29 July 2014 Bank
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 I win, but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
Captain Brian Thomas – obituary
Captain Brian Thomas was a Royal Engineer who dodged mines to land ‘Popski’s Private Army’ in Venice
5:20PM BST 28 Jul 2014
Captain Brian Thomas, who has died aged 90, brought the commander of “Popski’s Private Army” and six heavily-armed Jeeps across the Venetian lagoon and landed them in St Mark’s Square in April 1945 just before the German surrender.
The month before, Thomas was ordered to take five ramped cargo lighters (RCLs), loaded with Jeeps, from Ravenna to the Po delta, behind the German lines. He was then to place them under the command of No 1 Demolition Squadron, better known as Popski’s Private Army (PPA), led by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Vladimir Peniakoff.
As dawn was breaking they caught sight of a large magnetic mine in their path, but altered course just in time and avoided it. A few miles up a tributary of the river Po they encountered detonators attached to heavy cables spanning the river.
The Jeeps were offloaded and the craft with their shallow draughts managed to pass over the obstacles without mishap. When German soldiers were found to be guarding some of the lock gates, Thomas called up one of the Jeeps and they opened up with a Bren and forced them to surrender.
On April 29, at the port of Chióggia, they rendezvoused with “Popski”, who had just returned from England. He had lost a hand in action and was brandishing a large, shiny, chromium-plated hook and shouting: “Nobody is going to stop us now, boys!”
Canadian troops were going into Venice from the north. Popski, who had long nourished an ambition to bring his squadron into the city, said to Thomas: “We will go in from the south — by water!”
Thomas observed afterwards: “The thrill of that moment can never be told properly. There were a few snipers to sort out and then we were going to experience something that no man had ever done. We were going to drive a vehicle around St Mark’s Square. The whole of the population of Venice seemed to be in the square cheering us as we went round. This was a marvellous moment – perhaps the most marvellous one experienced by any of our Allies in the war.”
Thomas (smoking pipe) and companions in Venice
Brian Ewart Thomas was born at Woodford, Essex, on June 17 1923 and educated at Hillcrest High School, Frinton-on- Sea. In 1940 he was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers and posted to 945 Inland Waterway Transport Company.
He took part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943 and landed on the mainland of Italy in September just before the surrender of the Italian Navy. His first task was to commandeer all the serviceable boats in the port of Brindisi for the Army’s use.
Early in 1945 he was sent to Pesaro in command of a group of men for training with RCLs. The usual role of these was lighterage transport after assault landings, but senior officers were excited by the prospect of concealing heavily armed Jeeps in the boats and bringing them up the Adriatic coast to land them behind the German lines.
On one occasion Thomas helped to deploy 20 full-sized dummy tanks. They were made of rubber and were used to deceive enemy reconnaissance aircraft taking photographs at high altitude. They were very realistic, and much amusement was derived from confronting a newly-joined sapper with one of them and ordering him to pick it up and take it away.
After the German surrender Thomas moved his unit to the island of St Giórgio, where they were responsible for all shipping movements within the Venetian lagoon. He was mentioned in despatches.
Thomas was demobilised after the war. He worked for an agricultural company and for Unilever as well as managing pubs in Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex before retiring to a village in Surrey in 1990. He enjoyed horse racing, golf and bird watching.
Brian Thomas married, in 1951, Shirley Mitchell. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their two sons and a daughter.
Captain Brian Thomas, born June 17 1923, died June 3 2014
Coalition government ministers purr with satisfaction if not excitement over the economy reaching 0.8% growth in the second quarter of 2014 to regain 2008 levels (Report, 26 July). Is nobody going to make a comparison with 2010?
Office for National Statistics figures show that for the third quarter of 2010 (the last over which Labour can claim any significant influence) growth had reached around 1%. Within three years of the start of the financial crisis Labour had restored growth.
The coalition’s excessive austerity plunged the country back into recession followed by several years of flat-lining. Growth has returned in spite of, not because of, the government. Such “plans” as the government had were abandoned as £375bn of quantitative easing (which no one condemned as the equivalent of printing money) was pumped into the economy.
Other direct interference in the beloved free markets could also have been put to better use than stoking the London and south-east property boom.
Nigel de Gruchy
• Despite their commitment not to use any of the income generated by the £375bn of quantitative easing, the latest figures are astonishing: £11.3bn of QE income by 31 March 2013 and a further £31.1bn of QE income during 2013-14. Despite this additional £42.4bn – which in itself reduces additional borrowing and compounded interest – the government is far off its commitments to cut government debt. Its policies are abject failures. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence accounts have been delayed – not for the first time. The resources and equipment that we rely on to protect us cannot be assured.
• Paul Mason argues cogently for state involvement in technical innovation (G2, 28 July) – but backs his case with an extremely poor example, Concorde. What benefits did that absurdly expensive (and subsequently junked) white elephant bring? Very little, as a study by the department of economics at San Jose State University showed, suggesting that “special interests manipulated the levers of government to create a product whose costs far exceed its benefits” – and what benefits there were accrued to better-off travellers at the expense of the general population of taxpayers. The study concluded that the development of Concorde was a prime example of the failure of government to function as it should. Pretty damning – and the exact opposite of what Mason argues.
Dr Richard Carter
• It’s very kind of the Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, to come up with a scheme for making ordinary people work into their 70s (Report, 21 July). It goes to show we’ve come a long way from the 1980s, when we were told that the problem of the 21st century would be what to do with our vastly increased leisure time because of the miraculous advances of technology.
Instead we have longer working hours, low wages and rapidly diminishing job security. The technology has indeed improved productivity but instead of this improving the lives of working people it has been hoovered up by the mega-rich, leaving the gap between them and the rest of us wider than ever.
• Carlos Slim’s suggestion that we should all work a three-day week is not in our opinion the answer to “what is the future of work” but it does raise some important issues.
Workload pressures and culture already drive long hours in many workplaces and is an increasing challenge in an ever-demanding world. Working families need time to be together to function well, so asking parents and carers to work longer hours even across fewer days simply adds to their stress and impacts on their performance at work.
When every workplace recognises and culturally embraces employee wellbeing and work-life balance and when parents are able to readily access flexible and affordable childcare, equality for fathers at home and for mothers at work will become a reality.
If caring and work were shared more equally between men and women, we could achieve a more balanced way of working without mandating a three-day week.
Chief executive, Working Families
• As I am not an economist, can we have a wall-chart explaining why the global financial collapse was all the fault of the previous Labour government while the global economic recovery is wholly the result of the policies of the Conservative-led coalition?
Professor Mike Elliott
Leven, East Yorkshire
Your correspondent’s argument that “landbanking” by house-builders is somehow the cause of the housing crisis (Letters, 23 July) is fundamentally misguided. The majority of land in a supposed landbank is actually land stuck in the planning system with an outline permission, waiting for an implementable permission so work can actually start, or sites already under construction. We estimate around 150,000 plots are currently in the system awaiting final approval. A recent Home Builders Federation survey of 23 large house-builders showed that just 4% of homes on sites with an implementable permission hadn’t been started. If we are to sustain increases in house-building, speeding up planning and getting agreed sites through so work can start is paramount.
Strategic land promotion involves the long-term identification of land suitable for development by house-builders and others. There is no guarantee that such land will ever be granted planning permission and it could take years and millions of pounds of investment to do so. Companies are judged by investors on their return on capital employed. Once they have paid for a site and have achieved implementable consent, getting a return by building and selling homes is the only sensible option. Sitting on land costs money and makes no sense for a home builder.
The organisations sitting on land are rarely house-building companies. People should stop peddling myths and focus on practical ways to provide land needed to meet housing requirements. Attacking house-builders for hoarding land allows anti-development lobbyists to ignore the responsibilities we have to ensure that the next generation have a good quality, affordable home in which to live. House-builders are part of the solution, not the problem.
Stewart Baseley, Steve Turner
Home Builders Federation
The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.
It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.
Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.
They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.
Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie
• The assertion by Patrick Wintour (Schools face new curbs on extremism after Birmingham Trojan horse affair, 22 July) that the National Union of Teachers was “widely believed” to be one of the professional bodies mentioned in Peter Clarke’s inquiry that put to one side “systematic problems” affecting members in Birmingham schools is totally wrong.
First, the NUT has brought concerns to the attention of the local authority on a number of occasions and over a number of years – more so in fact than any other union. Second, it was the NUT that brought the Trojan horse letter to the attention of the local authority and insisted that the matter was discussed and investigated. We have not sought a single compromise agreement in schools supposedly affected by the affair. We always try to deal with matters by collective means or by addressing the issue with management of a school or its governing body in the first instance. Clarke did not ask us to help with the inquiry, although we would have been happy to do so. However, the outcome of the inquiry should enable things to move forward and the appointment of Bob Kerslake by the education secretary to oversee the local authority is a necessary and reasonable move.
Racism, bullying, misogyny, religious sectarianism and homophobia have no place in our schools. Where they occur they need to be dealt with effectively and quickly. Pupils, parents, schools and the local community have been under fire for months and have faced accusations, largely unsubstantiated, as to the ethos and practice of their schools. It is time for Birmingham council and local communities to develop a clear vision for education in Birmingham.
National executive member, National Union of Teachers, Birmingham
The world will be watching when the EU selects a candidate to lead its foreign and security policy on 30 August. With planes being shot down over Ukraine, the Middle East descending into sectarianism and tensions mounting in Asia, this is not a time for novices. Europe’s citizens expect to see the appointment of what Jean-Claude Juncker described as a “strong and experienced player” to coordinate EU policy and review its global strategy. European leaders must encourage the commission president to back this candidate with new specialist posts for the southern Mediterranean and the eastern neighbourhood, and the authority to coordinate the work of other commissioners whose portfolios touch upon foreign and security policy, such as trade, development and humanitarian aid. The council of ministers must put aside narrow interests about geographical balances, quotas, and personalities to select the strongest candidate. Europe’s standing in the world is in their hands.
Esther Alcocer Koplowitz, Franziska Brantner Member of the Bundestag, Erhard Busek, Daniel Daianu, Jose M de Areilza Caravajal, Pavol Demes Former Slovak minister, Andrew Duff Former UK MEP, Hans Eichel Former German finance minister, Lykke Friis Former Danish minister, Heather Grabbe, Charles Grant, Ulrike Guerot, Diego Hidalgo, Wolfgang Ischinger Former German diplomat, Gerald Knaus, David Koranyi, Meglena Kuneva Former EU commissioner, Sonja Licht, Irene Lozano Member of the Spanish parliament, Nickolay Mladenov Former Bulgarian foreign minister, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Dietmar Nietan Member of the Bundestag, Christine Ockrent, Andrzej Olechowski Former Polish foreign minister, Mabel van Oranje, Andres Ortega, Ana Palacio Former Spanish foreign minister, Simon Panek, Laurence Parisot, Ruprecht Polenz Former member of the Bundestag, Charles Powell, Andrew Puddephatt, Robert Reibestein, Karel Schwarzenberg Former Czech foreign minister, Aleksander Smolar, George Soros, Volker Stanzel Former German diplomat, Pawel Swieboda, Vaira Vike Frebeirga Former president of Latvia, Karla Wursterova, Stelios Zavvos
Ian Birrell, former speech writer to David Cameron, is right to liken political funding to a political sore (No tennis, no backhanders, 26 July). However, he is wrong to equate the unions providing funds to Labour with rich individuals making donations to the Conservatives. Union leaders are elected by members; unions have to secure members’ permission to maintain a political fund by secret ballot at least once every 10 years; and union members have the legal right to opt out of paying the political levy. Contrast this with the unaccountability of oligarchs, hedge fund chiefs and private equity firms buying influence with the Tories. In calling for a cap of £10,000 on individual donations and the end of any other funding, Birrell appears to be trying to tilt the balance of funding further towards the Tories. While £10k would be small change to a merchant banker, it represents 50% of the median UK annual wage after tax. By all means look at alternative ways of funding political parties but let’s consider ways that make the funding more equitable and transparent.
In recalling the role played by the splendidly named Miss England in persuading the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing to give official recognition to the Lambeth Walk in 1938 (From the archive, 26 July), should we perhaps also credit her with helping in the fight against fascism? In the 1940s several film studios distributed versions of a Ministry of Information camp re-mix of footage of Hitler and Nazi soldiers from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will set to the Lambeth Walk, annoying the Fascist leadership.
• Does Santanu Das’s plea to remember the African and Asian soldiers who fought in European wars (The first world war and the colour of memory, 23 July) include the Indian soldiers ofGermany’s Free India Legion who fought in the Waffen SS?
• I note that in 1927, the Retford, Gainsborough and Worksop Times described a 20-minute silent film thus: “Silver Buck, the cowboy’s only friend, is requisitioned by an army officer and transported to France for war purposes. Such is the cowboy’s love for his horse that he enlists and is drafted to France, where he finds Silver Buck the mount of an artillery officer.” The name of this 1927 film? War Horse (Morpugo tells of War Horse inspiration, 26 July).
• When will puppeteers, photographers and cartoonists forget about the Red Riding Hood granny image and realise that the average age of becoming a grandparent in the UK is now 47( Childcare: the grandparents’ army, 17 November 2012). The brilliant giant puppet in Liverpool (Pulling power: puppet in war tribute, 28 July) – wearing baggy slippers and walking with a stick – is much more likely to be a great-grandmother.
• John Humphrys doesn’t like Melvin Bragg using the present tense in speaking about the past (Report, 28 July). But he is quoted as saying: “With a bit of luck Melvyn will be on holidays because it’s August.” I know we’re a bit behind the times in Jersey but here it’s still July.
I think many of us involved in the charity sector have been sceptical of Cameron’s Big Society initiative almost from the very beginning.
I am the secretary of a small Birmingham-based grant-giving trust: we give around £55,000 a year to small organisations in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Since the Coalition came to power the number of applications has risen so dramatically that we have had to tighten our guidelines to cope.
The nature of applications for help has changed. Four years ago we didn’t see applications from organisations concerned with the relief of poverty and hunger: we do now. Judith Flack’s description of what is happening in Derby (letter, 28 July) applies equally to Birmingham, and I am sure to many other towns and cities in the UK.
Has the Big Society initiative helped? Of course it hasn’t. It was just a political catchphrase. If the money that has been squandered had been given to my trust and those like it, we could have used it sensibly to provide help to the many small organisations that are doing so much good in our towns and cities (and were doing so long before the Big Society was invented).
The conclusion I draw from this fiasco is that you can’t direct people to do good in the way Cameron envisaged. People do it because they care and passionately want to help. They are the people the Government should be encouraging and helping financially. Instead, as you report (28 July), the voluntary sector has been damaged by the ill-advised Big Society push.
Whilst I applaud Judith Flack’s public spiritedness (letter, 28 July), it leaves me with a dilemma.
When David Cameron announced his Big Society initiative, I promised not to volunteer to do jobs which would normally be undertaken by paid workers, or which would undermine the values of public service. However, if I continue to take this stance, those most in need of help will suffer.
The rewards for cutting public expenditure have been disproportionately passed on to the most wealthy, in the form of tax cuts for the largest companies and richest individuals. In spite of this the least well-off are still giving a higher proportion of their time and disposable income to charities and not-for-profit organisations. I think it is time for a change.
Israel is the wrong target
Perhaps those who have attended anti-Israel rallies during the Gaza conflict might ask themselves the following questions.
Why did they not take to the streets during the past nine years since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to protest at Hamas building stockpiles of offensive weaponry? Why have they not publicly questioned why the billions of dollars of foreign aid delivered to Gaza has not resulted in a new, modern civilian infrastructure? Why did they not publicly protest about provocative rocket fire from Gaza into Israel before Israel responded? Indeed, why have they not protested about the thousands of people killed in Syria and elsewhere?
People have confused the cause of the problem with the symptoms. Israel’s actions today are symptomatic of the situation caused by others.
The real cause of the conflict in Gaza is the unforgivable lack of action by the Palestinian leadership to build a better life for the people they govern. Those who take part in these anti-Israel rallies, and the media who jump on that bandwagon, make themselves pawns in this game, and thus become part of the root cause.
Would Henry Tobias (letter, 24 July) specify which of Hamas’s demands are akin to Israel committing suicide?
Amid the current catastrophe, Hamas put forth 10 conditions for 10 years’ ceasefire. All the demands centred on lifting Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza and allowing Palestinians their sovereign rights, including access to the Rafah crossing under international supervision.
Why does the Knesset find it hard to agree on terms that would allow Gaza to survive and exist? It is sadly ironic that Israel’s discourse constantly raises the fear of its own destruction by Hamas, yet Israel commences its own destruction of Palestinian territories through unjust blockades, indiscriminate bombardments, and settlement expansions.
Rahman N Chowdhury
Israel bizarrely claims that the objective of its bombing of civilian homes in Gaza is to restore “peace and quiet”. This must mean peacefully building more settlements on illegally occupied land while quietly strangling Gaza through the eight-year siege.
Hamas lobs rockets into Israel, untargeted, and, though disturbing, doing minimal damage. The Israelis respond with disproportionate force, killing hundreds of civilians, and the West condemns them.
Then after an interval, Hamas resumes its provocation, the Israelis respond disproportionately again, and the West condemns them again.
Someone should tell the parties that to repeat the same action time after time and expect a different result is one definition of madness. Isis must be licking its lips at the thought of how many disaffected young men there are in Gaza just ripe for indoctrination.
‘Racism’ works both ways
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown once again feels the need to write about her belief that she lives in a racist country where black and Asian people are held back by whites who employ them (28 July). She should view BBC London television news; she would witness that the majority of presenters are black and Asian.
Employers may tend to employ people they can relate to. This doesn’t just apply to white British employing their own kind, but to Asian employers who rarely employ whites, and more recently Polish builders who will only employ Poles.
We, including Ms Alibhai-Brown, should accept this for what it is, rather than stir up inter-race relations. If it is “racist”, it works both ways.
Woodford Green, Essex
I was highly amused by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s claim that white, male Booker Prize juries exclude racial minorities from its longlist (28 July). Makes you wonder how such former winners of the prize as V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Ben Okri ever got anywhere at all.
D J Taylor
Crazy way to combat domestic violence
Community resolution is not the right way to tackle domestic violence (“Violent partners being let off with ‘slap on the wrist’ orders”, 28 July). Victims have often suffered horrific emotional and physical abuse and are left in an extremely vulnerable position. To expect them to face the perpetrators and settle an abuse case out of court is nonsensical. This approach will further inhibit women coming forward and reduce confidence in the police.
Rather than focusing so heavily on perpetrators, police need to put victims first and let them know that their situations will be taken seriously. One woman a fortnight is killed by her partner in London.
However, there are pockets of good practice where police are doing pioneering work in collaboration with Housing for Women to tackle domestic violence. For example, in Greenwich, we provide a support worker in the police station to offer advice to both officers and victims in a dedicated domestic violence suite. These services can often mean the difference between life and death, but they are not available nationally.
Collaborative services between police and agencies need to be rolled out across the UK, to provide the support needed by victims of domestic violence, and to make sure that lives are saved.
Housing for Women
Fabled land of prosperity
Ben Chu is absolutely right to be sceptical (“The economy’s back where it started. Had you noticed?” 26 July). Most people will have noticed nothing because these “economic facts” happen not in the real Britain at all but in its political clone, the fabled land of Statistica. The trouble is, only rich people are allowed to go there.
Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex
Judgement of the stars
The Tory MP David Tredinnick has suggested that astrology should be offered to NHS patients. Perhaps he should ponder on what the late Patrick Moore had to say: “Astrology proves one scientific fact, and one only: there’s one born every minute.”
Gurgaon, India: students emerging from an English language examination Getty Images
Last updated at 12:01AM, July 29 2014
English is now out of the control of its British and American originators
Sir, You are right that the dominance of the English language may not work to the advantage of its native speakers, but not only for the reason that you give (leader July 26).
As a trade diplomat in the 1980s I came across a Korean company in Venezuela, and a Spanish company in China, both in competition with native English speakers and winning business because the purchasers were more comfortable speaking English with other foreigners on equal terms. They complained that the British spoke too fast and indistinctly, and used idioms they didn’t understand.
Sir Alistair Hunter
Sir, I was surprised by your pessimism about English. You overlook the inherent qualities of the language. One only needs a vocabulary of only about 200 words to communicate effectively but, at the same time, English has one of the largest of all vocabularies, allowing a speaker to convey the most subtle of meanings. The issue of American spellings is of little consequence.
We have this wonderful opportunity to use our language to exploit our “soft power” in the world. Now that our government has resolved the problem of bogus colleges, we ought to expand our tertiary level education system and welcome genuine students who wish to study in this country. By encouraging young people from around the world to complete their education here, we build up goodwill for decades to come.
Sir, You imply that international use of a language depends little on the character of the language, and much on its value for commerce, learning and politics, and that there is nothing we can do about it.
I suggest that there is a little bit we can do to maintain the dominance of English, and that is to tweak it in good ways. Consider Noah Webster’s spelling: surely this is used internationally not just because it is used in the US, but, to a small extent, because it is more phonetic.
In past decades French speakers (particularly in Quebec) have introduced technical words that are better than ours: informatique where we say ICT, courriel (or mél) for email, domotique for “the science of small electronic devices used in household appliances”.
In English, it is no longer permitted to use “he” to include “she” so we write “she/he” and we could certainly do with a better word for that than “they”. A good new word, used by The Times, could go viral. At the same time we need to keep the core vocabulary needed to read Shakespeare.
Jonathan A Coles
Great Clifton, Cumbria
Sir, As a translator I have dealt with many scientific papers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays there is less call for translation because so many scientists publish in English.
English does have many advantages in that it is so flexible and willing to adopt words from elsewhere, but the inhabitants of these islands should not feel too smug about this — as you say, we have no control over which version of English predominates. And the speakers of other, displaced, versions, as well as the speakers of other languages displaced by English, had better get used to it.
Sir, May we use your columns to address the leaders of Israel and of Hamas. We have watched a painful 66-year cycle of violence since the state of Israel was created. Even when there is peace, it is characterised by attacks, kidnapping, injury and killing — and punctuated by violent wars. By our count, the conflict today is the 12th war.
(1.War of Independence/An-Nakba (Catastrophe) (1947-1949).
2.Suez Crisis/Sinai Campaign Tripartite War of Aggression (1956)
3.Six Day War/An-Naksa (Setback) (1967)
4.War of Attrition/War of Attrition (1967–1970)
5.Yom Kippur War/October War (1973)
6.Lebanon War/Lebanese Civil War (1980-82)
7.First Intifada (1987–1993)
8.Second Intifada (2000–2005)
9.War on Hezbollah/Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (2006)
10.Operation Cast Lead/Invasion of Gaza (2008-2009)
11.Operation Pillar of Defense/Operation Blue Sky (2012)
12.The current war (2014)
[The Israeli/Arab names are given (and translation of Arab name))
We urge you not just to focus on getting humanitarian aid, food, and water into Gaza, which of course is vital, but to think about alternatives to military solutions, since each attack merely leads to a counter-attack. If you continue using military solutions, we will still be witnessing deaths on both sides in another 66 years.
You are both intelligent enough to appreciate that military solutions, at best, lead to short-term advantage to one side or another, but will not lead to a permanent and true peace.
Your choice is to continue with your mutual myopia and one-sided perspectives, with mutual blame and mutual anger, causing horrendous loss of life, with all the ensuing grief, pain, and suffering, on both sides. Or to listen to impartial outside observers who are able to see two valid perspectives.
We, with the benefit of this “helicopter view”, and the rest of the world, clearly see that neither military nor past diplomatic efforts are working. These have led to zero trust, zero respect and zero empathy felt by each side for the other.
It is time for a different approach, which is to focus efforts on building mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual empathy for those on the other side of the conflict.
Each community has the same human desire for respect, safety and freedom to raise their children in a trauma-free environment. Each person in both communities experiences the identical pain when they lose a brother, sister, cousin, son, or daughter.
So, we say to the leaders of Israel and Hamas, please sit down, talk without table thumping, to listen to each other and start a new politics based on the principles of respect, dignity, and empathy.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen
Sir, The caption to your picture “Mongolians go to the fair” (July 26) offers a confusing lesson in history and geography. If the boys were attending a Naadam “fair” in Chifeng, as stated, they were not in independent Mongolia but close to the southern boundary of Inner Mongolia, a supposedly autonomous region of the PRC, in the area of an essentially Chinese city northeast of Beijing. A red scarf round the forehead is not Mongol dress.
The rest of the caption is not about Mongol customs but about the practices of Inner Mongolia under Chinese rule.
In independent Mongolia the Naadam festival (celebrated this
year in Ulan Bator on July 11-15) has for many years featured women archers and riders. Independent Mongolia is the better custodian of Mongol traditions, protected by Unesco.
Sir, You say that the BBC Media Village is built on “the staging ground for the 1908 Olympics” (“BBC appoints agents for potential White City site”, July 25). What you are talking about is the famous White City stadium, Britain’s first sizeable reinforced concrete structure, shamefully knocked down overnight in the mid-1980s to prevent it being listed as a historic building.
I remember coming into the BBC TV Newsroom and being shocked to see the destruction. The BBC put up a Lego building that was immediately dubbed the White Lubyanka.
Memories are short but to forget such an illustrious stadium so soon is alarming. Much more than greyhound racing took place there.
Sir, Although I love the taste of crabs and lobsters, I have for many years refused to eat anything that has been boiled alive. Now that the Crustastun machine offers a humane alternative (“Crustacean liberation: chefs blanch at boiling crabs and lobsters alive”, July 26), their wellbeing should be included in the Animal Welfare Act.
Defra should be ashamed of its pathetic response that “The latest scientific research does not provide robust evidence that crustaceans feel pain”.
Science is always being shown to have underestimated the cognitive abilities of different species, so why not stop the risk of cruelty now, without waiting for the already demonstrable evidence to become “robust”, whatever that would entail — maybe requiring the head of Defra to throw a crustacean into boiling water and watch what happens.
SIR – Unlike Judith Woods (“Give your dog a break this summer”), we are lucky to have two dogs that are happy to travel. Since the pet passport scheme was simplified, they have joined us on all our regular trips to France.
We use Eurotunnel, which takes just 35 minutes, causing no stress to the dogs.
What does cause stress is the amount that Eurotunnel charges for the privilege of having your pets in the car with you. The cost for car and human passengers on our last trip was £156 return, and that amount would have covered up to nine people. However, we had to pay an additional £64 for the return journey for our two dogs.
At Folkestone, Eurotunnel displays a huge poster stating that over 1 million pets have travelled with them to date. Quite a moneyspinner at £16 per pet, per crossing.
The Yangtze Incident
SIR – This week marks the 65th anniversary of the Yangtze Incident, when HMS Amethyst was held for 10 weeks by Chinese forces on the Yangtze river after sustaining a deadly attack.
On the evening of July 30 1949, HMS Amethyst secretly prepared to dash to freedom. What was not disclosed at the time, for fear of provoking a serious diplomatic incident, was that HMS Concord proceeded 57 miles into the Yangtze river to aid Amethyst’s escape.
Concord’s crew members were sworn to secrecy at the time, and it is only in the past few years, after being presented with indisputable facts, that the Government has acknowledged Concord’s role.
The present Government should honour the remaining sailors who for so many years have had their service denied.
SIR – Petrol-powered “gardening” is a plague. It has gone beyond maintaining visibility on narrow roads and keeping road signs clear.
Outside fields or private gardens, not a blade of green growth is permitted to exceed the regulation six inches in height before it is smashed by someone wearing ear defenders and a face shield. From dawn to dusk, whining strimmers decapitate, flails smash hedgerows into right angles, and ride-on mowers reduce grass and daisies into dead wind-blown mulch. People no longer rake, they use petrol-driven blowers which cover everything in a thick layer of dust.
What is so offensive about cow parsley, herb Robert and buttercups? Can nothing be allowed to grow, flower and seed? No wonder insects and birds are declining.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
SIR – My mother took her letter-writing seriously: every Sunday afternoon, for two hours, she commandeered the sitting room, writing feverishly to the repeated strains of Peter Starstedt’s Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? and Jacqueline du Pré’s Elgar Cello Concerto, both played at full volume.
I believe these missives were destined for her scattered circle of friends, rather than newspapers. In any case, despite her elegant script, one could never read a single word of them.
SIR – John Holmes asks how long a gentleman’s shorts should be. In Kenya 50 years ago, they used to say that one could tell where a person came from by looking at the length of his shorts. Knee-length meant he had just come from Britain; four inches higher, and he was from East Africa; mid-thigh, and he was from Rhodesia; higher than that, and he was from South Africa. Longer than knee length? He must be American.
SIR – If legs are knobbly, bandy, hairy or bowed, shorts should be ankle length.
SIR – Shorts should be long enough to cover the serpent tattoo creeping up so many exposed legs. Same rule for ladies.
Midhurst, West Sussex
SIR – When kneeling, the hem of a gentleman’s shorts should just brush the surface on which he is kneeling.
SIR – The military point of view on the length of shorts was once very clear. In Palestine, in 1947, after a series of unauthorised alterations to items of uniform, the following order was posted:
Shorts (short) will not be cut shorter any longer.
Gordon Le Pard
Charlton Down, Dorset
SIR – After much mocking from my daughters, I stopped wearing long socks with my above-the-knee-length shorts, and now wear those useless white mini-socks. These ride down under one’s heel and become uncomfortable.
A fair benefits system
SIR – Esther McVey, the employment minister, is a welcome addition to the Conservative Party senior ranks, and makes a good point when she indicates that anyone could fall on hard times and find themselves in need of state support (Interview, July 26). Indeed, the prime aim of the welfare system is to provide a safety net.
However, it should not be manipulated in order to provide people with an alternative to working for a living. Too many people, who have worked hard all their lives and paid their dues, suddenly find themselves in dire need through ill health or unlucky circumstances, yet they are denied payments equal to those made to people who have contributed nothing.
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire
SIR – The employment minister says it is “inevitable” that Britain will have to import some foreign workers to do skilled jobs.
What is wrong with training more British people in the skills of which we are short?
Pudsey, West Yorkshire
Singing for England
SIR – I am delighted to see Jerusalem being used as the national anthem for English gold-winning athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Sir Hubert Parry’s anthem is not only marvellous, but is more appropriate than using the British national anthem, which is so commonly used by England in other sporting arenas.
In future football and rugby matches, I look forward to hearing Jerusalem ringing out at Wembley and Twickenham rather than God Save the Queen.
SIR – When England play in the Six Nations rugby tournament, we rightly play God Save the Queen, so why Jerusalem in the Commonwealth Games?
SIR – Foxes lived under our garden shed in west London for 30 years. We neither encouraged nor discouraged them, but when our next-door neighbours had a baby, they were concerned for its safety, especially as it was on the roof of their garden studio that the whole fox family could often be found warming themselves in the sun.
The only time we witnessed a death among the foxes was when we found a dead cub with no visible injury in the garden. But there was a rubber glove nearby.
A visit to the local vet produced no answers, except that a post-mortem examination would cost at least £25, so we buried the body among the flowers. Alas, there were no foxgloves.
Display of power
SIR – While visiting Clouds Hill, the former home of Lawrence of Arabia, on the occasion of our wedding anniversary, my wife and I saw a tank. Even though Clouds Hill is near Bovington Camp, we were still somewhat surprised, especially as another tank trundled by later on. Bearing in mind all the recent military cuts, this was somewhat reassuring.
Your readers should know that we definitely have at least two tanks – unless it was the same one going round again.
Not in our village. Some of us wanted to prevent the last blade of grass within the village from being built upon, and so suggested that the previous village boundary, outside which no development had hitherto been permitted, become a cordon within which no future development would be sanctioned, while allowing a limited amout outside it. We were told the law did not permit this. So much for localism. I suspect the decrease in the number of people opposed to new homes reflects a realisation that the cards are stacked against those wishing to preserve their villages in the face of unwanted and unsympathetic housing estates.
SIR – I cannot help wondering where the planning minister lives. Is it in an already built-up area, or is it in the countryside, with beautiful views?
This Coalition seems bent on marring our beautiful land with buildings, and our coastal views with wind farms.
SIR – Why have more house-building in the already overcrowded South East?
We are planning to build enhanced rail links to “open up” other parts of the country. Surely, we should stop building in the South East and concentrate on encouraging growth in the rest of the country. This would encourage population movement. Houses are be cheaper in those areas, more people will choose to live there and businesses will move to those areas or start up there, in order to take advantage of the labour pool.
SIR – Having spent much of my career dealing with residential planning applications, I have seen a lot of Nimbyism.
Planning applications should be determined solely with regard to town planning policy and regulations. If the application meets the requirements, it should be granted; if it fails to comply, it should be refused.
What the neighbours think is irrelevant. Their views are invariably uninformed and always biased, often to the point of hysteria.
Councillors ought to learn their planning policy and not try to curry favour with their constituents by supporting the unsupportable.
SIR – Stop picking on Nimbys. Worse by far is the Wigwam – “where it goes won’t affect me” – who will support any ghastly scheme as long as it’s somewhere else.
First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 02:00
Sir, – There has been much made of the fact that Hamas refused to accept an earlier truce in Gaza proposed by Egypt. Yet it is strange that western politicians and the western media (except Michael Jansen, July 25th) have been so silent about the 10-point Hamas proposals, endorsed by Fatah, that were released last week. They are perfectly reasonable and would lead to an immediate permanent ceasefire and negotiations on a solution that would make life better and safer for both the people of Gaza and of Israel.
None of these demands are new and the UN and NGOs have continually called for some of them, including the lifting of the crippling siege.
UNWRA spokesmen, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and even many media reporters in Gaza have all noted last week that the situation in Gaza cannot go back to the status quo. Life was intolerable before this recent Israeli onslaught; now it is a living hell.
The Irish Government should support a ceasefire and negotiations on the basis of these 10 points instead of staying silent, as it disgracefully did at the UN vote on an inquiry last week. How many more Palestinian women and children need to be killed, horribly injured or traumatised before Israel and western governments come to their senses and stop this slaughter and destruction? Israel’s reluctance to engage meaningfully with these reasonable proposals demonstrates yet again that its current military onslaught has little to do with rocket fire from Gaza but is instead an attempt to scupper the Hamas/Fatah unity agreement, as the the last thing Israel wants is a unified Palestinian polity and the threat of the outbreak of a lasting peace. Yours, etc,
PRO Irish Anti-War
PO Box 9260,
Sir, – That the crisis in Gaza is causing immeasurable suffering is beyond dispute. The photographic and video footage circulating on social media is too graphic for your paper or mainstream television to use.
Even for a generation which has become increasingly immune to human suffering, the images of dead child after dead child we have seen cannot fail to churn even the hardest of stomachs or the coldest of hearts.
Ireland and our nearest neighbour Britain have known more than our fair share of terrorism. However, neither side ever resorted to the indiscriminate use of force currently being wielded by Israel, apparently a democratic state.
I am no apologist for terrorism. Israel and the Jewish people have suffered more than many over the years but their current behaviour demands a response. Ireland and the global community have been sadly lacking to date. By doing nothing we are all complicit. – Yours, etc,
DR DAVID MENZIES,
Sir, – Pro-Palestinian groups in Ireland have repeatedly called for the land and sea blockade which is being imposed on the Gaza Strip to be lifted in order for food and medical supplies to be brought into the enclave. Perhaps then they can explain how the area comes to be so well-stocked and regularly replenished with rockets and missiles?
Clearly Hamas has supply routes into Gaza, but is choosing to use it to import weapons rather than supplies for its own people. Can its sympathisers in Ireland please explain why this might be? – Yours, etc,
THOMAS RYAN BL,
Mount Tallant Avenue,
Sir, – The long list of eminent signatories to the letter regarding the conflict in Gaza (July 28th) state that “We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years”. They forget to add “all three offensives initiated by rocket fire on civilian targets in Israel by Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, which refuses to recognise Israel and seeks the destruction of all Jews.” It’s called balance. Incidentally, when did trade union leaders assume the role of judgement on world affairs on behalf of their members? Yours, etc,
Sir, – Paul Williams (July 26th) excuses Israeli conduct on the ground that they have given the Palestinians plenty of warning by dropping leaflets, sending texts and trying to avoid civilian deaths. Why then have so many Palestinians been killed – the vast majority of them civilians? One might also ask where they can escape to. They are blockaded on all sides by Israelis, so where are the escape routes available? Yours, etc,
A chara – Ronan O’Brien’s article (July 21st ) on John Redmond is timely. Redmond’s most important contribution was to political practice and culture: how we should, in dialogic and pluralistic fashion, negotiate our differences.
Redmond was “disappeared” from Irish history, not because he was a failure (for Irish history is full of celebrated failures), but because remembering him would raise uncomfortable questions about the Easter 1916 rising. Patrick Pearse’s 1915 essay “Ghosts” identifies Redmond as a traitor. As Sinn Féin’s political target in Northern Ireland was the SDLP, so the 1916 insurgents’ target was Redmond and his party.
If I were an Irish voter in spring 1916, what would each have said to me?
Redmond would ask for my vote. Pearse would tell me that he and his associates were now the new government of a new state, neither of which needed votes. He might commandeer my property, and his men would shoot me if I obstructed them (as happened during the rising).
Redmond might tell me about his difficulties with unionists, and sound me out on how far he could go in accommodating Carson. Refusing even to mention unionists, Pearse would present the non-negotiable demands of Cuchulainn’s and Tone’s ghosts.
Redmond would point to the land legislation, local government reform and the beginning of work to tackle the Dublin slum as positive achievements. Pearse would say (as he said to Denis Gwynn in 1913) that it were better that Dublin burn than that the Irish people should, as a result of such reforms, be content within the British empire.
Redmond would lament the horrors of the first World War and regret its necessity. Pearse said that it was the most glorious and sublime chapter in Europe’s history. Redmond would be all for non-violent nationalism and conciliating the British and the unionists. Pearse would assert that an Irish blood sacrifice was not just necessary but utterly desirable and spiritually elevating.
Redmond would be pleased that the Scots will soon vote on independence. Pearse (and Collins, as reflected in his letter in The Irish Times of October 26th, 1917) would hold that the Scots have no right to decide against independence, and that a majority not wanting full independence could be forced by an armed revolt into accepting it.
Given what he says in “Ghosts”, Pearse would regard the 1998 Good Friday agreement as national treason, whereas Redmond would think it a programme for peace and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists. With big majorities North and South endorsing that agreement, it seems that most of us are, after a fashion, Redmondites. – Is mise,
SÉAMUS MURPHY SJ,
N Kenmore Avenue,
A chara, – Robert Leonard (July 25th) is quite right to highlight the often farcical and unbecoming exchanges seen among the readers’ comments in your online version. While the discontinuation of this facility might do the latter no harm, if it must be kept standards would surely be raised by the removal of the anonymity option for commentators. It is reasonable to assume that keyboard cowboys would be less trigger-happy if their contributions could be identified by neighbours, employers, and so on. — Is mise,
Dr GARETH P KEELEY
Sir, – Robert Leonard’s point (Letters, July 25th) on the “commentariat” and its contribution of “drivel” to the online version of The Irish Times is well made. One presumes that material published on the site comes under the umbrella of the Irish Times Trust and its governing princples. Is the trust satisfied that all this material meets the standard it itself has set,that “comment and opinion shall be informed and responsible”?
Personal rants under fanciful pen-names surely are neither. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Patrick Davey (July 26th) says “Surely this situation is worth discussing in its own right ( ie the effects of social media and the internet on young minds) rather than treating anything that Breda O’Brien writes as apologetics for the Catholic church and attacking her accordingly without actually engaging with what she is saying”.
But of course Mr Davey is right. But instead of going over old ground let us look at what Breda O’Brien wrote last Saturday (July 26th) and see if we can clear it of a Catholic “apologetics” dimension.
In this article Breda strongly attacks the content of Tony Blair’s Philip Gould lecture that week. Tony Blair had said: “No political philosophy today will achieve support unless it focuses on individual empowerment, not collective control. The role of society or the state becomes about helping the individual to help themselves, and to gain control over their own lives and choices.”
Breda replies with: “Notice what is missing – communities, co-operatives, families.” But the only family Breda O’Brien acknowledges is the family where the two people marrying are of the opposite sex. Not surprisingly this happens to be the Catholic model also.
Tony Blair, a Catholic himself, but not of the Iona Institute brand, has long been a supporter of marriage equality and vehemently challenged Pope Benedict XVl on this subject a few years ago. Breda would have been aware of this challenge.
It is precisely to give minority “communities” (like the gay community) a voice, and minority “families” (like same-sex couple families) a right to exist, that Tony Blair resists “collective control” in favour of “individual empowerment”.
Breda O’Brien, like the Catholic church she strongly supports, will brook no such “individual empowerment”.
For centuries the Catholic church has maintained strict collective control over the institution of marriage, health and education, on this island. Now the Irish people are beginning to free themselves of such collective control and the individual is finally being empowered. This is thanks to people like Tony Blair, Barack Obama and our own Eamon Gilmore.
Can we clear Breda O’Brien’s latest column of Catholic “apologetics”? I will let Patrick Davey decide for himself. Yours, etc,
Sir – There may be countries where Conor Gearty’s optimism (Opinion & Analysis, July 25th) about the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power is justified, but Ireland is not one of them.
From the illegal tapping of journalists’ phones (1983), to widespread fraud in the beef industry (1991), poisoning people with contaminated blood (1994), abuse of planning laws (1997), evading tax through illegal offshore accounts (2002), misappropriating Fás funds (2008) and bankrupting the entire country to the tune of billions (2008), the rich and powerful here have demonstrated an uncanny immunity from prosecution. Meanwhile, about 250 people a year are imprisoned for non-payment of TV licences. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Yours, etc,
First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:35
Sir, – Your correspondent Éilís ní Anluain-Quill, (July 19th) shares with us the view of the late lamented Diarmaid Ó Muirithe regarding the “dodgy Gaelicisation of ‘crack’ … as ‘craic’”. There is another possible derivation. Catherine Marie O’Sullivan, in her excellent treatise Hospitality in Medieval Ireland, reminds us of the custom of cattle raiding, the proceeds of which were known as “creach”, pronounced of course “craic” with the final “c” aspirated. After a successful raid, the “creach” was distributed at a banquet, “lavish in sharing creach” . Sounds like a good party, and closer to current practice than “a good old English/Scottish word”! Apparently penalties were imposed at such “creach” for vomiting at table. Temple Bar please note. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Whether or not physical examination is a “relationship-building tool, helping to reconnect patients and doctors”, as Muiris Houston believes, I learned in Dublin in the 1960s that it should always be carried out because a) it gives you time to think and b) you discover what you missed the last time. – Yours, etc,
DR JOHN DOHERTY,
A chara, – Is there anything to be said for the rampant buddleia to be seen in recent weeks, sprouting from windowsills, carparks, scrubland and even chimney stacks? The species becomes more brazen by the year. And yet, no steps are taken to rein it in. It is on a par with the seagulls. Is mise,
Sir, – For the benefit of Rory O’Callaghan (Letters, July 28th), who sought an explanation for the playing of Ireland’s Call at a recent hockey match: from the Irish Hockey Association website: “The Irish Hockey Association is the national governing body for the sport of field hockey in Ireland. Governing the 32 counties of Ireland.”
Knowing nothing about hockey, I took the 30 seconds to investigate, rather than be outraged. The merit of the selection is obvious, the merit of the tune, less so. Yours, etc,
Sir, – A tenet of decent journalism should be that a headline must not deliberately mislead. The headline “Consultants to be offered 24% pay rise” sadly falls well short of that ideal.
Sensationalist headlines with total disregard for the truth were once the preserve of the tabloid red tops. Now, in an attempt to sell copy, this paper has resorted to a tactic which is grossly unfair to the new Minister and hospital consultants. The editor is aware that the pay rise mentioned in the article refers to the reversal of a pay cut imposed on newly appointed consultants made in an effort to halt the fall in applications for new posts. The editor is also well aware that existing consultants have undergone a pay reduction of over 30 per cent since 2008.
Bashing hospital consultants has for some time now represented the low-lying fruit of lazy journalism, but this headline marks a new low in broadsheet headline-grabbing. Your, etc,
North Circular Road,
Sir, – You report (July 26th) that Prince Edward, duke of Kent, is to accompany President Michael D Higgins in unveiling a war memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery to commemorate the Irish who died fighting in the first World War. Am I the only person who is sick of this continuous sycophantic kowtowing to British royalty in relation to a dynastic war between inbred aristocratic cousins? The Great War, ironically misnamed, is best summed up by the following words of the poet Ezra Pound: “There died a myriad,/ And of the best, among them/ For an old bitch gone in the teeth / For a botched civilization.” – Yours, etc,
DEREK HENRY CARR,
Sir, – I must protest at the publication in your newspaper of a photograph of a young rabbit trying to defend itself against a herring gull on Skellig Michael, (July 26th). The poor rabbit is clearly terrified. We all know that this is the way nature works and we accept it. But to print this picture in a daily newspaper is totally unacceptable as it breaks the hearts of little Irish children the length and breadth of the island. – Yours, etc,
I visited the West Bank in 1961. It was part of Jordan and the Palestinians were devastated at having been driven off their land. They believed that situation temporary. Between 1961 and 2014 the situation has gotten worse.
Today Israel is the super-power of the Middle East, and while enjoying the unqualified support of the US with the sympathy and commitment of the EU, it lives in fear. The whole area is very tightly controlled so the Palestinians are living in an open-air prison while the Israelis are ruling by terror.
It would take great trust and co-operation for the “Two State Solution” to work. The irony is that if the Palestinians and Israelis could achieve that, the 1948 partition of Palestine is unnecessary.
That brings us to a “One State Solution” with Jews and Arabs of the three areas living together like any normal multicultural country. Why not hope?
C BOWMAN, ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
GAZA VIOLENCE IS UNACCEPTABLE
* No need for us to go to the cinema these days in order to see war films. Before our own eyes we are seeing the mass slaughter of innocent people, especially children, who must be asking the question: what did we do wrong to deserve this?
So far in Gaza over 1,000 people have been killed in an illegitimate war by Israeli forces. They say the essence of this conflict stems from the kidnap and murder of three Israeli boys. While I completely sympathise with their loss, is it just to kill in response?
It is not so long ago since world leaders buried their heads in the sand when they knew what was going on in concentration camps around the world. Now we have a concentration camp named Gaza that is under siege and all the world’s politicians do is give the usual lip service and rhetoric.
There can be no justification on either side for war in this conflict and the only way forward is respect and dignity for your fellow human beings.
There is a disproportionate level of violence coming from Israeli forces – and Ireland knows what it was like to live under the tyranny of an oppressor.
It is therefore incumbent on every decent human being to voice their revulsion at the violence that is being inflicted on the helpless people of Gaza. We have seen this injustice happen in South Africa and to the credit of Irish people we boycotted their produce. At least that gesture showed our compassion for the suffering of the oppressed. Let’s do the same against Israel.
FRANK CUMMINS, CLONDALKIN, DUBLIN 22
THE RICH STILL GETTING RICHER
* I refer to the interpretation of data by Professor John FitzGerald of the ESRI, who claims that wealth inequa-lity has narrowed during the recess-ion because the Government “protec- ted” welfare (Irish Independent, July 28). It is obvious that he didn’t ask anyone stuck with no work or those surviving on the state pension.
Recent studies demonstrate that the rich have gotten richer, and while it is obvious that the number of high earners has dropped during the recession, it is incorrect to conclude from that that we have become more equal.
On the contrary, the recently published “Rich List” showed that the fortunes of Ireland’s 250 wealthiest people rose 12pc to €57bn over the past year. Their combined wealth is now equivalent to 35pc of the country’s gross domestic product.
Anyone suggesting that the gap between the rich and the poor here has narrowed is deluding himself.
JIM O’SULLIVAN, RATHEDMOND, SLIGO
REDMOND’S GREAT MISJUDGMENT
* If there was such a thing in history as a charge of “criminal misjudgment” then surely John Redmond would be a prime suspect.
Redmond stands indicted for the central role he played in sending tens of thousands of innocent young Irishmen into a useless and violent imperial war. This was done, it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule – what Roger Casement reputedly called “a promissory note payable only after death”.
By contrast, Redmond’s great predecessor, Charles Stewart Parnell, had years before shown that he recognised and, more importantly, was prepared to yield to and support the growing separatist and anti-imperial movement if such were the will of the Irish people.
The real “war to end all wars” was about to unfold in Redmond’s own land: the 1916-21 Irish War of Independence. For most of the island, the outcome of this infinitely less violent event ended the British Empire’s practice of recruiting young, mainly impoverished, Irishmen as fodder for its endless colonial wars. (Recent research by eminent historian Orlando Figes, reveals that in my native parish of Aghada, in Co Cork, as many as one in every three men lost their lives in the all-but-forgotten Crimean War. In fact, post-Famine Irish recruits made up a full one-third of the entire British army engaged in that particular disaster). By contrast, and since independence, Irish soldiers have carved out an enviable reputation as a universally respected UN peacekeeping force.
Whatever the intention behind the newly-issued ‘WW1 Commemoration’ postage stamps, I think most will agree that the choice of images and text merely serves to underline the manipulative nature and bad judgment of Redmond’s pro-war lobby.
In contrast to Redmond and others, the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress published the following address to the women of Ireland on the eve of the war: “A war for the aggrandisement of the capitalist class has been declared . . . it is you who will suffer most by this foreign war. It is the sons you reared that will be sent to be mangled by shot and torn by shell, it is your fathers, husbands and brothers, whose corpses will pave the way to glory for an Empire, which despises you.”
BILLY FITZPATRICK, TERENURE, DUBLIN 6W
* Congratulations to Mary Kenny for her sensible article on Ireland’s absence from the Commonwealth Games (July 28). She somewhat underestimates the number of republics in today’s Commonwealth, however, stating “the Commonwealth contains several republics”. In fact, it contains 32 republics!
It might also be worth mentioning that Irish people willingly played a major role in building many Commonwealth countries where 17 million people of Irish descent currently live.
Today’s Commonwealth extends a hand of friendship to Ireland and some of its members give jobs and new opportunities to our youth.
ROBIN BURY, KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN
LEINSTER HOUSE FACTS
* The journalist, editor and politician CP Scott once said that: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” While commentary is an integral and important part of any newspaper, that commentary should always be based on fact.
Unfortunately, Liam Fay’s ‘Shadow of a Conman’ commentary was not based on fact. To put the facts straight, Leinster House administrators have not employed private debt collectors to chase down outstanding money. The simple fact is that the Houses of the Oireachtas is assigning somebody to manage customer accounts in light of the fact that the person who is currently carrying out this duty is retiring.
We are taking this opportunity to review the roles and responsibilities of staff working on administration in the restaurant in light of the retirement and it is hoped that this task can be carried out by staff from within our own resources.
CIARAN BRENNAN, COMMUNICATIONS UNIT, HOUSES OF THE OIREACHTAS, LEINSTER HOUSE