Books and tomatoes

8 August 2014 Books and tomatoes

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A warmish day. I get some books and replant some tomartoes

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


Gerallt Lloyd Owen – obituary

Gerallt Lloyd Owen was a prize-winning Welsh poet who used the ancient metre of cynghanedd to project nature and nationalism

Gerallt Lloyd Owen

Gerallt Lloyd Owen

4:58PM BST 07 Aug 2014


Gerallt Lloyd Owen, who has died aged 69, was the foremost Welsh poet of his generation, and a master of the ancient metre of cynghanedd, which to this day confers a Shakespearean grandeur on the poetry of Wales.

Owen inspired a new cohort by his prize-winning verse, and also functioned almost as a national coach as referee of Talwrn y Beirdd, a long-running poetry contest on BBC Radio Cymru which draws followers in their thousands at the National Eisteddfod.

He began as a poet of nature, faith and the angst of love, but caught the gale of nationalist protest that swept Wales in the late Sixties. He won the National Eisteddfod chair twice, in 1975 and 1982, and was three times winner of the Urdd National, the fiercely-contested youth eisteddfod, between 1962 and 1969.

His was a precocious talent. He recalled shaping his first cynghanedd at 12. By 1966 he had published his first volume, Ugain oed a’i Ganiadau (Songs by the Age of 20), perhaps the first published collection of verse written by a schoolboy. He displayed not only versatile poetic skill with sonnets, englynion (short rhyming verses) and other poetic forms, but also a striking emotional maturity.

In the prologue he writes that his poems “grew like an embryo, but in the soil/ among old and ancient roots/ and then in the ripeness of the night/ they were born to live or to die”. There follows Am Hanner Awr (For Half an Hour), a meditation on a hospital visit and false hope. By the end of the volume, the language of the sonnets is so dense as to defy translation. Thus early masterpieces such as Hen Gariadon (Old Lovers) are closed to the world beyond Wales.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen was born on November 6 1944 on a hill farm at Sarnau, near Bala in Meirionethshire, the heartland of Welsh culture and the purest strain of spoken Welsh.

He was educated at Ysgol Ty Tan Domen — whose closure he recorded in a memorable epitaph — and trained as a teacher at Bangor Normal College. Owen then taught at Bridgend and Trawsfynydd before setting up a printing company in Caernarfon in 1972. He published and illustrated two Welsh-language comics, Yr Hebog and Llinos, as well as books for children.

In the late Sixties the protest movements sweeping student campuses in Europe and America morphed in Wales into a battle for the language and a strident nationalism, and Owen gave poetic voice to these sentiments. Along with Dic Jones, a west Wales farmer, and Alan Llwyd, a native of the Llyn peninsula, he formed a triumvirate that reinvigorated the art of cynghanedd.

In 1972 he published Cerddi’r Cywilydd (The Poems of Shame), which included Fy Ngwlad (My Country), a poem which railed against the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon in 1969.

The poem refers to the slaughter by the English of Llywelyn the Last at Cilmeri in 1282, an ancient sore exhumed and rubbed raw by the nationalist awakening. Owen returned to the theme in Cilmeri, which he considered his greatest work. “It nearly killed me,” he said — but it won the Chair at the National Eisteddfod in Swansea in 1982 and also the Welsh Book of the Year prize.

Owen often reworked medieval imagery to project the new nationalism, and his method of work resembled the vaticinatory poets, the medieval bards who wandered from manor house to castle keep composing verse for their supper. “I’ll sit there and recite the line, and repeat it and think, and try and draw out the line, rather like the way we used to make toffee,” he said, recalling the Welsh custom around Christmas where boiling toffee would be poured on to the slate hearth and stretched to a smooth slab. “When I hit upon a good line it sends a shiver down the spine, and I hope the reader gets that same shiver,” he said.

Like Dylan Thomas, whose work carries echoes of cynghanedd in its alliteration, Owen’s poetry was perhaps best savoured by listening to his slow, dry, monotone declamation. But for all his verbal dexterity, Owen stood apart as a poet who did not surrender clarity of thought to rhythm and sound. “No one needs a degree in Welsh to understand Gerallt’s poetry, and that was one of his greatest achievements,” said chaired bard Meirion MacIntyre Huws.

Despite his tone of protest, Owen did not come across as loud or bitter; rather, he was a quiet, reflective man. “I am the coward in the library,” he confessed in one poem.

In later life he lived in a tidy, light-filled cottage near Caernarfon, often starting the day with an egg, hard-boiled.

But he suffered years of poor health, and was rarely without a cigarette in hand, his skin paper-thin and as pale as his shock of white hair.

Owen personified the difference between poetry in Wales and in England, where composition is a rarefied activity. In Wales it is more widely practised, and among aficionados is more akin to a sport than the rather precious academic exercise in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Owen showed that writing verse is not necessarily a serious business. For more than 30 years he chaired Talwrn y Beirdd, a verbal jousting contest on BBC Radio Cymru in which teams write short pithy verses to clinch the best lines, or as often as not, the best jokes.

The format translated well to the National Eisteddfod, where hundreds packed into the Literary Tent to savour the wit and skill of the teams and Owen’s verdict — a nod, or a sigh and the ghost of a smile to denote rare perfection.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen imbued a generation in Wales with a new-found sense of self-confidence and a sense of worth in their ancient culture. He asked that donations at his cremation be given to the Yes campaign in Scotland.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen was divorced from his wife Alwena. He is survived by his son and two daughters.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen, born November 6 1944, died July 15 2014


Israelis take part in a protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip

Giles Fraser raises an eyebrow at the concept of protesting against a war when it is over (Movement that dare not speak its name in Israel, 7 August). When a nation is under attack from an enemy on its borders, is it any surprise that the majority of people would support its armed forces? Gaza is not thousands of miles away, unlike those nations attacked by British forces in order to “defend” our security. Israeli troops are often an hour’s drive from their homes and most people in Israel have or have had a member of their family serving in the IDF. Emotions understandingly run high and only time will tell how the Israeli public will assess the situation they find themselves in.

As for the ordinary Israeli not knowing what is happening in Gaza, this is a travesty of the truth. Every home I have been into in Israel has satellite television and looking at the urban skyline there is a forest of satellite dishes. Israelis watch CNN, Sky News, BBC World, NBC and Middle East TV (Jordan), and internet news. What do the British public see? BBC, ITV and Channel 4 beaming one-sided reports that are more commentry than news or analysis. An absence of images of one Hamas fighter or one missile launching site should raise eyebrows. Hamas has been airbrushed out of the conflict by the narrative spun by the British news media. The irony is that none of these journalists or film crews would be in Gaza if it was not for Israel allowing them safe entry into the region. Israel after all is an open democratic society. The conflict has been presented as the might of a modern army attacking unarmed, innocent people.

Yes the innocent have suffered horribly, but the moral responsibility lies firmly with Hamas. It is about time the Guardian published Hamas’s charter in order for the public to see what worries Israelis and Jews everywhere.
Freddy Shaw

•  There are many more quiet opponents than Giles Fraser might realise. It is the same here in Britain. When I speak in support of the Palestinians’ case, particularly at Jewish meetings, there is rarely open support, but a number of individuals from the audience after tell me privately that they agree.

Given the inevitable pressures on Jewish dissidents in Israel it is up to the Jewish diaspora to speak out, as a number already do. They will always be more influential than non-Jews, and if Israel is to be rescued from the international consequences of its disastrous actions, and if antisemites are not to be given encouragement, British and American Jews need to be brave.
Michael Meadowcroft

•  Can we now look forward to Giles Fraser’s visit to Gaza to interview even one journalist whose articles oppose Hamas and its mission statement/covenant to destroy Israel? While there, he might also like to identify any newspapers and TV channels that are not “simply cheerleaders” for the Hamas line.
Gunter Lawson

• You focus on differences between Israel and apartheid South Africa (The politics of the cultural boycott, G2, 7 August), but similarities drive the demand for boycotting Israel. That the remnant of Palestinians who managed to cling on in their birth country have a vote does not outweigh the fact that the great majority were driven into exile. After all, black South Africans often had votes in the Bantustans where they theoretically had citizenships. “Democracy” is a very flexible  concept, often used to disguise highly oppressive realities, and both South Africa and Israel are examples.
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex

•  The London borough of Brent is one of the most diverse and tolerant parts of the UK, with a rich cultural heritage compromising many ethnicities and religions, including the Jewish faith. As local residents, we can say that the Tricycle Theatre, whose cinematic and theatrical repertoire is broad and inclusive, reflects this diversity, demonstrated by eight years of hosting the UK Jewish film festival as well as works on Palestine by comedian Mark Thomas, and by MUJU, the Muslim-Jewish theatre company.

We support the theatre’s decision to refuse funding from the Israeli embassy. The theatre’s position cannot be construed as antisemitic, anti-Jewish or political, but is instead a cultural boycott of a belligerent sponsor.
Martin Francis Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sheila Robin Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Aisha Maniar London Guantánamo Campaign

•  I’m greatly upset about the decline of the Jewish film festival based on Israel funding. I feel that this was an attempt to boycott. In 2012 pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to disrupt performances of Batsheva Ensemble. As Jackie Kemp wrote: “Surely it would make as much sense to blame the ballerinas of the Mariinsky for Putin’s human rights abuses,” (Opinion, 2 September 2012). People in the arts are normally quite liberal. Government officials, who people should be angry at, hide back at home creating war/hate/death and are not affected at all by these boycotts.
Victoria Drew

•  The Tricycle Theatre is not boycotting the UK Jewish film festival. It is boycotting funding by Israel. The Tricycle offered to provide alternative funding from its own sources, the UKJFF declined. Surely, it is the UKJFF that has its head in the sand in seeking to politicise this event, and it is the Tricycle that is honourably distancing itself from such politicisation.
Ian Lowery
Kensworth, Bedfordshire

Anne Perkins writes (Comment, 5 August) that older workers need to be “told when to quit” in order that their jobs can be given to young people. It’s an argument that fails to make economic sense. Numerous studies have found no evidence to support the theory that keeping older workers in jobs limits the opportunities for younger people. On the contrary, all the evidence shows that helping people in their 50s and early 60s to stay in the workplace is essential – not only for their own long-term financial prospects but also for the wellbeing of the economy as a whole.

We face a fundamental demographic shift in this country. In the next 10 years, there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16-49 in the UK workforce, but 3.7 million more aged between 50 and state pension age. If business fails to wake up to this undeniable reality, then our economy will contract, employment will fall and young (as well as old) people will suffer. Contrary to the article’s suggestion, working longer is not somehow the preserve of the better off. It can help our lowest earners to guarantee themselves a more secure and comfortable retirement.

Dropping out of the workforce early can have a devastating effect on a person’s retirement income. An average earner retiring 10 years early could see their pension pot shrink by a third, and spread over a much longer retirement. Old stereotypes of fiftysomethings blocking opportunities for the younger generation are exactly that – they are not supported by evidence.
Steve Webb MP
Minister of state, Department for Work and Pensions

• Too much of the debate about our ageing society pits one generation against another and is based on a misreading of the facts. Anne Perkins rightly highlights the challenges facing young people today, but overlooks the economic evidence showing that older workers do not prevent young people from getting employment. A big challenge over the next few years is to create the conditions under which older people can work if they want and need to, while ageing healthily. Among other things, this must mean providing more flexible working opportunities, not least of all since in 2012 the UK lost £5.3bn from carers who had to stop work to care for loved ones. This would benefit millions of people of all ages, and their families and our economy too.
Caroline Abrahams
Charity director, Age UK

• Anne Perkins appears to buy in to the idea that people born between 1946 and 1964 are the “lucky” generation. How lucky were women in the 60s and 70s, who earned less than their male counterparts and could be sacked for daring to get pregnant? Annual leave was a mere two weeks for many. My wage packets in the 70s were taxed at 35%. My first mortgage had an interest rate of 15%, and I had to wait three months to get it. Yes, university education was free, but only 15% of young people went to university. Today, Labour and Conservative governments want 50% of young people to go to university, with the absurd notion that, somehow, 50% of jobs will require a degree if more and more people get one.

The vast majority of my “wealth” is because of a geographical accident – I bought a house in London – and is unavailable to me unless I move. But my “unlucky” children will get it.
David Reggiori

Coventry Cathedral

The chancellor’s announcement that the regeneration of the north of England would be central to his autumn statement (Report, 6 August) is a promising escalation in the political duelling over this issue. So too is his endorsement of the One North report, developed by a coalition of five Northern cities – indicating the Government is listening to the leaders closest to the problems they are trying to solve. One North argues that better connections between northern cities will improve their labour markets and opportunities for trade, delivering benefits for the entire national economy. However, without cities having the powers and funding to adapt and connect local transport systems to these new cross-city links, the true potential of the investment will never be realised. Nor will transport itself solve the economic underperformance of the north. The next government must ensure it is integrated with environmental, housing and jobs policies.

Funding without devolution will only achieve so much. Cities will face tough decisions about which benefits from investment first. Long-term success will depend on their capacity to collaborate, putting competition on the backburner.
Alexandra Jones
Chief executive, Centre for Cities

• I don’t know whether Robert Ramskill of Coventry (Letters, 6 August), who bewails his lot growing up in the 50s, lived in that city. I did. New purpose-built comprehensive schools with acres of playing fields and committed staffs, well-planned council housing estates, full employment for our parents in the booming car industry, a new civic theatre, the best rugby team in the country, a magnificent new cathedral under construction and pride in a city which had at least done its fair share for the war effort – these are just some of the hardships we endured. Oh, and the prospect of ourselves enjoying a rising standard of living and retiring on a decent state pension at 60 or 65 ( in the event many of us retired long before that). Bliss it was in that dawn. I wish my own children could look forward with the same optimism.
Martin Brayne
High Peak, Derbyshire

Lawyers demonstrate in March 2014 against legal aid cuts

Liberal Democrat justice minister Simon Hughes’s disregard for the vast rise in people forced to represent themselves in court proves the Ministry of Justice is in cloud cuckoo land on the impact of their legal aid reforms (Family court system at ‘breaking point’ after cuts in legal aid, says lawyers’ body, July 30). Far from cutting costs, the government’s approach to civil legal aid reform has seen costs rise as judges spend more time helping unrepresented litigants and delay becomes part of the everyday process. Despite this abject failure, justice secretary Chris Grayling’s reforms to legal aid in criminal courts are continuing apace. The profession has always accepted that reform is necessary and provided alternative proposals to not only save money, but simultaneously preserve access to justice and equality before the law. Now is the time for the Ministry of Justice to come to the table and listen.
Bill Waddington
Chairman, Criminal Law Solicitors Association

What a sick and sorry state our politics is in when we see the hundreds of column inches across the press devoted to analysing the latest pronouncements of a man who thinks that it is attractively eccentric not to comb his hair, impishly impressive to lard his bombast with “apt” Latin aphorisms and morally acceptable to lie about his true and cynical intent to manipulate our political future in his own interests (Tory team divided over the return of ‘star player’ Boris, 7 August).
Gillian Dalley

• I’d be more convinced of Danny Cohen’s defence of his programme (Letters, 7 August) if there was one non-white face in his line up. Lenny Henry for Clarkson perhaps? At least he’d be funnier.
John Evans
Stroud, Gloucestershire

• Michael Elwyn makes a fair point about the illogicality of God Save the Queen sung by England’s rugby and football teams (Letters, 6 August), but as a Welshman I’d prefer the status quo to continue. Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) is one of the world’s most stirring national anthems and is worth six points when sung at the Millennium stadium. We don’t want the stiffer competition Jerusalem would offer.
Michael Emrys-Jones

• If Brendan Martin (Letters, 7 August) thinks a dog will do something slavishly for its owner, he has clearly never owned a west highland terrier. Islay, our Westie, spends a lot of time trying to get us to do things slavishly for her.
Kirsten Elliott

• My old, sadly deceased, dog was definitely an anarchist. He loved peace camps, festivals and demonstrations and was keen on animal rights. Never voted, probably on principle. He did nip a Trotskyist’s wagging finger at a Troops Out meeting once, the only one in the room brave enough to do what we all wanted to do.
Ross Bradshaw

• Good to see a new addition to the Guardian weights and measures lexicon, the “newborn elephant” or 100kg (Rosetta mission, 6 August).
Alan Pearson

Students sitting exams

Eton’s headteacher Tony Little is right to warn of the severe limitations of our outdated exam system (Report, 5 August). Particularly, to highlight the irony in our politicians’ attempts to copy highly academic models, when those countries are now changing their practice. Both South Korea, number one in the world, and Finland, number one in Europe, recognise that the demands, challenges and opportunities of the 21st century require radical innovation in education. South Korea, desperate to break out of its massively stressed system, is prototyping a “free semester programme” in the middle years of secondary schooling, providing a space free of exams where students can experiment. Finland is exploring ways of transforming teaching and learning to deepen student engagement, confident that this practice significantly enhances educational attainment and life opportunities. In England, 37 schools, supported by Innovation Unit, and sponsored by the Education Endowment Fund, are working to develop rigorous project-based learning that does exactly this – engaging students in work that has meaning for them, develops over time and allows them to work with the wider community, including businesses.
David Albury and Valerie Hannon
Directors, Innovation Unit

• It’s encouraging that an eminent voice undermines reliance on exams as an adequate means of learning assessment. In adult education, particularly through Open College Networks in collaboration with tutor-organisers, we realised the inadequacies of exams in the 1980s. Assessment processes, as opposed to the events of exams, were far more effective as a means of judging whether agreed learning objectives had been achieved. In appropriate circumstances, assessment of groups of learners acknowledged the importance of collaborative learning and achievement in the real world. And in community-based learning these assessment processes were very appropriate in terms of acknowledging people learning and working together to improve and develop their local situations.
David Browning


The encounter of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko has generated a wave of media excitement that is surely well justified.

However, science reporters and commentators who have described the comet as a “hurtling lump of dust and ice” have unwittingly downgraded the importance of the mission. They take no account of discoveries spanning more than three decades, indicating a large carbonaceous content of comets that gives rise to their dark, coal-like surfaces. Consistent with the theories of the late Sir Fred Hoyle and the present writer, the connection between comets, life and evolution has developed to the point that a life-detection experiment on the Rosetta lander would have been amply justified.

However, for mainly cultural reasons, such an experiment was not included in the mission, and in the event only indirect support of a comet-life connection can be expected from this mission.

The rendezvous with the comet that was achieved on 7 August 2014 has led to stunning close-up images of its surface. Rough terrain of low reflectivity appears to be interspersed with smoother areas that could represent recently exposed subsurface lakes that were laden with microbial life.

The high rate of outgasing that has been observed from early June points to the action of microbial life within such sub-surface lakes.

More evidence – albeit indirect evidence – pointing to our cosmic cometary ancestry is likely to be unravelled from experiments to be conducted in the Rosetta mission in the months that lie ahead.

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe

University of Buckingham


The ‘right’ to make a noise

I find it strange that the well-respected Julian Baggini spent three pages (6 August) defending the “rights” of the noisy over those of the silent in the battle of the quiet coach on our railways.

I would have thought that, like me, he would embrace the wonderful opportunity that train travel presents to catch up with a backlog of unread books. There can be few places better for a read with an occasionally glance through the window while reflecting upon a statement or incident in the book brought for the journey.

Yes, some iPhone enthusiasts are reasonably quiet when chatting, but many still feel they have to speak up when proclaiming their personal or business messages to those electronically connected, and object if spoken to on the matter.

In other circumstances one can walk away from noisy or offensive people, but here in the confines of the train it is a blessing to retire to the sanctuary of the quiet coach to read, sleep or otherwise enjoy the journey.

John Gamlin

East Bergholt, Suffolk


Julian Baggini surely underestimates the extent of public resistance to selfish use of mobile phones on trains and elsewhere, and of dismay at the asocial, bubble-enclosed behaviour he so eloquently describes, whose broader political roots in neoliberalism he seems not to recognise.

As a result, he havers uneasily between weary invocation of King Canute and protestation that the idea of social space can yet be rehabilitated. But the idea is in no way superseded, and needs powerfully asserting more than it does rehabilitating.

As regards trains, what’s required is not the temporary creation of completely silent “library coaches”. They would share with existing “quiet coaches” the drawback that they would seem to sanction unrestrainedly antisocial behaviour in the other coaches, as Baggini himself acknowledges.

What is needed is just permanent no-phone coaches, properly maintained as many rail passengers want and expect.

Michael Ayton



Buffoon heads for the Commons

Most people I know weren’t surprised to learn of Boris Johnson’s political ambitions, and most just shrugged. The fact that David Cameron appears to view his return as some sort of public relations game-changer goes some way to illustrating the chasm between the government of this country and those who live in it.

I don’t know that Johnson’s calculated buffoonery, transplanted to the Commons, will make any difference to the lives of ordinary Britons. Mr Cameron’s point would seem to be that Johnson has entertainment value. How is this relevant to anything?

Mike Galvin

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Within 48 hours of the departure of the state-educated, northern, ethnic minority origin Baroness Warsi from a Conservative-led government, step forward the middle-aged and very white and South of England Old Etonian Boris Johnson. So much for modern Conservatives.

Anthony Rodriguez

Staines, Middlesex

Secret of business in one sentence

As a former market stall trader I have been taking a keen interest in recent letters about business-school education and MBAs. My only advice would be: buy low, sell high, all the time. Hope this is not too difficult to grasp for the business types among my fellow readers.

Jonathan Cox


Make your Scottish friends feel wanted

I heartily endorse your editorial “If you can’t vote, shout” (7 August). As an Englishman who has visited Scotland many times, I shall be very sorry if Scotland leaves the Union.

During the last few months when a suitable opportunity has occurred, I have spoken to good friends who will have a vote in the Scottish referendum  about my keen hope that Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom, and asked them about their views. I would urge others to do  the same.

My unscientific sample of four produced two who will vote No, one who will vote Yes (for reasons which I respect) and one (an Englishman who has only lived in Scotland for a few years) who will abstain. I hope this majority for the Better Together campaign will be reflected in the result on 18 September.

Gordon Kuphal

Brightlingsea, Essex


It is reassuring that the newspaper I have bought since it started supports the Better Together campaign and sympathises with us Scots who are temporarily removed from our nation, and are disenfranchised in the referendum.

However, it is less pleasing to note your Londoncentricity, whereby the editorial on Scotland comes second, below the one about Boris Johnson possibly standing as an MP.

Brian Mathieson


Heart-warming though your passionate support for the Union is, do you realise that part of the problem is the idea that decisions affecting Scots are best taken for them by others, and that the tone of your leader makes this clear?

For an expat Scot like me, reading a newspaper called The Independent, published, I supposed, for a UK readership, it feels uncomfortable to be told that “we” should make “the Scots” feel wanted, and that “we” must not lose Scotland without mounting any resistance “ourselves”. Who exactly do you think “you” are?

Richard Jeffcoat


The argument over what currency an independent Scotland might use makes for lively political debate but illustrates a major flaw in the referendum process.

Surely fundamental matters like this – not only currency, but EU membership, and what devolution can be expected if Scotland remains in the Union – should have been settled in principle before the referendum. This would enable the Scottish people to make an informed decision based on what independence actually means.

As it is, the partisans on each side are able to exploit the uncertainty and lack of clarity to suit their own purposes. How can the Scots make a sensible choice when they do not know for certain what they are voting for?

Robert Smith

Keyworth, Nottingham

You report Alex Salmond as saying: “Our moment, let’s take it.”

Scottish independence is not a highland charge against the English; Scottish independence would be the first day of the future of Scotland.

Scotland needs leaders with a clear understanding of the effort and commitment involved in running an independent nation. Scotland does not need a “one mighty bound and we’re free” politician.

Martin London

Henllan, Denbighshire


Alex Salmond complains that, in the Union, Scots have been governed by parties they did not elect. I am now in my eighties and for all my life, until 2010, I have been governed by parties I didn’t elect. I suspect that goes for a good many other voters too. Isn’t that what is called democracy?

Gillian Cook

Market Harborough, Leicestershire


Some of the international legal groundwork for deciding who owns the Moon has been done

Sir, Your report on China’s plans to mine helium-3 on the Moon and your leader debating who owns the Moon (Aug 5) fail to ask the more important question: does mankind have the right to mine the Moon?

The Moon is the next rainforest; it exists in a near-perfect vacuum and contains a record of the history of the solar system. Mining operations will destroy both things. In order to get one tonne of helium-3, a million tonnes of the regolith, the dust that covers the Moon’s surface, has to be heated to 800 degrees celsius. Once under way, the effects of this strip-mining will soon be visible from the earth.

Sixty years ago the US reacted to the Russian Sputnik satellite by spending billions of dollars on manned Moon missions. It hoped to harness the magic of the Moon to thwart the chimera of world domination by the Soviets. The programme succeeded in bringing a mere 800lb of moonrock back to earth, the most expensive stones in the world.

We are now on the brink of spending many times the cost of the Apollo missions to mine a substance that we cannot even be sure will be viable as a fuel.

Mankind has better things to do with its time and money, like making sure that we can supply every inhabitant of earth with clean water. Mining the Moon is a profligate displacement activity, perhaps best described as lunacy.

Rick Stroud
London SW10

Sir, Your leader referred to “the strangely named Jade Rabbit”, a Chinese Moon probe which landed last year. In fact the name comes from a very old myth about a moon rabbit which is based on markings on the Moon and, in Chinese folklore, is said to be constantly mixing the elixir of life in a mortar and pestle.

Whether or not the Chinese have a stake in the helium-3 on the moon, the technology to efficiently create fusion reactions, let alone mine and transport He-3 from the moon, is far out of our reach and the related costs are extremely high.

Jo-Yan Yu
Isleworth, London

Sir, You ask (leader, Aug 5) who owns the Moon. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, a treaty accepted by all the space powers, bars “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies” from “national appropriation”. Article vii makes states responsible for national activities whether carried on by governmental agencies or non-governmental entities or through international organisations.

The 1979 UN Moon Treaty declares that celestial bodies and their resources “are the common heritage of mankind” but does not prohibit the appropriation of their natural resources. It distinguishes between exploration and exploitation. No moratorium appears to be declared for either. Rules are established governing exploration. Parties agree that, when exploitation becomes possible, they would set up an international regime to ensure their proper development and management, as well their equitable distribution.

It is high time for all the nations involved to give this treaty or a revised version of it their serious consideration so that the natural resources of the Moon and all the other celestial bodies could be explored and eventually exploited in cooperation and harmony and not become a source of discord.

Emeritus Professor Bin Cheng
Author of Studies in International Space Law (1997)
London NW11

Israel may be defending itself from Hamas but Israel also has the initiative to make a lasting peace

Sir, Clearly Israel has a legal right to defend itself against Hamas’s rockets. Not so clear is whether her self-defence is proportionate, in the sense either of “strictly necessary” or of “instrumentally apt to the end”.

Provided Israel targets enemy combatants and that such targeting is necessary, there is no upper limit to the number of civilian casualties that may be incurred, tragically, as collateral damage.

But to what end are these means necessary? If it is to defend Israeli civilians, the Iron Dome missile system already achieves that with, officials say, 90 per cent efficiency. Arguably, however, the end should not stop at deflecting the harmful effects, but should extend to uprooting their cause. This would justify military action against Hamas.

Military means alone do not suffice. The Gaza bombardment has weakened Hamas’s military power, it hasn’t uprooted it. Without a political solution, it will simply revive to fight again.

It is within Israel’s power to take diplomatic, confidence-building initiatives without waiting for reliable Palestinian interlocutors. Unilaterally, Israel can end the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Until then, its assaults on Gaza will remain inapt and so disproportionate.

Nigel Biggar

Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, Oxford

Sir, The government is correct that Israel has a right and an obligation to defend its citizens while ensuring that all action is proportionate. We share the government’s concerns at events in Gaza and Palestinian casualty figures. Gazans have a right to live in peace and security but Israelis also have a right to live without fear of rocket attack or terrorist incursion.

The government’s view that the conflict was triggered by Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns is correct. For this reason, Hamas bears principal responsibility for starting the conflict.

In calling for an immediate and enduring ceasefire, a permanent end to rocket attacks from Hamas and for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the British Government has responded to the current crisis in the right way.

Baroness Neville-Jones

Lord Trimble

Sir Richard Ottaway, MP

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, QC, MP

James Arbuthnot, MP

Dr Liam Fox, MP

Mark Hoban, MP

Bob Neil, MP

Conservative Friends of Israel

The life and determination of a female pilot were an inspiration to those who followed her

Sir, Your obituary of Lettice Curtis (Aug 2) reminded me of a very yellow newspaper cutting which is on my noticeboard to this day reporting that at 78 she had qualified as a helicopter pilot. She said it was much more fun than flying Spitfires, and if the engines fail, you have three seconds to get the rotation speed down before you fall out of the sky — “but it’s not frightening”.

I was learning to fly a Cessna at the time, the early 1990s, and was at the stage where progress was nil. Her words inspired me and I went on to gain my private pilot’s licence.

Jane Hanley

Redhill, Surrey

A female interviewee who prepared herself for a predictable line of questioning

Sir, In 1985 I was the only female on a shortlist of six invited for interview for a local government post. The appointment panel comprised three male senior officers but I was surprised when I was asked whether I was planning to start a family, their having noted that I was a 30-year-old married woman. I asked whether the same question was being put to all the candidates which produced a swift change of subject. I was offered the job and spent the next 14 years having to confront the same sort of thinking.

June Parkinson

Amport, Hampshire

The obituary of Chapman Pincher is a reminder of past journalistic pretensions

Sir,The Beaverbrook-era Daily Express’s fondness for “pretentious names” (“The Sharpest Pincher”, TMS, Aug 7) was surely underscored by the byline of a fellow Expressman of Chapman Pincher’s, Sefton Delmar. His other given name was “Denis”. It was Sefton Delmar who once wrote that on entering a Berlin nightclub, he was overcome by a sense of “libidinous concupiscence”.

Alexander Morrowsmith

Leigh on Sea, Essex.


SIR – Despite being denied the opportunity to catch Tuesday’s televised debate on the proposed dissolution of the United Kingdom, I watched sneakily online.

While I was moved by Alistair Darling’s point that Scotland currently benefits from some of the highest per-capita public spending in the UK, the argument began to seem futile in the face of Alex Salmond’s assertion that an independent Scotland would stand several rungs above the remainder of the UK in world GDP per capita rankings.

Since I am also denied a vote, I wonder if any Westminster politician can guarantee that the remainder of the UK will neither continue to subsidise the Scottish state, nor retain a liability to bail it out, should the ayes have it on September 18.

William Major
Wincanton, Somerset

SIR – It is incredible that the televised debate was not made readily available live across the UK, when the issue is of vital importance to all citizens in all four countries.

The case for Scottish independence by the Scottish National Party is based purely on sentiment, speculation and the usual plethora of unfounded political promises.

Jim W Barrack
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The only Scottish broadcast seen across Britain on Tuesday night was a match between Rangers and Hibernian.

Can the media believe the match to be more important than the debate, or are we non-voting British considered irrelevant?

Alan Belk
Leatherhead, Surrey

SIR – Given that an independent Scotland will likely be unable to use the pound sterling, can I suggest that a suitable alternative would be the “Tunnock”.

Chris Williamson
Worksop, Nottinghamshire

SIR – ITV/STV explained that, as only those in Scotland were entitled to vote, no one else in Britain could view the debate.

Will ITV use the same criteria when the American elections are in progress? I, for one, hope so.

Lt Col Glenn Waltham (retd)
Chipstead, Kent

Collecting data on us

SIR – Philip Johnston asks if we should trust Whitehall with all our details. Francis Maude MP (Letters, August 6) seems to accept concerns about data protection.

But what of data being collected elsewhere? I have a seller’s account with Amazon, which already has quite a lot of information about me, including my bank account number. It has now told me that under EU regulations it needs a great deal more, including full details of my passport. I do not intend to comply. I assume our leaders approve of these requirements.

E M Griffin
Colyton, Devon

SIR – The Government’s plan to “harmonise databases” looks like another government IT fiasco in the making, and another few billion pounds down the drain.

In the improbable event of the project succeeding, there would be an even bigger haystack to lose a needle in. IT systems are only as good as the people using them.

Professor Derek Pheby
Harnham, Wiltshire

A ripe idea

SIR – David Benwell (Letters, August 2) may be pleased to learn that a device does exist in supermarkets to measure the ripeness of melons and other fruit. He may be less happy that he will need to travel to Japan to use it.

The device uses near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy to measure constituents that indicate ripeness. This technique has a huge range of applications, from farming to the pharmaceutical industry. It has been neglected by the British science community, compared with other parts of the world, particularly the Far East.

Interestingly, there are two companies currently working on key-fob-sized devices for the consumer market that may be able to solve Mr Benwell’s problem. They use NIR spectroscopy, are due for commercial launch in 2015, and are likely to cost between £100 and £200.

Ian Michael
Chichester, West Sussex

Bridal trains

SIR – The change in the marriage laws gives couples the opportunity to marry in unusual places and breathes life into buildings that have seen better days. My daughter’s wedding on the concourse at St Pancras station was unique and personal – and the magnificent building was an ideal backdrop to a perfect day.

Charlotte Chesyre
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Pulling a fast one

SIR – Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula 1 billionaire, will pay a relatively paltry £60 million to walk free from the German court where he faced trial for bribing a German banker to the tune of £26 million.

Is there any difference in the nature of these two transactions, both of which allow a very wealthy man to pay whatever is required to suit his own interests?

Sam Horscroft
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – Truly, Germany has the best justice that money can buy.

John Harris
Martyr Worthy, Hampshire

First World War legacy

SIR – Last Saturday, prior to any First World War commemoration events, the final two Royal Tank Regiments (RTR) amalgamated with a moving parade at Bulford Camp.

The tank was the most significant land weapon development ever, allowing for the breakdown of static trench warfare, and perhaps hastening the end of the First World War. Today’s RTR soldiers are the proud successors to those of the Tank Corps who demonstrated such courage and professionalism when they smashed through the German lines at Cambrai on November 20 1917.

Alongside the Cavalry, the one remaining RTR has a vital role to protect our nation and our friends. I am confident that, if called upon, the surviving RTR soldiers will demonstrate the same fine qualities as those of their predecessors.

Lt Col Richard Seaton Evans
Guilsborough, Northamptonshire

SIR – We must not forget the contribution of the Chinese in the First World War. When China declared war on Germany in August 1917, the British signed an agreement with the Chinese to recruit Chinese labourers to fill a shortage at the front. A hundred thousand Chinese served in the British Chinese Labour Corps and 40,000 served with the French. Others, mostly students, served as interpreters. Although these men were not engaged in front-line action, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 died.

Trevor Yang
British Chinese Soldiers’ Benevolent Association
Hong Kong

Competitive cinema

SIR – While I was a National Serviceman in Malta 60 years ago, there were six cinemas in Valletta and they all showed different films (Letters, August 4).

Two of these were on the upper and lower floors of the same building. I recall seeing Rumer Godden’s The River in the Ambassador while the noisy soundtrack of a cowboy film filtered through the air conditioning system from the Embassy.

Alan M Pardoe
Malvern Wells, Worcestershire

Pursuit of happiness

SIR – My late father had a useful saying about happiness (Comment, August 6): “Blessed is he who expecteth little, for he shall not be disappointed”.

Susan M Walton
Gateshead, Co Durham

Ugly and redundant: production ended at the Shoreham cement works in 1991  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 07 Aug 2014


SIR – In view of the enthusiasm generated by the proposed demolition of flats in Glasgow and cooling towers at Didcot, I wonder when action will be taken to blow up the redundant cement works near Shoreham, in Sussex, which are surely the ugliest feature of the entire South Downs.

K L Parsons
Helston, Cornwall

Baroness Warsi has resigned over the Government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza Photo: REX FEATURES

7:00AM BST 07 Aug 2014


SIR – Baroness Warsi is right to condemn the harm to children in Gaza.

But as she complains to David Cameron about Israel, is she similarly criticising the policies and actions of Hamas, which seem to be the proximate cause of the children’s suffering, and the inability of the United Nations to stop Hamas using the children in the way it does?

Jonathan Longstaff

Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – When Israel, one of our true allies in the Middle East, responds to rocket attacks from Hamas, it is roundly condemned; but when Muslims kill fellow Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Libya in far greater numbers, no one seems the least bit concerned.

Hugh Foster

Farnborough, Hampshire

SIR – Baroness Warsi conveniently omits to mention the thousands of Hamas rockets fired into Israel over the past few years.

What does she imagine they were intended to do? Has she spoken out against this?

John Tilsiter

Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Three lessons our Government must learn are these: that interfering in countries they do not understand only exacerbates their suffering and ours; that our supposed allies only act in their own interests and not according to any moral agenda; and that vested interests both at home and abroad do not care about democracy or stability but only about profiting from their absence.

Rev R C Paget

Brenchley, Kent

SIR – Whether there is any underlying reason for Lady Warsi resigning may become clear once we learn of her next job and what she will be paid.

Robert Vincent

Wildhern, Hampshire

SIR – Lady Warsi could have used her political talents to far better effect if she had persuaded Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement proposed by the Egyptians three weeks ago, before the Israeli army’s land incursion into Gaza.

Hamas’s rejection of the proposal then led directly to the tragic consequences we have all seen for the people of Gaza.

For Lady Warsi to resign now, using the current situation in Gaza as her reason, leads one to question her political loyalty. Hamas’s callous disregard for the safety of the civilian population of Gaza should be obvious to all.

Alf Allenstein

Barnet, Hertfordshire

SIR – All is well with the world. Sepp Blatter is in charge of Fifa, Bernie Ecclestone returns to Formula 1 and Baroness Warsi resigns on Twitter before she tells the Prime Minister.

Martin Greenwood

Fringford, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Praise the Lord, the Irish economy is surging back to rude health, with the ESRI telling us that Ireland can expect no less than 3.4 per cent growth this year (Business + Technology, August 7th) making our country “the fastest-growing economy in the euro sector”. Does anyone remember when we heard this before? Well, about a decade ago. However, every silver lining has a cloud and it seems that, according to the Construction Industry Federation and its spokesperson, Tom Parlon (Progressive Democrat and Minister in the FF/PD coalition that banjaxed the Irish economy in the first place) Dublin is experiencing a “crisis” with an “urgent” need for new houses to be constructed. Mr Parlon explains that construction is a “no brainer” (arguably recent history has proven that) and that if only the funding and legislation were in place we’d be entering another era of milk and honey with masses of jobs and billions flowing to the cash-starved exchequer. Finally, the ESRI is concerned that house prices are undervalued by up to 27 per cent. Examining statistical models from 1981 to 2013, it finds prices languishing well below their “fundamental” values. My understanding is that the intrinsic value of any item, including property, is a value in constant flux and dependent purely on the prevailing market situation at a given time. So please, what on earth is the “fundamental” value of a house? Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,

Co Dublin

Sir, – If there is a shortage of houses in Dublin, and houses are lying empty in other parts of the country, as stated by the ESRI, then the building of more houses in Dublin only addresses one aspect of the problem. Towns and villages in Mayo, Sligo, and Roscommon will continue with the blot on their landscape of empty houses and apartments until 2021 and beyond.

What about an alternative that encourages people to move out of the major urban centres and breathes life back into those areas still struggling to recover from the most glaring errors of the building boom? Technology has moved leaps and bounds in recent years, but instead of using this technology to encourage employee mobility and remote working, most employees are desk-bound in the cities, many of them with long commutes from rural locations.

While there are many jobs that would not be ideally suited to having employees off site, for some companies there may be benefits to not maintaining expensive office space for workers who could work efficiently from home. Central hubs in small towns where workers share facilities when needed could also be an option and could bring economic and social benefit to those towns. What about a tax break for employers who facilitate employees working from home? It’s time to question the notion of having employees on-site under the eye of bosses and begin to move towards smarter working that benefits employees, smaller towns and communities and brings life back into the ghost estates. Yours, etc,


The Old Distillery,

Beresford Street,

Dublin 7

Sir, – Many groups are suffering to some extent in the current housing market – homeowners, first-time buyers, landlords and tenants. It would seem better to deal with each group’s difficulties on their own merits and to be non-judgmental and sympathetic to everyone’s circumstances, but all too regularly one group in particular is singled out for abuse. This time the attack on landlords comes from Paul Kean (August 7th).

Owners of investment properties purchased at the height of the boom are in considerable difficulty, at least some of this can be blamed on Government policies. Yet they get little sympathy because they are misrepresented as being foolish, imprudent and greedy.

Many ordinary people who invested in houses were indeed “not the sophisticated investors they thought they were” but most were trying to make investments that they thought would work out. We thought we were being prudent, but we were not. We too occasionally use the term “investment” in inverted commas by way of irony, and in lighter moments might refer to the property as an “asset” no matter how mired in debt it (and we) may be.

Some expenses that landlords face are indeed the Government’s fault, for example the portion of mortgage interest that is not recoverable as a tax expense, uniquely for a business expense and which means that many landlords end up paying tax on a loss. And there is a real point about the property tax. While Mr Kean notes that such a tax exists in every developed property market it is not often the case that the tax is payable wholly by the property owner. Usually the occupants of a house pay the tax (they, after all, are the ones receiving the local services that the tax is supposed to pay for).– Yours, etc,


The Cloisters,


Co Kildare

A chara, – The current debate about “the mantle of 1916” (Editorial, August 6th) and where it sits in the national narrative has the potential to be a positive development. In 1966, as a schoolchild, I was chosen to read the Easter Proclamation as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Rereading it recently I have to say it still packs a powerful rhetorical punch. Its call to Irishmen and Irishwomen to rally to its message of religious and civil liberty, its guarantee of equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and in particular its promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally – these ideals still have a powerful relevance in an Ireland beset by problems of social inequality and alienation.

If we leave aside the militaristic overtones which inevitably arose from its contemporary context, we can also find renewed relevance in the message of the need for reconciliation between our nationalist and unionist communities. The current debate needs to focus on these issues rather than which party may emerge as the true heirs of 1916. – Is mise,



Co Wicklow

Sir, – It’s a little sickening to see the politicians and the military people commemorating (almost to glorification) the 100th anniversary of the debacle that was the first World War. These commemorations imply that wars are inevitable and that the participants (those who do the fighting, killing and dying as opposed to those who direct operations from a safe distance) have been engaged in something useful and beneficial to humankind. In reality wars only serve to expose all the base instincts of humankind. Humans have shown that civilised behavior and democratic practices can resolve disputes peacefully without resorting to war. Enough of these commemorations. Yours, etc,


Offington Drive,

Dublin 13

Sir, – Henry Counihan (August 7th) derides the men of violence circa 1968/1969 for hijacking the national flag while simultaneously proposing that we use events commemorating the men of violence circa 1916-1921 as a means to take it back. – Yours, etc,


Lausanne Road,

London N8 0HJ

Sir,-Capt John Dunne is completely justified when he claims that other atrocities in the Middle East and on the African continent should not detract from the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza (August 7th).

However, he also completely misses the point that more objective commentators are attempting to make, that the acts of genocide being carried out against, for example, the Christians of Iraq by Isis are virtually ignored by the western media.

Of course this does not minimise the terrible suffering of the people of Gaza, but when these issues are raised they seem to draw down the contempt of individuals like Capt Dunne, who glibly dismiss them as attempts to deflect attention from the current crisis. This is not so; it is merely an attempt by fair-minded people to raise a pertinent question. Why is this so? Why is any attempt at objectivity deemed to be anti-Palestinian? – Yours, etc,


Sean Hales Terrace,


Co Cork

Sir,– Noel Leahy (August 7th) should be careful in calling Israel “the only truly democratic state in the Middle East”, as if democracy automatically confers virtue . In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” – Yours, etc,


Annadale Drive,

Dublin 9

Sir, – Permit me to briefly clarify my points for the benefit of Noel Leahy (August 7th). To adapt Bill Clinton’s phrase “it’s the economy, stupid”, it’s the death toll, Mr Leahy: some 65 on one side of the ledger, over 1,800 on the other. Is that logic enough ? Only Mr Leahy knows if he is deliberately misinterpreting my point on apartheid South Africa: boycotts, isolation, as the world got fed up. It has already started in the theatres of north London and Edinburgh. – Yours, etc,



Co Antrim

Sir, – For years I had convinced myself that I was unable to understand Irish.Then I discovered Raidió Na Gaeltachta, or rather I heard Áine Hensey presenting a late night radio programme called An Ghealach Ghorm and my ears were opened.

Suddenly, I was transported back over 50 years to a time when I had spent a short spell in a local school in Glencastle, Co. Mayo, before I moved to Dublin. I do not know why this is so, but Ms Hensey’s Irish and enunciation are so exquisite as to make understanding almost unnecessary, yet I suddenly found that all the Irish I had picked up in those few short months came flooding back to me.

She now presents a daily programme – Binnneas Béil – on RnaG. I would recommend anybody with the least interest in hearing simple Irish spoken well to tune in; her choice of music is also eclectic and exceptionally good.

For myself, I park the car at Dún na mBó point, opposite Eagle Island lighthouse and tune in for the two hours; watching nature, hearing Áine speaking Irish and listening to the music is as near to a naturally induced mystical experience one is likely to encounter this side of the grave.

Gazing past the island in the direction of America, I count my blessings that I only had to spend a month working in Manhattan, unlike a lot of Irish people who lived and died there, without ever seeing home again. Yours, etc,



Bangor Erris,

Co Mayo

Sir, – I hope Ted O’Keeffe’s letter (August 7th) was tongue in cheek, for it contained far too many simplistic statements to avoid serious rebuttal. The break-up of the union is too monumental an event, in political, social and economic terms, to turn on cheap, and factually unsound, stereotypes. I would like to know upon what evidence Mr O’Keeffe bases his strange assertion that the English “have frittered away their inventive and productive talents”. His comment regarding the City’s alleged disdain for trade might be a reasonable inference from a Jane Austen novel but seems bizarre in a 21st century economic debate. Finally, his statement about “handing the queen back” is frightfully silly. Elizabeth II is constitutionally queen of the United Kingdom, and her close relationship to all her realms, not just England, is evidenced in the fact that even the diehard Scottish nationalists have stated they would retain her as head of state. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – It is with some dismay that I read of Dublin City Council’s plans to restore Mountjoy Square to its “original Georgian design”. Mountjoy Square is part of a dense inner city neighbourhood, a neighbourhood with a distinct lack of accessible recreation spaces.It is a travesty to spend €8.1m to remove active spaces to restore a “beautiful and refined garden with formal planting and defined paths”. It won’t be long before the “keep off the grass” signs are up and people will be expected to wear top hats and carry walking canes. It is a shame that the elitist conservation lobby gets to dictate how inner city public spaces should be. These public spaces should be the lifeblood of their communities, not fossilsed relics of an imagined past. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16

Sir, – Conor Pope’s article “No use crying over spoiled milk – remember the chill chain” (July 7th) is helpful in highlighting how we can increase milk’s shelf life, but Irish people, descended from thrifty farmers who knew how to make food last, ought to know that sour milk isn’t necessarily spoiled. It can be used to make cottage cheese, ricotta, soup, scones and panna cotta.

Indeed a quick online search for “left over milk recipes” will return all sorts of uses. Added to the satisfaction of using something productively rather than wasting it is the joy of engaging yourself in creating something in the kitchen. At the end of one’s efforts one might even feel rather satisfied that milk is souring extra speedily this summer. – Yours, etc,


Clonturk Avenue,


Dublin 9

A chara, – The attempt made by Mary O’Dowd (August 6th) to argue that the removal of men from positions of power would end war, left me incredulous. As well as being a shameful trivialisation of the horror of war, it is an example of a kind of spurious and virulent reasoning which any rational feminist would surely distance herself from. When I concluded that it was actually written in earnest, I immediately thought of some lines from Crime and Punishment, in which Dostoyevsky writes of the character Svidrigaïlov: “He was one of those innumerable simpletons who become infatuated with new fleeting ideas – who, by their silliness, throw discredit on the cause they may be greatly infatuated with.” – Is mise,




Sir, – I have a two-word response to Mary O’Dowd: Margaret Thatcher. – Yours, etc,


St John’s Court,

Dublin 22

Sir, – How many people does it take to install a water meter? Anyone still reeling from the cost of the drinking water (the supply of which we mistakenly believed we had been paying for all along through central taxation) may be interested to know that – with the arrival of Irish Water – the answer is about 18. That many appeared in our street today, about half working for contractor GMC-Sierra, the rest with Uisce Eireann logos on their shiny new hi-viz jackets. Most stood around idle while one or two installed meters.

When I asked why so many, an Irish Water woman replied “It’s a trial.” To all of us still grappling with the astronomical fees paid to “consultants” to set up a body for which there was no need in order to impose higher taxation by stealth – it most certainly is. – Yours, etc,


Richmond Row,


Dublin 8

Sir, – Reading John McAuliffe’s piece (Weekend, August 2nd) about Valentin Iremonger’s poetry reminded me of another side to the man. In the early 1970s, as one of three students hitchhiking around Europe, one of our number had an accident in Luxembourg which meant that the plan to continue the road trip was not possible.We went to the Irish embassy to seek assistance; a rather gruff Luxembourger was not very sympathetic. We asked to speak to a “higher authority” and soon Valentin Iremonger arrived on the scene, listened to our story and went on to pay for flights. He spoke to us for some time and I will always remember him as a kind and gentle man who helped a fellow countryman in need. – Yours, etc,


Lenaghan Crescent,

Belfast BT8 7JE

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 01:00

First published: Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 01:00

Sir, – Recent commentary about former minister Pat Rabbitte has been a little ungenerous.His parliamentary leadership during the 26th Dáil on practices within the Goodman companies that affected ordinary workers and ordinary farmers was a singular contribution to Irish society.For that alone we should graciously applaud this pre-eminent Teachta as he retreats from ministerial office.– Yours, etc,




Irish Independent:

Reading Daniel McConnell’s article on the falling cost of the bank bailout (Irish Independent August 5), I cannot help but ask, why should we follow the Government’s narrative on the cost of the bailout?

For starters, while it is true that the banks have paid out €4.3bn in fees for the bank guarantee, we should not regard these fees as repayments towards the €64bn bailout.

The bank guarantee was, and is, an insurance policy, not a loan repayment scheme. After all, these same banks do not accept life and home insurance premiums as part-payments on a homeowner’s mortgage.

If we cast our minds back to that infamous night of September 30, 2008, we will recall that the executives of Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland met with government and state officials to argue that if Anglo failed, it would bring them down with it.

The bank guarantee and subsequent bailout was thus for the Irish-owned banking sector as a whole, not for each individual bank. The surviving banks, therefore, are collectively liable for the whole €64bn bailout, not just their own portion of it.

Each of the surviving banks, not the taxpayer, should be made to pay their share of the Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide bailout cost. Plus interest.

The only money the banks have actually paid towards the bailout is the €6bn received from the sale of assets and the approximately €4bn Bank of Ireland has paid back.

There is still another €54bn plus interest to go, not €40bn, as the Government would like us to believe.

On no account should the Government accept the value of its holdings in the banks as down-payments on the bailout.

The Irish banks owe the people of Ireland a huge debt for the damage they caused to both the economy and people’s lives.

Whenever the Government cashes in these holdings, it should divide the money raised between each citizen as compensation 
for the damage caused by the banks.

After all, they owe us big time.

Henry Gaynor


Co Kerry

FG should rebrand as ‘FF Nua’

Although I would normally heartily concur with Thomas Garvey’s views (Letters, Irish Independent, August 6) regarding a TD’s loyalty to the party on whose ticket he or she rose to power, may I respectfully suggest that the party to which he refers is, de facto, no longer in existence?

Ivan Yates was a member of the Fine Gael Party, with the ethics personified by Garret the Good, among others – integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness among them.

Nowadays, Fine Gael in power is nothing better than the corrupt Fianna Fail of the Haughey, Ahern, and Cowen eras which it replaced – indeed, it may as well rebrand itself as ‘Fianna Fail Nua’.

D K Henderson

Dublin 3

Are Daly et al anti-war or not?

I do hope one of your readers can explain the following to me: Clare Daly TD; John Molyneux, secretary of the Irish Anti-War Movement; and others posed for pictures proclaiming that the Irish people should remember lost lives and not glorify war (Irish Independent, August 6).

And yet each of these people has been publicly associated with supporting Hamas in the Middle East.

One cannot be “anti-war” and for peace and non-violence and yet support terrorist organisations or wars generated by duly-elected governments.

If one is truly anti-war, one must begin by saying: “I will not kill and I will not associate my name with those that do.”

Vincent J Lavery

Chair, Peace and Justice in the Middle East


Co Dublin

1916 leaders had no alternative

The revisionist contribution of John Bruton (Irish Independent August 4) is worrying and shows that a cohort of individuals still believe that 1916 was totally unnecessary, suggesting Home Rule was inevitable.

Therein lies the deceit. Mr Bruton, as a former Taoiseach, is well aware that the British have never moved on issues unless it’s in their own strategic interest. The 1916 leaders had no alternative but to initiate an armed rebellion in the face of perfidious Albion.

No doubt, the debate will continue during the centenary of commemorations, but we are where we are and a debt of honour is owed to a previous generation who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Peter Mulvany


Dublin 3

A sanitised view of fox hunting

The lavish spectacle that is the Dublin Horse Show is again attracting huge crowds and showcasing our multi-million-euro equestrian industry. Sadly, this annual event also serves as a major PR boost to fox hunting.

We see representatives of various hunts in action, jumping fences and negotiating natural obstacles that replicate to a degree the rugged 
and challenging sweep of the Irish countryside.

We are also treated to displays of traditional hunt pageantry: packs of hounds on their best behaviour, wagging their tails as they canter before the horses in ceremonial postcard fashion, with the evocative, haunting sound of a hunting horn added for effect.

A benign image…but something is missing from the pretty picture: the fox.

He fails to make an appearance at this high-profile event.

In a true-life hunting scenario, the pomp and pageantry quickly descends into a frenzy of blood lust and mayhem as the pack closes in on its prey.

Instead, we get the sanitised version of fox hunting, neatly packaged and presented to whitewash one of the world’s most barbaric blood sports.

John Fitzgerald


Co Kilkenny

Taking on the Russian bear

So little old Ireland is punching above its weight?

We (just 4 million) have declared 
economic warfare on Russia (142 million). I wonder who will starve first?

Austria has done a deal for oil 
with Russia, but it has a government 
which puts its citizens first.

William Ryan

Dublin 7

Hugs more hygienic for peace

I was very surprised to read that the Vatican has ordered Catholics to replace hugs and kisses with handshakes when they are offering the Sign of the Peace.

Pope Francis is banning hugs and kisses at Mass and has told bishops to draw up strict guidelines.

The circular said churchgoers should be offered “practical measures” to help them perform the gesture with more sobriety.

Anyone would think that Mass-goers were having a love-in every time they attended Mass.

It’s much more hygienic to hug and kiss than to shake hands. We all know shaking hands can spread germs everywhere.

And what about the holy water fonts? They are a breeding area for 

I’d prefer a kiss or a hug any day.

Pope Francis, I’m afraid you’re losing it – and I was just getting to like you.

Terry Healy


Co Kildare

Irish Independent


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