8 July2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. I am so tired rain today

ScrabbleIwin, but get under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Kathy Stobart – obituary

Kathy Stobart was a tenor saxophonist who partnered Humphrey Lyttelton and taught Judi Dench to mime

Kathy Stobart

Kathy Stobart

5:25PM BST 08 Jul 2014


Kathy Stobart, who has died aged 89, was a tenor saxophonist whose long career in British jazz included prominent roles in leading bands, most notably that of Humphrey Lyttelton; she was also a distinguished teacher and a popular director of student bands.

Kathy Stobart played with a broad, forthright tone and clear, unfussy phrasing, characteristics which often led critics to remark that she played “like a man”. Although well-meant, this accolade did not please her. “It’s supposed to be the ultimate compliment, but I wouldn’t apply it to myself,” she said. “I’ve got a good pair of lungs on me and I’ve got well matured emotions. I play like me.”

Florence Kathleen Stobart was born in South Shields on April 1 1925, into a musical family. Her mother was an accomplished pianist and two brothers played the saxophone, although “there was no jazz at all” in the house. She took up the saxophone aged 12 and, on leaving school at 14, joined Don Rico’s Ladies’ Band. As well as playing, she sang and did impressions. “My Gracie Fields was much admired,” she recalled.

A year later she joined Peter Fielding’s dance band in Newcastle. This band often played at local air force stations and at one of these she met Keith Bird, a leading London saxophonist then serving in the RAF. He introduced her to jazz, coaching her in the art of improvisation and giving her a set of jazz records as a present on her 17th birthday. On returning to London in 1942, he wrote, offering her a resident job at a ballroom in Ealing.

Once established in London, Kathy Stobart was soon accepted into the small inner circle of British jazz. After finishing work at 10.30pm, she would hurry to the Jamboree Club in Wardour Street, Soho, to sit in with trumpeter Denis Rose’s band. “I played jazz morning, noon and night. I used to stay up 24 hours, just playing and listening to music,” she recalled. Despite wandering around Soho in the wartime blackout, and encountering the gamy atmosphere of some of its establishments, she claimed never to have felt threatened. The other musicians protected her from harassment and even from bad language: “They’d say, ‘Not in front of Kath’, and that was that”.

In 1943, aged 18, she married the Canadian pianist Art Thompson and worked with his band at the Embassy Club. BBC Television was relaunched in 1946, and the husband-and-wife duo were featured several times during its first year. The following year they travelled to Canada, and from there toured the US, including a season in Palm Springs. After returning to England, Kathy joined the Vic Lewis Orchestra, a big band playing in the “progressive” style of Stan Kenton. She appeared with it at the 1949 Paris Jazz Fair, Europe’s first real jazz festival.

Kathy Stobart and her band in the early 1950s

Jazz was a fairly small element in early post-war British popular music, but Kathy Stobart was counted among its leading figures. She often played as a guest soloist in Ted Heath’s Sunday Night Swing Shop concerts at the London Palladium, and for a while led her own band, Kathy Stobart and her New Music. It was when trying to promote this that she claimed to have encountered the only serious example of anti-female prejudice in her career — from a BBC executive who turned her down.

Kathy Stobart and Art Thompson were divorced in 1951 and in October of that year she married the trumpeter Bert Courtley. Three sons were born in the early years of their marriage, which interrupted her career for a while, although she played until she was six months pregnant each time. “I never put the saxophone away with the idea of letting it stay in its case for long. I always knew I’d play it again.”

In 1957 she joined Humphrey Lyttelton’s band, filling in for Jimmy Skidmore, who was ill. She and Lyttelton also recorded an album together, entitled Kath Meets Humph. A strong mutual regard formed between them, and she was to return many times as either a guest or full-time band member. The association certainly helped keep her name before the jazz public while her family was growing up. Less conventionally, she appeared for a while as a member of the onstage ladies’ band in the first London production of Cabaret, at the Palace Theatre.

Bert Courtley died in 1969, and she was faced with the task of being the sole breadwinner for her growing family. She decided to add teaching to her musical activities and enrolled for a diploma course at the Guildhall School of Music, taking clarinet and flute as well as saxophone. When the journalist Les Tomkins came to interview her, there was a note pinned to the door: “When you come into the house, mind the dog, don’t fall over the kids and don’t let the cats into the kitchen. I’ll be practising the flute in the spare room.”

She proved to be a natural teacher and soon had a full diary of pupils. She also acted for some time as woodwind consultant at Bill Lewington’s, a large West End musical instrument dealer. All this was in addition to being a member of the Lyttelton band between 1969 and 1978.

After leaving Lyttelton, she took over direction of the student band at the City Literary Institute in London. Here she was especially successful in tackling the gap which she had identified, “between becoming fairly proficient on one’s instrument and knowing how to put it into practical use in a band”. She held the post for 19 years. She also led several bands of her own, as well as appearing as a guest soloist at jazz clubs and festivals.

In 1992 she rejoined Lyttelton for the third and last time, a stay which lasted for 12 years. Among her more unusual teaching jobs during this period was an engagement to impart the rudiments of the saxophone to Dame Judi Dench, for her part in the 2000 film, The Last of the Blonde Bombshells. The two were reported to get on like a house on fire.

Kathy Stobart retired in 2004. Her place in the Lyttelton band was taken by Karen Sharp.

She is survived by her three sons.

Kathleen Stobart, born April 1 1925, died April 6 2014


Gordon Maloney and others rightly deplore the failed experiment in fees and marketisation over the last four years of a Tory-led government (Letters, 3 July). They state that before the election they want to put free accessible public education back on to the political agenda, a sentiment I share with thousands of others who are committed to re-establishing the tradition of independent working-class education that existed for much of the 20th century.

To further facilitate this aim, there will be a conference held in Bridgwater on 2 August, Does Working-Class Education Have a Future?. This is one of a number of radical education projects springing up all over the country in the wake of the Tory’s educational vandalism. These include such projects as the Ragged University in Edinburgh and the Independent Working Class Education network. Education is a right we must defend against those who would deny working people a voice.
Robert Turnbull
Hexham, Northumberland

• I wish I could be as confident as Polly Toynbee (4 July) that Dennis Skinner and John Prescott would go to university these days. I have taught many children in south Wales who have told me that they could not afford to go to university. Even if they could take on the debt, they may well be turned off by the stultifying straitjacket of GCSEs, which offer a watered-down academic education that fails the non-academic and fails to stretch the academic.

The attempt to offer working-class children a more vocational way forward through technical colleges was usurped by Tony Blair turning them into academies; and now Michael Gove has decided that the exam system that suited him must be suitable for everybody, regardless of the fact that even graduates today may be coerced into stacking supermarket shelves.

If all would-be MPs did some teaching practice they would soon learn how we waste so much precious young talent.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Until Tuesday, little had been reported about the Israeli army’s brutal crackdown against Palestinians in the wake of the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers and of rockets fired into Southern Israel. We echo the words of the Israeli former combatants’ organisation, Breaking the Silence: “We all bow our heads in mourning for the victims from both sides in the past weeks, in hope for an end to this cycle of bloodshed and occupation.” Palestinian civilians, many of them children or teenagers, have borne the brunt of Israel’s actions. An entire population, living under illegal Israeli occupation, is being collectively punished. In the West Bank, during the week of 19-25 June alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed five Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 14 others, including four children and a journalist. Israeli forces carried out 127 incursions in the West Bank. Hundreds of houses were raided and ransacked. Israel has said it is set to double the number of Palestinians it imprisons without charge or trial.

Over the course of that week, Israeli warplanes also launched 18 air strikes on civilian locations and military training sites in Gaza. Eighteen Palestinian civilians, including seven women and four children, were wounded. The structural violence of occupation is at the root of this escalation. Until Israeli occupation is ended and Palestinians control their own destiny, this suffering will continue. Palestinians are entitled to the freedom and security that we take for granted. The UK government must step up its efforts to end the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and ensure there are clear economic and political consequences to Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonisation through settlements.
Tessa Blackstone
Richard Burden MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Alex Cunningham MP
Mark Durkan MP
Hugh Dykes
Raymond Joliffe
Gerald Kaufman MP
Andy Love MP
Molly Meacher
Grahame Morris MP
Sandra Osborne MP
Bob Russell MP
Andy Slaughter MP
Jenny Tonge
David Ward MP

Kathleen Ferris (Letters, 1 July) claims that my discovery of James Joyce‘s anti-syphilitic treatment, galyl, “rests on sources and facts” cited in her 1995 book, James Joyce and the Burden of Disease. My sources are two 1928 Joyce letters published in the 1950s and 60s. The fact that Ferris also cited these letters (as with Richard Ellmann before her) does not mean that my argument “rests” on hers.

On the contrary, the body of Ferris’s book has led scholars further from the truth, not toward it. She inaccurately describes Joyce’s “arsenic and phosphorus” injections as “injections of arsenic for three weeks”, a regimen that would have killed him. One must search Ferris’s appendix for a lone mention of phosphorus, galyl’s identifying component. Since Ferris believes my identification of galyl is baseless (despite my multiple sources) her claim for more credit is all the more baffling.
Kevin Birmingham
Author, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses

Barclays is to spend tens of millions on an academy to provide training in truthfulness and compliance (Report, 4 July). Should that not have been instilled on joining the bank? David Walker says that the work done so far in teaching about compliance “is not a sign of failure … but indicative that it takes time”. It provides another breathtaking example of the ethical mindset of an industry where profit outweighs any moral considerations and where insular arrogance definitely rules.
Tony Roberts
Preston, Lancashire

• Nick Pollard’s piece on news bulletins is fascinating (Media, 7 July), but it’s disappointing that he didn’t focus on another issue: the “clubby” approach to presenting news. During the BBC 10pm news, Huw Edwards and his cronies use their first names and address each other, rather than us, the viewers at home. Most of the time, I feel I’m eavesdropping on a private conversation, rather than watching a global news report.
Paul Foxall
Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire

• As well as considering donating one’s body for medical research (Letters, 1 July), one should consider donating it for medical students to practice on. Less glamorous perhaps, but my understanding is that there is a severe shortage of these. My executors will phone the university I have chosen, tell them what I have died of, and they will decide whether to accept my body or not. The Human Tissue Authority website will tell you more.
Alan Richardson
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

• I have no issue with Yorkshire being separate (Editorial, 8 July), provided the same autonomy can be granted to north London. We, mostly, didn’t vote for Boris in County Hall , and Alexandra Palace, with its views across the capital, would make an excellent seat of government.
Keith Flett

• Your music critic can hardly complain that Michael Nyman had chosen 96 names to be intoned in his Hillsborough Memorial Symphony (Reviews, 8 July). We all wish there had been fewer deaths that day, even none.
Richard Witts
Reader in music, Edge Hill University

• So Prince Charles is reassuring flooded Somerset residents (Report, 8 July). Apres le déluge, moi?
Tony Glister

I wish I could share Aditya Chakrabortty’s optimism that a stronger underclass will be necessary for capitalism to thrive in the future (Unions need more rights: capitalism depends on it, 8 July). Unfortunately, I can’t see why the top 1% of society should fear another financial collapse. Their experience of the last crash is that virtually nobody who caused the problems had to take any of the responsibility for it. Meanwhile, the top 1% of society thrived, exponentially while the bill for reckless lending was passed down to the poor. To survive another economic implosion the rich simply have to ensure that their battlements are built high and that those suffering have few resources to fight back.

We already have food banks in major cities, and thousands of disabled and unemployed benefits claimants have seen their payments drastically reduced, and often unfairly stopped altogether. This would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, so it should come as no surprise if next time around the welfare state is scrapped to bail out the wealthy. There desperately needs to be a political party formed that will speak for the dispossessed and campaign to improve their lot without blaming immigrants and other scapegoats.
Tim Matthews

• Owen Jones seems mistakenly to think that people have a right to be employed (Comment, 7 July). As someone who has tried to launch their own business, I resent the notion that I could be forced to hire people or pay them a certain amount (which indirectly means not hiring other people). I sometimes used oDesk.com to source cheaper foreign labour, often high quality, for specific tasks at a price both parties found acceptable. I see no moral imperative that holds a British person’s labour to be intrinsically more valuable than a Filipino’s labour. The rates I paid took account of the exchange rate and made good business for the people I paid.

What Jones calls for amounts to no more than meddlesome, nationalistic socialism. A lot of the negative impact he describes can be ascribed to higher inflation than the CPI would have us believe – a result of monetary policy. Ironic, that in a supposedly capitalist society the unit of exchange – money – is completely nationalised. That said, Labour has a strong history of ignoring protests (think 3 million marching against the invasion of Iraq in February 2003). I hope that Unite union boss Len McCluskey’s threat to stop backing Labour and form a new party if it loses the 2015 election becomes a reality.
Charles Groome

• Isn’t Francis Maude a teeny bit embarrassed to be advocating restrictions on trade unions‘ rights to strike (Report, 7 July) when he could only muster the support of 38% of his Horsham constituents at the last election? Talk of “weak mandates” rings hollow when coming from a member of this government in particular.
Roy Boffy

• So, the Tories are considering making trade union strike ballots valid only if more than 50% of those eligible to vote are in favour. Their assumption, that those who don’t vote are against a strike, is faulty. I could make the alternative case that abstainers, while not voting themselves, are content to go along with the result of the ballot as decided by those that do. It is disrespectful to abstainers to make assumptions as to their reasons for not voting. We don’t know why. Democratically, we can only count the votes, and accept the decision, of those who participated. It is vital to show our opposition to this Tory proposal because, as history shows us, a future Labour government, running scared of the Tory press, is unlikely to reverse it.
Martin Childs
Orpington, Kent

I was working with children who had suffered sexual abuse in the 1980s, running a therapeutic programme (Questions child abuse inquiry must answer, 8 July). While we helped in changing many lives, we were conscious how difficult it was to prosecute and convict offenders. It was often too difficult for the children to face disbelief at their testimony and the frightening prospect of appearing in court even behind screens. The perpetrators were often established members of the community.

We dedicated our work to helping children, though aware that we were tackling the tip of the iceberg. Our hope was that as well as normalising expectations for them they might feel more able to face their abusers as adults. We used to speak of it taking a generation, but had no inkling of the added impact of the digital age.
Anne Wallis
Frome, Somerset

• During her recent criticism of the “veil of secrecy” over 114 missing files relevant to child abuse, Margaret Hodge said: “Let’s learn from the historic abuse, let’s actually give victims the right to have their voice on that, but let’s actually also focus on the present.” Which sounds like drawing another veil – over the past. A voice for victims? Only two years ago, 13-year-old rape victims in Rochdale were labelled “council estate prostitutes” making a “lifestyle choice” by the agencies meant to protect them. The girls had voices, only with the wrong accent.

Focusing on the present? We live in a more divided society than ever, where by 2020, Save the Children predict, 5 million children will be living in poverty. We mourn the ugly tragedies of Baby P and Daniel Pelka – but if these children had survived they would have been labelled and demonised, along with social workers damned for struggling to keep families intact, and damned for putting children into care. But so bad is our care system that only the most toxic families lose their children.

If Ms Hodge is serious, Action for Children has an actual plan – a £620bn targeted investment for early intervention services. It will save billions in the long run.
Jane Purcell

• What did the security services know and what did they cover up? Any investigation into child abuse must include the role of special branch and MI5. If any official government body knew about the involvement of government ministers and MPs, the security services must have been aware.

If there is evidence of collusion and cover-up by the security services, justice demands that officers be named and shamed and where possible prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Stephen Frost
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

• There is currently an unprecedented level of public interest in the historical abuse of children in a wide variety of settings. There is clear and well documented evidence that early abuse, whether sexual, physical, emotional or through neglect, causes lasting damage, and in many cases leads to serious difficulties of personal development, which in turn may have seriously adverse consequences for the individual, his or her family, and society as a whole.

In spite of this, we are currently witnessing a reduction in overall provision of mental health and social services for children, families and young people. As well as this, victims of historical child abuse, who are today’s adults, when looking for suitable support or psychological help, also face limited availability of specialist services, which are under increasing pressure as budgets are reduced, in real terms, and demand increases as more survivors of abuse come forward. Inquiries, costly as they are, and due process of law are important, but these should be accompanied by meaningful measures to address the damage that has been done, both for the sake of the victims, and in the interests of the community.
Dr M Turcan and Dr T Lambert

• Alison Taylor, the social worker who tried to expose the paedophile ring in North Wales, has said she was ostracised by her colleagues at the time and ultimately it resulted in her losing her job. Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were given awards. How about an immediate peerage for Alison Taylor? It is perhaps too late to do much for most of the children who suffered appalling abuse but as a country we can recognise the effort she made in the face of establishment hostility, and we can let her know that the ordinary people in the UK respect her for what she tried to do.
Brenda Banks
Teignmouth, Devon

Although Arts Council England has allocated an additional 2% of funding to the regions, the Merlin Theatre, Frome, Somerset is one of many smaller venues to have had its preliminary application to become a national portfolio organisation rejected (Report, 2 July). This is not because its application was weak, indeed it was assessed as strong or very strong in response to ACE goals and being low risk in governance, management and financial terms. So this response from ACE is disappointing, especially for an organisation that in the last three years has addressed weaknesses identified in response to its previous application and managed to survive thanks to an unsustainable level of dedication from much-reduced and over-stretched staff and a large team of devoted volunteers. No reason for rejection was given but perhaps can be found in ACE chief executive Alan Davey’s statement that the investment announced on 4 July demonstrates a “vote of confidence” to local authorities that invest in culture. How does this help organisations in such local authorities as Somerset and Mendip which, three years ago, cut 100% of arts funding? If it is ACE’s aim to put pressure on these authorities, would it not be more effective for ACE to engage directly with them in order to influence their decision-making?
Hilary Gilmore
Chair, Merlin Theatre, Frome, Somerset

The greatest danger facing our democracy is the ability of the public relations community to distort debate by corrupting the meaning of words. When country A invades country B and its inhabitants fight back, as they have every right to do under any conceivable international law, they become “the resistance”. An “insurgent” is defined as one who surges in. Thus, when the US army surged into Iraq in 2003 they became insurgents and the Iraqis who fought back became resistance fighters. While the Guardian has not sunk to the level of idiocy inherent in PR phrases like “clean coal”, you persist in getting this the wrong way round (Iraqis once craved unity, 20 June). Would you favour rewriting the history of the second world war to discuss the French insurgency?
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US

Apply diplomatic pressure

Facing Shia-Sunni bloodletting in Syria and Iraq, US President Barack Obama has rightly rejected any military intervention and the majority of Americans are opposed to any intervention. Michael Cohen quotes Obama saying “some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences” (No mood in US for a fight, 20 June).

However, the world cannot sit by and let the Shias and the Sunnis slaughter each other. The US should use its leverage over Iraq’s Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to pressure him to extend moderate Sunnis a share in the Shia-led government, which Obama is already doing. He can also use the newfound negotiation with Iran to prod the Iranian leaders to pressure Bashar al-Assad to extend similar sharing of power with the Sunnis in Syria. Obama should also persuade Saudi Arabia to stop supplying arms and financial support to the Sunni extremists. It seems both Iran and Saudi Arabia are conducting a proxy war against each other through their surrogates in the Middle East.

Obama has rightly chosen not to intervene militarily in Iraq and Syria. But he cannot let the Shias and Sunnis slaughter each other in the name of religion.
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada

Dogma and incompetence

Will Hutton, in Obsessed with reform of the NHS (27 June), exposed the fallacious thinking behind the modern panacea of corporatisation for perceived inefficiencies in public institutions such as the NHS. These fallacies arise as a consequence of: 1) a preoccupation with party dogma based on half-baked economic theory and the vested interest of other influential sectors, coupled with 2) sheer incompetence. Everybody remembers Sir Humphrey, but we tend to forget that Westminster included Jim Hacker.

Economists from Adam Smith onwards have touted hypotheses dressed up as theories with general validity as if they were holy writ. Such treatment is inappropriate for highly complex social systems. These require a more pragmatic approach involving clearly defined objectives, thorough investigation of the means of achieving them, and continual review to improve their efficiency in the light of experience and new knowledge. To cure the ills of both our bodies and our institutions, we should only resort to amputation as a last resort but, in public life at least, the barber-surgeon appears to be making a comeback.
David Barker
Bunbury, Western Australia

Sport is expensive

Sir Michael Wilshaw misses the point when he thinks that the problem of few top British sportspeople coming from state schools lies with the schools (Playing field is hardly level, 27 June). To become a top athlete in most sports requires about 10,000 hours of training. We have to charge £4.50 ($7.70) minimum for a one-and-a-half hour recreational session. Those starting to show promise would need to do maybe six hours a week (£18). Those training at a higher level may need 15-20 hours a week – and so the costs rise. Add to this costs of equipment, competition entry, travel and accommodation at competitions and squads and you are left with only the children of rich parents. Grants that cover all this are only available once you have become a top athlete. Local grants to promising juniors maybe reach £100, which goes nowhere. We try to pay our coaches – and half the costs of their training, but this is becoming prohibitive as the cost of the lowest level of qualification is over £300, the second level over £500 and the third level over £1,000. Sport is rapidly becoming only for the rich. What is amazing is that anyone from state schools manages to become a top athlete.
Catherine Page
Birkenhead, UK

Cameron is wrong on EU

How can prime minister David Cameron claim there is a democratic deficit in the European Union (4 July)? How can he accuse the European parliament of having no legitimacy and being involved in a power grab when it votes on the head of the commission? Each one of the 700-odd MEPs has been elected by a citizen of the EU. What’s more, this has been done only very recently. Cameron, in fact, has never been elected as prime minister. Unlike France, for example, Britons do not elect their leader. He is prime minister because a coalition of Lib Dems and Conservatives, the biggest group in the British parliament, wants it to be so. In the EU parliament the biggest coalition is the centre right, which wishes Jean-Claude Juncker to be leader of the commission. How is that in any way different to the process that produced Cameron as British PM?
Mike Owen
Blandford, UK

Flesh-and-blood reality

Simon Jenkins’s piece on how technology has not replaced flesh-and-blood experiences (27 June) harks back to the old science-fiction scenario of robots obsessed with seeking the human qualities they lack, as in the theory that robotic aliens have come to earth and retrieved samples of our flesh in an attempt to replicate our “power of live”, as Jenkins quotes the latest California mot du jour. One simple non-scientific experiment to prove the “exhilaration” of “physical interaction” is to look up from your iPhone the next time you’re in public and cast your eyes on some new real flesh and blood faces again.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

A greener option

Zoe Williams’s article (4 July) neglects to mention the green(ish) option of long-distance container-ship travel. It’s hard to see any advantage in flying from Luxembourg to Amsterdam. Train would be faster and without the time-wasting airport and security procedures.

Container-ships are polluting – but less so than aircraft – and they are going to operate anyway.

I have, over 22 years, travelled nearly two dozen times by container ship. I have no guilty conscience about this, since for those with time to spare there is no greener option.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK


• Once again the Guardian refers to Narendra Modi’s landslide victory (27 June). This is deceiving and propagates a myth that politicians love. Modi got 31% of the vote: that is not a landslide, it is a minority. It is only because of the peculiar way that votes in the British electoral system are converted into parliamentary seats that it seems that he won. It is not democracy. Why do people put up with it?
David Huntley
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• Catherine Corless’s persistent research into what is hidden in the grounds of an abandoned nunnery might well inspire the same sort of digs in Canada (27 June). Similar sordid secrets are coming to light here.

What did James Joyce mean when he said, “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow”? Surely he could not have imagined the mysterious deaths of innocents in pious institutions – or could he?
William Emigh
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

• Michael Pritchard’s filtering water bottle is an excellent example of a technical innovation (13 June). There was one thing missing, though. Having filtered a large amount of water, one is left with a filter heavily contaminated with pathogens, and that requires safe disposal.

No mention was made of this. May I suggest burning, along with instructions in the safe handling of the used filter?
Derek Williams
Donvale, Victoria, Australia

• The latest action of footballer Luis Suárez strikes us Europeans as shocking but not, it seems, his countrymen (4 July). Perhaps in Uruguay they refer to football as The Bite-iful Game.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

• Peter Geoghegan’s report on oil booming and busting Aberdeen features in your international news pages (27 June). A subliminal pro-independence stance?
Ángel Diaz Mendez
Oviedo, Spain

• Following on from your story about Jimmy Savile’s abuse (4 July), isn’t now the time to stop our obsessive cult of celebrity status. In all walks of life?
Suzanne Fletcher
Stockton on Tees, UK


I guess I am as “English” as anyone in this country can be, my family having lived in the village where I reside for 250 years now. As far as I know, I do not have a single “Scottish” gene in my body. Yet some years ago I joined the Scottish National Party.

I did so because I grew tired of the continuous whining of Scottish politicians about how unfair the other countries in the union were to them. In the absence of a credible “English Nationalist Party” I decided the best way for me to be rid of Scotland would be to support its own drive to independence.

I will be happy to see the Scots pay for their own free university education, nursing-home places and prescriptions, rather than a large part of it coming, as currently it does, from the Barnett formula. I predict that after a brief period of euphoria the Scots will be taking their tartan begging bowl to the IMF and EU.

So, if ye gang awa’ Alex, from my point of view it will have been two pounds a month well spent.

John Glasspool

Timsbury, Hampshire

Around half of what the SNP claims is Scottish oil is in waters that would be lost to Scotland if Orkney and Shetland were allowed the same freedom to decide on nationhood as the SNP is demanding for Scotland.

While the financial arguments for Scottish independence are debatable, one thing is certain. If Orkney and Shetland, with their historical links to Norway, threw off the Scottish yoke, an independent Scotland would have a monumental financial crisis and a much impoverished future.

When is Alex Salmond going to tell us how his party intends to squash any attempt by the Northern Isles to gain independence since their retention is essential to a prosperous independent Scotland?

Roger Chapman

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Why on earth should anyone listen to Alistair Darling’s musings (report, 8 July) on the impact of a Yes vote on the economy of Scotland and the UK? This is the ex-chancellor who allowed the continuation of  the Thatcherite de-regulated regime in the financial industry, who presided over the run-up to the banking crisis and also supported the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the renewal of Trident. His campaign in support of the Union is motivated solely by his fear that the loss of the Scottish Labour MPs would put his party out of power for a very long time and possibly forever.

Colin Yardley

Chislehurst,  Greater London

People living in England and Wales will be unaware that HM Government has sent to all homes in Scotland a glossy, 16-page, full-colour brochure entitled What Staying in the UK Means for Scotland.

It contains nothing other than arguments supporting the Better Together campaign. The only nod to impartiality is a sentence on page 15 that states, in smaller type: “Alternatively, you can request information by writing to: Scotland Office…”

What is the London-based media doing to investigate this misuse of public funds for political purposes?

Peter Martin

Muir of Ord, Highland

If the cringeworthy uniform to be worn by Scots competitors at the Commonwealth Games is an example of Scottish decision making, it will do much to swell the No vote in the independence referendum. Frankly, one would not do this to a sofa.

John Eoin Douglas



The role of celebrity status in sex abuse

It was obviously wrong of Rolf Harris to do what he did (report, 7 July). But if we put people on pedestals and insulate them from regular reality checks, we should expect this type of behaviour.

It is likely that we evolved from polygamous apes and much of our behaviour may still be based on this genetic history. Many apes use sex as one mechanism to create or reinforce social bonds. This can take the form of enforced sex as well, including the kind of assault Rolf was found guilty of. A male ape leader of a polygamous group would seek to reinforce the social bonds regularly to prove to the whole group, and himself, that he is in charge.

When our celebrities are surrounded by people who are always reinforcing how wonderful they are, it is unsurprising when the celebrities lose their moral compass and social perspective. These celebrities are repeatedly given the message that they are the dominant male in their social group. When females are introduced into the social group, does our biological background play a part in driving these “dominant males” to do the things they do?

Our sycophantic celebrity culture, and our biological hard wiring make this society’s problem. We may drive this behaviour underground by showing that people sometimes don’t get away with rapes and assault, but it won’t stop until we work out how we can destroy the cult of celebrity. These people  are skilled entertainers,  not heroes.

Andrew Roberts

Newbury, Berkshire

The child-abuse allegations are the most serious consequences to have arisen from a string of examples of institutional failures and mismanagement (“Independent inquiry to look into paedophile network claims”, 8 July).

At the root of these failures is a belief in the virtually sacrosanct nature of “management” and “leadership”. For too long, leadership positions have gone to those who can be trusted to toe the line, rather than to ask questions. This has resulted in management structures that may be suitable for the purposes of the establishment, but not for the many on the receiving end of their policies.

I Christie

King’s Lynn, Norfolk

One of the key roles of MI5 has been to monitor our senior establishment figures to identify any potential circumstances that facilitate blackmail by a foreign power. It is inconceivable that, in a period that began before the end of the Cold War, the activities of a Westminster-based paedophile ring would not have been closely monitored by our secret services. And even if they had failed to spot it, any files relating to such a blackmail risk would surely have been sent to them as soon as the Home Office received them in 1983. Has Theresa May asked them if they kept their copies?

Colin Burke


Why do we need to know that Theresa May made her statement “in a sombre all-black trouser suit”?

Margaret Lyons


A grandfather lost in the first world war

“A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Their identification tags were embedded in the putrid flesh” (5 July) was both horrifying and grisly. My grandfather was killed at the Somme in August 1916 and his body was never found. I always had a fond thought that some French farmer would turn up his identification tag while ploughing his fields.

Alas, when I attended the opening of the visitor centre at Thiepval I was informed that only officers had metal tags and the other ranks had tags made of cardboard. My grandmother never saw the memorial at Thiepval, never knew where exactly or how her husband died. All she knew was that she had six children to bring up on her own.

Rosalind Grey

Ely, Cambridgeshire

John Lichfield’s article on the First World War and presumption that it was a myth that the German army was never defeated is not correct. In spite of massive losses and the entry of America to the war, the German army remained a force that would have made it very difficult for the Allies to actually occupy Germany.

At sea, as in the Second World War, the German U-boats remained undefeated and could have continued to wage war against the Allies. At Kiel in the Second World War the U-boat crews showed their resolve and disgust by turning their backs on the Allies when the surrender was taking place.

Technically the Germans were not defeated in the First World War but sought an Armistice when they had almost run out of men and the army had to engage in fighting Communists in the homeland rather than at the front. Battle for battle the Germans came out of the war with far more victories than the Allies and would undoubtedly have won had it not been for the intervention of America with thousands of fresh troops and armaments.

D Cameron

Farnham, Hampshire


Struggles with sexuality

It is great that Grace Dent is so accepting of other people’s sexuality (8 July). But from my work as a counsellor, I know it isn’t always that easy. I have seen parents who have struggled with “the announcement”. They want to be supportive but find it a challenge accepting a person who feels different to the one they have lived with for 15 years.

And despite the numerous celebrities who either play gay TV characters or are gay themselves and proud to  be so, it is still challenging for most 16-year-olds to accept their sexuality  if it is different to that  of their peers.

Owen Redahan

London SW18


Times columnist Libby Purves hits a nerve with her concern about role models for young women

Sir, Thanks are due to Libby Purves for putting the whole “cool gang makes good” thing in perspective (“Not every wild child finds a happy ever after”, July 7) . Well done.

Libby’s message is music to the ears of this mother of girls, who struggled with the right balance of advice for over ten years. Should one be a “miserable old bat”, as Libby put it, or should one not try to point out the obvious perils of running with the “cool girls”? A lot depends on the character of the individual girl, but at least I feel vindicated that I did try to make the right noises about being sensible. I hope the latest research, plus endorsement from your top columnist, will encourage more mothers to feel it is worthwhile to at least state a case, even if it fails to influence their daughters’ choices.

Isolde Watson

Longthorpe, Peterborough

Sir, I would like to be included in Libby Purves’s colony of bats, as I too am disenchanted by the plethora of “wild child stories”. I find them self-obsessed and indulgent, and the happy ending to the over-indulgence and sensationalism sends out the wrong message to young women.

Binge drinking and getting “off your face” on drink and substances are seen a rite of passage, but it is actually disturbing to witness young women reeling round the centre of town, barely conscious of their behaviour and surroundings.

Probably we all over-indulged too much in our youth, but the majority of us did make it home to the right bed and parents who kept awake to ensure we were safely asleep, even though the bedroom might rotate in an alarming manner.

I agree with Libby Purves, the scenario does not always bode well and women can have their heads and bodies messed up for years and never escape this legacy of abuse.

I also would like to read about conventional back stories where education is deemed to have been a privilege and a life-affirming means to a well-rounded, confident person, but I suppose they would seem too normal and boring to a readership hungry for every lurid detail of a misspent youth.

Judith A. Daniels

Cobholm, Norfolk

Sir, My family and I (single mum with two teenagers aged 16,19) are avid readers of The Times. Sometimes it is a struggle to obtain the paper here in the West of Ireland but we persevere for the sake of the wonderful words and wisdom from some of your wonderful writers — Simon Barnes, Philip Collins, Matthew Syed, Janice Turner and in particular, the outstanding Libby Purves. Over the years Libby’s articles have helped me to tackle and handle many delicate topics with my teenagers (simply leave the paper on the dinner table with Libby’s name highlighted for their attention) and a good discussion inevitably follows. I shall be highlighting her article (July 7).

I think Libby should consider changing her name from miserable old bat to wise old owl.

Denise Armstrong

Castlebar, Co Mayo, Ireland

Sir, May we please have more common sense like that shown in Libby Purves’ article today? Drug taking among the wealthy and successful may be well known and even admired in some areas, but it’s still illegal and is directly connected with countless deaths. More of Ms Purves’ wisdom, please.

Rita Gulliver

Woodley, Berks

Charities working with disabled people are concerned about changes to the benefits regulations

Sir, The UK charities which represent millions of disabled people are very concerned about the life-shattering changes to disability benefits.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is intended to support people with the increased cost of having a disability, but changes to the eligibility criteria mean that if people can walk more than just 20 metres with a stick they will no longer receive the highest rate of the benefit. Many of those that need this benefit the most will no longer qualify for the support they desperately need.

Over half a million people are set to lose out — and even more in years to come. Thousands will have to give up their car or other mobility equipment, thus potentially missing work, education or medical appointments.

Michelle Mitchell, MS Society

Steve Ford, Parkinson’s UK

Richard Hawkes, Scope

Liz Sayce OBE, Disability Rights UK

Susie Parsons, National AIDS Trust

Sonya Chowdhury, Action for M.E.

Closing Yorkshire’s roads for the Tour de France was a dramatic reminder how quiet life can be without cars

Sir, One great joy of the Tour de France passing through the Yorkshire Dales was in the hours preceding the event when roads were closed to traffic. Although it is always quiet around here the silence without noise from cars was quite deafening.

It made me realise how intrusive car noise can be, and it was a delight to briefly enjoy such total tranquility.

WMA Sheard

Thornton Rust, N Yorks

The administration of the NHS alone costs as much as a new high-speed railway, every year

Sir, We do need a proper conversation on health policy (letter, July 7). It must include administrative costs, the largest item of NHS expenditure. In 2010 it was estimated that 14 per cent of the NHS budget, about £15.4 billion, went on administration. This was probably an underestimate. The exact costs are hard to calculate — how, for example, does one cost the admin activities by frontline clinical staff — but this should be included.

For 2014 an estimate of £20 billion would be credible. To put it another way, the cost of managing the NHS for a year is similar to the projected cost of building the HS2 rail link from London to Birmingham or more than half the total education budget. This just seems wrong.

Bohumil S Drasar

Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology

London N12

A reader from Hull enjoys learning the codes and complexities of conversing with niqab wearers

Sir, As a white, British, young mum with a daughter at a school that is approximately half Muslim, I have had no problems conversing with other mothers wearing the niqab while on the school run.

It is easily possible to assess someone’s emotions by their eyes and equally possible to have full and varied conversations despite not being able to see someone’s mouth. I am enjoying building relationships and have really enjoyed the challenge of telling the mums wearing the niqab apart.

Joanna Birnie


Closing Yorkshire’s roads for the Tour de France was a dramatic reminder how quiet life can be without cars

Sir, One great joy of the Tour de France passing through the Yorkshire Dales was in the hours preceding the event when roads were closed to traffic. Although it is always quiet around here the silence without noise from cars was quite deafening.

It made me realise how intrusive car noise can be, and it was a delight to briefly enjoy such total tranquility.

WMA Sheard

Thornton Rust, N Yorks


SIR – Even the Liberal Democrats, who endlessly promoted nuclear cruise missiles on Astute-class submarines as an alternative to Trident – a strategy mooted by Mark Campbell-Roddis (Letters, July 3) – have been forced to abandon this notion.

Such a system would be more expensive (because of the costs of designing new warheads and missiles) and less effective (because of the greater vulnerability of cruise). It would put the submarines at risk because the shorter range of cruise missiles would require the boats to patrol much closer inshore, and could even start World War Three by accident, should a conventionally armed cruise missile launch be mistaken for a nuclear attack.

Meanwhile Yugo Kovach (Letters, July 4) is torn between denouncing Trident as a “financial albatross” and praising the French for manufacturing their own missile system. Yet this could only increase our costs if we followed suit. The purpose of our strategic minimum deterrent is to show any future enemy that our retaliatory capability in the event of an attack would not only be unbearable, but inescapable. The fact that Trident missiles are manufactured and tested in close co-operation with our American ally in no way limits our ability to respond independently, if our survival is at stake.

Dr Julian Lewis MP (Con)
Cadnam, Hampshire

Public transport costs

SIR – Is there any chance of Adam Mugliston, who admirably took four days, 10 hours and 44 minutes to travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats by bus at a cost of £170 (1,167 miles at 15p/mile), being put in charge of public transport in Dorset? Yesterday my girlfriend and I travelled from Poole to Corfe Castle by bus/train at a cost of £29.60 (a 28-mile round trip at £1.05/mile).

We had a lovely time though.

Tim Palmer

Abominable blue bear

SIR – The Bhutanese belief in the yeti is so strong that a wildlife sanctuary was created to protect it. The 290-square-mile Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is in the north-eastern mountains bordering Tibet. Bhutan’s folklore abounds with stories of the yeti and there are many people who still claim to have seen it.

I believe that the Himalayan Blue Bear has been mistaken for the yeti. The bear is a sub-species of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) and believed to be extinct but could still exist in Bhutan. Its natural habitat is the alpine regions of eastern Tibet, western China, and Nepal. In 2012 a ranger in Bhutan looking for the yeti, took this photograph of the footprint in the snow in remote mountains and he claims it to be that of a bear.

Tshering Tashi
Thimphu, Bhutan

Family blessings

SIR – My father always sneezed twice, making us cover our ears with their explosive nature. My mother’s sneezes are numerous and cat-like. I combine their characteristics and typically sneeze at least eight times very loudly and quickly.

Pam Norman

National Archives fees

SIR – I find it almost offensive that the National Archives, a government body, should charge for online searches of information held on servicemen and women who served in the First World War. Details of medals, service records, etc., are all available, but at an extortionate cost of £3.30 for each downloaded document. This would seem to go against the spirit of the principles behind the 2000 Freedom of Information Act. Children researching details of their grandparents’ war records for homework for example, are effectively barred by the costs involved.

This is big business for the National Archives, whose records on their website show that 145 million such documents were downloaded in 2012.

The online information should be freely available. As the centenary of the outbreak of war approaches, I suggest that all publicly held online records relating to the First World War be made available free of charge, if only for this anniversary year.

Andrew Campbell
Coombe Dingle, Gloucestershire

Can do better

SIR:- “Can do better” – a typically brief comment that teachers wrote on my annual school reports in the 1940s. Occasionally I received the “Progress well maintained” accolade and the headmaster always added a brief summary at the bottom, such as: “He is sliding down the hill, he can pull himself up!” The only other addition was a grading system of A to E for the various subjects.

My daughter-in-law teaches a class of 30 children and recently wrote no less than 33,000 words on her annual reports – 1,100 per child. All this had to be done in her own time, involving long hours at the computer for night after night. No wonder teachers have less time to devote to preparation of actual teaching. The old style reports were actually just as informative to a discerning parent.

Fred Crowhurst
Streetly, Staffordshire

Reciprocal worship

SIR – My wife and I are concerned that if we wanted to visit a mosque, we would not be welcomed, while we would welcome Muslims at our church to witness our faith.

I appreciate that our lack of Arabic would be a hindrance to visiting a mosque, as would my wife’s gender. However, we would still like to see for ourselves what goes on.

David Slater
Flimwell, East Sussex

Opera stagings need visuals worthy of the music

SIR – Mary Firth’s letter (June 3) about the trend for “ultra-modern, sexed-up, ridiculous productions” of traditional opera really struck a chord.

On June 29 I attended a production of Eugene Onegin at Glyndebourne, which was exactly how an opera should be. The singing was superb, the costumes delightful, and the scenery exactly as I am sure Tchaikovsky would have wanted it. We cheered ourselves hoarse at the end.

In total contrast was a performance of Manon Lescaut which I attended at Welsh National Opera last winter. The performers’ voices were wonderful but the scenery and the costumes were dismal, and the sex scenes unnecessarily explicit.

People attend operas for a pleasing visual experience as well as for the glorious music, and directors would do well to remember this. Otherwise one might as well stick to CDs.

Suzanne Hunter

SIR – Mary Firth’s suggestion that English National Opera should “put on more traditional productions” is a recipe for disaster. The musical standards at ENO are high and the productions at worst are always interesting. The audiences with whom I saw Benvenuto Cellini – on three separate occasions – were delighted with the lavish spectacle, approved of the excellent musical standards, and ignored the ridiculous plot.

Admittedly some opera regulars hanker for the years when the fat ladies sang and everyone wore period costume. Yet surely part of the joy of opera-going is discovering what directors and performers have done with a piece of work, and the opportunities to do that are provided in abundance by ENO.

The price of opera tickets is high, but the ENO does give value for money. It also has one of the best amphitheatres in London.

William Russell
London SE4

SIR – Recently I have had visited upon me a small Moroccan tortoise by a lovely granddaughter whose interest in animals has now turned to kittens.

However, we are struggling to find food it will accept: for Toastie (the tortoise) will eat nothing but anemone leaves.

I have read much about the tortoise diet, and have gone about gathering the most juicy of dandelions, from which he always retreats as if they were poison.

I have also tried nasturtiums, marigolds and other edible flower leaves, to no avail.

In desperation I obtained a “total holistic dietary food of dandelion flavour”, but when offered it he closed one eye before turning away as if to say, “You must be joking”. My once-proud anemones have been reduced to a row of bare stalks.

I would value any advice from readers.

Ray Smart
Bottesford, Leicestershire

SIR – A single event – the death in 2004 of a patient, Mary McClinton – was the necessary “rallying cry” for staff in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital to implement new methods to improve patient safety (“Can the Japanese car factory methods that transformed a Seattle hospital work on the NHS?”).

A similar case occurred in London when, during an operation in 2010, 10-year-old Maisha Najeeb had a syringe of glue injected into her brain accidentally instead of a harmless marker dye. The case was settled in January this year for £24 million, a record pay-out for the NHS. Surely this should be the “rallying cry” for similar changes in the NHS, including the independent investigation of very serious incidents.

Dr David Whitaker

SIR – The adoption of the Toyota Production System (TPS) – also known as lean manufacturing or lean enterprise – is not any form of magic, but a well-proven methodology that can totally transform the efficiency, cost, quality and service levels of organisations.

The article made much of the discipline of “stop the line”, linking it to “whistle-blowing”. But this is a small element of the TPS, the successful implementation of which entails a huge commitment and involvement from the top to the bottom of the organisation, culturally as well as managerially.

The results can be transformational. If Jeremy Hunt’s department were to select a small number of pilot schemes, then facilitate the necessary training, allow adequate time for implementation and (most importantly) not interfere or add bureaucracy to the process, then the potential results could go a long way to providing the NHS with an alternative to throwing money at its problems.

Phil Stamp
Chulmleigh, Devon

SIR – Last month, the NHS ranked number one for safe care out of 11 nations in a Commonwealth Fund study, ahead of Australia, Germany and the United States.

Our national incident reporting system is the most advanced of its kind and follows similar principles to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, receiving more than 140,000 reports each month, with 68 per cent of incidents having caused no harm to the patient and 26 per cent low harm. These reports ensure incidents are addressed nationally and solutions are developed. They also inform our patient-safety alerting system, which makes staff aware of risks. The new Sign up to Safety campaign supports staff in speaking up when things go wrong, allowing us to learn as a whole.

We are always looking to improve, but perhaps we should be proud of our own achievements and not look so far from home to find world-class patient safety.

Dr Mike Durkin
Director of Patient Safety, NHS England
London SE1

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole is right (“Trashing the concept of a public service”, Opinion & Analysis, July 8th). The locked-out Greyhound workers deserve the total support of everyone who believes that decent pay and conditions are worth upholding and that the race to the bottom should be stopped. They have my wholehearted support.

However, Fintan’s understanding of the history of this issue is somewhat flawed. The privatisation of the bin service, the abolition of the waiver for those on low incomes and the waste of €96 million on the Poolbeg incinerator all stem from the removal of all powers on waste matters from elected councillors.

That transfer of power was the one and only victory of the “anti-bin tax brigade”. Those who advocated a “don’t pay” policy left Dublin City Council with debts of nearly €20 million. That gave the city management the excuse to get rid of the service. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s column and Jack O’Connor’s interview on Morning Ireland highlight eloquently the dangers to workers’ conditions of the present cut-throat competitive mode in the disposal of public waste. But there is also a serious health hazard when the quality of waste disposal services is determined by the quantity of money to be made in providing an essential public good. Could I suggest this is not just a “race to the bottom” for workers but a “rat race to the bottom” for all of us? – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole correctly laments the loss of the publicly operated bin collection service in Dublin city but omits to fully explain how and why that council’s bin collection service was privatised in the first place.

Responsibility for the loss of this well-run council service can be traced right back to the populist far-left’s long-running and lamentable campaign to oppose the concept of a charge to fund a safe and sustainable domestic refuse collection and disposal service, operated by people represented by trade unions and who were paid a fair, living wage.

This campaign encouraged householders not to pay, thereby putting the viability of the public collection service at risk and precipitating the Fianna Fáil-PD government to remove important waste policy decision powers from the hands of democratically elected councillors.

As the Greyhound workers fight against the prospect of crippling pay cuts and as citizens like Mr O’Toole lament the loss of their public bin collection service, we should not forget who is responsible for creating the circumstances which have allowed this sorry situation to come to pass. – Yours, etc,


Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin writes that the “Freedom of Information Act is being restored” (“Labour must defend – not apologise for – its role in Government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th).

In removing section 16 of the current law and replacing it with a new section 8, the Minister is conferring legal authority on all public institutions across the State to decide what criteria will be published for the making of decisions, including decisions that affect citizens’ entitlements.

This is in stark contrast with the current law’s section 16, under which all public bodies must publish the criteria for making such decisions. The publication of such materials enables citizens to ensure that decisions are being made in a fair and consistent manner and that like cases are being treated in a similar fashion.

The proposed code of practice and guidelines are not legally binding and in any event, almost an entire year after the Bill’s publication, the much-vaunted code of practice and guidelines have still not been published for examination by our elected legislators.

The apparent removal of upfront fees is a welcome development but the removal of the protections enshrined in section 16 will be a grim piece of work for democracy and for those who have neither the financial resources nor the capacity to protect their rights in the courts.

Those with sufficient financial resources will continue to be able to vindicate their rights in the courts. Section 16 went some distance in expanding that potential to those not so financially enabled to protect those rights.

Let us hope Mr Howlin will retain section 16 and improve it, rather than the proposed disaster for law-based transparency and accountability that will ensue upon its abolition. – Is mise,


Ramillies Road,

Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

Sir, – If the “Garthering” is to be cancelled, perhaps the President should intervene and ensure that Brooks is made to feel welcome in Ireland in the future. I propose rescheduling the concerts to take place around Easter 2016. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Street,

Eganville, Ontario.

Sir, – The Labour Party won 122,000 first-preference votes in the recent local elections. Some 400,000 tickets have been sold for the Croke Park gigs. Maybe Joan Burton should spend two days talking to Garth Brooks, rather than Enda Kenny. She might find there’s more votes to be had in the “country and western” regions. – Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower,


Sir, – While the cancellation of all five Garth Brooks concerts must come as an undeniable disappointment to hundreds of thousands of people, this debacle has had a silver lining – the refusal of the authorities to compromise on the procedures laid down to determine the granting or refusal of such licenses. A event that was “too big to fail” was created, and an assumption made that its holding would be facilitated by Official Ireland simply because the alternative was too disruptive, too damaging, to be contemplated. By standing by their decision, albeit that it had unfortunate consequences, the relevant officials have demonstrated that they will not be bullied by well-orchestrated PR campaigns into ratifying what should not have been ratified.

If our event-licensing system is somehow not fit for the purpose of holding such large events, then this matter should be dealt with by way of legislative reform and not presenting decision-makers with a ready-made disaster. – Yours, etc,


Kerrymount Rise,

Foxrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s no small wonder that Garth Brooks feels unwelcome in Ireland. Perhaps the iconic country star could tour the UK, where his significant fan base would guarantee him a warm reception. – Yours, etc,


Lonsdale Road,



Sir,– The injuring of four people during the annual Pamplona bull run (“Pamplona bull run leaves four hospitalised on first day”, July 7th) is another reminder of how cruel and irresponsible this barbaric ritual is, despite the romanticised image that attaches to it in the minds of the heartless, the deluded and the misinformed.

Apart from the risk to human participants, the bulls don’t deserve this vile mistreatment. They are goaded by “sportspeople” who prod them or administer electric shocks prior to the run. The animals are teased and aggravated to the point of frenzy, and the presence of so many people – standing, gesticulating, or running along the narrow cobbled streets – adds to their fear and distress.

Traumatic though the run is for them, the bulls are afterwards subjected a far worse ordeal. They are tortured to death in another so-called traditional event, the bullfight, in which they are hacked and stabbed with razor-sharp lances before being teased by a caped matador who dispatches him with a sword thrust. All for the edification of a blood-crazed mob that wouldn’t look out of place in an ancient Roman coliseum.

The biggest myth surrounding this twisted and sadistic form of entertainment is the notion that the matador, whatever one thinks of the “sport”, is a heroic fellow who puts his life on the line in the pursuance of a noble custom.

In fact, apart from the softening-up process in the ring with the repeated stabbing by the picadors, the bull is also weakened even before entering the ring. This is accomplished by beating the animal with great force over the kidneys and rubbing Vaseline into its eyes to impair vision.

I find it revolting that the Pamplona “festival” is still being covered by the media as an almost normal cultural activity. It doesn’t deserve any such standing. It belongs, not in the annals of culture or legitimate tourism but in the dustbin of history, along with bear baiting, hare coursing, and dog fighting. That there are people who organise and participate in such barbarism is a disgrace to humanity. – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,


Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Jacky Jones (“The Catholic Church still does not get child abuse issue”, Health + Family, July 8th) states that the National Board for Safeguarding Children received 164 allegations against priests and religious between April 1st, 2013, to the end of March 2014. What she does not clarify is that the vast bulk of theses are historical cases that related to the decades between the 1940s and 1990s, with the largest number from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. All were reported to the Garda or PSNI and relevant health authorities. – Yours, etc,


Ardlui Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Sean O’Cuinn (July 7th) asks what the consequences for Ireland of a UK exit from the EU would be. It would be an unfortunate and regrettable move on many levels for this island, but also an opportunity. As the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU and a timezone shift by one hour to the west, the city of Dublin would be well placed to reap the benefits from a marginalised City of London. – Yours, etc,


Killiney Hill Road,


Sir, – Further to Seamus Boland’s letter (July 7th), Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is on the record as pledging broadband speeds of not less than 30 Mbps throughout the country by 2015. Is Mr Boland suggesting that a Labour Minister would break an important promise? – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – Footpaths used to be safe for pedestrians. This is no longer the case. Footpaths have now, all too frequently, become “flight paths” for “kamikaze” cyclists, who whizz at speed from road to pathway, weaving without warning in and out between the walkers, young and old. Texters with heads bent are another hazard who pay no attention to where they are going. But worst of all are those cyclists who cycle with one hand on handlebar and the other using a mobile phone. Are cyclists above the law? – Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park South,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – On Saturday you printed a fitting tribute to “one of the greatest modern Irish architects”, Ronnie Tallon (Obituaries, July 5th).

As he was involved in designing the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, perhaps the OPW would think of a suitable refurbishment in this the 35th year since the papal visit? – Yours, etc,


Dale Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“In a Word”, July 7th) will be gratified to know of an increase in the number of copies of The Irish Times on sale in Portadown. There are now at least four news outlets in the town which sell the newspaper.

Even if only one copy is sold in each, this is an increase on the three copies sold in the town, as once perceived by Patsy McGarry’s contact.

As an Irish Times reader it has been my experience that the copies of the paper available in Portadown seldom survive past mid-morning. Does the marketing strategy lack rigour? – Yours, etc,


Kilmore, Armagh.

Sir, – The best arrangement of castors for manoeuvring heavily laden supermarket trolleys in confined spaces is fixed wheels on the front, pivoting wheels on the back. Ask any forklift driver. – Yours, etc,


Cuil Ghlas,


Co Meath.

Sir, – In recent days several correspondents have in turn championed the less familiar, responded with the orthodox, before finally introducing uncertainty and denial into the supermarket trolley debate. If I might summarise this debate so far, the supermarket trolley is designed to keep us to the straight and narrow literally, and allows us to pass one another up and down the aisle. Whether one steers oneself to the checkout, or one is guided by fixed castors, is irrelevant to someone who knows that the real world exists outside in the car park, and the pavement where the trolley rests is simply not fit for purpose.

Surely this has to be an extended religious metaphor arrived at by random accident, or could it be by intelligent design? – Yours, etc,


Old Kilmore Road,


Co Down.

Sir, – Why can’t men ask a woman what to do with supermarket trolleys, asks Jane Nyhan (July 8th)? That might be described as castor dispersions. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Never mind about pivoting castors or fixed castors, all I want is a trolley that goes in the direction I want it to go and does not have a mind of its own. – Yours, etc,


Upper Glenageary Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I had no idea until I read Arthur Henry’s letter (July 7th) as to how dangerous shopping really was, except of course for the credit card.

I have weighed up the different solutions offered by various contributors to this page and I have decided that my preferred option, and by far the safest, is from now on to shop online and just have it delivered. – Yours, etc,


Burgage Manor,


Co Wicklow.

Dear Sir, – I’m sure the Government’s Cabinet reshuffle will make an enormous difference to the running of the country. Is it really any different than reshuffling a deck of cards with 52 jokers in it? – Yours, etc,


College Point,

New York.

Sir, – The resurrection shuffle? – Yours, etc,


Elm Mount,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – Further to Lucy Kellaway’s entertaining – as always – piece (“Sorry if you don’t like my column . . . eh, not really”, July 7th), can I contribute an example of apologetic insincerity proffered by Dublin Bus? This is the message frequently seen on the destination board of a bus: “Sorry. Not in Service”.

I confess that I find it disconcerting to have a bus apologise to me, especially in public. – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive, Dublin 16.

Sir, – If Una Mullally thinks Glastonbury is such a fine example of good crowd behaviour (“Croker debacle down to disrespect for outdoor spaces”, Opinion & Analysis, July 7th), how come it needs a force of 800 people working for six weeks to clean up after it (“What’s hot, what’s not”, Magazine, July 5th)? – Yours, etc,


Belgrave Road,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

‘Disappointing’ is a word utterly devalued and deflated by its over-zealous usage by our political elite. But it has to be given one last decrepit shambling waddle – to describe the reaction of this and many other long-term Burton political admirers as we watched the 6.01 television interview on the evening of her victory.

Apart from a rollicking game of musical cabinet chairs with Enda behind closed doors, all she wanted was a low pay commission and more social housing!

These are very worthy proposals if they could begin to be delivered during the limited life of this administration. But they are no more than what could be proposed by a smart liberal-conservative. Indeed, I could well imagine Disraeli and Bismarck, the fathers of modern pragmatic conservatism, heartily approving them!

This is not a party of serious, radical but pragmatic reform. There was not even the most carefully hidden, veiled hint of a critique of the deeply flawed global socio-economic system, which, crashing into our own amateurish consumer/capitalist Haughey/Ahern/Cowenism, brought us to where we are today.

Most of us understand the precarious situation in which Joan and Labour find themselves, as well as the complex situation in which the Labour collective leadership found itself when attempting to implement government in a war for national survival.

But these offer no excuse for not telegraphing the eventual quantum leap in mindset if Labour is to be true to itself. Sadly, Joan’s failure to telegraph the eventual necessity for this leap indicates how an introspective, redundant and irrelevant Labour sees itself.

Sadly, I cannot recommend our young, and young at heart, to support a Burtonian Labour Party which now appears to have settled for bread and circuses. For it’s a quiet, gentle, leafy-suburb tiptoeing from the pages of Irish history – a self-obsessed bourgeois Cheshire cat without even the genial courtesy of a jocular grin.





On Saturday, July 5, I attended a silent vigil at the Embassy of the United States in Dublin. The event, which was organised by the Justice For Smallhorne & Barrett campaign group, is principally made up of men who served with the 46th Battalion in the Lebanon. It is supported by all ex-Irish military veterans and indeed the event was attended by approximately 800-plus ex-soldiers, mainly Irish but included French, British, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, Americans and others.

The group is seeking justice for the murder in cold blood on April 18, 1980, of two Irish soldiers, Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett, and the attempted murder of a third, Private John O’Mahony. These men were kidnapped and tortured while serving as peacekeepers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

What has brought this story to the forefront is the fact that the perpetrator, Mahmoud Bazzi, who is living openly in Detroit, Michigan, is now applying for US citizenship. The campaigners are seeking that Mr Bazzi be extradited to Lebanon and tried for war crimes. Is an Irish soldier’s life worth less than others?





The Department of Agriculture’s plan to have 12,000 badgers killed over the next two years as part of an anti-bovine TB initiative is monstrous. An estimated 100,000 of these shy nocturnal creatures have already been snared and shot in Ireland in the course of successive department-sponsored culling programmes, and still the disease continues to afflict farms nationwide, with the badger killing to date failing to make even a dent in the incidence of bovine TB.

Instead of targeting the badger I suggest the department focuses its energies on the search for a badger vaccine.

Snaring is cruel to badgers. Each animal caught has to wait, struggling to break free from the stranglehold, for the arrival of one of the “animal lovers” contracted by the department to end its life with a rifle shot.





I’m sure Enda Kenny’s reshuffling of government ministers will make a huge difference. It’s like reshuffling a deck of cards with 52 jokers in it.





Highlighting exceptional total general practice incomes could mislead some readers of Brian McDonald and Eilish O’Regan’s article (Irish Independent, July 7) to believe that they represent true personal income for regular GPs.

However, the OECD recently published the average 2012 Irish GP income before personal pension deductions that used a more reliable methodology than had been previously utilised. It found that the average Irish GP income to be much closer then the average national wage than most of our western peers. And that was despite some other countries included part-time GPs and trainees in their figures or the GPs elsewhere had full state pension entitlements.

It should also be noted that 2012 GP income figures do not fully reflect the 2012 FEMPI reductions or any of the 2013 FEMPI cuts.

As the OECD information was only released last week, I find it a little odd that these facts were not included to give more balance to this article.





Our wonderful Dublin Bikes scheme, promoting exercise, health and mobility, is being co-opted by a multinational corporate sponsor promoting soft drinks, often linked to obesity. I object and refuse to collude. As a city cyclist I will never use Dublin Bikes again.





If we take a look at Ireland now – from the pressure to allow Croke Park its profits and freedom, to the stripping away of our welfare entitlements, to the imminent slaughter of our badgers – one thing becomes clear: Ireland is run now along the lines of a businessmen’s charter, what’s good for business takes precedence over all else.

Why has this system taken such deep roots in us, a people who have never been successful in business?

Why have we have abandoned so much of our culture and past to aid it?

And why we allow this model is a mystery.

Our low tax ethos pushes it deeper into Europe now and so soon it may be our real and permanent contribution to humanity.





I’m feeling ashamed of us Irish. I’ve just come back from Maastricht in the Netherlands where I attended one of eight concerts in the city centre by Andre Rieu over a period of two weeks. There is major disruption to traffic and even business but the local people have taken the whole thing to their hearts.

Are the people living near Croker so selfish as to try to spoil things for not just a city but the whole country? Cop on guys!



Irish Independent


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