22July2014 Shopping

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

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


Baroness Miller of Hendon – obituary

Baroness Miller of Hendon was a cosmetics entrepreneur who launched an ill-starred bid to become Tory Mayor of London

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999

Doreen Miller entering the race for Conservative London mayoral candidate in 1999 Photo: PA

5:54PM BST 21 Jul 2014


Baroness Miller of Hendon, who has died aged 81, was a north London housewife who founded the International Beauty Club, offering mail-order cosmetics to the woman of the 1970s, attracting 750,000 subscribers and their cash.

Doreen Miller became a campaigner for more women in Parliament after nearly 100 Conservative constituencies turned her down. Created a life peer by John Major, she served as a government whip and Opposition spokesman in the Lords.

She is best remembered latterly for her attempt in 1999 to become the first Conservative candidate for Mayor of London after Jeffrey Archer had withdrawn. Launching her “Call Me Doreen” campaign, backed by senior women in the party machine and with Lord Harris of Peckham providing the funding, she was soon tipped as favourite for the Tory nomination. But the wheels came off when she was interviewed on the Today programme, and party members instead chose Steve Norris, who months later was defeated by Ken Livingstone.

She was a 37-year-old solicitor’s wife and magistrate with three young sons when she decided to start her own business. She took a beauty course, surveyed the market and launched the International Beauty Club on Valentine’s Day 1972.

The concept was simple: “lucky dips” of quality cosmetics at half the shop price. Doreen Miller – described as “breathlessly cheerful” by an interviewer – bought 50,000 of four manufacturers’ products and produced her first kit of perfume sprays, make-up and false eyelashes, importing 2½ tons of pink polyester wrapping.

The Club’s first advertisement was placed in a magazine that never appeared owing to the disruptions caused by that winter’s miners’ strike. She faced far worse, however, when armed robbers stormed her hairdressers while she was having a trim. Despite having a gun held to her head for 30 minutes, a computer breakdown at her office compelled her to go in to work once she had been freed. Only once the problem had been resolved did she return home to have hysterics.

Despite these obstacles to success, thousands of letters were soon pouring in for the first beauty kit, priced at £1 plus postage. Two months later came the lemon-coloured second kit, at £2. By that October the Club had 42,000 members, mostly young marrieds.

Many letters also sought advice, so Doreen Miller became a beauty agony aunt. “So many women think they have something ghastly wrong with their nose or their mouth or something,” she said. “I seem someone indeterminate to write to.”

In 1975 she distilled this experience into a book, Let’s Make Up! Asserting that women use make-up “to make themselves feel good”, she gave such valuable hints as “how to make up while your egg is boiling”, “how to look good at bedtime” and “the right way to apply foundation”. The best thing for a woman’s skin, she insisted, was soap and water.

Doreen Miller extended her Club to Germany and Australia, and by 1979 it was turning a profit of £500,000. She remained its chairman and managing director until 1988.

Doreen Miller in her office in 1999 (STEPHEN HIRD)

She was born Doreen Feldman on June 13 1933, the daughter of Bernard Feldman, who had a furniture business. After Brondesbury and Kilburn high school she read Law at LSE and qualified as a solicitor (also gaining an MA from Hull University).

With her business up and running, she became an active Conservative, and in 1981 – two years into Margaret Thatcher’s premiership – was put on the candidates’ list, declaring: “I’m too old to fight and lose just for the experience.” Over five years she tried for 91 seats, being given an interview at just nine.

Tory selection committees, she said, believed women should not try for Parliament until they had raised their families, then ruled them out as too old. Having a woman as party leader did not necessarily help, either.

She became chairman and executive director of the 300 Group, an all-party body campaigning for more women MPs, and chairman of the Women Into Public Life Campaign.

From 1993 she was the Conservatives’ Greater London chairman. Major rewarded her that year with a life peerage, and in 1994 appointed her a Baroness in Waiting (government whip). She spoke for the government on health, education and employment, and welcomed President and Mrs Clinton at Heathrow on behalf of the Queen.

In opposition from 1997, Lady Miller continued as a whip. Two years later William Hague made her a spokesman on trade and industry, a portfolio she held until 2006.

She was appointed MBE in 1989.

Doreen Feldman married, in 1955, Henry Miller, with whom she had three sons.

Baroness Miller of Hendon, born June 13 1933, died June 21 2014


The fact that 52 schools and colleges in England failed to enter any pupils for science and maths A-levels in 2012-13 is incredibly worrying and raises serious questions (Report, 18 July). We know that employers look for graduates with the analytical and problem-solving skills these subjects instil. One million new science, technology and engineering professionals will be required in the UK by 2020, yet there is a persistent dearth of young people taking these qualifications after the age of 16. Why aren’t these schools encouraging students to take subjects that will expand their career opportunities?

The government is right to encourage more young people to take science and mathematics past the age of 16. In fact, in a recent Royal Society report, Vision for Science and Mathematics Education, we go further by calling for both subjects to be compulsory to age 18, as part of a broad baccalaureate-style qualification. This reform is absolutely vital to the UK’s future prosperity.

Schools which have low numbers of students taking mathematics and science A-levels must look closely at their culture. There is evidence that girls are still deterred from studying these qualifications because they feel they are somehow masculine or unfeminine. Teachers should ensure they promote these subjects to all, and young people understand the importance of being mathematically and scientifically literate to their future lives and employment prospects.
Professor Julia Higgins
Chair, Royal Society education committee

•  How depressing to read that Nick Gibb, the education minister, thinks the best reason to study maths and science is because the subjects have “the highest earnings potential”. When I was a secondary school teacher, I taught physics, and my A-level students studied it, for many reasons: its excitement and topicality; the intellectual stimulation; the sheer beauty of some of the underlying mathematics; its usefulness to humanity; and the fun of getting to grips with how the world works.

What never crossed my mind – and I doubt it crossed my pupils’ minds either – was that the main reason for studying it was a selfish financial one. That one ministerial comment sums up so much of what has gone wrong – and not only with our education system.
Albert Beale

•  The unequal opportunity for sixth-formers to study A-level subjects stems from the Department for Education’s own policies to politically and financially buttress small, inefficient school sixth forms.

Analysis of Department for Education performance tables by the Sixth Form Colleges Association shows that the 1,807 schools entering students for A-level in 2010 offered 15 subjects on average each, while the 92 sixth-form colleges analysed offered an average of 36. A quarter of school sixths offered fewer than 10 subjects, 10% fewer than five, and only 10% offered more than 24.

Subject by subject, 90% of colleges entered students for chemistry, compared with 72% of school sixths; for biology the figures were 92% and 80% respectively, for further maths 80% and 28.7%, for computer science 64% and 7.4%.

Research this year by London Economics demonstrated that the average expenditure on educating a pupil in an academy sixth form is £6,345; in a maintained-school sixth form £5,693; and in a sixth-form college £4,560. This includes subsidies to schools denied to colleges: differential insurance rates; VAT rebates and higher capital funding rates. Heads can also cross-subsidise from their 11-16 to their 16-18 cohorts to afford the status of having a sixth form.

Despite this, the sixth-form college sector remains relatively highly successful: London Economics also calculated the cost to the taxpayer per Ucas point score per entry between providers, and concluded that even the most cost-effective schools significantly underperform in relation to the least cost-effective of colleges.
Simon Hinks

• On Friday, the announcement by schools minister David Laws (Schools to get an extra £390m, 18 July) was presented as new money.

Even the guarded welcome by the leaders of headteachers’ unions concentrated on general underfunding, and in particular the impact of pension fund increases on schools as employers.

The projected increase to schools in the 69 local authorities described as “lowest funded” does indeed in some areas arise from a historic anomaly stemming from the choice of local taxpayers to prefer lower tax bills to higher spending on education. The increase also arises in part from the recognition that deep-seated deprivation in the urban core required additional government grant.

This re-announcement – increasing the previous £350m by £40m – misses the point by a mile and hides the fundamental fact that this “new” money is nothing of the sort. It is a redistribution of funding top-sliced from the schools budget as a whole from April next year.

All state-funded schools (except new free schools) will have their budgets frozen in cash terms, not for inflation. In other words, every other school in the country will be paying the price for the substantial uplift in areas such as Cambridgeshire and Surrey.
David Blunkett MP
Labour, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough

Demo threat to U2 Glastonbury show

Liam Jonson, Roxanne Wood, Aisha Ali and Steve Taylor, members of Art Uncut, at the Glastonbury festival in 2011, where they protested against the tax arrangements of Bono’s band U2. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

It is unfortunate that the letter from Graca Machel to David Cameron on the UN development goals and climate change is jointly signed by, among others, Bono of U2 (Report, 18 July). Delivering tax justice would do more to tackle global poverty than probably any other single policy change, something the millennium development goals failed to address. Bono needs to decide: is he a champion of world development or a tax dodger? He cannot be both, and there’ll be no global movement to unite development, climate and human rights if that movement has Bono the tax dodger as a figurehead.
Paul Brannen MEP
Labour, North East England

• Our children, aged seven and five came up with a novel suggestion for how London Zoo could deal with unruly visitors at its Friday-night parties (Billed as ‘London’s wildest night out’ – but not much fun for the tigers and penguins, 19 July): a new enclosure showcasing “naughty grown-ups who hurt the animals”.
Tanveer Ahmed and Nick Mahony

• The really shocking fact is that Isabella Acevedo was paid only £30 for four hours of cleaning and ironing in central London (Former immigration minister’s Colombian cleaner arrested at wedding, 19 July). We pay £10 an hour in Sheffield.
Jo Tomalin

• The political demise of Dominic Grieve (Editorial, 16 July) reminds me of his father Percy’s first attempt to stand for parliament in 1962. Posters demanding “Grieve for Lincoln” were soon removed, but he still lost to Labour’s Dick Taverne.
Mike Broadbent

• James Garner’s wonderful acting career (Obituary, 21 July) included his part as God in the animation “God, the Devil and Bob”, from NBC in 2000, much loved by my then teenage family. I sadly texted them: “God is dead”.
Sally Hotson
Forres, Moray

• When I was working in Nigeria, someone not coming into the office the day after tomorrow was described as “Not on seat next tomorrow” (Could the oxt-word improve your social life, G2, 21 July).
Brian Lloyd
Bradley, Staffordshire

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart: Celt or Anglo-Saxon? Photograph: Cinetext/PARAMOUNT/Allstar Picture Library

I’m surprised that someone of the intellect and depth of Madeleine Bunting should play the “British” card in this way (My British identity is in Scotland’s hands now, 21 July). Regardless of how the vote goes on 18 September, we will all remain British. “British” is geographical, in the same way as citizens of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are Scandinavian, and those in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are Baltic. Many of us in Scotland do not have a problem with voting yes while retaining a “British identity”.

We are not therefore opting out of being British, we simply want to opt out of a UK lorded over by a government in Westminster that rides roughshod over the democratic process, regardless of the concerns of the people of these islands. In Scotland, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this for the better for all of us, to galvanise the way the entire island of Britain (yes, Britain) is governed. If yes does prevail, then perhaps the remaining parts of the UK will follow suit, and demand – at the very least – more devolution of power to the other countries and regions of Britain.
Anne Roberts
Isle of Arran

• Madeleine Bunting is against Scottish independence because the union boosts her sense of Britishness. There is something more important, the abject poverty of thousands of Scots. This will continue as long as Scotland is ruled by the House of Commons, where all the major parties have enforced massive welfare cuts. An independent Scotland offers the chance of greater equality and policies which respect not condemn the poor. That is more important than a sense of Britishness.
Bob Holman

• ”Scotland is a Celtic nation”, writes Madeleine Bunting. Not so. The vast majority of Scots are Anglo-Saxons.

The bulk of Scots have always spoken English and have borne Saxon names. Edinburgh means Edin’s Burgh. The Celts were driven into the highlands and the far west. They have been a small minority throughout Scotland’s history.
Emo Williams
Shere, Surrey

•  Madeleine Bunting says that “Britishness” is important to her. Emailing a friend about her article, I was surprised to find that “Britishness” was not recognised by my spellchecker, which offered the alternatives “brutishness” or “boorishness.” I tried another couple of words. “Scottishness” does not exist, though “Cattiness” and “Skittishness” are possible alternatives. Only “Englishness” passed muster without quibble. Out of the mouths of babes and spellcheckers.
Frank McCallum

• Irvine Welsh is right to say that neither Ireland nor the US shows signs of wanting to return to rule by the UK (Independence day?, Review, 19 July). But is he also suggesting there is no corruption or elitism in either of those countries? Is he also suggesting that Scotland would be completely free of elites and corruption once independent?
Philip Clayton

• If there is a possibility of splitting the United Kingdom, why is that a matter for one partner only?
Jon Chamberlain
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Michael Gove: responsible for ‘a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools’. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Trojan Horse invokes another animal metaphor: chickens coming home to roost (Fears of Islamophobia gave activists free rein, 19 July). The neoliberal urge to “free schools from local authority control” has been shown to have its limitations. More than 20,000 public institutions need more checks and balances and, crucially, some kind of local oversight if pupils are to make academic and social progress. The rush towards more academies and free schools has demonstrated the limitations to a “do your own thing” strategy.

That Ofsted appears not to be as independent as it needs to be is a further problem. Its change of criteria in the case of Birmingham schools over a period of a couple of months makes its monitoring and quality assurance role less secure. The vast majority of schools welcome expert evaluation, and they do not see this as a challenge to their proper autonomy in curricular and pedagogic matters. There are also larger questions about a need for rigorous evidence as opposed to hearsay and extremist tendencies in faith schools more generally. Over to you, Nicky Morgan.
Professor Margaret Maden

• Laura McInerney’s account of her attempts to get documents about applications to setting up “free” schools into the public realm (Education, 15 July) raises questions of academic freedom, public policy, political accountability, and public trust. Her application was ultimately rejected because of the costs of “redacting” the documents. There can be no valid reason for redacting. Those who apply to set up free schools should be willing to make public who they are, what proposals they advance, and what reasons they give for the public to pay for their projects. Officials must make their decisions and the reasoning for them public so that we can know what free schools are and what purposes they are intended to serve. They should have provided Ms McInerney with the documents and not wasted expensive time and public money to avoid doing so.
Gavin Williams

• Your article about the investigation into schools in Birmingham (‘Trojan Horse’ schools condemned, 18 July) illustrates the risk to accountability associated with Michael Gove‘s academy programme, accountability being to the secretary of state – which “can almost amount to benign neglect”. Another of Gove’s reforms extends the same risk to all schools. From September all maintained schools in England will be required to reconstitute their governing bodies in a way that gives a small core of governors the opportunity to appoint directly a majority of governors. This creates a self-perpetuating and potentially unrepresentative system of overseeing the running of schools, leaving all schools at risk. The opportunity for local councils to appoint governors is severely restricted. There are significantly reduced requirements for parent governors and staff governors, and the governors can decide who else to appoint and how many, without reference to anyone else.

This is fundamentally undemocratic and an inappropriate way to provide oversight of the spending of the huge amount of public money provided to schools. Further scandals are certain in the future as a result of this reform, by which time Michael Gove will have probably disappeared from the public eye, but I hope people remember who was responsible for this ill-thought-out policy and that with luck it will have been repealed before too much goes wrong.
Peter Kayes
School governor, Reading

With reference to your editorial (Public services: shipshape no more, 21 July), in late 2001 I was a civil servant in London and was tasked with running an expensive and very urgent project for the Home Office. Over the Christmas break I wrote the operational requirement and, with the technical expert, the specification. From immediately after the new year I chaired meetings to drive the project forward, regularly saying that I would take responsibility for this and that when doubts were expressed,  and by May 2002 the multimillion-pound project was complete and successful.

About three years later, walking around Whitehall, I was hailed by a Defra PhD who had been on the project team who told me that he had never enjoyed his time in the civil service as much as over that period. Long before, I had remarked to my boss that I was amazed that being a civil servant could be such fun. “Ah,” he replied, “but you are being a naval officer.” He was right.
Richard Davey
Commander, Royal Navy (retired), Middle Lambrook, Somerset

Three cheers for Rosie Boycott and her “flagship project” to improve the nation’s diet (Food is a drug, and we have to learn to say no, 18 July). Most important, from my point of view, is tackling the problem in schools.

As a teacher-trainer in the 1980s and 90s, visiting students on teaching practice, I travelled round East and West Sussex in despair as I watched school lunches being replaced by banger and burger bars. “Why?” I asked one headteacher when I had the chance. “The children prefer them,” came the disingenuous reply. My attempt to discuss educational values was quickly curtailed. Like the Coca-Cola machines installed in the canteens, it was, and still is, about profit-making.

The legacy of Thatcher’s Britain. “Society”, which simply didn’t exist then, now faces the wider problems in the nation’s health that Rosie Boycott lists in her article. Tackling schools seems more than timely. We have a new minister for education who must support this too.
Dr Lisa Dart
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Excellent article by Rosie Boycott about our food culture: “the environment in which we make food choices … is extremely unhealthy”.

You made your own contribution in your Cook section the following day by providing us with six recipes for “guilty pleasures” including “an unadulterated cheese and carb fest” and “very naughty chocolate chip-cookie ice-cream sandwich”.

With an eye to the future, the same section’s “10 best kids recipes” feature (“where healthy meets delicious”?) included seven that relied on cream, sugar, butter, chocolate and maple syrup. As Rosie said, “the odds are stacked against us”.
John Roberts
Dursley, Gloucestershire


As bad as events in Gaza are, more worrying are events in Iraq, where Isis terrorists have started a campaign of ethnic cleansing (editorial, 21 July) in what’s left of the state of Iraq after British and US forces bombed the place into the dark ages, bringing “democracy” to the region in 2003.

Are politicians so stupid that they believe it is some imam in a British mosque that is radicalising Muslim youngsters to join the fight, rather than the politicians’ indifference to the children of Gaza.

I suppose some would describe me as a white member of the British middle class, yet even my children and I have been radicalised by recent events in Gaza, just as I would have been, had Britain started to bomb border towns in the Republic of Ireland in response to IRA atrocities, on the basis of intelligence reports that IRA operatives were living in these towns.

The apparently “civilised” world would not have accepted this form of collective punishment on mostly white Irish Catholics, yet in Gaza its seen as Israel defending itself.

Anyone with even a little knowledge should know by now that the first step to a prosperous peaceful world and Middle East is not just a ceasefire in Gaza; it is justice for the Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu should be careful of what he wishes for: he may end up with Isis if Palestinians become disillusioned with Hamas, their democratically elected representatives.

Richard Lanigan, Thames Ditton,  Surrey


Instead of giving us the familiar Israeli homilies  about terrorism and human shields in the Gaza conflict, the Israeli ambassador might have used the space you gave him (16 July) to elucidate for us the recent remarks of his Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a press conference on 11 July,  according to The Times of Israel, he said: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” – that is, the West Bank.

This has been the consensus for many years of Israel’s governing elite. They will never allow a Palestinian state which denies it this control. They will allow bantustans, but only to prevent a Palestinian numerical majority in Israel.  Such a deal would be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader, from Hamas to Abbas. Israel, furthermore, has no intention of allowing a two-state solution, which Obama has called for.

Because of this unacknowledged but fundamental spoiler, “the Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history,” wrote Henry Siegman, formerly head of the American Jewish Congress. He quotes Moshe Dayan; “The question is not ‘What is the solution?’ but ‘How do we live without a solution?’ ”

In this context Israel is asking for the impossible – for Palestine’s acquiescence in its dismemberment.

James Fox, London W10


Jacob Amir (Letters, 12 July) is correct in asserting that the Zionist leadership accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which provided for both a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine. He omits to say, however, that they did so only formally, that is, quite cynically, as a platform for creating the more homogenous Jewish state they desired.

Those at the UN who drafted the Partition Plan knew that it was only a paper solution. A Jewish state in any meaningful sense of the term could not be established in an area where Jews were barely 50 per cent of the population. In other words, ethnic cleansing was necessary.

Dr Steve Cox, York


As someone who 50 years ago worked as a volunteer in an Israeli kibbutz, it pains me to condemn Israel now for its grotesquely disproportionate response to the Hamas rocket attacks. Why, though, are western governments not as outraged by the current abuses in Gaza as the Secretary General of the United Nations?

We know that US politicians’ careers would be at risk from the Zionist lobby were they to advocate sanctions against Israel, and no doubt in the UK it is also felt that criticism of Israel might be associated with antisemitism, with disastrous political fall-out.

Surely there must come a point, however, when purely domestic political considerations are outweighed by the need to speak truth to power, and sanction a country, even an erstwhile ally, whose policies are so inimical to those we claim to espouse?

Christopher Martin, Bristol


Every day we hear about the troubles in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine. What I never hear anything about is the achievements of Tony Blair in his role as Middle East envoy

Sarah Pegg, Seaford, East Sussex


Great video, but what about the singing?

Intrigued by Paul Lester’s article “Move over, Rihanna: we’re about the music” (19 July) I checked out random examples of the first three artists mentioned.

One FKA twigs video had typical standard industry choreography of attractive dancers and immensely over-processed, auto-tuned singing.

If most recordings of this alleged “new generation of female R&B singers” are stripped bare of the barrage of artificial additives –  sound effects, echo, digital processing – there is very little substance left to remember.

To pass any test of time, as singers such as Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse have demonstrated, a great voice is the essential ingredient. Everything else is secondary.

Without an instantly recognisable superior vocal quality, all the industry can do is package an act’s products with gimmicks ranging from sex goddess to modest innocence icon, in the hope of capturing a temporary following in a chosen target audience.

Rol Grimm, London NW6


Patients who slip through the NHS net

Stan Brock’s mission to provide healthcare to some of the estimated 44 million Americans living without it is admirable, but let’s not forget that in the UK there’s also a large number of people going without even basic medical care (report, 14 July).

Ninety per cent of patients at the clinic we run for excluded people in east London have not had access to a doctor despite living here for many years. Extremely vulnerable people, such as undocumented migrants and trafficked and destitute people, are routinely denied healthcare in the UK or are simply too afraid to access it, including heavily pregnant women.

And with the Government tightening up its healthcare checks and charges we expect to see many, many more desperate people come through our doors.

Nick Harvey, Doctors of the World UK, London E14


Assisted dying and ‘doctors who kill’

George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, while saying he has changed his mind on assisted dying, does not mention the Hippocratic Oath, let alone its relevance to changes in the law.

Once the names of doctors who have issued patients with lethal drugs reach the public domain (advertised? leaked? rumoured?) confidence will erode, patients with multiple disabilities like me will run for cover under palliative care, “doctors who kill” will terminate their careers, and the NHS will wither.

The Rev Richard James, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Orthodox liturgy  at Canterbury

Your notice of the death of Metropolitan Volodymyr (7 July) failed to mention that in the early 1980s he was a member of the International Dialogue with the Anglicans. In 1982 he celebrated the Orthodox Divine Liturgy at the high altar in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Head Verger took the precaution of placing a large Bible on St Augustine’s Chair to ensure that no one but the Archbishop of Canterbury might sit there.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, London N7


Don’t forget to set the bar higher

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, is quoted as asking local authorities: “Are you stepping up to the plate or have you thrown in the towel?”

Would he like schools to teach such mixed-metaphor madness to pupils? Can’t they just concentrate on leaving no stone unturned and punching above their weight?

Gyles Cooper, London N10


Reborn as a  better person?

If Kartar Uppal is right that humans are being continually reborn (letter, 19 July), wouldn’t you think there would be an improvement in human behaviour over the millennia, as more of us progress along the road to nirvana?

Carol Wilcox, Christchurch, Dorset


PA Archive

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 22 2014

Was Britain’s hasty withdrawal from its colonies a cause of conflicts today?

Sir, The rise of Al-Shabaab in Somalia after the UK and US-backed ousting of the Islamic Courts Union shows that Ed Husain is wrong to assume that supporting US military actions in foreign countries is the best way to guarantee our security (Opinion, July 19).

Haste and laziness cannot be blamed for the mess left behind by imperialists who had 300 years to “civilise” foreign societies. The building of nations and the establishment of a propitious environment for peace, justice and rule of law can only be carried out by indigenous people themselves, not imposed by outsiders.

Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Policy Centre for African Peoples

Sir, I congratulate Ed Husain on his review of trouble spots and Britain’s cowardice in facing up to its role in helping to solve political and socio-economic problems in Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine. He states that we disbanded our empire hurriedly, leaving badly drawn boundaries, without adequate planning or vision for potential future conflicts. However, in praising US world leadership in current conflicts, he fails to mention that it was the US which insisted on Britain disbanding its empire as quickly as possible. At that time empire was anathema to a
modern republic born out of revolution — notwithstanding that US economic globalisation policy amounts to much the same dependence by many countries on a superpower.

At the end of the Second World War the UK’s economy was in ruins, and we were badly in need of US support. It was made clear to us that the condition for this was immediate disbandment of the British Empire. Our survival and recovery at that time depended on doing as we were told.

Dr Patrick Magee


Sir, Ed Husain takes a blinkered view of Britain’s role in the world seeing it ineffective but for its links with the US. America is a good friend but we cannot rely on future administrations sharing our thinking and giving support when it is needed.

Britain’s future in foreign affairs lies in greater cooperation with France and Germany and eventually in persuading all 28 nations of the EU that one collective foreign policy is needed.

A Europe which knows its collective mind will be more effective and a better friend to the US than a subservient one.

Lawrence Fullick

Bournemouth, Dorset

Sir, The violence in Nigeria is caused by Boko Haram and its desire to browbeat, by means of threats, torture and death, all non-Muslims (and liberally minded Muslims) into its intolerant, puritanical version of Islam, not by the creation of an independent Nigeria by the British over half a century ago.

As for Ed Husain’s suggestion that if the UK abandons “its place at the table [of active involvement in international politics] we will be in American eyes an Italy or a Spain or an Austria, a has-been.”

What’s wrong with that? Seems eminently enviable to me. Ed Husain states that if we move away from the US we will “diminish to a third-rate power almost overnight”. I thought we were there already; and, if our standing is so dependent on the US, it’s better not to stand at all.

Father Julian G Shurgold

Sutton, Surrey

The shooting down on the Malaysian airliner may have been a mistake but why were such weapons in militia hands?

Sir, I sense that the Western media might be jumping to conclusions and allowing these to distort its coverage of the downing of MH17.

I am sure that nobody intended to shoot down a large civilian airliner full of innocent people from countries nowhere near the “war” zone. It is clear that the incident was a tragic accident or mistake — and we must not forget that the US made a similar mistake in the past.

However, I do wonder how the ignorant militias fighting in eastern Ukraine seem to have at their disposal the sophisticated weaponry capable of bringing down a flight such as MH17. That is the issue, and we should resolve this before insulting President Putin so roundly. Of course Putin does have form, but he must not be regarded as guilty until he is proven to be so. Accordingly, independent, international experts must be allowed immediate access to the crash site to gather substantive evidence and so begin to establish the real facts.

Captain Tim Hosker, RN (ret’d)

Rugby, Warks

Sir, The downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine is an atrocity. President Obama needs international support to enforce a lasting ceasefire and a permanent political solution to the political crisis in Ukraine. A civil war that runs so far out of control as to kill 300 individuals from neutral countries is a war atrocity beyond the moral compass of the entire watching world. Lawyers for bereaved families should be moving at the fastest pace to seek both legal and financial redress with the expectation of receiving several million pounds per individual killed. To achieve less than all this would be to allow one of the worst examples of collateral war damage to pass without appropriate redress.

Elizabeth Oakley

Dursley, Glos

Such schemes may not be ideal but the alternative is traffic-choked city centres

Sir, Professor Parkhurst’s research into the “green credentials” of park-and-ride sites misses the point (“Park-and-ride is not so green as shoppers drive the extra miles”, July 19).

Cambridge, like many cities that have successfully introduced park-and-ride, does not have the space in the town centre for the 5,000 parking spaces provided at the five park-and-ride sites at its edge. Without park-and-ride the city would have been strangled economically, with shops and businesses forced to go elsewhere — potentially into what is green belt land outside the city.

By concentrating shopping in one centre we reduced the prospect of people travelling far further to out of town shopping centres, where there is often no reasonable public transport with a resultant negative impact on the environment.

The Guided Busway, which Professor Parkhurst praises and which I pioneered, takes the concept of park-and-ride a stage farther, by intercepting passengers at an earlier point in their journey to Cambridge, taking yet more cars off the road.

Shona Johnstone

Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Cambridgeshire county council (1998-2005)

Building executive mansions is no help to young people who can afford only flats and studio apartments

Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Thunderer, July 21) calls for the building of 250,000 houses a year but neglects to address the type of housing which should be built. In rural west Oxforshire we are threatened with some 20,000 new houses. However, most housing being built in this area boasts “4/5 bedroom, 3x bathroom detached luxury houses coming soon”.

How will this help young people get onto the housing ladder? Where are the blocks of studio apartments, one and two-bedroom flats, semi-detached houses? Why are shop owners not encouraged to let the space above their premises; why not insist that empty houses are inhabited, not held as investments?

Many things could and should be done before a vast building fest which benefits only the developers.

Sarah Coe

Faringdon, Oxon

If groundstaff brush the pitch too often they will reduce the spinners’ chances of getting some action

Sir, At the England v India Test match the ground staff have been brushing the pitch during the drinks and other breaks in play, rather than only between innings. Has the law been changed?

Wear and tear of the surface, as the match proceeds, gives the bowler assistance, of which they get so little now that pitches are covered and protected from the weather. Spin bowlers, of whom there are so few, relish a bit of dust.

Brian O’Gorman

Chichester , W Sussex


Iraq’s national museum, among many institutions looted or set ablaze in the weeks after Saddam fell Photo: AP

6:58AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – In 1954, the international community agreed the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, following the devastating impact of the Second World War on some of Europe’s most valued heritage, including paintings by Van Gogh and Caravaggio; the St Petersburg amber room; and architecture such as St Mary’s Church, Lübeck, and the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino.

After the looting in 2003 of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq, Britain announced its intention to ratify the convention. A decade later, we have yet to honour this commitment.

Britain is the most significant worldwide military power not to have ratified the convention, the United States having done so in 2009.

In 2008 a draft Cultural Property Protection (Armed Conflict) Bill passed through parliamentary scrutiny with only minor revisions suggested. Ministers of successive governments have pledged their commitment to ratification as soon as parliamentary time can be found.

This commitment is to be applauded, but continuing failure to ratify is mystifying. It has all-party support. Protecting cultural property in conflict is seen by the Armed Forces as a “force multiplier” – something that makes their job easier.

The latest Queen’s Speech left ample parliamentary time free to pass additional legislation in the current session. So the Government should delay no further in introducing the necessary legislation to ratify this important treaty.

Earl of Clancarty
London SW1

Professor Peter Stone
Secretary General of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield; Head of the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

Sir Laurie Magnus
Chairman English Heritage

Sir Simon Jenkins
Chairman National Trust

Lucy Worsley
Chief curator Historic Royal Palaces

Michael Palin

David Anderson
President, Museums Association; Director General, National Museums Wales

Dan Snow
President, Council for British Archaeology

Amanda Foreman

Dame Rosemary Cramp
Professor Emeritus, Durham University

Sir Adam Roberts
Senior Research Fellow in International Relations, Oxford University

Dame Fiona Reynolds
Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
Chairman, all-party parliamentary archaeology group

Lady Antonia Fraser

Sir Barry Cunliffe

And another thing: the usual tavern types as depicted by Ferdinand van Kessel (1648-96)  Photo:

6:59AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – Some people have been saying whom they don’t want in pubs – noisy children, for example, or karaoke singers – without listing the typical customers they do want in a “real” pub.

There should be one grumpy old man in the corner moaning about modern beer and saying he wouldn’t drink such fizz, until someone offers to buy him a pint.

There’s the guy in the blazer reminiscing about the “kites” they flew in the big one, even though he’s only 46, and two old dears in the snug with a milk stout, telling each other how naughty they were as girls, both secretly in love with the man in the blazer.

Add a Scotsman, a denizen of the village for 20 years but still regarded as an outsider, even when he swears under his breath at any non-regular, or the bore who reminds everyone at every opportunity that he “knows what’s what” because he used to be… (fill in the blank, as applicable). Then there is the pedant who invariably points out the landlord’s spelling mistakes on the chalked menu board.

Ah, how we miss those people.

Martin Billingham
London SE6

The crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabovo in Ukraine Photo: AP

7:00AM BST 21 Jul 2014


SIR – With the grotesque tragedy of MH17 comes confirmation that the world is both dangerous and unpredictable. On Saturday, of all days, the Russian government announced that it was increasing its military spending from 17.5 per cent to 21 per cent of its budget by 2017.

George Osborne, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been responsible for imposing drastic reductions to the size and effectiveness of our Armed Forces. The prime responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government is the defence of the realm.

In view of the very dangerous situation in which we find ourselves, these cuts now look profoundly inappropriate.

John Nickell-Lean
Malton, North Yorkshire

SIR – The Prime Minister calls for EU harmony in respect of tightened sanctions on Russia, in view of a certain lack of effective cooperation since the destruction of flight MH17. Will the supply of French-built helicopter carriers to the Russian navy be included or excluded?

Anthony R Baines
Broom, Bedfordshire

SIR – Peter Foster poses today’s most pressing question of how to respond to the new world disorder. The Middle East is dissolving into a region-wide Sunni-Shia civil war, China daily jousts at sea with its neighbours, Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, Iraq fragments, Islamist insurgencies multiply in Africa, Libya slides to failed statehood and a Hindu nationalist PM is elected in nuclear-armed India.

Dan Hodges argues that soft power without hard power is a euphemism for no power. And, in the Business section, Jeremy Warner points out the dependency of our world-class aerospace industry on British military spending.

May I suggest what seems to be the logical deduction from all three of these analyses? Britain should be restoring its Armed Forces, not cutting them.

Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President
The Royal Naval Association
Old Portsmouth, Hampshire

SIR – Ideas and ideology drive modern conflict, not nation states or power blocs. So when Dan Hodgesdismisses soft power, he forgets that aggressive ideas and isolationist ideologies are the weapons of Britain’s main modern adversaries.

The patient work of attracting young minds around the world to our open culture and to Britain’s education and opportunities – as exemplified by the BBC World Service and the British Council – is a wise investment in our long-term national security.

Military force will always be a necessary evil. And we should be proud that Britain’s own young minds have been prepared to fight on many fronts for what Britain stands for over the past two decades. But there is no point winning the ground war if we give up the battle of ideas.

Sir Vernon Ellis
Chairman, British Council

SIR – The Prime Minister reacts with horror to the downing of MH17. But the culprits care not a jot. For years, politicians have run down our Armed Forces, replacing them with ring-fenced overseas aid and “soft power” – another term for appeasement. The bully will always adopt Lenin’s maxim: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, push.”

Captain Michael David
Osmington, Dorset

SIR – Another search for a “black box” flight recorder. Isn’t it time this was replaced by something that streams data continuously back to a central station?

Michael Keene
Winchester, Hampshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – Aidan Doyle, in his rather downbeat article “Irish language is not a part of us – it must be learned” (July 19th), is quite wrong in implying that because the Irish language is not derived from our DNA that it somehow lacks authenticity in our lives. Everything that gives us distinctiveness as a community – our sense of ourselves in the world, our understanding of history, our literature, art, music dance, games and, of course, our languages – is learned. Some of this is learned informally from our family, some is learned at school and some by osmosis through our daily involvements in social life.

What Dr Doyle’s article doesn’t acknowledge is that much progress has been made in making these learning processes more effective since the early faltering steps to establish Irish educationally in the early 1900s. Thanks to the gaelscoil movement, for example, we have now a growing number of our young citizens who are used to communicating with each other in Irish and who frequently do. Much has been achieved; there is, of course still more to do.

Finally, Dr Doyle’s sniffily pedantic dismissal of the slogan “Níos deirge, níos feirge” misses the point. It is clearly ungrammatical, but no Irish speaker will fail to understand the point it is making and its cheeky incorrectness will probably make it more memorable. – Bua is beannacht,



Bóthar Dhún an Chreagáin,


A chara, – Both Stephen Collins and Aidan Doyle have missed the point in their “analysis” on the Irish language (Opinion & Analysis, 19ú Iúil). “Preserving” the language is of little interest to those of us who live through Irish and “taking a long hard look at Article 8” (journalistic speak for watering it down it) will only widen the chasm between State policy and linguistic rights.

With the huge growth of Irish speakers (outside of Gaeltacht areas) and the introduction of the Official Languages Act since 2003 the Irish State has repeatedly stalled at the crossroads. Instead of moving backwards, let us go forward by embracing Irish speakers in our dealings with the State. Why not change our recruitment policies (when embargoes are lifted) and begin recruiting say one fluent Irish speaker out of every three at customer service grades “agus le beart de réir briathair tabharfar na cearta céanna don nGaeilgeoir is don mBéarlóir”. Rather than looking at Article 8, maybe the new Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs could take a long hard look at our recruitment policy. – Is mise,


Baile an Fheirtéaraigh,

Trá Lí,

Co Ciarraí

A Chara, – Michael Collins told Piaras Béaslaí in 1918: “If we get safely through this business, I intend to give up everything else and retire to an Irish-speaking district, and stay there until I have a complete mastery of Irish. I don’t think it will take me long.”

Those who claim to be his greatest admirers show little inclination to emulate their hero. Enda Kenny has a poor record in Gaeltacht affairs. While in opposition, he appointed Michael Ring and Frank Feighan as Gaeltacht spokepersons, neither of whom spoke Irish. He expects the unfortunate Joe Mc Hugh to master Irish after a few weeks in the Naoinain Mhóra (High Babies) of Gleann Columcille. It is not acceptable.

An Taoiseach should request Dinny Mc Ginley to continue as Aire na Gaeltachta until such time as Joe Mc Hugh convinces a nominated group of native speakers of Irish that he is able to converse normally with them and run his department with ease and competence through the medium of Irish. He can then have pride in his portfolio, and urge us as much as he likes to join him in his personal journey. – Beir beannacht,



Bothar Bhinn Eadair,

Baile Atha Cliath 5

Sir, – No one is seriously suggesting that the Minister of Health should be a doctor, the Minister for Agriculture a vet and so forth (Brendan O’Donnell, July 19th). Advanced oral and literacy skills, however, are without question a necessary minimum requirement for all government Ministers.

The Minister charged with Gaeltacht Affairs is in charge of a bilingual portfolio and should therefore be highly competent in both Irish and English. Fluency in conversational Irish will be of limited benefit to one charged with drafting, reading and reviewing complex language-policy documents. To expect any individual to acquaint himself with a new ministerial portfolio and to simultaneously acquire advanced reading, writing and oral language proficiency skills, is not only unrealistic but also grossly unfair on the individual concerned.

Those who have been most critical of this ministerial appointment on linguistic grounds are those most keenly aware of the mammoth linguistic task being asked of the new junior Minister. They are not, as Leo Roche suggests (July 19th), “a minority group” happily oblivious to the difficulties faced by language-learners. – Yours, etc,


Palmyra Park,

Galway City

Sir, – The furore about the appointment of a Minister for the Gaeltacht who is not fluent in Irish is entirely consistent with the inability of Oireachtas members to conduct all business in our first official language. It reflects the reality of the way business is conducted in both the Seanad and Dáil, with translators permanently on hand in case a cúpla focal are used (another great example of our hypocrisy) .

Fluency in spoken and written Irish is not a requirement for our Oireachtas, yet it is imposed by that very body for public service appointments. On the bright side , I expect that the Minister(s) will have an allowance to cover the cost of the courses and the course providers will get some business. I wonder how much money is paid by us to fund Irish language courses for those in all public, State or semi-State jobs? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork

Sir, – Perhaps part of the reason that John Redmond does not occupy the same public space as figures like O’Connell and Parnell (“Redmond’s role in story of State should be recognised”, July 21st) is because people have a sense that he actually had a chance to listen to and try to address the genuine concerns unionists had about home rule – how it would affect their businesses, their access to UK markets and their religious freedoms.

It can be argued that his failure to take that chance sowed the seeds for partition and a century of sectarian violence, the consequences of which we still face today, when we tiptoe around certain Sinn Féin figures afraid to call them out on their past in case they revert to that past – which they deny having.

With hindsight, we can now see that all of the Unionist fears for what Home Rule would mean in reality, and worse, were proven to be correct. When we did finally achieve independence, we promptly handed control of the new state’s decision-making processes to the Catholic Church and replaced what was meant to be a democracy with a particularly vicious form of Catholic theocracy.

If Redmond had made more effort, then perhaps the island could have had the best of both traditions in one state instead of the worst of both traditions in two states. Of course it is ironic that the use of the term Redmondite, usually levelled at Fine Gael in particular, but also at anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of 1916, is meant as a more refined insult than the more blunt “West Brit”, when in fact Redmond proved himself to have been even more weak-kneed towards the Catholic Church than even John A Costello, the personification of a Free Stater. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – There is much truth in Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond. The Irish Parliamentary Party occupies an unfortunate position historically, having been so comprehensively defeated in the 1918 election. It is worth bearing in mind, however, one of the reasons for that comprehensive defeat. The party had been a vocal supporter of a deeply unpopular and highly bloody European conflict, a conflict that had just killed more Irish people than all of the political strife this island was to endure in the 20th century would kill. And at the end of it all it seemed like there was not much to show for it.

The Ulster Unionists had just made a similar sacrifice, for opposite reasons. So by all means let the work of Redmond and the IPP be recognised and indeed honoured in this State. But it should be remembered that the war effort was a logical outcome of the home rule policy. Redmond’s great act of conciliation cost many Irish lives. The IPP’s strong support for recruitment was to influence many who joined up after August 1914. The cost of Redmond’s policy is something his professed admirers do not seem to want to acknowledge. – Yours, etc,


Millmount Grove,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Breda O’Brien expresses concern that internet sites like Tumblr and Spiked, where young people may express any ideas they wish but where a few opinion leaders set the tone, “may be socialising young people into near-absolute conformity when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening” (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th).

Has not Ms O’Brien just described what religion has been doing in this country for centuries? The Catholic Church has been trying to socialise young people into near-absolute conformity with religious doctrines, particularly on sexual matters, when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening.

This effort at programming begins in primary schools and has always been led by “a few opinion leaders” – clergy, nuns, bishops and popes, who “set the tone” by endeavouring to instil in students an “informed conscience”, that is a conscience which is not their own.

Ms O’Brien fears that internet free speech is leading many younger people into attemptingto close down all kinds of “respectful debate”.

But what is “respectful debate”? Much of what the Catholic Church teaches is not “respectful” of women, or of gay people. The debate this organisation engages in poses as being respectful, but it is essentially abusive. One cannot engage in respectful debate when respect for the full equality of the other is lacking. An abuser is not in a position to demand respect.

At least these internet sites which Ms O’Brien fears do not set themselves up as morally infallible, nor do they impose silence on those who disagree with them.

And therefore young people have a better chance of personal growth and of developing a conscience which has not been interfered with by an all-knowing hierarchy. Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,


A chara, – Miriam Lord (July 18th) and Stephen Collins (July 19th) miss the point about the Dáil standing in solidarity with citizens in the Middle East and Gaza. Or, I suspect, they ignore the point.

They focus on Sinn Féin’s and my role in this in a disparaging way. Ms Lord zeroes in on Mary Lou McDonald, while Mr Collins accuses Sinn Féin of “bullying” other TDs.

I like to believe that the TDs who stood are glad that they did. Is it not a positive that the Dáil stood united, even for a minute, for once, for something that represents the feeling of a huge number of Irish people – that is peace in the Middle East? Our Government should be doing more about this. Maybe your correspondents could focus on that.

The citizens of Gaza may hear of the Irish parliament extending solidarity to them. That also would be a good thing. Of course that news was not broadcast on RTÉ television. I wonder why not. Perhaps the tenor of Ms Lord’s and Mr Collins’s commentary contains the answer to that. – Le meas,


Leinster House,

Dublin 2

Sir, – At last an Irish Times journalist has used the word “ruthless” when writing on the issue of Gaza (Inside Politics, July 19th). It is all the more disappointing then that Stephen Collins was referring to Sinn Féin’s call to the Dáil to stand with the people of Gaza, rather than the actions of the Israeli military. Could your esteemed political correspondent possibly be missing the bigger picture? – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick

Sir, – Responsibility for the downed Malaysian airliner is quite clear. It lies with those who organised and supported the illegal coup in Ukraine. This group of course includes the United States and the European Union.

Before this coup, Ukraine was a peaceful country with a democratically elected government. There was no danger in its air corridors. The post-coup election was obviously not free and fair. How can one have a free and fair election in a country where there is a civil war?

The current government, supported by the West, has chosen the path of all-out war against its own people in the east of the country. In war zones, sadly such tragedies happen.

The foreign ministers of the EU might reflect on how they have taken the wrong option at every stage of this crisis. They might also ask themselves if it is in the interest of Europe to follow United States foreign policy so slavishly. – Yours, etc,


Grange Court,


Sir, – Having just returned from Bavaria, where they have got things right in that there is virtually no rural housing to be found outside villages and towns, Diarmuid Ó Grada’s article, “Problems of rural Ireland require immediate action” ( July 11th) reminded me of the depressing situation here.

Dr Ó Grada’s succinct summary of the win/win situation that would come from locating people in villages and towns requires little elaboration. But in addition to the ways forward outlined by him might I suggest that other steps that need to be taken could include the removal of the powers of councillors to rezone land, the implementation of the Kenny report to make land available on the outskirts of villages and towns and a reappraisal of the rural transport scheme, which has the unfortunate effect of perpetuating rural isolation?

I don’t believe any real effort has been made to engage with prospective homeowners to put to them the many advantages of village living. One-off rural housing “policy” is developer/farmer driven. Its all about selling sites at inflated prices. There has to be a better way. – Yours, etc,


Butterfield Drive,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Una Mullally’s article (Opinion & Analysis, July 21st) on the Seanad’s “image problem” is typical of the dishonest discourse that was rife in the debate during the referendum on its abolition.

To state that the “weird limbo” in which the Seanad now exists can be dealt with by “the public having a proper hand in the election of its members”, as Una Mullally does, is to be out of touch with reality.

“Reforming” the Seanad, by having it directly elected and giving it more power, is just creating another Dáil. We already have one of those.

The Seanad is not just a “weird limbo”. It is an expensive, powerless, talking shop for the insider elite. It is not needed. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Sir, – It is a strange, nay, an absurd world. On July 17th, William Reville (“Smoking ban proposal by British body unwise”) informed us that 7,000 people die annually from smoking-related diseases in Ireland. He also pointed out that our health services will spend €23 billion over the next decade on tobacco-related diseases.

Now it is reported (“Tobacco giants may sue on plain packaging”, Business & Innovation, July 21st) that “Ireland could have to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to tobacco giants if plain packaging is introduced”. – Yours, etc,


Linden Place,

Grove Avenue,


Sir, – Why does Lucy Kellaway (“Why are we more vocal about loo rolls than our jobs?”, July 21st) think that being treated “like factory workers” by management is a negative?

As a student I worked on the factory floor, where managers treated me with respect, dignity and concern for my welfare – which was far from my experience as a hospital doctor.– Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Irish Independent:

* After spending hours over a number of days in front of a computer, I finally got a pair of tickets for the final night of the Garth Brooks’s Croke Park concerts. We, the desperately seeking ticket people, were the ones who initially set in train the demand for a minimum of five concerts.

I and thousands of people like me have given a lifetime of service to the GAA and other organisations that rely heavily on voluntary endeavour.

Without us there would be no Croke Park or GAA. Some of us have been attending games and other events in Croke Park long before some residents lived there. Over the years, we have spent money inside and outside the stadium. We have patronised shops, hostelries, pubs, eating houses and street traders.

We have paid for our parking and brought great life and vibrancy to the area during the playing season. When it came to the Brooks concerts no one even considered consulting us. All we got was a type of glib remark such as: “I feel sorry for all the people who bought tickets.”

And then there were the condescending remarks from some in the media as though we were some type of country & western simpletons.

We have been either ignored or treated with contempt, if not disdain, and not allowed to play in our play area.

I don’t remember any vociferous complaints, or money being lodged in a person’s account to take out a High Court injunction, with respect to the intensification in the use of Croke Park when permission was given for its use to play rugby and soccer matches when the then Lansdowne Road stadium was being developed.

And as far as I know, Croke Park did not specifically have planning permission to host rugby and soccer games.

No condescending or patronising remarks with respect to rugby or soccer supporters from commentators.

Only reverse snobbery as though rugby supporters would have to endure a part of Dublin that would not be their normal play and socialising ground.




* The exclusion of women from serious ministry in the Catholic Church is mirrored in the way the Government shows shameless bias in favour of men in the selection of TDs for significant posts.

One can only hope that the Taoiseach will shy away from the cynical approach of David Cameron in promoting women in order to enhance his election prospects.

Women do not exist to fulfil the purposes of men. One of the central principles of our moral lives is that of respect for persons.

This implies we live in relationship with others whose purposes and perception we take into our view.

The role of women has sometimes been reduced to that of incubators for the offspring of men; whilst men lived free and easy lives, women were condemned to relentless domesticity.

When women are promoted within government, there is more comment in the media about what they wear than about what they think.

I was privileged to attend a service recently, presided over by a female bishop from America. She preached an outstanding sermon. Sadly, the main comment after the service was about the hat she was wearing. Some found the mitre rather odd sitting on a woman’s head, as if God designed the mitre with men in mind.

If we discriminate against the inclusion of women in the church other than in relation to roles where they are subservient to men, the least we can expect are relevant reasons for doing so. The silliest reasons given include: ‘Jesus was a man’; ‘Women are not leaders by nature’; ‘Jesus chose men to lead his ministry’.

The history of the church has not been a vast preparation for the way things are.

No account of the way things are can ground a judgment about how they ought to be. It is not our common humanity, but some taken-for-granted inherited ordinance, that grounds the inequitable treatment of women in the church.




* It has been suggested that we do away with the Angelus on RTE on the grounds that ‘this is not a Catholic country’. There are at least four good reasons to disagree.

In the most recent Census over 80pc of respondents – given the choice of putting ‘no religion’ – instead put ‘Catholic’.

That figure takes into account both Ireland’s multicultural makeup and immigration over the past decade.

In any normal, healthy democracy, acknowledgement is given to the wishes of the majority. The Angelus lasts about one minute – or 0.00069pc of a 24-hour day.

An insistence that over 80pc of the population in a democracy ought not to be allowed even 0.00069pc of the nation’s daily broadcasting output – and which they support with their licence fee – ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the motivation and logical capabilities of those making such demands.

The Angelus in its current form has been drained of almost all religious content to the point where it is more of a secular ‘pause for reflection’ than a call to prayer. That even this short, watered-down ‘pause for reflection’ still manages to offend the strident secularist ought to raise eyebrows in alarm at the kind of intolerant society such people wish to create.

Insofar as it still has any religious overtones, the Angelus serves a clear, meaningful function – a call to prayer: to reflect on our relationship with God and our ultimate purpose here.

A secular call to ‘pause for reflection’ on the contrary, would be an empty shell. A pause to ‘reflect’ on what? The worst outcome would be that RTE give in to a minority of ill-thought-out calls to banish something that a majority would like to keep; and which represents a more tolerant and pluralistic society, contrary to claims of so-called secularists.




* With the cabinet reshuffle done, the Government can reset itself by focusing on the radical reform of what it called “an outdated system of administration”.

An easy win would be to “publish who does what and to whom they are answerable” as recommended by the Independent Panel on the Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance.

This would not need new legislation, as the 1997 Freedom of Information Act already provides a good basis for immediate action on this.

This act already makes it mandatory to publish certain information about public bodies.

Such information includes “the names and designations of the members of staff of that body responsible” for carrying out the arrangements needed to implement Freedom of Information.

These arrangements include the publication of information regarding rules and practices in relation to certain decisions by public bodies.

Furthermore, the 1997 act also specifies the publication of a “general description of its structure and organisation, functions, powers and duties, any services it provides for the public and the procedures it provides for the public”.

Last year, the Government proposed to drop these measures in the new Freedom of Information Bill.

It remains to be seen how serious the reshaped Government is about resetting its commitment to serious reform.



Irish Independent


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