25 July 2014 Hair

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

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Capt Hedley Kett – obituary

Capt Hedley Kett was a submariner who took on enemy U-boats, helped to relieve Malta and was awarded two DSCs

Captain Hedley Kett in his role as ADC to the Queen

Captain Hedley Kett in his role as ADC to the Queen

6:18PM BST 24 Jul 2014


Capt Hedley Kett, who has died aged 100, was a successful wartime submarine commander and, post-war, piloted ships in the North Sea and on the Thames.

In 1929 Kett went to sea as a deck apprentice with the Bolton Steamship Co. He entered the Royal Fleet Auxiliary when the Glover Bros tanker he was serving in, Romney, was chartered by the Admiralty during the Spanish Civil War. By 1936 he had obtained his First Mate’s certificate and he joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1938. When war broke out he was a second officer of the 12,000-ton fleet auxiliary Arndale, and when she called at Colombo to have defensive guns fitted he became her gunnery officer.

Captain Hedley Kett standing proud on Ultimatum

By November 1939 Kett was at home, preparing for his Master’s Certificate, when he was called up; it would be seven years before he sat the examination. He volunteered at once for the submarine service, and his first appointment was as navigator of Oberon. Nine months later he joined Clyde, first as navigator, then as first lieutenant. Clyde was one of the Navy’s largest submarines, with a 57-man crew, and the air was often so stale that off-watch crew were ordered to their bunks at 4pm to conserve oxygen. There was no water for showers or washing, but the food was better than in surface ships. Tinned, oily fish was a regular feature of the diet, to compensate for the lack of sunshine and vitamin D.

On September 21 1941 Clyde was diverted from Atlantic escort duties to Tarrafal Bay, Cape Verde Islands, to investigate a report that German submarines were meeting to transfer fuel, torpedoes and crew. Clyde entered the bay on the surface at midnight, immediately saw the U-boat U-68, and fired six torpedoes which missed and exploded on the beach. Clyde dived to reload, hitting U-111, which happened to be underneath. Surfacing an hour later, they saw a third U-boat, U-67, which Kett, as officer of the watch, tried to ram, calling out: “Hard a-starboard, full ahead together, captain on the bridge”.

Karl Dönitz, the German U-boat admiral, realised that Clyde’s arrival in Tarrafal Bay at the same time as three German submarines was unlikely to be a coincidence, but was reassured that German codes could not be cracked; only long after the war did he learn about the British success in reading his signals. Many years later, too, in Hamburg, Kett met an Elbe pilot who had been a German submariner in Tarrafal Bay. As they swapped stories, Kett learned that U-111 had been so badly damaged that it could not dive and had been sunk by the armed trawler Lady Shirley a few days later; while U-67 had been so badly damaged that it had had to abort its patrol and return to France.

Next, Clyde was diverted for the so-called “Magic Carpet” run, ferrying aviation fuel, ammunition and food from Gibraltar to the besieged island of Malta, where Kett acquired the nickname “Tanker”. The aviation fuel was carried in the submarine’s tanks, but several tons of stores had to be stuffed into every nook and cranny while Kett tried to keep track of its eventual underwater trim. When an Army officer handed him a crate of lipsticks, Kett told him to take them back — but once he was persuaded that they were good for morale on the island, he relented. Having reached Malta, Clyde lay on the bottom of the harbour by day, and by night Kett worked frantically to unload the precious cargo.

After his fifth cargo run to Malta, Kett was flown home in a Wellington bomber to attend the course for submarine captains. He arrived in England on September 24 1942, married two days later, and the course started on September 27. At their diamond wedding his wife insisted that she had still not had a honeymoon.

Kett was awarded a DSC for his bravery and skill in successful submarine patrols.

Captain Hedley Kett (standing, eighth from right) with the crew of Ultimatum

His first command was P-555, which acted as a “clockwork mouse” (dummy target) off Tobermory for surface ships practising their anti-submarine tactics.

Then, in January 1943, he was given command of the U-class submarine P-34. When Winston Churchill decreed that submarines should have names, Kett chose Ultimatum. He remained in the boat for two years during which Ultimatum carried out a work-up patrol north of Iceland and 12 patrols in the Mediterranean.

On October 30 1943 Kett attacked a German U-boat on the surface off Toulon, and for many years he was credited with sinking U-431: in the late 1980s, however, this was reassessed as an attack on another U-boat which escaped undamaged. Nevertheless, Kett was awarded a bar to his DSC for outstanding service in anti-submarine operations.

On his last patrol in the Mediterranean, Kett conducted a survey of the shallow waters off the southern French coast, using his forward-looking short range Asdic (sonar) to locate enemy mines. Each mine was plotted, and no Allied ships were lost to mines during Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in southern France in August 1944.

By the end of the war, one in three British submariners had lost their lives, and of 18 officers on Kett’s submarine captains’ course, only two survived the war, the other being Admiral Sir John Roxburgh.

William Hedley Kett was born at Ponders End in the Lea Valley on July 28 1913, a descendant of Robert Kett, leader of the rebellion in Norfolk in 1549 against the enclosure of common lands. He was brought up and educated in Blackheath.

Kett was demobilised in 1946, when he received his licence as a London and North Sea pilot. He continued to be an active member of the RNR, commanding the submarine Springer during his annual fortnight’s training in 1950.

In 1966 he was appointed ADC to the Queen . In 1971 he was sworn in as one of the Younger Brethren of Trinity House. In retirement he took up painting landscapes and seascapes .

Hedley Kett married, in 1942, Doris May Mitchell. She died in 2006, and he is survived by their two daughters.

Capt Hedley Kett, born July 28 1913, died June 29 2014


It is no surprise to Unison that two-thirds of fresh chicken in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter (Poultry industry’s dirty secret, 24 July). Back in 1994, privatisation allowed poultry meat producers to do away with independent, government-employed, poultry meat inspectors. Instead, the industry was allowed to employ its own poultry inspection assistants (PIAs). In the smaller plants, the PIA is often the plant owner. Talk about giving the fox the key to the hen house.

Meat inspection is a highly skilled job that has been hopelessly undervalued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for too long. There is no national standard or qualification for PIAs so many staff are poorly trained – through no fault of their own. Companies are under market pressure to produce a cheaper product for ever more demanding supermarkets. This in turn puts pressure on slaughterhouse staff not to reject unfit birds.

Added to this, there is a high staff turnover and high rates of sickness absence. Major plants are consistently understaffed and use agencies to fill the gaps – leading to a lack of trained staff working in these plants and additional problems of poor hygiene. Only when a qualified and independent meat hygiene inspector is present is the job done properly. Sadly this is getting much harder. Recently, under the instruction of the government, the FSA lobbied to overturn a decision by the European parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee to reject visual-only inspection of pigs, for example. The result is that since 1 June this year, our members are no longer allowed to physically inspect every pig slaughtered. So, it is chicken in the news today, but it could be pigs tomorrow.

Protection of the human food chain must be the first and most important duty of the FSA. Meat inspectors, official veterinarians and the people who support them defend the consumer each and every day. These roles should not be privatised or weakened. The people who carry out these vital roles feel that both the FSA and the government have abandoned them and put the public at risk, simply to increase the profits in the meat industry. As their union, we cannot silently stand by and let this happen. This week we are balloting our members for industrial action. They don’t want to strike – they want to do their jobs protecting the public – but they are at their wit’s end.We hope that the FSA will begin to negotiate and recognise our members for the important job they do.
Dave Prentis
General secretary, Unison

• There are no “strict industry hygiene standards” capable of protecting the public from campylobacter – this bug has plagued the chicken industry for half a century. For as long as governments encourage systems guaranteed to foster stress and gross overcrowding in poultry, the problems of widespread contamination will continue unabated. An average broiler chicken farm houses 50,000 birds per shed living on a build-up of faeces. As the birds, genetically selected for obesity, grow, so does the congestion. The fear and pain they suffer during catching, transport and the hanging-on process are notorious, and inevitable. The obvious solution? A consumer boycott of all chicken products. Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency needs to get down to fulfilling its purpose, which is to protect the public, not the poultry industry.
Clare Druce
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• Profitable business trumps the nation’s health. And the agency meant to police the producer votes against doing so, not surprising since, as you point out, its board was mainly appointed by Jeremy Hunt. This is bad enough, but just imagine when the business, if it is transnational, can sue our government for interfering with its profitability should our government and its agencies act to put our health before the business’s wealth. That is our future if the EU-US transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) currently being stitched up by the EU and the US (and supported not just by the Tories but also, it appears, by Labour) is agreed.

Given the frightening significance of this, I am baffled by the lack of media coverage. George Monbiot alerted us to it late last year (Comment, 5 November 2013) but since then, nothing. The plotting is highly secretive but not totally out of reach. War on Want publishes a useful booklet on the subject and there are, among other websites,, which includes all the latest news, and
John Airs

• Congratulations to the Guardian for exposing the gross hygiene breaches inside farms and slaughterhouses that can lead to campylobacter infections in people. It is most timely, as today Animal Aid is launching a new campaign initiative with the aim of making CCTV mandatory in all UK slaughterhouses, and independent monitoring of the footage. Clearly, CCTV won’t pick up every hygiene breach but it would record cases – such as you exposed – where carcasses land on the floor and are then put back on the line. Even better, it should deter such acts. It should also deter the kinds of gross abuse of animals that Animal Aid filmed – and the Guardian revealed – inside eight out of nine randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses filmed.

Those interested in supporting the campaign for mandatory CCTV can find out more, and sign the No 10 petition, at
Kate Fowler
Head of campaigns, Animal Aid

• Your piece (Eating less meat is a better way to cut CO2 than giving up cars, expert says, 22 July) is about US and global research, and presumably refers to the “feedlot” system of producing beef. Most UK beef and lamb is grass-fed, on land where it is uneconomic to grow other food crops, but this would change if food prices rose. If we stopped eating beef and lamb now, many farms would be abandoned and the natural vegetation would rot down, producing greenhouse gases with no useful product. Supplements are fed at critical periods of infancy, late pregnancy, and sometimes final fattening. These supplements consist of byproducts from the human food chain, such as brewers’ grains or oilseed cake, or they are weather affected crops that have been rejected from their intended use. By recycling these products, beef and lamb producers are increasing the efficiency of the human food chain.

Further evidence of the US focus of this research is given by the suggestion that we should reduce consumption of red meat to 100g a day. That was the weekly ration shortly before I was born, and seems quite generous now. This is put into its proper context by the statement that (in spite of the fact that 100% of the population eat), agriculture “causes 15% of all emissions”. Perhaps we ought to worry more about reducing emissions from industries that produce 85% of emissions. With British food you get lower emissions and higher welfare.
Huw Jones
St Clears, Carmarthenshire

We would like to respond to the deeply unhelpful comment that “senior Lib Dems fear the party could suffer at the election because of the suspension of Lord Rennard” (Report, 22 July). While it is true that Chris Rennard was a talented campaigns chief to whom many “senior Lib Dems” no doubt owe their careers, he was not uniquely so, nor flawlessly. Our letter published in this paper in January (18 January) said: “We note with deep regret the failure of senior members of the parliamentary party to denounce in the strongest possible terms Lord Rennard’s behaviour.”

Since that letter, Rennard has been forced to apologise – for inadvertantly intruding into the personal space of several women – but it appears that there are still those in our party who refuse to understand how damaging these episodes have been. Fundamental to the electoral success of the party in recent years was the perception that we are decent people who generally do the right thing. Agree or disagree with us, people tended to like us.

Senior party members continue to underestimate the damage to that perception of the Rennard scandal itself, the party’s reluctance to tackle it in a timely manner, and ongoing refusal to understand that abuse of power for self-gratification is wrong. It is particularly wrong for an organisation that campaigns against sexual harassment and the abuse of power. That perception among activists or indeed voters will not be restored by campaign wizardry or ignoring the problem, but by dealing with it. .
Katherine Bavage, Grace Goodlad, Chris White, James King, Callum Leslie
Rock The Boat (@LDRockTheBoat)

• David Ruffley’s apology for assaulting his ex-partner is too little too late (Report, 24 July). Someone who perpetrates domestic violence has no right then to say he does not condone it. That is saying “do as I say, not as I do”. He must stand down.

There is another issue here. David Ruffley has taken months to speak to his constituents and did so through a solicitor. Is that open, transparent and accountable? Then there is the matter of Mr Ruffley’s political party. Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, and Councillor Jenny Antill, chair of Suffolk Domestic Abuse Forum, have rightly spoken out. But their response feels like hollow rhetoric when locally and nationally the Conservative Association fails to take swift action on this issue.
Jane Basham
Labour parliamentary candidate, South Suffolk

• It is hard to know which is the most shocking of the many shocking elements of Isabella Acevedo’s story (G2, 24 July). The immigration minister, Mark Harper, who fails to make proper checks, and whose “punishment” is another government post five months later. Or the taking of someone away from her daughter’s wedding. Or the need for seven immigration officers to detain her. Or that a government minister and a senior civil servant both paid her less than £9 per hour, in the former case for seven years with no increase. Even here in low-wage Barnsley ordinary people pay more than that, and not “cash in hand”. If these people did not realise that Acevedo was an illegal immigrant, what did they think justified them paying someone so little?
Eileen and Michael Sanderson


Suzanne Moore is absolutely right to condemn the tweeting of images of dead children in Gaza (Sharing pictures of corpses on social media isn’t the way to bring a ceasefire , 22 July). They are an affront to the very essence of a civilised society.

If the images were to prevent war I could understand, but they won’t. Instead, they will create even more hatred and a craving for revenge, which in turn will recruit yet more bloodthirsty jihadis. The last thing we need is more voyeuristic war pornography on our social media.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

• So Suzanne Moore thinks photos of children killed or otherwise affected by war don’t help to bring about peace. As she is a journalist, I find it rather surprising that she hasn’t heard about the effect of such pictures as Nick Ut’s of a naked Vietnamese girl screaming in agony after being napalmed – a picture that, alongside a number of other such depictions of atrocities, did so much to bring about an end to the US’s misadventures in Vietnam.

Shown the truth, citizens demonstrate time and again that they are much more morally upright than their governments, or would-be governments, and public outrage does much to bring such horrors to a close.
Patrick Dodds
Welshpool, Powys

• Lord Beecham (Letters, 24 July) proclaims: “Sinn Féin was not firing rockets daily at the civilian population of the UK.” What did happen was that certain groups exploded bombs in British towns and cities, for example, targeting pubs in Birmingham – 21 killed, 182 injured – and Guildford – five killed, 65 injured. Conversely, the British government, however repressive some of its policies were towards Northern Ireland, did not blockade the area, depriving its inhabitants of food, water, fuel and power.
Gerald Kaufman
Labour, Manchester Gorton

Recent coverage of a U-turn by the business secretary, Vince Cable, on selling off the student loan book (Cable risks new coalition rift by scrapping student loans sale, 21 July) shows that the government must now urgently examine how to put funding for the higher-education sector on a sustainable footing, with a better student loan design that’s not just based on selling off the loans book.

With the imminent lifting of the cap on student numbers after 2015-16 and as universities start recruitment programmes to fill an extra 60,000 undergraduate places, University Alliance warns that we are in danger of creating an unsustainable funding system that could result in cuts to student places or underinvestment in high-quality programmes. Ensuring that these additional places are funded sustainably is crucial for students, universities and the UK: a degree is still by far the best route, especially during this difficult climate, for all young people entering the job market. It is vital we keep our eye on the bigger picture – the far-reaching contribution that graduates bring and will continue to bring to the UK economy and society.
Libby Hackett
Chief executive, University Alliance

It is surely hypocritical of the government to blame Birmingham council over the Trojan horse affair (Report, 23 July) when for more than 20 years governments have emasculated local education authorities and promoted parent power. What happened is what governments have been hoping would happen, with schools reflecting their communities and not being coerced by authoritarian LEAs. What you sow so shall you reap.As we have seen with Academy groups and free schools, the Department for Education can never micro-manage such a wide portfolio of school from the centre, it needs regional authorities (aka LEAs) which can be more hands on and directly supportive and to ensure that financial and other proprieties are properly observed.
Professor Derek Woodrow

• Lewes is not alone in being an apparently prosperous town with hidden poverty (Letters, 24 July). How shocking is it that we have four food banks where many people come to supplement their low pay with essential food for their families? If York can run a successful campaign to become a living-wage city (Society, 16 July), so could many other cities and towns like Lewes. We should not countenance paying anyone less than the living wage of £7.85.
Linda Lamont
Lewes, East Sussex

• The recent smut in the Guardian crossword to which David McAvoy refers (Letters, 24 July) tells a familiar urban story: the setters have turned to sex work to fund their drug habits. For Paul, it’s “nose candy” (16 July), and for Shed it’s “special K” (23 July). Perhaps if the Guardian paid more, then this tragic cycle of prostitution and addiction in the cryptic community could be broken.
Nick Hornby

• Why has the BBC sent all its sports team to some place called Glarzgo? My Scottish friends tell me that the Commonwealth Games are being held in Glesca City.
Colin Shone
Menai Bridge, Anglesey

• Dee O’Connell (Letters, 24 July) asks for a mention of the “black pianist, Dooley Wilson”, who was “the actual player of the piano” in Casablanca. Better a mention of Elliot Carpenter, who was the real pianist – to whose playing Dooley Wilson mimed the piano part.
Mike Ainscough
Henfield, West Sussex

• Could you not find a single female expert to comment on the latest thinking in flexible working (Report, 24 July)?
Rachel Webb
Northallerton, North Yorkshire

The most basic research by Simon Jenkins would have shown him that it is totally wrong to assert that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is “mysterious” (Tony Blair sees his millions as modest – only in the world of the super rich, 22 July). On our website and through all our external communications we make absolutely clear what we do. The foundation’s charitable mission is to provide the practical support required to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism. We are a registered charity in the UK and abide by all relevant laws and governance procedures.  

The foundation is governed by independent trustees who ensure we are meeting our charitable objectives. We publish annual reports and other materials that set out in detail how, why and where we work. Our projects include a global schools programme active in 30 countries that equips young people with the knowledge and skills to understand other religious and cultural perspectives and to resist extremist voices. We also work with Christians and Muslim volunteers in Sierra Leone on a malaria prevention programme, where two million people have been reached with potentially life saving information through household visits.
Charlotte Keenan
Chief executive, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

I read with some surprise Dr Ted Morrow’s article (Safety concerns remain over three-person IVF, 22 July). It seems that Dr Morrow believes his contribution to our expert scientific review was not sufficiently considered. Permit me to assuage his doubts. Dr Morrow was one of a number of prominent scientists consulted through a process that considered 17 separate submissions on this topic. He was a member of a round-table discussion held by the panel specifically so that his and others’ views could be discussed.

In the end the panel considered that, though Dr Morrow’s theoretical standpoint on mismatching was a valid contribution to the discussion, it had not been sufficiently established to justify a reassessment of other scientific views on the safety of mitochondrial replacement, views that differ from Dr Morrow’s concerns.

Among other things, the panel felt that the data he submitted related to inbred mice and Drosophila in a way that did not materially contribute to an understanding of a predominantly outbred human race, and also noted that data obtained in large-scale human genome projects looking for disease associations have not found any consequences due to the exchange of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups by reproduction. The panel also consulted other scientists with expertise in evolutionary biology, who, while also raising the hypothetical issue of mismatching, assessed the situation differently from Dr Morrow.

Despite all this, the final report, which is publicly available on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority website, covers Dr Morrow’s submissions and the panel’s assessment thereof at considerable length. Acknowledging concerns is one thing; accepting them is another entirely. However, the panel did conclude that consideration be given to mtDNA haplogroup matching as a precautionary step in the process of selecting donors.

The panel’s review has subsequently been considered by the Department of Health, which has decided to place the regulations before parliament, and the decision is now, rightly, in the hands of the legislature.

Let us be clear: safety is and will always be of paramount importance, and the panel is satisfied that the conclusions of the report represent a balanced view of the progress being made towards safety in this area – progress that could offer children lives free from severe and debilitating illness.
Dr Andy Greenfield
Chair of the HFEA’s expert panel on the safety and efficacy of mitochondrial replacement


I do not see why the Liberal Democrat MP David Ward needs to apologise over his remarks about firing rockets.

The Palestinians have been oppressed for decades and in Gaza are forced to exist on a tiny, narrow strip of land. Unless a breakthrough is made in Middle East negotiations, which looks unlikely, there is little hope for them. You can see why they retaliate against their oppressor.

Perhaps if more people, particularly Western leaders, showed more empathy for the Palestinians we would have long-lasting peace.

Clive Mowforth
Dursley, Gloucestershire


Using the maze of tunnels under Gaza to hide and transport weapons to densely populated sites from which to launch indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians is an evil and despicable act which has rightly been condemned as a war crime.

To respond by bombing and shelling targets in the full knowledge that this will result in sizeable civilian casualties is equally a war crime, and has now been denounced as such by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A spokesperson for the Israeli government very eloquently stated: “We [Israel] use our arms to protect our children whereas Hamas use their children to protect their arms.” That does not give Israel the right to kill those children.

Israel cannot win a war against Hamas by the use of disproportionate force against the already beleaguered citizens of Gaza. Every picture of a dead Palestinian child is a recruiting poster for the militant arm of Hamas and causes worldwide revulsion against an Israeli regime which seems to care little about its international reputation.

The only way Israel can gain from this conflict is to cease hostilities, use its effective anti-missile defence system and air-raid shelters to protect its citizens and then offer some concessions to the Palestinians. Removing the blockade of Gaza and halting developments on the West Bank might just convince the Palestinian people to silence their extremist arm and work towards a peaceful coexistence.

Malcolm Harding


When Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, says that Hamas “pile up as many civilian dead as they can” to make Israel look bad, he is speaking from a mind-set that has informed the political attitude of Israel’s leaders for many years.

Israel paints an image of itself in the media wherein the victim becomes the oppressor, and the oppressor becomes the victim forced to defend itself. Israel is portrayed as wishing only for peace. The reason, they say, for so many civilian deaths is that the Palestinians use “human shields”, forcing Israel to choose between no response and one that incurs “collateral damage”.

The responsibility for Palestinian deaths is transferred to the Palestinians themselves; Israel is seen as blameless, guilt-free, angry at having been “coerced” into mass murder. In the words of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

And thus the cycle of killing and justification becomes self-perpetuating.

Daniel Cohen

As a retired counsellor, I can liken the situation in Gaza/Israel to a combative couple. One swipes at the other ineffectively in frustration and the other batters them severely back. The batterer then tells the social services or the police that the other “made me do it”.

Blame is an ineffective solution to problems. They must sit down and talk.

Margaret Bellamy
Newmarket, Suffolk


Reform the benefits assessment now

We all know that the work capability assessment (WCA) isn’t working. If the Government acts now on the recommendations in the Work and Pensions Select Committee report (23 July), it can make an immediate, positive difference to people’s lives.

Simple changes such as introducing flexibility, so that assessors are not trying to determine how a person’s condition affects their ability to work in an often too-short 45-minute meeting, should make a huge difference to the accuracy of the assessment results. They should also reduce the amount of government money wasted on unnecessary appeals.

Another simple change involves a common-sense approach to reassessments. At the moment people are being reassessed far too quickly following a successful appeal. We have heard of many cases where people are asked to start the whole process again only a month after winning an appeal.

We believe the reassessment phase should instead begin from the date of the appeal outcome.

In the light of the news earlier this year that Atos will withdraw as the WCA provider, it is important that the Government immediately acts upon any changes that can be made to improve the process for people going through the assessments. This cannot wait until the contract is re-tendered in 2018.

Vicky McDermott
Chief Executive, Papworth Trust
Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge colossus skews degree grades

The Tompkins Table 2014 again demonstrates that disproportionate wealth results in a better academic performance.

Trinity College’s exceptional performance of nearly 43 per cent of its students obtaining a first-class degree should be compared with, say, Lucy Cavendish with its 11.1 per cent and Hughes Hall with its 12.7 per cent.

Trinity’s wealth is put at some £900m (with a reported annual income in excess of £20m), whereas Lucy Cavendish’s wealth is some £24m and Hughes Hall’s some £18m. The disparity of performance ties in with the disparity of wealth, and should be seen as a form of unacceptable elitism.

It is high time that Cambridge University grappled with this problem, which encourages an attitude that there are “good colleges” and other colleges which are also-rans. The problem is perfectly soluble without undermining the college structure, if the university were to put its mind to it.

Oxford University has a similar problem, but fortunately no colossus like Trinity College.

David Ashton
Shipbourne, Kent

Holidays in term-time

Like many others, I have been astonished and dismayed to read of the case of the very sick young man whose mother has been threatened with legal action should she take him on holiday in term-time.

I suggest she does so anyway and enjoys the public pummelling that the relevant head or local authority will get should they be stupid enough to pursue the matter.

I was a primary school head for many years, and my response, when informed that a child was going on holiday – I was rarely asked for permission – was almost always “Have a lovely time, they’re bound to learn more with you than they do with us!”

Richard Welch
Nantglyn, North Wales


Bad moment to shift ministers

What a miracle of timing on David Cameron’s part to fire his experienced Foreign Secretary and infinitely more experienced Minister without Portfolio, and move his Defence Secretary two days before the shooting down of Flight MH17! When cool heads and firm but forceful diplomatic language are required, all we get is megaphone diplomacy for the benefit of the tabloids.

Frank Donald


Just what are these British values?

Allegations of a “Trojan horse” plot by Islamic hardliners to take over the running of schools are indeed disturbing, but I am dismayed that the new Secretary of State for Education should respond by stating that teachers should be barred from the profession if they fail to protect British values.

What constitutes British values is nebulous and open to various interpretations, some of which could themselves be illiberal and unpleasant.

Far better to just outlaw any promotion of racial, religious, sexual or other intolerance and bigotry without hooking this on to an unhelpful notion of what our national values may or may not be.

Jonathan Wallace
Newcastle upon Tyne


Guess who picks up the bill

The publicly remunerated Ed Balls sacks the publicly remunerated Sharon Shoesmith. The publicly remunerated Court of Appeal directs that the publicly remunerated Haringey Council is to compensate her with … er, public remuneration.

Then I woke up. For a horrible moment there I thought that the fantasy financing of the banking crisis had returned.

Roger Harvey


Times Newspapers Ltd

Last updated at 7:32PM, July 24 2014

Why is the government riding itself of experienced lawyers?

Sir, The dismissal of the attorney- general and the solicitor-general last week — and in particular that of the attorney-general by the prime minister because he appears to have given the government unpopular advice on human rights legislation and, possibly, other matters — is a cause for concern.

I had imagined that it was the duty of the government law officers to keep the prime minister and the cabinet on the straight and narrow, so for Dominic Grieve and Oliver Heald to be sacked for doing their job seems rather unfair.

John Cobbett
Hollingbourne, Kent

Sir, I agree with everything that Kenneth Stern said in his letter about law officers (July 21). It is an insult to the legal profession, as Mr Stern stated. Had there been a lord chancellor who was a lawyer sitting in the cabinet, I believe the appointment of two junior barristers to these important offices would not have been made.

Perhaps there will be an expedited application to the queen’s counsel selection panel. If there is I am sure it will be successful. If the lord chancellor makes an application I doubt if he will be successful, not being a lawyer. Whatever the outcome, it shows the contempt the government has for our legal traditions and the Bar in particular.

Henry Green, QC
Great Canfield, Essex

Sir, Perhaps the pool of lawyers in the House of Commons is too small to select the law officers from (letter 22 July), but the government benches in the House of Lords contain a wealth of talent from the Bar who could give independent and informed legal advice: Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, Lord Faulks, QC, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC,
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, QC and Lord Marks, QC, among others.

Of course, it may be that the government no longer wants the law officers to give independent and informed legal advice. That seems to have been the mistake made by Dominic Grieve, QC, sacked as attorney-general last week.

Lord Pannick, QC
London EC4

Sir, Unless I missed something, any group whose opinions — by definition, in our adversarial process of settling disputes — must be wrong half the time are unlikely to be of much use to any government. Or citizen or corporation for that matter.

How fortunate the legal profession is to have insulated itself completely from the results of its advice, and indeed from the cleansing pressures of market forces, democracy and capitalism.

The fact that they have managed to get away with this for 500 years is no reason for them to continue to do so. It is to be hoped that our elected members will be taking advice (legal or otherwise) on how to deal with this anomaly soon.

Mike Blamey
Macclesfield, Cheshire

The search for Scotland’s most hospitable city continues. Today we reach Stirling …

Sir, I recall my first visit to friends who lived near Stirling. On arrival at around 5pm we were greeted with “It’s too early for a drink. Would you like a gin and tonic?” Needless to say, we enjoyed a dram or two later.

Nigel Bryant


The Sarkozys’ labradors chewed the furniture in the Elysee Palace – that’s what labradors do

Sir, You report that the Sarkozys’ labradors Clara and Dumbledor chewed Napoleon’s chair in the Élysée Palace (July 22) .That’s what dogs (labradors) do. I’m on labrador 5 and 6. Lab 2 chewed (like a beaver) the leg of our Habitat dining table when we lived in a furnished villa in the Middle East. Lab 4 chewed the seats of all my dining chairs — but that was a bonus, because I never liked the original fabric.

Fay Hepworth


When reporting on global warming and climate change we have to take care with temperature conversions

Sir, The annoying corporate metaphor of “boiling the ocean” suddenly becomes less of a challenge if, as you report (July 23) “the world’s oceans broke a monthly heat record at 62.7C” in June.

David A Paterson

Sawbridgeworth, Herts

As ever Matthew Parris has his pen firmly on the pulse of a nation prone to losing its specs

Sir, Matthew Parris comments on “things you lose and hunt for” (July 23) and how they “go away and come back in tides”. The thing to do is distribute them through the house. I bought, a while ago, large quantities of ballpoints, scissors, sticky tape, little torches and notebooks. Every room in the house contains a jar full of pens, scissors, tape and torches, with several notebooks in a nearby drawer. Oh, and batteries for the torches. This causes mirth from other family members; but none of these things is ever more than six feet away; and a large vein of stress remains unmined.

Vuyelwa Carlin

Craven Arms, Shropshire

The New Forest says don’t use your mobile, enjoy nature instead. That is convenient if there is no signal anyway …

Sir, I was amused to read of the New Forest National Park “tech crèche” for phones (July 23). We who live in the park are lucky to get any sort of mobile or broadband signal at all.

Lady Powell

Fritham, Hants

Sir, The New Forest hopes to encourage some of its 15 million visitors to use public transport, cycle or go on foot. I visit the New Forest every year in late autumn and can assure the park that it would have more success in these aims if any suitable public transport existed.

Apart from a short-season summer bus to tourist attractions there are hardly any open forest bus stops in the 219 square miles. The service is infrequent and often late and only rarely do trains stop at Beaulieu Road, the only station in the open forest. It is an environmental and social scandal that all but a tiny section of the forest is a forbidden zone to those without a car or bike. I shall continue to take my mobile phone with me to summon an emergency taxi when the last bus of the day is cancelled, as it often is.

Anne Bowers



SIR – Esther McVey, the employment minister, says that children should be encouraged to believe that setting up their own business is as good as going to university.

This should not be swallowed uncritically by children or teachers. Something like 98 per cent of business start-ups fail, and the great majority of the ones that work do not make their founders wealthy.

Those who have the “spark” to create their own business will do so without encouragement. What they need is a reduction in red tape and in the heavy hand of government.

Kenneth Hynes
London N7

Love and marriage

SIR – When I started my ministry in 1970, a wedding was an occasion for the hatchet to be momentarily buried and a divorced father allowed to “give away” his daughter.

But in recent years, the event has increasingly been used as yet another opportunity to strike a blow in a vengeful divorce, with the father not even invited to the ceremony.

As cleric, I cannot stop people doing vile things to each other, but I will not be a party to such actions, nor will I allow them to take place in my church.

Such bitter charades should be consigned to register offices or hostelries where there would be no chance of them being mistaken for a celebration of human love before God.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

Parking in the shade

SIR – In the hot weather, dogs and elderly relatives left in cars while the driver attends a hospital appointment or does the weekly shop can be in grave danger.

Our local hospital has just spent millions on a face-lift, but still the four-acre public parking area has not one single place where a car can be parked in the shade.

Our local Tesco has three acres of parking with very few shaded areas; our local Waitrose has no shaded parking areas at all.

Tesco has announced that it intends to build houses on land previously earmarked for new supermarkets (“Tesco turns land bank into 4,000 new homes”, Business, July 19). Some of the money would be better spent on making shaded parking areas for such customers.

M J Annett
Burstow, Surrey

NHS surgical training

SIR – The reduction in working hours forced on doctors by the European Working Time Directive has been to the detriment of surgical practice, exacerbating difficulties in acquiring our craft-based skills. However, the majority of surgeons are already working well beyond these hours to protect both their patients and their training.

The wider issue at the heart of this is the lack of priority afforded to training tomorrow’s doctors in our target-obsessed NHS culture.

Investment in surgical training today needs to be recognised as vital to the future of high-quality patient care. Health Education England must act urgently to resuscitate our international reputation in training surgeons.

Edward Fitzgerald
Vimal Gokani
Andrew Beamish

Association of Surgeons in Training
London WC2

The ideology of Hamas

SIR – Martin Mears (Letters, July 23) is correct: if Hamas were a logical organisation, it would recognise the futility of launching rockets into Israel.

However, Hamas is not interested in peace. It is only interested in winning the propaganda war, regardless of the cost to Palestinians: hence the decision to site rocket launchers in schools and hospitals.

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Mr Mears is completely right about the pointlessness of launching rockets, but fails to consider why Hamas engages in such futile activity. If he were to take into account the terrible conditions in which the people of Gaza live, he might then ask Israel to alleviate some of their suffering.

Israel needs to have more friends; Daniel Barenboim has set an example, with his Arab-Israeli orchestra, that others should follow.

Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

An ill wind

SIR – My overall reaction to the approval of the Rampion wind farm is one of disappointment.

However, if it puts people off coming to visit or live in Brighton, that will relieve our roads of increasingly stationary traffic and, I hope, reduce the Government’s daft housing targets for a town with little available land, sitting as it does between the much-prized South Downs National Park and the sea.

Stuart Derwent
Brighton, Sussex

Returning the ball

SIR – Sondra Halliday asks what she can do about wayward footballs.

There is a solution; carefully insert a very thin screwdriver into the ball through the valve. The sphere will deflate and there will be no evidence to show that the offending object has been tampered with.

Bill Hollowell
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

SIR – My retired neighbour advised me soon after our arrival with young children that all balls found in his garden would be returned on a Tuesday, if he remembered to do so. It was a system that worked well and that I was happy to comply with.

Friends have found that the planting of stinging nettles to encourage wildlife has also made “fence hopping” less likely.

Sheelagh James
Lichfield, Staffordshire

The cunning old regular who haunted every pub

SIR – John Ashworth writes of “The Major” who used to be in every pub.

In the days when pubs existed by selling drink, they always seemed to be frequented by an elderly man who sat at the end of the bar with a nearly empty glass of ale. Next to him was a gap, for the customer about to come into his web.

He normally wore a flat cap, smoked a pipe and might have a scruffy mongrel at his feet. He knew by instinct how to engage a stranger in conversation.

He always ended up by saying: “Do you know how old I am? … It’s actually my birthday.”

The stranger then felt obliged to buy him a birthday drink. Once the benefactor had left, he would down the pint and wait for the next non-local.

I often saw this in West Sussex pubs, but I’m sure that it happened everywhere.

Martin Thurston
Liphook, Hampshire

SIR – Bill Deedes (editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1986 and notional recipient of the “Dear Bill” letters) used to tell me about an inn at Winchelsea, East Sussex, where he would play shove-ha’penny with a local man called Chummy Barden.

Chummy had apparently inherited an ancient post – paid for in beer – which required him to go down to the beach every morning with a telescope and report whether or not Napoleon was coming.

“Wursh waysh of shpending a shummer evening than in the company of such a man,” I remember my grandfather murmuring.

Henry Deedes
London NW10

SIR – Stephen Woodbridge-Smith says that, with his old rotary-dial phone, he has trouble when asked in recorded messages to press numbers. But simulating button-pushing is easy, using a little device that BT used to sell, called a tone generator.

Simply put the keypad over the mouthpiece and press the appropriate keys. The audio multi-tones generated will be the same as those heard when you press buttons on a modern handset. Hey presto! The equipment at the other end jumps into life.

I used to carry the device around for use in the old rotary-dial phone boxes. I still use it when our mains power is cut off and I need to report the fault to a recorded voice system.

Mike Rowe
Offham, Kent

SIR – I empathise with Mr Woodbridge-Smith’s troubles with his rotary-dial telephone. These days, it’s a struggle to find hoops for my crinoline.

Sandra Jones
Old Cleeve, Somerset

SIR – The failure of most European governments during the Thirties to stand firmly against Hitler’s expansionist policies led to a terrible war. Today we have a repeat of the same scenario. Once again, European governments are standing limply on the sidelines, wringing their hands and doing nothing.

If the European Union is to have any meaning, then this is its moment. Please stiffen your spine and act now.

Russell Finney
London SW1

SIR – Ideally, at the operational level, those responsible for the destruction of the Malaysian airliner should be discovered and punished.

However, real culpability is to be found at the strategic level, and this falls on the shoulders of the great powers. A congress comprising Germany, France, Britain, America and Russia must meet to draw new lines on the map.

If this had been done months ago, the airliner passengers and other innocents would have been spared. Western economic sanctions are a cowardly strategy and will do more harm than good to all of Europe.

James Wyllie

SIR – America and (most of) Europe are against arms sales to Russia at this time.

France does not want to lose the sale of its newly completed warships.

Britain has an ageing fleet with a long lead time for replacements.

Does anyone else see the possibility of a compromise here?

Nigel Parsons
Cardiff, South Glamorgan

SIR – Following the belated rejection of soft power – widely recognised as appeasement by David Cameron’s government – it is appropriate to dismantle its components.

The British Council is one. With 7,000 employees in 110 countries, it can be scrapped with good savings to the British taxpayer.

Having successfully wound up the British Council, its current chairman, Sir Vernon Ellis, could use the experience, together with his inside knowledge of the arts, to dismantle swiftly the Arts Council and liberate more funds to assist the common man.

Stephen Lovesey
Wantage, Oxfordshire

SIR – The reason why the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth is not nuclear-powered has escaped my understanding.

It does seem to me that being non-nuclear will blunt the ship’s capabilities more than a little, because its commander will always be concerned about where the next tank of fuel is coming from.

Is this a modern example of spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar?

David Farmer

Irish Times:

Sir, – The rather naive solution to the conflict in Gaza offered by Prof John Kelly (Letters, July 24th) leaves one speechless. It demonstrates a partisan approach to the conflict, rooted in disregard for the facts and characterised by double standards. Israel kills civilians and it is committing war crimes, Hamas fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel to kill and maim and uses civilians in Gaza as shields and it is merely defending itself. 

The “root cause” of the terrible situation in Gaza would not be addressed by granting the people of both Palestine and Gaza the right to have their own governments and to travel within and out of their territories. While the two-state solution is the only viable long-term one, the root cause of failed negotiations is Hamas and its refusal to recognise, and exist alongside, the state of Israel.

The Hamas charter categorically rejects the two-state solution, a position promoted by Hamas officials but conveniently ignored by most critics of Israel. Hamas does not want to coexist; first and foremost it wants to see the destruction of the state of Israel. Israel has a right to exist and defend itself and while it is tragic that civilians in Gaza are suffering, a significant proportion of responsibility and blame for the death toll must rest with Hamas.

To claim that Hamas’s actions are “more minor” also shows ignorance and a total disregard of the suffering experienced by most Israelis. This is not a one-sided conflict. The fact that fewer Israelis have been killed is not due to “ineffective” rockets but largely to Israel’s capability to protect itself and the value it places on life. Perhaps it would be more agreeable to many critics of Israel if the body count there was much higher.

Hamas has proven time and time again that it has little regard for the welfare of the people of Gaza. There is ample evidence that it is using hospitals, residential areas and schools as platforms for attacks but I see very little condemnation from the media, the UN or those groups who claim to have the welfare of Palestinians at heart. I find it ironic that Prof Kelly calls for a recognition by Israel to afford the same “freedoms” to the Palestinians. Hamas administers Gaza through terror, corruption and intimidation with little regard for life, equality and religious tolerance. Until this is addressed the battles will indeed continue. – Yours, etc,


Kimmage Road Lower

Dublin 6W

Sir, – As the carnage in Gaza continues, Unicef reports the deaths of 121 children, with more than 900 injured (Irish Times report, July 23rd). This is truly a shocking statistic.You quote the spokesman for the UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, as saying “There is literally no safe place for civilians.”

The collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza by Israel is wrong. The conflict will never be resolved by inflicting such trauma on civilians.It is time for the international community to take a stand against the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, especially children. The words of the humanistic philosopher Eric Fromm seem very appropriate at this time: “Love of one’s country that is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.” – Yours, etc,


Ráithín an Róistigh,

Dún Garbhan,

Co Cill Channaigh

Sir, – When the current flare-up of the Hamas/Israeli conflict ends, the only thing achieved will have been a great loss of life. Sadly, many of those killed would have been oblivious as to whether they were Palestinian or Israeli simply because they would have been too young to know. The reckless killing and targeting of innocents is at all times morally bankrupt. Only the body count distinguishes between the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by Hamas (technology nullifies their more deadly intent) and Israel’s ineffectual “pinpointing” of targets in Gaza where the death tally is 80 per cent civilian. We continue with our lives as usual while this chaos carries on not far from the border of an EU country. Yours, etc,



Co Louth

A chara, – One only has to look at the actions of the man considered the father of Irish foreign policy, Frank Aiken, in the 1950s and 1960s to see how subservient our government has become to other countries. Aiken vigorously supported the rights of small nations to self-determination and supported the liberation of African nations from Western colonisers when, broadly speaking, this stance went against how the Western world saw it. As Desmond Tutu famously said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Our government decided yesterday that there shouldn’t be an inquiry into Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people. I wonder what Frank Aiken would have done? – Is mise,


Church Street,


Co Clare

Sir – Soline Marie Madeleine Humbert’s interesting article on Mary Magdalene (Rite & Reason, July 22nd) is, regrettably, somewhat distorted in that she bases all she says on somewhat distorted evidence, namely what we read about Mary in the New Testament.

It should at long last (after nearly 2,000 years!) be becoming clear that what is said about Mary in the New Testament is nothing less than an unmerited and unworthy (by those who perpetrated it) character assassination.

Extra-canonical Scripture, for example the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Dialogue of the Saviour, the Books of the Saviour and above all the Pistis Sophia provided a picture, indubitably true, of a very different Mary: a vibrant and spiritually imaginative woman more intelligent and quick-witted than the male disciples and more able to grasp readily the deep meanings of Jesus’s teachings.

Saying 53 of the Dialogue of the Saviour tells us that Mary spoke “as one who had understood completely”. Quite simply, no higher level of understanding was or is possible. And that challenging example of the real Mary Magdalene is something that we should cherish infinitely. Yours, etc,


(Unitarian lay preacher),


Co Westmeath

Sir, – A friend, from the “other” tradition, watching the start of the Commonwealth Games, emailed me to ask when the Irish team would be appearing in the parade. I told him that there was a delay in them coming out onto the field but to wait, perhaps eight years, and we would be there. – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,


Co Down

Sir, – Not alone are the Presbyterians responsible for the crimes commited by seagulls (Letters, July 24th) but there is a very real danger that their work ethic will lead to an increase in workaholism, a malady from which the Republic of Ireland is now almost free. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow

Sir, – Frank McNally’s Proustian moment – Monaghan’s defeat by Donegal in the Ulster Final — may last longer than he would like.

Marcel Proust’s “madeleine memory” was a recurring flashback until he died in his cork-lined bedroom. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Sir, – Having read the articulate letters, written in English by correspondents whose first language is apparently Irish, I cannot share their apprehension in relation to the minister’s linguistic shortcomings.

Assuming that all those whose first choice of language is Irish would favour even greater Government support for the Irish language, I would suggest that the section of the population that language activists need to win over is the large swathe which uses English for its daily discourse and shows little sign of any intention to change this.

It is probably true to say that the typical 21st century Irish person is likely to be somebody who lives in an urban area, uses the English language and only encounters Irish on official documents and road signs but mainly chooses to look at the English version. It is unlikely that such a person considers the Irish language to be a key part of identity.

Perhaps it might be more productive for the language activists to concentrate on the real challenge facing the Irish language, which is widespread apathy, rather than on the minor linguistic shortcoming in a Minister who is moving to overcome that difficulty and is, by reputation, highly able and well disposed to their cause.

I look forward to the continued efforts of the Irish language lobby to promote Irish in a language of which they have a great mastery and one which their target audience can understand. Yours, etc,


Hermitage Close,

Dublin 16

Sir, – The pursuit of those political miscreants who jumped the gun and erected political posters in advance of the official start date for the May 23rd European and local elections, in addition to those candidates who did not remove their posters on time after the elections, has, I believe, broad public support (“Over 90 fines for unremoved election posters issued in Dublin”, July 24th)

Perhaps Dublin City Council and the other three local authorities of South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal might now turn their attention to the more serious matter of the many thousands of illegal posters defacing road signs at every roundabout, crossroads, traffic light and junction in the county offering to “buy cars for cash”. These posters, which are in breach of the Litter Pollution Act, have become a permanent feature at many of our main junctions.

The posters, many of which cover Yield and Stop signs at road junctions and roundabouts not alone present a hazard to drivers, but are a blatant display of contempt for the rule of law.

Can we expect the statutory fine for each individual illegal political poster erected to be extended to these other posters, in addition to the cost of removing them, or will tax- and ratepayers be stuck with the bill as usual? Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W

Sir, – Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond was timely. Redmond’s work on the Third Home Rule Bill will be remembered in Wexford on September 18th on the 100th anniversary of the Bill’s passage into law. John Redmond achieved what Daniel O’Connell, Isaac Butt and CS Parnell could not — the passage of this legislation – a testament to his lifelong political career.

A lecture will be offered by Dr Pauric Travers, which will be hosted by Co Wexford Library Service at 7.30pm in the library at Mallin Street, Wexford.

Incidentally John Bruton will also offer a lecture on John Redmond towards the end of October, hosted by Wexford Historical Society during the Wexford Festival Opera. – Yours, etc,


Old Ross,

Co Wexford

Sir, – Richard Pine (Letters, July 23rd) appears to believe that because his grandmother was an invalid for most of her life, her doctor, the cricketer WG Grace, should bear responsibility for her ailment.

Shakespeare recognised Mr Pine’s problem and has Kent diagnose it in King Lear: “kill thy physician and the fee bestow upon thy foul disease”. And in Henry IV, Part 2 “the first bringer of unwelcome news hath but a losing office”. This is an increasingly common form of paranoia and one recognised particularly by psychiatrists. It might be called Kent’s syndrome or Lear’s fallacy, but as Mr Pine lives in Greece he might appreciate hermenoia, loosely translated as blaming the messenger. Yours, etc,


Central Mental Hospital,


Dublin 14

A chara, – Breda O’Brien raises a serious issue about social media and the effects it can have on young people (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th); Declan Kelly uses it as a chance to go off on a tangent about religion and the indoctrination of children (Letters, July 22nd); I point this out (July 23rd) and Kevin Butler responds by asking why I don’t join Mr Kelly on his tangential journey as he had “raised a serious point” that “merits an answer” (July 24th). Serious or not, it is off topic. Mr Butler may think it is productive to turn every debate into an opportunity to have a go at religion; I think it better to deal with each issue on its own merits without distraction or diversion. The latter allows us to have many interesting discussions while the former results in every debate being a rather boring footnote to a single seemingly endless one. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

A chara, – Your obituary of Diarmaid Ó Muirithe (July 19th) states that he “never forgave” The Irish Times for its part in the dodgy Gaelicisation of crack – “a good old English/Scottish word” — as “craic” (Obituaries, July 19th). It would be a fitting tribute from the paper to which he contributed so richly for 22 years to belatedly concede to drop it. – Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin

Irish Independent:

The names, the numbers and the stories of the horrors in Gaza need no repeating. They are well documented in your newspaper and on our TV screens every night.

The UN reports that one child has died every hour in the past few days and that Israel has killed more children than Hamas fighters.

As individuals it is easy to feel powerless when the world’s fourth largest army conducts such an onslaught against ordinary people. One thing we can hope for is that our Government represents the outrage of the Irish people at the EU and the UN.

Sadly, we have been let down, badly. At a vote in the UN, calling for an independent inquiry into human rights violations, Ireland abstained.

We joined Germany, Britain and other EU superpowers to permit Israel to behave as it wants with no accountability.

Ireland has been seen by Palestinians and Israelis as a beacon of hope. We show people that despite years of conflict peace can be achieved.

If we are going to parade ourselves as paragons of peace and human rights we should support the standards of international law, formulated after the Holocaust, where every human being is treated with dignity and respect. When these standards are breached we should seek to investigate and prosecute all those responsible.

This vote leaves Irish people with only one choice: increase the boycott of Israeli goods so we send a message to peace-loving Palestinians and Israelis that we still have a moral conscience, even if our Government does not.

After all, the only thing required for evil to prosper is for good countries to do nothing.





Emma Harris (Letters, July 23) compares Israel to Nazi Germany in wanting as she calls it ‘Lebensraum’ or living space. This is a disgusting analogy considering that Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews, while in the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 some 22,000 have been killed – a tiny fraction of the 150,000 Syrians killed over the past three years alone at the hands of fellow Arabs.

She is also incorrect in stating that Israel ever since its foundation in 1948 has expanded to conquer territory. On the contrary. In the various wars for survival that it waged against a hostile Arab World, Israel always sought security, not land for the sake of it. In fact, when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 Israel gave up the Sinai Peninsula, an area more than three times bigger than Israel today. Since the 1990s Israel has made repeated peace offers to the Palestinians whereby the latter would get almost all the West Bank and Gaza, but has been rebuffed.

Furthermore, Colette Browne in her op-ed the same day betrays a total lack of context in her perspective on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. She completely ignores how this latest war came about and what is keeping it going: that Hamas, a terrorist organisation which rules Gaza since 2007, initiated a rocket barrage on Israel a few weeks ago; Israel responded with air strikes so as to defend its citizens; Israel accepted but Hamas rejected a truce brokered by Egypt; Hamas kept on bombarding Israel, and so this week Israel was obliged to execute a ground operation so as to destroy Hamas’s military infrastructure.





Any wonder the troika left our shores smiling in appreciation at how well we accepted and coped with our €60bn debt burden. The sting left in their tail has become obvious.

The Government is now paying multiple times the interest rate on bailout loans than it would cost us to borrow on the open market. According to a report on the Business pages of Irish Independent (June 27), replacing €22.5bn of the more expensive IMF loans with normal market borrowings could potentially save as much as €930m for the Exchequer this year.

Why? Because interest charged by IMF increased earlier this year to 4.99pc, while price of borrowing on the open markets has fallen to a fraction of over 1pc annually. Repay or reduce the costly debt with the cheap borrowings you might say; but the agreement specifies it must be paid over 10 years at the higher rate.

Flexibility is what was needed then in repayment – not the current knot that must be reviewed by the Government and IMF immediately.





When RTE One broadcasted the Angelus some years ago, it was accompanied by a brilliant work of art from the ‘Book of Kells’, Jan van Eyck or even the late greats such as Evie Hone or Harry Clarke. In this, it added to the believer’s contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation; but also offered a small moment of culture.

As Nick Folly (July 22) quite rightly states, the offering now is so bland that one wonders what is the point of the whole thing.





The function of the Minister for the Gaeltacht is to attend to the interests of the 47,000 Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht areas. The function of the Department of Education is to attend to the teaching of Irish in schools in all areas and at all levels.

While your editorial was quite correct in highlighting that the 2011 census results demonstrated that it is now clear that the upward growth in Irish speakers observable since the late 1990s, mainly outside the Gaeltacht Area, is no mere statistical blip but the result of ongoing language restoration and recovery, fuelled by, amongst other things, access to Gaeltacht areas by students of Irish, this has little to do with the need for a minister who is really on top of his brief, by being familiar with the thoughts and needs of the Gaeltacht people, which an earlier fluency in the Irish Language would have surely afforded him.

The myth “that it is a dead language we have been forced to learn badly and, in most cases, against our will”, is quite false for the majority of our citizens, but in any event is not relevant to the appointment of a Minister for the Gaeltacht.





A Chara, I do not agree that the Gaeltacht has so shrunk as to no longer need a minister.

In spite of the fact that the Gaeltacht is under severe strain, due in large part to the total failure of all governments down the years to create an environment which would allow the people of the Gaeltacht to communicate with the State in the Irish language and which would provide employment opportunities for Irish speakers throughout the public service, the Gaeltacht is alive.

However, governmental failure alone calls, not only for a minister of state, but for a senior minister.

I wish Mr McHugh well and look forward to seeing what improvements he will be able to put in place to undo the neglect of the language by governments and to secure the future of the Gaeltacht.




Irish Independent


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: