Birthday

30 July 2014 Birthday

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

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

Obituary:

Sir Richard MacCormac – obituary

Sir Richard MacCormac was an architect who brought his dramatic vision to the London Underground but fell foul of the BBC

The architect Sir Richard MacCormac at his home in Spitalfields

The architect Sir Richard MacCormac at his home in Spitalfields Photo: GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE

6:56PM BST 30 Jul 2014

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Sir Richard MacCormac, who has died aged 75, was one of Britain’s foremost modernist architects, the striking extension to Broadcasting House, the BBC’s famous art-deco headquarters in central London, being ranked among the best known of his many prominent public buildings.

Known as the “thinking man’s architect”, MacCormac was awarded the contract for the £1 billion project in 2000 — only to be sacked by the BBC five years later on completion of the first phase amid talk of “creative differences”.

BBC bosses expressed reservations about the architecturally ambitious newsroom, which was to have been the new building’s centrepiece, and which MacCormac had predicted would be “one of the most wonderful and celebrated spaces in the world”. He had proposed a vast, cathedral-like open space supported by four huge columns to form a spectacular setting for television newsreaders.

The new development at Broadcasting House (SIMON KENNEDY)

When the cost-conscious BBC nervously trimmed MacCormac’s original design — hailed by the architectural critic Jonathan Glancey as “sensational” with “the look of the command centre of an intergalactic spaceship” — MacCormac refused to accept a “dumbing down”, claiming that his creative integrity was being undermined; he disowned a compromise plan which, he said, tore the heart out of the project and “eliminated what had already become, for architectural critics and those informed about the project, its great icon”.

Complaining of “insufferable contempt” from the BBC high command, MacCormac said he and his designers had become “little more than draughtsmen for the project managers”. But his design for a curved glass “cyclorama” on the outside of the building, bathed at night in coloured light, enclosing a U-shaped public piazza and linking the original liner-like Broadcasting House with John Nash’s Grade 1 listed All Souls Church, did survive the rift.

Another firm of architects was drafted in half way through the construction work and eventually finished the job. When the building was completed in 2012, four years late and £55 million over budget, many reckoned that what should have been MacCormac’s triumphant swansong represented an undignified end to a distinguished career.

A former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, MacCormac made his name in the socialist modernist field of design, his work being influenced by, among others, the Arts and Crafts movement and the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He worked on social housing schemes in south-west London before starting his own practice, MacCormac Jamieson Prichard (now known as MJP) with Peter Jamieson and David Prichard, in 1972.

He earned widespread recognition for his work on the Wellcome wing of the London Science Museum; the almond-shaped Ruskin Library at the University of Lancaster; and one of London’s most distinctive Underground stations, at Southwark, part of the Jubilee Line extension which opened in 1999.

Sir Richard MacCormac’s Southwark tube station (PETER DURANT/ARCBLUE)

MacCormac based his station design on one by the 19th-century Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel for the set of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Passengers travelling up the escalators from the station platforms enter an intermediate concourse where daylight streams in through a huge crescent-shaped skylight. One critic acclaimed MacCormac’s 52ft-high curved wall, stretching from floor to skylight and made up of hundreds of triangular pieces of deep blue glass, as “as dramatic and unexpected as any sight on the London Underground”.

The Southwark project earned MacCormac the Millennium Building of the Year Award in 2000.

MacCormac’s other award-winning buildings include the Garden Quadrangle at St John’s College, Oxford, designed to “sustain a sense of the secret and unexpected”; and the Burrell’s Fields at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also oversaw a £50 million redesign of the centre of Coventry.

Sir Richard MacCormac’s Ruskin Library at Lancaster University (PETER DURANT/ARCBLUE)

MacCormac was always interested in the relationship between architecture and art, and became a prolific writer on architectural philosophy and ideas. But perhaps his most striking attribute was his architectural intuition. “Discerning the essence of a building’s design,” noted his colleague Jeremy Estop, “he could quickly assimilate a set of constraints and opportunities, snatch a piece of paper, and straightaway synthesise them in a deft freehand sketch.”

Richard Cornelius MacCormac was born on September 3 1938 in Marylebone, central London, into a medical family of Northern Irish descent. A forebear was Sir William MacCormac, a surgeon to Edward VII. After Westminster School, he did National Service in the Royal Navy before reading Architecture at Trinity College, Cambridge. Graduating in 1962, he began his career with the modernist pioneers Powell and Moya before joining Lyons Israel and Ellis in 1965, having been awarded an MA from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.

After several years designing social housing for Merton Council, and then establishing his own practice, he continued to work mainly on public buildings rather than in the more lucrative corporate sector. He remained a partner until 2011.

As well as designing major architectural projects, MacCormac was an industrious academic, having taught in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge in the 1970s and having held the post of visiting professor at Edinburgh University in the 1980s.

His other appointments included membership of the Royal Fine Art Commission (1983-93) and the Architecture Committee of the Royal Academy (1998–2008). He was an adviser to the British Council (from 1993) and the Urban Task Force (from 1998), and a trustee of the Sir John Soane Museum from 1998. A Royal Academician, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1982, appointed CBE in 1994 and knighted in 2001.

He served as president of the Royal Institute of British Architects between 1991 and 1993.

MacCormac married, in 1964, Susan Landen, with whom he had two sons. Having separated from his wife in 1983, he lived for 30 years with the author and interior designer Jocasta Innes, his neighbour in Spitalfields, east London, in two beautiful houses linked by a secret passage. The couple became active in promoting the renewal of Spitalfields, and earlier this year MacCormac published a book, Two Houses In Spitalfields, documenting their life there together. Jocasta Innes died last year.

He is survived by one son from his first marriage, the other having predeceased him.

Sir Richard MacCormac, born September 3 1938, died July 26 2014

Guardian:

Israel - Gaza conflict, Gaza, Palestinian Territories - 30 Jul 2014

Harriet Sherwood (Report, 30 July) highlights Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s power plant and Amnesty International says this represents “collective punishment of Palestinians”. Additional evidence of bombing UN centres confirms Israel’s disregard for the lives of children and other noncombatants in its continued (illegal) domination of the occupied Palestinian territories. The EU and US had developed a doctrine of Responsibility to Protect intended to prevent any repetition of Balkan, Rwandan or Sudan genocide ensuring intervention to keep warring parties apart. Yet R2P seems only to be applied in African scenarios – more convenient to deal with less sensitive states than Israel. Time perhaps for academics and policy-makers to ask for how long they will treat Israel as a special case when they are the illegitimate occupier of Palestinian territory and resistance to occupation remains lawful and just.
Ray Bush
Professor of African studies and development politics, University of Leeds

• I count myself as a supporter of the state of Israel, of its resettlement in its historic setting. But I have been distressed not only at the news of what is happening in Gaza, but also at the unwillingness of reporters and commentators to bring into the discussion the history of Israel’s re-establishment. I never thought that even the relative precariousness of Israel’s position in the Middle East justified the degree to which the Israeli state has been manifestly unfaithful to what I regard as its own Torah teaching on righteousness and justice, as reinforced by the prophets.

The fact that so few voices of eminent Israelites and Jews have been willing to admit the illegality and injustice of Israel’s West Bank settlement policy, pursued so relentlessly since 1967, I have found deeply disturbing. I acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel’s concerns in building the security barrier, but am distressed that no Elijah-like protest is to be heard or given publicity against the land-grab of the positioning of the barrier or at the abuse of traditional rights of Arab landowners and olive groves.

Nor can I defend the Hamas policy of firing rockets into Israel, but neither can I defend Israel’s policy of treating Gaza as little more than an extended prison camp. We must surely set the current catastrophe within its historical context. Since Israel owes the legitimacy of its status in the Middle East to a UN resolution, would it not be an obvious step forward for a properly representative UN panel to review the rights and wrongs of Israel’s expansion since 1948 and 1967, including the impact on the previous inhabitants of the region, and to recommend how Israel and Palestine might co-exist both peacefully and to the mutual benefit of each other in the future.
Professor James DG Dunn
Chichester, West Sussex

• Once again you carry an article pointing out the US secretary of state, John Kerry’s, failure to persuade Israel to agree a lasting ceasefire in Gaza (Report, 29 July). He has a perfectly simple means of ensuring that Israel ends its military dominance and its ability to launch lethal attacks on the Palestinians with impunity. All he has to do is to get President Obama to stop signing cheques for US military aid to Israel. This is estimated at $3bn in each of the last three years. Israel is using aircraft, tanks and shells paid for by the US.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

• Writing about the latest slaughter of civilians in Gaza, Yuli Novak, a former officer in the Israeli air force, is right to say that “these killings cannot be accepted without question” (A tonne of shame, 29 July). She goes on to say that “public silence in the face of such actions – inside and outside Israel – is consent by default”. I agree. This is why thousands of people in cities throughout the UK have been out on the streets in recent weeks, demonstrating against the Israeli bombing of civilian areas. In London, around 100,000 protesters, including Jewish groups, have marched between the Israeli embassy and parliament on successive Saturdays calling for an end not just to the bombings but also to the blockade which imprisons the civilian population in Gaza and cuts off essential supplies. I find it very disturbing that the BBC and much of the press do not report such protests. Those of us who are speaking out do not wish to be associated with our government’s continuing support of the rogue state that Israel has become. Yuli Novak can be reassured that the public outside Israel is not remaining silent, even if our dissent is largely going unreported.
Karen Barratt
Winchester, Hampshire

• Yuli Novak writes that there is little public outcry in Israel about the bombing of Gaza. The irony is unbearable. Many German Jews must have wondered in the 1940s why almost no one protested or came to their aid when they were transported to their deaths. Their descendants surely do not wonder so now.
Andrew McCulloch
Collingham, Nottinghamshire

• Your correspondent (Letters, 28 July) stated that one of the first things Hamas did after the Israeli military occupation was to demolish the previous settlers’ houses, in spite of a housing crisis in Gaza. This would seem to be incorrect. According to reports in the British media at the time, all the settlers’ homes were demolished by the Israeli army before leaving Gaza. I remember watching film of the specially built Israeli house-demolishing bulldozers in action in Gaza at the time.
Lynn White
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd

• Anyone who has visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, needs no explanation as to why the Israeli government is so determined to defend its people against attack – “never again” might be its motto. But this understanding should not justify further inhumanity and certainly shouldn’t justify the diplomatic malaise that grips Israel’s allies. A message can be sent to both sides that would be firm and directly interventionist, which is to say the Israeli blockade of Gaza should be broken by the dispatch of humanitarian supplies protected by western forces, coordinated under Nato’s auspices.

The cargoes could be independently inspected and verified to everyone’s satisfaction. I very much doubt under such circumstances that such a convoy with its military escort would be attacked. In recent years, diplomacy in this conflict has been just so much hand-wringing and I doubt that either side believes a word western politicians say, since they take so little action.
Colin Challen
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Mini plastic men and a woman standing on piles of money

Disraeli, appalled by the inequalities pervading Victorian Britain, adopted “one nationism” for his Conservative party to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The consequent laws passed even included extending the rights of trade unions and allowing peaceful picketing. Ed Miliband, in an acknowledgment that the country has reverted to Dickensian times, has chosen “one nation Labour” as his election slogan, and nothing could justify his choice more than the existence of “poor doors” and the “segregation of inner-city flat dwellers”, only fit for “vile coloured plastic panels on the outside” of their homes (Poor doors: the segregation of inner-city flat dwellers, 26 July). The transfer of the adjective from the property to the people signals the arrival, in London at least, of a form of economic apartheid; “affordable tenants” being treated with contempt because they cannot afford £500,000 for a studio flat are being kept apart from high-income neighbours. This is clearly the sort of divisive behaviour that the previous mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, tried to eradicate with his “pepperpot” policy of social housing mixed in with other accommodation.

The fact that developers and “buying agents” are calling the tune is yet another reason for Miliband to pledge more regulation, and to propose legislation that bans all such “segregation”; such promises would not be unpopular. After all, what is the point of having a government that insists that civilised values are taught in our schools, when it allows, perhaps encourages, such intolerance, snobbery and bigotry in its housing policies?
Bernie Evans
Liverpool

• Hilary Osborne’s report is shocking – but only because the separation of people in the same building is, so to speak, in your face. The normal segregation of rich and poor is so much nicer. It provokes only mild, impotent grumbles. It is time to start to think seriously about the rich-poor spectrum, for inequality is rising. Hardly anyone now even bothers to speak of trickle-down. Money is flowing from poor to rich. It is trickle-up, and near the top the flow concentrates into a torrent. A key unaddressed social problem is that there is no limit to accumulation – to a person’s assets and income. There should be such limits, low enough to address our present problems of gross injustice and planetary overload. A key feature is that this proposal is not a tax, for it is quite logical to resent heavy taxation of income that has (in some cases!) been gained legally. The point is to render excessive accumulation unacceptable, in custom and in law. The first step is to start to think and talk about it.
Alan Cottey
Norwich

• Bearing in mind all the terrible and newsworthy happenings in the world this week, I find it incredible that the leading headline relates to the “segregation” of London flat-dwellers. This is not even news.

Developers are forced to provide “affordable” units in their housing schemes, and housing completion rates are at historically low levels. If the social housing providers had to pay market-level management and concierge fees, even fewer affordable houses would be provided.

House-building companies are businesses. Politicians should get on with providing houses, for those who cannot afford London prices, by other means.
Sue Hesketh
Over Alderley, Cheshire

• You report that the fine on Lloyds bank for “repo” misdeeds “is likely to go to armed forces charities” (Carney slates ‘unlawful’ Lloyds, 29 July). Given the numbers of mortgages “repo”ssessed by the Lloyds group after the financial crash, perhaps the money would be rather better directed to homelessness charities.
Steven Thomson
London

Your article (Mental health patients face postcode lottery, claims Labour, 25 July) highlights shortfalls and inequities in spending on mental health across the age range. While children and young people make up 20% of the population, on average only about 6% of NHS money is spent on mental health provision for this age group. It is probable that in some areas less than 0.5% of NHS spending goes on children’s mental health. The lack of parity between physical and mental health, a promise made but unfulfilled, is undoubtedly overlaid by a lack of parity between children’s and adults’ mental health support.

Cuts to local government funding have resulted in the decimation of children’s services in many areas. This has served to exacerbate the problem, because local government funds vital services that aim to protect vulnerable children, and promote wellbeing and prevent mental-health problems in children and young people. There are known effective, evidence-based early interventions, and mental-health treatments for children and young people. These, if made available at scale, would save their costs nine times over. Of course, intervening early would lead to happier and healthier children and young people, doing better at school and better able to meet their potential. So why, at a time when there is an escalation of child and adolescent mental-health difficulties, are we allowing upstream, early intervention, community-based mental health interventions to be reduced?

One of the root causes of the problem – 10 years on from a National Service Framework for Children, which aimed to establish comprehensive mental health services for children and young people – appears to be that government has ceased to be meaningfully accountable for these services, and there is no effective accountability lower down the chain either. Responsibility for the inspection of mental health services is fragmented and the new commissioning architecture does not appear to be effectively joining up budgets and outcomes. While we all appreciate that the public purse is considerably emptier than in years gone by, it is foolish and ultimately costly if short-term savings are prioritised over our children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Sue Bailey Chair, Mick Atkinson Vice-chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

Alan Travis’s article (Decline in heroin and crack use ‘behind fall in crime’, 23 July) announced the Home Office’s view that the main factor in falling crime rates over the last 10 years has been the reduction in the number of heroin addicts in the country. This crime reduction success has been the result of the brave policy of successive governments to invest heavily in treatment programmes for drug-addicted offenders over the last 15 years. The numbers of people treated went up fourfold around the turn of the century, and communities are now reaping the benefit from this policy. A wide range of treatment programmes have contributed to this trend – our own peer-reviewed research shows that the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt) prison treatment programme achieved a 20% reduction in post-release reoffending among a cohort of 352 male addicted prisoners who were prolific offenders before their imprisonment. Funding for many treatment programmes is now under threat – if they are allowed to close, the long-term costs to the taxpayer, and to communities, will be much higher than the short-term savings.
Mike Trace
Chief executive, RAPt

Demolition of Didcot power station

Viv Groskop (The fringe’s spirit lives on, 30 July) will, I’m sure, be warmly welcomed as one of the “thousands head(ing) up to Edinburgh in the next few days”. Let’s hope those of us heading for Edinburgh either by travelling across or down are equally welcomed. For the moment at least, we Guardian readers happily resident in Scotland are allowed into Edinburgh for August along with the thousands travelling from London.
Alistair Richardson
Stirling

• And there are still some people who question the need for strict press regulation (Sun criticised over ‘devil’ boy front page, 30 July)?
Pete Lavender

Nottingham

• It is possible to be a grandmother and a great-grandmother simultaneously (Letters, 29 July). My late and much loved Grandma Florrie combined both roles very successfully during her own visits to Liverpool, even when she had baggy slippers and a walking stick.
Vincent Paver
London

• Blowdown (Didcot power station demolition draws hundreds despite warnings to stay away, 28 July) seems like an obscure sexual practice – suggestions welcome. What’s the matter with the word “explosion”?
John Richards
Oxford

• What would Radio 4’s culture tsar (Report, 28 July) have made of this use of the historic present: “Suppose within the girdle of these walls, Are now confined two mighty monarchies, Whose high upreared and abutting fronts, The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.” (Henry V Prologue)?
John Bolland
Norwich

• Using the present rather than the past is a quite minor error when compared to the enormity of the misuse of the word anticipate. Even people who should know better are guilty.
June Hardie
Sevenoaks, Kent

• A man walks into a bar with a gift-wrapped fossil. The barman says: “Why the historic present?”
Alasdair McKee
Lancaster

Independent:

The events unfolding on the Gaza Strip have filled the world with horror. One might have thought that, by now, we would have become accustomed to the cycle of violence in that part of the world, but each new round seems to only ratchet up the revulsion. 

Through it all however, there is one question that remains unanswered: what is it that Israel wants from the Palestinian people?

It cannot be a viable two-state solution. Events on the West Bank, where each new settlement nibbles away at any potential Palestinian state, demonstrate that. So what will make Israel happy and persuade it to sign a lasting peace treaty?

For over three decades now, I have tried to peer through the fog of rhetoric and the obfuscation of propaganda, and I still don’t know. Can anyone supply the answer?

John Dowling
Newcastle upon Tyne

Peter DeVillez (letter, 29 July) refers to “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land outside their internationally recognised borders” as the underlying reason for the conflict.

He is obviously unaware that such borders simply do not exist. The armistice agreements after the 1948 war specified explicitly, in accord with Arab demands, that the armistice lines should not be considered as international borders.

Israel is the sole existing successor state to the Palestine Mandate – the UN-proposed Arab state never having been set up – and so has as good a claim as any to occupy the totality of the land within it.

Martin D Stern
Salford, Greater Manchester

 

Philip Hammond the Foreign Secretary, illustrates what grotesque double standards this country operates. Sanctions are apparently perfectly justified against Russia for its action in Ukraine. A different set of standards, though, apply to Israel.

Hammond can argue about the use of the words “proportionate” or “disproportionate” in relation to the killing of men, women and children in Gaza. While the BBC and others hype up Hamas rockets and tunnels to make this appear in some way a fair fight, the casualty figures tell an altogether different story. Some 55 Israelis (overwhelmingly soldiers) killed compared to more than 1,200 men, women and children killed by the Israeli attacks.

This is slaughter on a mass scale, and it is a sign of just how inane the West has become that it can sit by and watch it happen – or in some cases even seek to justify it.

Paul Donovan
London E11

Dominic Kirkham (letter, 28 July) is quite right to say Zionism has traduced Judaism – and it is even worse than he thinks. He calls the concept of justice encapsulated in the phrase “an eye for an eye” savagery; but what that phrase really means is that the punishment should never exceed the offence, the idea being to curtail savagery, limit vengeance.

This is a basic concept of allowable retaliation in Jewish law. But not even this is being observed by Israel – its punishment of Gaza far exceeds, by several orders of magnitude, the impotent attacks of Hamas.

Sarah Fermi
Cambridge

 

The Israelis claim that they are issuing warnings before their attacks. But the IRA used to issue warnings before attacking targets in the UK mainland, and that was still seen as unjustifiable terrorist action – as was the infamous attack by the Irgun group on the King David Hotel in 1946. That, too, was preceded by a warning, which Menachem Begin later claimed was ignored by the British to enable them to vilify Jewish groups.

To its credit, the British Government did not decide that the best response to IRA terrorism was to send tanks into the Bogside and order airstrikes to kill large numbers of civilians, however “unintentionally”. Maybe the Israelis should take note that in the case of such long-standing grievances, a solution is only ever found by including your enemies in meaningful dialogue in the spirit of compromise, rather than trying to exterminate them by force.

Simon Prentis
Cheltenham

Robert Fisk (29 July) writes that the authorities should be as concerned about British subjects returning from serving in the Israeli military as Jihadists returning from Syria.

But while Jihadists have blown up Tube trains, murdered Lee Rigby and had many other deadly plots foiled, there is not one instance of any criminal activity in this country by anyone serving in the IDF.

The fact that British Jews make up less then 0.1 per cent of the prison population shows that his fears are totally misplaced.

Simon Lyons
Enfield, Middlesex

 

Suppose Iran had the Bomb.

Robert Davies
London SE3

 

Voodoo morality at Lloyds bank

I read on your front page (29 July) that “traders” at Lloyds Bank have been caught fiddling interest rates so that they could nick money from the Bank of England – that is, so they could nick our money. They did this by using money that we gave them – £20.5bn – after they’d lost all our other money. Now the Government is fining the bank – but not the traders – a measly £217m.

And how will the bank pay that fine? Um – by using the money that we already gave them.

Do they think we’re stupid? They’re right.

I work at a university where business studies is seen as a decent subject and has money and text books and facilities thrown at it. (Unlike archaeology, for instance, which was recently deemed too unimportant a subject to continue to exist as a school of its own: heaven forfend that we might learn something from the lessons of the past.)

Business studies seems to me to be a subject that does not seem to be proven to work in any way. It is like funding a course in voodoo. They take money. They throw it away. They get rich. We pay them more money. They throw it away. They get rich. The country disappears down the drain. They throw it away. They get rich. Why is this seen as a good system or as a subject worthy of study? If it’s working so well, how come everyone on the planet – apart from the very, very few – is so poor?

Emma Wilson
Birmingham

 

These will not be designer babies

I want to respond to concerns regarding government proposals to legalise mitochondrial donation in the UK (“Government accused of dishonesty over GM babies”, 28 July).

Let us be clear, we are not opening the doors to so-called “designer babies”. Mitochondrial donation does not involve manipulating the nuclear DNA which determines personal characteristics and human traits. This is and will remain illegal.

It is true that in the absence of a universally agreed definition of genetic modification, we have agreed a working definition with expert scientists. However, we have been entirely open and transparent by sharing this with Parliament in March, just as we have been transparent about the process in the last five years.

Changes to fertility techniques understandably cause concern, and it is right that people debate the issue. IVF is a perfect example. In 1978, when Lesley Brown gave birth to the first IVF baby, the technique was highly controversial and divisive. Now it is widely accepted as a way to give families the children they might otherwise not have had.

We must now have the courage to push forward and give future mothers the chance to have children born free from devastating mitochondrial diseases.

Professor Dame Sally C Davies
Chief Medical Officer for England
Department of Health
London SW1

 

Family living together shock

Again in the news people are berating record numbers of adult children living at home: the “clipped wing generation” (“A quarter of young working adults still live with parents”, 29 July).

As a 41-year-old man living with my father and my brother, I resent the implication that I am somehow abnormal. I have lived in many different countries (I spent six years working in Australia), but I now choose to live at home because it gives me the financial freedom to pursue my dream of self-employment, and because my father likes having my brother and me around.

In many cultures it is perfectly normal for families to live together under one roof. Britain needs to temper the ethnocentric assumption that children must leave home in order to be truly adult and truly successful.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones
Oxford

 

Britain, the Clarkson version

You report that foreigners see the British as ignorant of other cultures, intolerant, rude, unfriendly and pessimistic.

This was followed by a report on Jeremy Clarkson’s racist behaviour on Top Gear, a programme beamed around the world.

Is there any link, do you think?

Jane Pickard
Edinburgh

Times:

In a bicameral democracy at least one member of the Lords should have a seat in Cabinet

Sir, Quite rightly, the House of Lords supported Baroness Boothroyd by a large majority (“Boothroyd hits out at Lords demotion”, July 28). As we were reminded in the debate, the summary removal of the lord chancellor under the last government cost the Lords one of its traditional cabinet seats. That underlines the importance of the remaining historic seat.

Throughout the 19th century the leader of the Lords was either the prime minister or one of his closest colleagues. The Duke of Wellington, who held the position under Sir Robert Peel from 1841 to 1846, defined its principal function as “the avoidance of dispute and division with the lower house”. A bicameral parliament is unlikely to serve the interests of the nation effectively in all circumstances if one of its two houses is unrepresented in the full cabinet to which disputes will always be brought.

This grave constitutional issue must now be permanently resolved. A new report by the Lords all-party select committee on the constitution, of which I am a member, has suggested three remedies, all of which would require a short, simple amendment to the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. The limit on the total number of cabinet posts for which salaries can be paid could be raised from 21 to 22 — or, perhaps more attractively, one of the existing 21 could be explicitly reserved either for a member of the House or for its leader. For those with a sense of history the last will seem the best.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

A reader defends his grandfather’s unwillingness at the BBC to toe the government’s line

Sir, Sir Paul Fox (letter, 29 July) talks of Sir Ian Jacob (my grandfather) agreeing to the destruction of a recording of Prince Charles. I hope he is not implying that Sir Ian was prone to acquiescing to the establishment. As director-general at the BBC he drew establishment condemnation for airing an interview with Archbishop Makarios. The Eden government was so enraged by his unwillingness to toe the line on Suez that it cut the BBC’s grant by £1 million. There are other examples of his refusal to allow debate to be stifled.

Patrick Jacob

Woodbridge, Suffolk

The BBC is criticised for lack of balance in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts

Sir, Many have recently pointed to editorial imbalance in the BBC’s reporting on Israel and Palestine. On July 29 I watched its 8pm and 10pm TV news programmes.

On the first, the chief spokesman of the Israeli army was given ample time to denounce Hamas as terrorists and aggressors. On the second, the Israeli chief of military security was shown, along with pictures of Israeli armoured vehicles. There was no reply by a responsible Palestinian, let alone anyone from the Hamas government in Gaza. A small snippet was allowed from someone connected with a half-destroyed mosque.

I deeply regret that our national public service broadcaster cannot do better than that.

Lord Hylton

House of Lords

Now diesel, once the green alternative to horrid petrol, is suddenly the demon fuel

Sir, When my children were babies, I laid them to sleep on their tummies as it was supposed to reduce the risk of their choking. Now, that is seen as dangerous practice and so babies lie on their backs.

Four decades later I bought a diesel car, thinking that it was more economical and better for the environment than petrol. Now (“Diesel drivers face new charges to cut pollution”, July 29), it seems that yet again, I got it all wrong. Is the road to hell really paved with good intentions?

Ann Cross

Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, Ross Clark should have included red wine in his list (Thunderer, July 29) of things initially promoted then demonised. I am now totally confused as to whether I should drink the stuff or not.

Martin Locke

Astley, Shropshire

Telegraph:

Fracking machinery at Balcombe in West Sussex Photo: GETTY

6:57AM BST 30 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – It is right to be concerned about the impact of fracking. However, if regulated carefully, water contamination and environmental damage are unlikely.

Many of the reported problems in America can be linked to leakages from inadequate well construction. British contractors will begin by working under much tighter controls from the start. There are known methods to avoid water contamination and the Health and Safety Executive already has construction standards for gas wells.

European regulations require the disclosure of the chemicals being used, and while the fracking processes can indeed mobilise naturally occurring substances, including methane, metals and radioactive materials, the risk of this occurring in Britain is assessed as part of the statutory permitting process.

Robert Jeffries
Principal, Environ UK
London SW1

Mush ado

SIR – Having also suffered from mushy potatoes, I have found it best to bring them to a gentle boil, then to turn off the heat immediately and leave them in the hot water. They will continue cooking but their skins should stay intact.

Maggie Spittles
Chinnor, Oxfordshire

SIR – My home-grown Charlottes mushed themselves when I boiled the first lot in their skins. However, once the thin baby skin is scraped off, they cook to perfection.

Belinda Brocklehurst
Groombridge, Kent

SIR – The Irish have always preferred varieties of potato with high dry matter, which have a tendency to mush. To prevent this they steam their potatoes rather than boil them, which also enhances the flavour.

Peter Cooper
Manningtree, Essex

Malice in Wonderland

SIR – Roger Gentry says that croquet would be a friendly addition to future Commonwealth Games.

Having played in Guernsey, I can vouch that there is nothing friendly about croquet. It is a nasty and malicious game with all parties trying their best to put the others in dire circumstances.

Alan Latchford
Bromley Cross, Lancashire

Skewed constituencies

SIR – There is a distinct possibility that it will not be Ukip that deprives the Conservatives of victory at the polls next May, but the wildly skewed constituency sizes, which favour Labour by six to seven percentage points.

This is not the fault of Nigel Farage, but of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who vetoed the boundary review.

Surely fair constituencies should be the right of the whole electorate?

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

‘Three-parent’ children

SIR – In calling for a change in the rhetoric on “three-parent” children, Max Pemberton makes much of the fact that 99.8 per cent of the child’s DNA will come from the first two parents. The remaining mitochondrial DNA is “just the battery for the cell”.

Yet for genealogists, who routinely use mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct a person’s maternal ancestry, the “mitochondrial donor” is the true mother.

David Critchley
Winslow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Max Pemberton accepts without question the Department of Health’s contentious assertion that mitochondrial transfer is more akin to organ donation than genetic modification.

Perhaps he should have consulted the fertility treatment pioneer Lord Winston: “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion or a transplant and an honest statement might be more sensible and encourage public trust.”

Jim Dobbin MP (Lab)
Co-Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group
London SE1

Heroes of the Amethyst

SIR – Able Seaman Simon was among the injured crew of HMS Amethyst 65 years ago.

Twenty-five members were killed and many wounded. Simon, the ship’s cat, was hit in the leg by shrapnel and his whiskers and fur burnt off. The crew found him a place in the sick bay, where he took to visiting the injured sailors, comforting them by kneading their chests and purring.

The Amethyst’s captain, John Kerans, nominated him for the PDSA Dickin Medal for bravery. It had regularly been awarded to dogs and pigeons, but never a cat.

Val Lewis
London EC2

Wrist action

SIR – The England and Wales Cricket Board has defended Moeen Ali’s right to wear wristbands reading “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

Would an English player be allowed to wear a wristband saying “Free UK from the EU” or, more to the point, “Save Israel”?

John Frankel
Newbury, Berkshire

All at sea

SIR – Am I correct in thinking that George Harrison believes a warship should be named after one whose fitness for service in a time of need was a cause for anxiety; whose running costs are astronomical; and who is likely to be decommissioned before too long?

Or have I got the wrong Rooney?

Sheelagh James
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Dressed to kill: Lord Mungo Murray, painted 1683, wearing a traditional belted plaid
(Scottish National Portrait Gallery)

SIR – Charles Moore should have ignored Hugh Trevor-Roper’s out-of-date essay “The Coming of the Kilt”.

The English Quaker industrialist Thomas Rawlinson, whom he credits with inventing the kilt, had not yet been born when John Michael Wright painted this magnificent portrait of Lord Mungo Murray, fifth son of the 1st Marquess of Atholl. It is on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Duncan McAra
Edinburgh

SIR – Howard Rees says that the hem of a man’s shorts should just brush the surface on which he is kneeling. The same applies to wearing kilts.

Sandy Pratt
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Ed Miliband’s suggestion that voters should take part in a public form of Prime Minister’s Questions subverts our democratic system. Voters elect representatives to Parliament and may channel their concerns through them to the relevant minister. Should voters have the right to question the Prime Minister themselves in Parliament, there would be no need for elected representatives.

The suggested policy has not been thought through. Who would choose which voters pose their questions? Would there be a regional quota? Would there be recompense for travel expenses incurred by questioners and time lost at work?

Prime Minister’s Questions may be rowdy, but I have American friends who watch it each week, mesmerised, because they wish their president could be held to account in the same way. Our tried and tested system creaks and groans, but it works.

Dr Daphne Pearson
Redbrook, Gloucestershire

SIR – The public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister’s Questions is not because it’s rowdy, but because it is ineffective.

Prime Minister’s Questions is supposed to be a way of holding the Prime Minister to account for his stewardship of the country. However, David Cameron has continued the sad tradition of sidestepping difficult issues by: not answering the question posed, but the one he would have liked; attacking the Opposition; and by getting his own supporters to ask too many questions of the “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that his Government is doing a fantastic job?” variety.

David Gadbury
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – The blame for the noise and uproar at Prime Minister’s Questions rests full square upon the shoulders of the Speaker. He has the power to squash such misbehaviour but does not use it.

The sight of the Sergeant-at-Arms frog-marching a miscreant out of the chamber for a five-day suspension would turn down the volume of the House very quickly.

Ian McCutcheon
Burton in Kendal, Westmorland

SIR – You suggest that the Speaker should work with MPs “towards a more civilised debate”. Much of the public dismay with politicians stems from observing the bedlam at this weekly pantomime, which has more to do with scoring political points than holding the Government to account.

The current Speaker is far too weak in his attempts to control more than 600 large egos. One solution would be to cancel the event for six months, use the select committee framework to question the Prime Minister weekly in a more civilised way, and after this interval, reconsider whether PMQs in their present form are an adequate and effective way of exercising the democratic process.

David Sherratt
Marlborough, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is with absolute disbelief that I read the article “Gaza ceasefire in sight as 100 more die”, currently the most prominent on your front page. On a day in which the Israeli military bombed a UN school, killing 19 civilians, you felt that the most pertinent information for your readers was the brief and localised ceasefire that followed. Not until the fourth paragraph was any mention made of the school bombing or of the 19 civilian casualties – information that any objective observer would deem critical and which any objective observer would agree far outweighs news of the fleeting ceasefire.

The article runs roughly as follows: headline: Israel declares brief ceasefire; paragraph 1: Israel declares brief ceasefire; paragraph 2: Some details of the fleeting ceasefire; paragraph 3: Hamas had no reaction to the news of the ceasefire; paragraph 4: Israel bombed a UN school killing 19 civilians.

It is absolutely appalling that your reporting is so clearly biased in this case. Currently both the British Times and Guardian newspapers, as well as countless others, are leading with the more appropriate story: that of the condemnable attack on the sleeping civilians in that school. I am extremely disappointed with this, which is only a small part of a pattern I have been observing in all your coverage of this conflict. I will certainly never think of The Irish Times as a credible news source again. – Yours, etc,

FIONA GILLAN,

Herberton Park,

Dublin 8

Sir, – The Israeli government has released photographs of Hamas tunnels in Gaza. It is highly probable that Hamas fighters and political leaders are living underground. It is difficult not to conclude therefore that the continual bombardment of civilian residential buildings, mosques, power stations, and other infrastructure by Israeli forces from land, sea and air, is militarily ineffective and thus principally a collective punishment on the Palestinian people.

Israeli spokesmen repeatedly claim that they wish to avoid civilian causalities while they accuse Hamas of deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. Whatever the intention, it is the outcome that counts. At least 75 per cent of the 1,200 killed by the Israel Defence Forces are innocent Palestinian civilians, very many of them children. Of the 56 killed by Hamas, 5 per cent have been civilian and 95 per cent Israeli soldiers.

War crimes have undoubtedly been committed. Those responsible must be held to account for their actions. Yours, etc,

MARTIN MELAUGH,

Wheatfield Avenue,

Coleraine

Co Derry

Sir, Israel’s actions and the dreadful civilian death toll in Gaza must be assessed with some balance. There is considerable evidence that Hamas is deliberately putting civilians at risk as a central part of its strategy. The UN alone has reported finding weapons in its Gaza schools for the third time in two weeks.

Were Hamas to adopt the more political approach of the Palestinan Authority in the West Bank we would not see the dreadful images currently on our TV screens.

The Egyptian government is also dealing with the threat from Hamas and closing its tunnels. This week a number of militants were killed by Egyptian troops on its border with Gaza. Hamas supports the Islamic State forces, responsible for the beheading of prisoners, attacks on Kurds and the ethnic cleansing of Christians from Mosul. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 700 people were killed in a recent 48-hour period in “the bloodiest fighting since the civil war began in 2011”.

This is the environment in which Israel has to exist and respond to threats. The Palestinian people deserve better than to have their lives and future threatened by groups promoting extremism and intolerance. Ireland should condemn and demand the removal of Hamas rockets as a necessary first step to ending the Egyptian and Israeli blockades of Gaza and achieving peace and a political solution in the Palestinian territories. Yours, etc,

JOHN GALLAGHER,

Villarea Park,

Glenageary,

Co Dublin

Sir, – I find that The Irish Times frequently offers a good and impartial view of world events, even those in which the truths are easily obscured. As an American, one who finds himself disagreeing with his government on a number of occasions, I am glad to learn things from your newspaper. In particular, because I am of Jewish heritage, I am indebted to your fair and insightful coverage of the Israel-Gaza issue. It is heartbreaking and so filled with grief for both sides that it is difficult for me to hold steady while I read the news. It is my hope that as all of you, in your difficulties not so long ago, were able to overcome the “troubles” which afflicted so many, all of us, who pray for a good outcome for Gazans and Israelis, will be able to come out of a most terrible dilemma.

Bloodshed and violence were not and can never be the intention of that vast Power from which we derive our lives and hopes. May you lead the way for your readers to deepen their understanding and to increase the sense of compassion which this world needs so dearly. Yours, etc,

GEORGE BAILIN,

Forest Glen Road,

Monroe,

New York

Sir — Thomas Ryan (July 29th) asks whether Palestinian sympathisers can explain why Hamas is smuggling missiles and rockets into Gaza rather than humanitarian supplies. The answer: the rockets are small, but the trucks of food and medical supplies, for nearly 2,000,000 people, are very big.

Good grief, when you find you need to resort to publishing letters like that in order to present a balance of views, it is clearly time to accept that the fault in this matter lies so overwhelmingly with Israel that any attempt to keep to a middle ground is disingenuous.

Such disinterest is really just a kind of moral apathy. Yours, etc,

SIMON FULLER,

Aughrim Street,

Stoneybatter,

Dublin 7

Sir, – Richard Pine (Opinion & Analysis, July 30th) writes of his extreme disillusionment with the European Union and, in particular, at what he sees as the remorseless homogenising logic of the austerity policies championed by the European Council.

He is, of course, entirely right to highlight the immense social trauma occasioned by the welter of fiscal measures introduced to deal with the protracted euro zone crisis. The suffering of the Greek people has been well documented, not least by Mr Pine himself in his insightful contributions to The Irish Times.

It is perhaps understandable that as a resident of the member state to be hardest hit by the crisis he has come to entirely re-evaluate his sense of the meaning and worth of the European integration process.

But his analysis is seriously flawed. In the first place the crisis has been experienced very differently across the member states and regions of the EU. Extrapolating from the worst-hit economy to make an argument applicable to all 28 member states is just not good science. He is also entirely wrong to suggest that the panoply of economic policies implemented to deal with the crisis has led to a culturally homogeneous EU. The European integration process has always been culturally neutral, and no amount of shadow fiscal engineering in Brussels is going to turn Bulgarians into Bavarians, or indeed Flemish into Walloons.

Mr Pine’s argument is one that often accompanies specious interpretation of economic globalisation, the idea that transnational economic forces are moving the world in a singular direction, that as individuals and societies we are all turning into clones of each other at an alleged “End of History”. Just as Francis Fukuyama was wrong about economic globalisation 20 years ago Mr Pine is wrong about the European Union of today.

More worryingly, he exhibits an attachment to existential cultural nationalism in his comments on Albania (and Turkey), making clear his dislike for “their cultures” without making any attempt to define those cultures or how the cultural and historical experiences of Albania and Turkey might differ from those of existing member states.

Is his argument that because those countries consist predominantly of citizens who profess Islam that they should be excluded from the European Union?

This is a hackneyed viewpoint, evolved entirely from prejudicial cultural bits and bobs and one which has no relevance to the EU accession process, the criteria for which are well-established and revolve around the capacity of acceding member states to implement the acquis communautaire.

The irony of Mr Pine’s contribution is that he uses culture as an instrument to deny Albania and Turkey the opportunity to accede to the European Union, a development which, in itself (by his own criteria) would make the EU more diverse. At the same time he rails against the alleged cultural homogenisation wrought by “unity in diversity”.

A retreat to the familiar and welcoming folds of “the national” is understandable at times of economic turbulence. But it is also entirely misleading to claim that the opposite of that nationalism is a European Union of Angela Merkel’s dwarfish clones. Yours, etc,

DR JOHN O’ BRENNAN,

Department of Sociology,

NUI Maynooth,

Co Kildare

Sir, – Richard Pine, in his Greece Letter of July 29th, highlighted the similarities between the bankrupting of this country and what happened in Greece. He described a situation in Greece which applied in both countries: one political grouping had been in power for too long. During that period they condoned “deliberate obfuscation and mis-statements on the country’s economic situation”.

In his article on the following day, however, he seemed to contradict himself. Instead of deploring “a common enemy” of all democracies, which is to say lying about the true state of affairs he labelled “the fiscal rectitude and social compliance” which is basic to living with our fellow citizens as laid down by our democratic institutions and laws, as “vulgar and meaningless”.

Recognising a “plurality of cultures” and a “room for difference” within the EU should not be confused with seeming to approve an irresponsibility and a recklessness which ends in bankruptcy. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LEAVY,

Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton,

Dublin 13

Sir, – Some of your readers who have visited Macchu Picchu will remember the lady who guards the sacred stone atop the ancient citadel of the Incas. It is called Intihuatana or “hitching post to the sun” in the local language.

To the Peruvians it is the equivalent of Newgrange, the Ceide Fields and Tara all in one. Up until recently it was possible to rub the stone to gain some of its magical powers. Imagine the outrage of the Peruvian people when during the filming of a beer commercial by an Australian advertising agency a large chip was knocked out of the stone.The guard now patrols the stone like a tigress and dare anybody put even a little finger near it. But, of course, too late.

I cannot believe that when the film crew depart Skeilig Michael there will not have been some damage done to this ancient site that we treasure so much. Yours, etc,

BRIAN CLOHISSEY,

Park Street,

Waterloo,

Ontario

Sir, – A compromise must be found. Garth Brooks plays on Skellig Michael and a Martian team play in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. – Yours, etc,

EUGENE TANNAM,

Monalea Park,

Dublin 24

A chara, – I note with interest some recent comments in your columns on the noise levels on Grafton Street. I am an actual busker, as opposed to the amplified “My Way” clones. Words cannot describe the hell that traditional players have been enduring on Dublin’s streets over the past three years at the hands of the said clones. Non-stop karaoke-style playing of CDs on i-Pods, the same seven melodies, with loud amplifier accompanied by trumpet, saxophone, accordion, violin or pan pipes, hogging prime spots all day and sidelining young traditional players.

Perhaps it is time for the newly elected city councillors to walk around, take a look and bring in sensible bye-laws for the safety and enjoyment of everyone. Add in the greedy beggars and the aggressive cyclists and the toxic brew would surpass the excesses of Juvenal’s ancient Rome. In a different context, Terry Moylan said: “Those who hold and play the music continue to be slighted.” – Yours, etc,

MÁIRE ÚNA

NÍ BHEAGLAOICH,

Baile na nGall,

Tráilí,

Co Chiarraí

Sir, – Hugh Linehan’s reference (Opinion & Analysis, July 29th) to “Tuam and other crimes” sits just inches away from Vincent Twomey’s “Perhaps Tuam nuns have already been found guilty” . As per Euclid’s theorems, QED ! – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS DEVITT,

Esker,

Athenry,

Co Galway

A chara,– Declan Kelly (July 28th) seems to think the discussion that began in these pages under the heading of “Programming of young minds” and which now continues under that of “Catholic apologetics” is all about proving that everything Breda O’Brien writes should be viewed as covert propaganda for her religious beliefs).

I think it is more about the nature of debate and whether when someone puts forward an argument we deal what they actually say or instead label the person raising the issue and then discuss what we think anyone carrying such a label believes.

The first procedure involves having a serious and respectful conversation with another human being; the second is merely talking to oneself through the puppet of an imaginary opponent. I know which of the two I find more fruitful and interesting. – Is mise,

REV PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny

Sir, – I agree with Patrick Davey (Letters, July 26th) that we shouldn’t automatically treat everything Breda O’Brien writes as being apologetics for the Catholic Church. And yet, one must ask, would Breda have taken the time to bemoan Tumblr in her column if the site’s most shared posts were pro-life and anti-marriage equality? Yours, etc,

BEN EUSTACE,

Upper Leeson Street,

Dublin 4

A chara, – The Irish Times has recently brought us the news that the Government plans to reverse the cuts to medical consultants’ pay in an attempt to reduce the number of doctors leaving our health system. On foot of the initial cut in pay it seems there are consultant posts that have been left unfilled.

A short number of weeks ago we were informed that Irish doctors were the best paid in the world following the release of an OECD report on health spending. I for one await some informed commentary to explain this contradiction – the best paid doctors in the world cannot wait to go abroad to work for less money. – Yours, etc,

NIALL Ó CLÉIRIGH,

Plás Grosvenor,

Rath Maonais,

Átha Cliath 6

Sir, – Pádraig McCarthy writes (July 30th) that where a state introduces abortion this is a derogation from the right to life, which is protected in many international instruments which he cites.

However, in this complex and often emotive debate there is polarisation. Some people believe abortion is wrong in any circumstances while others believe it should be allowed where the mother’s health is in danger. Others still want abortion on demand.

I see it from the perspective of the mother’s life. She has lived in this world longer than her unborn child and accordingly has certain rights.

Fundamental is her right to life itself, which must have priority over the unborn when her life is in danger. We all remember well what happened to Savita Halapannavar and it must never happen again. Yours, etc,

JOE MURRAY,

Beggars Bush Court,

Ballsbridge,

Sir, – It is clear from recent correspondence that there are many who wish to see greater use of the Irish language. There is a fairly simple solution. An on-the-spot fine of €60 and three penalty points for anyone caught speaking Irish, I feel, is sure to work. It has been a resounding success in getting people to talk on their telephones when driving. – Yours, etc,

PETER COOGAN,

The Lawns,

Celbridge,

Co Kildare

Irish Independent:

President Vladimir Putin can be described as a power-seeking missile because he was once a member of the KGB, a tool of the Communist Party which repressed personal freedom and now he has become an ultra Russian nationalist.

Putin’s denial of having any involvement in the crimes currently being committed in the Ukraine is not deceiving the international community and he knows it.

Therefore he shows not only a lack of respect to the Western democracies, but also, by definition, his self-respect as well.

Russia is rich in energy resources such as oil and gas, and has been described as Saudi Arabia with trees.

However, if Putin believes he can use those Russian resources as a weapon to rebuild its empire, he must be faced down now by Western democracies even if it comes at an economic cost as history teaches us appeasement never works.

TONY MORIARTY, HAROLD’S CROSS, DUBLIN 6W

WHAT A GREAT WEE COUNTRY

It’s balmy. It is 1am in the morning during July 2014, midweek. I live in an unfinished housing estate and I have to get up for work at 6.30am. I need to close the bedroom windows as the neighbours across the road are partying into the night. None of them have to go to work in the morning as the social are looking after their every need.

They are on their second, maybe third relationship and St Vincent de Paul is calling regularly, no bother. Each one of them has two cars in the driveway much better than my own.

The ice cream van is jingling into the estate daily and their many children are waddling up to the van bloated and obese. The property developer has gone into receivership and has spent the last month on his holidays in the Costa del Sol.

I arrive home at lunchtime and the neighbours are sitting around in their pyjamas, smoking fags and on their mobiles. The estate is choking with weeds along the kerbs and the grass area needs to be cut. One of the neighbours is walking his dog and it’s doing its doings on the footpath. Ah what the hell about it! Sure someone else will pick it up or let it lie there.

Last Saturday I was trying to clean up around the estate entrance, when one of the unmarried mothers, who resides in one of the four bedroomed houses, drives up and gives me that “keep out of my way you fool” look.

I pick up the Irish Independent for a browse and see our politicians climbing a fence for their own political gain. As the fella says we are mighty wee country altogether that can keep it all going!

NAME \AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR

TELL US ABOUT PRESENTERS’ WAGES

Recently the matter of salaries paid to presenters on RTE TV and radio was raised. The question asked whether we, the public, are entitled to know what each presenter is or was paid. As the wage bill is furnished by Joe Public, it would seem only fair that we are told.

When we tune in to radio and television and listen to the various programmes dealing with the woes of people, the injured party is then finally warned, “take care of yourself and I’m sure this matter will be raised again” followed by a long list of adverts.

Aren’t we – the people who pay the wages of the presenters – entitled to know how much we are paying for such brilliant advice?

FRED MOLLOY, CLONSILLA, DUBLIN 15

MISSING THE GAMES

The Commonwealth Games are under way in Glasgow. As well as many republics around the world, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own individual teams.

What a pity that the one absentee is the Republic of Ireland. Its participation would enhance competition amongst local nations; stimulate greater interest in sport; and facilitate even better co-operation and understanding between Dublin and Belfast.

LORD KILCLOONEY, CO ARMAGH

STOP ISRAEL’S ATTACKS ON GAZA

As Israel continues to wage horror and unimaginable devastation on the besieged, captive population of Gaza, we ask how much longer will that state be allowed to act with impunity in its breaches of international law against the Palestinian people?

As an occupying power, Israel has a legal, and moral, obligation to protect the people of Gaza. Instead, it has wreaked massive destruction on the territory, killed over 1,200 people, maimed and injured over 5,000 and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

The entire infrastructure of Gaza is being pounded into dust. To call any of these acts self-defence is utter fallacy, Israel’s actions over the last 24 days are an affront to humanity.

Gaza Action Ireland, a civil society initiative coming from the Irish Ship to Gaza, fully supports the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). It backs calls for sanctions on Israel, the immediate expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and for the Irish Government to take meaningful action for the people of Palestine, living through their 66th year of occupation.

As the thousands of people marching all over the country in solidarity with the Palestinians in the last few weeks attests, the Government has not been acting in our name in this regard, and we say no more to Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

ZOë LAWLOR, MAGS O’BRIEN, CO-ORDINATORS, GAZA ACTION IRELAND, DOORADOYLE, LIMERICK

REDMOND IS \NOT TO BLAME

Billy Fitzpatrick (Irish Independent, July 29) is wide of the mark in seeking to “indict” John Redmond for calling on young nationalist Irishmen to fight on the British side in the Great War. He claims that this was done “it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule”. The reality was much less vague.

The Home Rule Bill, introduced in 1912, had passed all parliamentary stages by May 25, 1914. Although, on the outbreak of the war, Redmond voiced nationalist support for the Allied war effort, he waited seven weeks, until King George had signed the Home Rule Act onto the statute book, before making his recruiting call at Woodenbridge on September 20.

Hailing the successful culmination of the 40-year campaign for Irish self-government, he explicitly framed his call as, in part, the repayment of a ‘debt of honour’ to Britain for having kept its word.

Mr Fitzpatrick’s attempt to drive a wedge between Parnell and Redmond will not work. Both men could insert occasional separatist-sounding phrases into their rhetoric, but both were equally committed to the peaceful attainment of a devolved Irish parliament with power to manage all domestic Irish affairs under the supremacy of the Imperial parliament.

The fact that Home Rule was never implemented, it is true, makes Redmond’s recruiting call seem in retrospect a misjudgment. But that failure was due, not to any flaw in the concept itself, but to the lack of an agreed solution to the problem of a million Ulster people who were determined not to be part of it.

That problem was rendered even more intractable by the unmandated conspirators of Easter 1916 and by Mr Fitzpatrick’s vaunted War of Independence, which arguably undid whatever goodwill Redmond’s previous efforts at conciliation had achieved.

DERMOT MELEADY, CO WICKLOW

Irish Independent

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