5July2014 Books

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 little better I get 9 books and its off to the bank

ScrabbleIwin, but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Phil Hollom – obituary

Phil Hollom was an adventurous wartime aviator who helped transform birdwatching into a national passion

Phil Hollom

Phil Hollom

6:40PM BST 04 Jul 2014


Phil Hollom, who has died aged 102, was one of the last of the circle of British bird enthusiasts which established ornithology as a proper scientific discipline.

Hollom helped to establish the modern approach to studying bird populations in the 1930s by organising a national inquiry into the status of the great crested grebe in Britain. He also wrote or co-wrote several handbooks, including the Collins Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (1954), which helped to transform British birdwatching from a hobby pursued by a dedicated minority into one of the country’s most popular leisure pursuits.

Hollom’s contributions to ornithology began shortly he left school in 1930, when the noted ornithologist Harry Witherby introduced him to Max Nicholson, whose How Birds Live (1927), following on from Julian Huxley’s The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe (1914), helped to establish the discipline.

With Nicholson’s encouragement, Hollom teamed up with the future “Barefoot Anthropologist” Tom Harrison, then a student at Cambridge, and in 1931 the two young men agreed to collaborate on a national survey of the great crested grebe. It was a daunting task, not least because they had no funding, even for postage, but also because the post-First World War construction boom had created many gravel pits which, filled with water, were an ideal environment for the birds. As a consequence they found there were more than 1,000 “lakes” to be examined, many of which did not appear on any maps.

They set about writing to well-known naturalists, ornithologists, taxidermists, landowners and the like, and appealing through the letter columns of newspapers for information on nesting haunts. In this way they recruited some 1,500 volunteer surveyors, and had to deal with some 5,000 pieces of correspondence.

The Great Crested Grebe Enquiry was one of the earliest national censuses of a single species, and certainly the most ambitious at that time. The results, published in British Birds in 1932, concluded that the breeding population in England, Scotland and Wales was around 1,200 pairs – up from an estimated 50 pairs in 1860. “We can recommend this sort of hobby for those people who find life dull,” Harrison informed the journal’s readers in his introduction to the completed survey.

Great crested Grebe (ALAMY)

The inquiry demonstrated the potential of cooperative birdwatching and helped to inspire the establishment, in 1932, of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), whose long-term monitoring data on the status of British birds (currently maintained with the aid of some 40,000 volunteers) sets the international standard for studying the effects of environmental change on wildlife.

The second of five sons (his brother Jasper would serve in the 1960s as Chief Cashier of the Bank of England) Philip Arthur Dominic Hollom was born on June 9 1912 at Bickley, Kent.

He clearly remembered, as a four year-old, being lifted up to peer into the nest of a song thrush and being captivated by the bright blue of the eggs. “As a boy I was fascinated by birds and I used to catch them using a garden sieve held up by a twig and a piece of string,” he recalled in a recent interview. “Of course, that would be unthinkable today, but in the 1920s it was the only way that I was able to handle birds.”

Hollom was educated at the King’s School in Bruton, Somerset, where he excelled at athletics, read Nicholson’s How Birds Live under the sheets in his dormitory and decided to embark on his own study of nesting house martins and swallows in the vicinity. It was in this way that he got to know Harry Witherby, who was in charge of the national bird ringing scheme. In the summer of 1929 Hollom ringed more than 250 swallows. He continued to survey the birds every year until well into his 90s.

Phil Hollom as a young man

By the time he teamed up with Tom Harrison, Hollom was working for an export merchants and living in Surrey, where he spent many happy hours watching birds at a sewage farm near Weybridge; he was excited in June 1932 when he spotted an avocet, which had supposedly become extinct in Britain in 1840 and would not recolonise successfully until after the Second World War.

After the outbreak of war in 1939 and a period in the Auxiliary Fire Service, Hollom joined the RAF and did his pilot training in America, where he recalled flying close to a flock of vultures on his first solo flight in December 1941.

On May 20 1943, while serving with Coastal Command off the Isle of Arran, flying a Wellington Mk VIII torpedo bomber on flare dropping and night attack duties, meteorologists failed to inform his squadron that a sea mist was making the horizon look higher than it was, with the result that he and two other pilots misjudged their height and flew into the sea. Hollom managed to bale out but his three crew members lost their lives, as did the crew of one of the other planes.

Later posted to No 271 Squadron (Transport Command), Hollom took part in operations Overlord, Market Garden and Varsity, towing gliders and dropping paratroopers and supplies for the campaign in Europe. On one occasion he was tasked with getting hold of champagne for an officers’ mess party and flew to Rheims where Jean Pol Roger presented him with 11 cases for the mess and a dozen half bottles for himself.

After the end of the war in Europe, in July 1945 he flew more than 20 flights, taking a Ministry of Aircraft Production mission round German aeronautical facilities, including V-2 rocket facility, slave labour camps at Nordhausen, and the secret German aviation research and development plant at Volkenrode.

In August 1945 he was posted to No 24 Squadron, then a VIP transport squadron, and the following year was appointed pilot to the Anglo American Commission on Palestine, flying its members on a six-week tour of the capitals of Europe and the Middle East — 31 flights in all. On this expedition he met Prince Lichtenstein (“very good on birds”, he recorded in his diary); joined the Commission’s audience with the King of Saudi Arabia; and had lunch with Kim Philby’s father St John, a noted Arabist and ornithologist, after whom Philby’s partridge (Alectoris philbyi) is named.

In 1946 Hollom returned to the export company he had joined before the war, working in its South American department. In the early Sixties he joined the finance house Bowmaker, where he remained until his retirement as company secretary aged 65.

Beginning with a trip to Germany in 1933, Hollom undertook birdwatching expeditions to more than 50 different countries and also participated in three famous expeditions organised by Guy Mountfort, founder of the World Wildlife Fund – to the Coto Doñana in Spain in 1957; Bulgaria in 1960; and Jordan in 1963.

Hollom, back row on far right, on an expedition to Coto Doñana, Spain, in 1957

Hollom took on the task of condensing the five volumes of Witherby’s A Handbook of British Birds into a single book. Published in 1952, The Popular Handbook of British Birds was concise, readable and affordable to a new generation of bird watchers and went into five editions. Frustrated by the lack of good field guides for the countries he visited, he went on to team up with Guy Mountfort and the illustrator Roger Tory Peterson on A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, first published by Collins in 1954, which is now in its fifth edition and has never been out of print. The book was dedicated to “our long-suffering wives”, followed by a quote from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor: “She laments, sir… her husband goes this morning a-birding.”

Hollom went on to publish The Popular Handbook of Rarer British Birds (1960) and, from the early 1970s, was part of the team assembled by Max Nicholson to work on the texts for Birds of the Western Palearctic, a tour de force published in nine volumes between 1977 and 1994. He joined forces with Richard Porter and Steen Christensen to publish Birds of the Middle East and North Africa in 1988 and was as a council member and vice-president of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East.

Hollom was the longest-serving member of both the BTO and the British Ornithologists’ Union, serving in various roles on both bodies (he wrote the BTO’s first field guide Trapping Methods for Bird Ringers) and winning medals. In 1951 he became a member of the editorial board of British Birds magazine under Nicholson, whom he succeeded in 1960. He also served as founder chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee, established in 1959 to assess claimed sightings of rare bird species.

In 1947 he married Jenefer Bell, who died in 2011. Their daughter and two sons survive him.

Phil Hollom, born June 9 1912, died June 20 2014


Our fellows, the doctors who diagnose and treat cancer, have registered major concerns with us about the planned model for commissioning cancer services in Staffordshire (NHS cancer care faces privatisation, 2 July). We applaud the ambition of joining up care for a population larger than that usually served by a single NHS organisation and the desire to focus services on the needs of patients. However, we fear that there may be unintended consequences.

Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston; GKIMAGES.COM

These changes could destabilise vital cancer diagnosis and treatment services, and are already leading to planning blight with regard to service improvements. This could lead – in the short-term – to worse services for patients. This is a brave initiative but one that must be considered a gamble in a health economy still feeling the effects of the Mid-Staffordshire disaster. Long-term planning has proved an elusive goal in UK public services. The leaders of this initiative are in no position to predict, let alone control, what might happen over the period of the 10-year contract – politically or financially. It seems unlikely that the architects of these changes will be able to see through their vision or to be held accountable for its consequences. What we may see is contracts that cannot be dismantled without severe penalties. Greater clarity is required with respect to the role of the “prime provider” who will not in fact be providing services but managing services provided by others.

It is clear that those on the ground who will be relied on to make this happen have yet to be meaningfully engaged, and we have made their concerns known to Macmillan Cancer Support and NHS England who are leading this initiative. Clinicians share the ambition for an integrated approach to cancer care and must be more closely involved if this gamble is not to fail.
Giles Maskell
President, Royal College of Radiologists

The Transforming Cancer and End of Life care programme in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is an innovative and brave example of the voluntary and public sectors working alongside patients, carers and health and social care professionals to deliver the best possible outcomes for people affected by cancer.

Inspired by the experiences of people with cancer or those who have cared for someone at the end of their life in the area, this programme will test an integrated approach to the commissioning and management of care. By appointing one organisation to take responsibility for managing the whole cancer care journey, we can demand truly seamless care, and ensure no patient or carer gets lost in a complex system.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS England will appoint organisations with expertise in managing contracts, ensuring that all the service partners work collaboratively around each patient and will not change the organisations who directly deliver cancer care services. Whoever is appointed will be subject to rigorous oversight and scrutiny for quality, patient safety and outcomes, whether they are from the NHS, the voluntary sector, or from the private sector.

At the heart of this programme is the desire to truly reach and improve the lives of people affected by cancer. That’s why Macmillan and our partners have made sure people affected by cancer, alongside clinicians, have been and will continue to be involved in the programme at every stage.
Ciarán Devane
Chief executive, Macmillan Cancer Support

• Last night I attended and spoke at a book launch of Mike Marqusee‘s book The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer, where he spoke movingly about his treatment at Barts and his fears that the attacks on the NHS will mean patients in the future will not have the excellent care he has received.

Surely the combined CCGs in Staffordshire should have been talking to their existing NHS hospitals and asking them to collaborate to provide a more responsive and streamlined service before embarking on this huge experiment with taxpayers’ money? In the previous decade, the NHS (under Labour) made great strides in improving cancer services through networks such as that in east London, yet in 2011 Andrew Lansley withdrew funding for these despite their proven successes.

Now we have groups of GPs, with no training in epidemiology, oncology or commissioning, making plans to spend millions on an untried system with private companies, who have no experience in cancer care, eagerly waiting to make profits from these sick patients. Similarly, the Cambridgeshire CCG, which wants to try a radically different system of care for the elderly, is planning to spend over a billion pounds of our money. This is madness, and the dishonesty of the current government (“there is no privatisation“; “there will be no top-down reorganisation”) is matched by the Department of Health’s spokesperson who said: “NHS competition rules have not changed under this government.” What about the Health and Social Care Act 2012, or the section 75 regulation that was passed this year? It is time for the public to wake up, stand up and fight for our NHS by lobbying their MPs.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public

• The finger of responsibility for the exponential privatisation of the NHS points ineluctably at the Liberal Democrats, in particular Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams. Given that this did not feature in the coalition agreement, it should have been Clegg’s job to scrutinise Andrew Lansley’s white paper. Had he done so he could have halted the whole scheme. Then Williams promised to have section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act amended in the Lords to reduce, if not abolish, the requirement to tender for services. This didn’t happen. But it’s not good enough for Andy Burnham to say that the public has not given the government permission to “put the NHS up for sale”. What is now needed is a clear Labour election pledge to reverse all NHS privatisation since 2010.
Robin Wendt
Chester, Cheshire

• Surely we should be concerned if cancer services are to be detached from the NHS and provided at the whim of private companies? Health minister Jane Ellison admits that the government has lost control of the NHS so presumably big companies are chasing the NHS dollar with little public control. As a GP for nearly 30 years, I know that patients are at their most vulnerable when they have a potentially fatal illness, and are not able to make choices easily or monitor their care. Such patients especially need to feel that the single purpose of their carers is get them as well as possible for as long as possible, and not to have at the back of their mind that companies are making choices for profit rather than for them.
Dr Ron Singer
Chair, doctors’ section of Unite

• Will private contractors be paid on a fee-per-case basis, and thus make more profits if their patients don’t live for long?
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, Yorkshire

In America, “40 million go to bed hungry every night” (Kennedy). In Britain, 2.5 million pensioners live below the poverty line. One person’s wealth exceeds the combined wealth of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens. Even throughout the developed world there is widespread poverty and wretched living conditions. But Jeremy Paxman (Newsnight is made by idealistic 13-year-olds, 28 June) believes that a determination to work towards a saner system is “a fool’s errand”. At the height of his ancient 64 years, he scorns such teenage “dreams”. I have news for him. At 97 I am not alone in believing that such dreams are not only vital but also perfectly realisable. I am still politically fighting fit, realistically optimistic and prepared, despite all that has happened, to go on fighting, pace pessimistic Paxo.
Len Goldman
Brighton, East Sussex

What a fine profile of Fred Jarvis (7 July). Not mentioned however is his role in the birth of Liverpool’s Merseysippi Jazz Band. He took a keen interest in jazz, reporting on it in the local press. On 14 February 1949 his Progressive Youth Movement co-promoted a jazz concert at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Wallasey, for the first public performance of what is now the Merseysippi Jazz Band. Wonderful to know that they are both still thriving, although Fred Jarvis has outlived the original band members.
Bob Lamb

• Not forgetting the redoubtable Dorothea Lambert Chambers, seven times winner of the Wimbledon singles title between 1903 and 1914 (Letters, 4 July). At the age of 46 she won the singles title in the 1925 Wightman Cup.
John Jenkins
Bow Street, Ceredigion

• Never mind those Trident discussions. I am really tempted to splash out on a new vehicle after seeing the full-page ads in Friday’s Guardian (4 July). Not the Fiat 500 or the Volvo V40, but that fab-looking Lockheed F-35  fighter jet. Where can I get a test drive? And what are the carbon dioxide emissions so I can calculate the benefit in kind for my tax return?
Patrick Cartwright

• Never mind when they were worn or by whom (Letters, 4 July), may we dispense with the “anklet” which sounds like a piece of personal jewellery. The correct term is “gaiter”, as in “boots and gaiters”, familiar to all former national servicemen.
John Hunter

• The piece by Jonathan Jones about the paintings of Rolf Harris (G2, 3 July) prompts me to ask what now is the status of the 20th-century master Balthus, who specialised in highly erotic images of pubescent girls. Has he become proscribed art?
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

• A proposal. Let’s stop calling any person a “national treasure” until, say, 10 years after his or her death. In the meantime, let’s call them “notional treasures”.
Martin Dowds

As writers for children, our job includes inspiring our readers and encouraging them to understand the potency of imagination and thought, in the hope that when they grow up they can use them to help improve the real world. As taxpayers and adults committed to the welfare of children, we are saddened by the lack of political imagination which has led to millions of children in this country who are abused, neglected or suffering from mental health difficulties being denied appropriate care.

We find it unacceptable that Ofsted has declared that one in seven councils in England fail vulnerable children with “unacceptably poor” standards, within a structure described as “manifestly and palpably weak”. In a survey of social workers by Community Care, 73% of social workers questioned said they can’t do their job properly, leaving children at risk because demand outweighs resources; 78% said they spend less than a third of their time in direct contact with children. Both the NSPCC and Young Minds have raised alarms about child protection and child mental health systems being unable to cope with the scale of the problem, and about the negative impact both on children and on workers who want to do their best.

Kids Company’s taskforce – See the Child. Change the System – plans to bring together leading thinkers and clinicians to initiate a fundamental redesign of child mental health and social services systems, so that vulnerable children can be given the care they need with dignity and warmth. We want all political parties to unite behind it.

Impoverished political imagination has sustained a depleted system that betrays vulnerable children and the practitioners dedicated to helping them. As a society, we have to put a stop to this waste and cruelty, and step up to the challenge of creating the best possible child protection and mental health system. Our children deserve it.

Philip Pullman
Francesca Simon
Anthony McGowan
Julia Jones
Louisa Young
Mary Hoffman
Patrick Ness
NM Browne
Kevin Brooks
Pippa Goodhart
Lucy Coates
Sally Nicholls
Michele Lovric
Terence Blacker
Matt Haig
Philip Ardagh
Catherine Johnson
Kate Lord Brown
Carol Drinkwater
Gwen Grant
Zizou Corder
Janie Hampton
Debi Gliori
Meg Rossof
Jill Dawson
Lydia Syson
Janie Hampton
Debi Gliori
Harriet Castor
Georgia Byng
Lynn Huggins-Cooper
Jill Dawson
Lauren Child
Sue Purkiss
Kate Saunders
Rachel Bradby
Melvyn Burgess
Beverley Naidoo
Samira Osman
Kath Langrish
Anne Rooney
Eleanor Updale
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Jamila Gavin
Graham Gardner
Prodeepta Das
Lynn Reid Banks
Annemarie Young
Anthony Robinson
Alan Chatsworth


May I expand on Angela Elliott’s comment (letter, 3 July)? Football is a wonderful game but a horrible business.

And may I congratulate The Independent  for its excellent daily World Cup supplement, the best of any British newspaper? However, I do hope your letters page doesn’t reflect widespread indifference, lack of appreciation and outright negativity among your readership. Your football writers would deserve better.

As someone who does “get” the World Cup (I have been to five) I can assure those who only see negatives in this most entertaining and exciting of tournaments, particularly after the Luis Suarez biting incident (letters, 26, 27 June), that there are role models for our children. Tim Howard and his team-mates would be a good place to start looking. And what about the charming, commanding and articulate Vincent Kompany, who has done more to reconcile Flemings and Walloons than any politician could?

Football is a great metaphor for our world: a great example of man’s artistry and ingenuity but also an arena where a few miscreants often get ahead of the many who play fair. Given the game’s infiltration of all cultures and communities around the world I think it’s unrealistic to expect it to reflect only the best of British sporting values, whatever they may be!

Peter Clarke

London NW6


A message from British Muslims

That over a hundred imams have written an open letter urging British Muslims not to travel to Iraq or Syria is a step in the right direction, but surely it is time for tens of thousands of Muslims to march through the streets of London under the banner “Not In Our Name”. The supporters of Isis must receive this message loud and clear.

Anthony Hentschel

Nailsworth, Gloucestershire


BBC acquires a Northern accent

So yet another London-based journalist has a problem with BBC5 Live moving to Salford – “a risk that their programmes might lose their national edge and acquire a non-metropolitan, possibly northern accent” (Mary Dejevsky, 4 July). How awful – as opposed to losing their Home Counties accent?

I applaud the BBC for moving 5 Live north, creating jobs outside the capital, where the so-called recovery barely registers. I am sure those who are asked to appear on TV or radio and have to travel from north of Birmingham will be glad of a more nationally central location.

How awful for those London media types to have to travel to the grim northern outposts of greater Manchester!

John Mitchell

Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

On 2 July you published an excellent article on the fight for racial justice. You also showed a “grim up North” cartoon with all the usual cliches – clogs, black pudding and so on. Can someone explain why regional stereotypes are all right while racial stereotypes are all wrong? And please stop using the word “Northern” if what you actually mean is “working class”.

Pippa Lewer

Morpeth, Northumberland

Just enforce the law on the West Bank

In his anxiety to argue the toss with Robert Fisk, whether Palestine-Israel is Jewish or Arab, Avi Lehrer (letter, 3 July) seems unacquainted with the law.

We need not argue over which ethnic group has rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. International law is clear on this point: it is occupied territory, and the rights and interests of the indigenous population (regardless of ethnic identity), as of the moment it became militarily occupied (1967), are strictly to be protected by rules laid down in 1949 following the experience of those under German and Japanese occupation, 1939-45.

The current killings committed by Palestinian youths or by Israelis are the direct consequence of Jewish civilians settling on occupied land in defiance of the law. Every Western state supports the applicability of international humanitarian law regarding these occupied territories. They all promised to uphold it. Yet not one of them has so far had the courage to tell Israel it must obey the law unconditionally.

Instead they are silent accomplices to the killings and the progressive diminishing of the lives of those under occupation, allowing the import of goods illegally produced in occupied territory, and allowing Israeli visitors living illegally on occupied land into the EU.

If Britain and its allies really want peace, they must go through the unpleasantness necessary to enforce the law. Currently, they are simply complicit in the anguish of Jews and Arabs who have been bereaved by the killings.

David McDowall

Richmond, Surrey

Lost opportunity to rescue A-level science

I made a late career change into secondary physics teaching. I was shocked at the drop in A-level standards in the many years since I had taken the examination. Approximately 25 per cent of subject content has been dropped in 40 years, and there is much less scientific and mathematical rigour.

I was pleased when I read that A-level sciences were to be reviewed, with greater focus on content and rigour. I have spent the past week studying the new physics A-level changes as proposed by several boards, and am very disappointed at the missed opportunity. Boards appear to have chosen to make no significant change to content, and to introduce more mathematical questions, rather than questions that are more mathematical.

Most schools will continue to enter all students for AS and, as at present, some students will continue to A-level. The significant changes are that AS will not contribute to the final grade, and practical work will no longer be a significant, examinable part of the course. This is a worsening of A-level, not an improvement.

Did Michael Gove intend to make the electorate believe that A-levels would be improved, without intending actual improvement, or have the examination boards outmanoeuvred him in order to maintain their competitive edge?

A A Chabot


Is this art or just trash?

A report on Wednesday was enough to convince me that I am sharing this planet with a seriously disturbed population. Tracey Emin’s Turner Prize-listed, soiled, rumpled bed, littered with personal toiletries, was sold for £2.2m at Christie’s.

If this is the way the seriously rich spend their hard-earned cash, no wonder the world is in such a mess. That money could buy about 20 affordable homes for the less well-off or provide overnight accommodation for 200,000 homeless people.

I only hope that the new owner’s cleaner doesn’t find it when she turns up to work and make the assumption that it was just the result of a night’s drunken revelry, strip and launder the sheets and dispose of the trash.

Mike Joslin



Cameron won’t reform the EU Like this

The Prime Minister has made a dog’s dinner of trying to gain influence with our nearest trading partners.

This is ridiculous, given that we are the third largest state, by head count, within the EU. We would be in a very strong place to negotiate and reform the European Union, if it were done properly and with respect for others. David Cameron’s problem is his own party. He is now trapped into having a referendum, or stepping down as leader of the Conservatives.

I say to all centre-ground Conservatives and Labour Party supporters who believe that our membership of the Eeropean Union is vital: join the Liberal Democrats.

Richard Grant

Ringwood, Hampshire

Tennis without the noises, please

I was interested to read the letter about “strange noises at Wimbledon” (3 July). Rather than spend time analysing the noises, the powers that be should totally ban the whole silly practice.

In conversation with many tennis-loving friends, I have discovered that they, like me, rarely bother to watch the matches any more and certainly turn the sound off when the nonsense begins.

The authorities should realise that their faithful watching public could well be deserting them – so please ban the silly, aggressive noises at Wimbledon in 2015.

The Rev Margaret Roylance

Tenterden,  Kent

The criterion  of accuracy

A little more attention to detail needed I think from Guy Keleny (Errors & Omissions, 28 June) when giving Greek lessons. In the context it should surely be “either ‘criteria … have’ or ‘criterion … has’ ”.

Charles Ashmore

Farthingstone, Northamptonshire


The French ban of the burka in public encourages some to call for the UK to follow suit

Sir, Britain should also ban the burka as France has done (report, July 2; “Veiled women suffer hostility on streets”, July 3; letter July 4). As a female I consider the growing number of black burkas (or MBOs, moving black objects, as the Americans called them in the Gulf War) a breach of my human rights.

It is terrible to think that women living in the UK are forced by men to wear these garments, an insult to women in this modern world. If people come here to get away from some dreadful country, they should assimilate here.

Josephine Drost

London E14

Sir, Women who wear the veil create a distance between themselves and others. The veil is antisocial. Being deaf I rely on being able to read lips. I have ignored women in the veil who have spoken to me essentially because I cannot hear what they say.

A friend who is a shop worker in the East End of London says she always has a slight panic whenever someone enters wearing a veil. She doesn’t know if it is a woman or a male robber who is using it as a disguise.

Andrew Hayward

London SE19

Sir, I am a middle-aged, middle class, well-educated white woman happy to live alongside anyone who behaves like a decent citizen no matter what their creed or colour. However, I would never attempt to communicate with a woman wearing a niqab because the mouth is covered. This prevents any dialogue. I would not know if she were talking to me; I could not lip-read and would have no idea if my approach was welcomed or rejected as the smile (or grimace) is covered. Is this a failing in me or a barrier created by the wearer of the niqab?

Vivienne Lloyd


Sir, Dr Irene Zempi’s experience on wearing a veil in Leicester would be as nothing to a western woman’s when wearing a summer dress or a cross in a Muslim state.

Richard English

South Petherton, Somerset

Sir, UK law regarding the covering of the face in public is dangerously contradictory and discriminatory. On the one hand, it fails to protect Muslim women by turning a blind eye to the unlawful tyranny of male relatives who often violently enforce the wearing of the veil. On the other, it discriminates against all men and all non-Muslim women who (merely because they are not Muslims) can be legally prevented from covering their faces in public. This practice makes a mockery of our laws relating to the identity of the individual, as well as the principle of equality before the law.

Stephen Porter

London NW6

Sir, In Europe we are used to seeing nuns wearing similar dress to the niqab with the important exception that we could always see their face. Does it occur to women who wear

a veil that we might feel uncomfortable in their presence? It is important in western culture to see the whole face.

Personally I do not mind what men or women wear as long as the whole face is visible. Those who choose to live here should be aware of the effect the niqab has. If I visited a Muslim country, I would expect to wear a scarf and a long skirt and be modestly dressed.

New antibiotics are no use without a global campaign to fight drug resistance

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


More trained sniffer dogs at departure gates would help prevent terror attacks in the air

An armed police officer at Heathrow Airport

Security is to be stepped up at airports from where planes fly to America Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 04 Jul 2014

Comments527 Comments

SIR – The heart sinks at the thought of yet more security checks at airports. While we all recognise the need to do everything in our power to prevent terror attacks, it is difficult to appreciate why explosives-trained sniffer dogs are not used more frequently among passengers at departure gates. Surely this would be both quick and effective.

Ginny Martin
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – Now that the European Court has ruled that it is not an infringement of human or religious rights to ban the burka in France, can we have the same ruling here? America has asked us to tighten security at airports, and police and security staff can hardly be expected to identify someone from their eyes alone.

Anthony Gould
London W1

City states

SIR – We welcome the recent speech from the Chancellor, George Osborne and the conclusions of Lord Adonis’s Growth Report recognising how crucial the devolution of power to English cities is to the growth of our economy. However, politicians need to be bolder in order to achieve this growth and deliver much-needed jobs in all of England’s cities.

We are already campaigning for greater local control of taxes raised in cities to enable them to invest and drive the national economy, specifically through the devolution of property taxes. This reform would provide cities with the means and incentives to expand their economies, and crucially would be cost-neutral to the Treasury, at least in the first year.

The era of bold civic leadership associated with the 19th and early 20th century was defined by even greater autonomy than that outlined in our proposals. We therefore urge politicians to grant to our cities the fiscal autonomy that we believe is appropriate for the 21st century.

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Sir Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council and
Chairman, Core Cities Group
Jules Pipe
Chairman, London Councils

An unfortunate day

SIR – Your obituary of Vernon “Ginger” Coles mentions the sinking of the German cargo vessel Bärenfels in Bergen harbour. She was unloading coal there on April 14 1944, lying next to the floating dock, which was the target. Amid the murky waters, the crew of Coles’s X-24 (commanded by Lieutenant Max Shean) had to guess which was the floating dock and which Bärenfels. These were of virtually the same size, and they guessed wrongly.

On April 14 1940, four years earlier to the day, Bärenfels was sunk in Bergen harbour by Blackburn Skua dive-bombers. She was later lifted and repaired. So one and the same ship was sunk twice in the same harbour.

Tore Fauske
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Disc world

SIR – Earlier this year I renewed my tax disc online, expecting to be charged £265.

When I received my disc a few days later, the cost was listed as such. However, my bank statement showed that “taxdisc direct Alresford” had charged me £305.

What is going on?

Captain Derek Hopkins (retd)
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Control over Trident

SIR – The financial albatross called Trident is neither independent nor credible. Control was handed to Washington when the decision was made to use a missile delivery system designed, manufactured and overhauled in America. Even submarine-launched test firings are conducted in American waters near Cape Canaveral, under US Navy supervision. It is inconceivable that No 10 would fire Trident in anger without prior approval from the White House.

Persisting with Trident and its proposed replacement in order to retain our permanent Security Council seat is to reject British pragmatism in favour of la gloire. At least the French, to their credit, went to the trouble of developing their own submarine-launched missile-delivery system. They own it, hence control it.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Laughing in class

SIR – Michael Morpurgo has encouraged teachers to cry when reading emotional stories to their young pupils. Perhaps they should also break into hysterical laughter when discussing with their older pupils our parliamentarians’ policies and behaviour.

Dick Laurence
Wells, Somerset

Storm-proof phones

SIR – Harry Wallop (Features, July 1) is clearly a townie if he finds the landline dispensable. In the countryside, it is essential in those areas where there is no mobile signal. And an analogue telephone will keep going through power-cuts.

Julie Juniper
Eype, Dorset

Responsible drinking

SIR – In order to drink non-alcoholic beer responsibly (Letters, July 2), you first have to buy it. When buying Bavaria 0 per cent at a self-service till, I always have to wait for an assistant to confirm I am of age.

David Fisher

SIR – Steve Frampton asks how it is possible to drink non-alcoholic beer irresponsibly. It’s quite easy really. Simply remove your shirt and walk through the town centre with the can in your hand.

Mark Allen
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Where have all the bananas gone at Wimbledon?

SIR – A couple of years ago it was de rigueur for Wimbledon players to eat bananas during a match. To date, I have noticed only a couple being consumed.

What does the tennis fraternity know about bananas that we don’t?

Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – I was disappointed to note that most members of the crowd interviewed after Andy Murray’s defeat kept their sunglasses on. I was taught that, if spoken to in a formal situation, you remove sunglasses so that people can see your eyes.

Mike Lawrie
Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire

SIR – Andy Murray’s cousins (Letters, July 2) are on a well-earned summer break from school and are not flouting attendance rules.

Scottish schools break up at least a month ahead of English schools and lessons resume in mid-August.

L G Baines
Ide Hill, Kent

SIR – “Oh, I say!” Bring back Dan Maskell.

Roderick Taylor
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – It is interesting that among the Wimbledon commentators, Mark Petchey is familiarly referred to as Petch.

Had his actual name been Petch he would probably have been called Petchy.

Peter Hamilton
London SE3

Eli Wallach (centre) leading a bandit raid as Calvera in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960)  Photo: RONALD GRANT ARCHIVE

6:59AM BST 04 Jul 2014

Comments40 Comments

SIR – With the demise of the great Eli Wallach we have lost an actor who personified villainy at its best on the cinema screen.

As Calvera, the bandit leader in The Magnificent Seven, he held his own against the king of cool, Steve McQueen – not to mention Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Yul Brynner.

And yet in the middle of filming this classic Western, Wallach discovered he did not get on well with horses. While filming the horseback scenes he always had two minders galloping close by him to ensure he stayed in the saddle.

Rather self-deprecatingly, when he heard Elmer Bernstein’s theme music for the film, he said “Elmer, if I’d known the music was going to be so exciting, I’d have ridden my horse better.”

William McBride
Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh

SIR – I’d be surprised if Labour’s health spokesmen are against the proposals I am putting to Labour’s National Policy Review on refinancing the NHS and social care. The objection you report them making is squared in the report.

As the gainers from social care will be overwhelmingly older people, it would, of course, be unfair if yet another burden was placed on non-grey voters. That’s why I propose that all pensioner income should be brought within the National Insurance contributory system so that pensioners, who will most benefit from social care being combined with the NHS, and from the NHS service itself, should pay their fair whack once their income is high enough.

On the financing crisis described by Mary Riddell (Comment, July 2), there is no alternative to my proposal, except to accept that within a Parliament the NHS we know will not exist – no happy prospect for voters looking to Labour to protect them.

Frank Field MP (Lab)
London SW1

SIR – You report that “almost” no patients over 75 are receiving some kinds of surgical operations. I am 78 and six weeks ago I had a total knee replacement operation. In my ward were four other patients who were well into their eighties.

In the past three months two of my friends have been treated for breast cancer. We have all received wonderful treatment in Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals.

Hazel Leigh
London N12

SIR – Professor John Ashton (Let doctors use drugs to help terminally ill patients die”) may be an expert in his field but he seems to know little about palliative care, the branch of medicine that specialises in care of the dying.

We work to relieve distress and to support those dying, not to hasten – or postpone – their death. We do not force or cajole anyone to stay alive against their wishes. But there is a world of difference between that and what Professor Ashton is proposing – to give our patients lethal drugs for suicide.

We see patients at their most vulnerable, whose families sometimes wish their death to be hastened but who themselves wish to live a little longer and who can be made to feel they are a burden on others and the NHS.

There are sound clinical and social reasons why the vast majority of doctors do not want to see physician-assisted suicide licensed. In today’s financial environment it is hard enough to provide adequate care without utilitarian pressures, dressed up as compassion, to end our patients’ lives.

Professor Baroness Finlay

SIR – If, as reported, the NHS is “defying” the law by denying pensioners vital surgery, why is no one being prosecuted and, on conviction, sent to jail?

Joe Smith
Tingewick, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I see that Garth Brooks has insisted that “for us it’s five shows or none at all” (Front Page, July 4th). What a load of codology! On January 21st, The Irish Times reported that two Garth Brooks concerts were to be held in Croke Park during the summer and the speed at which these tickets were sold must have delighted the promoters, as well as Brooks. They decided to milk the system by adding concert dates one by one for a total of five concerts, and this prior to a licence being granted.

If Brooks is now refusing to play the three concerts for which a licence has now been granted, he is showing complete disdain for his fans. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I have great sympathy for both residents and disappointed fans of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park. Could the GAA offer to pay the local property tax of residents within an agreed radius of the stadium as part of a deal to allow all five concerts to proceed? – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Would it not make sense to allow all five Garth Brooks concerts to go ahead but preclude the GAA from hosting any concerts next year? – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Co Louth.

Sir, – GAA scoring needs revising – three’s a goal but five’s an own goal. – Yours, etc,


Durham Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – A showdown about a hoedown? – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – I once bought a house whose garden backed on to a railway line. I would have preferred that the line wasn’t there, but it was, and no doubt the price I paid for the house duly reflected the fact. I was annoyed when the frequency of trains using the line subsequently increased, but again, I had known about the line when I’d purchased the house so I didn’t consider I had grounds for complaint. And living near to a railway at least meant I had the potential benefit of an easier commute into work.

There has been a stadium at Croke Park for over a hundred years, and all local residents must have known about it when they moved into its vicinity.

As such, whilst I may sympathise with disruption caused to them by use of the stadium, what did they expect when they moved there?

At least they are receiving some compensation for their inconvenience from concert promoters, which is more than I got from the railway company. And no, I’m not going to any of the concerts. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Kieran Mulvey thinks the handling of the Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park is a “debacle ” and brings the country into disrepute (July 4th). You would have thought that any country whose media treated such an event as the second coming has no reputation to lose. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – The Croke Park Disagreement? – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The residents would prefer there to be no concerts, but they are prepared to accept three, while the promoters, who originally planned for two, then increased the number to five, without the relevant licence, are now saying that if Brooks cannot have five then he will not do any.

And the general consensus seems to be that the residents are being unreasonable. Go figure! – Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I would ask Garth to play the three shows as approved by Dublin City Council and come back to Dublin early next year to play the remaining two shows. – Yours, etc,


Sion Hill,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Chinese walls now needed in major legal and accountancy firms must be a hardship for staff. Who knows what tensions arise between colleagues now working in possibly adversarial roles cleaning up the messes of the banking crisis?

Take KPMG’s involvement with INBS. KPMG is quoted as saying, “The special liquidators of IBRC will not comment on matters that pertain to KPMG’s role as auditors to INBS” (“KPMG wanted Fingleton back on INBS board in 2008”, Front Page, July 3rd).

The special liquidators would of course be KPMG and the fact they find it necessary to refer to themselves in the third party indicates their own concerns with getting in a tangle. In the interests of clarity perhaps we should refer to the firm that audited INBS as Provisional KPMG, the special liquidators as Continuity KPMG and those who produced a special report in 2008 (after the bank guarantee) supporting Michael Fingleton’s business model as Real KPMG. – Yours, etc,


Kenilworth Park,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I refer to the article “Call for end of Good Friday pub closing” (July 3rd).

Good Friday is a day when Christians of all denominations throughout the world take time to reflect on the Passion and death of Christ. On Good Friday, Catholics are asked to share in that sacrifice through the traditional practises of prayer, the veneration of the Cross, and through fast and abstinence. Many people in Ireland still join in these religious practices and enter into the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, which is the most important feast of the Christian calendar.

It is a matter for the civil authorities to decide on the context and content of legislation, and this should serve the common good. The sale of alcohol on Good Friday is an issue on which Christians can make up their own minds based on an informed conscience and on the content of proposed legislation. It is also true to say that we can enjoy Christmas Day each year without pubs being open.

The reality of Ireland’s relationship with alcohol was highlighted only one week ago by the Health Research Board study of Irish people’s alcohol consumption. The publication revealed that one-in-three of the population is a harmful drinker, and that 177,000 people are dependent on alcohol. The HRB’s findings concerning our young people were even more disturbing: three-quarters of alcohol is consumed as binge-drinking and two thirds of our people in the 18-24 age bracket binge drink. Whilst stark, these trends are not new.

In response, since 1997, the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative has sought to mobilise parish communities throughout the country, together with other service providers, to make appropriate pastoral responses to prevent alcohol and drug misuse, and to respond to issues arising from the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.

The above findings indicate that Ireland’s behaviour to alcohol is fast becoming a national emergency. It is incumbent on politicians, and on all of us, to propose solutions to address the human suffering arising from alcohol misuse, and to challenge directly the agenda of the drinks industry. – Yours, etc,


Irish Bishops’

Drugs Initiative,

Columba Centre,


Co Kildare

Sir, – Eddie Molloy (“Accountability needs brickbat of punishment”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th) suggests that we need sanctions to address poor performance in the Civil Service. I would suggest that we do not have a properly structured or functioning Civil Service in this country any more.

The moratorium on recruitment has meant that experienced and trained staff are not being replaced. Instead, there are temporary staff on short-term contracts, with no prospect of a career and minimal wages. There is little recruitment of graduates, opening up critical gaps in expertise and experience. Serial pay cuts have increased staff turnover. Many aspects of public service work have been outsourced to the private sector, using call centres and document processing businesses.

At the top, Government is increasingly parachuting in “experts” to run departments, supported by a network of advisers and public relations consultants.

I fully support the need for evaluation of performance in any aspect of public life. However, if the structure of the Civil Service has been fatally damaged, we cannot be surprised if it is not fit for purpose. – Yours, etc,


Faculty of Business,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Aungier Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Your report on Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore’s last question time in the Dáil as leader of the Labour Party highlighted his concern for the plight of the Irish undocumented in the US (“US perceives need for immigration reform, says Tánaiste”, July 3rd).

While it is vital that the Government advocates for the rights of the undocumented in the United States, it is astounding to do so while ignoring the many undocumented migrants, including families and children, living and working right here in Ireland.

For three years, this Government has sat on proposals for the introduction of a straightforward and pragmatic earned regularisation scheme in Ireland. Such a scheme would give undocumented people the opportunity to come forward and earn their way to permanent residency through working, paying taxes and contributing to the community. It is almost identical to the US proposals which have received such strong support from the Irish Government.

Surely the Government cannot expect their efforts in the US to be taken seriously if they do not act to address the same situation at home? – Yours, etc,



Migrant Rights

Centre Ireland,

Sir – Sheila Greene and Noirín Hayes (“Where are the pledged changes in creche care? Opinion & Analysis, July 3rd) rightly point out the totally inadequate “snail’s pace” of Government reform in the childcare sector.

One would think given our past history and the revelations in the RTÉ Prime Time documentary “Breach of Trust” 12 months ago that vital steps to ensure high-quality childcare would be in place by now.

What is the point of bemoaning past mistakes in relation to children when we continue to ignore vital warnings now? – Yours, etc,


Westfield Road,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence on women and the priesthood in the Catholic Church, that all-male celibate power structure is hardly going to act against its self-interest and the laity has no decision-making role. However, for secular society, anti-gender discrimination is enshrined in law, a basic principle which underlies a fair, moral and decent society. Of course the State has to allow religions to discriminate against women in their own structures, as this is a matter for their clerical power-structures and theological beliefs. They have and should have freedom of religious belief.

It does not follow, however, that the State should have to subsidise as well as tolerate discriminatory beliefs.

Perhaps all religions that exercise their right of exemption from anti-discrimination laws should be disqualified from receiving state subsidies by way of the enormous tax advantages that they get? In European Union partner states, such as Germany, these tax subsidies run to billions. Furthermore in Ireland and Britain, the Catholic Church’s all-male power structure controls a substantial proportion of state-funded education. – Yours, etc,


Birkdale Gardens,

Croydon, Londo

Sir, – Should Peter McVerry’s powerful column (“Treat drug misuse by doing U-turn on policy”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th) on illegal drug policy and the billions spent on the long-lost “war on drugs” not prompt the Government to commission a multidisciplinary study of the case for legalising some illegal drugs and bringing their trade not just notionally but actually into our GDP calculations? – Yours, etc,


Aughrim Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Peter McVerry’s argument that “trying to eradicate illegal drugs” is a “lost war” is unacceptable. His recommendation that “we treat drug misuse as a health and social problem” rather than a criminal justice problem is a recipe for social disintegration on a massive scale.

What the level of drug use would be if drugs were not illegal can only be imagined.

The cost in damage to health and the level of drug treatment that would be needed if we were to follow Fr McVerry’s advice would bankrupt the country, not to mention wreck the lives of countless more families. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

A chara, – In the Irish Embassy in London on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the third Home Rule Bill, John Bruton said that the Easter Rising had damaged the Irish psyche (“Padraig Pearse rejoiced in violence, says Bruton”, July 2nd).

It can be said with certainty, however, that the Easter Rising didn’t damage Mr Bruton’s political career.

It would appear that he is under the impression that the position of taoiseach that he was privileged to hold fell out of the sky and had nothing whatsoever to do with the event in our history that led to our and his independence. – Is mise,


Mc Dowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort


Dublin 8.

A chara, – Referring to the proposed cycleway on the North Quays, Jonivar Skullerud (July 4th) claims that an increase in cycling in the city centre would benefit retailers because motorists cannot window-shop at 50 kp/h.

First, the speed limit in Dublin city centre is 30 kp/h, not 50 kp/h.

Second, the prospect of cyclists “window-shopping” as they tear through the city is a terrifying one. From what I see on a daily basis, cyclists already show enough disdain for the red lights that they actually see. God help us all if they start cycling through the streets looking sideways! – Is mise,


Lismore Road,


Irish Independent:

* Con Coughlin is right to allude to the insidious threat posed by the rise of radical groups in Iraq and Syria, bent on mayhem and destruction.

However, Western governments have been complicit in the creation of such groups in the first place. At one time, it was the West with its clients in the gulf region who financed al-Qa’ida‘s terror network to fight the Russians at the height of the Cold War era. Even now, the UK intends to train a hundred thousand so-called moderate rebels to defeat Bashar al-Assad‘s regime in Syria. This is bound to stoke the embers of hatred and enmity and perpetuate the suffering of the Syrian people. In the absence of a coherent opposition, the political, military and administrative vacuum will probably be filled by Isis and its affiliates.

The West needs to change its strategies. It is lamentable that the chasm of misunderstanding between the Muslim and Western worlds is widening at a time when both need each other in the battle against global threats ranging from antibiotics resistant superbugs, climate change, to the eradication of hunger, poverty and emerging threats such as the Ebola virus.

What binds both worlds together is much more powerful than what divides them. Islamic societies are not as backward as they are usually portrayed in Western media. Islamic traditions nurture the compassion towards the underprivileged and the poor, and preserve the intellectual inquisitiveness for equity, knowledge and sciences since the dawn of human civilisation.

Women are not second-class citizens in Islam. In the words of the tradition ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr’. We cannot take the practices of some radical groups or Islamic states as representatives for over one billion Muslims across the globe.

We shall need to work harder to understand each other, to drain any poison between us, and to lay the ghost of suspicion and fear.



Holy day for prayer, not drink

* I refer to the article ‘Publican senator calls for end to Good Friday drinking ban’ (Irish Independent, July 3.

Good Friday is a day when Christians of all denominations throughout the world take time to reflect on the Passion and death of Christ. On Good Friday, Catholics are asked to share in that sacrifice through the traditional practices of prayer, the veneration of the Cross, and through fast and abstinence. Many people in Ireland still join in these religious practices and enter into the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, which is the most important feast of the Christian calendar.

It is a matter for the civil authorities to decide on the context and content of legislation, and this should serve the common good.

The sale of alcohol on Good Friday is an issue on which Christians can make up their own minds based on an informed conscience and on the content of proposed legislation.

The reality of Ireland’s relationship with alcohol was highlighted only one week ago by the Health Research Board study of Irish people’s alcohol consumption. The publication revealed that one-in-three of the population is a harmful drinker, and that 177,000 people are dependent on alcohol.

The HRB’s findings concerning our young people were even more disturbing: three-quarters of alcohol is consumed as binge-drinking and two-thirds of our people in the 18-24 age bracket binge drink.

Whilst stark, these trends are not new. In response, since 1997, the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative has sought to mobilise parish communities, together with other service providers, to make appropriate pastoral responses to prevent alcohol and drug misuse, and to respond to issues arising from the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.

It is incumbent on politicians, and on all of us, to propose solutions to address the human suffering arising from alcohol misuse, and to directly challenge the agenda of the drinks industry.





Residents on the right track

* I once bought a house whose garden backed on to a railway line. I was annoyed when the frequency of trains using the line subsequently increased, but again, I had known about the line when I’d purchased the house so I didn’t consider I had grounds for complaint.

There has been a stadium at Croke Park for over 100 years, and all local residents must have known about it when they moved into its vicinity. At least they are receiving some compensation for their inconvenience. (And no, I’m not going to any of the concerts).



Running the the party gauntlet

* Weekend in and weekend out, and often nights in between, marauding gangs of carousing revellers from Dublin town mainly blight places such Kilkenny and Carrick-on-Shannon. Men and women, not to mention the children, residents of these beautiful, elegant places are forced to run the gauntlet of ultra-binge drinking, kerbside urinating, scantily-clad people toppling over, not to mention the drink and drug-fuelled fighting and brawling.

Please don’t talk to me of people being discommoded around Croker.



Garth’s got friends in Limerick

* It appears that the onus of solving the GB problem has fallen to Limerick in this its year as City of Culture. In the time-honoured way of western gambling, now that Garth has gone all in with his “five or nothing”, we should counter with a “10 or else . . .” The Gaelic Grounds sits waiting with it’s 50,000 capacity plus the pitch area.



Choose your words wisely

* Killian Foley-Walsh (Irish Independent, July 3) seems quite pleased with himself that he has managed to describe next spring’s referendum on marriage equality as “the same-sex marriage referendum” – therefore avoiding any accusation of “inaccuracy, offensiveness or selective wording”.

If Mr Foley-Walsh wishes not to be accused of “selective wording”, can we also expect him to use the term “opposite-sex marriage” in any further communication on the matter of marriage in Ireland? It would certainly be more accurate.



Rising didn’t damage Bruton

* I refer to the article ‘John Bruton: Easter Rising damaged Irish psyche’ (Irish Independent, July 1). It can be said with certainty that the Easter Rising didn’t damage Mr Bruton’s political career.

It would appear that he is under the impression that the position of Taoiseach that he was privileged to hold fell out of the sky . . . and had nothing whatsoever to do with the event in our history that led to our and his independence.

I am reminded of course that the highlight of his career, according to himself, was his infamous evening spent in the company of none other than Prince Charles – titular commander-in- chief of the Parachute Regiment.



Irish Independent


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