7 August 2014 Rain

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

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


Chapman Pincher – obituary

Chapman Pincher was a journalist who specialised in spy-hunting and enraged Harold Macmillan with his scoops about defence

Chapman Pincher in 1946

Chapman Pincher in 1946 Photo: GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE

1:48PM BST 06 Aug 2014


Chapman Pincher, who has died aged 100, was an outstanding journalist who specialised in mole-hunting in the dark tunnels of MI5 and MI6. Skilled in destroying reputations, he once fell under suspicion of being a murderer himself.

At a time when the police were hunting a Jack the Ripper-type killer of prostitutes in the West End of London, one of the many people who had no cause to like Pincher reported a suspicious car — his — parked in the area of the murders.

It was indeed suspicious, for the boot of the car was stained with the blood of pheasants which Pincher had recently shot. After checking the registration number the police contacted the much-respected crime correspondent of the Daily Express, Percy Hoskins, and told him that they suspected his colleague of committing the murders.

Hoskins was able to reassure them that Pincher was a slayer of pheasants but not of prostitutes, and chemical analysis of the blood proved him correct.

Pincher afterwards made capital out of the incident, claiming that the KGB had set him up in order to discredit him.

It is a story that sheds light on Pincher’s life in that (typically) he had been shooting; someone bore him a profound grudge; an influential colleague helped him; and he presented it as a tale of Bondish espionage with himself at the heart of it.

The son of a major in the East Surrey Regiment, Henry (Harry) Chapman Pincher was born in Ambala, India, on March 29 1914. He was educated at Darlington Grammar School and King’s College, London, taking a BSc in Botany and Zoology. He was on the staff of the Liverpool Institute before joining the Royal Armoured Corps in 1940.

Chapman Pincher testing for radioactivity in 1949 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

His scientific training led him to the Rocket Division of the Ministry of Supply, but he remained a soldier until 1946 and was still in uniform when he joined the Daily Express as defence, science and medical editor.

At that stage Pincher was still very much the scientist, writing books such as The Breeding of Farm Animals and A Study of Fishes, and running (with Bernard Wicksteed) a splendid series called “It’s Fun Finding Out”.

He soon caught Lord Beaverbrook’s eye, and the Old Man, feeling his years upon him, sent Pincher chasing round Europe to investigate a variety of methods to ward off old age and death. Beaverbrook believed in God, but was markedly reluctant to meet Him.

Pincher, despite his failure in this quest, blossomed in the sunshine of the Beaver’s favour. He treated his subjects, previously regarded as being of specialist interest only, as being full of news. Assiduously cultivating those young experts with whom he had served, and who were now heading for the top in their various fields, he was able to tap into their world.

He never lost that ability. He acquired his stories not in Fleet Street pubs or from ministry handouts but on the grouse moors and the dry-fly rivers where his companions were the experts and the makers of policy. He was candid about his pursuit of the leak: “I took up shooting, which has been a marvellous introduction to high-level people who know things.”

He was also a great believer in going out for lunch, his preferred venue being L’Ecu de France in Jermyn St (said to have been bugged both by MI5 and the KGB). In an interview on the occasion of his centenary Pincher claimed to have “pioneered a kind of investigative journalism” by meeting all the most important people over lunch, “because that’s where the stories lay”.

In May 1959 the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote in a personal minute to his minister of defence: “I do not understand how the Express alone of all the newspapers has got the exact decision that we reached at the cabinet last Thursday on space. Can nothing be done to suppress or get rid of Mr Chapman Pincher? I am getting very concerned about how well informed he always seems to be on defence matters.”

At the same time Pincher was a voracious seizer of other journalists’ copy, especially that of foreign correspondents who filed defence stories which he judged to fall within his province. So quick was he to grab these stories that he became known to disgruntled colleagues as “Harry the Pinch”.

Chapman Pincher with Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1967 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

Like many journalists, he arrived at his speciality by accident. The physicists Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs were unmasked as Soviet spies in the early post-war years, and, with his scientific expertise, Pincher was assigned to the stories. He soon embarked on that part of his career which brought him fame, honours (Journalist of the Year in 1964, Reporter of the Decade in 1966) — and many enemies.

In Who’s Who, Pincher listed his interests as “spy-hunting, ferreting in Whitehall and bolting politicians”. In 1967 he fell foul of the government with a story about the security vetting of private cables. It led to a review of the “D” Notice system which put editors on their honour not to publish stories considered to be harmful to the nation’s security.

Pincher was accused of misleading the amiable Colonel Sammy Lohan, Secretary of the “D” Notice Committee, about his intention to publish the story , and from that moment onwards the battlefield of espionage writing was littered with the debris of his campaigns — most of which he won, for he was a doughty fighter. He would never accept criticism of his books, but would pursue his detractors through the letters columns of the newspapers and, after he became a freelance, would earn handsome fees writing features in defence of his own cause.

There were many casualties in these campaigns. Pincher revealed that “my friend” the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, former “C” of MI6, was a homosexual. He was one of the leading protagonists for the (discredited) theory that the late Sir Roger Hollis, former head of M15, was a traitor.

Like a number of other journalists, Pincher was aware of Sir Anthony Blunt’s treachery. Curiously, it was one story he did not tell.

Chapman Pincher out shooting (REX)

Pincher was, however, heavily involved in the “Spycatcher” affair, for the former MI5 counter-intelligence officer Peter Wright provided Pincher with inside information for his bestselling book Their Trade is Treachery (1981).

Wright had been put in touch with Pincher by Lord Rothschild, who was anxious to clear his name of innuendos that he had been involved in the “Cambridge Comintern” spy ring. Wright, living on a miserable pension from MI5, was delighted with the half-share of the royalties he received and this gave him the impetus to write Spycatcher, which was largely a rewrite of the information he had given Pincher.

One of the key points in Wright’s case against the government’s determination to ban his own book was that no attempt had been made to stop Pincher’s book. The Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, explained that no action was taken because it was written by a journalist and not by a former MI5 officer such as Wright. What Havers did not know was that Wright was Pincher’s own mole.

No one could explore this difficult field without making some enemies. Lady Clanmorris, well-versed in the ways of the secret services, once said of Pincher: “When there exist such people as… Mr Chapman Pincher, the KGB does not need a disinformation department.” Professor MRD Foot, official biographer of the intelligence services, was sure that Pincher was being used: “My view on the man would be sulphuric. The stuff he produced on the intelligence services was almost totally inaccurate. Don’t doubt his loyalty, but he was woefully used.” (In fact, the Soviets once attempted to recruit Pincher as an agent, but were immediately rebuffed.)

The historian EP Thompson, writing from a different political standpoint in the New Statesman, was similarly unimpressed: “The columns of the Daily Express are a kind of official urinal where high officials of MI5 and MI6 stand side by side patiently leaking… Mr Pincher is too self-important and light-witted to realise how often he is being used.”

Thompson was quite wrong. Pincher knew very well when he was being used. He simply did not care: what mattered to him was the story.

He once told The Daily Telegraph: “Attempts by foreign agents to undermine my country and ripen it for revolution or invasion have always outraged me, and, in my seventies, I still feel driven to pursue subversives and traitors whether they be alive or dead.”

Chapman Pincher on the riverbank (REX)

Pincher was a prolific author. His books include Too Secret Too Long (1984); The Secret Offensive (1985); Traitors — the Labyrinths of Treason (1987); A Web of Deception (1987); The Truth about Dirty Tricks (1991); and Treachery (2011).

Among his novels are Not with a Bang (1965); The Penthouse Conspirators (1970); The Skeleton at the Villa Wolkonsky (1975); The Eye of the Tornado (1976); Dirty Tricks (1980); The Private World of St John Terrapin (1982); and Contamination (1989).

A modest drinker and lifelong non-smoker, Chapman Pincher remained active till the end of his life. In February this year he published a memoir, Dangerous to Know.

He is survived by his wife, Billee, whom he married in 1965, by his son and daughter of a previous marriage, and by three stepchildren.

Chapman Pincher, born March 29 1914, died August 5 2014


In resigning in protest at the government’s policy towards Gaza, Sayeeda Warsi has demonstrated a tremendous degree of courage and principle (Warsi attacks ‘morally indefensible’ stand on Gaza as she quits coalition, 6 August). Like Robin Cook and Clare Short who resigned from their ministerial positions in protest at the UK’s role in the Iraq war, Warsi believed it was unconscionable to continue to participate in a government that remains equivocal about the slaughter of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip. While her resignation will inevitably be viewed with cynicism from certain quarters, it must not have been an easy decision for someone who holds the honour of being the first female Muslim member of cabinet.

By putting principles above politics, Warsi has sacrificed much of what she has dedicated a decade of her life to achieving. Her stance should be applauded and should instil courage in other conscientious politicians to take similar stances.
Fahad Ansari

•  Sayeeda Warsi has to be congratulated for her principled stand on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Philip Hammond is wrong to say the UK government is doing everything to bring peace to this region. Efforts to establish a free and secure Palestinian state as demanded by the UN have continued without success for over 60 years. The last seven years have done nothing to dismantle illegal settlements. Warsi’s frustration is justified. It is not enough to say Israel needs a secure state. Palestinians too need a secure state. The arms and military equipment supplied by UK government should not be used against civilians.
Ali Syed

•  Sayeeda Warsi is resigning on a point of principle; the first time this has happened since Peter Carrington did over the Falklands war in 1982. Most ministers in all parties have to be dragged kicking and screaming from office, clinging to it like limpets. She is to be congratulated. If we are truly to honour the dead of the first world war we should limit the production and sale of arms with none being sold to Israel or to either side in Syria or Ukraine.
Valerie Crew
Beckenham, Kent

•  Any resignation on a point of principle is to be applauded but the principles of Sayeeda Warsi would appear to be limited. She chooses to ignore one of the root causes of the conflict, which is the Hamas charter. The charter calls for the elimination of the Israeli state and its replacement by an Islamic one. This would involve the expulsion or killing of all Israeli Jews, so that instead of viewing 1,800 Arab deaths we could be viewing up to 5,000,000 Jewish ones.

The genocidal intent of Hamas obviously finds no place in Warsi’s consideration, and in choosing to ignore that intent her views are as morally indefensible as those of whom she accuses.
Paul Miller

• Handwringing by Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson (The blockade must go, Comment, 6 August) is not enough. Time to call for unilateral recognition of Palestine as a state by the UK, then the EU and US, with Sayeeda Warsi as our first ambassador.
David Wheatley
Margate, Kent

• You describe Sayeeda Warsi’s resignation “as the act of a representative of Muslim Britain” (A matter of principle, Editorial, 6 August). Warsi represents her country, not her community. Moreover, your description places a question mark on her integrity – it implies that if Gazans were non-Muslim, Warsi would have thought twice before resigning.

It is a pity that the British media is not averse to ghettoising Britain’s Asian politicians to the confines of their religious community. Why can’t it accept that they too can rise above ethnicity and religion? Moreover, Britain’s ethnic politicians belong to many racial and religious groups, some with deep-rooted inter-communal rivalries. Any attempt to link their presence in government to their religion is bound to open up a Pandora’s box of sectarianism and communalism in British politics.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

•  Sayeeda Warsi’s departure from government may have left the cabinet even more dominated by a clique of “posh white men” from Eton but at least they were elected, unlike Lady Warsi (and her successor).
Malcolm Thick
Harwell, Oxfordshire

•  Since Sayeeda Warsi no longer has a role in government perhaps she could be appointed Middle East peace envoy. The current incumbent appears to have little interest in the job.
Keith Flett

Your report (Women’s refuges forced to shut down by funding crisis, 4 August) puts a welcome spotlight on a deteriorating situation which is reaching crisis point for many families affected by domestic abuse. Your columnist Owen Jones also pointed this out recently (Britain is going backwards on violence against women, 31 March) because those that need a safety net most are almost entirely absent from any discussion in the media. Recent research commissioned by Scottish Women’s Aid has identified the dramatic impact that domestic violence has on the outcomes for children in these situations, with high levels of anxiety, the loss of personal belongings and familiar surroundings, trouble sustaining friendships and missing long periods of school.

Against the trend of dwindling resources in this critical area of need, Buttle UK is proud to have formed a partnership with the City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust, to provide individual grants to children and families across Greater London over the next three years to support the emotional and material needs of the child or young person affected by domestic violence. A first tranche of £470,000 was awarded by City Bridge Trust in May this year.

We trust the evaluation of this more holistic approach will show improved outcomes for children and their parents in the resettlement stages of their lives, serving as a model of best practice which can be replicated across the country.
Gerri McAndrew
Chief executive, Buttle UK

• Mike Bedford, domestic violence programme manager for Splitz, is wrong to say “we shouldn’t need refuges any more”. Alongside perpetrator programmes for men, who, I agree, are the problem, women still need refuges in which to recover from abuse that may have gone on for years. Specialist domestic abuse workers help women to regain their health and confidence in order to lead enriched lives.

I was a founder member of Taunton Women’s Aid that opened the Taunton refuge in 1977. Through the specialised work of its staff, hundreds of women and their children have gone on to live without the fear of daily debilitating abuse.  But women need to get away from abusive partners in order to begin the process.
Jean Hole
Taunton, Somerset

• In 2012-13 alone there were 171 female homicide victims in England and Wales. – 117 killed by their intimate “partner” or another family member (eg a violent parent). Just as we organise statutory places of safety for suicidal people at risk of death, clearly we need an accessible system for women and children at risk of homicide in their own home. Violence at home typically builds up over time and can involve several family members, so refuges need staff with professional skills and experience.

However, there really is scope for developing “prevention measures”. There is little evidence perpetrators with a long history of violence against women can change, but male violence often emerges in the late teens and there is good evidence that mental health promotion in secondary schools reduces later violence. I belong to the alcohol and violence interest group of the Public Health Association, and some young men (under 20) just starting to hit their girlfriend when drunk, can make it a goal of their alcohol treatment to stop such violence. The average age of murdered women is 41 – prevention with men has to start much, much younger.
Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health

The Home Builders Federation pronouncements (Letters, 28 July) attempt to deflect attention from its members’ practices by pointing the usual fingers of blame for the housing crisis at the planners or what it calls the anti-development lobby. Its suggestion that the holding of strategic land is “hardly worth close inspection” is at odds with the way in which the same major housebuilders hold options on very large amounts of potential housing land in advance of submitting planning applications. This strategic landbank monopolises the effective ownership of land and can exclude other providers for many years ahead. Moreover, the reference the federation makes to sitting on land being uneconomic also conflicts with their strategy of stimulating or maintaining local sale values by limiting build-out rates to keep up prices. The slow trickle of new housing on large sites under their control is itself a significant form of land hoarding. The big housebuilders have far too much control over what gets built and when. What is required is a different regulatory environment that can reward a wider range of housing providers who are not driven by price manipulation and land hoarding. New housing development is jealously guarded as an effective monopoly by the housebuilders – a situation comparable to other industries causing public concern, like the energy suppliers and the major food retailers. We need an Ofbuild for housebuilding.
Martin Field and Bob Colenutt
Institute of Urban Affairs, University of Northampton

• Ministers talk and act tough on capping the costs of welfare, while underwriting the income of private landlords who pitch their otherwise unfeasibly high rents at levels that they know the state will pay them via housing benefit (Help for housing costs is forcing up the benefits bill, warns Labour, 5 August). Labour should now talk tough – with a view to acting tough when elected – by promising to end this subsidy to property owners who have been encouraged to buy-to-let, rather than to use their savings to buy premium bonds and other benign savings products.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

The Brics bank (Report, 16 July) posed a challenge to advanced nations whose financial architecture has failed to adjust to the reality of the new economic order. It asserts overtly that if global public institutions – specifically the IMF and the World Bank – are not going to reflect the new power structures in the globalised economy, they will simply become redundant. So will the Argentinian “default” (Report, 2 August) be a turning point in private financial markets. Argentina is being held ransom by a few, grossly self-interested vulture funds. However, equally important in the long-term consequences, is that so are the other investors and that this is being enforced through the legal jurisdiction of the US.

Sovereign issuers – including those far more powerful and assertive politically, and with large domestic capital surpluses compared to Argentina – as well as investors will demand bond issuance in alternative jurisdictions that allow for payouts to investors in the event of minority hold-outs. If New York or London won’t adapt, then the financial markets and legal jurisdictions of Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Shanghai will. Globalisation is radically restructuring public institutions that fail to recognise and respond to the new power structures. The question remains open as to how this will take shape in relation to private markets, including in financial markets where New York and London remain the dominant global centres. But the Argentina default opens the door to speculation.
Judith Tyson
Research fellow, International Finance, Overseas Development Institute

• Larry Elliot writes that states should be able to seek some protection against creditors (States must be allowed to go bust, 1 August) But at least the ruling about Argentina’s debt was given in open court, with rights of appeal. Under the investor-state dispute settlement provisions of the proposed transatlantic trade and investment partnership, cases like this would take place through an unaccountable international arbitration process, outside any existing legal systems, with no rights of appeal. It’s no surprise that TTIP is being negotiated in secret between the EU and US, if it is intended to transfer so much power away from democratic control into the hands of private corporations. It should be stopped.
Steven Thomson

I would like to point out that – contrary to the widely publicised information about the televised independence debate – there were a large number of Scottish viewers, like those in those rest of the UK, who were unable to view the debate live (Report, 6 August). Perhaps the Scottish government and STV are not aware that the (approximately 110,000) residents in the Scottish Borders do not receive STV, but ITV Border. As a result, this sizeable minority of voters were disenfranchised last night. I trust that the organisers will give this some consideration before the next debates are scheduled.
Christine and Peter Clarke
Innerleithen, Tweeddale

• It was not easy to locate this critical debate on radio in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, nor could I find it on TV – eventually found it online on STV. What does it say about transparency etc that many had to rely on news reports rather than be able to decide for ourselves. Who made the decision not to have the debate easily available to all in the UK?
John Roberts
Colwyn Bay, Conwy

• So, Bernie Ecclestone pays £60m to have bribery charges dropped (Report, 6 August). Doesn’t that sound like a… oh, what’s the word?
Jim Watson
Stroud, Gloucestershire

• If Nigel Moss were right (Letters, 5 August), where would students sent down from Cambridge go to?
David Barnard
Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire

• Wherever your destination, go there by East Coast or Cross Country train and, bizarrely, you’ll arrive into it.
Michael Ayton

• Both correspondents (Review, 2 August, Letters, 5 August) are wrong. The dog votes slavishly for its master’s preference, while the cat is the classic swing voter, offering itself to whoever offers most.
Brendan Martin

• I am surprised to see that your correspondents have such politically minded cats. Ours just sits on the fence.
Ken Forman

A lot has been written and said about Top Gear (Rows over Top Gear prompt BBC inquiry, 6 August). Let me make the situation clear. It’s no secret that there have been some significant issues on Top Gear in recent months. The BBC has taken them seriously and has left no one associated with the programme under any illusion just how seriously. I instigated a health check on Top Gear to ensure that there were no further issues. Top Gear is an extraordinary television programme, loved by millions of viewers around the world. I want Top Gear to maintain its unique take on the world but more controversies of this nature would serve no one well. While Jeremy [Clarkson] and I disagree on the language some have recently found very offensive, I do not think he or anyone on the Top Gear team are racist. The focus now is on the future and continuing the great success of Top Gear with audiences. I’m confident the hard-working, high-quality production team will deliver this.
Danny Cohen
Director, BBC Television

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Girl Summit 2014

British prime minister David Cameron speaks at the Girl Summit 2014 in London. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

The article by Naana Otoo-Oyortey “Where were the grassroots voices at the Girl Summit?” on Wednesday 30 July, strikes a poignant note when we also consider that the scale of female genital mutilation (FGM) means that current funding is unlikely to do much more than scratch the surface, unless there is support on a large scale inside communities.

Its not just a question of who is leading the conversation in development events, where often the impact is not clear and the attention on the issue can be temporary.

It relates to the whole development dilemma where programme managers want ownership to go to communities (in theory) but simply don’t manage to release control and continue to steer most projects through external consultancies. Placing development researchers, experts and project administrators at the centre of the conversation about FGM inevitably shifts communities to the periphery.

I think that an internal conversation needs to take place among communities, and that conversation can be reflected at large development events [like the Girl Summit], but these one-off events themselves should not be a major focus for grassroots organisations.

There are multiple parallel conversations on FGM on various African social-media platforms and many young Africans (diasporans and residents) participate, using smartphones. These kinds of conversations can be a good input from communities to larger development events.

In parallel, it’s no longer sufficient to call for participation from communities. Tougher criteria for participation need to be defined that give communities a steering role in defining and monitoring objectives. Projects should not be funded if they don’t meet the criteria. I have just finished a three-year project on how to implement participation in decision-making in Uganda, where this approach worked quite well. The report is available here.

Clementine Burnley is a governance expert with a special interest in participatory rural development.



Sir, Melanie Phillips misses the point (“You’re not getting the real truth about Gaza”, Aug 4). Ever since the start of the Israeli incursion into Gaza, we knew Hamas would use UN schools, hospitals and flats to hide and fire its weapons. It’s also safe to assume that Gazans have been killed by Hamas rockets and that Hamas manipulates public opinion. However, these are the very facts that Israel’s defence strategy must take into account when responding. Can a country with an intelligence service as skilled and resourceful as Israel’s not find, in 2014, a better way of disabling those attacking it with rockets and through tunnels than shelling guilty and innocent alike?

Professor Anthony Glees
University of Buckingham

Sir, Melanie Phillips wrote that “Israel has stuck to every ceasefire; Hamas has broken every one”. How chastening it must be for her to read your headline the next day: “Israel admits it broke Gaza truce”.

John Samuel
Coulton N Yorks

Sir, Melanie Phillips supports a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine in theory, because she believes the West Bank would turn into an Islamist Iranian proxy state overnight, but she does not support an independent Palestine. I think that she should be more worried about Isis than Iran — and neither Hamas nor Iran support Isis. Israel has been illegally expanding its territories ever since 1948, firstly by occupying Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights in 1967, and by the spread of settlements across the West Bank. Cynically, Israel plans to continue building houses in the Arab areas that it illegally occupies and it continues to imprison Gazans in concentration camp conditions. Melanie Phillips chastises some of our politicians for condemning the Israeli slaughter of Gazan civilians, simply on the alleged basis that Hamas is deliberately sacrificing its civilians.

That policy will lead to a new generation of what she and Israel may call terrorists, but others freedom fighters.

Richard Waughman

Sir, What Melanie Phillips says about Gaza and Hamas may be true, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. Until Israel’s leadership stops bullying its neighbours and illegally trying to take over the final 20 per cent of Palestine, ie, the West Bank, there will be no peace, as it is not in Israel’s interests. Palestinians will only recognise Israel if it withdraws to its 1948/1967 borders, in accordance with several UN resolutions ignored by Israel, backed by the US.

J Swift
Crawley, Sussex

Sir, There are many parallels between the plight of the Palestinians and that of black South Africans under apartheid, the main one being that a whole people were made to feel second class and with very limited rights and next to no hope. In South Africa the response to the Sharpeville Riots — when 69 people were shot — seemed to mark a turning point when world opinion began to think that things had to change. Will the attacks on Gaza — in which 1,700 have been killed — mark a similar turning point?

Robin Woodd
Hemel Hempstead, Herts

Sir, Those lining up to condemn Israel should recall who danced in celebration when Londoners were slaughtered on their streets by Islamic extremists.

Kenneth Herman
Somerton, Somerset

Sir, It not fair to describe UK foreign policy towards the Middle East — and Israel in particular, which faces a threat from a terrorist group bent on its destruction — as “morally indefensible”. However, Baroness Warsi’s resignation highlights the dilemmas which abound in this area, and not all on the Western side. I do not think it politically impossible for the UK to back Israel’s efforts to defend itself, but be able still to say that decisions which target a known Hamas threat of an individual or weapons store with the certainty or extreme risk that deaths of civilians, especially children, will result, are wrong. Subsequent claims that Hamas is solely responsible for such consequences compounds an inexplicable moral judgement, and leaves high ground, absurdly, for the terrorist.

I tried over the past four years to advise Israelis and the Palestinian Authority that unless the chance of a second-term US president to revive the Middle East peace process was taken seriously, sooner or later something would happen which would run out of control. I also told both that support for them without progress was wearying among friends.

Gaza will not be settled without an overall agreement. The efforts and restraint of President Abbas and the West Bank, despite imperfections in the PA, deserves recognition; Hamas’s few remaining friends must tell it its war is over, and both Palestinians and Israel must make the concessions they knows they have to make to secure the peace, security and prosperity its own children have died for. It is not too late. But it soon will be.

Alistair Burt, MP
Minister for the Middle East 2010-13

Sir, As Islamic nations embrace their own battles against militant Islamic terrorist groups, it is perhaps a good thing that Baroness Warsi has resigned from our government. Their fight could easily become ours, given the terrorist group’s methods of infiltration and attack. Britain needs to know that our government is united in its resolve to resist terrorist tactics, in whatever form it takes, wherever that might be. Although we may march on the streets of Britain in support of Hamas, with little understanding of what the word ‘Palestine ‘ really means, Arab nations do not share our sympathy.

Barbara Etchells
Horsham, W Sussex

Sir, Baroness Warsi was right to resign. For at least part of her tenure as a Minister for Foreign Affairs, the UK gave large sums, via the EU, to Gaza for the benefit of its citizens. Her department should accept some responsibility for how that money was spent, not on roads, buildings or hospitals, but on building tunnels for the purpose of entering and attacking Israel.

Barrington Black
London NW3

Fracking can cause subsidence, which can be very expensive – so who is going to pay?

Sir, In the discussions about fracking in the UK I have seen no mention of subsidence. Examples of subsidence after subterranean mineral extraction have been noted at Groningen, in the Netherlands, and at one North Sea oilfield, where the sea bed subsided by around 10 metres. The oil companies involved had enough money to deal with the problem. However, if we do get subsidence on land, with consequential damage to buildings and infrastructure, who will pay?

Dr Peter Broughton

Camberley, Surrey

Competition to be a lawyer is scorching but there are other excellent career options for a law graduate

Sir, Your report “Law students’ toughest brief is finding a contract” (Aug 5) assumes that the only career for law graduates is in the legal profession. However, just as graduates in philosophy do not become professional philosophers, an academic training in the law equips graduates with skills relevant to a range of careers. Those skills include: research techniques; the ability to assimilate and analyse complex material and to judge its relevance; attention to detail; problem solving and the precise use of language.

I always urged my students to be guided by their interests and to consider a range of career options and not automatically join the queue for the legal profession. Law graduates can bring a great deal to many non-legal careers and with it achieve success and personal satisfaction.

John Bridge

Emeritus Professor of Law, Exeter

The infrastructural costs of largescale immigration are often overlooked

Sir, Professor Rowthorn provides necessary balance to the immigration debate by drawing attention to the “capital” costs — homes, roads, water supply, sewerage and so on (“Mass immigration is bringing down living standards, economist claims”, Aug 1).

What should concern us even more is the question of whether it is right to rob poorer countries of their talented people. A country robbed of its talent and enterprise will be hampered in its economic, social and political development. It will be a place from which we can expect a continuing flow of immigrants. Worse, such deprived countries also export unrest, extremism and terrorism.

Mark Griffiths

London W8

GPs’ surgeries are going to fill up with middleaged patients wanting to know about the benefits of aspirin

Sir, I have 467 patients aged 50-65 (report, Aug 6). They have been advised, through the media, to see me to discuss whether they should be taking aspirin. May I apologise in advance to all the ill people who I will not be able to see during this time.

Dr James Hickman

North Curry, Somerset


SIR – Placing an additional burden on diesel is neither justified nor “green”.

Diesel vehicles use much less fuel than the petrol equivalents and thus should enjoy some incentive, since a reduction in consumption of fossil fuels is a fundamental ecological objective. The Government’s attempt to justify increased charges for diesel vehicles as if such charges were “green” is cynical and destroys trust.

Iain Wolsey

SIR – The proposal to charge extra on diesel vehicles in London is no more than a revenue-raising exercise. The payment of £10 will not make the least difference to emissions from the car.

G M E Barber
Sudbury, Suffolk

SIR – Is this another case of politicians introducing a new policy without thinking it through? Britain is already one of the most expensive places in Europe for diesel.

Out of 22 countries there are 20 where it is cheaper and France, our near neighbour, is 39p per gallon cheaper. Making diesel even more expensive would hit retired people and country dwellers especially hard.

David Spencer
Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire

SIR – London ought to impose a time limit rather than a full clampdown on emissions from idling diesel-powered vehicles.

There is a sharp increase from the idling emission value when the car is switched on and during warm-up, meaning it is probably preferable not to turn off just for a few minutes. Crawling traffic and gear-changes produce increased levels of all kinds of pollution as the raw fuel is not completely combusted.

B V Maher
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

BBC talent

SIR – I was the head of science and features with the BBC between 1976 and 1979, when Jonathan Miller made The Body in Question for BBC2.

We had a team of six – producer, director, research and PA staff – to make 13 50-minute programmes on the history of medicine. The line of command was direct from “the talent” (Jonathan), through producer, to head of department and finally channel controller.

None of us had read media studies. Draw your own conclusions.

Paul Bonner
London SW19

Blown away

SIR – I’m afraid the main factor that keeps me, my wife and many of our friends away from the cinema is the shocking volume of the soundtracks.

I try to time my entry to avoid the deafening adverts but then have to grope through the dark. One should not have to wear shooting ear-defenders for an evening’s entertainment.

James Barr
Milnathort, Kinross-shire

Adult viewing

SIR – According to the artist Jake Chapman, it is a waste of time taking children to art galleries.

Personally I do not think I will ever be old enough to “understand” artists such as Mark Rothko. Maybe he should advocate banning some adults as well.

John Billing
Chatham, Kent

Arab Spring legacy

SIR – Can I offer my congratulations to David Cameron, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy on their success in bringing democracy to the nations of the Middle East.

As a result of their encouragement of the Arab Spring, Libya is now in the same position as Syria and Egypt, where a stable government has been replaced by either civil war or a military coup.

John Stewart
Terrick, Buckinghamshire

Getting shirty

SIR – The problem with men’s shirts is not the design of the pocket, but finding a shirt which has one.

Rob Dowlman
Heighington, Lincolnshire

SIR – Tony Jones would do well to heed the advice of my godfather when I was in my early twenties: “Shirts come from Jermyn St, failing that, Marks and Spencer. Have a full-cut collar, double cuffs and never, ever have a pocket.” Sage advice that I have always heeded.

Ali Wilkerson
Alness, Ross-shire

Let patients act as guides for bipolar research

SIR – In her moving article about the suicide of her daughter, who was suffering from bipolar disorder, Melanie de Blank calls for a raft of things that no grieving parent should have to request, including more and better-funded research into the condition.

We will be carrying out a nationwide survey to identify the research questions that matter most to those with bipolar disorder, their carers and the professionals who treat them.

People at the sharp end of a condition, rather than, as is so often the case, industry or research professionals who often never even see patients, should be the ones to influence the research expenditure of major charities and the Government.

It’s tragically too late for Polly, but we hope to offer a powerful voice to people who are too seldom heard.

Dr Sophie Petit-Zeman
Director of Patient Involvement, National Institute for Health Research
Dr Jennifer Rendell
Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry University of Oxford
Dr Tom Hughes
Consultant Psychiatrist, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

The time is ripe for a rest under the shade of a watermelon stall in Savannakhet, Laos  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 06 Aug 2014


SIR – The proprietor of my local high street fruit and veg shop told me that the stronger the smell of melon at the point where the fruit was attached to the plant, the riper it is.

David Jones
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Keep them for up to three weeks, preferably alongside a ripe banana, until you can smell the delicious perfume of ripe melon.

Rosemary Pears
Ventnor, Isle of Wight

SIR – To check if a pineapple is ready to eat, pull out one of the inner leaves at the top while it is still growing. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe and ready for breakfast. I am not sure if this works for already-harvested pineapples.

Pam Maybury
Bath, Somerset

SIR – Has anyone else noticed how fat, juicy blueberries defy gravity and appear on the top of the clear plastic containers, whereas the tiny ones are all on the bottom?

Joyce Chadwick
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – David Benwell’s problem with melons and peaches is minor compared to mine with avocados.

Somehow they manage to go from rock-hard to rotten without passing through ripe.

David Sayers
Fern, Angus

Tributes to the war dead continue across the country

Flowers are placed around the 'Grave of the Unknown Warrior' ahead of a candlelight vigil marking the start of WW1, at Westminster Abbey in London

Flowers are laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ahead of a candlelit vigil to mark the start of the conflict Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

7:00AM BST 06 Aug 2014


SIR – Having taken some years to find an uncle’s grave, I went on Sunday to Smisby, a small village in Derbyshire. In the village is a stone remembrance cross with, I think, five names of villagers who had died fighting in the First World War, including my uncle’s. The total population then must have been around 200.

We left a red rose at the memorial, and then went into the pretty, well-kept churchyard to visit his lonely, tree-marked grave. I must admit to feeling intensely sad, not just because of my 21-year-old uncle, but because of the three or four similar gravestones that no one seemed to have remembered.

Ray Smart
Bottesford, Leicestershire

SIR – I would like to reassure Eileen Savage that there will be ample coverage of the Gallipoli campaign next year, particularly on the centenary of the landings in April 1915.

Every year since its foundation in 1969, the Gallipoli Association has kept the memory fresh each year on April 25 by laying wreaths at the Gallipoli memorial in the crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral. We are also represented at the Cenotaph and Westminster Abbey later that same day.

I have no doubt that the sacrifices of the 50,000 Allied personnel killed and the 559,000 involved will be suitably remembered by our association.

James Watson Smith
Secretary, Gallipoli Association
Ascot, Berkshire

SIR – As we commemorate the sacrifices made by so many during the First World War, is it not ironic that the horror and futility of war continue still today?

Man seems incapable of learning the lessons of time.

Mary Dovey
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I doubt whether I was the only person dismayed by the theme of the Dean of Westminster’s opening homily at Westminster Abbey on Monday night. His theme was “repentance” – repentance for what? Courage, heroism, selflessness, duty and patriotism?

Other than this, the service was appropriate and moving in every respect.

Sir William Cash MP (Con)
London SW1

SIR – My father rarely spoke of his experiences serving in the Royal Navy during the First World War.

He did tell me, however, that when he volunteered it was a requirement that all recruits could swim. Because he and five others could not, they were marched off to the gymnasium and instructed to lie across a long bench.

They were then shown how to move their arms and legs if they fell into the water and were issued with certificates of swimming competency.

Christopher Bolton
Glossop, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Your editorial of August 6th under the heading “The mantle of 1916” aspires to deal with the “political ownership of the events” of that period in “the national narrative” of today and its relevance to “modern Irish realities”.

Leaving out the personalities involved, the argument whether home rule, promised in 1914, would in time have become 32-county independence or whether “the Rising and the violence of the War of Independence” was necessary is one of the “what-ifs” of history. Your conclusion seems to be that the case is “not proven” on either side and that the argument will “run and run”.

That is all very civilised. But the modern Irish reality is that there is a much more uncivilised national narrative on this topic running elsewhere, especially in various online forums. A flavour of the level of debate there can be judged from the fact that they want the proponents of one side of the argument “cleared out” in “the not too distant future”. The attitude to mainstream media in the debate online is that the civilised debate represented by your editorial is “gibberish”. The people who express these opinions also look forward to the not too distant future when, they hope, papers such as yours will be “facing extinction” – to which they say “good riddance”.

None of these totalitarian ramblings come under the remit of the press ombudsman, but we should be aware that they are part of the national narrative nonetheless. As your editorial says, the argument/debate on the mantle of 1916 will run and run. How extreme this debate will become in the years ahead is unforeseeable at this stage. How much influence it will have on the political ownership of current events only time will tell. But it could be considerable. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13

Sir, – I haven’t seen much coverage in national media of the inspiring role of anarchists and conscientious objectors, on all sides, during the abominable obscenity called The Great War. If it’s heroes you’re looking for, look no further. Yours, etc,


Gleann na gCaorach,

Co Átha Cliath

Sir, – I have great respect for Éamon Ó Cuív and the tradition that he represents (Opinion & Analysis, August 6th). However, his repeated insinuation that the movement for a united Europe is not the world’s most edifying peace process is disappointing. Is Ireland to stand back in the face of violations of human rights, disease and poverty in the Third World and in emerging powers such as China, or are we to have the courage of our convictions and unite with our European partners to be a powerful force for good – and for peace – in the world? It is our moral duty to engage in the world, and not to stand idly by. – Yours, etc,


Millmount Avenue,


Dublin 9

Sir, – Your editorial of August 6th misses the opportunity to lay claim to what should be at the centre of all our centenary remembrances over the next several years. Outside of very formal occasions and sporting events we as a nation have very little pride in our flag. This is primarily due to it having been hijacked by men of violence in Northern Ireland in 1968/69 and thereafter. As a nation, we should use the next number of years to take it back permanently from them. Your average reader, myself included, should be able to promote our flag without people thinking he or she has Provo leanings. The men of violence past and present will not give it up voluntarily; we need to take it back. Yours, etc,


Taney Crescent,

Dublin 14

Sir, – There is a continuing effort by some commentators to minimise by comparison the deaths of the women and children of Gaza, bringing in the argument that “Sure there’s worse going on in the Middle East” and “Sure far worse happened in Central Africa”.

The death of any innocent child by deliberate military action should call forth the anger of everyone. To try diluting the Gaza atrocities by drawing up some sort of perverse league table is simply not good enough. Trying to draw our attention away from the Gaza crisis by pointing to further atrocities that have been or are taking place elsewhere will not minimise the suffering of the orphans and widows of the bombed-out towns of Gaza.

As many have pointed out, this situation will not improve until we look at the root causes. Time and again, those who have been to Gaza and the West Bank report on the appalling discrimination and hardships which are visited daily upon the Palestinian people by the methods and policies used by the Israelis to keep them in check. To expect that no consequences will issue from this deliberate quotidian oppression is unrealistic.

Every Israeli citizen deserves to live in uninterrupted and secure peace, free from the despicable rocket attacks being perpetrated by Hamas. Palestinians also deserve the equivalent peace.

It is obvious at this stage that the creation of a Palestinian state will be the only true long-term solution to the problem. Those with the power and the means to properly start working in that direction should waste no further time. Too much blood has already been spilled. Too many infants’ lives have already been obliterated. – Yours, etc,


St Georges Street,


Isle of Man

Sir, — It was with no small sense of amazement that I read a letter from David Stewart (August 6th) and wondered at his comments. Mr Stewart appeared to defeat his own purpose in his first paragraph when he wrote that the Israeli government was certainly winning “… the intellectual arguments (largely), but losing in the court of world opinion (indisputably)”.

Therein lies the rub. If reason is ignored and then replaced by the wishy-washy “looks wrong, sounds wrong and feels wrong”, in Mr Stewart’s words, then I suggest that he and others with a similar line of thought would lead us down a path where reason and logic (and also the rule of law, for what is law but reason and logic?) are to be ignored in favour of what Mr Stewart described as a “smell test”. Is this to be how international law shall be defined?

As to the rest of his letter, Mr Stewart chose to describe the state of Israel as being the same as the pre-1992 apartheid South Africa. I trust that I was not the only reader who found such a sentiment to be a travesty rather than a truth. Israel is still the only truly democratic state in the Middle East whereas we should all be aware that apartheid South Africa was controlled by a white minority, unlike now. – Yours, etc,




Co Limerick

Sir, – Further to your report “Dublin requires 60,000 houses by 2021” (August 6th), I wonder does the Economic and Social Research Institute really mean space-wasting “houses”, or does it mean housing? There can be significant differences between what those two terms imply and it is unclear from the article whether the term “houses” comes from the ESRI report, or from a (mis)interpretation of it.

In my opinion the last thing Dublin and its environs need is 60,000 more “houses” in the vein of urban sprawl. What I hope the ERSI means is that Dublin and its environs need 60,000 residences and households by 2021, predominantly in the form of apartments and other high-density dwellings, in the spirit of well-planned continental European cities. – Yours, etc,





Sir – I read with dismay the proposal from the Society of Chartered Surveyors for the construction of “European-style” apartments for families. Those proposing the construction of such dwellings ignore the fact that Irish families (by and large) desire to live in houses. Properly planned towns and suburbs with medium-density developments of family houses and good services are what’s required to solve our housing crisis. This is not Tokyo or Singapore and cajoling families into high-rise hamster cages is not a solution. We’ve actually got plenty of space on this island. Perhaps it’s time to survey it properly? – Yours, etc,


Barnageeragh Road,

Skerries ,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Once again Geoff Scargill weighs in on the housing debate with a tale of landlord’s woe. He bemoans a property tax which is in situ in every developed property market and cites such mundane expenses as “annual maintenance charges, management and running costs” as if they were the Government’s fault. Landlords’ difficulties arise from a low yield on their “investments”, from their having borrowed excessively and paid too much for their assets. Perhaps people who find themselves in such a situation should realise they are not the sophisticated investors they thought they were and that the policies of the democratically elected government are not to blame for their difficulties. Meanwhile, prudent families who sat out the madness are once again struggling to buy, while speculators, defended by the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation and other media-savvy vested interests, retain assets which they are not paying for. Who will speak for those families?   Yours, etc,


Conyngham Rd

Dublin 8

Sir, – Surely it is time the canny Scots broke loose from the London bean-counters. They have ability galore, as they have demonstrated over the centuries: their doctors, engineers, shipbuilders, not to mention financial wizards, helped build the British empire. They are quite capable of applying that talent to run their own country.

Perhaps also it is time the English stood on their own feet. Having spent many centuries meddling in other people’s affairs, they now seem to have an identity problem. They have awesome ability, as they demonstrated during the industrial revolution, but have since frittered away their inventive and productive talents in favour of bean-counting in the City. As is well known, the City looks down on “trade” and sees manufacturing as beneath it. It needs to be put in its place. An independent, more focused, England could attend to that.

Rugby has led the way. The Scots and the Welsh play their own anthems and hand the queen back to the English, with whom she rightfully belongs. – Yours, etc,


Sandford Road,

Dublin 6

Sir – My English colleagues and friends are certain Scotland will vote No to independence on September 18th. In one discussion with them I was told there were no reasons for Scotland to leave the UK, just a few small internal issues that could be ironed out.

I thought this a narrow view of the debate. I asked if it was not important for Scotland to consider the EU question, given that England is edging towards an exit, and since it is home to around 80 per cent of the UK population, its electorate will surely determine the outcome of the 2017 referendum promised by the Tories. Two colleagues agreed but one thought the Tories would convince the electorate to stay in.

The EU has chosen to side with Westminster in an effort to keep the City of London in the bloc. However, had it supported an independent Scotland’s membership it could have demonstrated to Westminster just how isolated it could be if decides to quit the EU. That is, after all, the hard line approach Westminster has taken towards Scotland. – Yours, etc,


Woodford New Road,

London E17 3PT

Sir, – GPs nationally welcome Leo Varadkar’s plans to defer universal health insurance. As talks about it progress, it is looking more and more like the US healthcare system, where up to 30 per cent of all healthcare costs are swallowed up by insurance companies in administration costs, legal fees and profit-taking, with no regard to the cost-effectiveness of the service.

However I am surprised that the new Minister considers free GP care an option in the near future. He is obviously not aware of the current problems caused by the advantage taken of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) by his two predecessors.

Between 2002 and the 2013 FEMPI/Haddington Road reduction the average State funding per HSE employee had risen by 50 per cent, due to increments for time in service, grade inflation and extraordinarily generous pensions; the consumer price index had increased by 24 per cent but the payments to general practice per GMS patient were lower in 2013 than they were in 2002.

The 2013 FEMPI resulted in a further €34 million being taken out of general practice. The recently published OECD earnings data for Irish GPs indicate that had the Haddington Road cuts been applied fairly to general practice, less than €5 million would have taken.

Massive underfunding of the most cost-effective element of the health service, in association with the culture of prioritising political and bureaucratic gains over patient-centred outcomes, are guaranteed to stall any further progress in this area of healthcare. Yours, etc,


Cromwellsfort Road,

Dublin 12

Sir, – Our family recently vacationed in Ireland, driving over 1,000 miles, and were amazed at the beauty of the land and the friendliness.

After over a week away, it was somewhat depressing to come back to the States – with all its problems. While we did not see much news in Ireland, we did occasionally switch on the television in the evening before going out.

My wife and I are seriously thinking of moving to Ireland – it would be very nice to live in a country where seemingly the only significant issue is whether Garth Brooks will be allowed to hold a concert. We are truly envious. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I long believed the only things men were better at than women were boxing, rugby and weightlifting. After Katie Taylor’s achievement at the London Olympics and now the great victory of the women’s rugby team over New Zealand it looks like we are down to one. – Yours, etc,


Threadneedle Road,


Sir, – It was interesting to learn that in regard to waste we now “recover more through incineration and recycling than goes to landfill” (August 6th). Just wait until the water charges kick in. The cost of recycling will go through the roof when householders stop rinsing bottles, jars etc, before placing them in their green bins. The recycling depots will incur enormous cleaning costs, which will in turn make recycling uneconomical. Now, who would have foreseen such a turn of events? Certainly not this Government, which seems to operate on a cell basis, where each Department does its own thing. So, back to landfill we go. – Yours, etc,


Braemor Grove,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Ivor Callelly’s solicitor, Noel O’Hanrahan, writes (August 5th) that he could have pleaded not guilty. He would then, of course, have been lying. To state that one has been dishonest does not absolve one of a crime. It is arguable that with no lies left, a cunning player knows when to stop digging and start currying favour with “honourable” truth. Mr O’Hanrahan goes on to suggest that more public funds now be spent on investigating all expenses by all politicians, past and present, a measure which would principally benefit the legal profession. Callelly was not “sacrificed on the altar of political expediency”; he was found guilty of committing a crime and is serving time for it. – Yours, etc,


Clarinda Park,

Dún Laoghaire

Sir, – May I be permitted to add a short postscript to Michael Moriarty’s appreciation of Michael O’Halloran (August 4th)? As Church of Ireland chaplain in St Luke’s Hospital for over 16 years during the 1970s and 1980s I was deeply conscious of two interrelated aspects of Prof O’Halloran’s work – his bedside manner and his capacity to give comfort to so many patients (including this writer) at times of great anxiety. These, in addition to the professional ability outlined in the appreciation, produced a unique operator in his chosen field of medicine. He was indeed, as Michael Moriarty writes, a “caring doctor”. – Yours, etc,


Kerdiff Park,


Co Kildare

Irish Independent:

GPs nationally welcome Leo Varadkar’s plans to defer Universal Health Insurance. As talks about it progress it is appearing more and more like the US healthcare system, where up to 30pc of all healthcare costs are swallowed up by insurance companies in administration costs, legal fees and profit-taking – with no regard to the cost-effectiveness of the service.

However, I am surprised that the new minister considers free GP care an option in the near future. He is obviously not aware of the current problems caused by the advantage taken of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act by his two predecessors.

Between 2002 and the 2013 FEMPI/Haddington Road reduction, the average state funding per HSE employee had risen by 50pc due to increments for time in service, grade inflation and extraordinarily generous pensions; the consumer price index has increased by 24pc, but the payments to general practice per General Medical Service patient were lower in 2013 than they were in 2002.

The FEMPI Act resulted in a further €34m taken out of general practice. The recently-published OECD earnings data for Irish GPs indicate that had the Haddington Road cuts been applied fairly to general practice, less than €5m would have been taken. Massive underfunding of the most cost-effective element of the health service, in association with the culture of prioritising of political and bureaucratic gains over patient-centred outcomes, is guaranteed to stall any further progress in this area of healthcare.

Dr William Behan, General Practitioner, Walkinstown, Dublin 12


Down-to-earth minister

Regarding Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s article in Tuesday’s Irish Independent and the revision of the timelines for Universal Health Insurance, as a GP registrar, it is nice to see that we now have a Health Minister who has, at least at some point, visited planet Earth.

Cllr Paddy Smyth (FG), Members’ Room, City Hall, Dublin 2


‘War crimes’ in Gaza

Mahmoud Zahedi (‘Self-defence in Gaza’, 6 August) asks: “Are you calling the shelling of UN schools self- defence?”

“Are you calling bombing of hospitals self-defence? Are you calling the shooting of children playing on the beach self-defence?

“Are you calling the genocide carried out by the second-largest army in the occupied land self-defence?

“All the above are, in any book, war crimes.”

May I draw his attention to the provisions of the Geneva Convention, which make the placing of military forces in civilian areas a war crime.

Furthermore, the incidental killing or injuring of civilians is not, provided they have been given warning to leave areas used for military purposes, as the Israeli army has done. That Hamas tries to prevent such evacuation is in itself a war crime.

He may not be aware that Hamas uses schools, hospitals, mosques and apartment blocks for the storage of munitions, the digging of cross-border tunnels and rocket launching, with the deliberate intention that, in any conflict, there will be civilian casualties – proven by its policy document captured by the Israelis in Shejaiya this week. Furthermore, its command centre is located in the basement of the main hospital in Gaza.

Finally, his claim, “When you lock 1.8 million people into one area, how can you distinguish between military and civilian zones?” creates the impression that Gaza is so densely populated that civilians have nowhere to go, which is untrue. The population density of the Gaza strip is lower than that of London. I concede that most of the population is concentrated in a few urban areas, but there are many sparsely populated areas, where there is no military activity, to which they could be evacuated, but for Hamas’ insistence that they are not.

In view of the above, I would suggest that Mr Zahedi should be calling for the condemnation of Hamas for its undoubted war crimes rather than Israel, which makes every effort to minimise civilian casualties.

Martin D Stern, Salford, England


Smoking out anti-vapers

I am an avid vaper who never vapes where I wouldn’t smoke. This is a personal choice and I am disgusted and irritated by the anti-vaping brigade who would like to ban everything that makes them feel “uncomfortable”. I am also allergic to cheap perfume, which causes me to sneeze and plays havoc with my sense of taste, but I don’t seek to ban it.

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin


Let’s celebrate Home Rule

I wish to support John Bruton‘s call that we celebrate September 18, 1914, as the day Home Rule for Ireland became law. Not alone was it a game changer for us it was also a game changer for the Commons, as henceforth the House of Lords could only delay a bill for one year.

The House of Lords was most likely to veto Home Rule; now the power of veto was gone. Home Rule is what we got in the Treaty of 1921, but with the additional power of raising customs. This extra power proved a disaster. We have now relinquished this power to the EU (children and fools should not be given dangerous tools). De Valera used tariffs to wage a trade war with the UK and made speeches that the British market was gone forever, thank God.

The poverty of farmers led to militancy and forced common sense to return. Despite this costly learning, the Irish Government went on to set up, behind tariff protection, hat making and car manufacture; known as fools’ production. They destroyed our egg industry, pig and cattle fattening by keeping out cheap animal foodstuffs.

Next we should celebrate ‘The Statue of Westminster 1931’, which was the result of a Commonwealth conference of friends, a pay back for supporting Britain in World War I. It was given out of goodwill and the power of love.

World War I had ended the love of power – as in imperial ambition. Full independence, or as much as they wanted, was given to the Dominions: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland.

Britain gave away more territory than the whole of Europe. Its goal in World War I was not empire building but to make the world a safe place for democracy and defend human rights. De Valera used his increased independence to remove the governor, the oath and to bring in the 1937 Constitution.

Noel Flannery, South Circular Road, Limerick


Undercover garda work

Was the garda who left his laptop in a Dutch brothel doing undercover work under the covers?

John Williams, Clonmel, Co Tipperary


Our Dickensian justice system

I would like to compliment your journalist, Eamon Delaney, for his piece ‘Let us now get real about crime and start to reform our overindulgent legal system’ (Irish Independent, 5 August). He hits the ‘proverbial nail on the head’ in his description of our judicial system.

Our judges and the Garda Siochana are limited in what they can and cannot do in a court of law.

The Irish system is in serious need of a major overhaul as it is quite simply, Dickensian.

James Campbell, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon

Irish Independent


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