing economic difficulty. – Yours, etc,



Unit 69,


Shopping Centre,

Sir, – Is Vincent Devlin (July 2nd) for real? Asking the Minister for Health to “[reduce] the price of cigarettes to reflect the price on the Continent” would be like asking a GP to prescribe 60 fags a day to a chronic smoker to help him curb his deadly addiction. Utter balderdash! – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s good to be updated as to the whereabouts of the Molly Malone statue in Dublin and its restoration (“Molly gets welded and waxed”, July 2nd). However, you never seem to mention the name of the immense talent who crafted the piece, Jeanne Rynhart. She is responsible for other major works, such as the Annie Moore statue in Cobh, and deserves to be recognised for her contribution to the Irish art scene. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

* John Bruton states that “damage has been done to the Irish psyche” by the violence of the 1916 Rising. That may be true but some points should be made to place it in context.

Firstly, much more damage had been done to the psyche of the Irish people by being colonised, subjugated and denied freedom for centuries, by a quarter of the population disappearing in the space of five years during the Famine of the 1840s, and by English becoming the main language in Ireland.

All of these traumatic events caused much more damage than a week of violence in Dublin.

Secondly, the 1916 Rising took place when mainland Europe was tearing itself apart during a four-year war. Ireland was, aside from the Rising, in the main, peaceful during the same period. The psychological damage done to other nations was much more.

The Ottoman Empire suffered more than five million deaths during the four-year period. France’s manpower losses were enormous; in proportion to population and to the number of men under arms, they exceeded those of any other warring nation. The dead totalled 1,357,800 and the wounded 4,266,000.

There probably would have been less political violence a century ago in Ireland had the British government resisted the threat of violence from the Ulster unionists. Once unionists had shown that the threat of violence was effective in changing political matters, nationalists did not hesitate to use the same methods for their own cause.

Two of the key factors that lead to the Easter Rising were the proof of using violence coupled with a war that meant Britain was distracted elsewhere with less military capability to deal with matters in Ireland. The effect of violence was not lost on the minds of the Irish men and women who went out to fight in Dublin.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that many people did not support the rebels in 1916. Sympathies soon changed, however, when the British army executed the leaders of the rebellion. Very quickly, Irish people began to side with the republicans.

Again, World War I cannot be ignored to understand why events happened the way they did. The British military responded in the same way as they did on mainland Europe. It was standard procedure to execute enemy officers.

It would, I believe, be more accurate to say that the Irish people had suffered huge trauma over the centuries due to being ruled by Britain. This national trauma allowed men to countenance using violence to achieve freedom. This was spurred on by the resistance to home rule and the deaths and violence of World War I.




* A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A newly reported UK social survey on the Great War found that one in five Britons thought they were fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War I.

Respondents, however, knew more about the 1914 Christmas truce; 85pc were aware that British and German troops played football together during the truce. However, 8pc believed they got together for a screening of ‘The Great Escape’.

You could not make it up.




* May God help us. They didn’t want oil or gas supplied, now they don’t want electricity powerlines either, whether they go under or overground.

It is a good job Fr Horan built his airport so the youth of the country could emigrate.

He knew his people well.




* I recently read an article about a solicitor who stole €2.8m from clients and in mitigation the court was told that he was a “devout Christian” with numerous good deeds to his name. Any chance the same courtesy will be given to the practicing atheists?




* I write in response to your editorial (July 1) and the letter from Jim Cosgrave (July 2), from which we glean a picture of many ungrateful Irish doctors departing our shores with their ill-gotten degrees in search of foreign riches.

To suggest that “the majority” of Irish medics have a “filthy lucre motivation” is baseless, insulting and unsubstantiated.

Since when did the virtues of hard work, intelligence and dedication to your goal become synonymous with money grubbing?

Mr Cosgrave makes broad brushstroke judgments on the nation’s doctors whose reward for their Leaving Cert endeavours is a further 10 to 20 years of working excessively long hours in a dysfunctional system with little or no training, massive personal responsibility and more often than not a chaotic personal life.

I invite Mr Cosgrave to walk a mile of hospital corridors and stairs in the shoes of a non-consultant hospital doctor. His bleep incessantly bleeping, being pulled between sick patients on the wards and emergency department at 4am, having started the shift 16 hours previously and no prospect of sleep or rest for another 16 hours or more.

Then to repeat this process several times a month on top of one of the most demanding day jobs in the country for the next 10 to 20 years. Does this sound like a good way to get your hands on some easy “moolah”?

If these young doctors are as lacking in caring as Mr Cosgrave suggests, then why are they being headhunted the world over?




* Many of us will have come across bright young people with hopes and aspirations toward higher-level education. A significant number of them never made it, simply because their parents (in the PAYE sector mostly and with fairly modest incomes) were deemed to be earning too much for grant assistance. At the same time, classmates from well-off families received the grants.

Ruairi Quinn was the first minister with the courage to tackle this issue.

Good luck to you, sir, in your retirement – you have given significant service to the young people of this country.




* Recent match-fixing rumours reminded me of the goalkeeper ‘on the take’. The less he saved, the more interest he earned.




* Democracy does still matter in Ireland in spite of its imperfections and the serious damage done to Irish people by recent cohorts of Irish politicians. In our most recent democratic election, the people clearly rejected Labour Party policies, leading to the resignation of party leader Eamon Gilmore.

Over the past half century I have voted for Labour more often than not, and may do so again, given the dearth of better alternatives. However, I am deeply concerned at the arrogance of Mr Gilmore and other senior Labour politicians in seeking to have Mr Gilmore nominated as Ireland’s EU commissioner.

Ruairi Quinn had the common sense to bow out gracefully. Mr Gilmore should do likewise rather than claim “entitlement” to such an important position as EU commissioner. Public service is a privilege, not an entitlement.



Irish Independent

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