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I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A hot day

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Elaine Stritch – obituary

Elaine Stritch was a ‘femme formidable’ of Broadway who partied with as much energy as she performed on stage

Elaine Stritch in 2005

Elaine Stritch in 2005 Photo: REX

8:38PM BST 17 Jul 2014


Elaine Stritch, the American actress, who has died aged 89, was the femme formidable of Broadway, famous for her foghorn voice and deadpan comic timing, and notorious for her filthy temper and “cut-the-crap” frankness; but like many who adopt an abrasive outer shell, underneath there beat a softer heart.

Brassy, skyscraper tall and with a voice once described as “like a corncrake wading through Bourbon — on the rocks”, Elaine Stritch was a natural scene-stealer. Not strikingly beautiful, though with wondrously long and shapely legs, there was no one quite like her in showbusiness.

Elaine Stritch in 2008 (REX)

In Britain, where she scored an instant hit as Mimi Paragon, the cruise ship hostess in Noël Coward’s Sail Away, she became everyone’s favourite American actress. She will be best remembered for the long-running 1970s BBC sitcom, Two’s Company, in which she played a rich, demanding American in London, opposite Donald Sinden as Robert, her plummy-voiced butler.

But it was on the Broadway stage that she began her career and where she continued to perform on and off for six decades in comedies and musical drama. She understudied Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; and brought the house down in Pal Joey singing Zip in the famous 1946 revival. Stephen Sondheim gave her one of his greatest songs, Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch, in Company, in which she played beady-eyed lush Joanne in the original 1970 production. One reviewer noted that “she can race through the gears from a savage purr to an air-raid siren howl in five seconds without ever losing a note of the melody”.

Elaine Stritch and Donald Sinden in Two’s Company (REX)

Elaine Stritch partied with as much energy as she performed. She knocked it back with such dedicated topers as Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason. “Elaine, I never thought I’d say this, but goodnight!” said Judy Garland as she made an 8am exit from one marathon session. She dated John F Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and even Rock Hudson, for whom she ditched Ben Gazzara — a “bum rap”, she confessed.

The diva of the put-down, Elaine Stritch never learned the art of turning the other cheek. She always had the last word. “I’m sorry about what I said to you earlier today,” an interviewer heard her tell an assistant. “I meant every word.”

Yet underneath this spiky carapace there lurked a more fragile personality, at once addicted to, yet terrified of, performing — a woman who fought a long-running battle with the bottle which nearly destroyed her altogether.

The youngest of three daughters, Elaine Stritch was born on February 2 1925 into an upper-middle-class Roman Catholic family in suburban Detroit. Her uncle Samuel was Cardinal Stritch of Chicago; her father a senior executive in Ford Motors. She was educated at a convent where “you daren’t speak in the lavatory and you bathed in your nightgown”.

Her more conventional elder sisters left school and got married, but Elaine’s tastes tended towards the bohemian. As a teenager she accompanied the family’s black maid, Carrie, to “Black and Tan” clubs, where she became familiar with “down and dirty” blues such as I Want a Long Time Daddy, which she sang without understanding the lyrics. She tasted her first whisky sour aged 13 and wanted more.

Her father sent her, aged 17, to New York, where she lived in a convent and studied acting at the New School in Manhattan. A contemporary of Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, she made her student stage debut as a tiger. She “dated” Brando — nothing more. When, after a night on the town, he took her back to his place, went to the bathroom, and reappeared in his pyjamas, the teenage Elaine Stritch shot straight back to the convent. “I kissed like a crazy woman,” she recalled. “But I was a virgin until I was 30. Somebody’d touch my breast, and I’d think I was pregnant.”

She was immediately successful. In 1945 she played the parlourmaid in The Private Life of the Master Race and, in 1946, Pamela Brewster in Loco and Miss Crowder in Made in Heaven. After Three Indelicate Ladies and The Little Foxes, she appeared in the review Angel in the Wings singing “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo…”. In 1949 she played the part of Joan Farrell in Yes, M’Lord. Having kicked her heels as an understudy to Ethel Merman in the Broadway production of Call Me Madam, she left a show-stopping role in Pal Joey to do the Merman part on tour — to enthusiastic reviews.

After that she starred in shows by Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim and Edward Albee, and was directed by such figures as Erwin Piscator, George Abbott, Harold Clurman and Hal Prince. Coward called her “Stritchie” and, after rescuing her from the flop musical Goldilocks (1958), gave her the lead in Sail Away, in which she sang Why Do the Wrong People Travel?

Elaine Stritch with Noel Coward in 1962 (REX)

In his diaries, Coward saw her more vulnerable side: “Poor darling Stritch with all her talents is almost completely confused about everything. She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying f*** and Jesus Christ. She is also kind, touching and loyal and, fortunately, devoted to me.” After “the Master’s” death, she attended his memorial service wearing a bright red blazer, and mistook Yehudi Menuhin for a busker friend of Coward’s.

Elaine Stritch began her film career inauspiciously with Scarlet Hour (1956). After attending a matinee, Richard Burton told her: “Halfway through your last number I almost had an orgasm.” “Almost?” she shrieked reprovingly. She contributed compelling performances to the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, and Providence (1970). In 1971 she was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox but turned it down, not wishing to be typecast as the new Eve Arden — the wisecracking girlfriend who never gets her man. Later she appeared in such films as September (1988) and Cocoon (1990),

Elaine Stritch in Two’s Company (REX)

On television, Elaine Stritch starred in the 1948 domestic comedy Growing Paynes, the short-lived 1960 sitcom My Sister Eileen, and co-starred as the star’s mother in The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986). She was a member of the supporting comedy troupe on the 1949 show Jack Carter and Company, a comic switchboard operator on the 1956 variety series Washington Square, and Peter Falk’s secretary in The Trials of O’Brien (1965).

Coward brought her to London in 1962 in Sail Away, and she returned in 1972 with Sondheim’s Company, winning more ecstatic reviews. She remained in London for several years, making her second home in the Savoy Hotel. Of her barnstorming performance in Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings, one reviewer described her “bashing through the play like a truck driver in a garage full of Minis”. “I love asking the way in London,” she told an interviewer. “A man actually left his shop to show me where to go. I thought ‘I’m not that attractive and I don’t look like a hooker, so what’s in it for him?’ I finally realised he was simply good-mannered.”

Elaine Stritch earlier this year (WALTER MCBRIDE)

By now she had triumphantly shed the title of the “oldest virgin on Broadway”, having lost her virginity aged 30 to the Fifties film star Gig Young, to whom she was briefly engaged before ditching him for Ben Gazzara. This was fortunate, as Young went on to experiment with LSD and ended up shooting his fourth wife and himself. Less percipient was her decision to get rid of Gazzara when she unwisely fell in love with Rock Hudson — well-known in green room circles as a rampant homosexual.

Eventually, in 1973 and aged 47, she met and married John Bay, her co-star in Small Craft Warnings. When they got engaged, Elaine Stritch called home to ask her father whether she should bring her fiancé home to see if he approved of him. “No, just marry him,” came the reply. “Don’t let him get away.” The marriage lasted a happy 10 years, until Bay died of cancer.

Since her early years Elaine Stritch had suffered from stage fright and, when prayers did not do the trick, she quelled her nerves with alcohol. By the late 1970s her opening gambit at every watering hole was “I’d like four martinis and a floor plan”. Sacked from shows and thrown out of clubs, she failed to stop drinking even after she became diabetic. But after suffering a severe attack in the hallway of a New York hotel (from which she was saved only because a passing waiter happened to be carrying a Pepsi), she went on the wagon and never touched another drop.

In 2002 she made a triumphant return on Broadway in her one-woman retrospective of her career, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, co-written with John Lahr, which played to sell-out audiences at London’s Old Vic the following year. “There’s good news and bad news,” she told her audience. “The good: I have a sensational acceptance speech for a Tony. The bad: I’ve had it for 45 years.” In a typical Stritchian postscript, when she really did make the speech after being awarded a Tony for her performance, it was so long that the orchestra cut her off in mid-flow. Afterwards she gave an angry, tearful press conference. The show also won her the Drama Desk award for best solo performance and a nomination for the Olivier Award for her performance at the Old Vic.

In 2003 she was made a “Living Landmark” of New York City for her contributions to Broadway, and in 2010-11 she appeared in a Broadway revival of A Little Light Music. She was the subject of a documentary film, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, released earlier this year.

Elaine Stritch, born February 2 1925, died July 17 2014


I am deeply worried to see the change in public opinion in favour of Lord Falconer’s bill for assisted dying (Report, 14 July). If I had not had the privilege to be the sister of Baroness Jane Campbell, who has SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) and was never expected to live beyond early childhood, I would probably have voted for a change in the law that would allow the terminally ill to choose when to end their lives. But I have witnessed the power and strength of the human spirit in the most impossible circumstances. There were occasions when Jane would have fitted the criteria of only six months or less to live, and once we were told that even if she survived she would have no quality of life. We did not give up on her, although it would have been easier to at times. Instead we found the courage to give her what she needed for self-worth and strength to pull through.

Jane did not need our pity and a quick fix to end her life but a belief that we valued and loved her regardless of all our sacrifice and suffering. I hope that the supporters of this bill take time to listen to those who found ways to deal with the suffering that is always part of life. In Jane’s own words: “I want life to have value and meaning until its natural end. If you have a terminally ill or disabled friend or family member, don’t give in to their despair. Support them with everything you have to make the best of whatever time they have left.” Believe me, it’s the only way to protect the human spirit.
Sharon Campbell
Dorking, Surrey

• Ann Farmer (Letters, 15 July) seems concerned that to debate assisted dying gives the message that we don’t value the lives of people with disabilities. However, this is to muddy the waters, as disability is not an issue in the assisted dying bill. It only applies to people with a terminal illness who are not expected to live for more than six months. And of course the bill is not saying that we don’t value terminally ill people. It is saying that we care about and respect them enough to give them the right to choose what happens to them. Many terminally ill people may choose to live on as long as possible. Many others may choose to end their lives a little earlier to avoid some of the likely consequences of their terminal illness, which might include severe pain, mental deterioration or physical indignity. It is cruel and inhumane not to give terminally ill people – which one day could be any of us – the choice.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent

• One of the things about legislation is that over a generation or so it weaves its way into the DNA of a nation and gradually redefines what a society finds acceptable. In recent decades this has happened very healthily with legislation that has moved us away from racial and gender discrimination.

While it’s possible to frame legislation that prevents uncaring, unscrupulous, greedy or even just tired relatives from bringing about a death, what the law can’t do is legislate about those who regard themselves as having no more to contribute to life and feel themselves to be in the way. It isn’t difficult to foresee a culture emerging where assisted dying, introduced as a compassionate choice for a relatively small proportion of patients, becomes an option “because it’s there” – dare I say it, in the same sort of way that abortion, which again was a compassionate response for an emergency situation, has become an acceptable, if still emotionally painful, option.

Thus human life becomes a commodity that can be thrown away once it’s inconvenient or no longer wanted. It’s a small step, and not a “slippery slope”, then to judgments – even self-judgments – being made about the value of a life, and the creation of a culture in which those with disabilities find themselves to be more trouble than they’re worth.

I have seen relatives and friends I love suffer agonising deaths with every last shred of dignity gone. But by no means are all deaths like that – most aren’t. While the relaxation of laws against assisted dying could bring loving relief to such situations, the commodification of human life would demean and impair us all.
Rev John James
Highbridge, Somerset

• Polly Toynbee (Comment, 15 July) should be reassured. Recent exchanges in the British Medical Journal confirm that more than 98% of deaths in the UK are acceptably peaceful. The spectre of this entry into the unknown as being a torture chamber is the product of understandable fear, fanned by others in a classical genesis of hysteria. We will continue to work toward better care and treatment at the end of life, especially for the 2% who have the hardest time. There is no balanced argument for the radical change which is being requested as if it is the only civilised way forwards – 98% and aiming for better is a score to be pleased with.
David Jolley
Willow Wood Hospice, Ashton under Lyne

• Two of your contributors talk about difficulties in accessing painkillers at the end of life. I work in palliative medicine and would like to reassure them that there is no limit to the dosage of morphine if somebody needs it. The biggest barrier to good palliative care is lack of education in the medical and nursing professions. Large-scale programmes are trying to address this. In my experience the numbers of people who die in pain are extremely tiny. Good symptom control should be a given for anyone at the end of life. It is not that difficult. Those who support assisted dying should be rallying around the cash-strapped palliative care services so that all terminally ill people can access good-quality care.
Dr Ruth Burke
Watford, Hertfordshire

• I lost both my parents to cancer. I would happily trust independent hospice staff to make an end-of-life decision – thankfully this is where my parents finished their lives. Prior to this they were NHS patients when New Labour introduced “just-in-time” managerial practices. The doctors/nurses were employed on a casualised contractual basis and would write prescriptions without consulting patient notes, so we kept our own notes of which drugs had adverse effects to stop them being re-prescribed. My father asked me to pursue a complaint about his poor treatment. His file went missing for four months and by the time his file got to the parliamentary health ombudsman it had been edited of all negative data.

I could never trust an assisted dying decision to the careerists who preside over the health service as managerial fiefdoms and who deliberately slow down and ration treatment access. “Assisted dying” would simply become another more hideous rationing device.
Gavin Lewis

It is no surprise to read in Patrick Butler’s report (Bedroom tax has forced tenants to cut back on food, 16 July) that the Department for Work and Pensions now finds that 523,000 tenants have been unable to meet rent arrears due to housing-benefit caps. It was predicted in all the debates about the Welfare Reform Act 2012 in parliament but ignored by the coalition. For example, Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, said: “A £500 cap will plunge a family with three children living in Hampstead into poverty, with only, in this example, £150 per week left for food, clothing, ever-rising fuel bills and the rest, instead of more than £300 as at present. It is not their fault that rents are so high in much of southern England.”

Additionally, since April 2013, 244 councils have demanded between 8.5% and 20% of council tax from the poorest households. Inability to pay the tax can lead to magistrates triggering the council’s powers to enforce the arrears, adding court costs of up to £125, and bailiffs may be sent in, adding their extortionate fees of up to £420.

The DWP is not the only government department knowingly oppressing the poorest citizens of the UK with unmanageable debt. The Treasury, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Communities and Local Government pile in with equal callousness.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

• The government’s new report on the impact of the spare room subsidy –or bedroom tax – makes for worrying reading. The analysis has revealed that a staggering 60% of tenants affected by this welfare reform have been unable to meet their basic housing costs since having their benefits reduced. Although one in five claimants has registered an interest in downsizing, shortages of smaller properties mean that just 4.5% of tenants had been able to move to a smaller home. As a result, some have no choice but to cut back on food and energy, and others are running up debts through credit cards and payday loans.

As part of a charity supporting people in financial need in the UK, we at Turn2us know that these findings echo the experiences of our users – over a third of whom are social housing tenants. Many people tell us they’ve had to choose between heating their homes and buying food for their families, or have turned to high-cost lenders in their desperation.

We’re also concerned by the recent government figures showing that almost two-thirds of councils have not paid their total discretionary housing payment allocation to tenants. Funding for the payment was increased to help people affected by benefit changes including the spare room subsidy, so it’s vital that this additional support is accessed by those in need.

With the gap between income and living costs widening for an increasing number of people, it’s important that they be made aware of the support available to them. Anyone who is struggling can use our free benefits calculator and grants search at to see if they are eligible for any additional financial support. Our website also contains more information about the spare room subsidy and how to apply for discretionary housing payments.

With a number of tenants now facing increasing costs, it’s crucial that they get all the help that they need.
Alison Taylor
Director, Turn2us


Thank you for your full, informative and entertaining coverage of the World Cup. It’s been interesting to return to the Sport section of 12 June.  Congratulations to Dominic Fifield, the only one of your correspondents to predict correctly the two nations that would contest the final.  He was the only one to give Germany credit, the favourites being Argentina and Brazil, with eight and seven nominations respectively. Also commendation to David Hytner, the only one of your 10 correspondents to have the courage correctly to predict England’s exit at the group stage.
Christopher Moore

• The alleged global threat of Islamic terrorism can be put into context by the fact that over 100,000 US citizens travelled to the World Cup finals where, despite there being supporters from Iran, Algeria and Nigeria, there was no trouble between “the Great Satan” and Muslim supporters. Indeed, Iran’s fans included Jews from Israel’s 90,000-strong Iranian-descended community. Brazil proved that people of different nations and creeds bond once removed from pot stirrers trying to make enemies of them for their own aggrandisement.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

• How did the Guardian manage to award fewer marks to Germany than Argentina? Perhaps you were also part of the panel deciding who should get the golden ball?
Hugh Burchard

“You don’t grow up with a surname that means ‘Pig-climber’ without developing a thick skin” (G2, 15 July). This a common misunderstanding. As a surname, of course, Schweinsteiger doesn’t “mean” anything, but its etymology is not from the current verb “steigen”, meaning to climb, but from an old word, “Steige”, meaning enclosure. So he’s a “Pig-enclosure” –which probably still indicates how tough he is and determined to defend his area.
Neil Williamson
Wilmslow, Cheshire

I do despair when coverage of the census of swans (Report, 15 July) trumps coverage of the Durham Miners gala – 100,000 people fill the streets to celebrate working-class values with a huge parade of brass and silver bands and banners from trade unions and community groups, and you choose not to print a word or a picture. You print articles on royal occasions and upper-class sporting events but ignore the largest coming-together in the UK of trade unionists and community groups. Your editorials regularly point out the disaffection of the “left behinds” – yet you fail to report splendid speeches promoting values and ideas that would address that disconnection of voters.
Will Haughan and Jill Dixon
Hetton le Hole, Tyne and Wear

• Critics of Radio 3 (Letters, 17 July) overlook the station’s Through the Night programme. Six hours of a wide range of classical music with minimal chat and no audience participation available via iPlayer for those who can’t stay up late.
Derrick Cameron

• Jane Harvey (Letters, 16 July) omits to mention that Mme Truc’s cat’s name was Jerôme – the nickname my pupils gave me when I was a French teacher in the 1970s! At least the cartoons must have made some impression on them.
Ian Arnott

• Paul Roper (Letters, 17 July) can be reassured that the cliche writers will keep going even when running on empty.
Philip Morris

• Cameron’s reshuffle was always going to be massive. He’s opted for his favoured right wing. But the likes of Dominic Grieve have come away empty-handed. He’ll be disappointed with that.
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• Is it true that Michael Gove is setting up a new inspection team to scrutinise cabinet appointments called Ousted?
Malcolm Rivers
Isleworth, Middlesex

• Thor to be recast as a woman (Shortcuts, G2, 17 July)? I hope she has a large collection of cows.
Steve Drayton
Newcastle upon Tyne



Sir, The crux of the debate on assisted suicide is whether it is possible to grant some people the right to assistance in suicide without exposing others to subtle, malicious pressure to exercise it.

In 2011 Lord Falconer’s commission stipulated that a safe assisted-suicide framework required, first, safeguards “to ensure that the choice of an assisted death could never become an obligation and that a person could not experience pressure from another person to choose an assisted death without the abuse being detected”. Second, there had to be provision of “the best end of life care available”, including staff who would fully investigate the circumstances and motivations of any person seeking an assisted death and alternative options for treatment and care”.

In her book about the treatment of the elderly, Not Dead Yet (2008), Baroness Neuberger reported that in the UK 500,000 elderly people were being abused, two-thirds by relatives or friends. The Stafford Hospital scandal revealed that abuse of vulnerable patients is not limited to amateurs but extends to healthcare professionals.

So, we have no reason to suppose that we can “ensure” the absence of undue pressure to opt for assisted suicide and the presence of compassionate staff. Indeed, there is good empirical reason to doubt that such things can ever be guaranteed.

Judging by his own commission’s criteria, then, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying bill is, while well meaning, dangerously imprudent.

Professor Nigel Biggar
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford

Sir, Debate on assisted dying has focused on the practicalities and unintended consequences rather than the basic moral issues. Any change in the law must ensure that the person asking for assistance must be well informed, rational and have a sustained wish to die and that is what legislation is about. Similarly the interests of vulnerable people who might be subjected to pressure to end their lives must be protected and again this is the job of the law. The early experiences from Oregon, the Netherlands and Switzerland are reassuring from this point of view although opponents to change cite selective data to the contrary and point out that many of those using assisted suicide in these places feel that they are a burden on others.

More important than these practicalities is the moral issue. Is the value of a life greater than the value given to autonomy and suffering? Even the archbishops seem shy about discussing the sanctity of life and few have dared to debate whether all lives are of equal value. Is a healthy child’s life as valuable as that of an old man with severe dementia?

Since any change to the law is likely to lead to further changes — the inevitable and maybe desirable slippery slope — surely the moral debate should come first. I hope the bishops and lords give plenty of time to this and not too much to personal anecdotes or details of individual suffering. It should be possible to get the practicalities right in due course but any changes in the law should reflect changes in moral attitudes of the general public.

Professor Duncan Geddes
Imperial College and Royal Brompton Hospital

Sir, You cite a study by Professor Linda Woodhead in 2013 (“Most believers back assisted dying despite opposition of church leaders”, July 16). The only conclusion to be safely drawn from this poll is that complex discussions on euthanasia cannot be effectively conducted through online surveys. One question defined euthanasia as “the termination of a person’s life, in order to end suffering”. This skewed definition was accompanied by a question which failed to define the law pertaining to assisted suicide at the time and focused on the risk of prosecution to loved ones. Presented with such a definition and question it is a surprise that the figure for those advocating assisted suicide is as low as 70 per cent.

The Rev Arun Arora
Director of Communications
Archbishops’ Council

Sir, I am delighted that a number of opponents of the Assisted Dying bill have said that they will not oppose its second reading in the House of Lords, citing the Supreme Court judgment which calls for Parliament to address this issue (letter, July 15).

I hope this heralds a constructive debate which will consider the bill clause by clause in line with public opinion, and that will focus not on whether the law should change, but on how it should change.

Lord Joffe
House of Lords

Sir, I alter my opinion daily on this issue. For many years I was a social worker with the elderly and saw people who made me think I would be prosecuted if I kept a dog alive in that condition. I also met families, and neighbours and GPs who urged me to use (non-existent) powers to force someone into residential care because they were causing “so much worry”. No legislation will ever give a satisfactory solution to every scenario. Parliament, physicians and the Church are looking from the wrong angle. Now in my own “third age” I want to be sure I will be allowed to die. When extreme trauma or debilitating illness robs me of the pleasure of living, consider “me” — not survival rates — and let me go.

Dorothy Clifton
Middle Aston, Oxon

A ledcturer compares the well-staffed university of the past with the threadbare institutions of today

Sir, It is not surprising that student satisfaction with university courses is low today. When I joined preclinical veterinary sciences as a lecturer there were 17 academic staff, 16 technical staff and two secretaries. We had time for research and preparation as well as teaching. The annual intake was 60 students.

In the past ten years the intake has risen to 180; academic staff are now four and a part-timer, and seven technical staff. Administrators have increased exponentially. Small group teaching is a thing of the past, and in the reduced number of practical classes students are lucky to have a staff student ratio of 1:30.

Staff have been replaced by computers but while computers are a superb resource they cannot teach for the fundamental reason that they do not listen. Worst is when a series of lectures is provided only online. The students have no interaction with the lecturer or with each other. And for all this the students now pay so much more.

Dr Susan Kempson

Haddington, E Lothian

A reader’s father died 47 years after the war experience which caused his death

Sir, The impending commemoration of the outbreak of the Great War is a reminder that there are many ways to die in war. In my father’s case 47 years separated the event from the cause. He died from a growth in his lung. The consultant asked if my father had anything to do with aircraft because they had found traces of a tar from burning aircraft fuel in the growth.

In 1945 my father entered a burning RAF plane and assisted his MO to amputate the trapped leg of the pilot before the plane exploded.

Not all those lost are remembered on churchyard memorials “to the fallen” but nonetheless they too paid the ultimate price, and it is good that we should remember all of them.

Alf Menzies

Southport, Merseyside

A new education secretary is a chance to improve headteacher/family relations over the issue of days off school

Sir, Nicky Morgan’s appointment as secretary of state for education is a chance to re-create harmony between home and school. She should free headteachers from requiring parents to apply for permission to absent their children from school for family holidays outside term time. (It is unfortunate that heads did not resist this authoritarian imposition.) Parents find it hard to reconcile school days lost to strikes and the refusal to allow a day off, even for a relative’s funeral.

If heads wish to enhance family values and create harmony between home and school, they should tell Nicky Morgan that they will no longer be responsible for when parents choose their holidays.

charlie naylor

(former headmaster)

Haxby, York

Adrenaline, often mentioned in discussion of slaughter methods, is not carcinogenic

Sir, Princess Alia Al Hussein (letter, July 15) says adrenaline is “accepted as a carcinogen”. Adrenaline is a natural hormone released from the adrenal gland and which is involved in the “fight and flight” response: it is rapidly degraded in blood in a few minutes. It is not carcinogenic, and in any case disappears so quickly from the blood that any released during stress is quickly undetectable.

Levels in the blood at slaughter may be influenced by stunning and this can be used as a surrogate stress marker, but that is a different question.

Professor Ashley Grossman

Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism

Hares are more plentiful than usual in the Hebrides – warmer winter? fewer foxes? less competition from rabbits?

Sir, In this fairly quiet, northwesterly peninsula of Skye called Duirinish the population of brown hares (letter, July 14) appears to be increasing. This may be due to the surprising scarcity of foxes, increasingly warmer weather but perhaps also because there are fewer rabbits than hares locally. The cause and effect of all this surely deserves research. The hares are far from timid.

Michael Austin

Dunvegan, Isle of Skye


Almost 26,000 primary school children were treated for tooth decay in the past year Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 17 Jul 2014


SIR – Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, points out that most dental extractions under general anaesthesia were performed in dental surgeries rather than hospitals until the mid-Eighties (“Rotten teeth are all the fault of Mum and Dad”).

I used to extract children’s teeth at my dental practice and the procedure, although necessary, appeared bloody and barbaric. The anaesthetist would keep the anaesthetic very light to ensure safe extraction and a rapid recovery. I had to act quickly, often with a child’s eyes open and staring accusingly.

Although I never did, I sometimes wished I could invite the parents of some of these children into the operating room to witness the procedure. As the vast majority of children’s extractions are preventable, their younger offspring might have had a better chance of avoiding similar treatment.

Dr T W Harding (retd)
Stourbridge, Worcestershire

The politics of bishops

SIR – It was an odd image to see the Church of England apparently celebrating a spiritual doctrinal change with glasses of champagne.

It seemed more like a political victory. Was the “prayer” really for God’s guidance, or in the hope that folk would “be reasonable and see it our way”?

Jeremy Brewer
Ashover, Derbyshire

SIR – “It is just wonderful that at last we can move on,” said the Rev Kat Campion-Spall. While I fully support the creation of women bishops, it is only a section of the Anglican Communion in Britain for whom the words “move on” ring true. Churches in the North of the country, whose need for well-staffed parishes is just as great as London’s, find it almost impossible to appoint new incumbents. We are told by our senior clergy that priests in the South find the idea of working “up North” unattractive because of the lack of City-type salaries for their spouses.

Elizabeth Ray
Dalston, Cumberland

Home-grown food

SIR – George Eustice, the farming minister, writes that Britain is 76 per cent self-sufficient in foods that can be produced at home, comparing this to the Thirties, when food self-sufficiency was between 30 and 40 per cent.

His comparison conveniently avoids the years in between. Taking Defra’s own figures, in 1995 Britain was 74 per cent self-sufficient in all food and 87 per cent self-sufficient in food that could be produced at home. So we do have a significant shortfall compared with 20 years ago.

David Baines
Thornbury, Gloucestershire

Alive and kicking

SIR – Bob Champion, the winning jockey of the 1981 Grand National, discovered a few months ago that his profile on Google showed him as having died in 2011.

Several of his fans, including myself, have submitted feedback to Google pointing out its error, as well as calling attention to it via Twitter, but the profile remains unchanged.

It’s in particularly bad taste given Bob’s successful battle against cancer many years ago, which was BG (Before Google). I’m rather hoping that the publicity from a letter in your newspaper will spur them into a correction.

Gabriel Herbert
London W12

Jean-Claude who?

SIR – You report that Jean-Claude Juncker was forced to Google Lord Hill following his nomination as Britain’s representative in Europe, as he had no idea who he was.

Perhaps now Mr Juncker can more easily grasp what the EU electorate thought during his own presidential campaign.

Mary Harrington
London NW1

Wasteful packaging

SIR – Rather than introduce more bins to clog up the back gardens and roadways of this country, at least some of the waste could be prevented by businesses.

Every magazine I subscribe to, from Radio Times and the Spectator to the quarterly offerings of organisations such as English Heritage and the National Trust, now arrives in a non-recyclable plastic bag. Just a few years ago they came in paper envelopes, and could be reused. Since the change to plastic, I have had to buy my own envelopes, the manufacturers of which are the only ones to gain in this shift.

Most of what goes into my black bin is packaging of one sort or another. The Government often makes half-hearted attempts to stem the flow of extra packaging, but without much success.

Nicholas Wightwick
Rossett, Denbighshire

Jam yesterday

SIR – The short answer to Joyce Smith’s question about what jam manufacturers have put into jam (Letters, July 15), is more water: it is cheaper than sugar or fruit.

In the Fifties, solids made up 67 per cent of the composition of jams, making them microbiologically stable. By adding more water, the solids have been reduced and the jams have become microbiologically unstable, hence the need to store them in a fridge.

Peter Hull
Hoo, Kent

By any other name

SIR – One of the brides-to-be listed in the Forthcoming Marriages column was named as “Victoria (Plum), daughter of Mr and Mrs Stewart-White”.

At home, my late father was nicknamed Atna (all talk, no action).

James Logan
Portstewart, Co Londonderry

Teach engineering well to inspire girls and boys

SIR – Mary Kenny is right to encourage students to study subjects they enjoy, but I balked at her reasoning that it’s innate biology that prevents women from engaging with science. Britain produces 51,000 science, technology, engineering and maths graduates each year — we need 87,000.

My charity, the James Dyson Foundation, is working with five schools in Bath, including a girls’ school. I set them design briefs such as delivering aid after a natural disaster or making life easier for an ageing population. It gets them thinking with their hands and their brains, using science and mathematics to solve problems practically. The result is that these girls suddenly want to be engineers – a new GCSE class of 30 has been added to the timetable. When it is taught well enough, technology inspires boys and girls alike.

Sir James Dyson
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Mary Kenny claims that science lacks narrative and is not about people. Engineering is driven by the imperative to solve the challenges faced by humankind and to enable us to live, communicate, work and socialise more easily. It is invariably a team activity, involving specialists from a range of disciplines working together. Engineers are analytical, creative, curious and questioning, and many women show these characteristics in abundance.

Britain has the lowest proportion of women engineers in Europe (8.7 per cent), whereas in countries such as Latvia, 30 per cent of professional engineers are women. There is a perception problem in Britain about engineering that is inhibiting women from going into it as a career.

Engineering and science are central to everything from sunscreens to skyscrapers, clean water to comet chasing. The idea that these fields lack good stories is laughable, as is the notion that women are interested only in novels.

Professor Helen Atkinson
Vice President, R

Sherlock Holmes needn’t have feared the jellyfish

Despite its murderous activities in Conan Doyle’s adventure, a sting from the lion’s mane jellyfish is rarely fatal

A lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) in the White Sea off the coast of Karelia, Russia

A lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) in the White Sea off the coast of Karelia, Russia  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 17 Jul 2014


SIR – You mention the lion’s mane jellyfish and Sherlock Holmes’s encounter with it. “Cyanea capillata is the miscreant’s full name, and he can be as dangerous to life as, and far more painful than, the bite of the cobra,” the detective declares.

But even Conan Doyle, as a medical man, was aware that this jellyfish, though its sting is very painful, rarely kills. He took good care to explain from the outset that its victim had a weak heart. He also noted that only by a fluke would it be present in British waters.

Jellyfish are to be seen and not touched, but we need not go in fear of them.

Elizabeth Thompson
London NW3

Cameron’s reshuffle is an achievement for a PM held back by the Coalition

The Conservatives can rightly claim to be the most meritocratic British political party

David Cameron arrives at Downing St after cutting short his holiday

The Prime Minister has conducted fewer reshuffles than any predecessor since James Callaghan Photo: REUTERS

7:00AM BST 17 Jul 2014


SIR – For a party that is constantly portrayed as being overwhelmingly posh, prosperous, old-fashioned, male and white, David Cameron’s appointments have provided for the promotion of Conservative MPs first elected in each of the last seven parliaments stretching back to 1983, and from a diversity of backgrounds, many of them humble.

This is a remarkable achievement for a Prime Minister who has conducted fewer reshuffles than any predecessor since James Callaghan in the mid-Seventies, and is hugely constrained by the Coalition.

Many of the newly promoted ministers are Eurosceptic, free-market, independent-thinking Thatcherites who entered politics to reduce the role of the state, introduce lower taxes, improve state education and above all, increase social mobility.

Having produced the first Jewish prime minister and first female prime minister, the Tories can rightfully claim to be the most meritocratic British political party. But the leadership must take care to ensure its policies remain as inclusive as its political representation and membership.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – David Cameron’s reshuffle may, as many have suggested, be designed to increase his chance of re-election. Its result, however, will depend on the performance over the next 10 months of those promoted. That is a ridiculously short time to expect them to make any changes of real or lasting value.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – Anne Rose posits that the Prime Minister should be thinking of what is best for the country, not what will win him the most votes. He has thought about it and rightly concluded that a Conservative majority Government is best for the country. To this end, he’s made bold and pragmatic ministerial appointments that better represent our society, reflect public opinion and present the Conservatives as a diverse, modern, winning team to the electorate. I’d vote for them.

Adrian Stockwell
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – I am very disappointed that Michael Gove has been moved from education, as I believe that he did an excellent job. One way to measure this is by looking at the people he upset: the teaching unions and the Lib Dems.

David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – Has anyone else noticed that the Department for Education has been staffed largely by Nicks? Nick Gibb on schools, Nick Boles on “Skills” (whatever that means), and Nicky Morgan as Education Secretary. What is the significance of this?

Daniel Deasy

Irish Times:

Sir, – “Kenny prioritises geography over gender” (Editorial, July 16th). Shouldn’t the Taoiseach in a mature democracy prioritise talent over both? – Yours, etc,


Ballymoney Road,


Co Antrim.

Sir, – There is a solution to the problem of the small number of women Ministers of State caused by the Taoiseach “prioritising geography over gender”.

Since independence there have been so few women TDs that the only conclusion that can be reached is that political parties, and we as an electorate, have prioritised just about everything over gender when selecting candidates and voting.

The next election is, therefore, an appropriate time to change priorities and rectify the gender imbalance. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

Sir,– I was shocked that Enda Kenny would appoint a team with no fluency in Irish to head the department with responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs. Now English will be imposed on every ministerial meeting related to Gaeltacht affairs.

Now Irish-language organisations will have English forced on them when dealing with the Minister of State responsible for the Irish language. The working language of this department now moves from Irish to English.

What a policy move that is. One swift blow to remove a language from a department set up to support that very language.

The Taoiseach should reflect on this and reverse his decision, as one would be left with the impression that Fine Gael policy is now to downgrade and dismantle spoken Irish wherever it can. Surely that cannot be the case? – Yours, etc,


Ráth Chairn,

Áth Buí­,

Co na Mí.

Sir, – I am somewhat taken aback by Éamon Ó Cuív’s preoccupation with the inability of the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht to speak Irish fluently.

Perhaps somebody in the media might enquire of Mr Ó Cuív as to how you say as Gaeilge, “I was a member of the government that bankrupted this country, and my priorities seem to be strangely askew”.- Yours, etc,




Co Wexford.

Sir, – The greatest single challenge to a person in mastering a language, any language, is a change in linguistic behaviour that allows for confidence building. Most, but not all, languages require competencies or skills in reading, writing, comprehension, speech and usage.

The challenge for an adult, never mind a busy Minister, will be even greater, but given the right support, direction and opportunity, both of our new Ministers, if they are willing to do so, can significantly improve their Irish language ability over the coming months.

If and when they succeed they will be providing a salutary lesson to the Gaeltacht and saol na Gaeilge in general as it is probably not universally accepted or acknowledged that the survival of Irish as a community language will be largely dependent on people who are speaking in English exclusively today. – Is mise,



Cnoc na Cathrach,


Sir, – Perhaps the Israeli ambassador would like to tell us which military installation the four young children (Front Page, July 17th) blown up while playing on the beach in Gaza were shielding? – Yours, etc,


Pinebrook Heights,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Israeli Defence Forces drop leaflets on areas of Gaza, in advance of targeting them, to warn people to leave their homes. This, seemingly, absolves them of responsibility when civilians are killed. When asked on RTÉ radio earlier this week where these people were meant to go, an Israeli spokesperson stated that they could go to the beach. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the four children killed on this beach by an Israeli naval bombardment, there is now nowhere safe for the besieged populace to hide. The international community should stand aside no longer and condemn these indiscriminate attacks for what they are – war crimes. – Yours, etc,


Fitzroy Avenue,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – I am very grateful to the Israeli ambassador for explaining (July 16th) why it is right under international law that so many women and children and innocent civilians of Gaza have had to die at the hand of his country’s armed forces in the past weeks.

I thought that one of the purposes of international law and the various organisations of the United Nations was to protect innocent people. Clearly they have been so structured that they give countries such as Israel free rein to attack civilians. – Yours, etc,




Bandon, Co Cork.

A chara, – Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai puts it very succinctly. Israel is using its military capability to protect its civilian population. Hamas is using its civilian population to protect its military capability. – Is mise,



College Street,


Sir, – Once again people are calling for a boycott of Israeli goods (July 16th), in response to the inclination of Israel to defend its existence. If it comes to that, let us be fair, and ensure that we also boycott oil imports from the multiplicity of tyrannical regimes in the Middle East. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – Martin Mansergh (“Ireland can adapt to either referendum result”, Opinion & Analysis, July 16th) raises the important issue of the upcoming Scottish referendum, only to dismiss both possible outcomes as being easily manageable by the Irish State. This view of benign indifference to our neighbours is the most our fellow Scoti can expect from us, I’m afraid.

Notwithstanding the ties of blood, culture, language, history, climate and whiskey (spelled both ways) that bind us, few here seem to feel that Scotland’s destiny is any business of ours. Apparently it suits neither jurisdiction’s self-delusions to recall that, long before the Scots colonised our northern counties, we had colonised the land of the Picts, entirely obliterating their language and replacing it with our own. Their first king, Cinaed mac Ailpin, was undoubtedly of Gaelic stock.

What should it matter to us now, that the Scots are seeking dominion status, with a form of independence, still under the monarchy of the polyglot Queen Elizabeth? Aren’t we all great pals now and all that?

The answer to that is the question that Alex Salmond is not asking. He is not daring to ask “Who owns Scotland?” The lack of agrarian reform throughout Britain is most noticeable in Scotland, where as much half of the land belongs to 500 individuals and corporations, many of them with no other link to, or interest in, the country. Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch, owns 240,000 acres. This is not a matter of excessive personal indulgence. It is a question of the economic life of the nation.

The divine right of landowners to prohibit development, block hillwalkers, pollute the water supply and resist every effort to reduce greenhouse gases and improve the environment is an unchallengeable fact of Irish political life.

In Scotland the problem is proportionately magnified by the much greater size of the landholdings. If the Scots did choose independence, which seems unlikely, they would face a mountain of problems and bureaucratic difficulties with which London would hope to keep them occupied until North Sea oil ran out.

Global rises in population, and the increasing interconnectedness of all societies, sooner or later will bring us all to a new view of the limits of the rights of private property, and the sooner the better for Scotland, Ireland and the whole world. – Yours, etc,


Sion Hill,

Rock Road,


Sir, – In Dr Jacky Jones’s “Are health professionals paid too much or not enough?” (Second Opinion, Health + Family, July 16th), she makes a simplistic comparison between the work of psychiatrists and chiropodists that displays an inherent judgment about how we should judge improvements for patients with mental health issues.

Success and progress within the psychiatric field hinges on a whole range of interdependent factors – probably more so than in another other branch of medicine – including patient, condition, environment, social factors and the resources made available, most of which are beyond the control of the doctors and other healthcare professionals.

To reduce this emotive and complicated arena to such a facile argument is unhelpful to discussions surrounding mental health, if not damaging. – Yours etc,


Browningstown Park,



Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones writes of “psychiatrists treating patients for depression for 20 years with no improvement in mental health”. This disseminates dangerously wrong information about depression and its treatment, stigmatises people with depression by implying a doomed prognosis, misrepresents psychiatry and unfairly characterises psychiatrists.

Quite an achievement in a little more than 10 words. – Yours, etc,


Kennedy Road,


Co Meath.

Sir, – This week Opposition TDs have expressed righteous anger at funding cuts to charitable bodies, including those which provide vital services to sick and disabled persons in their home. I understand the amounts involved are less than €1 million.

Last week it was disclosed that the Minister for Finance acted against the advice of his officials in granting an exemption from capital gains tax due to be paid by thousands of land owners at a loss to the revenue of €26 million. No TD voiced any principled objection then or later. Does this indicate a lack of joined-up thinking? – Yours, etc,


Whitehall Road,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Patrick Davey (July 17th) makes a helpful observation that the English funding model for universities is not clearly suited to our own higher education institutions.

However, his view that the English model has led to a “dependence on overseas students” is questionable. Moreover, his assertion that such students are “not asked to present with the necessary academic qualifications” is incorrect.

Ireland is a geographically peripheral country with a population base smaller than that of Barcelona. University education is unique among our public services in offering valuable and enriching transnational experiences for students, local communities, and Irish society at large. For generations, students from all over the globe have studied here, and in so doing have contributed to our awareness that – Garth Brooks’s obsession with us notwithstanding – there are many other places in the world apart from our own.

Irish universities operate very strict admissions criteria for international students, where academic qualifications are scrutinised closely and where rigorous standards are applied.

NUI Galway has 3,000 full-time international students from 110 countries around the world. They are most welcome. — Yours, etc,


Dean of International


NUI Galway,

University Road,

Sir, – Does it occur to your readers that if you tried to build the Poolbeg towers today you would never get away it? Various lobby groups would be up in arms about such “eyesores” and their basic plans would never see the light of day. However, try demolishing those two very towers in 2014 and those same groups are the ones lobbying to keep them standing.

I think Dublin should keep this example in mind when it comes to all high-rise developments – give them a chance, they are not all ugly. In fact, tall structures in any cityscape are beautiful – even the industrial ones like the Poolbeg towers. – Yours, etc,


Northbrook Avenue,

Ranelagh,Dublin 6.

Sir, – Sailors from Malahide to Greystones, and probably beyond, use the Poolbeg stacks as navigational markers. It is rumoured that if they are in line, one is on course for Holyhead.

Might I respectfully suggest that a modest sum spent conserving existing structures of historical interest would be a better use of public funds than inflicting a “white elephant” swimming pool on a working harbour (Dún Laoghaire), also of historical interest, which until recently was in close proximity to two sea baths. – Yours, etc,


Shanganagh Road,

Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Before we all rush to protect the towers at Poolbeg there is a question that first needs an answer. How much will it cost? – Yours, etc,


Fortfield Square,

Sir, – Please allow me to thank the many correspondents, supportive and otherwise , who commented on my article (Opinion & Analysis, July 9th).

None of my critics, however, including Gerry Adams, really addressed the issues I raised, with Mr Adams referring to me in terms he considers derogatory, such as “partitionist ” and “revisionist”. Perhaps the Sinn Féin leader might like to debate my specified criticisms with me in public, details to be arranged. – Yours, etc,


Douglas Road,


Sir, – At the time of all the excitement about over-70s medical cards, I received a card. Recently we pensioners were informed that, should our pensions be over such an amount, we would lose our medical cards. Though I am now over 80 years, I have lost my card.

Furthermore, I was asked to fill in a form giving details of the whereabouts and amounts of any savings I might have. Why? Who will get this private information? My trust of authorities is low.

I do not have debts. Having sold our family home, I now have a single-bedroomed apartment. Of course I have saved, being a responsible citizen. I pay tax on my savings. I want to be able to afford nursing home care, should I need such in my ancient years.

I have given the authorities details from my birth date, my mother’s maiden name, where I have lived, etc. What security is there for collected data? I am not in any questionable occupation, nor have I money squirreled in banks abroad. There is no secret holiday home tucked away.

I refuse to disclose any more detail of private matters even under the spurious guise of protecting me. If my refusal requires my going to court (at the expense of the authorities) so be it. I’d rather enjoy such an opportunity to expose facts and get answers. Now in my 80s I think I deserve better as a law-abiding citizen. — Yours, etc,


Lower Kilmacud Road,

Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Kathy Sheridan’s article “Garth’s appeal eludes arts elites” was terrific (Opinion & Analysis, July 16th).There is a degree of snobbery of various kinds in a lot of us.

Her inclusion of the critic Carl Wilson’s quote was apt – “It’s always other people following crowds, whereas my own taste reflects my specialness”.

It reminded me of a lady I knew, who, when asked about the decor in her friend’s house responded, “Well it was furnished to her own taste”. Enough said. – Yours, etc,


Whitehall Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – I would like to refute Gerry Christie’s suggestion (July 15th) that Noddy and Big Ears shared a bed. A reading of the Enid Blyton books shows that they had separate houses. Big Ears did use Noddy’s bed on one occasion when he was sick. Noddy slept on the floor.

I do hope this clarifies matters. – Yours, etc,


Wheatfield Road,

Dublin 20.

Irish Independent:

In your new role as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with responsibility for broadcasting, may I draw your attention to the prime-time slots assigned to the Angelus on RTE1 radio and television?

In my view, religion should be treated as a commodity in the same way as other basic needs. Just as all of us crave food, water, etc, a majority of people have a need to transcend the reality of their daily struggle to survive and to find some deeper meaning to their corporeal existence.

But the State needs to be neutral in its broadcasting policy. The Republic of Ireland is now a multicultural society with myriad religious philosophies and practices. Exclusively promoting one religious sector that propagated an institutional belief system leading to the human rights abuses of the Magdalene laundries, the mother-and-baby homes, illegal adoptions, child sexual and physical abuse and symphysiotomy can only lead to dissent and racial/religious grievances.

The one-minute prime-time slots on RTE1 Radio and RTE1 Television would cost the Catholic Church about €2m per annum if it was asked to pay for such slots. It is unconscionable that the taxpayer should be asked to foot the bill for such promotion.

The Department of Education would also be wise to take a more neutral stance in matters of religion in state-funded schools. In treating religion as a commodity, our classrooms could be rented out to religious groups after school hours and the proceeds could be used to promote special talents such as the arts and sport.

It’s time to review the special status conferred on the Catholic Church by RTE and other State-funded institutions and the collusion in this practice by successive governments. I now call on you, minister, to justify why this policy should continue.

Good luck in your brief.



Sentimental souls talk about the ugly Poolbeg chimneys as iconic landmarks that bring a warm glow of affection when glimpsed from a plane coming in over Dublin Bay. Ahh the chimneys! We’re home.

Aren’t they lucky to be coming home from their holiday? A recent UCC study found that Ireland, despite having similar economic problems to Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, has by far the highest emigration levels within the EU. And seven out of every 10 Irish people emigrating are in their 20s. For these effective economic deportees, looking down as they fly away from the country that failed them, the Poolbeg chimneys could seem a two-fingered final farewell.

The chimneys have no merit. They belong to a very recent redundant past. Let’s send a signal that we’re looking to a more attractive future and, in doing so, restore the beautiful vista across the bay both north and south. Demolish the monstrosities.



What shall we sports fans do now that the World Cup has come to an end? How shall we fill the void?

I have heard summer has duly arrived and luxurious growth abounds. What exotic collection of lesser-spotted creatures has now taken up residence in the long untended grass, I wonder?

Unfortunately I cannot attend to that matter just yet. The Tour de France is now entering a most crucial and challenging part. Then there is the comprehensive coverage of the British Open Golf Championship. And I haven’t even mentioned the Leinster Football Final yet!

Some environmentalists profess that mowing the aforementioned grass is less than eco-friendly and hampers the greater development of both flora and fauna.

Who am I to disagree?!



It was with great amusement that I read that Dublin City Council plans to introduce traffic lights that allow bicycles to proceed 10 seconds or more before the motorised traffic.

Have these people walked around Dublin in the last couple of years? Pedestrians stop to stare when any cyclist stops at traffic lights.

As things are, maybe we should install lights on the “pedestrian” paths to protect the cyclists from those irresponsible walkers!

Another wheeze was in your paper last week: the ‘N’ sign for drivers for two years after passing the driving test. For a restriction to work, it needs to be enforced at a reasonable frequency. Anyone who drives in the cities or the motorways will have seen the frequent learner-plate drivers unaccompanied. The risk of prosecution is obviously so low that it is negligible.

I do not blame the gardai for this; they are obviously undermanned and demoralised, and have their hands more than full preventing crime.

To top it all, I read, again in your paper, that two-thirds of those found guilty of motoring offences in courts do not receive their penalty points because the existing law, that they must bring their driving licences to court, is not enforced. That’s not a “loophole”, but a gaping barn door.



Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan has refused to accept any blame for the Garth Brooks concerts fiasco. He said the decision taken was “fair, reasonable and balanced”.

Just like the present state of Dun Laoghaire after his tenure there?



The invitation to our President to attend the Rossnowlagh Orange Order ceremony in Co Donegal poses the question – how often has the queen of England attended Orange Order ceremonies?



When I visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory in January of this year, I witnessed first hand the devastation that prolonged occupation is having on Palestinian communities. In Gaza, I witnessed the effects of ongoing cycles of violence and the economic impoverishment of the people by the economic blockade imposed by Israel.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza strike me as ultimately self-defeating for their own security. Israel should recognise that collectively punishing and impoverishing the people of Gaza, including conducting extensive and disproportionate air strikes in dense urban areas, will only create anger and hopelessness among the ordinary people of Gaza.

Such resentment regrettably results in further violence.

The actions of both Hamas and Israel contravene international law. Both sides are acting recklessly and without regard for the safety of either Palestinian or Israeli civilians.

Ultimately, the sort of cyclical violence that we have seen over recent days will only lead to a continuation of the situation whereby millions of Palestinians are impoverished and live without hope and Israeli citizens live in daily fear of rocket attack.

Making meaningful efforts towards ending violence and building peace will do far more to ensure security and safety for Israel’s citizens.


Irish Independent

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