14July2014 Jill

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day Jill comes to call

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


Asher Ben-Natan – obituary

Asher Ben-Natan was an Israeli diplomat who led the hunt for Adolf Eichmann and built bridges with post-war Germany

Asher Ben-Natan in Frankfurt in 1969

Asher Ben-Natan in Frankfurt in 1969  Photo: DPA/ROLAND WITSCHEL

6:34PM BST 13 Jul 2014


Asher Ben-Natan, who has died aged 93, initiated the operation to hunt down the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and later served as Israel’s first ambassador to Bonn, helping to turn Germany into one of his country’s closest allies in Europe.

Diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel went back to the 1950s when, in what became known as the Luxembourg Agreement, signed by then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and then-Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, Bonn committed itself to pay 3.5 billion German marks in compensation to Jewish victims of the Nazis. However, it was only after Ben-Natan and his German counterpart, Rolf Pauls, presented their letters of accreditation in 1965 that the relationship began to flower into friendship and trust.

Asher Ben-Natan (r) in 1968 with the minister of transport, Georg Leber (m), and the Hesse Prime Minister Georg August Zinn (2nd from left) opening the Lufthansa flight, Frankfurt – Munich – Tel Aviv (DPA)

Today, the German Jewish community is one of the fastest growing in the world, while each year scores of young Germans travel to Israel to work as volunteers in hospitals, institutions for people with disabilities and homes for elderly Holocaust survivors.

When the reunification of Germany was mooted in 1989, there were misgivings expressed in some European capitals, but Ben-Natan had no fears: “A united Germany is not an Israeli concern — in fact, it’s not even a Jewish concern,” he declared. “Forty years of democracy in Germany have imbued democratic attitudes deep enough in the German conscience to make a return to totalitarianism unthinkable.”

It was a very different world from the Europe Ben-Natan was born into on February 15 1921. His birth name was Arthur Piernikartz and he was born in Vienna where his father, Natan, ran a clothing business (Arthur would change his name to Asher Ben-Natan in his honour, after moving to Israel).

Asher Ben Nathan (l) meets president of the Bundesrat, Georg August Zinn, in 1965 (DPA)

Arthur was educated at a Hebrew high school and became an enthusiastic member of the Young Maccabi, a pioneering Zionist youth movement which had been established in Prague in 1929.

In 1934 his father, sensing the way things were going in Austria, bought a five-acre plot of land in what was then British Mandate Palestine. Following the Anschluss of March 1938 and the confiscation of their clothing business, the family made plans to escape at a time when it was still possible to do so.

Young Arthur led the way, fleeing to Piraeus, Greece, where he boarded a decrepit boat flying the Panamanian flag, bound for Palestine. “The ship was crowded and filthy, and our food consisted only of dry rusks, sardines and olives, but we were young and our spirits were high,” he recalled. “We were dropped off at Tantura, near Zichron Yaakov, about 30 metres from the beach, which we traversed on foot … We saw that some young men were galloping on horses along the coast. Later we found out that these were Etzel [the Zionist paramilitary group Irgun] people, whose task was to ensure our safety. We were brought by bus to Tel Aviv and dropped off in the centre of the city.”

For a while he worked in a kibbutz where he was joined, a few months later, by his parents and sister. While there he met, and in 1940 married, his wife Erika.

As news began to arrive of the fate of the Jews left behind in Europe, however, Ben-Natan felt he could no longer continue on the kibbutz. He joined the Aliyah Bet, an arm of the underground Haganah organisation which organised illegal immigration of European Jews into Palestine in violation of British restrictions. He served in its investigations unit, preparing reports, based on the testimonies of refugees, on the fate of Jewish communities in Poland, which were later used by the prosecution in the Nuremberg trials.

It was harrowing work. “The most shocking testimony I ever heard,” he recalled, “was that of a young woman who was taken, together with her two children and many other Jewish residents, out of her town by the SS. They shot every last one of them and threw them into a pit. Miraculously she was not hit and she managed to extract herself and escape. Her children were left behind with all the other corpses. I asked myself, how was she going to continue to live. How, in the face of such fiendish acts, is it possible to be annoyed with the trivia of daily life?”

After the end of the war in Europe, Ben-Natan was sent to Austria as head of Bricha, Haganah’s “illegal immigration” bureau in Europe which worked to resettle Jewish survivors who were among the millions of displaced persons languishing in refugee camps in occupied Germany and Austria. As cover he also worked under the pseudonym Arthur Pier as a correspondent for news agencies.

Until the middle of 1946 Ben-Natan was engaged in smuggling tens of thousands of Jews to Palestine with the connivance of American Army officers. In December that year he attended the 22nd Zionist conference at Basle which resolved to “establish a Jewish commonwealth integrated into the world democratic structure”, where he met Shimon Peres, the future Prime Minister (now President) of Israel, who was to become his patron.

It was during his time in post-war Vienna that Ben-Natan became involved in organising and funding Nazi-hunting operations. As well as collecting documents about some 6,000 SS men, he instructed Tuvia Friedman, a Holocaust survivor and self-appointed Nazi hunter, to track down Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, who had escaped from a POW camp.

In fact it was the Israeli secret service, Mossad, which finally caught up with Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 (he was executed in Israel two years later). But it was Ben-Natan who made it possible. Eichmann, who continued to live in Austria under a false identity (until he fled to Argentina in 1950), had taken the precaution of destroying photographs of himself. However, Ben-Natan and Friedman discovered the address of one of his many mistresses, and dispatched a handsome Hungarian Jew, Henyek Diamant, to make her acquaintance. Posing as a Dutch member of the SS, Diamant found a photograph of Eichmann in an album of hers — it proved crucial in tracking him down.

Asher Ben-Natan in his office in 1965

At the end of 1947 Israel’s later Prime minister David Ben-Gurion called Ben-Natan back to Tel Aviv, where, in 1948, after the foundation of the state of Israel, he was appointed head of the new operations department of Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s espionage department.

In the early 1950s he was appointed chief executive officer of Incodeh, a dummy Israeli government “meat export company” in Ethiopia and French Somaliland, engaged in recruiting spies to be despatched to Arab countries.

In 1956 he became director of the purchasing committee of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Paris, thus becoming, according to the New York Times, Israel’s “most famous secret agent”.

In 1959 he was instrumental in the negotiation of a secret German-Israeli arms deal, the discovery of which led to a break between the Arab States and Bonn, but also facilitated the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany.

From 1959 until his appointment as Ambassador to Bonn in 1965, Ben-Natan served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

From 1970 until his retirement in 1974 he was Israeli Ambassador to France.

Ben-Natan’s memoirs, The Audacity to Live, published in 2007, were dedicated to his son, Amnon, who died in the Yom Kippur War. Shimon Peres said the book provided “a lesson of world history”.

Ben Naton and his wife, Erika also had a daughter.

Asher Ben-Natan, born February 15 1921, died June 17 2014


Dear Mr Clegg, please, please stop the coalition now. I have been involved with the Lib Dems/Liberals for over 40 years; I cut my teeth delivering Liberal leaflets when I was 13, including early-morning ones on election days. I drove around with my car covered in posters and ribbons on election days, I was a scrutineer at both local and general elections, I watched and seethed at how the Tories and Labour tried to bully the Liberals out of politics, I looked after a “200 club” to raise funds for the ppc deposit. I have witnessed the highs and lows of election nights and have a lot of respect for how hard Lib Dem councillors worked to help constituents.

But it’s all over now. I stopped being a member a couple of years ago, I won’t be putting up any posters and, worse of all, I won’t be voting Lib Dem. There will not be a Lib Dem party after the next election; you have lost many of the young and, being a local government worker, I can see you will lose many voters in my area of work where once you were the party to trust. I went on strike on Thursday (Report, 11 July) despite being a one-parent family and having big bills to pay. I stood on the picket line then I marched through Cambridge in the rain and came home absolutely exhausted. There are many women who are taking the brunt of all the cuts. Jobs are being made more “efficient”, downgraded and changed so that the salary can be reduced and offered to anyone who needs a job. It’s a bad time, morale is low, the amount of work that is expected has increased and, what is worse, the Labour party will reap the benefits when voters go to the polls next year, despite Labour making a pigs ear of governing a few years ago.

I despise the Tories and all they stand for. This is your last chance to save the party: talk to the unions, walk away from the coalition, get back from the bankers what they have lost through greed and incompetence – and make me believe in you and the party again. Please!
Geraldine Savage
Chrishall, Essex 

In response to interest rates remaining unchanged at 0.5% for a 65th consecutive month (Report, 10 July), we strongly advocate a 0.25% rate rise in August, working towards Bank of England governor Mark Carney‘s “new norm” of 2.5%. The below-target consumer price inflation, 1.5% in May, gives the Bank the necessary leeway to act now. We advocate this approach as the sustained low interest rate is encouraging households and businesses to borrow to excess.

Britain’s household borrowing is at a record high of £1.44tn, equivalent to an average household debt of £54,629, on a background of a 2.2% fall in real wages a year. While we applaud the financial policy committee’s decision to limit the proportion of high loan-to-income mortgages and related affordability checks, we question whether this is enough to cool the market. Carney himself warned in April that the economy faced renewed dangers from excessive borrowing as encouraged by low interest rates.

We have been told that any future interest rate rises will be data-driven. A marked relapse in manufacturing output in May, when it fell 1.3% month on month, highlights that ongoing strong growth cannot be taken for granted and we recommend a rate increase at the next possible opportunity. The CEO of Lloyds Bank, António Horta-Osório, said at a recent event at Judge Business School that banks had a duty to give back to society. We would encourage the monetary policy committee to announce this rise on 7 August, helping to embrace Carney’s vision of banks contributing to the good of the people.
Dr Rav Seeruthun
Dr Ian Colwill

You report (Clooney row with Mail boils over, 12 July) that Daily Mail group blames its appalling record of professional code breaches on the “huge story volume on its website”. As Nick Davies showed in his book Flat Earth News, the Mail group was already by far the worst code-breacher in the British press in the 1990s – before the Mail Online website even existed. The Mail’s conduct is thus not a reflection of its story volume but of its abusive culture. Only a tiny minority of its targets are in a position to fight back in the way George Clooney has, but that same Mail culture continues to deny more vulnerable victims the modest means of redress recommended in the Leveson report.
Professor Brian Cathcart
Hacked Off

• Your editorial on the Royal Mail sell-off (12 July) asks how “to avoid a rerun the next time a public asset is sold”. Surely this is unnecessarily defeatist?
Francis Prideaux

• My World Cup cliche dream team (ITV fights on the beaches, 12 July): between the posts I go for get something on it and, in defence, it’s take a dive alongside clumsy challenge and inch-perfect pass. In the middle of the park, put too much on it is partnered with set-piece scenario. Playing in a wide role I’ve chosen work ethic and get up and down. Dropping into the hole is come to the party while, up front, it’s the strike force of rattle the woodwork and pop up at the back stick. We’ll get men behind the ball, park the bus, and only play football on the break – and, at this level, that will be going on all over the park, all afternoon.
Richard Walker

• If Liverpool are selling Luis Suárez to Barcelona (Sport, 12 July), can they be accused of incisor trading?
Peter Rawling
Bracknell, Berkshire

On the same day as a battered and beleaguered public sector took industrial action, a 53-year-old woman was murdered while working her shift on an acute mental health ward (Man arrested over stabbing death at mental health unit, 11 July). This item of news appeared in the Guardian, but was missing from most radio and television news.

During the years of this coalition government, public sector workers including NHS staff have seen their pay frozen and cut. At the same time the cuts that have been made to mental health (partly in order to balance the books of the overspent physical health part of the NHS) have destroyed years of dedicated work to improve standards within mental health units. Day services have been cut, crisis teams overwhelmed trying to cover shifts with fewer staff and an ever-increasing demand, and devastating cuts in the number of acute beds. As a result, acute wards are increasingly full of the more severely sick, with fewer staff and less occupational therapy, the threshold for beds on psychiatric intensive units has risen, and staff and service users face challenging, and sometimes highly dangerous, behaviour more often.

The NHS pension scheme is a good one and those of us who rely on it to live are aware of our good fortune, but we have earned every penny of it. If Sharon Wall, who lost her life on the day the prime minister sneered at the unions and those who took action, was in the NHS pension scheme, she would have paid a higher percentage of her salary towards her pension than MPs do towards theirs. For each year she worked, she would have received an 80th of her annual salary as pension; for MPs, it’s a 40th or a 50th. Their pension scheme, oddly enough, does not earn David Cameron‘s scorn, nor was it included in the savage changes to public-sector pensions. I wonder why.

Reports in the media of outlandish salaries for NHS bosses should make it clear that these are the salaries of those appointed to jobs on boards and clinical commissioning groups, those championed by the coalition’s secretaries of health. Operational managers and those working on the front line are on salaries set and agreed by Agenda for Change, which have been frozen and effectively cut for four years. They are not over-generous for staff who face daily verbal abuse, physical threats and, as in Sharon Wall’s case, murder. Teachers, fireman and others about whom the government makes facile and derogatory statements when they use their mandated right to take industrial action face similar risks every day.
Jane Scott

• There have been consultations between the Joint Industry Board and Unite on pay increases and terms for electricians. The offer on the table is 2% this year and 3% for next year, as long as the members accept a new unskilled grade called “entrant”. This grade will be a minimum-rate position open for two years, after which the operative will be offered employment as an electrical labourer, apprentice or adult trainee, or made redundant. While on this grade, they will be expected to carry out some of the so-called semi-skilled work now carried out by electricians. This will result in far fewer electricians being employed and more work carried out by unskilled employees.

The union members who attended the consultation rejected this but agreed that it should go to all JIB-registered union members to vote on in a postal ballot. The ballot is due later this month and all ballot papers should have now been delivered. On my site in Crawley we have 17 electricians who are members of both the JIB and Unite, and none of us have received ballot papers. My concern is that the JIB will say a non vote will be considered as accepting the offer and any further action will be deemed to be undemocratic and illegal.
Mike Eason
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

• The themes of striking public-sector unions and tax-dodging companies (Reports, 10 July) nicely summarise a faultline in the British economy. The indicators suggest that the economy is picking up but the mass of people are not feeling any different – wages down, cost of living up.

This is because improvements in the economy do not get passed on to the workers, but instead go directly to the bosses, who ship their money offshore to avoid tax.

The result of this unjust arrangement is a society where a few billionaires corner the mass of wealth, while more than a million go to food banks.

Powerful and effective trade unions are one way to rectify this situation. Unions bring a greater amount of equality to our society. People working in unionised workplaces are better paid and have better conditions of work. Only by setting trade unions free can the balance be restored in society so that more of the wealth flows to the many than to the few. The idea that further restricting trade union activities has any value may play well in the Tory shires but, in terms of creating a working and economic system, it is total bunkum.
Paul Donovan

• The government wants to change legislation such that a member who does not vote is assumed to be against the motion. Surely the union then just has to change the question asking members if they do not wish to strike. Then a member who does not vote will be assumed to be in favour of strike action.
Philip Kenley


Boyd Tonkin’s superb coda to your impressive series “A History of the Great War in 100 Moments” (12 July) rightly mentions the victims that the war was to claim after it ended.

One of these was the German Centre Party politician Matthias Erzberger, whom Tonkin includes specifically for his unenviable role in leading the German delegation at the armistice negotiations.

This remarkable but neglected figure, who by 1917 had become a prominent advocate of a negotiated end to the war, is regarded as one of the founders of the postwar German republic. He also became the target of a hate campaign by the far right in the years immediately after the war ended and was assassinated by two naval officers acting as political contract killers for the organisation that later also organised the murder of the Weimar Republic foreign minister Walter Rathenau.

Erzberger’s two assassins were beneficiaries of an unconstitutional amnesty brought in by the Nazi government in 1933, but were eventually imprisoned after the Second World War. One of the two, Heinrich Tillessen, who became consumed by remorse for Erzberger’s assassination, was eventually pardoned in 1958 (Erzberger’s widow had spoken in favour of this).

It is to be hoped that your series, which commendably included German perspectives on the war and important German figures such as Matthias Erzberger, has opened windows for your readers on to the fascinating panorama of German history in the early 20th century. This would be a fitting outcome of your centenary commemoration of the beginning of the First World War.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire


“Would you kill a single person to save the lives of hundreds of other people?” is an old philosophical and moral question. What then to make of the decision taken by Allied generals on  8 November 1918 to postpone the armistice until the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month? During this period 6,750 soldiers were slaughtered, 2,738 of them between 5.12am (the time of the signing of the documents of the armistice) and 11am on the 11th.

With a single command these lives could have been saved. Of all the terrible, despicable acts of the war, this final act stands head and shoulders above all others as the most egregious, callous and heinous single act.

It exposes the cant of warmongering politicians, generals and majors that the lives of our soldiers are of paramount concern to them; very obviously they are not. Apologists for warmongers will no doubt point out that this happened a long time ago, and claim that things have since changed. But look at our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and tell me that, once again, the lives of ordinary soldiers haven’t been sacrificed to further the personal ambitions of the political and officer classes. We can be proud of the soldiers who fought for us in wars, but should be sickened and appalled by the politicians and officers who sent them to their deaths.

These articles should be required reading for anyone contemplating a life in the armed forces. I suspect they would persuade many to pursue an alternative  career path.

Barry Richards



I remember three of my grandparents with affection but I was never to meet the fourth, my mother’s father, Arthur Cannon.

He taught, for many years, the two senior classes of a secondary school in Sheffield. When the First World War broke out, many of the boys he had taught went to fight for their country, and many of them never returned.

My grandfather looked each week at the lists of those killed – these bright, promising pupils he had so enjoyed teaching. Understandably he lapsed into a deep and protracted depression. There were no anti-depressants and no psychiatrists to help him.

In 1918 his 10-year-old son, Roy, was killed by falling from a wall and fracturing his skull. My grandfather blamed himself for his son’s death. But I think it is more likely that this was illogical guilt – a well-known symptom of certain kinds of depression.

In 1922 my grandfather visited his brother – a fruit farmer in Huntingdon – and hanged himself in a barn.

I think of him with sadness as a casualty of war.

Joan E Allen



 “A History of the Great War in 100 Moments” has been a relentlessly poignant reminder of the futility of human conflict embodied in this catastrophe. Boyd Tonkin’s concluding contribution is almost too upsetting to read, amplifying as it does the events of the final six hours of warfare and the impact on people involved in events.

This series should be required reading for our schoolchildren.

David Bracey

Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

Health hazards of wearing the niqab

Niqab wearing is unacceptable for more reasons than those cited by Paula Jones (letter, 11 July). It is a health hazard;

blocking skin from natural sunlight deprives the body of vitamin D. Forcing niqabs on to young schoolgirls, for whom vitamin D is important for growth, is child abuse. Pregnant women wearing niqabs are abusing their unborn children. The Victorian disease of rickets, caused by vitamin D deficiency, is returning. In February this year, a (non-Muslim) couple were jailed for the manslaughter of their five-month-old son, who died from acute rickets because they rejected medical advice on religious grounds.

David Crawford

Bromley, Kent

On the subject of concealment: when the correspondence on the niqab started, by a nice chance the same issue of The Independent carried a feature on the sun-shade fetish. Though I am not paranoid, walking the high street and encountering the many who now sport them whatever the weather, it’s natural to wonder if you are being scrutised incognito by those concealed eyes.

This seems of minor import until, in a pub garden on a hot day, you see a couple  – both with eyes blacked out – with a baby unable to see its parents’ eyes. If anyone asks what damage it does, I’d say this was a crime; yet no one in the public domain has so far questioned it.

David Kuhrt

Forest Row, East Sussex


Personally, I find people deliberately exposing their underwear more offensive than people covering their faces. In the interests of “observing prevailing social norms” may we expect timely legislation to address this issue?

Edmund Tierney

London N6


The received wisdom among your columnists and correspondents seems to be that the wearing of the niqab is all about female inferiority and subjugation.

Does it not also imply that all men are potential sexual predators, from whom women need to be protected? As a mother of three sons, I find this equally as disturbing.

Sue Holder

Aberaeron, Ceredigion


Russian donations to the Tory party

The revelation of the huge donations to the Tory party coffers by New Century Media (report, 4 July), raises the question of what influence the oligarchs have on British government policy towards the imposition of sanctions on Russia? At present, the imposed sanctions have been quite limited and hardly touched Putin or the oligarchs.

As Putin and his rich friends disregard human rights, invade and annexe Ukrainian territory, rewrite post-Second World War borders, and support terrorist action, the Conservatives seem quite happy to take Russian money.

What price the lives of Ukrainian and ethnic Russian civilians and European stability in Putin’s mad power game? The answer, it seems, is whatever fills the Conservatives’ election collection box.

R Suchyj


A Scotland free of incompetence?

Your editorial “A misty future” (11 July), about Scotland’s future post-referendum, made me laugh out loud. To quote: “It may be that a succession of brilliantly wise ministries creates an economy that is the envy of the developed world. On the other hand, the people of Scotland might elect a series of incompetents.”

Very true, seeing that the UK as a whole is currently suffering from the incompetents it elected in 2010. Perhaps it is that incompetence the Scots are seeking independence from.

Lesley Docksey

Buckland Newton, Dorset

House arrest would suffice for harris

I hold no brief for the actions of Rolf Harris but vindictive media treatment and claims that a six-year sentence for an 84-year-old is too lenient are in themselves alarming (report, 7 July). The fact is that when these crimes were committed, an offender was not punished in this way and we are locking away a growing number of infirm, confused old men.

Elsewhere in Europe sex offenders over 70 are given house arrest and a similar sentence is surely more appropriate for geriatrics who clearly no longer pose a threat to anyone.

Rev Dr John Cameron

St Andrews


Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right to oppose Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Bill?

Sir, Many who oppose the introduction of assisted suicide in the UK do so on grounds of public safety. Lord Falconer of Thoroton and his supporters point to Washington State, where assisted suicide is legal, as a model to follow. Yet the Washington State Department of Health’s annual report on its “Death with Dignity Act” revealed that 61 per cent of those who received lethal drugs in Washington in 2013 reported “feeling a burden on family, friends and care-givers”.

Those who feel a burden in society are vulnerable and often dependent upon those around them to get by. The evidence from Washington suggests that such people may feel a pressure or duty to end their lives if the Falconer Bill were to be passed. The mark of a healthy society is how it treats those who have no one to speak up for them.

We must not enact laws which will endanger the lives of people in vulnerable situations.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton; Baroness Grey-Thompson; Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC; Baroness Finlay of Llandaff; Baroness Hollins; Baroness Cumberlege; Baroness O’Cathain; David Blunkett, MP; Glenda Jackson, MP; Glyn Davies, MP; Julian Brazier, MP; David Burrowes, MP; Jim Dobbin, MP

Sir, In his article the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly emphasises that compassion, when applied to a particular case, severely limits and even distorts its meaning (“Helping people to die is not truly compassionate”, Opinion, July 12). As no one is an island, the impact of a decision to end a life has a ripple effect far beyond those intimately involved in a particular case. Although we live in an age that emphasises and encourages the rights of the individual, we too easily lose sight of how the actions of each individual impact within a broader set of communities.

Those of us involved in hospice care are only too familiar with the ambiguity of personal choice when set within the community of a family. It is not uncommon for a patient to wish to be as alert as possible for visitors — only to have family members, disturbed by agitation in their loved one, urge the patient to request sedation.

Patients who have declined sedation prior to visitors sometimes request sedation once the visit is over. In many cases this will be the choice the patient makes, to be able to enjoy the visit as fully as possible. But in cases where family members have suggested higher levels of sedation, how does the patient judge whether the suggestion is for his or her benefit or for the family’s benefit? And if the latter, how does anyone judge whether it is out of compassion for the patient or for some much darker reason?

We legislate to give choice to end life at our peril.

The Rev Canon Peter Holliday

Chief executive, St Giles Hospice, Lichfield, Staffs

Sir, In representing his version of the arguments in favour of assisted dying, the Archbishop of Canterbury presents a simplistic and anachronistic summary, in essence a false dichotomy. He supports his case by defining “compassion” in a way that many will find both limited and narrow, and uses this to deny that those in favour of assisted dying are compassionate. Finally, he raises the irrelevant hare of the disabled and elderly being pressurised to die by their own hand, the “slippery slope” argument. This has been comprehensively refuted, both in the proposed Bill and in countries where assisted dying is legal.

The Bill is not the “sword of Damocles” that he emotively describes, but the choice for the dying to take control of their own destiny. In changing his mind, perhaps his predecessor but one, Lord Carey of Clifton (report July 12), has listened more compassionately to his flock.

Tim Howard

Corfe Mullen, Dorset

Sir, Archbishop Welby argues that legalising assisted dying would threaten society’s care for the old and ill who want to live. This does not follow. The evidence is clear: countries that have legalised assisted dying also care for their old people. For example, the Euro Health Consumer Index shows that the Dutch spend more per capita on long-term geriatric care, particularly of the over 75s, than any other country.

It is with deep regret that I see the Church of England coming down yet again on the wrong side of a key moral issue.

The Rev Professor Paul Badham

University of Wales, Trinity St David

Sir, Archbishop Welby wants to treat individuals who want to end their lives as just a means to protect others, not as an end in themselves.

We are individuals who should have a say in how our lives end. Society does not address the problem of road deaths by banning driving. Assisted suicide objectors would be better served identifying procedures that prevent the vulnerable being pressurised against their will rather than insisting on a “prohibit all” approach.

David Clark

Andover, Hants

Sir, We have been running a 20-year study on brown hares (letter, July 11) on our research farm in Leicestershire. The results are compelling. We created a range of habitats and controlled foxes; in response hare numbers increased more than tenfold from 1992 to 2000. Foxes can prey on leverets to such an extent that a fox family can eat the entire local population. Once we stopped controlling fox numbers the population of hares dropped to almost zero, showing that good habitat alone is insufficient to maintain numbers to herald recovery.

Dr Alastair Leake
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Sir, To those who avoid paying tax legally but not morally you might add those who buy books on Amazon rather than at a bookshop.

Peter and Eleanor Davies
Linghams Booksellers

Heswall, Wirral

Sir, John Bretherton (July 10) suggests that Daniel Finkelstein got it wrong by predicting that Brazil had a 79.8 per cent chance of prevailing. To call this an error is to misunderstand the nature of probability. In fact he also predicted a 20.2 per cent chance (ie, about 1 in 5) of losing. We have only been able to test this hypothesis once.

Perhaps if there had been four more encounters against Germany under similar circumstances, Brazil would have won on each occasion and Daniel Finkelstein’s prediction would have been proved correct. Professor Simon Watts New Malden, Surrey

Sir, Mr Schollick’s observation (July 12), that both football World Cup finalists were countries led by a woman, does not take into account that this country has been led by an outstanding woman since 1953.

Nigel A Brassard
London W1

Sir, I wonder if Julian Pettifer (letter, July 12) has enjoyed weeks of sport, eg, the football World Cup and Wimbledon? I dislike sport apart from horseracing and Grand Prix racing, so to have cookery or gardening programmes is a joy to me. May I suggest that there are other channels to watch, or that he buys an iPad; my husband and I can be in the same room but can separately watch the programmes that interest us, either live or as downloads. I realise that Mr Pettifer has decades of broadcasting experience behind him, but if there is really nothing to interest him perhaps he should use the “off” switch and read a book.

Mrs Lesley Charnock

Long Crendon, Bucks

Surely, given the sum raised by the auction, there was no need to sell the Syon Aphrodite?

Sir, The sale of the Syon Aphrodite by the Duke of Northumberland — almost certainly to an overseas buyer — is a tragic loss to the nation’s heritage and compromises one of Robert Adam’s finest country house interiors at Syon House (July 11).

The sale of all the items raised £32 million in total — £20 million more than the sum reportedly needed to pay for flood repairs on the Northumberland estate. Hence, could the statue not have been spared?

Andrew Clegg

Leatherhead, Surrey


SIR – The Labour governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were the inspiration behind the excessively high salaries and pensions for public sector workers, the NHS being the biggest publicsector employer (Letters, July 6).

They reasoned that if they paid their natural constituency of union members large sums then they in turn would be rewarded with their votes. And how better to do this than to set up the target culture that needed even more managers to analyse and report on target achievements?

Needless to say, none of this improved clinical services.

Robin Humphreys
Exmouth, Devon

SIR – Whatever form of NHS reorganisation is carried out, short of privatisation of the supply of its services, it will never satisfy demand nor provide the highest level of customer satisfaction at the lowest cost.

Why? First, It is impossible to manage over one million employees efficiently. Secondly, if a service is provided for free, demand for it will never be satisfied. And thirdly, if a supplier knows that demand for its services is inelastic and it has no competitors, it will have no incentive to keep its customers happy, reduce its costs or improve its services, however many “targets” are set by the Government.

Peter Rusby
Stockbridge, Hampshire

SIR – It has become increasingly clear that the skillset required to get these highly paid jobs in the public sector is not the same as that which is required to actually do these jobs. This is bound to favour those motivated by greed rather than competent people motivated by altruism and with a genuine commitment to providing high-quality services in the public interest.

Professor Derek Pheby
Harnham, Wiltshire

Protecting barmen

SIR – We urge Peers to support a House of Lords amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, promoted by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, that will introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol, making such an assault an offence in its own right.

Under licensing laws, staff must prevent under-age purchases and refuse sales to customers who have already had too much to drink. This can often lead to violence, threats and abuse against the worker.

We want Parliament to provide a deterrent to the minority of individuals who damage the reputation of the pub, off-licence and hospitality trade and have no respect for the hard-working people who serve them.

Parliament has placed a duty on these workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, so it is only right they also provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe.

John Hannett
General Secretary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
Stephen Baker
Chairman, National Pubwatch
Miles Beale
Chief Executive, Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Nick Grant
Retail of Alcohol Standards Group
James Lowman
Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores

Immigration policy

SIR – You refer to possible elements of a renegotiation of EU immigration into Britain.

The public’s requirement is simple: that no preference is given to EU citizens over those from the rest of the world; and that the Government limits the overall numbers appropriately, with proficiency in English being a key qualification.

The sort of short-term fudges beloved of politicians and civil servants would be a betrayal. Economic purists will argue that a single market requires free movement of people, but they also argued that it required a common currency. Our position on immigration should mirror our position on currency.

Robert Smart
Eastbourne, West Sussex

Victorian HS3

SIR – With reference to Lord Heseltine’s article it is worth mentioning that our Victorian forefathers knew about the need for a railway line connecting the east and west coasts of northern England.

Bradshaw’s Handbook for 1863 gives details of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, which crossed the Pennines by the Woodhead Tunnel (2.94 miles long). It had a connection to Liverpool, and reached the Humber at Grimsby.

In the Fifties, the line was electrified between Manchester and Sheffield, but was a casualty of the Beeching Plan in the Sixties.

Valentine Ramsey
Sherborne, Dorset

Henley sportsmanship

SIR – Hillier Wise (Letters, July 6) is right that the Henley Royal Regatta is the perfect English setting. However, when I was there this year I was surprised and saddened to see a victorious crew row off, after finishing, to the landing stage without so much as a cheer for their opponents. I hope that coaches would encourage their crews to show respect to their opponents, who will be bitterly disappointed to lose. The least they can expect is a cheer from the winners.

Philip Gossage
Lymington, Hampshire

Conservative cuisine

SIR – Michel Roux makes a very interesting observation about French cuisine (Letters, June 29). On our recent holiday in the Languedoc, we were bemoaning the fact that we have rarely had an enjoyable meal in France over the last few years, and that food in Britain is so much more interesting and varied.

The French are too conservative about their food. They hate change, so the same old stuff is served up in their restaurants again and again.

Michele Platman
Harborne, Staffordshire

Online banking will exclude the elderly

SIR – The head of the British Banking Association’s article on why we should celebrate the move towards online and mobile banking and the diminishing need for bank branches omits a crucial point.

A proportion of the population is now, and always will be, unable to bank online or via their mobile phone. They risk being excluded from day-to-day banking and paying bills – an essential part of life. Twenty one per cent of retired people have limited dexterity, making it hard to use IT, while five million over-65s have never been online.

Technological innovation can make life easier for many people but it is incumbent on the banking industry to ensure that before it closes branches, it comes up with an easily accessible way for those who can’t bank digitally to access the services on which we all depend.

Caroline Abrahams
Charity Director, Age UK
London WC1

Justifying paedophila

SIR – I feel sick after reading about the academics justifying the perversions of paedophiles.

Paedophiles should not equate children’s seeming acquiescence with enjoyment. Children nearly always do what they are told by adults. Paedophiles are sexually revolting to children, and permanently damage them by their actions.

Jenny Cobb
Five Ashes, East Sussex

SIR – I was shocked and angry to read the claim that a sizeable minority of my fellow males would like to have sex with children, and that paedophilia is natural and normal. Who are these so-called experts who want to brainwash the majority?

I have mixed with males at school, in the Armed Forces and workplace and I have never heard any talk of having sex with children or the desire to do so.

Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent

Manners: a tall order

SIR – While I do not totally agree with John Bercow, who compares references to his height with homophobic and racist slurs, he has a point.

I am over 6ft 7in tall. Among the crass questions I get asked, such as “What’s the weather like up there?”, there are occasional witticisms. However, I wonder why some people feel that it is appropriate to ask how tall I am when it would be considered impolite to ask the bra size of a busty woman, the weight of a fat person or indeed, the height of a dwarf.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

SIR – Reading about the closure of Mayfair’s Chalet restaurant (People, June 29) brought back fond memories of many lunch hours spent there in the Sixties with my then girlfriend, now wife of 45 years, when we both worked in Grosvenor Street.

The Chalet was a traditional Italian restaurant, serving pasta dishes, meatballs and escalope Milanese alongside the famed chicken Kiev, which in those days seemed rather exotic. This was long before the advent of pizza in this country and the vast choice of global cuisines on offer today.

It was certainly a fantastic place for people-watching, and what a thrill it was, one lunchtime, when the original Rolling Stones breezed in – possibly after recording at the nearby Savile Row studios.

Alas, as there wasn’t a table available for five, they promptly breezed out again.

Leslie Kendall
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – “Complacency” is hardly the word to describe the resignation, foreboding and indignation with which most British people regard the prospect of further Islamist terror in their midst (Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Comment, July 6).

Such complacency as does exist is entirely on Sir Malcolm’s side. He dismisses with a perfunctory “terrible” the slaughter last year of an off-duty British soldier in full daylight in a London street and tells us that “apart from” this there have been no successful outrages since an airliner with over 200 people on board was destroyed in mid-air in 1988 and 50-odd souls were blown to smithereens on the London underground.

He slides over the attempt by Islamists to launch a follow-up campaign against public transport in July 2005; over the Islamic terrorists arrested in north London a few years back for plotting attacks with nerve gas, and those caught shortly afterwards preparing hydrogen peroxide bombs in a London council flat; over the letter bomb campaign of 2007; over the plot the same year to behead a British soldier; the attack on Glasgow Airport by a group of Muslims including a doctor; an attempted bombing in Exeter; a plot in 2012 to bomb a political rally in Yorkshire; not to mention all the other failed and aborted attempts and those that we may never be allowed to hear about.

The British people can’t win. If they express justified anger towards the fanatics and those who have inflicted them upon our society, they are termed “racist” and “alarmist”; if they lapse into despair, they are called “complacent”.

Martin R Maloney
London N3

SIR – We are not complacent. We are just apathetic after years of bad governments that won’t even deport known terrorists.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – Could we have some guidance from Sir Malcolm – or MI5 or MI6 – on what we are supposed to do? Challenge anyone who looks at all suspicious? Report the rantings of radical imams?

We are all very mindful that terrorists may try to harm us.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – It is a bit rich for Sir Malcolm Rifkind to accuse the British public of being complacent about terror threats.

The policy of mass immigration adopted by successive governments, the severe reduction in border controls and a wishy-washy approach to “multiculturalism” must surely be significant factors in the creation of the current situation.

Den Beves
Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire

SIR – It’s not the public that is complacent, it’s the Government.

We’ve been telling it not to let British jihadists back into the country for months.

Trevor Norris
Ross on Wye, Herefordshire

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona is right; the government and security services have a complex and difficult task protecting us from the threat of Islamist fanatics.

However, he is wrong to regard last year’s Commons vote against direct intervention in Syria as “a shameful moment”. There is no evidence to suggest that air strikes or ground attacks by British forces would have improved the situation.

It was virtually impossible for Britain to be certain that the eventual replacement for the Assad regime would have been any better for the people of Syria, or that it would serve British interests. What is almost certain is that military intervention would have served as a recruiting sergeant for even more young, impressionable, British Muslims. Our role in such conflicts must be restricted to providing the maximum humanitarian aid for the victims and being ready to act as mediators if asked to do so.

The Commons vote was a triumph for democracy over an overweening, misguided executive; this is exactly what MPs are for.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – John A Murphy (“Why we should be wary of Sinn Féin in government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 9th) is to be commended for trying to open our eyes to the true nature of the current Sinn Féin.

There are clearly people who see it as just another normal political party, and are prepared to vote for it as if it were one. That is their privilege. The trouble is that is not how those in control of its heart see it.

At its centre, Sinn Féin is akin to a cult – that is, it has a millenarian goal (Irish political unity) which overrides everything else; a use of language which is designed to support that goal; a charismatic leadership with a satisfyingly sexy whiff of sulphur about it; a control-freakery that does not allow its acolytes to stray off-message; a view of the world that is at odds with reality; and so on.

If people who vote for Sinn Féin aren’t worried about this, then they should be. – Yours, etc,


Rathasker Heights,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – John A Murphy’s warning that Sinn Féin’s prospective coalition partners need to closely examine “features of the organisation” fits in neatly with the increasingly hysterical reaction from Labour and Fianna Fáil to Sinn Féin’s electoral success; the more votes Sinn Féin gets, the more alarmed is the response of the party’s political rivals. They raise the spectre of a violent past – by which they mean, exclusively, republican violence, but clearly it is the democratic future that most worries them. There is a great degree of cynicism behind all that emotive language.

Reading Prof Murphy’s article is like stepping back to the 1980s, when ideological rivals simply flung what ever brickbat came to hand at each other. It’s all about the mood music, vague hints that there is something sinister about Sinn Féin as it stands and that therefore it is not ready for government (south of the border that is).

We have heard similar warnings from Joan Burton, who declared that, despite the fact that it is in government in Northern Ireland with the DUP, Sinn Féin is still not ready for “true democracy”.

This was after her party received a drubbing at the polls. Is this negative politics all Labour has to offer?

The old guard, including Pat Rabbitte and Ruairí Quinn, built careers snarling at Fianna Fáil, blaming that party for Labour’s failure to win working class support; will the next Labour generation do the same, except with Sinn Féin as the bête noire? – Yours, etc,


Monastery Heath Avenue,


Dublin 22.

Sir, – In both your profile of UCD’s new president Prof Andrew Deeks (“In terms of world profile, UCD is punching below its weight”, July 5th) and a recent editorial (July 8th), you refer to the “UK funding model” for higher education.

There is, in fact, no such thing, education being one of the few areas devolved to the parliaments and assemblies. The model being referred to is primarily that of England, which has some of the most unaffordable fee levels in the world. Yes, students have loans, but such a system effectively establishes debt as one of the “graduate attributes” of those for whom there is little choice should they seek an education.

Levels of default, in the longer term, in such systems need also to be factored in and underwritten. These may well be attractive models to university managers in that the problem of payment is outsourced to a loans company, although in every country where fees and loans are introduced, the state’s more general contribution rapidly declines, threatening the viability of subjects, departments and even institutions.

This approach is in stark contrast to the situation in Scotland, which is still (at least until September) part of the UK. There, on abolishing the “fee by another name” that was implemented by a previous Labour-LibDem coalition, the first minister stated that those who live in Scotland will have to wait “until the rocks melt with the Sun” before they’d pay fees for such a fundamental public good.

That small country, incidentally, has a number of universities in the top 100 or 200 in all the ranking systems. Far from the fees-plus-loans systems of England or Australia, higher education being paid for through a proper, progressive income tax system is a more common European approach and can deliver where there is the political will to regard education as an investment rather than a burden. – Yours, etc,




Co Galway.

Sir, – Will The Irish Times now be publishing front-page photographs of women and children killed in the latest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip? – Yours, etc,


Tritonville Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Allow me to respond to Dominic Carroll (July 11th), when he writes: “it’s ludicrous to equate the deadly Israeli military offensive with the largely ineffective Hamas campaign”.

I would say that it doesn’t matter whether a missile came from a “deadly” or “ineffective” campaign, you are wounded or dead and not going to question the effectiveness of a bomb or otherwise. Indiscriminate aerial bombardment is nothing short of criminal, full stop. I agree with that opinion, which leaves no room for excuses one way or the other. – Yours, etc,



South Ballina,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – I echo the sentiments of Sr Stanislaus Kennedy (July 13th ) in her hope that Joan Burton’s leadership will influence the Government’s policy on homelessness.

In addition to this, may I suggest to the Tánaiste a radical budget proposal? Reduce the top rate of VAT (which is a sales tax) from 23 per cent to 10 per cent. Yes, the Minister for Finance would be nervous (but popular); yes, the Department of Finance would not welcome such risk-taking with their income stream and would probably object. However, the knock-on effect would be powerful – more disposable income for all would result in an increase in demand across multiple sectors.

This in turn would mean more staff being employed, with the happy result of a reduction in the Live Register.

Such an adjustment to this punitively high VAT rate could make the difference from being able to pay your electricity bill to, at the other end of the scale, being able to go for both the black and the brown Manolos. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – As the date of the 100th anniversary of the opening shots of the first World War draws closer, the barrage of books, articles, etc, will no doubt increase, while numerous exhibitions will be mounted. Does it ever occur to the people involved that all this “derring-do” resulted in the deaths of countless Germans, Bulgarians, Turks, Austrians and Hungarians, not to mention the lesser-known nationalities that comprised the Austro-Hungarian empire? All of those were people, whom to paraphrase Churchill slightly, “never laid a violent hand upon us”, which is more than can be said for the army for which these Irishmen fought. – Yours, etc,


Elton Court,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Mullingar Pewter is – or was – famous in Ireland and throughout the western world for its reproductions of images from the Book of Kells on goblets. I owned a number of them, but over the course of 30 years gave them all away. My favourites were the pewter goblets decorated with the symbols of the four Christian evangelists.

Last month I saw a new set of these goblets. I was at Dublin Airport, and decided to buy two of them: Matthew (the man) and Mark (the lion). I brought them to a clerk, who escorted me to the shop’s counter. She produced two boxes – “the boy”, she said, and “the bird”.

No, I explained, those are the symbols for St Mark and St Matthew – and neither of them is a boy or a bird. And the Book of Kells? No, these goblets were made in Mullingar, she said, not in Kells.

I have been a regular and frequent visitor to Ireland since my first year in Dublin in 1961-62. Ireland was Ireland then. Most of Ireland is now, it seems, a part of the loud chain-store commerce that we call western civilisation. That’s not for me. I don’t want to walk down the vulgar, noisy Grafton Street, or the cultural embarrassment called O’Connell Street.

If I come to Ireland again, I want to be dropped somewhere in west Donegal, up near Errigal, or out on the Kilmurvey end of Inishmore. Or maybe somewhere in Mayo or in Connemara.

Or should I just give up, and not come back? Then I can try to remember when Ireland wasn’t a shopping mall, full of generic clerks selling generic world goods and generic world souvenirs – boys and birds on genuine Irish pewter cups, and Irish T-shirts made in Singapore. – Yours, etc,



Saarbrucken, Germany.

Sir, – Cían Carlin is mistaken in his letter (July 10th) about the descriptive name of the Irish sovereign state. Article 4 of the Constitution states: “The name of the State is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland.” On December 21st , 1948, the Oireachtas enacted the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 (Number 22 of 1948). Section 2 of that Act shows: “It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland”. It was the shortest Act passed by the Oireachtas. This was accepted by the British government and duly recognised when the Westminster parliament passed the Ireland Act 1949 in April that year. King George VI sent a gracious letter of congratulation to President Sean T O’Kelly. At the same time Ireland was excluded from the Commonwealth for being, in law, a republic. That was no loss. – Yours, etc,


Bar End Road,


Hampshire, England.

Sir, – 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, which is supposedly protected under the 1976 Wildlife Act and a Council of Europe convention, I suggest the department focus its energies on the search for a badger vaccine against the disease that would remove the broc’s alleged threat to Ireland’s agricultural sector.

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

That’s an ordeal no wild animal should have to endure, but there is another reason why the snaring of badgers should not even be contemplated, the prevalence in the countryside of organised badger baiting. Unscrupulous people set pairs of dogs on captive badgers until either the badger is ripped to pieces or one or both of the dogs has been mauled to death by the terrified creature.

The badger is being made to serve as a scapegoat for the department’s failure to tackle bovine TB and to devote adequate resources to the quest for a vaccine. It’s time for everyone who values our wonderful wildlife heritage to say no to a badger cull! – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – There appears to be a general loosening of State finances, with reversals on certain savings. We are not nearly anywhere out of the woods economically. The country is borrowing €12.5 billion a year, or €34 million a day, just to tick over and is borrowing to repay borrowings. – Yours, etc,


Blarney Street, Cork.

Irish Independent:

My thanks to Patricia R Moynihan (Letters, July 11) for reading and responding to my letter of July 9.

I have been a political admirer of Joan Burton for a long time. Her overwhelming victory in the leadership contest shows in what high regard she is held by the remaining active members of the Labour Party.

But do they (and even the highly intelligent Ms Burton herself) grasp what has been happening inside the skulls of our people – and particularly the skulls of those who ‘should’ have voted Labour in May’s elections?

Since 2008, a substantial number of us ordinary Irish citizens have been working very hard to understand what went so terribly wrong with the Irish Economic Miracle (aka ‘Celtic Tiger’). And why, why, why?

What seems to have been entirely missed by the political elite (to the accompaniment of condescending homilies), is that, far from being ignorant peasants and proletarians, many of us have made the necessary intellectual leap. In a crude simplification: a deeply flawed global socio-economic system crashed headlong into good old Irish native greed, the collapse even of secular values.

But has a single member of the Labour parliamentary party identified themselves with such a view? Joan did not have to throw a verbal bomb, let alone walk out of government. But there was not one syllable that indicated that she understood the fundamental problem in our politics.

What worries me particularly about Ms Burton’s Labour is that there is apparently no strategic understanding that though our collective future rests very much on ‘local’, ie ‘Irish’, policy and governance, all that depends utterly, for this tiny, open economy, on what happens (or does not happen) within the European Union. Let alone the rest of this shrinking planet.



A thankless job

I happened to be in Dublin last week, and on the same day, not far from Leinster House, I saw Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny; they were not together but in coming and going in the area, I caught a glimpse of them.

It occurred to me that heavy indeed is the head that wears the crown. I can appreciate that both were under stress as it was the week of the reshuffle.

I have never been a member of a political party – though like everyone else in the country I take a keen interest in what’s going on.

Seeing these two men evidently tired and battered by the waves in their battle to turn back the tide of austerity, I was struck by their integrity.

I read repeatedly about the low regard we have for those who seek and hold public office, and no matter what they do, you will hear the refrain: “sure aren’t they well paid for it?”.

Perhaps. But Michael Noonan has been bravely doing his job while fighting serious illness. He might have taken leave but he stuck to his task instead.

Mr Kenny has doggedly attempted to get the green shoots back in the economic wasteland that he was left by the last shower. His reward has been a chorus of abuse.

It has been a tough and utterly thankless task.

Evidently neither man is in it for gratitude or appreciation; they believe in what they are doing.

They are human and they have made personal sacrifices, and I think their efforts should be saluted, along with the efforts of many other sincere and honest public servants who believe in what they do.



Hearing God’s call

It is Catholic doctrine that baptism gives each one of us a special charism for one’s vocation in life. The charism is permanent; it influences us in making the choice and living it out.

Speaking from my own experience, I made the wrong choice. I wanted to be a priest, but I had no desire to live a celibate life. I was repeatedly assured, over a period of years, that God would give me the grace to be celibate, if I prayed for it. It was only when I was teaching theology in the Philippines during Vatican II, that I gradually became convinced that I had no charism to be a celibate.

I still feel the call to the ministry, but I have always wanted to get married. I have been harping on this for 40 years now, and am glad that the subject of the charisms has at long last come to the fore.

Why could a woman not have a charism for the priestly ministry? St Paul was way ahead of the teaching church today on the charisms. We need them now as never before. If God calls, the church must answer.




Micheal O Fearghail (Letters, July 11) echoes the sentiments of many experienced teachers when he implores the new Education Minister to halt the rushing through of Junior Cert reform.

It is of great concern that the proposed changes will not benefit the students and may in fact devalue a system of education, which, in spite of its faults, is acknowledged worldwide as producing well rounded individuals. I request minister Jan O’Sullivan to plan carefully any changes to an exam that has many advantages in its present format. As we often inform our students – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.




Israeli bombs rain down on Gaza again, to date killing 103 people, wounding over 700, making many homeless and traumatising a trapped population living under an illegal land, sea and air siege.

Gaza’s hospitals are struggling to cope; according to Medical Aid for Palestine, the list of zero stock medicines is now 139 items, almost one-third of essential medicines.

In the West Bank, 936 Palestinians have been arrested since mid-June, and at least nine have been killed.

Yet the Irish media consistently presents the Israeli narrative of its actions being “retaliation”, simply ignoring that Israel is the occupier, the aggressor, has an army, an air force, a navy and the financial and political support of the US and the EU. As the bodies pile up in Gaza, the press here continues to dehumanise Palestinians and disregard their humanity by prioritising Israel’s interests and its voice.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling that Israel’s wall, snaking far beyond the Green Line into Palestinian land, is illegal, yet there has been no sanction on that state for this or any other of its breaches of international law.

Meanwhile, the Irish Government continues to trade with Israel and oppose the call from Palestinian civil society for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).




The two Popes will watch the World Cup together. One Argentinian, the other German. After the final whistle, they will get their ball and have a kick-around in the Vatican.

If there are any disputes about offside, handball or foul play, which Pope will have the final say – given that they are both infallible?



Irish Independent


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