9 August 2014 Prescription

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 tomatoes

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


Tony Bray – obituary

Tony Bray was a stockbroker who, as a young Army cadet, became Margaret Thatcher’s first boyfriend

Tony Bray in a photograph which he sent to Margaret Roberts from Germany in 1946

Tony Bray in a photograph which he sent to Margaret Roberts from Germany in 1946

5:48PM BST 05 Aug 2014


Tony Bray, who has died aged 88, was a stockbroker who was identified, last year, as the first serious boyfriend of the young Margaret Thatcher (or Margaret Roberts, as she was before her marriage to Denis Thatcher).

Before Charles Moore published the first volume of his authorised biography of the former Conservative Prime Minister, the line taken by previous biographers had been that, until Denis came along, she had had no romantic friendships with men. This was never likely, as Margaret Roberts had been an undeniably pretty young woman at Oxford at a time when female undergraduates were heavily outnumbered by men, many of whom were servicemen just back from the war.

When Moore asked Lady Thatcher about her early romantic life, she initially maintained the fiction that she had had no boyfriends before she met her husband. But Moore had evidence that she was not telling the whole truth. First, there was her old schoolfriend, Margaret Goodrich, who recalled the young Oxford undergraduate turning up at her 21st birthday party in December 1944 clutching a carnation which “seemed very precious to her” and which had been given to her by an “Oxford boyfriend”. Then there were the letters written to her sister Muriel, which bore witness to an intense romantic attachment to a man named Tony Bray.

Moore tracked Bray down to his home in Sussex and found him happy to speak about the days at the end of the war when he had danced with the future Prime Minister — though he was anxious that his wife, Valerie, who died before the publication of Moore’s book, should not know of his inquiries.

Tony Bray outside the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Bray, then an 18-year-old Army cadet, and Margaret Roberts had met through the Oxford University Conservative Association some time in the autumn of 1944 when he was up at Oxford on a six-month military training course. Though short and not especially good-looking, he was, by his own account, “not half bad as a dancer”. Margaret Roberts, who was nearly two years older, he recalled as “a plump, attractive girl in a well-built way” who was always smartly, if not particularly stylishly, dressed. He found her to be “very thoughtful and a very good conversationalist”, and was impressed by her enthusiasm for politics. Though she was “a bit bluestocking”, he liked the fact that she was well-read and enjoyed music. Another reason they got on so well, he felt, was that “she had a degree of loneliness”, which he responded to.

The two had fun together, going out to dances and the theatre. Following the rules of the time, they never slept together. In March 1945 Margaret wrote to her sister about a “marvellous” evening with Tony at the Randolph Ball at which she had worn a blue frock: “[Before going to the ball] Tony hired a car and we drove out to Abingdon to the country Inn ‘Crown and Thistle’. I managed to borrow a glorious royal blue velvet cloak which match [sic] the blue frock perfectly.” Tony, she wrote, had presented her with a spray of eight carnations “sent for me from London… I felt absolutely on top of the world as we walked through the lounge at the Crown and Thistle and everyone looked up and stared.” Reminded of the occasion, and of the blue dress, 60 years later, Tony Bray broke down in tears. “It was a very special evening,” he said.

At the end of the Hilary term of 1945, Bray whisked her off for a day in London, which included lunch at the Dorchester, a matinee performance of the Strauss operetta A Night in Venice and a tea dance at the Piccadilly Hotel, before Margaret got the train to Grantham and Bray returned to Oxford. That Margaret Roberts regarded their relationship as serious is shown by her inviting him to stay the weekend with her parents in Grantham soon afterwards.

Margaret Thatcher (then Margaret Hilda Roberts), right, pictured with her parents and sister Muriel in 1945 (TOPFOTO)

But it was at this point that Bray began to get cold feet. Still in his teens, he was not looking for commitment, and he thought of their relationship as that of “just a boy and a girl who thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company”. Meanwhile, he found the Roberts household “slightly austere”. During what was clearly a somewhat awkward weekend, he and the Roberts family attended Methodist chapel together. For a public-school-educated boy from a solidly bourgeois background, it was not a jolly occasion.

At the same time Bray was about to undertake full military training at Bovington Camp in Dorset. The following year he was commissioned into the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and posted to Germany. He and Margaret continued to correspond, but his replies to her letters began to peter out and eventually stopped altogether.

Margaret’s sister Muriel attributed Bray’s cooling off to “snobbishness” about her family; but Bray insisted that, while the Roberts ménage did make him uneasy, it was not because of its relatively modest circumstances, but because of its austere seriousness. He wanted to have fun and doubted that a life with Margaret Roberts would offer it.

Three years later, in 1948, Bray — having returned from military service in Germany and now doing a full degree in Law at Oxford — got in touch with his old girlfriend and the two met on several occasions.

In another letter to Muriel, Margaret, affecting an insouciance that she clearly did not feel, reported that he had given “a full-blooded apology — which I must in all fairness say sounded very sincere”, after which he had “steered the conversation into a lighter vein”. They continued to meet from time to time and in 1949 he sent her a Valentine’s Day card, but the renewed relationship came to an end again that summer. The following year Tony Bray announced his engagement to Valerie Randall, whom he married in 1951.

The story had a curious footnote in the 1970s when Bray, then making a career as a stockbroker, became involved in a study of the housing market and formed the view that it might be a good idea to give council tenants the right to buy their own homes. In 1974 he sent a paper to the Tory Party leader Edward Heath, then in opposition, who suggested that Bray should discuss it with Margaret Thatcher, the party’s spokesman on the environment. She invited him to the House of Commons and he immediately noticed a change in her personality: “She was more the grande dame, aware of her own presence, a little bit condescending.” After making only the briefest of references to their former acquaintance, she got down to the policy, towards which she was very receptive.

When Charles Moore informed Lady Thatcher that he had unearthed the story of her romance with Bray, “She said something like, ‘Well, that may have been the case’” but otherwise refused to be drawn.

The son of a businessman, Anthony John Bray was born at Brentford, Middlesex, on April 13 1926 and educated at Brighton College. After leaving school he became an articled clerk to a solicitor.

After graduation, Bray trained as an accountant and went on to pursue a successful career as a stockbroker, moving from Brighton to Coulsdon in Surrey and later to Rustington in Sussex. He remained a staunch Conservative, active in his local party throughout and beyond his former girlfriend’s time at No 10 .

A keen traveller, Tony Bray enjoyed family holidays on the Continent and in later years he and his wife made annual visits to Tunisia and Corfu. After his wife became ill he cared for her devotedly until her death in 2006.

He is survived by his four daughters .

Tony Bray, born April 13 1926, died July 2 2014


Giles Fraser’s report on Gideon Levy and the enthusiasm of 95% of Israelis for crushing Hamas in Gaza (Report, 7 August) is not merely “depressing” but truly alarming for Israel’s future – not just for its commitment to democracy and free speech, both clearly in peril, but for Israel’s own existence. There is indeed a deadly power threatening Israel, but it is not Hamas, which despite its hopes and intentions has actually managed to kill very few Israelis. The imminent danger is the truly terrifying Islamo-fascist Isis caliphate, which occupies an area the size of Britain. The recent fighting in Lebanon and Syria shows that Isis territory is now only a hundred miles from Israel’s borders.

Isis is famous for its hatred of Shia Islam, but its members hate equally the adherents of all faiths other than their own barbaric Sunni fundamentalism. Isis counts Sufi Islam, Christianity and of course Judaism as enemies to be destroyed or forcibly converted. In June this year Isis soldiers, having gone through the Iraqi army like a knife through butter, took Mosul, Iraq‘s second city, and promptly forced out Mosul’s ancient Christian community. Offered a choice between conversion, an unaffordable tax and death, the Christians of Mosul fled. Isis hates Jews just as much, Israeli Jews even more. The recent victories in Iraq have hugely strengthened Isis, not only by supplying  weapons and munitions abandoned by the routed Iraqi army, but by confirming its soldiers’ belief that they are undefeatable because God is on their side.

I am appalled by the wicked destruction in Gaza, but I am even more appalled by the seeminglytotal blindness of Israelis and their government to this far more savage and as yet undefeated enemy, so close at hand. Netanyahu’s policy of bombarding powerless civilians in Gaza while ignoring the real threat of Isis’s increasing power and expanding territory risks something far worse than making his nation internationally unpopular. Israelis and their government appear to be sleepwalking into catastrophe.
Professor Janet Montefiore
Kent University, Canterbury

• Only Sid James and Kenneth Williams would have appropriately captured the US’s consistent cruise missile diplomacy in the Middle East by producing a film: Carry on Striking Them, Mr President (Report, 8 August). The present crisis in Iraq, which Obama says is “holding the potential for genocide”, has its roots in the big business-led foreign policy of successive US administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. First the US supplied Saddam Hussein with lethal weapons, including chemical weapons, which he used to wage an eight-year war on Iran, killing almost a million people on both sides.

Then the US led 1990’s Operation Desert Storm to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait, which Saddam had allegedly been encouraged by the US to invade. And in 2003 the US, supported by Britain, launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, which destroyed the country’s social and economic infrastructure. The war did not only leave over a million Iraqis dead or wounded, it also opened a sharp and almost irreconcilable division between the majority Shia and their minority Sunni counterparts. The almost daily revenge suicide bombs are enough testimony.

The latest US air strikes on Iraq will not be the last because war has become an international business. International arms dealers, private security firms, chequebook journalists, reconstruction experts, people traffickers are making millions from the war in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. The only losers are innocent men, women, children and other vulnerable people that the US-led wars are supposed to save.
Sam Akaki

• Rajeev Syal (Report, 8 August) writes that: “A black flag with white Arabic writing, similar to those flown by jihadist groups” was seen flying in Poplar. The piece then goes on to describe the aggression of the Muslim youths at the front of the housing estate toward the suspicious journalists and passers-by. The flag pictured is patently not the flag of Isis, as the Guardian previously labelled it when the piece was first published, as anyone who is able to read Arabic or who understands Muslim culture would understand. “Arabic writing” on a flag alone is not sufficient evidence to report on or accuse young, marginalised Muslim youths of allegedly supporting jihadist, murderous or dangerous movements.

This kind of reporting serves to fan the flames of anti-Muslim racism, particularly at a time in which Muslims in Britain are being criminalised and vilified daily by both banks and the government. With the possibility of disenfranchised young Muslims finding media-savvy jihadist groups like Isis appealing, inflammatory articles contribute to the hysteria surrounding the “Muslim scare” and risk pushing isolated Muslims closer to radicalisation.
Reem Abu-Hayyeh

Further to your coverage of the sad and wasteful death of David Clapson (‘No one should die penniless and alone’, G2, 4 August), today (9 August) marks the anniversary of the discovery of the emaciated body of Mark Wood, a vulnerable sufferer from severe mental health problems, in David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency. Mr Wood had been erroneously and incompetently declared fit for work by Atos (on behalf of the DWP) and the consequent cutting of benefits was a clear “accelerating factor” in his death by starvation. The architects of deaths like these remain in charge of the DWP. There have of course been other well-attested deaths-by-DWP and there will be more (especially among the vulnerable disabled), as current reforms roll out their panoply of delays, despair and effective victimisation across the country. The real human costs of sick government must never be forgotten.
Stewart Eames

• David Clapson’s death is a sad reflection on the impact of government policies. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from the age of 15 to 70, paying all due taxes. Should we really care if a few people manipulate the system, if it means that no one is unfairly penalised and slips below the safety net necessary to provide a reasonable standard of living? I am not religious, but I do think that this heartless government should consider “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.
Wendy Collins
Batley, West Yorkshire

• The harrowing comments on benefit sanctions (G2, 6 August) didn’t discuss the political basis for these punitive measures. People mostly vote on a tribal basis, for “our sort of people”. When people become afraid of falling into poverty they take comfort in the hope that it only happens to the “other sort of people” and vote Conservative as an act of faith. This is the same mechanism that unites a country under threat of war and persuades dirt-poor Americans to oppose Obamacare rather than admit to themselves that they might one day need it.
D Sewell
Driffield, East Yorkshire

• Shame on the Guardian for describing out-of-work benefit recipients as “the idle poor” (Report, 5 August). On the basis of what evidence do you write them off as idle? Are those caring for children or infirm relatives, volunteering in the community, actively seeking work or simply working hard just to get by on a low income idle? Language matters and it is the use of othering language such as this by the media and politicians that has contributed to the “draining away of public support” for social security.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords

Today (9 August) is the 10th anniversary of the death of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood in Hassockfield secure training centre. Hours before Adam was found with a ligature around his neck, he was violently restrained. At the second inquest into his death, the government and Serco admitted Adam had been unlawfully restrained. Adam left a note asking what gave officers the right to hit a child in the nose – referring to the “nose distraction” used on him. This authorised technique involved an officer swiping a child’s nose to induce severe pain. It was eventually banned in all child prisons. However, a third of all methods in the coalition government’s new system of restraint for child prisoners rely on the deliberate infliction of pain. Last year, the UN committee against torture said the UK must prohibit all techniques designed to inflict pain on children. Adam’s brave note should have been enough to end this uncivilised treatment a decade ago.
Carolyne Willow

The issue of the pound and an independent Scotland is surely a unionist scare (Report, 8 August). Ireland kept the pound from 1921 until 1979. Only at that point did the then Irish taoiseach, Charles Haughey,, owing largely to issues of spite, break the link and enter the European monetary system, the Snake, not necessarily to Ireland’s economic advantage. The scare tactics of current unionists over the pound are largely illusionary and irrelevant.
Dr Oliver Rafferty
Boston College, Massachusetts, USA

• Once again the Guardian seems to delight in giving space to an oldie from the chattering classes to support a yes vote in the Scottish Referendum (Deborah Orr, 7 August). It is the next generation who will inherit this decision and have to live with it. From the opinion polls the majority of young people will vote no. Let us hear why.
Patricia and Robert Dark

• Mark Lawson asserts (8 August) that Edinburgh “will cease to be part of the UK cultural scene” after independence. Why would independence make any difference to the status of these festivals (and as an Edinburgh resident they would not be “foreign” to me). Culture knows no borders.
Iain Black

• More than 200 celebrities sign an open love letter to the people of Scotland urging Scots “don’t leave us” (Report, 8 August). And where was it launched? Outside London’s City Hall. Says it all, really.
Stephen Ward
Arnside, Cumbria

• Alex Salmond must be devastated. If only they had added Jeremy Clarkson, surely that would have taken us over the line?
Tom McFadyen

My colleague’s guide dog Sasha was very good at judging the mood of a meeting (Letters, 8 August). She worked in an educational establishment and often attended union meetings. She seemed to listen carefully and was generally well behaved, but on occasions she would suddenly stand up, ready to leave, or bark, in the middle of a speech, in disagreement. Once she left a little puddle on the floor after the principal made a particularly outrageous statement.
Kate Clayton

• Our visiting cat has one blue eye and one yellow; does she support the coalition?
Janette Smith

• I have just received my new Co-op bank debit card (Report, 8 August). All previous cards carried the words “The Cooperative Bank good with money”. I notice the last three words have now been removed. Should I be worried?
Sian Lerwill
Oswestry, Shropshire

• Anne McElvoy remarks (A staged surprise, 7 August) that Boris Johnson will be returning “to the Premier League”. An appropriate metaphor: over-paid, over-indulged, under-skilled – he’d fit perfectly into the senior echelons of English football.
John Rowe
Rochdale, Lancashire

• I look forward to reading Constance Briscoe’s Guardian columns when she completes her prison sentence, following her involvement in the Chris Huhne case (Judge jailed in Huhne points case is sacked, 7 August).
Michael Lee

• Those who live “across” from the Isle of Man may be interested to know (Letters, 7 August), that due to the topography, Manx people go down north and over south.
Bob Chorley

• Those of us travelling between the Wirral and Liverpool go over the water (though mostly we go under it). Incidentally, we live on the Wirral, not in it.
Ian Welsh
Heswall, Wirral


And so it rolls on, the Boris bandwagon, with the full acquiescence of the metropolitan press, the Tory grassroots and the people of London.

The London mayoralty has become something of an indulgence to the people of London as it bounces from the grand old man of the hard left, Ken Livingstone, to the darling of the gilded right, Boris Johnson. The rest of the country looks on in disbelief as reality in our capital city is suspended. While Ken’s best political days are behind him, and he has no reason to burst out of the London bubble of fantasy, Boris is taking baby steps in that direction.

He is in for an almighty surprise when confronted with the reality of opinion in the bulk of the country. Aside from the utter contempt of people on Merseyside and the bewilderment of the Celtic fringe in Wales and Scotland as to how he ever became such a magisterial figure, he will quickly have to face up to the truth that the majority of people in this country recognise the need for a serious, thoughtful and inclusive figure at its head.

Meantime the people of London will presumably move the carnival on and elect another political celebrity to bang the London drum.

J Stanley



Boris has bounced back on to the stage, providing us with the prospect of watching the antics of two jolly jokers in the pack in the run-up to the election next year.

It will be intriguing to see who trumps whom and whether Boris can single-handedly neutralise Nigel’s anti-European appeal with some of his casual, throwaway witticisms, and so induce Tory voters to return.

In the meantime, you give us the pleasure of reading Nigel’s weekly musings on various subjects, not one of which suggests that he has any meaningful policies to offer. Could Boris be persuaded to make a similar appearance on the same page? It would be extremely diverting to compare these two cheerful chappies.

David Hindmarsh



I’ve just heard a radio programme concerning a Kurdish community in Turkey, and was amazed and gratified to hear that they now have co-mayors, always one man and one woman.

What a great idea. We are way behind. Just think who could be a female co-mayor with Boris.

Sue Nicholas

Cranleigh, Surrey


Ancient community faces a grim fate

Your readers have been aware for some time of the terrible plight of the Christians and Shi’ites of northern Iraq following the occupation of Mosul by Islamic State (IS) forces. Now they will also have read about the parallel fate faced by the Yazidi community after the IS capture last weekend of the town of Sinjar, the subsequent reported cases of murder and abduction, and refugees dying of exposure in the open.

The Yazidi religion is an offshoot of ancient Iranian beliefs, with later Islamic and Christian influences. Once widespread across the region, it now flourishes only in Sinjar and Sheikhan, where their holiest site of Lalesh is located.

Yazidis have long lived in harmony with their neighbours, but for the IS they are not “People of the Book”, and thus have been singled out for particularly violent oppression and murder.

Yazidis have been protected in recent years by the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and its peshmerga forces, but their retreat before IS leaves the Yazidis exposed to forced conversion or death, and their sacred shines subject to certain destruction.

We call on the policymakers of the UK and its allies, and on all concerned NGOs, to take all possible measures to assure the survival of the Yazidi community in its ancient homeland, and to channel all possible humanitarian aid to the KRG.

Professor Christine Allison


Professor Dr Andreas Ackermann


Professor Hamit Bozarslan


Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth

Bishop of Coventry

Professor Clive Holes


Professor Philip G Kreyenbroek


Professor Gareth Stansfield


Emeritus Professor Sami Zubaida

University of London

and 28 others.

An Israeli challenges the Galloway ban

I note that George Galloway has declared Bradford an “Israel-free zone”.

I’m an Israeli citizen intending to come to Bradford (when I’m in England) this October to visit my grandmother’s grave. My grandmother was the child of Jews who fled anti-Jewish violence in Eastern Europe just a little over 100 years ago and settled in Bradford, where she met my grandfather and lived there till her death.

May I respectfully ask if Mr Galloway’s “Israel-free zone” is permanent or temporary? When I come in October, will he be blockading Bradford and checking those who come in and go out? Should I apply to him for a special dispensation to visit the Shalesmoor Jewish cemetery? Let me know so I can make my travel plans.

Obviously, I’m aware that he won’t respond, as I’m Israeli. However, I also hold British citizenship, so he doesn’t need to get nervous or worried about responding.

Simon Ben David

Tel Aviv


Presumably those calling for an arms ban on Israel will also be asking for a similar ban on all the Gulf states funding Islamist extremism, including Saudi Arabia.

Given that the Islamists currently murdering their way across the Middle East are causing far more death and suffering than the Israelis, it would surely be inconceivable to target only Israel, unless of course those UK politicians involved are cynically seeking the Muslim vote.

Andrew Brown



David Cameron strongly feels that any country is entitled to “defend itself”. Does he feel that any people under occupation also have a right to resist that occupation?

Satanay Dorken

London N10

Educated view of gay marriage

SM Watson (letter, 6 August) believes that Ruth Hunt of Stonewall may have a “persecution complex”, and knows nobody who “would be deliberately rude” to a homosexual. However, the letter comes across as dripping with homophobia – phrases such as “infiltrating infant and nursery schools with homosexual material” are a dead giveaway.

Infant children should be educated in the fact that a minority of people are homosexual and may marry people of their own sex, and that these relationships are legal and acceptable. One day, those children might have friends, family members or colleagues who are gay, or they might be gay themselves, and they need to see this as a source of joy rather than pain.

I am as delighted today to hear that two close male friends are to marry as I was last week to see the wedding photos of two other friends, a man and a woman.

Catherine Rose

Olney, Buckinghamshire


Children in an art gallery

I can’t believe the pretentious claptrap that’s being written about young children visiting art galleries (Rosie Millard, 5 August).

I have taught children of all ages and from varied backgrounds and, many years ago, came to the conclusion that most have an intuitive appreciation for contemporary art – and the more art they are exposed to the better. Does it matter if they “understand” what they’re seeing? Shame on anyone who might quell an early interest by a didactic approach which fosters the boredom of a child like Rosie Millard’s.

Taking 60 children aged four and five to Tate Modern when it was newly opened convinced me of the necessity of art in children’s lives: they were overwhelmingly stimulated by the experience, and, through their talk, opened my eyes to different aspects of exhibits I had previously just walked past.

The last word should go to a seven-year-old boy I was teaching many years ago who, unable to find words to express his feelings, blurted out: “When I grow up I want to be Jackson Pollock!” He would be in his late twenties now: I hope he’s retained his excitement and hasn’t had it beaten out of him by an intellectual view of what art is “really” about.

Sharman Steel

Chislehurst, Kent


Japanese way to remember

Japan has got something right. What a lovely picture of lanterns floating in the Motoyasu River in commemoration of Hiroshima (7 August). How much more serene and respectful than the loud fireworks that so many countries see fit to let off to commemorate just about anything.

We should float lanterns instead. They look beautiful and promote quiet meditation.

Julie Mayger

Worthing, West Sussex


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

Leading British Jewish supporters of Israel call for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza conflict

Sir, We write as passionate and proud supporters of Israel. This past month we have witnessed devastating loss of life on all sides, so many of whom are civilians, as Israel has again been thrown into conflict with her neighbours and tried to deal with the missiles and tunnels used by Hamas. We have watched with great sadness as communities in the region and beyond have become embroiled in anger and hatred towards the other.

As we write, the violence is renewed after rockets were fired from Gaza at the end of the 72-hour cease-fire. In the interests of the people of both Israel and Gaza we implore both parties, and the international community to do all they can to find a way to restore the ceasefire.

As soon as the ceasefire is secure, all parties, the international and diaspora communities, must unite in a renewed effort to support a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, guaranteeing both the security and self-determination they have a right to. This is the only way to ensure this war will not be repeated, and we must all redouble our efforts to achieve it.

We wish to see a long-term durable solution for the peoples of the region, and we believe that a ceasefire, and immediate efforts towards a long-term peace, are both essential to make this happen. We remain dedicated to Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state, and the values of social and political equality for all citizens, alongside freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel, and as enshrined in its Declaration of Independence.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, chair, Liberal Judaism Rabbinic Conference; Lord Beecham; Professor David Cesarani, Holocaust Research Centre, Royal Holloway University; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi, Movement for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Deborah Dr Kahn-Harris, Leo Baeck College; Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, chair, Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK; Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism; Lord Woolf

We can aim a satellite accurately at 405 million km but we can’t get a mobile phone signal in rural Britain

Sir, Rosetta, travelling at 55,000kph, has rendezvoused with a comet 405 million km from Earth at the end of a decade-long journey.

This marvel of modern scientific and technological advances is in stark contrast to the rural areas in the UK which are still without the simple technology of good broadband and phone signals.

Rosemary Bashford

Brilley, Herefordshire

Will the new boss of William Hill tackle the company’s dependency on the most addictive kind of betting?

Sir, Apropos the comments by James Henderson, of William Hill (Aug 2), the betting industry’s problems stem from a single product: fixed-odds betting terminals. FOBTs offer casino games such as roulette at high speed — they can take bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds. They have led to increased crime, abuse by money launderers and a rise in gambling addiction. They account for over half the betting industry’s profits, and over 80 per cent of its turnover.

FOBTs are the most addictive form of gambling, and bookmakers like their fixed rate of return — “the house always wins” instead of the risks of race and sports betting.

Mr Henderson’s predecessor at William Hill, Ralph Topping, oversaw the unwelcome transformation. We hope Mr Henderson will steer William Hill in a different direction.

Derek Webb, Adrian Parkinson
& Matt Zarb-Cousin

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

Anti-German sentiment during the First World War extended even to popular drinks

Sir, You refer to the mineral water Apollinaris (Rose Wild, “Advertising and the War”, Aug 2). Apollinaris came from a Rhine valley spring and was subject to anti-German feeling.
It had a shop in Oxford Street whose windows were smashed and it had to close. One of the most popular drinks before the war was “Scotch and Polly”, and its sales plunged.

Philip Sober

Amberley, W Sussex

Comments about Mrs Merkel’s clothes prompt readers to want to be told more about male politicians’ suits as well

Sir, Why should Angela Merkel get rid of her silky jacket? It is gorgeous.

Alison Welton

Elstead, Surrey

Sir, Perhaps you could investigate how often other European leaders have worn an outfit more than once. I’m sure it would be fascinating.

Dr Hannah Quirk

University of Manchester

Sir, Next time David Cameron appears in Parliament I look forward to the details of previous occasions at which he wore his suit.

Diana Wainman

Ashe, Hants


The Kaiser (right) sketched by W L Wyllie on board his first yacht, Meteor, at Cowes in 1893  Photo: National Maritime Museum

6:58AM BST 08 Aug 2014


SIR – The future Edward VII dominated Cowes week in the early 1890s, through his prowess in sailing the first Britannia, which later passed to his son (“Britannia to rule the waves once more”, report, August 2).

In 1896, however, the Kaiser gained the upper hand sailing the giant Meteor II, a bigger ,faster version of Britannia. “The regatta used to be a pleasant relaxation for me”, his British uncle lamented. “Since the Kaiser took command, it is a vexation.” In this early round of hostilities, victory went to Germany.

After the First World War, George V gave Britannia a second glorious era, undimmed by competition from abroad. In 1934 he calculated that it had sailed in 569 races, winning 231 first prizes and 124 others.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – The Government’s consultation on whether to require cigarettes to be sold in standardised, “plain” packs has ended. The regulations needed to introduce the policy must be notified to the European Union before Britain can go ahead, which will take six months. So time is now short.

Every argument that the tobacco industry has put forward to try to block progress has been shown to be wrong. Smoking rates have fallen in Australia since the policy was introduced, and the industry’s threat that there would be a flood of illicit tobacco has proved untrue.

The tobacco industry has to encourage children and young people to start smoking, as existing customers quit or die from smoking-related diseases. The evidence shows that standardised packaging makes this more difficult. That is why it is supported by the public, health professionals and a majority of parliamentarians from every political party.

Paul Burstow MP (Lib Dem)
Kevin Barron MP (Lab)
Bob Blackman MP (Con)
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health
London SW1

SIR – Since passing a plain-packaging law two years ago, Australia has had increased cigarette sales, trademark violation charges filed against it by other governments and increased black-market sales. This is not a model that Britain should follow.

Every corporation relies upon its branding and logo to identify and market its products, and by denying cigarette makers the right to do so, the Government would be starting down a slippery slope to selective enforcement and stripping trademark rights from any business with which it disagrees.

Professor Edward Peter Stringham
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas

Threats over Gaza

SIR – Peter Oborne takes a balanced view of the tragedy in Gaza. While Hamas, dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, must bear its share of responsibility for civilian casualties by stockpiling weapons at UN sites, Israel, with its arsenal of precision weapons, has no excuse for taking out UN buildings, despite being warned of the proximity of their shelling. (I left the Conservative Friends of Israel when Stuart Polak, its chairman, was unable to explain the reasons for a similar incident in 2006).

Mr Oborne implies that Conservative foreign policy is influenced by the Jewish lobby. However, others are demanding that Britain should tailor its foreign policy to reflect the diverse community that has resulted from years of mass immigration.

I received a deputation of Kashmiri Muslims at my constituency surgery last Saturday, keen for me to denounce Israel. As I explained, we must have a British foreign policy, determined in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Furthermore, threats by a minority community in Britain that pursuit of a certain foreign policy will so alienate that community as to lead to violence are nothing short of blackmail.

Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Con)
London SW1

Downhill sledging

SIR – My 10-year-old grandson is cricket-mad and his hero is Jimmy Anderson.

What sort of example does Anderson set when he calls the opposing captain a f–– fat c––? If this is how cricketers behave, I may have to encourage my grandson to become a football supporter.

Richard Bloomfield
Rogate, West Sussex

Boris stands again

SIR – Boris Johnson and Alistair Darling as leaders of their respective parties would provide a meaningful choice and an interesting election.

Maybe next time round.

John Pankhurst

SIR – May I suggest that it would save a great deal of faffing about if Boris Johnson stopped being so self-effacing and contested the seat for Witney, Oxfordshire, at the forthcoming general election.

That course of action, together with a firm pact with Ukip, is the only hope the Tories have.

Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire

SIR – My wife said something was up a fortnight ago, when Boris Johnson had his hair cut.

Geoff Chessum
London EC2

SIR – What significance should one attach to the fact that, in your front-page photograph of Boris Johnson (August 7), he is saluting with his left hand?

Graham Plumbe
Crookham Village, Hampshire

Not just Margaret’s boy

SIR – Tony Bray should be remembered for setting up the London Computer Group, later to become the British Computer Society, as well as for his romantic liaison with Margaret Thatcher.

In the late Fifties, he and a few others decided there should be a forum to enable users of computers to meet and exchange views.

Tony and another accountant, John Hough, set up headquarters in a cramped office in a creaky old building off Jermyn Street. They organised membership and meetings and published a news bulletin.

I was one of two female staff in those offices. We were a good team, and we remember Tony well.

Jane Donaldson
Hinton St George, Somerset

A mite healthier

SIR – In addition to making the washing smell fresh, sunshine kills off the myriad of mites and bugs that survive warm washing and that can cause respiratory problems.

Pamela Wheeler
Kenley, Shropshire

How to be socially pigeonholed by a shirt pocket

SIR – In my search for shirts with pockets (Letters, August 6) I discovered that I was working class. A shop assistant told me that middle-class and upper-class men did not wear shirts with pockets.

Ron Kirby

SIR – My husband, when it seemed that a shirt could not be bought without a pocket, disliking them, meticulously unpicked the stitching to remove them from his new long-sleeved shirts. When washed there is no sign that the pocket was ever there.

Elizabeth V Ainsley
Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire

SIR – The ability accurately to assess the capacity of a shirt pocket is a much coveted skill. Our young grandson, bored recently with his food in a posh hotel, correctly gauged that my husband’s shirt pocket would snugly accommodate the six chips he did not wish to eat. He quietly stashed them there, his grandfather, absorbed in conversation, remaining oblivious.

Lindsay Watkins
Helensburgh, Argyll

SIR – I smiled wryly at Ali Wilkerson’s comment (Letters, August 5) that men’s shirts should have no pockets. This is why their wives must carry such capacious handbags. However, I am always happy to accommodate my husband’s wallet.

Wendy Strathdee
Burnham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I would like makers of ladies’ handbags to change the position of the mobile-phone pocket. Placing it in the centre of a compartment, instead of to one side, restricts what else can be easily accommodated.

Myra Spalton
Macclesfield, Cheshire

SIR – The irritation of not being able to watch the Salmond-Darling confrontation on Tuesday on television in England was nothing compared with the massive disappointment when I did manage to listen to this travesty of a debate.

For those of us south of the border, with no vote in the coming referendum, yet a real vested interest in the outcome, it was an opportunity to hear both sides expose and analyse the important problems facing an independent Scotland. Instead, we were exposed over a two-hour period to a level of political point-scoring that at times barely rose above that of a bar-room spat.

How voters in Scotland will understand the pros and cons of major issues such as defence, EU membership and, most of all, the future currency, is beyond me.

Richard Martin
Mylor, Cornwall

SIR – Though unable to watch the Salmond-Darling debate, I was astonished to read the remark of Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary: “Alex Salmond thought this debate would be his Bannockburn – it’s turning out to be his Waterloo.”

The first poll after the debate did show Mr Salmond’s defeat as “damn close run”, but Mr Alexander, a Scot, would have been more accurate to compare the outcome to the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss of 1542. Certainly, the poll does not suggest the Scottish disaster 29 years before at Flodden.

Patrick Williams
London SW4

SIR – It is now clear that Alex Salmond does not understand the difference between currency usage and currency union.

While many countries use the US dollar, for example, they are not in a currency union with the United States, so any debt they incur is not underwritten by the US Federal Bank.

Scottish usage of sterling after independence would similarly be without support of the Bank of England, either as protector of private deposits up to £85,000 or as lender of last resort in a crisis.

Mr Salmond actually wants currency union, which is like divorcing your partner, but retaining use of the joint credit card and bank account, plus their joint liability for any debts.

No chance.

Malcolm Parkin
Kinnesswood, Kinross-shire

SIR – Your report “Sir Mick Jagger joins 200 public figures calling for Scotland to stay in the UK” makes me proud to be British – and I say that as a Scot.

The opinion of our British family matters to me, I care what they think, and the sentiments expressed in this open letter to the people of Scotland go far to confirm the decision I had already made to vote a resounding “No” on September 18.

Marina Turner

Irish Times:

Sir, – Of course the spat between John Bruton, Éamon Ó Cuív and Gerry Adams “will run and run” (Editorial, August 6th).

Bruton says the British 1914 Home Rule Bill would have created a peaceful momentum towards freedom. He is right. Adams and Ó Cuív say that 1916 was necessary as an expression of republican aspirations. They are right. It is not merely political posturing by all three of them – although it most certainly is that too. The dichotomy at the heart of this argument, which proves the point of your editorial, is that Bruton and Ó Cuív are both right.

But are their postures reconcilable or mutually incompatible? The key to this dichotomy is the role of selective memory, and the significance of commemoration. To remember is not necessarily to glorify, yet “keeping faith” with the men (and women) of 1916 does imbue them with a tinge of glory. How much tinge depends on your political perspective. To believe in constitutional processes is far less glamorous, but perhaps more realistic. 1916 was a calculated failure, a rhetorical flourish, backed up by Pearse’s idea of blood sacrifice. The Free State achieved its stability by very dull constitutional means, with Fianna Fáil acceding to power only after de Valera had accepted the need for such stability, in a similar way to the IRA’s decision to disarm.

There will always be different versions of history, depending on how much hurt the historian wishes to inflict and how much blame to attribute. A historian is, after all, a politician by other means. Forgetting is as important as remembering. The knack, as every politician knows, is the ability to forget well. – Yours, etc,





Sir,  – However one interprets the case for or against the 1916 rising, its long-term cost to Ireland’s cultural landscape should be acknowledged.  The senseless destruction of Ireland’s national archives at the Four Courts was matched nation-wide by an equally regrettable series of attacks on country manors, with priceless collections of historic Irish manuscripts, artworks and artefacts reduced to ashes.

Subsequent alienation of Southern Protestants has resulted in a divided society in those areas where that minority were not forced out entirely.  When will we reconcile ourselves to these self-inflicted wounds? – Yours, etc.,


Windmill Road,

Summerhill South,


Sir, – I note your headline (August 8th) “British urgently want the blood of Irish people”. No change there then. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

Sir, – While I readily agree with Dr Kevin McCarthy (August 7th) that the actions of Isis in Iraq are not getting much media coverage, I am not sure that a plea to keep the Gaza crisis firmly in focus amounts to a lack of objectivity.

Isis, interestingly enough, is progressing in its objectives partly by being well-armed and well-equipped, using the ordnance and weaponry originally supplied to it by western powers in support of its actions against the Assad regime. Perhaps this embarrassing fact might go some way to explaining the lack of press coverage. – Yours, etc,


St George’s Street,


Isle of Man

Sir, – Noel Leahy (August 7th) trots out the oft-repeated comment that Israel is a democracy. Yet he seems to exclude Gaza and the West Bank from his definition of that state. De facto Gaza is part of Israel – it is controlled by Israelis and they decide who and what goes in and out of it. It is cut off from the outside world. It has approx 1.4 million Palestinians who have no vote in Israeli politics. A further 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, which is being absorbed, on a daily basis, into Israel. They too have no vote in Israeli politics. A further 1.3 million Palestinians are classified as Israelis. They do have a vote in Israeli politics. Out of a population of 10.8 million, for the whole of the territory effectively controlled by Israel, 3.8 million people (35 per cent) have no vote and 1.3 million (12 per cent) are locked in as a permanent minority. On the above figures, 5.1 million (47 per cent of the population) are excluded from having a say in what happens to them. Some democracy! Mr Leahy might also consider the difficulties countries in the Middle East have in setting up democracies. The US-backed military junta removed the democratically elected government of Egypt last year, with full US and Israeli approval. Yours, etc.


Clanricarde Gardens,

London W2

Sir, – In response to your report that the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London has refused to host a Jewish film festival, I would like to add my voice to those who are against a boycott of the arts in general and of Jewish theatre in particular. I have two points to make here. Firstly, it is a Jewish film festival. Those who are opposed to Israel’s political and military policies are always at great pains to insist that they have nothing against Jews or Judaism.

Jewish communities have made a rich contribution to social and cultural life in Europe. Why stifle this? Jewish and Israeli arts festivals offer a wide range of works dealing with challenging and often difficult questions. Many Israeli films and plays present a very pro-Palestinian viewpoint and raise uncomfortable issues for their audience. Throughout history, it has always been the artists, writers and musicians who have sought to question , to provoke, to take the broader view. We should give them a hearing, not silence them. Yours, etc,



Roebuck Lawn,


Dublin 14

Sir, – I don’t know if William Coogan missed the part of Olivia Kelly’s article (August 6th) about the restoration of Mountjoy Square where it stated that the current facilities are to be relocated nearby and that restoration of the eastern part of the square would take place “only after alternative community facilities are provided in the vicinity of equal or higher quality”. Or that the current 1930s/1960s buildings are nearing the end of their useful life and would require replacing in the near future.

You don’t have to be a top-hatted “toff” to appreciate that the restoration of Mountjoy square would be a boon to the area, is long overdue and would be appreciated by all. But perhaps it’s a case of never letting the facts stand in the way of a chance to bash “the conservation lobby”. – Yours, etc,




Co Louth

Sir, – I write to add my support to William Coogan (August 8th) on the Mountjoy Square plan, and I do so as one who has long been a supporter of preserving the heritage of Georgian Dublin.

The proposed works are a total waste of money at a time when homelessness is starkly on the rise in this country. What could €8.1 million do to refurbish some at present unused publicly owned buildings to provide emergency shelter, for instance? Meanwhile, the extremely badly needed facilities of Mountjoy Square are going to disappear, to be “relocated elsewhere,” according to your news report in Wednesday’s edition.

This is a daft idea; it is crazy that Dublin City Council, with its recently-elected left-wing majority, should approve such a scheme. Has it done so, or is this just bureaucratic folly? Yours, etc.,




Co. Wicklow

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:30

First published: Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:30

Sir, – I see An Post’s new stamp collection features four aspects of the Irish Prison Service: care and custody, rehabilitation, restorative justice and education (News, August 7th). I await future stamps highlighting drugs, overcrowding and mobile phones. – Yours , etc,


Wellington Street,



Sir, – I enjoyed Frank McNally’s diary on the use of language (August 8th), with particular reference to its use in the northern counties, so I did. Perhaps in some future piece he might cover the speaking style, also peculiar to those counties, of adding a qualifying “so” to the end of each sentence, so he might. – Yours, etc


Fairbrook Lawn,


Dublin 14

Sir, – Liam de Paor (August 8th)refers to Raidio na Gaeltachta and how it brought his love of our beautiful language back to him. I have lived in South Africa for nearly 50 years and have very seldom met anybody to whom to speak Irish. However, I have retained my knowledge mainly by saying my prayers in my own language.

Some years ago I found that I could get Raidio na Gaeltachta on the internet. I am old and decrepit and cannot attend Mass but I listen to it from RnaG every Sunday. Mar a deireann an t-amhrán: “S’í teanga bhinn ár sinsear í, an caint is milse glór.” – Yours, etc,


Essenwood Road,


South Africa

Sir, – It is with some sense of irony that I, and presumably most other parents around the country, read Liam de Paor on his enjoyment of the “sweet sound of Irish”.

At this time of year most of us are having to “enjoy the sweet sound” of fumbling in a greasy till for the money to pay for Irish textbooks in the secure knowledge that they will not be appreciated by children who do not enjoy having to learn a compulsory language that the vast majority of them will have no use for once they leave school. Yours, etc,




Co Cork

Sir, – The fundamental problem for wavering Scottish voters is the fact that this referendum requires them to write a blank cheque for their negotiating team, and indeed for its opposite numbers from Westminster.

The Better Together campaign has managed to hold onto an almost impregnable lead through negativity and scaremongering, while producing no meaningful vision to counter the Scottish government’s white paper, which actually makes a good and generally sound case for independence. A recent BBC programme by Robert Peston featuring a variety of heavyweight figures from the worlds of business and finance arrived at the conclusion that Scotland’s economic fate would be largely the same in the event of a Yes vote. Indeed, the point was well made that an agreement on the UK’s national debt is just as important to London as the issues of currency and resources are to Edinburgh.

Thus it seems to me that Scottish voters actually need to make a decision of the heart every bit as much as one of the head. The evidence is that they have been well governed since 1999 and that those parties who originally opposed devolution have played their full part in operating it since then. And if the economic argument still niggles strongly, they might recall the UK’s rush to provide financial assistance to Ireland in 2010. The UK’s economic interests in Scotland are such that a good deal will have to be brokered and in that sense Scotland’s representatives are actually holding very strong cards. Yours, etc,


Turvey Walk,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Paul Kean’s concise dismissal of the special pleading of the landlord class is long overdue. Ireland’s rental supply has long been less than was required and marked by low quality, small-time landlords and a distinct lack of professionalism. As the bubble has deflated many are left exposed by excessive borrowing, for both personal and buy-to-let property, and the consequences must be dealt with transparently.

Instead however, we have back-room deals facilitated by unaccountable organisations such as the presumptuously titled Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation [IMHO]. No journalist has seriously analysed the motives of this organisation and its personnel. Do the founders stand to benefit from debt forgiveness? Already the CEO has sought to parlay his high profile into a Dail seat, backed by a bizarrely eclectic mix of high-profile supporters. Why does this organisation get so much free air time and press space? Those getting on with paying down our debts deserve to know – particularly when many of us made conscious decisions to take smaller mortgages and live in less fashionable areas so that we could cope with unforeseen economic setbacks. Yours, etc,


Griffeen Glen Ave,


Co Dublin

Sir, – As from August 1st a new regulation requires a novice driver who has just passed the driving test to display an “N” plate. Nothing more.

Speed is acknowledged to be the major contributor to road traffic accidents, yet there is no requirement imposed on the novice driver as to a personal maximum speed limit. The Road Safety Authority regards 100,000km driven to be the necessary level for full driver experience, yet imposes no personal restriction on a novice suddently free from the company and control of a mature qualified driver. Yet that new driver ranks as a major accident risk.

A restriction to a moderate speed limit for all “N” plate drivers for a period of at least a year would seem to be a prime necessity. Such an arrangement used be in operation in Northern Ireland some years back, and resulted in a significant reduction in road traffic accidents. Why hasn’t this been done here? – Yours, etc,


Mount Pleasant,


Irish Independent:

MY stomach turned as I read for the third time in three weeks about an attack on an innocent citizen going about their business in our fair city. I understand how I may be coming across to hardcore city-slickers as an innocent Kerry girl who never adapted to city living, but perhaps I can chronicle some of my experiences from living in Dublin for the past five years.

Last October, I was walking between Camden Street and Harcourt Street at 11pm with my friend when a heroin addict set upon me to take my bag. His weapon of choice – an umbrella.

This poor misfortunate was not having a good day, as he committed his crime in front of an undercover garda car, occupied by four undercover gardai, who luckily jumped to the rescue of me and my handbag. I was shaken, but not deterred from enjoying the rest of my night out.

A phone call the next morning told me that the guy had a string of previous convictions, that he would be locked up for what he did and they would call me later for a statement. Two months later I was informed that the case would be brought no further, as he was murdered by another drug addict for sleeping in the wrong bed.

My walk to work each morning frequently brings me past the Custom House on the quays, which I think is one of the most beautiful buildings in Dublin, perfectly situated along the quays, whose bold pillars represent its strength and resilience in our city. These pillars are now used to shield the drug addicts as they inject their heroin every morning, usually around 8.45am. Many now just place a sleeping bag over their head and turn their backs to the road in their attempt to find a vein. Once finished, the needles are just thrown on to the street, as I frequently need to step over them on my walk to work.

The shame that is O’Connell Street, Abbey Street, Westmoreland Street, Rathmines, Dame Street and College Green – all of which are the epicentre of our beautiful city – are riddled with drug addicts, drunks and violent criminals, who lie in wait for the next innocent to come along and take their opportunity, with no deterrent. Why not?

Now, I took a few sociology classes in university but not enough to come up with solutions to our social problems. Neither did I study enough criminal law to analyse the ridiculously light-touch sentencing that is being applied. I want to highlight the unease, safety concerns and disgust that I experience on a daily basis walking around this city. Enda, Joan and friends, I dare you, just for giggles, to come up with a solution.

Name and address with editor

Defending Armagh’s record

I take issue with Martin Breheny’s column (August 7). He states that Armagh are maintaining a media ban to “settle a few perceived old scores with people who don’t know what it’s all about”.

The reason that Armagh have not spoken to journalists is because of their biased and sensationalised reporting of the incidents during the Cavan and Tyrone games. The blame for each incident was laid squarely on Armagh’s shoulders. The media did not point out the fact that in the Cavan incident it was the Cavan players who charged Armagh, and that the Cavan player broke his hand hitting an Armagh player.

In the Tyrone game the two Armagh midfielders were knocked down as soon as the ball was thrown in. While I do not condone violence, when faced with incidents like this do you expect players, who have given up their free time to train hard all year in all weathers, to stand by and not react? The strange thing is when Dublin are involved in an incident and accused of biting, not the first such incident, there is virtually no mention in the media or blame apportioned.

Armagh’s brand is not damaged by the media ban. Their supporters would love to see them speak to the media but understand completely why they do not do so and admire them for their stance. The more you have reporters taking cheap shots at amateur players without trying to understand the problem, the longer the problem will continue.

Armagh are not throwing a “sulk” as Mr Breheny believes, but are simply choosing not speak to a media who seem unwilling to print a simple and unbiased version of incidents but chooses to apportion ALL the blame on to one team. After all, it takes two to create a row.

Perhaps, in wondering if Armagh will speak to the media in the near future, the media should reflect on and consider their own part in the ‘ban’.

M Russell

Co Monaghan


Kick out Israeli ambassador

There are many who would gladly see the Israeli ambassador kicked out of the country but if he is legally here, what purpose would it serve? On the other hand, what country is he the ambassador of? Is he the ambassador of a country whose borders are defined by UN agreement? Is he the ambassador of a country which has expansionary goals in contravention of the UN? We, as citizens of this country, are entitled to know which it is. If it is the latter, he should not be in our country in the first place.

Hugh Doyle

Lagore Road


Co Meath

In praise of Pat Rabbitte

The commentary about Pat Rabbitte this summer is a little ungenerous. His parliamentary leadership during the 26th Dail on practices within the Goodman companies, which 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.

Paul Hickey



Make more rapists public

I see Anthony Lyons is in the news again over his sexual assault, but why is he so regularly in the news when other attackers get very little or no publicity? For instance; the rapist who got a suspended sentence for breaking into a woman’s house at night and raping her while she was asleep with her small children. There was no publicity at all regarding the handicapped girl who was raped by a non-Irish person — are these victims somehow less worthy of mention?

David Kelly


Dublin 12

Obama cheer turns to discontent

I must admit that over the past few weeks and months, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Inaction over Syria and Ukraine, his recent bullying of Ireland for its low corporation tax and now his ridiculous assertions about bombing Iraq – but no “troops on the ground” – leave me wondering why I was so happy to see him get elected.

I think it shows a very bad side to an American liberal icon that he will push around small states, but his response to Putin’s modern expansionist ideas is toothless appeasement.

I admit it. When Obama was first elected, I cheered. I was swept up in “Yes we can”, a statement that we can do great things and the future can be better if we try. But now I am disillusioned with him. Now, I think: “Yes we can? Can what, Mr President?”

Colin Smith


Co Offaly

More advice with a tooth in it

The ‘words of advice’ letter from Brian Mc Devitt (Aug 6) reminded me of the fella who considered getting all his teeth out, and sought the advice of a friend who had undergone the same procedure. His friend replied: “Yes, I had them all out. . . never again!”

Tom Gilsenan


Dublin 9

Irish Independent


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