12 August 2014 Bank

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I get go to the bank and the Co op

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


Elaine Sturtevant – obituary

Elaine Sturtevant was a forerunner of ‘appropriation art’ who produced unerring ‘repetitions’ of works by Warhol and Duchamp

Elaine Sturtevant

Elaine Sturtevant  Photo: Getty Images

6:05PM BST 11 Aug 2014


Elaine Sturtevant, the American artist who has died aged 89, prefigured the “appropriation art” movement by some two decades with her exact “repetitions” of 1960s masterworks by such leading conceptual artists as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Roy Lichtenstein.

Long before the internet gave rise to a mass culture of image-sharing, Sturtevant (as she preferred to be known) set out to challenge ideas of originality and ownership with “repetitions” – not, she was quick to insist, copies – of her contemporaries’ output.

Beginning in 1964 with a series entitled Warhol Flowers, completed just months after Warhol’s first exhibition of flower paintings in New York, she went on to produce “Sturtevants” of Segal sculptures, Rosenquist’s spaghetti and Lichtenstein’s dots, all recreated from memory and sold as her own.

Elaine Sturtevant with her take on Warhol’s ‘Flowers’ (AFP/Getty)

She even turned her hand to an eight-hour re-enactment of Warhol’s Empire (1964), his single-shot black-and-white film of the Empire State Building. In a cultural world increasingly focused on surface image , her concern was with what she called the “understructure” of contemporary art; the “invisibilities under that surface”, which conveyed artistic value on what was outwardly worthless or absurd.

Sturtevant’s skill in “repetition” was such that Warhol (who himself derived the images for his flower paintings from shots in Modern Photography magazine) was said to have answered any questions about his technique with “I don’t know — ask Elaine.” Yet the initial reaction to Sturtevant was often one of bafflement and occasional hostility.

Though some critics praised her work for its subversive approach to notions of copyright and artistic integrity, to others it seemed straightforward theft. Her 1967 recreation of Claes Oldenburg’s elaborate shop installation The Store so enraged Oldenburg’s dealer that it was rumoured he had bought several of Sturtevant’s pieces in order to destroy them. (“I believe it,” she said simply.)

And though Warhol gave her one of his silk screens on which to replicate his celebrated prints of Marilyn Monroe, Sturtevant herself cautioned against reading too much into the gesture. “Everyone says, ‘So, Andy really understood!’ Well I don’t think so. I think he didn’t give a f—. Which is a very big difference, isn’t it?”

Tired of seeing her work misconstrued, Sturtevant embarked on a self-imposed hiatus in 1974, eventually resurfacing a decade later with a show at White Columns in New York. This time the art world received her more readily. During the interim, artists such as Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince, part of an emerging group dubbed the “Pictures generation”, had been reproducing others’ work through the medium of photography.

While Prince had begun to garner interest with his “rephotographs” of commercial imagery, such as Marlboro advertisements, Sherrie Levine’s appropriation of famous Depression-era photographs for a series entitled After Walker Evans (1981) had been widely hailed as a landmark of postmodernism . In 2013 Prince mounted a successful argument in court that his appropriation of several photographs by Patrick Cariou constituted “fair use” of the other’s work.

(Rex Features)

The ruling came just weeks prior to the opening of “Leaps Jumps and Bumps” at the Serpentine Gallery, Sturtevant’s first solo show in Britain. Much of her work from these and other late exhibitions combined media images with her own film material, creating repetition of a different kind on a continuous loop. One animation had the 1980s video game character Pac-Man embark on a circular quest for food, forever ending in his being eaten in turn; while Finite Infinite (2010) consisted of footage of a Labrador running through grass again and again. The multiple “feedback loops” incorporated into “Leaps Jumps and Bumps” reflected Sturtevant’s conviction that the rise of the digital age marked the end of authenticity as an artistic concept.

Yet even while her work gained wider relevance, Sturtevant retreated further from view, as ill health confined her to her Paris apartment. Her primary concession to modern communications technology was an iPhone, which she refused to pick up – “even when it rings”.

Little is known about Elaine Sturtevant’s early life. She was born Elaine Horan in Lakewood, Ohio on August 23 1924, and studied Philosophy at the University of Iowa, where a graduate seminar introduced her to the writings of Nietzsche. “Every once in a while someone will say to me, ‘Oh but you’re so negative!’,” she once told an interviewer. “And I say, ‘Well, I come out of Nietzsche’. ”

‘Peinture à haute tension’, after Martial Raysse (Alamy)

Following her 12 years away from the art scene – during which, as she put it, the “mental retards” caught up with the thrust of her work – Sturtevant relocated to Paris and branched out into video and other media. At the Venice Biennale in 2011 she received the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement, and in November this year the Museum of Modern Art in New York plans to stage the first major American overview of her work.

In later life Sturtevant embraced her own fearsome reputation among fellow artists. She would silence any unwanted queries at interview with a brusque “dumb question”. “I am difficult,” she admitted. “If I don’t like somebody, I tell them.”

She is survived by a daughter.

Elaine Sturtevant, born August 23 1924, died May 7 2014


Owen Jones’s article (Anti-Jewish hatred is rising, 11 August) is a helpful and articulate addition to an important debate. Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same, but neither are they mutually exclusive. He highlights instances when antisemitic actions are hidden under the guise of anti-Zionism. It is in this vein that the lack of mention of Hamas’s antisemitic rhetoric is disturbing. In its charter, Hamas says: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them)” (article 7). It also espouses the crudest forms of caricature: “As regards local and world wars, it has come to pass … that they [Zionists/Jews] stood behind World War One, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate… They obtained the Balfour Declaration and established the League of Nations in order to rule the world by means of that organisation” (article 22). Jews in Britain are nervous and scared by what they see happening around them. There are pro-Palestinians who seem oblivious to the company they keep and have not acted against antisemitism. Taking action now would calm those fears and allow sensible discussion, not to mention showing Israelis and Palestinians how peaceful dialogue could lead all sides down a different path.
Ashley Harshak

• Israeli politicians often try to justify their actions by saying the Hamas charter calls for Israel’s destruction (Letters, 11 August). No such phrase exists in the charter although there is criticism of Zionism. In practice the charter is rarely referred to by Hamas leaders now and we should look at their recent statements for a guide to their thinking, which has become more politically sophisticated since the charter was published in 1988, including some leaders talking about a two-state solution. The lifting of the blockade and release of prisoners are two of their key demands now. As both Daniel Barenboim and David Grossman have argued, ways need to be found of bringing Hamas into meaningful discussions and demonising them as “terrorists” does not help.
Gerald Conyngham
Crediton, Devon

Rather than doing a “Lords abuse” piece masquerading as comment, Chris Huhne (Let’s halt the ermine factory, 11 August) could have addressed a more serious aspect of what is going on. One consequence which has not really been explored is that under the present arrangement, the coalition has an inbuilt majority in the revising chamber. Between 2000 and 2010 the Labour government did not have a majority in the Lords and week by week ministers and business managers made arrangement with opposition Lib Dems or Tories to secure business. This meant compromise and lots of defeats.

It also resulted in better quality legislation, as ministers in the Lords reported to their secretaries of state what could be achieved and at what price. In some cases defeat would mean the loss of the legislation, so it was to be avoided with a deal. In most cases I found the price was worth paying as it improved the legislation. This has not been the case since 2010. Issues we could have settled by negotiation have been rammed through because each part of the coalition has told Labour “we have written agreement with the other coalition party and we cannot do a deal however much we would like to”. This is not the way a revising chamber, however constituted, should work.

So for the next parliament, when planning for a hung Commons and possible coalition in that House, why cannot we exclude the Lords? We could simply have the largest coalition party in the Lords providing the ministers and no commitment from the smaller coalition partners’ peers other than to look at the issues on their merits. An alternative would be for three grown-up party leaders to say that all votes in the Lords would be free votes, so leaving backbench members of the governing coalition partners and opposition to make their own minds up. This would avoid the obvious distress that some Lib Dems have suffered as they kept their part of the bargain.

I prefer the latter course, but it does require three grown-up party leaders.
Jeff Rooker
House of Lords

• Smuggling out in August the news of 22 more appointments to the Lords tells its own story (Peerages for two more Conservative donors, 9 August). The concern over cash for peerages is justified, but is only part of the problem. The fundamental point is that an appointed house lacks the legitimacy to do its job properly, since its members represent nobody. At present, the electorate is shut out of the second chamber, except as visitors. Electing the members of a reformed chamber need not threaten the primacy of the House of Commons, as opponents of reform claim. Solutions exist, although the present government fumbled the issue in its bill. The only answer to the long-running question of who should be in the second chamber is to allow the people to choose who makes the laws on their behalf.
Damien Welfare
Co-ordinator, Campaign for a Democratic Upper House

• Surely the quick and easy way to eradicate the incentive of a peerage for party donors is to remove the lordly title. Entitlement to sit in the chamber for hours on end is not the attraction – use of the title most certainly is.
John Saxbee
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

Roy Greenslade is wrong to say I deliberately “withheld” from the Press Complaints Commission and the Leveson inquiry “vital information” about how some Mail on Sunday journalists’ phones were hacked by the News of the World (Report, 2 August). We were contacted by police in October 2006 and told some of our journalists’ phones had been hacked. The police recommended our journalists improve their phone security, but did not want them to make statements, nor suggest the hacking had involved anyone other than Goodman and Mulcaire.

In fact they said the hacking had ended at the time of Goodman and Mulcaire’s arrests, which strongly suggested they were responsible. We were satisfied the police were dealing with the issue, which was of course sub judice. It was already known that Mulcaire had hacked the phones of people other than the Royal household – he admitted five further offences at his trial in November 2006. It was hardly surprising he should have hacked phones of staff on a rival newspaper. I joined the PCC in May 2008. Had it occurred to me, when the PCC was discussing the fresh allegations made by the Guardian in July 2009, that the hacking of our journalists’ phones was anything other than a minor part of the series of offences for which Goodman and Mulcaire had already been convicted, I would happily have shared it with other commissioners.

I have never made any secret of it, nor had any reason to – after all, our journalists were victims of these crimes just as much as anyone else. Indeed it was common knowledge in the industry that Mail on Sunday phones had been hacked. As far as Leveson is concerned, it was widely reported in the Guardian and elsewhere in summer 2011 that the police had contacted our journalists again and asked for statements – so much for Greenslade’s claim the hacking “remained a secret for eight years”. Had Leveson chosen to ask me about it when I gave evidence in January 2012 I would readily have answered any questions.
Peter Wright
Editor emeritus, Associated Newspapers

Chapman Pincher in 1987. Photograph: Jane Bown

My father was a nuclear physicist working at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell between 1948 and 1956. The scientists there used to read Chapman Pincher to discover the secrets of what was going on at Harwell. It was also a standing joke among them whenever a light plane or helicopter flew near Harwell that it was probably Pincher spying out his next story. They could never work out how he got his information, given the strict security at Harwell and the fact that they had all signed the Official Secrets Act agreement.

Guardian anti-Hamas advert

We write to condemn the Guardian’s decision to print a wildly inaccurate and inflammatory advert from supporters of the state of Israel branding the Palestinian resistance as “child killers”. This is especially sickening when Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza has killed close to 400 Palestinian children. Amnesty International has condemned the deliberate targeting of schools and hospitals by Israel as a war crime.

Among the advert’s very many inaccuracies is the claim that those forces opposing Israel do not have the support of Palestinians, when the current Israeli offensive is against a united Hamas-Fatah government which commands the support of the majority of Palestinians.

Sadly, the decision to print this advert, rejected by the Times newspaper, is another sign of the increasingly pro-Israeli bias of the Guardian’s editorial policy, including the gross underestimate of the size of last Saturday’s Gaza protest demonstration. You are repeatedly running the slur that those who campaign in support of Palestine are antisemitic when the very many Jews in the movement, and the movement as a whole, have repeatedly made it absolutely clear that this is not the case.

We call on the editor to redress the balance in future coverage.
John Rees Co-founder, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Sarah Colborne Director, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Kate Hudson General secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
David Hearst Middle East Eye
Tariq Ali Writer and broadcaster
Barnaby Raine Organiser of the Jewish Bloc on demonstrations for Gaza

• The advertisement you carry today by This World: The Values Network accuses Hamas of using children as a human shield. This is a highly contentious accusation which has been widely refuted, but in this advert this accusation, for which there is no evidence, appears to be compared with the activities of Nazi Germany (“I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire”).

It then goes on to call Hamas “worshippers of a death cult”. In the interests of Israeli propaganda, this seems to me to be simply an attempt to draw attention away from the real situation in Palestine and set up a spurious distraction from the central issue and motivation for opposition to Israel: dispossession, persecution and illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.

You presumably invoke free speech to accept this advert. However, I would be interested to know whether you would accept a similar advertisement from a pro-Palestinian organisation comparing the behaviour of Israel with that of Nazi Germany. I suspect not. Would you still invoke the free speech argument or would you recognise that accepting for publication this type of propaganda in the context of the situation in Palestine is reprehensible?
Lorie Harding
Swanage, Dorset

• My once dear Guardian, I have just learnt that despite the Times refusing to run this advertisement, the Guardian has. As a regular reader – I buy the paper from my local newsagent every day, weekends included – I am appalled by your decision to run this inflammatory and blatantly racist ad. There is absolutely no evidence to support the claims and the fact that a newspaper such as yours in willing to allow this racist propaganda frankly baffles me. After 25 years buying your newspaper daily, I will no longer be purchasing my daily copy.
Nigel Osborne

• I have not signed Stop the War Coalition’s open letter to the Guardian, condemning your decision to accept a full-page advert seeking to justify Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but this doesn’t mean that I am any less appalled at your decision. The only reason that I haven’t signed Stop the War’s letter is that it chose to make its central point the issue of whether or not Hamas has the support of the Palestinian people. To my mind this is irrelevant, since Israeli war crimes would still be war crimes whomever a majority of Palestinians supported and many of Israel’s victims have been too young to support anyone, anyway.
Malcolm Hunter

• I have never seen a political advertisement as mendacious as that which appeared above the photograph of Elie Wiesel in the Guardian today. Nor one more certain to effect the opposite of what it hopes to achieve.
Malcolm Pittock
Bolton, Lancashire


The bombing of Islamic State forces by Obama is yet another foolish course of action by the US supported by Britain.

The turmoil brought into the Middle East by Bush and Obama has meant death and displacement for millions and untold future deaths. The 40,000 Iraqis  stranded on a mountain top without water, awaiting death at the hands of the IS, are there because of US/UK meddling.

The consequence of Washington and London’s reckless interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria has been to unleash evil. The various sects that lived in peace under the rule of Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad are butchering one another, and a new group, IS, is in the process of creating a new state out of parts of Iraq and Syria.

The reality in the Middle East stands in contradiction to the stage-managed landing of George W Bush on the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to declare “mission accomplished” on 1 May 2003.

The mission that Washington accomplished was to wreck the Middle East and the lives of millions of people and to destroy America’s reputation in the process.

Blair and Clinton’s attack on Serbia set the pattern. Bush upped the ante with  naked aggression against Afghanistan. Britain and America brought ruin, not freedom, to Afghanistan. After 13 years of blowing up the country, they are now withdrawing.

The policy of “humanitarian intervention” is a fraud which has killed far more than it has helped. It should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Alan Hinnrichs

The United States and Britain should both be warmly congratulated for standing up against the newly emerging bully of the Middle East, calling itself the Islamic State. The atrocities and the genocidal agenda of this terrorist group are not only an attack on the magnanimous principles of Islam; they are an attack on all our brothers, whether Christians, Jews, Yazidis or others.

The magnanimity of the Prophet Muhammad can never be in doubt and should serve as a lesson to all those who claim to follow his Sunna or path. He emphatically and publicly forgave all his enemies (including those who had murdered his own uncle) upon his conquering Mecca in a rare bloodless victory in AD 630.

The first ever “Islamic state”, the Umayyad state (661-775), and the Abbasid state (750–1258), were equally well-known for providing conditions in which Jewish and Christian communities flourished and prospered in peace and security.

Whether in Iraq, Syria, Gaza or Israel we should all stand firmly against the politicisation and manipulation of civilians’ plight. Given its historical ties to the region, we should stand firmly behind a United Kingdom which serves as a beacon in its decisive moral orientation – delivering the message that we in Britain will never waver in asserting the equal rights of Christian, Jewish and Muslim children who, together with children of all other ethnic and religious denominations in the Middle East, deserve a better and more secure future.

Dr Lu’ayy Minwer,  Al Rimawi
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Mark Holt (letter, 7 August) asks when we are going to adopt an ethical foreign policy in relation to Saudi arming of Islamist rebels. When we are no longer reliant on their oil or other resources.

Mike Lynch


Dangers of laughing gas

While the article about the dangers of using laughing gas recreationally correctly states that users face the danger of oxygen deprivation, it fails to point out that one of the most alarming consequences of inhaling nitrous oxide is that it severely depletes the user’s Vitamin B12 (“Councils warn about dangers of using laughing gas”, 9 August).

People with pernicious anaemia are unable to absorb B12 from food and therefore know only too well the consequences of B12 deficiency. The symptoms are wide-ranging and insidious, often taking many years to develop before the user will feel continually tired, undergo personality changes, lack concentration and ultimately suffer serious and irreversible nerve damage.

While the deaths mentioned in your report were more or less instant, the long-term effects of B12 deficiency caused by inhaling nitrous oxide will take many years to develop before manifesting themselves as a long list of symptoms, some extremely serious, before the B12 deficiency is identified as the cause of the user’s malaise.

Members of this society are unable to produce B12: to destroy your B12 by inhaling nitrous oxide for short-term euphoria is sheer folly.

Martyn Hooper
Chairman, Pernicious Anaemia Society, Bridgend

Indian soldiers in the great war

In the commemorations of the centenary of the First World War, it was hugely disappointing that the role played by soldiers from the Indian sub-continent has been largely ignored.

More than 1.2 million Indians, including those from what is now Pakistan, volunteered to fight for king and country in the conflict. More than 74,000 were killed and 65,000 wounded in the line of duty. These were Sikh, Hindu and Muslim soldiers, dedicated to the cause and receiving 13,000 medals for gallantry.

By acknowledging the great sacrifice made by Indian soldiers, sailors and airmen, including members of my own family, in both World Wars, perhaps we can move towards greater acceptance of each other’s differences and recognise that there is a shared history that must not be forgotten.

Javed Majid
Yarm, North Yorkshire

What an ‘Israel-free zone’ means

Simon Ben David (letter, 9 August) asks what George Galloway’s “Israel-free zone” means and whether he can visit his grandmother’s grave in Bradford. I suggest it means a politician’s rhetorical point. No more.

He will of course not be prevented from going to the cemetery, unlike the millions of descendants of Palestinians ethnically cleansed in 1948 from their historic homeland who very definitely cannot go to their ancestors’ graves in Palestine, let alone have the right of return and their stolen lands and houses back.

Richard Twining
London SW11

I would like to express my support for British Jews who have recently become the target of hatred from certain groups protesting against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

I don’t believe that this vocal minority represents the feelings of the majority of British people towards either the Jewish people or the state of Israel.

There is an unpleasant undercurrent of anti-Semitism among certain Muslim and right- and left-wing groups which any right-minded person should speak out against.

Andrew Brown

A magnificently mad trombone

The saxophone has always been contentious, viewed as either a bona fide musical instrument or a fashion statement. What it has never been, though, is a member of the brass family.

One of the photographs accompanying your article on the bicentenary of Adolphe Sax (11 August) is captioned as “a variation on his invention”.

It could do with rotating just a tiny bit towards the viewer. This would reveal the cup-shaped typical brass mouthpiece of the magnificently mad trombone à sept pavillons, or seven-cylinder trombone, which had a valve, tubing and bell flare to take the place of each of the slide trombone’s seven slide positions. Sort of seven separate mini-trombones rolled into one.

Heaven alone knows what it weighs, but it never caught on. The instrument is indeed by Sax and resides in the excellent Brussels museum.

Roger King
St Ives, Cambridgeshire

Don’t be blasé about abortion

Gillian Orr’s article of 5 August implies that abortion is quick, painless and easily recovered from. I am no anti-abortionist, but I suggest she reads the section on the NHS Choices website entitled “Abortion: how it is performed” and she will see that it can potentially be a long, painful and distressing experience.

Fine to be so blasé about it if performed with no complications at less than nine weeks; a very different story for someone enduring the procedure at 20-plus weeks.

Sue Allen
Glastonbury, Somerset

Sport that tolerates vicious play

If a footballer were to make a wild two-footed lunge on an opponent, it is promptly red-carded. If a boxer hits below the belt, he is instantly penalised. The same kind of rules exist for most sports.

So why is it, only in cricket, that bouncers, which are intended to hurt and maim, and bowled with deliberate vicious intent, are encouraged?

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Buckinghamshire


The proposal for a statue of the Indian civil rights leader in Parliament Square has split opinion

Sir, Kusoom Vadgama (“Gandhi statue ‘would be an affront to women’ ”, Aug 9) is right to point to Gandhi’s experiment about his celibacy in which he involved young women. But she is wrong that it was hushed. Details of his experiments with his chastity were revealed by Gandhi himself in his weekly newspaper Harijan and in his extensive correspondence.

Gandhi has also been denounced as a racist for his remarks about his fellow prisoners in South Africa who were Zulu. Dr Ambedkar excoriated him for his insistence that Dalits do not get separate electorates, as had been offered by the government after the Round Table Conference. He was called an arch-imperialist for recruiting soldiers during the First World War. Orthodox Hindus criticised him for blending Christianity and Islam with his Hinduism.

Yet Gandhi inspired hundreds in South Africa and millions in India to stand up for their rights and fight injustice. Women entered public life in their thousands when he gave the call. His non-violent methods of struggle not only toppled an empire but also inspired Dr Martin Luther King Jr to wage his struggle for civil rights for black Americans.

Gandhi was human like the rest of us, and as such imperfect, but he changed our world, as Nelson Mandela has acknowledged. Gandhi should join him, Lincoln and Churchill in Parliament Square.

Lord Desai
Trustee, Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust

Sir, In her attack on Mahatma Gandhi, Kusoom Vadgama ignores all that Gandhi did to enhance the status of Indian women. He was born into a caste system where the most menial tasks were carried out by the so-called “untouchables”. Gandhi renamed them Harijans — “children of God” — and took on the menial tasks himself. And millions followed him.

In his old age he tested his chastity in a way which many of us find bizarre, but let that not detract from his massive contribution to overcoming discrimination against women in India.

John Bond

Sir, Dr Vadgama condemns the proposed statue of Gandhi in Parliament Square as “unspeakable and absolutely unacceptable” because of his sexual exploitation of women. So would it be to the Sikhs — Gandhi refused to recognise their faith and derided their loyalty to the British crown. Sikhs, a proud people, would not accept the Hindu supremacy that Gandhi preached as a condition of uplift of the untouchable and minority races in India.

Dr Surinder Singh Bakhshi

Sir, Gandhi was not a “seditious Middle Temple lawyer” (“Peace and love”, Aug 9), as Churchill put it. He was an Inner Temple man (called June 1891).

Jonathan Teasdale
Haywards Heath, W Sussex

Landing a job is not always easy, let alone straightforward — as our correspondents make plain

Sir, In 1981 I was interviewed for a two-day-a-week post in a hospital, as a radiographer in an X-ray department (letter, Aug 11). The (female) superintendent radiographer asked me what I would do if one of my children became ill on one of my work days. I replied that I would stay at home and look after the child. I was appointed, and my children were told that they could never be ill on a Tuesday or a Friday — and it mostly worked! I asked my (teacher) husband if he was willing to share this duty and his reply was that his headmaster would consider it to be absolutely out of the question.

Catherine Harden

Reigate, Surrey

Sir, In the 1970s I went for an interview for a job as a solicitor in a firm that had two senior partners. One of them asked me just a single question. I replied I was an Evertonian and straightaway got the job. The other partner came in and he also asked me which team I supported. I was then told that if he had been the interviewer, I would not have been successful. I think he meant it too.

Keith Robinson

Hoylake, Wirral

What on earth does the word ‘explainer’ mean, written on the back of a high-vis jacket?

Sir, I have just seen a high-vis jacket on Clifton suspension bridge with “Explainer” printed on the back.

Means guide, I suppose.

Sally Sparks


There seems to be no end to the long list of broadcasting habits that seemingly cause offence

Sir, My pet hate is “particuly” which is “reguly” used by presenters on Radio 4 and on television.

John Collins

East Grinstead, W Sussex

Sir, Has anyone got round to “drawring” and “thawring” yet?

Derrick Scholey


Sir, Further to Philippa Hutchinson’s letter (Aug 9), I too have noticed the proliferation of “so” at the start of answers by radio interviewees. It seems to be particularly rife among scientists. An explanation for this is offered on the website The Celestial Monochord, which suggests that the scientist’s “so” is an audible “therefore” at the end of an inaudible explanation that the scientist has to think through — but which he/she isn’t allowed time enough to share.

Judith Raftery

Royston, Herts

True or false: if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth getting someone else to do it…

Sir, Further to the letter “Maxim fun” (Aug 9), I am ever grateful for the wise advice of former Chaplain of the Fleet, Archdeacon Barry Hammett, who, seeing me struggling with the complexities and heavy workload of chaplaincy in a busy Royal Navy air station, sagely remarked: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth getting somebody else to do it.”

Simon Springett


Sir, My art teacher at school used to say, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make a jolly big one”. Alas, none of my paintings ever graced the walls of the art room.

Elspeth Evans

Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

Successive chancellors have failed to raise the threshold for higher-rate income tax in line with inflation

Sir, In your leading article (Taxing Times, Aug 11) you correctly highlight several problems with taxation. Successive chancellors have found it convenient to raise more funds by failing to increase the threshold for higher-rate income tax in line with inflation. This has been referred to as a “stealth tax” and has, as you say, resulted in many who are not wealthy being caught by the higher rate band.

The government should legislate to ensure that the higher-rate threshold should automatically rise with inflation. The chancellor should include this proposal in his autumn statement.

John S Burton

Cheltenham, Glos


An adult basking shark’s dorsal fin protrudes above the water off St Kilda, Outer Hebrides Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 11 Aug 2014


SIR – I was rather surprised to see basking sharks included among Scotland’s new wave of “exotic sealife” (Nature Notes, August 6). Although these giant fish have admittedly become quite rare visitors to British waters, until fairly recently they supported a thriving fish-oil industry in the Hebrides.

I first encountered basking sharks in the Sixties off Torbay in Devon. My father and I were out with a Brixham fisherman collecting his lobster pots when we were suddenly surrounded by gigantic triangular dorsal fins. Even at four years old, and almost a decade before Peter Benchley published Jaws, I suddenly felt we needed a much, much bigger boat.

However, the fisherman’s assertion that the sharks, though terrifying, were harmless, proved correct.

Hadrian Jeffs

SIR – In resigning from the Government, Baroness Warsi called Britain’s policy on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict “morally indefensible”. I, too, am appalled by the loss of life in Gaza and particularly so by the death of hundreds of innocent children. I share the pain of their families, particularly as my own son was killed by Hizbollah terrorists.

There are some who argue that the number of Palestinian casualties is disproportionate to the number of Israelis killed in the present round of fighting. I agree. As rockets rained down on our cities and kibbutzim, we huddled in concrete bomb shelters, which our government demands that we build as a condition for receiving building permits.

I cannot help but wonder how many Palestinian lives could have been saved if Hamas had used its steel and concrete to build bomb shelters rather than constructing underground tunnels for the purpose of infiltrating Israel and killing and kidnapping our civilians.

Our detractors argue: “Gaza is a prison. Gaza is under siege.” They are right. I would love the people of Gaza to have a seaport and an airport of their own. However, I have the right to know that they will not be used to import sophisticated weapons to destroy my country. If the people of Gaza are really interested in peace, why should they possibly object to a demilitarised Gaza as a condition for lifting the blockade and opening their borders?

We saw plenty of heart-rending pictures of dead Palestinian children, but why did we never see any dead Hamas fighters, even though we know that close to 1,000 of them were killed over the past month?

Rabbi Michael Boyden
Hod Hasharon, Central District, Israel

SIR – I used to be a strong supporter of Israel, a small country surrounded by hostile neighbours. I am now surprised that a people who suffered as they did during the Second World War can be so brutal and inhumane to another oppressed people. The corralling of Palestinians into a small area causes predictable civilian deaths when it is bombarded. The long blockade of Gaza has inevitably led to the strengthening of Hamas.

John Clark
Selling, Kent

SIR – While America is now supplying vast amounts of arms to support the Israeli bombardment, it will be the first to make large contributions towards the rebuilding of the infrastructure in Gaza and mourn with great sincerity the heavy loss of Palestinian lives; hardly a position from which it can take any high moral stance in other theatres of conflict.

Barry Bond
Leigh on Sea, Essex

Plain packaging

SIR – I read the letters (August 8) reporting opposite results from Australia’s plain cigarette packet law. To whom should I give more credibility, a university professor or a bunch of politicians?

Derek Gregory
Castle Cary, Somerset

SIR – I do hope that cigarette companies start selling their wares in nice little flip-top tins with their brand name and logo on them so by the time we are forced to buy our cigs in their horrible wrappers, we can simply decant them into our smart little tins and carry on as usual.

Wendy Alexander
Polegate, East Sussex

SIR – Once plain packaging is introduced for cigarettes, presumably this will double the space available for impromptu schemes to be drawn up?

Helen Forman
Birchington, Kent

Naval affair

SIR – I am deeply concerned by the way Cdr Sarah West has been publicly humiliated by naval disciplinary procedures (report, August 9). As the first woman to captain a front-line warship in the Navy’s 500-year history, she was hauled off her ship in a manner that must have pleased many reactionary old sea dogs.

The military’s antiquated codes of social conduct are enforced with variable severity, and this matter should have been handled with greater sensitivity and a lot less masculine glee.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – As this alleged affair took place between two officers, one could argue that it did not compromise “operational effectiveness” or undermine “trust and cohesion”, which it would have if the unnamed party had been a rating.

However, the worst thing is that the “married third-in-command” not only retains his posting, but also his anonymity, while Cdr West is thrust into the spotlight.

Mark Donkin
South Normanton, Derbyshire

SIR – If Cdr West had been found to have had an affair with a female member of her ship’s company, would she have been dismissed, or would her human rights have ensured she stayed in command?

Chris Hodge
Gosport, Hampshire

A bitter pill

SIR – Like thousands of others, I have to take tablets on a regular basis, the prescriptions for which have been issued on a two-monthly basis, 56 tablets each time.

On applying for a renewal of my prescriptions, my surgery has told me that I can now only have one month’s worth at a time (28). This is due to a government edict to try to reduce wasted medicines.

So now I have to make twice as many visits to the surgery and chemist, involving twice the fuel and parking charges, the doctor has to issue twice as many prescriptions, and the chemist has to make up twice as many parcels of tablets. What incompetent dreamt up this policy?

David Cable
Hartley Wintney, Hampshire

Bedtime reading

SIR – Our new pillows come with 48 pages of instructions. Why is life so complicated?

Kate Graeme-Cook
Tarrant Launceston, Dorset

How a big cat’s stink can deter the smaller ones

SIR – Dr Clive Mowforth should know that, unlike dogs, cats are classed as wild animals and their owners are not responsible for their actions. If he does not like them, rather than wasting time and effort sending letters to his neighbours, he should use lion-manure pellets. They are available online at very low cost.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – Is it not time that there was equality in the treatment of pet owners in this country? If I were to allow my dog to foul anywhere it liked, I would be subject to a fine or prosecution. Yet local cat owners allow their animals to use my garden as a lavatory with impunity.

If I were systematically to kill the birds that visit my garden, I would soon be reported to the RSPCA and prosecuted. Yet British cats get away with 55 million such killings every year (RSPB figures). Despite this, cat owners still trot out the same old nonsense that there is nothing they can do.

Anthony Hall
Downham Market, Norfolk

SIR – It is up to Dr Mowforth to protect his property, but not by threatening criminal damage to other people’s property, namely, their cats. Issuing threats to his neighbours could be construed as harassment.

David E Hockin
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – There is a cheap and effective answer to this problem. Put some used teabags in a screw-top jar and spray liberally with an aerosol can of Deep Heat. Shake well, then place the tea bags where the cats normally enter. They do not like it.

I have used this to deter squirrels from destroying my bird feeders as well.

David Craddock
Radstock, Somerset

Displaced Yazidi people rush towards an aid helicopter Photo: RUDAW

7:00AM BST 11 Aug 2014


SIR – Having visited the Holocaust Memorial in Yerevan, I cannot fail to notice the striking parallel of what is happening today in northern Iraq to what happened in Armenia nearly 100 years ago.

In 1915, under the Ottoman Empire, Armenian Christians and Assyrians were targeted by the Islamic extremists of the day. Men were slaughtered and women and children forced to go on “death marches” into the Syrian desert without food or water, where they died of starvation. Children who remained were forcibly converted to Islam and given to Muslim families.

Under President Roosevelt, America was one of the few countries to offer humanitarian help, raising some $100 million. In 1918, Roosevelt described the mass murder that took place as “the greatest crime of the war”.

Britain cannot now stand by in the aisles and allow another genocide to take place.

Dr Robert Balfour
Ogmore-by-Sea, Glamorgan

SIR – In ordering air strikes in an attempt to prevent the genocide of the Yazidi religious minority, Barack Obama has said that there will be “no boots on the ground”. Surely this is a vain hope if Islamic State is to be eliminated for the sake of Muslims, Christians and others.

This looks like being the latest Western involvement in failed wars against fanatics.In Iraq and Afghanistan, the conflicts failed to secure either stability or democracy. In Syria, the Islamic State fanatics are fighting President Assad, so whoever wins will prove unpalatable for the West. Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi may have been monsters, but they provided stability.

Clark Cross
Linlithgow, West Lothian

SIR – In June 1941, Churchill had to make a terrible decision to support one deplorable regime in order to defeat another. However much we may abhor aspects of the regimes in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, we surely need to engage with them now to defeat the new Nazis whose influence is spreading through the Middle East.

John Birkett
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State has much in common with Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Both were, or are, evil cliques trying to force a utopia on their own people, prepared to torture or murder any who do not fit their ideal. Both came about because the legitimate governments they displaced were destabilised by third parties.

Lionel Uden
Paignton, Devon

SIR – There will not be peace in Iraq for many years. The invasion in 2003 will long stand as one of the most terrible abuses of power by the supposedly civilised West. I hope Tony Blair and George W Bush are hanging their heads in shame.

William Statt
Snarestone, Leicestershire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Paddy Joyce (August 7th) bemoans the proposal from the Society of Chartered Surveyors for the construction of “European-style” apartments for families and my coincidental letter espousing same (August 7th). He cites Tokyo and Singapore (as examples not to be followed), but one need only go as far as Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen or any other continental European city to realise that these smartly planned and attractive urban centres have long histories of predominantly apartment-type residences.

Apartments make efficient use of limited physical space by building upward rather than outward. They reduce urban sprawl so distances to amenities, parks and shops are shorter. They have greater heating and water supply efficiencies and more efficient internet connectivity and other technology supply. They are often air-conditioned. They have professional service-managed maintenance and landscape care so residents have more quality and quantity time. In most cases they have better security than houses.

Of course the quality of apartment construction matters for quality of life; dire lack of planning and construction quality and an historical association with slums and deprivation may contribute to reticence in Ireland.

It is because of their obvious benefits that so many Europeans and Asians choose to live in apartments. Of course people should still have choices, but the choices in Ireland for a long time were almost wholly restricted to a house of one kind or other. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Paddy Joyce is adamant that Irish people do not want to live in continental-style apartments, which he describes as “high-rise hamster cages”. I can only surmise that Mr Joyce is not overly familiar with continental Europe or its apartments. Apartments in the continental style are spacious and well-designed family homes with floor spaces easily the equivalent of any mid-density suburban semi-detached. Furthermore, they rarely reach above the fifth floor. Large numbers of Irish people and families want to live in our cities, and not in suburban or semi-rural settings. High-density living is the only way to achieve this and larger, more comfortable apartments are the best method of providing for this possibility. – Yours, etc,


Tudor Road,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Olivia Kelly (August 8th) indicates with respect to Dublin’s housing construction challenge that “the plan to test the interest from developers for council-owned tracts of land has obvious appeal”. Meanwhile this week, Tom Parlon, speaking on behalf of the Construction Industry Federation, again highlighted the ongoing difficulties faced by developers in terms of securing bank funding for construction projects. One better proposal would be for Dublin councils to create a scheme whereby citizens formally expressing a wish to buy property within a certain geographical radius could be linked provisionally to possible future land development within that area. A pool of those demonstrating an active potential to achieve pre-mortgage approval could then each be assigned a housing unit, on a preliminary basis, within a given construction project outlined for council-owned land. Local authorities in the capital will have to become more active in contemplating new thinking with respect to addressing what is now a drastic housing shortage. There is very strong demand within Dublin for homes that simply don’t exist and the extent of this demand needs to be formalised so that funding can become more readily available. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14

Sir, – There has been a great deal of focus, following the recent ESRI report, on whether or not we are in a property bubble and whether further price rises can be justified in terms of economic variables. In my view this is not the real issue. Property prices (and rents) in Dublin are driven by a dysfunctional system, which is characterised by a chronic inability to match demand and supply efficiently at internationally competitive prices. This dysfunctional system produces a “fantasy market” which has already destroyed our competitiveness, which drove our economy onto the rocks and led to us becoming one of the most indebted countries in the world. We have been licking our wounds since 2008 and there are now finally signs of stabilisation. However, property prices are once again moving out of line in terms of value with comparable cities in the UK and other countries and driving up our already high wages and salaries. It seems amazing to me that there is so little focus on solving this problem once and for all. I think it’s time to change the system. – Yours, etc,


Knocksinna Crescent,

Dublin 18

Sir, – In his letter (August 9th) praising Paul Kean’s criticism of property investors, Matthew Glover exhibits an ancient and, one might have thought, now defunct philosophy when he refers to the “landlord class”.

For some reason Mr Glover assumes this so-called “landlord class” is the beneficiary of some debt forgiveness bounty while others are “getting on” with paying down their debts. In what misguided “power to the people” world does Mr Glover live? The so-called landlord class are the ordinary investors who hoped to safeguard their future by attempting to prudently invest in bricks and mortar.

One might also include holders of a pension in which funds are invested in property and investors in any stocks where property is a constituent of that company’s investment portfolio. Is there anyone left?

I heartily congratulate Mr Glover for his foresight and sacrifice in taking on a smaller mortgage so that he could cope with “unforeseen economic setbacks” (oh for such wisdom!) but he should understand that the debt-forgiveness utopia of which he writes is a merely a figment of his imagination. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Sir, – Carl O’Brien’s excellent report “Lives in Limbo” (August 9th) paints a disturbing picture of the treatment of asylum seekers in direct provision: their poverty, isolation and demoralising lack of power to take important decisions for themselves.

The whole system needs to be changed so that no one has to spend more than a few months in such conditions and so that anyone whose asylum/protection application takes more than 12 months to determine is given the right to work here. But in the meantime one measure that would immediately improve the position of the around 1,650 children currently in the system would be to restore the payment of child benefit. This is a non-means-tested payment, described by Government as a “universal” benefit, that is paid in respect of all children, rich and poor, and whether they need it or not. Except that it is not paid in respect of the children of asylum-seekers, who definitely do need it.

Children in direct provision, including these born in Ireland, currently receive the Scrooge-like sum of €9.60 per week, totally inadequate to pay for games, treats, school excursions etc, which marks them off from the other children at school or elsewhere, whose parents can afford these things. Child benefit is only €32.50 per week; not a large sum, but it would make a big difference to these children. And since the number of children involved is only 1,650, it would not impose a huge burden on the State.

Successive justice ministers have justified not paying regular social welfare benefits to asylum-seekers on the basis that it would create a “pull” factor, attracting greater numbers to our shores. But in the case of children in the direct provision system, who are deprived of something all their peers in the country are getting, it appears that they are being punished not for anything they did but to deter others. That cannot be right. Child benefit should be restored to them now. – Yours, etc,


Free Legal Advice Centres,

Lower Dorset Street,

Dublin 1

Sir, – May I thank your paper, and in particular Carl O’Brien, for drawing attention to the degrading, dehumanising and inappropriate manner in which the Irish State holds 4,360 asylum seekers. A new system, which prioritises the human rights of this group of people, rather than profit and convenience, needs to be introduced as a matter of urgency. – Yours, etc,




A chara,   – In a recent interview newly appointed Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe calls the imminent strike action by Irish Rail workers a “slap in the face” for taxpayers. If that is the case, how should we characterise the Government’s treatment of taxpayers? Grievous bodily harm?

While nobody would welcome the disruption that such action might bring to the country, it is the lesser of two evils when compared with the constant damage done to public services by this privatisation-obsessed Government. Since taking office in 2011, Fine Gael and Labour have cut the annual subvention to CIÉ companies by over €53 million, that is back to 1998 funding levels. In the same period, staff at all three CIE companies have taken wage cuts. As the Government annually cuts the funding, the staff is called on to take pay cuts to bridge the funding gap.

As a taxpayer, I have no issue whatsoever with my taxes being used to funding public services such as transport. Using taxes to fund public services is what is supposed to happen. The Government needs to fund public services, including transport, to match the level of service required, without expecting those services to make a profit.

It is extremely disappointing to hear Mr Donohoe criticiising workers for refusing to take repeated cuts in pay to compensate for this Government’s abdication of its responsibilities to public transport funding and its insidious ideological attempt to inch towards privitisation of that sector. – Is mise,


Lismore Road,

Dublin 12

Sir, – Heather Abrahamson claims (August 9th) that the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn “has refused to host a Jewish film festival”. This is not an accurate account of the situation. The Tricycle requested that the festival refrain from accepting funds from the Israeli embassy because it did not wish to be associated with either side in the current conflict. It offered to make up the funds, so that the festival could go ahead. The festival refused.

In this situation, would it not be more accurate for Ms Abrahamson to summarise what has occurred as the JFF refusing to disassociate itself from the Israeli state, and hence its actions in Gaza, in order for the film festival to go ahead? – Yours, etc,


Professor of Film Studies,

Queen’s University,

University Square,

Belfast BT7 1NN

A chara, – John Kelly’s assertion (August 9th) that Israel is in control of Gaza doesn’t square with reality. How can anyone claim that Israel is “in control of” a territory which has fired thousands of missiles at it in the last few weeks. Nor is it in occupation of the area – a fact conceded by senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar. Gaza is bordered to the south by Egypt, which is free to allow in anything it wants. In reality, far fewer foodstuffs get in via Egypt as a result of that country’s far tighter blockade on the territory. The vast bulk of goods, water and power supplies come from Israel; this was the case even during the recent crisis when 300,000 Israelis were being displaced by rocket attacks from Gaza. – Yours, etc,



College Street,


A Chara, – Andrew Doyle (August 9th) presumes to speak for “most other parents around the country” who have to pay for Irish (language) textbooks for their 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”.

I would like to ask Mr Doyle what use will they make of subjects such as history, geography, religion, or much of what is prescribed on their English (also “compulsory”) courses? Mr Doyle talks of “fumbling in a greasy till” for the money to pay for Irish textbooks. But surely we Irish are more than a nation of shopkeepers. – Le meas,


Bóthar na Ceapaí,


Sir, – I have recently returned from a holiday in Italy. Before leaving Dublin I got a prescription from my doctor for some of my usual medication which I wished to get while in Italy. During my stay I called to a local pharmacy and purchased this medication. The manufacturer was the same, the strength and dosage were the same and the packaging was the same. The only difference was the price.

In Italy I paid €14.95 for it and in Dublin I pay €31.71. I would be glad if someone could tell me in simple terms the reason for this discrepancy. – Yours, etc,


Whitebeam Road,


Dublin 14

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:45

First published: Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:45

Sir, – President Higgins’s comments on his idea of republicanism, in his interview with Stephen Collins (August 5th), deserves a lot more coverage and analysis. It could hardly be more timely as interested parties wave “the flag we republicans claim” in the run-up to 1916 commemorations.

Each faction, from the handful who tried to roar down the President at Glasnevin, to Éirígí, via Sinn Féin to Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party, presents itself as the true, sole inheritor of the title republican. None seems capable of the breadth, depth or generosity of President Higgins’s perspective. He rightly rejects the notion that “nationalist” and “republican” are interchangeable and speaks of a “true republicanism [with] a glowing centre of egalitarianism”.

Most challenging for many of your recent correspondents is his suggestion that it cannot be truly republican “to ignore the deaths, the injuries and the families of the working people of Ireland and Britain who were sucked into” the first World War. His intention to expand on his notion of republicanism gives hope that in the middle of so much vacuous sloganeering and balderdash, there may be room for some reflection – and reassessment. – Yours, etc,


Clarence Mangan Road,

Dublin 8

Sir, – The recent debate between John Bruton, Éamon Ó Cuív and others over how necessary, or otherwise, the 1916 rising was for achieving independence may be focusing on the wrong event.

One of the benefits of the historical analysis that has accompanied recent commemorations of the start of the first World War is that it has allowed events leading up to foundation of the State to be viewed against a wider global backdrop.

In this context it would appear that first World War was the event that killed home rule and led to the violent path to independence. It has to be remembered that the 1916 rising was staged by the IRB and the Irish Citizens Army as a response to Britain going to war with the Central Powers.

Also, another war-related issue, the 1918 conscription crisis, served to undermine home rule and contribute to the rise in support for Sinn Féin and full independence.

Finally, a war-weary Britain probably did not have the stomach for the repressive measures necessary to quell the rebellion associated with the War of Independence and was therefore amenable to granting something that went beyond home rule.

Another noteworthy thing arises from viewing events in this broader context. When the great and the good, along with devout nationalists and possibly some members of the British royal family, gather on O’Connell Street in late April 2016, they will in effect be commemorating another battle of the First World War – in this case one fought on Irish soil. – Yours, etc,


The Friary,


Co Kildare

Sir,– Prof Ian O’Donnell’s article on death row (Opinion & Analysis, August 8th)is erudite, compassionate and enlightened. It is intriguing that prisoners develop coping mechanisms while on death row but, overall, capital punishment is still cruel, unusual and barbaric.

Amnesty International reports that, despite positive moves towards abolition in many parts of the world, the number of reported executions rose by almost 15 per cent in 2013. In that year at least 778 people were executed worldwide. This figure excludes the numbers executed in China, which are estimated to be in the thousands. Almost 80 per cent of reported executions occurred in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Japan and the US were the only G8 countries to perform executions in 2013. Even in the US, the practice is in decline: Maryland became the 18th abolitionist state in May 2013. Nevertheless, there were 39 executions in the US last year, in Alabama (1), Arizona (2), Florida (7), Georgia (1), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (6), Missouri (2), Virginia (1) and Texas (16).

Our research group at UCD (with Dr Sharon Foley) has demonstrated that, in Texas, execution is usually preceded by over 10 years spent on death row, with strong evidence of prisoners experiencing high levels of psychological suffering. Most have mental illness and virtually all have histories of severe head injury. The suicide rate on death row is up to five times that of the general US male population.

While prisoners who are executed have usually been convicted of exceptionally cruel and unusual crimes, resulting in death and inestimable suffering, it is utterly illogical and morally repugnant to use such cruel and unusual acts as justification for further cruel and unusual acts, such as killing the prisoner. In addition, the possibility of judicial error is as real as it is horrific.

Against this background, recent hand-wringing in the US over what are perceived to be cruel and unusual execution methods appears to be a primitive defence mechanism used to protect human consciences from an even more cruel, unusual and utterly irreducible fact: another human is being killed. – Yours, etc,


Department of

Adult Psychiatry,

University College,


Irish Independent:

There has been much exposure given to Mr Bruton’s unusual interpretation of the Home Rule episode in Irish History.

I would suggest Mr Bruton read Alvin Jackson’s essay ‘British Ireland: What if Home Rule had been enacted in 1912?’ It is in Niall Ferguson’s book Virtual History.

Jackson points out that the efforts of politicians from Daniel O’Connell to John Redmond to achieve “Irish self-government with loyalty to the British Crown” failed because of the refusal of successive British governments to recognise and accommodate this distinctive tradition.

The Home Rule movement neither successfully wooed nor subjugated its Northern opponents, nor the Protestant attitudes which would have been crucial to the movement.

Without the failure of the Buckingham Palace Conference in July 1914, Home Rule would have been enacted for the whole of the island. Asquith’s Amending Bill introduced in 1914 and proposing the temporary exclusion of Ulster, was widely seen as unsatisfactory and was lost. The prospect of a European war was certainly the mechanism by which the unionist leaders and the liberal ministers escaped from the Ulster crisis.

By August 1914, the eve of the Great War, Ulster unionists had gone a considerable way to creating a provisional government for the North, with the uncompromising support of their British conservative allies and, most importantly, the British Army in Ireland (the Curragh Mutiny). The traditional judgment that Ireland was spared a civil war only by the German invasion of Belgium seems hard to fault.

In his book, ‘The Fatal Path’, Ronan Fanning points out that Robert Blake – who Fanning describes as the doyen of historians of the conservative party – said in August 1914: “The British Constitution and the conventions on which it depends were strained to the uttermost limit; and paradoxically, it was the outbreak of the First World War which, although it imperilled Britain’s very existence, alone saved British institutions from disaster.”

In the opinion of Jackson, Home Rule “far from inaugurating a new and peaceful era in Anglo-Irish relations, might well have introduced a period of bloodshed and nagging international bitterness”.

Finally, in response to Mr Bruton’s claim that Bonar Law approved of Home Rule; Law is recorded as saying: “Ireland under Home Rule might well have proved to be not so much Britain’s settled democratic partner as her Yugoslavia.”

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

Muslims need to break silence

I wonder can we expect demands for a recall of the Dail and Seanad from its two-month summer holiday, so that TDs and Senators can blame Israel and the West for the humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq – which in the past few weeks 
has seen more people killed 
than in the current Middle East conflict?

But, of course, there’s no way to blame Jews for what’s going on in northern Iraq.

And who would dare make a speech pointing out that the savagery of Muslims in that region and elsewhere has nothing to do with wanting various different political outcomes for the region, but is instead due to flaws within Islam itself, which people are too scared to mention. Far easier to just have a go at Israel.

The reason there are still people like the Islamic State and Boko Harem in the modern world is not because of America or Russia or any other geopolitical reason, it’s because the people who lead these groups are never challenged by normal, moderate Muslims – if there is such a thing.

Moderate Muslims and their religious leaders need to explain to the world that the version of Islam we are seeing in places like 
northern Iraq and Nigeria is a distortion.

Or can the silence from the various Muslim councils around the world be taken to indicate that actually, the level of unease within the Muslim world is not what might be reasonably expected?

The onus needs to shift onto Muslims themselves to explain why they have failed to confront the extremists within their community.

Irish people had to confront extremism when faced with SF/IRA terrorist claims that they were killing innocent civilians “in our name” for the sake of a united Ireland.

It wasn’t easy, but we did it and now those same terrorists have had to publicly accept that their goal of a united Ireland can never be achieved by violence.

The blame for ISIS and the existence of other Muslim extremists does not rest with the West, it is the fault of Muslim communities who failed in their responsibility to challenge such extremism in the first place.

Desmond FitzGerald, Canary Wharf, London

Our affinity with people of Gaza

In my opinion, the Gaza conflict offers many Irish people the perfect opportunity to jump in and gain the high moral ground, which helps to mitigate the effects of a deep-rooted inferiority complex caused by centuries of colonisation and subjugation in which they feel an affinity with the people of Gaza.

The Gazans are fairly recent occupants from Egypt and Jordan, having arriving in the 19th century about the same time as the Jews began returning to this part of the world.

They still mostly consider themselves as Egyptians and Jordanians, etc.

In other words, there is no country called Palestine that they have lost through colonisation by Israel and therefore this feeling of affinity is not on solid ground at all.

The above mentioned inferiority complex is made worse by the shame and guilt of one’s nature inculcated by the church, along with the racial intolerance and the bias against the Jews.

Paddy O’Connor, Edmonton, Canada

Putting water out to tender

I read the intriguing article (Irish Independent, August 11) regarding the need to go to tender over postcodes with interest, and wonder why the same ruling does not seem to have applied to Irish Water?

I strongly object to paying bills that may be issued from an illegal company – if indeed Irish Water has been set up without competition, as it appears at this time.

If Irish Water was set up against EU law, then perhaps it begs the question: are we still legally bound to pay?

Caitriona McClean, Lucan, Co Dublin

Bankers, witches – silly season

We know it is the silly season but our former Taoiseach John Bruton may be losing the run of himself.

We are now informed that blaming the bankers is like blaming witches in former times.

The analogy with witches may in fact not be that far-fetched. Consider the range of obtuse and misty financial machinations used in the bankers’ brew. They surely amount to financial wizardry.

Coverage of Mr Bruton’s speech made it clear that he was speaking without notes.

He might like to reconsider that approach when he is dealing with matters so sensitive to public opinion.

John F Jordan, Brussels, Belgium


Write to Letters to the editor, Irish Independent, 27/32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1, or email  them to

Name and address must be supplied for verification. Lengthy contributions may be edited.

Irish Independent


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