Jill and Sandy

3 August 2014 Jill and Sandy

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

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

Obituary:

Jean Panhard – obituary

Jean Panhard was a car maker who maintained his family firm’s reputation for engineering excellence into the post-war period

Jean Panhard and his 1913 Panhard-Levassor

Jean Panhard and his 1913 Panhard-Levassor Photo: GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY

5:18PM BST 01 Aug 2014

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Jean Panhard, who has died aged 101, played a vital role in ensuring the survival of his family firm which, as Panhard et Levassor, had marketed the first production cars to the public in 1891.

The French company, founded by Jean’s great-uncle Réné Panhard and Emile Levassor in 1887, had rewritten the automobile design rule-book, putting the engine at the front, and, for the first time, transmitting power through a system of gears.

In 1894 Evelyn Ellis, driving a Panhard et Levassor vehicle, became the first man to drive a car on British soil, making the journey from Micheldever station in Hampshire to his home at Datchet, Berkshire, thus helping to persuade the government of the day to scrap the requirement for a man with a red flag to walk in front of any self-propelled vehicle (up to now usually farm vehicles powered by steam traction engines) on a public road.

In 1900 Panhard et Levassor was still the most important car manufacturer and exporter in the world, and the firm maintained its reputation for engineering excellence into the 20th century. A Panhard roadster set a world speed record of 133mph in 1934. Panhard cars excelled on the racetrack too, winning a famous victory in the 1893 Paris-Nice-Paris race and going on to win a further 1,500 races, including the Index of Performance Award in the Le Mans 24 Hour race on no fewer than 10 occasions.

The Panhard et Levassor Dynamic (ALAMY)

But the Great Depression took its toll; and when Jean joined as technical director in 1937, the firm, then under the leadership of his father Paul, was in poor health. Its showcase Dynamic, launched at the Paris Motor Show the previous year, was a stunningly beautiful, streamlined Art Deco extravaganza, but its high price, old-fashioned sleeve-valve engine and central steering wheel alienated potential buyers.

Meanwhile, a strike by the workforce in November 1936 brought the firm close to financial ruin. The company was making too many different products, in too small numbers, on tooling that was old and inefficient.

Jean, who had been born on June 12 1913 and educated at the Ecole Polytechnique, brought much-needed technical and business nous to the operation. An order from the French military for mounts for anti-aircraft guns allowed him to buy up-to-date machine tools from America, and he began exploring the manufacture of a more commercial Panhard car, possibly using a bought-in bodyshell.

With France’s defeat in 1940, however, plans had to be put on hold, and for the next four years the firm had to cope with the demands of the German occupation.

Though required to contribute to the war effort by manufacturing 1,000 half-track military vehicles, Panhard et Levassor somehow contrived to duck the obligation. “We emerged from this period with our honour totally intact,” Jean Panhard recalled. “By the end of 1944 we’d built a single prototype and that was all. We just got by on the advances.”

In early 1944, however, Panhard had agreed to make an all-aluminium small car that was being hawked around the French motor industry by Jean-Albert Grégoire, one of the pioneers of the front-wheel-drive. But following the Liberation, the new French government established a national plan whereby the motor industry would be streamlined to a small number of manufacturers, each of which would make a single type of car. Panhard (by this time the firm had dropped the “Levassor”), was to be excluded from the plan altogether, and restricted to the manufacture of lorries.

The Panhard Dyna Z

Refusing to give in to this piece of bureaucratic central planning, Jean Panhard used the high aluminium content of the Grégoire prototype as a negotiating tool to persuade the government to change its mind — aluminium being a locally available raw material whose use the government wanted to encourage. At the same time, however, he had the car redesigned to eliminate the Grégoire’s costly cast-aluminium construction, which he knew would never have been technically or financially viable.

The result was the Dyna X, a charming small saloon which relaunched Panhard, and formed the basis of a range of small road-going sports cars. Foremost amongst these was the DB, a collaboration with Automobiles Deutsch & Bonnet, which was very active in competition, notably at Le Mans.

After becoming deputy managing director in 1949, Jean Panhard oversaw the development of the Dyna Z, a more commercial automobile which repackaged the running gear of the Dyna X in an aerodynamic body made of sheet aluminium to keep down weight, so that the pint-size engine could cope with a full six-seater car — an extraordinary technical achievement for its time. Unfortunately, however, the company had made a fundamental accounting error in calculating how much it would be paid for the scrap aluminium left over from the production process, which wrecked the car’s profitability; it had to be re-engineered with a steel body.

Jean Panhard and the 1967 Panhard 24 BT (GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY)

In 1955, with finances in a critical state, Panhard had to look around for help, and Citroën took a 25 per cent share in the company, eventually taking over completely in 1965, the year Jean Panhard succeeded his father as chairman and managing director.

It was not a happy alliance, Jean Panhard comparing the relationship between Citroën and its new subsidiary to that between master and serf. Citroën did give the go-ahead to the 24 CT of 1963 on the basis that Panhard’s striking little coupé would be a niche product that would not threaten the parent firm; but their agreement was reluctant and, not surprisingly, the car sold only in small numbers. It was discontinued in 1967, bringing an end to Panhard car production.

The company’s military vehicle operation continued to be successful, and was hived off into a separate division within Citroën (now part of the Renault Trucks arm of the Volvo group), which Jean Panhard ran until his retirement in 1981.

For 21 years, until 1988, Panhard was chairman of the organising committee for the Paris Motor Show, and he also founded and chaired the car accessory show Equip’Auto.

He served as vice-president of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1974-77), and was twice president of the Automobile Club de France. He was a Commander of the Légion d’honneur and a member of the Ordre national du Mérite.

Jean Panhard married, in 1940, Jeanne Codron de Courcel, who survives him with four of their six children.

Jean Panhard, born June 12 1913, died July 15 2014

Guardian:

You ask: “Is vaping a smoking cure or a new hazard?” (News). The answer is clear. It is a new hazard and a great business opportunity for those who wish to profit from addiction. When I was a community pharmacist in the 1990s, we supplied nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to those trying to quit. Those using forms of NRT that gave a “hit” similar to a cigarette remained users of this for years. Skin patches, on the other hand, deliver a small constant dose, which reduces the craving. Between a third and a half of those using patches managed to quit, unlike their fellows on chewing gum, inhalators and so on. Why we should even consider allowing the unregulated sale of highly addictive products is completely beyond me.

Brian Curwain

Christchurch, Dorset

Unborn children need help too

As a paediatrician, it has long felt strange to me that we strive to identify child abuse in its many guises, yet antenatally that same rigour often seems lacking (“Alcohol abuse in pregnancy could be a crime”, News). No one would question that inflicting a daily tipple on an infant is abusive and that appropriate action should be taken. It raises the question as to why the same should not apply to a foetus. Criminalisation may not always be appropriate but greater attention must be applied to foetal protection.

John Trounce (Dr)

Hove, East Sussex

Fat cat pay is not inflationary?

Your Business Analysis reports that the Bank of England’s rate setters are anxiously watching wage rises, because “inflation-busting pay is… a trigger for higher rates”. Why are the very much higher salary increases (and bonuses) regularly awarded to senior bankers and company bosses never considered inflationary?

Pete Dorey

Bath

We undervalue parental role

In your editorial (“It’s time to think more creatively about time”, Comment), you argue that we may yet be “forced to reshape work”. Indeed so, but to suggest that “doing nothing bar domestic duties [and] entertaining children…” is liberating underscores the dominant societal view that caring for children – and indeed domestic duties – is not work and, worse, is unskilled. If children are to be valued, society must reflect the work and skill involved in bringing them up and the huge contribution made to future generations by parents and carers who stay at home.

Richard Bridge York

Time for a new social contract

Spreading the work available and shortening the working week make eminent sense in today’s over-populated and underemployed world (Commen.) It would require, however, a radical overhaul in which governments, international institutions, corporations, employers, workers and consumers play their part: corporations to pay adequate rewards, even for shorter hours, governments to enforce and consumers to vilify those who don’t. What we need is an updated social contract for our postmodern world.

John Browne

Exeter

US holds answer to Gaza peace

Israel gets away with bombing schools, hospitals and water and electricity supplies because of the unconditional support of America. The US could stop this conflict by immediately ceasing to fund Israel, but Obama lacks the political courage. Israel will not accept a two-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem and thinks it can bomb its way to victory while all it does is breed more hatred. If the influence of Isis, a terrorist organisation so extreme it has been expelled from al-Qaida, is not to spread, America has to act now to ensure Israel accepts the two-state solution as the only way to achieve lasting peace.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, Kent

The military reality of Ukraine

Nick Cohen is, in the economic terms in which he sets his case, right that “Britain can afford to defy Tsar Vladimir” (Comment). No doubt deliberately, this rather ignores the military reality, which is relegated to the aside that “Russia is Nigeria with nuclear weapons”. The Russian conventional forces alone are probably sufficient to negate any forceful response by the EU states. Add nuclear and Putin holds the winning hand. Just ask Ukraine.

David Jones

Nottingham

Envy that drives our attitudes

The current tendency towards treating sexting as a crime (“Is it right to criminalise sexting?”, New Review) matches many others over the past 25 years that have sought to criminalise youthful actions and youths themselves. Society, politicians of almost all persuasions and the police are active and outspoken in their pursuit of charging or cautioning. This “criminalising” preference in the adult world is more bankrupt than most of the targeted activities. For many adults in the UK, taking their lead from the US, there is a deep envy of and hatred towards adolescents that drive these attacks.

Richard Rollinson

Witney, Oxon

If Andrew Rawnsley is willing to acknowledge that Ed Miliband “may well be right” when he said that “ideas are the most underrated commodity in politics” and that “decency and empathy the most underrated virtues”, why does he continue to write on a regular basis about the Labour leader’s “flaws” (“Ed Miliband’s lack of popularity is nothing to do with his photo-ops“, Comment)? Wouldn’t it be more sensible for him to concentrate on the important issues facing the electorate next May? It’s all very well to mention the “conspiracy” to focus on bacon-butty eating and such like, “between the Tories and their mates in the right-wing media”, but to write so frequently about “the Ed Miliband problem” gives it an unmerited gravitas.

“Decency and empathy” in politics certainly are worthy of discussion before the election, especially as both have been so notable by their absence during this government’s tenure. Would it not be worthwhile to remind readers of broken Tory promises such as “no front-line cuts”, “no top-down NHS reorganisation”, “no VAT rise” and, just for a change, compare them with Miliband’s stance against Murdochism and the energy companies?

Then there’s the duplicity of both ruling parties, with Liberal principles sacrificed at the power altars, and “caring Conservatism” seen for clearly what it was, merely an election gimmick. Is it such a good idea to take state intervention back to 1948 levels, which is a Tory ambition? More discussion is needed on the pitfalls of privatisation, the need for progressive taxation and a debunking of the Laffer curve, along Piketty lines. In fact, having an election based on principles and policies might be the very thing to get all of the electorate interested, and voting.

A hundred years after the gutter press prepared the British people for an unnecessary war, it’s now telling them that Miliband is unelectable; we do not expect similar messages from the Sunday newspaper of our choice.

Bernie Evans

Liverpool

So Andrew Rawnsley believes that the electorate thinks Miliband can’t take tough decisions. This is the man who took on Murdoch and his disreputable media enterprises over phone hacking; the man who challenged the big six energy suppliers and has promised to freeze prices, the man who has taken on the banks and the trade unions and who had the guts to oppose the gung-ho David Cameron, resulting in a vote in the Commons to oppose military intervention in Syria and thus persuading Obama to follow suit with a similar resulting vote in Congress. I believe it is a trivial matter of image and presentation in a population that is obsessed with photo-shoots, celebs and glib politicians who can spin a smooth line in a very much Tory-backed press. Maybe, just maybe, the British public will begin to recognise Ed Miliband for who he really is, a man of honesty and integrity who has got the courage to take on the big vested interests in this country.

Geoff Clegg

Carshalton

Surrey

Andrew Rawnsley concludes that “Labour’s fundamental vulnerability … [is] not its leader’s resemblance to Wallace or his struggles with bacon butties”, yet in the same piece he writes of “Labour’s failed past: Michael Foot being ridiculed for the coat he wore to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, Neil Kinnock never being allowed to forget that he once fell over on Brighton beach”. And who ridiculed Foot? Who never allowed Kinnock to forget? Why, the media, that’s who: lazy clip-compilers in television, columnists who trot out these exhausted anecdotes as if they amount to political analysis. If these are the true measure of “Labour’s failed past”, then clearly Ed Miliband is indeed politically dead, finished off by being the first politician ever to be the subject of an unflattering photograph.

W Stephen Gilbert

Corsham

Wilts

Snapshot

Snapshot: Fancy dress and fraternal rivalry

This photograph was taken for a local newspaper, probably in the late 1940s. I think the village was having a show and some of the children went in fancy dress in the hope of winning a competition. My father, Noel, the newspaper seller wearing a flat cap and tank top, stands next to his brother, Henry, who is dressed as a cowboy. Tom, another brother, can be seen in the middle, at the back, wearing a white vest – a sportsman, I presume.

The three brothers were the youngest of a family of six children who were brought up single-handed by their widowed mother. My father, the youngest of them all, lost his father three months before being born. While walking home from work during a freak thunderstorm, my grandfather, in his hobnailed boots, took shelter under a tree but was fatally struck by lightning.

The start of the second world war was not an easy time for the family he left behind. My father often recalled having to stand at the dinner table to eat as there were not enough chairs for the whole family. His mother could not afford shoes for him so he used to wear wellies to school; his excuse to the teachers and classmates was that it was always raining when he set off from home.

It is rare to see a photograph of these three brothers together. At my parents’ wedding years later, photographs show Henry next to my father as his best man, but Tom refused to attend because of some sibling rivalry, as I understand it. In time, my parents emigrated, as did Tom, and the brothers were never photographed together again.

Sue Bailey

Playlist: A tongue twister for all of us

We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

“We didn’t start the fire / It was always burning / Since the world’s been turning”

I think most parents have music they do their boring household chores to. My mum always used to set up her ironing board in the lounge and blast out a CD from my dad’s beloved speakers.

In the 80s, CDs were a seriously considered purchase. Once the family bought an album it was played constantly, so most of my childhood is soundtracked by Billy Joel, Fairground Attraction and Michael Jackson. Whenever Jackson released an album there was a huge rush to get it, as my mum knew it would be something we would all like.

Mum’s taste in music was always that little bit more accessible to me when I was growing up. Dad liked what we still jokingly call the “cat walking across a piano” music played on BBC Radio 3. He loved Captain Beefheart, who baffles me to this day, so as children we refused to let him play his music.

The one song I really badgered my mum to play over and over again was We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. I think what appealed to my seven-year-old-self was that it is a massive tongue twister, and it became a game to sing along.

Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get all the words right or even understand what Joel was saying, but this song reminds me of a time when music was more communal. Now people rarely buy or listen to whole albums, and we all have iPods on which we can pick and mix our favourite tunes. These days I have no idea what Mum is listening to through her earphones when she is doing the household chores. She could be playing Robson and Jerome on repeat and I wouldn’t know.

Gemma Longmire

Independent:

The article by Avi Shlaim (“What’s the use of ‘balance’ in such an asymmetric war?”, 27 July) underlined the failure of Western diplomacy, not only in Gaza but also more widely throughout the Middle East.

From the Israeli assault on Lebanon in 2006, through to Libya, Syria, and now Gaza again, we have witnessed what amounts to a failure of imagination and thought on the final outcomes of each conflict by the foreign ministries of the EU and the USA, along with their allies in the region.

The first rule of diplomacy is that you talk to your adversaries, not isolate them so that you leave no room for manoeuvre, as happened in Libya and Syria, and now with Hamas. Which brave EU government will do the unthinkable and now talk openly to Hamas?

Dr Derek Pickard

Sawston, Cambridge

Avi Shlaim writes that “Israel is infinitely stronger than Hamas not only in military terms but also in its capacity to wage the propaganda war”. It is precisely because of its military superiority over Hamas, and its capacity to inflict damage to the infrastructure of civilian life in Gaza, that Israel has begun to lose the propaganda war.

Ivor Morgan

Lincoln

Paul Vallely is right to wonder why we so readily protest against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, but remain silent about the pogroms being committed against Middle East Christians (“The world’s most persecuted people”, 27 July). One might also ask why so few of the demonstrators, who obviously care about human suffering, protest against the much greater butchery in Syria, or the atrocities being committed by Isis in the name of Islam?

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

How interesting that nearly 40 MPs are demanding, not action on aircraft noise now, but the publication of a timetable showing how and when an independent Ombudsman might be set up (“Aircraft noise ombudsman vital”, 27 July).

Maybe they should come to any south-west London suburb and try to get the children asleep before 11.30pm, or enjoy a quiet afternoon with friends in the garden without conversation being drowned out every four minutes by the deafening roar of a 747 overhead.

In other cities – Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, and so on – they seem to have agreed that it is not a good idea to situate their main international airport where flights, in and out, will have to fly low, and with very stressful noise levels, over millions of local residents. But of course, they are Europeans.

David Halley

Hampton Hill, Middlesex

Hamish McRae notes that one reason people are not feeling better off is that “GDP per head is still something like 4 per cent below its peak” (“We have recovered, so why does it still hurt?” 27 July). But it should be also pointed out that earnings are still only growing at less than half the inflation rate. So whoever is now benefitting from the economic recovery, it certainly isn’t those hard working Brits we keep reading about.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

So Sara Pascoe doesn’t like it when people don’t get out of her way when she is swimming. (Credo, The New Review, 27 July). I suggest she moves through the water with a large bell round her neck, shouting: “I’m a very busy woman”. One way or another, that should solve the problem.

Linda Erskine

Edinburgh

One reason for the decline of blockbusting films (“Box-office zeros”, 27 July) might be the cost of going to the cinema. For the cost of a night at the cinema I could buy three films off the net and enjoy them in the comfort of my own home complete with surround sound, and not have the joy of someone more than 6ft tall sitting in front of me.

Jim Lewis

Sompting West Sussex

Times:

THE vast majority of those who attend peaceful pro-Gaza protests have nothing but disgust for the actions of a small but vocal minority and you are right that this should be challenged (“Grim echoes of Europe’s anti-semitic past”, Editorial, “Anti-semitic attacks scar British cities”, News, and “Anti-semitism rears its ugly head”, Focus, last week).

Indeed it was Europe’s failure properly to address its long and shameful history of anti-semitism after the Second World War that fomented the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Europe sending Jewish people to Palestine rather than confronting the real issue.

I am equally sure that the vast majority of those who support Israel in its actions also reject the racist language some of their fellow protesters use. Such acts include describing prominent figures such as the US TV satirist Jon Stewart, the Labour MP Gerald Kaufman and the former Israeli commando and activist Miko Peled as “self-hating Jews” and chanting “death to Arabs”.

The culture of European anti-semitism and Islamophobia need to be tackled with urgency, so the legitimate concerns of both sides can be addressed.
Michael Maiden
Silverdale, Lancashire

Media Allies

The Palestinians have much of the western press helping them to wage their war. Hamas is responsible for putting Gazans in the line of fire, yet the media print heartbreaking pictures and Hamas has achieved its goal. The Holocaust could not have happened without the complicity of the majority of people in Europe.
SM Simmons
Weymouth, Dorset

Death toll

Perhaps we should remind anti-semitic Muslims that more Muslims are killed by Muslims than Israel has ever killed.
Liz Davies
Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

Balanced Argument

Stephen Pollard asks in the Focus article why we protest against Israel killing Arabs, but not about Arab deaths in Syria, Turkey and elsewhere. He is quite wrong to say there have been no protests, as any internet search will show. Pollard also makes no mention of the many ways that Israel, which holds almost all the advantages, strives to make a Palestinian state unviable. This is what gives Hamas its popular appeal.

Yes, we must condemn the attacks on Jews, just as we must the assaults on Muslims (which are also increasing in Europe). Muslim leaders should speak out — and many do — against extremist violence. I don’t hear calls from the synagogues for Israeli restraint. Most Israeli deaths took place during fighting in Gaza, not from Hamas rockets.
John Wu
London SW8

Tragic Irony

My own family were lucky to flee from Austria in 1938. Of my 14 relatives who didn’t, 13 were killed in concentration camps; the 14th had earlier been beaten to death in the street. Nowadays when I voice my dismay at what Israel is doing I get called anti-semitic.
George Solt
Olney, Buckinghamshire

Critical Mass

Online comments concerning the Gaza crisis on some newspaper websites reveal the ease with which reasoned critique of Israel can morph into ill-disguised anti-semitism.
Alasdair Frew-Bell
Manchester

Ceasing Hostilities

The child of the Gazan writer Atef Abu Saif asks, “When is it going to end, Dad?” (“We wait each night for death to knock at the door”, News Review, last week). The response is when Hamas stops raining rockets on civilian areas of Israel and when the tunnel network it has constructed with the objective of kidnapping and murdering Israelis is dismantled. Only by addressing these two issues can there be a basis for the peace that both the Israelis and the Palestinians desire and need.
Barry Borman
Edgware, London

Peace Entreaty

One side needs to step back and create the opportunity for talks. The British government did that to get peace in Northern Ireland. Israel being the stronger should consider doing the same. No doubt they will say they will not talk to terrorists. Yet the Haganah and Irgun paramilitary groups were considered precisely that. The terrorists of today are the politicians of tomorrow. Northern Ireland is a witness to that fact.
Ralph Marshall
Bournemouth, Dorset

Rein in proposals on Revenue & Customs’ powers

WE SUPPORT the government’s drive to clamp down on those who can pay their taxes but do not. However, we are deeply concerned about plans by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to take tax debts directly from people’s accounts without the judicial oversight that is a crucial safeguard at present.

These plans risk causing damage not to the people being targeted but to the innocent and the vulnerable. Too often HMRC makes mistakes in its dealings with taxpayers. Its plans to contact potential debtors as proposed may not be enough to reach vulnerable people with certain health conditions, such as mental incapacity.

The inclusion of tax credit overpayments, which are difficult to assess and prone to official and claimant error, will affect families on low incomes. Where innocent small businesses are incorrectly targeted, their cash flow would be reduced, putting their operations at risk.

If the new powers are implemented as planned there will be no judicial oversight before HMRC partially freezes accounts and seizes funds. Allowing people to appeal after the event is far too late in the day and could mean they are no longer able to afford the necessary legal assistance.

We ask the chancellor to abandon his current proposals and consider a better way to achieve his aims while ensuring the proper protections for citizens are firmly in place. These planned measures are a power too far for an error-prone HMRC and will damage public trust in the tax system.
Robin Fieth, Building Societies Association, Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses, Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty, Gary Richards, The Law Society, Frank Haskew, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Chas Roy-Chowdhury, Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, Anthony Browne, British Bankers’ Association, Joanna Elson, Money Advice Trust, Anthony Thomas, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group

Black-and-white- case against badgers

Your correspondent Michael Donkin can rest assured that here in Powys, badgers are not in short supply (“Badgering farmers”, Letters, last week). Unfortunately, hedgehogs are — as practically every one of them has disappeared into the badgers’ stomachs. He suggests that it is the farmers who are responsible for the drastic reductions in the numbers of hedgehogs, bumblebees and ground-nesting birds. As this steep decline has coincided with the rapid increase in badger numbers, most of us know where the blame lies. Charles Clover’s article (“All eyes on Iron Lady 2.0, caught between Brock and a hard place”, Comment, July 20) was spot-on.
Caroline Slowik, Montgomery, Powys

Clegg fluffs penalty in Russia World Cup

IS Nick Clegg’s answer to Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and the shooting down of a civilian aircraft that we do not play football with them in 2018 (“Strip Russia of the World Cup — Clegg”, News, last week)? I suppose not playing football in North Korea, Israel and Gaza, or Iraq and Afghanistan should bring all the wrongdoers to their knees.
Mark Goddard, Birchington, Kent

Media must win over Putin’s people

Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained leader, wants to return to Soviet borders of the 1950s. This is bad enough, but what is worse is the media control. The Russian people think the West is against them. Economic sanctions that affect crooks will work, but how does the world inform ordinary Russians that the West has a quarrel only with those at the top?
Jo Huddleston, Farnham, Surrey

An open verdict on pre-poll sabre-rattling for Scotland

THERE is a considerable amount of sabre-rattling going on, as it defies belief that 697,000 Scots are planning on leaving after a Yes vote (“Scots threaten exodus after Yes”, News, last week).

Where precisely are they planning to go? Why would anyone leave such a beautiful, resourceful country? Not only will they need to find jobs and homes, but also money for tuition fees, prescriptions and personal care. It seems fairly unlikely that anyone would give all that up.

Anyone with doubts about Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs just needs to look at the fabulous Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
June Martin, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Pensions fear
If Alex Salmond and company would only come clean about important issues such as pensions we would be more able to make an educated decision next month. He has chosen to keep us in the dark.

I do not know if my army and state pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland and so in the event of a Yes vote my German wife and I will join our daughter in Hanover.
Erland Douglas (retired Lieutenant-Colonel), Blairgowrie, Perth and Kinross

Open to debate
I’m a Scotsman with an Irish surname living in England. However, I do know that the golf tournament won by Rory McIlroy recently was the Open Championship — no British in the title (“Lost ball, Letters, July 20).

The birthplace of the Open was Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire. If the Scots vote Yes in their referendum, perhaps the golf clubs in the rest of Britain will lose the privilege of hosting the tournament.
Alex Duffy, Hinckley, Leicestershire


Points

The spy who fooled me

I note that the prime minister will be reading the excellent book A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre (“Lies, betrayal, war: just the way they like it”, News, last week). As Macintyre knows from our recent conversation, I was a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, and the double agent Kim Philby invited me to dinner in Bahrain not long before he fled to Moscow. We discussed Middle Eastern history, on which he was a great expert. He was intelligent, courteous and utterly deceptive. He totally fooled me. When I later learnt of the terrible damage he did to our country, I was deeply shocked.
Councillor David Skinner
Coventry

Population surge

So we need more power to “cope with the incredible growth in population that is forecast” (“Boris puts PM on griddle with electricity shortage warning”, News, last week). There are innumerable calls for more housing, for the same reason. Let’s get real: this is a small, very densely populated country with a £1.3-trillion debt, a £100bn-plus annual budget deficit, a balance of trade deficit and a worrying reliance on other countries — some very unstable — for food and energy at a time when global competition for such critical resources is increasing. It’s time to think longer term. Controlling immigration would help.
Richard Casselle
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Lip service

It was interesting to read AA Gill’s opinion of the period television drama The Mill (“Where was the sting in the tale?”, Culture, last week) but I must educate him on one point. He surmised that the “tight-lipped Lancashire accent” was caused by weavers keeping their mouths closed to avoid the fluff from the raw cotton getting into their mouths. The operatives had, on the contrary, to use an exaggerated form of lip- reading so as to communicate with each other over the enormous noise made by the machinery. It was still in use when I, on vacation from university, did a time-and-motion study in a weaving shed to help my mill manager father. Some older women who used to work in the mills still could be distinguished by the way they continued to speak with exaggerated movements of their mouths long after they had left the mills.
Marie Lewis
Accrington, Lancashire

Going nowhere

I think there is a considerable amount of sabre-rattling going on here, as it defies belief that 697,000 Scots are planning on leaving after a “yes” vote. (“Scots threaten exodus after ‘yes’”, News, last week). Where precisely are they planning to go? Why would anyone leave such a beautiful, resourceful country? Not only will they need to find jobs and homes, but money for tuition fees, prescriptions and personal care. It seems fairly unlikely that anyone would give all that up. Anyone with doubts about Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs just needs to look at the fabulous Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
June Martin
Linlithgow, West Lothian

Pensions fear

If Alex Salmond and company would only come clean about important issues such as pensions, we would be more able to make an educated decision next month. He has chosen to keep us in the dark. I do not know if my army and state pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland and so in the event of a “yes” vote my German wife and I will join our daughter in Hanover.
Erland Douglas
(retired Lieutenant-Colonel)
Blairgowrie, Perth and Kinross

Open to debate

I’m a Scotsman with an Irish surname living in England. However, I do know that the golf tournament won by Rory McIlroy recently was the Open Championship — no British in the title (“Lost ball, Letters, July 20). The birthplace of the Open was Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire. If the Scots vote “yes” in their referendum, perhaps the golf clubs in the rest of Britain will lose the privilege of hosting the tournament.
Alex Duffy
Hinckley, Leicestershire

Neither rhyme nor reason

Paul Allison (“Regional differences”, Letters, July 13) asks whether an article about London would have Cockney rhyming slang in the headline. Are there any Cockneys left in London? I rarely hear the accent when I visit the capital. All reports suggest that the city has a large multicultural population.
Julie Jones
Solihull, West Midlands

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays

Tony Bennett, singer, 88; Steven Berkoff, actor and director, 77; James Hetfield, Metallica frontman, 51; Baroness James, author, 94; John Landis, director, 64; Evangeline Lilly, actress, 35; Martin Sheen, actor, 74; Martha Stewart, businesswoman, 73; Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, 68; Terry Wogan, broadcaster, 76

Anniversaries

1492 Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain on his first voyage, reaching the Bahamas in two months and nine days; 1914 Germany declares war on France; 1936 Jesse Owens wins the 100m race at the Berlin Olympics; 1955 English-language premiere of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre, London

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times.

Telegraph:

The Government’s pledge for greater transparency within public bodies seems hollow

New FOI curbs could make Government more secret

The Coalition Agreement states that “we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians to account” Photo: ALAMY

6:57AM BST 02 Aug 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Sue Cameron writes that the Cabinet Office is refusing to comment on its multi-million-pound settlement with Fujitsu.

In May 2012 a colleague and I were responsible for getting the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority to review the forthcoming shambles of smart metering. In November I asked for a copy of its report under the Freedom of Information Act. After a 60-day wait, the Department of Energy and Climate Change handed me a copy of the 16-page report, 15 and a half pages of which were redacted.

I appealed to the Information Commissioner, who on March 31 this year ruled in my favour. DECC has now appealed to the First Tier Tribunal and a hearing is set for November.

The Coalition Agreement states that “we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians to account”. Is this mere politicians’ prattle?

Alex Henney
London N6

Stopping pier fires

SIR – We must be grateful that there were no human casualties in the fire that ravaged Eastbourne’s pier; but surely the catastrophic damage to its buildings could have been averted by the use of water sprinklers.

Their installation on all piers, with self-contained pumps in the sea itself, should be a national priority to prevent further piers being reduced to burnt shells.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Nest-egg

SIR – You report that a man who unlawfully set a trap that killed a protected tawny owl has been fined £650 plus a £50 victim surcharge.

Is this to be given to the owl’s family?

John Mash
Cobham, Surrey

Unripe and unready

SIR – Is there a foolproof method of discovering which melons or peaches are ripe and ready to eat at the point of sale?

My experience in supermarkets is that hope almost always triumphs over common sense and the outcome is unripe disappointment.

David Benwell
Selsey, West Sussex

Stamp duty reform

SIR – There may be some justification in reducing the burden of stamp duty on first-time house buyers, but I am less convinced by any proposal to reduce current rates for second or subsequent house purchases.

It is likely that the majority of properties attracting stamp duty above 1 per cent fall into the latter categories. Purchasers moving up the property ladder are likely to have seen significant gains, which are currently tax-free. Stamp duty collects a proportion of these gains – to a greater extent in areas that have seen the greatest price increases.

Landlords undertake a business, and business must expect to pay tax on profits. Therefore it is not unreasonable to tax these transactions, which have been partly responsible for the rising cost of residential property.

I would fully support an attempt to simplify the tax system, reduce the burden on genuine first-time buyers and remove the “cliff edge” effect in the stamp duty structure. However, any overall reduction would have to be made good from other taxes. I cannot see what overall benefit this would bring to the majority of people in this country.

Ian Mackenzie
Broughton, Lancashire

SIR – It would be better to base stamp duty on the area of the house or apartment, with perhaps an element for the plot size.

An apartment of 700 sq ft might pay £10 per square foot, resulting in a bill of £7,000; a house of 2,000 sq ft £20,000. The rate would be linear and apply to the whole country, not just London and the South East. It would also give the authorities an incentive to build more houses.

John Lane
Coulsdon, Surrey

A place to call home

SIR – Your comment that lodgers are here to stay was very welcome. Young people finding it hard to rent in London should explore this avenue.

Having been a lodger ever since I moved to London from university, I find it both beneficial to my bank account and personally rewarding.

I live in north Kensington for a very reasonable rent and provide company for an elderly widower and war veteran. I find the security and generosity of my landlord immensely valuable. We have cultivated a kind of friendship which is impossible in the commercially rented sector.

There still seems to be an attitude that regards living with older people as creepy or “un-cool”, while in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Abhed Ravi Kandamath
London W10

Driverless parking

SIR – Driverless cars are all very well, but how do they choose which parking space to enter at the supermarket?

Canon Christopher Scott
Bude, Cornwall

SIR – Instead of paying to park, I will send mine on a circular journey instructing it to return in 30 minutes, when I will load it with my purchases and return home.

Of course, if my idea catches on, the surrounding streets may become a little congested.

John Curran
Bristol

SIR – I await with interest the first report of road rage between two driverless cars.

Kevin Leece
Gravesend, Kent

Gulls nesting in towns behave like sky-rats

SIR – Jeremy Holt’s suggestion that the seagull infestation of coastal towns could be mitigated by removing those nests not in natural habitats is timely.

There would be no threat to gull species if licences to destroy their nests and provide for humane despatch in defined urban areas were permitted; then the birds would return to their natural habitats. Towns are not the gulls’ natural habitat.

One of these “sky rats” has, as I write, just stolen a sandwich from a table on the terrace of the Royal Dart Yacht Club.

Dr Richard Rawlins
Kingswear, Devon

SIR – Having been woken by screaming gulls every morning at four o’clock for nearly two weeks in Cornwall, I’d like to start a fund for spikes and netting on gull nesting-sites in towns. In summer, it’s too hot to sleep with the double glazing closed, and that is precisely the season they get up at daybreak to shout loudly at one another.

Ann Heaps
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – Two gulls, a male and female, have visited our hilltop home in Brighton daily for nearly 20 years. Their appearance, gliding towards us and landing on our balcony railings, is a thing of beauty.

If we ignore them, the male will knock on the balcony door with his beak and wait for a hand-out. He once stepped inside, unnoticed, and waddled into the kitchen, unflappable but with no hint of aggression. We ushered him out of the back door and he flew away at peace with the world.

Allan Johns
Brighton, East Sussex

The harvest is sticking to an age-old timetable

The farming calendar remains unchanged since Anglo-Saxon times

Harvest Moon by Palmer, Samuel (1805-81)

Kent’s best: villagers work by the night’s light in Samuel Palmer’s ‘Harvest Moon’, 1833  Photo: http://www.bridgemanart.com

6:59AM BST 02 Aug 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Yesterday, August 1, was Lammas Day, traditionally the beginning of harvest time, as here in Hertfordshire.

Almost on cue, just a day early, hay-making began to the north of me and the wheat crop is being reaped to the west.

Today climate change and global warming are debated widely in forums undreamed of a thousand years ago, but the farming calendar has not changed since Anglo-Saxon times.

Long may this continue.

Kenneth Morton
Hatfield, Hertfordshire

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey Photo: Getty

7:00AM BST 02 Aug 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Over the past couple of months I have seen references to the idea of turning off the lights between 10pm and 11pm on Monday to commemorate the start of the First World War.

I think that this is a wonderful idea and will be only too pleased to turn out my lights and burn a single candle. There needs to be more publicity in order for the whole country to participate in this event.

Ann Barnes
Beckenham, Kent

SIR – My grandfather, Sir Robert Garran, claimed in his memoirs, Prosper the Commonwealth, that, as solicitor general of Australia, he sanctioned the first shot “on either side” in the First World War.

News of the declaration of war reached Australia on August 5 1914. A German steamer, the Pfalz, was escaping down the Yarra river from Melbourne. My grandfather’s advice to the Army was to fire a shot across its bows. It was certainly the first shot fired by the British Commonwealth. The Pfalz returned to Port Phillip after the pilot wrested the wheel from the captain.

Robin Garran
Alvediston, Wiltshire

SIR – Ben Farmer’s report on remote war graves mentions that of Rupert Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros. In July 1948 a group from the destroyer Chevron, in which I was serving, was sent during a visit to Skyros to see that the grave had not suffered in the recent war. We eventually found it undamaged in a small “foreign field” among a dozen olive trees. We cleaned the marble and repainted the green railings. I hope it is now visited and cared for more regularly.

Alan Tyler
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – I am glad that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is publicising the many soldiers commemorated in countries other than those on the Western Front. My great uncle was killed at Gallipoli alongside troops from Australia, New Zealand, India and France. At the Redoubt Cemetery at Helles, Turkey, 2,027 servicemen are buried and his name is inscribed with 348 others on the memorial.

In media coverage of the First World War, I have found little mention to date of that eight-month campaign to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles.

Eileen Savage
Bedford

SIR – Browsing through our old parish magazines here I came across comments from September 1914 by the rector, Hugh Holbech: “At first it was most difficult to grasp the magnitude and the awfulness of this great effort to which we are now pledged… Of course we hoped for a speedy settlement, but we now see that we must be prepared for a protracted resistance, and a long strain in almost countless ways.”

Definitely not “All over by Christmas”.

Noel Slaney
Bredon, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam –Two Cork men singing the praises of Dublin’s Poolbeg chimneys? Why does that make me suspicious?

Brendan O’Connor writes: “What may once have been seen to be ugly has acquired a grace and a warmth and a personality simply by virtue of hanging in there.” Brendan says he loves walking the South Wall, but methinks he’s more at home with the bull.

Brendan, ugly is ugly.

Eoghan Harris says the chimneys are “a constant visual reminder of the working Dublin that Joyce loved and lauded in his A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man.”

Eoghan, the bloody things only went up in 1971. They weren’t there to mar the skyline of Joyce’s Dublin.

Listen lads, if you like the defunct monstrosities so much, ye can have them.

I’m guessing that the cost of carefully dismantling the chimneys brick by brick and shipping them down to Cork would be considerably less than the cost of maintaining them for the next century. Or was it two centuries you had in mind?

They could be re-erected at the mouth of the Lee to stand forever as a gigantic double digit gesture of Dub generosity.

For goodness sake, they’re already painted in the Cork colours !

Brian Brennan,

Portmarnock, Co Dublin

Bureaucrats were not ones to blame

Madam – Your editorial (Sunday Independent, July 27) quotes the moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham‘s belief that the central objective of all public policy should be to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of a state’s citizens.

The editorial also raises a very important question as to why ‘the powers that be’ did not have ‘the chutzpah’ to ‘sort out the mess’ that saw the cancellation of the Garth Brooks concerts.

That mess, your editorial proclaims, affected ‘mostly rural and working class citizens’ and was caused by ‘the tepid domination of unaccountable bureaucrats’.

The question as to why ‘the powers that be’ did not ‘sort out the mess’ could, with even more relevance, be applied to what John Paul McCarthy, writing on the opposite page to your editorial, called the ‘economic implosion’.

That economic implosion affected many more, if not all, of the state’s citizens and necessitated a bail out of this country by the international community.

That economic implosion was not, however, caused by the tepid domination of unaccountable bureaucrats. It was caused by the decisions of a small number of very powerful people who were in charge of our most powerful institutions during the boom.

They certainly did not lack chutzpah and were the real powers that be that caused the mess.

Contrary to your editorial opinion, therefore, Irish governance did make it possible for such powerful people to survive during the boom.

It was they and not the tepid bureaucrats that failed Jeremy Bentham’s famous objective of public policy achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

A Leavy,

Sutton,

Dublin 13

ACP is not for all of the clergy

Madam – In her article in the Sunday Independent (20 July 2014) Joanna Kiernan begins by saying: “The organisation representing Catholic priests in Ireland… the Association of Catholic Priests”.

Can I point out that I am a Catholic priest in Ireland and would like to make you aware that this organisation does not represent me in any way.

I would be grateful if you could ensure this is made clear in any future articles by your journalists.

Rev Fr Michael Toomey,

Holy Cross Church,

Tramore,

Co Waterford

Brendan has the knack for laughter

Madam – I laughed and laughed at Brendan O’ Connor’s article “Oh how we love to be overheated” (Sunday Independent, July 27). It was so funny and true to life. I know he was writing about what we all talk about endlessly – the weather – but it was funny and intelligently written.

Brendan has a great knack and sense of humour and his writings are the main reason why I buy the Sunday Indo. He would never let you down.

There are so many misery- guts of journalists with their dire writings and news that’s its simply a pleasure to read and get a few laughs out of Brendan’s writings.

I’m not surprised that Brendan is on the front page because that’s where he should be.

Terry Healy,

Kill,

Co Kildare

Knock down one, keep the other


Madam – As in all intractable disputes like the status of the two Poolbeg chimneys, compromise is the only answer: knock down one and maintain the other as a permanent finger/phallic sign to the rest of us from the bankers, developers, political class and the insiders who destroyed the Irish economy and society.

John Leahy,

Cork

We should all now follow Shane Ross

Madam – Shane Ross is doing a great, worthwhile, and vital job exposing incompetence, greed, corruption, brazen arrogance, cronyism and general ‘brassneckary’.

Somehow we must penetrate that complacency which seems to be embedded in the Irish psyche so that all of the people of Ireland, when they realize how we are being manipulated and ripped off, will ‘get off the fence’ and do their bit.

Joe Brennan,

Ballinspittle,

Co Cork

We get to make the choice of President

Madam – I write in relation to the comments by Frank Flannery, the former Fine Gael Election strategist, on their poor presidential election results after the party polled seven per cent of the national vote some months after getting 36 per cent of the vote in a general election.

Might I point out that presidential candidates are viewed by the Irish people as just that – people who desire to be given the position of President of this country, and are not chosen by virtue of their party political backers.

I am more than surprised that Mr Flannery does not give us, the people, the credit for knowing who we think can and will represent us as Head of State.

Adrian Bourke,

Dublin 16

Democracy is not for everbody

Madam – One of the unfortunate (but entirely necessary) side effects of free speech is that people can use your pages to spout diatribe, such as Vincent Lavery did in your always excellent Letters page recently (Sunday Independent, July 20).

His fatuity peaks towards the end of his missive when he laments the fact that “we are being led, for the most part, by duly elected officials, and a silent majority.”

Democracy isn’t for everybody it seems.

Simon O’Connor,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12

Let’s have more balanced reporting

Madam – Why is it that whenever the Irish media report on the court appearances of Ivor Callelly, he is almost always referred to as a former Fianna Fail junior minister?

I wonder, beacuse whenever we read about a court application at Clonmel Circuit court to have the trial involving Michael Lowry, who is accused of filing incorrect tax returns, moved to Dublin, there is no reference to the fact that Michael Lowry is a former Fine Gael Minister.

Whatever happened to the idea of balanced reporting?

JJ Coughlan,

Charleville,

Co Cork

Praise for Liam’s Letter of the Week

Madam – May I congratulate Liam Cooke on his excellent letter (Sunday Independent, July 27) headed: ‘Leave it out, Angela’.

It certainly deserved to be Letter of the Week.

I am an 80-year old volunteer with a charity – and there are many more like me around the country. But Liam put into words what we are all thinking.

Maith an fear.

Maire Bean Ui Corcorain

Fountainstown,

Co Cork

Beware the thieves, but praise the folk

Madam – Recently on a trip to Dublin, while waiting for the return bus to Limerick, I left down my handbag for two minutes. In the twinkle of an eye it was stolen, and my cards tried at an ATM within 15 minutes.

I would like to thank publicly a couple, Mr and Mrs Tynan, who gave me their phone to use in the immediate aftermath. 
 There was also a nice blonde girl travelling to Portlaoise on the bus and she allowed me to stay in touch with home by lending me her phone too. 
 I also want to thank Eddie who gave me a lift home once I had reached Birdhill.

In spite of my personal loss, I still think Ireland is a great place to live – judging by all of those good people who helped me after I had been robbed.

I also want to thank the gardai who were very nice to me once I had reported the crime.

But a word to the wise: beware of those who steal. They are really good at what they do.

Betty Duggan,

Birdhill, Co Tipperary

Let’s be clear on all type of terror

Madam – “Hamas is to terrorism what Basil Fawlty is to hospitality.”  Thus wrote Gene Kerrigan in a bid to convince us that Hamas is like a slightly bonkers neighbour setting off harmless if noisy fireworks in his own back garden.

In the last four weeks Hamas have launched over 2,000 of these rockets plus mortars into Israel (a country fighting for its very existence) and only the Israeli defence systems have prevented catastrophic casualties which Kerrigan and others, seem to think is somewhat unfair.

Hamas have also constructed dozens of underground tunnels into Israel in further bids to commit mass murder on Israeli farms and villages bordering Gaza. Basil Fawlty indeed.

Inside Gaza, as Carol Hunt in her brilliant article pointed out, Hamas have introduced Sharia Law which, for the wretched women of Gaza, means a hell on earth existence from the cradle to the grave.

Why no articles by Kerrigan condemning other Islamists groupings from Nigeria to northern Iraq who are happily slaughtering innocent men, women and children because they are either not Muslims or belong to the wrong shade of Islam.

For the last three years Russia has been arming the Assad regime in Syria which to date has directly and indirectly killed thousands of children including Palestinian youngsters with conventional and chemical weapons.

Let’s be clear: the images coming out of Gaza are atrocious and obscene – but no more obscene than what’s been coming out of Syria and other Islamist horror sites for the last couple of years without comment from Kerrigan.

Eddie Naughton,

The Coombe,

Dublin 8

Politicans must act on Middle East

Madam – I must commend Carol Hunt’s balanced piece “Killing children is always wrong, so why do we blame Israel more? (Sunday Independent, July 27).

Like many who have visited Israel and the Holy Land, I think it is both a beautiful place, and historically inspirational. But what could be a tourist economic gold mine for all is, a number of bankrupt fortified enclaves, dependent on overseas aid with a stubborn refusal of political leaders to engage meaningfully in finding a solution to the conflict through peace negotiations.

Frank Browne,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16

Carol’s article was ‘refreshing’

Madam – It was refreshing to read Carol Hunt’s unbiased article on the Hamas/Israeli conflict after the endless anti-Israeli crap from the politically correct crowd in RTE.

WA Murray,

Athlone

Leave crime fight to the gardai

Madam – John Fitzgerald (Sunday Independent, 20 July 2014) seems very gung-ho about the public’s patriotic duty against the criminals while overlooking the risk that comes with acting in such a manner.

He tells us to “forget the informer stigma. Snitching on a drug dealer is a life enhancing patriotic act and the duty of every honest citizen.”

Hmm. Some words of caution: once it becomes known on the street someone has been “snitching” on a dealer, the informer becomes a target of the dealer who will do whatever it takes to eliminate the threat to their livelihood.

And even if somebody does exactly what John is suggesting, they face the prospect of having to leave the life, family and circle of friends they know and build a new one from scratch.

The breaking up of the Dundon criminal gang in Limerick by the Garda has shown the kind of progress law enforcement can make if they are given the resources it needs to embark on a long haul against a criminal gang – but the State and the Government needs to reassess its own role in the so-called war on drugs and this should be followed by a debate on whether to legalise the narcotics criminals sell illegally.

Robert Byrne,

Malahide, Dublin 13

Let’s learn from the kids

Madam – Having spent yet another sleepless night tossing and turning as a result of worrying about secondary school placements for two of my sons, my faith was somewhat restored in the few teachers who show extraordinary commitment to children with different needs.

Mary Mitchell-O’Connor’s article (Sunday Independent, 27 July 2014) was refreshingly honest, when, as a former school principal, she recollected her encounter with one particular pupil and her mum.

As a parent of a number of children with an impairment that means they have different abilities to their peers, I have been the “problem parent” the “troublemaker” to various school principals and teachers alike.

I had the audacity to advocate for my children and push for inclusive education in their own community. We have met proactive and enlightened educators, the gems of the system – but sadly we have also met others who find endless reasons why my sons should look elsewhere.

My two sons require an augmented curriculum and teachers with FETAC qualification to get their qualifications. To get that they will have to travel up to 20km away from home.

The alternative is to have them baby sat in a special class for the next five years.

One of my sons has been educated in a mainstream environment all through primary school, simply because management and some staff at the school differentiated his academics but involved him fully in all practical, community, and project work as well as class team projects, sports, class shows, and class tours (with very minimal SNA input). The 28 children that have been with him during his primary education never defined him by his impairment.

In my view they are a most welcoming group of compassionate young individuals that the community should be proud of. These children are our future and this ability to embrace diverse needs will stand to them in the future. These children have an innate understanding of inclusion But my son cannot now join them.

Let us take our lesson from those 28 schoolmates and take ownership in our own attitudes towards disability.

Name and address with Editor

Sunday Independent

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